Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Intern (2015)

Watched 'The Intern' (2015) on Netflix.

The sheer variety of themes and story lines that these movies explore is impressive, inventive and speak of courage. I mean, I know they have themes other than boy meets girl, but some themes will take you by surprise.

Jules (Anne Hathaway), the CEO of a Brooklyn based fashion retail company ‘About the Fit’, is assigned to work with graying and wrinkling Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) who has been hired as part of their senior citizen intern program. She is initially skeptical about him, but it turns out he has value to offer and lessons for her from his experience.

Ben is a widower, retired, but not tired.
“Freud said, love and work, work and love”
“Retirement? That's an ongoing relentless effort in creativity”
“Musicians don't retire. They stop when there's no more music in them... Well, I still have music in me”.
So saying he applies for this job. The jargon of the modern digital world is Greek and Latin to Ben, but he is going to try.

Jules, the efficient CEO who has taken her company forward at rocket speed(“she works on all cylinders all the time”) is initially skeptical about Ben and does not assign him any work of significance.
But Ben tries to be of help to her in small and big ways, from clearing up a messy desk to summarizing loose data into a meaningful report about buying patterns of user segments in the USA, from driving her home and picking her up for work, to breaking into her mother’s house to hack a computer and delete a stinker email that Jules had sent accidentally. The movie is about how he wins her confidence, how the job improves his life and how he stands by her through the hardships of her life and motivates her not to give up her position at work, out of various compulsions.

Woven into this story are threads of their personal life.
Her spouse is a ‘House Husband’ who sacrificed his career to support hers. “They prefer to be called stay at home dads”, she corrects Ben in the course of a conversation.
There is the scene of her household, the child, his short affair with another woman and ensuing sadness.
On the other hand there is this in-house masseuse who becomes Ben’s lover.
The scene of the massage she offers him while at work, the unexpected ‘tent effect’ it causes to his trousers, the newspaper offered by a colleague sitting next to him to ‘cover up’, with a smirk on his face, surprised me. The sheer possibility of forbidden excitement, that too in offices as depicted in these movies - is it real?
The choice of pleasant faced Rene Russo for the role of Fiona, the masseuse, makes the old couple look charming. It would have been hideous if it were the other woman who was shown to take interest in Ben. Yes, looks make all the difference.

In the massage parlor another day,
Ben: “Hmmmmmmmmm…”
Masseuse: “All I have done is take your sock off.”
Ben: “No one's done that better.”

The movie offers plenty of views of New York and San Francisco, two of my favourite cities in the USA.

It's astounding that in these movies depicting the fashion industry and the 'careers' of people therein, whether it is 'The Devil Wears Prada', or this one, 'The Intern', there isn't a hint, not a moment of the much warranted and naturally expected disillusionment about the nature of their work - that it all boils down to selling footwear, handbags, shoes and watches to people who don't really need them, that underneath all kinds of business jargon, it is just promoting consumerism.
Women in these movies 'celebrate' their 'careers', sacrifice relationships and precious life itself for these ‘careers’, pat each other on the back with tears in eyes when they have 'succeeded' in selling more shoes with the euphoria that would only befit a doctor that saved a human life.
It makes me pity the western people and their culture for being so hopelessly lost, for the complete absence of a basic perspective on materialism.

It is only decent that their sense of success and pride have a limit and beyond that limit, any pride and sense of accomplishment be knocked off by disillusionment about the essence and meaning of their actually meaningless jobs.
Euphoria in such careers, I find almost vulgar.

Lines I felt like noting down.

“Gray is the new green” (remarks someone seeing Ben doing well)

“Sitting is the new smoking”

“The best reason to carry a handkerchief is to lend it. Women cry, we carry it for them. One of the last vestiges of the chivalrous gent.”

“You are never wrong to do the right thing - Mark Twain”

“They say, you can't put the genie back in the bottle, but we can try. Right?”

Look at this use of proposition.
“Are you Happy at me?”
“I am happy at you.”

