Cult

Clarence Darrow

As a general rule, I am not much of a gusher. At times though, I am reduced to a quivering blubber of awe-struck mess.

Mr Darrow

There is little I can say about Kevin Spacey as Clarence Darrow which has not been said before – a performance for the ages, cementing Spacey’s reputation as being one of the finest of all time, a one-man tour de force and all. When the Mayan, P and I entered Old Vic last summer we did so with more than a hint of trepidation. There is an inherent problem with having great expectations of anything – like that poor Pip, you are more than likely to have them all dashed to pieces! However, when we exited the theatre a couple of hours later we were unanimous on a few points: (a) our expectations were not only met, but also given a sound bollocking for having had any doubts in the first place; (b) this was the most reasonably priced show in the world – we would have gladly paid four or five times of what we paid; and (c) (this is where a far-away, wistful gleam came into our eyes), deep into the unseen future, we could tell folks we were there, we saw Kevin Spacey give the performance of a lifetime.

Spacey returns as Darrow to Old Vic this spring (http://www.oldvictheatre.com/whats-on/2015/clarence-darrow-2/). If you are in London and did not manage to catch the play last summer, I would recommend snapping up tickets as soon as they come on sale. And even if you are not, I would recommend you to consider traveling here and doing the above 🙂

P.S. Aah, you scoff and say you have seen Spacey as Francis Underwood and surely nothing can top that. To which I would say, Spacey as the renegade, weather-beaten Darrow could chew up the Machievallian Underwood and spit him out before breakfast!

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“Dude, I Thought You Were a Friend of Mine!”

But before that, a couple of minor digressions:

Locked myself out of my apartment this morn. And The Hipster’s back in London! Good fun!

Currently clattering away at a cafe. Which probably has one of the cheesiest playlists I have heard. EVER. Sample this: Kelly Clarkson; Backstreet Boys, Leona Lewis. Well, to give credit where it is due, their hazelnut ice latte is pretty decent! And they did have a Don McLean thrown somewhere in that playlist mix!

Coming back, I was recently trawling through all the gunk I have saved away on my lappie. Given the rate at which the darned thing is crashing these days (and displaying a sense of foresight which I/you would have scarcely considered me capable of, woohoo!), thought it made sense to check if I had anything useful saved anywhere!

And I discovered what follows 🙂

Little background first. Mooting is huge in Noojie-land! Has always been; shall always be! Which is good, mooting is one of the cooler things you can do in law school. Well, apart from of course, not doing anything at all! The only thing I never really liked about mooting was preparing those blasted memorials. Just too much opportunity cost, man!

In any case, once I was asked to help out with a memo, for a moot, I wasn’t even part of. You can imagine how thrilled I must have been!! Well, it wasn’t much, just drafting a Statement of Facts and the Body refused to leave my room till I said yes. And in a temporary bout of insanity, I agreed!

It wasn’t fun! At all! So being the nice, good-natured chap I am, decided to spice things up a wee bit 🙂 You know, I thought to myself, poor Prats, slogging their guts out, why not bring a smile to their sorry, careworn faces! Exhibit 1 sets out the original facts, and Exhibit 2 is what I came up with.

Exhibit 1_Page 1

Exhibit 1_Page 2

Exhibit 2

Things of course got infinitely more interesting when these Prats submitted the bloody memorial with just a quick cut-paste job of my stuff! Imagine, not even looking at my handiwork, despite: (a) knowing me/the kind of stuff I was capable of; and (b) having bloody told them to check it because “I was sure they would find it enjoyable”.

Fortunately, the Skulker, privy as he was to these going-ons, discovered what these Prats had couriered across in the nick of time. And promptly fell off laughing whichever chair he was sitting on! I was away home that night but was given to understand that the Prats’ expressions at that moment were strongly suggestive of a collective coronary!

That, of course, was the moment when the Body gave me a call which began with these truly immortal lines: “Dude, I thought you were a friend of mine!” 🙂

P.S. The courier was intercepted in transit. (I think someone was deputed to do a sit-in at the courier office till the Prats got their courier back!). Otherwise, Noojies might have again created mooting history, albeit of a slightly iffier variety 🙂

Eeks, Ooks and Eegregs

Finds it just a wee bit ironic how some people can catch a Prius back home after having decimated a goodly rainforest (or two) in the course of a day’s work.

Vile’s not a word I use in vain. Dr. Pepper, though. Is. Vile. Perhaps not quite in the same category as lizards and brinjals, but pretty darned close nonetheless. Not to mention that it probably has the stupidest ad I have ever seen.Which, given the general quality of ads in this part of the world, is saying something!

