Posted in Books

Lost Wisdom of the Swastika

LWOTS

I know Ajay Chaturvedi. He is a friend from college. And I have been following his immensely inspiring professional journey in the field of what many refer to as “Social Entrepreneurship”, for the past 5 years or so. But I had lost touch with him before that. Almost for 15 years. So when I first learned that Ajay has published a book, about which I had no knowledge, till I saw his Facebook status update, I was pleasantly surprised. Not because Ajay has published a book, but because I found out that this book is a fictional story, inspired by true events.

I finished the book in one sitting. And I wanted to. Any book that deals with Metaphysics at the very basic level like “Why”, “What” and “How” is not necessarily a page turner. So from that standpoint, this book surely doesn’t make for a racy read. The book particularly needs some focused time & deep reading, when Zian finally reaches the Vedic Ashram where he meets Maharaj Ji because that’s when things get slow, as Ajay tries to explore the curiosity of a lost soul who just realizes he has finally found his “Master” who could help him steer out of the deep misery he has caught himself in.  Once you get a feel for Ajay’s pace and the chemistry he establishes between Zian and Maharaj Ji, you find yourself inertly drawn into the story. Then, as a reader, you take upon the same journey Zian does, right beside him. You ask the same questions and you mull over Maharaj Ji’s responses pretty much the same way Zian does and even retort in a very similar way through some sillier questions as follow-ups.

Now, I do not want to reveal too much about the story as Ajay masterfully adds a twist, which once it hits you, makes you go back to a few pages that you had read earlier to cross check your own analysis of the twist. Isn’t that a mark of a good storyteller?

Ajay is a first time author, but he doesn’t come across as one. If the clarity with which the author goes about building the protagonist, Zian’s internal struggles as he tries to find himself is not proof enough to Ajay’s story telling capabilities, the way with which he uses Maharaj Ji’s character (inspired by a real life Maharaj Ji whom the Author acknowledges in the credits) to answer all Zian’s questions, should drive home that point on how good a storyteller Ajay is.

The most fascinating thing about this book is how everything physical that we know gets juxtaposed with the equivalent metaphysical aspects (which are hard to define). This not only needs a Maharaj Ji like character, who has attained the state of Turiya, to explain them to Zian, but also a deep understanding of everything that encompasses these aspects by the author himself.

Be it while explaining the ionic concentration of River Ganges or while rationalizing the need for religions, while subtly chiding superstitions or rituals without reasons, the book engages the reader thoroughly and encourages the reader to ask questions – ask questions even if they are mundane.

Be it through liberal Star Wars references, which includes tracking down the alleged origin of “May the Force Be With You” (‘Aapko turiya avastha praapt ho’) or by building this fictional philosophy of a story in a modern setting that many could relate to (9/11, Steve Jobs, MacBook, Social Media, Selfies, etc.), Ajay has managed to get across something very complex (the very essence of the book) in a not so complex manner.

Himalayas – A  mountaineer’s paradise, A nature lover’s dream, A pilgrim’s path, A spiritual soul’s hiding place, A nomad’s challenge, A restless inquisitor’s mystical maze, so on and so forth. These mountains are everything that you love this planet for.  The author’s love for Himalayas is evident from the beginning till the end of this book. So much so, that through his ability to vividly capture the images of Himalayas throughout the book, he leaves the reader longing for a trek up the majestic mountains. And the reader in me, though has been to Himalayas a couple of times knows that he may have just touched the tip of the iceberg – pun completely intended, for he knows that there are many more snow caps to be enthralled by and many more chilly bursts to endure.

Finally, Swastika.

As someone who grew up in a Hindu family, I have seen this symbol all around me, as long as I was in India. But it is also to be noted that in my observation, this symbol is perhaps more evident & widely used in the North compared to the South (India). This may be a different topic altogether for research, however, when I closed the book, I realized one thing.

Looking at Swastika as a mere symbolic representation of a racist Dictator’s ideologies (as commonly represented in the western world since the mid 20th century) may be too naive, for there is a very meandering and a meaningful journey behind this symbol, Swastika, if one chooses to embark on one.

