Friday, February 29, 2008

Leap Day Doodles

If you've seen Ed Harris' superb interpration of the artist in the movie Pollock, you might remember the scene where an accident with a brush leads to the invention of his famous drip technique. Its a bravura scene because it captures the way in which the celebrated American artist embodied energy and immediacy in his art. Later this was to develop into a genre that we now call action painting.

Anyone who has dabbled in oils will know that its hard for paint to move the way Pollock wanted for his technique to work. So he used industrial gloss enamel which gave him the fluid viscosity he needed.

In any case lately I've been addicted to jacksonpollock.org which has a Flash application that allows you to dabble around digitally like Pollock did on a canvas.

You simply load the page in your browser and move your mouse around - its fairly intuitive, you'll get a good feel for what you can do as you go. You can get paint to drip, streak and splash. Click to change the color of your virtual brush. Refresh your page to start all over again.

Boy, if only my acrylics could be manipulated with so much ease!

If you do one and know how to screen cap it, send it my way so we can all see it. A couple of mine are in this post.

Two of Mexican Cinema

I had a rollicking time in Mexico City last week - despite dire predictions from people who had and hadn't been there. But I'm bad at writing travelogues: so I'll focus on this one particular interaction instead.

Unlike my previous time in Mexico, I did get some face time with people who had been born and raised in the country and having been bombarded with a blast of pop culture in the back seat DVD player in my taxicab from the airport, I decided to ask some searching questions.

I started on the wrong foot, asking about RBD. Much laughter ensued that included a lot of teasing. Well those shiny young singing and strutting boys and gals seemed personable enough, but sensing a Britney Spears-like situation, I decided to withdraw my curiosity and instead focus on Mexican cinema.

And I ended up asking for recommendations with the soochna that I didn't want to see Antonio Banderas blowing up ten Mexicans with one bullet. Instead I wanted to watch films that told me what makes Mexican people laugh, cry and feel apprehensive about. I wanted mainstream social drama that might have passed me by before.

I've seen the celebrated stuff from the hotshot Mexican directors turning Hollywood upside down today like Iñárritu's heart-rending Amores Peros, Arau's sensual factory Como Agua para Chocolate or Cuarón's provocative Y tu mamá también. And I was reminded with much pride that Pan's Labyrinth may have been a Spanish movie, but the brain behind it was Mexican.

I ended up with two recommendations from the junta. I'm sure the prime directive was lost somewhere because one, the recommendations came after much debate in which I'm certain pride was involved and two, my profession for the general hotness of Salma Hayek might have tilted the scales a bit.

I'm not passing these movies on as an introduction to Mexican cinema - that would be injustice. Just sharing something I picked up in case you are looking for something different to watch in the coming weeks. I've reproduced the Netflix movie synopsis below for guidance.

El Crimen del padre Amaro (2002, Director: Carlos Carrera)

From Netflix: "Recently ordained priest Padre Amaro (Gael Garcia Bernal) travels to a small town in Mexico to help Padre Benito (Sancho Gracia) -- only to discover that Benito is following neither church nor local laws. But Amaro's shock is countered by his own actions when he falls in love with sensual, young Amelia (Ana Claudia Talancon), unleashing a scandal that the diocese, with Amaro's aid, scrambles to contain in this Oscar-nominated drama."

Ek Callejon de los Milagros (1995, Director: Jorge Fons)

From Netflix: "Four interlacing vignettes chronicle the lives of three neighbors in this slice-of-life drama, which plays out in a tumbledown section of Mexico City. The episodic tale profiles a married cantina owner (Ernesto Gómez Cruz) who discovers his latent homosexual feelings; a young virgin (Salma Hayek) who ultimately surrenders to prostitution and drugs; and an unattractive spinster (Margarita Sanz) who's looking for love in all the wrong places."

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Dance Moves: The best of Bollywood

Only recently I watched not one but two shows about dance: Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa and Nach Baliye. While one provided tremendous hilarity around one particular dancer, the other had a terrific drama queen. And I must confess, ever since these shows have ended I have developed a fine appreciation for Bollywood dance.

Whenever someone dances at a party or a gathering - and let me tell you this is high on the list of American Desi priorities (and god bless them for it) - I find myself noticing the steps and the finesse of execution. Small mistakes are ruthlessly noted. Fine flourishes evoke a smile.

I try to calculate how many hours of practice went behind the routine. I analyze how the dance could have been done better. And when it all ends I find myself compelled to give the performance a grade (although this I don't reveal to anyone).

The same applies to movies as well. And after watching a number of songs on B4UM since then, I've realized that Aitraaz's Gela Gela is the greatest dance song ever filmed.

Why? Because it comes with a number of highly innovative moves never before seen on screen. And they are all brilliantly executed by two actors who seem to have hit the bong hard before coming on the sets. Hey, there's Khiladi Kumar pointing repeatedly to his feet and trying to be rather hip hop. And there's Kareena looking suspiciously like she's trying to stay out of Khiladi's reach.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Autoricksha Confessions 1: Carefree Errands

A long time ago an off-spin bowler called Tilak Raj - frustrated at being unable to find a place in the Delhi cricket team - came to Vadodara and found a regular place in the Ranji side. One day a batsman called Ravi Shastri stopped by and hoicked all six balls from one Tilak Raj over for sixes. Years passed but whenever Tilak Raj let a long hop slip, copious laughter could be heard around the stadium followed by a chant that went "Ra-vi-shas-tri!"

We all have our embarrassing moments that haunt us forever. And since I've got plenty I thought I'd occasionally use a Taxicab Confessions type of post to see if I can get rid of my demons. Here is the first one.

When I was a kid I was expected to help with the household chores. I ended up running most errands especially those that involved trips to the general store. Occasionally Mum would give me a note with something scribbled on it and say "Beta, just show this to the storekeeper and he'll give you a package. Pay for it and bring it home". Once I left the house I used to note that the word "Carefree" was written on it.

I didn't know what it was but since Mum didn't want to ask for it herself and didn't want to embarrass her son either, I figured it was something to be reticent about. So Little Aspi would walk up to the counter, feel his ears turn red, show the paper to the baniya, try to ignore the slight curl of the lips and bring the package home. Often I tried to figure out why this object was such a big secret - it seemed soft enough. Heck, it didn't smell bad either.

