Friday, June 30, 2006


Clouds can take
Every shape
I can think of,
And that's great.

Except when I spot
A pattern in the sky
There's no one near by.

Monday, June 26, 2006

"Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world..."

There is a woman, I'll call her Priya Lamba, who I've been trying to avoid for the past few weeks and who has proved to be impossible to not run into. When I take the lift to go up for lunch or snacks, she happens to be getting out with her boyfriend who's easily twice her size (partly because she's tiny). When I go to the pantry on the floor, I find her chatting away and I turn away guiltily. The only Lamba-proof place seemed to be the men's washroom but I manage to encounter her on my way there too – she is summoned by nature to answer its call the same time as I am. Yesterday was the last straw. I was going to the mall nearby to browse the mall bookshop (Landmark, which is a very well-stocked bookshop but they don't give any discounts, which is not so great) because I couldn't stand spending the entire day in my nest on the tenth floor with nothing to do except read books through the day and watch the World Cup in the evening.
Actually, that's quite a lot to do. I could easily not have had the World Cup to watch simply because it didn't coincide with my summer holidays, or because we didn't have a TV in the hole we had found for ourselves to curl in the cold night in, but I have to thank my lucky stars and my temporary employers for being generous to a fault, and providing us amenities that we scarcely deserve considering the returns they get from us. The one who actually deserves all this and more, who is working enough for the three of us, is the one who's never in the house because he's always working. So we have his share of fun too. All in all, it's a balanced deal as far as the company is concerned... huge digression, but I have a blog precisely for the freedom of digressing royally from the straight line of the issue.

So I was walking to the mall in fairly high spirits because of a) the great weather (more about that soon) and b) the bookshop awaiting me at the end of my short journey where I could while away the next three hours before the first knockout match at 7:30 pm. Actually, the match was at 8:30 and the two of us stocked up on chips and chocolates and sat patiently waiting for kickoff so we could tear open our packs of yummy chips. The kickoff, however, didn't happen for another hour with the result that we felt thoroughly cheated by ESPN and were left snack-less when Germany steamrolled whichever team it was they steamrolled. I think it was Sweden, but no room for losers in my overburdened mind. Anyway, I'm still on my cheerful way to the bookshop at the end of the proverbial rainbow and Lamba is the last thought on my mind, when suddenly, where a benign looking juice shop normally stands I see Lamba with her personal Hulk. What is worse, she sees me. What is worst, I must pass within two feet of her if I have to find my pot of gold. The alternative is going back to TV and boredom. So I grit my teeth, tell myself I have faced worse challenges before and carry on giving a good impersonation of the royal ignore while I can literally feel her eyes boring into my back as they so often do in office, in the elevator, in the pantry, in the no man's (and no woman's too) land in front of the washrooms. Or perhaps I imagine it and she doesn't really care. Or perhaps she has forgotten and looks at me with the curiosity that I hope she finds reciprocated in my look towards her, when I'm unlucky enough to be caught looking at her, or rather, looking out for her to make sure passage to the pantry is safe and Lamba-free.

Now for some background. Why am I avoiding her, and why does the sight of her fill me with dread and guilt? Dissolve to a time (sepia-tinted) many months ago, sometime in the winter of this year. I had come to the realization that if, at this relatively idle stage of my life, I could not find the time or the discipline to jog or exercise, I never would and I would grow into a pot-bellied, perhaps balding middle-aged man in the throes of midlife crisis, and would progress from there to an unfit and ill-tempered old age and so on. I therefore resolved, along with and at the prodding of a friend who looks innocent but who harbours thoughts that would make the straight and wavy hair of the world's women turn frizzy and who is also the secret owner of a three-pack on its way to doubling very soon, to jog everyday. Gymming is not for me, not for me the stale air of the small hostel gym with its machines to make you cycle and run in the same place, and building bulging muscles holds no charm. I mean, I'd like muscles but I'd prefer stamina and endurance. So we put on our respective track suits or running gear, I dusted my unused sports-shoes and put them on and was generally feeling full of enthusiasm for the run ahead. I had barely climbed down a step when I received a call from a friend who informed me that Oracle was recruiting and simultaneously conducting internship interviews so since I had a CGPA that was nothing to be proud of but was higher (at the time, still is, but for how long will remain is open to conjecture) than their cutoff, would I please haul my lazy ass to the said venue and get myself an internship since not too many people were applying? So I junked the jogging plans in a second and jogged instead to the venue to present myself before the firing panel.

