[acoustic cover] throw it in the bag by fabolous feat. the dream

It’s been more than 4 months since I posted my last acoustic cover–Drake and Lil Wayne’s HYFR, so I figured it was a good time as any to start doing them again. Actually, it was a better time than any because I tore my ACL last week and now I am basically trying to stay off my feet as much as possible (something I may delve into in an independent post, later). Instead of complaining and feeling depressed about being half a man (or rather, instead of doing that even more) I decided to take advantage of the time to record a few covers I’ve been working on.

This song is pretty old–Throw It In The Bag–and I remember listening to it when I first started working, in 2009. I actually had no idea who The Dream was before one of my co-workers told me about him being some big head honcho of music production, or something. I still really don’t have a clue who he is. I think this was Fabo’s one-hit wonder because I haven’t heard anything by him of late.

Word of warning: this was recorded after several beers in a hot, May BBQ party so I was in quite a happy place. What this means is that I swear a lot. So if you are offended by that, don’t watch. Enjoy!

[youtube k5E9B8gv20w nolink]

[acoustic remix] i’m on one

Here’s the first acoustic remix that I’m officially posting to this blog. An acoustic remix is my way of describing a really poorly prepared song where I recorded the rhythm guitar, the vocals, the beat and a lead guitar section on separate channels and pretended that they sounded good together. I’ve got a few up on SoundCloud already, but they are mostly crappy because I was trying to figure out how to use this microphone I bought. They’ll get incrementally better, but don’t expect them to get all that good.

So here goes. This is I’m On One by DJ Khaled featuring Drake, Rick Ross (the boss) and Lil’ Wayne. There are a lot of expletives/profanity in this song so if you don’t like that, don’t listen. I didn’t come up with the lyrics, I just regurgitated them much like a person with a stomach virus regurgitates any food that doesn’t settle nicely. It sounds pretty similar, at the very least.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/25798209″ params=”show_comments=true&auto_play=false&color=cc0000″ width=”100%” height=”81″ ]

taxes and technology

I don’t think I’ve griped about my iPod Touch potentially dying last week. Apparently my iPod freaked out when I plugged it into my entertainment center last weekend to play some Ke$ha (yes, this was probably my mistake). The iPod was unsyncable through iTunes for some reason and since we had people over and I didn’t really feel like troubleshooting, I let YouTube and my collection of music on the hard disk take over. Later last week I took my iPod into work to listen to some music. Unfortunately, it would play only one song. I repeat, only one song. At the end of the song, I’d hear approximately 0.83 seconds of the next song and then the music app quit.

Any other app I opened did not work either. Just boot up and shut down immediately. I did a reboot on the system a couple of times and there was no improvement. Finally, I got the chance this weekend to try and figure out what the problem was. When I plugged the iPod in, it told me I needed to update my software. When trying to update my software, it said that it could not backup my profile. I had all my music on my computer and all my apps are on my iPhone now so I thought, what the hell, let’s just do a full-scale restore operation. Restore failed. A couple of times.

Luckily I was watching TV at the time (I think Modern Family or The Office or maybe even an NBA game or something) so I had the patience to keep trying. Finally, the restore went through. However, it then promptly hung when I tried to name my iPod (configuring it as a brand new device). I quit iTunes forcefully and upon restarting, it gave me the “Cannot Sync” message, forcing me to restore it again. I had to do about 2-3 clean restores before I was finally able to configure the device to work (I think). Once I finally managed to name my iPod (going with the generic sohum’s iPod instead of something as exciting as sohummm or maybe even iSohum) I decided that I had had enough of iTunes.

Fortunately for me, I had stumbled upon an article a couple of weeks ago about how an iPod user wanted to divorce iTunes. If you recall my “iTunes kills the iPhone experience” blog, you will note that I was in much the same position (except that I would never be able to overlook iTunes’ many flaws to ever marry it in the first place). One of the alternatives was MediaMonkey, which I promptly downloaded, installed and fired up. While the interface isn’t as clean-cut as iTunes, it is infinitely more performant. It took me about 25-30 minutes to set up my sync list and then I clicked one button and it was ready to go, quietly doing its stuff in the background. The last time I tried to use iTunes to set up a new iPod with my music (my iPhone, in that case), I had to live through about 2 hours of iTunes trying to figure out whether each song in my library should be included on the “gapless” playback list before my computer was usable.

