Thursday, November 22, 2012


God and I know I've done my share of mischief,
I have my share of sins.

But to atone for how I've wronged you
I don't know where to begin.

I had no one to tell me what's right.
You know I was raised wild.

So on my knees, my plea to you
is to forgive as you would a child.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

And We Are Merely But Players

Acting is a trippy thing. It's the chance to be someone else. To feel their pain, their sorrow, to love their women, to laugh at their jokes. Also it's a chance to bring to life another person. To their dreams, to their fears. To me, that's always been the allure.

It's also hard as hell. Talented actors can do it easily. Amateur shmucks like myself find their own voice doing the reasoning some of the times and that is wrong. It's like having a conversation through a translator. The words have to first go through your own head, and then you translate it into what the character says and how the character would say it. Or rather, how you think the character would say it. Real actors know the language.

As complex as that is, it gets so much easier when you have good co-actors. Nothing makes this process better than having a talented player to play off of. Use their emotions and react. And then it becomes a friendly game of table tennis (at least, when it works). There's nothing like it, that synergy.

To see it all come together is a different experience when you do it from the other side of the audience. I had my first crack at it last term during Kuhla Asman (MICA's in house theater event) in a quirky little play called "Melange" (which, before you ask, was about the strangeness of romantic relationships).

I learned the sheer nervousness before the act. I got jitters when I looked out at the audience. I wondered if we could pull it off. I wondered if they'd understand or would we be greeted with raised eyebrows. I started forgetting my lines.

And then there is this moment, this magical moment, when you know that they are getting it. They are receptive. Suddenly they laugh at a part you didn't expect them to. And it's adrenaline. Suddenly you don't want it to end, you want to carry on all night. It's a brilliant high.

I've been bitten by the acting bug again. One of the best parts of putting on a production is the rehearsals  You'll rarely laugh harder. The whole thing, when done for love of the art and for putting on a show, is a fantastic experience. I can't wait for Khula Asman 2 to start.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Bruce Wayne Character Arc; And Why The Dark Knight Rises is Such a Great Film- Part 3

Well, its about time I sat down to write this.

If you are interested, I have covered the Bruce Wayne character arc (as I see it, of course) in part 1 and part 2. This article will look at his character arc from Rises and why I think the film is so great.

I grew up a Batman fan. And that was it. I never delved into comic books or, other cartoon series, or any of that, I found them too farfetched. I grew up on the original 1992 animated series, one of the most brilliant representations of Batman out there. And after a slew of horrible Tim Burton renditions, along came my hero Christopher Nolan who created The Dark Knight Trilogy, for which I am forever grateful to him. Batman is one of the greatest characters of all time, as are some his enemies. This series is by far the most brilliant realization of the story. Artistic, crisp, fantastic and yet very believable, it is a series that has, at least for me, changed action movies. This is how Batman should have been represented- dark, heroic, human.

So why is The Dark Knight Rises (hence forth to be referred to as Rises for short) such a great movie? Several reasons, the most important of which is the completion of the Bruce Wayne character arc in such style. The second is the boldness to step out of one’s comfort zone, and by this I mean the comfort zone that Nolan has created with the previous two movies. This zone is the reassuring thought that “Yes, this could actually happen,” which is one of the main USPs of the series. The fall of Gotham into anarchy has been covered in the comics. But to show the fall of a modern American city, the modern American city, is a ballsy thing to do- and Nolan pulled it off. If Gotham were to fall, it would take a villain like Bane and The League Of Shadows. Even then, this is the trippiest movie I’ve seen of the series.

Everything fits perfectly, everything is thought out, and everything is ended perfectly. Everything comes full circle, right from Begins through TDK till the end of Rises.

Eight years after the events of TDK, the Dent Act is enforced which has effectively cleaned up organized crime in Gotham. It seems Batman is victorious. Gordon still feels a great guilt at burying the truth, and almost reveals it in a speech he had written. Bruce Wayne, on the other hand is a recluse. Batman disappeared after that fateful night when he took the fall for Dent’s murders. Bruce Wayne went into hiding himself, refusing to come out of his fortress and cutting himself off from the world. Bruce was a broken man, physically and emotionally. The scars of that final battle are visible. He walks with a cane now. More than that, he can no longer face the world because his one chance at a normal life is gone. He couldn’t love again after Rachel’s death. Especially when he believed that it was his fault she died, and that she was waiting for him. In spite of all the good he had tried to inspire, all he knew in his life was pain and loss. And he felt the guilt of it all. First his parents, then countless innocents, then Rachel. Alfred knew there was nothing but pain and loss for Bruce in Gotham. But Bruce came back because he was driven by higher ideals. Alfred also hid the truth about Rachel’s final decision from Bruce. Bruce lived the last eight years believing that they were going to be together, he carried that weight every second of every day for eight years and as it bore down upon him it became a part of his existence. And the worst part for him is that he had nowhere to lose himself, nothing to distract himself with. His alter ego was an outcast. Gotham no longer needed Batman, they even wanted him arrested. With nothing else to turn to, Bruce withdrew completely.

True, he tried to do his best in his capacity as Bruce Wayne, billionaire industrialist. He tried to start a clean energy project but recognized the potential danger and put the project on hold. This caused Wayne Enterprise revenues and profits to plummet, and subsequently hampered the aid to his various philanthropic outlets. Other than that he probably tried to keep his mind occupied the best he could. I don’t know what physical therapy he might have been up to, but he seemed to have taken a shine to archery.

All the while, evil is rising again. The League Of Shadows is returning to Gotham to finish what they had begun. And they are led by Batman’s greatest physical match. It is fitting that Batman’s final test would be against the brotherhood that made him in the first place. Batman would be needed again. And he is sought by an officer, John Blake. I don’t know how, but Blake figured out that Bruce Wayne was indeed Batman. It took someone who had been through almost similar circumstances as a child, but in spite of being orphaned and having no money to his name, Blake remained a good soul. I don’t know how long it took him to finally be convinced of Batman’s identity. I’m not sure if he just jumped the gun finally and went to Bruce’s house and sprang this accusation on him, waiting to see his reaction. In any case, he jarred Bruce into action with what he had to say. Fitting that it had to come from another orphan.

And we now turn our attention to two new women in Bruce’s life.

One is a resourceful, clever girl who plies her trade as a master thief and goes by the name Selina Kyle. Bruce’s first meeting with her was a memorable one. She is highly trained in martial arts and knows how to handle herself. Bruce is intrigued, to put it lightly. But he doesn’t know how bad she is for him. Bruce finds out she is part of something huge, but her main motive is clearing her records. He thinks it is so that she can start over clean. She’s tired of doing what she does, and she wants out, but people who want to use her talents won’t let her. But she is essentially good, even if she has done bad things. Her guilt is very evident at two points: when she turns Batman over to Bane, and when Bruce returns to Gotham from his prison. This is not the characteristic trait of a psychopath.

The other is the very beautiful and rich environmentalist, Miranda Tate. She has been trying to get on board with Wayne Enterprises regarding a clean energy project. She comes off as a dutiful and concerned citizen, not wont to sit by idle while the world wastes itself. Much akin to Bruce himself. But it’s all just a mask, for she really is Talia al Ghul, Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter come to take revenge. She is the actual leader behind everything going on at Gotham. She needed to get on the board of Wayne Enterprises to get access to the nuclear device, nothing more. But her role goes deeper than that. She was another lynch pin in the plan to break Batman. Although her character was not given as much attention, her role was a solid one.
Both women are an equal to Bruce Wayne in different ways.

