An Alternate Narrative of Lust Lies And Power


BADLA MOVIE REVIEW

Generally I have the habit of tapping away my thoughts on the keyboard as soon as I finish watching an impactful movie or reading a thought provoking book. But this time it is different. Having watched Sujoy Ghosh’s highly recommended suspense thriller “Badla”, I am still collecting my thoughts on how I have received the thrills. Not that I am averse to the genre. On the contrary, its my favourite. But coming out of the PVR I was more disturbed than entertained. As a matter of fact, it is this bothersome reaction that prevented me from vocalising my views on the film.

Undoubtedly, it is an edge-of-the-seat-narrative. But knowing Sujoy Ghosh (Kahaani Part I and Part II), the direction the plot would take was pretty predictable. More so, because the gentleman who sat next to next to my seat was quite loud about his conjectures on what must be the plausible conclusions (mind it he had quite a few) of the twisty tale. Frankly, I was neither irritated nor amused because to my surprise I rather agreed on certain points that he so casually dropped. Also, certain theories that he propounded at deducing the mystery incidentally matched mine. Interestingly, this is the first time it has so happened that one of the spectators has given in to loud thinking ( a national trait?) as to what would be the possible ending of a murder mystery.

Notwithstanding the exception, Badla opens the door to an alternate narrative which is so far removed from reality that in a contrarian perspective it becomes relatable. Confusing? May be. So let’s begin from the very beginning. Celebrated business woman, Neha Sethi (Taapsee Pannu) is charged of murder in a closed room wherein only she is present with the victim (Arjun – Tony Luke). Obviously, she pleads innocence. But suspicion thickens on her as it is gradually revealed that the murdered person is none other than the one with whom she was having an illicit affair. Naina’s husband does not believe in her innocence. By the way nor does the audience. She is abandoned by her family (husband and baby daughter). However, Naina’s lawyer, Jimmy Punjabi (Manav Kaul), who is also her friend from college days, goes all out of his way to defend her. Seeing the complexity of the case, he hires a senior advocate, Badal Gupta (Amitabh Bachchan), to fight for Naina.

The entire movie revolves round the dialogu-ic interaction between Naina and Badal Gupta in an endeavour to rake out the delicate details so that Naina’s innocence can be proved beyond doubt. Undoubtedly, both excel in hiding as well as exposing the truth and this cat and mouse game between Naina and Badal Gupta becomes the pivotal theme of the narrative. Needless to say, this mind game is heightened by the towering performance by the one and only Big B and the understated execution by Taapsee Pannu who is at the same time the protagonist as well as the antagonist of the narrative. Knowingly or unknowingly, Sujoy Ghosh has deftly engaged the audience as the third party in this crossword-puzzle-like-truth-seeking-game. And it is here that the magic of a tightly scripted whodunnit has hobbled.

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When cinema poignantly portrays reality, the narrative becomes relatable because the audience finds an experiential one-ness with the drama enfolding on the silver screen. In case of Badla, it is just the opposite. The implausibility of the proposition that the plot offers is so stark and so sharply swerves from what we actually experience in our day to day dealings that it loses popular sympathy. Here a stage is elaborately set to catch the culprit based on the premise that once truth pops out of the bag justice would be done. But does that really happen in real life? Seldom. We know our administrative system is so labyrinthine in protocol that truth gets lost somewhere in the draconian slushpile of fat files.

But as it may be rightly pointed out that there is always a parallel narrative between cinema and reality. It is this parallel narration which invokes faith, hope and optimism. And as my sister so sagely puts it a story should be seen as a story only. But does that mean “Badla” has nothing to offer? No. That’s not true. It offers excellent grip on the storyline. Though translated into celluloid it has the mesmeric of a riveting stage play. The characters are well-etched. The direction is tight and you can hardly find a lose end in the screenplay. Above all, the splendid chemistry between the two pivotal characters of the story, Mr. Bachhan and Ms. Pannu works wonders for the script.

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But above all these, what Badla underscores is the ruthlessness of the crime. It is not whodunnit but howdunnit which takes the centre stage. The appalling savagery involved in the whole act, in this instance, not a single but a double murder, is made home in an understated yet graphic lucidity which is the USP of this movie. And mind. you, here the viciousness of the crime is more cerebral than physical. How it is hatched on the spur of the moment indicates a barbarism which is inborn and not an impulsive act of self defence.

More discomforting is the culprit’s extreme methods to evade the law proving once more that be it any part of the world its the perpetrator of heinous crimes who roams at large with collars up while the ones victimised run in vain from pillar to post in search of justice. Given this sorry state of affairs, in the movie, the victim, Rani Kaur’s (Amrita Singh) gritty statement that the one sloshed with power does not know his fall is imminent seems like a heavy-weight utopian proclammation.

Last but not the least, while the pivotal characters straddle one continent to the other, in the backdrop of an international set up, apart from the cops, the characters only look up their Indian counterparts to solve a macabre mystery of lust, lies and power. Do I call that a jarring note or the sudden blaze of patriotism?

