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May 25, 2008

Tarsem's AVClub Interview

Following up on my earlier post about The Fall here's a lengthy interview with Tarsem in the Onion's AV Club where he reveals himself to be quite a character. Some excerpts follow.

On his love for his work:

All I can say—a lot of people do music videos so they can do commercials, they do commercials so they can do films. I happen to be like a prostitute in love with the profession. I keep saying, "I'd fuck 'em for free. But they pay me money, and I'm very grateful."

The film required the lead actor, Lee Pace, to play a paralyzed man. Apparently, Tarsem neglected to tell his crew and cast that Lee actually was fine in real life:

I thought, "How long can we carry this façade?" And funny enough—it was such a big lie, it was so audaciously big, and we isolated everybody from everything else, and after about a week and a half, it was absolute. Only one person on the set knew, and that was a nurse who would take him to the toilet. Lee would go to the gym, and once, he said, "Today, I almost got caught, because one of the actors walked right past me!" It was just like nobody could see him walking. They were all day working with him in a wheelchair, so they didn't see him when he was standing up. And a lot of times, with men in the gym, you don't want to look at a person. It's like a nightclub, you know? It might be seen as making a pass. So literally, people don't make much eye contact in a gym. So he'd go to the gym, and just he would see these people and say, "Oh my God, I'm caught!" And they'd walk right by him.

On he was drawn to filmmaking:

Basically, I told my dad that I wanted to study film when I saw a book in India. It said, Guide To Film Schools In America, and it changed my world. If you come from a culture like Japan's or India's, you think you just go to college to study something that you hate and your parents love. And for me to see a book called Guide To Film Schools, it was like a book called How To Sleep With Blondes 101. I said, "I'm fuckin' there!" They teach this in school?

On his journey through film school:

And then the first guy that tried to pick me up on Santa Monica Blvd. was going to City College. And I went out there and realized how great it was, and I got admission straight away. After one term, I realized didn't have any money, so I had a friend register whose name was Randy Marsh, and I got my education under his name. Just made a fake ID, and then I used that to basically make a film that got me a scholarship at the Art Center, changed my name back to the same, and said, "Here I is! Let me fuckin' shoot!"

On his relationship with his parents and reconciling with his estranged father who never forgave him for entering film school:

A little late, I think. He passed away three years ago. But with my mom, it never made a difference. I mean, first-born Indian son—as far as she's concerned, I've shat marbles since I was 2 years old. My dad, no.

On his sensibilities:

And as far as colors—Indians love colors. Especially the poorer you are, the more red and yellow you put in. And let's just say I come from a poor background, and leave it there.

I could go on and on. Do check out the interview - it has a lot more.

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- May 25, 2008 11:47 AM // Film

May 23, 2008

Of Soccer And Coverage ..

Something odd happened when I was in my car yesterday. It was afternoon and I had AM radio going - KNBR 680. It was some kind of national talk show, the kind devoted to endless musings on whatever is hot in the USA at the moment, be they the NBA playoffs, Danica's NASCAR win, ice hockey or baseball, good, solid merkin games created and played in North America.

Only there was one difference. The callers wanted to talk about soccer. Not water polo, not lacross, but football. The global kind, not the American one.

One more thing: the callers weren't on the line with questions about the US soccer league. No, they wanted to vent about the just-concluded Champions League final between Manchester United and Chelsea in Moscow. The announcers wanted to steer the conversation to how soccer could be improved for US consumptions. The callers weren't having any of it. They wanted to talk about the penalty shoot out. They were outraged by the slippery state of the pitch. They were touched by Alex Ferguson's victory dance in the rain.

The announcers, clearly taken aback, could only comment on the sheer volume of people lined up to talk.

I never thought I'd live to see this day. I recall, 20 or so odd years ago, when as a major English Premier League fan, trying to get the latest scores was a fiendishly tough task. Forget any US radio or television, your only hope was the New York Times. Or a short wave radio able to tune into the BBC world service.

We've come a long way indeed. Now, a black man and a white woman can vie for the US Presidency and an Indian American can attract attention as a potential Republican Vice Presidential candidate. And US fans avidly follow a game held in Moscow, Russia.

The personal irony in all of this is I've long given up following the Premiership, preferring baseball instead. So it goes.

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- May 23, 2008 9:18 PM // General

May 17, 2008

The Fall

Director Tarsem Singh Dhandwar's followup to the The Cell is generating attention, not only for its imagery:

an underwater shot of an elephant swimming gracefully overhead, a palace courtyard built out of interlocking staircases that might have been designed by M. C. Escher, a village clinging to a mountainside where all of the buildings seem to have been individually painted in subtly different shades of inky blue.

but also for how the visuals were created:

These images amaze precisely because they are quite evidently real, bursting with the life and detail that elude even the most advanced digital artist. “I decided it wasn’t going to be C.G.I.,” said Tarsem

And, how did Tarsem find the money to shoot all of this?

