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Monday, June 29, 2015

Book Review : Scion Of Ikshvaku

Author : Amish Tripathi
Genre : Mythological Fantasy
Published On : 22 June 2015

As the makers put it, this first installment of the Ram Chandra series is the most awaited literary blockbuster of the year. The frenzied wait had its effect on me, as I had pre-ordered a copy, days before its release. Obviously, the most weighted factor which prompted me into this craze was The Shiva Trilogy, the previous work of the boring banker turned happy author.

Shiva Trilogy achieved its cult status for two major reasons: a) the plot being discussed offered a welcome change from the modern day love stories that had mushroomed up in the post Chetan era. b) The author had meticulously researched through Vedas and other ancient texts, and had reconstructed the very image of Shiva, into a very capable man rather than a miracle performing God. To quote the First City, Amish had succeeded on reintroducing Hindu mythology to the youth of this country. It was refreshing to have an alternative, and more logical view of our puranas. Personally, his works had helped me reinforce some of my sagging faith.

So when the author of Shiva Trilogy announced Ram Chandra series, I was naturally excited. Here, he had a daunting task to remodel Indian epic Ramayana. Most of us are already familiar with the text, and one could only wonder how he would remodel it. And having seen through the three hundred and fifty four pages, I must say Amish has done a commendable job. The title “Scion of Ikshvaku” follows the pattern of titles of his previous works : Immortals of Meluha, Secret of the Nagas and Oath of the Vayuputras. Scion simply means descendants. Now let us get into the book. No spoilers though.

I must say Ram Chandra series may not be as radical as Shiva Trilogy, more or less because it follows the same style. Moreover, the author has to carefully work on the very famous Ramayana, without arising any controversy, while no such epic existed in the case of Shiva. Nonetheless, he has taken his liberty in tweaking some of the incidents and touching up the behaviors of some pivotal characters. One could call this series a prequel of sorts to the Shiva Trilogy.

The reader is made quite aware of how the first part is going to end early on. This is a cliffhanger situation, leaving you wanting for more…

Saturday, June 27, 2015


For some, rain is captivating. Some others say rain is nostalgic. I had always maintained that rain was inspiring, but that day was different. Despite the sky opening its floodgates over my flat and its surroundings at the scenic Fort Kochi, I was anything but inspired. I was on my couch, with my netbook by my side and had finished typing my latest piece of fiction. It was three years ago that I had, rather inadvertently, discovered that I could actually write prose. After a few unsuccessful trysts with some leading magazines, I resorted to social media for publishing my works. Likes, comments and shares made me quite famous. In fact, my works do have some following in the cyberspace.

As I said before, I had finished typing a new story, but the problem I was facing was that I couldn’t find an appropriate title for my work. A thousand seconds and half a dozen titles flashed through, but none gave me any satisfaction. As I was still pondering over it, my phone rang. Unknown number.


‘Hi sir. Read your last work that you had posted on facebook. Frankly, it was brilliant. I loved it.’
Oh thank you very much. As you might know, that was not my first work.’

‘I have gone through every of your stories, but none touched me to the core the way this did. Clearly this one was a cut above the rest.’

‘Nice to hear that. By the way, you are?’

‘I would appreciate if you would not ask that.’

‘Excuse me?’

‘Just consider me as one of your readers. Isn’t that enough?’

‘But what’s wrong with me knowing your name?’

‘It’s not about being wrong, sir. Only that it is unnecessary. We both are total strangers. You write stories and I read them. After reading a story I couldn’t resist from calling you. My name is not of significance here. Hope you understand my point.’

‘But if you wouldn’t tell me your name, I might waste time thinking over the mysterious caller, right? Isn’t it better if you could tell me?’

‘I have reservations about what you said, sir.’

‘Enlighten me.’

‘Well, if I didn’t tell my name, you might think about it for a while but eventually you’ll forget. On the other hand, consider the scenario of me telling you my name. I am Mr. Z for instance. In that case, whenever you come across a person named Z, my thoughts also could come to your mind. That is, you’ll think about this stranger all through your life. I felt I could make that not happen by simply not revealing an irrelevant bit of information. Okay, sir?’

‘Hmm. As you wish. Good day, gentleman.’

