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Hollywood pains: Clash of the Titans

No human worth his brains would ever look to Hollywood for true stories. That place has the licence to take any tale and twist it into whatever shape that feels profitable. Whether it is the glaring historical discrepancies in Kingdom of Heaven and The Last Samurai, or the sheer mindboggling audacity of Armageddon to give entire branches of science the finger, Box-Office Blockbusters have always battered against the minds of those who know better. Yet, when Anubis gets an impromptu promotion in the Mummy as the God of the Underworld, we keep watching because the chemistry between Brendon Fraser and Rachel Weisz is so classically cliché that it reminds us of the good old days. It makes us forget about Osiris, the real God of the Underworld. We forget that to say Anubis is the God of the Underworld is like saying our daroan is the master of our house. We ignore the ridiculously hopeful and censored ending of the Trojan War because Eric Bana makes one badass Hector. But then, there're some things that one just cannot accept. Included among them is Clash of the Titans, most probably because there's nothing there to distract us from our cynical criticism. Kids, spoiler alert.

For starters, the movie title is totally off kilter. All through the movie, there's not a single instance of titans fighting each other. They are busy killing the stupid humans. The silliest line from the movie is, “We'll use one titan against the other.” Well, they don't. They cut off the head of Medusa and use it against Cetos. That's not using someone. In order to use someone, their head must still be attached to the body. And they have to be alive.

You may notice we said Cetos, not Kraken. Probably because Kraken is a Scandinavian sea monster, not Greek. The time period in question [long time before the birth of Christ] is when the Scandinavians were still-hunting elk in the forest. This is what happens when you put Johnny Depp and a whole host of others in a movie as confusing and daft as Dead Man's Chest. Everybody comes out of the theatre totally retarded and then makes stupid mistakes like calling Cetos Kraken.

One of the distinguishing aspects of the story of Perseus is that he gets the girl and lives happily ever after. That girl is Andromeda, the princess of Ethopia. And he doesn't do all this heroic stuff to beat the daylights out of the Gods [as if!]. He does it to save his mother. Andromeda just happens to be on the way and he saves her. Io doesn't even feature in the actual Myth. And she is played by Gemma Arterton, who, hot though she is, doesn't have too many expressions. From the beginning to the end, they've got the story all wrong.

One could go on to elaborate further on the futility of the philosophy on display. Perseus refuses to accept the gifts given by the Gods [a magic sword and a Pegasus] saying he wants to do things as a man. Of course, he doesn't hesitate to take a golden drachma from his dad Zeus when the latter tosses the coin at him. “Oh, I won't take the tools, oh no! Cause I wanna be a man! Stand on my own two feet! Just hand me the money, will ya?”

We understand that it is tough to make a movie from a game or a book. But this is a myth. The story is short and doesn't have as much detail to cover as a book. It shouldn't be horribly taxing to keep true to the original legend.

Of course, all this is never going to really make us stop going to the movies, or actually make us stop for a second and consider the pagan blasphemy that Hollywood is regularly and blithely demonstrating. How many people really thought about the name “Titanic” when the ship or the movie was made? The name was meant to signify power, strength and a challenge to the Gods. Codswallop. The Gods are the children of the Titans. It was the Gods that revolted against the Titans, not the other way around. By rights the rebellious name of Titanic should be Godly. But I digress.

By Dr Who

Book Review

Q and A

Now, before you wear out your soles looking for this book, you should know that, these days, it is published as the more familiar 'Slumdog Millionaire', a change that your humble reviewer finds inappropriate on three counts. First, our exceptional narrator, Ram Mohammad Thomas, spends all of 6 months out of his 18 years in a slum. Second, it's a billion, not a million, with which he makes television history. Third, while 'Slumdog Millionaire' is pretty straightforward as one boy's rags-to-riches love story jazzed up against the backdrop of modern India, Vikas Swarup's 'Q and A' is a million stories, a million little star-catching fragments of India's reality which, seen through the life of one witness, lends a sense of the fantastic to the whole.

