Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Of weekend getaways and government colleges

Back from a weekend trip to Bangalore. No, not business... I went to watch 3 films.

Sounds excessive doesn't it? Well, yes and no. Da Vinci Code is banned in Tamil Nadu (hurts religious sentiments apparently) and also most 'new' releases hit the theatres oh about seven years after it's actual release in the rest of the world. Ah anyone who lives in this glorified village will tell you, besides Satyam there aren't many cinema's playing English movies. And the movies themselves... well, any given day at Satyam Cineplex there would be about 10 movies playing. 5-6 Tamil, the rest Hindi and maybe two English movies of which one is an obscure animated flick that released in the last century. The sole English movie would play every Wednesday at 10pm (to add salt to wounds, I am banned from watching night shows. My father still thinks he is living in 17th century Kumakonam) and after a week it gets pulled.

Now why so? For starters, apparently English movies jus don't pack theatres like a Tamil flick does. I have seen packed theatres and been forced to hear 'Sorry, no tickets, Housefull!' a little too many times for my liking and for many an English flick. But I suppose my opinion doesn't count. As long as we are forced to rely on Satyam for our daily fix of English films, we play by their rules. V for Vendetta incidentally never released in Madras. Never. I waited three months for it before I finally flew to Hyderabad to watch it. Things like this make me want to stand outside their ticket counters distributing pirated DVDs of all the latest films. Public service and all you know. Very generous-like, for the upliftment of society and all that.

So anyway, I watched three movies this weekend - The Omen, X Men 3, and the Da Vinci Code (none of these were playing in Madras) and they were crap, decent and good respectively. First off, the Omen. I wanted to rip the theatre screen. The original was never really a pinnacle of cinematic achievement but at least it was entertaining! This one plods along, tries to manipulate the audience into sympathizing with the characters - yes, please show me another extreme close up of Julia Stiles' tear-marked face so I can pontificate about how much this woman deserves an Oscar for her performance as I gaze up at her 3 feet wide nostrils on the screen. But wait, this isn't a deep, profound movie; it never claimed to be anything but a horror remake (released 'cleverly' on 6/6/6), so it's not really fair for me to expect depth and poignancy.
Right. Well, even so... apparently, the director's idea of horror is to have painfully long sequences (preferably, silent and in a room that’s startlingly white) where the characters move as comatose sea mollusks and then BAM, loud noises and a flurry of unrelated images – blood dripping from slit wrists, shot of sledge hammer, close up of boy’s evil fang-filled grin – shown in 3 seconds. That’s what it takes to make a horror flick. Oh yes, if you haven’t gleamed it already from my completely objective review of the film, I hate it I hate it I hate it!

X Men 3. Decent fare, decent length, decent action-filled sequences, decently entertaining. Enough said.

The Da Vinci Code. Somehow, even before I have begun to type a single word about this movie, I have a feeling that anything I have to say will probably seem redundant. Nevertheless, this is my blog and I am king and I will prattle on till the cows come home, so there! (Whoooooo’s your daddy?! Who’s your daddy’s daddy!)

Right. Now that I’ve got that outta my system… DVC was pretty good. It’s slow, and plods along unlike the book (not that the book was fabulously well-written, although it was ‘gripping’) but having said that, the movie is entertaining. There were some nice touches, and although over-long, it was overall an enjoyable movie. I really can’t fathom what provoked such scathing reviews of it upon its release! I’ve seen far worse films.

Which brings us to the second thing. Why is it banned? The Indian government already ruled that the movie will only play with disclaimers both at the start and end of the movie, claiming that it is completely and utterly a piece of fiction. So why ban it? Personally, I don’t quite fancy this new censor-happy wave that’s sweeping the country. From blanket bans on cellphones to dress codes to prohibitions on women and men talking to each other on campus (This is an institution of learning! How dare you defile it with your immoral activity that is so against our tradition!?) and now to movies. If anything, I think it’s high time the censors did away with their A, U and U/A rating and came up with something a little more informative. Like age based ratings (PG, PG-13, 15, 18) and possibly a reason why it warrants the rating – PG (sexual references), PG (mild language), PG (Violence), PG (Mature themes)… you get the drift.
But since we haven’t that option, to ban or not to ban, that is the question. I’d say ban it in India… not because it’s controversial, not because it’s insensitive, not because it’s blasphemy, but purely because we have a penchant for banning outright anything and everything that might possibly ruffle a few feathers, no matter how accurate it really is. Anyone remember Rang De Basanti and how some ppl wanted it banned? Specifically how people cried hoarse because revealing the truth about MIGs was deemed unpatriotic? Anyone remember Gaddar? Fire? Water? Practically every movie that Deepa Mehta tried to make? Sexually perverse. Unpatriotic. Insensitive to religious sentiment. Misleading/contorts the truth. How can I ban thee? Let me count the ways.