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All Pics from Google

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Homecoming


Every evening, while going back home from office, I pass this cemetery underneath the fly over. Not very visible from the road but if you pull over your vehicle on the left side and look down you can see rows after rows of graves with crosses neatly arranged  sparkling white even by the dimming light of the downing sun.

Going by the colour, it seems comparatively new. But my driver tells me its an old one. “It was always there,” says he. I wonder why I never noticed it earlier. And now they have put up a signage too in the midst of the road with an arrow indicating to the left. I again wonder why. Perhaps we should be aware of the dead resting in peace beneath the busy thoroughfare. Respect the calmness of the place away from the clutter of everyday life.

The flyover is actually part of a speeding highway. The traffic is never slow here. No-one waits for anybody. No-one stops by. In the mornings while going to work I take a different route through the city. There is a cemetery along that route too. But its broad daylight. Though the place is rumoured to be haunted it does not give me the creeps.

Yet it is different in the evenings. Every time I pass by the cemetery I have this queer thought what will happen if my car breaks down here. Its almost dusk when I pass by in the summers and its dark during winters. You can feel the change in the seasons as you go by this route. The altering hues of the sky. As I move away from the Office Complexes and Commercial Areas, habitation thins. The road becomes broader flanked alternately by fallow lands or deep vegetation. You can see dimly lit villages further away. The traffic is heavy in patches intercepted by passages where you can accelerate your car happily till you reach the next oasis of vehicular congestion.

As my car cuts through the labyrinth of two and three and four wheelers, I ponder once again on what would happen if I am stranded on this speeding highway with no-one to help as night stealthily stalks the city-scape. It is more than a decade now that I have been rushing home by this road. Thankfully no such untoward event has ever happened till now. Yet, each time I see the signage the quirky thought presses upon my mind like a stone stuck in a ditch leaving me a little restless, a little uncomfortable, a little uncertain.

Silhouettes


Shadows melt into shadows as dusk deepens into night. The stillness embalms old wounds. The rustle of leaves in the garden is a known song. Birds have downed their chirps in deep slumber. I am alone in my flat.

Preparing dinner in the kitchen I have an uncanny feeling of someone watching over me. I turn around to just witness a swish of something white passing by. In the dimly lit hall quietude resides.

Coming back to the kitchen my ears catch the softness of a footfall. My heart misses a beat. Is the front door tightly bolted ? I check it out.

Dinner is a hurried affair. The clatter of cutlery echoes through the emptiness.Time to retire to bed. As I move towards the bedroom the curtain separating the washroom from the hall waves a little as though invisible fingers have  run over it in a quaint, playful rhythm. I shiver a little. A cold draught must have crept in from an unlatched window.

I take a stroll down the hall checking, re-checking every  door and window. Again an odd feeling of someone watching, someone just stepping back into the dark recesses   of the kitchen, no, the bathroom as I pass by. Aah! I pinch myself. Am I dreaming ? No. Then ?

Receding under the quilt I make a last effort at reasoning.  I dial my sister’s number from my mobile. “Di…there’s someone in my flat…” I rush on. As I pause to inhale in the midst of my strange narrative she laughs it out, “Must be the effect of the horror movie you saw in the afternoon…” Yes, I was at the PVR with her, watching this comic horror film in which both horror and comedy were in equal proportions.

I try to laugh it out with her. Time to say good nigh to my imaginary fears…yet. Creaking of the door just then and I am wide awake. Tossing and turning in bed waiting for the night to give way to dawn. Tearing the silence of the night, floats in the tinkle of melodious notes. Someone’s playing the piano, not very far away, but from the room next.

Who?

 

Pic: From Google

A Ceramic Evening


One of the recent events I attended was way different from the ones I am used to visiting. This was my co-haikuist Nandita Jain Mahajan’s ceramic art exhibition in India Habitat Centre (IHC). I like going to IHC because of its ambience and open space.

The exhibition was held somewhere in mid October in the evening in Visual Arts Gallery and Palm Court Gallery consecutively. It was not her solo exhibition but with other artists of equal talent. I had once expressed my desire to visit her studio where she turned out these objets di art from mere clay. That visit never happened but she was kind enough to invite me to her exhibition which I readily attended with my sister.

Honestly speaking I do not much understand ceramic art. But am very much interested in all creative arts including sculpting and painting and would like to attend a course some day to understand and appreciate these two art forms better.

I was fascinated by  Nandita’s handiworks and I clicked frantically to try and capture the beauty and aesthetics of her and other’s creations. Here are some of the pictures with one liners about why I liked these.

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The Inauguation

 

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Here is Nandita with the tray of flowers in hand

The first thing that caught my eyes were the tiles and I wondered how they would look on the floor or wall of my flat.

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Next were the cluster of artefacts.

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And then there were the portraits and how they held captive the delicate emotions and expressions.

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I also took a round of the gallery and found the Kettle Junction and a few other pieces interesting and eye catching.

