Friday, November 30, 2012

Movie Review ‘Talaash’: Impressive performances that reveal Secrets of the Spirit World


The ‘Talaash’ movie reviews that I read across various sites disappointed me and discouraged me from going to watch the film. But let me share a delicious secret with you: Whenever reviews badly thrash a movie, I make it a point to watch it in the theatres. Most of the time, I actually like those movies because they are different.
2012’s best movie is not ‘Talaash’ but it is definitely one of the best and most impressive performances put forward by all of the three main leading actors namely, Aamir Khan, Rani Mukherjee and Kareena Kapoor. Credit goes to Reema Katgi’s direction and Zoya Akhtar’s script. Cheers to them – because good performances are what film goers look for when they spend their precious time in a theatre. 

Talaash story: Murder on the Surface, Guilt sinks deep  
The story of Talaash begins like this: Superstar Armaan Kapoor’s car nose dives into the sea in Mumbai. Inspector Surjan Singh Shekhawat (starring Aamir Khan) is investigating the case. While investigating, he gets assistance from a prostitute called Rosy (starring Kareena Kapoor). 
However, in his personal life, you can see that Shekhawat has many problems. He suffers from insomnia, does not communicate nor does he have a happy relationship with his wife Roshni (starring Rani Mukherji). Some of the dreams that he has represent the thoughts of the sub-conscious mind that he has tried hard to suppress. The nature of a dream is transitory, deceptive yet nothing can be more inspiring to mankind than being able to make some dreams come true. 
In his search for Truth, Inspector Shekhawat is as disturbed by his dreams as he is hunting for the clues to decode the murder mystery. The couple are not at ease with each other and you can sense that there are layers of grief that have created a shutdown in their once happy relationship.
A nosey parker neighbour (we can all relate to this) comes to their new home and delivers messages from ‘Karan’ – their child who had died an unnatural death. This triggers Inspector Shekhwat’s fury but his wife begins to find peace in spending time with the Parsi neighbour who can help her receive and write messages from the spirit world.
Aamir Khan is impressive in his portrayal of an intense, moody and sensitive Inspector. His body language, mannerisms and style of investigation is interesting to watch. The performance is so restrained and I felt that this is one of Aamir’s most remarkable performances. You can see how hard he has worked into becoming ‘Inspector Shekhawat’ and he has truly succeeded.
Rani Mukerji portrays the natural grief and sense of shock that can envelope a mother who loses her child in an accident. Her maturity, immaculate balancing between role, timing and skill is evident in very sensitive moments enacted between the husband and wife.
But of the three leading cast, the one who won my heart is Kareena Kapoor who looks ethereally beautiful despite her cheap bright outfits and painted face. In her role as a prostitute, she comes across as unapologetic yet warm and open. She is at her seductive best in terms of her body language. In the scenes where she is trying hard to win Inspector Shekhawat’s attention, she totally catches your eye as a bold and beautiful woman. Her portrayal of Rosy is sensitive and intense without the alibi of innocence or sexual exploitation. She demands your sense of compassion, not attraction or passion.

There are many other fine actors in this film but it goes without saying that Nawazuddin Siddiqui is impressive in his ‘limping’ avatar. The film has a slow narrative but the dialogues and the performances are very subtle, impressive and symbolic, almost respectful of treading the highly protected secrets of the spiritual world.
Talaash Music glides in with melody and soulful notes
It was a pleasure to listen to the songs in Talaash. The track Jee Le Zaraa is so melodious and soothing that it transports you to your own secret world. Talaash music composition is soft and gliding, just perfectly aligned to a soulful script. Another track is Hona Hai Kya and it goes very well with the feel and genre of this film. Yet again, I liked Laakh Duniya Kahe because it has a bitter sweet yearning in its notes and the notes of a piano chime into your mind in a poignant way.

‘Talaash’ story is inspired by Khurshed Bhavnagri’s Laws of the Spirit World
Now this is the part that you shouldn’t skip reading: I believe that the real seed of the story of ‘Talaash’ may have been inspired from a brilliant and authentic book titled The Laws of the Spirit World, written by a Parsi lady called Khorshed Bhavnagari. This is her picture given below. 

