Monday, 30 December 2013

Book Review - Marry Go Round

Marriages in India are no less than a circus, the bride and groom being the clown of this circus. Sadiqa Peerbhoy's Marry Go Round revolves around this circus. The story is set in Hyderabad where Sartaj, a desperate, orthodox Muslim mother wants to get her son Riyaz (who is working in America) hitched to a nice Indian girl. The son on the other hand is in a live-in relationship with an American girl and at the same time, thanks to his dark skin, enjoys the attention of all the white girls. 

The melodramatic Sartaj fakes a heart attack and calls Riyaz to India to blackmail him into getting married to a girl of her choice. Riyaz comes home and gets caught in the web of looking at girls. While he is juggling from one tea party to another his girlfriend follows him to India making his life messier.

There are some very good cultural references in the writing and the author has described the Nawabi way of living in a funny manner. There are nosy and selfish relatives who get on your nerves but apart from a couple of stereotypes the book is not entirely funny. 

As a reader I couldn't connect to any character especially when they entered and exited the story abruptly. Riyaz's dwindling mind doesn't make him a favourite. Sartaj who is hellbent on getting a daughter-in-law of her choice and is extremely orthodox, suddenly melts which is unbelievable if you know Indian mothers well. The only thing that's constant is Riyaz's father's nonchalance. After a lot of hiding, running around, melodrama and chest beatings the end is a bit surprising and I must add, little immature.

Marry Go Round is a decent light read but if you are looking for a laugh riot I woudn't recommend it.
Book: Marry Go Round
Author: Sadiqa Peerbhoy
Publisher: Leadstart Corp.
Price: Rs 145
Pages: 223

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Book Review - Arjuna

Of all the epics that India's rich literary heritage boasts of, Mahabharata is one book which has fascinated filmmakers and authors time and again. There have been innumerable interpretations of this war saga. B R Chopra's Mahabharata,  Shyam Benegal's Kalyug, Nitish Bharadwaj's Gita Rahasya, Ramdhari Singh Dinkar's Rashmirathi, Ajay Singh Supahiya's animation short Arjun have been some of the fine examples. There have been some forgettable ones too like Ekta Kapoor's Kahaani Hamaaray Mahaabhaarat Ki, Prakash Jha's Rajneeti and the recent TV series being telecast on Star TV.

Anuja Rajamouli's Arjuna borderlines on being forgettable. Her story focuses on Arjuna, the third Pandav brother and master archer, his journey, achievements as well as failures. The book borrows heavily from the original Mahagrantha (as it should) and folklores.

Despite being focused on Arjuna's story the book doesn't devote more than two pages to the most significant part of his life which is Geeta Upadesh. Before the war of Mahabharata when Arjuna's courage dwindled seeing his family on the opposite side, Krishna gave him the lesson of life and dharma showing Arjuna his omnipresent form. The author chooses to ignore writing about the effect of that incident on Arjuna's life and character.

Since the story of Mahabharata is so complex it requires a fluidity but Anuja jumps from one incident to another which makes it a difficult read. The language too is a bit heavy which gives it a feel of a translated version rather than a story being told from a different perspective. there are some major proofreading mishaps which I will not delve into. 

However, despite its flaws the book has some very interesting tales to weave the story together. Do not pick Arjuna expecting it to be a different take on Mahabharata, it is a translation of the book and that too a pretty average one.

Book: Arjuna
Author: Anuja Rajamouli
Publisher: Leadstart Corp.
Price: Rs 250
Pages: 368

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Book Review - When God Was A Rabbit

Two weeks ago I went for a book sale where books were being sold by kilo. These were mostly second hand books. Since all the fiction books were stacked randomly I had to go through each book to pick what I wanted. While going through the books I chanced upon some very interesting titles which I had not heard of. One of them was When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman. I read the little summary on the back of the cover and picked it up with other 20 books.

First published in 2011, When God Was a Rabbit is narrated by Eleanor Maud (Elly) who grows up in Essex with her brother Joe and parents who are constantly planning to move out of the village. Eventually the family moves to Cornwall. As Elly grows up in her new home new characters are introduced in the story, all of them bring their own quirks. The story begins in England in 1960-70s and moves on to the post 9/11 New York.