Alfred fears for Bruce’s life. Bruce is older now, and not quite at his peak of physical strength, and he expects to go up against Bane, whom Alfred points out is more than a match for this much older, more tired Bruce. But Bruce is adamant; he says he will fight harder, that his body can take it. But Alfred is afraid that Bruce is going on a suicide mission. “No, I’m afraid that you’d want to (fail),” is what he tells him. He knows Bruce never got past Rachel’s death, and that he had nowhere to turn to what with Batman not needed anymore. On Batman’s return, Alfred points out that Bruce was very much off his game. He believes that Bruce donning the mask again is an excuse for him to get himself killed in the line of duty and end his misery. Alfred pleads with Bruce to stop, to see there is something beyond that cave, that there is a life out there for him. But Bruce has believed for eight years that his last chance of a life outside of the cave died with Rachel. And this is when Alfred breaks the truth to him, even though he knows he will lose Bruce for good. He tells Bruce that Rachel was not waiting for him, that she chose Harvey, and he tells him why he hid that information. Betrayed, Bruce tells Alfred to leave. Alfred wishes to leave anyway, because after raising him and being a part of his war on crime, after all those years, he cannot watch Bruce set himself up to be killed. But what about the last eight years of Bruce’s life? It was all based on a lie. It was one of the worst blows he’d ever received. His faith was broken.

Then came the brush with Bane that left Bruce virtually bankrupt. This was, at least in part, due to Selina. This was part of the plan to allow Miranda Tate to join the board of Wayne Enterprises. It also left Bruce very much humbled and susceptible to the next stage of their plan.

And it was one of the most far reaching plans anyone could have concocted. Because Bane was coming not only to finish the League’s work and destroy Gotham, but also one very important, personal job: to break Gotham’s protector- physically and otherwise. The main theme of Rises is HOPE and ASCENSION. And it was hope that kept Bruce going at the end of Begins, hope that was taken from him at the end of TDK. Bruce was already broken, so how then does Talia exact revenge on him? Talia’s prison was the inspiration. As Bane pointed out, Bruce welcomed death. Now, that would hardly serve their purpose. For betraying the League, Bruce’s punishment must be more severe. The first stage was the League’s plan of obtaining the weapons stored in Wayne Enterprises and laying siege to Gotham. They declared martial law, and claimed to be liberators of the people (what Selina thought she was fighting for). And thus the oppressed brought down the greedy and the city fell to ruin. But this was not the point. Back in Bane’s prison, Bane explains to Bruce how it is the worst prison in the world. Freedom is there, just outside of the well that looks down into the bowels of the prison. An inmate need just make the impossible climb and leap across the wall of the well. But the HOPE is always there. “There can be no true despair without hope.” And this is what Bane aimed to give the people of Gotham. The people were given this glimmer of hope, and were meant to “climb over each other to try and get their place in the sun.” When they had been tortured thus sufficiently, Bane had a nuclear bomb ready, once again taken from Wayne Enterprises, to level the city and complete their true task.

Bane does break Batman. The physical job was done. Not only that, but he took the instruments of Gotham’s doom right from Bruce’s company. But the job of breaking Bruce had begun a long time ago. This was Miranda Tate’s role, to give Bruce Wayne hope in his life. She came to him at his most vulnerable moment- he had just been bankrupt, and now he was locked outside of his own house, stuck in the rain. It was at this moment that she came to him and gave him love and comfort. She played the womanly charm bit to the hilt. Her purpose as Miranda Tate was to give Bruce hope before they took it away. A hope that he could share a normal life with someone, that he could love again. The next part was to break the other side of Bruce, the Batman, and take hope away from him. This was to be achieved in the prison. As Batman lay, back broken, he begged for death. Bane declined, saying he welcomed death and his punishment must be more severe. Bruce would be kept alive, and would watch on through a television set as Bane gave the people of Gotham hope that they could rise above the decadence in their lives, and then wipe them out. All the while Bruce would know that his freedom lay just outside the well, if only he could somehow escape. Bane went back to Gotham and exposed the lie that Gordon had purported and put his plan into action. Bruce was so distraught that in a hallucination he saw Ra’s taunt him, saying that even with all his resources all he could achieve was a lie. And when Bane’s plan was complete, and Bruce’s failure would have been complete, then only would Bane have killed him.

Bruce had forgotten how Batman came to be. He had lost his fear, but then he lost all the care that came with that. The one who fears death fights harder. Since Bruce welcomed death, he could not fight his hardest because it didn’t matter to him if he fell or not. It was in that cell that he was reminded of the power of fear. His spine was popped back into place and he began to rebuild his body. Fear remained forgotten, and anger took its place. But pure, unfocussed rage was not going to help him. Bruce created Batman as an embodiment of fear, to take the fear that powerful people use to prey on the innocent and turn it back against them. Somewhere, he forgot this. It was the doctor who reminded him. He told him the only way to make the jump is to instil fear inside himself, and use that fear for his own survival, and only then could he save his city. Make the jump without the rope, he said. And in one of the best scenes in the entire film, Bruce ascends the wall amid chants of “rise” from the inmates who watched on. As the music slowly rises to a crescendo, bats fly out of a hole in the wall, reminiscent of his very first fear and the symbol he chose to adopt. It was one of the most beautiful, poignant, and poetic moments in the film. Fear was not a bad thing, fear would help him defeat his enemy. And then of course, he makes the jump and escapes. The Dark Knight had risen, literally and figuratively.

Back in Gotham, he enlists the help of Selina Kyle to get to Lucius Fox who could help him get access to the tools he needed. It seemed even after being betrayed by Selina, he still needed her help. I think he trusted her because he believed in her. Like himself, she wanted out of this life. She wanted to start over fresh. Then Batman led the police to war against Bane and his militia. Batman defeats Bane hand to hand. Bane is shocked. How could he return when he had broken him? At the last moment he is betrayed by Talia. Left to die at the hands of Bane, Batman is rescued by Selina, in whom he had placed a large amount of faith. She was going to leave to save her own skin, now that her record was clean, but she came back. In spite of her telling Bruce he had given these people everything and he doesn’t owe them at all, perhaps she was touched by his words: “Not everything. Not yet.”

And at the very end, with little time left on the bomb, they only way to save Gotham is to use the Bat to carry the bomb out over the bay. He could have gone anywhere, pointed out Selina, but he chose to come back. As a parting shot, he revealed to Jim Gordon his true identity. The Batman gave almost everything to Gotham, more than just his body. But he had not yet given them everything. And his sacrifice would be his last gift as Batman to Gotham City. The lasting legacy of a selfless hero; an embodiment of fear but a force of good.Magnificent.Shining.A beacon of truth; an inspiration.Someone to look up to, to serve as a shining reminder that people are capable of good. At that moment we are led to believe the auto-pilot doesn’t work. Batman flies the Bat out to sea and the bomb detonates.

With his name now cleared, Batman was hailed as a hero. A monument in his honor was constructed. Perhaps this great city would carry on. Its greatest threat seemed to have been overcome. Everyone who knew Batman’s identity thought Bruce Wayne was dead as well. A grave was constructed next to his parents. In his will, Bruce left everything to Alfred, and it was a just thing to do for the man who raised him and was his accomplice in his grand mission. Alfred is of course devastated because he failed to protect Bruce. Wayne Manor was left to the city to serve as a home for orphaned boys. But Bruce’s legacy did not end there. He left everything in place perfectly. In his very last act, he left a protector to look after Gotham even when he was gone. And with that, Bruce truly had given them everything.

The role of John Blake was that of a successor to Batman. Gotham would always need a watcher, a protector. Bruce chose Blake for this duty. It had to be someone like him, someone dedicated as he was. Blake’s character had an arc of his own. He went from the doubting Thomas to a believer that what’s necessary had to be done. He had to learn the hard way that what Gordon had said was true: that sometimes, the rules become shackles and they allow the bad guy to get away. Initially he condemned Gordon when he learned about how he hid the truth about Harvey Dent. But he was educated out there on that bridge when he was trying to get the kids off the island, but the cops on duty followed their orders to the letter and blew their last chance of escape. Even after this, he didn’t want the children to die without any hope. I can only assume he went through some rigorous training before he thought to put on the suit for real.

The people of Gotham City would be grateful, but they didn’t even know to whom, according to John Blake. He claimed it was unjust that Bruce died without anyone even knowing what he did. The people would never know who saved them. Gordon smiled reassuringly and said they do know who saved them. It was the Batman, and that was all they needed to know. Even Lucius Fox gets to rest easy in the end when he finds out that the autopilot was indeed fixed by Bruce himself. He knows now. And the audience is treated to the sight of a happy, content, and peaceful Bruce Wayne, starting a new life withSelina Kyle. He got everything he deserved in the end: peace and a pretty girl who is definitely his equal. And Alfred could be at peace too, no less than he deserved.

