Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sex and City 2- err which city again?

Spoiler alert*

SATC-2 was Hollywood’s nod to the Middle East money-loaded market. And America’s way of sucking up to the oil-rich nation. What other fathomable reason could there be for the outlandish “Abu Dhabi rocks” ad?! And it was not even bloody shot in Abu Dhabi! The barefaced plugs (did Aidan have to recite the names of the UAE States before he and Carrie kissed-SERIOUSLY!?!) would even put Bollywood-Cola  and Mahi Way-YRF Films plugs to shame!

So did the Abu Dhabi government fund the filming of the entire movie? And threw in lifetime of free Botox treatments for Sarah Jessica Parker (SJP), Kim Cattrall, Kristen Davis and Cynthia Nixon?

SERIOUSLY!!? Did Michael Patrick King forget that the “City” in “Sex and the City” is New York? I want to see Fifth Avenue, Central Park, the Manhattan Skyline, Brooklyn Bridge even (hell I would rather see Brooklyn itself), Magnolia Bakery, Times Square and not Abu-bloody-Dhabi! Ok, this is nothing against Middle East or Abu Dhabi in particular. I would feel the same if the movie was based in Barcelona or Athens. New York is a big part of Sex and City- and to lose it, is cheating the fans! (Remember Season 6 when Carrie was in Paris? It was the most boring part the TV Series. And Paris is a lovely city, but it’s not THE city when it comes to SATC).

I know it’s impossible to recreate the wonders of a fabulous TV series in a 2.5 hour movie (remember X-Files the movie? That’s why I am so happy that ‘Friends’ has not been made into a movie- recipe for disaster). And hence my expectations from even SATC-1 were not very high. But as it was the first one, the excitement was there. And it did not disappoint as much as I thought it would. As there was a natural progression from the story line.

Come on! Admit it! We all wanted Carrie and Big to marry. The series ended with only them finally together (and we found out that Big’s name was John). SATC-1 also shared with us what happened further in Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte’s lives. And even SATC-1 had an out-of-New York location shoot in Mexico, but it was a natural part of the story and not the centre of it like Abu Dhabi and STAC-2.

For SATC-2, the excitement was lesser, the cast was older (coming more on that later) and the expectations non-existent.

But I was still checking for show times since a week so I could ensure I have tickets for the weekend of the release. And also made sure that my girl friends had cleared their schedules and we all made time for the movie- and in true SATC style- drinks and dinner before. It was a great evening- Riva and Manisha! :) So yes, was I ever not going to watch it? Out of the question. Would I listen to the reviews saying how terrible it was? Not really.

Excerpts from some reviews:

Among other brickbats, the Guardian's film critic Peter Bradshaw called it "misjudged and quite incredibly boring", the Times said it was "a waste of four great characters", and the New York Times thought it was "desperate, grating and a little sad". The movie has scored a pitiful 14% on the Rotten Tomatoes website film review aggregator. A user review on IMDB said- For the storyline is seems like it should be nominated for Worst Screenplay and Worst Sequel and win both Razzies.

But none of this has dented its commercial prospects – aimed at the bumper Memorial Day holiday weekend at the US box office. Influential website Deadline Hollywood reported that Sex and the City 2 took USD17m on its first day on release in the US alone, and expects to make a healthy $75m-plus for the entire five-day holiday period. It is the latest example of an ever-more prevalent phenomenon: the critic-proof movie.

And just like the Box Office, I knew my fate with SATC-2 as well- I knew I would go see it on day 2 in the cinemas. And I would not be disappointed, as I had no expectations- except to see the 4 of them together again, the great wardrobes and those sweet and funny moments.

But what was lacking was exactly that- those sweet and funny moments. There were few and far between. The loudest I heard the audience laugh was when Miranda and Charlotte were discussing how difficult motherhood is. Their frank discussion and portrayal of real mum’s thoughts was funny and sweet. But since when did the ‘SATC moments’ come from motherhood stories?! (It’s like Seattle Grace Hospital from Grey’s Anatomy suddenly becoming like a real hospital!)