Too many winners on a quiz show are the last thing its producers want, especially when a billion is at stake. So when a young waiter from Mumbai makes it to the last question on Who Will Win a Billion, what he finds waiting for him is a jail cell and torture unless he confesses to have cheated. However, just as Ram Mohammad Thomas feels his luck has run out, a mysterious young woman claiming to be his lawyer comes to his rescue, in return for listening to his side of the story.

Ram jumps back and forth along his timeline to tell his tale and those of a rising urban India. From an idyllic childhood that abruptly ends when his foster father, a priest, is brutally murdered, he is pulled into the whirlwind of city life and all its horror and beauty. Traversing the different strata of society, he stumbles upon skeletons in celebrity closets; practices an Australian accent in the home of an expatriate dabbling in espionage, finds friendship in the underground begging industry, falls in love and does quite a bit of running. In between, he discovers who wrote “Love's Labours Lost”, the inventor of the revolver, India's highest military honour and what happens when a diplomat is declared persona non grata; all and more of which slowly catapult him to his life's pivotal climax.

In an endearing medley of the voices of the candid child, brazen adolescent and mature adult, Swarup's story is, at once, personal and objective. He tells it like it is and, while you'll find it an easy read, Swarup does not sugar-coat the ugly realities of child abuse, prostitution, social snobbery and violence. Instead, his characters, often stereotypical of their class, are lifelike enough with their personal plights to demonstrate the inequality and injustice that they either resign themselves to or try to fight against. His occasional cynicism, though, is offset by that timeless message that the essence of life knows no hierarchy; that happiness can be found waiting outside communal toilets and in red-light areas whilst even Bollywood belles might never experience it.

Family drama, star-studded tragedy, voodoo (yes, you read that correctly), red-light romance the sheer eventfulness of Ram's life leaves one overwhelmed at times. It's a lot to squeeze into 300 pages mapping eighteen years, so the anticlimactic ending might leave you disappointed. Barring that, though, Q and A is a scintillating read, a tumultuous, emotive painting of a city and its people that is real and surreal at the same time.

By Risana Nahreen Malik

TV Trauma

Turning on the tube on Eid could prove to be an excruciating experience this time like previous years, if you are watching a local channel. The local channels have as usual prepared a long list of programs and those are sure to give you a painful viewing experience if you are foolish enough to watch all of them. Below are three aspects of the tube you should avoid this Eid, for your own benefit:

Ad Frenzy: Eid provides a lucrative opportunity to local TV channels to add to their already overflowing coffers, and as a result the special programs tailor-made to give you some quality entertainment are the major victims of this crass commercialisation. Upon turning on the TV you are bound to witness a continuous stream of advertisements that you have been watching for the last few years, with little slices of programs sandwiched in between the ads. It's more like you are there to watch the ads, with minuscule sprinkles of programs scattered here and there to prevent you from succumbing to slumber courtesy of uninterrupted monotony.

Your ocular armour comes in the form of 'synchronised' slumbers. As soon as the ads return, set the alarm to go off ten minutes later and take a catnap. Waking up ten minutes later you will find you haven't missed a second of the program you were watching ten minutes earlier.

Bothering Bulletins: It’s almost 11: 30 PM and you are finally enjoying an Eid special program in a private satellite channel when a boring BTV bulletin gate crashes into your amusement plans. For more than 15 minutes, you will have to listen to two newscasters rhapsodise about how your favourite politicians are spending their valuable time this Eid and where they performed their Eid prayers. That is, if you are foolish enough to not navigate away to another channel, which is not forced to telecast BTV bulletins or turn off the TV and wait for the bulletin to end.

BTV menace: If you are leaving Dhaka this Eid and going to a place where coverage of cable TV is not present, it's simply better to not turn on the tube at all. Watching BTV programs staged in ancient sets and settings with substandard story lines sans Ittayadi, is not a good option unless you want to spoil your Eid. Then the outdoors should provide a more enjoyable Eid.

By Nayeem Islam



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