I don’t change my music all that often–just add new tunes here and there, so it seems MediaMonkey is the perfect hands-off tool for me to sync my iPod without having to deal with the crapware that is iTunes. I’m not interested in buying crippled, low bitrate music from iTunes and even if I did, I would do it directly through my iPod (if that’s possible).

Anyways, that’s the technology part of this blog. Tomorrow will be a test of whether my iPod is truly fixed or whether it was just pretending to do so.

The other thing I wanted to touch upon was taxes. Yep, tax season is coming up! While at Rice, the international student office kindly set us up with a license of the CINTAX (hilarious name, yes?) software to help us crunch the numbers. It had always seemed like such a painful and tedious process? Doing it on my own this year showed that it is actually not that complicated, especially if you have a simple financial situation, as I do. First of all, since I’m still technically a non-resident (in fact, an NR student, to be precise) I don’t really qualify for any extra deductions/exemptions. The tax treaty with India (Article 21(2) to be exact) allows me to get the standard deduction ($5,700) and my lowly income allows me to get the standard exemption ($3,650). However, this may be the final year that I will have such a simple process since next year I will be in H-1B status for part of the year, meaning that I may need to split my taxes or do something exciting like that. I will probably need to consult professional help at that point in time, but for now I am rejoicing in having solved one of those annoying life problems. 😛

Anyways, I got a lot of information from a website called VisaTaxes.com, if any of you are international students and have stumbled upon this blog because of tax season. Here are a few more keywords to hook you into this blog (is this unethical?): 1040NR, 1040NR-EZ, Form 8843. Grin. 🙂

C’est tout!

movie review: kambakkht ishq

Director: Sabbir Khan
Main Cast: Akshay Kumar, Kareena Kapoor
Supporting Cast: Aftab Shivdasani, Amrita Arora
Music: Anu Malik
RATING: 2.5/5
MUSIC: 2/5

REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!

The spelling of the title of this movie was definitely not the only problem I had with it. I’ve been misspelling the title all over the place but from the trailers, music and the like, it looked like this would be a pretty decent flick to catch as the monsoon season has finally come around. Sadly, I was wrong.

This movie had many bright spots, but they were overshadowed by periods of dullness or repitivity. Let me break it down into a few categorie:

Plot

The plot appeared to be somewhat different at first, but it soon boiled down to the standard two eventual lovers pretend like they hate each other, then each realize their folly separately and reconcile in the end. There was of course some drama surrounding it as well as a few laughs, but the story was essentially the same.

Viraj (Akshay Kumar) and Lucky (Aftab Shivdasani) are brothers in the same profession–body doubles for stunts, or “super stuntmen” as the posters around Mumbai scream. Simrita (Kareena Kapoor) and Kamini (Amrita Arora) are best friends and the havoc begins when Kamini decides to marry Lucky since she, gasp, loves him. Viraj objects to this marriage on principal, since he believes marriage is unmasculine, while Simrita has some unquantified hate for men, specifically stuntment, who she believes have no IQ. Of course, Kamini and Lucky don’t pay heed to their warnings and do the right thing, but all this achieves is the production of a ticking timebomb between Sim and Viraj.

Simrita is supposedly a super model who is a surgeon at the same time which seems entirely unfeasible but can be ignored for the sake of creativity. Her first solo surgery happens to be on Viraj, who she steadily despises over the course of the movie, and she ends up dropping a musical watch into his belly. This leads up to the best part of the movie, as Viraj ends up listening to this musical watch, which chants marriage mantras, on the hour every hour without understanding where it is coming from.

Sim, on the other hand, figures out from the x-rays that she has made a huge mistake and tries to coax Viraj into coming back for a “check-up” post-surgery. Viraj, of course, at this point hates Sim as she has ultimately convinced Kamini to divorce his brother. Instead of telling the truth at the expense of bruising her ego, Sim throws her medical morale out the window and tries to drug Viraj at several opportunities while spinning the classic Bollywood “pretending-to-love-you” story which our hapless lover happily falls for. Eventually succeeding right after Viraj proposes to her, Sim then reveals her motives to a heartbroken Viraj who then decides to marry Denise Richards, who apparently wants to have “golden babies” with him, in a knee-jerk reaction.