The Foreword to Khurshed's book was written by none other than Shiamak Davar, who is a household name, so to speak.
Khorshed Bhavnagari had lost both her young sons in an unfortunate car accident. She lost her will to live and that is when her sons began to communicate to her directly from the Spirit World. She began to write down whatever they told her about the world of spirits and why it is important for those who are living to constantly send their love to their loved ones who have passed away and how it is possible for us to communicate with the spirits of the loved ones in a beautiful way.
 All the gems and priceless nuggets of information was written down by her and years later, she published this to help others who have lost their children in an unfortunate, unnatural way. On February 22, 1980, she passed away but her book is not just a bestseller but it is a beacon of light, hope and wisdom for those who have lost their loved ones to death.
Lets come back to the movie, shall we? After all, that is the reason you are reading this post. Are you wondering:
Does the super cop find who killed the superstar? Why does a prostitute called Rosy keep giving tips to the Inspector who is investigating the case? How does Inspector Shekhawat manage to tackle the burden of guilt and keep it separate from the reality of his work? Do Inspector  Shekhawat and his wife find happiness together despite Rosy’s increasing presence in his life? 
Watch ‘Talaash’ not because it offers a thrilling experience or a portrayal of intrigue. Watch it because it is closest you will come to knowing the secrets of the Spirit World. Everything is symbolic. So, concentrate, absorb and discover all that you can about the Spirit World from the subtle dialogues and impressive performances.
So, what are the secrets of the Spirit World? I know them as closely as I know myself but sorry, I don’t have the permission to share it with you now.
But one thing to keep in mind is this: it is possible to communicate with spirit souls and once you begin to communicate with them, there is no going back. It can strengthen and transform your life in the most unbelievable ways. Or it can completely destroy and consume you because of the terrible, heart breaking pain it can bring when you are trying to lead a balanced life.
So, don’t try it unless you are ready to take that risk.  
Note: This movie offers one of the best and most impressive performances by all three leading protagonists: Aamir Khan, Rani Mukherjee and Kareena Kapoor in equal measure. Gear up for an intense, soulful film that comes out with a rather cheesy end. 


Monday, November 26, 2012

'Theevram' Movie Review: Theevram fails to Impress but Dulquar Salman delivers sans romance

Impressive and varied performances from the young actor Dulquar Salman will definitely strengthen his position in the Malayalam film industry. 



As you already know, Dulquar Salman surprised many by delivering two back to back hits starting with his debut film 'Second Show' and then in the super hit 'Ustad Hotel.' Theevram - Dulquar Salmaan's new movie is directed by Roopesh Peethambaran and produced by VC Ismayil. 

I went to watch 'Theevram' because there is an expectation that has been set from Dulquar Salman's previous films. The fact that he is cutting away the typical 'star son moulds' and daring enough to experiment with debut directors and varied genres is sort of reassuring to Malayali film goers like me who want to see a positive change in the Malayalam film industry.

'Theevram' Story is smartly crafted but gets stuck in 'revenge' rut
Theevram is a modern, smartly crafted and well scripted revenge story that begins with a crime taking place and its investigation officer Alexander (starring Sreenivasan) donning the role of an ethical, compassionate and responsible police officer. Sreenivasan makes us laugh with his comical expressions, fear of violent scenes, dead bodies and the sight of blood that is enough to make him puke on the spot. But he's damn good at his job and that's the element of surprise.

Dulquar plays the role of an aspiring young music director called Harshavaradhan who seems to have a bizarre routine, living in a rented house, staying very low profile and teaching a little girl piano classes. But beneath it all, you can sense that he is up to something dark and sinister. Here comes the let down: the first half of the movie itself reveals that he is a sadistic killer. 

Dulquar Salman needs to work on getting the romantic angle to sizzle
A film is always about relationships. Without strong relationships and an interesting romantic angle, it is difficult for a film to be convincing. Given that this film is about revenging the death of a woman that Harsha loves, it goes without saying that Dulquar Salman makes no effort at romance in this movie. There is no chemistry with the heroine. This is the part where it becomes evident that he is an actor who is very conscious of doing 'romatnic scenes' naturally. Not just in this movie, but in the previous two fiilms as well,  Dulquar Salman's romantic scenes are almost clinical, lacking in depth and passion in portrayal. 

Why 'Theevram' disappoints 
There is a serious lapse in the narrative between the first half of the movie and the second half. While the first half of the movie gets you totally glued to it, the second half is predictable and pointlessly violent by showing the flash back long after the climax is over. That doesn't make sense for a film maker. There is nothing left in the second half to keep you in your seat. 

