Thursday, December 28, 2006

Main Hoon DON...

Amitabh Bachchan gave every Indian male it's ultimate fantasy, DON. He was a dangerous hitman with women swirling around him. Every average joe wants to be like him even though they may never be able to become one, except one person, Vijay. Don is an ultimate cult movie to come out of Bollywood, although there can be no other cult movie like Sholay. A simple man gets entangled in the big bad world of women, wine and guns, and the only person who knows his identity, DCP D'Silva, dies in a shoot-out. It was a mark of genius from Salim Javed. 28 years later, son of Javed Akhtar directs the classic again but does he succeed?

Remaking DON was a high risk for Farhan and the expectations were high from him. I don't think Farhan delivered as expected because he delivered much more than what was expected of him. This is his most accomplished work till date. A film maker is judged from his second movie onwards because anyone can make his first one a good one because they live and breathe that movie all their life. Ignoring first two movies made by Ashutosh, Swades was a better movie than Lagaan in terms of maturity of story and acting, Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander was a better fare than QSQT from Mansoor Khan, again from a film making point of view. On the other hand, Mohabattein was a crappy dish after DDLJ (which I believe was directed by Yash because I can recognize his direction with my closed eyes and no way director of Mohabattein can be the same one as DDLJ) and so was Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham after a decent Kuch Kuch Hota Hain from Karan. Farhan Akhtar's Lakshya was way more mature than Dil Chahta Hain, in terms of characterisation, direction, screenplay and acting. Don is better than the first two because its hard to stay true to the original movie, which was a classic, and yet make the movie which is Farhan's own.

These days when so many movies are inspired by Hollywood, Farhan Akhtar remakes a classic and yet transforms it into his own DON. He pays rich tribute to the old movie but turns the movie on its head to make it his own (spoiler ahead in next few lines). As an audience you see the movie through Vijay's eyes but the end jolts you hard because the movie was being played through Don's eyes instead. I had to watch the movie twice to notice how Vijay before dieing tries to tell the inspector that he is Vijay and not Don, through his eyes. Also, in the movie one gets surprised how Vijay becomes Don so easily but realises in the end that it was infact Don who becomes Vijay and because becoming Vijay was easier than being Don, the transformation is justifiable. I think one has to see the movie twice to understand these nitty gritties of Farhan's version. For e.g. when Vijay (disguised as Don) is on phone if you look in the TV, you can see Tom and Jerry being played and it was Don's favorite not Vijay's. Another scene where he and Priyanka goes to pick up Deepu but Vijay just looks around the school without approaching Deepu because he didn't knew what Deepu looks like in reality. Its a very intelligent movie, which itself is a rarity in Bollywood.

The movie has a connection with me too. No No, I am not like Don but the character of Arjun Rampal is named Jasjit, which is my name and very unusual for a character in a movie. Infact, I have hardly heard this name anywhere else.

Shah Rukh Khan after a while (infact after Swades) gave a restrained performance. Although, the movie required over-the-top performance because of Don's character but it was still very subtle. Recently, he has been doing lot of girly/loser performances, thanks to Karan but this movie brings the Baazigar kind of performance in him, which made him the star in the first place. Its hard to match Amitabh's footsteps but only SRK could have done this role because on one hand Amitabh is good at playing any role even that of ego-maniac Don, but to SRK it comes naturally. Farhan should also be credited for introducing a new style in the movie like in DCH with printed ties along with same print shirts. Priyanka was looking sultry as Roma although its no comparison to Zeenat Aman's of 70s. Although, the person that took the cake in this new movie was Boman Irani, who completely changed the character of Inspector D'Souza and made it his own.

Kareena tried her best to look sexy but she still could not match the moves of Helen and considering Helen was almost 40ish when she did that dance sequence, its remarkable.

The songs of the movie are groovy at its best. The remixed version of old ones are nicely done paying rich tribute to the classic esp. Khaye kee paan banaras waala, which is sung very well by SRK if not better than Amitabh's version. The action of the movie is truly international. The cinematography is world-class and the screenplay is crisp.