The few magical moments for me were:

1) When John comes to pick Carrie from her old apartment and she voices “And then, just like that, it was 1998 again”. For that brief moment, SATC-2 took me back to the original magic

2) The reference and portrayal of the 4 friends when they first came to New York was a lovely start

3) The ‘gay wedding’ was a fun, very true to SATC style next step

4) The red carpet Samantha-Miley Curtis same-dress-near-fiasco
5) The karaoke bar scene in Abu Dhabi and the song choice- cliché, but the “best friends moment” was captured wonderfully

6) The Abu Dhabi shoe shop bazaar reference was sweet. Of course when Carrie expressed sheer amazement at the shoes that cost only $20, I wanted to invite her to Charles and Keith here.

Hey! Here’s a thought! May be STB (Singapore Tourism Board) can sponsor SATC-3? We have the IRs here now for the glamour and plenty of 20$ shoe shops too! And may be Carrie can strut on Orchard Road instead of Fifth Avenue. And Miranda can do a family vacation in USS (Universal Studios Singapore). And Charlotte can get a hot Filipino maid as her nanny! Samantha would feel at home in Orchard Towers. And all 4 of them could do brunch at PS Cafe, Dempsey or Fullerton and drinks at Aticca, Clarke Quay. There you go! SATC-3 script is done. Do not ridicule! I think that pretty much was the extent of thought that went into script of SATC-2.

On the 4 ladies:

a) The lovely, beautiful Carrie: No guy I have even known or met thinks SJP is pretty. One of them went to the extent of describing her as a ‘cross between a horse and a transvestite’. OMG! That’s brutal. But she did look very tranny-like in the scene she was getting dressed to meet Aidan for dinner and applying the ‘kajal’. And boy did age show on her face! She looked older than all of them. Sorry sweetie- think you have lost way too much weight on your face- it does look rather horsy now.

b) The sexy Samantha- losing the Samantha edge in Abu Dhabi are we? All the sexual innuendos (“I am open”-really? That was your best retort?), were so damn predictable! And one thing we do not expect from Samantha is predictability.

c) Miranda- Actually she looked the youngest of them all. And her face was the least wrinkly. Guess lesbianism agrees with her! Or I would like to know which anti-ageing product she uses. Good show girl!

d) Charlotte- She has always been the most insipid of the 4. I can’t really think of one thing to say about her that stood out. And yeah, the nanny thing is so old!

On the fashion:

I must qualify here that I am not a fashion expert. I can’t differentiate a Jimmy Choo from a Manolo Blahnik and a vintage Dior from a Valentino. I only know of these as designer names and labels and love looking at them without getting too attached, as I can’t afford a dress that costs more than my mortgage. So here is a list of my favs- but don’t expect any further info. These items made it to the list simply because I think they look awesome and oh-so-pretty!

1) Carrie’s moon and star pendant- I want!

2) Carrie’s entry shot- the fabulous white dress and the golden shades (very few people can carry off shades like that)

3) Charlotte’s white dress- image above (you now know what my favourite color when it comes to dresses is- white)

4) Carrie’s outfit when she met Aidan in the Abu Dhabi Bazaar- image above

5) The orange flowing dress Carrie wore when she was upset about her bad book review and she went for a walk on the beach. Though how can someone so short and tiny carry a flowing dress like this is beyond me. But Carrie can!

6) The necklace that the ‘young new age Abu Dhabi’ woman admired too

7) All the desert-lunch dresses except Samatha’s. I like Charlotte’s the best. The neck is simply gorgeous!

However I have to say this- the blatant “Spring-Collection- under-the-Burkha-fashion-show" was simply sad!

Parting words...

The movie missed the mark in that one aspect where the series hit a sixer (or a home run) every time- the writing. There are hardly any memorable quotes in SATC-2. Everything the ladies spouted was predictable, stale and plain old boring. Such a shame!

Will end off with some of my favourite SATC quotes- from the TV series:

“I will never be the woman with the perfect hair, who can wear white and not spill on it.” Carrie

“Are there some women put in the world just to make you feel bad about yourself?”

