Sunday, September 27, 2009

Seeing is fighting

I was watching a movie today, a very old Hindi movie, when movies used to have a unique element called - a story. This movie is called Laila Majnu and is based around a couple of legendary lovers.

I really loved the movie and might do another post about the movie itself, but here I want to talk about one aspect of it. There was a scene where the hero is engaged in a sword fight with the heroine's evil brother and as the fight continues I suddenly realize that I can "see" the fight. No, no, I was not blind before or any miracle like that, just bear with me here. I could see exactly what both the characters were doing, their footwork, the somersaults, the running; I could see what the sword arm was doing, I could see what the swords were doing, I could watch the whole fight and follow it very easily.

I actually watched another scene in another old Hindi movie called "Amar Akbar Anthony", in this one the fight was unarmed combat between two of the heroes and and the common factor was the detail I was able to see - I could see who kicked whom, where and how hard and how he pushed the other one and all of that.

Now contrast that with the current movies, both English and Hindi - there are 17 different shots every second, showing 17 different things - hero's feet in extreme close up, villain's hands in extreme close up, a bystander...again, in extreme close-up...and all kinds of techno-fabulous sounds going on all the time. You can't really see what's happening, what are they doing to each other, that you can't follow, you have to play Sherlock Holmes...when you see the hero's face in extreme close-up distorted with pain, you have to infer that the villain must have gotten a good hit in, if you see the villain's lip bleeding in the next shot, you infer that the last *whap* sound you heard must have been the hero's fist connecting with the villain's face, and so on and so forth.

Let me take a very specific example. In the last Bond movie called Quantum of Solace, there's a fight scene in the beginning, Bond vs. a bad guy, hand-to-hand combat going on. Since it's a dynamic situation both the fighters use whatever item they can get their hands on to hurt the other guy. Now with this background...we see a piece of rope hanging in mid-air, we see Bond's face, his eyes, obviously noticing the rope, then we hear some techno-fabulous *whap* *boom* *crunch* type sounds...what do you infer?

I inferred that somehow Bond used that piece of rope strategically to hit the bad guy. But how? What was the ingenious gambit that he devised? I have no freaking clue!!

So while the director is sitting in a Los Angeles penthouse counting dollar bills, I am sitting in the theatre thinking, "You bloody wanker! I didn't pay 12 quid to see a piece of rope!! Show me what the f**k is going on, you idiot!"

My point is that technology has progressed a lot in the movie-making business but it is possible to abuse that technology and be so carried away by the amazing, super-powerful, stunt-designing computers that you forget about the man who pays his hard-earned money to see what tale you have spun for him. And then they ask why people don't watch movies on cinema any more!

Now, here's my plan - any time there's a movie like that on the cinema that I am considering watching, I am going to call the director and ask him:
SG: "Listen, dude, are you the kind of director who goes for technology in a big way?"
Director:"Er..yes."
SG:"Okay, no harm in that I guess. But are you also the kind of bloke who sometimes gets carried away with technology and forgets about the craft of filmmaking?"
Director:"Yes, I guess so."
SG:"Hah! Then I am sorry mate, but you would be interested to know that I am not going to watch your latest movie!"

And with that, I will hang up, leaving him to deal with the sense of doom that he starts experiencing!
Pretty good, eh?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

MS-Word is a piece of s**t!

Warning: This is a rant post! I write it to vent my anger rather than for your amusement.

I am working on this book, you know. You would know if you have checked out my other blog - http://operationdesertmountain.blogspot.com. And of course, nobody uses pen and paper for such things these days, at least I don't, so I write in Word and save it. Then I edit it and save it as a new version. So, tonight I was working on version 0.4 and making changes to it.

Word has some peculiar issues. One of them is that after I have been editing for an hour or so, it would say that it could not save the file, ran out of memory or out of space or some such crap. I learned computers in India without the luxury of a battery backup behind the computers I used to use, so I have this excellent habit of pressing Control-S about every 2 seconds. So, now that I know about this stupid behaviour from Word, all I do is, I close the file without saving, open it again and resume working. I never lose more than a minute's worth of work.

But tonight...as I was working on 0.4 when the problem occurred, Word said Problem, I closed the file, it asked me to save, I said no, then it asked me to save a ~*.tmp file, I said no and exited!
And what do I find? My file has disappeared. The v0.4 file that I had saved before and worked on a few times, the whole file was gone! Vanished beyond a trace! Instead of a minute's worth of work I have lost about an hour's worth of editing. And editing is such a chore to redo.

