General ramblings, Independence, India, Movies, Politics

Khamosh Pani

Silent Water (Khamosh Pani in Hindi) handles a very sensitive period in history surrounding the hanging of Pakistani PM, Mr. Bhutton & the rise of the martial laws, under General Zia. The change in the political air of the country and it’s effect on the lives of ordinary Muslims of Pakistan has been portrayed through a middle aged Sikh woman and her not-a-kid-not-yet-an-adult son, who gets swayed in the jihadi direction, all due to radical Islamic influential talks and the in-born need to be powerful.

The movie provides a rare, visual glimpse of the miseries surrounding Sikh families who were forced to move to India during the Partition in 1947. It speaks about the apathies faced by women, who, among other things, were most often mercilessly killed by their male family members, when preservation of family “pride” was deemed more important. The ones who survived faced a life of abduction and rape. We are treated to views of village lanes, Gurdwara, run-down fortresses and Masjids in a small, quaint village of the country. Sikhs from India who travel to the village for a religious tour as a result of an India Pakistan agreement try to re-live their past days, and find old connections, in a miserable attempt to still feel at home. Even though the environment is politically charged, folks who moved into the village during the Partition and folks who moved out, still manage to maintain outwardly humane relations…void of any common thread.

Just when I thought I’d seen all that the director had to show me, the movie spins out into a new direction, when one of the Sikh travelers from India, goes around old shops in the village by lanes, desperately trying to find his sister who got left behind during the Partition.

Kiron Kher has done a phenomenal job, playing the role of a woman, who has nothing in her except for a young son & flashes of her past life. Seeing her in such an under-played role is a welcome treat. It is a far cry from her loud performances in most of the commercial Bollywood movies.

There is a scene towards the end of the movie, which shows the son sitting at the end of the river, staring at on old, battered suitcase laden with personal belongings, being carried away by the river currents. His old flame stands on top of the hill, watching both float away- the lover that she knew as well as her old life. Three decades later, the same boy emerges as a powerful, Jihadi leader. His old lover, now an independent, hard working woman, watches him ruefully on a street side TV set. Top marks to the cinematographer for sealing the emotions so beautifully.

The movie is about a important piece of history, changes in the lives of ordinary people, choices painstakingly taken by women, sacrifices done at the behest of the society and the shame faced at the hands of one’s child.

Link to the movie on Google Videos: Link. I found this movie in the section “Your recommendations” on Netflix. At times like these and at all other times, I love Netflix so much.

Rating: 9/10

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a r rahman, A.R.Rahman, Aishwarya Rai, Bollywood, Entertainment, Hrithik Roshan, Life, Movies, Thoughts

Movie Review: Jodhaa Akbar

Don’t accuse me of going back on my words. Yes, I admit that I had said that I won’t be watching this one, but can you really blame me for watching it, when all the blogs that I read have already posted a review or the blog authors are waiting to watch this movie and review it? 🙂 Hrithik fans- one request- please don’t read this review. You might get a little pissed off. Aamir Khan fans- you can stop reading this post now. I have absolutely no donuts for you.

Ashutosh Gowarikar has made movies like Lagaan (which was nominated for the Oscars) and Swades (one of my personal favorites). So, people have high expectations from Jodhaa Akbar. And if you already don’t know, then let me tell you this- even Aamir Khan, along with his wife, Kiran Rao, attended the premiere (Okay, I did lie- there is something for Aamir Khan fans). I succumbed to peer pressure and ended up watching this movie last night, at the cost of my beauty sleep. It was not that bad. It was not that good either. The movie doesn’t proclaim to follow the Mughal History to the hilt and the story is Ashutosh’s personal interpretation of the love story between the famous Mughal King, Akbar and his wife, a Hindu princess, Jodhaa.

The movie has some really good moments. Let me talk about those first. The scene where Hrithik, as the King, makes an appearance for the first time, is quite impressive. Also, lots of other people have talked about the way the marriage scene between Hrithik and Aishwarya has been shot. Yes, that was very colorful (in Rajasthani style) and eye soothing. One of my personal favorites is the song “Khwaja Mere Khwaja”. Ashutosh has shot this song with a lot of subtlety and no one else would have done this song justice. It’s a simple song where the singers of Akbar’s court are paying homage to the Allah and are singing praises of their Lord and God, Akbar. Hrithik Roshan has done a phenomenal job in this song and really acts like the Emperor. I loved the way he got up and joined the singers, raised his arms towards the sky, and got lost in the lovely atmosphere. this has got to be the best scene in the movie, according to me.

