Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Leave Poirot—And Christie—Alone!

Writing a Continuation Novel is never easy. Few authors get it right the first time. Kingsley Amis and John Gardner got their Bond novels bang on the spot; Raymond Benson barely scraped through, while the less said about Sebastian Faulks-Jeffrey Deaver-William Boyd, the better. Similarly, Sam Llewellyn did a much-more-than-decent job with his continuation of the Navarone Saga.

However, Sophie Hannah, in her first—and hopefully last—Poirot novel, The Monogram Murders, messes it up horribly. Sacre tonnerre, but this is not Poirot at all!!! The backstory, told in flashback mode, is mildly interesting and might have turned out finely in Dame Commander Christie's hands, but here it falls utterly flat. A convoluted plot, cardboard characters who act out of character for the most part, half-baked motives, underdeveloped plot points, an unsatisfactory ending: in short, this one is an almost unmitigated disaster fans of Poirot and Christie in particular and the world in general could well have done without. What's more appalling is an irritating douchebag of a secondary hero, who renders the proceedings even more tedious.

Eh bien, give it a shot only when you have nothing else to read. And then go back to the originals to rinse your mouth thoroughly of the aftertaste.

P.S.: I wonder what kind of a travesty Sebastian Faulks has turned out in the latest Jeeves-Bertie Wooster novel Jeeves And The Wedding Bells. If the reviews so far are anything to go by, Faulks deserves a very unpleasant and long-drawn-out death.


Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Jitna Bada Kalaakaar Utna Bada Naam

To say that "he strode over the Hindi Film scenario like a colossus" would be inaccurate, considering he came in at the time of Amjad Khan, Amrish Puri, Kader Khan, Shakti Kapoor, and (slightly later) Anupam Kher. But his "unconventional" looks and heavily accented dialogue delivery, coupled with his versatility, won several admirers of his craft.

The post-1982 period in Hindi Film History has been one of mostly individual brilliance (unlike the Golden Era that was famous for collaborations between like-minded titans). And Sadashiv Amrapurkar definitely shone. If the cold menace he exuded as Rama Shetty (Ardh Satya, the spiritual sequel to ZANJEER), Chaturvedi (AAKHREE RAASTA), and most of all Maharani (Sadak) ran cold fingers down the audience's spine, the shayeri-spouting cop of Lashkar, the forgetful inspector of Aankhen, and the reluctant and bemused commissioner of Mohra regaled them to no end. And that's where he scored: deft touches of the brush that made ordinary characters stand out and be remembered after decades.

But it is probably the stage that will miss him the most. Even though I did not understand a single word of Marathi 10 years ago, he kept me on the edge of my seat with his riveting performance on that cold November night in Pune. Cinephiles and admirers of good actors, please try and get hold of a DVD/VCD copy of the Marathi play "Jyacha Tyacha Vithoba", a strong commentary on the socio-religious scenario in present-day India.

Rest in peace, Mr. Amrapurkar. You were so much a part of our growing-up years. As a character in one of your films said: "Jitna bada naam, utna bada kalaakaar (the longer the name, the greater the artiste)." We will vouch for it.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Why haider Does Not Work For Me

I actually wanted to watch haider, but I decided to give it a miss. That's fine, really...you don't need to be able to lay eggs to know how to make an omelette (just as you don't need to know shit about Hinduism—the religion, the way of life, call it what you will—to make seemingly-erudite posts on 33 crores deities on social networking sites). Similarly, one can comment knowledgeably on a movie based on 35 years of movie-watching experience without actually seeing it.

As a film, haider is possibly quite good. When he adapts Shakespearean tragedies, vishal bhardwaj actually does a good job (at other times, he just makes esoteric shit like matru ki bijlee ka mandola, which is what he makes most of the time). Apart from the gripping narrative Bill had written 400 years ago, haider boasts of some of today's finest artistes like Tabu, Irrfan Khan, Kay Kay Menon, and Shahid Kapur. But a good film is not the same as a blatant political statement filled with...well, lies.

The most flagrant of the lies in haider is the one that chooses to ignore/discredit/label as a myth the genocide of the Kashmiri Pundits and their subsequent exodus from the state. It is as much a truth as was the genocide of the Sikhs back in 1984, and an even bigger one than either that or the much-abused Godhra incident—which, as many are loathe to recall, was triggered by the Sabarmati Express Massacre. But then, this is not surprising coming from a man who wrote an open letter to the citizens of India repeatedly urging them to not vote for a certain candidate (who need not be named here) in this year's LS polls so that the "secular" and "liberal" fabric of the Indian society could be maintained.

Much has already been said and written about the film's merits, which are many, and demerits, which are probably even more, though I still maintain that haider simply as a film is, probably, quite good and watchable. I do not wish to spend too much time and energy on this, but for those who are interested, here is some good reading material:
Just a small question to bhardwaj: "Sir, would you have the same guts to show someone dancing to the chant of 'Ram Ram' on the steps of babri masjid just like you showed someone dancing to the chant of 'bismil bismil' on the steps of the Martand Sun Temple? And would you make a film based on 'Our Moon Has Blood Clots'?"

