Posted in Book Review, Dystopian Fiction, Fiction, Political Fiction, Social Science Fiction

1984 – a compelling story of ‘complete human control’ facilitated by futuristic technology By George Orwell

 โ€œWar is peace, freedom is slavery, [and] ignorance is strength.โ€ This party slogan sums up the mindset of the autocratic ruling elite Orwell describes in his masterpiece.

Years ago when I read the book for the first time, it was nothing more than a dystopian political fiction not unlike any science fiction. However, developments across the globe during the last few years and Covid-19 pandemic have taught me that the most far-fetched stories can be intimidatingly closer to reality. Rereading 1984 recently gave me cold shivers; I dread the day this social science fiction too could become a reality.

I was watching a television debate on BBC the other day; the topic of discussion was Artificial Intelligence, and one of the speakers said it all, โ€œIf we use AI recklessly, George Orwellโ€™s dystopian 1984 will be a reality in 2024.โ€ Outlining 1984 in one sentence?

1984 is the story of one of the three totalitarian super-states – Oceania which is eternally at war with either of the other two – Eurasia or Eastasia. The countryโ€™s dictatorial rulers control the mind and body, language and thinking (double speak), sexual desire and progeny, food and clothing and everything else of the entire population. Power-hungry rulers ensure no murmur, no voice, no writeup, and not even thoughts against them. History is erased and rewritten to suit the current regime.

Two-way telescreen, thought police, comrades, young children, and population in general can turn a person in if they read any rebellion in an individualโ€™s words, deeds, or body language. Once caught, they are either made to toe the line using most brutal methods of coercion or simply evaporated from existence.

Women are trained and taught to lead a life dedicated to the party. Sexual desires are not denounced but not welcome. If children are needed, one can indulge in sex as long as the woman partner is not deriving any pleasure out of this union or can go for artsem (artificial insemination). Young children are taught and trained to think on party lines; they act as eyes and ears of the party, not hesitating to turn their parents in if necessary.

Thirty-nine-year-old Winston Smith has an insignificant job in Ministry of Truth where he helps in rewriting the truth for the ruling party. He hates the party and its ideologies but dare not show it. The AI operated two-way telescreens can not only see the citizens but also read their minds. He breaks the rule first time by buying a diary (unheard of), writing words denouncing the Big Brother (unthinkable), and goes one step further by getting into an illicit relationship with a comrade named Julia. She too hates the party and its rules. They find a safe haven for their rendezvous and are trying to make the best before they are caught eventually. Winston and Julia confide in inner party member Oโ€™Brien, who Winston believes is on his side, to bring about a rebellion against the party.

The couple are caught sooner than expected, arrested, and confined to the Ministry of Love. The only person whom they trust turns out to be the worst spy. Violent methods are used to break them. Winston doesnโ€™t want them to succeed; he would prefer death (by shooting from behind or evaporation) than betray Julia and be one among them.

How much pain can Winston withstand?

In spite of his filthy underclothes, broken bones, fallen teeth, and unfathomable pain, Winston wouldn’t betray Julia as that would mean his final act of purging all memories, rebelliousness, and dislike for big brother. Then, he was sent to Room 101 where his worst fear of being gnawed by large bandicoot-like-rats becomes a reality.

What do I like most about this book?

Only a mastermind can think of body and mind control in such a technical fashion. Orwellโ€™s observations of totalitarianism and the tools used by the power-hungry to retain supremacy are frightening. With the help of state-of-the-art technology, the rulers adapt inhuman methods to instill excruciating pain and agony among the citizens, use most violent forms of punishments, keep them hungry and malnourished, feed nonstop misinformation with the intention of brainwashing the population, and the story of suppression goes on. Who other than a visionary writer like Orwell can imagine and write such a futuristic fiction?

Today, when I observe the viral ways of spreading misinformation through social media, I feel the dread; looks like it’s based on the principle, “A lie if spoken or told repeatedly, becomes THE TRUTH,” and it rings an alarm bell.

Listened to the AudioBook, thanks to Audible, Inc, narrated by Andrew Wincott who emotes well, has good diction, and keeps the listener hooked.

Posted in Drama, Film Review, History

Movie Review -THE DIG – exciting excavation of wealth from Dark Age

the professional & the amateur

Directed by: Simone Stone

Story by: John Preston

Watch on: Netflix

Starring: Carrey Mulligan, Ralph Fiennes, Archie Barnes, Ken Stott

Genre: History, Drama

My Rating: ****1/2

A Netflix original for history lovers; starring Oscar nomineeย Carrey Mulligan and Ralph Fiennes in lead roles, the film is about the famous 1939 Sutton Hooย excavation in Suffolk, England that unearthed the remnants of a ship used as a tomb from Dark Age along with invaluable treasures.

The rural land owned by Archeologist Mrs. Edith Pretty and her late husband has a number of large mounds on it.ย  She uses the services of amateur excavator Basil Brown to dig and investigate the mounds especially one that, as per Brown, looked like a graveyard.ย 

Once Basil Brown discovers the ship’s remains, archeologists and curators land there to witness and be a part of the excavation. Well-known Cambridge archeologist Charles Philips takes charge of this historically significant digging, determined to play a major role and to share the fame and fortune that comes along with such a finding. Ms. Pretty is adamant that Brown remains a part of the excavation.

As war with Germany is imminent, Edith insists that the treasures, instead of being taken away by Mr. Philips to the Museum, be kept in her safe custody until the end of the inquest. Though the inquest confirms Edith as the sole owner of those priceless goods excavated from her property, she decides against keeping it for herself.

Meanwhile, Edith is struggling with ill-health and knows that she doesn’t have much time left. She is anxious as she worries about the future of her young son after she is gone.

It’s a well-known fact that she gifts the entire wealth to British Museum for free with a request to give recognition to Basil Brown’s contribution.ย 

This movie based on the life of Edith Perry has drama, history, and emotions. Basil Brown, though not professionally qualified, is better than the best as his passion for digging and history is genuine, bonding him with Edith, another genuine archeologist.

One needs courage of conviction to undertake an excavation of this scale when own life is precarious. 

Performance:ย  Mulligan as Edith Pretty evokes empathy as a widow who could die soon leaving behind a young son, and respect for her courage of conviction and right decisions. Her anxiety is palpable all through the movie as she knows her health is failing and life is fleeting. That doesn’t prevent her from being at the site sitting in a chair but.ย ย 

Ralph Fiennes as Basil Brown appears as if he is born to dig. I held my breath and prayed silently when theย  site caved in on Mr. Brown.ย The sheer hard work and the thrill of discovery by Basil Brown; the pain of Edith on knowing her fate;ย  the short-lived romance between Rory and Peggy; and little Robert the curious, his love for astronomy and worries and helplessness about his motherโ€™s illness everything – these are some of the images that lingers on.

I would, still, like to add that this film may not be every movie watcher’s cup of tea as it’s more like an archeological docudrama than a full-fledged movie.ย 

(It’s recorded that the entire treasure was hidden in a secret place during World War II and could be transported to the Museum only a few years after Edith’s passing away.)

Posted in Book Review, Fiction, Gothic Fiction, Young Adult Fiction

Book Review-To Kill a Mocking Bird

๐™Š๐™ก๐™™ ๐™ž๐™จ ๐™‚๐™ค๐™ก๐™™! ๐™๐™ž๐™ข๐™š๐™ก๐™š๐™จ๐™จ ๐˜พ๐™ก๐™–๐™จ๐™จ๐™ž๐™˜๐™จ ๐™–๐™ง๐™š ๐™‹๐™ง๐™ž๐™˜๐™š๐™ก๐™š๐™จ๐™จ! ๐™€๐™ฃ๐™Ÿ๐™ค๐™ฎ ๐™ง๐™š๐™–๐™™๐™ž๐™ฃ๐™œ ๐™ž๐™ฉ ๐™–๐™ฃ๐™ฎ๐™ฌ๐™๐™š๐™ง๐™š, ๐™ฉ๐™ž๐™ข๐™š ๐™–๐™ฃ๐™™ ๐™–๐™œ๐™–๐™ž๐™ฃ. A book for all booklovers, age no bar.

