Mostly Thoughtless

Tam Brahm, thank you ma'am

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Singaara Chennai!

A few days ago, when I 'claimed' my blog on Blogstreet India, I noticed that Chennai is home to most of India's bloggers. Initially, I was damn proud and all but soon, I got thinking - there's absolutely nothing on my blog to show that I'm a Chennaiite. And I've written exactly zilch about the city I love so much - the city where I've spent almost my entire life. So, after a few minutes of deep thought and intense guilt, I decided that it was finally time to do it. Better late than never, I thought! So, here goes...

Chennai, formerly known as Madras, is one of the major Metropolitan cities of India. It is also the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu in southern India. Although it likes to think of itself as the most important metropolitan city, the weather reports on television still mention it only after certain tribal settlements in Nagaland. The name of the city was officially changed to Chennai in 1996, but the older name Madras is still widely used by very old people with Alzheimer's and phonies who can actually say lines like, "To me, Madras will always be Madras."

Geography

Chennai is a sprawling port city situated on the shores of the Bay of Bengal. That point raises in my mind the very pertinent question - What the hell does 'sprawling' mean? I mean, how come humans never sprawl? Do you have to be a city in order to be able to do it? hmmmm.... Anyways, we'll come back to that later. For now, moving back to the subject at hand, Chennai is India's 4th largest city and 35th among the most populous cities in the world. However, it is only 7,368th as far as uninterrupted electricity is concerned and a lowly 13,457th in the field of water supply. But Chennai lovers, cheer up because our city is the undisputed 1st on the list of cities where you sweat more than you pee.

History

Chennai is one of the oldest of British colonial possessions, and has inherited a rich cultural heritage. The city used to be the nerve centre of the British colonial empire in India. Now, of course, it serves as the Indian Government's rectum.

St. Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Christ and believed to be the first ever Christian missionary to set foot on Indian soil, is closely associated with Chennai. He is supposed to have visited India in the first century A.D and died in Chennai after falling into a ditch dug by the Public Works Department. He supposedly set up a church near the southern shoreline and made a small hillock his home. Legend has it that he used to walk to the church - a distance of over 15 kilometers - and back everyday through what was then and now, a menacing jungle. To this very day, that is considered to be the fastest way to travel between Santhome and St. Thomas Mount, which were the two places in question.

In 1639, the British East India Company was granted some land by the Nayak of Wandiwash and in return, they agreed not to make fun of his title. That piece of land is where they built Fort St. George in 1640. Initially, the fort was just an extra-strong warehouse but it soon became the nucleus around which Chennai grew and from which it was administered. Even today the official legislative and administrative headquarters of the state is located there, apparently.

People

The majority of the population are Tamils, whose mother tongue is pink. Their native language is quite amazingly, also called Tamil. Times have changed though, and the official language of the city now is 'Tanglish', which has to be heard to be believed. People insist on speaking it all the time but can be persuaded to shut up with a small bribe. In recent times, the Tamils have been massively outnumbered by an incredible number of Telugus, who come in droves to Chennai in order to enroll in one of its 150 engineering colleges so that they can go back to their homeland Andhra Pradesh after 4 years and demand a huge dowry from their Telugu brides there. Of course, they will not tell the girl's family that they have 53 arrears, including 2 in English.

Apart from the congenial Tamils, Chennai is also home to an indigenous tribe of people known simply as the auto-drivers. Their chief occupation is driving auto-rickshaws, though some of them have followed other interests - like chit funds, insurance, second-hand cars or the local mafia. The auto-drivers of Chennai are world renowned for their honesty and polite disposition.

Food and Culture

Chennai is known for its traditional South Indian Cuisine, which is notable for having contributed the 'barota' to the culinary world. Apart from this, traditional dishes include Idli, Vada, Pongal, Dosa, Paper Dosa, Rava Dosa, Ghee Dosa, Butter Dosa, Masala Dosa, Onion Dosa, Onion Rava Dosa, Ghee Masala Dosa, Special Dosa etc etc. At the end of the day, let's face the facts, there is a limit to what you can do with rice batter...

The Tamils pride themselves on their culture, and everyone else wonders why. It's famous for Carnatic Music, which you can read about here and Tamil Films, which are absolutely hilarious in a completely unintentional way.

Apart from the rich indigenus culture of the city, Chennai also has a vibrant Western-Cultural scene. There are a number of active theatre and dance groups that perform on a regular basis. Rock shows are also a regular feature. The Unwind Center, hosts a grand annual event where bands from around the country come to participate. It's called the 'June Rock Out' and this year, it was held in July.

Climate

Being in the equatorial zone, Chennai is hot and humid for most of the year, with day temperatures frequently exceeding 40°C/104°F during summer, which lasts for 12 months. Quite obviously, the temperature can get quite hot, so it might be a good idea to stay indoors from 04:00 a.m to about 11:00 p.m.

The city gets most of its rains from the two monsoons, the South-West monsoon and the North-East monsoon both of which, combined, fail more times than a Telugu engineering student. This results in an acute water shortage in the city. So, in recent times, attention has been focused on water saving methods like 'Rainwater Harvesting' but the idea hasn't quite taken off yet because nobody has the faintest idea what it means.

