Baahubali The Beginning–The Review

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Once upon a time, there lived a lad.

Looking up at the mountain of water towards the misty horizon, he felt inside an indomitable mysterious force, calling him upwards and over. So he enrolled in Physics and Maths coaching classes in Class eight, to get an early start, then Ramaiyya classes at five in the morning to get an even earlier start and correspondence courses to get problem-sets he could crack while on the loo. He would try, one problem after another in Irodov, and then the sequence of solved problems would be broken and he would come tumbling down back to Exercise one. It would have broken lesser men, that fall, but he merely smiled, dusted away his failure, and went back to Newton’s Laws.

His mother (or the one he knew to be his) asked the Gods what they were doing wrong, because the neighbor hood kids were doing just fine. It had become an obsession, this wanting to scale the wall of water, and his muscles grew, till he was moving smoothly through Khanna and Khanna, but still the mountain stood, untamed and proud, and our boy toiled away.

Till one day, in his hand, fell a torn picture.

It had fluttered in from somewhere up the mountain of the water, washed away and grainy, but distinguishable only as a female face.  Our lad would keep the face on a piece of paper, and then lovingly, with his protractor and compass draw boobs around it, of different diameters, for he know not the dimensions of this lovely lass. There was no female in his life, and together with the need to scale the wall of water, attaining the girl in the picture became the focus of his life.

Till one day, while scaling the wall of water, he saw her.

Water-droplets cascading down her perfect spine, there she was, looking at him with come-hither eyes, in a bikini that revealed beauties grander than he could have imagined. In the throes of great passion, he danced up the wall of water, swallowing semesters in epic gravity-defying leaps, while she flitted ahead, through his books, and exam papers, and his programming assignments, turning her head ever so a little, as blue butterflies flew around, or neelachalachitram as he called them,  till one day he did it, he scaled the wall.

And found himself in the United States of America. But where was that bikini-clad goddess of beauty who had inspired him? She was not there.

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Of Potty and Parenthood and Piku

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[Has spoilers]

Piku is a good film. No this is not me trying to damn with faint praise. Piku *is* good. Even more than good, I would say it is courageous. In a world of  cookie-cutter behemoths , to invest in a film that is paced slow, driven by characters, and set in a non-Oye-Oye-Shava-Shava socio-cultural milieu, requires commercial cojones, and props to everyone associated with Piku, from the big B and the Choice P to the director to the guys who actually put money behind it, for providing us with something that I would not hesitate to use the term ‘risky” to characterize.

However it is not great. But it could so very well have been. It comes  very close, several times as a matter of fact, to touching something that is deeper and darker and universal, but almost, whether intentionally or not I cannot say for sure, it draws back into a comforting, crowd-pleasing but ultimately unsatisfying green zone.

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Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!—The Review

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[Spoiler-Free]

There was a time when detectives were…I don’t know..detectives. There would be a crime, a murder or perhaps a few, there would be suspects, and there would be a resolution. Now with Moffatt and Ritchie’s reinventions of Holmes, detectives can no longer just recover a missing will or bust through a carefully constructed alibi or solve a particularly intractable conundrum. Now they have to tango with maniacal super-villains with evil designs to alter the course of history just to keep their detective certification active.

It indeed is a tough world.

When I heard that Byomkesh Bakshi was being “rebooted” by Dibakar Banerjee, I was excited. The cinematic adaptations of Byomkesh had, almost all of them, been extremely tepid, and that includes Satyajit Ray’s “Chiriakhana” which, despite the genius of its maker, could only scratch the surface of the darkness of the original source-material, and Rituparno’s last film “Satyaneshi”, which looked like it was not totally the finished material when it was released, thus setting the bar of expectations for a Byomkesh movie extremely low.

