Saturday, January 29, 2005


Gulliver’s travels - A trip to Bangalore

Gulliver’s voyages have lead to him to fascinating places such as Lilliput, Laputa and the likes, strange lands inhabited by strange yet interesting people. In his new adventure Gulliver finds himself in city called Bangalore. In the first chapter (detailed below) he describes his first impressions of Bangalore and how none of his previous adventures had quite prepared him for this unique experience.

Chapter – I

My tour of the war torn city began from an old residential area called Malleswaram. The signs of a prolonged conflict were evident here. The deep trenches on either sides of the road formed the most prominent landscape of this neighborhood. As my tour of the city continued, I noticed that most of the city’s landscape was dotted with WW-I type trenches, yellow metal barricades and mini craters (referred to as potholes by the natives). I was in half a mind to advice my guide, who was driving this funny box shape vehicle, to pin a U.N flag on the vehicle. A U.N flag I hoped would deter any armed militant hiding in one of these trenches from taking a potshot at us.

From the details I managed to elicit from the locals I could form a hazy picture about the conflict and the various militia involved in it. The chief militant organization is the dreaded “Broadband & services” faction. The organization itself is comprised of numerous fanatical rival militant groups, all united by a common cause - that of delivering ‘Broadband’. These outfits especially the bigger ones MTNL, BSNL, Reliance, BESCOM to name a few, specialize in trench warfare and over years of experience have reached the pinnacle of know-how in this domain. No one can be sure of when a ‘blitzkrieg’ would be launched by this militia, and when it does come, the attack is swift and sudden. Trenches crop up overnight, cutting the supply lines and leaving the civilians stranded. A few of these groups, like BESCOM, are not even ideologically committed to the ‘Broadband’ cause, but like digging up trenches nonetheless. Most of the outfits are however fanatically devoted to the cause, one of them even has a motto which claims that it was their Father’s dream to deliver ‘Broadband’ to the masses and they would not stop until they fulfill his desire (Papa Ka Sapna - in one of the numerous native tongues). However, at times the ‘Broadband’ faction does lose ground to the ruling junta and is forced to retreat. The retreat, unlike the attack, is slow and long drawn as the militia attempts to close up the trenches in a shoddy manner to ensure that the government forces cannot take up positions in these trenches nor can there ever be a smooth flow of government or civilian convoy in this area in future.

The government consists of two parties whose political ideologies are disparate, to say the least. The ruling junta has its own strategy for combating the menace of the militia. Apparently, the government operations of defense and consolidation of territory it controls are executed under the code names ‘Underpass’ and ‘Flyover Construction’. The strategy employed is brilliantly simple. It involves digging up entire stretches of arterial roads. Once there is no road, there would not exist any “either sides” of the road for the militia to build their trenches.

It is said that during the early years of WW-II, the British were apprehensive about the possibility of a Nazi invasion and decided to take measures to counter such a situation, if it ever happened. The most prominent step taken was that of purposely (and professionally) changing road signs and directions to confuse the invading army. I am not completely sure about which invading army the authorities of Bangalore are anxious of; in any case the counter measures for such an occurrence is in place and far superior to that devised by the Brits. The complex strategy is centered on radically changing the direction of traffic flow, on a regular basis. Two ways are transformed into one ways, one ways become two ways, One ways from West to East or from North to South turn into One ways from East to West or South to North. These amazing measures leave the locals themselves thoroughly confused; one can only imagine the confusion in the ranks of the invading army. If the invading squadron does manage to figure out the route to take, they cannot advance too far, for they are certain to be caught up in a traffic jam just around the corner. I have heard of the famous statement “All roads lead to Rome” but in Bangalore I learnt a new axiom “All roads lead to traffic jams”.

Much of the chaos in the city could be attributed to the militia and the government. However the one prominent feature that remained completely inexplicable to me, was that of the potholes. Elephants, Rhinos, Hippos and other heavy weight animals taken out for a jog, everyday on the roads from the national park, located in the outskirts of the city could be only the possible reason for formation of some of these mini craters. However I never got a chance to verify this theory.

Circumstances have an influence on every individual in the society. Harsher the condition, greater is the impact on the individual. The day-to-day conditions in the city have had an impact on its residents; it has vastly improved their communication skills. This fact can be ascertained from the ever-increasing list of ‘letters to the editor’ in various journals and the numerous ‘Public Interest Litigations’ filed everyday. A truly civilized and optimistic set of people these, who still believe that, help from the judiciary and an awareness campaign would set things right, sooner or later.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005


Gods Own Quotes

A few memorable quotes and jokes from a truly memorable trip to ‘Gods own country’.

