Baazaar

I am surprised Jains all over India haven’t created a ruckus about the misrepresentation and straight out disrespect of Jainism in this movie yet. Disclaimer: By no means am I claiming that there aren’t immoral Jain business people out there. There are a dime and a dozen for all I know. However, we Jain clearly don’t sit in opera houses to chant Michhami Dukkadam with our butts in cushy chairs and our hands waiving through the air. Also, temples are not places where business is conducted and cops and their likes walk in and out with their shoes on as they please to disrupt meditative practices.

Aside from that the movie had a solid plot, some good dialogues, great background scoring and a refreshing cast. Rohan Mehra was the perfect choice for the Allahabad ka middle class ladka who quickly grows on you as the big city ways groom him. This was his first movie so he may not be in the league of his co-actors just yet but he certainly has potential. What a great movie and role to be launched with!

A shrewd business sense, greed and hunger to succeed is what this movie is all about. It is no secret that “too much” education makes bad businessmen. Some of the most successful businessmen are the ones that have a raw edge to themselves where sophistication is replaced with courage, curiosity and a ‘what-have-I-got-to-lose-attitude’!

Saif Ali Khan may not look like a typical Gujju businessman but he stood his ground. Despite never making it mainstream I feel Chitrangada Singh is one of the most attractive actresses out there. If only I could age like her. Radhika Apte is putting the make up industry out of business with her not-pretty-but-you’ll-still-notice looks. (7/10)

P.S.: No. Angadiyas don’t put 40 carat diamonds in 10-year-olds peanut wrappers!

Bazaar

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Badhai Ho

Badhai Ho…to Ayushman Khurana for not just one but two entertaining, incredibly well-made, masterpieces of Indian cinema in a row!

For just over two hours I was in middle of the lives of three generations of a middle class Delhi family and fell in love with each and every character. The credibility that the scriptwriter, director and actors have lent to each family member from grandmother to grandchildren is palpably real: a loud, nagging grandmother who is figuratively and literally the center of the household, a somewhat kanjus but very loving father, the proverbial middle class Indian mother who lives for her family and nothing else, an elder son who is not only stepping up to elevate the family conditions but also takes responsibility for every member of the family and a younger brother who is a bit pampered yet secretly in awe of his elder brother.

And then there’s this THING that happens. 17 years after the younger son is born the mother gets pregnant again and all hell breaks lose within the immediate family, extended family and of course – the neighborhood! Each family member, including the pregnant mother and her husband go through feelings of shame imposed on themselves by themselves and their surroundings. Now this is a topic that could have easily been handled very vulgarly and disrespectfully. However, the director did an incredible job of using the topic to further form his characters and strengthen their bonds from many different angles. Be it mother – son, mother-in-law – daughter-in-law, father – son, husband – wife, brother – brother, every single relationship got perfect air time with the right amount of emotion.

Nakul’s girlfriend was only needed as a contrast and to add some external tension but even that was handled wisely despite leaving a few questions unanswered.

Gajraj Rao, Neena Gupta, Surekha Sikri, Ayushman Khurana are all what we like to call “manje hue” actors. Every millimeter of facial movement conveys a message and they know how to measure those movements with finesse! (9/10)

BH

 

Andhadhun

This. Is. Entertainment!

100 Shah Rukh Khan’s kurbaan on one movie like this that is a nail-biting thriller from beginning to end with top-notch writing, screenplay, acting and directing. I saw this movie at an 11.15 pm show because despite it being in week 3 it’s still sold out show after show – deservedly so! The normal me needs to put matchsticks between her lids to stay up past 10 pm these days but this movie had my heart beating at elevated rates for the entire 2 hours and 30 minutes of its runtime well past midnight.

Thrillers are usually a bit serious or even edging the dark but Andhadhun dexteroulsy managed to take a highly macabre subject and turned it into borderline comic scenes. Triple salute to the director for walking that tightrope between thrill and smiles so eloquently.

Just like an Abbas Mustan movie Andhadhun makes your eyes pop out (pun intended) with surprise every two minutes. The characters get under your skin and you start living the thoughts of each one of them thanks to excellent acting by every single one of them and masterful directing by Sriram Raghavan.

Love how Tabu is picking a few but very interesting roles such as her role in Drishyam and now this one. Her character is relentless yet so circumstantial. Every move of hers shocks you but at the same time makes you laugh a little.

Ayushman, is among my Top 2 favorite actors. He and Rajkumar Rao can be served any wildcard role and they’ll blow it out of the water! The ease with which he becomes one with any role he is asked to play is commendable and the reason why I’d anytime prefer watching a movie of his vs the overhyped Indian “stars”.

It’s been about 20 hours since I have watched the movie but I am still in awe of how every scene and dialog in the movie was strung together masterfully.

