Looking for Love?

April 29, 2011

Book Review - 24 : Love over Coffee

Author: Amrit N. Shetty
Publisher: Penguin India

Anup, a happy-go-lucky boy next door, finds himself a misfit in an IT company. On the bright side, he has great friends in office- Chetan, Subbu and Parag - to help him out of sticky situations. Also, in the same office is the love of his life, Rajni. But Rajni's strict family and her paranoia of tongue-wagging colleagues play villain in their love story forcing him to be satisfied with clandestine meetings, secret phone conversations and emails. Just as Anup decides to turn over a new leaf, sinister happenings at work force him to take some life-changing decisions- to quit his job and pursue his long-cherished dream of becoming a writer; and also, to marry Rajni.

There are bad books and there are really bad books. And then there are books which makes you feel like burning them... after you have mustered enough courage in completing them. Trust me, there is nothing more exhausting than going through such painful experience of reading and then reviewing such books. Love over Coffee is a book that is deliberately designed to confuse rather than engage. It's esoteric in parts, and plain indecipherable in others. Everything about it is so astonishingly incompetent, you are bound to think about the people associated with it - what the hell they were smoking while publishing this junk?

The holes in the script are so big that even MCD will feel ashamed filling them in. The author never feels important to tell the name of this IT company or its exact location in Delhi or even give any pointers in which time period this story is set in. It is never fully comprehended why Rajni's parents are against their relationship neither there is a reason provided why suddenly Anup's parents stop pestering him for marriage. And this one takes the icing on the cake. He writes one story in a night which is, hold on to your breath, praised by Rajni and he thinks it's enough to leave his professional career and start working as an author. Ever talk about practicality, dude!!

It's hard to care for any characters because the emotions are never real. You don't bother for any of them because not only they have written carelessly, they are so frigging boring. Every time any character need to curse the boss or take out frustration, all friends go to a shady and cheap restaurant 'Shiva' as if they are living in some remote village of India and IT people get peanuts...that they can't afford to have a nice meal or a drink at a proper place. This is invariably preceded and succeeded by the customary half page description of the order they take to travel, who gets dropped first and last, every frigging single time.

Anup is the most stupid character you will ever come across in books. He is confused, used as doormat, can't code to save his professional life and don't have the guts to talk to his parents about his GF. It is such a half baked, pathetic character that you can pull out all your hairs from the root canal, you will still be searching for consolation. To make matters worse, you at least expect some chemistry between the main leads in a so called clandestine love story. But there is no let up in this moronic tale. Infact i was tortured out of my wits going through their scenes. They are written so monotonously, i won't blame you for not connecting with their so called superficial pain. And seriously, someone needs to tell the author that corny dialogues like 'Tum to bade woh ho" interspersed between the narrative is neither funny nor romantic. This is such poor writing, and i am surprised no one at the publishing house noticed it.

There is huge build up to a short film made for a presentation to the higher management. But even that turns out to be such a farce because no one from the gang of friends hardly bothers to do anything when the credit for it is taken away from them. After that, when the so called twist comes as late as 200 pages into the have clearly lost your patience to even appreciate it slightly, if at all you want to. There is zilch stability in thoughts as no particular direction is offered to the narrative to explore the minds of the protagonists.

I would like to take this opportunity to demonstrate the magnanimous nature of my personality. I am going with a generous 0.5/5 for Amrit Shetty's, Love over Coffee. It is a book which i read in appalled silence. It is dull and deary and there is absolute no saving grace in this travesty that's as memorable as a bad dream. If you are smart enough, exercise your right to buy books and stay away from this one completely. And idiots like me who invested in this novel should seriously think of legal options to sue the author. Such a shame!!

April 28, 2011

Movie characters we love to hate -1

Quite often, we come across certain characters in movies which you either love or hate, period. There is no middle path to relate to them. They are generally most talked about, continuously deliberated and still the opinion about them always remain divided. In this new film series, i will share thoughts on characters in movies which i have always found myself hooked to and fascinated with.

Maya (Rani Mukherjee) in Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna (2006)

A lot of people raised questions about the kind of women who is projected in KANK as Maya. She has a caring and devoted husband (Rishi, Abhishek Bachchaan), probably a rarity these days. Still, she don't feel anything for him...hardly reciprocate his feelings and later, fall into an extra-marital affair with another married man (Dev, Shah Ruk Khan). It was labelled as anti-Indian, dangerous to (sham) cultural values and an encouragement to have relations outside marriage. This basic conflict and point of contention is quite preposterous to me.

How can it be wrong for a women NOT to feel attracted towards a particular man, in this situation unfortunately, her own husband. Don't we know of women who are forced or emotionally blackmailed into arrange marriages or in the case of KANK , married to make the other family happy. Don't we know of women who don't feel attracted to men at any level - be it emotional or sexual...but still carry on the relationship all their lives. This is pretty much part of Indian culture, still the so called superficial torch bearers never see this side of the relationships. Or they refuse to see and acknowledge it.

Yes, you can argue that be it man or woman, you have to constantly work on the relationship to make it better. Non-attraction of any form should not be an excuse to stray away from the marital bond. This was probably my problem in the character portrayed - there was hardly any indication (except one, see next paragraph) about Rani working on the marriage even when she knew exactly what is not working in the relationship. But if you peel the layers of the film you will realise that the character is deliberately designed to confuse. KANK does not offer solutions, it unabashedly offers mirror to some pertinent loopholes in Indian arrange marriage structure. The character in itself is complex, but made even more engaging by the constant deliberations of Maya... in between being a good wife or an happy person.

