Movies and I

(read a lot of movie related blogs in the last few days, hence this one. in case a movie post is mandatory in blogdom)

I am not a movie addict! I watch less than 5 movies in a month, most of them on HBO or Star Movies. So I am not even a regular movie-goer or watcher. Yet, there are a few movies or parts of them that I've liked and wouldn't mind watching over and over again. A few of these are listed here.

Forrest Gump :-

A completely down-to-earth movie. Nothing spectacular but its simplicity enraptured me. Tom Hanks is fantastic in the movie.

Kill Bill Vol 1 & 2 :-

Pulp. Loved the unique narration and cinematography. Fascinating work.

Aladdin :-

Excellent animated movie. Must be the one that made the animation genre mainstream. Great music as well.

Dennis the menace :-

Have been a Dennis fan for long. The movie was an absolute laughalympics. The kid was brilliant and Walter Matthau the perfect grumpy Mr. Wilson.

The Pianist :-

Heart-wrencing true story of a pianist - Wladyslaw Szpilman- caught in the holocaust. Adrien Brody's rendition was inch perfect. Hugely depressing movie, but excellent in all aspects.

E.T. :-

Steven Speilberg. Do you need to say more? Yep, Drew Barrymore. I would watch the movie a hundred times to watch the brilliantly cute li'l Barrymore in the movie. And ofcourse for E.T. , too. "E.T. phone home..."

The Fast and the Furious :-

For the cars, especially Vin Diesel's 9-sec Mustang (was that a Mustang?). And the really cool way the cars were used in the heists. Only for the thrills.

Mission Impossible 2 :-

Only for the final bike chase sequence. Mind blowing, typical John woo.

Broken Arrow :-

Classical John Woo action movie. Ultra-cool Travolta.

The Matrix :-

Confusingly good sci-fi movie. Only for sci-fi buffs.

Shrek :-

Brilliant facial animations. The donkey (eddie murphy) rules. "Are we there yet?"

There must be a few more hidden in the cob-webbed sections of my brain. Will jot them as and when they choose to show themselves.

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eight hundred, seventy five kms : Day 3

I woke up at 05:00 with an overwhelming need to take a leak and found the bathroom occupied. :( Raj was already up and taking a bath. I was ready by 05:45 and woke up the rest of the gang. This time around most of them got up without a fight. Thanks to Vivek's persuasive and determined efforts. ;-)

Everybody was up and running by 06:45. The farmhouse owner too opined that the Somwarpet route was the best and it was. The road was super smooth and full of interesting twisties and awesome views. The morning was cool and it was a pleasure to be on the bike. I was loving every bit of it. Sharan was still shaken by the last day's incident and so we took it real slow. This gave me the opportunity to enjoy the road like never before. We took a few leak stops and photo stops. Though we were not ripping, we made surprisingly good progress. All thanks to the wonderful road. I thanked the policeman for putting us on the right track.

Before 09:00 we had covered a lot of ground and reached a place called Shanivarasanthe. An old man there told us of a place called Bisle Ghat. He said that it had some nice views and a waterfall. The gang was gung-ho when they heard this. This was a deviation from our route and would add an extra 60kms (ended up being more than that). Raj and Sharan were apprehensive about this. I thought - "What the heck! That's a good reason to do some extra riding". The roads were not great but like always not-so-great road meant some wonderful riding.

We ended up riding for a long time without getting to the waterfall and when we did reach the waterfall, we missed it completely. :) The lonely road took us through a forest and it felt great to bike through that place. We decided not to return to Shanivarpet and instead follow that road to the Mangalore-Hassan-Bangalore highway (NH48). I was more than happy to do that.

After a few tens of kms, we got to the road that would take us to NH48. This road was a speed track. Amazingly sticky and very new. We were overjoyed and rode in the 100s. It was mindblowing. We came across a river and the guys wanted to take a dip. Raj, Sharan and I told them to catch up with us in Hassan and continued on. We were on the ghat section of NH48. The road was perfect and beckoning, but unfortunately Sharan's bike was overloaded and we had to take it slow in the 50s and 60s.