 

 

 

 

Last but not the least, I found this one the most enchanting.  How the delicate curl and tender feel of the leaves were brought alive in a medium which is hard and exact opposite in texture  of the soft crumbling leaves. I could almost feel the leaves crunch under my feet. And what with the added charm of the unique haiku by Kala Ramesh. Absolutely delightful – a stunning treat to the eyes! Here, I must once again underscore my lack of knowledge of this art form. And any subtle nuance  that I may be missing in. these intricate and hard-to-mould-creations may please be excused.

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Thanks to Nandita for this visually engaging journey through one portrayal to the other. Of course, the evening ended in Eatopia gorging on mouth melting pastries.

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When GPS Goofs Up


TRAFFIC JAM IN DELHI

Pic from Google

I had this odd notion that getting a new passport made was a cumbersome process requiring innumerable documentations. However, on the contrary, it took lesser time than usual applying online. And to my and everyone’s, whosoever knew that I was applying for passport, surprise the appointment date for physical submission of relevant documents, happened to be the very next date I applied online. My solicitous colleague told me to get the formality done and over with at the PSK (Passport Seva Kendra) branch  near my office because the services extended there were fast.

Having taken the appointment at the suggested Service Centre, my prime concern was how to get there as I was not very conversant with the place. But GPS was very helpful and within twenty minutes I was right in front of the building with a sheaf of papers in hand. As expected, within an hour and a half I was out having met with all the compliances. Now, the problem was how to get back to office. My driver suggested we take the same route back. But somehow I thought of depending upon GPS once again.

As usual, GPS took a circuitous but purportedly the fastest route to the destination. In no time, we were going round and round the circular avenues and reached the famous spot – Bengali Market – which is loaded with kiosks of junk foods. Deviating from the subject a little I must tell you, in India even the junk foods have their own local brands ! And this place housed them all. At this juncture, GPS stately announced that we have arrived. I was stumped and did not know how to reach my office. It was almost lunch time and the kiosks were teeming with crowds of office goers, street mongers, shoppers et al.

GPS IThe only reasonable thing to do at that point of time was to  put the destination once again into the system. This time Google Auntie was more focussed and got us to the desired destination. Having reached a little late to office, I recounted the fiasco to my colleagues. They were most kind and understanding,”Take pity on Google Di,” they said, “Just imagine the load on her. How over pressurised she might be giving directions to all and sundry on the over congested roads of NCR (National Capital Region). It is no wonder she gets confused at times. You must excuse her.” Point. I was left with no argument.

But secretly, I wondered whether Google Auntie could guess my salivation over street food and that I was ravenous  having successfully completed a task  which had worried and bothered me for quite sometime. I wonder…have satellites acquired the artificial intelligence to know our man ki baat?? Though I did not give in to my gluttony in this case. Yet…

BENGALI MARKET

 

All Pics from Google

Wizadry Of Theories


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One look at the Reference at the back of the book detailing the Reading List of the author and the reader gets a clear view from where the confounded theory, around which the entire novel pivots, germinates. Undoubtedly the list is elaborate and impressive. So is the theory complex and far- fetched. It appears that the author has mashed up all the information available with him and made out a postulate which becomes less and less palatable as the book progresses.

Notwithstanding the convoluted premise, Keepers Of The Kaalchakra, the fifth in Bharat Series, penned by the Dan Brown of India, one and only Ashwin Sanghi is racy, edge-of-the-seat, gripping, in short, unputdownable.

Vijay Sundaram, an erudite IIT Professor, is compelled by an elite intelligence group. SG4, to join a strictly guarded research outfit called the Milesian Lab for reasons unknown. Within the cordoned premises of Milesian Lab, Sundaram comes in as much close proximity as possible with his mysteriously cagey colleague named Mikhailov who has the key to the Lab’s secret mission. But before he can confide in Vijay, Mikhailov is caught trespassing beyond the boundaries of the Lab. Vijay, on the other hand, egged by SG4, takes up the dangerous assignment of breaking into the office of the detestable Lab honcho, Schmidt. But by the time he could lay hands on what exactly is going on inside the Lab the trap closes in on him. Had Vijay known that the entire game plan is to remove him from the face of this earth would he have joined Milesian Lab?

Based on the theory of quantum twin particle, Sanghi extends the thesis to human species. As is his habit to brew a zealous concoction out of zillion spices, Sanghi touches upon complex issues pertaining to the blurry intersecting zones of Science and Religion. From Supreme Consciousness to Self-Healing, from Tantric Buddhism to Vedantic wisdom, from Machiavellian politics to extra sensory spiritual realization, from Islamic fundamentalism to moderation in Muslim extremism, Sanghi struggles copiously to prove his self-proclaimed doctrine of interconnectedness of everything.

