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. 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 enforced to prevent an outbreak. Most of the travellers are ordinary folks headed on business and personal trips.

Continue reading “Somerset Maugham’s Rain”

The name is Connery. Sean Connery!

The moniker would be an apt tribute to the actor who gave style and substance to the spy based on Ian Fleming’s novels. ‘The name is Bond. James Bond’! is a classic introduction line used by the hero is all Bond films but the franchise journey from the heydays of ‘Dr. No’ and ‘From Russia With Love’ owes a lot to the first actor to essay the role.

Sean Connery James Bond

Recently while watching a re-run of ‘Dr. No’ I could see that the Bond formula had not quite been fleshed out – it really came into its own in the 3rd edition of Goldfinger. Yet the traces of its trademark style could easily be seen – Connery with his smirk and suave appeals a raw and gritty agent who doesn’t mind the mess that is part and parcel of his job on a daily basis. His dry wit and a preference for Martinis, shaken and not stirred start to make their presence felt. We are still to find Q’s dream factory of gadgets and gimmicks but Connery is already marking up his relations with ‘M’ and Ms. Moneypenny.

Continue reading “The name is Connery. Sean Connery!”

The Arched Eyebrow – Roger Moore’s innings as ‘James Bond’.

Sean Connery defined the typical Bond – a gritty and street-smart operator who liked to have his Dry Martinis ‘shaken but not stirred’ as he went about the messy job of saving mankind and world from egomaniacal villains.

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Roger Moore could never outclass Connery on that score so he decided to change the approach by playing for laughs and wry humour. He never looked as one who could roll up his sleeves and brawl in the dirt. His approach made him appear more sophisticated and it worked with mixed results.

It helped that Bond movies had a well-defined framework that drew in their loyal audience. The standard devices included – a breath-taking pre-credit stunt sequence that would often bear no relation to the film’s story followed up by Ms. Moneypenny arranging for Bond’s customary meeting with ‘M’ (to learn about his latest assignment) and ‘Q’ (to get some gimmicky devices. Armed with his mission Bond would like the  British Isles and travel the world to showcase breath-taking visuals. Continue reading “The Arched Eyebrow – Roger Moore’s innings as ‘James Bond’.”

Mahabaleshwar Diaries # 2 – Pratapgarh – our own Machu Picchu!

Well it’s Day 2 of the weekend getaway to Mahabaleshwar and I plan to spend the morning visiting Pratapgarh. I walk out of the hotel to find this lovely small joint serving hot piping Kanda Pohe – the home-made variety. I learn that the place exclusively serves only Kanda Pohe and Chai for couple of hours in the morning. Already they have run out the stuff but they assure me that a second batch is on its way and I need to wait only for five minutes. It turns out to be worth the while as I finish a light breakfast to set the tone for the trip.

pratapgarh fort sunset

The local State Transport also offers a convenient ‘4-hour-trip’ to Pratapgarh and we start off around 9:30 in the morning. Overnight the weather has changed in Mahabaleshwar – I learn that it rained all night and the power went of around 3 AM! Thanks to the inverter at the hotel I was quite unaware of the chaos in the town. The rain continues but it is a light drizzle right now and our bus again trundled off the ghat only this time it is in the opposite direction to yesterday’s trip. Continue reading “Mahabaleshwar Diaries # 2 – Pratapgarh – our own Machu Picchu!”

Mahabaleshwar Diaries # 1 – Escape to the land of mist and Strawberries.

Mahabaleshwar is an old getaway for anyone in Pune but we are never quite tired to repeat a quick dash to the hills. And this was meant to be ‘roughing your way’ trip so no cozy Groups or even a nice little taxi ride to the mountain. Instead I started a bit early to hit the Pune ST stand. I caught an early morning semi-luxury bus that was as symbolic it could get to travel just like the common man.

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Mahabaleshwar in the monsoons.

Thankfully the bus started within minutes of its scheduled departure and barring a brief stopover at Swargate we were on our way to beat the morning traffic in the city. It was a pleasant surprise as the private buses tend to take you on a little tour within the city picking up passengers some of whom even flag down a ride along the highway. Continue reading “Mahabaleshwar Diaries # 1 – Escape to the land of mist and Strawberries.”

Review of Che Guevera’s ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’.

“What distinguishes these diaries is that they reveal a human side of El Che which historians have successfully managed to suppress … a joy to read from start to finish”.

– Financial Times

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 National icons often get boxed into portrayals of deification and saintliness that make the common man wonder whether they were human at all. Che manages to somewhat escape this fate as he penned his rollicking adventures as young man exploring his land.

Apart from providing a rare insight into the enigmatic persona of Che the diaries could easily represent couple of young men on a ‘road’ journey with their lovely companion  Norton motorcycle – ‘La Poderosa’. (The Powerful One). Continue reading “Review of Che Guevera’s ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’.”

