Thursday, August 30, 2012

Monday, August 27, 2012

Fans & following: EPL

The English Premier League has started its fresh season. With new season come new fans. Because they have decided to follow the game, they have to choose a club to support. Fans mostly are armchair experts fooling themselves to believe that their vociferous ‘support’ from Hill Road, Brigade Road, Salt Lake or GK-II in anyway makes a shard of a difference to the proceedings in England. It doesn’t. Yet they choose. For all the fellow collegians are choosing and all the office employees are too. Besides, girls respect a football follower more. Every boy and his uncle knows that.

The game run by BCCI Mafioso is too mainstream and to show that you are in a different league, club football especially EPL is the way to go. In doing that, people end up making the wrong choices. Then again, the reason to choose maybe varied– say your crush on a star player or that your arch enemy supports club A so you end up with Z or that you follow that your group does. Doesn’t matter, you can do a switch to the opposite camp and no one will call you fucking Van Persie. Maybe this list will help in going through the options.

Arsenal is an underachiever, at the same time the club is an over-achiever. The sort of team that just guarantees to give you heartburns with their unpredictability, as they oscillate between prodigious brilliance and school boy faux pas. The Invincibles of 2003-04 have long gone. Each year they built something and see their players lured by deep pocket clubs. It is as easy as luring kids with candy. You can’t win the league with a bunch of kids, except if the kids are Manchester United’s Class of 92’.And Sir Wenger, O Professor, you don't win anything for financial fairplay and non abuse of capital. In Arsène you trust, in Arsène you will rust. So will the trophy cabinet.

Chelsea, masters of parking the bus. Or in John Terry’s case barking racial slurs. Yes, finally they are Champions of Europe.. but wait till they crash out of Champions League or play against Barça, whichever comes earlier. Like a rich playboy who doesn’t settle for one glam girlfriend, Chelsea doesn’t settle for the best of coaches. How else would you let José Mourinho, Gus Hiddink and Carlo Ancelotti go? Their game is not visually attractive, and they are not even the best club in London, leave alone England or Europe. And one more thing, they aren’t the richer club in the deviously, sinisterly labeled El Cashico game vs Manchester City. A legacy of financial profligacy – Roman Abramovich and Stamford Bridge. Some one make him watch Moneyball.

 White Hart Lane is a breeder park for bigger clubs. A bed and breakfast inn until you find a cozy apartment. Quite similar to their North London neighbours Arsenal, they play with visual flair only to end up as unlucky losers. I digress. The important question is – how long are Gareth Bale and Scott Parker staying? Shall we ask manager André Villas-Boas? What i learned from Titanic is that rats jump a sinking ship and try to find a Parisian bakery. Seriously, Tottenham and Arsenal have much in common. It’s just that they have been perennially warring siblings…alright cousins…alright neighbours who can’t see the other succeed.

June 08’was a time when the crude oil prices hit $140 dollars/barrel. It was also a time when you could fill the entire of Manchester City supporters in a single Etihad flight. Then came Sheikh Mansour to build the most expensive collection of horrendous looking players you can find- Lescott, Tevez, Balotelli, Zabaleta and the works. City fans in India should not complain about an oil price hike, if they have some moral fiber, because that is what finances their ‘great’ club that has won a grand total of 2 EPL titles in 44 years. Naturally, there has been a sudden sprouting in City fan base and they can give United fans a run for their money in terms of being obnoxious weeds. City have stolen the Poznań and have ruined a song like Hey Jude. It’s true, what they say - petrodollars can’t buy you class.

Liverpool. You can’t say I support them because they win. And they are not even underdogs, you can root for. Liverpool are just have beens who only occasionally really show up for their big games. They play to cancel other team’s advantage and not to maximize their own. When they can’t, they wail and moan. Even Sir Matt Busby would be tired of this bunch who still live in the 80s when a pint was much cheaper and they were still at the fecking perch that Fergie knocked them off. Honestly if you want to pick a team from Merseyside Liverpool, pick Everton. David Moyes is one good guy. 

 Manchester United has a philosophy of intimidating referees unless he goes by the name of Howard Webb. United is not a bad club, they try and try and try until they have the injury time goal- by hook or crook or sinker. You want to irk them, just say Paul Scholes is not the greatest midfielder of his generation. They have a youth program, they use home grown talent, have financial strength and a decorated recent past. But the fans are snooty and give the club a bad name. You will seldom find a United fan who will not be a jerk. Most have never kicked a football farther than 50 yards but would still buy overpriced official jersey that looks like a table cloth. The original Glory hunters whose tweets end with #GGMU.

