Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Me & Meri Maggi Moments... spoofed!

I was staying over at a friend's place and for breakfast he made Maggi noodles. It is a long time since I had Maggi noodles, and for the first time on the packet I saw these Me & Meri Maggi stories. A very brilliant idea to advertise a brand that has been around for two and a half decades. Captured by the everyday-ness and simplicity of them, I went on a hunt in internet to find more stories that adorn different Maggi packs. And then I thought of this post, where different imaginary people  recall their Maggi moments: 

Me & Meri Hawala wala Maggi:
Satyanarayan, Hawalapur

I am a hawala agent and I regularly travel a lot with cash and you know how tough a task is to transfer money through Hawala. If someone robs me I cannot even complain to police. I do not even have food from restaurants, as there is this risk involved. Any time I am on road with money, I totally depend on my favorite brand of easy cooking food.. Maggi... Who can forget all those mornings, afternoons and midnights, sitting in a corner of bus stand or railway station, enduring the bites of mosquitoes, always scared of arrest, enjoying the warm, just cooked Maggi...

Me & Meri Supari Wala Maggi: 
Moosabhai, Dharavi

In Mumbai, every one knows me... one and all fears the name of Moosabhai. When even a dog dies in Mumbai in a road accident, police suspects the hands of Moosa... And what do I like...? Garama garam Maggi noodles with thin chops of mutton spread on it... I still remember that rainy day, after just finishing a supari, (was it that Marwari builder or that rogue Eda Anna of Chhota Fakhir gang? You see it is difficult to recollect the details when the dhanda is going very busy.) I was back in my adda with chokre log... and Langda Raju made Maggi and Masala chai... waah

Me & Meri Corruption wala Maggi:
Leader Swayam Bhojan Paandey,  Dilli.

We are the servants of the people and we have to keep up an image in front of them. If some one finds out that the amount I gobbled up is a penny less than my precessor, what face I will show them... I have to face them after five years and they will be with me only if I show them I can bribe their votes. Jan Sevaks has to go through many tough ordeals in their life and to show that I am with the people I eat people's food whenever I am eating in public. That is why on any meetings or Baithak, I make a point to eat a bowl of Maggi in front of cameras.      

Monday, April 25, 2011

Conrad's Secret Agent: On terrorism and politics

Joseph Conrad's haunting novel, The Secret Agent, written in early twentieth century is one of the front runners of spy novels. Probably it was the first time that politics and terrorism makes a major appearance in this genre. Even for Conrad, this was a first. More than suspense or thrills, the novel concentrates on the psychology and motives of perpetrators and those involved in the story with varying degrees of guilt.

This is the story of Verlock, who is a shop keeper, a family man and a secret agent for a foreign country, settled in London. He is a mole in the group of anarchists, interacting and spying on them. One day his boss calls him to office and gives him a mission- to commit a terrorist act on a building of Science so that people will think this is the work of anarchists and they will lose their public support. This mission creates ripples in the life of every one connected - Verlock, his family, anarchists, politicians, police officers, thus starting off a cycle of events getting more and more complicated by the plotting and sub plotting by all involved, to manipulate events to their personal benefit. 

Major themes of the novel are terrorism and anarchism, which is pretty much contemporary even after a hundred years. But if you closely look, the novel implies the hands of external forces in such events. In the novel anarchists does not do any big crime and most of them, except the character Professor, (whom I suspect is a wise but psycho kind of guy) does not have the will power or guts to carry out any atrocity. But it is the people in high positions, who manipulates middle men like Verlock, for whom the job of secret agent is a mode to sustain his life, an employment, and makes them commit things they will never do or even think to do in their right minds.

The novel is superbly written with some wonderful characters, but a bit depressing, unevenly paced and much dark. So be prepared if you plan to read it...

Friday, April 22, 2011

By night in Chile...

I will never tell you that this novel, by Chilean writer Roberto Bolano is a classic one, or that, if you have not read this one, you can jump in a handful of water and die. 

I will never tell you that this is a novel that I will read many times, over and over, in many years that I may walk on this planet earth and get the same pleasure that I got the first time I read it. 