Remembering Vinod Khanna, the actor.

रुक जाना नहीं तू कहीं हार के
काँटों पे चल के मिलेंगे साये बहार के
ओ राही, ओ राही

– मजरूह सुल्तानपुरी, इम्तिहान (1974)

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Image Courtesy – News 18 .com

Imtihan (The Exam) was a movie early in his career and Vinod Khanna impressed as an idealistic young professor who genuinely wants to improve the lives of his students and guide them to success. It was a tribute to the English movie and novel , ‘To Sir, With Love’ and gave him good scope to perform within the well-written rules of commercial cinema. The song ‘Ruk Jaana Nahin Tu Kahin Haar Ke …’ was a signature number in the movie and is well identified with Vinod Khanna even now. Continue reading “Remembering Vinod Khanna, the actor.”

The romance of Saki’s short stories.

‘Saki’ – the ‘wine-bearer’ favoured in Urdu poetry – is an apt pen name for H H Munro and his ability to intoxicate us with the romance in his short stories. Possibly his childhood, spent in the company of governesses under the watchful eye of his aunts, stoked the rebellious spirit in him to come up with deliciously malicious tales like ‘Sredni Vashtar’ and ‘Tobermory’.

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Image Courtesy – P J Braley.com

It’s that mixture of irreverence and nonchalance that gives his stories a heavy kick – the ‘twist-in-the-tale’ approach may be predictable but Saki delivers on the deal and makes it to the elite list of raconteurs featuring O Henry, Maupassant and Maugham to name a few.

Saki’s stories caught popular imagination when the first appeared in the newspapers and collected versions were issued soon. The stories have stood the test of time and curious youngsters are likely to find them either in their textbooks or as adaptations on the television.
Continue reading “The romance of Saki’s short stories.”

Lynch – Frost’s ‘Twin Peaks’.

The drama series premiered in 1990 and redefined television history. It has a gory storyline – a local beauty pageant winner is found brutally murdered in a small community in the fictional wooded town of ‘Twin Peaks’ somewhere near Washington. The crime shakes up the community who have never seen anything like this before. It also brings FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper to the scene to investigate.

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Image Courtesy – Wikipedia

It is wooded countryside with such lovely visuals – one can feel the nip in the air. The majestic trees – Douglas Firs we are informed – catch your imagination as Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) wades into the mystery that has shattered a quiet rustic community. The opening soundtrack by Angelo Badalamenti captures the mood as we see the key visuals on the screen – a lumber mill, the majestic mountains, the lovely waterfalls ( a shot of the Snoqualmie Falls) and finally the closing images of still waters that seem to run deep. Continue reading “Lynch – Frost’s ‘Twin Peaks’.”

Review of Cheran’s ‘Vetri Kodi Kattu’.

It is one of the early successes of Cheran as a writer cum director – he had not explored his acting talent yet. It is a commercial entertainer fitting well on the success formula in Tamil films – family drama, catchy songs, popular comedy track, a conventional villain and of course a happy ending.

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Image Courtesy – Wikipedia

The movie had average production values but it was a success at the box-office enabling Cheran to develop his own style of film-making. It is preachy in parts and trifle too long, faults that have been cited often in Cheran’s movies.

It’s the familiar scene of educated youth finding it tough to find good jobs and being forced to migrate not just to the cities but to the distant land that promises to solve their financial troubles. Parthiban and Murali arrive in Chennai with plans to make it big in Dubai but are swindled by the Travel Agent who promised to get them the Visa. It’s a familiar story that we see in the news but the personal tragedies are heart-rending. Continue reading “Review of Cheran’s ‘Vetri Kodi Kattu’.”

Review of Cheran’s ‘Pokkisham’.

Pokkisham (Treasure) is not a Tamil version of ‘Love Letters’ or ‘Tumhari Amrita’ though letters do play a pivotal role in this love story set in the early 70s. Lenin (Cheran), a marine engineer based in Calcutta falls in love with Nadira (Padmapriya), a Tamil Literature student from the coastal town of Nagore in South India when they happen to meet by chance at a hospital taking care of their respective parents.

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Cheran and Padmapriya in Pokkisham                        Image Courtesy – Rediff. com

The movie examines the difficulties of true love across religions in an orthodox setting – the letters narrating their travails is indeed the focal point of the movie.

Cheran’s movies often tend to shun the commercial aspects of cinema and march to their own drummer. Often this reflects on their box-office results as well but one needs to admire the man’s sense of purpose. He does tell the tale as he visualizes it and it is a treat in its own way to watch such offbeat themes. Continue reading “Review of Cheran’s ‘Pokkisham’.”