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Who is Kaushal Karkhanis
Kaushal is a friend and colleague who kindly consented to being my model last weekend. He demonstrated remarkable willigness to stay still while I experimented with various exposure settings. Thank you sire! A little stiller, and I shall hire you as my tripod :-)



And oh, the Moth - thanks to you too sir/madam.

This is my first ever attempt at portraiture and I can already imagine that Yoda doll softly whispering to me - "much to learn you have my young paduan!"
posted: 26.7.05 | permalink | 16 comments

Mangal Pandey: music review
It doesn’t happen often that you pick up a Rahman album that doesn’t live up to its hype. Yet this is how Rahman’s latest score for Mangal Pandey The Rising (abbreviated as MPTR for rest of this write-up), turns out to be.

Before I get into analysis of individual tracks, I must tell you why I didn’t have high expectations from this album. If my tally is correct, this is Rahman’s 77th album. Of these about 24 have been original Hindi scores (excluding dubs/remakes, give or take two). Of these 24, a good lot have been movies based on period/nationalistic/patriotic themes. Let’s count:

  • 1947 Earth

  • Zubieda

  • Lagaan

  • The Legend of Bhagat Singh

  • Meenaxi (sort of)

  • Swades

  • Kisna (agreed, majority of this was composed by Ismail Durbar)

  • Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose

and now MPTR

Most of these movies demand a particular kind of music, which is bound to constrain even most talented of composers. Let me take up an exaggerated example to clarify what I mean: if you are making a historical movie documenting life of Bach, you wouldn’t use a Chopin sonata for background score. Movies set in 1850-1947, demand that a particular set of instruments be played in a particular style. The patriotic/period tinge demands that folk themes be used (if only for one or two tracks). The net result is that even before the director explains the composer situations that demand songs, our composer has been imprisoned by the movie’s settings. One can still come up with a refreshing score (Netaji Subhas Chandra is a great example IMO) but not if 7 out of these 9 period movies come out in less than 4 years!

With that background, let me take up individual tracks.

The album begins with war-cry like Mangal Mangal. Which is repeated twice in the album (Rahman fans are no strangers to track repetitions). Despite this, the album is barely 36 minutes and Yash Raj Music charge you a premium price (considering that most new albums now retail at under 100 Rs!) of Rs. 145 for it! There is very little in this track, and quite honestly Kailash Kher begins to get on your nerves by the time 2 minutes 30 seconds of it finish. Very heavy folk influence. The main melody sounds like something you’ve definitely heard before but at the end of it you are unable to place it exactly.

About Main Vari Vari I’ll only say that it sounds like one of those mujara numbers the likes of which can be found littered throughout the Hindi film music oeuvre. The melody is catchy. Nothing novel, though I’ll still rate it as one of the more hummable numbers in the album.

Holi Re brings back memories of Ghanan Ghanan from Lagaan. The opening dhol in the background is a straight rip from Daud’s title number which later changes to dhol / dholak beats from Kadhalar Dhinam’s Dandiya. Yes Amir Khan gives his voice to this number (besides Udit Narayan, Madhusree, Srinivas, Chinmaye). He is mostly restricted to saying wonderful rhyming words (that too in duplicate!) like chalak chalak, dhalak dhalak, dhamak dhamak, lapak lapak, dhumak dhumak, thirak thirak, matak matak, chanak chanak. Fortunately Udit Narayan takes charge before it becomes unbearable. Mr. Khan does make a comeback again in the middle of the song and says those inane, clichéd things about Radha and Kanha - says not sings. Stylistically, traces of Pal Pal Hai Bhari from Swades and Radha Kaise Na Jale from Lagaan are easily sought. Wonderful fragments of lyrics are to be sought too – “thodi thodi tu jo nashili hui, patli kamar lachkili hui”. Let me say it in just two words – utter tosh.

Rasiya for some reasons is redolent of Pas Aa Ja Balam Re from Mr. Romeo and Machli Pani Bina from the same movie. Richa Sharma, thanks to her contralto voice, ends up reminding you of Ila Arun; though the former definitely has much broader range. The longest track in the album - a tad too long.

