Review

A peek into the future

“How about taking your daughter to KidZania and having a good time?”, the good folks at Blogadda asked.  Now, several friends had spoken about the place as a vibrant vivacious fun place for kids. God bless their good souls. If anyone gives me an opportunity to try and bring a smile to the little miss, well they grab a piece of my heart. ‘Yes’, I said and they arranged it all. Seeking to experience the place first hand and see what the world was coming to.

Some search later, the facts seemed to hold promise. To say the least. A Mexican entrepreneur Xavier Lopez Ancona ( & a former managing director of a Private Equity business with GE) wove this idea from nothing and its mushrooming into a sought after, profitable global franchise held allure. Currently, the only Indian franchise is the one at Mumbai’s R City Mall at Ghatkopar. The perpetual dusk setting within, the sculpted roads & stores, the services are all supposed to be similar in every franchise around the world to exacting detail. Including the fuselage of a plane that juts out of the building!

The place is a city in itself. With immigration counters and stamping etc to enter. The immigration folks being cheerful and helpful was a dead give away that this after all is a make believe world that we were entering. Everything else is real. In fact, a tad too eerily real. Real clean sculpted pavements, real products and services that go out on a limb to recreate life as it exists outside, with a charter and a bill a of rights drawn up by children. Suave marketing, methinks, but its a story well told.

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From health services, fire service ( the sirens of the ambulance and a fire engine that do the rounds at a periodic interval can capture attention with a snap of a finger), their own supermarket, a cop station, a radio station, replicas of factories that make stuff from soft drink to cereals etc etc, the place packs a punch. Plus of course, to complete the milieu, KidZania has its own ‘currency’ and a bank (with adult tellers) to boot. A ‘fully functional economy’ of sorts!

Speaking of the economy, the place reeks of real life brands, which must vary from country to country and speaks of hardcore commerce. For example, when the kids play courier delivery folks, they work for DHL. Radio City when they work as a Radio Jockey. Hyundai for the cars. Camlin. Coca Cola, Nerolac. Yes Bank. etc etc. They are all there. Soaking up the kids and their attention. Consumerist reality is everyday reality for all ofus in the real world and that is an unmistakable part of the business model of KidZania

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The idea is simple. Kids from the age of 4 to 14 choose to do various jobs ( from being firemen, dabbawallas, doctors on call etc are paid in Kidzos the local currency, and then dispense it on artistic pursuits like drawing greeting cards, pottery lessons, or simply spending it on food and fun.  Or they can save up the money, deposit in the bank within and use it again in the next visit. Its quite a load of fun for the children. For they get to play multiple roles and for parents get to have a voyeuristic peep into the future. The little miss enjoyed playing a fireman, and going about the fire engine with its loud bells and screaming sirens. She played doctor. And then a super market assistant. She would come back with a wad of currency from each of these places and dutifully hand it over to the missus.

Me and the missus walked about soaking up the place.

We watched kids run around as courier delivery folks. They queued up to clean tall buildings. To paint walls. Of course it was part of play. Never since Tom Sawyer was there this enthusiasm in painting, I must say! There are adult instructors for each activity, who hold court handing over the necessary costume and setting up the boundary conditions and instructions for the kids to play their part. An education, it surely provides kids with with.  One way of adding perspective is to soak into different jobs. To empathise with people is to ‘step into someone else s shoe’, as the cliched expression goes. Kids get to be adults and play different roles. Each activity lasts approximately 20 minutes and no kid I could see had a shortage of excitement there.

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Play is an integral part of learning. Especially so in children. The little miss had such a whale of a time doing all that she got to do. She told us after successfully ‘putting out a fire’, that fire can be ‘dangerous’, with a roll of her eyes. The setting for some tremendous learning to happen is endearing and complete.

On second thoughts, it is near complete.

It is near complete for it is a replication of adult real life as it stands today, it comes a tad too close in making a linear extension of the present day life into the future and overlaying a materialistic mindset on impressionable minds.  That’s at least the feeling I was left with all through. Particularly so, when a tall kid who was playing the role of a courier boy brushed past us, pushing his trolley in infinite hurry. He turned for a minute to give us another look and then went his way with his darting lunges as his Kidzo notes awaited him. In the fully functional economy of KidZania, kids could learn more about adult life than perhaps adults themselves would care to acknowledge. Running around to ‘make money’ and then ‘spend’ it on ‘artistically creating greeting cards’, ‘Pottery lessons’ etc is part of our story. Now, that’s why it struck me as a linear extension of the present into the future.

It is a scary future, where money will continue to have currency over our thoughts and ‘finding meaning’ in life is a distant and dead thought. Perhaps it is a practical and the most likely future as well. The hours at KidZania prepares kids for this kind of a future. Helping them experience reality in safe circumstances, teaching them options and choices for a material world. On how it perhaps would be and what all they would need to do to get ahead. Parents who have this as the most secure future for their children, will simply adore the place.

