Thursday, September 3, 2015

Aarushi: Why one must read it

Last few days have seen an interesting murder case managing to gain a lot of headlines. Any of the news medium that one choses to follow, be it the print media, electronic media or web world, one would come across this high profile Sheena Bora murder case. The Times of India group along with its TV partner Times Now seem to have taken up this case as their moral obligation to bring the accused to justice. And in order to do so, they have been coming up with several stories, each adding multiple twists to an already twisted story. Days after days, TOI is dedicating full pages to this story with several senior journalists giving their opinions on the case and the people concerned. A kind of a media trial is on the way and soon, it appears, the murderers would be sentenced on live TV debates on the prime time.

All of this has brought back the memories of another high profile murder case involving some not-so-high profile people that occurred a few years back in Noida. The Aarushi Talwar murder case was the first instance when I saw a media trial. The twists and the turns involved in the case and the hoopla created in the media made it impossible for anybody to just ignore that. The case generated interest from the very first days of its investigation which rose to its peak with the CBI filing the closure report and again re-opening the case with the Talwar parents being accused of the murder that too after the Talwars, themselves, had filed petition against the closure report. The trial ended in the conviction of the accused leaving behind many in doubts about the final decision of the court.

Recently, Avirook Sen, a journalist who covered the story for the Mumbai Mirror, has come up with a book on the particular case named Aarushi. The interest that the case generated at that time compounded with the lingering doubts on the court's verdict didn't leave much option but to have a go at the book. I went into reading the book with a preemptive opinion on the case wherein I, somehow, agreed to the court's verdict. A week or so later, when I came out having finished the book, I must say, I have serious doubts now on the trial judge's decision.

To analyse Avirook Sen's Aarushi, one first should remember the fact that there are two aspects to be reviewed in it. The first one is the legal aspect of the case that CBI put up in the Ghaziabad trial court along with the way the police investigated the dual murders or the concerned people tried to manage the post-mortem reports and witnesses changing their statements etc. The second aspect is to review the book on its literary content, whether the author does a justice to that and whether he managed to remain impartial through the course of the book. The media handling of the story can be the third aspect to be reviewed as far as the case is concerned but for the sake of the book, lets focus on the first two only. 

As far as the first aspect is concerned, there is nothing much new to write. Already many points have been raised that invoke serious doubts in the verdict. There is no doubt that the UP police did huge mistakes from the very first days of the investigations. Probably, they got serious after media showed such huge interest in the case but it was already too late till then. The absurd press conferences of the local police with the absurds theories to explain the murders not only managed to draw attention of the media towards the case but also caused serious damages to the characters of the Talwar couple that was there never to be restored as we saw later in the course.

The case was rightly transferred to the CBI but their handling of the case remained suspicious too. Changing the investigating officer midway in his investigations raise a few doubts especially when he is replaced by somebody who is known for his love of the hook-or-crook methods to solve any case. The first part of the investigation moves in a direction where the house-helps are the suspected perpetrators of the crime but it suddenly changes on its head when in the later part of CBI investigation the parents are the accused. 

However, CBI filed a closure report failing to gather enough evidence in order to grill anybody concretely. The parents filed petition against the filing of closure report demanding further investigations and the closure report is suddenly changed into a charge sheet in which the parents are made the accused and a trial is started. The trial in itself had several points that raise several doubts regarding the affirmity of the final verdict. Some of the instances being witnesses changing their statements, typographical errors on the evidence labels, post-mortem doctor himself changing statements a several times through the full course of the case and then a witness repeating again and again in the court on being questioned, "Jo mujhe samjhaya gaya hain, wahi bayan mai yahan de rahi hoon. (Whatever was taught/explained to me, I am testifying here)."

