Book Review: When the Snow Melts

Spy thrillers seem to be the flavour of the season. And this time, refreshingly enough, it’s not a James Bond film or a Jason Bourne espionage mission, but it’s here and now. Yes, I’m talking about a true blue desi spy story. The story of our very own, little known, Research and Analysis Wing of the Indian Government. Sound similar? Perhaps like the plot of Ek Tha Tiger? Well, no! With Agent Vinod and Ek Tha Tiger igniting fresh interest in Indian spies, When the Snow Melts is sure to impress you. I have never before read an Indian author delve so deep into the intricacies of the workings of International spy agencies such as RAW, Pakistan’s ISI and the antagonist Taliban. Written by Kerela born Vinod Joseph, When the Snow Melts is a story of ‘a man caught between love, duty and a gruesome death at the hands of his captors.’ Vinod Joseph is a Mumbai based lawyer and part time long distance runner. With this book, he explores an array that very few people have done yet and no matter what verdict it is in the markets, hats off to him for the effort.

The Plot:
When the Snow Melts is the story of an Indian RAW Agent, Ritwik Kumar, who works for the IAG (Intelligence Assessment Group) in London. After having lost large sums of his office money in his compulsive drinking and gambling habits, he defects to the pro-Taliban ISI group in order to avert the loan sharks and his boss, General West, both of whom, have given him a two week deadline to pay back his debts. The story begins with Ritwik leaving his house to meet his contact in the Talibani-ISI. He is led to a safe house, somewhere near the Mile End tube station and soon finds himself to be at the mercy of his handler, Ayub Afridi and Junaid, the al Quaida one-man-army and owner of the safe house. Soon Ritwik finds himself in muck as the ISI operatives don’t find his information valuable enough and suspect him of being a double-agent. As Ritwik is put through endless sessions of torture, he meets and falls in love with Junaid’s burkha clad, beautiful wife, Nilofar. Ritwik is forced to give some vital information that the Taliban is looking for, in order to bring down the righteous wing of the ISI working for the Pakistani Govt. Is Ritwik really a double-agent planted in the Taliban or is he just a defector looking to escape the people he owes money too and what happens when Ayub Afridi finds out that Nilofar had been cheating on Junaid with Ritwik, that I’d rather let the reader find out.

The Verdict:
When the Snow Melts is a refreshing change from the usual stuff we get to read from Indian authors. A spy story is something not many expect to read and the insights into the working of Intelligence agencies works really well with the reader. What strikes me most as odd is the fact that after a brilliantly written prologue, the author suddenly switches to give us a first person account of Ritwik’s experience. With the secretive life that a spy leads and the classified missions that he goes onto, it is peculiar to see a spy give details of his mission with no concrete explanation as to why he should tell this particular story. Also, the story begins to a flying start and expectations are raised very high, but unfortunately little activity happens once Ritwik is living in Junaid’s house. Unlike other spy thrillers, the action is mostly one sided, and indoor, and the adrenaline rush you get in the beginning suddenly dies an inside.

What I liked best about the book was that each character fitted perfectly in the role assigned to them and Joseph describes every person and situation very vividly. Having watched many FBI and crime related TV series, I never felt out of place reading the book. Another plus is that the book does not succumb to the clichés and the situations described are very believable. It’s quite natural that a layman cannot relate to a spy’s life but Joseph does a good job at not letting the reader lose his interest anywhere.

All in all a good read. Recommended mainly because of the freshness it brings to the Indian syle of writing. I would love to read the next one from Joseph too.

My Rating: 2.75/5

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Demystifying Colors

Colors, or colours. How-so-ever you wish to spell it, for me, it shall always remain a mesmerizing word. No I’m not color-blind, unlike Mark Zuckerberg or Chris Nolan; I can recognize most shades, though I don’t think I am qualified enough to name them differently. I am also not talking about the documentary ‘Colours’ which was made by the Girls’ Hostel team at last Acumen in my college (Though it was the most celebrated documentary in a short-film competition). Parrot green, bottle green, sea-green or ‘as green as grass,’ I know all of you must be different, but I know you by only two names, light green and dark green. The only green that is different is, perhaps, the color of Aishwarya Rai’s eyes.  Same is the case with the blues; sky-blue is the same as ocean-blue, because if I’m not wrong, it’s the color of sky which reflects in the otherwise colourless water. Although I’d like to be the blue-eyed boy for my boss some day and get that extra zero at the end of my early bonus cheque. But I certainly have a thing against red, especially when the traffic lights blush at seeing me drive. Irresistible is the word they use for me, but Red is also the color of blood, the color of change and I always have the most mixed of feelings whenever I see this color.