Some people would say that the S&M act by Maya is an indication that she desperately wants to spice her married life with Rishi. But clearly the provocation of taking that plunge is provided by Dev, who himself is suffering from the inferiority complex of a disturbed relationship. The effort put in by Maya is just a sham; it does not arises from her own interpretation of a successful marriage but from the sensibilities pushed from another failed marriage. You can instantly tell why Maya fall for Dev; they both are covered extensively inside the emotional turmoil. Their problems are more in the minds; less in reality. He can't play soccer any more, she can't be a mother any more. He has a broken leg, she has a broken womb. He is sick of his wife being serious all the time, she is sick of her husband being funny all the time. He is embittered by his professional shortcomings, she is disappointed with her personal failings. They are imperfect people trying to find perfection in their respective marriages; in turn making it even more imperfect.

Watch the scene in which sitting in a dinner hosted by Sam, Dev utters the truth of his affair with Maya, but at the very next moment makes a joke out of it thinking about the consequences. This perfectly encapsulates the vulnerabilities of their relationship; one part which wants to break down all the barriers of previous relationships and another which wants to hold on to the sanctity of marriage.

I don't think it was a particularly good film; there were few loopholes in the script and was about 30 minutes too long for me. But that is the matter of another post. I wanted to convey the dichotomy of Maya's character. Because in the end, which ever way you want to look at it...only she can fully make you comprehend the film's basic premise - Perfect lovers don't make perfect husbands, you need perfect, or almost perfect love to make a perfect marriage.

April 26, 2011

Book Review - 23 : Family Values

Author: Abha Dawesar
Publisher: Penguin India

This saga of a Delhi family seen through the eyes of a young boy has all the expected passions - the rivalries, the betrayals, the hatreds and the odd moments of loyalty. The silent, observant boy notes his grandfather's consistent meanness to his sons and his daughters; he watches his uncle's greed and avariciousness, his aunt's resigned despair, his cousin's determined self-destruction. But the boy and his parents have created their small oasis of grace; amid the plywood and plastic of their mean surroundings are love, generosity and respect.

Family Values deliver some real, hard hitting notes about the problems pervading in the Indian society. Written from a point of view of a child who lives in an almost claustrophobic part-home, part-dispensary place, it exposes a lot of deceptive activities in the Indian society and administrative services. However, it is too long and take its own sweet time to unwind itself. In the end, what you get are some unpleasant emotions but too mis-mashed to enjoy them completely.

No character has a name to it. They are all given nicknames like Psoriasis, Paget, Sugar Mills, Six fingers, poop, Pariah and Flunkie Junkie. Even the city and street names are kept anonymous. This may be unsettling for a few readers as it takes time to place who-is-who in the story and start relating to them. Interspersed with the narrative are some interesting plot points - missing children in vicinity of a cannibalistic person ala Nithari case, multiple organ theft, arms-deal scandal, Jessical Lal murder style killing and kidnapping of an industrialist kid from his school ala Adobe CEO's son case. All these incidents, taken from the real-life cases, do provide some shock value but are hardly convincing because there are too many convenient coincidences merged with the boy's family. Moreover, they are written with a journalistic, almost exploitative sense without paying any adherence to the time period in which they have occur.

The tone of the novel is monotonous, almost prose style. It is dry and humour-less in parts, unconvincing in certain portions and likely to make you fidgety. There are too many portions alluding to SHIT - describing in detail about the shape, size, colour, odour of it. You do feel nauseated after a while with all this vivid description. In my case, i started skipping through the lines as the author started his customary half page description to it. Even then, it took me a long time, multiple sittings and lot of patience to finish this one.

I am going with 2.5/5 for Abha Dawesar's, Family Values. Not as shockingly engaging nor emotionally compelling as the author's previous efforts, it is a done-and-dusted kind of book which won't stay in your mind much after you are through with it. Read it if you must, but barge yourself with tons of patience first.

April 22, 2011

Book Review - 22 : Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro - Seriously funny since 1983

Publisher: Harper Collins India

In the 1980s, an unheralded Hindi movie, made on a budget of less than Rs 7 lakh, went from a quiet showing at the box office to developing a reputation as India's definitive black comedy. Some of the country's finest theatre and film talents - all at key stages of their careers - participated in its creation, but the journey was anything but smooth. Kundan Shah's JBDY is now a byword for the sort of absurdist, satirical humour that Hindi cinema just hasn't seen enough of. This is the story of how it came to be despite incredible odds - and what it might have been.

Jaane Bhi do Yaaron has been one of my all time favourite films. This black comedy makes a satirical attempt at the state of the nation, which is sadly as relevant in 2011 as it was in 1983 when it was first released. At the face of it, the movie has the best talents from both movie and theatre business working together in one project. Come to think of it - Naseer, Om Puri, Pankaj Kapoor, Satish Shah, Neena Gupta, Satish kaushik, Ravi Bhaswani and Bhakti Bharve (a big name in Marathi cinema at that time); each one more powerful than the other, but all at almost start of their careers. This book should have been a straight pick for me.

However, in recent times i have been skeptical to read any film related books. My previous similar attempts in this category have been a little disappointing to say the least. These include books like The Spirit of Lagaan by Satyajit Bhaktal (who has written and directed this week's new release, Zokkomon) and Bollywood - the Indian Cinema Story by Nasreen Munni Kabir (who has recently released A.R. Rahman biography, The Spirit of Music). The major reason why these books have left me underwhelmed was because you read so much about movies through newspapers, magazines and social networking websites; there is hardly anything new left to explore. Moreover, reading just about one movie in whole 200 odd pages can be clunky and exhausting. But when Bookchums provided me a copy for winning one of their contests to Jai Arjun's interview (penultimate question is asked by me), i decided to shun my apprehensions and take the plunge.

