Archive for the 'Entertainment' Category

Book Review: Bloomsbury Crime Box Set

unnamedBloomsbury Crime Box Set is combination of three widely different books: The Hanging by Danish writer duo of brother and sister Lotte and Soren Hammer, Before We Met by Lucie Whitehouse and The Ghost Runner by Parker Bilal aka Jamal Mahjoub.

The Hanging

the_hanging_engThe book opens with two kids discovering the victims of a gruesome crime committed in the school. Chief Superintendent Konrad Simonsen is immediately called upon from his vacation to solve the murders. He is an archetypal police chief from those crime shows we watch on TV, whose personal life is in shambles but admired by his team. He won’t be stopped from solving crimes even if it means doing so by unconventional means.

The outrage about gruesome murders soon die; narrative in media and public is reshaped when it is revealed that the people murdered were pedophiles and deserved to die. The pedophiles were executed in school as they deserved. Simonsen’s team suddenly finds that public is no longer willing to help them solve murders. The public opinion is so divided that members of police team are forced to question their beliefs. The book is not so much about whodunnit but a police procedural that explores the impact of public opinion and morals on the investigation.

Before We Met 

bwmHannah has been happily married for a few months to Mark. One day when her husband fails to come home, panicking, in search of an explanation, she looks up her husband’s study and calls around. She is intrigued by few trifle but completely baffling discoveries. The book is befitting addition to genre of sinister marriages pioneered by Gone Girl. My only grouse with this book is that it had too many details and had a very slow start. This book could have been edited to be about 100 pages less and yet would have packed a punch. For most part of reading this book, I felt tension build up and hair on my neck rising since I felt something truly sinister is going to hit Hannah from behind.

The Ghost Runner  

I was very reluctant to read this book. Mostly because the book title seemed to suggest some kind of exorcist and this misconception was further backed by the synopsis which indicated the setting was an Islamic country and protagonist Makana was a Sudanese, living in exile in Egypt. I avoid reading stories from Islamic countries since stories of inequality, corruption, honor killings have a way of making you depressed. Sure enough, private investigator Makana is asked to investigate the death of a young lady shopkeeper, suspected to be an honor killing committed by her unsavory, exiled father. makanaMakana travels to Siwa, an oasis-cum-small town in Sahara desert, where lawlessness and exploitation of weaker people prevails. Tormented by his past, his memories of his dead wife and daughter, Makana relentlessly investigates amidst hostility of ‘not being one of them”.His only comfort being spitfire Zahara, a women’s aid worker. But strangely, before he can solve crime, several more bodies start to fall around him in Siwa. Can he solve the mystery? Even though I eventually enjoyed reading the book, the reveal seemed hasty and some twists I couldn’t quite make sense of. If you could, let me know.

(I received a review copy of the box set courtesy of Flipkart and the publisher.)

Movie Review: pk

Pk has distinct Rajkumar Hirani signature – use of sweet satire. It is an art he excels in as evidenced by all his movies such as Munnabhai and 3 idiots. His characters always have unfortunately funny names (Remember Phunsukh Wangdu or Circuit). Now, we have Pk and Jaggu (Anushka) – you’ll need to watch the movie to find out her real name tho. And these characters are most loving iconoclasts you’ll ever come across.Pk poster

The movie is about an alien, Pk, who literally arrives naked on mother earth on his spaceship. However, the remote of his spaceship is promptly stolen by being of earth and hereby he is left stranded on this planet (gola, as he calls it) without a way to return home. Thus, begins his exploration of seemingly weird customs of earth to get back his remote. He learns to steal clothes and money from a ‘dancing car’ (you’ll have to find that out for yourself :giggles:) , check-in Dilli thanas for shelter and then he hears that all answer to his problems lie with someone called Bhagwan  – only one who could help him. So starts his quest for God. He is baffled by customs of different religions and sure enough is soundly thrashed by all of them. Eventually, he realises, there are many Gods, and each has established a ‘company’ of its own. They are all managed by different managers who have created conflicting, confusing rules.

Enter, Anushka err Jaggu whose superstitious family devoutly prostrates before a rich, Hindu guru, Tapasvi, played by roly-poly Saurabh Shukla. Between Jaggu, Pk and Tapasvi, when they meet, it is only your guess what capers will take place.

Hirani has once again questioned social norms, this time religion and also how we value Gandhi. (I love that scene.) Atheists are complaining that why was he not brave enough to question the existence of God, but I think he was questioning only religion and not the existence of God. His mettle lies in being able to mock all religions with love. :)

Continue reading ‘Movie Review: pk’

Book Review: Between the Headlines

Between the headlines is everything the book blurb and the publisher claim to be – it is the journey of a TV reporter – her life and times. Unlike recent genre of books by Indian women – this is not a chick lit with juicy, eye-grabbing story about love life. Love figures, but it is not the focal point of the book. Focus always remains on the work life of a TV reporter.

