August 23, 2007

Dial M for Murder

Title: Dial M for Murder
Year: 1954
Cast: Ray Miland, Grace Kelly, Robert Cummings.

There is little left to say about Alfred Hitchcock, the cinematic pioneer. Amongst his many accomplishments, he is remembered for one of the first full color 3D movies: Dial M f
or Murder , which remains a timeless classic until today. Penned as a novel by Agatha Christie, the cinematic version retained the intrigue of the book, with a perfect casting is one of those movies that you can watch again and again.

Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) is a former tennis player who married Sheila (called Margot in the movie, played by Grace Kelley) partly for her money. To please his wife, he has given up tennis and now has a job selling sports equipment. Sheila had a brief affair with relationship with Max Halliday (called Mark Halliday in the movie, played by Robert Cummings), a crime writer for American TV.

Tony is aware of the affair, and is now afraid that the affair may recur, since Sheila does still meet Max- though as a friend. In case of a divorce, he would receive very little of his wife's considerable wealth (guess they didn't have a pre-nup agreement). However, in case of Sheila's death, he would inherit the whole kahuna. So for one year, Tony has meticulously planned Sheila's murder. He steals one of her letters to Max, sets himself up as a anonymous blackmailer her handbag containing one of Max's letters, and even assumed the role of an anonymous blackmailer extorting money from Sheila for the letter.Tony withdraws small amounts of money from his bank for a year, collecting £1,000 in old one-pound notes. He additionally blackmails an old classmate- C A Swann, into murdering Sheila.Only things go horribly wrong: Instead of being killed, Sheila successfully defends herself from Swann's attack, the latter actually dropping dead in the skirmish.

Thinking on his feet, Tony turns this setback around- he leaves behind manufactured clue after clue for the police to find, all making it appear transparent that Swann was Sheila's blackmailer, and she killed him in a rage while trying to get her old love letters back
So Sheila lands up in prison, while Tony counts away the days to her execution. However, he has not accounted for Max, who still loves Shiela, and would raise heaven and hell to save her from death. One day before the execution, Max approaches Tony, and begs him to take all the blame on himself, claiming that it was he who had planned the whole fiasco (which is indeed true, much to Max's ignorance).

The Inspector arrives at that moment, allegedly to ask Tony about the money he has been spending lately. This is when Max discovers Tony's bag filled with the remaining one pound notes (remember those?) Pressed for an answer, Tony manages a final impromptu lie in front of both Max and the police: He tells them this is the money Sheila had ready when she met Swann but that she changed her mind and killed him instead of paying him off- boy this guy is smooth.

Then the inspector, who has not given up the case yet but who pretends he has, uses his final trick: He says good-bye and deliberately takes Tony's raincoat instead of his own. Now Tony's key to the flat is in the pocket of his raincoat, so on returning to his flat some time later he realizes that he cannot get inside. He notices that he is wearing Inspector Hubbard's raincoat and goes off to the police station to exchange it. Meanwhile, Hubbard has brought Sheila to the flat.

Her key—actually
Swann's—does not fit into the lock, so she cannot open the door. What Hubbard wants to find out is if she knows the hiding place under the stair carpet. She does not, so that clears her of any suspicion. Some time later, Tony comes back. When he takes the key from under the stair carpet he gives himself away.
Apart from the whole 3D technical wizardry that Hitchcock had going, he does an amazing job in translating intrigue to this movie. You could watch it 20 years from now and still appreciate the suspense as the mystery unfolds- if you haven't seen this, do yourself a favor and do so. Now.

August 19, 2007

Its here!

Just got it- Its a Toyota Corolla LE.

The hubby wanted a Camry- but since I am this one's primary driver, I had the final call! Love the color, and it zips around way neater than a bulky ol' Camry.

Still got the two damned audits to wrap- gotta be at work at 6am :(
All I need now is a new job that pays twice of what I get now......soon

August 18, 2007

Week(s) from hell

Its not that I am not watching movies- I've actually managed to see 2 despite all the craziness going on, but I've no time to post a decent review!

