Friday, November 30, 2012

Watching Life of Pi After Reading It..

I normally never like a movie based on a book if I have read the book already. The movie tend to compress the feeling of reading the book and seriously hamper it. And many times they try to alter the book and screws the whole thing up. Movie version of Love At The Time Of Cholera is the example of former and that of Around The World In 80 Days is an example of latter. But Ang Lee's Life Of Pi is an exception. 

I happened to watch it on 3D last weekend from Inox in Central Mall, J P Nagar. Much praise has been heaped on the movie already by those who watched it. All are going gaga over the direction, acting, special effects and the story in many platforms and I don't feel like repeating those praises. Let me just list out a few points that I felt after watching the movie version about why I loved the movie. 

The novel Life Of Pi by Yann Martel is probably one of the most difficult of the stories to make into a good movie. First of all it requires a mammoth effort to make it convincing due to the story line- that of a kid surviving in sea for months in the company of a Bengal Tiger. Another problem is the monotony that may arise after a while as there are only two characters to carry the movie forward and one of it has to be made entirely out of graphics. But to the credit of Ang Lee, he has made a movie that is convincing as well as interesting. 

After watching the movie, I started appreciating the book better. I was comparing the visual images that the novel created in my mind with that of what I watched on screen. And they were matching. I can now see that Yann Martel, while writing the novel has given everything, every detailing, imagery and vision for Ang Lee to picture the movie brilliantly. And Ang Lee has followed the writer faithfully without omitting anything that can tamper the soul of his vision making a visual master piece. That is where a book and its movie version compliment each other perfectly.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Ayalum Njanum Thammil: No Spoonfeeding Thankfully

There was a time when nothing could go wrong in the hands of Malayalam movie directors- during the middle of 1980s to middle of 1990s. Priyadarshan, Sathyan Anthikkad, I V Sasi, Padmarajan, Bharathan, Sibi Malayil- all these directors and many more, were making movies spanning diverse genres and diverse sensibilities. Then there was a sudden dip in the quality. Even many acclaimed directors had started making movies that were an insult to the sensibilities of the audience. Most of the movies started revolving around a super star or depended on tasteless humor treating the audiences mentally retarded. It is only in the recent few years, Malayalam cinema started slowly coming out of this pit riding on new generation movies. But even in its difficult times there were a couple of good directors who consistently delivered good movies. Among them Lal Jose is one director who has what you can call a Midas touch. 

Lal Jose has consistently delivered interesting movies, without repeating himself and always showing the audience something that they never saw before. Along with that he always included a message for the viewer to take back home. Best thing is that this message is never told in a preachy way but comes embedded in the story itself. His heroes and heroines treaded the path of normalcy, never bothering to touch the sky. Every one of his character actors delivers their career best performance in his movies irrespective of the length of their role. All his movies take the middle path between art and commercialism. It is with all these expectations that I went to watch his latest movie, Ayalum Njanum Thammil (Between him and me) last weekend. And he delivered again. 

Ayalum Njanum Thammil is a coming of age story of a doctor, Ravi Tharakan portrayed by Prithviraj. At the start of the movie we see him deciding to perform an operation seemingly without parental consent on a small kid. It proves fatal to the kid and to escape an irate crowd, he absconds. Three characters whose life he has touched meet in the aftermath, recounting their experiences with him. Ravi used to be a care free young medical student who passed his exams with great difficulty. He is compelled to work in a rural hospital to get his certificate and there he meets Dr Samuel. Dr Samuel’s idealistic life slowly transforms the home sick and wayward youngster into an idealist doctor. On the way we are exposed to several malpractices in Medical profession due to the commercialization of health care. 

