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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Movie Review : Piku

Title : Piku
Language : Hindi
Year : 2015
Director : Shoojit Sircar
Genre : Drama, Comedy
IMDB Link
Watch trailer on Youtube
Lead Role :  Amitabh Bachchan, Deepika Padukone, Irrfan Khan

A director who caught public attention by presenting offbeat themes including that of a sperm donor (Vicky Donor) and a political thriller (Madras CafĂ©) in his previous works. A legendary actor whose very presence shoots up the interests of the average cine-goer.  A diva that has attained the tag of ‘Lady Superstar’ by managing to balance commercial success as well as critical acclaim. An actor known for choosing performance oriented roles, and whose portfolio has grown beyond international boundaries. When such eminent personalities join hands for a project, it is understandable that expectations reach sky high. And Piku succeeds in satisfying your hopes.

Piku could be described as a realistic; coming of age tale of today’s working women, and their social relationships and much more. To put simply, it is the tale of a Bengal born Delhi settled young woman and her retired father, who is a skeptic and unconventional. Once again, director Shoojit Sircar has taken on a less talked about, but hugely relevant topic that is constipation.

Piku could also be labeled as a road film, and the car journey from New Delhi to Kolkata reveals each of their personalities. The makers have tried to comment on women rights, and they have clarity on many social issues, including marriage and sexuality. Amitabh Bachchan, Deepika Padukone and Irfan Khan have all played their roles to perfection. Music by Bengal based composer Anupam Roy adds soul to the movie.





Saturday, July 25, 2015

Divine Plan – Shuffle Mode

The newsreader at the prime time TV channel adjusted his voice and announced in a grave tone, ‘In another suspected case of a jihadist attack, a suicide bomber blew up at a crowded market in the Kuwaiti town of Salmiya, leaving nine dead and over thirty injured. The deceased include two Indians – Raju Chatterjee, a native of Sainthia village of West Bengal, and George Jacob, hailing from Alappuzha, Keralam…’

***

Born to Catholic parents, George had a childhood rooted in Christianity and Jesus Christ. He used to spend his spare time at the church rather than at home because it amazed him and also because he felt his love devoid house suffocating. Whenever his parents fought, he would clutch his rosary and pray for miracles. His mom and dad separated in due time, and George’s life was a misery since then.  As life posed tough questions before him, his faith started waning away gradually. He no longer believed in miracles, started doubting the existence of God, and questioned concepts of afterlife and soul. His friends labeled him an atheist, although he was agnostic.

George reached Kuwait through an acquaintance and was recruited by Sultan Center, a major retailer.  His job primarily included driving the company pickup van to different farms and markets to procure commodities. Life was quite. On the eventful day, he had driven to the Salmiya market to take stock.

Everything was normal when George heard a loud boom, and before he knew his life had come to a halt. Soon enough, his soul departed from his shattered body and was led into an upward journey. The soul stopped when it reached an imposing castle bound by a massive door. Knock. The door was opened, and the soul was lead to a well-decorated inner chamber. The soul could see someone seated there.

“You may enter.” A voice announced. The soul entered.

“I am Chitragupta, and here we shall evaluate your deeds on Earth and decide on your fate.” Saying this, he started looking into the stack of records before him.

After some serious introspection, Chitragupta spoke, “This was your fifth life on Earth. The first life was that of a snake, a parrot came next, and then you were a horse. You first attained the form of human in your fourth birth, and you were a peasant woman from Mongolia. And in your previous birth, you were a male born in India. Your karma from these five lives have been carefully evaluated, and you are deemed fit for salvation. No more rebirths for you.”

George Jacob, the young atheist from Kerala thus attained moksha and was now a part of God.

***

Raju Chatterjee was a typical Bengali Brahmin. He was compassionate, always lending a hand to the needy. Raju was a strict vegetarian, for he firmly believed that all animals and birds and even fish had souls, and it was wrong to kill them. Also, he was an ardent believer of Lord Ganesh. Raju Chatterjee eked out a living by giving students classes in Mathematics and Sanskrit, and he served as a priest in the nearby Durga Devi temple. The meager income from tuition was enough to sustain him during his youth days, but things changed as he married and had kids.

