Tuesday, July 27, 2010


A bit upset about a man that I knew only from newspapers. PG Tenzing is no more. Like all mavericks that are bound to follow, and countless before. Like....this fellow I never knew.
I love them mavericks. I think I will love your book PG.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Inception, The Movie

Spoiler Warning: Please do not read this if you plan to watch the “Inception.” This might plant some ideas that are not supposed to be yours.

Written, produced, and directed by Chirstopher Nolan

This was one the most stressful movies for me – ever. Why? You just couldn’t afford to walk out of the movie hall not understanding it. A few of my friends and colleagues had already watched it and they liked it. And the rumor mills suggested that those who did not like the movie had not understood it! That’s like damned if you don’t.

The idea behind the movie is good and simple. Get into people’s subconscious minds, plant an idea, and let it grow. Simple ideas are so beautiful that they continue to wow us whenever they appear. So far, so good.

The visual effects were amazing – in exactly one scene in the whole movie – where the whole world kind of inverts while the lady architect learns Projections 101. Ok, if you want to be generous, the van slow motion scene or the zero gravity fight scene may help stifle a yawn or two. We have seen the rest of the stuff before (earth trembling, waves crashing, buildings crumbling etc.). Btw, there is a public interest litigation filed in the Supreme Court to ask the Censor Board to remove all future scenes that shows a shaking glass with a little bit of water in it whenever there’s a slight tremor in a movie.

One thing I liked about the movie is the time-elongation part when you go into the dreams. Imagine a real life project management situation - you have a project that’s due in a day and your colleague tells you s/he needs another ten days to complete it. What do you do? Till now all that one could do was put up a brave face and a fake smile that hides a snigger, give a pat on the shoulder, tell the client that we are doing our best, and pray for the rest.

Man – if this dream stuff could really happen, that script is gonna change. Pop some sedative made by the chemist in the movie into a cup of coffee, go to your colleague with a warm smile and tell him/her “Really? Ten days? Hokay! Try to speed it up a little bit buddy, and hey, while you’re at it, here’s some coffee to brighten you up.”

Time Conversion ratio: Level 1 ten seconds = Level 2 ten minutes = Level 3 one hour.

At level 2 conversion rate, one hour equals 60 hours. I bet every damn project manager was drooling over this prospect while watching this movie. Perfect solution to a project that’s in a limbo.

Some things stood out:

a. The first time they’re trying to wake up LDCaprio from his dream. Shake. Shake. Shake. The guy just doesn’t wake up. And I was thinking “hmm…why don’t they just sprinkle some water on his face?” And the director was like “Excuse me, what did you suggest? I didn’t quite hear that? What…oh...water? Ok” And then our hero is pushed into that bath tub and there are waves all around. Talk about overdoing things.

b. That slow-motion van in the level 1 dream. That van got hit by more bullets than were ever fired in this planet since the launch of the Enfield.

c. Here’s the line that I liked best in the movie. “Welcome to the real world, ___.”
Doesn’t that sound like you had heard it yesterday? Well, you did not. It’s from the Matrix.
For some more from the Matrix, go to Appendix C.

Let’s take a look at characters:

L.D. Caprio & family: I forgot what they called him in the movie. For simplicity sake let’s call him what Kate Winslet used to call him - Jack. Well I thought somebody ought to have kicked the stuff out of him. I mean, he was the one imagining things, and needed to see a shrink in the first place. Here is somebody doing the most dangerous thing ever attempted and his whole life and future rests on it. But he is too preoccupied with his wife and kids to be a key player in the team. You can forgive his wife because she was dead and was only living in his memories. That explains the “why did they kick me out of the mental hospital ambulance” look on her face that she carries with élan throughout the movie.

But what about the kids? We are told that they are alive. But for the first time in my life, I hated kids. I mean, there’s something exciting about to happen, and those kids are there, with their backs to us, and Jack loses his focus. There’s something grave about to happen, and those kids are there, with their backs to us, and Jack loses his focus. There’s nothing happening, and those kids are there, with their backs to us, and we don’t care if Jack loses his focus. There should be a legal limit to the number of times you can show your derriere to the audience.

To top it off, Jack is scared to look at their faces. He does not call out to them when they are playing outside, he cringes when his wife offers to show him their faces (in Level 3 = limbo) and we don’t know why. I was expecting it was something about their faces. And Mr. Nolan, if you thought you would wow us in the climax by showing us their faces, get a life. That was a case of cooties. This reminds me of an old Hindi movie about the army in which Aditya Pancholi has a very depressed look throughout the movie. His senior officer, Mithun Shaka-laka-borthy, asks him on a number of occasions why he is so udaas. He never reveals it. And in one khatarnaak scene, a suicide bomber comes to attack Mithun – Pancholi jumps in between- and Kaboom – he’s gone. There’s no mention of him in the movie after that. Till date I do not have an answer as to why Pancholi was sad.

Other characters: The guy who came into the SWAT team from Mombasa where he was gambling – he was cool. The Lady architect, Ellen Page, was pretty neat initially but then she decided to play a major role in Jack’s melancholy drama that was trying to weave its way into Inception. Dileep Rao (the doctor in Avatar, the chemist cum driver in Inception) is taking a huge career risk with stereotyped roles. I really don’t want to talk about others. Fischer Senior, the rich dad, was the only guy who played his role to perfection – and that was because he was in a vegetative state most of the time.

Question 1: Why would this movie NOT win any Oscars for best actor/supporting actor? The answer is in Appendix B the fag end of this article.

For those of you who liked the movie, I can recommend a fat award-winning book called Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid.,_Escher,_Bach
I remembered it because it has illustrations about those never-ending staircases and material like that. If you get past page 40 of this book, try making a movie.