~ “There is always a better song”
Could be described as ‘Optimism at its best’. A very mild way of saying ‘When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose’.

~ “The world is your paddy field”
A highly abstract statement, a complete understanding of which requires knowledge well beyond the boundaries of farming.

~ “S.O.S means Save Our Souls”
An example of how Asphalt always likes to start his lectures from the basics.

~ “.-.-.- (dot dash dot dash dot dash)”
S.O.S, in Morse code(courtesy Asphalt). A useful piece of info to know if you happen to be stranded in a telegraph office.

~ “3 puffs in a factory”
S.O.S code again. One wonders what would be left in the canteen of the factory if puffs were wasted on S.O.S signals.

~ “MunnarBhai MBBS”
A person or a group of people travelling to Munnar.

~ “Bom-sandra (Bommasandra) , Sa-lame (Salem), Dharmagiri”
Englishman trying to pronounce the names of ‘bloody Indian’ towns. Eventually ended up creating a hybrid town named Dharmagiri.

~ “Was building my balls for two years”
One shudders to think what else Asphalt was up to in Sweden.

~ “These are not my songs”
Mukesh Bhai vehemently denying the fact that the songs loaded from his computer was the ones he listens to. CEO’s have a public image to maintain you see.

~ “Seal all entrances”
Why leave ‘space’ for discontent? What say Mukesh Bhai? ;-)

~ “NASA mission aborted”
When there is input, there has to be an output. Delivering the payload is serious stuff.

~ “You are no longer fit to be called Drona”
Stung by the criticism, Drona surrendered his arms and took to flowers instead.

~ “Ye….ID card thorsu ….security”
Mukesh and Anil trying to crackdown on gatecrashers in the board meeting.

~ “Maathaji, have you taken your heart tablets?”
A concerned Anil, wondering whether Kokilabehan would survive the interrogation of Mukesh and himself.

~ ‘On happiness….’
~ ‘Mukesh Bhai: A guy likes having pizzas. He gets to eat pizzas everyday. That’s not permanent happiness”
~ ‘Semaphore Chilli’: A guy likes having pizzas. He gets to eat pizzas everyday. That’s permanent happiness”

The only guy who will be happy, without a shadow of doubt, would be the owner of Pizza Hut.

~ “Ferrite coating….”
Asphalt - India’s Child genius, attempting to enlighten the ignorant masses about technology.

~ “Two 1000 rupee jackets flanking a 100 rupee flower show”
Ranting of the owner of one of the Rs. 1000 jackets.

~ “I am not an Englishman. I am not the one with the handy cam”
Englishman taking a dig at Indians. ‘Bloody Indian’s’ cannot afford a cam.

~ The Board Meeting: Results
- Security to be beefed up in order to deter gatecrashers.
- Kokilabehan unanimously declaring that the next board boarding would be held in Kochi.
- Mukesh and Anil stay continue as board members after acquiring an indemnity against
further prosecution. Its their company after all…;-)
- Asphalt thrown out for disgracing the board.
- ‘The unpaid lawyer of the non members’ – Chilli, expelled from the board initially on charges
of flouting the board’s moratorium on theatres/movies and later for a more grievous crime
of attempting a hostile takeover of the board itself.

~ A few unsolved mysteries that would make it to the X-Files:
- The Scorpio Bermuda Triangle mystery – Apparently the hunt is still on for
the Pachki Pachki (or whatever) and the bottle cap.
- The Joggers mystery on coimbatore bypass – Were they really humans??

Monday, January 10, 2005


Alexander - Alexander Who??

Alexander and his war weary men tread apprehensively through the dense Indian jungle to take on the army of Porus. Suddenly, the ground beneath their feet seems to vibrate, strange noises fill the forest air. Confusion and fear of the unknown can be clearly discerned from the faces of Alexander’s men, the advancing party stops. The noises get louder and closer, all of a sudden an entire unit of war elephants breaks out from the dense foliage rushing headlong into Alexander’s army surrounding them on all sides. The elephants combined with the archers on treetops wreck havoc on the advancing Greeks. The able commanders of Alexander, who were involved in many a war from Egypt to Persia are bewildered and at a total loss as to how to handle the situation. Alexander realizing that his army is on the verge of being routed decides bravely to confront Porus himself. He breaks through the enemy lines and heads straight for the elephant on which Porus is seated. The picturization of this entire sequence of events, beginning with the attack of the elephants, to the point when Alexander confronts Porus, loses his legendary horse “Bucephalus” and is mortally wounded is absolutely stunning. Very rarely in a Hollywood ‘period movie’, does one get to see a battle in which elephants are involved, yet the manner in which this battle scene is depicted would surely brush aside previous images (if any) of the same and set a new benchmark.

