Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Dhammoniker

Dheymooooooooooo - resounded someone’s voice, across the corridor, one afternoon in October 1996. The sound sounded like a cow in labour uttering a plaintive cry – You know how cows go moo, moo, mooooo. I was wondering who that might be referring to. Then I saw Debi, my hostel rep walking towards me cheerfully calling me Dheymoo again. It was then I realized that my name had been slaughtered at the altar of hostel nicknames – where anything that is longer than 2 syllables gets truncated into something that can be said quickly. For ex, Balasubramaniam/n, a standard name in the southern part of India, becomes Balls! Punit Mahajan becomes Puma, Punit Kohli becomes Puko! Yecch! I guess you get the idea. Sometimes you wish your parents had been wiser and not given you a name that sounded like some old cinema poster by the side of the road, the kind that everyone spits on!

Then came the Dharmoo, from my rather kinder friends from TN. Then some other people came up with Dhammo, the one I have carried on till date. After the first year of hostel life, nicknames rarely change unless you accomplish something uncommon - like cracking the GRE, topping the class, etc – in which case you acquire “Topper, Studboy, Cracko,” and the likes. Once “Dhammo” stuck, the task that faced my pals was to conjure various combos that could be generated from Dhammo. And they were particularly creative when we were on our way to or back from some college fest, when we had nothing to do, other than take digs at each other. Hence came Dhaemilie – for my rather wild comparisons (Dhammo’s simile) – the most famous being, “ Michael Chang is like a random number,” since he could be found anywhere on court! What would you call a group of Dhammo’s friends – Dhammunity, of course! And what would you call me when I went out with the women- Prince Dharming! What else!

My rather wild habits and affinity for arm wrestling contributed Dhammonster, since I fought like a demon. What would you call me if I could breed propagate my kind independently? Dharmaphrodite.

Thus, we had the following
My propaganda mag – Dhammunist Manifesto. My lack of intelligence – Dhumbo.
My song – Dhummer of 69
My business – Dhommerce
My ads – Dhammercials
My temperature monitor – Dharmameter.
My life of religious tolerance - Dhammunal Harmony
My sadness – Dhammoroseness
My blow - Dharmadi (for those who don’t know colloquial Tamil, Dharmadi is a popular saying for a beating that public bestow upon offenders!)
My designer line – Dharmani!
My favourite vehicle – Dhummer
My bird - Dhumming Bird
My snack – Dhammosa
My season - Dhammonsoon
My forgetfulness- Dhamnesia
My weapons – Dhammunition
My own blue paper - Dhammonia paper
My car - Dhammaruti
My literary work – Dhammoon and Six Pence
My sweet – Dhammoon
My stage production - Dhammusical
My cinema – Dhammovie
My exam format – Dhammultiple Choice
My messages – Dhammunication
My meetings – Dhammune
My favourite cola – Dhums Up (Its actually Thums Up, but I like the way it sounds!)
My pests – Dhammosquitoes
My Russian town – Dhammoscow
My strength – Dhammuscular power
My bomb – Dhammolotov cocktail
My army alter ego – Dhammander
My painter alter ego – Dhammonet
My pay – Dhompensation
My calculator – Dhumputer
My persuasion – Dhompulsion
My encyclopaedia – Dhompendium
My recipe - Dhombination
My version of Bombay Boys - Dhum On baby!
My scooter – Dhamara Bajaj
My charm – Dhammystique
My wish – Dhammanna
My Tamilian alter ego – Dhamby
My flattery - Dhammaska
My shopping arcade – Dhammarketplace
My building blocks – Dhammolecules
My Mediterranean hangout – Dhammascus
My artiste from the 60s – Dhammuddy Waters
My changes – Dhammodification
My evil influence – Dharmful Effect
My fondness for size – Dhammegalomania
My sea creatures – Dhammolluscs
My pets – Dhammestic animals
My poll candidate – Dhammanchurian Candidate
My eyeliner – Dhammascara
My spice – Dhammustard
My TV series – Dhammonty Python
My WWF alterego – Dhammacho man
My movement - Dharmodynamics
My species – Dhammo Sapien
My device - Dhammachine
My spells – Dhammagic
My explorer alterego – Dhammarco Polo

Phew! There are Dhammany more of them. But I shall stop. Now you know why I call this blog Dhammoniker!

