Kicking Off Trips Into Memory Lane

Met a few IMT Nagpur alums in our first meet of this season at the Green Park. Starting with the batch of 2006-08, represented by Shuchi and Saurabh, to the latest one of 2011-13, there were quite a few, including visitors from Chennai (Sriram) and Delhi. And we went on till around closing time- must have been around 1 am.

Lot of memories relived, about the campus, the newsletter that is run by the Corporate Communications team (Meenu Mynam who once wrote for it was there), academics, sports, the guest lectures given by various alums at classes in the campus, and so on. Learnt about stem cell research, and also about new businesses that help immigrants into Canada.

Nice and friendly, with some sporadic speeches which probably went unheard, and singing (mostly heard), and best of all, intimate conversations. A lovely evening, with more to come in the next few weekends.

Marble Rocks- It Really Does

Ever since Shah Jahan built the Taj, marble has acquired a romantic hue- even if it's white in colour. And what a setting it was for a meeting of faculty (work, folks), when we sat overlooking the Marble Rocks at Bhedaghat. Trivia question..which is the river that flows through the gorge with marble on both sides?

Pics Courtesy: Smita Dabholkar

The King's Speech- Film Review

This is more a view than a re-view. Such films should be made more often. I mean, about human foibles, or just being human.

If you look at Superman or his clones in human form, most Holly and Bolly or other folly films would fall into the category. Tom Cruise, Bruce Willis, Salman and others have made a huge capital out of this genre. But the simply human heroes or heroines have almost vanished from the scene, which is sad.

Some exceptions like this immediately touch you. A king with a speech disability? Whoever thought of making a film like this? And so beautifully, too. The King is very believable, thanks to Colin Firth, and the tutor too. It reminded me often of Prof Higgins and Eliza Dolittle, though she was more fiery as his student.

Brilliant concept, and execution, I must say. Must watch. Happy I bumped into it on HBO.

Hard and Soft

Some thoughts about the hard and the soft.

Hard times call for hard solutions, right? So how come we hardly see any?

Soft loans can turn into hard NPAs for the banks doling them out.

Killing them softly, is still hard on the guys getting killed, I suppose.

Soft toys actually need hard cash to buy.

Thomas Hard-y wrote such soft, romantic stuff.

A soft dismissal in cricket is hard to digest..mostly for the expert commentator who might have gone 'soft' in the head with advancing age.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Such an exciting title, but the movie falls short of the promise. Not having read the book, one cannot argue that it does not do justice to it. But if online sources are to be believed, the author Milan Kundera did not think much of the film too, and said as much.

It is promising, to start with. But it meanders too much aimlessly. There is a doctor in Prague who goes to the countryside and falls for a woman who works there. She comes back to live with him, interrupting his carefree lifestyle as far as women go.

The Russian occupation of Prague forces them to think again, and they go to Switzerland. For reasons that are not clear, she decides to return to Prague, and he follows. What follows is a tragedy of sorts, with both being unhappy. There is another lady, an artist, in the middle of all this. Anyway, the lead couple migrate to the country, and then die in a road accident.

Could have been directed a lot better, and edited a lot better. A promising story told inefficiently. It is too long, and meanders without purpose. The story might be better in print. There are a few explicit scenes, so watch out.

The Foreigner by Arun Joshi

This guy is an undiscovered gem in the firmament of Indian authors. I am not kidding. I just finished reading The Foreigner written by him, loaned by a friend who got it on the footpaths in a second hand form. But the novel is amazing in its readability, simplicity and power. I feel sorry that I never even knew this guy existed. Something wrong somewhere with our system of distribution, promotion, retailing and so on.

Anyway, the story is about a Kenyan-Indian student in the U.S., who falls in love with an American girl, but is too caught up in his detachment syndrome to take the relationship into the marriage orbit. The girl, tired of trying to convince him, goes into another relationship on the rebound. It is a tragedy of sorts, but compelling in its storytelling power.

Kudos to the author. A new star is (re) born, at least for me.

The Bicycle Thief - Review

A student of cinema has his own bucket list, apparently, and this one figures on most. I can see why after seeing the film...whew, made it, finally. It is a stark, simple tale of unemployment, and the struggle to survive in Rome circa 1948. Post World War 2.

