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In a life time spent watching, loving and living cinema, which one do I like the most?

Movies have been an integral part of my life for as long as I can remember. It’s the case with most of us, and we all have our own tastes and preferences.

If I like a film, I watch it again and again. And if I don’t like a film in the first 20 minutes or so, I would never watch it in spite of what the reviewers say.

And of late, I have started a pretty decent collection of DVDs of films that are my favorites.

I truly believe that variety is the spice of life, so I pretty much love films across most genres, languages, and ages. Depending on my mood, I could be watching a slap stick Crazy Mohan film, or a profound Guru Dutt one, or a Tarantino blood gore. Sometimes I get involved and study the message, but mostly I just like to have a good laugh.

So, I thought I’ll share my list of most favorite films ever. It would be difficult to pick out a top 5/10 as such, but what was not difficult was picking what dessert I love the most in a table full of goodies. I would write about THAT one film, I would place above all as to my definition of the film that impacts me the most.

To start with, here is the list of my all time favorite films (my top 33, why 33? Because I like that number!), in alphabetical order:

  • 3 Idiots (Hindi)
  • 3.10 to Yuma (English)
  • Anand (Hindi)
  • Anbe Sivam (Thamizh)
  • Ardh Satya (Hindi)
  • Casablanca (English)
  • Chupke Chupke  (Hindi)
  • Crash (English)
  • Dark Knight (English)
  • Das Leben Der Anderen / Lives of others (German / English)
  • Edhir Neechal (Thamizh)
  • Gladiator (English)
  • Good Will Hunting (English)
  • Inglorious Basterds (English)
  • Kadhalikka Neramillai (Thamizh)
  • Kill Bill – Part II (English)
  • Lage Raho Munnabhai (Hindi)
  • Lakshya (Hindi)
  • Michael Madana Kama Rajan (Thamizh)
  • Mouna Ragam (Thamizh)
  • My cousin Vinny (Englsih)
  • Nayagan (Thamizh)
  • Nuovo Cinema Paradiso (Italian)
  • Psycho (Englsih)
  • Pyaasa (Hindi)
  • Scent of a woman (English)
  • Shichinin no samurai (Japanese)
  • Shiva (Telugu)
  • Shrek (English)
  • The good, the bad, the ugly (Italian / English)
  • The Shawshank Redemption (English)
  • Thillu Mullu (Thamizh)
  • Vita E Bella / Life is beautiful (Italian / English)

 Now the one I love the most, is a left field pick, and a film that moves me personally like no work of fiction has. It’s Guru Dutt’s Pyaasa. 

There are stories, movies, epics and box office hits. But to me Pyaasa is all that and more – it’s a masterpiece from a man who gave us many gems, died tragically young like most geniuses, and would have no idea a film he made 6 decades back could still strike a chord with so many people young and old. 

Pyaasa is the story of Vijay, a penniless, support less poet who struggles to make the world realize the beauty of his work. It’s the story of his relationships with the world,  and two women in particular, and his eventual reorganization and fame.

 If you haven’t seen it yet, get a DVD and watch it soon. (There is a Moser Baer DVD available in all stores across India). Its dark, sad, poignant, profound, subtle, leaves you worried if you get involved, but climaxes into something beautiful, hopeful and cheerful. In fact, Johnny Walker’s “Sar jo Tera Takrayey”, and the beauty in the climax are the only moments of genuine joy in a depressing story.

 Now, why do I love it so much? Here are some random reasons:

  1. It’s the story of an idealistic, honest, straightforward, talented man, fighting against the world, and coming out on top, but not spilt by the success. That’s the kind of man I would want to be
  2. It’s an Indian movie, and from one of the finest movie makers we have produced. Guru Dutt’s life and his tragic story, make the character so real
  3. A beautiful end that suggests that amidst all the dark and gloom, there is always a bright shining light. To an eternal optimist like me, it appeals tremendously, much as Shawshank Redemption did.
  4. The brilliant songs and their profound lyrics. They complement the film so bloody well.
  5. The usage of light and shade, close-ups that portray the deep thoughts of the characters…it’s almost as if I feel the characters alive. Destiny ensured that it was a black and white film, and I just can’t imagine it being as vivid with a modern color print.
  6. A Bollywood movie sans item numbers, rape scenes, masala dialogues, fights, lavish sets loud actors or lengthy dialogues, and full of subtlety. That’s the kind of movies we were capable of making 60 years ago.
  7. It tells me life is a zero sum game; for every jerk we meet in life, we have a true friend, and for every man / woman who betrays us, we manage to find a soul who loves us purely. There is a nice balance to it
  8. It’s a timeless movie. Would make sense and appeal eternally.
  9. The fact the Guru Dutt insisted on the climax as it is now, and ensured that Vijay does not compromise with the world for material reward, and chooses to be his own man.
  10. The message that true talent, self belief, and passion, ultimately wins over all other factors, no matter what the struggles are. To put in modern jargon – content is king! 
  11. It breaks all stereotypes for that period; some of these stereotypes still persist. For example, the character of Gulabo the hooker, is unlike any other portrayals of such people.

Ironically, it’s a film I would find to difficult to watch many times, because of the intensity. I would rather stick to a comedy for that, but then that’s the beauty of cinema – there’s always a story for every occasion and mood! But most people who review the film stereotype it as dark. It is for most parts yes, but I don’t think most of them get the raw and pure beauty of Vijay and Gulabo.

A very well written tribute to the film is from the TIME magazine, which included it among a handful of Indian films, as one of the top 100 films of all time.  

Read it at: http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1953094_1953146_1953989,00.html

 Cheers!

Vasu

P.S: I sort of like 33 as a number. It’s got two threes, and 0.33 is 1/3rd  or 33.33%. 0.22 is not ½ or 22.22 % 🙂

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Doing what you love doing for a life time and excelling at it – a case of 3 role models

Act  1: 15 grand slam titles, 4 different surfaces, one cool Swiss man. 

On a hot summer day, when cooling off at home was the best option, or basking by the glorious River Rhine was the fashionable thing to do in Basel, I made my way to a specific restaurant / café in town. I wouldn’t have been anywhere else if anybody  paid me a million Swiss francs. There is nothing special about this place, it’s just another restaurant around Barfusserplatz that serves coffee, drinks, sandwiches and crepes. But this place is close to my heart nevertheless.

Cut to India in early January, me and a bunch of my close friends in Bangalore were watching the Australian open finals.  Federer was beaten and broken in a heart breaking, gut wrenching epic against Rafael Nadal. As a hard-core Federer fan, I had a grudging admiration of Nadal’s powers. There were a few voices including me that said, Fedex will be back, and Rafa cannot go on forever with his style of play. Our voices were feeble, as we felt our hero going down. But that’s not how the man himself saw it and that is the stuff that separates the champions from us.

On my first weekend in Basel, I was at the club where he grew up playing tennis and I had goose bumps all over me. Later, on a hot Sunday afternoon in Mid may,  I made my way to the crepe shop where the pair were in another final showdown, this time at the Spaniard’s home turf of Madrid. Federer went on to beat him, and I scented something was brewing. From then, I have been to that shop every time Federer plays and he has won every time. He went on to win that elusive French open, and that incredible Wimbledon finals where he wrote another record of 15 grand slam titles. For the records, I did not watch his US open finals there, and you could say that’s why he lost!

What is it that makes an Indian man, who plays a little tennis at the amateur level, go crazy over a racket wielding Swiss man? Sports, arts, cinema, and music transcend all barriers of race, culture, sex, and age. I am every bit a huge Federer supporter as anybody from Basel, and its all down to that man’s aura, incredible longevity in a fact paced game, and the will to push beyond all records and keep going higher. 

15 grand slam titles, 4 different surfaces, a bunch of challenging opponents including that mountain of a man – Rafa, 237 consecutive weeks and may more as world number 1, playing top-notch tennis at the age of 28, when he should rightfully be changing nappies and giving commentary by most yardsticks. Phew, that’s my all time favorite player there even if he did not have any of those records, just for his style of play.

 Act 2: The man with many faces, who is one of India’s lest celebrated cinema jewels. 

