Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Weekend Vignettes and Please Leave Rekha Alone

A few short takes:

Thursday: Important presentation to be made. Heart pounds real hard, palpitations, clammy hands, I'm the archetype of the public speech-phobic person. When I was a kid, I won a book on "Painless Public Speaking" as a prize for a writing competition. Needless to say, it didn't do me much good. Over the years, I've painfully learnt to manage, rather than eliminate the fears. And it is indeed true what they say: there is no substitute for practice, practice and yet more practice. So I managed to get from start to finish without too many glitches (this was only 10 minutes after all). I did detect some yawning and at least one person dozing off, but hey, I know how utterly banal and boring my research can be to a non-specialist. Surprise, there were actually a few questions at the end. Wow, some of them had actually been paying attention! And later, warm praise by others at the reception.
I love this! It may have been the wine, but gosh people are so kind.

Saturday morning: An impromptu bus trip to Chinatown. Off I go, sunny warrior that I am, with the benign faith in public transport. Turns out that the connecting bus to Chinatown does not run on weekends. Hence, stubborn me decides to walk nearly 15 blocks to Chinatown, passing through much of historic downtown LA and killing my poor feet (they still suffer). Some quick dimsum to go is consumed on a bench in a courtyard with a traditional Chinese wishing well, in which the vacation slot is the hardest to hit (the Chinese have their priorities straight)! I poke around in stores that stock more than 50 kinds of ginseng, and about 20 kinds of dried plums. And find an open air market, covered with cloth awnings on top, organized around cavernous narrow passages, not unlike traditional Asian markets.

There, as promised to me many months ago by a friend, I find the ultimate prize, raw guava. The bag was big, and I knew I'd be sick if I consumed the entire bag by myself before the guavas have a chance to ripen. I find ripe guavas distasteful, and was unsure if S would appreciate the joys of guava as much as I and my mom do. He's usually pretty good with most Asian fruit, lychees, mangoes, is even game for fresh durian, but guava is a bit eccentric, with it's astringent and ever so slightly bitter qualities. So I decided to pass. As I left the market, I passed by some Chinese traditional medicine shops, where practitioners of traditional medicine had set up desks outside the stores, complete with laptops and blood pressure monitors, offering a free diagnosis and prescription for whatever ails you.

Sunday: Ode to consumerism. Trip to the mall to buy S' Christmas gifts for his family. After about an hour of jostling with holiday shoppers, I was gasping for breath and wanted to get out. But S is like a kid in a candy store in a mall, especially one with his favourite gadget stores like Brookestone, The Sharper Image and the Discovery Channel store. This one, to my great misfortune, had all three. So off he goes checking out the all-wind lighter and the super compass, while I'm wondering who buys the mini cellphone charger, the wine temperature monitor or the giant corkscrew, as big as a food processor. What's sad is that this mall is but a block away from a super cool bookstore, an animation studio with a sales counter, a great curio store, and other sundry stores far more interesting. But we had very specific gift requests, so a trip to the mall had to be made.

And before I end, here's a bit of a silly rant. It seems a remake of the 1980s Indian cinema classic Umrao Jaan is on the cards, and the woman chosen to play the lead happens to be Aishwarya Rai, arguably the best known Bollywood face this side of the pond. Our lady is also the most vacuous of all the sundry leading actresses ever to grace Bollywood, and wouldn't know sensuality if it came and bit her in the ass. What have the fine Bollywood minds behind this new project been smoking? To even think that Aishwarya could in any way measure up to the luminous, restrained and yet utterly seductive and sensual performance by the divine Rekha in this movie is utterly absurd! Well, after all this is the same Bollywood that had the temerity to assault the memory of Bimal Roy's stellar movie making skills by making the latest version of Devdas, an unwatchable film shot through with the worst sort of hamming by the lead actor and actress (Madhuri Dixit thankfully is a study in understatement by comparison). I never thought much of the novel per se, but in Bimal Roy's hands, Devdas is such a tortured complex character, fraught with such tender love and painful regret.

And so it is with Muzaffar Ali's Umrao Jaan, though Ali is nowhere near the calibre of Bimal Roy as a director and the film's high points were the music and Rekha's heartbreakingly beautiful presence throughout the film. And now the memory of that flirtatious, yearning, surrounded by pathos persona is to be overshadowed by a woman whose primary talent lies in positioning her face at the best angle in every shot of her films. Aishwarya doesn't act, she merely poses, period. Ergo I predict the film shall be an unmitigated disaster, which of course does not prevent our Bollywoodwallahs from repeating mistakes ad nauseaum.


