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My Media Diet: Arun Rajagopal May 8, 2008

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Advertising, Conversations, Digital, Movies, Social Media, Travel.
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Blogger buddy Ryan Barrett tagged me in this interesting meme called: What’s your media diet? Her interesting post made me think deeper about my own media consumption and how I want to improve my media diet. After all the kind of media you consume, defines what kind of person you are, right?

Print: I’m fond of two dailies – Times of Oman & Times of India, though I’m not a regular reader. Reading Times of Oman is something that I want to do first thing when I get to work. I especially dig catching copy mistakes in TOI.

Magazines: I’m a voracious reader of magazines. I especially dig Time, Ahlan Masala, Esquire and National Geographic. I last read British Airways’ in-flight magazine “High Life“. I’m very fond of in-flight magazines and used to collect them as a kid. Next on my reading list comes “Forbes 2008 Guide to the Biggest Companies in the World” & “America’s Largest Corporations Fortune 500”.

Books: I used to be a compulsive bookworm when I was a kid, but I’ve been reading less lately. It’s an appalling habit I’m working on and the first step towards that is building a mini-library at home. I last read Deepak Chopra’s Buddha and John Grisham’s The Summons. I’m currently reading Rohit Bhargava’s Personality Not Included and John Grisham’s The King of Torts.

Online: I read the following news portals on a daily basis: Indiatimes.com & Rediff.com. Both websites keep me connected to current affairs in India. Cricinfo.com feeds me fodder on cricket. Wikipedia.org gives me much needed dope on topics I pluck out from thin air. I browse daily through Arabianbusiness.com with a particular focus on the aviation & travel industry. If you didn’t know, I’m a total transportation buff with interests in trains, planes and buses. I’m also a regular visitor to the picture galleries of IRFCA.org (slakes my passion for Indian Railways).

Blogging: My personal blog www.arunrajagopal.com is where I talk about my travels, rail-fanning adventures, my 2-cents on advertising and social media and the many things I find interesting in life. I don’t consider my blog as an expert authority on marketing. The most important purpose of my blog is to help me stay connected to some of my very dear friends who are leading marketing bloggers around the world. Through my blog, I reach out to them and become a part of their lives. My blogging frequency is usually 4-5 blog posts per month. A few weeks ago, I started another blog on Tumblr that serves as my bookmarking diary. I usually read blogs related to advertising, digital and social media such as Adgoodness, Adsoftheworld, Adblogarabia, Adverblog, and the ones on my blogroll. I check out all my incoming links via my Technorati page and WordPress dashboard.
Some blogs & websites I want to spend more time on are Micro Persuasion, The Buzz Bin, The 360 Digital Influence Blog, Logic+Emotion, Copyblogger, Marketing Profs Daily Fix, Bannerblog, Digital Media Wire & MediaPost Publications.

Email: Email is probably the important part of my media mix. I love to check my email every 5 minutes (ideally) when I’m in front of a comp. If I’m on the go, I check my mail on my Nokia N73 music edition using my Oman Mobile Hayyak prepaid connection. My email is my lifeline! I’m a compulsive yahooligan and somehow don’t feel so attached to Gmail or Hotmail.

Television: I’m not too fond of TV and prefer spending as much time away from the box as possible. I dig MTV, Channel V, VH-1, cricket channels, popular channels in Tamil & Malayalam.

Web 2.0 Logos, originally uploaded by wp4lib.

Social Media Tools: I’m active on Facebook and LinkedIn. I don’t believe in needlessly adding people to hike up numbers, and I ensure that I only have people in there who I need to be in touch with. I dig most of the Facebook applications such as the quizzes (I try most of them and then weed them out occasionally) and feel that the new Chat feature offers an exciting way to connect with people. My Facebook account is a more personal window for me to reach out to my friends; while my blog is the world’s informal window to my life.

I’ve given up on Orkut, even though I have quite a bit of friends there who are not on Facebook. I haven’t yet started podcasting. I do vlogging, especially of my travels. I’m very active on Flickr with a large collection of travel photos, trains and destinations. Nope, I don’t do Second Life or Skype (it’s blocked in Oman). I’m on YouTube, Daily Motion, Vodpod and Vimeo, and I‘m just setting up my second del.icio.us account.

Chat: MSN Chat is an inseparable part of my life, especially with its online text messaging tool. I used to be a total Yahoo Messenger junkie back in the days.

