Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Best of 2007

I haven’t read enough books, nor have I seen enough movies to come up with a top 10 list for 2007 and so I’ve decided to come up with a Best of 2007 list that lists the books, movies, music and moments that defined 2007 for me.

The Best of 2007 (in no specific order):

  1. Chak De India – It was great to see such a well edited, sharp movie that appealed even though it had an obvious ending. The casting was very good and it was nice to see Shahrukh Khan actually act.

  2. India winning the World Twenty20 Championship – After a shocking early exit from the pathetic Caribbean World Cup, no one gave the young, inexperienced Indian Cricket team a chance to compete strongly in the Twenty20 format. Not only was the Twenty20 World Cup organized splendidly, the Indian Cricket team seemed to suddenly play the game purely for the love of it. It was wonderful to finally see an Indian team that enjoyed itself on the field without getting buried under insane performance pressures.

  3. The Kite Runner – One of the better books I have read in a long time. Khaled Hosseini’s novel was touching and sad, and I was completely immersed. A great tale that is a must read.

  4. Mozhi and the song Katrin Mozhiye from that movie – Prakash Raj has a knack for making these feel good movies that stand out for their story. I loved how the storyline of the deaf and dumb character played by Jyothika was handled in a sensitive manner and how there was always a joke coming up to lighten up the mood. Very mature acting from Prithviraj and Jyothika and they were ably supported by Prakash Raj and Swarnamalya. The song ‘Katrin Mozhiye’ is my Tamil song of the year, simply for the quality of the lyrics.

  5. The Asia Cup triumph by the Indian Hockey team – The Indian Hockey team took the Asia Cup with a rampaging 7-2 victory over South Korea. A quick reminder that Cricket is not the only sport in India worth following.

  6. Taare Zameen Par – One of my favourite scenes in this movie is one where the protogonist, Ishaan (played by Darsheel Safary who turned in the year’s most inspired performance) finds out from his smug classmate that he is going to be in big trouble for not doing his homework. It took me back to my own days in primary school when subtraction was my biggest enemy and social studies was God’s way of punishing me for not eating my vegetables. The fear of the teacher’s ruler hitting my knuckles motivating me to do my homework, the wild day-dreams, running out at 4 in the evening to play with my friends – the memories all came rushing back when I saw this movie. Taare Zameen Par was my favourite movie of the year for the message that it conveyed and the beautiful way in which Amole Gupte and Aamir Khan showed us that you don’t need to score 95% in Math or Science to be special.

  7. The song 'Maa from Taare Zameen Par – It is impossible to not go teary eyed when hearing this song. It remains the only Hindi song I have truly understood.

  8. The scene from ‘I am Legend’ where Dr. Robert Neville (played by Will Smith) pleads with a mannequin in a video store to talk back to him. I was not a fan of ‘I am Legend’ at the end of the film, but that scene reminded why I even wanted to go see the movie – Will Smith.

  9. “I’m sorry. What was the question?” – Pam (Jenna Fischer) in the finale of the third season of The Office.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

I like to reminisce

It's pretty weird spending my holidays cooped up in the house. There is nothing to do and I don't have a car to go to the places where I can do something. After years of running outside to play cricket under the sun, sitting around watching TV and lazing around is incredibly boring. This is the time of the India - Australia Test series as well and whenever India toured Australia, I used to wake up at 5:30 am to catch the action. The fact that I always fell asleep one hour into the Cricket surprised only me.

Yes, I'm reminiscing again. It is really hard not to when there are so many things that affect you in a special way and you're suddenly away from it all. Watching India touring Australia was just one of those things. Last week, I ordered Maaza at an Indian restaurant and one sip of the only safe (I hope) drink of its parent company took me back to my middle school days, when our school's idea of a field trip or excursion was taking us to the Coco Cola factory. It was so not fun. The only consolation were the free warm maaza drinks that all of us would get at the end of the 'field trip'.

I have to start figuring out how to spend my time usefully. I'm watching tons of movies, playing games on the PS2, and finding new, good music to listen to. But I want to do something that will actually make me feel excited and refreshed.

I guess I could go to the gym...haha, sometimes I say the stupidest things.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Things I did in my third semester of college...

I’m done with yet another semester and I can’t help but notice how fast college is going by. I came in to UT when I was 17 and I’m already 19…scary. Anyway, as part of a recurring theme, I’ve made yet another ‘What I did this semester’ list. So presenting the list of things I did in my third semester of college:

  1. Lived in an apartment with 3 other people who were not related to me, for the first time in my life.
  2. Was part of a league championship winning Cricket team.
  3. Overslept and missed my Hindi class three times.
  4. Earned money for the first time in my life. I worked as a mentor for first year students.
  5. Went for 2 weeks without drinking water in my apartment. This was due to the fact that our sink had not been cleaned for two months and to put it shortly, it wasn’t just the four of us in the apartment anymore.
  6. Went for a college football game and loved the experience but never went for another game (It was such a long walk to the stadium).
  7. Went for 10 internship interviews and that meant wearing a tie ten times. I do not trust ties.
  8. Stood for 40 minutes in a line to get free Indian food.
  9. Beat all of my previous records in bowling, including the most number of games that I’ve played at a stretch without throwing a gutter ball – 3.
  10. Went “yes!” right in front of a recruiter after seeing a sms that informed me that India had won the Twenty20 world cup. I was in a career brunch and I was looking for a job. Not the smartest thing to do.
  11. Ate ‘fried rice with vegetables/no egg’ 4 times a week at a restaurant called Thai Noodles House. They’ve stopped giving me the menu now.
  12. Started as the editor-in-chief for a new South Asian on-campus publication called Nazar (check it out, it’s pretty awesome). I dropped that position and became the liaison between the faculty and the publication. I did not enjoy that too much and so I joined the marketing committee. At a point of time, there were two weeks to the end of the semester and our website still wasn’t up. So I took up the job of making the website. Right now, I’m not sure what I really am in the organization.
  13. Went to the gym a total of 0 times. That’s three less than last semester.
  14. Learnt some Hindi which helps me to find out if I’m the one being made fun off by my friends. It’s kind of odd, I’ve found out, when I laugh along and I’m the butt of the joke.
  15. Watched a lot less TV, thanks to the Writer’s Guild of America strike.
  16. Spent two hours searching for a book in the University library for my sister, on my birthday. I realized that the library can be a confusing place – especially when you’re looking for one book out of like 6 million. I actually slept for about ten minutes in between. It was the last day, there was no one around and a book can serve as a good pillow.
  17. Went to Oklahoma for an interview. It was really cool travelling alone and on the way back I got to sit in Business class. It felt kinda awesome sitting next to people working on their blackberrys and laptops, while I was wondering when the air hostess would bring the peanuts.
Other awesome reads:

Things I did in my second semester of college.

Things I did in my first semester of college.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Saawariya Movie Review

We do not know where and when the story of Saawariya takes place. It takes place in a city where it rains and snows, where boats take you from one end to another and where prostitutes are aplenty. A city where despair is woefully apparent, but only in the absence of love. Sanjay Leela Bhansali has taken new faces, Ranbir Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor, and has made use of their innocence to etch out two characters, Ranbir Raj and Sakina, both madly in love. The twist, however, is that Sakina is in love with Imaan, enacted by Salman Khan, and is unable to move on with her life, despite being away from him for close to a year.

Saawariya is based on Fyodor Dostoevsky's short story, "White Nights", and the treatment of the script is fantastic. It is a completely different concept, with a fictional town created with beautiful, elaborate sets and the whole idea of using blues and greens in every shot with the sun never being shown was brilliantly showcased. Saawariya appeals because the simple nature of the story gels amazingly with the setting. The bright neons, the tall clock tower and the bridge around which the story revolves all play a part in this movie.

Ranbir Kapoor makes a good debut, bringing out his character's naivety and innocence, through his dialogue delivery and, of course, his dorky dance moves. Sonam Kapoor started out looking completely out of place but as the movie progressed she seemed to get into her character better, but there is a lot of scope for her to improve as an actress. Rani Mukherjee is the narrator of the movie - she is a prostitute in what happens to be a red light area of the town. Rani, plays her role with the right mix of spunky attitude and poor English, and steals the show in all her scenes.

From the happy, guitar based title track to the romantic, soulful number, Jaan-E-Jaan, music composer Monty has been a revelation. I had never heard any of his work before this, but he does a wonderful job in bringing the story alive with his music. The art direction in this movie, I think, was the big difference. The whole world of Ranbir and Sakina was surreal and I doubt the movie would have worked if it wasn't for that.

Saawariya will have its critics (I suppose it can get boring for some since there is no real urgency or quick tempo to the movie) but I enjoyed the movie. I enjoyed it because it was different; different from the mindless, star fuelled Bollywood flicks that I've become accustomed to. Sanjay Leela Bhansali brings to the screen a world where to love is the obvious thing to do, and to suffer because of that, is a natural consequence.

My Verdict: 7.5/10

Monday, November 19, 2007

We are the Champions!

I doubt I have ever been happier. On Saturday, the Longhorn Cricket Club won the the Central Texas Cricket League Division B Championship. It was an incredible victory and the fact that we reached the finals, let alone clinch the trophy, surprised most (including ourselves). One of my favourite series of books is the Glory Gardens series written by Bob Cattell, where he writes about this club team in England that takes part in a Cricket league and about their progress through each season. I loved those books because the Cricket matches depicted in that series seemed so real and it really made me want to be a part of a team like that. The camaraderie, team spirit and the knack of rising to the occasion (on most situations) were aspects that made me love that book series. And now, I can look back on a Cricket season that had its downs (the first 6 games) and its amazing highs (the last 5 games) and mark one more thing off my 'things-I-have-to-do-before-I'm-too-old-to-do-those-things' list.

On Saturday, we completed a streak of 5 consecutive wins and all the 5 games involved chasing down a total. The final game had us chasing 152 to win in 20 overs and we were looking down the barrel at around the 14th over when we needed close to 60 runs to win with our best hitter back in the hut. People say Cricket is a confidence game and I doubt the guy who won the game for us would disagree. Dhruv came in with 9 runs per over needed and he was pretty low on confidence. He played out two dot balls which just seemed to increase the pressure and then broke the shackles with a huge 6 over mid wicket. It was our game all the way from there as he motored along with our captain, Mohit, picking up 2s with ease and then hitting the occasional boundary to keep us on track. At a certain stage, we needed 33 to win of 19 balls and as if following a magical script, Mohit played a simple flick off his legs and the ball sailed over deep square leg. Yuvraj Singh would have been proud of that shot. The opponents hadn't given up and a tight 18th over brought the equation down to 23 runs of 2 overs. Dhruv used the spread out field to his advantage as he and Mohit ran twos off 4 off the 6 balls. The other two balls of the over, well, Dhruv cracked both of them for 4, giving the fielders no chance at stopping the ball. One over to go, 6 needed. Two 2s and one wide brought it down to 1 run off 3 balls. At this point, the whole team was going crazy at the boundary line with shouts of 'Jeetega bhai jeetega, LCC jeetega!!' getting louder and louder. The bowler ran in and bowled a fuller delivery towards the leg stump. Dhruv got into position and lifted it over midwicket, and even before the ball could sail over the fence, the entire team was on the pitch jumping on top of the man of the match. The last 10 balls had yielded 28 runs and we had clinched the Division B Championship.

