Monday, February 27, 2017

BOOK REVIEW : THESE CIRCUSES THAT SWEEP THROUGH THE LANDSCAPE



Short story writing is a tricky genre, something where even the most accomplished writers falter at times. Tejaswini Apte – Rahm’s novel “These Circuses that Sweep Through the Landscapes” is one such collection of 10 short stories which explores various human tendencies, some real while some unbelievable.
PLOT
It is not possible to actually depict the plot of ten short stories. However, I’ll try summarizing each plot within a line or two, and also what I felt about each story.
11. HOMO COLEOPTERA tells us the story of a man whose passion in life is to collect beetles and win contests. Mr Ghosh’s story is definitely told and written well. The detailing is very good. I personally liked it. Also, this story sets the spooky tone which continues throughout the book.

22. THANK GOD FOR STAR TREK tells a story of a little girl whose childhood is anything but colorful. Not that it is bad, but I felt the overall tone of the story too dull, morose and dark. Also, “Star Trek” isn’t something with which too many Indian children would relate to.

33. THE MALL is perhaps the most detailed story out of all the 10 plots. It tells the story of a lady who visits a newly opened mall but is unable to find the exiting, remaining inside for a long long time.
What starts off as a really promising plot soon falters due to the excessive detailing. The description of the mall gets too tedious at times. And hence, when the lady finally exits, both she and the reader heave a sigh of relief.

44. THE GIRL WHO LOVED DEAN MARTIN is another story which failed to connect. Once again, the plot is good, but somehow a bit alien for the Indian readers.

  5. COTTON starts off well. The story of how a lady keeps on seeing cotton everywhere in her house is really novel. The story keeps you hooked. However, the end is disappointing, even a bit repulsive to some extent.

66. THE HOUSE ON THE HILL appears as a ray of hope. The story of a little girl who is a servant at a rich mansion and her experiences at a grand party is lovely. By the end, you are left with a smile on your face.

77. DRINKS AT SEVEN tells the story of 4 friends (2 couples) who meet for drinks and what happens then. The tension the author builds throughout the plot is commendable. The ending is a bit abrupt, but overall a fairly good and entertaining story.

88. SANDALWOOD is a brilliant tale of a female coming to terms with her eviction from the lives of her husband and kids. Everything about the plot clicks, especially the end.

99. MILI has to be the best story of the lot. A tale of two old lovers who meet after many years, the author weaves magic with the chemistry between   the two.
110. THESE CIRCUSES THAT SWEEP THROUGH THE LANDSCAPE is a story of a teacher who has lost his mind to senility and one of his students who well, isn’t in his right mind either. Once again, the author keeps you glued to the pages as she alternatively shifts the story telling point of view. The climax is brilliant.

WRITING & POSITIVES
Full marks to Tejaswini’s writing skills. She is excellent. Her eye for detailing is the USP of the book. It shows how minutely she observes life and its various aspects. As I said, writing short stories is a tricky genre, but she manages well.

NEGATIVES
As mentioned earlier, I found few stories lacking the necessary connection. Apart from that, I don’t really have too many issues. I would definitely have liked it more had few of the plots been real rather that supernatural and fictional.

OVERALL, this collection of short stories is a mixed bag of sorts. The first five stories are okayish. There was a time when I was seriously considering whether or not to continue reading. However, I am glad I continued because the other 5 stories changed my opinion. They were really brilliant.

This one is a decent one time read for people who love reading short stories and those who anticipate something unexpected in plots.

P.S - I received this book from WRITERSMELON in exchange of an honest and unbiased review.

Monday, February 6, 2017

MY THOUGHTS : MTV UNPLUGGED SEASON 6 FEAT. SACHIN - JIGAR






MTV Unplugged is a mixed bag of sorts. It always has been like that. While some episodes and artists stand out among the rest, some are plain mediocre, largely owing to the extra modifications made in the songs.
Song selection is the most important aspect here – one should know which songs will sound good on a live platform. Secondly, one should know how much to modify and where to stop. I agree it is a platform where musicians have full freedom to experiment, but one has to be sure of the fact that the vocal and visual output of their experiments should go well with the audience.

I usually don’t review episodes. I have reviewed an episode of “Unplugged” only once, and that was when A.R Rahman performed the first time. However, I simply couldn’t resist doing a detailed review of this outstanding episode.

I am a devoted fan of Sachin and Jigar. For me, it is more of a trio rather than a duo, with Priya Saraiya forming the essential 3rd member. As far as I remember, no other musician has excelled in both “Coke Studio” and “Unplugged”. However, these artists rocked in both the formats. While their previous outing with “Unplugged” was a heady mix of melody and masti, they were even better in “Coke Sudio” where they gave us the BEST composition of the entire Indian Coke Studio format – “LAADKI”.

