When Harry Met Sejal—The Review

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A few posts ago, I had done the jurrat of putting Imtiaz Ali in the same group of directors as Karan Johar only to be sternly rebuked by an auteur commentator, with a passion for cinema, who opined that the moment I clubbed Imtiaz Ali with Karan Johar, I had displayed my lack of knowledge of cinema.

I agree. I now stand corrected.

Imtiaz Ali is in a class of his own.

“When Harry Met Sejal”, his latest film, is a masterpiece.

On one hand, it has all the Imtiazian motifs that the refined audience love, which in the hands of a less awesome director would be called cliches.

The philanderer who carnally pursues women to fill the emptiness in his heart. The freewheeling bubbly female whose sole reason for existence is to fill the aforementioned hole. Two and a half hours of sarson da saag and chak de phatte and European locales and music till finally the rudderless man finds himself into the safe confines of monogamy.

But, and here it is where it reaches another level, this film is a beautiful, heartfelt tribute to late-career Dev Anand films.

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An Old Picture

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One of my friends passed away yesterday. In deference to his family’s absolute right to control how they wish to share their grief, I do not name him here. So the pronoun it will be.

I haven’t been in touch with him for years. He was not on social media. Every time I went to Calcutta, I met a few of my college friends, but for some reason, he was never in the group. I also never made an effort to reach out to him, and yesterday when I heard the news, I deeply regretted not having made the effort.

So I dug up an old picture. This was the late 90s, no smart-phones, pictures were rare, and even the ones that were taken, were almost never scanned. This one though was. Taken around the last few days of our graduating class, near the red chairs of the Computer Science building, pretty much everyone in our batch is there.

As I look upon the smiling faces, full of life, collectively with kilos less in fat, and grams more in hair, I cannot help but wonder the thought furthest away from their minds.

Death.

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Dunkirk—the Review

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The Bangla colloquial for a movie is “boi” or book. It is not hard to figure out why, the appreciation of a film, for most, is predicated upon the story. Unless you are the film-school type, you are not really watching for shot composition, camera angle, scene transitions, lighting, and even though you often say “The film should have been better edited” to look wise on social media, without really understanding what film-editing is, what you actually mean is that the story didn’t catch you.

Christopher Nolan’s reputation as a superstar director is built upon his consistent mastery over the narrative. Whether it be putting the elements out-of-sequence (Memento), or nesting elements (Inception), or playing with time (Interstellar), or working on audience assumptions (Prestige), Nolan understands the power of the twist, the pace, the lines, and the character. You remember the beginning (or is it the end) of Memento, you wonder what happens to the totem in Inception, you shake your head at the resolution of the Prestige, and you definitely want to be the Joker.

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Mob Violence–India at 70

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[Want to do a series of posts on India@70. This is the first]

The problem in our country is mob violence.

It has been a problem since we became a country.

While the individual is powerless in front of the law, unless you have privilege like Mallya or Meira Kumar, the group isn’t. That’s why Indians intrinsically know that they can do pretty much anything as long as they attach themselves to the right group.

Growing up a student in Jadavpur University, I knew this too. Bunk class alone, and you lose attendance. Bunk class en masse, and the professor walks back. Not prepared for an exam, and you are in deep shit. No one prepared for an exam, why you can call a strike.

The victim in this country is always the individual who cannot form a group fast enough.  If you are a pickpocket working alone and you get caught, be prepared to have the daylights thrashed out of you by the crowd. However if you are a pickpocket working in a group, and a man catches you just when you are reaching into a pocket, your fellow pickpockets will accuse the victim of being a pickpocket and thrash him up.

Driving a car through a crowded road. A man on a bike, without a helmet, comes crazily from the side and hits you. He assembles a mob and you are forced to pay him money. Or your car gets vandalized.

Get into a scuffle over seats, and before you know it, you have been knifed.

Protest against public molestation, and the group throws you from the running train.

Unfortunately rather than calling out this problem universally, our liberal media and their consumers like to close their eyes to mob justice when it happens counter to their narrative. So if a Muslim man is lynched by a crowd which is Hindu, it is a national emergency. If a Muslim man is lynched by a crowd which is Muslim, next please.

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When Did We Lose The Game?

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When did we lose the game to Pakistan?

No not when Ravindra Jadeja ran Hardik Pandya out. Not when Kohli got a leading edge to gully. Not when Dhoni tamely hoiked the ball down square leg’s throat. Not when Bumrah, who has made it a habit to dismiss people off no-balls, got Fakhar Zaman out for three.

We lost to Pakistan when we decided to mimic our neighbors in smashing TV sets.  We lost to Pakistan when we forwarded the message on Whatsapp that the match was fixed, or some other outrageous conspiracy yarn, or blamed IPL for making the players not care, or when we, not this has happened yet but has occurred before, decided to burn effigies of players or garland them with shoes or, worst of all, tried to vandalize their property.

We lose when we let the world know that we care enough to bother to break even an old TV set. Care enough to turn on the TV set in order to see someone else breaking a TV set. Care enough to elevate a single defeat to the level of a national loss of face.

Confident nations don’t do this. Because they know, or should, that their pride as a people is not defined or determined by the outcome of a game.

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Sachin Tendulkar A Billion Dreams—the Review

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Sachin Tendulkar, it is conjectured frequently, is God. Like God, he is seldom heard, on issues of importance, or seen, at least in Rajya Sabha, and like God, when we really really  need him, he is busy answering someone else’s prayers, or at least so say those who claim that he could never perform in the really critical games of his career. It is thus to no one’s surprise that the documentary based on his life, Sachin a Billion Dreams, goes beyond being an uncritical eulogy, beyond being a hagiography, to become a religious film, a “Jai Santoshi Ma” of the times, with acted out sections featuring a cherubic boy doing naughty things, lot of Anjali, and even a Putna, played by The Chappell who feeds the Indian team poisoned milk from his sinister teats by demoting Sachin from his opening spot.  At the same time, what’s missing is the Ferrari, the ball tampering, the Monkey Gate, and the many valid arguments for his retiring a few years before he did.  Match-fixing is touched upon, but it comes and goes before you can say Aillaaa.

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Praktan—the Review

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I had avoided watching Praktan,  Nandita-Shibprasad’s 2016 hit, because I had heard it was  quaint to the point of being regressive, moralizing mashima-bait in the way that Bangla TV serials are, and having wasted a few hours of my life watching the supposedly sensual Khwato that turned out to be as erotic as a speech by Rajnath Singh, I was understandably hesitant to wade into yet another Bumba-da  film about relationships, arguably not my favorite genre, unless Paoli Dam was showing off her back and shoulders or Mimi Chakraborty was doing some nyakamo.

Praktan had neither, except a recommendation from Baba and Ma, and so I finally got around watching it, almost after a year it was released.

For those who haven’t seen Praktan, it has multiple sub-plots, all united by the theme of broken relationships, all developed in the closed physical space of a train compartment.

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