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January 31, 2006

After Sundance

So how did the desi films do at Sundance? If you recall, three were playing. After digging a little, I was finally able to find some info. First, from MTV Music News:

Another film that would have a hard time debuting anywhere but within the experimental embrace of Sundance is "Punching at the Sun," a heart-tugging New York-set drama that has studio scouts drooling over the urban tale's crossover appeal. "It's the story of a boy whose older brother is murdered, and he's dealing with the death and going through a tough time," writer/director Tanuj Chopra recounted. "It has some redemption in it. We shot in Elmhurst, Queens, with kids from the community, and it's a completely independent film."

According to star Misu Khan, the film offers a distinctive mix of politics, hip-hop and inner-city sports. "The basketball element is that my brother who dies in the movie is one of the greatest players in Queens, and I try to follow his footsteps and take things into my hands. ... The audience really loved it."

"We're one of the smaller films in this festival," admitted Chopra, a passionate film-school student. "This film has a lot of heart, but people are going to have to come find it and discover it. Sundance is about big films and small films; it's supposed to be about finding new people, new talent and new discoveries."

You can find some pictures of the Punching crew at Sundance here. And as for Man Push Cart, they attracted attention from none other than Mr. Roger Ebert himself:

PARK CITY, Utah – On the last day of Sundance 2006, I went to see one final film, named "Man Push Cart." It was playing at 8:30 a.m. in the Prospector Square Theater, which is a large room filled with fairly comfortable folding chairs. The movie tells the story of a young man who was once a rock star in his native Pakistan, but now operates a stainless steel push cart on the streets of Manhattan, vending coffee, tea, muffins and bagels ("You want cream cheese?").

The room was filled. In front of me were a woman from Ogden and her brother from Philadelphia. They said they attend Sundance to see films that are really about something. After "Man Push Cart" was over, they said they loved it. So did I. But I loved it not only for itself, but because of the conditions of its making.

At the end of 10 days and hundred of films and hype about movie stars and swag bags and midnight parties, this is what Sundance is really about: This man pushing this cart.

The movie was written and directed by Ramin Bahrani, an American born in Iran. It stars Ahmad Razvi, an American born in Pakistan. It was shot in less than three weeks, on a small budget, with Bahrani grabbing a lot of his shots by filming from across the street.

Going by the todo list of every indie filmmaker (1. make low budget film, 2. get accepted at Sundance, 3. build buzz and get noticed by Roger Ebert, 4. score big distribution deal), these guys have knocked off the first three. Can item #4, the all important payday be far behind? Watch this space!

PS - Photo courtesy Anand Chandrasekaran - the Carma crew went to Sundance as well. More here.

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- January 31, 2006 7:53 PM // Film

January 28, 2006

Hollywood India Box Office

Something we observed in our visit to the snazzier INOX multiplexes while visiting India in early 2005:

... purely from anecdotal evidence, we found it was much tougher to get tickets to the Bollywood films as opposed to the English flicks on offer. Speaking to the box office clerks confirmed this observation. In addition, the Hollywood films were priced cheaper than most of the Bollywood films. Tickets to Veer Zaara, the then blockbuster, cost close to 200 rupees!

For example, there was a huge publicity campaign underway for The Incrediblesat the time. Dubbed in Hindi, featuring the voice of Shahrukh Khan and entitled Hum Hain Lajawab (We Are Fabulous) it didn't really cause any stir - nothing that we could see anyway. Rediff has an article confirming our observation - India resisted Hollywood's advances last year.

According to market estimates, the box office share of Hollywood movies in India has declined from a high of about 9 per cent, to around 4 per cent last year (about Rs 150 crore in all).

Hollywood representatives are tightlipped on individual takings. But they do accept a reversal. "What is noteworthy is that 2005 was really big for Bollywood," concedes Vikramjit Roy, head, publicity and acquisitions, Sony Pictures Releasing of India (SPRI), "and that newer multiplex screens have been added."

Not that Hindi cinema ever lost its charm. But, for a while, it looked as if Hollywood's domination was inevitable, as its dubbed blockbusters began to do almost as well as Hindi cinema's biggest hits. That fear has now abated. Says Pooja Shetty, director, Adlabs Films, "There were some good movies from Hollywood studios. Yet, last year clearly belonged to Bollywood, especially the new-genre of crossover films. Hollywood could not match its performance of previous years."