It was an amazing season. I have never been part of a Championship winning squad and so I had never realized the magnitude of pride and joy that one feels for himself and for the team. The final 5 games would definitely count as the greatest comeback in Central Texas Cricket League history and the final game, between the Longhorn Cricket Club and the Excaliburs, would count as the best game of Cricket this wonderful little city of Austin has witnessed.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


Sometimes, the smallest things can make you miss home the most. Not being able to listen to the Sun TV announcer go 'Thiraikku vandhu sila maathangalae aana super hit athiradi thiraipadam!' (super hit action movie that was in theaters just months ago), or waking up at 4:30 am with the aim of bursting crackers and instead sitting and drinking coffee for a full half hour, or even the dread with which I sit while my mom puts oil on my hair and forces me to have a bath with sheekai (yes that’s how I say it). Deepavali was just such a special festival - the vain attempts at trying to burst a bijili in my hand, the abundance of good food and the ever present threat of being hit by a 'colour' or 'bomb' rocket. There is none of that here, well there are going to be some fireworks tomorrow from what I hear, but it’s not the same thing.

For me Deepavali was all about those small things. The joy of coming up with a complicated arrangement with old cans, lots of sand and crackers just to see the cans move an inch when the cracker burst was just amazing. Even tolerating the neighbour who kept commenting that we were burning our parent's money away (he was a big metaphor person) was part of the fun. For some weird reason he was known as 'Samosa thalai' (Samosa head). I still don't know why.

I watched the trailors of Saawariya and Om Shanti Om now and that kind of brought back all the memories of Deepavali. The big budget movies, released amidst huge huge hype, that I never got tickets to and always seemed to disappoint when I finally got to see them. The only movie I ever got to see on Deepavali was that Vikram starrer Majaa and boy was that a bad movie. But still, its part of the whole Deepavali memory that I cherish.

It's a great festival, Deepavali, and it was never about the fireworks for me (I even stopped buying crackers after a while). It was about spending that day with family, a great group of friends, and of course watching those 'super hit' movies on TV.

Happy Deepavali :)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Experiencing joblessness

I have had 4 hours of sleep and I have sat in front of a computer for 15 of the last 24 hours. I am so tired, but I am done with my exams and homework. A normal person would take this opportunity to sleep but I like to experience joblessness. I like to sit around and watch people hurrying from place to place, appreciating how beautiful the world is. I prefer to sit and do nothing, it is an amazing feeling. Especially when you feel that you've earned a day or two of bliss, away from academic worries and other pressures. The last time I felt this way, I blogged and this is my first post in almost a month. It's been a hectic semester.

Two weeks ago, I went to the University's career expo to see if companies would like to hire me as an intern for the summer. It was pretty awesome, dressing up in 'Business Formals'. Wearing a tie is kind of painful though, I always get the feeling that it's going to choke me. I looked especially smashing, if I may say so myself (I doubt anyone else would). I came back from the expo with a bag full of goodies - a Microsoft electronic sudoku game, a Sun Microsystems calculator and torch light, an eBay bottle opener and stress relievers (those spongy things that just make you want to crush the hell out of), a toy truck (!), an NVIDIA backpack, a Google dry erase board and quite a few free shirts. My room now reeks of product placement. Everywhere you look there is something that has the logo of a Fortune 500 company. I also go to class wearing a HP t-shirt, write with an eBay pen and drink from a SunGard water bottle. Best thing about college - there is so much free swag if you know where to look.

The upcoming week promises to be exciting. I’ve got a few interviews lined up and I don't have any exams to worry about. There is also a 5 kilometer marathon that is being organized for charity on Sunday. I am incredibly tempted to sign up for that. Running (or rather walking) a marathon has always been on top of my list of things to do and this is a perfect opportunity. The closest thing I've done to a marathon is running away from a dog in Hawaii and so I don't have any expectations. I will be satisfied and even proud of myself if I complete the marathon. As Michael Scott from 'The Office' says, "It's not about winning, it's about finishing". I couldn't agree more.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Back with a tag

Back after a long hiatus, thanks to a tag by Lavanya. You know you're running out of stuff to write about when you rely on tags to keep the blog alive. Ah well, read on. May you be enlightened and entertained.

1. Pick out a scar you have, and explain how you got it.

I have a scar above my right wrist. The scar refuses to vanish, but there is a story behind it, a story that is kinda awesome. So I’m fielding at deep cover in a school Cricket match at a God forbidden college at Vyasarpadi (I think it’s on the outskirts of Chennai). We are playing a group of students who were tearing our bowling apart and I was standing at my fielding position wondering why I was in a college at Vyasarpadi, on a Saturday morning. Soon it is the last over of the game and our opening bowler comes back to bowl. Our coach, who also happened to be the coach of the opponent team, told us that we would get 5 extra overs to bat if we got the opponents all out. Now all of us liked the idea of extra ‘gaaji’ and so we get all pumped up. There was one wicket left, and soon enough only one ball left. The bowler comes in and bowls a full length delivery and the batsman goes for a lofted drive. I see the ball late (I was at this moment looking at a dead rat lying a few feet away from me, wondering sadly why I gave up sleep for this), but I do see the ball and I move in for the catch. The ball is dipping on me and I make a semi-dive – the top half of my body goes for the dive but the other half fearing an ugly injury stays rooted to the spot. I scoop my hands under the ball and emerge victorious from my disconcerting position. People cheer, I hold the ball aloft, the rat stays motionless.But back to the scar – while I was catching the ball I scraped my hand on the ground and it got all bloody. I refused to put any ointment on it, some might say I am a vain, proud jack ass but I would disagree - I am not vain. As a result of my pride and amazing athleticism my right wrist bears a scar which refuses to vanish. I am ‘The Boy Who Caught’.

