Looking for Love?

October 28, 2011

Book Review - 52 : The Ancient Book

Author: Parikshit Rane
Publisher: Frog Books

The Ancient book is like that quick take-away meal which will satisfy your hunger but will leave you wanting more out of it and i mean that in the best form of the word. It is a fantasy fiction novella that transports the reader into a magical world of Angdom and the gruesome colony of Satan called Lyncastia that is increasing at an alarming rate. A magical dark cloud prepared by Queen Witch Gilda hovers over all the captured territories and has the ability to shower acid rain or fire from the clouds. Gilda controls the clouds from the confines of Satan's castle through a magical mirror. Satan's castle is encircled by magical thorns that are growing wider and wider.

King Zius, the King of Angdam and the world, is the protector of the Ancient Book, a tome that has all the answers to protect the earth. When the tome falls in wrong hands, hell breaks loose. The universe works in mysterious ways helping him restore it back from the evil Satan. King Zius' daughter, Sara plays a major role in this war to bring back normalcy on earth. The aliens too help King Zius due to their deep-rooted connection with him. A new era beckons, but not before it changes the various dynamics of the Satans.

The narrative is kept at a tight leash, with screenplay moving at a brisk pace. I particularly enjoyed how the writer kept a few things deliberately unspoken to create a feeling of mystery around the characters. Developed from a poem written by the author itself, it wastes no time in delving into the characters and straight away action follows. It transports you bang into the middle of the crazy situations and you are blown away by the honesty with which each character is handled. I wish it was much longer than it current form, and certain portions were developed sufficiently to create a better impact on readers.

I am going with 3/5 for Parikshit Rane's, The Ancient Book. It will transport you to the fairy tale land which we used to adore in our childhood. At 80 pages odd, this novella will keep you hooked and engrossed for most of the time. Go ahead and rekindle the child inside you!

October 27, 2011

Book Review - 51 : Are you the one for me?

Author: Chital mehta
Publisher: Diamond Books

Having lived in a dream world where everything seems perfect, Khushi is heart - broken when Rohit, her boyfriend of two years, dumps her for another blonde. Since then, she resolves to seal her heart for love convinced that she would never fall in love ever. Just when she moves on with her life surrounded by friends who help her our to mend her broken heart, she meets Jai, Mr. Perfect - her boss. At least, that's what Khushi thought about him. Despite her initial resistance, she falls in love with him. Disaster hits her again when she learns that he doesn't feel the same way about her. This time, Khushi decides on a stronger note that love was just not meant for her. And then, Manav, a carefree guy, steps into her life who promises to love her in every possible way. After being heart - broken twice, which still hurts, will khushi give love another chance knowing that it could be risking her heart again for the third time ?

The book takes you through the story of its lead protagonist, Khushi through ups and downs of love life. Plain, simple, straight forward thoughts punctuate the narrative with the story told in a linear manner. The story moves forward through a series of contrived 'meet-cute' moments between the leads and there is so much mumbo jumbo about relationships (or the lack of it) that i felt inside an Archies shop browsing through the cards. Khushi's friends are straight out of American sitcom - no real care in the world and all cliche ridden. Apart from some enjoyable moments between the girl and Manav, the book fails to engage for most of the time. It is one more addition to the 'oh-i-want-to-tell-my-love-story' genre.

I am going with 2/5 for Chital Mehta's, Are you the one for me? It does not offer anything new in terms of story or screenplay content, but if you are a fan of Bollywood kind of pulp will not be disappointed. For me, it is a tiring rehash of a format which is published so much these days, you have very little left to chew on. Only thing which you can appreciate after reading this one is the sincerity with which author has penned it down.

October 26, 2011

Old Writings, New Updates, Same Diwali.

1. My post - Is common courtesy gender dependent? will be published in the next edition (Volume 2, issue 2) of Verse and Verbs Magazine. This will be out in the market by first week of November.

2. My book review (in an edited form) of Ashwin Sanghi's Chanakya Chant will be published in the next edition of the novel. You can read the detailed review here and do catch the novel soon, if you haven't. The rights of the novel has been acquired by UTV and the movie will be directed by Ashutosh Gwaorikar.

3. My Short story for Chicken Soup for the Indian Couples' Soul is finally seeing the light. All the editions of the CS were delayed by few months because of licensing issues with CS-USA. The book will now hit the bookstores by February end. More on this in a previous post here.

Wishing everyone happy and prosperous Diwali. This is my fifth consecutive go-green Diwali. (Helped generously that i was not in India on three of those occasions!) I intend to keep it same till i have kids who want to burn fire-crackers. That reminds me i have to get married!

