Monday, December 28, 2009

Movie: Avatar

In the year 2154, Jake Sully(Sam Worthington) is transported to the Pandora, an earth like moon of a plant. Jake is a former marine who is a paraplegic now. On arriving at Pandora, he meets Dr Grace Augustine(Sigourney Weaver). He learns from Grace that he is brought in to step in the shoes of his murdered twin brother.

Pandora possesses a valuable mineral named unobtanium in abundant quantities. RDA corporation wants the mining rights to this mineral. In order to obtain the rights, the corporation uses a group of scientists headed by Grace who are protected by a group of mercenaries for security reasons. The administrator for the corporation is Parker(Giovanni Ribisi). Till now, all possibilities for an exchange have failed.

Pandora is inhabited by Na’vi, an alien form of life which resembles humans but are taller than humans, blue in color and has a tail. In order to interact with them better, Grace develops the Avatar program where in artificially created Na’vi bodies are operated by humans. Jakes’s brother was a part of this program. After his death, Jake has been called in take over his brother’s role in the program.

Grace and a fellow biologist named Norm(Joel David Moore) are skeptical about Jake as he lacks the necessary experience. But when Jake starts operating his Na’vi avatar, he is ecstatic  as he regains the use of his limbs. He gets up from the chamber and navigates inside the perimeters created for the scientific experiment.

Grace is impressed by Jake’s enthusiasm and allows him to accompany for a tour inside the jungles of Pandora with Norm and Trudy(Michelle Rodriguez), a marine fighter pilot. During the tour, Jake is lost in the woods following an attack by the predators found in the jungle. While trying to survive in the forest, help arrives in the form of Na’vi princess, Neytiri(Zoe Saldana). Neytiri takes Jake to her tribe Omaticaya. The tribe warms up to him.

Sensing this as an opportunity, Colonel Miles Quaritch(Steven Lang) asks for vital information regarding Omaticaya from Jake in exchange for a chance to walk on his legs again. Jake has three months. In the three months, Jakes learns a lot about the tribe and successfully integrates with them. What happens when the Jake’s real world collides with the Jake’s avatar world forms the rest of the story.

James Cameron comes out of the self imposed hiatus after the successful Titanic to direct this movie. The tug of war between two different forms of lives is a favorite subject for Cameron as evident from Aliens, Terminator(1 and 2) and also The Abyss. Like the earlier outings, Cameron effortlessly takes us into a world he creates with effective use of technology and makes us believe it is real. His Pandora resembles the underwater world in The Abyss at some places. Cameron embeds the importance harmony with nature and also wrath of the nature in the movie. But the metaphors are lost in the breathtaking action sequences. Here, you are awestruck in the visual imagery, forgetting the absence of an original plot.

Performances have nothing much to do in this movie. In spite of all this being a director’s movie, Sam Worthington leaves a mark as the paraplegic who suddenly regains the use of his limbs. He gives a spirited performance in this movie even though the movie or the role do not require him to.

Zoe Saldana’s Neytiri is a computer generated character created using the motion capture technique. But her smile make us wish if there was a human form for Neytiri.

The presence of Sigourney Weaver reminds you of Aliens in the beginning. As for Stephen Lang, he ends up as a caricature with a role lacking complexity while mouthing dialogues that are straight out of the TV headlines. Giovanni Ribisi and Michelle Rodriguez is perfect for their roles.

Watch it for the fantasy world created out of nothing. Watch it for the breathtaking action scenes. And watch it only on 3D.

Language: English

Genre: Action

Rating: ****

Picture Courtesy:

Tags: Movies,Sam Worthington,Sigourney Weaver,Giovanni Ribisi,Joel David Moore,Michelle Rodriguez,Zoe Saldana,James Cameron,Action

Movie: The Hangover

Phil(Bradley Cooper) and Stu(Ed Helms) organize a bachelor party for Doug(Justin Bartha) in Las Vegas two days before his wedding. Phil is a schoolteacher who can’t wait to get to Las Vegas whereas Stu has lied to his overbearing girlfriend to host the bachelor party. The three friends are joined by the Alan(Zach Galifianakis), Justin’s to be brother-in-law who is dysfunctional. They set off to Las Vegas on a vintage Mercedes convertible, loaned to them by Justin’s to-be father-in-law.