Divided into four different sections, the book starts from the various unplanned events which led to the making of this film. I was actually surprised to know how much work Ranjit Kapoor (director of Rishi Kapoor starrer, Chintuji) put in the film right from script to pre-production to the final release of the movie. The narrative interspersed with the conversations of cast and crew adds a unique dimension to the book.Apart from this, there are so many nuggets to savour from the book which could not make it to the final film: A talking Gorilla who analyses the human condition, A disco-killer (played by Anupam Kher) who is short-sighted and a few more funny moments with the DeMello's (played by Satish Shah) corpse. The pace is brisk, there is not too much dwelling on any incident and you are exposed to little stories which went in making this movie.

In the end, as the author has himself claimed, the books suffers from over analysis. After all, how much you can analyse each and every plot point without sounding repetitive. I seriously thought the book could have been structured a little differently. There are certain scenes which make umpteen appearances in various chapters when discussed with different point of views of film-making. Probably, this could have been avoided to make the book more concise. But with impeccable research about the movie, it keeps you engaged for most parts. There is an desirable charm and lightness in the tone of the book, which keeps you hooked.

I am going with 3.5/5 for Jai Arjun's Jaane bhi do yaaron - seriously funny since 1983. If you loved the movie, you will like reading the intricacies of it. It's a timeless cult classic, a movie to be seen 28 years down the line and still enjoyed as much you did the first time around. The book just enhances the experience to a new level. Don't miss out. And i look forward in reading more from the Harper Collins Film series soon!

April 20, 2011

Is common courtesy gender dependent?

I have never used my snap on the blog. No particular reason, it's just that i don't want to divert attention of the readers from my precious writing gems to an attractive personality. Point is, unless you are on my Facebook profile, it is quite unlikely that you will recognize me in a public place, specially if we are meeting by chance.

During last weekend, i attended the book launch function for a college friend who has released his debut novel earlier this month. Since there is always a parking problem around the venue, I decided to take Delhi metro to commute from Station X to Station Y, with 11 stations in between. At X+2 station, a fellow female blogger boarded the metro. Since she uses a snap on her blog, i instantly recognized her although clearly she was unaware of my presence (I know from the stats of the blog that she occasionally read my posts). She is one of those, what i love to call as finicky feminist (FF) - quite often doing serious men bashing on her blog. Fair enough, everyone has a right of expression and I don't have a moral right to draw boundaries on any particular opinions. Few months ago, she wrote a post criticizing Delhi men to be non-courteous, inconsiderate, inhuman and all those jazz words. And why, because they they sit on women reserved seats and sometimes do not vacate the seats even when asked for in public transports.

Got the picture! Now, back to Station X+2. Miss FF entered the coach and sat right across me on a general, non-reserved seat. Coach was very sparsely populated at this time and everyone had a seat. Station X+4 is a major interchange point to change metro lines and crowd generally pour in big numbers, specially on weekend evenings. Something similar happened at this station and soon, the coach was filled to its full capacity. Miss FF was still sitting on the seat, with i-pod plucked in her ears.

At Station X+6, crowd subsided a little and an old lady (must be close to 75-80) boarded the metro with a bag hung around her shoulders. She looked around, found all seats to be taken, frowned a little, and then finally looked at Miss FF expecting to vacate the seat. Apparently, most of the seats were taken by middle aged people and she was the only 'younger one' who could have vacated the seat. Miss FF looked at her, gave a smirk and went back listening to her favourite song, or it appeared so. I silently reminded myself of that post, chuckled inside and felt a surge of emotions at that moment. I was fuming with anger, i was laughing inside but there was lot of sadness as well.

I asked a kid standing in between the space of two seats to tell the old lady to take my seat. She obliged and i stood for the next four stations to reach my destination. Meanwhile, Miss FF must have left the metro at Station Y+1, which is the last station on that route. Now, i asked myself a simple question - Do the bashing rules apply only for men? Shouldn't it be the case that help is provided to a person who is really in need, irrespective of gender. And if she didn't provided help to an old lady, i am pretty sure she wouldn't have done this for an old man as well.

Common courtesy has become so uncommon. Here is a person, who criticizes one gender at the drop of a hat but cannot follow the same in her own life. Here is a person, who can so conveniently rebuke the opposite gender but can't offer the same considerate and polite behaviour to her own gender. Is common courtesy gender dependent? Are manners thing of the past? Is polite behaviour an indication for weakness? I really don't know. More i observe people, more appalling it becomes.

For a moment, forget about these gender stereotypes.You think of the simplest of things in life and you will find this at every turn of life. How many of us hold on to the door for the person coming behind you so that he/she does not barge into it accidentally? How many of us let the other person pass first from a narrow space so that he/she or you don't get hurt? How many of us say 'Thank you' to the waiter who serve food for us or pull chairs in posh restaurants? How many of us make sure to switch off the mobiles or avoid taking calls while watching a movie in the cinema hall?

Perhaps, i don't have a black hole for the heart, i can still feel these subtle nuances. But a callus heart surely leads to numbness. You cease to feel anything around you, including common courtesy.