Amitabh Bachchan's Don started a whole genre of movies based on Underworld and although Farhan's won't do the same, it will certainly be remembered as the biggest tribute the original Don. No one can make the movie as good as the original because as Don says, "Don ko pakadna mushkil hee nahin..."

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Best of India - Churches!!

India is a land of diversity in every sense of the word. The people, the places, the languages, the customs, the religions and the list goes on and on. There is hardly any country as diverse and yet integrated as India.

Inspired by India Today's article, "Best of India" dated Oct 23, 2006, I have decided to start a series "Best of India" at my blog. I have been lucky to live all over India due to my Dad's Army background but still there are 100s of places that I haven't visited. This series will give me a chance to showcase India that I have or want to visit one day. The series can involve anything or anyplace. It can be the best trek, best place to eat , best spiritual place, best place to meditate, best place for a romantic get-away etc. Although, in order to showcase the unseen and unknown, I will mostly showcase places that are relatively unknown (so yea, there is a good chance that TajMahal and Qutab Minar won't feature here).

If anyone who is reading this series would like to suggest a place that they have visited or would like to visit one day, then do leave the name and some description of that place in the comment box and I would be happy to research and write-up about the same. This series will be sprinkled between my regular posts, in order to keep things interesting.

In India, everything starts and ends with the name of God and what better day to start then on the eve of Christmas. Today, I will be showing some of the best churches in India (in terms of architecture or aesthetic value)

This is St. Philomena's Cathedral in Mysore. It is one of the largest churches in India. I love the color contrasts used in the stained glass windows. The church was build in 1840 A.D as St. Joseph's Church but renamed St. Philomena's Cathedral in 1933. The church was named so because it has a crypt with a statue of St. Philomena, a 3rd century saint from Greece.

This is one of my favorite pictures because it has a statue of Christ with his arms outstretched, on top of the church and the weather/clouds just make this image heavenly. This is St. Joseph's Church (also known as Palyam Church) in Trivandrum, Kerela. The choir service in the church is performed in three languages, English, Malayalam and Tamil. This just shows how different religions have integrated within the Indian society and has become a part of it.

This is one of the most revered churches in India, Santhome Church in Chennai. It is believed that the church is built over the tomb of St. Thomas, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ. It is believed that the sand taken from St. Thomas's tomb has healing power and so the Church itself has been reaised to mythical proportions like no other.

One of the oldest neighborhoods of Panjim is Fountainhas and it houses beautiful church by the name of, St. Sebastian Church. The church was built in 1818 as a small chapel. The church and the neighborhood has a traditional Portuguese architecture. The "Crucifix of Inquisition" lies in this church.

St. Francis Church in Cochin is the oldest European church in India. It was constructed in 1503 and Vasco Da Gama, the first European to discover India, was buried here. It has a very modest building but its the history behind it that makes it so important among all the churches in India.

Mount Mary Church in Bandra, Mumbai, has one of the best interiors of church that I have seen. It attracts lakhs of devotees every year because of its prime location. The good thing about most religious places in India is that it attracts people from all faiths and same is true for Mount Mary Church. The statue of "Our Lady" in the church was brought in 16th century but was replaced later after it was disfigured by Arab pirates. (Thank You Mehak for mentioning the Church in the comment box.)

Merry Christmas Everyone!!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Rajnikanth to Tiger Singh

Question: What is common between Rajnikanth and Tiger Singh (if you don't know who is Tiger Singh, then keep reading)?

Answer: They both are over-the-top, both share Indian heritage, both dress gaudily but they both share one more thing and that is Japan (if you can call it a thing, although if its a thing then its probably

Mr. Manmohan Singh recently visited Japan and gave a speech in their parliament. In his speech he said, "I am delighted to hear the popularity of Odori Maharaja (The Dancing Maharaja, refering to Rajnikanth) among young people here..." Rajnikanth is indeed a phenomena in Japan. He is to Japan what SRK is to Europe and North America, maybe more because its not the Indians living in Japan who like him but an average Japanese who idolizes him. His most popular movie in Japan is Tamil movie, Muthu, which has attained mythical proportions there. No one knows why Rajnikanth movies do so well there but one reason that I can think is that most Japanese love over-the-top humor and childish antics and Rajnikanth movies offer all of these and more.