Once off the ghat section and into the plains, Sharan's Discover opened up and we were gobbling up the distance in the 100s again. At 14:00 we were at the outskirts of Hassan. We had slowed down and cruising in the 80s when two guys on Royal Enfield Thunderbirds thundered past cruising at 100+ kmph. I was awe-inspired by this and instantly fell a great love for the TBirds. It was nothing to do with the so-called bullet "charm" or its cult image. It was just the way the bike seemed to be nonchalantly crusing at those high speeds. If I don't find the new bikes, that are expected soon, good enough I might end up getting a TBird.

The three of us found a dhaba outside Hassan and pulled in for lunch. The others were nowhere to be seen and their mobiles were not reachable. We waited for a while and finally got a call from them. We were told that Vivek's bike had some problems and he had to get another carburettor job done. We finished our lunch and when the guys had still not arrived we moved on.

It was mid-afternoon and we pushed as hard as we could. Sharan has a problem riding at night and so we had to get to the outskirts of Bangalore by dark. We took rest stops every 40-45 minutes. Raj's bike was still being run-in and needed occasional cooling. We reached Nelamangala before dark. We had initially planned to take a long break there, but with a little more sunlight available we decided to use it. We were within city limits before 19:00. But with city traffic and having to ask for directions it was 20:00 when we got to the Raj's room or rather his ex-room.

The other guys had been ripping real hard and got home by 20:45. It hadn't been Vivek's bike. It had been Santosh and Sandeep who had gotten into some gravel and had a small fall. The bike's crash guard had come off. No damage to either of them. After exchanging small talk, Sharan and I said our goodbyes and keep-in-touches and headed home at around 21:30.

I got home with a take-away dinner. It had been a great three days. The summer was bearing down upon us and this might be the last ride for a long time to come. The memories were still vivid and I went to sleep thinking about the great time I had had. I would get back into the battleground the next day, completely refreshed.

The bike had been excellent on this trip. Thanks to Venkat's Auto Service (esp. Reddy the mechanic) for the excellent work. It did everything that was expected of it and a little more. The bike was at its smoothest and I fell in love with the bike all over again. I will have to give it up to make way for an upgrade. Probably a thunderbird. But I will never forget the wonderful trips we made together, the great roads that we admired together and the adrenaline rush that we felt time and again.

The roads will call again sometime and I am waiting.

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eight hundred, seventy five kms : Day 2

Woke up to a beautiful morning around 06:00. Vivek was already up. We got to the task of waking up the rest of the gang. Most of them must have cursed us for that :D. The owners of the house were very kind people. They gave us coffee and even allowed us to use their bathroom to save time. The plan for that day was to visit a place called Talacauvery. This is where the River Cauvery is supposed to originate. Cauvery is a major river in South India and caters to the agricultural and daily needs of millions. It is also the cause of some shameful fights amongst the South Indian states.

The roads were not very good but made some great riding through the hills. Sharan was trying out the Unicorn and stalled the engine when taking a curve. Another bike on the opposite lane had to swerve to avoid hitting him. Sharan was a bit unnerved by that. So the two of us rode slowly but steadily. Talacauvery is a religious centre and being a person without a religious lean it was awfully uninteresting. To add to the woes, inspite of my instincts I climbed some hot stone stairs to reach a "view" point and successfully scorched my feet.

We rode back to a place called Bhagamandala in search of the meeting point of three rivers. Disappointing is too small a word to describe the place. We expected some forceful water flow, but nothing like that seemed to exist. The place was unclean and very commercialised. Lunch was packed from a hotel and it was fun to sit around and eat under some trees. Some of the folks decided to take a dip in whatever water was present. I lay down in the grass to relax a bit.

Around dusk we got back to the house to dump some bags. We planned to do some seeing around the town. First we headed to the golf grounds in Madikeri. Surprisingly these grounds were open to the public unlike the usual elitilist clubs. It was dark when we got there, so we could do nothing but sit and chat on the golf grass. The place was awesome even in the night. Miles of open space spread out between a few hills. Next stop was Raja's Seat in Madikeri. This is a point from where we can look out at the hills that surround Madikeri. It is famous for its sunset view, but we were too late for that. We got to spend only 10 minutes before closing time.

Finished up our dinner at the same restaurant (Choice). We had to ask around about route options for the return trip. People seemed to have conflicting ideas about the best route. One route that we were dead against was the path through Mysore. The Mysore-Bangalore road is a nightmare with construction going on throughout the stretch. I went off to fill up fuel. A policeman that we met at the fuel station recommended that we take the Madikeri -Somwarpet -Hassan -Bangalore road. One set of people had told us that this road was bad. So we were in a dilemma. But the policeman was absolutely confident about the road and said that it was newly laid and very good though it had a lot of curves and twisties.