April 19, 2011

Book Review - 21 : Johnny Gone Down

Author: Karan Bajaj
Publisher: Harper Collins

Nikhil Arya was an Ivy league scholar with a promising future at NASA. An innocent vacation turned into an epic intercontinental journey that saw Nikhil become first a genocide survivor, then a Buddhist Monk, a drug lord, a homeless accountant, a software mogul and a deadly game fighter. Now, at 40, he is broke, homeless and minutes away from blowing his brains out in a diabolical modern-day joust. Nikhil aka Johnny is tired of running. With the Columbian mafia on his trail and his abandoned wife and son 10,000 miles away, he prepares for his final act, aware that he will have lost even if he wins.

I guess whatever i am going to write down in this review will not be of much significance as far as the readership is concerned. The book has already been claimed as a best-seller, having reportedly sold 80,000+ copies thanks to an extensive PR exercise and cost which can even make the Barista coffee look doubly expensive. But should this be enough for a book to engage you? To ignore it's serious glitches, fatal flaws and cringing cliches?

The biggest problem with JGD is that it is less of a book with some credible story-screenplay, but more a book literally begging to be made into a Bollywood movie. Bajaj's first book, Keep off the grass is rumoured to be made into a movie for close to two years now even though nothing concrete has ever come out in public domain. My simple question is, as he has claimed in an interview at the back of the book - if you are not writing for money, and you don't want to write a book to get film contracts - why this Bollywood style screenplay and OTT twists and turns? Why all these compromises with the growth and transition of characters? Why these convenient coincidences spread all through the narrative?

It is not that book is a trash, far from it actually. The pace of the narrative is brisk, and the twists come flying from all directions which makes you ignore the pedestrian humour at times. There are some marvelous moments that stay with you till the end. The detailing of Nikhil's character is deep and distinguished, his cravings compelling. His musings interspersed with spiritualism, even though long and unwarranted at times, is still endearing because you really want to sympathize with him for all he has gone through in life.

However, it is difficult to believe that writer who came up with such layered subtlety is also responsible for gaping holes in the script. The narrative hustles from one plot point to another without providing any logic or character flair. Nikhil keeps whining all the time, doing hardly anything positive to improve his situation. People say he is super-hero, i say he is an idiot who keep repeating the same mistakes and get himself into trouble all the time. The transition to different countries is superficial as there is hardly any background characterization which makes you identify with those new settings. None of the other characters are particularly well defined neither they get any attention to be relatable.

The final act of the book where all loose ends come together is so contrived and bizarre, you really don't care a bit about the so called filmy transformation of Nikhil to Johnny. This is not because you are just so put off by this absurd and incoherent story trying to shove the coolness down your throats, but because the author has taken the audience intelligence for granted. One final thought, Let me spring the biggest question straight away, why the book was not named as 'Nikhil gone down'? Quite frankly, i don't know and by the end, i hardly gave a damn.

I am going with 2/5 for Karan Bajaj's second book, Johnny Gone Down. I secretly hope that one day, Karan Bajaj will read this post and provide a soothing balm to my distressed soul by answering these genuinely valid questions. Till that time, I guess we have to live with the fact that in today's times, just like our movies, advertising of books is far more important than content and quality.

April 17, 2011

Aditi Rao Hydari - You little beauty!

Avinash nervously fidgeted with the mobile. It's been a while since he has heard her voice. He was constantly deliberating to call her, Should he or should he not. May be it was not a good idea at all. She will be angry for being away for so long. Walking on the top of the mountain, he dialed and re-dialed her number, but failed every time. But it is not fair not to call her at all. She will be eagerly waiting for him to call, Should he or should he not. Finally, the thought of her fulgurous smile give him the kick, he dialed her number.

The phone started ringing, the call connected. She came online, slapping her hands in glee. She passed a dazzling smile, titled her head towards right, and a voice emerged from her soft, pesky lips, "Hi". Avinash eyeballs exploded in her head and he blanked out the next minute. She was as usual, calm as a lake surface, cool as an ice cube. He couldn't fathom what to say to her, Should he or should he not.

She instantly could make out his mind's muddiness. He was looking as dashing as ever, but she did not wanted to show her eagerness. She picked the coffee from the table in her left hand and put her right hand across the mug enwrapping it in her fingers, just like a mother holding on to her child. She looked at him with slight disdain, raised her chin and mildly chided him for being quiet, "Baat nahin karni thi to bulaya kyun?"

Avinash came close, literally trying to smell her fragrance, the smell which he can't forget after being away for ages. He directed her gaze towards the left side of her arm, right below the neck. His mind became a maze of emotions, it was there the last time when he contemplated to kiss it, should he or should he not. He forgot to exchange any pleasantries with her and bluntly questioned her, "Yahan par ek til hua kartha tha na".

She was in no mood to give up, he needs to be teased more for teasing her by not even calling. She knew he was busy, but how much time it takes to make one call, she consoled herself. Seeing his bewildered expression, she played on, "Mera til koi tumhara check-post to hain nahin, aaj yahan, kal wahan."

Avinash was taken back with her sudden outburst. "Can't she be a little nice?" after all we are talking after so long. But he kept looking at her cherubic face, those dusky eyes, those curvy earlobes, those silky hairs. At the next very moment, she took her left hand from behind to move those very hairs falling on the right side of her neck, gradually exposing the black mole. The mole containing years of friendship, waiting to cherish. The mole containing months of longing for each other, waiting to cease. The mole containing streams of love, waiting to crash. He kept looking at the mole, almost wanting to kiss her, should he or should he not.

She, in a flash, understood his carnal desires and moved closer to him. Her veins bulging out, her heart pouring out, her face pouting out, but still in a playful mood, "Captain Avinash Rathod, ek soldier ki nazar kabhi neeche nahin honi chaiye, kuch seekha nahin".