Cinema: I’m a prolific cinemagoer, sometimes watching the same movie twice or thrice in the theatre. I spend most of my weekends hopping from one theatre to the other. (We have 5 cineplexes in Muscat). I watch movies in English, Hindi, Tamil & Malayalam. I last saw The Forbidden Kingdom (click on link to watch trailer) and The Bucket List (click on link to watch trailer). I’m currently watching There Will Be Blood (click on link to watch trailer). I occasionally rent movies on DVD and watch them on a laptop when I’m traveling. I especially like movies that make me cry. 😉

Twitter: Twitter is the latest addition / addiction in my media mix. Not only does it serve as a link feed for interesting blog posts and news resources posted by people with like-minded interests, it also helps me keep track of what my friends across the globe are up to. My mission is to maintain building my Twitter list as an authority base of thought leaders passionate about advertising, social media and global perspectives; and to continue updating my KQ.

Music: A very important part of my existence. I’m usually listening to music while I’m at work, at home or on the commute. I need music to play in the background for me to get going. At work, I plug into my headphones hooked up to my PC, while at home I choose to go with the home theatre system, laptop or the box speakers plugged into the iPod. I have an iPod Touch, an iPod Shuffle & a Nokia N73 music edition loaded with my fav tunes. I listen to English, Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu music. For some reason, I love songs more than the artists. I have never used iTunes store till date, and visit a lot of blogs and music streaming websites to get my music.

Miscellaneous media consumption: I don’t use a feed reader. I subscribe to blogs such as The Viral Garden, ChrisG.com through email. I get updates on Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox, Bowen Craggs Web Tips and a Google Alert on “Arun Rajagopal” in my email. I subscribe via mail to Ad Age Daily, Ad Age Digital, Creativity Online, BestAdsOnTV and MarketingProfs Today. I do not keep a diary, though I rely heavily on handwritten lists to get through my daily grind. I particularly keep an eye out for outdoor media, POS, in store experiences and billboards. I love Times Square for the same reason & I totally adore the M&Ms (click on link to watch video) board out there. I like the HSBC perspective posters they have in the air-bridges at London Heathrow. I love interesting messages that are placed in the most obvious places.

What’s your media diet? I’d love to hear from Tim Brunelle, Linda Sherman, Cam Beck & Ryan Karpeles. Do spread the meme far & wide.

Bloggerspiel on Media Diets & Media Snacking:

Connie Reece – Got the Munchies? Have a Media Snack
http://everydotconnects.com/2007/10/25/got-the-munchies-have-a-media-snack/

Drew McLellan – Serve a steady stream of snack-sized messages
http://www.drewsmarketingminute.com/2007/10/serve-a-steady-.html

Neil Perkin – Memes Like Buses
http://neilperkin.typepad.com/only_dead_fish/2008/01/memes-like-buse.html

Asi Sharabi – My Week in Media
http://no-mans-blog.com/2008/01/my-week-in-media/

C.B. Whittemore – My Media Diet
http://flooringtheconsumer.blogspot.com/2008/04/my-media-diet.html

David Reich – My Media Diet
http://reichcomm.typepad.com/my_weblog/2008/05/my-media-diet.html

Quibblo Personality Quiz – What is your media consumption level?
http://www.quibblo.com/quiz/1GRrM/What-is-your-media-consumption-level

It’s Om Shanti Om in Oman November 8, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations, Movies.
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Om Shanti Om

I just saw ‘Om Shanti Om’ at Al Nasr Cinema a little while ago. Yeah, the movie released in Muscat a day before its release in India. That’s one of the best things I love about being in Muscat – we sometimes get to see movies before anyone else does. For example MI:3 which hit screens in Muscat a day or two before its worldwide release. And now ‘Om Shanti Om’.

This post is not a review on the movie. To find out if it is worth all the hype, you better head to Ruwi Cinema, Al Nasr or your nearest screen. With its theme of reincarnation, ultimate star Shah Rukh Khan, his 6-packs and bevvy of 30 plus Bollywood stars, OSO will not disappoint hardcore SRK fans. SRK looks gorgeous and so does debutante Deepika Padukone. Om Shanti Om is totally filmi and is best described as movie within a movie. Have a riot. Go ‘Om Shanti Om’!

Here’s an exclusive movie trailer:

Click here to download music of ‘Om Shanti Om’.
Visit the official website.
Still better, check out the OSO blog.