The unemployed young man gets an offer to work (and eat) but he needs a bicycle to get the job-that of putting up posters around the city. With great difficulty, he manages a bicycle, but it gets stolen while he is at his job, right under his nose. His travails with the cops, helpful friends helping to trace the bike, and the impact on his life due to this incident alternately getting him down and upbeat, form the rest of the narration.

Vittorio De Sica keeps it simple, focused, and from the gut. Riveting fare, showing anyone who cares to learn, that you don't need item numbers or gross dialogue to keep the viewer's attention. The consequences of stealing (the hero attempts to steal a bike unsuccessfully in a final scene) are also subtly brought in. Reminded me of another film, Cinema Paradiso, for its setting (Italy) and style of narration. Some of Kurosawa's films are also similar in style. Good viewing! Put it in your bucket!

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

This is a review of the film version of the play.

A story of a complex relationship between a couple- actually, two of them, it explores nuances of a married relationship in all its 'glory'. Love, tenderness, neurotic behavior, violence, politics of getting married to the 'right kind' of people to further careers, and more. It's all there.

The film is great to watch for the dialogue and the histrionics of the stars Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. If you expect glamour or stylized violence like today's movies from Hollywood, you will be sorely disappointed. If you want to look at human reality with all its magic and warts, you will applaud it. It is that kind of a movie. Was a play originally. For some reason, I was reminded of a play by Tennessee Williams called Cat on a Hot Tin Roof while watching it.

The second couple plays an ideal foil to the star couple, and put in a great performance as well.

Faculty Retreat

There is a series of annual faculty meetings at IMT Nagpur which has been a tradition of sorts. I don't really know who started it, but we are continuing it. One of these happens outside Nagpur, where we take the time out and discuss various things that need discussing. And also visit a new place. Changes perspectives, this simple fact of being elsewhere.

This time we will be at Bhedaghat Marble Rocks, close to Jabalpur for the out-of-Nagpur experience. As part of this exercise, we try and stay away from our gadgets and therefore you may not hear much sound from the keyboard here. Do I hear a sigh of relief?

Played on a proper golf course in Nagpur after a long time with some colleagues. I also understood why Tiger Woods was off his form for a long time. It takes lots of practice to play well even on a simple golf course. I plan to practice more. This is a mid-year resolution. Let's see if it fares any better than New Year ones.


Who has the time to read epitaphs any more? When people barely have the concentration required to read a facebook post or a less than 140 character flutter/twitter/filibuster or whatever, who in his right mind would want to write an epitaph? Also, if you cremate a person, it is likely to go up in smoke anyways. So, I say, it is a good idea to be very restrained in this urge to write one for yourself. No one may actually read it!

Which brings me to this series of words that begin with epi-. Like epiphany. That's a good thing. But epi-lepsy is not such a good thing. When there's an earhquake, it usually has an epicenter. So what's with this 'epi' thing? Is it good or bad? I don't know, may be linguists and etymolgicians can try and delve into this. An epicure may want to taste a lot of different kinds of food before deciding if the prefix is good or bad when applied to him.

Epic nonsense, you say? I take it as a compliment. Epi- you too.

Pannu Times

I have a list of heroines/actresses I like from present times. They are- Chitrangada Singh, Aditi Rao, Amrita Rao, Vidya Balan, Yami Gautam, and now I am going to add Taapsee Pannu (that's an odd name, but what the heck, she is cute). Much of the film revolves around her- I am talking (new) Chasme baddoor here- and she pulls it off with her charming presence. Of course there's help from the cutie-pie (for female viewers) Ali Zafar, and a rocking performance from oldies Bharti Achrekar, Rishi Kapoor, and Anupam Kher.

For me, the heroes- all three of them, came second, or third, after all these. David Dhavan has cleverly used take-offs on films and film stars, and inserted his old songs (What is mobile number used to be my favourite for a long time when it first appeared) to add to the fun.

The standout song is of course, Dhickyaon Dhum, dhum.. and it is a very catchy, hummable song. But I think it is a combo of a couple of songs from Khel Khel Mein starring Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh. Probably Ek main aur ek tu and Khullam khulla pyar karenge hum dono. The musical know-alls can try and figure that one out.

Entertaining, and worth a look, though a bit crass compared with the original. But then, one should not be comparing Deepti Naval and Farooque Shaikh with anyone, to start with. Or the original Lallan Miyan, played so well by Saeed Jaffrey.

Simple Cures for Global Slowdown

My top five cures for the global slowdown.

