Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Poltergeist

(A hint that may help you enjoy better: Keep your mind's eye as open as possible)

3) The lane where I’m going is right next to DURY LANE.

Stupid little punks. Can’t watch where they are going; can’t even read signals; and here they are, smearing the streets with burning tyre marks. This is getting crazier by the day I tell you. And nobody does anything about it.

I mean, what kind of a man doesn’t want to drive on clean roads, huh? What sort of an idiot would enjoy opening the window of his vehicle to look down upon crushed Cola cans, broken car parts, puddles of oil and puke, and God knows what else passing besides him.

It sickens me. It really does. You know I never open my window... never ever; Well, unless I’ve got to spit out gum or tobacco or something.

I love chewing tobacco.

Do you want to know what I think? I’ll tell you what I think: it’s all a scam... a big scam.

Why else doesn’t someone like... uhhh... the... uuhhh... the government do anything about it? I mean it could just ban sports cars or race-bikes from the streets, couldn’t it? Is it that drastic a step to take? Well, no it isn’t. But have they taken it? No.

I don’t want to brag or anything but I spent a lot of time thinking about this back when I was living with my in-laws... you see I had very little to do at their place. And after a lot of pondering... and reasoning, I concluded that it was all about Taxes.

Yes, Taxes.

Well I could explain it to you right now, but it is... uhh... It is a bit complicated. So you may not understand it completely at the first instance. But I assure you. I’ve... I’ve put a lot of thought to this... Yes, taxes are the reason behind this scandal.

Oh shit... did you see that? Did you bloody see that? That motorcycle almost scratched off my tail light. These bloody… I tell you one of these days… Oh, one of these days I’m just going to run over every last one of these wicked driver brats.

I swear I will. I suppose that’ll do the trick. And I don’t even have insurance on this car!

And what do you know! stupid little pricks... look at what they’ve made me do. I've driven way past Dury Lane without noticing. Now I’m going to have to reverse this darn thing.

Oh Lord. I hope I make it on time.

4) The building that I’m going to is the SIXTH one on the lane from the FAR LEFT.

So where was I? Right... as I was saying, I have this problem. No, it is not a physical one. It is more of something that has to do with my head. Well I… uuhhh… how do I put it.

Ok, here it goes- I forget things.

What? No, its not amnesia. Something else.

What? No. I haven’t seen ‘Memento’. But I know what that movie’s all about and no, that is not what I am suffering from either. I just forget random things... small things to be precise.

Yes. I think they have a medical term for my condition. Uuuhhh... let me see... I don’t know if I’m spelling it right… ah yes… I remember… it starts with a D... then a U... then there’s an M and finally... I think it was a B.

Yes, D.U.M.B. I think that’s it. That was what my wife told me I was suffering from.
Whats that? Yes. Yes I know it sounds like the word ‘dumb’. I tell you what, (laughs out heartily) that was the first thought that came to my mind as well when she spoke to me that day as we were walking out of the hospital. But she even gave me the full word for each letter and I swear to God it sounded pretty much medical.

What? Well yes, I do remember the full form. Yes, I...  I could say it right now, but...  uuuhhh... trust me, there’s no use, you wouldn’t understand it anyway, all medical terms and stuff.

So- I forget things. That’s that.

For how long have I had this problem? As long as I can remember.

My wife said the doctors couldn’t tell whether the problem was from birth or began sometime after. But she also said that it made no difference. Why? Because, as of today there is no cure for my condition.

Yes, seems like I’m just going to have to live with it.

Ok. So we are at the far left, right? Alright. One... two... three... aaaaannnnnddd... four. That’s it. That’s the fourth building right there. What? Of course I know that we are going to the sixth one. I was just about to count five and six, when you interrupted me!

You know, people around me might say otherwise, but I think my condition has started to cure since the day I got married. It sure has. It feels a lot better when you have someone who knows what your problem is and someone who can, you know, sort of... uuhh... care for you.

