Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Tp go home…

It’s back to familiar digs for our bold adventurer as he retraces his steps to the coconut clad shores of distant Kerala. That beautiful skyline served a fitting unicorn chaser to wipe away the acerbic bitterness in his mouth, said bitterness having been caused by a less than stellar performance in his semester exams. The old haunts have not changed much, the food still tastes glorious, the roads still sport potholes of impossible sizes, the rustic air still retains a touch of purity. His old enemies the mosquitoes are still ridiculously easy to kill while internet speeds remain as slow as ever. No, not much has changed but our protagonist knows that given a few years, that hated adversary Change will have replaced his corner chai shop with that most reprehensible of food outlets, McDonalds. Not in my lifetime, he prays. He cares not if the net takes an aeon to load the BBC homepage. He wouldn’t trade his rustic hamlet for all the modernity and convenience of the largest megapolis.

Signs that globalization was slowly gaining inroads became apparent when our strapping lad looked to his father’s interesting new side business: tourism. For nigh on seven years, his dad had been arranging tours for foreigners, mostly Brits. With their tales of foggy isles and presents of Scotch whisky, Sheffield crockery and chocolate from Harrods, their presence had been a mostly interesting aside to our hero’s life. The latest in a long line of visitors were a wacky bunch, to be sure. The 1.97m tall John Fack wanted to get married in the country…

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


The literary wizard who brought you Fight Club hits another one out of the ballpark with this novel. Choke is chock-full of the usual Palahniuk traits; irreverence, a streak of creative brilliance that hinges on the bizarre and a protagonist who might just have a few screws loose.

Victor Mancini is a med-school dropout whose modus operandi for money making revolves around choking on food in restaurants and having his fellow patrons “save him”. Being thus imbued with a hero-complex and feeling responsible for Victor’s life, they continue to support him by sending checks. Victor also cruises sexual addiction recovery clinics to spice up his love life and has a day job working at a colonial theme park. His frequent visits to the nursing home to see his perpetually confused mom whose memory is going to pieces makes for some brilliant satire. Palahniuk is outrageous yet mesmerizing; while repulsed by some of his characters, we find ourselves totally unable to look away as the author leads us through the visceral playgrounds of America’s suburbia.

Socratic wisdom dictates that the unexamined life is not worth living. As Mancini leads us through his chequered, weird but never boring life, you get the feeling that a dysfunctional life is the only one worth living. Palahniuk makes such a frenetic maelstrom of Mancini’s addled existence that anything else seems tame and insipid in comparison. While Choke is perhaps not as spectacular as Fight Club and Survivor, it is well worth a read, if only to enter deeper into the anarchic, fiercely independent imagination of Chuck Palahniuk .

Ludmila’s Broken English : A review

Having hugely enjoyed DBC Pierre’s Booker-winning debut novel, Vernon God Little, I picked up with LBE with a combination of both anxiety and anticipation. Vernon God Little was a remarkable tour de force of literary fiction, ergo Ludmila had big shoes to fill. Far too often, writers have had extraordinary first novels, only to descend to mediocrity, having had their fifteen seconds of fame.

I should not have worried. Pierre sure delivers the goods in his latest innings. His crackling wit, sarcastic humor and black comedy are as evident as ever. His strong rein over his characters and the wildly imaginative plot make this book a solid instalment to Pierre’s work. Granted, VGL was a far superlative oeuvre, but Ludmila shows Pierre coming into his own, developing a style to run with and maturing as a writer.

