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Thursday, 17 August 2017

# 49 - Book Review - The Mahabharata Murders

The premise of a serial killer who believes himself to be a modern day Duryodhana is engaging enough, but an interesting premise alone is rarely good enough for a reader to stick through a 300-page novel. 

So. does Arnab Ray pull it off?



Yes, he does. Superbly. 

The antagonist fancies himself as Duryodhana’s reincarnation, and if you have read the Mahabharata you may have, at some point, wondered if Duryodhana deserved the treatment he received. Of course, he was greedy, vain, arrogant, and possibly, a megalomaniac – in other words, a true blue millennial.
And what does Duryodhana’s reincarnation do in the 21st century? He seeks out those who wronged him in his previous birth of course. Rather, seeks out their respective reincarnations.

The protagonist, Rukhsana Ahmed, a homicide detective in the Kolkata Police has to apprehend the killer before he can get to his final target.

In Mahabharata Murders, Arnab Ray ticks all the right boxes, weaving a tale that is dark, sharp, and as cliched as it may sound - unputdownable.
From the first page you are warped into the first of many crime scenes and as you begin to progress through the book you realise that this not quite the Kolkata of Bhodroloks.

A lot of the characters are people we suspect may lurk in the fringes of society and you are more than glad to have been deprived of the pleasure of their company.  But in the novel, they come alive with all of their menace and quirks, and appear believable, and dare I say it, occasionally likable.
A protagonist that you end up rooting for, minor characters who leave a mark, and just the right amount of shock factor makes this book probably the best crime fiction I have read in years.
And there's, of course, the dialoguebaazi. A cross between lines from Salim-Javed and Quentin Tarantino films, the dialogues and conversations are impactful, even when discussions revolve around mundane topics.

Think the restaurant scene in Reservoir Dogs where the protagonists are discussing tipping, or analysing the meanings of songs.

Strictly, these portions are not designed to move the plot ahead but it is difficult to imagine ‘Pulp Fiction’ without ‘Quarter Pounder with Cheese’. 
A grouch that I have with the book, however, is that it is not strictly a whodunit. But that’s more of a personal preference. The writing and the plot hold on to you and does not let go until you are done.
Oh, and this is Arnab Ray’s finest work yet.

Arnab Ray’s ‘The Mahabharata Murders’ is now available on Amazon and the Juggernaut App in India. Outside the subcontinent, it is available on Kindle.


Saturday, 12 August 2017

# 48 - FICTIONAL interview with Pahlaj Nihalani.

The Sanskaari Chief has left the building. Appointed in 2015, the ex-Censor Board Chief didn’t get to complete his full term, but his tenure has been anything but unremarkable. Whether you loved him (?) or hated him, he made sure that ignoring him wasn’t an option. Born to create news, even his sacking makes for front page stuff.


Below is an excerpt from a fictional interview that he gave to me in my sleep. He was still the CBFC Chairperson back then, and on waking up I was disappointed that it had all been a dream. Nevertheless, I jotted it down. Remember, this was given when he was still the Chairperson, and rumours of his dismissal had been just that, rumours.

We met at his home, or it could have been the sets of a Sooraj Barjatya film.
Chop, chop. 

Kanishka: First thing first. Great job done - 

Pahlaj Nihalani: (interrupts) Thank you. A lot of people are unable to appreciate my efforts to cleanse the country of unethical, un-sanskaari, anti-national elements. But such is the path of the righteous man. I may be criticised, ridiculed, and even removed from my position, but I will continue to do my duty.

Uh, I was actually about to say, great job done on assuming the position of the de facto moral police Head of the country and forcing your opinions down the throats of movie goers. 

Thank you again. As I often tell everyone, it's a thankless job, but someone's got to do it. If nobody stands up, someone has to, no? What will the new generation grow up watching and learning? When we were young, we used to read books - stories, badly written, terrible print quality, couldn't tell if they were photos or drawings...often second hand and dirty. But look at the youth of today...they have videos, on tv, computer, phone. Accessible instantly. Is it fair? You tell me. You only tell me. 

I am not sure what you are talking about.

Never you mind that. The point is, our job is to keep things that are meant to stay inside the bedroom, inside the bedroom and off cinema screens.

You have also censored words from movies, perhaps going overboard.

Let me explain the rationale behind this. Once I do, you will agree how noble and farsighted I am. You see, the kids these days, they don't socialise much. Agreed? 

Possibly.

Now, back in my, or for that matter, your days, where did we learn cuss words from? 

Friends, I suppose. 

Exactly. But these little innocent flowers - the generation that we will pass on the torch of greatness to, they don't have any real friends! They are learning everything from the movies. You see, by blocking out the abuses and dirty words from the movies, we are forcing them to socialise, to go out, to figure out the words. This will in turn build friendships and unity, will galvanise them to stand together in times of need. I love children. They are the fuel for this nation. They need to, they need to-  

Burn?

No. They need to step up and start mingling. Just not with the opposite gender of course.  

I see. But what about blocking words from movies that are A rated already? I mean, I watched 'Deadpool', and half the dialogues were muted out. I had to second-guess the jokes based on lip-reading.

Hmmm. That is indeed worrying, we will have to blur out the lips from now on then.
  
