Sunday, 11 January 2009

Slumdog Millionaire-A refreshingly different movie

Last night at the Sandeep's, for the first time this year, I finally got to sit down and gulp a few pegs of Scotch. The Rajesh's and Mickey's had all come too. Rika came with her cute one-week old daughter. They were yet to figure out whether to name her Rania or Laila.

A sumptuous meal followed. Courtesy our host: Parul. There was a serious discussion on whether Parul should start Indian cooking classes in Stockholm. While the discussion went nowhere, all the food and drinks went to the right place at the right time. Sandeep had bought some expensive Fenny from his New year Goa and Rest of India trip. The others felt it was too much to gulp even with Schweppes diluting it and therefore reverted to the trusted Scotch soonafter.

The stage was set to watch a movie and it was decided that Slumdog Millionaire it will be.

Commotion prevailed even before the movie started. I went quiet after the movie began playing. There was even more commotion after that. The commotion created by the junta returning home to put the kids to bed was welcomed by me(though, I did not express it). Sandeep and I decided that we will watch the movie from the beginning, once again.

I was finally at peace to watch a rather violent start to the movie.

The screenplay was simply brilliant. It was nice to see the Mumbai chaws and streets shown so well on the silverscreen. We dont get to see them in "see them as they are" states even in many of the Bollywood movies these days.

Danny Boyle's bold take on the nuaces of Mumbai slums and the emotions surrounding it has to be applauded. While many are already talking about the next set of Oscars going to him and his team, I am still contemplating what took the moviemakers to come out with a masterpiece like this one? If a 400-odd rupees Vikas Swarup's book can inspire a movie like this, India is definitely in to bag every alternate Academy and Globe awards and any other Critics award world over. We just need more writers I guess!

The story revolves around Jamal, a slumdog from the Mumbai streets. The storyline is splendid. The movie is a breathtaking take on reality of the TV-world, ego of TV-personalities, small wishes of people from the smaller world, the call-center world and most importantly the torture of homeless kids and their stuggle to survive in a harsh-environment.

For some reason, this movie reminded me of another masterpiece called City of Angels. Though it is completely set in a different world of Rio's terror streets.
The central theme in the movie is that Love ke liye apun(Jamal) kuch bhi karega.
The creative idea of using a TV-show like Who wants to be a Millionaire in order to reach out to other(true) facets of life in Mumbai needs to be lauded over and over again. The movie lives up the pace of a Mumbaikar's everyday life. Pauses only to get up and start running all over again. Exceptional screenplay.
I've never been a ARR fan, but his background play in this movie adds the necessary tension and blends well with the emotions in the movie. A low in this movie though is a Bollywood-like number at the completion of the movie. It was unnecessary.
My only recommendation is Watch it, digest it and come back to watch it all over again.

On a scale of 10, I award a 7 to this Millionaire movie.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Not even a Quantum of Solace

I have not been blogging for a while now. But then, these are terrible times and I don't write when good things happen.
It looks like I have picked up an uncanny knack of picking up means of ruining my days in the Stockholm autumn. This time it was by watching a movie, unofficially codenamed Bond 22.

It was turning out to be a perfect evening: Seeing Prashanth. Jr. yawning 3 times and then smiling once at me(Oh, by the way, he made his long-awaited debut on Earth 5 days ago), Delicious Upma and Indian tea at the Nayaks and our share of heartful laughs with all of'em. Finally, at around 1830 hrs, Rajesh(Durg) gave me a dump over the phone on the plans for the evening. Tickets for the night show of Q0S(read Quantum Zero Solace) have been booked: 2130 hrs. Reporting time 2045 hrs (India Standard Time) at the Vastra Skogen tunnelbana. More and Mickey were to join in.