The book shuttles back and forth between modern-day London into which the Heath twins (conjoined at birth and recently separated) are startlingly exposed to life outside a health-care institute and Ublilsk, a war- ravaged fictional country, where Ludmila, our eponymous heroine, is fighting tooth and nail to keep body and soul together for herself and her family. Blair and Bunny Heath, released into a world of emancipation and wondrous possibilities are possessed of a childlike innocence and wonder akin to Huxley’s John Savage on entering the brave new world. Ludmila, on the other side of the world, is battling to keep out the cold and starvation in a world where trouble is a byword. Her resilience and acerbic wit, in addition to her resourcefulness make her a compelling protagonist, but she is beset at every turn by the establishment and society at large. Seeing no sunny prospects on her horizon, she is cajoled into becoming an internet bride with offers of rich, young, foreign men. In a ridiculously absurd turn of events, Blair Heath chances on her photo and flies out to deserted Ublilsk with his brother, pursuing juvenile fantasies of fairybook love. This leads to the book’s darkly humourous denouement, where spiked vodka and loaded guns result in an ambiguous yet satisfying ending.

Ludmila’s Broken English calls for a vast suspension of disbelief. Surreal and impossible events occur with impunity. Pierre does not deal in subtleties, but rather in exaggeration to make his point. As such, the author has characters raped and killed rather casually to make his point. Violence in Ublilsk is shown to be random and gratuitious; life is harsh, like the terrain. The novel could be seen as a vehicle to voice Pierre’s views of a crumbling, dystopian establishment and how globalization can compound and abet third-world crime a hundred fold. Stunningly inventive and laced with political commentary, Ludmila’s Broken English is well-worth a read.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Two days in Paris

Truth be told, I did not have great hopes for Julie Delpy’s directorial debut. The plot and setting seemed to be a lot like the superlative Sunrise/ Sunset films and I felt Delpy was just cruising along on the success of a tried and tested formula. However, when five minutes into the movie,Adam Goldberg convinces a group of American tourists that the Louvre is just around the corner, in order to cut a taxi queue, my reservations about this movie being run-of-the-mill vanished. The film does feel a lot like the Sunrise/ Sunset movies in that they both explore romantic relationships and the milieu is similar. But this offbeat little film will be best remembered for its irreverence and its all too realistic depictions of the pains and tribulations of relationships.

The film follows the Parisienne Marion( Delpy ) and Jack( Adam Goldberg ), her American boyfriend who are visiting Paris for a couple of days. The couple are put up at Marion’s parent’s house. Marion’s family is quite dysfunctional, with Marion herself being quite a neurotic character. Jack’s growing impatience with Marion’s eccentric quirks and short fuse have put their relationship on the rocks . It does not help that Paris seems to be chock-full of Marion’s ex-boyfriends and there’s one lurking around every corner.

The direction and acting are top-notch. Adam Goldberg really proves his acting chops in this film and Delpy’s portrayal of a quirky, red-blooded, lovable Parisienne is spot-on, but the scripting really is the best part of the film. The dialogue is witty and dead on, the characters well-fleshed out and real. From Marion’s dad, a semi-Luddite who can’t understand computers and has a thing for key- scratching cars to the French artist who thinks pubic landing strips on women are reprehensible, Delpy has created some very interesting characters. The French are portrayed with the usual stereotypes; their extravagated jingoism, their casual and open-minded attitude to sex all feature heavily. Delpy’s essentially Parisian approach to ex-lovers,her white lies and her neurotic attitude distance her from the more staid, straightforward Jack and wrecks the affair. In many ways, the film has the feel of a Woody Allen oeuvre. And while it is not exactly ground-breaking, it is a far cry from the dull, repetitive fare that passes for romantic film these days. Certainly worth the price of a ticket, and if you’re a fan of Delpy, pop-corn and drinks too.

Friday, October 12, 2007

My name is Red

My Name is Red is Orhan Pamuk’s latest in a line of books which seek to capture the melancholy beauty , pain and contrariness that is his hometown, Istanbul. Set in 16th century Istanbul at the height of the Ottoman Empire, the novel revolves around the murder of a master miniaturist for reasons that include the creation of a highly secretive and possibly sacrilegious book commissioned by the Emperor himself. At this point, comparisons with The Name of the Rose will inevitably crop up, seeing as both are historical murder mysteries. While Umberto Eco’s tour de force was a brilliant and intelligent work which dabbled in esotery , Pamuk’s book is a more emotional and beautiful creature, appealing more to the heart than to the brain.