Here is what is going on:
Finally got officially promoted to Senior Auditor- though have been acting in that capacity since February. Helped my parents move house this morning, then painted the apartment I am moving to next week (along with sainted husband and loving friend Steve). Then buying a new car tomorrow (hopefully tomorrow- cant decide on another Corolla or a Camry- we'll see- depends on price). Have 2 deadlines next week to wrap up 2 entire audits in 2 entirely different industries.Then gotta move apartments for good next Saturday- when 50% of the house isn't packed yet! (AAAGHHH)

Enough said- I need a Tylenol PM now to crash out.

August 15, 2007

Musings on being Indian

I was browsing through the electronic version of The Times of India that I read every day, and came upon some pretty scathing editorials about the non-Indian-ness of Indians as well as Indians living abroad.

Our country means many things to many people- there are billions of citizens, wherefore there must be at least thousands of varying viewpoints. Wherefore, when we express our own point of view, we are bound to miss or disagree with another opinion.

I enjoy Shakespeare and Premchand- two authors very integral to the India I grew up in, even though Willy was an old Brit- but then, Premchand was also technically a British subject for a good part of his life, until 1947.

I like reading up on the Upnishads, and old Indian folklore from the all over the nation. I like quoting from the Gita and laughing at the old fuggly television series enacting the Ramayana.

I love wearing sarees and lehngas- even though both outfits are almost extinct in India, worn only on religeous events, weddings and such. I hate salwar kurtas :(

I love cooking chole, rajma, and biryanis- though I wont make fresh rotis, just buy it from Trader Joe's.

I love mehndi and chooris- when I visit back, I normally go out within the 1st 24 hours of my stay, and get mehndi done on my hands and feet, buy lots of chooris and pretty bindis.

I love purani Dilli, sadar, Lal Qila, the old galis and ghats of my hometowns (I consider Delhi, Kanpur and Allahabad as hometowns, all)- the smells (exception: old garbage- eugh), colors, chatter and noise are integral to my memories. The modern parts of the cities are great, but I prefer the old ones.

I love driving late at night with friends, drinking beer, stopping at India gate and singing the National Anthem (we did it 8 years before Amir did the same in "Rang de basanti") and eat bhelpuri from the late night vendors.

I love going to pubs in Bombay and Goa, walking down to the shore with friends at 2am, driving through the rain- stopping for nariyal pani.

I love watching Shabana and Tabu- and am spellbound when Salman capers accross the screen in Salaam-e-Ishq or the like.

None of the above makes me Indian- but it is part of who I am- a part of me that I cherish and that would have been definitely different was I not an Indian.

I like being an Indian. I love my heritage; it is my past and it shapes my future. I am not certain if I am losing my Indian-ness abroad, because the minute I set my foot back on Indian soil, I turn, chameleon-like, into the quintessential Bhartiya nari- not a Californian babe; both roops are an integral part of my psyche, and expand or contract depending on my mood and geographical location- sweet!

August 14, 2007

Happy Birthday India

Not really- India is thousands of years old. But yes, in these modern times, we accept the modern version of our birth and call ourselves 60.

One of my favorite speeches is the one that Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first Prime Minister, gave to the Constituent Assembly in New Delhi at midnight on August 14, 1947. I love it! Here it is, verbatim. Enjoy!

"Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially.
At the stroke of midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.
A moment comes which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, then an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.
It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity.
At the dawn of history India started on her unending quest, and trackless centuries are filled with her striving and the grandeur of her successes and her failures.
Through good and ill fortune alike she has never lost sight of that quest or forgotten the ideals which gave her strength.
We end today a period of ill fortune and India discovers herself again.The achievement we celebrate today is but a step, an opening of opportunity, to the greater triumphs and achievements that await us.
Are we brave enough and wise enough to grasp this opportunity and accept the challenge of the future?Freedom and power bring responsibility.
That responsibility rests upon this assembly, a sovereign body representing the sovereign people of India.
Before the birth of freedom we have endured all the pains of labour and our hearts are heavy with the memory of this sorrow.
Some of those pains continue even now.Nevertheless, the past is over and it is the future that beckons to us now.
That future is not one of ease or resting but of incessant striving so that we might fulfill the pledges we have so often taken and the one we shall take today.
The service of India means the service of the millions who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity.
The ambition of the greatest man of our generation has been to wipe every tear from every eye. That may be beyond us but so long as there are tears and suffering, so long our work will not be over.And so we have to labour and to work, and work hard, to give reality to our dreams.
Those dreams are for India, but they are also for the world, for all the nations and peoples are too closely knit together today for any one of them to imagines that it can live apart.
Peace has been said to be indivisible, so is freedom, so is prosperity now, and so also is disaster in this one world that can no longer be split into isolated fragments.
To the people of India whose representatives we are, we make appeal to join us with faith and confidence in this great adventure.
This is no time for petty and destructive criticism, no time for ill-will or blaming others.
We have to build the noble mansion of free India where all her children may dwell."

August 11, 2007

The Abominable Dr. Phibes

Title: The Abominable Dr. Phibes
Year: 1971
Cast: Vincent Price, Virginia North, Peter Jefferey

"Love means never having to say you're ugly"- What a tag line! As I have reiterated over and again in these pages, the 60s and 70s were, to my mind, the campiest time of the movies. And "..Abominable.." is not the least of the campiest best of the era. Its barking mad, with Vincent Price consistently maintaining a Shakespearean dignity, which is perhaps key to the enduring success of the movie.

I found some cool posters which I wanted to preserve on this blog:

The movie opens with Inspector Trout (Peter Jefferey) investigating some curious, successive deaths of a few doctors around London.
The deaths have nothing in common except that they were all violent, unnatural, and of doctors who knew each other. You as the viewer know better, because you see this beautiful woman (Virginia North) lurking around:What makes little sense is that not only is Vulnavia (that's her name, which you only get to know about 10 minutes before the movie ends) speaks not a single word in this movie, but appears in distracting mod outfits, as the henchman (henchwoman?) to Dr. Phibes (Price).

Backtrack to 4 years ago. Dr. Phibes was happily married. However, Mrs. Phibes was in a terrible accident while Dr. Phibes was in Switzerland. She was rushed to the hospital, where 8 surgeons (8!!!) and 1 nurse unsuccessfully tried to save her. Dr. Phibes (not a medical doctor, but a PhD in music and theatre from the Sorbonne, no less) rushed over from Switzerland to merry old England, but in his haste had a bit of an accident himself: Dr. Phibes pretends to be dead and is supposedly interred in the family tomb along with his wife. Of course he has actually been faking his own death, and turns out to be remarkably resourceful and self-reliant in the face of his sorrow. Being horribly disfigured by his accident, Phibes cannot eat normally, and has a tube running through his neck, which he uses to speak and eat! In addition, he acquires Vulnavia as his aforementioned henchwoman (no hanky-panky however is ever noted), builds a superb underground den with a fluorescent red pipe organ (see above), wears velvet capes and Shakespearean garb of that sort, and has a running projection of his wife's photos along with a alter to her at which he regularly mouths poetry and the like: But let us not mistake Dr. Phibes as your garden-variety mourning widower. He also has 9 fantastic paper-mache busts of the 8 doctors and nurse, whom he believes basely murdered his wife. He uses the 10 biblical plagues, derived from what Moses called down upon the Pharaoh, on each of the 9 offenders. He begins to methodically murder his offenders one by one, leaving cool Hebrew symbols signifying each plague at the death site, and then goes back to his den to burn each bust as a representation of the offender's demise.

