Archive for January, 2009

opethI don’t listen to death/black metal anymore. That sort of sucked away the enthusiasm I normally would have had for a concert at IIT; more so for an Opeth concert. It’s nice and all that a prominent Swedish heavy metal band agreed to perform in our city and it’s swell that Opeth plays a pretty decent hybrid of a poor man’s Beethoven and your favourite Norwegian black metal band #22. And I am so glad that so many of you decided to wear that “Opeth” T-Shirt that you bought during one of those sordid weekends in Bangalore.

Everything is so peachy and pear-shaped that it almost breaks my spirit to tell you that the Opeth concert really, really sucked. Forget about the band’s disconnect with the audience, the questionable playlist and the absolutely horrendous crowd behaviour. No, really…I’m willing to look past these fallacies. What really got to me was the way Opeth performed as musicians on stage. I could have so easily mistaken them for your favourite Norwegian black metal band #34. For years I have been reading concert reviews, which spoke in detail about the stunning artistry of their live performances. I even remember reading an article in Metal Hammer that compared Opeth’s live shows to those of Pink Floyd. Instead I got to see a bunch of guys, who dressed like teenagers, looked a bit like CSNY’s obnoxious stepchildren and sounded like your favourite Norwegian black metal band #45.

As for the kids (or adults kidding themselves that a change in attire immediately makes them look five years younger) at the concert, god bless each and every one of you for being completely oblivious to the fact as upper/low middle-class Indians, we are about as heavy metal (it can be used as a verb, you see) as the strands of hair plucked from Willie Nelson’s beard. No matter how unkempt your appearance is or how far you goatee transcends your chin, you are not ‘metal’.

No offence, but you can’t be ‘metal’. You could pretend and perhaps you might even succeed in getting a few guys to believe that bullshit, but deep down inside, you know…you aren’t ‘metal’. Why? It’s like this…because you want that Blackberry that your colleague has…because you pretend to prefer Kill Em All to Black Album just to make sure that your friends think you’re a heavy metal purist …because most of the anger that you channel into your music can be solved by spending a few minutes with Oprah Winfrey…mostly because you just listen to metal to escape clichés.

And waving your cellphones in the air to rebel against the fact that lighters were banned in the auditorium is not metal.

It’s beyond lame.

It’s Nokia’s wet dream. It’s that advertisement that Nokia never paid for because even a bunch of corporate suits sipping cafe mocha thought it was a corny idea to ask 3,000 idiots to wave their phones in the air at a heavy metal concert.

My my, you guys are so fucking metal.

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2855jpgSometimes I become really obtuse and I refuse to download music albums. Hence the paranoia about the World Wide Web taking away the intricacies of appreciating music. Saving money for over a month, just to buy one friggin’ CD. The almost caveman-like rage, which takes over the mind the moment it fathoms that the difficulty involved in tearing apart the plastic cover around the CD case. The smell of the artwork on the inside pages. The artwork itself. Reading the album credits and linear notes and realizing that the band’s vocalist has been influenced big-time by one of your favourite musicians from the Seventies. The momentary lapse in reason and the speculative rumours that lead you to believe that there is indeed a hidden track.

Having said that, I know it’s not as though we are missing on a bunch of magical experiences by solely relying on the Internet to feast on music. Hell, it’s barely an experience that lasts all of 20 minutes. And yes, the Internet has liberalized my taste in music to the extent that I actively search for remixes of Grunge tracks, as well as introduced me to sounds without which my nights would have been a lot less comfortable. But I am pretty sure that somehow I had greater respect for music back then when I used to skip every other lunch at high school just to get that Chemical Brothers’ album. Now I download out-of-print EPs and rare recordings over brunch and lime cooler.

So does that mean that Internet fanboys are more deserving music enthusiasts than tape traders?

While you figure that out, I’ll tell you this much…

Last week, I bought Encomium (Led Zeppelin tribute) for 175 bucks and as I was driving around Spurtank Road with Jerry, Stone Temple Pilots’ blistering cover of Dancing Days slow-burned its way through the car stereo. Scott Weiland’s vocals swung like a pendulum with midlife crisis between being sultry and being tortured with Dean DeLeo exorcising the spirit of Jimmy Page on an acoustic guitar. All the while, Jerry was examining the album’s artwork and shooting some seriously tripped out glances at the lyrics.