It is difficult to review Sanghi as he brings in a myriad of hypotheses to assert what readers would well-nigh like to believe in not without outreaching the bounds of plausible explanations. Yet, Sanghi presents an alternate arena wherein till his entry laid a vacuum of incalculable depth. He has actually, with his Bharat Series, embarked upon a crusade which is nothing less than extortion of imagination by his expostulations which are so adorably fantastic, so impossibly believable and so confoundedly beyond the bounds of credulity. I suppose therein lies his overdriving skill which has given India its first taste of mythological thrillers. However, with the Keepers Of The Kaalchakra, one is doubtful whether the author is now gravitating into the deepening grey realm of scientific spiritualism or making a more pointed statement in the formidable sphere of today’s chaotic world politics.

With the 5th in the series, there is definite improvement in so far as the goriness of the plot is concerned. The violence quotient is toned down. The information overload is much in the nature of discourses between characters at the most improbable juncture where the readers would have expected page turning action. While the women of substance take a back seat in this novel, I wonder why the author always paints them in the palette of grisly shades.

Nonetheless, all said and done, Sanhgi is a Sanghi is a Sanghi. Here is a book which is, unlike the present trend, not written for the whole and sole purpose of celluloid adaptation. Here is  a book for readers. Highly incredulous yet incorrigibly tempting.

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All Pics from Google

 

You can also read this review on Goodreads

Narratives Of Deception


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Recently I saw two movies, not exactly back to back, but in close intervals. Interestingly, both had quite a number of comparable factors/ common denominators.

Firstly, both were suspense thrillers. Both were premised on deception. And last but not the least, both had Tabu in them who played her age with a chilling grace.

Andhadhun, translated literally means Blind Tune, pivots around a character who pretends to be blind. Unexpectedly he becomes the prime witness to consecutive murders. Thereafter, it is simply a life and death chase for him as the partners in crime (yes, there are two) make it their mission to oust him from the face of this earth.

Missing, is again a one night story in a resort where a couple with their baby girl comes to stay. The husband has a roving eye and the wife is too taken up with her child who is sick. Sadly, that very night the baby goes missing. The hapless mother is so berserk with grief that the hotel authority has to call the police. The Investigating Officer is too sharp and experienced to let the manipulating husband with his cock and bull stories befool him. But as he delves deeper into the case alarming facts keep coming to light.

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While Andhadhun is a twisty tale, Missing is predictably linear. One does not know what is going to happen next in Andhadhun whereas in Missing one can almost visualise the end. While the former intrigues the latter leaves a pall of negativity which is hard to dissipate.

However, the biggest leap for Hindi Cinema is the narrative based films which are now being released than those which pivoted around either the angry-young-man-type of larger-than-life or the mushy-running-around-the-trees kind of heroes. Both these films are burning examples of the first category. It is a pleasure to watch that all is not simply black and white but the shades of grey, hitherto overlooked, taking centre stage.

In both these films Tabu is on the wrong side of thirty and not at all wary of vices. In Andhadhun she is ruthlessly ambitious, cruel and desperate to the point of no return. In Missing she is a hyper emotional mother extremely concerned about her baby. She essays both the characters with inbred elan. Paired with heroes much younger to her (Ayushman Khurana and Manoj Bajpai, respectively) she rules the roost.

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On the flip side, both the movies, seen with practical eyes, border on implausibility. In Andhadhun, a young boy who leads a life of a blind musician just because he feels his blindness can make him more creative is in itself a concept difficult to convince the audience with. In Missing, how can two strangers come together for one night pretending to be as close as married couple is beyond comprehension. More so, when there is no compulsion leading to such an arrangement.

However, both the movies throw up the issue of reality under guise. When we talk of deception reference is drawn towards a situation wherein actuality is under cover. What the protagonist perceives as conscious reality is ‘created circumstances’ to entrap him or her. The falsification comes to light in the climax.

However, Andhadhun’s climactic construct deliberately retains a pall of doubt in the minds of the audience leaving a wide scope for imaginative interpretation. Missing’s end, as I said earlier, is predictable yet draws the curtain on a disturbing unease which does not augur good for the narrative’s construct. A narration which impels the viewer to introspect and tickle the fertile gray cells, I call dynamic.

MISSING 2The audience is compelled to ruminate over the thematic build of the film Andhadhun which circulates in the mind even after the story has drawn to a close. Missing disappoints on this account. In fact, much before the end of the movie, one hopes for it to come to a close soon. More so because any narration which deals with cruelty towards children or animal I am grossly allergic to.

Another thought that strikes me while I write this post concerns the make-up of the films – Missing does not invoke hope while Andhadhun, though founded on whole-sale deception, still provides inklings of something good in the offing. Just a wishful thought yet it is there and that is very important. To raise positivity even if its just a probability makes for a healthy conclusion. After all what viewers need is entertainment which in the long run rests on a magical canvas of hopeful illusions.

To conclude, I dump Missing as pessimistic though Andhadhun, wherein the protagonist falls prey to mishaps, one after the other, is not my cup of tea either. I like slow build-ups which has the capacity to stimulate the intellect. Whereas it is very very debatable to arrive at an inference that the knack to wed misfortune all the time is a reflection of one’s own carmic undoing, the tortuous narrative of Andhadhun seems to indicate quite a number of times that it is. Yet, we, in our eternal folly, resume a connect with ill-fate more out of habit than mere preordainment. It is futile to believe that the film dishes out this powerful message. It does not. It is a one-time watch – a mainstream endeavour to cajole the gullible audience to believe that you can get away with your pretensions and find a way to lead a life of your own choice. A blunder of the first order! If I may say so. Yet, having said that both the stories begin from where they end.

