Chris Rock Standup, Netflix

There are two “similar” Chris Rock shows on Netflix, the 2018 show, and the extended 2021 show. Watch the newer 2021. It has some additional snippets.

Any non-Indian stand ups are difficult to follow by Indians because the words, phrases, politics and punchlines (and accent) are specific to alien regions. But this Chris Rock show is easier on Indian ears as the subjects touched upon are viral and prime time.

Chris Rock opens the show with his pet peeves; Black-White and Black-Police problems in the United States. His skit on “equality between blacks and whites” and “getting black people ready for white people” is hard hitting and relevant. To educate and sensitize coloured kids to dangers of living in white world, as Chris Rock says, will always be a “clear and present” danger and blacks must always prepare for several bad scenarios.

Chris Rock has a take on the US justice system and the Gun-problem. He has a good suggestion to solve the “gun problem” in the US. One hopes Biden is listening.

Chris Rock, being a father of two kids, has a skit or two on “raising and educating kids” in the “school system.” He points out common misconceptions adults have about their kids and the lies parents tell to kids. Besides, he has a thing or two on his divorce and husband-wife relationships.

This Hour and half show is a wholesome watch. Just watch these following words or else you’ll miss some punchlines.
Al Sharpton – US Civil Rights Lawyer (colored)
Pootie Tang – A 2001 comedy movie starring Chris Rock
Crips – Violent Streets Gangs of US (Colored)
Onesie – One piece lightweight garment for kids.
Cardi B – US Rap Singeress (colored)

Philosophies of Life in a Stand-Up Comedy.

On Privacy and Surveillance-02

This post is suffixed with a number which means an earlier post on this subject exists. Click this link to get there. The earlier post is one of many aspects of my experiences with “Khabarigiri”, that is, surveillance or snooping. This post is one more such snooping incidents that show different behaviours and motivations.

The earlier post was on snooping by specific people mandated with specific tasks of “dirt gathering” by “get-togethering”, “partying”, “trekking”, and even “taking lift on a car.” I have a story to tell on snooping by “taking lift on a car” but that’s for series 03. Here I have something to say about snooping by “calculating” and by “breaking in.”

There was a time when I worked in Calcutta and, as is usual with me, I was befriended by a guy who worked as a driver. I was befriended because I had an open pocket. My salaries came into one pocket and escaped by the other five. Sensing these excesses, I abruptly stopped: drinking, smoking, spending, for a few months. My screeching brake was a bane to all the parasitic “friends” I tend to accumulate in life and the hardest hit was this driver. He tried several ways to “break my fast”, and in one conversations, he predicted how much money I may have saved by my “abstentions”. I was astounded. His figures were correct, plus/minus a thousand.

The truth that someone is calculating “about” me was apparent then. But I never internalised it by attitudinal corrections. Any other person will cast away these toxic people at first evidence. But me; I continued living with snakes.

Similar incident happened when I started working in Bombay at the turn of this century. A business minded colleague kept pestering me to know how much money I’m earning. After several failed attempts to solicit an answer, he finally said – at least tell me how much tax you pay? I told him. He felt silent, lowered his head, and then raised his head and figured my salary. His guess was near, plus/minus a few thousand.

This incident was concurrent with a time when, due to some “good performances”, middle management gave me some “increment.” This created lots of ire and fire among the incompetents. Those were the days when the company sent salary slips in envelopes. (Salary was directly credited to bank)

Since the time I got the “increment” and thereafter, for a couple of months, I always found my “salary slip envelope” tampered. I never complained, but the “operation” started on me spread internally within the department and everyone began fearing that their own “salary slip envelope” was tampered with too. The situation was solved when salary slips started getting emailed and hard copy discarded.

By mid 2017, I was closing my account with the company. The company had a “co-operative society” where one could invest money for compound interests. On final closure date, when I went to collect my cheque, upon seeing me, there was an eerie silence in the room. Staff made furtive glances, particularly, the counter-girl. My assessment on this event could be speculative, but my experiences with the company made me sense and gauge that “management” may have called to know my “invested money.”

By mentioning these behaviours I stress that surveillance on a person is closure to “Home” than “High-Tech.” It is more “people” than “apps.” It is more your relative, neighbours and even one’s own family member. This mention of “family member” might be surprising. But it’s not. I have a family member who, unknown to me, divulged all the family details to an office colleague, who happens to be a “prime-informer” of the company. So, you have to check what your husband, wife and children may be divulging to others. And what other husbands, wives and children (and colleagues and neighbours) are trying to dig out of you.

Your every information will be used against you.

Three Shows, Netflix

Pretend It’s a City

This 7 episode series is an acquired taste. Fran Lebowitz, a New York Resident multi-thinker, has her opinions thrown in left-right-center. The show is framed as a conversation between her and film director Martin Scorsese, with her doing most of the talking and Scorsese doing most of the laughing, rather, forced laughing. But the conversation is high caliber with lots of piquant observations and quick repartees. She talks of many things under the sun which are thought provoking indeed.

