Mukti

Wonder years

Posted in action, Bangladesh, Drama, history, movies, sci-fi, thriller, TV by jrahman on November 10, 2017

Thirty years ago today, Dhaka was shut down as the opposition parties — all of them, Awami League, BNP, leftists, Jamaat — demanded the resignation of President HM Ershad.  There were meetings and rallies around the city, many turning violent.  A working class man in his mid-20s was killed around the General Post Office near Gulistan.  He had the words shoirachar nipat jak (down with autocracy) painted in his chest.  Written on his back was ganatantra mukti pak (free democracy).

Of course, there was no school that bright crispy early winter morning.  Our impromptu game of neighbourhood cricket was ended abruptly by an auntie whose window was smashed by a square cut, or perhaps it was a cover drive, or an overthrow — I don’t quite remember after all these years.  I do remember what happened next.  We rode our bikes.  We didn’t care about politics, but coming from a heavily politicised family, I knew enough to avoid going towards the city.  Instead, we gathered on the new road that was being built near our neighbourhood, and then hit the runway of the old airport.  I don’t think any of us had a watch, but even if we did, who checks the time when so much fun is being had!  Before we knew it, we were in the heart of the Cantonment, and it was around the time of the Asr prayer that we returned home.

I was reminded of the adventures of that day, and the parental wrath thus incurred, while bingeing on the latest episodes of Stranger Things.  I am told it’s not bingeing if I am watching only one season.  But I feel five hour-long episodes straight in a weeknight, starting after the day’s chores are done, counts as binge watching.  Bingeing or not, the second season of Stranger Things is even better than the first one.  And that’s quite a feat considering the hype.  Like everyone else, I had no idea about the first season before watching it, liking it instantly, even if it was, to use the show’s self-deprecation, a bit derivative.  I feared disappointment with the new season, fears that proved unjustified.  This must be how it would have felt to watch Godfather 2 or The Empire Strikes Back back then, unfiltered by the accumulated weight of pop culture now-memory.

Now-memory?  From the show.  This post will have spoilers.  Read at own risk.

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Joy (the other) Bangla?

Posted in Bengal, comedy, Drama, history, movies by jrahman on October 11, 2017

Interesting things maybe happening in the Indian Bengal, and not just with films, though a film is a pretty good place to start.  Aparna Sen’s Goynar Baksho — a family dramedy about changing role of women in the mid-20th century bhadralok society — garners two wholehearted cheers.  Moushumi Chatterjee puts on perhaps the best performance of her career, and Konkona Sen Sharma is in her exquisite elements.  That’s two cheers, not quite a third for Srabanti Chatterjee though, who pales before the two veterans.  More importantly, the first two-thirds of the movie is astute social commentary that is simply fun to watch.  Depiction of the partition-induced transformation of a landed gentry East Bengali caste Hindu family into trade-dependent petit bourgeois is up there with the best of partition-related art.  Indian Bengalis tend to have a hard time pulling off East Bengali accent — this is a rare and pleasant exception.  For all that, however, the movie is far from being a great one because of its last third.  And yet, it’s the ending that made me think.

The story ends with this:

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When fact is fiction

Posted in fantasy, movies, music, thriller by jrahman on July 15, 2017

I live in a country that Lyndon Johnson once called the ‘ass end of the world’ — whichever direction you travel, there is no short flight from this southern land.  One good thing about the long haul flight, however, is the chance to watch stuff that you otherwise might not have, provided you’re flying a decent carrier, of course.  My usual guilty pleasures are sitcoms — I think I watched more HIMYM and Big Bang Theory episodes airborne than on my couch.

I made an exception recently.  The Emirates have a reasonable collection of Bangla (or given they are from the Indian Bengal, should I say Bengali?) movies.  I was curious, and wasn’t left disappointed.  It appears that a number of noir films have come out of Kolkata recently.  How exciting, right?

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Stranger things

Posted in Bollywood, culture, movies by jrahman on January 22, 2017

If Shakespeare was writing it today, Hamlet might well have said to his friend Horatio that there are stranger things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy.  Strangers in strange lands, that is how many of us feel about the world we live in.  Being a quantitative, analytical person using well established frameworks and models to make sense of the world, I can not possibly think of a stranger thing than the reality of President Trump.

No.  That’s not right.

I can think of far stranger things.  Stranger things that are far more uplifting than politics.  What is strange but that which is difficult to explain?  What is then stranger than how people fall in, after failing in and falling out of, love?

