16 Oct 2006

Between Yes and No

Posted by Oblivion in General | 8:01pm

When we are stripped down to a certain point, nothing leads anywhere anymore, hope and despair are equally groundless, and the whole of life can be summed up in an image.

Yes, everything is simple. It's men who complicate things. Don't let them tell us any stories. Don't let them say about the man condemned to death: "He is going to pay his debt to society," but: "They're going to chop his head off." It may seem like nothing. But it does make a little difference. There are some people who prefer to look their destiny straight in the eye.

- Albert Camus, Between Yes and No, from The Wrong Side and the Right Side

The only other writer, to my mind, who writes such direct prose, alluding to similar insights is Coetzee. Reminds me of David Lurie, in Disgrace, saying "One is fine as long as one is alive". No fuss, stare without a blink, objective and maverick. As regards the strength and choice of words, Vivekananda comes as a close match. Russell's writing is more intricate and witty, but it reflects as much conviction. If Freud were a philosopher, he would have been Russell Sr. If JK wrote fiction, it'd have been, in format, like that of Camus and Coetzee. But while Camus suggests resignation and Coetzee suggests acknowledgement, JK would suggest nothing. For him, there's no middle ground. A genius of the highest order.    

Current Mood: Happy
Current Music: ---

15 Oct 2006

The Week That Was

Posted by Oblivion in General | 6:46pm

Sunday: Drive. Rest. Drive. Rest. Drive. Rest.

Monday: After many back-to-backs, it's three in a row for the first time in Outlook. And going by the law of averages, they goofed up with the name in the third one. Turning out to be a good experiment in probability.

Tuesday: Airports are interesting spaces. The rate of usage of electronic gadgets seems to go significantly up at airports. Books/magazines I spotted in the hands of fellow passengers: The Week, The Argumentative Indian, Outlook, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, Freakonomics.

Wednesday: Aimless.

Thursday: If A and B are given the task of killing each other, what are the chances of each one's survival? How effective is probability if one of the factors is unpredictable? Extending the same to a larger set, what are the chances of my survival if everyone in the world is given the task of killing one person, selected randomly? Technically, only half the population should survive the project. But, at the end will we have only half or a little more?

Friday: Song, dance and drama to kick off the weekend. It's a pleasure to sit back and watch someone perform.

Saturday: Dandia nite. For someone interested in studying human behaviour when in groups, it's easy to see why indulgence is easy in a party setting.

Current Mood: Happy
Current Music: The Godfather theme score

8 Oct 2006

Season of Remakes

Posted by Oblivion in General | 11:50pm

Shiva just went past and Don is next in line. Not surprisingly, Ram Gopal Varma's much talked-about remake of his debut movie (telugu, not the hindi one) turned out to be a hugely disappointing work. Remake is always a challenge, and it's even more so if the original was a good one. So far as I remember, Virasat, Gardish, and Nirnayam (telugu) are the only remakes that were as good as the originals. Interestingly, all these are Priyadarshan's works. 

Shiva, made in 1989, was a path-breaking movie. Anybody could identify himself with the setting. Simple yet compelling script, backed by Ilaiyaraja's brilliant work, outstanding audio effects, superb performance by Raghuvaran made for an irresistible package. It outperformed the success of Mani Ratnam's blockbuster Gitanjali at the box-office. It made Nagarjuna a superstar. Fittingly, neither Varma nor Nagarjuna had to look back ever since.

Cut to Shiva 2006. Barring a few typical Varma shots and a couple of great background scores by Ilaiyaraja, this stands nowhere in comparison with the original. Not that Varma's talent has depleted, but just that the original was too novel a film that any attempt to remake is doomed for failure right from the ideation stage.

Varma, one of the best directors now, is also remaking Sholay. Now, if one picks five outstanding hindi films that should not be remade, Sholay would feature as the first. Given the legendary status of the movie, I have no doubts as regards how utterly Varma's remake would fail to match up.     

A few days from now, Farhan Akhtar's Don will hit the screen. Don - the original -had, besides the imposing presence of big B, great music. It's too early for me to dismiss the remake, but I'm confident it'll not have any magic that the original had. The promos suggest the movie would be definitely more stylish than the original, but there ends it. The remix version of Ye Mera Dil sounds awful for anyone who loves Asha's number. And the only actor who can do a Bachchan is Bachchan himself. Shah Rukh might impress, but the Don would still remain Bachchan.