For those of you parents who imagine a different future, where a life of purpose and meaning without a wad of currency notes dictating what our kids should end up doing, KidZania is quite an experience. For the parents that is. Atleast, it was for me. For it gives a well calibrated peak into the future and nudged me to seek and exercise the right choices now, for an alternate narrative to take root in the little miss’s mind. Possibilities abound. The changing nature of creative work, the fundamental changes that technology has brought to us, the importance of conversation, relating to one another and building relationships, the joy and curiosity in discovery. A heap of such things struck me as possible. Building these into the little miss’s choice set and creating a base of enduring interest there, is work cut out for me.  In the times we live in, its not child’s play.

At KidZania, you could retire to the luxurious parents lounge there(sponsored by Urban Ladder) , (where the kids aren’t allowed) or plough into some cheese Pizza and masticate these thoughts. For you have the time. The staff at the place are friendly to a fault and have an endearing demenour that helps kids gravitate to them like iron fillings to a magnet, leaving you with nothing much to do. Unless of course, you would want to capture every inch of your kid’s experience, every smile, wince, whine, laugh on every possible device – mobile phones, digital cameras, tablets and the like. If you belong to the latter category, you can run behind the fire engine and chase the ambulance like Paparazzi, clicking pictures and recording videos of kids, getting to be adults. To an uncharitable eye it can appear to be an elaborate fancy dress pageant with some high tech props in tow, but to some parents it is a priceless experience.

The entry fee is steep but perhaps it is worth the experience. It is a good place to check out. It sure will get your kid excited (especially so, if he/she has a friend along) and by natural consequence, get you smiling. If you are someone like me, it perhaps will get you to think hard about how incomplete the loud voices for leaving a good planet behind for our children are.  A pretty planet is pointless, if we don’t work the right perspectives into kids who will inherit it.

Drive Through

It’s a gingerly walk. You would be well within reason to assume that I was walking over shred glass if you saw my gingerly tread. Around me, an assorted bunch of bloggers are busy, blogging away. Peering into the keyboard with a precision that would befit a scientist launching a satellite to a planet beyond Pluto. I walk up to where Harish from Blogadda is standing. I tell him with my head held down in shame : ‘I cant… I cant blog like them, I cant blog at their speed’. He stares at me in silence. I keep my eyes trained on the carpet and ask for more time. He tells me, “The bus leaves at 2.00 PM”.    

“I will write. I promise”, I tell him. He remains silent. “God Promise” I say, hoping to infuse some humour. I think I see his jaws clench behind his generous cheeks that mirror a far more generous heart, while he says ‘Ok’. My shame redoubles. He walks away.

Road ahead

You see, Blogadda invited me to a preview of a new car TATA Zest. I sweated buckets. Part out of excitement but more out of trepidation. Excitement at the prospect of ‘Goa’ again in the monsoon. (I love the monsoons every year. And Goa, at all times). Plus the prospect of meeting bloggers from different walks of life was akin to a lavish buffet for a famished glutton whose appetite for stories spans the universe.

The trepidation came from someplace else. A large dose of a lazy outlook combined with a philosophy of ‘writing for writings sake’ (and not for rewards and contests) masquerades as righteous nonchalance for ‘brands’ and product reviews. I laid out my condition with a missionary zeal : I would write what I want to write. No censoring. No interference.

“Of course”. They said. Matching the righteous tone in more than good measure. I wondered why the good people at Blogadda humoured me and people like me. But God was in his heaven and all was well with the world. So.

The TATA Motors’ proposition was not only novel, it was bold and it appealed. It was to assemble a set of bloggers from walks of life that are as divergent as spaces between continents, to review and talk about the car they were launching. Now, I have the amount of knowledge about automobiles that you would expect Manmohan Singh to have about Punk music. (But the difference was, he could ride on reputation and keep quiet about it. Here I was to write two blog posts) The idea was to get the Zest experience reach different bloggers and their audience groups. Food bloggers. Fashion bloggers. General interest bloggers. That was more than merely good thinking.

Brilliant thinking, you could think. So did I. Soon, I flew into Goa. Goa is always brilliant. Trading a precious weekend with the family and looking forward to the prospect of meeting people from different genres and getting to know their blogs. Accompanied by a firm relief, plastered all over my mind, that there were going to be no experts in automobiles.

As luck would have it,the first gentleman I met was a Formula One enthusiast, who spoke about cars and races as though he relishes clutch plates for lunch and grease filled engine oil for dessert! If not for his friendly, calm demeanour and were he speaking about ‘ religion’ instead of cars, Obama and his drones would have taken our bus down. That kind of passion and a studied opinion of automobiles. My heart sank. I reckoned that taping my mouth, acting worldly wise with a smile now and then, backed by knowledgeable nods were my last resorts to escape the ignominy of being a frog in a flower basket.

But God was in his heaven and better things were due. There were people in the room who had other interests. Like jalebis, for example. A sigh that could be heard in Singapore, escaped my lips. As it turned out awesome things were due.

The hospitality of TATA Motors and the Blogadda teams was immaculate. I sat listening to stories of journeys from fellow bloggers. Some images remain etched. Like the widening of eyes of the bird watcher as he explained his exploits including one where he walked miles in Ladakh to spot one single bird. The wanderlust in another that is set to take him across the country on his bike for two months. Riding for two months and going to Nepal on a bike is awesome-crazy enough. But making it sound like he was going to the corner grocery store, had the head reeling.

