Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Thousand Words (Review)

Loved the concept


The central idea of the movie, a magical tree with its life linked to that of Jack, that dies when Jack speaks a thousand words, thus forcing him to think hard before he says anything, forcing him to be predominantly quiet from a boisterous agent, is not only unique but also endearing.

The movie refrains from any slapstick comedy which has become characteristic of Eddie Murphy. It was this I was fearing the most and did not watch the movie for more than a couple of months even after downloading it.

It leaves you with these thoughts: are you introspecting enough? are you in touch with who you really are? do you know what makes you happy, or are you just going through the motions of life, doing what you believe the society respects and your family wants from you.

Maturely handled, the movie refrains from being self-help and sermonizing. It has a power packed messaged, wrapped in the capsule of entertaining fiction.

Easily one of the better Murphy movies.

Waltz With Bashir (Review)

A treat to watch


One of the more brilliant films I have seen recently. It is the first animated documentary film I have seen and the montage is so effective that it made me wonder why is this not a more popular medium.

The plot is kept gripping through the lens of the self-portrayal of the director who is searching for his lost memories of the war. It focuses on the psychology of the military men and the measures their minds resort to cope with the stress. The dealing of the actual massacre is not heavy handed and is approached in a balanced way, that leaves the audience with a burning desire to find out more about what transpired and how the collective failure of conscience of 3 groups of military men was brought about through systematic delegation.

The auto-ethnographic angle helps focus on the non-political and a more humane angle of Sabra and Shatila massacre of 1982, which to me was the most novel aspect of the film that experiments with a lot of ideas of movie making and pushes the limits of cinema.

Brilliantly pieced together with a comic-esque feel, Waltz with Bashir will stay in my head for the title sequence. A rash, callous and incomprehensibly inhuman act is described as a waltz. Accompanied with music that is befitting of the interpretation of the scene, it is among the best sequences in movies.

Salaam Bombay - Review

A Triple Sundae of Punch in the Guts

One of the 3 Indian movies to be nominated for an Oscar in over 50 years since the 'Best Foreign Film' category was created, this movie stands out as a tribute to the city of Bombay that houses Bollywood. Brilliantly shot, on a shoe string budget it brings together the 3 aspects of the city we all love and admire - its colors, its chaos and its children.

Brilliant camera-work, direction and cinematography clubbed with heart rendering performances from Nana Patekar, Shafiq Syed and Raghuvir Yadav make the movie a 'must-watch' for me. The decrepitude of the city with drugs, prostitution, lawlessness, corruption and apathy of the society towards the kids comes out brilliantly in the film.

Shafiq's near flawless portrayal of young Krishna / Chaipau showcases the determination of innocence.

The film could have done with some editing and retakes. There are a couple of poorly shot, distracting scenes in which the young actors accidentally stare into the camera, but that is a minor and pardonable flaw, in my eye.

The only problem that I see is that it labors a lot to set up the universe and does not move the story forward too much. This is more than made up for by the fantastic setting up of the universe. Another point I would like to make is that it tries to address too many minor themes, which does not do as much justice to the themes as one would have liked. The movie is Hugo, Requiem for a dream, Kaalia (1981) and much more wrapped into one.

Mira, however, does not let you lose sight of Krishna and his struggle to get back to his "mulak", which to me is a testament to her film making abilities.

Identity - by Milan Kundera (Review)

IdentityIdentity by Milan Kundera

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Wonderfully thought provoking, typical of Milan Kundera's writing. A small yet powerful novella packed with questions over how we define our identity and what determines who we are. When the foundations of how we perceive and define ourselves begin to shake, Kundera suggests a chaos is bound to ensue. His depiction of theorizing, thinking and non-conforming characters captures the rationale behind that chaos brilliantly.

That's for the 3 stars.

The remaining 2 stars, no matter how much it hurts me, I would keep from one of my favorite authors on this book. Why? Just for the ending that I found too abrupt, too quick. Like driving a knife through the plot and bleeding its potency out.

Loved the dream sequence at the climax, but was just left asking for more of Kundera in the ending. Unlike his other works, where he labors tirelessly to tie in all the lose ends and take the final leap of theoretical deduction in human behavior, this one lacks a polished ending.

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The Quiet Girl by Peter Hoeg (A Review)

The Quiet GirlThe Quiet Girl by Peter H√łeg

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My first Peter Hoeg novel. Really fast paced, action packed psychological thriller - a genre that I am surprised is still in its nascence! Although the writing is very complex with unspecified time jumps, magical realism, no clear distinction between dream, hallucinations and reality (a who-cares-for-what's-real outlook) made a book a collection of too many first time reading experiences for me. I would love to read the book again. I believe the book requires to be read at least twice to be understood in entirety.

The book is rich with details and in-depth knowledge of music, church, business, Denmark's law enforcement processes, geographic details, details of the underground sewage system and more. That is another thing that made it a very fresh style.

A must read for anyone looking for some mental exercise along with reading! And there is thrill / suspense to keep you going - the way the story unfolds will keep you hooked to the book. On the way, be prepared to be blown away with some amazingly profound writing from the POV a middle aged Kasper Krone - a clown, a musician, a fugitive, a detective, a superhero.