Here are some examples of the successive murders. One is performed with the help of Vulnavia typing up one lustful doctor and then injecting out all his blood: Another murder is brought about by filling a plane that a doctor is flying with huge rats, who then proceed to eat the doctor: The nurse is killed with locusts:So 8 of the 9 die, with Inspector Trout edging closer and closer in his hunt for Dr. Phibes, while being harangued by his superior officer. Phibes in turn keeps himself entertained in between murders by playing his piano, listening to Vulnavia play the violin, dancing the fox trot with her and watching her parade around his den in cool costumes:
The 9th murder rolls around, and is a bit complex, involving the plague of the death of the eldest son. The 9th doctor is made to operate on his son, in whose heart Dr. Phibes has embedded a key (HOW?!!!). The 9th doc must get the key out in 6 minutes and release his son from the chains which bind him. If he fails, acid will fall from the ceiling and kill his son. Since this is the last one, Phibes considers his job done. He removes himself to the depths of his den and commits suicide (so you think) using the 10th plague of darkness by interring himself alive in his wife's grave: he believes his neglect was complicit in her death. We watch as he pumps out his blood and replaces it with embalming fluid. Trout and the police burst into his den just in time to save doc#9 being killed by Vulanvia, who dies in the acid shower meant for #9's son. Trout cannot find Phibes' body, and so the door is left open for another movie (which in fact did happen with "Dr. Phibes Rises Again," in 1972).

This movie is a lot of fun. There is sufficient humor from Trout and even Phibes to keep the levity flowing, and you almost look froward to the next murder. Even when Price repulses you with the gruesome murders he commits, he charms with the utter seriousness he carries out his act. It fulfills every expectation- watch it if you can find a copy!

August 8, 2007


Last trip till February
Last trip till February
Last trip till Februareeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee


Today is the last day of my last trip (hopefully) for this year- no more travelling till February 2008! - at least for work.
I am in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I am loving the food: alligator and oysters both make better eating than I had ever realized I guess- there is a first time for everything! I loving the people, and love the friendliness of the South. The devastation of Katrina remains fresh in memory because of the horrendous traffic created when survivors moved to this city, and increased the local population by 100,000 heads. Enough said- back to home and hearth tonight!

August 4, 2007


Title: Apne
Year: 2007
Dharmendra, Kiron Kher, Sunny Deol, Shilpa Shetty, Bobby Deol, Katrina Kaif, Javed Sheikh, Viktor Banerjee, Aryan Vaid.

This is the first time I have seen 2
plagiarised movies in a row. The saving grace is that whereas Partner was literally an Indian translation of Hitch, Apne is just heavily inspired in parts from Rocky- even the theme song is a take-off on the Eye of the Tiger- remarkably silly.

The story is somewhat
convoluted, so bear with me here:
Baldev Choudhary (Dharmendra) is an ex-boxer, who once won an Olympic silver medal in boxing. He was (apparently) super close to realizing his dream of winning the World Heavyweight Boxing Championship- but was falsely implicated in doping charges (did that happen back then? If this incidence is supposed to have happened in his youth, we are looking at the 1960s here- I know drugs were aplenty, but supplementary drugs???) and banned from boxing.

Baldev leaves boxing behind forever- and therefore he now idiotically puts the heavy load of his failed hopes on the head of his eldest son, Angad (Sunny Deol). Angad behaves like a sensible young (not really) man, and chooses to become a businessman rather than languish in the boxing ring until the day he gets recognition.

acts like a 5-year old, and resents Angad (despite the son being widely applauded in his city as a complete success), even though Angad has apparently done what Baldev should have been doing- got a house for the family, educated his brother, gotten his sister married. Baldev in turn has wasted away a decade or so in alcohol, until one day he meets a new pupil (Aryan Vaid). He is later ditched by this student as well, and his frustrations grow further.

In steps
Karan (Bobby Deol), who is Baldev's 2nd son. Karan has a physical disability, which leaves him unable to move one of his hands (which he rests on his stomach for the 1st half of the movie), and therefore cannot box. However he appears completely capable of performing the miscellaneous gymnastics we are subjected to, in lieu of being a pop star/musician.