Forced by circumstances, he was forced to leave his beloved homeland behind and migrate to Kuwait, where he was employed as a Mathematics teacher at the Indian Public School, Salmiya. Though far from home, he did not let go his faith and way of life. He would spend his leisure time after work reading and explaining the Gita to housewives and children of the few Hindu families who lived in the vicinity.

Mr. Chatterjee was at the local market to buy provisions when he felt a sharp pain on his left knee. Soon, the market drowned in heart-wrenching shrieks of horror and cries for help. Blood was everywhere. The shattered palm of a little kid was the last horrifying sight seen by him before he breathed his last.

Munkar and Nakeer, the angels of death, visited him. Despite the blood and gore all around, the Nakirains were a terrifying image with their body in black and blue-black eyes that are unusually large. They started asking questions.

“Who is your Lord?” “What is your religion?” “Who is your prophet?”

And to all those questions he could only answer “O what a pity for I do not know”.

Raju Chatterjee was condemned to eternal hell as he was a non-believer.

***

Othman Ashfaq Hamdan had reached the marketplace of Salmiya well before noon. He lingered quietly, observing the locality. His religious attire belied his hideous motives. People who passed failed to notice a time-triggered explosive tightly strapped around his waist.
Ashfaq was an orphan boy born in Syria and was brought up by a group of strange men in Kuwait. Right from a tender age, he was taught that his duty was to fight the holy war for Allah. They told him that those who did not follow the words of God ought to be punished. They trained him with rifles and bombs and promised him he would enter heaven for taking up God’s work.

What they did not tell him was that Islam was a religion of peace. They hid the fact that physical jihad was only to be used as a last resort for self-defense, and never to be used against harmless civilians.

They had manipulated him well, and on the agreed day at the agreed hour, he prepared himself to go up in flames for what he believed was his duty. He was glad and prepared to enjoy the pleasures of heaven. He went up in flames, and nothingness prevailed.

Death was the only reality, and it had embraced Ashfaq.


Thursday, July 16, 2015

unBreakable

Prologue:

I hope you guys remember the wacky professor Nageshwar Rao, and his young roommate Vipin Das, whom I had introduced in one of my previous attempts, stupidly titled Chennai Tidbits. Here, I am trying to bring these two characters back. One may call this a sequel, but the relation between the two stories ends here. So it does not really matter if you have not read the Tidbits story. But, if you actually feel like reading that, the link is all there for you:


And to those who took time to read my previous attempt and gave me your opinions, a big thanks. Hoping you would enjoy this one too. Good luck!
Vishnu.


”it’s the quintessential urge to explore the unknown that has paved the way for humanity’s advancement from the very beginning.”

284. I had got that many ‘likes’ on my new profile picture on Facebook. That meant three new likes since the last time I checked my account, which was nearly a full five minutes ago. The digital clock on the right bottom corner of my laptop screen promptly announced the time as 9:30 in the morning, and for me the day had already turned boring. Since my shift at All India Radio began only by two in the afternoon, most mornings were uninspiring and dull. I had completed watching all the seasons of TV shows like Sherlock, Mentalist and Castle last week, and a sense of purposelessness seemed to surround me. I must admit my interactions with Dr. Nageshwar Rao had brought some changes within me. Instead of sit-coms, I seem to enjoy mind-bogging thrillers more. But now, all those had finished. I was bored to death, or even worse! I badly needed a new engagement.

I turned the computer off, and looked across the room. There sat Mr. Rao on his chair, holding the day’s daily, and completely lost in thoughts. He always has this expression while he thinks. The legs would cross each other, eyes tightly shut, and chin facing upward. Earlier I found this rather strange, now I am quite used to it. After a while, he was back to normality. Legs straight, eyes open, and as if nothing had happened, resumed reading his paper.

“Good morning, Mr. Rao”
“Morning. It’s Nageshwar, Vipin. How many times have I told you?”