By the way there is this friend of mine whom we called Saand (“saand” is bull in Hindi) and then there were more derivatives of the same, like Saandwich is his favourite snack, his story would be called Saands of time and son. But then that’s another story!

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Amsterdam

Amsterdam must be the most fiendishly written book that has won public acclaim in recent times, with the exception of The Life of Pi. It is magnificent prose that is sparingly used, with telling black humour. Perhaps it didn’t hurt the novel that one of the two main characters Vernon Halliday, is a newspaper editor!

Ian McEwan is blessed with a killer sense of dark humour, which lurks around unexpected corners like a twisted psychopath! Amsterdam is a short book, only 193 pages long (if you buy the Anchor Books edition that I bought) and is delightful to read. In fact the pages and cover of the copy I have are soft all through, like they were made of butter or something. And before I get lost in praising the physicality of the book, I must return to the story – Amsterdam describes the story of two friends, both ex lovers of a woman, at whose death they meet. They arrive at a pact that whichever of them reaches a pathetic state (much like the end their former beloved woman, met), the other shall help him reach a quick end. As the back cover describes, it is left to the reader to race thru the remaining pages of the novel to see who kills whom!

Absolutely wicked stuff! And such fun to read. There’s no vulgarity or titillation. The novel is much like alcohol coursing through one’s veins gradually weaning away consciousness, even as the reader helplessly loses control to it. The description of characters, especially in the newspaper’s office brings to mind the satirical writing of Saki. Then there is the talented composer, Clive, the other main character, who is composing the closing notes of his grand and successful career as a composer. And then there is the now familiar characterization of the British politician, who is making his way through the ranks (for anyone who’s read Alan Holinghurst’s Line of Beauty with the character Gerald Fedden). And some assorted men and women, including Molly Lane, the object of affection of both the main characters, whose demise sets the tone for the novel.

Read it and tell me how much you like it.

Monday, March 28, 2005

3 day weekend

I am really glad that I was born in India. We get holidays for all religious occasions regardless of whether we celebrate them or not :).

Last Friday was a double festival day with Holi & Good Friday deciding to coincide. So the opportunity was ripe for me to catch up on some movies I hadn’t seen thus far.
So I decided to do some sincere movie watching even doing a night-out (a marathon sleepless night - for those unfamiliar with the term). And the movies I saw were in the following order – starting out on Friday night and finishing early Saturday morning.

Lost in Translation (LIT)
Get Shorty
The Aviator
Ray
Polar Express
Million Dollar Baby

The Aviator being almost a 3 hour flick was the only one difficult to watch as its not so gripping or amusing, despite a decent performance by Cate Blanchett and a particularly impressive act by Leonardo di Caprio. Morgan Freeman is fantastic in Million Dollar Baby. Hilary Swank is not so great that she had to win an Oscar. But then whoever said that the Oscars are given only to the best. Lost In Translation was the pick of the lot. Sivani has already posted a nice review of LIT, saying all that I wanted to say about it. And like Megha says, I don’t post reviews on topics that people have already posted about, especially if they have said most of what I have to say! ;)

Better still, I bought 5 books – 4 of them Booker winners

1973 The Siege of Krishnapur by J. G. Farrell
1998 Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
1999 Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee
2000 The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon, which is a Whitbread prize winner.

I already possess The Life of Pi (2002 winner) and Vernon God Little (2003 winner)

So if I buy True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey (which I have traced in an obscure bookshop in Bangalore for Rs 90!!!), I shall have all winning books from 1998 to 2003. And I have read the 2004 winner (The Line of Beauty by Alan Holinghurst). And I must admit that thus far, none of the Booker winners, has been a disappointment.

I have already begun reading Amsterdam thanks to a terrifying traffic jam this morning where I spent 45 mins in the cab to travel 300m. Should post its review in another day or two!

