Monday, February 23, 2009

Jai Ho Oscars 2009

Yes, i watched the whole oscars yesterday. I just had to watch it. 2 reasons : (1) Rahman was going to win and (2) Kate winslet was going to win.

I had no doubts in either case. Kate got her first win on her 6th nomination. But she really couldn't be ignored this year. I have seen The Reader and i have loved it. Her performance was brilliant and no one could have taken it away from her this time. As someone who had watched almost all her movies, the way she pulls out these complex characters with such ease, it makes each and every scene enjoyable. And she was introduced nicely by Marion Cotillard and her acceptance speech was also quite good.

And now coming back to Rahman, i can't believe he said "mere paas maa hai" at the oscars. It was so hilarious. He spoke hindi, tamil and english. But the biggest revealation to me was that the song Jai Ho was penned by none other than Gulzar sahab. So my first task of this morning was to read his lyrics. One thing that Rahaman does to me is that he often makes lyrics of a song go in background because of his music. There are so many songs composed by him for which i just remember the tune but no words. Examples include - Dil se, Chaiya chaiya, aye udi udi, and now jai ho. But there are also some songs whose lyrics are put in front only by his mucic, examples are Ae ajnabi, jaage rahe, bahrat humko etc.

Jai Ho Jai Ho Jai Ho Jai Ho
Aaja Aaja Jind Shamiyane Ke Tale
Aaja Jariwale Nile Aasman Ke Tale
Jai Ho Jai Ho

Ratti Ratti Sachi Maine Jaan Gawayi Hai
Nach Nach Koylon Pe Raat Bitayi Hai
Akhiyon Ki Neend Maine Phoonko Se Uda Di
Neele Neele Tare Maine Ungli Jalayi Hai
Aaja Aaja Jind Shamiyane Ke Tale
Aaja Jariwale Nile Aasman Ke Tale
Jai Ho Jai Ho

Baila! Baila!
(Dance! Dance!)

Ahora conmigo, tu baila para hoy
(Now with me, you dance for today)

Por nuestro dia de movidas,
(For our day of moves,)

los problemas los que sean
(whatever problems may be)


Baila! Baila!
(Dance! Dance!)

Jai Ho Jai Ho
Jai Ho Jai Ho

Chakh Le Ho Chakh Le Ye Raat Shahad Hai Chakh Le
Rakh Le Haan Dil Hai Dil Aakhri Had Hai Rakh Le
Kala Kala Kajal Tera Koi Kala Jadoo Hai Na

Kala Kala Kajal Tera Koi Kala Jadoo Hai Na
Aaja Aaja Jind Shamiyane Ke Tale
Aaja Jariwale Nile Aasman Ke Tale, Jai Ho, Jai Ho
Jai Ho Jai Ho
Jai Ho Jai Ho
Jai Ho Jai Ho
Jai Ho Jai Ho ....
Kab Se Ha Kab Se Jo Lab Pe Ruki Hai Keh De
Keh De Ha Keh De Ab Aankh Jhuki Hai.. Keh De

Aisi Aisi Roshan Aankhe Roshan Do Do Bhi Hai Hai Kya
Aaja Aaja Jind Shamiyane Ke Tale
Aaja Jariwale Nile Aasman Ke Tale
Jai Ho Jai Ho
Jai Ho Jai Ho

I have bold my fav lines. "Raat shehed(honey) hai, chakh le" ....that has Gulzar stamped all over it. This song also has some lines from foreign language. The music blends it so perfectly that it never got my attention.

PS: Paper planes by MIA is getting better with each listening :)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Fatih Akin

Gegen die wand (Head on), Im Juli (In July) and Auf der andered Seite (On the other side)

This is how my watch list looks like of movies made by Fatih Akin. And I like them in the order that i have seen them with Gegen die wand as my fav.

Fatih Akin is a German but with Turkish background ( comparing it with ABCD, it will be GBCT, bad joke anyways). And in his movies as well there is a mix of both German and Turkish cultures. His movies are stories adapted to screen, stories that are unpredictable and move fast.