And it was in that last scene that one thing was made clear, one thing that Rachel was wrong about. Unlike in other versions of this story, Bruce was never consumed by Batman. He was always the man that he was underneath the suit. So Rachel was wrong, his mask was and always remained that of the Batman. The real face was always the man who wanted to avenge the innocents who fell at the hands of evil-doers. (It was a nice touch when Bruce went to the masquerade party that he was the only one not wearing a mask). It was the face of the man who at every step showed the utmost concern for those under his watch. It was the face of the only man in that city brave enough to be take the fall for the sake of his people. So the character arc here is that of Bruce Wayne, and never was of the Batman. They were never separate people. Bruce always wanted out at some point. Donning the mask was not something he did because it brought him a sense of power, he did it because someone had to. But he always had an ultimate goal, he always knew that one day he would want to step down and have a normal life. And he finally got that, without even the burden of having to be Bruce Wayne, the billionaire playboy, an act he’d had to put on for too long.

Another thing to note is the use of seasons throughout the films. I would like to assume Begins culminated in the spring, and was a new beginning for Gotham City and Bruce Wayne. TDK took place during the summer, and was full of vibrancy and urgency. Rises on the other hand begins in the autumn, just as the leaves are falling from the trees. It signals the beginning of an end. It symbolizes oldness, a turning from young to aged, a decaying. And then Gotham was covered in a terrible white winter. There is helplessness and death all around. When Gotham fell, it was cut off from all of the outside world. Any efforts to help from external sources was blocked by the threat of the nuclear bomb. The river is covered with ice and serves as a cruel means of punishment. And then the thaw comes again. I like to think that when Alfred saw Bruce in that café, it was a new spring, and a new beginning for all of them.

Nolan has taken a story that was told and retold a hundred times over and made a marvellous character piece. Everything falls into place, from the first film till the very last. And I for one am glad he chose to give his hero a happy ending. Each script was deep and carried so much weight. I am shocked that TDK didn’t get more recognition in the Oscars for its artistic prowess, and not just its technical brilliance. And Nolan does use technology to devastatingly amazing effect.

And the fall of Gotham was picturized magnificently. Exploding roads, collapsing bridges… it was mesmerising to watch. And the haunting vision of bodies hanging from high atop a suspension bridge will be burned in my memory forever. Bane truly was the greatest physical match Batman ever faced. And it was not only that, but everything Bane stood for. It was unnerving to see him snatch Batman out of the dark like he did. His voice, his mannerisms, his dialogs, and those burning eyes were all rolled so fantastically into one muscle-bound villain. To see Gotham descend into anarchy was a terrifying thing. Imagine if that were to happen to a real modern day financial hub like New York or Mumbai. But it was handled with such class. Which is not to say that this still isn’t the trippiest of the three films.

If I thank Nolan, I’d have to go on thanking everyone. Even those that I don’t know, those who were behind the scenes. It was everything from the writing to the cinematography to one of the greatest scores ever written that gave rise to this story of Bruce Wayne that touched millions. The wait for this movie was a nerve-wracking one. For me, it is one of the greatest moments in cinematic history. The Dark Knight Trilogy has come to an end. Bruce Wayne’s character arc is complete. Everything has come full circle. And now that Bruce can rest in peace, so can I.

The Bruce Wayne Character Arc; And Why The Dark Knight Rises is Such a Great Film- Part 2

Time passes. Gotham is overrun with crime. Every level of its infrastructure is cracking and filthy. Henri Ducard said as much. But there are still good people in Gotham. Bruce still has faith in that. Good people, like his parents, his guardians, his friends.

Batman is going after organized crime in Gotham in The Dark Knight. To weed out the evil who prey on the innocent. But he is also looking for someone to take up his mantle. Someone who would be able to stand up for justice without wearing a mask. And he thinks that he has found that person in the Gotham DA, Harvey Dent, who incidentally is in a serious relationship with Bruce’s once lover, Rachel. It takes a truly dedicated man to put that element in the background and focus on his ultimate goal, his task, his duty.

Enter a very strange man. The antithesis to Batman. I can’t talk about the next stage of Bruce’s character arc without talking about the Joker. Now I have a theory of my own about the scars, drawing from original stories, comics, and cartoons. The original Joker character was a man who had a really bad day, which ultimately ended with him falling into a vat of chemicals that turned his skin white and hair green. Here, what we have is a man who wears make-up. What I think happened is he was a man that took a lot of beatings in his life, lost faith in it all, even lost his mind partially. I think the stories he told about the scars were in part true. He probably did have a abusive father, and a loose wife. He took these psychological tortures until he could take no more. This would lend credence to his opening dialog, “I believe that whatever doesn’t kill you simply makes you stranger.” The things that didn’t kill him, that perhaps should have, only served to drive him slightly mad. But he had no way to express himself. He believed in his own mind that Gotham was beyond saving, that everyone in Gotham is selfish, rotten, and inherently corrupt. Rules are a mirage, because they did not work for him. Structures of society were nothing but shackles for him. I believe he tried to play by the rules and had to pay unjustly for it in his life. So what to do? Along comes another man in a cape and mask who jumps off rooftops.


That was exactly what this man needed. Something to be an exact counterpoint to. As the story unfolds, we see that all along the Joker was very interested in the Batman, and what he could do with him. He even directly blames Batman for what he’d become (“See, this is how crazy Batman’s made Gotham!”). So he sticks a blade in his mouth, gets some make-up, and then goes to work obtaining contacts, materials, and a nice suit to do his work. He had to be a pretty well connected person before donning the Joker avatar. He must have come from the underbelly of society. And thus he embarks on a mission to show Gotham what they truly are.

The theme of the movie is CHAOS. That is what the Joker wanted to bring. To take the so called “order” which this society runs on, which is a fabrication by “schemers with their little plans,” and pull the rug out from underneath it all. To show that once the walls of order come crumbling down, the people will eat each other.

Chaos is exactly what the Joker injects into Gotham. Who knows what his plans were, but he is obviously a very resourceful and clever man. He used an army of small time criminals to take down mob bosses. What did he promise them? My guess is Gotham on a silver platter.The promise of all the spoils once this community shows its true colors and succumbs to its true nature. It doesn’t matter. He knows whom to play against who. And he knows that Batman doesn’t kill, but it soon becomes obvious that Batman is the one he wants to play his game the most.

Now let’s back it up. Bruce has chosen Harvey as his successor. Harvey had the guts to lock up half of Gotham’s criminals without ever putting on a mask. And now he thinks he is closer to that day when Gotham no longer needs Batman, that day that Rachel spoke of at the end of Begins. That day when Bruce and Rachel could be together again. Bruce shares this thought with Rachel, who  feels confused. Obviously she still has strong feelings for Bruce, but it is different now. Bruce has become Batman, she has fallen in love with another good man… things have changed. But she is still not sure. When Harvey asks her to marry him, she is hesitant. Maybe she too still believes that she and Bruce and be together one day.

Now the Joker comes in and demands Batman reveal his true identity, and for every day he doesn’t, the Joker would kill someone. Bruce cannot take that blood on his hands. This is the point where he finds out the limit of the things he can take. He says that he will turn himself in, that Batman would be done. He tells Rachel that now they can be together, but Rachel tells him that once they take Bruce in, they will never let the two of them be together. But Harvey believes that in order for justice to be served, the people need to be strong and not give in to a madman’s demands. He unexpectedly poses as Batman. And as expected, he manages to fish the Joker out.

But the Joker is one step ahead. He has already set up his next game, the star of which is Batman. Killing is a choice, says Joker. A choice that Batman has to make. Here is where the intelligence of the Joker is made frighteningly clear. Batman is made to choose between saving two people- his successor, Harvey, or Rachel whom he must have realized was of some significance to whoever Batman is (and it makes me wonder if he guessed Batman’s identity). Joker knows that Batman can definitely save one- but only one. And by choosing, he kills the other one. We know what happens next. Rachel is killed. Harvey is burned.

