Chakde India: 16 girls, SRK & hockey-shockey

Media & Entertainment

Anything new in Chakde India? Nothing.

Would I still recommend watching it. Yes.

The movie starts with the customary disclaimer that it is a work of fiction and any resemblance to real people or events is purely co-incidental.

Now, if you consider the following as facts…

  • People who run sports bodies in India are boring sarkari-types.
  • Zafar Iqbal was the captain of the Indian hockey team that lost 1-7 to Pakistan in the finals of the 1982 Asian Games in New Delhi.
  • Yuvraj Singh was dating Kim Sharma and was the vice-captain of the Indian cricket team.
  • The walls of Mohammed Kaif’s house were blackened with graffiti by vandals after India lost a cricket match.
  • Women married into many middle-class families are expected to be nothing beyond good housewives.
  • Many people from North-East of India do not associate themselves with India.
  • Women from the North-East are subject to lewd remarks in many places in India.
  • Rustic Haryanvi lines in Hindi films (remember the wrestler-goon in Khosla Ka Ghosla) and television (remember Udham Singh on Channel [V] ) are funny.
  • A regular Indian team is composed of players chosen from different states.

… then Shimit Amin (Ab Tak 56) does craft a whole movie out of co-incidences alone!

The fundamental premise here, like in all sports-based films, is that audience sympathy is always with the underdogs and therefore the protagonists have to be the underdogs. Remember Lagaan, Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar, Iqbal and recently, Ta Ra Rum Pum? (I won’t ask you, but if you also remember Awwal Number, All-rounder, Kabhi Ajnabi Thhey, you rock!) And if the underdogs happen to be women with their own respective odds, then you have a completely-on-the-side-of-political-correctness double-whammy lined up! Now top that up with Shah Rukh Khan being their mentor — and you have a triple-treat-sundae ready!

Shah Rukh as a mentor of people is a film-genre in its own right. Whether it was mentoring a gurukul of plastic love-birds in Mohabbatein, or mentoring villagers wanting their own electric turbine in Swades, or as Major Ram studying alongside students who called him uncle in Main Hoon Naa, and of course my favourite SRK-as-mentor scene from DDLJ (which I mentioned here). (Please note: any assumptions about SRK’s acting abilities are your own!)

I deliberately won’t venture into how all and what all does Chakde India not deliver. Because in our land of abundant contradictions I still believe if something can make a small difference, it is a movie dripping with clichés and stereotypes!

If people believe that a Veer Zaara can contribute more to building relations between Indo-Pak aam janta than official actions — then I won’t play party-pooper to the hope that after Chakde India the integrity of the ordinary Indian Muslim won’t be ever questioned again; that people of North-East India would start seeing themselves as citizens of India; that the girl-child in Haryana (which has one of the lowest female:male ratios in India) gets her due; that middle-class families start giving their daughters-in-law some space to fulfill their aspirations; that people from Jharkhand are no longer seen as backward tribals but recognized for what they can contribute to the country; that boy-friends become less patronizing towards their girls; that we rise above our regional-linguistic chauvinism and start thinking of ourselves as Indians first!

Go watch it.

p.s.
On the other hand, the official Yashraj Films.com website (click here at your own peril) is perhaps the epitome of traumatic navigation websites. Every module, every link you click takes 10 times longer to load (with a Flash pre-loader) than the amount of time you finally end up spending on the resultant page! Have you ever been exasperated using phone IVR call-in menus — press 1 for Hindi and press 2 for English. Now press 1 for blah and 2 for blah-blah and 3 for blah-blah-blah. Now press 1 for dang, 2 for dangg, and 3 for danggg? Grrrr. That was child’s play! On this official website I was actually scared of clicking on any link — afraid of the next loading-section countdown screen that would be unleashed on me!

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Spiderman-3 Review: Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Spyde(rman)

Media & Entertainment

Just watched Spiderman-3 in a ‘paid preview’ show at the Sahara Mall PVR in Gurgaon. There is something fundamentally ‘deflating’ about a ‘paid preview’. Now contrast this with Spiderman (1) which I had seen in a ‘real’ Thursday premiere show in Mumbai! (And where I got my 15 seconds of prime time presence on Star News — my sound bites being sandwiched between celebrity-speak and vox populi.)