A few months earlier there were a series of shows and events organized across the southern Indian state of Tamilnadu,  to celebrate one man’s achievements. It’s a state where heroes are made and brought down on a daily basis, and where benchmarks for excellence in arts / sports / politics are shockingly low. Its pretty easy to whip up a media frenzy and create a hype around anybody, but on this rare occasion the entire state and knowledgeable people from across the country, stood up and took notice, and gave this man every bit of attention he deserved.

Tamilnadu is where I am from, and though I have not lived there for a while, I am a proud Tamilian. Of the few living people who make me proud of being a Tamilian, Kamal Hassan is pretty much one of the biggest names.

Kamal Hassan is a sworn atheist and communist and you can see that in most of his movies; I don’t have any issues with atheism as long as atheists don’t try to impose their views (which is akin to religious conversion and ideological extremism), and while Communism is a good utopian idea, when it goes wrong, as it often does, it goes terribly wrong. In spite of these difference of views, millions of people like me would watch every film of his, and we would watch many of his films over and over again.  I grew up watching his films, went on to watch many more films of the world in different languages, and spanning genres. Without sounding patronizing to a man from my part of the world, I can say he is one of the best movie makers the world has seen. 

Here are some select, lesser acknowledged facts that support my case: An acting, movie making, writing & singing career spanning 100s of films over 50 years; 7 entries to the best foreign film at the Oscars; 4 national awards; 19 film fare awards; an entry in Time magazine’s list of “Top 100 films ever made”; an incredible variety of characters, most notably a short midget, an autistic person, a woman, and 10 different roles in the same movie; all of the above are Indian records, and span movies across  5 distinct Indian languages;  a  Padmashri award to boot. 


Act  3: The boy genius who is still a cheeky little boy at heart, but a towering giant of a man in stature.  

A few days back, Indian cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar passed a very rare milestone, in a career full of milestones. He has been playing for twenty years since the age of 16, and it’s a phenomenal achievement by any yard stick. The tributes have been pouring in from  every nook and corner of India, and cricket lovers across the world have taken notice. Sachin is NOT one of my favorite cricketers, for highly subjective perceptions (such as playing for records, not finishing too many games with a win as he should have),  and his style of play from an aesthetic point of view. None of these are hard facts and each one is free to have his perception. But a career of 20 years, 30K odd international runs, 87 centuries, countless man of the match and man of the series awards, wickets, catches and victories, are hard numbers that can never be ignored, or even matched.

He has too many well cherished records for me to list here, but there has always been a section of naysayers who doubt him. I have been in that list, and I can tell you that we all make the mistake of not acknowledging that he is judged with a very different prism from the rest.

I mean there is even a xenophobic zealot accusing him for saying that he is an Indian first and a Mumbaikar later. Give me a break guys. Let us for once, forget all the scrutiny of his words and actions, the  detailed statistical analysis of his career, and just celebrate Sachin for what he is!

In spite of the various opinions on his place among cricketing legends,  I put him right up there with the very best in the world in any field when it comes to passion for your job, career longevity, single minded focus to excel, and carrying your celebrity status in the most ideal manner possible.


The takeaways (I know this sounds like a consulting jargon, but let me use that for the lack of a better word…) 

The  most obvious common factor to these set of people was that they were destined to achieve greatness by virtue of being gifted with an abundance of abilities. Not everybody is as lucky, but if I choose to ignore the element of luck, I can think of a few unique traits that we all can try and adopt from them (results not guaranteed, but the effort is worth it!) 

  1. Choosing the field you love,  and doing it for as long as you are meeting the highest standards in it
  2. Allowing yourself to learn & grow, in an environment where you focus only on what you love doing,  and let everything else remain a lower priority
  3. A certain stubbornness / pig headedness that appears arrogant,  but is  actually based on tremendous self-awareness
  4. An oceanful of sheer sweat and blood
  5. Constantly re inventing yourself and keeping yourself contemporary, and up to any new challenge
  6. Carrying the attention, and scrutiny of your success with humility and ease.
  7. Staying young at heart
  8. Being tremendously competitive without ever being disrespectful to opponents / peers 

I must say the above is a bloody tough list to follow, but I find it useful  to have it noted somewhere nevertheless. Sometimes, we can learn so much by watching the lives of others unfold in front of us…

Friends, Jazz, Rain & Bombay

Well the title sums up the weekend that was.