The movie begins where it was left in the earlier version of Daniel Craig's Casino Royale.
A terrible car-chase but an excellent opening line from Bond.. Its time to get out!
I should have realised that he was not only referring it to Mr. White in the Aston Martin boot but to the audience as well. Humour apart, the expectations from the movie chandrayaans post this powerful one-liner. A lot was said and written about how Bond in Casino Royale (in his then latest avatar) learns from the scratch the hard way, gets beaten to the core and makes mistakes showcasing everybody is human after all. I would have expected to see a more stylish, delicate yet powerful, sophisticated (in line with the series) and less-bleeding character after the opening one-liner. But then, only fools repeat their mistakes. And this one is. What I got to see in the next 100 mins was a man in pain, who bleeds at the same places where he once did in Casino Royale, seems to cover up the wounds in a jiffy, sports dirty tux, gets punched by a girl on multiple occasions, behaves like a grade-2 moviestar from Kollywood (or Tollywoord or Sandalwood or whatever). Its not a bad idea to get punched. But not again and again. All that you can do to get away from the pitiful position is to somehow get framed for murdering the suspects. How very thoughtful? C'mon Marc and team, you can do better than that.
It looks like this team of movie makers have a liking to rooftop chases. The parkour chase in Casino Royale definitely ranks amongst the best action sequences in the Bond series. You won't be disappointed this time...on the rooftops of Italian province of Seina. The action scenes are tough and look real. Excellent camera work.
The high-end gadgetary was noticeably missing in this movie. Exception was the franchisee Sony Ericsson phone, which seems to promise a high-end facial-recognition AI and a powerful zoom(more powerful than one can ever make :-), that works in pitch-dark surrounding without a Flash and seems to transfer volumes of data faster than one could ever imagine in a primitive Bolivian network(By-the-way, they just got a 3G network couple of months ago). Taste for cars and aircrafts have taken a serious beating in this movie; exactly like Bond's Aston Martin in the opening car chase.
The unique chemistry between the characters - M and Bond is personified in this movie. Powerful statements. Unfortunately, poorly carried over the screen. The face-to-face verbal exchange and thereafter Bond's escape from the Grand Hotel, Bolivia was terribly executed and reminds one of the movies of the bygone era, when Stevan Seagal would easily ward off any knife or pistol attack on him by simply using his culinary skills. Sigh.
I always look forward to see what the new Bond girl brings with her to the table (or to the bed as some would like to say). The character-Vesper was a sea-change to what we've got accustomed to; marking a new beginning. She was awesome. Well, in this case, Camille (played by gorgeous Olga)has done a fantastic job too. Apart from the fact that she can kick some butt and play a very down-to-earth and untouchable by Bond-sort of a character, she also comes as a feminine equivalent of Bond. I only wonder how she manages to pick-up Bond in her petite car each time he is looking out for a ride(I meant a car-ride).
The movie is fast-paced but does nothing to ensure the interest of the viewer is bracketed onto a particular agenda. It goes all over the place and continues to fall down deep into the desert pits of Bolivia every ten minutes. Bond is witty as ever, which was the only other solace (apart from some action). A sexual harassment scene involving the Bolivian General was a big mistake in this movie. For instance, the cameraman forgot that he was shooting a Bond movie and not a Vajramuni-starrer. The focus on the primary sexual organ and nearby areas of the waitress was unnecessary and it meant that this movie should definitely be rated as poorly-made.
Where have all the villains gone? This Greene character can't even talk let alone act.
Some solace: The lingering Bond in Haiti theme in the background, the bloody painful action scenes, short-dose of Bond's one-liners and Camille's accent add upto a score of 3 out of a possible 10. I have been generous, considering that I am a hardcore Bond fan. Bond will have to be recreated all over again in a completely different form from the ashes of this one.

PS: If you have a choice in your region, I recommend watching Max Payne over the weekend instead of this version of Bond. But ensure you take your dose of Valkyr before watching it. Its bad but not terrible.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

My phone finally commeth

I've been closely following the movements at the Open Handset Alliance for nearly a year now.
The D-day finally arrived yesterday with the launch of G1.
World behold, this is only the tip of the iceberg, a preview of an epic-movie preview... The Android has landed on Earth.
Its F5 for the Wireless Communication era...

Saturday, 14 June 2008

No scandal in Bohemia

Sherlock Holmes found Irene Adler’s photograph as his award and admirably remembers Irene Adler as theThe womanwho, to him was the epitome of all womanhood.

I found Bohemia the epitome of the Royals meeting the commoner on a dance floor.