After reaching Las Vegas, they upgrade their rooms to a villa at Ceasars Palace. In the evening, after getting ready to hit the strip, they climb on the rooftop of Ceasars palace and have a drink admiring the view.

Hours later, Phil, Stu and Alan wake up in the villa with a terrible hangover. They find a tiger inside the bathroom and a baby hidden inside the closet. On top of it, Stu has a missing tooth and Doug is missing. From the hospital bracelet on Phil’s hand, the three friends retrace their lost night in order to find Doug and attend the impending wedding.

Todd Philips directs this whacky comedy about a bunch of friends who can’t handle the sin city. The stage is set in the first twenty minutes. After that, the audience begin a whirlwind journey with the protagonists to unravel the mystery behind the disappearance. As they trace their way back the night, characters tumble out of the script to explaining the tiger, the baby, the missing tooth and the forgetfulness.

While not suitable for viewing with children, this is a perfect for laughs.

Language: English

Genre: Comedy

Rating: ***

Tags: Movies,Bradley Cooper,Ed Helms,Justin Bartha,Zach Galifianakis,Todd Philips,Comedy

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Movie: Chattambinadu

Mallanchira and Kattapally are two affluent families in the village of Chembattunadu. There were running a business successfully in partnership. But when one of their employees run away with a big amount of money, the friends turn foes. When the rivalry turn bitter and bloody, the families recruit goondas into the village. Very soon, the village gets overrun by goonda and slowly Chembattunadu becomes Chattambinadu.

At present, Mallanchira is run by Chandramohan(Manoj K Jayan) while Kattapally by Nagendran(Siddique). Chandramohan is heavily under debt and wants to sell off his ancestral property to pay off the debt. But, whenever, Chandramohan finds a prospective buyer, Nagendran scares them away. So, Chandramohan decides to sell his property to an outsider. His broker finds a suitable buyer in the form of Vijendra Mallaya(Mammootty), a Kannadiga. In order to scare Mallaya, Nagendran jeopardizes the life of Mallaya’s right hand man, Murugan(Vinu Mohan). This incident provokes Mallaya instead of scaring him. Now, Mallaya decides to buy Chandramohan’s ancestral property.

Chattambinadu gets a make over after Mallaya reaches the village. Mallaya changes the lives of the people in the village and also solves the mystery behind the feud between the two families.

Shafi directs this movie which is based on Benny P Nayarambalam. The story has nothing new to offer. So, Shafi has concentrated on the concentrated on the characterization of Mammootty and also painting beautiful frames with the help of cameraman Manoj Pillai.

Mammootty looks good and acts well as Vijendra Mallaya. He speaks Malayalam with a Kannadiga accent and once again he proves he is master in dialects. The Kannadiga accent evokes laughter.

Siddique, Manoj K Jayan and Janardhanan(as the retired goonda) has nothing much to offer. The comic relief comes in the form of Salimkumar as Maakri Gopalan and Suraj Venjarammood as Dashamoolam Damu. Unfortunately, the comic relief falls flat as Salimkumar cannot create a situation which is not connected to a woman or sex and Suraj Venjarammood cannot shed his coward act. The ladies come in the form of Lakshmi Rai and (Manikyam) Mythili who remain pretty onscreen.

Watch it for Mamootty’s accent and some crass jokes.