Atticus Finch, father of 11-year-old Jem Finch, while gifting an air pistol on his birthday, told his son, “Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” Thats the essence of this book – protect the innocent. Blue Jays are considered to be aggressive and destructive birds where as mockingbirds are harmless, meek singing birds.

Their caretaker Calpurnia explains this further to Jem’s younger sister Scout Finch, โ€œMockingbirds donโ€™t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They donโ€™t eat up peopleโ€™s gardens, donโ€™t nest in corncribs, they donโ€™t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. Thatโ€™s why itโ€™s a sin to kill a mockingbird.โ€

The author Harper Lee loosely based this book on her childhood in Monroeville in the state of Alabama.

This 1960 Pulitzer Prize winning book, adapted into an award-winning movie in 1962, is about the life of Maycomb residents and their day-to-day activities over a period of three years seen through the eyes of little Scout Finch, the 6-year-old daughter of Atticus Finch, a lawyer who practices what he preaches. Along with her brother Jem Finch and friend Dill, they explore their own secret fun activities, follow their father and through him all the developments in the county. 

Together with the daily grind of school, home, and play, they get to understand racial prejudice, rape accusations, court cases, injustice meted out on the basis of skin color, threat to people’s lives including their own, and the need to protect innocents. โ€‹โ€‹

For Scout Finch and Jem Finch, their father, whom they address by his first name, is a friend, philosopher and guide. Being a single parent, he manages his job as a lawyer and his family well with the help of their caretaker Calpurnia. Atticus believes in leading by example and doesnโ€™t flinch even in the face of threat to his life.

Jem, Scout and Dill during their summer breaks, try and bring their immediate neighbor Arthur Radley alias Boo out of his home isolation from his phantom house. Fed on community rumors, they think Boo is walking around with a knife, slicing papers, and stabbing his parents. They find Boo an enigma and couldn’t succed in their endeavor.

Their life in Maycomb County is peaceful to a great extent. When something is not normal, the entire county gets involved. Atticus has taken up a case to defend a colored man, Tom Robinson, wrongly accused of raping a white girl. Though truth is known to almost all Whites in the predominantly White Maycomb, the outcome of the trial is predictable. During 1950s and 60s when racism and prejudice were taken for granted by all, it was impossible for him to prove otherwise. However, Atticus ensures that truth is known to all before Tom Robinson is pronounced guilty by the jury. Bob Ewell who had falsely accused Tom of raping his daughter, now holds a grudge against Atticus.

The day comes when Ewell decides to take his revenge. But for Boo, things would have been different. Scout now fully understands her father’s statement that one canโ€™t shoot a mocking bird.

A story that will fascinate the young and old alike. Itโ€™s like a period drama involving the entire county where every character dresses and behaves uniquely. Here good and bad coexist.

Even today, almost half-a-century after the book was published and won accolades, the world hasnโ€™t changed much. Racism rears its ugly head often even in worldโ€™s largest democracies.  Color, caste, and creed can rip apart the peace and stability of neighborhoods, and nations.

Along with mundane activities, Harper Lee handles adult topics like rape, racism, false accusations, court cases, and murder attempt with utmost sensitivity fit for a 10-year-old and enjoyable even by a 60-year-old. Age doesn’t come in the way of savoring this priceless book. Yes, seeing the world through the eyes of a 6-to-9-year-old has its advantages.

Posted in Musings

SEVEN THINGS TO CHECK OUT BEFORE SAYING, ‘YES,’ TO HIM/HER

โ™ฅ I’m OK, He’s OK, We’re OK! โ™ฅ

(Five years ago, I wrote a mini-blog -โ€˜โ€˜Things young girls should keep in mind prior to saying, โ€˜Yes.โ€™โ€- on my LinkedIn page. It was serious content in a lighter vein. Not an exact reproduction, but it ran on similar lines as below ๐Ÿ˜Š

A few years after saying the seven vows around the sacred fire/walking down the aisle, haven’t most of us women thought at some point or the other, โ€œHad I been aware of this fact about him earlier, maybe, I wouldn’t have said โ€˜yesโ€™ to himโ€?

In this digital age, young adults make and break relationships in minutes; most people date, marry, and divorce via apps same way as they move in and out of app-based rental accommodations. Hardly anyone thinks long-term and once short-term benefits seize or dip below expectations, they walk out. That doesn’t mean every online/offline relationship ends in disaster. Many find their life partner through social media and remain blissfully happy.

A tech-savvy young girl fed on romantic web series and movies on various OTT platforms may start dating with probably no/too much expectation/s or just on a whim; she could just be doing it for want of a sexual partner without any encumbrance. Log into one of those many dating apps online and whoosh, you have that “perfect,” partner. It may end as quickly as it started or bloom into a lifelong partnership.

GIRLS are GIRLS.

After being with a man for some time, the girl may feel that HE is the right person with whom she wants to spend the rest of her life. She could well be dreaming of settling down with him and couldnโ€™t wait for him to ask. She may think that she knows him just too well to go wrong; however, before taking the final plunge, donโ€™t forget to check on following seven things about him. These may seem trivial but could change the course of a couple’s married life (for the 0better).

1. Courtesy: Observe your man. He may be totally devoted to the girl of his dreams. But, is he courteous with the rest of the world? Is his good behavior restricted only to you? Keep an eye on how he deals with that clumsy waiter in a restaurant or a taxi driver. Is he gracious in general to shopkeepers and others in public? Itโ€™s a definitive indicator of his future conduct at home.

2. Roving Eyes: There is an abundance of testosterone in the man as compared to the estrogen in the woman. Watch out for his roving eyes. Are his eyes lingering on other women just in passing or more than necessary? This may validate the general belief, โ€œMan is polygamous by nature.โ€

3. Beauty: Beauty is skin-deep. Donโ€™t expect his dark and handsome or fair and muscular looks to last forever just as your smooth-as-silk skin and hair wonโ€™t. The best way to see how the man would look 30 years down the line is to have a closer look at his parents.

NOTE: (I dare not say looks will fade with time.  Today, a few surgeries can make you look 20 forever. However, those treatments could cause deep dent to your pockets ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜.)

4. Common areas of Interest: Check for areas of interest and hobbies that both enjoy. The more the number of common interests, the happier the couple is going to be.

5. Alcohol: Is he a social drinker or is he looking at every opportunity as an excuse to guzzle down a few pegs? Be wary of such a man.

6. Family upbringing: Try and understand his family. Family upbringing plays a major role in a manโ€™s behavior towards his wife and other women. SPOILT MALE MEMBER: Is he treated differently at home? Is he entitled to special privileges and rights compared to his sister/s? There is every chance that such a boy would turn out to be a male chauvinist.

7. Love and Sex: Finally, BEWARE! In general, men โ€˜offerโ€™ love to receive sex and women may โ€˜offer/agree to offer,โ€™ sex to receive love! Do not fall in that trap. Before saying โ€œyes,โ€ ensure there is mutual, long-lasting love and compatibility.

So, watch before you leap, girls!

Some of the readers, then, asked me why did I not include important things like economic status, intelligence, and education. I think, when it comes to settling down, a girl is smart enough to choose someone with good educational background and intelligence. There are a few who err there, and no advise is good enough for such people.

Economic Status

This pointer applies to both the man and the woman in equal measures. We still tend to consider man as the main breadwinner though many a women earn equal to or more than their male counterparts. Marriage based on equal/lower/higher economic status is individual choice and can’t be the main criterion.  One shouldnโ€™t marry a pauper just for the sake of love as love alone wonโ€™t feed, clothe or shelter. Most of the times, girls and boys relish the idea of marrying a wealthier better half so as to enjoy the material benefits they missed out until then.