A quick round up.
Plus points?
Extraordinary action and thrills — living up to the Spiderman 1 & 2 standards.

Minus points?
I had like a 100 deja vu moments. Read on… (Spoiler alert!)

Spiderman gets a split-personality. Dr. Jekyl (with the famous red and blue Spiderman vardi) and Mr. Spyde (who in black spandex is un-vardi. Oops I mean unworthy!)

The villain — actually one of the villains — a special-effects marvel, is of triple parentage. Wait that’s not part of the plot. What I mean is that he has the looks of The Hulk, physical composition of The Mummy and the size of Godzilla!

A bit of Abhimaan thrown in. Professional jealousy leading to (pre)marital discord. She resents his popularity.

She even resents him publicly kissing the ‘other girl’. She says, “How could you? That was OUR kiss.” That “OUR kiss” of course referring to the famous scene from the first movie where Spiderman hangs upside down while she pulls his mask down to do the needful. So it is not only in India that a public kiss (peck, whatever) between Richard Gere and Shilpa Shetty causes so much unrest! But notice that in America the emphasis is on getting the priorities right. Pull the mask sufficiently — to only expose the lips. Why bother with frivolities like look into the eyes and all that jazz(baat).

The American onlookers reaction to anyone who’s perched on some high-up spot (which happens a lot in Spiderman) reminded me of the “arrey bhai yeh suicide kya hota hai?” “jab angrez log martey hain toh usko suicide kehte hain” from Sholay when Dharmendra climbs onto the water tank!

A bit of Raj Kapoor’s Sangam — friends in love with the same girl. A bit of Qurbani (and 20,000 other movies) — one of the friends interrupting with his own torso, the trajectory of a projectile (bullet, knife, blades, poles etc.) aimed at the other friend! And as a befitting finale, dying in the lap of his friends after a refusing-to-let-go-off-footage-crunching dying speech!

A Ramu kaka benevolent equivalent who knows some khaandaan ka raaz that sorts out some misunderstanding. Ramu kaka, if only you had opened your mouth earlier — Spiderman-2 needn’t have been made!

One of the characters loses his memory and then regains it later — both transactions (losing and regaining) contributing to the plot! Vintage Hindi cinema, right?

A perennially angry man’s anger management routine being the cause for some comic moments. Munabhai MBBS anyone? A little bit of Lage Raho Munnabhai — with villains saying “apun ko tereko sorry bolne ka hai“! (I am not quoting, just capturing the sentiment!)

There’s a scene completely lifted from Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (DDLJ). Remember the song ‘Ruk ja…‘? Here Shah Rukh is played by Spider Khan, oops, Spiderman. There we had a Simran — Kajol. Here we have a simmerin’ Kirsten Dunst. (Simmerin’, Simran sounds similar, right?) The song and dance begins with the hero unexpectedly displaying his nimble finger work on the piano keys. And the rest of the dance is to annoy/rile the heroine. I won’t be surprised if Farah Khan has actually ghost-choreographed this song! Actually I would be surprised. Else either Farah’s PR, or the Indian media (not much separating the two, right?) would have left no stone unturned in shoving this news down our throats! Remember how they went berserk after her Shakira tryst?

Again DDLJ — remember SRK talking to Simran’s mom in a simranizing tone, oops, sermonizing tone? “Meri maa ne mujhe sikhaaya thha. Zindagi mein do raste chun sakte ho. Ek aasaan. Ek mushkil. Blah. Blah” That is the gyaan from this movie too — we are what we choose to be!

I left the movie with a heavy sense of DDLJ vu!

Maus, Persepolis & Inktales

Humour, Media & Entertainment

In the last few months that I was away from here, I read 4 books. Maus by Art Spiegelman, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, Maus II by Art Spiegelman, and Persepolis II by Marjane Satrapi. Ok technically that makes it 2 books and their sequels.

All these books were lent to me by a colleague who believed I would enjoy reading these. It would be an understatement to say that I enjoyed reading these! I am a changed person.

Both Maus and Persepolis are set against the backdrop of political upheavels that changed the lives of their protagonists as well as their societies.

In Persepolis the Iranian revolution and the war with Iraq form the backdrop against which Satrapi plays out her autobiographical story.