All in all, these all points raise enough doubt in the conviction of the accused. As the basic tenet of our criminal law goes, it is better to have a hundred guilty go unpunished than punishing one innocent person. In this very case, I think now, that there are several points that raise enough doubt on the Talwars being guilty of the crime and hence they were entitled for that benefit of doubt that our law has provisions for. Plus, the onus of proof lies on the prosecution and the defence needs not to do anything if prosecution fails to prove its case conclusively. In this particular case, it seems the onus was left on the defence to prove their innocence and in lack of such concrete evidences, the final verdict came against them. The book manages to raise all these important questions clearly and hence, manages to influence the reader with some concrete facts concerned with the case. Sen has done full justice as far as the legal aspect of the case is concerned.

As far as the second aspect, the literary content of the book, is concerned, Sevanti Ninan in her article about the book on her website rightly says, "Reporters in this country should write more books.They nail the system quite devastatingly when they piece together their notes after the story has run its course." The book raises a very important question on the journalism that we see in our country. The attrition rate of stories in our news media is so high that even the viewers/readers tend to forget the stories quickly. The most concerning point is a lack of follow-up of the cases by our journalists. This book is a beautiful example of how a story is followed-up even after the interest attached to the story has completely faded down.

As far as his being impartial as an author is concerned, I think Sen fails somewhat on this front. From the very first page, it seems that he has written the whole book in order to prove that the Talwars are innocent. Knowing the whole story completely himself must have made it real difficult for him not to have that preemptive opinion but then writing the book meant putting and analysing all the facts wholly and impartially. It seemed that he gave a lot of importance on how corrupt the practices of that CBI investigating officer (Kaul) were who changed the case upside down and made the parents the accused but the character of that CBI investigator (Kumar) who suspected the servants to be the murderer were put into the books just as passing remarks. Much importance was given (in fact more than few pages were dedicated) to Kaul's management of the witnesses in the cases he was involved in the past but not much importance was shown to the fact that even Kumar was found to have letting loose the rich influential people in his earlier assignments. Similarly, a lot of importance was given to what Nupur Talwar felt of Kaul but again Kaul's thoughts about Nupur were mentioned as passing remarks only.

"He would later tell Nupur that he had a bad feeling about Kaul. She told me, ‘I also felt it, in fact we talked about it. I said why is he giving us these dirty looks? He asked, what kind of bed sheet did Aarushi use? I said blue bed sheet with a Disney print on it . . . He gave me a look as if I was lying. I said ya, that is what she was using. I knew there was something wrong, immediately.’ That first meeting would define not just the relationship that Kaul and his team would have with the Talwars, but also the line of investigation. Kaul, like so many other people, may have got the impression that Nupur Talwar was cold and manipulative—and a little too assertive for his liking."
Sen questions the court proceedings also at some points. At one such instance, he questions, "prosecution never gave any indication as to which witness would appear at the next hearing and then be expected to cross-examine them the day they appeared." But nowhere does he mention whether it was according to the court proceedings or special exceptions were made for this case only. The epilogue of the book with Rajesh Talwar's diary seems to be an attempt at gathering sympathies for the Talwars. But then we must remember, there are always two sides of a story.

Who is the real murderer is a question that can be answered correctly either by the murderers themselves or the ones who where murdered. The prosecution and the defence, both, have their own sets of stories that explain the murders. Avirook Sen with his book appears to put forth the defence side of the story. A fabulously written story with complete facts is what this book is all about. He succeeds in putting forth all the points concerned from the defence point of view. Sadly, Mr. Kaul the CBI investigating officer is no more with us and we would never get a book from the prosecution point of view but what an interesting idea that would have been.