All of this was extremely painful because of a storekeeper called Laalu who would find new ways to torture me each time. Often he would unfold the note on the counter and smirk "Abey, which size do you want? Heh heh" I would come home in tears. Many times, if Laalu was manning the store, I would go right back home and keep checking every hour to see if the coast was clear for me to go buy the mysterious item. None of this I let Mum in on.

Then one fine Summer, my favorite cousin-sister (lets call her Raveena Tandon for now) hit puberty and this became the hot topic of discussion. As such I learned much that vacation about you know, periods.

One of the side-effects of this particular state for Raveena was that my highly conservative grandma wouldn't allow her to touch anything in the kitchen. Raveena would place me on special lookout all afternoon while she romped around the kitchen touching everything in it as an act of rebellion. Why once I even found her hugging the refrigerator. I didn't understand this until years later when I read this by Gloria Steinem in Ms. In any case, that Summer I finally learned what Carefree was.

So back to the errand situation. Armed with this new knowledge, I developed a cocky confidence. I even walked in one day to buy it with Laalu manning the store. And of course Laalu asked me the question with a snicker to which I shot back "Whatever your Ma uses, give me half that size".

Now three things are worth noting here. First, I probably invented "Your Mama" jokes but never get credit for it. Second and third, not only was this a very misogynist path for me to tread but also didn't make very much sense. But such is the conditioning men undergo to feel shame whenever one of their womenfolk is mentioned by a gairmard, that Laalu turned a nice shade of purple. Immense satisfaction coursed through my body.

Laalu never made fun of me again and I went back to mere awkward discomfort at running this errand.

Also:

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Lil Champs: And then there were three

Last week Akshay Kumar walked in on Lil Champs and introduced a girl called Tejaswini who didn't speak for the first several years of her life but straightaway started singing. And she had a pretty decent voice to go along with a lot of support from her family.

But as she sang, Motorsandal asked me "How can someone not speak and still sing so well?". To which the Drift Memsaab replied "Everyone has a special talent". At this point Youngling, who just turned six and gets away with murder around our house turned to his mother and said "I have a special talent too, Mom. I'm lovable".

Sounds like someone has unusually high self-esteem in our house.

Akshay Kumar arrived in a strange mood - part crabby, part engaging - like he had been dreaming his favorite dream and then had been rudely woken up (that would also explain the sarso-da-khet type stubble). However he did us all a gigantic favor when he broiled Tanmay for that hugely insensitive and unfunny commercial antic that kid pulls on all the guests. Bravo Khiladi Kumar! Your crabbiness has been forgiven.

Now that there are only three contestants left and just a week to go before the final votes are tallied and the winner announced, various vote-grabbing stunts were pulled. And I would like to congratulate the producers for meeting this part of the show (which I lovingly call the House of Reshammiya stretch in fond memory of the rug-pulling antics staged by the newly-hirsute one) head on.

How did they do this? Well, they dressed the kids up as netas and staged vote rallies, thus skewering politicians and themselves in one fell swoop. Can these guys get any wink-wink smarter?

Some SRGMP seniors showed up to sing duets with each of the remaining three little champs. Raja Hasan sang something with Tanmay - he was gracious as he always is and made that I'm-oh-such-a-simple-guy face once or twice, which made me chuckle. Aneek showed up wearing what looked like Mel Gibson's wig from The Patriot and kept putting his foot in his mouth when talking. Both sounded fabulous once they sang.

And then there was Mauli - who played hide and seek with sur once or twice while singing with Rohanpreet - but in general reminded us of her appeal. And that is best explained by this anecdote. Once, hugely confounded by the nationwide appeal of Jessica Simpson I asked the teenybopper daughters of a friend what was so special about her. Both girls thought for a while, shrugged and then said "Well, she seems nice!"

Mauli did really good nice on Lil Champs last week.

So who is singing really well? Clearly Tanmay isn't in the same league as Rohanpreet. And Rohanpreet, despite singing really well, is falling short of holding his own against Anamika, who is trailing in vote tallies so far. But what is nice is that ever since that avoidable fracas where Anamika almost quit over concerns for her father's health, Heart Attack Dad has been in all the shows smiling widely and enjoying his daughter's singing. Well done.

Also:

Sunday, February 24, 2008

80th Oscar Notes

The Annual Academy Awards are so overexposed these days what with the predictions, the various award show windups, the handicapping and the campaigning that by the time the show arrives all I'm interested in seeing is if someone tries to make a funny and bombs or if someone else has their life's greatest moment only to find their mike audio cut off because their colleague took up way too much time thanking everyone.

Yet, this time around I had some extremely perceptive observations that I'd like to share with everyone.

My son has now figured out his stripper name: Cyrus Embers. Thanks for recycling that one, Jon Stewart.

The real reason Miley Cyrus was able to score a spot at the Oscars was because the Academy wanted to bring down the average TV viewing age from 62 to 59. Score!

Tilda Swinton's surprise win for Best Supporting Actress means Michael Clayton director Tony Gilroy can now ask the studio for another $20 million for the budget of his next flick.

Renee Zellweger is actually a really creepy man in love with himself

Marion Cotillard's win for Best Actress might be an indication that the Academy might have watched the movies they voted for this year.

Is it just me or is it incredibly rude to clap only for famous faces when the obit montage plays?

Someone at Red Bull sign up Tom Hanks for the next commercial. That guy made Martin Scorsese look like a plodder.

Also:

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Michael Clayton: Juicing up a tired genre

Somewhere in the first third of the writer-director Tony Gilroy's widely celebrated debut effort Michael Clayton, Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) and Clayton (George Clooney) face off each other in a back alley in New York. "I'm not the enemy here" says Clayton, his voice loaded with frustration. Before walking off, Edens shoots back "Then who are you?"

There are two things worth noting in this scene that make the movie special. Neither of these is Wilkinson's pitch perfect performance as a lawyer who - following a massive attack of conscience - is coming off the rails. I expected as much from him (despite a shaky American accent).

But first, as in this scene, the actors in Michael Clayton work hard to act with each other instead of trying to stage scenes for themselves. They act like a selfless bunch - enhancing each other's characters and giving the movie a crackling kinetic energy. Later yet, in a scene in which Tilda Swinton does the unthinkable and initiates an action from which there is no turning back, Robert Prescott plays his scene opposite her with a studied disposition that adds layers to her character.

