Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Obvious Topic

"Are we Defenceless?"
..screamed the headline of a news channel.

Based on current evidence, we are indeed.

A total of 47 bombs (22 defused) found in 3 different cities of our country in a span of 5 days.
More than 50 killed and hundreds injured.
Dense areas such as markets, bus stands targeted, where you and I go or pass through almost every day. The worst of all, targeting the hospital in Ahmedabad where the victims would be brought for treatment, not only highlights the meticulous planning done by the perpetrators, but also a chilling, sinister mindset.

Southern India had been, until now, the luckier sibling when it came to terror attacks. In fact, Bangalore had seen only one clear act of terrorism (attacks at IISC). Even that, as bad as it was, did not fully accomplish what the terrorists intended : Spread Terror.
This time though, they were successful to a much larger extent. 'Low intensity' bombs placed in various parts of the city made sure that everyone knew about it and cared about it enough to actually stop and think 'Should I go out or stay in?". And that, is mission accomplished.
Though normalcy returned quickly, the edginess has remained (no doubt fuelled by blasts in Ahmedabad the very next day).

To be honest, I have been a little indifferent to news on terrorism in India, simply because they are, for the lack of a better term, a dime a dozen. Kashmir has been cannon fodder for decades now. Mumbai and of late Gujarat have also been attacked multiple times. As Indians, we have taken it in our stride that terrorism co-exists with us and have typically 'adjusted' our lives around it. I definitely have. Until now, that is.
Even though I was not directly affected by the blasts, there's no denying that I was tense this time. For real.
2 of the blasts happened within 2 Kms from my office. 1 within a Kilometer from my wife's office. My office is housed in one of the landmark buildings in Bangalore, an obvious target.
It was all real. Not just news splashed sensationally on TV channels.
People tried to show off calmness, but the tension was palpable. Cellphone networks being jammed didn't help matters either, with everyone wanting to call up their near and dear ones (Google Talk came to the rescue).
Things cooled off a little bit by evening, but people were still tense because it was believed that this was just the trailer, a preview of things to come, when bombs won't be low intensity.
That was perhaps the greatest victory for the terrorists. They have now managed to infect the city with fear.
Bangalore will no doubt shake off this incident, and within no time will you see people flocking back to malls, markets and cinema halls. Politicians will use this to hail the 'tenacity' of the city and its people. And all will be well.

Is that 'tenacity'? really?
Some of it may be.. but isn't it also the typical Indian attitude of indifference? As long as it didn't happen to me, chalta hai, right? This is what the Indian Politician thrives on. All he has to do is look concerned, visit the affected area and announce compensations. News channels will track these for a week and move on to the next bad news. The terrorist knows this all too well. He stays low for 2 months and then begins planning his next attack.
The cycle continues. Deja vu.

Having said that, what difference can I make? can we all make?
Not much, to be honest. The best we can do is carry out protest marches asking for better preventive measures. But will it help?

The system is so badly inefficient and corrupt at every level that even if someone came up with some bold initiatives, it will probably not see the light of the day, or at best, fizzle out quietly after initiation.
Too many things need to be bettered too quickly to help prevent more such acts, starting from plugging the holes of infiltration from our dear neighbors all the way to improving (and keeping corruption free) human intelligence at local level. Needless to say, it won't happen.
I'm sorry if I made your day a little more glum than it was, but this is the sad truth of India.

Y'know, the day after, my wife said 'lets go to the market to buy vegetables'.
I hesitated. Even though it was only for a second. But I did.
And it wasn't because of my usual laziness.

My wife keeps telling me that I need to re-evaluate my life insurance.

Know what hon... I agree.

Monday, July 28, 2008

NY in pictures

Pictures from my not-so-recent trip to New York City

Broadway - A stunning street. Overwhelming at times because of the glitter. Any self respecting major brand will have one of its advertising hoardings here.

Probably the most clicked picture in NY. But it's too aesthetically pleasing to let go.

Manhattan. From the Empire State Building's 86th floor observatory.

Manhattan Skyline.

Camera - Nikon D40. 18-55mm Nikkor Lens. UV filter.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Dark Knight

(Warning: Lengthy Post)

What Hype!
But more than that.. What a movie!

