Sunday, 4 December 2011

Ravana: The Great King of Lanka - Book Review

This 84 pager by M.S. Purnalingam Pillai is a very different look on Ravana, the legendary king of Lanka.

Anyone with academic interest in Lanka or Ravana should be reading this one. It is though biased in favor of the demon king it provides very valuable and insightful details based on research.

Recommended from an academic point of view. Looking for leisure reading - Please avoid.

iVerdict: Good
Rating: 3/5

Friday, 11 November 2011

Rockstar (Hindi) - Movie Review

Love story of the year! That is Rockstar summarised in a sentence.

Imtiaz Ali’s Ranbir Kapoor and Nargis Fakhri starrer, another one of the most anticipated movies of year 2011 is the journey of a musician from being a college joke to an international rock star. It is the story of his eagerness, passion, eccentricity and emotions that take him to his heart’s desire but also tear apart his soul in the process.

Rockstar traces the story of Janardhan Jakhar or JJ – a Delhi Jat, The Hindu College B.A. Ist year fail and wannable Jim Morrison, the rock star. JJ has been singing and strumming his guitar since childhood and is still the butt of all jokes for his impossible dream – to become a rock star. No one takes him, his music or his dream seriously. Khatana, his college canteen head is the only person who even slightly talks to him about his passion, his dream and amongst all his gyanisms on music and artists, Khatana points out to JJ that all great artists have one common thing among them – tragedy, pain, a broken heart. JJ analyzes his life and realises that his life unfortunately has NO tragedy! Damm! JJ realises that a broken heart is his only way to being a rock star and as a strategy decides to get his heart broken. He proposes to the college hottie and serial heart breaker – Heer Kaul from Kashmir. As expected Heer says no to JJ and the episode does not lead to the desired traumatic pain and music immergence from the heart but leads to Heer and JJ’s unusual friendship. Unusual because she is the classy, ‘neat and clean’, engaged girl from Kashmir and he is the rural, rustic Jat but they hit off well and go about getting cheap thrills by exploring the down side of life like watching sleazy porn film in a downtown theatre, drinking local liquor, hitting the red street etc. Rock star dream down the drain, JJ just goes about life with Heer finally heading off to Kashmir for her wedding. There again they enjoy their thrills as a farewell thing and depart where she also christens his Jordan. Though Heer starts feeling a soft corner for JJ she never confesses and goes away to settle with her husband in Prague. When JJ returns to Delhi, he is thrown out of his house for attending her wedding and arguing on the same. He then spends time at Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah and later on at Khatana’s house singing sufi songs and bhajans, with the music spark coming out in traces. He is later contacted by a music company for singing songs for them and there he meets Ustad Jameel Khan, Padma Bhushan Shehnai artist. Ustad advices Dhingra, the music company owner to contract with JJ inspite of a bad audition. Dhingra takes Jordan turned JJ along with other artists for a tour of Europe including Prague. In Prague Jordan meets Heer again, who has a psychiatric problem by now, and then begins the passionate and volatile affair between the two. In the meanwhile the musical traces begin manifesting completely in Jordan and he turns into a star performer for Dhingra’s company. While the love affair with Heer completes the musician in Jordan, it also brings out the vulnerable and explosive emotions in him, which manifest in the form of his violent mood swings. While his erratic moods turned him into the bad boy of music, his passionate performances turned him into the demi-god of music. After an abrupt end to their relationship in Prague, Jordan turned more violent, he got more bad press and he made better music while Heer diagnosed with terminal bone marrow cancer comes back to her parents in Kashmir. Jordan meets her again in Kashmir in an attempt to revive her from her sure death and she gets him to feel at peace with himself but destiny cannot be that simple for the man who wanted his life to be tragic for the sake of musical heights.

Imtiaz Ali is the director for romance. Amongst the new-gen directors the skill with which he unfolds the complexity of emotions is just awe inspiring and here again the mastery with which Imtiaz unfurls the layers of complex emotions within Jordan is superb. Imtiaz’s earlier works Jab we met and Love aaj kal has exhibited what a splendid and skilful storyteller he is and here again he does not disappoint. He brings to us in Rockstar a complex tale in the most beautiful way. Dark yet soulful. Performance wise it is an out-and-out Ranbir Kapoor show. I cannot imagine another actor doing this role, it is tailor made for him. The transition from a happy dreamy JJ to a tormented genius Jordan is superb and Ranbir takes to the transition in the character effortlessly. Nargis is lovely on the eyes and her chemistry with Ranbir is electrifying but the acting has gone over the edge in parts. Shammi Kapoor is elegant in his cameo.