No, nooo. What did we adults do to deserve this?

You are adults. Why do you need to hear abuses? Mazaa aata hai gaali sunne mein ? 


Thoda bahut. But what about that 'intercourse' dispute? You asked for 1 lakh votes, and the channel got them. But you went back on your word...

[Moves to the corner of the room and refuses eye contact]

I guess we can't discuss that.

[Comes back]

You beep beep beep beep...I specifically told you not to bring that up.

Calm down sir, did you just say beep beep beep? Literally, beep beep beep beep?

Yes, I was exercising what they call in the west, self-censorship. You see, I practice what I preach.

Speaking of the west, you censored a kissing scene between Daniel Craig and Monica Bellucci from Spectre. Was it necessary, considering that the audience and Bollywood have matured to such kind of content?

Just a kiss!? Let me make it clear, what Monica bhabhi and Mr Daniel did in the movie was unpardonable. Unimaginable. Un-

Un-sanskari?

Listen you handsome devil#, don't try to act smart with me. I have said this before and I will say it again, this is India. What works outside doesn't work here, and what works here doesn't work outside. We are a lot like the ambassador car in that way.

Quite up-to-date I see. Anyway, you have mentioned earlier that you feel the content on television programs and the internet should also be subject to prior checks.

Yes. We are working on a proposal right now. You see - children are like, like, computers. They are impressionable. And the filth they show on the TV and internet are like viruses. And I am......Kaspersky.
[Looks pleased with himself].

Are you by any chance talking about Pehredaar Piya Ki?

No, but that sounds interesting. Who is Piya? Who is the Pehredaar? How do they meet? Tell me all about it.

Maybe later. Your appointment and some of your decisions have not gone down too well with the industry. Does that hurt?

Yes. But it's a meetha dard, it's a sign that I am doing my job well. My friends have always known that I am a man of strong principles; when you deal with PN in professional capacity, you forget that I am your friend.

Who are your friends from the industry? Let me guess, Alok Nath?

Very funny. But yes, he was a friend, but then he appeared in that ad, you know, the, the, anti smoking ad. And they showed Sunny Leone in it. So, I have stopped talking to him.  

You are aware, that films such as ‘La La Land’, ‘xXx : Return of Xander Cage’ and ‘Office Christmas Party’ have had portions removed.

Of course, I am aware, it is my job to be aware. See, if you use bad words, drink alcohol, or refer to things not acceptable in our society, be prepared for cuts and beeping.
I would just like to point out; in XXX you cut a scene where Vin Diesel is drinking Cranberry juice. His character in the film is a teetotaller –

See, there is a scope for confusion. Who knows, if it was actually cranberry juice or alcohol. If I can get confused, everyone can. Understanding?

Yes, in’ La La Land’, you censored the word ‘pitch’, I imagine that you misheard it as bit-

(Interrupts) Don’t say bad words. Again, if I misheard it, so can the others na?

What about ‘Office Christmas Party’?

No need. We celebrate Diwali. Last time we did celebrate Christmas, I became Secret Santa  to everyone in the department. I suspect it was all planned. Yeh sab nahin chalega. I will fire them.

No, no. I meant the movie, ‘Office Christmas Party’.

Oh, that one. Again, they were saying bad words. A word that rhymes with..(thinks) ‘Kill Do’, and another that rhymes with (thinks)(thinks) (thinks) Terminator.

[He proceeds to write in a notepad the words ‘Dildo’ and ‘Vibrator’ and shows me the same. He then tears the page off and sets it on fire].

But Sir, here is the thing.  In the film, the word ‘dildo’ is muted out, only to reappear later in the same conversation, less than 3 seconds later. In the same film, the phrase ‘one second’ was also muted, presumably by accident.*

^%$^ch##  %$^%$^&& . Tu $ ^^%$^%$

Siiiir! What happened to self-censorship?

Self-censorship gaya ***** ki *** *****. GET OUT.

Last question sir, last question. Please. There are rumours that you may be replaced very soon. Your opinion on the same.

Let them talk. Everybody knows the kind of work that I am doing here. The kind of work I have done in the last couple of years. I have even bigger plans, revised guidelines. I have faith in the government. It will take the right decision. So I have hope.

Us too, Sir, us too.
____
# - Come on it was a dream.

* - This really happened. Read the article http://www.hindustantimes.com/hollywood/pahlaj-nihalani-i-don-t-see-a-single-movie-that-comes-for-certification/story-DGJeR5sB4ke0Jcrz0HWvKP.html.

Image from here. Video from here

Monday, 31 July 2017

# 47 - EXCLUSIVE – Interview with Arnab Ray aka Greatbong

One of the most followed Indian bloggers, Arnab Ray (or Greatbong, his preferred online moniker) is a man of many talents. An expert on cyber-security and all things pop-culture, he also happens to be a best-selling novelist. His published novels are ‘May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss’, ‘The Mine’, ‘Yatrik’, ‘Sultan of Delhi : Ascension’, and the just released ‘The Mahabharata Murders’.

In this unedited email interview, we take a closer look at the man who, among other things, brought ‘Gunda’ to the masses.