Transport

Chennai has a fairly large and extensive public transport system which is inefficient and can get very crowded. Buses ply between all major city zones, or so it is claimed. However, this service is not popular among the male community because, according to a government order, guys aren't allowed to sit in buses. All the seats are reserved for fat women selling fish.

Local suburban trains run between Chennai Beach and Tambaram and run over a minimum of 29 people and 14 cows everyday. This is a major source of inconvenience as it causes a lot of delays. In fact, it's pretty common to see huge crowds of people at such rain-run-over sites. Hundreds of onlookers creating an almost festive atmosphere around the accident scene, willing to wait for hours before the bodies are cleared off the tracks. Looking at this optimistically however, if a routine run-over case can attract such large crowds, quite obviously, the folks here are highly jobless. That probably explains the large number of bloggers, and the success of Bollywood movies.

Educational Institutions

The best school in the city is undoubtedly St. Michael's Academy. Some of the other good schools are Good Shepherd, Sacred Heart Church Park, and the Holy Angels convent. And as far as colleges are concerned, the only ones worth knowing are Stella Maris College For Women, Queen Mary's, Ethiraj, Women's Christian College and M.O.P Vaishnav College For Women.

Important Landmarks

Landmark, Nungambakkam and Landmark, Spencer Plaza.

Places To See

When you're in Chennai, you might want to take a walk along Marina Beach - the world's 2nd longest beach but you'd better do it soon, because according to latest reports, it's shrinking by the day and could soon slip down to 6th or, god forbid, even 7th.

When you're tired after walking that distance, you might want to visit Vandalur Zoo because that's what tired people always want to do - visit zoos. The city also has a Central Prison, situated in West Tambaram, around a 1,00,000 km from civilisation. I know of it because I happen to study there.

Places To Smell

The majestic Cooum River, which er..flows... right through the heart of the city.

Economy

Founded as a trading outpost by the British East India Company in the early seventeenth century, today Chennai is a large industrial and commercial centre. It has long been a traditional centre for the automobile industry in India and in recent years has consolidated that position. Other major industries are leather, textiles and chemicals. Chennai is also responsible in major part for the IT boom in India. It supplied the detonators.

However, inspite of so much progress, Chennai has always had a very backward image. This is probably because of its proximity to Andhra Pradesh.


There, that should do it for a write-up about Chennai. I've told you everything you need to know. If I remember anything later, I'll just keep it to myself.

In conclusion, I'd just like to say that to me, Chennai is like my mother. I scream at her, blame her for everything that goes wrong in my life but in the end, I love her anyway. Similarly, inspite of all its shortcomings, this colourful and intriguing city has a unique character that just seems to grow on its residents. It does not necessarily have the greatest weather, the smoothest roads, or even the nicest people but there's simply no denying it - there is something in this city that's totally magical and frighteningly addictive. I've lived here for nearly twenty years now and I can't even imagine living anywhere else. I love Chennai too much. Chennai Rocks.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Dance Like A Man!

My school had an annual inter-house cultural fest called 'Centerstage'. It was without a shadow of a doubt, the highlight of my academic year when I was at St. Michael's Academy. The long hours of practice and the thrill of performing in front of 2000 odd students - priceless.

6th grade was when we were first allowed to participate in the fest. And all of us were amazingly enthusiastic to get in on all the action. We could choose what events to participate in and like the stud I never was, I went and signed up for Western Dance.

Ok, you can all stop laughing now, I was a skinny kid back then.

Anyways, it was selection time soon and we all assembled in a largish hall where we realized, for the first time, that we would have to dance with girls. Now, most of us hadn't discovered the many joys of girls at that point in our lives and so, this was a cause for major concern and a silent 'Yuck!'. In fact, on noting this development, most of my friends suddenly seemed to have developed an interest in vegetable carving and so, quietly ditched the dance. A few of us unfortunate souls who were dumb enough to stick around were selected out of compulsion and told that practice would begin the very next day. There were 12 of us - 6 guys and 6 girls.

At the appointed hour the next day, we assembled in an old shed, which used to serve as the cycle stand until a few years ago. Now, it was a housing colony to a wide variety of insect life. It had the look and feel of one of those haunted houses in the movies where picnic groups are always forced to spend the night. Bernie ma'am, our dance coach sat in the middle of the shed, discussing choreography with one of the super-seniors (12th grade) and occasionally, they even made small sketches on a notepad.

Meanwhile, we guys would sit together in one corner, discussing if it would've been wiser to have just jumped off the terrace. We made it a point to occassionally talk loudly about sports, as if to reassure ourselves of our manhood. The girls were bunched up in the diagonally opposite corner of the shed, frequently stealing furtive glances at us, as if we were just waiting to mug them in a dark alley. Occassionally, they'd make some private joke and get into a bout of giggling. We wanted to just explode and die.