And so here they are once again. I went in with dallops of expectations, and I came out fully rewarded, exhilarated and proud.

They start off with one of my personal favorite songs composed by SJ recently.

CHUNAR is always a solid composition. It was a highly underrated song in my opinion. The video too focused too much on Varun Dhawan’s dancing skills, thus diluting the effect of the beautiful track.

SJ dedicate this song to Gurdas Mann saab’s mother. Instead of Arijit Singh, we have Sachin himself on the vocals, and he does a superb job, even at par to the original rendition.

The song kicks off with some addictively haunting sitar (Ravi Chari) by who is joined by Kalyan Baruah on the guitars.
Sachin’s rendition is flawless. The poignancy he infuses into the song moves you. Watch out for those Punjabi lyrics in the end – he is brilliant in both high as well as low notes.
All the instruments used are fabulous – be it the pakhawaj in the interlude or the piano (Rinku Rajput). They are effective additions to the two main instruments.

It is a pleasure watching Jigar as he fills in silently by playing the manjira in the background during the first half of the song and waves his arms at times as if instructing the orchestra. I loved that “khanjari” he uses towards the end. It is a small instrument but it sounds so good.



Things get a bit lighter with MILEYA MILEYA”. “Happy Ending” has been an album which I listen to even today. It is that kind of album which puts you at ease and which you never get tired of listening to.
“Mileya mileya” showed us a different side of Rekha Bhardwaj. It was a breezy track then, and it is equally fresh even today.

The guitars and the saxophone (Shirish Malhotra) mark the beginning as Jigar begins in a very mellowed and soft voice. Priya backs him very nicely. I loved her rendition of “Phir te main bhuleya sabhi.”

The chorus here is super effective. (Dawn Cordo, Shambhavi Singh, Daniel Rebello)
The antara sees some changes as the composers bring in a slightly new tune with some modifications. The “Chhutey na chhutey na” variation is very good.

What was good about the entire song was that everyone seemed to be enjoying. Sachin animatedly raises his hands, Jigar seems to be moving in sync to the rhythm. The sax player is having a ball. And we certainly did have a great time too.


The fact that JEENA JEENAmeans a lot to Sachin – Jigar is evident. The small intro they give prior to the song sums it up. At times, songs that were never meant to happen, happen and create wonders. This is one such song.

This one is pure bliss as both the composers come behind the mic. As the chorus and the flute create magic, Sachin and Jigar take turns to sing, simultaneously swaying to the beats.

Once again, we get to hear some absolutely gorgeous sitar during the interlude with some lovely tabla. The antara is one unheard before. If I remember correctly, Jigar had posted this stanza on his facebook page a long time back, stating it to be the unused antara of the song. I am glad they used it here.

Towards the end, they again bring in a new tune. There is this portion called “O mere maahiya” which sounds lovely, before they hop back to the original song. They end the song like true rockstars, with Jigar doing an elongated aalap.
This was a "performance" in the truest sense. It was an awesome pepped up version of the original.




Finally comes the song which I was waiting for. Everything about SUN SAATHIYAwas a winner right from the day the song first appeared as a tiny version in ABCD and then as a full fledged song in ABCD 2. For me, it was a song which should have fetched Priya Saraiya an award for the best playback singer.
However I was eager to know how this song would sound if performed live. And I must say I was rewarded handsomely.

The song begins with guitar and some melodious harmonium played by Sachin. Priya does a variation with some new lyrics and tune before starting off the original one. The tabla (Rajesh Salvi) only enhances the flawless singing by the lady. The interlude is a wonderful feat by the choral singers and the flutist. Sachin and Jigar join midway and are too good in the antara. The way the song ends is again commendable as the same portion from the beginning is repeated.

Priya’s singing is impeccable; her diction is flawless; her murkiyaas are brilliant. She kills it. Literally.


Two years ago, when Sachin and Jigar did their first episode for Unplugged, they performed their most popular song till date – SAIBO

However, midway Sachin had given us a surprise with a short new stanza in gujarati. I still recollect getting goosebumps that day. Even today, I often listen to that song just for that portion.

And so, as if answering every Gujarati’s requests, they bring to us an entirely new version of “saibo” in Gujarati. What follows is sheer magic. Both Sachin and jigar ace this one. With lovely lyrics written by (?) Priya Saraiya, this is soon going to be a rage in my state, as well as elsewhere. Everything about the song is beautiful. It is 4 minutes of pure, unadulterated goosebumps. (Whatever that means!)

