Bhoomi

This movie with a message went unnoticed because either our society is becoming immune to constant messaging about India’s rape “culture” or they see enough of it being shared around on social media that they didn’t care noticing this mirror of Indian society.

This is the story of a daughter and her father in a small town whose life gets turned upside down by one man’s inability to handle rejection of his one-sided love. What follows is a sequence of abduction, gang rape, an unsuccessful attempt at seeking justice through the legal system, humiliation by law and society and the eventual revenge by father and daughter.

If you can ignore the non-sensical last 10 minutes of the movie it’s a pretty well made film, with great context setting, moving plot line, just enough detail to invoke anger, disgust and pain. Aditi Rao Hydari and Sharad Kelkar have acted brilliantly. Sanjay Dutt conveyed more with his eyes than his emotions. (8/10)

This movie is sadly far too relevant this week in light of what happened to little Asifa and unfortunately thousands of other unnamed girls and women across India. Expressing your anger through social media is one thing but thinking through solutions is another. There is so much psychological cause and effect and an unsettling level of voyeurism going on that it begs the question if the way to address this problem needs to be solved with the same weapons.

I strongly believe that crime and resource scarcity cannot just be curbed by patches like better education and better infrastructure. They are important but shouldn’t be the only focus. To nib the issue in the bud you have to solve for population growth control. Just like that rapes cannot be stopped by raising awareness on social media and candle marches. It’s time to nib the issue in the bud!

I am no psychiatrist but here is my very simplified – but not simplistic – attempt at understanding this situation:

Monsters rape because they are either mentally ill, have a desire to execute power over someone who is weaker than them (also a psychological disorder), are influenced by wrong interpretations of religion or its centuries old manifestation that men are a superior species. All of these causes are tightly related to the emotional centers of a human’s brain. Let’s park this thought for a second.

Many women’s plight never comes to light because of fear of repercussion, what will society say, the fear of their families being ostracized, the fear of living a life pinned by painful stares and if someone is so “benevolent” accompanied by some pity. Fear of all of this is also tightly related to the emotional centers of a human’s brain. These women have already endured the utmost test of physical cruelty. Now their neurons become hyper-sensitive to emotional cruelty. Let’s park this second thought too for a second.

Clearly, the sharing of such crimes on social media, television, newspapers, documentaries is not doing anything. I have no insight into statistics but I doubt the number of rapes are going down. And dare I say the Indian legal system is not (yet) equipped to handle these cases with the seriousness that they require to create consequences that are harsh enough to deter criminals.

Let’s go back to the two points I made earlier. If the perpetrators are driven by causes related to their psychology and the victims are put to silence by consequences related to their psychology — isn’t it high time this issue be addressed with a psychological war?!

There is a saying and a fact: The only way to cut a diamond is with a diamond.

The only way to end this psychological disorder is through psychological warfare!

Again, this is far more than two hours of my thinking can solve but this movie made me think how much more effective it would be to give these monsters a taste of their own medicine. Killing them by death penalty would be too easy of an end to their lives and likely not a shocking enough deterrent to future criminals. But killing them with their own weapons of fear, isolation and mind torture a little every day is worth a thousand deaths by execution.

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October

Bematlab ki sadness. That’s the feeling I left the theatre with.

I certainly don’t mind movies on the dark side of the emotional spectrum, ones that are more tragic than comic or take a bit of interpretation but this one kept me waiting for two hours for something to happen.

I later learnt it’s about unconditional love without expectations but there is zero character development or explanation of any sort about the protagonist. I kept wondering the entire time if he is of low IQ, mentally unstable, distracted, has some violent background that will later be revealed or if he has some history with the girl he is so besotted with. Nothing! Nada! He just happens to pretty much give up his daily routine, job, family, friends to be by the side of a bed-ridden girl who was nothing more than a colleague before.

The plot moves slower than it takes an iceberg to melt. Varun Dhawan’s acting is not bad but at times belabored. Gitanjali Rao tried her best but I didn’t see much of an emotion in many scenes where I expected to.

As for the title – just like the movie – it’s a far cry from sensible. Girl’s name is Shiuli which means Jasmine. Jasmine blooms in October. Let’s call the movie October. Let alone ‘bloom’ the girl meets a much worse fate. Kuch bhi! (3/10)

Oct

The 15:17 to Paris

Maybe Clint Eastwood is just trying to burn through his money in his Golden years now. There is no other rhyme or reason why he would choose to make a movie like this. The 15:17 to Paris is based on the true story of three American soldiers that prevented a terrorist attack on a train from Amsterdam to Paris. By no means am I diminishing their heroic feat but what could have been told in a 10 minute YouTube clip turned into a 1 hour 36 min ordeal that was entirely unnecessary. The story starts with the childhood of these three boys in elaborate detail which has absolutely nothing to do with the incidence on the train, goes into how they all join the army, shows them awkwardly traveling through Europe with the last 15 minutes actually showing the incident on the train.

Bad acting, awkward dialogues and a script not worth the paper it’s written on. (1/10)

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The Shape of Water

I am the last person to go watch a science fiction movie but I am so glad I took the plunge on The Shape of Water. This isn’t the first movie made on alien creatures but certainly one that clearly shows it’s made for the art of moviemaking and not to fill the coffers of the producer – though hopefully that will happen too.

An amphibious alien creature, believed to be a water God is being held captive at an American lab in the 1960s. The director of the lab is every shade of cruel one can imagine, both in his professional and personal life. He is up against the Russians to gain intelligence on this creature even if that means killing and dissecting it. Meanwhile, a mute girl, Elisa, who cleans the lab uncovers this alien has the propensity to understand language and has emotions. When she finds out the director is about to get him killed she plans a successful escape from the lab and nurtures the alien in her bathtub with the help of her neighbor, her colleague and the Russian doctor who under disguise of being an American was taking care of the alien at the lab. Elisa and the alien grow fond of each other and connect on levels beyond the spoken word. There is a generosity of spirit at display that comes from being a misfit in society with Elisa being a mute person and the alien, well, being an alien. The day Elisa is about to release him back to his natural habitat of open waters the director finds out their whereabouts and tries to kill them. However, what would an alien God be without healing powers? They both live happily ever after – under water!

There is something about the making of this movie that is almost zen like despite some gross bloody scenes. Characters are well built out, they are given purpose, there is tension to resolve and as a viewer you feel along with the happenings on screen. (8/10)

SoW

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)

PM

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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