Some of the gang wanted to do some site-seeing during the return leg, a place called Nisargadhama. I was absolutely against it. With the way our site-seeings had gone, I didn't think it was worth it. It was an usual conflict of ideas. Raj's friends were the site seeing kind of tourists, while Raj, Sharan and I were the ride-ride-and-ride kind. Somehow we managed to convince the folks to drop the idea. It was decided to take the route that the policeman told us about.

We reached home around 22:00 that night. I decided to pack up for the return ride and later got into bed for another sound sleep. We planned to leave as early as we possibly could.

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eight hundred, seventy five kms : Day 1

Biking trip: March 25, 2005 to March 27, 2005
Destination: Madikeri (Coorg).
Numbers: 6 bikes and 9 people.
Bikes: 2002 Bajaj Pulsar 180, Bajaj Pulsar 180 DTSi UGII, Bajaj Pulsar 150, Bajaj Discover (125cc), Honda Unicorn, Hero Honda CBZ.

In the end, I ended up riding to a place called Madikeri, which is a hill-station.
The plan changed on Thursday night. Vamsi's back ache aggravated and so he couldn't make it to the ride. Raj suggested that we join some of his friends who were biking to Madikeri (Coorg). As usual the destination was not important for me and I decided to join. Sharan too opted in.

After the last minute plan changes, got a good night's sleep. Woke up on Friday morning at 04:00. Got to Venkat's place by 05:15 to meet up with Sharan and Raj. We then met up with Raj's friends (Vivek, Santosh, Sandeep, Sachin, Vinod and Praveen). They were six guys on 3 bikes. By about 06:30 we were outside Bangalore cruising towards Shravanabelagola. This road, part of the Bangalore-Mangalore highway, is perfect. I was cruising at 90kmph. Not a bounce, not a shake.

We were in Shravanabelagola around 09:30. This is approx. 150 kms from Bangalore, so we were averaging about 50kmph with breaks. Good progress. Shravanabelagola is known for its very huge statue of Gomateshwara. We had to climb hundreds of steps to reach the shrine. Very tiring. After walking back down, we had a huge breakfast of idlis, vadas, dosas and lemon juice.

Around 11:30, we decided to start riding. That's when the good luck changed. Somebody guided us to a "short" route to reach Madikeri. The road was bad. Then we took a wrong turn somewhere and were soon off-roading. We lost count of the time and the distance we were on that road. I was thoroughly enjoying it even though I knew my back was going to scream that night. To add to this, Vivek's bike started to misfire and sometimes just stopped running. It was slow progress until we reached some better roads. We stopped for lunch at the next town and Vivek's bike got a carburettor job. The food was horribly spicy and the service was at snail pace.

We were still looking for the state highway - the promised land. I saw it from a few kms away and I was so happy to see the road. Off-roading is fun for a while, but not for too long and definitely not when the sun decides to beat down upon you. :) Once on this road - narrow, twisty but good - we started to make good progress. It was great fun to ride on that road.

By 17:30, we were at our next target, Kushal Nagar. After some phone calls to various hotels in Madikeri, we chanced upon somebody with a farm-house, who agreed to rent out a couple of rooms to us. With the accomodation part settled, we headed out to a Buddhist settlement in a nearby place called Bylakupe. The Namdrolling Monastery houses within it a beautiful Buddhist temple called the Golden Temple. The monastery is a very peaceful place with a garden and several buddhist artifacts.

It was dark by the time we left the place. The road to Madikeri was full of twisties and made riding difficult in the dark. We took it real slow and easy. We were gaining altitude and the cool weather helped us relax. We were in Madikeri by 20:30. Vinod went to check out the farm-house, while Vivek went around looking for rooms in hotels as backup. Vinod gave the go-ahead for the farm house, but because it was in an interior location we finished our dinner at a restaurant close by. Dinner was good and our taste-buds and stomachs were satisfied. It was a little after 22:00 that we reached the house. Yes, it was in an interior place, away from the bustle of the town. A very calm and serene place. After dumping the luggage and washing up, we sat around chatting. Sometime during the chat, I dozed off. Wonderfully peaceful sleep.