History of Swear Words

Nicholas Cage presents this 6 Episode series on history, geography, psychology and semantics of “Chutiya” , “Gandu“, “Bhenchod“, etc., of the English Language. It’s an exciting watch, mainly short commentaries on “cuss words” by experts in various fields. There is a music genre called “dirty blues” and singer Lucille Bogan was one of the pioneers. Check lyrics and song which is 100 years old. (another link to lyrics)

Surviving Death

This 6 episode series is scientific and logical attempts to unravel the mysteries of death in terms of a Life: “returning from death”, “communicating with the dead”, “dead communicating with the living”, and “reincarnation.” The show maintained balance between skepticism and belief, with every paranormal experiences of people being scrutinised by experts and scientists researching those subjects. Most of the queries are left open ended, probably for one to find out themselves, when the day comes.

Start with “Surviving Death”, then watch “Swear Words” to lighten yourself, then finish with “City”, if you can.

The Wall, Movie, Amazon Prime

Primarily, there is only one visible and active character onscreen. The other character is a voice. And the two are on either side of a dilapidated wall in an Iraqi war zone.

Most of the movie is filmed on the active character, a US army-man, badly injured, hiding behind a sickly wall, trying to figure out who the hell is shooting and from where. To add to the eeriness, the elusive Iraqi sniper has shot dead all long distance radios and has tuned into the walkie-talkie of the only responding US army-man.

Then a conversation starts between the two, with the walled American talking and crawling and peering and luring but the Iraqi remains a ghostly voice in the sandy wilderness. Some good Iraqi questions are asked, some bad American replies are given. Then with bond established, the Iraqi calls for help for his new found “friend.”

Only to help himself with some more…

Though a slim plot line, The Wall depends on masterful screenplay and cinematography.

The Million Pound Note, Movie, YouTube

A millionaire brothers had a bet: If a “demand draft” of a Million Pound is given to any poor man, that poor man will live like a millionaire without spending a penny.

At the very same time, an American (Gregory Peck) finds himself hungry and destitute on the streets of London and to his luck his path cross with the betting millionaire brothers. To test their bet, the millionaire brothers give the “cheque” to Gregory Peck for one month but they don’t tell him anything about the bet.

The Million Pound “Paper” opens designer shops, luxury hotel and high societies for Gregory Peck. His recommendation to buy a stock touches the highs in the share market.

And then he temporarily loses the “demand draft.” As this information spreads, shops, hotel and societies close their doors on him and the stock crashes. But all of these are soon recovered with the re-discovery of “The Million Pound Note.”

The movie showcases the perception of money in society. The story by Mark Twain is over 125 years old but the truth of the story still holds.

This 1954 movie is based on the story by Mark Twain published in 1893. In the movie, the “Million Pound Note” has a year stamp of 1903. One needs to see (and feel) the amount of “One Million Pound” in context of those times by extrapolating its value to present time. If curious calculate here.

There is a word – Debonair – which fits perfectly as epithet on two hollywood stars, Cary Grant and Gregory Peck. This 1 Hour and 20 Minutes movie is swish, snappy and sharp – just like Gregory Peck.

YouTube Link here.

The Night Manager, Miniseries, Amazon Prime

This 1 Season, 6 Episodes, is an out and out spy thriller. It’s based on the story written by John La Carr, master spy novelist who died recently.

A Night Manager is a job function associated with Hotels. As the name suggests, the time of the job coincides with many nefarious activities in the world. A Night Manager of a Cairo Hotel, through a series of events, and murder of his favorite guest, is drawn into an information about an illegal international arms deal. He offers his services to the MI 6, the British Foreign Intelligence Service, to infiltrate the network and bring down the bad guys. To add to the complexity, some top brass of the MI 6 are also involved in this dark trade. As you can see, the Night Manager is sharing information with MI 6 where some of the key members are compromised. But some diligent members of MI 6 persist in the pursuit, and after betrayals and suspense, “send” the bad guys to justice.

The TV series has slick production and performances. There is Olivia Colman, TV’s finest actress. Tom Hiddleston as Night Manager has the persona to carry off various characters like a hotel guy, a lover boy and a romantic spy who kills. Hugh Laurie, as a suave villain, is superb.

The Night Manager is bingeable; a quality associated with attention holding episodes like an unputdownable novel.

AK vs AK, Movie, Netflix

At first there is a story. Then there is an audience. The need is to deliver the story to the audience. So there are mediums like; put the story in a book, or narrate it over radio a la Neelesh Mishra, or show it on a screen – Mobile, TV, Cinema. The last medium, Screen, needs the story to be transformed into screenplay. So, we can say. the medium is the screen, the technique is the screenplay and the content is the story and finally, the target is the audience. The logistics has four parts – medium, technique, content and target.