Movies in Muscat: Chak De; The Bourne Ultimatum; Hallo; Kireedam & more August 25, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Movies.
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I’ve been seeing a lot of movies lately and it’s a good time bring the ‘Movies in Muscat’ column back from its hiatus. I know that there has been a talk in at least one of the theatres about the idea of making me a Frequent Film Customer, like you have Frequent Flying Travellers. 🙂

Chak De! India


Chak De! India (Hindi)
Starring

: Shah Rukh Khan, Vidya Malvade & a kick-ass women’s hockey team
Screen: Al Nasr Cinema & Ruwi Cinema
I saw Chak De! India yesterday at Al Nasr and was blown away to bits. (Chak De! means ‘buck up’ or ‘come on’.) A truly outstanding Bollywood movie in recent times. Brilliant casting, a superb story, screenplay and some outstanding moments – Chak De! India gets it all right. Definitely worth a second or a third watch. Shah Rukh scintillates as the no-nonsense, on the job, dedicated hockey coach that turns around the fortunes of the Indian National Women’s Hockey Team.  Director Shimit Amin deserves a pat on the back for this gem of a movie that whips up patriotism & ‘just do it’ spirit in this amazing flick. Oh yeah, even the songs are happening! Click here to download Chak De! songs. And I can say that Chak De! has made me an ardent follower of women’s hockey!

The Bourne Ultimatum


The Bourne Ultimatum (English)
Starring

: Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, David Strathairn, Scott Glenn & Albert Finney
Screen: Ruwi Cinema
A truly adrenaline pumping movie, The Bourne Ultimatum is the ultimate entertainer. In the final episode of the Jason Bourne saga, the protagonist retraces his roots and takes on the powers that create him the way he is. From Tangiers to Madrid, Moscow, New York and London, director Paul Greengrass does an excellent job gripping the viewer with nail biting tension. The background score by John Powell is phenomenal and so is ice cool Bourne’s temperament. His escape scene with British journalist Simon Ross in the Waterloo station and encounter sequence with CIA assassin Desh Bouksani are some of the best highlights of the movie. The million dollar question now is – with his identity resolved, will Jason Bourne be back? Moby’s Extreme Ways single composed for the movie rocks!

Hallo


Hallo (Malayalam)

Starring: Mohanlal, Parvathy Melton & Jagathy Sreekumar
Screen: Star Cinema
Mohanlal’s much-awaited ‘Hallo’ finally scampered to Muscat last week. Probably, the biggest Malayalam hit this year, I found ‘Hallo’ to be a trifle disappointing and not meeting the usual high standards one expects from a Lal flick. Hallo’s real villain is its inane, senseless story of a booze addicted lawyer rescuing a damsel in distress. Even rare comic moments and a star studded cast cannot save this movie because from start to end Hallo is limping on a story built on crutches. Hallo benefits immensely from the comic antics of Mohanlal, but does not go the whole hog.

Shankar Dada Zindabad


Shankar Dada Zindabad (Telugu)

Starring: Chiranjeevi, Karishma Kotak, Srikanth, Dilip Prabhavalkar as Mahatma Gandhi & Sayaji Shinde
Screen: Star Cinema
Shankar Dada Zindabad is the popular remake of the Bollywood smash hit ‘Lage Raho Munnabhai’ starring Sanjay Dutt and Boman Irani. Mega star Chiranjeevi reprises the role of local goon Shankar Dada who undergoes reformation after he comes in contact with the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi. Shankar Dada made a quick splash in Muscat a week ago and ran away after playing for just a weekend. Directed by Prabhudeva, Shankar Dada Zindabad is almost a frame-by-frame remake of the Hindi version and incorporates characteristic ‘Chiru’ fights and dance sequences. Karishma Kotak’s narration of the line ‘Good Morningggggggg Hyderabad’ is an absolute irritant. The songs are happening & music by Devi Sri Prasad is worth listening to. Yana Gupta sizzles in a truly amazing item number. The girl is a goddess when it comes to amazing flexi moves on the dance floor. The entire Chiru clan does cameos throughout the movie – watch out for special appearances by Pawan Kalyan, Ravi Teja, Allu Arjun, Nagababu, Sadha, Prabhu Deva and Devi Sri Prasad. I like Lage Raho better. Plus Yana Gupta. And Gandhigiri rocks!