Thought I always knew what would be the first novel I’d read this side of the Indian Ocean. As it turned out, ’twas the fourth. Good stuff though. Good, good stuff!

Pachelbel’s Canon is Cult. As for that matter, is the video below 🙂

Shall. See. Inception.  And perhaps, The Concert as well.

Of Churches and Burritos

Haven’t blogged in like, ages.

Somehow, I don’t think I have a taste for burritos. Calamari though, is an entirely different matter.

Had gone down to Greenwich yesterday. Which, in my considered opinion, is one of the loveliest areas in/around London. I also kinda figured out why the Lightning-Man is so reluctant to leave that place 🙂

Got my tennis racket re-stringed. Had busted it while playing against the Architect. There happens to be this shop in the upper reaches of London called Gefen Sports. Just off Queen’s Park. Which deals almost exclusively in racket sports. And the chaps who man the store are exceedingly nice and watch IPL on TV. All of which is much good 🙂 Not too mention the fact that I think I got a pretty good deal with my strings as well.

Had recently gone for the evening service at All Souls, Langham Place with the Jacobean. ‘Twas beautiful. For a moment, I thought I was back in school (doosrawala).

Had out first NUJS London Reunion thingie about a week back. Some enterprising sorts even made it out down from Oxford to attend this gig. Some non-enterprising sorts didn’t even make it down from London 🙂 Which was kinda sad. For Maida has this amazing dish called Chicken Tai Pai. And, that, is just friggin’ awesome.

Had gone gallivanting in Camden when Yellow Bags had come down to London. Its essentially like a bigger, more psychedelic version of Portobello market. With lots of tattoo artists. And some dirt-cheap basement-rate bargains. Not bad at all.  

Go. See. I Am Love. Or lo sono l’amore. This is probably as European a movie as they come. Lush colours, ridiculously awesome cinematography, cult camera angles, the works essentially. But then, that is precisely what has been the bane of European Cinema for so long. These auteurs tend to get so carried away by the brilliance of their art and technique that they forget that there is somebody else who would be watching their product. Pithily put, form often trumps substance 🙂 And even here, while walking out of Cineworld, I heard at least a few people go on about how they couldn’t make head or tail of this flick. In this case however, I’d beg to differ. And Tilda Swinton is amazing.

I have a new favourite piece in classical music now. Concerto for Two Violins in A Minor by Vivaldi. Watched it being performed by the Belmont Ensemble at St Martin-in-the-Fields last night. Much, much good. Dunno if you will find this on Youtube, but probably worth a shot.

What I know, you should find on Youtube, is another track this piece reminded me of; Building a Family by Mark Isham. Come to think of it, I don’t think its that similar. Or perhaps, at all similar. But then, you really don’t have any control over the stuff yer reminded of, do you. And especially, when the ‘stuff’ in question is as unquestionably sublime as this!    

Go on, don’t be shy, google it. You can thank me afterwards 🙂

A worm, eaten as a delicacy

After much deliberation and heartburn, I have finally decided to activate the WordPress app for Facebook [Yeah, I know, ultra-cheap publicity gimmick] Turns out there are a surprising number of people, who want to stay in touch with a git like me and kinda remain in the loop as to the various antics I might be upto. Which might be a bit redundant actually, considering that my life, as I had cause to remark recently, “is nothing but work and laundry”. 

Ergo, or perhaps, yet, FB app it is.

Go, see The Blind Side if you haven’t caugh it yet. Highly, highly recommended. Great performances, brilliant background score and an OST which I plan on getting my hands on soon. And of course, Sandra Bullock in an Oscar-winning role. Also, I don’t know why, but Big Mike reminded me so much of Forest Whitaker. Mind you though, the Travolta-starring Phenomenon-wala Whitaker, and not that McAvoy-starring psychotic despot-wala version.

Can’t say so much about Shutter Island though. The one thing which I can say, is that this must be one of those ultra-rare instances, where a cinematic adaptation turns out to be so much better than the original product. Decidedly so; Lehane’s novel was err, umm, slightly iffy to put it mildly. And just by the way, either there was something wrong with the Cineworld I had gone to, or the editing was so bloody chopped off , that a sous-sushi-chef might very well have been at the helm of affairs.

Sous-sushi-chef, aah, always wanted to use that in a sentence somewhere. Well, always, as in, since the moment I thought it up, which was roughly 30 secs back. Much, much good 🙂   

Had been playing tennis with The Architect yesterday. Which was good. I busted my tennis strings though, which wasn’t all that good. Re-stringing probably costs a bomb here. Either that, or it might be time to go Lillywhites ahoy!

