The Illusionist

Movie Name: The Illusionist (2006)

Language: English

Director: Neil Burger

Genre: Drama/Thriller

Rating: 6/10

This was a much awaited movie for me! It’s seldom that good things happen two at a go…and here it was…Ed Norton (my fave actor) and the beautiful realm of magic and illusion, coming together for duration of 100 odd minutes. It is even rarer…that someone actually manage to get Ed Norton “totally wasted” in a movie. 🙁 !!!

The movie had all the condiments to make it a super-duper hit…I would say that bad casting ruined it.  Norton didn’t look like the illusionist…he had this ‘gosh-these-pants-are-tight’ expression throughout the movie. For a guy who gave us Primal Fear and American History X…this was a raw deal. Come on…there are standards to meet. I hate to admit that Ed Norton acted bad…and hence the blame on casting :P!  He was so very wooden and lacked the charisma associated with illusionist…and add to the list of bad casting…Mr. Paul Giamatti! He failed to live upto the role of Inspector Uhl, and botched up the characterization …he slides ‘Sideways’:). The movie has a storyline that’s way too predictable and the best illusions are left without an explanation and hence fail to notch points on the ‘reality’ aspect of the illusions

The movie is worth a watch simply for the superb special efforts. The effects cover up for most of everything…even the lack of a definite story line to a certain extent. Ed Norton fans…go easy…it’s just an illusion afterall!

The Host
Movie Name: The Host (2006)

Language: Korean

Director: Joon-ho Bong

Genre: Horror/Thriller

Rating: 7.5/10

This was a movie that my brother had got me and as of the moment I had gotten to know that it was one of those chemical-induced-mutated-creature film, I had a feeling of total aversion to spend about 1.5 hrs of the same shit that Godzilla and the likes put me through a few years ago. But my bro convinced me by saying that it was one of the most top grossing movies in Korea this year…and given my liking for Korean films, I settled in admist uncomfortable squirms!

The Host20 minutes odd into the movie…I was like…SWEET MOTHER OF GOD!!! The creature is …well…mutated, but amazingly realistic. By the end of the movie I was sure that such a thing existed in Korea. It tends to get a bit melodramatic at times, but totally worth it! Also look out for the political satire that the director tends to convey to the audience…there is a definite well rooted under current that becomes evident to observers, as the story progresses. Joon-ho Bong and his fave hero Kang-ho song team up yet again to deliver this fine film . One of their earlier ventures that I happened to see was ‘Memories Of A Murder’, which also had a decent story line.

As of any other classy Korean film that I had happened to catch … this one too holds water with respect to their trademark perfectionism. These guys know what to show and how to catch the viewers unaware. Predictability is something that never happens too often in their movies. The way they work their cameras …is pure art in motion, and they would go to any extent just to get the ‘right’ scene. ‘Gwoemul’ (the Korean name), is as surprising as it sounds…I thought I would never hear myself say this about another ‘mutation’ flick…but yeah….WATCH IT!!!

Mumbai Local

Me and my brother take a local train to Borivli…and infornt of us sat two old men perhaps in their 70s or 80s! What we saw/heard thence on from Andheri to Borivli was mind-boggling in all the truest senses. You think old men are slow…eat this!

(One guy (A) sitting on the ‘4th’ seat in the train to the more comfortably seated guy (B) )
A to B : “Arre…have you seen Dombivli Fast…it’s true…this (referring to the 4th seat) adds up to all the other tensions in life…enough to frustrate someone!!!”

Keyword: Frustration

B to A: “Arre I spoke to Mr. Dandekar re the other day. He is all pissed…poor man’s daughter is in the hospital…. (then I lost track as I got a call…which lasted 3 minutes 23 seconds…by the time i got back they had moved on…)

Keyword: ???

B to A:“The bloody Government is doing nothing…bloody Andheri flyover was being made since the I was dating (Hahhahaha…they chuckle away!!!). And the potholes…it is so difficult to drive…you end up paying so much more to the rickshaw and taxis…as don’t go straight anymore!”
(I go like what the…and it was a matter of little surmise that the keyword had to be…Government )

Keyword: Taxi

A to B: “The other day I met this taxi driver…he says that they are liable to a new tax all together…why are they putting these poor people to trouble, they should be targeting those rich brats who run around with foreign cars on roads”

Keyword: Cars and Taxation

B to A: Arre I heard that they have to pay 105% excise on the foreign vehicles in the first place…to import them. (In Marathi) You forgot the Sachin Tendulkar’s Ferrari issue???

Keyword: Sachin Tendulkar

A to B: What has happened to that Sachin…at one time he used to …

Keyword: Cricket …cricket …cricket!!!

(I shuddered as they entered talks regarding cricket…I knew what was going to happen next!!! Expert comments flew all across regarding all the remaining members of the team …followed by other Squads of the Test and the One Day version!)