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All pics from Google

 

Beyond Infinity


Kala Ramesh (Image : From Google)

Name of the Book – beyond

the horizon

beyond

(A collection of haiku and haibun)

Name of the Author – Kala Ramesh

Name of the Publisher – Vishwakarma Publications

No. of Pages – 177

Editon – First (2017)

My tryst with poetry began and would have ended with Tagore, had I not been exposed to other forms and writers of this genre, though reading Tagore itself is oceanic. I do not know how I came to fall in love with poetry. It is somehow intertwined with my love for music. The lyrics of compositions, however simple and earthy, have always caught my attention which is kind of a contrast because in music the abstraction of sound or dhwani holds more significance than the words sung. As they say music begins where words fail.

Perhaps it is the limitation of words that attracted me to poems. The inherent rhythm and meter – the laya and chhand ? I am not sure. I am also not sure whether I understand this genre very well. But again, herein lies the contradiction. We are not supposed to understand poetry. We are required to feel it and soak in the cadence so much so that the reader becomes one with it.

That brings me to the next most important point – the interpretive scope of poetry – its vastness and complexity; its personalization and at the same time the sense of detachment intrinsic to the form.

Talking of my own experience – I have crossed milestones after milestones as an ardent enthusiast of poetry from rhymes to open verses to minimalism. Of the three, I still have a crush for blank verses but it is the last which has taught me that nothing is the least where versification of thoughts is concerned. Today, therefore, let’s talk about minimalism. And what best than haiku which epitomizes minimization at its profoundest best!

Delving deeper, I would say it is just not the aura of wordlessness that is the hallmark of haiku, it is the wonderment of revelation, the bemusement of a serendipitous find, the verbosity of the unsaid interweaved in the matrix that set it apart from all the other formats of poetry.

To quote an example

morning raga

yesterday’s buds

in full bloom

The entire process of creation encapsulated in seven simple words!

That’s it….Compressing an enormity in a tightly corked bottle and then suddenly pulling the cork off to let out the dizzying fizz in one go so that it hits the reader like a bolt with a swooning momentum!

Somebody said in chaos there is cosmos and order belies a hurricane of disorder

the magician

surprised

by his own magic

I am sure that is how the super-creator must be feeling surveying his own creation – the Universe!!

Three lines pulling in an eternity

beyond

the horizon

beyond

Yes! I am talking about Kala Ramesh’s anthology of haiku and haibun captioned beyond the horizon beyond….the title itself is self- explanatory.

From why haiku I come to why Kala…

At times when visiting an art gallery you come across a painting that you keep staring at knowing not why. It is much later that you realize the layers in those shades, the emotions behind the imagery, the aesthetics beyond the painting. That is how Kala’s haiku works on me. I keep reading and re-reading till I am able to find myself in her words.

withered field—

slowly coming to terms

with my aborted child

The sheer pain of losing something which is very much a part of you – the conspicuousness of its absence – its not being there but very much being there!!! And the realization of it – the bonding of pathos that threads through the earth to the sky………..and beyond… as Tagore would have said!!! The process of gathering, becoming and then severing away – a kaleidoscope of cosmic evolution infinite in its proposition endless in its continuum!!

At the cost of being criticized as a racist, I would say that it is the Indianness, so deeply entrenched in Kala’s haiku that resonates a chord in my heart. But then haiku is supposed to be country specific, isn’t it?

autumn lyrics

father talks about life

beyond death

And down the memory lane I toddle three decades back…..the quietly flowing Yamuna….the cold water lapping my feet. Sombre shades of night…the cooling of the ashes…..the irreplaceable loss of someone so dear…….shrinwantu vishwe amritasya putrah. We are all children of the Immortal….there is nothing called death….it is just the cyclic order of the cosmos….the consoling words of the priest had failed to give solace to a mind unsuccessfully grappling with the enormity of death.

burning ghat…

from the depths of grief

my friend’s off-key tune

This happenstance of just happening…. The miniscule existence…rather co-existence… in the mindboggling vastness of this world…

on the lake

skimming stones, I am

where I am

And this one reminds me of Albert Einstein’s most famous quote: “The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible. The fact that it is comprehensible is a miracle.” For us the most comprehensible thing about the world is that it is incomprehensible

everything

comes from the unborn…

spring song

That which is known germinates from the unknown. That which is born is a seedling of the unborn. This deeply embedded philosophy which connects the existing to the one which is omniscient, the visible to the invisible, the tangible to the intangible is the crux of Brahmavaad.

From the esoteric to the very earthy…

winter rain

a cadence

to our love making

So beautifully erotic… I can almost hear the music….of those unspoken, half uttered words in the dead of the night

raat gunti rahegi aadhi baat ko

aadhi baaton kii peer aadhi raat ko….