Satyabhama Menon has just moved from Delhi to Bangalore as a TV reporter for new, upcoming N.E.W.S India channel. Like all journalism students, she has dreams to make a difference – and make it big while doing so. (I know because I was one myself longtime ago.) However, she realizes in a competitive business like TV journalism, talent is not the only factor that takes you places. There are small, asinine things as pesky bosses or input teams, office politics, jealous colleagues and of course TRPs that always govern the priorities. TV reporter, especially a budding one, remains a small cog in the network.

Saddled with mundane, mindless and menial (from a TV journalist’s POV) assignments such as vox populi (that too fake), small-time weather reports (involves a trip all the way to Coorg just to cover rains!), Satya struggles to carve her niche. It does not help Ram Kedhia, a high-ranking channel boss insists on sabotaging her career –keeps her on low-priority stories, or breaking news duty (which means though she is at work waiting for ‘breaking news’ she is not getting to work on stories) and worst while world is praising her story, he accuses her of inefficiency and unprofessionalism.

Yet Satya’s opportunities to shine come up from unexpected assignments. Even as a novice, she soon learns to use her resources well – gets her young cousin to find suitable college folks for vox pops, builds up rapport with her camera guys – who time and again will prove to be valuable allies. She finds herself increasingly disillusioned in the world of TV journalism – suddenly channel diktat arrive that since TRPs indicate crime beat is most popular and all useful stories from other genre are forgotten. Truth, even if an exclusive bite, is snipped and lies are both forgiven and forgotten without much ado by ‘honest’ idols.

Continue reading ‘Book Review: Between the Headlines’

Book Review: The Devotion of Suspect ‘X’

This is one of those books where the meaning of the title sinks in with full force only when you have finished reading the book. But that is something I will leave you to find about yourself.

The Devotion of Suspect X is what I call one-sitting-novel, it is written by Keigo Higashimo. It is actually third book in his Inspector Galileo series, published in 2005 and widely translated and transformed into movies and TV shows.

Yet despite its suspenseful plot, this book is not a who-dunit as any decent review will tell you. A murder happens in first chapter. The murdered man is abusive, ex-husband of Yasuko who has been stalking her for years. Suspicion naturally falls over beautiful Yasuko who only wants to protect her daughter. Yasuko, once a night club hostess now works in a box lunch place. Unexpectedly, she finds an ally in her neighbour Ishigami, who is a mathematician.

In comes an observant, honest police detective Kusanagi – to his consternation even though everything on surface seems fine – Yasuko is too gentle to commit a pre-meditated murder and she also seems to have an alibi for the night of the murder – something doesn’t ‘feel’ right. There are no other leads either. Kusanagi has an intelligent physicist friend, Dr. Manabu Yukawa as a friend in Imperial college – this man often helps him close cases. Dr. Yukawa is also nicknamed as Inspector Galileo.

The next chapters unfold the plot layer by layer. Both, the police and the accused play an astute, graceful game of chess – with two characters that stand out clearly. The mathematician and the physicist, each responding other with a move . An equal and opposite reaction. As a reader, you are hooked, curious what comes next – and yet sometimes you root for few characters. Despite the fact you know that murder happened and who committed it, the details around it as much surprise you as they mystify you when they are unravelled.

The book is not intended to be a work of literature or a brilliant masterpiece in terms of plot, even though I must mention that plot has no loopholes, and all threads link together when you go back in the story. Yet I would say, that plot is commonplace, it is instead the crafty style of presenting the mystery is the disarming feature of the book. Another is its climax – it is one that I must admit I didn’t expect. It was not only a surprise but also proved rather disturbing to my ‘emotional’ sensitivities. And yet I abide by the end.

A very fast read where plot meanders and takes new course like a fast-flowing river. If you peek carefully, characters are bland and simple – Yasuko has some claim to righteousness but is meek enough to be boring, Kusanagi’s only redeeming feature is his observation, in particular observation of his genius friend (that solves cases perhaps), Ishigami is ‘Buddha’ – nothing as ‘ill-feeling’ ever emanates from him. It is just warring of wits and the way script throws surprises so often what maketh this book.

Lastly, a note must be added to acknowledge the translation by Alexander O. Smith. Though I’ve not read the original book in Japanese, but the way translated language kept up that sense of suspense and urgency – I believe translation has been a fruitful one.

Curl in bed with book, coffee on side – you should have one ‘thrilling’ ride

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5 Movies That I Have Loved

(This post is for my friend Meetu who runs a fantastic movie review blog WOGMA – for the uninitiated, USP of this blog  is that all movies are reviewed here Without Giving the Movies Away. This is part of a competition to celebrate WOGMA’s fifth birthday. :) )

Movies and books bring boundless pleasures in my life. I have already written in past about my movie quirks and movies I have loved.

