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Dirtscapes

Read. Suffer. Try to Enjoy.

Of Birds, Planes And Men

Sunday, October 29, 2006
Finally got around to watching Krrish a couple of weeks back (REALLY early to blog about it, I know…). Part of me was happy with the special FX, which are waaaaaay above the usual Bollywood standards (think of Jaani Dushman – the new one and Haatimtai in equal measures). What sucked big time was the ‘love story’ track, which actually forms the bigger part of the entire movie, ultimately devolving into a super-gooey, tear-your-hair-out kind of maudlin Bollywood romance, which is nothing you haven’t seen before. A straight lift from the Hemant Birje classic, Tarzan, if you please.

What’s my beef with the movie? It was an opportunity wasted. Period. Here was a budget that was crying like Sania Mirza’s sponsors to be made into a far better movie than the end result. Hell, this post is made even more ironic by the fact that it’s been one of the biggest blockbusters ever in Bollywood. Ever.

All this takes me back to whole concept of the Indian superhero as we know it. All of them so far have been singularly, irrefutably campy. Right from a bad rip off of Superman (starring Puneet Issar and Dharmendra) to Mahabali Shaka (The Phantom revisited – panel by panel, with the best part was that his punches left permanent snake marks on the victim’s point of impact), to Agniputra Abhay to Nagraj to Shaktimaan (ABSOLUTELY no snarky comments there, I’m a HUGE Mukesh Khanna fan). There’s been no genuinely classy Indian superhero thus far.

Sure, some have had an Indian connection (The Phantom for instance), but the closest we’ve got to some decency is Bahadur from the erstwhile Indrajal Comics stable. Then again, he’s not a superhero. He was just a hero.
This obviously does not take into account our rich mythology, and I am talking purely from the pop culture phenomenon.

But the thing that made me get that (unmentionably) warm, good-to-be-Indian feeling was the proposed Indianization of the Spiderman series – Peter Parker was to become Pavitr Prabhakar (full marks there. Very clever. ****ing A in fact.) and (surprise, surprise) his costume was altered to make it a dhoti, and he’s shown to be wearing Jaipuri mojdis. Like that’s what ****ing exactly what a young Indian boy in Mumbai would wear. Hell, even beggars wear pants here. Plus he’d get to fight an Indian villain, intriguingly named ‘Rakshasa’. This promises to be a collector’s item.

Given all this, Krrish could have done something different. But hey…

We could have had a fantastic character like the Dark Knight himself…tormented, brooding, mysterious. Instead of the happy, always ready to dance, bholu character. Happy superheroes somehow don’t quite sound convincing, do they?

Mumbai has a fantastic skyline, which could have been exploited brilliantly. With both beauty as well as gut-wrenching monstrosities. Singapore looks great and all that, but hell, this was an Indian superhero.

Think about what all could have been…

  • Krrish giving wedgies to errant road contractors at first, and then anally impaling them if they didn’t do their job. But even this wouldn’t really change things much. Ultimately, he’d have to build all the roads himself. (Material sourcing would be a big problem for him though…he’s a superhuman being, not super rich, right?)
  • Krrish having to airlift ambulances to hospitals for the simple fact that they usually get stuck bleating like manic sheep right in the middle of traffic (Dedicated lanes did I hear you say? Right of way too? Tee hee hee.)
  • Krrish having to eradicate mosquitoes, and clean up garbage. For the simple fact that in order to step up to first world status, we must first eradicate third world diseases. (Dengue fever sounds so… what’s the right word? Native?)
  • Krissh somehow, **** knows how, stopping farmers from killing themselves in Vidarbha, in spite of munificent Central Government grants. (Not Mumbai-centric this, but it has really become an issue as mysterious as the beginning of the universe. Hence the superhero solution.)
  • Krrish being on total standby every monsoon here in Mumbai, to help suck out all the wonderful clogged water, and yes a little spot of airlifting wouldn’t hurt either.
  • Krrish somehow making cellular and fixed telephones work in times of disasters/emergencies by keeping them from collapsing due to ‘all users logging on at once’.
  • Krrish somehow bending the basic laws of Physics to ensure that suburban rail commutes are not daily tests of your animal will to survive and exist.
  • Krrish helping out BIG TIME with the slum rehabilitation schemes here, and finally figuring out how to come up with cheap housing guidelines. While he’s at it, he could improve rural conditions countrywide, so that fewer people are tempted to migrate to urban areas to live like animals. And actually feel that the life they lead here is better than their rural setups.
All in all, a very dangerous storyline to tread as you can see. There would have been just too many expectations from a Mumbai based superhuman being. He would have made everybody’s life a little easier (the governing bodies included). But at what cost? The tip of the expectational iceberg would have just kept getting bigger and bigger (make that exponential). Till he would have turned positively suicidal.

