Thursday, January 12, 2017

January 2017 transfer activity for Arsenal - what I would do if I were Dick Law

Kos, Giroud and Coq have signed to extend their stay with Arsenal. Good news I would say. What would be great now is to get Alexis to sign. Give him the 200k+ wages and promise to get Simeone this April or next. Also promise Alexis that Simeone will be given a huge budget with the target of a trophy in Year 1 itself.

If Ozil signs, its fine but its ok to sell him and look at other 10s as well like Isco, James, Veratti, Pastore or we could even look at a Reus. Extend Cazorla at whatever cost. Give Wilshere a contract extension now in January and sell him in the summer. The Ox and Gibbs should be let go as well but given we still need homegrown quota, bring Chambers back in from his loan. He can play backup RB to Bellerin and the new RB. Sell Debuchy and get a younger RB for the day when Bellerin leaves us for Barcelona. Let Per go & sell Gabriel. Promote Holding and get a versatile CB who can double up as LB. 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Transfer market conspiracies - Part 1

Chelsea signed Oscar in 2012 on a 5 year deal and then got him to extend his deal in November 2014 till 2019. So when he leaves this January to China, he will have 2 years left in his contract and he will still be only 25. However, he has not been playing regularly for the last 12 months and therefore the 60m price that Shanghai SIPG are willing to pay Chelsea plus the 400K a week wages just seems too good to be true...which is what I think...it’s not TRUE.

What I really think is happening is something darker and murkier. Firstly, Chelsea probably want to spend a lot this summer to get players who are more suited to Conte's style, however just to be on the safer side of the increasingly weak/toothless FPP, they need to sell in order to buy. What I think could be happening is that Chelsea "want" to show a big inflow, the Chinese club want to show their supporters how much they are investing in players and therefore some obscene figures are being bandied about to make all parties look good. In reality, the money on THIS deal is probably much lower (though there are other fringe players who are going to get shifted) and Roman is probably just going to infuse Chelsea with more of his own money. Having AVB as the manager in China also helps since it is a well-known fact that Roman and he still get along great. 

Btw, Alexis turns 28 in December and in January 2017, he enters the final 18 months of his contract. He is in the form of his life and ideally Arsenal should be doubling his wages and tying him down to 3 more years atleast.  However, no player is larger than the club and should not be allowed to hold the club for ransom so if I were Dick Law and Alexis does not extend his contract by March, I would hawk him out to China for 80m, Alexis might get his wages and everyone is happy. If we were selling to a European club, I would insist on a cash + player deal with pretty much everyone who might be willing to buy him.

·         Real - Isco + cash
·         Bayern - Thiago or Bernat + Cash
·         Juventus - Dybala (hahahahaha) or Coman or Rugani (hahahaha)
·         PSG - Kurzawa + Cash


If he is intent on moving to an EPL rival, we should just let him rot on the sidelines and allow him to see out his contract. Seriously, the guy plays so much for Chile and insists on never taking rest that he is a disaster (like missing an entire season through injury like Welz) waiting to happen - I just hope it doesnt happen when he is at Arsenal.  

Sunday, September 11, 2016

9-11 September - Weekend report

Wows

  • Our Kind of traitor (typical slow burn Le Carre thriller) & Neethaane En Ponvasantham (On Jaya TV now)
  • Pep vs Jose 
  • Music of Mirzya - SEL are back !!!!!
  • Pizza and Malai Kulfi
  • Running/Exercise

WTF moments

  • Now you see me 2 & Baar Baar Dekho
  • Barcelona vs Alaves
  • School hunting
  • News about Rail roko on 15th

Last weekend as Bachelor 3.0 is over and while it was good in patches, can't wait to get back to domestic bliss. Yipppeeeee !!

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Why Arsenal will not win the league despite having one of the best squads in recent times




Despite having a great first 11 and a very decent squad, here's why Arsenal will NOT be serious contenders again this year for the league

  1. Injuries - it is well known that Arsenal NEVER EVER have their best 11 available for more than 2 consecutive games. International breaks invariably brings us back crocks. I wish we could insert clauses into all our players' contracts which lets the club decide if we want to release players for International duty. 
  2. The Manager - too rigid with formations, too proud to change tactics on a match-by-match basis depending on the opposition, too blind to non-performers...I could go on and on. I hope we get Simeone next year. 
  3. Champions League - having never won the trophy, Wenger still foolishly clings onto the hope that he will win it once with Arsenal. Barring the horrible Ospina experiment last year, he always rests important players before or after CL games and that kills us in the league. When are we going to accept that we don't stand a chance in Europe and should instead focus on domestic trophies? Getting into the CL in the past was great for TV money, now with the new TV deal in England, finishing 1 place higher instead commands a LOT of money. Why not aim higher than 4th?
  4. Disciplinary record - we get too many red cards and accumulated yellow cards which cause key players to miss important games. We need to "manage" refs better, however the new rules which prevent players from surrounding and pressurising the ref is a blessing in disguise as it evens things out. 
Assumptions for the first eleven choices are
  • Everyone is fit and available to play
  • Manager's current preference for player/style of play/system (with scant regard for past record) and recent selection history

Friday, August 19, 2016

Dare to dream

* This is a spur of the moment post that might come across as long winded, rambling and possibly even incoherent. I didn't want to go back and edit and refine since these are raw thoughts and are best expressed the way I typed them. If you know me and how I think, then you will pretty much get what I am saying even if the words are not coming out right * 

While this post comes in the aftermath of Sakshi Malik's bronze medal in wrestling, it also derives its inspiration from the stories of Dipa, Vinesh, Atanu and all the other athletes who have made it to Rio which is in itself a phenomenal achievement.