Orhan uses the voices of the various characters to guide us through the turmoil and changing landscape of the empire, challenged by the technological and artistic advances of the West. This collision of cultures in the Ottoman empire leaves the miniaturists with a choice, stick to the ways of old or be engulfed by the oncoming avalanche of Westernism. Pamuk’s Ottoman Empire evokes all the old stereotypes established by such childhood tales of the east such as 1001 Nights and the legends of Haroun Al Raschid. Istanbul is lush and exotic; the sultanate is rich beyond imagining and the glory and power of the sultan is sacrosanct. The land is rich with tradition and dozens of Oriental legends are seamlessly interwoven into the fabric of this book. As Pamuk strives to explain the grand scheme of art, explaining its relationship to the will of God and other variables, he ends up creating art. Beauty oozes out of Pamuk’s exquisitely crafted sentences and one must assume that they must sound more beautiful in the original Turkish, losing something in the(albeit wonderful) translation.

Ultimately this work is more poem than book, spinning delicate sentences that murmur an ode to an art form that will soon be devoured by a cultural deluge from the West.

The age of the Graphic Novel

Ever since Superman and Batman made their advent in the late 1930s, comic books have constituted an endearing and essential part of our teen years. The vicarious pleasure we experienced when the Green Lantern defeated yet another evil nemesis with his power ring and the open-jawed disbelief with which we received Superman’s death ( early 90’s) were emotions of such undistilled purity and innocence. Our years of boyish adventure were spent putting on spandex and trying to make batarangs. In our late teens, when we rediscovered the opposite gender, Archie and his gang from Riverdale High entered our lives and Betty and Veronica formed the fantasy diet for many a freckled adolescent. In due course, adulthood came along and we outgrew comic books. Those who still had the hots for Wonderwoman and idolized the Flash were mercilessly ribbed about it and soon fell out of popular society. Generation after generation, a few individuals retain this childlike wonder and innocence and get relegated to the backburner of society. These are the lucky few, the ones that fall through the chinks. For them, the magic lives on.

Up until the 80’s, a major percentage of mainstream comics (think Marvel and DC) dabbled in fare that was childish and repetitive : black versus white, add some tights, add some fights. The Comics Code Authority, instituted because a certain Fredrick Wertham felt comic books led to juvenile delinquency, had severely stifled creativity in the industry for decades. All that was about to change. A slew of great stories with mature themes was suddenly unleashed on the world in the eighties. Suddenly, comic books were no longer for kids. Realizing the potential of the visual medium, great visionaries like Alan Moore and Frank Miller were bringing their unique, often bleak , disturbing and thought-provoking visions to the pages of comics. Moore’s groundbreaking opus Watchmen did plenty to get comic books re-integrated into the mainstream. It won a Hugo award and became a bestseller. Inspired by this success, many artists followed suit with daring and risqué stories. Violence and blood once again rode the streets of comicdom. Murder, mayhem and anarchy followed, leading to a turbulent but extremely creative period in the industry. Moore’s Swamp Thing, From Hell and V for Vendetta, Grant Morrison’s run on Animal Man, Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Love and Rockets by Los Bros Hernandez were seminal oeuvres, changing and redefining the landscape of comics. Soon, those of the geek and nerd persuasion were crawling out of the woodwork and walking with their heads held high.