Takey Takey’s snake-charmer flute opening is identical to one Rahman used in Nayak’s Saiyaan. Imagine Kailash Kher and Sukhwinder Singh in one track. No don’t.

Al Maddath Maula’s background instrumentation in the beginning reminded me of Escape from Warriors of Heaven and Earth even though the resemblance is tenuous. The intro definitely reminds you of Zikr from Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Stylistically this is a kawwali but Rahman does treat it differently a little later on. (Kailash Kher can be heard again giving alaap in the background)

Mangal Mangal concludes the album. This is a longer, slower, more soulful version. The tempo picks up in the middle and crescendos into a frenzy of “Mangal Mangal Mangal Mangal Mangal ho…….”

Yes this is Rahman. Yes his music ‘grows’ over you over multiple hearings - but for that to happen, I should at least feel like going over the whole CD again. This is one CD my shelf could have done without.

Moral of this review – spend those 145 Rupees on a pizza. Better still, hold on to them till Rahman’s next movie – there is only one way he can go after this one!
posted: 20.7.05 | permalink | 9 comments

Hello uncle!
Lal Bagh botanical garden in Bangalore, is God sent for photographers still learning the ropes. Just amble here for an hour and you're bound to come across diverse subjects - both botanical and non-botanical. I was moving about with my camera slung around my neck when these school children came on their field trip. Their teachers kept saying - "look children, uncle has a camera! he will take your photos". The children of course are a lot smarter these days than we used to be and needn't be told what uncles with cameras look like (or what they do). There I was standing amidst them with joyous cries of "hello uncle" pouring into my ears from everywhere. The sun came out for those evanescent moments. The children rushed past me and it was cloudy again.



p.s. Canon 350D in action. Pictures cropped a wee bit.
posted: 18.7.05 | permalink | 13 comments

Photo Friday Challenge (Silky)
My first ever entry to the Photo Friday challenge. The theme for the week is Silky, and here is my interpretation:


p.s. Click to see the larger 800x600 version.

p.p.s. Taken using good old Minolta DiMage Xt a few months ago.
posted: 17.7.05 | permalink | 0 comments

The morning after...
...a rainy night.

posted: 14.7.05 | permalink | 8 comments

When it rains, click
Here are some of the pictures that I clicked while spending a restless, rainy (though lazy) day at home this Sunday. Hope I don't bring my camera a bad name!



posted: 12.7.05 | permalink | 16 comments

An ode to my camera
As I move to my next camera (finally a Canon 350D!), here is as an ode to my older Minolta. I already miss carrying it wherever I go.

A young man - of twenty four
Walked into a camera store
(Two years ago, in downtown LA)
Six months’ savings, ready to pay

“A digital camera is what I need”
“Sure! digital, uh.., indeed!”
“Yes, we’ve plenty come have a look”
“Is that Minolta? there, that nook”

A fresh piece was thus pulled out
(I almost uttered a joyous shout)
Ah, this is small! Fits in my pocket!
with charger that fits an Indian socket!

“See sir! it is hardly thick!”
“That is well, but let me click”
Features were then enumerated
Shopkeeper shortly remunerated

Since then, wherever I’ve been
Through this eye world I’ve seen
Yes, (like me) it now grows old
Still it’s worth its weight in gold!


This is one of the earliest pics I took with my first camera (cropped significantly). Yes it's very hazy - LA those days was riddled with forest fires.
posted: 10.7.05 | permalink | 13 comments

Looking for a digital ('prosumer') camera
Dear Readers, I am looking for a new digital camera. My Minolta DiMage XT (3.2 MP) has served me well over last two years but now it is time to move on. I need more control over my shots. DiMage Xt is a good digital camera with a mind of its own and I find that more and more often we tend to disagree over how a shot should look. There is nothing like a digital SLR but I intend to pursue photography without mortgaging my rented apartment or selling my kidneys.

