Write & Watch

Salesh Dipak Fernando

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Rakshadhikari Baiju Oppu – MOVIE REVIEW

 

Rakshadhikari Baiju Oppu was a pleasant surprise. I didn’t hear much about the film when it came out. There was no warning or the usual critically acclaimed label to warrant a watch on the big screen. There was a positive buzz but nobody screamed that it was an outstanding film. Baiju caught me off guard. 

It was simple, sweet and soul-stirring. I would even call it the best Malayalam of the year so far.  For starters, Baiju’s experiences aren’t alien.  Baiju’s life is a perfect ode to those unfulfilled wishes we have within ourselves. It is an ideal representation of the pauses we yearn for ourselves. In short, we all aspire to be in Baiju’s shoes at one point or another.

There’s no rush or commotion as we travel along with Baiju and his quirky group of friends. It is almost as if Baiju has a lot of time in his hands to cherish the inherent simplicity of life. To the naked eye, Baiju is an overgrown man who thrives on nostalgia. But there’s more to this tale than what meets the eye. There’s a simple soul which effortlessly lives it up. You don’t need a lot of to keep you happy.  Just a simple existence where you don’t have to fit in with the rest of the participants will do just fine.

Baiju’s world explores how affinity to a particular place can instil a sense of belonging and togetherness to members of a particular community. The place becomes a part of their identity. The place becomes a part of their daily existence.  The place and the person are inseparable. As kids, we all had that one place which we loved visiting again and again. The memories remain fresh even to this day.

Baiju’s world thrives on these memories. This is one film which I didn’t want to end. Do yourself a favour this weekend.  If you have nothing else to do live Baiju’

 

TIT FOR TAT – BOOK REVIEW

I picked up Tit for Tat by Archana Sarat because I love stories which are precise and to the point. The collection of flash fiction is an engaging ode to gloom. The biggest plus is the consistency in terms of tone and narrative style.  There is no deviation from start to finish.

I loved the fact that the author decided to completely skip the happily ever part of life to explore despair. Maybe that’s her way of showing the middle finger to the cruel unexpected twists of fate that life often hands out to us.

Every story made me yearn for more. It is heartening to see someone use pain as a twist factor. Thankfully she chooses not to dwell on the consequences of loss. A loss in itself can be a compelling narration. 

Consistency in tone is both a boon and a bane. After a point, even the twists become predictable because the reader is mentally prepared for the worst. And I literally wanted more in terms of the number of stories.  A few more stories would have done the trick.  My pick of the lot is HS174. 

If you love flash fiction and if you love stories which explore the dark side then Tit for Tat is the book for you. Pick it up and relish this short and engaging trip to the dark side.

Amazon Link

Tit For Tat

 

 

CLAIRE – BOOK REVIEW

It’s been a while since I read a good murder mystery by a first time Indian author. Poornima Bhaskar’s Claire caught me off guard.  Claire sounded more like one of those happily ever stories that we hear time and again but once I started reading Claire I was in for a pleasant surprise.

On the surface, Claire is a murder mystery but for me, the book was an exaggerated version of the various masks that we choose to wear. And I mean exaggeration in a good way. There are two distinct identities within each of us.  While one is the real person with all our scars and imperfections the other identity is the mask we choose to reveal to the people around us.

As the investigation unfolds each of the breadcrumbs reveal an unknown facet of a known identity. There’s an interesting tussle between who Claire was and who Claire really is as we move forward. This tussle forms the crux of the narration. Each person in the story is different with traits that make them stand out from the rest. Of course like all murder mysteries, everyone is a suspect in one way or the other.

The success or failure of a mystery novel depends on how the author decorates the obvious. It is here that Poornima scores big time. She gives the reader hardly any time to pause and reflect and lures the reader in with frenetic pacing and an engaging narration. When the author paces the narration well it hides the minor blemishes and keeps the reader engaged.

This is one book I would recommend the readers to read in one go. It’s precise and engaging. The one downside for me was the creative liberty taken towards the very end. Though it serves the purpose even without that the book would have worked very well. To me, it felt like an unnecessary diversion. But that’s just me for others it might be a necessary addition.

I am yet to reveal the other characters in the story and I will not. To me, it is all about Claire and how her presence and actions impact the lives of people around her. Who are these people? What role do they play? You have to pick the book to find out.

