Archive for July, 2005|Monthly archive page

Of frogs and floods.

The recent downpour in Maharashtra and Gujarat is considered the largest amount of rainfall ever in Indian history, and that’s saying something considering Chirapunjee is part of our political map. But where did all this rain come from??? What were all the meteorologists and weather reporters doing??? Well, I have an angle. Just yesterday, I was musing with my friend in his terrace and he was telling me that a few days earlier, the news channel covered a story in Gujarat, where the local folks had decided to take the matters on lack of rain into their own hands. They knew that planting trees, building irrigation and starting water renewal facilities were all long term plans. They wanted immediate results. So they fell back on the time tested method of marrying two frogs!!! No that wasn’t a typo. So you think this is funny eh??? I’m sure the guys from Mumbai and Pune don’t find it amusing to say the least. What other explanation can there be for such torrential rainfall other than a scientific experiment gone wrong??? The marriage of the two frogs actually caused something of a tipping point in the social behavior of frogs. Soon all frogs started getting married on their own. There were event planners, legal counsel and even bands for the ceremonies. Now as far as the gujjus were concerned, they asked for rain quota corresponding to just one holy alliance of a frog and froggy. But what sparked of later was a marriage spree and hence these floods. I’m only hoping that the local Chennai frogs don’t catch a glimpse of this story from news services and follow suit. Chennai needs water, but my guess is between no rain and the floods, we’d choose no rain -we are used to it you see.

Bad Tamil Movie

Well, I have decided to break my silence and typically, its for fleeting reasons than anything substantial. I was hoping against hope that I would actually come around to finishing my essays on Orwell’s Views on Gandhi, Thomas Kuhn’s Scientific Revolutions and Influence of Games on kids, but this right now is more compelling than any of the above. Let me get to the point. The term Bad Tamil Movie (or Hindi for that matter) is an oxymoron. By nature most Tamil blockbusters are brainbusters in the sense that you leave the film wondering how the whole process came to be without the interference of any intelligent life. No , this is not the peteru in me talking, although with less restraint on my part, he would come out slashing with a vengeance known to only a few. For the moment, my emotions are solely influenced by ‘Chandramukhi’. That’s right folks, he’s back and meaner than ever.

While I actually left ‘Chandramukhi’ in extremely high spirits, reasons having nothing to do with the movie, I felt a pressing need to address the issue as to how such movies come to being. A vintage scene from the movie involves the two protagonists (no naming names in this piece). Protagonist1 says something vaguely comprehensible coupled with extremely loud, jarring and sad music, necessarily in that order, to Protagonist2, who immediately mumbles something and bursts into tears for mystifying reasons. Probably he did not understand what No1 was saying and was reminded of his incompetence that has forced his career into a brick wall or maybe he was just overwhelmed by the fact No1 was such a gas bag an yet so successful in an industry where face value is supposed to mean everything. Soon No1 and No2 are in a perilously close huddle, hugging each other and crying. Maybe the director let two cats loose on their crotches. ‘Chandramukhi’ is a remake of a pretty good Malayalam film called Mani Chitra Thayvu, I’m not particularly good on the spelling front let alone translation. Directed by P. Vasu, its a typical Rajini movie with non-stop nonsense. Yes, the whole movie is complete nonsense. Watching this movie, one could come to the following conclusion. Idiot number one has an idea and takes it to Idiot number two who has a lot of money and apparently no brains (the idiot conveys that I suppose). Now these two idiots hunt for other idiots who will take part in the farce of actually directing and acting, distributing and promoting the movie. Finally the movie is released and lo behold its not a flop.

There is a scene in the movie ‘The House of Sand and Fog’, where Ben Kinglsey, playing an Ex Iranian Colonel who has fled to the States, tells his son,

 

“They have the eyes of small children who are forever looking for the next source of distraction, entertainment, sweet taste in the mouth.”

Here the Colonel is referring to Americans but its true for most people. But that’s exactly what we all look for in our lives. I’m not saying that our lives are distraught with boredom but that after a tiring day’s work at the office, after meeting the deadlines, after dealing with office machinations and what not, the last thing we actually need is a serious theme that forces us to confront issues that have very little relevance if not applicability in our lives. And, I am definitely not suggesting that we do away with art as such, but we should acknowledge that art is not particularly useful nor practical for most portion of our lives and its definitely not a very intelligent business venture.

So these are not idiots in the movie business. These are a bunch of extremely shrewd and intelligent guys who invest in movies that succeed. The people want to see a rich girl fall for a poor guy get exactly what they want, when rarely does reality follow suit. But entertainment is not reality but a fusion of imagination and reality, the ultimate seduction.

And this holds true equally if not more for the west. A few days after the Chandramukhi experience, I watched Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Please, would somebody give this guy a break. Probably the most cliched movie of the year (I’d rather not go into details) and probably the highest grosser next to Star Wars (star what???). Lets look into some themes that the west (Hollywood) loves. Aliens attacking the US of A (apparently they too know nothing outside the shores of Bible Land and war), terrorists attacking the US of A (wait a second that’s not imagination), earthquakes, volcanoes, dinosaurs, vampires the whole bunch attacking the US of A. I’m wondering if there is a pattern, oh yes, someone or something attacking the US of A. Americans love such ‘disaster’ movies. You are entitled to ask why, which in turn entitles me to give you an answer. Americans like to think they are the happiest people in the world, luckiest people in the world. The rest of the world is sinking in corruption, lack of civilization and what not. There is a widespread tendency in the states to romanticize the misfortunes of others which in turn helps them to feel lucky translate that, to happy translate that to superior, translate that to ‘Greatest Country in the World’. So to entertain this illusion all disaster movies have the essential ingredient – “nice American people who are happy and good are attacked by ones that are not and in the end happy and good people win over the sad and evil ones” – get it. So think again when you watch “War of the Worlds”, “Pearl Harbor” and the “Day after Tomorrow” and see it for what it is, not a dumb movie but a dumb movie for a reason. In case you haven’t been paying attention, there is no such thing as a bad movie, just a hit or a miss.