Wednesday, October 15, 2008

White Tiger


‘White Tiger’ wins the Booker prize and Aravind Adiga jumps into the elite list of Indian Booker prize winners like Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy and Kiran Desai. The book has received mixed reactions, most people believe that the book inflates the social disparity in India and hinges on violence, terror and y Naxalistic sentiments. The Booker prize, according to them, is a testimony to the fact that westerners give literary prizes to Indians who highlight the darker side of India.

My personal opinion is that the book is brilliant. First of all, it is crisp, not voluminous and moves at a breakneck pace. Secondly, it redefines Indian writing in English. Arundhati Roy wrote a brilliant book but somewhere down the line, Rahel & Esther’s observation of Central Kerala in ‘God of small things’ is parallel to Saleem Sinai’s musings on Bombay in Rushdie’s ‘Midnight’s children’. Salman Rushdie made the greatest sin of his life by designing this ‘Indian writing in English’ template way back in 1981 which has been aped (efficiently & effectively thou) by hordes of Indian writers for over twenty five years.

Aravind Adiga, is a distinct voice. His narration style and language is refreshingly different. The story in a nutshell is about an illiterate (only technically) Bihari who comes to Gurgaon to be a chauffeur to his village landlord’s son and how he kills his master eventually. There a lot of underlying themes but I don’t want to give out any spoilers.

His observations are needle sharp when he talks about the scum that exists in the periphery of our big futuristic cities like Gurgaon which all of us conveniently ignore. The protagonist talks about two India: the bright and the dark, referring to India Shining and the Bimaru states. The most interesting aspect is that the author doesn’t waste words in detailing the poverty and the wretchedness, but delves into the psyche of the people surviving in that environment. The book is rich in plenty of ‘in your face’ kind of observations like ‘These days there are two castes: Men with Big Bellies, and Men with Small Bellies." & “Do we loathe our masters behind a façade of love or love our masters behind a façade of loathing”?

As we turn the pages, we can feel the chill and terror, akin to what we experience while watching Naseruddin Shah’s Wednesday. When I read the part on how Baburam the protagonist slits his master’s throat, I was so disturbed that I had to take a half an hour break to reconcile with it. Trust me, I have felt like this in very few occasions, the strongest being while watching Darren Aronofsky’s ‘Requiem for a dream’.

If you have ever thought about the squatting rickshaw puller and the chauffeurs who wait for their masters outside malls for infinite hours, do read this book. And, for most of us, the experience will be very sour.

I am extremely happy that Adiga got this year’s Booker and sincerely hope that it teaches aspiring Indian writers to be different and to follow one’s own style.


15 October 2008

Friday, October 3, 2008



Before I start off with my review, I need to thank UFO movies for bringing in the digital movie revolution. Sitting in this sleepy town of Rudrapur, I am able to watch ‘Drona’ (which I repent) on the first day itself. The ambience was electrifying, tons of rural UP youth (India Shining) in their embroidered jeans and Himesh Resamiyya shirts & dozens of people like me who live in Rudrapur working for the Tatas/ Nestle/ M&M or Dabur sitting in this decrepit hall with eyes glued to the screen.

Now coming to the movie, my first question to Mr Goldie Behl, the director is “Why do you copy numerous English movies in parts and add dollops of Indian values & maa sentiments, isn’t it better to copy paste a single Lord of the Rings or Harry Porter…does it actually save you from perdition?”

I don’t want to divulge the story, because I read innumerable fan mails in Rediff cursing the reviewers for divulging the story. The gist of it would be something like this. Abhishek Bachan is an orphan who lives with his adopted family in Czechoslovakia and has a nagging step mom like in Cindrella who curses him in hard core Punjabi and a kind step dad who cares for him. Like in all good Hindi movies, his step dad soon becomes a Kodak moment (dead & converted to a garlanded photo in the drawing room) and his step mom continues to behave like those weird aunties in Ekta Kapoor’s K- serials.

AB junior is the descendant of a family which has been protecting ‘amrut’ from the hands of the demons right from prehistoric times. Enter Rizwaana, the menacing villain (Kay Kay Menon) who reminded me of Bobby Darling. He mouths extremely dangerous words like ‘Gustakhi maaf” and hams to the core. Kay Kay is the modern day demon who is tech savvy, gay oops homosexual oops oops Metrosexual… The story clings around how AB baby realizes that he is a Drona and has to protect the world from “hippie” (thanks to Eric Cartman of Southpark) demons like Kay Kay Menon.

The first half is extremely sad and the second half with its sleek graphics and action sequences seemed better. The graphics by Tata Elxsi is good. Even though it is not as real and life like as the wrecking ship in Titanic, it brings in lot of mysticism and Harry Potterish kind of magic. Coming to the flaws in the film, I can keep on writing for ages. I am just jotting down the major let downs

  1. AB baby: Poor guy doesn’t have the aura and personality to be a Drona. He is very shaky which suits his character in the first half but he doesn’t metamorphosis into the warrior prince
  2. Kay Kay Menon: He is one of my favourite actors who has displayed the subtle intensity of a Robert De Niro in movies like Hazaaron Khwashis Aisi, Life in a Metro and recently, Mumbai Meri Jaan. Sadly, he is wasted in Drona. He tries to be like the Joker in Dark Knight, cracking jokes and waging his tongue. His spiky hair reminded me of the bathroom scene in ‘There is something about Mary’. I hope that you recollect the scene, else watch the DVD J
  3. Side kicks: The histrionics of the villain’s sidekicks is at par with the Peters, Roberts and Julies in good old Ajit & Pran movies. Only difference is that they wear a black hood indicating that they all are part of some dreaded cult.

Here is one example of the director’s talent: AB baby & Piggy Chops (well I read Bombay Times every day and am fully updated on what Harman Baweja calls his girlfriend!) go to this bizarre village called Raazpur in their quest for the amrut and they meet this weird looking midgets. They sport clothes which are directly lifted from a Tarun Tahlani/ Satya Paul show…cool indigo colour robes with green, red streaks. It seemed quite funny & anachronistic and no where near being intriguing.

The movie is a khichdi of innumerable English classics. I am sure that Goldie Behl holds a platinum membership in BigFlix and .The ‘amrut’ reference is from Indiana Jones, the lonely kid is from Harry Porter, the quest is similar to ‘Lord of the Rings’, the sand dunes from ‘Mummy’, the villain is from ‘Dark Knight, a Gandalph look-alike from Lord of the Rings and the old banyan tree & dazzling white light from Darren Aronofsky’s ‘metaphysical I couldn’t understand what’ movie Fountain.

On the positive side, camera work is good, the actions scenes in Egypt reminded me of David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia. and Ms Priyanka Chopra is good. She sports that attitude, even though the clothing & make up reminded me of some English movie or video which I can’t recollect. She would have been a better Drona than Abhishek Bachan

On the whole, Goldie Behl who has directed some classics like ‘Bas Itna Sa Khwab hai’ should understand that having a family friend like AB baby wont salvage his career. I am very keen to find out how the movie fares at the box office. I have a strong hunch that it might work decently because whatever we say, Indians have a strong affinity towards fantasy stories and in these hard times, people wont mind watching a ‘dev v/s asur’ flick. Watch this space for more updates.


3/ 10/ 2008