He blushed, he chuckled, he stymied. His friend chose that very moment to call him, 'Oye Avi, aaja'. He looked at her one last time, with hundred of half-baked ambitions in heart, with thousands of quarter-filled dreams in eyes. This time he gently chided her, "Tu rukh zara, tujhe aa kar dektha hoon". In a subtle way, he assured her like last time. He will be back soon, close to her, close to smelling her, close to that mole. With heavy heart... he said, "Bye". With heavy voice...she said, "Bye". He disconnected the call. She vanished. He miss her a lot, he need to tell her, should he or should he not.

PS: After playing Rama bua in Delhi-6 and Shanti in Yeh Saali Zindagi, Aditi Rao Hydari is back in the new ad for Airtel 3G advertisement intermittently played in breaks during IPL-4. They have a punchline,"Dil jo chahe, pass laye". I say, "Hydari de do, chahe jaan le lo Airtel walo" ;)

PPS: All the above notes are my personal, emanating from the overflowing romantic hormones in the past few days. Airtel is not responsible for any personal, professional , emotional or financial damage caused to me in this condition :)

April 14, 2011

Book Review - 20 : Urban Shots

Editor: Paritosh Uttam
Publisher: Grey Oak India

Urban Shots is an anthology of 28 short stories written by 13 writers which talk about different aspects of urban life varying from relationships, love, friendship, angst and longing.

Part 1 - Relationships

(1) "Hope comes in small packages" by Kainaz Motivala of Ragini MMS fame takes an unexpected route to fight depression in marital life and recounts the coming back of care and affection between the couple. (2) "The right thing to do" by Paritosh Uttam (PU) is a short, punchy, no-nonsense story about the justice and equality, sophisticatedly written. (3) "Liberation" by Malathi Jaikumar (MJ) is one of my favourite in the book. It deals with the issue of marital abuse in a non-preachy, humorous way and ironically shows how religious bigotry can sometimes be not such a bad thing to have in your hands. (4) "Notes of Discord" by PU left me a little underwhelmed because even though i don't have a moral right to pass judgement on how to resolve conflicts in marriage, this one reeked of retribution with your better half even though it is of a milder form. (5) "It's a small world" by Ahmed Faiyaz (AF) is a loud, action-packed story but with lot of OTT sensibilities. Things were deliberately allowed to go out of hand, seems each of them wanted to pick a fight for one reason or another. (6) "Replay" by PU is a cute, little story portraying slice of Mumbai life, very relatable and equally poignant. (7) "The biggest problem" by PU is about the vicissitudes of life seen from the point of view of an old man living in a small apartment with little facilities at disposal. Very detailed, humorous and told with lot of panache and craft.

Part 2 - Love

(1) "Morning showers" by Bishwanath Ghosh (BG) is a slow, sensual story about post-coital moments between two married people (not to each other) who finally realise the uncomfortable psyche and their failed attempts at owning up to their actions. (2) "Heartbreakers" by PU is about 'setting up' of two people on a trekking trip by a group of friends. Short, but entertaining and engrossing. (3) " a fast lane" by AF is an almost perfect way to show how the relationships have devalued in the younger generation without feeling any guilt or inhibitions. (4) "Serendipity" by PU is the best story in the book, about meeting (or not!) of two people with a backdrop of 'Crime and Punishment', a novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. (5) "Slow Rain" by Abha Iyengar recounts the tale of a married, bored-to-death housewife who is going through an inner conflict while pondering to attempt an extra-marital affair with a bookshop owner. Extremely engrossing.

Part 3 - Friendship

(1) "Apple Pies and a Grey Sweater" by Prateek Gupta, best story in this section, is about unspoken love between two people who still has lot to offer to each other emotionally, even after being together long enough. (2) "Love-all" by Kunal Dhabalia (KD) is straight out of Karan Johar school of scripting where Dosti hi asli pyaar hain and all that jazz. (3) "Moving on" by AF in its spirit is Dil to Pagal hain - Part 2, period. (4) "The Untouched Guitar" by Sahil khan is a standard college tale of I-loved-when-college-started-i-realised-when-college-is-ending types, you got the drift naa, cool. (5) "Between Friends" by PU, though not in the same league as his other stories in the book, still provide a moment or two of content and fun.

Part 4 - Angst

(1) "Just average" by MJ is a story of a women who has lead an ordinary life, only realising her inner strength when she finally stand up for a wrong doing in front of her. (2) "Stick figures" by Vrinda Baliga (VB) is a sweet little tale of dealing with child and their eccentricities, thereby learning from it. (3) "A cup of Tea" by PU portrays typical gender stereotypes of Indian men and women in their every day lives, though still sticking by to preserve the institution of marriage. (4) "The enlightened one" by Hasmita Chander is a dark, yet endearing portray of dealing with deep ridden guilt and trauma. It has a surreal, spiritualistic feel to it. (5) "Dialects of silence" by VB is the best tale in this section. It tells about the hardships faced by the parents in their love life and is told from the eyes of their child. (6) "The house in Ali Bagh" by Rikkim Khamar is arguably the weakest tale in the book. It tries to be too mystic, too philosophical and too cool all at the same time, ultimately making mess of a decent story.

