The Five Stages of Grief Once Again

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There were times during NDTV’s vote-counting coverage that I wanted to reach inside my TV and give the panelists a hug. While Prannoy Roy sat throughout with the expression of Casey Affleck in the police-station scene of “Manchester By the Sea”,  Srinivasan Jain and others went through a range of emotions from Suniel Shetty’s “Naaaaiinnn” from Dhadkan to Nargis’s tear-drenched lip-trembling when she sings Raja ki Aayegi Baraat in “Aah”. Not that there was something particularly novel about this, we had seen similar during the 2014 general elections, but then watching grown men and women, on the verge of an emotional breakdown on live TV,  is somewhat sad.

Ok all right. Who am I kidding?

It was actually fun.

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Unbelievably Believer

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Reza Aslan, sir, you do not know me, nor should you ever, but I have been following your work for a while. You come often on television, and whenever you do, I envy your well-accented English and how beautifully you handle questions, and always, and I mean always, I maintain a running count of how many times you declare “I am an expert on world religions”. Your shtick is that no religion should not be treated as a monolith, that we should consider nuance and the overlaying of culture and national identity on the practice of a religion before criticizing it, and that Islam, the subject you are most asked to comment on, is misinterpreted by evil men for their own ends, it is not a fault of the religion or of the concept of religion itself that global Islamic terrorism and ISIS and Al Qaeda exist, and most importantly, anyone who suggests anything else, is an Islamophobe, a bigot, and a Bill Maher.

I am writing to tell you, sir, that there is someone who has stolen your face and even your name, and doing a show on CNN called Believer, that “believer” with a “v” not a “b”. In the first episode, in case you have not seen the show, this impostor goes to India to understand the Aghori sect within Hinduism. Unlike you, though, you being a scholar of religion for twenty years, this man seems to have even his basic facts wrong, which, as any PhD knows (I am a PhD myself), is a no-no for our clan.

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Logan—The Review

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In the year 2000, Bryan Singer made XMen. It still holds up well after all these years, specially the set-piece at Grand Central though perhaps not Storm vs Toad, but the significance of the original XMen goes well beyond as a well-done off. It launched the age of the modern superhero franchise, multiple interconnected movies, A-list actors, A-list directors, revenues in the billions, and guaranteed summer blockbusterdom. And the worldwide phenomenon of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. Over the years, the XMen franchise has spawned multiple movies, some good, most bad, and Hugh Jackman has been through most of it all, and before you know it a whole seventeen years have passed, and a generation has grown up, watching this one actor play this one character. And so when Hugh Jackman announced his decision to hang up his claws, it was like a favorite player announcing his retirement, you wanted him to have a great send-off, a film worthy of a career.

Logan is that. And more. It ties with The Dark Knight as the greatest superhero movie ever. There are no God-like beings having universes for lunch, gigantic drills changing the earth’s polarity, hundred story buildings being split apart by a laser beam, no endless armies of superheros, each having two minutes of dialogues and three scenes, no greenscreen assault of CGI jiggerypokery, and most importantly, no feeling of having paid good money to watch a trailer for forthcoming attractions, all of which would then, in turn, be trailers for the next set. In Logan, the violence is scaled down,  the action set pieces scaled back, and the focus is on the effects of the violence, the wounds and the hurt, and this makes it all so much more real and effective. In that it is a cowboy movie with mutants, using the trope of the washed out gunslinger and the brash evil sheriff and the final redemption of the flawed hero, and with locales in cowboy country and sun-washed frames, so reminiscent of the world of Eastwood, Fonda and Leone.

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A Brief Analysis Of Some of 2017’s Oscar Best Picture Nominees

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[Has SPOILERS]

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Of the movies that are nominated for Best Picture at this year’s Oscars, I have seen four: La-La Land, Moonlight, Arrival and Manchester By the Sea. They are all obviously very accomplished films, and while of course like pretty much everyone else I liked a few of these more than the others, as a writer I found it fascinating how similar structurally each of these films were, as in each raises a question, and then leaves you without a convenient or conventional resolution.