October 25, 2011

Ra.One - A new genre beckons Bollywood?

In the past few days, i have been asked this question a little too often - Why this silence over Ra.One from my side? No tweets, no blog-posts, no Facebook updates. The reason is pretty simple and something which i have followed more or less all the time in the past. I have never understood the fascination of doing post-martum of a movie before seeing it. I think each movie should be judged on its merits irrespective of the hype around it. That, i believe is the best way to not only enjoy a flick but do some pertinent analysis later on.

That brings me back to Dabaang, a movie i was extremely critical when it's first trailer came out last year. My first and an almost, instantaneous reaction was more directed towards the star than the movie. But i did stuck to my guns of not getting carried away with the hype of a movie, I was not excited enough to see Dabaang. And it was not till this June i finally managed to catch it on DVD with few friends. I thought movie was strictly average, but Salman was terrific in it. How you wish he can use this star power to get better movies made? But, i digress.

Now, is definitely not the first time a super-hero movie is being made in India - Krissh and the most recent, Robot are the two flicks which straight away come to mind. But in a way, could very well start a new genre of super hero films in India. Our mythology is full of such characters and i believe, Ra. one is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more stories to be explored, more super heroes (and hopefully super-heroines) which can be translated on the screen. It just have to be started.

Here are some of the reactions and questions i have heard in the past few weeks leading up to release. My reactions to the same:

Q1: will be a flop. There is too much marketing going on, SRK is everywhere.
A1: Sounds trashy to start with... SRK has always been all over. This is nothing new, it has been the same since past 15 years or so. He has danced at weddings, promoted brands ad-nauseam, and have hosted abysmal TV Shows (Remember Jor ka Jhatka early this year!). But still the brand value has remained untouched. Like it or not, that is star power. Too much marketing has never affected fortunes of a film. In fact, in an industry where the box-office collections have become restricted to first week becomes even more imperative to do aggressive marketing.

Q2: Ra.One is too costly. It can't recover 150-200 crore as investment.
A2: This could just be partly true, specially if the initial reaction to the film is negative. However, the movie has already been sold for 35 crore for TV rights and going further, in association with 40 brands, the producers have pocketed another 45 crore. This takes the total revenues to 80 crore already. So in net, it just requires 100 odd crore to break even, which is predicted to be the revenues in the first 5 days considering the advance bookings in over 1500 screens in India and abroad. So the loss is out of question. The only point remains, will it be able to make profits?

Q3: has scenes copied from Hollywood films. Even the poster is copied from Batman Begins.
A3: This is true, but then when we have not copied from Hollywood films? The list is endless. What should matter in the end is how the movie engages you in its 150 minutes running time. I am not supporting plagiarism, but there have been worse Hindi movies made even after copying. At least, attempts to take the genre and the work in it seriously and most importantly, to a next level.

Q4: What is this craze of all about - video games, merchandise, T-shirts? Just release the damn movie.
A4: It is not maniacal approach to promote a movie, it is a simple two-fold marketing strategy. First, to get in revenues before the movie releases and secondly, to create enough buzz in keeping the audience engaged before they finally watch it in big screen. In Hollywood, for years super-hero films are preceded and succeeded by such marketing activities. We are just seeing the first instance of it here in India. Being first doesn't mean you are wrong, it means people are just getting used to it.

Q5: What's a big deal in seeing It is just another Diwali release.
A5: That solely depends on how big movie buff you are and exactly which section (mass entertainment or classy cinematic experience) your priorities lies. is important from a futuristic point of view. If this works, we will have more super-hero films made, with bigger special effects and better technologies. If this works, we will have a window open to a genre which is neglected in our cinema so far. If this works, may be...just may be, we will have better action movies made in India.

PS: Was no fan of Farhan Akthar's Don (2006) but the second trailer of Don 2 looks promising. Car chases, free falls, guns and the girls. Bring Christmas Early!

October 9, 2011

Book Review - 50 : The Storyteller of Marrakesh

Author: Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya
Publisher: Tranquebar Press

Good books should give me a sensory head rush, they should set my brain rolling after a drab day at work. They should force me to think, don't allow me to breathe for a few moments. You know, a good book is one which should allow me to forget everything; be my boss, my work, my family, my worries. If such a thing happens, the book is working for me. Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya's lastest book is one such piece of literature which will not only provide you with an exciting story but gives you insights, an exclusive window into a new world.