Another memorable scene is the one where Hrithik is having a court discussion with his courtiers and he hears Aishwarya singing a bhajan “Man Mohanaa”. He gets so mesmerized by it that he dismisses the court and follows the faint tune to finally reach his Hindu wife, genuflecting in front of the diety, Lord Krishna.

But after setting such high standards, Hrithik did let me down in some other parts. I am not happy with his Elephant taming scene or the other scenes where he’s flexing his muscles. He was not acting like Akbar then. He was just plain Hrithik. Can you even imagine Akbar out in the courtyard, without a dress, exercising his muscles and Princess Jodhaa, a couple of yards away, pining for him? This is clearly a directorial fault and some loose editing. It kind of spoilt the entire aura and the richness that’s supposed to be omnipresent in each and every scene.

The song “Azeem-O-Shan Shahenshah” is one of the best tracks in the CD and I expected it to be shot on a large scale. Basically, the song is about people from different walks of life coming in front of the king and paying their respects, after Akbar demolishes the taxes that Hindus pay for taking pilgrimage trips. Ashutosh should have taken help from his dear friend Sanjay Leela Bhansali in designing the sets for this song. I know that there are lots of people who loved the way this song was done, but I don’t know why, I felt as if something was missing. The picturization looked too hurried. It ended up looking more like a roadside locality show.

Hrithik Roshan’s acting is quite good in some scenes, but overall, it’s not very consistent. In the first 45 minutes, he’s done a decent job, but after that, he stops behaving like Akbar. I’m suprised that Ashutosh Gowarikar didn’t realize this while making the movie. Or perhaps he did and realized that it was too late.

Aishwarya Rai’s acting, surprisingly, is much better than Hrithik’s, in my opinion. She has done a decent job and manages to keep her giggles and stiff motions under control. I would give Ashutosh the credit for this. She looks extremely pretty throughout the movie and for once, you will be overwhelmed by her beauty, only for the simplicity of it. But..err..she looked like a crazy daaku who doesn’t know how to fight in those sword scenes. Oh, and that sword fighting scene between Ash and Hrithik was way over the top. Hrithik’s trying to woo his lady by throwing flowers at her (as elegantly as he can) in between the fights? 😮 Total work of genuis! Lesser mortals like me can’t even talk on cell phones while driving.

Poonam Sinha, as Akbar’s mother, is a treat to watch and if it were not for her acting, Ila Arun would have very easily turned half of the movie into a Saas Bahu kind of serial.

I really enjoyed seeing the big palaces and forts and the sheer opulence, because it reminds me of my trip to Rajasthan, that I’d taken a long time ago. I’m originally from that state and I always like it when it’s shown in movies 🙂 My mouth almost started watering in the scene where Aishwarya cooks a Rajputana meal for Akbar and the other kings. Ghewar, dal, bati, sanghri ki subzi, boondi ke laddoo…eating such a traditional, Rajasthani meal is my ultimate dream.

The length of the movie kind of made me a little wary of watching it and I need to admit that there were times when I stopped watching the screen completely and got lost in my thoughts or my work. 3 hours 20 minutes is way too long for the story that Ashutosh Gowarikar is trying to tell. He could have easily restricted it to 2 hours 30 minutes at the most. But I guess, he believes in giving you full paisa vasool kind of entertainment.

This movie could have been a simple love story between any prince and his princess and not necessarily between Akbar and Jodhaa. I wish I could have seen some more details of the actual rule of Akbar instead of the mushy love scenes, that only made me want to run away. The country flourished during Akbar’s rule and there was so many advancements in Arts, architecture, music, general administration etc. and because of that, 3 hours 20 mins should have been used for showing some other stuff too. Ashutosh Gowarikar could have devoted less reel to the saas-bahu saga and some of the battle scenes and concentrated more on other aspects of the Emperor’s rule and the relationship with his wife (which kind of, turned out to be half baked in the second half of the movie). Even the ending was a little hurried and dissapointing. Perhaps, a mini series on a television channel would have done justice, no? 🙂

Rating: 6/10

Related Reading: Music Review- Jodhaa Akbar 

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Movie: The Orphanage

The Orphanage is a great movie based on the supernatural powers. I’m not really a fan of horror movies, but this one was exceptional. Luckily, I got to view it in an independent theater called Moxie Cinema here. They keep playing all kinds of international and off-beat movies. And one of the best things about this theater is that every part of the service is very personalized. The capacity of the theater is quite small- it’s no bigger than two large sized bedroom. They have a lovely wooden stage. Before the start of each show, someone actually gets up there and gives a general introduction to the movie and other upcoming attractions. You also get beer- which no other theater allows (at least in my town). Today was the Super Bowl night here; so I managed to get a ticket even though I reached just two minutes before the start of the show.