Ranbir will have to share his limelight with another hero in the film – A.R. Rahman. The music score of the film is truly another hero. Though the musical notes are bucketful, they are easy on the ears with good visuals.

Rockstar rocks in all aspects except that it may not touch the pulse with the masses as Imtiaz’s earlier works. This one is for the Apple junta, the aam junta may not take to it too kindly. It is definitely one of Ranbir’s career best performances and will be a cult in contemporary romance sagas.

It is FROM the heart, FOR the heart!

iVerdict: Excellent. Do not miss.   
Rating: 4/5  

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The Secret of the Nagas - Book Review

The Secret of the Nagas – one of my most awaited books. Since Harry Potter I have not waited for a book sequel this bad and never for one from an Indian writer. The Immortals of Meluha – the prequel to this book by Amish Tripathi had blown away my mind with a tale within the tale that we all know and so Nagas was completed within two days!

The book starts off exactly from where the prequel ended. Sati is attacked by a Naga and Shiva is in pursuit of the Naga. Shiva and Sati give the Naga a tough chase but he escapes but leaves behind a gold coin that leads Shiva to the kingdom of Branga, situated in eastern India at the confluence of rivers Brahmaputra and Ganga. The kingdom of Branga being somewhat hostile to Ayodhya, Shiva and Sati go to Kashi, which has a reputation of being a patient city to all people and thus houses a colony of Branga’s too.  While they are in Kashi, a mini riot breaks out against the Branga’s and Parvateshwar (Shiva’s army chief from Meluha) is mortally injured trying to pacify the mob. Ayurvati tries her best to revive him fails, as the wounds were deep. Divodas, the chieftain of the Branga’s in Kashi as a thanksgiving for saving his people gives a medicine to Ayurvati, which has miraculous effects, and Parvateshwar is revived and starts recovering well. Ayurvati informs Shiva that the medicine had herbs that are only found in Panchavati, the capital of Nagas. Divodas informs Shiva that the Branga’s are yearlong affected by plague and need medicines that only the Nagas make to keep alive and that is why Branga’s and Nagas are ally’s. In his quest to reach the Nagas, Shiva decides to go to Branga. While Shiva is waiting for the special ships that will take him to Branga (as you cannot enter Branga just like that because of their advanced technological fortifications on the rivers) to be built, his and Sati’s son – Kartik is born. After which Shiva leaves for Branga with his team and Sati stays back in Kashi to help the king fight against lion killings in the kingdom. On reaching Branga, Shiva finds out that the Branga’s are in alliance with the Nagas for the sake of the medicine and till Branga is not able to make that medicine on its own the alliance will have to continue. He also gets to know that apart from the Nagas only one man can make those medicines - a Bandit by the name of Parashuram, who kills anyone who tries to come near his part of the jungle. Shiva’s entourage after much bloodshed wins over Parashuram’s army and he readily surrenders the medicine recipe to Shiva when he learns that HE IS the Neelkanth.  Shiva also learns that Parashuram is a Vasudev pandit (shiva’s guides and philosophers) and his story from a pandit to a bandit is what changes Shiva’s perception about the Nagas. While in Kashi, Sati goes to fight the pride of lions that were killing villagers with a group of soldiers. While there she miscalculates the number of lions in the pride and she is nearly killed under the attack when a group of Nagas come to her rescue. After the rescue operation the leaders of the Nagas a women who looked exactly like sati but with deformations and a man, again deformed claim to be related to her.

Sati related to Nagas while Shiva believes that he will find evil when he reaches the Nagas!

And the man is the one who Shiva believes killed his brother-friend Brahaspati!