And I ended the rather eccentric conversation. Nevertheless, all of what he said was not bluff. I thought about a Hollywood movie that I had watched some time ago. In that movie, the protagonist was always shown wearing a mask. His real face never revealed, and I must accept this gave the hero a certain level of awe. Vikas Swarup, the celebrated author of the Slumdog Millionaire once echoed similar sentiments. Through a character in his novel Six Suspects, he stated that women in lingerie were a lot more appealing than nude ones.

Riding by this new wave of thoughts, I had another shot at my untitled work. After reading from the very beginning to the last period, I felt my work was complete in all sense. A title seemed out of place. As if the extra bit of information would kill the essence of the story.  And I posted the story without any titles. In under two minutes, the first ‘like’ was registered. I withheld my urge to check the name of who had liked. With a click, I logged out of the world that made me what I was. The downpour had not ceased. I found the rain seducing.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Movie Review : Wild Tales

Title : Relatos Salvajes
Language : Argentine - Spanish
Year : 2014
Director : Damian Szifron
Genre : Comedy, Thriller, Drama
Lead Role : Dario, Grandinetti, Maria Marull, Monica Villa

Wild Tales is a brilliant anthology offering from the Argentine movie industry. As the name suggests, each of the six tales could be best described wild. Although each story differs from the other, there is something that binds them all. 

Most tales in the film are of people who have been wronged at some point of their lives, and how they respond to such uncomfortable situations they find themselves in. Some of the stories are particularly wild, or crazy.

This is a brilliant piece of work, which sets the viewer's mind thinking.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Movie Review : ABCD 2

Title : ABCD 2
Language : Hindi
Year : 2015
Director : Remo D'Zouza
Genre : Musical
Watch trailer on Youtube
Lead Role : Varun Dhawan. Sradha Kapoor, Prabhudeva

All of us know that ABCD (short for Any Body Can Dance) is a dance based movie series conceptualized on the lines of popular Dance movie franchise, the Step Up. Surely, ABCD 2 is the second installment of the series, but it is not a sequel per se. The story is not a continuation of the first part even though some actors (read dancers) have been retained.

To put it short, it is the tale of a dance team which gets bashed publically for having copied dance steps, and their subsequent struggle and eventual rise to the top. Varun Dhawan and Sradha Kapoor has been roped in, probably to increase the marketability. Nevertheless, both justified their selection with some quality movements.

The movie has its dose of melodrama, and at times the story seemed just as an excuse to take the film forward. That said, the choreography has been top class, so are the exquisitely colorful frames which is a treat for our eyes. Charlie Chaplin dance is particularly fun to watch. The technical side is quite good and they have done a neat job on the 3D effects. Coming to the songs, Sun Sathiya is a soothing melody, while Bezubaan Phir Se makes our feet tap.

Overall, ABCD2 delivers what was expected of it. A choreographed entertainer.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Trophy Wife

That afternoon

A considerable crowd had gathered outside the Herrington estate. The imposing mansion to the center of the estate, known as the Old Home among the locals, stood as a symbol of grief that day. The crowd was predominantly dressed in black, as they had come for the mourning. Some were genuinely sad, the others too mourned.


Three years ago

I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may now seal this union with a kiss.” Said the vicar at the St. John’s Lutheran Church. The wedding had ended and marriage had just started. Sixty two year old Denny Herrington passionately kissed his twenty four year old wife Elsa on her lips for the first time. The wedding of this unlikely couple had interested the inhabitants of the small and quiet town.

Can’t blame the oldie”, chuckled the young Phinny Lambert. “She’s a real beauty. A man got to satisfy his needs.” 

Don’t you see what she has done?” gossiped Denny’s steward Maggi. “How longer would master live? And once he goes, who would inherit all the riches? Oh she is a clever pretty thing.


That evening

Let us go in peace to live out the word of god.” 

Mass was performed, and the parish priest gave a simple closing blessing. Those who had gathered began to disperse quietly. They had their own lives to deal with. A few stayed back and sung ‘Abide with me’ and few other closing hymns.