And all I could think of was, “man, if I can only convince those bastards at Landmark to slash prices on Sandman and Maus comics.”


Stone Temple Pilots – Dancing Days


Encomium – Various Artists

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Central government’s decision to “look into archaic portrayal of girls, women on TV” while out here in the real world (Villipuram, to be specific), an eight-year-old girl is forced to marry a fucking frog

The Indian cricketers whining like Oliver Twist on crack and Xanax about how Greg Chappell used to “shout” at them; considering the fact he was hired to toughen them out on the field

The fact that white people seem to think that Bill Clinton is more African American than Barack Obama


Thank you, Cinematic Orchestra…keep making fantastic music.

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Day 1

CNN IBN blows a giant wad of appreciation for Slumdog Millionaire and hails the film as the greatest thing since sliced Lagaan (which, to further the irony of it all, was a horrible, horrible film)

No one gives a shit about the Mumbai slum kids

Day 6

CNN IBN accuses Slumdog Millionaire of being “poverty pornography” and invites activists and socialites to participate in an “Oh-No-Rich-Famous-White-People-Think-We-Are-Poor” discourse.

No one gives a shit about the Mumbai slum kids

Day 7

Tom Cruise’s ten second soundbyte in Korea gets one-hour slot on CNN IBN’s late night show. “Hare yaar… hope Cruise bhaiya knows that not all Indians are like not like totally poor…oh my god, that would be like so gross,” says random reporter to colleague.

No one gives a shit about the Mumbai slum kids

Day 100

Entertainment magazines start rumours about a random Bollywood actor daring Danny Boyle to ever step foot into India again.

No one gives a shit about the Mumbai slum kids

Day 3,760

The slum kids have all grown up into men and they have kids

No one gives a shit about the Mumbai slum kids

Sometime in the distant future

Apes take over the civilized world

No one gives a shit about the Mumbai slum kids


Apparently the second viewing of the film opened up the CNN IBN editor’s third eye and pissed warm showers of effectual wisdom on art and the appreciation of such. Or maybe the geniuses at CNN-IBN have realized that cynicism is a bandwagon that they can jump on to appease the Page 3 intellectuals.

How you stupid motherfuckers not fall on your asses when you get out of bed in the morning, I’ll never ever figure out.


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will-smith-in-seven-pound-001Seven Pounds: I detested The Air I Breathe for its feeble attempts at feigning intelligence. A lot of film directors feel the need to infuse some sort of pretentious intellectualism or quasi-theatrical drama into their films to give them credibility. But I ask you, since when did we, neanderthals, NOT enjoy stupid films? Remember Independence Day? Big, fun, cool visuals and er… Will Smith. Hell, sometimes even silly dramas find their way into my heart. Case in point, Green Card and Paradise. Gabriele Muccino’s Seven Pounds is a lot like our colleagues, yeah you know, those ones who read a couple of Nietzsche quotes on brainyquotes.com and all of a sudden think of themselves to be connoisseurs of existentialism. “It’s an extraordinary journey of redemption,” scream IMDB junkies. Give me stupidity over pretensions, I mumble.

00092428_The Accidental Tourist: Legend has it that the jury at Academy Awards took time-off from smoking crack in 2005. They put the crack pipes down long enough to nominate William Hurt for best supporting actor for his 15-minute powerhouse performance in Cronenberg’s History Of Violence. He’s one of the most important actors of the Nineties and look no further than Lawrence Kasdan’s The Accidental Tourist to have a peek into Hurt’s virtuosity as a performer. Also starring the ever-fantastic Bill Pullman, Geena Davis and Katheleen Turner, the film revolves around Macon Leary (William Hurt) – a travel writer for corporate travelers, now trying to get his life back on the road after a tragic accident leaves him desperately cynical towards everything furry and warm. Geena Davis, for once, does not suck and does her best “Minnie Driver” impersonation yet. Kathleen Turner and Bill Pullman, well…they couldn’t suck even if they were forced at gunpoint to act in a remake of Casablanca.

