When ‘Queen’ trumped the king

When you read the synopsis, you are doubtful whether it’s the same movie that critics are raving about. You have a girl, dumped by her fiance two days prior to their wedding and then goes on her honeymoon alone. It triggers all things chick flick. And given the track record of chick flicks in bollywood, you don’t want to plunge in. So you ignore it. But then come the raving reviews and you think, if it could impress The Hindu’s reviewer then maybe it stands a chance.
And you book the first ticket of the next available show.

And you are blown off.

There you were planning to pass this movie up and now here you are suffering from an extreme case of a movie hangover.

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It’s heartwarming and enchanting. Above all, it’s encouraging. It fills you with hope. You cheer for her when she hesitates to kiss her swoon-worthy boss, her first “lip to lip” smooch. You root for her when she confronts her fiance for a closure. And no matter how badly you want to her to punch him, you feel satisfied for the comeuppance she delivers to her fiance with a smile. She’s your typical west Delhi girl. She’s a behenji. She’s naive, inexperienced and sometimes clueless, but adorably so. Yet here is a behenji who rooms with three guys, travels all alone, gets drunk and accepts a prostitute for who she is and befriends her. You feel heartened seeing the submissive Rajouri girl gain a footing on her own once she’s out of the wings of her overprotective parents and demeaning, dominating fiance. She’s your quintessential Indian girl- submissive, sweet, hesitant, sheltered. Yet she doesn’t ignite the hatred a mary sou-esque heroine might. It’s this sweetness and the simplicity which are her strongest characteristic as she delivers blow after blow to every standard set by the society for a girl.

Bringing her to life is the talented Kangana Ranaut. She’s flawless as Rani and never once do you see the star that see is seep in. She is perfect in every frame, living her character, growing with her. Not once does she falter in her quest to unmask the meek Rani and bring her out in all her glory.

And then there is Vijay, her fiance. He is everything a feminist abhors. A typical working class man. Chauvinist to the core. The males ego rears its ugly head now and then, unbelievably chiding her for wanting to work and disgustingly discouraging her ambitions. For a moment you can’t believe it. You refuse to be impressed by such a cliched portrayal of a man. But on second thoughts you realize that this cliche is reality. You see it in your neighbors, in your friends, in your own family. It is this cliche that brings Vijay to life, makes him believable. Grovelling for her to take him back when he sees that he might be wrong to assume that she can never rise up to his newly acquired, London returned standards.

It’s a slice of reality, this one.

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Her

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She came, flyaway hair as if caught by the static. Sand running through naked feet and laughter so infectious ! Hand propping up sunglasses time and again. Posing for a photo here, running with kids ther. Like she has to be everywhere and nowhere.

Faulty Lines

She threw her head out of the car’s window and let the air blow across her face. Because it had to go. The hangover. The ruddy hangover. Pieces of lemon lay on the floor, where she had spat them out after chewing them dry.

8 hours, 37 minutes and 43 seconds was how long the hammer had banged inside her head.

2 was the number of times she had wretched.

13 were the hours left to pay the rent.

4 were the number of letters in the word the man in the tie had called her.

3rd was the finger she had dug into his eye.

44 were the number of stairs to the lobby.

4 was the amount of money in her bra.

11 were number of holes in her dress.

She bent over to the front of the car and ran a finger through the leather of the seat cover. ” Got a lighter? “

Book Review: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Fall in love.
Damn the world.
Let go of your inhibitions.

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This book! This bright big blob of a book!
Remember that first time you saw a boy not as a dirty, irritating piece of shit this mass of your favourite ice cream which you had to, just had to take a piece of ? The time when holding hands made you swoon and the mushy talks made you melt ? The first time you fell in “love” ? This book gives you that- brings back all the sweet, innocent and cheesy memories of that first time a boy made your heart jump and flip and go crazy in the tiny space of your chest !

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR AND PARK is the story of two star-crossed misfits – smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love – and just how hard it pulled you under.

The protagonists were so relatable. Reading about their insecurities, inhibitions and doubts was like reading a journal your fifteen year old self wrote. Despite being the victim of countless bullies at school and the daughter of some real shitty parents, never once did Eleanor made you think of a helpless girl looking out for prince charming to come to her rescue. She was smart, self- assured, brave, can stand her ground and the girl knows her comics well ! On the other hand, you have Park. He is such a typical teenager that his actions never really disappoint you. Because you relate to his inhibitions about helping the weird girl who is always bullied. These are teenagers to whom , as ridiculous as it may be, social status matters. Because it is after all high school which as we all know is no heaven.