Four years ago

The new play ‘Lending a hand’ by popular troupe Mirage Theater was playing to a full house that weekend. The front rows were reserved for family members of politicians and other influential man. Denny Herrington was one of them. He had neither family nor close friends, and he sat alone and watched the drama. The female lead was a new girl. Something about her caught his attention. Her movements were graceful, her voice soothing, and her eyes were irresistible. Denny became a regular for the play.  A man he knew from the troupe told him that her name was Elsa. The acquaintance introduced him to the young actress. 

Denny Harrington commended on her awesome performance. She thanked him. They started meeting more often. They had lunch together, they discussed almost everything under the sun, and in the course of time, found a liking to each other despite the odds.

Denny felt as if he had finally found his soul mate.  Elsa believed Denny was perfect for her. Finally she had met a man who would talk to her eyes rather than her bosoms. He represented the love of a husband, and the care of a father.


That morning

Denny had woken up to the lovely chirping of sparrows. Elsa was still asleep. He rose and opened the window panes. It was still spring, and his garden was full of those colorful flowers. Life was good. His maid Maggi brought in two mugs of steaming tea. 

Denny went near the bed and gently patted Elsa. She did not respond. He sat and started sipping his tea. He called out her name and shook her a bit. She did not respond. He patted her back, this time not so gently. She did not respond. 

Somewhere in the quiet of the night her lovely heart had stopped its rhythm. Residents of the town came pouring in to console Denny. The sun rose and shone brightly. All Denny could see was pitch darkness.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The 4th Mistake of his Life

if you are yet to say hi to Chetan Bhagat's '3 Mistakes of my Life' then fun is not guaranteed.

A conversation between Chethan Bhagat and Govind Patel....(my adaptation)

CB: Hello

GP: am I am speaking to Chethan Bhagat?

CB: How did you get this number in first place?

GP: A friend of mine works at the Rupa Publishers.

CB: Then whom do you think you are speaking to? Ajmal Kasab! No Sir.

CB: Hello? Are you dead?

GP: Not yet Sir, but would be soon...coz I am popping a sleeping pill after each sentence I speak.

CB: Cool. What brand?

GP: Calmpose

CB: Okay. Now would you mind backing your insanity with a bit of logic?

GP: I committed 3 mistakes....and now I feel so terrible that I feel ought not to live..would you listen to my tale?

CB: I am all ears

GP: My name is Govind Patel, and I am a businessman from Ahmedabad.

CB: Okay

GP: Ish, Omi and I were friends right from childhood, Ish was a cricket frantic and Omi a priest's son.

CB: Tell me the 3 mistakes.

GP: The 3 of us wanted to open a sports shop at Ahmedabad...we had invested all our savings to buy a stall.

CB: Then?

GP: The whole complex went down in a fire...we lost all our money.

CB: Hardly a reason to die. Next?

GP: I used to take Math classes for Ish's sister Vidya. In due course we fell for each other and one fine evening I gave her life lessons....

CB: I didn't get the mistake part.

GP: Well I quite forgot the old saying 'Prevention is better than abortion'

CB: You shouldn't have...then what happened?

GP: By God's grace nothing awry occurred...but Ish found out and since then he has not spoken to me.

CB: Nothing happened! Man its pathetic! Seriously I don't think there's any reason why you should continue to live.

GP: Before I tell my third mistake I must tell about Ali. He is such an abundantly gifted kid with the bat. I still remember how he thrashed Ish all over the field!

CB: Ish kaun? Ishant Sharma??

GP: Ish...Vidya's bro...

CB: What does Ali have to do with your mistake?

GP: A few years ago communal riots were a commonplace here...bloods of innocent people were shed in the name of religion...we lost our Omi in the bloody fight...To retaliate, Bittu Mama and gang started finishing off Muslims, literally setting them on fire. We tried to rescue Ali for he was a budding talent, but I reacted a bit late considering my own safety and Ali got a cut on his wrist...I am such a self centered duffer!

CB: Is that all?

GP: Yeah...would you consider this for your next work?

CB: I would definitely look into it...

GP: Thank You Sir. Good bye.

CB: And Govind, RIH.

GP: Isn't it suppossed to be Rest In Peace?

CB: Not exactly. I meant it to be Rot In Hell.

GP: It seems calling you was the 4th mistake of my life.

CB: I knew it right from the beginning...

