Monday, May 29, 2006

movie: Fanaa

In keeping with the promise held out by its promos, Fanaa is pathetic. And for bonus, it is corny too.

Sure, you would think that an Aamir 'Choosy' Khan movie must have something to redeem itself. And a Kajol comeback has got to count for something. But no.

The movie, for all creative purposes, was probably made ten years ago. It has every obsolete formula of that era: from silly dialogues that no one ever mouths in real life, to love at first sight for no reason whatsoever with a roadside Romeo who aims vulgar pick-up lines, to dream sequqnces that include dancing in sleeveless dresses on snow.

Hence, only if you're nostalgic for those days (why??) as well as obsessed with the star couple (in which case you probably left my page after the first line) will you enjoy the movie.

Of course, Aamir and Kajol, as always, act well. But sometimes that is not enough. To start with: Aamir. He has been given many names and a half-baked role where he's half psycho controlled by a grand-dad, and half street-side Romeo. And for a good part of the movie he decides to seduce the audience, against all common sense, with ghastly couplets. Most of these four-liners resemble PJs that we used to laugh at in middle school. Unfortunately, I've graduated since then. What's worse, some of the disasterous cliches are repeated every now and then in the couple's reverie.

And then there's Kajol: who laughs and laughs and struts and smiles at the camera, and then some more. And the director, as if he were still unsure that we hadn't got the point of what a great catch he had made in signing her and how beautiful she still is post-kids, goes on to put "subhan-allah" in the background music.

But let us move on beyond he main characters of the movie. After all, Fanaa, apart from its leads also guest-stars Shiney Ahuja, Lillete Dubey, Kirron Kher, Jaspal Bhatti, and many more - essentially just about anyone that director Kunal Kohli could manage to get on board. Definitely a good strategy for cost cutting, especially if it generates as little revenue as I'm guessing it will.

More importantly, the few laughs that the movie generates - yes it does manage some - are all thanks to the guest appearances and smaller characters. Especially good is a young boy introduced in the movie. Unfortunately, he too is forced by the script writer to repeat the same lines ad nauseum, what a pity.

The last hope one may have had - from songs penned by Prasoon Joshi - are lousy in timing and boring in melody, with one even having ambitions of 'lakdi ki kaathi' (but it fails easily just like its brethren).

Easily one of the worst movies I've seen in a long time, and fanaa-ed by a really really bad script.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Things that make you Grrrrrrrrr

If you want to kick Arjun Singh but don't know how, read this transcript of Karan Thapar interviewing him. You still wouldn't have kicked him, but will at least have the pleasure of smirking at him and his moronic, brainless replies. Moreover, his spinelessness may give you the added ingredient you need to get really enraged and go kick some butt.

Karan Thapar: Most of the people would accept that steps are necessary to help the OBCs gain greater access to higher education. The real question is: Why do you believe that reservations is the best way of doing this?

Arjun Singh: I wouldn't like to say much more on this because these are decisions that are taken not by individuals alone. And in this case, the entire Parliament of this country - almost with rare unanimity - has decided to take this decision.

Karan Thapar: Except that Parliament is not infallible. In the Emergency, when it amended the Constitution, it was clearly wrong, it had to reverse its own amendments. So, the question arises: Why does Parliament believe that the reservation is the right way of helping the OBCs?

Arjun Singh: Nobody is infallible. But Parliament is Supreme and at least I, as a Member of Parliament, cannot but accept the supremacy of Parliament.

Karan Thapar: No doubt Parliament is supreme, but the Constitutional amendment that gives you your authorities actually enabling amendment, it is not a compulsory requirement. Secondly, the language of the amendment does not talk about reservations, the language talks about any provision by law for advancement of socially and educationally backward classes. So, you could have chosen anything other than reservations, why reservations?

Arjun Singh: Because as I said, that was the 'will and desire of the Parliament'.

Karan Thapar: Do you personally also, as Minister of Human Resource Development, believe that reservations is the right and proper way to help the OBCs?

Arjun Singh: Certainly, that is one of the most important ways to do it.

Karan Thapar: The right way?

Arjun Singh: Also the right way.

Karan Thapar: In which case, lets ask a few basic questions. We are talking about the reservations for the OBCs in particular. Do you know what percentage of the Indian population is OBC? Mandal puts it at 52 per cent, the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) at 32 per cent, the National Family and Health Survey at 29.8 per cent, which is the correct figure?

Arjun Singh: I think that should be decided by people who are more knowledgeable. But the point is that the OBCs form a fairly sizeable percentage of our population.

Karan Thapar: No doubt, but the reason why it is important to know 'what percentage' they form is that if you are going to have reservations for them, then you must know what percentage of the population they are, otherwise you don't know whether they are already adequately catered to in higher educational institutions or not.