My acquisition of the 5 books above is a story in itself.
I had made my decision to buy 2, 3 and 4 above last week when I went to the Oxford Book Store last week, when I had bought a few more books on paintings, but had wanted to buy them all together. I believe in the All or Nothing principle. Besides Oxford didn’t have all of them and neither did the people there know much about the books I wanted. That switched me off!
So I waited for the weekend when I could really go around Bangalore and shop.
I bought the book no 1 at a second hand bookshop in Bangalore called Select Book Shop. Then I moved onto Crossword which had none of the above. Book no 4 was available from Blossoms which specializes in books at lower prices, since they have been bought off wholesale or simply because they haven’t been sold for a long time and are hence getting old. Book no 5 was bought off the footpath on MG Road. Book no 3 was available at my favourite outlet – Premier Book Shop. Since they were doing annual stock taking, they couldn’t procure it for me. Usually the owner gets me all that I want from somewhere if he doesn’t have it. To finf book no 2, I went to Nagasri, which is another nice place to pick up books. Unfortunately they were closed on Sunday. I was hoping Landmark would have it and had to a major circuit tour of Bangalore and go to mall, which is something I hate. But then all for a noble cause. Landmark had just 2 copies and your truly picked up one of them :).

Very soon, I shall be posting details of each of the bookshops above. All of them are great places for bibliophiles who are also bargain hunters, with the exception of Landmark, which has no discounts.

Phew! And thus, I have completed another hectic weekend!!!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Remains of the Day

“Don’t keep looking back all the time. You are bound to get depressed,” says a character to the protagonist, Stevens towards the end of this book. How true.

(As an interesting aside, in The Catcher In The Rye (my favourite book), Holden Caulfield mentions something similar about never telling anybody anything. It is going to make you feel said anyway)

Kazuo Ishiguro’s fine work set in post-First World War England, maintains a very English tempo all through the novel. Slow life, Idyllic scenery. Ordinary events. But overall an extraordinary work of tragic romance.

The book describes 6 days in the travels of a butler, Stevens - who’s encouraged by his employer to go see the outside world. The employer Mr. Farraday even offers to pay for the gas and offers his car, a splendid Ford for the adventure. Stevens uses the opportunity to try and settle some staffing matter in Darlington Hall, by visiting an old friend and ex-colleague Miss Kenton (then Mrs. Benn), in addition to exploring England, which he has never done in his life. The unfolding of the subsequent events is one fantastic tale of relationships of all sorts – Farraday and Stevens, Lord Darlington and Stevens, Stevens and Kenton, etc against the backdrop of British politics & society of the era. In fact the book even does discuss anti-Semitism.

Ishiguro excels at sketching out characters that tug at your heartstrings. You know the feeling when we were kids and were watching an action movie, where the hero is getting beaten up. We couldn’t wait to see what happens in the end - whether the hero gets the heroine in the end and manages to outwit the villains. That’s the feeling that one gets when one is reading “The Remains of the Day.” The protagonist, Stevens is the quintessential stiff upper lip – despite being only a butler. One would expect that a butler’s discretion is tested fairly frequently much like a chauffeur’s would be. Stevens, the “loyal & dignified” butler, keeps to himself, even while being challenged by the upstart Reginald Cardinal (Lord Darlington’s godson), who persuades him, in vain, to see his master’s follies. Stevens is also very tight lipped about his love for Miss Kenton, even till the very end. Miss Kenton, on the other hand does profess her affection for him more than once on different occasions in different forms, and finally explicitly when much water has flown under the bridge. Then there’s Stevens’ father, himself a butler, whom Stevens tries to emulate, to sometimes ridiculous limits. Then there are the sundry characters dotting the English countryside, that lend realism to the tale. What stays with the reader (apart from Stevens & Kenton) are two characters from the closing chapters of the book – a certain Dr. Carlisle, who offers some wisdom to Stevens and an unnamed gentleman, who gives the novel a fitting end, while trying to restore some parity to the life of the despairing Stevens. But one can’t help but have a drink to the life of Stevens, who does carry out much of his life, adhering to the norms of what a butler’s life must follow (according to the hallowed Hayes society and as demonstrated by the pillars of his profession) and uphold the values of the “diginified” profession.


The novel is a fine, tragic but romantic work. Must Read.