However, in all of his movies, there are some common traits for which each one of them is a delight to watch. To start with, he uses music a lot especially Turkish music and it is very pleasant to hear. Second, there is atleast one character who will do what he/she feels like doing, with no worry about consequences , about money, security etc. If films are meant to show what we can not do in real life, if they are meant to show our dreams, our fantasies to us, Fatih Akin does exactly that. And its all done in a realistic fashion.

In a story which is unpredictable, there are generally two ways - (a) The viewer is watching everything for the first hand and each development is a revealation to him, and (b) The viewer knows the end but is missing on the "How" part and at every step he hopes that this will be the means to reach the end, sometimes it turns to be true but mostly not.

Fatih used the former technique in his previous films but in "On the other side" he has used the latter technique and he has done it quite brilliantly. He was also awarded screenplay for his depiction at Cannes.

And in all his movies, there is a journey involved, there is self realization, there is past guilt and repentance. There is tradition, religion but with independence going in parallel. In short he makes one of the best fiction drama movies, the kind that i like the best.

His movies are not foreign lang oscar winner level but they have their own beauty and taste. His movies are worth putting in a collection.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Songs of the train

Songs of the train
(Inspired by Songs of the road (Pather Panchali))

A small girl sat on a lower berth
Thinking is life living worth??
Moments ago, scolded by her mother
And continuously ignored by her brother
Sad, angry but without tears,
She sat with hands on her ears.
But suddenly a thought came into her mind,
She jumped and ran leaving others behind.
Taking no notice of any other
From one compartment to another
Until she reached the coach's gate
And then she ...

Her brother who until now,
was climbing up and down the side bar
Counting number of times he has done so far
He had found her pleas to play quite boring
Ignoring her, he continued his scoring.
Then suddenly he saw her ran past him
Instantly understood she was under her own whim.
Keeping an eye on her, he called his mother
"She is running ma, She is going to jump ma"

And there was also a college sophomore
lying on the top seat, eating chips and more.
Enjoying every moment of his journey to his native place
Thinking life can be so good if you live outside its race.
He was lost reading Catcher in the Rye
But then he saw that little girl from the corner of his eye
Her expression just before she started running,
Book now dropped, he sat straight, as it was so stunning.
With curiosity, his eyes followed her
His mind began to ponder
What could have prompted her?
Now he was at the edge of his seat
Looking everything without loosing a beat.

The little girl's mother was busy talking to her neighbor
"I have seen life, I have seen people", she told her
The man who sat here without reservation,
He has no morals, he has no salvation
And my daughter here, she is devil number one
Sometimes i wish, i had another son.
"Ma, Ma, she is running towards the gate ma"
What? That devil, she ran to get her daughter
But it was too late for her.
The little girl has now already reached the gate.
Her mother can not catch her at any rate.

An old woman sat across next to the window
Head resting on hand, hand resting on elbow.
Watching tress come and go by
She also had tears in her eye.
Refusing to blink as it would make them fall
Just wanting to be alone, that's all.
But one can't forget what one wants to forget
Past, good or bad, is permanently set.
There is an end to every war that is fought,
She lost when she blinked,
The mother had distracted her train of thought.

There was a stranger standing near the gate.
With no ticket as he was late.
He had tried to sit at an empty place
But he was whisked off by a woman with angry face.
He was recently divorced and unemployed.
Unshaven, hungry he felt destroyed.
Smoking a cigarette to avoid using his mind
Thinking, life can sometimes be such a bind.
But then he saw that little girl reach the gate.
About to jump and decide her fate.

But the girl did something unexpected.
She stopped for a split second there.
Was it the gush of fresh air
or was it the outside beauty.
No one can say that with absolute certainty.
The man too grabbed her hand at the end of second,
Stopping her from reaching her end.
She looked at him and smiled.
She had found an answer
which he was able to read from her.
Her mother reached and hugged her by that time.
Couldn't thank the stranger, she felt guilty of her crime.
The sophomore understood that girl's smile.
He went back to his reading style.
Mother apologized to her daughter
Old woman said after wiping her eyes off water.
"Life goes on, that's what life is about"
The stranger also threw his cigarette out.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Road, rail and air travel

By sheer luck, going from Ranchi to Cochin, i happen to travel 9 hrs by road, 9 hrs by train and 9 hrs by plane (including wait times). And so this post is my thoughts on the travel aka thass.