Economic calculations can be tricky here. One may marry a partner of hand-to-mouth existence today, and he/she may rise to become the owner of a Unicorn company, or one can marry into wealth and end up having nothing. That depends on the coupleโ€™s collective financial wisdom and, of course, a little bit of lady luck.

Another reader asked me to write a few points that a MAN should keep in mind when deciding on his girl.

MEN tend to be MEN

When it comes to selecting their partners, boys tend to be less mature during early adulthood, and this immaturity might cloud their decisions. They fall either for the first girl who looks at him and smiles inadvertently or head-over-heels in love with the prettiest one around. With the prerequisite to brag about his girlfriend (friendsโ€™ envy and ownerโ€™s pride) and their (mis)adventures, they lose sight of how to go about keeping their affair private.

Of course, gone are the days of befriending the younger sibling of the girl and passing a passionate note through him/her, or throwing a love note rolled in a stone while passing her front gate.๐Ÿ˜‚ Tech-savvy lovers know how to create most romantic (with more of sexual innuendos and emoticons ๐Ÿ’—๐Ÿ’”๐Ÿ’‹???) messages through google search engine. However, consider these few points before going all the way.

  DOs

  1. Try to understand her. What does she look for in a man of her dreams? Observe her when she is with you. Is she talking about another man more often than required – an ex-boyfriend or an office colleague? Does she try changing the way you dress up, eat, or talk? Prior to surprising her with that expensive diamond ring in a glass of Champagne, or going down on your knees, check if she is ready to accept you AS YOU ARE. A few mutual changes are inevitable from both sides; barring that, if correcting you is becoming a habit of hers, itโ€™s not too late to back out.  
  2. Is she ready to go Dutch when you both are out at an expensive restaurant, or is it simply flashing her credit card and waiting for you to swipe yours before her? When both the partners are earning, learning to share expenses should be welcomed.  
  3. Get to know her likes/dislikes, interests, future plans, similarities and differences and discuss how much both are willing to adjust.

DONโ€™Ts

  1. Donโ€™t try to impress her by being the nicest guy in town; you may not be able to sustain it for long.
  2. if you canโ€™t keep it up, donโ€™t take her to expensive restaurants flashing different credit cards. She may take it for granted.
  3. Donโ€™t load her with too many lavish gifts; it will be expected every time.
  4. Donโ€™t take her out for a ride in your best friendโ€™s Merc or Audi when you donโ€™t even own a hatchback Maruti. She would dump you the moment she realizes it.
  5. Don’t be hellbent on creating that first impression on her, โ€œWow, do men like this exist?โ€ Such first impressions are difficult to sustain, and your fall from grace would be sooner and steeper.
  6. Donโ€™t judge a girl by her clothes and her external appearance. Nowadays, itโ€™s easy to maintain an ageless look and stain-free body for years to come but not a stain-free mind. So, get to know the real HER.
  7. Say, โ€˜bye,โ€™ to her at the earliest, if she hesitates to introduce you to her friends and relatives even after being together for long. Man or Woman, Digital or Physical union, the involved parties should enter into the holy alliance after giving a serious thought to the preparedness for a lifetime of commitment. Post that, things could work out well and the couple could live ‘happily ever after.’ Sometimes, in spite of best efforts from both, due to events beyond one’s control, life together may take a turn for the worse. Under such circumstances, one shouldn’t look back, repent, or blame each other. Try to sort things out as best as you can – adjust, understand, COMMUNICATE, seek counsel – if things are still beyond repair, simply let go.

WEDDING BELLS WILL SOON BE RINGING FOR MANY!

Posted in Book Review, Fiction, Terrorism Fiction

Home Fire

– A Poignant Story of Two Minority Communityย Families Caught in the Midst of Jihadism

Author : Kamila Shamsie

The two Souls are Entangled in the Crossfire of Extremism

Publisher: Riverhead Books

Published in: 2017โ€Ž

Genre: Novel; Category: British Novel, Terrorism Novel

Medium: Listened to the Audiobook by Audible India @Audible_ind @audible_in

Rating: ****1/2

This poignant, heartbreaking story of a family shattered by religious discrimination and terrorism is as real as real can be. Kamila Shamsie, the famous British-Pakistani writer of many popular fictions, portrays the hardships and alienation of British Muslims owing to Jihadi movements of a handful of extremists. Gullible men, especially from the lower economic strata of the society and barely out of their teens, are recruited by seasoned extremists of ISIS using emotional blackmail and lure of recognition and affluence, turning theirs’ and their near and dear ones’ lives upside down.

Our current global scenario of intolerance, hatred, fundamentalism, and terror attacks make this story totally relevant today and a MUST READ.

Three Pasha siblings – Isma, Aneeka, and Parvaiz – second generation Britishers of Pakistani origin, have a tough childhood in a predominantly Muslim area in London. Losing both the parents in a gap of one year (father, a Jihadi who fought alongside Afghan rebels and many more, captured and held at Bagram Airfield and died one his way to Guantanamo Bay), the infant twins are taken care of by Isma and the elderly grandmother. Now in the teens, the twins are inseparable but opposite in their mindset. Aneeka, independent, fiery, smart and pretty law student all of 19, is ambitious and hardworking. She would do go to any length to protect her twin whose heartbeat is in synchronization with hers. Parvaiz loves his twin to no end but is meek in comparison; he dreams of a career in sound engineering and is emotionally less stable.  Now that the twins are grown up and on their own, Isma is ready to accept an offer by her US based mentor in Amherst, Massachusetts, to research and coauthor a paper.

Ismaโ€™s immigration process at Heathrow has been a harrowing experience given her fatherโ€™s past but she takes it in her stride. A faithful Muslim with a head-veil, she meets the young, dashing Eamonn Lone at a coffee house she frequents. She recognizes him as he is the spitting image of his father Karamat Lone, Home Secretary of United Kingdom – the only Muslim who has reached the pinnacle of political hierarchy. Isma Pasha and Eamonn Lone bond over coffee and she tells him about her, Aneeka, and her father. She does develop feelings for the young man. However, one look at her pretty young sisterโ€™s photograph, and Eamonn knows whom he wants to be with.

Unknown to Aneeka and Isma, following his father’s footsteps, Parvaiz fleds to Syria along with his recruiter to join ISIS. He is drawn into the ‘Chakravyuh,’ of terrorism via emotional blackmail (invoking his dead father and the need to revenge his ‘wrongdoers’). In spite of a comfortable job, accommodation, and money of his own, Parvaiz soon realizes that he is at a deadend with no way to turn back. He hates beheading and bloodshed and craves for the freedom of his country and the company of his twin. When Aneeka gets the wind of it, she plans to get him out of Syria at the earliest.

Eamonn is back in London to meet Aneeka and falls head over heels in love with her. Aneeka too enjoys being with him but wants their affair veiled in a cloak of secrecy. They meet at Eamonnโ€™s place but on Aneekaโ€™s terms. Other than sex and companionship, Aneeka has one more agenda in being with Eamonn. She wants to use Eamonnโ€™s fatherโ€™s good office to get her wayward brother back from Syria.  Though enraged, Eamonn agrees.  Encouraged by Aneeka, Parvaiz makes an attempt to flee to Istanbul to take refuge in the British High Commission there. However, fate has other things in store for him.

Once Karamat Lone gets to know about his sonโ€™s sexual escapade with the daughter of an extremist, all hell breaks loose. Lives of Pashas and Lones – that of Isma, Aneeka, Eamonn, Karamat, his British wife Terry – are now entangled in a web named Parvaiz Pasha.

One canโ€™t hate any character in this book as everyone has a reason for doing what he/she is doing. Get into their shoes, and probably you would behave in a similar fashion.  One canโ€™t hate even Karamat Lone, the ruthless politician with strong political ideologies. He has worked hard to reach where he is and wouldnโ€™t want to throw it all away for the whim of his โ€˜weak,โ€™ (so he thought) son.

Storytelling is fast paced and intense. The first half may be a bit slow, but the hair-raising latter half compensates. And, the final moments gave me goosebumps; I had to listen to the last bit once again to ensure that I heard it right.