In between I caught glimpses of everything from Dhoni’s Brylcreem to Sehwag’s Boost…and Brett Lee’s song with Lata!!!

In the half an hour odd journey from Andheri to Borivli, they transcended everything that defined time and space, in terms of their coverage…at a speed faster than their own brain! Speaking of space…the last thing that hit our ears as we hopped on to the Borivli Platform… “ India’s Moon Mission…Chandraayan basically….!”

Please don’t ask me for the keyword there…I have absolutely no clue!

Syd Barrett

The lonsesome cuckoo sings again;
Wiping away its beady eye,
Looking up at the falling drops,
Questioning,”Where is rain?”

A juicy bug, and some grain,
Perched on a low branch, it ate
Then suddenly, a slip and a fall,
And a cry,”Oh!, what a disdain!”

The thorny tree rips it, feathers stain!
The red cascades over the black,
Heard is then a mirthless laugh
Sayin’,”To me…What is pain?”

The lonesome cuckoo sings again.

Called conceited and oh-so vain;
For eternity,misjudged and misunderstood,
A morbid melody escapes its throat
“…it’s so inhumane”!

Its tiny heart knows no refrain,
Yearns for the heights, high and mighty,
That the hawks and the eagles soar!
“Have wings to fly, but my feet…in chain!”

With a thud it hit the grassless terrain
Marked by a stone, A wild-eye shone
The little boys cried in glee.
Another victory to the two-faced reign!

“Wrong turns, many a misguided lane,
took I and I am sorry!But so did you…
I ain’t a cuckoo, and I ain’t insane!”
And for the last time around…the lonesome cuckoo sang again!

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Movie Name: Dombivli Fast (2005)

Language: Marathi

Director: Nishikant Kamat

Genre: Drama/Thriller

Rating: 9/10

Ever so once in a while, comes a movie, that makes you think about stuff that you already know…yet it manages to create a kind of disbelief at the sheer starkness of the entire thing. Dombivli fast blazes the tracks and races on, through your auricles and ventricles, before coming to a sordid halt deep within your cerebral cortex. It is a marvelous journey about values, integrity, pain and anger, seen through the eyes of a commonplace middleclass family. The opening scene that borders on paranoia, is but a truth that a majority of Mumbaikars experience day in-day out.

This was a directorial debut that denoted not just a great film, but a beautiful yet powerful script as well. The screenplay evoked sentiments bordering on the extremes within the viewers. I watched it with my entire family and every single one of us had a few tear drops streaming down our faces. Madhav Apte, the protagonist, is shown as a forthright and a no –nonsense man, who tries to do a tightrope between work and home, with the Dombivli-Churchgate bound fast train as the connector, between the two. Madhav Apte’s letter to God…was the most profound and awe inspiring moment in the entire film. The conviction with which he delivers it, may have empowered many a viewers to question everything that goes about them. All in all this is a movie with a very purposeful script, powerful screenplay, beautiful camera work, and excellent use of lighting, that renders a very rich texture to the whole film. Watch this for two men – Nishikant Kamat and Sandeep Kulkarni, the face behind Madhav Apte

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Play: Excavators

Language: English

Written & Directed By: Ajay Krishnan

Venue: Prithvi Theatre

Rating: 6/10

I haven’t seen Butter and Mashed Bananas…but of what I had heard of it, it made me feel that I had missed out on something exceptional. So when a friend of mine bought the tickets in advance, I was like… “Hey…I ain’t missing this one” So then me along with a few of my colleagues, reach the venue, this Saturday, looking forward to some fundoo entertainment. The drama starts before the play does…the people with the tickets are late!!! And 2 outta the 3 bells, that denote that start of play, had been rung! We make it in within minutes of the start…and we see a semi-filled theatre…fair enough given a Saturday evening and 150 bux worth tickets, I thought. The set was sparse having just two long benches as the prop. Simplistic….yes! And…we muted our cell phones and waited with baited breath!

Entered 4 characters in the pitch black …and then in the dark…dozed off my Sr. Product Manager (or so goes the grapevine…)! Now the play starts off in a funny way and it proceeds too in a funny way …(in fact, one of my friends went to the extent of testing the very limits of acoustics at Prithvi, with her heartfelt laughter)! But then… IT ENDS IN A VERY ‘FUNNY’ WAY 🙁 ! It was when all of them came out and bowed that …we knew we were supposed to get out :O! There was not one amongst us who whole heartedly understood, what the guys (and one girl…last thing I need is an accusation!) tried to convey!

