What Defines a Literary Classic? Thoughts on One Hundred Years of Solitude

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is considered as a seminal masterpiece and is unanimously accepted as the author’s greatest accomplishment. I will be honest, I have not read the book in all these years, despite being a student of Literature and spending generous amounts of money on all kinds of books, year-on-year, once I started earning regularly.

First, how the book found me. So brother Karthikeyan Santhanam landed in India to renew his visa. We decided to meet and Ampa Skywalk was equidistant and an ideal spot. The Annual Landmark Sale was to begin, I continue to hold the Landmark card and was shopping looking for spectacular books in the 70% off and 50% off sections. KS walked in and he held the book in hand asking ‘Have you read it?’ I nodded my head in the negative and next thing I know I have the book in hand as a New Year Gift. Thank you Karthi :).

Now back to the book! This is essentially a tale of a man, his wife, the man’s levels of insanity, the woman’s courage and faith, war, famine, gypsies, love, hatred, death, infidelity, incest, revolutions, science, progress, and evolution that’s spread across seven generations.

See this picture to understand the primary characters in the book.

The book is not exactly an easy-read, way too many characters, different names, lots of things happening, idle ramblings, purported metaphysical thoughts and love, lust, sex and anger in ample measure.

The magical realism aspect seems to be forced. The book was published in 1967 and perhaps would have been a testimony of the strange times then. Reading the book now, it seems to be a laborious task.

How does a book become a masterpiece? Sales-numbers? Quality of Prose/Poetry? Characters and Settings? Marketing? Or a heady mix of all the above? If you are suffering from insomnia, read this book, either you will get a headache and continue to make sense of the chaos unfolding or you will fall asleep.

Advertisements

Velaikkaran(2017) – The Worker – A Test of Patience

The glowing reviews by a lot of my friends, senior reviewers, and general hype created around the movie made me think this was going to be a cracker of a film. In the case of ‘Aruvi’ there were polarizing views but here everyone was praising the movie.

Year-ends are usually a day to catch up with friends and watch a movie. So legendary Instagrammer and travel junkie Deepanarayanan – chaps it is a guy not a girl named Deepa Narayanan – before you get any ideas 🙂 sent a booking SMS.

Reached the theatre after an adventurous bike-ride as my charioteer – Krishnan – BP to me being Arjuna (mudiyalai yaenaake kandraviya iruuku ) as I held my phone to follow Google Maps pillion-riding through a relatively free road to reach Abirami Mega Mall.

Dr. Sai the Dr. Strange of our group a neuro-surgeon with a mind-blowing humour sense -and Prince Deepu were humming to a ‘galeej’ number tuned by Annirudh that was a cacophonic assault to the auditory nerves.

So Vyasarpadi and its surroundings is the gangland-badland of Chennai city controlled by Kashi (Prakash Raj) – Arivu (Shivakarthikeyan) sets up a community radio highlighting the happenings in the community and aims to help people come out of a life of crime.

As a web of incidents unfold he ends up joining Saffron a food consumables leader as a sales executive. The interview sequence is well done. Aadhi/Adhiban Madhav played by Fahadh Faasil does a good job, though I really think he deserved a better deal.

The movie seeks to highlight the high level of corruption and malpractices in the packaged foods industry. Essentially we see how over a course of three months a lady gets cancer by eating junk foods. A lot of twists and turns abound as we see see how the hero turns saviour and victor.

I yawned about eight times during the movie – dialogue, dialogue dull dialogue and characters that made me laugh (I am turning cynical perhaps). Marketing and Sales lessons from MBA class get an outlet on the big screen. Throw in red flags, throw in some Communist / pseudo-Communist hogwash, get people to flash their mobile flashlights and hero and heroine hug each other. Plus Nayanthara playing Mrinalinee is reduced to second fiddle here. Too many characters seem to have got a raw deal here in this movie. Wikipedia says there’s a 195 minutes Director’s Cut. God save us!

 

What Will Give You Happiness?

 

This question was posed by a friend to me a couple of days ago. Without batting an eyelid I said – “If Amma, gets seven hours of uninterrupted sleep every night, that will suffice.” He replied, – “But Mahesh, that is not in your hands right?”

I replied – “But that’s my biggest worry and concern at the moment.” He replied – “Mahesh, we are all in our wormhole of problems, wherein the health issues that our loved ones face impact our own focus. Even my Amma has a severe problem of the swelling of her feet and nerves, I can’t do anything about it other than advising her to follow the course of medicine prescribed by the doctor.”

His reply set me thinking, what would then really give me happiness:

1 – Getting the home loan paid in totality. (A long road ahead of about 14 years beckons)
2 – A song that amplifies my thoughts –

3 – One more: –

What will I be remembered for? What will you be remembered for? What is it that will give you happiness? How does the health of our loved ones impact our own choices and lives?

