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On Brooklyn

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Brooklyn is a simple story, yet it’s about many things. It’s about a young girl finding her way in the world, with an interesting mix of independence and overarching influence of her family. It’s about life as an immigrant, looking for the comfort-inducing doses of familiarity while navigating all that’s new and scary. It’s about love, and how it shapes our choices. It’s about conflicts, and our tendency to stay in our comfort zones. And most of all, it’s about the longing for home.
Most people can identify with homesickness. You don’t need to be separated by oceans for the feeling to show its face, though being so certainly moves things along. This feeling is what the story is about predominantly, everything else plays second fiddle. It’s interesting that the author chose to name it Brooklyn, since that just happens to be the place Eilis (the protagonist) moves to. It doesn’t really play a traditional titular role in the scheme of things, its biggest contribution being that it’s suffi…

Thoughts on 'Udta Punjab'

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Spoilers below. I couldn't find a way to say what I wanted to without going into plot points. If you're just looking for a recommendation, I think this is one to watch.

There’s something to be said about timing. When it clicks in a movie, payback to the viewer cannot be quantified. The placement of the song ‘Ik Kudi’ in ‘Udta Punjab’ is one such instance of impeccable timing, it makes you stop and take notice. It’s almost as if the director was cocky enough to realize you’d stop and notice, and he made the bedridden crook as well as the door-banging cops stop and savor the moment too. Only when the singing stops do the cops come to their senses, and resume their attempts to capture Tommy (Shahid).

The first few minutes of the movie do really well to pull you in. There’s a nod to the filmy Punjab as we start from lush fields, but we soon realize that these are not the same fields where a Raj would be waiting, arms extended, for his Simran. From setting things up for Mary Jane (Al…

Of Sadness, and Wilderpeople

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Unplanned movie nights are the best, and spending those on gems such as Hunt for the Wilderpeople is the icing on the cake!
The film has been much acclaimed, and is definitely one you should take time out for. On display are amazing scenic view of New Zealand, humour from unexpected quarters, strong performances from the cast - especially Sam Neill (Uncle Hec) and Julian Dennison (Ricky) - subtle dose of emotions, and lots of drama!
Image Credit Facebook

(Some Spoilers Below.)
What stood out for me, however, was how it handled sadness. We all have our ways of dealing with life’s sad events. People often show their most unexpected sides when dealing with sadness, and that’s what happens here to Hec. Sam Neill underplays the character brilliantly, and also shines when Hec gets demonstrative about his feelings.  He bawls like a child when he discovers Bella (portrayed lovingly in the short role by Rima Te Wiata) is dead, an act he seemed completely incapable of up until that moment. There’s …

Of Trains and Food, and Childhood

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I recently came across this NPR piece by Charukesi Ramadurai, that talks of - among other things - the vanishing food culture on Indian Railways. It struck a chord instantly! I felt she was describing my own childhood, changing the names of the dishes we ate, and the places we traveled to.
For us, the most frequent trip was the 10 hour or so journey to our paternal & maternal villages (which were in close proximity), that started early morning and sometimes lasted through the day, just because. The unreliability of arrival time - that was built into the plan - meant my parents had to ensure enough supply for three meals for all of us. Us were 2 adults and 5 kids, and the invariable aunt/uncle who’d accompany us somehow on most of these trips.
Poori and Aloo-Bhajji was my mother’s go-to item. Packing food overnight was a no-no not only because she just wouldn’t have it, but also because we couldn’t really rely on the power supply and the steady operation of the fridge to keep it fro…

On 'The Basement Room'...

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Graham Greene is one of the authors that I’ve read surprisingly little of. I know of the man, but there is no recollection of his work in my memories.
I was looking forward to reading his work, and decided to start with a collection of short stories by him that I chanced upon. The book is called The Basement Room And Other Short Stories, and I started with the first story in the book, ‘The Basement Room’.

Regardless of what other works of Graham Greene I’d be getting my hands on, it’s pretty amazing to start with such a great work of his. I had no idea what to expect, from this story or from his works in general - and my experience was better for it!
The ‘plot’ is simple enough, and isn’t something I’m gonna dwell much over. A small kid, who’s between nurses, is left in the care of the butler and his wife (also an employee of the house) while his parents travel. To me this is a story about his being drawn into the adult world reluctantly - through gradual escalations and a crescendo ev…

Masters of Doom - mini review

Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture by David Kushner

Such a great experience listening to this one, Will Wheaton really brings it all to life. I did not expect him to do as many impressions as he did (and did well).
The book chronicles the journeys of 'The Two John's', as they pursue their interests, immerse themselves into video games, and build an empire in the process. Any one, who has spent any amount of time playing Doom in their childhood, would be hard-pressed to avoid the hair on their skin standing up when the narrator brings up Doom the first time.