“It takes half the amount of time you dated someone to get over them.” Charlotte

“I'm thinking balls are to men what purses are to women. It's just a little bag, but we feel naked in public without it”. Carrie

“When Charlotte really liked somebody she said their whole name. It helped her picture their future monogrammed towels”. Carrie

“How does it happen that four such smart women have nothing to talk about but boyfriends? It's like seventh grade with bank accounts”. Miranda

“What if Prince Charming had never shown up? Would Snow White have laid in that glass box forever? Or would she have gotten up, spit out the apple, gotten a job and a health care plan and moved on with her life? I could not help but wonder inside every confident driven single woman, is there a delicate, fragile princess just waiting to be saved?”

“Why did we ever stop drinking these?” Miranda on Cosmopolitans. “Because everyone else started!” Carrie

I know how to please a man. You just give away most of your power”. Miranda

“Marriage does not guarantee a happy ending, just an ending”. Samantha

And my all time fav: “All I had to do to meet the ideal man is to give birth to him”. Miranda

* Ok, a ‘Spoiler Alert’ highlight was not really necessary, as SATC is as predictable as Singapore’s weather. But I hate to know even a bit of any movie- no matter how predictable- before I watch it. So if you are anything like me, thought it was best to caution.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Walking down the memory lane with “Fauji”

While browsing around Crosswords in Juhu, Bombay, I chanced upon the DVD of ‘Fauji’- The ‘IT’ TV show of the 80s on DD (Doordarshan for the uninformed). The show was also, as most will know the launch pad of Shahrukh ‘King’ Khan. Holding the DVD in my hands bought back flood of happy memories. And I simply had to buy it. This was in Dec last year.

And I was super excited! Told everyone who would listen that I had the Fauji DVD. And everyone wanted to borrow it. And I said I would lend it, but only after I watched it. And then it lay comfortably in my DVD drawer for months. Every time I thought of watching it, I hesitated. Like it wasn’t the right time. Like there would be a momentous occasion or an auspicious day when I should start watching it. So it lay there, for months...

Until 2 weeks ago when I was quarantined at home and needed intense cheering up. It was the first time ever that I was so ill that could barely move, was not allowed to leave the house AND no one was allowed to visit! It was awful!

Hence I decided this was the time I was waiting for to crack open the DVD and do the “uthghatan” (opening ceremony). I was apprehensive! I think that was the reason I was waiting for THE moment to watch it.

Was I toying with a beautiful childhood memory? Was I trying to recreate the magic of Fauji from that time? How would the 80s DD 13 episode serial stand up to Prison Breaks and Flash Forwards of today? I was petrified of finding out! (I know it’s silly, but it felt like messing with history).

But I decided to bite the bullet and started watching. The first things that hit me:

1) The credits were in Hindi ONLY. No English. Wow! It seemed weird to read Hindi on screen. And I could not follow a word. But the pictures of the cast were shown with the Hindi titles, so I was fine.

2) The production qualities were God awful. It looked so dated.

3) Don’t think anyone at that time had heard of the terms “fashion” or “styling”. Manish Malhotra where were you?!

4) The female cast was oh-so disappointing. I mean, no offense and I am no beauty queen. But seriously! Madhu?! She was the army doctor who starred opposite SRK as one of the female leads. Her face looks like an army truck rammed into it. (OK that sounds terrible, but it is really true).

In the 80s in India, there were hosts of lovely female stars. Could none of them have been taken for the role? My favourite was Kitu Gidwani (of Airhostess fame) and the lesser know Sangeeta Handa (or Trishna fame*), Krutika Desai (of Buniyaad fame), Swaroop Sampat (of Yeh Jo Hai Zindgai fame), Kiran Juneja (again from Buniyaad). But no, we got to see Ms. Madhu Rathod (I have no idea what her real name is, as the credits were in Hindi and I need 5 mins to read one Hindi word).

5) Shahrukh Khan used to ham** even then! (Why am I not surprised?!)

Having said that, it was an absolute delight to watch Fauji again!

And it’s amazing how much stuff I still remember after all these years (but as I have mentioned in one of previous posts, 80% of my brain is filled with Hindi cinema trivia). My favourite commando was still Varun ‘I say chaps’ Chauhan. He was so handsome! And super cool!