So kind readers, recommend me a camera that can be procured under (or a little over) 1000 dollars. And yes, I prefer to buy in Bangalore, India. GK Vale is listed as the only vendor for Canon (one of my preferred brands), but GK Vale would pretend that I am an ethereal apparition unless I was there for getting my pictures clicked for Visa. Once snubbed, twice shy. GK Wail Vale aren't getting a single penny of my hard earned money.

So what are my options, really?
posted: 7.7.05 | permalink | 6 comments

Good deal on classics
Found out today that good folks at Strand Bookshop (Manipal Centre, Dickinson Road (just off MG Road)) are offering a good 50% discount on a decent selection of hard-bound classics. Most of these are on Everyman's Library (nice crisp binding sans garish leather/faux-leather engraved in golden ink; plus I love the smell!) and might seem steep to you even after the discount - though I think they are a steal! I've coaxed myself to be content with Hugo's Les Misérables (picked up for 545 Rs.) for now. I am afraid that my feet will drag me to the shop this weekend without my own volition.
posted: 6.7.05 | permalink | 0 comments

I've been passed a book meme by at least three people (Geetanjali, Megha, Rajesh) - I better honor it before bad luck befalls me! So here is all you need to know about my books:

Volume of Books owned: Never counted - I do however see two towers of babel growing taller each day. I suspect the number is close to 110.

Books I recently brought: It has been raining books for last two months. Either generous friends have been gifting me books or I've been running into books/authors I've I always wanted to read. Here are the ones that I have picked recently (I'll need to sit with a large scroll to take stock of ones I've been gifted so I'll overlook them for this blog entry):

  1. The Spire - William Golding

  2. 17 Lost Short Stories - Sommerset Maugham

  3. The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Last book I read: The Color Purple - Alice Walker. (A good friend's valiant attempt to introduce me to women writers/feminist works)

One book that I couldn't finish: Vikram Seth's - A Suitable Boy. It just droned on and on and on like of those despicable 'K' soaps at Star Plus. I finally gave up.

Five books I cherish:

  1. To The Ends Of The Earth - William Golding. You can find my earlier review here.

  2. A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens. I seem to like anything by Dickens. This one is exceptional in its portrayal of French Revolution. The plot is brilliant too!

  3. The Tempest - William Shakespeare. There is very little by Shakespeare that I've read but of what I have, his last work is my favorite. Yes, I like happy endings.

  4. The Piano Tuner - Daniel Mason. The novel, set in 19th century, tells us the tale of a piano tuner who is summoned from London on an unusual mission to fix a badly damanged piano in Burma. Daniel Mason's first novel!

  5. The Hunchback of Notre Dame - Victor Hugo. Djali and Gringoire feel like myself. Need I say more :)?

Now comes the hardest part! Who do I pass this on to? I'll start with Ink Spill, Esther and Manjusha.
posted: 5.7.05 | permalink | 3 comments

Movie Magic
One of the memories that I carried from my trip to Vijayawada in March is of a dilapidated two storey house whose walls were plastered with countless movie posters. What surprised me most was that not only local Telugu movies got place of pride in this colorful mosaic but also Bollywood and Hollywood fare! Most posters; besides the movie name, bear a prominent number which indicates the days since when the movie has been running in town.


This mosaic (with a little nudging from Jani) prompted me to watch two Telugu movies a little later that very month. If the ones I saw were an indication of the movie industry in Andhra, then not only are the folks at Bollywood grossly overrated, they are also downright boring! No, I cannot be told to explain myself unless you have watched at least two recent Telugu blockbusters (and then chances are that I won’t have to!).
posted: 4.7.05 | permalink | 8 comments

Monsoon in Mumbai
During monsoons, when it rains, it pours. This holds truer for some cities in India than others. But no matter what logic you apply to prepare and sort your list, you’ll find that Mumbai will always emerge on top. I have borne the brunt of Monsoons in Mumbai once – having checked out of our hotel to catch the 5:30 PM Rajdhani back to Delhi, we had once found ourselves stranded at the Station for over fourteen hours. But that was fifteen years ago and one would expect that either the rain gods or the city would have mended their ways; I found out just last month that neither have.