Back to the movie- One of the reasons for watching this movie was because it’s been made by Guillermo del Toro, the same person who made Pan’s Labyrinth. The treatment is somewhat similar to The Sixth Sense. So, if you enjoyed Shyamalan’s masterpiece, then there is a high probability that you’ll love this movie. I like the fact that there is a very strong storyline connecting the events. It’s not like those creepy horror movies where the director’s intention is to only make you jump out of your seats.

Some of the scenes in this movie were quite scary and there were two girls sitting behind me who had put their mufflers to good use. Even I jumped out of my seat at least a couple of times- and once, I got a horrible cramp, that took at least ten minutes to subside.

The movie is primarily about Laura, brilliantly played by Belen Rueda, who comes back to her old orphanage to open a small home for special children. She has a husband (Carlos) who is a doctor and an adopted child, Simon, who is HIV positive. Now starts the horror show. Simon starts talking to his parents about his invisible friends and how he plays with them. Obviously, the parents don’t fall for it. About half an hour into the movie, the boy disappears. Nobody knows why or how. The rest of the movie is about a mother’s quest to get back her child at any expense. I can’t talk about any of the other scenes of this movie without giving away the plot line.

I seem to have developed a special affection for Spanish films these days. I watched this movie tonight after at least ten days, which is a very long interval by my standards. Be prepared to feel a little morose once the movie is over. So if you want to watch a movie with a happy ending or you like those John Cusack kind of horror movies, then give this movie a miss.

The theater was also airing trailers of Persepolis, a movie on the famous Graphic Novel. I can’t wait to get a copy of that next. If any of you have seen this movie or read the graphic novel, then please let me know about your views.

Trailer:

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Business, children, Entertainment, Fast Food, Finance, General ramblings, health, Life, Movies, Thoughts

McDonald’s Now Offers Courses Equivalent To A-Levels

You must have just entered your house after eating a horrible, calorie-filled meal of French Fries, Cheeseburger and a super sized Soda from McDonald’s. Sit on your couch, switch on the TV (or the internet) and get ready to see/hear some amazing news-

All your dreams have been answered. The Qualifications and the Curriculum Authority of UK has given the fast food giant the liberty of offering courses “equivalent” to A- levels. You can now enroll in training and development courses at the “school” which will be started by the world’s biggest tyrant, who has earned a notorious reputation for its greasy, unhealthy and soggy food.

I agree to the fact that such a move will help the company better train potential employees. And people who want to work for McDonald’s (I don’t know in what capacity- Dish washer, server, cashier, branch manager etc) can definitely look forward to receiving good hands-on education. I doubt that people who will be placed in senior management positions will go to their school because of the comparatively low level of education that will be offered.

I have a feeling that people who will enter their training programs will obviously prefer McD’s schooling over the traditional schooling that’s provided elsewhere in the country. What kind of people will want to enter such a training school? Obviously they don’t care very much if this A-levels equivalent degree will ever get them into a decent undergrad college. Maybe they don’t even want to go to college and are happy with this McDonald’s degree, which I think, is good only for getting a job at McDonald’s!

Another angle that needs to be explored here is whether McDonald’s really needs such an approval to start a “training” course, which is primarily aimed at future McD employees.

And by the time they graduate and get ready to work, they’ll look like this the man in picture on the left…or maybe 30 pounds lighter.

And if you think that that one meal at McDonald’s didn’t do you any measurable harm, then you need to take a look at their Nutrition Facts. Since I’ve come to the US, I haven’t been to McDonald’s more than three times. And I drank a coffee (tasteless), ate a salad and a baby sized ice-cream.

I’ve noticed that most of the workers at McD joints are considerably over-weight, inspite of the fact that they work on long shifts. Obviously they consume more number of calories compared to the number of calories that they burn while working. Imagine what’s going to McD for your schooling will do to you. Forget about the so-called education, I wouldn’t go there for the sake of my health.

