Monday, October 17, 2005

the long thought on goodnight

History was never my strong subject at school. And movie reviewing isnt my strongest of skills. So combine american history with american movies, and self is at as lost as macalay culkin in home alone II. Great, now i’ve even raised expecations with that analogy.

My point is this, movies on historical events pass me by fairly unimpactfully. Five years back, at a discussion of ‘all the president’s men’ my awe at the discussion of the movie started and ended with the knowledge that watergate was the name of a building, giving rise to the ‘watergate scandal’.Who knew? I was content in letting that fact be the only takeaway from the discussion. In anycase, years of doing the ‘readers dont digest’ rounds of filmfare magazine, and the ability to correctly predict endings of bollywood fillums brought in me a naive thought that self might be a movie critic. You know, bash a few, laud a few, give it a rating bordenline enough to make you an expert be it a flop or a hit.

But the point is, it sometimes IS greatly satisfying to view a movie on american history and come away with the feeling of having watched a classy film, very well-timed and beautifully handled, while still being ignorant on the historical significance and the importance of the historical characters in it. Its like when you catch a surprisingly great flick on the arabian horses and their tough situation. Granted you know nothing about the fodder scam that arabia is under now, but if hte movie is good enough, you would have that vague ‘i watched smtg satisfying’ feeling. You dont need much skill for that kinda feeling, and thats exactly what i felt this weekend. Self came away with shining eyes and an inspired soul, but could only vaguely recall the name of characters and the senator in the movie, the movie that was ‘goodnight, and goodluck’. If an inspired soul is what George clooney aimed for, you got it dude. If driving home the idealogies of the main character was, too bad. but for that, i blame myself.

Goodnight, and goodluck is the movie of CBS reported Edward Murrow, who exposed and consequently brings down senator McCarthy. I know, very “all the president’s men”ish..but the investigation of the story is NOT the highlight. What is?

a) Camera work—kudos to the team for deciding to shoot it all in black and white. The smoke-filled CBs newsroom and the cigarette dangling from tip of finger is absolutely enhanced in a B&W mode. The crisp, direct tone of the movie is supplemented very well with the non-distracting and effective use of black and white. Especially since the senator’s courtroom and hearing scenes are the original recordings, it blends splendidly

b) editing–tautness is the tyrannical theme of the movie, and i mean that in a good sense. Tautness, i feel, is easier to portray if the movie is a series of events unfolding. [if the reporters were to, lets say, run around collecting clues]. When the movie is of a slightly preachy, introspective nature, tautness can possibly be impossible to achieve. Little things add to the tautness, Murrow’s direct launch into his report, bypassing the ‘good morning america’ cliche, delivers the sense of urgency and the high tension in the newsroom everytime.

c) The characters–David Straitharin, as murrow in unbelievable. He looks like someoone who shot right out of 1950’s and probably will go right back. He is introspective, passionate, principled, cynical and sarcastic in the few lines he delivers off-the-camera. His speech at the felicitation ceremony, in the beginning and end of the movie, are in one-word, inspiring. When he says “i dont mean to say dont dedicate the tv for entertainment..all i ask is dedicate one day a week for a report on education reforms” you can sense the audience nod in understanding [well i went to a theatre of fairly old patrons]. When he does little bits of shows on fashion and housewives to have a steady income, he doesnt draw pity, just a smile.

The characters of shirley and joe, though slightly irrelevant to the plot, surprisngly work well to move the wheels of the story forward, acting as narrators, they replace the audience within the story. expressing thoughts and feelings that the audience probably feels at that point of the movie. George clooney as fred friendly, the producer of the show that exposes the senator, is controlled and believable.

The final message isnt preachy, its merely observational. Its probably easy to see it as “dont pollute the medium of TV with garbage” theme, but methinks the message is more “dont insulate and protect yourselves behind the laughtracks”. And i’ve never been happier abour NPR ever since.

inspired to no effect,

Monday, October 10, 2005

By the by, am a tambram

Tambram chronicles, how utterly jejune. Well, to be frank, am motivated to write on the section of the society purely out of ‘eye rolling’ variety of people i come across in the U.S once in awhile, who want to brandish the tambram tag, for reasons entirely unknown to logic.

