Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Mother of all Music Videos

Rock music didn't start with them, nor end with them. Though their music was often dismissed as sugary sweet nothings, they sold more records than anybody else. And if you want to know, 40 years later, just what was so special about "Beatlemania", you got to watch the musical romp that goes by the name of A Hard Day's Night.

For all those who suffered through Glitter, Crossroads, Spice or any other of the modern atrocities, this movie is an object lesson in how to make a movie solely for purposes of exploitation, and yet come up with pure genius - one of the smoothest, freshest, funniest films ever. It seems better than it ought to be simply because the lads prove themselves charmingly disarming. Looking and behaving like four errant boys, the four disparate individuals that made up the amorphous group slip nimbly through a script that seems entirely improvised, yet entirely brilliant.

When it opened in late 1964, the Beatles were already a publicity phenomenon, but not yet cultural icons. A Hard Day's Night is smart, irreverent, and doesn't take itself seriously. And it is charged with the personalities of the Beatles. The boys may have had a clone look - matching hair and clothes - but the individuality of their dialogue left one in no doubt which one was John, Paul, George, or Ringo.

The movie is filled with the exhilaration of four geniuses who knew how to have fun while creating pure magic. If I were to pick my three magical moments of the film, the first would be the opening sequence, which shows the Beatles mobbed at a station as they try to board a train. The energy level is just incredible: we can feel the hysteria of the fans and the excitement of the Beatles, and the title song plays in the background. Second is when the boys run like children in an open field, while the magic of Can't Buy Me Love celebrates the notion of doing your own thing.

And finally we have the magic of the concert footage as the Beatles sing She Loves You. As the Beatles perform, they are clearly having a lot of fun. And the fans are all delirious. Some girls scream without pause, some jump up and down, and one tearful young blonde, beside herself with ecstasy, cries out "George!''. All creating a frenzy so passionate that it still, after all these years, has the power to excite. After more than four decades, it has not aged and is not dated: it stands outside its time, its genre and even rock.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The Machines Strike Back

Why does one eat? To live? To satisfy the taste buds? Or simply to maintain the balance of nature, i.e. retain the input-output balance of the digestive system? As Newton would have loved to put it, what goes in has to come out. In one form or the other. Simple corollary to the rule of gravity, since everything has to find its own level of competence or incompetence. Or incontinence, for that matter.

Coming back to slightly less scatological levels of incoherence, why does the LPG cylinder just have to run empty the day you have unwisely decided to invite people for dinner? That too, when the food is half-cooked, and you no longer have the option of putting it back in the freezer and going out to pick up something from the nearby dhaba? Kismet. Karma. Call it whatever you want.

The fact remains that household appliances can immediately sense whatever you are planning to do, and choose to utilise that very moment in order to assert their importance in your lives. Like the stupid cylinder. Or the bathroom geyser, which conks out whenever you have to get out of the house at unearthly hours of the morning, and need to, like any self-respecting human being, at least wash your face and brush your teeth before going out in public.

Call me schizoid if you feel like, but I insist that vehicles, electronic goods and essentials are all sentient creatures. Capable of acute hearing, and sadistic conspiracy. Don't believe me? Just wait while I tell the tale.Last week, I received a call from an ex-colleague, telling me to come over to the last workplace, and pick up a cheque for leave encashment. The amount? Rs 1700.

I knew I should not have taken the call in front of my TV. The damn thing decided to conk off the very next evening as I came back with the cheque. The problem? A transistor. The solution? Get a new one. The cost? Rs. 1710. There goes the idiot's unexpected windfall, sniggered the idiot box.

Yesterday, my old classmate rang me up to tell me that he could finally return the two thousand bucks he had borrowed from me nine months back. In fact, I had forgotten all about that. Very good, I said, but just to be on the safe side, I went out-of-doors while discussing the whens and wheres of sending the money back.

O how the almighty laughs at the frantic antics of men and mice. I forgot that my bike was parked out-of-doors too. The old pal came over to my place in the morning to return the money. Gloating over the fact that I would now be able to get that cool cardigan I had been eyeing, I was all set to start off for work. When I realised that the damn vehicle just would not start. I took it to the unfriendly neighbourhood mechanic to check it out. The problem? The fuel injector, or some Gobble de Gook like that. The cost of repairs? Rs. 1980.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

The Greatest Genius of All Times?

Sigmund Freud called him the man "who awoke too early in the darkness, while the others were all still asleep". The beginning of the 16th century is the single most significant period of art. It was the time of Michelangelo, Raphael, Holbein, Titan, Correggio and many other famous painters. And yet, the names of all these Renaissance masters pale in front of someone who was not only a superb artist, but also an astronomer, a sculptor, a geologist, a mathematician, a botanist, an animal behaviourist, a musician, an inventor, an engineer, an architect. And probably the greatest visionary of all times.

Clocks, cranes, diving gear, water floats, flying machines, land vehicles, printing press, parachute, robot, lifting jack, water pumps, canals, drills, water craft, bicycle...the list of things sketched by Leonardo Da Vinci several centuries before they were invented by others goes on and on. This guy was actually the man who saw tomorrow. One can never explain the existence of genius, one can but enjoy.

Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code is what brought on this salute to the greatest genius the world has ever known. Nice read by the way, the Catholic church's protests notwithstanding. Aesthetics has nothing to do with either logic or ethics...