Despite this reversal, India remains too big a market to ignore. An alternate strategy seems to be emerging:

That might end once Hollywood studios enter domestic film production, having already managed a foot through the door in distribution. Sony, for example, has announced that it will co-produce Sanjay Leela Bhansali's latest venture Saawariya. This will be a first. And an experiment to be watched closely.

Lastly, Ibosnetwork has a list of the top non-Bollywood grossers in India for 2005:

Top non-Bollywood hits for India
*Collections where available*

Tamil - Chandramukhi (Rs. 60 crore Gross)
Telugu - Chatrapati (Rs. 25 crore gross)
Kannada - Jogi
Malyalam - Rajamanikkam (Rs. 8 crore)
Bhojpuri - Sasura Bada Paisewala (Rs. 17 crore)
Bengali - Juddha (Rs. 5 crore)

The domestic collection for Chandramukhi, the Tamil hit, is easily at par, if not better, with the biggest Bollywood hits of 2005 (Black, Bunty Aur Babli). Just a reminder that Bollywood is not the be all and end all of Indian cinema - as if we needed one!

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- January 28, 2006 5:39 PM // Bollywood , Film , India

January 25, 2006

Playlist: Shwas: A Cycle

Time for another yoga playlist, particularly given the (relative) success of the last one. This time, our yoga class had an end of semester assignment - write a five page paper on Pranayama. Naturally, being relatively indisposed to work that hard, we decided to do something a little more ambitious: we burned a CD with the following tracklisting and the artwork and substituted it instead. We titled it Shwas (breath) since, of course, the actual practice of pranayama concerns itself with breath control. Our challenge was to come up with a musical sequence that would model a yoga session, remain thematically relevant and, last but not least, contain some damn cool music. Judge for yourselves:

  1. The Breath Of Life: Cosmic Wind - Prana (14:55) by Hariprasad Chaurasia from The Elements: Wind Pandit Chaurasia is one of India’s preeminent classical musicians. In this track, his composition and arranging skills shine through as well. His flute work is blended here with a larger palette of instruments to create a meditative mood.

  2. Shwas-Uchhashwas/The Beginning (9:55) by Zakir Hussain from The Elements: Space Zakir Hussain, again, needs no introduction. Not only is his own tabla work is legendary, but he, like Pandit Chaurasia, has also reached beyond classical music in his lengthy list of collaborations and compositions. Here is a track from his contribution to "The Elements" series that came out in the '90s. In this particular composition, he draws upon the creation of the world, the first breath as it were, as inspiration. Note the dash of percussion at places to heighten drama in what is still a mostly contemplative track.

  3. The Man Part One (4:45) by Peace Orchestra from Peace Orchestra From Indian classical, we now segue to electronica, specifically of the Viennese variety, with the opening salvo from Peter Kruder's album project. The electric piano continues the sombre tone and the jazz-tinged drums slowly raise the tempo of the proceedings thus far. The electronic bleeps and whizzes on top of the mix reminds us this is not suppertime easy listening.

  4. Heat Miser (3:39) by Massive Attack from Protection The sound of breathing dominates this instrumental from the Bristol trip hop group. This is taken from their followup to Blue Lines, a one-two album punch they actually managed to equal with Mezzanine Note, we are starting to pick up the pace now. I debated including the opening track of the album, Karma Coma, instead but the mood and theme wasn't right. Pity as it sounds more South Asian then anything that media darling MIA has achieved thus far. And Protection came out over ten years ago!

  5. Khayaal (6:56) by Midival Punditz from Midival Times The best of a new generation of Indian musicians that blend Indian classical with tablatronics, this is a old style ghazal sung beautifully by Vishal Vaid, dressed up with modern beats by the New Delhi duo. Seamlessly integrated, the drumn'n'bass percussion also kicks up the tempo a notch. Around this time, we'd be doing the more intensive set of breathing exercises in the yoga class as a prelude to the deeper stretches, so this should get the blood flowing!

  6. Sunset (4:45) by Nitin Sawhney from Prophesy From New Delhi, it's but a hop skip and jump to London. A genre bending mixture of Bengali vocals by Jayanta Bose and soul sounds from Eska Mtungwazi, UK based Nitin Sawhney once again achieves a fabulously contemplative atmosphere.

  7. Triatma (5:43) by Joi from We Are Three Shifting to a lighter tone, next comes this track by Joi, one of the pioneering UK Asian Underground groups. The deep kick drums underpin the sitar melody and the vocal samples.

