GENRE(S): Comedy | Drama | Romance

WRITTEN BY: Simon Beaufoy

DIRECTED BY: Danny Boyle

RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes


LANGUAGE(S): English | Hindi

Starring Dev Patel, Madhur Mittal, Freida Pinto, Anil Kapoor, and Irrfan Khan

No point writing about it now that it’s the biggest hit of the year, been put on a pedestal and named “feel good film of the decade”, and won four Golden Globes beating “The dark Knight” in various categories, and will probably win an Oscar or two.But, I have to vent my feelings out somewhere after looking at all this injustice!

SM was a mere formulaic film. It had all the elements of a B grade Bollywood flick or a Vijay film save the “punch dialog.” Right from the start till the end, it moved in either a predictable, or downright absurd fashion.

In my view, had any director from the west made a movie about or in India, he would have made it in the same manner, because that’s how the world looks at India. They believe India is a country filled with villages, slums, call centres, beggars, crooks, and the Taj mahal. All these elements have to be shown; else it is not the “real” India. He just showed it to you all the way you thought we were. It explains why none of you have been able to understand our culture when you watched movies made by our own directors, and why much better films such as "Lagaan", never made it beyond nomination in the Oscars.

The film relies heavily on flashbacks, and though it was mediocre, it could have been more entertaining if it lacked this pace slowing element. After a point I was just irritated. The narrative worked only during the first half.

Newcomer Dev Patel (the guy who played the adult Jamal) was nominated for his performance . For what joy? I don’t understand. The kid role was much better performed and more natural by a mile. DP is very obviously a chump who was brought up in the west who can’t speak Hindi fluently if his life depended on it. This coming from a south Indian, he can beat himself to death with that very globe he missed.

Danny Boyle has made a sincere effort to learn about Indian culture and I shall give praise where it is due. But, he could have gone about making the movie in a much better way, such as by not making the love element so cheesy, making the film in Hindi (guess that’s asking for too much but at least get a cast from India which has a believable Indian accent. They’re “slumdogs” as he’s put it.) From what I hear, Train spotting is a must watch(but so is SM, or so they say.)

Anil Kapoor very rightly didn’t try to imitate Big B, and saved himself from embarrassment. But, I ask you, which game show host repeatedly insults a contestant? Apart from this glitch, he suited the role fine.

Dev’s brother Salim (sounds funny huh :P ) was a poor show. No more comments.

Freida Pinto has exactly what a typical Bollywood(or any other Indian language film) female lead of yore is supposed to have;

1. Shouldn't know how to act.

2. Act dumb

3. Dance like a pro...no wait she can't do that. My bad I apologise


Rahman was his usual best for this movie and deserved the accolade he got every bit, not just for this but for all the work he’s done in his lifetime. But as a friend put it,"If SM, which was just one of his decent works, merits a GG, what’s he going to get for his best works such as “Roja” and Duet”?"

Coming to the song which played during credits, please tell me who the choreographer was so I can shoot him between the eyebrows. Or maybe the material he was given was so devoid of talent, he couldn’t mould them one bit. It was pathetic. I could have done a better job choreographing or dancing, and I'm not exactly petite and graceful on my feet. Worst part is that critics danced along to that song during the premiere. They also wrote that they’re going to request other directors of the west to end their films in the same manner. Puhleese! Imagine Batman and Joker dancing together and you'll see why that's such a bad idea! Also, do not have the notion that all Indian films end this way even these days, though a few do.

Now let me just say if this movie had released any other year, it probably would have deserved (pushing it a bit) all the rave reviews, back thumping, and crowd cheering. But this was the year of “Dark Knight”, and “Benjamin Button”! One had brilliant everything, and the other was one of the few movies which had the entire audience choking with emotion. I just don’t understand how the world prefers this trash to that.

I’ll end with the most positive outcome of this film. It has brought Indian movies to the fore. A friend told me that a lot of people in the west are watching Indian classics such as “Salaam Bombay” and “Lagaan”. If that really is true, and gets the top 1000 IMDB voters to rate Indian movies, maybe get a few to top 250 status. Well, I guess I can forgive Boyle and the critics then.

