Monday, July 24, 2006

2nd whiff of freedom

Continuing on the ‘felt free’ series…..

Once I went to a water camp at Karwar, a few kms from Goa. I freaked out like a total water baby there, refusing to come out of the waters even after dusk for almost two days. Water just fascinates me, never mind the fact that I almost drowned twice, but still it holds a unique attraction for me that I can’t deny. Whenever I come near a water body (tank, pool, river, sea, ocean….) it is pretty hard to resist the temptation to jump in. So it was no surprise that in the welcome absence of any parental authority around and the unobserving company of chilled –out fellow campers, I let my body loose and set my soul free to sway to the rhythmic, soothing sound of the waves and literally managed to stay drenched for 75% of my time there.

Water however is not the main element of this story. After a day and half of canoeing, rafting, swimming followed by a boat ride to see an ancient lighthouse, we cycled about 5 kms to this place that had an ideal setting for rappelling. I was cycling after a long time but it felt like I had never left it. For the first 5 minutes, I was cautious but then I felt settled like I was always meant to do it right. I started picking up speed. The road, gloriously smooth and devoid of cracks and holes, edged me further. And then within 2 minutes, I raced to the front of the entire gang (about 10 of them being guys). They couldn’t believe it for a while. And then they started racing. It was fun thereafter. I never finished first, there were many too good to beat but it felt nice to make a great headstart and initiate a race that everyone joined in. Rappelling was fun too and though it was my first time, it was thankfully not injury-ridden. And then the real thing started.

Warning: Don’t try this anywhere. Not especially the place (or others of its kind) where I did it.

It was getting late to go back to the camp so the camp leaders asked those who were done with their rappelling stints to go ahead and pack (we had to leave for home the same night) while the others finished theirs. I hopped on my cycle and began to hurry back. The way back was through NH11 (National Highway No.11), the same that we had come through. But this time I was alone. I was riding in the opposite direction of the lane discipline and had so far managed to stay out of the vehicles’ way. The road was awesome. The sun was hurrying to go home and kept peeking through long stretches of fields and forests, trying to steal some last glimpses of the gold smeared earth, while creating a smattering palette of vibrant colors in the evening sky. I kept alternating my view between the heaven above and the heaven below. Suddenly a thought struck me. I slowly withdrew my left hand from the handle. The cycle unsteadied a bit but glided further smoothly a second later. I was relieved. Thought I had forgotten how to do this, but I hadn’t. The last time that I cycled like that must have been about 7 years ago.One hand free, eyes glued to the road, legs maintaining the steady speed and the mind absolutely focused on cycling. It felt good, real good. And then another thought struck me.

I began to increase my speed with fervor, trying not to unsettle my one hand free biking. But it was getting tougher. So I held onto with both my hands and started accelerating. The wind grew cold and a chilly, tickling sensation ran down my spine. The vehicles began to flash by, fast and furious, their horns blaring into my face. But I did not deter, kept going faster and finally when I thought it was good enough, I did it. For the first time in my life. Lifted both my hands off the handles and kept cycling. My heart almost popped out, my head went into ecstatic frenzy. The horns of the vehicles around suddenly stopped blaring uncomfortably and if I had felt like I was gliding before, now I felt like I was floating. All alone in this world, yet perfectly happy. Happy as a bird, let out of its cage into the open sky. Happy as a fish, let out into the ocean, after being confined to the claustrophobic water bowl. Yay!! I screamt to myself silently. There was no one there with whom I could share that feeling, but I could hear the silent applause of the motionless road, the beaming sun and the trees that seemed to sway to my side now. It was phenomenal. I was riding, hands-free for the first time on the NH11; breaking the lane discipline, having overcome my fears of failing, heedless to the safety norms, oblivious to the danger…..I…was…riding.

