Mukti

Dadagiri redux

Posted in action, adventure, Bollywood, books, classics, desi fiction, Drama, movies, thriller, TV by jrahman on May 21, 2018

When Shashi Kapoor passed away late last year, my facebook was abuzz (or should I say alight?) with clips of mere paas maa hai.  I wanted to post my favourite Kapoor as my childhood favourite hero.  I was sad to find no clip of Kissa Kathmandu ki — Satyajit Ray’s small screen adaptation of his Feluda caper in Nepal.  Granted it wasn’t Ray’s finest, but all sorts of weird and improbable stuff can be found online, why not this, I wondered.

My mind then wandered to why Ray cast Kapoor and not Amitabh Bachchan, the only tall man in India, for the role of the towering Bengali detective?  Perhaps it was because Bachchan was by then too busy with politics.  But that leads one to wonder why Ray hadn’t made a Hindi Feluda earlier?

For that matter, why did Ray not make more Hindi movies?  It’s not like he was oblivious to Bollywood trends.  He even set one of the Feluda adventures in mid-1970s Bombay, when Bachchan was smashing box office records and the bones of villains.  In the novel, Lalmohan Ganguly is advised by Feluda about the masala that would make a blockbuster:

…. instead of one double role have a pair of double roles.  The first hero is paired against the first villain, and the hero number two and the villain number two make the second pair.  That this second pair exists isn’t revealed at the beginning…..

… need smuggling — gold, iamond, cannabis, opium, whatever; need five musical sequence, one of which should be religious; need two dance numbers; two or three chase sequences are needed, and it would be great if in at least one of which an expensive car is driven off a cliff; need a scene of inferno; need heroines against the heroes and vamps against the villains; need a police officer with integrity; need flashback of the heroes’ backstories; …. need quick changes of scenes…. ; at least couple of times the story need to be on the hills or the seaside…..

…. at the end — and this is a must — need happy ending.  But the ending would work best if it can be preceded by several tearjerkers.

Of course, this is tongue-in-cheek.  Ray wasn’t into making blockbusters.  And he explained in a number of places that he was most comfortable in his mother tongue.  But Ray was so in tune with the zeitgeist that even Enter the Dragon is channeled in that story, and I can’t help but wish he would have made the movie that would have been rishte mein toh baap to Sholay, Don, Qurbani, Tridev or Mohra.

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Memoirs of a wimpy kid

Posted in Drama, family, gender, movies, society, TV by jrahman on April 28, 2018

Not only has my pre-tween boy read all 12 Wimpy Kid books, watched various movie versions, played the board game, and been through various activity books, he has convinced me to read (by which I mean listen on audibles) a few.  They are fun.  It’s not hard for me to see a bit of my own wonder years in these stories.

Of course, my tweens were in the 1980s Dhaka, not modern American suburbia.  My teen years were in international schools in the tropics, owing to my father’s job.  I was in high school (in the American sense) at the same time as the gang from 90210.  A quarter century before social media, our social lives were shaped by and mirrored what we watched on the tele.  It was appropriate years before Rage Against the Machine penned — Cinema simulated life in trauma / Forthright culture, Americana / Chained to the dream they got you searchin’ for……

Imagine then how old I felt when watching Dylan McKay grounding his teenage son in Riverdale.

Now, here was an idea — take the key characters from a comic book set in the happy days and set them in a town that must be the twin of Twin Peaks, this was stuff of inspired imagination.  I found the first few episodes of Riverdale riveting, but then somehow lost track.  I guess these days, if it is not binge-watched, it’s hard to watch at all.

Well, I wouldn’t at all recommend binge-watching the other Netflix teen drama from 2017.  Then again, I found the show quite padded, and just-not-good-TV, so I wouldn’t really recommend it at all.

But even a bad show, sometime, makes you think.   (more…)

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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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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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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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Prisoner of Jhind

Posted in action, adventure, books, Drama, movies, thriller, Uncategorized by jrahman on November 20, 2015

Good thing you skipped Salman Khan’s new movie.  They made the movie around 14 songs collected over many years. Waste of time!

That’s my brother on the recent Bollywood adaptation of The Prisoner of Zenda.  The lookalike-as-a-plant has been used as a plot device many times, including those starring Bollywood bigshots.  My favourite retelling on pages is the Flashman caper involving the Schleswig-Holstein Question — note to self, must blog about Flashman sometime.

But for the screen, let me recommend the 1961 Bangla adaptation.  Adapted to the Indian settings by Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay of Byomkesh fame, the movie contains great visuals of the rugged Central and Western Indian terrain, decade-and-half before Sholay.  Uttam Kumar in the title role is solid, but Soumitra Chatterjee as a villain is sublime — an early cut of his performance in Ghare Baire two decades later.  Oh, there is also a Bengali nationalist twist in the mix.

The best thing about the movie, however, is its music.  Ali Akbar Khan matches the likes of Ennio Morricone.  They just don’t do tunes like that any more.

 

 

 

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Bond and the baddies

Posted in action, books, Drama, movies, sci-fi, sci-fi, thriller, thriller, TV by jrahman on November 17, 2015

Bond movies, even the forgettable ones starring Pierce Brosnan, are to be watched as soon as possible, with a group of friends, to be followed by an adda where you can dissect the said movie every which way.  The new movie opened here couple of weeks after the worldwide premiere, and it’s hard to avoid the chatter in our hyper-connected world.  So I was very keen to watch it during the weekend.  Needless to say, the Black Friday in Paris cast a shadow.  But to let that tragedy stop us from discussing movies and books would be a betrayal of the joie de vivre and La Résistance that we associate Paris with. 

Hence this post, which is not really a movie review.  I liked Spectre about as much as Skyfall — not good as Casino Royale, but much better than Quantum of Solace.  

Is this movie too sentimental or emotional?  Does Bond fall in love too easily?  Is he not ruthless enough?  Well, this is what you get from Batmanisation — you can’t give the guy a backstory with emotions without turning him, well, emotional.  But it’s also Sherlockisation — am I coining a term here?  Let me elaborate.  In one of the very first scenes of the BBC show, an eccentric chemist deduces that his potential flatmate, a complete stranger, is an Afghanistan vet — a scene straight out of the pages of the first Holmes novel.  While not a strict adaptation of anything specific of Doyle, every other scene in Sherlock harks back to the cannon.  So it is in Spectre, which continues Bond’s evolution from a thug-with-a-government-paper to mister-suave, paralleling the evolution from the earlier, younger, rough-edged Connery to the later, older, smoother Moore.  If anything, the forthcoming fifth Craig-starter (don’t believe the hysterics about him not doing another) is set up pretty well for a…. okay, we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Let me pause here and turn to one aspect of the Bond lore  — the antagonists, the villains, the baddies. 
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