Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Karate Kid


The 2010 remake of the The Karate Kid (1984) has Jaden Smith in the title role and Jackie Chan as his teacher. The movie is produced by Will Smith, father of Jaden Smith.

The movie is about an American kid who moves to China and has troubles with his school bullies. His opponents are experts in Kung Fu, being trained by a vicious 'no mercy' teacher. Our hero gets an unlikely teacher in Jackie Chan, who agrees to train him so that he can kick the bad guys' butt in a martial arts tournament.

If the theme doesn't interest you much, the screen adaptation will bore you to death. Jaden Smith gives a terrible performance as an actor (compare it to Haley Joel Osment's performance in The Sixth Sense). The story is very familiar and has no hidden surprises.

The movie doesn't do justice to it's title since the martial art that's portrayed is Kung Fu, rather than Karate. So, this really ought to be 'The Kung Fu Kid'. There are several elaborate scenes in the movie to show off people training in Kung Fu. These scenes will make you yawn because they enforce every cliche about Kung Fu and China in general. If one has to learn Kung Fu, it has to be on a platform on top of the Great Wall, so that it can be filmed from all angles!

The climax of the movie is the most silly part of it. I won't say what happens in the tournament, but be assured that there won't be any surprises. The silliness might even irritate you.

If you thought The Next karate kid was bad, you can skip watching The (worst) Karate kid (2010). Hilary Swank can at least act. Can't say that about Jaden Smith.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Raajneeti


Ever since the project was announced, Raajneeti was hyped as based on the life of Sonia Gandhi, portrayed by Katrina Kaif. The creators probably thought this would give them good publicity. Later, as if they couldn't handle it, the director Prakash Jha and Katrina Kaif dismissed these reports. Anyway, as a result of all this, Raajneeti was widely associated with Katrina Kaif and nobody else (compare Google searches for "raajneeti katrina kaif" and "raajneeti ranbir kapoor". Arjun Rampal doesn't even have a chance!).
In fact, the movie is not about Sonia Gandhi and nor is Katrina Kaif the lead character.

So, what is Raajneeti all about. Just politics! Politics in north India, to be precise. But the movie is just an over-glorified potpourri of the epic Mahabharata and Francis Ford Coppola's classic The Godfather (1972) (screen adaptation of Mario Puzo's novel by the same name).

The basic theme of the movie is Mahabharata with story elements and scenes lifted from The Godfather. I say lifted and not inspired (the euphemism film-makers generally prefer) because there are far too many occasions and far too many similarities.

Since the central theme is Mahabharata and not The Godfather, there's no character equivalent of Don Vito Corleone (aka "The Godfather"). Ranbir Kapoor plays the lead character of "Samar Pratap" - a combination of Michael Corleone of The Godfather and Arjuna of Mahabharata. Arjun Rampal plays "Pritvi Pratap", the elder brother of Samar and leader of a political party. The father of these two does serve the purpose of Don Vito Corleone when the story needs him to ;-)
The negative role, Duryodhana, is played by Manoj Bajpai. His character, "Veerendra Pratap", the cousin of Samar-Pritvi brothers, leads a rival group with in the party. Veteran actor Nana Patekar plays the uncle of these young turks and serves the purpose of Krishna.
Assisting Duryodhana, err Veerendra Pratap, is "Sooraj Kumar", the illegitimate brother of Samar/Pritvi (Karna of Mahabharata, of course) played by Ajay Devgan.
In this heavy star-cast, where does Katrina fit in, you ask? She plays "Indu" (or "Indu Pratap") the daughter of a wealthy industrialist, having close ties with the political family.

The basic plot is quite simple and straightforward, if you remember your Mahabharata (or at least B.R. Chopra's highly acclaimed TV series - "Mahabharat").
The popular 'Rashtrawadi party' is led by Veerendra Pratap's father, assisted by his younger brother. Samar, our Michael Corleone, has just returned from vilayat to attend his uncle's birthday party. Indu (katrina Kaif) is in love with Samar, who on the other hand has a blonde girlfriend and has no intentions of hitting on with Indu.
When the big party leader falls following a heart attack, a fight for power begins between the factions led by Samar and Pritvi. Sooraj (Ajay Devgan) is a local leader and when he's mocked by Pritvi, Veerendra gives him refuge and befriends him (I told you, Mahabharata all the way). The fight that ensues gets bloody and Samar is pulled in, although quite voluntarily, to the crookedness and violence of politics.


Although the critics generally seem to have given very positive ratings to Raajneeti, I find it quite un-original and lacklustre. I quite honestly fail to see any brilliance in the adaptation or the direction. If you've watched The Godfather, you'll recognise several scenes and twists in Raajneeti. The similarities seem endless and many elements have been spiced-up/altered, but not very much, to suit the Bollywood style.
The script is not that great either. most characters have wide ranging qualities. A man shown to be crushing another man's skull is later described as dil ke ache! The ending is also quite boring and predictable drama (remember Karna's chariot getting stuck in the battlefield? Well, a Scorpio is the modern-day chariot ;-).

The director makes a desperate attempt to make the movie seem very "bold" by stuffing in a couple of love-making/steamy scenes, at regular intervals throughout the movie. On-screen kissing doesn't seem to be a taboo any more these days. The story dismisses all concerns of increased infertility among the current generation, as all women in this movie conceive with just one copulation.
The portrayal of politics as a beastly game and the deplorable depiction of women politicians add more masala.

One appreciable thing about the movie is the excellent acting by the male actors. I can't say the same about Katrina Kaif, but she hasn't done very bad either. Ranbir Kapoor has performed quite well, and so has Arjun Rampal. Ajay Devgan (a hugely over-rated actor, in my opinion) is his usual unimpressive self.