Language: Malayalam

Genre: Comedy

Rating: **

Picture Courtesy: http://www.chattambinadumovie.com

Tags: Movies,Mammootty,Siddique,R Manoj K Jayan,Janardhanan,Salimkumar,Suraj Venjarammood,Shafi,Benny P Nayarambalam,Manoj Pillai,Laksmi Rai,Mythili,Comedy

Friday, December 25, 2009

Movie: 3 Idiots

After receiving a phone call, Farhan(R Madhavan) fakes a cardiac arrest to get off an airplane about to depart from New Delhi. Once he successfully gets off the plane, he rushes to the engineering college campus from which he graduated. On the way, Farhan picks up his friend, Raju(Sharman Joshi). On reaching the college, they are met by Chathur(Omi). During the college days, Omi was always at loggerheads with Farhan, Raju and their third friend. Ten years back on the same day, Chathur had vowed that he will become more successful than the three friends. He also promised to meet them ten years later.

Farhan and Raju are disappointed to see Chathur as they were expecting their friend, Rancho(Aamir Khan) instead. Rancho has not stayed in touch with his friends after college. For the friends who desperately miss Rancho, Chathur comes in as a relief as he has unearthed the whereabouts of their missing friend. Farhan, Raju and Chathur leaves for Shimla to find Rancho.

During their journey to find Rancho, Farhan reminisces the college days. He fondly remembers Rancho who inspired to pursue excellence instead of success. There were many interesting characters who they meet in college life. The strict college professor, Viru Sahastrabudhhe(Boman Irani), his daughers Pia(Kareena Kapoor) and Mona(Mona Singh), Farhan’s dad(Parikshat Sahni) and Raju’s poor family are some of them.

Rajkumar(Raju) Hirani directs this movie which is based on the novel Five Point Someone by Chetan Bhagat. Unlike his previous outings, this movie is more a drama than a comedy. But, the characters and situations evoke laughter. Also, the message in this movie is right on the face where the main protagonist hammers in the need for being educated instead of being successful. The movie is predictable and is fraught with a sense of déjà vu. In spite of all these, the movie still makes you eagerly wait for events to unfold or brings a smile on your lips. This feeling you get while watching the movie is Raju’s success.

Aamir Khan delivers a memorable and captivating performance as Rancho. Rancho is intelligent, energetic and innovative. These are easy to portray as it is already written into the script. But, Rancho is also in his early twenties. Aamir is blessed with a boyish face. But it is his mannerisms that make you sit up and watch the performance. Be it placing his hands inside his trouser/jeans pockets or the way he scratches his head or the way his neck stretches out when he teases Pia, Aamir has effectively changed his body language to suit a twenty year old.

Boman Irani becomes Veeru Sahastrabudhhe by a curly wig, a lisp and his dress. Veeru is a very serious man who is very competitive. He makes us laugh while being earnestly serious. Kareena is endearing. Madhavan and Sharman are good.

Raju Hirani has chosen never before seen locations like IIM campus in Bangalore to depict the college campus and major cities like Delhi, Shimla and Ladakh. Muraleedharan’s camera gives us a jaw dropping view of these locations.

The background score is overly melodramatic in some emotional scenes.

Go for it. It has everything we need.

Language: Hindi

Genre: Drama

Rating: ****

Picture Courtesy: Bollywood Hungama

Tags: Movies,Aamir Khan,Kareena Kapoor,R Madhavan,Sharman Joshi,Boman Irani,Mona Singh,Rajkumar Hirani,Chetan Bhagat,Drama

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Why are dentists paid well?

“Why are there many options for dentists in my small neighborhood? Are they paid well? Why are they paid well?”. Although these sounds like the name of a chapter out of a Steven Levitt-Stephen J Dubner or Tim Harford book, these were the thoughts resonating inside my head when I stared into the white ceiling, laying on the adjustable reclining chair with an open mouth for the dentist to work his magic.

Dentists spend a lifetime perfecting the art of staring into someone’s mouth. So, why would anyone choose this occupation as a career? It does not sound like an exciting thing to do! But, as always, the elderly wise had a different thing to say when I was unsure of the career path. They insisted that dental science and the veterinary science were becoming lucrative options. I smirked in response. In the neighborhood where I currently live, there are three options for dentists. Two of these come in the form of dental clinics while the third one is an hospital with dental experts. All these options sprouted up under a span of an year. Now, I realize the elderly wise are indeed wise. Sometimes, they do get things wrong. For example, I do not see as many options for veterinarian clinics around me. But, mostly, they are right! After my recent visit to the neighborhood dentist, I came back home with a reverence for these holy men(and women) of teeth. The occupation is divine.

