Saturday, October 29, 2011

7am arivu: Chennai-China Medley Falls Flat

Should ever a book titled ‘The Art of Deception by Flattery’ be authored, A R Murugadoss’ 7 am arivu (the seventh sense) would probably rank atop in its index; it could even be a case study on how to crash land viewers’ expectations after building it up to a crescendo.

The movie begins with a flashback, when we are told that a Pallava princeling (Surya) migrated to China and became the Shaolin master we know today as Bodhidharma. 
Six-pack that packs a punch
Cut to the present. Subha Srinivasan (Shruti Hasan – actor Kamal Hasan’s daughter making her Tamil debut) is a student of genetic engineering whose research causes the jitters to the People’s Republic of China, forcing them to send a spy, Dong Lee (Hollywood actor Johnny Nguyen, who was also a stunt double in Spiderman and Spiderman-2) to bump her off and spread an epidemic in India. (Are we taking a cue from Hollywood, which during the Cold War era vilified then USSR?) Thrown in the conundrum is Aravind (Surya again) a circus artiste, who falls head-over-heels in love with Subha. Perhaps not since the Kamal Hasan starrer Apoorva Sagodharargal has a Tamil cine hero been a circus artiste; the song Yamma Yamma…, evokes memories of the song Unnai Nenachen… from the same movie. 

Chinese spy, a Hollywood hangover?
Surya flaunts his six-pack in a breezy portrayal of the two characters. For a debutante, Shruti gets to portray a substantial role. The narrative in the first half is tolerable, which deteriorates in the latter, with generous doses of implausibility and jingoism. When Subha tells Arvind that Bodhidharman’s qualities can be revived in him, you simply yawn and know which way the movie is headed. Lee, as a hypnotist and a mass-murderer, does a splendid job of whatever is within the realm of a Tamil movie villain. The scenes lifted from Terminator, where Lee goes on the rampage inside a police station, and Matrix-2, when an autorickshaw driver does a Carrie Ann Moss and speeds in the wrong side of the road, are hard to miss.

Murugadoss seems to have planted one foot in Hollywood-style film making; the other is however, trapped in constraints of commercial, mediocre brand of Indian cinema.

Rajagopalan Venkataraman

Thursday, October 20, 2011

How informed are you?

What you are about to read is not an original article, for it is an agglomeration of media extracts of the health prognosis and treatment of two of our political leaders - former Karnataka chief minister B S Yeddyurappa and AICC president Sonia Gandhi.

High blood pressure and sugar levels, severe body pain and stress are just some of the ailments jailed former Karnataka chief minister B S Yeddyurappa was suffering from. If ever there was an incident to exemplify that this was the age of information, it was the ignominious turn of events leading to the arrest of this person. The charade that followed when he went missing and was forced to show up only when a court decided to issue a non-bailable warrant against him could have inspired a score of satire writers.  
He was remanded in judicial custody, when he mysteriously developed chest pain, and was expeditiously shifted to the Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences. Doctors vied with one another to give sound bytes to the media on his ailments, medication, duration of treatment and road to recovery. Suddenly, he was shifted to the Victoria Hospital, when his entourage of vehicles was tailed by TV channels, giving ‘breaking news’ updates on his health. He later beat a hasty retreat to jail, after ‘adverse’ media coverage on the sham that was his treatment pricked his conscience. Hail the age of information and fearless coverage. In fact, if ever knowledge on the ailments the BJP neta from Shikaripur was suffering from was made the basis for literacy, then Karnataka could have been safely declared as 100 per cent literate!
Contrast this with a similar event that occurred at the national level. AICC president Sonia Gandhi was said to be suffering from an unspecified cancer, for which she had been reportedly receiving treatment for approximately eight months. It was not clear where she would receive medical treatment but a senior IAS official was eventually said to have arranged for a top American doctor to perform the surgery on Madame G. A family source was quoted as saying that she was indeed in a serious condition. The hospital where Sonia actually underwent treatment divulged no information as to whether she was a patient of theirs at all. It was later learnt that her surgery was successful, and that she was recuperating in the ICU. It was also revealed that the Congress supremo would be confined to bed for an unspecified period of time, while sources add that the cure Gandhi underwent may be only a temporary cure. 

Age of information, huh?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Blunder That Was A Government Advertisement

Chugging along, rather belatedly

This morning I was jolted by an advertisement in our all our dailies, and no, I am not decrying the falling standards in journalism – paid news, content that could have gone under the watchful eyes of an editor or poor quality of printing. Reading it made me wonder whether the Indian bureaucracy, wallowing largely in insipidity, was handed a crash course in sarcasm. Had it been the first of April, I would have taken it for a joke without batting an eyelid.
The advertisement in question was titled “Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) congratulates Bangalore Metropolitan Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) on the LAUNCH of NAMMA METRO” (produced verbatim). This statement could qualify as the biggest misnomer of the century, with one unwieldy, utterly mismanaged, politics-ridden organisation lauding another of its ilk for launching a service, which among other glaring acts of omission, commenced work on a project after a full-year’s delay whose cost has already overshot by about 220 per cent (and still counting), failed to meet four deadlines, leaving two state chief ministers with egg on their face for having blurted out unfeasible inaugural dates, and most importantly burdening us Bangaloreans with a mode of transportation shorn of aesthetics – the eyesore that are its pillars, criss-crossing our roads, for starters. All this for a 6.7 km long overhead rail track with six stations in between. And the difficult stretch of work, laying rail lines and constructing stations underground, has commenced recently. Can we safely expect a dozen missed schedules in the second phase?