On my way to the building, I realized I knew nothing about Oracle. If the interviewers had told me they would take me if I could string together five coherent sentences on Oracle (the company, not the character in the Matrix or Greek myth or any of those clever tricks) I wouldn't have been able to muster more than a line to the effect that it has something to do with databases. I don't know a LOT more now, but I can now fill a five minute conversation with my insights into Oracle having spent the last month and a half working in it. I slowed down and called a friend who is generally up to date in these matters and who I can trust to know these things. What's more, I trust him to explain to me things in English and not in some crazy language only resembling it. My observation from my only interview is that interviews don't require you to be terribly technical. Interviewers assume is that we know enough technically for them to go straight to other important questions such as “Tell us something about yourselves” or similar rubbish. They are wrong. I'm living proof that it is possible to get by not only in IIT but also in the IT industry with nearly no knowledge of computers. So he (my computer savvy friend) told me in about two minutes that Oracle was about huge databases for big businesses blah blah and I thanked him and jogged for the rendezvous.

Up until then I had been under the impression that I was in possession of a secret and Oracle's internship selection was largely a clandestine operation. Imagine my surprise when I saw one-third of the department there, looking at me with surprise. I settled into casual conversation with my batch mates and we all realized just how weird it is talking to people, laughing with them knowing that they could be the reason you miss out on something you covet. We agreed the placement season next year was going to be horrible. Your own friends sitting in front of you, and everyone plotting and scheming to get ahead, or alternatively to push the others behind. It wasn't going to be pretty, we concurred. I sent my resume inside. My resume contained details of my extra-curricular achievements and posts of responsibility etc and not a word about the one thing I ought to have stressed on – my project during the previous summer holidays, which were the two most idle months of my life ever. My only notable activity during those months was reading English, August. It was a book, the only book so far, that changed my way of looking at things and my life. I must read it again. I was the first to be called for the interview, my interview went from terrible to shaky to a good end, the others fared differently and to cut an infinitely extensible story short I was selected as was another, and one of the three short-listed candidates was rejected. The rejected candidate went on to bag a better-paying internship and he was happy too eventually.

Although she sat mute the whole time with an endearing smile on her face, Priya Lamba was one of the two interviewers. I remember thinking in the middle of the interview (which was going horribly at that stage) that she looked like a little known Bollywood actress, who is now Manoj Bajpai's wife and who goes by the lovely name of Neha.
A note on 'Neha': As an example of the adage that it is a small world, the friend who told me about the Oracle interviews told me once that in a snap poll of his wing-mates, they decided that the name 'Neha' was the name most suited for girls they imagined finding lovely. Thereafter, they took to referring to the girlfriends of their friends 'Nehas'. As in, “where has he gone” would meet a “he has gone to meet his Neha” in response. I might have forgotten details of the story but the essence is true and I think it's an interesting story that deserves to be told. I must also add that the girlfriend of the protagonist in Five Point Someone, probably the only book all of IIT has read and that includes books such as the Prospectus, Resnick and Halliday, the Honour Code and whatnot, is called 'Neha'. This incident is around the time when FPS was quite fresh in people's minds and it was not uncommon to find questions in intra-IIT quizzes and word games that referred to the Book. I must also add that the friend is a reader who has read widely and deeply, and I too have read some, so we are not to be judged by our affection for the book. I'm tired of repeating this and I'll do so again – FPS is not literature and does not pretend to be. It is a fun, racy read and should be judged as that. I enjoyed it immensely and would be proud of myself if I could write a book as enjoyable.

