Wednesday, December 31, 2014

'Ugly' is Beautiful

And yet another year ends. Not such an eventful year but yes, a rather good one. At least nothing bad happened to me. In this world, at such a time when the human behaviour has gone to such a negative level that anything bad can happen to anybody at anytime, I am rather pleased that I was not at the receiving end of any such mishappening. Anyways, this very blogpost is not yet another typical year ender blogpost. This is about Anurag Kashyap's recent release 'Ugly', about the film and about that same negative human behaviour that the film is all about and what I was referring to earlier.

'Ugly' was premiered at last year's Cannes film festival in director's fortnight section and has been making news since then. First for its wonderful response at the premiere and then for the controversy regarding that "smoking is injurious to health" message forced to be put in by the indian censor board, it was always in the news for all sorts of reasons. With the limelight, the wait and anticipation for the movie was also increasing and that's why I couldn't wait for much longer after its release. And after watching the movie, I must admit the wait and anticipation was all worth it. It is simply the best movie that I watched this whole year and also amongst the best that I ever watched.

Ugly on the outset is a story of the kidnapping of a 10 years old girl who is the step-daughter of a top cop of Mumbai police. She was away with her biological father on the routine weekly meeting day (as per divorce settlements) when she was abducted in the broad daylight. The incidents that follow is the whole movie. The police investigation, the trust issues, the betrayals and the greed everything characterises the theme of the movie and at the end the kidnapping comes out to be the side plot of the movie. The movie comes out to be all about the human behaviours, the greed, the distrust and the vengeance.

The movie starts off with a chase sequence wherein the biological father of the girl and his friend are chasing the suspected kidnapper in the streets of movie. Being an Anurag Kashyap fan, you are reminded of the iconic chase sequence from the movie Black Friday. As the scene goes on building upon you and you start to have that feel of Kashyap's film-making, bam, the suspected kidnapper is struck by a running car. His body parts are shattered all over the road and the first indication of the ugliness of the movie is there before you. The scene moves to that of a police station wherein the complaint of the kidnapping is being lodged.

There are many good sequences in the movie but this police station sequence, in the hindsight, appears to be the best of the movie and one of the best noir-sequences of all time. The sequence moves from the hapless father lodging the complaint to him teaching the police officer how to take and save pictures in contacts of his phone. The scene seems to overstay its welcome and looks like it is stretched just too long. You laugh at the irrelevance but then in the end of the movie you are struck by the fact that this very irrelevance is the total theme of the movie. The whole movie seems to be about the suspense of the kidnapping interspersed with too many irrelevant sub-plots. Sometimes even these irrelevant plots would irritate you but then at the end of it all you find out that these irrelevant sub-plots were actually the main plot of the movie.

The love triangle of the campus in the backdrop leading to the revengeful acts in the present, the seduction of the husband's friend just in reply of a casual appreciation of her beauty, the greed for money are all the sub-plots of the story. They seem to be irrelevant but in the end lead to the grotesque climax. These human behaviours lead the police investigation to a total awry path leading to an ugly end of, what in the end seems to be, a shameful story.

Anurag Kashyap is totally back in the form with his dark comedy shot in the filthy dark rooms of the Mumbai suburb. If he has to do the useless cameos in movies like Happy New Year and Bhootnath Returns to earn money to make movies like this, I am all okay with it. The way he has used all the actors is just commendable. Ronit Roy as the cop has come up as the most dependable actor lately. He is still in the 'Udaan' mode and seems too comfortable as a tough cop and a stern authoritative husband. Tejaswini Kolhapure as the alcoholic wife and Rahul Bhat as the struggling actor and the divorced biological father  have done justice to their role. Special mention must be made of two actors. National award winning marathi actor Girish Kulkarni and Vineet Kumar Singh are more than impressive and must be appreciated for making few of the sequences of the movie special. Dialogues are raw reminding you of the dialogues from a Tarantino movie. The background score keeps up with the tone of the movie. All in all, I must say, 'Ugly' is beautiful.

[In the end, a scene from the movie. Just watch out for Girish Kulkarni:]

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Tale of Two Cities

The recent surge rather resurge of my enthusiasm towards literature has led me to finish yet another novel. This one is a classic from Charles Dickens, written in the middle of the nineteenth century (1859 to be precise) about a period somewhere six or seven decades further earlier. A Tale of Two Cities, at the outset is a story of the French Revolution (at least as told in my ebook copy that I got from the internet). Searching on the internet for something to read (that too for free) led me to this book, the author of which I had heard something about. In our school textbooks there were some of his stories in the curriculum to be read, Christmas Carol being the one that I still remember.

