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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Review - Dev D



Last weekend, I watched the movie Dev D, which is a modern take on the book Devdas by Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay.  Now I haven't read the book so I can't comment on how much the movie deviates from the book itself...although I have to imagine it does deviate somewhat given that the book was written in 1917 and the movie in the 2000s!  But the story itself is familiar to most Indians...and certainly to anyone who watches Bollywood films since the book has been picturised numerous times.  


In any case, authenticity aside, the movie is surprisingly compelling.  I had reasonably low expectations as I hadn't actually heard of the film before (surprising, I know) but I like Abhay Deol as an actor and was interested to see a reinterpretation of a story that is to Indians as Romeo and Juliet is to Westerners.  So I watched it...here are some thoughts...(definite spoiler alert!)


The story:  A fresh take on the original story that is brought very appropriately into the current era.  Yes, Dev goes off to study overseas but it is clear that the relationship with Paro continues in a very modern way...not a pining out of sight that I always found rather hard to believe, but a constant phone and text message relationship that was surprisingly realistic. Even the sexting has become such a dangerously integral part of modern teenage life that it seems expected for a long distance couple.  No longer is the Dev-Paro love story a victim of parental circumstance...but rather a modern tale of jealousy and infidelity, and destruction at the hands of a spoiled, overly-indulged young man.  Chanda's story is also ripped straight from modern headlines and very believable. 


The characters: I love that none of the characters are two dimensional.  You don't really like Dev but can see the good in him that sparks from behind his overall selfish, spoilt core.  His hypocritcal attitude towards his own real versus Paro's imagined infidelity fits his character's personality completely...as does his self indulgent response to losing her.  His resentful attitude towards his father, even as he spirals out of control using his father's money is something I've seen.  And still there is the side of him that can understand and empathize with a fallen woman and find the humanity in her and himself.  As for the two women, in prior iterations of this story, Paro and Chanda are often portrayed very one dimensionally and as victims.  They are almost seen as two sides of the same character - the good and bad - but both equally victims of circumstance.  But Kashyap (director)'s women are complex, full of their own desires and needs and passions, and although at the mercy of their surroundings and society, they are nobody's victims.  Paro shakes off the restraint of her conservative upbringing to send Dev a naked pic of herself early on...and she rolls up a mattress to take out to the field so they can consummate their relationship.  But when that same open desire gives Dev fuel to fire his jealousy, she doesn't look back or lose herself in sorrow...she marries a man who, although older with two children, provides her with security and comfort...and loves her and desires her.  And she doesn't hesitate to rub that in Dev's face when he finds her later.  As for Chanda, yes, she is the victim of her own desires and of a boyfriend who puts her in the center of an MMS scandal that destroys her reputation and family but she is also a product of her own choices.  And she refuses to be a victim...even as a prostitute, you sense that she is in control of her circumstances as much as possible.


Filming/direction: I can't say enough of the camera work and direction on this film.  The movie is visually stunning whether during the early country life moments, later in the bowels of the city, and most of all during the trippy drug induced hazes.  And the direction is perfect...understated and fantastic.


Music: and then there's the music.  Amit Trivedi packed an astounding number of songs into this film but they are never intrusive.  Unlike most Bollywood masala, where songs seem to interrupt everything and often it seems the movie is written for the songs rather than the other way round, in this movie, the songs are an integral part of the story...in fact, the music is a character in itself.  The way the music weaves through the story, it is as if we are literally hearing the soundtrack to the various characters lives.  And while the songs are ever present, they never detract from the story.  In fact, they seem to enhance the plot and even the acting, esp when it falls short at times.  The song Emosional Athyachaar is still playing in my head and I absolutely love Dhol Yaara Dhol.  But in addition to those memorable singable numbers, there are numerous background song moments that are fantastic.  


And finally, the acting:  I love Abhay Deol's portrayal of the character in this film.  He's plays the unsympathetic dissolute drunkard as well as he normally plays the boy next door.  Mahi Gill does a nice job playing the simple village girl who is burgeoning into a woman full of her own desires and passions.  The scene at her wedding is a perfect 30sec portrayal of her - initially restrained while those around her dance but then suddenly bursting into hip thrusting, unrestrainedly joyful dancing that leaves her new husband surprised.  Kalki Koelchin does fine in her role as Chanda, too, although of the three I thought she was the weakest...too often her delivery of lines is stilted and although she captures the innocence behind the prostitute pretty well and even does a respectable job showing the painful vulnerability in her circumstance, a little more depth would not have gone amiss somehow.


So...all in all, I thought this was a great movie.  No it's not the best you'll see this year but it is ambitious and bold and visually and acoustically memorable...and it's so refreshing for Indian cinema that if for nothing else, then for that alone, I had to love it.  I give it a solid 4 out of 5.