And remember,anybody can beat anybody in EPL. It is just that sort of a league, just look at last season’s circle of results.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Citius Altius Fortius

Liu Xiang fell; clutching his heels and then gave us an Olympic moment to cherish.
With the cleanest, smoothest hurdling action, Liu Xiang was back in form. He had won recent Diamond League races and was back to his personal best. He was back to get the gold medal he won at the 2004 Olympics in 110m hurdles. 
This was the event that he had worked towards since the injury plagued him down. This meant a lot to him.  These were the heats to qualify for the finals. He was the crowd favourite.
Then the race started.Liu’s Achilles, the same injury that had robbed him of the 2008 games, had been aggravated again.He fell at the first hurdle.
His frustration was palpable.
 He even struggled to get up.
He finally got up, and hopped towards the exit tunnel, ignoring the offered wheel chair.It would have been crushingly disappointing for him, for he still is a great hurdler.  
London looked like it would end with a bitter taste. But then, he stopped.
And he turned around and he re-entered the track to a stadium-shaking ovation, and finished the 110 meters.
Stopping to kiss the final hurdle.
As soon as he crossed the finish line, his fellow athletes embraced him and helped him. And just like that Liu Xiang’s tragic day became what is surely one of the most enduring moments of the 2012 London Games.Tagged with his breakthrough gold medal run at Athens, Xiang now has two true inspirational Olympian moments – one of sweet success and another of spirit triumphing over tragedy.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Johnny Gaddar Film Noir

Johnny Gaddar (2007)
SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen the film, stop reading right about now.

Johnny Gaddar pays reverential homage to the film noir genre of film making. Film noir ‘dark film’ is a term first applied by French critics to describe a type of American film, usually in the detective or thriller genres. Johnny Gaddar tributes both the original Hollywood film noir films and the Indian film noir that was inspired by it in late 1960s and early 1970s.The pre-credit sequence introduces the noir-aesthetics  that characterises the film as the grey tones combined with the rain and darkness create the stifling suspense that is interrupted only by the red colour of the blood spilled. 
Immediately after the action cuts to the title sequence montage that cements the film’s genre and sensibilities. Established noir traits of low-key lighting and somber mood that emphasise on cynicism, greed and sexual motivations are explored further into the film’s running time.The film’s opening credits montage establishes its key intertextual sources of inspiration as well as tribute- Jyoti Swaroop’s Parwana (1971) starring Amitabh Bachchan , Vijay Anand’s Johny Mera Naam (1970) and James Hadley Chase’s novel The Whiff of Money .
The montage is made of selectively included snippets of scenes that come later on as the film progresses. The credits have been done in the style (colour, font and music) of a 1970s crime thriller from India. Director Sriram Raghavan has admitted to toying with the idea of shooting the entire film in black-and-white, keeping in with the noir atmospherics of the film. The black-and-white treatment was let go in favour of colour; however red palette is pre-dominant in the frames. The red standing for danger, suspense and thrill.
Vikram (alias Johnny) gets ideas of how to implement his double-cross from Johny Mera Naam and Parwana. Parwana supplies him with an alibi and Johny Mera Naam gave him the alias. The allusions and inspirations in Johnny Gaddar are accompanied by irony as both the films are rather innocent and relatively naïve vintage crime thrillers that Vikram watches on TV. Johny Mera Naam is playing in the hotel lobby when he is checking in while making his detour to Pune enroute to Goa. Inspired by the film, he checks-in under the name Johnny G. The irony is that the character whose name (alias) he adopts is infact, a law abiding police officer in the original film. Furthermore, both are love stories with redemption and explanation to amoral acts in the end. Whereas in Johnny Gaddar, the moral delineation is not smoothened by the redemptive feature. Crime here is a personal choice not a social one forced by circumstances. This is apparent in the coin toss scene .He flips the coin at the juncture from where there is no return. Vikram wants to convince himself that it is his fate to get the whole booty. When the coin toss doesn’t fall in his favour, he opts for a best-of-three and when the second toss also is unfavourable, he opts for a best-of-five.
Seshadri, Vikram, Shiva, Shardul and Prakash are the five partners in the gambling club. The partners also deal with other underhand operations, one of which forms the storyline in the film. Shardul in his frustration calls his wife Mini a Rajshri film wife, thereby calling her as sexually frigid and insipid. Vikram’s motive is to flee with Mini after a carefully orchestrated, well thought-out plan by which he can steal the money and no one ends up dying .The eventual turn of events is unexpected as the body count keeps on rising. When he does end up with the money in his water tank safely rolled up in plastic bags, he lies to Mini feigning ignorance of the money or the murders. Despite that, one kind of sides with Vikram, if only slightly to see if he can really pull this sleight off. For he is one amongst us- young, urban and suave. There is the theme of urban discontent and the power of money to change motives and morality which The Whiff of Money alludes to .He has in the words of Seshadri, chosen a dark path.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Johnny Gaddar Film Noir II