Vasant Dev

Aamaar naa bola baani ghano jaaminir maajhe ….

Tagore

(My unspoken words in the dead of the night….)

Haibun is a different cup of tea altogether. The tightly embedded prose in haikai language prefixed, suffixed or intercepted by haiku which shifts palpably from the prose yet links with it invariably is a reader’s delight.

Kala’s haibuns are word pictures where she experiments freely. There is one liner haibun (“A Level Ground”) seamlessly merging into a haiku. A prose written in free-verse style (“Kulfiwala”) tapering into a haiku. There are anecdotes, snatches of childhood memories and also occasional, and rather intentional, detours to third person accounts, yet every piece gracefully culminating into the present encapsulating the moment in a vibrantly visual haiku.

In the “Summer Snow” Kala subtly deals with mother-daughter relationship taking a new turn. The suddenness of the revelation is tempered with serendipitous realization like getting caught in an unannounced downpour.

caught unaware—

the thickness of rain

on the road

In “The Knot Remains”, the isolation of old age is so heartrendingly captured in

leafless tree

the sun rises

with a walking stick

In “The Twist” Kala’s son-in-law complements the way she maintains her car which almost looks new. But on his next visits, he gifts her two car fresheners which prompts Kala to write

banjo night

notes spin around

the dancer

Like the fragrance of the freshener which floats around the one on the steering wheel…??

Haiku is all about startling its readers out of ennui. That gasp which must also accompany the smile after reading one is a must for haiku. The nudging to wakefulness… the abruptness of the visual….and then the moment of epiphany…!!!

“as the sun dips into the horizon shadows slip away on a breath of fresh air I began to whistle a tune

A night of stars

My soul

All over the place”

And I hear Swamiji’s sonorous voice claiming with unshakable conviction

I am Existence Absolute

Knowledge Absolute

Bliss Absolute

I am He I am He

Swami Vivekananda

It is my sincere wish and hope that haiku, senryu, tanka and all other forms of Japanese poetry find a place in the syllabus of the Indian literati. Needless to say, Kala’s horizon beyond horizon would be, as it is now, counted as one of the most priceless and powerful referral points to fathom the layers and depths of Indian Haiku in English in the context of India – its way of life and philosophy, it’s ethos and essence, its deep rooted culture and ethnicity.

Divided in to five parts corresponding to the five elements – Earth-Prithvi, Water-Jalam, Fire-Agni, Air-Vayu, Ether-Akash – personifying the interconnectedness of everything, Kala’s horizon beyond horizon is a piece of cosmos ripped off to give us a deco of the vastness that lies beyond infinity. There are some books which you can never finish reading because at every turn of life when you again and again keep going back to it you will find newer meaning emerging, newer horizon enfolding and newer currents engulfing.

Therein lies the beauty of haiku and haibun….the story continues unpunctuated.

(horizon beyond horizon is available on Amazon)

Amazon.com. USA :: https://goo.gl/eejbHE

Amazon. co. UK :: https://goo.gl/Xjee4T

Amazon.in. India :: https://goo.gl/1hNzc8

You can also read this review on The Punch

The Basket Overflows


MY LATESTThis is  my latest acquisition. A winged back chair combined with an ottoman. I confess I have a fancy for antique stuff. Though Vijay, my carpenter, has made just the duplicate of the picture that I showed him. the wing chair now dwarfs my modest flat. I should have known better. Now, I feel rather self-conscious using it. The day next it arrived from Vijay’s workshop I reclined on it with my feet up on the ottoman and promptly went off to sleep. It was 04.00 am in the morning and when I got up I had a cramped neck because my head had lolled to one side. I realised I need a neck rest to enjoy a good nap on the chair.

I am a staunch believer of destiny and I distinctly feel that whatever comes to a person has its own purpose – from the most mundane to the most exquisite. So, when my brother-in-law said that I would be requiring this piece of furniture more than ever I could not help but agree. But the reason he cited made me laugh aloud.

That brings me to the next piece of happening in me-life. Guys! I am pleased to announce that my collection of short stories has got recently published by Creative Crows. Its my first solo publication and I am extremely proud of it because I have put in my hundred percent to it. So coming to my B-I-L’s prophecy, I would be now requiring the winged back chair more than anytime before because once my book hits the stand it is going to become no less than a bestseller( according to him)  and then there would be no looking back for me. Thereafter, I would be doing just nothing throughout the day but smoke  hookah with all the proper noises sitting on my winged chair. So much so for his flight of fancy!

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About the book. I consider it one of my prime achievements at the fag end of my working career though it has nothing to do with my earning profession. I am a 09.00 to 05.00 worker which at times is a constraint as well as a blessing….mostly. Constraint because I cannot think of doing anything else once I am into my job which is as demanding and as harrowing as any job could be. Blessing because I have a steady source of income at the end of every month and I do not have to think from where the next meal is going to come.  But this was high time I did something other than my vocation. Why? Because I must have something to engage with once I retire from my thirty five years old job! Notwithstanding the fact that I do not consider writing books to be a source of substantial income. I am here talking of mental occupation which is far more important than earning outside your job. At lease to me.

