Sunday, 25 September 2016

The Intern fails on its 'experience never gets old' tagline

My rating: 5 of 10 stars

The movie, with "Experience never gets old" plastered in huge bold capital letters on the posters - forgets the story line some 10 minutes into the movie.

A 70-year old man, played by Robert De Niro bored of retirement, applies for an internship programme to have more and something new to do in life. And thus he enters into the life of some 200 20- something employees and their female boss, played by Anne Hathaway, at an e-commerce fashion company.

There, he supports his 28-year old female boss tackle professional, social, and personal problems that come with cracking the glass-ceiling, becomes a personal driver to the boss, and acts as an agony- uncle to young co-workers.

Hathaway's character Jules is the main story - and how Ben's years of life and business experience is exactly what she needs to tackle her problems. He helps and helps, and gives away half a dozen of handkerchiefs to crying ladies in the film which tried to be feminist.

Ben came across as being used by the younger generation in the movie. Though he applied for the internship voluntarily, he ended up doing more work than the paid employees around - - thanks to his years of business knowledge, and his nature of wanting to be of use (he cleaned a messy table - without being asked - playing the typical role of an unpaid intern in real life!) He also becomes a personal beck-and-call person to Jules. At the end of the film, he takes a day off to get back to a yoga session with his retired mates who are previously shown very early in the film when he is planning to do something more interesting! Clearly, the internship has nothing much to give to him in return, except, of course, a female masseuse as a friend.

If you went to watch the film to see it make some kind of statement on life and motivation, if one is ever too old to work, and whether there is a limit to learning, you will find none of this here. Essentially, the movie remains a misplaced, mis- promoted film.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Book Review of The Adventures of an Intrepid Film Critic

The Adventures of an Intrepid Film CriticThe Adventures of an Intrepid Film Critic by Anna M.M. Vetticad

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I recently read James Altucher, an American entrepreneur and podcaster, state "immersion" as one of the penultimate rules on being more creative. Around the same time I noticed myself following film reviews of one particular critic - and finding her using a refreshingly progressive feminist lens.
On exploring further, here it was -- a book written by the critic Anna Vetticad, on her experience of watching every single movie in the Hindi language produced in NCR in 2011.

Already excited about the idea of "immersing yourself into an experience for a story," as Altucher hinted at - I sat down to give 'Adventures of an Intrepid Film Critic' a read.

The book, like any autobiography, or experience-laiden book, remind of the persistence and grit required to fulfill promises made to oneself. Vetticad once bought two tickets for a movie because the manager refused to run the film for only one person, she asked to restart the film because the movie was stopped as soon as the credits started rolling, went to a far-of theatre two days in a row to convince the manager to play a movie which only has one buyer, and watched three movies back to back in a day giving herself a headache. She took only a ten day vacation in the year, coming back to work to seek out the twelve movies that she had missed in the duration.

The book was an interesting and engaging read for the hard and tough questions she asked her interviewees— the directors and the actors. It resembled her fore-front, not-mincing-her-word style of her interview show StarTrek (except the one with Salman Khan where it seemed like her brief was to suck up to him.)

Her interview, or rather, argument with Rohit Shetty, who has very low opinion of critics because they give his movies low ratings, is a treat to read. The author really has the art of repartee and an unrelenting attitude!

Her way of operating, where she never discusses a movie she is to review with anyone before, does not prefer to phone a source unless they have said it is okay, brings in feminist critiques where you won't imagine -- I loved this book for its comic, moral, to-the-point, and detailed look at how her new year resolution came to be fulfilled.

Her personal way of maneuvering around the instances and questions that pop up during the experience, kept the book entertaining. "I throw myself a challenge: could I encapsulate in one line, a film that I loved that didn't make a mark at the box office?" She analysis as a good film critic, things that cold have been done differently to make a movie that deserved, yet didn't get, many eyeballs.

The author mentions that she intended to derive a book from the experience right at the start when she decided on the resolution- but I'd like to know whether she had a publisher or editor commission this idea at that time itself- because if not, then I would rank this book even higher, for her staying put on the resolution when she had nobody else but herself counting on it.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, 1 March 2016


She was the last link to two-generation-old stories that I rarely inquired about. She and her family experienced the India-Pakistan partition for real.

