Bob Dylan changed my life at sixteen when I listened to Blowin’ In The Wind for the first time.
I hate that sentence above. It’s true, but I hate it, because it has been true for so many other people. That now-iconic refrain “Yes, and how many years can some people exist/Before they’re allowed to be free?/Yes, and how many times can a man turn his head/And pretend that he just doesn’t see?” has spoken to so many sixteen-year-olds over the decades and all over the world, and suddenly they could see what was right in front of their eyes, the truth and the injustice of our world revealed by a young man desperately singing about his country’s unjust war half a century ago. It made something click in their minds – this too is music, aisa bhi hota hain.Continue reading “My Back Pages, a Love Story: A Tribute to Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan”
There really is nothing quite like Game of Thrones, is there? Even in the middle of what is being called the new Golden Age of Television, where path breaking prestige shows like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, Hannibal, Fargo and The Wire have redefined the limits of what can be done through the medium, the complexity of themes that can be juggled in a long-form episodic format, and the intricacies of audience engagement, HBO’s Game of Thrones stands alone, distinguished not just by the cacophony of its unprecedented fan following or by the awe-inspiring scale of its production these days, but also for its unique authorial challenges and, for a popular show of this magnitude, the darkness of its worldview.Continue reading “Game of Thrones Season 6 (2016) Review : The Winds of Winter Are A-Blowin’”
There’s a stirring passage in Donna Tartt’s campus murder saga THE SECRET HISTORY, where the charismatic and eccentric professor of Greek, Julian Morrow, waxes eloquent to his mercurially talented students on the Dionysian ethics of letting loose, of allowing the primal instincts to take over, exhorting that “if we are strong enough in our souls we can rip away the veil and look that naked, terrible beauty right in the face; let God consume us, devour us, unstring our bones. Then spit us out reborn.” I wonder if our cinematic (and cultural) fascination with psychopaths and serial killers stems from this tension, the conflict between toeing the line and barrelling through it. For in our (at least ostensibly) logical and structured societies, can there be a greater threat, a more brazen subversion, than the man who refuses to acknowledge, let alone respect, his fellow citizen’s right to life?Continue reading “Raman Raghav 2.0 (2016) Movie Review: “You Complete Me””
When Jon Stewart, undisputed king of American political satire, retired from his 16 year stint as the host of THE DAILY SHOW, with emotional tributes from collaborators, friends and even a good-natured “So long, jackass” from long-time foe, Senator John McCain, he signed off on a typically acerbic note, observing “Bullshit is everywhere. The good news is this: bullshitters have gotten pretty lazy, and their work is easily detected. And looking for it is kind of a pleasant way to pass the time, like an I Spy of bullshit. So I say to you tonight, my friends, the best defense against bullshit is vigilance—so if you smell something, say something.”, mocking the US Department of Homeland Security’s sometimes-controversial “If you see something, say something” post-9/11 citizen vigilance project that was criticized for fostering paranoia and distrust against minorities, as well the Fox News-led culture of high-decibel partisan brinkmanship in political discussion in mainstream media. Because the fact is that polemics are a hopelessly naïve, often destructive, answer to political obstacles and deadlocks, and are antithetical to the functioning of a democratic system – political realities are so complicated in real life that my-way-or-the-highway certainty obfuscates far more than it clarifies.Continue reading “God Save the Comedians: Satire in the Time of Despair”
Rites of passage are important in every culture – whether it be leaving home, the first kiss, the first real fight, the first job, whatever. For Bengali bibliophiles, it is, or at least it used to be, the point at which a child put down his copy of the collected volumes of Feluda stories and picked up the Byomkesh Somogro. Of course, like a favourite childhood dessert, we all come back to Feluda, always, and have a definite soft corner for it in our hearts, but at the end of the day, the faint praise is damning – Feluda is children’s fare, cursed never to receive the serious analysis or plaudits that it deserves.Continue reading “Murder in Neverland – Looking Back at Feluda”
The first job of a biopic is simplification. A life reduced to a movie must be one of the greatest feats of condensing and simplifying in human history. A movie about one of the greatest physicists of our time always suffers from a further handicap that it does not share with a biopic of Julius Caesar, in that it has very few easily communicable ideas about the work of the subject of the film and even fewer swords to decapitate heads with. The fact that a movie of this nature can still be a deceptively complex look at the lives of two people must surely be a testament to the power of 24 frames per second.Continue reading “The Theory of Everything (2014) Movie Review: Scenes from a Marriage”
The young adult (YA) romance/high-school bildungsroman has been a fixture of Hollywood, more so in the new millennium owing to the runaway popularity of the Harry Potter and Twilight franchises (and countless others in their wake from The Hunger Games to Percy Jackson). But apart from blockbuster showings, some of these films have also rocketed into most critics’ year-end best of list. 2010 had Scott Pilgrim v/s The World. 2011 had Submarine. 2012 had The Perks of Being a Wallflower. 2013 had The Spectacular Now. 2014… well, IF I STAY doesn’t quite slot neatly into this list.Continue reading “If I Stay (2014) Movie Review: The Fault In Our Plots”
Although Wes Anderson cemented his place in passionate film-school discussions for years to come as soon as he released RUSHMORE in 1998, audiences have not always been as enthusiastic. It is understandable. Anderson, with all his strange unique visual quirks and simulated glass-ball worlds, is an acquired taste, at best, and impenetrably bizarre and distant, at worst. And yet, his films satisfy the fundamental requirement for movie-goers’ pleasure: escapism. Not even a schizophrenic would dare think any of Anderson’s movies were set even remotely close to the “real world” – his movies are not just flawlessly composed art, they are a vacation in Wes Anderson’s mind and memory, where I like to imagine that I can see a young socially uncomfortable Anderson spending hours in his room meticulously dreaming up this alternate universe with its distinctly cinematic point-of-view, its laconically disconnected characters and everything “just so” to the point of OCD. Since every event is filtered through Anderson’s picky subconscious, nothing too bad or sad ever happens in his movies. And that suits most of us just fine.Continue reading “The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) Movie Review: A Gorgeous Sad Wedding-Cake of a Movie”
Chetan Bhagat is a strange phenomenon. He inspires both fierce loyalty and venomous disdain, at once hailed as the savior of Indian English literature and as having brought about its bastardization. Then again, leaders of revolutions, be they literary or political, are always polarizing figures. You can’t get 5 people to agree on whether James Joyce was a genius or a raving lunatic. As for Bhagat’s literary ability, after having read his books, I am more inclined to believe his detractors, who usually demolish him in far crisper and polished language, than is commonly used by Bhagat’s avowed fanbase, who revert to a kind of pidgin Hinglish lingua franca pioneered by Bhagat and his many imitators. But Bhagat’s own forceful affirmation of a kind of homespun anti-intellectualism is what makes such assessment of his literary worth meaningless; you cannot judge him on criteria he does not aspire to fulfill. You might as well just enjoy what he does have to offer.
What is obvious is that while he does lack a sense of history or literary flourish or even unobvious insight, his undeniable appeal lies in his proud championing of the average Indian Joe, or Jai, if you will. His characters have the ring of authenticity, reflecting the hopes and aspirations of India’s burgeoning young middle classes, an often contradictory, mercurial, infuriating and yet inspiring demographic. And this emphasis on story over style is what makes him such an excellent candidate for adaptation to Bollywood’s glitzy screen – Bombay’s purveyors of dreams have enough tashan for the both of them.