Thursday, June 23, 2005


I watched director Shankar's latest, Anniyan, yesterday. I have lately been out of the loop with Tamil movie releases. The few times that I did hear someone talk about Anniyan, I invariably asked what the buzz was about, and as my memory got refreshed, made a mental note to watch it when it got released. And then promptly forgot why there was a buzz about Anniyan till the next time the name cropped up. So, when my family, recently arrived from India, suggested that we go and watch Anniyan, another memory-refresh session took place, and I excitedly agreed to make a beeline to the local Indian movie-theatre.

After seeing all of Shankar's movies (all of which except Boys got my good-tp-value-for-money rating), I have now come to expect grandeur and entertainment on a lavish scale whenever a movie has a Shankar-tag to it. Anniyan is no disappointment!

I have since read that, at a 27 crore rupees making cost, Anniyan is one of the most expensive Indian movies ever made. Though I have read opinions to the contrary, I did feel that the graphics and cool/colorful look of all songs amply show where the money went. At 3 hours, the movie running time is long - but its 3 solid hours of non-stop entertainment, so no complaints there!

Of the principal characters, I have always liked Vikram and Vivek. Vikram is a _really_ good actor. I doubt if any of the other Tamil actors belonging to the current generation could have pulled off the role with such aplomb. Vivek's comedy, which had gotten rather stale in recent movies, is fresh and laugh-out-loud funny in Anniyan. Satha, the heroine lacks screen-presence and is a so-so dancer/actress. However, since her role majorly consited of wearing tummy-revealing costumes in the dance sequences, having a slim figure was the only real criteria for her selection I guess. Prakash Raj was good as were all the characters playing the parents/doctor and whatever role.

Each of the songs is picturized grandly. All the songs involving the Remo character had a similar look - the stylish, cool (MTV?) look. The other songs each sport a different look. I found one of the song settings and dance movements *very similar* to the "anbe anbe" song in Jeans. Much as I loathe Artificial Ash now, I must say that Satha's performance in the Anniyan song compared very unfavorably with Ash's endearing performance in the Jeans song. Nevertheless, all the songs were entertaining in their own right due to the nice picturisation and did not seem like a huge interruption even though all of them were just inserted in at random times.

The fight scenes have a major hangover from the Matrix style of fighting. I have never cared much for fight sequences. The ones in Anniyan were no exception. I thought all of them were rather long. Especially the last one in the martial arts school was repetitive and boring. After sometime it was obvious that nobody was going to defeat Anniyan - so what was the neccessity to hammer it in from different angles for more than 10 minutes? Also I found some of the scenes very violent (but you should get a second opinion about this - I am the type who has shied away from movies like D because I think it will be too violent).

As with any masala movie, there were inconsistencies. The heroine must have had a lower IQ than the dumb blondes in James Bond movies to not figure out that Remo looked a lot like Ambi until the movie was nearly over. The police are, true to Tamil movie tradition, bumbling idiots. They let the culprit escape even after he is literally handed on a platter to them. There are some more - but lets not quibble.

Some of the scenes reminded me a lot about Shankar's earlier movies. But who cares! I dont mind the "no progress with corruption" slogan being beamed towards me any number of times! Sujatha's dialogues are very natural. The characters just speak like they would do in real life - without props like breathless half sentences to punctuate every dramatic scene, exotic words which no one uses normally and so on.

As I said earlier, at 3 hours, the movie is LONG. But I doubt if you will notice that while the movie is on. The fast-paced screenplay and grand sets will make sure of that. While it is not the best of Shankar's movies or the most intelligent movie ever made, it certainly has the most important ingredient for a good movie - unadulterated entertainment. So, go watch it!!

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Around San Francisco in a Day? Sure, why not! Part 2

The carnival was very lively. Numerous bands/troupes were playing live music. All the music had (obviously) a latino feel to it and was pretty foot-tapping too. We started "peyt pooja" again. First it was garlic fries, followed by roasted corn cobs, followed by mango sherbet. By this time our stomachs were crying for mercy. So we stopped plying more food onto it and instead just browsed among the various non-food stalls. Surprisingly, unlike the music, most of the handicrafts had an Indian feel to it!! They looked pretty Indian and when we asked where they were from, the sellers confirmed our suspicion that they were from india. Obviously they were way overpriced over what would have been charged by Indian foot-path hawkers and so our purses remained shut.

After touring around the entire stretch of the carnival road, we decided to proceed to Pier 39. Just as we reached the bart station 16th St, we spotted a bus at the bus-stop and ran and jumped into it. The bus driver said that he would take us as close to the Pier as possible and then we could take the tram.

