Friday, May 29, 2015

Déjà vu - Part 1

Déjà vu
Translated By Priya Arun
 from the Original Tamil Novella, Meendum Oru Kaadhal Kadhai by Cable Sankar

Part 1

pic courtesy: Alan Cleaver/
“Hullo….Shankar?” That voice, that unmistakable American accent. Could it be her? Really? After all these years?


“Hi! This is Shraddha.” A brief pause. Oh god, it WAS her! Only she could say that name with such élan.
“Sharada Reddy?”

“Bullshit! Not Sharada you ass, it’s SHRADDHA. Repeat after me? Slowly...Shra-ddha. Three kisses if you get it right.

“Okay let me try. Sha-ra-da Reddy. Six kisses, two for every syllable I get right. Deal?”

We had met for the first time at my friend Meera’s workplace. I happened to visit her on some work. When Meera and I were at the cafeteria sipping coffee, somewhere out of the blue, her strong, obviously expensive perfume wafted across, invading each of my five senses. I sat there, gaping at her as she walked past us like a diva on the red carpet. Meera shook me to my senses. “Stop ogling. Will you? She’s a new trainee here, Shraddha Reddy.”
“You know…she comes from a very poor family. Her dad owns just two pharmaceutical firms in the USA. They are on a constant look out for the next meal…” added Meera, her voice brimming with sarcasm.
I nodded slowly, “Yeah, the assets do tell a lot about her financial status.” The only response I got from Meera was a resounding thwack on my head.

Meera rolled her eyes at me. “Can’t you think of anything else at all? You’re just.... pathetic.”

“Come on now. I’m only being normal. I don’t fake it like the others do. If a man tells you that he only looks at your face, please, don’t ever trust him. Take my word for it.” Feeling smug at my little speech, I began goading Meera for an introduction to Shraddha. While I was still pestering my friend, Shraddha sauntered towards us, balancing with amazing ease, a bottle of lemonade and two sandwiches. I must say, she looked smoldering hot.

As soon as she got to our table, she stretched out the bottle of lemonade towards me, as if we knew each other for ages. “Care for some?” she asked. Meera and she shared a sandwich each. That is when I got to look her at close quarters. The wilderness of curls tamed with a lot of effort, yet a few rebel curls playing truant, huge, dark eyes with a glint of mischief about them, luscious lips with a just hint of matching gloss, an errant upper tooth sticking out playfully on the right corner of her lovely mouth, the giant gold loops in her ears. She was a little tall and had a typically prominent Andhra-nose.

She went about gracefully nibbling into her sandwich; she had an air of sophistication about her that Meera didn’t.
Every inch of her body language seemed to scream out to me, “Hey I am way above your league...not even the same zip code.”

Shraddha who suddenly noticed me gazing at her, quickly said, “Hi! I’m sorry. I’m Shraddha.  I’ve joined Meera’s team as a trainee here...just been a week now. I don’t think we’ve met.” And so she jabbered on and on and on. The way her gold loops kept step with every nod of her head was delightful to watch.

“This is my buddy Shankar,” said Meera. “A qualified mechanical engineer, whiling away his time doing odd Marketing jobs. Ask him and he will tell you, his ultimate destination is the world of films. Anyway. Shankar, meet Shraddha. Shraddha, meet Shankar,” she did the much awaited introductions with a sly wink aimed at me.

As we shook hands, I felt some kind of a connect between the two of us. Lost in thought, I only could mutter a feeble Hi!, the word stuck in my throat as it were. Meera looked at me in amazement. I cleared my throat and tried again. “Hi!” I said. Ah! That sounded a little better. “Hi! Sharada” I said again.
She wriggled her palm out of my grip and said rather crossly, “Not Sharada. It's Shraddha...come on say it?” Faking a sulk, she said “Nobody ever gets it right,” and looked me sharply.

“Gosh! Just look at him, Meera! Doesn’t he look like a blushing bride, right out of a cheesy Tamil film?” As if on cue, Meera acted out a coy look. They both had now ganged up against me—two against one. They were still at it. Pointing to my face, “Hey look! He looks cross,” saying this, her eyes still fixed at me, Shraddha suddenly ruffled my hair.

“Don’t you touch my hair!” I yelled out, rather angrily. With their mirthful peals of laughter abruptly cut short, they stared at me looking shocked.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Piku - A Fun and an Emotional Journey

"First Look Poster" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia -
Piku. I've been wanting to watch this film ever since it was announced and ever since I saw the first rushes on TV.

Then, suddenly I didn't want to watch it. The subject suddenly became too close to my life. Last week, I lost someone I've known for 20 years. Someone I've loved and respected dearly. Even from the rushes, I could guess the character played by Amitabh Bachchan was a lot like that person. Yet, I went.

Precisely 30 seconds into the movie, I found myself sobbing uncontrollably. With respect to my family and the stranger sitting next to me, I tried to collect myself. Again, in five minutes I was at it again. What I saw on the big screen was not just a resemblance but every movement of Amitabh Bachchan was 'Uncle' himself, my BFF's Baba-the language, the accent, the attitude, the thick glasses, health issues, every quirk, even the father-daughter relationship-every one bit was him. I wanted to leave the cinema hall. I then decided to brave it. Maybe I wanted catch another last glimpse of Uncle.

I guess this post is more about my experience while watching the film than a 'review'. So I am not going into a synopsis.

