Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Movies Seen: The President is Coming, Little Zizou

A 2009 satire directed by Kunaal Roy Kapur (his directorial debut) and shot in documentary style. The U.S President is coming to India, and 6 young Indians from different backgrounds have been shortlisted for a competition that will see one of them shake hands with the head of state. As they're put through the rounds, we get a look at at not just their quirks and faults, but their reasons for being there.

Fellow ex-Andrian Anand Tiwari plays money-obsessed Gujju stockbroker Kapil Dev. You might remember him from the Tata Tea Jaago Re campaign. Konkona Sen Sharma plays a very unique Bengali writer/social worker. Namit Das plays the closet homosexual IT guy. Vivek Gomber plays a US-returned accent coach. Ira Dubey (from Chicks on Flicks) plays a rich airhead. Satchit Puranik plays a Maratha traditionalist. Shivani Tanksale and Sherrnaz Patel play PR reps in charge of the competition.

The movie is fun and light. Not a perfect movie, but funny in many many parts. I particularly like that the documentary style narrative is regularly broken up by animation showing the contestants on a  race track. Yes, there are unrealistic parts, but the unique characters with their typical Indianisms kind of make up for that.

A 2009 English, Gujarati & Hindi film directed by Sooni Taraporevala (her directorial debut too), about the relationships between 2 Parsi families in Mumbai. 

Xerxes, or little Zizou, is a football-crazy boy. His older brother Art, a school dropout and artist. Their father Khodaiji is some kind of new-fangled Parsi spiritualist/evangelist, harking back to tradition and advocating the creation of a Parsi army. Then there's the Pressvalas - Boman, who takes pot shots at Khodaiji through his newspaper, his wife and two daughters. The wife looks after Zizou, much to the younger daughter's chagrin, while Art has a crush on the older daughter, who likes someone else. And through all this conflict, we manage to find resolve, closure and a happy ending.

Warm, homely and beautiful. Again, not a perfect movie, you're not sure where the story is going at times, but you don't seem to care, which is why this is highly recommended. The acting seems natural. Boman Irani doesn't disappoint. Watch out for cameos by John Abraham, Kamal Sidhu, Cyrus Broacha & Kunal Vijaykar.


Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Taking Good Photos With Any Camera

19 Sep, 2009 - During a train ride, a photographer friend borrows my Powershot A570 IS and shoots the stains on the window sill in macro mode. I'm impressed with the result. Proof that a good photographer can do wonders with relatively basic equipment.

It's been said before, but I'll say it again. 

1. You can take good photos with any camera. 
2. You do not need an SLR to be a good photographer. 

These sound like cliches, but they're true. Why then, you might ask, do professional gotographers use SLRs? Because SLRs offer benefts that Point and Shoot cameras don't . They have larger sensor sizes, and more features, and are more versatile, offering their users more options, allowing them to take better photos in adverse conditions, and better quality photos overall. But these benefits won't make much of a difference unless you know how to utilise them. The single greatest camera feature is still the photographer. 

Yes, an SLR is a better buy if you're looking for superior image quality and certain other features, but If you own an SLR but can't make use of what it has to offer, you've simply wasted your money. On the other hand, you might own a simple Point and Shoot, but if you're smart enough to know how to get the most out of it, you can take excellent pictures that match and even surpass those of SRLs. It's not just about what you have but how you use it.

The point I'm trying to make is, every camera can take spectacular shots, though some offer you more options than others. But what really counts are your skills as a photographer. So go ahead and buy an SLR if you want to, but take the trouble to learn what makes a good photo, and your camera's features. Don't just end up shooting JPEGs in Auto mode without an inkling of how your shot is composed.



Friday, 12 November 2010

Movies Seen: The Notebook, What Doesn't Kill You

A 2004 sappy film, starring Rachel McAdams & Ryan Gosling. Stay away if you don't like that kind of thing. Rachel McAdams is much better kicking ass in Red Eye.

A 2008 gangster street film, written and directed by Brian Goodman and based on his life story, about 2 friends who get into a life of crime at an early age, their life on the street, their struggles, their stint in jail, and coping with life outside. Realistic, gritty and a good watch. Mark Ruffalo & Ethan Hawke are cast well.

The soundtrack is good too. Here's a sample:



Thursday, 11 November 2010

Why We Travel

                            Market in McLeod Ganj - 11 June, 2009

I've always wondered why people travel. And what the whole point of travelling is.

People didn't always travel for leisure, did they? In ye olden times, most people only travelled because it was a means to get things done, for civilian work or military purposes. Travel was never an escape, it was a necessity. If anything, it was just the rich who travelled, to experience something new, a change in scenery perhaps, or an activity to kill boredom.

Maybe that was it. The only people who did travel for enjoyment, did so because it wasn't a necessity for them. Maybe when something becomes a necessity, it's no longer enjoyable? So in order to enjoy travel, you had to have the luxury of not being forced to partake in it? Reasonable? 

Over time, travel spread to other sections of society. As more and more people got the means to travel i.e money, and the time away from work, travel became a popular pastime.