I saw this gif in a friend's FB timeline and while my first reaction was to laugh it away, it really dawned on me that this was precisely the mentality when I grew up.


While many of us were encouraged as children to follow our passions and become true all-rounders (learn music or painting, play an instrument, take up a sport etc), invariably most of that was put to a grinding halt around Std 8 when we were asked to "get serious" and follow the beaten path so that we could ensure a "safe future" for ourselves. Whilst not every parent pushed their children very hard to get to the  creme de la creme of institutions (read: IIT or an AIIMS), becoming an engineer or doctor was definitely seen as a ticket to stability and success in life. After under-graduation, it was all about doing that MS abroad and settling down in Seattle or nearabouts or getting that fancy MBA degree which gave you a shortcut to climb 3 rungs of the unforgiving corporate rat-race ladder.

In school, I can't seem to remember ONE above-average-in-academics classmate or friend of mine (would love to see the report cards of Sivakarthikeyan, Balaji Mohan, Nalan Kumaraswamy - there, I plugged in 3 celebrity juniors from my alma mater) giving up traditional paths and pursuing alternate careers with the active encouragement and support of his/her family. On one of those very rare occasions it happened, outright rebellion with a threat to run away from home was the reason the parents finally capitulated :)

To be fair, to blame it all on the parents is ducking the issue. I had a very solid, if not spectacular, safety net in terms of financial security but still lacked the courage to pursue cricket seriously. Granted I was not supremely talented but with sheer hard work and grit, I could have atleast made it to the Tamil Nadu Premier League. So given the times we grew up, I am not very surprised by Indians not making their mark (relatively speaking) in the 2000s and early part of this decade in areas like sports, literature, arts or most things outside of a Corporate career. I truly believe an entire generation of dreamer and achievers was lost in this country.

Whilst much has changed in the last 4-5 years (every kid and his pet dog wants to drop out of school/college and create a start-up), I see it more as folks wanting to make a big splash, land up in the front page of Economic Times, rake in the cheddar by 35 and then retire to a village to do organic farming or teach underprivileged children. I still don't see enough people in school saying they want to take the road less traveled (which some might actually say is the shortcut) and actually do organic farming / teach from Day One because they love it for what its worth. On one hand, while it is heartening to personally see people explore left-of-field options in the entertainment industry (moving outside films, TV and radio to become a stand-up comedian or even a full-time magician), I still see parents seeking my help on how to ensure their wards become one of the 2m engineering students who graduate every year.

As a child, there were a million things I wanted to be and some I even dabbled in. I wanted to play cricket, tennis and/or golf. I yearned to learn singing and be associated with music throughout my life. As a teenager, I longed to write stories and tell it to people through the medium of cinema. I was also intrigued by the prospects of becoming a professional quiz master. As an adult, I wanted to be a sports talent spotter traveling to the corners of the country unearthing the next big thing. Did I become any of those? Nope. Why? I don't know.

Which brings me to my current predicament.

What I want for my children is to aspire high and reach for the stars. What I would love for them to do is experiment without fear of failure. I dont want them to think that anything is beyond them. I would hate for them to settle for anything less than they are capable of. What I also want to inculcate in them is a desire to want to be the best at whatever they set their hearts and minds to. I am cognizant that I should not foist my own dreams on them and live my aspirational life through them. However, I also want to be a catalyst to help them understand what they could do and provide support to realize their potential in whichever field they chose to pursue, as long as it is not engineering or medicine :P

Thanks to the support of her parents, Sakshi Mittal followed her dreams from the age of 12 and look where it has landed her. Steffi Graf was hitting hundreds of balls over the net at the age of 4 under the watchful eyes of her father and went on to become a legend. (its another thing that the media demonized her father as a hard task master who literally ruint her childhood). I dont want to be one of those parents pushing their children to practice for Spelling Bees from the age of 3 but I also want my children to start dreaming from early on.

What I really hope to do through this post is stimulate/start an honest debate on how parents can help children dare to dream and support that pursuit.

PS: I know a parent who sent his daughter to 2 full summers of Pencil sketching, Carnatic music singing, Taekwondo, Swimming, Maths Olympiad & Origami/Arts & Crafts classes and she came back disinterested in everything....and before someone asks, she is a very smart kid. Is it just by trial and error that children find out what really floats their boat?

Forever young

At work, we have this G-100 program where we hire 100 students every year from some of the worlds best B-schools. As part of their induction, they travel to India and get to know about the company and also meet India based teams. I usually enjoy interacting with these guys as it makes me go back in time to think of where I was 13 years back and how such interactions helped me connect to some great leaders and gradually build my network within the company.

