Sunday, January 24, 2010

Holmes, Reinvented!

One of the very few things, or rather the only thing that can be done for entertainment in this boring little city of Stamford is watching movies (that's what I realized from my stay here so far) and that's precisely what a colleague and me did during the first weekend of mine here.

A home-theater kind of an environment (96-seater auditorium), a screen which was slightly bigger than the one at home, a handful of people and we were all set to watch SHERLOCK HOLMES. We were welcomed into the auditorium with some dirty looks from a teenaged couple, seated right at the back (you know for what!), to ensure that we didn't plonk ourselves right next to them. Thankfully, we were intelligent enough to understand that and made ourselves comfortable right in the middle of the auditorium and also ensured that we didn't turn around to look at them till the end. We got to watch trailers of almost 10 new releases before the movie began; probably they were waiting for a few more people to come in at the last moment but that wasn't to happen.

The movie, directed by Guy Ritchie (more popularly, the ex-husband of Madonna), is basically Sherlock Holmes reinvented which might actually make Sir Arthur Conan Doyle turn in his grave and definitely will not go down well with the purists but what the heck, it is damn entertaining!!! With his reckless attitude, he may not be the refined Holmes of Doyle's conjuring, but this feisty re-imagining or rather, re-imaging is impressive I must say. He is no suave (a la James Bond) but definitely a man of action; does some bone-crunching and gets his hand dirty, literally. He has a rough energy; is clumsy to the core but his intellectual prowess, observation powers, deductive reasoning and forensic skills are very much intact. And he still is Doyle's super-sleuth, a brainy and more importantly, a brawny Sherlock Holmes!!!

Robert Downey Jr. in the title role is a delight to watch. His mannerisms and body language suit the role to the T and re-establishes the fact that he is one of the best in the business. Jude Law, as Dr. Watson, is a perfect match to Downey and the crackling chemistry between them is definitely the highlight of the movie!!!

And with the ending hinting at the arrival of Holmes' arch-rival Prof. Moriarty, the sequel should be worth waiting for.

Elementary, my dear Watson!!!

Monday, January 18, 2010

My first trip to the US of A

Jan 15, 2010 – 6pm (Bangalore): Left home to take the Jet Airways 10.40pm flight (9W466) to Chennai, with the moist-eyed Sappu seeing me off. The food articles I was carrying were heavier than my clothes and occupied most of the space in my baggage. I had lots of khakras, maggi noodles, biscuits, some snack items like bhujia, moong dal, puris/nippats, pickle and some powders to be mixed with rice. Not too sure if I was going for a picnic or an official trip!!

Jan 15, 2010 – 11pm (Chennai): Reached Chennai in approx half hour. It took me an hour to reach the Bangalore airport from home and another one hour for all the other formalities (boarding card, security check etc). A sandwich and a brownie for dinner in the flight at 11.15pm; I never say no to food be it any time of the day!!!

Jan 15, 2010 – 11.15pm (Chennai): In queue for the Immigration formalities. I had approx 100 people in front of me (guess entire Chennai was headed to the US!!); no proper queue; total mess and chaos reigned supreme.

Jan 16, 2010 – 12.15am (Chennai): Somehow managed to wade through the sea of humanity to finish the immigration stuff and then it was time to fight away sleep and wait for the flight which was scheduled to depart at 1.35am!!

Jan 16, 2010 – 1.35am (Chennai): Departure of Jet Airways flight 9W226 to New York via Brussels. A quick call to Sappu (who was still awake) to confirm that I was on the right flight (she was scared that I might get lost and take a wrong flight to Nigeria!!!).

Jan 16, 2010 – 2am (Chennai): We were welcomed onboard with a towel dipped in cold water (not too sure what it’s called) and a welcome drink - a canned bottle of lemon juice. And then it was time for dinner, or was it breakfast? Whatever, it was food and I had to eat. Rice with some subzi, a bowl of curds and a dessert (a vanilla cake with chocolate topping I think). And forgot to mention, we were offered alcohol as well and I had 2 large vodkas with sprite (Sappu would be proud of me!!!).

Jan 16, 2010 – 2.30am (Chennai): After dinner, the lights were switched off and it was time for a nap. However, the inflight entertainment had so many options that I considered skipping sleep and watching all the movies (there were the English ones like Informant, Inglourious Bastards apart from some classics; hindi included Wanted, Kaminey, Love Aaj Kal, apart from lots of others); approx 50 odd movies that I could choose from!!! But wiseness prevailed and I decided to go to sleep!!

