Wednesday, August 27, 2014
“A house is not a home...” My house was not my home, it was not my safe haven, it was not my sanctum sanctorum. I was an only child and I grew up to be a lonely child. I grew up an introvert. I had a few select friends. My parents didn’t get me, I didn’t get them either. I was a disappointment to my father on a lot of fronts. I was a girl, I didn’t study medicine, or law or engineering. Instead I studied Literature. “A fat lot of good that will do you”, my father said when I told him about my decision on a major. On the night of my graduation, my parents hosted a dinner party to commemorate the occasion. I will not lie, I was surprised by this tremendous piece of courtesy. My father wasn’t particularly fond of my career choice, something which he had made abundantly clear in the course of three years of college. But you wouldn’t have been able to figure it out that night; he played the part of a proud parent to perfection. After dinner, when everyone had left and I was in my room, feeling guilty for having judged my father too harshly, he came into my room, with a whiskey in his hand. He had a faraway look on his face and gave me a forlorn smile. “That was one of the most excruciating dinners I have ever hosted. While everyone of my friends’ kids are doctors, engineers, lawyers, architects, or are studying to be, I have to say that my daughter wants to write. And she has had no success so far.” He turned his back and went away. And that is how it has always been; with him turning his back on me whenever I stumbled in life. Nothing I did was good enough for him; he always expected more than I could provide him with.Sure I was no valedictorian or salutatorian, but I wasn’t an ignoramus either. And then one day I decided to stop, I stopped seeking his approval.
My father was the reason why I had so little self-confidence; I suffered from low self-esteem, and an overall feeling of being utterly useless. As I grew up, I doubted my ability to work and produce effective results. As a result of being constantly criticized and doubting my own potential, my grades in college suffered. This provided further fuel to my father and served as an open invitation to demean me some more.
I could not turn to anyone because to the outside world he was the epitome of an ideal father. He had painted a picture perfect portrait of our family on the outside.He was the perfect husband, the perfect father. Among our neighbors and friends, he was my ‘Daddy’ and I was his ‘little girl’. He played the charade of a doting father very well indeed. As far as people were concerned,he was my champion, my hero, my pillar of strength, my biggest supporter. He would go around telling people how proud he was of me, that he was going to back me up no matter what I chose to do with my life. Oh how I wanted those words to be true! I remember an instance from high school: I had got a C+ on a paper and my father refused to speak to me for two whole months. He even avoided making eye contact with me. He refused to have dinner with me at the same table. As an only child, how dare I fail his expectations? Did I not know that there were no replacements toddling behind me? So I retracted further in my cocoon; he was successful in making me feel emphatically inconsequential.
But now that I have moved out, I have people around me who tell me that I am not without talent and I am definitely not worthless. I feel appreciated and accepted among my colleagues and my circle of friends. When I talk, they listen without interrupting me; they tell me I have the capacity to seize their attention with my words. They believe in me, they have faith. I don’t feel like a no one anymore.I have a job, I am able to make both ends meet quite comfortably, I have a roof over my head. I am trying to get over the inhibitions of me not being good enough, but it is difficult to grow out of them. I often go to the beach by myself; I enjoy the sound of the waves. A trip to the beach leaves me calm and serene.
It took a lot of grit and determination to get away from under the shadow of my overbearing and disapproving father, but I did manage to in the end. We talk every day now. He calls me at nine every night without fail; I find the routine ludicrous and tedious. He tells me that he misses me, I remain laconic. He tells me that he wants me to move back to the city, I am still laconic. He tells me he wants me to be happy, I don’t quite believe him. This was the man who made it obvious that my very existence was nothing but a disappointment. How can I believe him now, when he says so otherwise? Am I wrong in holding a grudge against him when clearly he is reaching out to make amends? I am sorry, but every time I sit down and try to make peace with my past, it is a painful recollection and I find myself unable to move past the hurt he has caused me. Moving out was the best decision of my life, and I am finally free from the clutches of rejection and disappointment that my father had infected me with when I lived under his roof. I haven’t been able to forgive my father for what he has done to me yet, but I hope that the first step involves moving out. I pray that I am able to one day.
Monday, August 25, 2014
Mardaani discloses certain skeletons in the closet that would have best stayed in the closet so as not to affect our conscience. But too bad, Pradeep Sarkar decided to take a stand in regard to a growing issue that is plaguing India at large: child sex trafficking. Sarkar backs up his movie with authentic figures – every eight minutes, a child goes missing in India; UNICEF reports that almost 1.2 million children from India are trafficked for sexual exploitation every year. Those are some staggering numbers, especially if we are at all worried about the ‘future’ of our nation. With a backdrop of the growing child sex and drug trafficking, Sarkar makes Mardaani about a tough female cop, who makes it her mission to find her surrogate daughter, who had been kidnapped and forced into prostitution.