Notes to myself:

English phrase - to curry favour - behave obsequiously, fawn over

Jules (Anne Hathaway) pronounces data as daata and not as dayta.


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Supreme Prisoner

I was a bit worried when told we would have to climb the Hill on bare feet. But then I was assured, there were wide steps all along, and that they were very well maintained, cleaned and swept. There was shelter above all throughout. No exposure to the Sun.
And sure enough, when I started climbing, the steps below felt clean, there was no grit, for all those smudged remnants of turmeric, vermillion and camphor.

There were shrubs and trees on both sides. Vendors selling fruit, bottled water, juice and more. Water dispensers every 50 meters or less.
You still sweat but mainly because of the effort of climbing.

If you are the kind who savours life and not just hurries on towards destination, you would stop and look behind. The green hills nearby and blue ones faraway were a sight.

After 2000 steps, I thought it was over and hopefully, my relatives, who had chosen to drive up, were there on the other side, with my shoes in the taxi.
But no, the walking continued. We reached the main road, the kids called up the father to find out where they all were.
It turned out we would have to take a bus to some point.
So we walked on the tar road to the bus stop. On bare feet.

As I looked around, I noticed that everyone was walking barefooted. The pavements were neatly laid with stones or tiles and even when you got off the pavement on to the road, you didn't feel any dirt beneath your soles.
We got on a bus, the floor of which, covered with the usual aluminum like sheets looked shiny and felt smooth under our feet. Everyone inside was barefooted.
That's when it struck me. The cleanliness of the place. To the extent of being outstanding, extraordinary, incredible and un-Indian.

We got off the bus and continued barefooted. After a few phone calls we found our family, all smiles inside the air conditioned taxi. We jumped in, and drove off to our accommodation, a short drive away.
The pavements looked polished and I noticed that people were squatting on them, reclining, relaxing as if seated on granite or marble finished floors.

There were sweepers and sweepers and more sweepers all around, working as if, round the clock. Keeping the place spotless, dustfree. Simply put, clean.
This must be one place where at least half the population was made up of sweepers and cleaners I thought. Where did they bring all of them from, when labour everywhere is hard to find?

The drive was scenic too. They had created beauty in all spaces. Gardens, parks, lawns, flower bearing shrubs. Trimmed hedges.
Though there were huge trees providing a canopy above, there were no fallen leaves below. There were statuettes here and there. Mostly black.
Very aesthetic. For a hill top, it was vast and sprawling.

The accommodation was spotless too.
We had already booked tickets, all we had to do was walk towards where the line began.
We entered the area where the enclosure began. One hall to another, one line to the next, one room to another.
There was no way you could get lost or move to the wrong line or accidentally take an exit. It was all so well thought out that every few meters there were restrooms and drinking water.
There were rows of wooden benches to sit on in case the queue stopped moving and wait was long.

What was initially a single file of people turned to two and then a mass filling up a room.
The jostling and pushing began.
I no longer had control over which way I turned or moved. I was being carried forward by the crowd that was pressing me in from all sides.

We walked and walked on and snaked closer and closer to the sanctum but the gopuras or domes were no where in sight. At least some glimpse of it would have been reward enough for the otherwise empty journey through the queue.
But the administrators had other priorities. Order, organization and control. Over our movements.

After a very brief glimpse of the gopuras or towers plated with gold, we found ourselves heaved to the dark sanctum.
There was a frenzy of shouting 'Govinda', 'Govinda' in response to the same being shouted into a mike somewhere.

The crowd had now turned to a single file that had to move fast. We turned right, saw the statue of Garuda when my relative prodded me and said 'look there!'
The file turned left, I looked straight and lo behold! there was Balaji in the innermost sanctum of the Tirupati temple quite a distance away.
I remembered not to close my eyes in prayer as people sometimes foolishly do, when they stand before temple deities. I kept them wide open and fixed on Him as I moved. I was being prodded, pushed and shoved quite unnecessarily by the female guards on both sides but I was not going to be provoked this one time, and kept my eyes fixed on Him as I moved closer to Him.
And then suddenly, I was thrown to my left, and it was over.