2008_changeling_001Changeling: Clint Eastwood would have got the “comeback of the year” award every year since 2000 but the thing is he never went away. In 2003, after nearly three decades of mediocre acting, mediocre directing, spaghetti westerns and Dirty Harrys, Mr Eastwood hit his peak as a director with Mystic River – a riveting drama that boasts of talent such as Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon and Tim Robbins. It won Clint Eastwood two Oscars. In 2004, he made Million Dollar Baby and subsequently became the proud possessor of four more Oscars. His next two films were not as critically acclaimed but nevertheless added to his Oscar loot with four nominations and another gold statuette. Angelina Jolie and Clint Eastwood are probably going to be nominated for the Oscars this year for Changeling – a film that was seemingly made for that very purpose. Now, now…it’s a neat film with no jarring flaws but once again, a thread of vacant emotions – similar to that which destroyed Million Dollar Baby’s credibility towards the climax – rears its ugly head. Jolie cries so much in this film that after a point, you almost find yourself rooting for the prodigal “son” to turn evil and run his mommy down with a tricycle.

Long story short, “Mom loses son. Son comes back. Son not really ‘real’ son. Mom finds out. Evil policemen have other plans.” Oh well, at least more Oscar worthy than “poor boy meets rich girl, screws over Billy Zane, screws rich girl in a different way, everyone falls of the cruise ship and the most annoying person on-board survives”. You want proof of the old man’s talent as a director? Go watch Bird.

zoe-bellDeath Proof. For my money, the third best Quentin Tarantino film behind Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. Released in 2007, Death Proof was Tarantino’s tribute to B-grade action of the Seventies and Eighties. A sleazy, gory and stylish nightmare with an opening sequence so preposterously retro and so elaborate that it makes the discourse on Madonna at the beginning of Reservoir Dogs seem like a passing thought. A fitting tribute to non-kitschy influences of liberal thinking, I guess. What many don’t know is that Death Proof is also a tribute to J. G. Ballard’s superb novel – Crash. And to think director Paul Haggis stole some of the book’s best lines, made a corny movie and won a friggin’ Oscar for it. Eishhhh. Remember Don Cheadle saying, “People would crash into each other just to feel something (pause)…anything”. That was so ripped off from Ballard that it almost immediately ceased to be funny. Hmmm…anyway coming back to Death Proof. It’s fun, mindless and a whole lot of Zoe Bell (as Zoe Bell) beating the shit out of Kurt Russell. It’s almost endearing how earnestly Zoe chases Kurt down and opens a can of whoop ass. Now who do I have to kill to see her kick Michael Douglas’ ass?

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putsApart from being the title of a really cool Wes Craven flick, People Under The Stairs (PUTS) is also what a bunch of jazzy hip-hoppers form LA are calling themselves. Having released over six albums, four EPs, a couple of mixtapes to their credit and having fashioned a laidback vibe that even the late Miles Davis would approve of, PUTS is one amongst a pantheon of underground rap ensembles who don’t stay awake at nights, wrestling with the false notion that maybe someday Carson Daly will give a shit about them. With lyrics such as “When the stress burns my brain just like acid raindrops / Mary Jane is the only thing that makes the pain stop,” Acid Rain Drops reminds me of those surreal nights we spent at the broken bridge in Adyar. It also reminds me how much love I have for Gill-Scott Heron. God bless his groovy heart for convincing Jazz to have sex with hip-hop. Legend has it that hip-hop made breakfast in bed the next morning.


People Under The Stairs – Acid Raindrops

kobayashi1Apparently, Montreal-based Kobayashi recorded their debut Strange Lights and Resolutions in just under a week. Thankfully, their spontaneity has yielded fantastic sounds. For anyone who appreciates eclectic music, Kobayashi’s “Shasta” is probably the greatest James Bond theme that never was. When the trumpet kicks in and swirls around those sticky beats like only the bastard child of DJ Shadow and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy could, you will kneel down before the altar of electro jazz. I haven’t heard music this cerebral and soulful at the same time since Radiohead decided to fuck with out heads and release Kid A.


Kobayashi – Shasta

talvin_singhTalvin Singh is generally held responsible for the travesty that sometimes is Asian Underground. Convincing the Panjabi MCs and Fun-Da-Mental to release albums is probably the most heinous crime it has perpetuated. However, all is not pure evil, as a few of its originators – Talvin Singh and Sweety Kapoor – have put out some good, good music out there. Talvin, especially, is known for teaming up with notable UK acts such as David Sylvian, Massive Attack and The Future Sound of London. As evidenced by this awesome version of Big Time Sensuality with Icelandic goddess Bjork and Frou Frou’s songwriter Guy Sigsworth, the results are often breathtaking. Having said that, hearing Caucasian folks and NRIs fuse western elements with the sounds that evolved from the Vedas only adds to the frustration I have for Indian bands who are completely and willfully oblivious to the forms of expression that are inherent to the land their forefathers hail from.