Each year, the storyteller, Hassan, gathers listeners to the city square of Marrakesh (Morocco) to share their recollections of a young, foreign couple who mysteriously disappeared years earlier. As various witnesses describe their encounters with the couple—their tales overlapping, confirming, and contradicting each other—Hassan hopes to light upon details that will explain what happened to them, and to absolve his own brother, who is in prison for their disappearance. As testimonies circle an elusive truth, the couple takes on an air as enigmatic as their fate. But is this annual storytelling ritual a genuine attempt to uncover the truth, or is it intended instead to weave an ambiguous mythology around a crime? The book explores in detail these questions to finally unravel the mystery.

This book employins literary tricks such as making use of multiple narrators, multiple perspectives, and stories embedded within stories: in fact, the novel is a story about a storyteller, who tells a story within a story. I enjoyed how the narratives somehow contradicted each other. One narrator would give one take on it, and another would claim that the previous narration was a fabrication.

The author’s talent for describing Morocco, Marrakesh, and the Jemaa el Fna is breathtaking. As Hassan’s story builds, the square fills with drummers, jugglers, acrobats, fortune tellers, beggars, artists, poets, and singers. The Jemaa el Fna itself becomes another character in the tale. This place is magical, and has a life of its own. I was enthralled by the beautiful descriptions of the orange sellers, the acrobats, the storytellers, the mosque, and so forth.But in the end, the novel is about love and its various manifestations in the face of adversity. How two lovers, torn apart by destiny and politics carry on their relationship and finally reaches a conclusion dictated by the society.

My only problem with the book is its length. Even though it employs various literary devices neatly, in certain portions it just meanders... the narrative drags and ultimately sucks out some fun from this ride. The story is brilliant in parts when Hasan comes back every year to tell the tales, but certain sentimental detours it takes to reach the final climax plays down on your patience and you really want to flip pages to move on in the narrative.

I am going with 4/5 for Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya's second book, 'The Storyteller of Marrakesh'. It is slow in certain portions, but provides sensual and evocative responses from the readers. It portrays a throbbing picture of Moroccan social dynamics, through scenes of paternal authority and men-women relationships. If you are not put off by multiple non-linear narratives, if you are a fan of exploring various cultures through books, this book is just perfect for you. It is also billed as the first book in the trilogy of novels set in the Muslim world. If this is any indication, i am lining up for the next two whenever they come out.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

October 8, 2011

Notes on Chetan Bhagat's Revolution 2020

Author: Chetan Bhagat
Publisher: Rupa Publications

Rating: 3/5

It could be a little too early to predict, but Revolution 2020 may just go down as Chetan Bhagat’s best work since Five Point Someone. After that sparkling debut in 2004, to me personally his writing had gone down a notch. One night at the Call Centre (2005) had a cop-out climax while 3 Mistakes of my life (2007) had OTT sensibilities and was too ‘filmy’ for me. CB recovered ground with 2 States (2009) by picking an interesting semi auto-biographical account of his own marriage but still the narrative was teetering on melodrama at various plot-points.

R2020 is the story about three childhood friends in Varanasi - Aarthi, Raghav and the narrator, Gopal. Gopal has always loved Aarthi but following his debacle in JEE/AIEEE exams and in turn, moving to Kota for coaching, Raghav and Aarthi's relationship blossoms. Gopal fails at the second attempt of engineering exams. Following some dramatic incidents and with the help of a local politician, he starts an engineering college of his own in Varanasi... though with corrupt money and means. Raghav meanwhile chucks his IT-BHU engineering degree to take up journalism and is hell bent on creating a revolution to root out corruption from Varanasi. What follows is an exhilarating tale of power, corruption, love and greed.

R2020 takes a contemporary issue of corruption in education, but it happens as a contrived scenario. The "revolution" happens only as an after thought and is not delved sufficiently enough to show how the change can be brought. Sure, it works at an individual level but is it sufficient at a national level? I do not think so. But the author succeeds in showing the ugly side of education in our country where colleges are now run by Sari shop owners, politicians, beedi-makers, anything but the academicians. There is also a strong undercurrent towards the apathy shown by the society towards students who are always judged by the ranks they get in the competitive exams.

At its core, the book still remains a triangular love story. The usual CB trademarks are present in this one as well: The quirky one-liners, the oblivious in-jokes, the witty conversations between the couple, the customary sex scene and the jibes at man-woman relationship.The pace is brisk, editing crisp and even though this is Bhagat's longest book, you never feel the narrative dwindling into side-tracks and losing steam. The scenes between Gopal and Aarti are heartwarming: those coffee conversations, those boat rowing scenes near the Varanasi Ghats, those awkward pauses, they all add up in the end. Two scenes stood out for me - one in which Aarti shop around for Gopal before he leaves for Kota and another in which Aarti for the first time confessed how Gopal pushed her "too much" for a relationship. These are well thought off and executed scenes in writing where the exact emotions are unveiled for the characters.

