Stranger Than Fiction, Closer To Reality

When I was a kid, I believed that the life we lead was actually someone else’s dream. The bad things would all end when they woke up and that none of the bad things were real. As a child, someone else always makes your decisions and you are pretty much happy that someone else steers the car for you. When you want to take control of your life, you know you’re growing up. That comforting thought, the ability to think someone else was dreaming my life for me, started to annoy me as I started growing up.

Then I started to think of myself as the leading lady of a film that was my life. I knew that no matter what mistakes I made, no matter how many times my heart broke and no matter how many times I failed, I would get up and make things right. It worked for me. It still does. The narrative of my life happens in my head, in my voice and most of the times this voice comes out as an affirmation. This narrative is a reminder that this is my life and that I am the creator of whatever happens in it.

What if I wake up and an alien voice starts narrating my life?

It would completely freak me out, despite the bizarre habit of narrating my own life in my head. So it comes as no surprise that Harold Crick, an IRS auditor gets completely psyched when he starts hearing the narrative of his life in a woman’s voice.

Stranger Than Fiction (2006) is the story of Harold Crick, who hears his life being narrated to him and then when the narration stops, Harold tries to figure out what lies ahead of him. Harold Crick is forced to break out of the monotony of his life and rediscover what genre his story falls under. Harold is auditing a deliberate tax evader, Ana Pascal. As he goes through her tax history, Harold starts to realise that he is attracted to Ana. If it weren’t for the narrative, Harold would have never noticed how he felt. I couldn’t help but wonder, how many times, we overlook what we really feel towards a thing or a person and go on to do what we think is right or what we think fits into our job description. Personally, every time I pass a shoe store, it would be cool to have a voice say, ‘She was attracted to the luminous silver sandals and the fiery red peep-toes. She found herself being pulled into the store to buy them, but as she tried the shoes on and walked to a mirror, she realised that she didn’t need them. They looked fabulous but the truth was that she was going to feel terribly guilty about buying them. Did she want to feel that guilty?’ Yes, a narrative can make you see things the way they are and no, you can’t suppress that voice.

It’s interesting to see Harold break out of his routine to live his life. The quest to find the genre of his life story becomes his life story. And he surrenders to the narrative of his life and prepares to embrace a tragic death because without the death, the narrative of his life would sound bland.  Irony.

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Look Who’s Calling

All I knew about ‘Karthik Calling Karthik’ before I entered the movie hall was that it’s about a loser who turns his life around. I fell in love with the opening credits, and then, the film just sort of rolled.
Karthik is a hard worker, but his work’s never noticed or appreciated. Karthik’s life is made up of an angry, domineering boss, indifferent coworkers who take credit for his achievements and a frustrating landlord. The fact that his lady love, Shonali, never notices him and is dating his coworker, doesn’t exactly make it all a rosy picture.  Things change when Karthik decides to stand up for himself and confront the boss. Karthik, has lost everything he had, but then a phone call shakes up his life. He manages to turn his life around and emerges a winner. He has a great job, a big pay packet and the love of his life is now his girlfriend. But who’s this Karthik who has been calling Karthik?
That’s the premise of the movie. The plot cleverly unfolds, although through the first half, you are convinced it’s all predictable. I was convinced that the whole movie would be about Karthik rising up and proving he’s not a loser. But I was mistaken.
The strength of the plot lasts only if the audience doesn’t know what to expect next. Therefore I won’t say anything else about the story. But I will say this, it grips you, makes you impatient even.
Farhan Akhtar is a brilliant actor and he’s proved it on prior occasions but Deepika really surprises you with a sincere effort to emote.
The loose ends get tied up in a rather clichéd manner toward the end and the epilogue is rather unnecessary. But all in all, I found the film entertaining and totally worth a watch…
My verdict: 4.5 on 5…

Pies, an abusive husband, a good doctor… A well baked story!