Part 5 - Longing

(1) "Women in love" by BG can be described in two simple lines - Women in love can talk, talk and talk & no men can ever comprehend those talks. (2) "Effacing memories" by PU turns out to be too simplistic and the emotions are mostly contrived, the weakest story by the writer in this edition. (3) "Trial And error" by Naman Saraiya is best described by the quote at the end of the tale - Love and sex are the two things that make people hang up. (4) "Driving Down the memory lane" by KD is about a couple on a bike trip in one night and the possibilities they explored in their mind about each other. It left me asking for more and with due respect to PU, i think this has been mercilessly edited and could have been a real impact story. (5) "A Mood for love" by PU is a standard Bollywood triangular love story of 2 heroines and 1 hero, period.

I feel the best way to enjoy the book is to read each part in one sitting, arguably enhancing the experience of these short stories. If you try and read the book in one go, the stories towards the end may give you a feeling of emotional repetitiveness. Also, i don't know whether it finally came down to a production/financial issue to limit the number of pages, but the font-size of the book definitely needs to be one point up. The long portions without paragraph break in certain stories may be claustrophobic for some readers, as was the case with me at times. I am going with 3.5/5 for this anthology, Urban Shots. This book definitely deserves a shot!

April 13, 2011

Bollywood Best Lines - 4

Mein sab kuch bedroom mein hi kartha hoon ...I am a very lonely men, you see.

(A sexually repressed Rajesh Khanna, Red Rose,1980)

Woh mujhe 'customise' nahin kartha, jaisi hoon waise rehne deta hain...meri saari badtmeezon ke sath.

(A hysterical Kangna Ranaut, Tanu weds Manu, 2011)

Children are never useless. It is just that they are used less.

- Faltu (2011)

(Dara Singh in Prison) Sahab, paani pila do? (A tyrannical jailor) kyun, kal hi to pilaya tha!

-Mard (1985)

Jo bhi karna apne Dil se karna....kyunki dil left mein hota hain lekin hamesha right hota hain

-Knock Out (2010)

Women are sex objects before marriage and after marriage. They always object to sex.

-Kambaqht Ishq (2009)

Neeche popat khada hain aur tu idhar udhar dekh raha hain....

-Kya Kool hain hum (2005)

Tujhse badi item koi hain nahin India mein, pata hain na tujhe.

- Jab we met (2007)

Tumhara naam kya hain, basanti?

- Sholay (1975)

Woh aakar gire hum par bijli ki khambe ke tarah....khuda ki kasam, current ka bhi mazaa aa gaya

- Dil (1992)

Waise bhi cake khaane ke liye hum kahin bhi jaa sakthe hain!

- Dil chahta hain (2001)

Apun ka to bad luck hi kharaab hain..

- Rangeela (1995)

Aap bhi kamaal karthi hain maaji, ek pal mein beta kahan aur doosre hi pal paraya kar diya

- Dilwale Dulhania Le jaayenge (1995)

Suno Suno Duniya ke Logo, Sabse bada hain Mr. GOGO....crime master GOGO

- Andaz Apna Apna (1994)

Sanjay Dutt bashing up goons, exhausted, soaked in blood when Lara Dutta interrupts - "Yeh masla kya hum baat-cheet se solve nahin kar sakthe hain kya!!

- Blue (2009)

Chela jaate jaate guru ko sikha gaya...

- Anand (1972)

Yeh bacchoon ke khelne ki cheez nahin hain, haath kat jaaye to khoon nikal aata hain

- Waqt (1965)

Oye, don't worry. Khurana sahab loves you yaar....

- Khosla ka Ghosla (2006)

Mera naam hain raaj patil rajaa.....aur kya hain na ki raaja ko prajaa kabhi dhokha nahin de sakthi.

- Kya yahin pyaar hain (2002)

(Dippy Sagoo) Mein Viren ko 5 saal se jaanthi hoon.... (Sridevi) Aur mein unhe tab se jaanthi hoon jab mein 5 saal ki thi

- (Lamhe, 1991)

"Tu sad-sad kyon hai, happy-sad kyon nahi?
Hum sad kyun hote hain? Kyonki mann bhaari hai, heavy heavy!
Mann kab heavy, heavy hota hai? Jab mann ko koi hurt karta hai!
Mann ko kaun itna hurt kar sakta hai? Jo mann ke very very close hota hai!
Mann ke very very close kon hota hai? Jiske sang mann very very happy feel karta hai!
Happy tha, isliye sad hai na, So be happy-sad not sad-sad!"

(Swini Khara to Amitabh Bachhaan, Cheeni Kum, 2007)

Rishtey Kabhi gurantee card ke sath to aate nahi hain, kaun kitne der tak chalega

(Irfaan Khan, Life in a metro, 2007)

Pyar koi race nahi...jisme pehla, dusra, tisra,...Pyar sirf pyar hota hai...sirf pyaar

(Shahid Kapoor, Yeh Dil Maange more, 2004)

Iss party mein sabhi bade logon ko invite karo....aur haan Mr. R.K. Gupta ko zaroor bulana....kyunki woh abhi TAK bade aadmi hain

(AB to Rakhi, talking about Sanjeev Kumar, Trishul, 1975)

Jaane se pehle ek aakhri baar milna zaroori kyun hota hain
(Love aaj Kal, 2009)

April 11, 2011

Indian Premier League - Season 4

The first weekend of IPL-4 has finished. Each of the 10 teams have played at least once, giving an indication how the teams stack up after an interesting auction in Jan earlier this year. If I have to take a punt based on the squads and first match performance, here is my top 4 - Chennai Super Kings (CSK), Mumbai Indians (MI), Kolkata Night riders(KNR) and Pune Warriors (PW).

