The Hunger Games is no Twilight: Thank God!

Posted by Tina on Friday Mar 23, 2012 Under ShowBiz

At the outset, let me say I didn’t love it. But I really, really liked it. Gary Ross’ film adaptation of the Hunger Games has undoubtedly done justice to the bestselling cult books and doesn’t leave fans (like me!) disappointed. The screenplay stays true to the novel and the core characters are pretty much as you would have imagined them. Although I must admit Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne is far hotter (sizzzzzling in fact) than what Suzanne Collins had perhaps envisioned. And as a result, I almost defected from Team Peeta. Almost, but not quite because Josh Hutcherson does such a convincing job as the endearing Peeta Mellark that you can’t help but root for him by the end. There is no question, however, that the movie belongs to Jennifer Lawrence. She is an absolute superstar in the making. She carries the film on her shoulders just as effortlessly as Katniss Everdeen wields her bow and quiver.

There are more in the ensemble cast who shine, despite short screen time. Among them, a delightful Woody Harrelson as the acerbic alcoholic Haymitch, Donald Sutherland as the sinister President Snow and even Stanley Tucci as the mildly irritating, overenthusiastic game show host Caesar Flickerman (Ryan Seacrest anyone?) But unfortunately the medium is such that some of the other absorbing characters are left half-baked, foremost among them Katniss’ stylist Cinna – what a criminal waste of Lenny Kravitz. The other thing that left me a little under-whelmed was the pace. I felt it dragged in parts. Maybe because after months of eagerly waiting (yes, literally with bated breath) for the release, I had expected to be as gob smacked and spellbound as I was when I read the book. Is that why we always feel that no movie does justice to the book – because those of us who have read the book already know what is about to happen? (‘The Shining’ happens to be the only exception to this rule, and I say that even though I am a die-hard Stephen King fan. Seriously, Jack Nicholson steered that film into a realm even the book hadn’t dared enter.) But I digress.

I can bet my boots those who haven’t read the book – like my husband who accompanied me for instance – would love it. It wasn’t the standard slick, thrill-a-minute fare that is usually dished out for young-adult audiences. But I can’t decide whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Because that very treatment also made it credible and authentic. It’s not easy to translate a 300-page bestseller into a 140-odd minute film but The Hunger Games does emerge triumphant on that front. The setting is established cleverly and quickly and the dark, tense pulse of the book – befitting for a ‘fight unto death’ drama – is captured successfully. That’s a whole lot more than what I could say for the insipid Twilight saga. The Hunger Games is far more mature, even if at the cost of pace, and its appeal is universal, regardless of gender or even age. At least those stupid comparisons with Twilight will now end. The sodden, mushy love story with a poofter of a vampire for a male lead can remain in the galaxy of pre-pubescent girls, where it belongs.

Yes, I may have expected more gut-wrenching action and yes, I had certainly hoped for some steamy scenes between Peeta and Katniss (especially in the cave) but I guess that stuff is sacrificed at the PG13 altar. Fair enough. On the whole, the movie delivers and despite not having gone ape over it, I can’t wait for the next one. I guess that means job well done, right?

PS: For my original post on what the actual story is about, you can click here.

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What’s with actresses and item songs?!!

Posted by Tina on Tuesday Feb 21, 2012 Under Bollywood, ShowBiz

What’s with actresses and item songs these days?? There used to be a time (not too long ago) when all the top actresses cared about were meaty roles. It was the only thing they would brag about. I’m talking Rani Mukherjee and Preity Zinta and certainly the likes of Tabu and Kajol. Bollywood may not be famous for female oriented films but these women held their own in this male dominated industry and only gave themselves a pat on the back after career-defining films like Black, Maachis, Dil Chahta Hai or Fanaa.

But did you ever see any of these leading ladies screaming from rooftops about some silly item song or the other? Not a chance. Even if they made a ‘special appearance’ in some friend’s (read Karan Johar’s) film, it was always tasteful and played down. Item numbers were left to the likes of Mallaika Arora (no offence meant) and not to leading ladies.

How things have changed. Now every heroine worth her salt blows her own trumpet and makes a huge song and dance – pardon the pun – about the latest ‘item number’ that she is doing. Right from Katrina’s cringe-worthy Chikni Chameli (yes, I thought she looked like a schoolgirl who was being forced to act lewd at gunpoint) to Kareena’s supposed item songs in Heroine and Agent Vinod to even Vidya Balan… yikes… now proudly proclaiming that her forthcoming item number in Ferrari Ki Sawari will be one hot sizzler. C’mon Vidya, you have better claims to fame than that.