I miss a strong character like Isma in the second half of the book. She disappears somewhere halfway through the book except for a compelling scene with Karamat Lone (the man who refused to let her know about her dead father); instead, the author concentrates more on Aneekaโ€™s mad love for her brother and Eamonnโ€™s โ€˜Heer-Ranja-type loveโ€™ for his ladylove whom he now calls his fiancรฉe.

This book is a forewarning to all those inexperienced youngsters who get drawn into terrorist organizations. Their foolish bravado can put not only the life of self and millions of innocent citizens into peril but also that of their own family members.

Posted in Crime, Drama, Film Review, Women

Believe Me- ๐—ง๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐—”๐—ฏ๐—ฑ๐˜‚๐—ฐ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป ๐—ผ๐—ณ ๐—Ÿ๐—œ๐—ฆ๐—” ๐— ๐—ฐ๐—ฉ๐—˜๐—ฌ

The Teen Who Overcomes the Worst Ordeal With Sheer Grit

Blindfolded Lisa McVey in Captivity

OTT Platform: Netflix

Starring: Katie Douglas, Rossif Sutherland, David James Elliott

Directed by: Jim Donovan

Year of release: 2018 in Canada; Netflix Release in UK: June 2021

Awards Won: Canadian Screen Awards for Best TV Movie; Best Writing

Nominated: Best Lead Performance; Best Supporting Actor; Best Direction; Best Photography

Certification: 15+

Rating: ***** The number of nominations and awards the movie and the stars gathered talks louder than any review/rating.

 Believe in Me โ€“ the abduction of Lisa McVey, a movie that gathered multiple nominations and awards is the TRUE STORY of a teenage girlโ€™s horrifying kidnap, nonstop sexual abuse for 26 hours, and her narrow escape from the hands of a gun-wielding rapist/serial killer in Tampa Bay Area, Florida in 1984. Her misery doesn’t stop here; She is unable to convince her family and police about her harrowing experiences and providential survival.

Petite, hardworking, and friendly (the quality that saved her life) Lisa works nightshifts in a fast-food outlet only to return to her grandmotherโ€™s home in the wee hours of morning to be sexually abused at gunpoint by her grandma’s boyfriend, with the consent of her mother and granny.

After being stalked for a day or two on her return from work, she is kidnapped and brutally raped by a stranger in his car. He then takes her blindfolded to a safe place to continue the assault uninterrupted. The survivor in her allows him to go on while plotting to get out live from the hellhole she is in. Permanently blindfolded, she had to depend on her other senses like smell, touch, and hearing to know her location. With the mind of a detective, she manages to leave clues for the police to track the culprit down just in case she doesnโ€™t come out alive. Her sweet talk and no-resistance sex prevents him from murdering her and after a grueling 26 hours, he gets rid of her in a secluded area under a huge tree. Meanwhile she doesn’t forget to leave traces of DNA like hair, blood drops etc., in his house and car.

Her problems now get more complicated as her precise and sensible answers donโ€™t impress her parents or the police officers. Arrives Detective Larry Pinkerton, the first person who finds substance in her story and trusts her; he believes in her extraordinary skills to outsmart an evil rapist, and with her help, starts a manhunt for one of the most wanted sexual predators of the time. The entire police force in Florida is now banking on Lisaโ€™s skills to catch an evil serial killer with no remorse.

Katie Douglas as the violated Lisa McVey is tender and strong at the same time. No one can watch her ordeal without wiping the tears off and not congratulate her on her ability to keep her senses and sensibilities alert.

Rossif Sutherland as Bobby Joe Long evokes nothing but revulsion. The serial killer and rapist was later executed by the state of Florida for sexual assault and murder of at least 10 women.

David James Elliott as the amiable detective Larry Pinkerton, more a father-figure than a strict policeman, would make every girl wish for a father like him. Officers like him may be rare to come by, but their breed is out there still.

A MUST WATCH FOR ALL ABOVE THE AGE OF 15 YEARS. One can overcome any adversity provided he/she has the desire and determination – a vital lesson for all from Lisa’s life. Lisa McVey works now as Sheriff’s Deputy in the same county in Florida (where she was kidnapped and abused); her job involves protecting women and children against sex crime, and she is a well-known motivational speaker.

Posted in Book Review, Self-Help Books

Two Self-Help Books both Engaging and Illuminating

Two self-help books that I loved reading and rereading during these pandemic-ravaged months are Lifeโ€™s Amazing Secrets by Gaur Gopal Das and Ikigai by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles–gateways to happiness, health, and longevity.

If you believe in โ€œPracticing what you preach,โ€ these books can be immensely beneficial for your holistic wellbeing.

Lifeโ€™s Amazing SecretsHow to Find Balance and Purpose in Your Life

Author – Gaur Gopal Das

โ€œStop Going through life, start growing through life!โ€ sums up this self-help book by one of the well-admired life coaches and motivational speakers in India. Gaur Gopal Das is unique in many ways; the young monk with a pleasing demeanor, humor-sprinkled philosophies, and fantastic oratory skills, has a huge fan following across the globe. Going by his articulateness, I decided to go for the audio version of his first book. Thanks to Audible India (@audible_in), I enjoyed the author-narrated book immensely.

The book is free-flowing with his practical advises for a happy and meaningful life interspersed with anecdotes and experiences from his life as a monk and a globe trotter. The analogy he draws between life and a four-wheeler vehicle is profound. Life, just like a vehicle, stands on four wheels-personal life, relationships, work life, and social contributions. In order to move forward smoothly, all four wheels should be in perfect balance and harmony; and, the hands of the driver should always be on the steering wheel that symbolizes spirituality-the guiding force. Puncture any one of the wheels, and the passengers are stuck in the middle of nowhere, leaving the car and life in limbo.

The author is stuck in a Mumbai traffic jam with one of his disciple friends, Harry. The long hours of traffic block get them talking and Harry opens up about his marital discord in a seemingly enviable life of his. While counselling his friend how to steer clear of relationship issues, he explains ways and means to overcome conflicts in all spheres of life.

Personal Life: imbibing positive attitudes in life must be a priority.

Gratitude: be thankful and learn to appreciate tiniest of blessings. Recognize the good that has been done to you and learn to say, “Thank you.” “It is not happy people who are grateful. It’s grateful people who are happy,” says the author, impressing upon his readers the need to be grateful.

Spirituality: be spiritual and remain connected to God through any mode.

Forgiveness and Compassion: holding a grudge against someone forever is like carrying a permanent, heavy baggage. Learn to forgive and be compassionate. Shed the baggage of scorn and hatred to increase mental happiness multifold and make life easier.

Relationship: success of personal relationship depends on give and take by both the individuals involved.

Be Sensitive: being sensitive to the other person’s needs is a must in a relationship. Problems tend to arise when one thinks he/she is better than the other and has a right to give corrective feedback. Prior to giving corrective feedback, one should ask the following questions to oneself. Am I the right person?ย  Do I have the right motive? Do I know how to give it the right way? Is it the right time? Saying things in anger spoils relationship among couple. Corrective feedback can be given, provided one invests in praise and trust, and use the right body language, words, and intonations.

Relationship has to be tenderly nurtured like a plant; no quick fixes here.

Empathy: putting oneself in the other person’s shoes and being empathetic is the best way to understand him/her.ย ย Deal with the ‘wrong,’ rather than dealing with the ‘you’ and ‘I’ part of the blame game.ย  Learn to maintain silence when required.

Work Life: Finding one’s purpose in life has to take priority in work life. Gaur Gopal quotes from Ikigai–another bestseller self-help book about motivation, focus, and finding the true purpose in life. (Read Ikigai by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles, andย my review below.)

Competition is an integral part of work life; instead of competing with others compete with oneself. All of us are born with talents; It sounds simple when the author says that our inborn talents are gift wrapped and hidden. Unravelling these hidden talents is just like unwrapping a gift– exciting, pleasing, and immensely beneficial.