"The Dark Knight" is, in my view, the movie of this generation.
Do I hear "premature", "exaggeration"??

I know it's quite a bold statement to make. But I have my reasons.
Now let's define some basic criteria for a movie to be called the movie of its generation:
* It has to be a commercial success.
* It has to redefine film-making, at least in its genre.
* It has to be critically acclaimed.
* It has to capture people's imagination and make them crave for more.
* It should have high replay value.
and a criterion which I think is important:
* It should stimulate an average adult's mind, in a thoughtful way.

I've seen the film twice. It meets all of the above.

The reason I added the last criteria is to eliminate films like Spiderman, Pirates of the Caribbean, Shrek, etc which might satisfy the rest. Not to mean disrespect to any of those films, but do you honestly think that Spiderman was the movie of this generation?

If you've seen the Dark Knight, you will understand when I say that the film is not only engrossing as hell, but extremely relevant in the present day world (more on that later).

Enough of build up. This is an absolute killer of a movie. It rocks.. in every department. I am not exaggerating when I say that most people had a "Whoa! What just happened" look on their faces when they came out of the cinema hall. (and this in Bangalore, where I hear the usual "pakau movie yaar" comment from some I-am-too-cool-with-my-hair-gel-to-appreciate-any-movie type character for almost any movie)

The film starts with a superb bank robbery sequence which ensures that you're hooked instantly and director Christopher Nolan just doesn't let go after that. The script is so taut that even at 2:30+hours of running time, there's no room for any just-for-kicks action/FX scenes.
The intensity doesn't dip for one minute. In fact, it shoots up every time Ledger's Joker appears on screen.

Speaking of which, Heath Ledger gives us a villian we won't soon forget. His Joker is seriously creepy, the kind that would give kids nightmares. (In fact, I honestly believe that kids under 12 should not even watch this movie). Even when he tries to make a joke, there are dark undertones to it, and you're invariably waiting for him to do something unexpected.
Two particular scenes stood out for me:
* His first appearance in front of the mob. The laughter and the subsequent pencil scene is just tremendous.
* The scene where he hangs his head out of a stolen police car after a pivotal moment in the film, is pure magic. So much is conveyed in that one fleeting scene.
It is a superlative performance, which will compete with Hannibal Lecter and Anton Chigurh for the most menacing villain seen in films.

That said, Batman ain't no slouch. Christian Bale looks super confident and comfortable in the Wayne/Batman dual act. Forget Keaton and Kilmer, this is the definitive Batman.
Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman are solid as ever (and they're required to be). Maggie Gyllenhaal doesn't have a huge role to play, but is adequate.
Aaron Eckhart plays Harvey Dent, the daring, honest D.A who briefly becomes Bruce Wayne's only hope for a normal life. He infuses enough energy and honesty into the character that we end up believing in him.
Gary Oldman, as Jim Gordon - the good cop, is to me, the third most important character here after Batman and Joker. He represents a lot of things, and I dont just mean the movie. He also plays a crucial role in the climax, which is just terrific.

The film reportedly cost $180 million to make. And you can see why. Top of the line production values, an elite technical crew and some awesome stunts make this THE summer blockbuster.
If the Hong Kong skyscraper scene makes you gasp, the extended truck chase sequence ending in that flip will leave you plain spellbound!

All these are only part of the reason why this movie is so good. The best thing is that it keeps coming back to you. On your way back home. When you lie down later that night.
It is because the movie is extremely relevant in the present day. One needn't look far to draw the anology between the joker and terrorists today.
What would you do if someone half as maniacal as the joker attacked your city?
Would you be able to think striaght if your city was plunged into chaos like gotham?

It also hits home the point that pure evil is so damn dangerous that it can contaminate the best of good (Harvey-Two Face).

These are the things that drove me into the cinema hall for the second time.

I have to admit, I'm a little bit of a sucker for big-budgeted, star powered summer blockbusters.
With age (and some disappointing films) though, I've become more skeptical of these.
That excitement, I'm happy to say, is back now.

Every generation needs, but seldom gets a Godfather.
The Dark Knight comes damn close.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Back to Blogging

After more than 28 months, I've decided to take another shot at blogging.
Let me see if I can sustain it this time.

Here we go!