There was no going back though I did for just two seconds more, after haggling with the guards who for some reason spoke to me in Hindi. As they all d everywhere I go. Even at home.

A grand frenzied anti climax it was.

It gradually dawned on me what a futility the whole thing had been.
The cleanliness, the order, the gardens, the spotless rooms, the neat buildings, the tasty laddus that were to come. Everything was a futility when the most important thing, the darshan, the view of the deity, was made so scarce by those who governed the place.

Literally, cleanliness here was greater than Godliness! In an ironical way.

They could, by all means, allow the file of people to the inner sanctum before forcing a U turn so devotees would get a good view, from up close, but no, they had to make him scarce.

They could at least avoid the shouting of Govinda into the mike but no they had to create a frenzy to maintain the hype and even increase it.

Clever hyenas feeding on the god hungry people.

The self appointed custodians of Him, were money minded goons and willfully kept Him from us all that had travelled far and wide to meet him.
They could sell fewer Darshan tickets so those who availed it got to stand before the sanctum for a few seconds longer.
Selling fewer tickets per day would mean longer wait times for people trying to book, but that was okay, at least you had a satisfactory Darshan.

Whether you avail the general free darshan or the special 300 rupee Divya darshan, the only thing that's different is the time to spend standing in the queue. The darshan once you reach the sanctum is the same. Unless you are a VIP or a VVIP.

I hear the Brahmins have all been removed from the administrative body and the SC and ST have taken over. (I don’t mind the admittance of the lower castes inside, but it is the systematic removal of the Brahmin that I resent)

The experience is made worse because of it's location. The Andhra people are a rough, boorish materialistic people in general (yes I dare speak politically incorrect generalizations). The shoving, the prodding, the frenzied shouting... It couldn't get more unaesthetic.
Had the same temple belonged in TN or Kerala, it would have been a different experience altogether.

If we unitedly boycott such temples then the management will be advertising on TV but what do we Hindus know of unity?

You will not hear me saying such a thing often, but here I go.
The churches are better. There is silence there is space there is dignity there is peace.
Shame on the Hindu temples for such shoddiness, for their barbarity and shame on Hindus for allowing themselves to be shoved like cattle.

I have walked down the aisle of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, the largest catholic church in the United States. I have ambled within the Trinity church famed for its precious tinted glasses. They weren’t crowded alright but had they been, silence would have given way for whispers, may be a buzz, but dignity would have stood firm in its place.

This barbarity in Hindu temples is why so many Hindus are irreligious, disillusioned and averse to Hinduism.

How ironical that Govinda allows this …
We believe HE will deliver us but alas, He is the Supreme Prisoner.
Others are 'most wanted' until they are made captive, but He has been made captive because He is most wanted.

Tirupati, the most sought after temple in the world, was all sound and fury no significance.
The curse of the persecuted Brahmin? Must be. What else?

Let me say this. Someone please drag the Tirupati temple to the court and restore the right of devotees to enter the inner sanctum for a good view of the deity. Break the arrogance and sense of entitlement of the administrators and the politicians behind them. If you do it, whether you are muslim, christian, communist or anti national, I will vote for you!!!

Well, that's how pissed off I am.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Today's Special (2009)

Watched 'Today's Special' (2009) on Netflix.

It is an American movie involving many Indians in the make.

It tries to be Hollywood but does not even get close. It's closer to a plain Bollywood movie with predictable ending. The one good thing about it is, it is not the usual boy meets girl movie but has a novel theme that’s not at all Bollywood like. 
A chef who revives a dying restaurant.

All of the characters are plain, dull, boring and insipid, except Akbar played by Nasiruddeen Shah.

When your chief protagonist Samir (played by Asif Mandvi) is plain, dull, ordinary.. when there is no strength in his character, nothing to endear him to the audience, you must at least compensate the character with great looks, otherwise he just does not connect with the audience and the attraction (towards him) felt by the woman of the movie looks like a lie, unconvincing to the audience.