When God Was a Rabbit has all the elements that make childhood. Forever lasting friendships, imaginations, secrets and confusions. At times the events are heartbreaking and at times they give hope to the story in the most beautiful way. Elly's defiance makes her a loner, she asks questions hence is looked upon strangely by her peers. But she finds an eternal friend in strange but intriguing Jenny Penny who lives with her mother and dreams of a hidden world. Even before they set out to find the world of their dreams Elly has to move away with her family. Uprooted and angry slowly Elly and Joe find their way around the new home and new life. Years later Elly reconnects with Jenny Penny under circumstances she could never have imagined.

Despite the elements like sexual abuse, homosexuality and even 9/11 the narration never turns melodramatic. Sarah Winman keeps the humour in her writing intact. Her characters react to situations in a way that make them seem more real. Winman picks up a lot of Historical references and blends them in her story like John Lennon's murder or the attack on The World Trade Centre. She also paints a fine picture of that era through her descriptions.

When God Was a Rabbit is not an innocent tale of childhood, it's mature and has shades of grim but the story still stays believable.

Book: When God Was a Rabbit
Author: Sarah Winman
Publisher: Headline Publishing Group
Price: Paperback - $10.99, Kindle - $2.82 on Amazon
Pages: 325

Sunday, 22 September 2013

The Lunchbox satiates your hunger!

A day after watching the heartwarming film 'The Lunchbox' I read someone trashing it on Twitter. The guy said that he hated the film and walked out halfway. The film is the story of life and it could be anybody's life. It was difficult for me to understand that how can someone hate someone's life. However, there are all sorts of people in the world. Some who are honest about their emotions and some who hide under layers of hatred.

Coming back to the film, I won't say that it's the best film ever made or the best story ever told. But it certainly is the story that you want to be told. A simple love story of people who've never met; we've definitely heard many such stories. But there's more to just romance in The Lunchbox.

Sajan Fernandes (Irrfan Khan) and Ila's (Nimrat Kaur) paths cross when the Dabbawallah delivers the lunchbox to the wrong address. A widower Sajan and neglected by her husband Ila find love through letters and lunch. The characters portray an aching sense of loneliness which this city brings and which everyone of us must have experienced at some point of life.

Ritesh Batra touches a middle class life in Mumbai and portrays the city the way we see it, somewhere between the slums and the high rises. He shows you everyday Mumbai. His characters are beautifully sketched and scenes detailed and well thought out. A scene where Ila answers the door and you can hear Sanjeev Kapoor's voice in the background giving the recipe of paneer tikka masala gives you a glimpse of a lonely housewife's life. For the first time you can understand the bhajan singing dabbawallahs in the local train, probably that's the only thing that keeps them going.

In the midst of all the loneliness and pain there's Aslam Shaikh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) whose spontaneity brings humour. And not to forget, Deshpande Aunty who we only know through a voice and a basket hanging from her window.

Irrfan Khan and Nimrat Kaur bring the characters alive, so much so that you can find yourself in those characters. Like any of his previous films, Irrfan Khan's eyes say more than the dialogues do. A lot has been said in the film through poignant silences and empty eyes. There are no Bollywood or Hollywood twists here because life does not have twists, it just goes on. As for the film, it doesn't matter that it's not picked as India's Oscar entry. The Lunchbox stirs your soul.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Kishore for soul

World is not a very happy place to live in. Something or the other or someone or the other is always ready to make it worse for you. Probably the creator knew this and that's the reason he/she created Certain things that work like a balm for the aching heart; a warm hug, Mom's food, a cup of hot tea or a book. And then once in a while he/she creates something that's a combination of all these things, a voice whose name is Kishore Kumar. I am not sure many artists or singers can have that effect on you.

For me His songs are like an arm around my shoulders when I feel low, a warm hug when I feel lonely, comforting when things around me start agitating me. He calms my nerves down instantly.