I mean, i expect a reader to be as interested in this as Paris Hilton chronicles, “what did my petdog wear today” kinda stuff. But! even that category has readers dont it. And in anycase, i think its profoundly useful to know about the Tambram idealogy. Its the very foundation of all things ritualistic. Shakespeare once said “all the world’s a stage” [and boy, did THAT one get overused]. Mom preferred to come up with her own inspiring words, “All ideas are recipes” she would proclaim, a stern eye focused on me for obvious reasons. But then, it wasnt always a hint to my cooking skills. To her, everything was a recipe, really. “A bit of newspaper and a dash of coffee and my morning is made” she would declare, at 6 A.M. “A pinch of motivation and a bowl of hardwork” she would insist, when exams were a day away [well motivation had a pretty weak flavor, but whoz be to doubt her recipes?]. Grandpa, when he visited would beam proudly and point to fact that mom was a B.A in English. well, no surprise there methinks. Of her generation, 93.56% were B.A English. The rest chose B.A.math or some such to direct them to the favorite tambram passion of those times, government banks.

Well anyway, coming back to the recipe for tambram ideology, we have to dissect the ingredients.

Today, we talk of the classic uncle.

In a true tambram household [the kinds i know atleast], each person is connected to other in precisely two ways. If not more. Unless they were direct siblings or parents that is. The classic uncle is the one always to point it out. He would walk in, unannounced, take of chappals and place it neatly by the front door [while making it a point to comment on any other eye-catching variety of shoe placed beside it]. He would invariably be the one to say “DID YOU KNOW that i am your uncle as well as your grandfather?” well, he usually isnt lying. At some point my family would’ve realized they needed to look at neighbors and far-off relatives to marry their children off and thus ended a never-ending loop of uncles and aunts who, if the situation demanded, could do a double duty of grandpa or grandma. Uncle is usually pretty harmless though. He could wax eloquent about how rasam should be, but would’ve never prepared it in his life. He would’ve cooked exactly once in his life, typically when wife was getting a delivery or hysterectomy done, but would go on and on about it all his life. He would also be the one to take pride in all things ritualistic and all things that radiates false silly pride. By definition, he would have to disagree with all things new-generationish. Food, clothing, and god-save-the-songs they listen to. Excessive use of english would spark discussions of how the english language benefited from us all [well not tamil you see..but in this case he would suddenly get patriotic for language. In true “dad of the my fat greek wedding” movie, he would claim english benefited immmensely from india].

And everytime you accidentally thought english had a wider variety of words to suit your palette, he would start his classic question “did you know you cant say so-and-so sentence in english? why, they dont have words for that type of thing”. Unlike his wife, who couldnt explain why she insisted on certain crazy traditions, he would have a pompous scientific sounding reason for each one. These explanations are delivered using a loud voice, stern eye and a “do you dare to challenge what i believe to be the truth” tone. Like the time i asked why i should wear a bindi and a jasmine garden in my head when all i was doing is wtching TV. Hell hath no fury like an uncle asked. “A BINDI” he would exclaim loudly “is god’s way of protecting women. When rowdy-types see a woman with a bindi, it reminds them of shiva’s third eye. Which is WHY you must wear a bindi all the time”. Aunt would beam at uncle, she wouldnt have had any other answer but a “coz you must”. Uncle would triumphantly shoot a look at mom, one that translates to “this is how you deal with kids these days. see? i taught her didnt i”? statements like “huh” and “what the..?” or “so if i dont keep a bindi a rowdy will catch me” can produce deathlike silence followed by mom’s “you must listen to elders” speech, though we both know shez just making uncle happy.

In the next tambram chronicle, we shall explore the smartypants-shloka reciting-Padma Seshadri bred-made for engineering-cousin.

Tambram forever,

Sunday, October 09, 2005

I got 85 marks what about karthik? The Tambram Cousin

why the why, its the tambram son.

Tambram sons are a species divine. No, really. When they are born, its not usually with a silver spoon but a vertical red line on forehead. Right from the birth, to the time they marry their “she works in the software field, same as him” wives, they possess something that is important to the tambram dictionary, kalai. More importantly “iyengar kalai”. I promise not to use fancy tamil lingo no more, but this is important. Kalai [patters correct me if i am wrong] is basically that oily shine on face that somehow is supposed to distinguish a kid as a tambram. Dont ask me how, tambrams are apparently born with the skill to identify the tambramness in the faces of the srinivasans. “The minute i saw him, i knew he was an iyengar”, many a srinivasans would’ve exclaimed triumphantly. Heck, you are in the middle of iyengarpet dude, who else do you find in the temple streets of mambalam?

