Monday, September 30, 2013

The Martian who loved my brother's SUV

October 6, 2023

It’s official. My brother hates me. He doesn’t let me touch his Tata Safari Storme ‘Explorer’. That’s bad -- especially since it’s an SUV launched in 2013 back on planet Earth. But he’s crazy about it; he even brought it to Mars with him when we moved to the red planet.

He caresses his ride with loving fingers each day, smoothing out each hint of a scratch till the vehicle looks brand-new, not something that navigates the rugged terrain of Mars every day.

Which is why I decided to “borrow” the Explorer. It’s the only way I get to ride this beauty since my brother owns the only one on Mars. He’s the most powerful human here -- the president of our Earthling colony.

I stole away at midnight, silently reversing the Explorer from the garage and making use of the on-screen reverse parking assist to avoid hitting the Martian rocks that jutted out into our driveway.

The Mars colony guards didn’t look too suspicious as I drove past; they were used to residents making short trips outside the perimeter. As the head of the Earth’s exploration team here on Mars, I have often driven my official Curiosity 6 rover on trips - but riding the ‘Explorer’ on Mars was a whole new experience.

Within minutes, I’d vroomed past the last human outpost on Mount Sharp, where the study of fossils buried in sediment had proved beyond doubt that life existed on the planet. We’ve even had sightings of the green human-like Martian beings, but have never been able to view them from close range. The only other alien creatures we found here in the last decade were the margolians, centipede-like bluish creatures that flourished even amid the dry Martian rocks.

As for plant life, we Earthlings steered clear of the Red Witches, metre-high carnivorous red plants that blended with the planet’s surface and preyed on unsuspecting margolians -- and the occasional human who wasn’t watching his step.

Here I was, excitedly handling my brother’s Explorer as its 2.2-litre VariCOR turbocharged engine purred along. Despite the colonists’ best efforts over the past decade, there were very few motorable roadways on Mars. Which meant that the Explorer had to traverse several miles of inhospitable terrain, despite its efficient navigation device, just to get to the edge of the Valles Marineris, the canyon system that marked the frontier -- the furthest we humans had ever travelled on Mars.

After an hour’s further off-roading on rocks and gravel, I was ready for a break. Parking on the edge of the canyon, I uncovered the roof-mounted canopy for my impromptu picnic. I unhooked my food rations from the cargo basket at the rear, flicked away a stray margolian crawling along the SUV’s decal, and settled into my easychair after switching on the 2-DIN TouchScreen Infotainment System.

This was life! Going where no human had gone before, listening to Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus duets, munching raspberry chocolate bars and enjoying the view of the canyon floor -- where a river is said to have flowed millions of years ago.

I was nearly drifting off to sleep when I spotted it. A green Martian was coming towards me. My hand moved towards my right-hand pocket, just to make sure my stun gun and tasers were armed and ready. But the Martian ignored me and made a beeline for the ‘Explorer’. He crouched in front of the car, stroking the front nudge guard and gazing at the chrome garnish on the projector headlamps.

“Like it?” I asked the Martian, unsure of its response or whether it understood me. It turned its head towards me and seemed to smile, flicking its pointy ears and gesturing with its three-fingered right hand. The alien seemed friendly and I took my hand out of my pocket.

“Want to sit inside?” I asked, gesturing towards it and pointing to the Explorer. The Martian rolled its big white eyes and its narrow green face creased into a huge grin.

I opened the passenger-side door, but it had already made a move for the steering wheel. 
“Wait a minute! Do you have an inter-planetary licence?” I asked the Martian but it wasn’t even listening, rapt in admiration as it settled into the leather seat and eyed the controls.

It took the Martian just a minute or two of demonstration to figure out how to drive the Explorer. And it whooped in delight as the SUV sprung to life and glided over the rocks and pebbles. Good, so the Martian loved the experience. Just the bait I needed to get him to base camp.

I plotted a course for home on the navigation device and the Explorer made its way towards the colony. The Martian didn’t notice; it was busy enjoying the ride. Within an hour, I had eased the Explorer back into the garage. But the lights were on and I saw my brother standing near the door.

“How dare you touch my SUV?” he yelled.

“I got a Martian for you,” I replied.

“I don’t care,” he screamed.

But of course, he did care. It took a few minutes and five guards to pry the Explorer-addicted alien away from the controls. As he ordered the Martian taken to the lab, he turned to me and said: “If you touch my Explorer again, I’ll throw you into the canyon myself.”

(This fictional post was written for the Tata Safari Storme "I am Explorer!" contest on Indiblogger)

Monday, September 09, 2013

Movie Review: Shuddh Desi Romance - never before has an Indian rom-com snubbed marriage so effectively

There is nothing shuddh (pure) or desi (Indian) about the romance in Shuddh Desi Romance so don’t go expecting a stereotypical Bollywood ending where the hero and heroine are united in matrimony. Anything but.

In the years to come, this unconventional Yash Raj Films movie will be remembered as the first Bollywood film to promote cohabitation (live-in relationships). Yes, there have been films such as Salaam Namaste and I, Me aur Main that featured cohabiting couples but never before has an Indian rom-com snubbed marriage so effectively.

Shuddh Desi Romance would have you believe that marriage is now a far less attractive prospect than it once was for many young couples. You may even feel sorry for wedding caterer and decorator (Rishi Kapoor) whose main business worry in the film is that traditional marriage may be heading towards extinction.

To be honest, any film which brought together director Maneesh Sharma (Band Baaja Baaraat) and screenwriter Jaideep Sahni (Chak De! India) couldn’t really have been formulaic. In an interview to Reuters, Sahni said his films are about real people. His characters certainly do not shy away from using the toilet. Indeed, much of the film revolves around the bathroom break -- even the intermission gets renamed.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Shuddh Desi Romance is the story of Raghuram, Gayatri and Tara and their intersecting lives in the historical city of Jaipur. Raghuram or Raghu (as he prefers to be addressed) is a tourist guide, part-time salesman and professional wedding guest. Just before his own nuptials, Raghu meets Gayatri, who is also in the wedding guest business and is being paid to pose as his sister. Soon, our hero thinks he’s in love with the lively instructor at an English-language school and forgets all about Tara, the woman he was originally supposed to marry.

Doesn't seem much of a storyline to sustain audience interest for two hours. But it surprisingly does. What eventually works for Shuddh Desi Romance is its dialogue. Screenwriter Sahni is at his witty best, effortlessly moulding situations and making his characters mouth unexpected lines. Jaipur city is a character in itself and lends an aura of authenticity to a well-shot film, one that depicts modernity trumping tradition in an India that is still largely conservative.

Sushant Singh Rajput puts in an impressive performance as the bumbling and indecisive lover, at a loss for words whenever confronted by Gayatri or Tara. Parineeti Chopra shines as the mature Gayatri who’s had her heart broken before. Newcomer Vani Kapoor plays the third corner in this love triangle, and does so confidently.

There aren't too many songs (to the film’s credit) but Gulabi is easily the best track. What lets the film down is a slackening of pace in the second half, a flaw Sharma’s Band Baaja Baaraat didn’t suffer from. But Shuddh Desi Romance is a film you should watch even if you disagree with its premise. It's a progressive film that might just work if enough youngsters make it to the cinemas.

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