I’m colored too. You’re wrong again if you think that I am talking about my much-talked-about dusky complexion, or if you think that I am trying to raise my voice against racism or Apartheid or any social cause, then as much as I would want to, I’m sorry, I’m happy the way I am and I don’t give a fuck to whatever you may think about me. But as seldom as I would care about you, I am concerned how I am to the world when the chips are down.

I am BLACK: Technically, Black is the absence of any color. Unable, at all, to reflect any light. I too am black. Unable to reflect the way you would want me to. Unable to react the way I should. Devoid of emotion? Perhaps, to a great extent, but then it also depends on what you deserve from me. Black is the color of evil. I’m no Lucifer myself, but yes, I am bad. I escape from the truth when it is easy for me to run; I drink and forget when it is not. I lie and I would love to see you fall. But for those who confide in me, come hither and see for yourself, how much light I can absorb. Maybe I’m not black because I have negativity. Maybe it’s just the negativity that I removed from your aura. Ever think of the halo behind your head? Who put it there, and whose responsibility is it, anyway, to keep it clean?

I am GREEN: The color of envy or that of the spring? From a cinematographer’s point of view, green is the color least present in human body, hence the green screens we use. I may not be that eco-friendly that I may be called green, but then again, I am green, even though I’m unable to perform photosynthesis and do not have chlorophyll. Nor am I the Green-Lantern, who’d help you like a superhero. Jealousy, then?  I’m no God, and my flesh and bones are jealous, of you, and the way you get everything you want so easily, yet you crib as to how tough life has been for you. The green-house effect works on me and heats me, but I’m not sure yet how much would it nourish me. I’m unfair, at times, and I let my whims take over, but how often do I not justify it. I may be green, but that only makes me human; and definitely not any lesser, if compared.

I am BLUE: Blue is the color of bliss. Blue, you’re said to be when you’re feeling low. But Blue for us, Indians, is a proper noun as Blue is the color of Team India. Even as they play in Whites, Blue is our blood when team India wins. The coolest of all colors, I’m Blue, both in moments of joy and sorrow, content and loneliness. Blue, I feel, is the color that makes me fluid, Blue is what attracts me to you, Blue is why I trust you, Blue is what makes us one. Blue is the color we should raise a toast to.

I am GREY: An achromatic color in an otherwise poly-chrome world. Grey is the color that describes human nature best. Somewhere between the extremes of black and white, I am Grey too. I’m good and bad at the same time. I half lie and half say the truth in the same breath. I was trusted and deceived, I have been trusted and have deceived, but I am what I am supposed to be. Yes I have been manipulative, but maybe I did it for the best of everyone’s interest. I can be secretive, but that does not mean I am hiding something. Revenge is not what I incrust under and revenge is never what I’ll root for. But I’ll curse you and say a silent prayer for you at the same time.

I am YELLOW: The color of fear, or timidness, at least that’s the way I see it- the weight of the world, the unsure feeling of the light going out, the flickering hope, the disposition of faith. I am yellow and I have the right to be wrong. I turn away when I should stand abreast, I think of myself when the house is on fire, who does not! I value things, more that people sometimes. Hold morals above emotions or succumb to emotions when ethic is all that is required, but I am weak and that is my biggest strength.

I am RED: Red is the color of blood. Red is the color of danger. Red is the color of rage. Red is the color of rebellion. Red is the color of love. The most sparkling of all colors, with the longest of wavelengths, who are we if not red? I may not have the deep voice of Walter White (of Breaking Bad) when I say “I am the danger,” but the colour that is missing from my cheeks, more than makes up for, in by head. I am rebellious and rules are not for me, unless I make them, but try breaking one that I have made and you are in for trouble. Bloodshed is not my thing, but sweat and blood, must be put together. Pink, they say, is another shade of red, and much as I hate the color, an occasional pink strawberry drink, does not make you gay (not that it is a problem if you already are)!