Due only to the familiarity with the name of the author, I started reading the novel. I had only the slightest of the ideas about the context of the storyline that I got from the small description of the novel at the site from where I downloaded it. I searched about the book on the internet and categorically avoided the plot of the story. The ideas that I started the novel with included the fact that it was a story of comparison of lives and times in the two cities, namely London and Paris in a period just before and during the French Revolution and that it was written by Dickens as weekly instalments to promote the sale of his magazine 'All The Year Around'.

The very first lines of the novel give you the idea about the comparison of the state of the two cities at that time. The differences as contrasting as they were and the similarities between the two cities as parallel as they were were quite evident in the opening lines of the novel. A thorough search about the novel that followed my finishing it revealed to me that these opening lines written more than one and a half century back are one of the most popular lines ever written in english literature.
"...It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to the heaven, we were all going direct the other way...  
...There were a king with large jaw and a queen with a plain face, on the throne of England; there were a king with large jaw and a queen with a plain face, on the throne of France. In both countries it was clearer than crystal to the lords of the State preserves of loaves and fishes, that things in general were settled for ever..."
The description of the differences very well explain the tortured condition that the people of France were living in. The way Dickens has drawn similarity in between the two places here must only be his foreseen warning of the fact that if aristocracy is continued in the same manner, even England one day could fall to a similar revolution of sorts.

The whole plot of the story can be found here. The story moves slowly and steadily from being one of comparison between the two cities to one filled with humanly emotions of love, sacrifice, sufferings, life and death. The first half of the story is spent in building up the whole melodrama that the latter half is all about. The extensive build-up of the first half sometimes feel boring and one tends to loose connection with the book altogether.

There were a few times in my reading the novel when I seriously wanted to just put it way. The sheer number of novels that I have kept unfinished became my biggest motivation to finish this one off and I must be thankful that I finally managed to finish it and experience the melodrama that Dickens has put in the climax of the story. Altogether, it is really tough for an early bird like me to comment something on an age-old classic like this one. I must admit, the way the climax of the story has managed to amaze me, it was out of proportions from what I had expected while reading the earlier half of the novel. Must recommend it to those who can have the patience to tolerate the somewhat trivial first half to enjoy the more than exciting climax.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Unfinished Ones...

“...I had one last chance to make a decision. One final opportunity to decide who I was going to be. I could step into that alley, stand up for Hassan--the way he’d stood up for me all those times in the past--and accept whatever would happen to me. Or I could run. 
In the end, I ran...”
Well, there have been times, in fact too many of them, in my life when I have strived hard to be a reader. A simple reader. Hearing something about some novel or biography or anything has always managed to intrigue me with trying my hand at reading it. Some of my earlier posts on this blog have been on my time-outs with certain books some that I started and a few that I managed to finish.

To go on with a book to the level where it actually finishes has always been difficult for me. Lack of concentration towards reading can not be blamed for this in any way. Being in a profession wherein you are a student for life, you just can't have that lack of concentration. But then yes, reading and studying are totally different things altogether.

Anyways, there has been many a books that I have started in the past and left them without ever finishing them. I remember Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day. I probably started reading that book somewhere in 2001 and then I had to restart it a whole lot of times before somewhere in 2009 that I finally managed to complete it. There were a few books that I started and completed too but recently, over a couple of years, again that same string of starting and then leaving a book unfinished is  continuing with me as if it was a curse.

I remember, I started them all, Dickens' Great Expectations, Dostoyevsky's The House of the Dead, Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, Mario Puzo's The Family amongst others. The Family is still placed in front of me on my table but all of them have been left unfinished. I just don't know where did I lose them. Anyways, even after all these unfinished books all in front of me, I have been starting new ones. There is the hope that they won't end-up like these and then there is the fear of the contrary.

Siddharth Mukherjee's The Emperor of all Maladies: A biography of Cancer and Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner are the recent addition to the ever increasing list of my tried books. Incidentally, this time both these books have managed to mesmerise me in some way or the other. Hopefully, both these books will not remain in that same expanding list of my tried books but will find an entry into a somewhat constant list of my finished books.

I am really close to finishing The Kite Runner. I am totally mesmerised by the way this beautiful yet grotesque story has been written. The way it leads you to feeling really bad about the protagonist and the way the story unfolds and leads you to the lively scenes of a politically unstable and socially robbed Afghanistan is simply awesome. More on the story and my thoughts about the book, I will try to put in my next post once I finish the book. Till then, another excerpt from the book giving the vivid details of the street of Kabul that must have been present there in the tougher times.