As Ajay claims, a journey, that could bring one closer to oneself.

Posted in Books

10 Books – Keeping the chain alive

A fancy idea to record my list here on the blog instead of doing it on Facebook. The problem is that I am very bad – like really really bad, when it comes to making lists of my favorite things. Not just books. Food, Places, Movies and even Music. So, I already know by the time I complete my list here, I would be thinking of a dozen (if not more) that should be in this list but are not here, because I simply didn’t think of them. The list is not in any particular order and is being created merely based on in what order I remember them.

Anyways, here goes:

Thirukkural திருக்குறள் (Thiruvalluvar)

It’s one of those books that made an impact on me much later in life when I was no longer forced to memorize these couplets. Even when I am writing about this, I am overwhelmed by my appreciation of the author for his ability to convey a world of wisdom (some of them I don’t see eye to eye with) through 7 words – 1330 times.

The Famous Five (Enid Blyton)

Sounds silly to add this to my list – but today when I look back, I think this series was perhaps the earliest influencer as far as my reading habit goes. I don’t read much but the pleasure I get from whatever little I read and the general imaginary world one gets transported to while holding a paperback in hand (or kindle these days)….you know what I am talking about! – It all started with this collection. Even before I started reading, I do remember a cousin narrating these stories to us during our summer holidays with so much passion & clarity. For a then 7 or 8 year old like me, gazing the stars on warm & humid nights, lying down on an open concrete terrace along with some cousins of my own age, it was surreal to see these characters appear on the sky solving mystery cases one after another, one night after another.

The Adventures of Tin Tin – Collection (Herge)

I don’t remember when I read my first Tin Tin comics. But when I was 17 and then again when I was 19, I was on a mission to read the entire collection as many times as I could. The real reason that I couldn’t read this sooner in my life was because I simply didn’t have access to this growing up, where I grew up. I bought this collection recently for my kids to cherish. Not in the original size though.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)

This is one book that will always find a place in my top 3 list. I heard about it and started reading this when I was in Pilani. But didn’t complete the book till after. Not that the book needed that much time but it was my own struggle to appreciate the nuances of the book.
Douglas Adams: One day..may be even just for only one day…I want to write like you 🙂

A Really Short History of Nearly Everything (Bill Bryson)

I like Bill Bryson and love everything about him, his life and especially the way he writes about how his life is. I picked this book from all his works because this has a bit of nearly everything – Science, Travel, Food and Humor included.

 The Millennium Series (Steig Larsson)

Ok. This one pretty much covers for all the mystery thrillers I must have read. I picked this because this probably was the latest thriller (series) I really enjoyed reading (read it about 3-4 years ago). Cheesy? Yes. But the setting made up for everything else. The Swedish legal system, The drugged & the tattooed world of a generation that sometimes one fantasizes about, etc. etc. Above all, a mystery series that lives true to its genre.

The Glass Palace (Amitav Ghosh)

I read this book about 10 years ago. I can’t say enough about what a complex story this was to be told in a book format. The story and Ghosh’s narration literally transported me to a world that I am absolutely unfamiliar with. Burma, Rangoon, The Rubber plantations and etc. etc. – I get the chills as I try to recollect the book now.

Chinaman (Snehan Karunatilaka)

I had reviewed this book recently in my blog. In this list, this is my most recent read. I love cricket and there have been very few cricket books published for whatever reasons. But this one deserves a place in the top 3 cricket books of all time, around the world. I know that’s an ambitious call. But if you happen to read it, you hopefully will agree with me.

The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)

Read this book in 2003. I haven’t seen the movie version yet. I picked this book only for one reason – Because the story made an impact on me. I have read Khaled’s second book as well. I won’t call him a great writer for his writing skills but will do so only because he is someone who has got some really good stories to tell.

The God Delusion (Richard Dawkins)

Well. This has to be in this list. Those who know me, know why. This book wasn’t a turning point for me from that standpoint. I had long reached that “point of realization” much before I started reading this book. But this is a must read for everyone. No matter where you stand in your belief system.

PS: After I completed the list, I realized there are quite a few books that I have wanted to read (in some cases have already bought the books) but haven’t read them yet.  Good reason to do something about it soon.