Of late I have been hooked to Castle, the TV series starring Natahn Fillion and I have been gushing to all and sundry about what a cutie pie he is. So I was steered toward this movie about pies which stars Nathan.
Of course, I started watching it reluctantly. I’d never heard of the film, I am on a diet and the last thing I needed was to watch a film about pies and start craving them. But I was suffering from a massive writer’s block, not much was coming out of the writing effort and the film was downloaded and sitting on my desktop. So, I began watching it.
Right from the get go, the film sucked me into feeling the underlying emotion, maybe it had to do with the fact that it was a bleak Wednesday evening.
The Story:
The Waitress takes us into the life of Jenna, a girl working hard for a living in southern America only to surrender all her money to her abusive husband, Earl. She longs to get out of the marriage, win a pie baking contest and be happy, but when she learns she is pregnant, she feels helpless and desperate. She goes about weighing her options as she invents a new pie each day (I can’t wait to try the bad baby pie and the ‘im having an affair pie’). Her only friends her co-workers. There’s also Old man Joe, a difficult customer who loves Jenna’s pies and is fond of Jenna.
In her quest to be happy and be appreciated, she ends up having an affair with Dr. Pomatter. All the loose ends of Jenna’s life are tied the moment she holds her newborn daughter, and thats the moment where Jenna takes the decisions she had always been putting off.
I’ve always loved films revolving around food or films that use food as a metaphor… The Waitress uses ‘pie making’ ever so adorably to tell us that we can reinvent our lives if we wanted to. It’s a shame that the film never made it to India, but I can understand why. To understand the film, it is important to understand the life in the American south. The America we outsiders see in popular films or TV shows is very different from interior America. It’s hard to understand why a girl like Jenna sticks with her husband even though he’s a jackass without understanding the life in interior America.
Keri Russell does a fine job of taking the audience through the emotions of a pregnant woman who goes from not wanting the baby to deriving the strength to dump her husband from her baby. She effortlessly lets you feel her desperation, helplessness and she makes you fall in love with her pies….
And may I add, I enjoyed mulling over about the film as much as I enjoyed watching it. I love films that seem light hearted and simple but give you a lot to think about… The Waitress is certainly one of those films…
And other films that involve food and are also good food for thought:
Chocolat: The metaphor is just wow!
Julie and Julia: Two women, common factor, food… Their journey
Sideways: It uses wine, but hey… Wine is food…
Ratatouille: Anyone can cook!
… and many more…

Review: Delhi 6

Ram Leela, NRI returning to the country, exuberant India and all that made me think Delhi 6 was going to be Swades revisited. But the soundtrack enthralled me, Sonam looked awesome, Abhishek seemed to look cute and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra was directing it. In my books, those were good enough reasons to be excited about a film. A million phone calls, super nagging messages and an annoyed friend were put on the line to acquire the tickets to the first day last show. ‘Don’t go! It’s a bad movie.’
‘Abbe acchi pikchur hain dekh le!’
‘Its random’
‘You will fall asleep!’
And in spite of all this, I maintained my excitement and plonked myself in the cushy seats.
And I wondered if signed up for a sightseeing trip to Chandni Chowk!
There’s the madness of Delhi, the soul of Chandni Chowk and all that, but you hope in the heart of your heart that all this is leading somewhere, that all this is building up to something. After all when Prasoon Joshi, Kamlesh Pandey and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra have written the film, you want to shut that little voice in your head that says ‘Kya ho kya raha hai?’. I couldn’t keep that voice shut for long.

The director clearly indulges himself in nostalgia, trying to recreate his Delhi and he struggles to form a medium to give out a social message. He ends up doing the former much more effectively. You find it hard to take the intense moments of the film seriously and certain metaphors are so downplayed that they are lost in the exuberance of ‘Delhi 6’.

Performances are awesome. Right from Waheeda Rehman who brings a sparkle to the screen to Sonam Kapoor who seems fresh and real, the cast keeps you enthralled.

But there were too many moments where I looked away and tinkered with my phone or laughed on better friend’s jokes (his jokes weren’t awesome, so you know). In my humble opinion, the second half of the film is much better (however absurd). Its fast paced, things happen, characters react and the story attempts to go somewhere. But sadly, it says in the confines of Delhi 6!

‘So random the movie is! I still am confused what the end meant,’ said the sister. Last I heard, the makers were confused about the ending themselves. We can see why!

Verdict: Watch only if you have the time and patience. Definitely a let down… I remember walking out of Rang De Basanti with a dazed feeling. I remember thinking about the characters for at least a week after I saw the film. I doubt Delhi 6 will have 1/10th of that impact on me.

…Hmmn

I never knew what love was (not that I know now!) until I saw Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge! The day I watched the movie I fell in love. The guy was Raj, Raj Malhotra. It was the magic of the film and the magic of SRK.

Of course, the love of SRK has made do some crazy things including buying a car he endorses (Santro is zipping still and nobody’s complaining, so get that judgmental look off your face, NOW!).

Since the last two years, my singledom has been a cause of worry to all and when they ask me, my answer is, ‘No guy’s swept me off my feet!’ and I go into a dreamy smile and silently tell myself, ‘except SRK!’

People noticed this and started telling me I needed to get over SRK if I was to ever notice any other guy around. After all who can hold a candle to a superstar, right? So in my set of resolutions for the year 2009 I made a list of things for my ‘get-over-SRK’ mission. Here’s what I needed to do to stick to it.

  1. Not grin dreamily everytime a song related to Shah Rukh appears on TV/Radio or wherever.
  2. Avoid longingly looking at his pictures in the newspaper
  3. Stop buying the products he endorses (If they r awesome, as they mostly are, I will still buy them)
  4. Give up on dreaming about him randomly.
  5. Stop talking about how he’s the right one, he’s taken, so me being single is all fine!
  6. Stop looking for him on all airports, trains stations etc.