One can well imagine Anthony Hopkins as Stevens and Emma Thomson as Miss Kenton in the movie version. In fact one would expect that none other than Merchant-Ivory could have done justice to the movie. Let me write about it when I see the movie.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Italian Job

Why should I say I love this movie? Because its got Donald Sutherland whom I like for some strange reason. Ever since I saw him whistle and silence those dogs in “The Eagle has landed,” I have been a fan of his. Or is it because of the reference to Napster by one of the characters and some multiple nerdy scenarios with him incl. “You can’t shut down the real Napster,” in what must be one of the most adorable “thumbing the nose,” scenes in movies! Or is it because of Edward Norton, who excels at being the vulnerable evil guy in a movie? Or the prevalence of Money by Floyd all thru the movie? Or due to the fantastic background score & music by John Powell? Maybe all of these reasons. And hey, don’t forget the Mini Cooper. I want one :)Someone please put together a “Contribute to D’s Mini Cooper fund!” The flick is slick and hence I shall stop raving and recommend you see it if you haven’t already. If you have seen it, see it again and enjoy the show! A slick movie deserves a slick review ;)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A17JEV7KDFAHGS/ref=cm_cr_auth/104-9364640-3427910

New Book, New Movie and happiness in its many manifestations

I bought Kazuo Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day and the VCD of The Italian Job at Crossword (with some coupon I had for Shopper’s Stop) today. There are very few things which get me as excited as a nice movie and a good book (which itself has been made into a fantastic movie). I will be spending the next week reading the book and am seeing the movie tonight. Edward Norton is amongst my favourite actors for bringing an uncommon intensity to his acting. I love intense actors (or more generically intense people). Review in the next blog

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Hectic Weekend!

If you thought that weekends couldn’t be hectic, here’s how my weekend went. First I am working with my boss on reviewing some work on Friday night. While we are doing that, boss gets a mail which says that my work is postponed by 2 weeks. Boss tells me that I should leave early and leave for Madras for a quiz that I had been planning to attend.

I had ditched plans to attend this quiz since I was very keen on finishing my work. For whatever reason I managed to get my dad at the 11th hour, book tickets, rush home, pack luggage and leave for Madras!

Saturday begins at the home of a friend (Subodh) in Adyar, where I get ready for a long and hectic day. First breakfast at one outlet of a chain of restaurants in Madras called Sangeetha. Next stop for booking return tickets. Along comes Ramakant (my friend, philosopher, guide and batchmate from IIML) who’s gotten married recently. After we say hi to his new family, we move on a bookshop named Odyssey. After I have shortlisted some books I shall be buying soon, we leave.

By the way, there’s this new book called “Things that Work” which has been put together by some Department of the Central Government for some grievances etc! Its got a lovely cover which has a falling apple. Its got contributions by some change agents in modern India, describing things they spearheaded - NRN Murthy on the Infy story, Chandrababu Naidu on egovernance, Verghese Kurien on the AMUL story, etc. I would it to recommend anyone who wants to evangelize for India to buy this book. Atleast you will have some nice, optimistic stuff to talk about India and not crib about x1, x2, x3 – xn. If any of you wants to buy this, its Rs.495. I can buy it and send it to you and it should still cost less if you are abroad and want to buy this. Also checked out a book named Maximum City by a guy named Suketu about Mumbai (A pal had recommended it after reading my blog on Mumbai). Seems readable. So for now, I have 2 books on my wishlist.

After this, I went to West Mambalam in an auto, driven by an interesting driver. One of the advantages of being able to speak multiple languages is that you can strike up a conversation with most people, with little effort. My auto driver and me got talking about traffic in Madras. I did my own share of flaunting telling him how Delhi’s traffic is the scariest as you don’t know which way people will go. Only the roads suck in Bangalore! From my limited knowledge of Madras. I was trying to tell him that only Chetpet and Nungambakkam had jams in Madras, while in Bangalore, every area had jams. In the meanwhile, we saw some guy dragging another one by grabbing his collar. My driver went crazy. He said, if ever one gets into an accident, one should pay up or opt for insurance. You don’t need to rough up anyone. He said, “lets assume for a moment that the girl friend of the guy who’s getting shoved around passes by. Isn’t our “dragged” beau embarrassed!? Anyways we saw a two wheeler and a car parked, further on the road. Obviously the two wheeler had hit the car from behind. My driver’s take was, anytime someone tries to scare you, be the first one to raise the hand. The other guy is immediately psyched and may think twice before doing similarly, whoever be the errant. He then told me about some such exploit of his!

Then he got a call on his cell! His sister had called and he had to resoilve some family finances. When I told him that I was in a hurry, he said that the matter couldn’t wait, although he doesn’t like picking his cell while driving!

Finally, I did reach West Mambalam. I chatted up my friend and watched some cricket. Then another friend called and I was ready to go to Besant Nagar for lunch. Went to a place called Eden, which serves Continental food. Since I was late, I had ordered by phone and my good friend did the rest! We had a quick lunch while we caught up on life. How many times do you get to dine with a charming young lady and she foots the bill!

