Jan 31, 2010

Rann - Movie Review

Rann is an OK watch. It is not bad but not great either. Ram Gopal Verma is in his element in places but is generally not able to decide when to stop. So Rann comes out as a drawn out, at times weary movie.

The story begins with Harshvardhan Malik (Big B) as a reputed journalist and the head of a channel. The channel is facing problems of falling viewership. His son (Jay played by Sudeep) and others in team are trying to convince him to change somewhat to ensure higher TRP. 

There is a spy in his team who seems to be leaking vital information to his biggest competitor, Mohnish Bahl. Then there is the politics of the land where Huda and Pande are the leaders. 

Big B breaks a big story and causes a political earthquake. His TV viewership shoots up. But there is a problem of which Big B is not aware. Riteish Deshmukh joins Big B as a fresh recruit with all the idealistic thoughts. He suspects something and investigates.

There is not much of suspense but I will not reveal more of the story.  There is the climax which is very long. The movie could have stopped a good 20 minutes before it actually did. The climax scene has Big B speaking long sentences that are made of good 30-35 words. The dialogue writer I think must have used every word in Hindi language in that ramble.

Who shines? Sudeep and his girlfriend are very good. Probably the most complete characterizations in the movie. Big B is quite flat - may be a problem the way script is written. It is good to watch Riteish in a different, more serious role. But he too wears just one expression throughout. Mohnish Bahl, Suchitra Krishnamurty, Rajat Kapoor are all ok in their roles. Gul Panag is unnecessary in the film. 

There is nothing that we don't know. Nothing that is stunning. And in the climax, Ramu takes the easy way out. When deciding between glory as a good analyst of human psyche and possible box office success, Ramu has opted for the latter.

All in all, see the movie if you don't have anything else to do. Else wait for it to come on TV.
3* out of 5*.

Jan 26, 2010

Sunday - Avatar Review, Sufi Music, Good Marathi Food!

So this post is not much of anything specific. We 3 friends started by catching the morning show of Avatar.

I found it awesome. James Cameron has finally made a movie that has a storyline. And the effects are stunning. The movie is set in 2154 where the humans are trying to seize control of a planet from its inhabitants. The natives are shown as more "humane" towards nature of their planet. The corporate honcho and the army guy plant a ex-Marine, Jake Sully, in the locals in his Avatar form. He goes and becomes a part of them and eventually leads them to fight back.

Sigourney Weaver, Giovanni Ribisi, Stephen Lang are all great. In fact I found the hero a bit flat. But the effects are amazing. I did feel the movie to be a bit long but was a great watch. That 3D is an irritating thing simply because it darkens the entire thing. The next innovation may be when it does not get that dark.

My rating - 3.5* out of 4*. Enjoy it in a theater near you!

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In the evening, we went to a Sufi Music program which was awesome. I had earlier written about Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia playing at IIMA campus. This was similarly amazing. The charm of such music is that the folks singing are perfectionists who have perfected the art over many many years. The music takes you to a different world, different universe. Amazing!

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We closed the day with Marathi food at Yashasvi, the restaurant in Maharashtra Sadan. Perfect, simple, Marathi food that gives a lovely conclusion to a nice weekend. Just one small thing, its puran poli can be better. Zunka and thecha are great.

Jan 9, 2010

Sherlock Holmes - Movie Review - Excellent movie!

Rating ***1/2 out of 5*. 

Sherlock Holmes is a brilliant movie! It is fast paced, witty, sometimes comic, action packed and ends with a bang.

What is done in this movie is that it has made Holmes a sort of James Bond of the 19th Century. It has been many years that I have read Sherlock Holmes stories. But from whatever I remember, this movie presents to us quite a different man. In fact, this Holmes is an explosive mix of supreme deductive powers and equally supreme physical powers!

Robert Downey Jr. as the legendary detective and Jude Law as his trusted Dr. Watson shine in this movie. In fact everything shines....including the plot.

The movie begins with Holmes and Watson stopping a crime from being committed. They apprehend Lord Blackwood in an act of Black Magic. Blackwood is hanged to death. Blackwood resurrects himself and then begins the game of smoke and mirrors. He challenges and lures Holmes into traps and Holmes continues to investigate for a larger plan. A group of people from a secret society also ask Holmes to stop Blackwood at any cost. They fear Blackwood is upto something immensely sinister and his abuse of magical powers needs to be stopped.

Irene Adler, shown as Holmes' love interest is also a very intriguing character. She has been hired by a mysterious rich man to lead or mislead Holmes to something.