What could have made 'Theevram' better? 
This movie could have been better if it had been well-researched, providing some kind of insight and statistics into the dangers and crimes against women who work and travel late hours and how many cases are reported, solved, taken to justice etc. The team of cops could have been used to bring in the big picture and thereby make it more socially relevant than just a one-off case. By solely focusing on revenge, the opportunity to showcase a larger and more relevant picture is lost.

I agree that a movie need not be solution-oriented but while tackling a very serious crime that has relevance for all women who are either working late hours or traveling late, there should have been a couple of suggestions proposed by the Police who are investigating this case for the sake of all women. It could have cited useful guidelines to companies that employ women to work late hours. Or, the film could have shown or mentioned actual companies that do take the safety of the women employees more seriously. The lack of broad focus and detailed research has crippled the true potential of this film.


Given the fresh and talented actors supporting the film, Theevram could have been much more effective than this. However, Dulquar Salman delivers well.  

♥♥  I thank you with all my heart for reading my post. I dedicate this post with love and gratitude to all those who are avid Malayalam cinema goers. REQUEST: Please SHARE this article on your favorite social networks. Every share, like or tweet makes me reach out to more people who love and support the growth of the Malayalam cinema industry. I am grateful and I appreciate you for doing so. ♥♥

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Messed up Relationships:Three Easy Ways to Tackle it

In relationships, there's a lot that happens. We make mistakes, we fight it out and based on what happens thereafter, we forgive, let go or we walk off without a backward glance. Worst case scenario? We split up. But there's one thing though. Nothing erodes trust more than a lie or a ridiculous excuse that borders on being as dishonest or ethically incorrect or just plain malice or meanness. These are the surest culprits in eroding relationships and reducing them to nothing. Happens all the time. 

                                           (Source: Getty Images)
                                      
1. Live in the Present, Take Responsible Action
We live in the 'now' moment. The present is all that eventually matters. So if you have been lied to or your lie has been discovered, don't waste more time by thinking and worrying about it. ACT now. OWN up if you are guilty. CONFESS it with all your heart unless you don't feel guilty about what you've done. If you have been lied to, be at peace. Karma has a natural way of coming back to the perpetrators and that too with triple effect. No one escapes it. Pray for the liar. He/she will really need it.

2. Promise yourself it won't happen again
You've taken moral responsibility for your action but that isn't enough unless you can formulate a clear promise that it won't happen again. If sincerity isn't your strong cup of tea, find ways to cultivate it. Get friends to help you get back on track. Trust me, the effort is worth it. It can save humanity some day. You never know till you try it.

3. Stay true to your core values
If you don't have any worth mentioning, simply introspect. Ask yourself ruthlessly over and over again if there's something more that can be done to repair the damage of that lie. Anything. Everything. Explore a million opportunities to fix things. It's the only safe fall-back option.

Your turn: What's the most important, vital ingredient in a relationship for you, that if once broken, it seals your relation with that person forever? For me, personally, the one thing that erodes my feeling of trust in any relationship is when a person is malicious or mean to me, not once, but repeatedly. That seals it for me. I walk out and I never look back no matter how many opportunities there maybe to fix things. Repeated instances of malice or meanness just gets to me and erodes my trust in that relationship. That nails it for me really.
What about you?

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Buddhist Belief: How not to have a Rebirth


The Buddhist recipe for this is quite simple. Firstly, have minimal desires. Secondly, do not harbour any feelings of anger, hatred, and jealousy towards any individual. 
                                                                                (Source: Getty Images)

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Arike malayalam movie review

Director Shyamaprasad’s ‘Arike’ starring Dileep, Mamta Mohandas and Samvrutha had got mixed reviews and ‘the movie is boring’ comments from many friends and acquaintances. When I sat down and watched it, the experience was slow, sweet and painful. It was an intoxication of sorts.

Arike malayalam movie: Simple story, Subtle Performances
‘Arike’s story is simple. It revolves around the perfect couple Shanthanu (starring Dileep) and Kalpana (starring Samvrutha Sunil) whose best friend is Anuradha (starring Mamta Mohandas). The characterisation is what makes the movie interesting despite its slow pace. From the start, we see that the happily in love couple relying solely on Anuradha to arrange their clandestine meetings.  Anuradha doesn’t believe in love but she desperately wants her best friend’s affair to culminate in marriage and prove her wrong.

