Monthly Archives: March 2006

Cricket scribble

What happened to Indian batting? Admittedly Sehwag, is in “bad form”, but what happened to the rest of the famed line up – Dravid, Yuvraj, Kaif?
Gambhir has in the last two matches got out playing horrendous shots. Today, in the second one-day against England, he played a cross batted shot, which he was in no position to play and scooped the ball back to the bowler. Why is he still on the team? And Dravid, what the hell were you doing out there today? After 23 balls in which he scored five silly runs, Dravid kept jumping out of the crease getting impatient when he should have just outplayed the powerplay2 overs and started scoring singles and twos. It was dumb.
We are lucky we won, thanks to what cricinfo called a nerveless display from Raina.

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A friend recently called up to say that my blog is full of utter nonsense in bad English. Anybody agrees? Are these blogs so full of spelling and grammatical errors?
Another friend wrote in asking for visual relief. Any idea what I can do? I dont want to take a cricket pic with this blog because you are gonna see that in the paper tomorrow. I just don’t want meaningless visual relief. Pls suggest something with a functional purpose and how I go about doing it. Thanks guys. and keep ur comments coming.

Woh Panch Din

Two jobs and three years back, I met a girl in my office. She was cute, bubbly. We never had anything in common, and never spend much time together except for the odd chat and lunch.

My first conversation with her had been a few months before I joined the office she was working in and it was nothing short of disastrous. It was on a friend’s phone and I got pissed with him being on his cell all the time and sent an SMS to everybody on his call list saying: Fuck You.

She was on that list.

I had never dreamed that I would meet her, and that too at close quarters. She had a lovely voice and I would always tell my friend that she sounded nice and ask him if she was cute. He hated her and thought of her as a pest.

I still remember, quite vividly, the first movie I watched with her. It was Monsoon Wedding. And I liked it quite a bit, though my Hindi is not very good. After the movie, I had to get her friend an auto. I haggled with the autowallahs for 15 mins doing that, and as we walked to parking lot, she ragged me about how patient I was with them. That was our first real conversation.

When I joined for work – this was only my second job – she was most helpful. Work was fun the first few weeks and become more so as I got more responsibilities. However, we never quite managed to get that much time together.

Later, I switched jobs and cities, and for months kept e-mailing her. She would always reply. She too had moved jobs, but remained unsatisfied with work. These mailing sessions were for me a feverish affair, and for her, I guess, for her they were routine. I would write long, excited mails about the movies I saw and the books that I read. She, on the other had, would write about her travels and her family. There were weeks when we even wrote to each other thrice, something I have done only with a very few people in my life.

Then, one day, she paid her cousin who lived in the city that I worked in a visit. I had five whole days with her, and we spend much of it with each other. I certainly had my tender moments with her. I don’t really know how she felt.

In all, we had a good time together and it had me wondering whether we had more in common that I had first thought. I told her about my feelings and naturally she was appalled. I was too, thinking that I was such a fool.

An year after: She got married to a guy from my hometown. She is a bit of a juggler, has too many balls up in the air all the time. The guy she married is more calm and more like me. I couldn’t help thinking that I had a lot in common with the guy she ultimately married. And that he was luckier.

I met her over a month ago, a year and a half after her marriage. She has done well, and I haven’t done too bad myself. She told me how she had met her husband and how she had fallen in love. She said it was a good decision, despite the fact that he is not so romantic.

And yet I had this nagging thought in my mind. Should I have paid more attention to her when I first met her? Would that have made a difference? Probably not. But one thing though: I have some wonderful memories of her and she said she did enjoy her time with me those five days, after all.

When we met, it was like old times. I opened up after a while and began talking a lot. It was friendly and nice and an affirmation that I was still a nice, decent person. It was good to know that, and sometimes only a girl can make you feel that way.

I was not very desperate, I knew then, not a random hitter on girls, not yet. :)