AMAV


Aadavari Matalaku Ardhalu Verule (Telugu)
Starring

: Venkatesh, Trisha, Srikanth & Kota Srinivasa Rao
Screen: Star Cinema
Aadavari Matalaku Ardhalu Verule (The Words of Women have different meanings) hit Muscat last week and makes for a decent view. I don’t follow Telugu except for a few words, but AMAV made up for decent viewing – it kept me hooked. The first half is all about mushy romancing and masti, while the second half gets into more family oriented emotional roller coaster rides. Kota Srinivasa Rao delivers an excellent performance. The music by Yuvan Shankar Raja is amazing. I love the way the song ‘Yemaindi Ee Vela’ is picturised. I’m plugged into AMAV numbers non-stop since the last few days. It’s great to have Adnan Sami and Udit Narayan croon in Telugu. Click here to download Chak De! songs. Oh yes, the flick has item dance numbers by Meghna Naidu and Mumait Khan. Need I say more? Overall, decent entertainer, and a good job by director Selvaraghavan.

Kireedam


Kireedam (Tamil)
Starring

: Ajith, Trisha & Raj Kiran
Screen: Star Cinema
Kireedam (Crown) is a remake of the popular Malayalam flick from 1989 with the same name starring Mohanlal. The Tamil version is more commercialised with dance numbers and songs. Raj Kiran plays an outstanding role as Ajith’s ambitious police constable dad whose dream of seeing his son as a police office goes down in tatters. The song ‘Akkam Pakkam’ from Sadhana Sargam is an absolute pleasure to listen. Kireedam (Tamil) is a decent flick to watch, but comes no way close to the classiness of the original Malayalam version. Click here to listen to music from Kireedam. I’ve heard that there are 2 different climax endings to the movie. One in which he is pardoned for his crimes and seen receiving a Presidential Medal (reshot due to popular demand by his fans… now that’s star power for you) and the other one where he’s arrested by Police (the original ending). We got to see the latter one in Muscat.

The must-see ‘100’ movie project May 24, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations, Digital, Movies.
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I came across this great YouTube video which is a parody of all the “100” list specials that the American Film Institute keeps putting out. Its creator Alonzo Mosley, a librarian from Jacksonville, Florida says that it’s his first time working with video editing and his first ever YouTube post. And what a great start! For those of you wondering what the deal is all about, Mosley has mashed up a montage of 100 movie scenes, each with a quote / line referring to all the numbers from 1 to 100, in the reverse chronological order. The movie is titled ‘100 clips 100 quotes 100 numbers’. Night of the Living Dead hogs Spot 100 and Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring takes Spot 1. It’s fun to watch… and for the full list of movies, click here.

Movies in Muscat: Charlotte’s Web, The Naked Gun Trilogy April 21, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Movies.
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charlotte-web.jpgCharlotte’s Web (English)
Screen:
Ruwi Cinema
Starring: Dakota Fanning
Voices by: Julia Roberts, Oprah Winfrey, Cedric The Entertainer, Robert Redford

I watched Charlotte’s Web at Ruwi Cinema yesterday. Fantastic movie, and had me cheering and in tears at the same time. Charlotte’s Web is a live-action / computer-animated feature film, based on the popular book of the same name by E.B. White.

The movie is about the friendship between Charlotte the barn spider and Wilbur the pig. Born as a runt, Wilbur is saved from early death by a little girl named Fern (Dakota Fanning), who takes care of the piglet. However as he grows, he is taken into the Zuckerman farm where he is soon to become dinner. Charlotte groups other farm animals in the barn and saves his life, by convincing the world that Wilbur is a special pig and doesn’t deserve to be slaughtered. How she does that is simply magical – and you have to see the movie to find that out.

Charlotte’s Web tells us that friendships can make life not only beautiful but also enriching and convinces us to look to ‘ordinary things’ for extraordinary experiences. The movie enjoys an outstanding 78% rating at Rotten Tomatoes and is a definite must-watch. And yes, Dakota Fanning simply dazzles with her joie de vivre.

394px-naked_gun_poster.jpgthe_naked_gun_dvd_cover.jpgnaked_gun_three.jpgThe Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!, The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear & The Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult (English)
On DVD
Starring:
Leslie Nielsen, Priscilla Presley, George Kennedy, O.J. Simpson
The Naked Gun trilogy hilariously chronicles the adventures of bumbling police detective Lieutenant Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen). The trilogy is replete with parodies of detective film clichés, featuring stereotypical characters, settings, and situations. Naked Gun movies abound in spoofs and gags, especially those related to current events and contemporary pop culture.Among the three, I would rate The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad as the cream de la crème of the lot. Leslie Nielsen is outstanding – everything goes wrong around him – and our man takes it upon himself to set things right. Pick up a Naked Gun flick if you are in some dire need of laughter pills – You will love it its off-the-wall, slapstick comedy, never-ending visual and verbal puns and gags.