My wife? Oh she’s a... she’s just an angel. I... I bet you, you wouldn’t have seen anyone as funny as her. She has got this sense of humor that would blow you right away. You just won’t see it coming and the next thing you know is that your sides will be aching with all that giggling and laughing.

Hey, wait a minute, I think I have a picture of her somewhere, (puts his hand behind the mirror above and pulls something out).

There. That’s her. Right there, standing besides me… Taken on our wedding day.  Isn’t she just beautiful?

Huh? Well I can see that. I know she isn’t smiling in the picture and all. But I tell you, some of the jokes she cracks, you’d have to have a pretty high…  uuuhhhh...  what do they call it…  uuuhhhh… yes… IQ. A pretty high IQ to… you know... just get the darn joke.

No its not.

No, she isn’t!

Why would she be annoyed on our wedding day? No. maybe you’re not looking at her properly.

Ok. Just give it back! Just give me the damn photo.

I’m telling you, she was not gnashing her teeth. She was not angry. That is how she looks; that is her happy face, and I know it better than you mister, so watch your mouth. (slides the photo back into the slot behind the mirror above him).

My wife’s an angel. She really is. And she’s not just my wife you know. We’re partners, in business. So give her a little respect.

What? My job profile? Oh it’s nothing fancy. I just take care of the external work. You know, going places, meeting people, buying, selling; things like that. My wife handles the office work. Her’s is the bigger responsibility, of course. I couldn’t last one day, doing the things that she does.

I think we have arrived. And would you look at that! (shows his watch) We’re right on time!

No. No need to go to the parking lot. We’ll just leave the car on this side of the road. My wife always tells me never to use parking lots.

No. I don’t know why.

Let’s see now. What’s the next one say...

5) The floor that I’m going to is the GROUND FLOOR and the entrance to it reads A.G.G. BANK.

Is that a ‘G’? or a ‘C’? Looks more like a ‘C’ to me. So is it A.G.G or A.C.C? Heck.

Now what do I do?

Oh, how many times have I told my son to practice on his block letters! How am I supposed to do my work this way? What if I ended up going to the wrong place and settling things with the wrong people? Could you imagine how stupid I would look to my wife? After all that she does for me...

Ok. I just need to calm down. No point in wasting time. I’m taking a wild guess that we are at the right place.

A.G.G… A.C.C, they all look the same to me. I’m going in.

I tell you, the banks these days, what kind of service is it that they talk so big about? They spend so much on fitting the entrance with glass doors and gold coated door knobs; but not one gatekeeper in sight to open the doors for you.

You just have to do everything by yourself. Like the... uuuhhh… what do they call it… the... the buffet system. Utterly ridiculous!

Alright I’ve opened the doors and got in. What next?

6) The woman that I’m going to meet...

Damn it!! Stupid boy! Can’t see where he’s heading; can’t stop himself from dashing into other people’s ribs. Spoilt brat! Now my cards are all scattered on the floor. And look at his nerve, doesn’t even bother to lift them up for me; doesn’t even bother to beg me pardon! Oh, the kids these days. Just unbearable I tell you.

But you know what? Its instances like these that make me realize how lucky I am. My wife and I have two sons, 14 and 10 years old; and neither of them are crude… not one bit… no sir.

They are as cultured as boys can be. And the way they walk, the way they talk; makes me proud every time they call me dad. Oh by the way, I almost forget to tell you, it’s my son’s birthday today.

No. The younger one.

Yes, we’re having a small get together at my in-laws place tonight. Nothing pompous. Well, they always prefer few or no guests from outside the family at their house. So its just going to be me, my wife and the kids.

Did I tell you, my wife can cook up the best supper that you could eat? Heck, my stomach is rumbling as I speak! Can’t wait to sink my teeth into that ‘special’ something that she promised to prepare for the birthday boy (laughs).

What? Surprise? Of course I’m going to give him a surprise? I’m his dad, am I not? Who else were you expecting to do it?

Well, you see my sons are... uuhhhh... what you could call tough skinned. No, no... not literally!

I mean they... uuuhhhh... they’re the sort of kids who are always up for a scare.

How do I know? I just know it.