Day1, Act1-Asking Out:

Weather forecast had all gone wrong. But then, Omair had rented a black Volkswagen from Sixt for the weekend and that ensured I keep myself dry on a rainy afternoon in Prague. He came to pick me up at the Prague Ruzyně Airport. I last met him about 3 years ago. He was the same except for a receded hairline. Shalini, his flatmate, had accompanied him.

The drive from the airport to Budějovická area wasn't scenic but the cloudy setting, some fun talk in the car and the bollywood music kept me alive.

Omair and his friends stay in an apartment on the seventh floor. The lift was antique. It was one of those that Otis would say was his.

We all had a late lunch and the spicy sambar by Rajesh, (yet another flatmate of Omair) had a lasting effect on me. I think the throat infection and cold that I was suffering from cushioned the after effects on my taste buds and my system.

Without wasting much time, Omair and I decided to hit off the road and explore the Bohemian region. It was decided that I should first book my bus tickets to Berlin before embarking on the routine exploration mission. I booked a 1450 CZ Koruna worth Student Agency Express round-trip ticket and headed back to our car to hit the Old Town. We drove around the narrow streets of Prague. The first impression I got was that the roads here are meant for the Trams only and not for the cars. Cobbled streets galore. Trams here are for sure.

My Prague experience begins.


Prague's beauty is best enjoyed while on foot. The city has one 21st century building for every 10 blocks of concrete decorated by the Bohemian architecture. It's astonishing.

Fantastic craftsmanship, brilliant combination of colours and a touch of history associated with every structure here. The gunpowder towers and the astronomical clock which must be the only one of its kind, are all nearly 600 years old. The narrow cobbled streets have remained untouched by the modern uprisings. Many buildings here have mushroomed over a period of time, leaving no breathing space in the Old Town. But, there is just enough space everywhere to just sit down and admire the Bohemian beauty. Just feel 'em and caress them with your eye for appreciation.
World-famous Bohemian Glass and artworks are sold almost in every second shop here. The Swarovski shop is overshadowed by numerous other little glassware shops in and around the Old Town.

Act3-The bed rocks:

We headed to the landmark Charles Bridge. It was crowded. Tourists.
They say egg whites were used while making the cement for Charles Bridge. For strength.
I dont think Egg whites are helping the cause of the balding men these days.

Petty street plays, artists and hawkers dot this bridge on river Vltava all along. The huge statues stationed at regular intervals alongside the bridge railings, each have a history to tell. It is customary for visitors to touch the bronze plates just below the St. Crucifix statue. Apparently, this act would bring you back to Prague in the future, no matter where you are.

I thought for a moment, and then decided to touch it.

(There is a nice little trivia associated with this and I recommend readers to use technology to explore more about it).

This bridge has something about it. It does not speak to itself. One needs to extract all the information by spending more and more time on it.

Walking further up, Omair showed me the spots where the MI1 stabbing scene and the high-speed motor boat chase by Vin Diesel in XXX movies were shot.

As I waded through the burgeoning crowd from the Old Town end of the bridge to the other, I could see the Prague Castle in the distant background. I was trying to figure out its ends. I was unsuccessful. It seemed to blend with other nearby buildings. It went on and on... like the Great Wall of China. That was when Omair got a call. He had to go back to office for a dinner meeting with Mr. Kris Gopalakrishnan, who had come from Brussels to meet some people here.
We decided to quickly head to the National Museum. He dropped me there and promised to be back.

I am not exactly a museum guy. Never was. So instead, decided to explore the streets on my own. I liked the National Museum from the outside. Yet another Bohemian structure. It was a pitch dark building. No sign of whites. Brass here and there. Distinctly captivating fountains in the front....Bohemian again.
It was twilight and the artificial lights had just taken over. Mostly neon and sodium.

The boulevard in between the Old Town and the museum is about 1500 meters long and 70 metres wide and has the usual McDs (atleast 2 of them), KFC, a multi-floor Bata showroom, restaurants, Skoda Showroom and also housed all the big retailers that one could name. Ofcourse the stretch of Rose garden all the way through. Subtract the beautiful rose gardens and the Cabarets and we have the M G Road of Bangalore (Yes, there is some construction going on here as well)

I decided to walk towards the Old Town. Once again.