 Kanishka: ‘The Mahabharata Murders’ is out on the Juggernaut App to very positive reviews. The print copy has just released. High expectations? 

Arnab Ray: Always. My expectations for my books are like those of a desi dad sitting in the audience of a Spelling Bee when his offspring is on stage. I live vicariously through my creations.

What particularly struck a chord with 'The Mahabharata Murders' is we get an insight into Duryodhana's (albeit modern day) point of view. Many of us have grown up wondering how fair and justifiable the Pandavas were, but it is Karna who is generally viewed as the tragic hero. Did you have a fascination with the character of Duryodhana?

Always. When the Pandavas were in the forest, they sent spies to find out how Duryodhana was doing as an emperor. What they found out was he was a just ruler and the subjects were pleased with him. He opened his arms for Karna, perhaps strategically, but even then, it was an opportunity no one else was willing to take.  



Chetan Bhagat waxed his legs so that he could understand the female psyche better, enabling him to write from the point of view of a woman (One Indian Girl). What did you have to do to write in the first person as Rukhsana, the protagonist of the Mahabharata Murders? 

Each of us a have a male and a female side, and for the Mahabharata Murders I just got in touch with my female side. It does not require removal of body hair from any portion of the body to make that happen.

Your thoughts on the still nascent category of ebooks in India? Given the monopoly of the Kindle, do you think apps like Juggernaut have potential for growth? 

The competition of Juggernaut-like apps with Kindle is not on the UX (that is easily replicated), but on the pricing. If you can optimize the delivery and thus undercut Amazon's markup, these apps have a good business case. Consumers are likely to find books available for much lower on these kind of publisher apps than they would on Amazon, and the Indian book consumer is extremely price conscious when it comes to "desi" authors like us. Rs 20 here and there makes a difference.

Humour, horror, drama, thriller, crime-fiction. You haven't repeated a genre yet. We know that Sultan Of Delhi's sequel is coming out some time next year. How is it progressing so far? And what after that? 

In 2019 most likely. Haven’t been writing SOD2 for some time. After that, I am going to return to horror, but traditional Indian horror, with a book called Shakchunni, set in 1930s Bengal.

 Your novels have had passing elements of romance. Any plans of doing an out and out romance fiction? A very popular genre that you haven't fully explored yet.

Sultan of Delhi has strong elements of romance, as you possibly alluded to. I do want to out and out romance fiction, but herein lies a problem. I am the wrong gender, wrong age, and wrong BMI to write romance. For the Indian market, a successful romance book is as much as about the author as much as it is about the story. Also when I say I want to write out and out romance, it will not be conventional (I do not like writing conventions) but twisted, and combined with who I am and how I look in a high resolution photo, I hesitate.

You have a 9 to 5 job, you write novels, you tweet regularly, you blog (unfortunately no longer as frequently). How difficult or easy has it been so far? 

It gets increasingly difficult---fatherhood, increased responsibility at work. Which is why I do not blog as frequently, and the books will become more and more infrequent as we go on.

You come across as quite opinionated on social media and aren't really afraid to call a spade a spade. Do you think that this may alienate some of your readers?

Of course it does. It screws up my media coverage, leads to awkward dinner-time conversations at lit fests, and makes me persona non grata in some venues. But the thing is, I cannot be not me. You know what I am scared of? That the person who becomes a big author will not be me, but a person who looks like me but does not share my opinions, and I would feel jealous all over again.

 You are an unabashed fan of the 90s movies. But, Mithun da, Kanti Shah and the Ramsay Brothers are no longer the forces they used to be. Where are you getting your "so-bad-that-it's-good" fixes from these days?  

Ashutosh tweets.

What was your "oh, so I am kind of famous" moment?

It is usually being recognized. In airports, in malls. "Excuse me, are you Greatbong?". I won't pretend it does not feel good, though I make suitably embarrassed gestures.
  
5 books down. Great reviews. But you haven't really matched the kind of popularity levels that one would expect from a writer of your calibre. Any regrets? Any plans to do things differently in the future?

Many regrets. I wish I had started writing sooner. I wish I had been born a bit later. I know they are contradictory, but that is the thing with regrets. And no plans to do things differently, as I said before, if I reach my destination and it is not me, who it is then at the finish line?

What are you reading right now?

Book 2 of the Expanse Series

We have to ask you about your thoughts on the 'nepotism' incident and the events that followed.

Don't see the problem seriously. Nepotism is only a factor when the opportunity is supposed to be available to all. Like a government job. Like a job in a publicly traded company. The presidency of Congress is not supposed to be available to all, it is a family business. Similarly, Karan Johar has no obligation to not cast the son of a friend as hero.  If he is really that bad, then the market will throw him out. Rahul Gandhi, Puru Rajkumar....

Last question: Your take on the proposed 'Gupt' sequel

Compensates for global warming. The future is something to look forward to, after all.


[Arnab Ray’s latest book, The Mahabharata Murders is currently available in India on the Juggernaut App and on Kindle outside of the subcontinent. The print version is available in stores and can be ordered from Amazon.  He blogs at greatbong.net and tweets at @greatbong.] 

Friday, 21 July 2017

# 46 - Movie Review - Dunkirk - Thankfully, no Ta-Da moment

Cast: Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D'Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy.