Last week was fun as I met with this year's batch and spent a good 20-25 mts with them formally. This was then followed by a more personal and informal 1-on-1 interaction where I formed a quick friendship with a really smart, young American newbie. We had the most interesting 45 mt chat that I have had in the last year and needless to say (ok have to boast now), looks like I made a very very favorable impression on him. He went back and wrote saying he was extremely impressed by how someone like him could related so much to someone as "old" as me. I am just going to take that as a compliment :)

So what did we talk about
  • Politics/Business: Why Icahn backs Trump
  • Sports: US College tennis and Tom Fawcett's chances of becoming the next John Isner or Steve Johnson
  • Entertainment: Why Marvel trumps DC any day
  • All things hip: slang like IAmA, Netflix and Chill, Catfish (In the context of my id card), IIRC
Areas where I could not hold my own
  • Obama's playlist, Brexit (Hmmm), GoT (Is there anyone who does not want to talk about this?)
The only flip side to all this was a FB request that I have to turn down now :P

PS: When I delete a FB Friend request, does it notify the other person? 

Monday, August 08, 2016

How the mighty have fallen

Its only when a true legend like SAF moves on that the void his departure leaves us truly shows up in epic/massive/gigantic proportions. If yesterday's Community shield game is any indication of the year to come, Utd fans can expect silverware by Feb/May but can kiss their hopes goodbye of seeing A-N-Y entertaining football. Yes, it is still early days but there were 4 things I CLEARLY CLEARLY saw yday which backs up my claim


  • During SAF's reign, if a match was 1-1 going into the last 10 minutes, you very much knew what was going to happen. SAF would throw all his fwds in and give his wingers / full backs license to attack and there would be an almighty seige at the opposition goal. Jose Mourinho has never/can never/will never do that and he did nothing of the sort yday. 

  • One of the earliest to be substituted was the superb Jesse Lingard. Despite Jose's ridiculous claims that he has brought through youngsters (am still dying laughing at that), he will never place his trust in youth. PERIOD. A leopard does not change its spots overnight.

  • The minute Ibra scored, Jose let his guard down for 3 seconds and celebrated but his immediate next reaction was to summon Schneiderlin to replace Rooney. That would have never happened under SAF. Protecting a lead was anathema to the master. He would have gone for the 3rd goal. How joyless must it be playing for Jose. No wonder Ronaldo hated Jose.

  • Minutes after Ibra scored, there was a throw-in for Leicester near the players' bench and Jose was furiously gesticulating to Ibra to fall back 20 yards into his own half and defend a throw-in coz of his height. (That was Jose at his best - marshaling his troops to park the bus). The great thing about Jose Mourinho is that Ibra actually did. Imagine Ibra's voice in the head saying "Ibra doesn't defend" and then Ibra coming to his senses and overruling his inner voice and actually doing his master's bidding. Ha Ha Ha !!

Jose Mourinho and his ego (or) How Man Utd have sold their soul in their quest for success? - PART 1

So Jose wants Schweinsteiger out. Why? There are many reasons being bandied about and the one that Jose would like the world to believe most is that Schweini doesnt fit the new style that Jose has come up for Man Utd. Bollocks.

Schweini has played at the highest level for club and country and can fit into any system and style of play. The simple answer is: Jose's massive ego. Jose demands absolute dedication and adherence to his methods and he typically likes to operate with players who will NEVER EVER question him. Schweini is a serial winner (and in my opinion achieved more than Jose) and an intelligent footballer. Jose can put up with 1 prima donna Ibra but too many strong personalities in the dressing room are not his style. By relegating Schweini to the reserves, Jose has made a calculated attack on Schweini's pride hoping that he will  take the affront personally and leave....and I just think it might work, more so if PSG come calling, as life in Paris (despite the bomb blasts) with Ana Ivanovic must surely be better than working in dreary Manchester with nasty Jose. In all this drama, Man Utd have just lost a lot of goodwill as KH Rummenigge rightly pointed out.

Schweinsteiger's trophies

  • 8 Bundesliga titles
  • 7 DFB-Pokal cups
  • 2 DFB-Ligapokal cups
  • 2 DFB Super cups
  • 1 Champions League
  • 1 UEFA Supercup
  • 1 FIFA Club World Cup
  • 1 FIFA World Cup 
  • (2 3rd places at WC and 1 runner up in Euros)


Jose Mourinho's trophies

  • 8 league titles (2 in Portugal, 3 in UK, 1 in Spain, 2 in Italy)
  • 10 Cup titles (2 in Portugal, 4 in UK, 2 in Spain, 2 in Italy)
  • 2 Champions League
  • 1 UEFA Cup

Thursday, August 04, 2016

The JASON BOURNE review

If you're a fan of the series, you are gonna see it anyway so this mini-review should not dissuade you. If you're not a fan of the franchise, then you might just want to reconsider your weekend plans again.