Let’s consider medium and target as constants. This leaves technique and content as variables. I am attempting to scrutinize these two variables, technique and content, in light of the movie, “AK vs AK.”

As far as the technique of screenplay is concerned, “no stones have been left unturned.” All arts of racy movie making which is on display in many hollywood movies on streaming platform have been copied into “AK vs AK”. Bollywood is Chinese in technical copycats. Wish it had good role-models for stories too.

Now let’s consider the content. The wonderful medium of screen allows the content, the story, to be either like “one grain of rice” or like a “godown.” Meaning, the story can be slim, wafer-thin or expansive, with many details. A movie can have a fixed duration, say 2 Hours, yet it can be made to handle a shoestring story or a complexity. There are excellent movies with slim storylines, like – just two characters talking while waiting for a train. (Ijaazat) Or just one character and a voice. (Her).

One movie which is greatly in my memory is Mrinal Sen’s “Ek Din Pratidin“. Watch it on Amazon Prime. The story is slim but the treatment is awesome. The beauty is in the writing and the author has taken care for a believable delivery.

In “AK vs AK” the story idea is great – compared to other Bollywood products. It starts brilliantly but by the time it ends there is a great feeling of being let-down. If two Ak’s are playacting against each other then why should one AK, Anil Kapoor, is shown firing actual gunshot into the belly of another AK. When everything is a drama, it should have ended as a drama. Or, if the character of Anil Kapoor was going to use actual bullet in the end, a valid reason for this action should have been created earlier in the story to validate such an action.

“AK vs AK” is a contrived story to showcase a concocted screenplay. It’s like a newspaperman delivering yesterday’s newspaper on a Rs. 1,00,000 bicycle. At first when you see the newspaperman on his swanky bicycle you’ll be enthralled but when you discover he delivered yesterday’s newspaper, you won’t notice the swankiness of the bike but the relevance of the delivery.

When the movie started I was on the edge of my “bed” with a feeling that, well, oh, finally Bollywood “has arrived.” But towards the end I felt cheated. Comparatively, Coolie No. 1 (2020) seems an honest movie. It didn’t waste my time. Within 10 mins had I quit. “AK vs AK” strung me along for 01 Hour 45 Mins and then kicked my face.

In Hindi there is a saying- “ऊँची दुकान फीकी पकवान”, (much cry and little wool). “AK vs AK” should be the new idiom for such experiences.

A Street Cat Named Bob, Movie, Amazon Prime

There’s a new word I know – Busking – it’s those singers on the streets who sing or play musical instruments for money. In India this would be called begging. Busking on the streets of London will require licence. But there are many folks there who do it without official permission. This fact should be known before you watch the movie, “A Street Cat Named Bob” because you will be surprised why was the man arrested for just standing on corner of a street and stringing the guitar and singing.

If you love cats, or at least love watching their antics, you will like what you see on “A Street Cat Named Bob.” And the cat, Bob, has performed well. Also, there’s a mouse, obviously.

Story is about a recovering addict in rehab who makes a chance encounter with a street cat. Cat seems to adopt the man and together they perform on the streets, the man doing the singing and the cat does what cats do best. Anyway, the cat becomes the attraction to many and envy to some and this partnership gets good money till luck last. Luck comes, then goes and then comes again. That’s the story in the nutshell.

What is notable is the filming with the cat. Also with the mouse, to some extent. Working with animals (and toddlers), I believe, must be a separate school of movie making. I mean, how will one communicate to a cat what expressions are required? Probably techniques, like creating a situation to get a desired effect. And waiting, patience.

After the cat makes an entry, many of the human interactions, like romance, love, hate, is either shown “through the eyes of the cat” or “mirrored on the cat.” The camera and the story gives the cat top billing. And “he” has not disappointed.

And the actors are good too. The shots filmed of the human characters are kept short in duration. One gets an impression that the director may have said, “whatever you do, do in 5 seconds.” Many of the scenes have a “clipped” feeling, an attempt, I believe, to limit the scope of melodrama. Which is good. Because there is a great scope for melodrama: recovering addict, penury, father-problem, girlfriend problem, so-called friend problem etc., all dealt with in succinct 1 hour and 40 minutes.

Coolie No. 1, (Movie 2020), Amazon Prime

Shakespeare had remarked pretty aptly – “It takes a wise father to know his own child.” But “Putra-Moh”, (पुत्रमोह) – blind love for first born male child, is for real. In India, two Hindu epics, (Ramayana and Mahabharat) are based on this.

The common thinking is that, David Dhawan, the father, has money to waste on his son. But David Dhawan may not be using his own money to finance his son’s venture. It seems, David Dhawan enjoys tremendous goodwill among the film fraternity. Despite his other movie failures in recent years, he could raise money to remake two yesteryear’s blockbuster hits starring his son.

