Padmaavat

Too much beauty is lethal – as a weapon and to the life of the one who possesses it or claims any right to it.

I wish I could meet Karni uncle and ask him if he saw the same Padmaavat as I did. If anything this movie serves an epic glorification of the Rajputs. They are the heroes of this saga from every angle you look at it unless you are hanging upside down with your brains hanging out your ears. Rajputs are portrayed as courageous, kind, cultured, intelligent, hospitable, respectful and soaked in a pool full of integrity. Even the Queen showing her reflection to Khilji is done to save Mewar, not to bring dishonor to it. Karni uncle, problem kaai hea?

The three hours I was practically absorbed by the movie (almost literally – I had the center seat in the very first row) I kept wondering what happened to Khilji raaj’s descendants? Shouldn’t they be the ones rioting for the animalistic portrayal of their King? I am not a historian but was Alauddin Khilji really as bestial?

Why didn’t Sanjay Leela Bhansali just call this movie Alauddin to begin with? He was the one driving the story and eliciting all sorts of reactions from the Rajputs. So what if he was the antagonist? Had the crew thought of the proposed name change all that hoola hoop could have been prevented. But who am I to know if it was intentional or not?

Bhansali is known to create magic of epic proportions on screen and Padmaavat is no different. From Deepika’s no-make-up make up look, to Shahid’s tanned skin and toned abs, from Ranveer’s black aura to his barbarism, from the grandeur of the palaces to the dust of Rajasthan’s vast expanse, from the glitterati of Rajput and Mughul jewels to the brushed cottons and gotas of the Rajputs’ outfits. Awe inspiring in every fold and frame! Bhansali, aisi cinematograpy pe 100 thappad kurbaan!

No one but Ranveer Singh could have done justice to Alauddin’s character. His off screen craziness served him very well in Alauddin’s boots. We all know Shahid is a great actor but who knew his petit frame could fit the grandeur of a Rajput King too? Deepika, a bit too solemn on her expressions, is graceful as ever.

The authenticity of the actual story aside this movie is a complete advertising package for the Rajputs. Even something as cruel as Jauhar is made to look morally superior and outright glamorous. The dialogues are dripping of Rajput pride and a Rajput Queen is given an equal pedestal as a Rajput King.

Whether a woman fights for a man, with a man or against a man, her fierceness rooted in reason is the most attractive trait she can possess. Padmavati’s beauty got her in trouble, her brains crowned her with victory and Khilji’s madness led everyone to a ruinous end. Sound familiar? Oops, sorry men.

The climax visuals were absolutely grand: A sepia castle going under in a soft yet ravenous fire, a sea of women in red and amidst all that a lion-maned Deepika slipping out of a blackened Khilji’s heinous sight. How can you make destruction look so stunning? Leave it to SLB. (9/10)

 

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The Commuter

An ex-cop is framed into killing a witness to a huge corporate conspiracy. He is offered $100,000 to identify the witness on his daily commute train and tap her with a GPS that can then be identified by another killer. As the movie unfolds the cop feels increasingly threatened. His family is held captive which makes him reach out for help to an old colleague he trusted. Things go south from there rapidly with the movie ending in a climax that would put Bollywood to shame.

Liam Neesen is a polished actor but for the 60 year old he is portraying in the movie even he’s gone a bit overboard. His on-screen wife has two scenes and is irritatingly annoying. Maybe she should have been kept hostage a bit longer. (4/10)

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Tiger Zinda Hai

Tiger kabh marega? … was the thought looming over my mind as I was exiting the movie theatre at 1am in the morning. I can understand why the audience erupts into whistles and cries (the happy kind) when Salman Khan takes over the screen – shirtless – and out of nowhere procures a kalashnikov to singe-handedly finish the whole Syrian army troupe on the scene. But somewhere deep inside, where I lock up my brain before I embark to watch a Salman Khan movie, my logic is rebelling and letting out suppressed cries of pain. I know movies are meant for entertainment yada yada but after being spoiled with quality action thrillers like Baby and Airlift this Tiger business doesn’t measure up more than a meek meow.