That's it! I am through with Word. I am moving to Open Office!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ghazal - Farz karo hum ahle-wafa hoN

When I was buying that song - O des se aane waale bata...I saw this ghazal in the same album "Paigham-e-Mohabbat" by Abida Parveen and the mat_la (the first sher) seemed kind of cheeky, so I bought it.

This time the whole ghazal in Hindi script so it's easier to read.

फ़र्ज़ करो हम अहल-इ-वफ़ा हों, फ़र्ज़ करो दीवाने हों
फ़र्ज़ करो ये दोनों बातें झूटी हों अफ़साने हों

फ़र्ज़ करो ये जी की बिपता जी से जोर सुनायी हो
फ़र्ज़ करो अभी और हो इतनी, आधी हम ने छुपायी हो

फ़र्ज़ करो तुम्हें खुश करने के ढूंडे हम ने बहाने हों
फ़र्ज़ करो ये नैन तुम्हारे सच-मच के मैखाने हों

फ़र्ज़ करो ये रोग हो झुटा झूटी पीट हमारी हो
फ़र्ज़ करो इस पीट के रोग में सांस भी हम पे भारी हो

फ़र्ज़ करो ये जोग-बिजोग का हमने ढोंग रचाया हो
फ़र्ज़ करो बस यही हकीक़त बाकी सब कुछ माया हो

इब्ने इंशा

Monday, September 14, 2009

Book review - Diplomat

One big advantage in having a blog is that you can write about whatever you feel like. Today I feel like talking about a book.

This book is from the east region of India, the area called Bengal, that was divided in two parts in 1947, Pakistan got the Eastern part and we got the West Bengal. I like to read literature from all parts of India and I have read and loved many great books from Bengal that were actually translated from Bangla to Hindi.

This book is called Diplomat, written by Nimai Bhattacharya. Unlike Shankar and Sharatchand Chattopadhyaya I have read very few of Nimai Bhattacharya's books and liked only a couple of them, but the ones I have liked, I have loved dearly. Diplomat is one my most favorite books, not just by Nimai Bhattacharya.

The story is simple, but the author's style of writing is intricate. He writes stories like one weaves a fabric, many threads, moving back and forth in different patterns all the time....but there is one prominent thread, the story of Tarun who is an excellent diplomat in Indian Foreign Service and a great person...he is loved by his colleagues and appreciated by his superiors, he is the kind of man who makes friends anywhere he goes. During the course of the novel he does go many places as he is transferred as part of his job - Cairo, London, Berlin, Delhi, and finally again London.

But Tarun has a secret sorrow, a secret that everybody in the foreign service knows, he is looking for his lost love - Indrani. This was a girl he loved since before he knew the meaning of the word. And he lost her in the riots that followed the Indian partition. Ever since he has been looking for her, without much hope left....

This is the central thread of the story, but other events happen and countless little stories are woven around Tarun that keep the reader hooked.

But a great book is not just a narration of events, a great book is one that gives you an insight into life, into people, into yourself.

I read this book long time back, borrowing it from a library, I forget which. Even though it was long time back and I was quite young, I still had sense enough to try and retain the book. I couldn't keep the library's book so I had it xeroxed - yes, illegal in 19 countries, I am sure. I kept that xeroxed book in my papers in India for a long time. But I missed it. This time when I went to India in August I looked for my old xeroxed books and found it.

I have just finished reading it and even though I know the main story very well and I remember the last scene almost verbatim, it still brings tears to my eyes, just that last page. That's the beauty of the narration!

One insight that I got from this book back when I first read it was that we all want to be loved, but we all also want to love, and to not have anyone to pour your love and affection on, that is just as big a misfortune. Of course, the author says it much better in the original language (actually in the translated Hindi), but you can't stop me from trying. :)

Read more books!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

O des se aane waale bata!

So I mention this song again. Well, it's only my all-time favourite. But this might be the last time I mention it.

Tonight I found the soundtrack so I thought I'd tell you. Actually, after looking high and low for this MP3 I found it on Amazon UK and was once again amazed at how much of Indian content is available on Amazon and other UK sites. Good for me, eh?

I am used to buying Audio CDs but buying MP3, I think this was the first experience. Buying MP3 from Amazon is quite a nice experience, you can sample a few seconds of each song in the album and buy either individual songs or the whole album, with a single-click if you are logged in. You can download the purchased MP3 immediately, which is what I really wanted.