I always get angry when I hear people talking about how the Joker stole the show. What they fail to realize is that the Joker cannot exist without Batman. He said so himself: “I don’t want to kill you! You complete me!” Which harks back to my theory of where the scars come from. There is no Joker without the Batman, because unlike Batman, the Joker has no true, benign purpose. He needed a foe on such a pedestal as he placed himself and his ideals. He wanted to show the Batman more than anyone else that he is wrong about the people of Gotham, that even though Batman has his rules and he thinks the people will save him for his sins in the end, they will sell him out. Hence the game he set up with the choice.

Bruce is devastated. Harvey is plunged into a vengeful madness. Batman feels responsible now. Especially after this personal loss. He meant to inspire good. Instead what he brought was madness and destruction. All this was happening because of what he had done. Surely there was to be reprisals for taking on the mob as Alfred pointed out, but where did Rachel stand in all of that? And what of Gotham’s White Knight, what was to become of him, now half burned? Bruce lost it all. His parents. Rachel. His last chance at a normal life.At love.At peace.For Gotham, and for himself.

Ultimately he finds the Joker by using a machine with the ability to spy on all of Gotham. He asks Lucius for help, who says he doesn’t want to wield such power, that he will help him this one time, but he will quit Wayne Enterprises if such a machine exists there. The Joker sets up his ultimate social experiment, to show everyone in grand style that people are selfish and cruel. But it backfires. Bruce’s faith is rewarded. The people are essentially good. Gotham can be saved. But the victory is short lived. The Joker left one ace up his sleeve- the madman he created in Harvey Dent. Such was the Joker’s dedication to his own cause that he was even ready to take a bullet to the head at the hands of the former DA. Then Dent would lose all credibility and all his efforts would be undone. Those with other agendas would use that as a point to denounce all his work as fraud and release all the criminals he had put away or policy changes he initiated.

But the Joker got more than he bargained for. He turned Harvey into a true believer of his cause. Then he set Harvey loose on the world, to exact his own revenge as he saw fit. This ended in the ruins of the building where Rachel met her demise. Harvey sought to punish Jim Gordon by killing his son. An enraged Harvey questioned why, when he, Batman, and Gordon were all involved in this together, that he was the one to lose everything. Of course, he wasn’t. Bruce lost it all too. His only chance at a normal life. No matter what, he could never love again. And again he was consumed by guilt, because he blamed himself for putting Rachel in that position. He blamed himself for the deaths of those innocent people at the hands of the clown. He probably even blamed himself for the very appearance of the Joker in the first place. Yet he knew what had to be done. After subduing Harvey (who fell to his death), he knew what had to be done. He took the blame for those murders, because it was what Gotham needed. He and Gordon bet it all on Dent, and the Joker tore him down. But they could not let chaos win. So they buried the truth, Batman took the blame, and he disappeared.

But Bruce still believed that Rachel was waiting for him. He didn’t know that at the moment Harvey claimed to be the Batman, she stopped loving in him. She thought that he did it out of selfish reasons. She thought Batman had become more important to Bruce than anything else. The tragedy is that she was wrong. She didn’t understand that Bruce really was going to turn himself in, that Harvey and then Bruce understood what needed to be done. So she chose to leave Bruce for Harvey, rather unjustly. But just as people sometimes deserve better than the truth, so did Bruce at that moment. He had sacrificed so much that he needed to have his faith rewarded. Both his faith in Gotham which was vindicated by the people on those boats, and his faith in Rachel. Just as Bruce kept Lucius’ faith by destroying the machine he used to locate the Joker with.
Bruce left the scene both emotionally and physically broken. The reign of chaos ended, and good triumphed over evil, but at what cost?

The Bruce Wayne Character Arc; And Why The Dark Knight Rises is Such a Great Film- Part 1

Well, its about time I sat down to write this.

I grew up a Batman fan. And that was it. I never delved into comic books or, other cartoon series, or any of that, I found them too farfetched. I grew up on the original 1992 animated series, one of the most brilliant representations of Batman out there. And after a slew of horrible Tim Burton renditions, along came my hero Christopher Nolan who created The Dark Knight Trilogy, for which I am forever grateful to him. Batman is one of the greatest characters of all time, as are some his enemies. This series is by far the most brilliant realization of the story. Artistic, crisp, fantastic and yet very believable, it is a series that has, at least for me, changed action movies. This is how Batman should have been represented- dark, heroic, human.

So why is The Dark Knight Rises (hence forth to be referred to as Rises for short) such a great movie? Several reasons, the most important of which is the completion of the Bruce Wayne character arc in such style. The second is the boldness to step out of one’s comfort zone, and by this I mean the comfort zone that Nolan has created with the previous two movies. This zone is the reassuring thought that “Yes, this could actually happen,” which is one of the main USPs of the series. The fall of Gotham into anarchy has been covered in the comics. But to show the fall of a modern American city, the modern American city, is a ballsy thing to do- and Nolan pulled it off. If Gotham were to fall, it would take a villain like Bane and The League Of Shadows. Even then, this is the trippiest movie I’ve seen of the series.

So now, what about that arc? Bruce Wayne’s character arc. Or rather, Batman’s character arc. Or maybe it’s the same thing?

Rewind to Batman Begins (hence forth to be referred to as Begins for short). We must start at the beginning in order to explore the transformation properly. The main theme that ran throughout Begins was FEAR. Young Bruce Wayne was born into an easy life. His family were the equivalent of royalty in Gotham. Bruce’s father was brilliant and made himself rich through toil, and the world was Bruce’s oyster. He could have done anything he wanted. But here’s the most important part- his parents were both humble, generous and honest people, and that influenced him to a great extent. This is important, because the influence they had on him started long before their murder. Bruce is humble, we never see him act arrogantly, or with a sense of entitlement. His father must have inculcated that entrepreneurial spirit in him from the start. And most importantly, there was so much love and affection in his family life.

But Bruce was just a kid, and as such, had childish fears. In his case, fear manifested itself in the form of bats. Now you know the story, but Nolan shows it with such style and panache. At the opera, Bruce gets frightened by the actors in bat costumes, which bring back the recent traumatic memory of him being attacked by bats. It is THIS that forces his parents to leave and enter that alleyway. In fact, his father was understanding and magnanimous throughout. Of course, we all know what happened next.

Then came the sorrow, which was natural for a young boy seeing his parents murdered. But more than that was a crushing guilt that it was HIS fault (or so he thought). Imagine what it would be like to feel responsible for your parents’ deaths. And then the anger that came with it, that mutated into an “impossible rage, strangling his grief, until the memory of his loved ones became just poison in his veins.” And perhaps one day, he did find himself wishing they had never existed, so that he could be spared his pain. And the only thing he could do is fake normalcy. He’d trained himself from an early age to wear a mask to the world, because how long could they take a brooding kid, as was explained by John Blake, especially when that kid is the “Prince of Gotham?” As a young man, he tried to take revenge for his parents’ deaths, but was thankfully denied that opportunity by another. He was then showed the truth by another person in his life, a lover and childhood friend. Rachel Dawes plays a very important part in the Bruce Wayne character arc. She made him realize what was going on, that there was a world out there apart from his pain, that suffers as a direct result of the forces that took his parents from him (and of course, from Gotham). Here you have to appreciate how important and integral the Wayne family is to the history and image of Gotham.

But what does Bruce understand of these forces, and of the world in which they operate? No matter how angry he was, how wronged, how deprived, the fact remains that he has never known what it’s like to be down there, to “taste desperate,” as was put forward so eloquently by mob boss Carmine Falcone. Cold reality smacked him down and told him what was what. The dawn of realization came swift and hard. Bruce understood what it meant. He would have to know his enemy, his enemy’s world. And so he goes underground, travelling the world to enter the criminal’s mind and train his own mind and body.