  8. Breathless (3:02) by Shankar Mahadevan from Breathless An Indipop sensation when it came out, the vocals for this track sound like it was done in one take. True or not, you decide! The concept fits in well here and the pace is not out of place either.

  9. Dum Maro Dum (Take Another Toke) (4:43)by Kronos Quartet/Asha Bhosle from You've Stolen My Heart - Songs From R.D. Burman's Bollywood. A celebrated pairing, their concerts earlier this year were sensational. The album is up for a bagful of awards worldwide. And yes, the meaning of the song itself has something to do with breathing - well, at least puffing :-)

  10. Dheem Ta Dare (3:33) by AR Rahman from Soundtrack To Thakshak. When A.R. is on, he's on. On his recent albums, his best work, at least to me, is when he's at his most throwaway and experimental. Consider Dol Dol from Yuva as an example. Similarly, from Thakshak comes this heady mixture of classical vocals, thunderous drums and sublime electronic sounds. Initially, I thought of it as filler but now I find it to be AR at his most addictive. Brings the proceedings to a crescendo.

  11. Bissimilai (3:41) by Angelique Kidjo from Oyaya!. There's no way to go from here but downtempo and few better way to do it than this song from Angelique Kidjo, the Benin-born, Paris-resident diva. The track lopes along on back of the Brazilian bossanova rhythm but it's her soul stirring call to the one above that sends chills down the spine.

  12. Om Hraum Mitraya (4:17) by Deva Premal from Dakshina

  13. Om Namah Shivaya (6:30) by Deva Premal from Dakshina She may be German born but listen to her lush, warm harmonies and pretty soon you'll want to hear all mantras receive the same sonic treatment. A meditative way of ending the session.















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- January 25, 2006 6:57 PM // Music

January 22, 2006

Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi

Student revolution in the 1960s wasn't just confined to street fighting men in Paris or US campus agitations against The Man. Inspired by the new noises coming from the West, Che Guevara, the rise of China and the Soviet Union, and the Naxal movement in India itself, well-to-do students in elite Indian universities began to agitate as well. Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi (A Thousand Dreams Such As These) traces the intertwining path of three such students, Siddharth (Kay Kay Menon), Geeta (Chitrangada Singh), and Vikram (Shiney Ahuja), through this period in their lives and beyond. In doing so, Hazaaron touches a section of recent Indian history not often explored by mainstream Bollywood.

The film opens in 1969 with Siddharth's return from Calcutta (which he found to be an "awesome" experience) to St. Stephens College in Delhi. He has an on-again off-again relationship with Gita, a student who has mostly been educated abroad. Both are activists with Siddharth the hot-head and Gita swept up in the emotion. Both have relatively well off parents. Completing the triangle is Vikram, who loves Gita but doesn't share her politics, preferring to observe from the sidelines. His father is a retired Congress leader who chooses not to benefit from his power, hence Vikram knows indulging in these activities is not a luxury he can afford. Every movement has its poseurs and the film has fun lampooning those upper class doyens who believed in The Cause yet found scholarships from US universities too tempting to pass up. Matters come to a head when Siddharth announces he'll be moving to the backwaters of Bihar to try to exhort the peasants. With threats of police crackdowns and better opportunities beckoning, his fellow revolutionaries drop out one by one.

After the prologue, the film resumes in 1973, several years down the line. Gita is now married to an IAS officer, yet she often leaves for Bihar for secret trysts with Siddharth who is waging his own lone war against the government. Vikram increasingly finds himself being known as a "fixer", a middleman who can pull strings in politcal circles to gets things done. However, he hasn't let go of Gita and when he sees her at a party, his passion reignites.

Epic in its narrative sweep, Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi is, first and foremost, an examination of how youthful ideals fare when faced with reality. That it does so with the Naxal movement and the Emergency as a backdrop is nothing if not ambitious. I found it impressive that the script was original, it was reminiscent of many Bengali novels of that period (of course, most, if not all, Bengali novels of the '70s had the Naxal revolution in the background). The acting by the leads, particularly a luminous Chitrangada Singh and the charming Shiney Ahuja contribute greatly towards maintaining viewer interest. Additionally, the way the film is able to effortlessly veer from comedy to tragedy to horror to pathos ensures a feeling of off-balance throughout - you never can quite predict what's going to happen next. However, once the final frames roll, the final feeling is that of an elegy for the post partition generation. Perhaps the title of the film itself, taken from a poem by the Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib, is an allusion to their loss.