Once the choreography had been decided, Bernie ma'am stepped up to address us. I had been secretly preparing at home for this moment. I had spent hours watching Michael Jackson on TV and I was itching to show off the flashy moves I had learnt. But no, soon I found out that all my practice had been in vain. Apparently, we were going to do this weird Irish jig thing where we wouldn't have to lift our feet more than a couple of inches at a time. It was a sort of skipping motion and, as Bernie ma'am kept reminding us, co-ordination and timing were most important.

When practice finally started, the enemy sexes lined up on opposite sides of the cycle-stand, and Bernie ma'am showed us how it was done. "One, two, three, four", she said while skipping around. “Hands on your hips, left foot forward first and right foot at the back. Begin.."

The gawky girls we knew were suddenly transformed into divinely graceful angels. Flawlessly, they would skip forward together in perfect rhythm. We guys, on the other hand, suddenly seemed to have bright future as grape crushers in vineyards. Except that instead of the grapes, each guy stamped mercilessly on the heels of the guy in front of him. This routine was repeated a few times and while the girls got better with each attempt, we stomped around enough to have made quite a few gallons of good wine.

As expected, we were quite obviously not upto the mark. The girls were glaring at us with tangible contempt and we hung our heads down in shame. Bernie ma'am was shaking her head in disapproval. Then suddenly her face lit up. She had hit upon the perfect solution, "Boys link hands with the girls... and follow their movement, we'll work out the new formations soon..."

We guys stared at each other like we'd just been informed that we were going to be castrated. The girls were looking at us like we were the lowest, most revolting life-form on earth. My friends, the vegetable carvers, were rolling on the sidelines with laughter. It was going to be a really long couple of weeks.

We were soon split up into couples and my partner was this really pretty 7th grader called Nandita. Now I say 'pretty', back then I wouldn't have been able to say "Hi" to her even if we were the last humans alive on Earth. Gathering up all my courage, I quietly walked up and took my place next to her, hands and feet trembling. She gently took hold of my hand and immediately, my legs turned to jelly and 'Beauty and the Beast' started playing in my head.

It was like this for the first few days but as time wore on, soon, all of us became used to it and we quickly became good friends. During the breaks from practice, the guys would sit around with the girls, talking. All the intial divisions disappeared completely. I think I grew up a lot in those few days. Of course, we never spoke to the girls outside of practice. It was just a social thing. It probably won't even make sense now.

Practice was soon drawing to an end and we were all masters of the Irish jig thing, whatever it was called. The day of reckoning was close at hand. There were just two days left when we were shown the costumes we would have to wear. I had just about come to terms with the fact that we'd be on stage in front of the entire school when I was assaulted with this latest setback. It turned out that we had to perform wearing red shirts with small white polka dots and a black felt cap with a long feather sticking out of it. To make matters worse, because our shoe-string budget couldn't afford boots, we were going to have to just stick our pants inside our socks. I had no idea what I'd done in my previous life that God was so pissed.

The day finally dawned and last minute practice was happening. The girls were looking really nice in their skirts and shirts and we were looking natty ourselves with our feathered caps and bright red shirts. One guy had brought a jar of Brylcreem and soon, my hair was feeling like barbed wire. When there was only half an hour left for us to take the stage, the girls were suddenly feeling very tense about the whole thing and we, chivalrous as ever, were reassuring them. It was right then that Bernie ma'am walked in with the make-up kit. About 4 kgs of rose-powder and lipstick later, all of us looked set to pursue successful careers as professional transsexuals.

The dance itself went off like a dream. None of us could put a foot wrong. Every step, every pivot was perfect. We moved with perfect unsion. Our timing and co-ordination would have put Chinese synchronized swimmers to shame. I even have the slightest suspicion that some people mistook us to be real Irish people that day. Vinod O' Flaherty, they must've thought. Of course, my classmates weren't bothered about it in the least. They couldn't decide what to make fun of first - the lipstick, the polka dotted shirt or Nandita.

But nothing they did could bother me that day. We'd won. 1st place, nothing less. It was one of the sweetest victories of my life. Only I knew how much we'd worked for it. And the best part was that we managed to successfully defend our title the following year. No one can ever take away the two certificates saying that Vinod G of Shastri House won First place in Western Dance - Level 1. It might be slightly hard to believe now but I have the photos to prove it. Sigh! If only I could do that kinda thing now! Those really were the days...

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Bride - Terminate With Extreme Prejudice

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a British-Indian director, in possession of a good story, must be in want of a brain.

After the immense disappointment of the game on Monday, we were very determined not to let the day turn into a total loss. So, we decided to go watch Gurindher Chadha's 'Bride and Prejudice'. As it turned out, that's what made the day a complete disaster.

Jane Austen's classic (read boring) novel 'Pride and Prejudice' was originally titled 'First Impressions' because the novel was concerned with the effects of the characters' first impressions of each other, and how they later realize how they can be deceptive. However, it's the exact opposite of that with this movie. Five minutes after the movie begins, you think 'Man, what a waste!' and a couple of hours later, you know you were dead on the money.

Don't get me wrong here, I'm all for modern adaptations of classics. I can't stand the old novels. Frankly, I think they're too boring. If you enjoy the classics, go ahead and read them but I'd have more fun watching a National Geographic documentary on sloths. I'm more of the fast-paced thriller or humour novel kind of guy. I guess that's why I enjoyed the 'Troy' so much. But then, that was very well done. This, on the other hand, was not. The intent was there but the execution was sadly inadequate.


