Monday, August 21, 2006

Aimbathi ainthu fifty-five is known in Tam-land. Am continuing the story series that worthies, Bangalore Bytes, Chamique, Recluse, Mr. D and Dhoomketu, have started and continued - all 55 word pieces. Have attached the whole story here, with my 55 bits, pliss to continue:
The airplane had been airborne an hour when she entered the toilet. She looked into the mirror and hated the girl of twenty going on sixty that she saw. The horrors she had seen and the family she had lost….

She mixed lip-gloss with Vaseline, stuck her mobile in the goo and walked out.



Between the clothes, she tucked in small surprises. Moisturising lotion for her grandmother. Seaweed hair gel for her grandfather. The cologne her brother had been hinting at...

Later, she realised her lip-gloss had been checked in as well.
Maybe she’d ask the girl next to her for some when she got back from the toilet.


A bit of the viscid mixture was still on her fingers as she opened the door. She quickly massaged it into her full, round lips. Salty.

A kafir watched her and smiled appreciatively.



Somewhere, Akram sat staring at the bottle in his hand.


He'd given her the cyanide paste instead of the vaseline.


She looked sort of hot (in an Asian way), though not friendly. That made him think. In the end he decided to give it a go, anyhow.

"May I borrow your vaseline, please? It's dry in here"

He added a friendly but restrained smile for effect. She looked around uncomfortably. He tried to look cool.


She handed him the empty tube.

"It's not mine, it's available in the restroom. Go get one for yourself."

It was the friendliest she could be with kafirs.

She licked her lips again while sitting down. Salty.

Somewhere in her bag, the vaseline bottle had leaked open. Akram didn’t know that and pulled the trigger.


First, cyanide for Vaseline, and now, a jammed trigger. Akram wasn’t having a great day.
Empty tube in hand, Grober made a beeline for the restroom. I should have killed the bitch. Oh well, there’s still an hour to go before we land. He smiled cruelly. And saw the phone. The phone of his dreams.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Shine on you, witty Mason!

Though I picked up Nick Mason's Pink Floyd reminiscence book, Inside Out - A personal history of Pink Floyd, (for the uninitiated, Mason has been PF's drummer through the band's chequered history) nearly 3 months ago, I never got around to reading it - for one, because I had a backlog of fiction to read through and second, because I'm not really a huge fan of memoirs. As a rule, most books in the genre either tend to be hagiographic or bitchy, the latter especially if they are about aging rock bands with a messy past. Inside Out was approached, therefore, with much trepidation and the knowledge that if the first 20 pages were either extremely h. or b., the book would be banished from sight immediately. Such was my cynicism that I put down the quote from the Guardian on the blurb - "Mason could probably have plied a successful trade as a writer... a dry, original wit"- to a publicity rush.

The first page gave me an inkling that I might enjoy this book after all. Sample this - Mason talks about how Waters spoke to him for the first time:

"The star-crossed paths of Virgo and Aquarius had dictated our destiny, and were compelling Roger to seek a way to unite our minds in a creative adventure.
No,no,no. I'm trying to keep the invention to a minimum. The only reason Roger had bothered to approach me was that he wanted to borrow my car.
The vehicle in question was a 1930 Austin Seven 'Chummy' which I'd picked up for twenty quid... Roger must have been desperate even to want me to lend it to him. The Austin's cruising speed was so sluggish that I'd once had to give a hitch-hiker a lift out of sheer embarassment because I was going so slowly he thought I was actually stopping to offer him a ride."

The book is peppered with similarly self-deprecating and drily witty passages that evoke chuckles in places and a wry smile in others. The book starts off in a light vein with the creation of the band at an architectural school, and gets heavier as the band begins its journey towards fame and trouble- Syd Barrett's leaving the band and his personal battle with alcohol, the battle for control between Waters and Gilmour resulting in their going their separate paths, the legal battles between Waters and Pink Floyd and their getting together at Live 8 last year. In the midst of these events, Mason writes about the creation of each album, and the most famous shows that they did - the songs, the stage props, the album covers - in meticulous detail. There's a whole lot of technical jargon in this (technical details about tapes and mixers can be tiring to the untrained reader (a la me)), but if you can turn a glazed eye to the technical part and focus on his writing and the events, it's quite an enjoyable read.

Mason is Boswell to Floyd's Samuel Johnson - the chronicler of the band, the team player contributing his bit, but never playing the lead role. This plays to his advantage, since he's almost never the protagonist, but always the observer. His writing is objective and honest (read his descriptions of the war of attrition between Waters and Gilmour before Floyd's second split or how Syd Barrett was treated by the group). He also shows the human side of the band - their indiscretions with groupies (Mason's own, included), their egos and the need for credit within the band, the jockeying for power between Gilmour and Waters, the crazy schedules and last-minute changes in their live shows. And how they manage to have fun in the midst of all this turmoil.

Enough said - there's a lot of trivial details that you'd like to read through when you get to the book. If you're a die-hard PF fan, there's no reason why you wouldn't read this book, it's an absolute treasure trove. If you aren't a fan, read it anyways - it's a witty introduction to rock'n'roll life in the 60's and 70's.

P.S.: Two bits of trivia: there's a photo of Syd Barrett when he visits the studios in the 70s post his leaving (or being thrown out of, rather) PF - it's quite sad what unharnessed talent can become. And there's a picture of Naomi Watts in her diapers! Naomi's the daughter of Peter Watts, who was a sound engineer for PF in the early 70's. The world's a small place...

