Category Archives: Deep-ends

Reviews and views by Deepa Bharaj

Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania – Deep-ends review

It’s been long! Welcome back ‘Deep-ends’. Your movie reviews were missed!
~ Kamal

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Humpty Sharma
Despite being a Punjabi, a film with a name like “Humpty” in it, is not very encouraging! But sources I respect had given it the thumbs up, so a bunch of us huddled up with popcorn in a half empty theatre on Monday night. It started with the familiar audio of Kuch Kuch hota hai which was immediately encouraging, as a typical Dharma (Karan Johar) production conjures up images of guaranteed ingredients including, a full-scale Punjabi shaadi, splatter of gay humor, some NRIs, good music with the inevitable Rahat Fateh Ali Khan vocals and a sizable piece of family drama!

Trust me, this film does not disappoint in any of those aspects. In fact, there are some refreshing deviations from the norm, like the NRI is actually a very likable guy and does not speak broken Hindi with a twang! Even the “location” is refreshing…for a change, the entire movie is shot in India! 😉 There is a conscious ode to DDLJ which Karan Johar openly admits is the most iconic movie of the 90’s. Honestly, after Student of the year, Siddharath Malhotra is really my favorite actor from the new crop but Varun Dhawan is likable in this role of a clichéd, naughty but kind hearted boy, who meets and falls in love with the bratty girl from Ambala.

Alia is adorable and a very natural actress. She does well as the beer guzzling Kavya, who just wants an atrociously expensive “designer” lengha from Dehli for her wedding and goes drinking with 3 boys that she has just met, and spends a night in their apartment…not advisable especially in Dehli, where the most horrendous stories are coming out of! But of course, in the land of Bollywood, reality must take a break! Manish Malhotra, comes in full play with his collection of bridal lenghas from which to choose from. Before I make a trip to India, can someone please give me the address of the place in Dehli where you can get MM knock-offs for a third of the price?! All-in-all, a very enjoyable movie! Everything that we have come to love about Karan Johar, packaged into the 2 ½ hour escape from reality! I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Advertisements

Madras Cafe review

Deep-ends is here again! Here’s a review of Madras Cafe
********************************************************************

MADRAS_CAFE21

Madras Cafe is an intense, thought-provoking, docu-drama high-lighting events preceding the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi 22 years ago. This is an important and informative film that educated me about the long and bitter guerilla war in Sri Lanka and India’s involvement in it. This is one of those film’s that you leave and rush home to look up everything you can on about that period in history on the internet.
It makes you think about what a threat India is to the west as an emerging superpower in the global market and why they are so threatened that they would even support terrorists in order to get a stronghold on India’s borders, be it in Sri Lanka or Pakistan.
The question also arises, that in the end, who gained from Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination? Certainly not the Tamil guerilla leaders who orchestrated the assassination because their leader is now dead and his army disbanded, not the western forces because they still haven’t managed to secure a foothold on this volatile island and so it was most likely, shockingly, the BJP party that was in power in Dehli at the time because they were threatened by the possibility that Rajiv Gandhi would win the next election! The Indian government was aware of the plot to kill the ex-prime minister but did little to nothing to stop it.
My friends and I were bawling our eyes out watching these real-life events re-enacted on the screen. My heart goes out to Sonia Gandhi, it will be a heart-wrenching film for her to watch. In conclusion,this is a serious film that must be seen because it makes all the other crap we watch seem so frivalous. Enjoy! I give it 5 stars!

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag

Deep-ends is back!
~Kamal
**************************

bhaag-milkha-bhaag
Bhaag Milka Bhaag is brilliant! This is a true story about Milkha Singh, a gifted athlete who held the 400-meter world record and represented India at the 1960 Olympics in Rome. In fact, he lost that particular race at the Olympics because of his own personal demons. As a child he witnessed his parents’ slaughter during the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 and the genocide that followed. He rebuilt his life as a street urchin in Dehli, joined the army and started running just to get the glass of milk and 2 raw eggs that the top 10 fastest runners were given.
Milka Singh is played by a sinewy Farhan Akhtar who trained for a year and a half for this role and has given a brilliant and honest portrayal of the sardhar. You leave the theatre just bursting with patriotism and total respect for the dedication, determination and hard work that this athlete put in his pursuit of excellence. Other notable performances are a sensitive portrayal of Milkha’s adoring, older sister from Divya Dutta as the only survivor of the genocide that wiped out his family during the partition and Pavan Malhotra as Milkha’s mentor and the first trainer to spot his potential as a runner. Sonam Kapoor’s role is very small but important.
On the down side, it was just a little tooooo long. As usual, they could have cut out a lot of the song and dance as it was not necessary to the story.
Here is an interesting fact, Milka Singh has co-written an autobiography, entitled The Race of My Life with his daughter, Sonia Sanwalka. The book inspired the movie and he sold the rights to produce the movie for one rupee but inserted a clause stating that a share of the profits would be given to the Milkha Singh Charitable Trust. The Trust was founded in 2003 with the aim of assisting poor sports people. Respect for Milka Singh went up several notches after hearing this! It’s only once in a long while that a film comes along that makes you so proud of your Indian heritage. I feel especially proud as he is a Sikh. This one is worthy of the OSCARS…aah ho!
– Deep-ends

Heroine – Film Review

 

A movie review by Deepa.