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


(Edited by: Shrestha Ghoshal)

June 3 1947

It was the last few days of British rule in India. The last viceroy of India, Louis Mountbatten, had called for a press conference. This was to be a red letter day in the history of India and Pakistan, as the British were formally declaring the end of their regime in India, signaling our long cherished independence. The news was on expected lines, since the Labor government in Britain had exhausted its exchequer by the end of the World War II. There was, however, a catch. India would no longer remain the same united nation it was. India was to be partitioned into the two new and fully sovereign dominions of India and Pakistan. The provinces of Bengal and Punjab were to be divided between the two new countries. The British had taken advantage of the two nation theory flaunted by some of our local leaders. Nonetheless, independence was good news and most of our national leaders were upbeat. Most, not all. A man by the name of Mohandas Karam Chand Gandhi was opposed to the idea of dividing our land along religious lines. He observed ‘maunvrit’ on that day. He later became the father of the nation.



Ten year old Luis was excited to death as he rode pillion with his father. Luis had learned the game a year ago, and last month he had won the school championship at his level. He wanted to go for professional training, and his parents obliged. Gambit was a one of the most reputed institutes in the city that offered training in chess. After twenty minutes of dodging the traffic, Luis and his dad reached Gambit.



An open session of the Hindu Mahasabha was progressing in Ahmedabad. Writer and poet Vinayak Damodar Savarkar rose to give his presedential address. His words were to have terrifying repercussions later.
‘India cannot be assumed today to be a Unitarian and homogenous nation, but on the contrary there are two nations in the main - the Hindus and the Muslims. Dharma of a Hindu being so completely identified with the land of the Hindus, this land to him is not only a Pitribhu but a Punyabhu, not only a fatherland but a holy land.’ And so he went on. The amusing fact was that Savarkar was an atheist.



“What is your name, child?” a young man asked Luis.

“Luis Roshan.”

“Hi Luis. I am Mohan. I would be your mentor in Chess from here on. Do you want me to start from scratch?”

“I know the basics, sir. I intend to play as many as I can, and improve my game.”

“It’s not about the numbers, son. What matters is how well you read your opponent. Shall we begin?”

“Sure thing.”

Mohan led young Luis into a hallway. Many kids like him were engaged with their games. Mohan showed him to an unoccupied table. The board and pieces were all set. The kings, queens, rooks, knights, elephants and soldiers in black and white quite represented a battlefield.

“White or Black?”

Like most kids, Luis had a thing for black. Mohan had to make the opening move since he had the white pieces.

‘e4.’ Mohan made the opening move.

Luis thought for a moment, and made his move. ‘e5’

Mohan studied the board for some time, and decided. ‘d4’

Luis’ eye widened when he saw it. He double checked. How could his master not see that? Mohan had advanced his pawn to a dangerous spot, where Luis could simply capture the piece. He was elated.


August 16, 1946

By then it was common knowledge that British rule in India would end soon. The Muslim minority of the country feared that if the British just pulled out, Muslims would surely suffer at the hands of overwhelming Hindu majority. The Muslim League Council had decided it was time to demonstrate their strength and unity. This eventful day was proclaimed as the ‘Direct Action Day’ by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, in the demand for a Muslim homeland in British India.  That very evening, in Calcutta, Hindus were attacked by returning Muslim celebrants. The next day, Hindus struck back and the violence continued for three days in which approximately four thousand people died. Hindus and Muslims in equal numbers. India was bleeding itself in the name of religion. The amusing fact was that Jinnah was an atheist.



‘e x d4.’ Luis had drawn the first blood, by capturing a white pawn. He looked into his mentor’s eyes. Mohan’s eyes did not show any emotion. He just sat there, pondering his next move.


‘d x c3.’ Luis captured a second piece. Things were getting more and more exciting. His mentor had probably underestimated him.

‘Bc4.’ Instead of capturing the black pawn, Mohan had advanced his bishop.

Luis continued with his killing spree. ‘c x b2.’



Massive population exchanges occurred between the two newly formed states in the months immediately following Partition. Once the lines were established, about 14.5 million people crossed the borders to what they hoped was the relative safety of religious majority. This is one of the greatest forced migrations in human history. Amid the massive confusion and panic, up to 1 million people died; while untold numbers of women suffered a fate worse than death -- they were raped, sometimes tortured, gang-raped and murdered.