Needless to write that i am a big fan of railways, but still i like to write it again and again.

In my opinion, when you cross a place by road, you get to know the past of that place. When you travel a place by rail, you get to know its present and when you cross a place by air (i mean the airport), you get to know how much it has risen.

People like to travel because it gives them a glimpse of different cultures. Thus the mode of travel is very important because different modes tells different things.

In road travel, generally you are at the heart of a place and heart is the last place that changes (Everyone and Everything follows the principle of inertia). Thus,one gets to see the past, the old buildings, the old market etc. A railway station of a town/city is its one of the financial centers and thus lot of development happens around it. Thus, when a train comes close to a station, by the look of things one can make a fair sense of the place. Another best characteristic of train is that the food items sold at a station gives us a peek at the typical food of that area. When you go south, idli and wada are predominant and in north, one gets puri. The beauty is as you go south, from ine state to another, the style of idli, the types of wada, the types of sambhar all vary from state to state and one gets to see the difference in culture directly.

And when one visits an airport, one gets to see how much that city has progressed. A city having an airport in itself says many things but by airport management, cleanliness, one can infer thousand things.

On another front, i am a big fan of window seats. Like a child (literally) i want to sit next to a window. Whenever someone asks me about my seat preference, shamelessly i say 'window seat please'. But this has a reason as well. A window seat in a train gives you a feeling of nostalgia. As trees go pass me, as mountains come and go, as stations come and go, one is instantly reminded of the fact that time is moving forward. As the train moves ahead, one notices that the tree, which is standing in its place, is getting farther and farther. This space distance maps symbolizes time in our mindsets and we also began to look back at our lives. What they say - retrospect. Thats why there are many who just like to sit at window and just keep on looking outside. Actually, they are lost in some train of thought of their past. And add to it the cool breeze of fresh air hitting your face. People living in cities love this feeling.

Sitting on a window seat in air travel increases our belief in ourselves. Watching those houses grow small and then smaller before disappearing under the clouds. The very fact that we are sitting above the clouds; clouds where we once believed that angels used to live. We feel good on the fact that how much progress science has made. We smile, we savour the moment.

Road travel in its view acts opposite to the air travel. In air travel where things appear smaller, in road travel, we are amazed by the vastness. Huge mountains, huge agricultural fields, acres of barren lands are some things that strike me. Even in India which is so crowded, i get the feeling that there is so much land for everyone. Land, land and land. Trees covering roads as if they are welcoming you. Sun travels from one window to another. The cool smell of village air; one enjoys all this on a window seat.

But at the same time, amidst all this positivity, one is reminded that there is so much to develop. Villages without electricity, dust, roads filled with potholes, too much poverty etc. These reminders are essential to give us a reality check!

Slumdog millionaire

Yes, i had to blog about this one. I tried to let it pass but then this topic is too much in discussion these days :)

Disclosure: I have seen Slumdog Crorepati and not Slumdog Millionaire, aka i have seen the hindi version.

Let me start with music. I think my delay in this post was because i had not heard the music. But today at 3 am (thanks to my jet lag), i started to listen and here i am at 5:25 blogging about it.

To start with, i am glad that Rahman is getting recognition. To be frank, i have not read any article, seen no discussion on tv beyond the headlines about Rahman's praise. Why? I do not have to. I (and there are many like me) do not need a TV channel or a newspaper to tell us how good Rahman is. We have followed Rahman for the last 10 years and we know him better than these papers who are waking up to him just because he received a Golden Globe. This is indeed SAD! But anyways, this is not the post to rant on Indian journalism.

Second point: I have heard Jai Ho and in my honest opinion, it is an average song (compared to Rahman standards, ofcourse). He has composed many brilliant tunes/songs and we have loved them dearly. Jai Ho is not one of his best and is not one of our Top Rahman number. To talk in terms of Hollywood, it is like giving Martin Sorcese best director award for The Departed after he has given us Taxidriver and Raging bull.

Third point: The actual music review. This is the meat. I love the soundtracks of Slumbdog millionaire. It is a typical (by that i mean brilliant) Rahman album. My favorites are Millionare (see how the whole song changes after 1:30, and changes to such classic music!), Mausam and escape ( Great use of classical instruments) and Liquid dance (listen it using a good quality headphone and your head will swing).