Being born in 1993, the partition stories have always seemed like a surreal part of India that I have never felt connected to, regardless of its breathing, living existence even today in 2016. The history of our family has Maa's father being killed by a Muslim in 1947. With roots of Bauji in Haryana (Lahore), it is their history intertwined with the history of the country, that I, today, call Bikaner my hometown.

She was the last of her siblings to pass away. She was the last of her generation as I have known. She was 94 years and a little more than a month old on 22 February, 2016, before she breathed last at 11.45pm.

Her life operated in an era of her times, even in 2016. Hearing her talk about the times when gold was Rs 5, or tell the things discussed before her marriage to Bauji, between their parents; she was a living, breathing human being to listen to about the way of life ages ago, better than any book on the 30s.

Regardless of my abhorrence of most things traditional and religious, her nostalgic way of recalling the customs and life, typical of any recountance nostalgic, opened up a kaliedoscopic world much different than now, in front of my eyes.

A few instances when I could not contain my bafflement at her deep rooted beliefs in caste system, sexist ideologies and insistence on Geeta and Puran- her calm reply, "you won't understand", without any effort to explain or justify herself, is what makes me feel she had a full and happy life, now that I think of it. Maa did not give a damn about how stupid I or anybody else thought the customs are- she stood her ground firm, content and satisfied, without a need to gain somebody else's approval.

She would be missed like anyone with whom you have spent 22 years in the same house, without really venturing into the other's room, would be; with sadness at my lack of effort to connect, with an experience of a weird void in the house and life- for someone who has always been there, sometimes conversed with, and some times irritated at- with memories of playing Jackpot when I was in primary, she defining her cards "hopeless" for a teen-do-paanch card game, the sound of the jingle of the bell as she offered prayers to God at 7 am daily, when she came into the room to see the photoes we were seeing of Sonal's wedding, when she enjoyed a plate of maggi or a cup of coffee (her desire of having cold one rather than hot), when she inquired as to why haven't I met her yet, even with being back in Bikaner for about an hour; she is the person whom I can't forget for breathing one moment, and not the next- right in front of my eyes.

She is the person I identify as a generation I could not understand, and didn't make an effort to understand. Maa, you'll be missed for your eccentricity, for your insistence on getting things done your way, for your love of mingling with people, for your hallucinations of two thiefs stealing gold and stuff from your trunk, for your strength and determination that came across when you recounted running alone after a thief, pulling on his lungi. You'll be missed for your stories, for your love of food, for your love for life. You'll be remembered at Diwali, when every year you'd decorate the God's 'aala' before everyone gathered around it together to pray.

For whatever reasons, we happened to be related, and we happened to have lived in the same house- and for that, you were a unique part of my life that would be missed.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Do you believe there is a Soul? (And not, Is there a Soul?)

What is the truth? Everybody finds and makes their own truth, I truly believe. There can never be an objective truth. But. But I don't want to believe what I believe, but do want to know the truth- the universal truth- of whether we have a soul that survives death. The soul that lives after our bodies have been burnt/buried. I want to know what actually is.
But is it really?

Even for God, it is a belief more than reality. But soul? That's what I do want to know. I do want to know what actually is. Why am I even keeping it in the same category as a belief?

There is, or is not, an island deep down called Atlantic. There is, or is not, a state called Rajasthan in India. And there is, or is not, an immaterial thing like the Soul, or not.

It's about the mechanical existence of an immaterial thing. When someone whom you have lived with in the same house for over 22 years passes away, your all recent beliefs about "this is what is. No after life; no previous life" notion takes a toll. It may indeed be a grand illusion, as someone said rightly, but it is a comforting one.

And that is why- I intuitionally considered it in the category of a belief. My belief in its existence will not only comfort me, it will determine how I look at life, and how I operate.

My idea of what are morals determine how I judge or not judge other people. My idea of whether there's a soul will determine how I look and grieve when someone passes away. And that is why it is to be kept in the category of a belief.

Not without reason did a Sister in Sophia called on the students to have an "unwavering faith in God". Unwavering faith. Faith. Because faith will ensure His presence.