His mission was simple: To use fear against those who prey on the fearful. This was something he must have formulated years later, after living in the underbelly of the criminal world. But this usage of the concept of FEAR was very poignant and intrinsic to his character. But of course, in order to BECOME fear, he must first conquer his own. Ultimately he is taken in by the League Of Shadows, who complete his training, help him conquer his fear, and finally give him a task that he cannot complete- kill a man, and proceed to destroy Gotham. But however angry and vengeful Bruce is, he cannot bring himself to be like the enemy before him, even if the enemy would gladly take his life. Mercy is not an attribute his enemies would share, but as Bruce put it, “That’s why it’s so important. It’s what sets us apart from them.” This was the final step in his journey from aimless vigilante to focused instrument of justice. He chose to become a SYMBOL, something that could not be corrupted or destroyed so easily. He became an embodiment of vengeance and fear.

This sums up the great beginning of Bruce’s journey. He went from pampered little school boy, full of fear, to hardened upholder of justice, who was wise, experience, skilled, compassionate and had conquered his fear, channelling it into a rage that would crush many enemies.

In the penultimate scene, Bruce and Rachel share a tender moment. They are still very much in love with each other, but Rachel points out that Bruce now wears a mask.Bruce says Batman is just a symbol, that he wouldn’t be that forever. “No,” she replies and touches his face, “this is your mask. Your real face is the ones criminals now fear.” She then gives him HOPE. Hope that one day when Gotham no longer needed Batman, they could be together. And so she steps aside. Perhaps she did not want to hold him back. And Bruce knew that he had to sacrifice his own happiness for the greater good. It is not something he took lightly. We can safely assume that no matter how many women he was with after that, his heart belonged to his childhood friend, who had served as confidante, lover, and inspiration throughout his life.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Term (1) End Review

Maddone. That was the longest three months of my life. Yet.

So here's the deal. PGP19, we the first year PGDM-C students at MICA have just completed a whirlwind first term in this hallowed institute. This strange place. This zoo. And I don't even say 'strange' with any negative connotation. It just is... a little off. Not quite- for lack of a better word- normal. It's like a microcosm, a tiny little speck where normality does not apply. It does have some kind of aura around it, something there in the air that you know is there, but you can't quite touch. Something... strange.

Hell, we needed periodic trips out to the real world to keep our sanity in check, to remind us that yes, there is a place where order exists, where people go about their daily lives and everything is... normal. Ah, that's beginning to feel like a loaded word. But I must say, even a trip to nearby Bopal was enough for me sometimes, just to bring my feet back on the ground.

Not to say I don't love this place. It's amazing. But wait, this is the term end review. Looking back, I came here with so many plans, so many expectations, so many goals. Ah, the first day of school again! Nuts. I ain't done nothing yet. What have I accomplished? It's a wonder. It's rather hard to believe, now, that 3 months have actually gone by. Then again, has it really been 3 months? Ok, let's go over the main points and get this over with. Let's see if I, if we, did anything that we set out to do.

The Beginning
The first week was maniacal. It was a simpler time than now. So many new and interesting people, and this was before the seniors even came on campus. There are so many really intelligent and talented people here. It was a time of much socializing, often late into the night, something rather new for some of us (even me). We also noted how time is warped in this place. It just doesn't go at the rate attested to by scientists. 3 weeks felt like 6. It's probably all this waking for 20 hours a day nonsense that we do.

It seemed like fate that I was paired up with Uchil. What a perfect match. Similar frequencies, we're both concerned about keeping a clean room, and have no social constraints whatsoever. We're almost even the same size. Can't say the same about everyone else. There are some real odd couples over here.

What parties? It's just another day at MICA. A bit much at times. (wink, wink)

Ok. So I thought I left massively long lectures behind back in engineering. I didn't know they got longer as you went on. 75 minutes, are you serious? We tried to learn things, and some of us did learn a lot of things, and some of us even scored well in the various exams and midterms and assignments that they kept giving. And yes, the break-up of the evaluation means that some of these assignments saved some of us from the ignomy of failing the subject proper, because let's face it, some of us are too old to be writing papers anymore. But we did get a few concepts, between cat naps and loo breaks. Speaking of which, each class has its own set of martial sleepers, whom you can count on to droop at any time of the day regardless of the professor in class.

Half of our first term subjects had to do with this seemingly harmless word. I had a good idea what culture was before coming here. Now that we've had about 118 definitions hurled at us, I'm not quite sure. Maybe it's all just an illusion. Maybe it's like that damned spoon in The Matrix. I'm sure there's a grand unifying theory somewhere. All I can say for sure is everything boils down to culture. Everything. What you eat. What you read. What you play. What movies you watch. Whether you wash your hands after taking a leak. Everything.

Gangnam Style
There were songs, and then there were songs. This is the latter. At certain times, a particular song was playing in each and every hostel here. But this is the one that blew everything else away. I remember a 48 hour period when this Korean rap song was all that we were tripping on. Getting dressed up in formals was another excuse to blast the song over the speakers and do the dance, which we are all pretty good at by now. Any time anywhere, we open Gangnam style.

A lot of us had our hearts set on a committee. It's one of the quintessential aspects of college life. Of course, positions were limited. So after a grueling week of auditions and assignments and interviews that went on late late late into the night, it was a bit of a pissoff not get into any of them. To put it lightly. I had to settle for platitudes and assurances that it's better not to be in a committee anyway. Apparently.

The Dark Knight Rises
I managed to watch it only 5 times. It's hard to get out on a weekday, though I managed it once and caught the 3:45 show. Too bad opening day came on the day of our Culnite, but I compensated by watching it the whole day the very next day. It's a little annoying that it didn't come to the Ahmedabad IMAX. That is one thing I was counting on. So much for my plans of taking a train to Mumbai and watching first day first show in the IMAX there.

From 5PM till 6:30AM the next morning. No kidding.

That damned rain
The monsoons arrived at the campus a little later than expected, but more than made up for its tardiness. Have you ever seen the badminton court flooded in shin-high water? No, that is not an exaggeration. It really happened. The rain makes everything icky. Not only that, but we live in the middle of a jungle. The rain unleashes forth a veritable plague of insects and other things that swarm to lights in our room. There are 6-legged critters of all shapes and sizes crawling up all kinds of body parts. But if you ever want to know when it will rain, you should just ask me. Because it will always be the day I put my laundry out to dry. Damn you, Murphy.

There were those days when we voluntarily sacrificed our sleep for vagabond activities and what not. They were not so bad. We compensated for them during the day (you know what I mean). But sleep was certainly a thing we all bid an uncerimonious goodbye to. Still, it wasn't so bad, until it became involuntarily. End term exams were days that saw us get about 4 hours of sleep- in maybe 3 sittings. It was a physical job, like tensing a muscle, to stay awake. There were many drooping heads over laptops and hitherto unopened books, fighting against the clock and the biological need for REM (not the band). And then there was the odd day that suddenly you find yourself in a position to turn in early (a relative term, I mean about 3AM). So you lay down, thinking you'll be out like a light, but you're not. You toss and turn, and turn and toss, and then it strikes you: you have become nocturnal. Damn it.

Well, that's it. I mean no, that's not it. There is sooooo much more, but you're not going to read it anyway, and I've got to pack. Because I'm going home. Yes. The term end vacation is here, and I'm going home. And I'm happy. Because as amazing as this place is, it just gets to you. And now I need a good week away at home, back in the real world, to recharge and replenish, and then I'll be ready to come back with arms wide open. But no, seriously, right now what I need more than anything is to get the hell out.

So what have I accomplished? I'm not quite sure. I've lost a lot of weight. I've managed not to get a belly, what with the fantastic array of fried things they serve us. I've removed the word 'routine' from my dictionary. Sigh. I'd like to think I've done something good. So many things I took for granted in the first week are gone now. Alliances once made are estranged. New ones have sprung from unexpected places. We are all so used to each other. I wonder what it would be like to meet some of them out there in the real world. But you know what, this was a huge learning experience. Now I know, more or less, how things are done around here. So next term should be easier. I think.

P.S. The photocredit goes to RoRo.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

My Own Wasteland

Cracked earth fractures in the heat
As the barren land mourns.
No life perturbs the ground
But for a few crown of thorns.

Even the cacti are withered
And protrude like broken bones.
I planted them there with great care
And now my labour's fruits are borne.

