Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Diary Notes from my child's school

"Please send 4 onions, 2 karelas and a brinjal with your child next Monday."

The note. The dreaded diary note from school.

You have just come home from office, and are chatting with your better half and the little one. Somewhere in the conversation, the kid casually says "Oh BTW, there is a note in my diary. Teacher has asked parents to read it."

The conversation stops. My better half and I look at each other, trying to keep a poker face. But internally there is churning. As Spider Man would say, "My spider sense is tingling!"

With trembling hands, we open the school diary. Pinned with a stapler pin is an innocuous looking small white piece of paper. On it are typed the latest instructions to parents - kind of like the mafia boss instructing his minions to do his bidding. Disobedience is not an option. Consequences will be severe.

This note has a sequence of instructions, akin to a complex puzzle.
"Next Thursday there will be a monthly competition."
(Me): Ok, no probs.

"Your child has to make a pen stand."
(Me): So far, so good.

"The materials have to be found at home."
(Me): Oh oh.

"The density of the materials sent must be between 0.69 to 2.7 grams per cubic centimeter."
(Me): Google!!!

"Sketch pens allowed but minimal usage recommended. Glitter can be used maximum of 5 dots per square cm. Natural colors preferred."
(Me): I should send turmeric and red chilli powder. Maybe dhaniya powder and garam masala. Ekdum natural.

And so on.

Sometimes you have to make charts (healthy food VS junk food).
Sometimes you are made to rummage around the streets like a crazy person (find stones that are rhombus shaped).

Sometimes you visit 20 costume rental shops (Armadillo costume kidhar milta hai bhai?)

You gather all the required materials, and send it with your sweetie.

At the end of the day you ask, "So what did you make with it?"
Sweetie: "Oh, Fantasia Luktuke from my class got a lot of material from her parents, so we used that only. I kept mine aside."
(Me): $#@*#$@$!

We finished our education without our parents having to even bother what went on in our class. Here I am getting a second, forced childhood. I am learning things I don't want to learn. Any of the parents can pass the school exam tomorrow, because we know their syllabus by heart.

What cannot be cured, must be endured.

The weekend approaches. Bliss will be mine!!

Sweetie: "Oh Daddy, another diary note!"
(Me): Spider  sense ....

Note: "Please grow fungus on bread, paper, grass and cow dung. Each must be watered and studied every 2 hours. All materials must be sent on Monday."
(Me): Sweetie, how much fungus can Fantasia Luktuke's parents grow?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Movie Review: Kick

Summary: Go watch it!!

Saw Salman's "Kick" recently. This turned out to be yet another "paisa vasool" movie from Sallu Bhai! Keeps you entertained throughout, if you don't demand that logic is a necessary part of a film.

Story: Salman (Devi Lal Singh) is a daredevil who gets a "kick" in life by doing risky things.

Salman meets Jacqueline (Shaina) and they fall for each other. But he can't keep a steady job as it becomes too boring. So they break off.

Cut to a spate of robberies where the thief is always ahead of the police. Using a prototype mask discarded by Hritik in Krrish, and a "mark" discarded by Hritik in Dhoom 2, the thief robs truckloads of money. It turns out later that the thief is none other than - hold your breath - Salman (gasp)!

Randeep Hooda is after the thief - named "Devil". He also falls in love with Jacqueline.
But Jacqueline to Salman ni! Her heart still belongs to Sallu Bhai.

Randeep figures out that "Devil" is actually Devi+L of Devi Lal Singh, thus achieving a major breakthrough for all mankind.

In between there is a brief cameo by Nawazuddin Siddiqui as a demented greedy head of a Medical empire, with a corrupt Chacha as minister to boot. These become Sallu's enemies.

Many twists and turns later, the inevitable happens. Sallu wins - everything.

There are some good action and chase scenes in the movie.

Salman does what he does best - entertainment, entertainment, entertainment!
Jacqueline is passable, although her accent needs work.
Randeep is good and holds his own throughout.

Mithun da as Salman's father is, as usual, solid gold. (Koi shaq?)