It was one of the better weekends in the charming little town of Basel, Switzerland, where I have been living last six months. I have a lot of socializing opportunities with expat groups, travel groups, tennis club friends, and friends from work. I feel so much at ease with my circle of friends in Basel, that I can call it my third home after Chennai (where I was born and partly grew up), and Bangalore (where I spent most of my adult life).

 It started with my Brit friend (Cumbrian lass as she calls herself) H’s birthday party on Friday evening. Now H was a wonderful host and I have no words to describe how well organized and fun the event at her place was. To top it all, there were 3 men and some 10 women, and you can’t ask for more luck in life  I was amazed at how well maintained her place was (mine is a perennial mess in spite of being half the size of her place), how well planned she was with the music, drinks and snacks. Now if ever I have to throw a house party in Basle, this would pretty much be my benchmark.

There were a lot of common friends from previous events and I also bumped into a lot of new friends. There were a lot of interesting conversations before we all started dancing, and in particular I remember touching upon a rough comparison of how friendly or not the Swiss, French, German, and English are. Since I was with people mostly from UK or its former colonies, it was no surprise as to who were considered the coolest lot. But my take was simple, utopian and idealistic: every person is about as friendly as you are irrespective of race, religion, color, age, or sex! To me, everyone is as cool or uncool as every other one, and the only thing that matters is how friendly and open you are. As you guessed nobody took me seriously, but being disagreed with and / or saying something not popularly accepted, has never stopped me from calling it as I saw it!

Later that night we headed to Noohn, one of the chic lounge bars in town. Now this is another interesting thing about Basel – there are about 4-5 hot spots a few streets apart in town, where most people are headed to on the weekends. The chances of meeting a familiar face are phenomenally high, and I have taken to this small town culture like a fish takes to water. The ladies stayed on till fairly late in the night and I left early. I can’t stand smoke for too long and I am not too much a late night party person in any case. I had such great fun overall that I didn’t bother eating much…now that’s a rarity for a big foodie like me 🙂

Saturday was mostly a damp squib with the overcast weather and my laziness. The only good thing I did was to make up my mind to review, refine, and publish a lot of un published blogs lying as silent documents on my laptop. I had all the time and inclination in the world to do just that Me and my Indian friend V was yearning for a men’s night out in Basel, and my reputation as being clued onto every exciting event or place in Basel was at stake. We headed out first to the formal and relatively sophisticated “Birds eye jazz club”. Now the most interesting thing about this club to me is that on my very first day in Basel, after a long flight from India, I headed there and had my first conversation in Switzerland with a cute girl out there. And she was there yesterday as well. That’s how Déjà vu should be:)

We listened to a pretty good “Bakustic jazz” show from a band that looked and sounded pretty much Middle Eastern. We had a 12 CHF entry free and while we felt that there was a value for money, there was some spark, or excitement that was missing. That being the case we headed to a very ghettoish Cargo Bar, right by the bank of the Rhine River, and every bit as the name sounds! There we hear the most awesome jazz band in ages play and they all looked like university students. I wish I can get their name and get a CD of them, they were simply mind blowing. My mind was wavering to how the music scene in India is. I think we have a really strong classical, and film music tradition. But up until the last decade or so, I really did not find our youth bands come up with anything spectacular. I guess it’s fairly harsh to say, and my knowledge is limited, but I did feel that we were not creative and original enough. Whilst on this topics, I’ve got to say that a couple of my Indian friends in good old Bangalore are budding musicians who have their successful bands. Ananth Menon is part of Bangalore’s top notch band “Galeej Gurus”, and Aditya Vikram Mukherjee is the lead singer with “Today’s special” and Cheese. If any of you reading this happen to be in Bangalore, don’t miss my friends’ shows. That’s pretty much as good as it gets back home! You could hear a sampling of Aditya singing here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_IpXnJac7m4

Sunday morning was as lazy as Saturday, and in the evening my American friend S reminded me of our plan to watch a film. This is part of a series of Inter cultural films playing in a small theater in Basel, with an intro and discussion session. Today, it was the Indian film “Bombay”, in my native Tamil language with German sub titles. I made it a point to go and check out how people perceive a film that pretty much symbolizes where I am from. I realized pretty late than S is just learning German, and it was so sweet of her to agree to watch the film in any case, with my translation every time there was a song (that’s why Indian films are so uniquely useful!)

