Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Movies and Books of Feb 2012

Looks like I'm making good progress on the reading front. Me happy :)
  1.  By Blood Possessed -  Elena Santangelo : Wonderful read. Set in contemporary times, the story oscillates between the civil war period and present day. I was attracted to this writer who hails from a suburb about 2 miles from where I live and was the winner of the Agatha Award for 2010. Any writer who is affiliated to Agatha Christie has my attention~!
  2.  Tipping Point - Malcolm Gladwell  : I am not much of a non-fiction reader but this book held my attention. Stories varied from 'How Hushpuppies became a fashion phenomenon' to 'How the crime in NYC during the '80s was curbed'. Gladwell definitely scores high on how to tell a good non-fiction story.
  3.  Life itself : a memoir - Roger Ebert : Deserves a separate blog post. One thought though; although one is strong in life something from childhood always lingers on your head - in this case, Ebert's mother's indirect influence on the girls he dated made him marry late in life. I thought that was an interesting point to be noted.
  4.  Tender is the Night - F Scott Fitzgerald (abandoned for lack of interest. Blasphemous, I know, but I never read a book I'm not interested in.) 
  5.  The Valley of Fear - Sherlock Holmes (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)  : Need I say anything more than what millions haven't said before? A good murder mystery for a silent winter evening.

  1.  Jazabel : I think Bette Davis deserved an Oscar for her performance in 'All about Eve' and not this one.
  2.  Munich:  (abandoned because of too much violence) - A sad but true story of how the Israeli team were brutally killed at the 1972 Munich Olympics and how their death was avenged.
  3.  Drive : I thought the plot was too contrived although Ryan Gosling was very good.
  4.  Deconstructing Harry : Cookie, is the first African American woman featured in any of the Woody Allen movies I have seen so far. Movie is a hilarious riot of a writer whose writing has gone awry with twisted autobiographical incidents.
  5.  Office Space : Is funny every time I watch it because of how close to truth the movie actually is.
  6.  That obscure object of desire : One of Bunuel's famous works, I did not think much of it except that I liked the beginning- A man from a running train, pours a bucket of water on a woman's head, which piques the curiosity of the fellow passengers.
  7.  I Don't Know How She Does It : Fun movie of a career woman balancing kids, husband and her project that needs her to travel. Kudos for making a woman respectably reject the boss who is interested in her and stick to her husband.
  8.  Higher Ground : Surely everyone who watched 'Up in the air' were mesmerized by Vera Farmiga. So when I heard that she had directed this movie and had good reviews, I decided to pick it up. But it was not for me. A movie about religious zealots is not my cuppa tea. 
I plan to blog about all the books and movies for each month and would love to hear from you on your monthly viewing/reading.        

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Kahaani - A movie review

When I called my friend to watch a Hindi movie, he was skeptical but played along. He did mention that he would rather watch 'A Separation'. I asked him not to insult my intelligence. I would never waste my time on a movie that is not worth my time. 'A Separation' is high on my list but I was in mood for some Indian fare.

How can one not like a movie that plays 'Tere bina jiya jaaye na'? Kahaani is all about such small details. It assumes that the viewer is intelligent, which is a big plus for Indian movies.

Kahaani is the story of a wife searching for her missing husband just like 'Roja'. But it doesn’t taper off as lamely as 'Roja' did. Vidya Bagchi (Vidya Balan) , a computer engineer from London, frantically searches for her husband, who comes on a two week assignment to India. No one has heard of her husband - Arnab Bagchi. Not the 'National Data Center' (the project he was working on) or the guest house where he stayed. The first place she starts her search is the usual one that any common man would go to - the police and earns the sympathy of a constable, Rana. Her search leads her into an intricate web of mystery and suspense of a look-alike of her husband. Her relentless pursuit of what looks like a lost cause, in spite of being heavily pregnant, makes us want to shout to her to be more considerate to her unborn baby.

The suspense here is not built by a car chase or a series of gun-fights. It is the slow unveiling of an intricate plot which revolves the 'Intelligence Beaureau' and an incident involving a terror attack in the Kolkatta metro.

The characters are flawless. You would hate the IB deputy chief Khan (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), whose commands are nothing but a string of swear words. You would love Rana(Parambrata Chatterjee), for being a simpleton, who takes the tram after work, telling his mother that he is on his way back home. And you are afraid when Bob , the contract killer who masquerades as a lazy insurance agent, is going to kill next.

Of course Kolkatta is an important central character. The simple beauty of the Howrah bridge as seen from the tram, the traffic, the chai chops, the yellow taxi cabs, the Chinese street food stalls, the preparation for puja and the ever beautiful Bong women (if you notice the receptionist at NDC).

Vidya is excellent - as a forlorn wife, as a frantic and pregnant woman, as an NRI who is returning back to homeland, as a South Indian adjusting to being called 'Bidya' and lastly as a beautiful actress who portrays emotions through a subtle glint in her eyes.

Every year I think there is atleast one Hindi movie that I love. Last year, it was Dhobhi Ghaat and this year Kahaani usurped it.  If all this is not enough, the throws-off-your-seat ending makes it a must-watch. 

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

All things are new before they become old - My own

A stroll through a used book store on a lazy Sunday afternoon introduced me to an amazing writer - Beverley Nichols. The world knows him as a famous writer of gardening books but 'Verdict on India' is anything but that. Published in 1944, it is an autobiographical account of the writer's observations of India. As my fingers turn over the yellow, dog-eared pages, I'm amazed at how much India is still the same except maybe the 'Untouchables'.

In the foreword, the author is apologetic about his book. I think that is very humble of him. Why should anyone apologize to reveal the impressions that India leaves you with?

He also stuns us with his words. In one of the opening paragraphs he writes :

"I stared over the valley. Thirty miles away the white robes of Kinchinjunga were spread against the sky of immaculate blue; they looked like a sort of celestial laundry waiting to be gathered into gigantic baskets by industrious angels. The angels would have to hurry up, for the sun was falling swiftly ; already the divine draperies were being stained with gold and crimson and that strange acid green that is the secret of the Indian twilight'

Like most writers those days, Nichols was a versatile writer. He has published novels, mysteries, short stories, essays and children's books.He wrote a number of non-fiction books on travel, politics, religion, cats, parapsychology, and autobiography. Not to mention his  famous books on gardening.

I'm looking forward to picking more of his books. Discovering this writer is like finding an uncut diamond in a mound of pebbles.

His book of Ballads is featured on Project Gutenberg. I'm sure you would find him as pleasurable to read as I do.