Overall rating: 7.3


Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring

Foreign films never cease to amaze me. It’s a pity English is the world’s common language. I find myself wishing it was Korean instead. Ok, I know I’m overdoing it now but that’s just how good the movie was. To quote a friend, “Give Hollywood a few million and they can only produce nonstop nonsense chick flicks”. Again, this is exaggerating it, but you get the picture.

The story is simple, but it has many layers, and if you haven’t studied Zen teachings, chances are that the movie’s message will be lost to you, as it was to me till I read up about it.

The entire movie is one life, moving linearly. The movie starts with two doors, sans walls attached, opening. The subtitle read “spring”. The scene is that of a houseboat, where a monk lives with his child disciple. To make the story short, the child learns to treat other beings with respect, and the monk has done a first class job teaching him.

The second season is summer. This part of the movie shows a mother entrusting the monk with her sick daughter, who she believes will be cured by the holy one. The movie moves on to show the child, now a teenager, wooing the girl, and ending his celibate life by making love to her. This seemed to be the right treatment for the girl, who makes a full recovery. The monk comes to know of this, and, expectedly not pleased. Here he says “Lust awakens the desire to possess, and that awakens the intent to murder “. He sends the girl home, much to the displeasure of the boy, who runs away to be reunited with her.

Next, as we all know, comes fall. This shows the boy, now a grown man of 30, coming back to his master, with blood on his hands. Angered at his wife for sleeping with another man, he stabs her and is now running away from the police. Unable to bear it, he tries to commit suicide, but is stopped by the monk. To bring peace to the young man, the monk tells his to carve out a Buddhist mantra on the floor of the houseboat, with the same knife he used to stab his wife. This, he says, is called Prajnaparamita Sutra. The police, who soon catch up to him, arrest him and take him away. The monk now commits holy suicide, which is now made to appear positive.

The final part of the cycle, next comes fall, when he returns, and resumes his celibate life. He is now entrusted with an infant, just like he probably was to his master.

The movie ends just as it began, which I interpret, is the Buddhist philosophy of the universe, not having a birth or an end, but simply dying and being reborn, over and over again.

Something I should say is that a mere review does not do this movie (I’m calling it that for lack of a better word), as it is much more than just a movie. What you have just read is simply a retelling of the story, with my own crude interpretations.

When the boy tries to commit suicide, it is made to appear foolish and premature, and he receives a beating for trying to do so. This type of suicide is just a means to escape from life when it gets difficult. Whereas when the monk does the same thing, it is like letting the soul out of the body and moving on to another life, and is considered holy. Now I can go on and on about it but not many readers will be interested. For those of you who are, follow this link.


Finally, hats off to director Kim Ki Duk, who, despite being a Christian, has brilliantly understood Buddhist philosophy, and made a mind blowing film about it.

Movie breakup does not apply here, as I am not worthy of rating this work of art :)

A must watch. Please do try to download it.


A Wednesday

Movie of the year

Bollywood is evolving, slowly, but surely. This movie came as a total surprise, and a pleasant one at that. From the length of the movie (95 minutes), to the absence of romance, unnecessary item numbers and other commercial elements, everything about it is refreshing. Not a movie one can forget very easily. While “Rock On” and “Phoonk” were cited as different themes, and the former was made without a great star cast and still managed to stand firm on its feet, WEDNESDAY easily beats them to top position. Yes, this is the most powerful movie made in 2008, and it has a sincere message too.

The story takes a while to settle down, but it delves right into the plot, and keeps you hooked right from start to end.

The entire film is based on the events which take place from 2-6 PM on a fateful Wednesday. Prakash Rathod (Anupam Kher), Commissioner of Police, Mumbai, gets a call saying bombs have been planted in various parts of the city, and in return for the information of where the bombs have been planted; the man wants four militants held in his custody, to be immediately released. Thinking it to be a crank call, he sets up a routine enquiry. A half hour later, all doubts are dispelled when they find a bomb in the police station right opposite his HQ.

A team of his best men are called to investigate the matter and the chief minister is asked to hurry to HQ. Attempts are made to trace the calls to no avail, as the man they’re dealing with is always a step ahead of them. Left with no choice, they succumb to his demands. A young, supposedly hip hacker (who comes off as a wannabe loser. This is one of the only faults I can find in the movie) is now hired to pinpoint the caller’s location.

