Monday, June 21, 2010

Mahabharata & Ramayana in a new avatar – Rajneeti and Raavan reviewed

In a day and age where generations are increasingly ignorant about the intricacies of our cultural heritage and more importantly, literary epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana, television did what books couldn’t. When I was growing up, these epics were depicted in TV serials that ran for years and such was the fan following that people would literally drop what they were doing to watch them. We have come a long way from there but the audio visual route still remains the best hope for passing on these stories to our children.


Which is why I looked forward to the fact that skilful filmmakers like Mani Ratnam and Prakash Jha had decided to portray these epics superimposed into today’s scenario. It is a thin line to tread, knowing which elements to keep and which to modernise, how to keep it realistic and let the audience make the parallels without spelling it out for them. And in both these regards, Rajneeti did what Raavan could not.


Rajneeti took the concept of Indian Politics and played it into the mould of Mahabharata. With an ensemble cast of credible actors, Jha managed to give characters individuality and yet shadowed them on the Mahabharata character they represented. Ranbir Kapoor played an excellent Arjuna and Arjun Rampal getting better ever day with his performance with traces of Yudhishthir. But it was Bhishmapitama played by Nana Patekar which really took the cake. Always behind the scenes and yet directing everyone wisely, he did the role justice. As expected, Manoj Bajpaye did a decent job as Duryodhana and Katrina Kaif not only looked stunning but pulled off quite a good performance (and no, its not modelled on Sonia Gandhi). The only person who I believe got shot changed is Ajay Devgan as Karana. The role was perfect for Devgan yet one left feeling he was under-used.


The music and tracks in the film are phenomenal. Each track worth humming, my favourite being “Mora Piya Mose Bolat Naahi”, a soulful ballad. Unfortunately, what the movie achieved in 2 hours, the last half hour destroyed. The climax of the film seemed to stretch forever and ended up making the film seem amateurish. I truly wish they had just chopped off the last reel, I would have left the hall a happier person!


Raavan on the other hand, is an example of how not to do it. Don’t get me wrong. It is a beautiful piece of art. It sweeps over stunning locales, with cinematography such that at times you feel like it may just be National Geographic. But what the director set out to do, he failed to achieve. The story is not even disguised, it is Ramayana with the names changed. Dialogues like “woh dus sar wala raakshas hai” when refering to the villain Bira or “Woh bhagwan hain” when refering to Dev modelled on lord Rama dont leave much to the imagination. I wish I had seen the Tamil version instead where Vikram who plays the hero in the Hindi version plays Raavan instead. He would undoubtedly have done a much better job than the half baked performance by a plump Mr.Bachhan (and not the one with a beard  who can act). Aishwarya Rai looks absolutely beautiful in some shots and one wishes that cinema halls also came with a mute button when she starts screaming in her incredibly shrill voice (in the same league as that of Diya Mirza or Riya Sen). To her credit, we do get a reminder of how beautiful and graceful an Indian woman can look during a dance sequence in which she seduces her husband doing classical dance. The man with the smallest role, Govinda who plays Hanuman does absolute justice to his role and perhaps even he may have played a better Raavan.


The movie fails to build a plot, fails to make the audience empathise with Bira. The villagers love him and the police hates him but we are never given to understand why so. What really are the socio economic reasons for this almost naxal leader. Instead, the film seems like a personal feud – your wife for my sister kind of an approach. Very lame. The songs are upbeat and in a certain wedding sequence, don’t miss the locale in the background – it is Orchha, the hidden gem we found in MP when we travelled a couple of months back. All in all, unfortunately very boring and avoidable. See it on mute and marvel at Incredible India.


Ratings: Rajneeti (3 on 5 with .5 deleted for the last half hour)

       Raavan(1.5 on 5)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Ideas for Father's Day

New article published on Rediff. Funky ideas on how to celebrate Fathers Day. Read it HERE.

Monday, June 14, 2010

8888 visitors to the blog till date

8,888 says the site meter. It is a humbling feeling, if you pause to think about it. Over the past few years, my blog was read 8888 times. It never fails to bring a smile to my face when I bump into people I may not have met for years and they tell me that they read my blog and love it. My readers who recommend my blog further to their friends and it is followed by people whom I have never met! And my friends and colleagues who I know follow my blog, but as silently slip away without commenting! The best part is that my best friends probably don’t even know the url of my blog. Why do I need to share my life with others, they ask? When I have them.


