Monday, November 26, 2012

To thine own self be true

They say imitation is the best form of flattery.
But I'm not feeling flattered at all to find that someone has merrily copied my lines onto their blog.
How desperate can people be? Grow up!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Brainy's the new Sexy!

Like most people, I have read about the exploits of Sherlock Holmes, the most famous fictional detective. However, I had mostly read abridged versions of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories. Recently I have been trying to plough through the unabridged Complete Works but the going has been tough. The stories are more than a 150 years old and the writing style is naturally dated and dry. Some of the stories themselves also feel a bit ridiculous given the plethora of crime novels and serials we have been exposed to. So basically to read the original works and enjoy it, one always has to keep in mind the time period when it was written and make allowances for it. Kind of spoils the fun. More literature and less a good detective story, if you know what I mean.

That’s why when it comes to favourite literary sleuths, I always turn to Monsieur Hercule Poirot – he of the ‘little gray cells’ and the passion for order and method. More importantly, Agatha Christie’s detective stories are much more about the psychological human drama behind the murders. This in itself renders them timeless because the key human passions remain the same whatever be the generation. They are also written about a 100 years after Sherlock which makes them more readable but again, they do contain several stereotypes which seem amusingly old-fashioned and sometimes downright racist in today’s world.

Anyway, I digress. What has, in fact, prompted me to write this piece is BBC Entertainment’s inventive new series, “Sherlock”. This is a Sherlock set not in Victorian, but contemporary England.  While the idea of a modern setting might make purists scoff, it is surprisingly effective in reinvigorating the franchise. The adaptation is intelligent, witty and entertaining – it retains the soul of the original while bringing in a 21st centurytwist. London, where most of the stories are set, is not a rainy smog-filled city with the clattering of horses’ hoofs but a bright and lively one to be traversed in the ubiquitous black taxicabs. There have been 2 seasons so far with only 3 episodes each but each one has been a gem. Only a few Holmes stories have been used for the main episodes with their plots suitably tweaked. For instance, the first episode is “A Study in Pink” derived from the first Holmes story, “A Study in Scarlet”. However, there are several passing references to other Holmes tales scattered throughout the episodes for the aficionados. “The Greek Interpreter” becomes a story about comic book related murders, “The Geek Interpreter”, “The Speckled Band” becomes the case of a “Speckled Blonde”and so on.

A big reason why the series works is of course, Sherlock himself. Sherlock is played to perfection by Benedict Cumberbatch who portrays Sherlock as a slightly eccentric, “high-functioning sociopath” with just the right amount of charm.  Cumberbatch uses his wonderfully deep voice to great effect as he delivers rapid-fire speeches giving the impression of his tongue struggling to keep pace with his mind. His intense ice blue eyes and razor sharp cheekbones add to the image of an intense, obsessive and incredibly intelligent mind. His Sherlock is however also one who is childishly gleeful at the prospect of a serial killer and goes into a sulk when he can’t find a challenging case. This strange man-child is focused only on the gratification of his own need to solve mysteries and has an alarming disregard for social skills. But despite his negligent attitude and sharp tongue, he is still capable of caring quite deeply – for his friend Watson, for Mrs. Hudson, his landlady and for ‘the woman’, Irene Adler. In keeping with the times, Sherlock also prefers to text message his associates, uses the GPS to track criminals and is trying to give up smoking by using nicotine patches. Trust me, it's more entertaining than sacreligious. The constant know-it-all behavior, the immense egoism, a certain ruthlessness are all present but strangely seem almost expected in a man so gifted.

Martin Freeman essays the role of Dr. John Watson, the closest thing to a friend that Sherlock has. He is the perfect foil to the mercurial Sherlock and brings in the Everyman point of view and bewilderment when faced with the Sherlock’s brilliance. The camaraderie between the complex Sherlock and the forthright John (‘not’ Holmes and Watson) hits the right notes and has the nowadays-mandatory touches of bromance thrown in.

This reminds me of Guy Ritchie’s adaptations of Sherlock Holmes tales. Let me just say that I find them vile; especially when I compare them to the TV series. Like most of his other popular roles, Robert Downey Jr. plays himself and reduces Sherlock Holmes to a clownish ragamuffin. The movies are like any other modern action-adventure Shanghai Knights kind of a flick and the Jude Law and Robert Downey chemistry is forced. Guy Ritchie’s movies could have been about anybody else but definitely not Sherlock Holmes, the greatest detective of all time!