I was damn sure that they will sing a Gujarati song this time. I was expecting “Satrangi re”, but they gave me something even better.
If Rahman can sing in his mother tongue (Yeh Jo Des, Nenjukulle, Urvasi), why not Sachin – Jigar?


Enough of all this. Now for some fun.
I never LOVED BEAT PE BOOTY more than normal. It made good viewing but never good listening. I felt it was a bit too techno for repeated hearings. However, the way these guys performed it, I developed a new found liking for the song. Sachin is in top form as he sings majority of the song’s portion. The dholak (Rajesh Salvi aka Rajubhai) here is refreshing, and its combination with the sax sounds novel.

Tempos change and the guitar makes way for the second half of the song which is G PHAAD KE from "Happy Ending. The song itself is originally so wacky, similar to the songs of "Go Goa Gone".
They go for an abstract arrangement – they start the song directly from the “Gaane ka hook” instead of the sthaayi. However as soon as Sachin shouts “G phaad ke”, there is a change in the rhythm and immediately we are transported to a Navratri setup with garba being played.

The antara is even better as Priya joins the bandwagon. From there on, the three are unstoppable. Together, they deliver three minutes of pure fun and madness. However, no one can chant "nacho saare G-phaad ke" the way Divya Kumar does in the original song.



As the end credits roll, I realize that this episode deserves a standing ovation. If we consider all the six seasons of Unplugged, this episode would feature among the best 3 episodes, the other two being A.R Rahman’s episode (Season 2) and Sachin Jigar’s own previous episode. However I personally loved this episode more than their last one.

The USP of the episode was the fact that the performers themselves were having a ball. Their mere presence and attitude exuded so much positivity. It was as if they had come on stage not to perform but to just get lost in their own music and enjoy. And that enjoyment was clearly visible. It was this positive vibe, down to earth nature and humbleness of the artists which made it such a beautiful experience even for us – the viewers / listeners.

Do come back a third time, Sachin – Jigar – Priya. We would love to hear more of you.


P.S – Sachin and Jigar – you both need to sing more. Period.

Also, MTV / Voot needs to do something about providing individual songs for download. I mean come on, we aren’t going to open your app everytime we feel like listening to a song. Either upload the songs on youtube or allow them to be downloaded in both video and audio formats. And if you have so much of a problem, make them available on itunes. We’ll pay for them, but atleast we’ll be able to get quality stuff without hassle.



Friday, January 27, 2017

BOOK REVIEW : SOMEONE TO LOVE



Childhood romance is a beautiful subject to write on. It is a subject which will be loved by everyone, mostly because majority of us can relate to it. Most of us have such lingering memories which bring a smile to our face even today.

Remember “Jaane tu ya jaane na?”
Well, Ruchita Misra’s novel “Someone to love” starts off just like that – a boy and a girl who are friends since the time they were at the peak of innocence, eventually falling for each other – something which would be obvious to everyone around them except the two of them.
However, while the movie was only candyfloss and rosiness with scanty tears, this novel goes way beyond that. Simplicity gives way to a lot of “It’s complicated” stuff. There is romance, there is jealousy and finally there is the worst enemy of a relationship – MISUNDERSTANDING.
Below is a brief review of the novel.

PLOT

Koyal and Atharv are the textbook couple – even in school. It is a match made in heaven and the intensity exuded by them is so obviously visible to everyone around them. However, do they themselves know their feelings?

School gives way to college and they ultimately separate, but only a bit. However, misunderstandings and circumstances force them apart, in such a way that their lives completely change.
Ten years later, their paths cross again. With each of them battling their own inner demons, will they find “Someone to love?”


WRITING

Ruchita Misra’s command over language, plot development and characterization is perfect. It is one thing to have something in mind but it is a commendable feat to make the readers visualize the exact same plot with minute details. In Koyal and Atharv, we feel as if we know them, as if they are right in front of us.

Secondly, there are a lot of quotes, one liners and punches which seem very apt and give the necessary impact.

Thirdly, the most important part in a romance novel is that it should never feel superficial. The romantic plot should be such that it connects with the readers on an emotional level. Ruchita Misra’s intensity in the plot is mindblowing. This is deep stuff. It touches you somewhere inside. When they care for each other, we smile. When they are apart, we feel the chills. That is proof enough that the author has a winner on her hands.

Lastly, the rest of the characters are very nicely sketched. Be it both the mothers or the women in London or the partners of the respective protagonists, they are very relatable. Some are instantly lovable while few are instantly dislikeable.