Had gone to Foyles recently. As should you. As should any one else. As should the whole world. For a bookshop with a wikipedia entry like this can be no ordinary bookshop. Also went generally rummaging around in the vicinity of Tottenham Court Road, and discovered quite a few places which ain’t too bad themselves either. Next stop, perhaps next week, is this cult bookshop opposite Old Vic off Waterloo.

I thought I always knew what would be the first book I’d get out of India. I didn’t get that book.  

Had possibly, what might pass for our first NUJS batch outing here in London a few days back. The Power Couple were hosting it. Snag and Ms. Steinbeck were fashionably late. The One with ‘Em Stevie Wonder jokes, spent something like two-and-a half hours trying to figure out the way to the Power Couple’s pad. She did arrive eventually though. I though, would have been dot on time. Well, would have been, if the Tea-Boy hadn’t kept me waiting for something like half an hour at the Bank DLR. I would have probably pummelled him in other circumstances, but thankfully (for him) had a Peter Carey for company, and was feeling generally charitable towards the world around me.

But, as usual, I digress. Coming back to the batch thingie. Good, good fun. Scintillating conversation, topics ranging from Govinda flicks to abstract art, from theorizing on why people get divorced in UK, to attempting to decode that cipher called Lady Gaga; some cheap digs, some more; thoda sa PC (woh doosra wala, and that too only towards the beginning, mind you); some decidedly foot-in-the-mouth moments; a phone call to you-know-who in re you-know-what (heh), and ofcourse, glasses upon glasses of absolutely stud mango lassi. And lest I forget, a honourable note of mention goes to Mr PC who makes these friggin awesome gobi ke parathe. I believe Ms. PC doesn’t cook 🙂

You should check this link out. Was sent across to me by the Mayan. The man, for all his faults, does do something useful once in a while.

A coberra is apparently, a worm, eaten as a delicacy. So saith the novel, I am currently reading. Reminds me of the time, when I had gone along with the Robot and the Skulker to the Chinese Breakfast place at Poddar Court, and where the Skulker, in a spirit of reassurance and calm, had told a nice, middled-aged lady harbouring suspicions about our abilities to imbibe certain non-tradtional meatforms, “Hum Sab Kucch Khata Hai” 🙂

The Pursuit of Happyness

Mark Twain aka Samuel Longhorne Clemens aka Josh aka, (and this is my personal favourite) Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass, was in all possible respects, a Dude. You just need to read one of his novels, or travelogues, or short stories, or letters to find out why 🙂 What’s infinitely interesting though is to go through the man’s bibliography, and look at the manner in which his writing actually evolved through the years, and all the different layers it kept on acquiring.

I don’t think there have been too many other authors with a body of work, as distinct and truly varied as Mark Twain’s. I don’t think there have been too many writers, who started out penning flippant, outrageous prose and ended as a chronicler of their times; sombre, cynical, and faintly disillusioned. And defined happiness as, and I quote, “Happiness ain’t a thing in itself – it’s only a contrast with something that ain’t pleasant“. (Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven)

So, essentially, the greatest humourist of his generation would have us believe that happiness isn’t truly a tangible entity. Moreover, its so inconsequential that it can be defined only by taking recourse to an allied, and an entirely contradictory, concept. And so, the only way you can be happy, is if you ain’t sad. Bit sad, na. Its a little like defining light as the opposite of darkness, you know.

But then again, light isn’t merely the opposite of darkness. Light can also be the absence of darkness. For there to be light, darkness isn’t necessarily the logical precursor.

And neither do you need to be sad, to be in turn, happy. Happyness is a sturdy enough little thing, to be able to stand on its own feet 🙂

Happyness is when you read the likes of Pratchett and Wodehouse. And have a stupid grin plastered across the middle of your face.

Happyness is, and here’s another law school digression, spending some 40 odd straight hours on research paper submissions, and then going to a deserted library, reading Porterhouse Blue, and howling your head off.

Happyness is going to sites like this. And reading posts like this.

And at times, Happyness is about watching a certain guy score a double hundred in an ODI.

First Day, First Show

The first time I saw Her was on the cover of a Reader’s Digest. I think I must have been in Class VIII. Classes then (as perhaps, always) used to be bloody boring; and as natural, it was incumbent upon any level-headed chap to resort to whatever means necessary to keep himself occupied (At a later point in life I had been reduced to devising alliterations while somebody stood at a lectern and went muda-fada and fada-muda-fada, but I’ll probably blog about that later).