Jan 16, 2010 – 6am (god knows where): The lights were switched on and we were given hot towels this time and a fruit juice to get us ready for breakfast (when will you wake me up like that Sappu?). It was time for breakfast (croissant, fruits, dosa with chutney and tea). I quickly freshened up and came back to ensure that I don’t miss it!! After breakfast, decided to watch Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Bastards. 10 minutes into the movie and I decided to switch to a hindi one primarily because it did not have subtitles. I watched Kaminey for the second time. I didn’t need subtitles because it was in hindi!!

Jan 16, 2010 - 8am (Brussels): After completing 10 hours in the air (my longest ever), I reached Brussels. And just when the plane was landing, the guy sitting next to me decided to throw up (not on me, thank god!!). He used up the vomit bags of almost all the other passengers and I was scared that the crew would run out of stock. Thankfully, he was finished with the ordeal before we got off the plane. It was 2 deg C and freezing like hell in Brussels. But the most painful part was the security check that we had to undergo at the Brussels airport.

Jan 16, 2010 – 9.30am (Brussels): After almost an hour and a half in the queue, I felt Chennai was better. We had to remove our jackets, shoes, belts (thankfully not trousers)!! The security officer who was checking me tried to locate the non-existent explosives / bombs and almost got his hand close to my private parts (unfortunately it was a guy). Once he was convinced that I was clean, I was let go to catch my connecting flight to New York!!

Jan 16, 2010 – 10.10am (Brussels): Now it was time for the second leg of my journey, from Brussels to New York. And to my horror, the ‘vomit-man’ was sitting next to me again. I began my prayers!! It was time for welcoming us onboard again with hot towels this time and lemon juice. I was anxiously waiting to see what I would be given for breakfast or was it lunch? Whatever. Unfortunately, no food came and I thought of reading this time around instead of watching a movie. I picked up Chetan Bhagat’s latest and continued from where I left.

Jan 16, 2010 – 12pm (not too sure where): It was time for lunch and we were served one chapathi, malai kofta, peas subzi, fried rice and curds. I was tempted to tell my neighbour to refrain from having food but couldn’t muster up courage (even he had paid for the tickets, I couldn’t ask him to skip food!!). We were served alcohol as well but I wasn’t too keen because the vodka that I had a few hours back would last me a month. And oh yes, I watched Salman Khan’s “Wanted” (one of the biggest blockbusters of 2009) to keep me company while having food! He still cannot act for nuts even after being in the industry for such a long time!!! And it was time for another movie after I was done with ‘never’ Wanted. I ended up watching a movie called ‘Frantic’ starring Harrison Ford. Now you might think why I watched this English movie without subtitles. The reason is that all Harrison Ford movies have similar plots (his family is kidnapped and he sets out in their search; think Firewall, Air Force One, Patriot Games and so on & so forth). And fyi, in this movie it’s his wife who is kidnapped!!!

Jan 16, 2010 – 11pm (closer to NY): A chocostick ice-cream at the fag end of the flight to ensure a sweet ending to our journey. How I love ice creams!!! I noticed that my neighbour didn’t take the ice cream and wanted to ask him if I could take it on his behalf. But I suddenly remembered what happened just before the flight landed in Brussels and kept my mouth shut!!

Jan 16, 2010 – 12.40pm (New York): Landed at the JFK International Airport in New York, safe and sound. Once again, gave a quick call to Sappu to confirm that I had indeed landed in US!!

2 States - The story of my marriage as well!!

Just happened to read the latest Chetan Bhagat bestseller. This is supposedly his best work till date and that’s what I feel as well. Five Point Someone was a good start and was followed by One Night @ The Call Centre which was quite fine (not in the league of his first one though). I haven’t read Three Mistakes Of My Life as it neither excited me nor did it get good reviews. In line with the tradition of his novels beginning with a numeric, the current one is titled 2 States – The Story Of My Marriage and is a sequel to his first novel.

It is the story about a couple coming from two different states of India, who face hardships in convincing their parents and persuading them to get married. The novel is a fiction, but is said to be inspired from the real story of Chetan and his wife who are from Delhi and Tamil Nadu, respectively.