I'm not against remakes, but the idea doesn't sound appealing to me. You cannot remake great movies any more than you can rewrite Russell's or Tagore's works. Good that nobody has thought of remaking The Godfather. And thank God, Sandid Ray is not contemplating the project of remaking Ray's movies!

May this 'season of remakes' end soon. I'm happy with 'good' originals.      

Current Mood: Happy
Current Music: ---

7 Oct 2006

The Truth

Posted by Oblivion in General | 11:42pm

"A corporeal phenomenon, a feeling, a perception, a mental formation, a consciousness, which is permanent and persistent, eternal and not subject to change, such a thing the wise men in this world do not recognise; and I also say that there is no such thing."

- Buddha

Current Mood: Happy
Current Music: ---

28 Sep 2006

Basanti, Wapas Aa Jaa!

Posted by Oblivion in General | 12:01am

So they send Rang De Basanti (RDB) to the Oscars. It confounds me how the jury manage to goof up with such consistency! Year after year, they send a film that cannot make it even to the top 25 competing for the best foreign film award. Not that Oscars are the benchmark for quality (remember, Titanic won a bagful of awards!) - they cannot beat Cannes as regards that, but the movies that compete for foreign film award are definitely great. And we send inferior stuff.

RDB is, without doubt, a better flick than most other bollywood crap. And it's surely among the better ones in the past few years. But how good is it when pitted against the best films from across the world? Thank goodness they don't send such stuff to Cannes. I feel it's better to not send any movie at all rather than send a passable one and make a bad presentation of our filmmaking. It's one thing to do good at a game in one's backyard and a totally different thing to play against the best in the world.

I doubt if the chaps in the jury ever watched movies made by our own Satyajit Ray. If they did, they would know how the best in the world movies ought to be. And if they know that, they wouldn't commit such blunders. Ray won more awards at Cannes than any other filmmaker in the world. No filmmaker in the country makes movies of the quality that Ray had made. I just hope some chap comes up with great stuff and makes it good at Cannes again.

Till then, let's not send any movie to the Oscars. It's better to send one Aparajito in five years than ten RDBs every year.

Current Mood: Happy
Current Music: ---

19 Sep 2006

Booker 2006

Posted by Oblivion in General | 7:51pm

The shortlist is out. With Claire Messud not making it, I've no favorites left. Looks like a dull affair this year.

The shortlist:
Desai, Kiran:  The Inheritance of Loss  - Hamish Hamilton
Grenville, Kate: The Secret River  - Canongate
Hyland, M.J.:  Carry Me Down - Canongate
Matar, Hisham:  In the Country of Men  - Viking
St Aubyn, Edward: Mother

Current Mood: Happy
Current Music: ---

2 Sep 2006

Blind Alley

Posted by Oblivion in General | 12:10am

One of the stronger reasons why stupid laws/rules exist, and continue to do so, is that there are always a good number of takers for these. From the recent times, I remember two - helmet rule and seat-belt rule. Wearing a helmet and fastening seat belt are mandatory in some countries and in some states in India. When the same was adopted in Hyderabad, there was huge support from media. Government presented it as an act of concern and it worked. A sizeable section of population believed it and hailed the same as a great decision.

Helmets and seat belts are safety utilities meant for individuals. It should be an individual's discretion whether to use them or not. I don't see any good reason for interference by state about this. If anybody is concerned about a person's safety, it's the person himself. It's absolute bullshit to entertain the belief that state cares more. Sadly, this is how the whole point was presented.

There are a few important points to consider:
1.Accidents happen (besides so many other factors) not because of those chaps who do away with helmets or seat belts, but those who don't know how to (or don't care to) guide their vehicles through non-interfering trajectories (of course, you need to have excellent roads and low-density traffic for this to be possible).

2.Safety utlities are meant to save you when an accident happens. They do not, in any way, help cut the rate of accidents.

3.Driving is connected to behavior. It's absurd to believe that a chap would become a better driver by simply having a helmet or seat belt on. A chap drives best when he feels comfortable. As regards taking safety measures, it depends on the confidence and attitude of the chap. Hence, it's ridiculous to enforce a code on this.

Gavaskar and Richards never wore a helmet, but they were not any less dangerous batsmen than Sachin or Ponting.

4.There's something called 'risk compensation'. In general, people tend to take more risks when their safety is better assured. While a good driver would still be good with the seat belt on, a bad, arrogant driver would tend to be more so. It happens at a subconscious level, so it cannot be dismissed just because the effects are not obvious. Try batting with and without a safety gear and map it with the risks taken in each case, and one can notice the difference. 

