Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Book Review: How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia

Title:           How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia
Author:       Mohsin Hamid
Publisher:   Penguin Books India
ISBN:         978-0670086375
MRP:          Rs 499/- (Hard Cover)
Pages:         238
Year:           2013

There is something about Mohsin Hamid’s writing that hooks the reader to it. Ever since I read his second book ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’, I could not stop myself from reading his first one, ‘Moth Smoke’. His writing has an erudite quality about it. The sentences are very capable of sucking the reader into the plot. You feel as if you too are one of the characters. ‘Moth Smoke’ was dark and racy, while TRF was a piquant and stirring account of a scholarly consultant after the 9/11 attacks.

His latest title, ‘How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia’ again presents an unusual take on life. Hamid is a master of narration and never fails to surprise and delight the readers. Moth Smoke was narrated like a court hearing giving the responsibility of delivering the final judgement to the reader and TRF was in author monologue. This title is in second person, the protagonist is ‘you’, and the characters are without any names. They are just how they are related to ‘you’ like wife, sister, father and the like. Moreover, this book is styled as a self help book with 12 chapters or steps describing the protagonist’s life from early childhood till death. Basically, each step describes the usual path followed by business people striving to make a name in rising Asia- the cities of Asia that are fast developing into burgeoning commercial hubs that swallow a portion of rustic innocence and humanity each day.

So, the protagonist (you) is a child of a cook and lives with his brother, sister and parents in an urban city in rising Asia (Karachi) in a slum. He grows up to be a rowdy teenager but with an inclination for education and is the only one in his family to finish college. His elder brother becomes a spray painter while his sister is married off early. He too works part time as a DVD delivery boy, and gets a chance to interact with a local girl he has a diehard crush on. She too lives in abject poverty and works in a local beauty parlor. He then starts off his own venture and gets married and becomes filthy rich, absorbing all the strange changes that shape his life. However, one thing remains constant: his love for his crush (pretty girl) with whom his path crosses in very interesting manners.

The plot is good enough to hold the reader’s attention and is a page turner for sure. Hamid describes the poverty, romance and corruption in a very graphic style, making the story somewhat explicit in parts. Apart from a few complicated and elaborate sentences here and there, overall, the language is very well constructed and different. It is a far cry from all the racy novels with shallow plots and amateurish styles that have been flooding the book markets these days.

I enjoyed reading it, for it is not every day that you come across a novel written in second person, styled on ‘self-help’ theme!

PS: The cover page, I think, is really good!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

On Parole

For the last few months, I had been wondering about the marital life of one of my good friends. On a few earlier occasions, she did sound a bit sad on phone. However, I was not sure enough to ask her anything directly. A few days back, I received her sms that she has changed her phone number. So, I called her casually for a little chit chat.

“How are you?” I asked
“Fine” she said in a plain voice.
“Where are you these days?” I asked
“I am out on parole” She said in a strange, somewhat philosophical tone.
“At home, papa’s place” she replied her voice regaining normalcy
“Hmmm” I said.
“Only a few good days in hand” She added
“Of what?” I asked
“My holidays here, in my house” she said with a sigh.
“Hmmm” I replied for I did not know what else to say.

My fears were true. Sometimes, a word or two creates a clearer and real picture of circumstances than hours of deep analysis. Felt sorry for her but I also know it is really foolish to interfere in such cases of marital discord, for one always stands at a risk to make a complete fool of him/herself. We can only pray from the periphery.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Twinkle Twinkle Five Stars!

 This post is a part of the Miss Lovely Activity in association with BlogAdda.
The ‘Off-Beat’ Tag
We all read or hear about the ‘off-beat’ movies now and then. What exactly is meant by this term? In my opinion, the term ‘off-beat’ means any work that conveys an idea or a message that is out-of-the-box or is generally ignored by the society. Off beat movies are somewhat different from art movies where the focus is on factors like performances and aesthetics. Usually we perceive them as serious movies meant for high intellectuals rather they are movies with a different theme and massage only. They too vie for profits and popularity.

Off beat movies are different from art movies/parallel cinema (as commonly termed) that are made to appeal only to a few discerning viewers and often ignore the commercial angle. Instead, offbeats are the ones that carry a specific message and strong performances. For example, ‘Miss Lovely’ is an offbeat movie because it takes us inside the world of a particular profession in a specific era through strong performances of actors. I love watching this genre, for they are a far cry from the usual movies that revolve around love triangles, family or revenge, and are full of item songs and unreal plots. An offbeat movie presents reality and makes us think and feel about the issue(s) it raises.