I smiled. He went back to his paper. But I needed to continue the conversation.

“Well Nag, I was wondering…” I started rather uncertainly.
“What is it?”
I struggled for words. “Well, it’s just these days I get a lot of spare time…so…”
“I’m listening. Out with it, boy!”
“So...I was thinking on joining one of your psychological sessions at the college.”

This alerted him. He folded the paper, and threw it to his table.

“Seriously?” he sounded surprised, “Do you think psychology is something we pursue when we are bored? It’s the study of human mind, Vipin. Very deep business.”

“I am aware of the complexities involved, sir. But I am really interested in all those now. You know I am able to solve most cases they show on Sherlock”

“Oh really! Impressive.”

He pronounced the last word in such a way that it seemed to contain a mixture of emotions. Appreciation was not one among them. I felt slightly offended at my new found passion being so casually swept away by him.

“I did not mean to discourage you, Das. But you must not use TV shows to measure your prowess. Solving those is no mean achievement.”

I was about to say something in defense, but he cut me short.

“Those crime settings are not as complex as they seem. Basically what the creators do is to come up with a small, logical crime, and then build up the suspense with lots of sidetracks and creepy characters.”

His words sense to my brain, but not to my heart. It was not willing to give up, so early.

“Do you really think you have in you the ability to read minds and intercept thoughts?”
“Of course.”
“Very well, then. Tell me how my mind went from our discussion to Spain.”
“Your mind reached SPAIN! When?”
“Just right now. Please intercept my train of thoughts.”

Being an avid follower of Sherlock Holmes, I very well knew what train of thoughts meant. But I could not figure out on what made his mind fly from Chennai all the way to Europe. I sat there, thinking. After uncountable seconds,

“Well…so we were here in this room discussing my capability, then you wanted to check if I had the aptitude. So you started thinking of a suitable topic…then…”

I seemingly reached a dead-end. I thought hard, and then all of a sudden, it hit me. I continued enthusiastically,

“Then, you probably thought of the news articles you read in the paper. Yesterday was the finals of the UEFA Champions League, and it was played between the two Madrid clubs. And, Madrid is the capital city of Spain.”

My eyes twinkled with joy. I was waiting for his response, on my accuracy. To my dismay, he did not say a word, though I sensed a momentary flash of smile congratulating my effort. Then he pointed to my laptop and asked me abruptly,

“Could I use that computer for a moment? I would like to check my mail.”
I did not understand why he changed the topic completely.

“Well yeah.” I got up, and handed the laptop over to him. He thanked me, and switched on the computer.

“You did quite a good job in tracing my mind-flow, friend” he continued, “but I am still not convinced. You should not take up a decision in haste and repent later.”

The system was ready. He opened the browser and went to the e-mail site.

“So here it is. I shall give you one more test, to see if you really can decipher mind. All you have to do is try to guess the password for my e-mail. If you find success, tomorrow you join me at the university. If not, consider other options. Are you ready?”

Wow. This was totally unexpected. It seemed as if this password guessing was my final hurdle before the goal. Strangely, his eyes had some kind of mischievous smile in them. It was as if he was sure that I would not succeed.

“Yes I am. Be ready to see me in your class tomorrow.”
“I am not really sure.”
“Do you not expect me to successfully guess out your password?”
“Oh I am quite sure my password is unbreakable.”
No passwords are impenetrable, I wished to say. “But what if I succeed?”
“Good luck, Vipin.”

He smiled, and got up from his seat. “I am going out, and would be back exactly after an hour. If you succeed by then, you win. Is that okay?”
“Deal.”


He left. Now I was in this room, with a password to crack in sixty minutes. This was exciting. On one article on general trends on password selection, I had read that most laymen normally chose passwords that could easily be remembered. Names, phone numbers, “password”, house name all were popular choices for passwords. But Nageshwar Rao was no ordinary man. He would not keep such ordinary passwords. Nevertheless, he too would choose passwords that are easy to remember. My task was cut out. The question was

‘What would I keep as password, if I were Nageshwar Rao?’