My jaw hit the carpet and seemed intent on going all the way to the basement, when I heard yet another story of walking away from Corporate life and setting up a business model around blogs and blogging. Fixing the jaw, was unnecessary, for it soon was going to drop at the intensity and the nonchalant narration from every other fellow blogger’s story that wafted through the monsoon drenched Goan air.

TATA Motors is in the business of selling cars. Higher order pursuits like getting bloggers to exchange their stories falls in a vacuous place that the P&L statement will not like! But of course! But of course! Very soon, we were in what was called a ‘Masterclass’. A clutch of people from the design, engineering and Corporate Communications teams from TATA Motors presented facts, figures and data about the TATA Zest. Now, in my line of work, being subjected to legions of presentations and shiny corporate films with plasticky claims (and returning the favour in good measure), is common place. So, when the TATA Motors folks rolled out the same, the jaw returned to its place and stuck still as it normally does at the sight of pedestrian stuff.

The masterclass made as much of an impression as a weather report on TV, when you are expecting your favourite movie to turn up.  The masterstroke however was in the opportunity to interact with their designers and engineers over dinner. I am a sucker for stories and hearing them in first person was an experience to cherish. The TATA Motors folks wove magic for the rest of the evening.

I recall talking to a TATA Motors’ designer who designed the audio system. Sporting a trim, white beard, a black turtle neck T-shirt and a blue jeans, if you haven’t guessed who came to my mind, let me add that he also wore round glasses just like Steve Jobs. If not for the thick Bengali accent you would be in your rightful mind to think that TATA Motors resurrected the master of design himself.  As he spoke of his design of the audio systems, the twinkle in his eyes could have powered all of the hotel’s electricity.

I didn’t quite get the constraints until he explained them. One of which, was the ‘The two second test’. A design of the front end of the audio system that would be approved only if a tester were to make sense of it in two seconds, because two seconds was just about the time one could take the eyes off the wheel, while changing music. Some constraint, that! The pride in having done something awesome shimmered and rose far above the turtle neck.

Similar chats with different people ensued. Another that stays in the mind is the chat with the car designer from Vizag who spoke of straight lines, proportions, shapes and figures with an incredulous everlasting smile. Of course, I didn’t utter a word about how I loathed the geometry box and didn’t think of lines as anything beyond a scratch on a paper, back in school. But to meet someone who made a happy living out of doing this, required deep reflection of where I went wrong, I told myself. And hoped to forget about it.

The TATA Motors folks that I saw that evening, seemed to have passion oozing from every pore, were helpful to a fault, knowledgeable beyond measure and inspired a certain confidence in very good cars that we were to drive the next day morning. One thing was clear, TATA Motors was giving this car its best shot ever and it showed.

That night,as monsoon showers hit the Goan seashore in seamless ever-on kind of mode, conversations flowered. Cars. Passions. Blogs. Bloggers. Comments. Events. Readers. Twitter. Negative comments. Paid posts. Sick people. Beautiful people. Genres. Writers. And the like. There are surprises in store for me too. A few bloggers met and told me in that they read my blogs. I mumbled a few ‘Thank you’s and meant if much more than I said it. A couple of them kept silent after I said thank you. I have an odd feeling that they expected to be more generously compensated than a mere ‘thank you’, for reading the stuff that I churn out. If I would be them, I would! 🙂

The morning seemed to emerge in a hurry. The cars were readied. 20 odd cars. Fifty bloggers.

I was to join two very popular food bloggers who knew each other well.. First they knew each other, lived close by and blogged about food. Celebrity stuff. The swarm of anxiety riddled butterflies that lined my stomach wall at the prospect of meeting them soon melted into oblivion when I indeed got driving with the ladies. They were delightful people who accepted my ordinary fumbling ways like a phone would accept a random SMS, marketing an insurance policy!

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We took turns at the wheel. Clicked some pictures while the other drove. Connected our phones to the audio device in the car. Changed channels. Commented on stuff.  Switched cars to drive the Petrol and Diesel variants. For a couple of hours! To do all of this on good cars that are yet to be launched in the company of wonderful people, indicated good Karma or at least, a feeling that I couldn’t have been all that bad in my past lives!

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Roadsigns

I cant afford to miss mentioning the GoPro cameras that were placed on the windshield, with three tonnes of adhesive tape,  ‘to capture expressions, as the car is being driven’. My tryst with cameras span decades. Over the last several decades, there are reams of snaps that seem to capture me at the exact moment when am least prepared or doing something ranging from incredulous to mildly preposterous. Like seeming to wag my tongue at the chief guest while receiving an award, when I could have sworn to God that all I was saying was ‘thank you’. Or eyelids closed. Unkempt shirt. Hands mysteriously coming in the way of the face. Etc! But this was supposed to be GoPro and all that. God help the editor, I thought!