To appreciate the genius of Sherlock Holmes, read the books if you can, watch him in his original Victorian setting in the older BBC series or best of all… watch ‘Sherlock’.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Monsoon Memories

It's that time of the year again...when the rain whips the landscape out of maudlin stagnation and the thunder ignites disconcerting frenzies. When the world seems to turn on its head for a while as the sky darkens and lightning sizzles across it. Monsoon, like no other season, is such a spectacle, such a grand show.
While it is not my favourite season for various very practical reasons, I still enjoy a good storm for its sheer unreasonable-ness. When thunder booms and lightning zigzags, I feel alive.

I remember one monsoon when I was 8 or 10 years old. My mother finally gave in to my pleas and let me and my sister get drenched in the rain. Our house was on the 10th floor of a building and we had a huge adjoining terrace space to play in. It was all the privacy and space one would have wanted in a concrete jungle. We splashed about in the rain for a long time, exhilarated to be at nature's party. Not to mention being actually granted permission to get wet in the rain! I remember running around from end to the other frolicking in the unexpected freedom, fleeing to spots where the warmer water dripped off the roofs when it got too cold and then running back under the open skies again, while my mother sat with towels waiting for us to run back to her.

When I grew older and reached that strange limbo between being adult and a child, I enjoyed sitting by the window while the rain unleashed its fury on the world outside. I sat next to the window at night, the ubiquitous book in my hand gazing at the suddenly empty, slick streets being pelted with rain diamonds. The spray would hit my face and seem to whisper of exciting things to come, grand ambitions and secret promises. I could sit like that for hours lost in nebulous thoughts  and waiting for the transition to adulthood to be complete.

I remember sharing an umbrella. How the cold rain trickled down my back and my shoulder, my unruly hair dampened into soft tendrils. Clutching a friend tightly for warmth and because the space beneath that flimsy canopy was precious little. Giggling at the puddles, the dirty streets, the scurrying people and life's problems. Knowing that the umbrella was just a sham like much of life's promises but holding onto it nonetheless.

Nowadays when practicality almost completely threatens to overtake passion, the rain often makes me restless. I chafe at my routines and the predictability of my life when the weather gets so insanely unpredictable. I keep running to the windows to see how dark the skies have become and how hard it is raining. But my office windows are tinted and sealed shut and it is hard to make out much...

I got drenched in the rain again last night but I remembered to take out my umbrella lest my laptop bag get wet. I know I wanted to just walk down the well-known streets, past the people huddled under the shop shelters, with my umbrella in my bag, getting soaked to the skin, with a broad grin on my face and with my head held high. And maybe one of these magical monsoon days, I'll do it too.

Image courtesy: Google

Sunday, May 27, 2012

My favourite Serial Killer

Season 6 of 'Dexter' has just ended. And despite the below par season, I miss my favourite serial killer already.

Meet Dexter Morgan. Blood spatter analyst by day who moonlights as a serial killer/vigilante. Watching his mother brutally murdered at the tender age of 3 had the effect of turning him into a blood craving sociopath. His adoptive father, a policeman, realizes Dexter's murderous tendencies early on and to protect his son and prevent him from killing innocent people, makes him follow a Code. According to the Code, Dexter will only kill those who are guilty of murder themselves. Following Harry's Code helps Dexter to provide an outlet to his "Dark Passenger" (his name for his urge to kill) and also maintain a facade of normalcy. His day job is with Miami Metro's homicide division where he works alongside his sister Debra Morgan. His job provides easy access to the scum of society who meet their nemesis at Dexter's hand. The basis for the characters have been Jeff Lindsay's novel, 'Darkly Dreaming Dexter', the first of his Dexter novels. While Season 1 followed the novel more or less, later seasons have veered away from the books' narrative.

"I like to pretend I'm alone. Completely alone. Maybe post-apocalypse or plague... Whatever. No-one left to act normal for. No need to hide who I really am. It would be... freeing."