CSK and MI, no doubt are the two best sides in the competition. They have depth in batting and bowling departments, have calm leaders at helm and have very little distractions off the field. CSK and MI no doubt will miss Murali (who is now playing for Kochi Tuskers) and Zaheer (who is back with his IPL-1 team, RCB) respectively. It will be interesting to see how they go in this season when they are favourites to make it to the final 4.

KNR lost their first game against CSK on Friday and it turned out to be the closest game in the first round of league games. They have been the most professional and clear cut in the selection of players during the Jan auction and it is evident from the fact that they have selected only 21 including just 7 foreign players. They have realised that there is no point of carrying so many players, some of them who will never get a chance of playing in the tournament and who may create negative energy. They are likely to be even further strengthened after 13 April when Australia-Bangladesh ODI series will be over. However, their problem has never been with players but ultimate selection of the final playing 11. They again made a blunder in the first game by selecting only 2 foreign players and asking Gambhir to play at no.6. They have been underdogs for some time, and by the law of averages, their time has arrived.

Pune warriors won comfortably yesterday against King11 Punjab. They used 7 bowlers, which did not included Left arm spin of Yuvraj and off spin of Graeme Smith. Their depth in bowling is amazing considering that they lost Ashish Nehra and Angelo Matthews due to injuries even before their tournament started. Only glitch is that they are not playing even a single home game at Pune - all those matches are scheduled in Mumbai. But that can turned out to be a blessing in disguise and they can play more freely to reach final 4.

I hate to say this, but Delhi Daredevils and Kings 11 Punjab are looking the weakest. And this takes us back to the Jan where the selectors sleep walked in the auction. They neither retained the existing players nor bid aggressively for most of the other competitive game-changing players. Result is pretty evident from their first matches where they were completely outplayed.

PS: IPL is known for mixing the entertainment with cricket. But sometimes, it gets frigging hilarious and extremely idiotic too.... Sample these:

1) SET Max Presenter to Dilshan: So, would you like to hit some DLF maximum today?
Dilshan to him : yes, i would like to hit some DLF maximum today (duhhhhhhhhh...)

2) SET Max Anchor to Trivedi: So, you were bowling really slow. Pitch is getting slow, isn't it?
Trivedi to her : yes, pitch is getting slow. Hence, i was bowling really slow (Right, vital information!)

April 6, 2011

Book review - 19 : Kkrishnaa's Konfessions

Author: Smita Jain
Publisher: Westland Publications

Kkrishnaa is the 20-something, impulsive,gutsy and unapologetically ambitious scriptwriter of television soap operas. She desperately wants to retain her long-running primetime show Kkangan Souten ke. But her creative director is threatening to hand over the pen to Kkrishnaa's erstwhile love and current adversary, Dev Trivedi. She must find inspiration to overcome her writer's block and to keep the show. So she decides to spy on her neighbours, a decision that unfortunately leads to her witnessing a murder. And hence ensues a rambunctious, roller coaster ride as Kkrishnaa desperately attempts to keep her job, resist Dev's charms - and, oh yes, avoid getting killed.

Kkrishna is definitely the most fun-filled written character i have come across this year in Indian fiction. Uninhibited and spontaneous, she is the soul of the book, its biggest strength, as her character is not just brought out with lot of smart lines but kind of candor Indian writers seldom invest in female characters. Reading her unethical, illegal, soulless, manipulative will surely say, 'It's just so bloody good to be bad these days'.

I have never been a fan of those regressive saas-bahu serials. They are responsible why i stopped watching Indian TV serials for close to 8 years now. I personally feel they have very little creativity, highly impractical in their portrayal of drama and let's not even go into the murky details of plagiarism where they blatantly rip-off from movies to sitcoms, both Indian and American. But even though KK is based in the background of a TV serial and it's main protagonist is a script writer, it is actually a mystery thriller with lot of twists and turns interspersed in the narrative.

The problem of reviewing murder mysteries is that as little as one can reveal the plot of the book without giving out the spoilers galore. But i must say it is one book that constantly surprises you, a book that never shows away all its card at once and a book which never stops unraveling itself as the narrative unfolds. That doesn't mean it is a literary masterpiece, far from it actually. But this chic-lit does engage you and occasionally entertain as well. The sexual chemistry and constant bickering with Dev is neatly captured and their conversations are the best bits in the story. The fast pace doesn't really allow you to think how impractical the situation is turning in the narrative at times.

The thing which hurt in the end is the book's length, which could have been cut down by good 70 odd pages. The portions where it side-tracks itself into the serial drama Kkrishna is brewing in her mind even as she is busy solving the murder mystery turns out to be long and weary. Apart from Dev and Kkrishna, other supporting characters are painted with broad strokes and ultimately become caricatures in this otherwise offbeat caper.The BDSM scene at Kkrishna's boss hotel room is written with over-the-top sensibilities and is a little too difficult to digest. The author definitely suffers from what i love to call as 'verbal diarrohea'. There are portions where the point is hammered for long and for very little rewards, that's where you like to shout, 'Move on, women'.

I am going with 3/5 for Smita Jain's first book, Kkrishnaa's Konfessions. It is a book with many layers and you're unlikely to be bored. Read it once with an open mind, enjoy and forget it. If not for anything else, at least the mad masti is back in the reading with this one and for that very reason, deserves to be given a chance!

April 5, 2011

Bleeding BLUE has never been this good....

India, the 2011 WC champions - It has finally sunk in!!