I adored Ms. Kiran Kochar who played the aspiring journalist and the love interest of Vikram Rai, Abimanyu Rai’s i.e. SRK’s older brother. And confession time- I had a crush on Vikram Rai. I liked him more than his over-the-top younger brother Abhi. Though I will have to admit, SRK as Abhi did have some good moments. Vikram was the stern older brother, a complete opposite of his younger foolish romantic brother. I loved the equation between him and Kiran. It was so cute! Vikram played the cool stone exterior with a heart of gold persona with such finesse.

The story was predictable- juvenile commando’s life story from training school to coming of age soldiers fighting a war, interweaved love stories which would put Grey’s Anatomy to shame, etc.

The characters were stereotype:

• The serious commando Dev who is just worried about grading

• Kiran’s boss Umesh who was there to merely aid a love triangle

• The sacrificing Muslim soldier

• The fighting Bengali couple- actually they were rather funny

• Colonel Narayanan “Koi shak yaan sawal?”

All in all, it bought back lovely memories. A must-re-watch for anyone from that generation who grew up on the steady diet of DD TV shows.

A personal memory is closely linked with Fauji. It first aired on Wed 18 Jan 1989 (the info on Wikipedia is incorrect when it says 1988). Reason I know it so well is that my little baby cousin sister, Vinky was born on that day. And my other cousin Jyoti, Vinky’s sister Heena and myself had gone to the hospital to see her and thus missed the first episode of Fauji.

I know it’s a sign of age when you revel in the bygone days. But there is no greater pleasure either :)

*Trishna is THE BEST TV show in the history of Indian Television, based on Pride and Prejudice, where Sangeeta Handa played the character of Elizabeth Bennet in the form of Rekha Anand. Kitu Gidwani starred in this too and played Lydia’s character. If anyone finds a DVD of Trishna, please let me know.

** The definition of ‘ham’ per An incompetent actor who over plays and is incapable of subtlety. An over-actor. Well, they could have simply defined it as Shahrukh Khan instead. It would have been equally (if not more) accurate.

More about Fauji :

Fauji was about commandos joining their training school. Shahrukh Khan was Abhimanyu Rai, a bright young, but naughty trainee. His elder brother Vikram is a senior training officer, who cannot behave with any leniency towards Shahrukh. In one incident, Vikram sentences Shahrukh to a rigorous punishment, but then forgets about him. When he remembers, Shahrukh is still struggling with that punishment even as he is near collapse. He takes the army training very seriously afterwards because he had fought at home with his brother for joining army before joining the army. He was having many friends and in their military words the "friends" are called as "buddies".

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Complete Man- Karna

And no, he did not wear Raymonds. He wore his trademark kavach and kundals which were with him since birth. And giving them away was one of the steps in his downfall.

Well, unless you are Sanil, I think I would have lost you by now.

And if you still want to stay with me, best I start at the beginning....

- Raymond’s (India’s leading formal garments manufacture) commercial since the 80s positions the man who wears Raymonds as the The Complete Man 

- The man I am talking about who per me is the Complete Man did not wear Raymonds

- Because that man walked these lands eons ago when Raymonds suits were not really in fashion or even heard about

- And many would argue that this complete man I am talking about does not really exist

- He is not a movie character or a fictional book character

- He is a person from Indian mythology. And I say ‘person’ not ‘character’ as I believe that Indian mythology stories are real

- If I have you still with me, let me divulge that the Indian mythology I am talking about is the great and one and only- Mahabharat

- And the reason I referred to Sanil at the onset is because, besides me, he the only person I know who can listen to Mahabharat tales over and over again

So if by now you have not guessed where I am leading, then I recommend you stop reading. As you would not relate to anything from now onwards in this post.

The complete man (and my dream man) is Karna.

There was no one like him. And I don’t think there ever will be anyone like him.

For the uniformed, life of Karna in a nutshell. (Actually I tried to do it a nutshell but it was simply not possible to do justice to his story. So its definitely more than a nutshell.)