If you think this is going to be another been there done that movies, think again. Twist after twist is thrown at you and you find yourself at the edge of your seat towards the climax. The story is very well written, and has been presented even better. Director Neeraj Pandey deserves a standing ovation, which I’m sure he got show after show in the multiplexes.

The performance of the two veterans in the movie is astounding, where Naseeruddin Shah easily stealing the show with his nameless character. Kher also does very well with the cold look on his face throughout the movie, and his performance on catching up to Shah in the finale. Shah’s performance over the years need not be spoken about, but this is easily one of his best. His outburst in the end is astounding, and this master sequence is easily the best scene in this movie.


The death of Media in India

Is a newspaper allowed a political orientation?

A good newspaper is one which does not follow an agenda. Unfortunately, that is exactly what every paper in our country is doing at the moment. There is not one paper in this country which is totally unbiased. The best selling paper in south India is a perfect example. Most of those in its higher echelons are avid supporters of the UPA. So much so that it is evident reporters are only employed based on their political orientation. Come Sunday and you are greeted in the magazine section with an article written by a high profile reporter lashing out at the “extremist” parties. It’s become as routine as brushing my teeth.

This apart, a certain afternoon daily in Delhi has a rule in its office that not a word should be said or written against Sonia Gandhi. Those offering unadultered praise of her are most welcome. Another in Gujarat has the same rule applying to the BJP. Now what kind of a paper can run itself with such a rule? Does not a newspaper have a social responsibility? And this is not a question of one paper or two. The entire multitude suffers from the same disease.

But wait, this is not the only problem plaguing the print media. I won’t hesitate to mention one particular name here. I’ve hated The Times of India from the bottom of my heart ever since I first set my eyes on a particular headline of theirs a few years back; “Brad Pitt voted world’s sexiest man”.

Such a paper should have stayed in business shorter than an anti- booze campaign in Ireland right? Wrong, it thrives better than prostitution in Amsterdam. This says a lot about what we want to read. A newspaper has to sensationalize in order to sell itself, but at the same time it requires substance, which is severely lacking today.

I can say what I want about TOI, but the fact remains that they are easily the largest selling paper in South Asia, and I do have great respect for its CEO(I refuse to call him editor as he is no journalist, he’s only an entrepreneur), Jaideep Bose, for his business philosophy “A paper runs to earn money for it’s share holders”, and his ability to implement it successfully, for their share prices are still right up there.

Now you might say that this is not a problem in India alone, but all over the world, and that people have resigned themselves to it. But I disagree. Abroad, you might find an article or two in a particular paper which is politically or religiously biased, but if it happens over a period of time, people over there are smart enough to recognize it and circulation will definitely decline.

Again, I’m not saying you do not have a market for such papers in the west, or that everyone over there looks for unbiased news. Just that you have a myriad of choices. If you find one sub-standard or bent paper, you can always move to another if you wish to. But that is not the case in India, as our choices are limited.

The god of Indian media (in my eyes), is Ramnath Goenka. Most of us have seen a portrayal of him in “Guru”. Please note that this is not any form of advertisement, as I am not employed to any organization, but one paper which I have been reading over the years, and does not seemingly show any political inclination, is the paper started by Goenka, i.e, “The Indian Express”.

Whether they did this honestly or dishonestly, or if I have just not been observant enough, is anyone’s say, and comments are welcome proving me wrong. Nevertheless, I enjoy reading IE as they provide news and gossip in the right proportions (again, in my opinion).

The media has been infected; there is no doubt about that, and it is largely a fault of the public, for actually letting the trash in the market survive. If I were to start a newspaper based on these ideals and went into circulation, sure as the fact that I will one day die, I shall soon be out of business, because nobody wants news anymore.

So if there are any wannabe journalists out there looking for advice from a stupid student of engineering with absolutely no experience in your line apart from being a daily reader, I would say: Don’t be inspired to try to change the system. If you’re going to start your own paper by sinking your life savings, don’t follow honest journalism. You have to be bent to get a reader base in this country. There are many like you who have tried and failed. You don’t have to be in that line, for trust me, you will fail.