Driving through an apology of a highway and picturesque narrow lanes filled with quaint houses in bright colours that would tear through monsoon induced green cover soothed the soul and the calf muscle that suffer Kurla’s whims. At every fork in the road, a TATA Motors gent with a bunch of curious locals in tow, would hold a board giving directions. At every pit stop, a handy bunch would give the car a rub and a shine making me wonder if I should attempt a smile and a wave of the hand befitting Queen Elizabeth.

That was that. After all the driving, we now are to ‘Live blog’ the event. That is a tall ask. After a few paragraphs of furious typing later I realise I am lost like a marathoner who went in the wrong direction, in a foreign land. I realise this is a lost cause. Words stutter and the keyboard crackle refuses to produce anything that can remotely be called ‘coherent’, on the screen.

It’s a gingerly walk. You would be well within reason to assume that I was walking over shred glass if you saw my tread. Around me an assorted bunch of bloggers are busy, blogging away. Peering into the keyboard with a precision that would befit a scientist launching a satellite to a planet beyond Pluto. I walk up to where Harish from Blogadda is standing. I tell him with my head held down in shame : ‘I cant… I cant blog like them, I cant blog at their speed’. He stares at me in silence. I keep my eyes trained on the carpet and ask for more time. He tells me, “The bus leaves at 2.00 PM”.

“I will write. I promise”, I tell him. He remains silent. “God Promise” I say, hoping to infuse some humour. I think I see his jaws clench behind his generous cheeks, while he says ‘Ok’. My shame redoubles. He walks away.

The days after the event is a whirlwind of sorts at work and home. Work piles up. My computer crashes. Mr.Murphy decides to do his visits. A few days after the event, I call up Harish. He is in better spirits. I tell him, I have a post that will go live soon. I gather he knows me well.  Between laughs and banter he asks me, “I hope it is about the car and the experience and not some…?” His voice trails.

I tell him, ‘Harish, the post about the car will be done too, but this one begins and ends with you’. Silence reigns on the other side. I think I hear his facepalm as I hit the publish button.

 

Kidnap. Movie Review


When the Chocolate Boy is playing kidnapper, well, that is something to see. That was the line that was used to lure me to the movie hall.

Kidnap‘ attempts a whole lot. It does have some interesting twists and turns in the plot. The only problem that i have here, that regulars here are now aware of, is the fact that Hindi movies try too much. Too hard. Stretching the story beyond what is necessary. Even extending it to the point where it tears apart and hurts !

Kidnap is no exception. It has a racy start. [And God ( & only he ) knows why there has to be ‘bikini beach song’ to open the movie & such other ‘generous’ scenes ! Is the average movie goer so much of a starved character that he (or she) is going to get pulled into the movie because of such sequences. It puts me off & perhaps shows an impoverished mind of those at the helm of making such movies].

Coming back to the movie, the dour faced Imran Khan tries his best to look tough by consistently maintaining a dour face. Sanjay Dutt plays the role of a billionaire worth $ 52.7 ( billions of course) & more importantly, father to Minisha Lamba & divorced husband of Vidya Malvade.

The plot is about Imran Khan extracting his revenge for an affront that resulted in a jail sentence, scars on the body etc etc, at the behest of the billionaire gent many years back. And that revenge extraction is through the kidnapping of the billionaire’s daughter and making some ‘demands’.

The demands include, traveling from somewhere in Mumbai to Panvel in about 40 minutes ( i think) & saying ‘sorry’ to a nun on the train, organising a jail break, breaking into a Mutka don’s home, committing a murder etc. I quite liked the underlying this message : travelling from anywhere to anywhere in Mumbai in 40 mins, is as tough as orchestrating a jail break or such other tasks. That is one heck of a social message, to me !!!

Well, Sanjay Dutt, manages to do all of these. Of course. And the flawless execution & remarkable ease of these executions, makes me wonder why my corporate life seems so tough ! Duh !

Ultimately, it has an alls-well-ends-well ending. And as the film meandered to a close, for a moment, i had sweaty palms and a strange fright that the movie would end with Imran Khan and Minisha Lamba ‘falling in love’ ! Thankfully, that pain didnt ensue !

I think one chase sequence involving Sanjay Dutt and Imran Khan was quite absorbing. Although, Sanjay Dutt’s flab shows all the way through ! Other than that, the basic plot of the movie was rather sturdy. And Imran Khan almost manages to carry the film on his shoulders. Those are what go well for the movie.

On the other hand, Minisha Lamba’s screen prescence, minimal chemistry between Imran & Minisha, Sanjay Dutt and Vidya Malvade, gloriously inept dialogues, inappropriate costume design, remarkable overloading / stretching of the story & such else gets you to twist and turn in your seat !

(Minisha Lamba appears to have packed for the kidnapping. Thats the kind of costumes she wears while remaining a captive. Not that what she wore a lot….but you get the idea dont you…!?)

Bolder editing, tauter dialogues, lesser of grind routines, better casting, and absorbing performances would have provided with a much more wholesome experience. I guess thats like all parts of movie making ! Almost !

And when Imran Khan, says, ‘hell is right here’ you may want to think that he is talking about the audience and the movie hall. To be fair, the movie isn’t completely bad. It held promise for a brief while. The angst that resides in me is this : that promise, however brief it was for, did not sustain!

Wish it had.