Directed by: Christopher Nolan.

A retelling of the Dunkirk evacuation - a crucial episode in the early years of the World War II. Allied soldiers fight for survival against seemingly insurmountable odds as German forces close in. 

Dunkirk has been touted to be the movie of the year, not without reason of course, it's not every day that a Christopher Nolan movie hits the screens. Some have already hailed it as the greatest war film ever.

Coming three Years after Interstellar and seven years after Inception, expectations are rather lofty and I for one am glad for the subject, mostly because Dunkirk isn't the third of the "mindf*ck trilogy". I had to watch Inception twice in order to ‘get’ it, and with Interstellar, I stopped trying.

Thankfully, Dunkirk follows a far more conventional plot, and even though we are shown the story from three separate timelines that sometimes criss-cross but truly converge towards the end, it is not very difficult to follow after a while.


No twists, no Ta-Da or a-ha moments, but all through its 106 minutes, you can’t help but be at the edge of your seat thanks to the tight screenplay, taut editing, and brilliant visuals and sounds.

There is no background story or introduction here, the movie starts off by dropping us in the midst of a war-zone, and we barely get time to dust ourselves off as the almost nameless and always faceless enemy strikes, regularly and unflinchingly.

This is Nolan's most ‘different’ film yet and credit to the director for pulling it off superbly.

What is his biggest achievement is the fact that in this age of excessive CGI and visual effects where we have gotten used to watching buildings and planets being destroyed by aliens and cowboys, how amazingly real and painful the sequences appear. The sound of a single bullet hitting metal is enough to jolt us and make us panic for the unnamed soldiers whose lives are in danger. 

There is no single protagonist here, and very little dialogue is spoken during the length of the film, and this adds to the effectiveness of the plot. Almost all the actors are flawless in their performances and the emotions are subtle and not shoved down our throats; Bollywood would do well to take a leaf out of Nolan's page and abandon the jingoism we reserve for our war films (Lakshya being a rare exception).

Is the movie perfect? Not really, Nolan being Nolan, some questions, while not left unanswered, kept me bugging well into the second half of the movie, and that felt a bit unnecessary, given the larger context. Also, the separate timelines, while they contribute positively to the film, take some time to get used to, particularly because of the abrupt cut-scenes. 

But this is nitpicking of the connoisseur kind.

Watch Dunkirk, not because of the 'Kids watch Game of Thrones, and legends watch Dunkirk' memes, not because of Harry Styles (fine performer and at par with the rest of the cast except for the train scene), watch it for the horrors and the little victories of war, watch it to realise how good film-making can sometimes transcend the boundaries of the medium, and become something else altogether.

And yes, watch it because you don't have to see it more than once to figure it out. 

RATING: 4/5.

Image taken from here.


Saturday, 8 July 2017

# 45 - Movie Review - Spider-Man : Homecoming (2017)

Cast: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau
Directed by: Jon Watts.

Another reboot of the Spiderman saga, sans the origin story. Peter Parker is already Spiderman, but crime fighting isn't as easy as he thought it would be. 


What's common amongst Barney Stinson, Ironman, and Spiderman?
They are pretty much useless without their respective suits, well, almost.

Tom Holland is the third Spiderman to be portrayed on the big screen and the youngest. He is neither the lovable loser Tobey Maguire portrayed, nor is he the bratty, angst-ridden, Andrew Garfield (the videshi Ranveer Singh) - Tom's Spiderman is the somewhat middle path treading, more relatable 15-year old who all of us were at one point in time.

He isn't out to avenge Uncle Ben here, his priority lies in becoming a part of the Avengers team by impressing Tony Stark (extended cameo from Robert Downey jr., delightful as always). Of course, his big spider heart is at the right place, and he makes sacrifices - like missing a party or foregoing a chance to represent his school in a competition.

There is no sob story here, Peter Parker is a regular kid who, while ambitious, barely gets the chance to punch above his weight, and he doesn’t have to, this is a rare Marvel movie where the world or the universe isn’t facing imminent destruction. Spiderman’s heroics are, for the most part, restricted to his neighbourhood. This is your friendly neighbourhood protector alright, and it's mighty fun that way.

So we have a very attractive Aunt May (Marisa Tomei in a role that's closer to ‘My Cousin Vinny’ than any of the previous Spiderman movies), a loyal sidekick (Jacob Batalon, more irritating than amusing), Captain America (the brief appearances of Chris  Evans are seriously funny), an all new love interest (Laura Harrier is competent), a very interesting Michelle Jones aka MJ  (Zendaya) and  Flash Thompson re-imagined as a flashy nerd (Tony Revolori ).

And lest I forget, there's Adrian Toomes played by Michael Keaton. Think of him as an evil version of Uncle Ben.
Keaton is obviously no stranger to superhero movies, but he is on the other side this time around, and he is mighty fine, oozing menace with or without his combat suit and justifying his villainy with panache. He is absolutely a treat to watch, we hope we haven’t seen the last of his character.

It's not all positive though, the film isn't really about Spiderman, and it isn’t about Peter Parker either.

It’s the suit.

The spider sense has been laid to rest and has been taken over by a Siri/J.A.R.V.I.S.