Well, Lamba was one of the two interviewers and both my friend and I recalled later that we found her more than passably attractive, even though she was rather tiny. (Tiny in women doesn't necessarily take anything away, in fact, tall women force me to stand straight and I feel like I have a spinal rod.) Many months later, our semesters having got over, we packed our bags, said a cheery goodbye to a city that was rapidly becoming unlivable because of the heat, and came to Bangalore. We celebrated the unexpectedly great apartment and the luxury by treating ourselves to a movie we should not have watched – Gangster. I have several issues with it but no time to dive into them.

We went to the office (which was two minutes away on foot – beat that!) next morning and were made to wait for a really long time. We thought of calling the two interviewers but neither were in Bangalore at the time.
Aside: They came together to Delhi, they were both not present in Bangalore when we arrived. Well, well. Never mind.
We were finally introduced to some managers, and we picked our projects in the next two days. We were given a room to work in and were equipped with a machine each. Walking past the mail-holding space I saw Lamba's name and was happy to note she was here, on our floor. We made plans to introduce ourselves to her, and imagined going for pizza with her and perhaps being introduced to some of her friends. Maybe all attractive women hung out together, we hoped.

Work began, Lamba was still nowhere to be seen. Then a week later, she was sighted. My friend suggested we go talk to her, I said later. This happened a few times, and each time we lost the opportunity to take the step. Little did we know we were ourselves closing the window of opportunity. There came a day a fortnight or so later when she first looked at me with some curiosity and I realized with regret that the window had been shut. I had blown it! It was too weird to introduce myself to her a month into the internship, and now we would remain unwilling strangers. Too bad, I said. Big deal, I thought.
But it started getting worse. I started seeing her more and more. We sometimes ran into each other on the office floor, but that happened once in two days or so. The frequency began increasing, and I started meeting her gaze once a day, at the above mentioned places. However, the window was now definitely shut. It got worse. Uncomfortable spatial closeness became a regular feature in the pantry. Then it started happening near lifts. I managed to escape a few times when I saw she wasn't looking to avoid having to share the lift with her (and the Hulk, the Hulk is always with her, please imagine them both together). In recent days the situation has become unbearable. I go for a snack at night (I sometimes surf the Net at night after dinner because this is so close) and there she is. I move towards the pool table, and she's playing! I go in search of cream biscuits and she's sipping coffee. I want to take a leak and she does too, in a different place of course.

And finally a few days earlier the worst case scenario came true. It was night, I'd just had a great sandwich and was feeling good after the cool wind flecked with water. I was waiting for the lift down, and she appeared (with the Hulk). No one in the lobby but the three of us. We waited in silence. The tension could be cut with a knife. My heart was beating audibly. The lift arrived, we got in, and I pressed '5'. Lamba looked at the panel, started then stopped herself. She whispered to her Hulk, “did you press 5?” No, he did, he replied pointing at me and she saw me and bored me with her accusing stare which screamed what an ungrateful and impolite turd I was to not even acknowledge the presence of the woman who might have got me the intenship in the first place. I held my breath, '5' was announced, I walked swiftly to my room not once looking back, and shut it behind me, panting.

From there on, it's pretty much been war. It's almost as if I have a homing device on me. She loses no opportunity to cross my way, irrespective of whether I'm on my way to eat, drink, pee, take the lift or go to the mall. It's guerrilla warfare at its most effective. Matters have come to such a state that I take advantage of my presence in another floor to get biscuits or use the washroom. I peek inside like a thief before entering the pantry on our floor, and dread waiting for the lift in the lobby. The men's room is the only place I confidently move in on the fifth floor, although that too has been compromised by the presence of the other interviewer a couple of times.
But that calls for another story.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

I think I write better comments than posts (do not go looking for my comments and then smirk!). I also think, sometimes, that I write better mails than posts. I also think that I think of more imaginative things when I'm talking rather than writing. I think it has to do with the ball being returned from the other side. Conversation can stimulate thoughts, thoughts can stimulate writing, writing results in posts, posts give birth to comments, comments are replied to, the comments and their replies become a cyberspatial conversation, and another thought is sometimes born, and another post...

