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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Sonu Spanking Once Again

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In 2007, Sonu Nigam, in a massive missive to the Times of India, introduced a new phrase or what linguists call a neologism to India’s cultural lexicon.

Sonu Spanking.

From here.

By presenting my case in front of you. I leave in your worthy hands the task of presenting my case in front of the world who is witnessing Sonu-spanking for last 3 months.

And then, over the years, more important things happened: Arijit Singh sung the same song a hundred times, Neil N Nikki was remade as Befuckre, the dark lord Modi and his army of Hindu savarna gaurakshak patriarchs descended from Mordor, intolerance swept the land, Rohit Sharma and Rahul Gandhi came to represent the latent talent of the country, and Kangana Ranaut took on Karan Johar and Hrithik Roshan.

Then one day, at five in the morning, Sonu Nigam woke up to some loud sound from outside, a loud persistent sound and like most people woken up at five he got mad and tweeted about it.

The sound that he heard was from a jagrata ceremony. Cranky and sleepy, he tweeted about the disturbance caused by loud singing of hymns during Hindu festivals. Then when he finally woke up in the morning, he found that he had been invited to back to back panels on NDTV and, then for good measure, to Troll Hunter and the Bane of NRI Sanghis Sardesai’s baithaak, topic of discussion being the repressiveness of Hindu festivals, environmentally unsustainable and sexist and classist, covering everything from Jallikattu to Diwali and Holi,  and by the morrow being feted by the Under Wires and the Karavans of the world, only to take his place among the pantheon of media heroes like Twinkle and Diya Mirza and Shruti Seth and Kanhaiya Kumar and D J Khaleed, brave cultural voices against the cultural Hindukritz of the current government.

Actually that was not what happened.

It was not music from a jagrata, or the sound of crackers on Diwali that had disturbed the Sonu.

It was Azaan.

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Logan—The Review

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logan

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]

manchester

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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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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The Echo Chambers: Demonetization

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demon

When Modi said that he was going to announce something important to the nation at eight, I thought, it could be only one of two things. That he wanted to do a review of Sultan of Delhi. Or that he was going to enter the Big Boss House. Instead he demonetized 500 and 1000 rupee notes, and it seemed that his election promise of depositing 15 lacs of black money in every bank account was coming true, except that it was not someone else’s black money in your account, which is what people thought, but your own black money in your own account, and this is what happens when you don’t go over the fine print.

Over the next few days, I have sought to write my two five hundred rupee notes about demonetization, but I have been told I should not, because I am a NRI, and what would I know. I was told this by the very same people who in India have strong opinions on Donald Trump and white privilege, and who refuse to accept Donald Trump as their president, perhaps because their president is Pranab Mukherjee. So I have decided to shut up, and also because I am not really an economist, and this, seems something that only specialists can be seriously expected to evaluate.

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Udta Punjab–The Review

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udta

Thanks to Pahlaj Nihalni’s ceaseless attempts to win Modiji’s Number One chamcha award and Arvind Kejriwal’s equally persistent attempt to make pretty much everything about him, and the pre-release brouhaha fitting perfectly in with the narrative of “intolerant as North Korea”, which in the absence of a functioning opposition has emerged as Modi’s biggest enemy, an idea rather than a party, Udta Punjab was political even before it hit the screens.

And once you have seen it, you realize, that regardless of what came before it, Udta Punjab was always going to be political, intensely political.

Everyone knew Bihar had no law. Thank you Prakash Jha. Everyone knew that Bhais rule Mumbai. Every Sanjay Dutt film tells us that.

But Punjab? Wasn’t it, for the rest of India, the land of plenty, of rustic simplicity, of sarson da khet through which lovers ran into each other’s arms, of “Singh is King”s, jolly bhangra-dancing and loud-laughing, of hearts bigger than the outdoors, of bravery, friendship and love?

Not any more. Broken buildings and broken men in their shadows, catatonic from drugs, politicians handing out bottles of drugs in lieu of blankets, the police under the control of politicians and the drug-mafia (beat the driver, as a wisened cop says, but don’t damage the trucks of the drug-transporters, because, as we know, in Punjab, a truck is personal), toxic intoxicants available in neighborhood pharmacies,  violence and sexual slavery in place of dance and love, and foul language that would make Gulzar go “ma di behen di”.

How did that Punjab become this Punjab, how did the sylvan fantasy become this post-apocalyptic dystopian nightmare?

Questions will be asked, by those whose idea of India is from what they watch in films, and the answers, they will find if they care to follow up, will be political.

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