They are not specially treated over girls, this much i will give them. As girls, the expecatations, i feel, arent too different from community-to-community. Now unless you count those in which eating platefuls of chicken as a sign of manliness, tambram males have this unique pressure on them for a number of things.

a) temple-shlokas-noodlethread-sandhyavandhanam kiddo

Promptly at the age of seven or so, the kid gets the kinda ceremony that gals can only dream of. The thread ceremony, the ultimate in-your-face proof of iyengarism. While smarter alecs have gotten rid of the cumbersome thread ages ago, the patter boy valiantly holds on to it, missing many a bowling sessions during cricket as the thread slides off to hamper that crucial ball. The tambram kid religiously goes to temples, knows the parts of a temple and can utter the names of each of those amazing prasads they dole out. He can say “their home had chakapradhaman and such” without remotely exercising his tongue. He would have 3-5 handy shlokas handy to belt out at community gatherings. Depending, of course, on mom’s interest during his childhood. “when he was smaller, he used to recite the sandhyavandhanam without a single mistake” his mom would claim. “NOT A SINGLE MISTAKE” dad would nod sagely. Tambram boy will typically not question god, rituals, what nots. He would glare incredulously at neighboring tambram boy who had the guts, the guts of it i say, to try cakes with eggs. Till the age of about 12-14, he would be the shining example for other tambram mothers to point to. Which is about the time he would’ve finally gotten admission into waitlisted padmaseshadri and enters tambram teenagerhood.

b) the teenage years

english is cool. A.R.Rehman is cool. Hindi isnt, even though he has passed those fancy hindi-proficiency tests out of school.He loses interest in shlokas for a brief period. He is now in a cool-school, where girls are fancy and not oil-plaited. Casting surreptious glances at the ‘northie’ types, he would not typically thinking of being chummy with gals, except to share notes or discuss tuition classes owing to mom’s wild tales “that boy roams with girls and look at his marks in mid-term one” kinda flippant remarks. School becomes the new temple, a place to share chemistry notes, cricket scores and CDS of rolling stones that someone’s brother’s uncle said was cool [tambram boy obviously].He is usually not much into sports, struggling with the stereotype of a tambram boy who is healthy but not sporty except for galli cricket but must be brilliant in math and science. report-cards with hardearned scores in math will earn a reward and a reference to a U.S settled uncle who was brilliant in math as well. The idea of engineering as the doomed future takes shape slowly in head.Not that boy thinks its a doomed future owing to wide array of uncles, cousins, neighbor’s brothers who chose the path to permanent glory. Around this time, tambram boy’s silly remarks of the “I want to become a movie-star or race-car driver” are not treated with mirth like they used to be. Dad regularly challenges these jestful remarks with questions on math-scores, and mom has a handy basket of loser-cases who can never make it in life, they werent engineers. Between this age and 22 or so, life becomes a never ending pursuit towards an engineering degree or worse. [till 22 that is]

c) “which project does she work on” wife search

There is usually nothing that seperates age 16 from age 25..except tambram kiddo earns a handsome salary now and invests conversations around mobile phones, stocks shares and excessive salary-comparison with peers. The highlight is the impending girl-seeing ceremony that mom will inevitably line up for “first class with distinction MNC project manager so is worth a project manager herself or less [not more though] wife in software” charade. Lineups are fairly easy. Religion, MNC capabilities, homeliness and the pre-referred iyengar kalai. Once mom has done a shortdown of indian-born->hindu->brahmin->iyengar->subsect->star->gothram, our guy has a well categorized list of prospective brides. The factors to decide with dont change so much, so he could effectively use a computer-coded program to arrive at the best selection even without meeting her. But meet her he will, being a broad-minded U.S settled engineer. Mom finally gets a say in his life and she attacks it with gusto. Her extensive temple-network comes handy to cross-refernce the nominees. Dude arrives for a marathon “five gals a day” session, back to back over weekend. He spends the rest of his india holiday meeting the uncles and aunts and grandpas who appreciate electric toothbrush gifts and rib him good-naturedly on impending marriage. smartypants kiddo is certain his marriage will be confirmed in next two days, so wisely does not plan for long indian holiday this time [2 weeks for the wedding later in the year].