Lucky then succeeds in ‘opening the eyes’ of the stubborn Sim in one smooth scene where he reveals that Viraj had the chance to take advantage of her but didn’t. Apparently this is a most emotional moment for Sim, who then realizes she’s fallen in love with a total sleaze-bag who will probably dump her in a couple of years. Instead of paying heed to her brain, she runs after him and obviously everything ends happily after.

Acting

The acting could have been better. Amrita Arora does a good job acting as a dumb lingerie model. Aftab probably does the best of all the actors, while Akshay seems to be using this movie to show everyone that he does all his own stunts. Kareena’s acting is pretty good as she succeeds in convincing the audience that she’s a snob, although the script fails in bringing the best out of her. Sabbir Khan also uses a plethora of “guest actors” ranging from Javed Jaffery who plays a desi immigrant intent on suing everyone, to Boman Irani who features in one scene whose only purpose is to introduce the Om Mangalam song, to Sylvester Stallone who has been cast only so that he can stick his head into Bollywood and tell everyone how happy he is to be part of it.

General Negatives

There are many problems with this movie. The plot is very trippy and jumpy and the cast hasn’t been used properly. The advertising for this movie made a huge deal out of the Sylvester Stallone involvement whereas his involvement seems extremely forced. The plot doesn’t flow and it looks like the director has just taken a lot of pieces, such as big names, great shot locations and a decent background score, and mixed them together to produce something that is less than the sum of its parts. There was only about 15-20 minutes in this movie that I was actually entertained and for the rest of the time I was just waiting for it to move on. There are also glaring flaws in logic, such as why you would use a stunt double that looks nothing like the actual actor.

General Positives

A couple of the songs are catchy, the stunts are pretty good and there are some decent laughs provided by Javed Jaffery and Akshay Kumar in a couple of scenes. Amrita and Kareena look mostly gorgeous and ‘Bebo’s’ liplocks with Akshay are bound to cause some controversies in our tabloids. However, it again looks like the director just cues in “Kareena-in-bikini” without any consideration of where it fits into the plot. Not that I’m complaining…

Music

There is only really one good song in the soundtrack, Om Mangalam, which made a strong claim to be the title track but was beaten to the punch by a track titled Kambakkht Ishq. Otherwise, the music is stuff that only sounds good in movie but doesn’t have much scope outside it. The requisite remixes that feature in every Bollywood movie soundtrack release are also present on the CD for the clubs to play. As expected, the picturization of the songs has mostly completely interrupted the flow of the plot. Oh well…

Conclusion

All in all, this is a timepass movie that I wouldn’t pay a weekend price of Rs. 275 per ticket to watch. As it happened, I didn’t pay a dime and neither did my parents, because we got free tickets from HSBC courtesy of my dad’s premier card (along with free popcorn and a Coke, too). Wait for this one to come on television–there’s no point in getting the DVD and the star value means it should be coming to Indian television soon. 2.5 out of 5 for me.

movie review: 99

This movie, named as it is since it is based in the year 1999, was the first movie I watched in theaters after being back in India and was definitely one of the best Hindi movies I’ve seen in recent times. The movie is a comedy and features the versatile Boman Irani, Kunal Khemu (not sure if he has any other movies out) and former MTV VJ Cyrus Broacha. Boman leads the performances and really makes the movie worth watching, though, and as usual.

The movie itself revolves around a bookie in Bombay, named “AGM” (played by Mahesh Manjrekar), who happens to become associated with Sachin (Khemu) and Zaramud (Broacha) after they break into and crash his Benz while fleeing from the cops after their small-time cellphone scam was busted. This lands the two in a bunch of debt and they are then employed by AGM to pay off the debt.

Rahul (Boman Irani), meanwhile, is a foreign exchange company employee based in Delhi, who is visiting Bombay on a business trip. He has a penchant for placing bets, considering himself quite an intelligent better, although his past record and debt suggests otherwise. He ends up placing a large bet with AGM which he obviously loses, and flees to Delhi and tries to forget about it as he is paying up his other bets.

