Nov 14, 2013

Being a Mumbai-kar

I love being a Mumbai-kar. There is hardly anything that Mumbai doesn't offer.

When I write this, I'm siting on a beach flanked by a busy road full of horn honking people behind wheels, surrounded by families and all sort of people who seem to be more interested in everything else but the beach n the amazing sunset, hawkers selling absolutely evrything from mats to sit on to tea and masal pop corns... And amist it all, me... Sitting in sand, typing this out on my ipad waiting for my 2 year old son to return from his frolic in the sea...

And then suddenly... I am covered in sand at the hands of my son, who just discovered the joys of playing in the sand... :D

Oct 15, 2013

Movie that's more than a movie.... War, Chhod na Yaar

Hardly has any movie made me laugh so much AND internalise at the same time... War Chhod Na Yaar makes you laugh hard and makes an amazing point without preaching. There are times in the movie where you feel, NOW it's going to get preachy and serious...but it doesn't. It's a riot. It's such a brilliant satire of everything that's happening on our borders and politics that even before you realise you find yourself saying... I don't want war.

The movie talks about everything... Corrupt politicians, American two faced politics, Chinese invasion, tensions on the border, soldiers and their mentality, media and power of media... Nothing is left untouched. It's advertised as India's First War Comedy... But it's much much much more than that. What it really is, is a reality check. We the people are responsible for change. We have the power if only we can find the will.

There are scenes in the movie that bring you to the brink of tears but the greatest positive thing about the movie is that even when it's making a solid serious point...the movie does not loose it's easy going nature and you don't stop laughing. Even after the movie is over the smile stays with you... And a hope in your heart.... War, Chhod Na Yaar....

Sep 19, 2013

Madras Cafe... a mind-numbing experience

What do you think makes a good movie? And what are the side effects of watching a great movie?

Is a movie good when it makes you laugh? Makes you cry? Perhaps makes you feel a range of emotions? A movie with colorful characters and beautiful locations may be? What about the music, song and dance? Or may be a good movie is the one that takes you away from daily grind and gives you a break that you think you deserve…. But, once in a while there comes a movie that challenges all of your definitions and assumptions, makes you stop and take stock of what you look for in a movie, possibly changes the way you look at cinema experience. For me, that’s what Madras Café did.

I went to movies after a long time. And watching Madras Café was more of a convenience that of choice. It was the only movie that was available in the time slot that I could go. I had heard rave reviews of the movie and John Abraham’s new found acting skills. But as usual, I wasn't expecting the reviews to be accurate. I was in for a surprise this time.

If I use words like realistic and heart-wrenching, it would be an insult to the movie. The movie is anything but heart-wrenching. What it is, is mind-numbing. The movie walks you through the times and lives of people during the 80's Sri Lanka. I’m not very good with politics, has never been. So, pardon me if I don’t use real names of people that are portrayed in the movie. But just because I don’t know the names or don’t wanna utter them, does not by any means reduce the intensity and sincerity with which they are portrayed. They are as real as one might see in a documentary. They are real because they are clear in what they represent. For example, Anna in the movie is not a traditional villain. He is not a garishly dressed, loud mouthing and laughing person who captures the hero and spills all his plans to him. In contrast, he is a well attired, soft spoken, clear sighted person who knows what he wants. There is an uncanny realism in his speech. Like the foreign reporter says to John… “He has clarity in thoughts. He is not just a power crazy terrorist.” Where Anna portrays the unrelenting idealist; John and the rest of the team plays a dedicated and smart team of RAW agents who dedicate their time and skills in protecting the country. The sheer amount of work and complexity of challenges that are shown in the movie take your breath away. And you are left with an awe-struck feeling of helplessness.

Sep 4, 2013

Mitch Albom is at it again....