And second, this isn't the George Clooney - preening, strutting and smile-smirking with a matinee idol cock to his face - that we are used to seeing. Clooney here looks dazed, lost, frustrated. In one scene that brought a lump to my throat, when he is overwhelmed by the sheer crush of events in his personal life, he stops his car to assure his son that the boy will not grow up to be a loser. Clooney's face is almost putty here - he looks vulnerable. In the movie, he changes some of his body language to reflect a weary apprehension that we normally don't associate with him.

Clayton is a former criminal lawyer without a title at the law firm of Kenner, Bach, & Ledeen. Unofficially he is the guy people call on to clean up a mess. He refers to himself as the bag man. Edens, a brilliant lawyer and Clayton's close friend is in charge of leading the defense of a $3 billion lawsuit against U/North for deploying a poison fertilizer. Somehow Edens gets his hands on a document with evidence incriminating U/North. And foregoing his bipolar meds he has a manic attack. He strips down in the middle of a deposition. On camera.

Clayton is called in clean up the mess. Much is at stake - as is usually the case in movies like this, only director Gilroy is careful not to throw this in our faces with blaring horns. At first convinced that Edens just needs to get back on his medication and all will be well, Clayton has second thoughts as he begins to peel back the layers. Clayton's own family and their related issues are juxtaposed nicely in the movie with the events occurring around U/North.

Tilda Swinton plays Karen Crowder who has just been promoted to run U/North. When we first see her - early in the film - she is in a bathroom having a menopausal hot flash. Later yet, we see her rehearsing for a television interview with interspersed scenes from the actual event. Clearly this is a woman who has worked hard to get where she is and carries her ambitions on the back of careful organization. Swinton tries to get the situation under control - but in her own way, thus escalating Clayton's dilemma.

Swinton's biggest contribution to this movie is that she plays a rather typical character in a very atypical way. Its a shrewd turn because with every scene she is able to convey her reasons for what she is about to do.

Gilroy's movie is a drama disguised as a legal thriller. But it is so well written and wonderfully executed that this take on a beaten-down genre seems fresh. Often Gilroy's unhurried sense of how to capture the action and move the narrative allows him to breeze through the (few) awkward parts of the plot.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Great Indian Premier League

Anu g has been watching the IPL drama closely.

This Great Indian Cattle Auction has all the ingredients of a masala movie.

Original Script
First conceived by the Zee television honcho Subhash Goel who felt that cricket-crazy India could earn the big bucks via a Twenty20 cricket league.

Indian Premier League AuctionPlagiarized Script
BCCI (Board of Cricket Control of India) - with so much rupya-clout that it actually controls cricket worldwide - was outraged. So its media-savvy head Lalit Modi fast-tracked a plagiarized script and the Indian Premier League was born.

Poor Kapil Dev and his Indian Cricket League personnel were left by the way side and declared bhulla-bura, and so were all the cricketers who dared to join the ICL.

Producers
Then began an auction for teams. This was where stars made their grand entry. 8 teams were announced. BCCI sat back and watched people fight over teams: Sharukh Khan bagged Team Kolkata, Preity Zinta went home with Mohali. The BCCI banked cool tons of cash for just being dalals.

Star Cast
The tamasha began on 20 February when the players put out for auction. This reminded me of one big cattle bazaar. About 80 players, who had signed up for the IPL, were auctioned. It was amusing to read the news ‘Shahrukh Khan has bought Shoaib Akhtar, ‘Hyderabad ne Andrew Symonds ko khareeda hai’. Preity Zinta was so thrilled that she screamed in joy when she landed Sreesanth!

Indian Premier League AuctionBehind the Scenes
The whole process was supposed to be kept secret, but with the media in full attendance, there were press conferences announcing the results after every round. A beaming Lalit Modi lost count of the money he was collecting. The media celebrated the results on par with Parliamentary elections.

Dhoni earned the biggest bucks - Rs. 6 crores for one season, while some poor cricketers like Glenn McGrath initially had no takers, and had to be kept in the reserve pool. The Pathan brothers ended up as the richest family.

Many teams goofed up on their planning and lost out on good bids. Despite there being ten wicketkeeper-batsmen in the pool, Mumbai returned without one, while Chennai bagged Dhoni and Parthiv Patel.

Then there was this curious element of ‘icon’ players who have to play for their home-state, and would earn 15% more than the highest bid of their team. So Sachin, Saurav, Dravid , Yuvraj and Sehwag were least worried about losing face because they were going to earn the maximum money in their team.

Indian Premier League Auction Shahrukh Preity NessThe figures sound crazy. While Robin Uthappa was sold for Rs. 3.2 crores, Mathew Hayden went for just Rs. 1.5 crores. Assuming Ishant Sharma plays 4 overs each in all the possible 16 matches, he will earn almost Rs. 1 lakh per delivery! Dhoni will earn almost 38 lakhs for every match he plays. Thats real big money! All this for just 44 days in which if your team loses, you still make your money!

The Real Hero
But the real hero turned out to be our very stylish Hyderabadi batsman VVS Laxman. He declined the icon status in the team’s interest so that the funds earmarked for him could instead be utilized for buying many good players. What a sacrifice! He has made us Hyderabadis proud!

Hit Ya Flop?
So will this tournament be a hit or flop?

The Pluses
  1. We may get to see a lot of fun-action on the field with the stars and celebrities now being part of the show. SRK who has invested heavily is sure to come up with some gimmicks.

  2. Its cheap, good time-pass for people who don’t want to waste money traveling to games.

  3. Mmmm...I can't think of anything else...the cricketers earn tons of money, but then as Kareena Kapoor says in Jab We Met ‘Isse Mujhe kya painda’?

The Minuses
  1. The aam junta of India (and I am one of them) is very patriotic and loves watching India play (and win). I wear my heart on my sleeve, and root for India. I have great pleasure in watching Andrew Symonds get out, now how can I suddenly think of him as a Hyderabadi , and then think of him as an Aussie again when he returns to play test matches/ODIs for his country.

  2. There are of course exceptions like the men in my family, my dad and my husband who ask me to cool it (as I go grumble,grumble when India is losing) and enjoy the game of cricket. Enjoy the game when India is losing? No way!!

  3. The tournament is in peak-summer. Will the crowd like to sit at the stadium and sweat it out with the players?

  4. Aspiring players might be so taken up by this format (and cash) now that it that can take a toll on India’s performance in ODIs and Tests.

  5. Being such a fast game, we might see a broken haddi or pulled maas-peshiya soon.

So I guess we just have to wait and watch. I am sure the initial matches will be a great hit , as is anything which is novel. It is only later that we will find out whether this big-budget tamasha was worth it all. And whether Shah Rukh and Preity turn out to be as successful in business as they have been in acting!