Arike malayalam movie: Striking Characterization in Arike
Best friend Kalpana is from a rich Brahmin family and she is pampered by her parents whose world revolves around her every step, Anuradha has a totally different background. She belongs to a lower end middle class family. Unlike Kalpana whose clothes are fashionable and expensive, Anuradha wears clothes that are simple and plain. She does not have any expensive jewellery or accessories to pamper herself with. She wears no make up and looks strikingly plain throughout. Even as she does everything to make Shanthanu and Kalpana meet despite obstacles and opposition, she does not believe in love.
Once Anuradha says to Shanthanu, “I do not believe that true love exists.” 
He responds, “True love is always there. We make mistakes in finding true love in the right place, that’s all.”

The two lovers – Shanthanu and Kalpana – are madly in love with each other.
But you can sense that Kalpana is fickle and fleeting with the attention span of a butterfly. She embraces life, lives it for herself alone and sees nothing else as more important than her wants, her desires and she is almost child like in her self-absorbed behaviour.
Arike malayalam movie: Brilliant portrayal by supporting actors
The roles of Kalpana’s rich parents are fleshed out rather well by Innacent and Urmila Unni. The parents resonate with you because you would have come across parents like them umpteen number of times. They are obsessed with superstition about everything. Blind faith is another deep set malaise. At the same time, when you look at them, you know that all they want is their daughter’s happiness. They understand her nature better than anyone else and they are troubled by her fickleness because they know that love is a fleeting phase for her. To indulge it would be to allow her to ruin her life. They watch over her every movement with anxiety.
A scene that I particularly liked was where Innacent calls his daughter and narrates how on the day she was born, the doctor said it may be difficult to save both mother and child. He tells the doctor without hesitation to save the mother. But the mother, despite the fact that she is semi-conscious, insists that the child should be saved. He tells his daughter, “Don’t hurt your mother.”
All of us can connect to conversations like this in families. The way Director Shyama Prasad has woven it makes this worth watching.
Arike malayalam movie: My Verdict on the movie and Dileep's performance 

Most reviews have praised Dileep’s portrayal of this character. To be honest, I see Dileep’s portrayal as below average. He does not get into the skin of Shanthanu. He does not understand Shanthanu at all and does a shoddy, weakling’s job instead. The portrayal needed intensity in expression and performance. For the first time, I felt that the director cast the wrong person to portray the character called Shantanu. To my mind, the perfect choices are Manoj K Jayan, Indrajith or Biju Menon.
Do Shanthanu and Kalpana marry? Does Anuradha begin to believe in love through them? I don’t want to tell the whole story. To find out, you’ve got to watch this film.

Penguin India Book Launch: Three Essential Elements to seduce all Book Lovers


When I received the invite to attend the book launch of “Princes and Painters in Mughal Delhi, 1707-1857”, edited by William Dalyrmple and Yuthika Sharma, I was over the moon. I have been an ardent fan of  William Dalyrmple’s books.
Let me begin with a note of appreciation with regard to the book launch that was organized by Penguin Books India with Shangri La’s Eros Hotel at CafĂ© Uno lawns, 19 Ashoka Road, New Delhi.  It was almost a fairy tale book launch because there was flawless perfection in all the arrangements that were made. Congrats to the teams of both Penguin Books India and Shangri La’s Eros Hotel that made this book launch almost unforgettable.

Make it special
Having attended several book launches in New Delhi, I liked the attention to detail that was a real treat for the guests. There was a stamp of personalized service. Each guest was individually greeted by a small team of enthusiastic staff from Shangri La’s Eros Hotel and gifted an envelope that offers a ______ sshh! I am not about 'to reveal what’s in it here. It’s a secret surprise that’s an absolute delight for all the ladies out there. It’s  a master stroke at winning ladies’ hearts, that I can vouch for. You can see that my two colleagues are having a great time too.


And yep, that's me looking grey.