But is the presence of God imply a presence of Soul? There could be a God, and we could still be living just one life- with us and everything about us dead after we are dead.*

In our family, like any other middle class family in India with two generations before us, there is an ubiquitous presence of God and Soul. Papa talks about following the rituals after her death, while assuming she is still around, seeing us.

I doubted all things supernatural, and was super proud in my little head to be a rational, disowing what adults in our family blindly believe in.

But with Ma (Grandmother) breathing last, I didn't feel that the body lying on the floor was her. I had this feeling that she is around that body in the room somewhere- but that body didn't seem anything more than a mass.

And that is why it is a belief. And that is why it is intuition that will determine if there is a Soul, or not. If I felt the presence of God a few times, when I considered myself an athiest, and otherwise- it is an intuition that made me feel it.

If everything be broken down to science and proof; and proof be meaning only physical proof- with no instinctual or spiritual proof- maybe we are just too adamant to not believe. We are deciding to not believe. To not see. To not see the proof besides science.

We believe what we want to believe.  If there is a Soul, then it also means we are all on our individual journeys, taking on different families in different births. That doesn't really sound too personal when we say someone in our family left us, when they are gonna live more lives, and lived earlier, with different families. If there is a Soul, then we just happen to be parents, children, relatives, acquaintances to other souls.

If I believe there is a Soul, it's less grievesome than otherwise. Because, it means this was just a small phase of a long journey, and that they aren't really dead. Never are.

Believing in something like a Soul is also easy. Where did the idea of Soul originate from? Who were the first people to form a word like that, with meaning like it is?

The moment when the troubled breathing did not continue, and the head tilted to the left a little, and the air passed through the mouth for the last time, I instinctively assumed the soul to come out of the body with the last breath. It's easy because I have heard it all my life- every prayer, every festival, every conversation in the household, every lyrics of every bhajan reinstates the presence of God, of past lives, and of Soul- how could I not feel what I felt?

Why do skeptics deserve the respect that they do? They refuse to believe in something that everyone does, without experiencing it first hand. They refuse to follow the herd blindly. Blind faith is not a thing to be proud of. Not even in God.

Even if there is a God, He and His existence needs to be continuously questioned, argued and debated. Like any other philosophy, skeptics are the ones that would keep it alive, if it really has any substance.

But would it? Any argument with a believer goes like this, "And what if there is no God?"
"This is your vanity that believes you are powerful enough to exist on your own. For any of this to exist on its own."

If all questions on spirituality are answered in its own language, with a pre-assumption of the existence of super-natural beings and immaterial things, how will a dialogue between a believer and a non-believer exist? It does not. Both polars stay in their own quarters.

If God does exist, why does it need my unwavering faith- someone ask the Sister from Sophia. If the sky is blue, why do I need to believe it is blue- it will be blue nonetheless, and it will rain if that's what it does. It will protect me from Ozone layer if that's what's it there for. Why the imphasis on belief and faith in its existence?

Soul. Lots of books and counter books and criticism on its existence has been written. If ever there were one that could have been the last word for the skeptics, we wouldn't be debating it now.

I don't want to believe because something is comforting, because something is easy, and because it is what I have grown up listening. I want to know the truth- and I am skeptic. I want to be skeptic. Not because it's cool, not because it's rational, not because its modern, but because I want to not believe a lie told through generations.

Is believing a lie (that there is a Soul) and not believing a truth (that there is a Soul), equally destructive? No. I could spend coming time trying to unravel the truth, but once a lie has been taken as truth, everything else will be seen through a misplaced prism of belief.

But how will one unravel the truth? Believing in instinctual and supernatural proof is the only way. If I really was a skeptic, I would have left off this topic al ready. Because I want to unravel the truth- means I am not that much of a skeptic as I would like to call myself; because I believe there is a truth out there to be unraveled. I want to believe there is a Soul, for all the reasons I stated. I want to believe. I want it to be TRUE. I want it to exist, for me to believe that it exists. I want to KNOW.

The problem with instinctual or spiritual proof? Only the existence be proven, not the absence. I'll believe a Soul does not exist till I feel/find proof otherwise; i.e there is always an open possibility of being proven wrong. One cannot prove it does not exist- people have tried- and the books have been criticised or the research is not substansive. It could only be proven that it does- those researches have also been rebuffed by scientists.