In the last, a passing remark on this article that I stumbled upon most recently relating to the book, its completely your loss if you don't chose to read the book just based on something immaterial that occurred in a panel discussion on the book. Do read this book. It would certainly force you to question the ways police handle different crime investigations and the level of forensic practices that we follow in our country. Seriously, a lot needs to be done on these aspects.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Tanu weds Manu Returns, an overhyped-overrated film

There are certain movies that you don't want to watch only because you made your mind that way in advance for some very unrelated reasons. Tanu weds Manu Returns (TWMR) was one such movie for me. Lately, I have been appalled by the idea of feminism that Indian main stream entertainment community is promoting of late. It all probably started a long ago and I don't actually seem to remember the exact point where it all began. But surely this vogue video of women empowerment featuring Deepika Padukone took this feeling of disgust of mine towards feminism to its peak. Not wanting to watch TWMR was one reaction that came to me with that same disgust that I referred to in the previous line. It was publicised and promoted and then reviewed as something that has a strong female character and that defines the feministic revolution in India. However, due to unknown reasons to me myself, I finally chose to watch the movie, just in case...

Having seen the first instalment of the franchise, it was much easier for me to relate to the characters and the concept. The movie starts off where it ends in the first part. Tanu is marrying Manu with Lata Mangeshkar's Sun Saahiba Sun playing in the background. The unusual couple that Tanu and Manu would make was quite evident in the exactly opposite personalities portrayed by their characters in the movie. And when the movie shifts to a chilling day in the countryside outside London four years later, it was clear enough that the inevitable has broken loose. One just gets the feeling that four years were way too many for this couple to have realised what they were telling their mental rehabilitation counsellor there. And its there where my problems with the movie starts. Why a mental rehabilitation centre? Why not a marriage counsellor! Well, maybe because Manu alleged Tanu to have a bipolar disorder they went to a mental rehabilitation centre but then the way the sequence culminated was bizarre. It didn't make even a little sense in sending Manu to the asylum and cutting loose a moronic alcoholic that Tanu is. There are some beautiful dialogues in the sequence and some over-perfect analogies that crack you up but then it was very clear that who actually was the problem in the marriage. Anyways, lets move further..

Tanu moves to India to her hometown Kanpur and informs Manu's friend Pappi (Deepak Dobriyal) and his family about his being in the asylum. Pappi reaches London and instead of getting his friend-brother out of the asylum chooses to roam about in London only because he had spent a lot of money to have come there (The money, by the way, in all probability, were Manu's father's). A charming, humourous character that Pappi was in the first movie comes in his very first scene in this one as a forced comedian and continues that way through the whole length of the movie. His witty one-liners and the presence of mind in the first movie have been reduced to repetitive, irritating gibes. A real waste of the talent.

Manu, a cardiologist, also is brought back to India and is delivering a lecture on cardio-vascualr diseases at the Biology department of the Delhi University. He happens to speak on a heart condition called arrythmia. He says that there are two kinds, Bicardia and Tricardia. He also goes on to define the two conditions and then I realised what he wanted to say was Bradycardia and Tachycardia respectively. Such a level of ignorance on the part of the director or the dialogue writer was not expected by me. To have made a whole movie with such little research on the subject, I think, is unpardonable. I lost all the interest in the movie then and there only but managed to come back and continue from there on just for the sake of it.

During that same lecture, Manu happens to have a glance at a haryanvi female athlete from the university who is a doppleganger to Tanu. Having a desire to live with Tanu for his extreme love towards her and having his realisation after the four years of marriage of the fact that he can't, he falls for Datto (Kangana 2.0). Meanwhile, Tanu is in her self mode of a careless girl that she was in the first movie. Taking the help of one typical 'Bhaiyaji from UP', a law student-turned-lawyer (Zeeshan Ayyub), she starts meeting her ex boyfriends and finally meet the real bhaiyya ji of the first movie, Raja Awasthi (Jimmy Shergill). There are some good sequences involving Shergill and Ayyub in the typical bhaiya-tone of the goon-land of UP. Shergill is as good as he was in the first movie and Zeeshan Ayyub manages to impress till comes the climax.