As you can see, we were having a great time. 
The bonus was that the food was out of this world. Every time I have eaten prawns dishes in any hotel, it has made me feel sick afterward. The absolutely mouth watering delicious prawns dish that was generously served by the folks at Shangri La’s Eros Hotel melted my defences, got me on a self indulgent prawn eating spreen and I honestly did expect to feel sick later. Nothing happened. I can’t believe this but I was floored by this. The food was truly out of this world. And nope, they didn’t pay me to write this. When I love something, I don’t need to be bribed. I just go and write about the experience. Period. 
Intelligent conversations around the Book
Coming back to the book “Princes and Painters in Mughal Delhi, 1707-1857,” it explores the art forms during the reign of the Mughal Empire and points towards the changes that occurred in the art scenario with the rise of British rule in India. Many beautiful pictures portray the Mughal period through vivid imagery depicting emperors and their royal courts,  entourages and courtesans, and so on. The interiors of royal courts, the hierarchical positioning of various dignitaries are also detailed well in these intricate images.
The focus of book “Princes and Painters in Mughal Delhi, 1707-1857” is on the period after the “Great Mughals” and it goes on to prove that it is not true that all cultural renaissance came to a standstill or decline after them.
For instance: What comes as a surprise for most is the revelation that Muhammad Shah II was a great art patron. In Indian history, this discovery would perhaps breathe in a new lease of life in pointing towards the fact that the reign of Muhammad Shah II invites a little more curiosity than before. Depictions of his reign are intricately recorded in images such as those that show him watching an elephant fight or in celebrating Holi, which is actually a Hindu festival.  Another painting that catches one’s interest is “Muhammad Shah in a Garden.” It offers a detailed landscape painting from around 1735, features the emperor on horseback on the imperial grounds.
But in 1739, Nadir Shah attacked Delhi. History lessons have told us how thousands of citizens were massacred and this Persian ruler took away the prized Peacock Throne of Shahjahan. When the British arrived in India, they came for expansion of their commercial and business interests and not as conquerors.
The book “Princes and Painters in Mughal Delhi, 1707-1857” zooms in on David Ochterlony, the British ambassador at the Mughal court in Delhi.
A painting of the court of “Darbar of Akbar II” (dated 1820) is depitcted in the which Ochterlony. The haughty looking British resident is depicted standing among the Mughals in the royal court and he is formally dressed in his British red coat. You will be fascinated to see his aggressive body stance in the royal court where he was supposed to show respect towards the Mughal Emperor. Instead you will see him looking arrogant.
It makes you wonder: was that a sign of things to come? Was it an indication that the British commercial interests were changing into a more political nature or a need to capture positions of political power and sovereign authority? We will never really know. But these paintings offer us hidden stories to interpret. 
The book further shows us yet another interesting painting. No, don’t yawn. This painting will interest you. It shows a different side to David Ochterlony. In this watercolour painting, David Ochterlony is no longer appearing formal and ‘British’ but almost going ‘native’ by wearing Indian clothes and keeping the company of many women. He looks relaxed and is smoking a hookah and watching female dancers. The secret buzz is that Ochterlony had 13 Indian wives with whom he would parade near the imperial Red Fort. Each of his wives were on her own elephant. Now, didn’t that wake you up and make you curious about this book?
The book moves on to another British colonial patron, William Fraser who lived in Delhi for three decades. Fraser was Scottish but he had an Indian family. As a patron of art, he commissioned artists for the Fraser Album. This album is a comprehensive compendium of portraits of soldiers, villagers, dancing women, Indian nobles. The photographic detailing in this album is vivid and a remarkable one, most definitely every Book Collector’s delight.
A Dramatic Ending
The book signals the end of the golden period of ‘paintings’ with the work of Ghulam Ali Khan. He was said to be the last royal Mughal painter. 
Towards the end, we are shown a depressing photograph of  Bahadur Shah II, the last Mughal emperor of Delhi,  taken in May 1858. It shows the emperor reclining as though helpless on pillows, and gazing in the direction of the camera. What strikes you from this photograph is the hard hitting truth, that moment, when you experience his shame of being  a defeated man, the worst fate for an Emperor.  The picture is completed by a wall text that reads like this:
Delhi was once a paradise,
Where love held sway and reigned;
But its charm lies ravished now
And only ruins remain.”
This book is a Collector’s item and a must-have classic for all art and history buffs. I can’t tell you how richly layered it is. To find out, you have to go grab a copy for yourself. Penguin India, thank you and the amazing team of editors for bringing out a masterpiece like this. 

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