At a personal level, I could believe there's no Soul till proven wrong- and not the otherway round. People around me who believe in a Soul, have already believed in something without a proof. They could not be proven wrong, because they don't believe in proofs. And that's the problem with blind, unwavering faith in anything- you have already dispelled any possibility of being questioned, refusing to see anybody else's truth, or the Truth, in general.

*If there is a soul, then there definitely is reincarnation.

Friday, 13 February 2015

How youtube sucks the day out of you- More videos to kill your time

It is 8pm and before you know it is one in the morning, and none of the work in the to-do list for the day is done. The History list of your youtube account has increased.
Sometimes we look for just that one video which would lead us to many other, killing hours. Here are some 10 videos to get you started.  
1.       Ellen’s Monologues from her chat show The Ellen Degenres Show.
They are quick within-5 minute, quirky, sarcastic and funny monologues on day-to day things. Good for a break in-between your work.
2.       Chat show appearances one after another of some of my favourite TV celebs. Jimmy Kimmel’s channel is the one I like best. One of Sophia Bush’s many interviews on Craig Ferguson’s Late Late Show, Jennifer and Lisa Kudrow with Jimmy Kimmel’s in a cursing match.
3.       Ted Talk’s on any topic you are interested in.
 Watch Amy Cuddy’s talk on how body language shapes who you are.
One of the finest talks on feminism by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
4.       BuzzFeed knows how to keep you on loop. Coming back for more. Insta v/s real life
5.       Random movie trailers. And once you hit the right one, quick google search “ < movie name > vodlocker” and 2 hours gone! Puff
One of my favourite chickflicks What’s Your Number trailer.
6.       Something new you keen on learning. Photography basics, creative writing process.
7.       Ellen, the sitcom (not to be confused with the chat show). Full episodes available.  And if it’s not, head here. OneTree Hill, first 6 seasons are engaging.

Share and likes please!

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Here's why there's no hope for most new year resolutions

New years have the ability to bring out the most affirming, positive, and miracle-believing people in all of us.

It is the time when humans search for the untapped potential within themselves and resolve to expand their horizons and abilities to the maximum. A new year gives that sparking  hope of being a new person, shedding the negatives and taking the world in their strides. This time people believe that they can be what they have never been. The sunny world awaits. It awaits.

When asked, people generally plan their resolves by the Christmas time. The life-affirming humans wait for the new calendar year to put them to practice.

And this time and this hope wades off after a while, and comes back only after 12 months! What a relief, giving them a reason to wait another long time before resuming their barely started goals of the current year! 

If new year came frequently, it wouldn't be welcomed with such gusto amd to-do lists. People don't start anew every new day, or new week or even new month. Is it a wonder why? Fooling ourselves, wading for some time to be a better person. 

#IncredibleResolutions #NeverCompletedResolutions

Friday, 2 January 2015

Cinema Paradise(1988) will make you nostalgic

The Italian movie Cinema Paradise (1988) written and directed by Guiseppe Tornatore is about childhood reminiscence and a man's efforts of trying to come to terms with the passing time, passing people, and good, lively days when he fell in love with the movies. 

It has nice countryside Giancaldo shown with people going on about their daily chores, living a slow, peaceful life; the dark, rainy nights on the roads of a small town reminded me of Midnight in Paris, and sometimes even Sawariya

Alfredo, the village theatre's projectionist, beautifully played by Phillipe Noiret and Toto(child version), played by Salvatore Cascio has a mentor-student kinda relationship. After the news of Alfredo's passing away, the movie is in flashback, and you get a feeling that sometimes there is nothing but nostalgia- nostalgia and remembrance of the past, of people in your past, of the place of your birth where you haven't been to since years, of the simpler and purer times, of the presence of a soul (mentor) that would always protect you. 

It's a beautiful movie, with which you could relate to if you ever felt the urge to go back in time and revisit the lively, easier world of childhood. The movie has a human touch, for sure. It also seamlessly includes the history of World War2 and the many deaths that it took. 

The background music needs special mention, which made the movie right on spot with generating tension, suspense, or a tug on your heart strings.