His sad songs are deep as an ocean. very sad but still a hope lurking in the corner, reassuring that there's a bright sunrise at the end of the darkness. The happy, peppy songs are bubbling with life but at a distance you can feel some pain...pain buried deep inside but doesn't want to come out; a well guarded wound.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Book Review - The Oath Of The Vayuputras (Shiva Trilogy)

Shiva remembered Lord Manu's words. 'Good and Evil are two sides of the same coin.' 
The Neelkanth's eyes widened. The key question isn't 'What is Evil?' 
The key question is: 'When does Good become Evil? When does the coin flip?'

The third and final edition of Amish's Shiva Trilogy, The Oath Of The Vayuputras is out and while few of us think that he has gone overboard with all the promotions, the book is selling like a hot property. Does the author and his most ambitious work worthy of all adulation? Well, I am about to tell you just that. Those who haven't read a single book of the trilogy please stop reading cause there are few spoilers.

Two years ago when I finished The Immortals of Meluha and The Secret Of The Nagas back to back I didn't know that I will be waiting for the third one so impatiently. The concept was simple, Shiva as a real human being in the real world. A tribal who is an exceptional fighter, loves to dance, sing and smokes chillam with his friend. He abuses too.

Fate takes Shiva to Meluha, a perfect city in search of its Neelkanth. The Meluhans live for hundreds and hundreds of years thanks to the world's greatest invention, the Somras. Somras' existence is under constant threat by Chandravanshis and Nagas who have planned attacks on Mount Mandar, the place where Somras is created. To rescue them from the vile chandravanshis and terrorist Nagas, the Meluhans turn to their Neelkanth, their Shiva. But does something that brings the greatest good can be the cause of the biggest evil too? Good and evil are two sides of the same coin and while there's good there's evil too. But it is only a matter of time when the coin completely flips and evil takes over the good. That is when the good needs to be destroyed, that is when Shiva - the destroyer, the Neelkanth steps in. The trilogy is Shiva's journey from being a tribal leader to the Mahadev, the Superhuman.

What is beautiful about Amish's writing is that he has woven a Mythological tale into a believable story. He introduces Nagas as monsters who can fight like Ninjas and are the enemies of humanity. But in reality they are just normal humans born with deformities; a pair of extra hands and nose like elephant. The Nagas are the babies born to the Meluhans who were abandoned because of their deformed bodies. But are they really evil? There's more than meets the eyes. Is Shiva being fooled by the Meluhans? Or are the Chandravanshis and Nagas taking him for a ride? Or is it just the powerful people who are letting the evil rise for their own good? I can't answer all these questions for you cause these very curiosities make the story work. All I can say is that the research that has been put in to write this trilogy is worth all the applause.

Book: The Oath Of The Vayuputras
Author: Amish
Publisher: Westland Ltd.
Price: Rs 350
Pages: 565

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Book Review: Once upon the tracks of Mumbai

There are films inspired by or based on a book and then there are books which take a lot of their masala from Bollywood. Once Upon The Tracks of Mumbai by Rishi Vohra takes a lot of inspiration from masala Hindi movies. An autistic hero like SRK's Rizwan Khan in My Name is Khan who has enormous body strength like Salman Khan in any of his movie, turns into a superhero like Hritik Roshan's Krrish.

The book is a first person narration by Babloo who in his own words is autistic and suffers from split personality disorder. Technically speaking he suffers from Asperger Syndrome "that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction, alongside restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests". Babloo, elder of the two brothers is neglected by his family and while he dreams of achieving something big his parents are busy finding him a job as an office boy. The only thing that keeps Babloo sane is thinking about Vandana, a head strong independent girl who stays in the same colony. 

Babloo is fascinated by Vandana's simplicity and beauty and secretly loves her while Vandana is busy dreaming of her own independent life in the USA. Trouble brews when Vandana is engaged to Babloo's self centered chauvinistic younger brother Raghu. In order to break free from the burden of losing her independence Vandana gets involved with Sikander, the local cable guy whose sole aim is to sleep with as many women as he can. 