'Dexter' is not for the faint-hearted especially when you consider that the protagonist chops up people and disposes the body parts in the ocean. But it is still one of the most widely acclaimed shows in a long time and has a cult following the world over. The originality of the premise and the writing have been one of the main reasons for the show's success. We hear Dexter's wry internal monologue and wonder at the dichotomy between social life and natural inclinations. Dexter is a monster but sometimes you wonder if there isn't a monster in everyone around him too.

"There are no secrets in life, just hidden truths that lie beneath the surface."

"Everyone hides who they are at least some of the time. Sometimes you bury that part of yourself so deeply you have to be reminded it's even there at all. And sometimes you just want to forget who you are altogether... I'm not the monster he wants me to be so I'm neither man nor beast. I'm something new entirely, with my own set of rules. I'm Dexter. Boo."

Initially, Dexter believes that he has no emotions, and takes a lot of pains to appear 'normal' and blend in with the other people around him. He prefers to stay low profile given his predilections. However Dexter does maintain a few personal relationships - with his adoptive sister Debra who is unaware of Harry's training, his wife Rita who is too traumatized from years of abuse at the hands of her ex-husband, her two children from an earlier marriage, Astor and Cody and his own son, Harrison on whom he dotes. These attachments complicate his double life and often make him question his nature.

" I'm Dexter, and I'm... not sure what I am. I just know there's something dark in me, and I hide it, I certainly don't talk about it, but it's there, always. This Dark Passenger, and when he's driving I feel, alive, half sick with the thrill of complete wrongness. I don't fight him, I don't want to, he's all I've got. Nothing else could love me, not even.....especially not me. Or is that just a lie the Dark Passenger tells me? Because lately there are these moments when I feel.....connected to something else, someone, and it's like, the mask is slipping, and things, people, who never mattered before are suddenly starting to matter, and it scares the hell out of me."


"I am a father...a son...a serial killer".

Dexter's dilemma, his questioning and the frequent emergence of his better self inspite of what he believes himself to be find an echo somewhere with the audience. His ironic musings reveal both his despair and his loneliness. They are also tempered with a dark sense of humour that is both morbid and entertaining.

"Harry and Dorris Morgan did a wonderful job raising me. But they're both dead now. I didn't kill them. Honest."

"[about a used car salesman] It's a toupee. Even this guy's hair is a lie."

"Want a real glimpse of the human nature? Stand in the way of someone's mocha latte."

A big part of the credit for bringing Dexter Morgan to life should go to the lead actor Michael C. Hall who has been awarded a Golden Globe for his performance. Hall also faced some personal challenges of his own as he was discovered to be having Hodgkins lymphoma during the shooting of this serial. He is now in remission.  Another interesting bit of trivia is that he was also married to Jennifer Carpenter who plays his sister Debra in the serial.

As I wait for Season 7 and hope it will be more like the earlier seasons I leave you with another quote from Dex:

"All you can do is play along at life, and hope that sometimes you get it right."

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Delicious Ambiguity

I always wanted a happy ending... Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity.
--Gilda Radner

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Brand New Day

Happy New Year y'all!
How have things been? My year end was super fabulous with family and friends trooping in for the holiday season. Had a fun time chattering away, eating, partying, eating, looking at the lights on Park Street, eating, buying cakes at New market, eating, going to the races and winning (yay!), eating, laughing so much that I could barely catch a breath...I loooooooooooooooove this season.

Another year races past...but this time I have something to show for it.
After months of moaning and groaning about it, I finally changed my job. I am yet to make up my mind about the new place but I am glad to be out of the old one. A change in the professional scene was sorely needed. There is just so much to learn every time one makes a fresh start. Better than feeling jaded. I just wonder why I didn't do this sooner.
I stopped dreaming (only) and started doing some other things also. These may not seem major but are again activities which I had been procrastinating about for ages.
I joined a gym. So far the mental feel-good factor has been higher than the physical one (it's much tougher than I thought) but am glad I went ahead and did something to keep fit. I have also begun to be careful about what I eat, though I must admit that matters have been less than successful. Still, made a start.
Also finally doing something to reignite some half-extinguished linguistic skills. Learning French. This is going well so far though again it is tougher than I imagined (think French grammar).
So all in all, I feel it's been a good year (touchwood!) doing okay, made new friends, learnt lots of new things, tried out new stuff...
Mantra for this year: 'every day in every way, I get better and better.' :)