Act4-Change of position:

A large screen was put up at the Old Town square. Just below the lit Tyn Cathedral. The featured photograph captures only one aspect of the Old Town Square or the Staroměstské náměstí , as the locals call it. A DSLR ain't enough to capture 'em all.

Largely considered to be amongst the must watch places in Europe, it surely was a magnificant sight.
It was a Germany match that night and a fairly large voracious German contingent had gathered around the big screen. The night setting threw some spectacular sights. I got busy.

The favourites won, so there were celebrations all around. It continued throughout the night. I spent couple of hours there before Omair came from nowhere and said it was time to go. Before we headed back home, we took some night snaps of the Castle from a distance and the Charles Bridge. I think I got to shoot couple of my best shots ever.

Day2-No acts, just bones intact:

In the morning, I bought a day's pass for 100 CZ Koruna and took the metro+tram to reach Malá Strana, The foothills of the Prague Castle. Narrower streets and high concentration of souvenir shops.

Mozart had a special liking to Prague and therefore Prague always has had a unique place for him in all its musical events throughout history. It continues to do so even now. Prague must be a strong contender to become the Cultural Capital of Central Europe. Tickets were being sold at the Opera house for a Mozart composition recreation. I had to make a choice.
I decided to walk uphill towards the Castle.

The Castle is a town within itself. No wonder it is considered the largest of its kind in the world. St. Vitus Cathedral, more gunpowder towers, green lawns, uniformed men, excavation works, dull colours, big doors at entrances and more museums all adorn the Castle.

After Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the castle became the seat of the Head of State of the new Czech Republic. I got to witness a routine guard of honour at the courtyard. I could not figure out who deserved this honour. I felt it was more of a show off to all the tourists. It was ordinary.

I spent first half of the day walking in and around the castle. Post that I decided to climb towards the Petřínská rozhledna. This is the highest point in Prague and a 40 minutes uphill climb from the Castle will take you to the summit. This tower closely resembles the Eiffel Tower and atop this I could see the Prague skyline.
It resembled a cleaner and a modern Mangalore district, with all the Mangalore tiles intact.

It was 5 pm and I was tired having done all the climb ups and climb downs. I decided to retire home early. I had a bus to catch midnight. I consider bus rides as torturous, second only to looking at one's face on the mirror. So, I had to brace myself physically and mentally for it. In short, I wanted to catch some sleep while I still could.

Once home, Omair mooted going out to watch the Euro at one of his friend's pub. Game on.

We took the wrong tram. We walked. We walked some more. I hate to walk without any purpose. But I walked. I must have clocked 20 kms that day (and night).

The pub had an Irish setting. I particularly liked the ol' sewing machine kept at one of the corners. It was a Dutch game. A Cakewalk for them.

Post the match and dinner, we decided to walk towards Florence. The bus to Berlin was at 23:55 and I had a little more than an hour to kill after he left. It was a shady place. I tried to sleep. But couldn't.

A series of yellow couloured buses came by and stopped. People alighted. People boarded. Buses to Salzburg, Wein, Frankfurt, Rotterdam, Moscow...... except Berlin.

And finally at 23:50, my bus stopped by. A girl sporting thongs (and jeans on top of it) came out announcing in Czech that the bus is going to Berlin. Realising that I was unable to understand her Slavik language, she announced the entire stuff once again in English(or was it?). I got a front seat beside her. Only her English was terrible. She served some hot tea that gave some relief to my soar throat. I watched the Murder by Numbers that was on in Czech. Sandra Bullock at her worst ever. To make things worse, my Gandhi class ticket hurt my neck. I asked her for another cup of tea. She said no.

I can never get to sleep in a bus. Its a curse, I guess. The wash in the rest room was non-functional.

About 2 hours later, the bus was stopped at a place, which I suspect was the German border. Cops took all our passports to run a check. It took a long time. I was frustrated.