Nawazuddin is good but has a smaller role than he deserved.
Archana Pooran Singh goes over the top in her portrayal of Sallu's mother. Saurabh Shukla is good as Jacqueline's dad.

Wasted was Byomkesh Bakshi (Rajit Kapur). So also was Sanjay Mishra. Both deserved more.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Book Review: The Salvation of a Saint

Is it possible to kill someone from hundreds of miles away?

This is the fundamental question that Detective Galileo (Yukawa, who is actually a professor of Physics) has to answer.

Intriguing? Definitely. 

This installment of the Detective Galileo series from Keigo Higashino may not match the masterpiece ("The Devotion of Suspect X"), but it is also very good nonetheless.

The plot is simple. 
Yoshitaka was on the verge of divorcing his wife. He is poisoned by coffee spiked with arsenic and dies. The most logical suspect is naturally his wife, Ayane. However, there is a glitch. Ayane was hundreds of miles away when he was murdered. 

Yoshitaka was not a saint. He had other women in his life at various times, and had treated them badly. That includes Yoshitaka's mistress. But none of those suspects is as strong on motive as Ayane. But her (lack of) opportunity to commit the act at the fatal hour is a major obstacle for the investigators.

To add to this, the lead detective (Kusanagi) unfortunately falls for the prime suspect . He just refuses to believe that she could have had anything to do with the crime. 

However, his assistant, a lady by the name of Kaoru Utsumi, thinks exactly the opposite. Her woman's intuition tell her to go after Ayane, even if the facts don't support her theory.So she does what her boss has done for years when stymied—she calls upon Professor Manabu Yukawa.

Yukawa and Kusanagi had damaged their relationship during the previous case ("Devotion ..."), and are not on speaking terms. But Utsumi's interference forces them to work together again. And being thorough professionals, they do that quite well.

Higashino follows his tried-and-tested method of hiding everything in plain sight. When the end is revealed, you might end up kicking yourself for not guessing the plot.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Book Review: The devotion of Suspect X

This is not a "who"dunnit. It is a "how-was-it" dunnit. 
You know the crime, and the criminals. What you don't know is how the crime was covered up. 
The author hides everything in plain sight, and does a wonderful job of it.

The story begins innocuously, with the central characters (Tetsuya Ishigami and Yasuko Hanaoka) going about their normal routine.
Yasuko Hanaoka is a divorced, single mother who works at a restaurant that delivers packed meals. She has a daughter called Misato.
Ishigami is a very intelligent Mathematics teacher. He is a next-door neighbor of Yasuko and Misato.

One day Togashi (Yasuko's loser ex-husband) shows up at Yausko's apartment to extort money from her. He threatens to keep doing this and to intrude in their lives. The situation quickly goes out of hand, and Togashi is killed by mother and daughter.
Ishigami overhears the noises, and puts 2 and 2 together. He offers his help in taking care of everything - including getting rid of the body and also covering up the crime.

Inevitably the body turns up and is identified. Kusanagi (the detective investigating the murder case) starts looking at Yasuko as the obvious suspect. He tries to poke holes in her alibi but is unable to do so. 

Kusanagi frequently (unofficially) consults with Dr. Manabu Yukawa, a physicist and his college friend. Yukawa and Ishigami are also batch mates from the same college.

Yukawa initally does not suspect Ishigami and he only meets him to catch up with his old friend. But slowly Yukawa is convinced that Ishigami is not just an innocent witness. 
Then we are treated to a battle of wits, where Ishigami tries to protect Yasuko and Yukawa tries to unravel the layers of deceit and get at the truth.

In the end, Yukawa does decipher what happened. He is awestruck by Ishigami's devotion which even surpasses his considerable intelligence.

The prose isn't very elegant - probably because this is a translation from a Japanese novel. But it doesn't matter. The substance more than makes up for the lack of style.

My favorite quote from the book:
"Sometimes, all you had to do was exist in order to be someone's savior."

Monday, January 28, 2013

Movie Review: Race 2

Summary: Even if you keep your brain aside, your head will still hurt while watching it!! :-)

Arman Mallik (John Abraham) is a ruthless rich creep who only loves money and can do anything to get it. His partner-in-crime is Elena (Deepika), who also happens to be his step sister. He was a street fighter and still fights whenever required.

