Oct 082007

I had so desparately wanted to like [tag]Johnny Gadar[/tag]. I like noir. I like thrillers. And, i liked [tag]Shiram Raghavan[/tag]’s last outing on [tag]Ek Haseena Thi[/tag]. I kind of liked the cast of the film – Dharam paji has been a favourite since i was a kid. and the promos looked interesting. But……….
But, the fundamental problem with Johnny Gaddar is that it is a thriller that is not thrilling. And, I actually cannot put my finger on what made the movie a less than satisfying experience. The shooting style is good, the cinematography interesting ….the editing is crisp… The music a melange of moods… the performances competent… but there is something missing. If i had to explain it in a single line it would be that the soul, the [tag]raison d’etre[/tag], of the film was missing.
So, overall though it is a well crafted movie, it is not a well crafted film.

What did i like about it… [tag]Dharmendra[/tag] for one… after a long time he has had a meaty role and he has savoured it… when Sheshadri tells you that "it is not the age, it is the mileage" when putting a 50 year younger Vikram on the mat….you believe him. Of the rest [tag]Zakir Hussain[/tag] rocks as Shadab, [tag]Ashwini Khalsekar[/tag] is brilliant, and [tag]Vinay Pathak[/tag] has fun. The problem is with the young couple…[tag]Neil Mukesh[/tag] is competent, but does not have the depth to pull off a layered role. and Rimi strikes me as not really being the type for whom someone will commit murder. She is as interesting as a cold, soggy idli. The chemistry would have been so much more interesting if the woman for whom Vikram commits murder was Aswini…

The tribute to [tag]James Hadley Chase[/tag] is everywhere…as is the ‘hat tip’ to thrillers like ‘Johnny Mera Naam"…. but there is a big difference. In a Chase novel you cared about what happened to the main protagonist…. here you don’t. and that is a very scary space for a thriller.

So it is worth a watch? yes…. if you don’t go in with overt expectations after reading the reviews. Otherwise, if you are seeing the film expecting the rebirth of Indian noir or Indian thrillers, you are going to be disappointed.

Sep 232007

52, Vol. 2 Often I don’t go to [tag]Infinity Mall[/tag], – the purpose is simple … to avoid going into Landmark and spending a fortune. Often I fail. [tag]52 vol.2[/tag] – like 52, vol.1 – makes for compelling reading. Primarily because the characters are so incredibly strong. The story is broken into multiple journeys of heroes. The one that i found the most compelling is the story of [tag]Black Adam[/tag] and his redemption. The four best writers in the comic business get together to pack another fabulous tale. [tag]Renee Montoya[/tag] & [tag]the Question[/tag] get to [tag]Kandhaq [/tag], Black Adam & [tag]Isis[/tag] get married, The adventurers in space meet Lobo, and [tag]Ralph Dinby[/tag] meets the [tag]Helmet of Fate[/tag], and [tag]Booster Gold[/tag] meets his maker……. A year ago, i didn’t even know about these characters …. now i care what happens to them (Even Lobo)…I guess that is the power of good story telling.. Definitely worth buying.

Sep 202007

Apollo's Song Two evenings ago, I spent a mini fortune at Landmark. Again. [tag]Apollo’s Song[/tag] was one of the purchases. Ever since I read [tag]Osama Tezuka[/tag]’s 8 – part graphic novel – Buddha, I was captivated by his writing, art and his take on humanity. The central theme of Apollo’s Song is love. The central character [tag]Shogo Chikaishi[/tag] – a young man who has been brought into a mental asylum for killing animals. When the doctors’ decide to ‘cure’ him using electric shock therapy – he has a vision. The vision is that of a Goddess who wants to know why Shogo Chikaishi has been killing animals. We realize, at that point in time, that Shogo Chikaishi is the son of a woman who is possibly a prostitute and an unknown father. And as a young boy he chanced upon his mother with one of her numerous male friends. The sight repulsed him so much that he decided to kill any creature that shows any sign of intimacy. The Goddess curses him — that he will be reborn time and again to fall in love with his one true love. The moment that it is time for Shogo & his beloved to be together, one of them will die, and the curse will continue into the next life. From the Nazi concentration camps, to future world ruled by robots… from a lush garden on Eden to a marathon training session … Shogo travels through space and time living and reliving the curse. A fabulous narrative, wonderful art…. and a way of thinking that is truly enlightening.

Sep 122007

Everything Bad is Good for You Steve Johnson’s take on popular culture. The usual hypothesis is that the addictive nature of popular culture dumbs us down, alienates us from our sorroundings, and is partly responsible for the increase in "sex and violence" around us. Jonhson turns this hypothesis on its head. He looks at how pop culture has actually become more complex and involving over the last 30 years. Looking at the entire gamut of popular cultural products – from games – that stimulate the reward centres of the brain, to TV shows – that show us complex interpersonal relationships set in the context of social/political relaity – popular media is not ‘dumbing us down, rather it is smartening us up’. Definitely worth a read – especially for the insights on television ( obviously since i work in TV), though his analysis on games and gaming also is fascinating.

Jun 152007

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

I approached the book with some trepidation. I am not particularly fond of authors from the sub continent who write in English. I often find their narrative overtly lyrical, pretentiously mystical, and deliberately desi. But, so many people had told me so many good things about the novel that I succumbed. After purchasing the book, it lay on my table for three weeks, pristine in its cellophane wrapper. Running out of stuff to read, i opened it two days ago – and the book enthralled me from the first line.

I liked the sense of minimalism in writing. No unnecessary adjectives or adverbs. No takeoffs into the mystical / philosophical nature of eastern life. And no justifications for anything. It is a narrative that is shorn of pretense. The story is a monologue between the main protagonist Changez and an unseen American. And the monologue is an explanation of why a 20 something, ambitious, and brilliant young man from Princeton – who is expected to reach the top of his profession in the US – packs up and goes back home to be a teacher at the university.

Changez is very much a product of today. Someone who is very comfortable in his skin. Who neither makes apologies for his country, nor is his ‘culture’ in your face. He could be any of the friends that we have in the west, who are cosmopolitan – who feel equally comfortable in both worlds. And then disaster strikes. 9/11 happens.And Changez – like many we know – is appalled at his momentary sense of joy and satisfaction when the towers come down. And, this proves to be the turning point in his life.
At the time of 9/11, I was working at Zee at that time and we were at Chintamani Plaza. The first floor was full of television sets. And I was walking out for a meeting. I was stopped by this bunch of collegues huddled around a TV watching the footage of the planes ploughing into the WTC. At that time someone said – they bombed it, they have guts – we will never be able to do something like that. Even in a place like India, in a modern, cosmopolitan, broadcast environment, there was this satisfaction that the towers came down. “now they know how we feel” was a common response one heard. And, [tag]Mohsin Ahmed[/tag]’s articulation of the satisfaction that Changez feels while enjoying a drink in a hotel room in Manila is an echo of similar sentiments in Mumbai.

9/11 brings down more than the towers. It crumbles Changez’s life. His girlfriend – who is emotionally damaged – recedes further into depression. Changez finds himself isolated from his professional ‘bretheren’ and his well constructed life begins to unravel until an encounter with an old man who loves books.

‘[tag]The Reluctant Fundamentalist[/tag]’ is not a book that glorifies fundamentalism. Nor is it one that calls for violence. There is no good or bad. There just is. Even when Changez makes a seemingly anti-American statement it is tinged with a sense of embarrassment that we all feel when we behave badly.
Read the book – it is definitely worth a buy.