Friday, March 25, 2011

My Life as a Zombie

WARNING: Long Post

“What would you say was your defining American moment? An incident that was authentically and unabashedly American?”

Ask me that question. I dare you. No, I double dare you. Cause, I have the answer ready. It would be the day Obama won. I was still in university and living in a rundown apartment on top of a bar. It was right in the intersection of two busy roads and peeked over the happenings on the street. We were all huddled over a laptop, five Indian guys living in a tiny 3 bedroom apartment that was legally supposed to house only three. The moment it became clear that Obama had won my roommate Prem Singh jumped with joy and started pumping his fists in the air. He, who sported an American accent even before getting on the plane to get here and whose only dismay was that he could not vote to aid his fellow democrats. Soon, there were voices coming from the street below. We looked out to see the guy from the apartment across the street, perched on the ledge of his window, blasting the national anthem on his electric guitar. There were some other students out in the streets, but the most conspicuous was an ecstatic chubby spectacled girl with curly hair, standing smack in the middle of the intersection like a traffic policeman, jubilantly swinging her hands in the air, waving at cars whizzing by and shouting at the top of her voice “We got it right, We finally got it right”. With a little wardrobe changes they could have fit right in the 70’s. The Punk Rocker, up in his apartment, serenading the Flower Girl down below. A somewhat Romeo and Juliet reversal. Quintessentially American, almost stereotypical, reaffirming (and shouting) their faith in Truth, Justice and the American way.

Well the other night I had an experience that would rival this one as my most American experience. We cannot deny that the world we live in is dominated by American pop culture. As a former British colony, whatever links we had to British culture are being phased out, for better or worse, as time nudges us farther and farther from the early half of the 20th century. Going by Shashi Tharoor’s definition of Soft power, America remains the mammoth yielding and submitting everyone to the sheer potency of its soft power. Naturally I would be excited to be part of anything related to popular culture and getting to be an extra in a Hollywood movie was a chance I was not going to pass on. Ok, so it was not a Hollywood movie, but a Not For Profit film being funded by a South Florida Film Initiative. And it was not a movie per se but a short film (Short for short), about 30 minutes long. But hey, Art cannot be bounded by temporal or spatial constraints, even though how a Post-Apocalyptic (PA) gore fest qualifies as art is up for debate. Yeah, I played a Zombie. Actually the technically correct term is The Living dead, from an unwritten rule in PA movies that the word Zombie is never uttered or used. The Infected, Walkers, Ghouls and Stiffs are also accepted.

So how did I get there? Well here I was trawling through craigslist, when I found this posting that wanted extras for a day’s shoot. Of course it was volunteer work, but I would have actually paid them just for getting in on the experience. So I showed up on set at the time prescribed by the Production Assistant, Tim, A University of Miami student, and part time film enthusiast. I soon found out everyone there on set was more or less helping out for free and the crew was mostly U of M students. But for the first time I found myself on a movie set, an abandoned bottling plant run rampant by extremely talented local Miami Grafitti artists. The place absolutely looked the cold , solitary, unforgiving terrain that the directors envisioned in their script.

I was quickly ushered in to the make up tent, and soon found myself sitting in front of the Make up artist, Giancarlo. Now the thing about Miami is that everyone speaks Spanish and 4 times out of 5 is from Cuba or one of the Central American countries. So When the kindly bearded Miami native told me he was friends with Somy Ali (Yes , Salman Khan’s Ex from the 90s, that Somy Ali) I was taken aback. But he was for real. Apparently she runs a charity in South Florida, having given up on the glitz and glamour of showbiz. Now, I have never had any kind of make up done. So I didn’t know what to expect. Giancarlo told me I was the first Indian face he was going to do up and so he was going to spend some time on me. Sure enough, I was there for a good thirty minutes and by the time I was done I was turning heads, as much as a zombie with flesh hanging from his cheek could. I also got a good idea why Alan Cumming never returned for X-men 3 and What Ron Perlman and Rahul Roy had to go through when they did Hell Boy and Junoon respectively. Sitting still with your eyes closed lips pursed is excruciatingly boring. But what was even more tortuous was still to come.

They say people who have learned music hear chords and ragas where mere mortals would just find a melody. It’s a different perspective that you gain when you find out what exactly goes on behind the curtains. And its something you cannot unsee. Well let me tell you apart from the cameras, lights and dollys what laymen don’t realize is the sheer excruciating amount of just standing around. Yes, you just stand around, twiddling your thumbs while they get the shot ready. Now I am not calling anyone inefficient. This is just how things roll. Things take time and naturally you have to wait. So here we were a rag tag team of volunteer zombies – a film student, a retired chemist, an ex-cop, a civil engineer and a truck driver among others, standing around with burnt faces, ripped cheeks and amputated limbs. But the real soul of the party had to be Carlos a guy who was just driving by in a car, who stopped at the commotion, just to ask what was going on and was roped in to play a zombie. He was just so enamored by everything that he volunteered to help out the remaining days of the shoot as well. By the end he was actually announcing to everyone that he wanted to be a full time actor!! Turns out anyone can play a zombie. You just have to growl and move around menacingly. And when your face is hidden beneath layers of fevicol-like substance you lose all inhibitions. The big question was, were they going for George Romero Zombies or Danny Boyle Zombies. Romero considered the father of the Zombie subgenre with his “..of the Dead” series had slow moving, zombies with legs dragging and hands held out, while Boyle popularized the raging, wild, sprinting zombie in 28 days later. Turns out rabid zombies are all the rage now. As a film enthusiast Post Apocalyptic films appeal to me because in essence they say that what you and I deem as important, even monumental could in an instant become entirely frivolous and superfluous. Think about it, one day you are worried about finishing up a report and the very next day you could be holed up in a house praying for your life. Talk about perspective shift! It reaffirms that relativity is the only truth in life.