Sadly, the entire sequence described above is the only positive, worthwhile aspect of the whole movie. One might argue that the splendor of Babylon and other ancient cities, the battle with Persian Emperor Darius (No, not that Radio City dude) and a few skirmishes with the tribes in Hindu-Kush Mountains are well depicted. However, these do not in any way excel the standards expected from a Hollywood period or epic film.

Good period movies in general could be classified broadly under the following two categories:
a) Ones that state the facts more or less as they happened or are known, with a minor dose of fiction or exaggeration added in to ensure that the movie doesn’t end up being a documentary. These movies project the elements of style, splendor and grandeur of the ancient civilizations with incredible and breathtaking sets, stunning crowd scenes and action sequences. Most period movies of the 50’s and 60’s, such as Cleopatra, Helen of Troy (original), Spartacus etc would belong to this category.
b) The second category would constitute the ones in which the period setting or event only forms a backdrop, while the central idea of the movie would be to bring out the nature of the characters involved. Troy is a perfect example of this. The comparison between the attitude and character of Achilles and Hector is the essence of the movie and not the narration of the entire Trojan War.

Oliver Stone’s Alexander unfortunately does not fit into either of these classifications. For most parts of the movie, the director (and consequently the audience) seems to be lost and almost as clueless as Alexander’s men in the jungles of India. Neither is there a clear depiction of the all conquering Alexander as we know from high school history nor is there is there any attempt to dwell into his character and highlight his positives, such as his Never say die spirit in the face of any challenge or negatives, notably his ambition to conquer the world which blinds him from reality.

The main star cast of the movie constitutes of - the Phone booth hero, Tomb Raider as his mom and Batman as his dad. At the end of the movie you would still walk out with the same image of the three characters who fail to impress and do not come across as Alexander, his mother Olympias and father Phillip of Macedonia respectively. For some strange reason Angelina Jolie speaks with an irritating accent throughout the movie, like a Greek or Russian perhaps trying to speak in English. Agreed, Olympias is not of Macedonian origin and hence the affected accent, to convey the same. Strangely, the same logic doesn’t seem to apply to Alexander’s wife Roxana (or Roxane) who is of Persian origin but speaks with a much more comprehensible accent. The dialogues in the movie are not ‘captivating’ let alone ‘hard hitting’. In the battle with Darius, the pre-battle speech could have highlighted the magnitude of the battle that was to be fought and brought out the leader in Alexander but sadly the dialogues fail to impress and the battle that ensues seems like ‘just another war’. The gory scenes namely, the execution of Alexander’s boyhood friend on charges of conspiracy, the killing of his close confidant after an heated exchange of words and the display of the victuals of a sacrificial cow could have been done away or handled in less ‘bloody’ manner.

The last few sequences in the movie would leave anyone with an average knowledge about Alexander completely puzzled. Surely the director and his team would have done the necessary homework, with regard to obtaining historical facts about Alexander. However, the way the events are pieced together gives an impression that Alexander was beaten by the Indian king and his death was as a result of the injuries he sustained in the battle. The flashback sequence that starts, when Alexander is in his deathbed (and the audience eagerly waiting for his and the movies end) only muddles the movie further and tests the patience of the audience.

The only aspect of Alexander’s personal life that the director decided to dwell on is the one that has generated the most controversy. It is a known fact that ancient Greek warriors had intimate relationships with male companions, so why the controversy? One wonders. The relationship between the great hero Achilles and Patroclus is neatly side stepped in Troy. Ok, so Oliver Stone decided to go ahead and boldly depict Alexander’s relationship with Hephaistion. Sadly this has ended up being the biggest undoing of the movie. If all other facets of Alexander’s life, his conquests and his character had been depicted powerfully enough, surely his preference for males would have hardly stood out or have had such an impact on the audience. Since the movie has failed in most aspects all that a moviegoer would conclude about Alexander would be - “ Alexander was some ancient Greek dude who fought with every other king and spent his non fighting time either drinking strong wine or romancing some guy”.

Surely, the image of Alexander that one has built up either studying history in school or through General knowledge is clearly not the one depicted in the movie. One really wonders if it’s the same Alexander that the movie is talking about.

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