Next Stop: IITM SAC. IITM has a board which says that you should turn left at a point where there’s no road. Then there’s another sign board which points at the bushes! God, by the time I reach the venue, the quiz had already begun. All my hopes of qualifying took a nose dive and I ate humble pie and asked the organizers to announce for teams of 3 which needed a 4th member. Two teams raised their hand. One team I went to, backtracked and embarrassedly said that they were waiting for their friend who might arrive any moment. Saala, neither they did they qualify, nor did that non existent 4th member arrive. Next, the team of 3 eager kids. If ever, you want to sit with people who have a totally different take on life, sit with kids. Sadly these kids were a little out of place, but their hearts were in the right place. I managed to get about half of what was required to qualify. Another day, another place, things would have been different. In my enthusiasm to get all answers right, I managed to negate an apparently ‘silly/simple’ answer by the kids. Turned out that it was right and not many of the 200 teams got it! But the kids were happy that I got 12 more, which they didn’t. Nice folks.

And then the monstrous quiz began. It was good on quality but lousy on presentation as most questions were longer than 5 sentences and poorly presented. And then there were power cuts in between. The quiz finally ended at 9:10 pm, after having started around 5.

Anyways, I rushed to have dinner with another friend, Rathi who had been waiting for the quiz to end. We went to a place that was ‘close’ to where I was supposed to board my bus. The ‘ridiculously exorbitant price demanding auto driver spectre of Madras’ raised its head and I put myself at the mercy of a municipal bus that delivered me a good 15 mins before my bus left. Thank god for Volvo buses. The price seems justified, considering that I woke up, while dragging the blanket away from a patient attendant. Bangalore had arrived!

Start of another hectic day!!! First a quiz for all teams who weren’t in the ten ranked teams for the 2004-05 season. Having moved to Bangalore only a month ago, I was eligible. As luck would have it, my team mate didn’t arrive. Some unknown arrived and joined as a fourth member. Turned out to be very good as he began answering questions from the moment he arrived. Unfortunately, the age old tradition of missing by 0.5 points continued with my teams getting yet another honorable mention as one of teams which narrowly missed out. We went to Koshy’s to drown our sorrow temporarily and returned for a shot at the Open quiz, where the big guns were in action. Koshy’s is another place where the vegetarian dishes occupy about 15% of available total surface area of menu . Needless to say, didn’t have an extraordinary lunch. And as for the quiz, this time we did qualify. We managed to crack the main theme round ahead of all teams and finished fourth. No money, no gifts, just a little pride restored and a fond farewell for a fellow quizzer, who is leaving for studying management.

Who said weekends were leisurely. I am typing this close to midnight on a Sunday.

Here’s a nice question from the quiz at IITM.
“In the early 20th century the Krishna Raja Sagar Dam (popularly known as KRS) in Mysore dried up, revealing the bottom of the 150 ft deep reservoir with dead crocodiles, trees, an old submerged temple, etc. The localites perfomed rites to propitiate the rain gods for days on end. All this lack of water and attendant scenarios inspired something we all know!
What?”

For those of you who don’t know the answer, send me a mail and I’ll tell you.

Viva Bangalore. Over and Out :)

Friday, March 11, 2005

Brand Equity 2005 - Dhums UP!

Third time lucky! I had been to the Brand Equity previously, but had always managed to miss out qualifying, by a solitary point or two. This year, the format had changed to a crossword and just 5 questions. For whatever reason, my team topped the prelims and that too from Bangalore. As mentioned in Ramanand’s blog, the BEQ has undergone quite some erosion of its own equity with a dip in participation as well as the enthusiasm from the organizers. It seems to be a toned down version of itself although the production value from Derek O Brien and Associates seems as good (or as bad depending on your opinion of him!) as ever! There were digs abound, at everything from Nagma and her dual links with Dawood and Dada (Sourav Ganguly) to Derek’s morphs into Sunju baba from Musafir, Gabbar from Sholay, etc

What kind of teams would you expect from the IT capital to qualify? Here’s the final lineup – Wipro, Mphasis, Fidelity, Motorola, Iflex and IBM represented by yours truly!

