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Special effects bonanza

August 16, 2003

There were two high-profile releases last week. The first, the Hrithik Roshan-starrer Koi Mil Gaya, has been generally well-received and has proved to be a rare case of a much-hyped movie living up to its publicity.

Though the novelty value of the film was touted to be its science fiction angle (complete with a three-foot-tall blue alien!), Hrithik's performance as a mentally underdeveloped boy has been much-appreciated, and could revive his career.

One jarring note though: there's been so much speculation about the extraterrestrial being a lift from Spieberg's ET, but no one's bothered to point out that the Hollywood wunderkind himself drew "inspiration" from a short story by our own Satyajit Ray! Like they say, everything comes around.

The other major film, Hulk, will draw more ambivalent reactions. Like a lot of comic book superhero movies, this is really two films in one: the first a psychological study of a complex individual (in this case scientist Bruce Banner) and the second, a special effects extravaganza featuring the hero's alter ego, the green giant known as the Hulk.

Consequently, the movie is split down the middle and one has to be a touch schizophrenic to completely enjoy it.

But what it has going for it are some very deft directorial touches by the gifted Ang Lee (who also made The Ice Storm and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon).

At 2 hours 20 minutes it's a bit overlong but engrossing on the whole, with impressive performances and special effects. (It's not often you find them both in the same movie!)

After a very long time, in the cacophony of pseudo rockers that dot the music soundscape, we have a band that is truly world class.

Jayashree Singh may not be the quintessential glamour rock icon, that you see in glossy music videos, but she makes up for all of that and a lousy video, with her voice.

Rasping, edgy and understated, Skinny Alley is fresh. Sure all the numbers don't quite match up to the expectation that one would expect from a line up that boasts of Ranjit Barot, Gyan Singh, Jeffrey Menezes and above all, Amit Datta.

'Fence' -- the opening track begins with an infectious rhythm and lyrics that probably sum up emotions of a band that are beginning to chart territories at a time, when others would be thinking about their farewell tours. "..and he wonders, yes he wonders..if he'll ever have those dreams again."

Ranjit Barot's infectious groove, reinstates the view why he is easily one of the best drummers in the country.

While the band moves seamlessly across genres ranging from jazz to country, the tracks are held together by the grooves, the melodies and the sheer magic of Amit Datta's guitars.

For those of you who haven't had the privilege of listening to the thespian work on his six blade, hear the title track -- the last song on side, 'Escape the Roar' and you'll know what I mean.

Sadly, though, this is the only track where Amit's genius is on full, unabashed display, and this is where I think Skinny Alley needs to work upon.

Sure they are a band, and no one should crowd out the individual stories, that every melody has to tell -- but surely we would have loved to hear more of Amit.

Virgin music also released a compilation of trance and techno, titled Vivid, which features techno gurus such as Peran van Dijk, Futureshock and C-Base. Quite an impressive compilation for techno freaks.

And though Skinny Alley debuts impressively, I just can't resist recommending the second volume of MTV Unplugged, as the buy of the month.

Sure you've heard accoustic versions of Clapton's 'Layla', Rod Stewart's 'Have I told you lately..' and Sting's 'Every Breath you take', but check out the accoustic versions belted out by Seal, REM, the Cranberries and Page and Plant.

Those of you who have the first volume, would know what I mean. So before word-of-mouth beats you to the store, make sure you have a copy.

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