And *Spoiler Alert* the Spiderman suit has enough bells and whistles to rival the Ironman suit, which is no coincidence because it's been designed by Tony Stark himself.  A big part of the movie is about the suit and gadgets that go all shiny in the night. While that doesn't take away from the plot itself, for some of us older viewers that is a let-down, because 'Spiderman' was never about the suit as much as it was about the person wearing it, and this one departs from that aspect a tad too much for my liking.

Go watch the movie.  It helps if you have followed the Marvel cinematic universe, but even if you haven't, it isn't a big deal.

You will get more than a few decent laughs, and more pop-culture references and inside-allusions than you may have expected; also the fact that it isn't a dark, brooding, coming of age tale without being all-out-campy definitely helps.

Oh, and there's Tony Stark attending what appears to be..naah, can't give that away.

Spidey may be 15, but he is definitely all grown up and in sync with the times here. 

RATING: 3/5.

Image taken from here.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

# 44 - I am sorry Dhinchak Pooja - I was wrong (follow up post).

 As my 4th standard PT teacher used to say, it takes b@!!s to own up to mistakes.

The MCP could have just used a gender neutral organ like "gut", or plain old "courage". 

But anyway, this post is neither about body parts nor my PT teacher.

It's about Pooja, Dhinchak Pooja. Yes, again, and no, I am not running out of things to write.


My last post was about her too, and it wasn't very respectful. And in the last month or so, the more I listened to, saw, and hummed Dhinchak Pooja's songs, I have come to regret what I had written.

And what better way to say sorry than to write another long post about her?

The jarring notes, shrill voice, backup dancers who can't dance and cars that don't go from point A to point B aside, what is the other thing that had you listening to Dhinchak Pooja (hereinafter referred to as "DP", affectionately)?

The lyrics.

On first hearing, the message being conveyed through DP's songs seems simple enough - she is just a girl, standing in front of a boy, taking selfies around town, drinking and encouraging others to drink, and of course, flaunting a newly acquired cap like a regular teen.

But then, listening to "daaru daaru daaru" for the 1782nd time, while drinking milk and wearing a cap which I hoped was close enough to be 'swaggy' that it finally struck me.
Selfie + Swag wali topi + Daaru Daaru Daaru playing in the background + Drinking cow-milk out of a cup I got for free = The Eureka Moment 

The lyrics are simple - yes, but the message being conveyed, anything but.

Selfie Maine Le Li Hai

So you were told that this song was about taking selfies?

Exasperating farrago of distortions, misrepresentations & outright lies being broadcast by masses of unprincipled showmen masquerading as intellectuals. 

Sorry, I have been wanting to use that phrase for some time now, context be damned.

Moving on.

You see, the selfie is a metaphor for independence. And DP stresses on selfies because she doesn't need anyone to take them for her...she doesn't need the society, she doesn't need no man, she doesn't need her friends (as elucidated so poetically through the line "chal be side hatt ja re uncle"). 


Just a girl taking selfies without giving a shit about the world. 

Just DP and her phone. Except she isn't holding a phone, she is holding a mirror to the society-at-large. And it isn't pretty. 

Then there are the cars.

If you look closely, DP's pals keep changing through all her videos (more on that later), the only thing common in her videos is the fact that cars have been featured constantly. The Audi in particular.

Coincidence?

You sexist stupid dumbass. 

In truth, the fact that the Audi has been showcased in all her videos tells us of the temporal nature of our relationships in this day and age. People come and people go, and we live in times that the only ones we can count on are machines.

DP can be so deep at times.

What's with her steering a car that doesn't move, you ask, desperate to prove that there's no rhyme and reason in the Dhinchak Pooja Universe.

"Look Ma, both hands."

You see, DP may be independent, intelligent, and capable, but this paapi samaj will not let her break free of the shackles. YOU, yes, the likes of you will not let DP tread her own path. You will stop her every step of the way.

This is what has been depicted so beautifully in the aesthetically shot scene that has her putting on a brave face as she steers a car that doesn't move. 

At least she's trying. You can make fun of her, take away her car keys, but she just won't quit.

In daaru daaru daaru, DP is at it again, breaking the gender stereotypes. 

You prehistoric man-child, you probably cringed when DP so casually crooned that she would bash up anyone and everyone who were not getting drunk.

Take a minute to ponder why you did that. Was it because the song sucked, the lyrics didn't make sense and the video was made with low production values?

Of course not.

I am willing to bet my lunch money that it goes against your outdated values to see and hear a beautiful lady out drinking men and threatening to beat up those who dare not drink at her party.

"Aise kaise keh sakti Hai" you subconsciously wonder, but you stifle your thought and make DP the butt of your jokes.

People like you make me sick. 

Here is DP, beating men at their own little sexist games, doing her bit for gender equality, and all that you can think of is which pub allowed her to shoot at their premises? Or even worse, why is the dancer making orgasmic faces?

Swag wali topi is another soothing number that has DP talking about her, well, swag wali topi. She also mentions that she rides nothing but Audis (while sitting inside a BMW). 

Unpredictable DP.