It’s been a long time since I came across a book which deserved 4 stars. I have been stuck at 3 for a long time. But Claire deserves 4 Stars and thumbs up.  If you like mystery novels and stories which are fast-paced this is the one for you.

Congrats Poornima Bhaskar for a very good start as an author. All the very best for the future.

Claire – Paperback 

Claire – Kindle

                                                                                                       

TANGLISH COMEDY – SIRI SIRI SIRI 9.0

 

I had already attended Kala Gala 5.0 so I was naturally curious to see how Siri Siri Siri 9.0 would pan out.  The first thing which struck me was the ambience and the performing space.  A small space with a full house ensured that every joke landed.  The laughter was contagious and the minor blemishes were nullified.  In short, it was a perfect space for a wonderful evening.

The ensemble itself was perfect with the right mix of new comers and experienced comics. The show started off with Aaquib and the usual Name related jokes and slowly took a diversion towards double meaning jokes. Thankfully there was a healthy balance of Naughty and Nice which kept the audience engaged. His huge frame was another major plus. There are some comics who are blessed with the ability to make the audience laugh just by being there and Aaquib is one of them.

The next on stage was Gurumurthy.  He surprised us with a brand new perspective on  Dasavatharam. Though there was a slight lag when he started off he was in his elements once the many Kamals of Dasavatharam started clashing with each other. It was refreshingly original and funny.

The next comic was Aravind.  There was the Chinnama effect which most of us had experienced in school, CA woes and the long but subtle dig on people who are hell bent on finding fault with the reviewers especially those who review movies. It was a perfect stretch of interesting jokes which brought the house down consistently.

And then it was the turn of the lone woman comic Praveshika who picked out one of her own traits to bring laughs. It was the sort of self-depreciating humour I have been yearning to see for a long time. It is always a good practice to laugh at ourselves before the world laughs at us. I loved the way she brought nepotism into the equation. It was a perfect start to a long journey ahead.

The next on stage was Soda. I loved how the way he cracked a joke at the expense of one the performers. But the best part was his willingness to create awareness on the flip side of the now infamous blue whale game through his humour.  Humour, if done well, is the right form to drive home a message

Sriram’s act sounded almost like the death knell of newspapers.  His set was about the dwindling interest in reading newspapers. From Editorials to Obituaries he covered the things that we often overlook while reading the newspapers. It was smartly presented and neatly done.

The last of the evening was Mervyn Rozz. The most important act in a comedy ensemble usually comes right at the end. The role of the last stand up comic is of utmost importance. You have to ensure that the audience leaves the room smiling. And the act has to be very different from the acts that preceded the finale. When the show started I was eager to see who was going to be the man for the finale.  Who was going to be the Jagan of today’s show?

Mervyn on his part was relentless, precise and spot on.  Mervyn has this remarkable ability to manufacture jokes out of thin air. Most of the jokes were spontaneous jokes based on the audience and the participants. He consistently engaged everyone in the room and had his own version of School and Marriage Paridhabangal. It was a perfect finale.  For me, it was another well spent evening.

 

 

TANGLISH COMEDY – KALA GALA 5.0.

 

I was a little skeptical when I was called upon as a critic for a Tanglish Comedy Kala Gala 5.0. That space is something which I haven’t explored before. But I am grateful for the opportunity. I have been to their shows before this time I wasn’t there just for the laughs. The show had 6 acts which varied in tone, structure and approach.

The show began with Annamalai whose set had one primary objective – To warm up the audience for the acts that were to follow and he was spot on in that aspect. The jokes were very toned down but very well phased out to keep the audience in splits consistently.

The next two acts were Abishek Kumar and Syama Harini. I half expected Abishiek to start off with a comedy about his name. But he took a pleasant detour to comment on Depression. To present it in a comical way without offending anyone in the audience takes a lot of effort. And there’s this unusual chirpiness about Abishek which resonated very well with the audience.

Syama’s set was very precise and to the point. She focused on periods which is again a topic which we rarely speak about. It’s supposed to be a taboo. There was a lot to ponder for the audience in between the laughs. To me, these two sets were the high points of the entire show. It is important to have some space for comedy which is socially relevant.