This is the latest in the long line of movies which are touted as 'celebrating Bollywood'. First we had 'Main Hoon Na' which sold itself using that tagline and did very well for itself. Then there was 'Bombay Dreams' which apparently also used the same strategy. And now this piece of crap. Romance, heartbreak, songs, and a happy ending. Is that all Bollywood is? Don't the makers realize that instead of 'celebrating' Bollywood, these movies are actually demeaning it? I'm a huge fan of Hindi movies myself. I love them for the emotions they're able to draw out but sadly, those movies are now few and far in between.

And in this movie, even the Bollywood bit sucks! The songs seem to have been written have a Sound Of Musicesque feel to them, except that they've seem to have been written by some 2-year old autistic kid. One of them is even set in an Amritsar street, with Punjabi hawkers dressed in bright green, yellow and red singing in impeccable English. But if you read any of the British reviews, you'll see that the foreign critics call the movie 'colourful' and 'musical'. I just love that. Guys, why don't you just come out and say 'garish' and 'loud'?

Looking on the brighter side, the cast is actually pretty ok. Martin Henderson, as the handsome and charming William Darcy, is easily the best of the lot. Aishwarya Rai looks as beautiful as always. She has put on a little weight but that doesn't make her any less lovely. Apparently, she's now claiming that she 'put on 20 pounds' in an effort to look more realistic as the Punjabi belle. Yeah, right! Nice try, Ash! Nadira Babbar, as the mother desperate to marry off her daughters to NRIs, is superb though the whole angle was a very negative look at Indian Culture. Naveen Andrews and Indira Varma play brother and sister in this flick, in stark contrast to another film in which they appeared together!!! Namrata Shirodkar looks ravishing as Ash's sister. However, the star of the show was undoubtedly Nitin Ganatra as the crazily over-the-top Mr. Kohli. Totally rocking performance. And the best scenes in the movie were the bloopers at the end!

Overall, pretty sad movie and a very bad reflection of India and Bollywood. Watch it only if you have nothing better to do. Even then, you might as well sleep.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

News Flash

I finally got a job. And the way CAT prep is going right now, I'm definitely going to need it.

The next Mensa Qualifying Test will be held on Sunday, the 28th of November, 2004 - exactly one week after CAT. Click here for more details.

Monday, October 18, 2004

F***

In the word 'rain', if you replace the letter 'a' with the letters 'o' and 'y' and then jumble up the letters in a certain way, then you'll end up with the word 'irony'.

Now I know that that was not a very good anagram, or even if it was one but then, keeping in mind that this blog is constantly trying to challenge the limits of human stupidity, that seemed a very good way to begin this post, especially because it's related to the content too.

It doesn't rain very often in the wonderful city of Chennai and so, it logically follows that there was very little chance that a very intriguingly poised test match between India and Australia would get washed out on the last day. So, today, I proudly put on my India team shirt and went to the stadium to cheer our team on.

And here's the part where irony makes a guest appearance - It rained. All day. All f***ing day.


me, myself and irony :-( Posted by Hello

Saturday, October 16, 2004

The Mother Of All Match-Ups

Well, I've always believed that the quality of any movie is relative to the expectations of the people watching it. And that philosophy was proved beyond a shadow of a doubt when I went with Vikram to watch 'Alien Vs. Predator' yesterday, expecting to see a totally screwed-up, corny movie. The tagline 'Whoever wins.... we lose' didn't help in image building either. But after sitting through the flick, probably because my expectations weren't too high, I thought the movie didn't suck too much. It was awesome fun, in fact. Definitely one of the best comedies of the year.

Ok, quick plot summary. In ancient times, and I mean really ancient (when Atal Behari Vajpayee was a toddler), Predators lived on earth as Gods and taught humans how to build pyramids. They built one of them in Antartica. Then the ice age came and covered it up with lots of ice. Cut to present day, multi-millionaire Charles Bishop Weyland uses his super-hi-tech-satellite to discover the pyramid buried two miles below the ground. He quickly assembles a crack team of experts in various fields to go check the pyramid out. Needless to say, the team has one black, one funny accent guy, one handsome chap, one hispanic etc. etc. But as it turns out, the Predators use the buried pyramid for some sort of 'rite of passage' ritual. They keep the huge Alien Queen Mother from the previous Alien movies inside the pyramid and on the press of a button, she gives birth to ten million slimy alien babies (talk about population control). The predators then kill all the aliens to emind themselves that they're the greatest hunters ever. This happens in the movie too. Lots of fluorescent Predator blood and yellow Alien goo is spilt and finally, only the hottest human survives. Done.

Now, for the funniest parts of the movie. Actually, the funniest was just before the movie when we got to watch a brilliantly made documentary on the 'Arsenic Problem in West Bengal' where a bunch of very unattractive West Bengalees kept showing their hands and feet to the camera. I don't know what the problem was but what I do know is that both Vikram and I were on the floor rolling with laughter when the credits for the documentary rolled and there was a credit for music!!!! The Government Films Division has one rocking sense of humour!