Now it may appear i am putting the book on the pedestal which is definitely not the intention. There are certain plot points which left me unsatisfied. There is not even one confrontation scene between Aarti and Raghav, latter of which is never ready to work on the relationship in his passion for the "change" in the society. In fact, the character of Raghav gets minimum footage when it comes to the love story and to me that was the most baffling portion of the book. I also thought the earlier portions of coaching in Kota were too elaborated and did not added up to the central theme, though did added to Gopal's woes and eventually bringing him to the lowest point in life.

I believe in the coming days, jury will be out how good or bad CB is, how his literature sucks or rocks and all that jazz. I can even see another movie made on this book. People will keep arguing about the merits of his writing. But in the end, the sales numbers are already out – more than 5 lakh copies had been pre-ordered, which is by far the highest number for any Indian author. As far as R2020 is concerned, the fans of Chetan Bhagat won’t be disappointed at all.

October 6, 2011

Book Review - 49 : Dear, I love you

Author: Arun Sabtharishi
Publisher: Mahaveer Publishers

A guy sees a girl, falls in love… woos and wins her love. They both experience the ecstasy of love that develops between them and both realise the purport of love. They discover that love is blind, literally blind against anything in the world. The guy makes a mistake; he seeks forgiveness from the girl. The girl too commits a mistake. Again the guy seeks apologies from her. Does the girl forgive the guy modestly for the mistake SHE has made? Beyond just hormone secretion or the chemical reaction that takes place in the human body, love is something more.

It's a simple story told in the most simplistic way. The guy falls in love heads over heels with this violet beauty. Their friendship blossoms, love happens, kiss creates havoc and mummy intervenes. And i suppose we all know what happens in such kind of Bollywood inspired books. There is very little unpredictability in the narrative and even though the pace is kept at a tight leash, it leaves you wanting more. Every time there is a transition in the future, with the love story spread over 4 years of engineering, there are awkward pauses and the story sidetracks into another issue leaving the last one untouched. The transitions had to be more realistic, and with both central characters studying in the same college....these twists becomes all the more filmy and defies any logic.

There are few scenes which are particularly well captured as they are straight out of our regular lives. I enjoyed some of those hidden telephonic conversations between the couple. But in the end, even at 200 odd pages the book stays on for too long and could have been shorter by around 40 pages. The number of times they break-up-and-make-up is astonishingly high and this repetitive narrative sucks out most of the fun from the love journey you want to take in with these characters. After all, how long one can relate to a whining man and a loser girl.

I am going with 2/5 for Arun Sabtharishi's debut novel. The writing is simple, and won't take much time. But it provides nothing new which we haven't read before. Read it if you are a fan of simple love stories.

October 3, 2011

My last year in the 20s....

Another year has come and gone away. The age count has increased by one today. But the coming year is significant - it is my last year in the 20s. Yes, pity me but please keep the sympathies with you. You are not even allowed to post anything in the comments. Got it? You better do. Age is just a number. And for god's sake, i am turning 29 not 99. And i am not panicking. Seriously.

So, Where did all the years go? Reaching the other side of the 20s is like crossing over a plateau, standing on the edge. One more step, and i will be tumbling into the 30s. I hope things don't start melting down when i reach there. I hope 2012 never happens and i will be writing more on this blog. And i am not panicking. Seriously.

I did most of the conventional thing in the 20s - graduating from college, getting into the first job, hating it after a year of working, trying unsuccessfully changing jobs, learnt cooking, living alone without family, started blogging, and eventually learnt to love my job without loving my employer. Truly boring journey. I love my life. And i am not panicking. Seriously.

I am not going to jot down a "bucket-list" of things to do in my 30s. Lists in any case are boring to plan your life. I have never led my life that way. Because life should be lived in the first place as it comes, not as you would expect it to come. And I can bullshit well, as i just did in the last line. And i am not panicking. Seriously.

My life has gradually become different. I am getting older and not wiser. I prefer eating out than eating in. I prefer watching movies alone than with a group of friends. I prefer reading books in one sitting than over many nights. I like to shop alone than with a female who would take 5 hours to buy one creepy looking Gucci bag. I am still a feminist who wants equal opportunity for men and women. My life is cool, if not better. And i am not panicking. Seriously.

Eventually, i believe turning 29 isn't the worst thing in the world. You know why? Because I am, who i am, and one more year is not going to change anything. I am here, and you are here and we are going to be as rocking, as kicking, and as changing as ever. Things will always remain the same and will be good.

Am i sounding too philosophical? Is this a sign of getting into the 30s. (Oh FUCK!)