Falling in love, that’s dime a dozen, though romantic tragedies are bigger hits than happily-ever-afters.  Falling out of love, that’s rarer, definitely not quite your standard traditional Bollywood fair.  Love outside loveless marriage — that only used to happen in arty stuff starring Shabana Azmi.  Except for that Big B vehicle to extricate himself from a real life triangle, how many mainstream Bollywood pics  about extramarital affair can you think of?

Of course, traditions change.  Bollywood changed forever with Dil Chahta Hai.  And what better way to show that than through how love and marriage are treated in two Karan Johar directed Shah Rukh Khan starrers named after yesteryear hits?

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Game prediction

Posted in adventure, books, Drama, movies, TV by jrahman on August 28, 2016

We are dreaming of Spring here in the antipodes, and thus it’s an appropriate time to make prediction about the Game, by which I of course mean that of Thrones.  Hopefully this is not going to be the last post on the subject.  I am going to stick to the show, not the underlying books, though everyone knows that the printed and screen forms of the story are supposed to culminate at the same end.  I am sure what I have to say has already been written with volumes of analysis, links and graphics — I’ll eschew anything like that.  I trust the interested reader to look up.  This is a self-indulgent post to see how wrong I am in two years.

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Gone Girl

Posted in books, Drama, family, gender, movies, Rights, society, thriller, thriller by jrahman on June 26, 2016

 

What are you thinking?  How are you feeling?  What have we done to each other?  What will we do?

The primal questions of any marriage — says, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) as David Fincher’s 2014 adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl begins.  Wrestling with the unravelling of own marriage, the questions came as a jolt as I watched the scene in a lonely hotel room after a long day of work.

A decade of marriage, and you realise you don’t know who your partner is.  Worse.  You don’t know who you are anymore.

What have we done to each other?  Indeed!

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The love song

Posted in Bollywood, movies, music by jrahman on June 7, 2016

Love stories tend to be boring because they tend to end in rather predictable ways.  And yet, from Radha-Krishna and Laila-Majnu to Romeo-Juliet and, because we aren’t unaffected by Bollywood, Amitabh-Rekha, our imaginations are captured by love stories.

Yes, that last sentence is a derivative of something from Midnight’s Children.  Salman Rushdie, of course, drew inspiration from the famous Bollywood romance for his infamous Satanic Verses filmstar-gone-crazy who was haunted by his jilted lover Rekha Merchant.  Then there is the Shashi Tharoor novel about the rise and fall and apotheosis of the matinee idol Amitabhshok Bachchanjara, with a many pages on his off screen romance.

It’s fitting then that the last movie to star Bollywood’s most famous couple is a tale of socially ostracised love, which also happens to have one of the best love songs to come out of Bombay.  The Bachchan monologue — I often wonder with my solitude what if you were here — tells us that it’s a sad song.  But it’s the multiple possibilities and nuances of the female perspective — rendered sublimely by Lata Mungeshkar — that makes the song what it is.

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On Nayak

Posted in Drama, movies by jrahman on March 17, 2016

There is cricket in the subcontinent, and while it’s good see Bangladesh being competitive, nationalism often leaves me cold.  There is, however, one part of life where I am, if not nationalist, quite parochial — the stronger sex.  There is something about Bengali girls.  As with many things, Satyajit Ray captures it brilliantly:

A Bengali girl once asked me why Uttam Kumar is so mean to Sharmila Tagore.  I was surprised she hadn’t watched Nayak.  I shouldn’t have been, as this is one of Ray’s lesser known gems.  That’s a shame, because arguably it’s one of his best work.

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The seeker of the truth

Posted in action, Drama, movies, thriller by jrahman on March 13, 2016

Raj, the Desi guy in the sitcom Big Bang Theory, compliments his friend’s deductions in an episode as ….a regular Byomkesh Bakshi.  Another friend quips — What’s that?  An Indian Sherlock Holmes?, drawing Raj’s retort — Perhaps Holmes is an English Byomkesh Bakshi!

Of course, Holmes predates Bakshi by decades.  And I have no idea how widely known Bakshi is outside of erstwhile Bengal.  Or even among the Bengalis for that matter — growing up, I was certainly more familiar with Satyajit Ray’s Feluda than Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay’s satyanweshi (the seeker of the truth).

Perhaps this has changed with the recent films coming out of Kolkata and Bollywood?

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Love is just a four letter word

Posted in comedy, culture, music, romance, society, TV by jrahman on February 9, 2016

I was 14 when a Dhanmondi girl first told me about Valentine’s Day — no, not asking me for a date, rather informing me about hers.  In the quarter century since, in and out of relationships, the day has never really resonated with me.  Call me unromantic?  Not so fast.  You see, I do love rom coms, particularly on the small screen.

And could there be a better show to showcase my case?

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