Review of Somerset Maugham’s Short Story ‘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.

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The story’s popularity has sustained over the years as it has been made into movies and plays. Sadie’s role of a prostitute out to have a good time has been portrayed on-screen by Joan Crawford, Gloria Swanson and Rita Hayworth. The short story has often been selected for anthologies and is 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 is enforced to prevent an outbreak. Most of the travellers are ordinary folks headed on business and personal trips.

Continue reading “Review of Somerset Maugham’s Short Story ‘Rain’”

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Ravi Subramanian’s ‘The Bankster’ – an undelivered promise.

‘ Meet the John Grisham of banking’ – The Wall Street Journal. So reads the blurb on the book’s cover. Well that’s not quite the case by long distance. It starts on a promising note as multiple strands of the story are unveiled in a format made popular by Arthur Hailey. But the promise of being a thriller never quite materializes as barring the few twist n turns we know how the Cookie will crumble.

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Having been a retail banker myself I find that the author really belabors the hot button issues in the sector – mis-selling of Insurance policies, petty office politics, sexist atmosphere and sleazy affairs, lax Compliance culture and a laissez-faire approach to fuel the banking needs to a burgeoning and aspirational middle class.  Perhaps there is a need to preach as the masses are not emancipated enough and may miss the nuances of the narrative.

Continue reading “Ravi Subramanian’s ‘The Bankster’ – an undelivered promise.”

More power to a Green Diwali!

The Supreme Court’s verdict paves the wave for strengthening the Green Diwali movement though the implementation on ground is always a challenge. The buzz emerging from chat rooms is for all practical purpose none of the firecrackers available in the market meet the suggested ‘Green’ norms. The decision also has severe ramifications on the livelihoods of the traders and the firework industry so finding a workable middle ground solution balancing rivaling interests is a tough act to manage. It reminded me of my personal journey nearly 25 years ago when in my late teens I just all interest in the firecracker game.

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I am talking about the early 90s when the lives of a typical Indian middle class family was quite drab compared to the avenues available in today’s context. India had just started its Liberalization journey, the cable TV network was still in its nascent stage , the  digital revolution had still not arrived and of course there was no social media. Continue reading “More power to a Green Diwali!”

Sehar (Morning) – Arshad Warsi as an unsung hero.

Gangster movies are not new – Satya, Shool, Gangs of Wasseypur, Company and many more have covered the theme to death. Typical plot points – the land mafia, the politician-criminal nexus, the rise of Bahubalis and the abuse of the System are well-documented. Yet Sehar gave Arshad Warsi a great opportunity to showcase his potential as an actor. He comes up with a strong performance and must have been sorely disappointed to see it all being lost at the altar of the Box Office.

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Set in the late 90s where interest in land and mineral assets including Coal have caught the fancy of the organized crime networks.So we have Arshad Warsi arrive in Lucknow after being transferred around for being an honest cop. He quickly realizes the depth of criminal activity in the city that is being run as an well-oiled organization backed by corrupt politicians. In particular Sushant Singh emerges as a rising force in the criminal world as he is ambitious and is being backed by a local politician in his rise to the top. The System and its prevalent structure is unable to dent Sushant’s operations and a section within is even corrupt turning a blind eye to his activities. Continue reading “Sehar (Morning) – Arshad Warsi as an unsung hero.”

Johnny Gaddar – a thriller that keeps you hooked.

Post the recent success of Andhadhun it was time to visit an old classic by its director, Sriram Raghavan. The year was 2007, it saw a launch of new actor with potential – Neil Nitin Mukesh and of course one of the movies where Dharamendra still shows his magnetic charm. Add to it a strong support cast featuring Vinay Pathak, Zakir Hussain, Govind Namdeo, Rimi Sen and Ashwini Kalsekar, and we are set to have good fun for little longer than the normative 2 hours.

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The movie is not a suspense thriller. Throughout the film the audience is 2 steps ahead of the actors in knowing what is happening but the fun is trying to outguess the next move in the story and / or simply to reckon how Johnny (Neil Nitin Mukesh) will survive. He pulls it off magnificently  – well almost! Continue reading “Johnny Gaddar – a thriller that keeps you hooked.”

Karwaan – a meandering journey …

“मैं अकेला ही चला था जानिब-ए-मंज़िल मगर

लोग साथ आते गए और कारवाँ बनता गया”

Majrooh Sultanpuri’s  noted couplet seems to have inspired the road movie and it is quoted on the Van that is like a central character in the movie. Well this journey is not a popular movement – it focuses on 3 characters and is more about self-discovery than sparking a popular movement.

