Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Warrior: A Journey to Higher Realms

The Warrior is a British movie made byAsif Kapadia, a director of Indian origin. This movie, set in India is his first feature film and had a crew of diverse nationalities. The movie was appreciated all over and was the official entry for Academy awards from UK that year, but was rejected as the dialogues were in Hindi, a language that is not indigenous to UK. The Warrior catapulted Irrfan Khan, who had appeared in minor roles and in TV serials till then into international fame.

The Warrior, set in medieval India, is the story about the redemption of a brutaland remorseless warrior working for a cruel landlord in Rajasthan. Warrior hasa son whom he wantsto mold like himself. But the son is not interested and is of a more compassionate and passive nature. Once while raiding a village, the warrior happens to point his sword to the neck of ayoung girl and has a vision of him on a snow clad mountain. The vision causes an abrupt paradigm change in him and he decides to abandon violence. He decides togo to the mountains that he saw in the vision and lead a peaceful life. But the landlord and his colleagues are not ready to let him desertthem. His son dies trying to save his life. He embarks on the journey alone. Rest of the movie shows his journey and struggles,the people he encounters on the way, the changes theymake in him and his violent past catching up with him in the end.

This is a perfect example of how with limited resources, a movie with an epic feel can be made. Many actors are local people and first timers, the sets are actual ruins and villages in remote areas of Rajasthan and more importance is given for character development and story-telling. With a story based on the theme of violence, there was lot of chance to portray graphic onscreen gore. But the director cleverly avoids it and concentrating more on the emotional core of the story. Even the most violent scenes- a decapitation and many killings are shown out of screen with just the expressions of actors revealing the ferocity of incidents. Irrfan, with his expressive eyes does a fabulous job in revealing the troubled inside of a changed man. All the other supporting actors also does a great job, even those in bit parts.

I love movies that make me to think. I always feel there should be another layer below what is revealed to the audience, something that makes him connect the story withhis life. The Warrior is such a multi layered movie. I feel this movie is about going the right way. It beautifully portrays the hardships that a man has to endure if he chooses the right path. Everything turns back against him, he loses his loved ones, his colleagues are out for his blood and in every crossroad he has to reconsider his decision, in a dilemma,whether he has done the right thing. But in end things always gets fine. The journey from the barren lowlands of Rajasthan to upper mountains ofKulu, is essentially a spiritual journey to higher realms.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Chinese Confusion

There was a time when I actually believed Jackie Chan movies were English. Well, as a matter of fact we watched them in English, but never knew they were dubbed versions of Chinese. As kids, for us Jackie Chan and JetLi movies were as authentic English as Arnold Schwarzeneggar's or Van Damme's. So it came as a surprise when I read an article about Chan's entry into Hollywood through WhoAm I? and Jet Li's as a villain in Lethal Weapon 4. Wait... These guys were never in Hollywood?

Bruce Lee was a childhood icon though the first Bruce Lee movie that I watched was Big Boss when I was in 7th standard. I never used to watch many English (?) movies then. I remember The Good, The Bad and The Ugly to be my favorite English movie for a while. Then again a surprising factoid claimed that it was originally filmed in Italian and dubbed in English.

The confusion about Chinese- English moviesstarted with my first Jackie Chan movie, continued with first Jet Li movie and still goes on whenever they show them on TV. My first Jackie Chan movie was titled Drugbusters. I went with expectation of heavy action. But the movie was about a bunch of funny guys doing nonsense for an hour and half. Jackie Chan comes in just two action scenes. That was actually a Lucky Starsmovie with Jackie Chan doing a cameo.

My first Jet Li movie was called Shaolin Temple and that was an undeniably great flick. Next week in the same movie house came another Jet Li movie titled Stuntmaster. I rushed to watch it only to find out it was same Shaolin Temple movie that I watched the last week. Later I realised that it is a common practice to re release movies with different titles just to mislead the audience. So we have Police Story 3 renamed as Super Cop, Crime Story renamed as Police Story 4, Wheels on meals reappearing as Spanish Connection and so on.

Bruce Lee movies are a bigger mess. As I toldearlier, Big Boss was my first Bruce Lee movie. Years later I watched the same movie as Fist of Fury. Another movie titled Chinese Connection reappeared in a DVD with the title... Fist of Fury! Two movies with same title. Way of the Dragon is also released as Return of the Dragon. Years after watching Game of Death, an ugly fact comes out that it has only 11 minutes of actual Bruce Lee footage in it. Remaining is a look alike with fake beard and mustache.