My visit to the dentist broke the long spell of procrastination, kicked off a few years back*. The long spell started after I found, for the first time, a cavity between left first premolar and the left second premolar in my upper teeth when I rolled my tongue to pull out an orphaned piece of juicy edible animal flesh that got entrapped there. The soft flesh of my tongue pressed against the cavity, triggering alarm bells in my mind. I was more worried about seeing the dentist than the cavity. Reluctantly, I decided to fix an appointment with the dentist the next day. But, the next day, for fixing an appointment, never dawned. When I finally visited the dentist, I walked into the clinic without a prior appointment. Over the time elapsed* between the decision and execution, my skills for procrastination touched new heights and the cavity widened into a crater.  My love for kebabs(both chicken and mutton) and beef (both steaks and kerala varieties) fueled the widening of the cavity. I have discounted fish from the list as they come with bone structure which can be broken down and used as a toothpick effectively and immediately!

The dentist agreed to see me after his finishing up his current patient. When he finally presented me with an audience, I poured out my heart to him. After listening to my problems, the dentist placed me in the reclining chair. The dentist had an ever-present smile on his lips which could be easily construed as a shameless display of his perfect teeth. He examined my dental structure using his occupational instruments. My carnivorous habits had led to other minor damages to my teeth. After the detailed examination wherein my teeth was X-rayed, he decided to work only on my cavity. Before filling my cavity, he decided to remove all the decay. As he worked towards removing the decay, he started sweating profusely. For an outsider, it looked like he was struggling to cut through a steak which was well done. After the struggle which seemed to be an eternity, he pulled out the offending piece of decay and placed it on a tissue paper in front me.

It was a guava seed. The last time I had guava was from a street vendor off Brigade Road! It has been a while** ago! If this is the tip of iceberg when compared to events in a normal day of a dentist, I need no explanation on why they are being paid high!

* Here, I’m deliberately being vague on the timelines. But if you are still curious, consider it less than a decade. So, it can be one year to 9 years 11 months 30 days.
** Deliberately not quoting the actual timelines!

Picture Courtesy: http://eastasiaforum.org

Tags: Musings,Dentist,Cavity

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Manager motivates

One of the austerity measures by the wise and learned during the downturn was to either to correct the salaries according to the business realities or to arrest the salary increment in response to business challenges. Everyone ended up doing more with less. So, the universally hated but in fact the friendly neighborhood manager is in a dilemma. How does he combat a gradually decreasing morale while towing the line of “more with less”?

Recently, a friend, who is also a manager, was in a similar dilemma. He had to provide a very critical release for the customer. As usual, this task can easily be done by the high performer in the team. The high performer was a lucky person whose salary was not slashed during the dark phase of market correction! But, at the same time, his salary had been stagnant for almost two years now.On top of the money woes, the high performer was already overloaded and was in no state to understand the criticality.

So, my friend, the manager, approached the high performer.

Manager(M): Hey!

High Performer (HP): *ignores and types on the keyboard*

M: *sits near HP, watches the monitor and then hums*

HP: *irritated* What?

M: Nothing!

HP: *resumes typing*

M: You know what? Interesting thing with the customer!

HP: *rolls his eyes and ignores M*

M: *ignores the royal ignore and continues* C, the customer, says the fix can be provided before 6 pm.

HP: *continues the royal ignore act*

M: *continues to ignore the royal ignore act* No way someone can finish with that by 6 pm!

HP: *still ignoring M*

M: I’m willing to bet against someone completing this on time!

HP: *suddenly interested* Are you ready for a bet?

M: Yes. It can’t be done before 6 pm.

HP: 100 bucks?

M: 50 bucks.

HP: Okay!

The high performer being high performer, he had a deliverable ready before 6 pm. The less in the “more with less” slogan worked. The manager walked away with less Sodexho coupons as he paid off the wager with it.