First off, Jason Bourne is NOT to be watched on 3D. NO NO NEVER. 3D makes absolutely no sense and it is nothing but another money grubbing exercise from crazy studio bosses working in collusion with multiplexes who have invested in this technology. Having said that, I saw it in IMAX 2D - now, IMAX is something worth paying extra for and Jason Bourne is definitely a better experience in this medium. People who have a problem with Paul Greengrass' shaky-cam & constant zoom-in-zoom-out style should steer way clear of the movie coz he amps it up to insane levels, so much so that the chase scenes are mostly a mess playing havoc with your senses. I liked the riot scenes in Athens a lot but trouble was I felt like i was actually in the middle of the action on the streets and that was not a very comfortable feeling. People who still remember this iconic scene from Ultimatum will find something very similar in this latest installment - a superb set piece at Paddington (bang near my Wipro office....wowwwwwwwwww) - but the problem here is that the scene absolutely goes nowhere. There are some howlarious sequences vis a vis technology, hacking etc which has been absolutely ripped to shreds by Reditters here.  All these aren't as much of an issue as the fact that there is absolutely no reason for this movie. I wont talk about the disastrous Bourne Legacy but the first 3 movies took this series to a logical closure point and Part 5 feels like a needless chapter with no solid story line and quite a few  meandering sub-plots.

Now for the good parts - the performances. Matt Damon is in fine form despite the long break from this character, Alicia Vikander is truly scrumptious, Vincent Cassell makes for a chilling villain and I can't have enough of Riz Ahmed at this moment. The pounding sound track keeps you on the edge and the last scene with the signature Bourne tune does bring a smile to your face. The movie is only 2 hrs long so doesn't test your patience but one can only hope that they end it here. The last few Bond movies have been nothing to write about and with Bourne winding down, it leaves Ethan Hunt with the unenviable task of giving me my guilty pleasures every 2 years.

Overall rating: 3/5 (more importantly, weakest of the Matt Damon Bourne films)



Sunday, February 28, 2016

Oscars 2016 predos

The Big Short
George Miller
Leonardo DiCaprio
Brie Larson
Sylvester Stallone
Alicia Vikander
Inside out
Amy (documentary)
Spotlight (original screenplay)
The Big Short (adapted screenplay)
The Revenant (cinematography)
Mad Max (costume design)
Mad Max (make up and hair styling)
The Big Short (editing)
The Hateful Eight (musical score)
The Martian (sound mixing)
Mad Max (sound editing)

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Movies in 2015 - End of Year review

I would say 2015 has not been a great year for movies but then I also have to confess that I've not watched as many this year as in the past. Why? There have been changes in both my professional and personal life & I've also become older and lazier so it’s easier to sit at home and watch sitcoms and TV shows than drag my ass to go to a mall, pay Rs. 60 for parking, Rs. 150 for popcorn and Rs. 300 for a ticket and then be disappointed....However, despite the slim pickings, below are 15 movies that I really liked for whatever reasons.

Note: I try and watch as many regional language films as possible but this list is limited to Tamil, Hindi and English which contribute ~90% of my viewing choices

The countdown begins

15      Tanu weds Manu Returns          (Hindi)

Clearly Bollywood is not known for churning out decent sequels but this is an exception though I still like v1 more. What works for this movie is the superb writing except for the first 15 minutes. Some of the really funny one-liners delivered in Punjabi went over my head not helped by the lousy audio in the lousier print I watched (ooops) but Pappi and Chintu were a real hoot and Kangna is the finest actress of her generation (well, I think i will contradict myself later so let’s make it one of the Top 2) so in hindsight, this would definitely count as one of the more enjoyable 2.5 hrs spent this year. 





14
      Detective Byomkesh Bakshi     (Hindi)

I actually thought the plot was reasonably complex, the performances top notch, the period detailing perfect and for someone who hadn't read or seen earlier versions of the titular character, the overall experience was cool. Dibakar is a steady hand, an accomplished director and I hope the relative lack of commercial success of this film does not deter him from pursuing this series further. 

13
      Mad Max: Fury Road    (English)

I've not seen the earlier franchise starring Mel Gibson and for any others whose first taste of this post-apocalyptic fiction was through the film, I am sure the reaction at the end would have been "WOWWWWWWWWW". 

This is one movie where I literally heard my heart pounding so fast that I thought I was gonna have a heart attack any second. The visuals, the stunts, the choreography and cinematography are mind-blowing. Why is the movie not higher in my list? I can only take that much over-the-top....Whew....

If you’ve not seen the movie, check this scene below to help you make up your mind J



12
      The Martian         (English)

Another worthy addition to the awesome space adventure movies that have come and gone in the last 2 years (Gravity, Interstellar to name others), what worked for me was the way Ridley Scott underplayed the melodrama and action scenes. This one works more on your mind than on your heart strings and that is not necessarily a bad thing. I know this probably doesn't make much sense but for people who've seen this movie, I am sure you can relate to what I am saying.....and the 3D is a real bonus. 



11
      NH 10 (Hindi)

This one haunted me for days after I came back from the theatre. We all read about it in the papers and also hear the debates in TV about khap panchayats, hot blooded hooligans and honor killings but very few movies make you sit up and notice how horribly different life in India can be in a 50 kms radius. A couple of dialogues from the movie had me writhing in my seat in unease

"Yahaan bijli paani to pohacha nahi, constitution kya khak pohachega." 

 "Aapki democracy na Gurgaon key aakhri mall pe khatam ho jati hai." 


...and rightly or wrongly, the above scene actually helped me make a career choice. 