PPS: I realized I actually created a list with 11. So I decided to remove Sherlock Holmes which was in the original 11.

Posted in Books

The Pilani Pilgrims – Seeds of the past, Reunited

The Pilani Pilgrims
The Pilani Pilgrims

At the cost of this blog being perceived a bit too Pilani schmaltzy of late, I have my own defense. But that can wait.

Here is a book that was released quite aptly on Aug 1, 2014, to coincide with the BITSians Day, as the author, L Suresh is a BITSian.
And for those who don’t know yet, I am a BITSian as well. I inhabited the BITS Pilani campus at around the same time the author did. So this should set the stage for what is about to follow.

The book has far too many anecdotes and incidents from the SOC-9’s time on campus that one shudders to think how the author even managed to string them together, let alone how he carefully ensured that the narration did not get jeopardized. On top of it, there is actually a fine story, with a heavy emotional quotient that is likely to whip the reader, when least expected.

Every single landmark (well almost) narrated in the book wistfully pushed some buttons in the far end of my memory lane, that it was hard not to actually walk along with the SOC-9, as they traced their footsteps back with a youthful joie de vivre.

Every single event narrated in the book (Oasis, Apogee, Interface, BOSM, BOCT, Quiz, Compre, etc.), evoked a certain strong feeling that a simple word like ‘nostalgia’ won’t suffice to describe the same.

Every travel (almost) stretch reminisced and experienced by SOC-9, reminded me of my many similar jaunts. The train journeys, the bus journeys, the send-offs, the platforms and many more.

Even though the characters are not directly out of my BITS life, I could find parallels to many that I knew during my time. It was almost like I was interacting with some of them.

Then the food with copious references to FPM (Fried Paneer Maggi), the desert seasons, the moods of the people and even the smell in the air – they all perfectly blended together to give me a sentimental kick.

The author may have felt the pressure to bring out as many tasty nuggets of incidents experienced during his 4 years in campus, as possible, from his memory. At least, it felt that way to me in certain places during the narration. Although he deserves full credit for remembering so many and fictionalizing them a bit to cater to the need of the story and more importantly, for managing to string them together in an absolutely coherent way, 36 hours after completing the book, when I tried to connect those incidents with the circumstances/contexts under which the SOC-9 were trying to reminisce those incidents amongst themselves during their reunion, I sort of drew a blank. The BITSian in me was not disappointed with this but as a general reader, I felt that this aspect of the book, somehow needed a bit of tightening.

I will not go into the details of the actual story as the book deserves readership.

When you read through the book, I imagine many of you will see flashes of images from your past, pass in front of you in slow motion, especially as you get to the last few pages. They are still flashing incessantly in front of me and I don’t think they are going to go away anytime soon.

L Suresh affirms his authority as a good storyteller simply through his brilliant ‘construction’ of multiple plots within the book, all of which evolve at the right pace, only to bloom together in perfect unison when it matters the most – that is the climax.

Go grab the book off the shelf now! Read it alone…

Then schedule a book digest session with your book club buddies, preferably those who went to the same college as you did and chat about all aspects of the book. I am sure you will be walking out of that meeting with only one thought in mind.

“When is our next Reunion going to be?”

Posted in Books, Cricket

Two Books

Been a while since I wrote about books. As much as I hate to admit that the average quantity of books I read per month has come down, I also have not found the necessary enthusiasm to collect my thoughts together to write/blog about the books I read. See, books get into my system in a complex way. I rarely finish a book in one sitting – so this means, a book I start today continues to create, alter and erase impressions in my mind, over a period of time, thus forcing the whole thing to get stored in my mind, as a series of non-sequential images & intonations. In contrast, writing about movies is a bit easier for me, because the impression a movie makes on me is a bit more simple and straight forward and more importantly, they all get stored in one sitting, much in a sequential manner. The two books I want to write about in this post are:

The Match by Romesh Gunasekera

Chinaman – The Legend of Pradeep Matthew by Snehan Karunatilaka

Both have one common link – Cricket. The game of cricket. After Netherland (by James O’Neill), this was the first set of cricket related books I managed to read (There is a dearth of popular fiction/writing with cricket based stories or themes). And that is largely due to a very good friend of mine, who shared an article which specifically talked about these books. So Thanks to my dear friend Dave. You know who you are.