Their revelation points out that Meluha after all is not as perfect as it seems!
Author Amish spins another tale of fascination and shifting beliefs. For someone who has grown up on Indian Mythology the Shiva trilogy is a path breaker. Whenever a new character is introduced the story that you grew up on comes to the mind and then the connection between the characters in your mind and the book comes up. The book is racy, intelligent and notion breaker. As an individual book it is excellent but comparison with the prequel will dim its glory. The Nagas lacks the punch of Meluha. You will like it if you are a mythology fiction fan but you will love it only because you are a Shiva Trilogy fan.

p.s.  Though I think it is good as a stand alone book but you will enjoy it fully only if you have read the prequel, else you will find more mysteries than there actually are.

iVerdict: A page turner. Must read for a Mythology Fiction or Historical Fiction fan.
Rating: 3.5/5

RA.1 (Hindi) - Movie Review

RA.1 Finally!! One of the most hyped and awaited films of 2011 - SRK’s dream film finally arrived and as was expected, going by the RA.1 jokes in circulation during the run up to the film, was beaten blue by critics and public alike. Anubhav Sinha’s Shah Rukh Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Armaan Verma and Arjun Rampal starrer RA.1 and here goes the review FINALLY.

Barron Industries – Gaming company and employer to Shekhar Subramanium introduces a new technology wherein objects from the virtual world can create themselves into physical things in the real world using the radio waves present all around us due to all our usage of technological gadgets. In the meanwhile, Shekhar member of the game creation team has to come up with a game, which will save his job and also impress his son – Prateek, who is in the least awe of his father and is a huge gaming freak. Taking cue from Prateek, Shekhar a staunch in good beating the evil always, creates a game wherein the villain is much more powerful than the hero. He creates the villain Random Access Version one or RA.1, symbolic to Ravan – the villain of Ramayan in Hindu mythology just for Prateek but being the good man Shekhar creates the hero – Good one or G. One, symbolic to the hindi term Jeevan meaning life with all the goodness of his heart but with only 0.01% winning possibility against RA.1. Both have a H.A.R.T. which is their strength as well as weakness. G.1 is modelled on Shekhar’s face while RA.1 remains faceless because he has the power to take anybody’s face. The game is launched amongst much fanfare and Prateek is elated and that means Shekhar is happy. Prateek is so excited about the game that he wants to play it right away and starts playing it logging in as Lucifer (his favourite game name), reaching level 2 of 3 levels, with the last level being death of either the protagonist or the antagonist. But Prateek has to leave the game on level 2, as he has to rush back home. The game had shown some malfunctions at the time of programming i.e. there were certain characteristics in RA.1 that got developed on its own without any manual programming. When Prateek leaves the game RA.1 in the game is livid with Lucifer/ Prateek for reaching level 2 and wants him to finish the game and when he leaves RA.1 pledges to come to the real world to kill him. Same night while leaving office when the mainframe does not shut down Shekhar and colleague Wu come to check out the problem. But they are unable to trace the problem but due to all the radio waves in the place the in-game RA.1 comes into the real world from the virtual one with the aim to find Lucifer and kill him. In pursuit of Lucifer, RA.1 kills Wu and then taking his form kills Shekhar for hiding Lucifer. Prateek because of certain symbols associated with RA.1 and Shekhar’s death realises that RA.1 has come into the real world and is in pursuit of him. Though his mother Sonia decides to go back to India, he goes back to Shekhar’s office to get G.1 too into the real world because only G.1 can to an extent combat RA.1. While Prateek is in office trying to create G.1 with the help of Shekhar’s teammate Jeny RA.1 finds out that Prateek is Lucifer and he is in Shekhar’s office. While RA.1 heads to kill Lucifer, Prateek manages to escape and Sonia with Prateek head towards the airport to catch their flight to India. But RA.1 catches up with them and is winning but in the meanwhile Jeny successfully revives G.1 into the real world and he comes to Prateek’s rescue. RA.1 is killed and his H.A.R.T. is captured by G.1. Unwillingly but Sonia is forced to let G.1 travel to India with them and Shekhar’s passport comes to their rescue as G.1 has Shekhar’s face. With RA.1’s H.A.R.T. with him G.1 is sure that RA.1 will come back to them because as per the rules of the game neither RA.1 nor G.1 can die when the H.A.R.T. is not destroyed while being attached to their respective bodies. And its interval! How will RA.1 be revived? Will he trace them to India? Can G.1 with 0.01% of winning chances against RA.1 save Prateek? Can the good Shekhar create a game where the bad wins? That will form the second half of the film!