Well, going on to the movie itself. The funniest scenes are as mentioned below. Watch out for them if you ever get to watch this classic.

The millionaire is showing the archaeologist the satellite images of the pyramid but we smart people know that he was actually only showing him outtakes from the game 'Lara Croft : Tombraider'. But let me tell you one thing - when the millionaire wants to get the best archaeologist in the field, he gets him. This guy is unbelievably good. Seconds after seeing the monitor, he's able to deduce that the pyramid has been made using a mixture of the technologies of the Aztecs, Incas, Mayas, Egyptians, Sumerians and all the other civilisations known to man. Even Vijaykant can't do that!!

And after the millionaire has assembled his crack team, when they're having their traditional before-the-mission talk, there's one guy with a dumb lumberjack look who says with a southern accent, "Yes, sir. These are the world's best drillers. if they can't dig the hole, no one can." I was frankly puzzled. Wasn't that title reserved for Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck and that motley crew from 'Armageddon'?

The mission begins and when they finally enter the pyramid, the walls are covered with some hiterto unseen form of hieroglyphics. For some time, I even thought it was an ancient trailer for 'The Matrix' movies. But not to worry, the super-smart-archaeologist-man only needs to take one look at them before he starts reading them like it's a goddamn children's novel. That guy just rocked!

And this scene has got to be the funniest in the movie. My personal favourite at least. The team is in this room called the Sacrificial Chamber and there's a hole on the floor. One of the guys drops a fluorescent glow-stick through the hole and they all watch it land in the darkness some ten feet below. They then proceed to take a roundabout route and finally reach a room somewhere on a lower level. Here's the hilarious part. The team leader hot black female is standing virtually on the glow-stick and everyone else on the team and in the theatre can see it. But she looks at her watch, checks the compass readings and announces with an incredulous voice, "Guys, I think we're now directly below the Sacrificial Chamber" Duh!!!!!

Enough with that, the scenes are infinitely more enjoyable when you watch it. But all said and done, to me, the star of the show was undoubtedly Predator. He's a virtual James Bond of outer space, loaded up on the latest super-cool gadgets and displaying inimitable style, he even does a few Rajnikant moves in a few scenes. You should've seen the audience go wild. Vikram and Me were rooting for Predator all the way along and we were damn happy for him when he managed to land a hot black girlfriend at the end.

The highlight of the film, the fight scenes were real classy. After a few minutes of flashing their gadgets and deadly weapons, Predator and Alien start using WWE moves on each other. Alien does an off-the-top-rope jump on Predator who proceeds to deliver a clothesline to Alien. After that, he swings Alien by the feet and throws him out of the ring. Finally, when Predator gets really bored of the match and has no tag-team partners to call in, he just uses his amazing wrist-watch bomb to destroy all the aliens. Simply awesum!

I'm not going to talk about the ending. I think you should watch it in the theatre. So that will do it for the review. Overall, decent movie if you go expecting a brain-dead flick. Believe me, it's not that bad. if you're really bored, you could do much worse than 'AVP'

But before I stop, how could I forget. During the interval, Vikram and I saw something that scared the living daylights out of us. There was this huge shelf of trophies received for movies running at Devi (the theatre) and we saw one for a movie named 'Koolikaran' (Worker) which made our blood run cold. It starred two of the most incredible actors of South Indan Cinema - Vijaykant and T. Rajendar. A chill runs down my spine everytime I think of it. If anyone reading this has any more fundaes on this movie, please let me know.

Just imagine - an Indian version of 'AVP'. A battle between two titans. Two superstars who still haunt movie lovers in their sleep. An epic confrontation between two legends of the silver screen - the mention of whose names still sends shudders down the spines of physics scholars all over the world. It will, without a doubt, be the greatest fighting spectacular in the history of the world. I can already see you guys licking your lips in anticipation. Just imagine....

Vijaykant Vs. T. Rajenderr

Whoever wins..... we lose!

Friday, October 15, 2004

The Porn Supremacy

There has been a lot of talk about the censor board these last few days. What with Chief Anupam Kher getting dumped so unceremoniously and all. I saw the man speak his heart out on TV yesterday and he was saying stuff about being ‘angry and hurt’ and whole thing having been ‘shameful’. It made for a sorry sight but at I have to admit here that I do empathise with the poor guy. He had the coolest job in the country. Think about it, wouldn’t you enjoy it if you got to watch all the porn in the country and then decide not to let anyone else watch it. I think I would.

By now, you should’ve understood that this post is going to be about pornography, so if you’re one of those people who’re stupid enough to think that there are people in this world who don’t like porn, then you may stop reading right here. So, after that disclaimer, let’s get started. Any half-decent book on word origins will tell you that the word ‘pornography’ is derived from the Greek roots ‘porno’ which means ‘movies’ and ‘graphy’ which of course means ‘with bad or no scripts’. Of course, going by that definition, we can conclude that most Indian movies are pornographic but then, that would be unfair to the entire porn genre. Their scripts are markedly better.