There are very few books that I can re-read. Very few that can keep me engaged or engrossed enough even when I know what happens next. Very few authors are capable of beckoning my attention over and over again. Mitch Albom is in this very short list. The first novel of Mr. Albom that I read was “Five People You Meet in Heaven”. Ever since then, I’ve always found his novels to be…interesting. They have always been something that I can recommend to someone else. With “Tuesdays with Morrie”; Mitch Albom moved a little closer to my heart and after “For One More Day” he reached my re-readable list. I've read “For One More Day” more than once. And that’s a rare scenario in my world. So, when I saw his new novel in Crossword, I didn't hesitate… I remember I didn't even read the back-cover. I simply picked it up. Friend with whom I was in crossword, asked me if I’m sure I wanna buy that book, I told her, I can buy a Mitch Albom any day blindfolded. And I wasn't wrong.

Time keeper is very similar to his earlier work and it still is very different. This also has a touch of magic and fable-ish story telling style to it…but this one is very somber. Coz the Time Keeper is story of Father Time. The one who counted time for the first time. It’s the story of his fascination and obsession with measuring everything, its story of his unquenchable thirst for knowledge and its story of his torment and salvation from that very same obsession. It is also the story of Sarah, a geeky, intelligent, shy and socially inept teenager. About her angst to fit in and find the first love and heartbreak, her attempt to end it all. And lastly, it is also the story of Victor. World’s thirteenth richest man, a businessman, an elderly gentleman, husband to a devoted wife, boss to a hoard-load of people, a man of enormous success… a man afraid of the end of the life approaching soon. A man out to outlast death.

With the genteel touch of his earlier stories, Mitch Albom spins a story that touches your heart. Makes you smile, and make you cringe. It’s a story that teaches you to appreciate what you have and what is important. Thought the message that novel imparts is age-old wisdom, the way Mitch handles the story is simply… simple, yet effective. It’s such a fluid story that I finished the novel in less than 2 days… it’s a story that doesn't leave you even when you are done reading it. That I think is what should be seen as a sign of very good novel. There are parts of the novel when you wonder, where is this all going? How is it all going to come together? The answers come only at the last 30 odd pages or so… and when they come, you also complete the journey that you never knew you were on.

In Mitch Albom’s own words…

“There’s a reason why God limits our days.”

To make each one precious

May 9, 2013


Hmmm... I wonder where should I start? I guess I'll start with my predicament. It's a dilemma when a relatively unknown (at least to me) publisher comes up to me for review of a debut novel. Debut novel of a 25 year old, self confessed fiction addict... Now accepting an offer like that can prove to be a HUGE gamble. Sometimes these gambles will pay off and offer you a chance to read something interesting, attention it did with Thundergod; other times it can cause emotional stress and undue scars like it happened with Fractured Legends. So when Srishti Publishers reached out to me about reviewing "The secrets of the Dark" by Arka was, well.... A dilemma.

With trepidation, I accepted the offer, and after a considerable delay, the book finally arrived. As far as first impressions go...quite frankly, it wasn't good. The front cover of the book features a vague looking sketch of a man in a hood in a dark purplish background. My first thought...what is this? A special addition Raj comics? Then, I flipped the book over and saw the author photograph... The photograph that accompanies an exceptionally well written back over, was nothing short of hilarious. It's cheesy, it's silly and it's outright funny. A book that promises Dark Undercurrents should not have an author photo that looks like a image. (Frankly, it's a bit out there for also)

But as a wise saying goes, one should not judge a book by its cover, so I decided to get beyond the cover and start reading. First 5 pages revealed another set of things that I don't like in a published novel... Bad binding quality, a LOT of grammatical mistakes and... Gravest of all...a language that gave me headache.

I'm not a very patient person. And I don't read things that make me want to quit reading. This novel tested my tenacity and patience. It was a very hard novel to get used to...but there were enough pages to offer me long chance to survive....and survive I did.

But the book isn't all bad. For a debut novel this isn't half bad. Whether it has the pull and potential to stretch into a SAGA... Well, that remains to be seen. The author confesses that he is a  fiction junkie. And this claim proves true when you start reading the novel. There is no symetry in the novel. There are geographies which are not explained and names and events that are over explained. There are awful lot of characters...but then again, you can't write a saga with just 5 characters. The no of characters are not real trouble, but their introduction is. Authors propensity to use strange names tends to make the reading a little too troublesome. There are a mealie of characters and lack of any rationale behind how he chose to name them. So you have a Greek sounding king whose trusted advisor is Egyption named... A middle earth sounding name for a kingdom, while the names of the rulers and rivals in the kingdom are Roman sounding. I wish the author had just stick to one style or region of names.

