(In as many colors as possible)

Avengers (2012)


Avengers poster courtesy Mondo, yes it raacks!

Sometime during one of the hundred carefully and aesthetically choreographed action sequences, Phil Coulson (“since when is he Phil? His first name is Agent”, Tony Stark informs us) informs rather warily on his way to the end (oh no! spoilers) to the main antagonist Loki played to some exception by Tom Hiddleston that he (Loki) would never win because there was no conviction.

Well, that could apply to the rest of the costumed crusaders and the whole plot of Avengers, we all like them; but do we want them all the time? Simply put in more serious prose: What is the relevance of a hero in the absence of a crisis? The Avengers doesn’t deal with all that, since Marvel had already green-lighted the mega-project and only needed a skin of a story to work on. The skin provided by Joss Whedon is there, but we do not have time to pinch in further, only later these questions were realized whensome thinking was done beyond the CGI. Was an Assemble! Call really necessary to tackle an invading army brought out by Loki (simply put villain, otherwise put Shakespearean tragic anti hero with a brother problem). I mean haven’t these fellows (Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, Thor and others. Simply put: good guys, the heroes. Otherwise cannot be put.) have done those acts singularly in the past.

Tesseract, the cube of infinite energy is the item of contention as with the previous Marvel production of Captain America, Loki steals it right from Nick Fury in return of an army of Chitauri (more bad guys) which will lead directly to earthlings to be ‘free of freedom’. Comics and any literature often derided for inducing loss of reality states in its readers have always stayed on pace with real events, like how Avengers meanders through nuclear disarmament, energy crisis and the power of the people. But are these done just as a nod to reality or will these help in creating something in the public is a topic hardly discussed, not even by Arnab Goswami. Fiction follows fact only up to a point where it can fuel its own progress, in the end these are just plot elements.

Joss Whedon’s Avengers is not pretentious and gives what it exactly aims for: a proper summer blockbuster, only to maximize those electronic ticket printing sounds at the theatres and it does this cleverly by indulging in the main characters only if the events lead to a graphic fight and this type of approach not only is good to watch, does not mess with our head in any way, in plain sight, it is an enjoyable movie with right lines at the opportune moments. Dialog in superhero movies should be a separate PhD topic, there is just so much to observe.

There is no need to bother about acting in a film headlined by Robert Downey Jr, especially when he is joined by a shy and angry Mark Ruffalo, the heroic Chris Evans, and the visitor Chris Hemsworth, though I did expect a little more of chatter amongst them, all that is lost in the run up to the war.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a very theater friendly one, not only it has internal connections, there is also the happy fact that simply for watching the Avengers you would have to go through those told stories and the looming possibility of further individual films like Hulk.

Opinions on movies are mostly instantaneous, which makes it easy to proclaim that a/any movie is the most ‘awesomatic of the aaaromale’ superhero movie ever, but Avengers is not to be so. End of the day fans are happy and will sleep without fear that they are in the good hands of the Protectors of Planet Earth, ‘realists’ will nod in disbelief and continue to make feigned movies.

So Suit Up, you don’t need a reason to watch the movie, as they didn’t need one to make one.

The piece was written under the influence of a song fittingly called, “Tu Mera Hero” from the movie Desi Boyzz (yes two zees), close friends tell me it is the only good thing in the film.

Joss Whedon’s Avengers is now out on theatres, no good print available on net.

The Road to the Mount

Dear road to the Mount
What have they done to you?
Did they seek permission to rip your anatomy
And tunnel through your bowels?
I see cranes reaching inside you
But cannot estimate the loss of normalcy
You have never been keeping well
Ever since they tied your legs into a clover
Your eye: a behemoth of Gothic horror
Didn’t your Mahavishnu raise any issue?
Or the usual agents from the tower,cower?
Mother of paths, they are your scraping your skin
And they tell me it is for the good
I am willing to believe them grudgingly because
For years you have carried us up and sewage below
Trains now will keep waste company.
Get well soon road to the mount,
million wheels wait without diversions.


To read this series from the start, visit here.