Overall, director Sudhir Mishra has crafted a worthy followup to Chameli, yet a few flaws prevent Hazaaron from being an international sensation on the lines of Farewell My Concubine and other films of that ilk. First, there isn't enough context here for a foreign audience - anyone unfamiliar with Indian politics might find it hard to understand some of the events occuring in the film. Second, the film itself doesn't always flow very smoothly - characters appear and then disappear. Sometimes, it feels parts of the exposition are missing as well. Nonetheless, the nits don't prevent Hazaaron from being a strong entry into the growing genre of "multiplex" films, so called because the additional screens afforded by such theatres allow non-masala fare such as this to find an audience. It's just a shame that audience could have been a global one with a little bit more care. As Hazaaron shows, all the necessary pieces are in place!

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- January 22, 2006 11:19 AM // Bollywood , Film , Review

January 18, 2006

Dutch Desi

DutchDesi.jpg

I can't let any more time go by without giving props to Dutch Desi. In addition to being a group blog with nifty topics (eg. Jazzy Qawwali, Bindi Chip, and Virgin Does Manga India), they also update quite regularly. One catch though: it's all in Dutch. Koi baat nahin! No worries though - take this entry excerpt (from Bombay Jazz) for example:

Deze twee kochten in 1996 een grote partij tweedehands Bollywood-platen, en zijn sindsdien hooked, zij omschrijven de filmmuziek als 'Een soort James Bond muziek', 'Sitars, bongo's, big band-blazers en moog-synthesizers. Heel weird allemaal.'

Na veel speuren en onderhandelen in India, masteren in London, voorbereidingen voor de persing in Duitsland(Normal Records) en hoezen drukken in Oost-Europa staan na bijna 10 jaar de eerste twee compilatiealbums op hun eigen label Bombay Jazz op het punt van verschijnen: eentje met funk, en eentje met jazz, swing en rock'n'roll. Het zijn de eerste delen in een lange prestigieuze serie Bollywood-compilaties.

Needs no translation, does it? Or try this one (from Bohemia):

Het is zover, na een semi geslaagde Desi RnB-act is de tijd voor de eerste Desi Rapper die mainstream gaat. What about PMC denken jullie dan, nee een echte rapper of beter gezegd een gangsta rapper.

Bohemia, dropt zijn debuut album in februari en wordt uitgebracht op de label van niemand anders dan de altijd innoverende en mindblowing Bally Sagoo.

Op het album doen niemand anders mee dan de koningin van de bollywood songs Lata Mangeshkar en the top notch gangsta rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg.

Yep, it's all in the funk, man!

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- January 18, 2006 7:55 PM // Diaspora

January 14, 2006

Punching At The Sun

With the Sundance film festival starting soon, DutchDesi tells us about the South Asian presence over there:

"Punching at the Sun," directed and written by Tanuj Chopra -- In the aftermath of 9/11 and his older brother's murder, a fiery South Asian teen struggles to find a path between rage and redemption on the streets of Elmhurst, Queens.

"Man Push Cart," directed and written by Ramin Bahrani -- The story of a former Pakistani rock star who now sells coffee and donuts from his push cart on the streets of Manhattan.

"I is for India" directed and written by Sandhya Suri -- A tale of migration and belonging, told primarily through Super 8 films and audio letters sent between India and England over a period of 40 years.

Punching at the Sun is apparently the first second generation desi feature film (note the qualifiers) to be picked for Sundance. In a rollicking interview with Rediff, director Tanuj Chandra, a film student at Columbia, tells more:

How did you start on this film?

I met a lot of very talented, unique teenagers with great stories to tell, at SAYA! A lot of these teens wouldn't get a shot to act in Bollywood or mainstream cinema – not immediately though. But, to me, they represented a story I wanted to tell. I met one kid in particular that I saw had enormous talent, Misu Khan, who would eventually act in my film.

And:

And why should a desi see it at all?

The film was made for desis. The question really is why shouldn't desis go see it? Because they don't want to see themselves on screen? Because they are happy with the way they are portrayed on TV and in Hollywood? Because they like Apu on The Simpsons? Because they are broke? These are all good reasons for desis not to see Punching at the Sun.

Why is showing the film at Sundance important?

I don't think there has been a second-generation desi feature film ever at Sundance, so it's another glass ceiling we've broken. It's important that our experience is given credibility at top festivals like Sundance. It's progress and I hope to see many more over the years.