Ok so here goes my interpretation of the entire thing…
The child comes out of the mother’s womb and grows in a matter of minutes, and during this superfast growth encounters various people under various circumstances. It all begins with an enthusiasm to do something new, without clear cut reasoning behind it. (personified in the play by digging a hole). With time comes responsibility, and then strings begin to attach themselves to the job. One tends to ask questions as to why he was doing, what he is doing, and tries to ‘find’ something in the whole deal. A quest for money, recognition and fame begins…and out goes Gandhi, commitment and above all…the happiness in doing something all for yourself. A quagmire of politicians, people full of conceit, blind faith and selfishness drain the person of the last few units of energy. What he digs for, in the end entombs himself. To sum up…with so much digging…it ended up full of holes!

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When I was a kid, my father made it a point to take us to various classical music concerts, as and when he could. He had learnt it as a kid, and is a decent singer in himself. We happened to be in Calcutta (it was named so while we were there :P!), for a period of 2 years, and , like the general notion is, the city is a great perpetrator of anything remotely art based. Calcutta saw the presence of an organization called the Rasika Ranjini Sabha, a group of music and art enthusiasts who organized shows by renowned performers for a yearly membership fee, as paltry as a hundred bucks. So every other Sunday used to be a family outing to a concert hall to see some greats like T.N Seshan or Ganesh-Kumaresh in action. I was in 5th or 6th grade and my brother 2 grades lower than me…and I wish I could fathom the beauty of the concerts then…’cause most of the times, we used to run amok at the hall, or pester our parents for those inevitable bathroom/I-am-feeling-hungry/I-wanna-go-home breaks. But, like they say ‘Kids will be kids…’

This Sunday, it was after more than 15 odd years that I got a chance to relive those moments. As me, my bro, my dad and a cousin made our way to the Shanmukhananda Hall, after an hour long wait in the queue, it was a nostalgic moment for me. TOI along with SBI were celebrating Pongal in its musical best. What better than a thorough Tamilian family, to lead us through it…Dr. L. Subramaniam, Kavita Krishnamurthy and their kids Seetha and Ambi! It was a good performance overall, as the family tried to touch up on all the different genres of music from jazz to classical and pop to Thillana in a span of about three hours. Doc started it all with a jazz –carnatic fusion and left many a guys wondering as to what hit them. To tell the truth…Seetha’s two English pieces and Kavita’s ‘Mr. India’ and ‘Nimbuda’ act could have been done without. Kavita made her presence felt with two high octave, high octane performances, ‘Om Namah Shivay’ and ‘Tu Hi Re’…beautiful to say the least! What took the cake though was the ‘father and son act’! Ambi ain’t most def not half as eloquent as Doc, but he shows that he’s gonna go twice as far! The highlight – the Mohanam piece by the duo!!! Simply spectaculatronikeshwarousness!!! There were times when Ambi failed to keep afloat with his father’s flight-o-fancy, and at such moments the father in Doc guided the kid and backed him beautifully. And for me, it was great to keep tabs on the thalam, alongside my dad 😀 !!! I would put it as an evening well spent…

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So then I was forced to turn up at Churchgate station at 6:30 sharp. My bro and one of my best friends stood there grinning ear to ear, as if they held the secrets to my future. In a way they did…and they did everything to ensure that I was aware of that. So when my subsequent proddings as to where the hell were they taking me, resulted in an exasperated reply “RAKHI DANCE BAR”, from my brother…I shut up…for another 30 seconds, ‘cause 30 seconds on…a scream left my throat, as both the guys thrust me into a taxi, and asked the driver to drive onto Jehangir Art gallery!!! I am a guy who failed his Elementary Drawing Exam, ‘cause his sunflower had gone RED :O …I shuddered.

What was in store for me was two hours of pure bliss…and I can’t thank my friend enough, for this treat!! Picture this…Max Mueller Bhavan Auditorium…25-30 odd invitees…a two hour long classical flute recital…4 Raagas …no accompaniments!!! It was the most beautiful ‘silence’ I ever experienced!

Jay Thakkar, a protégé of Shri Hari Prasad Chaurasia of 8 years, and an exponent of the bamboo flute in himself, was melody personified given those moments. To be honest, I know next to nothing regarding the ragas and classical technicalities, but I do have an ear for music, by God’s grace…and it was a moment that made me feel really grateful for that. Jay started it off with Raag Dhaani, setting up the tone for the evening. He follwed it up with Raag Kedar, and brought to an end, the first installment of the show. Part II flagged off with Raag Malkauns (Its Carnatic version ‘Mohanam’ happens to be Dad’s fave . A Raag Bhairavi signed off the concert as a brilliant display of aural exquisiteness! It may sound a bit melodramatic, but to say that in between, there were moments, when I closed me eyes and just let the music make me think up stuff! Trust me…you had to see it to believe it. I have always admired flute as an instrument…I owe it to Jay, for having shown me its true potent! It left me wishing that I take my music lessons more seriously. Dada and Bro…heartfelt thanx for an evening to remember!!!