Krithin was the next on stage – The guest spot. His set felt dry humor but a little too dry for my liking. But then that’s me. It seemed a little too abrupt too. A bit of work and the same set would be top-notch.

Marasamy started off very well by taking a dig at his grandfather. But after a point it became repetitive. A little too stretched beyond the time frame required for grandfather jokes. Maybe he could have tried to fill in with something else just to add some variety and avoid repetition.

Jagan is what you would call a glorious finale. He’s got that amazing ability to keep the audience hooked for the entire time frame. Every joke landed. Every musical note was a laugh riot and more importantly his set was something which everybody could relate to. It was a perfect end to a fabulous evening.

Despite the minor hiccups I loved how the acts were spaced out. Kudos to the entire for a brilliant effort.

 

 

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW – RANDOMLY ORDERED

 

This review wasn’t on the cards an hour ago.  Picking up Randomly Ordered for reading was an instinctive reaction. For starters, I loved note at the beginning which gave the readers an idea of what to expect. More often than not our working days are filled with set routines. Wake up, Go to Office, Finish the Day’s work, Come back Home and Sleep. It does like a mediocre day to the naked eye.

We seldom pause and reflect on the extraordinary sequence of thoughts that occupy our mind day in and day out.  From the time we wake up to the time we sleep our mind functions like a never-ending maze with each action and reaction resulting in a particular thought process. Randomly ordered amplifies an ordinary day in a person’s life by sprinkling it with extraordinary thoughts.

Randomly ordered is smartly written in the sense it packs in all the necessary elements to keep the readers hooked till the end. There is the Rajini- Illayaraja touch, a brief nostalgic time travel and more importantly it finishes with a flourish. Each Chapter is set in a particular time and my favorite is 1:35 PM. Read the novella and you will know why.

On the flip side the minor editing flaws, especially at the beginning, could have been avoided and a couple more chapters to nullify the huge time jumps would have made it a perfect read.

The author claims it to be an experiment of sorts but I believe it would appeal to everybody. All of us are used to the routine in our daily existence. Randomly Ordered adds a little bit of spice to our ordinary day. It is one of those nice, breezy, harmless reads which will make you feel good.

Pick it up if you love short reads which doesn’t take too much of your time.

 BOOK – RANDOMLY ORDERED

AUTHOR – KARTHIK PASUPATHY 

GODHA – MOVIE REVIEW

Godha is a glorious surprise.  I knew the film would be good but it turned out to be a wonderful lesson on smart film making. It is yet another sports film but what stood out was the simple narration. The film is just 2 hours but it has traces of Woman Empowerment. Inclusion, Individual Aspirations, and Collective Strength. Godha addresses all of these topics yet it never tires the audience.

The Joie d verve touches you at the beginning of the film remains intact till the very end. And for once there is no gender bias when it comes to empowerment.  The yearning for an equal space finds a lovely voice in the film.

The film doesn’t scream to make a statement. Godha isn’t in your face either. It is smart, funny and subtle with pearls at the right places to drive home the messages scattered across the two hours. The warmth that embraces you when the end credits roll stays with you for a very long time.  

Another major plus is the way the creators amplify the locality to draw the audience into the narrative. Malayalam cinema has been fairly consistent in this aspect over the years. Almost every story has a local flavor to it which is very distinct and helps in establishing the characters as well.

Godha pairs up two unconventional fresh protagonists and both Tovino Thomas and Wamiqa Gabbi play to their strengths and perform well. Tovino Thomas might just be the next big thing in Malayalam Cinema. Wamiqa Gabbi is the surprise package in the film. She was splendid in Malai Nerathu Mayakkkam and with Godha she scores once again. Music by Shaan Rahman and cinematography by Vishnu Sarma blend well with the mood of the film.

And then there’s the small detail of Renji Panikar once again coming up with a top-notch performance. Kudos to Basil Joseph and team for a well-made film. What baffles me time and again is why other industries aren’t able to replicate the simple storytelling pattern of Malayalam Cinema. The scale isn’t big yet they consistently deliver in terms of content and a big fat salute for the same. I know most of you wouldn’t have watched this in theatres. But do catch it on DVD. A must watch,

Godha – Punches above it’s weight.

TARAMANI – MOVIE REVIEW

Taramani – A film which I loved and hated all at once. A film which starts off with great promise but falls way short of being one of those memorable love stories which we will cherish forever.