1. Lock up all economists. Who will then tell you whether there is a slow-down or a fast-up?

2. Ban news on the GDP, economy, exports, budgets etc. from all neswpapers, TV and online media. If individuals (like birds) twitter about anything else, let them.

3. IPL matches should be on 365 days a year. In any case, they are on for two months. What's another ten? This can provide global employment to out-of-work cricketers, and the unemployed audience can spend time watching the matches. Talk about killing many birds with one stone. PETA, please excuse the metaphor.

4. Extend the concept of IPL to other games, for backward nations that don't know how to waste time!

5. Make David Dhawan and Sajid Khan films compulsory viewing in India. This will tremendously boost the GHP or Gross Happiness Index (which, unlike the GDP, will be measured). This will be due to people laughing at intended and unintended jokes.

Mumtaz- A Tribute

Shah Jahan built a Taj for his. I am no Shah Jahan, so I will simply write a blog. This one is for the yesteryear actress called Mumtaz. No relation to the wife of Mr. Jahan- at least not that I know.

She was one who came up the hard way, from bit roles and vampish roles (villain's moll etc.) to play some good roles in many films. A couple that I recall were in Roti with Rajesh Khanna, and Khilona with Sanjeev Kumar (he is a mentally ill man, and she tends to him). In the film Roti, there was a great chemistry between her and Rajesh Khanna, and the song, Gore Rang pe na itna gumaan kar was one of my favourites. Bindiya chamkegi choodi khankegi from Do Raaste also made her famous.

She was never considered a major or great actress, but she had a sizeable number of hit films. Many with Khanna (Aap ki Kasam), but some with Dharmendra (Loafer), Dev Anand (Tere Mere Sapne, Hare Rama Hare Krishna in which she was the 'kanchi' whose preet was sanchi.), Manoj Kumar (Patthar ke Sanam), Shammi Kapoor (Bramhachari-Aaj kal tere mere pyar ke charche har zabaan par), Biswajit (Mere Sanam), Jeetendra (Jigri Dost and I think Himmat), Dilip Kumar (Ram aur Shyam), Sanjay Khan (Mela), and so on.

She was lovely, bubbly and mostly positive in her roles. Owned some tea estates through her hubby in Ooty/Coonnoor. Brought a natural freshness to the screen. One song of hers from the film AAdmi aur Insaan was my all-time favourite- Zindagi ittefaq hai. Probably true.

Sorry, But You Look Great

In the good old days, complimenting a lady on her beauty was an art that was highly valued. Chivalry was also a high art form, with Sir Walter Raleigh being known (among other things) for spreading out his cape on the floor for a lady to walk on.

Opening doors and pulling chairs out for women to sit on were considered a done thing for a gentleman, and the ladies were grateful for it. But it looks as though times have changed.

An Obama finds himself in the soup for having complimented the good looks of an attorney general in a Western state of the US of A. And finally, out of a threat of censure or of being asked to demit office (not sure what demit means but anyway, sounds right here), has APOLOGISED to the said lady. Sorry I thought you were beautiful, or something like that. How un-cool is that?

On the same lines, can I call someone ugly without being apologetic about it? And without the lady being apoplectic about it? Something to think about, surely.

A Way to Die Happily

Death and taxes, as someone has pointed out, are inevitable. But happiness is not. Particularly when it concerns dying. We are into life-prolonging mechanisms of all sorts, including practicing bizarre medicine, prayers, and the like. Not to mention body-freezing and other 'scientific' methods.

But this is not about prolonging life. It is about being happy while you die. Unfortunately, it is not a theory I developed. I am merely narrating it, in my own words. It is from an essay by Umberto Eco, probably translated from the Italian.

You must think of everyone else in the world as a fool. Except you. But this must not happen too early in life. My view is this is where we go wrong. Anyway, why?

We will never be happy if we think that all that we are going to miss is really good/worthwhile. Then we wouldn't want to go. The people, places, things that we leave behind must seem worthless. That would make us happy. But if that happens too early, then we wouldn't enjoy life. Gradually, over a period, we must therefore develop a 'superiority complex', if I may paraphrase Eco. And feel happy that we are going beyond it all.

For details, refer to his original writing. As a theory, it makes sense, don't you think?

Jobs for Hollywood Celebs

If the unthinkable happens, and all the Hollywood actors (of either sex) are jobless due to recession there, Bollywood can step in (as IPL has for cricketers of the erstwhile first world) and find them some employment. The Khans and (remaining) Kapoors and (never-in-it) Bachchans will then have competition that is global. Here is a preview of the films that will get made.