Picture Courtesy: http://highperformanceadvocates.com

Tags: Musings,Manager,High Performer

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Movie: Paleri Manikyam – Oru Paathirakolapathakinte katha

Haridas(Mammootty), a detective by profession, is haunted by the brutal murder of an young girl named Manikyam in the village named Paleri, where he was born. The murder was committed in 1955 on the same day when Haridas was born. A local priest was also killed in the same village on that day. Manikyam was murdered 11 days after her marriage to Pokkan, a village idiot. Pokkan’s mother, Cheeru(Shweta Menon), is the village prostitute and local brewer.

Haridas decides to unravel the mystery behind these two murders to satisfy his curiosity. He leaves to Paleri with his colleague Sarayu(Gowri Munjal), with whom he is having an extramarital affair. It is a difficult journey searching for the truth as most of the witnesses for this incident have long been dead. There are a few people alive in the village who were from the same era. So, he has depend on documents from court trial, hearsay from the locals and first person accounts from the people from a bygone era.

The movie tells Haridas’s quest for truth where he patiently pieces the missing information and finds out the identity of the killer.

Ranjith scripts and directs this movie based on the eponymous novel by T P Rajeevan. Ranjith uses Haridas as the narrator and embeds him in the action during the transitions from the present to the past in the initial part of the movie which effectively aids the viewer to orient to the quick changes in the era. Ranjith also has used theater artists for enacting the key roles. This helps in building the suspense as it is difficult to associate good or evil with a lesser known face. For older roles of the key characters, who are well into their 70’s, Ranjith has used Sreenivasan and T Damodaran. Ranjith’s favorite, Siddique, also acts adding to the list of well known actors in the movie. The brilliant part of adaptation is the introduction of Ahmed Haji at the interval. In the novel, Haji appears early on. While adapting, some of the key characters loses their significance. Their contribution towards the investigation comes as a big surprise for a person who has not read the novel. Also, the climax lacks impact.

Mammootty excels as Haridas and Ahmed Haji. While Haridas is a restless and confused man living in the modern times, Ahmed Haji is the arrogant feudal lord who can destroy lives callously. While Haridas is simple yet modern, Ahmed speaks in dialect which is prevalent in northern part of Kerala. Dialect is an easy and comfortable mask to wear for Mammootty. But it is often the lust and arrogance of Haji that pleases and surprises the viewer. Ranjith scores on how he decided to shoot these characters. He has decided to shoot all scenes of Haridas first. This is evident from the fact that Mammootty sports his trademark moustache as Haridas. Ranjith then shot Ahmed Haji who sports a Vaikkom-Mohammed-Basheer moustache. This would have required a lot of planning by Ranjith.

Shweta Menon impresses as Cheeru. She portrays the younger and older phases of the same character. As young Cheeru, she oozes sensuality not only with her body but also with her looks. As the old Cheeru, she has a slight stoop and an perpetual contempt for everything.

Bijibal’s music is loud at places. But mostly, it haunts and also heightens the suspense.

This is not suitable for viewing with kids as it has a lot of disturbing scenes.

Though this falls short of as a classic movie, it is still a noteworthy attempt in creating meaningful cinema.

Language: Malayalam

Genre: Thriller

Rating: ***

Picture Courtesy: www.nowrunning.com

Tags: Movies,Mammootty,Shweta Menon,Sreenivasan,T Damodaran,Siddique,Ranjith,T P Rajeevan,Bijibal,Thriller

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Potty, books and newspapers

Recently, I overheard two girls talking. These girls are barely 4 years old.

Girl 1 (G1): Why did we stop the car here?
Girl 2 (G2): My dad wants to buy a book.
G1: *perplexed* Book? For what?
G2: My dad takes the book while going for potty.

G1 digested this information. As this sank in, she wore a content look. But, before long, G2 resumed the conversation.

G2: What about your dad and mom?
G1: My dad doesn’t. My mom takes a book while going for potty.
G2: Your dad doesn’t?
G1: *thinking for a bit* He takes the newspaper while doing potty!