Now you know why the movie had the kind of plot it did.
I kinda understand.

posted by Tapan at 12:00 AM

The Death Of The Audio Cassette - A Lament

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Was cleaning out my stuff the other day, and happened to come across my lately and largely forgotten audio cassette collection. Could not help marvel at how quickly these things have become obsolete. Personally, I haven't bought a cassette in more than 4 years now. The whole mp3 wave has almost killed off this little segment of the market. Heck, they survived the audio CD revolution, purely because of the price differential. Given a choice between a 525 buck audio CD (with an ‘Imported!!!’ label on it to boot), and a 45 buck tape, apun ka choice clear tha (as Vakil Mulay from Satya would put it).

But how do you essentially deal with something that is FREE?!

Tapes were something that had an aspirational value to them (at least in my perfectly middle class upbringing, they had). Like He-Man dolls (sorry... action figures, action figures) a tape would be obtained when you 'came first' in class, or on a special occasion/festival. That was something to look forward to, and the anticipation? Ayyo Raghavendra. The only thing that comes close is my current desperate craving for weekends, and the sheer narcotic kick that I get when I’m on my way home on Friday night. Yes, that’s how good it was.

Then there would be the trip to the music store. Now this would be an entire outing in itself - agonizing over what tape to buy on the way, and spending a nice amount of time in the shop, just generally and self importantly looking at the titles, wishing you could buy them ALL. Now albums by 'heavier' artistes like Slayer, Sepultura, Megadeth et al, would be virtually non-existent. I guess the music companies (MIL, Bremen Music, BMG et al) would press just 10 copies of these albums and the music stores would hide them like they were clues to a particularly nasty treasure hunt (no wonder I didn’t think the Da Vinci Code was “all that”). The music store guys would hardly ever have heard of them, and would greet you with their friendliest blank stares when asked where the Slayer/Megadeth albums were. So it was all up to you...digging through all the lowermost shelves, squatting down till you felt that the 'mungees' that you were getting in your feet were dancing at a rave party, and then finally hitting pay dirt. Only to be severely constrained by the lone 50 buck note in your pocket. Poverty striketh. And it striketh hard. And then, with a heavy heart, selecting one and wistfully placing the other gems back. Only, I would thoughtfully hide them behind Mory Kante and Jagjit Singh albums so that others couldn't swipe them away till my next visit. Have to admit though, this never really worked…

Given how you would have sweated to build up a little collection, lending tapes would be a real ordeal. You would want them back. That’s all. Not too much to ask right? But the loss of a tape would REALLY cause issues between the best of friends, directly proportional to the rarity of the title. Likewise, the heartburn that you would get when such a tape was gobbled up by your greedy defective player/walkman was comparable to watching our cricket team play. These mangled remains would then be salvaged by ingenious, aspiring-scientist moi by trying to splice them together with nail polish. It worked. Honest.

Album add-ons would really never be a redeeming feature, considering that there would never be any lyrics booklets, or album inlay artwork. What you would get instead, was a cheesy marketing feedback form, promising you a free cassette in a lucky draw. People used to actually buy lyrics books and a lot of them would kill for lyrics, and take photocopies of the booklets from lucky CD-owning friends. By the time international class album packaging was available here, it was a case of too little too late.

Contrast all this with mp3s. Which are so… what’s the right word? Sterile? They have no ‘organic’ feel, both in terms of sound fidelity as well as possession. They are just there in some sort of memory storage, and you really cannot attach any sentiment to them. They have no history, and would really not be something to reminisce about and cherish. You definitely cannot get an artiste’s autograph on an mp3 can you?

Pretty much functional and utilitarian? Yes. No rewinding, no fast forwarding, and no oxide-and-fungus-formation-with-age issues. You get to listen to stuff which you would never ever have got hold of in India, even on audio CDs. You can practically download an artiste's entire anthology in a matter of minutes, and be a ‘hard core fan’ in a week’s time, now that lyrics and complete biographies are freely available wherever you click.

But you can never own an mp3...

Ah well, things have changed. End of old fogey post.


posted by Tapan at 7:13 PM