Ranveer Singh (Saif) is out to get revenge on John (for what is revealed later). He takes the help of Anil Kapoor to achieve this. The entire movie is about how the revenge is taken.

Omisha (Jacqueline Fernandez) is John's girl friend, and has her own agenda. Anil's secretary is Amisha Patel, who only motto in life seems to talk about carnal pleasures. There is also Aditya Panscholi as Godfather Anza. Anza wears dark glasses all the time, presumably because he too does not want to see where the story is heading ...

The plot is wafer-thin. There are the usual twists and turns galore. But while they were enjoyable in the Race, in Race 2 they seem to be put in there forcibly. Also the twists can be seen from a mile away, so the punch is lost.

Abbas Mastan have tried so hard to make this entertaining that they have lost sight of the fact that a story is also needed. So we are treated to an continuous parade of mansions, discotheques, yachts, casinos, etc. There is a lot of skin show - with all the 3 ladies in a "race" for the top slot.

There are many unintentional hilarious scenes in the film - playing cards in high stakes poker being changed digitally due to "micro sensors" fitted in them, Jacqueline's attempts at fencing, John's attempts at acting.
But the icing on the cake is a car being driven out of an aeroplane, and then landing safely because 4 parachutes pop up from the upper 4 corners of the car!! "Allah Duhai hai" is right!! A miracle!!

Saif is competent. Deepika delivers a good performance. But both of them fight a lost cause (the film).
John Abraham proves once more that you can get by in Bollywood without acting, so long as you maintain your good looks. Ditto for Jacqueline.
John wears a constipated wooden expression most of the time, even when fighting.

Anil Kapoor is wasted in delivering perhaps the most lame, vulgar and cheesy dialogues in his entire career. Amisha has a limited role, and you thank your lucky stars for that.

There are some good, some "classic" (the other kind) and vulgar dialogues.
"Dilchaspi kisi na kisi tarah nazar aa hi jaati hai"

Classic (the other kind)
  • Jacqueline:  "Men are many, but money is money"  (profound)
  • Deepika: Agar life ka one third hissa sokar ki guzarna hai ... toh akele hi kyun (even more profound)
  • Anil: Sabar ka phal meetha hota hai, aur usse bhi zyada meetha hota hai ... sabere ka phal
  • Jacqueline: Aaj tak kisne mujhe is tarah choone ki koshish nahi ki
    Saif: Bura laga toh bata deti
    Jacqueline: Meine yeh kab kaha ki bura laga?
Pretty much all of Anil Kapoor - Amisha Patel ones.

See it if you don't want a story, and are happy with glamour / attempted glamour.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Life of Pi - Review

I found it to be a visual spectacle worth seeing. Ang Lee has used the 3D medium fantastically and created a treat for our eyes.
Do not see it in 2D - 3D is the only way to go.

The story is interesting as well. I had not read the book beforehand, so had gone in with a clean slate.

The story is told in flashback mode by the senior Pi Patel (Irrfan Khan). When he was young, Pi is introduced to multiple religions, and his experiences help him later in his life. This does not go too well with his "rational" father, but he does not get in his son's way and keeps on teaching him useful things anyway.

The main story happens on sea. When going with his family to Canada on a freighter, the ship hits a freak storm and starts to sink. Pi manages to clamber aboard a lifeboat, with a tiger (called "Richard Parker") who also survives.
Pi's epic 227 day struggle for survival in the ocean, with just a tiger  for company changes him drastically. What he experiences takes him closer to God, and the whole philosophy of the "nature" of God.

The new actor, Suraj Sharma, has done a very good job. His interaction with the (CGI) tiger, are the "meat" of the film. Some are funny, some are intense. The tiger has been captured extremely well and makes you feel that he is almost human - lovable at times, and frighteningly predatory at others.

There is a heavy dose of spirituality, esp. in the beginning and end of the film. Some may like it, some might not.