The good part about this album is that there are more instrumentals and less vocal compositions. One can clearly listen to Rahman's experiments with drums and beats - something which he does brilliantly (remember dol dol from yuva). The Millionaire soundtrack is seriously classic! Paper planes and O Saya are also very interesting.
Overall, it is a great album and i am confident that it will win Oscars. It is definitely Oscar level. It is different from LOTR theme, different from Eternal Sunshine theme, different from Nyman's music but it has its own class and its equally good.

Millionaire - A.R. Rahman

But it is not about Rahman's music that these discussions are happening. So they say that this movie is again glorification of Indian poverty. They say that westerners are liking this movie only because it highlights Indian poverty. Had it been otherwise, it would have been just another movie.

I have many views on this. If westerners are coming in large numbers to view this movie and not any other Indian movie, if i forget for the moment about the quality of other Indian movies and how they are released, i think then this is more shameful on westerners than it is on us ( Yes, i am an Indian as well). They are unable to appreciate other beautifully made Indian movies but are drawn to movies highlighting poverty tells us how much backward they are when it comes to appreciation.

But anyways, i disagree with the statement that non-Indians like this movie because it highlights Indian poverty. The true fact is that there are very few Indian movies made keeping that audience in mind. Indian movies are not even released in US theaters. Indian movies outside India are only targeted to Indians living abroad and are released only in Indian theaters. Moreover, it takes money to release movies in public theaters and i guess the ones that were released were Devdas, K3G, Namaste London which were all pretty bad movies.

But coming to the point again, whats wrong with a film that shows Indian poverty. To start with, they are not telling something that is a lie. If you are concerned with the fact that they are portraying a negative image of India, then why don't you do something about it. Secondly, no one complains when Ekta Kapoor shows domestic fights in her TV serials one after the another. No one complains that she is portraying a negative image of Indian society and Indian customs. No one complains when Karan Johars, the Yash Rajs make films outside India in exotic locations implicitly conveying that India is too backward to shoot films at home. We (including me ) is a hypocritical country. Harvey Dent was a two-face and Indians are two-tongues.

And finally, by making this wrong allegation, you are taking a lot of credit away from the people who had worked for the film. The movie has a good storyline with a brilliant screenplay, good acting and a wonderful direction. We all now know how good the music is. The story is based on a novel QnA written by Vikas Swaroop who is an Indian btw. It is a slap on Indian directors that Danny Boyle is making this movie. There are many Indian writers who have penned brilliant novels, it is my plea to Indian directors to take their work and make movies ahead. This will be a big boost to Indian book industry as well.

As a closing remark, it is said that a man is great who can laugh on himself and a society is great that can be self critical. We need to learn this. American Beauty was made and released in US and everyone liked it. Movies like American Beauty and Little miss Sunshine give us a glimpse of American culture (little exaggerated ofcourse). Homosexuality, sex, foul language etc are common subjects yet no one complains. But in USA, an action movies sells more than American Beauty (which is understood) but the point is that no one complains about American Beauty. Similarly, we as a society should be more flexible about ourselves and start taking unimportant things with a light heart.

Fahrenheit 9/11 gave us an important lesson - a movie can not change people. We need to learn this lesson.

Indian air travel

I am a big fan of Indian railways but this time i got to try out Indian domestic flights. Luckily in a 7 day trip , i got to witness 5 domestic airports - Nagpur, Mumbai, Cochin, Chennai and Kolkatta. As for my international flight, it was from Delhi. So overall, i can say i have seen 6 Indian airports within a span of 20 days.

I have heard many ppl saying 'Indian airports are no way close to foreign airports.' This post is my analysis of Indian airports and some constructive suggestions to critique the above line.

Let me start by saying this: Anyone can make a good building, good architecture if one has large spaces. Big things, Spacious rooms always give an aura of magnanimity. BUT, the best designs are the ones which can use space efficiently. Doing more things in less space yet making it comfortable is hallmark of great design.

In the light of above statement, I think Indian airports have a lot of potential to be improved tremendously by minor changes. There is a great opportunity. Yes, we do need bigger airports but the existing ones can also be made to work better.