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On the road tomorrow...

Yep. The 3-Day Weekend (3DW) starts tomorrow and I'll be on the road by 05:30. Fellow riders are: Vamsi (Eliminator), Raj (180DTSi 2005) and Sharan (Discover).

We have some tentative plans on hand. But like all rides, these plans are subject to improvisation. We expect to reach coastal karnataka by evening, tomorrow. Mangalore seems easily achievable, but I would love to go a little further and get to the Maravanthe beach. But we wouldn't ride beyond 18:00. So, wherever we are at 17:30 or 18:00 would be our night-stay place. Preferably a place with a beach. :)

Again on day two, we *attempt* to reach Kodachadri (a hill station in the Shimoga district). Kodachadri is a trekking place, but we plan to do no trekking. Too much exertion and a definite no-no on a biking trip. Plan to have a complete chillax day.

Day three, the return home ride. We might try some supposedly scenic routes that would take us through the NH13. Nice curvy roads are the promise for the day!

Look out for the trip log sometime later. Ciao for now.

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mood... ecstatic

There you are waiting for things to happen. Waiting and waiting, impatiently. You are looking everywhere for a chance to make it happen. Then, out of the blue, it just happens - without any conscious action from you. Some chance remark, some chance gesture and somebody makes it happen for you.

How great an impact some things have? They would be so minute that you would have missed them, if not for the big wave that they created. A wave that engulfs you and changes your life in a million different ways. Leaving behind a feeling of serenity, a peace that's unfathomable. All's well and the world is now a more wonderful place.

I won't make much sense to you. That's because I am grinning ear-to-ear. I am grinning because I came to know of something super-fantastically-fabulous, that actually happened yesterday. Don't ask me what! It's a secret for now.....

Damn, I am so happy I could be floating in space. :-D

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Ferrari.. we still have the trust.

2 races and just 10 points. Michael has only two points. Barrichello is better off at 8. The season start has been disappointing. With rumours and predictions of MC's possible retirement, things are not the way the fans would have liked. It is very clear that Ferrari is struggling at this point.

Renault seems to have found amazing form this year and Red Bull has emerged a surprise. Like Steve said on Star Sports, Ferrari seems to have misread the competition this season. Ferrari has almost always introduced their new cars a little way into the season. In the last few seasons, the previous year's cars have been more competitive than the new cars of the other teams. Not so this time around.

The F2005 might turn things around for Ferrari. But that is not a given fact. As Schumacher stated, the F2005 will not be a magic remedy. The team has called for improvements and work in a number of areas. Tyres seem to be a major bone of contention.

Did the new regulations catch Ferrari off guard? Will the F2005 prove competitive? Will it be reliable enough? Will Ferrari retain the constructor's title? And the big one of them all - Will MC win the championship yet again?

There are millions of the scarlet fans praying. For us, win or loss, Ferrari will always symbolise a legend, a legend of speed and beauty. Ferrari, we trust your greatness. Ferrari rules. Amen!

P.S.: Will the jealous critics (I would've liked to use some choice words here....) now say Renault are ruining f1 with their dominance? They will never, because these lowly people always want to tarnish only the greatest. Simply because it's a greatness they'll never know.

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The 550kms sunday

A 3-day weekend is looming - the "Good Friday" weekend from March 25-27. The bike was scheduled for a tightening up but needed 500 more kms on the odometer. The 3DW would too good to miss, for a ride. That meant that it was absolutely essential to put in 400 kms asap. The initial schedule was for Saturday, but I hadn't been feeling 'good' for the last few days and I gave up on Saturday. On Sunday, I was determined and raring to go. Woke up at 4:45 and was out of the gates before 5:30. I put my bike on the side stand and had just walked up to close the gate, when the bike toppled over. Cursed my carelessness first, then thought - "God, no problem as long as the bike doesn't fall when I am riding". It looked to me like the handle bar was no longer straight, but I think it was a purely psychological fear.

Right or wrong, I was on the road. The idea was to ride along the Old Madras Road (NH 4), and probably turn back at Chittoor. A colleague had also put into my mind the option of Tirupathi. That looked like too much distance though. It was so great to be on the road and watch dawn break through. The sun lit up the earth in a golden hue. It was enchanting. The lovely road added to the effect. People rightly say that Nirvana is only a arms reach away.