AGM ends up sending Sachin and Zaramud to Delhi to collect the debt, which results in a ton of confusion around Delhi as Rahul tries to settle one debt with another, and people collect money and end up losing it. The finale is pretty hilarious, and although predictable, still fun to watch. I will not disclose it since I recommend anyone who has not watched this movie to go ahead and do it. I’ll give it a 4.5/5.

Music

The music wouldn’t stand up by itself but it complements the movie nicely. There are a couple of songs thrown in without a real need for them, but for the most part it is decent. Delhi Destiny and Soch Na Dobara are probably the best songs in the mix and the CD features remixes of each, as well. I’ll give it a 2.5/5. I wouldn’t and won’t buy this soundtrack, but wouldn’t mind tuning into it on the radio.

movie review: aa dekhen zara

Man. I didn’t ever think a movie could get worse with every passing minute for the duration of the movie, but this movie managed to achieve that fine distinction. From beginning to end, the movie was extremely choppy and didn’t make a lot of sense. It started out with Neil Mukesh (Raj) running around in the jungle chasing after someone with a large camera. Once he ran the person into a dead-end, a bunch of blokes with guns emerged and said that you aren’t allowed to take photos in the jungle.

I have no idea what the meaning of this whole sequence was, and it was never answered in the rest of the movie. Apparently the director just needed a way to get rid of Raj’s old camera and thought that a random jungle scene with no meaning or relevance whatsoever would be better than something more straightforward, like forgetting it on a bus somewhere. Perhaps there was a reference or an allusion to something that made more sense, but if there was it went way over my head.

Anyhow, so Raj loses his camera which is pretty devastating considering the camera was about 90% of his net worth (the other 10% going into his delightfully furnished apartment… I guess the interior decorator was an old girlfriend or something). He goes to the small environmental journal that he works to try and get a loan and finds out that his grandfather has died, and has left him behind some sort of boat in his old house. In the boat he finds a key and photograph, the latter being of the location where the key can be used. How Raj has such a photographic memory of Bombay, I don’t know, but he should look into getting work with the Google Maps team. Upon opening the locker that is paired with the key, he finds a backpack with a weird compass-like thing and a camera (oh, what coincidence!). Apparently his grandad was a scientist working on some pretty nifty stuff.

It turns out this camera is super-nifty. It only takes photos of the future. You set the date to the day you want to see and then you snap a photo. And when you go ahead and develop the photo, you will see a photo of the person you snapped on the date you had set, rather than the day you took the photo. Dig? So it’s a camera that travels in time and snaps a photo. Man, that grandfather must have been a pretty smart guy. And pretty imaginative. And also addicted to drugs. Oh well… it’s supposed to be “sci-fi” so we’ll let this major suspension of logic proceed. Being that he is almost in poverty and he has the hots for Bipasha Basu (Simi) who is a DJ and lives in the building across from him and apparently likes eating expensive sandwiches at overpriced coffee shops, Raj decides to use this new possession to make some cash.

So he takes photos of the lottery, of cricket matches, of horse races, etc. Basically anything that he can gamble with. And then he starts rolling in the moolah. Apparently he took an interest to photography at a pretty early stage in life because he develops photos manually in like 10 minutes, something I know cannot be done empirically. Also, he must not have had time for school because anyone with half a brain would have realized that if you’re buying a lottery ticket from the same shop everyday and guessing the combination right and winning everyday, that there are going to be some red flags going up. But no, he does that. He also begins a streak of making money at the horse races. And of course, he never wins. And of course people notice.

To cut to the chase, he then runs away from the police and a random thug, Rahul Dev (Captain), who has been following him to Bangkok. Oh, apparently the cops in Bangkok are even more corrupt than our Indian dudes, although our Indian guy took the cake when he shot all his agents in Thailand so that he could escape with the camera. They run through Bangkok a lot and there’s a lot of gun-shooting and eventually Raj gets shot by Captain and falls into a well. He was apparently supposed to die that day because someone took a photo of him that came out developed as black, which means the person in the photo is going to die (obviously!).