LOO BREAKS

Not really.
There are some too filmy coincidences at times but then, you don’t mind them.
The editing could have been crispier especially towards the end. When one knows what is going to happen in the end, you need to hold the attention till the last page. Here, I felt the book could have been few pages shorter.


OVERALL, “SOMEONE TO LOVE” is one of the best romantic novels I have read in a long time. The writing is fresh and mature, the characters are relatable and lovable, and most importantly, the book connects to you on an emotional level.

P.S – this is a lovely script waiting to be made into a movie. it has all the elements for a blockbuster. I hope someone does that.


I received this book from Writersmelon in exchange of an honest and unbiased review.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

BOOK REVIEW : MY FATHER IS A HERO



This was a novel which attracted me from its title. “MY FATHER IS A HERO” seemed a promising title and a quick glance at the synopsis said that it would deliver too. And so I started reading it. Unlike many books which I usually finish in a single sitting, this book took time. I used to read portions of it, allowing whatever I had read to seep in.
Here is a review of the novel.

PLOT

Vaibhav Kulkarni has a decent job as systems admin at a company where he manages to earn just okay. With a troubled past & a divorce, he lives along with his ten year old daughter Nisha who is the centre of his world.

Nisha is that little child who excels in everything – be it academics, personality or extra-curricular activities including singing. She is the favorite of her teachers as well as her dad.
But all of a sudden, something happens which has a huge impact on Nisha. She suddenly starts drifting apart, remaining aloof, gradually showing a drop in her school grades, behaviour as well as talent.

While Vaibhav battles with his own demons of the past and his never improving financial crisis, this is an acid test for him as he struggles to understand his daughter. To what limits will he go with all his limited means to win her daughter back?


WRITING

Nishant Kaushik’s writing is brilliant. There is a sort of mature feel to the book, as if it has been penned by a veteran author. The way he weaves the plot, creating simple situations is indeed lovely.
There is a tone of helplessness throughout the book. The writing actually transports you to the middle class world of Vaibhav and Nisha. It is one thing to write about a middle class family, but it is a commendable job to make the reader experience that feeling.

And so we feel for Vaibhav. Our heart goes out for him as he longingly stares at a swimming pool in a swanky posh club. Our heart goes out for him as he desperately tries to gather credit points on his newly bought credit card. Our heart goes out for him as he tries to understand what his daughter is going through.

We live Vaibhav’s character. We feel happy whenever he feels happy. We feel helpless whenever he feels helpless. And that is such a great feeling. It is all due to Nishant Kaushik’s utmost sincere writing.


POSITIVES

As I mentioned earlier, the biggest plus point of the novel is the sincerity which is seen throughout the plot.
Secondly, the characters are very well written. Both the main characters are brilliantly developed and instantly strike a chord with the reader.
Thirdly, the simplicity of the plot wins your hearts. The entire plot set in Australia featuring Rihanna is very well done. It is fairy tale like, but very effective. I especially loved the climax.
Lastly, there are no over the top emotions. Nor are there moments where you’ll sob uncontrollably. Instead, there are subtle moments which move you, make you remember your children / parents.


NEGATIVES

Nothing works against the author and his well written novel. I just found the pace slow at times. Otherwise I have no complaints.


OVERALL, “MY FATHER IS A HERO” works, and how. It is a novel which every parent and every son / daughter should read. It is not a “In-your-face” kind of novel whose only purpose is to preach. It is a subtle story which moves you as well as makes you realize the importance of your near and dear ones.

I enjoyed reading this wonderful novel and recommend it to everyone. Do read it. We need more of such honest and sincere books.

P.S - I received this book from Writersmelon in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Friday, December 16, 2016

MUSIC REVIEW : DANGAL



Aamir Khan and Pritam’s last collaboration was not exactly a masterpiece. But with what looks like a winner from the “Chillar Party” director, let us see what Pritam has in store for us this time.

HAANIKAARAK BAPUis a lyrical as well musical gem which oozes with creativity. Everything about this song seems apt. Firstly, Pritam dishes out a very catchy Rajasthani folk tune topping it with a rock feel. The tune itself along with the arrangements is a winner.

Secondly, the two singers – Sarwar Khan & Sartaz Khan Barna are fabulous. Be it their perfectly-in-tune rendition or their prose portions, they are terrific. The chorus portions are very good too.

But the real winner of the song is Amitabh Bhattacharya. Listen to every single word of the song carefully and you will realize what potential he has. His lyrics are awesome. They are highly humorous and very innovative. You can’t help but marvel at his witty words. They make you smile at times, laugh out loud at times and even break into a guffaw. With a correct mix of hindi and Hariyanvi words, this one is one of his best written songs till date.   



