Friday, 14 August 2009

Chandni Chowk To Concepcion

This post was originally published in this blog on 14th August 2009.
A travel by bus from Santiago de Chile to Concepcion ( a distance of 500 km) takes about 6 hours, with a maximum speed limit of 100Km/hr. During the day travel, as has become common around the world, they play movies. Usually, I find them playing Hollywood movies either dubbed in Spanish or with Spanish subtitles. But last Monday they surprised me.
The conductor switches on the DVD and I clear my vision twice to check if I'm seeing right. The movie name reads Chandni Chowk to China. I was quite surprised and you will understand my surprise if you have been to this part of the world. First of all, like in US and European countries, you don't get to see many Indians here. For instance, in Concepcion city there are close to 5 Indians. Secondly, their knowledge on India isn't much either. Sometimes older people (50+) ask about Indira Gandhi, when I say I'm from India. I still haven't figured out why Indira Gandhi of all the leaders!

Myself (the only Indian in the bus) wasn't aware of this Hindi movie. I vaguely recall some movie of Akshay Kumar "<someplace> to Bangkok" was under production or released. But had no idea on this movie. The movie had Deepika Padukone in the lead so should have been made after OSO. The credits had Warner Brothers, followed by Ramesh Sippy Entertainment and one more Indian production (which I can't recollect now). Moreover the movie was not dubbed in Spanish but played in Hindi with Spanish subtitles. Funny part is that the Spanish subtitle for the title of the movie was given as Chandni Chowk in China. I wonder if China added Chandni Chowk next to Arunachal Pradesh (South Tibet) in their claim! :-)

In any case, I, for few hours, forgot that I was in a foreign land and enjoyed Chandni Chowk to China from Santiago to Concepcion. Of course, as expected, no one else was watching the movie.

Monday, 22 June 2009

The Da Vinci Code

This was my first post published on 22 June 2009. I'm republishing it.

Just finished reading the book The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. Picked up this book from Borders to kill time while travelling back to Chile from Indianapolis. Though reading the book after almost 7 years since it was first published, I realised the reason for the book being a best-seller, continuously over the years, and still generating interest.
If you hear a story about a family that got separated 28 years ago and, on his death bed, the grandfather leaves a treasure-hunt-kind code for his grand-daughter to find her lost family (add to it that the granddaughter is unaware that she has a lost family and is hunting for it). Assume the narrative style similar to Dan Brown. Will the story generate vibes? I suppose not. Add to it that the grandfather is actually murdered and treasure hunt code might lead to the murderer. Your response might be ``another Hitchcock like murder mystery and suspense thriller". But if I tell you this grandfather-granddaughter duo belong to the blood-line of Jesus Christ? You raise your eye-brow, right? Controversial issues always generate interest and this book does exactly that.

The author attempts to present theories in support to the claim that Christ was married. For his justification, the author partly uses the art work of Leonardo da Vinci. It falls on the reader to judge the rationality of the justification. I feel, the author has presented all facts and fiction he has ever heard or read on this subject. Even for a story, I feel, his deductions are flawed. Readers who are not going to consider this work entirely as fiction should attempt to separate out facts from fiction.

When facts are not clear, fiction gets a freehand. Both Mahatma Gandhi and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose died in a span of 2-3 years. Historically, their death can be placed in the same time period. However, a fictional account on the death of Netaji would generate widespread interest than one on Gandhi. Even a side-fictional story around Gandhi death depicted in the Kamal Hassan Movie ``Hey Ram''  did create some stir. Dan Brown had this free hand while creating this novel. Even as a work of fiction, what can be disputed is the author's claim that Priory of Sion is a real society established in 1099. The novel also reminded me of the documentary Zeitgeist, but the novel precedes the documentary. I feel the author becomes repetitive after about 300-350 pages, probably because by then he has used all his materials and has revealed his trump cards. Whatever the facts are, the book is worth a read as a fiction. The tag "fiction" is the only saving grace for this book. I should agree the book was captivating and deserves a try.

Experts such as Robert Langdon and Leigh Teabing cannot decrypt a note written as mirror image was unbelievable, because the first glance tells you it should be mirror image. I was actually expecting the author to come up with something unexpected for the note, or was it a case when experts who know too much miss out on simple things? Seems like some of the character names are motivated from real people.
  • Sir Leigh Teabing from Richard Leigh (first name) and the last name an anagram of the last name of Michael Baigent, authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail.
An anagram of Neveu is Venue but didn't fit with anything, probably it wasn't inspired by anything. Venus is one possibility, if you also consider the "S" in Sophie. But these kind of guess work will make me sound like Dan Brown, though interesting. His interpretation on the works of Da Vinci is similar to my looking for a meaning in something which may not really have any meaning.

I happened to visit the Musée du Louvre last year. However, I wasn't aware of the contents of this book then. But with the pictures I had taken in Louvre last year, I have arranged the places of Louvre that has references in the book. I have uploaded them to my picasaweb.