Sunday, October 22, 2006

Making of Manamahattan


DRIVING from Budaiya to Manama is now a special pleasure. Going non-stop, up and down the undulating flyovers, is a newfound joy.

Also, negotiating that curvaceous carriageway at Pearl Roundabout; navigating on the meandering motorway in Diplomatic Area; watching the superb sunset on Seef district; ogling the marvellous moonrise on the 'Manamahattan' skyline ... well, nowadays ... these are a few of my favourite things.

Like a floral sprout, in slow-motion - as in a TV documentary - the buildings are blooming into the beautiful blue sky. Like spikes slowly rising out of ground - as in a science fiction movie - the buildings are bursting into a brilliant array; tall, tough and tenacious.

When I arrived in Bahrain about seven years ago, the tallest structure I saw - from anywhere in the city - was the National Bank of Bahrain (NBB) building. But the rise of the Almoayed Tower saw the fall of NBB Tower's reign. And even before this new kid on the blocks (of black) could bully anyone, the bigger boys arrived.

Towering above the town, dwarfing the once-egoistic edifices, these two new sets of twins - Bahrain World Trade Centre and Bahrain Financial Harbour - now give Manama the majesty it deserves.

The growing giant of a cylindrical structure in BFH, the colossal construction site in Sheraton complex, the sudden sprouting of a tower near the fish-market at Marina Mall, the making of the car-park building in the Diplomatic area, the soaring up of Abraj Al Lulu; all bear testimony to the fact that, truly, uptown is soaring upwards.

We also see these now-familiar cranes - extremely-tall, yet surprisingly-slim - silently hovering over the sky, around these sites. They are seen smoothly lifting blocks and blocks of building-material from, and towards, gloved and helmeted men in brown and blue overalls.

We also see here - often at nights - these long, brightly-lit, bejewelled cranes, continue shifting slabs of cement, undeterred by intermittent sounds of the clanging of steel and iron. We also see those fiery-sparks that cascade around the night-shift welders who seem to have the wrought-iron will to build it good, and build it quick.

The final 'handiwork' would of course display wonderful designing and planning. But the 'hard-work' behind it, describes the dedication of the people who give credence to the essence called persistence.

This story of concrete quite evidently conceals in it the strength of character. It is the character of a country that refuses to rest, and continues to command. It is the commanding of respect by its determination to move forward, and by its doggedness to move fast.

Yes, there is, of course, that traffic bottleneck at the signal near the Intercontinental Hotel. Yes, there is the inconvenience of those traffic diversions. Yes, there is the annoyance of driving around ditches with men-at-work. Yes, there is the frustration of our delayed meetings due to all this. But then, we must accept, there is no smooth driving in a city on the move.

So, let's look forward and look ahead. Let's look up and look higher, as we proudly participate in the making of our own 'Manamahattan'!

On books that become movies


"Don't judge a book by its movie" is a slightly twisted version of an axiom we all know.

With one of the most controversial bestsellers of recent times, The Da Vinci Code, ready to come as a film soon, would be worth watching and judging. After all, for the first time, the great Paris museum, Louvre, has permitted shooting in its premises. In fact right where Leonardo da Vinci's masterpieces, including Mona Lisa, are exhibited.

Now, will this movie be as good, and as racy, as the book? We have to see. But a better question would be - Do movies do justice to their books?

A reasonably widespread belief holds that movies are never as good as their books, but it is unfortunately an opinion of a select few. The rest, which is a majority, is actually blissfully unaware, and without a care. To them, who don't read a book, how does it matter? They ask - these days, does anyone have time to read a book? That they have time to watch a movie or watch TV is, of course, an entirely different matter!

Today, a successful book would soon be a movie says common sense. If its fantasy and if it's appealing to children, it's even better. If it's actually a whole series of books, it is even better. For, it now makes commercial sense. In today's filmdom with an overdose of R-rated movies, how often would parents find movies appealing to children? Won't the parents and children flock to the cinemas? And won't the producers and actors laugh to the banks?

So, book after book we are treated to dose after dose, of mutated movies of hitherto books. The Harry Porter series of J K Rowling, caused a sudden resurgence of love for the fantasy of yesteryear authors. And, it was soon followed by The Lord of the Rings trilogy of JRR Tolkien. Now, after that, has come the first of the Narnia Chronicles by C S Lewis. Very soon, I am sure; we will see the movie-making of the remaining six Narnia Chronicles.

However, this trend is not altogether new. Ian Fleming may not have - in his wildest dreams - imagined the fame his hero, the now ubiquitous Bond.... Yes....James Bond, would acquire. Today, not just double-oh-seven, but his boss M, Money Penny and Q are all well-known to all moviegoers. Particularly, to the non-readers!

Movies on books of Alistair McLean, Agatha Christie, Arthur Hailey, Jeffery Archer have done well. But as per the IMDB (Internet Movie Data Base), the top four authors with movies to their credits are John Grisham (13), Isaac Asimov (21), Michael Crichton (25) but way up ahead is the horror writer, Stephen King (81)!

While we can argue that movies rob us of our imagination, prevent us from learning the language, desist us from becoming more articulate, we cannot deny the ease of enjoying a movie, compared to the trouble of comprehending a book. So, when someone does the reading and makes it into an eye-appealing display, isn't it better to watch it, than to read?

An average reader can complete an average book at possibly an average movie-time. But this new law of averages doesn't work. Who wants to spend three hours reading and understanding when it can be spent watching and enjoying? Who wants?

Well, there are some who do! But they are usually called crazy!

Ahem... ...well... me crazy, but I am half-way through Michael Crichton's, State of Fear. It's got so much research and data, that I'm now wondering if I should stop reading, and wait for its movie! Or shouldn't I??