The Match

The Match
The Match

The Match and Chinaman are extremely different. In The Match, cricket just happens to be a backdrop of Sunny, the lead character, who moves from Sri Lanka to Manila to England. It’s very diasporic from that perspective and as the story leaps from one phase to another phase of Sunny’s life, it continues to connect the lead character Sunny to his place of residence with his home country Sri Lanka, through cricket. So, cricket acts as that binding cord that proves to be the vital factor, making Sunny realize who he really is, in the end. Not that Sunny manages to end up on a victorious note, but Gunasekera succeeds in making us connect with Sunny’s moment of self-realization and acceptance of what is more important for him, albeit a bit late in his life. Gunesekera’s focus in the story is on his main characters – Sunny, his family and more importantly Sunny’s parents and the tragic end to his mother’s life at a very young age, which fact Sunny couldn’t reconcile with his father till he (father) passes away. Gunesekera manages to weave everything else into the story, right from the Sri Lankan food & culture to the geopolitical issues of the land, including the ongoing Tamil-Sinhala ethnic war. But they don’t let the reader get distracted from the main focus of the author.

Chinaman

Chinaman
Chinaman

Chinaman on the other hand, is all about cricket. There is cricket in every page and in fact the story is as much about a mysterious cricketer called Pradeep Matthew, as it is about a cricketing author/journalist WG Karunasena. In between, much like Gunesekera, Karunatilaka also manages to interweave the issues of the land that are pertinent to the time the story is set in – LTTE and the Government atrocities included. Snehan doesn’t hesitate taking punches on his own people, the government, ex-ministers, ex-presidents, and more. He also presents his opposing views on LTTE and their ideologies, without disrespecting what the main cause they stand for is. Overall, the story continues to progress through different eras (decades) of the ethnic civil war in Sri Lanka. And then there is cricket!

Firstly, Snehan manages to create a completely fictitious cricketer called Pradeep Matthew, with extraordinary attention to details through his fictitious career spanning over a couple of decades, all by overlaying Pradeep’s story on top of real history of Sri Lankan cricket during the exact same period. Not an easy feat. Since my cricketing interests grew almost during the same period of time when most of the story passes through and since I distinctly remember when Sri Lanka played their first internationally recognized cricket matches (thanks to Rupavahini at home, which incidentally has been not so cleverly disguised as Rupavision in the book), it was almost like I was taken back to that period of my life, consistently with one nagging question. Who is Pradeep Matthew? The overlaying of fiction over history was so authentic that, at some point, I started believing that Pradeep Matthew was either a real person or the author was using a real cricketer with a different name in the story. After I finished reading the book, the first thing I did was to google for ‘Pradeep Matthew’.

Secondly, the game itself accounts for so much space in the book that if you are not a cricketer or don’t understand the sport well enough, you may be forced to reread some passages to get the nucleus of what Snehan is trying to convey. But, I loved it. Thirdly, Snehan deserves complete credit for the slew of impressive one-liners throughout the book. They recreated my childhood in a uniquely different, but same way. WG, Ari, Graham Snow, Garfield, etc. – they all meant some characters from my childhood in a distant way. Where Chinaman however differs from The Match, is exactly on these three points above and on the fact how cricket in Chinaman is not a thin cord that holds the vitality of the story, but it is the life of the story. Pradeep Matthew walks away from meeting with success he deserves because he couldn’t get it in his own terms, but ends up choosing his own destiny. Much like Sunny.

The book WG writes about Pradeep Matthew but couldn’t complete it and how eventually Garfield (WG’s son and named after the one and only Garfield) gets in touch with a self-exiled Pradeep himself in the end, made me as a reader, wish for WG to be alive to see his work published.

Two books. Two different stories. Yet they both resonated well with me at different levels. Chinaman is certainly my pick though, if you are a true lover of the sport, irrespective of your knowledge of the Sri Lankan cricket history.

