Friday, July 23, 2010

Inception for Dummies!

Christopher Nolan has done it again...after a string of hits, he’s come up with another fist thumping block-buster movie.

Made on the scale of his previous movie “The Dark Knight”, “Inception” has been shot in 8 cities dotting the globe from Tokyo, Los Angeles, Paris and even relatively unheard Kenya’s second largest city Mombasa. The movie might not have an as taut and gripping plot as the director’s other movie “Momento” but it has his signature style storytelling that makes you jostle your brains to predict the next move or scene.

The plot is simple. You ask a “dream stealer” to reverse his act. Instead of stealing gold nuggets from a bank vault, you pay the thief to plant counterfeit money into the vault. Only here the vault is a person’s mind and the fake gold is a dream – an idea, an idea that is external to a person’s mind and an idea that could prove to be self destructive to the person in question!

Hmmm... The best way to enjoy a movie is to immerse yourself into it completely for two hours and imagine that you are the movie’s protagonist – the “hero”. In our case the lead actor is Leonardo DiCaprio who plays Cobb the dream stealer. Leo’s team, in other words, my team, comprises of Autur – my man friday, Ariadne – the young and Brilliant “dreams landscape” architect , Saito – the money monger , Eames – the impersonator and Yusuf - the chemist. Ellen Page plays Ariadne while Marion Cotillad plays Mal, a “projection” of Leo’s wife in the dream world.

Ellen’s job as an architect, is not easy. Designing landscapes in the “dream world” residing inside a person’s head involves architecting places that donot follow the laws of physics. Entire cities can fold over themselves as shown in the poster, with no calamities occurring what-so-ever. Staircases could be made to appear infinite in the dream world with the staircase neither having a beginning nor an ending.

However, “Time” does follow the constraints of physics though. Dreaming within a dream could prove to be a great time stretching act. It follows the pattern of an inverted pyramid where in five minutes of reality could seem to be a 10 hours long drive for the dreamer in the first “level” of the dream world. And if the dreamer begins to further dream within his dream, his 10 hr long dream in level one could stretch out to be six years in his higher dream level, level two. In short a person who thinks he is “living” a span of 50 yrs in his dream world level five could only be in the state of deep ( err, very deep in our case) sleep in the real world for about 5 minutes.

Uh I got distracted by the director’s slightly skewed logic …we were talking about the movie characters right? Characters! Speaking of characters, Ellen the architect is supposedly better than Leo himself according to Leo’s mentor. She proves this to the audience at a later stage.

As for my dear Marion Cotillad, who played such a lively character in “Jeux d'enfants” , she is reduced to a mere sleep walking demented character who cannot differentiate between the dream world and the real world. This is even more dangerous considering that in a dream , if you try to kill yourself , the worst that could happen is that you wake up – not so in reality!

Now consider the task on my hand – oops , the hero’s hand. I need to traverse from one dream level to the next higher dream level of certain person’s mind, and be able to come out of it by falling through each level.Failing at any stage would imply that the person would enter the state of “limbo” – a state similar to which my wife Marion Cotillad is in … ( Marion – my wife – ah – this dream feels so good! )

Ken is the character who wants to implant a self destructive dream/idea into his competitor business tycoon’s son’s head. He goes to great lengths to do so. As the quote goes:

Cobb: For this to work, we'd have to buy off the pilots...
Arthur: And we'd have to buy off the flight attendants...
Saito: I bought the airline.
[Everybody turns and stares at him. Saito just shrugs]
Saito: It seemed neater.

And another crucial member of the team is Eames – the forgery expert. Watch out for hilarious consequences as he sets out to impersonate characters inside someone else’s dream!

In all this madness of mine, I have my dear totem to hold on to ( see pic ) – which deserves the spot of a movie character in itself. If the totem spins wobbles and falls, I am in the real world .However, if it continues to spin endlessly, I am – you guessed it right – in a dream world.

Then there is the dangerous incursion into your memory areas while designing a dream. Watch the movie to know why the collision of memory area and the dream world could lead to disastrous results. The movie plot is exciting in the sense that you are in someone else’s mind and anything that you could possibly think could go wrong might go wrong! So what happens when a person in the 2nd dream level is interacting with a person in his 3rd dream level? In other words, how would it feel to interact with a same age friend who appears 50 yrs older to you in the dream world? How do you know whose dream are you in? As Ellen Page says at one point “is it his dream or her dream world that we are entering?” ( or something similar to that effect )

How do you make a person “fall down” and inturn wake him up from inside a dream if you cannot rely on non-existent gravity of the dream world?( to dimwits who watched the movie and can’t follow what I am saying - I am referring to the “lift” scene in the movie)

The highlights of the movie include the quick and quite convincingly logical transitioning from one dream level to another; the parallels drawn between a person’s real world and a dream word wherein water splashing on the lead actor’s face in the real world percolates to heavy rain in the dream world; liberal doses of CGI graphics blending seamlessly with real world locations and last but not the least, a well budgeted cinematography.