I was on a morning flight to Mumbai and it didn’t take a window seat to tell that I was flying at a time when monsoon is in its full force. Often the cabin would be engulfed in eerie darkness as the plane waded its way through tunnels of grey clouds. The seat’s tray-table and the contents placed on it would creak and rattle each time the plane negotiated a turbulent patch. When the plane landed on the soaked highway, I could see from my aisle seat that water was cascading down the plane’s windows in such abundance that it formed a redundant glassy layer over them, which under forces of wind and gravity strove constantly to muddle the view outside.

There was no aerobridge available for our plane so we had to get down the plane and hop into the bus parked close to the staircase. The maneuver involved fording a gushing ankle deep stream by placing at least one foot on the ground, while the other sought foothold on the bus. Surprisingly I spotted no school of salmons.

When I came out of the airport, the covered waiting area was brimming with crowd that was mostly comprised of placard holding drivers from hotels and travel agencies, waiting for their clients to arrive. I spotted mine who courteously beckoned me to come out of the covered portico under a flimsy umbrella that he held open for me. Given the intensity of downpour, that umbrella would have hardly covered my driver’s broad frame so there is no way it would have kept rain away from me and my backpack. Fortunately, Bangalore has taught me to carry an umbrella in my backpack wherever I go. It was pulled out with much élan – like He-Man pulling out his sword from his backpack scabbard (“by the power of gray-skull”), and unfurled in the glorious rain. My driver, happy to see me adequately equipped, smiled and told me to follow him.

Mumbai airport is undergoing construction. A lot of work is going on at the parking area as well. As I plodded through the water riddled road, I figured that most construction work had been abandoned temporarily – heaps of concrete mixture and columns of neatly stacked bricks had been left unattended under sheets of tarpaulin. My driver, while moving through the maze of cars and construction material, ran into a half-finished wall. He climbed the wall without looking behind, thereby subtly suggesting that I was supposed to repeat the feat too. Reluctantly, with my suitcase in one hand, umbrella in other, and with a heavy backpack bolstering my back from collarbone to hipbone I scaled the wall in the clumsiest possible manner. I am sure there are documented species of sloth that have demonstrated better skill, grace and agility in climbing 3-feet unfinished walls.

By the time I was inside my car, it was obvious that the umbrella had been only marginally effective against the forces of nature. My backpack was wet so were my arms and as for my shoes, it could be that I had worn aquariums to work.

After much honking and jostling the driver successfully steered the car out of the parking. The roads right outside the airport looked reasonably free of traffic but as we drove deeper into the city we realized how messy that ride was going to be. Traffic in most places was crawling at a precise rate of 100 nanometers per minute. I was certain that at this rate, by the time I was at hotel, the sun would already be looking forward to its red-giant days. Even that modicum of detectable velocity ceased at one of the traffic junctions. The rain picked up. Most people had realized the futility of blowing their car-horns or keeping their engines on so all I could now hear inside the car was the pitter-patter of hundreds of drops hitting the car’s metallic roof. The driver demonstrated remarkable optimism in keeping the car-wipers running. “He thinks that the traffic before him will clear any moment and he would drive away” I said to my cynical self. The wipers would sweep an arch every thirty second and provide a wonderful accompaniment to the monotonous drumming of rains – “khudak khat”.

Then, as is wont of “things”, “something” unexpected happened. A good Samaritan who had gone on a reconnaissance mission to estimate the outreach of traffic, returned and informed us that this stretch had been building for over three hours and would take at least as much time to clear. Our driver, in a rare demonstration of good judgment put the car in reverse gear and took a turn into the opposite lane. The traffic here was moving well though I was hoping that the detour would not involve looping Cape of Good Hope to reach my destination which on a good day would have been just twenty minutes’ ride away.

What happened after this, only my driver can blog about. I knew that I had fallen asleep and by the time I had opened my eyes we were entering our hotel gates – well within time for the presentations I was to make here.
posted: 2.7.05 | permalink | 9 comments

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