I just don’t get what the fuss is about. Who cares about stupid item songs? I don’t know. Maybe I sound like an old fashioned grandma (never thought the day would come) but it saddens me that leading ladies today count item songs as feathers in their caps. Pooh.

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The most awaited movie of 2012?

Posted by Tina on Sunday Jan 1, 2012 Under Books, Current Affairs, ShowBiz

It is not everyday that I become so obsessed with a work of fiction that I lie awake into the wee hours of the morning, trying to envision just how I would picturise it, had I been directing its movie adaptation. Alright, I’m weird, but put it down to a professional hazard where I’ve worked with multiple cameras and their infinite angles for over ten years now. And even then, I know what we have in television is child’s play compared to what is employed and can be achieved in movies. In TV the most complex camera set-up I have worked with is four cameras, five maybe including a Jimmy Jib. Sigh. The very thought of working with as many as twenty cameras for a single shot makes me quake with inspiration.

Which is why I just cannot let go of the imagery that The Hunger Games trilogy has embedded in my mind. Alright, go ahead and laugh. (Yeah, I know it’s meant to be young adult fiction but thankfully my favourite author of all time, Stephen King has quelled my inhibitions on that front, as he considers ‘young adult novel’ a dumbbell term that he puts right up there with ‘jumbo shrimp’ and ‘airline food’ in the oxymoron sweepstakes… Ha ha! Could anyone put it better?) Anyway, so young adult or not, thanks to my insatiable appetite for popular fiction, I do read whatever is taking the world by storm; be it the soppy, mushy Twilight series to the riveting and brilliant Millenium Trilogy to my latest obsession: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay. Some of you, family and friends, will groan because you’ve already heard me go on too much about this trilogy. So I’ll keep it short.

It is brilliant. It is evocative and it is thought-provoking in a way I never imagined ‘young adult fiction’ could be. Set several hundred years in the future, it is staged in the nightmarish country of Panem, where the annual highlight is a reality TV show called the Hunger Games, in which teenagers fight each other to the death. The concept might make your stomach turn, but believe me, the treatment won’t. Because author Suzanne Collins has woven the fabric of that world so intricately that one almost begins to view the Hunger Games as par for the course, just like the audience in Panem would. And the protagonists, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark are so finely etched that one cannot help but feel emotionally engaged with them. And therein lies the secret to a great work of fiction, doesn’t it? Collins’ Katniss Everdeen is even more kick-ass than Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander – believe me – because she is simply more believable. And as for the baker’s son, Peeta Mellark, well I’d like him for breakfast any day.

The trilogy moves from the adrenaline-fuelled adventurous first novel, The Hunger Games, to the somewhat sluggish second one, Catching Fire, (which I must admit seems not much more than a means to bridge the first with the utterly brilliant third) to the concluding volume, Mockingjay. It is in this intelligent, complex and unsettling third book that one can truly appreciate the allegorical quality of the entire story; one that asks questions we are all too afraid to ask.

The likes of Entertainment Weekly and MTV have listed The Hunger Games – starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth – as the most anticipated movie of 2012. Gosh, I hope it does justice to Suzanne Collins’ book. Can’t wait for 23rd March.

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Enough drivel please!

Posted by Tina on Monday Dec 26, 2011 Under Bollywood, Current Affairs, ShowBiz

What is wrong with our public? Why do movies like Ra:One and Don 2 rake in the moolah and become ‘hits’? Are we so mentally retarded as an audience that we not only accept such drivel but actually turn them into blockbusters and thereby reinforce the message to filmmakers that crock-and-bull is what we want?

I have to say though; I’m coming down especially hard on Shah Rukh Khan because once in a while I can actually be hoodwinked into going for one of his films. The Salman Khans and Akshay Kumars of the world are spared my wrath (yeah, like they care) because I wouldn’t touch one of their films with a barge pole. I steer well clear of abominations like Wanted and Singh Is King because from the trailers alone I can tell I will be murderous or suicidal if I actually watch them. Not even a gun to my head would make me shell out money for Ready or Dabangg or Speedy Singh or any other such crude, bigoted nonsense.

So unfortunately all my frustration at Hindi cinema is usually generated (and vented) after watching an SRK film. Once in a blue moon, might I add. (The last SRK film I actually went to the theatres for was Om Shanti Om. And even though I didn’t mind that one too much, I stuck to my guns after that – having caught glimpses of My Name Is Khan and similar baloney on TV, my decision was reinforced.) Unfortunately today was one of those blue moons and I was convinced to tag along for Don 2. Two hours of excruciating boredom, that’s what it was. I returned home with a monstrous headache and severe frustration at having thoroughly wasted a perfectly good winter evening.