I surprised myself with the times I made. Whenever I stopped and took a look at the time, it seemed a lot less than what I expected it to be. I had estimated that I would reach Chittoor around noon, but I found myself just outside the town by 9:30 or so. That's when I spotted the board marking the deviation to Tirupati. After a quick calculation, I decided to take the deviation. The first few kms (a tolled bye-pass road !!!) were pathetic. Then the road became better and finally when I took another turn onto the road that lead straight to Tirupati, it was mind boggling. There were sections of this road marked with a 100kmph speed limit. Amazing.

Tirupati was a long distance away and I planned to turn back whenever I thought it was time. But I found myself in Tirupati by 11:00, no I think it was earlier than that. Tirumala lured me, it was just 22kms off. The problem was that it was all uphill and there was too much traffic headed that way. So I decided to turn back. I took a forest-like route to get back onto the Tirupati-Chittoor "super-road". By 12:30 I was back on the NH4 and eating rotis and butter chicken at a dhaba. I was back on the road by 13:30. With a few butt stops and crawling thorugh Bangalore traffic for 45 minutes, I was at home at 16:30.

11 hours and 550kms on the road. I was tired, but an hour and a half long sleep brushed off the tiredness. Taking away a conservative 1 hour in total stoppage time and a very pessimistic 50kms in tripmeter error, I had averaged 50km/hr. Pretty good I should say.

P.S.: The bike was serviced at Venkat's yesterday and it is good to go for the 3WD.

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I used to be a voracious reader. Book, magazines, newspapers, flyers, English text books. They were all the same to me - material to read. I don't know when this began exactly. It is such a surprising thing that we never can remember the exact moment or period of time, when something good happens. I think I got into the reading habit around my 4th and 5th standards/grades.

I had moved into a new school for my fourth grade. I remember one incident very clearly. Somebody used the word "wound" and I had no inkling about what that meant. I did know injury, injured and other words, but not "wound". I couldn't even spell it. I managed to find all about the word later, probably from a friend or my teacher. I am pretty convinced that it was this incident that drove me towards reading.

Fortunately, the new school (though in a very remote town) had a good enough library for my age and it was open to us. That's where it all started. We weren't allowed to take the books home, initially. So every evening, after school hours, a group of us would crowd into the cramped room and read on and on. Of course, at that age it was Enid Blytons, Nancy Drews and other kid adventures. We were so much a part of the library itself that we started to help out with arranging books and running small errands for the library. Voila! A select few were allowed to take the books home. This put me into high gear. As soon as I finished my homework, I would descend down into the books. Nothing could wrench me away. I would read while eating, when watching television and on the bed.

I spent hours poring over the newspaper everyday. I read every column, every news-bit. I would exhaust the English text books of friends and cousins. That was how bad the reading fever was.

I drove my mom crazy. She couldn't believe that somebody could concentrate so much on reading. Oftentimes, I wouldn't hear her talking to me and this would agitate her to no end. And I had this habit of reading in whatever light I had available. Everyone warned me that my eyesight would be in trouble. But I heeded none. Books remained a major part of my life until I was out of school. I had by then progressed to Stephen King, Frederick Forsyth and even a few Shakespeare's. My major interest had been in everything remotely related to detective work - spies and detectives clearly the favourites.

I discovered horror/thriller quite by accident. My first horror movie "Evil Dead" left me feeling nauseated if nothing else. I couldn't stand seeing a pencil digging into somebody's face. But somehow, I convinced myself to pick up "The Exorcist", the book. This was during a vacation stay at a cousin's place. He introduced me to a rather good lending library close to home and I immediately took out a membership. I visited the library every four days, clutching back 5 or 6 books each time. "The Exorcist" was a huge volume and it fascinated me. Ofcourse, I wasn't able to get myself to read the book at night. That book took me into the realm of the likes of Stephen King and Dean Koontz. I don't know which my first King was. Nevertheless, I remain to this day a huge fan, a big-big fan of Stephen King.

During my days in engineering college, I was on and off the reading wagon. The glory days of rapid-fire reading were over. It wasn't until I got out of college that I took up a few "serious" books - Pirsig, Ayn Rand and the likes. Philosophy, if you please.

Here I am now. A sober reader. Not a book-junkie, but with a definite liking towards books. Yes, reading have been a great companion.

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