So yeah I have pretty much stuck to it, until my Goa trip happened. On the trip, nothing made me smile like a line or two from ‘Ruk Jaa’. I couldn’t stop analysing how he’s a ‘smart’ brand manager and not a repetitive actor and I realised that the man is a source of great joy in my life!

So yeah, I am not giving up on him. I will love him. And btw, I am now following him on twitter. So, any hopes of me getting over the S man are officially down the drain!

PS: Driving 650 kms in a day can bring out a lot of inane thoughts and somehow the fatigue gives you the freedom to say it out loud!

The Magic’s Gone

Anybody who knows me knows I eat, live and breathe movies. I enjoy an abstract French film as much as a grand Chinese picture. I dig dramatic sci-fi films as much as I adore romantic comedies that make you weep and smile at the same time. But when it comes Indian cinema there’s a different magic. It’s like speaking your mother tongue. It comforts you.

Once a year, when Shah Rukh Khan movie releases, I am all dreamy eyed. I love the man, have loved him since his TV (Circus) days. The so called ‘purist’ cinema lovers might sneer at me for saying this but I think Shah Rukh is talented and smart. He can do offbeat cinema (remember Anjaam, Maya Memsaab and Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa) and he carries off being the quintessential ‘Rahul’ who dances in Swiss valleys with a chiffon clad woman. Smartly enough, he’s realised that the way to the heart of the masses is through these dreamy ‘Yashrij’ish romances.

Of course, now that he’s been labelled the ‘King Khan’, he’s moved away from the typical romances and explored different genres of cinema. I believe that two of his best performances have been ‘Swades’ and ‘Chak De India’. In Swades he played the NRI who comes back to India and rediscovers his love for the ’Motherland’ and in Chak De he plays a fallen Hockey player who coaches an all girls team to play at the World Cup.

These off beat roles of his made me love the actor so much that with the promos of Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, I nearly jumped out of my seat with excitement. I couldn’t wait to watch Shah Rukh play this simple man with a moustache, when we all know how far from this character the real SRK is. The tagline for the Aditya Chopra movie promised us an extraordinary love story and as a girl who grew up watching Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, I believed it would be. In fact, for a long time I haven’t felt the magic at the movies.

As I settled into Rab Ne… I waited for the magic to strike me but… nothing. The story talks about how love can be beyond appearances and there’s this guy who just loves his wife. But, something’s missing! Something about the story is unconvincing.

You might say most Yashraj films are illogical and unrealistic but that’s ignored because there’s a certain dreamy haze that surrounds the movie. Rab Ne… tries to have a dreamy haze and yet attempts to give slight ‘realistic’ references. I drooled over the simple man Suri’s true love for his wife and the confused Jat ‘Raj’. He’s over the top, he hams and yet you like him. But eventually you start yawning. The story moves at an excruciatingly slow pace and you end up wondering where the love is. It almost ends up being a Balaji serial type of a love story.

So yes, every couple has an extraordinary love story, and this one had an extraordinarily boring one! Somebody please bring the magic back in films… until then, I’m settling for the Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge DVD.

Mamma Mia I’m Impressed

During the summer that me and my sister spent holidaying in UK, we waited and waited for a cheaper ticket to show up for the musical, Mamma Mia. We ended up not seeing the show and when I saw the movie today I realized what a fool I was to try and save a few pennies (well pounds actually).
The movie version of the musical is absolutely over the top, full of drama and still has the hangover of a typical musical (the yelling shrieking and flailing of hands all the time!)

All said and done, for an ABBA fan, its an absolute treat. With the picturesque Greece and good looking people, the song n dance story takes you into a different world. However, if you’re not into ABBA, it’s just another chick flick with a whole lot of singing, dancing and more. The karaoke lyrics for all the songs were fabulous and I was singing along shamelessly! There is a magic about ABBA’s music!
The Bollywood fan in me couldn’t help but curse Sawan Kumar Tak for distastefully copying the story and making Mother with horrifying Rekha and all!
Meryl Streep’s rendition of The Winner Takes it all was fabulous. She is natural, composed and emotes brilliantly. Donna couldn’t be Donna without Streep’s exceptional performance (much like Miranda Preece of Devil Wears Prada)
Pierce Brosnan’s attempts at singing are cute but the dude can’t sing to save his life. Oh but he looks gorgeous!
I couldn’t help but think again and agin how they executed the story on a stage. I could almost imagine colourful lights, grandiose sets and a brilliant cast and I was aching to see the musical more than the film. What I really liked about the movie was the grandeur that it retained.  It goes over the top at times, but Mamma Mia, how can they resist it.

Thank you for the music!