Welcome To Sajjanpur.

Shyam Benegal was the pull factor ! That name was enough for us to troop into watch ‘Welcome to Sajjanpur‘ ! We weren’t completely disappointed !

Its quite a different movie, than the ones that we have seen from the Benegal stable. Its a very simple, easy and intense tale, told with a fluid pen and structured thought! As usual, the characters, the visuals, smart lines, and neat casting makes the village and the story come alive.

This is a tale about an aspiring novelist beginning his career in his small village, as a letter-writer ! His writing flair comes in handy as a viable option for enabling a largely ‘illiterate’ village to reach out to the world ! And as he becomes the enabler, the world speaks through him, so to speak !

Deeper themes emerge in the movie. In all its ‘humour’ and ‘light-hearted’ tale, Shyam Benegal does manage to bring to the fore, some issues ! Widow-Remarriage, Power and the marginalised sections of society, village politics and their polarisation etc !

As light and flowing it can get, the movie and its themes are quite intense ! At least, it was to me. Some dialogues were really ‘cool’ and so was the music ! This definitely is not in the ‘best of Benegal‘ category, with certain portions floundering quite a bit ! But it all falls in place as it meanders along !

With rustic hindi from the heartland and a realistic portrayal, it did seem to have already attracted a different audience at the multiplexes !

Easy tale. Realistic portrayal. By and large, decent acting. And Benegal as the director. That would help overlook other factors that weigh against the movie !

Must admit, we did get a few good laughs !

A Wednesday !

A Wednesday is a different movie. After a full week of release, we walked into a movie hall with almost each seat taken : This with no glamour girl, no song sequences and more importantly two old men ( ok not that old, but still old)in the lead roles ! You either had to give it to word of mouth that came out of some interesting sequences and acting !

The movie is indeed about terror. Technology. Mobile phones. Etc. But the screenplay is gripping and has a few surprises in store. The movie opens out to a silent title reel. With the odd flicker of dots within the names featured. And proceeds to weave an interesting interplay of simultaneous events. These separate events steadily get woven into one lovely piece of a movie !!

Naseerudin Shah plays a character who is the bomber with technical wizardy. His calls cant be traced. Nor his threats ignored, for he plants bombs at the police station across the commissioners office !

And then, proceeds to make his demands for certain terrorists to be freed. The story unfolds from thereon. All the while having packed home made sandwiches and coffee from a flask! And after buying groceries for home !

I hate to go any further on the storyline, even as i am tempted to do so. Just so that nothing is given away when you & you appreciate the movie in full.

The movie resonates at some level ! Personally, i have a problem with killings. Of any sort. Methodical. Vigilante. Terrorist. Encounter. Etc. To me, a killing is a killing. That belief was tested for a few moments. But those moments were intense moments !

For what was said, held rationale and cold logic. It took me a while to sort things out and re-anchor my feelings around taking of a life !

Its not as though that the movie is a flawless production! But yet, I would brand the movie as very close to ‘must watch’ ! Its different. Neatly executed punctuated with humour, some powerful dialogues and impeccable delivery too.

Anupam Kher plays the Police Commissioner of Mumbai and makes you wish that the avatar who plays the role emerges from the screen and walk into the commissioner’s seat here !

All key characters come alive on screen with superlative performances from the artistes playing them, perhaps with the exception of Jimmy Shergil playing the role of a tough cop.

Naseeruddin Shah oozes presence and character. I wonder why we don’t see more of him on screen. Yet, it is the storyline which keeps you alive with ‘what-happens-next’ curiosity all through. With some subtle and sophisticated humour that appeals to the common man. (From a common man too !!)

We walked out of the movie hall more than satisfied of having caught a good movie ! Second week in a row ( after Tahaan ) !

In half an hour we heard about the bomb blasts in Delhi. My wife wished that the ‘common man’ took a worldly avatar. And seeing the scenes of destruction and chaos, i wished it too. For a brief moment. My belief held over years, was tested.

The movie resonates with the common man who suffer ! For that it deserves a watch.

Tahaan. Movie Review

Tahaan. I voted for this movie because of Santosh Sivan. And got much more than Santosh Sivan and his wizardy with the camera. The cast, storyline, fantastic acting, subtle music all played their part.  More details here.

Tahaan is a story thats set in Kashmir.  It again, has no songs with a thousand human beings providing the backdrop , and no stunt sequences decked with Tata Sumos flying up in the air. No second track ‘comedy’ (sic) !  And all characters in the movie are fully clothed. So.  

The film is about reality, possibilities, choice, love and life itself. 

Well, for all of the above, would you be surprised to know that the story centers around a donkey. Well, a boy and his donkey! I would be.   

An assortment of carefully laid out sequences capture the  journeys of a boy, his love ( for his donkey) and the realities of modern day Kashmir in a tapestry that breezily weaves its way into our hearts & to our minds as well. 