Enter the nineties and with it Neil Gaiman. This heretofore unknown writer resurrected a little known DC character called the Sandman and reinvented him in a stunningly original series. The Sandman books were published under the DC Vertigo imprint, a new line of adult comics. Buoyed by the success and critical acclaim they received, DC commissioned many new titles. Garth Ennis’ highly irreverent Preacher ( my personal favorite), Warren Ellis vision of a dystopian future, Transmetropolitan and the long running Hellblazer and Moonshadow were the most successful progeny of the Vertigo imprint. On the other side of the world, Japanese manga had become a craze and was churning out great masterpieces such as Ghost in the Shell and Akira. Graphic novels had finally arrived with a bang and comic book- aficionados were suddenly hip. Even still, they occupied a niche culture that baptized only a chosen few. But, like rap music, the initiates were cool cats.
Hollywood soon cottoned on to the popularity of comic books and superhero movies have become a Hollywood staple. Dozens of graphic novel adaptations are in the works, most notably Miller’s Sin City 2 and Alan Moore’s Watchmen.

Today, the comic scene is abuzz with creativity, propelled by such fine minds as Brian Michael Bendis, Grant Morrison, Brian Wood, Bill Willingham and Brian Azzarello. The best contemporary titles on the scene include Fables, 100 Bullets, The Walking Dead, DMZ and Y the Last Man. The medium offers infinite potential and with the artistic genius of such stalwarts as Glenn Fabry, Dave McKean and the inimitable Alex Ross, rest assured that the future of the graphic novel is in great hands.

Monday, April 2, 2007

The best unmade scripts of all time

A while back, Empire magazine published a list of ten movie scripts that had been floating around in Hollywood limbo for a while. The scripts were fantastic, but for some reason or the other, they hadn’t made it to the silver screen. Of the entries on the list, Aronofsky’s Fountain recently got made into a beautiful but slightly befuddling movie. James Cameron’s Avatar is one of the most talked about movies on the list. Apparently, current CGI standards will enable him to create his unique vision the way he wanted it; casting calls for Avatar have been sent out and it’s set to release in 2009. Given Cameron’s penchant for perfection however, ( and if his directorial work with Titanic was anything to go by) I’ll bet dollars to donuts that Avatar won’t see the light of day before 2011. There’s a Lynch on the list, a script by the Coens and another by the Wachowskis. Here’s hoping that someday these brilliant masterpieces will claim the reel they deserve.

Exit Zero - Kurt Wimmer:

Ronnie Rocket - David Lynch:

Sherlock Holmes And The Vengeance of Dracula - Michael Valle

Edward Ford - Lem Dobbs

To The White Sea - Joel & Ethan Coen

The Gemini Man - Darren Lemke and Jonathan Hensleigh

The Sky is Falling - Eric Warren Singer & Howard Roth

Carnivore - Larry & Andy Wachowski

Avatar - James Cameron

Crusade - Walon Green

Bessie - Richard Kelly

The Fountain - Darren Aronofsky

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Podcast paydirt

It’s amazing how technology has helped us waste so much time with so little effort. A few clicks, some buttons pushed and you are watching some mindless 12 year old with a video camera drone away about how much he loves his poodle or why dolls are great. The funny thing is, we dig it. The phenomenal popularity of Youtube is testament to this fact. The internet has allowed you to broadcast yourself to the world and in acknowledgement of this reality, TIME magazine selected ‘You’ as it’s Person of the year. Another nifty little self-broadcast utility is the podcast. Firmly established in the media underground and fast gaining public popularity, these little babies can be downloaded direct to your ipod or computer through regular RSS feeds. They’re often short and make for excellent filler while you’re waiting at bus stops, in between lectures and during lunch breaks. In my brief foray into podcasting, I came across two series of podcasts that are absolute gems of comic brilliance.