The story of Agni is not might have done a stellar job with a better editor and proof-reader though. Even with all it's bad sides, the First instalment of the Saga, has a definite rhythm. The events though too long and too complicated at times are well thought out of... They are interesting. The characters are, though not instantly arresting, are engaging. It's a hard task to stay on reading the pages after pages of arcane language that author is fond of ( possibly to sound intriguing); but once you get past actually enjoy reading the Secret of the Dark.

I'm from the generation that was spoiled by the masters of arcane mysteries like the great JRR Tolkein and simple magical words of JK Rowling. I read Matthew Reilly for a quick dose of adrenaline rush, and gooey mushy tear jerkers from Cecelia Ahern. Competing with people like these who formed my standards for that particular genre, is a daunting task. Very few unseasoned, debutant novelist can stand their ground... So, It's not a very grand deal that Arka Chakrabarti doesn't pass my standards. But does that really make him a bad writer or his novel less noteworthy? Definitely not. It just means that even though he is writing a Saga, and I have read and enjoyed reading the First instalment of his Saga... I would not be waiting with abated breath for the next one...

My Rating...4 out of 10

Apr 28, 2013


Expectations are strange things...sometimes they make you feel joyous, and sometimes they bring you disappointments. Sometimes they leave you at lack of words or expressions. I feel at loss of words today.... But I guess, I'm running ahead. I should start at the beginning...

After a long time, I applied for a review for BlogAdda. But again, that also is not the "start" of the things. It started with me talking to a friend of mine about what she should pick up next for suggestion was "Devotion of Suspect X" and while I was praising the creepy brilliance of the twist in the plot, I googled the author for Suspect X...Keigo Higashino. And to my surprise, I found out that he (I'm assuming its a HE, I'm not good with Japanese names) has written another the title "Salvation of a Saint". A little research also made me realise that the book is available in India and I had planned to pick it up next time I stopped by in Crossword. And as if the Universe was conspiring so that I get to read...I got a mail from BlogAdda that Salvation was up for review. And I applied. :)

I was very impressed with Mr. Higashino's Suspect X and knew of his style of writing. The seemingly straightforward storyline, intelligent police work, interesting characters and a deadly twist had been high points of Suspect X. I was hoping the same from Salvation. And I'll be lying if I said Salvation failed me on these parameters. What really happened was, I built a lot of expectations from the book and that made sure I'll be left unsatisfied. Salvation has all the markers that one has started anticipating in the works of Mr. Higashino. There is a very interesting plot revolving around very real, believable people, and promise of an unsolvable, PERFECT crime. We meet detective Kusanagi and beloved Professor Yukawa. This time standing on opposing view points and dealing with Detective Kusanagi falling for the main suspect.

Salvation is complex and at times seems like really Unsolvable. You are treated with the constant reminder of the question..."how was he poisoned?" You find yourself asking and hypothesis-ing the ways it could have been pulled off. And even when you think you know WHY, at the end of the novel, you are presented with the "twist"

Is it as spine-chilling as Devotion's twist was...may be not. But dies it springs on you completely suddenly?...oh yeah. Does it changes how you think of characters at play? Sure does. Will it make me wanna read more works by Mr.Higashino? Definitely.

So, what's the verdict?

Pick up n read this one...if you have not read Suspect X, and even if you have read it.

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Mar 6, 2013

Too little, too long.

"600 pages...."

That was my first reaction, when I heard that Amish's latest and concluding part of the Shiva Trilogy was going to be bigger than the earlier ones. The novel had already garnered a lot of anticipation and the buzz was building high. My little heart was weary with worry. I could not help but think of all the hyped concluding parts of so many other series’. Be it the JK Rowling’s Potter Series or MR’s Five Warriors. The buzz had always higher than the results that were delivered. Was Amish going to add to the list of disappointments? The book took a little too much time for release. The release date was postponed twice and the buzz and anticipation roared higher. My misgivings rose too.