It was after I came to a halt that I realized what I had done and what all could have gone seriously wrong. But my elated, freshly energized heart didn’t let me dwell too long on this. The whole experience had unlocked a part of me that I was vaguely familiar with, but eager to know. A self – confessed rule abider; I had openly flouted all the warnings, all the risk factors and cycled my way to feeling FREE (all capitals justified). Nothing had felt quite like that before. Of course it was very dangerous and definitely not something I would advise anyone to do, but I will never forget the way it made me feel. I don’t know if I would get a chance or have the guts to do that again. But if I do….maybe I won’t….maybe I will….

Friday, July 21, 2006

Whiffs of Freedom

Freedom is a strange thing.

On paper, it means the power to act or speak or think without externally imposed restraints. So what about the internal restraints that we impose on ourselves? Can we call ourselves free if we are bound by shackles of those restraints that are affected by tradition, culture, habit, pride or just hesitation without even a proper justification? There can be a thousand odd reasons for why we chose to do or not do a thing, but that’s not the issue. The question is do you really feel free? Do you feel like you want to do something (of course not at the cost of hurting someone or breaking the law) and can’t do it for the fear of discomfort, mockery or just plain fear? And do you regret it later and wish you would have done it for it would have made you happy? Because if you do, then you really need to set yourself free.

I will tell you what made me feel free. Free as a bird, the kind of freedom that you want to have but hesitate to reach out to. I know the kind of things that I felt like doing just for the heck of it. So I just went ahead and did it. Made me feel free. Really free.

In no particular chronological order (the other instances to follow later).

There was this time that my friend told me that a bungee-jumping camp had come to town. Sure enough I got all excited about it. I had seen it on TV so many times, seemed like fun. But then I had also seen how many of those stunts had gone seriously wrong and people left immobilized for life. The perverseness of my brain forced me to concentrate on the ‘gone bad’ side and my initial enthusiasm began to be replaced by fear and almost an eerie vision of the rope snapping viciously dropping me thousands of feet through air, my hands wildly reaching out, head splitting with sound of my screams, my frame dashing towards the ground headlong first. And then a dull thud, meekly supported by the sound of breaking vertebrae. It became so real that I began to hear the dull thud in my hyperactive imagination. Anyways I managed to put up a smiling, relaxed demeanor in front of my friend who tried discouraging me further by giving his own inputs about the possible ways I could have a bungee diving accident (as if I hadn’t contemplated those already).

But I stayed put. Uneasy in my mind, but fixated on my dare. Finally we reached the venue and went ahead to buy the tickets. There were quite a few before me. So I had an about an hour to prepare myself mentally for the jump. I didn’t need it because it merely compounded my fears through a complete audio-visual experience of what others went through. Then my friend, in his quest of being impeccably informative, told me how one lady had injured her head seriously in another form of bungee-jumping two days ago, as a result of which the use of the machine in the adjoining camp area had been abandoned. I merely smiled at him. With friends like him, one hardly needs enemies. I was still intent to go ahead with it. Finally it was my turn. I stepped forward. My friend resignedly gave me a thumbs-up, with an expression that screamt 'Don't tell me later I didn't tell you so".After the regular rope fastening procedures, I was taken up in a lift mechanism to reach the place from where I was supposed to dive. I was beginning to hope that the ride doesn’t end. But it did. Then the instructor began shooting instructions. Dive. Don’t jump. Your backbone might snap. Don’t jump. I wish he wouldn’t stop. But he did. Then it was just me and the Universe. Did I tell you how spectacular the view was? I guess I didn’t. Well it was. Like it would be from a 15-storey building without any railings to hold onto. Great but scary. The crowds standing below seemed miniscule like a group of colorful ants moving about. Just a split second look, a deep breath and then I jumped.

Crashing through at roughly million miles an hour, I saw the ground rushing to meet me. The air was brushing thickly against my ears, but I could hardly breathe. My hands were outstretched in front of me and my vocal cords reverberating wildly without permission. I was screaming but purely out of the thrill of it, no fear at all. Then when I thought that I would hit ground in another 2 seconds, the rope snapped me up. A new reality dawned on me. The whole suspended-in-third-dimension thing, out-of-body experience. It was liberating. For the first time in my life, my body movements were completely out of my control. Felt like I was at the mercy of a superior being. But still it was not about been enslaved. It was about letting go of yourself, placing your destiny in the hands of the unknown and knowing that he would make it all ok. It was such a spiritual experience that it overwhelmed me. The screams however didn’t stop.