Do yourself a favor and go watch this on the big screen! (10/10)

Andhadhun

The Tibetan Singing Bowls

Let’s be real!

While my meetings with some of the most iconic brands in the world and travels around the globe may seem glamorous and as if I am living my dream – they come at a cost.

I am grateful for these opportunities every single day and wake up each morning feeling blessed to be working at a company and in an industry that allows me to be fulfilled and truly enjoy what I earn my bread and butter with. However, that requires operating like a duck: calm at the surface but paddling furiously to stay afloat.

The past 5 weeks have been a sprint requiring the endurance of a marathon. I was meeting with 4-6 companies every week, preparing for a last minute keynote which required traveling to Napa on a Sunday and straight to the airport for a 17 hour flight on Monday in addition to getting ready for a trip to Argentina where I was supposed to meet with seven (!) companies’ leadership teams and deliver another keynote – all in a span of three days.

I pride myself for rarely every working on weekends but the past five weeks I was working every single weekday and weekend day just to keep up with the demands of work and my own expectations of myself. I am not complaining about the work at all. I love this role more than any I have ever had in my working life. But our minds and bodies will only take so much abuse before they start signaling to slow down.

About a month ago, the first signs started appearing with spastic pains in the neck, shoulder and lower back, which I ignored at first labeling them as a recurring chronic pain but eventually it led me to visit a chiropractor on a weekly basis.

The second signals were uneasy, interrupted sleep, waking up at 4 in the morning – and mind you I am the kind of person who normally sleeps like a baby for 8-9 hours!

The final jolt hit me squarely in the face when I was about to step onto the stage to present a keynote to 400+ people in Buenos Aires on Wednesday evening. I was shivering despite a town’s worth of lights on me and my throat was scratchy making every word coming out of my mouth painful. By night I was wrapped in two thick blankets with the heater in the room set to 26 degrees Celsius. My fever finally broke. On Thursday morning I woke up sweating and with a needle-studded throat. I had three 90 minute meetings that day and three more of the same length the following day. Clients were driving from all over Buenos Aires to meet so there was no possible way to call in sick.

Showers are to fever as sunlight is to vampires. After getting ready I made my way to the office only to profusely start sweating 30 minutes into the first meeting. Somehow I made it through it with the help of my colleague who had warned the clients about my condition in advance. Argentinians love to talk so before I could bail out for a break it was time to start the next meeting right away. An hour into that my colleague got a text message saying the third meeting was going to have to be canceled due to an emergency at the clients’. Sometimes the universe listens to you.

The next day the fever persisted and I made the call to cancel the last of the three meetings for that day. After talking my way through the first two I was just checking email when I read a little note from the CEO of the agency that had created the slides for my keynotes two days ago. We had met in person at the YouTube event and she suggested I try out something different while I am in Buenos Aires. So she went out of her way and introduced me to Damian Huala, a Tibetan Sound Therapist! Since he only speaks Spanish and my Spanish is limited to five phrases she set up an appointment for me at his studio for a Tibetan Sound Massage on Saturday morning. It’s not like I was going to climb any mountains with my current condition so I said “yes” in a heartbeat!

What is a Tibetan Sound Massage you ask? It’s also called Tibetan Singing Bowls Massage and is based on principles from Ky Nyu, an ancient medical system. At the beginning of the treatment, three singing bowls (big brass bowls) are struck individually and are allowed to ring until the sound completely dissipates. To finish the treatment the singing bowls are placed on your back and legs and are struck in turn. It is thought that the vibrational energy from the bowls travels into your cells to promote healing from within.  Now for some of you this may sound like esoteric mumbo jumbo but this is every bit deeply rooted in science. Damian told me (entirely through Google Translate ;)) that the sound waves put you in a theta stage of sleep (stage 1 and 2 of sleep) where you are neither fully asleep nor fully awake. The vibrations of the sound through your body then help get rid of stress and toxins.

I walked out of Damian’s treatment like a completely new person. All the world’s weight I was carrying on my shoulders (almost figuratively) was lifted and for the first time in over a month I had full range of movement in my neck.

Hopefully, one day I can invite Damian to come practice his art in California. Until then, I have to listen more intently to what my body is telling me! As Papa Jain always says: “Jaan hai to Jahaan hai!”

Yeh Meri Family – Summer of ’98

Binge watch alert!

If you are a 80s kid like me and have a fetish for engaging storytelling this is it. This is IT!

A TV series released just about a month and a half ago with only seven episodes out so far this one won my heart. Every minute of the 30-ish minute episode is a treat and one that I would watch over and over again.