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

How to enjoy the music of Race

When I first listened to the soundtrack of Race I found it annoying. Most two CD sets that keep repeating the same songs (and thats just on one CD) tend to do that to me. Plus lyrics like "your body's like a snake ma, your body's like a snake charma" sound wrong at so many levels even if you are - you know - hip to the hop.

But once you dig through the debris and get to know it intimately - you realize that there is much enjoyment in getting to know the bits. Thus I anoint it as the guilty pleasure CD of 2008, in line with other tacky luminaries such as Masti and Mr Hot Mr Kool.

There are several reasons to enjoy Race (Pritam does the music, Sameer the lyrics) and since CDs such as these are hard to review, I'll just briefly mention a few things.

Atif Aslam's Tere Bin (from Bas Ek Pal) and earlier Aadat (from Kalyug) were memorable songs and heralded the arrival of a unique voice. But horrors, the more I heard of him the more I began to realize how inflexible his voice is. And its exposed here in all its gory on a song called Pehli Nazar Mein - which entrusted to a breezy voice like Zubin Garg might have actually been able to transcend its blah treatment.

But if you like Atif (and there are legions out there - like Pri who has a snark about this song) you'll dig this.

On the other hand I enjoyed Dekho Nashe Mein (Rock the Dance Floor) (Shaan, Sunidhi and KK do vocal duties). Not only is the word rock finally used by someone like its supposed to be but also lyrics like "aage bhi yahi show, peechhe bhi yahi show" spun me into a state of confounded bliss. The song has a delicious salsa flavor to it and also comes, like my Doritos, in an additional Fiesta Mix (which sounds the same only after several rounds of coffee for the percussion department)

Finally, Zara Zara Touch Me is a delectably sleazy En Vogue like song filled with enough little dings and prattles that it has me mistakenly reaching for my cell phone two or three times whenever it plays. Monali - ostensibly chosen to sing this entirely because she has a sensuous speaking voice and a phirang accent - pours her heart into it. Tie me up and call me Beyonce, but I loved it!

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A pyaar out of sur

Dear Mindrushji

I heard that you are a very famous counselor on this site, and I would like your advice.

I just read that you want to give advice to my Sweet Woh. I am very upset. It is me who needs help, not him. But I am blushing and don't know how to say it.

I used to learn music from my husband and as my musical notes struck a chord with his, so did my heart. I know he was much older, but you see, I liked his simplicity and his pakke-sur. (The director of Cheeni-Kum was so inspired by us that he decided to make the movie,but he changed the settings so that my sister-in-law would not know how we met jab we met.) We have been leading a very quiet simple life running our music-school.

But I don't know why he is changing now. When he was asked to become judge on a new show, he decided to get his hair weaved. I don't understand, why should he have more hair just to hear songs? It was a failure, but as an ideal patni, I did not want to disappoint him, so I said that I could not recognize him. He was very happy.

Now even on the show, he tries to be funny, and keeps on copying whatever Sonuji does. I feel very embarrassed. Whenever a pretty heroine comes to the show , he keeps talking sweetly, and they all think he is a very sweet uncleji and flirt with him. He has started to wear such jazzy dresses also. He is so concerned about looking young on this show, that he is neglecting me and home, and I have to take care of the whole school.

Please tell me how to bring back my sweet, old, bald, boring husband whom I fell in love with. Even your Asbiji here thinks I am ati-romantic, but my husband simbly does not care about me. (Sorry, when I am very emotional, I get back my Malayali accent). Mindrushji, please help me.


Padma WadkarDear Pious Worshiping wifeji,

Get a hold of yourself! Tumhaare paas sur aur aawaaz hai, good looks hai, cute beti hai. Tumhaare paas pati bhi hai!

Use your talent, your resources and your Pretty Wiles to re-ensnare your Somewhat Wandering hubby. No more self-effacing, feet-touching, saat janam dialogues, please! Your are his equal and better! You also have age on your side!

Start going TV gigs. Be Mallika's sidekick or Bappi's chamcha on some song-n-dance circus. Flaunt your talent! Flash your dimples on screen! Flirt with the participants on camera (they are kinda your age, anyway.) Be self-assured. Be empowered.

Once hubby realizes that he can't take you for granted, also cook his favorite poran-pori to discombobulate him! The Simple Waffling hubby will not know what hit him. He will become Suddenly Warm! And that's all good but don't quit your career after that. Remember that self-earned dollars are a girl's best friend!

Your fan,
Mind Rush


Also:

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Jodhaa Akbar: a coronation of two matinee idols

To portray Jalaluddin Mohammad in Jodhaa Akbar, Hrithik Roshan adopts a stiff prowl, scales back his doe-eyed charm and speaks in a sharp, curt tone. Retaining a massive bronzed presence he is an emperor trying to find the humanity in his haughtiness. Somewhere in the first third of the movie, he meets Jodhaa - and willingly succumbs to her exoticness because it (much to his surprised delight) leads him down the path of securing his hukumat.

Its a charming spin on an old bit of history. And I felt director Ashutosh Gowarikar has melded history and romance in interesting ways in his reportedly Rs. 40 crore opus. Filming a romance without the political intrigue surrounding it would make it irrelevant. Stitching together events from a time where history has obfuscated accuracy beyond repair wouldn't have stood up very well. And so the movie is given the structure of a larger than life romance and surrounded by interpreted events that propel the story forward - for the most part this approach sat well with me.

But Gowarikar seems to be working off a half-baked screenplay. His narrative, for example, takes its time zeroing in on the romance. Gowarikar often seems to be two different directors: he handles scenes in a closed set with aplomb. But put him outdoors and he seems to lose his imagination. Too often, he'll stick a camera in the sand, so to speak, and let a scene play out lamely. This makes scenes feel very choppy, inserted or acted in.

Let's say a scene calls for: "Sujamal overhears a plot to kill him". Is it really in order to show Sujamal dawdling along and suddenly stopping by a tent for no ostensible reason other than seeing a soldier enter it. And then proceed to listen in - in plain sight of everyone else? Scenes like this feel unfinished, even amateurish. Often I found myself thinking "put the camera on a track or a crane, for God's sake, and spend some time framing your picture"

Then there's the bit about not developing Jalaluddin and Jodhaa equally in character. While Jalaluddin's character is fleshed out as a benevolent emperor early on, Jodhaa doesn't get the same treatment from the writer. Instead her early scenes are used to explain alliances and political settings. At this point by not establishing his intent and developing his main characters in parallel Gowarikar had already lost me.

