Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Lotus eaters

We've had it up to here with China now. Not content with eating up our Steel, Textile and Consumer Goods industries on the fly and buzzing over our BPO gravy train with malice, they have now unleashed new age goblins on our national flower. G.S.Mudur reports :

...a fly from China has been eating lotus plants across vast stretches of shallow freshwater fields in Kerala’s Malappuram district, one of India’s largest hubs for commercial lotus cultivation.

The yellowish-brown larvae of the two-winged insect have been feeding on lotus leaves for over two years, causing an infestation not previously observed in the country, scientists at the Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) have said.

Chinese scientists had first identified the fly, Stenochironomus nelumbus, in 1986 a botanical garden in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing. Since then, it has spread fast within China, feeding on the rose-petalled lotus lily.

Link (warning: contains revolting photo of fly maggots)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The idea-raising campaign

The other night I was trying to watch an abomination of a comedy called Mere Baap Pehle Aap. It made me somewhat sad and pensive. It made me wonder what happened to good old storytelling in Hindi films. What happened to originality of thought, and most importantly, whatever happened to the healthy Bollywood tradition of wholesome plagiarism? I look at the releases of this year, and they are a very sad bunch. The Mumbai Film Industry is having a bad day at office.

So here's something I thought of doing. Something close to my heart. Now, I may not have revealed it to a lot of people, but I've wanted to make movies all my life. Yes, I'd also wanted to meet Santa Claus, but those were really early days. The moviemaking wish has been a consistently strong one ever since I learnt to put my fingers together and frame a shot, which was pretty early too (I was all of 15 I think). As I grew older, I learned to appreciate that writing an original screenplay and directing it is too much hard work for anybody's good, unless you are Quentin Tarantino, who I knew I wasn't (Y'know, for a brief moment there, RGV thought he was, but then, everybody now knows the score.)

So here's what I'd do instead. I'd settle on playing the movie producer. My duties will include selecting an working title, an original story idea, deciding on the chaps to direct and play the characters and hopefully find finance for the party to begin. (this will be the tough part, but here I'm counting on my blaudience, whose number now threatens to touch double figures. But I brag, and digress...)

You can say my choice of story inspirations are shallow. To which I shall say, "Oh yes I'm Shallow Hal, what the fug is your problem? Who wants to watch DEEP anyway? "

Without further prelude, then, dear friends, we present the line-up of the first 5 ventures from Digdowndeep Productions. Don't get fooled by the frivolous tone. These are serious business proposals, worthy of top-dollar investments. These five original films have been long time favorites, and I'm ready to bet on their viability in an Indian adaptation. I'm sure there are countless other Hollywood and European films waiting to get inspired by. But these are, to my mind, like infant orphans screaming their hearts out begging to be adopted. We'll start at the shallow end of the pool, and gradually go deeper.

1. Ane Wala Pal (Next)

There's the thing about the future. Every time you look at, it changes. Because you looked at it. And that changes everything else.
This is a sci-fi, and not the 2050 sort. It seems the character played by John Abraham has the magical power to see two minutes ahead into the future. Into his own future. When he meets the Jiah Khan character, his abilities dramatically improve. a terrorist group gets involved in the story, and all all sorts of excitement ensue. For further details, visit imdb. To be directed by Abbas Tyrewala. (I'd have loved to rope in Shekhar kapur, but I want to finish it before 2050.) The film will be equally viable with Emraan Has me and Neha Uberoi, but it will have to bear the dubious Bhatt tag.

2. Achambit ( Bedazzled)

Fair? Who do you think you're talking to? I don't recall anybody ever accusing me of being fair before. I think I'm insulted.
A deal with the Devil. Going hilariously wrong. I don't believe anybody else in India can look and walk the role played by Liz Hurley other than Malaika Arora Khan. Casting her is 80% of the job done. The male lead will be up for grabs. My preference is Shahid Kapoor. Aftab Shivdasani would fit just as well, but lack the presence and the innocence. Sohail Khan will do the honors at the megaphone for two reasons. He' s had experience in supernatural comedy with the disastrous Hello Brother. And he might be comfortable in directing the devil, 'cause she's family. The love interest? Somebody giggly and stupid. Genelia if Shahid plays the lead.

3. Gattu Parmeswar (Bruce Almighty)

Hood: Okay Cool, man, the day a monkey comes out of my butt is the day you'll get your sorry.
Bruce: What a coincidence, because that's TODAY.

