Pad Man

It’s commendable to see an actor use his celebrity to spread awareness about a serious issue plaguing the country. Akshay Kumar is no stranger to putting his muscle to use for good causes, be it supporting the Armed Forces, drawing attention to farmer suicides or now making sure the taboo around what’s part of a woman being fertile no longer stays a taboo.

This movie, based on Arunachalam Muruganantham’s life, explores how menstruation is associated with shame and how women themselves make something as routine as this an issue of impurity. On the one hand certain cultures in India celebrate the coming-of-age of young teenage girls when they get their first period with grand fanfare, on the other hand they are told periods are impure, they have to sleep outside the house, cannot visit the temple, cannot enter the kitchen and the list goes on. The moment you ask “Why?” you get a big imposing stare translating into “How dare you ask?” because even the people setting the rules don’t know the answers. Just like human evolution or creation (whichever you believe in) created the digestive system to keep the energy flow going it also created menstruation to support a woman’s fertility. Why is that a problem?

The movie has some slightly preachy, edging towards documentary style dialogues at the beginning which is understandable because many of its viewers may not even know why female hygiene is important and how big of an issue that is. From there unfolds the underdog to hero story that may not be incredibly entertaining but with an actor as fine as Akshay Kumar still becomes an interesting watch.

The crescendo of his skill comes to bear during his final speech at the United Nations where he is more convincing than many trained public speakers I have watched. This one doesn’t go to feminism, or entertainment, or any other motif of movie making. This one is an ode to innovation, perseverance and purely goes to Askhay Kumar’s acting ability. (7/10)

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The Glass Castle

No matter how much we wish and sometimes talk ourselves into believing our families are perfect there are bound to be struggles we are trying to overcome. For some the extremes are highly pronounced with the good times being better than one can imagine and the worst times being worse than you’d wish upon your enemy.

This is a story of a family that precariously lives within that spectrum of extreme love and extreme neglect. A family that inspires and inhibits its members at the same time for sometimes remarkable beauty comes with deep imperfections.

The Walls are a family of father, mother, four children living the hippie life. There is no money but there is an abundance of love – except on days the alcoholic father drowns himself in his addiction and leaves his children hungry. With the mother slowly losing it too one of the elder sisters, Jeannette,  becomes the de facto caretaker of her younger siblings. A particularly chilling evidence of it is when the youngest sibling, Maureen, wakes up her sister in the middle of the night because none of them have had food for three days. The only thing left in the house is a bowl of butter and some sugar which Jeannette stirs up and feeds the little one.

As the children grow up they slowly start leaving home to become independent but deep down the love for their parents and the knowledge that their father’s neglect was not his intent but the result of his addiction they try to stay in touch and take care of each other. When Jeannette, the daughter closest to her father becomes an accomplished journalist and gets engaged to a successful banker in NYC the chasm between her and her parents inevitably widens but she can’t let the burden of that break the strings of her heart firmly connected to her family. The drama culminates in a beautiful ending that’s testimony of Jeanette’s strength and her undying love for the people that she depends on as much as they do on her.

Be warned: This movie will leave you sobbing and hurting but it’s beauty will stay with you for years to come. (10/10)

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The Post

All I wanted on a Sunday afternoon was an easy-to-follow-along movie with taut storytelling and an uplifting ending. Instead I felt I had to work hard to understand what was going on and I caught myself squinting at my watch twice in the dark of the theatre to see how much longer it will take to get to the point. In all honesty, I feel Hollywood movies sometimes contain so much “noise” that it becomes hard to focus on the actual happenings of the plot.

This movie tried to do a few too many things by taking on the topics of government blunders, rivalry, survival, freedom of press and the added dose of feminism that most movies are using to draw audiences these days. With so much going on the story didn’t do full justice to any of them. Sometimes less is more!

What stood out, however, are excellent performances by both Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. What fine acting! (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)

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