I type out this post as I see my mother lying with her eyes deeply shut trying to zone out the pain that afflicts her head and ears. We visited the ENT specialist, she says the eardrums have holes in both ears and there’s nothing more to be done. No moisture to go in, no cold to afflict and no buds. It’s been less than a fortnight at a new organization, but the patterns return, again an unplanned leave, again a vortex of hospitals, doctors, medicines and cutting a sorry-figure before those whom I report to – an endless stream of thoughts that boil down to the query – “What will give you happiness?”

I can at this point counter with a thought – Why is it important to derive happiness, why can’t just one remain – and why is sadness and pain such a big deterrent? Pain drives one in strange ways, it teaches you to believe that things can’t turn any bitter.

But it is this pain that when it afflicts a loved one that causes added misery. If only I could take all her pain and struggles and absorb them within my own realm. If only I could, if only….

I resign myself to the master: –

Theeran Adhigaram Ondru – Theeran Chapter One – A Riveting Cop-Tale

A gritty cop-tale without the trappings of commercial excesses is a rarity and the movies that come to my mind include:

Ardh Satya

Droh Kaal remade in Tamizh as Kurudhi Punal with Kamal and Arjun

Crime File in Malayalam based on the real case of the murder of a nun in a monastery

Kaakha Kaakha and Vettaiyadu Vilaiyadu by Gautham Menon did a fair job but still had the song and dance routine in them. I am not going to speak about the Singham series as Hari and Suriya tested hearing capabilities with all the loud shouting though they were full paisa vasool hits.

Wednesday and Special 26 are other movies that come to my mind.

Last year, a debutante won the hearts and minds of viewers with Dhruvangal-16 that brought the good, old-school police-procedural to Tamil cinema.

As always, I deviate from the core topic, Karthi’s ‘Theeran Adhigaram Ondru’ made me sit up with its excellent trailer that spoke about a true-crime inspiration.

The actual case detail is listed here:

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/operation-bawariaon-silver-screen-now/article20493784.ece

The movie has to cater to the needs of bringing in all categories of audiences and thus includes a cutesy romantic track between Karthi and Rakul. Then the movie hits the right gears. The story is about daring dacoities and murders perpetuated in farmhouses away from main cities across Tamil Nadu, especially in Thiruvallur District. As Karthi tries to uncover the case, some startling facts emerge that takes the investigative team across India.

Kudos to the director for doing his research and presenting a quick animated sequence about the Bawaria community.

Ten minutes before the interval starts the movie in its true sense and it is one thrilling ride till the end credits roll as Karthi, Bose Venkat and the remaining officers in the investigative team track down Oma and his gang of dacoits.

There is a sequence where the cops chase a dacoit on a bus. The dacoit jumps from one bus to another and is caught as he holds onto a rope and the cops hold him as the buses run on high speeds across the desert. There is a final shootout as well in a remote village that has been really well done.

Ghibran’s background score seems to be a bit too loud as in quite a few sequences the dialogue was not audible. It could be the theatre’s poor sound effects, so perhaps I could be wrong.

Do watch this movie, action-sequences itself are worth the price of admission and Abhimanyu Singh as the leader of the dacoits – Oma is menacing. Special congrats to the stunt coordinators as well.

Go watch it 🙂

Mukti Bhavan – In Search of Salvation

Mukti Bhavan and Masaan – now make companion pieces of sorts – Varanasi and the River Ganga playing a major role in both movies.

Mukti Bhavan titled Hotel Salvation for international releases is a powerful, poignant and bitter-sweet tale of the patriarch of a middle-class family and his relationship with his son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter in his quest for salvation.

In Varanasi/Benares/Kashi – remains a hotel called Mukti Bhavan where those who seek their final journey find an abode. Our lead character Daya played by Lalit Behl is a 77-year old man who has lived a life, well-spent, he sees a dream that foretells his death and he decides to leave for Varanasi to spend his last days. His son Rajiv played brilliantly by Adil Hussain seems to work in some kind of bank or investment firm and is seen chasing sales targets. Rajiv’s wife Lata played by Gitanjali Kulkarni and daughter Sunitha played by the elegant Palomi Ghosh also add to the perfect portrayal of the slightly upper middle-class family structure. They own a car as well as a Bajaj scooter.

Rajiv manages to secure a fortnight’s leave and accompanies Daya to Varanasi and they check-in to Mukti Bhavan. The caretaker Mishra ji is  played by Anil K. Rastogi who has some brilliant lines – “Death is a process.” “The souls here reside within the body. Once the body dies what purpose does the soul serve here.”