Movies in Muscat – Shooter, Shakalaka Boom Boom April 13, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Movies.
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This is my first post after making the move to WordPress. It took me some time to sort out the name servers on my DNS control and then for the blog to come live, but boy it’s good to be home.

I’ve had a great weekend so far. Watched Sri Lanka notch up a comprehensive victory over New Zealand yesterday. Wonder what’s happened to Fleming’s boys, they looked so jaded on the field. I slept like a log, for over 12 hours, woke up way past noon, after seeing all kinds of dreams including a train ride.

Spent some time on TV, Asianet was showing ‘Varavelpu’ (Malayalam). Really love the story of an NRI who comes back to Kerala and puts all his money into running a bus service which hits rough terrain, when the ‘system’ in Kerala rears its ugly head towards the entrepreneur. He loses all he has made in life and then returns back to the Middle East to start from scratch. Seen that so many times in real life too.

Went for a movie in the afternoon, in fact let me quickly post you on the newly released flicks in Muscat – the ones I have seen in the last few days.

shooter_poster.jpg

Shooter (English)
Screen:
Ruwi Cinema
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Danny Glover, Ned Beatty, Michael Peña, Kate Mara
‘Yesterday was about honour. Today is about justice.’ Shooter is about rifle-totting heroics of Bob Lee Swagger (Mark Wahlberg), a former United States Marine Corps sniper who is framed in an assassination bid on the President of the USA, and how he turns the table on those who frame him. Mark Wahlberg delivers a very restrained performance as the sniper on the run who uses his military training to get justice for himself in a world of corrupt, evil and powerful hotshots. Though Shooter has got the right mood and has its fair share of action sequences, you will find to your dismay that the ‘kick-ass adrenaline’ that usually flows through this kind of movies is in short supply in Shooter. Pitched between ‘The Terminator’ and ‘The Fugitive’, Shooter is neither there nor here, and that’s where it lacks. Makes up for passable viewing.

movgal55611.jpgShakalaka Boom Boom (Hindi)
Screen:
Ruwi Cinema
Starring: Bobby Deol, Upen Patel, Kangana Ranaut, Celina Jaitley
Shakalaka Boom Boom is the story of the personal and professional rivalry between two musicians – AB & Reggie and how this rivalry shapes their life, love, music and destiny, before consuming them both. The movie gives you a sneak-view into the dirty underbelly of the music industry, where talent is often sidestepped and nipped in the bud by powerful connections and influence. May be Upen Patel’s character Reggie called for a lot of cheeky confidence and brashness, but I found his acting to be quite irritating. Even Bobby Deol gets garishly off-track at times. The less said about the leading ladies of the film, the better. SBB is not worth watching if you are looking for a good story or powerful acting performances, but then people have quite average expectations from a Hindi flick these days. Himesh Reshamiyya’s music for SBB is rocking – I love the title track Shakalaka Boom Boom and Namumkin. The music’s better than the movie.

‘Charlotte’s Web’ and ‘Lady in the Water’ are the other movies running in Muscat. I will be probably watching them soon. I picked up ‘The Devil wears Prada’ and ‘World Trade Centre’ from the video shop – two movies I’ve wanted to see for ages. Will come back and tell you about how they went.

Movies in Muscat – Mr. Bean’s Holiday, Alpha Dog & Thiruvilayadal Aarambham April 6, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Movies.
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Mr. Bean’s Holiday (English)
Screen
: Ruwi Cinema
Starring: Rowan Atkinson as Mr. Bean, Willem Dafoe, Jean Rochefort
I woke up pretty grouchy and pooped out this morning. And I knew that watching Mr. Bean’s Holiday would probably perk things up a little. Guess I underestimated Mr. Bean’s powers. Mr. Bean’s Holiday is a laugh riot from the moment he wins a holiday to the French Riviera in a church raffle draw. What ensues is a trail of comedy, commotion, madness, slapstick wit, chuckles and merry mirth as the irrepressible Mr. Bean makes his presence felt in the République française. I was wondering what was my best moment in the movie – I think it has to be one where Willem Dafoe sets off the explosion on his commercial video set, or it could even be the one where Mr. Bean is grooving to Shaggy’s Boombastic. And now that I think about it – I can think of a dozen more. Make sure you join Mr. Bean on his trip of a lifetime.