I am WHITE: When Newton observed the colored bands on a whirl wheel, he said that White is the presence of all colors. It’s the color that reflects all light that falls on the. The most ‘adjustable’ color there could be. It becomes one with whatever light you throw at it. White is symbolic of purity, the essence of poetry, the epitome of placidity, the reflector of tranquility. I am white, when I am honest to myself. When I tell myself the truth, pick myself up, dust and run again. White is my positivity, optimism, the gay charm, the truth. I possess all the colors, and that makes me white. I maybe a dull shade of white, but being white, is what matters.

I sometimes wish I could camouflage like a chameleon, and how simple life would be if I could become one with my surroundings, where I can be everywhere, yet no one can find me, unless I want them to. But if I can be so many colors at one time, do I even need to hide?

PS: The above thoughts are just my take on human nature through different colors, the reader is free to agree or disagree. Leave a comment, if you  disagree or vary from my opinion.

Deconstructing a Writer’s Mind

Vikrant Dutta with Meenu Mehrotra at the Social Potpourri meet up

A few days ago, I was fortunate to attend a meeting with two budding writers, Meenu Mehrotra and Vikrant Dutta in Delhi. As a blogger and an aspiring writer, I was keen to know the stories of these two writers and when the agenda of the meeting said ‘Construction of a Writer’s Mind’ which was organized by Social Potpourri, I was even more excited to know what goes on in that head of a writer that percolates onto the paper like a tin-shed in the Mumbai rains. It was quite interesting to meet some of the most creative and inquisitive souls at the meeting and then finally came the moment when Vikrant started telling his story and how he came about writing his first book, ‘An Ode to Dignity.’

For an Air Force officer, writing a book does not come naturally. Especially when it’s not a memoir, a motivational self-survival story and most importantly when it is written in approximately 300 pages of ballad. To add to its uniqueness, Vikrant Dutta is probably the only writer, ever, to have successfully published a whole manuscript in ballad. Kudos to that! Dutta went on to tell his story about how, he graduated from an avid reader to a writer, after being aspired his mother’s words of wisdom about how a dacoit like Valmiki could transform his life with the power of the quill. In pursuit of not being cast under the oblivion’s curse, Dutta too, started writing. Taking inspiration from the sonneteers and writers of verse, he started writing ballad and after years of perseverance, he finally finished writing his first book. To give you an insight, at the moment I would just like to say that the story is that of an army lieutenant falling in love with his superior’s widow and what transpires thereafter.

Meenu Mehrotra, on the other hand, is a Dubai based full time writer who has just launched her second book, Sunlit Hearts after ‘Lilacs Bloom in My Backyard’. With Lilacs Bloom in My Backyard, Meenu Mehrotra explored the lesbian relationship between two women protagonists in the story. Sunlit Hearts on the other hand deals with infidelity. Meenu prefers to stick to writing in prose and mostly writes about the life of women protagonists in her stories.

Now after a long talk with the two authors, I was rather surprised when I deconstructed the minds of the two writers. Sitting on the same sofa, they seemed to not only belong to two very different schools of thought when it came to their writing but even as they approached their writings for that matter. While Meenu is the quintessential writer for whom writing is sacred, something that gives her joy makes her feel closer to her ‘undiscovered self’ as she says, Vikrant was a first of his kind writer I was meeting. He confessed that he never enjoyed writing per-se, but he wrote, daily, without fail, and the end of it, he felt ‘relieved.’ People have different perspectives on doing the same thing, but never before had a met a writer who didn’t love to write. With Vikrant, I discovered a new way of writing, ‘Mechanical Writing.’ Whoever said, “When you’re good at something, never do it for free,” was right. With Vikrant’s story of how he wrote whenever he got time and that too in ballad gives a new dimension to the way we approach writing. Facts and figures are not something that he looks for in a book. And when he writes fiction, he says, that is not even important.

This brings us to a very deep question. Why do we do anything? Is it our ostentatious self or the desire for attention? Why do people chose a profession and then end up cursing it? Why do we change our priorities every now and then? And do we ever think of the people we walk out on while doing so? Writing is one example, to get to do something ‘mechanically’, what is it that motivates a person if he that. People worship their art, yet many ‘artists’ may just be doing it because they do not know of anything else that they’re better at. How many actors do we have, who only act because they’re good at it and not for the love of cinema? In this world of deceit, if I look around me, then are my friends really the people who love me? Or are they ‘mechanical’ friends too? Will they back-stab me or leave me for good if they find someone more interesting than me? Am I myself true to what I do? Will I leave someone/something for good if it does not satisfy me? Am I honest to the people I love? ………. I don’t think I can answer the above questions. Can you, for me?

Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises

That time is here. The time that everyone had been waiting for with bated breath. The most anticipated film of all time, perhaps, is finally here. The Dark Knight Rises, the final instalment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman franchise delivers exactly what it promised to. Following up with the popularity of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, two of the most famous Batman films of all time, it was promised to be the epic conclusion to the Batman legend and it has been epic none-the-less. Now, to begin with, The Dark Knight Rises (TDKR) is not a Batman film that portrays him as a superhero vigilante but it shows a more vulnerable side of Batman where he’s more flesh and blood and has his own weaknesses.

Disclaimer: The following section may have some spoilers, to avoid that, skip to ’The Verdict’ section below.

The Plot:
TDKR begins 8 years after Harvey Dent’s death and when Batman takes the fall for his crimes. Dent is celebrated as a hero in Gotham city on the anniversary of his death, oblivious to the truth about him, and so is how he put all of Gotham’s scum behind bars. Batman hasn’t shown up in the last 8 years and Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), Batman’s alter ego, has also been in a self-imposed solitary confinement in the Wayne Manor. Wayne looks visibly weaker, walks with a stick and is still mourning the loss of his childhood sweetheart Rachael Dawes (who dies in the Dark Knight.) Bruce Wayne spots Selina Kyle (Anne Hathway), a thief, in his house who steals his mother’s pearl necklace and his fingerprints and leave before his eyes. Meanwhile, Daggett (Ben Madelsohn), a businessman who has his eyes on the Wayne Enterprises, hires Bane to do the needful, but Bane has a plan of his own, and that is to fulfil Ra’s Al Ghul’s destiny to destroy Gotham.
Wayne enterprises is crumbling after having invested huge sums into Miranda Tate’s(Marion Cotillard) ‘clean energy project’ but that had been shut down when Wayne and Fox had learnt that their reactor can be used as a nuclear weapon too. Due to the diminished profits of Wayne enterprises, the charitable donations to the public of Gotham have also stopped, and Gotham is virtually staring into the eyes of its doom. Officer John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who has deduced Batman’s identity, and Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) implore Bruce Wayne to return as the Batman, but Alfred (Michael Caine), his mentor and butler feels otherwise. He thinks that Bruce is neither physically, nor mentally ready to be the symbol he had wanted to and Alfred eventually gives up on him while Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman). Bane launches an attack on Gotham’s stock-exchange, bankrupting Wayne. Wayne, meanwhile returns as the Batman, makes Tate the CEO of Wayne Enterprises, restarts the clean energy project and asks Kyle (Catwoman) to help him get to Bane.
Bane, whose face is covered with a gas mask to ease pain from old injuries, is the only villain who is physically more dominating than the Batman. He breaks Batman’s back, captures him and wrecks havoc on Gotham. Gotham is under siege as Bane turns the energy reactor into a nuclear bomb, traps the whole of Gotham’s police force under-ground and cuts it off from the rest of the world. Now, it’s up to Wayne to get back on his feet, escape Bane’s prison, turn the thief, Kyle, into an ally and save Gotham with the help of Blake and Gordon. Although he’s in for a shock as he finds out that there’s someone other than Bane who’s pulling the strings here.

The Verdict:

Bane, Batman, Catwoman

It would not be appropriate to compare The Dark Knight Rises with The Dark Knight or Batman Begins as it is a completely different story. Given the fact that nobody can replicate or even come close to what Heath Ledger did with his character Joker in TDK, TDK Rises does not concentrate upon one character or a villain. It is less of a Batman story and more of Bruce Wayne’s. With an ensemble star-studded cast, Nolan manages to justify the presence of each character to the hilt, even-though none of the actors get a major screen time, other than Bale. Also, the pasts and stories of each of them, might get a too much to handle if you’re not a Batman fan.