Posted in Books, Movies - General, Music - General

Keeping politics aside…

The predictability of the general theme of my blog posts shouldn’t be surprising for any regulars here. But since I know that there aren’t many regulars here, I have to sort of put it out there. During the American election season, my primary venting revolves around the left and the right. What is right according to me is the left. And whatever is left for me to complain about is the right. Do you get the drift? Ok. May be not. The point is simple. In the last 5 years or so, once I sort of obtained professional liberation from the clutches of the corporate world, I have become less and less inhibitive of sharing what my real beliefs are – at least politically. Even though I am not a political junkie in the sense that I live and breathe politics, I do enjoy the election season (although not a fan of the long primary season). I kind of wonder what it would be like to be the David Axelrods or the Stephanie Cutters of the political word. It just fascinates me and I can’t help it. Yes, Politics is dirty. There is very little honesty in politics leave alone honest politicians. But then, in a democracy, you are a squanderer if you don’t respect politics for what it is. You love it or hate it, you can’t avoid it. You despise the politicians or loathe them, one of them (the politicians) is going to be responsible for many things that dictate your life. So, why not understand how dirty politics actually is and try to do something about it? To start with, VOTE. Go out there and VOTE. That will be a good start. VOTE for the person who you hate the least. VOTE for the party who you think will do the least damage to the future generations. VOTE for the party who you think will leave something of what you call this EARTH to your children. Your VOTE will make a difference. Believe me.

Well. What did I say? Oh, yes. This post was not going to be about politics. Right? See, I can’t help it.

Movies: Been a lean movie watching period. Caught up with the 4th installment of the Bourne series. My skepticism was unwarranted. Tony Gilroy had managed well to use Jeremy Renner to keep the thrill factor pretty high throughout the movie. If you don’t think of Matt Damon, the movie works. Big time.

Books: Don’t remember the last book I had read before “The Mine”. But this book is by an Indian author – Arnab Ray. The guy has been heavily influenced by several works of contemporary fiction/science fiction. But he has managed to create a uniquely Indian centric plot and props for that. Not an unputdownable kind of a thriller, but was worth a weekend to get through it.

Concert/Music: Attended my first RUSH concert – as part of their Clockwork Angels tour. Have to admit that going to a concert alone is a lame experience. Normally I like to enjoy arts (movies, music, books, etc.) alone. But concerts are a different experience all together. This was a heavy metal meets progressive rock kind of a concert and a floor seat  plus several 1000 watt sound system notwithstanding, I felt alone for the most part. The guys on stage put on a show that was perfect. Clocked almost 3 hours, they managed to put together something spectacular both visually and aurally. I like their music and it helped.

So, there. That’s exactly what I meant when I said that this post would be about everything but politics. Didn’t I keep politics aside for the sake of this post?

Posted in Books, Movies - General, Music - General, Sports - General

Look-back

Last week was quite extraordinary in the sense that I hit upon 3 different ideas that I wanted to blog about..here. This hasn’t happened in a while and I was thrilled. But then, I was worried that I would overshoot my January quota and end up with a drought filled February. So, I thought I would table those ideas for the time being. And here I am, trying to recollect those 3 ideas. Never mind.

Quick round-up:

Books:

The Calcutta Chromosome  – Amitava Ghosh

I would say I was pleasantly surprised to read a sci-fi from this brilliant writer. A writer, some of whose sentences sometimes need multiple readings to understand. The best part about this book is that you could finish it in one sitting although I finished it in 2 sittings (2 plane rides followed by some late night reading).

Movies: 

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – David Fincher

Ok. I was not that impressed with Fincher’s handling of this story. I liked the original Swedish version better. Although, there were some brilliant lines in the Fincher version which were enough to make the trip to the theater worth it. Rooney Mara was brilliant. And Trent Reznor – Take a bow! (no pun intended).

Sherlock Holmes – A Game of Shadows

I have watched a few Guy Ritchie movies in the past and have liked many of them..(Snatch, LSATSB, Sherlock Holmes I). But this movie may have made me a slight fan of his style. I can’t imagine anyone else pulling off a Sherlock Holmes story in such a classy, novel and glitzy way. Downey had outdone himself from Part I.