She is also surrounded by dark obese men in this video pretending to be African American for some reason - they have been conditioned to pump their fists every time DP says "topi".
Okay, the guy sitting on the car is kinda cool.

Clearly the 'topi' in question is more than a cap, it is a symbol of liberty, freedom, equality, and obviously, swag. Things so crucial that they need to be stressed- which DP does by repeating the same lines over and over again - the chorus becomes the song, and the song - the chorus, culminating into a war cry to women all over the country to stand up for their rights. 

This is also observed by virtue of the fact that the aforementioned obese men do precious little in the video. All her videos feature her in the spotlight and the men at best act as stars to the moon that is DP.

Is this a subtle indication that men are little more than background props in the lives of woman-folk in today's day and age? Perhaps.

DP also takes a dig at Bollywood. 

If you listen closely, the number 'Daaru Daaru Daaru' has more than a passing similarity to a popular Akshay Kumar party track. And like all party tracks the Akki track featured Akshay surrounded by a bevvy of firangi beauties.  

But trust DP to shake things up.

With basically the same music (sans the Honey Singh rap portion, thankfully), DP kills it by going the opposite direction, DP replaces Akshay Kumar in the video and instead of the item girls, there are item boys.

For more than a century, men have been dominating the hindi film industry, even as 50-year-old men get away with romancing 18-year-old-girls, DP rubs it in Bollywood's face with just three videos - turning cliches around with her cronies/boy toys. 

What's more, she doesn't care for the society's standards of beauty (fair & handsome those guys aren't....deliberately).
Jay Z & Beyonce?

I could go on and on about Dhinchak Pooja and what I have learnt from her songs.

But you wouldn't understand. You would call me crazy.

So, I would rather focus on like-minded people. People who actually get DP and her message.

Where am I going to find them?

Well, she has a concert coming up in the city.....

Images (apart from the selfie) are screenshots from Dhinchak Pooja's videos - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=frw6uu3nonQ and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q67lQM-8s9I.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

# 43 - Of Dhinchak Puja, Varun Pruthi, and other things garbage

Pooja, in India, is a fairly common name; it's the equivalent of a Rahul or an Abhishek. Shout out "Pooja" in a crowded place and you're sure to see a couple of heads turning back to look at you. Trust me, it works, even if there's no girl in the vicinity. Works even better if you are naked, but, I digress.

Before I go on, it is only fair that I mention where this rant is coming from.

Remember 'Free basics' and 'internet.org'? It was Mark Zuckerberg's grand plan to provide free access of the internet to everyone. It didn't take off. We, the people, quickly understood that the basic tenets of free internet would mess up net neutrality...and we protested and protested until the government took notice.

Thank God we didn't get free internet; net neutrality or not.

"Why, you capitalist SOB, would you say that?"

I am glad you asked. 

Do you know what we used the internet for when it's given free? Zuckerberg might tell you that the Internet can be used for sharing crucial information, knowledge, news, basic services blah blah blah.

It is true, the internet CAN be used for all of those things. What we end up using it for, however, is an entirely different matter.



Yep. Free WiFi used mostly to watch porn. Bet you didn't see that coming, eh Mark?

Forget free, even when we pay for it, we tend to use it mostly for (ahem) unproductive purposes.

A friend and I keep discussing if the internet is a boon or bane, and we always end up talking about the regularity with which it provides us pop-culture icons and nuggets of gold and I am not even talking about Justin-Baby-Bieber here. It was one of such conversations that led to this post.

Back to Pooja, Dhinchak Pooja.

Until a few weeks back, almost no one had heard of Dhinchak Pooja, barring her die-hard fans of course. 

But now, everyone is talking about Dhinchak Pooja and her swag wali topi, her selfie game level, how she drives a stationery Audi and what not.

Have a look:

If there's one thing that we can unanimously agree upon, it is the fact that aside from her remarkable  ability for consuming alcohol (refer her video ‘Daaru Daaru Daaru’), kicking ass (refer to lyrics of aforementioned ‘Daaru Daaru Daaru’), and the extraordinary skill to take selfies anywhere anytime - the girl has little or no talent. Especially so far as singing is concerned.

Which is okay, in spite of what THEY might tell you, everybody can’t dance, and everybody can't sing.

There are plenty of people who lack particular talents, but I don't suspect they are willing to go public with a show of how unremarkable, nay, how pathetic they are in that particular field.

You see, that's where we have gone wrong. It appears that some of us got fed up with talented people excelling in their respective fields, and decided to strike back. 

Dhinchak Pooja, Kanti Shah, KRK, Hero Alom etc. have mastered the art of being so bad, that they stand out.

And in our quest for social media supremacy (also known as ‘me first syndrome’), we, the mango people, eager to make fun of these creatures end up making them stars. 

Which brings me to Varun Pruthi, this guy:

Varun Pruthi - Father, mother, son, daughter, brother, and sister to every Indian.

Varun is a different case. Unlike apni Pooja, Varun doesn't sing. Varun doesn't dance. He does get teary eyed though a la Satyameva Jayate. 

You see,  Varun is in the business of preaching, badly. His videos are so obviously staged that WWE stars would feel confident about their character's storyline.