Christian Bale delivers a first rate performance as the broken, self loathing Bruce Wayne and the new spirited Batman. Anne Hathway, is probably the sexiest Catwoman ever and slips comfortably into the role. Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman are as good as ever as Alfred and Fox and Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate looks ravishing. Now what’s disappointing about TDKR is that an actor like Tom Hardy is almost wasted as Bane. With his face covered with a gas mask, he has very little scope of performance with his eyes. Bane’s voice is a bit too ‘robotic’ in its feel and Hardy’s face is just seen for a split second in a flashback scene. Gary Oldman is at his usual best.
Hans Zimmer’s music adds to this visual extravaganza the aura of an epic borrowing it’s essence from Batman Begins.

The Legacy:
TDKR is true to its comic book characters and story. Especially the scene where Bane breaks Batman’s back. Batman is a symbol who only comes out at the night, and Nolan had taken care of this fact in his previous two films, but what is astonishing, here, is that the whole climax scene of TDKR unfolds during the daytime.
Tumbler, the Batmobile that Batman had been using in the last two films of Nolan’s franchise, falls into the hands of Bane’s crew and Batman gets the Bat, a new aviator mobile, whose autopilot, is a problem. And Nolan makes it a point to give some added moments of thrills to the Bat through his dialogs. Also, the Catwoman is great with the Bat-mo-bike.

Yes, Christopher Nolan Does it again and does it in style. He ends the greatest Batman movie with the grandiose ending it truly deserved. I would recommend you watch Batman Begins before going for TDKR for a better understanding of the final instalment and it would also help if you didn’t take Joker along with you to the movie hall.

My Rating: 4/5
And I would recommend that you go watch it twice.

Book Review: One and a Half Wife

While the Indian author community is hell bent on churning out meaning-less love stories that can be seen all around you, here is one new author who begs to differ. Meghna Pant, a financial journalist by day and an author by night, picks up a wonderful story to tell as a debut novel. One and a Half Wife is like a dab of fresh air and carves a different niche for itself among the collage of zillions of books by Indian authors these days. The back cover of the book states the story of Amara Malhotra who immigrates to America to achieve the Great American Dream but leads quite an unremarkable life until she marries a Harvard educated millionaire, Prashant Roy. However, that is far from a fairytale ending and her marriage crumbles. After which she is caught between two worlds of obedience towards her parents and new friends who encourage her to move on.

The Plot:
The story begins in Shimla in 1991 when 14 year old Amara Malhotra is taken by her mother, Biji, to several fortune-tellers around town to foretell her fate. The prophecy of a fortune telling parrot says that she will be a One and a half wife some day. Biji, a conventional Indian mother, refuses to believe in fortune tellers who predict bad fate of her child and keeps her hope alive to get the Green Card (American Citizenship) for which her brother (Dua Mama) had applied in the US. The lives of Amara, Biji and Baba (Amara’s father) change gears as they get their Green Cards and head to the USA. The Malhotra family cracks the kernel of the ‘dreamland’ called America to find out the shady insides of prejudices and divides among the Indian-American community, much to their astonishment. As the Malhotra family struggle to cope with their new alien abode, Amara is almost ostracized as an outcast among the American schools which follow a very different culture than what she had grown up in.

While Amara’s Dua Mama was supposed to be a rich Godfather for the Malhotra family, opportunity comes knocking on Amara’s doors when a Harvard-educated-millionaire-Prashant-Roy’s mother selects Amara to be the bride for her only son over Dua Mama’s American bred high-class daughters. Much to Biji’s delight, her purpose of seeing Amara settled in America finally becomes true. But life is not that easy for Amara. As she battles a hollow marriage, her parents struggle to sustain after being rendered penniless due to the high cost of marrying-off their daughter. Amara’s Amercian dream is shattered after six long years of a failed marriage and her parents fail to resign themselves to the fact and fate of their daughter.

Much to the family’s horror, they are socially ostracized by Amara’s divorce and the Malhotra family returns to Shimla after sixteen long years in the US only to find how much India has changed and developed both in in face and facets. Divorced women, still, as they find out are not as welcome here and Amara has to deal with angry parents, goons of the local moral police and battle societal norms as she finds her dignity and rightful place in the end.