To conclude, I'd say Rajneeti is just an okay movie, much better than the average filth Bollywood produces. Ranbir Kapoor, though no Al Pacino, is showing lot of promise these days. Although much over-rated and not really worth the praise it's getting, Raajneeti won't irritate you and mock your intelligence (well, it does make a try, in a couple of occasions).

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Adding IMDB search to Opera browser


Opera has been my favourite browser for more than a decade now. This under-appreciated product introduced many innovations (like tabbed browsing and standards compliance) that people usually associate with Firefox.

Opera has a feature for searching using keywords in the address bar. For example, To search with Google, all you need to do is type: "g your-search-phrase" in the address bar and hit enter. Similarly, 'w' will do a Wikipedia search and 'y', a Yahoo search. I've seen lot of people get pleasantly surprised when I explain this handy feature that saves time.


Adding a custom search

Being a movie buff, I do lot of searching on IMDB and hence adding a custom search for that is very useful for me. Here's how to do it.

Open: Menu > Settings > Preferences > Search
Click on 'Add', type in the following:
Name = IMDB
Keyword = i
Address = http://www.imdb.com/find?s=all&q=%s

Hit OK and you're done. From now on, you can just type: "i some-movie-name" in Opera's address bar to do an IMDB search. Convenient, isn't it?


Even easier method

In recent versions of Opera (I've noticed in v10.6 alpha), there's an even easier method. Just right-click any search field on any web site and select 'Create search' from the menu. Opera will automatically fill in the details and you only need to pick a key-word of your choice.


PS: The custom searches you create this way can be added to the speed-dial page or to the tool-bar for easy access.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Curries by Amritha - Restaurant

Curries is a new take-home counter from the famous Amritha Hotel group. It's at Kowdiar, right next to Cafe Coffee Day (yup, the old Nikki-Nikita place).

The attractive food counter had a number of non-vegetarian dishes in the offering, but only one vegetarian dish. The servings are measured by weight and reasonably priced (250g chicken curry costs Rs.80).

I tried the chicken curry (what better to try at a restaurant named curries?). It was not very spicy and had too much potato content for my taste. The mutton fry (not too dry) was very spicy and quite good. The Gobi Manchurian was fine too. But the best part of the meal was the Rotis. They had little or no maida and were delicious enough to be devoured without any curry.

To conclude, Curries shows lot of promise (unlike the previous occupants of that place). Do checkout their chicken bartha, it looked interesting...

Zinc n Rock - Restaurant

Zinc n Rock is a stylish new café, located at the Vanross Junction. These guys have placed ads on every nook and corner of the city, and so we decided to check it out.

It's a delight to walk in to this stylishly decorated restaurant. The theme seems to be 'Red & Black' everywhere and of course, rock music. An electric guitar adorns a wall and there's a durbar at a corner, where you can sit down on the cushions on the floor (if you are capable of bending your knees, that is!). But the constant rock noise (I dare not call it music) from the shabby speakers gets on your nerves after a while. I really cherished the moments of pause between tracks!

The menu too is quite attractive with a variety of sandwiches, burgers and beverages. The prices were reasonable too.
We marked our orders on a list provided and the waiter was very prompt to collect it from us. And then our loooong wait began. It took about an hour for our sandwiches/burgers to be served. When enquired, the manager told us that the delay was because they were bringing the items hot from the oven!
Anyway, the food was quite okay, but nothing spectacular. The relatively lower prices on the menu was more than compensated by the reduced size of servings!

After two hours, we were still waiting for our milkshakes and coffee. We could see people at other tables getting irritated by the delay (and by the 'music' too in no small measure, I guess). The manager was all apologetic but that didn't help with the situation. We canceled our drinks and paid the bill and got out. I didn't then have any memory of the delight I felt when walking in to the place left in me!

Zinc n Rock is a treat to the eyes. But it's irritating for the ears and tormenting for your stomachs. If you need to waste a couple of hours (waiting for a train perhaps), I suggest you buy a ticket for one of the amazing Malayalam movies in theaters rather than visit Zinc n Rock. That at least costs a lot less!

Update: Zinc n Rock guys have been conducting occasional 'food festivals'. I tried their Biryani festival. It was horrible.. I guess I should stay away from this place forever!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Mezbaan - Restaurant

"Mezbaan" - how does that sound? Well, if the title didn't tell ya, it's a new restaurant claiming to specialize in Malabari cuisine. It's on the ground floor of the Vyapara Bhavan building at Manjalikkulam (down the Gandhari Amman Kovil Road, towards Thampanoor).

The restaurant is not very big, accommodating less than ten tables. The place looks okay enough. The palm-leaf and bamboo walls and kerosene lanterns (കമ്പി റാന്തല്‍) (they're just decorative, of course) are mixed with Chinese paper lanterns/lamps to give a colourful and mildly weird ambience.

The menu is very attractive although the prices are slightly on the higher side. Chicken/mutton biryani are priced at Rs.100.
As always, we (three of us) went for variety and asked for a sizeable number of dishes. To our disappointment, we found a large disparity between what's listed on the menu and what's actually available. The kitchen seemed to support only 30% of the menu :-(

The menu claims that the biryani is cooked in the traditional Dum style. Unfortunately, their idea of biryani turned out to be chicken and mutton pieces stuffed under a bowl of plain ghee rice. Not very enjoyable.

Nothing much good can be said about the other dishes too. The fried kallummekka (mussels) was the only dish appreciable, although it too had too much oil and onions.

We finished off the lunch with fresh lime juice, that was served at ambient temperature! They apparently ran out of ice and cool drinking water.

In short, 'Mezbaan' was indeed a very forgettable experience.