Karna’s Birth:

Karna was the illegitimate eldest son of Kunti. Kunti whose claim to fame in life is that she is the mother of the Pandavas- who basically are the heroes of the Mahabharat. 5 brothers- all righteous, brave, handsome and courageous. Kunti gave up Karna when he was born as she was unmarried (think of it like a modern teenage pregnancy).

Karna’s Formative Years

Karna was adopted by a chariot driver (think chauffeur). He had a modest upbringing but he always knew he was meant for bigger and better things. So he went to Guru Parshuram to learn the Art of War. The Guru only taught Brahmans (the equivalent to elite kids), so Karna lied to him that he was a Brahman.

Legend goes that one day his Guru (teacher) was sleeping on his lap and a scorpion bit Karna on his back. The sting was great that blood was dripping down his body. But Karna did not budge lest his Guru’s sleep got disturbed. But the hot blood spilled on the Guru and he woke up with a start. When he saw the scorpion’s bite on Karna’s back he was furious. He knew that a Brahman could never bear such pain. And thus he confronted Karna about his lie. Karna admitted to the truth- he was a Kshatriya (warrior) not a Bharman. The Guru was angry and cursed him that because he lied to his teacher, all his teachings would fail Karna when he needs them the most. 2nd reason for Karna’s downfall.

Karna was shocked to be kicked out of the school and as he was walking home, he killed a cow purely by error. The cow’s owner cursed him (it was really not a good day for Karna) that just the way Karna killed a cow when she could not defend herself, he too one day would be killed when he was defenceless. 3rd step in his downfall.

At this juncture I would like to pause and remind my readers that curses were HUGE on Indian mythology. Almost every major event in Mahabharat can be attributed directly towards a curse. Think after the debacle of Mahabharat, the Gods decided to not allow the use of curses so freely. Can you imagine if you and I had the power to curse someone? OMG! Disaster would strike! Every time a client rejected a script, someone would curse someone- it would just not be pretty!

Meeting Duryodhan

This was the turning point in Karna’s life. He was the best archer in the country. Yes, he was better than Arjun! It’s a little known fact that when Kuru princes- Pandavas (good brothers) and the Kauravas (their evil cousins- 100 in all- don’t ask how!) had come together to showcase (show off is more like it) their skills, Dronacharya (the royal teacher) did not let Karna compete because he knew Karna would kick Arjun’s ass.

So Dornacharaya questioned him about his parentage and when he revealed that he was a charioteer’s son, he was disqualified from the championship. This was when Duryodhan stepped him and made Karna the king of Angad and offered his hand in friendship.

Karna never forgot this grand gesture and vowed to be Duryodhan’s friend for life. And thus Karna became a part of the bad guy’s camp.


Between meeting Duryodhan and the war of Mahabharat, a great many things happened- but I will have to leave that for another post. Bottom line the good guys (Pandavas) fought a war against the bad guys (Kauravas). The war of Kurukshetra- the fight that symbolised the triumph of good over evil.

Before the war many people tried to sway Karna to fight on the side of the Pandavas (the good guys for the people who can’t keep up)- who were technically his brothers. The first person to try it was Lord Krishna. He used the lure of the kingdom. Then was his birth mother Kunti- who tried to evoke the responsibility of a son and the emotions of a mother. (I never really liked Kunti. Who gives up a child like that? And even now she was acting out of motherly emotions, alright. But they were for her real sons the Pandavas and not necessarily for her illegitimate son Karna). He most courteously refused her too, but with a promise that he would only kill Arjum (his nemesis) and none of his other half-brothers.

Lord Indra who was Arjun’s God tricked Karna into giving up his kavach (shield- which Karna never took out as it had magical powers to protect him). Karna knew it was Lord Indra disguised as a beggar asking for his kavach. But as it was a request he received right his morning bath and prayer, he complied- as Lord Indra knew he would. That’s why Karna was known as “Danveer Karna” (the generous one). Lord Indra was so impressed with Karna’s generosity and principles that he gave him a weapon that would never fail. But it could only be used once. Karna had always intended to use this weapon against Arjun as it was an infallible weapon.

