Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Vicky Christina Barcelona

Woody Allen is the kind of guy you see at a party and instinctively think to yourself not to get closer, but you can't help getting drawn to him as the night passes. You could be excused for your gut. Woody Allen isn't big built; he's not even average built; he's a small, puny guy who wears glasses that look funny and pants a little too high. Yet, what he lacks in size, he more than makes up for in perception. He also makes movies with very real women and men characters who fall in and out of love with each other in an entirely plausible and believable manner.

When looked at through a Hollywood lens, VCB does not have a conventionally strong storyline; in fact, at first glance, it almost seems to lack a plot and its only saving grace appears to be the fact that it was shot in breath-taking Spain. But refrain from asking for the story and watch it instead; there are numerous occasions when you will find yourself identifying with the characters - with their mood swings, their romanticism, their feelings of being trapped, their universal desire for love.

Each character has a place in the story and complex, layered relationships with each other; every character remains true to itself right through the story, always being grounded and earthy. Although it is easy to dismiss Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem looking dreamy) as the central tent-pole around which the entire film revolves, the discerning viewer will realise that the film actually revolves around 4 central characters and a couple of smaller characters. All the main women in the film (Johansson, Hall and Cruz) are extremely well-written, strong characters, and it is after watching the film that you bemoan the public cheapening of the gorgeous scene of the kiss between Christina (Johansson) and Elena (Cruz) - it is so much in the flow of things that it is extremely believable and, to some degree, inevitable.

90 minutes later, you get up feeling like you have drunk a few glasses of wine with Juan Antonio, Maria Elena, Christina and Vicky, and looking forward to a few more glasses with your new friends. You want to admire Antonio's house and his paintings in his studio, while he and Elena stand in the garden (or in the street - what a shot!) arguing in their coarsely jagged Spanish that make your ears tingle and your heart jump. You want to shake Vicky into happiness and travel with Christina in her search of 'What do I want?'. You want to watch the film again and dream.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Pune-Mumbai by train

Aug 26, 2009; 3:30 - 7:40pm

For the better part of an hour into the journey out of Pune, you think you're still in the outskirts of the city, for you never can tell when Pune ends. Greenery adorns the parallel set of muscular railway tracks - running along with the train like a fellow rider on a trip of discovery, the steel glinting steadily in the sun - from the very outset, and modern-looking buildings mark their presence at every stop.

You know for certain you are out of Pune at a station interestingly called Dehu Road, followed by Talegaon, where the delicate balance between nature and man tilts ferociously towards the former. The buildings are gone and lush greenery takes pride of place across the flat plains. The eye can see for miles; in the distance, hills and mountains rise up and interlink to form the edge of a very large crown.

However, this beauty is bested by what is to follow - the Western Ghats. First comes Lonavla, where a good percentage of the train empties out. Then comes Khandala, a favourite name with Roadside Romeos thanks to a popular Hindi film song. Immediately after these two stations, both of which are popular hill-stations and weekend getaway spots, comes the first tunnel, and it's a long one. It doesn't prepare you for the sights to follow.

You are suddenly staring down the side of a mountain as it falls away to plains, civilizations and more hills in the distance. The view is breath-taking and is continuously interspersed with tunnels. It made me jump out of my seat and run to the door, where I stayed for the next hour. Just as suddenly, the view shifts to the other side of the train, where one could see only rock-face. While one side looks onto the plains, the other side looks onto the Ghats itself; so, you are treated with a majestic, albeit short, vision of the adjacent mountain-face and the valley in between. Since this is still the monsoon period, numerous waterfalls line the mountain-face as they cut through foliage and curvily make their way down to drop splendidly a few dozen feet off a short cliff before continuing on in a similar manner to the next cliff.

Once you exit the Ghats and return to the normalcy of the plains, you begin to sense the delicate balance start to move towards man, as you see ever-increasing amounts of garbage and squalor. By the time Kalyan Junction swings around, you're convinced man has taken over and settle back a trifle dejectedly, when nature slaps you in the facewith two totally unexpected sights - a large inlet of water that looks like a river on which are parked ships (or very large boats), and a temple built half-way up a hill with a backdrop of hundereds of feet of perpendicular rock.