1. Heeron Ka Saudagar. Remake of Diamonds are Forever. This will star Al Pacino as a member of the Italian (Sicilian?) mafia smuggling diamonds using tennis racquets, a la Johny Mera Naam, busted by the debonair Indian hero Salman dabangg Khan. The glam quotient will be provided by Sunny Leone who is now an established Bollywood actress.

2. Jolly LLB ( the recent courtroom comedy) will be remade with a female leading lady,  Angelina Jolie, speaking Bambaiya Hindi. The role of the opposing lawyer will be played by Danny DeVito.

3. Buddha Hoga Tera Baap will be a multi-starrer, starring all the Hollywood guys still alive and over 65, such as Robert De Niro, Jack Nicholson, Arnold Shwarzenegger, Clint Eastwood etc...add another half a dozen, ... you get the plot.

4. Hum Aapke Hain Kaun will be remade with Meryl Streep playing Maddy Dixit's role. Salman will be replaced by Tom Hanks.

5. Amar Akbar Anthony will now star Morgan Freeman as Amitabh, Tom Cruise as Vinod Khanna, and Richard Gere (with a lot of black hair dye) as Akbar Ilahabadi. Their lady loves would be Halle Berry, Catherine Zeta Jones, and of course, Pretty Woman Julia Roberts (with whatever-coloured hair dye).

All actresses will necessarily have to learn classical dance forms such as Kathak and Bharatanatyam, and learn to love trees, as there will be a lot of running around them while singing the duets with the hero. The heroes will receive a crash course in mouthing long dialogues written by fight composers instead of dialogue writers, as in Singham, Dabangg, and many other 1-billion-rupee club films. Shwarzenegger and Stallone will need to work HARD!

National Time-wasting Strategies

There is something we are no.1 in the world at- apart from producing babies, I mean. It has not been documented or certified, or we'd be at the top of the pops (no, not the baby-producing ones, the charts). We are the no. 1 Time-wasters in the world.

Time-wasting strategies, like those of corporates selling umbrellas, are seasonal. In April and May, we have the IPL- a so-called cricketing extravaganza, in which the cricket is hidden in a maze of before the match, after the match and during the match interruptions. Don't ask me how you can interrupt before the match-ask THEM.

In June-July, we crib about rain. Either too much, or too little. Shakespeare was right when he said something about floods leading to fortune. Famine or drought also leads to fortune for some.

August is a month we worry about foodgrain production not being enough. In September, we start planning vacations for the next three months. In the next three months, we actually go on holidays for Dasara/Durga-pooja, Diwali, Christmas, New Year, and a few others in between.

January is spent talking about the New Year party and the Christmas holidays, and how we plan to actually work in the new year. February is usually a mixed month, because there is an anticipation of a budget being presented at the end of the month, and March is spent dissecting the same after it is presented.

Test matches, football matches (even though we rank 189th out of 190 in the world here) and price hikes from onions to petrol, and evil bosses at work to destroy our careers are other hot topics. Celebrity gossip (whether Aishwarya is pregnant a second time, etc.)  takes away whatever remains, and we are left with little time to contribute to our GDP. No wonder we are growing at a snail's pace again.

And then, when we have the time, we crib about not having any.

Politically Correct

These are challenging times, because you have language and then you have politically correct language. Want examples?

Blind is 'visually challenged'. You want to call a guy short? He is not short, he is vertically challenged. Negro became black a few years ago, and then African American a few more years after that.

But my proposition is that if you want to be economically correct, or anatomically correct, or correct in some other ways, you would have to stretch yourself much further than if you were only politically correct.

A cowboy actually rides a horse, and may not be a boy, if Western movies are to be believed. In a politically correct era, he would be re-named 'Bovine Control Functionary' and a homeless wanderer would be 'residentially flexible'. But best of all, if you were bald, you would have the pleasure of being referred to as 'follicularly challenged'. (these are picked up from an essay by Umberto Eco on the subject of discussion).

Is there a method in the madness? But madness would no longer be madness, would it? May be it would be idiosyncratic behaviour laced with unpredictability. Ha, ha, I know what you are getting at. Before you find the politically correct adjective for me, let me stop.

My Name is Anthony Gonsalves

No, of course, it isn't. I am simple trying to recall some songs which made an impact when I first saw them on screen. Some like this o...

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