Social Contribution: Man is a social animal, and everyone must contribute socially for the welfare of the society.

How can one raise the bar of life from being a selfish person to a selfless human?

Selfish Selflessness: He talks about Selfish Selflessness with the example of Ice-creams and lighted wax candles both of which melt away waiting for no one. Ice cream is symbolic of lifeโ€™s enjoyment, own selfishness. Enjoy every minute; otherwise, it would disappear forever. The melting ice-cream represents a selfish person, and at the other end of the spectrum is the wax candle which melts to drive the darkness away, to bring light. In other words, ice cream consumption is a selfish act while wax melting represents selflessness. A human beingโ€™s journey may start like a melting ice cream but should mature towards the melting candle. He says that no man is completely selfish or totally selfless; we are are selfish to some extent and selfless to a certain degree.

The journey from selfishness to selflessness starts with family and then extends to society. Whether itโ€™s Harry driving recklessly to reach his wife Lalitha in the hospital, or 65-year-old Latha Khare running a marathon to save her ailing husband, or Brigadier Sunil of IPKF taking risks unparalleled to save his fellow officerโ€™s life in the war with LTTE, all are different forms of selfless service.

If every reader tries to practice the author’s counsel, the world would be a utopia.

Lifeโ€™s Amazing Secret is a complete self-help guide for mental, physical, marital/familial, professional, and social growth and harmony

Listening to an audiobook is always enjoyable when the author is the narrator. Voice modulation, stress, intonation etc., are automatically taken care of and the listener can feel the emotion.

The book is a treasure trove of quotes and anecdotes. Few of my favorites are:

  1. โ€œWhen things are beyond your control, why worry?โ€™
  2. โ€œThe paradox of our times is that those who have the most, can often be the least satisfied.โ€
  3. โ€œTo accept when everything is going right is easy. But when things are falling apart around you and you stick together, thatโ€™s the best of a relationship. Love is when we have every reason to break up but we do not.โ€
  4. โ€œIf you do what you love, you will never have to work a day in your life.โ€

The only portion of the book I’m not in awe of is Work life as most of the things here are better explained in Ikigai which I thoroughly enjoyed.

IKIGAI – The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life

Author: Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles

Ikigai- roughly translated means, โ€˜The reason for being,โ€™ is considered one of the chart-topping books on wellbeing; itโ€™s based on the lives of people in Japanese town Okinawa whose main longevity secret, among many other things, is their purpose in life. The book does an in-depth research on all facets of healthy living in an engrossing manner.

The authors interviewed the residents of Okinawa, the small town in Japan where there are 23% healthy centenarians among every thousand, trying to find out the attributes that aid them in their thriving old age. The youngest whom they interviewed just celebrated her 89th birthday, and the oldest had a place in Guinness Book as the longest living. Everyone had different reason to give for longevity, like not eating meat, not drinking alcohol, eating everything in moderation, minimal exercise and so on. However, one common factor among these nonagenarians plus are their willingness to live for one another. They keep themselves busy by gardening, helping each other, by singing, dancing, and just being there for one another. Being part of an active social group improves sense of security and thereby longevity. Most vital is knowing the answer to the simple question, โ€œWhat’s the purpose of my life?โ€

Every individual will not live to be a nonagenarian, centenarian, or supercentenarian. However, everyone can follow the tips ย for purposeful and healthy living until the end comes.ย 

My takeaways from the book are:

  1. If you donโ€™t know your Ikigai, your mission is to discover it.
  2. Be active.
  3. Don’t retire.
  4. Fill 80% of the stomach (eat variety of fruits and vegetables, drink green tea), smile.
  5. Do moderate exercises like Yoga, Thai Chi, Radio Taiso etc., for holistic wellbeing
  6. Keep the body moving not sedentary.
  7. Be in the company of good friends and live in the moment.
  8. Recognize and follow your ikigai (passion).
  9. Doing something one is passionate about with single-minded devotion and with not a dull moment is your IKIGAI.

Listening to this audiobook is like a breath of fresh air, and some chapters are worth listening to over and again. Narration is satisfactory.

Having said that, I would like to point out some drawbacks of the audiobook. Stressing on long life all along doesnโ€™t make sense. Everyone may not live into 80, 90s, or 100s; our aim should be to lead a healthy life as long as one lives. Repeatedly saying at the end of each chapter, “see .pdf,” when the narrator is aware that the book is the audio version. Theoretical explanations on Surya Namaskara (Sun Salutation), Thai Chi etc., wouldnโ€™t help much as audiobook contains no .pdf

Some other books that I have read second time during this year of uncertainties are-You Can Win by Shiv Khera, Emotional Discipline by Charles C Manz, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R Covey, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, Asana Pranyama Mudra Bandha by Swami Sathyananda Saraswati.

Posted in Memoir

Mini-Series to Binge Watch on OTT Platforms: ๐“•๐“ช๐“ถ๐“ฒ๐“ต๐”‚ ๐“œ๐“ช๐“ท 2 & ๐“›๐“พ๐“น๐“ฒ๐“ท 2

Mฮฑษณฯƒส Bฮฑสฯฮฑฮน & Oษฑฮฑษพ Sแƒง

๐Ÿ…ต๐Ÿ…ฐ๐Ÿ…ผ๐Ÿ…ธ๐Ÿ…ป๐Ÿ†ˆ ๐Ÿ…ผ๐Ÿ…ฐ๐Ÿ…ฝ ๐Ÿ†‚๐Ÿ…ด๐Ÿ…ฐ๐Ÿ†‚๐Ÿ…พ๐Ÿ…ฝ 2: Directed by: DK and Raj; Starring: Manoj Bajpai, Samantha Akineni, Priyamani; Genre: Spy Thriller; Mini-series with 9 episodes ; Language: Hindi with English: OTT: Amazon Prime

Season 2 of the much-awaited Hindi serial The Family Man is back with a bang. After the nail-biting climax of season 1 (A Bhopal Gas Leak-Style Tragedy brewing in Delhi, and unaware, Tiwari and JK prematurely celebrating victory over the death of the terrorist), fans are treated to more thrill and suspense by the presence of an antagonist in whom Srikant Tiwari meets his match.

My Verdict: A Cliffhanger end with a difference; can’t wait for the next season

๐Ÿ…ป๐Ÿ†„๐Ÿ…ฟ๐Ÿ…ธ๐Ÿ…ฝ ๐Ÿ†‚๐Ÿ…ด๐Ÿ…ฐ๐Ÿ†‚๐Ÿ…พ๐Ÿ…ฝ 2: Created by: George Kay, Fracois Uzan; Starring: Omar Sy, Herve Pierre, Etan Simon, Ludivine Sagnire, Clotilde Hesme; Genre: Mystery Thriller, Drama; Miniseries with 5 episodes; OTT: Netflix

The start of Lupin Season 2 is gripping in itself as Raoul is kidnapped and driven away by the henchman of Pellegrini, taking the cat-and-mouse game between suave swindler Assane Diop and ruthless businessman Hubert Pellegrini to a new level. Tricking Pellegrini and his stooge, commissioner Dumont, Diop saves his son. This time, Pellegrini has made one wrong move of involving Diopโ€™s son and the professional thief is ready to pay him back in Pellegriniโ€™s own coin.

My Verdict: A Must Watch; Enjoy the Adrenaline-Pumping final episode and wait for Season 3

๐•ฏ๐–Š๐–™๐–†๐–Ž๐–‘๐–Š๐–‰ ๐–—๐–Š๐–›๐–Ž๐–Š๐–œ ๐–œ๐–Ž๐–™๐– ๐–“๐–” ๐–˜๐–•๐–”๐–Ž๐–‘๐–Š๐–—๐–˜:

FAMILY MAN – Season 2

After quitting T.A.S.C, Tiwari opts to work a corporate setup. Itโ€™s obvious that he is happy with the perks off the job like increased income, and spare time for family etc. However, he has zero job satisfaction though he refuses to acknowledge it. As luck would have it, he has a 27-year-old manager who meddles in too much.