I was reminded of how man and nature live in harmony as I saw the healthy greenery, the squalor of the slums and the over-arching modernity of development and buildings, all peacefully co-existing with one another. It is up to oneself to choose one's view. After all, even Mumbai, a city with more people than Australia, has the splendid Arabian Sea as its wingman.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Aircel? Airtel?

This is a fictional article that appeared in my head a few days ago.

Following the nationwide launch of telecommunication company Aircel with a poor creative (TVC) buffered by massive media budgets, irate consumers have decided to stage a dharna outside Aircel's head office in every city.

"I cannot stand that annoying ringtone-music that keeps playing from the Aircel commercial. And it seems to be playing on every channel at all times. It's everywhere, even in restaurants and on the radio," said one of the protestors outside the Aircel office in Bangalore. He has resorted to wearing ear plugs so that he cannot hear the ringtone-music even by mistake. We had to show him our badges and then conduct the interview by writing down our questions to which he would respond by writing down his answers. He also mentioned he was now being approached by some headphones companies to promote their headphones and earphones, but he declined to say which companies those were.

Another protestor outside the Delhi Aircel office had an issue with the cricketers used in the commercial. "My 5 year old son had no problems in identifying Indian cricketers before this ad came out," he said proudly. "But now that they have used look-alikes who bear a striking resemblance to the original cricketers, he cannot say for sure who Harbhajan, Gambir, Sachin and Yuvraj are. Heck, even I have trouble now. Due to this, my son has started losing interest in cricket and we fear that he may not desire the career in cricket we desire for him. I want to sue Aircel for all the endorsements he would have gotten as an Indian cricketer, but now will not. I want to sue Aircel for my retirement." His cry was taken up by other young parents around him.

When contacted for his reaction, India captain Dhoni seemed non-plussed. "Aircel?" he queried, his puzzlement clearly evident. "I thought I had been signed up for Airtel. The brand manager I spoke to had a lisp. So, everytime he said 'Aircel', I thought he was saying 'Airtel'. Oh dang! I hate the Aircel ringtone-music. I took an Airtel number after I signed the contract. My ringtone and callertune are both the famous Airtel music composed by A.R. Rahman. I'm a big fan of his. Sigh! I guess I'll have to put my phone on 'Silent' all the time now."

When prodded about the resemblance of the actors to the cricketers, he replied, "When I was shooting the commercial, I thought I was shooting with the cricketers. You see, I have myopic vision and I need to wear spectacles, but I can't as I am in talks with some eyewear brands to become their ambassador. Till that is finalised, I can't buy myself glasses. When I saw the Aircel ad on TV, I was amazed that they had found somebody who looked just like me. I immediately called my manager to ask if this will reduce my commercial worthiness, but he assured me that people will always only want the real thing. So I relaxed, took my bike and went and had a glass of fresh cow's milk with Lalooji."

It is this reporter's opinion that companies that have massive media budgets must first ensure that they have a good creative to be blasted out onto the unsuspecting consumers. Vodafone is another company that is getting dangerously close to the line of sanity for the consumers. Aircel has already jumped over the line with their entry.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

I love February

I think February is the best month in the year, and I'm quite sad that it has passed. Of course, I was born in Feb, so I think it makes it even more special. But I especially love all the quirks the month comes with.

It's the shortest month in the year, the only one with less than 30 days. It's also the only month that is flexible in the number of days it has - 28 or 29. It's neither the first month nor the last, and it's not slotted right in the middle either.

I quit my job this Feb. It's another one in a growing list. It was a decent job, paid decently too. I quit it because I wanted to follow my heart. I quit it because if you are not passionate about something, you are just existing for the heck of it and you will never succeed; you'll just move forward slightly. I still like advertising and I think I might return to the industry, but I don't want to return on the management side; I want to return on the creative side. And that is exactly what I'm going out to explore - my creative side.