Finally, Luis did lose a piece. His pawn at b2 was captured by the bishop. Rapid exchanges followed. Luis posed a check using his bishop but that was blocked. They both castled.

Luis no longer felt the air of superiority. Most of his pieces were still closed, while Mohan had opened up his game and gained central control. He was attacking aggressively. Luis started panicking. A few more moves were exchanged.

“Checkmate.” Mohan had won the game. Luis felt down.

“It’s alright, Luis. You played well. Let me tell you what happened here. I offered you a few of my pieces.  You became obsessed with capturing them and missed the larger picture. This is a well-known tactic in chess. We call it gambit.”


Hindustan, which had been a mighty empire once, was now a group of weaker nations with constant in-fighting. India and Pakistan are yet to resolve sensitive border issues even after four wars. Six decades have passed since independence, yet we are nowhere near peace. While agreeing for partition in return of independence, we had unfortunately accepted the Queen’s gambit from The United Kingdom.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

What’s In A Name: The Uniqueness Of The Common Man?

Ours is the second-most populous nation on this planet. Soon enough, we would be topping the list too. Yes, there might be more than a hundred crore human beings living it out within these 29 states and 7 union territories, and yet each single one of us has a secret desire to be unique in some way possible. 

Most of us aspire to have at least one particular trait in ourselves that distinguishes us from the others. 

“Human minds are like grains of rice. From a distance, they all look alike but closer inspection tells us that each one is distinct.” That might be an old adage, but it holds true, and not just in the case of our minds alone. 

The “Uniquifying” process starts with the name. Right from the moment a new life joins us, the parents and close kin come out with a list of names suitable for the baby. Without saying, the onus is on finding a new, unheard name. Our celebrities, who often have a demigod status in our lives, seem to be following these trends too. Come on, names like Aaradhya, AbRam with a capital R, and Aarav are not that common, are they? 

If you watch closely, you would realize that most toddlers have names starting with ‘A’. Well, A would ensure that my child would come among the first in the class rolling system, which means that my child would need not wait for hours to get his notes corrected, fees collected and the like. Trust me, I have experienced the bitter side of being at the other side of the rolling system; that has some positives too. For instance, some teachers ask questions in the order of roll numbers. 

Anyway, we may have succeeded in giving our kids unique names, but are we able to maintain that uniqueness in our lives? Turn on your self-analysis mode as here we go:

I mentioned the roll-call system of our schools, didn’t I? In my class, with forty students, my roll number was usually in the 35-40 range. Since I cleverly named my daughter ‘A-something’, her roll number maybe among the top 5 or 10 in the class. In any case, students are more likely to be addressed by their numbers rather than their names. I know it is not practical for the staff to remember each and every name. Numbers are easier. 

And hey, they are unique, too. Two kids may have the same name, but never the same roll number. 

Okay, let’s grow out of the student scenario. Now that I have sent my kid to school, let me go and consult my doctor. The persistent cough is really pestering me. Since I had made an appointment already, the receptionist gave me a token number so that I could meet my doctor when my number gets called. The good thing about token numbers is that, unlike roll numbers, they are not issued based on your name. It is more of a first-come-first-serve procedure. I sat there and waited until I heard my number being called out through the speaker.

Later that evening, I went to school to pick up my daughter. Apparently, she had made some friends as well. And on seeing me, my little darling came rushing to me, followed by her friends. And they all addressed me as uncle, while telling me tales about her. Technically, I was not their uncle. Still, I was called that. 

As I think of it, I remember that the young boy at the hospital had also called me uncle. Nobody wanted to know my name. ‘Uncle’ seemed perfect for them. 

Please put your seat belts on. We are fast-forwarding a bit. Today my young, fun-loving daughter is getting married. It’s amazing how fast time flies. I still remember how I used to carry her on my shoulders but today, she is one beautiful bride. There is a reasonably large canvas on the stage with my daughter and her partner’s names on it, but the guests simply do not seem to care for that. Instead, they have been rushing to meet the ‘bride’ and the ‘groom’. 

“Isn't the bride ready?” 

“Aww…the bride looks real charming.” 

