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’.”

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’.”