The next important point. Why Creative Crows?

Being in the Government I had to take special approval before getting into publication. From the very beginning I was set on self publication though it is strangely jeered as vanity publication, I seriously do not understand why because to me it is the best thing that could happen to not only first timers but also to others whom literary agents do not consider to be their latest find. However, there are segment of writers who think authors who go for self publication are those who have been rejected by established publishers because their work is not good enough. Wrong. But I tell you self publication is also not something easy. Even if you pay for your books to be published there are Publishing Houses who will unnecessarily meddle into your work and tell you what and how to write. The Editor simply feels he is some kind of king (nay, author) maker and give you a horde of unwanted suggestions, whether you like it or not.

Talking of big Publishing Houses, the latest trend is that they do not wish to communicate directly with the writers other than through literary agents who are there to “evaluate” your work, i.e. whether it is commercially viable, or let them rot in the slushpile if they feel it is not worthwhile to publish. And then there are some who will tell you point blank like poetry, short stories do not sell because everyone from an IIM/IIT alumni to a school drop out is busy writing full fledged novels and these are selling like hot cakes!!

So, it took almost two years for me to bump into Creative Crows, the name clicked as much as their web page. This Publishing House was set up by an ex-army personnel who took upon himself to publish the anecdotal and other experiential writings of ex-army personnel which I later gathered must be doing rounds amongst the cadre – their jokes, their adventures, their commentaries and their viewpoints on various subjects, most importantly, on defence. It is at this point of time I realized that there are so many different types of literary ventures which are separate genres by themselves – army literature, corporate literature, spiritual literature, medical literature et al. Luckily for me Creative Crows also published literary works other than army literature.

Coming to the founder of Creative Crows, Late Colonel Mahip Chaddha, who must have had a great sense of humour to call his PH thus. I all along had this intuition that his concern must be working on very transparent footing. Army people, I strongly believe, have their own redoubtable  integrity. And how correct I was!

To make a long story short, the journey so far with Creative Crows has been wonderful and enriching. Hope I will not be disappointed at any point of time later. So, here I am with my anthology of fifteen short stories about contemporary urban life and its vagaries.

This post will remain incomplete if I do not mention Ankita Sharma of Humming Words fame who so artistically created the cover jacket of the book. Each picture denotes the essence of each short story and these are six in number. As you see these fly out of a brimming basket underscoring the clutter in modern lifestyle, you realize how richly they contribute to the respective stories inside. Experience with Ankita was eye opening. Till this time, for me a cover jacket was merely a cover jacket, however, there would be occasions when I would be staring at some without knowing why because I thought these just happened to be eye catching.

It is Ankita who taught me that making a cover jacket is no less a challenging assignment than any other art form. She taught me to be concerned about detailing, meticulous about positioning and thorough about what a cover conveys to a reader. I am immensely indebted to her, in brief.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that the book would find interested readers. Short stories, like poetry, is a dying genre. Nobody thinks short stories are worth reading. But I feel writing a short story is much more difficult than writing a novel because at times a seedling of a novel is embedded in short fiction. The sweep it has to cover and convey, the characters it has to sketch and establish, the message it has to communicate and inspire readers with are propositions of enormous nature confined within the bounds of a few pages.

Short stories come to an end very shortly but are able to leave traces behind which lurk in the mindscape like the flying leaflets from life’s tome. A book of short stories can be fished out and read readily anywhere – while traveling, during bedtime, in-between gruelling work schedule and definitely while relaxing during leisure hours. So with all such options how can you not pick up “A Basketful Of Lies” and flip through. Yes, that’s the name of the book.

In the final analysis, what is fiction but dishing out a truism of life cloaked in the garb of lies? As long as you cherish these, let the basket be full.

Happy Reading…

 

 A Basketful Of Lies is available on both Amazon and Flipkart

 

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For The Sake Of The Goosebumps … At Least


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STREE I

Have you ever heard of a comic horror movie which has equally intense measures of horror as well as comedy seamlessly blended together with a powerful social message to boot? My query generates from a watcher’s experience. I have mostly seen comic horror movies getting stripped down to such pathetic level that they neither remain horrifying nor comical. In contrast, here we have an example which in the beginning of the narrative itself flaunts a disclaimer that it is based on a ridiculous phenomenon. Now how close the ridiculous is to reality it is for the audience to decide. Or does the ridiculous ever boast of realism? That is another line of never ending debate.

Before I talk more about the movie, let me just confess something ludicrous that I realized about myself while watching it. I reiterate I am no longer a PVR person. But I have this very odd relationship with abstraction. Whatever is abstract or borders on the surreal always holds great attraction for me so much so that it becomes irresistible, notwithstanding the sleepless nights later.