After a long and pretty uneventful ride (during which we discovered that certain parts of SF looked very much like any Indian city), we got off to get our tram connection. The tram was very crowded. Nonetheless, we got ourselves seats and arrived at the Pier after a short ride. It was around 7.00p then.

All this while a doubt had been niggling at the back of my mind. I remembered that there was something unusual about caltrain timings on weekends. The service stopped early or sth like that - but for the life of me I couldnt put my finger on what! As luck would have it, our numerous attempts to procure a Caltrain timetable since noon had failed. So I called my room-mate up to ask her when the last train back to San Jose was. She wasnt there and so I just left her a message.

15 minutes later, at 7.15, when we were fast becoming a merry part of the merry crowds at Pier 39, I found that I had missed my roomie's return call and she had left a message stating that the last train back to San jose left at 8.00p. Panic!! Now, I wasnt sure if this was the case because I distinctly remembered the service running till a later time on weekends. But, considering that there was just 45 minutes for us to dash back to the caltrain station if this was true, there was no time to verify this information.

By the time we got out of fisherman's wharf, it was close to 7.25p. Adventurers not being so easily defeated, we stood in the serpentine queue waiting for the tram. As the clock ticked, our hopes of any tram appearing began wearing out. We were contemplating getting a cab when the tram appeared. By the time half of the zillion passengers ahead of us got in, the tram was full and just left, leaving us still waiting on the kerb. Mercifully, the next tram appeared minutes later and we hopped in. Then, dashing our hopes of a speedy ride to the caltrain station, the driver said that the tram wouldnt go to the caltrain station but - we could take the bus, which, fortunately, stopped just a block away from where we stood. So we hopped out of the tram and ran in the direction the driver had indicated.

As we ran, we spotted the bus we needed to take. Only, it was pulling out of the bus-station before we were anywhere near it. Defeat stared at us in the face and I began scanning the road for taxicabs. Then S excitedly exclaimed that the bus was caught in a traffic jam and if we ran after it, there was still a chance that we might actually catch it.

So, there we were, two girls sprinting madly after a slow-moving bus. Eventually we caught up with the bus as it stood at the signal. We tapped on the door and the startled driver let us in. As we sat inside, panting, the clock struck 7.40p. We congratulated ourselves on our success at getting into the bus. Given that the bus stopped directly at the caltrain station and that the road to the caltrain station, being fairly straight from where we are, shouldnt take too long to traverse, we decided that we would make it for the 8.00p train.

We were right about the first part. As for the road being straight, whats the point of the route being straight - the bus decided to take us on a mini-tour of San Francisco before taking us to the Caltrain station. And we gnashed our teeth at every slow-down, groaned at every red light, complained about every stop. Eventually, even our laid-back driver got the drift that we were trying hard to get somewhere by 8.00p and speeded through green-lights instead of sauntering slowly up to every green light till it turned red as had been his wont earlier.

Anyway, as it turned 7.58p the bus stopped at the caltrain station. We hopped off and we crossed the road on red-light to get into the station. Hallelujah, the train was still there!! And then I realized, due the malfunctioning ticket machine of the morning, we did not yet have our return ticket and had to buy it before we could board the train. Nervously, we both plunged our credit cards into the machine - my processing went quicker and I triumphantly turned around with two tickets clutched in my hand - to see the train slowly pulling out of the station. I could have sat on the ground and wept. S was too stunned to speak. And then the funny side struck us and we both burst out laughing. Here we were with two caltrain tickets - with no caltrain to board it with.

Then two helpful caltrain-affliated souls, who had seen the entire drama of our mad dash into the station, told us that we could still take a cab to the next caltrain station and get into it there. By now, we were quite assured of our luck having changed and hence werent too suprised when we could not find a single cab in sight. So we enquired about further options and one of the guys said that we could still catch the 10p train though it was a long wait. And we were like, 10p? Isnt 8p the last train? And then it all came back to me. On weekends, the caltrain runs till 12a, but if you missed the 8p train, you had to wait for 2 hours for the next train instead of the usual hour's wait. That was what was unusual and that not 8p was the last train. Aaaaargh my roomie with her button-eyes (later it turned out that she had inadvertently missed a column)! The caltrain guy continued with his suggestions of things to do. By this time though, we had run out of all energy and of all the various fun things he suggested, chose to spend time browsing at the nearby Borders bookstore.