What separates Varun Pruthi from the other social media superstars is the fact that he isn’t trying to get your attention by being bad at something (even though he is, he doesn’t use it as his USP), he is trying to pull at the strings of your heart.

At last count, 31 of my facebook friends had liked his FB page. I am judging these people unless of course, they are in it to make fun of the guy, because at the end of the day Varun Pruthi is a smarter version of Dhinchak Puja.

Varun explaining things in that simple way of his. 

Varun is a wannabe actor (his handle VarunActor gives it away) except he couldn't make it in the movies or television. His motivation for uploading videos may have been genuine to start off with, but with time he has gotten cheesier and cheesier, and I suspect that it is all a cover for bijness.

He is apparently a motivational speaker as well.

Oh, and he is selling stuff too.

Whose cause? Varun's?

Bad actors, fake tears, repetitive inspirational music, tacky lines pretending to be motivational, it's all there. And in spite of that, 58 lakh people have fallen for his act.

Dear reader, the fact is there's only one thing that sells more than mediocrity, it is garbage, the awfulness of the free kind (that's why RGV films aren't popular, sure they are crap, but you gotta buy tickets).

And there's nothing wrong with garbage, I have written eloquently on why I love Taher Shah before.
These are times of showmanship; if you got it - flaunt it, if you don't, flaunt it even more.

Meena boy - I like him, the kid's got attitude.


The problem is free garbage isn't just restricted to singing, dancing, and do-gooders. There are others who pride themselves on their ability to disseminate BS, of course to them it's knowledge.

So we have people proudly stating that UNESCO has declared India's national anthem as the best in the world, NASA taking a well-lit photo from outer space of India showing how funky India looks on Diwali night and a guy on Facebook trying to convince others that India is actually an acronym for "independent nation declared in August". 

Then there's the 2000 rupee note with the GPS embedded chip, the post with the image of a malnourished child, saying "if you scroll down without typing 'amen' then you WILL die tonight.

You get the drift.

Oh, and amen.

Forget free, there are times when I think we don't deserve the internet at all.

We are all in it, your poison might be different from mine, but we are all guilty as hell. You might not be the kind to share the ‘UNESCO declares PM Modi as best PM’ but you might be sharing cat pictures. You might not use free wi-fi for porn, but you could be downloading  Kim K’s coffee table book that has nothing but her selfies.

Every time I see a teenager posing next to Ronald McDonald and throwing gang signs while taking a selfie I feel the strong urge to take his cellphone away and throwing it in the general direction of the Arabian Sea.

And then I check my browser history and forgive him immediately.

Perhaps end up taking a selfie myself - with Ronald and the said teenager. 

Maybe it's time for me to make my debut as a singer/video star.

How does Krazzy K sound?

Images taken from here, here, here and here. Rest from Varun Pruthi's facebook page.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

# 42 - Sarkar 3 - A review OR What the hell is Ram Gopal Verma smoking?


I admire Ram Gopal Verma.
No, not because of his skills as a filmmaker, but because of his powers of persuasion.

How does he convince people to finance his films? How does he sway distributors? How does he coax theatre owners? How does he repeatedly convince Amitabh Bachchan to work in his movies? How did he manage to rope in Abhishek Bachchan for a non-speaking appearance in Sarkar 3?

And so on...

Sarkar was a good movie, in fact, it was arguably the last decent movie that had RGV's name attached to it. RGV made no attempts at hiding his source material (The Godfather) but the adaptation was clever enough to hold its own.

The sequel - Sarkar Raj, however, had nothing working in its favour apart from Bachchan, the senior Bachchan that is. Kangana Ranaut might as well have had Sarkar Raj in mind while speaking of nepotism in Bollywood – Sarkar Raj was an all family affair, it is likely that Ram Gopal Verma got a family pack deal ( Amitabh aur Abhishek ke saath Aishwarya free, or more likely, Amitabh aur Aishwarya ke saath Abhishek free).

But Sarkar 3 manages to do something extraordinary, it makes Sarkar Raj look good.

**Spoilers Ahead**

Sarkar 3 is a 2 hour 10 minutes long movie, but sitting through it felt like a 4-hour ordeal. The plot broadly follows the same arc as the predecessors:

A. Introduction of Amitabh Bachchan aka Sarkar as the angry old man who wields tremendous power in Maharashtra.

B. Govinda Govinda Govinda Govinda

C. Big connected businessman seeks favour from Sarkar but of course, it is against Sarkar's ethics.

D. Govinda Govinda Govinda Govinda

E. "Yeh kaam main nahin karunga, aur tujhe bhi karne nahin dunga".

F. Govinda Govinda Govinda Govinda

G. Big connected businessman figures that the only way to carry out his diabolical scheme is to bump off Sarkar. He is aided by a number of pawns, viz. rival politicians, gangsters,  etc. Roles played by stock RGV actors.

H. Govinda Govinda Govinda Govinda

I. Sarkar betrayed by someone close to him, but we are not sure who. 

J. Govinda Govinda Govinda Govinda

K. Sarkar on backfoot. All is seemingly lost.

L. Govinda Govinda Govinda Govinda

M. Someone close to Sarkar dies. A rare vulnerable moment for Sarkar.

N. Realisation that the Big Connected Businessman has the backing of an even bigger figure.

O. Govinda Govinda Govinda Govinda

P. In a swift turn of events, it is revealed that Sarkar had known who the culprit was all along. A figure who previously appeared to be incapable of aiding Sarkar, or not much of a threat to the enemies, comes to Sarkar’s aid.