I noticed a lot of people visited my blog after my last effort but depressingly few bothered to comment. That can mean a) you're bored or/and b) my last post sucked.
If you're bored of me or my writing, you're probably not reading this anyway. If you are, keep coming back to see how long you can bear me. Actually, how can you be bored? I just changed the template, I added goodies on the sidebar, I even reply to comments now and now I offer you a genre-defying post after tepid poetry and scholarly film reviews on masala movies from Bollywood and Hollywood. Goddamn you if you're still bored. I can't offer adrenalin shots every alternate day if you can't find the energy to comment.
If you think my last post sucked, you should keep a few things in mind before thinking so and refusing to comment as a comment. One, do you write poems, or have you ever written poems? They are not easy to write, and I'm Robert Frust, remember? Not Frost. If you have, go to two. Two, do you write, or have you written more than three, poems that rhyme? That follow a rhyme scheme, while still making some sense?
Unless you are
Neruda or, well, Frost
I don't count
You as a
If you write a
Little story
That sucks/
Is nonsense,
So shut your
And break it up
Into pieces and
Publish it
As your very own
Free verse.
If you routinely write rhyming ballads or pensive free verse, I beg your apo-lo-gies (three syllables, no?) and would you please proceed to three?
Three, if you're so bloody brilliant what are you doing here wasting your time? And now that you are here, why don't you encourage a poor struggling poet with encouragement [and praise *hopeful sad smile, empty hat in hand*].

Monday, June 19, 2006

For whatever they're worth, these are all I have written since the template overhaul. I tried and tried to come up with some back story or some epilogue to the first of these, but I couldn't. If I do in future, I'll re-publish the poem again.
The second was written as a response to the question that is now its title. This was one of those random questions that blogger throws up that you can choose to answer so that people have a better idea of who you are.

The Princess and The Frog

The frog told the puckering princess
The one with the luscious, inviting lips
Before you kiss
I must tell you, miss
I suffer from acute halitosis.

The princess smiled and lisped
Never fear, my potential prince
You may comfortably stink
I won't feel a thing
(Because luckily for you
Even if you do)
I have blocked sinuses.

The children are waiting! Please tell them the story about the bald frog with the wig:

The frog with the bald pate
With the princess on their first date
Mustered up the courage to tell
Cleared his throat, swelled, and began, "Well..."

But before he could even reach
The next word of his speech
The power was back, and there was light
(As God intended it to be)
The children shouted with glee -
"We can watch T.V.!"
And the story was left for another night

(Of course, the real reason
For the power to have arrived
At a moment most opportune
(Or infuriating, depending on whether
You're the unfortunate reader
Taken for a ride)
Or the unimaginative story-teller
Who's sea of stories has long dried
Is that I couldn't imagine
What the frog with the shiny pate
(And on his first date)
Felt couldn't wait
Till after the Kiss
By the eminently kissable princess.)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006 bottle

Changes have been made
Of all sizes and shapes
Some are in order
Most are somewhat late

The old template has made way for the new
(As old things often must do)
From the classic (but boring) Black&White
I offer you blues and yellows and a cheerful shade of granite.

