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 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’.”

Review of Cheran’s ‘Raman Thediya Seethai’.

The simple story of a troubled young man’s trials n tribulations in seeking a life partner is copybook Cheran. He has not directed or produced this ode to old-fashioned romance but he remains the centrepiece for sure.

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Image Courtesy – Alchetron

The movie didn’t do well at the box office though it was billed to be a family entertainer. Possibly it failed to appeal to the youth segment who found Cheran’s treacly-sweet avatar a big put-off. And the music & comic tracks failed to charm the audience as well.

Cheran had found the rare balance of making drama movies without being melodramatic. That’s a telling achievement given the propensity we have for melodrama in Tamil films. His style worked like magic in movies like Autograph, Pandavar Bhoomi and Vetri Kodi Kattu. But he stretches the formula way too far in ‘Raman Thediya Seethai’ and sadly today’s audience is not likely to be as appreciative and patient as in the days of yore. Continue reading “Review of Cheran’s ‘Raman Thediya Seethai’.”

Parthiban’s ‘Kathai, Thiraikathai, Vasanam, Iyakkam’ (Story, Screenplay, Dialogues, Direction).

Parthiban is known for creating quirky and thought-provoking cinema so it is but natural that he wades into the ‘meta’ cinema on display in Tamil Cinema – Jigarthanda, Uttama Villain, Papanasam to name a few classy ones.

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Image Courtesy – Tamil Now. com

So we have a brilliant but struggling director, Tamizh (the name is a right touch as well) with a sassy wife, Daksha, and a gang of 5 odd-balls helping him unearth a story that would get the ‘green-light’ from a top-notch producer.

The title – Kathai, Thiraikathai, Vasanam, Iyakkam (KTVI) – is quite appealing as Tamil movie-makers are narcissists who have had a penchant to don multiple hats and such credits are far more common in our movies than say in Bollywood or Hollywood.  Bhagyaraj and Bharathiraja instantly came to my mind when I first read the title.  Continue reading “Parthiban’s ‘Kathai, Thiraikathai, Vasanam, Iyakkam’ (Story, Screenplay, Dialogues, Direction).”

Review of Anita Desai’s ‘Baumgartner’s Bombay’.

It would have been more appropriate to title the novel as ‘Firanghi’s Bombay’ (Firanghi stands for the Outsider in Urdu) for that defined Hugo Baumgartner’s persona to perfection – ‘accepting but not accepted; that was the story of his life, the one thread that ran through it all’.

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Anita Desai’s key themes play out well here – we deal with the detritus of human life, Hugo’s life as a German Jew oozes solitude all along and there is little ray of sunshine throughout the narrative. The usual tropes missing in the piece due to its structure – feminism and pivotal female leads. Anita Desai also draws on the German lineage to give us insights into Hugo’s childhood and tryst with the Nazi onslaught.

The book is a tough read to finish at one go – I had to keep my focus to run through it given that I had picked it up for a day’s read at a school library during my recent trip. It primarily deals with decay – physical and psychical – that marks Hugo’s  golden years. An unusual hobby i.e. to take care of stray cats should provide some solace but it is just a bizarre twist in the story and people openly wonder about the ‘Billiwalla Paagal’ (Madman fond of cats). Continue reading “Review of Anita Desai’s ‘Baumgartner’s Bombay’.”

Review of Anita Desai’s ‘In Custody’ a.ka. ‘Muhafiz’!

Anita Desai is an old school writer – words are deployed with skill to convey meaning and unravel the layers of human psyche. Many tags can be applied to her writings – postcolonial, feminist, Indo-Anglian, psychic and a unique blend of ‘East- meets-West’. She has mastered the art of delving into the hearts and minds of her lead characters and effectively and efficiently portraying the angst that drives their inner life.

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Image Courtesy – Wikipedia

The story traces the decline of Urdu poetry as it delves into the tragic lives of the poet Nur (Shashi Kapoor) and his disciple Deven (Om Puri). The movie poster well depicts the nature of the relationship – it has Deven listen to ‘His-Master’s-Voice’ as Shashi renders his poetry. For once the men occupy the foreground and the women characters recede into the shadows. It was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1984.

The story is not meant for the ‘faint-hearted’ or for those who prefer the candy-floss version of life where it all sums up nicely into a ‘happily-ever-after’. In fact the movie sugar-coated the climax possibly to widen the acceptance of the story but the writer didn’t pull any punches while depicting the sordid lives and times of its leading characters. Continue reading “Review of Anita Desai’s ‘In Custody’ a.ka. ‘Muhafiz’!”

Review of ‘Ally McBeal’ !

Ally played by Calista Flockhart and the dancing baby are the first images that come to one’s mind while thinking about this show. The scene was Boston for a change and Ally’s law firm was an assemblage of various oddball characters and court cases who regaled us every week.

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The lead cast of Ally McBeal  Image Courtesy Vulture

It had a fair run for 5 Seasons though it was well past its prime in Season 3. The hope was revived by the charismatic pairing of Calista with Robert Downey Jr (Larry) but the dream sequence soured by the end of the season as the character was written out. Season 5 was pure desperation as everything was thrown at us including casting Jon Bon Jovi but the jig was up and the shown faded away into the sunset.

Ally as young neurotic lawyer struggling with her trials and tribulations in the quest for professional and personal success was a character who had an instant appeal to us. That she was a dreamer and true romantic at heart added further to her charm. Continue reading “Review of ‘Ally McBeal’ !”

Somerset Maugham’s ‘The Summing Up’

Published in 1938 when Maugham was 64 years old, the title turned out to be a misnomer – it wasn’t really his autobiography. It was non-fiction for sure but more like a visit of writer’s workshop – the toolkits were on full display as he bared the essentials of what made him tick as a writer. And that is far more interesting than any routine toting up of one’s life minutiae. 

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Image Courtesy – Amazon com

Maugham gives us a glimpse of his tortured childhood. His parents were ill-suited for marriage as they had arrestingly different temperaments and an age gap of 20 years. He didn’t see much of them as his mother died when he was 8 and he lost his father when he was 10. Maugham’s early loss of his mother scarred him for life and the subsequent events were painful as well. He was thrust into the custody of an unsympathetic uncle who had no means or inclination to nurture him. He found little comfort at school as he was given to a ‘stammering’ problem and found English to be a challenge since French came naturally to him. Continue reading “Somerset Maugham’s ‘The Summing Up’”