Daniel’s slow gait through the school corridor only indicated nostalgia, his town high school was completely different to this private school whose class windows were fitted with frosted glass and department buildings named after Nobel Prize winners whose name was difficult to spell even for the brightest minds that attended the school, but it was a matter of school policy rather than reverence. Nobody cared.

A far cry from his school which had a fountain in the main courtyard, the centerpiece of it was the goddess of learning. In a sense, his was also an initially a private school but later dedicated to the nation in the events following the achievement of freedom. The goddess was not taken down even when the school went secular and it did not bother the school going Daniel one bit.

The Lord Rayleigh Administrative block seemed to the newest on campus, given to the hands of a amateur but willing to please architect it passed off as a building with an amount of admissible strictness; much like the principal Ms. Deepa Prakasam M.Ed, Honorary Chair Person The Burning Candle Foundation as the wooden board neatly painted in white said.

Inspector Daniel needn’t ask what the foundation stood for, once he had been admitted into the cool office he knew from the posters that showed the glowing face of a poor child learning used metaphorically as a candle flame.

“What is that you would like to see me about Inspector?” said the principal who didn’t look the age that Daniel had imagined all principals to be but had distinctive goggles that somehow suggested an optician who made a killing by providing glasses to the  upper academia.

“The boy, Ramesh Mangal”

Not so far away, in the cold comfort of an air conditioned room Ramesh Mangal, who for a while had been dubbed as ‘the boy who returned’ sat on his parents’ double bed and read the previous week issue of ‘Balloons: the weekly magazine for gifted children’ . Although his mother had barred him from reading the magazine, Ramesh thought that his life wouldn’t be complete without the latest issue of Balloons. He never really understood why his mother had forbid him from reading the colorful magazine, but for any considerate parent it was obvious from the title that the magazine contained lewd imagery.

His mother was somewhere in the house (he could hear her talking in Hindi to the maid, scolding perhaps because the maid was Tamil) and his father was away as usual. This was the perfect moment to catch up on Spy No: 12, the best story according to young Ramesh.

Then he remembered, like the time how he used to remember suddenly in mathematical examinations: the method to solve a problem that he was currently not working on. He would usually stop working on the exam paper and continue to do the numbers of his mind.

He remembered the voice of the woman. Yes, there had been a woman and he had not told the soft speaking policeman about it. The woman had said thrice, “Careful, do not mess with his head”. He partially understood what she meant; he did not say a thing.

Instinctively he dropped the magazine; his mother came in and said “there you are beta, time for lunch!”


<Author’s note: this publication marks the 40th post of the Lowly Laureate, 40th reject scrap in unkind terms. Unkind but true>


While I try desperately to come up with a title which references a another spy film, the extensive research tabs on my browser count up to five, if only Sriram Raghavan would also write his own review he would have come up with titles, multiple variations of ‘Never say never again’. But he keeps it simple here, a direct reference to a 1977 film which I know I can watch entirely on you tube.

But why do the directors take so much trouble in showing us from where they get their ideas from?

Agent Vinod begins with a Sergio Leone-esque dry land, where our man is captured in a rogue Afghan prison, much like the opening of Golden Eye in which Bond plays buddy cop; in Agent Vinod there is Ravi Kishen who keeps popping up acting more like Kato more than Sean Bean, so they prepare to give him a special appearance credit along with Gulshan Glover who walks in white like a man who has come get back some loaned money.

A Russian don gets killed and with him a secret known to the secret world as ‘242’ changes hands, our man who walks into RAW headquarters and has fleeting joke with an Indian Moneypenny is briefed briefly about the same. Thus begins his crash cruise through the world aided by an attractive Pakistani agent(Kareena Kapoor) going by many names. Will thewarring countries come together in saving the world? Or will they lose themselves in the process?

Reading through what I have typed in so far, I seem confused as to how approach in writing a piece on Agent Vinod.(I detest the word review, and how could a personal opinion be passed off as judgement) Should I indulge in length about the ‘Raabta’ sequence a clear homage to Scorsese or should I take a few critic like jokes on the wig of Ram Kapoor or the pony tail of Prem Chopra?