The bus stopped at Messe Zob at 5:20 am. The entire drive is only 4.5 hours long, but thanks to the extraordinary German border stop, our journey lasted longer than usual.
I bought a day's pass at a shop in the bus station for 6.10 Euros and headed to the Kaiserdamm U-Bahn station. My destination was Unter den Linden. To reach that place I had to first reach Potsdamer Platz station and then take a S-Bahn.
I reached Unter den Linden in about 35 minutes. As I headed out of the near-empty S-Bahn station at UdL, I got to see a peice of history- The Brandenburg Gate.
And then I began picturing my own version of history... Napolean had walked through this gate, the Greeks before him, Hitler, Russians and now MEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!.

I had about 90 minutes to kill before the Starbucks would open. So I decided to take my own tour around the Gate and the the famous boulevard of linden trees in UdL.

The New American Embassy building (which is scheduled to open on the 4th of July) was right next to the Gate. I was told that it has Bomb-proof window panes amongst other elaborate security measures. The US govt. had asked for a 70 meter-radius cordoned security around the building. Germans must have said go-ahead. It would have meant neutralising the Gate. Sure, we can have a World War III.

Hotel Adlon, more famous for the Michael Jackson's shaking the kid at the balcony incident than for the 12500 Euro per night it charges is just round the corner. Madame Tussads was under construction and was right next to the Starbucks.
Just a few meters away from the Gate, I got to see the Reichstag. At 6.30 in the morning, it should be the best time to view this landmark. Reason? Hardly any humans around. A distinct demarcation was seen running all along the road between the Reichstag and the Gate. On closer exploration, I realised that the Great Berlin Wall once stood here.

I must have crossed the gate a dozen times that morning... something that many French & Russians were dying to do many years ago.

I wandered along the river Spree and saw more of the East Berlin. It has a lot to offer and as I spent time walking along the streets, I realised that a day in Berlin is just not enough. Maybe a week would have been appropriate.

I visited the Museum Island (never went inside any of the 4 museums) and then walked towards the Television Tower, another symbol of Berlin. One of the tallest structures in Europe. The restaurant located in the spherical part of the tower, rotates every 20 minutes. This is owned by Deutsche Telecom and was a promotional piece during the World Cup Final in 2006.

One of the footpaths was dug up and it looked like some cable laying work was on. A machine was being used to dig a narrow and deep opening with the machine(or a mini Patton Tank, if I can call it) precariously standing just above it. One wrong move by the driver and he would land with his machine into the pit. I was impressed by the German Engineering. I took a shot. The guys asked me whether I was from the Press. I declined. They laughed. I left.

I walked towards the Alexanderplatz before realising that I have burnt more calories than the usual for a Tuesday morning. I had already done about 6 kms in about an hour. Decided to head back to Starbucks.

My mom says brush your teeth before having your cup of coffee in the morn. So I did this for a change at the Starbucks. I ordered a Tall Cappuccino with 2 Chocolate muffins. I took the street-side seat directly facing the Gate. It was only about 70 metres away. I also picked up the New Berlin Free Tour brochure that was kept near the door. I realised that the expedition begins only at 11 am at the entrance of the coffee shop. I had 2 hours to finish my coffee.

The New Berlin Free Tour is an interesting concept. No fees. Run by a bunch of youngsters who have fallen in love with Berlin. Students, dancers, cultural ambassadors all included. If we like 'em, we can tip 'em.

Rachel was a a dancer-Modern style and was from Boston. She came here 4 years ago and fell in love with Berlin. She decided to stay here. She was the guide.
What happenend after 11 was a crash course on history of Berlin and life around and after the WWII. Starting from the Brandenburg Gate, The Reichstag, Hitler's Bunker, Holocaust Memorial, Book Burning Memorial, Checkpoint Charlie, Potsdamer Platz, SS Headquarters, The Berlin Wall, Gendarmenmarkt, Pariser Platz, Luftwaffe HQ, Bebelplatz....
I missed out on visiting the restaurant where Iam Fleming got his inspiration for James Bond.

I was overwhelmed with the tour. She was impressive. We walked nearly 10kms. The tour got over at around 3.30 pm. I tipped her 20 Euros.

I was running out of steam and had to recharge myself. I had a choice. Go to Zoologischer Garten and see Knut or climb the Cupola at Reichstag. I took the latter.