Unlike 1983 win, this triumph was more or less expected. But to overcome those expectations, and that too in some style by beating all the previous WC winners - West Indies, Australia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka was icing on the cake. Contrary to the popular media belief, i don't think Sri Lanka was the best team to made into the finals. They had pretty easy Q/F and S/F against non-Asian teams in England and New Zealand respectively who have traditionally always struggle in sub-continental conditions, and more so in Colombo where these matches were played.

A lot have been said about Dhoni captaincy, Kirsten calmness, Sachin greatness, Yuvraj flamboyance, Raina fearlessness, Harbhajan aggressiveness and Gambhir gutsy display. But for me, the player of the tournament was Zaheer Khan - the unsung hero of this WC win. Apart from those last 5 overs in the final, he was always spot on with line and length and provided crucial, sometimes magical break-throughs. This win is special, coming after 28 years, first time for a lot of people of my generation. But does it really change things in this country? Does it really make a difference to a nation plagued by scams and corruption? Does it change the way other sports are perceived in India? I don't know about all that. What i do know is the way this win makes a difference in a monotonous, almost passive life of 1.2 billion Indians.

Yesterday all through the day, i made a point to observe people closely everywhere. And i realised even though momentarily only, suddenly something has changed in their lives. More confidence, more laughter, more jokes being cracked, less cribbing wives, less irritated colleagues, less nagging girl-friends. May be this is just for a few days or weeks. But the way almost every Indian was beaming proudly, with broad shoulders, with that unbeatable was mesmerising. Just what a cricket win can do in the lives of a common man (and woman) in India. May be i am taking this a little too far, but hell, which Indian cricket fan don't !!

Indian team have hell lot of cricket in the next one year, with tours to West Indies, England, Australia and possibly Pakistan (if there is a revival in cricketing ties). Along with this, West Indies and England will be touring India in Oct-Mid Dec period. Add to this, IPL-4 and Champions League T20-3 and you know the picture. But no other win is BIGGER than this win, no other win will be BIGGER than this win, this is the pinnacle and we have the bragging rights of being at the top for next four years. Enjoy this, INDIA....BLEED BLUE !!!

PS: After reading this piece of news, i can safely say there is no difference between Justin Bieber and Shahid Afridi. One sings S.H.I.T, another one talks S.H.I.T. Don't trust me, watch this and then watch this and draw your own conclusions. For me, this double standard is exactly the reason why the cricket matches between India and Pakistan will never be less than war. In such a scenario...... Aman ki Asha and all that jazz, well, JUST trash it. We are the bloody WC champions for the next 4 years, let's keep celebrating and let others keep cribbing!! :)

April 1, 2011

Book Review - 18 : Dork - The Incredible Adventures of Robin 'Einstein' Varghese

Author: Sidin Vadukut
Publisher: Penguin Books

In April 2006 Dork, a stupendously naive but academically gifted young man graduates from one of India's best business schools with a Day-zero job at the Mumbai office of Dufresne Partners, a mediocre mid-market management consulting firm largely run by complete morons. Through a stunning series of blunders, mishaps and inadvertent errors, Robin begins to make his superiors rue the day there were driven by depression into hiring him. He also realizes that the one-sided relationship with B-school batchmate Gouri Kalbag might be over before it even started. Will he manage to achieve his short-term goal of being promoted to associate in under a year? will love conquer all?

Let me warn you that it is a polarizing book. You will either love it or hate it. For starters, it has the exact problem as Amit Varma's My friend Sancho. Lot of witty, sarcastic and funny moments in the narrative but hardly any concrete storyline. Set up in the backdrop of management consulting, it traces the first year at work for Robin who has passed MBA from a premiere institute in India in 2006. Written in the form of diary entries, it traces the funny and not-so-funny experiences in his life at Dufresne Partners.

And since no Indian debut novel can be complete without a love story thrown in, we have an almost invisible love track of Gouri, which i am quite sure, was added as an after thought in the book. In fact, you can take out her track completely from the main story and will realise that nothing will happen to Robin's ultimate goal of becoming an associate in one year. Most of the characters except Robin are poorly developed and have very little to show in terms of growth or transition. They move in and out of the narrative at their own whims and fancies, have very little to contribute to the main plot and none of them are particularly relatable. I agree that it is not a book about perfect relationships, in fact most of them here are quite superficial but they should have been given far more space to create any kind of impact.The ending is abrupt and disappointing but considering that 2 more books are coming up in this series, this may not turn out to be a farce.

The only saving grace is the titular character of Robin. There is a heavy dose of gaalis and gags in his (mis)adventures at the workplace and there are some real funny digs taken at the management consulting companies. His goofiness and comical situation with fellow colleagues will keep you in spits all throughout the book. His observations about the dressing sense of employees, work ethics (or the lack of it) of his peers, usage of internet and social networking websites to implement work assignments; all this has an endearing quality. One major roadblock is the over usage of MBA jargons which some people will find too contextual and hence, it provides a risk of alienating them with the jokes.

And therein lies the truth somewhere, that this is not so much a book as it is an interesting concept of strapping in all the diary entries. To be made into a proper book, it required a far more credible screenplay and properly developed supporting characters. It is only with the extra-ordinary humorous take on the corporate life, this book hooks you till the end. It is a racy, funny ride which you won't mind taking on but will ultimately leave you with a sore bum.

I am going with generous 3/5 for Sidin Vadukut's first volume of the Dork trilogy, The incredible adventures of Robin 'Einstein' Varghese. If you are one of those type of readers who don't care much about the lack of a storyline and just want to have FUN, you will surely enjoy this one. For my types, who needs logic and a concrete screenplay, it will leave you with bit of a disappointment. Till the next Robin adventure happens, I better stick to Domain Maximus blog.