PS - beware...don't watch this one with your kids or your parents, though, as the language and themes are decidedly adult.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Outsourced - Redux


I decided to give this show a shot and have been watching it on hulu and have to say it's definitely improved.  Now that the initial overplayed jokes are mostly done (there are still a few in there for good measure), it seems to have found a bit more of a groove.  The characters have settled into more relatable roles...gone is the unfortunate attempt at creating a romance between Todd and Asha (which I am particularly grateful for as it means that Asha's terrible terrible Indian accent is rarely heard) and instead there is the more believable romance with one of the other expats.  The Indian setting now adds nice colour (literally and figuratively) to the backdrop and a different dimension to the jokes than the many office sitcoms out there.  And although there are the occasional jokes about many armed gods and things, they are mostly kept to a minimum...and both the locals and expats are equally stereotyped making it all the more bearable.  So...after some growing pains, I think this show has found a happy place!

Monday, January 3, 2011

4000 Dead Birds

Strange happenings - 4000 dead birds fall from the sky in Arkansas on New Year's Eve.  No explanation...no reason...eeps!  Freaky, right?  What's freakier?  How about this for starters...a few days before the dead birds, there were 83,000 dead fish in western Arkansas.  Gah!  First fish then birds.  AND there have even been thousands of mini-earthquakes in Arkansas over the last couple of months.  Double eeps!  Maybe it's the apocalypse...signs of the end of the world!

So I've decided that since the world may be ending, it's a good time to take stock of my life and see if I can milk some more..well, life...out of it before the universe collapses.  So here goes...my bucket list for the end of the world:

1.  Love my friends and family

2. Travel to Italy and visit all the beautiful art work I've seen only pictures of, eat good Italian food, and drink good Italian wine.  Oh and maybe whistle at some cute Italian men...hey if they can do it to the women, why can't the women do it to them?  Only fair, right? :-)

3.  Travel back to Rajasthan and explore my ancestral past even more.

4.  Travel the rest of India and learn about the rest of my extended Desi family.

5.  Do something daring every month...every week if I can.

6.  Learn something new every day, be it related to my job or completely new

7.  Make new friends who challenge me and teach me

8.  Read more...fun books, books that inspire or teach me, books about people I admire, books about nothing but fluff!

9.  Eat more...the world is ending...who cares about weight!  More chocolate specifically would be good.  Ok ok...I care about weight and health, so eat more but in moderation, especially the chocolate.  And exercise more so I can look good as I die!

10.  Admire the stars every night...the ones in the sky, that is.  Well, maybe the ones in the TV, too, sometimes.

11.  Try to do some good in the world.  I'd rather not go to hell after the world ends...or be reincarnated as a bug in some alternative universe.

12. Get lots of good sleep.  Sleep always makes the world better.  Plus, as mentioned in #9, health is important, even at the end of the world.

13. Find someone to spend my last moments with.  Now this doesn't have to be a forever kind of someone.  After all, the world is ending!  But wouldn't it be nice to end the world in someone's arms instead of greeting the end of all alone?  I mean, I'm Desi...we believe in starting things as you mean to go!  Ok ok a forever kind of someone would be nice because if I prescribe to the saat-janam theory, I might be spending a lot of time with that person in another universe/world for some time to come!

14. Buy a nice house with a private beach to enjoy the last sunsets and go live there for real.

15. Win the lottery to make #14 possible.

Although...I just remembered, I'm not Christian...I don't believe in the apocalypse! Phew!  Besides...what apocalypse would start in Arkansas anyways?  Don't all the sinners live in the coastal states?  So...no apocalypse!

Instead, perhaps it's all manmade.  Maybe the folks that made the TV show Flash Forward took the storyline out of some secret military mission and we are all about to experience a black out.  Spooky!  Wonder what my flash forward will entail?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Who needs meat?! Not me!

I'm a die-hard vegetarian...anything that runs, swims, flies, creeps, crawls, walks, etc, etc...I do not eat.  Ordinarily this is actually quite easy.  Being Indian there are plenty of veggie options and I live in a cosmopolitan city where finding vegetarian food is not difficult.  It's not always delicious or plentiful but it's usually easy to find.  But I struggle a little around the holidays because friends feel compelled to make vegetarian options but that usually means steamed string beans (did someone forget the flavor?) or mashed potatoes (fine but I'd like something not beige and bland on my plate please!).  And, I'm sorry, but Tofurkey?  Ew...No, thank you!

So finding a veggie dish that works well and fits in amongst the traditional holiday favorites is always always fun and a treat!  Well this holiday season, I decided to try my hand at a veggie version of stuffed cabbage.  No meat...just deliciousness.  And it was awesome.  Which was satisfaction in itself...getting to eat a yummy veggie treat while my friends were chowing down on meat and not being relegated to flavorless blah...but the BEST bit was watching my good friend, the meatatarian, take THIRDS of the stuffed cabbage.  Yeah!  If he can be converted anyone can!  Next stop - making a GOOD veggie burger that doesn't taste like boiled beans and nuts.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Confidence Must Be Sexy!

It's funny how in one moment your outlook can change so quickly!

At the moment, I'm carrying a couple of extra holiday kilos, the winter forces the packing away of all my alluring skirts, and I'm sure my nose gets a leeeetle bit red :-)  And yet, for some reason, I've been feeling good about myself...which, oddly enough, results in my feeling even better about myself!  Interesting cycle!

