Thursday, February 19, 2009

The everyday matrix!

I am forced to believe that I live in a world, as is portrayed in the movie ‘The Matrix’. How else can I explain the series of events I witness every day on my way to work? Remember the first time Neo visits the Oracle? He sees a little boy who bends a spoon. His powers are trivial when you compare some of the psychics I come across. And what makes them even better than ‘The One’ – they are yet to meet Morpheus and his pills.

Let us begin with this auto rickshaw driver. In fact, I think all of them have this ability. It looks like they have swallowed a cabinet full of red pills. They have this uncanny knack of making one-way signboards disappear; and make it look so simple. All they do is, turn the rickshaw into one of those roads and the signpost just bends away from sight; just like the spoon from the movie. The only difference being that, these guys inherit these powers the moment they wear their khakis. The poor kid needs practice.

Then there are the BMTC bus drivers. They have this amazing trick by which they make everything except the main road and the buses disappear. They are in a world of their own the moment they start to concentrate – a kind of self hypnosis they achieve by holding the wheel and staring through the windshield. Even the loudest of honking can’t awaken them from this bliss. Imagine this power. It would be fun to make bosses disappear. I don’t even have to come to office drunk.

And of course, the bikers. You would be surprised to see how they shrink their bikes to fit tiny gaps between vehicles at signals and squeeze through them. And the moment they are on wider roads and in more space, the bikes assume gigantic sizes – big enough not to let even another bike overtake them. A sight that becomes even more exciting if you are the owner of a brand new car, and the biker next to you is doing the trick. Brings your heart to your mouth every time. And a string of expletives that are not part of the desired effect.

I think that’s it. Oh wait. How could I forget the pedestrians? The best of the lot. These people thrill me more than anyone else. It is the sheer display of power. The rest of ‘The Ones’ look mere ‘Twos’ in their presence.

The trick starts with the pedestrian floating down from the sidewalk onto the busy road. An auto screeches to a halt. The same one who bends one-way signboards is rendered helpless. The horns are blaring. The pedestrian pays no attention. He looks right across the road. His destination beckons. He puts his best feet forward, as if hopping. Rubber on the wheels of a biker burns. Looks like he was left no time to perform the shrinking act. Defying the mob, ‘The One’ walks on. To cross or not to cross…

Wait. Look who is speeding towards ‘The One’? It is none other than the BMTC bus and the driver in trance - the man who sees nothing apart from the road. Will the pedestrian survive? Anxious eyes look on. And then, with a vicious turn of his head and the polythene bag full of vegetables, the pedestrian raises his hand – kryptonite to the BMTC driver. The driver awakens with bulging eyes. Everything is visible to him now. The road, the biker he had run over, the dust, the one way signboards. Everything. Plenty more rubber burns. The bus swaggers and stutters to a halt. The bus driver raises his head from the steering wheel, panting, relieved. He looks straight into the palm of the pedestrian’s raised hand. Eyes meet eyes. The pedestrian speaks – “I am Manjunath.”

Well, all this makes me want a pill. Not the red one. Not the blue one. The white one. The kind those LTTE guys hang around their necks. After all, after all this, there is only one pit you want to go down.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Below, is my entry for the 55-word story contest at the Kalaghoda festival. The theme is cheating.

He had answered a hundred calls since the announcement on television. “The richest man in the world,” he smirked. He played a melody on what was left of his violin. He smiled. The ocean sprawled in front of him, waiting. With the vengeance of a defeated man, he fed the violin to the hungry tides.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire - a poor effort

There are two reasons why I did not like Slumdog Millionaire. One is that I expected a mountain out of the movie. And two, the movie did not offer even a molehill.

Before any brows are raised, let me introduce you to my movie yardstick. My judgment of a movie is based on a few simple parameters. The plot should be original a.k.a. fresh. It should be water-tight. In the end, it should be one fine story very well told. Cinematography, editing, sound tracks and anything that serves the purpose are welcome. It shouldn’t be the other way round.