2. What does your phone look like?

It looks like a Sony Ericsson W810i.

3. What is on the walls of your bedroom?

Posters – Garden State, Beatles on Abbey Road, New York: Men on Beam and a 6 year old Stay Positive poster

4. What is your current desktop picture?

A picture of me and my baby cousin.

5. Do you believe in Gay marriage?


6. What do you want more than anything right now?

I’m done with homework, listening to nice music and lazing around. I’m pretty contented.

7.What time were you born?

Either 2:20 am or 2:20 pm. I’m going to say 2:20 AM.

8. Are your parents still together?

Yes, they are. They are also the best parents ever :)

9. Last person who made you cry.

My room-mate, he was cutting onions

10. What is your favourite perfume/cologne?

Hugo Boss Dark Blue

11. What kind of hair/eye color do you like in the opposite sex?

A friend of mine often says ‘Beggars can’t be choosers’.

12. What are you listening to?

‘Kanaa Kandaen’ from Parthiban Kanavu

13. Do you get scared of the dark?

When I was young, I was petrified of the dark. Now I just don’t admit it.

14. Do you like pain killers?

I like them when they kill my pain; otherwise they are just useless round objects

15. Are you too shy to ask someone out?

Right now, nope. But generally speaking it’s the reply rather than the asking that I worry about.

16. If you could eat anything right now, what would it be?

I’m surprisingly full now.

17. Who was the last person who made you mad?

My Intro to India teacher, when she told me, ‘Your English is surprisingly good for someone who has studied in India’.

18. Who was the last person who made you smile?

Tim Allen on Home Improvement ( re-runs are fun on a night when there is nothing to do).

I tag you. Knock yourself out.

Friday, August 03, 2007


I was feeling terribly bored at home and so I decided to head out to Bombay because I had a couple of college friends over there and from what I had heard Bombay was ‘the place to be’. My knowledge about Bombay was restricted to the places that Gregory David Roberts had mentioned in his book, 'Shantaram'. So when the friend whom I stayed with in Bombay asked me where I wanted to go, I just gave him my well practiced 'I don't know' shrug. It was a good thing I did because he gave me a tour of Bombay that no tour guide could have given.

It wasn't the 'And here is the Gateway of India... and if you look towards your right, you will see Amitabh Bachchan's house' kind of tour. I walked through the streets of Bombay, went on a crowded train from Churchgate to Bandra, took a stinky cab at 1 in the night and sat facing Nariman Point completely oblivious to the hustle and bustle right behind me. I saw cab drivers swear at each other with comfortable ease, people running into a train which was taking a longer route just to catch a seat (and when they couldn't, making a seated person move further in so that there was some piece of wood to sit on), prostitutes standing on a bridge with their pimps inviting customers and of course foreigners drinking away in Cafe Leopold's just like G.D. Roberts had described in Shantaram. I saw tall sky scrapers and multiple sky lines, stock brokers running around Dalal Street, box-sized restaurants serving brilliant food and an hour's rain bringing traffic to a standstill.

But more than anything else, I saw people who were always on the move, wearing their emotions on their sleeve. And that is what made Bombay fascinating to me. Watching people go about their business at a pace that was tough to keep up to. Taking a turn at a posh colony and arriving at a neighbourhood that had no resemblance to the tall buildings and fancy shops that were present just a turn ago. I’ve always been a very lazy person when it comes to observing my surroundings (I’ve lived in Chennai for over 11 years but I still don’t know how to get to most parts of the city). I’ve got 10 days left before I go back to the US and so I’m going to explore Chennai, make up for the time wasted. It is going to be fun.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - Movie Review

I never thought that I would be seeing the latest Harry Potter flick on Saturday (especially when all the tickets for the weekend were sold out by the time I was able to log into but thanks to the patience and determination of my sister and a friend, I found myself sitting in the second row from the screen at Seasons, trying to watch the movie without spraining my neck. I can't complain though- it was a 10 rupee ticket.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is a well made movie. It has been well publicised that this movie has the shortest running time compared to its prequels even though the book it's based on is not small. However, it works. The screenplay was very good and they managed to include everything in the book, like Occlumency lessons with Snape and Fred & George's awesome get away, without spending too much time on each. I was really looking forward to seeing Imelda Staunton as Professor Dolores Umbridge and she didn't disappoint. I think Umbridge is one of the better characters that Rowling has created and Staunton with her annoying little laugh and pretentious smile stole the show. There were quite a few awesome moments in the movie, like when Harry and the wizards from the Order of the Phoenix fly through London on their broomsticks and I felt that the usage of scenes from previous movies during the Occlumency lessons was a nice touch.

