Sunday, April 23, 2006


Greetings faithful reader(s?), i am very sorry for having been away, been very busy with work and all the usual excuses, plus my car is out of action, so i am having to devote much time to the arduous task of getting around in Gurgaon (I use 4 modes of transport to get to work).

But when i saw RENT yesterday I knew I had to write about it on an urgent basis, since I had a grand total of 5 people in the hall with me and 2 of them were my friends, and this means it won't last longer than a week. RENT is a film version of the smash-hit Broadway musical of the same name with music by the genius Jonathan Larson, who died just before the opening of RENT off-broadway (hours after its final dress-rehearsal!).

RENT is directed by Chris Columbus, of Home Alone, Mrs.Doubtfire and Harry Potter (in)fame. When I saw his name on the opening credits, my expectations actually dropped. Maybe that helped me love the film even more than I would otherwise. RENT is a story of bunch of penniless artists/idealists in East Village, New York, living their lives in tenements for which they can't afford to pay (It's quite amazing how Hollywood can make even poverty look glamorous). The central characters include an aspiring film-maker, a former guitarist-frontman of a band, a tech-wizard and his drag-queen lover, a club-dancer, a showgirl and her extremely attractive lawyer girlfriend (a stunning Tracie Thoms). With all except two of the characters played by members of the original broadway cast, this movie is a winner from the word go.

The opening keyboard sequence leading into the knock-you-dead-at-first-hearing song "seasons of love" sung by the entire cast standing on stage, sets the tone for the rest of the movie, as one brilliant song after another sketches the story of a year (5,25,600 minutes) in the life of this motley bunch, fighting eviction, AIDS, poverty and cold to find love, happiness, creative fulfillment and the bonds of la vie boheme. The music is the main character in the film. Beautiful tunes with an agressively 80s arrangement featuring overdriven guitars, thundering drums, melodic keyboards, and some unbelievable voices. The melodies are strong and straightforward, with beautiful, sometimes complex harmonies and the recording and mixing, especially the 5.1 work is mesmerizing. The voices are top-notch, my favourite being Tracie Thoms, who manages to look and sound fantastic, and Jesse L Martin with his edgy baritone. The band that played the stuff is again excellent, with the drummer (whoever he is) really getting in some fine passages.

When i saw the trailer and heard the 5.1 mix on 'seasons of love' i told myself 'I have to see this movie just for the sound.' The beauty of it is that on top of the great sound and the music, it has an inspiringl, moving story. Yes it's cheesy, but then a broadway musical has to have cheese....and I am an avowed cheese fan. The beautiful thing about this musical-movie is that it is a true-to-stage musical, ie, 95% of the script is songs, unlike many other movie adaptations where they replace many songs with conversation. I have to admit that, although Chris Columbus had a great starting point with this amazing script, he's done a great job of shooting the film and sequences are put together masterfully. Hats off, sir.

Go see this movie, if you want to feel inspired and happy and creative. It really did things to me. I came home and played my guitar, and while for a long time I've been tired of hearing myself play the same stuff over and over again, yesterday I sounded good, I was putting notes together that I never had before, i was playing phrases and solos and rhythm bits that sounded fresh, and original, it felt like falling in love! Go see RENT, it's magic!!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Minal from Kotak Mahindra

While, this was no 'Tumhari Amrita,' it was still a lot of fun. Sometime around October or November 2004 I got a call on my office phone; another of those phone marketing people, Minal from Kotak Mahindra, trying to sell me a personal loan. I politely told her I didn't need a personal loan but I wished her luck in finding a customer.

A week or two later I got another call from Minal from Kotak Mahindra, asking if I had by any chance changed my mind and whether I'd require a personal loan. Once again I politely told her I didn't and enquired whether she had actually found any people who wanted the personal loan. She answered in the affirmative, and then I hung up.

About a month or two later, I got a call again and this time Minal from Kotal Mahindra became just Minal, and she said something to the effect of 'you wouldn't need a personal loan, would you,?' I replied in the negative and she told me how someone else in my organisation had yelled at her. I commiserated and the conversation ended.

After that, Minal would call every month or so, and with her calling frequenly, she stopped introducing herself and all she said was a cheery 'hello sir' and expected me to figure it was her. The funny thing is that I would, and then I'd talk to her for a minute or two, always saving at least a line to clarify my lack of need for a personal loan.

A month or so before leaving Bombay she called, and I told her that not only did I not need a personal loan, I wouldn't be available on that number anymore, since I was leaving my job and the city. She told me that as coincidence would have it, she was also leaving her job and she was joining some other bank. We wished each other the very best in our new jobs and wrapped up the conversation. Needless to say, we never spoke again.

There was a curious excitement to these phone calls, although I'd forget them about them as soon as they concluded. Just a word to my friends in Bombay, if you get a call from Minal asking you if you need anything, personal loan, credit card, etc., please be nice.