The movie starts to descend from here. Tanu gets to know about Manu's marriage to Datto and then feels victimised and wronged on the hands of Manu. Too many characters, concepts and sequences have been forced to move a movie that is going nowhere from there. The Bihari friend of Tanu's (Swara Bhaskar) comes in with her own problems of giving birth to a child through artificial insemination and not telling her husband about it. Pappi's one-sided affair with a punjabi girl that ends into a sort-of-kidnapping of the girl by him with the help of Manu and Datto. A garba-bhangra mix in a punjabi household. And a khap panchayat types scene in the haryanvi village of Datto's. All these sequences and the characters therein create a khichdi that starts as a confusion and goes on to become unpalatable and extremely painful for your heads.

The real problem starts with the victimisation of the character of Tanu. It was all OK when she was flirting with the english guys during her marriage in London and then roaming around the streets of Kanpur with her lawyer friend to see and meet all her ex-boyfriends. The moment she comes to know about her husband's second marriage, the feminism in her starts boiling and she ends up saying, "Hum thode bewafaa kya hue, aap badchalan ho gaye", where in reality it is she who is both bewafaa and badchalan at the same time. It was beyond my understanding, the way she was presented in the movie as someone who is facing the falsehood when in reality, she herself is the one who is false here. Geeta Dutt comes in with the background song Ja Ja Ja Bewafa. The soulful song picturised on Tanu with a bottle of whiskey in her hand roaming on road in a lonely night promises to be a great scene but with the backdrop of the story of TWMR, the whole sequence becomes meaningless. So is the referral to Pakeezah, with Tanu dancing in Manu's marriage.

The sequence leading to the second marriage reveals Tanu realising her love for Manu and her stubbornness to be the part of that marriage. Everybody starts to root for her and her pathetic condition is visible to every-single-body. It goes beyond senses for me that these people couldn't see what she managed to do with her husband during her marriage. A seriously loving and caring person, Datto, has to pay the price and sacrifices her love for someone who doesn't even know what its all about being married and being a loveable couple. The movie ends with Tanu reconciling with Manu and that's where the whole idea of TWMR comes out to be flawed and the viewer comes out to be cheated. It teaches you that you don't need to push hard enough to be in a marriage happily and you can roam around your exes and still your husband will take you back whole-heartedly, beacuase afterall Its her choice!

A passing remark for the director. He didn't even care to work that much hard on his characters that a mole on the neck of Datto's character continue to come and go through the whole length of the movie. Such lazy piece of crap that's not well researched is what the director Anand L Rai has managed to get away with. Sad!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Possessed...

There have been too many posts on my blog about starting some novel and then not going on to finish them. Well, this one is about starting something. A novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Possessed. The english translations have come in different names such as Devils, Demons etc. I got a hand at the oldest translation of the russian story, the one by Constance Garnett in 1916.

This is not the first time that I have put my hands on Dostoevsky. Ever since, I was told of him by my elder brother and in a way recommended by him, I never left an opportunity to get a possession of his novels whenever and wherever it was available. Crime and Punishment and The House of Dead are with me for long times but still unread. The first time I read Dostoevsky was his short story White Nights. The movie Saawariya was based on the story. I was told about this fact by my brother who also asked me to go through the story. I must admit, it was a great experience.

Since then, Dostoevsky's persona has intrigued me. I've got to read few articles on him and all of them have posed so different an identity for him that it has really been difficult for me to create a clear idea in my mind as to what he actually was. It is simply not possible to characterise a varied talent such as him by reading just one of his short stories. Maybe, in future, when I have read a few more of him, I would be able to have a better idea about him.

Lately, as I already told, I have started The Possessed. It is a long novel and hence, for a person like me who is so irregular with reading, I don't know whether I would be able to finish this one. Still in the very early parts of the book where still the character building is going on, there have been some instances where in one can have an idea of the author's opinion on issues like nationalism, rebellion etc. One such instance of his opinion on nationalism is being shared here. An excerpt...