We are teaching our children the importance of books and newspapers though we might not be teaching them the virtues of reading!

Picture Courtesy: http://www.casadavis.org/

Tags: Musings,Potty,Books,Reading

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Selecting a laptop

Recently, a friend was asked to select a laptop by his girlfriend.Why is it always the guys in a relationship get to choose the laptop? Not that the  guys do not like to do this for their partner. But why do it have to the guys always? Let it as it may. This experience turned out to be very enlightening for my friend as it helped him understand the complex logic in which the opposite sex chooses a laptop.

The girlfriend had saved enough money for the laptop. Both of them work for the same company and has almost the same salary. Check my friend’s bank balance and you will be surprised to find that he barely has money to buy a toy laptop. Who said that the girls can’t save?

Being aware of the budget, my friend embarked on the journey to select the right laptop. The goal was simple – best configuration within budget. For the next few days, he researched on the internet for the best configuration available for the given budget. After deciding on the optimum configuration, he checked the prices on the websites of different manufacturers. He selected a Lenovo model after diligent research.

My friend do not believe in buying things off the internet. So, he then went to the various brick and mortar stores in the city looking for the laptop. Wherever he found the laptop, he negotiated with the salesman with the knowledge gained from the internet. Finally, he selected a famous retailer.

For the final approval, my friend brought her girlfriend to the store. Like a winner, he pointed at the Lenovo model and said, “That one”. The girlfriend did not respond and looked uninterested. Thinking that she had heard him properly, he pointed again and said loudly, “That one”.

She gave him the “duh” look. My friend raised his eyebrows. She responded, “I don’t want that”. Surprised and confused, my friend explained the pros of the laptop, bringing up the budget constraints as an additional aid in coercing her. She still was not interested.

My friend was devastated. Seeing the look on his face, the girlfriend said, “It is black. If they have it in pink, I will take it!”. My friend was dumb folded. Sensing his disappointment, she added, “I am okay with red too!”.

Lenovo’s loss is Dell’s gain. They bought a red Dell model.

Picture Courtesy: http://www.mobileedge.com

Tags: Musings,Lenovo,Dell,Laptop

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Book: 2 States – The Story of My Marriage

Krish Malhotra and Ananya Swaminathan are class mates in IIMA. Soon, Krish and Ananya become friends. Krish is surprised and confused by Ananya’s closeness as he is not able to understand why the most beautiful woman in the campus is willing to be friends with him. The friendship blossoms into love. While their careers are being decided, Krish proposes to Ananya.

The boy and the girl are in love with each other. But as tradition goes, they both want the consent of their parents for marriage. This presents a three fold challenge.

  1. The boy’s parents should like the girl.
  2. The girl’s parents should like the boy.
  3. The boy’s parent and the girl’s parents should like each other.

In order to complicate things further, Krish is a Punjabi while Ananya is a Tamilian. How Krish finally succeeds to marry Ananya by fulfilling all these conditions forms the rest of the story.

Chetan Bhagat is the author of this book which is based on his life. He uses the first person narrative and unfolds the story through Krish’s viewpoint. The theme is about the cultural clash. The North and South, while belonging to India, have different way of living and thinking. This provides the drama and also humor. Chetan might not be writing award winning prose. But he sure does know to entertain. The only flaw is using Hindi-film-inspired props to move the story ahead. Luckily they are very few. But like watching a Hindi movie, you read ignoring the cheesy feeling while encountering these props.

Go for it if you want to read something light and funny.

Picture Courtesy: http://www.chetanbhagat.com

Tags: Books,Chetan Bhagat

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Dissecting a Recommendation Letter

An young colleague (YC) has decided to pursue higher education in US of A. As a result, he sent me his recommendation letters for improvising the content. Since I stopped my pursuit of education immediately after getting an engineering degree, I never had to undergo through this pain. After reading through the recommendation, I have a newfound respect towards both the writer and the reader. I am listing some of the excerpts in below in bold.