For the first time ever I felt Katrina did a half-decent job. Guess why? She didn’t need to speak much. She was fully consumed by fierce-fully slaying Syrian goons. Quite the power packed sight.

Now if you have to – like me – see every movie whether it’s worth it or not by all means drive yourself over to the next theatre but if this is not a vice for you stay at home and spend the time doing something wiser. (3/10)

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Dhobi Ghat

This is the story of four very different people whose worlds collide in the big brawny city of Mumbai. They find themselves drawn into intertwined relationships: Shai – an investment banker turned photographer on sabbatical, Arun – a lonely painter, Munna – the “dhobi” who aspires to become an actor and Yasmin – using her camcorder to “write letters” to her brother who has never been to Mumbai. The film follows how their lives are changed by the presence and absence of one another.

Completely off the beaten path, not your typical Bollywood film. Part documentary, part indi-touch it provides plenty of food for thought as you see four characters very unlike each other deeply caring about one another. Munna likes Shai, Shai likes Arun and Arun is shocked by Yasmin’s diary.

Very laid back watch for a day you don’t want Bollywood glitz and glamor on your screen. (7/10)

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Half Girlfriend

I have never read anything from Chetan Bhagat but if this is how he writes stories I don’t really regret it. Or was it just Mohit Suri who made the story look terrible?

Saving grace is that no great actors were harmed in the making of this film. They took terrible actors like Arjun Kapoor and Shraddha Kapoor to begin with. Phew.

Clearly, there was a social message to this story, one that left me with a knot in my throat during the later half of the movie but the terrible acting and predictability of everything else made this a laughing stock. Extra big grin for someone’s creativity to superimpose a damn Snap filter on someone’s body with Bill Gates’ face. Come on!

Whoever understands the concept of a “Half” Girlfriend please enlighten the rest of us. (1/10)

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A Man Called Ove

Ove, a character so endearing that I spent my entire Sunday binge-reading this novel moving a mere 40 feet around the home.

A man of principles, set in his ways, who only understands the black and white is left with a body but no life when his wife of 40 years, the only person adding color to his life, passes away and he is pushed to take early retirement from work because he isn’t open to adapting to the new ways – aka computers. The entire story is set in his residential neighborhood where he is the unofficial Head of Homeowners Association despite being voted out because of his strong opinions. Ove is a complete coconut: hard and rough on the outside and soft and supple on the inside. Six month after his wife’s passing he has made up his mind to end his life and despite repeated tries he is interrupted by something or the other – his new neighbors, the kid who needs his bike repaired, his friend who is about to be taken away to an institution because his wife is too old to take care of him but more than anything the challenge, or shall I call it ‘reason to live for’, he is presented with at every turn of day. He tells himself he is doing it because his wife would like it that way. He is too manly to admit he has a heart that’s too big to not help others.

Fredrik is a first time novel writer but his prose turned me into a complete fan. I can’t wait to read his other novels if Ove is anything to go by. One of my favorite paragraphs from A Man Called Ove:

“Death is a strange thing. People live their whole lives as if it does not exist, and yet it’s often one of the great motivations for living. Some of us, in time, become so conscious of it that we live harder, more obstinately, with more fury. Some need its constant presence to even be aware of its antithesis. Others become so preoccupied with it that they go into the waiting room long before is has announced its arrival. We fear it, yet most of us fear more than anything that it may take someone other than ourselves. For the greatest fear of death is always that it will pass us by. And leave us there alone.”

This man certainly has a way with words that is one of the most attractive qualities in a person in my eyes.

In a lot of ways Ove was a reflection of some people I know in my life and reading this gave me a newfound appreciation for them.

Be careful when you start reading this because you won’t put it down before you finish. (9/10)

A Man Called Ove

Reenergizing Is The New Retiring

I sometimes wonder if the way we word concepts has to do with the way we feel about them or the way others make that concept look like. Take ‘falling in love’ for example. What part of the process suggests that one “falls” into love? Similarly, was “retiring” coined because most people that reached that stage of life were tired?