What was your reaction when you heard your film had been accepted?

I got drunk, went to my high school reunion and ran my mouth off at non-desis the whole night.

If you were to get an offer to make an out and out commercial film in Hollywood some day, would you accept?

Hell yes. I have to pay back student loans. Does anybody have a gig out there for a desi in LA - LA land? Harold and Kumar Go to Iraq? Holla Back!

The volatile aftermath of 9/11 in NYC has led to a lot of New York based South Asian filmmakers and writers finding their voices. In that context, Punching at the Sun reminded me of Rehana Mirza's play Barriers:

"Barriers" uncovers the silent story of the Muslim families who lost loved ones in the World Trade Center attacks. However, these stories were often overlooked as many Muslim families witnessed their "missing" fliers marred with atrocious vandalism. Asian American Theater Company found Rehana Mirza's script poignantly opened up this untold story and explored the human experiences behind this tragedy," says Sean Lim, Managing Artistic Director of the Asian American Theater Company.

Barriers, which we saw in San Francisco, is a flawed yet powerful work. But, along with Punching At The Sky, it also illustrates the fact that second generation desis are moving on to second generation issues. As Rehana Mirza points out in a Rediff interview for her film Fillum Star: The Peter Patel Story:

Don't you think there have been too many films on desi life in America in the last four years?

I don't think there is a limit [for such films]. Besides, Fillum Star: The Peter Patel Story is different from the films made in the US and Canada.

And why is that?

Many of those films, like American Desi, dealt with identity issues. Some of us are moving beyond that. We are making films now, for example, about the struggle [for meaning] in our communities and in the world at large.


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- January 14, 2006 10:46 AM // Diaspora , Film

January 10, 2006

Worst Band Names

More tips on what to avoid when Naming Your Desi Band. From the Onion AV Club's 2005: The Year In Music comes this list:

Worst Band Names Encountered This Year

Public Display Of Funk
Well Hungarians
Test-Icicles
Snatches Of Pink
Goblin Cock
Swollen Members
Clitastrophy
Libido Funk Circus
Cunninlynguists
Assbaboons Of Venus

Priceless. But wait, there's more:

Best Worst Band Names Encountered This Year

I Will Kill You Fucker
Let's Get Out Of This Terrible Sandwich Shop
The Asshole Two
When Rocky Beat The Russian

In addition, their list of Least Essential Albums of 2005 is similarly hilarious. Consider this gem:

LEAST ESSENTIAL TRIBUTE ALBUM

Various Artists, Back Against The Wall (Cleopatra)

The usual methodology for tribute albums is to gather a bunch of musicians who are sympathetic to another bunch of musicians, then urge the former group to submit a set of highly individualized takes on the songs of the latter group. Producer Billy Sherwood takes a different track for the Pink Floyd tribute Back Against The Wall, which brings together prog-rock all-stars like Adrian Belew, Ian Anderson, Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman, Chris Squire, Dweezil Zappa, and Tommy Shaw, and has them reproduce The Wall almost note for note, right down to David Gilmour's dirty lead guitar and Roger Waters' sarcastic amplified whisper. We don't need no replication!

My personal favorite in the whole piece is the reference to 2Pac's "posthumous work ethic." But the whole article is well worth guffawing over in its entirety.

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- January 10, 2006 7:07 PM // Music

January 5, 2006

Lost and 9/11

Please note, whatever thoughts I have on this series comes after viewing Season One on DVD. I haven't seen any part of Season Two (currently on primetime TV) yet.

Initially, I went into Lost expecting a cross between Survivor and Gilligan's Island. While there were elements of both, the show very quickly staked out its own ground. After a strong opening salvo of episodes, it got bogged down in relationship minutae before recovering for the season finale (which proved to be a riddle wrapped up in an enigma). Soggy middle notwithstanding, Lost's basic premise made for compelling viewing. Beyond the soap opera of the plane survivors, the bikini and beefcake shots and the Lord of the Flies type shenangians, there was something else about the show that resonated deeply with the US audience (and still does). I believe it to be this: the core concept of Lost is a metaphor of the USA's post 9/11 predicament.