Their story develops quite subtly amidst comics and books. The hand holding, kissing, making out- all of it is just so aptly done.

It also deals with child abuse, violence, neglect. Her dad is a -and I don’t have a politer word for it- a douchebag. And her mother? One of the worst mothers I’ve read so far. So obviously with such a setup there HAD to be a lot of angst and drama. The sneaking out of the house, the tiptoeing across halls, avoiding any place that’s not your room…it made you root for their love all the more. For the only upside of living with her mother and stepfather was being able to be close to Park.

The ending disappointed me though. It could have taken a better route. It felt unnecessarily poignant- Eleanor ignoring Park for an year.

Nevertheless, given the beautiful journey that was this story, I am willing to let go of the disappointing ending. And you Miss Rowell have got yourself another fan who is going to stalk every existing online profile for updates on your works. Word.

3-1/2 STARS

Book Review: You Against Me by Jenny Downham

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I had this book sitting on my self for quite some time. And every time I saw it’s cover, I imagined it to be the trite love story which uses rape as a mere tool for the lead pair to come closer. Yes, I ignored the very enticing summary on the back page because in the recent months I have become cynical towards books which claim to be “different” but are rife with terribly over-used cliches. So naturally I kept You Against Me at a healthy distance away from myself, saving it for a time when my head would be depressed enough to not snarl in frustration at it. Well, as luck would have it, it turns out I wasn’t doing any favors to myself by keeping away from it. It wasn’t even remotely what I would call a “healthy” distance.

You Against Me by Jenny Downham is essentially the story of Ellie and Mikey wherein the former’s brother rapes the latter’s sister. How they fall in love and deal with the aforementioned issue forms the crux of the story.

The customary approach to address the issue of sexual assault has been to bring forth the incident through the eyes of the victim. That gives more intensity and power to the situation. But You Against Me takes a different line. The narration is through the point of view of the families of the victim and the perpetrator. How it is for the people at the fringes of the situation. Their blind faith and the instinct to protect their own. While Mikey wants to exact revenge on the boy who molested his sister, Ellie remains loyal to her brother and believes his version of the events without question.

The route taken by the author is chancy. But she handles it with perfection. Her characters are not exactly likeable and therein lies her excellence. Their shortcomings are believable, be it Mikey’s philandering ways or ELlie’s refusal to even consider listening to Karyn’s side of the story or her slut shaming tendencies. Downham’s prowess is such that there are times when you find yourself feeling a wee sorry for the accused.

The love story of the two main characters made for the weaker point of the book. Not in concept but in depiction. The reasons for their intense attraction are vague. The events that lead up to them falling for each other are unsatisfactory.

The mystery as regards the real events of the fateful night is gripping. An excellent depiction of the anger, confusion, anguish it is a must read for everyone. Because it is not just some star-crossed love story but a realistic and spot on depiction of rape and slut shaming.

4 Stars

Sense over Sensationalism please !

It’s sad news for the entertainment industry again. Mere days after the shocking demise of colossally talented director Mr. Rituparno Ghosh , the country woke up to the news of the passing of the actress Jiah Khan. More shocking was the manner of her death, for it was not  because of a disease or accident but sadly it was suicide. It was sad to know that a promising young actress who serenaded us with her vibrant presence onscreen would no longer grace the big screen with her charming smile and lilting voice.

The very word suicide was enough to put reporters and journalists all over the country in a tizzy. There were speculations about her actions (even though her suicide note was discovered days later), stories were run on every other news channel about her life as an actress, panel discussions were held on the ‘dark side’ of the entertainment world and so on. Obituaries were written and condolences were made.