To begin with, I expected the novel to reflect a bit of my personal life which it obviously did and I wasn’t disappointed. Am sure those who have had intercaste / interstate marriages would definitely be able to relate to most of the events / circumstances depicted in the novel. Most of them seem true and believable and obviously, some part is fictional. It’s definitely not a literary classic and am sure Chetan himself wouldn’t term it that way. It is predictable with a wafer thin story of boy meeting girl, overcoming all obstacles and finally getting married (a la our movies) but the narration is what makes all the difference. And more importantly, you are able to connect with it.

Sapna was the first one to finish the novel and I remember how she laughed her heart out when Chetan describes Tamilians (Tamil Brahmins to be precise); their appearance (not all of them are dark, look at me Sapna!), food habits (probably all of them like curd rice, yours truly included), mannerisms etc etc. She definitely enjoyed reading the novel and had a nice time at the cost of my TamBrahm community! Well, some of the detailing were a bit over-the-top and exaggerated I should say but that’s what you probably call “artistic license”!

I, for my part, thoroughly enjoyed reading the description of “Punjabi families”; their loud talking ways, their food habits (paneer, ghee, butter!!) et al. However, I would definitely say that Marwaris (that’s what Sapna is) are probably a sober lot (their “sweet” eating habits notwithstanding!) compared to the Punjabis. I definitely wouldn’t forget my first trip to Rajasthan post-wedding where I was given a Kingly treatment by all her relatives; they literally fell over each other to make sure that the ‘kunwar-sa’ was taken care of well. Since I wasn’t used to such a kind of treatment, it was a little embarrassing initially. But then, am used to it nowadays and have started enjoying it as well.

Another ritual that literally gives me nightmares even now is ‘touching the feet’ of the elders. Not that I don’t want to do it but then it’s quite difficult to figure out whose feet I should be touching and whose not. I remember an instance in Rajasthan wherein there was an elderly lady (Sapna’s relative) who came up to me and I touched her feet. She moved away and I thought probably she doesn’t quite like me and so, didn’t want to bless me. But then to my shock I got to know that she was Sapna’s niece (and so theoretically I shouldn’t have touched her feet though she was older). Phew!!

One thing that Sapna keeps complaining about is that even after 3 years of marriage, I still find it difficult to figure out the names of her relatives and how exactly they are related to her. I just have a handful of relatives and Sapna has done a pretty good job of knowing who is who but the same is not the case with me. I just hope I figure this out by our 25th wedding anniversary!!!

We didn’t have to struggle as much as the couple in the novel to convince our parents for our marriage (touch wood). That was because not just Sapna but my in-laws were also floored by my charm and agreed instantly to me becoming their son-in-law (Sapna wouldn’t agree though!!).

But what I really liked about the novel were certain simple yet subtle points which the author makes; like when he says that South Indians can be great no. 2 people in an organization but are found wanting when it comes to taking up the no. 1 job; that he hopes that such intercaste / interstate marriages would help in uniting India (now you know the reason for me marrying Sapna!!!).

A nice breezy read is what I would say. Pick it up when you don’t feel like reading some heavy duty stuff!!!

Thursday, January 07, 2010


My blog resembles a movie review site nowadays!!!

Anyways, now on to another one of my favorite movies - LAGAAN. Ended up watching this sometime last week (have lost count of the number of times I have seen this). “Nothing is Impossible” should have been the tagline of the movie instead of “Once Upon A Time In India”. A wonderful movie which celebrates the “triumph of the underdog” like no other movie does.

One of the best kept secrets about the movie till the time of its release was that it was about cricket. Though it was common knowledge that it was a period film, set in the pre-Independence era, everyone assumed that the movie would be about the Indian freedom struggle. And with a title like Lagaan (tax), you would be excused for assuming that. Though the poster of the movie showed 11 guys standing next to each other, who would have guessed that cricket was its backdrop? Not me for sure!!

Once the movie released, it took this cricket-crazy nation by surprise & awe and went on to become one of the biggest grossers of all time and received an Oscar nomination as well. With a running time of 224 mins, many might not have the patience to sit through this. But definitely not me. I still enjoy everytime I get to watch this! I wouldn’t call this a “sports” movie but a typical bollywood fare with the right mixture of drama, music, emotions, thrills etc etc.

Wonderful performances from Aamir Khan & team (including the Brit actors), neat screenplay, amazing music by AR Rehman, nice choreography and above all, excellent direction by Ashutosh Gowariker puts Lagaan on the “bollywood-movies-not-to-be-missed” list.

It was called the “perfect” hindi movie when it was released. Not too sure about that but then I just love watching it everytime it’s on TV!!

PS – You can look up or wikipedia for more info on the movie.