Man is unhappy with God. God meets him and hands over his reign. Just to show where it pinches. Who do I want to play Jim Carrey? Let's see, Govinda did a first rate job in Kiyunki main Jhooth Nahin Bolta (Liar, Liar), but the Chi-Chi of today won't look credible. Akshaye Khanna does decent comedy, I'll only have to get him a decent hairpiece. The only other choice is Akshay Kumar. While he has the gift of timing, he may not be adequate in the motormouth blabbering department. Then again, there's Arshad Warsi. Looks to me the most suitable.
For Jennifer Aniston's role, I would take Ayesha Takia without hesitation. But we need somebody with a smaller rack. For that one scene, remember? Well then, Aarti Chhabria it is. Competent and underrated.
Amitabh as God? Of course that would be the most unimaginative choice. We'll try Nana patekar instead. he even looks a lot like Morgan Freeman.
And no other director for me please. Has to be David Dhawan.

4. Machhli Jal Ki Rani Hai ( Like a Fish out of water)

It's different. They don't make films more different than this. A heist for, of all things, a rare tropical fish. Cynical plotters. A femme fatale. Bloodbath. The meek inherits the earth. Bible couldn't have been more profound.
Important thing here is to choose our femme fatale. I'd leave the spot open for Monica Bellucci's character. It'll be a toss-up between Kajol And Sush. Kajol, a tad easy on eye make-up. Sush, with a bit of a makeover, to look her actual age. Whoever has the dates. Needless to say it'll be the role of a lifetime for both.
I'm not too choosy about the hoods. One of them should be Naseruddin Shah. And the meek fish expert, the protagonist? Rajpal Yadav, anyone? Remember Main Meri Patni aur Woh?
Nobody in Mumbai can make it better than Sanjay F. Gupta. Let's not look any further.

5. Kahan Ho Malik? ( O brother, where art thou?)

They have a plan, but not a clue.

Three jailbreak fugitives. A stashed away treasure. A fast-paced road movie. American deep south in the '30s. Backdrop of racial strife, religion and an upcoming election in backstate Mississippi. A plethora of colorful characters. I don't know how my Odyssey will be Indianised. But I do want to get this movie made in Mumbai.
We'll have to think on the lines of the freedom struggle and Hindu-Muslim riots. And at the same time, make a classy, fast, light-hearted and fun film. Tough ask. We might go to Vidhu Vinod Chopra and ask him to take charge. He should also bring on board his immensely talented director Rajkumar Hirani. Vidhu did a great job with 1942, he should be able to replicate it here. Or we can approach Vishal Varadwaj. Since he's been so good with Shakespeare, Homer for him should be home turf.
I don't care much who play the characters. I only want Saif to play George Clooney's role. Suave and rakish at the same time, Saif can.
Who will provide Soggy Bottom Boys' Music? Who will sing "Man of Constant sorrow?" Well, the issue will be settled at leisure.

That, then, will be my gift to Bollywood this summer. Anyone wishes to make such gifts is most welcome. We are about to start a campaign to raise the maximum number of story ideas. If you are reading this, if you're into films and Bollywood, and if you keep a blog (too many ifs?), you must also think of doing a tag. In fact I can readily think of three people, Amrita, Arnab and Ramsu who'll easily make a more handsome contribution to our campaign.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Feature of the day

This excellent non-interview of Billy Joel by Dan Berry on NYT. Made my day.

Wondering why Vienna in the song Vienna, I was reminded Beethoven's grave is in Vienna. Could it be that as a young and very successful piano player who was ambitious and in a hurry, Billy addresses himself, and thus the allusion to Beethoven's grave in Vienna?

Completely out of context, there's a good joke (in somewhat unsound taste) on that grave. Goes like this...

Beethoven's Ninth

A tourist in Vienna is going through a graveyard and all of a sudden he hears some music. No one is around, so he starts searching for the source.

He finally locates the origin and finds it is coming from a grave with a headstone that reads: Ludwig Van Beethoven, 1770-1827. Then he realizes that the music is the Ninth Symphony and it is being played backward! Puzzled, he leaves the graveyard and persuades a friend to return with him.

By the time they arrive back at the grave, the music has changed. This time it is the Seventh Symphony, but like the previous piece, it is being played backward. Curious, the men agree to consult a music scholar.

When they return with the expert, the Fifth Symphony is playing, again backward. The expert notices that the symphonies are being played in the reverse order in which they were composed, the 9th, then the 7th, then the 5th.

By the next day the word has spread and a throng has gathered around the grave. They are all listening to the Second Symphony being played backward. Just then the graveyard's caretaker ambles up to the group. Someone in the crowd asks him if he has an explanation for the music.

"Don't you get it?" the caretaker said, incredulously. "He's decomposing!"