Meanwhile, his best buddy JK from TASC is in Chennai on an extremely vital and secretive mission. Sri Lankan Tamil Freedom Activist Bhaskaranโ€™s brother dies in a bomb blast while in custody in Chennai. Blaming India for his only surviving family memberโ€™s murder and unaware that ISI is behind the blow-up, Bhaskaran, in exile in London, joins hands with ISI strongman Sameer and plots revenge on Indian soil. Raji, a foot soldier and a high-caliber fighter pilot of Sri Lankan Tamil Liberation Group is living incognito (sleeper cell) in Chennai along with a few more her comrades. Rajiโ€™s appearance is totally deceptive; she is an angel of death (if there is one) with no remorse; with her two bare hands, she murders two men (as if they were chicken) who tried to molest her/demand sex.

Raji is appointed to lead the team of 4 men in the covert suicidal mission against Indian Government along with an agent of Sameer from Kashmir. Indian PM is visiting Chennai to meet the President of Sri Lanka and intel report warn a probable attack on both, jointly by ISI and Lankan rebels.

Srikantโ€™s married life is in turmoil; His change of job didnโ€™t help improve the situation. Suchi is unhappy and edgy and she tries to keep her distance from Srikant. They seek professional help but Tiwari is noncooperative. Itโ€™s as if she is on a guilt trip and is unable to share it with Sri.

On her birthday, Suchi asks for a break from her husband. Srikant, being harassed by the young manager, and humiliated for being the โ€˜minimum man,โ€™ leaves his corporate job and rejoins TASC at the right time to lead his TASC team in Chennai. Suchi too rejoins her old job.

Their teenage daughter Drhiti is involved with a boy through social media. Unknown to her family, she meets him regularly using her friend as a coverup. Fed up of her parentโ€™s skirmishes at home, she turns a rebel and spends more time with her boyfriend.

While plot thickens in Chennai and TASC loses one of their best officers to the rebels and Tamil sympathizers, his family is in trouble in Mumbai. Srikant now has the unenviable task of protecting both his family and his country. What will he choose?

Performance: Manoj Bajpai is his best with his wry humor, action, confusion, and above all his dedication to his family and job. The person who walks away with all the applauses is Samantha Akkineni. As Raji, her character is dark and even in the darkest hours, she is focused. She believes in living or dying for the cause of Lankan Tamils and their leader (Thalivar). Priyamani as Suchi and Sharad Khelkar as Arvind donโ€™t have much to do; and what little bit is expected from them, they do well. Are these to talented actors wasted here? Young Asha Thakur as the rebellious daughter of Srikant does a splendid job, and little Vedant Sinha as Adharv brings a smile everyoneโ€™s face. Another memorable actor who you wish is your best friend too is Sharib Hashmi as JK Talpade, the righthand man of Srikant.

Never to miss the fact that this season too ends in a cliffhanger.

Without guilt, you can binge-watch this thriller. Eagerly waiting for season 3.

LUPIN – Season 2

Synopsis: Season 1: Arsรฉne Lupin-buff and gentleman burglar Assane Diop learns to think and act like his superhero trickster Arsรฉne Lupin to avenge his fatherโ€™s perpetratorโ€“business tycoon Hubert Pellegrini for wrongly implicating his father in a necklace robbery costing millions and abetting in his subsequent suicide. First season ends in suspense and tension as Assane Diop’s son Raoul disappears from the beachfront at Etrรฉat where Arsรฉne Lupin fest was being held. Raoul, like his dad, is an admirer of Arsรฉne Lupin โ€“ the original, aristocratic, gentleman swindler from the novel Arsรฉne Lupin, Gentlemanโ€“Thief.

Season 2: Diop outsmarts Pellegrini and saves his son Raoul from the clutches of Pellegrini’s henchman. Now, he is ready to pay back to the tycoon in his own coin.

The episodes are fast-paced and action-packed, keeping the viewers on edge where Diopโ€™s Lupin-style perfect plans are outdone by Pellegrini and his cronies. Diop has more worries now as the long hands of police and the assassin of Pellegrini are after his best buddy Benjamin. His only hope is another Arsรฉne Lupin enthusiast in the police force, Youssef Geudira. Diop is eager to get even with Pellegrini and be done with it so that he can lead a normal life with his family. This time around, he is hoping to expose Pellegrini.

Screening of past incidents from Diop’s school life and merging it with the present gives viewers a clear understanding of Diop’s superior abilities and sensitivities even as a child.

Performance: Omar Sy as Diop couldnโ€™t be better. Every move of his elicits excitement and every escape of his a sigh of relief. Matching his performance is Herve Pierreโ€™s Pellegrini whose each smile evokes hatred. Soufiane Guerrab as the Lupen-enthusiast police officer is endearing. Clotilde Hesme, the smart and vulnerable Juliette Pellegrini fits the bill perfectly. Viewers’ empathize with her when, unknown to her, she is being used by both her father and her ex-boyfriend Diop.

Enjoy the adrenaline-pumping final episode and await Season 3.

Posted in Memoir

Palymras, Paddy Fields, and Caparisoned Elephants – my childhood in a Kerala village

Etched Forever in My Memory

Unlike many Indian villages that are often described as dusty and sleepy, I consider myself fortunate to hail from a village in Kerala that was lush green with many ponds and rivulets and full of activity. It was the most exciting place to be around. Nowhere else have I enjoyed the bounty of nature, the beauty of changing seasons, rich cultural events during temple festivals, the simplicity and innocence of life than in my village where I was born and spent the first decade of my life.

Though life was tough, everyone was happy and content. It was largely an agricultural community. Village economy thrived on a bartering system centered around paddy. I remember rice bran being procured in our household for feeding livestock in return for jackfruit, mangoes and tamarind! Humans and livestock thrived on pure unadulterated food.

One of the earliest memories of my childhood was acres of green paddy fields that were a few inches high; like a green carpet laid out for miles as far as naked eyes could see. When light breeze passed over, it looked as if this carpet was being gently swayed holding it from both ends. I haven’t encountered a more calm and serene sight than this. After a month of visual green-colour fest, the magical carpet slowly disappeared and firm steady plants took their place. Tiny paddy seeds sprout from the plant in bunches, bringing immense joy to the farmers. Young paddy seeds are full of a milky substance which turns into rice when seeds mature. While walking through the fields, we used to remove all the young seeds in a bunch in one swift sweeping motion of our tiny palm, crush it under our teeth and enjoy the sweet milky substance filling our mouths. Over a couple of months, these young paddy seeds matured and the whole field had a rich golden yellow hue to it. The plants bowed down from the weight of the paddy as in an act of self-surrender and offering to the very farmer who planted and nurtured it.

Harvesting time was like festival season. Workers moved in synchronization, bent over, sickle in hand, chatting happily or sometimes singing. Bundles of paddy were carried as head load to the owner’s home for threshing. Grains were stored for home use for the whole year and the rest was kept aside for sale or barter.

Those hard-working farmers would then start preparing for a second round of crops. Some tried their hands at growing vegetables choosing a place near ponds and other water bodies. Shortage of water was unheard of those days.

The village pond used to be the place where womenfolk socialized. They would go to the pond with the day’s clothes to be laundered, calling out to their friends all the way to the pond. Some privileged ones would get fancy bathing soaps which they generously share with their friends. Sometimes the entire group bathed with one single bar of soap! If someone had too many clothes to wash, others pitched in and lent a helping hand, all the time chatting cheerfully and sharing their worries. They had no secrets.

It never occurred to me then that these womenfolk were getting an expensive pedicure for free without even realizing it. Horde of fish – small and big- surrounded their feet the moment they stepped into the water, pecking at their feet from all the sides. By the time they finished their leisurely bath and laundering, all the dead scales from their feet were devoured by the fish
leaving their feet squeaky clean.

Many a times I had noticed some village romeos hiding behind the bushes and watching the women bathe. But neither the villagers nor the women themselves were concerned about it. After all, Lord Krishna himself had watched the Gopis bathing in the river hiding atop a tree! (Bhagwan’s leela has an entirely different meaning to it.)