I'm going to explore my writing and my music, both of which are at a very nascent stage. I'm unqualified in both areas, but I have grand dreams for them and I know I can do something with them. I know I want to do something with them.

I'm also going to explore my social side - one that has been twisting and turning inside me, hollering for the attention it has never received. I have always been an armchair activist, but it doesn't feel enough. I want to go out and actually make a difference. I want to be in that last mile delivery where I get to see the results first-hand and, hopefully, immediately. I am in the process of trying to become a Teach For India Fellow. I've never been a teacher before but I know I'm good with children.

I crave immediate gratification and that is something I never got at any of my jobs. That is something I get with my writing and my music. That is something I think I will get with teaching and with social work. I am following my heart. There is a good chance I am shooting myself in the foot. If that is the case, I hope I am able to hobble back to this corporate world I am leaving behind without too much damage; but I hope that is not the case.

Wish me luck, for I am about to embark on a journey whose route and destination I do not know. I see a haze in front of me, but I am moving in a particular direction.

Monday, January 12, 2009

24 Hours In A Bangalore Day

This past weekend was one of the best I've had in a very long time. It started great, was busy with fun-filled activities and ended great. Saturday morning saw me finish the first draft of a short story I'm working on for a contest and the afternoon had me going at the drums till I near perfected "Back In Black" and "Highway To Hell". However, the 24 hours I'll be profiling will be from Saturday night till Sunday night, and I will be doing so with the aid of pictures.

Saturday night was the Midnight Marathon. I wasn't going to run till the last minute, but thanks to some friends, I went and we all took part in the 5km run. The event was very poorly organised. I felt like we part a baraat which was incredibly late and had to run to the marriage hall. There were Diwali-type lights strung from the streetlights and a bunch of people dancing on the street to a bunch of dhol players. But I cruised to the finish line in a little over a half hour, and I had some fabulous running company whom I think I irritated the stuff out of with my constant jabbering and bad jokes.

I got up early on Sunday morning to be a part of a cycle ride a couple of cyclists were going on. Got to the Sarjapur-outer ring road junction (9km from my house; I know thanks to the nifty new cyclo-computer I have) by 6:30am where 3 more riders showed up. We left soon after, got off the main road in 5 min and went off-roading. It was an exhilarating ride. I've never been off-roading on my cycle before and I felt great. We stopped for some IVC (Idli-Vada-Coffee), then headed back to one of the cyclists' apartment complex where a talk had been organised with the residents on cycles and commuting and stuff.

Bosche called me up on Sunday afternoon and we made a plan to go to MG Road to do a bit of shopping. That trip was vintage. It was what we used to do years ago when we were still in college. Start at the top of Brigade Road, walk down one side, cross the road and walk up the other side. The only difference was that instead of window shopping, we actually went into the stores. I picked up an adidas scent (smelt really nice) and was checking out running shoes to fuel this new desire of mine to run long distances. Nike Air and adidas adizero are the clear favourites. Nike Air will probably win just on the strength of service their salesman gave me.

Then we stopped by an old haunt of ours - Java City on Church Street. This cafe was the cafe for me. I used to swear by it and I especially love the jazz band that plays here on weekends. Quality of food and service may have dropped, but the music was as great as ever.

As night fell, we met the greatest financial consultant in all of Bangalore, our good friend KPMG man and headed to Take 5 for dinner. They serve some very good Italian food and the damage isn't too bad.

All in all, a lovely weekend. The new routine I'm building for my weekends seems to be working. The future looks promising and inviting.

P.S.: Did anybody see the moon last night? It looked like Bruce Almighty had been pulling it again. My camera phone isn't good enough, but I still tried capturing it and failed miserably. Oh, for a D-SLR and the knowledge to use one!

P.P.S.: Is it just me or does the new Honda City look like "Holy Batmobile, Batman!"