And moroever, pornography hasn’t always been censored so severely in history. Look at the word of art, for example. Immediately preceding the Impressionist period was a lesser known period called the ‘Naked People’ period where paintings abounded with you guessed it, naked people. Michelangelo was one of the most prominent painters of this period. Even in India, rock sculptures and temples have plenty of references to nudity. I don’t see the so called ‘culture police’ go and cover up these sculptures. Why not? It’s only the porn movies that suffer.

But of course, such movies will only damage the morals of the youth and thus lead to unemployment, poverty, over-population, epidemic, terrorism and even nuclear wars with far-away countries. Hence, we need to control its distribution and for that we have a censor board. For a long time now, the censor board has been involved in the highly social-minded activity of closely scrutinizing movies for explicit sexual content and then deciding if they were excited by it enough to prevent the youth from watching it. Gee, talk about service to the society.

And moroever, the censor board is always filled with old guys who’re still pissed that they weren’t passed the dirty magazine when they were in the 7th grade. If the HR department can’t get enough old guys, they go for feminists who are also pissed off all the time, for no reason at all. Maybe they just enjoy it. In fact, the Indian Censor Board conducts campus placement drives regularly at old age homes across the country.

Now, the working of the censor board is especially interesting. Once in a while the old guys and the feminists gather in a room and watch all the dirty movies and then hold a discussion on the scenes they enjoyed the most. When they’re done, they call the makers and tell them to snip off those very scenes. Imagine a meeting like that:

Chief: Ok, I myself noticed certain aspects of the film that need to be discussed here. In the scene approximately 17 minutes and 36 seconds into the movie, where the lead actress is getting raped, her clothes are getting torn and you can just about catch a glimpse of her breasts. What do we do about that?

Old Guy 1: Where, I didn’t see that?

Chief: Ok, can we rewind…? There… play it from there….ok guys, watch closely here…

Old Guys: Ok…..it must be about now…..oooooooooooooooooooh!

Chief: So….

Old Guy 2: Eh, it was only for a second. I think we can leave that in.

Old Guy 1: You’re getting too soft these days, what if the young minds of this country watch that? What will happen to our culture, our rich tradition?

Chief: Yes, he has a point there. That scene has got to go…

Chief: And by the way, we have an application from this new-fangled filmmaker who wants to include a love making scene in his new film. He wants our permission. He says he’ll keep it tasteful.

Old Guy 3: Yes, he can but we’ll need to be on the sets, supervising the shooting.

Chief: I think that can be arranged.

Old Guy 3: Really! I didn’t think that’d work!

And that, folks, is how movies get censored. But I wonder what those guys do with the movies after they’re done watching them. If they keep storing them, then by now, they should have a movie library larger than some small countries. I wonder if there’s anyway I can find out where it is. Maybe if I ask Anupam Kher, he’ll tell me. And then we can get together and rob it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

I Dream Of Jeannie..

I originally didn’t want to put this up on the blog. I guess I assumed you’ll never understand. But, as time went on, I realized that I had to get it out of my system. It was eating me alive. I just couldn’t hold it in any longer. So here goes…

My favourite pair of jeans tore last week. And I’ve been inconsolable since then. You could even say that I was ‘feeling blue’ but that’s a really terrible pun and totally not in keeping with my mood right now.

The moment will be forever etched in my memory. I was getting out of an auto when my right jeans leg caught a rebel nail. My momentum took me forward but the nail held firm. Soon, my beautiful jeans ended up with a tear the size of Canada. I was stunned. I couldn’t even move, let alone walk. I was about 5 km from home, scared and alone. Actually, not alone but it definitely has more of a dramatic effect than ‘scared and with a friend’ does. My friend was talking but I heard nothing. I was just nodding my head, unable to get a word out. A gust of wind blew past, whistling in my ears. I looked at the people around me. They seemed happy, in their clean, untorn jeans. I felt like I’d lost my best friend.

At that moment, I almost felt like I was going to faint from the shock. The ripping of the Lee Denim 42 mercerized fabric echoed in my head and it felt someone was slicing through my heart with a rusty paper-cutter. In fact, I’m still not over it. Sometimes, late at night, I can still hear the ripping.

"What a loser!", some of you are probably saying but you can’t, you didn’t know those jeans like I did. We’ve been through a lot together, my jeans and I. It’s been with me for 6 years and it has the frayed edges and the ink stains to show for it. It may not have been as trendy as some other styles in the market but it made me feel comfortable and when I’m comfortable, I’m happy and so my jeans made me happy. So what if we weren’t a hit with the girls. We had fun together and that’s all that mattered.

And I know that I’m not alone when I say I loved my jeans. Practically everyone owns a pair of jeans and the majority of us have at least two. And invariably, we have one pair that we have a soft corner for. The one pair which fits ever so perfectly. One magical pair. Some people go through their entire lives without finding the perfect pair. That way, I consider myself lucky; my jeans fit me like a dream. It had some kind of wonder waist which kept pace admirably with my own rapidly expanding waistline. When on me, it almost felt like a second skin. Now, it’s gone. And I'll probably never find another one like it. Sigh!

