Impressions 'n Expressions

Location: Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India

The permanent temptation of life is to confuse dreams with reality. The permanent defeat of life is when dreams are surrendered to reality.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Smoking thrills

Welcome to the new age of cinema.

No Smoking is a self indulgent journey into the mind of the artist thru' his work. This is Anurag Kashyap making the kind of movie he wants... for himself, without pandering to the expectations of an audience. He doesn't give you what you expect and he certainly is not apologetic about it either. Like all good movies, it demands audience involvement and doesn't provide you with easy answers...if it provides any answers at all. True it is not perfect and one can find a lot of faults with it, especially the second half, which tends to plod a little bit, but rest assured, this is a surreal, claustrophobic, metaphysical journey that eschews everything movie making is supposed to be in today's world of candy floss entertainment. For all those interested in movies as an experience to discuss and debate…No Smoking is your kind of movie.

The plot for whatever that can be gathered, revolves around K a self centered, successful and arrogant protagonist working in one of those anonymous swanky jobs. He is a compulsive smoker who is persuaded by one of his friends to approach Baba Bengali, who runs something like a de-addiction center, to get rid of the nicotine habit. After being forced to sign a contract, K finds that Baba Bengali uses rather unconventional methods to persuade K to give up smoking. Anurag Kashyap essentially uses the plot point of one of the short stories by Stephen King as a jumping off point and uses smoking as a plot device (ostensibly to get past the censors?) and a metaphor to address issues of 'choice', 'free will', individualism' and more while channelizing Kafka, Goethe and Ayn Rand among others. There are a host of other subplots that can probably only be best answered by Anurag himself. The narrative is linear enough, but linearity itself doesn't mean it is easy to understand. Using visual imagery Anurag conjures up a world that evokes visions of hell and nightmares, alternating between reality and dreams. The main theme is about how the individual spirit is always waging a war against a system of conformity...K stands for all those who are fighting to be an individual in a world that demands conformity. Even as K repeats to himself, 'No one tells me what to do'..we all know that for him there will be no redemption in any conventional sense...'cause in the end we have to sell our soul to follow to be a part of the system - Goethe?

In a movie that is chiefly a vehicle for the director to showcase himself, acting was always going to take a backseat, but most of the major actors acquit themselves favourably. I was impressed by John Abraham in the role of K. The protagonist, K, is not a wholly developed character...he is just an idea of a particular kind of person and John pitches it very well.

Visually the movie is stunning and an achievement by itself. This is one of Rajeev Ravi’s better works yet and arguably among the top this year in Indian cinemas. Among the highlights are K's descend to the prayogshala which is eerie and spooky and the beautiful yet mysterious imagery generated by the nightmare sequence in Siberia.

It is debatable if smoking was the right choice as a metaphor...but it works in a warped way, 'cause smoking is always associated with something that is bad and wrong and treading a path that is different has also being frowned upon. I guess No Smoking is Anurag's way of saying go fuck yourselves...this is the kind of movie I make and whether you like it or not is not my problem - though deep inside he will be hoping to find an audience for it too. Some may argue that the business of making movies is exactly that, a business and that involves commercial considerations too. But if a director finds a producer who understands the commercial (un)viability of the enterprise and is yet willing to back his vision to bring out a particular representation of art out...who are we to criticize. For too long we have been fed trite, expensive and vapid features as movies, I guess it is time we start acquiring taste for better cinemas and though movies like No Smoking may not be perfect, it is a step in the right direction towards meaningful cinemas.

Though a lot of questions will remain unanswered after the end of the screening, ultimately, No Smoking will lend itself to more discussions and dissections and will attain the status of a cult movie.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


jeene ke liye...socha hi na tha, dard sambhalane honge
muskuraoon to...muskurane ki, karz utaarne honge
muskuraoon lagata hai jaise
hontonn pe karz rakhaa hai
tujhase naaraaz nahi zindagi, hairaan hoon main
tere masoom savalon se pareshaan hoon main

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Iceman at Interlagos, Brazil

Kimi Matais Raikkonen, the World Drivers Champion 2007.

Now, who would have thought that two weeks a month back...with two races to go and 17 points behind leader 'rookie' Lewis - I use the word rookie very loosely here. No driver has come as prepared into the gruelling cauldron of F1 like Lewis Hamilton. From the age of 10 he was groomed to be formula 1 and McLaren have been polishing and fine tuning him to be their ace in the pack and on his debut season gave him a bulletproof machine that was not only fast...but extremely reliable. Deliver he did, from the first race in Australia till Japan less than a month away before self destructing magnificently, proving to most outside UK that beyond all the hyperbole of him being the greatest F1 driver ever...he was just another rookie. He screwed up twice in a matter of two sundays to handover an unlikely victory to Kimi ' the iceman' Raikkonen. McLaren and teh whole of the British will cry hoarse that it was McLaren's fault and not Lewis's, but it was apparent to everyone that it was he who drove the silver car into the gravel in Shanghai and it was he who went on to the grass when he unnecessarily tried to take back a place from Alonso losing places before accidently hit the neutral switch that lost him 30 seconds and the drivers title.

No one will grudge Kimi this title. Surely it looked like a third time unlucky for him after missing out on the 2003 and 2005 titles to Schumacher and Alonso. But driving like a dream in the second half of the season, he not only upstaged his team mate Felipe Massa, but also slowly but steadily caught up with the leaders and then amassed an amazing 26 points in the last three races to snatch the title away by just 1 point. Kimi also won 6 races this season to 4 each for Lewis and Alonso and set 7 fastest lap races for the season. Massa has to be thanked for his supporting role and though he wanted to go for the win himself, he knew that if Kimi stood a chance he had to move over...but it must be said, aided by a small mistake by Massa, Kimi on sheer pace came out in front of his team mate.