“...It all springs from the charming, cultured, whimsical idleness of our gentry! I'm ready to repeat it for thirty thousand years. We don't know how to live by our own labour. And as for the fuss they're making now about the 'dawn' of some sort of public opinion, has it so suddenly dropped from heaven without any warning? How is it they don't understand that before we can have an opinion of our own we must have work, our own work, our own initiative in things, our own experience. Nothing is to be gained for nothing. If we work we shall have an opinion of our own. But as we never shall work, our opinions will be formed for us by those who have hitherto done the work instead of us,...
...For the last twenty years I've been sounding the alarm, and the summons to work. I've given up my life to that appeal, and, in my folly I put faith in it. Now I have lost faith in it, but I sound the alarm still, and shall sound it to the tomb. I will pull at the bell-ropes until they toll for my own requiem!...”
These lines written for Russia in the 18th century still hold true for any other country in the modern world. Everybody is running behind someone with some ideas. So what they are unrealistic and only rhetorical, everybody just celebrate the ideas. Nobody is ever going to perform their part of the duties and think that everything will come to them served in the platters. They tend to forget that the ideas will remain only ideas till someone starts to work on them. It is not the ideas that are important but the thought of the hard labour that should go behind the execution of ideas is what makes the difference. Nothing is to be gained for nothing.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Two videos, the truth of common man!

In the midst of the preparation of one of the toughest examinations of my career so far, in search of some break from the long study hours, I happened to stumble upon two videos yesterday. Both of them are clippings from news bulletins of different channels. And sadly, this is the only similarity between the two videos. Apart from it, they are both completely different.

This first video imparted in me a riot of laughter so hard that I think I have not laughed so much in recent times. At the same time, I must confess, when I look back onto it, it fills in me an anger so brutal that I just can't explain in words. I have never been a fan of the party he belongs to or, for that matter, of the man himself. Rather, as far as this fellow is concerned, I had always had a sense of despisal for him right from the time when he was a practicing journalist on television. I don't have any strong reason for this feeling but still, I never had no respect for him and this incident in the video has affirmed my feelings of hatred for him more strongly.

And then there is this second video. It comes from one of my favourite programmes on any TV news channel. Another story of the emotions, the emotions of a real common man, the asli aam aadmi. This story leaves me disturbed and thinking. I would be lying if I say that I didn't feel like losing tears while watching the video. Watch for the first 14 minutes of the video piece and try for yourself. I am sure you will feel for it too.

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.   

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Talaash- a search of your beliefs!!!

Waiting for a movie from the time since it first made news about its making is a much usual phenomenon for me when it comes out to be one of Aamir Khan's. And during all this waiting, avoiding every other news, previews, stills, scenes, etc is a completely deliberate act for me. For me, watching a movie without knowing a bit of it and being completely unprepared for whatever is coming on to you in the movie is the best preparation that one can have. Being unbiased about the storyline and everything is the key to a successful outing to a movie. This is something that I practiced for Talaash, the Aamir Khan starrer movie.

There are times (it has become somewhat frequent, these days, with newer breed of film-makers operating) in bollywood when you come out of the movie and you are not sure about how good or bad the movie was. You think over it, you recall the scenes, you relive the movie inside you and then you feel that it has started to grow inside you, and once that growth starts, its real hard to stop it from shaking you from the inside. Talaash is one such experience.

Talaash starts as a murder mystery in the form of a mysterious road accident that kills a leading film-maker drowned in the sea inside his car. The case comes to a police officer of high repute in his circle who starts the investigation and in the way of that meets different people, different situations and different circumstances leading him finally to the end of the mystery, the end that is not quite the end to the mystery only but also comes out to be an end to many of his questions. There is a point in the climax of the movie that it suddenly ceases to be a mystery thriller and becomes a psycho-social drama and the main plot of the murder mystery becomes a side plot of the movie. The best part of the movie to me was this transformation in the climax.