Then, of course, I learnt in mid-air that the first dive is not ‘it’. It is not over till the rope stops pulling you back. And what a pull it was!! I almost went back 60% of my fall and down to ground zero again. The same rush, except that now it was not new. Then once again the rope pulled back. Finally after a while it stopped and I was carefully untied and taken down. I couldn’t breathe for some time and I was sure that my face must have looked like it was hit by a crimson tide. My friend came towards me, grinning. I had done it. Yayeee!! The first thing I said to him was “Let’s do it again!!”

But we didn’t. It was way too expensive (Rs.600/- per dive) and way too much thrill to handle in a day. Especially for a person whose adventure spirit had been closeted all her life, out of her own stubborn ambition to not be herself and be bound by what the family thinks is appropriate for girls to do. But that day, I had chosen to break free. I was scared but I let myself be seduced by the charm of adventure. I realized that I had always been in love with dare-devilry but had lacked the courage to flaunt it, to do something about it.

That day I set my love free.

P.S. I still don’t understand why it is called bungee-jumping when you are actually supposed to ‘dive’.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Books.They Inspire.They Teach.

They Support. They Propel.

These photos are a part of my first attempt to create theme-based compositions and photograph them. This series is called "Books...", featuring my favorite toy Dandyman. This guy is made from copper wires, covered with purple cloth and is extremely flexible. Since the time I have got it from Pondicherry, it has been my favorite toy.
The series that you see is photographed using a 5 MP Sony Digicam and the source of illumination is just a 40 W bulb. No other lights are involved. This shoot was quite a task as I balanced the camera in one hand while holding the bulb in another, whilst experimenting with the shadows. I even got mildly electrocuted twice in my careless enthusiasm. But all in all, it was a nice one, since I had the most easy-going, tantrumless star who stood 3 - 4 hours of body-twisting (literally) hardwork without so much as a whimper....


Thursday, July 13, 2006

Basic Instinct

Reading short stories by the unsurpassed genius of Edgar Allan Poe is quite an experience. They thrill, chill, excite, interest and many a times screw your brains right inside your skull till you have the unmistakable feeling of giddiness and mental fatigue, so strong that you are ready to collapse at any place that can afford you rest. For the uninitiated, E.A. Poe is one of the most gifted writers in American literature and has an amazing range of works to his credit right from detective fiction to horror, humor to science fiction, critique to romanticism, fantasy/supernatural to crime and even musical, mellifluous poetical verses.

I started with his acclaimed collection of detective fiction. I realized that not only are all the detective stories that I had read so far, more or less inspired by this master’s work, the most famous detective Sherlock Holmes is also a comprehensive and shameless rip off from Poe’s idiosyncratic character, a noble Frenchman called Monsieur C. Auguste Dupin. Both the characters are glaringly similar and for all the Sherlock fans (I mean those who have religiously read all the 56 short stories and 4 novels) there is another shock in wait. The plots and the storylines of a few (and the smartest) of Sherlock’s adventures have been lifted (plagiarized down to the last thread of mystery) from Poe’s detective stories. Read up Poe’s ‘The Gold Bug’, ‘The Purloined Letter’ and the uncanny resemblance to Doyle’s offerings will be crystal clear to you. In conclusion Doyle’s claim to fame is a stake through Poe’s grave. And the irony of the situation is that the original genius isn’t even half as popular as the scheming plagiarist.