This genre is the ‘soul of cinema’ because only such movies use the tool of cinema for social awareness. People get to see beyond the glare of high-profile sets and overdose of glamour and music. An actor is able to bring out the best in him only in an offbeat movie where performances matter more than their outwards makeup and glamour. Offbeat movies mirror the society and raise awareness and concern. Also, many times, they help in launching new talents.

Given below are five of my favorite offbeat movies that I have watched more than once, much unlike the over commercial jokes that are released these days.

NIKAAH (1982)
·        Director – B R Chopra
·        Music- Ravi
·        Lead actors- Salma Agha, Deepak Parashar and Raj Babbar
·        Main theme- Triple Talaq

Remember that old movie in which a hazel eyed Niloufer sings ‘fiza bhi hai jawan jawan’ somberly on a beach? That was Salma Agha who fitted perfectly in the role of Niloufer, a woman given triple Talaq by her nawab husband in an impulse. Nikaah had some very memorable songs including the evergreen ‘Chupke Chupke’ by the Ghazal maestro Ghulam Ali. It was truly an offbeat movie as it carried a strong message that ‘Talaq’ is a serious thing and should not be given in an impulse as it makes a mockery of the institution of marriage. It also had many other sub themes like the predatory behavior of society towards a young divorcee trying to make a living and her remarriage, and lack of support for the divorced and helpless girl from her parents. With stellar performances by the actors and Raj Babbar’s impeccable Urdu, Nikaah remains a memorable movie till date.

Plot in Short: Niloufer, an MA in Sociology, wants to study Journalism but is made to marry her rich businessman cousin, Wasim (Parasher) who is also a ‘nawab’. Already ignored by her workaholic husband, she begins bearing his domestic abuse as well till one day an angry Wasim divorces her by triple ‘Talaq’. A broken Niloufer shifts in a working women’s hostel after her parents avoid taking her back. She meets an old college friend Haider (Babbar) who helps her get her broken life on track. Later Wasim comes to reconcile. I won’t disclose the plot as it will spoil the fun of watching this interesting movie.

Some memorable dialogues like by Dr Achla Nagar like
“Jahan mard sirf zaroorat ke liye jaaye, wo ghar nahin kotha hota hai” and “maine aapko khuda to nahin par us se kam bhi nahin samjha tha” along with a stirring introduction “Kyonki main ek aurat hoon” won her a ‘Best Dialogue’ Filmfare award too.

Nikaah launched the acting careers of then supermodel Deepak Parashar and Salma Agha who, interestingly, won the best female playback awards for the song ‘Dil ke Armaan’. This movie had a nomination in almost every category of the Filmfare awards of 1982! I just love watching it. I hope you would love it too and I think Salma Agha never looked better!

Did You Know?
· This movie was originally titled ‘Talaq Talaq Talaq’ which was later changed to ‘Nikaah’ that means ‘marriage’ in Urdu, after a protest by Islamic clerics
·  The original choice for the role of ‘Niloufer’ was Zeenat Aman.

ARTH (1982)
·        Director - Mahesh Bhatt
·        Music- Jagjit and Chitra Singh
·        Lead actors- Shabana Azmi, Kulbhushan Kharbanda and Smita Patil
·        Main theme- Independence of women

Remember Kavita’s angry lament “a wife is wife is a wife” and Pooja’s simple and dignified answer “Sorry Inder”? You guessed it right, that was ‘Arth’ which means ‘meaning’ in Sanskrit and like its name, the movie describes a woman’s quest for finding a meaningful life after being dumped by her husband for a hysterical actress. Arth received critical acclaim for its subject and theme. Amazing performances by all the actors and a beautiful musical score made me love it! Another point is the simplicity of this movie. Devoid of long clichéd filmy dialogues, Arth is as real as life can be. The ending could not have been any better and the music and story are simple and timeless.

Plot in short: An orphan girl Pooja (Azmi) suddenly gets a jolt when her ad-maker husband Inder (Kharbanda) dumps her for an actress Kavita (Patil). She feels completely helpless in the big bad world and gets panicky. She moves to a women’s hostel and is helped by Raj who falls in love with her. Pooja gradually learns to stand up and live on her own. There, Inder’s life is made miserable by Kavita who is neck deep in her own psychological problems and one day kicks him out of her life. Meanwhile, Pooja gets something to which she decides to devote her life to. I won’t disclose the full plot here.

Arth is a simple offbeat movie that explores the dark area of extramarital relationships and the meaning of a woman’s dignity. It also shows how important it is in life, especially for women, to have an independent existence, and of course, something to live for. What takes years to build, can take a few moments to get destroyed. I just love this movie and the songs esp ‘koi ye kaise bataye’ and I think it is a must watch!

Did You Know?
·  Arth is one of the ‘25 Must See Bollywood Movies’ in the list compiled by Indiatimes Movies.
· Arth was inspired by its director, Mahesh Bhatt’s real life and was autobiographical in nature.