This time I have spent last 2 days thinking which 3 movies to zero on as my favourites. Every movie in itself has served a purpose in my life. I distinctly remember laughing off all my work stress watching Bheja Fry – not a critically acclaimed movie this one – but it worked for me that day.  At different times, I have watched romantic flicks such as Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’ Diary, Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, Pretty Women, When Harry Met Sally, Roman Holiday, Pearl Harbour, Before Sunset, Before Sunrise, Breakfast at Tiffany’s – and derived a girl’s happy pleasure out of it. :) Then there were movies such as Hotel Rwanda, Blood Diamond, Waltz with Bashir (fantastic animation) and more recently The Whistleblower – that opened my eyes to genocides, atrocities happening in the world. They struck a chord somewhere deep inside that I did not know existed. I still draw in my breath when I see that gas chamber scene where women suddenly find themselves in Schindler’s List – the relieved sigh is not far when I realise it was only a harmless shower. Adrian Brody’s lonely adventures in The Pianist and ill-fated friendship of two innocent kids – one German and Jew in The Boy in Stripped Pyjamas are etched in my otherwise forgettable memory.  No book on Holocaust (not even Diary of Anne Frank) could ever move me so deeply and eternally like these movies did.

Then there are those inspiring intriguing memoirs/biographies and true events that sometimes inspire/impact you more than written word – The Motorcycle Diaries, A Beautiful Mind, Pursuit of Happyness.  Then, there are hugely entertaining, classy mob movies – Goodfellas, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and mother of all – The Godfather, which must be my most-watched movie with my favourite acting men there!

Then there are Hindi movies I have loved and been proud of – Pyasa, Abhimaan, Maqbool, Satya, Rang De Basanti, Chak De India, Taare Zameen Pe, A Wednesday, Aamir, Ardhasatya…Yet it would be unfair if I pick any of these alone as my favourite movies. So I will pick 5 movies that I thought were unique for a reason – movies I would be proud to make if I could.

Continue reading ‘5 Movies That I Have Loved’

No One Killed Jessica – Movie Review

(Honestly, it’s more of a commentary on movie and the real events as they took place. Watching this movie was a personal experience that I refused to dissociate with real-life events. You can choose to skip the blue, italicized parts in paragraphs – they are mostly comments about real-life events. Also, all names except Jessica and Sabrina, were changed in the movie, yet I have stuck to real-life names. Also, I chose not to mention Amit Trivedi’s music which made more sense to me when it blended with movie. )

The title ‘No One Killed Jessica’ (NOKJ) is taken from the screaming mocking newspaper headlines when Manu Sharma, the accused in Jessica Lal murder case was acquitted by the court. That judgement, in a case that was expected to be an open-and-shut considering the number of witnesses that were present when the accused Manu Sharma shot Jessica, awakened a nation from slumber of inaction.

1999, the year when this incident occurred, was an eventful year. Jessica was killed in April, Kargil war dominated the news next three months and in December, flight IC184 was hijacked where a passenger Rupin Katyal, returning from his honeymoon, was cruelly murdered by the hijackers. There was lot for nation to chew on.

1999 was also the year I decided to stay in Delhi permanently, choosing over an option of studying abroad. I grew up with this Jessica story. The movie made me relive all of it, from when it started.

To its credit, it is true to facts, which is more than what can be said of best of true-story-turned-movies (such as ‘A Beautiful Mind’, ‘Papillion’, ‘Midnight Express’.). Though, while we are at it, I must point out NOKJ does *choose* to omit some facts such as dubious role of restaurant-owner Bina Ramani. But that is director,  Raj Kumar Gupta’s prerogative and I think he has largely made a good choice about which events to focus on.  I’ll come to that later.

Jessica Lal, an upcoming model was a celebrity bartender who had decided to help out her friend Malini Ramani’s mother at her restaurant ‘Tamarind Court’. (Since the restaurant , whose real name along with its owner is not mentioned in the movie, didn’t have liquor license yet in real life, they called it a private party. Hiding this fact, rather than help law to apprehend the killer would be initially more important to the restaurant owner Bina Ramani.) She was killed amongst her friends.

NOKJ begins with how Jessica’s sister Sabrina is woken up that fateful night and how she would discover that finding justice that was rightfully hers wasn’t easy in this country plagued with corruption.

Continue reading ‘No One Killed Jessica – Movie Review’

Golmaal 3 – Unmitigated jest and frolic

Your truly went on first day, first show of Golmaal 3 – no, no, not because I am a Golmaal or slap stick fan. You all know me too well to realize I prefer ‘level-headed’ movies over ‘brainless comedies’. I had disliked Golmaal 2, hence, spontaneity of Golmaal 3 felt redeeming.

Golmaal 3 pretty much puts up a good defense in favour of brainless comedies. Any decent movie must either tell a good story or provide good experience. Though there is not much to call a story in Golmaal 3, it does provide a good experience nevertheless.

You can read my detailed review at Meetu’s wonderfully professional movie review Web site – WOGMA (Without Giving the Movie Away). If you weren’t aware of WOGMA yet, then you certainly were missing out on prompt, unbiased, reasonable movie reviews for all Hindi movie releases.  Check  WOGMA archives, and you will realise it is one-stop for all the feedback that you might need on a movie.

Do hop over to WOGMA and share your feedback. :)

Have a happy, safe, hilarious Diwali!!

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