5.Fastening seat belts makes sense when the vehicle hits top speeds. So, it's more necessary on highways and in cities that have speed-lane system. You don't need seat belts in cities like Hyderabad or Bangalore where your vehicle tops 60 for just a few seconds - or minutes, at best - in a one-hour drive.

Interestingly, cops keep a check on this only on city roads. Hit the highway and no cop charges you for not having your seat belt fastened or not wearing a helmet.

6.Children don't consent, and they need to be cared for. For this reason, it's fine to have seat belts for them. Adults can consent, and understand the importance of their safety. They should better be left to make decisions for themselves.

7.If you break a signal, you affect the traffic on the other side and endanger others' safety. In this case, it's quite logical if you are mandated to follow signals. But if you don't wear a helmet, you put your own safety at risk. It's none of state's or anybody's business to force you to do otherwise. It amounts to unwarranted intrusion.

8.The reason why government enforces such rules is not because of your safety or any such good shit. It's a simple equation - setting up a deal with helmet manufacturers, tenders for dealers, penalties when you fail to wear. It's all about money. If the reason, as they cite, is your safety, then why don't they ban manufacture of cigarettes? Smoking kills more people per year than accidents do. So, why not close down all cigarette manufacturing shops? They don't, for it directly translates to loss in millions. In this case, they play safe by stopping at the statutory warning. So, why don't they do the same with the helmet and seat-belt rules? Why not just stop at advertisements about advantages of helmets and seat belts?

9.The one benefit, technically, that comes of enforcing these rules is a good cut in hospitalisation and insurance costs. Since these are linked to the tax that people pay, it benefits the majority, after all. However, it can be considered a benefit only if it reduces the tax burden on the majority. But this never happens. So, although theoretically there's a benefit, actually there's no benefit at all.

If the state is really concerned about people's safety on roads, they should pay more attention to regulating the traffic better. Plan the traffic movement better, make the roads better, have a bribe-free licensing system in place, come up with a system to record driving history of drivers, make the penalty process more sensible, and, most importantly, educate cops. The focus should be on regulating the traffic better, not on enforcing silly rules and filling up pockets with money collected by way of penalties. Stupid rules encourage conscienceless cops to abuse.

But then, I believe things don't become better as long as there is this group of takers for irrational ideas. Unless these people get some sense, it won't be surprising if after five years the state decides to depute a cop in every bedroom to enforce rules of safe sex and it's praised by media and these people alike as a great move to control AIDS!

Current Mood: Happy
Current Music: ---

25 Aug 2006

Unsound Rules, Sound Results

Posted by Oblivion in General | 11:12am

Electoral System, framed by the Election Commission of India, mentions in its section Who can vote?:

"Those who are deemed unsound of mind, and people convicted of certain criminal offences are not allowed to vote."

Strangely, there's no mention of any such criteria in the section Who can stand for election!

Fittingly, the results are obvious -
1.Sensible (~ sound of mind) people who can't take anymore of this shit back out from voting.
2.Insensible (~ unsound of mind) ones cast their vote and believe they are the most responsible people on the planet.
3.Goons (~ unsound of mind + a strong criminal record) exploit this situation and continue to rule the nation.

I don't know how this is working! Let me connect:
1.One cannot contest elections if he is not registered as a voter.
2.One cannot register as a voter if he is not eligible to vote.
3.One is not eligible to vote if he is unsound of mind or convicted of certain criminal offences.

Going by the three aforementioned statements, even a ninth-standard kid would, by simple logic, deduce that a goon cannot even vote, forget about contesting elections. Still, what we have for rulers is a bunch of goons! What's the loophole? My guess is - the words "unsound" (a vague word, open to manipulation) and "convicted" (a well-defined word, but open to manipulation in practice).

Current Mood: Happy
Current Music: ---

17 Aug 2006

Queer Fate

Posted by Oblivion in General | 10:02pm

We exploit the environment and it effects in a quake or tsunami or tornado.
We let our neurosis prevail and inflict war and strife.
Millions die.

And then we refer to fate/destiny/God's wrath! Question it further and we resort to clever reasoning that we are, in the first place, destined to take actions that result in disasters. We somehow believe that we should be able to do whatever we like to, but it should not result in anything bad.

We are a queer species indeed! 

