Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Return of Old Spice

The first fragrance I used regularly was Old Spice. There wasn’t an option in those days. You either applied no aftershave at all, or you applied Old Spice. The brand’s advertisements played regularly on television, featuring bronzed, square jawed surfers; and the crescendo from Carmina Burana’s O Fortuna. I was aware that, in the wider world, Old Spice was an unfashionable brand. A Billy Joel record I possessed had him singing of taking his old man’s Trojans and Old Spice aftershave. If Billy Joel’s dad used Old Spice it couldn’t possibly be cool. My dad used it as well, and a similar conclusion could be drawn from that fact. In any case, how hip could a product be that had ‘old’ in its name?
I’m gobsmacked, therefore, that Old Spice has made a comeback. It's all thanks to a series of advertisements that have gone viral on the Web. The clever original spot, for Old Spice shower gel, cannily took aim at the notion that such products are for girlie men. It also targetted women, because surveys showed they were the ones buying stuff like shower gel for husbands and boyfriends.
Here’s a long interview about how the commercial was made.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Godard's Breathless

Screenings all over the globe have marked fifty years since the release of Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless. There's one in Bombay tomorrow, and the latest issue of Time Out carries a piece by me about the film. It's online here.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Rasta to Zion

The Palestine International Festival of Dance and Music, designed to draw attention to water shortages in the West Bank, isn’t exactly the hottest ticket on the global performance circuit. The only reason the disco band Boney M’s gig in Ramallah gained coverage was that organisers asked the band not to play one of its greatest hits, Rivers of Babylon.
Read the rest of my Yahoo! column here.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Inception's a good film, but some way from being a great one. It has fewer problems with internal logic than the Matrix movies, but comes across as a bit prosaic for a narrative that takes place largely in peoples' dreams. It proves, if proof were needed, that Christopher Nolan is no Stanley Kubrick.
All the actors do their job well, as might be expected from a cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Marion Cotillard and Ellen Page. The surprising performances come from lesser known actors: Cillian Murphy as the heir to an energy empire with a troubled relationship with his father; and, even more so, Tom Hardy, as a forger of personalities within dreams. Hardy brings lightness and humour to a heavy, wordy plot.

DiCaprio was close to taking on the mantle of the leading actor of his generation after performances in Gangs of New York, The Aviator, Blood Diamond and The Departed. However, a certain predictability has crept into his recent work in films such as Revolutionary Road, Body of Lies, Shutter Island and Inception. He's probably lost the opportunity to be compared with the actors of the golden generation of the 1970s, the Jack Nicholsons, Robert DeNiros and Al Pacinos.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Happy Birthday!

One of India's greatest actors on screen and stage turns 60 today. Many happy returns of the day, Mr. Naseeruddin Shah, thank you for all the wonderful characters you've brought alive over the years and here's to many more challenging roles in the future.

Friday, July 16, 2010


I've hit a blogging wall these past weeks, no idea why. I hope it will pass. My mind, however, has not been idle. Having watched a series of James Bond films -- or bits of James Bond films -- these past days on Star Movies, I've arrived at a startling conclusion: Sean Connery is by far the best James Bond.

Roger Moore is fine in the early films, but way too old by the time the eighties kick in for the stunts, or even seductions, to seem believable. This is fatal in the context of Bond films, where plausibility is everything.

Timothy Dalton is the worst Bond. His attempts at charm have a creepy vibe.

Pierce Brosnan is bland. The best that can be said for bland is that it's better than creepy.

Daniel Craig did better in Casino Royale than I'd expected after watching his charisma-free performance in Sylvia as Ted Hughes, who was probably the closest a poet has got to the machismo of James Bond. Craig, unfortunately, looks like his mother had a cast-iron birth canal. His body can only make up so much for that face. Still, his first shot worked well because the script called for a sullen, brooding figure. By the time Quantum of Solace ended, though, I was heartily sick of sullen and brooding.

The opening of Quantum is the worst sequence in half a century of Bond films.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Football and fast twitch muscle

Today's column for Yahoo! India can be read here.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Thank you, Tata, thank you, Murdoch

Tony Greig has a favourite line when a cricket ball needs changing during a One Day International: "We can send a man to the moon, but we can't keep a white ball white".
I'm reminded of it whenever the signal goes of on my TV set, as has happened with great frequency in recent days. Why is it so difficult for satellite transmission to work while it's raining? I'd have thought this basic problem would have been sorted out before Direct to Home telecasts were cleared by regulators.
At first, TataSky tried to evade the issue; they insisted that service was only affected when raindrops of a certain millimetrical width came down, which only happened in 1% of showers or something. Finally they caved in and added the line you see at the bottom of the screen: "In case of heavy rain, please wait till the rain subsides to regain signal". OK, thanks, I guess I'll just watch the replay of the World Cup final then.
Wait till the rain subsides? It's the monsoon, the rain will not subside till bloody September. Besides, as anybody with a TataSky connection knows (I presume subscribers to other DTH services face the same problem, but I'm not sure) the breakdown of service does not follow a predictable pattern. The signal is sometimes lost in a drizzle, while at other times the telecast remains crystal clear through a heavy downpour.
I'd go back to my previous cable connection, but now I'm addicted to the additional information DTH provides, specially the programme listing. It's unthinkable now to switch on the telly and have no way of knowing which film is playing.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The new Delhi airport

With the opening of a capacious new airport terminal, Delhi's taken another step towards becoming indisputably India's premier city. The old terminal contained a large mural by M F Husain, India's most important painter; the new one has ghastly artworks like the one pictured above. I have a feeling, though, that it will be superior in every other respect. A Metro link is being built as well, which means India will finally have an airport with a public transport link attached. Bombay, of course, can't even organise a bus service to its domestic and international terminals, leave alone a high speed rail connection.
The problem with Delhi remains, of course, its people. That'll take a few decades more to sort out.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The BBC confuses one Harry Potter twin for another

Parvati and Padma Patil are twins who don't look at all alike in the Harry Potter movies. That hasn't stopped the BBC from getting them mixed up.
Afshan Azad, who plays Padma Patil (the girl on the right in the picture), was reportedly threatened by her father and assaulted by her brother (for reasons unknown but time will tell). In its story, the BBC carries a picture of Shefali Chowdhury, who plays Parvati. This is worse than Indian newspapers mixing up the two Ashleys.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Jo'burg chill

The temperature in Johannesburg over the past few days has varied from highs around 18 degrees centigrade to lows of 6-8 degrees. That's cool, though no more so than a Delhi winter's day. The way some chaps reporting on the World Cup have swathed themselves in mufflers and sweaters even when indoors, though, makes it look like they're in Mongolia in December. Unfortunately I couldn't get this shot before the presenter's mittens were partially covered by a graphic.