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March 20, 2014

Book Review - 154 : Timmy in Tangles

Author : Shals Mahajan
Publisher : Duckbill Books
Illustrations by Shreya Sen

Timmi’s life is full of tangles: Her mother expects her to go to school even though she’s a raja; Idliamma eats up all her idlis and everyone thinks Timmi ate them ... and why can’t people understand that if you have a giant for a friend you can lift the roof to let the rain in? 

Timmy in Tangles is a small little children graphic book which will sweep you away with the sincerity and sweetness of its lead protagonist. The writer's approach of storytelling to tell the narrative from the point of view of the child brings in a fresh perspective on the table. In just over 70 odd pages, author sweeps you away with Timmi's emotions - sad, sweet, funny and distressed. The book can engage readers of all ages, which is no mean feat in this age. The lines between reality and fiction are seamlessly blended in a contemporary, urban India where her experiences are told in an easy, impeccable manner. She comes from an non-orthodox family but that point is never forced into the story, but told with ease and finesse.

I am going with 3.5/5 for Shals Mahajan's 'Timmy in Tangles'. Read it for your child or read it with him/her but don't miss it.

[Update : 28 May, 2015 - Book was nominated and won at the Vodaphone Crossword Book award 2014]

March 15, 2014

Quick thoughts on 'Supertraits of Superstars'

Author : Priyanka Sinha Jha
Publisher : Rupa & Co.

Rating : 2.5 / 5 

Supertraits of Superstars....Success Secrets of Bollywood's Brightest by Priyanka Sinha Jha looks at 11 stars from Bollywood, and the attribute that is perhaps most responsible for their success. She details their stories, their struggles, their efforts to overcome setbacks, and what it is about them that made them not just reach the top of their game, but stay there. Be it Amitabh Bachchan's discipline, Aamir Khan's perfectionist nature, Salman Khan's generosit, John Abraham's enterprise or Aishwarya Rai Bachchan's grace - each star has one unique quality that others can learn and move forward in their lives.

As a journalist for eighteen years and now the editor of an entertainment weekly –Screen from the Indian Express Group, Priyanka Sinha Jha has met and interviewed many stars from the Bollywood industry, but it was a blog by the Bollywood stalwart Amitabh Bachchan that compelled her to think what goes behind the making of a star. The author employs the medium of pithy observations and conversations done with these stars during her journalist days.

Keeping my personal observations apart about the hard work film stars need to put in and the constant scrutiny they are subjected to, the book do provide some keen observations about the lives of these stars. For example : How SRK used his networking skills to rope in all the advertisers to invest in Ra.One rather than financing the project by a big studio which he could have been done easily. Or how Vidya Balan was bold enough to reject Anurag Basu for under-appreciated serial 'Love story' so that she can debut in Parineeta.

My major concern with the book is that it overlooks the fact how standing for these values, actors have suffered in one way or another for a long duration and somehow with passage of time they have been able to make peace with it. Take instance of Aamir Khan who was shown the door by Late Yash Chopra when he was constantly cribbing about joint narrations with Sunny Deol for Darr (1993). It's a fact of the matter than Yash Raj films did not worked with AK for years till Kunal Kohli directed Fanaa happened in 2006. The author fails to connect all the dots and is keen to delve into the positive side of these stars.

You want to know more about the business/emotional side of these stars like John does when he asks the author about the circulation of the magazine he is about to give an interview. There are small nuggets about filmi trivia which you would enjoy - like Ranbir acting in India, 1964 a short film directed by Abhay Chopra before making his big screen debut in Saawariya in 2007. or how Aishwarya rai who was shown the door for Mangal Pandey for asking too much money from the producer Booby Bedi.

But i am afraid these nuggets are far and few in between. Most of the qualities of these film stars are well known and stretching them over a book look laborious and borderline boring. I was also not particularly impressed by the numerous quotes inserted every now and then in the narrative which serves no purpose than breaking the flow of knowing about these stars. Read it if you know little about the film industry or Bollywood stars.

The book was received as part of Reviewers Programme on The Tales Pensieve.

March 14, 2014

Notes on Carnival

Author : Multiple
Publisher :

Rating : 3.5/5

'Carnival' is a collection of fifteen short stories written by multiple authors in various genres. The initial idea of bringing around these stories is to put them on the website '' where authors seek feedback on the content and overall quality. The best of the lot is then published in this book named 'Carnival' (first being 'Labyrinth' released earlier).  As a personal opinion, i am not a great fan of multiple genres anthologies. I feel as a reader they demand greater concentration and you tend to drag the book into multiple sessions which take away slightly from the overall experience of enjoying the book. However, the quality of short stories in Carnival is overwhelming and most of the stories stand out for their unique storytelling style.

Rishabh Chaturvedi, who has written 3 stories (also the co-founder of Litizen) explores sci-fic genre the most- 'Rhode Island' is about an oil millionaire hunting for pleasure and the detailing of the imagery of the island is well captured. 'Carnival' as the last story explores sci-fic genre and time travel through a father and a son. 'Morarka House' is a bitter sweet tale about the greed of lawyers and property dispute of two brothers.

'Opportunity knocks but once' by Sheela Jaywant throws in an interesting premise of choosing between bad and the evil while keeping your morals tucked in a medical world. 'Agni' by Sreelatha Chakravarthy take us back to the times of Ramayana and show us the mind of Sita before the Agni Pariksha she has been unscrupulously subjected to. 'Ayesha' by Vivek Banerjee explore the dark machinations of the mind and eagerness to draw wrong conclusions. 'Grandma's Secret' explores the schizophrenic mind of the head of a family looking to bond ties with her granddaughter.

However, my personal favourite vote goes to Sharath Komarajju' who shows great potential in dealing with diverse genres. 'The Music Shop' deals with the concept of time travel while pushing your luck to infinite limits. 'Envy' deals with the last person/robot on earth and his personal taste in music. 'End of an Era' deals with college crushes and the writer keeps the narrative tight, peppered with humour not to allow the story to sunk into stereotype romance.

Overall, the book delivers on providing us quality short stories even though the number of stories exploring science fiction and time travel sound repetitive and borderline boring at times in the narrative. Couple of stories seems underdeveloped and does not delve too much exploring the emotional quotient of their lead protagonists. But these are mere nitpicking's in an otherwise solid anthology exploring different genres. If you are a short story fan, it is one book you should not miss this year.