I chose every rock to adorn this place,
I crafted and moulded every dune.
The sand that cuts like broken glass
I laid myself under the moon.

I tore the sky, no clouds do cover,
And the sun is harsh and cruel.
But I'm to blame for shadow's exile,
She's not to blame for sun's rule.

With loving hands I shaped the hills,
With minute detail I crafted the cacti's spines.
By day the land burns, by night freezes with no ice.
This is my wasteland of my own design.

God gave me green forests and bounty,
And lakes and vales to feed them.
He gave me chances to build cities
of gold, but I did not heed them.

Now even God has forsaken me,
Left me without even my sins to atone.
This is my wasteland, my own creation
And now I must live here alone.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Random Rant 8:- The Phantom Click

Uh oh... did I do that?
So there you are, innocently working on the computer, the most evil machine ever invented by man. You're just minding your own business, doing some task (usually on some loathsome Microsoft software).

You'll be moving the mouse, clicking, typing something, clicking, dragging, basically having the time of your life.

But ever so often, one will accidentally click... click, but not mean to. It is a phantom click. One that is not initiated consciously by you, but nonetheless finds your finger applying sufficient pressure on the left mouse button to register one.

Sometimes, with disastrous results. Because the phantom click will sometimes press a button that you absolutely did not intend to and it brings about a regime change the likes of which you have never seen. Suddenly new windows appear, or old ones are gone. You are lost. You do not know how to revert. Ctrl+Z is not working. You are panicking. Work done may disappear or reappear in another horribly wrong format. Or you may have accidentally irrevocably deleted something.

Oh dear lord, what have I done?

What is this sorcery? What strange secret have you unlocked? You look at all the possible buttons you might have clicked. Which one of them would have unleashed such witchcraft?

And since the click is a phantom one and did not register with you, you will continue to happily drag the pointer across the screen. This may change the entire layout of the GUI. Suddenly taskbars are not where they should be. The preview screen in Outlook is gone. Text has disappeared or been inserted where it doesn't belong. It is a nightmare.

And the worst part is, you are alone. No one can help you. You are lost. You are without recourse. You are very, very pissed off. Fucking computer...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Random Rant 7:- The Excuse-Me Tango

So there I'll be, walking along, tralalalala, minding my own fucking business.

Then suddenly, some idiot will stop right in front of me. These idiots can come from anywhere. They may materialize around the corner, or may coming head on at you. Usually they are looking somewhere else. The ones coming around the corner do not have the sense to recognize the possibility of someone coming in the blind spot behind the corner, they just come barreling through. Those coming head on are looking at the ceiling, the floor, or into space- anywhere else but right in front of them. These I can at least see, because I'm of course looking in the proper direction.

But it may just be that I am in the confined space of a narrow corridor or such. Not much area for maneuverability. So now, bam, I'm stuck with said moron in front of me.


I hate having the flow of my walk broken for no good reason, but for someone's carelessness.

But being the bigger man, being the peacemaker, being the nice fucking guy that I am, I choose to step aside and give the erring soul yield, so that he/she may get the fuck on their way, and I can continue as well.

But no. Said idiot moves in the same direction that you do.

Damn it. Why would you do that? You have already put your incompetence on full display, why now would you block me from putting you far behind me, physically and otherwise?

Okay, I choose to ignore this blip. All is not lost yet. But I want to get the hell out of there. So I go to side-step the person. Only to have them step in the same direction.

Okay, what the fuck, man? Why are you mocking me now? Can you just move so I can be on my merry fucking way?

So I step back the other way. To my absolute horror, so the does the other person. It is getting agitating now. I mean, I was already agitated, but now the facade of good citizen is starting to crack.

So this back and forth thing can happen any number of times. It may be accompanied with embarrassed smiles and muffled apologies. Excuse me, no you excuse me, no you excuse me, and so on.

But here comes the best part.

I stop. I think, enough of this chicanery, I'm done with this bullshit. You can do whatever you want. But then the other person stops too. Now we both look like idiots who are just standing there. The horror. The shame. I want to die. I want to pick the other person up and throw them in the other direction. Look, just go around me, what are you doing?

But that's okay. I know the person's next move. By following the previous pattern, I know they are going to the side. So, here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to prevent any further shenanigans. I am going to end this misery. I am going to go right down the middle.

But then, would you believe it, so do they.


Friday, May 4, 2012

The Avengers- Something Of A Review

I hated the Tim Burton Batman movies, but I loved the Nolan ones. I don’t know when it happened, but somehow the taste for “fantasy” creeped out of me. Perhaps it was because I grew up a Batman fan, and everything about him was so… human. But the first “incredible” superheroes that were presented in a “credible” way were X-Men and Spiderman, two cartoons I religiously avoided. If I could enjoy those movies, surely there was hope?

But I was still always concerned about the Avengers project. Iron Man came out, and I became an instant Robbie Downey Jr. fan. The Incredible Hulk reboot was also very enjoyable. By the time Iron Man 2 came out, we all knew about the Avengers project. It annoyed me because that would involve placing the “credible” Iron Man (yes, even with his out-of-this-world technology) into the “incredible” world of green monsters and Norse gods. I cringed a bit at the time.

But I let the excitement build, even if it festered with my doubt. I knew the basic premise… they would be recruited, they would falter, then they would come together as a team to avert a global catastrophe. That is taken for granted. It was how they would do it that was my concern, could they keep my attention, and would each hero be given his due.

After all, it felt like a couple of movies were made just with this one in mind. So I thought, what the hell? At least I’ll get to see more of Sam Jackson than just a small teaser clip at the end of the previous movies.

But they did make good of it. And I was pleasantly surprised. There was enough emotion to go around, something I was worried would be sorely missed. We had the conflicted soldier complex of Captain America, a counterpoint to the renegade of funk that Tony Stark was. Both of them didn’t see eye-to-eye. We had the reserved Bruce Banner who wanted nothing to do with them. There was a romantic tension with Romanov and Barton that was more taut than a bowstring (see what I did there). There is the weight of the world on Nick Fury. There is the maniacal Loki who is bent on revenge, and I’m not certain anything else. I’m not sure what Thor brings to the table other than a big hammer, but it seems that Robin lady’s sitcom career wasn’t a waste after all because she landed a role in this movie.

Apart from that was a heavy dose of good action, which is hard to come by because we are so spoiled with all kinds of brilliant action pieces that we become kind of desensitized to it all. The film starts slowly (after an initial action packed bang, that was to be expected) with several references to previous movies that have you excitedly saying “Ooo, that’s the thing from Thor!” or “They told that in The Incredible Hulk, remember?” and “Oh yes, that comes all the way from Nazi days in Captain America!”.  And also the recruitment process. This is not a bad thing, because it allowed for a lot of banter to take place- Tony Stark, of course, being the king of banter. Then comes the typical scattering, accompanied by a big action scene, where the heroes are distraught, and there is a lot of emotion here. And it is handled well. And finally the big kaboom when they decide to come together as a team, and Sam Jackson does not get eaten by a shark.

Now the thing about superhero movies is that the entire city or world has to be on the edge of doom. Otherwise, it’s no fun. In Batman Begins, Gotham was on the verge of destruction. In The Dark Knight it is arguable that even more was at stake. In all Spiderman movies, New York stood on the threshold of annihilation. Iron Man had problems with doomsday technology. Earth was going to be overrun by Frost Giants in Thor. Watchmen had the world poised on the brink of nuclear war. Hulk had to stop a giant scary beast from tearing apart Harlem in his movie. And Captain America… sorry, I was dead drunk for that one. But he beat up a lot of Nazis, so like, whatever. The point is, global catastrophes have become the order of the day, because anything less will fail to capture our destroyed attention spans for more than 2 seconds. Every life has to hang in the balance, or why the f**k do we need a superhero? In this case, however, a global catastrophe is DEMANDED by the sheer scale of things. And we are given one, one that is built across the span of at least 2 prior movies (Thor and Captain America). Everything has its place, everything fits.

