Monday, 23 May 2016

Movie : Coffee Aani Barach Kaahi

I am not a movie reviewer, or blogger; but every once in a while, I come across a movie that leaves a deep impression, an impression spanning every aspect of the movie; which is what moves me to pen my thoughts on the aforesaid movie... the movie under review, Coffee Aani Barach Kaahi, is one such – a lovely light romantic movie that is, for me, unforgettable; one I can watch any number of times – like Mumbai-Pune-Mumbai....






THE CHARACTERS

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Jaai  {Prarthana Behere} – idealistic, highly romantic yet reserved, knows what she wants – for sure; stubborn as a mule – she wont say it. No sir, not her. Not even when pigs fly!


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Nishad {Vaibhav Tatwawdi} – Balanced, yet uncertain; competent in everything... except matters of the heart; practical even in love {what can I say? You try and talk sense into him!}. Boss, Nishad – the lady wont, repeat wont, say it. Your call, buddy.


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Abha {Neha Mahajan} – Vivacious, extroverted, open-minded, confident... and yup, kid sister to Jaai. Dont listen to her, Jaai- she doesn’t know Nishad, so her – aah, strategies – don’t count!


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Anish {Bhushan Pradhan} – comes to “see” Jaai, falls for Neha in the first scene; the frontispiece of the movie. A real gem – people like him are rare, and special... steals the show, almost...


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Paresh {Sandesh Kulkarni} – Without him, there is no movie. Cafe owner, and luckily for one person, one central character – the only other person with some sense of romance, Anish apart.



THE STORY

The story is one of a blossoming love between Nishad and Jaai... neither will say it for one excellent reason or another, both realise that the other person is THE person for them; one is stubborn as a mule, and with old-fashioned romantic ideas – Jaai wont say it, not ever, not her. Nishad? He wont either, for entirely different reasons. Not him – not ever, no way. NIshad is too uncertain, full of doubts, and reticent while being mature and balanced, and a deeply impressive personality; Jaai idealistic & romantic, wont take the first step. And she doesn’t – right till the very last climactic scene, when she stands dumb as a dodo, but no sir – she will NOT say it.


The difference is in the nut n bolts of the story; it has been presented as a flashback which tells a lovely heart-warming tale of falling in love; this has been interlaced with the scene of Nishad waiting for Jaai at the cafe for their “critical “ meeting. The flashback is in a conversation between Jaai and Anish – who has come with his parents to discuss marriage; Jaai tells Anish the story of her love when he bluntly asks – who is coming between us, as it is apparent to him that the lady isn’t interested. In that one scene – you get to really like Anish... Nishad – what can I say? The waiting scene at the cafe, which turns into hours, is when he starts talking with Paresh, the owner... 



THE REVIEW

Love is a subject that has been dealt with threadbare in movies; but if you dismiss this movie basis this fact, you will miss a movie that I call one of the best movies to come out of India in any language. This is a movie that grows on you, whose characters grow on you and entangle you in their story; a movie that is deeply engaging, practical and very, very realistic; a movie with zero melodrama, and a movie that creates a deep connect with the audience.


How do you attract, and keep audience interest in such a well-worn subject? By creating scenery and storylines, presenting fresh yet talented faces that have no audience expectations and hang-ups, dialogues and a presentation that tugs at heart strings, is very mature and balanced, and is something we can all relate to; something that is bubbly, full of life, soft and very engaging and lovable at first sight almost. This is not a trick that is easy to pull off – and this is where the movie succeeds big time; it has taken an old concept, and made it sufficiently fresh and different, that is carves a pedestal all for its lonesome.


The magic is in the treatment of the story, the dialogues, the situations presented, and the overall presentation and style. There is a complete absence of any melodrama, as the story unfolds beautifully along practical and close-to-real-life situations; there are no needless twists – and yet, the narrative is sufficiently taut, managing to keep you riveted right from the first scene quite literally, and keep you engaged right till the last scene when that idiot finally says it... {sorry Nishad}


The real beauty is in the sacrifice of the narrative speed; while the narrative of the movie is nice and taut – yet, in places, it has been deliberately allowed to meander here and there; these meanderings are very adroitly handled, and add to the story as well as the depth of the characters. Be it the reminiscence of an old couple on their 50th anniversary, or the interchange between the sisters- very scene is thoughtfully crafted, taking the story forward in some way. There isn’t a wasted scene in the entire movie from start to finish, and that is the most incredible part. This helps in creating a deep connect between the audience and the story, and a deeply absorbing tale unfolds.


If it is an Indian movie – there must be music; and songs – and the movie doesn’t disappoint, with some classy numbers. The songs aren’t too many, and are not forced either, which is great. The music is by Late Shri Gajanan Vatve and  Aditya Bedekar. One song that stands out is one that is also emblematic of the entire movie – different, yet loveable... Rang He Nave Nave, Duniya Hai Nai Nai; Mornings Are Just Magical, Shaame Bhi Hain Surmayee.... a mix of three languages...


The performances are universally excellent; that said – a word has to be said for Neha Mahajan, whose portrayal of Abha is real class. She steals the show – almost; as does Bhushan Pradhan, who in his portrayal of Anish, brings maturity and incredible balance through his impressive controlled performance. You of course get to like Prarthana as Jaai... But the movie, in my opinion, belongs to Vaibhav who steals the show despite having the least lines.. a superply controlled and soulful performance, with at times just his eyes doing the talking... truly class.