Why on earth would anyone make a movie like that, least of all a seemingly sensible chap like Farhan Akhtar? It has neither head nor tail, no middle even. Amidst all the high speed chases, bomb explosions and epileptic expressions from the protagonist, where was the story? Oh please don’t try to convince me there was one. Bullshit. All style and no substance whatsoever.

And yet we seem to have made a habit of turning ludicrous films into hits – like we did with Dhoom 2, which according to me was the most undeserving hit in the history of Bollywood. Until now. Because I’ve heard Ra:One was unbearable (thank God I didn’t inflict that one upon myself) and yet it smashed box office records and all that, while my new favourite Don 2 seems well on its way to achieving the same. They say we deserve the government we elect. Well, we also deserve the cinema we get.

Wish I had just stayed home and watched a DVD of the delightful Amitabh original instead. Or even caught a repeat telecast of the first day’s play of the Boxing Day Test. Anything would have been better than Don 2.

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The Indian GP is here to stay!!

Posted by Tina on Sunday Oct 30, 2011 Under Current Affairs, ShowBiz, Society, Sports

So, what can I say about India’s first ever Formula One Grand Prix? Well, first of all, kudos! Hats off to the business houses that brought this world class event to us as well as to India’s FMSCI (Vicky Chandhok in particular) for pulling it off in style! Having spent much of last year planning a trip to either Singapore or Malaysia, with the specific purpose of watching an F1 race, I was literally pinching myself all day on Sunday, barely able to believe I was watching genuine F1 action in India! Not only that, in sadda dilli! (Alright Greater Noida, same difference). It’s a far cry from traveling halfway across the world to see a race (I was there for the F1 weekend in Monaco back in 2004).

I must say though, after three hours of traffic, it did seem like the other end of the world.  Yes everyone was stuck in traffic, even Yuvraj Singh, who missed the start! So how can we mere mortals complain? But it was all well worth it. Unfortunately being a freelancer has its disadvantages, so yours truly was not in the paddock – boo hoo – but from our seats high up in the East Stand, we had a great view of a virtual galaxy of national and international celebrities that swarmed in the pit lane. Sachin Tendulkar – who eventually waved the chequered flag – Sourav Ganguly, Yuvraj, Harbhajan and the who’s who of Bollywood. Rowan Atkinson (Mr Bean) was seen hugging Lewis Hamilton’s father… it was all so exciting. First the national anthem and then the mind-blowing race start sent shivers down my spine and gooseflesh on my arms. Wow. What heady atmosphere, the smell of burnt rubber and fuel in the air and the primal roars of the most powerful engines on the planet. Too much!

A touching moment was the minute of silence for motor sportsmen Dan Wheldon and Marco Simoncelli, who lost their lives in recent accidents. It was like a pall of gloom that hung over the drivers and was evident even in the post-race Press Conference where each of the top three spoke about them.  

As for the after-parties, well I missed the mother of them all – Lady Gaga’s extravaganza at Arjun Rampal’s LAP. I was supposed to have been working undercover as a waitress at this event (yes, seriously), but alas, that didn’t work out. So all I got was a sneak peek, pre-event, at the marvelous red carpet entry and set, and also a whiff of Lady Gaga’s practice routine. Sorry guys, pictures were simply NOT POSSIBLE. I believe Bollywood rushed in by the droves: Shah Rukh Khan, Gulshan Grover, Imran Khan, Deepika Padukone, Preity Zinta blah blah blah, but what I’m MOST heartbroken about is the fact that Fernando Alonso was there too! Now I’m going to shoot the person who had promised to get me in. Super sob.

There was a little bit of rivalry going on between the Amber Lounge (which travels with the F1 circus) and LAP, with LAP winning hands down on Sunday. But Friday & Saturday did see happening bashes at Amber too, where Deepika Padukone, Siddhartha Mallya, Imran Khan accompanied by wife Avantika, former model and modern-day cougar Anupama Verma all sat at one table and chain smoked through the night!  But while everyone else was having a drink, must say that Deepika drank only coffee. What a good little girl she is. Anyway, the reason I’m talking about that party is because these two fat firangi ladies from UK evidently paid 15,000 Euros each to come down to India, attend this Amber Lounge party and sit next to Imran Khan for 5 minutes. Yes, 15,000 Euros to say hello to IMRAN KHAN! Man, I’m obviously missing something here.