Yet as a romance, Jodhaa Akbar works really well thanks to its two leads. Hrithik and Aishwarya are both able to develop a mature, believable romance. Importantly, they cook up a crackling chemistry. Aishwarya Rai - who draws on her ability to organize serial expressions exquisitely - turns in a fine performance, save those sword fights where she is a bit too daavadol to be convincing.

A number of actors turn in some fine performances. Sure there are the Kulbushan Kharbandas and Raza Murads who are called on to perform their usual shtick and do so reliably.

But a couple of sharp hotshots also show up: Sonu Sood is able to convey an integrity that waffles under the weight of ambition and perceived injustice. And Nikitin Dheer portrays Jalaluddin's brother-in-law Sharifuddin, a menacing hulk who tends to dominate every scene he finds himself in.

Ila Arun plays Maham Anga, Jalaluddin's wet nurse, and you can see her visibly taking some chances to give her character much needed layers. Mostly she succeeds despite being called on to do some rote stuff.

It would be unfair to say Jodhaa Akbar isn't enjoyable - that it is. A.R. Rahman composes some rousing music. Gowarikar stages some scenes of pure brilliance - primary among them is one in which Jalaluddin wanders in on Jodhaa singing a bhajan, sees her in entirety for the first time and we see Hrithik uncoil his matinee-idol dreaminess as he strides through white curtains billowing freely in the breeze (analogy alert!).

Later yet, Gowarikar balances drama and romance beautifully in a sequence that involves a lavish Rajput feast. Finally, his depiction of the coronation of Jalaluddin to the people's Akbar is captured with a joyous shimmer in the song "Azeem-o-shaan shehenshah".

More reviews:

Also:

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Surviving Jodhaa Akbar

When some of us made plans to see Jodhaa Akbar (review hopefully coming up soon) accompanied by four kids all between the ages of 5 and 9, I had no idea the movie would weigh in at a hefty 3 hours and 40 minutes. This initially scared me: after all I've been to Star Trek marathons that lasted less.

But I'm hugely proud to say that not only did I survive Jodhaa-Akbar but I actually enjoyed the entire experience. I'm not sure the people sitting in front of us would agree but the kids did well (there are some gruesome scenes which I would caution parents about - but because I tend to chuckle during bloodbaths my kids aren't usually particularly traumatized).

I also couldn't help but note that the theater owners must be cursing the running length of the movie as well. Not only does it mean fewer shows they can cram into a day (the primary reason studios have running length stipulations in their contracts with directors in Hollywood) but enough popcorn and drink refills were sought to probably cut down the concession stand margin to a measly 5000%.

If I had known about this I would have implemented another one of those business ideas of mine that never seem to go anywhere. I'd have printed a pamphlet and made it available outside the theater for $1. On one side, I would have snippets about Akbar, Jodhaa, the Mughal dynasty and history in general. You know, to educate audiences about the movie they were about to spend a significant part of their adult life watching. On the other side, I would have printed back and neck exercises.

Still, I went home with happy memories, not the least being the scenes in which Jodhaa reiterates that its a woman's good fortune to be in the kitchen and cook for her husband. This is good material to tease the Drift Memsaab with for weeks to come.

Let the games begin: I'm still waiting for my handwa, woman!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Lil Champs: Family Drama

Before we dig into the humongous jhagda on Lil Champs, lets spare a thought for Anamika shall we? No one will now remember how she walked in and tore the stage up with a bravura rendition of Lata's "Kuhu Kuhu Bole" and then came back and kicked the pieces around with Shobha Mudgal's low-slung classipop "Ab Ke Saavan".

There is a lesson in this for all those participants on Dhoom Macha De: a really good live performance doesn't involve trying to kitchie koo the audience. Its more organic than that.

But on to the jhagda. What transpired was this: Head first announced the top India votes for each kid. The order was Rohanpreet, Anamika, Aamir and Tanmay. Much happiness ensued for Aamir, his big brother and his Dad. Head cautioned him - probably knowing fully well what was to come.

Then when the international votes were brought in and tallied with the local ones, poor Aamir finished at the bottom of the barrel. And to his credit, the young one seemed dejected but in good spirits. Why, earlier when goaded by Head on what he would do if he was cut, he even appealed to the viewers to vote for his friends along with him. Well done kid!

But just as Head was wrapping things up, Big Brother grabbed the mike and presented logic that made my head spin. "Why didn't you eliminate one kid that day when Aamir was in the top three!" he thundered. "Because if you had, Aamir wouldn't be here!" He was trying to make an argument about momentum, which had changed and placed itself squarely against Aamir in the last two weeks.

For a while Head gamely took up the challenge and went toe to toe with Big Brother - this got me excited. At last! I told myself, we would get to see the Master of Milquetoastness finally kick some butt. But guest Amjad Ali Khan shut Head up by asking him to take it outside. Thus Head zipped it, poor Aamir was left gesticulating to his family to stop the drama and a massive walk out was staged.

Much as I love jhagdas on stage, I should probably clarify that the only ones that entertain me are the ones between judges, guests or contestants themselves. The entire family getting involved isn't fun.

On the other hand, it was entirely fun watching Sonu Nigam prancing around half naked - appearing to pay tribute to Julius Caesar - and displaying his one-pack in the video for the new single of his album Classically Mild.

Also:

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: An elementary review

Nine year old Motorsandal reviews a book that is a rage in his Elementary school

This book is so popular in my school that whenever it is available, it gets checked out in three seconds.

When we went to Borders bookstore recently, I was checking out some picture books and suddenly I saw a shining red book that looked familiar from school. I immediately realized that it was Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

I took my Dad's hand and yanked him over to the shelf. I said: "Can we please buy that book?" because I wanted that book really much. So then my Dad said "You can always have a book"

The main character in the book is called Greg Heffley. Greg has a mean big brother called Rodrick.

He also has a little brother called Manny who always gets him into trouble. One time Greg tricked Manny and showed him a ball of thread and said it was spider. He pretended to make him eat it but Manny went crying to Greg's mom and complained that Greg made him eat a spider.

Greg had to go to sleep at 7pm.

Once his Mom showed Manny a grape, a seed and a raisin and asked him which was closest in size. So Manny went to the refrigerator and picked out an orange.