The shoot lasted well into the wee hours of the morning. We shot four scenes where we just ran around chasing people or as we zombies call it “dinner” and getting shot at. A SFX team was brought in to perform several stunts which included firing several guns at us poor zombies and setting one of us on fire. I hear the same stunt team worked on a new Charlie’s Angel’s TV show set in Miami which would premiere in Fall of this year. Gun shots, even blanks, are ear-drum popping loud. And you definitely need ear plugs if you are at either end of the gun. Finally one of the PAs shouted “It’s a wrap, folks” and we all heaved sighs of relief. We just wanted to get out of there. Most of us had to work the next day and I briefly wondered whether being “the living dead ” would qualify me for sick leave. Good byes were said and Facebook ids exchanged. Tearing apart a live human together can apparently make you close to people. I knew getting off the makeup would be a pain. While I tore away all the prosthetics, the blood and decay still remained. Giancarlo recommended a hot shower and lots of soap. I did not want be pulled over by a cop looking like this. But the best part of the day was when I pulled up into a Taco Bell drive in window and scared the bejeezus out of the employee. Also, sadly taco bell does not serve human brains.

Monday, March 21, 2011

How Matthew McConaughey can make Good Movies

Matthew McConaughey is mostly known for insipid romcoms. So how do we help the guy out? How do we get the guy to make good movies. I took a day off from work and did some thinking and came to the following conclusion. The only way Matthew McConaughey can make a good movie is if he plays a lawyer of some kind. Allow me to demonstrate:

Lawyer.Lawyer.Lawyer.Agent to a movie star.
Ok so he was not a lawyer in Tropic Thunder but an agent is a kind of arbitrator and some one who has a client so that counts.

Plus he is playing a DA in Richard Linklater's next dark Comedy - Bernie , so if that movie turns out to be any good, we know we've got a sure fire way of getting our boy into good movies.

Friday, March 18, 2011

10 Movies I want to watch in 2011

Better really really late than never. Here it is, the 10 (well around 10) movies I really really want to watch this year:

1) Sherlock Holmes : Game of Shadows

RDJr is a pleasure to watch in any movie that is not named Iron Man 2. The first one was hell of a fun ride especially the delicious chemistry between the leads. This one has Prof.Moriarty and Mycroft Holmes in it. Sweeet. Stephen Fry is playing Mycroft, Sherlock's older brother.

Trivia: Stephen Fry & Hugh Laurie were quite a comedy duo in the UK. Laurie's House is kind of like Sherlock Holmes in a hospital and there were plans to have Fry in a guest role as his more intelligent but unmotivated older brother ala Mycroft but that did not work out. Anyway he gets to play the actual Mycroft in :GoS

2) Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

I like the MI series primarily because each of them has a different taste to it. The first one was very classy, exactly the kind of spy-on-the-run kinda movie I like. The second one sucked. The third was a thrill ride. While the 3rd one was being planned they actually had David Fincher on board with Kenneth Branagh, Carrie Ann Moss and Scarlett Johansen. It was about organ trading in Africa. Would have loved for that to happen. Anyway the new one has Anil Kapoor in it. Yay!!

3) X-men: First Class

Ok, technically the First class had Iceman, Jean Grey, Cyclops, Angel and Beast. But the movie only has Beast as part of the original lineup. I have several issues with the X-men trilogy, more so on the criminal under-use of several important mutants. But I am all aboard for this one.

The trailer was great, the cast is amazing and its directed by Matthew Vaughn who directed the kickass Kick-Ass. See what I did there? I used kickass as an adjective and a noun. Yes, I am awesome that way.

4) Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara aka Running with the Bulls

Hrithik Roshan, Abhay Deol and Farhan Akhtar in one movie!! Directed by the lady who brought us a modern day classic in the form of "Luck By Chance" - Zoya Akhtar. I am soo there. Apparently they wanted Ranbir and Imran alongside Hrithik but they refused. Their loss. I have said it before and I will say it again. The Akhtar family is the most genuinely talented family in Bollywood. They are so good they radiate talent. I am sure their Gardeners and Cooks are Horticultural and Culinary geniuses just because of their physical proximity to the Akhtars.

