Saturday, December 15, 2007

Q&A by Vikas Swarup - book review

I just finished reading Vikas Swarup's Q&A. It is a thoroughly enjoyable read and a complete page-turner.

The winner of the largest prize in a quiz game show is arrested on the grounds of cheating. Nobody believes that Ram Mohammad Thomas - a waiter in a Mumbai restaurant has answered all twelve questions correctly to win one billion rupees. This is how Q&A begins. The book is divided into chapters based on each question which Ram Mohammad Thomas was asked in the game show. I found this somewhat odd in the beginning but it is the only way the novel could have been organized.

Each question in the game show relates to a slice of Ram Mohammad Thomas's past and all these slices are quite enjoyable to read in a first-person narration form. Most of the stories have a suspense towards the end and though, one could guess the suspense as one moves on, they are a pleasure to read nonetheless.

Vikas Swarup is an Indian diplomat and this is his first novel. As I've found in novels about India like Shantaram and City of Joy , Q&A tries to excoticize the Indian poor but thankfully it does not dwell onto that for long periods and given the fast pace of the book, things generally happen quickly. I quite like the author's dry humor and his matter-of-fact style of writing bereft of long boring monologues.

The book has generous references to bollywood and many a times the stories read like a good bollywood movie - full of drama, dashes of thrill and tragedy but entertaining to the core. The small bio on author at the end of the book says that they are going to make a movie based on Q&A. It would be interesting to watch out for this one.

Dus Kahaniyaan
, which came out recently is an anthology of ten completely unrelated stories, each story having a different star cast. Then there are movies like Salaam-e-Ishq and Teen Deewarein in which the stories though seemingly unconnected end up being joined by a common thread in the end. Q&A would be somewhere in between the two - the common thread joining the different tales is revealed in the beginning itself but the stories themselves are all independent.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

What is this happening?

During one of those argumentative conversations with a friend whose opinions I value very much, I realized that I am starting to think about religion more than I should.

That I am trying to see things through a very selective filter which is obscuring the bigger picture to the point of shutting it out completely.

That I am talking about things with the presumption that I have a high moral ground and hence I can discount whatever others have to say because they will never be able to understand.

That I am making enemies in my own head and then trying to prove they exist.

Oh God! Help me see reason.


Sunday, December 9, 2007

Us and Our Films

Recently, there were protests (and subsequent bans) in some North-Indian states against song lyrics from the movie Aaja Nachle. The controversial phrase goes like- "...bole mochi bhi khud to sunaar hai...". The protests by the dalits were justified and Anil Sharma, the director of the movie did the right thing by apologizing. The bans were revoked in most states after this.

This post is not about debating the the ban itself in more detail. I want to write about the huge part that our movies play in defining our culture, entertainment and to an extent our politics and identity too. I recently read Ramachandra Guha's India After Gandhi and in the last chapter he talks about the forms of entertainment that we Indians have enjoyed and still do. Movies feature prominently among them. The fantasy and the escapism in our films provided just the right kind of entertainment and getting away from the daily troubles and turbulence of life in India- both in rural as well as urban areas.

Guha writes that themes constantly depicted in Indian cinema- the fight between good and evil, a boy and a girl marrying outside their caste, etc came to resonate with the aspirations and hopes of Indians. The heros in these movies- the depiction of good, became very popular among the masses. Rajnikanth, Amitabh Bacchhan, Rajkumar, NTR and MGR have all enjoyed huge fan followings. People have come to venerate their film stars.

Given the emotional attachment of Indians with our cinema, it would then sound very natural that when a film shows or even hints at discrimination between castes, the members of the offended party would not take it lightly. Indians of all castes and religion love their films inspite of all their shortcomings, and they cannot bear the fact that even the films discriminate among them based on their caste and religion. This is why I think the improper reference in Aaja Nachle provoked such a wide and quick response.

In a lighter vein, music is what make our films special. The rich lyrics, so many different musical styles, highly gifted musicians and singers have all contributed in making our film music unique and great in its own right. I cannot imagine my life without film music. More specifically, I cannot imagine what would I sing in the shower.


Friday, December 7, 2007


Coming home from very lonely places, all of us go a little mad: whether from great personal success, or just an all-night drive, we are the sole survivors of a world no one else has ever seen.
- John le Carre
from Gargi Shah.

In the end, all our stories, they are the same. No matter where you go in the world, there is only one important story : of youth and loss and the yearning for redemption.
-Rohinton Mistry.
from Satyabrat.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

He is THE man

This is hilarious.

The guy goes to Dartmouth too.


Saturday, December 1, 2007

Lakdi ki Kaathi

According to all my past and present roommates and neighbors, I am an intractable bathroom singer. Thanks to youtube, I can brush-up on the lyrics of some of my all-time favorites. Here is one of those gems:

I used to sing dum daba ke instead of dum utha ke. I still wonder what is the difference between the two? And, by the way why did Ram Gopal Varma have to do this to Urmila Matondkar?

And here is our very own William Hung:

Even Himesh Reshammiya would shudder at this brutality.