I had to think. So I started thinking. His area of work is psychology. That was a considerable candidate. But it was highly unlikely that he would choose something so obvious. What if he chose some words that are closely related to psychology!

What are the words that almost meant the same? I did not know, but I knew who to ask. I opened up google and started fishing for synonyms. A few words popped up. Behavior, Persona, Temperament…

But nothing seemed appropriate. Probably I was in the wrong direction. What are the other options? I thought again.

People also tend to keep words from their favorite novels, movies, beliefs etc as passwords. Yeah, that was probable. So now I had to look into his hobbies and the sort. I looked around the room for clues. There was this novel of Dan Brown, titled Inferno, lying on top of his table.
Inferno, that meant hell. Would anyone keep his password hell! I decided to try it out.

Eagerly I typed out Inferno, with a capitalized I. The email site replied, in red letters, that the entered password was incorrect.
I was not ready to give up. I believed I could find it out, only if I tried. I was back to thinking business. I know some of my friends who kept the names of their partners/ex-partners as passwords. Mr. Rao was not a married man, but I clearly remember him telling me few weeks ago about his youth days and his unfulfilled love. Her name was Malini. Well, there was no harm in trying.

I tried, and I failed again.
I continued thinking, and kept on arriving at new solutions.
Atheism, Chennai, Trinity…’ but found no luck. I compared myself to that famous spider who relentlessly tried to climb a rock. The only difference was that the spidey actually succeeded in one of those attempts.

By now, I was tired. I glanced at the watch, and was shocked to learn that my time had almost run out. Time has this amazing quality of turning its back at us when we need it the most.

There was a knock on the door. Professor psycho was back.

“So?”
I shook my head, accepting defeat.
He nodded, as if telling me ‘I knew this right from the beginning.’

“Do you wish to know what my password actually is?”
“Hell, yes!”

He came near to me, and whispered the password in my ears.
“What!! That is your password? How could you expect me to…”

I was shouting, when something hit me in my mind. I was silenced.  My jaws dropped in wonder. This was totally unexpected.

When he told me an hour ago that his password was unbreakable, I had no idea he was telling me the actual password.
Unbreakable…I spent a full hour searching for something I already knew! I made a dash to the laptop to check it out.

“Make sure you capitalize the first ‘b’.”

So I typed in ‘unBreakable’ in the password column. No error messages this time.
I looked at him. He smiled.

“Do you know why I capitalized b?”
“Well…probably because you believe that everything is breakable.”
“Yeah that, and also because the email guys wouldn’t accept a password with all small letters.”

We both laughed. “Life is not always complex, my dear Vipin. And remember one important fact, we may spend hours searching for clues in the dark, but in most cases the right answer may be smiling back at us from plain sight.”

I might have lost a course today, but I did gain a lesson of importance.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Movie Review : Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring

Title : Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring
Language : Korean
Year : 2003
Director : Kim Ki-duk
Genre : Drama
IMDB Link
Watch trailer on Youtube
Lead Role :  Su Oh-yeongKim Young-minSeo Jae-kyung, Kim Jong-ho


The title of the film is quite unusual, so is the movie itself. If you ask me the story, it is pretty much simple and one dimensional - but if you watch closely, you realize the plot is pretty intense and layered.

The movie opens up to reveal a simple floating monastery, with a master and his young disciple being its only inhabitants. These two spend their lives praying and preparing herbs. As the story progresses, we see different stages of their lives, drawn to an analogy of changing seasons.

The essence of the movie could not be fully digested if you are not at all familiar with Buddhist beliefs  and symbols. For instance, rooster, cat and snake symbolize lust, fighting of evil, and anger respectively.

This is a philosophical account, and probably supports the cyclic theory of life. The movie has a very slow pace, and dialogues are used only where you could not do without them.



Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Lie's Labor Lost



Meet our friend Harikrishnan. Don’t you see the five boys in school uniform munching their sandwiches at the Maria’s? Well, the third one from the right is Hari. He and his buddies are on their way back home after school.

Guys, what about a movie tomorrow?” asked Abin, one of the five.

All four looked at him.