All in all, rated 5 stars. In my list, one of the best movies I have ever seen... in a list that has LOC Kargil, Golmaal, Angur, Mangalashtak Once More, Sumbaran, Ek Unaad Divas... 

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Book Review : Rearming Hinduism - Nature, Hinduphobia...

BOOK REVIEW : REARMING HINDUISM
NATURE, HINDUPHOBIA, AND THE RETURN OF HINDU INTELLIGENCE
AUTHOR : VAMSEE JULURI



THE BOOK

Image result for rearming hinduism bookThe title of the book says it all in a succinct and to-the-point manner : this a book centering around the image and ridiculing of Hindus, the misunderstandings among the western scholars and people regarding Hinduism, and the rise of Hindu pride. It is a book which seeks to counter some claims and observations  made by Wendy Doniger in her book, which serves as the starting point of the book; it then subsequently branches out and raises the issue of misrepresentation of Hinduism in the international media and academia


It quite successfully takes the rising Hinduphobia in the international discourse; and raises several pertinent points; it looks at the propagation of myths and half-truths regarding our religion, as well as the penchant of the westerner to fit everything into one mould, as it were. The penchant of the westerner {as well as some among us Hindus as well} of regarding Aryan Invasion also features here in a short and sharp chapter.


The book is organised in two parts, with the first part focussing on the aspects highlighted in the above paragraphs; the second part is about the author’s personal view about Hinduism – to quote the author : “how one devout Hindu sees hope for humanity in the richness of Hindu thought. I present this part in a more personal and devotional tone / it is perhaps best read as a set of thoughts / about what it means to be Human as reflected in the ideals and stories of Hinduism


The Author, Vamsee Juluri is a professor of media studies at the university of San Fransisco : this is a vital aspect, as he is well exposed to western views on our religion, and it is a part of his job as well – as he writes and teaches about worldviews, assumptions, commonsense ideas about ourselves and the world, and how they might be distortions, myths and outright lies – again quoting the author here. This is also what I myself have written about extensively, although in my amateur style.


THE REVIEW

Frankly, this is a book with only a partial relevance to India – India is a nation, and Sanaatan Dharm a religion. That is one; second, it is also a book with no relevance whatsoever to Sanaatan Dharm in India – as this is a book written by a Sanaatan Dharmi living and working in the USA. The problem of Eurocentricism, and the attendant problem of the representation of our religion in the West is of no material importance or relevance to us as Indian citizens. It is also of precisely zero relevance to us as Sanaatan Dharmis, as followers of The Eternal Path.


The reason is that Sanaatan Dharm, as per my readings and understanding – places emphasis on an individual understanding and faith, and not on collectivity. Second, our religion also emphasises duty to the nation, the society one lives in – and for residents of the USA – that is the USA and its society. Thus, the problems being faced by Sanaatan Dharmis in the USA are of no concern to me; I have my own nation, my own people and we have our own lives and duties to perform.   Worrying about the status of Sanaatan Dharm in the USA is not one of those problems.


That is why I found a zero emotional connect with the obvious angst of the Author on the problem of Eurocentricism, and of the misrepresentation of Sanaatan Dharm in the USA. I just could not relate to it; I could partially relate to Eurocentricism, as it is an ever present theme in everyday life, given the state of the modern world, but that is all. On the topic of books by Westerners and Western Academia on Sanaatan Dharm, why should I have occasion to read them, given that I have an excellent resource of Indian books on the said topics available on Indian book stores?


In recent years, there is an emerging trend of excellent, well –presented and researched books on any number of topics of Indian Relevance spanning Economics to History to Religion, all written by Indians, and spanning all possible viewpoints. There is admittedly a problem of shelf-space to these on book stores, which tend to give emphasis to Western books; but this is now receding, with the strong emergence of quality Indian research on all topics under the sun. The movement is slow- but it is present. The trend of Eurocentric Macaulay’s Children in Indian discourse is waning, with the strong emergence of a parallel thought process and philosophy, as India finally throws off the colonial yoke and emerges in its own right.


That said, the book per se is written in a rather angry or should I say annoyed tone as it seems to me; it could be a cultural thing,  as I am in India while the author is in the USA. While he quite successfully, it seems to me, takes on the stated purpose of the book – the lack of a proper presentation is a small problem. I would have loved a properly bulleted and point-wise rebuttal of the claims of Eurocentric writers on Sanaatan Dharm. This has not been properly presented; the content is excellent, it needs a proper presentation to makeit more effective.

A clarification is needed here : the title of the book says ‘Rearming Hindusm’ – this has nothing to do with conventional arms, and is more to do with a spiritual rearming, and a reawakening of Sanaatan Dharmis. It seeks to challenge Hinduphobia and the attendant incorrect portrayal of our religion in Academia and the Newspapers and Magazines of the West, especially the USA



On the second part, there is a lot I agree with – but I will withhold comment – as Sanaatan Dharm is typically an individualistic faith, and each person has to find his or her own path. The author’s observations are interesting, deeply thought-provoking, and I highly recommend Indian Sanaatan Dharmis reading this book for the second part; my advise would be to read and re-read the second part, as it contains a series of deep observations, ideas and gems. You will find a lot of learning as well as agreement with in the second part... read the book for this alone, is my advise to you...