Still, many people don’t travel today – they're happy doing what they always do – going about their normal everyday jobs. These people, you will observe, are mostly involved in traditional occupations - farming, fishing, etc. - that involve a lot of time. Also, the people in these occupations just don't seem to want to travel. They are happy as they are, with no urge to see the outside world. Contrast this with modern professionals who might be busy, but still dream of travel.

What separates the traditionalists from the modernists? The non-travelers from the travelers? Do some people get the travel itch? Or is it peer pressure? Or something else? It's difficult to say. Maybe all people get the travel itch, to some extent, and some just suppress it, while others act on it.

But what exactly is this travel itch. What makes people travel? What motivates them? Is it the desire to see or experience new things, peer pressure, an opportunity to give yourself bragging rights? Some people travel to experience new sights, sounds and smells. I guess that's O.K. Many people travel to just take photographs. I can identify with that. But what about going that extra step, finding out about the story behind the photo? I'm talking about new wholesome experiences rather than just sights, sounds and smells. It seems few people want to do that. Travel for most is travel for the sake of change.

I think I've identified at least 3 trains of thought above - the evolution of travel, why some of us don't travel, and what travel really is. 

Your thoughts are welcome.


Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Movies Seen: The American Astronaut, The Illusionist

A 2001 space-western & musical film - weird, visually striking, artsy and boring. Great colours and camera work. Got the feel of a Western. But a story that's too strange to follow seriously. An attempt at a cult film gone flat.

A 2006 film directed by Neil Burger. A lower-class magician falls in love with an upper-class girl. A doomed romance. She's engaged to a possessive bully, from who the magician helps her escape.

The film's got a bit of a fairy-tale feel to it, with some amount of predictability. It is watchable but not as good as that other movie released in 2006 that also dealt with magic - The Prestige. The Illusionist is more romance than rivalry. The major saving grace here is the acting. Paul Giamatti, Ed Norton, and Rufus Sewell perform well as always.



Monday, 8 November 2010

Why there are No White People in Khandala

    Khandala, 29 Aug 2009. I don't see any foreign tourists here, do you?

Recently, I was speaking with an American gentlemen who happens to be a regular traveller to Mumbai. One of the questions I asked him was why most foreign tourists to Mumbai only hang out around Colaba, when there are beautiful places to see outside the city. I assumed this was because most guidebooks aimed at foreign tourists only publicise the town bit (see Dear Lonely Planet India), which of course brought up another question - why the guidebook focus on town?

His answer was, most foreign tourists who come to India don't have much time to see the whole country. Many of them have taken leave from work to be here, giving them maybe 2/3 weeks for their trip. And then they try to fit in as many places into that time period, leaving them with maybe just 2/3 days to see Mumbai. As such, the guidebooks try to reflect this reality, giving those people interested in spending only a few days in Mumbai the relevant information they need i.e. the must-sees like Colaba, Elephanta, Haji Ali, etc.

And here I was wondering why I don't see white people in Khandala.


Sunday, 7 November 2010

Movies Seen: The Hangover, Robin Hood

A 2009 movie directed by Todd Phillips. Reminiscent of previous bachelor party films. An okayish comedy. A few laugh out loud moments. The second Bradley Cooper film I'm seeing in a month. He's come a long way since Alias.

A 2010 Ridley Scott film, exploring the origins of Robin Hood. Excellent sets/props as usual, what you'd expect form a Ridley Scott film. I enjoyed the history lessons too, but being big-budget Hollywood, the narrative is just a little bit too simplistic. Still, I was with it until the end, when little kids on ponies help defeat the French army. That was a bit too much.



Monday, 1 November 2010

India Music Event Listings

I was asked recently about Indian websites that list live music events. It seems one of the main ones - Gigpad - is now shut. I wasn't too sure about alternate options, but I've since done a little research and included what I've found below. Please feel free to add to the list.

Collative sites:

After I sent out a tweet, Yorick pointed me to NH7, a new music everything site with news, reviews, upcoming gigs and interactive features.

And friend NS sent me a link to Indivibe, for updates on the Indian clubbing scene, and Submerge, for the EDM scene.

Burrp also sprang to mind. Though primarily aimed and food and restaurant listings and reviews, they've expanded into all types of events - art, music, dance, etc. I love their web interface, subscribe to their newsletter, and think it's a great way to keep updated about events in your city.

Book my Show is another site I remembered. The site lists a lot of gigs, even non-music ones, and you can book and pay online.

Kyazoonga also lists a few live events and lets you book online.

And there's Reverbnation. They list local events and let you follow groups you like.

Music Venues:

For venue-specific listings, you could always visit or subscribe to feeds from websites/blogs or e-newsletters of places in your city that host gigs, like the NCPA, Hard Rock Cafe, Blue Frog & B69 in Mumbai.


For those of you in the music business, the Indian Music Conference site might come in handy for upcoming meetings, places to network, and a few live event updates (hat tip - textualoffender)

Updates anyone?