Current day realities of the valley present itself in the form of the military & the accompanying militancy, guns, bullets, deserted homes of Kashmiri Pundits, identity parades, grenades. These are presented befitting the line that meets our eyes before the movie rolls on : all characters in the movie are fictitious & the incidents are non-fictitious

All the same, to me the movie seemed to let out a subtle scream for all conflicts. Or rather, for all people involved in conflicts that are not their own. Kashmir, Iraq, Bosnia Sri Lanka and so on. Where children and their futures can sucked into the vortex with ease that can put the best vacuum cleaners to shame.  

A particular exchange stays fresh. The child asks, ‘who owns the mountains?’ The answer he gets is that we dont own the mountains, but it is the mountains who own us. We pass on and they stay ! ( I want to add, but it is ‘for’ them that we fight.  Sigh )!

The movie endures. Not leaning on populism, propoganda or empty nationalism, the film is a moving depiction of the state of the valley through the eyes of young Tahaan and his realities. The realities of a wide eyed eight your old boy !

Breathtaking visuals.  Interesting portrayals. The simplicity of the story.  Words of wisdom. Factual presentation.  All left us a shaken and stirred. On our way back, we talked about the movie and our own recollections of such other stories of strife. And we remind ourselves that we need to do something. Our bit. 

Long after a movie is over, if the scenes stay with you & you are stirred to action, there cant be a better compliment !  

Do catch a watch. 

Singh is King. Movie Review

For some reason this movie is spelt ‘Singh is Kinng.’ The king with a double ‘n’. For emphasis perhaps.

So we went on Friday evening. Part lured by the catchy music played out ever so many times on music channels & part goaded by friends and fellow bloggers, who said in no uncertain terms that this movie will be an ‘entertainer’. And so, it was. Atleast, it tried hard to.

Singh is Kinng‘ is about a do-gooder ( Akshay Kumar, who else) who wants to do more good. A simpleton who ends up wrecking half the village in the pursuit of ( digitally animated, as the movie claims) chicken et al, in the name of doing good. You get the idea, don’t you.

The village conspires to keep him out with a tall order of bringing back a gent named Lucky Singh, who migrated a long while ago as a simple man and is now a don in Australia.

In effect, this is all about Happy going after lucky. And in a very happy-go-lucky way, the movie takes us to Australia. ( so they claim). And, Oh, in between, a boarding pass mishap leads us to Egypt, Katrina Kaif and some catchy tunes.

The rest of the story is about how circumstances play out in Australia, and how Happy Sing stands in for Lucky Singh, the big don ! As much as the Happy-go-Lucky scenes pan out its about a few songs, dialogue sequences and scenes that try hard to tickle your funny bone. With little ( ok, slightly more than little ) success.

Given all of the above, you can draw up the plot before i spell b-r-e-e-z-e. Munnabhai style good acts in the name of ‘bad’ give unintended ‘good’ side effects & pave the way for reform of dreaded gangsters.

Katrina & Ranvir Shorey are a pair from the past (precedes the movie). Ranvir (of course) is the sophisticated & insensitive coward, who does all the wrong, while Akshay represents the very opposite of those adjectives. So you know. Any more on the story line would be bordering on demeaning your intelligence on logical hindi movie conclusions.

For the record, Om Puri, Javed Jaffrey, Kiron Kher, Neha dhupia, Kamal Chopra, Yashpal Sharma & Sonu Sood are part of the cast.

I was clearly told (by wife and friends) to keep logic, intelligence & such other, that are quite alien to bollywood outside and walk into the hall. With those apart, i was another simpleton watching the movie ! And wasn’t completely disappointed.

Here are the pluses. The film does elicit a few grins. Ok a few laughs too. If you haven’t watched it many times on National Geographic, you can watch the pyramids of Giza. This time with Katrina Kaif as the backdrop ! (ditto with the Gold Coast). Also, you also have to give it to Akshay for having screen presence. Those catchy tunes are catchy.

Now the minuses. Patchy screen play, the irrelevance of some characters, wasted artistes, very funny attempts at fun, stereotyped characters, predictable storyline…OK. I guess the logic part that i had left behind, just returned. So, will stop here.

And just as parting information, Snoop Dogg has a number in the movie. You see him as credits roll and you walk from the hall. But by then, you are scurrying for the exist that you don’t bother ! ( If you enjoy Snoop Dogg & his music that is )

Now that ‘logic’ has returned there is one question thats I cant resist asking. So, will ask.

Why must every movie of every genre ( comedy, melodrama etc etc) end with the hero giving a speech ( a.k.a discourse) on friendship, values, nation etc etc ! Its funny isnt it ?

When they try to make me laugh all through the movie, i try hard to resist crying at the my self-inflicted plight. But in the end, when they try hard to get me moved and perhaps bring a tear to the corner my eye, i laugh !!

Perhaps thats why ! But, the question remains !

Kuselan. Movie Review

Its 1.00 AM. We walk out in silence out of a multiplex in central Mumbai after watching the much hyped Kuselan. We walk in silence. After all it is the Super Star’s film. The enigma & our own liking for him makes us sew up our lips.

We want to shout ‘lousy screen play’, ‘horrendous casting’, ‘puerile acts in the name of comedy’, ‘mesial attempt to ride on two distinctly different roads of classical malayalam cinema and ‘fan appetising’ tamilzh cinema’ ! Sense prevails and we are a tad sleeply.