This comes across as a very well researched book, and ends up being as much about the relationships as it is about the state of the industry through the 80's and the 90's. The author doesn't pull punches when bringing out the flaws in each of the characters, but I did feel a tad more reverence for John Carmack than for Romero. Still, it's pretty interesting, and a li…

The Girl On The Train - mini review

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The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Authors write the books, yes. But Audible narrators can add so much value to it (think R C Bray and The Martian), more so when a few of them collaborate. That's what happens here.
The book itself is a nice breezy read/listen, taking you through the minds of three different women, putting them all on a (sort of) collision path. It isn't until the first major disruption that you notice what was different about at least one of the narrations (not spoiling it here though it might be much easier to spot early on when reading the book). It then becomes mostly about who you can trust, and that becomes a difficult question to answer even though you are privy to their innermost thoughts.
What worked for me, besides the story, was the way the author described scenes and settings. It might have something to do with my current fascination with London Tube, and how I could totally picture what was being described. But I think she did a good job setting i…

The Martian - mini review

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The Martian by Andy Weir
Started on Kindle, move to Audible after a couple of chapters based on some recommendations, and really happy that I did. The narrator, R C Bray, is great and really brings the book to life. Most of the technical stuff would not have held my attention if I was just reading it, I'm sure I would have skipped over a lot of it. Probably also because I was a captive audience as I mostly listened to it during my daily commute and so, listening to the book was pretty much the only thing my mind was involved in.
I like the concept, a new twist to the Castaway tale. The story was well-paced (which must have been a struggle given how we were learning about things at Mars and earth at the same time), and the author did a great job giving us enough about all the secondary characters. Just enough so we care, not too much to avoid taking away from the main story - which was the struggle of Mark Watney. I found it interesting that he chose not to talk about friends/family …

"Yes Please" - mini review

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Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Disclaimers first - big fan of Amy Poehler so bound to be biased in favour of any of her work, have given an extra star here simply because she's the author :)

I've been trying Audible books for a short time now, and this is one of the first books I chose primarily because Amy herself had narrated the Audible version. Having listened to the book now, I feel vindicated. The book is mostly in first person and it really adds a lot to have Amy talk to you about the stories, rather than you reading the book. It helps a great deal in understanding the tone and the message, and keeps you engaged.

To say that Amy's life story is inspiring somehow seem pretentious to me (though her life-stort absolutely is inspiring) given how she talks about here philosophy "Good for you, not for me". This book, though inspiring, is just Amy sharing her story and pontificating on what she thinks worked for her (and sometimes, what did not). It stays far away from b…

Point of View

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He's likely unaware he's being clicked, which adds to the photo.

On PK

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Some thoughts on PK
Pretty good acting by Amir Khan. There's always a bit of Amir in every role he does, and there's a bit of the Amir from 'Satyamev Jayate' here as well - but overall he has done a great job portraying the always bewildered man-child that PK is supposed to be. Also, was it a hat-tip to Bhuvan from Lagaan when he says "sarat manjoor hai"?
A problem I hadn't seen in a while, first half being great and second half tapering away, resurfaces. The reason I hadn't seen the problem in a while was because most movies had consistently bad first and second halves :)This could have been solved by not falling for the trope of a necessary love story for the female lead (and to some extent the male lead).
I don't think subtlety is something Raj Kumar Hirani (or Vinod Chopra or Amir Khan for that matter) doesn't get, I don't think he was going for subtlety here. Also, he has enough satire here for those of us looking for subtlety.
Raj Kum…

Of diversity, or the lack of it

I recently came across this pic on every one's favourite ranting ground Twitter@ShashiTharoor This pic of our CMs speaks volumes abt India's diversity. This is y we'll remain to be a great nation! pic.twitter.com/xnHCi80C78
— Chacko Simon (@ChackoSimon) December 7, 2014It was an interesting enough picture, with the idea that a very diverse mix of people make up the group of Chief Ministers in India. I, however, felt that the picture was not diverse enough.The first I saw it was on my phone, and I literally had to squint to find the two women in the picture.It doesn't seem to be a very diverse group in terms of age, except for UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav (he makes a strong case against young people in Politics though, and it's an open secret that his 75 year old father rules the state by proxy).It is highly unlikely that any of these people belongs to the LGBT community, openly or not. In fact, each of them is more likely to belong to the group that treats belon…

Family guy gives you hope...