By a convenient accident,
Karan is one day healed and he promptly decides to fulfill his father’s dream by becoming the next heavy weight champion of the world (yeah, right). He however gets clobbered by Luca, the reigning heavy weight champion (I have limited knowledge about the subject, but: one, Luca appears more featherweight than heavy/ two, I thought it would take a long time to go from a nobody to India's representative in the world heavy weight championship- but what would I know?!).

Prepare to further suspend all reality: once
Karan goes down, Angad is all fired up and decides to go bash Luca- not on the street- but in the boxing ring! He trains in one month (yes, ONE), and is all set to demolish Luca, which he does spectacularly. End of story.

This movie is unintentionally funny. I cannot fathom the fact that it was declared a hit in North India- never underestimate the power of the Punjabi movie at work.

Some funny points:
1- It is hilarious how Bobby and Sunny are supposed to be boxers- where Sunny at least is
somewhat built, Bobby has a amazingly flabby stomach, which wobbles in his boxer shorts.
2- For some strange reason, Victor
Banerjee is reduced to playing a Punjabi Muslim friend of Baldev. It is weird to see Mr. Banerjee doing a Punjabi accent sprinkled with Urdu words- its like seeing your favorite uncle dance on the street when drunk- embarrassingly funny.
Javed Sheikh also puts a blot on his considerable body of work- he has what barely qualifies as a guest role, as another old friend of Baldev.
Baldev drinks like a fish throughout the movie. Yet, in the climax, when Bobby needs a liver transplant, he almost attempts suicide to give him his own- how come he doesn't himself need a transplant- his liver must be useless by a lifetime of alcohol as well! At least the doctors should have given him some guidance- it was necessary for the melodrama I guess.

Despite all its flubs, its not bad- could be worse. All the actors put in great effort-
Kiron fully redeems herself as Baldev's long-suffering wife. Dharmendra is very believable as Baldev, and a treat to watch in a decent role after a very very long time. He speaks volumes with his eyes; his acting is a million times better than what Sunny and Bobby have ever managed. Perhaps its this sincerity of the actors that carried the movie through the box-office.....but in all honestly, I still cannot recommend it to you :)


Title: Partner
Year: 2007
Cast: Salman Khan, Govinda, Katrina Kaif, Lara Dutta

I love Salman- always have. His cheap, lecherous ways are simply a integral part of his charm, and appreciated and anticipated eagerly by all Salman-lovers!

Partner is a movie you would only see if you were either a Salman-fan, or wanted to reminiscence about the bygone days of the Govinda-David Dhawan movies. Its not bad- but its a bit painful to note that basically the movie is a copy of Hitch (2005)- to the extent that at times, even the dialogues are translated sentence by sentence.The plagiarism is especially disturbing since it is so deliberate and extensive. David Dhawan has made a lot of original cinema- there is no reason why he cant give us more of that!

Sallu is the Love Guru to Will's Date Doctor, while Govinda does Kevin James. Govinda gets Salman to tutor him to get Katrina, while Sallu finds himself head-over-heels in love with Lara, a single-mom. Do they get their girls? Of course, but not before over 2 hours of insanely nonsensical jokes.

It was OK time-pass- here is what I like:
1- Rajpal Yadav is kinda fun as Chota Don, a spoof on Sharukh as Don. He zips in and out of the movie in short vidushak takes, mostly interacting with Lara, who plays a journalist after him for a photo for the newspaper she works for. His scenes are perhaps the only truly original component in the movie, and accordingly duly appreciable.
2- I enjoyed the movie's easy portrayal of Lara being a single-mom without excuses, which is rare in a Bollywood movie. We are never really told if she is a divorcee, has chosen to adopt or simply has a child out of wedlock- I am glad we are not provided some strained reasoning- thanks David!

You wont miss a lot if you miss this movie- see it only if you have a spare couple of hours!