Bjork & Talvin Singh – Big Time Sensuality (Live)

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sinucidere_1211138471Papa Bear lives here

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max_moonI have been a fan of pro wrestling for as long as 15 years. It started off innocently enough with this character on World Wrestling Federation called Max Moon -supposedly a warrior from the future who wore this spiffy spaceman suit and made it clear that he really liked doing cartwheels and somersaults. It was silly gimmick and we, as silly fans, lapped it up. See…I thought this shit was real. Obviously, I didn’t know that pro wrestling was a multi-billion dollar empire that earned its moolah from merchandise sales and four hours of scripted programming.

The obsession began when I was introduced to the local store Ric Video’s vault of classic tapes of Bret Hart – a wrestler who wore pink tights, a black jacket with frills and ridiculously retro sunglasses, which he often passed on to some kid in the crowd as a gesture of goodwill. But he seemingly could wrestle circles around evil psychopaths in scary costumes who desperately wanted the gold belt he wore around his waist. I tell you, if only I had the acumen for iconoclasm then, I would have probably built a shrine in Hart’s honour. By then I also understood that this was scripted sports entertainment and nothing more…but it never bothered me.

hitman-dvd_pic6Mos of my admiration for Bret Hart’s stemmed from his ability to beat the shit out of his opponent’s leg and then lock it in a neat submission move. Years passed and so did my fascination, hatred and indifference for many wrestlers…and it still never bothered me. Back then, even a good film couldn’t make me feel any particular emotion towards its character as frequently as wrestling did with its characters and athletes. Even now, I would prefer watching a good storyline in wrestling culminating over time into a bloody mano-to-mano battle rather than watching a film’s protagonist defy the odds, gravity, theology, the Germans, physics and pretty much everything else in order to beat the baddie and hook up with the heroine.

img1Now I get my fix mostly from AJPW, BattlARTS, ROH, K1, European mat wrestling and mixed martial arts where sweaty, pissed-off, super gnarly bastards look to rip the limbs off their opponents or at least knock them, as the French might say, le fuck out. It might not be entertaining to those who pretend to be non-masochistic (everyone’s a masochist, goddamit), but for us, bloodthirsty hooligans looking for cheap thrills in ligaments being torn and skulls being knocked out silly enough to put tails on them and call them monkeys (Black Adder rip-off #2), this probably is the purest form of athletic entertainment. Watch this to understand the theatre of Japanese wrestling.

wrestler-aronofsky-promo-05And that’s 444 words of build-up just for me to say that I am not ready to review The Wrestler yet. Rather I don’t want to fully review it. I watched it a week ago and well, so far – film of the year. I might even go as far enough to say that it was better than The Dark Knight. A few of the epiphanies I had while watching this film still send glorious shivers down my spine. The nicest one I could think of centered around how only physical pain gave Rourke’s character a reason to live and possibly, to find love. But I am going to go with what William Macy’s character said in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia.

I have got so much love to give, but I just don’t know where to put it

So tremendously unpretentious that you almost want to call up Mickey Rourke right away and tell him that it’s all going to be ok.

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…these websites are so good that you could have sex with their URLs. Or at least fantasize about sharing wine, cheese and chocolates with them.

But seriously, some of the prettiest music living and breathing online.

http://aurgasm.us   ‘the finest music you’ve never heard’

http://souledonmusic.blogspot.com – best collection of soul music I’ve ever stumbled upon

http://fleamarketfunk.wordpress.com – good enoough for me to think funkstatic sounds cool

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633516328495781250I read Vikas Swarup’s Q&A sometime in 2006 and found it to be wildly refreshing. A rare phenomenon considering that the author was an Indian. Say what you will, but I am of the opinion that most Indian writers are unoriginal; the ones who make a living out of it only seem to possess the acumen for marketing and creating sales-pitches. The ones who win awards for mediocrity and then gloat about it on news channels need to be punched in the face. Case in point, Kiran Desai, Arvind Adiga, Jhumpa Lahiri and any other author who has waxed nostalgic about sitting under blue mango trees during those idyllic summer vacations at granny’s house.

I bought Q&A from one of those roadside vendors in Mumbai. I’d like to say that I bought this out of that accidental artistic instinct that drives admirers towards objects of obscure beauty, but I’d be lying. My sister agreed to pay for the Shantaram novel and I guess I decided to play hardball.