I wanted to tell them that my daughter has a good name, but decided against it. 

***Cuff…Cuff…sorry, the coughs have not really left me to peace, after all.

Today is a special day in my life. For, in all probability it is my last day here. The long fights between me and the dry coughs were coming to a truce, and I had decided to give it in. There I lay, on a hospital bed, and surrounded by my family and friends. They all seemed pretty sad. 

My daughter was crying. I wanted to hold her hand and tell her that I am all right, but my actions had gone unnoticeable for the living. I lay there, observing. 

Hours passed. 

People came and people went. 

People whom I knew, people whom I liked. This was quite a depressing situation. The religious head of our locality came and whispered in my son-in-law’s ears: 

“When do we cremate the body?”

Friday, June 5, 2015

Movie Review : Reservoir Dogs

Title : Reservoir Dogs
Language : English
Year : 1992
Director : Quentin Tarantino
Genre : Crime, Drama
Watch trailer on Youtube
Lead Role : Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madson

Quentin Tarantino has achieved a cult status of sorts by making films with his signature imprinted clearly in each of them. There is something distinctive about his works which identifies him apart from the lot. The narration is non-linear, the films are often musical, and the director himself comes up with a cameo performance often.

Underworld Kingpin Mr. Joe and his son recruit 5 con men and hatch a plan to rob a diamond store. The rest of the 90 minute action details the aftermath of the operation. The plot is quit simple actually, but a clear picture would emerge only after watching the movie in whole. Each dialogue is generously tipped with cuss words and abuses. Overall it is a good watch.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Movie Review : Detective Byomkesh Bakshi!

Title : Detective Byomkesh Bakshi!
Language : Hindi
Year : 2015
Director : Dibankar Banerjee
Genre : Mystery, Thriller
Watch trailer on Youtube
Lead Role : Sushant Singh Rajput, Neeraj Kabi, Divya Menon, Anand Tiwary, Swastika Mukherjee

Byomkesh Bakshi is a fictional character penned by Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay, and one could say he is India’s answer to the famous hat detective, Sherlock Holmes. Several directors have tried their hand in portraying this Kolkata based private investigator onscreen. The latest adaptation is by noted director Dibankar Banerjee, who has come up with a commendable piece of work.

Everything begins when Ajit Banerjee visits Byomkesh to seek his advice in the case of his missing father. The eccentric protagonist takes up the case, and he decides to stay at a lodge where Mr. Banerjee stayed before vanishing. He interacts with each distinctive inmates of the lodging, and from there it’s a maze of clues and deductions.
The movie maintains a dark mood throughout, and the Calcutta of 1940s has been well captured. Another point of interest is that despite the presence of police, army, drug dealers and the sort, guns are rarely used in the movie. The antagonist (would not say who as it spoils the fun) is given equal space as the hero is. And judging by the way it ended, there is every possibility for a sequel.

It is refreshing to see that Byomkesh Bakshi does not ape Sherlock Holmes. Sushant Singh Rajput has played his justified his casting. His name may not top the list of popular actors, but the young good looking man is here to stay.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Movie Review : Shwaas

Title : Shwaas
Language : Marathi
Year : 2004
Director : Sandeep Sawant
Genre : Drama
Watch trailer on Youtube
Lead Role : Arun Nalawade, Ashwin Chitale, Sandeep Kulkarni, Amruta Subhash

This is my third tryst with Marathi cinema, and for the first time I felt regret watching. The regret is not because the movie was substandard. One the other hand, Shwaas is a fine piece of work from the team behind it. It is not spooky, yet the characters might haunt you for a while.

Shwaas tells you the tale of Parashuram, a seven year old boy and his sixty five year old grandfather. The young boy has some issues with his sight, and they come to the city from their village home to the city for an appointment with the reputed Dr.Sane. The rest of the story deals with how they deal with the hard, unreasonable ways of life.

The movie has been conceived in a realistic manner, without much melodrama. The simple village mindset, the horrors associated with hospitals and clinics, the mentality of doctors - everything is shown in a true light.

One multiple occasions, I felt as if a stone was placed on my heart. I often wonder how would it be if somebody makes a feel good movie in the backdrop of  a hospital. Shwaas ends on a positive note though.