When it came for pre-release order on Flipkart… I was fast to order it. It saved me 150 bucks and I would get the book before (or at the same time) it reached the stores. I was happy. Early last week, I got the mail from Flipkart saying the book will reach me by Thursday last and I was happier. Friday evening, I reached home to see a big parcel waiting on the table for me, and I opened it with nervous energy.

First things first: I don’t like the cover. It’s muddy and its less attractive on the earlier two. Had I not been a reader of earlier two, I would “not” have picked this one up ONLY by looking at the cover. (I mean, check the other two and then see the last one above and tell me...which "look" more interesting?)

Two: Phew… it’s a BIG book. And for first two readings, I had real problem focusing, coz I took some time adjusting to the font. (But it’s possible that dynamic fonts on my Kindle has spoiled meJ)
Three: I’m against reviews with spoilers. My reviews are usually are written to entice the reader of the review to grab the book and read it himself. But… it’s going to be VERY hard task, to review the novel without spoilers. So, if you want a pristine review…walk away now … (or surf away, whichever suits you)

Now to the review.

Jan 17, 2013

A date with Egypt


Its one word that have fascinated the world for decades. There have been mysteries spun and unraveled around them. Books have been written and documentaries made...even movies made on the mysteries of the Land of the Mummies. One of my favorite fiction read revolves around the land of Mummies... Rick Riordan's Kane Chronicles.

Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to rather, I still want to visit the great pyramid. Soak in the sun and the sand...walk on shores of the great Nile...visit the Cairo Museum and gaze at the long forgotten symbols of love, respect and immortality. See Mummies and Sarcophagi of the long gone Pharaohs  Bow my head in front of the gods that ruled the ancient civilization and look in wonder at tenacity with which the ancient Egyptians held on to the belief of life after death. It's a wish that compels me to read, watch and visit...written word, captured images and Museum Exhibits.

So, it was natural that when I heard that British Museum was loaning the Egyptian Mummy exhibit to the Chhatrapati Shivaji Museum (formerly Prince of Wales)...I was up and ready. I was ready to gaze a the preserved bodies of people who have been dead for hundreds of year. Anticipating to be dazzled by the art and craft that melded with the love for immortality and believed in life after death. I was ready to see the statues and metal images of the deities, I've always read and wondered about. The deities that are so similar to my own and yet exotic and different. The Pharaohs whose names are lost in the sands of time but whose frail preserved bodies are waiting for the passage to another life. Waiting in an unending patience that only dead can afford. Witness the grandeur of a land that boasts of being the cradle of civilization of the world....the land of Ramses, King Tut and the land of Cleopatra. I thought I was ready. I thought I knew what I'm getting into and what I was going to see, feel and experience. Boy, was I wrong.

After a lot of delays and mis-communications and traffic situations, When we reached the Museum, it was late. And I hoped, it wasn't too late. Getting into the ticket queue, I wasn't sure they were going to issue me one. but they did. And I walked into the gates. On the left hand side, I could see a looooooooooonng Q. On asking, I was told that it was the 3D documentary on the Mummies. I contemplated, looking wearily at the line, and decided that my one year old would not be patient enough to suffer 20 mins there. On we moved. At the entrance of the main building, the proof of disinterest of the administration was clearly the lack of direction. I had anticipated a sign or guide to let people know which direction to move to...which was not there. Alas, when are the guys gonna learn? Without dwelling on that, we did manage to find one meager sign saying it was 1st floor east wing. After another few minutes trying to locate the east wing in a directionless structure, we did manage to reach the exhibit. Armed with curiosity I walked in.... and came face to face with the Rosetta Stone.

Nothing that I had read, seen or watched, had prepared me to come face to face with THE Rosetta Stone. The stone that changed how the world looked at the hieroglyphs. The stone that opened the world of Pharaohs and Mummies to the world. The stone that is believed to be the cornerstone of our current understanding of the more than magical world of Ancient Egypt. The stone that played a pivotal role in the starting chapter of Kane Chronicles. THE Stone. And nothing could have compared to the awe it inspired. A lot of the patrons did not understand or realize what they were looking at...not all of them showed much interest in an rather ordinarily looking black stone with some engravings.