I devoured Q&A in one sitting; something I had not done since Pierre’s Vernon God Little, Kesey’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and Thuber’s Carnival. I was impressed by Vikas Swarup’s ability to put out a page-turner without resorting to cheap “I bet you won’t believe what happens in the next page” tactics. That’s the sort of thing that separates adrenaline mongers like Sydney Sheldon and Dan Brown from decent “pulp fiction” writers such as Frederick Forsyth and Iain Banks. The climax, despite being cheesy, ultimately left me with a sweet taste in my mouth. All was right with the world, I felt. A feeling that eluded me towards the end of Slumdog Millionaire.


On the bright side, Slumdog Millionaire gave a lot of credibility to the age-old presumption that the “book” is always better than the “film”. While I think it’s a bit harsh to indiscriminately believe that, I do find myself agreeing with that notion more feverishly than ever before. Swarup’s words elevated the basic premise of Q & A and cleverly bypassed it through a bunch of whimsical philosophies to keep the content fresh, relevant and airy enough to make you yearn for more. In Slumdog Millionaire, the dialogues seemed tactless and forcibly dramatic. Danny Boyle’s cinematic street credo (something he used with great effect in Trainspotting) was innocent bystander as he seemingly let his fascination for poverty take control of his portrayal of the Mumbai slums.

With the exception of Freida Pinto as Latika and Irfan Khan as the police inspector, the rest of the cast seemed overtly conscious that they were being directed by that dude who made Trainspotting. Ms Pinto was good since she downplayed her emotions and along with the very talented Irfan gave the film a much needed sense of nonchalance. Another aspect to commend was definitely the music. MIA is fantastic, of course and when inspired AR Rahman crafts out lovely, lovely tunes. Unfortunately, as a friend observed, the song at the climax sounded very inappropriate. And before I forgot…Mr AR Rahman, as a fan of some of your previous works and this one too, I certainly don’t consider it an honour that you now have the ignominy of being clubbed alongside previous Golden Globe winners such as Celine Dione (fucking twice), Bryan Adams, Bon Jovi, Samuel Wright, and Berlin. No, no…you are better than that.

filmnotes1205_500Dev Patel was a disappointment…at no point did I feel that he deserved sympathy or redemption. The vacant, almost fatalistic expression that seemed his face in almost every tragic scene in Slumdog Millionaire was so remarkably different to the essence of Q & A’s protagonist – a young lad who is not clever enough to be indifferent but merely intuitive enough to consider it. I know I know…how in the hell do you ask an actor to express such emotions? Well, I am too sure but I can safely say that hiring a chocolate-faced actor without so much as a blemish on his face wouldn’t be the right way to approach it. Oh and is it just me or does Dev Patel look like a cross between that retarded kid in Nayagan and that emotional anarchist in Kanda Naal Mudhaal? Also, Anil Kapoor? Really? The wry, quick-witted and gloriously evil quizmaster character in the novel is now the product of a totally unsafe orgy featuring the likes of Simon Cowell, Regis Phlbin and a few of those “Better English For Effective Communication” tutors who mask their horrid south Indian accent with an even worse American accent.

The brutality that the slum kids suffer seemed like a sycophantic social strand that was forcibly transmitted into the script just to prove that the white people bleed when brown people get hurt or perhaps to reiterate one of the most annoying statements mankind has ever come stumbled upon…“Think of the CHILDREN!”

Well, I guess I did tear into the film a bit, but unlike many times before, I don’t see myself softening to it a few days later. Yes…Slumdog Millionaire is a perfectly acceptable melodrama that does not put you to sleep. Yes…it never intimidates the audience with inherent stupidity. Yes…the music was pretty good too. But is it worthy of a Golden Globe award for best motion picture?

sgehrp68290507013829photo00photo… hmmmm mark that one as a “Yes” too. Oh and just so you know about Golden Globes’ remarkably piss-poor standards…Barbra Streisand, Michael Douglas, Warren Beatty and Robin Williams were given the lifetime achievement awards for their contribution to motion pictures. So please go ahead and give it the Academy award for Best Motion Picture too and let it rot alongside the overrated likes of Titanic and Braveheart.

Slumdog Millionaire…more of a French poodle than an underdog.

Oh, and read Q&A.

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