The Verdict:
Meghna Pant chooses a very bold topic for her first novel and makes sure that she treats the subject with the required delicacy. The novel, is less of a story and more of a journey that the author takes you along with Amara. On several occasions, one can relate with one of the many characters or their lives in the story at many different levels at that. You cannot help but develop a relationship with Amara and Biji right at the beginning of the story and feel the connection grow stronger as you feel closer to the character with every leaf you turn. The novel takes you to a roller coaster ride into Amara’s life and her relationships and you can’t help but feel sympathy with the unfairness of life with her. Even the little subplots and characters have stories that you can’t help but feel is something that you have heard somewhere. All in all the book is a fantastic reflection of reality and many of its unspoken problems.

The two lead characters of Amara and Biji have been defined with utmost care and a solid foundation is built into the minds of the reader. Every emotion and every situation is aptly acted upon by both Biji and Amara, given the kind of people they are. Although Baba, has a silent, but very strong presence throughout. When the characters act the way you would had you been in their shoes, you know that you are staring not into the words of a book but into the naked face of reality. Frankly Speaking, One and a Half Wife is by far one of the best books that I have read in a long time. Kudos to Meghna Pant and congratulations to her on having written such a wonderful story. What should be said has been said, what’s unsaid, dawns on you slowly but surely.

My Rating: 4.5/5 and a very strong word of recommendation. Order it now, you’ll not regret it. Miss it and believe me, you’re missing an unknown face of life.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

Book Review: You Never Know When You’ll Get Lucky!

Graduating from one of the top B-Schools of the country and then jumping onto the band-wagon of writing books and love stories at that seems not just to be a trend but a habit in India these days. Such is the story of yet another IIM graduate, Priya Narendra. You Never Know When You’ll Get Lucky! is Priya’s first book for an Indian audience after having published one in the UK earlier (the name of which I was unable to find out sadly). You Never Know When You’ll Get Lucky! is a hardcore romantic story written from the perspective of Kajal a Copywriter in an advertising agency in Delhi. Priya herself being a copywriter, many incidents, in the book, come from her own experiences.

The back cover of the book defines Kajal as a sassy, never-afraid-to-make-an-idiot-of-herself-in-public copywriter who decides to put her love life on hold to focus on her career and this is when after making umpteen mistakes to find the right guy for her, she accidentally meets the perfect man for her. It also states the choices in love she has as well as the collage of problems and difficult-to-deal clients at work. Well, for now, I’ll just say, this is one book you should not judge by it’s cover.

The Plot:
You Never Know….. is the story of Kajal, a copywriter living in Delhi and hails from Meerut. Kajal is a modern days’ girl, in her late 20’s who would prefer to get married to the guy who she falls in love with, but her mother is hell bent on getting her married off to one of her friend’s son Bunty. Kajal has a life that is too unbelievably fucked up. (It seems that either God or the author is one of her arch enemies.) She meets a guy Dhir at a wedding in Delhi, while running away from Bunty. She finds Dhir perfectly compatible for her, but can’t date him because he lives in Mumbai and it’s ‘impractical’ to be in a long distance relationship according to her. Even at work, she is the subject of all jokes in office and is not getting anywhere on the professional front. She gets into a hurried love affair with an acquaintance of hers but gradually ends up dumping him in front of his parents when she finds him to be too possessive and rather spineless. Meanwhile, she meets and makes friends with a neighbor who is famous as an accused ‘molester’ after he saves her life.

Now as luck would have it, she again meets Dhir while visiting Mumbai on an official tour and ends up stranded with him when a massive rainstorm hits Mumbai. It is then that the two fall in love and decide to give their relationship a chance. Once back in Delhi, the rest of the book revolves around how Kajal cracks a crucial ad campaign for a condom company, how Dhir and Kajal try to work out their relationship and what finally happens to Bunty when he goes down-on-one-knee for Kajal in the middle of a crowded New Delhi Railway station. I shall leave all of that for you to figure out.

The Verdict:
I was always curious about what went inside a woman’s head and Priya Narendra takes me there and makes me stay for all 231 pages of her book. You Never Know When You’ll Get Lucky! is a chick-book if that is a term. It is written by a quill borrowed from the stands of Cecelia Ahren and the Mills and Boon clan. The book is funny in parts and paragraphs but to you have to make an effort not to do a million things you would rather do than to read it through. Copywriters no doubt may be obsessed with brands but naming so many of them is unfair to the reader who has no idea about all the restaurants in Delhi and Mumbai and the clothing and fragrances that girls wear. Also, girls may like to talk in short-forms but when writing a book, one should take care that there might be guys reading it and googling is just not possible for everything. (But thanks to Priya, I now know who an MCP is or what being AWOL means.)