I just heard the song after buying, it's well worth the small price.

Before the song Muzaffar Ali speaks in in his baritone voice,
गुलाम तुम भी थे यारो, गुलाम हम भी थे

नहा के खून में आयी थी फ़स्ले आझादी

मज़ा तो तब था के मिलकर इलाज--जाँ करते
खुद अपने हाथ से तामीर--गुलसिताँ करते

हमारे दर्द मे तुम, और तुम्हारे दर्द मे हम
शरीक होते तो जश्न--आशियाँ करते

तुम आओ गुलशन--लाहोर से चमन बरदोश
हम आयें सुबह--बनारस की रोशनी लेकर,
हिमालयों की हवाओं की ताजगी लेकर,
और इसके बाद ये पु्छें, कौन दुष्मन हैं?

(Ali Sardar Jaffery)

Then Abida starts singing in her powerful voice and you forget everything else -

देस से आने वाले बता, देस से आने वाले बता
किस हाल मे है यारां--वतन, वो बाग--वतन, फिरदौस वतन
देस से आने वाले बता, देस से आने वाले बता

क्या अब भी वहाँ के बागों में मस्ताना हवाएं आती हैं
क्या अब भी वहाँ के पर्बतपर घनघोर घटाएं छाती हैं
क्या अब भी वहाँ की बरखायें वैसे ही दिलों को भाती है
देस से आने वाले बता, देस से आने वाले बता

(Akhtar Sheerani)

वो शह़र जो हमसे छुटा है, वो शह़र हमारा कैसा है
सब लोग हमें प्यारे हैं मगर, वो जान से प्यारा कैसा है;
कैसा है?
देस से आने वाले बता, देस से आने वाले बता

(Ahmed Faraz)

क्या अब भी वतन मे वैसे ही सरमस्त नज़ारे होते है
क्या अब भी सुहानी रातों मे वो चांद-सितारे होते है
हम खेल जो खेला करते थे, अब भी वो सारे होते है
देस से आने वाले बता, देस से आने वाले बता

(Akhtar Sheerani)

शब बज्म--हरीफ़ां सजती हैं या शाम ढलें सो जाते है
यारों की बसर औकात है क्या, हर अंजुमन आरा कैसा है;
कैसा है?
देस से आने वाले बता, देस से आने वाले बता

(Ahmed Faraz)

क्या अब भी मेहकते मंदिर से नाकूस की आवाज आती है
क्या अब भी मुकदस मस्जिद पर मस्ताना अज़ान थर्राती है
क्या अब भी वहाँ के पनघट पर पनहारियां पानी भरती है
अंगडाई का नक्शा बन बन कर, सब माथे पे गागर धरती है
और अपने घरों को जाते हुएं हसती हुयीं चुहलें करती है
करती है?
देस से आने वाले बता, देस से आने वाले बता

(Akhtar Sheerani)

मेहरान लहू की धार हुआ, बोलान भी क्या गुलनार हुआ
किस रंग का है दरिया--अटक, रावी का किनारा कैसा है;
कैसा है?
देस से आने वाले मगर तुमने तो इतना भी पुछा
वो कवी जिसे बनवास मिला, वो दर्द का मारा कैसा है?
कैसा है?
देस से आने वाले बता, देस से आने वाले बता

(Ahmed Faraz)

क्या अब भी किसीके सीने मे बाकी हमारी चाह बता
क्या याद हमे भी करता है अब यारों में कोई आह बता
देस से आने वाले बता, देस से आने वाले बता
लिल्लाह बता, लिल्लाह बता, लिल्लाह बता, लिल्लाह बता

(Akhtar Sheerani)

Lyrics stolen from the original link I posted on the last post on this ghazal. Here it is again: http://ramblings2reflections.wordpress.com/2007/09/07/o-des-se-aane-wale-bata/

Still alive

This is just to confirm that I am alive though not kicking. Not kicking in the literal sense because I am a peaceful guy, but really because even though I have been back from India for more than 2 weeks, I have been having some dental problems, and I am sure you can understand how distracting tootache can be.

Things have been getting better though, and currently I am working on my book The ODM story. No, it's not a puzzle, check out my other blog for a fuller explanation - http://operationdesertmountain.blogspot.com.

I will be posting to this one also soon.

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