Alpha Dog (English)
Screen: Ruwi Cinema
Starring: Emile Hirsch, Justin Timberlake, Bruce Willis, Sharon Stone, Ben Foster
I walked into the theatre dead tired and Alpha Dog did a good job of bringing me right back into the screen. Alpha Dog is ‘Inspired by true events’ and a ‘drama based on the life of Jesse James Hollywood, a drug dealer who became one of the youngest men ever to be on the FBI’s most wanted list’. As Bruce Willis’ character Sonny Truelove narrates in the beginning of the movie –
You wanna’ know what this is all about? You can say this about drugs or guns or bad decisions, what ever you like. But this whole thing is about parenting. And taking care of your children.
I loved the feel of Alpha Dog – urban-youth degradation, parents who don’t know where their kids are headed to & don’t seem to be in a position to help cuz they are in pits of their own, spoilt-white brats having their own take on black gangsta-ho culture – also felt some performances were good, especially Justin Timberlake, Anton Yelchin and Emile Hirsch. The movie was censored in Muscat, and I’m longing to get my hands on the uncut DVD. The choice of soundtracks for Alpha Dog is pretty good too – I’m now hooked to DMX’s Lord Give Me A Sign, and Tech N9ne is definitely an act to watch out for.
Tracks by the likes of Lowd, Eva Cassidy, Aaron Zigman, Paul A. Graham and Paul Bushnell complete the ensemble.

Thiruvilayadal Aarambham (Tamil)
Screen: Star Cinema
Starring: Dhanush, Shriya, Prakashraj
Firstly, the movie didn’t look good on the big screen. Wonder about the quality of the film roll used – it seemed to be made with a simple, humble camcorder. TA is a love story with street smart hero Dhanush pitted against the well-oiled business tycoon Prakashraj, the brother of his lady-love. TA suffers because of a pretty weak story – though Dhanush emotes effortlessly in patches… TA is flawed from scene 1. Booboo.

Weekender Movies in Muscat March 31, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Movies.
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I’ve been enjoying my extended weekend (Saturday was a holiday being the Prophet’s birthday), spending time catching up on the latest movies in Muscat, as always.

Namastey London (Hindi)
Screen: Ruwi Cinema
Starring: Akshay Kumar, Katrina Kaif, Rishi Kapoor and Upen Patel
Funjabi boy meets british bratgurl and all hell breaks loose. Directed by Vipul Amrutlal Shah, Namastey London explores the lives of NRI families and issues that arise from the way they deal with their values, beliefs, identity and approach to relationships. Though packaged as a comic caper plus touchy romance, Namastey London comes with a very powerful message – true love wins, always. I love Namastey London for its hilarious moments, perfect casting and happening songs.

Dreamgirls (English)
Screen:
Ruwi Cinema
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé Knowles, Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson
If you love either musicals or good movies, you may be in for some luck as Dreamgirls is a well-made movie plus entertaining musical. Written and directed by Bill Condon, Dreamgirls follows the dreams of three R&B singers Effie White, Deena Jones, and Lorrell Robinson, respectively played by Jennifer Hudson, Beyoncé Knowles and Anika Noni Rose who want to make it big in showbiz. They run into Curtis Taylor, Jr., (Jamie Foxx) a slick, ambitious record executive who becomes their manager and helps them become the new face of American R&B in the 1960s and 1970s. The dream in Dreamgirls is American Idol winner Jennifer Hudson who perfectly deserves an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her sterling performance as the immensely gifted but volatile singer Effie White. Eddie Murphy and Jamie Foxx enthral you by the way they portray their characters. A beautiful movie that tells us dreams can come true, provided you dream and work to get the dream fall in place.

Annavaram (Telugu)
Screen: Star Cinema
Starring: Pawan Kalyan, Asin
Loving brother in village marries off doting sister to chocolate boy in city infested with evil goons. Brother’s best buddy is killed by ruthless goons. Brother sends sister and family back to village and returns to the city around interval with doughty mission – wipe the city off all villains. Neat. Annavaram is happening – if you like Pawan’s flexi-dance moves, never ending swish-slash, lemon-tinged swordfight seqs and Tollywood’s fixation for big-budget masala movies.