Anyways apart from the detective fiction, there are other stories too. What is fascinating and creepy about Poe’s work is that even the humorous tales have a hint of sadism and gothic horror, which will make your insides turn. Check out ‘Never bet the Devil your head’ and you will know what I am talking about. And the other interesting thing is his insistence that he isn’t telling anything relevant. There are a few stories that start by his disclaimer stating that the following story is almost unbelievable/unimportant/silly etc. However his insight on humans and their behavioral patterns, his close observations of the typical and the unique, his impeccable knowledge of the sciences, the languages and philosophy choose to differ with his disclaimer and soon the reader is aware that he is in the presence of the modest maestro. The language will seem highly ornamental and tedious to the average understanding (I sat with my dictionary next to me) and the grammar, archaic, very difficult to follow and keep track of, but if you pursue it till the end, I bet you will end up being satisfied and not just because it is a Herculean task to get till the end. There are many other reasons too.

I have one here. When I read his stories, especially the ones about conscience and horror, I had an uncomfortable feeling, something that made me sick inside. But something that I could identify with, yet wouldn’t dare to claim in public, lest I be considered a maniac in a civilized society. But I guess it is in each one of us, the one that makes us inherently human, capable of doing wrong for the sake of it, toeing the line to walk into the world of the forbidden and giving into temptation to do the thing that we know is a sin. I guess it is an instinct that is latent in majority of the population thankfully. Many of us are even blissfully unaware of it. There are very few who would dare to acknowledge it even in isolation for it makes us insecure, scared of our own dark side. And that’s what makes Poe’s horror so compulsively noteworthy. He doesn’t make us fear the unknown; he makes us afraid of ourselves. He frightens us with our own hidden fears and beastliness. He introduces our dormant (almost dead) sinful, subconscious tendencies to the conscious mind and leaves off gleefully as we try to fight the inner demons and make them go away. And that’s the true power of his work…..I haven’t read any other author who has had that kind of power over me, my mind, my consciousness. And that is why Poe has to be read, to feel the shadow of the dead casting its gloominess over the sunshine of the alive.

For more on Poe, check out this website, which contains information on Poe and showcases his brilliant work.

P.S. For those who need more clues as to what instinct I am referring to in the last paragraph, read up Poe’s “The Black Cat” (Tales of Conscience).

Monday, July 10, 2006

Zidane : The (anti) Climax

Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia, about Zinedine Zidane and his disgraceful exit from the World Cup Final 2006. It seems that Zidane was intentionally provoked as planned, with racist slurs about his origin.

Read on (keeping in mind that Wikipedia is freely editable….so these might just be rumors)

Zidane’s agent, Alain Migliaccio has claimed that a "very serious" comment by Materazzi provoked the attack. Reportedly, the deaf forensic lip-reader Jessica Rees was employed to analyze the video sequences with the help of an Italian translator. According to these reports, Materazzi spoke in Italian - a language understood by Zidane due to his time spent with Juventus F.C. - and first told him: "Hold on, wait, that one's not for a nigger like you." As the players walked forward, Materazzi allegedly said: "We all know you are the son of a terrorist whore." Then, just before the headbutt, he was seen saying: "So just fuck off." According to Brazilian TV Rede Globo, a lip-reader claimed that Materazzi twice called Zidane's sister a prostitute. Earlier claims about Materazzi having called his opponent a "dirty terrorist" have been denied by Materazzi, who reportedly said: "It is absolutely not true, I did not call him a terrorist. I'm ignorant. I don't even know what the word means."

As quoted in a timesonline report, the son of two Algerian immigrants, 34-year-old Zidane is proud of his North African roots, dedicating France’s 1998 World Cup win to “all Algerians who are proud of their flag and all those who have made sacrifices for their family but who have never abandoned their own culture”, so such a slur would certainly explain, if not justify, his violent response.

In the event that this is actually true, isn’t it repelling that the very spirit of sports that advocates unity, harmony and equality is openly being stabbed in full view of the world (an estimated over 6 billion people watched the final on Sunday), using the weapon of racism and hate? And that too, against the greatest soccer hero of his generation, the beloved Zizou?

There is a other side to the story too.The reasons for his unbridled anger might seem plausible enough at first, but Zidane's own dubious record of 14 sending-offs before, make his stand rather shaky. Was it a violent outcome of an unsolicited slur speech or was it his idiosyncrasy, his volatile temper, surfacing at the wrong time? But whatever be the reason, the fact remains that it was a disgrace. It is not that Zidane is any less of a legend now, but his image has been definitely tainted for reasons as maligned as the devil's desires.