When a mainstream actress like Anushka Sharma steps out of her comfort zone and not only acts but also produces a film like this, you know there is hope for the industry. Doff my hat, ma’am. Also, we need to see more of Navdeep Singh please.

10      Demonte Colony   (Tamil)

I am generally not a big fan of the horror genre (maybe coz I am easily spooked) more so in Tamil where the bar is as high as Kanchana but this was one well executed film. Lack of big name stars who do not distract from the story, no unnecessary songs, no needless heroine and a reasonable running time all contributed to what was a highly enjoyable ride. If only the BGM did not follow the usual cliche of "Louder is better", this would have been even higher in my list. Arulnithi makes some interesting movie choices so its high time the industry took him seriously and gave his films better releases and more publicity as compared to a Siva Karthikeyan or a Vimal. 

9        The Man from U.N.C.L.E        (English)

So it wasn't a typical Guy Ritchie movie....it probably didn't have as much swagger as his earlier ventures but it still had enough going for it to give patrons like me a great 2 hours... Check these 2 early scenes in the movie (minor spoilers)





A zingy sound track, a zany plot, 2 lead actors who played off each other fantastically well - what's not to like in this one. Sometimes I "love" movies for the craziest reasons and there is a sequence at the start where German dialogues are sub-titled for the audience in English and the font used was AWESOMEEEEE....  I am not kidding, it’s not the same scene but you can check it out here

8        Talvar         (Hindi)

By now, we've all seen or heard about how incompetent officials can completely bungle investigations, how media coverage can radically cloud and shape public perception, how egos can subvert the search for truth, how societal class differences can ingrain so much bias but what this movies reinforces strongly is how things do not look like they will change (Salman Khan, Peter Mukherjea and so many other stories have hit the headlines after this) and how all of this shit could happen to any of us....and that truly truly scares me. 

7        Kaakka Muttai      (Tamil)

Small is beautiful. You don't need a budget, you don't need stars, all you need is a simple story narrated straight from the heart. ....and the next time, a Kollywood producer eats a pizza, I hope he remembers this.  Kaakka Muttai is a gem that will stand the test of time and my special thanks to Manikandan for re-introducing us all to the curiously spelt Iyshwarya Rajesh. Boy, can she act!!!!! 


6        Inside Out   (English)


I will not be going out on a limb if I claim today that Pixar was, is and will always be studio no: 1 for animated movies. Inside Out is another outstanding addition to their incredible collection of modern day classics. Brilliantly crafted & magically voiced, Inside out explains how emotions inside our head color our memories and shape how we behave with the outside world. Inside Out is many things - thought-provoking, poignant, sweet, funny - but its also bloody damn cerebral and entertaining and that for me, is an absolute clincher.  

5        Bajrangi Bhaijaan (Hindi)

Contrary to what many would like to believe, a good masala movie is the most difficult one to make. You’ve got to get the ingredients (action, comedy, song and dance, drama) absolutely right in terms of proportion and then convince actors/stars to sink in their teeth and give it their all to pull off some of the most outrageous stuff….

All of this means I give Kabir Khan absolutely no credit (surely the producer’s purse strings and Salman Khan is what must have convinced Kareena, Om Puri and Nawaz to sign up before hearing the storyline) and all of the kudos for BB’s success goes to K V Vijayendra Prasad. N-O-W we know story-telling goes deep in the Rajamouli family.  The meta theme of the hero being a righteous, god-fearing, good-Samaritan who can do no wrong tying up so well with Salman’s real life story arc was a masterstroke.

And yes, whoever thought 7 decades of political problems with our noisy neighbours could be solved so easily. While all of us smiled and shed a tear and pinched ourselves to see if what we were seeing on screen was really true, the box office collections ensured that the producers laughed all the way to the bank…and who would grudge them too for providing us wholesome entertainment. Bravo !!

Here, go have a cry and remember, you're not alone J




4        Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation      (English)

I used to be a B-I-G fan of the Bond movies but the MI franchise is fast replacing them as the de-facto guilty pleasure I like to indulge myself once every 2-3 years.
Tom Cruise completely owns Ethan Hunt now and one cannot but marvel at a 53 yr old dude continuing to perform daredevil stunts, each one more ludicrous than the previous. His camaraderie & chemistry with the sidekicks like Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames and Jeremy Renner is crackling and (I never thought I would say this) the opening sequence here is more fun for me than Spectre (ok, sue me).


The plot is not very complex and execution is pretty much by-the-number but who cares as long as the popcorn keeps coming and time flies by. Check out the video below giving details of my favorite scene in the movie.



3        Baahubali   (Tamil)

Words and phrases like Magnum-opus (Kochadaiyaan…hehehe), Epic (Puli??), All time classic (Raja Rani…ROFLLLLL) are bandied about too frequently these days but I will risk criticism and say that Baahubali deserves all of these tags and more.

In a movie of many firsts and greats, what struck me most was Rajamouli’s humungous vision and then the ability to translate that into flawless execution at such a grand scale. We read so many great books, hear awesome stories and then feel disappointed when they make it to reel. Baahubali must have been a tale that Rajamouli wanted to tell for years and his passion and love for the story shows coz when we, the audience, finally see it, we are left gasping for breath.  