Ram gets his women right which deserves a huge round of applause but he gets his men horribly wrong which sort of nullifies the joy that we get from celebrating the imperfections of the women on-screen. The men are half boils who don’t deserve to exist.

The first half sets it up so beautifully but the second half goes on and on and on until it exhausted me. You know your destination is Taramani and board your mode of transport in the hope of reaching there soon but the driver travels the entire city before reaching Taramani instead of opting for the shortest route.

The problem with Taramani is that it deviates too much from the central conflict with too many sub plots which convey too many things all at once.

I find it hard to understand why our creators find it very difficult to write roles where you don’t have to pull down the characters from one gender to elevate the other gender. Why can’t the cry for an equal footing translate on screen too? 

Yuvan’s music is soulful though I am not a big fan of the composer rendering most of his songs. Sreekar Prasad could have done a better job by chopping off scenes which stretch endlessly. The cinematography by Theni Easwar is eye catching. Ram’s voice overs pack a punch where he is brutally honest regarding the things that matter to him.

Andrea gets a meaty role and does a decent job. The debutant Vasanth Ravi tries to do what he can to salvage a half baked character sketch.

The second half screams self-indulgence and that’s where it falls way short of what it could have been. Ram the director impresses in parts but is largely unsure of the journey he wants to undertake. 

Taramani is a plausible decent one-time watch – Nothing more nothing less.

LIPSTICK UNDER MY BURKHA – MOVIE REVIEW

 

 I would love to say LIPSTICK UNDER MY BURKHA a great film but it ends up being yet another plausible film which is saved by a great cast and good performances.

Oh yes, the conflicts that arise when a woman yearns for sex does evoke interest especially when you see it in four different dimensions but after a point, it goes on and on ultimately leading to a finale where the conflict remains as it is without a proper closure. It is as if the creators opted for a safe landing when there was an option to go all out

All the 4 ladies do their best to elevate the film. It is always a pleasure to see Ratna Pathak and Konkana Sen Sharma perform. Ratna Pathak earns the viewer’s empathy as the older woman. Her role is an echo of how the Indian society views sex. It is almost a taboo to yearn for sex irrespective of how badly your body needs it.

If the film had replicated the execution of Ratna Pathak’s portion it would have been one of those spectacular films that we would be raving about. But it falls well short

But kudos for the thought process which alone makes it a worthy one time watch. But lipstick didn’t give me a sense of fulfillment like Parched did. Parched was a complete film.

You don’t settle for a moan when there is an option of screaming in pleasure. But lipstick Under My Burkha is just a moan.

 

 

PEOPLE WHO INSPIRE ME – ISWARYA RAJAGOPAL

 

Iswarya  – I had no idea that she would turn out to be one of the constants in my life when we started out.  In fact, I underestimated her presence until I got to know her better. I met this beautiful soul when I was going through one of the worst phases of my life. I was so fragile that a small hiccup would tear me apart. My life seemed like one big bundle of pessimism. I couldn’t even muster the courage to greet new people I met. I hid behind the comfort zone of old relationships and past memories.

And throughout the whole nightmare, this girl made me a part of her daily existence. She would listen to my nonsense every day reassuring me that things would get better.  It was tough but she held on without letting go. Other people would just hear and forget but this girl chose to listen until I got rid of my scars.

It requires a lot of courage to hold on to a person when they are at their worst but she did that as if it was an everyday habit.  The ease at which she understood my turbulence surprised me initially but as I got to know her better I understood why she held on to me firmly. We both thrive on the same emotion – Love.  Love has this remarkable ability to forge unexpected bonds and heals scars and that’s exactly what happened between us.

In a world, everybody is rushing to be part of the race Iswarya reminds me of a beautiful pause button.  She’s someone who can savour life for what is without worrying too much about what lies ahead. No big aspirations or ambition just a life filled with love. There’s an inherent simplicity in the way she approaches life which is very beautiful. I wish there were more people like her around we wouldn’t have to worry about success-failure, winning or losing.

And to date, she remains the only person outside of my family who calls me by the favourite part in my name.  There’s a certain joy in seeing a person do that.

Best wishes Iswarya.  Cherish the love and hold on to your way of life. Good things await you.  

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