And the second half was undeniably more gripping and interesting. Coming to the review of the film, May be because I went in with a week of negative reviews about the film I do have some good things to say about the film. Like the story was definitely gripping in the second half (and I am not a gaming enthusiast, infact I hate the gaming types when they play that is). You have to admit the war between the good and the bad is a winner always especially if one is an underdog and this one was written in a pretty realistic way considering the digital age that we live in with artificial intelligence and the sorts. The music was good and the best thing was no inserted songs, all songs justified their presence and my pick would be Dildara. And finally the quality of the VFX and the technical quality of the movie is – Hats off. Well that’s about where the good things end. First of all the initial sequence featuring Priyanka Chopra and Sanjay Dutt was real putt off and bore. Bad way to start a film. Again there was too much Tamil in the film with no subtitles. You would feel so disconnected if you do not understand the jokes. And that is exactly what happened. Again some question remained unanswered – what exactly were the malfunctions happening in the RA.1 programme? How did RA.1 come to India without a passport? A story needs to be closed well with no doubts remaining for the viewer. Especially in an age when cinema is global and we all have good access to world cinema.

Performance wise all actors did justice to their roles but Arjun Rampal rocked as RA.1. Though his screen time was very less, he leaves an impact. You nearly believe that he CANNOT be beaten at any stage. The only complaint is SRK is not Salman Khan. We expect intelligent stuff from you Shah. Some sequences in the film were just not your kind of cinema.

It is a well-made film but far from perfect.

iVerdict: Kudos to the effort. One time watch, may be.
Rating: 2.5/5

Monday, 31 October 2011

Bodyguard (Hindi) - Movie Review

I finally chanced to watch Bodyguard in Hindi by Siddiqe starring Salman Khan and Kareena Kapoor in the lead roles. I really wanted to watch this one after watching the Malayalam one. Really wanted to see what mainstream bollywood brought to the table.  

Though the story by-and-large remains the same, certain details undergo a change from the original one – some for good and some for not so good. The film starts off with a narration of a love story being read from a diary by a child in a train aka Kuch Kuch Hota Hai style. The story in the diary narrates the birth of Lovely Singh, son of bodyguard Balwant Singh and only born alive because of Sartaj Rana, his father’s boss. Lovely grows up to be a DEDICATED bodyguard just like his father, overtly indebted to Rana for his life itself. So when Rana’s soon-to-be-married daughter Divya requires a bodyguard owing to impending danger on her life because of revenge directed towards her father, Lovely is assigned as her bodyguard. He is expected to be with her ALWAYS, and Lovely being Lovely takes the task very seriously, which irks Divya and her friend Maya unboundedly. Irritatibly for them, he wears safari suits and aviators always, lives life on a clock, sleeps, eats and drinks his duty. The girls are embarrassed and frustrated owing to all this and decide to play a prank on him to divert his attention. Divya, who has a restricted number, starts calling him in a changed voice and thus begins a phone love affair. Lovely falls for this person on the phone who speaks to him under a pseudo name and being the simpleton he is falls in love with the girl on the phone. In the mean while what began as a prank turns serious for Divya as she too falls in love with the simple and honest Lovely. But dilemma’s have no end for her as – her father will never agree to her marrying her bodyguard and Lovely will also never accept her against her father’s wish as she is Madam to him and her father god to him. In the meanwhile Rana discovers amidst a lot of misunderstandings that Lovely is planning to elope with Divya while Lovely thinks that he is eloping with his phone lover. After all the confusions and complications the film’s story takes a 8 years leap where we see a High profiled Lovely Singh, Lovely’s son, a bedridden Rana and a still not married Divya eventually leading to final clarifications once and for all.