The Shawshank redemption

One quality which both the film and the filmmakers possess is patience. Made in 1994, I’ve heard more about this movie in the recent past than I ever have before. The reason for this could be because two other movies released the same year; “Forrest Gump” and “Pulp fiction”, the former of which bagged five Oscars! It took half his character's prison time before Frank Darabont before he got what he deserved. Never have I seen a movie which took me to such great depths, and never have I felt so rewarded after watching a movie.

The presentation is such that the viewer feels he’s doing a life sentence along with the characters, and that’s the biggest compliment I can give to its makers. A moving story of hope, the reason why it’s so different from other movies of its kind is because it does not just talk about the restoration of hope but also shows that you truly need to believe in it. One concept it dealt with which I have not come across in too many other movies, is salvation, summed up beautifully as “salvation lies within”.

As the uptight banker, Robbins’ acting is extremely subtle, while his hardened friend, Freeman has a role which shows dignity (which he possesses naturally), and an extremely witty sense of humour. One more aspect which really appealed to me was that Robbins is the protagonist, while Freeman is the narrator. A format I haven’t seen earlier. Through Freeman, we are taken on a journey involving a startling discovery which leads to redemption, unlike most other movies which have a linear story which leads to a happy ending.

I’m betting Nasser’s role in Anbe Sivam was inspired after watching this movie, although the two movies have no connection in terms of story whatsoever, I digress because the concept of a villain who is extremely religious, god-fearing, downright corrupt and a total tyrant seemed like too much of a coincidence.

Freeman, who serves as the story’s timeline as we see the progression of his term through hearings at 20, 30 and 40 years, does not believe in hope. When Robbins tells him that hope is something you have to believe in and is something intangible. He replies, “Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.” And as he observes the amount of Robbins has to endure, I thought the story was downright pessimistic and cynical. This is highlighted even further when he is unjustly punished by the warden who is not willing to let go of the financial consultation that Andy has offered at dirt cheap rates.

But our man goes on because of his faith in himself and in god, and just when you think he’s at his lowest low, hope is rescued.

I won’t try to describe the story, as it will only make it seem like a depressing experience. But that’s the reason why the movie was so good, because of the methodical manner with which it showed us that hope is not to be lost. Agreed, we have all seen our share of inspiring movies, but Shawshank takes credit for its ability to speak more than all of them put together, and I’m not exaggerating. But let me not reveal anything, for you should watch the movie yourself to understand what I mean.

Hope is something beautiful, and one must never lose it. Andy showed Red, and Shawshank showed us all.


Screwed by a Volleyball

This was something which happened about 2 years ago. It was a swelteringly hot afternoon in “singara” Chennai. But the vettis and I were as always not studying and loafing around bessi. It was time for our daily stint at the beach and we were all sitting at 1 bum’s place. This bum wanted to learn how to drive my 1991 LML Vespa when he couldn’t tell a clutch from a brake! I obliged and sat him in the front. I expected him to do the usual:

1. Make me kick start cos he’s too weak to do it himself.

2. Complain about the lousy positioning of the brake and asymmetric heaviness of the vehicle due to the one sided engine.

3. Put vehicle in 1st gear, rev up more than necessary, release clutch and swear as the scooter lurches him forward before turning off.

1 and 2 happened as usual. But when he came to 3, he somehow managed to take the clutch wire as a casualty...I swore at him and we went inside after parking dear old Vespa.

The small hand of the clock was almost at 5. We were getting restless. It was time for our daily dosage of beach so we could get high and stay put on our backsides till one of our moms called and screamed telling us to come home pronto. So we tell bum to stay at home while I drop the other vetti K off on his(bum’s) bike and come back.

We’re cruising along the beach road at 40 Kmph, when a volley ball comes into our sight. K screamed his lungs out at me to slow down. Being the self assured driver that I am, I pay no heed and go on.