The story which is well known by now has been written by Juhi Chaturvedi. Hats off to her, I must say. How beautifully she has captured every fine nuance of all the characters-be it the house-help, the ever-available doctor, the charming aunt, the complaining aunt, the calm uncle, even the hapless taxi drivers that Piku manages to drive up the wall.
Each of the three principal characters, Piku (Deepika Padukone), Bhashkor Banerjee (Amitabh Bachchan) and Rana Chaudhary (Irrfan), is so real and not the demi-gods that we constantly get fed with. Juhi Chaturvedi treads uncharted waters to to make Piku's character every inch relatable. She is outspoken, is an independent architect, despite being extremely caring towards her father, she does lose her cool often. It is bound to happen in real life, doesn't it? An uncomplaining Florence Nightingale would have distanced herself from the audience completely. What's more, she doesn't flinch when she talks about her relationships, which she terms as "need based". I felt like standing up and clapping for the bravado.

Rana. Your heart goes out for this man who is a blend of practicality and sensitivity. He comes with his own set of problems that he's still dealing with. And at the end of the film, though not stated, I will not be surprised if he is shown  still dealing with his painful mother-sister combo. You know, some people's problems don't ever get sorted. They just work their life around their problems. Rana just drives coolly into Piku's life and we'd like to assume that he stays there for good. Nice to have someone like him around you to keep you grounded. Yes, that's the effect this 'non-Bengali Chaudhary' has on you. He is probably the first ever man on the big-screen to have told a woman that she should drive because "driving is liberating". Another applause-deserving moment, that.  

Bhashkor Banerjee is most of the time testing your patience but if you can manage  to sit and have a conversation with him, he can hand over some amazing nuggets of wisdom. Loved his views on marriage. especially his view that marriage is a 'low-IQ' business! Sometime during the 1500 km journey, does he secretly wish that Rana and Piku pair up? His twinkling eyes throw us a hint.

That's the beauty of the direction and the screenplay. Nothing is explicit, except of course the gastro/digestion issues. This is the kind of film that respects the intellect of the audience. These filmmakers seem to tell themselves, "The audience don't need to be explained everything.  Let them figure out some stuff on their own, the way they want to."

Coming to the cast: Deepika Padukone. She's completely out there! She just slips into Piku's character with total ease. I am so proud of her as an actor. She has gone ahead and captured her place quietly in the league of one of the most talented actors of today. The best part is that she makes no fuss about being part of art house cinema. She just does her job and how! Be it a brainless Chennai Express or a Piku, she gives her all. How wonderful it must be for filmmakers to work with someone like her. Her very smart yet, normal wardrobe in Piku deserves special mention.

Irrfan. Well, I've always been biased towards him. What can I say more than that he is just too good. His eyes convey so much. There's a particular scene where Piku casually mentions that her father won't let her get married. All that he does is in reaction is, turn towards her and raise his left eyebrow. How much he conveys through that one tiny gesture!

Amitabh Bachchan is an actor who cannot even be praised without sounding irreverent. There hasn't been an actor like him in Indian cinema - ever. Despite his 'star status' he is so willing to play any role. This speaks so much for his self-assurance. The lesser said of him, the better it is. Phew!

I do wish they make such films in Tamil. But greater than that, is a wish to see Rajinikant do such roles. I can bet my last rupee on the fact that he will do a great job.

Apart from music, the other technical aspect that I loved was the photography (Kamaljit Negi). I particularly loved the dining-table scenes. I can't remember any Indian film that has captured food so beautifully ever (I haven't watched Lunch Box and I hang my head in shame). Being a fan of Bengali food, the close-up shots of Bengali Yellow Pulao, Begun Bhaja were enough to floor me, so did the shot of the Jalebis. And then the streets Kolkata. No effort has been taken to glorify them. Yet, giving you a feeling of familiarity, breaking free of cliches (I've never been to Kolkata).

The film is backed by some wonderful songs, thankfully all as just background scores. Excellent score, lyrics and singing by Anupam Roy.

Like how a well prepared dish leaves you with a great after-taste, even two days after the watching the film, I remember everything vividly.The intense dining table conversations (whatever be the topic), the discussions (or battle?) over the menu, Piku's touching the picture of Ramakrishna Paramahans just before leaving home...and so much more to gather the essence of the culture easily. So many warm-funny moments. The director makes you laugh without slapstick. Makes you feel without melodrama. Somehow the style of film-making reminds me of certain Italian and French films. Films that make you feel like a visitor in a home full of fun, yet quirky people, who make you feel warm and welcome. These are people who can laugh at life and laugh with life itself.

For those who can digest (pun intended) the recurring topic of the film, please do go ahead and watch it.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

What's with these 'Open Letters'?

A lot of things have happened in this country in the past one week.
Many of them unfair in from the point of view of the public. While a handful of people are happy, most of us are not.

However, I think if I have a problem, it should be with the system  and not with the people involved.

The questions is, do I dare?

A majority of us might have a gut feeling about a person being right or wrong. But the system decides to let that person go.
So, who does the fault lie with? The system or the persons involved?

I am quite disturbed at the lashing personal attacks on people who have recently been tried and let off.
That's the way the system works. Too bad.

I firmly believe that we should simply refrain from making personal attacks on people, however wrong we think they are. Because it is mean, hurtful and...there's no point.

I definitely don't mean to promote stoicism or fatalism. I only wish people refrain from making totally irrelevant personal attacks.

If you really want to make a change, I would suggest, introspect. Boycott the celebrity. Boycott the industry. Boycott elections. Dare the system. File a PIL if you will. There are provisions.

I am very sure the same system has provided ways to vent your frustration, legally and not through irrational messages/open letters/internet posts.

Think about it.