Bombay was a pretty good choice too, as most western audiences equate Indian films to the meaningless SRK – Karan Johar movies. Well they too are Indian films, but they are not the only Indian films. That’s a huge topic in itself, and may be you could start by reading my responses to an article in Hindustan Times.  Check “Reflecting countries and cultures and crossing cultures in movies” at: http://blogs.hindustantimes.com/expat-on-the-edge/2009/11/04/reflecting-countries-and-cultures-and-crossing-cultures-in-movies/

While, not one my favorite films, it’s a good film with a universal message, and it was interesting to hear S, who had little trouble understanding the movie say how the visuals were so brilliant, and helped her follow the key messages. I wouldn’t expect anything less from Mani Ratnam, a master craftsman, and one of India’s finest directors. A. R Rahman’s music was also thoroughly lapped up by the audience, and it’s a pity that Slumdog Millionaire, and that irritating Jai Ho song won him an Oscar, when you consider that a phase of his career which included Roja, Bombay, Dil Se, was one of his finest ever, and hardly got noticed outside India.

 We had a fascinating conversation over Italian Pizza and German beer (now that’s a combination made in heaven) about religious identities, secularism, our lack of understanding of different religions and yada yada.

In the course of an eventful weekend, I lost my umbrella and cap at different places, and should have been pissed with my terrible absent mindedness. But sometimes when things are going well, when you’ve had a nice time, and when life is as exciting as it can be, you could just ignore the rain & cold conditions, forget who and where you are, and just run hard with the rain on your face and a huge grin over nothing in particular. That’s what I just did…

Cheers!

Vasu

P.S: If you liked this post, youmay also enjoy reading: https://vasusworld.wordpress.com/2010/04/23/the-singing-sensation-the-ultimate-bathroom-singing-list-the-band/

Hello world!

Hello world!

This is not my first blog, but it’s my first at word press. After irrationally switching blogs from different sites just to see if I am more active with it, I am here!

Sounds fairly stupid, but what is a life without any stupidity or silly acts?

My “About me” section is not going to tell you anything, and most probably a few good friends would be the only people to read his blog to start with, so I thought I would start with a short intro and a long list of topics I want to write about.

I am an Indian man, in late twenties, single, working in business consulting, and living in Europe after seeing a few snippets of other countries. The rest, you either know if you are a friend, or would know if and when you read my blogs.

So without further ado, here is a very ambitious list of topics close to my heart that I have strong views on, and where I wish to write, and get critical feedback on: 

  1. The story of my experiments with charting my own path to life:
  2. Role models:
  3. Indian politics and social issues
  4. Religion & faith
    • Religious, ideological and cultural dogmas that ail the world
    • Can you be rational, liberal and not a communist
    • Can you be a believer, spiritual, and not religious?
    • The supremely powerful entity called I
  5. Globalization: the Good, the bad, and the Ugly
  6. Us and them: Impact of globalization on India:
  7. Relationships
    • Why do we complicate, essentially simple things?
    • Inter cultural relationships: why I find the concept so exciting!
    • From an Indian perspective: why are most Indian men jeans wearing patriarchs?  Family system and feudal mindset vs. western inspired romantic and sexual awakening: where is this clash going?
  8. Travelogues from planned and spontaneous, long, and short trips, to faraway lands, or nearby villages
  9. Funny / light hearted tales from everyday life
  10. The life of an expat
  11. Movies I have loved and watched over and over again
  12. My bucket list of whims and fancies that posses me, what I managed to do, and what are still pipe dreams: Ranging from owning  a German Shepherd, to making a film,  to climbing Everest
  13. Epics and mythologies: what we can learn from them, and what should be taken with a pinch of salt
  14. The big, bad, virtual world: How a lot of us have learnt a lot using the internet vs. how stunted our social skills could become due to / in spite of social networking
  15. Links to interesting blogs / articles / videos  that I have an opinion on, or that I find just plain funny
  16. Quotes and statements that resonate with me 

That’s it for the lofty plan! 

I have started at this website by sharing links to a few select blogs I wrote earlier, and are dated pretty much mid 2007

Cheers!

Vasu

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