I felt sorry for the beautiful Carrie who had to kiss this ordinary looking guy Samir.

The movie doesn't explain why an excellent and accomplished cook like Akbar (Nasir) agrees to serve a B grade restaurant and an ordinary boss like Samir.

Samir's father is an excess. He looks hideous, has over acted, with shouting, all unnecessary lines and unwarranted histrionics. All you viewer do is wait for him to shut up and for the screen to show something else, anything else.
They have gone too far in depicting his foul temper and his disgruntlement.

Samir’s mother too. Totally lacks flavour. Someone you don’t look forward to seeing, and someone you want to go away, soon as she appears. Couldn’t they at least find someone better looking?

The parents could have been made to possess some distinct character - amusing, comical, even tragic or evocative, but they are so plain…

A good movie must make use of every inch of screen space, every minute of screen time and every one of its characters to convey some meaning or purpose or entertainment just like a good architect must make use of every every inch of available space while constructing a building.

The group of old men gathering at the restaurant and their chit chat, too, is a waste of screentime. They could have been made to provide some amusing or curious chatter. It’s the little things that take a movie a long way.
The following lines are examples, but these are delivered by Akbar (played by Nasir)

“Pondicherry,... The only French colony in India.
It's one of the great tragedies of history that the French in India never made it further up north… two of the finest cuisines in the world, the French and the Indian coming together for an epicurean meeting of the minds... Instead we end up getting colonized by the bloody British whose greatest culinary achievement in 2000 years is the fish and chips”

“The shah of Iran visited India once and was heard to remark that eating with a utensil was like making love through an interpreter” - I love this one for I am not a fan of the fork nor spoon.

Do you remember Ranjit Chowdhry? Was a little boy in the old Hindi movie Khatta Meetha and a few others during those Amol Palekar days. I was surprised to see him in this movie, now an old and frail man. Where was he and why did they dig him out now?

He is one of the old men and relates the Tea bag, sugar bag joke. (a restaurant staff when found cutting open the tea bag and pouring its contents into hot water was advised to immerse the bag itself. After sometime, he was found by the same man dipping the sugar packet into the water instead of cutting open the bag). Good joke but delivered poorly, you hardly notice.

There was enough room in the movie for such food talk. Indian cooking is so diverse, there are so many cuisines within the Indian cuisine, so much variety in spices used, so many different methods of processing the same combination of ingredients, stories and anecdotes behind recipes, their medicinal values, vegetarianism,...

The novelty, charm and skill of explaining, describing food and tastes in words is quite something. It is the thing that’s unique to movies abut cooking and makes them interesting.

“You can't tell about the Masala until it's in the oil, the Masala is the Symphony and the oil is the orchestra”

“The dosa texture…, It's the stone...
A griddle has a will of its own,
but with a dosa stone, you can determine the character of the dosa according to your mood”

There are some charming analogies.

“Clove and cinnamon, very opinionated, a little goes a long way”

“Turmeric, the golden spice that makes everything glow. We used to use turmeric to colour the Delhi circus”

“With Indian cooking, the recipe is like a raga. It's just a template. The important thing is the interpretation, the improvisation”

And then there are lines that are not so charming and don’t make much sense.

“Cumin is a saucy wench, gives you great pleasure but she herself is never satisfied” 
“Coriander seed like a young girl walking through a lemon grove by the ocean, what her future holds…”

“A man who measures life, never knows his own measure”

The song kabhi kabhi is playing in Mukesh’s voice when Farida, Samir’s mother meets Akbar in the restaurant kitchen. For some reason, its is so very soothing. Makes the otherwise plain scene, bearable.

Most of the recipes being finished and garnished in the chef's kitchen were vegetarian and that was a mercy. Unlike in Julie and Julia, where huge fowl and ducks are being shown stuffed with filling and stitched together. But that was a brilliant movie otherwise.

A new phrase I learnt from the movie - sous chef, pronounced as soo-shef. An assistant to the master chef, but he is the one that manages the entire kitchen’s operation.