The special effects are, as expected, amazing. When Romanov tells Banner and Captain that “its going to get hard to breathe in a minute”, and you think the boat is a submarine, but a second later you realize its not… these kind of things are what you love about these movies. And the action is beautiful. Not overcooked and unintelligible like certain Michael Bay movies. It is REALLY good. The big final fight where all the Avengers are working together is marvelous. And it really is a sweet cap on a truly excellent superhero movie.

My doubt can finally rest peacefully. I can finally look forward to the final Batman movie.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Adzilla: IndiGo's Musical Ad

I know, this one is a little old, but I can't not pay attention to it.

Wow! What a blockbuster ad!

IndiGo Airlines releases this ad to announce their new international flights. The ad is in the form of a musical, starring the pilot and all his supporting crew, including ground staff, control room staff, and charming air hostesses. They all sing about the efficiency and international reach of the airlines. And if you haven't seen it yet, you simply must watch the ad here.

Grand. What a beautiful Broadway feel. The coreography is excellent, and the dancers are superb. The air hostesses are really hot. The stage design is wonderful, with a beautiful use of bright lights and complementing colors (blues, blacks, browns, golds...). The cinematography is great, like the quick zoom-ins at certain points. The music and the lyrics are catchy (the song is inspired by the number "I Am The Very Model of a Modern Major General" from the 1983 Gilbert & Sullivan operetta "The Pirates of Penzance"). The TVC has been shot in Los Angeles, directed by Steven Antin, director of the Christina Aguilera musical feature Burlesque, and choreographed by Denise Faye of Chicago fame. This is a highly entertaining ad.

I love the grandiosity, which is obviously tongue-in-cheek. The use of grandeur to relay a simple message has always been to me a humorous thing, and subtly so. In the meantime, the ad broadcasts its message of the international flights and relays with panache and utmost style the message of the complete efficiency of all its staff, metaphorized by the minute detail and synchronization of a musical. I am reminded of their previous ad which I also liked, the "Conveyor Belt" TVC that again metaphorized their efficiency quite creatively. But if I liked that ad, then I love this one (and yes, I am a fan of Glee).

The target audience, in my opinion, seems to be the "upper" middle class (which I say for lack of a better term). I mean to say the educated middle class that is indoctrinated enough with Western culture. (Please excuse the use of the word "upper," I did not mean to sound conceited). The "Star World" class, if you will. They are the ones who would benefit most from this communication, the ones who can afford this service, and would most likely be the only ones understanding this communication.

So let's break it down:


  • Very creative. Rises high above the clutter. I cannot praise enough the execution of this ad. I love it. (And that's what matters the most).
  • Effective use of the metaphor of choreographed precision to make an entertaining ad and get across a message.
  • The humor is there in the delivery. An entire musical? It's a bit much, yes? Perhaps that's the point.
  • Hot air hostesses. I mean really hot. And the smiles they give.
  • Choreography. Set design. Cinematography. Lyrics and song. Very crisp (they did get some of the best to help). 
  • It's too "English." While getting the words was no problem for me, not everyone got more than a few words here and there. Such was the opinion expressed by much of the ad fraternity. It raises the question, who exactly is the ad for? The message may be missed.
  • The ad is too Hollywood. Too Broadway. Granted the song is taken from a Broadway musical, but does it strike a chord with a majority of the Indian public (even keeping in mind the target audience)? Probably a Bollywood version would have resonated with the TG more, and a wider audience as well. Subtitles could have helped too (another widely expressed opinion).
  • They don't talk enough about the international flights! Where do they go? It's left to the consumer to find that out. But perhaps it was a small (a very large small) sacrifice to make to keep the integrity of the ad).

The agency was Wieden+Kennedy. Read more insights from professionals about this ad from here, here, and here.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Porngate? What A Fail

Indian politicians are the biggest attention-seekers in the world. They get attention even when they don't want it.

A few days ago (8th Feb), three Karnataka BJP ministers (now ex-ministers) were caught watching porn on a mobile phone during an assembly debate.

My immediate reaction was one of hilarity. Getting caught watching porn, that too during an assembly debate? Classic. It also proved irrevocably to me that:


A media storm ensued after that. The three ministers- CC Patil, Laxman Savadi, and Krishna Palemar- stepped down to save face for their party, because the BJP would not force them to as a matter of principle (as if we can't see right through that). Patil is in fact the minister for women and child development. The hilarity doesn't end there: Savadi went so far as to cut the lights in his constituency so his people wouldn't watch news coverage of his innocent, I mean indecent, act. When he allowed electricity to return in the night, the cable was predictably still out. And he still maintains that they were mainly doing "research" on what rave parties were all about. (And millions of little boys around the world are on their way to becoming anatomy experts as well).

The media has not dropped this. Why should they? It's fodder to fill in between news about the UP State Polls and updates on Yuvraj Singh's health. It's gold! Who doesn't love a good porn controversy, particularly the so-called conservatives that are we Indians?

The timing couldn't have been more perfect either. Porn had a huge promotional run just recently when Sunny Leone was a guest on Big Boss.

But let's get serious for a second: all this hoopla, all this condemnation from all corners, all this rushing to take the high moral ground... it's boring.

First of all, I DON'T CARE IF THEY WERE WATCHING PORN. I mean, sure, it's funny, but who gives a crap? What does worry me is that they weren't paying attention during a supposedly important debate. What does worry me is that is what my taxes are going for. I don't care if he was jerking off or solving a Rubik's cube, I want my elected representatives to fucking PAY ATTENTION in assembely. Because if they're not doing their job, the country is continuing to deteriorate. This, according to me, should be the real issue. But everyone seems more concerned about the content of the mobile.

Second, I don't understand all this hulabaloo over getting the ministers to quit. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they were efficient ministers. So does this tiny little act undermine their abilities so much? Do they by default become completely inept? I understand that ministers are supposed to be "model leaders," but no matter from which part of the world people come from, their DNA is almost the same, and boys will be boys. I'm more worried about ministers who have people murdered. Who openly rape the people's resources, who steal our money. I'm worried about completely inept officials in positions of power, just waiting for the next paycheck to come. I'd take 10 porn-watching but effective officials over a corrupt, inept bastard any day.

Meh. It's all about having ammo against the opposition anyway. In another rib-tickling twist, Karnataka ritualistically sends out "moral police" to harass couples on occasions like Valentines Day. They have a pretty low tolerance for open displays of affection or even attraction to the opposite sex, because that's so unnatural. And here we have three of their sons depicting the most human nature possible. After all, "to deny our most basic impulse is to deny the very thing that makes us human."

It kind of makes me think. And then it just makes me laugh again.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Perils of Supporting Manchester United

Wannabes. Glory hunters. Idiots.

And these are some of the nice terms that Utd fans are often greeted with. I cannot imagine the plight of Utd supporter in England, especially during these trying times, but that of one on the subcontinent isn't a walk in the park either, and the derision we face in India shows no sign of abating.

Ah, but fuck that. Glory glory Man Utd. What a team! What a club! What a history, what a legacy. It's all there... pride, trophies, flair, and yes the inevitable arrogance. Oh, I'm sorry, that's the wrong word.

It is only natural to hate a rival club, and Utd has plenty (of rivals). It is also only natural to hate the champions when your team are not they. However, this makes for a unique situation in India. What right do we have to declare love and devotion to an English football team? We have no local nor familial (inherited support, like our children will have) obligation to support the club. We are thousands of miles away, far removed from the cold and the rain and the chants of rival supporters. Add to that the fact that in India, the first match that most people have seen is that fateful '99 Champions League final, which Utd clinched in the dying minutes, immediately creating a huge fanbase here. That's how a lot of people started watching and supporting Utd. Those were David Beckham's greatest days for the club. One of the first "rock star" footballers of the new millenium, he became a brand ambassador for Utd, with many people learning about him before they learned about the club. And thus began the propogation of Utd fandom across Asia and India in particular.

That got the ball rolling. Which is why Utd supporters are broadly classified into two categories: 1. The fans who began supporting thanks to that match, who didn't know anything about football. 2. The glory-hunters and the wannabes who support Man Utd because everyone else does. Because it's "cool" to support Utd.

