Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Indiana Jones - A very late review

This post comes late, in fact too late to be of use to anybody who wants to decide whether to see the movie based on my review. However, since I myself saw the movie very late, I had no option.

Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull comes 19 years after the last Indiana Jones movie – The Last Crusade. Harrison Ford’s age has not stood still over all these years. He is 64 now. And that, in my opinion, was the best feature of the movie.

So all those people who want to see a James Bond – like movie where the hero modernizes with the time and retains a playboy image no matter how old the actor becomes, stay away from The Crystal Skull. Indiana Jones is old, and he doesn’t hide it. His hair is gray, his actions are sometimes not as accurate as old days. However, he is still the sharp minded professor of archaeology who is more fit at sixty-four than most of us are in our twenties.

The movie is also set about two decades after WWII, during the peak of the Cold War. There’s a lost city in Peru where a crystal skull has to be returned. Whoever does it first gets to control its powers… no one knows what that means. And Indiana Jones and his co-adventurers must beat the Russians in their search for the lost kingdom of the crystal skull. The period is beautifully captured in the automobiles on the road, the costumes of the people, the machinery, weapons and all forms of transport. Even the filming techniques have been kept the same as that used in the other three movies, so that people do not see the disconnect in time. The use of CGI has been kept to a minimum, and Ford himself did most of his stunts. To be fair, The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull also has a few very obvious plot holes and unrealistic stunts, but what’s an Indiana Jones movie without them? Who thinks about the feasibility of the action in such a film? At least I don’t! I only go for entertainment and to see breathtaking action.

Without revealing the crucial plot points, I can only say this much: Steven Spielberg has once again delivered a movie that keeps the audience at the edge of their seats from the very beginning. From the Nevada Desert to the Amazon rain forests, the story moves swiftly and grippingly. From nuclear explosions to Mayan ruins, from dart-throwing tribals to man-eating ants, from swordfights to spacecrafts, this movie has it all. It has a perfect mix of comedy and adventure, and enough references to the earlier movies for the cult follower. And in the end, just when the audience felt that Indie was about to pass on the baton to younger adventurers, there was the clear message that he is not done yet.

In short, this latest Indiana Jones movie is a must watch. If it hasn’t left the theatres near you yet, rush and grab tickets. If it is gone, wait eagerly for the DVD. In either case, this is not a movie that you can afford to miss.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Don't they feel odd?

I'm just back from 'Kobe' in Salt Lake City Centre where I and two friends were having sizzlers. A family, probably Marwadi, were seated at the next table. There was a man, his wife and two young kids. There was another lady too, you may call her the nanny or the governess or the maid whatever you like. She was controlling the kids and helping them eat, while the kids' parents talked among themselves. What seemed odd to us was that the maid was standing beside the table the whole time while the family ate. If they don't think she is fit to sit down at the same table with them, why do they bring her at such a place?
After they were done eating, they put some leftover food on a plate and handed it to the maid. She held the plate in her hand and quickly ate it, still standing in a corner. I was so angry that I felt like taking out my camera and taking a photo of the family to go with this blog. I had decided on writing the blog post by that time and I could have taken a photo without them realising it. But then I felt they were not really worth that trouble. "Don't have an iota of education in them, suddenly seen a lot of money", my friend Avijit said. I only thought, don't they feel odd, treating a human being like a dog?

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Puri Trip - A Photoblog

Puri has a great beach with magnificent waves. These days there is a large crowd of tourists though. Fishermen's boats lie on the sand and tourists spend their time sitting on them. Some of them take a paid ride on a horse or a camel. Some like to walk along the shore as the waves play at their feet.

The principal attraction of Puri is of course the temple of Lord Jagannath. I will try to write about it in detail later. Photography is prohibited inside, so I only have photos of the main Shikhara. It is 180 feet high. See the flags on top? They are changed every evening between 5:00 pm and 6:00 pm. A man climbs up the chain seen on the right and changes the flags, no matter what the weather may be like.

We had planned to visit Dhauligiri, Bhubaneswar and Konark one day. However, Sun God had other plans. When we reached Dhauli, a thunderstorm struck. I took this photo from top of the hill. Soon afterwards, we were soaked to the skin and shivering in the wind. We had to cancel our trip to Bhuvaneswar and return to Puri to change. After lunch, we went to the Konark Sun Temple and spent the rest of the afternoon there.

The Sun Temple at Konark is an amazing example of ancient Indian Architecture. It is about 125 feet high with excuisite carvings all over the walls. It is built in the form of a huge chariot with twelve pairs of ten-foot wheels. These wheels are probably the best known features of the Konark temple. What is not that well known is the fact that each of these wheels is a sundial.

I was hoping to take photos of sunrise over the sea. However, The coast at sea faces southeast and the sun rises from the northeast in summer, so the sunrise is visible over the sea only in winter. For now, I had to be satisfied with photos like the one above.

But going to the beach in the early mornings wasn't in vain. I photographed the fishermen returning from their fishing trips and selling fish from their small boats on the beach. As can be seen from the photo, fish weren't the only things caught. I saw live shells, crabs, prawns, starfish and small sharks. The crows fly from boat to boat, trying to snatch a fish or two. I also requested an old fisherman to pose for a portrait and he obliged.

Before returning, it was time to buy gifts. "Cuttacki" designs are the trademark of Orissan textiles and we bought several Cuttacki patterned products. Here you can see a stack of Kurtas in a shop.

The sea at Puri is very agitated, but that also makes it more interesting. Before coming back, my sister took this photo of me standing in the sea. Just after taking this photo the water suddenly rushed in and reached upto my knees. I would like to go to Puri again sometime, because there are some things which never grow old however much you look at them, and for me, the sea is one of these things.

[Click on the photos to view full size]

Thursday, June 05, 2008

A Narrow Escape

I had a really narrow escape today. There was a bandh in Kolkata, and I was walking to office. In the meantime, the monsoons decided to arrive last night, so it was drizzling as I walked under my umbrella. When I am about halfway there, it suddenly became dark as night and the sky opened up. The rain was flying from all directions, the wind would not allow me to hold my umbrella and visibility dropped to a few feet. Still, finding no place to stand, I kept walking. Besides, I had some important work to do at the office.

There were flashes of lightning, and as usual, I counted the seconds between the lightning and thunder to judge the distance of the discharge. When I was in front of my office, suddenly there was a flash - a flash brighter than any that I had ever seen, and it was not followed by but accompanied by the loudest thunderclap that I had ever heard. And while this was happening, I realised with horror that small electric discharges were taking place between my fingers and the steel rod of my umbrella!

It took me a fraction of a second to shift my hand to the plastic part of the handle and lower the umbrella. And when I did lower the umbrella, I saw that the same flash of lightning was still playing across the sky overhead. I ducked instinctively and realised it was unnecessary; the show was over.

I was badly scared. My palpitation increased and throat became so dry that I started coughing. However these symptoms also signified that I was still alive, and had narrowly escaped a very unusual way to die. I rushed indoors, to be faced with a different kind of bolt from the blue, but that's another story.

[And yes, post(s) on Puri will follow soon. I was not getting time to upload the photos. Now they are ready.]