As usual, I noted some beautiful lines.

“Hurry up the garnishing” 
“You can't hurry up a work of art”

“Told your folks about this?”
“I am waiting…”
“The last minute”

“People don't know what they want, they know what they have had”

“A person who has been in love knows he has been in love”

My favorite of all lines and the one I completely agree with from my own experience is,

Of Manhattan lights... “In a place with lights like that, any dream can come true”!


Sunday, September 09, 2018

of Hope...

The reputation of hope will distract you from the poignancy and the tragedy of it, if you aren’t thoughtful enough.

The thing about hope is, for all the high pedestal accorded to it, for all it’s glorification, for all it’s indispensability in this journey of uncertain life, hope does not live up to its reputation. Most of the time. There is too much hype abut hope.

While its easy to see that hope is anaesthetic, that it numbs you to pain, distracts you from it, its difficult to see that hope is a drug like poison that prevents you from living life fully, from reaching your full potential, because it wastes much of your precious time promising the attainment of those that are out of your reach, that were never meant to be yours.

Hope is not an unconditional good. The tragedy is, no one knows, at what stage and what point in time, to give it up and to move on. How late is too late, whether its high time or no, no one knows.
Years pass you by and that which you have been hoping for, waiting for, has drifted beyond the nether side of the horizon. What of those precious years? What of that hope that should have died but did not?

Hope makes you see signs from the universe, where there are none. Hope misleads.
Because of hope one must suffer tantalization.
There must be light at the end of the tunnel but how long the tunnel is, hope does not tell. If it were too long, I would rather light a match and discover a treasure or enjoy the stars in the dark, instead of waiting forever for that light.

Hope makes you tenacious and you cling to that silken yarn long after its has torn itself away leaving only threads and shreds between your tired and bleeding fingers.
Most of the things we hope for are like the clouds. You sight them at the horizon and your gaze follows them across the skies. You wait and wait even as they drift towards the other horizon and disappear without raining a drop.

Hoping and Moving on, belong therefore, to the same league of legendary dichotomy, as Freewill and Destiny.

Knowing all about it, it’s devious ways, it’s falsehood and flamboyance, some like me, are just not able to kill hope.

Friday, September 07, 2018

Bambi (1942)

Watched 'Bambi' on Netflix.

Made in 1942. Walt Disney production.
This must be the oldest movie I have seen, ever. It's thrills me to think about it.

It's a story of a deer in a jungle.

The movie is a visual treat of painting in pastels.

It's beautiful because of it's simplicity.
Without the sophistication of our present time, the visuals are limited to a few colours, the finish isn't photographic, smooth and seamless, but gives away the strokes of a paintbrush, in soft, dull, pastel shades, distinguishable from one another; the speed and the sounds are all simple and soothing.
It is basic and doesn't suffer from the problem of plenty.

The antagonist is man, the hunter whose gunshots are heard once or twice, but is never shown to the viewer. I mean there aren't the scary, ferocious, mean looking beasts in the negative role, nor bloody gory fights and deaths. It's easy on your nerves. It's a good choice for one of those days when you just don't have the stomach for violence, even a single streak of it and you feel like watching something soft, cute and tender.

The movie will remind you of Lion King. It begins and ends with the birth of baby deer, just as Lion King begins and ends with the birth of a lion cub. All the creatures of the forest gather from everywhere to greet the young one, just as in Lion King, they gather to pay their respects. The young one loses a parent in both movies. The young deer has a female playmate, the two become separated and meet again as adults and become lovers. Just as in Lion King.
True, every great thing of the present is what it is because it is riding on the shoulders of it's predecessors.

In 2008, the American Film Institute presented a list of its 10 top 10, the best ten films in each of ten classic American film genres. Bambi was placed third in animation.

This is the song that plays at the beginning and at the end.

Love is a song that never ends
Life may be swift and fleeting
Hope may die yet life's beautiful music
Comes each day like the dawn
Love is a song that never ends
One simple theme repeating
Like the voice of a heavenly choir
Love's sweet music flows on...