DHAAKADis one hell of a track. The word “Dhaakad” comes from the word “Dhaak” which means a lasting impression / personality. And this track is indeed a dhaakad one.
The lyrics are mindblowing. Pritam does a wonderful job by roping in Raftaar. He infuses so much attitude into the track. For me, this song contains rap better than all the rap songs to have come out in bollywood till date. Plus this one is super trippy. Also, the entire attitude of the song goes so well with the theme of the film that one can’t help but fall for this track.



There is another version where Aamir Khan comes behind the mic. The perfectionist he is, Aamir starts off pretty well. He almost matches in intensity, accent and attitude with Raftaar. But somewhere in the middle, he himself starts enjoying a bit too much, and by the time the track ends, he sounds a little too enthusiastic. It seems as if he is deliberately trying not to smile and deliver rap with a straight face.
But overall, he does a pretty decent job with the rap. And ditto for his flawless hariyanvi accent throughout the track.


GILEHRIYAAN” – There are certain words which when used in Hindi songs, evoke an altogether different feeling.
“Gilehriyaan” is one such word.  I mean, how does Amitabh Bhattacharya come up with such lovely ideas?

This is a song of a free spirited girl singing to herself. With a lovely and lilting melody, Pritam creates a sweet and magical tune. His biggest achievement lies in extracting an award winning performance from Jonita Gandhi. It is high time we give more recognition to this much underrated singer in bollywood. She sounds pitch perfect. There is a very comforting factor in her voice which immediately puts you at ease. Be it the initial verses or the high pitched antaras, she is flawless.

But once again, the lyricist steals the show. This guy is a genius. He writes such amazing stuff. Below are few of the best lines from the song –

“Ek nayi si dosti,
Aasmaan se ho gayi,
Zameen mujhse jalke munh banaake bole
Tu bigad rahi hai.

Zindagi bhi aaj kal,
Gintiyon se oob ke
Ganit ke aakdon ke saath ek aadha
Sher padh rahi hai.”



IDIOT BANNAis a wedding song. The word “Banna” traditionally means “husband”. It also means a traditional folk song sung by the ladies of the groom’s side. This song seems to be just that.

With a very beautiful mix of folk and contemporary sounds, Pritam creates a very hummable and instantly catchy tune. The Nooran sisters are in superb form. They are a bit restrained than few of their recent songs and they sound really good.

Amitabh bhattacharya writes some hilarious lyrics which should make for some enjoyable picturization on screen.
Overall, this one is a situational track but even as a standalone audio song, it is a well made track.


The way Arijit Singh starts NAINA, one is immediately reminded of “Accha chalta hoon, duuao mein yaad rakhna..”
But the similarities end there. What follows is a lyrically superior song with a gorgeous composition by Pritam. What lovely instruments he uses – sitar, harmonium, duff, and the guitar. As if the tune wasn’t magical enough, we have Arijit who delivers nothing but sheer brilliance. He sounds amazingly good.
As for the lyrics, the use of the word “Mrig Trishna” is proof enough of how good Amitabh is.


DANGAL (TITLE TRACK)is the best song of the album. There is no doubt about that. And it is Daler paaji’s show all the way.

After a pretty high pitched overdose of him in “Mirzya”, Daler Mehndi is top notch here. His voice seems the perfect choice for such a song. It is his vocals which uplift the song and give us a rousing feeling.

But the icing on the cake is Pritam’s AWESOME arrangements. The brilliant guitars in the beginning or the frenzied drums throughout the song are superb. But the best thing about the song is the choral rendition of the lines – “Re Lath gaad doon, Re Jaada paad doon.” It is this particular portion that gives the required goosebumps. Plus, Pritam’s masterstroke lies in the difference in the rendition of this portion. While the initial portion is chanted without any tune, the same lines are chanted in tune during the later stage of the song.
This song should make for some stunning visuals onscreen.



OVERALL, creating an album for a theme based movie is a difficult task. We had a similar film on wrestling few months ago for which Vishal – Shekhar gave us a very good soundtrack. Where Pritam goes ahead is the way he creates more situational music. While “Sultan” had good music, most of the songs were contemporary and less of situation – based. But “Dangal” is different. Given the kind of perfection Aamir Khan expects, it looks as if Pritam has completely lived up to his as well as our expectations.
Almost all the tracks are situational. And yet, every single song is a gem – be it in terms of singing, arrangements or lyrics.
Amitabh Bhattacharya deserves accolades for this work of his.
As for Pritam, he is on a roll. He delivers one of his career best albums here. Way to go!