Current Mood: Happy
Current Music: ---

29 Jul 2006


Posted by Oblivion in General | 8:01pm

It didn't matter anymore, but Meursault noticed he felt expansiveness and disgust at the same time. At that faint moment, when a thick veil of vaguness fell between him and all ambition, reason and aimless gaiety, he wanted to offer everyone a hug, then lock himself up in his unkempt room and pull the trigger, aiming the mouth of the gun right at his temple.

Presently he looked into the distance and the ceaseless, undulating waters of the sea, shimmering in the light of the unrelenting sun, appeared at once strikingly beautiful and banally ugly.

Current Mood: Happy
Current Music: ---

29 Jul 2006


Posted by Oblivion in General | 7:29pm

A series of blind dates, good and bad
That ends when you meet the beloved - Death

An unscripted comedy while it lasts
Enriched by the intensity of a drama
Tinged with the uncertainty of a thriller
Its denouement is always a tragedy
That leaves behind only tears and mystery

Current Mood: Happy
Current Music: ---

20 Jul 2006


Posted by Oblivion in General | 8:58pm

Too much information is forced on one these days. Before you finish contemplating an issue, the next one demands your attention. An ad has to be flashed more number of times to make a good impress. Whether this is good or bad has been a vital issue among experts from various fields. My concern is rather a trivial one - how to preserve favorites in memory amid such exposure to plethora of information. I don't have an answer. But it occurred to me that one can copy and paste the list of favorites to a secondary memory.

My favorites (the ones I remember) from the recent past:

1."Elangaathu Veesudhae..." number by Ilaiyaraja (movie Pithamagan)
2."Do Pal..." by Madan Mohan for the movie Veer Zaara
3.Hutch ad campaign (specially the ad for Group Talk feature)
4.Airtel signature tune by Rahman
5.Munich by Spielberg
6.Youth by Coetzee
7.Tata Safari Dicor ad and tune
8.AIDS ad campaign (print) by JWT
9.My Country, My Country (Iraq documentary) by Laura Poitras
10.The Economist ad campaign by O&M 

Current Mood: Happy
Current Music: ---

17 Jul 2006

Morals of Selling

Posted by Oblivion in General | 11:01pm

Last week, it was on the idiot box. Not for the first time. A few models, alleged to have indulged in 'flesh trade', were taken into police custody. While it appears for most as a responsible action by the police, it appears, to me, as interference by the men in khaki. That apart, it prompted me to look at few interesting comparisons.

- A chap needs sex, and has money. The girl sells herself. It happens with mutual consent. The chap gets what he wants, and the girl gets what she wants. It's a win-win game.

- A company needs manpower, and has money. I sell myself. It happens with mutual consent. The company gets what it wants, and I get what I want. It's a win-win game.

Now, there isn't, technically, any difference between what she does and what I do. So, why is her way of selling illegal and mine is not? Do we have - as John ponders in Youth - gradations in selling? If she was selling drugs or guns, the equation would've been different.

How is it different from what actors do for movies? How is it, for that matter, different from the act between a married couple? All these are incentive-driven actions. Only, the incentives are intangible if it's with a spouse or girl/boyfriend. They are commonly referred to as companionship and love (whatever fuck that means). But, grand as they sound, they are incentives nonetheless. I fail to see how incentives become respectable because of some silly exercise called marriage.

For actors, however, the incentive is money - the same as that for a girl taking to one-night stands. But actors are rewarded with awards and become role-models too while this girl is considered a taboo for society! The world considers it loyalty if a chap sleeps, albeit compulsively, only with his spouse who also does it just for the sake of it. Let the chap do it with a girl (who offers the service for money) outside marriage, and the world slaps on him, even if he and the girl immensely enjoyed it. It beats me.

Selling is a big game in the world. Smart chaps spend two precious years at premier institutes to understand and, possibly, master the art. Millions of bucks go into selling of products. Senior management persuade the juniors to sell themselves more effectively. Any marketing expert would agree that "if you don't sell yourself, you are not smart". The more an employee sells himself, the faster he moves up the corporate ladder. Then why is a girl who sells herself condemned and looked down upon? Is she killing someone? Is she intruding someone's space? Is she propagating anti-social policies?

The only answer they come up with is, "it is immoral". And I, for one, never understand this goddamn concept of morality. To hell with theories that she is a threat to the moral fabric of society and the institution of marriage. They are totally devoid of any understanding of man and are wholly illogical. Not that I justify what she does. Just that I find the world's classification of selling ridiculous.