The acting in this movie was definitely better than the fourth one and David Yates has done an awesome job in recreating the book's best chapters into something equally fascinating on screen. The tempo is kept up throughout the movie but I was slightly disappointed with the climax. I guess I was expecting a lot more kick ass wand waving. Regardless, this is my favourite movie in the Harry Potter series so far and it's just got me even more excited about the release of the last book of the series.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - go watch it, preferably from a seat towards the back of the theater :)

My verdict: 7/10

Friday, June 22, 2007

Ta ra rum pum?

It has been one month into my holidays and I have 50 more days left to have unbridled fun in Chennai. I am bored, terribly bored. Unlike me, most of my friends are already back at college and to make things worse, the two electronic devices that I thought that I could not live without, my laptop and my cell phone, decided to stop working at the same time. The laptop, I can bring back to life if I buy a new multi-plug converter but the cell phone, well it’s been on its death bed for the past 1 year.

I loved that phone, it was an NGage QD which had lost all its shine within a couple of weeks and its outer rubber grip was hanging precariously within a month. Still, I had saved more than 300 jokes on it and all of it is lost now. Apart from the frequent pangs of sadness that strike me whenever I look at my lifeless NGage, I haven't really missed having a cell phone. Aamir Khan in a recent interview said something about how giving up his cell phone had given him mental peace and stuff. I think I'm going to try living without a cell phone and see what this mental peace is all about. No more worrying about what ring tone to choose, when I should start deleting messages so that my phone won't crash, whether I missed any calls when I was in the shower, whether my phone is in silent mode when I'm in the, a cell phone can be a burden.

In a blog post last year, I mentioned a few things that I wanted to accomplish like learning Hindi and figuring out how to drive a car. A year later I am working towards accomplishing these two tasks. I am going for spoken Hindi classes and as a result, I am getting better at understanding my friends from college when they insult me. Also, I started driving classes yesterday. Getting my LLR was difficult enough - I went to get my documents signed at the RTO (Regional Transport Office) and I was sent back because I was wearing shorts. Yes, it is heartening to find out that the government officials consider wearing shorts a bigger offense than blindly giving licenses to morons who drive like they own the road.

Well anyway, I started driving yesterday and it was my first time behind the wheel. I had never driven a vehicle with gears before and by the time I had understood what the clutch was for, I was on the main road driving a rickety old Maruti 800 whose seats have probably never been washed in the 15 years the car has been in existence. It was unnerving, with buses going past and autos cutting in front. I drove all the way from Saligramam to Kodambakkam and that was the end of my first class. I gave the door two thumps to let myself out and sat in the back seat to watch another newbie try to make sense of Chennai's roads.

I know I am probably not qualified to judge, but I feel I drove better than the other guy. I mean it’s all about trusting your skills as a driver and I remember making quite an impression on a lady who was trying to cross the road while I was driving. I couldn't quite make out what she was saying but I think it was something like 'veetila solittu vandhiyaa?' Yes I did, my parents are very proud.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Sivaji Movie Review

I thought that I would have to wait for 3-4 weeks before I could get a ticket to watch Sivaji but luckily, my cousin had an extra ticket and I jumped at the opportunity. I watched the movie at Mayajaal, not the ideal place to enjoy a Rajinikanth flick but the mood in the hall was electric for Mayajaal's standards.

So the premise of the movie is this - Rajinikanth is a Software Systems Architect from America who comes back to India with a ton of money with the aim of building a hospital and a college to serve the needy. He soon figures out he can't accomplish much without bribing every single official who needs to sign his documents. He also figures out that with the crores of black money that is hidden in the country, he can help the poor get access to good education and health care. The movie is basically about how he goes about doing this and the obstacles he faces. As he says in the movie, "The rich get richer, the poor get poorer".

Sivaji is truly an out and out commercial film relying on Rajini's appeal and charisma to deliver a social message. This is yet another Shankar movie where the protagonist takes the law into his own hands to do good to his fellowmen. It is a long movie, running for 3 and a quarter hours, with lots of songs, fight sequences, punch dialogues and comedy sequences befitting a Rajinikanth film. Shriya, the heroine of this film, impresses. Unlike other non-Tamilian actresses, her lips and her voice sync, she actually acts and she sizzles in all the songs. Vivek is there to provide comic relief and he does a good job. He has a pretty meaty role (he is Rajini's mama) and this movie is sure to help him revive his acting career which seemed to be taking a downward turn. AR Rahman's background score is pretty good and there is a special appearance by the now much much thinner Nayantara in the Sooriyanum Santhiranum song. The art direction in this movie is awesome and the sets are amazing especially in the song 'Vaaji Vaaji'.

This is a Rajinikanth film and Shankar pulls out all the stops to make it look as grand as possible. You will need to suspend belief and forget about logic if you want to enjoy this movie. Sivaji is meant to entertain and if that means Rajini beating up 30 goondas single handedly, then you better whistle and clap because otherwise you're not going to enjoy the film.

My Verdict: Impossible to rate a Rajinikanth movie.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End Movie Review

So the second movie of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest) left off with Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) locked up in Davy Jones' (Bill Nighy) locker and William Turner (Orlando Bloom), Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and Sparrow’s crew planning to head to World's end to bring Sparrow back from the dead. The third (and hopefully final) movie, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End starts with the Dutch East India Company in control of the Flying Dutchman because they now possess its Captain's (Davy Jones) heart and are using the ship and its crew to get rid of the Pirate menace. The protagonists of the movie each have different aims: Sparrow wants to kill Jones' heart so that he can become the Flying Dutchman's Captain and live forever, Turner wants the Black Pearl so that he can free his grotesque and really disgusting looking father, Captain Barbossa wants to free Calypso (the weird woman from the second movie who lived in that swamp) and Swann wants to bring back Sparrow from the dead because she feels guilty that she happened to be the reason for his death. Turner and Swann are also in a bad state in their relationship with Turner thinking that Swann is in love with Sparrow.

