Somerset Maugham’s Rain

Rain is probably the best short story written by Somerset Maugham – in its length and characterization it is more like a novella but of course it conforms to Maugham’s formula for a story – it has a beginning, a middle and an end.

The story’s popularity has sustained over the years as it has been made into movies and plays. It is often selected for anthologies and prescribed reading material for students attempting to master modern English literature.

The adventure begins off on simple terms. A ship headed to Apia is stranded near Pago Pago as a Cholera epidemic is suspected and a quarantine enforced to prevent an outbreak. The travellers are ordinary folks headed on business and personal trips.

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The world of online job portals!

The IT revolution has changed our world and looking for the right career opportunity has never been easier. In a jiffy you can register yourself on the many job search portals and be bombarded with information and offers.

In the ideal world you hope that this deluge will make it easier for you to find your dream job. Sadly life is never quite so simple – the process is a grind in its own way and you need to take the rough with the easy as you wade through a maze of needless distractions that range from being mildly annoying to being perfectly obnoxious.

So you update your profile and provide your contact information to await a call / e-mail from your dream company. What you would promptly get is the following –

Burnish your resume for a Fee offer – The pitch is quite convincing. You are a great profile but that is not enough. You need to communicate the same to the world that has converted the  CV into a slick presentation of Key Words and optimized verbiage. The ‘special pass key’ to crack the code is with the professional CV makers who can give you a makeover. Well at least it is a legitimate offer and discretion is advised to be exercised.

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Maugham the masterly story teller …

‘The Outstation’ and ‘Mackintosh’ : These are two stories on similar theme but are a great example of Maugham’s power of characterization and story telling. You put two men of contrasting natures and incompatible temperament together in a situation of conflict from which there is no escape and the only outcome possible is one of them emerging victorious by the conquest of the other.

And within each story you narrate episodes that force the reader to waver his sympathy from one character to the other. The plot is incidental and the closure of the story inconsequential. And Maugham makes the two stories end in utterly contrasting ways. It is amazing that I felt that both the ends are plausible and not contrived. I do not know of any other writer who could have done this with such skill in the short story format.

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It is the traditional Maugham scene set up between the World Wars in the scenic Malaya peninsula. Imperialism is at its peak and the white man managing the natives and promoting the British interest is the nub of the game.

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Ted Danson’s Cheers!

Cheers was the precursor for the more popular show Frasier and ran through for 11 seasons from 1982 to 1993.

The production values were far simpler and the key cast initially focussed only on 4 central characters in a Boston-based bar. Its success and popularity spawned incremental characters and story arcs developed that spanned across seasons.

Ted Danson was a huge star during Cheers and Frasier was a fringe character, he first appeared only in the 3rd season and became a main character 5th season onwards.

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The Mortgage Redemption!

A Home loan still has a special relevance in an average Indian’s life – it is possibly the most significant asset created for the family and a home is indeed treasured as a precious heirloom that needs to be passed on to the next generation.

We haven’t yet reached the Western standards on home loans – often refinanced, converted into bonds and passed on to retail customers, and often the home is even traded even before the Mortgage draws to its natural end.

It was late 2004 when I finally was able to buy my dream home financed by a friendly mortgage scheme. I was still to be 30 and it was a significant dream that bore fruition. I was a typical Tam-Brahm in my approach, cautious and conservative. Not interested in a car (I never considered it to be an asset) or in that exotic vacation in Bali (I find it tough to ‘sell’ experiences to myself), I was keen on having a ‘own roof’ over my head.

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Nida Fazli – a humanist shayar!

‘Kabhi kisi to mukammal jahan nahin milta,

Kahin zameen to kahin aasman nahin milta’.

No, he wasn’t being pessimistic when he said that in a ‘matter-of-fact manner’ – it was just a doff to the human bondage that we all inherit. We strive to be master of our fate and captain of our soul, but life has a way to throw us a curveball that derails some element in our life and aspiration.

Nida Fazli was a renowned poet – a shayar who was popular with the common man. He wrote in the coveted hindustani script – the unique blend of Hindi and Urdu. He was equally comfortable in the world of mushaira / literary circles as he was in Bollywood.

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Tamil classic movie, ‘Nayakan’!

One of the few Indian films to be included in TIME magazine list of ‘All-Time 100 Best Films’ in 2005, ‘Nayakan’, is a unique collaboration between director ‘Mani Ratnam’ and ‘Kamal Haasan’.

Released in 1987, this was perhaps the most critically and commercially acclaimed film for Mani Ratnam before he emerged on the national scene with Roja. Shot with limited budget and under trying circumstances the movie still showcased the talent of Mani Ratnam, Kamal Haasan, Ilaiyaraaja (Music Director), P C Sriram (cinematography), and Thotta Tharani (Art Director).

An underworld movie, albeit inspired by Godfather, was not a new concept even in Tamil cinema. The usual masala movies featuring crime, revenge and retribution with garish and over-the-top villains were the norm. Plotlines really didn’t matter and action scenes were a standard routine.

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Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s ‘Wazir’!

Wazir (The Queen / Minister piece in conventional Chess) is allegorical to the game of life that unfolds in the unique friendship between Farhan Akhtar and Amitabh Bachchan, grieving over the tragic loss of their respective daughters.

The metaphor points to strategy and acumen that holds promise in the first half to a supreme climax but fails to sustain itself in the end. At 104 minutes, with slick production values, couple of well-placed songs, we just finish they had pulled off the promise of the movie.

The movie begins with an introductory song that positions Farhan’s character for us. It then slides into a slice of life shot when an ATS ace cop suddenly finds an opportunity to chase a key suspect. For the life of me, I cannot understand any father risking his young daughter on the mission – it could have been avoided by asking her mother (Aditi Rao Hydari in a nice cameo with not much to do though) to take custody of the child. Well one freakish mistake that cost a life and obviously one can imagine the angst and grief it causes for the lead character. Even his wife can’t forgive him for the slip and she moves away.

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