In any case, that day, as mentioned before, variegated mean no. 223 was that month’s issue of RD (And whatever the faults RD might have (and precious few they are), timeliness of delivery date is most, most certainly not one amongst them). So there I was, reading RD, minding my own sweet business,wondering when the next hols were, letting the cool breeze waft over me, the works basically, when suddenly, I was caught in the act by Mr. D. Now, I’ve never really understood how any reasonably sane person can pass a blanket edict proscribing all kinds of non-curriculum material at a school. I mean, if I’d been a teacher, DON’T LAUGH, and if I were to catch any of my students reading something nifty, say Tolkien or even Calvin, that in my book would call for a couple of high-fives (Paulo Coelho would have been fit grounds for expulsion though).

Mr. D’s reaction though, that day, was highly surprising 🙂 I’d never seen him that thrilled. Ever. It was all due to Her. I did have to listen to a monologue on her luminescence, and brilliance, and greatness, and thespian smarts. But that was alright. I might mind monologues, but not as much as confiscations and being made to stand outside classrooms. See, that’s what you get when you read stuff with Meryl Streep on its cover.

Saw me a movie recently. Starring Streep. Loved it. She’s pulled off an almost impossible impersonation of Julia Child. And the accent is simply out of this world. Leave you with three clips; this is the official trailer, this is an actual clip of Julia Child, and this is THE Dan Akroyd clip. Bon appetit 🙂

Jan A.P. Kaczmarek composed the background score for this movie. More importantly, he composed the Piano Variation in Blue. A track which I am listening to as I type this out, and which, in my considered opinion, is one of the most delightful pieces I have ever come across. Kaczmarek, btw, also did the score for this movie. You live. You Learn. And You Marvel.

Somehow, prior to yesterday. I’d never caught a First Day, First Show. As a matter of fact prior to yesterday, I’d only caught two movies on the very day they released; Omkara and The Dark Knight. Simply put, there are very few movies which enthuse me enough to land up in a movie-hall on the very first day, so that I can make a statement to my own immortal self. And frankly, I thought 3 Idiots would be a decent enough yarn, but nothing exceptional. Don’t get me wrong, I like Aamir, but Ghajini was utter Tripe, and the capital T ain’t a typo; and even if you were to forget everything else, there was the you-know-who, and his novel (sic.), which had spawned the flick.

Well, a bit of background first, Christmas Eve was a crowded and liquid affair at Park Street. I, as usual, wanted to hog somewhere, but my esteemed batch-mates, again as usual, had their priorities all wrong. Don’t blame ’em; people perhaps do derive a perverse sense of pleasure from getting plastered. And I gotta admit, watching the Existentialist Mallu stand outside St. Paul’s and shout, “Where’s my Santa, Where’s my Santa”, was much fun 🙂 In any case, post-revelries I crashed at The Boy in Red, Doctor Saab, and the Poltergeist’s pad. The Poltergeist was leaving on an afternoon train the next day, so basically, the only show we could catch together was the morning show. So First Day, First Show it was.

Won’t say much about the movie. Won’t say anything about why its definitely the best movie I’ve seen all year. Or possibly amongst the best movies of this decade. I won’t say a word about how this movie excels as a package, and how even some of the corniest moments, somehow fit in. Not a word about Rancho. Or about Chatur Ramalingam, in a debut act by Omi Vaidya which deserves to go down in the ages.

I’ll just say this much; through out the movie, there must have been at least five moments when the capacity audience at Mani Square burst into spontaneous applause. And a standing ovation at the end of it. And when, I, and the four other gits I’d gone to see the blasted movie with, walked out of the theatre, we were all flashing our pearlies to each other. The School of De Sica might have its admirers, but I wouldn’t watch The Bicycle Thief a second time. 3 Idiots though, I could watch again and again.

P.S. Just a word of advice though. If you do go to watch the movie, watch it with a blank slate. Do not draw parallels with what happened in the Munnabhai series, or RDB, or Taare Zameen Par, and analyze how derivative and inferential a work this truly is. Give your mind a rest, watch it with your heart, and trust me, All Shall Be Well 🙂

And a Dash of Nariyal Pani

Currently have two movies on my must-watch list. The first’s ‘Up in the Air’, the other one’s ‘Paranormal Activity’. I have a feeling the first one’s gonna be cult. Hell, its about a chap, “who spends his hours flying from city to city telling loyal employees of this or that company that their service is no longer needed”. A bit like ‘The Messenger’, but without any of its baggage.