Greg also has a friend called Rowley. Rowley has a video game at home and the only game he has is called Formula-1 racing.

The story mainly tells about Greg's days in middle school.

The book is very funny. It has lots of jokes in it. There are cartoons in the book.

There are some bad words in the book (like Stupid Moron - Aspi). They are ok to enjoy to enjoy in the book but you shouldn't use them in real life.

This book only took me 2 days to read. It taught me that school can only get worse (note to self: stop those automatic withdrawals for college fund - Aspi).

But its just fun to read! I would like to notify other kids that this book is great to read and they should read it.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Rakhi Abhishek: jodi judai jodi

They always tell you: its hard for couples to survive traumatic events. Like buying a house. Or teaching one of the other how to drive. Or losing a dance contest.

Earlier this week Rakhi Sawant reportedly had a huge jhagda with Abhishek and asked him to move out of her apartment.

No one deserves this kind of heartbreak on Valentine's day and it turns out anu g caught the breaking news on TV in which Abhishek fought tooth and nail to win back his Baliye.

Rakhi and Abhishek patched up on national television, and most news channels have decided that this news takes priority over every other event happening in the country.

The show went on something like this (it went on much longer, but I was laughing so much that i dont remember everything):

SCENE 1

Abhishek going to Rakhi's house with a big bouquet of red roses.
Abhishek on his knees: Rakhi, I am sorry.I love u. Will you be my valentine?

Rakhi's bodyguard steps in.

Machoman Abishek pushes him away: Tum hum donon ke beech main mat aao!
Rakhi, bemused (in Hindi): What r u doing here? And why r u here with cameras?
Abhishek, who insists on speaking in English: I want to show the world how much i love you. You means everything to me
Rakhi, enraged goes whack, whack, whack....3 thappads on Abhishek's head (channels repeat the scene 3 times for effect).

Abhishek, head bent down like a child caught playing truant: I know, but I really love blah blah

Rakhi: Why did you behave like that? Why did you keep telling me not to go to a party, not to wear shorts. (Aha! So THAT was the reason, After NB3, Abhishek realized he came across as a wimp and yes boy, and so decided to change his image into a macho he-man).

Abhishek: I know. I will never argue with you henceforth. I am very sorry (Looking at somebody near the camera) Hey teddy beer le aao

Rakhi: Now whom have you brought? Do you know main tumhe har jagah lekar gayi. Maine kuch ameer-gareeb nahin dekha. Maine apni maa se jhagda karke tumhe rakha (sorry, i dont remember the exact word she used). And why did u go to the media crying? I was the one who was crying

Abhishek: Because I wanted the world to know that Abhishekh really loves you.

SCENE 2

Abhishek and Rakhi sitting on a sofa together, Abhishek clutching Rakhi's hand, swamped by the teddy beer and the bouquet, being interviewed by a correspondent:

Correspondent: So you both have patched up on Valentines Day. What happened?
Rakhi to Abhishek: Aye, haat chod na
Abhishek, like a true filmi hero: Yeh, haat ab hum kabhi nahin chodenge
Correspondent: So you were crying, and now you are happy
Rakhi: I never cried.I have decided that I will not cry at all in 2008. (Realizing that she'd lose dramatic ground) par mera dil roya. But I must tell you, once it came in the media that Abhishek had left me, almost 1000 boys rang me up, proposing to me.
Correspondent (gleefully): So Abhishek, what do u say?
Abhishek: I am going to change her phone number
Correspondent: Oh, so you have become possessive?
Abhishek: Of course, I am a male
Rakhi: But why did you torture me, saying I should not go to a party
Abhishek, immediately getting the cue, gives Rakhi a corny look: Shall we go for a party tonight?
Correspondent: So what are your plans for today?
Abhishek: During the day, we will talk and I will make up for the 2 days I was away, and in the evening...pause (That corny look again)...pause....(then suddenly realizing it was national television): we will go for a party!

CUT.
End of show...
And they will live happily ever after...until they decide that they need some more publicity!

Sania finds the clip on YouTube

The dustpan in the snow: A Valentine's story

Its not that I want to torture people or induce gagging by writing something on V-day, but I do feel like writing something silly every year on this day.

So I'll narrate this story: a long time ago when the Drift Memsaab and I moved to Chicago, I was a complete idiot about how to handle the snow. Since we lived in a townhouse where the snow got magically cleared every day - I didn't even bother stocking a shovel in the garage.

Well soon enough with a new job in hand and a critical meeting to make by 8am the next day, it snowed and snowed all night. The morning sun illuminated piles of snow on my driveway with no snow service in sight. So I did what most Chicago residents will tell you is an incredibly silly thing to do. I pulled out my low slung black Honda Civic (which I refer to fondly as Kalighodi) and decided to brute force my way out.

I reversed about three fourths of the way down my driveway when I decided to turn out to the road. And most Chicago residents will tell you that this is an even sillier thing to do. Soon Kalighodi was spinning her wheels in the snow, I was inexorably stuck with no solution in sight and in rising panic about making my meeting.

So what happens? My garage door slowly opens and right there I see the Drift Memsaab emerge (think Ritwick's stroll down Nariman Point in Dhoom 2). She's bundled up in a humongous down jacket up to her ankles that makes her look like Missy Elliot wearing a black jacket in that video. And in her hands she has the only wedge shaped object in our house to clear the snow under Kalighodi - a dust pan!

At this point I'm unclear what happened, but I must have laughed so hard that the neighbor who was shoveling snow four houses down must have heard me and seeing my predicament came running over to kindly rescue me. The Drift Memsaab supervised it all until I was well on my way.

And that to date is the most romantic thing anyone has ever done for me: to come out and be by my side when I needed it most, in the biting cold and driving snow, ready to look completely silly and offer a ridiculous solution so I wouldn't be left hanging. Who needs gift wrapped boxes?

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Judge Javed ko bahut gussa aata hai...aakhir kyon?

Sidekick returns to check in on Mission Ustaad

Aspi has acknowledged on a couple of occasions now that he misses TV’s resident fighter cock. I’ll admit that I’ve missed Javed Akhtar’s (The Drift’s Judge Javed (JJ) - our favorite angry man) spectacular phataakas too! So with not much hope beyond some entertainment from JJ’s angry antics I went back to Mission Ustaad.

The show was the same utterly futile formula of combining a social cause --- educating the aam janta about the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDP) —with madhur sangeet. “Same old, same old”, I thought and in some ways this was comforting.