And yes, that bit—a dance number picturized on the ruins of a once-revered, brutally-desecrated temple—did hurt. Quite badly too.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Is ratna pathak shah For Real?

Dear (not really) Ratna Pathak Shah,

I am not criticizing/appraising/analysing your comments "Satyajit Ray was barely tolerable" and "SHOLAY is extremely embarrassing". I am simply trashing them. So here goes:

1. Personal opinions are fine, as long as (a) the opinions are informed and intelligent and (b) we agree that our lack of appreciation of something might be a result of lack of understanding of the subject, or sheer stupidity, or simply an attention-grabbing technique. I may not like poetry, but if I say something like "Tagore just didn't know how to write poetry", that would indicate utter idiocy.
2. Both your husband—who, incidentally, shares your views on the topics you have remarked on—and you are fine actors. But comments like these only serve to establish the fact that being talented in a particular field and having a deep, intelligent, empathetic, and analytical understanding of that field are two different things altogether.
3. Evidently you have a profound Maya Sarabhai-esque "oh-I-am-so-intellectually-evolved" disdain for mainstream cinema. That is fine. A lot of us arty-farty types do. But while criticizing SHOLAY, the Citizen Kane of mainstream (Indian) cinema, you have very cleverly chosen to overlook the fact that the man who started off with Junoon, Sparsh, Aakrosh, Masoom, Trikaal, Mirch Masala, Ijaazat, Khamosh, and Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro was rather quick to criticize the very kind of movies that won him fame and acclaim and moved on to award-winning, timeless classics like Daava, Lahoo Ke Do Rang, Takkar, Misaal, Zulm Ko Jala Doonga, Tehelkaa, Kasam, Lootere, Hasti, Dand-Nayak, Lakshmanrekha, Asambhav, Bombay Boys, Jackpot, Sona Spa...while your own bio-data now boasts of Khoobsurat. Even Sonam Kapoor doesn't want to talk about it! Selective judgementalism? And why, pray, was SHOLAY "embarrassing"? Did Ramesh Sippy make an indecent proposal to you while you were watching it??

Your comments are clearly nothing more than a lame attempt to generate the paying public's interest in Khoobsurat. Sorry, it's not working. You can outrage in Anurag Kashyap/Sanjay Leela Bhansali/Mahesh Bhatt/any venerable Bong director of today's style that your film is for the intelligent ones and not the hoi polloi, but guess what? People are still sticking to reruns of the extremely mediocre, unflattering, embarrassing SHOLAY and Ray films while giving Khoobsurat a miss by a mile.

In effect, therefore, your comments are evoking nothing but scornful mirth and ridicule for your intelligence. I actually feel sad for the scribe who interviewed you and hope someone brings this post to your notice.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Enraged At A F---tard

I understand dissent. I understand criticism. Hell, I can understand fanaticism as well [I'm a bit of that myself in some regards].

But what I do NOT understand is: what kind of a vermin uses terms/phrases like "India - you can go f*** yourself" and "Jai F***ing Hind"—the full words, mind you, not the asterisk-ed versions I've used here—to express his feelings on a public platform just because he is unhappy with the outcome of a national election? Is this the new Liberal/Secular/Patriotic benchmark now? And yes, this fellow is an Indian.


A lot of people have been crying themselves hoarse over 'fascism', 'Nazism', and such bullshit. I want to ask them: is it you guys who should be scared, or the huge majority of Indians who voted for a change? Should we still be debating over who's the Nazi here?

Please let me know. Waiting to be enlightened.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Happy Birthday, Kiara

The Kolkata night dividing 1st and 2nd May eight years ago was sweltering. As my Parents and Sister slept a light sleep, I stayed up all night, catering to a pregnant female who was due any time now.

And at 3.45 AM sharp, on 2nd May 2006, my job as a midwife began, lasting for five hours, as Kuttush popped out five miniatures on my palms, which I held cupped between her hind legs, as my Mother tended to the Babies, wiping away the placenta and washing them in hot water and Dettol, and to Kuttush, cutting the umbilical cords with sterilized blades. My Father and Sister mostly jumped around with joy.

As Kiara turns eight today, I sense Kuttush's lingering presence beside me, looking at my Daughter and saying: "Well, this one isn't turning out too bad either. But thanks for taking such good care of my Little One, Bro."

Happy Birthday, Kiara. All the love in the world for you.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

She Sleeps In Beauty

Her Majesty has not been keeping well. A host of minor ailments have joined forces against Her.

Cartoons fail to cheer Her up. Song-&-dance routines, which She normally responds to rather enthusiastically, don't work. Nursery rhyme videos don't impress. Dinner is a disaster.

She deigns to be carried by Her humble and faithful minion. Ten minutes and three lullabies later, She is spent and fast asleep.

And the world, all of God's creation, has shrunken into that one infinite moment: a tiny fist clutching my finger, a plump little hand around my neck, and a small head crowned by damp, curly hair resting on my shoulder.