Alright I’ll tell you how, most of the films they watch… in fact, all of the films they watch are horror. So I figure this: what better surprise could there be for my tiny tot than a poltergeist knocking on the windowpane of his room while he’s busy doing homework. Hah? How does that sound for a scare?

So I ask my wife and she tells me I could use this outfit (points to himself) once I’m, you know, done with my work for the day. Such a sweet heart, my wife is.

Ok. (Picks up the fallen cards and starts reading again). Where was I...

6) The woman that I’m going to meet stands behind a COUNTER in the CORNER FARTHEST from the DOOR. Her label reads ‘TELLER’.

I just don’t understand what people have against tall persons. Why does everyone have to stare at me like that? Am I different from the rest of the customers? I’m here to make a simple withdrawal; a straightforward transaction with the bank just like everyone else has, right? And I’m sincere enough to just stick to what I’ve come for, am I not?

It’s not like I’m disturbing them; it’s not like I’m meddling with their documents and stuff. But what do I get in return for my sincerity? Long drawn faces and horrified looks. Now I’d agree if anyone told me that I appeared... uuuhhh... brutal or something; but does it really mean that I’d just go around hitting people at random?

As if I’d ever hurt a fly.

Let me tell you something, I may not have what you’d call a permanent desk job; no sir, I’ve never had one my whole life. But I still am a partner in business... yes I am. Doesn’t that count for something? And I’ve never wished everyone to hail me as their lord or kiss my feet. Heck, I can’t even come to imagine such a scene. I just want them to stop giving that awkward gawk that I feel around me every time I enter a bank. That’s all. Is that such a big thing to ask for?

Anyway. Whats the point of thinking about it. I know already that things are always going to remain the same. People judge you by what you show them and it ends there.

Hollow-souled sinners!

Alright. Farthest corner from the door.

And what do we have here: T... E... L... L… ok ok, that must be her.

8) The money that I am going to withdraw is with the woman that I’ve just met; I will pass the BROWN COLORED NOTE that I have in my LEFT POCKET across the counter and wait until she has passed me the CASH.

Ok. Simple enough. Alright. Now let me see... uuhhh... left pocket... uuuhh... brown note.

Right, here it is, and here it goes across the counter.

I look at the woman who is holding the note. She’s wearing one of those chic blue dresses. I think I’d seen it once on the window of a shop while driving on the road. Funny little clothes, I tell you, these modern ones. You just can’t decide why women wear them- is it to ensure that the essentials are covered up or is it to make sure that everything else isn’t (laughs).

Well, I can’t speak for any other woman. But I know my wife’s taste. She hates this craze for skimpy dresses. ‘I’d rather die than flaunt myself like that in front of other men’, she will tell me when I ask her about it.

What? No. I haven’t asked her yet.

But... uuuhhhh... I’m sure her answer will be what I’ve told you.

So, here I am waiting for the cash.

I look up to the teller’s face. And I’m not lying one bit, the moment I see her, I get reminded of a peeled off gourd. Yes, a gourd.

What is it with these cashiers? What was it that I’d heard a few days ago in one of those advertisements that keep blurting every half hour on TV? Right... ‘Service with a smile’.
What was that all about if she can’t even show emotions on her face?

Do I care? Of course I don’t. What difference does it make if she isn’t smiling, winking or throwing kisses at me as long as my task is being worked on without delay?

So, I wait some more.

And when I’m finally handed over the bag, I count fifteen minutes. No, I’m not lying. Fifteen minutes is what it takes for the best bank in town to process a simple transaction of withdrawal. I can’t believe people actually pay for this kind of shitty service.

Alright. No problem. I’ve left the counter with my bag and started walking. The door is just five steps away now.

(Looks at his watch) Not bad.

If I hurry up a bit, I may even get time to pick up flowers for my sweetheart. Oh, how much I miss her when I’m out working.

So then, where to.

9) The TRUNK of my CAR is where I am going to KEEP THE BAG that I’m holding and...

Whats that bloody noise? My darned ear has started to ache now. What a load of ruckus!