Half a second is a very short period of time. But its Long enough to realize that I was a fool and should’ve braked earlier. I saw my life flash past me(kidding :P ) as I ran over the ball and fell on my hand. My thumb took a large amount of the pressure and was twisted back. I got up and sat on the sidewalk groaning with pain. Most passersby were disinterested. After all, it was an accident involving 2 GUYS. Why would they care?! A few minutes later a couple of joggers came and asked if I was ok. I said I had to be taken to a hospital and get my hand checked out. One of them moved it around a bit and said “you’re fine get going”. But I knew my pain. I told K to get me to the Asian hospital 2 streets away. He obliged and took me there. X ray reports were made and a doc was consulted. He told me it was a Benet’s fracture and I’d have to put a cast on for 6 weeks.

You can imagine the reaction I got back at home. What with the entrance exams in less than a week! I was pretty depressed myself. But this part has a happy ending and I'm currently sitting in a pretty good college. But the incident was a major blow to my confidence as it was my first accident, and it happened to be on a sissy scooterette. This after boasting to anyone and everyone who listened to my exploits driving at 150 kmph(readers from abroad, that speed is pretty high in India). Every time I try to show off now, I’m made to shut up by being reminded about this one incident! Darn you dingbats!

So kids, a word of advice; you may drive fast and recklessly, but watch out for stray volley balls when you drive near the beach.Not cos they might screw up your exams but cos you can never brag abt your driving skills again :P


The Odessa file

Book-The ODESSA file

Author-Frederick Forsyth

Having read only one other of his novels, “The Avenger”, and half sleepily watching a movie adaptation of “The day of the Jackal”, I can’t claim to know Forsyth’s style of writing very well, but I did have high hopes for “The ODESSA file”, and F.F did not disappoint.

What I have noticed about F.F is that he’s amazingly brilliant, does his homework on whatever subject he’s writing on, and is THE master of plot.” The ODESSA file”, set in Germany in 1963-64, is about a secret society of the former SS of Hitler, who are hatching a ploy to bomb Israel with Egypt’s help. The protagonist is a freelance journalist from Hamburg by the name “Peter Miller, who, by chance comes into possession of a diary written by a recently deceased concentration camp survivor. Upon reading the diary, Miller’s outlook and attitude towards the Nazis change completely, and he vows to hunt down a man from the diary named Eduard Roschmann. Roschmann was an officer in the notorious SS, and became one of the heads of the concentration camp at Riga. Roschmann’s brutality and inhumanity earned him the nickname of “The Butcher of Riga.”

Thinking so, he takes out his life savings and sets out on his mission, only to find closed doors and unwilling compatriots everywhere, as many of the state and local government employees and policemen who control the information he needs are themselves either directly or indirectly involved with the SS. Seemingly in control of all of them is the ODESSA (Organisation der ehemaligen SS angehurigen), an organization of former SS dedicated to hiding, protecting, and aiding their own. Before long, Miller ends up on their radar and they determine he must be dealt with.

Before long, you find yourself immersed in world politics, war history, and you’re taken on a whirlwind tour of Germany and Austria. Forsyth was excruciatingly descriptive in “The Avenger”, and is no different here. You learn a huge load when you read the book, but the downside is that his way of presentation was almost academic, and I almost forgot I was reading a novel a couple of times.

Forsyth is known for his turn point climaxes, and yes, I did feel that way when I read avenger. But by my good luck or his lack of imagination (mostly the former), I guessed the climax well in the beginning of the book. That didn’t, in any way, spoil the fun of reading the book, for it has been brilliantly written. Even stuff like making a bomb or cracking a safe has been described in great detail, so I wouldn’t be surprised if an amateur blew up a car or robbed a house solely with the knowledge gained from reading this particular novel.

The similarity between avenger, jackal, and Odessa is that on one side there is a lone, driven man on a mission. On the other is the force trying to stop him at all costs. Forsyth’s skill lies in making all sides of the story fascinating, and effectively building the tension as the they head towards their inevitable showdown.

Towards the end in a few parts, Forsyth seems to have lost his touch, where he makes a few mistakes in storyline. Also, writing an English novel in a German setting can make things a bit difficult for the author, and it was downright odd when two locals of Hamburg conversed in British slang.

But now I'm a registered Forsyth fan.All doubts which I might have had about him after reading avenger were dispelled after reading “The ODESSA file”. Both were extremely captivating, and motivated even a descriptive novel hater like myself to get going.There’s even a movie adaptation which I’ll definitely check out soon.

Overall I'd recommend this to all fans of spy novels and historical fiction.