Lara still looked utterly glamorous, Rahman was still awkwardly inarticulate (but much less so than the beginning), the polished Simone Singh still wore strange anarkali kurtas and the singing of the four jodis was still top notch.

But...here is the giant let down: JJ seemed to be imbued with the kindest and gentlest of spirits. I was astounded, my jaw dropped and I was filled with bitter disappointment. I come back to see Mohammad Ali’s TV equivalent dance like a butterfly and sting like a bee and he turns out to be a lamb, bleating the most stultifying saccharine compliments.

Get a load of this: he actually praised Kailash Kher - his erstwhile worthy opponent in the ghamaasaan yudh of egos - for being a fine human being whose noble thoughts rang through his desh ki dharti type music. I shook my ears to make sure I was hearing right and replayed that segment to confirm. Agar JJ ko gussa na aaye, toh dekhne ka faida hi ka?

Well, what brought about this transformation? I’d be holding back much valuable information if didn’t reveal the objective of the weekend’s shows - to spread the message of universal love and bhaichaara. Nope, that is not part of the UN’s MDP; those number eight and have clearly been exhausted in eight weeks of programming. This is TV after all and what show that can draw a half way decent audience can terminate in eight or nine weeks?

I’m not running down the need for bhaichaara, but here is an objective that any real project other than a TRP grubbing TV show would have a huge amount of difficulty operationalizing and developing meaningful metrics for. It of course afforded me much entertainment, though it was overshadowed greatly by the emergence of Saint Javed!

Not sure if it was a latent streak of masochism or a healthy streak of desi skepticism, but I returned to Saturday’s show to follow through on JJ’s startling transformation. I needn’t have worried - my faith in basic human nature was restored in resounding fashion.

After the first jodi’s (Naresh Iyer and Shweta Pandit) rendition of “Pyar karne waale pyaar karte hain shaan se”, a sher ke tarah garajta hua JJ emerged. “You make lofty speeches, yet you sing populist songs that represent the lowest common denominator. You have no conviction in the goals and yet you hope to reach the UNO with these pathetic offerings” ...he thundered at the dumbfounded young jodi. I leaped off my couch in joy screaming - he’s baaaaack! The light of battle was back in JJ’s eyes and the glint of enjoyment was back in mine.

I paused the show to stick a bag of popcorn in the microwave. Entertainment should be savored with all the trappings! For the rest of the evening, JJ did not disappoint - he was the ultimate equal opportunity sher. He tore into all the jodis equally indiscriminately!

We even got a magnificent speech on how their choice of songs was driven by populism and not fervor for the noble cause and that it was his duty as a judge to expose their duplicity! I clapped wildly and wished I could whistle. This was vintage JJ --- the Sage Durvasa of TV but a wonderfully witty one to boot.

Before I get completely carried away by JJ fever I should add that the Bhramastras (original compositions sung by the jodis) were pretty good and perhaps musically I’d missed something by boycotting Mission Ustaad for so long. I’m away on a trip next weekend, but I just may come back to catch up on the next khufiya objective (which we’ve been assured of by the suave Simone Singh) and hopefully more enraged JJ. I’ll keep you posted.

Also:

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Weight under fire

P(lump) C(hick) said...

Mind Rushji

I've heard so much about your sage and discrete advice from my colleagues in Bollywood. They're especially impressed by your ability to keep their identities anonymous in your columns!

I'm a hot and happening 20 something beauty queen turned actress. Despite my career going great guns, I seem to be under "heavy" fire from all fronts. The director of my new movie tells me that at 54 Kg I am too large for my fashionable role. The brief is to lose 8 Kgs in 6 weeks – the body that I've been torturing groans in protest "fat chance"!

I'm also the target of constant sniping from a rival actor who goes on a friend's popular chat show and disses me. She is the one that the industry, the critics and the public seem to adore "jab they met" her recently. She says it's all too easy to look pretty in a big hit movie with a superstar hero. I'm sure she's taking aim at me. Can I help it if I am pretty and the big heroes like SRK, Hrithik, Akshay and Salman work with me?

To add to my weighty woes is the fact that the path to true love is so twisted. My current aashiq --- H(ero) B(anega) ---is one of the many new kids on the block. His debut movie in which I star too is still under production and with the competition today what if it (and he) is a dud? He's young, hip and handsome and right now we both work together and work out together. However if our movie fails I can't handle an insecure struggling actor and the whines that are sure to follow.

I'll be aapki aabhari P(lump) C(hick) if you can help me with my bhaari problems.

Dear P.C.,

Do re-think your pseudonym. Your name should reflect high self-esteem. The rest will follow! How about calling yourself Positively Charismatic? Or something else along those lines....

Your weight does not define who you are. Inner beauty is Pure Charm! Ignore those idiots who want you to lose weight, unless the movie character requires it. Then too, do it under medical supervision. Mind Rush is mindful of many crazy eating disorders that overtake actresses in this zaalim industry.

Hire a good publicist. Get on these chai-coffee shows and dazzle the audience with your Pucca Convictions re: high morals, healthy body weight, being sweet to all, etc. You will attract good karma. Doosri actress ki khalaas....

Now the ishq ka question...If you like HB, go dancing, dining,driving with him. When the media or the coffee-chai guy ask about HB, say "We're just friends!" Deny, deny. This will benefit your career, keep the public tantalized and also keep the door ajar for other TDH prospects to come along....

Win, win!

Mind Rush

Also:

Monday, February 11, 2008

Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Lil Champs: Dharam and Bhoot

SRGMP LC was so good last week, it was downright scary! After being pummeled by some good natured PJs in half the show by a standup who came dressed as Chandamama, SRGMP switched to a spooky theme - the kids had to come out and sing something from a scary movie.

And you know what tickled me the most? Time and again while a kid would be singing, a woman, dressed in white with loose black hair, would walk wordlessly across the stage holding a candle in her hand. This was a brilliant send up of classic Bollywood spookiness, second only to hearing a ghungroo in the night.

Several spooky songs were sung - reminding me of times when I sat cowering in my seat cursing myself for watching a rerun knowing fully well what the movie was about. Such were the pressures of having to prove your manhood in those days.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's talk about the rishi-muni segment, shall we?