Monday, August 14, 2006

Does boldness good cinema make?

I watched Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna yesterday. Enough has been said and written about the movie - much of it laudatory (here and here for starters) with the occasional critical voice. Frankly, I cannot understand the plaudits. Yes, Karan Johar made a movie that was different by his standards, SRK played the role of a loser, the movie had a bold theme - so what? Does that make a great movie, or even a watchable movie? (Caveat: This ain't a review in the sense of quoting several renowned film makers or making gratuitous references to arcane subjects, however, plot spoilers abound.)

What makes a great movie is a great storyline - well plotted, with characters that speak to you, and situations that meld into one another well. What makes a great movie is superlative acting - underplayed, yet powerful. This movie has the second, in parts, but absolutely lacks the first. The first half stutters along - Karan clearly wanted to get to the meat fairly quickly and doesn’t waste time on preambles. The opening is fairly lame, with the initial meeting between SRK and Rani before her wedding being so contrived that it should have come with a Spoiler Warning or something (in this case, the title, never say alvida, comes in handy)! This segues into life four years later, with a perpetually grumpy SRK (I empathise, being in a similar position just now). There is the mandatory comic track, comprising of one very, very unfunny sequence in order to get SRK and Rani to meet, and a slightly better one where SRK and Rani are convinced their respective spouses are having an affair.

After all the comedy is done and dusted, and the respective parties have met, you'd expect things to get better. Well, they do, because this is what K-Jo wanted to get to in the first place. But not enough to forgive him a tedious first quarter of the film. Once SRK and Rani get to know each other, they start falling in love – but K-Jo made that clear from scene one, didn’t he? (And there's a comic track here that had me grabbing for a barf bag - Rani shows SRK how to bring some excitement into his love life in a bed showroom and a random foreigner thinks it's a great reason to buy the bed... seriously, what's with old jokes and random foreigners in every other laugh track?) I love the fact that there is no deep justification for why they should fall in love, except they are lonely and need each other’s company. But why would you screw this up with a random opening sequence where they meet and part? Why not be real for once, without having to resort to inane plot devices? Why do couples need to part and meet again, why, Bollywood script ke Bhagwaan?

There are some good parts here - I thought the dinner where SRK and Amitabh clash was fairly intense – both actors have a smouldering presence that’s brilliant when they’re together (except when SRK is hamming to kingdom come, that is). Abhishek-Rani and SRK-Preity have showdowns that have been well-scripted - very believable, unlike several other parts of the film. Then, the plot meanders along to a slow and painful end - predictably, SRK and Rani, having undergone the right level of pain and punishment for having cheated on their respective spouses, get together at the end, DDLJ-like with last-minute trains and what not.

The feeling at end of the movie was one of annoyance – I’d read a couple of reviews (the adulatory ones above) before watching the movie and didn’t find this movie anywhere near as good. Having the “boldness” to shift themes from inane romances to adultery and the “courage” to cast a superstar in a "loser" role does not a great movie make - superb plotting and great acting does. KANK is watchable once, but nothing more.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

How can I miss you if you won't go away?

... and other classic country music song titles.

My favorite:
Mama Get The Hammer (There's A Fly On Papa's Head).


Monday, August 07, 2006


I fell badly on my left foot playing basketball a week ago. Turns out I have a torn ligament. My foot’s in a cast now – on for the next 3 weeks. As always, there's something to learn from random events... this is my quota for this week:
  • Me(n) is(are) dumb: Oh well, V asked me to get to the doc when the event happened last Sunday. I said, yeah sure, it’s just a sprain, will get fixed. And I waited and waited and waited… till Thursday to get to a doc, who gave it to me for waiting this long. Apparently, an untreated torn ligament can lead to unstable ankles and other unsavory fates. I recounted the story to a (female) friend – she gave me the cold eye, and said “You men! Think you’re all superheroes, no? This is what you deserve.” I thought about reacting and then shut up. No more sympathy from the women, I’ve realized.
  • Medical innovations never cease to amaze: The doc put me in this fiberglass cast – it’s a 3M product, but apparently quite a few other companies make it as well. If you don’t know what it is, this is what mine looks like:

For one, it’s quite lightweight compared to the traditional plaster of paris stuff. Second, it comes on very quickly – the whole process took less than 10 minutes to complete. And most importantly, it’s a very cool blue – looks quite neat. Except that nobody can sign or doodle on this – oh well, given what the women will write, I’d rather not have that option.

  • Broken leg can impede flight: Flying is quite a nightmare, partially because of the general pain and discomfort in the said foot, but primarily because there's always a line of people behind you mentally urging you to move faster. They are usually caught in two minds about swearing or sympathising, and end up saying "May i help you" with the kind of look that would make you wonder if "help" involves ejecting you from the plane at 25,000 ft. The silver lining, however, is that if you can hobble around and look like an injured hero, well, you might get upgraded to the more rarified environs of biz class. It happened on Jet Airways, where the ladies at the counter were far more sympathetic (of course, not telling story of not heeding gfriend's advice helped) than the old man at the Indian Airlines counter who looked at me as if I was some kind of lowly worm, who deserved to hobble.
The best part, of course, is that I can literally put my feet up at work - on the nearest chair!