Band Bajaa Baraath (Hindi)

Heard that this movie in general generated lots of positive buzz. Not a bad movie. Mostly clean Rom-Com. But I wondered what was so different in this movie compared to a few others that came out around this movie’s release. Overall – a good time pass..

Music:

Kadhalil Sodhappuvadhu Eppadi – S Thaman

A very different Thaman album. So Bravo to him for accepting to do this. Nothing extraordinary in the album except the fact that it is a genuine attempt to make a youth album with a Romance theme. From that stand point, Thaman has succeeded (7/10).

My picks – Parvathi, Parvathi (Brilliant tribute to “Viswanathan Velai vendum”) and Azhaippaya…

Talsamayam Oru Penkutty – Sharreth Vasudevan (Malayalam)

Sharreth once again hits a home run. I have been following his music only in the last 3-4 years but whenever I have time, I try to listen to some of his old work as well. What a composer! One of a kind. A kind that singers apparently are scared of when they get a call from his studio.

My picks – Ponnodu Poovai, Kannaran Thumbi and Enthe Hrudyathalam

Sports:

What an epic match the Rafa-Novak match turned out to be. Watching the match was exhausting enough. Rafa gave everything to hold that trophy is an understatement. I don’t think there were will be another epic grand slam final like that in the near future. Salutes to the two brave & strong men.

That pretty much sums up my last few days. Oh, yeah, by the way..I almost forgot – The Giants won!!

Posted in AR Rahman, Books, Movies - General, Music - General

Collective thoughts..

This one is going to be one random post. Sort of like a talk show monologue but without a theme..

* Books – Finished reading all 3 books from Steig Larsson’s trilogy. Wow! is one small word to describe the set. After reading all the books, one has to wonder, what kind of books he would have written had he still been alive? What kind of a coincidence is it to die after delivering the final transcripts of the three books together to the publishing house (and before the books were published)? Larsson sure has a tremendous knowledge of the Swedish legal system and has a clear understanding of the political history. I haven’t read much about his personal biography, but based on the kind of work he did and based on the issues he so passionately dealt with in these books, you could sort of form an opinion on his persona. Also, I couldn’t but get reminded of Assange (for no real reason except the fact that these characters were fighting within the legal system). Truly, a great read and for me, was educative too.

* Movies – Quite a few. Where do I start? Manmadhan Ambu was an entertainer all the way with shades of Kamal’s brilliance in screenplay and writing. Unfortunately, Kamal is at a point in his career where if he does a Hey Ram to suit his intellectual sensibilities, he is going to end up with a commercial dud or if he does a MMA as a mild rom-com-fam-drama spliced with his occasional sparks of intelligence, then people reject it because they don’t get too much masala. So he has to do a Dasavatharam if he has to make his producers happy while feeding the intellect in him. Unfortunately, he can’t do a Dasavatharam every year. He is probably comfortable writing a Virumaandi every year, but he can’t find a producer to support him. So he is always going to be in search for the right balance. Meantime, I will continue to enjoy Kamal the intellect in any form I can get.

Here is a recent interview – mostly in English..Just look at the ease with which he talks not just about the main topic of the day but about anything under the sun. Yes. he could be opinionated on certain things. That may be a trait of  a knowledge seeker in a contradictory sort of way, but he is objective too.

http://icdn.indiaglitz.com/playerV2/embed.swf?vid=49723&category=5003&as=

Now I watched a movie called “Get Low” – without any expectations. It is a story about a lonely old man planning for his own funeral. Pretty interesting till the climax which I thought was a let down.

* Music – Probably plenty to write about. But what comes to my mind right now is Mynaa. Who would have thought that D Imman can produce a classic? This album is a keep sake in my library. And the customary AR Rahman reference in the form of 127 Hours. Bought the album. Haven’t listened to the tracks on my real 5.1 system yet. But have listened to all the tracks dozens of times. Acid Darbari..ha..ha. Only AR! Glad he got 2 nominations at the Academy. Good luck!