The story has a lot of loopholes and leaves the audience unconvinced and feeling silly. The film has an assemble feel to it and seems like an assorted dish – an Indian Chinese noodles sans the tadka. Salman Khan does what he does best i.e. entertain his fans with antics that are so much his signature style but consistency seemed marred. Kareena Kapoor disappoints in this one. An actress of her calibre was just a pretty face in this one. Manish Malhotra does a fabulous job with her styling but the emote output from Bebo was next to nil here. Hazel Keech as Maya impresses while Mahesh Majrekar is wasted. Over all a very mediocre effort. A film that completely relied on Salman’s Daabang acquired estyle and made to just entertain his fan base.

iVerdict: Average. May be a one-time watch. Keeps brains locked. 
Rating: 2/5    

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Mere Brother Ki Dulhan (Hindi) - Movie Review

Mere Brother ki Dulhan (MBKD) had held my curiosity from the time the project was announced in the form of the first look in Bombay Times for not very proud reasons. I really wanted to find out what two near non-actors (Imraan Khan and Katrina Kaif) and a debutant director (Ali Abbas Zafar) can put together for Yash Raj Films that will garner footfalls at the theatres.

MBKD is basically a triangle of three characters as the title suggests. There is mere namely Kush, brother namely Luv and Dulhan namely Dimple. Luv and Kush are brothers (and no there father is not named Ram! He is luckily named Col. Agnihotri) Luv works in London and Kush is assistant director in Mumbai. In a moment of impulsive decision making Luv asks Kush to find a bride for him from India and promises to marry any girl he chooses for his brother. Col. Agnihotri is apprehensive of this decision on his elder son but still plays on and after much disaster after disaster the Agnihotri’s land up at the Dixit’s where they meet the prospective bride – Dimple. Kush is shaken up to see the bride-to-be, quite literally, as he remembers her from a meeting some years back and finds it difficult to imagine her as his brother’s wife going by the image of the girl he remembered her to be from their earlier tryst. As fate would have it the marriage is fixed and as always in bollywood Kush and Dimple fall for each other. So the brother-in-law-to-be and the bride-to-be are in love and they need to get married without hurting anyone in the families. So a plan is hatched which involves getting Luv’s ex-girlfriend from London to India, a lot of mis- convincing’s on both sides, an error-full flow put right.

MBKD is similar in treatment to another rom-com Ajab Prem ki Gajab Kahani and Katrina is the common factor and so is her performance. The film is entertaining is its genre and the lead actors – Imraan Khan, Katrina Kaif and Ali Zafar enthral in their characters well. Though you will find some over acting in parts by Katrina and Ali and some under acting by Imraan, the film is overall entertaining. The music is another plus point of the film. All the songs of the film are catchy and go well with the story line, though my personal favourite is the title track.

Deffo an entertainer.

iVerdict: Good. One time watch
Rating: 2.5

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Indian Rupee (Malayalam) - Movie Review

An often-told story about a young man wanting to make quick bucks but a refreshingly new film that is what Indian Rupee is! Written and directed by Ranjith and starring Prithviraj, Thilakan in lead roles the film boasts of superlative performances and a moral message to the society and the youth today at large.

The film speaks about a very average young man of our generation who does not represent the FB-ing, iPhone-ing youth but the other part of our generation - a youth that is in the mad race to quick money irrespective of the path taken. The film takes us through the life of a young man – Jayaprakash aka JP who is a small time real estate dealer in Kozhikode (Calicut).  JP and his friend CH work with a senior real estate dealer Rayeen and dream of breaking away as independent entities as soon as they land on a big land deal that will earn them a big commission. Amongst all this Achuthan Menon, an old lawyer comes into acquaintance with JP to sell off a land that Menon owns. Though the deal never comes through, Menon stays back to become a part of JP and CH’s life after helping JP out of a major crisis. JP along with CH and Menon goes through some major events, enters some major risks and nearly goes to jail eventually paying for the folly of adopting not-so-honest modes to earn money.

The high point of Indian Rupee is the performances by Prithviraj and Thilakan. This can possibly be called one of Prithvi’s best performance and Thilikan is subtle and powerful in his role as Menon. The low point of the film is its script. Nothing new or original about the story though the way it is narrated and presented has its freshness but it is a story that has found its way to us earlier also in some way or the other. Rima does not has much to do, she is a heroine for the sake of a heroine. Her role is akin to the one Asin had in Bollywood flick London Dreams – eye candy. The film basically belongs to Prithviraj in terms of role as well as performance though wish he would have got the Calicut slang a bit better. That would have been the knockout punch missing in the film.

Overall Indian Rupee is a must watch for its performances and subject.

iVerdict: Good. Must watch.
Rating: 4