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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The Devil Made Me Do It

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One of the sad realities of living in today’s world is how inured we have become to incidents of terrorism.

Do we know anyone who died today? Naah we don’t. So let’s hashtag, share update on FB, and move on. Which of course raises the bar for terrorists, obligating them perversely to be more “spectacular” to catch people’s attention.

Like bringing down two of the world’s tallest buildings on a busy office day.

Like storming 5-star hotels and butchering people in cold blood.

Like shooting dead close to one hundred fifty school-kids.

As a parent, it is difficult not to feel a deep bond of empathy for those that have lost a child,  for it is the most frightening thing that can happen to a human being. I would not have said this a few years ago but now that I am a father, I truly mean it.

But alas in this world, I cannot just be a father. I am an Indian. I am a Hindu.

Which in Pakistan, means I am the Devil.

Which means I did it.

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A Thousand Weeks of DDLJ

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Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.mkv_010744749

Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge is a thousand weeks old.

That’s a long time.

To put it in perspective, a thousand weeks ago, Narendra Modi was a small-time politician in Gujarat, Kohli was eight years old, Vinod Kambli still had a future and I was in first year.

My how days fly.

And yet it seems to be just yesterday that we were introduced to the great patriot Baldev Singh (Amrish Puri), who tracks pigeons from Punjab so great is his desh-bhakti, but who, despite the deep rumblings for mitti ki khusboo, never visits his desh, perhaps because he is too busy looking at “goree teeetli” and drinking Black Dog, (Ok wrong film), his wife the beatific Lajjo, an anthropomorphism of ghee and aloo parathas, their well-fed daughter Simran with a proclivity for dancing in the rain in itsy-bitsy skirts,  Raj Malhotra, the character that would be played by the actor, Shahrukh Khan, for the next twenty years in more or less every film, and his father, played by Anupam Kher, who would beat Sonia Gandhi hands down as the parent of the century.

It seems to be just yesterday that DDLJ came into our lives.

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The Battle For Delhi

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arvind-kejriwal

[A version of this published in Huffington Post India]

There are no knockouts in Indian politics.  No matter how hard you have been hit, you can always bounce straight off the ropes and back into the ring.

Take the Aam Aadmi Party. It seems just yesterday that they were wiping their brains off the sidewalk after being hit by the Modi Express, and yet here they are, back for the Delhi elections, swinging hard and strong.

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The Voice of God And His Silences

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Originally appeared in SwarajyaMag

There was a time, around a few thousand years ago, that God would talk to us.

A lot.

Sometimes He would say something from behind a burning bush. Sometimes He would appear in a dream. Sometimes He would give us his words in the field of battle and sometimes He would just send his son down to the earth.

Then, for some reason, God became silent, round about the time Man started this whole “science” thing.

Now once again, after years, he has spoken, this time through a new prophet.

Not surprisingly, the chosen one happens to be a Bengali by the name of Boria Majumdar.

I apologize for the blasphemy I am going to commit right now. But I have to say it. Prophet Boria’s prose is, for the want of a less obvious word, boring. Not to sully the purity of His words, but one wishes that He had chosen a more accomplished spinner of sentences, someone like Rahul Bhattacharya for instance, who would have been less liberal with passages that sound like paraphrasing of score-cards.

But perhaps I am wrong. God knows best.

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A Few Author Stories

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05bgnnvarnab_GS_05_2140532e1. Person at book event: “Your autograph please? This is for my husband, I would of course never read the stuff you write.”

2. Random person in store comes over to where I am sitting (just before book-event): “Give me three free copies”

3. Random person at Bangalore Lit Fest: “Are you a famous author?”

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Few Thoughts on Haider

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Haider-movie-2nd-day-collection

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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