Talaash, is a not a story about the search of an intense, silent police inspector (Aamir Khan) disturbed with his son's death about a mysterious death, being helped in the process by a prostitute (Kareena Kapoor) and being questioned by a grieving mother and lone wife (Rani Mukherjee) for his over-indulgence and a suspected extra-marital affair in that search. It is the story of a father's search about the reality of his self-imposed guilt of being guilty of his own son's death. It is a story of a lone wife's search of her husband that she lost in a tragic accident that occurred to her family. It is a story of a couple coming in terms with their child's death finally and accepting it as an accident that was a fault of none.

The thing that confuses everyone in the end about whether the movie was good or bad is that in the end it leaves your mouths wide-open and minds confused with something that questions your belief system. This twist in the climax, as already said, was best part for me but must be difficult to swallow for many. This is the time when you realise that the plot that you were totally into for the last two hours was only the side plot and all the side plots of the story start to join themselves together one by one and becomes the main plot. This required a strong screenplay and thats what Talaash is all about.

Reema Kagti with her second directorial venture after Honeymoon Travels has lived upto and even crossed her own mark that she earlier set for herself. She, with Zoya Akhtar has provided a strong screenplay to their own story that is totally able to bind you to the seats for the total duration. Ram Sampath's music is more than just audible with a fairly nice lyrical work from Jawed Akhtar.

Aamir Khan as a moustached intense police inspector is once again redefining himself. His lack of smile, sleepless nights, crying with his guilt everything is lovable here. The scene where he is reliving the circumstances of his son's death and the alternatives that he could had done then is just brilliant. Rani Mukherjee with her non-glamourous, saree-clad housewife's role is telling you why she right there in top a few years back. The freckles on her face, the dark circles below her eyes make the theme of the movie totally alive. As one of my friend said that only after coming to Calcuta he actually realised the hidden sex-appeal a bengali woman holds inside her in her desi-looks, Rani Mukherjee with her looks in Talaash reminded us that she was also a bengali, a 'Bong-Bombshell' as we call them!!! Kareena Kapoor has also done total justice to her role and I don't think in present day breeds anybody else could have done it better than her. Nawazuddin Siddiqui is once again brilliant here with his 'bechara' role once again where he is beaten by everybody and in the end dies without doing anything. After Kahaani, Gangs of Wasseypur and Chittagong he has once again pulled back a great performance.

All in all, Talaash is not a great movie, not something that breaks records at the box-office with its glamour. Its a movie that hits you with its lack of glamour and still takes you away with itself into deep thoughts, into deep questions about your beliefs.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Picture of Dorian Gray - An Excerpt

Starting a novel and not completing it has been my forte since long. There have been one-too-many a novels that I started with full enthusiasm and then could not continue with that due to lack of time or mostly lack of enthusiasm. The start of this year has been a good one to me in this regard and I have, unexpectedly, completed more than a few novels, some in Hindi and others in English. Now only time will tell what is in its store for Oscar Wilde's 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'. Going by the recent trend, I, myself, am not quite sure about completion of this novel by me but whatever few pages that I have been through, it seems quite promising.

I must admit this fact, that my knowledge about English literature is too less to know about different authors and their style of writing. So, it always has been a problem for me to choose a particular novel at a book shop amongst thousands. I was going through Shashi Tharoor's 'Riot, A Novel' at that time when I saw this book by Wilde. Shashi Tharoor has quoted Oscar Wilde too many a times in his novel that I was fascinated by this name. Finding his novel in the book store at that time compelled me to buy this one and once again I would like to admit that I am not at all disappointed with whatever I have been through.
Here is an excerpt from this novel where Wilde writes about the contradiction of beauty and intelligence and a strong sarcasm on church and its people:
"But beauty, real beauty, ends where an intellectual expression begins. Intellect is in itself a mode of exaggeration, and destroys the harmony of any face. The moment one sits down to think, one becomes all nose, or all forehead, or something horrid. Look at the successful men in any of the learned professions. How perfectly hideous they are! Except, of course, in the Church. But then in the Church they don't think. A bishop keeps on saying at the age of eighty what he was told to say when he was a boy of eighteen, and as a natural consequence he always looks absolutely delighful."