Student Violence

The student unrest in Sathyabhama University on the Old Mahabhalipuram Road in Chennai has shut the varsity down indefinitely causing concern among students over whether the semester examinations that are to begin on April 17 will be held.
Students of the deemed university – many of them who plan to go abroad after their engineering studies – fear that their examinations may not be held on time this year. Students have gone on a rampage at the varsity’s campus thrice since March 1, when violence first broke out.
After that instances of violence were repeated on March 22 and 23, when the management finally decided to close down the University.
At the heart of the differences between the students and the management is the lack of approval by the All-India Institute of Technical Education (AICTE) to the courses offered by Sathyabhama University. The management contends that it is a deemed university and, therefore, does not need AICTE approval, while students fear that the lack of recognition would hamper their careers.
On March 23, the students went on an unprecedented rampage, burning down an open-air auditorium at the campus and wrecking the classrooms and laboratories. Students allege that the authoritarian regime at the college is also one of the reasons for the violence. Sources said that often girls and boys are prevented from talking to one another at the co-education varsity.
Students have also alleged that the management is ruthlessly trying to suppress the unrest by hiring goondas and dividing the students along regional lines. They said the management should try and resolve their problems instead of suppressing the protests. Many students have started leaving their hostels fearing further violence.
On news channels, the faces of students being interviewed are being masked, leading to fears that the university management may take extreme steps in putting the issue to rest. A CNN-IBN report mentioned that its cameraman at the scene was attacked and his videotape burned.
Violence has also broken out at the SRM Institute of Science and Technology, another deemed university. Students and the police clashed at this college campus too on March 1.
Meanwhile, the first bench of the Madras High Court on Friday advised the students to give up the violence. They have also observed that even deemed universities have to observe AICTE norms while posting further hearing in the case for April 3. The bench, also comprising the Chief Justice A.P. Shah, was hearing a batch of writ petitions and PILs filed on the issue.
The Students Federation of India (SFI) and All India Students Federation have decided to back the students. The SFI has demanded that the University Chancellor Jeppiar, a famous Chennai-based educationist, be arrested. The students’ body has also impleaded itself in the case being heard in the Madras High Court.
Dreamchaser has been avidly blogging on the issue. Click here to read his blog.

Ziyi Zhang – Swathed in Silk

The 2000 film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, apart from the countless headlines that punned on the title, gave rise to two stars: Director Ang Lee and the spectacularly beautiful Ziyi Zhang.
In the movie, Ziyi plays a rebel, alongside the two great actors of Asian cinema, Chow Yun-Fat and Michelle Yeoh. The sequence in which she is kidnapped and later ravished is among the most passionate in the film and at this point the movie becomes racy and breathless, the cinematography stunning. She appeared in much smaller role in Hero, more famous for its lead actor Jet Li rather than Ziyi’s charms.
In Kar Wai Wong’s 2046, Ziyi is back. Her acting in this movie has improved in leaps and it’s around her that the movie is built. She play a high-class call girl in the movie, who falls in love with a writer who is writing a story called 2046. The title does not refer to a year, but to a place where people living in a futuristic world go to to relive their lost dreams. No one comes back. The cinematography is restless, the director choosing to creep in on his characters from behind walls. The production design is elaborate and the costumes too are designed well. In an interview on the movie’s DVD, Ziyi appears chatty and thoughtful, trying to potray herself as a “thinking actor”. Then Yimou Zhang made House of the Flying Daggers. The movie, which was almost a companion piece to The Hero, perhaps showcased Ziyi like never before. Ziyi played the daughter of the leader of House of Flying Daggers, a dangerous cult group that is threatening the Chinese empire. It was plum and demanding role, with Ziyi performing her kung-fu herself. Then came the icing on the cake. Rob Marshall cast her as the lead in Memoirs of a Geisha, the movie that really got her into the big league. Hollywoods beckons, and Ziyi seems to be ready to make the move.

TN Poll Masala

I have been writing for about three months on my blog now. The highest amount of hits – I recently found out how to track this – was on the day Vaiko shifted camps and I blogged this. I got 96 visitors that day, the highest on my site so far. Cheers, guys.
The seating sharing within the Democratic Progressive Alliance (DPA), the main Opposition coalition in Tamil Nadu is over, for the large part at least. A few wrinkled need to ironed out. CPI has some grouches about it getting fewer seats than the CPM. Also, the fate of INTUC, the trade union wing of the Congress party, is ambivalent. There appears to be split that Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa has engineered within the INTUC. The rebel group has announced that it will support Amma’s AIADMK.
The elections will be notified on April 13 and campaign, which has already begun, will really go into high gear after that.
I was surprised to learn that contrary to what I had said in my post on Vaiko, AIADMK does stand a good chance of winning. The last three elections having witnessed a sweep against one Dravidian party or the other, poll pundits are predicting another sweep. I am not sure if really AIADMK can win with such a weak coalition.
AIADMK swept to power in 1991 after former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination and reports of DMK’s alleged hand in it. DMK hit back with equal vigour in 1996, the sweep coming in the face of a widespread scandal over Amma’s corrupt ways and the massive amount of money she had spent on marrying off her adopted son. In the absence of any major such reasons, AIADMK swept back to power in great style in 2001 even as legal questions hampered Jaya’s quest for the CM’s chair.
Will there be yet another sweep? Do the people of Tamil Nadu have an overwhelming need for change. Has anything really happened to boost Amma’s chances of retaining power since it lost all the 39 Lok Sabha seats in the last parliamentary elections to the DMK-led alliance?
Two things of some significance of indeed happened. One, Veerappan was shot dead and two, Sankaracharya was arrested and is being tried in court.
Also prior to the elections, Jayalalithaa has rolled back many of the stringent measures she had imposed on the people. A source said that she is willing to pump in Rs 300 crore to win this election. Will she be able to do it with only Vaiko and Thirumavalavan on her side? That’s the question that will and can be answered even as the campaign begins. Right now, people don’t know which way they are going to vote. Not yet. Let the policians start gunning and then we will know for sure.