I have pretty much been hooked to Family Guy over the past few weeks (thanks Netflix). The show is a humorous take on things but it is definitely not all about humour. However, because of the way the show is structured, it is very easy for someone to miss those times when they try to be (and most often succeed in being) profound.

Here's is one such instance, from the episode New Kidney in Town, Meg's definition of hope.Hope is a what gets out of bed in the morning
When it's the day of prom and u haven’t been asked.Hope pushed the caterpillar through the Cocoon and what drives the salmon up stream Your breasts maybe small and ur glasses maybe thick But hope doesn’t hold up a mirrorHope is a Horizon we head for leaving nothing behind us but fear, And though we may never reach our goals its hope that is going to save us from who we once were
Good stuff. 

So long...

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...and thanks for all the films.

Sometimes, when it's raining...

" Sometimes, when it’s raining, I think about you. I think about you all the way over there, with all that ocean and all those years between us. I think about if you’re doing well, what your bedroom looks like, if you enjoy your job. I think about the times when there wasn’t any ocean between us and my time was your time. I think about when I knew the answers about you, because they were my answers as much as they were yours. Sometimes, when it’s raining, I wonder if it’s raining where you are too. Sometimes, when it’s raining, I pretend I’m kissing you. I pretend we’re lying in bed all morning with the grey half light and the patter of rain on the roof and the sloshing sound tires make on the bitumen as they speed by the window outside. I pretend you’re bringing me tea and we’re sitting side by side in bed reading the paper, you telling me the comics and me failing at Sudoku. I pretend we’re playing Quiz Master and we’re winning. Sometimes, when it’s raining, I close my eyes and…

Week 11 - Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron

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My search for academic writings on Hindi films have started to bear some fruit over the recent past. If week 10 was spent with Helen, then weeks 11/12/13 had leading men of different types for company. The first of them were Vinod Chopra and Sudhir Mishra as portrayed by Naseeruddin Shah and Ravi Baswani respectively, in the cult classic Jaane Bhi Do Yaaronreleased in 1983.
A well-researched behind the scenes look is offered by Jai Arjun Singh's book "Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron (जाने भी दो यारों) - seriously funny since 1983", which was my companion for Week 11.
In the author's own words, "It's very difficult to describe this film to someone who hasn't experienced it first hand", so I am just going to assume that you've watched the film. If you haven't then drop everything (yes leave this blog too for the time being) and go watch it, it's that awesome. Once you have watched it and become a fan (yes that's inevitable, at the risk of repeating …

Of Agneepath & Agneepath.

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नाम विजय चौहान, विजय - दीनानाथ - चौहान. पूरा नाम. In the original Agneepath (अग्निपथ), released in 1990, these lines served the purpose of establishing the character of Vijay Deenanath Chauhan (VDC) and of reminding the audience of his quest to vanquish those who wronged his father Master Deenanath Chauhan. In Karan Malhotra's adaptation, they are used more as a homage to the original, towards the fag end of the movie, which is a very wise move indeed since it would have been a near impossible task for Hrithik Roshan to match what Amitabh had delivered all those years ago. Just take a look at adult VDC's opening scene from the originalAnd if playing the role similar to the way Amitabh played it is near impossible, portraying Krishnan Iyer M. A. (pronounced Yum Yay) is well beyond impossible for any other actor. And since Mithunda is on the other side of 60 now, director Karan Malhotra did the next best thing that he could do - rewrite the story to not have a second lead and a…

Week 10 and Helen

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"मैं सारे ज़माने के ग़म की दवा हूँ "
(I am the cure of all the sorrows in the world)- Lyrics from Helen's song in the film अधिकार (Adhikaar).



In the book Helen - The life and times of an H-Bomb, author Jerry Pinto tells us just how close Helen came to personify these (and many other similar) words in her screen persona that extended across multiple movies spread over almost three decades. In doing so he doesn't just take us through the phenomenon that was Helen, he also takes this opportunity to take us through the myriad ways of Indian, mostly Hindi, cinema. This is as much a commentary on the phases of Indian cinema as it is on the way Helen, through the characters played by her, acted as a bridge between these. As someone who grew up on all sorts of Hindi movies, I can identify with the author's apparent unwillingness to openly criticize the movies that he discusses throughout the book, however kitschy or corny they might sound. The movie-buff inside the author,…