As I was writing this, I became curious to know if there were other people in this world who had experienced a similar tragedy. So, I did some research online and this is what I found. Apparently, it’s a common enough occurrence and researchers, who obviously don’t have great funding, have aptly christened it Jeanocide. And there’s a hell of a lot of material on this phenomenon.

Soon after such a loss, the most common reaction is a feeling of shock or numbness, Jeanocide experts say. In some cases, the bereaved may arrange a funeral. Not a very glitzy affair, just a small ceremony for really close friends and family. Mourning is an excellent way to let out the grief, says Laura Ashley of the American Jeanocide Foundation in Washington, D.C.

Accompanying the immediate shock may be intense disbelief and, in a majority of the cases, a small hope that the pants could somehow be darned and made fit for use again, says Kevin Johnson, a therapist at the Levi Strauss Center for Jean Loss Treatment in San Francisco, California.

After finally accepting the loss, most victims say that they experience a range of emotions that can include deep sadness, violent anger, feral rage, intense guilt and remorse. Those emotions follow each other in quick succession like the Indian batsmen at Bangalore, often leaving the victim feeling disoriented and out of control.

''I thought I was going crazy,'' says Mary Adams, recalling the months after she’d lost her favourite pair to a house burglary in 1997. ''In the first few days, I couldn't even imagine ever being happy again,'' she says. The jeans were reportedly a 13-year-old pair of Levis that were fraying at the bottom and getting slightly saggy around the ass. The local police are still trying to figure out why it was taken.

While still coming to terms with the loss, people often must jump right into the difficult process of finding a new pair, Johnson says. This can be quite tricky. In their hurry to find another perfect pair, people often rush into buying jeans that are far from being ideal. You see it on the streets everyday – guys wearing jeans so ill-fitting that the waist is somewhere around the knees. Apart from making the wearer look really stupid, these pants also make it impossible to walk. Such a purchase only leads to more emotional unrest and mental instability, Johnson adds. Quite obviously, he’s speaking from experience.

And that brings me back to my own experience. I think I’m finally starting to come to terms with my grief. And writing this post has made me feel a hell of a lot better. I’m fairly certain I’m over my loss. I think I’m now ready to start life afresh. I will go out and buy new jeans immediately. And after that, I shall write a post that will definitely be more interesting than this one was.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Fly Emirates!

Arsenal's new £357 million, 60,000 capacity stadium at Ashburton Grove will be known as the Emirates Stadium for the next 15 years after they agreed a spectacular £100 million deal with Emirates Airlines. The company will also be the Gunners' shirt sponsor for eight years starting in the 2006-07 season when the club start life at their new ground.


Manager Arsene Wenger has also revealed that he expects to announce an extension of his own contract with the Gunners 'within days'.

And the best part of the deal is that Emirates has decided to back the Gunners by ending their present contract with Chelsea. On Emirates' decision to switch their backing from Arsenal's major rivals, group president and vice-chairman Maurice Flanagan had this to say: "We decided Arsenal offered us more for the future. We have had an excellent relationship with Chelsea but Arsenal's approach and winning team parallel the ambitions and achievements of Emirates Airline."

But we know that Maurice was bound by the rules of corporate etiquette. Deep down in his heart, what he really wanted to say was, "Chelsea sucks. Arsenal rocks."

This is brilliant news coming on the back of a great season so far at least. In the premiership, 8 games, 22 points and an astonishing 26 goals. That statistic seems even more incredible when you consider that Chelsea, who are in second place with 20 points have scored only 8. All the players are performing and Henry looks to be at his delightful best. And their unbeaten run has now stretched to an unbelievable 48 games. As you can imagine, the picture looks very rosy indeed. I just hope the bubble doesn't crack anytime soon.

And now, with the money flowing in, they can go get new players as well. If we're luck, maybe they can get Vijaykant. Fingers crossed!

Friday, October 01, 2004

Unforgettable Captain

Marching out in perfect rhythm with the background music, the stocky-to-say-the-least guy, in tight jeans worn around the chest, looks nothing like the top cop that he is supposed to be. Wearing dark glasses and a leather jacket, he has, slung over his shoulder, a camera pouch containing a highly sophisticated camera. A car passes him at an extremely high speed. The car has black tinted windows and very obviously belongs to crooks. Aroused into action, his thinning hair flying all over the place, the cop dramatically whips out the camera and manages to take a quick picture.

Cut to a high technology computer centre filed with only state-of-the-art machines. Our cop marches in and hands a disc to a computer expert. The expert gives him a knowing glance and opens the image stored on the disc using the most advanced photo-editing tool known to mankind - Windows Paint. The image shows a car with black windows. Even if he felt any disappointment, the cop does not show it. Instead, he asks the expert to 'joom' the image. They zoom close enough so that the car window fills the screen. The cop now takes over the mouse. He selects the eraser tool from the toolbox and proceeds to carefully erase the black tint from the image to reveal the face of the person in the car. The computer expert is stunned at the computer wizardry displayed. The cop's job is done. Yet again, he has been instrumental in the capture of a deadly speeding offender. As he strides successfully out of the room, the audience in the theatre rises to its feet. In another few minutes, they will have left.