Wife-seeing ceremony moves swiftly along. Not much detail here, there seriously isnt any. As a broad-minded guy, he wishes to “talk” with gal, coffee-day nearby serves as the safe venue while parents wait the 10 break out in girl’s home, admiring cross-stitch and “best programmmer” awards [ensuring they share “award” stories as well]. End of day is for mom’s verdicts as well as dad’s [she is too modern and the likes] while tambram kid pretends he thinks deeply of all the offerings. He typically doesnt, its as eeny-meeny-minie-mo as the next guy experimenting in starbucks. Visa issues are evaluated and job opportunities are considered for her. The automatic assumption being she will move there [they DID know he was from U.S right?].

Guy reconnects to roots of iyengarism before wedding, assuming each ceremony of the 3 day saga is crucial. Fun comes in the form of searching for rings in pots and breaking papads on faces.

I guess a large part of this isnt different for non tambrams, but somehow I feel the factor of being an ‘iyengar’puts this unique pressure on these guys, and well, had to vent out some didnt i Sticking out tongue

Usual disclaimers apply. And please understand its gentle rigging of the tambram guy, i dont dislike the category. Hell, am married to one of the 26-letter guys arent i?

Guilty of back-stabbing,

Friday, October 07, 2005

OHIM Newsie

thats oh god its monday to you.

sometimes you just gotta write a newsie..i mean, its like those "sometimes, sprinklers just beseechingly call out to a pair of bare feet and squeals of delight". A crazy person has to do what a crazy person has to do, so here goes.

First off though, i never figured why news digests make their way into mailboxes or such on a friday. I mean, i see why writers think fridays make sense for these, but see none why readers would find it interesting on the day. The typical worker, typically, is just waiting for friday to get over. i mean, really. Its the day she sets aside time to write copious emails to friends, does 2 hour watercooler trips and thinks the deli downstairs can give lunch an hour late and all she'd say is "thank you very much now can i have a smoothie and take your sweet time on it". Not the day for newsies MONDAY, on the other hand qualifies splendidly. sad faces, mails in inbox none that you wanna need that something that makes you feel productive yet doesnt spell work. So please desist from reading this on friday. I promise to make it pompuos sounding incase boss sneaks up to ya on monday.

Real Estate getting REAL

I am thinking there is a reason the word 'real estate' has the word real in it..ever thought about it? i mean, estate makes sense [thought for a long time estates meant either tea or tata vehicles to me]. so after spending a year hyping the atrocious prices of real estate in CA, NY and such, the slowdown begins it seems. Well, am far removed from it all, so am probably unfairly cynical here. But comeon guys, how many heard a price for a home and went "NO WAY!! who PAYS that price?" or secretly checked real-estate listings much as you check daily horoscope? I hear its no different in the likes of bangalore or pune. A decent read for sure, curled up in my warm blanket in the balcony of cosy apartment while the maintainence guy fixes the broken blinds for free. This is as real as MY estate will get.

Mini Maxi?

Allright am obsessed. and yeah yeah, i know i dissed the honda element or the toyota scion to death. but hey, loyalties have a price you know..even if to SOME [pointed look at battered half] it may seem like a hybrid of an ambi and a mini. Mixed feelings as yet on this, but hey, have started to get used to the scion on the road..maybe this too.

My dream job

If i were to explain the kinda job i'd dream of, it would be smtg in the media, in the spotlight and where i need to be constantly on the move..hell, i didnt mean THIS

Who, who and WHO??

Rajpal yadav was dimunitively scary in 'jungle' for all that movie was worth. He was notable again in other recent flicks, but has remained firmly in the RGV camp. I definitely thought he was good in 'main madhuri dixit' but he was still sidelined against antara. While hez done the anupam kher version of 'i need the money' comedies [when will talented folk stop really?] this is one i had a wary eye on..seems its good, and though rediff reviews arent much [indiafm pans it] i would keep this flick on the pirated-but-hush-dont-tell-anyone-coz-you-benefit neighborhood DVDwala's radar.

Cant wait for it to be monday,