PS: I promise, i would try and control saying FUCK. At least, not on every fucking thing.

And i am not panicking. Seriously.

October 2, 2011

Book Review - 48 : All and Nothing

Author: Raksha Bharadia
Publisher: Rupa Publications

All and nothing tells the tale of five individuals. Tina is a talented artist, desperately in love with the successful careerist Aditya. But he cannot let go of his past. Their marriage sours and Tina teeters on the edge. Kriya is a fashion designer, chic and successful- but tormented; Poorvi, is a socialite and feminist - but discontented; Manas is a struggling copyrighter, besotted with Gayatri - but plagued; Upasna is a willing victim of domestic violence. Then one day, Tina summons her friends to share their stories from the beginning.

All and nothing is a story about relationships - how they grow, how they nurture, how they break up and how they can be saved. The style and the tone of the book is contemporary, with short and crisp chapters the narrative is almost never stagnated. Flitting between the past and the present, the author exposes us to the various intricacies of the protagonist lives. Aditya and Tina's relationship take the most space and all other stories happen to be in the background. Others provide almost a voyeuristic description of their lives, spilling out their dirty secrets in the public....making you feel their pain and the dilemmas.

Aditya's relationship with Antara is explored to the T and their sexual flirtations are well captured. Both these grey characters hold your attention because you know they are doing wrong, yet you never feel sympathetic towards them. Some may feel Aditya got off easily in the end, but then redemption of his love life is something what fascinated me the most. In fact, even all other loose ends are tied up pretty well in the climax. There is no closure for couple of characters, which personally i found intriguing.

On the downside, there is an over-usage of vernacular language in Bengali. The situations mostly remains grim and serious, which may irk a few readers. There are certain portions, told in flashback, which stays on for a little too long and does not provide enough justification for the protagonist readers. The plot is not unique, but by crisp editing and refreshing approach....the book works, almost.

I am going with 3/5 for Raksha Bharadia's 'All and Nothing'.It is a quick read, one you can finish in 2 hours or so and will leave you with a goody-good feeling. Read it with an open mind, it is not extraordinary but a story told with simplicity. Sometimes, even that is a big task for writers.

October 1, 2011

Book Review - 47 : Married But Available

Author: Abhijit Bhaduri
Publisher: Harper Collins India

Abbey, after graduating from the Management Institute of Jamshedpur walks straight into a job at Balwanpur Industries in northern India. As the first MBA from a premier institute to be hired by the family-owned business, he knows that every step of his attracts undue attention. It doesn't help that he's an HR man whose business it is to meet and get to know people across the ranks, which means there's hardly anyone in the company who doesn't have a view of who Abbey is and what Abbey does or should do.

Add to this the complications of being newly married to a women whose looks and personal wealth make him the envy of most others, a crusty golf-playing boss who believes in straight talk, and a sudden turn in the company's fortunes that catches Abbey unawares. It's up to him now, to apply all that HR wisdom learnt at business school to the dilemmas confronting him at work and in love. Can he hold down his job and keep his friends, despite the mounting pressures, or will his first job end the way his marriage threatens to - rapidly and without too many regrets?

Sequel to the sleeper hit of 2005 - Mediocre but Arrogant, this novel starts exactly where the last one ended. The author looks for inspiration within his workings in the corporate sector and draw some well-sketched characters, with punches of drama and action thrown in. The best character is still Rascal Rusty. His idea of selling condoms in a telephonic conversation is mind-blowing. Even Father Hathaway advice how an organisation in India employs just not the person but his entire family is deep and distinguished. The final learning makes you feel touched - how Abbey realised that a visiting card and a designation in the corporate world doesn't bring any fulfillment in life; only self-actualization does, realising one's true self does. The narrative, for most parts, in first person, flows unhindered without too many glitches.

I was quite critical about the attitude of Abbey in the first book. Well, things have got better but still not perfect. His relationship with women is still hazy, though this time there is more meat to most of the women characters....something which i thought was missing before in the prequel. Overall, he is nicer and calmer but still confused which i believe make the main lead more enigmatic and interesting to read.

The book is finally let down by some clunky dialogues (Abbey's father says: I am not sure you are ready to move on to grahastha ashram just yet!!) which makes you cringe no end. Even the twist about Abbey's marital life in the end seem forced and is deliberately intended to create a third installment of the series. There are periods of self-introspection which lingers on for too long and that sucks out a bit of fun from this life ride of the main protagonist.

I am going with 3/5 for Abhijit Bhaduri's, Married but Available. It is less humorous, but a better, more compact book than its prequel. It is an easy, breezy read and one can look forward to third installment of this series. Hopefully, it can deliver again.