If you’ve not already seen it, then I highly recommend that you get a copy of Super Size Me and watch it. Even Fast Food Nation is an amazing movie that is loosely based on the book (same name) and reveals lots of hidden truths of fast food companies.

Even if the employees will be better trained because of this course, it still won’t change the very back end of the McDonald’s operation model- suppliers of meat. And it is this highly processed meat that you eat. Does it matter that the cashier or the cook is/will be better organized? Or maybe it does. You’ll feel happier eating that pile of grease on your tray.

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Music Review- Jodhaa Akbar

akbar1.jpg

Jodhaa Akbar is Ashutosh Gowariker’s soon to be released film and is based on the love story of the Rajput princess Jodhaa and the famous Mughal Emperor, Akbar. The music of this movie makes a big splash, typical AR Rehman style. Ever since the promos have been aired, I have been eagerly waiting for the album to be released. Without further ado, let’s get down to the nitty gritty!

The first track of the album, Azeem-O-Shahenshah opens with lots of earth shattering beats and fan fare. It transports you back to the Mughal Era and makes you want you dance, in a way. It’s been sung by Mohammad Aslam and Bony Chakravarthy. Never heard either of them singing before. Rehman does a good job of mixing some soft tunes in between his trademark beats.

The second track, Jash-e-Bahaara, has been beautifully sung by Javed Ali. It’s a very melodious and romantic song. I have seen the song on Youtube (Click here) and Aishwarya Rai looks really pretty. I’m not really sure if Hrithik Roshan suits the role of Akbar. Hrithik just looks like Hrithik! Towards the end of the album, you’ll also find an instrumental theme based on this song.

The third track, Khwaja Mere Khwaja, has been sung by the maestro, A.R Rehman himself and is my favorite 😀 It reminds me of Ishq Bina from Taal and Piya Haji Ali from Fiza. I have always felt that AR Rehman excels when it comes to Sufi music. I don’t know how he manages to compose these songs, because this genre is definitely one of the most difficult to even conceptualize. I’m a sucker for A.R Rehman’s voice because it’s quite distinct and a little “cracked”, if you know what I mean.

Sonu Nigam and Madhusree have done a decent job in the next song, Inn Lamho Ke Daaman Mein. I didn’t really like this song much, because it gets spoilt by some unnecessary strong vocals. The entire effect is not very good. The last song, Man Mohanna, which has been sung by Bela Shende, is also quite dull compared to the first few tracks in the album. You might like it if you are fine with devotional songs.

All in all, I highly recommend this album. It lives up to the expectations of AR Rehman fan(atics)s and is one of the best Hindi Movies albums to be released in a long time. The last that I liked was Guru, which had also been composed by AR Rehman. 🙂

I’m not sure if I’ll watch the movie- I don’t fancy Hrithik Roshan trying his level hard to portray the role of Akbar. Wasn’t Akbar a little rotund? Hrithik should have put on some weight, at least. We could have expected some more perfectionism from him. Anyway, this is a music review and I don’t intend to spoil it by talking about Hrithik Roshan.

You can download the album from this link.

Rating: 4/5

Let’s end this review by watching a trailer from the movie:

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A Short Commentary on Y Tu Mama Tambien

Alfonso Cuaron has created a masterpiece in the form of Y Tu Mama Tambien (Trailer: Click here) and I don’t hesitate to call it so. I’d been a long time since I’ve watched a movie of this sort and I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of the road trip that I took along with the main characters. One of the prime reasons why I wanted to watch this movie was because I have seen Gael Garcia Bernal before in The Motorcycle Diaries and Amores Perros and his acting is par brilliance. Without any doubt, this movie is a must watch for all his fans. This is the first time I’ve seen Diego Luna and Maribel Verdu and I look forward to seeing more of their work.

For me, more than anything else, this movie is about the fascinating turns that the friendship of two boys take, due to undiscovered, adolescent secrets. Just like other boys of their age, Tenoch and Julio have over-active sexual hormones and are fascinated by older women. They meet Tenoch’s cousin’s wife, Luisa, at a wedding and invite her for a road trip. Lady luck is at their side, because Luisa’s husband and Tenoch’s cousin, Jano, has just cheated on her again and she decides to leave him for good. Luisa takes up Tenoch’s and Julio’s offer and the trio set out for a beach called “Heaven’s Mouth”, which is only a figment of their imagination.