For Arrival, it is “What if you knew the future? Would you do the present?”. Arrival takes this basic premise, wraps it around a somewhat fantastic story of aliens with a language that allows you to visualize time as a cycle, and layers deep personal tragedy over it. A linguist played by Amy Adams, who by virtue of learning the language of the aliens, is able to see the future in which her marriage dissolves and her daughter dies, but still she takes the decision to have that future. The tragedy here, once you think about it and this is where the ending is unconventional, is not so much the death of her daughter and her failed marriage, but the fact that she chooses that knowingly, chooses heartbreak, because she also sees the happiness in the other moments that also lies on that path.

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Trolls and LOLs

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About a month ago, I was invited to be on a panel at Kolkata Lit Meet: “Trolls and LOLs”, on the supposed pernicious menace of trolls. You can watch the video here, but let me summarize the crux of what I said there.

There is undeniably a notion of “bait and switch” when you ask those outraged by trolling to define it. “Oh trolling is the issuance of death and rape threats”, they say. This is obviously a red line, one that every half decent person regardless of political affiliation can agree with, and as incidents in Bangladesh have shown us, not something that can or should be taken lightly. Any threat of physical form, even those said in a supposed “yaar mazaak kar raha tha” way, should be treated with utmost seriousness, and there should be zero tolerance in dealing with such malignant filth.

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The GreatBong MixTape For Your Valentine

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1. Narangi Latke:

Nothing quiet sets the mood for love than a generous serving of fruit. In “Krantikshetra”, a band of terrorists lay siege to one of India’s premier schools. Now some other educational institutes might have, in the same situation, asked for Hindustan’s fragmentation, but this school, having as its student worthies like Harish (who seems to be stuck in school longer than Kanhaiya Kumar is stuck in universities), decide to engage in a song-and-dance number to distract said dastardly terrorists. Eminent faculty Dr. Shakti Kapoor is chosen for the purpose, along with a comely female student, and he regales the evil men with a song about the secret lives of plants.

Malnthara baag mein, nazook nazook daal pe, narangi laatke

From slender branches hang oranges, ripe for…for what’s the word…plucking. [Trivia: In the movie, they changed the words to “Narangi Lage Re” for some strange reason but the soundtrack has the original]

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Kaabil and Raees—A Joint Review

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The 90s are back.

Not that I have become thin again or that LK Advani once again has a chance to become the Prime Minister. No, the reason that the 90s are back, at least for the greater part of four hours, is because Raees and Kaabil are retreads of well-worn 90s formula, faithfully rehashing as it does ancient tropes, with only a thin patina of 2010s gloss airbrushed over them.

Which in itself is not bad, for  90s junkies like me, except that both fail in bringing something even mildly new to the familiar.

First Kaabil. You know something is off by two decades when in the first five minutes, there is a joke made on Hrithik Roshan and Yami Gautam’s babies being as white as goras. Not that one can fail to not notice Yami Gautam, the patron saint of fairness creams and its favorite brand ambassador, whose whiteness which, like snows on a mountain, can cause tone-blindness if not looked upon with shades, the joke, which would have passed unnoticed in the 90s, does sound a bit, just a tad off-color in this day and age.

And then we go back further. Yami Gautam, like Mithunda’s sister in each of his Ootie movies, is raped. And then, exactly like Mithunda’s sister, she commits suicide, clearly articulating the reason behind the act, namely that she is not the same for her husband after being defiled, and that of all the things she can tolerate, there is no greater torture than to see her husband’s (or in the case of Mithunda, brother and father’s) humiliation. While I am pretty sure I have heard this sentiment expressed in countless Hindi movies of the 90s, this so-called “Gudiya bigaar gayee aur sabka mooh kala ho gya” trope is absolutely atavistic in this day and age, leaving one wondering if it’s 2 am, and you are having trouble falling asleep, and have tuned into Zee Gold, to watch “Mera Pati Sirf Mera Hai” or actually in a multiplex watching a 2017 release.

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