Zidane, originally a street fighter from a Marseilles council block who plays football with god-like grace, was once described by one of his ardent fans; French rock singer, Jean-Louis Muratin in the words “Nobody knows if Zidane is an angel or demon. He smiles like Saint Teresa and grimaces like a serial killer.” But angel or demon - Zidane's strikingly impressive style could never go unnoticed even to the amateur enthusiast, (like me) who might be watching him for the first time. And especially in the match that began with his flawless penalty kick, I was hoping to see the brilliant artiste work at his ultimate masterpiece and finish it with aplomb. But it was not to be.

The final match, that too a World Cup final, a final chance to win the most coveted cup, once more for his beloved country and a final opportunity to justify the faith and the love of a billion fans worldwide; instead of being a fitting, grand finale of his glorious, enviable career, turned into his final downfall, and that too just before the final moments. The experience of watching the 3 time FIFA player of the year headbutt the Italian goalscorer, Marterazzi and be sent off the field under the red mist, whilst passing by the World cup, with all hopes of lifting it for the last time, dashed because of that one moment of retaliatory passion, was incomparable. There was a weird sinking feeling inside of me (and I am not even a football fan) as I wondered what it feels like to see everything in your life build up to this one moment, this one day and then see it all bite dust in a matter of seconds? And to know that you will never again have that one chance to do it....never again...

Moving on

I am at a point of time in life now when my friends, good friends, great friends and best friends are all away from me. Some are onsite (US, UK), some have started their post grads- MS, MBA, some are in different cities across India, others are busy shifting out, many have left the company to join others; it is all happening faster than I can handle and keep track of. I will have to move out sometime too and it hurts to think that it would become increasingly difficult to maintain contact after that. But I will try my best.

Sometimes I think of all the great times that I have had with each of my friends and keep wishing that things work out somehow and we get to meet again. But if wishes were horses, I’d be riding them to catch up with each of my friends. Sadly I can’t.

Yes, there are phone calls and mails and smses and yahoo chats, but the lingering feeling of loneliness doesn’t just go away. There are new people to meet, fresh relationships to be formed but the scent of old friendships continues to haunt me somewhere. And then there arises in me the crushing, foolish desire to change it all, rotate back the time and be in that place where we are all together once again. And then I wish that time would freeze then and there so that we never have to get out of that utopia again. Silly me!!

But the truth remains that we all have to move on in our respective lives to better our prospects, to realize who we are meant to be and in the pursuit of our ambitions, chance upon our true destiny and that shall come at the price of being away from each other and not finding enough time and leisure to catch up whenever we feel like.

Bound by the restrictions of time and commitments, who knows when the time shall come for a reunion? Even an occasional phone call or an orkut scrapbook entry might seem overwhelming and unexpected in a few years’ time. We will all have new people in our lives and priorities would have shifted dramatically. The emotional attachments, the psychological dependence, the mental companionship; all will become dim shadows of their former selves. The pain of separation (which I feel strongly now) would have long died by then, consumed by the vagaries of the new routines and the involvements of personal and professional nature. But what will stay and I pray it does for everyone are the memories of the little moments in which we shared our lives with each other, brought together by what could only be explained as fate.

As clichéd and boringly sentimental as it can sound...

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Dearest Sis,

I don’t remember the day that you were born, how could I? I was just a year and a half, a toddler myself. But the farthest that my memory can go, there isn’t a single day of my childhood that I can remember without you being around. You were my first playmate, my first friend, my first piggyback and my first rival. You were the one I pinched when parents weren’t looking, the one I bathed in a big tub, the one whose hand I held on my way to school, the one who always insisted on sitting on my lap and one who held my ear while sucking on to her thumb. You were the pest who cried too loud sometimes, sat on my books and never cared to study while I taught so I had to help you cheat when Dad took your tests. But you will always remain the pest that I love.