Quite a lot to keep up with and I think that's where the movie fails. There's just too much packed into the storyline and the movie seems to go on and on. There is much less action in this movie compared to the previous two and the real fight only comes towards the end with Hans Zimmer's stunning background score providing a zest that is incomparable.

Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow is brilliant once again and reminds us why this franchise became such a hit. He has created a character so amazing that even when Sparrow does something conniving and selfish, you just can't hate him. Bloom as William Turner was a disappointment. His character has become boring and it’s just tedious to keep up with his storyline. He didn't infuse energy into his character at all. Knightley was good as Swann and she got a decent amount of screentime. It was nice to see a special appearance by Keith Richards, the Rolling Stones guitarist whom Depp based his character on.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End isn't as pacy as the first movie and it confuses the viewer with its many complex storylines. However, it still has some of the unmistakable charm and thrills that the previous two movies possessed. There is the weird humour, the ugly pirates (a lot of them looked so unbelievably disgusting) and the awesome ships that the viewers of this series have become acquainted to. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End is not on my list of favourite movies but I think it is worth a watch, just to see Johnny Depp fascinate and frustrate the audience one last time as Captain Jack Sparrow.

My verdict: 5.5/ 10

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Things I did in my second semester of college

1. Took up squash for a week.

2. Saw Francis Ford Coppola(!).

3. Spoke on live radio.

4. Walked 20 blocks on a Sunday morning because the Austin marathon had blocked all bus routes.

5. Took part in UT's first flash mob.

6. Went water skiing but never managed to get the skiis on.

7. Lost my room key, and then almost lost the new room key three other times.

8. Tried catching snow in my hand but got hit by a hail stone instead.

9. Took a wicket with my second ball in the Central Texas Cricket League.

10. In the next game, I was tonked for 19 runs in my only over (In my defense, I need one over to settle down).

11. Went to the gym a total of three times (three more than last semester).

12. Skipped two of my classes to watch India lose to Sri Lanka in the Cricket World Cup.

13. Tripped on the stairs while holding pool equipment (it's not fun nor is it funny).

14. Almost puked while cleaning out the trash in my room.

15. Saw each episode of The Office atleast 6 times.

16. Was chased by a group of angry students at 4am. My drunk friends said some things that might have instigated the anger...

17. Bought an awesome bicycle.

18. Lost an awesome bicycle.

19. Thought that I had found my lost bicycle and called the Police only to later find out that the bicycle in question was not mine.

20. Decided to move off campus next semester.I then found out that all my friends were staying on campus and so I paid the on campus housing deposit. Then I got to know that most of them were moving out. So I decided to move off campus. Couldn't find a good place to live off campus and so decided to make use of that housing deposit and stay on campus. Then somehow found a good enough apartment and signed a lease for an apartment a few blocks away from campus. In the end, I got what I wanted.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Live radio? Been there, done that :)

A couple of days ago, I got the opportunity to speak on a sports talk show for a local radio station here in Austin. They were doing a segment on sports that did not get enough coverage in Austin and in the US. Cricket was an obvious choice and a friend of mine and I were asked to come over and give our views on Cricket and its nuances. I was pretty excited - it was a live show and the fact that the closest thing to a radio show I had done before was a sad, sad pod cast when I was 15 added to the thrill. I reached the station early and so I sat outside, under the cloudy skies, drinking hot chocolate and wondering how many lives I would be changing with my first radio interview. At that moment, a crow decided to act smart and aimed its morning business at me. I was rudely awakened from my thoughts by the dirty mess that the crow had created on my jeans. Not a very auspicious start to my radio debut.

I wait outside the radio station for almost 20 minutes and it doesn't look like my friend is going to join me. I do not like to panic (as my blog's title verifies) but I was kind of worried. As much as I wanted to have the world listen to me speak, I didn't want to do it alone. So I walked into the studio, nervous and not as enthusiastic as I was 10 minutes ago. I tell the RJ that my friend is going to be late and so he covers up with advertisements and stuff, and my friend shows up. The interview starts and I completely forget that I'm on live radio. It was awesome stuff, having a go at live radio and talking about Cricket. I didn't speak much but when I did, I had fun. I think it turned out better than my pod cast from 3 years ago.

I've embedded the pod cast below. So check it out and may you feel enlightened at the end of it.

powered by ODEO

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Honors day :(

A couple of weeks ago, the College of Natural Sciences (of which I am a student of) in the University of Texas had its Honors day celebration where it honored students who had done well academically. Now, the Associate Dean of the College had accidentally sent out an email to every student in the College of Natural Sciences saying that they had the academic qualifications to take part in the event. All the students who had made the cut would have their name called out and would receive a fancy medallion to commemorate their achievement. Soon afterwards he sent out an email informing the students about the mistake. I had done well in my first semester academically and I thought that I was invited for the event. So I asked a couple other friends of mine (who had made 4.0 GPAs in their first semester) if they were coming to the event too. They had failed to notice the content of the second email that the associate Dean had sent out and they were more than happy to come.