Don't think you'll notice, it's too faint
(I've tried to darken it, in vain)
All the same, I should let you know
That the lines below the blog-name
Are different from before

What else... let me think...
Oh yes, the links!
The sidebar's seen some action
Nothing's been removed, just some additions:

I now have a space to boast
About the great books I read
And below that, to raise a toast
To the nice new movies I've seen

Finally (for the sidebar, that is)
I've added a new counter of hits
So I can know I haven't been posting in vain
Even though the comment count stubbornly remains the same

From today my "complete profile"
Is slightly more complete
It now has a random query
And the response it received from me

Lastly, and leastly
The bottom of my page
Has a little button that claims
I'm only the 77th most popular Indian blogger these days

It would do my cause
A world of good
If you would continue to visit
(From different IP's if you could)

In return I give you my word
For whatever it's worth
That I'll post as regularly as I can
Meanwhile, could you please de-lurk?

Monday, June 05, 2006

Heat and Dust

This is fucking unbelievable. I'm feeling very angry now. I wish I was The Incredible Hulk so I could throw something really BIG through the window out on the road and watch it smash into a million pieces. I was writing a review of Heat. Work was progressing slowly. Slowly but well. I was even researching a little bit and had opened Wikipedia for the factoid that I had found interesting in the morning. Here it is: "Val Kilmer states on the special edition DVD (in the making of featurette) that soldiers in the military are shown the bank robbery scene, with emphasis placed upon the scene where Kilmer's character fires on the police, performs a swift and smooth reload, and resumes firing. Supposedly they say something along the lines of, "If you can't change magazines as fast as this actor, get out of my army!"

I had begun the post with how happy I was that Blogger was loading now so I wouldn't have to try writing on Notepad which I didn't like because of compelling reasons A, B and C. I had written what must have been more than 250 words when I wanted to try being Nerdy Boy in spite of knowing zilch about hyperlinks and html code and shit, and I highlited a line and hit "Reload this frame only" without saving it first.


And now it's gone.

I was going to describe in loving detail the diner scene with Robert de Niro and Al Pacino, the two Godfathers of Hollywood and title contenders for Greatest Living Actor face off. This scene alone is worth watching the entire movie for, although the movie itself is quite watchable too. But this scene... the more I think of it, the more I am convinced that this was one of the best ways of doing this scene.

Let's say you are director Michael Mann. Let's say you have achieved the impossible - you have managed to get Al Pacino and Robert de Niro to play your two main characters in the movie. Regardless of the way your movie goes, regardless of the requirements of the script, regardless of the original screenplay and story and artistic vision, you just have to give us a scene in which Pacino and de Niro talk face to face, Michael against young Vito, One Great against Another.
The fist instinct is to harness the histrionic talents of both these giants by creating a scene of immense power and intensity. But if you are a good director, you'll probably realize that it's nearly impossible to create a scene good enough to satisfy movie fanatics who will surely line up to see the two giants slug it out.

So Mann, being a clever director, creates a scene that is the most successful anti-climax I have ever seen. He creates a scene that's light and cool in a movie that is consistently the opposite. The scene had to stand out, and stand out it does, by being a scene where the audience who've been waiting for it bite their nails in anticipation of all the things that can happen next but that rewards them by allowing nothing to happen, except talk.
But what talk! This is Hollywood meta at a whole new level. Pacino talks about his failed marriages, de Niro talks about "the woman in his life". Pacino asks de Niro why he does it, and de Niro asks Pacino the same. Pacino says they may never meet again, de Niro nods.

If you are a movie lover every scene involving both Robert de Niro and Al Pacino takes on a deeper meaning. While the now famous diner scene abounds in references to the real actors, the others don't always. All the same the last scene in which the Pacino clasps de Niro's hand resonates with a meaning to it that people who don't know who these two really are can never understand.


It seems I ended up writing something on the movie anyway. If you liked it, well, blame blogger for depriving you of the rest. If you hated it, you were spared a painful read, although why anyone who hated the above would have come far enough to read this line is beyond me. In fact, as a comment on the previous post explained, that was a fairly typical post and so is this. I must have filtered down to just those readers who like what I write, since I seem to be writing exclusively on movies these days.
Thank you for reading! Good night, and good luck.

Friday, June 02, 2006

X3 - Review, etc.