You are always the funniest and I am jealous of that. I can hardly crack a decent joke, let alone send people rolling down their chairs, with uncontrollable laughter. I wish I had that power you possess of making a dull day seem like it is full of radiance and bring joy to those worried and hassled by life’s little troubles. Though at times, I do feel that you should give others a chance to talk too. You are not the only one to be blessed with vocal chords (I must admit, yours are great) and we have the right to exercise ours, once in a while atleast.

I have seen you take life head on and grow from strength to strength, winning over both admirers as well as detractors. At times, you do go over the top with your mischief and histrionics and I still sometimes feel like giving you a nice thrashing just like good old days. But the fact remains that no one can stay angry with you for long because you always know how to make us laugh …

Life is an arduous journey but I know you will find the way, just like you did so far. And along the way, you will also find the time to make new friends, sing, and dance, shop (your favorite hobby) and make merry. You will have many mountains to climb, many battles to fight. And there will be times when you will be on the seventh heaven and others when you will be down. But through all this, there is just one little thing that I don’t want you to forget and that is, no matter where you are or how you are, if you need me, even to just talk to, I will always be there. I might seem a little busy at first but be sure that I will always find the time to come back to you.

Happy Birthday to you. You are my hero.

Just Me.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Why the world doesn’t need a “Superman Returns”

With all the unnecessary wars and the WMDs, the failed peace conventions and the abused treaties, the Bushs and the Saddams, the Blairs and the Ladens, racial discrimination and honor killings, the hate crimes and the child exploitation, the gender bias and the economic divide, the world still survives. And that is why we don’t need a Superman. We are fine without him.

With hundreds of remakes churned out every year in the name of revamped makeover for the new generation, entertainment pasted shamelessly in the face of ‘inspired’ tunes, robbed lyrics and creativity-starved albums, and the millions blown up in the superhero and spy – franchise in the hopeless attempt of combining dazzling special effects and daring stunts with the so-called ‘human’ side to their characters, the world still remains happily ‘entertained’. And that’s why we don’t need a “Superman Returns”. We are fine without it.

After a 19-year absence, the unquestionably most-popular superhero, the invincible (except for the stone Krypton and its numerous isotopes, smartly invented by the comic book authors for sheer lack of challenges for the superhero to beat) Superman makes a comeback in this strongly marketed and suitably product-placed version of the legend’s story that inspired generations of superheroes, back when it was released in 1938. But disappointingly, the comeback is all dazzle, no real body, all SFX, no real drama.

By now, everyone must know the story, so ubiquitous is the reach of this touted summer blockbuster – Superman (tailor made-to-Superman-size Brandon Routh) returns to the earth, after an absence of 5 years, during which he had been exploring the possibility of his home-planet Krypton being alive. But settling back into his ‘Daily Planet’ routine isn’t easy since a lot has changed, especially since the love of his life Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) is engaged and has a kid (the ‘Anne Geddes’ cute Tristan Lake Leabu), with fiancĂ© Richard White (James Mardsen) and has won a Pulitzer for her editorial “Why the world doesn’t need a Superman”, obviously venting out her frustration and hurt for Superman having left her without explanation. Gist of the tale: Life has moved on, Superman has to try hard to fit in or so it seems like, at first.

But nothing is impossible for the ‘Man of Steel’ and as soon as he lands, the world with its penchant for getting into troubles from which only superheroes could save them, witnesses a crashing plane, predictably with ‘fearless’ reporter Lois Lane onboard (the only one to be tossed around in the plane unceremoniously, yet managing to retain her flawless make-up and well-set hair, when the scene ends) making it doubly, supremely important for our superhero to employ all his super-strengths to rescue this one and he does it in such style that I must say, what a comeback, dude!!!