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MSG– The Review

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In his seminal work “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”, the great German philosopher Nietzche gave the world the concept of Übermensch or “over-man”. Widely misinterpreted through the ages, Hitler for instance used it as the philosophical underpinngs of Aryan superority, Übermensch is a notional anthropomorphization of “ultra-humanism”, a supreme being who while being infallible and possessing the power to create not just worlds but also values, is still not a God, because he is, by definition, human.

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PK—The Review

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[Spoilers]

So I saw PK.

How was it?

TLDR: It’s a three-hour long episode of Satyamev Jayate.

For those of you who have not seen this program, which strongly makes me believe that you are not the kind that stops at a stop sign, Satyamev Jayate can be summarized as “social activism for those of us that like to watch Big Boss but feel guilty “. It picks a certain “problem of the week”, like police reforms or corruption or doctors, and then runs through an hour of over-explaining and music and appropriately emotioned-up guests.  The USP of the program, the reason why people watch it, is of course  Method-Actor Khan (known to mortals as Aamir Khan) for whom Satyamev Jayate is a perfect prop for his carefully cultivated  image as a socially conscientious superstar. Cycling through various  expressions, “the-oh-my-God-I-had-no-idea” (“Apko police ne yeh kaha?”) as if he is hearing the guest’s story for the first time, “the-oh-my-God-I-so-feel-for-you” eyes-welling-up-with-tasteful-tears, Mr. Khan straddles perfectly that grey area between reality and choreography, between the person and the persona, and if the topic of the week does not keep you watching, or that sharp prick on your conscience if your finger goes to the remote control to change the channel, Aamir Khan’s performance sure does.

Like Satyamev Jayate, PK too has a “problem of the week”, long passages of preachy exposition, poking-in-eye messaging, and each one of Aamir Khan’s Satyamev Jayate stock facial expressions. Except being an alien, his innocent “I-had-no-idea” face makes a little more sense, though for old-hands like us, there is a bit too much of the Main Kahaan Hoon Tiloo from “Andaz Apna Apna” and one of the characters he played in Dhoom 3, for me to be overtly blown away by the acting. Just as Satyamev Jayate, despite its flaws, is an improvement on the brainless muck that passes for entertainment on Indian television,  PK is definitely better than the “Bang Bangs” and the “Ready”s, a low bar surely, somewhat like complimenting a fast bowler for bowling faster than Venkatesh Prasad.

It had a lot going for it,  like Mr. Perfectionist’s perfect derriere, though obfuscated by mist, Raju Hirani at the helm, and some funny sequences involving pee-ing, peek-ing, peekaying and anal-probing, which I would perhaps have better appreciated if I was nine years old

However it is let down by two major cinematic boo-boos.

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Few Thoughts on Haider

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I, like many others of my generation, grew up on an oily diet of Kashmir masala films.

Roja. Which, besides introducing this guy called A R Rahman, gave hope to boys like me that you could have a physique like ArvindSwamy but still get to curl your fingers around the shapely waist of a Madhu, if you play the marriage cards right or if the script-writer writes that in the script for you.

Pukaar. Where sinister plots from across the border are spoiled by Anil Kapoor’s verdant chest hair.

Mission Kashmir. A convicted Bombay Blast accused played a patriotic cop and where the man who single-handedly wiped out polio played a terrorist.

Countless other action films, their names a-blur, typically starring Sunny Deol, in which all laws of physics and common sense could be violated as long as Pakistani ass was being mausichi-ed.

The rhetoric was simple. Pakistan was evil, India was good, Kashmiris were misguided and all would be well in the end if the pesky Pakistanis and their agents were demolished.

When I came out of the theater after seeing Haider, I was happy I had seen a film that had flipped the formula. I was happy that finally the censors were letting audiences decide what was wrong and what was right and that there were no bans or stay-orders or any of the other silliness that has so stifled the free expression of ideas in India,  a fact that was doubly surprising given that our wise mediwallahs had been prophesying a dystopian Hitlerian Bharat of suppress-oppress-depress ever since that man took over.

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