inner child


I grew up watching ‘Aladdin‘.

It was on this set of video cassettes which also housed ‘Sleeping Beauty‘, ‘The Little Mermaid‘, ‘The Jungle Book‘, and ‘101 Dalmations‘. And all those movies.. their sequences, their songs, their jokes.. they’re just about etched in my memory (as well as my sister’s; she probably loved those movies even more than I did). Then, of course, there were the Christmas Special movies that aired… of which one of my top picks (at that age) was ‘Hook

And thus I came to recognize Robin Williams: in my mind, he was the only child-like man who could have brought Pan to life 1. Did I know, at the time, that Robin Williams also voiced Genie? Not in the slightest. All I knew was that as much as I enjoyed watching these movies, there was someone behind the screen who enjoyed doing those voices and that dialogue even more. Channeling an inner child who was really having fun during all of this.

A few years after my incessant watching of ‘Aladdin, one of my more distinct memories is of my dad and my uncle taking me out with them – fitting the “older” kid that I was then – for a Grown-Up Outing. We caught the train to VT, made our way to Regal Cinemas, and walked into a show of ‘Mrs. Doubtfire‘. At the time, the places where you could catch a Hollywood movie were mostly relegated to that triumvirate near VT, so this was a real Trip and a Big Deal (for me anyway). ‘Mrs Doubtfire‘ remains a movie that I can happily sit through to this day (I actually skipped through it recently). I have a distinct memory of acting out the entire movie with my cousins later that week, probably barely doing the genius of Williams’ comedy any justice at all.

The point of this correlation? I grew up watching Robin Williams and his movies. I also have vague memories of watching ‘Jumanji‘ (another recent watch: 90s CGI at its worst), ‘Patch Adams‘, Flubber’, ‘Bicentennial Man‘, and ‘Robots‘, among others (thanks, cable TV). In hindsight, I dare say that this set probably barely hold up as 90s movies, though Williams is clearly (still) enjoying himself in them.

Skip forward a few years more and I eventually discovered my inner movie nerd and got down to the more serious Hollywood fare. And this was a Robin Williams I didn’t know could exist. ‘Insomnia‘, ‘Dead Poets Society2,’Good Will Hunting‘. Dark, deep, inspiring.. and not even the slightest hint of the cackling funny man I had grown up watching.

Very recently, I watched  ‘Toys‘ and ‘Popeye‘. ‘Toys‘ is likely one of the weirder movies Williams ever did in his career, and doesn’t quite work… maybe because the character falls in between the dark and light extremes that Williams could do so well. But ‘Popeye‘ is as pitch-perfect a recreation of the cartoon as it gets.. basically propelled by RW in his début role, nailing every little mannerism perfectly. While it’s a complete co-incidence that things came in such a full circle (honest!), I cannot help but reflect on how much more I might have loved ‘Popeye‘ as a kid — I “required” less from my movies. More obviously, watching 80s movies as an adult in 2014 is a very different experience from watching these movies as a kid in the 80s. But still, there was something there… something about the little bon mots Williams muttered under his breath that hooked in me as an adult, but he was clearly playing the part for the sake of the kiddie audience.


And so, reading about RW’s death this past week hit a lot closer to home than I expected. It’s a little hard to believe such a constant fixture of my childhood has passed on. Not just that a fine talent has met a sad end, but more selfishly, it made me feel like my own childhood was somehow retreating even more into the mists of time. A vague disappearing act is slowly being enacted because the actor who brought those parts to life is no more. I’m sure watching ‘Aladdin‘ or ‘Hook‘ will always trigger something in me.. but should one really stay fixated in the past, even just to relive that ‘being-a-kid’ feeling? Which reminds me of how much time has passed since I was a child.. among other things, well, I have a child now.

A little ‘un who’s just beginning to discover so many things around her.

Hopefully, among them she’ll happen upon something with the Robin Williams brand of humor, zaniness, and child-like fun that I grew up with.

Which, even years later, never fails to remind you of that inner child you can so easily forget.

1. In retrospect, ‘Hook‘ does not hold up as well as it should. But I am always transported back to being a kid watching Williams re-learn how to fly. Just so much fun.
2. Incidentally, this movie is more than a little tarnished by the fact that I kept thinking how badly ‘Mohabbatein‘ riffed off it.

bollywood – redemption that does not redeem itself


Somewhere within the second half of Rockstar
there was the remainder of a brilliant movie. I wish I could have watched it.

