Saturday, March 17, 2007

Colour by numbers

Babel it was last night. Overall not a bad film to watch even though it was a study in how a bad to mediocre script was saved by a good director.

I was very surprised at the clich├ęd characters and the resolutions to their issues that were served up by the writers. Check these out:

1. Mexican nanny – Fat, matronly and slightly stupid but with a heart of gold. I’ve seen the same nanny character in god knows how many other films.
2. Mexican nanny’s Mexican nephew – shady and in some kind of trouble. Where have I seen this before? I wonder if every young man of Mexican decent fits into this category as Hollywood would have us believe ….
3. Brad and Kate – can’t find the love they once had, but will find each other and overcome their loss after a life threatening incident.
4. American tourists - self centered. They couldn't care less about someone dying on the bus. They would rather worry about the air conditioning.
5. Moroccan tourist guide - poor but heart of gold.
6. Moroccan old woman- all wrinkled and poor but has the right cure for the pain, and of course a heart of gold.
7. Japanese teenager – disconnected, lonely and unloved.
8. Japanese father – having trouble connecting with his child and still mourning his wife’s death. Eventually father and daughter will find a connection. 9. American kids- in mortal peril but will pull through miraculously.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Borat and The Sea Inside

I must admit that watching these two films one after the other during the course of one night must rank as one of the worst film viewing decisions in the world. But the opportunity presented itself and as both films came highly recommended and I did not want to miss either.

Assuming ‘Borat’ to be the lighter and the more amusing option we saw it first. I don’t know what to say of the experience. The jokes got tiresome after about the first 3 minutes and my innings with the film lasted a total of 22 minutes. There are only so many times one can hear an unfunny joke. That the filmmaker thought references to Borat’s sister and her ‘Vagin’ as being funny enough to be repeated about 5 times in the first 15 minutes is a reflection of how bad the film was. But obviously I am missing something. This film was a huge hit internationally. Why and how is a question I will ponder over for a very long time.

In contrast ‘The Sea Inside’ was a beautiful film. This was another case of a Spanish filmmaker’s deft handling of a very difficult subject with consummate ease. There were no major tears or hysteria as the filmmaker went about telling his story in a simple and concise manner. There was a lot to say about a very touchy subject but the filmmaker did not resort to any melodrama or theatrics which one would normally associate with a film dealing with euthanasia. To take a really shocking and tragic incident and to deal with it in the most matter of fact way seems to the way with Spanish directors. Having grown up on tearjerkers from both Hollywood and Bollywood the Spanish way of making films comes as a breath of fresh air. Hats off to them for showing us another kind of cinema.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

SEZ’s and Slum Rehabilitation

A major storm is brewing in a teacup with regard to both these ventures. While the SEZ’s are promising to become a national headache the Slum Rehabilitation projects in Mumbai are already mired in controversy. Though I don’t know why it should be so. Sitting on the sidelines I can see a solution clearly.

The way I see it the logic is simple: If someone lives on/off a piece of land he should be a partner in the economic progress that is planned on the land and s/he must have a stake in the process the same way that a builder or industrialist or new owner has. It seems terribly unfair that after accusation of land the profits enjoyed by the developers/industrialist should not be shared by the people to whom the land belonged in the first place.
We have seen in the past that whenever a big industrial complex or building project comes up land prices shoot upwards. The developers who buy the rights to develop the land make a killing. The new owners also make a killing as the prices keep moving up. But the man to whom the land belonged in the first place gets nothing of the new escalated prices or the economic development that follows.

If we want a peaceful and healthy development atmosphere we should look at establishing a partnership that allows the evictees to share the future rewards of development. The moment this kind of partnership is established everyone gains and chances of any opposition, politically motivated or otherwise, are minimal.

A simple two point compensation package should be worked out on these lines:

1. Give the compensation that you would normally do while accruing the land. This process is already in place.
2. In addition to the compensation package allocate a percentage of the projects shareholdings to the people whose land you are accruing as their investment in the project. This percentage is to be distributed in accordance of the individual land holdings and would be in the form of tradable shares.

Once the landholder becomes the promoter of the company that is starting the project s/he stands to benefit from any development that is undertaken on the land and stands to benefit in perpetuity. Also, these shares could be traded on the stock exchange like any other shares and the individual owners could decide in stay invested or exit as per their own convenience.