Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Year that Was...

Another year comes to a close....they seem to be merging into one another. I think back to New Years last year...or even the year before that. It’s all so vivid, as if it only happened yesterday. The years go by like a film in fast forward with the scenes blurring coz of the pace.

I've realized my life is alternating good years with those which could be better. By that logic, the next one should completely rock :)! On another note, lets think back of some of the things that made this year what it was. My personal goal in life of traveling temporarily satisfied with the countdown - 3 weeks roadtrip across Canada additional to weekend trips to Agra, Jaipur, Lucknow, Nainital, Mussoorie. Work trips to Goa, Bangalore and Mumbai. Not a bad count at all! 2 friends married off to their childhood sweethearts. Best friends moving out of town and some of them returning to visit often. One of my closest friends carrying a tiny version of herself inside her. Some relationships scarred. Some rediscovered. Professional satisfaction with getting exposure unlike any peer, handling new challenges and handling them well. My office moving to 5 kms away from my place which saved me the evil of Delhi traffic. I knew it was too good to be true when the corporate office moved yet again to Saket, 20 kms and a 2 hour drive away! I tried and fell for many new cuisines that I had not explored thoroughly before like Greek, Brazilian, Authentic Mexican, Malaysian, Sushi etc.

On a more macro level, the metro reached Noida. The media got a lot more aggressive which may be tiresome for celebrities but is good for increasing accountability amongst politicians, police and other government departments. TOI launched Crest which is a weekly ‘Readers’ Paper’ not for people like me who just browse quickly through the morning paper. Bollywood gave quite some duds but at the end of the year redeemed itself with Paa, Kaminey, 3 Idiots, Tum Mile and a handful more. A film based on India got an Oscar for the first time and an Indian of the stature of Rahman was honored there as well. The world also tragically and suddenly lost a great musician - Michael Jackson - the man who made everyone want to dance on the moon!!

All in all, an eventful year. And one that changed me in many ways. I find myself a slightly different person today than the one who ushered in New Year last year.

My last year’s New Year Resolution was to learn a new form of dance and thanks to my doting sister, I discovered the Salsa dancer in me.

My new year resolutions. A list of 10 so that I do manage to cross off a few by the end of it.

1. Get a doggie
2. Launch a business idea
3. Try yoga or art of living
4. Give more time and attention to my family and best friends.
5. Be more social
6. Find a publisher for my book “Quick and Yummy Recipes for the Working Woman”
7. Adopt a lifestyle where I live each hour of my day on my own terms
8. Laugh out loud more often
9. Travel to atleast 3 new destinations in the year
10. Be stronger

So thats all about me...What are yours???

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Avatar - A Phenomenon

It would be unfair to review this as a movie. One doesnt go to see Avatar as a film. If you did, thats where you went wrong. Avatar is a 3D experience. Nothing short of that. And if you havent seen it in 3D, go see it again. This time, see the real thing.

A storyline based on the done-to-death - there is another world called Pandora which is rich with a certain mineral that has a very high price on earth. Thus, humans find an indigenous way of turning their bodies to resemble those of the inhabitants of Pandora to convince them to move away so that we can loot their wealth.

So, whats new, you ask. Now with the storyline out of the picture is when you will be able to appreciate the world that this movie opens up for you. James Cameron conceptualised a world that is no less wonderous than "The Lord of the Rings" or "Potter". And that is saying a lot. Pandora is what dreams are made of. The trees rise to talk to the clouds like the 'Faraway Tree', flowers as large as humans glow in the dark and cotton seeds fly around like little angels. Every aspect of Pandora is phenomenal, be it the hammocks in which the natives sleep, the way the ground lights up when you take a step or even the floating mountains.

Seeing this film in 3D is like taking a walk through disneyland. The screen is so vivid that you sometimes feel that the arrow may come and hit you. The subtitles seem to float in the air and the computer screens in the film are designed in this fantastic semi circular way that seems surreal in 3D.

The experience only gets better as you get more involved in the film. The protagonist volunteers to go mix with the natives (Na'vis) to act as an insider for the US marines and eventually help drive them out. Predictably, he falls in love with the daughter of the clan leader, Neytiri. The film touches the core of your being in its sensitive portrayal of the Na'vis and you find yourself aligning with them and cursing the evil humans. They are pure...and brave...and wonderous.

It would be unfair to review this film. Or to rate it. It is not a film. As I said, it is an experience. It is a connect. Go, see it...and allow the Na'vis to let you into their world...

Friday, December 25, 2009

3 Idiots Reviewed - Trust me .. Aaall is welll

Maslow is not always correct. Sometimes self actualisation cuts the queue and manages to weed its way through even before all other needs have been fulfilled. And that is what this movie is about. About not living a life for the sake of living it,but rather doing it on your own terms.