Posted in Books, Movies - General

3 idiots -> 3 views

Happened to watch this movie over the weekend. 3 idiots, the movie that has been making waves all over the world of Indian movie goers truly lived up to its reputation of being one of the most popular movies, as the most commercially successful movie of 2009 and as the one to watch for all the entertainment, humor & the supposedly great social message it offers.

Normally I don’t like to call my experience of watching a movie and sharing my comments a true “Review”. I am going to present my comments in a different form for this movie – of course, just for kicks. Here are 3 different views of the movie..

View 1 – An Average Moviegoer

  • The entertainment quotient of the movie is probably close to 7.5/10. By which I mean, there is almost 75% of the time when you are watching the movie, you never get the feeling “what the heck is going on?” or you look at your watch or you sort of predict what the character is going to say or do..
  • Casting – Aamir Khan is pretty good and full marks to him for physically trying to morph himself into a lean machine from his Ghajini looks. Although he could never pass off as a 20 year old (to be fair Madhavan wouldn’t pass off as a 20 year old as well..), he looked much younger for his age. But I thought Aamir overdid his mannerisms, in other words, he tried too hard to look like a 20 year old. Madhavan was a class apart, if you could leave his age aside, he didn’t overdo what Aamir tried to, but rather played to his strengths. Shraman Joshi too did quite well..and you could see the chemistry between the 3 working really well.
  • Awesome comic one liners – Have to give full marks to Hirani and Abhijat Joshi for their sense of humor and for a great adaptation & for a great screenplay. This is what helped the movie to be a highly entertaining one. Not to mention, the social message that they interviewed the screenplay with.

View 2 – A Critic with a microscope (actually just a simple magnifying lens)

  • Aamir as the hero – Of course, he gets to do all the right things and say all the right things as the main character “Rancho”. As much as I would like to give credit to Aamir for not hogging the camera, he however gets to say the cheesiest of one liners (punch lines as they call it in Tamil movies) and always tries to be Mr. Clean. I don’t have a problem with him playing a mainstream hero..but could have been less pretentious about it (like Ghajini). I have lots of respect for Aamir Khan the thinker behind the actor, so was a little disappointed that he chose this route.
  • All the larger than life scenes – As much as they are entertaining and helps the writers get their point across, these scenes have meaningless purposes in the grand scheme of things. For example: The whole delivery scene with a vacuum cleaner. C’mon, couldn’t they have taken a less dramatic approach? That too right after another dramatic sequence which includes a student pissing outside a Dean’s house..Again this being a critic view, I would like to totally do away with anything as silly & as dramatic as these scenes were, specially given the movie involves Mr. Perfect, why not?
  • The whole underwear salute sequences – May be they overdid it in my critic’s viewpoint much like “students making fun of teachers” episodes.

View 3 – A Controversy Monger

  • Of course I can’t talk about this movie without talking about Chetan Bhagat. Enough said and enough discussed. I heard about his book in 2007 and read his Five Point Someone within a month after I heard about this book. I liked the book for the story and the simplistic way it was told. Nothing more and nothing less. But wasn’t surprised when I read that someone is trying to make a movie based on this book because the book had enough ingredients for a movie. When I read about the whole controversy, I took sides immediately. I am on Chetan’s side.
  • If you haven’t read the book yet, then there is no point in trying to argue with you. But what is hard to fathom is why Aamir Khan would join hands with VVC and RH to go after poor Chetan. No matter what the agreement is (in which I am pretty sure there is no mention of Abhijat claiming 100% credit for the story), all Chetan wants is a due recognition of his contribution. Will VVC or RH come out and openly say that they would have come up with the exact same story if not for Chetan’s book? Absolute BS.
  • It is also hard to believe that Mr. Perfectionist failed (supposedly on purpose) to read the book before he did the movie. Why? Stupidity or sheer, smart  foresightedness? Either way, it is giving him a good shield to fight against Chetan. The respect I had started to develop for Aamir Khan since Lagaan has once again been brought under a cloud of suspicion.
  • On the whole, Chetan’s name deserves to appear in clear and concrete terms whether in the beginning or towards the end. Just “Based on the Novel written by Chetan Bhagat” or “Original Story by CB” or “Story by Abhijat and Chetan”…would have been enough in my mind.
Posted in AR Rahman, Books, Cricket, Sports - General

Books, Blue and Men in Blue

After not having the opportunity  to travel in the past coupe of months, I guess I have fallen into the rut of not reading enough. The 10 day vacation was a welcome break in many ways – and I was able to catch upon 2 books from the list of half a dozen that I have been craftily updating..