5) Don 2

All that has me rooting for these two movies is just the photos that have been released. I really think these 2 films could be fun. My curiosity is definitely piqued. WHile I was not a big fan of the Don remake (though a big fan of AB's Don) I am very interested to know where this is going. Random Access ONE aka Ra.One is directed by an awful director. Anubhav Sinha did Cash and Kites. But the one sheet has me really really intrigued.

"Cash meri aankhon main, cash meri baahon main... "

Bet you will have the song stuck in your head all day now.

6) My Idiot Brother/Wanderlust/Bridesmaids/Bad Teacher

2010 was a slow year for the Apatow Camp, with only Get him to the Greek coming out. This year we have a Trifecta plus one. I dont think My Idiot Brother has anything to with Judd Apatow, but by the "Apatow Camp" I mean any films he produces/directs or those which star the posse of actors who he made famous. For eg , I Love You, Man is a movie from the "Apatow Camp" even though Judd Apatow or his beard had nothing to do with it. Bridesmaids and MIB have been really well received at festivals and I know Wanderlust cant be bad. I know that! KNOW IT! Also, go watch the hilarious Bad Teacher trailer if you haven't.

7) Scream 4

The Scream trilogy was a lot of fun, Randy the movie nerd was such an awesome character. Although there wasn't any actual need for a fourth movie, the trailer was fun, all the old players are back and there's a whole new addition of PYTs who get "gut like a fish". And hey it would be great to hear "Hello Sydney" in Ghostface's voice on the big screen.

8) Sucker punch

The trailer looks like a Rock-your-pants-rollicking-good time. Coming off from 300 and Watchmen , I would follow Mr.Snyder to the ends of the world. Well he is working on the next Superman which I am willing to bet a $1000 bucks is going to be absofrigginlutely amazing. But I still cant get my head around the silly looking and silly titled owl movie he did. You know, The legend of the Guardians: the Owls of Ga-hoole. The movie looks stupid but its got some solid reviews. Gotto watch it some time. Even though it looks silly. OK, I already said that.

9) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt II

If DH Pt I was the Beginning of the end. I guess this is the End of the End. Though the "Book is always better than the movie" rule holds true, I have found myself rather enjoying them ever since Voldemort attained a corporeal form. The half blood prince and DH PtI I really liked and more so because of how well the lovely friendship between Hermoine and Harry was portrayed. The scene in DH Pt1 when Ron's run off and they are all alone in the tent with no idea what to do, Harry puts on some music and they slow dance. Makes me go "Awwww". Bring DH Pt II on. I am all for it.

NOTE to the Universe: I don't ever say "Awwww" in real life. If I have and can't recall it, I would go back in time and slap my face just before I were to say it.

NOTE 2: "O, Children" By Nick Cave is the song, they dance to

10) Agent Vinod

The Return of Sriram Raghavan. After directing gems like Ek Hasina thi and Johnny Gaddar, where did he run off to? This has been in the making for a long long time. But its here, Finally. And i just love the movie title. Its simple yet intriguing.

I think Sriram is an awesome name, one that only Tmaizhans and Gultis seem to propogate.

11) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

With The Departed and the Infernal Affairs, I faced the dilemma of which to watch first. Ultimately I went with The Departed followed by the IA trilogy but they were all awesome pieces of cinema and I didnt feel cheated. Now I face the same problem. Should I read the book, watch the Swedish movie or wait for Fincher's version. I guess I will wait for Hollywood. Being able to watch it on the big screen is definitely the motivation.

12)The Immortal

We don't know this now, but when the trailer for this film will finally release , I am sure facebook and the internet in general would be set on fire. It will be a visual masterpeice. Exquisite images transformed into moving pictures. Something only Tarsem Singh is capable of as seen in The Cell and The Fall. You could just watch the trailer for The Fall all day long and not get bored. That 2 minute cut contains more class and talent than half of what comes out of Hollywood. The only downside is The Immortal stars Frieda Pinto. But its got Rourke and the new superman as well.

Also wanna watch: We bought a zoo, Contagion, Thor (Go Kenneth Branagh!), Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Premium Rush, Hangover 2, Super 8, The Sitter, The Big Year, Captain America,Larry Crowne, The Beaver (I am predicting an Oscar nod for Gibson)

Intrigued: Green Lantern (the costume looks really silly and the trailer didn't do much for me) , Tower Heist, Fright Night, Now

Sunday, March 13, 2011

How Good I am!!

Let me just tell you how good I am.

  • So I was just thinking to myself how good a director Sriram Raghavan is. Johnny Gaddar and Ek Hasina Thi are some of the best Bollywood movies of the last decade.
  • Then I think how good Ashwini Khalsekar was in Johnny Gaddar. She is the actress who played Inspector Asha in CID.
  • Then I realize the guy who played Ins. Daya was also in Johnny Gaddar.
  • And that Ins.Abhijeet was in Ek Hasina Thi as Saif Ali Khan's friend.
  • Ergo Sriram Raghavan definitely had something to do with CID. I run over to imdb and sure as hell, Herr Raghavan directed several episodes of CID.
That's how good I am!!

Should we expect ACP Pradyuman to show up in Agent Vinod

If Bollywood were Hollywood we would have seen CID: The Movie long ago!