This is not just a cartoon but a cartoon of actual scene from a Rajnikanth movie where instead of trying to jump the wall, Rajnikanth throws one of his gun up in the air and then hits the trigger by shooting it with another gun and maybe uses x-ray vision for that precise up-the-villian's-ass nishana.

I remember few years back when I first moved to Canada and was standing with some friends, a Japanese group approached us.

"Hey, are you from India?"
"Yea, we are. Where are you from?"
"Japan. Do you know Rajnicant (that's how they pronounced it)?"
"Yea, but I haven't seen more than couple of his movies"

The expression on his face was as if I had just said the unspeakable. He went away with a biggest disappointment I have seen on a face of a man. This is how popular and loved Rajnicant is in Japan. Although, this doesn't mean that Japanese people don't understand cinema because Rajni's movies always end with a social message and just because North Indians doesn't consider such over-the-top acting "real", doesn't mean that it is not good cinema. After Rajnikanth, the other actor-director to make most impact on Japanese people has been Mr. Guru Dutt, who according to me is the best director produced by India till date.

Now, let's come to the other half of the title, Mr. Tiger Jeet Singh. I recently watched a documentary about this Indo-Canadian sikh wrestler that in the 1970s became a phenomena in Japan. Tiger Jeet Singh is said to be the most feared man in Japan, till date. He was born and trained in the akhadas (or desi-gym) of Punjab before moving to Vancouver. Professional wrestling was not very big in North America back then, so he moved to Japan, which is legendary for its wrestling and where it is more than a sport. His popularity started to rise because he would come to fight in turban and before entering the arena would start hitting the crowds with his sticks. The more he would beat people, the more they would like him. He defeated some of the most famous Japanese wrestlers incl. Antonia Inoki in 1975, which was watched by 60, 000 people.

Tiger Jeet Singh during one of his countless fights on Japanese soil.

He is revered by the people of Japan, mostly for his antics because he ridicules their wrestlers and they love him for doing it. Infact, he is the most recognized Canadian in Japan and has been honored by both Canadian and Japanese Governments for his achievements. Infact, even till this day Japanese tourist flock outside his house in Vancouver to get the glimpse of an Indian that beat them up in their own country.

So, next time you see a Japanese don't be surprised if he/she wants you to dance like Muthu but fight like Tiger.

Here's me signing off. Sionara!!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Aurora It Is...

Northern Lights are a world phenomena that is catching up as the biggest tourist attraction where ever it is observed. It is basically a night glow which is observed during night and is usually seen in Canada, Alaska and most Scandinavian countries. One of the most common Northern light is Aurora. The scientific reasons for these lights are elaborate and anyone can read it online but for me it's a God way to tell us that HIS nights are as beautiful as days.

Recently, I read poems by Rumi, a 13th century Persian poet, and one of his poem was about the beauty of night and how most people miss it because they tend to sleep at that time. Here are few excerpts from that poem, which certainly can explain why so few people are able to see Northern Lights...

don't go to sleep this night,
one night is worth a hundred thousand soul,
the night is generous,
it can give you the gift of the full moon,
it can bless your soul with endless treasures,

even Mecca is adorned with Black clothes,
showing that the heavens are ready to grace the human soul...

Yesterday, Aurora Borealis, was observed all over the world. Here are some beautiful pictures from last night...

This beautiful array of lights with stars was taken in Atlantic Canada. It almost looks heavenly to me...

This is my favorite picture of all. This was taken last night in Iceland. I love the clouds and the snow, all being lighted up by beautiful green aurora...

These colorful lights were taken in Madison, Wisconsin. I love all the contrasting colors, purple, yellow, green, all trying to overpower each other.

This beautiful picture was taken last night near a beautiful lake in Finland. The sky seem so clear from a country which is considered one of the least polluted in the world.