BLACK (2005)
·        Director - Sanjay Leela Bhansali
·        Music- Monty Sharma
·        Lead actors- Rani Mukherji, Amitabh Bacchan, and Ayesha Kapoor
·        Main themes- Education of disabled people and student-teacher relationship.

Remember Michelle and her teacher, Sahai, clad in jet black, trying to enjoy snowfall and rain? 2005 hit ‘Black’ was more than a pure student-teacher relationship. It describes the world as perceived by a visually impaired and deaf & dumb girl and her determined teacher trying to teach her all that he could. The role of a young Michelle was played to the perfection by Ayesha Kapoor (daughter of ‘Hidesign’ owner). ‘Black’ is an emotional treat and can be enjoyed fully when ‘felt’ more than watched. I think, this was the best role of Rani Mukherji’s life and made the viewers as well as critics see her acting abilities sans her glamour and beauty. No one could have played the role of Sahai better than Big B. Black is a must watch!

Plot in Short: Michelle, who loses her sight and hearing at the age of two, becomes a frustrated child. Her family finds it difficult to control and teach her anything. An alcoholic teacher, Debraj Sahai, enters her life and in his own ways, begins her education. Years later, Sahai is in an asylum with Alzheimer’s and is visited by Michelle who tries to bring him back to normalcy.

Black is a very touching movie and also explores the relationship of siblings. No points for guessing, it was inspired by the life of Hellen Keller and was set is pre- independence Shimla in a rich Anglo-Indian family. It is an offbeat movie in a true sense.

Did You Know?
·        By winning eleven Filmfare awards, Black boasts of an all-time record.
·        It was selected as one of the ten best movies of the Year 2005 across the world.

PAGE 3 (2005)
·        Director- Madhur Bhandarkar
·        Music-Shamir Tandon
·        Lead actors- Atul Kulkarni, Boman Irani and Konkona Sen Sharma
·        Main theme- Hypocrisy of Page 3/high-society

Remember the friendly Madhavi Sharma exploring the Page 3 parties for the newspaper she works for? The movie received a critical acclaim and I just loved Konkona in it! She did the role of a naïve journalist to perfection! This movie won several awards including Filmfare awards in best film, actor, actress and director category. It shows the hollowness and façade of the rich crust (who usually appear on page 3). It also shows how ruthless people can be, to grab opportunities. This movie pulls the veil from the loathsome high society and reflects disgusting realities.

Plot in Short: Madhavi Sharma joins as journalist in a Mumbai based newspaper where her work is to cover high-profile (Page 3) parties. Two of her room mates too have ambitious plans for their future but take disgusting shortcuts to fulfill them. She realizes that her boss is not what he shows to be; he lacks high integrity and is under a lot of stress to save his job. Sick of the hollowness of such parties, she joins Vinayak Mane (Atul Kulkarni) in crime section. However, things take a toss and she ends up in trouble.

I loved this movie; it is offbeat in a true sense. Like ‘Miss Lovely’, this movie too, takes us inside a particular world, we do not know much about. It is like a sneak peek into the ruthlessness and the unfeeling world of high end socialites, film stars, industrialists, models, cricketers and bureaucrats, their double standards, bored wives and delinquent children. Various sub themes have been explored too. I think, till date this is the best work of the director, Madhur Bhandarkar.

Did You Know?
·Unfortunately, during principal photography, lead actor, Amit Ralli (26 year old) expired suddenly from jaundice. 
·Page 3 won three National Awards!

DOR (2006)
·        Director - Nagesh Kukunoor
·        Music- Salim-Sulaiman
·        Lead actors- Ayesha Takia, Gul Panag and Shreyas Talpade
·        Main themes- A young widow’s quest for Freedom

Remember the cute Takia sans makeup walking slowly on sand dunes of Rajasthan? That was ‘Dor’, a movie that will strike a chord in every heart for sure. This word means ‘string’ in Hindi. The issue of blaming widows for bringing bad luck and their silent bearing in such situations is raised in the movie. The memorable song ‘ye hausala kaise ruke’ is one of my most fav Hindi songs! This movie is simple and realistic yet never gives a dull moment to the viewers. Full of twists and turns, this off beat movie is rather more interesting than most of the core-commercial films.

Plot in Short: A docile and innocent Meera (Takia) becomes a widow at a young age and finds oppression and humiliation everywhere. Zeenat (Gul Panag) is a young wife of a man accused of murdering Meera’a husband Shanker in UAE. She takes the risk to travel all the way from Himachal Pradesh to Rajasthan all alone for a particular purpose. Later, when Meera learns that her father-in-law prefers to barter her modesty for their old ‘Haveli’, she decides to kick all this oppression out of her life and walks away to her freedom.