The characters of the book are pretty much predictable, except Bunty, and the one thing that I liked the most about the book that Priya gives closure to every sub-plot once she started it. Unfortunately, there too much of Kajal in the book to care about an other character and Kajal has been described well. The writing could have been far more formal, so that it didn’t look like I was reading a personal blog of a girl or eavesdropping on two girls gossiping about their love lives. The narration is smooth and picks pace after the initial few chapters.

Though it did not exactly work out for me, but frankly speaking, this a book that girls will surely find as a good time pass read. It’s the kind of book you pick up before a journey to kill time and qualifies for a stretch read (in case you are not carrying your iPod along.)

My Rating: 2.25/5

PS: One request to the author, please use smileys only while chatting or texting. Use words instead, to convey emotions.

Movie Review: Shanghai


For an ad-film maker, serious film making does not come easy. Or let me rephrase that, according to popular belief, the abundance of a sense of humor in ad-film makers makes them graduate naturally to comedy and Dibakar Banerjee has been a big contributor to this belief with his previous films. While Dibakar Bannerjee has treated sensitive issues and real life stories with a touch of humor till now, he makes an out an out politico-drama with Shanghai. (Excuse me for not using the word thriller with the description of the genre of the film.) Based on the novel Z, Shanghai is a film that is based in an unnamed city in an unnamed state of India where, as it is in the rest of India, politics is the dirtiest and darkest of ditches. Dibakar treads on the sensitive line of morality and sense of duty in his characters who battle the scum of politicians and bureaucracy and sugar-coated threats to their lives and careers.

The Plot:
A fictional town in India is on the path of progress when a part of the town, Bharatnagar, is set to be converted into a business park, called the IBP (International Business Park), backed by the CM of the state and other powerful politicos. On the eve of the launch of this project, a celebrated social activist, Dr. Ahmedi (Prosenjit Chatterjee) is run over by a speeding truck after delivering a speech opposing the IBP project. While Ahmedi lands in the hospital, the Vice Chairman of IBP, IAS officer T.A. Krishnan (Abhay Deol) is appointed to lead the CM’s enquiry commission into the matter of the alleged accident of Dr. Ahmedi. Krishnan crosses path with a Ahmedi’s ex-student Shalini Sahai (Kalki Koechlin) and a videographer (and part time pornographer) Jogi Parmar (Emraan Hashmi) during the course of his investigation. Jogi’s boss finds some evidence against the CM in the accident of Ahmedi. As Krishnan dig deeper into the case, he finds himself caught in a web of corrupt policemen and politicians all dancing to the tunes of the CM herself. The rest of the story revolves around how the three protagonists follow the path of truth against all odds.

The Verdict:
Dibakar Bannerjee departs from his usual humoristic style and embraces reality with a pinch of salt. What is best about the film is that all the actors deliver fine performances and look perfectly fit for their characters. The most surprising element is Emraan Hashmi, it’s his only second film that I have watched and I was glad to see the stained-tooth desi videographer, with a visible paunch, rather than a serial kisser. Abhay Deol fumbles with his South Indian accent, at times, but looks good in his part as an IAS officer bound to his career and as usual delivers a fine performance. Kalki, hits the right chord too. Her diction of Hindi is getting better with every film and she has a strong screen presence to add to her character each time. Prasenjit Chatterjee delivers an earnest performance with his role as Dr. Ahmedi but the one person who steals the show here, is Farooq Sheikh as Kaul, the Principal Secretary to the CM. Also, not to forget, the spot on performance by Pitobash Tripathy as Bhagu, a goon, working for the party.

What I felt missing in the film was a concrete conclusion after a very strong climax. Also, a few sub-plots have been left unconcluded, I feel. Also, though the film runs for just over 2 hours, yet the film is slow at times. The music is good and well paced and adds a lot of intensity to the beautiful cinematography in the limited scope of a small city. Watch it to face reality, watch it for the fine performances but above all, watch it for the sheer honesty with which the film is made. Undoubtedly, it is one of the best political drama’s so far.

My Rating: 3.25/5