Monday, July 26, 2004

Once upon a time in the west

When I was a kid, the word 'movie' was a synonym for some tortuous tale of a gun-totin', whiskey swillin', cigar smokin' unshaven loner who blasts the world away with his 6-gun (Or a sawed-off shotgun, for that matter). And of course, the best of these were The Good, The Bad and The Ugly or a For a Few Dollars More - both directed by Sergio Leone. I saw both these films with my dad in Bangalore's theatre Bluemoon (non-existent today) and ever since then, I was a convert.

Last week, I saw Leone's most acclaimed, but least famous film - Once Upon a Time in the West. And I was blown away once again. It's simply awesome, can't talk about it enough.

Once Upon a Time is lower on testosterone and higher on feel and mood when you compare it to the more famous Clint Eastwood starrers . And it's a telling commentary on how the world moved on as the railways moved from the Eastern coast to the Western coast in the US. The movie's full of intoxicating close-ups, stunning landscape pans, heavy on ambience and even normal scenes are choreographed to echo some bygone western classic. The opening sequence with the credits for example is a tribute to High Noon.

Whatever they say these days in film appreciation workshops (I've been to one) - those sphagetti westerns, as they've come to be called since Sergio Leone filmed them all in Italy, are definitely classics. Just see one of them, and you'll know why.

Here's an excellent site about Sergio Leone and his films

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Boris Becker

Just finished reading Boris Becker's autobiography - a deeply satisfying read, after so many crappy bios of sportspersons. It's deep, brutally honest and answers most questions you would have had, if you grew up watching Boris' generation at Wimbledon.
An additional surprise - some sections in the book have passages written by someone else - Becker's mother, John McEnroe and Ion Tiriac to be precise.
For more, here's one review that appeared in Guardian's website before the book was published -,,1077478,00.html


One supposes that all you need to do to make a GOOD film in Bollywood, is break all stereotypes. It's that simple. Tweak that dance-around-the-tree routine a little bit,place the tear-jerker scenes at some point BEFORE the climax, give all songs in the film a proper context - and you're there. Farhan Akhtar, director of Lakshya did this, and a little bit more to make a truly watchable film.

A word about Lakshya - as a genre film first. What is it? A war classic on the 1999 Kargil struggle? Or is it simply the tale of a guy letting his destiny choose him. I think it's the latter. Lakshya is simply too thin on war details to be called a war film. Nor does it pretend to be, at any time. I'm sure most people will agree, no one really knows what happened during the Kargil struggle in the first place. And the army for sure, wouldn't want all the details leaked out.(Ironically Lakshya is more impressive when it's talking about war than the other big bannerflicks we're seen recently - LOC Kargil and Border being cases in point)

Karan, (Hrithik Roshan) is goofy, floppy haired and simplistic - who knows little about what he wants out of life. But his honest and pure heart earns him the love of Romi, (essayed by Priety Zinta) who's focussed, ambitious, impatient and bubbly. Karan applies to the army on a whim and makes it to the Indian Military Academy. But he deserts in just 4 days. However, eye-opening reactions from Romi and Karan's father convince him to go back and prove a point. Which he does, by passing out on top of the class and getting posted to Kargil. Meanwhile, Priety has got that dream job and is a journalist/anchor. She meets a multinational yuppie and gets engaged to him. This is when war breaks out, and the movie's terrain changes - and the climactic scenes are rounded off in thundering fashion.

Nothing too hot in the scripting. But we know Farhan Akhtar doesn't need a ground-breaking script, don't we? Give him something decent - and he'll turn it into something that will break frontiers in Bollywood, like he did with Dil Chahta Hai. Akhtar was very young when he made that film about India's youth coming into their own. And in Lakshya it's almost like the characters in Dil Chahta Hai go one step further to to confront their destiny.
One can be forgiven for thinking these two films loosely chronicle Farhan Akhtar's own rise. What then, we wonder, would his THIRD film like?

One thing for sure - if films like Lakshya are getting more and more accepted, and I'm sure they are, what will become of Bollywood? All those Rajshri films types in their creaky Prabhadevi offices in Mumbai had better watch out.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Inspector Morse and a little bit mo'

I wish I'd discovered Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse earlier.

As an aside, I was reading Daughters of Cain today at the
Deputy Commissioner of Police's office.
Now you're going to ask what I was doing there.
Well, I've been casing the office for the last 3 days, looking for
that all-elusive signature on a form, which says NO
POLICE VERICATION NEEDED for my passport application.

Anyway, an interesting thing happened today. While I was waiting at that
afore-mentioned office, a gang of dacoits with black polythene
bags slipped over their heads were marched inside. And before too
long, a lot of my fellow-reporters assembled taking shots of
poor sods and generally making a nuisance of themselves. Before
too long there was the mandatory PRESS CONFERENCE. And since I
was tired of waiting, I decided to tag along, and even managed
to compose my face with a midly questioning look, while all the
journalists fired their questions.
It turned out that the dacoits had made a career out of stealing
medicines from warehouses. Low risk venture and all that.
Anyway the whole thing got over in about 30 minutes, and at the end
I realized NONE of the reporters asked the one question I would
have wanted answered. How did the police CATCH THEM?

Maybe I thought of that, because of Inspector Morse.