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Literally a launch vehicle for Mollywood star Dulquer Salman, the movie has a quirky story-line and may test the patience of the Multiplex audience that have little patience for what appears to be a meandering and rambling journey. Thankfully consummate actors Irrfan and Dulquer engage our attention and prevent the movie from becoming a lost cause. Eventually Mithila Palkar and Kriti Kharbanda in a cameo add more funny moments to a somber journey involving exchange of dead bodies shipped to wrong locations. Continue reading “Karwaan – a meandering journey …”

East is East – an immigrant’s angst v/s aspirations to be British!

Veteran Indian actor, Om Puri, plays a Pakistani immigrant and this is of little consequence to the target audience for whom his primary identity is being a man from the East. Set to a comic tone it still features a clash on multiple counts. Set around 1971 an uncertain Puri is worried about Pakistan losing its war against India and has a haunting insecurity about his children being accepted by the British society.

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He tries to push them towards adopting rituals and lifestyles that are alien to their reality. Puri is shown to be dictatorial and won’t accept any dissent from his family. His loving wife – a simple Brit tries to compromise and bridge the yawning gap. Inevitably the youthful rebellion finds its voice albeit it is not as coherent and caustic as would be the case with today’s millennials.

The movie is regarded to be cult classic and hailed as one of the gems featuring Puri who went on to occupy the space of an Asian immigrant when it came for movie being made in UK. While the cast seems to be mostly inexperienced and the staging of film’s scenes have a Theater like feel to it, still it scores in providing a realistic narrative that doffs its hat to stereotypes but doesn’t end up becoming a farce. Continue reading “East is East – an immigrant’s angst v/s aspirations to be British!”

Anaarkali of Aarah – a pataaka version of Pink!

‘No’ means ‘No’ – the Pink delivered the message already for the multiplex audience. To translate it for the masses reaching the C segment audience takes a rare gamble. The movie works brilliantly riding on a power-packed performance by Swara Bhaskar and the skillful direction of Avinash Das who weaves a raunchy story line without making it appearing vulgar. Unfortunately it still performed poorly on the Box Office. 

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The movie is mostly predictable. Apparently it is inspired from some real stories that provided the basic premise for the story. So we are visiting the boondocks of Bihar for a change and the prevalent culture of folk music and Bhojpuri numbers is familiar territory for us. Enough Hindi movies have featured such item songs to tell us what to expect. Continue reading “Anaarkali of Aarah – a pataaka version of Pink!”

Silver Jubilee of Bond Movies – Spectre

Guess the makers got carried away in making James Bond’s 25th outing something special. They tried to weave in a pattern trying to fit every past Bond villain into a bigger picture of Spectre. Since it was a retro effort and tried to force fit every story in obviously the plot was weakened and lacked credibility. Such a pity that the movie turned out to be a turkey and is regarded to be possibly the worst-ever Bond movie.

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Strong Opening Sequence –  Bond’s pursuit in Mexico seems different and larger than life. It showcases great cinematography without seeming to do so. It is outlandish as usual but Craig lends it an air of credibility. It ends with one more clue that sets the chase to pursue SPECTRE and provides a valid excuse for Bond to go rogue once more. Continue reading “Silver Jubilee of Bond Movies – Spectre”

Lipstick Under My Burkha -a flawed masterpiece!

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

                                                                                                   – George Bernard Shaw

The setting is authentic – small-town story revolving around the lives and frustrations of 4 lower middle class women across the ages of teenager to one knocking at the senior citizen club. Split by religion and customs they are united for being trod upon brutally by a patriarchal society where rebellion and dissent are not viable options. Obviously the ladies are forced to resort of lies, subterfuge and leading double lives to pursue their dreams.

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So where does one draw the line? Can we condone shoplifting, promiscuity, dual lives or Cougar like pursuit of a young man? If not does the movie serve any purpose? Has it become fashionable to toast human failings when so many people still try hard to stick to the straight and narrow path of their station in Society? Continue reading “Lipstick Under My Burkha -a flawed masterpiece!”

Vishwaroopam II – an unappetizing mishmash.

After a long and torturous wait the movie released to disappoint and sank without a trace – quite unlike the original that was a great success and India’s answer to action movies from Hollywood. What went wrong is quite easy to spot – a 5 year hiatus to a movie that was primarily shot in one stretch does make the content dated.

But more importantly the movie reuses a lot of its selling sequences again in its current avatar – a ‘vada-curry’  fare that may find patrons for the morning breakfast but not audience who have been there and seen it already.

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A few things that still work in the movie –

Production Values – Apart from leveraging its premium footage from the original movie, the additional sequence to are pleasing to watch. In fact beginning with the combat training and slipping into the London countryside sounds like a promising start. The underwater sequence may not make much sense in the plot but are shot quite well. It is a bit of a pity that this alone can’t save the movie.

Continue reading “Vishwaroopam II – an unappetizing mishmash.”