Sunday, 29 September 2013

Book Review - When God Was A Rabbit

Two weeks ago I went for a book sale where books were being sold by kilo. These were mostly second hand books. Since all the fiction books were stacked randomly I had to go through each book to pick what I wanted. While going through the books I chanced upon some very interesting titles which I had not heard of. One of them was When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman. I read the little summary on the back of the cover and picked it up with other 20 books.

First published in 2011, When God Was a Rabbit is narrated by Eleanor Maud (Elly) who grows up in Essex with her brother Joe and parents who are constantly planning to move out of the village. Eventually the family moves to Cornwall. As Elly grows up in her new home new characters are introduced in the story, all of them bring their own quirks. The story begins in England in 1960-70s and moves on to the post 9/11 New York.

When God Was a Rabbit has all the elements that make childhood. Forever lasting friendships, imaginations, secrets and confusions. At times the events are heartbreaking and at times they give hope to the story in the most beautiful way. Elly's defiance makes her a loner, she asks questions hence is looked upon strangely by her peers. But she finds an eternal friend in strange but intriguing Jenny Penny who lives with her mother and dreams of a hidden world. Even before they set out to find the world of their dreams Elly has to move away with her family. Uprooted and angry slowly Elly and Joe find their way around the new home and new life. Years later Elly reconnects with Jenny Penny under circumstances she could never have imagined.

Despite the elements like sexual abuse, homosexuality and even 9/11 the narration never turns melodramatic. Sarah Winman keeps the humour in her writing intact. Her characters react to situations in a way that make them seem more real. Winman picks up a lot of Historical references and blends them in her story like John Lennon's murder or the attack on The World Trade Centre. She also paints a fine picture of that era through her descriptions.

When God Was a Rabbit is not an innocent tale of childhood, it's mature and has shades of grim but the story still stays believable.

Book: When God Was a Rabbit
Author: Sarah Winman
Publisher: Headline Publishing Group
Price: Paperback - $10.99, Kindle - $2.82 on Amazon
Pages: 325

Sunday, 22 September 2013

The Lunchbox satiates your hunger!

A day after watching the heartwarming film 'The Lunchbox' I read someone trashing it on Twitter. The guy said that he hated the film and walked out halfway. The film is the story of life and it could be anybody's life. It was difficult for me to understand that how can someone hate someone's life. However, there are all sorts of people in the world. Some who are honest about their emotions and some who hide under layers of hatred.

Coming back to the film, I won't say that it's the best film ever made or the best story ever told. But it certainly is the story that you want to be told. A simple love story of people who've never met; we've definitely heard many such stories. But there's more to just romance in The Lunchbox.

Sajan Fernandes (Irrfan Khan) and Ila's (Nimrat Kaur) paths cross when the Dabbawallah delivers the lunchbox to the wrong address. A widower Sajan and neglected by her husband Ila find love through letters and lunch. The characters portray an aching sense of loneliness which this city brings and which everyone of us must have experienced at some point of life.

Ritesh Batra touches a middle class life in Mumbai and portrays the city the way we see it, somewhere between the slums and the high rises. He shows you everyday Mumbai. His characters are beautifully sketched and scenes detailed and well thought out. A scene where Ila answers the door and you can hear Sanjeev Kapoor's voice in the background giving the recipe of paneer tikka masala gives you a glimpse of a lonely housewife's life. For the first time you can understand the bhajan singing dabbawallahs in the local train, probably that's the only thing that keeps them going.

In the midst of all the loneliness and pain there's Aslam Shaikh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) whose spontaneity brings humour. And not to forget, Deshpande Aunty who we only know through a voice and a basket hanging from her window.

Irrfan Khan and Nimrat Kaur bring the characters alive, so much so that you can find yourself in those characters. Like any of his previous films, Irrfan Khan's eyes say more than the dialogues do. A lot has been said in the film through poignant silences and empty eyes. There are no Bollywood or Hollywood twists here because life does not have twists, it just goes on. As for the film, it doesn't matter that it's not picked as India's Oscar entry. The Lunchbox stirs your soul.


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