So on the day of the event, a Saturday, I woke up at 7:30 am to iron my formal shirt and pant. Remember, this is a Saturday and it is the only day when I can sleep through the first 12 hours without feeling any iota of guilt when I wake up. So I wake up at 7:30 and I make sure that I am dressed properly and my hair isn't going off in weird tangents. I meet my other two finely dressed friends and we make our way towards the location of the Honors day event, feeling quite proud of ourselves. We enter the nicely decorated venue and tell the lady in charge that we didn't register for the event but we would still like to take part in it. So, the lady in charge lets us go in and we see this lavishly decorated auditorium with free food towards the left hand side of the entrance. So, as we perpetually hungry freshmen do, we went straight towards the free food. There were appetizers whose names we couldn't pronounce and it still didn't strike us that we might be crashing an event that was meant for those who had probably been in the college for a longer time than we had.

We took the free food and sat amongst proud parents and their slightly embarrassed children. One of us wondered out loud why the lady in charge hadn't checked to see if we were deserving of the honor. I said, "Trust?" and the other guy goes, "Yea, that's how the country runs." We nod our heads in agreement and gulp down the fancy cheese on a stick and the blueberry croissant. The Associate Dean then comes on to the stage and tells everyone that in 10 minutes all the honorees would be taken out of the room and placed in their right groups. Right now, I decide to look at the brochure that I had been holding for the past hour without opening. I go through the criteria to be an honoree and my jaw drops.

"I don't think we are supposed to be here", I tell my friends in a frantic whisper. They don’t seem as thrilled any more. I make them read through the brochure and we all come to the agreement that we have crashed an Honors day celebration that we were never even close to being invited to. So we hurry out of the auditorium as quickly as we can so that no one we know sees us.

We walk back towards our dorm, all prim in our formals, dejected and embarrassed. Just when we thought we had wasted our Saturday morning, one of my friends quips, "At least we got free food." Amen to that.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Bored and sleepless at 1am

It is almost 1am here in Austin and I am sitting on my bed, in the dark, wondering how tomorrow (or rather today) will be any different. I've settled into a routine lifestyle (as mentioned in a previous post) and I don't find anything that motivates me to not click the snooze button on my cell phone in the morning. I guess a lot of people feel that way, I mean who does not want to sleep more? But I am looking to make each day in college seem different. Last week I took part in UT's first ever flash mob (it was weird, yet unbelievably fun) and I'm also involved in the creation of a South Asian fortnightly here on campus. I did not do anything but study last semester and so I want this semester to be more memorable.

For April Fools day, I tried tricking the residents on my floor by putting up a sign saying that there was free food in the study lounge but I doubt anyone really fell for it. Still, it was something that defined my day. It would be great if I can do something new or infinitely weird every day and I guess that will be my very late New Years resolution. My original resolution for the year was to go to at least one party every week due to my absence from all of them last semester. I managed to keep up the resolution for the first 10-12 weeks but now it’s just become routine, and tiring. Plus it’s boring to watch everyone around you getting drunk and doing stupid stuff. I mean it’s funny initially when they think that they are under control but after a while it’s just annoying.

It's 1:11am now and I don't feel sleepy. Have to get some sleep though if I hope to make tomorrow (or today, if you wanna nitpick) eventful. So good night and don't let those bed bugs (do they really exist?) bite...

Sunday, March 18, 2007

A sad day for Cricket

It's just a game; Cricket is just a bloody game. Pakistan lost to Ireland and are out of the world cup, India lost to Bangladesh and they face an uphill task to stay in the tournament. Cricket fans (if you could call them that) in India and Pakistan have lost their minds like they usually do when their country fares poorly in a major Cricket game. Mahendra Singh Dhoni's half constructed house has been attacked and the senior Cricketers' families in India now have Police protection. Yesterday quite a few people in Pakistan were so enraged that they wanted Inzamam and Bob Woolmer arrested. This is no new scenario and the same thing happened in 2003 when India capsized against Australia in the preliminary stages of the World Cup. Today Bob Woolmer passed away and I am pretty certain that he could not handle the pressure anymore and just collapsed. It is a sad day for all true Cricket lovers. Woolmer was a wonderful coach, a coach who never gave up on the Pakistan Cricket Team despite the huge setbacks he encountered in terms of support from the Cricket administrators and even certain players of the team. It is often said that in the Indian subcontinent, the national Cricket team's Captain holds the second toughest job in the country (after the nation's Head of State). It may seem like an exaggeration but the pressure put on players and coaches to perform is just insane.

Burning effigies of players or stoning their houses just shows how poor sports we can be. Why is it that we turn from loyal fans to raging lunatics when we lose a game? Bangladesh and Ireland played better Cricket than they have ever played and were just clearly the better teams on the day. Restricting world Cricket's best batting line-up (on paper at least) to 191 is no mean task and Bangladesh bowled superbly. Ireland were an inspired outfit who clearly showed what fighting spirit is all about. Why can we not, as Cricket fans, understand that and give the opponent the credit they deserve and move on with our lives? Do we need to invest all of our energy and time in foolish acts that destroy our nation's reputation? When are we going to realize that Cricket is just a sport and that bad days happen for everyone? The people who went out on the streets and caused chaos after 11 of the nation's billion failed to beat a 'weaker' team have shamed the sport and their country. We have lost one of Cricket's greatest coaches and one of the best ambassadors for the sport because we care too much about the outcome of a Cricket game. It's just a game, and we failed to realize that.

May you rest in peace Bob, the Cricketing world miss you.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Q: Is India part of the Asian or South Asian Subcontinent? Ans: Does it matter?

I'm back to the normal routine of college life (sleep late, let the alarm clock go into snooze mode, wake up 10 minutes before class, eat cornflakes that are a month beyond their expiration date, spray deodorant all over yourself and run to class in the clothes you were wearing when you went to bed) and thankfully I am finding this semester to be much less tiring and strenuous than the previous one. I think, nay, I know that the reason for this is the absence of killer Engineering Physics in my life. Why a Computer Science major needs to know advanced physics baffles me. We program microwave ovens, not construct them.

