Sunday, 25 March 2012

Urban Shots: Book Review

They say that don't judge a book by its cover but you might hesitate to pick Urban Shots going by the cover. A pretty girl in red with sleepy eyes posing for the cover definitely repels me. The book landed in my hands courtesy when I registered for their book review program (well, who doesn't like free books?). I am generally a slow reader but the challenge was to finish the book and review it within 7 days. So my journeys from home to work and vice versa were dedicated to Urban Shots: a collection of 31 love stories by 27 authors.

Written by amateur writers and bloggers the book gives a feeling of reading a blog. All the stories talk about love and its meaning in the urban life. The stories thankfully are not tear soaked tales (except few) of boy meets girl. They are more mature here and don't always have a happy ending.

The first two stories 'Written In the Stars' by R. Chandrasekhar and 'Rishta' by Ahmed Faiyaz didn't give me any hint of love in the urban life. Rather, they focused more on the small town sensibilities.

I am not a fan of regular love stories per say so Kailash Srinivasan's a little off beat 'High Time' humored me especially because of its South Indian stereotypes. It is about a Tamil mother looking for a suitable match for her son, her bickerings, excitement of seeing the girl and inhibitions after finding out that the girl is no miss goody two shoes. '32 B' by Varsha Suman had an undertone of lust and was an entertaining read.

'Pause,Rewind,Play' by Shoma Narayanan and 'Twisted' by Lipi Mehta focus on Gay love, both in a way question the acceptance of homosexuality in India.

'Beyond reasonable Doubts' written by Sneh Thakur (who is also the editor of this book) is a mature take on extra marital affair and a couple drifting apart. Most urban couple who lead a busy life can relate to the story. The last one from the collection 'Sleepless By Night' is about a man dealing with his girlfriend's death. written by Mona Ramavat, this story is a good pick to sum up the book.

Rest of the stories didn't excite me much. The flimsy editing in few of them does disrupt your flow. If not  a great read it is a decent coffee table book and you can pick it up if you are sucker for love and wouldn't mind an occasional light reading.

Book : Urban Shots – The Love Collection
Editor : Sneh Thakur
Publisher: Grey Oak/ Westland
Price: 199/-
Pages: 226

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Bombay Duck is a Fish: Book Review

My recent liking for Indian authors took me to the 'Indian Fiction' section in Crossword. I picked up the book 'Bombay Duck is a Fish' by Kanika Dhillon hoping to read some crazy stories about the city I've lived in and experienced since past 7 years.

To wrap up the plot in few words, its the story of an aspiring filmmaker Neki Brar who comes to Mumbai; "the city of dreams" and lands a job as an assistant to a famous choreographer turned director (no prizes for guessing who she is). Despite of finding the right kick to start her career she keeps running into troubles. The book is about all that Bollywood is infamous for; bloated egos, sleaze, wicked co-workers etc. And a not-so-subtle mention of Shahrukh Khan whom she (the thin line between the author and the character is smudged here) obviously idolizes.

When we first meet our heroine Neki she is sitting on her terrace, wine bottle in hand. While contemplating suicide she flicks the pages of her diary where she has documented all the accidents of her life. As we continue we find out that our aspirant director left a lucrative job to follow her dreams but the problem here is that I didn't understand her motivation. She looks star struck from the very first day and is already kissing (or rather being kissed by) the hot supporting actor Ranbeer Khanna within the first week of her job.

As per her diary she is hated by her co-workers because of the yellow shoes that she wore on the day of her interview. Now, I know that film industry is full of shallow people but I have yet to meet people who'll judge you from your shoes, that too good shoes.

She has moved to Mumbai for the love of it but makes a fuss when a colleague (who also has a crush on her) takes her on a tour. Her life in Mumbai revolves between the studio, Ranbeer Khanna's van and Ranbeer Khanna's house, resulting in pregnancy and attempted suicide. In short, Neki looks shallow to me and never for a single moment gains my sympathy.

The film industry that Kanika has created in the book is a tale that parents tell their children to scare them off from the unimaginable path. If you are an aspirant filmmaker, film writer or actor don't let your folks lay hand on this one. However, in this hell hole where everyone is ready to bite the only people with a heart of gold are either the extras or Shahrukh Khan and the super successful director.

'Bombay Duck is a Fish' indeed but a sukkha bombil with not enough meat.

Book: Bombay Duck Is A Fish
Author: Kanika Dhillon
Publisher: Westland
Price: 195/-
Pages: 317

Friday, 2 March 2012

Paan Singh Tomar: Movie Review

this article was first published on burrp!
Director: Tigmanshu Dhulia
Cast: Irrfan Khan, Mahie Gill, Zakir Hussain, Nawazuddin

Rating: ***

There was a time when actors like Sunil Dutt made dacoits glamorous. Their larger than life characters had a heart of gold underneath the tough bodies. The time changed and ferocious Gabbar Singh took over. The almost animal like daaku terrorized Ramgarh for the longest time. Years later Jageera in China Gate attempted a Gabbar Singh but ended up being nothing more than a mockery. Shekhar Kapoor helped shed the glam quotient with his true-to-life depiction of The Bandit Queen.

With the latest release in the same genre director Tigmanshu Dhulia (Haasil fame ) has taken Kapoor’s legacy further and told us an unheard story.

Paan Singh Tomar joined the army in the 1950s. He hailed from Chambal and according to him the dacoits are actually good people who turned rebels. In his own words, “beehad mein baagi hote hain, dacait toh Parliament mein hote hain”. Afraid of his rebellious instinct and seeing his exceptional running abilities his seniors shift him to the sports department. He runs for the country till he plans to take a voluntary retirement to take care of his kheti.

Rest of the film is a transition of an Army Subedar to a national level athlete and finally a dreaded name in the valleys of Chambal. What triggers this transition is the cunning cousin who wants to take over his land, destroys his crop and tries to kill his family. The police and the system offer no help leaving him with no choice than to take the matters in his own hands. The man who was denied the opportunity to fight in the war (because he was a sportsperson) picks up the gun for revenge.  The rebel in him who is suppressed comes out in the second half of the film. Paan Singh is no Robinhood, he kills for revenge and kidnaps for money.

The film also throws a light on the poor conditions of our national level athletes, the unsung heroes who died an unknown death.

Irrfan Khan is Tigmanshu Dhulia’s lucky charm. He was a thunderbolt in Haasil and is nothing less than that in this one. All those who have seen him grow from Banegi Apni Baat should be extremely proud. His Paan Singh Tomar commands respect and makes you sympathize with him just through his expressive eyes. Nawazuddin appears in a small role but after his critically acclaimed role in Peepli Live this one doesn’t do justice to his acting abilities.

What makes this film special is Tigmanshu Dhulia’s love for the raw appeal. He inspires you to look beneath the polished layer. His characters, locations and language are crude. He does not try to refine them for your viewing pleasure.

Paan Singh Tomar with all its shortcomings (read stretched second half, off sync dubbing, occasional dramatic dialogues) is a film that should be watched mostly for Irrfan Khan and also for its story.


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