Prithvi gets the role of his lifetime and he never disappoints. Yesteryear actor Prathap Pothan who came back to limelight with a chilling portrayal of the villain in the movie 22F K, does the strikingly contrasting role of Dr Samuel. He is the show stealer in the movie with his soft, but stern articulation and sensitive performance. Narain as the friend of the hero, Samvritha as the heroine of his failed love story, Ramya Nambeesan and Reema in two small but pivotal roles, Salim Kumar, Mani and Sukumari… each of them has done great. The movie focuses only on the central story. All other subplots and characters are there just to show the change that the protagonist undergoes, even his lovestory is treated as such. The abrupt ending without much detailing makes the story more compact. Also this proves that Lal Jose considers his viewers as clever as him and knows nothing has to be spoon fed to them, which is also a welcome change.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Diwali And The Key To Happiness

In Kerala, Diwali is not traditionally celebrated with much dhaam dhoom as in other parts of India. That is the reason why I never associated this festival with crackers. We in Kerala celebrate Vishu and it is in this occasion that we normally burst crackers. I used to have lot of enthusiasm for this activity when I was a kid, but with time bursting crackers had become the least of priorities. So from the last six years that I am in Bangalore, I have never lighted a cracker for Diwali even when the whole neighborhood was enjoying their high decibel fun. 

But this year turned out to be different and how! What makes it more fun was that there was no plan till the last moment and it was just a momentary decision that made our evening the most enjoyable one in last few months. Diwali was a working day for us as the company management decided to give us off on Monday instead of Tuesday in which Diwali fell. My better half M went to meet my close friend and colleague V's wife S who stayed nearby. S had made some delicious Gulab Jamuns, and invited me too to join them after working hours. So evening I went there with V, who had got a huge box of assorted crackers, but was in a mood to gift it to kids. We four had jamuns and coffee, chit chatted for some time and then me and M took leave. 

We walked back and was about to reach our home when M remembered the key. She had kept the key at V's home when she was there. We had to walk back all the way to get the key. But when we reached their home, the plans changed. The decision was taken to burst crackers, at least some of that he had in stock if not all. We burnt the candles, took out the sparklers, rockets, wheels and had a great time. Our house key turned out to be the key of happiness this Diwali.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Book Review: The Bankster

As the title indicates, Ravi Subramanian’s latest novel The Bankster deals with the intricate world of international banking and the crimes associated with it. I have never read any of his previous books- The Incredible Banker or The Devil in Pinstripes. But I feel like reading them after reading this one. That I think in itself is a great achievement for a writer. These days many Indian writers are pushing their limits and are trying to achieve the heights scaled by several popular fiction writers of the West, in terms of content, genre, plot and quality (the tag John Grisham of Banking on the book cover of The Bankster is an evidence). Though the quality of writing in many cases is debatable, I feel the effort itself deserves a pat on the back. And with writers like Ravi Subramanian, the distance to be covered in this regards is getting shorter.

Bankster is a word coined from the words Banker and Gangster. The novel is about such a group of Banksters (bankers who uses their profession as a cover to perpetrate crime), their victims and people out to stop them at any cost. Narrative crisscrosses many national borders. The first act is in Angola where a rogue CIA agent buys blood diamond. Then we are told about a father in Kerala who lost his beloved son to the nuclear accident in Chernobyl and is hell bent on preventing any such atrocity happening again. After that action shifts to Mumbai, to Great Boston Global Bank, an international bank where everything seems compliant and efficient on surface, but deep inside something sinister and nasty is cooking. A chain of cold blooded serial murders disturb the peace and steps in Karan Panjabi, a journalist and former employee to uncover the truth. 

Spanning 358 pages, The Bankster is a fast paced thriller and in every page something happens that keep the reader engaged and thinking. The setting is chillingly realistic and gives a feel that such heinous crimes are possible inside the seemingly spot free and sophisticated banks. The best quality of the book is that even a novice like me does not feel bogged down by the narration that uses practices, procedures and terminology used in banking sector to move the story forward. The climax is good, considering that the suspense that build up from starting gets culminated logically and believably. No loopholes are left opened. 

Speaking about the negatives, the characterization is a bit shallow. You will find characters spanning a wide spectrum. Like the idealist Krishna Menon, to characters with grey shades like Nikhil and outright evil personified (I cannot take their names as it will be a spoiler). The writing never makes us feel about any of these characters. We are never made to enter their universe and see things from their perspective. Ultimately they end up just being pawns of the game that the author is describing and nothing more. Ifwe observe masters of this genre- John Grisham, John le Carre or Jeffrey Archer, we can see that they never rush with their plot. They take their own sweet time to develop their characters and plot, thereby making the reader care about them. But inspite of it, I would say The Bankster is a must read for people who like good thrillers. 

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