Anyway, I've taken Intro to India as an elective this semester and if you're not in college, you're not supposed to comment (unfavourably) on me taking a course in which I should probably make an A without going to class. People in college will be able relate to my reason for taking this class- I wanted an easy A (for once!). When you're in college, you just need that blow off class that you don't need to worry about. Unfortunately all the dates and facts of Indian History that I mugged up when I was in school aren't helping me with this course and I am spending more time studying for this than I was hoping to. The articles that I have to read are better than Cetzine in putting you to sleep and the videos shown in class are a big yawn. On the syllabus it said that we were going to watch Sholay, DDLJ and the like but we've been watching boring rituals and low grade documentaries. To top things off, I didn’t really make a confidence inducing score on my first midterm. That was disappointing because I made mistakes I wouldn’t have made if I was smarter.

Another long week has come to an end and before I realize it the weekend will be over and the above mentioned routine will start again. My weekend routine, however, involves me taking a nap right now and that is what I intend to do.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

It's all about me

Tagged by Hamsini.

10 things that define me:

1. Uncombed hair that stays wonderfully in place.

2. Making lame jokes that I think are clever. Most of the time I'm the only one who feels that way.

3. The amazing need to shave at least once a week even though there is nothing to shave.

4. Tripping on stairs at least once a day.

5. A bulging wallet due to a collection of worthless coins of low denomination.

6. Awful passport size photographs.

7. Always eager for new email (Forwards however are sent straight to Trash).

8. Fear of dogs, cats, cockroaches and pigeons.

9. Presence of Reynolds pens in my pencil box even though they stopped writing the day I bought them.

10. Affinity for cellotapes. I absolutely have to tear a strip of tape if I see a roll.

P.S: I tag Dave Barry. He must feel so honoured.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Guru - Movie Review

Mani Ratnam's Iruvar chronicled the life of M.G. Ramachandran (M.G.R) but there was a clear disclaimer at the beginning saying that all similarities to real life individuals were purely coincidental. Similarly Mani Ratnam's Guru has a disclaimer up front and for me that is the biggest problem with the movie. Such a disclaimer is suitable if you feel that your movie has characters who might loosely resemble some real life person. But when your film's title character Gurukanth Desai (Abhishek Bachchan) is practically Dhirubhai Ambani except for the obvious differences in height and build, you cannot use that disclaimer. Guru is clearly inspired by the life of Dhirubhai Ambani and that should have been clearly specified when the credits rolled. To me it seems like a cop-out when you base your movie on someone and don't have the guts to say that to the viewing public. Steven Spielberg's Munich was based on events that happened in the 1972 Olympic Games. Spielberg made it clear that the movie's genre was historical fiction whilst acknowledging the main source for the movie's storyline.

I felt that the climax of the movie was pretty weak. Sure, what happened to Guru at the end of the movie might have happened to Dhirubhai Ambani, but the setup wasn't good enough for me. Guru's speech in the climax didn't move me and I did not feel that it should have changed the mind of a Jury.

I did come out of the theater appreciating the quality of acting, the pace of the movie (it was three hours long but I wasn't bored) and the directorial effort by Mani. Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai turned in inspired performances. I had known pretty much nothing about Ambani's life when I walked into the theater and that definitely made a difference because this was a good movie and I was able to enjoy it. But when I found out that every single thing that happened in the movie was right out of Ambani's life, it just left me disappointed that one of India's best directors failed to acknowledge that his story was not original.

My Verdict: 6/10

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Sick and not liking it

My first post of the new year and I have to pause every 10 seconds to sneeze or wipe my nose while writing this. If you haven't guessed yet, I've got the cold. This is quite unfortunate because I only like getting ill when I have to go to school and now that I'm not in school, it's just plain annoying. Another reason for me feeling down is that my break from college is coming to an end and I've got to get back to living in the library soon enough.

The holidays were pretty decent though. I went to Hawaii with family and did a lot of sight seeing. I am not a fan of sight seeing, I just think that it is a waste of time. The thing that I look forward to the most when I go on a vacation is to have fun at the hotel. Sadly, the hotel that I stayed in did not have table tennis or pool tables and I had to go see the sights and sounds of the Aloha state. I had a swelling in my nose (I get the oddest infections) and that ruled out any swimming and so the only adventurous thing I did was Kayaking. I steered the boat left, I steered the boat right but I never got it to move in one straight line. Also, there was no other boat in sight and the river looked pretty scary with red berries falling down and causing the water to turn red and trees protruding and almost hitting me in the face. It was quite unnerving.

Later, I went cycling up a hill and I came across a big dog sitting on the side of the road. I wanted to seem polite and so I said 'What's up dog?’ The dog did not appreciate me being nice and started chasing me up the hill. It was an uphill task (literally) getting away from the dog but I did. I later found out that that was the most the dog had moved in six years. I just don't understand why dogs and puppies can’t just let me be.

Getting chased by dogs, smashing into trees are nothing out of the ordinary for me. But something quite out of the ordinary did happen a few days ago. I actually had a good photograph of myself taken at a photo studio (parents wanted a family photo but I ended up having a portrait photo taken). I didn't think it was great but the photographer apparently liked it so much that he wanted it to be mounted on the wall of his studio. Yep, definitely out of the ordinary. You can be assured that I'll be bragging about this for quite a while. Hey, it’s my greatest accomplishment till date.