RIP Amanat

Dec 2012.

A woman is the only thing I am afraid of that I know will never hurt me - Abraham Lincoln.

To 'Amanat' (a symbolic name given by Indians to the gangrape victim) who breathed her last today.

The best international movies

November 2012

This is my third post on movies (i'll provide links to the others at the end) where i write about international cinema, five of my favorites to be specific. A disclaimer though. These are my favorites only among the ones i have seen so there might be other movies that might be better than these. Having said that though, i can say with reasonable confidence, these are a few good ones u'll get to see. The criteria on which i mention them is academic excellence and not just feel good factor. Also besides every movie, I've mentioned the production country and the language. Lastly, these are in random order:

Keurosing ('The Crossing' - 2008 - South Korea - Korean):

I start with a Korean movie because most of the foreign ones that i have seen happen to be Korean. According to me they are one of the most prolific movie makers and good ones at that. Before you watch this movie, it's imperative that the context of the movie needs to be fathomed. And for that i would recommend the following documentary. Watch this first before watching the movie:

This movie explores the human rights situation in North Korea which is the most secluded nation on earth ruled by the Kim dynasty. It does it through the life of a simple peasant family in the impoverished country at the height of the famine (see above documentary). The movie as a whole and the end in particular is very emotional. This movie was screened in the White House to apprise the big guys about the human rights situation in North Korea and apparently secretary Hillary Clinton had a tear in her eye at the end.

Lastly if this moves you enough to donate to the North Korean cause you may do so at the following link:

Mongol (2007 - Kazakhstan - Mongolian):

This movie traces the rise of Gengis Khan. The reason this movie makes it to my list, besides its heroic and larger than life portrayal of its protagonist is the background score and the scenery in the movie. First the background music - it's such an integral part of the movie, as if it's one of the characters. There is this deep gruttal undertone in serious situations (that typical sound that one gets to hear in Buddhist monasteries when a million monks murmur their prayers simultaneously) to the melancholic flute like sound depicting the pristine empty fields of Mongolia i presume. The scenery is just amazing. And while there is a debate about his greatness (disclaimer for his fans: i have no opinion on this - they say one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter), this movie does idolize him a bit and that's ok because otherwise the movie simply wouldn't have generated the highs that it does. After all why would someone want to watch a normal ruler going about his normal business of the day drinking wine and womanizing  (maybe i would)! The point is - that is what generates the euphoria.  All in all this is a very well made epic like biography of someone who actually rose from a slave to become someone who ruled the largest empire on earth. Perhaps that's enough for it being worth a watch.

Samsara (2001 - Germany - Ladhakhi):

'What is more important: To satisfy a thousand desires or to conquer one'.

This movie aims to present this eternal question through a Buddhist monk (Tashi). They say the Buddha chose one over the other at the age of twenty nine. Tashi has reached the same crossroads and must choose between his 'Dharma' and the love of his life. What makes this movie great is the non judgmental  and neutral stance it takes in its depiction of the emotional dilemma of a man who is torn between his devotion to the Buddha and his residual materialism and carnal desires (he commits something shameful which prompts him to reconsider the course of his life). The movie doesn't profess either choice over the other and even the ending is left to the viewers discretion and to me that's absolute honesty on the part of the director. The music is very similar to 'Mongol' (mentioned earlier) and the scenery (shot in Ladakh) needless to say, is amazing as well. Overall, a very thought provoking movie.

NB * Has sexually explicit visuals so viewer discretion is advised if watching with kids.

Il Postino ('The Postman' - 1994 - Italy - Italian):

Perhaps once in a hundred years, comes a movie that sweeps you of your feet. Well this movie makes the cut. Watching this made me think again that why does every movie have to be an epic to be great and what happened to the art of simple storytelling ! Set around the early fifties, this tells the story of Mario Ruopollo, a simple postman in an Italian island whose heart beats for Beatrice Russo, the village damsel. But Mario is too simple and shy to express his love. Enter Pablo Neruda, who helps Mario with his poetry to woo Beatrice. But the movie doesn't end there. In time Pablo and Ruopollo go their own ways. Years later, Pablo learns that he had perhaps unknowingly elevated the simple postman to a much higher plane of consciousness than he thought. What makes this movie great is the amazing acting of the lead actor in his portrayal of a simpleton lad (mark my words, you'll realize this in the very first scene when he has dinner with his father). It's one of the best displays of acting i've ever seen. Lastly, the movie has a very emotional ending. As i said, movies like this will come once in a hundred years.