In my time in Mysore, I was hanging around the basketball court when I overheard two people in conversation. One seemed a level-headed chap, the other seemed a twat. Guess if you can guess which was which. The conversation went something like this:
A: (in a heavily accented and annoying voice) "I just hate ManU, you know. I will take bets against them, I will lose money, I don't care, but I just hate them."
B: "Yeah. Actually they have a lot of fans."
A: "Yaaaa, and you know that's the reason I hate them so much..."

Hmm. Thanks a lot, asshole. You broadly sum up most Utd-haters. And your willingness to lose money just to make a point- highly admirable! I wish you'd've taken some bets with me. Cocksucker.

The ABUs (Anyone But United), united only in their common hatred for Utd. Which is understandable.

The persecution from these creatures starts at the basest level. Why do we support Utd? They see us as bandwagon-hopping glory hunters, and nothing more. It's a vicious cycle for them: Utd has many supporters, that's why so many people support Utd, which adds to their fanbase, and so on. It's as if supporting any other team would qualify us to a certain basic respect that doesn't come with supporting Utd. It hardly crosses their mind that maybe we, like many people, started supporting a team for arbitrary reasons in the beginning, but came to understand and appreciate them. But no one takes us seriously. Not a Utd supporter.

Second most important, they hate our history. They hate when we bring it up. They accuse us, after every loss or hiccup in form, of hiding behind our history. Okay. It's not our fault that our club has such a marvelous history. Such jealousy boils within our rivals that they jump as if scalded every time they even hear the number "19." How dare we ever bring that up? Liverpool used to be the team with history. What gets them is that that's all they have now. They once told us to come back when we have 18 (Premier League titles). We now have one more. So they take pride in reminding us that they have 5 European Cups, while we only have 3. So much for not hiding behind history. Got knocked off your fuckin' perch, didn't you scousers? And then there are clubs like Chelsea, who have even less of a history than Liverpool, and very little of a present to speak of, whose fans claim not to care about history. That's a very pretty and convenient excuse. But you will be so kind as to forgive us for being proud of our history. And just to keep it recent for your sake, in the last 5 years we still have more trophies than you've had managers- and that's saying something.

Speaking of which, another reason for their hate is another reason for our pride: yes, Manchester United is a one man team, but that man is Sir Alex Ferguson. And they HATE Sir Alex, more than they hate our history and all our trophies combined. He's an arrogant, pompous son of a bitch. He bans media reporters, he only answers soft-ball questions, he influences refs, he tells the England manager that he doesn't want his boys to play, he get's extra time at Old Trafford when he needs it, and he seems to dictate dubious decisions. He is a force of evil. How else could he have remained manager of a single team for a quarter of a century, a feat unheard of in these tough times? How else could he have won 12 Premier League titles, more than some clubs? He must be strong with the Dark Side of the Force. But I'm glad that he's on our side.

Tick tock, ref, tick tock...
Player scuffles happen, because millionaire egos clash in the dressing room. Some of these players are kids. But the Gaffer always maintains that the Club is bigger than any player, as it should be. Then came Rooneygate, in October of 2010, where he claimed the "club had no ambition." This was a shocker, especially given the friendly relationship between Rooney and Sir Alex. It was, perhaps, and agent induced kerfuffle. Rooney agreed to stay and was given a pay raise, something rival fans are quick to keep us from forgetting. So which was it? Did Sir Alex swallow his pride and concede to Wayne's demands, or was Wayne confused because some caustic components were whispering poison in his ears? The fact is, we can only speculate. For me, whatever the case may be, his drastic improvement in pitch performance and utter devotion to the team has earned my forgiveness, sealed with that emphatic bicycle kick at Old Trafford against Manchester City in the same season. So when he kisses the badge, I believe it. Haters do not.

Rooney is a Red, at lest for now. So be afraid.
And now we come to the competition. The Blue Moon rising. Where to start. For years they have been the underachieving little brother. From across town. Suddenly Manchester City FC finds itself rolling in a sheikh's oil money and chock full of big stars with a successful Italian coach at their head. And now they are winning. Why wouldn't they, with stellar talent in the form of players like Sergio Aguero, son-in-law of the legendary Diego Maradonna; David Silva, one of the best midfielders in the league; Mario Ballotelli, a black Italian with behavioral issues and a mean streak.
The man behind the Blue Wave, Roberto Mancini.
Stellar talent, no doubt. Aguero, Balotelli, and Silva. Any team would be envious.
They are a force to reckon with. This season they have already beat us at Old Trafford by the embarassing scoreline of 1-6, and currently lead the table on points. And this is a fact that we are constantly reminded about. What gives them more glee is that it is the once upon a time retarded little brother that now seems to be calling shots in Manchester. And suddenly the City fans have come out of the woodwork. It's a bit sad the way they love a Utd loss more than a victory for their own side, whoever it may be.

Liverpool beat us 2-1 in the FA Cup this season. To lose to rivals is a horrible thing. Because we then face all kinds of dubious insinuations. And the ribbing is caustic and non-stop. It's a very special thing, and rival fans use it with the utmost glee. I suppose I can't blame them: defeating Utd IS a special thing.

Just recently we drew Chelsea at Stamford Bridge 3-3, coming back from 3-0 down. We had the help of two penalty calls, by none other than our savior, Howard Webb, top English referee. The accusations are rife and endless: Howard Webb is a Manchester United man. He always gives decisions in favor of Utd. He always helps Utd win. He always gives Utd more injury time so they can score a winner or an equalizer at OT. Sir Alex himself is supposed to have a magical control over all referees (except maybe Martin Atkinson). This notion, is of course rubbish. Rarely will they remember decisions that went against Utd. The penalties in question, however soft, were indeed penalties. The overall quality of refereeing these days is shown in a bad light altogether, with the media hyping every single bad or dubious call, but this constant whining and complaining about how certain referees support and protect Utd (or any other club, for that matter) is annoying and childish. I personally hate it when decisions go against my team (like Atkinson's refereeing in the reverse fixture of last season), but I also hate it when we win dubious challenges. Such sanity is never extended when dealing with a Devil, I'm afraid. The mob comes with pitchforks and torches to burn us at the stake.

Hold your cliched accusations till the end.
So their you have it. Utd fans are subject to a variety of disproportionate hate crimes, from ill-humored ribbing to blatant and arbitrary labelling as wannabes and worse.

Oh, but what to do. We support Man Utd. Manchester fucking United. The Red Devils. Oh baby, what a team. From the Busby Babes to the Fergie Fledglings, inspiration and triumph is everywhere you look. They are relentless. Your players may make money; ours make history. We are not arrogant, just better. Utd has given me so much, but one of the most important things is the power to B.E.L.I.E.V.E.

And that is a wonderful gift. No matter at what stage of the match it is, I NEVER LOSE FAITH. Last season we were down 2-0 to Aston Villa. When Macheda came on and bolted a strike in to make it 2-1, I was waiting for 2-3, not 2-2. Just recently against Chelsea, when we were down 3-0, I didn't give up. I sat up and waited for us to get equal, and the goals came one by one. Even on Black Sunday, when City had us pegged 1-3 at OT down and we lost Johnny Evans to a red card, I did not waver. The first two matches did indeed end up a draw, and we all know what happened with the last one. But this ability to BELIEVE in the face of sheer defeat is a gift Utd has given me, and something I am able to carry beyond football. What a magnificent thing.

And then there is just the pure joy of watching Manchester United play. What a beautiful high, to see that lovely attacking football. I love every one of those boys playing in that shirt. Yes, this thing with Utd has turned into a real love affair over the years. It is a privilege and a treat to watch them play. That never-say-die attitude which has become synonymous with brand Utd is massive. How do I thank them for this? For that unbeatable high and joy of watching Manchester United play football?

The haters will hate. That's what they do. They will pick and prod and point and grab at anything to pull you down, but that spirit is unshakable. Jealousy blinds and hatred stupefies, they will insinuate and accuse but they may never know that feeling, and for that they must be excused. Perhaps even pitied. And we LOVE your hate. It makes us stronger. It makes Manchester United who they are. Fuck yeah, it's the world against us. Give us hell.

So go on, label me. Insult me. Hate me.

We are The Red Devils, and we will march on.