3 Idiots like many Aamir Khan films is not a movie, its a riot! The story line is based on Chetan Bhagat's "5 Point Someone", his first book and his best work till date. Its the story of 3 friends who meet at an engineering college in Delhi and how they change each other's lives. The films runs in flashbacks between their days at the college and the present where 2 of those friends are trying to look for thier 3rd pal who disappeared after the convocation.

The movie is smart and the script witty. Each scene has the audience in splits. The director does oscilate a little too often (and too suddenly) between tear jerk moments and comedy but you find yourself forgiving him this folly as you're too busy laughing your head off.

The actors have done a phenomenal job. Let me confess, I was very skeptical when I entered the hall! 42 odd year old men posing to be college students seemed just too ambitious to me. But thats the beauty of the film. It just doesnt matter how old they are or look. One is so immersed in the film that you dont bother with technicals like this. Madhavan shows once again that he can handle diverse roles with aplomb. He is fun, geeky and very likeable as Farhaan, the wannabe wildlife photographer whose father decided he would be an engineer 30 seconds after he was born. Sharman Joshi has incredible comic timing and has the audience in splits. What is more important though is that he can as easily urge a tear out as he can make one laugh out loud. He may never be SRK, but we should look forward to some very good work by him.

Boman Irani plays the dean of the college. A role too exaggerated to allow him room for improvisation. Having said that, he acts out his character perfectly as the stuck up arrogant professor whose aim in life is to churn out factory manufactured engineers who all have top grades but rarely have a mind of their own. His daughters Mona and Kareena did a great job too. In the tiny roles given to them, they amuse the audience.

As expected, this film is made for Aamir Khan and he is the focal point of the screenplay. But not in a hogging sort of way. He plays the guy who doesnt believe in conventions and challenges the system but not in a rebellious way. Rather through the belief that one should study for education, not degrees. Success will follow you, it shoulnt be the other way around. Sounds a little preachy? Well, Baba Rancho as they rightly call him in the film, is always ready to distribute free gyaan. But you forgive him as well. Because he gives to us the most hillarious scene in recent times involving a speech on Teachers Day which is probably a well known hostel joke but nevertheless had the entire hall rolling on the floor.

Last but not the least, 2 more actors deserve credit. A new actor called "Omi" who plays the geeky "Chatur", the quintessential engineer who mugs up from the book and goes to US to buy his $3 million mansion with indoor swimming pool. The guy is so brilliantly funny that I find myself giggling as I type this. Also commendable are the efforts in a tiny role given to an actor who plays "millimetre", a boy who does odd jobs in the hostel.

The music in the film is already a hit nationally. Everyone can be seen humming to the tunes of "Aal is welll"....The other track "Saari Umr Hum" took me back to my MBA days. The feel of the song is typical hostel...the strumming of the guitar, the friends...

All in all, full paisa wasool. As I always say, please dont nitpick with things like how a certain scene involving delivering a baby is stretched or how the baby kicks in the womb everytime he hears the words "aal is well"...Dont bother with questions like this.

Buckle up. Get your popcorn ready coz you wouldnt want to miss a minute of this film. Go see it. For some great laughs. I loved it, you will too.

Rating: 4.5 on 5

Paisa Wasool Moment: When Aamir rushes Sharman's ailing father (who used to work in the postal department) to the hospital on a scooter - Sharman exclaims to Aamir how he could possibly get him on a scooter. To which Aamir retorts "to aur kya karta? speed post se bhejta??"

Friday, December 18, 2009

Notre Dame - Not Paris yet but in Quebec

Absolute stunner of a church. Thought would share some images. The Notre Dame stands tall in the centre of the cultural district of Montreal and is absolutely breathtaking.

PS - Pl forgive the dark photography. The flash was not allowed indoors.

The Main Hall

The Wedding Hall inside

This instrument played during mass is made with more than 100 chimes and can only be played by this one guy who has been doing this for 30 years!!

Beautifully carved statues of saints

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Monday, December 14, 2009

Paa Reviewed

Sue me - but I cant find a flaw in this film. After watching a film so overburdened with expectations...and still walking out appreciating it...there must be something fantastic at work here. Paa, the new baby from the Bachchan household (and ABCL) (and the only baby despite constant rumors about Ash and Abhi) doesnt disappoint. How important the film is to the family is obvious with the amount of effort they are putting into its promotions. And wearing that makeup must be a commendable task for senior!

But for a moment, do this. Forget who this movie is made by. Forget that the 12 year old boy in the film is actually India's living legend 5 times that age. Dont try to find Amitabh in the film. Coz you wont see him. And then, trust me, you will love the film as much as I did.