Our village used to be dotted with Palmyra trees. These palmyra trees were abundant with fruits in summers. The hard cover of this fruit when cut open from top, revealed sweet fleshy, succulent, and juicy segments, which can beat the most refreshing summer drink available these days. (A mature version of this called “Nonku” is sold in cities at exorbitant rates. But they can’t beat the fresh tender ones.) I remember my grandmother summoning an expert in climbing palmyra trees when the fruits were just right. The climber came early in the morning to escape the summer heat, when children were still asleep. As the first bunch of fruits came crashing down with a thud, we woke up and ran out in anticipation of the day being spent in the garden under the shady
trees, enjoying the nectar like fruit. We were encouraged to have as many as we wanted, as the tender palmyra fruits were Considered soothing for the stomach. A fast forward morning routine and bare minimum breakfast followed. My grandmother ordered all the boys to strip to their shorts and and the girls to their shameez. This was to ensure that the juice did not stain their clothes. It used to be a fun event with neighboring children and grownups joining in
and turning it into a festive occasion.

The fields wore a deserted look in the summer months. With the scorching sun beating down mercilessly, it was not possible to venture out during daytime. But evenings were pleasant and action packed in the fields. Elders descended in groups to socialize and amuse themselves watching the energetic young crowd playing in the fields. Children played a variety of rural games and football used to be the staple of the older lot. Some creative groups put up stage shows
and won applause from the crowd. Lots of budding talents emerged and some lucky
ones made their mark in the theatre and movie fields later in life. Sometimes much to the delight of the rural folk, circus companies arrived and camped themselves for several days in the open fields. Young and the old were equally drawn towards the magical world of circus. The spell was so strong that when the group finally left the place, a couple of youngsters joined them with
or without the consent of their loved ones causing much heartbreak to the entire village.

The most exciting event in our village after the harvest was the “UTSAVAM” or Annual Temple Festival at the village temple. Utsavam was conducted for ten days. Nine days of pooja , cultural programmes and feast followed by โ€˜AARATUโ€™ on the tenth day. Classical art forms like ” Kathakali” and “Koodiyaatm,” were regularly performed on the temple premises. Aaratu is a ritual in which the priest bathes the idol of the deity in the temple tank or a nearby river. Aaratu procession was taken out through the vast fields around the temple. Paddy stubbles were all flattened by children running around and playing and also people taking shortcuts through the fields. Large crowds congregated even from the neighboring villages and everyone got an unobstructed view of the procession from different vantage points.

The idol was taken in magnificent splendour on caprisoned elephants around the temple fields accompanied by ” PANCHAVAADYAM ” (a combination of five temple musical instruments) and other vadyams. The number of elephants increased or decreased in proportion to the funds available that year. Stalls were put up everywhere by merchants coming from far off places. The
local community made major purchases like household items, clothing and trinkets from these wandering merchants.

It is great reminiscing about all those good old times, but revisiting and reliving the life may not be as enjoyable as the original experience. Everything changes with time, including our perception. When I revisited my illage after a long gap, I found it hard to accept the changes that had come over the place. Motorable roads were definitely a positive and welcoming
change. But the shrinking fields and water bodies left me disturbed. Ugly concrete structures had sprouted everywhere. Machines had taken over ploughing, harvesting and threshing.

However, even with all the changes, good and bad, I was comforted by the fact that some things remain the same, such as the warmth of the people, the strong bonds of community, and the magical ‘Utsavams,’ with all the pomp and gaiety, and memories of my bygone childhood days.

Posted in Drama, Film Review, Sci-Fi, Thriller

Movie Mania – One Whole Week Dedicated to Thrillers

๐Ÿ…พ๐Ÿ†‡๐Ÿ†ˆ๐Ÿ…ถ๐Ÿ…ด๐Ÿ…ฝ Sci-fi thriller; French with English Subtitles; Directed by: Alexandre Aja, Starring: Melanie Laurent; Watch on Netflix

My Verdict: A MUST WATCH Edge-of-the-seat thriller

๐Ÿ…ฝ๐Ÿ…ฐ๐Ÿ†ˆ๐Ÿ…ฐ๐Ÿ…ฐ๐Ÿ†ƒ๐Ÿ†ƒ๐Ÿ†„ Political Drama; Thriller; Malayalam; Directed by: Martin Prakkat; Starring: Kunchacko Boban, Joju George, Nimisha Sajayan; Watch on Netflix

My Verdict: Genuine, Realistic, Imitates Life, A MUST WATCH

๐Ÿ…ฐ๐Ÿ†ƒ๐Ÿ…ท๐Ÿ…ธ๐Ÿ†๐Ÿ…ฐ๐Ÿ…ฝ Psychological thriller, Crime, Directed by: Vivek; Starring; Fahad Fazil, Sai Pallavi; Language: Malayalam; Watch on: Disney+Hotstar

My Verdict: Watch for Intriguing Plot and Memorable Performance

๐Ÿ…ฝ๐Ÿ…ธ๐Ÿ†‰๐Ÿ…ท๐Ÿ…ฐ๐Ÿ…ป Psychological, Mystery; Directed by:ย  Award-winning debut director, Appu N. Bhattathiri; Language: Malayalam with English subtitles; Starring: Kuchacko Boban, Nayanthara, Izin Hash; Watch on: Amazon Prime

My Verdict: Watch if you like Kunchacko Boban and Nayanthara

๐Ÿ™ ๐”ฝ๐•ฃ๐•–๐•Ÿ๐•”๐•™ & ๐Ÿ› ๐•„๐•’๐•๐•’๐•ช๐•’๐•๐•’๐•ž ๐•‹๐•™๐•ฃ๐•š๐•๐•๐•–๐•ฃ๐•ค

๐“ฃ๐“ธ ๐“ฌ๐“ช๐“ต๐“ถ ๐“ฝ๐“ฑ๐“ฎ ๐“ถ๐“พ๐“ญ๐“ญ๐“ต๐“ฎ๐“ญ ๐“ถ๐“ฒ๐“ท๐“ญ, ๐“˜ ๐“ต๐“ฒ๐“ด๐“ฎ ๐“ฎ๐“ฒ๐“ฝ๐“ฑ๐“ฎ๐“ป ๐“ฝ๐“ธ ๐“ผ๐“ฌ๐“ป๐“ฒ๐“ซ๐“ซ๐“ต๐“ฎ ๐“ธ๐“ป ๐”€๐“ช๐“ฝ๐“ฌ๐“ฑ ๐“ฝ๐“ฑ๐“ป๐“ฒ๐“ต๐“ต๐“ฎ๐“ป๐“ผ ๐“ธ๐“ฏ ๐“ช๐“ต๐“ต ๐“ด๐“ฒ๐“ท๐“ญ๐“ผ. ๐“ฃ๐“ฑ๐“ฒ๐“ผ ๐”€๐“ฎ๐“ฎ๐“ด, ๐“˜ ๐“ญ๐“ฒ๐“ญ ๐“ซ๐“ธ๐“ฝ๐“ฑ ๐“ช๐“ท๐“ญ ๐“ฑ๐“ช๐“ญ ๐“ช ๐“ฐ๐“ธ๐“ธ๐“ญ #๐“ผ๐“ฝ๐“ช๐”‚๐“ช๐“ฝ๐“ฑ๐“ธ๐“ถ๐“ฎ ๐”€๐“ฎ๐“ฎ๐“ด.