Don’t we have maths tuitions?” reasoned Arjun.

Anish sir would end the class by eleven. We can make it for the noon show.” it seems that Abin had worked his plans out.

I’m always in for a movie.” Tony spoke in jest.

Count me out, guys. Ramadan starts tomorrow, and cinemas are forbidden.” Shameem made his stand.

Arjun too gave in after some prodding by Tony and Abin.

The three of them turned to Hari.

Let me ask my parents.

***

Don’t you have anything to study?” Indira asked her son.

 “Abin, Arjun and Tony are going, mommy!

Didn’t Tony flunk the last monthly test? "Indira had an eidetic memory.

Yeah, but Abin had A plus.

Good. Sit and study to make sure you too pull off A grades in the next monthly.

Oh please, mom! I promise I would. Let me go.

Movies don’t give you grades, son. Books might.


***


The boys reached just in time for the movie though they had to settle for the front row seats. For the next two hours the four of them laughed their heads off to witty jokes, cheered the powerful hero, adored the mesmerizing lady lead, and tapped their feet to those dance numbers.

On his way home, Hari was fabricating his story. Luckily, none of his relatives or neighbours were present at the cinema. His mother certainly would ask him why he was late. He would tell her that his tutor had extended today’s session to discuss the previous year question papers. That should be enough to satisfy her.

***

It’s not about the color, Sachin. The point is that you do not pay attention to what I tell you.

His parents were having an argument about something, as Hari reached his home. In fact, Indira was so angry that she barely noticed her son was late. Not that they fought often, but when they did Hari knew it was best to leave them alone. Yet he had to present his now perfected alibi.

Anish sir asked us to stay back, mom” he began. “He wanted to discuss the last year’s paper with us.

Indira looked at him, her face seething with rage. “I’m not in a mood for talks, Hari. Go and wash up. There is 'puttu' and 'kadala' curry on the table. Leave me alone."

Hari spoke no more. He went and washed up. He had the food, and went to his room for a nap.

***

Hari woke up to a violent dream. Manikantan, the elephant of the nearby Devi temple was chasing him. No matter where he went, the tusker would not let go. Terrified, Hari was climbing up a banyan when he slipped and fell. That’s when he woke up, sweating profusely. He thanked God for it was a dream.

Two hours had passed. He stepped out of his room. Apparently his parents were no longer fighting. Indira was cooking spinach for supper, and Sachin was helping her with the dishes.

Good evening son! Sorry for being rude earlier.

That is alright. Why were you fighting?

It was not a fight, dear. Sometimes we need to talk things out. But I should not have shouted at you.

Hari smiled.

You know what we are going to make up for it. Your papa has booked three tickets for the night show. Let us watch that movie of yours.

Hari felt numb. He closed his eyes for a second. The elephant was running towards him.


(Edited by Shrestha Ghosal)

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Movie Review : Diabolique

Title : Diabolique
Language : French
Year : 1955
Director : Henri-Georges Clouzot
Genre : Thriller, Mystery
Lead Role : Simone Signoret, Vera Clouzot, Paul Meurisse

Just watched this two hour long movie, and I am in a dazed state. Can’t really believe this edge of the seat thriller was visualized way back in 1950s! For an introduction of the plot, it is about a harsh and sadistic headmaster of a school, and how his wife and sympathetic mistress hatch a plan together to finish him off. Well, the movie is much more than that but I’m not going to reveal any of it and spoil the party.

The word ‘realistic’ was given a whole new dimension by the makers. For instance, there is a particular scene that shows a couple listening to a questionnaire program on radio. The husband tries to answer the questions, and he looks at his wife in a proud manner whenever his answer was right. Those who watch KBC or similar shows must have experienced similar situations. There are no unwanted scenes, and the actors have done their job very neat. Despite not being a horror flick, the last fifteen minutes or so would leave you with your heart in your mouth. They have pulled off a commendable job in maintaining the thrill up to the very last minute. Moreover, the final message to viewers was innovative.

PS: Besides the suspense et al, something that left me amused was the use of electric trains six decades back.