I have known YC for four years…as an active member of the Malayalee Association. But what is a Malayalee? Does a person sitting in Chico or Kalamazoo and reading this recommendation letter know about Malayalees?

What impressed me about YC right from the beginning is his high spirit and enthusiasm in everything he put his hands on! High spirits make sense. After all, Malayalees are a “spirit” loving people and the sales report of the beverages in the state can vouch for it. But what intrigues me is how the professor found out “everything” that YC put his hands on? The search for everything in the subsequent paragraphs were futile. There is no quantification of everything! It is open to interpretation.

His energy level is so high that everyone wanted his presence for making the function a success. YC is very modest. What can he do if the professor noticed the clamoring for YC’s presence!

He does not accept what he is told to him and asks questions to satiate his curiosity… YC may come across as a person having problem with authority. But we are like this only!

The major issue was attendance shortage. YC took it upon himself to counsel his classmates with a shortage of attendance and ensure that they henceforth attended classes and made up their attendance. WOW! Since I did not have anyone half as nice as you as my classmate, I had to rely on the shady overweight doctor running the clinic who was ready to write out an illness certificate for Rs 20.

Thus, I would say that YC has a very well rounded personality! Bingo! You got that correct. YC is in fact a well “round”ed person!

Picture Courtesy: http://www.apcweb.com

Tags: Musings,Young Colleague

Movie: Paa

Amol Atre(Abhishek Bachchan), a Member of Parliament and fast rising politician, visits King Edwards school on it’s 50th day celebration to judge the “Vision of India” contest. He is excited at seeing the entries and selects a white globe as the winner as it signifies a world without boundaries. When the prize is announced, Amol is surprised to see a 60 year old man coming forward to collect the prize. Amol is perplexed to see the prize winner behaves like a school going kid. The prize winner is Auro(Amitabh Bachchan), a 13 year old boy suffering a rare genetic disease named Progeria. Due to this genetic disorder, Auro ages rapidly and hence he looks older than his age. Auro leaves a lasting impression on Amol.

Auro lives with his mother Vidya (Vidya Balan) and his grandmother affectionately called Bum(Arundhati Naag). When Auro tells Vidya about Amol and his prize, she is shocked. Years back, Vidya and Amol were dating each other while studying in London. When Vidya gets pregnant, Amol is worried as he wants to concentrate on his political career. He wants Vidya to go for an abortion which leads to breakup between them. Vidya flies back to India, gives birth to Auro and raises him. Her mother is very supportive all along.

Slowly, Auro interacts with Amol over email and chat after Auro’s life gets disrupted by the latter’s school visit. Amol promises Auro to show him the Rashtrapathi Bhavan. After this, Auro is very excited and Vidya is terrified. Bum urges Vidya to reveal the truth. During the same time, Amol gets busy with a slum redevelopment project wherein the opposition and the media is not very friendly. How Vidya tells Auro about his father, how Auro reacts to his father, how Amol and Auro bond with each other and how society reacts to an unmarried MP’s new found status of parenthood forms the rest of the story.

R Balakrishnan aka Balki script and directs this drama. Like his earlier directorial venture “Cheeni Kum”, Balki builds emotional scenes using humor which makes this an entertaining movie without sounding preachy or melodramatic. Balki displays exceptional ability in handling kids as it is evident in all the scenes involving Auro and his friends. The conversations are brilliantly written and funny. The interaction with Auro and his group of friends brings the house down. In many scenes, Balki subtly shows that the care, concern and love towards Auro displayed by his friends. He bases his script on a few main characters. As a result, the screen is not overcrowded and the audience develops an intimacy with the characters. His script slightly loses track during the slum redevelopment campaign. In spite of the name “Paa”, the character of “Paa” is underdeveloped while “Maa” outshines.

Aided by PC Sreeram, Balki is able to create picture perfect scenes which are visually pleasing. Ilaiyaraja has reused his previously successful tunes in Tamil for the songs.