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And then came the shocking revelation behind her suicide- her suicide note was discovered. That finally put to rest to the horde of conjectures made about her decision. But then it gave the news channels some new fodder to hold discussions over. For the reasons listed in the suicide note were nothing less than appalling . The reason which she gave for committing suicide were problems in her love life. Although she did not name the person, there were explicit references to her (unnamed) boyfriend in the note. The note in question was made public and later the boyfriend was taken into custody. And thus began the petty TRP- hording tactics of certain ‘news’ channels. It is not a hidden fact from anyone living in the country about the ridiculous measures certain hindi language news channels take in the name of news and journalism. A particuar channel, notorious for the rubbish it churns out, took things to an all new level. They had a full-fledged enactment of the suicide note wherein they had a hapless distressed girl playing Jiah and delivering  the lines of the note in an over dramatic fashion, reminiscent of a daily soap cliche. She clawed at walls, shouted her lungs out, flung things all over the room, pulled at her hair and whatnot. The performance, needless to say, was uncalled for and disgraceful . What may I ask was the need to enact the whole letter adding theatrical angles to a sad event that brings forth serious issues of increasing instances of suicide and harassment ? Maybe they found reading out the letter, as was done by other channels in a very dignified manner,  was a tad bit dry and thus decided to dramatize it to garner more eyeballs and stand out from others, however petty may be the means to do so.

A news channel is supposed to bring forth hard facts and not to sensationalize news, specially the ones dealing with really sensitive issues.  We have plenty of entertainment channels for that You want to stand out amongst your competitors ? Well bring in quality and sensibility rather than sensationalizing matters. or else drop the “news” from your channel name.

 

Evanescence

It was there under dilapidated awning of the long shut down cafe while waiting for a taxi in the cold autumn air that she saw them. Man and girl, walking hand in hand. She was jabbering something at him , pulling hair out of her eyes with immense effort while he looked at the skipping four year girl with an indulgent smile. It was that look on his face , declaring her to be the center of his world, that bespoke a hundred promises to protect her and be there for her, which caused her chest to constrict.

Did the girl realize the dubiety of the moment ? How one day someone was so involved in your life that their presence went unnoticed by you ? That thinking of their absence never crossed your mind and you took their presence for granted. How one day your father would be arguing with you about your irresponsible boyfriend and then there would be none of that for the rest of your life. How one day you would be asking him to give you a ride to work and then on another you had to bear confined overcrowded bus. It surprised her, the transientness of  life.

As they passed by her, she felt an insane urge to run to the girl’s father and be told that everything was going to be fine. That he was going to be there for her to call to when she had a late-night shift, would be her collaborator to pull mum’s leg, would make silly faces when she was sad and then run to the grocer’s to fetch ingredients for making that pasta she loved. She wanted to be that girl. She wanted to be the one receiving that look.

A horn blared in the distance. Breaking her gaze from the girl and her daddy she turned and nodded at the cab driver to stop. Feeling slightly silly at the train of  her thoughts, she sat in the cab. As she passed them she leaned on  the window and waved at the girl.

She could never become that girl again.

Book Review : Everyday by David Levithan

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So you are one of those people who practice people watching, you know, the activity ( inactivity actually) wherein you sit/stand/stand-on-a-leg/ whatever-position-you feel-most-comfortable- in and observe ( stare at, actually) people. The preferred positions are mostly parks, cafes, metro trains/stations or even a public toilet if you take your ‘analysis’ really seriously ( or you are a real creep !). The intention could be anything ranging from passing your time to imagining their lives or what goes on in their heads. Okay, before you jump to any conclusions let me make it clear that it isn’t a psychological analysis of why people do this. Nor is it about my dreams to read people’s mind. This is totally what the header claims it to be- a book review of everyday aka my thought about it. And weirdly enough while reading the first few pages, people watching is what danced in my mind. For the protagonist is a soul-hopper ho has no physical body of his own. He’s just a soul/spirit who wakes up in a different body everyday, living their lives for the day and departs. But no, this book isn’t about people watching at all. Just a crazy thought i had while reading the novel (and i took the idea of explaining your thoughts while writing reviews quite seriously).

So on to the real thing then. Everyday is about A, a soul/spirit who visits/possesses a new body everyday having no body of his own. It during one of these visits that he comes across a girl, Rhi, and instantly falls for her. How he struggles to be in a relationship with her while hopping in different bodies makes up the story.

The concept is brilliant. The synopsis in itself is a sure shot way to make you pick up the book for it’s intriguing, rare and never done before. It’s an another gem to the ya genre. Besides being a romance novel, David Levithan raises interesting and deep questions about what actually defines you. And herein lies the biggest weakness of the novel. The primary focus of the novel is fixed upon the romance part of the story while it completely wastes the immense scope which the theme of the novel provides. There were no answers, conclusions or solutions to the questions raised. Maybe, given the audience that the novel caters to, the author didn’t want to delve in too deep into the philosophical part of the story.

All through the story i felt that the author was trying to shove his ideologies down our throats. He was preachy and there wasn’t any subtlety there with regard to that.