Anyway, all in all, a spectacular weekend topped off by the fact that I saw dear Alonso on the podium!! What an event it turned out to be: balm for our souls after the shameful Commonwealth Games that squeaked through by the skin of their teeth last year. This was as good, if not better than any of the international races. Not just me, everyone’s saying so, from the drivers to the team bosses. So, woo hoo!

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Turn Off The Dark

Posted by Tina on Saturday Sep 3, 2011 Under ShowBiz

Oh My God. Had the most spellbinding, gobsmacking, overwhelming experience last night. It was sheer magic and I’m still reeling from it, twelve hours later. After spending an afternoon doing the whole classic New York thing – jogging in Central Park, window shopping in 5th Avenue and strolling around Times Square, I was super excited to be going to a Broadway show in the evening. Had heard a lot about Spiderman – Turn Off The Dark (its been making news for breaking records and body parts… at 85 million dollars it is by far the most expensive theatrical production ever made and apparently there were quite a few accidents during the months of rehearsals). So a friend and I decided to see what all the fuss was about. My expectations weren’t too high – I mean how lame does a Spiderman musical sound?

But I was in for a sensory overload, a virtually orgasmic experience, artistically speaking. The two and a half hour show was utterly breathtaking - from the music (composed by no less than Bono of U2) to the sets (all done in 3D pop art), the acrobatics (which can put Cirque du Soleil to shame) to the special effects (James Cameron, I hope you’ve seen this) and right down to the most important aspect of them all – the performances of the cast. Absolutely outstanding. Stunning, in fact. I was so mesmerised through the entire show that I sat there like a dumb child, my mouth hanging agape in sheer astonishment.

This is truly the grandest form of the performing arts. I’ve enjoyed quite a few musicals before, (although in London, not Broadway), but none of the Mamma Mia’s and Cats of the world could have prepared me for what I experienced last night. This was something else, another realm altogether. It’s like the difference between watching a mild romantic comedy like ’50 First Dates’ on TV and watching Avatar in 3D with surround sound. This was theatre, as grand as it could get. I wish we had something even remotely close back home in India. Oh please, Prithvi or NSD don’t count. I’m not talking about self-congratulatory, pseudo-intellectual bullshit, I’m talking pure entertainment. And this was way better than the movie experience (I for one, don’t even like the Spiderman series of movies, mostly because Tobey McGuire is too ugly) because here the drama is literally unfolding all around you, the characters are real and you are swept away into that world. Plus, music by Bono doesn’t hurt either. It was just fantastic.

Turn Off The Dark, the Broadway show, really brought out the child in me. I’m in love with Spiderman all over again. Maybe my 4-year-old and I can bond over this now. :D  

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Pregnant Heroine? Get Real.

Posted by Tina on Wednesday Jun 29, 2011 Under ShowBiz, Society

I’m sorry if it sounds anti-feminist or even discriminatory, but I think Madhur Bhandarkar is perfectly justified in shelving his film ‘Heroine’ because his leading lady is pregnant. The fact is, she’s going to get fat. Whether she likes it or not and whether she believes it or not. Take it from us – women who’ve been there, done that. You may think eating all the lettuce in the world and walking five kilometres a day will keep you in shape right up to the ninth month, but in that case you must also believe that pigs can fly. There’s no getting away from it. Even the most careful of women gain, at the very least, ten to twelve kilos during a pregnancy. And what do you think happens when you gain those ten kilos? You look FATTER that’s what. And while getting fat may not put a secretary’s profession in jeopardy, it makes a hell of a difference to an actress whose only requirement in life is to look glamorous. (Yeah, let’s not pretend our Bollywood damsels are expected to produce Oscar-worthy histrionics.)

Alright, given that it’s a Madhur Bhandarkar film, the role may have some scope for performance. But even then, she can’t look like a bloated goldfish, can she? And believe me; the camera is notoriously unforgiving to even a kilo or two of extra flab. Put on ten and she’ll look like she’s giving Delnaz Paul a run for her money. So, the lady who is at least four months pregnant, based on her due date, should really discard all this indignant show of outraged anger and zip it. She was wrong not to let her director in on her pregnancy as soon as she discovered it and she was wrong to believe she can continue shooting for the next couple of months. The poor man has crores invested in this film. It’s not an emotional decision for him, it’s a business one. (Just see how she looked in the Heroine Press Conference just a few weeks ago – and she’s not even into her second trimester there yet!)