The White Tiger (Aravind Adiga) – I had not read any detailed reviews of this book anywhere but had known that the book was making waves all over. When I started reading the book, it took me a few seconds to understand the style of the novel, where dear Balram Halwai, the self-made, half-baked, semi-psycopathic, self-proclaimed philosopher, White Tiger narrates the story of modern India through a series of letters to the Chinese Premier (Wen Jiabao). Throughout the book, Adiga has managed to spice up the story which is narrated in more of a confession narrative style, with crass & crude remarks only the likes of Balram and their background can make, thus giving him the veil of not getting judged by his (Adiga’s) readers on his political or social stance. The story itself can be analyzed, dissected and probably put into case studies, for what Adiga has tried to portray in this novel is not just how rich and poor live in modern India, but also to subtly bring out the general Indian psyche in the age of call centers and BPOs. As a story, it was well written. If the book has to be judged on any literary merits, then at the risk of being termed snobbish, I will not give it more than a C+. I would love to ask Adiga his real intention behind trying to use the Chinese premier as the medium here (you do hear about several comparisons between India and China throughout the book, mostly mentioned in a matter of fact manner without sounding patriotic or unpatriotic). Of course, critics like those who called SdM an anti-India movie will do/have done the same for this book as well, which is not surprising to me, as I felt squirmy reading about certain incidents & felt disgusted about certain people in the book.

Netherland (Joseph O’Neill) – Chuck Ramkissoon is a character. I mean. He truly is. “There is a limit to what Americans can understand. The limit is Cricket.” I may have paraphrased what he said. But this line gives true color to his character. An immigrant, living in NYC, where one can make a living through so many legal and illegal ways, Chuck is a very complicated and a highly ambitious kind of guy, who always seemed to have a small plan and a big one for anything he did. And he meets Hans. The story is really about the very unusual friendship these 2 share with the game of cricket bringing them together under very strange circumstances in New York City after 09/11, where both of them were trying to make a new home land, away from their mother land. Oh, I almost forgot to add – the real backdrop of the story is the love between Hans and his lawyer wife, or how they rediscover it, after they get separated. I highly recommend this novel just for its originality and for bringing out the true essence of a cricket loving immigrant’s feeling in America.

Blue – Chiggy Wiggy, is a catchy pop number set to a simple groove but to a wide assortment of digitized sounds..The Bhangra fusion takes time to sink in and when it does, you feel the brilliance. Aaj Dil  and Rehanuma are the kind of songs that makes you wonder how laterally a musician can think when trying to make a racy romantic number to suit an action movie, while making sure there is room for genuine melody. Bhola Tujhe is a great sounding ballad more along the lines of recently done JTYJN types. Blue Theme is thumping, rocking, pumping and absolutely naughty (specially the Bhangra type percussion that is thrown in between) – Only one man can come up with this kind of a number, because it needs a lot of mastery over rhythm. Finally, my 2 picks of the album are Fiqrana and Yaar Mila. Fiqrana is truly innovative and becomes addictive after a few hearings while Yaar Mila is instantly catchy. A well packaged album by Rahman for today’s fast food audience.

Men in Blue – After being No. 1 ODI team for 16 hours, Indians managed to win the Compaq trophy. I didn’t follow the matches but it was heartening to see Tendulkar plunder in the final. Great going Dhoni!

Note to Potro -Are you going to be able to carry it forward, after what you did in the Flushing Meadows? Beating Nadal and Federer back to back…?? Great job.

And finally a note to Federer, “It is ok. You had a streak going for 5 straight years..and If there is anyone else who deserved the US open this year other than you, it is him. You just couldn’t get your serves in..and I think you also made too many unforced errors without reading the bounce of the ball well. Great acceptance speech btw..”