Holmes, Watson and Irene investigate. The investigation is a mind-blowing roller-coaster of action and suspense. Viewers are almost breathless when the movie ends. And it ends well. Ties up all the knots and gives a nice closing to it all.

London of late 19th Century is brilliantly depicted. Hans Zimmer's music is terrific. And the action is fantastic. Guy Ritchie shows how Holmes first plans his action and its effects and then actually executes it. This is done in several scenes and sometimes the effect is humorous. The dialogues are witty. And the suspense opens up slowly and carefully.

Excellent movie. Watch it in a cinema hall!  

Jan 6, 2010

Economics, Globalization and News Focus

Economics deals with distribution of scarce resources amongst their seekers. Globalization has brought about a subtle competition between nations in pursuing smart economic policies. Sometimes they group together or raise barriers. Countries often attempt to replicate another country's successful policies. Sometimes desperate times invites pressure from other nations that force a country to follow certain policies.

In the past few years the term BRICS - Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa has been used more and more often. The reasons being that these are the growth markets that attract investors. Also, they attract sellers of various products & services from across the world because of their size and potential.

Now, some very interesting commentary on what long term and short term of economics in human history is and how effects of changes being done today will manifest in future is discussed in this NYTimes article. What I find particularly interesting is the author's comment that a nation should consider the option of being dislodged from being the top one in the long run as acceptable.

The article is also relevant to nations which are aspiring to be leaders in the new world order. It certainly takes courage to make decisions that sometimes feel incorrect in short term but help the nation and the world in the longer run. I guess, when a nation transforms at core, it also is able to muster the courage needed to make such decisions.

The article correctly points out on how news is generally focussed around major events. Now, we in India, exactly know how news on items like Economy and BRICS is played. Hype on everything is the norm, a small M&A activity by an Indian company and media may conclude that India has dislodged every other country in everything including baking croissants. The second problem is the excessive focus by business media on the stock market. Stock market is one of the indicators on how the economy is doing, but it is not the only indicator. Stock market is also correlated to international markets and foreign fund flows. So using only stock movements to understand the state of economy is obviously not correct.

Jan 1, 2010

Missing DoorDarshan on New Year Eve

Yesterday, the last day of 2009, end of decade, moving into new year, resolute on the new decade, optimism overflowing from people's eyes...ok I need to shut up and move on.

So I was seeing TV and the fact is that I could find nothing that would remotely interest me. Mostly it was some rehash of year's headlines, replay of same movie trailers and songs that have been played on channels a zillion times, comedy shows that make most of the content for  most a few news channels. I checked DD National too and what was on it could not stop me from moving to the next channel. It made me nostalgic about the late 80s.

People in 30s, who grew up in India in mid/late 80s have witnessed the cable TV explosion in this country. And they certainly know what DD was before the cable TV advent. DD was like a pizza with all the toppings - pepper, corn, tomato, olives...everything (now you know I am a veggie). It had Chhayageet, Mahabharat, Saturday evening movie, The World this Week, Surabhi and so many other things.

While the above toppings were weekly fare, people also awaited its annual fare - the New Year Eve program, Holi Haasya Kavi Sammelan, Coverage of Grammies and Oscars etc.

The New Year programs were a grand mix of everything. It was like an abridged version of what DD was. A bit of news, some songs (and by some I mean 10 at most), lots of contextual comedy stuff and some live programmes.

In particular, I remember the first time I was mesmerised by Javed Jaffrey doing his "I do not have bones" dance. There used to be those spoof shows. There was some controversy over BVO, on which I think it was, Harish Patel cracking some hilarious jokes or Raja Bundela trying to construct the spelling of Czechoslovakia.

The best part was all this was a compact package of 2 hours or so. Starts at 10pm, finishes at midnight, the channel says Happy New Year and off it goes. Amazing.

No, that was not the best part. The best parts were the discussions on these programs on the following day in school, some idiot getting caught trying to pass one of the jokes from the program as his own and the attempt to show off who remembers the most of the program.

Well, these days the TV does not stop, the viewer has to muster the courage to go to the power off button. These days there is no need of news wrap because you have been fed the same news 24x7 till you have learnt it to the last headline and you no longer wait for that 5 minute magic from Jaaved Jaffrey because there are like a million copies doing rounds on 50 channels.

I guess I had a great new year eve remembering those good old days. Perhaps they are good old just because  I was young then and am slightly older now.

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