For many that may be true but for Barbie and Ken that term should be “reenergizing”! Barbie & Ken – no, not what you are thinking. Barbara and Ken are the incredibly warm and hospitable AirBnB hosts I stayed with in Oregon over this past Thanksgiving break. And before the next question pops up in your head, yes, these are their real names.

For most of us the most lasting memories of a trip are pictures we take or souvenirs we bring back but for me it’s often interactions I have with people I meet. Barbie & Ken have certainly left a lasting impression on me. They are a couple rounding up on retirement from their jobs in the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Military intelligence respectively with a beautiful house in Oregon where they have been hosting AirBnB guests for the past couple of years. Money is not the motivation. They do it because they like meeting new people and – more importantly – they are practicing and preparing for a beautiful “Reenergizement” in Sicily, Italy in 2020!

About 10 years ago Ken coincidentally happened to sit next to someone on a bus who was in the process of leaving the US to go back to his home country. That idea caught on to him and he came home excitedly to tell Barbie all he had learnt from the stranger on the bus. Their conversation led Barbie to research how hard it would be for her to apply for an Italian citizenship given both sides of her family were originally from Italy. After some digging around she found out she needed to procure some paperwork about her grandparents’ status as Italian citizens, their birth certificates, etc. to become Italian herself. Diligent as she is she traced back her family tree, met with her second cousins in Sicily and found everything she needed to finally become a citizen and also bestow that privilege upon her husband and son. On their visits to Sicily, Ken and Barbie fell in love with a little town by the beach and decided this is where they want to retire – no! scratch that – reenergize! They found a large property with a recently renovated, spacious house on it and bought that from the previous brother-sister duo owning it as part of an inheritance. It’s on an expansive land with parts of it containing old aqueducts built by the Greek, which Ken is eager to explore.

Now I should tell you that beyond having their day jobs both Ken & Barbie are people of multiple talents. Ken started his career being a gemstone dealer (yeah! speak of this being a small world for those of you who know my family history) then became a machine engineer, then an automobile engineer, taught himself programming, followed by a job in the US Military intelligence. He basically already lived five average people’s lifetimes in his one life and now he’s gearing up for his next adventure. Similarly, Barbie has some amazing life stories too, which I won’t share that many of because she may publish a book about it soon. Suffice to say she is the type of go-getter that appeared on the front page of the Wall Street Journal with a chicken under both her arms because she fought for a change in a city ordinance that now allows people in the City of Salem to keep hen in the backyard.

For their Golden Years these two have planned to proverbially live the life in Sicily running an AirBnB out of their newly acquired property and making it a place not only for people to stay but have full experiences. Barbie, an extraordinary cook, is planning to run Italian cooking classes. You should see her self-made giant binder of recipes, all neatly printed with step-by-step pictures and filed away by categories of food. I thought I was organized until I saw Barbie’s binder and learnt that she has a 100+ week plan in a spreadsheet leading up to their day of departure to Siciliy in 2020. I am still in awe!

While Barbie will be delighting her guests with authentic cooking classes and is going to teach English to locals, Ken’s geek mind is already planning how to run the entire property on self-built solar systems and irrigation power plants. He is going to teach local kids practical engineering. People who are apprehensive of immigrants should look at these two who are going to change the face of that little town for the better!

I got a little sneak peak of Barbie’s cooking classes when she taught me how to make fresh pasta from scratch one morning:

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Barbie & Ken

We are all given this one life. To a large extent, with some variance, we are all equipped with the same start capital of a body and a brain. There is no blueprint of what each one of us is supposed to make of our lives. We are the architects left with ample of room to construct the following 70-80 years of our existence. How we spend our working years is a choice within constrains but it’s completely up to us if we work towards a reTIREment or a reENERGIZEment.

Thank you Barbie & Ken for showing me what living it up really means!