Earlier on Friday, even though Head amiably tried to spin the show as one showcasing Religious Integration, the theme was as saffron as they come. I'm not trying to nitpick here - religion is an important sociological construct and the one you pick scarcely matters to me, but scattering a bunch of extras on stage as nodding rishis in bad wigs kind of sends out a one-track signal, don't you think?

In that episode, poor Vasundhara got the long kiss goodnight. Much tear-shedding ensued. Even Wadkar sat around glumly with red eyes. This tightens the noose around the neck of the wonderful Anamika - who despite being the strongest singer among the bunch has to battle against her gender in terms of securing votes.

And speaking of Anamika, a terrific touch of drama was added by the appearance of her father - you know, the one who Anamika quit over because of a heart-attack scare.

I couldn't help but entertain myself with the possibility of some spontaneous drama were the dangerously wobbly arrow of doom to ignore Anamika's head entirely. Happily, no such thing happened. Dad went home smiling having gamely croaked a song to boot.

Four contestants are left now - of which Aamir Hafiz took the most battering from the judges. In fact, at one point Sonu Nigam put him through the grinder for ignoring the judges while they were speaking. A black and white sankat moment ensued which Aamir hurriedly negotiated.

Will the wobbly arrow favor him next week? Or will it ignore him and send him packing. Honestly, I couldn't care less. All I want is another theme that provokes over-the-top sets and guests.

Also:

Sunday, February 10, 2008

MAD (Mother And Daughter) Love

A commemoration of Mind Rush's favorite celebration (that would be Valentine's) with the first of three Love Chakkars this week. First, unsolicited advice for incognito.

incognito said...

I am effin sick of my parents' lack of respect for other people's privacy. Today I was out all day and I come home and go to my room and it is effin clean, mom went through all my sh*t and then put them in the closets and cupboard in order.

WTF? If she wanted me to clean my room why didn't she say so... I don't want people specially my parents going through my stuff, its disrespectful. I got photos of me, a bong and other things, I bet she saw them...

I am sick of being desi.. GRRRRR i just wanna crrrry...

how dare they touch my stuff.. i would have cleaned the room myself if they were so concerned...

knowing how nosey my mom is i bet she looked at everything.. GRRRR..i bet i wont find anything anymore

i dont even let them in my room to get anything so what amde them think it was okay to clean my room. I bet they did it just to spite me and ruin my day/week/month

i dont wanna leave home anymore, you never know what stunt they will pull next...

Yeh, "Incognito" kya mazaak hai??? Bewaakoof ladki!! Mein tumhaari Mummy hoon.

I hacked into your account and noticed that you are destroying our family name by writing to this bekaar column? Hamaari izzat dhool mein milaa di. What will the Indian Association members think? All the other aunties' daughters are going to med school at Harvard and my daughter....(sob!) Your sister will never get a rishta, ever. Hum kissi ko muh nahi dikhaa sakte! What did I do wrong as a mother? Sob!

OK, enough mazaak. This is in fact Mind Rush, playing mind games with you, Incognito. Couldn't resist. Seriously, I empathize. I've been there myself.

I have two solutions for you.

Number ek: Be an adult. Call a family meeting. Lay down the law, gently emphasizing the values of trust, respect and privacy.

Number two: Respond with the same weapons the family is using, yaani ki, silence, mystery and intruige. Buy a $25 safe. Put your "questionable" belongings in it. Lock it. Leave it on your bed when you go out.

You choose....

Keep us posted and good luck!

Mind Rush

Also:

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Why Waitress is short of a good tip

Before I go out and trash a widely loved movie, I want to clarify three things that might have jaundiced my point of view.

One, outside of those with fresh cut fruits in them, I'm not a lover of pies. Second, I haven't spent a significant amount of time in Smalltown, USA which limits my ability to connect with characters written with that mahol in mind. And thirdly, I'm not a woman.

With that out of the way, I found Adrienne Shelley's writing in the acclaimed Waitress to be wonderful. It was her turn as a director that I thought put the brakes on the movie.

For those of you not familiar with the tragic story sorrounding Shelley, I'll summarize: On November 1, 2006 (well before Waitress was first previewed for audiences in Sundance), her husband Andrew Ostroy returned home to his Manhattan apartment to find Shelley dead of an apparent suicide in her bathtub, hanging from the shower rod.

A dramatic investigation led to a startling arrest - Shelley was said to have yelled at 19-year-old construction worker Diego Pillco who had been making a bit of a ruckus in his apartment below Shelley's. Pillco came over, there was an altercation with Shelley which resulted in her possible death. In a state of panic, Pillco then tried to make it look like a suicide. (More on Pillco's confession). But Pillco's sneakers caught the dampness in the bathroom and left marks - which led the police to not take the staged suicide at face value.

So back to the movie, Shelley had a reasonably good story on her hands and despite trying to cover a little too much sisterhood ground, she came up with a sparkling script. Sure all the men are either jerks, caricatures or wimpy losers in her story - but to be fair she layers her women with flaws. And she adds the right amounts of bittersweet humor to the proceedings.

Jenna (Keri Russell) is a woman who creates magical pies for a diner off the highway. She has fallen out of love with her husband (Jeremy Sisto) and plans to walk out of her marriage. The diner is inhabited by her two friendly coworkers - Becky (Cheryl Hines) and Dawn (Shelley herself playing a fine hand) and a rude, demanding manager. Life gets complicated when Jenna finds herself pregnant. Having decided to keep her baby and finding her life barreling out of control, she then ignites an affair with her gynecologist Dr. Pomatter (Nathan Fillion).

Even accounting for the fact that Shelley may have deliberately staged Waitress with slapdash indie-chic, the execution of numerous scenes reveal a lack of feel for beat. I'm not even going to complain about the sets or the distractions caused by simple issues - like filters that make dusk and dawn look really fake, or neonish blue lights to portray a night scene or someone forgetting to stop shining the light on Russell's neck in a bus stop scene in bright daylight.

Scenes waft by in which the actors do multiple things without any attempt to pace anything. Vacuous interactions waft by draining the movie of much of its emotional impact. Even the Like Water for Chocolate-inspired pie-scenes in the movie failed to charm me - as they were meant to.

Besides being frustratingly uneven, I thought Waitress suffered from utter lack of chemistry between its two - individually charming - leads Russell and Fillion. If Russell had been more seasoned an actress I wouldn't have had a WTF moment when she begins her affair. Neither does Fillion give us any insights as to why he might be cheating on his wife.

Romances without rhyme or reason are one of the primary reasons I write movies off. As I did this one.