I will never tell you that this novel will teach you how to lead a fruitful life or will give you any message on leading a fruitful life.

I will never tell you that this book will touch your heart, or will make you cry.


I will tell you that this book, the death bed rants of an old cleric, can connect to your life somewhere, like when you decided to put your ideology to rest and decide to flow with the community, or when your individuality took a dip in popularity and your alter ego which judges others became the mask that describes you... 

I will tell you that this incoherent rants of a wanna-be poet, who became a priest, who then became a lap dog of rich and famous, shedding ideology in the winds of opportunism... may be your story too. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Meeting of East and West

I have always liked Salman Rushdie from the time I read Midnight's children last year. What I really appreciate is that he established European sensibilities in Indian novel, that resulted the reading of Indian novel to be taken seriously by the intelligentsia throughout the world. It is arguable whether any other Indian novelist  has seriously pursued the way opened up by Rushdie. Late Malayalam novelist O V Vijayan has written something in a similar vein, but writing in a regional language has its own limitations and is always under appreciated.    

East, West by Rushdie is a collection of nine short stories, divided into three sections, East, West and East West. As the name indicates, the story telling in each section is in the respective styles and in the final one you can find the real genius of the author, when he treads the middle way where the story telling of Scheherazade and Panchatantra meets that of Boccaccio and Shakespeare. 

In section East, the first story is called Good advice is rarer than rubies, in which a defrauder falls for a lady whom he tries to cheat off her money. In the story Free Radio, the government's attempt of compulsory family planning at the times of Emergency is portrayed. In the last story The prophet's hair, a strand of prophet Mohammed's hair that goes stolen creates trouble in a wealthy family. All the stories, though very subtly are social satires told in a very simple language in true eastern story telling tradition. 

In the section West, the first story Yorick is a retelling of Shakespeare's Hamlet, giving it a twist. Second story, At the auction of ruby slippers, refers to the slippers of Dorothy in The wizard of Oz. Third one, Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella of Spain Consummate Their Relationship, is a fictional account of Christopher Columbus'  advances to Queen Isabella before he was commissioned for his historic journey.   

Third section, East West, has also three stories, that I feel is the best in the collection. The Harmony of Spheres is a journey into the head of a schizophrenic and his occult journeys. Chekov and Zulu is a satiric take on star wars and the position of third world countries. It also subtly refers the death of Indira Gandhi and the repercussions on Sikh community after that.The Courter, the best one in the collection is a story about the relation between an old Ayah, Certainly-Marie and the courtier, Mecir, who happens to be a chess grand master in exile!

Satire is the tone of most of the stories and what takes the breath out of an unsuspecting reader is the astonishing range of plots, techniques and conventions that Rushdie employs in his story telling. A must read...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Regeneration of action stars

I watched this movie called Universal Soldier: Regeneration, today morning on TV. Watching a simple, formulaic B-movie on  a lazy Sunday morning is a pleasure. The expectation was almost nil, as the movie is probably fifth part of Van Damme's original Universal Soldier that released while I was a kid. The starting gave of the movie gave away the cheap budget of Van Damme movies these days. But I stayed on with it and what turned out was a very decent action thriller, with lot of good fights, some decent acting and quite an ok plot, which is more to ask these days from aging action stars like Van Damme, Dolph Lundgran, Seagal and the likes.

Some terrorists kidnap Russian premier's kids, and threaten to blow up Chernobyl reactor unleashing nuclear cloud if their demands are not met. Aiding them is a next generation Universal soldier played by Andrei Arlovski. In order to save the day Luc Deveraux (Van Damme, who is also a universal soldier if you have bothered to watch the former installments) is revived and retrained. Unknowing to all, the terrorists have managed to get hold of another more lethal and mentally unstable Universal Soldier Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren, Luc's arch nemesis in first part) who wreaks havoc within the militants. The rest of the movie is how Luc barges into the camp and manages to avert the nuclear disaster, rescue the children, kill the bad men and save the day. 

The movie is pure B grade fun. Lot of kicking, punching, explosions, blood and gore. Fights are gritty and choreographed superbly, overall direction is good, the tension is not too tight, but rather fun to watch. The background music a bit retro and complements the setting. The three Uni Sols- Van Damme, Lundgren and Arlovski has enormous screen presence. The supporting actors are fantastic. Overall this is the best effort from Van Damme and Lundgren in recent times. 