By committing the murder on a train just after Lonavla station was crossed, he is able to alight at a designated station (Pune) and return to his place of business (Goa) without arousing suspicion - a sequence which echoes the chain of events in Parwana.The murder on train to claim money is a reminder of Hollywood noir classic Double Indemnity (1944) in which insurance money will be doubled while here Vikram would pocket five times his return (5 million to 25 million rupees) .The film has a rich presence of intertextuality in its music, dialogues and it is self-reflexive in portraying that. There are certain other popular culture references, for instance, in a bus sequence Mini (Rimi Sen) is reading R.K.Narayan 's Guide which was adapted to a famous film in the 1960s and Vikram is reading The Whiff of Money in the train (before killing for money).There’s a fleeting glimpse of the book ‘The life and crimes of Charles Shobhraj’s when Inspector Kalyan is questioning the Vikram, Shardul and Prakash about the murders of Shiva and Sheshadri.

Notable attempt at making a nostalgic resonance of 1970s is done via the casting of yesteryear actor Dharmendra as Seshadri (Vikram’s mentor) as the lead partner of the club and the revelation of his own trade of smuggling watches as he reminisces his dead wife. Added to that, Seshadri listens to an old Hindi song ‘Mora Gora Ang’ cover sung by his wife (from Bimal Roy’s Bandini, 1963 originally sung by Lata Mangeshkar) from an audio cassette in a boom-box. There are a couple of lines from old Hindi songs from Jugnu (1973), Yakeen (1969), Aadmi aur Insaan (1969). The songs from Jugnu and Yakeen are ‘Rama Rama Ghazab’and ‘Bachke Kahan Jaoge respectively. Dharmendra acted in Bandini, Jugnu ,Yakeen and Aadmi aur Insaan .Besides, these song snippets bring in the self referential angle to the film, a feature that is identified as a film noir aesthetic . Again as a feature of indies, these songs are not lip-synced, but are being played in the background in a discotheque. There is a soundtrack mix referring to the nursery rhyme ‘Johnny Johnny Yes Papa’, nailing the liar and cheat part of the rhyme.

There are three instances where Hollywood films’ presence is observed. In the same afore-mentioned cassette, Seshadri’s wife asks him to take her to see Dr. No (1962) in Regal theatre in Bombay. While counting the 25 million rupees, Seshadri mentions that a similar scene was there in the film Scarface (1983) which is a remake and tribute to Howard Hawks’original crime-thriller Scarface (1932). Shiva (another club partner) is watching Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut (1999) when he gets a call from Shardul (Mini’s husband). While talking of tributes, it would be an ideal time to mention the Hitchcockian device of MacGuffin used in the film. 

The MacGuffin used in Johnny Gaddar is ‘French Furniture’ which may or may not be drugs. MacGuffin is a term for a motivating element in astory that is used to drive the plot. It serves no further purpose. It won’t pop up again later, it won’t explain the ending, it won’t actually do anything except possibly distract us while we try to figure out its significance. In some cases, like in Johnny Gaddar, it won’t even be shown. It is a mysterious package or artefact that everyone in the story is interested in. Seshadri is immediately willing to grab hold of the French Furniture MacGuffin that his old friend Inspector Kalyan offers him from Bangalore.

The suspense in the film is not who has committed the murder. Like the best of crimes, it missed the perfection it sought to achieve. The audience knows who the culprit is.The suspense is what is the next scene going to be, and this makes it decidedly different from commercial Hindi films. The use of vernacular languages in Marathi, Tamil and Telugu brings the polyglot nature and layer of multi-culturalism. Johnny Gaddar is an original script with knowing nods to masters of the genre with a global touch and Indian texture to it.