What is a set, what is real and what is CGI is often so difficult to delineate that one is amazed at the technical peaks our cinema has scaled. 



Part 1 was released in Bangalore with 90% prints in Telugu, 9% in Hindi and 1% in Tamil so had to watch in on television but Part 2 is an experience I’d rather savor in a giant screen than in my 32 inch TV.

Till summer 2016, one of the biggest mysteries of 2015 – why did Katappa kill Baahubali – will have to remain unanswered.

2        O Kadhal Kanmani        (Tamil)

*start of rant*

I am incredibly biased when it comes to Mani Ratnam but that isn't the reason why OKK comes 2nd in this list. Its just that after seeing the Pyaar Ka Punchnaamas & Hunterrrs of Bollywood masquerading as representative of Young India, its refreshing to see a  59 yr old who blew away my generation through Mouna Raagam in 1986, captured the imagination of the next through Alaipaayuthey in 2000 still get the pulse of the youth right in 2015 through OKK and prove himself relevant in the modern context.

The moneybags who dominate Kollywood these days have identified 8 special days where star movies can release. Back in the days when I was growing up, there were only 4 festivals we celebrated every year - Pongal, Diwali, a Mani Ratnam release and a Kamal/Rajini release depending on which side of the divide you belonged to. For an icon like Mani Ratnam to keep inventing and reinventing himself and still entertain millions speaks volumes for his versatility and caliber.

OKK is his gentle reminder (no obscene middle finger gestures from this gentleman) to his critics that he still has his mojo.

Btw, on the other criticism that I keep hearing about how OKK didn’t tackle the core issue seriously, here is my irritated response - The movie looks at today's youth and the choices facing them and gives you some perspectives on how they make decisions (their thought process, their influences etc). The movie was not meant to be a serious commentary on living in with pros and cons analyzed to death. Period.

*end of rant*

I genuinely liked OKK so much that I watched it twice on screen within a few weeks of its release. So what did I love about the film (hmmm….reliving the movie now through this post) - pretty much everything that we have come to associate as Mani Ratnam tropes

  •  The meet cute - railway station and church scenes
  •   The two leads - what incredible talents, what amazing chemistry
  •   The songs - their lyrics, placement & visualization - helped so much in moving the story fwd. Malargal Kaetaen is so moving, Naane Varugiraen is poetry at its peak, Parandhu Sellava is so imaginatively pictured
  •  The cinematography - yes, it was colourful, picture-postcardish but given that was the palette choice made, it was still wonderfully shot. That segment around Maula Wa springs to mind immediately
  •  The climax conflict - shot in pouring rain, the pain, anguish, confusion and insecurity is so brilliantly acted out through looks and glances
*sigh* Oh, to be young again !!!
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  • I - 2 yrs that Vikram will never get back in his life but then is that necessarily a bad thing...and Shankar has another flop. The start of the end?
  • Yennai Arindhaal - another long, snooze fest from GVM who keeps rehashing his own movies again and again and again and again and...you get where I am going with this. The name Hemanika was probably the one original thing in the whole film
  • Enakkul Oruvan - should have probably seen Lucia first but honestly this was one trippy movie which confused the heck out of me. I still don’t get parts of it. Maybe I should be the one who first screams "The emperor aunt wearing clothes"
  • Uttama Villain - a fantastic concept gone awry purely because Kamal tends to go way overboard with his smart ideas and I-am-too-intelligent-for-you touches
  • Dil Dhadakne Do - how the mighty have fallen !!! Luck by chance was simple yet endearing but with every subsequent venture, Zoya has been slipping down the slope. This story of the rich and famous had me yawning 10 mts in and even a loutish Ranveer could not salvage this wreck.
  • Baby - ok, this is not a bad movie but what was all that hype about? For movies dealing with Dawood and mafia/underworld, D-Day was better, much better despite it starring Shruti "shudders" Haasan & Arjun "Teakwood" Rampal. Akshay, Rana and Taapsee are an odd team who just don’t look like a unit together.

Amongst other must-watch movies, I didn’t get a chance to really get down to watching the below movies...


  • Piku, Bombay Velvet, Prem Ratan Dhan Paayo, Masaan, Titli, Shaandaar
  • 36 Vayadhinile, Maya, Kuttram Kadithal, Darling, Bench Talkies
  • Bridge of Spies, Cinderella, Trainwreck, Spy, Tomorrowland


*and now for the movie of 2015.....drumroll.......*

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Wimbledon 2015 musings

It was a superb 2nd Semis y'day but now that I've had time to reflect on the match and also skim through the match reports on the net, I differ from the vast majority. contrary to popular belief, I dont think Andy Murray played really well yesterday. He did ok but was blown away by a man who was playing at his absolute peak...and the real shame is that Federer was doing it a month short of the ripe old age of 34. Sigh.