Arjun Singh: That is obvious - they are not.

Karan Thapar: Why is it obvious?

Arjun Singh: Obvious because it is something which we all see.

Karan Thapar: Except for the fact that the NSSO, which is a government appointed body, has actually in its research in 1999 - which is the most latest research shown - that 23.5 per cent of all university seats are already with the OBCs. And that is just 8.5 per cent less than what the NSSO believes is the OBC share of the population. So, for a difference of 8 per cent, would reservations be the right way of making up the difference?

Arjun Singh: I wouldn't like to go behind all this because, as I said, Parliament has taken a view and it has taken a decision, I am a servant of Parliament and I will only implement.

Karan Thapar: Absolutely, Parliament has taken a view, I grant it. But what people question is the simple fact - Is there a need for reservations? If you don't know what percentage of the country is OBC and if, furthermore, the NSSO is correct in pointing out that already 23.5 per cent of the college seats are with the OBC, then you don't have a case in terms of need.

Arjun Singh: College seats, I don't know.

Karan Thapar: According to the NSSO - which is a government appointed body - 23.5 per cent of the college seats are already with the OBCs.

Arjun Singh: What do you mean by college seats?

Karan Thapar: University seats, seats of higher education.

Arjun Singh: Well, I don't know I have not come across that so far.

Karan Thapar: So, when critics say to you that you don't have a case for reservation in terms of need, what do you say to them?

Arjun Singh: I have said what I had to say and the point is that that is not an issue for us to now debate.

Karan Thapar: You mean the chapter is now closed?

Arjun Singh: The decision has been taken.

Karan Thapar: Regardless of whether there is a need or not, the decision is taken and it is a closed chapter.

Arjun Singh: So far as I can see, it is a closed chapter and that is why I have to implement what all Parliament has said.

Karan Thapar: Minister, it is not just in terms of 'need' that your critics question the decision to have reservation for OBCs in higher education. More importantly, they question whether reservations themselves are efficacious and can work.

For example, a study done by the IITs themselves shows that 50 per cent of the IIT seats for the SCs and STs remain vacant, and for the remaining 50 per cent, 25 per cent are the candidates who even after six years fail to get their degrees. So, clearly, in their case, reservations are not working.

Arjun Singh: I would only say that on this issue, it would not be correct to go by all these figures that have been paraded.

Karan Thapar: You mean the IIT figures themselves could be dubious?

Arjun Singh: Not dubious, but I think that is not the last word.

Karan Thapar: All right, maybe the IIT may not be the last word, let me then quote to you the report of the Parliamentary Committee on the welfare for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes - that is a Parliamentary body.

It says, that looking at the Delhi University, between 1995 and 2000, just half the seats for under-graduates at the Scheduled Castes level and just one-third of the seats for under-graduates at the Scheduled Tribes level were filled. All the others went empty, unfilled. So, again, even in Delhi University, reservations are not working.

Arjun Singh: If they are not working, it does not mean that for that reason we don't need them. There must be some other reason why they are not working and that can be certainly probed and examined. But to say that for this reason, 'no reservations need to be done' is not correct.

Karan Thapar: Fifty years after the reservations were made, statistics show, according to The Hindustan Times, that overall in India, only 16 per cent of the places in higher education are occupied by SCs and STs. The quota is 22.5 per cent, which means that only two-thirds of the quota is occupied. One-third is going waste, it is being denied to other people.

Arjun Singh: As I said, the kind of figures that have been brought out, in my perception, do not reflect the realities. Realities are something much more and, of course, there is an element of prejudice also.

Karan Thapar: But these are figures that come from a Parliamentary Committee. It can't be prejudiced; they are your own colleagues.

Arjun Singh: Parliamentary Committee has given the figures, but as to why this has not happened, that is a different matter.

Karan Thapar: I put it to you that you don't have a case for reservations in terms of need, you don't have a case for reservations in terms of their efficacy, why then, are you insisting on extending them to the OBCs?

Arjun Singh: I don't want to use that word, but I think that your argument is basically fallacious.

Karan Thapar: But it is based on all the facts available in the public domain.

Arjun Singh: Those are facts that need to be gone into with more care. What lies behind those facts, why this has not happened, that is also a fact.

Karan Thapar: Let’s approach the issue of reservations differently in that case. Reservations mean that a lesser-qualified candidate gets preference over a more qualified candidate, solely because in this case, he or she happens to be an OBC. In other words, the upper castes are being penalised for being upper caste.

Arjun Singh: Nobody is being penalised and that is a factor that we are trying to address. I think that the Prime Minister will be talking to all the political parties and will be putting forward a formula, which will see that nobody is being penalised.