STREE 2

It is watching the trailer of the movie Stree(with the tagline Ab Mard Ko Dard Hoga……….corny, you’ve said it!) that I first felt a great urge to watch it and that too in the PVR for very simple reasons. Firstly, the content seemed different. Secondly, I respect Rajkumar Rao’s genre of acting. Yes, it is a genre in itself which more and more good and sensible actors are thankfully subscribing to. Thirdly and most importantly, the effectiveness of a ghost story deserves better mode of viewing. Hence, the unusual and unplanned visit to the PVR.

Panning back to Stree, as it should be, a ghost story needs a fitting backdrop. And what best than a small town of Chanderi with a Puraanee Khandar of a haveli overlooking it. Just perfect! A small town with their indigenous values, ethnicity, dialect, social mores and behavioural culture add authenticity to the theme. More than perfect, isn’t it?

Here is Chanderi bitten by the female ghost bug who pays an annual visit to the town, during the Pujas, to kidnap its menfolk who are never returned to tell what happened with them. What’s left behind are the clothes they are last seen wearing. Interesting plot!

STREE 3

Now who plays the savior of the ailing town? The only son of the local tailor(Atul Srivastav) who thinks his son, Vicky(Rajkumar Rao) is gifted with magical sartorial powers. His measuring eyes does the work of the inch tape and computerized head stores all the measurements. And his fingers….Voila!  No wonder the flock of ladies queuing outside his shop! No he is not the Roadside Romeo kind. He is  just an earthy, nice-hearted small towner as his friends, Bittoo(Aparshakti Khurana) and Jenaa(Abhishek Chatterjee) are.

It’s the Puja time. And we have the local bookshop owner Rudra(Pankaj Tripathi) warning the boys to be cautious while having their share of masti because it’s the time when Stree pays her yearly visit to the town. Stree is none other than Chanderi’s(in)famous Churail. It is also the time when Vicky often meets a mysterious girl(Shraddha Kapoor) who asks him to stitch a dress and collect a few unusual items for her.

STREE 4

The narrative hereon efficiently wriggles through goosebumpy, curvaceous trails.  Jenaa along with twenty other men are hijacked by the churail! It is to bring a spooked Jenaa back to normalcy from the clutches of the ghost who even after his return still controls his mind and to save the town from getting virtually bereft of male population that Vicky and Bittoo embark on a deadly mission to track the ghost and render her powerless. They are aided by Rudra and the nameless girl who confesses that she too is on the same mission because she has also lost her dear one to the wrath of the churail. It is from then onwards a hair raising rollercoaster ride which is as edgy as howlarious.

The edge of the seat narration by director Amar Kaushik does justice to the intriguing story. The foursome of Rajkumar Rao, Aparshakti Khurana, Abhishek Chatterjee and Pankaj Tripathi  carry the entire film on their able shoulders. Shraddha Kapoor is the right choice baby…Aha! Ketan Sodha’s background scores, Amalendu Chaudhary’s cinematography and Hemanti Sarkar’s editing go hand in hand to render the experience spookier.

STREE 7

The small town has grown in character, content and form in today’s low and middle budget cinema which have also proven to be big revenue grossers and steady competition to big banners and mega movies. The face of Incredible India is fast changing. Migrants from small towns to Metros have added substantially to the workforce and contributing to the GDP. Urbanization has acquired a new dimension on account of this migration.

Moreover, the elevation of a one-time- chaiwallah to premiership of this vast subcontinent has proved that the aspirations of the small towners are no more laughable. They are achievable.  And that has risen hopes in millions of hearts. India is happening.

It would be myopic of Bollywood not to recognize the worth and power of the small town at this juncture. The small towns are the cauldrons of curious tales. But they are also caught in the fast track. They too are transitioning. So, we find more and more films based on small towns, like Dum Lagaa  Ke Haisha and Bareilly Ki Barfi, because they do and they too have not one but many stories to share which are highly relatable and very close, if not synonymous, to reality. Their way of looking at life itself is something which is not innovated but our own homegrown. And what is homegrown does not require to be sold with catchy punch lines or added frills. Their salability is certain.

STREE 5

Thus Sumit Arora’s dialogues have the Cineplex roaring with laughter. Raj Kumar Rao’s spontaneity makes him hugely endearing. The characters of Bittoo, Jenaa and Rudra are no more alien. They are just one of the flavours of the cosmopolitan delicacy called India.

Coming to the social cause for which Stree fights. Its nothing but woman empowerment, to put it simplistically, but just said in a different tone and language. Therefore, from the slogan of O Stree Kal Aana, in the beginning of the narrative, it is  O Stree Raksha Karna, by the end! I am sure an O Stree  encore is in the offing.

IMDB rates  Stree 8.5 out of 10. I would recommend it to all. Never mind the intermittent gasps, the shivers and the startles sprucing it all up. Yet it is immensely watchable! Hugely entertaining! Definitely mainstream! A bold attempt at experimenting with something so implausible that it becomes possible with a strong whiff of currency and urgency! Unbelievable…!

Go watch it for the sake of the goosebumps…at least.

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(All Pics from Google)

 

This Review can also be read on Mouthshut.com