Well, there you have it; as if the service wasn’t bad enough… now this.

(Shouts at the teller) Haven’t you gits ever heard of... uuuhhh... noise pollution or something?

Stupid bank; filled with stupid employees... Can’t even smile and here they are torturing me with this racket. I could file a... what do they call it... right, a suit against them or something; claim damages for sheer lack of professionalism.

Wait a second.

Is that... is that what I think it is?

But... uuuhhhh... how could it be that? I mean... uuuhhh... I mean, did I do something different? No. I didn’t. Of course I didn’t. Or... uuhh... did I not do something? No. I’ve done everything given. Then what is it?

(shuffles through the cards for a few seconds and then suddenly stops)

Damn it.

7) The woman BEHIND THE COUNTER is the woman that I am going to meet; I will pass her the RED NOTE that I have in my RIGHT POCKET and then I will WAIT FOR A NOD.

Damn him, that little brat! This is all happening because of him; stupid child. Can’t do anything right; can’t let anyone else do things right. I tell you, if I were his father, I’d… I’d... cane his naughty little bums; I’d cane him until he’d know how to behave.

He made me miss one out. He made me miss one bloody card.

Now look at all those cars halting outside the door. Screeching wheels and flashy red lights… Silly little gimmicks.

What? What am I going to do now?

I’ll tell you what I’m going to do now; I’m going to do exactly what I’ve come here to do; I’m going to do exactly what I was told to do by my spouse dearest.

9) The TRUNK of my CAR is where I am going to KEEP THE BAG that I’m holding; then I’m going to DRIVE back to my house by the SHORTEST ROUTE.

Am I worried? Am I tensed?

 No sir. I’m not, not one bit.

Why? Is there anything I should be worried about? No there isn’t.

I tell you what my wife says to me every time I leave home for a bank. She says, “Now honey, if anything at all happens that ought not to have happened, there’s no need to panic.” Such a sweet thing she is, my wife. “Remember that you are a customer making a withdrawal just like everyone else is.” Yes I remember that all right. “Just stay calm and you’ll never know when you are through with the job and back home with me.” She adds.

That is exactly what I’m going to do- Stay calm.

Oh, and you know how much she cares for me? You want to know what she tells me every single time. She says, “Don’t mind what others will say dear. No need to sweat beneath that horrible costume. Always unbutton your coat while you’re doing your work honey. Open it up, nice and wide. Let in some fresh air. I promise you, it’ll be very comforting.” And I’m going to do that as well before I walk through the doors and up to my car.

And what do you know? (Pushes open the glass doors and keeps walking casually) none of these khaki-clad clowns seem to be bothering me.

(‘What the!’, someone exclaiming. 'Whats that on his stomach?')

Hell, my wife was right! Yes she was!

They're stepping back.

(A loud voice echoing in the background, 'Clear the area... . . Everyone back off.')

“Ok... Alright now, we’re going to let you through.” Shouts out one of them in my direction on that... uuuhhh... whats it called... uuuuhhhh... yes, right… handheld microphone.

“Don’t be hasty now son. Theres a lot of innocent people here." He tells me. "You don’t want to hurt them, do you?”

The hell is that all about? I never told him that I wanted to!

“Alright. You can board your vehicle. And I promise you that we won’t follow.” he shouts again.

“Just don’t press the god damned button!”

I tell you, policemen these days, no idea when to say what. Blathering on that mike; trying to show off in front of ordinary people just because they are allowed to carry fancy stuff with them.

How do morons even become policemen? I mean, isn’t there a... uuuhhh...  test or something to, you now, see whether they are sane or not?

Anyway. (Opens up the trunk of his car, adjusts the bag inside it and bangs the hood close) 

What do I care about some old git wearing a uniform?

My job is done, right? (Unlocks the car door and gets in)

And would you look at that, I’ve still got time to fetch those flowers for my dear wife! (Engine starts as the road in front is being cleared of vehicles)

Oh, how much I miss her when I’m out working.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

No Country for Old Men (2007)

I chanced upon a television promo of this film, about four months ago. A ten second glimpse of a barren landscape; followed by a short burst of a shotgun from another scene, and then a tight close up of the anti-protagonist’s clean shaven face that defined the movie for me. “From the makers of the critically acclaimed Fargo and The Big Lebowski" came the announcement.