Art Spiegelman didn’t have an interesting enough backdrop perhaps — growing up in America. So Maus is actually an account of his father’s survival during the Jewish holocaust. And believe me this one is as powerful as Schindler’s List.

I STRONGLY recommend STRONGLY recommend these 4 books to you.

The next book I would recommend to you doesn’t exist yet. Or maybe it does exist, as fragmented jottings, which are waiting for a political, society-altering context! I could introduce the author to you though — Sunandini Basu, (Soo to friends) who blogs snippets from her life at inktales.blogspot.com.

Oh! Did I tell you all these (Maus, Persepolis and Inktales) are comics? No, not comics in the Archies, Mandrake or even Tintin sense of the word. Soo prefers calling them ‘graphic novels’. I don’t like that term ever since Sarnath Bannerjee wrote what his PR claimed was ‘India’s first graphic novel’ — which was graphic in the Soo sense as well graphic in the Shobha De sense too! (Hehe, notice Soo sense rhymes with nuisance? Only rhymes, ok?)

These are comics in the Scott McCloud (who has been called the Aristotle of comics) mould. Each one showcases not only the authors’ story-telling ability, with imaginative narratives; but also the authors’ innocent eye for detail; AND a talent to translate that into simple yet powerful visuals.

I had seen such a talent in Ry who researches maths but used to maintain a wonderful journal of his life at four.livejournal.com. Then one fine day, he decided he had had enough of sharing his life with the world and deleted all his posts. I guess what he missed was a political, society-altering context!

So I hope Soo gets the political, society-altering backdrop for her story soon!

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that she is also the colleague who lent me those 4 books, and this post is not a quid pro quo for that! It’s her birthday today :)

Sify: Nothing exclusive about it!

Media & Entertainment

In the last two weeks when The Hanging of Saddam Hussain posts (here & here) were attracting all kinds of search engines, many of which (as I mentioned earlier) I didn’t even know existed, there was one search service which I did identify — Sify Search. However, what astounded me was the ‘Sify Exclusive’ label next to each search result.

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Obviously there was nothing (Sify) exclusve about these results, since in any case Sify Search is “enhanced by Google”! This is reminiscent of a trend in mainstream media where every news house claimed ‘exclusivity’ even for interviews and stories being simulcast all over, perhaps only with different camera angles!

The hanging of Saddam Hussain & the madness after

Media & Entertainment, Zeitgeist

I had once mentioned what kind of video clips make it to the viral-able grade. That was in the context of sports events/incidents. I also believe the days of ‘World’s Most Amazing Videos‘ genre of programming are over on TV. YouTube and other video-sharing sites completely own this genre now.

Similarly, while ‘breaking news’ is still most dramatic on TV, the reference / search and archival possibilties ensure a much longer life for these videos on the Internet.

There is a popular post which compiled a list of the top ‘Viral video moments of 2006‘. However even as that list was doing the rounds — the biggest such event happened — the hanging of Saddam Hussain.

It was against this backdrop, and being a faithfully-in-love-with-the Internet person, that I was checking out YouTube on the morning of January 1. And that’s when I made the observation about 18 17 of the top 20 ‘most viewed’ YouTube videos on that day being of Saddam Hussain’s hanging. Somehow I wasn’t comfortable linking the actual videos here.

And then two days later when I logged in to my WordPress dashboard I did a double-take with disbelief!

My daily visit count was just going through the roof. The previous best ever was 348, the day Amit Agarwal had tipped DesiPundit about the Maxim magazine post of mine.

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This was because the top result on Google for “hanging of Saddam Hussain” was my post! (That has since been moved out owing to Google’s strange batch-indexing policy. It should be back soon.)

Here are the Yahoo! screen shots (till I get the Google screen shot which Nigel took for posterity :-))

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People were getting referred from search-engines I never even knew existed…

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The search words that were taking people to this site went something like this…

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My post stats looked like this:

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And then based on this traffic, WordPress started featuring me in their ‘Blog of The Day’ lists… The highest I reached was No.2 (click to see full image)

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I wanted to write this post two days back, but was waiting for the deluge to ebb a little. Sadly, I still don’t have a point of view on this issue yet.

Incidentally there was no visible increase in the list of spam messages, thus proving that the sheer magnitude of organic activities far out-strips the dogged efforts by spammers!