I write because I am. I have never written a page that I did not believe in, or because I had to. I wrote because I had something to say. That’s it. And what is wonderful is that so many people were interested in what I had to say. They debated my opinions, countered my viewpoints, encouraged my arguments. At The Thought Express, one doesn’t need to agree, that would be too boring. The name of the blog was kept because my thoughts race through my head, desperately begging to be poured out into words. What my personality doesn’t let me do with my voice, I do with my words. Some people can converse with strangers, some can dance with them, some can even travel with strangers. I share my words with friends and strangers. Only because I have something to say.


Thank you. For saving this in your favourites. For typing this url in the address bar. And for clicking on a new post. For making this a dialogue from a one sided rave.


And yes, the reviews for Karate Kid and Rajneeti will follow soon!!! 

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

When the line between fact & fiction blurs


Being a writer in constant search for her genre where I write most expressively, I have often been interested in how did best selling authors know which genre would work for them. Did Jeffrey Archer wake up one morning and decide to write fiction? Did JK Rowling pen down a drowsy biography before coming up with her masterpiece?


This question must have haunted them as it haunts me. What is even more interesting though, is that once an author has established himself in a particular genre, is he able to ever break out of it and try a new genre? Take for example Jeffrey Archer himself. What do you want when you are one of the most celebrated fiction writers of all time? He took a risk and wrote ‘Paths of Glory’, mostly based on real events around the life of George Mallory. The risk paid off, the book turned out as much a page turner as the others. This transition hasn’t been easy for all though. Equally famous writer, John Grisham tried his hand at fact in the book ‘The Innocent Man’. Though a compelling story, the book was too leading and having read the first chapter, it was easy to guess where it is headed. Take for example the factual writing of William Dalrymple. Based on real events, he has the flair of weaving a tale so intriguing that it makes history lessons interesting.


The one person in my opinion who manages to blur the lines between fact and fiction is Dan Brown in ‘The Da Vinci Code’. He took facts and then he put in a dollop of his imagination and skilfully stirred the two together in such a way that the reader never knew where fact ended and fiction started.


So the question remains. How does an author find his genre? And having found it, is it wise to experiment outside of it? Do you know any other person whom it worked for? 

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Prince Of Persia - The sands of time reviewed

Prince of Persia, Sands of Time is a movie based on the legendary videogame in which an adventurous young prince teams up with a fiery princess to stop an angry ruler unleashing a sandstorm which could destroy the world. The young prince, Dastan is not of royal blood but adopted by the king after he demonstrated a rare act of courage and skill. The story is quite straightforward and doesn’t have too many sub-plots. But the characterisation done for each individual is crisp and real. Be it the wise King Sharaman who wants nothing more than his 3 sons to trust each other to Tus, a befitting heir. Ben Kingsley plays the role of King Sharaman’s brother and his particular character has many traits of our very own Shakuni from Mahabharat.

Prince Tus, the heir to the king decides to attack Alamut, a sacred and holy kingdom when he is misinformed of their efforts against his empire. When the kingdom falls, with it comes the beautiful Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) who is offered to Dastan as his wife. Tamina though only has her eyes on a sacred dagger that has come into Dastan’s hands which if misused can result in catastrophe. And what follows is in typical bollywood fashion – treachery, escape, fights, misunderstandings and finally love. And as Shahrukh Khan says – “In our films, everything becomes ok in the end”. Prince of Persia too goes the poetic justice way and all’s well that ends well.

Why you should watch this film, besides the fact that Dastan is hot and rakish and Tamina fiery and stunning, is for the effects. See it in a hall, don’t bother with a DVD. No, it is nothing new, no you will not be sitting on the edge of your seat – but it is a well made and honest entertainer. Dont go there expecting to be enthralled, but go to be entertained. And you will.

Rating: 3.5 on 5
Paisa Wasool Moment: Tamina looks at the oncoming sandstorm and says, let’s run. Dastan smirks and replies “Trust a princess to think she can manage to outrun a sandstorm”!!

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