I truly enjoyed the film, with my minimum understanding of Hindi seventies pop culture I think I managed quite well, and I cannot speak on behalf of those who grew up on those films.

That brings us back to the original question of in-jokes and references/homages. Some things worked out quite fine, like calling a character after Indian model and Star Trek voyager Khambatta or the ‘Rakkamma Kayyathathu’ playing in the background while Vinod bashes up a Tamil, sometimes it doesn’t work or I hope to appreciate at a later age, Chaplin playing on the big screen at Riga. Wait was it Morocco? Through the course of the film Agent Vinod so many countries that you wonder that the makers will have trouble creating countries for the sequels (like Kamal and Sujatha attempted with Salamia in the much under-seen and derided Vikram).

Sometimes length is an issue.

As for the acting, I thought it was quite good considering the subject metter; Saif blends in as Agent Vinod and Kareena is adequate in the emotional scenes. Nobody expects Daniel Craig to accumulate nominations for playing Bond, so we should leave it at that.

And I take this opportunity to pass on some fact as advice to Sriram Raghvan, not that he doesn’t know. Here goes:

The man who made New York New York ultimately went on to make Goodfellas.

Sometimes you hit, sometimes you miss. It is OK.



The Utter and Cultural History of the Elements

Periodic Tales: the Curious lives of the Elements

Hugh Aldersey-Williams

I restrain myself from giving this book review a much referenced title: “the stuff things are made of”, but that title would fit any book on the elements, as eloquently put on the back cover of this neatly designed book. “Everything is made of them, from the furthest reaches of the universe to this book that you hold in your hands, including you.”

Hugh Aldersey-Williams(HAW) informs simply in his mono tone website that he was born in the year 1959, the same year C.P Snow gave a lecture on the division between science and culture, if I had read the author bio before reading the book, this wouldn’t have made much sense to me, but author seems to be the kind of romantic who takes pride in riding those two diverse fields side by side.

But what are the elements, if they do not say much about the people that use them. HAW’s Scottie Ferguson like obsession with the elements begin with the periodic table and his memory of a periodic table “like an altar screen” behind his teacher’s desk. Right from the beginning HAW tries successfully to draw on the importance of the elements by tracing its cultural origins and backlashes.

For the periodic table itself he takes us through a lithograph by artist Simon Patterson in which Cr does not stand for chromium but Julie Christie, in which the artist tries to find bizarre connections between the positions and the elements occupied by it. A recurring theme however is HAW’s quest to build his own periodic table physically; he pops up here and there to collect samples for the same. A visual periodic table merely wouldn’t help him know more about the substance.

But proceed he does, not in order; but by the stories that go behind them.

Never dipping in interest, the book uses Dr Strangelove to explain halogens, fireworks for pottasium and Jean Cocteau’s Orphee for mercury. It is not just the cinematic references HAW inserts in the book, but also from literature, art and architecture and how these elements shaped the thinking of man and the things he did with them.

For a man who likes to read about people, this book is a treasure trove but for a man with a memory capacity of a damaged alarm clock, it is a bane. This book requires a separate companion for the number of anecdotes it reminisces and better appreciated when read not as a paperback thriller through the whole night; the book’s 500 odd pages deserve some place on your bookshelf.

HAW’s infectious liking for the elements also spills over to the lives of chemists and mineralogists and the sadness of these professionals in not being in the same level of coolness as that of say theoretical physicists or mathematicians

I have a liking towards science which isn’t very academic, though I could never embrace the greatness of the things which were taught to me at school, simply because we were not made aware of their importance, but only to learn equations by rote. Their significance disappeared immediately after the examination bell, but it would be going a bit further in claiming ‘Periodic Tales’ will take the place of a textbook. For me a text book will always be boring and only a secondary source of learning, and a man who would want to know, will always look elsewhere.

Hugh Aldersey-Williams is the author of ‘The most beautiful molecule’ and ‘New American Design’