If you're shocked out of your senses at the stupidity of the above incident, then you've quite obviously not experienced the many joys of watching a movie starring Vijaykant, South India's most famous comedian.

In the wonderful world of Tamil cinema, while Rajnikant may be the King of the Masses, Vijaykant is the undisputed King of the Mass. He is mentioned in the Guiness Book of World Records for having played the same character (honest cop) in the largest number of films (10,078). However, what makes him remarkable is that he also holds the record for having played the largest character in the same number of films. The reason for his success is his uncanny ability to suspend logic with all its variants and draw the poor, unsuspecting audience into his demented, wacky world. Whether it is his mindblowing stunts or his powerful dialogue delivery peppered with statements of regional patriotism, Vijaykant affects people to an extent that AIDS can only dream about. When his face (with about 7 tons of make-up) first appears on the screen, the audiences start laughing, and by the time he utters his first words of dialogue, they are doubled over in their mirth. His films routinely break box-office records, along with a few chairs.

To the rest of the world, he may be Vijaykant, action-hero par excellence, but to his miions of fans and followers, he is simply 'Captain', their leader. He was born Venkatakrishnan Jayakantan in a poor household somewhere in a small Tamil Nadu village. He was a healthy enough baby, weighing about 74 kgs when he finally chose to check out of his poor mother. 15 long years later, when he was in the first grade, his name on the school rolls was V. Jayakant. During roll-call one day, his teacher read it off together and thus the name Vijaykant was born.

Little Vijaykant was always an average student but he excelled at extra-curriculars, undefeated for 29 years in the inter-school eating competitions. He reached puberty at an early age, developing sagging man-breasts when he was only in the third-grade. His classmates just thought his mom kept forgetting to iron his shirt in the mornings. Needless to say, he was the target of much teasing by his insensitive classmates but to his credit, he never let that affect him. He was just too dense to understand the unbearable trauma of social isolation.

When he finally left school, there were a million job offers waiting for him but he chose to go where his heart led him - the world of entertainment. At the age of 34, Vijaykant joined the famed Gemini Circus as a standby for Subramani, the amazing cycle-riding elephant. One day, when the star attraction was down with elephantiasis, Vijaykant was thrust into the limelight to take his place. Frozen with stage fright, he was finding it hard to keep his balance on the tricycle. Of course, the fact that his girth prevented him from seeing the pedals did not help his cause. He tried to maintain course but lost control and somehow, ended up performing a complicated 1 and 1/2 backward somersault that Chinese Olympic divers would've been proud of. The crowds simply loved him, and two weeks later, Subramani was packing his trunk, out of a job.

Soon, Vijaykant got his first overseas assignment. Diablo, one of the star bulls scheduled to run in Pamplona that year had been found guilty of doping and Vijaykant was quickly flown out to take his place. He had a very successful run, making sure that seventeen able-bodied Spaniards would never make their women happy again. It was here that Vijaykant was spotted by a blind film-maker and the rest, as they say, is geography.

More than a quarter of a century ago, Vijaykant acted in his first feature film, allowing his style to reach a wider market. It is still one of his most famous films. It made him popular as the poor man's Rajnikant. He also managed to establish his own unique style with this film. If you'd written a piece of dialogue that you didn't want understood, then Vijaykant was your man. He was soon flooded with offers and even had a small stint as dubbing artiste for Mohammad Azharuddin's press conferences. His fight scenes became legendary for he wasn't just satisfied with bashing up just the regular 'bald-guy, big-moustache, karate-expert' combo. He had an insatiable appetite for badddies and this reflected in all his fights where he would duel with hundreds of thugs at once. "The more the merrier", was one of his favourite sayings. It was also the only line he could say in English.

Super-hit folowed super-hit in an immensely successful on screen career. His graceful dancing and legendary triple chin ensured an endless supply of adoring female fans. His ingenuity and quick thinking when faced with danger also became stuff of legend. In fact, in the CAT question paper of 1987, I found this logical reasoning question:

Q: Vijaykant is confronted with 3 gangsters who stand side by side with equal spacing between them. He has a gun but unfortunately only one bullet. He also has a knife. How will he kill all three of his opponents?

A: He throws the knife at the gangster standing in the centre and then shoots at it. The bullet, on hitting the blade, splits into two at an angle such that the two parts hit the gangsters on either side. The knife plunges into the centre guy, killing him. Voila!

Although the language may not be understood by everyone, Vijaykant's physical humour transcended all linguistic barriers. He was the true hero of the working class, striding into matters of impossibly grave significance and turning them into ridiculously silly masterpieces of slapstick comedy.

Right from the first day he stepped in front of the camera with cheeks quivering and delivered a left hook to the baddie in front of him, Vijaykant has been entertaining the masses for over 25 years now. And even now, when he has entered his 60s, he is showing no signs of stepping down. Unfortunately, however, recent trends indicate that his popularity is on the wane. This is a huge tragedy. All of us should take this matter into our hands and as true connoiseurs of cinema, encourage this great performer. So, all of you reading this, rush now to watch his latest offering. And for anyone who actually took that last line seriously and is considering watching the film, it's been great knowing you!