My first reaction was whether the BBMP was trying to belittle the BMRCL. A quick cursory scan did not reveal any such thing. Could the sarcasm be loaded in fine print? If it were it was either lost on me or not detectable to the naked eye. The absence of fine print set the alarm bells ringing in me. I realised that the joke was on the reader when I read the sentence “Namma Metro has become a collaborator with BBMP in enhancing the city”.

Sure, the Bangalore Metro can help lessen traffic on the roads, and hence, reduce pollution, not to mention the rapid commuting it offers. But must we gloss over monumental blunders by our government agencies and go to the extent of shamelessly edifying them? In delayed execution, Namma Metro probably ranks second only to the Kolkata Metro, which created an ignominious chapter in delayed execution – 16. 4 km, 17 stations, execution time = 23 years.

Unsurprisingly, the ad, as in any government agency ad, had the portraits of ministers and officials dominating it entirely, and devoting absolutely no space to features of the Metro, as if forcing us to go online to learn about them.

The advertisement, it seemed, was more like a demonstration on how two make an ass out of oneself.

Image: Nagesh Polali

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Swearing Allegiance to One's Masters

Sadananda Gowda & Manmohan Singh - Different at the outset, a lot in common

Karnataka Chief Minister D V Sadanda Gowda, at a BJP meeting in Belgaum on October 10, said that he met the “accidental prime minister” Manmohan Singh recently in Delhi and empathised with him as he too was an “accidental chief minister” - a statement that was, predictably, met with instant laughter and choreographed applause.

If anything, Gowda was at his subtle best in conveying the truth. None expected either the Oxford educated Singh or the incumbent chief minister of Karnataka to be pitch forked into political prominence as they find themselves in today, and were done so only after other options in the respective party armouries were either exhausted or impractical. Despite them being their party’s mascots - their soft demeanours vital to the survival of the two parties - the decisions and statements of the two continue to be viewed as that of their ‘supposed’ masters, Sonia Gandhi for Singh and former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa for Gowda.

It is the similarities between the two, rather than the differences, that are a source of intrigue. Sullia-born Gowda and Singh are heads of governments that have public discontent simmering against them, for the most obvious reason of corruption. Interestingly, their governments need to look within rather than outside for potent sources of trouble (the face-off between Pranab Mukherjee and P Chidambaram, polarisation of K’taka BJP camps, need we say more). Also, the Opposition parties of the two governments have grossly failed to capitalise on the issue of corruption – L K Advani’s Rath Yatra is more like bolting the stables after the horses have fled, especially after Team Anna upstaged it on bringing the UPA government to book for its torrent of scams; Gali Janardhana Reddy and Yeddyurappa may have fallen from grace, but the public outreach programmes of Congress in Karnataka have failed to translate into electoral victories. 

Perhaps the most striking similarity between the two leaders is their proclivity to seek indirect public mandate to continue in power. Singh chooses to remain PM by getting elected to Rajya Sabha; it is only expected that Gowda will continue in the CM’s gaddi by getting elected to the Legislative Council. 

Two days later, this time in Shimoga, namma CM makes a similar, somewhat self-deprecating statement, but does not refer to any Central government leaders. “K S Eshwarappa (state BJP secretary) and Yeddyurappa were solely responsible for my ascendancy to the CM’s chair,” he said.

So, will our honoured PM reciprocate in kind and admit that he is a mere puppet in the hands of the 2Gs of the Congress? Watch this space for more details.

(Photos: Wikipedia)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Vedi: Formulaic and repetitive

Appeared in City Express, the daily supplement of The New Indian Express, on October 3, 2011

“You, a Tamilian, eh? What makes you people a daring race?” a goon questions the hero. In reply, the hero, Vishal, slam-dunks a glass bottle through his adversary’s mouth that pierces through the back of his head, leaving his henchmen too stunned to react. Vedi (U/A), a remake of the Telugu film Shouryam, comprises similar scenes and a plot that has been done to death by Kollywood’s honchos.
Vedi (the cracker) has Vishal essaying the role of Prabhakaran, an IPS officer in search of his long-lost sibling, who also has to overcome his nemesis (Sayaji Shinde) along the way. He joins as a physical education trainer at a college in Kolkata, where he comes in contact with Balu (Vivek), a gym instructor, whose desperation to obtain a muscular figure forces him to nestle balloons inside his shirt. 
Paro (Sameera Reddy), a student in the same college, gets smitten by Prabhakaran. However, beneath Prabhakaran’s placid exterior is a monster waiting to erupt.
If there were ever a factor that hurts Vedi the most, it is its refusal to maintain its suspense. Paro bumps into Prabhakaran in a road, raising hopes that they will meet again soon. And presto, the very next scene has Prabhakaran in her college. Deepa (Poonam Kaur), Paro’s classmate, is a source of help to Prabhakaran; lest it does not act as a spoiler, the audience gets a mountain of a hint that something else awaits the two. Meanwhile, Eshwaramoorthy (Sayaji Shinde), a local don, seeks vengeance against the person who had jailed him. The first half proceeds sans too many glitches, but the latter half runs itself into a rut, what with the director’s fetish for detail in the form of a never-ending stream of flashbacks.
The script alternates between Thoothukudi, where the villain is holed up, and Kolkata, with its iconic landmarks, the trams, the Writer's Building and the Howrah Bridge. Vishal, after an offbeat role in Avan Ivan, returns to playing characters tailor-made for him, flaunting his sinewy looks. Sameera Reddy provides the necessary eye-candy. And was that Devi Sri Prasad in the opening song? Sophie Chaudhary makes a fleeting appearance in an item number. Vivek spoofs Apoorva Sagodharargal, Endhiran, Malayoor Mambattiyan and a host of other movies in his comedy track.
The fights may be modern; replete with freeze-frame techniques and The Matrix-like stunts, but the storyline is definitely Stone Age stuff. This cracker fails to light even its fuse.