Almost indian domestic airports are designed similarly. They were almost a copy of each other. Their architecture can be described as a COMB architecture where the base of comb is the searing place and comb teeth are the terminals. Compare this to a foreign airport architecture, they have a center aisle with teeth coming out at 60 degree angles. Each tooth acts as a terminal. This design scores both in scalability and efficiency compared to the COMB architecture which is by design not scalable.

But Indian airports can still flourish with the COMB architecture as the number of people flying is still not that high. One of the major complaints is that there is not enough space for people to sit as all terminals are located at the same place. This can be solved easily by adding one more floor over the comb base.

A place where Indian airports score over their international counterparts is their use of seals to lock bags and suitcase. This is a brilliant idea. In foreign countries, bags are generally unlocked making them susceptible to thefts. But Indians have devised a clever way around this problem. Bags are sealed before the take off and it is the responsibility of the airline. This is a perfect example of doing more with less.

Another good part about Indian airports is their trolley system. Not only it is free but it has got automatic brakes. They are bigger as well. I was very impressed.

One major disappointment was the shops inside the airport. I am not sure whether it was due to high surcharge for shops inside airports or if they were trying to portray some different image. But all products inside those shops were foreign from as small as chocolates (Not a single one had cadbury but everyone had toblerone/snickers) to cookies etc. Airports in US also have over prices stuff but atleast the items are same as what is available outside. You can have overpriced items here as well but atleast sell some Indian stuff.

I think the main point is that Indian still do not view air travel as a mode of transport. The ideology is still that it is a luxury. While this is true if numbers are seen but practically, middle class people are also using airports frequently. Once the ideology change happens, things will start to fall in place.

Another major crib point is the maintenance of restrooms. This is understandable as the restrooms were not maintained well. But what amazes me is that Shulabh can maintain a restroom clean in a railway station while airport authorities fail to do so. One of the major points is that there is always water on the floor. My point is that since we have adopted so many western customs, why can't we adopt paper instead of water at airports. I state this only from the standpoint of cleanliness and commuter convenience and for no other reason. I believe this a minor and easy to implement(adjust ?) change.

Coming to the flights, Indian flights are mirroring their foreign counterpart. You have to pay to get food.In some atleast water was free but not in others. I think adding another 100/200Rs and providing food is not a bad option at all.

Another thing to appreciate about Indian flights is that they are making genuine efforts to ensure that flights ply on time. I think Indigo has made it their USP. This is good thing despite fog and other constraints.

To sum it up, my experience was overall positive about Indian air travel. But on any day, i will prefer railways over air travel.

Life in Dec1 - Feb 5; The great India trip and back.

Its been a long time since i have blogged. Its been longer since i added to my life in series. But anyways, this post will act as an ice breaker. A short summary of main ideas.

Its good to start backwards this time.

1. Started my full time job yesterday. Not very good time in industry but still the buzzword around is 'Never let a crisis go to waste'. And thus, exciting times ahead!

2. Had a great flight from india. KLM proved its worth as i watched 4 back to back movies. Body of lies (so-so), Vicky Cristina Barcelons (Allen flick, decent, different), Burn After Reading(Coen brothers, decent but typical Coen script).

3. Went to Amritsar. Visited Wagah border, Jallianwala bagh and Golden temple with Nikhil Dua, Nikhil Kumar and Amit Manchanda. Good trip. The live gurbani played at Golden temple was amazing!

4. Left to India on Dec 15. Amazing trip, reminder of the roots :). 45 day trip. Went to Cochin for a week. On the forward journey, i visited Juhu beach and on the return trip, I visited besant beach in Chennai. Met Varun as well. Ate lots of food and different types of food. Watched many hindi movies, some brilliant, some good and rest were, well dont ask. More posts will be coming soon.

5. Graduated. Got my masters. Gatech has a strange custom of having convocation immediately after exams. Attended.

6. End sems of last semester. Night outs. Find: Monster Coffee + energy drink. I never thought that a drink can help me to stay awake but this one did. I literally was able to stay awake after taking one. Cognition and culture was a very interesting course. Studying AOS was a unique experience.