The Ricky Gervais Show

Hosted by the eponymous Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant ( of The Office fame ), this British podcast is a surreal foray into the mind of Karl Pilkington, a bloke with a perfectly bald round head and a mind that baffles the imagination. That’s not to say he’s very bright. Quite the opposite, in fact. His total lack of knowledge in many areas and his ridiculous views on various subjects will have you laughing your socks off. This cool, collected and easy go lucky chappie is a rare and fascinating discovery; pure comic gold. Merchant and Gervais provide the perfect foil to Karl’s naiveté. They’re the epitome of sensibility and moderation and they well know how to bait Karl with careful questioning into revealing the most stunning anecdotes and opinions They’re great friends, the lot of them and they really have a bang making the series, which got catapulted into the Guinness book of Records for being the world’s number one podcast. If the notion that the British have no sense of humor was laid to rest by the stupendously funny Brit sitcom Coupling, this podcast series hammers in the final nail to the coffin.

Ask a Ninja

God’s a flippin ninja and he made this podcast so you’ll die laughing. Ask a is hosted by this black-clad ninja who’s death reincarnate. This guy has battled dragons, witches, orcs, the Medusa, Hulk Hogan, Balrogs and even Russell Crowe and Colin Farrell in drunken barroom brawls. He makes Leonidas from 300 and Marv from Sin City look like pansies. You do not want to be messing with him. Seriously, you even so much as look at him the wrong way and you’ll get shuriken lodged in your skull. This shadow of death answers questions from viewers on various and diverse subjects, injecting a deadly mix of killing-related humour and pop culture references to make for one rip-roaring podcast. He’s imaginative, has a way with words and is laugh-out-loud funny. You get immersed in the secret world of the ninjas and start to see how things look from their perspective as the ninja talks about ninternships,minjas, chickinjas, nintechnology and Santa Claus. My words won’t do him no justice; you gotta view this to believe it: it’s absolute ambrosia level comedy. So do yourself a favour and check it out. Because if you don’t, you’re gonna get killed by a ninja. It’s ninjevitable. He’s probably right behind you even as you read this. No, seriously, just look over your shoulder real quick. Do you see the ninja? No? But he sees you…

Saturday, March 10, 2007


Rating: 8.5/10

What can I say? Cinematic brilliance. This is the future of film. CGI rivaled only by The Lord of the Rings. A script to die for. Brilliant direction and a sweet fucken cast. Memorable lines and brilliant images that overwhelm you, stolen panel for panel from the pages of Frank Miller. It reads like a fucken recipe or perfection.

When the trailers came out last year, I knew I was in for a wild ride. Nevertheless, it was with some trepidation that I entered the theatre. Most trailers today just showcase the best bits of the movie; the rest is utter prosaic banality that is unbearably boring. I need not have worried. Every scene from 300 is postcard perfect, every line memorable and epic, every Spartan larger than life. This movie will be the benchmark for sword and sandal epics for aeons to come. First, we had Spartacus and Ben Hur. The 90’s gave us William Wallace and Maximus . 300 ushers in the new era of historical epics with a bang.

The only quibble I have with the movie is it’s slight deviation from the graphic novel. Leonidas’ wife’s perfidy with Theron for his support in the Council is not mentioned in the comic and is inserted in the movie for dramatic effect. As to its historical accuracy, I am uncertain but I take issue with the idea that a Spartan wife would offer carnal pleasure in exchange for favours rendered. Granted, said favour would have resulted in her husband being saved and in the salvation and greater glory of Sparta, but I still find it hard to stomach.

300 fully immerses us into the draconian and harsh world the Spartans lived in, where violence was a byword and discipline, unwavering loyalty, honor and obedience were the cornerstones. A world where no quarter was spared for the weak, no weakness betrayed the strong and might was right. Where children were pushed out into jungles to learn survival and wives expected husbands to either conquer or die. Like Xerxes tells us, the Spartans had one heckuva fascinating culture.

The perfectly filmed fight sequences leave nothing to be desired; they are a perfect joy to behold. The Spartan fighting method is a work of aesthetic beauty, comparable only to the Grammaton cleric John Preston’s fascinating GunKata in Equilibrium. We cheer the Greeks on as horde after horde of Xerxes slave Persians break like water upon stone on Leonidas’ indomitable force of 300.