 – Inspired by Rumi

As the first half of ‘Rockstar’ ended, I could not help but hope that I was going finish watching a really good movie.  It’s been a really bad year, movie-wise (whether it’s a bad year on other fronts remains to be seen). For example, I have about 2 billion sarcastic questions/comments I noted down during Ra-One, but I’ve not posted any of them. Why? Coz the experience of watching Ra-One was more frustrating than watching RGV Ki Aag.

Says a lot, I think.

I guess the next question is why write about ‘Rockstar’? You’ll see.

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a robotic hypnotic supersonic superstar



Many things “define” a Rajni movie. A “Superstar” movie.

The emphatic “punch” dialogue. The style. The mannerisms. The entrance. The knowing smirk that his every action will be adored by millions.

None of these things can truly be said to exist in ‘Endhiran’.

A question that most often gets asked to me by non-Southie friends is: “Why is Rajnikanth such a beloved megastar in the South?” To expand: Why do people worship him so? More crucially, their questions seem to want to target “Why are his movies such insane blockbusters?” Are the movies really that brilliant? Or is it fanboyism to a different level? “What is it that he has done to warrant such worship?” No matter what I try to explain to them, I always leave with the impression they think that South Indians are an easily carried away group of people.

The answer to at least a few of those questions lies in ‘Endhiran’.

‘Sivaji’ was the superstar his mannerist best. The flick, the chewing gum (instead of the cigarette), the dialogue, the style. It had it all.

On the flip side, ‘Endhiran’ manages to reach a level where the director asks you to decide about what construes life. And possibly even think about the duality of free will. Continue reading

haunting, darkly


What does a scanner see? Into the head? Down into the heart? Does it see into me, into us? Clearly or darkly? I hope it sees clearly, because I can’t any longer see into myself. I see only murk. I hope for everyone’s sake the scanners do better. Because if the scanner sees only darkly, the way I do, then I’m cursed and cursed again. I’ll only wind up dead this way, knowing very little, and getting that little fragment wrong too.

via A Scanner Darkly

my problem with hindi movies today


There have been any number of reviews about the latest from the Bollywood stable (My Name is Khan) – ranging from vitriolic to sarcastic/mocking to adulatory.

I could write reams, spew abuse galore, and point out in how many different ways the movie gets it wrong… but I won’t. That’s too easy. Plus, people have already done a pretty good job of that. Quite simply, MNIK suffers from the problem that Hindi cinema has been suffering from for a long time. No, not the fact that SRK is in it, or that KJo is directing it… it simply takes itself too seriously.

You can make movies that are obviously escapist, sheer fantasy – and I’m willing to accept it. For example (just off the top of my head), Krrish and Om Shanti Om get this formula close to right. Then you have the movies that are more realistic (and ergo, more intelligent) – for e.g. Luck By Chance, Dev D. Then of course, the “off-beat” – Kaminey, Rocket Singh – they take advantage of it being “cinema”, but don’t push the envelope to the extent that you cannot accept what is going on. Penultimately, the completely unwatchable – Yuvvraaj, Love Story 2050. Finally, the awesome – Gunda. Obviously, you can choose to segregate movies differently, but this kind of classification can work for most movies in most languages.

Why all this background? Movies that belong to one class, but slowly devolve into a second class end up being neither here nor there. And lead to vitriol galore.

I went into 3 Idiots expecting an intelligent comedy. Within about 5 minutes, I settled back into “escapist comedy” mode. It’s not meant to be taken seriously. It’s sheer fun (note here that I think that people who thought 3 Idiots was “silly” were committing the other cardinal mistake: they were taking the movie too seriously). Ishqiya lived up to my expectations of intelligence. Chance Pe Dance lived up to my expectations to being nearly unwatchable. MNIK starts with merely wanting to be intelligent, then flip-flops between fantasy and unwatchable… resulting in something you eventually await the end of.

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amazing avatarAvatar is a mind-bogglingly spectacular extravaganza, proving Cameron has truly reinvented cinema as we know it.

I can only hope it pays off. It would be sad if such movies are not made because they don’t make enough at the box office.

IMAX 3D only. Please. Don’t insult the man’s effort. No 2D. No IMAX Digital crap.


d’oh joe!


Admittedly, one should not expect Schindler’s List from G.I.Joe: Rise of the Cobra. Is it too much to ask for just a modicum of sense though?

  • Apparently, we can extract neural impulses from a recently deceased person and then convert them to images. We can then analyze them for how long they have “decayed” (whatever that is supposed to mean) and hence figure out how old they are. Based on commonly known heights of people, the length of their shadow in this extracted image and the aforementioned approximated time.. it is a relatively minor matter to apply spherical trigonometry to figure out where on the planet the image in the “memory” is from.
    No, seriously. They actually say all that.

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