But then, Raj emerges from the well and claims that since the well was so dark, the photo appeared to be black and that it was not actually black. So obviously he survives. And I think the camera took the impact of the bullet so it is destroyed (shame, it could have been used for the benefit of India, according to the movie). So Raj and Simi return to India to roll around in all the cash Raj has won through his “gambling”. And that’s the movie. And if I have decent control of my sarcasm, you would have noticed that I was not extremely impressed. I’ll rate it 1/5 because despite having a piss-poor storyline, the director still had the courage to spend his time and money to make the movie. Bad decision.

Music

The one saving grace of this movie was its music. The title track is a pretty thumping number and a remix of the old Aa Dekhen Zara song. Other honorable mentions are Gazab and Rock the Party. The music is pretty electronic which is probably why I like it. The remix of the title track is all over the radio and MTV and is probably my favourite track on the soundtrack. One funny thing is the picturization of the Gazab song. It took place when Raj and Simi were running away from Captain and the cops and happened into a bar that celebrates cop killers. Instead of continuing running, they decided to stick around and dance with the Thai owners and patrons. Oh well… logic wasn’t a strong point of the movie, was it. Music rating: 3.5/5.

movie review: billu barber

Billu Barber (since retitled to Billu because the hairdressers association of India apparently took offense, according to Wikipedia) was the first movie I saw back home in India, as long as you don’t count Dostana, which I finally watched on the plane ride back. When I had originally heard about this movie, I was quite interested in watching it. Subsequent reviews were not very positive but I figured the movie was still worth a watch when I read (incorrectly) somewhere that Shah Rukh Khan’s role was minimal. Although he played a major part in the movie, he wasn’t around enough to completely spoil it.

The plot for the movie was somewhat different but somewhat Bollywood cliche (forgive the missing accent) anyway. Basically, Shah Rukh Khan (Sahir Khan) and Irrfan Khan (Billu) were childhood friends and supposedly the latter helped the former out a lot during that time. Sahir Khan eventually left the village to go become a big star, and obviously he succeeded since most villagers are Bollywood material, didn’t you know? He then supposedly got caught up in the industry and when he finally had time to return to his village, Billu had run away with his lover to another village and gotten married.

Cut to an unspecified amount of time in the future, and Sahir Khan decides to hold a shoot in the village that Billu is living in. I’m not entirely sure if this was planned or a coincidence on King Khan’s part. Anyways, what proceeds is the entertaining part of the movie: somehow it is let slip that Billu knows Sahir Khan and hence everyone and their goat treats him well for the duration of the shoot, expecting a favour involving Sahir Khan in return. You know, the implicit “I-scratch-your-back-and-you-give-me-a-full-body-massage” deal. Billu’s modesty prevents him from rekindling his old friendship, and his fear that his old friend has forgotten him is also playing at the back of his mind. Eventually the villagers decide that Billu is only conning them and they arrange for his arrest. His closest friend bails him out eventually.

Finally, Sahir Khan speaks at the village’s school’s annual function and describes his childhood with Billu. The whole village then feels bad for doubting him and of course Sahir Khan somehow manages to locate Billu’s shack (despite not being able to do it for the rest of the shoot–I guess he’s busy and all) and comes in and rudely asks for some food. And then the story ends happily ever after.

So it’s a pretty straightforward story and once again, Irrfan Khan must be commended for his performance. I mean SRK was just acting as himself (minus the tear-jerking village story which I don’t think is fact). The movie was good in parts, comic in many parts and not overtly emotional. The storyline didn’t require any suspension of logic and in that regard it was pretty solid. I’ll give the movie a 3.5/5.

Music

The music for this movie varied from great to just boring. Marjaani is my favourite song from the movie and the CD provides several remixes for that song, too. My favourite one is the Kilogram’s Balkan Mix version of the song. Apparently everyone in Bombay agrees with me because the only version of the song I’ve heard played in shops, on the radio, on TV and blasting from Big Bazaar is that. Oh well, not complaining. Other honorable mentions are Love Mera Hit Hit and Khudaya Khair. But they’re not all that good. I’ll rate the music 2/5.