2011

It’s time to bid adieu to 2011. And welcome 2012 with open arms. Like always, the end of a year is a time for reflection, for nostalgia, for looking back, and also for excitement, for anticipation and for looking forward to a better year ahead. Every year, we have regrets, and make new year resolutions. But for me, it  has been a time of learning, of introspection. So, what did I learn in 2011?

  • This year I learnt that patience always bears fruit. I learnt that if something is denied to you, it simply means that you probably deserve a lot better. I learnt that life’s lessons are long, but very effective.
  • I learnt that you need to love yourself in order for others to love you. I learnt that like love, friendships can be made instantly, broken instantly, and even mended, but very slowly. I learnt to take it all with a smile.
  • I learnt that life constantly challenges you to be better than you are. I learnt that these challenges can come in different forms, but they are almost always a passport to a better life.
  • This year I learnt not to judge a book by its cover, or a person by a first impression. I learnt that what seems is not always what is.
  • This year I learnt to adjust, to do my own work, to make a home. This was not without hiccups, adjustment issues, upsets and arguments…but I still learnt.
  • This year I learnt never again to underestimate the effort involved in the work that my mother (and all mothers) does at home. I learnt to say the word “housewife” with a newfound respect!

And you? What did you learn?

Infidel – Ayaan Hirsi Ali – some thoughts

I just finished reading the memoirs of Dutch feminist activist and politician, Ayaan Hirsi Ali. I found it honest, refreshing, and very bold. This is not a review of the book, and my thoughts appear in no particular order. This is just a compilation of how I felt when I was reading this book.

I find that Hirsi Ali is completely honest about her feelings about Islam, even at great risk to her life. She has been accused by many of being neocon in the garb of feminism, but some of her questions strike a very deep chord in my heart, as a reader, as a feminist, and as a woman. Her repeated questioning of the logic behind obviously unfair practices such as segregation, veiling, and the demand for complete obedience of wife to husband stay relevant in contemporary, non-Islamic cultures as well. If God (whatever name you choose to give him) is indeed merciful and compassionate, why would he demand that women submit at the cost of their self-respect, their individualism and sometimes even their life? We have no answers.

Hirsi Ali’s account of her genital cutting when she was six is cold, detached and dispassionate. She almost sounds like she is narrating something that happened to someone else. And that makes it even more chilling. The idea of FGM is so repulsive, so depressing and so utterly cruel that you can’t help but develop respect for a woman who has made it through it all and is now fighting for women’s rights. Her turning away from Islam, and questioning the very existence of God is entirely understandable, even if you don’t agree with her. Maybe, just maybe, I would have been atheist too, had I been so brutally cut in the name of religion, and made to marry a stranger without even my presence being required to solemnise my wedding.

Finally, her struggles, against men, against the religion which demands nothing but submission, against forced marriage, against female genital mutilation and for women’s rights make us respect her immensely for the work she has done so far. As for the book, it is definitely worth reading for the many insights it provides on the wide variations in the practice of Islam, on the increasing influence of the orthodox Brotherhood and the political climate in the Somalian peninsula. Read it! You won’t regret.

The Dirty Picture – A review

For the first time in life, I watched a film within the first week of its release. Given the state of films these days, I am actually thankful that this one was worth my time and money. Now, where do I start? If I must summarize this film in one sentence, it is total value for money. It tells the story it wants to fairly well, has no pretensions of being an intellectual film (which suits me just fine) and entertains you for the 2.5 hours it runs. Like every other film ever made anywhere, it has its share of ups and downs. So, here we go!

Storyboard

Despite the disclaimer in the beginning of the film, it is the story of Silk Smitha, the wildly-popular item girl of the 80s. The director stays faithful to reality, while still taking some liberties with the details. Even our heroine is called Silk. For those familiar with the film industry scene of the 80s, the characters are familiar. The film doesn’t make any claims of making you think, and stays a true commercial film. Personally, I see nothing wrong with that.

Screenplay

Several loose ends. Why did the mother shut the door in Silk’s face? What transpired between the day she left home and the day she came back? What relationship did she share with her mother before she ran away from home? The mother is seen quietly weeping at Silk’s funeral without any conflicting emotions. The mother’s character lacks the depth that would have contributed greatly to the story.

The director could have devoted more time to exploring the complex relationship between the director and Silk, rather than wasting time on a rather one-dimensional love affair with the superstar’s brother that seems to serves no purpose other than enrage the superstar. Even the character of Ramakant as the superstar’s writer-brother seems to lack depth. A little bit of attention to the men in Silk’s life would have elevated the film to a level higher than just entertaining.

Whose idea was it to include that hilarious dream song between the director and Silk? It is completely pointless to include a song at that point and trimming away the excess would have made a good film better.

Music

Acquiring the rights to the Tamil song “Nakka Mukka” makes all the difference to the soundtrack. From the very beginning, the song sets the mood for the story. Every song takes you back to the 80s when films were garish and loud. On the whole, for a movie set in the 80s, the music was apt.

Acting

This is Vidya Balan’s film through and through. She carries the film on her shoulders with a performance that is nothing short of outstanding. There is plenty of cleavage, plenty of intimate scenes and plenty of swear words. But somehow, you never feel any of it is vulgar. Maybe, as other reviewers have suggested, it is because she gives herself so completely to the role that it seems natural rather than pretentious or vulgar. Despite prancing around in short skirts and cleavage-revealing tops, Vidya Balan manages to look sexy rather than vulgar. The way her appearance changes over the course of the film is testimony to the amount of work she has put into this role. Personally, she is the last person I would have expected to carry off a role like this. But, true to her style, she comes up trumps.

Once again, Naseerudeen Shah reminds you exactly why he is a veteran actor. He suitably downplays his role to give Vidya Balan her space but still matches her performance in every scene they have together. The aging superstar look, the pencil-thin moustache, the attitude, the behavior, all are perfect. Someone tell me why we don’t see more of him in movies? I was surprised to notice that Emraan Hashmi can actually act. And Tusshar Kapoor as well.  Maybe it’s true that a good actor is made by the director in whose hands he puts himself. With all-round good performances by everyone the acting is well above average.

The little things

Of course there are little things that rankle. Like the fact that the characters speak impeccable Hindi in a tiny Chennai potti-kadai. But this is a Hindi movie, so what did you expect? Also, the character of Nayla as the journalist is woefully underdeveloped. I kept expecting some sort of friendship/camaraderie to develop between Silk and Nayla and it never happened.  She merely reports what we already know. We get the feeling that we did not really need that character. Just a bunch of magazine clippings with gossip stories or scathing criticism would do.

The final verdict

Must watch. Once in a theatre, and repeat watches on DVD. Just try buying the originals and not the pirated version. This film deserves that!