Oblivious from all the going-ons around him, Babloo is busy finding his purpose in life when he suddenly finds himself in the spotlight. In an attempt to save a woman from goons Babloo is made into a super hero 'Railman'...because the woman was saved near the railway tracks. He walks on Mumbai's railway tracks dressed as a superhero in the night and moonlights as a peon in his father's office in the morning. While media and the people support the Railman police hates him and wants him behind bars. Babloo's tryst as the superhero ends soon and he gets caught by the police. The court trial leads him to the mental asylum where he finally finds some people who he can relate to. From here, the story took an unrealistic turn for me. Babloo's parents' sudden change of heart, Vandana's realization that she loves Babloo, Babloo finding a job and settling down with Vandana...all happens in the last 4-5 pages of the book.

Happily ever afters are good but only when they happen under realistic circumstances. However, despite not agreeing with the end I like the fact that Rishi Vohra has command over the language and has used the most important element of Mumbai, it's railway tracks, to weave the story. Once Upon The Tracks Of Mumbai is a decent read if not a must read.

Book: Once Upon The Tracks Of Mumbai
Author: Rishi Vohra
Publisher: Jaico Books
Price: Rs 175
Pages: 266

Monday, 7 January 2013

Of books, films and blogs: The year that was

2012 was the year of a lot of learning and meeting new people on twitter and in person. It also included a lot of reading thanks to Blogadda's book review program I signed up for. Here's a post dedicated to the year that was with a list of my 3 fav films I watched, books and blogs I read in 2012 (in no particular order).


Gangs of Wasseypur I & II
I don't need to talk much about this film. GoW gave a new wave of storytelling, actors and film making to Hindi cinema and despite people accusing Anurag Kashyap of indulgence I think that this was one of the best works of Indian Cinema. Read my review Here

Paan Singh Tomar
The film has it's flaws but Irrfan Khan makes up for them. It is impossible to not love an actor who can give you goose bumps with just an expression of his eye. Read my review Here
Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro
Of-course I didn't see Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro for the first time but watching it in the theatre for the first time was a different experience altogether. The satire is as relevant today as it was when the film released. Here's my post that I had written after watching the film in the theatre thanks to PVR.


The Secret Of The Nagas by Amish
While I finished the first part The Immortals of Meluha in 2011, the second part got over in Jan 2012. I find The Secret Of The Nagas more fast paced than the first book. It is darker and keeps you on the edge. Of course some overly melodramatic sections can be easily edited out but apart from that the book tells a brilliant story. I am now waiting for the third part of the Shiva Trilogy, Oath Of The Vayuputras slated to release in March.
Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro by Jai Arjun Singh
I picked up this book after a movie buff friend recommended it on twitter and it's a gem for those in love with the cult film Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro. I will not say much about the book in this post and will take you to an earlier post that I wrote after reading it. Here
Raag Darbari by Srilal Shukla
Raag Darbari was on my to-read list since a long time and finally I picked it off my brother-in-law's shelf who swears by it. The book doesn't have a set story and is in fact a description of life in a small village in the post Independence India. The language is full of sarcasm and Awadhi slangs and will keep you in splits.


Calcutta Chromosome
I came to know about this blog through a book I reviewed for Diptakirti Chaudhury, the author of Kitnay Aadmi Thay, the book and Calcutta Chromosome is a Hindi film buff and it is a lot of fun to read through his lists, agree and disagree with them and add your own favourites.

Sumthinz Cooking
A food blogger, baker and a friend Reema Prasanna who I met this year thanks to my profession. I love reading her blog for the simple recipes she shares and all the stories she weaves around food. Reading her posts are more fun if you know her personally because then you can picture her expressions and mannerisms in your head. And yes, we share a common hatred for khatti jalebis. Follow her on twitter @ScrollsNInk to learn from her #BakingGyaan

Going Bananas
The 17 year old Paloma Sharma writes about issues on her blog that we so called adults try to shun. She is bold, atheist and is ready to take flak from the so called protectors of religion. Follow her on twitter @PalomaSharma and @GoinBananasBlog to discuss all the issues that in her words "plague us all".


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