Rani Mukheji plays Shivani Shivaji Roy, a no-nonsense cop, who holds her stead easily in a male dominated world. Her colleagues look up to her and support her, which is refreshing to see for a change; they have their ‘ma’am’s’ back at all costs. But please don’t be rash and take this to be a sign of a feminist film; instead be a little open minded and not bring in gender at all for the protagonist. As a celebrated police officer of the Mumbai crime branch, she is married to a doctor, played by Jishhu Sengupta, and is a mother to her niece, Meera. When Pyari, a young girl who is the same age as Meera and who is Shivani’s surrogate daughter, whom she had saved from a life of hardship of begging around in the railway station, goes missing, Shivani stumbles across a nefarious racket of child sex trafficking. Thus begins the thrilling chase of the good and the bad.
Mukherji, coming back from a hiatus, packs a powerful performance. She has no qualms in slapping the shit out of a goon when he threatens her to leave them alone and continue with their riot. She has worked hard for the role which shows in the actions sequences. As a fierce, gutsy police officer, she is not surprised when the kingpin of the sex trade operation contacts her over the phone and warns her to stay back. Instead she makes light of the situation by calling him the “under 19 ke 12th man.” She practices kickboxing, yoga and keeps herself fit and at top shape so that she can chase killers trying to evade arrest on motorbikes. She is equally at ease with her colleagues cracking jokes about their boss – “Arre koi boss ki biwi ko shopping kara do yaar!”
Shivani Roy is the typical character of tough cop, we have seen plenty of them before. The only aspect that I felt was a little overdone was how Mukherji pulled up her sleeves frequently throughout the movie in order to accentuate her swagger; that was unnecessary. Mukerji carries Mardaani on her shoulders, with some support from Tahir Bhasin, who plays the cool, suave mastermind of the gang. I am glad that someone is doing their bit in order to bring awareness about an issue of this huge magnitude in the limelight. All hail Mardaani!
Sunday, August 24, 2014
Enemy is the story of two Jake Gyllenhaals, that is the only thing that I could gather once the movie ended. The movie is ridiculously oblique and I had a tough time both deciphering and digesting the ending. Prisoners on the other hand, another collaboration between Gyllenhaal and Denis Villeneuve before Enemy, keeps the audience glued to their seats instead of disgusting them and making them cringe, which is what Enemy largely does. Villeneuve strives for the non-linear narrative technique, trying to showcase that the entire movie is in parts, which once when finished will complete the entire picture, sadly doesn’t satisfy the readers curiosity or provide you with any apparent answers. If a movie is marketed as a thriller, the audience will pay their money where they don’t get cheap thrills, yet don’t have to crack open their skulls, while trying to decipher the meaning. Enemy gives you neither.
It is a story about body doubles, a theme that has been wrung out of almost all of its juice in literature and movies. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Adam Bell, a college history professor who finds out quite by accident that he has a body double in Anthony Clare, who is a struggling actor. They are the same on all counts and this both terrifies and intrigues Adam and he ends up stalking Anthony, leading him to his house, where Adam gets to know that Anthony is married. The two ultimately meet, but if the audience is hoping for any face off, they are hugely disappointed because there is none. Instead the meeting is supremely tame, adding to the further obtuseness and obliqueness of the movie. Gyllenhaal is surrounded by supporting characters; Adam has a girlfriend, with whom he has angry sex every day. The rough sex is to fill up the gaps in their conversatios and is a signal of their doomed relationship. His mother calls him regularly and checks up on him, something that he doesn’t quite appreciate. Anthony has a wife who is pregnant with their first child; incidentally both the wife and the girlfriend are blonde, maybe this is of some significance, but whatever that might be, it was completely lost on me.
Interlaid with a recurring and surreal spider motif throughout the movie, what Enemy is able to achieve is a level of creepiness and eeriness in the negative sense of the words, which will probably keep audiences away from the movie. Gyllenhaal wears a lost look through the major part of the movie, except for one scene where he rehearses a potential climactic showdown as Anthony with Adam.
Though I don’t term myself to be a film critic just yet, but I do enjoy an incomprehensible movie just as much as the next film critic. Sadly, with Enemy, I do not have the slightest motivation to re-watch it so that I can figure out what its bizarre ending signified. Mark my words, no matter how surrealist Enemy is, it is no Mulholland Drive or Lost Highway and that is what makes the movie even more frustrating.