Blogger Soumyadip said...

I usually welcome remakes of old classics for the only reason because it makes me more appreciative towards the original and I get an excuse of watching it all over again. Same goes for movies inspired by literature.

12:49 AM  
Blogger Jabberwock said...

Any thoughts on the proposed Sholay remake? I saw a BBC Asia poll where they were inviting readers' votes for the recasting. In the midst of all the Abhishek/Rani/Preity/Bobby permutations and combinations, there was one guy who coolly said "Parikshit Sahni as Jai, Dilip Kumar as Veeru, Johnny Lever as the Thakur" and so on. To me, that made about as much sense as any of the other suggestions.

Btw, if you had to recast Umrao Jaan (gun to your head, etc), who would you put in the lead?

8:05 AM  
Anonymous Sanity Starved said...

So, you didn't buy the guavas after going all the way?! Yeah, I too like unripe guavas.

Haven't read the other post yet? Khub kaaj!

9:19 PM  
Blogger anthony said...

Aishwarya could replay as Rekha and I would still watch her with my jaws on my lap. read AGAPE. I don't know why people hate Aishwarya so much. One friend even told me she was sexless. I could care none. and how i hates(sic) that oberai fella. About her!! Poor baby grossly misunderstood. tsk tsk..
But for the movie's sake, Madhuri Dixit seem the only existing actor who could do justice to umrao jaan. But I wouldn't mind Aishwarya, paisa wasool. lol

PS: i understand the Audience yawning part..once gave a presentation on International financial Architecture. the verdict by the ex-chairman of bank of Maharastra, "You have portrayed a brilliant Building, an architectural marvel, only the paint job had been left out." no wonder everbody slept. the topic was such, even i yawned..

10:22 PM  
Blogger swar said...

i watched 'Bride and Prejudice' the other day on some channel. yeah, anthony, i had the 'jaws in my lap' experience. how can she be in movies? how can she be acting? how can she be devdasi, pardesi, desi...so sissy? so my jaws fell.

10:30 PM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

Soumya, well said. Though whatever little I've seen of the new Parineeta seems promising. The first version of Parineeta had Ashok Kumar in the lead. Anything has to be an improvement on that!

I'm tempted to judge, but would keep my fingers crossed. Dileep Kumar as Veeru? Traumatic memories of Dileep saab prancing in a car in the godawful "Gopi" (?) come to mind. Not pleasant.

For Umrao Jaan (apni bandook phenk do Jai!), I think Madhuri is an obvious choice. She has the right diction and subtlety. For some strange reason, the other actress that came to mind was the underrated Smriti Mishra.

Pidus, yes and now I regret it so!

Anthony, we agree to disagree :). Even Aish's most fervent supporters would be hard pressed to argue that the girl has a shred of sex appeal in her.

The paintjob is usually provided by powerpoint animation and an overload of images (I had one on every slide).

Bem, welcome. Sissy is an understatement.

12:32 AM  
Blogger Rimi said...

i'm with soumyadip on this one, at least as far as film versions of literature goes.

parineeta, despite it's farcial climax (you should so totally see it! it's hilarious!), was very, very enjoyable. and yes, Madhuri minus a few recent pounds is the onliest indian actress who can do some amount of justice to the role.

still, aish in kajra re does spark hope a bit...

however, the point of this comment, swati, is that thr frequency of posting on this blog, given the brilliancy of same, is CRIMINAL. bujhechho?

10:41 AM  
Blogger Anil said...

I have no problem with Aishwarya playing Rekha but in know a few people (other than my dad) who might take offence and consider the idea blasphemous :).

1:12 PM  
Blogger anthony said...

Whatever little you have seen of Parineeta... Watch it Whole... That is one movie i really fall in love with. I have watched it again and again and again though I always get up just before the last scene.. It was a dig at Birla Cement... But my, Parineeta is just amazing( not that I hate many movies)..arrrg I even loved raincoat

8:16 PM  
Blogger Mriganayanii said...

Oh yes! i second that. Aishwarya's got the kind of beauty that makes women jealous, not that which makes men desirous.
And the girl can't act for a meal.
nice place .

8:57 PM  
Anonymous anthony said...

hey mikra...

have put up fish curry... without the chives or suchlikes...

do cook and try it out. Have dedicated it to You and all Bongs..