Unlike the usual BEQ format where the prelims are tough and the finals are easy (making you want to have been on stage), this year, the prelims were ridiculously easy and finals were of respectable standard. We started off very well being leaders for about 3 rounds and then we just tanked. When the time came for the heads to roll, we were saved by virtue of our high score in the prelims although we were level with the team lying 5th. So much for history. And that was after I had secured a negative for my team, by jumping the gun.

Derek took digs at all and sundry, including one at me, when I gave a ‘creative’ answer. He said he liked it and promptly gave me a diary where I could record all my funny answers!

Then there were the usual takes on pretty women from TOI. Anyways, the net result was that we came a lucky fourth after salvaging some pride towards the end with answers to questions on Ipod (How can one miss a question on one of one’s favourite companies?) and some other improvisations. And what did I get - Loads of goodies – gift coupons for some boutique, some fancy stationery, Provogue, suit lengths, a leather bag, etc.

I now have enough to last myself till the next big quiz! And at home they were more excited than me as I unraveled all my gifts in front of my eager mom and dad.

Actually the quiz wasn’t half as much entertainment as my parents’ reaction to all the goodies was.Once in a while, its nice to get rewarded in kind for a pursuit that one would engage in regardless of the results. And when it is surprising, like this one, all the better.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

State of Fear

First the newspaper in the morning indicated plots to target India's software cos. in Bangalore to create a state of fear http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=120295 I had started early for office to get my car fixed. And then there was this monstrous traffic jam since the Chief Minister's motorcade was rushing to Bangalore's Electronic City. Maybe our man was trying to soothe some frayed nerves in India's IT centre. Whatever, I felt miserable for having started my day early.
And then the security at the entrance of the lane to my office were checking badges of everyone coming one. Autos with passengers without badges weren't let in!
Yeh sab kya ho raha hai?!
Poor baby Bangalore.

ICRA, some hope for Dharwad and other nice things for India

A couple of blogs I wrote saying that I will write about ICRA. Although I haven't informed them here's a short intro about them. ICRA expands to Institute for Cultural Research and Action. It is an organization run by a few like minded people who work on a number of socio-economic issues. It is based out of Bangalore. Amongst the many things that they are working on, the one major issue I know about is sustainable agriculture. They are currently working with a lot of farmers on areas like organic farming - which to me and I guess most of you, would loosely translate to agriculture in a fashion that doesn't destroy the land after one or two instances of use by doping the land with excess synthetic fertilizer or artificially ripening crops or adding fungicide to preserve produce, etc. ICRA sells organic farming products out of their office near Indiranagar in Bangalore. They can be contacted at 91-080-25283370. They also bring out a magazine called Saguwali in Kannada, which is primarily intended for increasing awareness amongst ordinary people incl. farmers. For ex, their last issue talked about the role of mangrove forests and how they saved parts of Bangladesh from the recent tsunamis, a scandal involving Monsanto (another version of the same at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4153635.stm)

I had no clue about all this myself and felt really small. Do read these and let me know what you think.

As for the reason for hope for drought ridden Dharwad, check this out http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/Magazine/story/88/

I am just continuing where I left off in my "Kahan Kai Himalay Aisa, Kahan Aisa Paani http://dhammo.blogspot.com/2005/02/kahan-hai-himalay-aisa-kahan-aisa.html

Maybe all these will lead to some dedicated sub blog for India. Lets see

Friday, March 04, 2005

Closer

“Closer” turned out to be the pick of the lot since I didn’t have any expectations before watching it. All I knew was that it was an Oscar nominated movie.

Jude Law (JL), Natalie Portman (NP), Clive Owen (CO) and Julia Roberts (JR) star in this exploration of relationships. But this is anything but a mushy movie. You can’t watch it with your family, for one!

Jude Law plays this “obsessed with truth” man, who is unable to keep a relationship, breaking in and out of relationships. Clive Owen plays a dermatologist who meets Julia Roberts through a prank by Jude Law. That prank scene is one, graphic interlude in cyberspace and must be the first mainstream movie that addresses this aspect of modern lives. Its really well played out.

JL is excellent in this movie and there will be a lot of broken-hearted/delighted women at the end of the movie depending on what they like about JL. The climax of the movie is particularly fantastic. It is pretty difficult to write an original romantic movie these days, considering the vast no. of movies in the genre. But then writing out a mature script like this, must be tougher!