Q. Govinda Govinda Govinda Govinda

R. Montage of vengeance sequences.

S. Govinda Govinda interspersed with Sitar music

T. While the image of Sarkar remains as strong as ever, hints that the power has shifted elsewhere, fully with Sarkar’s consent.

U. Govinda Govinda Govinda Govinda

If the repetitive 'Govinda Govinda' bits above irritated you, imagine how bad it is translated on screen? Especially because unlike the first part, there is no remote context here, a guy might as well be saying "main susu karke aata hu", and our eardrums are bombarded with the overpowering theme, as if that line leads to a massive revelation. 

Now, the question isn’t how many times you can see the same plot with the same actor over and over again (hello there, Rahul & Prem), the question is what happened to the creative abilities of a director who had given us gems such as ‘Rangeela’, ‘Satya’, and ‘Company’?

RGV’s knack of using odd angles has reached an all time low (pun intended). The camera focusses on the weirdest of objects repeatedly – if there is a subtle message that he intends to convey, the viewer is probably missing it. The camera, in particular, has an unhealthy obsession with three objects – a Lord Ganesha bust, a boxer dog statue/footrest, and a portrait of Abhishek Bachchan smiling. The third item gets equal screen time as Amitabh Bachchan; I sincerely hope Bachchan Jr. is making some money out of this.

"Look Pa, No hands."


The very first scene of the movie makes it amply clear that this is a ride to mediocrity town. Sarkar is making a speech in front of what appears to be a crowd of zombies. Every time Bachchan takes a pause during his speech (which is way too often) the crowd mindlessly chants “Sarkaar Sarkaaaaar”. The tone unwavering, the pitch, unchanging. It might as well have been one single audio recording being played in a loop.

Sarkar 3 does not go downhill as it progresses, it maintains its unexceptional quality with remarkable consistency, there is no redeeming scene or standout performance, no Amitabh Bachchan or Manoj Bajpayee can salvage this disaster.

The script and the dialogues are so bad that this was a disaster even before the first shot, but RGV clearly took up the challenge to further eff it up.  

Amitabh Bachchan tries his best but is a let-down. Unlike the Subhash Nagre from the previous films - who spoke little and in spite of his fragile appearance had an aura of invincibility around him; this time he is made to talk, a lot, and ends up sounding more like a delusional old man rather than, well, Sarkar.

Manoj Bajpayee is the least worst of the lot.

"They made me look like Kejriwal"


Yami Gautam looks good, her hairstyle reminiscent of stereotyped vamps from the 90s. From her vacant gaze, it appears she is still carrying a Kaabil hangover.  

Jackie Shroff: Oh, Jackie, Jackie boy. Looks like Ram Gopal Verma slipped you some of the stuff that he has been taking. Unfortunately, unlike RGV, you have to appear on-screen. Here’s a tip: Don’t act in a movie whose director called your son ‘a bikini babe’. RGV clearly doesn’t like the Shroffs. A career ruining performance this.

Ronit Roy looks tough and angry. In other words, he plays Ronit Roy.

Amit Sadh gets a meaty role with sufficient scope for performance but is a thorough disappointment. Jackie Shroff is a tough act to beat, but Amit Sadh is the clear winner here. He hams as if there’s no tomorrow, and falters in every department of acting. This is particularly sad because he was quite decent in  'Kai Po Che'.With this performance, he joins the unholy quartet of Sonu Nigam, Katrina Kaif, Sonam Kapoor, and Imran Khan - arguably the worst actors to have ever graced the silver screen. At least Sonu Nigam has an alternate profession, and the others have famous relatives/'friends', to the best of my knowledge Amit Sadh has neither of the two, so he better buck up. 


There are two scenes that merit special mention.

The first [refer to point (E)] is when Sarkar turns down the businessman's request. After a brief period of uncomfortable silence, the businessman finally says something - we imagine that he is either going to plead or threaten. Instead, he says those three two magical words to Sarkar before departing.

"Love you."

WTF.

The second scene is a more subtle one, I presume that it is an ode to the fact that in RGV's parallel universe, nothing is quite what it appears to be. 

Amit Sadh receives a call from Parag Tyagi (Sarkar's aide) asking him to come down. Amit Sadh informs Parag over the phone that he will be right there. 

 What is so odd about this, you ask. Not much, except that the character of Parag Tyagi is mute. Why and how he conveys to Amit Sadh that he is downstairs and is expecting him remains the biggest mystery of the movie.

But that's Ram Gopal Verma and his films for you. Perhaps his movies are way too ahead of their time, maybe they are great and we are the ones who don't get them, or maybe he was serious when he had said that he makes movies for himself and himself alone. Perhaps directing movies is his own way of telling people to 'FO'. 

Who knows?

But, there is one thing I am fairly certain of; for all his powers of persuasion, nothing is going to convince movie-goers to watch an RGV film playing in theaters anytime soon. 

Images taken from here, here, and, here.