The Speed Track (Malayalam, ahem)
Screen: Star Cinema
Starring: Dileep, Gajala and who’s who of contemporary Malayalam comedydom
Debutant director Jayasurya comes up with a sports-based flick with all ingredients required for an average Malayalam hit. Starring wonderboy – now ageing wonderman Dileep, who delivers a decent performance as an athlete with a do or die mission to become a champion. Gajala makes us realise that Mollywood has no actress of its own ilk who can fit into a decent-sized track suit and run 100 feet without collapsing into a heap. Though it is difficult to accept Dileep as an agile athlete given his ‘physique’, The Speed Track is much better than his earlier hash named ‘Inspector Garud’. Any day. Dileep better start working on the way he looks in movies… tips from Mammootty can help. Perhaps.

Fearless (English)
Screen: Al Nasr Cinema
Starring: Jet Li
Wushu guru Jet Li comes up with an outstanding performance as a Wushu exponent in his farewell martial arts epic ‘Fearless’. Apparently, Fearless is going to be his last flick as a martial arts performer, he hopes to concentrate on other character-based roles in his future acting career. Fearless is the journey of the transformation of a fearless warrior to a great hero. Fearless has got some outstanding Wushu sequences, especially a rocker of a climax, a lot of nationalistic fervour, some excellent dialogues, stunning cinematography… and is a must-see for those who love Chinese martial-art flicks.

The Blue Billion Grieves; I watch 300, Desamuduru & Detective March 24, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Cricket, Movies.
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So the Men in Blue are effectively out of the World Cup, thanks to their disastrous performance against Sri Lanka yesterday. A lot on rely on the upcoming Bermuda vs. Bangladesh match – if the Bermudans manage to upset the rollicking Bangladeshi apple cart, Indian paper tigers can squeeze into the Super Eights through the back door. Highly unlikely, I say.
The team’s performance from the start has been disappointing – they started their campaign on the wrong note when they got mauled by giant-killing Bangladesh, before managing a consolation win over minnows Bermuda, before getting thumped in the bollocks by a rip roaring Lankan Lions.
I never expected or hoped India to bring home the World Cup, for that matter they were not even probable semi-finalists. Simply because, India has never looked like a professional cricketing team in recent times. At best, it’s just a motley crew of 11 individuals, stalwarts in their right, who basically follow the ‘all or none law’ in their game – either they all play well or they all play like hell. The ‘men in blue’ seemed to be senile tigers on the field, lacking in energy, discipline, temperament or enthusiasm and rather so full of inertia. The only time I have seen them perform well is in the stupid commercial endorsements they wholeheartedly give their ‘mind, body, soul and heart’ to.
I know that cricket’s just a game and that there is so much pressure on the boys to perform and the entire expectations of a billion fans rests on their puny shoulders – fine – but if you can’t perform on the big stage, if you cant handle the pressure, I think you oughta sit outside the game.
A few recommendations to better cricket in India – give voluntary retirement to all our cricketing heroes who have crossed 30 – we have had enough with their ‘experience’; put a ceiling to the amount of money these ‘players’ are earning out of their endorsements – did you know that they are the highest-paid sports team in the world, in terms of sponsorship – and no tax waivers please; and improve the domestic cricket system to allow more competitive domestic players don the national colours in the international arena.
Since Chappell took over from his predecessor John Wright, India has won 32 out of 62 ODIs and 7of the 18 Test matches. Hopefully BCCI should look for a good cricketing coach from the land of a blue billion, who is competent enough to ‘coach’ this team. May be that is the greatest tragedy to have befallen Indian cricket, after all the great Indian coach is an elusive being, and not to be found in a land in need of real heroes.
A quick word to our nation’s bike, biscuit and cola sellers – if you are banking on this bunch of losers to sell your stuff, then please be aware that me as a consumer has already started doubting the quality of your products, cuz after all they are your brand ambassadors who stand for what you sell, right?

On a better note, I watched ‘300‘ (English) with a friend at Ruwi Cinema yesterday. Never seen such a kick-ass ‘war’ movie off late. Inspired by a graphic novel by Frank Miller, 300 is based on the epic battle of Thermopylae, where Spartan King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and 300 Spartans fight to the last man against Persian King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and his army of more than one million soldiers, while in Sparta, Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) attempts to rally support for her husband. The are pluses aplenty in 300 – free flowing blood and gore, thrilling action sequences, captivating photography, the terse narration by the Spartan soldier Dilios (David Wenham) and a stirring background score. I’m now hunting for 300’s OST by Tyler Bates. 300 is one of the best flicks out in Muscat this year.