It explores the theme of mindless societal rules for widows and freedom from such oppression. Dor received much critical acclaim and many awards. Critics spoke highly of it and I think this film deserved all the praise it gathered!

Did you know?
· The director, Nagesh Kukunoor played a small role too (of Chopra who lusts after Meera)
· It is a remake of a Malyalam movie, ‘Perumazhakkalam

Miss Lovely, an off-beat film directed by Ashim Ahluwalia is set in the lower depths of Bombay’s “C” grade film industry. It follows the devastating story of two brothers who produce sex horror films in the mid – 1980s. A sordid tale of betrayal and doomed love, the film dives into the lower depths of the Bollywood underground, an audacious cinema with baroque cinemascope compositions, lurid art direction, wild background soundtracks, and gut-wrenching melodrama. Miss Lovely is scheduled for commercial release on 17 January 2014.
You can check the trailer of the film 

Did You Know?
·The film’s soundtrack has rare work of famous Italian composers-Egisto Macchi and Piero Umiliani.
· Miss Lovely competed in the 'Un Certain Regard' section at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. The film has since screened at numerous film festivals including the 'Toronto International Film Festival' and 'International Film Festival Rotterdam' and has won various awards in India and abroad.

 This post is a part of the Miss Lovely Activity in association with BlogAdda.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Book Review: Wages of Love

Title:      WAGES OF LOVE – Uncollected Writings of Kamala Das
Author:   Kamala Das
Editor:    Suresh Kohli
Publi:      Harper Collins India
ISBN:      978-93-5029-723-0
MRP:       Rs 299/-
Pages:     176
Year:       2013

‘The rain is on our lips,
We do not run for prize.
But the storm the water whips
And the wave howls to the skies.
The winds arise and strike it
And scatter it like sand,
And we run because we like it
Through the broad bright land.’
  -Charles Hamilton Sorley, ‘The Song of the Ungirt Runners’

When Sorley wrote these lines, of course he did not have Kamala Das on his mind, but they seem to suit her persona perfectly! Das never tried to hide her true emotions or wore a mask, and presented the reality blatantly. She was truthful about her affairs and very critical of the double standards of the society. Born to a top corporate executive father and a writer mother, she was connected to the royal family of Kerala as well. She spent her childhood in Kolkata and Kerala and was married at the age of 16 to a much older, rich man. 

Her writing drips with pain and grim realities of lives of women esp. of those trapped in bad and loveless marriages. Das, in her lifetime sparked many controversies. From entering politics, refuting Khushwant Singh’s accusations that she spread rumors of her Nobel nomination in 1984, to the biggest one about her conversion to Islam at the age of 65. She openly admitted a sexual relationship with a much younger Islamic Scholar for whose love, she embraced Islam. Later she lamented this decision, again, very openly. She died in 2009 at the age of 75. 

When I came across this book, it caught my attention instantly. I was really keen on reading books by the famous feminist ‘enigma’ known as Kamala Das! The book has been edited by Suresh Kohli, a Delhi based author and critic and is divided into three parts- Fiction, Non-Fiction and Poetry. Apart from a few short stories, most of the fiction is in the form of small plays. ‘A Week with Mansi’ is a story of a secret affair between a married woman and a young politician. The play, ‘Why Make the Baby Cry?’ shows the insensitivity of a husband towards his wife lying on deathbed. ‘Neipayasam’ is a touching story about a father’s struggle to manage his young children after his wife’s sudden death. ‘We Have Been Really Lucky’ surprisingly, has a positive message and is quite inspiring. The stories and plays are enjoyable, no doubt.

I found the next section the most interesting. In Non-Fiction, Das has expressed her views on various matters in compact, to-the-point style. In ‘Body Is a Mere Container’ she writes about her depression after her husband’s death, when she wanted to hang herself. Her meeting with Arundhati Roy in ‘Talking of Arundhati Roy’ and in ‘Thoughts On Sahitya Akademi’ she openly condemns Akademi’s retrograde stance and reluctance to bring in freshness in literature. The most enjoyable is ‘Indigestion and Hospitality’ wherein she describes how Indians like to torture their guests in the name of hospitality.

Her poetry is really stirring as she writes mostly on social topics relating to haplessness of women. Basically, Das was a hardcore feminist and every word of her is tinted with this view. The poem ‘Temples’ is really haunting. It describes the despicable conditions of old widows. Other poems too, are worth reading.

Her work is explicit in parts, reflects contempt for society and distrust for men. Das was anything but a hypocrite and presented naked truth in her usual, no-holds-barred style. I liked this book and I think it is a good read.