The topic of look alike takes us to an interesting phenomenon called Bruceploitation. Sudden and unexpected demise of the Dragon left a void in Hong Kong cinema. To cover it and make some fastbuck, production houses made movies with Bruce Lee look alikes. (Jackie Chan started his career that way.) I first noticed it in an advertisement of Fist of Fury which cautions audience about a movie released asFist of Fury 2 starring Bruce Li, a look alike. A few years later I was a victim when I watched Chaku Master starring Bruce Le, another imitator. But the best Bruceploitation flick that I watched is titled The Dragon Lives Again, in which a dead Bruce Lee confronts and wins against many other movie characters like James Bond, Dracula, Clinton Eastwood and others with the help of... Oh, you will never guess it... Popeye! It cannot get confusing than this.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Crime of Bol Bachchan

Bol Bachchan is an interesting phenomenon. As you may be well aware, it is the latest flick to come out of the assembly line of Mr Rohit Shetty and team. Personally I find most of his previous movies alright. They are fun to watch, though in no way worthy of remembering. Bol Bachchan was hyped as a remake of yesteryear classic Golmaal. Rohit Shetty claims that it is his tribute to the movie made in his style. But if you look closely at this half boiled effort, it is not only anywhere near Golmaal, but does not even come near any of Rohit Shetty's previous efforts. Faults are many. 

First of all, the movie is not funny. If I say that the only time i laughed out loud throughout the entire three hours was when they played the promo of upcoming movie 'Kya Super Kool Hein Hum', I am not exaggerating. The movie stars many of Comedy Stars participants and Judge Archana Puran Singh, of which the director is also a judge. The only fact that lift Bol Bachchan above the standard of Comedy Circus is the presence of Devgn and AB Jr. AB Sr's desperate attempt to revive his son's failing career by appearing in awful item songs is as pathetic as Devgn's forced English translations and AB Jr.'s queer turn. 

But the most offending fault of this movie is none of these. Hriskesh Mukharjee's Golmaal was made at a time when Hindi movies used to ride on larger than life heroes and one line story lines. This guy consistently made simple, light hearted movies devoid of any melodrama with his feet planted on ground realities. He made superstars like AB and Dharmendra to come down to earth and made stars out of down to earth faces like Amol Palekar. Golmaal made fun of simple human follies and ego clashes that we regularly witness in day to day life. When Amol Palekar and team tell lies and cheat Utpal Dutt, they and even the audience consider it as just childish pranks, and all of us gleefully join the mayhem.

Bol Bachchan never tries to built on these factors that made the original too good and ever loved movie. Here protagonists are super humans, there are lot of theatrical scenes with high melodrama, a subplot about Khandaani Dushmani, a pretentious religious harmony lesson, and lot of crude generalizations on LGBT community. While Golmaal is a movie that tried to come out of conventional movie making tradition, Boll Bachchan tries to immerse itself deeper into the safety of commercial viability and taking back Hindi movies back several decades. And that I feel is the biggest crime committed by Bol Bachchan. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012


And then he woke up... He woke up from that absurd nightmare of dark, terrifying, meaningless maze of terrors straight out of a B grade horror flick. He was astonished to find light all around. Light... pure, virgin and bright. Light... stalking the body like a thousand needle points, giving a pleasurable pain. The contrasting effect of dark, gory dreams and piercing light of dawn blew his mind away. He was not sure if he was awake or asleep. he wasn't even sure if he was alive or dead. And in that twilight zone he found solace that always eluded him for decades throughout his pointless, miserable life.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Book review: The devotion of suspect x

The devotion of suspect X is a Japanese mystery novel written by Keigo Higashino. It is part of a series of novels about Manabu Yukawa also known to friends as Detective Galileo, a physics professor helping police to solve crimes in his free time. In this novel he meets his match in his old college friend Ishigami, who inspite of his superior intelligence, chose to live a life of solitude as a Maths teacher away from all the fame and glory associated with Academics.

This book is actually the only book that I read in last three months. And I feel it was a reasonably good book for a comeback to reading habit. As I mentioned before, this is a mystery novel and what makes it different from other mystery novels is that in first pages itself the crime and culprits are revealed with all details. So it won’t be a spoiler if I mention that Yasuka Hanakoa, a single mother living with her daughter, Misato, kills her ex husband Shinji Togashi, when he stalk her and get violent. Misato assists her in the crime. Ishigami, who lives next door offers to help her in removing the dark stains of murder from her and her daughter. Detective Kusanagi comes to a dead end with the investigation when he seeks the help of Yukawa in solving the puzzle. Yukawa turns out to be an old friend of Ishigami and tries to rekindle the friendship. And then starts a battle of wits, a cat and mouse game using the grey cells in the brain.