Amitabh Bachchan is barely recognizable with the prosthetics. The original voice of Amitabh is lost in the raspy mumblings of Auro. The prosthetics only do a fraction of job in transforming Amitabh to Auro. The rest of transformation is completed to perfection by Amitabh adopting the body language of a 13 year old. The height is the only minus point in this regard. Although Amitabh tries to slouch to cover up this anomaly, he is too tall. But, Amitabh overcomes this with a wonderful performance. His walk, the shrugging of the shoulder and his laughing at his joke are amazing to watch.

Vidya Balan gives a superlative performance as Auro’s mother. Be it the lustful look on her face after spending the evening in pub or reproachful look on her face when Amol touches her to console her, she displays wide range of emotions. This helps her is walking away with accolades in spite of Auro and Paa.

Arundhanti Naag as Bum is a revelation. Abhishek Bachchan and Paresh Rawal sticks to the script.

This is highly recommended and will provide an entertaining watch.

Language: Hindi

Genre: Drama

Rating: ***

Picture Courtesy: Bollywood Hungama

Tags: Movies,Amitabh Bachchan,Abhishek Bachchan,Vidya Balan,Arundhati Naag,R Balakrishnan,Balki,PC Sreeram,Ilairaaja, Paresh Rawal, Drama

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The “Padma” experience

  On my recent visit to Ernakulam, I was blessed with an opportunity to watch a movie with audience avant-garde. Of late, I have been watching movies either at home or in a Bengaluru multiplex. The audience in a Bengaluru multiplex are boring. They need a multilayered intellectual joke to laugh. When the heroes make their introductory appearance on the scene, there are no catcalls! But, the movie experience was different in the rapidly growing city of Ernakulam.

In spite of a culturally diverse population, it was easy to get a ticket for Saifeena’s “Kurbaan”! Even though “Padma” theater has been renovated and elevated to a quasi-multiplex status with lesser seats, tickets were readily available on the second day of the release. I ignored all these obvious signs and gave quality of the movie a clean chit. How can this movie go wrong? The posters prominently displayed a bare-backed Kareena trying to hide a bare-fronted Saif.

A lot of things may have changed in “Padma” theater. The first class and second class sections are gone! It has been converted into a restaurant (owned by film actor Dileep). But there are still a few things that have withstood the winds of change – the air conditioning and sound system. The air conditioning still freezes you in 10 minutes and the sound hurts your ear drums from the word “go”.

The joy of movie experience was amplified by the audience avant-garde sitting among the boring family audience. While the family audience watched the movie in a reactive mode, the other set of audience were proactive and took active interest in the movie as soon as the credits started rolling. They shouted and interacted with the various actors – Saif, Kareena, Vivek, Dia, Om and Kirron - appearing on the silver screen. Whenever the actors were in a dilemma on screen, this set of audience suggested solutions loudly.

Finally, it was the actors who played spoil sports. They did not respond to the suggestions. To add to the insult, the actors stuck to their version of script adamantly instead of adapting to the dynamic script written on the fly by these resourceful audience!

It might have been due to the callous and uncaring nature of the actors that the audience avant-garde suggested only sexual acts as part of their script (re)writing. When Saif locks Kareena against the bookshelf inside the empty staffroom of the college in a “I-might-kiss-you-now” position, the audience wanted Saif to use the empty tables scattered around the room. They urged Saif not to stop at a kiss. The audience also had plenty of suggestions for the aging actors – Om and Kirron. When Vivek watches the aircraft carrying his fiancée Dia exploding in mid-air, these audience were sincerely worried. They wanted to know if Vivek-Dia relationship was ever consummated. They could easily have taken a guess for Vivek and Dia played independent professionals living in the tri-state area. But they were not in the mood for guessing games! They followed the wisdom imparted by our learnt. When in doubt, ask!

Foot note:

I was part of the boring unenthusiastic audience.
I vowed to watch only Malayalam and Tamil movies while in Kerala.
I never wrote a movie review because I slept in between the movie.

Picture Courtesy: http://www.forumkerala.com

Tags: Musings,Ernakulam

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