In 2017 he made “Judwaa 2”, a remake of a 1997 Salman Khan double role starrer, “Judwaa.” The movie was a crap. Varun Dhawan couldn’t match the star power of Salman Khan. Yet movie earned good money thanks to Theatres. Next, film director David Dhawan upped the ante and remade “Coolie No. 1” which pitched his son against super hit “Coolie No. 1” (1995) and against Govinda, who not only has star power but is an exceptionally good actor. Sadly, theatres are closed. On OTT this movie will tank.

What is the father trying to achieve for his son?

There are many song programmes on TV where participants sing songs sung by well known yesteryear’s movie playback singers hoping they would click too and someone will pick them up for the real thing. There are even dance shows on the same theme where participants dance to old songs also emulating old dancing stars. Again, these are all done to reach for the real thing.

Why is David Dhawan, a successful film director, not giving his son, Varun Dhawan, the real thing? Why is he making video portfolios for his son? Is it intended for other casting directors?

It’s not the first time that David Dhawan is making remakes. He has done this with other stars with lukewarm success. What makes his remakes with his son significantly different is that, sadly, his son Varun Dhawan is not a star material and is a so-so actor. This fact should be obvious to the director who has worked with megastars and exceptional actors in his long career.

Does David Dhawan think that by repeated exposures to remakes of blockbuster movies, his son will come out tops? Is he challenging his son with difficulties which will hone his skills and stardom?

Yes, there are people like Jeetendra, Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan who in their initial attempts into movies were washouts. Nevertheless they ploughed on and few failures later emerged as megastars. Will Varun Dhawan be such a find? Can we see the promise now? Will Varun Dhawan surprise us with the remake of “Biwi No.1” (1999) ?

With the coming of several streaming apps – Netflix, Amazon, Hotstar, Jio,..- it’s pretty obvious that movie business has changed. And COVID has precipitated changes. It remains to be seen how theater going public react post Covid.

Because, movies like “Coolie No. 1” (2020) if released in theatres will get some opening revenue because of “Captive Audience Model”. At release of new movies, the distributors book all screens all day for days. They only spare one screen per theatres for regional movies. The theatre going public is presented with only one movie option which they have to take at least to enjoy flirting their girls and air conditioning.

Contrast this with streaming apps on smart phones and TV. Here Coolie 1995 resides alongside Coolie 2020 and Judwaa 1997 alongside Judwaa 2017. Also there are many other choices. The competition for attention is immense. Unlike theatres where one pays to watch one show, on the apps, one pays and gets access to watch many.

So, here is a catch. David Dhawan’s many movies are floating on several streaming platforms. These movies are earning OTT lots of revenue. OTT – ‘over the top’ business model works on buying the airing rights of a movie plus more. (Click links) Which means, even though many viewers would have switched over to watch something else within few minutes of “Coolie no. 1” (2020), David Dhawan may still have recovered his cost.

Movie making is a laborious process. And makers do get exhausted. Attentions flag, judgements dim. David Dhawan has had a long and illustrious career. He doesn’t need to make such waste. But it seems that no one else is signing on Varun Dhawan. This implies that he doesn’t have it in him. And this may be a bitter pill to swallow for the father who in his fits of ego is dusting out his old hits, removing old stars, and trying to fit his son into that notch. But the son doesn’t fit but caves in.

Why not go for the real thing!

Coolie No.1 (1995) is on Hotstar and JioCinema. Judwaa (1997) is on Amazon Prime and Netflix.

Both are wholesome entertainers.

Colossal, Movie, Amazon Prime

Colossal is a science fiction-ish movie with nothing to be colossal about. But the story is tempting enough for one to tag along till the end. It has a texture of a good forgettable movie.

Some scenes don’t make sense. Yet it does not cloud over the main storyline. This is because the central story concept has some meat. The problem of the story is its development which is not strong to justifies the core concept. By this I mean, as a viewer when I reach the climax I should feel it too. But, in this movie, when I reach the climax, I felt bad for the story which brought me there.

There is dissonance in the story. The story pursues too many emotions. It seems that the writer was in multiple minds in what direction to take. There is a relationship story. There is it a psychotic story. There is a debauched and wasted girl story. There a delusional story. And also, there is negative Superhero masquerading as Science Fiction. Too many storylines spoil the climax.

One of the redeeming part of the movie is Anne Hathaway. She has a very mobile face and acts with her entire body. Her persona gets the empathy. One feels bad for her, wants her to get well, get out of all the bad relationships and fall in love with someone true and real. Anne Hathaway’s star quality has carried this movie. It fails at the point of delivery just because of its erratic story.

Watch ‘Colossal’ if you want to see how a good concept fails due to apathetic story.