This is the story of a middle class family in Jaipur (my other hometown!) with a father, mother, two sons and a daughter. The story is narrated through the middle child  Harshu’s voice and the beauty of the art is that he breaks through the fourth wall by directly talking to the viewer as he narrates the happenings in his family life. Harshu is the rebel in the family, sandwiched between a studious and obedient elder brother and a little, playful baby sister. His father is a loving family man who is an investment broker with a bank and his mother is the ever-doting torn into a million directions housewife always looking out for her family. Harshu also has a wiser-than-his-age friend, Shanky, who is Harshu’s advisor for every life situation.

Each episode is a marvel of little emotional chunks of entertainment. Through the eyes of a 12-year-old you’ll see what he thinks about each of this family members, the love-hate relationship he has with them and what his hopes and desires are. At the end of each episode he comes to the realization that his family is what makes him tick.

This family is just so endearing that I feel like jumping through the TV and giving them a big group hug.

Hats of to Saurabh Khanna and Sameer Saxena for catching minute details of the 1998 setting, beautifully penning it down and then flawlessly bringing it to life on screen. From picking boy names in a cricket roster representative of late 90s fashion names to making the overweight father sit in two plastic lawn chairs, to the prints of the mother’s saris, to every single detail in the late 90’s Indian household – this is a masterpiece frozen in time!

For those of you with a penchant for personal finance you will love hearing the father’s analogies for mutual fund investing smartly woven into his everyday conversations. Love this educational angle by the writer.

In a day and age where TV serials are full of saas bahu politics, vengeance, snake ladies and black magic this is the best thing that happened to Indian television since Dekh Bhai Dekh and Hum Paanch. (10/10)

YMF

Stree

The day I run out of synonyms for the word “brilliance” I’ll just start using “Rajkumar Rao”. This man is sheer amazingness when it comes to acting! He is the only reason I went to watch this movie and he remained the only reason I sat through it. Ok, to be fair, Aparshakti Khurana’s and Abhishek Banerjee’s acting wasn’t bad either.

I am all for respecting women, treating them fairly, giving them all the opportunities they deserve etc. but my pendulum doesn’t swing to the far extreme of feminism where I feel like tooting the women empowerment horn at every crossing. So the rather convoluted feminist agenda of this movie didn’t rock my boat so much, nor am I a fan of ghost movies and horror but the pure genius of Rajkumar Rao’s acting skills makes this a somewhat enjoyable watch.

The attempt to combine a social message with horror and comedy at the same time is certainly novel and applaud-worthy but the movie just stretches a bit too far into the weird to be perfect for any genre – and maybe that’s intended.

If only they had picked another actress instead of the stone-faced Shraddha Kapoor it could have tipped the scale for me. (5/10)

Stree

Crazy Rich Asians

One of the most predictable plot lines of all times has been turned into a Bollywood-esque American-Asian RomCom. It pushes every pleasure-button of awww-whispering romance lovers. Middle class girl, sole heir of a Billionaire family, fancy parties, sparking jewelry, fast cars, glitzy dresses, magnanimous houses. Check, check, check.

There has been a lot of hype about this movie but to be honest it was just a notch above the average love story. The conflict between the protagonists was somewhat subdued – or maybe I am  just used to a lot more drama having been exposed to Bollywood movies and real life conundrum that’s far more tension-filled.

Let me compare what happened in Crazy Rich Asians (pardon my belittling of Rachel’s issues) and what happens in the Indian context.

Chinese version:

Middle class girl & crazy rich boy fall in love. Poor little girl has to wear fancy clothes, get a make up artist, wear jewels, eat foods that she can’t pronounce. Rich mother-in-law doesn’t approve of the relationship but is straightforward enough to tell the girl that it won’t work out because she is not up to the mark.

Indian version:

Affluent girl & middle class boy get married. Middle class mother-in-law goes about town boasting what a stallion her son is as he was able to fetch an affluent – if lucky then also beautiful – girl. She uses the girl as a poster of her newfound riches all the while keeping the daughter-in-law in check.

Chinese version:

Girlfriend confronts would be mother-in-law: “There is no win! If he chooses me, he loses his family. If he loses me he will resent you for the rest of his life.” Mother-in-law sees complete sense in this dialogue and quickly slips off her fancy shizzle emerald and diamond ring off her finger to pass it on to the middle class girlfriend.

Indian version:

Wife begins to live a demonstrative middle class life because otherwise she is reprimanded for behaving ‘out-of-control’ and still trying to live like her ‘old family’. Husband starts having an affair because he can. If the wife complains about it she is going to get the boot. When wife confronts the husband his reaction is: “No problem! I’ll divorce you. You were just a trophy daughter-in-law for my mother to begin with. She has found another dowry-cow to milk.”

So while Crazy Rich Asians has the making of a commercial box office hit it is not really a home run story. Some scenes are so exaggerated, such as the friend’s bachelerotte party, that you feel you are watching any American chick flick.  Fine to watch once for a few giggles here and there and to admire the wealthy of Singapore but certainly not a 10er. (6/10)

 

CRA