Also watched Telugu flick ‘Desamuduru‘, written and directed by Puri Jagannadh, at Star Cinema. Allu Arjun (nephew of Tollywood megastars Pawan Kalyan and Chiranjeevi) and Hansika Motwani star in this flick with a plot that goes like – freak out TV journalist Bala Govind (Allu Arjun) gets into a skirmish with a band of Tamilian goons, retreats to Kulu Manali to escape their vendetta, falls in love with Vaishali (Hansika), a young damsel who is living the life of a hermit, hero falls in love, and then it turns that our hermit heroine is connected to the band of goons who then take her back to Hyderabad and then it is all left for the wonderboy to shut shop on villains and get the groove going with his lady love. Oops. You will like Desamuduru for Allu Arjun’s fight and dance scenes, and of course Rambha’s try at an item number – also I quite liked Puri Jagannadh’s opening credits in this movie – where the man on the street picks his favourite Tollywood hero – before launching Allu.

I also watched Suresh Gopi’s latest Malayalam flick – ‘Detective’ at Star Cinema – highly recommended for all Scotland Yard sleuths out there, the rest of you can probably go for a walk in the park – would be more productive that staying holed up in a theatre trying to come to terms with this crime/suspense/thriller pot-boiler.

Movies in Muscat – Nishabd, Red – The Dark Side and Norbit March 19, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Movies.
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Nishabd (Hindi) released in Muscat yesterday. Watched the first show at the Al Nasr Cinema. It’s very rare for movies to release here on a Monday. Wednesday’s when movies get released in Muscat. Totally relished watching it in a deserted theatre – I counted 8 people in a theatre that can seat around 800 plus people. Got a ticket in the box – usually box seats are reserved for couples and groups – but today the man at the ticket counter just decided to make my day; trust me its was great to put my feet up on the railing and enjoy the view from the empty box. At some point, I remember pacing up and down the box and watching the movie. Felt like it was my personal space.

You shouldn’t miss watching Nishabd, produced and directed by Ram Gopal Varma. Nishabd is about the love that springs between Vijay, a 60-year old photographer (Amitabh Bachchan) and Jia, an 18-year old student (Jiah Khan), and its effect on Vijay’s wife Amrita (Revathy) and their 18-year old daughter Ritu (Shraddha Arya). The entire flick is shot in sombre dark hues in the moody, dreamy tea estates of Munnar in Kerala. The entire cast in Nishabd is limited to Amitabh Bachchan, Jiah Khan, Naseer, Shraddha Arya, Revathy and Aftaab Shivadsani in a guest role. Nishabd challenges conventional feelings about love. One of the most poignant moments in the movie is when Vijay tells Amrita about his love for Jia, which understandably leaves the dutiful wife dazed. Amitabh comes with a fine performance, but it is definition of the ultimate aim of human life that impressed me most in Nishabd – to be happy! If you are lot into love and life, do find some time for Nishabd.

Followed up Nishabd with Red – The Dark Side (Hindi) at Al Nasr Mini Cinema. Directed by Vikram Bhatt and starring Aftaab Shivdasani, Celina Jaitley and Amrita Arora, Red has all the elements of a typical Vikram Bhatt pot-boiler – a love triangle, cupid struck hero, murder mystery, scheming women, elements of surprise, remix party numbers, police investigations, dark characters and a twist n’turn in the tale for a climax. I watched it to check out Ms. Jaitley and Ms. Arora, and boy I got my salt’s worth. Here’s Aftaab’s clinching dialogue / the last nail on the coffin: I’m ready to die for love. I’m ready to kill for love. But I’m not ready to be a fool for love. Red is definitely not painting the town red.

Uhm, moi found some time to go for comic flick Norbit (English) on Sunday at Ruwi Cinema. Norbit is not all that great – it’s got Eddie Murphy in not one, not two, but three roles – but even his treble histrionics cannot save this flawed movie. Norbit enjoys a 9% rating at Rotten Tomatoes and rumours abound that his acting in Norbit cost him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Dreamgirls. I personally think Norbit is OK – it may not be all that great – but it’s got those moments that will have you hold ur tummy and chortle with laughter.