The subplot involved a boy named Nathan, who after having been possessed by A starts to suspect that he was possessed by the devil. Going public with his suspicions he is instantly backed up a slew of christians. This stereotypical and honestly over exaggerated image of the the Evangelicals was one of the weaker points of the book. Their actions lacks a definition and therefore makes their portrayal appear ignorant. Besides, I was expecting Nathan’s subplot to answer the questions raised by the author. I surmised Nathan to assist A understand his ‘condition’ better and maybe find a solution for his troubles.

In totality, Everyday makes for a very sweet, heartwarming and pretty engaging despite its flaws. And David Levithan’s writing is beautiful, lyrical and very beautiful.

                                                                               4 STARS

That Song..

I have a weird habit. Most of the mornings when i wake up, i have some song or the other playing in my head and i subsequently end up humming it through out the day. So sometimes it’s a some hip dance number currently souring the charts and taking over all the radio channels while on the other days it’s some mellow, sad number.

Mostly i try to tamp down the tendency to sing the song out loud in order to avoid embarrassing  possibilities but today happened to be one of those days when your enthusiasm doesn’t cool off easily. I sang while on the rickshaw to the metro station, in the lift which earned me an indulgent smile from an elderly lady, in the class( for which i subsequently got asked to practice my singing prowess at some other place) and back at home which made my mum ask me, with an eager smile and a suggestive wink, whether i would like to share any new secrets with her( “no mum it’s not a guy”). The song which is so vehemently stuck to my brain and refuses to budge is this particular number which we used to sing when we were kids. I even gave a dance performance on it once which, because of my terrible miming talent, earned quite a few mocking laughs from fellow students and some aww-she’s-so-cute laughs from some of the teachers. Here’s the culprit in question:

Isn’t that a super cute song? And obviously the kiddo in the video. Listening to these old songs make me fall in love with old songs all over again. Our grandparents and parents were so lucky to have experienced these first hand on the big screen.

It’s a happy happy day ( or rather night)!!

I am grinning like a raving lunatic right now. Earlier tonight when i sat down to surf the net feeling quite guilty for ditching my books when there’s only a week left for the finals( yikes!) who knew i would be rewarded with a news that made me jump up and down like 5 year old ? Doing my usual stalking for new books to pile up on my to read shelf, i happened across the title ‘And the Mountains Echoed’. Glancing down at the author’s name made me squeal out so loud that my mum came over to my room to check on me( haha!). After she left, not before rolling her eyes( “only you can react like that over a novel !”), I hurried back to recheck what i saw. And there it was, a new novel to by Khaled Housseini !! 

 

It’s been seven freaking years since he last published a book. And some book it was! I have read both The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns authored by him and subsequently fell in love with both. So much that i recommend it relentlessly to my friends until they actually read it. I’ve even gifted these to a couple of people. And all those who have followed my advice have been rewarded fruitfully. It’s a shame Khaled Hosseini has only two published works yet given what a gifted writer he is. Not to mention depriving us readers of brilliant stories to delve into. So finally after 7 looong years of wait he has finally decided to churn out another novel which i’m hoping, given his previous consistency will be another brilliant gem of a story. Here’s a synopsis from Amazon:

 

Afghanistan, 1952. Abdullah and his sister Pari live with their father and stepmother in the small village of Shadbagh. Their father, Saboor, is constantly in search of work and they struggle together through poverty and brutal winters. To Abdullah, Pari – as beautiful and sweet-natured as the fairy for which she was named – is everything. More like a parent than a brother, Abdullah will do anything for her, even trading his only pair of shoes for a feather for her treasured collection. Each night they sleep together in their cot, their heads touching, their limbs tangled.

 

One day the siblings journey across the desert to Kabul with their father. Pari and Abdullah have no sense of the fate that awaits them there, for the event which unfolds will tear their lives apart; sometimes a finger must be cut to save the hand.

 

Crossing generations and continents, moving from Kabul, to Paris, to San Francisco, to the Greek island of Tinos, with profound wisdom, depth, insight and compassion, Khaled Hosseini writes about the bonds that define us and shape our lives, the ways in which we help our loved ones in need, how the choices we make resonate through history and how we are often surprised by the people closest to us.

 

Sounds interesting. I’m hoping it’ll be just as heart-rending as the other two!

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P.S. isn’t that cover so beautiful  ?