Strangely, it started on a day when I was feeling particularly down.  I was walking to work and feeling like the weight of the world was on my shoulders - behind in everything work-related, unclear about where my future was going to be, no romantic prospects on the horizon, and an interminable winter to look forward to (which I hate!).  But as I was morosely making my way, I suddenly decided right then and there that I was NOT going to be depressed/stressed/sad.  After all, I'm blessed with so much.  Instead, I took a deep breath, looked up and made myself smile.  At first it was an effort but oddly enough, within minutes there was a spring my step and the day looked good.

That change in attitude would have been lovely in itself...but somehow confidence really must be sexy.  Because despite the winter wear and the rudolph look, it seemed like I was now getting admiring glances from passers-by.  Ever notice that men only open and hold doors for good looking women?  Well, something about my newfound happiness must have brought a sparkle to my eye because all of a sudden it seemed like I didn't need to touch a single door.  And most importantly, my smiling exterior garnered me smiles from those I passed...happiness is contagious after all...making me even happier!

So for the last few weeks, despite being equally behind and stressed and despite the winter, I've been feeling fantastic and confident and sexy.  Which garners more smiles and admiring glances...making me feel even better about myself.  And that cycle seems to have translated into my romantic life as well because all of a sudden, romantic prospects abound as well...even thoughd I haven't done anything differently!  And in the "when it rains it pours" tradition, I also got an unsolicited job offer that would be a substantial promotion!  Very flattering!

Of course, some of this is my perception.  The smiles and glances may have been there before (albeit less frequently) but in my morose state, I doubt I'd have noticed them.  And perhaps the men around me are all very chivalrous and would have opened doors had I just given them a chance...maybe they even did and I didn't notice in the midst of my winter blues!  But I know it's not all perception...there definitely is a tangible change even accounting for the fact some of that change may be just the way I'm relating to the world.

I also know this is not a permanent guarantee for anything.  The job offer is in another city where I am not sure I want to live.  The romantic prospects are just that - prospects - and I'm awfully good at not following through at those!  And the confidence may wane as the stress takes over...it's all contigent on my maintaining this positive outlook.  But for now...I'm going to enjoy it all I can!  It's my new year's resolution.  After all, when you've got it...flaunt it!

So...my advice to anyone reading this blog...if you're feeling down, don't fret.  Take a deep breath, remember all you're blessed with and that there are others less fortunate...and smile.  If you make yourself smile for long enough, suddenly you really ARE smiling...and then the world smiles with you :-)

Ok enough cheese...time to go back to work so I can catch up and maintain the stress-free positive 'tude!!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Holidays!

I'm not sure why everyone makes such a big fuss about which holiday you wish everyone.  Does it matter, really?  If I wanted to go around wishing for everyone to have a very happy Diwali, why would that be a bad thing?  Isn't that nice that I want everyone to have as good a day as I will?  So why does it matter whether someone wants me to have a merry Christmas or a happy Hanukkah...I'll take em all!  More goodwill, more good food, and maybe even more presents for all!

So...have a happy Hanukkah, a fantastic Festivus, a merry Christmas, a wonderful Kwanzaa, and most of all a fabulous New Year and even better year to come everyone!!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Choosing to Love Your Spouse Forever...or Not - The Riddell/Partilla story

I was browsing the New York Times and saw this piece which has apparently been garnering a lot of attention about a married man and woman (not to each other) who fell in love with each other and left their respective spouses to be together...and then announced the story in a rather narcissistic fashion in the NY Times "Vows" section.  (Read the original article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/19/fashion/weddings/19vows.html)

The article itself is clearly a self-serving, propaganda piece put together by the couple and aided by NY Times in a disappointing and uncharacteristic move.  But it's been very interesting for me to read it and read the responses to it.  Particularly, I was intrigued (read: appalled) in this whole notion that they "couldn't help themselves" because they were "soulmates"...after all "you can't help who you love"...blah blah blah.  Bollocks...bollocks, I say!!

Marriage is a choice...you choose to commit your life to another person and then you reaffirm that choice every day by choosing NOT to cheat on your vows.  Yes, temptation lies at every corner.  And yes, one can choose to give in to them.  But to somehow imply that there was no choice involved, that cheating wasn't cheating because you were under the control of an irresistable urge/love is simply denying responsibility.  It's as if a 5th grader were to cheat on a test and when asked why by the teacher he were to say - "well, Teach, I didn't mean to cheat, really I didn't.  But I just couldn't help myself.  The perfect cheating manual came across my path and it was really just so wonderful and perfect for me, how could I not use it?"

It is not wrong to be attracted to someone when you shouldn't be...that's innate biology and chemistry.  I mean, I'm attracted to Johnny Depp at some level and even I know that that's just plain wrong :-)  But I choose to suppress and deny (!) that attraction completely and totally.  It's the only responsible and smart thing to do!

Oh well...in the end, who am I to judge Riddell/Patilla's choice...their life...their decision...their idiocy.  After all...some might say what they did is incredibly brave...they're both trusting their hearts to known cheaters!