And i bought a copy of Umraojaan today...thx for reminding and i agree with rimi...all the way

10:23 AM  
Blogger Vijayeta said...

Hey...just came to know some interesting gossip abt the new Umrao Jaan! Apparently the actors are not "allowed" to talk abt the film or what goes on on the sets! A friend who is working on this actually told me, the script isnt even completed...and they've begun shooting already! I'm waiting for it.
Another remake worth its while is going to be Farhan Akhtar's Don. The end has a twist, which again, is not being divulged. But they have a bound script, thank god!

1:39 PM  
Blogger MAHARAJADHIRAJ said...

After Kajrare, i think Ash can do just about any role... Films apart I think she is one of our smartest(thinking)actresses. And am sure she has a lot of surprises waiting for all her critics.

3:40 AM  
Anonymous Mangalorean said...

I wonder why some people hate Aishwarya so much. She is not only a beautiful face but a great actress too which most of the people overlook in their 'beauty + dumb' prejudices.

An obviously thinking mind like Aishwarya(just beauty won't take you to the places! admit it.) had to dumb down her disposition to suite entertainment industry in general and bollywood in particular. She might not have to mouth the words like "I don't have imagination at all"(Marilyn Monroe from "Seven Years Itch") but most of the characters that she played were just that. I would always prefer her dumb beauty acting to Sushmita Sen's intellectual looking but in fact not more than a bimbo part in 'Mein Hoon Na'. That looks pathetic, if you know what I mean. Sushmita could have done herself a great service had she also cultivated that manequin look.

Coming to her 'perfect angle' look, I would say, she is more than that after watching Parineeta. Yes, she was in really embarrasing situation when she said "Yeh poshak aise pahana jata hein, bali". However, you should watch her dual with her paramour's mother once the lady comes to know about the relationship. The situation was really an 'intense awkwardinees'. However, the way she handled it tells me that she is not an emotionless face but like a white light which is made up of seven colours. She brings out all the emotions in every situation( because she thinks in so many angles) and that makes her face a plain white.

9:02 AM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

Rimi, you are a darling (surely you know that, don't you?)! Thank you, and will try to update more frequently.

Anil, you keep such tasteful company :)

Anthony, I'll watch it ASAP. And I checked out the curry, it looks fab.

Mriganayanii, welcome. Oh, you mean pouting, fluttering fake eyelashes is not acting? Hmmm...

Vijayeta, where have you been? Neglecting your blog too! Ooooh, this is good gossip, wonder why it's so hush hush. And damn, is this the new Bollywood trend, remake old movies?

Dhiraj, you owe us an elaborate explanation for your assertion :).

How exactly has she proved her extra-film thinking abilities? Do we know what books she reads? What she thinks about global politics? Let's not even go into the esoteric realm of her erudition and education in the art, craft and history of cinema. I'm not saying the other Bollywood actresses are founts of wisdom, but surely neither is Aishwarya.

Mangalorean, let's not use the "great actress" moniker lightly, shall we?

Please do provide me with instances where this great thinking mind has been so obvious to you. Perhaps I'm too busy being jealous to notice.

The Parineeta bit is baffling. Are you thinking Devdas and writing Parineeta? And the comment about Aishwarya's face like white light made of seven colours is priceless. You should consider copyrighting it and selling it to all the actresses who need excuses for their mediocre film performances.

11:59 AM  
Anonymous Mangalorean said...

Mistake. Choker bali and not Parineeta.

6:59 PM  
Blogger Extempore said...

Ash just doesn't have the character to play Umrao Jaan, despite what can be said about the Kajra Re number. In my humble opinion, I don't think she looked good or had that sensual, playful thing going in that song either - but hey, I'm just biased - not much into plasticky non-actors!

Your day down at China Town sounds like good fun - hopefully your week is going as well. :-)

11:45 AM  
Blogger Anil said...

Is it just me or Indian women in general and those who have posted comments here in particular, jealous of Aishwarya ;).

I saw Aishwarya some time back on Letterman,the great "thinking mind" she is the only thing she managed to do was to giggle, giggle and giggle a bit more. When I mentioned this to my friend(who again is an "Aishwarya hating" Indian girl), she told me that She giggled less than what she did on Oprah.

4:23 PM  
Blogger K said...