Superman’s arch nemesis, Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) has by then, secured Kryptonites and has an ambitious real-estate plan that involves submerging the present continents and raising sea floor to float new ones. What will happen in the end, is as predictable as bread falling down the buttered side, but the 2 and 1/2 hour duration needs us to meander through the usual labyrinth of scenes involving the hero (yawn) saving his lady and her family, the heroine risking it all (her kid too) to rescue her love, the ‘other’ man in her life assisting her, the baddies succeeding at first and then failing miserably, rest of them dying leaving the main Lex guy and his catty counterpart (Parker Posey)alive and marooned etc. etc. The only exceptional and slightly surprising thing being the feat of strength that masquerades as paternity test, which also gives a little twist to the otherwise predictable plot.

The best thing about this movie is the star – Brandon Routh, who brings earnestness and old world charm to the most beloved of all superheroes. With spell – binding good looks and the right amount of sensibility needed to balance the geeky Clark Kent and the stud superhero, Brandon creates quite an impression. In contrast, Kate Bosworth pales as Lois Lane and doesn’t seem more believable than a college girl who has a crush on Superman, definitely much lesser as a single mom facing emotional turmoil as a result of a super (literally) blast from the past coming into her life again, and even less as a Pulitzer-prize winning reporter dedicated to her job. Kevin Spacey alternates between darkly menacing and unintentionally hilarious, trying hard to send shivers down your spine while you smirk at his tom-foolery, especially in the scene where he reveals his new world-building plans to Lois and the rest of his team. It seems like he wanted to give the character a hint of ‘psychotic’, gleeful, deliciously sadist feel but somewhere lost his conviction during the making. As the result the character looks strangely demented, suffering from the ‘split personality’ syndrome instead of being acutely calculative and painfully egocentric.

The rest of the casting is ho-hum, nothing great except for the few spurts of liveliness brought in by Sam Huntington as assistant photographer Jimmy Olsen. The special effects in one word are – AWESOME, all the capitals justified. The plane crash scene was fantastic; only it need not have ended in a thundering applause for what seemed like a publicity craving, photo savvy Superman. They should have had the baseball audience be left too dumbstruck by the entire spectacle of Superman saving the plane to even whisper so that the real movie audience would have filled in with their applause, for so laudable a scene. Anyways, apart from the self- congratulatory scene, the other that sets the movie apart is the surreal, stunningly magical Superman – Lois rendezvous on the roof scene, which is so classically shot and beautifully choreographed that it is bound to take your breath away just like Lois’s. The cinematography is superb and the visuals breathtaking. In the later half of the movie, director Bryan Singer tries to pull off a James Cameron, while showing the ship being wrecked but even with all the SFX magic, it is unable to bring the heightened sense of emergency and impending danger that was such an emotional hell raiser in the unforgettable Titanic. However the visual realization of the ‘Fortress of Solitude’ and the clever usage of the archive footage of Marlon Brandon (Jor – El, Superman’s Dad) stand as a superb testimony to the love of labor of the SFX guys.

Director Bryan Singer has a decent storyline but it lacks soul. With high production values, a suitable cast, mind blowing SFX, this is a decent movie, but not as great as it aspires to be. Last year we had Batman returning to the silver screen, again in a polished product that lacked the necessary depth, especially since that particular superhero is known for his gray shades. Next year, we will have Spiderman back again, superbly reined by Sam Raimi so far. Apart from that we have the Fantastic Fours, Dare Devils, the Electras and also the super spies, no less than superheroes themselves. Besides them, we have had Neos, Vampire superheroes (aka Blade), a certain intriguing ‘V’, Star War super galactic fighters, Wonder Women, Catwomen, Ninja warriors, Harry Potters, Asian tigers and dragons and so many others, each grabbing our mind space while Superman was gone. So we have had it all: the dare – devilry, the stunts, the effects, the UQ (Unbelievability quotients), the budgets, the stars, the Flo-Mos, the bullet freezing, the gravity-defying leaps and of course the gadgetry.

So the question really is with all these superheroes and their summer blockbuster machinations, do we really need “Superman Returns”? And that too in a plot that doesn’t quite bring out what this alien crusader is completely capable of?

Whatever we choose to believe, Superman is back but he has not quite returned.

P.S I still can’t understand how he manages to hide his thick, leather red cloak inside his normal, office wear ???