Karna owed his allegiance to Duryodhan even though he knew in his heart that Duryodhan was in the wrong. Karna’s anger towards the Pandav clan for not accepting him and his enmity with Arjun in particular were his only failings. So even though Karna knew he was fighting on the side of evil, he took Duryodhan’s side in the great war of Mahabharat.

During the War

• Krana lived up to his promise to Kunti. He had an opportunity to kill each one of his half-brothers (except Arjun) but he let them go.

• He was saving his infallible weapon for Arjun- as that would guarantee him victory. But when Ghatorkaj (Bheem’s half-demon son) was killing off the Kaurava army by the hundreds, Karna could not bear to watch the poor soldiers die like that. So he used the infallible weapon gifted to him by Indra on Ghatorkaj.

• And then came the fateful day...

Even the Gods had stopped to watch the archery war between the 2 greats- Arjun and Karna. And at the height of the clash, the wheel of Karna’s chariot got stuck in the mud. Karna got off his chariot to get the wheel out.

And now came that moment which brings up the question which is older than Mahabharat itself- Do the ends justify the means?

Krishna instructed Arjun to kill Karna while he was ‘nihatha’ (weaponless) even though rules of war state that no warrior will raise his arms against an opponent who is without his weapon. But Krishna knew that in a fair war, Arjun would not be able defeat Karna. His rationale was that killing Karna was critical to win the war and hence a necessary evil.

Also the 2 curses worked against Karna too:

1) His guru’s teachings failed him when he needed them most

2) He would be killed when he was defenceless just like he had killed the cowherd’s cow

And Arjun raised his bow and shot an arrow that pierced Karna’s heart.

I cry whenever I read this part of the story. It’s so sad! Poor Karna! Not many people were left to grieve him either. So that was the end of Karna’s tragic life story.

And now to the topic of this post- Why is Karna the complete man?

1) His Looks

We all know how important those are! Karna was supposed to be very handsome. More so than even the Pandav brothers- Nakul and Sahdev-who have been said to be most handsome amongst all the 5  Pandav brothers. Tall, board shoulders, radiant face and a winning smile (OK I added the winning smile bit, as there are not many Karna images available with him smiling. But my heart knows he had one!)

2) His Scruples

Karna was a very principled man. Truthful, honest, forthright, courageous, generous and most important loyal. His loyalty was a double edged sword though. As even though his loyalty towards Duryodhan was rightly placed as a friend, it led him to fight on the side of evil.

3) His Personality and Character

Karna never got his dues- not as a son, not as a warrior, not as a King. But he never gave up. His entire life from birth to his demise was a struggle. At every turn he had to fight for his right. Nothing ever came easy to him. But that never made him bitter against humanity. He was truly a noble sprit who constantly strived, but seldom achieved. He is still idealized as an inspiration for struggling humanity to not lose heart.

4) Simply the Best

It is said that when Drupadi was once praying for a husband, she asked that her husband be:

1) Righteous and good

2) Strong and brave

3) A great warrior

4) Good looking

5) Handsome

Lord Shiva told her that no one man can have all the 5 qualities. But as Drupadi (who was extremely stubborn) would not relent, Lord Shiva granted her wish. Except she had to be the wife of 5 brothers- each Pandav brother had one of the qualities she desired. Yudhistra (righteous and good); Bheem (strong and brave); Arjun (a great warrior); Nakul and Sahdev (good looking/handsome).

However it is said, Karna had all these 5 qualities- he was after all technically the eldest of Kunti’s son. He simply had the best of all the 5 Pandava brothers rolled into 1.

5) The underdog

Finally Karna always has had everyone sympathies- as he was the underdog. He is the classic rags to riches story (well almost). He fought, he strived and he paid a heavy price for it all. He never got the love and the respect that he carved for all his life. And his achievements were glorified and his noble spirit honoured, only after his death.

For me...

...Karna symbolizes lost love. He was someone who had so much to give, but had no one to give it to. There was no one who would accept him for what and who he was. He was charming, loving, principled, generous. He was the simple nice guy, but with the edgy attitude. He stood his ground with an élan that befits a true hero.

Karna is my dream man. And if he walked the earth today, I so hope he will find his way to me.

For more on Mahabharat