More than anything else, Luisa goes on the road trip to taste real freedom and the boys go just for her. There are lots of raunchy scenes and steamy dialogues. I would categorize this movie as a sex comedy, very tastefully and erotically done. This movie explores the friendship between two boys, and more than that, their coming to terms with their teenage sexual desires and mysteries.

One of my favorite scenes in this movie is when Julio, overwhelmed by the fact that his friend let him win a swimming race for once, admits to Tenoch that he had, only once, slept with Ana, Tenoch’s girlfriend. Even though this was his way of “returning” the favor, things don’t really turn out the way he would have imagined and Tenoch, unimpressed by this revelation, stomps off. Later on, after both of them reveal their (more than one) sexual adventures with each other’s girlfriends, Julio tells Tenoch- “Y Tu Mama Tambien!”…meaning, “: “And [I f*cked] your mother, too!” That one definitely stole the cake for me.

Julio’s reference to his sister being a “cool Left-ist chick” was another amazing touch, me thinks.

The director has also explored deeper stories tied to different people and places with the help of intermittent commentary, which goes extremely well with the entire make of the movie.

This movie is very different from other teenage movies that only show 18 year olds attending Sophomore parties and meeting girls in pubs. In fact, I wouldn’t even label it as a “summer teenage movie”, even though many newspapers have, because the treatment is so veritable and the characters are extremely candid and genuine. For once, you’ll really enjoy the lampoonery of the main characters.

Rating: 10/10

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Review: Taare Zameen Par

Finally, I got done watching the most talked about Bollywood movie of 2007- Taare Zameen Par. Most of the websites and blogs have even finished reviewing it…and mine comes very late. But that’s all right, because not many people will agree with what I’ve got to say next.

When the movie started, I really felt as if I can finally expect something good from a mainstream Bollywood movie. Darsheel Safary, as Ishaan, captivated me right from the first scene, where he’s shown playing with fish in a dirty puddle of water, totally oblivious to his surroundings. I really enjoyed the colorful artwork that was shown during the opening credits. The first half of the movie was amazing. Ishaan’s struggle with the orthodox educational system is given full justice. I was telling myself, ” Aamir Khan as a director, is very good!”. Perhaps I shouldn’t have let that thought enter my mind.

The movie starts going downhill as soon as Aamir Khan enters the classroom, dressed like a clown. What exactly was the point of having that scene in the movie? All I want is a realistic movie. Is that too much from him? Mr. Perfectionist? This scene is followed by a trip to a school for special children. Then comes the title song “Taare Zameen Par”, interspersed with a lot of tear jerking scenes. Between all this, Aamir Khan, the honorary arts teacher, suddenly realizes that he’s almost forgotten about Ishaan. So off he goes to Ishaan’s house to talk to his parents and make them understand that Ishaan is dyslexic.

After managing to do that, he single handedly makes all the other teachers and the principal understand about Ishaan’s problem. Wait! We’re not done yet. Next, he teaches Ishaan how to read and write (Ishaan’s hand writing improves trememdously!). He teaches Ishaan to become “normal” in that the young boy is shown buttoning up his shirt, tying his shoe laces and his tie and combing his hair. Wasn’t Aamir Khan fighting against the set order and the “normal” way of doing things in the first place? What an irony!

A kid whose hand writing is almost indecipherable, somehow, miraculously improves it to an unbelievable extent…all because of the encouragement and the love that he receives from a teacher. Now I understand why people accuse Aamir Khan of being a “scene stealer”. The movie became just about him after he entered the scene. The boy, Darsheel Zafary, is reduced to a toy, who is used to show off Aamir’s greatness.

And let me not even talk about the Arts Show that is organized towards the end. No prizes for guessing who wins it!

If you’re still reading this review, then I’m sure that you must be abusing me by now. I’m not bashing this movie because I hate Aamir Khan or because I hate Bollywood. I really wanted to like this movie and I really did, until Aamir entered the scene and reduced it to a tear jerker. Where is the subtlety?

This movie is worth a watch only because of Darsheel Zafary’s amazing acting and the beautiful artwork in the opening scene. The background score was overdone. Shankar Mahadevan needs to hire someone else to sing some of his songs. He’s becoming really boring and predictable. And Aamir…it’s better if you stay behind the curtains.

Edit: And if you thought that the 3*9=3 scene was an original masterpiece, like I did, then think again. Wanderlust (Please go to her blog for another amazing review) and Ish informed me that the scene was blatantly lifted from Calvin & Hobbes.

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Rating: 6.5/10

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