It’s common knowledge that Ghajini is a copy of Christopher Nolan’s Memento. Aamir Lagaan Khan rejected the suggestion and claimed that Memento was just an inspiration. Hmm…right.

Guess who is getting inspired in Bollywood right now? Ram Gopal Verma, you silly. Urmila Matondkar is also getting worked up because she will have a tailor-made role in this movie. But, the name Tere Mere Sapne, which would have been a dream fit for this movie, is already taken. So may be it’s going to be Woh Khwaabein.

Question 2: What’s a better name? (Solution in Appendix B)

Question 3: Will I watch it on DVD again?
Answer 3: May be, so I can fast forward a lot of them snow fight scenes. I also want to freeze the nanosecond frame in which Lady Arch shows the maze that was drawn in 2 minutes that can be solved in one minute.

Question 4: Will Inception become a cult movie?
Answer 4: Not in your dreams.

Verdict: Initially I thought it was a good watch. After that, I spoke to a few people. Almost all of them said it was good. I agreed. But then why did I think it was good? I don’t know. At a subconscious level, someone had done something. They planted this idea into the heads of poor moviegoers like you and me that you have to like it. Something like…if you’re not fighting with us, you’re fighting us. You can fight for your right to disagree, but I don’t like movies that try to do that subconsciously.

Appendix A:
A Somewhat Plot

Background: It’s energy wars. There’s this big energy company (run by an old man called Fischer) that’s threatening to monopolize the global energy industry. Assume that this company is Exxon Mobil and it is headed by Fischer and he is terminally ill. He has a son (we are supposed to hate him in the initial shots for looking somewhat gay or like the loser Prince in the movie Gladiator).

Now, there’s this other company that wants to destroy Exxon Mobil – let’s say PetroChina (Actually the guy representing this company looked Japanese in the movie but the subconscious hint is always on China). The only way to do that is to get Fischer’s son to dismantle the huge empire that his dad has built and make him start from scratch. How do you do that? Get into his head, plant an idea that traditional energy business is not going to be his future and convince him that its wind energy that’s gonna work for him. Get him to believe that his dying dad actually told him to do so before he died. Technology is so advanced that you can get into other people’s minds and weave dreams after dreams after dreams together until the lights in the cinema are switched on.

And in several layers of dreams that we lose count of, the convincing bit finally happens in a level called limbo, thanks to some of the team members going to a level beyond limbo, because Jack’s crazy wife (let’s call her Bimbo - only for rhyme, no reason), who is actually dead, scuttles the operation in the limbo and goes to deeper levels because she is still alive in Jack’s memories and still packs a punch. Anyway, they make Fischer Jr. blurt out a fake access code in level 1 dream, makes him believe in it in level 2, uses that access code to open his fake father’s fake safe in the depths of the dream world, and presto, you have a miniature version of wind blades popping out. Mission over.

And while all of this happens, the crew is actually in an aircraft high above the ground in a 10 hour flight, while their subconscious minds are getting battered in a van, in a hotel, in a snowy fortress, in somebody’s apartment, and in a beach, all at the same time. Add a dash of sedatives, and the story is more or less complete. Everything can happen because time slows down progressively with each levels of dreams, but activity levels remain good. Everything can happen because it is a dream after all.

Btw, Jack and Bimbo had earlier gone to the limbo (and no one knew) and lived years together. One fine day Bimbo gets the feeling that the limbo world is the real thing. And then Jack plants an idea in her head that the limbo is not real. Now they have to die to get back to the real world and they do so together using the most sensible method - putting their heads (yeah heads, not necks…pass 2 pop corns here please) on a railway track. In the real world, she fails to accept reality, predictably goes cuckoo, and jumps off to her death. Before she does that, good sense prevailed and she writes letters to her attorney stating that Jack is trying to kill her. So hubby cannot go back to kids and is languishing in foreign countries. The operation summarized in the above paragraphs will buy him his freedom to go back to his kids and country.

Everybody is happy except Jack who is not yet convinced-so he spins a top to be sure and the screen goes blank and some homosapien sitting behind me in the theatre shouts “it’s awesome.” And then we walk out of the cinema and it was raining. Some of us went to the office to catch up on last minute e-mails. All of us finally went home.

Subliminal message that I got: While the rest of the world keeps battling for conventional polluting energy sources, U.S. will lead the way by going all green and clean just because Beverly Hills is there.

Appendix B:

Answer 1: Because they were sleeping half of the time.

Answer 2: Ram Gopal Verma ka Tere Mere Sapne

Appendix C - The alleged Matrix Connection

Neo: If you’re killed in the Matrix, you die here?
Morpheus: The body cannot live without the mind. (Effectively you die.)

Now, Inception cannot all be Matrix. So they reversed the idea completely. If you die inside the Matrix, you lose. So, in Inception, if you die in the dream, you sort of win.

Terms like Fibrillation (the funda they use to bring the rich kid Fischer Jr. back to life), mental projection, architect etc. were used in very similar circumstances ten years ago.

Matrix: They put the needle stuff into your head behind your skull near the amygdala or the medulla oblongata to make you move between worlds.
Inception: It’s a lot less painful. They just ease the connecting doohickey into your arm (which is connected to a brief-case sized silver-colored base station which is in endless supply that you can carry across levels) to help you run amok between dream levels.

Matrix: You use phone calls to come back to the real world.
Inception: You use death and kicks as mechanisms to level back. Incidentally the phrase “kicking the bucket” that is used when somebody dies traces it’s origins to this landmark movie.

Matrix: Morpheus: What is real? How do you define real? If you’re talking about your senses, what you feel, taste, smell, or see, then all you’re talking about are electromagnetic signals interpreted by your brain.”
Inception: That’s all we’re talking about.