This has nothing to do with gender discrimination or chauvinism or even ‘insensitivity’ as Aishwarya and her family are claiming. What a load of bull. She is in this profession only because of her looks, so she better accept the hiatus that’s going to come with gaining weight. Doesn’t mean she can’t bounce right back. Women like model Heidi Klum are inspirational (she was back on the runway two months after giving birth). So there’s hope yet. But until then, drop the indignant act. Please. And get real.

PS: I love all the Twitter jokes about the three generations of Bachchans: Big-B, Wanna-B and Bay-B!

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Star Dust

Posted by Tina on Thursday May 26, 2011 Under ShowBiz, Society

A few clips from the world of showbiz caught my eye this morning… Apparently Maria Shriver (who has my absolute sympathy by the way. The savvy woman made Arnold Schwarzenegger what he is – from dorky East European body builder to Governor of California) is all set to receive almost 300 MILLION DOLLARS in what is the glam world’s biggest divorce settlement yet. Serves her 63-year-old ‘Action Hero’ husband right for getting a little too much action outside the marital bed. (Makes basketball star Michael Jordan’s divorce settlement of 175 million dollars seem like small change. And Tiger Woods nearly got away scot-free with just over 100 million dollars. Geez, and we thought Elin Nordegren made a killing.)

Meanwhile, this picture of Angelina Jolie (my absolute favourite diva) made me gasp in horror. She looks like a bloody skeleton in this red gown. Attending the LA premiere of hubby Brad Pitt’s latest film The Tree Of Life, her eyes seem to be screaming “Help me! I’m anorexic!”

And speaking of Brangelina, a sexy new-look Jennifer Aniston is all set to wow the silver screen with her upcoming comedy Horrible Bosses. Doesn’t she look totally HOT in this European brunette look? Love it. Gives the Plain Jane some attitude. And she’ll need all of it for her role of a boss who sexually harasses her male employees.

Sighhhh… with the IPL hurtling towards a close and the French Open still not into the business end and the Champions League final still a few days away, I am forced to divert my attention to all this nonsense! Ha. Que faire?

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Cannes Red Carpet Honours

Posted by Tina on Tuesday May 17, 2011 Under ShowBiz, Society

In defence of my violent reaction to Sonam Kapoor’s much touted Cannes debut in JPG (that’s Gaultier for neanderthals who don’t know), I must list my favourite looks from the six days of red carpet madness.

Bringing up my top 5 is Fan Bing Bing in Atelier Versace. Purple, feminine and flounce are not normally my style, but there is such ethereal mystery in this stunning creation that it had to find a place.

At No.4 I must grudgingly place Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, whose sartorial sense has never impressed me. But in this Armani Prive number, she hits the ball out of the park. And allows me to prove that I don’t harbour reverse-snobbery for our desi memsahibs.

At No.3 Fan Bing Bing makes an appearance again. I barely know who she is film-wise, but fashion-wise this girl’s a blockbuster. It needs guts and gumptions to wear & carry off a traditionally inspired kitsch outfit like this one. Full marks.

Cheryl Cole leaves me slackjawed in Stephane Rolland Couture at No.2. And if I were a man, I might just be drooling too. She looks scorching in this risque-yet-elegant white gown. Ashley Cole, you really are a dumb FXXX to let this one get away.

And my eternal favourite Angelina Jolie sweeps the red carpet honours with her effortless, seductive, elegant style. This brown Atelier Versace is SO HER. And SO ME. Love it at No.1!

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From Tigerblood to Cougarblood

Posted by Tina on Friday May 13, 2011 Under ShowBiz, Television

This just in – Ashton Kutcher is to replace Charlie Sheen on Two and a Half Men. Yes, to play Charlie Harper. You say WHAT?! I say, yeah exactly. So the lead character is going from a lady killer to a lady’s kill (sorry Demi, I do love you, but its true).

Like seriously, the casting couldn’t have been less perfect. Don’t get me wrong – I think Ashton is an absolute dish. I used to drool over him on That 70s Show. But that’s the whole point – his persona is of this sweet, goofy, good lookin’ doofus. Totally the kind of guy I dig (I really hope my hubby doesn’t read this).

But Charlie Sheen was the kind of guy I love to hate. I mean, for God’s sake, his real persona was actually WORSE than his screen one. And I’d explained just how, in a blog entry a few months ago.

Charlie used to make 1.25 million dollars per episode before his wild antics got him fired from the show. Now Kutcher has signed on for reportedly around 900,000 dollars. Will he be worth it? We’ll have to wait and watch.

Great reactions on twitter, including the one that inspired this title!

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