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel, When We Were Orphans revolves around a lost childhood. Critics have been harsh with the novel and Ishiguro himself has stated that When We Were Orphans is definitely not one of his best works. The protagonist, Christopher Banks is a famed private detective in the 1930’s London. He is a recognized name among the upper crust of the British society. (The British society as we know is strictly rigid with its class). The novel, in the usual Ishiguro style, follows the recollection of memory pattern. Using the first person narrative style, Christopher tells the story of his childhood in Shanghai in the International Settlement and provides the background of his becoming a private detective in the first place. In the typical Ishiguro ‘stream of consciousness’ method, he moves on from one incident to the other in young Christopher’s life in Shanghai. He recollects his childhood home in Shanghai, his parents, his Chinese nanny, his next door Japanese neighbor, Akira who was his best friend. Ishiguro brilliantly pieces the recollection, stringing them with a present memory, which is a trigger for Christopher to recall these past events in the first place.
But Christopher is an unreliable narrator and some of his stories are full of inconsistencies and distortions. As the story unfolds, the readers get to know his motivation becoming a detective – his parents’ disappearance in Shanghai when he was a young boy. It might be because he was a child, that too with an active imagination that his recollection is unreliable. As an adult, Christopher often lives under the shadow of the unsolved mystery of his parents’ disappearance and questions his reputation and worth as a detective.
But years later, when he hears from an acquaintance from his that they are moving to Shanghai, he decides to go back and finally work on the case of his parents. The ending is shocking for both Christopher and the readers; there is no grand revelation but a bitter truth to be experienced by both parties. Ishiguro is ever so polite in his narration that it can get a little tedious. The theme revolve around nostalgia and passage of time. It cannot be termed as a detective novel in the classic sense of the word, but it is detective’s story, investigating his past. Set during the times of the Second World War, it is a story of grisly wartime killings, kidnappings, enslavement, adultery. It is a slow book, but then most of Ishiguro’s books are but I don’t think it deserved the harsh criticism that it did. The ending might not have been a fantastic one like that of a pulpy detective novel, but it was gruesome enough to numb your senses.
Monday, August 4, 2014
When it comes to Scarlett Johansson, I have very ambivalent feelings. I wouldn’t call myself a fan of hers per se, but I have enjoyed a few of her performances. As Black Widow, she definitely caught my eye. Plus I am a sucker for female action heroes. This is why Lara Croft will always be number one on my list. That is because Angeline Jolie is a goddess to me. Anyway, so ScarJo seemed a good enough female action hero, which is why when Lucy hit the theatres this Friday, I set my mind to watching it.
Luc Besson directed Lucy is the second largest budget French film production of 2013. I won’t be surprised if the movie fails to recover the 49 million Euros it invested because Lucy disappoints on every point. Well, maybe a little less on the action front. The eponymous character is played by Scarlett Johansson, who is an American student in Taipei (we have no idea what is it that she is studying) who gets entangled in a wrong end of a drug deal that goes horribly wrong for her. Lucy’s newly acquired boyfriend who has dubious connections to begin with, works for a Korean drug lord – Jang played by the ever fearsome Choi Min Sik. I am sure Josh Brolin was brilliant as Joe Doucett in the remake of Oldboy, but Choi Min Sik will always be immortal as Oh Dae-su in the original Korean Oldboy. Lucy is kidnapped and is forced to become a drug mule, along with three another innocent people for a new drug – CPH4, which is yet to hit the market. The drugs are put in plastic bags and are sewn inside their stomach so that they can breeze past customs. However things take a drastic turn when one of the captors kicks Lucy in the stomach and the packet of drugs breaks, releasing CPH4 in large quantity in her body. Instead of dying from an overdose, her body almost reacts ‘positively’ to the drug and she develops superhuman powers.
And this is when the movie goes downhill. There is a particularly awesome car chase, in Paris, one of the busiest cities in the world and a few gun battles worth watching, but there are also ludicrous scenes, like when Lucy with just a flick of her finger manages to disarm all the gun-wielding bad guys and make them float from the ceiling. Such is the power of CPH4! Johansson’s transformation to an action heroine is very commendable indeed. She did the job as well as the script could demand her to do so. The few times when she needed to be emotional, Johansson brought it on headlong. The one scene that truly stood out for me was when Lucy realized that she was about to embark on a terrifying and possibly a one-way transformative journey and calls her mother. She says –“I remember the taste of your milk in my mouth ... I want to thank you for a thousand kisses that I can feel on my face." The scene was brazen, yet potently powerful.