One would expect it to be a tear jerker. A yound kid with a rare disease that makes his body age 5 times faster than his real age. Kids can be brutal with peers about such diseases. Add to it, he's born out of wedlock which makes life a little more complicated for him. The perfect recipe for a teary film? That's what I thought when I walked in.

Thankfully - when I walked out, I thought differently. The story line of the film is well known by now. A student of gynocology and an aspiring politician fall in love and have a child. The child has a rare disorder in which his body ages 5-6 times faster than his real age. Thus, 12 year old Auro actually looks 65. Simple story.

But the movie works...and how. And it works because of 5 fantastic performers. So lets go in ascending order. At number 5 is the actress who plays Vidya Balan's mother. Brilliant performance. Strong. Touching. Real.

At number 4, we have younger Bachchan. As much as I dislike most of his films with the exception of Guru and Bunty aur Bubbly, the effort he puts in for this role shows right through. He's believable, smart, reminds us of Rahul Gandhi and Sachin Pilot as intended and is instantly likeable. The white kurta pyjamas that the sports through the film suit him much better than most looks he has experimented with.

At number 3, we have Vishnu - Auro's best friend. This little 2/2 kid with his witty one liners is fantastic. He's quick, he's funny and he's adorable!

At number 2, is an actress that we all love to bash - for immaterial things like her dressing sense. Vidya Balan is one of the most under-rated actors in Indian Cinema. The strength of her performance that we got a glimpse of in Parineeta comes out in full force here. She's strong yet vulnerable....she's beautiful...and she's believable. She doesnt resort to unnecessary theatrics, and yet steals the show. She plays Auro's mother - and does the impossible. She doesnt allow us for a moment to pity the child, but to appreciate him. And she is one of the prettiest actresses in India today. She may not wear tiny dresses, but let someone see her in the film and tell me that she's not gorgeous! Be it her student avtaar with curly hair and skirts or her doctor look with beautiful saris...she personifies elegance here!

So let us now come to number 1. As expected, the star of the show is a little boy called Auro. He wins not because of who plays the role. But because of the character given to him. He is hillarious and witty. Auro doesnt solicit sympathy for a moment. Instead, he plays a role that is so funny that we cant wait to see what he says next. The script writer deserves an award here.....and Auro, for bringing the script to life.

Many people dont like the film. Say it disappoints them. Pit it against 'The curious case of Benjammin Button'. Dont do that. Its not even a similar story. Dont listen to them either. Go with an open mind and let yourself be entertained. And it shall.

Rating: 4.5 on 5

Paisa Wasool Moment: Vishnu's quips like "My father doesnt understand me. I'm a creative person na...he cant get me!! One he's given me his face, for which he should be saying sorry to me for the rest of my life....and yet he treats me this way"!!!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Tum Mile Reviewed

Let me disclaim at the onset that this review shall not include my opinion of the actress in the film. It is a matter of principle. Nevertheless, a film is the combination of efforts of various people and this one is an effort that demands appreciation, thus I shall review it.

Tum Mile is a tale of the day that Mumbai was flooded. Not the annual rain floods that Mumbai-ites are so used to, but a day that the rain gods tested the city. Actually, let me retract that, it is not a tale of the floods. It is a tale of 2 people. 2 people who fell in love 9 years before this fateful day far away in Cape Town. Who discovered each other and the joys of togetherness. Who found a sense of being complete together. And whose paths went different ways 3 years later.

That fateful day, Mumbai brought those two together. In a moment where one doesn’t know whether we will see the rising sun the next day or not, clarity is a thing that comes suddenly. One suddenly realizes what one wants, what one yearns for. The one person whose wellbeing is of upmost importance. The one face one needs to see lest the dawn never arrives.

The film works because of its reality quotient. The relationship the 2 shared in the past is easy to relate to. Their fights are real, their frustrations are as are the way they deal with them. The film doesn’t over dramatize unnecessarily. It is easy to dwell on things like the father who never has time for his family but the director steers clear of such trivialities and keeps the story on course. And keeps it real.

The sound track of the film like all Emraan Hashmi films is exceptional. Each song touches the heart.

The movie also works largely because of the actors. The 2 protagonists carry the film almost single-handedly (or double handedly if there’s such a word) on their shoulders with the other actors not having too much screen time. The only other person who has a meaty role is the friend who seems like a first time actor and yet does a good job.

Don’t nitpick in the film. I don’t know how a painter/ waiter can afford a pad like the one they stay in. I also don’t understand why the friend would agree to walk around the flooded city to help his friend’s girl and not head home to his own wife who must be worried sick. But as I said, don’t bother with these.

All in all, worth a watch. Good ol’ love story. Feel good.

Review: 3.5 on 5

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