About acting of the lead pair- I don't think it is necessary for them to act much. Critics may crib about the wooden acting of action heroes, but they are not here for contesting Oscars. Remember Adrian Brody tried going macho in Predators and failed miserably? So let the qualified men do their jobs. Let us enjoy it..

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The 39 Steps (a play): Hilarious Hitchcock..

Pic courtesy:
Hitchcock is associated with serious, shocking, thrilling visuals. And "The 39 Steps" is one of the most acclaimed movies the ace director has made and is considered to be an influence on his later works. So when this movie is remade on stage, as a farce, it may generate quite a stir among purists. "The 39 Steps" play, written by Patrick Barlow, is quiet successful as a spoof of the movie and numerous other movies of spy and thriller genre. Last Sunday, the Indian version of this play, a joint venture of Evam and Radaan, was shown at Ranga Shankara, Bangalore. An attempt which have, as they tell before the show:
Sex appeal, fights, Scotland Yard, love, betrayal, car chases, silk stockings, French men, English women and murder..
The 39 steps, is an attempt to show a whole movie, scene by scene on stage... What is the big deal..? Four lead actors plays around 140 characters, with great comic timing and imaginative narration! Several scenes require very imaginative setting, like a stage show or a scene involving the hero jumping from a moving train, which they convincingly portrays with considerable skill and ease. 

The play starts with a bored Richard Hannay, deciding to do something great, eventful, historic and brave that day and finally decides to watch a play. He attends the performance by Mr Memory, who has an ability to recall any trivial facts from memory. A fight breaks out and our hero finds himself accompanying a beautiful Annebella Schmidt to his flat. She says about a secret plan named 39 steps, by a militant to steal military secrets out of Britain. That night she is killed and Hannay is the suspect. He sneaks out and travels to Scotland. Pursued by police and militants alike, he embarks on a cat and mouse journey that ends finally in Mr Memory's program in London where in a final show down, secrets are revealed. 

Pic courtesy:
Hannay is played by the lead actor, Naveen Balachandran, three other women who falls for him are played by Renu Abraham and other two actors, Karthik and Sunil, play every other characters like milkman, maid, farmer, villain, sheep, police, passengers and even some non living objects like trees and bushes with chameleon like ease, sometimes just by a change of the hat. (That train sequence is just hilarious.) Scenes from several other movies are also spoofed fleetingly. The motel in Psycho, chase with plane in North By Northwest, King Kong, Matrix...    

I would recommend not missing this one... So next time it is in town, get on the 39 steps...

Monday, April 11, 2011

Camus' Outsider: Brutally Honest.

What will be your attitude towars an honest person? Someone who always stick to his emotions rather than behave how the society wants him to? Someone who will die for truth rather than bow to the wishes of society and save his skin? According to the famous writer Albert Camus, such a person will be executed by the society.
In our society, any man who doesn’t cry at his mother’s funeral is liable to be condemned to death.
And it is to demonstrate this point that he wrote this small, but striking novel called The Outsider (The Stranger in some other translations).  The Outsider is a story of Meursault, a young Algrian guy, who lives his life just like any other ordinary person. The only way he is different is that he is indifferent, he does not feel regret about his actions, nor is he passionate about anything. His life is just a procession of events, in which he just participates. When his mother died, he went for the funeral, but does not show any emotion of grief. After some days he kills an Arab who had picked a fight with his friend. He is put on trial. The trial which has to be concentrated on murder, the crime he did, diverts its course when the prosecutor implies that he is a monster because he did not cry in his mother's funeral. And death sentence is awarded to him as the jury finds it hard to show mercy to a person who is devoid of regret or grief. The novel ends when he purges out his hidden fury on a priest who came to show him the path of God just before his execution.

The whole court and the world was waiting for Meursault to break down and show regret for his deed, but he was not ready to be untruthful and show an emotion that he never felt. And they went on to demonize him. And Meursault was ready to die for truth, his truth, which was never parallel with the views of a civil society.