I’d already watched Fargo by then. I could recollect faintly that I’d also seen two other films of the same duo- Joel and Ethan Coen. And I won’t deny it. The ensuing curiosity that engulfed me was almost deafening. It was not long before I'd gotten my hands on the DVD.

Watching a Coen Brothers film is like watching a lunatic with a paint brush in his hand and a 24x36 inch perfectly blank canvas laid out in front of him. You could just turn around and start walking within the first ten minutes of his getting to work saying to your self, “What? Ninety minutes of this? I’d go mad.”

I repeat myself- you could turn around and start walking ten minutes into his wild stroke making and paint splashing glee-spree...  but you don’t. Because somewhere inside you, there’s this voice telling you that ‘after all every genius is a lunatic’.

‘It could also be the other way around’ you retaliate, but you don’t know for sure. So you wait and watch...

And I’m not saying that what you get at the end of the ninetieth minute will make you jump up and holler with satisfaction (I sure didn’t feel that way). Nor am I assuring you that you’d have watched a cinema of epic proportions (because it isn’t). What I can assure you is that you would’ve seen something as unexpected as ‘unexpected’ can be. On the whole, you could like it or not like it; but it’ll have its moments.

As I was saying earlier, I had already seen ‘Fargo’ by then and the film wasn’t a satisfying watch to tell you the truth. It felt more like a brief preview of things to come; things we could safely expect to be delivered to us in future by this uniquely talented pair. And after watching ‘No Country...’ my belief has been corroborated, atleast into a hundredfold.

I ask you- how many movies have you seen till today? Of those few hundreds (Assuming of course that the people who read this blog are cinema lovers; & frankly speaking who isn’t) how many films have made you ‘feel’ an emotion? To be particular, how many of those have made you feel really tensed?

And the mother of all questions- how many of the films that are crossing over your brains at the moment do not have a background score?

It’s a fact that cannot be denied, most of the top rated films are top rated, one of the key reasons being that they heavily rely upon music as an emotional back drop for the audience. I doubt whether the awe inspiring opening sequence of ‘Inglorious Basterds’ would be as menacing as it appears now devoid of the horrifying clatter of saxophones, trumpets and bells. Chistopher Waltz does walk and talk evil, but the icing to the cake is, in the end, the background score.

Name any cult movie made by the blood-n-gore friendly Quentin Tarantino (Kill Bill Volume I & II, Inglorious...); or the noire/neo-noire specialist Christopher Nolan (of Memento, Prestige and Inception fame); or larger-than-life storytellers Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg (L.O.T.R & Indiana Jones series respectively); or moving back to the 60s,  70s and 80s: Stanley Kubrick (Dr. Strangelove-How I learnt to stop worrying and love the bomb, 2001 Space Odyssey, The Shining, etc), and the ‘baap’ of all criminal suspense dramas Alfred Hitchcock (no need to prove his credit worthiness by naming his creations). Each of these had a top notch music department.

Well I won’t deny the power of silence that classic movies make use of either. They are quite effective, but are scene specific, not lasting throughout the movie. And here I find this psycho thriller, that has, might I say, a laid back feel to it with barely anything close enough to be called as background music. Yet it makes you cringe; you feel as if you are a part of each and every scene, the screenplay being terrific and the camerawork spotless. The dialogues have been adopted verbatim from the novel by Cormac McCarthy and I found nothing to complain on that as well. Javier Bardem, as the killer with principles, is at his nerve-racking best.

I could go on (till next Thursday).

The best part of the film is that almost everything is left open for the audience to interpret... including the end. Some might find that dissatisfying and inconclusive. I don’t care if they do. Because by the time three fourth of the film is behind you, you’d have already seen more than your money’s worth.

A forewarning to anyone intending take my view seriously, disclaimer implied; this is definitely not for the squeamish!