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Satanic Verses (Review)

The Satanic VersesThe Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Before I started reading this book, I was extremely wary if I was just buying into the hype around the book. Once I got to reading it, I thought the same again since it demands a marathon-esque effort from the reader. I constantly checked the reviews of the book on good reads, trying to find a good reason to give it up. But I couldn't. I am a sucker for finishing books that I pick up.

There are some aspects of the book that rivet you to it, there are many more that will tempt you to give it up. But persevere, and it shall reward. It is a brilliant, controversial - to the point of scandalizing in several places - work of literature. Yes, it is literature and it has a unique voice. I am now tempted to read the Quran to understand a lot of references to the text and maybe someday re-read the book. Did I say maybe? I mean it has to be read at least twice to be understood in entirety.

If nothing else, the book led me to understand one 'ism' better, Rushdism!

Friday, August 2, 2013


Amina sat by the small fire she had built outside the barracks she was staying at. She took out her diary and started writing the day’s journal. It was a habit with her, documenting what she experienced, every day. She did not want to forget anything she saw. On her dull days, she read her journals and relived her past sojourns. She recorded what she saw, to one day be able to recite these to the one person she was looking for. She needed to tell him all that she had seen whenever they met. If they ever met.
Lost in her longing and hope of meeting the man she owed everything, she turned back to the first page. It had blotched patches of ink juxtaposed with a beautiful handwriting. She remembered how her tears had fallen over her words, immortalizing the pain she had felt.
As her mind drifted, she found her vision blurring. Or did her vision blur, so that her mind could drift? The eyes, they had always seemed to have a will of their own. Refusing to do their job, they forced her to indulge her nostalgia; forced her past to trespass into her present, riding the memory train. It brought back the horrid times when she had been truly happy - a fleeting happiness that destroyed her world in its wake.
Yes, she had been in love once. She had loved dearly. What they had together, what they shared were the most beautiful emotions Amina had ever felt. But that is what love does. It romanticizes and makes everything grander in retrospect, she heard her logical self argue with her true self.
Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. All I know is what I felt during that phase of my life. Everything was better, our handicaps did not seem to matter. We completed each other, not only by overcoming our physical limitations through the complementary nature of our defects, but also emotionally. How can you deny that? It is the truth…
It was around the time she had started her Masters in Developmental Studies, when she had met Gabriel. He was a quadriplegic. He had been in a war, in his country. “We had many wars back then. I don’t even remember which one or even whom I was fighting,” she remembered Gabriel telling her. The war had taken away his faculty of movement. He had come to Amina’s country, seeking refuge from his own. His surroundings reminded him of his athletic days and his love for all sports. He could not play anymore and watching the sports only heightened his bitterness. Amina was the balm to his pain.
She recalled how Gabriel used to lie next to her, reminiscing, for hours together: sometimes about his countryside, sometimes his war. His voice, his words painted a world for Amina. Her imagination took flight and she felt his country better than she had ever felt her own. She felt like she belonged there. She felt she belonged to Gabriel.
Her heart skipped a beat, fearing where her mind was going next. She shook her head and forced her eyes to focus on something to derail the memory train. Out of the blur, her journal materialized into focus. First page - at the start. When she had opened her eyes for the first time in the hospital. No, she hadn’t just been born, but the experience had been quite like that. It was the most eventful day in her life.
Gabriel had brought Amina news of her surgery. The most beautiful gift she could have ever dreamt of. Such joy she had experienced at just the thought of it. She had forgotten to ask any questions, fearing she would wake up from the dream. She had waited all her life for a donor and it had finally happened. Gabriel had come with her to the hospital. He was with her when she was being prepped for the surgery and left her side only after she was anaesthetized.
When she recovered from the effects of the anesthesia, she asked for Gabriel. She took in the reaction of the doctors and nurses in the silence, her heart sinking. The room stank of their tension. But she was fighting against her logical self and would dare not venture where it was taking her…
Amina was born blind. She, however, had learned to live, and not just manage, without being bogged down by an obvious handicap.
Her mental development had been acute, because her mind was extremely keen. It wanted to take in and process everything. “Vision makes the mind lazy,” a ten year old Amina had declared to her mother, “I have four working senses.” Indeed, she had an extremely developed olfactory sense and perceived most objects around her with an acute sense of hearing.
She could tell the height of the person speaking to her, through the angle at which the voice was coming from. She could tell the length of the car, and the speed it was moving at through the sound it made while passing her. With her sharp memory, she could remember where everything was, once she had sensed it.
Her world existed in a complex code of sound and smell signals. Even the inane objects, which we see but refuse to register in our conscious memory, letting them slip into the subconscious, drew her attention and affixed her gaze.
Gabriel was enamored with Amina’s passion. Her zest for life, because of her handicap not in spite of it, made her very different from Gabriel. Though healing, he knew he could never embrace life the way Amina did.
Her fingers involuntarily pulled out her only connection to the man she loved. Tucked between the pages, buried in there was a note he had left by her hospital bed.
“One complete life. Better than two incomplete ones.”
Amina felt the irony of having lived the darkest moment of her life with a brand new pair of eyes.