The crime in itself is quite simple and straight forward. What make the novel interesting are the characterization and the twist ending. It is like watching Manoj N Shyamalan’s movie The Sixth Sense. You feel while watching the movie that it is just a very ordinary film but the ending changes your whole perception. Then you watch the movie again or the clues you missed in first viewing. Devotion of Suspect X is also a similar attempt. The writing style is very subtle and calm on outside, just like the mind of its protagonists. But the slow building up of tension keeps up the interest of the reader. As I have told before the characterization of the two main characters is what takes an otherwise ordinary story to a different level. Ishigami and Yukawa are etched in the minds of readers firmly even after keeping the book down.

On the flip side, other characters, even the most important ones, are not well developed. We never feel much about the single mom or her daughter, even when they are in deep trouble. The character of Detective Kusanagi is another disappointment about the book. There are some times when we feel that there is something more about this guy than what we read about him in the novel. But nothing is explored in that direction. (May be these are the problems of translation. Unfortunately I will never know.)   

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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

5 Things I Learned During Crisis

I hope I was missed. It is more than three months since I have posted anything here. There was a crisis in my life. I may share the details here some other time, may be at a time when I will be able to look back into all that happened in last three months and smile at them. But as they say, anything that does not kill you makes you tough. It was a learning period, when you are in the middle and lot of stuff happens around, things you wish had never happened, people you wish you had never met. Needless to say, I lost few things, but gained a lot. The crisis is unsolved yet and I am in no way sure of the outcome, but as of now, I am at peace with myself and the world. I am in a position now, to look back at things and analyze them, though it makes me feel sad. I thought I will make my come back post by writing about few things that I learned during this time. May be you can use them sometime.

1.     Face the heat: You got two options when shit hits the fan- run for cover or stay and face the heat. You run from any problem, it always finds a way to reach back to you. But if you stand and face it, in your terms and your way, there eventually emerges a solution. It may not be what you wanted, but some solution is better than no solution. At least you will not face the same problem again. And even if you do, you have some idea of how to tackle it again, because you stood up and faced it first time.

2.    Forget the convenient way, go for the right one instead: While facing any problem, there are many ways you can go about it. Normally people end up taking the first visible path that is seen in front. Because it is convenient. It is a well made path and you have a comfortable journey. The best thing is that you reach somewhere too. But most of the times it may not be the right path. The destination that you reach may not be the one where you should be because all you were looking at was the smooth, wide highway just in front of you. If you want to reach the right destination, you may have to look more intensely. It may be a path that is less travelled, laid with gravel, thorns and many obstacles, but which will take you were you really want to reach. Sometimes you may not even have a way to reach there and you have to make a new path. It is tough, but better than reaching a false destination and pretending that you have done a right thing.

3.       Let the life be principle-centered: All of us built our lives around some objects or virtues. We have lot of money-centered people amongst us, who is hell bent on making money their sole destination. There are luxury-centered people, God-centered people, spouse centered people, job- centered and alcohol centered people. What is your center? I feel we have to be principle centered. I feel I should have a set of well formed principles on which I build my life. My actions should be based on them. I told to someone last day, “I don’t feel the need of convincing you or anyone the rightness of my deeds. The only guy whom I should convince is that man in the mirror whom I see daily. If I am unable to meet my eyes with him, I know I am in some real trouble.” I believe principle centeredness gave me the confidence to assert it. But do not be too tight with your principles too. You will soon be an arrogant ego centered person. Every while let your inner man- the man in the mirror, audit your principles and let him to modify or scrap it for you. 

4. Keep your options open: No one can say what lies in future. Never shut a door fully unless you are clearly convinced it is out of bounds. Keep the good relations; give whatever support you can to anyone around you without giving a thought if they deserve it. Be open to everyone and every thing, because anything that comes to your life makes a mark on it. It is up to you how you interpret if the influence is good or bad. Let your life be flexible enough to accommodate diversity and it will surely pay one time or other.

5.      Money is a means, not the end: Money is never an evil. It is a necessity. Just like air and water is required to sustain life, in modern life money is essential to sustain and develop you. But undue importance should not be given for money. There is no point in killing a relationship for sake of money.

That's all for now, guys. Keep smiling.