PA, on the other hand is already cult. It’s even knocked ‘The Blair Witch Project’ off the record-books. And the moment that happens; when something, anything breaches that supreme bellwether of all things awesome, IT is rendered pure cult. QED. This movie apparently had a budget of some $15,000. 15,000 FRIGGIN’ DOLLARS. Just to put that figure into proper perspective, that’s probably how much each second of Avatar cost!

The Gujjus might have their faults. But good food is certainly not one amongst them. Just had Hare Nariyal Pani ke Swad Sahit Badam. Cult. Talking of which, am suddenly reminded of Swad. Damn! You know, those absolutely awesome khatta-meetha toffees, which used to come in chequered wrappers. A bit like Hajmola’s Khatti Imli, but only soooo much better. There was a time, when I used to gobble ’em by the dozen. Now, I can’t even remember the last time I had one.  

What Makes the World Go Around

Some prat once said that ’tis love which makes the world go around. For me though, it’s probably expectorants.

My fav-est term in the Bong lexicon is probably ‘Dhurr’ followed closely by ‘Chhagoler Dim’. The first roughly corresponds to ‘Gah’ in English. The second one is untranslatable. Gotta wonder though, who first called someone a ‘Chhagoler Dim’. Takes a really special sort of a snowflake to come up with something like ‘goat’s eggs’, you know. Sukumar Ray would’ve been right proud of him! Cult.

Looks like India’s gonna have a new state pretty soon. Some chap went on a fast for 10 days, and ergo, Telengana it is. Just to put it  in perspective, Irom Sharmila‘s been fasting for 10 years now. There is actually a school of thought that KCR’s fast has less to do with the Telengana cause and more to do with the manner in which his party got served in the 2009 elections. Don’t blame the chap though, anybody would’ve been pissed.

One would think though that some 50 years after Independence we would have better issues to go apeshit about. And heaven knows, if there is any country with a dearth of issues, it sure as hell isn’t us. But nope, old habits sure die hard.

Reminds me a lot of Dehradun though. When I was studying there, for a few years in between, the Uttaranchal agitation was in full swing. Which was awesome! We used to have at least one strike every fortnight, with an almost metronomic regularity. And given how considerate most of these strike-wallahs are wont to be, it used to be invariably scheduled on a Friday or a Monday. So, every couple of weeks, when the clarion call was given, you know, when the bugle was sounded, it was essentially a signal for us to pack our stuff and hotfoot it across to Delhi for a small li’l break. Which was, I repeat again, awesome!

And when finally the State go-ahead was given, I don’t think anybody was as pissed as us schoolkids. Or even our teachers for that matter 🙂 Its kinda hard you know, reconciling yourself to the same old weekly routine, after months and months of four and three-day weeks, mini breaks, picnics, general vela-ness et al! For about a month or so after the announcement was made, all our faces were sullen enough to make the very milk curdle!! We. Were. Pissed.

And now look at Doon. Its hot, its crowded, its noisy, you’ve cars honking the smidgens off each other on Rajpur Road, and most of the trees are gone. Basically its like a miniature version of Delhi now. Yeah. See. That’s what Statehood does.

When you go WOW

Every once in a while, something comes along which makes one go WOW. If you’re listening to a song, it might be a sudden chord progression or perhaps, some nifty lyrical arrangement. Or, as is often the case with me, a simple matter of Uilleann pipes. If yer reading a book, some kind of word play, perhaps some literary technique; perhaps a dénouement, perhaps Chekhov’s celebrated rifles.

Such a moment might be something as banal as discovering some random trivia. Or it might have the brooding majesty of mountains wreathed in early morning mist. The point is, there are always things in life to amaze you, to bowl you over. Totally instinctive types. And leave you chuckling silently like some kind of a deranged Cheshire Cat afterwards. Which is much, much good 🙂

Saw me a movie today. By the name of Mongol. There was this one particular scene; the final battle sequence between Temüjin and Jamukha. No, not even the final battle sequence, the prelude to it actually. The apéritif, as they say. A detachment of horsemen, decked completely in black, masked, cloaked, scimitars in both hands, dagger grip, and looking something like this:

See, that's how you oughta use 'em swords

Now, multiply that image by forty, and have them arranged in parallel formation. Pretty good naa, but not yet cult. So, why am I raving about it? Is it because I am a prat? Is it because I am over-caffeinated? No, no, I won’t spoil it for ya. You’ve got to see the three minute odd long sequence for that. You’ve got to see the way it bloody ends. And then you can decide, whether or not to go WOW.