To enter this place, one has to undergo a serious security check. After all, you are entering the house that governs one of the strongest economies in the world. One can enjoy the panaromic view of the German capital city from this platfrom. It also provides exciting insights into the work of the Bundestag, where the heart of German democracy beats. The list of places that one can see from here is incredible. my poor memory doesn't allow me name 'em all but I remember seeing the architectural marvel called Marie-Elisabeth Luders Building, the New Synagogue, the Museum Island, The International Trade Centre, Berlin Cathedral, the Television Tower, Hotel Adlon, Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, the Gate ofcourse, Postdamer Platz, the Congress Hall, Friedrichstrabe Station and a building far away that I suspect had an artwork by Canon all over it. I was done with this place, for now. But not really.

I headed to the S-bahn to take a train to the Zoologischer Garten . I just realised I did not have enough time to explore this zoo, that reportedly housed the largest collection of animal species in the world.

I got out and did not know where to go. Had a look at the U-bahn map. There was a mention of the Olympiastadion in one corner of the map. Let's go.

I did a lot more walking than I initially anticipated at the Olympic Stadium. It was worth it. Some girls were playing hockey. Some swimming. But none in the main stadium. I was almost alone in a 73000 seater stadium built with limestone. The Greeks have had a major influence on the design of this entire stadium. It was a spectacular sight. Wonder how it would have been when Jesse Owens walked past the Swastika 72 years ago, not giving a damn to Hitler in a jam-packed atmosphere. Or more recently, the Finals of the Wold Cup final in July 2006 between France and Italy. Must have been electrifying.

And then, I entered the Wall-of-fame area located at the far-end of the stadium. One mention that will remain etched in the memory of every sports-loving Indian... HOCKEY-GOLD-INDIEN.

Euro matches were being screened for a private party on all the 3 large screens in the stadium. I decided to watch the Sweden versus Greece game. The security officer came by and politely told me its time to leave. I left with a sigh. Disappointed too. I still had a long way to go the U-bahn and I realised I had nearly done 30 kms for the day. I wished I had a fresh pair of legs at that time and another day or two in Berlin. I really wanted to do the Pub Crawl and Red Berlin visits. Maybe I should save it for a next time.

I went back to the Messe Zob for my bus at 23:55.

I had over 3 hours with me, so I tried to sleep at the reception. I failed. I tried again but I failed again. So I gave up. Same bus crew. This time Cappucino, no thongs, no border stop and New York Minute featuring the Olsen twins. I reached Florence, Prague at 4.15 in the morn and headed to the Metro. The first metro was only at 4.45. I waited like all others. I hadn't slept for 36 hours.

Woke Omair with a call at around 5.25 and asked him to throw the keys from the balcony. He prompty did. He must have done it in his sleep. If he was awake, he would have probably thrown a flower-pot on my head instead. I hit the bed.

Day3-Get dirty at Prague:

I woke up half-past noon. Checked my weight. Had lost 4 kilograms. I wonder how?

My throat had just gone from bad to terribly bad. I laid low throughout the day. Come evening and Omair and Rajesh pulled me out to show the night life of Prague. Well, that was a Wednesday and what can one expect?

Omair recommended a Austrian special herbal shot, the name of which I cannot recollect, specially for my throat releif. He assured me that there was no alcohol in it. It worked.

We went to many places, including the largest disc in Central Europe that only had 6 floors. We returned disappointed everytime.

Finally as a consolation, Omair took us to Paradise which was neither a disc nor a pub. We just sat there.


I realised that I did not have much time to get ready. I rushed through the morning chores and it was time to say bye to Jo, Jyothi, Shalini, Rajesh and Omair. A fantastic bunch of people, whom, the Berlin Zoo declined to accomodate. We took some snaps.

I look forward to meet them in Stockholm in the future.

I had a 3 hour flight delay and a lady from ISKCON to deal with. I made the biggest mistake of the day when I told her that my dad is a donor member in ISKCON Bangalore and my middle name is Krishna.

I reached home at around 6.30 pm.

Some of the pictures from Prague and Berlin can be found on the Picasa weblink.

Tossing between Slovenia and Moscow in July.