MY RATINGS – 9 / 10   


Friday, December 9, 2016

BOOK REVIEW : CONFUSED BASTARDS



Few years ago, one man wrote a book on three IIT college students and their misadventures. Little did he know that his book would become an overnight rage, attain cult status in the coming years and initiate hundreds of mediocre so called writers to publish their own novel along with their banking / engineering / IT profession?

And so in the last few years, we have been tortured with numerous novels which describe college life, love stories during college life, stories about friends and how they encounter troubles. Most of the so called authors failed miserably in coming up with good novels. Infact many of them were downright horrible.
THANKFULLY, Manav Vigg presents to us a novel which breaks free of all the above said clich├ęs.

“CONFUSED BASTARDS” is indeed a unique title. My wife saw the novel and remarked, “What sorts of books are you reading?” However after I finished reading the book, I felt the title was pretty apt.

PLOT

Confused bastards starts from where most novels finish – post the graduation and post graduation. It tells us the story of three friends – Jai, Aakash and vivek.

While Aakash is the son of a senior IAS officer trying to make his own reputation without any help from his father, Vivek’s character is much layered. From being a topper in both IIT and IIM to a failed marriage to finally quitting his job, he had seen it all.

Jai’s character is the most developed one. It would be ideal to call him the protagonist. After all, he is the only one who has a female companion.

The plot takes off when all the three, frustrated from their own careers and lives, finally decide to start a joint venture – a social media platform where people can put up anything they want – be it joy, frustration, anger or just about anything. However, instead of writing it down, people can post videos here. It is one thing venting out your frustration in text and recording the same thing and putting it online.

Good idea? Well yes. And so they go further with their idea. From being a small startup, they soon taste success. However, they are soon about to taste something bitter too. What is that? That is all what CB is about.


WRITING & POSITIVES

Manav Vigg’s writing is fresh, to the point and devoid of unnecessary nonsense. There is the routine deluge of cuss words as is associated with any such novel, but even that is kept limited. I liked the way he has developed the 3 characters.
He delves into the personal lives of all 3, but only superficially. He spares us of boring melodrama and family flashbacks.

The writing is crisp, with witty banter and some very good sequences.

I particularly liked the scene where a drunk Jai first meets the female lead of the book. It is slapstick with a bit of toilet humour (Literally!) but humorous nonetheless.

Also, I loved all the videos the trio records during their initial startup days – be it the family under the bridge or the office video with the 2 guys discussing an absolutely outrageous but funny topic.

But the best thing about the book is how the author changes genres post the twist in the tale. It could have ended up as another confused plot, but then we are introduced to the 4th character SATTU who un jumbles all the confusions within their minds. The entire idea of taking a philosophical approach is what makes this novel different from the other novels these days.


NEGATIVES

Considering that the book is not too lengthy, I would have liked a better developed romantic track between Jai and the female lead. I however loved the surprise twist on the last page.

Secondly, I would have liked if the author would have dedicated one chapter each to the 3 characters where they would in a nutshell describe their entire story in “First person”. I agree they do narrate their own stories during the Q&A with Sattu, but a portion in first person makes a lot of difference.

Also, the entire rape sequence starts off well; but fizzles a bit towards the end. The politician’s character is half baked.



OVERALL, “CONFUSED BASTARDS” is a pretty well written novel which symbolizes the inner mental confusion of the youth of today. It is Manav Vigg’s version of an imtiaz Ali movie – confused characters being the common entity. However, this novel is much better than most of the stuff that is being churned out these days. Also, this is a book which HAS the potential to attain cult status provided it is marketed well and provided luck favors the book.    

P.S : I received this book from writersmelon in for an unbiased and fair review.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

DEAR ZINDAGI : MY THOUGHTS


DISCLAIMER - THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS AND IS LONG, THOUGH NOT AS LONG AS ASHUTOSH GOWARIKAR'S FILMS. 

1. A drunk conversation between friends is on its way. Kaira suddenly announces, “I like people who smell nice.” To which her friend Jackie reacts, “I hate smelly people.”

2. As she comes to terms with her so called breakup, we see Kaira stuffing noodles at a roadside joint called “Taj Chinese” and then offering the rest of it to a small boy. But in the background, the director subtly places Eros cinema and a poster of “Ki & Ka”, directed by her better half.

3. During a conversation in the midst of the therapy session, Dr Jehangir Khan casually mentions the phrase “English Vinglish”, the director’s debut film.

4. For the first time, something which was an integral part of everyone’s childhood is given importance – I am talking about Tinkle and Suppandi.

5. Kaira’s friends love her, but that doesn’t stop them from teasing her by calling her short story as the longest project of the century.

6. A somewhat changed Kaira suddenly sneaks into her parents’ room and forces herself between them, tightly hugging her mom, while her dad sleeps looking the other way with a faint smile over his face.