This amazing shot was taken in Alaska, where the Northern Lights are most visible in North America.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Parinda - The Peace Dove

Vidhu Vinod Chopra is my favorite directors of all times. I cherish almost every movie of his but Parinda holds a special place among all his gems. The movie was way ahead of its time. He was able to make a realistic movie in commercial set-up. The movie was released in 1989 which were turbulent times in Mumbai with Underworld rising and taking control of the city. It was also the time when the likes of Anil Kapoor, Jackie Shroff and Madhuri Dixit were on top of their career graph. Parinda gave them all the chance of their lives to showcase their talent at its very raw best. It also introduced Nana Patekar to masses with a once-in-a-lifetime role.

The story of the movie revolved around underworld gang run by Nana Patekar and Jackie Shroff who becomes one of his right hand men. The scene where Anupam Kher in killed in the arms of Anil Kapoor on his return from US is itched in my mind unlike any other scene in Hindi cinema. Rest of the movie revolved around Anil Kapoor and his dilemma in face of revenge for the murder of his best friend and love for his brother. The boat scene where Anil confronts Jackie is one of the highlights of the movie. The movie is realistically violent esp the pre-climax scene where Anil and Madhuri are killed on their honeymoon night. The climax scene shows Nana at his best. Its one of the most torturous killing of villain in Hindi cinema.

Of all the characters my favorite was Anil Kapoor and he proved that he was the best actor of his time. Madhuri also took the risk of working in most part of the movie without any make-up. Jackie did the role of his life. His character invoked the most sympathy in the movie.

The actual hero of the movie was Vidhu Vinod Chopra. His direction was immaculate. Most part of the movie was shot in dark which went well with the theme of the movie. The tension built up in the movie and surprises it sprang were a genius of Chopra. Another highlight of Vinod Chopra's career has been his team which he has remained loyal till this date, which includes Binod Pradhan, one of the best cinematographer (who also happens to be my Mom's best friend's brother) in India. The music was given by R.D Burman and never intrudes in the proceedings of the movie. "Tumse Milke..." is one of my all-time favorite love songs.

The dialouges of the movie were one of the best pinned ever. Dialouges like, "Jo aadmi 1 lakh main bik sakta hain, woh 5 lakh main tere ko bhi bech sakta hain" and when Tom Alter tells Nana who killed Suresh Oberoi, without saying the name from his mouth, was a mark of a genius.

Another highlight of the movie and that goes with name of the movie was the use of parindas as a background music for anything bad. It was an ironic statement because parindas that were mostly shown were peace doves and they symbolized all the violence in the city. According to me it symbolized that a city or few of its bad elements, can make a peaceful man like Anil's character, into a murderer.

The movie was India's nominee for Oscar's and rightly so. Nana Patekar, Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Jackie Shroff won Filmfare for their respective roles.

The movie set the standards for directors like RGV to follow. Its amazing though unlike RGV, Chopra never tried a movie of this genre again even though the movie was a decent hit among the masses. The versatility of movies made by Chopra makes him one of the best directors/story-tellers to have come out from India. Parinda will remain one movie that introduced a new genre into Hindi cinema.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

iPhone Anyone??

Indians seems to be crazy about cellphones. Cellphones have almost become a status-symbol of some sort back there. In Canada, on the other hand, cellphones are more of an convenience item. About 55% of Canadians have cellphones and the percentage is low because of two reasons; Firstly, Cellphone usage is still very expensive in Canada because we do not have the population size of India to support it. Hardly anyone sends sms here because you get charged for sending and receiving one. Secondly, a recent medical report showed the connection between cellphone usage and brain tumor because of strong radiations.

Anyways, I am not trying to scare the hell out of you but all this in Canada may change pretty soon. There is rumor than Apple is coming with iPod-cum-cellphone. iPod is a cultural phenomena in North America. The new generation is known as iPod generation and infact, iPod brings more profits for Apple then their whole Mac industry. Apple recently filed for a patent for iPhone. Since then, people have been coming up with "possible" designs of new iPhone. These are my top five designs (although new iPhone may not look anything like these because these are just based on speculation).