At one juncture, Daya falls sick and everyone feels he will die. An elderly lady at Mukti Bhavan played by Navinidra Behl adds grace and charm to the tale, she quips – ‘I have been waiting all my life here to die.” Daya apologises to his son for scuttling his son’s talents and dreams of being a poet. Some real good father-son scenes and I am sure a lot of us guys will relate to these scenes. Daya survives, Latha and Sunitha also make a surprise visit. The 15 day period comes to an end and the caretaker says – ‘Register in a new name and continue to wait for salvation.’

Daya finds a friend and companion in Vimala, then Vimala dies and Daya narrates a moving obituary that he has written for her. Daya advises Rajiv to return to his regular life.

Do watch this movie to figure out what happens to Daya.

At times, amidst all the drivel and leave your ‘mind at home’ cinema that all the woods bombard us with – small little gems like these arrive and make us fall in love with cinema and real characters. By the time the movie ended, I was quite emotional, been some time since I cried after watching a movie; Mukti Bhavan makes me think a lot. My obsession with death, salvation and redemption continue. There are no answers, neither are there any new questions. Celebrate death, embrace it, that which needs to happen will happen.

Full marks to director – Subhashish Bhutiani for an assured, confident and meaningful debut.

 

The Keeper of Lost Causes – Movie Review

Title–The Keeper of Lost Causes

Language–Danish

Original Title-Kvinden i buret

Genre – Crime Thriller / Police Procedural

Directed by–Mikkel Nørgaard

Written by–Jussi Adler-Olsen

Screenplay by–Nikolaj Arcel

Starring– Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Fares Fares, Sonja Richter, Søren Pilmark.

Release-2013

 

“The Keeper of Lost Causes” is the first movie in the Danish film trilogy titled ‘Department Q’. Based on the best-selling books by Jussi Adler-Olsen the movie is a throwback to a proper investigative police-procedural instead of the slam-bang-chase-two-sex scenes formula that Hollywood seems to have perfected. A routine investigation goes horribly wrong with two police officers shot dead and our protagonist injured badly and returning to duty after recuperation. The top-cop speaks to our returning cop stating that he will no longer be a part of Homicide squad and is being assigned to a new department – Department Q, which will dig through old cases that have not been closed and sort them out appropriately.

Left without an option – Carl Morck joins Department Q, which has Assad a Muslim cop who is jovial and focused and enjoys his work. The camaraderie between the two is brought out well as the movie progresses. Carl digs out a five-year old case of a young lady politician, Merete who had gone missing when on a ferry trip with her mentally challenged brother Uffe.

Carl and Assad painstakingly rebuild the case looking for answers, the movie builds its tension gradually and uncovers dark secrets and presents a villain that’s menacing and truly diabolical. Was Merete killed? Did she commit suicide as stated in the case=report? What is Uffe hiding? To find out all the answers, watch the movie.

Excellent adaptation of the book and full credit to the director for a job well done!

Mom – Thoughts on the Sridevi Starrer

The ‘Nirbhaya’ gang-rape case shook the collective conscience of the country. Across the country, candle-light vigils and protests were held and we all prayed that the victim would by some miracle of medicine and prayers survive; but it was not to be. Since the horrific and painful incident, we regularly receive news-reports of abuse, rape, murder and the vilest of them all – child-rape by perverted paedophiles. Every single time, the blood boils, the castrated rage finds outrage-outlet on one’s social networking profile and then everything is forgotten. Some friends whom I know are taking concrete measures by conducting safety-awareness and self-defence workshops, which are empowering women and young girls.

Get in touch with Janani – for more information!

I will get back to the movie, this is not exactly a review, so it will not follow the usual – starcast and technical crew details. Sridevi plays a Biology teacher with two daughters, one a teenager and the other about eight or nine years old. The elder daughter is gang-raped and dumped in a drain, the perpetrators include her classmates, a watchman and a goon. The girl attends a Valentine’s Day party at a farmhouse organised by her classmates and Sridevi grants permission with a bit of fear in her mind and all her fears come true as her daughter undergoes the unmentionable. Credit to the director to not slip into sleaze and show any uncomfortable scenes. The girl survives, is discovered, admitted to the hospital and a case filed. What follows is a true depiction of the blasted legal system that this country is left with as a remnant of our Colonial Hangover and how the suspects/accused escape with ease.

The rest of the movie details how the anguished mother avenges the traumatic rape of her daughter with a bit of help from Nawazuddin Sidiqqui who plays a detective. The climax happens in the mountains and Akshaye Khanna as the investigative cop has a good role too. Kudos to the actor playing the distraught dad as well. The girl who portrays the victim has also done a good job and I look forward to her acting in longer and meaningful roles.

A sad reminder of the times that we live in – vigilante justice remains the only solution!