Sidenote: Banning movies that are ‘sexually deviant’ (read: about homosexuals) is something I still can’t understand. Forget about the milk of human compassion and tolerance and whatnot from the land of the Kama Sutra and its 862352 sexual positions. Last week I read a news report about a woman who married a snake, because it appeared in her dream and said it was in love with her. So she breaks off with the man she is about to marry one day before the marriage and weds the snake instead, the ceremony presided over by the village panchayat no less. Apparently, it was the snake lord’s wish and we mortals must do his bidding. Since he didn’t fancy much sitting around the wedding pyre, they had to make do with a clay model instead. The week before that, a 16 year old girl married a stray dog. These are by no means isolated incidents; they go on in many remote villages in India. Completely acceptable and sanctioned by the panchayat – a government of the village, approved by the state. It’s just the man-on-man or the woman-on-woman action that’s especially perverse.

But I digress. The reason why I grudgingly accept the ban is because to not ban the movie is blatant discrimination against a minority. When a few disparaging remarks about India renders a movie unpatriotic and thus banned, when movies that depict communal violence are deemed insensitive and thus banned, when a few anti-hindu comments renders the movie inconsiderate to religious sentiment, then why must the DVC, which shatters the very cornerstone of Christian belief be let off with a little slap on the wrist? Take two disclaimers and see me in the morning. No, if one must be fair… however illogical, however stupid, however unfair, this step sadly had to be taken. Having said that, come ON, do you really think that people who watch this movie which stars evil albinos and Harvard educated symbologists and the descendant of Christ (who looks like a hot French woman. Of course, she must look like a hot French woman! Who cares that Jesus was actually from the Middle East and that the blond hair and blue eyes were penciled in so that Europeans could identify with the Lord our savior more. We must have a hot French woman! Where’s Angelina Jolie?! She’s half French isn’t she?) will be so compelled by this wholly believable and irrefutable evidence that they will turn disbelievers? If the Church’s faith in its followers is so shaky, I think the problem lies deeper than the DVC.
So there you have it, a movie weekend at Bangalore. Now that the rant part of the blog is over, a pretty miraculous thing happened this Monday. I had gone to college to get my transcripts. Normally, this is the procedure for getting any official work done at our coll

1. Get some arbitrary form and fill in relevant details – name, batch, inseam length…
2. Get a DD in someone’s name.
3. Submit DD and form to some random office
4. Realize that you need a signature from 2 souls before doing this
5. Get signature. Realize that this took 6 days.
6. Go back and submit form with DD
7. Realize that you need a covering letter.
8. Submit all documents.
9. NOW you are finally ready to receive the actual form that you will be needing
10. Rinse and Repeat.

So imagine my surprise when this Monday I went there with a million transcripts to be verified, sealed and signed and it only took one morning. I suppose it’s because coll had just started and the Controller’s office was fully staffed but they hadn’t too many pressing jobs. So it was good that I had gone there armed with my battalion of forms, DDs, letters, envelopes and various other paraphernalia and they sat me done and started right off verifying each document and then stamping and sealing and signing. Very VERY impressive.

So with all that done, all that remains of my B school aping journey is the essays and recommendations – the most taxing part, according to some ppl. Well, I do have some time before that at any rate seeing how I’ve taken the tests and gotten the transcripts ready already. Gives me about a month to spend in Bombay on some work I’d been meaning to do. And after that, another weekend in Bangalore. On business? No.

It’s a bird… it’s a plane… it’s…

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