This seems like the most likely design with touch screen for iPod and slider keypad for cell. Although, in the time when cell phones are getting as smaller as Rakhi Sawant's brain, this still seems like a longer cell.

This cell designs theme goes with Mac computers but that's where they falter because this cellphone is designed to attract iPod users not Mac users. I just thought these designs were cool.

This was funkiest design but most unlikely because it doesn't go with the iPod theme and is too futuristic (atleast by 2 years) to carry 10, 000 songs and cellphone features.

This is one of the coolest designs which is true to iPod's design but a cellphone without a keypad can be a little tricky but didn't 'they' said the same thing about iPod too with its touch dial.

This is my ultimate favorite design because black is the color of the season. Black iPods sell 4 times better than white ones. Although, this one looks too futuristic to be true.

Which is your favorite iPhone?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Legend of Ashes...

There are some stories that cease to remain stories with time, they become legends and later folklore. The story of Ashes has become a modern-day legend. No other sport in the history of mankind has a story as unique as that of Ashes. No wonder its revered so deeply by the cricket lovers. Its not just a game of cricket between Australia and England. It is part of history, part of legend and one day will be part of folklore.

The year was 1882. For the first time in the history of test cricket had Australia defeated the full-side England. A British journalist wrote a mock obituary in the paper. It is all part of folklore, when one of the English player's wife took the bails of the wicket, burned it and put the ashes in the urn. Three weeks later, England went to Australia to take back that urn (the ashes) and so the story started.
Mock Obituary of England team printed in a newspaper in 1882, which started the Legend of Ashes...

The original urn is kept in a cricket museum and it has only be taken twice to Australia as part of Australia's Bicentennial celebrations.

The text of the urn says,

The original urn with ashes of the bails

"When Ivo goes back with the urn, the urn;
Studds, Steel, Read and Tylecote return, return;
The welkin will ring loud,
The great crowd will feel proud,
Seeing Barlow and Bates with the urn, the urn;
And the rest coming home with the urn."

Ashes has gone through a lot including the turbulent "bodyline" series where English bowlers would target Australian batsmen esp. Bradman's body and they would end up giving catch on the leg-side to save themselves (this is before helmet were worn by players).

1932-33 Bodyline Series. Note the number of players on leg-side, ready to catch any ball that the batsmen tries to defend.

Over time the series was evenly split, although gradually Australia became more dominant. Australia had retained the Ashes since 1989 till 2005 when one of the greatest Ashes series took place with England prevailing in the end. I not only saw all the matches but read one of the best books about cricket based on the series, David Frith's Battle of the Ashes, with details of its each and every match.

2005 Ashes Series, which revived the legend once again...

As the 2006 series rolls along, the legend of Ashes continues...

Monday, December 04, 2006

Mujh Ko Pehchaan Lo Main Hoon Kaun?

No, this is not a movie review of Don. This is about Shah Rukh Khan, the most recognized face on this earth. The Delhi boy who came to Mumbai to own it and now rules the world. An achiever Scorpio (like me...duh!!), who may not be the best talent in the country but sure knows how to make Aunties all around the world drool over him. I remember watching Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna and wanted to say, "This movie sucks", but didn't because if I had, I am sure all the moti-moti aunties would have gone on a rampage. Now, Mr, SRK is coming to small screen. The same place where he started, the same dabba where I became his fan right from Fauji to Circus. The same idiot box that has revived the career of Mr. Amitabh Bachchan. Anyways, this post is not about any of the above mentioned snippets. It is about SRK though. It is estimated that about 3.5 billion people recognize SRK compared to 2 billion who recognize Tom Cruise. My Question is: Can you recognize him?

Master Shah Rukh Khan's "Sword of Honor" certificate from his school, which says, "Awarded to a student of Class 12 for all round performance, loyalty, obedience, integrity and sportsmanship". My favorite picture is the bottom right corner where it seems he used to over-act even in those days...he he (ok ok all you SRK fans, don't kill me)

The boy who became Shah Rukh Khan