While technically, marrying classical malayalam cinema to a Rajini hungry audience is possible, this film suffers a hopeless breakdown. A physics experiment that looked good in the books & even came alive the last time it was attempted, but just going awry now !

The movie itself has Pasupathi pairing Meena. Playing the role of a barber whose scissors, bone, muscle & mouth speak righteousness, while reality abounds in penury. Meena plays the dutiful wife & mother of his three kids. The patchiness starts right there. The family connects up like the Airtel network in Mumbai giving you the following options:

  • network available but you cant make a call
  • network busy & connection error and of course
  • network not available
  • call disconnect !

In the movie, the kids & parents display such an affection, which at best, can be described as wooden. No, perhaps plasticky. Wood has a tether of ‘natural’ in it. Showcased in a song ( I quite liked the lyrics though) with digital dolphins engineering digital splashes, of course in digital backdrops !


Their hovel with
broken pots and no food etc etc, seems to somehow enable Meena wear those fantastically clean ( cotton & starched, i think ) sarees while going without food and surviving on the odd pieces of left over ginger ! Worse still, dialogues are unreal and and have a twang of the artistic perfection than the realistic magic !Overall : unreal and disconnected !

Rajinikant plays a superstar, in the name of Ashok Kumar. Am not sure why they should have bothered with weaving a character called Ashok Kumar. He could have been called Rajinikanth, for the director doesn’t seem keen on showing any distinction. Perhaps that was the whole point. To show Rajini as Rajini. To show how ego-less he is. That benign man who doesnt want his fans beaten up, who reaches out to friends etc etc. Hagiography at an Everest clime !

Coming close on the heels of my reading the book, this was a bit on an overdose !

Disconnected from the film, an assortment of scenes seek to provide answers to many questions that preoccupy the mind of an average Rajini fan. His entry to politics or his running away’ to the Himalayas, explaining his reticence with onlookers during film shoots etc etc. He seeks to provide his ‘point of view’. Thats fine, but could this be done without this movie serving as the medium! Any advertising agency ( not P.Vaasu) will come in handy in doing a good promotion video! And most importantly, i don’t think the Super Star needs it all !

Then, why ? Please let me know!

Well, for the record, Pasupathi & Rajini are friends of yesteryears and the story-line irevolves around Rajini coming into the village to shoot a movie & how circumstances push the penury ridden Pasupathi to reach out to the star. He dutifully resists doing so, in the name of whole host of unconvincing reasons! Unconvincing not because of the reasons themselves, but more due to how they are laid out to the audience !

And, of course, Pasupathi & the Superstar finally come together ( with a dutiful lecture on the importance of teachers, friendship etc etc ) giving the screen, the projector and the audience a break. The movie thread has so many loose ends that it resembles an apparel manufacturers scrap yard !

Sample this, Nayanthara ( oh yes, she plays herself ) is lost in the jungle & phone calls abound as to where she was. Cut to song sequence in the rain. End of ‘lost’ story. Thas that. Move on. Ofcourse, the heroine was ‘lost’ because she had this incredible urge to do a dance in the rain. Ok. We know, by now !

There is yet another sequence, this time with tribals ( Chinni Jayant) meeting the superstar. Thats another trail that dissipates into the undergrowth !

Pasupathi sparkles in patches. Living roles & riveting you to seats, seems to have been reserved for other movies. Not this ! Meena looks pretty and it was good to see her on on the big screen after a while.

Livingstone & a troupe of four ( or five or six ) of them are attached to a jeep that runs on a horn. And are at best, irritating. Nayantara has no role in the movie, except showing off a well toned body. She could have as well carried an ad : ‘My body was toned at xyz gym! ‘ You get the hint!. The Vadivel comedy largely stifles & elicits a few laughs in rare patches.

The superstar himself plays an unfamiliar role. I will leave it at that. Please read the first para of this post for more !

I love Rajini movies for a variety of reasons. His onscreen personna excites you and paints a picture beyond possibility in an enlarged frame while staying entertaining and almost rooted to reality. Syncretic magic !

He never has been foisted on a movie or on the audience before. He carried us along. This movie is quite a departure ! Its a common fact that trying to satisfy everybody is a gauranteed recipee for failure ! Nevertheless, the Rajini goodwill account is massive. It can afford an ‘overdraw’ now and then. They overdrew it this time!

Every cloud has a silver lining. This one too has one. And that is : The law of averages must catch up. It did this time ! So, watch out for the next flick !

That said, Kuselan still, is a ‘thalaivar’ movie. So.

PS : They are remaking Kuselan in Hindi ( with Shah Rukh) & in Kannada (with Ramesh Arvind) ! hmm

The Name is Rajinikanth

The book on the table gives a Rajini glare !
It is with some level of interest that ‘The Name is Rajinikanth’ by Gayathri Sreekanth is being read here! It is a hagiography on the tamizh super star, who has had a stellar rise to super stardom ( yes, bus conductor ..etc etc ). The book caught the eye at a bookstore, but it was only when a senior IIM-A professor pulled this book out, in response to a question on what he was reading, that ensured a hastened to pick it up !