NP stars in the role of this neo-waif who appears in JL’s life and plays out an amazing sequence of events. This must be her best role yet. And she delivers like a Blue Whale on Steriods! Solid performance. She is absolutely at home playing this natural, no frills, young lady in JL’s life. She is particularly terrific in one scene with CO where she keeps uttering soft “Thank You s” while he’s raving. She’s “Oh so desirable” as the young carefree girlfriend of JL in the initial parts of the movie. And then there’s this extraordinary scene in which JR is shooting NP. I am surprised to see she didn’t make it to any of the major awards this season. In fact, the movie itself could have gone and won at any of the alternative movie festivals as well.

Julia Roberts essays the role of a professional photographer, quite creditably. Her character brings to mind the protagonist’s lover (also a photographer) in Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being.” She’s got an ordinary role in the movie, not quite as strong as JL/NP/CO, but she is very impressive as the woman who’s torn between a man who dotes on her and a man who can’t see her with anyone else.

The surprise packet is CO. He excels in the role of the sex-obsessed husband who is surprisingly faithful to JR, to whom he is married till the ending of the movie where the movie turns into a hash of relationships gone awry – like the script writer went crazy. If one remembers an old Miller Lite ad, in which there’s this guy whose hands just can’t keep still when his hands get around a bottle of Miller Lite, one could understand what he could have written as the ending of this movie. As an aside, it is an intelligent guess as to what happens in the actual ad! Anyways, watch out for the last few scenes in the movie where JL goes to meet CO at work. Awesome. If one thought that a star could never be overshadowed by a lesser known actor, check this out.

On that tantalizing note, I recommend Closer for anyone who’s been in and out of an intense relationship or will be!

http://www.amazon.com/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A17JEV7KDFAHGS/ref=cm_cr_auth/104-9364640-3427910

Finding Neverland (FN)

I started off on a movie blitz last weekend and was in fact so short of time, that I didn’t get time to blog them. Not that I need to, since I occasionally see movies which aren’t worth telling others about.

Anyways, Johny Depp has landed a role that goes beyond his good looks. Although there’s been a quite a controversy about the movie’s closeness to reality, it does manage a great job of conveying the message – Never let reality interfere with your perception of the universe J Pursue your dreams. Who knows, What Dreams May Come (which incidentally is another movie I have been planning to see for a long time now)? Before I write about the actual movie, here’s some more trivia – Apparently we were denied the pleasure of watching this movie in 2004, as Miramax wanted to use some scenes from the stage version of “Peter Pan,” the rights to which were owned by Columbia Pictures, which itself produced Peter Pan in the movie form. I guess it was worth it.

FN tells the story of James Barrie, who is struggling to produce a commercially successful play. Even his marriage is just short of falling apart with him and his wife, living in separate rooms. In comes the beautiful Kate Winslet who’s aglow with unusual beauty. Not to mention 4 kids of hers. The scene in which the kids run into Barrie is vintage moviemaking. And then there’s the cute, large dog of Barrie which finds its place in Peter Pan as the bear. The struggles of the actor who essays the role of the dog in the stage version go on to show the clout playwrights wielded before the days of casting directors, actors’ agents, etc.

There are three main characters other than Barrie who catch one’s eye – Kate Winslet, the young actor who plays George and finally the boy who plays Peter.

Johny Depp is no doubt fantastic as the protagonist, playing the playful Barrie with aplomb and reminding the viewer of Hugh Grant in Four Weddings and a Funeral or Rupert Everett in My Best Friend’s Wedding – you know that natural zest for life and flair for humour & good nature. Johny Depp demonstrates such an ability.

Kate Winslet who’s very believable as the ailing Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, plays her role to perfection. She lights up the screen with her presence and brings tears to one’s eyes in the closing moments of the movie. Good believable acting.


The young kid who plays George, essays the role of a boy who grows up as his mother’s life dwindles away- much to her delight, is flawless. The young kid who plays Peter is also very good as the pensive son of Kate Winslet, who’s yet to get over his father’s death, while trying to break out of his shell. Perhaps the role could have been a bit toned down as some of the script is a little incredible for a boy of that age.

The beautiful Kelly Macdonald, that stunning babe from Britain plays a brief role as Peter Pan in the actual play. This is the 3rd movie I have seen of hers, in which she’s cast well. The other two being Gosford Park and Trainspottin.

The editing is crisp and the casting is neat. The movie is eminently watchable. See it if you haven’t already.