The part that I didn’t follow was how even after the billionaire’s son dies in the third dream level, he could continue on to accomplishing his mission. Ellen page explains this but apparently she and her thinking is beyond my league. The second half of the movie set in snow capped mountains turns out to be quite a drag at times.

Supposedly even a few of the movie actors didn’t understand the plot .However, pay close attention to the beginning and end of the movie. For, as in “Memento”, this movie’s end too is a jigsaw puzzle solution. It leaves your mind still tethered to your theater seat, even after you walk out of the movie hall.

Inception, the movie – one would either like it or hate it. I loved it! ( I played the lead character remember? )

-Sandeep Belure

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Barish ki Boondein......

बादलों में निकलो, घटाओं में नहाकर तो देखो..
दोस्तों, ज़िन्दगी क्या है छतरी हटाकर तो देखो!

[Walk under the clouds, drench in the rain..
throw away your umbrella, feel the life!]

-Ravi Goyal

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

San Antonio Trip!

I had an amazing time with my friends on July 4 - The American Independence Day!! We were a group of 6 people and after lots of fancy plans, we decided to go to San Antonio!! A dream vacation spot with the most picturesque Riverwalk I have ever seen.

We arrived in San Antonio at 11am and the whole city was festive and colorful. I instantly fell in love with that place. It had the old European architecture with street lamps from Harry Potter movies and baskets of flowers hanging on each lamp post. Flowers blooming everywhere, narrow roads with lots of people walking on the streets in colorful summer dresses, buggy rides with flower decorated carriages, lush green trees and a cool breeze made this place a treat for the eyes & soul. The weather was perfect too for this wonderful day!

We headed first for the Alamo fort which is significant in the battle of Independence for Texas. It was in the middle of a park with a wishing fountain and a band playing patriotic music. There were people who were dressed as soldiers from the 19th century when the war took place. They made us sit on benches there and narrated the story of the Battle of Alamo. We next went to the museum which contained the weapons (bowie knife, rifles, pistols, cannon balls etc) used in the battle. The museum itself was in the fort, so it had raw granite walls and flooring. The striking part was that the list of the names of all the soldiers who participated in the battle was put up there.

We walked to the Riverwalk at 1pm and on the way, we saw the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium with all kinds of weird stuff and the Magic Mirror on the street which made u look like Johny Bravo - big body n short legs..hehe.. 

Atlast, The RIVERWALK!! was beautiful like Venice and a perfectly romantic place. The river flowed slowly in the middle with lots of restaurants, small stores and colorful umbrellas adorning the sides, arched stone bridges to cross sides, tall green trees, sunlight peeking through the leaves, colorful flowers on the sides, playful ducks in the river, small boats taking people on tours... oooooo.. so so perfect!

We clicked lots of photos and walked around a bit absorbing the beauty of the place. Soon we were hungry, ravishingly hunggry!!. So we headed to a Mexican restaurant and had a hearty meal of enchiladas, quesidilas etc. I loved the ambiance which was totally Mexican with the ceiling decorated with pinatas and paper lanterns. 

After the heavy meal, we hurried up to see the Tower of Americas, a 750ft tall tower with an observation deck at the top from where you can see the whole city. We reached the tower, which had lots of water falls and fountains at the entrance. So we had a photo shoot again. We finally entered the tower and an elevator with glass on one side took us to the top. There was a restaurant at the top and the observation deck was beyond that. Gosh! It was open from the sides after a 6ft tall glass covering. The city was beautiful from the top. It was very windy at the top but it was not scary because we couldn’t see vertically down. We came down from the observation deck and watched a 4D movie about Texas and its attractions. It  was superb. There was a scene of a snake coming near our faces and spitting on us with real water sprayed on us. Then it disappeared from the screen and we could feel something moving near our legs and we screamed.

We headed back home after this short & sweet trip. The drive was exotic, as if we had come in the middle of a forest. Tall pine tree forests on both sides of the road with patches of vast green grasslands and ranches, horses and cows grazing peacefully in the setting evening sun reminded us of the beauty of the simple village life. I dozed off in the back seat dreaming about this wonderful day spent with my buddies!!