The book is a simple read, and it chronicles the rise & rise of Rajini through the years. This book of course, provides a run through like a neighbour who has peering eyes on your window. Standing afar but ‘knows’ whats up with you ! And in parts, appears rather hagiographic !

Whats more important is that it gives the average ‘English’ Rajini fan, a glimpse of the life and times of the Superstar ! If you overlook the flaws in the book, that is. Alternating between the ‘then’ and ‘now’, the book gives you numerous incidents. And if you are able to string your thoughts on the same & draw your own balanced views, well, it helps !

One other key reason for me to dive into the book is the intrigue that rests in me, about Rajinikant himself. What caused his meteoric rise ? How did it all happen ? Where did he find traction ? How does he carry on ? The book has various anecdotal references and tells you that he sleeps on the floor with no air-conditioners, travel in an old ambassador car, has no ego etc etc, but that, to me is data that is ab axial.

What perhaps is more important is the setting of a context to the data. That, is left to the reader !?!

So there. A collection of various incidents in his life, by an evident fan ! Thats that, on the book !!

Today Kuselan is released. 20 roles for the superstar they say. If he is supposed to be present in the film for only 25 % of the time, and he is supposed to don 20 different roles in that 25 % time, it is hoped they arent talking of costume changes !

And of course, there is considerable celebration around the release in itself. A theatre that closed down (to be converted into a mall) has reopened here in Mumbai. Am sure the fans will do their bit with aartis and pal abhishekam ( milk offerings), like the last time around, to his images.

Die hard fans will unilateraly declare a holiday and be at the theatres ! The star himself was present in yesterday’s news, for other reasons !

So, whats this all about ?

The book quotes someone call him a phenomenon. He sure is. Nothing else explains the Rajini magic that enguls Tamizh Nadu ! With fan clubs, and an army who twitch cigarettes and mouth his dialogues, because they were done by the star himself !

My hypothesis !?!

The sophisticated world has English Premier League. Formula 1. Were there is synchronised marketing and mass appeal built around an enigma. For the average tamizhian on the street, Rajinikant was is not only Formula 1, but also the only formula !!

PS : Early reviews by fans ( who went in for the 6.00 AM show have been very positive ). He is supposed to be playing himself. That explains the 20 roles !

I hope to know today evening !

Kismet Konnection. Movie Review

Perhaps writing this about the movie experience in Adlabs would help. About the Rs.55 a packet popcorn would interest many readers. A little bit of whining about the absence of parking space. Some sarcasm about the ‘natural’ folding of hands and saying ‘namaskar’ by multiplex staff would, am sure call for some interesting comments.

Perhaps some quips about how movie going has changed over the years and tracing the evolution of the Indian movie goer’s experience would bring some contrasts to the fore. The role of multiplexes. Big budget advertising & marketing etc would all warrant a post. And how about this movie…kismet Konnection. Well, the less said the better.

The essense of the movie is to find people who are ‘lucky charms’ for others. In this movie, Vidya Balan happens to be the lucky charm for our hero Shahid Kapoor. The moment she steps into any facet of his life : be it playing an ‘unplayable’ stroke at the snooker table, or winning the contract to redesign club house etc etc all happen ‘matter-of-fact’ for him, when she is around. But she is engaged to someone else & some other cause.

How our heros life meanders through the cause thats so dear to his lady love essence of the movie. And ultimately, alls well that ends well. For our hero and heroine, that is. The movie goer walks out with a stupefied look !

Romance requires chemistry. Onscreen romance requires higher order chemistry ! And that chemistry cannot be overridden with commerce & marketing. Don’t ask Me why, but the film is set in Canada. Of this fact you will get reminded of every 3 rd ( or 5th or 2nd or 7th etc) minute, by a shot of the CN Tower in Toronto in multiple moods. Lit, unlit. 45 degree angle. 75 degree angle. Landscape. Portrait etc. (And thats good relief)!

The movie did open at a brisk pace. Somewhere it faltered early on. And never recovered after that! Shahid Kappoor tries hard to act and emote. And to be true to truth, he indeed has made a good effort. And it shows. Therein lies the problem ! Class acts make you think you are watching real people. Not ‘actors’ & their effort ! Juhi Chawla as a crystal ball gazer shows up, now & then. A role, i would imagine, she would like to forget in a hurry !

That apart, the movie has some pluses. There are no ‘stunt’ sequences. Some comedy. In patches that are quite apart from each other. But those scenes poke the funny bone and evoke laughter. Well, atleast a giggle. And then, there is Canada!

If you are the kind that is concerned about Global Warming etc, well, there is one speech, especially thrown in for you as well. Aziz Mirza’s reputation suffers a dent with this movie. So does every body elses. so does my wallet & time !

Sometimes, the battle with fate is lost even before it begins. Like when we chose to watch this movie.

I would like it to blame it all on Kismet. On fate ! Somehow, that seems a better option than leaving you infer about other faculties of the brain. Like Decision making, intelligence etc. We did chose to watch the movie, didn’t we ?!!

So there. Watch it or dont watch it, one thing that you can do is to, Blame it on fate !

Phew !