Karan Thapar: I want very much to talk about that formula, but before we come to talk about how you are going to address concerns, let me point one other corollary: Reservations also gives preference and favour to caste over merit. Is that acceptable in a modern society?

Arjun Singh: I don't think the perceptions of modern society fit India entirely.

Karan Thapar: You mean India is not a modern society and therefore can't claim to be treated as one?

Arjun Singh: It is emerging as a modern society, but the parameters of a modern society do not apply to large sections of the people in this country.

Karan Thapar: Let me quote to you Jawaharlal Nehru, a man whom you personally admire enormously. On the 27th of June 1961 wrote to the Chief Ministers of the day as follows: I dislike any kind of reservations. If we go in for any kind of reservations on communal and caste basis, we will swamp the bright and able people and remain second-rate or third-rate. The moment we encourage the second-rate, we are lost. And then he adds pointedly: This way lies not only folly, but also disaster. What do you say to Jawaharlal Nehru today?

Arjun Singh: Jawaharlal Nehru was a great man in his own right and not only me, but everyone in India accept his view.

Karan Thapar: But you are just about to ignore his advice.

Arjun Singh: No. Are you aware that it was Jawaharlal Nehru who introduced the first amendment regarding OBCs?

Karan Thapar: Yes, and I am talking about Jawaharlal Nehru in 1961, when clearly he had changed his position, he said, “I dislike any kind of reservations”.

Arjun Singh: I don't think one could take Panditji's position at any point of time and then overlook what he had himself initiated.

Karan Thapar: Am I then to understand that regardless of the case that is made against reservations in terms of need, regardless of the case that has been made against reservations in terms of efficacy, regardless of the case that has been made against reservations in terms of Jawaharlal Nehru, you remain committed to extending reservations to the OBCs.

Arjun Singh: I said because that is the will of Parliament. And I think that common decisions that are taken by Parliament have to be honoured.

[taken from IBN Live. You can catch both the transcript and the video on this page]

Let's weep

Yesterday was two years since the UPA government came to power
It also marks two years of me making excuses for Manmohan Singh

When he took the oath, under the order/benevolence of Sonia Gandhi, I and a good part of India developed expectations. Sure, we didn't think he could perform miracles with a fractured government, but we did think he would stand his ground on what he thought right, and while we didn't think he would race in the right directions, we did look forward to baby-steps.

What a disappointment. The budgets have been useless. The fringe benefit tax, a trivial and idiotic nuisance, remains stubbornly enacted. The communist parties throws a tantrum over EVERYTHING - and usually gets its way. Ordinary people can scream and rant all they want on the streets - be it the Narmada Bachao Aandolan activists, or the striking doctors - but our man doesn't listen or respond.

I, for one, am sick of saying "Oh but he doesn't have the decision making power really", "He'll fix it later, for sure", "What can he do? The Left is arm-twisting him", etc etc etc

It is time for me to take the blinkers off and put the blame where the responsibility lies - at the shoulders of our Prime Minister. Which is just so sad - because now there is not a single person in the political community I can think of who can offer even a sliver of hope as an able anchor.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Just another rainy Sunday

Hong Kong skies have a horrid habit of weeping at weekends. If you stay here long enough, it can be quite depressing. All dark, dingy and sloppy. But I haven't entered that phase, not yet. Plus, I am too lazy to have ventured out today anyway, and instead had a good time pretending to be a photographer. Here goes:

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I have finally find a house to move into, finally a place whose walls I can drill and paint the way I want, whose floor I can populate any way I please. I can put clocks where I wish, and a table where I desire, and the curtains will be of my coice. all Mine Mine Mine

Up till now, life had been a a parade of hotels, and pseudo-hotels. Grew up with parents, where mom ruled. Then a hostel - which was the nearest to freedom I ever had, and of course I made the most of it... but studentship is a poverty-ridden part of life that lacks choices. Then came 'paying-guest'dom, all furnished and fine. Then marriage, where MIL ruled. Then a serviced apartment, and before I knew it, 27 years were gone.

Now, finally, my time will come.

But there's one small hitch - my husband.
All of a sudden he has discovered an interest in house layout and interior design. After 30 dormant years where his care was limited only to keeping dust away, he now has ambitions to choose cupboards and decide which direction the bed will face. He has developed opinions on colours that our couch can have, and what size a mirror should be. What's worse, each and every thing he thinks is in direct opposition to mine.

In short, setting up the house is not looking half as attractive as I had day-dreamed it to be. Maybe we should divide the house into two fiefdoms. Maybe we should toss and decide who gets to be dictator. Maybe I should threaten him and usurp the power.

Or maybe, just maybe, God will be kind and let me win a lottery so that I can get a new house and do it up entirely my way.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Aunty aur Bubbly

champagne on flight...