Federer's first serve percentage was an incredible 76% and he won 85% of those points... but they were not freebees like a Karlovic ace. Federer was clever - he varied the speed and kick on his serve so often that it caught his opponent unawares. It didnt help that Andy was standing so way back behind the baseline and trying to push fwd as he returned since Federer was also constantly varying the direction of his serves - to the body, wide out, down the line - that Andy couldnt even guess and move in for the kill. Edberg has brought a lot of variety into Federer's game plan so much so that we see RF go to the net more often (even on his 2nd serve talking of which my 2nd serve is better than Andy's) and the way he uses his backhand is so different from how it was 2 years ago - he slices more often and when you least expect it, whips that down the line shot a la Wawrinka or Gasquet.

The finals? I can see RF winning it though its the last thing I want. Not that I care too much for Djoker but it would be nice for Becker to put one over Edberg hence my loyalties are firmly in the Djoker corner. Till Sunday.....

PS: Nice to see Sania doing well in the doubles and mixed....Rooting for her and the Swiss miss to both do the double.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

TV musings

I know Thomas Friedman used the term in a different context but can I misappropriate it for my next observation on Television.

The World is truly flat. 

Yeterday's TV shows screened in America are available today in India... Globalization has well and truly kicked in....and am I loving it !!!

So, The Newsroom is winding down to the last few episodes and The Americans premieres in late January, House of Cards Season 3 in late February & Sherlock god-knows-when. So what do I do in the meanwhile? I just finished Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip for the 2nd time and it was so much fun watching Bradley Whitford, Amanda Peet, Matthew Perry and co: that its finally dawning on me that Sorkin could never be back in TV again and boy, would I miss him. Sigh.

Anyway, read this interesting piece on Best 20 shows of 2014 and was surprised by a few names in the list.

I am really now intrigued by Orange is the new black & Louie (which is actually showing on Indian telly).

Till January, here I go....

EPL mid-season review


14 games is a fair time to pass judgement on a season well underway so just before we get into the Festive season fixtures, here is my team of the season so far

Courtois
Clyne - Cahill - Terry - Cresswell
Alexis - Matic - Fabregas - Downing
Aguero - Costa

Subs
Forster
Ivanovic
Alderweireld
Montero
Sigurdsson
Pelle
Bony

Manager: Ronald Koeman

Yes, it is quite heavy on Saints but I have been mightily impressed by them and they deserve all the accolades they are getting despite the recent reverses.

My tips for the season

  • Chelsea to win by 6 points
  • City, Utd and Arsenal to finish in the CL Places.
  • Southampton and Spurs to play Thursday night football.
  • Everton and Swansea to miss out on Europe.
  • Aston Villa, QPR and Burnley to get relegated. Leicester squeak through on the last day.  


...and while we are at it, Real Madrid to successfully defend La Decima. Mourinho to park the bus and beat Guardiola in one of the earlier rounds. Everton to go far in the Europa league, maybe even till last 4.

You heard it here first.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Terrible time at the movies


Its been a while since I did detailed movie reviews but I hardly get the time these days nor can I summon the energy to sit back and (re)think on how I felt when I was actually watching the mostly insipid fare being dished out these days... However, there is a reason why I was compelled to jot this blog entry down and the reason is the last movie that I will cover in the post so read on....

2 STATES

Lets get this clear straight off the bat - Chetan Bhagat does not write literary masterpieces but no one call deny that he pens what I call "real timepass" books which are perfect for a few laughs, a quick cry and a good 2 hours of all masala entertainment elements  packaged in the right propotion. As his protagonist Krish in the semi-autobiographical 2 States says early on, the story should always be honest (and relatable) and the story is the real hero. Most of Bhagat's books lend themselves to screen very easily and though the adaptations have been mxed so far (loved Kai Po Che, didn't really fancy 3 Idiots), I was quite looking fwd to seeing 2 States in reel.

Short verdict: If you aren't a fan of Alia Bhatt, stay miles away from this movie. The film is a DUMMY's GUIDE TO REGIONAL STEREOTYPES and while the book treated all of this in a lighter vein, the movie takes itself too seriously and ends up boring you to bits. Arjun Kapoor is horribly miscast and if it weren't for his lineage, he would have probably become a librarian or a musuem curator.    

HASEE THO PHASEE

There are just 3 reasons why you should even give this product from Karan Johar's stable a shot - Parineeti Chopra who is increasingly looking like she could be the Juhi Chawla of this generation (cute, likeable and genuinely capable of performing if pushed by the director), Mohan Joshi who is one of the finest, under-utilised character artists of Bollywood and Vinil Mathew, the director, for having the guts to create on paper one of the truly "hatke" heroines of recent times (she is a geeky scientist who actually has no shame in trying to steal her sister's fiance) before the inevitable surrender to the machinations of his producer when he started shooting the film.

Everything else about this movie is a problem - the story, screenplay, music, tone, I could go on and on - and I cannot imagine why/how Anurag Kashyap got himself associated with this?

QUEEN

Very few movies in recent times have got as much universal critical acclaim and commercial success as Queen and more so, when the starcast is led by a heroine (Kahaani is probably an exception but I thought Vidya was strictly ok in it not mind blowing). When expectations are this high, you are only bound to get disappointed so I had been avoiding seeing this movie for a loooooong time till I was left with no choice but to give it a shot during a long 15 flight journey... and by god, WHAT A MOVIE... W-H-A-T   A   M-O-V-I-E !!!!