You've been tagged

11:55 PM  
Blogger Bonatellis said...

just to vaccuous and just too artificial ... that's Ash

12:12 AM  
Anonymous Mangalorean said...

I get the feeling that you people are confusing intelligence with street smartness.

I am sure all you people are very witty and smart. However, that's not the case with intelligent Indians. You can easily identify them always sporting sometimes shy, sometimes stupid, sometimes innocent but more often than not with a smile of extreme servility. In other words, intelligent Indians are naive.

However, these same naive but intelligent Indians are succeeding in almost all spheres of life. Just like Aishwarya. She is not a lucky dumb girl but an epitome of naive, intelligent Indian. So she may not give very witty or smart answers(more often than not those are unscientific) in a talk show but her inherent talent and naturally cultivated image are enough to make her a big star.

11:36 PM  
Blogger Bonatellis said...

ok, Mangal... let me answer this. I don't think Ash is naive ... or may be I just don't know how you define the word naive.
She's just so hopelessly not genuine ... she is just so goddamned put on in every respect ... she is so political in every public statement she makes that it becomes obvious she doesn't mean what she says ...

I used to be a big of Ash at some point ... I guess that was when i saw this movie called Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam ... she did look swell in that movie ...
that admiration lasted till I saw her in a recent talk show ... i just lost all respect for her ... she was not being dumb, she is quite smart actually ... but she is just so artificial, it's plain irritating ...

2:02 AM  
Anonymous Mangalorean said...

You are different from all these Aishwarya hating brigade. Unlike them, you have, in fact, become fan of her after watching one of her movies. However, you developed a persona of her based on her character in a movie. But the whole picture came crashing down when you found her real life image didn't match your expectations. That's not Aishwarya's fault. She is a great actress. Isn't she? I mean just see what a strong impression she left on you.

Some see in her giggles a not-so smart person. Some see a smart person. I see Aishwarya as a victim of jealousy or adulation. I feel the jealousy is in fact a product of adulation. And adulation was degeneration of appreciation which people developed as a result of Aishwarya's beauty, brains and acting prowess.

4:13 AM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

Extempore, you know that I concur. Thanks for the wishes, the week's been busy though.

Anil, I can only speak for myself, and it takes more than merely a beautiful face to get me jealous. I'm more likely to get jealous of a dowdy female mathematics professor than Aishwarya.

K, shall answer shortly.

Bonatellis, my thoughts exactly.

Mangalorean, ever had the pleasure of being acquainted with Mrs. Malaprop? Never mind :).

I don't believe in judging actresses based on whether they can crank out papers on thermodynamics, so I'll refrain from the intelligence debate. But "great actress" she certainly is not.

May I refer you to but one film of the late, great Smita Patil, "Bhoomika" for a sense of what a great actress is all about. Actually, on the more commercial side of things, Madhuri Dixit in any of her films is a far superior actress.

9:35 AM  
Blogger Abhishek said...

it's been days and I am still waiting for your next post, as I have read all your previous posts.:)
I am totally 'vella' these days, as I am going through all the previous posts.

10:18 PM  
Anonymous Mangalorean said...

Thalassa_Mikra(May I know the meaning):
Do you get the irony? Never mind :-).

I'm already feeling pretty weird at the direction the discussion took.

5:49 AM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

Abhishek, I'm amazed that you are waiting for the next instalment of my singularly uninteresting life. Actually, I've promised to myself that I'll write a reply to the email of a dear friend (and if he's reading this, sorry, but I'm just such a procrastinating lazy ass). Expect a post in a few hours after the emails have been dispatched.

Mangalorean, Thalassa Mikra is Greek for little sea.

And that was the most earnest-sounding irony I've ever read, not a nudge-nudge wink-wink between the lines I tell ya. So what do you really think of La Rai, good sir?

7:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I appreciate Ash for what she has achieved. She must really be world beater with no talent or appeal she has become the Bollywood icon for the west and top Indian actress.Set aside prejudices and analyse Ash, you will find that she is smart articulate and an over achiever. The point is simple if Ash speaks out of turn she will meet the fate of Kushboo for her remarks on premarital sex recently. it is better to be politicaly correct and restrained rather than land in trouble.

3:48 AM  
Blogger Swathi said...

i just wish that the new n upgraded version of Umraon Jaan never sees the light of the day, cant imagine anyone else other than Rekha playing that role! n wow! wat mesmerizing eyes she had!

3:36 AM  
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