Such subtleties and touching moments are aplenty in “Dear Zindagi”, and that is what makes viewing it such a beautiful experience.

Gauri Shinde is a woman who believes in converting simplicity into extraordinariness on screen. She did that in her directorial debut and she does it once again.

And so we are introduced to Alia Bhatt’s Kaira, a headstrong and superconfused cinematographer, who looks as if she is a character from an Imtiaz Ali movie. Her uncle thinks that she needs to do “something more respectable”, but her parents don’t object to her profession. Well basically, not all is rosy rosy between the lady and her parents.



She smashes pickle bottles on the floor of a supermarket because the brand shares its name with her ex boyfriend.
She bites down chillies while the fact dawns upon her that her boyfriend has gotten engaged to someone else.
She types entire messages on her phone, only to delete them at the last moment.
She returns to her flat after days and the first thing she does is open one of the many parcels, take out a novel, inhale its fragrance and start reading it.
She turns things upside down from an orderly manner – be it “K” lettered pillows, miniature rickshaw models or refrigerator magnets.
She gets ready to sleep the way a woman gets ready to go to parties.

She isn’t a character you will instantly fall in love with or totally relate to, but slowly you fall for her, primarily because of the convincing performance. And so when she decides to see a “Dimaag ka doctor”, we aren’t at all surprised. And we don’t mind – because Shahrukh Khan is playing the role of the psychologist. It is the chemistry which immediately strikes a chord. It is beautiful. The way their relationship is handled by the director with utmost sensitivity is indeed commendable.



The therapy sessions are brilliant in themselves. While Dr Khan belts out lovely metaphor, stories and quotes, it is the ambience that wins you over. The creaking chair theory for instance is very well done. The way Alia almost falls when she sits in that special chair is too hilarious.
“It only creaks when you like someone, but can’t do anything about it”, explains Dr Khan.
Some of their interactions are superb. Infact they uplift the film to a large extent.

Robert Frost taught us in school through his poems to always choose the road less travelled. But Dr Khan tells us to do the exact opposite. Why not take the road more frequented, when you aren’t mentally prepared for the tough option? And even we marvel at this wonderful thought, and wonder why it never occurred to us till now?

Another lovely sequence is the “Kursi” wala sequence. As SRK hops from sofa to chair to chair, he tells us that life indeed is a musical chair when it comes to choosing the right life partner. And ironically, Gauri Shinde brings in a new hero in the final scene, who owns a furniture shop.

The way Dr Khan slowly touches Kaira’s raw nerve is beautifully done. On seeing a shivering Kaira, he casually comments, “Sometimes people shiver kyunki unhe darr lagta hai.” And that is so very true, something which happens to even us at times.

The manner in which he explains Kaira that she is not dirty, cheap and fast, but smart, dear and superfine is well done.

There is this scene where he asks Kaira to choose her top 5 people. And so quickly, Kaira comes up with 4 names. She is sure about all four of them. It doesn’t matter to her that one of them is her maid, with whom she shares such a special bond. When was the last time we saw such a small but lovely bond on screen – that of a person and her maid?



It isn’t a perfect movie. It was never going to be. I had feared it would be over preachy, but thankfully that never happens. However, I have my issues with the first half. It could have been better. It felt slow at places, disjointed at places and Alia’s character was too difficult to like.

Secondly, the entire flashback story though nicely done doesn’t feel believable at all times. I mean, the parents went abroad because of a failure back home. Even there, the father hardly tasted any success. And then after few years, we know that they live in a villa which is nothing less than super posh. Who offered them such a fruitful partnership?

Thirdly, I had a problem with Ali Zafar’s character. It wasn’t needed at all. It unnecessarily bought along with it few dull moments between the two that had zero chemistry, and also two full songs, which thankfully were good. However I liked how their relationship ultimately shaped out – being friends.

MUSIC

The music is the soul of the movie. Amit Trivedi manages to create a feel good album with each song sounding and appearing in sync with the film’s narrative.

Where he scores is the lovely background score. Ever wondered why many people dislike RGV’s films? Because most of them have loud background scores, probably due to the belief that a loud score increases the impact.

Amit does the exact opposite. He creates a serene background score which suits the mood of the film perfectly. And then there are those scenes with absolutely zero background music. Talent is not only knowing when and where to insert background score. Talent is also knowing when NOT to put it. 

Those lovely discussions between Kaira and Dr Khan seem so perfect. Those moments of realizations are sans any music, and then followed by beautiful soft cues – it only enhances the magic of an already well written scene.