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Last Saturday, I was home doing nothing but experiencing the beauty of uselessness and lethargy. I lay about on my bed, looking up at the blank ceiling of my room, as if a Michelangelo or Da Vinci drawn mural adorned it. The phone lying beside me rang…I was too tired to pick it, and dutifully yelled out asking my Dad to pleeeeeeeeease pick it. He gave me a look of loathing that would have wilted away the Garden of Eden. I then awaited a sermon, on everything anyone had ever scripted, about the fundamentals of being an ideal son and related karmic conjectures. I visualized my mom subsequently injecting just the right measure of melodrama into the whole event, probably as to how my brother was so very different and so very meticulous and so very ….to eternity and infinity. I immediately regretted the fact that picking up the stupid phone which was as close as half a meter from me, was a much better option, than making this unwarranted and inadvertent Herculean effort of paving a path for laments and criticism. I waited…but then I saw Dad break out into a smile that was wider than Grinch’s! By the look of it…something real good had happened!

My Dad’s eyes were glistening with happiness and he couldn’t hide it. Apparently the call that I had so dutifully ignored, happened to be meant for him. The call had barely lasted a few minutes. Back in his hometown, some of my Dad’s old buddies had congregated at one of their childhood haunts, and they gave him this call, as he was being missed! At their end they had passed on the cell phones and they all conveyed their regards in quick succession. My Dad then mentioned to me what the call was about in a very off-hand manner and proceeded to resume his newspaper reading. I could see that he wasn’t reading it, and had mentally projected him all the way to his home town, triggering a deluge of memories. His smile grew bigger by the minute…and that set me thinking…

I am 24 years old, and I have my fair share of best, good and bad friends. Would I be getting such a call, on one such lame Saturday afternoon, 25 odd years down the line? Would I be able to make it then? Where would we meet, if we all were to meet? I didn’t have answers to any of these…but I was sure of one thing…my Dad had a great set of friends :D!

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Play: Epilogue

Language: English

Written By: Maia Katrak

Direction: Rajit Kapur

Venue: Prithvi

Rating: 7/10

To begin…I am a novice when it comes to theatre and plays. Statistically speaking, this was my 3rd play ever…so you might want to refrain from reading the rest if you were actually looking forward to critical cliches. As your brain might rightfully be suggesting to you now…you can hardly call me a critic. But, what I can do, is offer you a perspective, true to the heart, that would be devoid of any classic theatrical details or technicalities. The following is what I saw and assimilated sitting at a 45 degree angle to the centre of the stage…

‘Epilogue’ is a simple story …. a simple story about simple people…simple people with complex minds. Not a new concept I agree…but a well depicted one, nevertheless! One morning a Parsi family, wakes up to the demise of the family elder Rustom (Sohrab Ardeshir), and they experience a sudden loss for everything that was associated with him. What we see is a brat of a daughter Meher (Meher Acharia-Dar), pregnant and who in herself, is capable of impregnating tumors into the head of her ‘Oh-I-am-so-funny’ hubby Freddie (Nadir Khan). A bereaved mother (Shernaz Patel) who works with clockwork precision, tries to walk the tight rope between her husband’s sudden death and her daughter’s pregnancy, which has run into a medical complication that stands to put both the child and the mother in peril. Amidst all this chaos, stands apparition-like…Rustom! Rustom is shown to be stuck midway between the living and the ones whose afterlife has been decided upon. It is here that he happens to meet the ghosts of two dead war soldiers, ‘The Thinking Man’ and ‘The One Hand Man'(Neil Bhoopalam & Mukul Chadda), who help Rustom make his presence felt amongst the living, long enough to see them through the times of trouble.

My reason to fall in love with the play – even for people who momentarily ceases to believe in ghosts, the play makes complete sense. A family goes temporarily dysfunctional, but subsequently, they manage to find the answers to their traumas, drawing strength from the magnanimous character of this deceased someone, whom they had always held in the greatest awe and respect. But then, what’s theatre without theatrics eh? So then we open-heartedly welcome funny, friendly ghosts and their rants, ravings and ‘dhonnggs’. Exemplary casting and direction, actors…super to the max, and finally, Miss Maia Katrak, a wonderful start. Why I liked the script so much…well…there is death, pain and tears on one hand and then there’s joy, laughter and poor jokes on the other! It’s a balanced out script. I am not mature enough to find out more flaws…perhaps the veterans would. Whatever be the case…all I can say to you Ms. Maia…is that if you want to know as to how well you have performed, all you have to do is read deep into your own script and your eulogies to atoms and molecules. I am not sure whether you are aware…but you have just put a few million molecules and tagged them your own…Feel proud! You have the first step in place … Keep walking!