The visuals are stunning and overwhelming, showing us glimpses of both the beautiful and the grotesque. Xerxes army boasts of quite a few oddities, an executioner with blades for arms, some really screwed up harem girls and a hunchback traitor with a horribly disfigured face. A statutory sex scene is thrown in for good measure. Ultimately, 300’s triumph stems from Frank Miller’s beautiful rendition in his comic series. It’s as if he knew that his graphic novels would be filmed some day and drew each panel for the silver screen. This is one flick that is theatre-worthy and well worth the price of a second entry ticket too.


Rating : 9/10

Of all Woody Allen’s oeuvres, this one for me remains his seminal piece. The Oscar winning Annie Hall is preferred by many; Allen’s biting satire, acerbic wit and resplendently witty humour is all too evident in that film. However, the black and white treatment of Manhattan clinches it for me; I fell in love with it watching it alone on a slow Friday evening. And alone is how all of Woody Allen’s movies should be watched. The slices of life they portray, the frank evocations of reality they show and the emotions they elicit in the viewer are best enjoyed in solitude.

Manhattan stars Woody Allen as Isaac Davis, an out-of-work comedy writer who’s just coming out of a nasty divorce. It is of interest to note that in all his movies, Allen seems to be playing himself. He is often depicted as a Neurotic Jewish person mostly having a career in film or television. Anyway, back to the plot. Isaac’s ex-wife( played by a stunningly beautiful Meryl Streep) is writing a stunning revelatory memoir of their marriage and the break-up which will make Allen look like a neurotic fruitcake given his idiosyncratic tendencies. Allen is dating a sweet high school kid, but refuses to take her seriously. Into this mélange of complex relationships enters Mary Wiley (Diane Keaton), Issac’s best friend’s mistress whom Ike seeks solace in. The story is set in the eponymous Manhattan; the beauty of the city is captured in various scenes. The black and white treatment really accentuates the business of the bustling streets, the lonely park benches late at night the beautiful bridges and the bright street lights. You feel the thrum of New York behind you, the fragility of its people, the harsh uncaring relentlessness with which it bears down on its denizens. And as in most of Allen’s movies, there are no happy endings to be had. Life is not a cakewalk, it’s a flippin tiger waiting to pounce just when you’ve become comfortable. Hope is all Allen leaves us with; a glimmering sneak peek at what could be, if…

I am yet a newcomer to the world of Allen’s vast movie collection. But from what I’ve seen, this quirky bloke is funny as fuck and has a directing sense unique in my experience of Hollywood. I’m certain that I’ll be going through the entire Allen repertoire before I die, so help me God...

Monday, March 5, 2007

Those who can't do critique

I don't personally know of any single individual who consumes more media than I do. I am sure there are thousands who spend their every waking hour devouring movies, film, theatre and opera. It is a sad testament to the nature of the company I keep that the true media afficionadas in my group can be counted on the fingers of one hand, and none of them are hardcore fans. Which is to say, they have a life independent of this shit. Sadly, my life has begun to revolve around alternate realities. I have immersed myself in the vicarious pleasures of consuming movies, television and novels ; have sacrificed countless hours to the pantheon of underground media. I have written for the Lifestyle section of my college magazine, critiquing obscure underground art movements,films and books. I've also taken modules in art appreciation and recognition. Thus I feel adequately qualified to critique works of art I encounter. Given that my opinions on movies and novels are often very firm and strong, it is to be expected that many will find my reviews opinionated and pompous. But then it's not my job to keep you happy. I am well aware that a critic is just a glorified reviewer who is able to adequately express his hatred/love of a piece of art.Also, the response I've encountered most often while lambasting a work of art is,
"If you're so good, why don't you make something yourself?" To this, my response is that you don't have to be capable of making art to judge art. There is an intrinsic aesthetic sensibility in us that helps us tell good art from bad art.

Most times, people find that reviews don't count for diddly squat. I'm hoping mine do.Here goes.