(Read my music review HERE)


PERFORMANCES

The casting is wonderful. As Fatty / Fatima, Ira Dubey is very good. She has less role but makes the most of it. That scene when she runs to the washroom and everyone gets away from the food is a brilliantly directed and acted one.

The rest of the supporting cast is apt. As “Kiddo”, Rohit saraf is good. So is Gautmik as Ganju.

Of the three men, Kunal Kapoor is the best. He convincingly plays his part. Angad Bedi hasn’t much to do. Ali Zafar is good. He does a fine job both in the singing as well as acting department, but as I said, I simply felt his character wasn’t needed.

But the one who stands out among the entire supporting cast is Yashaswini Dayama a.k.a “Jackie”. She is awesome. She is supercute, very emotive, makes you fall for her instantly. We all have that one cute bubbly talkative friend in our group. Jackie is THAT person. Be it her drunken act or when Kaira wakes her up and embraces her, she simply wins you over.
Remember “Boms” from “Jaane tu ya jaane na”? I was reminded of her on seeing Jackie. She is one actress I would love to see more on screen in future.



The movie wouldn’t have worked had someone else been cast in place of Shahrukh Khan. And that is no exaggeration. As Jahangir Khan a.k.a “JUG”, it is difficult to put in words what SRK does. This is not a fanboy speaking, mind you. I have been an ardent admirer but never a crazy fan, but I always felt that post Swades and Chak De, he had gotten lost in playing over the top roles. But SRK has always worked better whenever he has underplayed his roles; whenever he has refrained from hamming during emotional scenes.

Here, as a psychologist, he is brilliant. He is literally the “Knight in shining armour” for Kaira. He is in total control of everything. When he is on screen, you have no option but to be completely engrossed. Yes, he underplays it and he does it bloody well. I mean, it is a bold decision to play the second lead in a film dominated by an actress much younger and junior to her. I won’t call it an extended cameo. He is very much one of the two leading characters of the film.


I remember joking and teasing a diehard SRK fan sometime back that even after 20 years, we’ll be complaining that “When will SRK return to playing character defined roles? The last I remember was Chak De india. (Wink)”.
Happily, now “Dear Zindagi” can be added to that list.



But the entire load of the film rests on the shoulders of that one person who is definitely the future of Indian cinema. Alia Bhatt is superlative. There is something so magical about her screen presence that you can’t help but get floored by her. After “Highway”, this is easily her finest performance; maybe even at par with “Highway”.

Be it the way she tries to obey the task of talking to both her parents for ten minutes each or the way she hides the timer just for those extra five minutes of the session – she is fantastic and flawless. The emotional outburst in front of her family members is the icing on the cake. It immediately reminded me of the climax scene of “Highway”, only here she is better. And there is something about the way she acts during the emotional scenes. That combination of her flaring nostrils and facial expressions is enough to move anyone. Similar is the ending scene when she breaks down outside Dr Khan’s office. It is a delightful mixture of tears and smiles, leaving us with somewhat similar emotions. Her performance is a sure shot award winner, and with “Udta Punjab” also this year, she shouldn’t have any problems winning all the awards this year.



The final fifteen minutes according to me were necessary. A lot of people didn’t like the fact that the director tried to explain every single detail, but the last meeting between Kaira and Dr Khan is such a well enacted, well written and well emoted scene. However melodramatic it may sound, our Indian audience always considers the possibility of a relationship between the two characters. And by relationship, I don’t mean one of the many relationships Jug tells to Kaira about. I mean a romantic one. There are always people who come out of the theatre remarking, “End mein hero heroine toh alag hi rahein.” It is this mentality of the audience which Gauri proves wrong. In her own words, Genius is about knowing when to stop.

And so when a very glum Kaira fumbles reaches for her purse and awkwardly shakes hands with Jug, you wish there was an embrace. And as if obliging your, we get a lovely and heart wrenching final embrace which seems so right.

As the ending credits roll, I try to recreate the mental picture of all the lovely items in Jug’s wonderful home.



I wish that in the end Kaira would have sat on that chair and it wouldn’t have creaked.

To sum it, I know I haven’t come out watching a perfect movie or a “slice of life” movie as few people like to put it. But I come out feeling refreshed and good. I come out having learnt few small but important lessons of life. I come out with more respect for my “Top 5” people. I come out with more admiration and respect for my parents who gave me such a lovely childhood.
How much more could Gauri Shinde have done! Thank you so much!

And yes, every single time I go to a beach now, I am surely going to play Kabaddi with the samundar.
Love you Zindagi…


P.S - I have a complaint - Why was there no Ilaiyaraaja’s ‘Ae zindagi gale laga le’?”