We are told another story about the same sea saga later. Nobody is sure whether the 1st one is correct, or the 2nd one, a mixture of both, or none of them happened. But the beauty is that it doesn't matter.

The main reason for recommending this film is Ang Lee's direction and fantastic use of 3D. The colors in India and the ocean are shown vividly. There is an extremely effective representation of the storm  - water is tricky to get right in 3D, but Ang Lee has mastered it here. The tiger is shot very well - a combination of (supposedly) 4 Royal Bengal tigers and CGI effects. The luminescent shots of the waters at night, and the whale arising majestically out of the water. All will stay in your mind long after the movie ends.

See it just for Ang Lee's craft. If the story gets to you, it is a bonus.

Rating: 4.5/5

Monday, September 10, 2012

Movie Review – Raaz 3 (Hindi)

A movie that is a worthy successor to “Haunted”! The category is not pure horror, but “entertainment” horror.  If you are looking for classical horror movies, don’t see this one. But if you like the “other type of classic” movies – ones that you can look back on and say “I survived this one”, then this is for you.

Story Summary:
Not much. A fading movie star Shanaya Shekhar (Bipasha Basu) wants to ruin a rising one - Sanjana Krishna (Esha Gupta) to become number 1 again. When “normal” means fail, she resorts to taking the help of black magic. A film director Aditya Arora (Emran Hashmi) who is in love with Shanaya and owes her his career becomes an unwilling accomplice in making the black magic work on Sanjana. In the process, he (naturally) falls in love with Sanjana and tries to help her.

Vikram Bhatt throws the kitchen sink at the audience in trying to scare them. Unfortunately, the sink has rotted and rusted and the only danger that it can pose is a case of tetanus. The film’s attempts at ghoulishness remind you of Ramsay brothers. Blood running out of taps, grotesque creepy characters making “Grudge” like noises, a slimy creature moving around, you name it and the film has it. Vikram even throws in Ganapati Bappa as a last resort (in the hope that maybe He will be able to salvage the story).

The central theme of the movie is that an evil spirit – Tara Dutt (Manish Choudhary) gives Shanaya some magic water that will help possess Sanjana’s spirit. The water has to be given to her by someone she trusts. Since the corner stone of the movie is so corny, you know what to expect.

In keeping with the Bhatt tradition, Vikram has thrown in a lot of erotic scenes. However, they are pretty badly written and directed and so fail to make much of an impact. The music of the film is surprisingly below par for a Bhatt film.

The dialogues of this film definitely deserve an award. Samples:
·         Science jism ko janta hai, aatma ko nahi” (reminding the audience that Bips starred in Jism)

·         Yeh meri jagah hai, Bhagwan ki nahi” (reminds you of your boss)

·         Ek raaz tumhare andar bhi hai...ek raaz mere andar bhi hai jo tumhe kahin ka nahi chodega” (I know what you ate last night)

·         “Jo khak se aya hai vo khak me mil jata hai” (reminds you of what the film will become)

And the award goes to:
v  If you love me, you can be stupid for me” (intended for the audience?)

What works for the film is the slickness in direction and the performances.
Vikram Bhatt has a good command over the medium and his direction is slick. The 3-D effects deserve a special mention for being quite good.

Esha gives a decent performance (when she is not shrieking). For a newcomer, she has managed to hold her own quite well.

Manish Choudhary gives a good try at being an evil spirit. He is handicapped by the screen play. When you have to make growling noises while alternating between a maggot infested look and a flour-dosed one, it kind of handicaps you. But he tries manfully and does succeed to a large extent.

Emran gives a good performance as usual (when he is not in the mandatory erotic scenes). His acting has grown better by leaps and bounds. He portrays Aditya as a very human character who becomes an unwilling accomplice and then tries to back out after he realizes what it actually is doing to Sanjana.

Bipasha is also good in this movie. She also struggles with having to spout corny dialogues and the forced evil laughter. But otherwise she conveys the intensity of the character and the emotions that drive her pretty well. She is one of the highlights of the film.

In short, see this for entertainment. If you are looking for a classic ghoulish movie, this is not it :-).