Once we reached Borders, we picked up some books and some coffee and curled ourselves up in comfortable couches for the next one and half hours. This time round, we had had enough adventures and so left at 9.45p to catch our 10p train. We stopped at Safeway on the way to pick up a few things. Nevertheless, for once in the day, we were ahead of schedule and reached the station with time to spare. The train was pretty crowded but we were too tired to notice. We got back to San Jose after an hour and a half. Then we picked up the car and drove back home. Once home, we carried out one last abuse of our stomachs with waffles and Nescafe mochacinno (which we had got a free sample of at the carnival) in lieu of dinner and then crashed.

And so we went by car, train, bart, tram, bus and walk on the same day. And so we went to previously unseen regions of SF. And so we went Run, S and A, Run! throughout the day. And so it was a whole lot of fun!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Around San Francisco in a day? Sure, why not!

So it was two weekends ago. My school-friend S had come visiting from Texas. We were supposed to go to Yosemite to do the famed Half Dome hike over the Memorial Day weekend. Unfortunately, the trail was closed due to unseasonal flooding - I guess this is the first time I have actually seen flooding happen in anticipation of a rare event happening. In any case, ditching Yosemite plans resulted in 3 days of time to go around other places in California.

On Friday, as I slogged at office, S kept up a constant stream of emails with suggestions on what to do on Saturday. Many suggestions came forth but it was obvious that her heart was set on going to the Samba Carnival in SF. Well, being the nice athiti satkar-kind of person, I agreed even though I have been to SF's Pier 39 enuff times to start waving acknowledgement to the store owners there. Well, as S pointed out, we were going to see the "real" SF and not just pier 39.

So we set off on Saturday around 1.00p - watching the first day last show of bunty aur babli the previous night ensured that we did not get up at any decent hour in the morning. We had decided to make it a total "adventure" tour of SF and hence parked and left the car once we got to the Caltrain station.

The first of the adventures started there - no matter what combinations, coaxing or kicking we tried, the ticket vending machine refused to vend any tickets. However, the nice conductor on Caltrain let us ride for free :-). We arrived at Millbrae a good hour later. There we jumped off the train to get the BART connection to SF.

I dont know if you have had the chance to buy tickets from the BART vending machine - it has about the most confusing interface I have ever seen for purchasing tickets - especially for hapless first-timers. After plenty of 'go back to beginning's, cancellings and oopzzz (much to the irritation of the people behind us in queue), we managed to get our tickets and sprinted to the train and hopped in just minutes before it left the station. The sprint pretty much set the pace for the rest of the day.

BART is rapid, true, but boy, does it make some noise!! The whistling screech it gives as it rushes through tunnels makes you feel like its going to get launched like a rocket and take off into space at any moment! Pretty much for the whole BART journey, we kept our mouths open and jiggled our ears periodically to offset the pressure changes. 20 minutes later, we arrived at 16th and Mission - from where Harrison St., the carnival destination, was a half-mile walk.

Being first timers, we were disoriented about directions. But, enterprising as we are, we set off smartly after consulting an area map on a nearby post. And walked, and Walked, and WALKED. No sign of Harrison St. All that was to be seen was the sun shining merrily in spite of dire morning weather forecasts of windy and cold conditions, plenty of restaurants and throngs of people. Finally, thirst and hunger pangs made us stop and ask somebody if we were indeed heading in the right direction. And of course, Murphy's law had prevailed - we were in the opposite direction of that towards which Harrison st lay. And to add further injury, we were now a mile away from Harrison St - aaaaaargh!

To overcome this setback something strong was needed. Chai! We rushed into the next coffee-shop we came across. It was a quaint little shop with rickety furniture, antique decor, chipped crockery etc. We ordered chai (mine was sweet, S chose spicy) and to assuage our stomachs till we could be fed at the carnival, ordered toast and eggs. Chai arrived. In a mug which seemed like a pot with a handle! I think 3 Starbucks Tall drinks would have comfortably fit into one of those mugs! And then the toast arrived - a pretty big serving of that too. Cheap and nice for the 2 bucks apiece that they cost!! Anyways by the time this chai-break was done, we were extremely full and a lot more energetic. Refresehed, we set off on our quest again.

After plodding another 3/4ths of a mile, we finally began seeing signs of the carnival.
To be continued...

Intoxicated by attention!

After giving my poor blog the royal ignore for more than a month, on an impulse, I decided to check it out today. To my pleasant surprise, I found comments on my previous posts from strangers. Wow!! Without any advertisement my blog got readers and attention??? That's an intoxicating thought! From now on, I am going to make a sincere effort to blog more regularly now that I know somebody other than me reads it. Thank you reader-folks!