Four Thrillers that I loved Watching in the order of my preference

  1. ๐™Š๐™ญ๐™ฎ๐™œ๐™š๐™ฃ (๐™Š๐™ญ๐™ฎ๐™œรฉ๐™ฃ๐™š) – ๐™˜๐™ก๐™–๐™ช๐™จ๐™ฉ๐™ง๐™ค๐™ฅ๐™๐™ค๐™—๐™ž๐™– ๐™–๐™ก๐™ค๐™ฃ๐™œ ๐™ฌ๐™ž๐™ฉ๐™ ๐™Š2 ๐™จ๐™๐™ค๐™ง๐™ฉ๐™–๐™œ๐™š can be ๐™–๐™ฃ ๐™ค๐™ข๐™ž๐™ฃ๐™ค๐™ช๐™จ ๐™ง๐™š๐™˜๐™ž๐™ฅ๐™š ๐™›๐™ค๐™ง ๐™™๐™ž๐™จ๐™–๐™จ๐™ฉ๐™š๐™ง

Opening shot: A masked face is gasping for breath. With utmost effort, the mask is torn apart from the face and a woman starts hyperventilating. Frantically, her hands pry open the rest of the netted cocoon she is placed in; the distraught woman is now visible in a prone position in a coffin-like cryogenic pod

The entire movie is shot inside this cryogenic chamber. Due to a malfunctioning in the chamber, the woman wakes up from her hypersleep with no memory, and no identity. A masculine voice from an AI console, MILO, is her only help. Addressed by MILO as ‘Bioform,’ with a number assignedโ€”Omicron 267, her struggle forโ€‹โ€‹ survival has an uncanny similarity to the O2 crisis in our pandemic-ridden country.  Every few minutes, the AI reminds Omicron-267 of the depleting oxygen inside the pod.  Her survival depends on her ability to get out of the chamber before she runs out of oxygen.

Every emotion of the bioform is felt by the viewerโ€”her dejection, elation, and minor success.  At intervals, her visual memory flashes in bits and pieces, aiding her to piece together her identityโ€”Dr. Liz Hansonโ€”a cryogenic expert. Much later, she realizes that she is married and her husband had taken ill.

All through this turmoil, she has to keep calm, else she would die from asphyxiation earlier than the stipulated hour that MILO said she has. Her options are limited. Her prime concern about the location of the pod and how she finds herself inside the pod are still baffling her.

Fighting the odds, will Omicron-267, now Liz, be able to find her way out of the cryogenic chamber?

Can a single actor hold a movie on her own? Yes, Melanie LeBlanc, ably assisted by the voice of Mathieu Amalric as MILO, keeps the viewer on tenterhooks from the very word go. For a movie totally on the shoulders of one woman on a claustrophobic chamber with an impersonal AI as her only support system, this is no mean achievement.  

Director Alexandre Aja is a mastermind at creating ripples of anxious moments inside the pod that multiplies in intensity inside every viewer

Writer Christie LeBlanc knows how to use minimal words to maximum effect. Unless O-267 asks the right questions to MILO and to the outside world through MILO, she can’t get to her past. 

โ€‹Toward the climax, as expected, the viewer will get to know the true identity of the bioform.  Should the truth baffle anyone? I donโ€™t think so.  It’s a very plausible end to a high drama in an enclosed chamber with depleting oxygen. 

2. Nayattu- reel imitating real – politically motivated high-intensity drama

Three members of police force (Praveenโ€”a new recruit, Manianโ€”an old hand with 20 years of experience in police force, and Sunithaโ€”the woman police) work in the same police station. The movie starts with small, isolated incidents, implying the work pressure in police force, and how policemen are forced to tow the line at every step with no questions asked especially if the orders are from political bosses. It will take some time to realize that it’s a preview of more sinister things to come.

When the reels roll on, those unrelated incidents will start making sense. Here on, the hunters become the hunted wreaking havoc on three innocent lives and their families.

On orders from the supreme authority, these three are chased like criminals for a crime they didnโ€™t commit. When one of the them takes his life after leaving suicide note in the hope that the truth can be brought to light and his daughter could live with her head held high, the viewer expects justice for them. Simple, straight, vote-bank politics from the chief minister down to the grassroot worker. Police force, in order to save own skin, chair, and promotion, chase the innocent in spite of the evidence.

A movie that will haunt you for days and will make you seethe at the state of affairs of ordinary citizens.

Performance: For want of better words, I would say that all the three protagonists competed with each other in giving their very best. Yes, Kunchacko Boban as the man with empathy and control over his emotions, Joju George who values his fatherhood above everything, and Nimisha as the silent sufferer, they simply outdid each other.

It is a must-watch movie for all who love genuine, realistic movies – films that reflect real life.

3. ATHIRAN – The One Beyond Reach

Itโ€™s year 1967; Lakshmi barges into her old, palatial home; to her horror, she discovers dead bodies of all three of her siblings. Her autistic niece Nitya is found in a mentally agitated state.

Cut to the present. Dr. Kannan Nair, a dashing young man, designated by the authorities to look into malpractices, suicides, and disappearing bodies in a mental asylum arrives the institution located far away from the hustle-bustle of the city.

A beautiful bungalow situated in the midst of acres of breathtakingly beautiful nature, converted into a mental asylum and run by psychiatrist Dr. Benjamin, has too many skeletons in its cupboard. The doctor treats his rich, mentally-unstable patients by outdated methods and by instilling fear.

What’s the secret behind Nityaโ€’the feeble-looking yet strong-as-a-rock sixth patient of Benjamin for whom there is no record? Dr. Nair, in his eagerness to get to the bottom of this mystery, gets into the bad books of Dr. Benjamin. Two failed murder attempts on him wonโ€™t prevent Nair from protecting Nitya. Dr. Benjamin openly warns him when he says, ‘SHEEP DON’T HUNT, THEY ARE TO BE HUNTED.’

Tension in the movie builds up as it progresses and the story that unfolds has many surprises. 

Fahad Faazil, as usual, takes the responsibility of the movie’s success on his shoulders. Sai Pallavi is amazingly beautiful, and even with hardly any dialogue, excels as the martial art expert with autism. In this world where accumulation of wealth is all that matters, itโ€™s easy to believe the existence of a quirky psychiatrist like Dr. Benjamin and his cronies.

Amazing location and cinematography to match.

The ability of some of the patients in the asylum to predict or to foresee events in the near-future is a little far-fetched. 

Overall, Athiran stands out as a thriller with its intriguing plot and memorable performances.

4. NIZHAL- Shadows That Loom Large Over a Young Mind

A lone night owl sitting on a tree branch, and a speeding car at a hairpin bend crashes into the culvert aheadโ€”opening scene. Jump to the next shot, and the accident victim with a fancy mask is discharged from a hospital. He is John Baby, the young magistrate now fighting PTSD hallucinations. (His superhero mask is to fix broken cartilage of his nose bridge.)๐Ÿ˜Š

Nitin, the eight-year-old son of Sharmila, has a flair for gory stories; not for him the normal fairytales or superhero stories.  During a storytelling session in his classroom, he shocks his teacher and classmates with grisly details of a murder.

Along with child psychologist Shalini, Baby, and Sharmila (a well-placed single mom) try to get to the bottom of Nitinโ€™s gruesome stories. Together, they want to save Nitin from this harrowing experience. They can do it only if they know if itโ€™s a fabrication of Nitinโ€™s mind or some other unseen and unheard hand playing a role in it.

Baby starts his enquiry in the garb of a Ph.D. thesis. His first research on a whim unfurls evidence of a murder committed 27 years ago. Skull deep inside a pond, and dead body dumped in a swamp, all tumble out.

Baby and Sharmila now look for ways to save Nitin from these psychosomatic nightmares. Baby thinks his illusions too are linked to this.

The movie is neither a superman/spiderman adventure nor has it the edge-of-the-seat thrill of a mystery. However, itโ€™s a one-time watch for sure. The director probably expected a great psychological thriller, but it turned out to be more of an easygoing investigation of a few murders committed decades ago. โ€˜What next?โ€™ moments are rare in the movie.

Performance: Adorable Izin Hash as young Nitin gives a memorable performance; one will fall in love with his endearing, dimpled smile.

Kunchacko Boban as the young judge is good; somehow, dialogues are minimal and emotions and body language play a role here.  Nayanthara as Sharmila looks amazingly pretty and elegant but thatโ€™s it. An actress of her caliber is wasted here.