Current Mood: Happy
Current Music: ---

13 Jul 2006

Terror, my foot!

Posted by Oblivion in General | 7:50pm

Today's Mid-Day edit begins by saying that you don't need to be a rocket scientist to understand that the chain of events starting from the Bhiwandi riots to the desecration of Meenatai's statue and what happened as an aftermath, to the serial blasts on the trains yesterday, means somebody somewhere wants Mumbaikar's to spill out on the streets and grab each other by the throats.

Incidentally, these same somebody-- the faceless outcasts that they still are-- have at least succeeded in one part of their plan. Mumbaikars have actually spilled out on to the streets.

The catch here is that they have failed to succeed in the second and most important part of their plan: that of getting Mumbaikars to grab each other by the throats. Mumbaikars spilled onto the streets-- in a collective show of the middle finger to those who proposed otherwise.

I know very well that you are already aware of how Mumbai stormed onto the streets to help the injured, the stranded and soothe the injuries that were still gaping along its life line.

There were capsules and capsules of streaming video that showed them offering water and refreshments to people stranded on SV Road and the Eastern and Western Express Highways.

There were captures of students of Sydenham and SNDT college, who camped at Churchgate station with the sole purpose of offering a bed to those stranded at the starting node of the life line.

And there was also that memorable grab of people standing patiently in front of KEM Hospital-- all in a serpentine queue, to donate blood. A result of which has been a no-shortage syndrome, when it comes to blood at all the hospitals where the injured are being treated or are recuperating.

But this is not about all that. And yet, it is about all that and more. It is about the sights I saw and the people I met with, while travelling along the Western Express Highway to Kandivali yesterday, between 7 in the evening and one in the morning.

It is about that little kid and his grandfather near Dadar, who, perhaps in the absence of anybody else in the household, took to the streets with bottles of water and packets of biscuits to contribute in whatever way possible in managing the crisis. "Uncle, you must be thirsty," the kid told me while offering the bottle. A parched me drank gratefully. And I saw in those eyes no fear. So what did those terrorists think while planting the bomb? That was at least the silent way of making one statement-- "Terror, my foot.!"

It is also about those housewives in front of a housing society near Santa Cruz, who were standing with pots of piping tea, water and God only knows what else to help those passing by. And they had this board beside them which read "Beyond Borivli, Can Stay'. I was lucky to get a cab, but there were people who were trying to make it on foot. And they needed succor. Rest. Shelter. It was raining.

It is about the autorickshaw driver, who finally reached me home in the interiors of Kandivali at 1 in the morning. And refused to take the night fare, despite being legally empowered to charge extra. "Nehi saab, aaj ki baat alag hai. Aap thik thak ghar pohuj gaye, yeh hi kafi hai," he bade me goodbye at my doorstep.

It is also about the dabbawala who provides me with my dinner everyday. His shop is near the Borivli station, where there was one of the biggest blasts at 6:34 in the evening. Yet, at one o clock in the morning, the dabba was there waiting at my doorstp to be picked up. It didn't need a note. The piping hot food at such an unearthly hour said it all.

The terrorists succeeded in synchronising a series of blasts that stopped the Mumbai lifeline for somewhere around seven hours. That was all that they achieved on 7/11. The trains were back on track by 1:30 in the morning and they plied all through the night. I wonder if the masterminds will consider this before planning their next attack. I would urge them to-- if this reaches any one of them-- to rethink. After all, what did a year of planning, six months of smuggling dangerous explosives, extensive netwroking and crores achieve at the end-- arond 200 lives and just seven hours of disruption? Bus! I won't budge for that. In the deal they united more than they dreamt to rip apart.

And by the way, I did not spot any member of the celebrated Readers' Digest survey team yesterday on the roads. Or perhaps they were there-- reconsidering their statement.

- Sudip Ghosh, Deputy Editor, Medianet, The Times of India, Mumbai

Cheers to Mumbai! Cheers, Sudip da!

Current Mood: Happy
Current Music: ---

5 Jul 2006


Posted by Oblivion in General | 7:03pm

...I am back to blogging. For the past few months, discussion groups overtook blog on the list. Interestingly, it also happened with a few friends whose blogs I regularly follow. While I add more junk to my blog, it's a matter of interest to note how the crest-and-trough pattern works with those blogs.

Current Mood: Happy
Current Music: ---
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