There's nothing that I can say here that has probably not been covered in earlier reviews so without going gaga over Kangna, let me draw your attention to one person. In a role that screams LOSER in caps and bold and 42 Times New Roman, Rajkumar Rao nails the character of Vijay. If this were Hollywood, where length of the role doesn't matter and stars still do "guest appearances", Rajkumar Rao would probably be nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar and might actually win it too. He is really THAT GOOD !!! Forget Shahid and Kai Po Che, watch Queen and watch it just for him.

...and yes, the music in Queen is a dream. If Amit Trivedi's songs rocked as a stand alone sound track, it is ten times better within the movie.  

JILLA

It takes a special kind of talent to get two big stars like Vijay and Mohanlal together and then mess things up bad.... REAL BAD. Director Nesan pulls off this miraculous feat with aplomb in Pongal 2014's biggie Jilla.

If Nesan learnt his early trade under Bhagyaraj, then he clearly wasn't paying much attention as the movie clearly shows the influence of his other mentor Vincent Selva, the man behind brilliant (cough cough) movies like Priyamudan, Iraniyan etc.

The only way to enjoy Jilla is to go to the theatre with your friends and have an ongoing guessing contest on predicting what will happen in the next scene. Warning alert: Its bound to be a high scoring game with every mistake costing you - the winning score is likely to be in the high nineties in terms of percentages.

Its also sad to see a star like Mohanlal playing paycheck roles like these but I am told his Malayalam potboilers are worse and I cannot even imagine that. What worries me more is Vijay's tendency to keep going back to these old horrible templates just when you think he's doing well for himself in v3.0...but then I remember this is the guy who sent DVDs of his old movies (Vishnu, Chandralekha, Coimbatore Mapillai, Selva) to Shankar after he had made Jeans and asked him to write a script to suit his own image *shudder shudder*

Jilla is illogical and silly and also mind-numbingly long at 182 minutes (almost sat through 3 airline meals). What's worse is that it is going to be remade in both Kannada and Telugu. God  save audiences who escaped this monstrosity the first time around.

....which brings us to the magnum opus of 2014 Tamil Cinema (and I say this with complete confidence despite there being another 3 months in the year)

ANJAAN

The story (or whatever poses as one) is as old as the Old Testament. It is a routine revenge drama told with no energy or novelty. I have seen movies of the same genre starring Sarath Kumar and  Namitha (i think) narrated with more panache. The pacing is dull and dreary, critical events unfold with no sense of edge or tension and just when something seems to finally be happening, there is a horrible interruption in the form of a tedious song. The sound track is one of the worst in Yuvan's stuttering career and it isn't helped by gimmicky stunts like getting Surya to sing. The lyrics are cringeworthy - sample this

Sirippu En Speciality
Silk Smitha Community
Day By Day Majority
Take It Easy Mentality

Hey Paapa Pola Maturity
Ada Pasanga Kootam Security
Yen Azhagukae Naan Authority
Yen Adimai Indha Mumbai City

The dialogues, btw,  are no better. Cliches abound - the cartoonish Dubai based don, the honest Muslim, the sincere cop, the double crossing aide - and there is no attempt to even try and relate things in a logical fashion. Casting choices provide a lot of unintended comic relief with Vidyut Jamwal a sureshot winner for a Raspberry or a Golden Kela.

I cannot fathom why respected artists & technicians like Manoj Bajpai, Santhosh Sivan can sign up to something as moronic as this. Samantha is on record saying she worked in Anjaan to give herself an image make-over.  Why just wear a bikini and play a token bimbette love interest for a ruthless gangster in a C Grade masala potboiler. Why not go whole hog and do a Penthouse centrespread?

Nothing about the movie makes any sense. No one associated with the project (starting from the producer to the director, actors, technicians) seems to have cared about the end product. Their only concern seems to have been to start, shoot, cut, release & make a fast buck.

How did someone sell this project to Surya?
You've tried being different in 7aum arivu and Maattrraan (Lost count of the T,R,As) and it did not work - we just commissioned a survey on what will work in all our major markets (Tamil Nadu, Andhra, Kerala and Hindi dubbing rights) and this is the script that covers  ALL the major findings.

Its 20 years since Baasha released and we've not had one memorable Gangster movie post that. Let's do this. Why will it work? The story is set in Mumbai (location sentiment) and we just cannot fail (let's just forget Thalaivaa for a moment).

Surya bhai, I've designed a look for you in this film that would do even Marlon Brando proud. You have a tooth pick in your mouth and that makes you look realllly menacing. How is it????

All this might have been true if it were a newcomer but this was a Lingusamy effort.... so did he just tell Surya "I made Paiyaa and that was your brother's last hit. Trust me. This WILL work."

Whatever it is, I pity Surya. I read he was very offended when people trashed Anjaan within hours of its release. Has Surya become so sensitive that he cannot tolerate criticism? Yes, some of it was downright spiteful but the film absolutely deserves it. If he cannot admit it himself, then I am sorry, its time to wake up and smell the coffee. 

For now, I am staying miles away from the films of the two brothers... till they fire their PAs who screen the scripts or till Sivakumar gives them a right, old fashioned spanking. Not holding my breath though.