Is Slumdog original? Well. Though the premise has changed, the core remains pretty much the same as many others – poor mans turns rich against all odds. But that, I guess, can be forgiven. Because as Scott Adams once said about jokes, there are only about a hundred of them. The rest are merely altered and manipulated versions. So are stories.

Slumdog opened extremely well. There was intrigue; a little conspiracy; good performances; even the underdog; all crucial ingredients for a compelling story. The little guy locked in a public latrine, smeared in shit, running to meet his idol. Very understandable; very romantic. Expectations met. Even more built. Big mistake.

The plot began to fall apart from there. It was as if the director was in a hurry to end it. Or it could have been a failed attempt to make it a fast-moving thriller. Edge-of-the-seat stuff. The kind of edge you reach when you are about to get up and leave. In the end, it was evident that the movie had worked backwards. It will be even clearer, if you have the guts to watch it again.

It is quite normal for the filmmakers and writers to leave a bit to the imagination of the viewer/reader. We love it that way. But Slumdog left quit a bit too much to the imagination. I felt as if I was watching an edited version of the movie – censored on the grounds of being detailed; Benjamin Franklin for instance. Exactly the word I was searching for – details. Missing. For most of the movie.

And what was with Mr. Anil Kapoor’s character? For all the ego the man has, demeaning a contestant on a reality show watched by a billion people is but a sad attempt - one to justify the man’s villainous intentions towards the end. Another pointer to suggest that the story was working backwards. A truly commercial ploy. I haven’t read the book, and hence am in no position to criticize the author.

To sum it up, it was an unfortunate piece that was highly overrated, misinterpreted and incomplete. It was a wonderful story. But in the end, it was an effort that shamed the theme. It was more or less like Chetan Bhagat’s ‘One Night At a Call Center.’ Desperate gibberish sandwiched between a fabulous beginning and a decent ending.

Monday, February 02, 2009

27 random things about me

I was born in Elite Hospital, Koorkancherry, Thrissur, Kerala, 50 metres away from where my parents got married.

I lifted my cousin sister’s blouse as a 2-year-old. Out of curiosity of course.

I chewed up a millipede once, mistaking it for ‘Cadbury’s Gems’.

It took me a ladoo to stop crying on my first day at Kindergarten which was called ‘The Ladies Club Nursery’.

I wanted to be an oceanographer when I was 10.

I used to flick center-spreads from the ‘Sportstar’ magazine at the school library and slide it under the door for later use.

As a kid, I used to cover my face with a blanket, stand by an open window at night, and challenge the ghosts.

I used to narrate tales of a fictional character (Jimmy, my creation) to my brother over a period of at least five years.

I learnt cycling on BSA SLR, for ladies, which was blue in colour.

I burnt the Sulphur deposits in my township as a kid and it took three fire engines to put the fire out.

I used to hate women touching me till I was 15. Things turned overhead since.

I got my first offer letter from a firm in New Delhi called ‘The Grasshoppers’. I promptly hopped the next day to McCann.

I started following Manchester United thinking they were underdogs. The year was 1998. The opposition was Aston Villa.

I have been scared of spiders ever since I looked one in the eye as I was climbing up my cupboard.

I used to play as center forward in football, score goals at will and never ever run more than 50 yards the entire game.

My first drink was a mix of Romanov vodka and 7up.

One of cousins is/was gay, and as a little kid, used to grab my buttocks.

I can’t swim.

My first relationship lasted 3 months. It took me 6 months to get over her.

I am not very fond of babies. I think most of them are wicked.

I have nightmares of eunuchs.

I used to pray till I was 14.

I have loved two women intensely through my life. I lost both of them, one as recently as a year ago.

I love Melody candies.

I hate foolish people. Don’t even start defining.

I ride a 350cc Royal Enfield classic. I bought it with the only money I ever saved.

The first audio cassette I purchased was ‘Gentleman’, a Tamil movie.