I watched X3 yesterday and totally loved it. I had heard how the movie was high on SFX but lacked the emotional depth of the first two movies, so I went expecting a spectacle but with other expectations considerably scaled down. And I was rewarded for not expecting too much from the film because it delivered in awesome style.
Strangely, however, the scene that everyone is holding up as the one best illustrating the brilliant use of SFX in the movie - the one where Magneto lifts a bridge clean off its foundations and uses it to connect Alcatraz to the city - is not the one I found most impressive. The scene that stood out for sheer power and intensity was when Jean Grey aka Phoenix has a violent confrontation with Professor X, the most powerful telepathic and telekinetic mutant breaching Professor X's mental defences with ease with Magneto reduced to being a helpless witness.

If Jean Grey radiates power, Magneto is shown, to great effect, vulnerable in many instances. The all-powerful Magneto, the leader of mutants against X-Men, the scourge of humanity and my favourite mutant, is a mere Class-4, indefensible against a Class-5+ Jean Grey. I might have said this before, and I might get the opportunity to say it again since a Magneto spin-off is apparently being planned for a 2007 release, the X-Men movies are amazingly well-cast. Patrick Stewart has made his role his own, as has Hugh Jackman and to a lesser extent others like Halle Berry and Famke Jannsen, but the only man who could have played Magneto is Sir Ian McKellan (apologies for mis-spellings, if any).
The combination of ethical ambivalence, misplaced convictions and the knowledge of his own power make Magneto a very difficult character to play. It's pretty much impossible to visualise any actor other than Stewart playing Professor X either, but his character's morals and beliefs are never in doubt making him a character with fewer complexities and thus easier to play.
I've often thought Sir Ian would be the perfect actor to play Dumbledore, especially in movies four and beyond, because Dumbledore is a character who plays the benign grandfather most of the time (and especially with Harry who had become irritatingly idiotic in the fifth book, while Hermione had become irritatingly wise) but who can transform into the ruthless and frighteningly powerful wizard even Voldemort fears. For almost the same reasons, he made the perfect choice to play Gandalf.

Coming back to X3 and present times, what especially gladdened me today was the Box Office comparison of the Da Vinci Code and X3 on Rotten Tomatoes. X3 has made in one week almost as much as the supremely hyped DVC made from two. I haven't seen DVC so I won't comment on the movie but if a big-budget studio could not convince me to watch it in this era of super-slick trailers and teasers that make me make the mistake of investing into such Yashrajland turkeys as Bluffmaster, then they must look into what went wrong with their movie.
(Please note that 'Yashrajland' is a term that I have adopted from the Great Bong to describe the genre of movies characterised by wonderful visuals, occassionally good music, moist-eyed women and men, precocious kids and the requirement of a suspension of disbelief that I'm inacapable of.)
The reason I don't want to watch DVC is, however, not limited to its lacklustre trailers alone. I figured yesterday as I was thinking of which movie to watch standing in the queue for movie tickets at night, that DVC has no sex, very little violence, uncharismatic leads with no chemistry (there's no sex anyway and I think, one kiss in the book), an anti-climactic story, locations that everyone has seen on TV or in print, and finally a story that no one in the English-speaking world who has read more than one book in his life is unaware of. In short, DVC has absolutely nothing new to offer, and I have no intention of watching the movie just to see a translation of what was at best a gripping story with a disappointing end translated on to film.

I also watched the theatrical trailer of Superman Returns and it was every bit as good as you can expect from a Bryan Singer movie. This guy made The Usual Suspects and then the best movie series based on a comic book ever, and Superman promises to be just as great a movie-watching experience as the X Men movies have been. If he pulls it off, Bryan Singer joins Peter Jackson in the class of present day directors who make the best movies, the best movies being, as we must never lose sight of, movies which provoke and educate and stimuate our minds and everything, but also that entertain.
This is a great time to be alive!

Watch X3 now, and on the biggest screen you can find.

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