“...RUBBLE AND BEGGARS. Everywhere I looked, that was what I saw. I remembered beggars in the old days too--Baba always carried an extra handful of Afghani bills in his pocket just for them; I’d never seen him deny a peddler. Now, though, they squatted at every street corner, dressed in shredded burlap rags, mud-caked hands held out for a coin. And the beggars were mostly children now, thin and grim-faced, some no older than five or six. They sat in the laps of their burqa-clad mothers alongside gutters at busy street corners and chanted “Bakhshesh, bakhshesh!” And something else, something I hadn’t noticed right away: Hardly any of them sat with an adult male--the wars had made fathers a rare commodity in Afghanistan....”

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

AAP, Kejriwal and Media Sensationalisation

The new smart-phone and internet era has really changed the world tremendously. Sitting in my hostel room, most of my time is spent either in front of my laptop surfing on the internet or on my phone replying to those messages on whatsapp or looking at the twitter notifications therein. (For my family members who still are bothered about my studies, I must make it clear that this time that I just talked about is exclusive of what I spend with my books.) When at home, thanks to the limited availability of internet, passing time on the television remains my favourite. Writing blog used to be one of the better pass-times that I ever had but due to some reasons or the other, it was discontinued. I wasted a whole post (in my hindi blog) on why I am not regular on my blogs and hence, am not going to bore myself with same thought again.

Surfing the internet or following the twitter trends, recently, I have been brought much into the current affairs. I was never a big fan of current affairs, especially, politics. I already started hating the news channels some 5 years back or even more due to their repetitive sensationalisation of issues and the ongoing race for TRPs. Since the time the news channels have started following the trends in TRP, I think the decline in their credibility has started and till date has reached at a level from where the return back is not possible at all. Be it a real important news or just the trend of TRP, each and every forum of news distribution is following only one thing these days, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Arvind Kejriwal. (I purposely left the 'Mr.' before his name as I thought it might bring him into that VIP list that he has always had aversions with.) 

As I am writing this post here, Kejriwal and his AAP is busy on the streets of Delhi with his dharna and the news channels are even more busy capturing it with all the angles possible. There are reports going on, interviews running, panel discussions on roll, articles flowing, and everything else that can be shown or written is being done. All of a sudden AAP is the rage of the nation, a new voice, a new face. Only time will tell that the dharna going on in Delhi is a real political breakthrough or just a gimmickry of some self-righteous people. Whatever it comes out to be, it is too very clear that it is a result of that same over-sensationalisation of issues and facts that I blamed the news channels for. Just would want to put one question here. Would this chaos that is going on in the streets of Delhi had the same magnitude had the news channels opted for a simple news-telling rather than the over sensationalisation?

Last month when I was at home in my vacation, AAP had secured the historic victory in Delhi assembly polls. I had some arguments with my cousins on AAP's impractical promises and about my skepticism regarding the ability of this bunch of newly elected legislatures. My cousin sister named my skepticism, my cynicism. Looking at the chaos that these people are creating in Delhi, I think my doubts are now transforming into my beliefs. I doubted their inability to govern, they are making me believe that they really can't.

Any of their efforts towards governance is being hindered a great deal due to the media that just propels anything or everything that anybody wearing the aam-aadmi-topi says. The assembly polls were held in five states. The perennial negligence of the media towards news from north eastern states led to a total invisibility of election news from Manipur. The other four states got almost equal footage till the time AAP came up with as many seats as they got in the election results. The moment after, everything was AAP and only AAP. Delhi was seeing a change in governance so did Rajasthan. The news from the other three states died. After the swearing-in drama that was played in Ramleela maidan in Delhi, my cousin brother came to me and just informed me that Kejriwal has kept home department with himself and Shishodiya got the education. I smiled and asked him, when did the swearing-in of new government in other three states took place. He couldn't answer.

Why this overhyped coverage of the Delhi election results and the proceedings thereafter by the media is something to think about. No doubt, that the spectacular debut by the AAP in electoral politics in India is commendable but the fight-back and return of Vasundhara Raje in Rajasthan that too after she was almost ousted from the party is also no less. For that matter, even Shivraj Patil managed to score another point in his race of good governance against Narendra Modi by securing another victory in MP. That too could come into limelight but no, media chose Kejriwal and AAP. Kejriwal took the credits for his idea of Janta Darbar in Delhi (that failed due to ill-management on its very first day) but everybody forgot that Nitish Kumar is doing it every week in Patna right from the time he has become the CM of Bihar.

The overhyping of facts that the media is doing these days is the main result of all the chaos and drama that is overshadowing the good deeds of this new government. The janta darbar is a wonderful idea and must be continued with better management and the media must help in maintenance of those management protocols rather than indulging in sensationalisation. Media must believe in the fact that Arvind Kejriwal is just a man and no super-power. Having said this, I must also say that this fact should be agreed upon by Kejriwal also that he is not a super-power, that he is not working in a Prakash Jha film. This is real politics, real life. He has to be practical in his promises and must give time in getting these promises fulfilled.