Oldboy (2003 - South Korea - Korean): 

I started with a Korean movie so i guess i'll end with one. There are some movies that are always associated with a theme/genre. For example Titanic (love), Rocky (sports), the Godfather (mafia) and so on. Similarly years ago i had seen 'Kill Bill' (Quentin Tarantino starring Uma Thurman) and thought i had seen the ultimate revenge movie. Until i saw 'Oldboy'. A man imprisoned for fifteen years without being told his crime has five days to find out the reason for his imprisonment. The reason this movie appealed to me was because of three main reasons. One - a rock solid unshakable plot. Two - the sublime acting of both the lead actors. And three - the fact that it also has the feel of a full fledged commercial movie which makes one believe that not all great movies have to be the arty types. This movie keeps the viewer riveted to his/her seat in anticipation of the next scene. Such is the suspense ! And the ending makes one feel for both the characters irrespective of their crimes/sins. The portrayal of a particular kind of relationship (won't mention it here since that would give away the movie) might be a bit disturbing to some viewers but that apart, the movie deserves every bit of the viewers respect. An outlier. One in its class.

NB * Has sexually explicit visuals so viewer discretion is advised if watching with kids.

Lastly, a few notes:

 - For those in Bhubaneswar, you may get these movies at Rupak bhai's shop (turn left after RD college while coming from Rupali Square). If he doesn't have a movie readily available, he'll arrange it for you at an extra price. For those outside India, just go to Netflix.

 - I have the above movies. Let me know if you want them and i'll do my best.

 - As mentioned at the beginning of this post, for my previous posts on movies, click on the links below:

A Few Good Valentine Movies
The Best Unknown Movies (Bollywood)

Who says the sky can't be pierced !

November 2012

'And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it'

Paulo Coelho.
'The Alchemist'.

I generally don't post things here that aren't directly related to me in some way but today, probably just this one time, I'll make an exception with the video that follows (watch first before reading further) :

But it doesn't end here. If you are wondering what happened to the lady after this episode..... she went on to win Masterchef America 2012. And in case you didn't know / realize it, she was the only blind contestant in the show competing against able-bodied ones.

As i reflect on this after watching, i am reminded of this beautiful quote (translation mine):

'Kaun kehta hai ke aasmaan mein ched nahin ho sakta.
Zara tabeeyat se ek patthar toh uchaalo yaaron'

'Who says the sky can't be pierced.
Just lift a pebble with spirit my friend'

Mirza Ghalib
Urdu Poet

NB*  For another inspirational story read one of my earlier posts (click here).

A moron got lucky one day

November 2012

We all have our days. Just like every dog does. The following rendition of a guy who got lucky on the flight to Delhi one day is very close to me because of the following two reasons:

1 - I used to religiously watch a program on NDTV called 'Left Right and Center' (catering mainly to the intellectual strata of society) only to catch a glimpse of Nidhi Razdan who hosted the show with absolutely zero knowledge (or interest for that matter) in the actual content of the program. I stopped watching it the day I came to know she got married to this guy (Part 1 9:24-36 'Chaahe jitne bade ho gaye hon, jitna kama lein...........hum mardon ke andar ka schoolboy kahaan kabhi bada hota hai') !!!

2 - Four years ago on a flight to Delhi, incidentally I had the world's most beautiful girl sitting beside me for the two most memorable hours of my life.

While the story in the rendition is imaginary and quite plain academically, what makes this amazing and beautiful is the gravity of the voice and the sheer romanticism in the description of small everyday happenings and things with  hyperbolic comparisons (Part 1 8:35-54 - 'Panna palatne ke liye haath uthaaya toh dekhta hoon naakhoonon pe laal rang hai jo zara sa halka pad gya hai, jaise uss khoobsoorat ladki ka guroor jataa raha ho jise har roz duniya ke liye sajna nahin padta - aakhir uska saamna karne ke liye duniya jo sajti hai').

NB* The return leg of my journey has been described in one of my previous posts (click here). 

I was the moron who got lucky that day...


Oct 2012

This is an addendum to one of my earlier posts (click here). This has the rendition of the original poem in Bengali. The mood and feel has been quite beautifully preserved in the rendition.

Those knowing the language (the literary intricacies) will be able to appreciate it to the fullest.But i reckon a worth a hearing anyways.

Lastly something i forgot to mention in the earlier related post - the name of the whore was Bashavadatta.

Down Under

Oct 2012

Sky Tower and Opera House, Sydney in Aug 2011 (last year). Clicking on the pic gives a bigger view of the  Sydney suburbs and surroundings.

Meeting Place

April 2012

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I'll meet you there.

Jalaluddin Rumi.
Source: The Essential Rumi.
Translation by Coleman Barks.

Used as the opening and ending lines of 'Rockstar'.
Rendition by Ranbir Kapoor.