The title may yet change hands as McLaren has appealed against a technical infringment by the BMW and the Williams cars and the disqualification of the cars will elevate Lewis's points making him the 2007 WDC. It would be shame if Lewis wins the title on court when he and McLaren managed lose it on the track and F1 will not cover itself in glory if that happens.

So that brought to an end one of the most exciting of F1 season. 2008 promises and Lewis will am sure come back with experience under his belt, but it remains to be seen if McLaren can deliver a good car for two seasons in a row, else Lewis will be fighting with the midfield and then we will know how good the 'greatest' F1 driver of all time will fare, cause it was evident that he had problem making crucial decisions. Kimi as usual will be fast and will be in contention as will be Alonso whichever team he will be driving. Massa will definetly mix himself in the fray, so will Kubica, Heidfeld, Kovalainen and Vettal.

Oh, did I mention that we will have an Indian team among the lineup for the 2008 season

Monday, October 08, 2007

Formula One

The refreshing smoothness of Old Monk, corrupted slightly by a heavy fizz of Diet Coke went quite nicely with the heavy roars of 900 bhp engines revving at almost 19000 rpms in the penultimate race of the 2007 F1 season, held at Shanghai, China...and what a race it turned out to be, setting up the finale of an intriguing season just perfectly. Interlagos, we come.

Dateline October 21.

Timeline 2130hrs IST.

'...and when the five red lights go out, the 2007 Brazilian Grand Prix is on to decide the WDC in one of the most closely fought F1 seasons in a long time.'

No doubt, 2006 was close after Ferrari's and a certain Schumacher's resurgence during the second half of the season, only to implode at the Japanese circuit when the normally reliable Ferrari engine failed in spectacular fashion to handover the title to Alonso in the final race at Brazil. The year before that, McLaren's incredibly quick but extremely fragile car failed to hold together for Kimi to outlast an amazingly reliable Renault, driven home to both the WCC and the WDC titles by Fernando Alonso. The three drivers in the mix to come up trumps two weeks from now include the two time world champion Fernando Alonso, rookie Lewis Hamilton and the Finn Kimi Raikkonnen. While the three of them fancy their chances, its obviously Hamilton's to lose now as he just needs to finish the race in the top four to be hailed as the 2007 WDC.

But the vagaries of sports is such that beyond making a calculated guess about the outcome, there is no certainty, as there are a host of outside parameters that can come into play. So with all to play for, the fans of F1 can look forward to a weekend that promises to bring to an end one of the most exciting championship battles in recent times.

I will be rooting for Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonnen to do the improbable and come out of this holding the WDC 2007 trophy. He is a true racing driver..not really bothered too much about the politics behind this multi-billion dollar sports. Not that he is a great advertisement for the sport...but no one can accuse him of being unfair or obnoxious. If he says he doesn't care who he drives alongside with...he truly doesn't care.

Lewis drove impeccably in most of his races, though the tag about him being in the same league as Senna, Proust or Schumacher is just hyperbole. In the first year of his F1 career, Lewis has been blessed with an amazingly reliable McLaren that was also one of the two quickest cars this year. Also, unlike Alonso, he didn't have to adapt to a new set of tyres - one of the most important component of an F1 car. He has also managed to cash in on the misfortunes of his championship contenders by being consistently able to bring his car to the finish. Reliabilty issues that dogged the Ferrari's during the early part of the season also played a part in giving Lewis enough room to play with his destiny. All this, is not intended to cast doubt on Lewis's ability, like they say, to come first you have to finish ahead of your competitors, and that he has done that. But the media frenzy with respect to Lewis has become something of a distraction and Lewis has also learned to use them to suit his interests. He has moved away from the image of a naive lil protégé to that of unctuous and occasionally smooth operator. We mustn't forget that he started the train of bitter and acrimonious chain of events that led to the feud between him and Alonso. First he complained that the team was not allowing him to race (Monaco) and then openly defied team orders in Hungary. So he can't cloak himself in the holier-than-thou attitude. Granted Alonso is as temperamental as they come - almost a caricature, but am sure he deserved the respect that is normally accorded to a world champion...especially as he has come fresh after beating The Great One.

To highlight Ferrari's slow start to the season, here are some interesting numbers.

Lewis has had an amazing start to the season, but if you look at the last 10 races, Kimi has consistently outscored or outdriven him and scored more points than him.

Last 10 races (Since Indianapolis)

Kimi : 73 [4 Wins, 2 Second, 2 Third, 1 Fourth, 1 DNF]
Alonso : 63 [2 wins, 3 Second, 2 Third, 1 Fourth, 1 Seventh, 1 DNF]
Lewis : 59 [3 Wins, 1 Second, 2 Third, 1 Fourth, 1 Fifth, 1 DNF, 1 NP]
Massa : 53 [1 Win, 3 Second, 2 Third, 1 Fifth, 1 Sixth, 1 DNF, 1 NP]

This just goes to show how a bad start to your season can have a considerable effect on the chances for Championships. Ferrari had the same problem last year and it is being repeated this year too. Last year it cost Micheal Schumacher the WDC and this year, it will cost Kimi Raikkonnen too...barring a miracle.

But, whoever wins this year...he can be proud and he will be deserved winner.

Bring on the Old Monk...