Friday, January 25, 2008

Wah Wah Rahman!

The music of Ashutosh Gowariker's next film (after Lagaan and Swades) released a couple weeks ago. A.R. Rahman brings to us his absolute best in Jodhaa Akbar. After hearing the album, I thanked God for the fact that Rahman composes so infrequently, giving us some musical marvels to revel in. I am a self-confessed Rahman fan, but even then, I am generally fair in my assessment of which one of his is an average, good, great and simply superb album. Based on the first few rounds of my listening to Jodhaa Akbar, I think every song in the 5 (+2 instrumental) song album is a top scorer. That can be said of very few albums, which is why I think JA ranks right up there with others like Lagaan, Taal and Roja. The second rung would be the albums of Zubeida, Sapney, Rang De Basanti, Guru, Pukar, Rangeela, The Legend of Bhagat Singh, Saathiya and Swades. But again, this is only MY opinion. Try listening to the songs of JA: they will grow on you.
There are some fascinating features of Rahman's compositions in JA. He has used some relatively new voices: Bela Shende and Javed Ali; fresh and full of verve. The latter's love ballad Jashn-e-Bahaara Hai is beautifully sung, of course, with some wonderful lyrics by Javed Akthar. I hope it is picturized as well as it is composed. The instrumental versions of both songs have their own identities rather than being carbon copies (without vocals) of the full songs. Then, the ease with which Rahman has included different styles: there is a bhajan and a qawalli, appropriate instrumentation, some new sounds. I find it quite arduous to pick my favorite among the five.
Many music directors nowadays come up with great songs, hummable alright, but make it repetitive, like Himesh Reshammiya doing his nasal high-pitched twang much too often. You may argue that even Rahman repeats his tunes occasionally, but he has repeatedly shown maturity and ingenuity in composing for different kinds of cinema: historical films (Jodhaa Akbar, Bhagat Singh), period films (Lagaan, Zubeida), youthful (Yuva, Rangeela, Taal), always trying to match his music to the script. He employs the well-known playback singers even as he explores lesser known but mightily talented newcomers (Chinmayee, Madhushree, Naresh Iyer to name a few). You could have Udit Narayan and Alka Yagnik sleep-walk through their parts within minutes (saving time and/or money) and make a hit song, or else you could record with new untested voices that give that unexpected thrill and exuberance to the mindful listeners. Rahman does both these with the same elan, and comes up on top.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Tipping FedEx

Despite running the risk of sounding like many many other tennis lovers, I think that lately Roger Federer has been losing his magic, his perfect shots and his stronghold on men's tennis. The first week at the Australian open tennis was about a new surface (Plexicushion), a lot of long tough matches, 5-setters ousting favorites and more. World No.1 Roger Federer is the obvious favorite to win his 4th title here next Sunday, but it may not be that way. Or may be it will. A new phenomenon called Janko Tipsarevic (from Serbia) almost spoilt Federer's dream run on hard courts (40 consecutive wins) last Saturday. In spite of winning the final set 10-8, Federer generated generous discussion about not being invincible any more. 'He's human!' said one news report!
Two years ago, Federer was perfection plus elegance personified. To watch him play his best game was like watching a concert in action, with all the right moves and right notes! Not any more. If you saw him at the Australian open, you'd agree with me that he is making more errors, less winners, looking more vulnerable then ever before. But again, it is almost absurd to expect him to play the perfect game for ever. After all, he has held the the No. 1 position for a record 209 consecutive weeks (that's 4 years in a row). Over the last year, his fiercest competitors: Nadal, Djokovic and Nalbandian are posing tougher challenges, their matches with closer scorelines. Federer, often his own coach, has a way of learning from his losses and beating his nemeses, like he did to Rafael Nadal on Hamburg clay last year.
I do hope Federer wins more slams and Masters' titles breaking whatever records there are remaining to shred, nevertheless, the golden period of his tennis career is probably coming to an end. But Federer always loves to surprise his critics. His ardent fan here definitely hopes he does.
Janko Tipsarevic (Serbia)

Monday, January 07, 2008

It's all about portions

"When you're trying to lose, it's actually the decrease in calories that's more effective," says Helen Thompson, a registered dietitian with the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado, and director of America on the Move in Colorado. However, exercise can help with weight loss. She notes, "Maintaining weight loss is tied to exercise." Why does fasting not work? Your body is a very efficient machine, and when you fast, it actually wants to conserve energy so it can function with less calories. You really tend to lose fluids, even if you are drinking water. The pounds tend to reappear on the scale once you stop the fast.
Personal success stories like one of my professors at work make it clear that dieting indiscriminately or exercising aggressively never succeeds 100% in reducing that pot-belly. 'It is all about
portion-size and addiction control', he said. No matter how much he ran, he didn't see his pant-size drop till he practiced reduction of his daily portion sizes. And mind you, he is one who runs 20 miles a week and even trains for the Ironman Triathlon. Some say eliminating the whites in your food, or at least minimizing it helps: the white bread, pastas, rice, potatoes.
One of my patients with a
BMI (body mass index) of 42 wanted to know if she could be given alli (Orlistat) to help her reduce her weight. This woman has other co-morbidities like fibromyalgia and arthritis that prevent active participation in physiotherapy. Add to that, her reluctance to watch her diet. And then, the holiday season, which everyone thinks is the perfect excuse to not think about one's health. Anyway, alli works by reducing the absorption of fat in the body, and one can reportedly reduce about 5% of initial body weight. But alli alone won't cure obesity. Ditto for those considering bariatric surgery for their excess pounds. Diet and exercise remain the foundation stones of weight loss, and healthy living.
People, take a moment to go to the
CDC website and watch how the obesity pandemic has spread its tentacles over the entire US. Watch the color coding of the states change from 1985 (when obesity information was first analyzed) to 2006. It is fascinating how the human race is becoming dangerously fatter with every passing year. FYI, let me inform you that West Virginia (where I work) is ranked No. 2, second only to Mississippi, both with >30% prevalence.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Kho Na Jaaye Taare Zameen Par

Very little preaching, simple and realistic situations, lots of great acting and a touching subject. Aamir Khan's Taare Zameen Par dwells on dyslexia, bringing our short attention span towards the common fate of dyslexics in our competitive world today. The main message of this movie was to make everyone understand that every child has his or her own niche. Come to think of it, its absurd to imagine that 100% of children read, write, think and calculate the same way as they graduate from one grade to another. Brain cells have an exponential growth curve from birth to early childhood, and trying to model every single child the same way in the formative years may result in hampering the expression of their natural talents below full potential.
Its unfortunate that the exact etiology and diagnostics of this disorder is still elusive. What is even more unfortunate is that in reality, teachers and parents might not be able to understand and detect this problem in their children in order to give them the deserved attention. In India more than in the US and other countries, children are forced to follow a pattern and be part of a certain rat race to fulfill parents' definition of being successful. Happiness is considered no barometer to justify what you do for a living. Then, like here in the US, many children with moderate learning disability are labeled with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and Bipolar Disorder and and put on multiple medications at tender ages. I don't know what the right answer is! What I think we need are non-pressurizing parents, devoted and sharp teachers, and caring and responsible doctors, all working together on these kids.