The plane strikes of 9/11 thrust the USA in uncharted waters. Suddenly, the world as we knew it had changed. It was full of enemies that could be nowhere and everywhere at the same time. The old laws no longer seemed to apply. Yet, the outpouring of sympathy and affection for the US after the attack, seemed to offer a second chance at creating a new world order, of overcoming whatever "blowback" type policies that had at least partly led to this tragedy. Unfortunately, the subsequent policies of the US government led to the increasing isolation of the country from the rest of the world. Furthermore, within the land itself, a diverse group of people had to find a way of communicating, cooperating and, ultimately, rising above the politics of division and suspicion.

Similarly, Lost starts off with a plane crash, hurtling its motley group of survivors into an island beset by invisible monsters and occurrences that just do not make sense. Polar bears in a tropical island anyone? Additionally, throughout the course of the first season, many of the survivors come to the conclusion they are getting a second chance to right whatever wrong they wrought in their pre-crash lives. This is particularly true of the character Locke who finds himself mysteriously cured of his paralysis immediately after the landing. The survivors themselves represent a cross section of the US population and their initial squabbles and mutual suspicions again look painfully familiar. Witness the early vituperation towards Sayed the Iraqi and the Korean couple who cannot speak English.

Glen Fuller has a great post on the post 9/11 genre of TV shows. His thoughts on Lost are similar:

'We have to get along' trope

The last one to hit my radar is the Lost tv series. Lost is so far the ultimate post-9/11 tv show. My mind boggles at how the creators/writers came up with a tv show that has such a homologous relation to the affective temperament of the post-9/11 audience. Lost is produced for the ABC tv network, filmed on location in Hawaii, and was first broadcast on the 22 September, 2004. The survivors of a plane crash have to learn to 'get along'; from the show's official website:

The band of friends, family, enemies and strangers must work together against the cruel weather and harsh terrain if they want to stay alive. But the island holds many secrets, including the intense howls of the mysterious creatures stalking the jungle, which fill them all with fear.

To trace a line in the universe of Lost and a line in the historical circumstances of 9/11 is very easy.

Lost (Historical circumstances of 9/11)

Plane leaves Sydney. (2000 Sydney Olympics last big global event before 'War on Terror.')

Goes off course, but no one from the 'outside world' knows it because the radio is broken. (Warning signs for a catastrophe go unheaded by the 'government'; failure of 'intelligence services.')

Plane crash. (9/11.)

48 passengers survive. Each major ethnic, racial and class group has some form of representation. (Global response to 9/11 transcended most cultural and political divisions.)

Survivors in constant terror from the strange beasts of the island. ('Survivors' of 9/11 are plunged into a global 'War on Terror.')

And so on. There are countless parallels. My brain hurts and if you watch the show you can find more specific examples.

However, so busy were the Lost creators in setting up their microcosm and the character conflicts and backstories, they didn't seem to get much of a chance to comment on the current state of affairs in the USA. Of course, the timeline gets in the way because the first season of Lost occurs over the first month of the plane crash. It also doesn't make aesthetic sense - setting up a parallel universe is fine but mirroring all the subsequent events is too limiting. However, the season one finale does hint at the start of a schism between Locke, the man of faith and visions, and Jack, the rational man of science. Perhaps this is a commentary on the current US political climate (evolution vs. intelligent design, for example)? There are other allusions that develop late on in the season as well - consider the terrorist acts by "The Others" and the use of torture by the survivors themselves. One theme I did not see much of though was how fear could be used to manipulate folks for your own gains. Perhaps there'll be more of that next season. That the possibility is still open is a measure of the richness of the show's concept.

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- January 5, 2006 6:43 PM // TV

January 4, 2006

Paheli

Apparently Paheli stands for "riddle" in Hindi. First, kudos to Amol Palekar, Shahrukh and Gauri Khan and the rest of the production team on the packaging. The costumes and sets shine, the dances are eye catching, the music is pleasant, and the CGI effects are mostly well blended into the narrative. Even the acting is nowhere near as over-the-top as could be expected. Paheli has been labeled as an experiment and, to its credit, it reaches for something a little different, namely infusing a touch of folksy magic into the story of a lonely newly-wedded wife whose husband has deserted her for family business but whose needs are filled by a ghost. Looking at the premise, it seems it would be hard to get more chick flick than this - not that there's anything wrong with that. But somehow, the whole combination just doesn't generate enough heat for lift-off. The whole affair is strangely leaden and that's the real mystery here. And yes, in case you are wondering, Amitabh Bachchan makes yet another guest appearance in his ongoing attempt to kill any desi version of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon (tentatively titled Zero Degrees of Amitabh Bachchan).

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- January 4, 2006 10:38 PM // Bollywood , Review