Then he went to work on the fantasy sequences, saving time and money by piggybacking on his commercial assignments. “I shot first in India, then in Namibia. The crew got smaller and smaller. I would only do adverts in areas where I wanted to shoot: China, Argentina, Bali.”


“Had a studio done what he did, it would have been an $80 million movie. But he’s so experienced at it and knows people in all these countries and knows how to shoot with a tiny crew. That’s how he got away with it. But still, he spent his own money, which is insane.”

On the insanity issue, Tarsem concurs: “It had to be made by somebody at a mad junction in his life.”

Ha! The Onion's AV club writes of the film that "it's the most glorious, wonderful mess put onscreen since Terry Gilliam's Brazil."

The trailer is here:

and another extended sequence:

Should be glorious eye candy.

Update: Hidef trailer here.

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- May 17, 2008 9:07 AM // Film

May 10, 2008

Popular Desi Baby Names In the USA

The US Social Security Administration has released, on the eve of Mother's Day, their annual list of the top 1000 most popular baby names for the preceding year. Forget web searches and all that, this is what parents are actually naming their kids. In summary:

Emily has topped the list since 1996. Jacob has done so since 1999. Elizabeth returns to the top ten after a two year absence.

I was curious how many (if any) desi names made the list for 2007. So, I took a look and here's what I found on the boys' side:

510. Rohan
729. Arjun
749. Aditya
821. Nikhil
829. Samir
881. Pranav
958. Rishi
959. Arnav

Quite frankly, I was surprised to see so many. But perhaps if you think about proportions, 8 out of 1000 is 0.8%, roughly 1%, which is in line with the size of the desi diaspora in the USA. I'll have to look at the lists from previous years to see if there's been an uptick. One notable omission, as noted by the SSA themselves:

Although “American Idol’s” Sanjaya did not influence this year’s list, other young celebrities influenced the naming of American children.

Heh, heh. As for the girls, another surprise - I only found Maya at position 62. The other name that came close was Saniyah at 565. There were two others, "India" at 690 and "Karma" at 859 but those aren't names desi parents assign to their daughters, not that I've heard of anyway.

You can find the lists here.

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- May 10, 2008 10:22 AM // General

May 7, 2008

CA Cash For Kal

In "Your lost cash just waiting for a reunion", San Jose Mercury News' Patty Fisher writes:

If you haven't checked the state's unclaimed property registry lately, you could be costing yourself some bucks. That utility deposit you didn't bother to get back when you moved, the safety deposit box you forgot to clean out, a gift certificate you didn't get around to using - they all could be listed at www.ClaimIt.ca.gov.

The database includes millions of names, and billions of unclaimed dollars. Even if yours isn't there, it's great fun to search. Clint Eastwood has $300 in salary coming from MGM Studios - probably a rounding error. Lindsay Lohan has an outstanding legal award of $1,559.80. Steve Jobs can claim a $120 from an insurance company and Larry Ellison has $59.30 coming from Hertz. My neighbors Judy and Richard are due more than $200 from various insurance claims and deposits.

Call me voyeuristic, call me a good samaritan, whatever, I couldn't resist the urge to see whether any California company owed any money to the desi diaspora's finest. Of course, first I had to try my own name. Nothing. No overlooked rent deposit or gift certificate. After that initial search, I tried putting in some of the brighter names in the desi firmament. And was surprised to see some actually come up. Here's what I found:

Deepak Chopra
The web site came up with a couple of hits. I ignored the fellow living in the Bay Area and picked the entries with the Palos Verdes address. Here's what I found:

Deepak Chopra Claim I

That's right. Allstate owes $48 to Dr. Chopra. Somehow, I doubt he'll be rushing to collect it anytime soon, flush as he is.

Another entry was this:

Deepak Chopra Claim II

What kind of court settlement? The good doctor has been in the courts a fair amount but this amount of money is piffle, barely enough to buy one or two of his hardbacks. What could it be? Neighbors playing Van Halen too loud perhaps? The mind boggles.

Vinod Khosla

Vinod Khosla Claim II

These were all for prescription overpayments, the well known (and exceedingly well off) venture capitalist presumably not needing to bother with insurance co-payments like the rest of us mere mortals.

Kal Penn

KalPenn Claim

Paydirt! Kal Penn is owed a cool $5K for his acting services. I know brother is living large what with Harold and Kumar doing boffo box office but I am sure this is still not chump change territory. Hey Kal, throw me a 10% finders fee when you claim the money, will ya? :-)

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- May 7, 2008 9:26 PM // Diaspora , General