Swadeshi


Ahead of the Tamil Nadu polls to be held on May 8, actor Vijayakanth, who launched the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhakam (DMDK), is releasing two movies on the unsuspecting Tamil audience. Swadeshi is the first of them.
The actor’s party – roughly translates to National Progressive Dravida Party – is largely an unknown in this election. If Vijayakanth does get some kind of role to play in this election, it would be great boost to his political career. The prospects, while unlikely, are not altogether improbable. Vijayakanth might just get to a Paswan.
Swadeshi is a pathetic movie. It’s so bad that it’s good. Watching it with a first week crowd can be an enlightening, funny and rewarding experience. Vijayakanth, not a great actor at anytime, no longer has any clue of the quality of the movie he is doing. He mouthes the usual, lengthy monologues, including the unintended funny one in a court, with much earnestness and sincerity. It’s clear from the movie that he wants to be a kingmaker, realising that he is unlikely to be king.
The crowds that gathered at Vijayakanth’s party launch was by all estimates huge. But these won’t translate into votes. The actor is aware of this. He must also be aware that movies like Swadeshi can hardly improve his electoral chances. I really can’t understand why he wastes this much time and money on a project that is bound to be a flop.

The secret world of a Geisha

Memoirs of a Geisha

The movie is in a way the female version of Gladiator. In the Ridley Scott movie, the Gladiator dares to challenge the power of a king. Here a Geisha dares to fight for her freedom, to have actual feelings and not remain in the shadows of a secret world. Ziyi Zhang plays the Geisha, who after a delayed entry into that world, makes it her aim to woo the chairman of a power company.
The cinematography by Dion Beebe, fresh from the success of Collateral and Chicago, is stunning. He gets excellent support from the costume and set departments and Beebe makes the most of it.
Suzuka Ohga makes a stunning debut as the young Geisha with beautiful, blue eyes. The lengthy sequence in the rain as Chiyo makes a desperate bid to re-unite with her older sister, who has become a prostitute, is superbly shot. Ohga makes a brilliant turn, Chiyo’s despair written large on her face.
Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai) brings in the fresh air of hope both into the movie and into Chiyo’s life. It’s love at first sight between the chairman and Chiyo, even though the girl is only a child. Watanabe is all charm and has this peculiar way of bringing a lot of dignity into all the scenes that he has. In many scenes, he has more screen presence that the lovely women in kimonos he is surrounded by.
Ziyi Zhang looks a bit uncomfortable playing a 15-year-old in the sequences that show her transformation from servant girl to Zayuri, Japan’s greatest Geisha, but later on she shows some of the brilliance that made her so great in 2046.
One of the most memorable scenes Ziyi has is of her return to Geishadom after WW II. She approaches Michelle Yeoh, an older Geisha who has trained her, for help. As Michelle agrees to help her, the look on Ziyi’s face is great. In a series of four of five expressions, Ziyi makes this scene matter to the audience, etching in her love for the chairman, which simply just grows larger and larger within her.
The lives these extraordinary women, trapped forever in a world of deceit and deception, are shown in great detail. I haven’t read the book, but I suspect it’s from there that director Rob Marshall (Chicago) draws his passion for detail.
I expected the movie to be another House of Flying Daggers, full of bright, flamboyant silk costumes, but it’s hardly that. The costumes are understated, the camera work exceptionally functional. In scenes of elation, the camera quickly moves to great sweeping shots. Just the first set up of the fishing village in which Chiyo has grown up was enough to convince me of the greatness of the cinematographer. Then Beebe comes full circle in the last sequence showing it exactly the same way he shoots the first one.
Gong Li, in a special appearance, plays a rebellious, passionate Geisha, who in the sheer frustration of her inability to beat her rival Zayuri, almost destroys her own life.
Ziyi’s greatest moment and the film’s as well, though, is a dancing sequence, set up for Zayuri’s bidding by the town’s wealthiest men. The cinematography here is ethereal and Ziyi’s performance belongs to the floating world of Geishas rather than ours. I expect when the movie is forgotten after a few years, this sequence will continue to influence cinematographers and dancers in Hollywood.

Hollywood’s biggest night


So you saw the Oscars. Big upset that Crash won. But when the nominates are split down the middle between best picture and best director nominees this is what the academy does: split it. Ang Lee became the first Asian to win the best director award.

Of the films released in India, King Kong won three – sound mixing, sound editing and best visual effects; Memoirs of a Geisha won three too – Best cinematography, best art direction and one award I don’t even remember.

Apart from best picture, Crash won best editing and best original screenplay.
Clooney, winning the best supporting actor for Syrianna, delivered the best line of the evening. “So I won’t be winning for best director.”

Reese Witherspoon won for best actress for portral of June Cartey in Walk the Line. Philip Seymour Hoffman, who won for best actor for Capote, thanked his mother for passing on her passions to him. “We are at party, Mom,” Hoffman said, adding, “Be proud, Mom. Because, I am proud of you.”