 

While most of my friends went off to see Madonna, a few of us who were not willing to spend $250 for a ticket to the concert trekked out to the big city to catch the opening night film Heroine at the Chicago South Asian Film Festival starring Kareena Kapoor and Arjun Rampal. This was a red carpet event where bollywood mini-stars like Lilette Dubey and Farooq Sheikh were present.
I don’t want to spoil the film for you, so I’ll just give you a quick synopsisis. The movie is about a character who is not quite a superstar in “Bollywood” but is young, naive and learning how the game is played. It gives you glimpses into the politics and the manipulation that goes on behind the scenes in the Indian film industry. It shows how a careless word from a make up artist can bring big celebrities to their knees and outlines the actors’ precarious relationship with the press.
Kareena Kapoor looks fantastic, with or without make-up, Arjun Rampal is super-sexy, divorced, Saif Ali Khan type character, there is a Hrithik Roshan meets SRK type character compete with controlling wife and all, there’s a Priety Zinta type that decides the only safe way to get a film is too befriend the star’s wife, references are made to Shilpa Shetty when declining actresses are told to join reality shows, and the parallels to real life continue! The story is interesting and moves along the lines of Madhur Bhandarkar’s earlier film “Fashion” from rise to fame to downfall but it is not about any one actress. There is a little bit of all of them. I felt it lacked depth in places, for example, they don’t really explain why the heroine Mahi Arora is such an emotional mess though it hints at a broken home, or when the heroine wants to adopt a child as a single mum (like Sushmita Sen), there is no build up as to why she wants a child. It is like someone had glossed over some scenes in order to be politically correct.
I had the pleasure of meeting Lilette Dubey. She plays Kareena’s mum in the film. What a charming lady…quick witted and fun! She was dancing to Halkat Jawani when it played! She looks fantastic…talk about aging gracefully! I asked her if she thought this was a true dipiction of the pressure that today’s heroine is under and she said it was, in parts. The actors that have a high profile are definitely under this kind of pressure but for the regular actors, like her, it is more of a 9 to 5 job. Farooq Sheikh was also there and he said something in in his lovely urdu that went way over my head!

So, all in all, my trip out to the city was worth it. My verdict on the film is that it is good, not fantastic, but definitely a worth-a-watch kinda film that makes for an interesting discussion after 🙂

Barfi! – Movie Review

And she’s back! Welcome bac k to Kamal’s Korner, Deepa!
Loved the review on Barfi. Keep them coming!
~ Kamal

 

Hey Kamal…here is a review of BARFI…a delightful, different film

I had given up writing reviews, as I was under the impression that nobody reads them, but having been told otherwise during an encouraging pep talk from some dear friends, I am going to resume my ritual of reviewing books and films on Kamal’s Korner…and what better than to start with than the… oh, so delightful…BARFI!
A charming film from start to finish, both Ranbir Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra have given award-winning performances! They have shown their mettle before in Rockstar and Fashion but in BARFI they have taken their acting abilities to a whole new dimension. The writers stretched out the story a little too much, but the humor is so delightful that you willingly indulge them. The cinematography, from the serenity of the hills in Darjeeling to the bright lights of Calcutta, is simply enchanting… but what really holds this film together is Ranbir Kapoor’s portrayal of a deaf and mute young man with spunk, charm and a terrific sense of humor. RK has done his family name proud…this young artist is indeed the grandson of Raj Kapoor! He has his grandfather’s skill for Chaplin meets Mr Bean type comedy, but within seconds, he can move you to tears.
Equally endearing is Priyanka Chopra. She has shed her glamorous Miss World image so completely to enact this innocent, autistic girl with everything from the vacant eyes to the twitching fingers. Move over Rainman and let PC show you how it’s done!
The supporting actors are also good. South Indian actress Illeana D’Cruz has a lovely, chiseled face and sweet, likeable demeanor. Where in the south do they hide all these stunning, beautiful women? Then there is the other end of the spectrum, in the form of the policeman with his inevitable comb-over who dreams of retirement but has this thorn in his side in the form of Barfi…LOL!
I loved this movie and highly recommend that you go see it on the big screen.

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

A book review by ‘Deep-ends’. Please do share if you’ve read the book or intend to.
Would love your comments.
Thank you!
~Kamal

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

This week is dedicated to another Ken Follett classic, Fall of Giants. This is book one of the Century trilogy that starts in pre-war Europe, in 1911.

In a small Welsh town of Aberowen, a 13 year old boy, Billy Williams, enters the dark pits of the world of coal mining. His sister, Ethel, is a housekeeper for the aristocratic Fitzherberts and makes the mistake of falling in love with Earl Fitzherbert, who is already married to Princess Bea of Russia. The Earl’s sister, Lady Maud Fitzherbert, crosses into forbidden territory when she falls in love with a German diplomat. Two orphaned Russian brothers, Grigori and Lev Peshkov, dream of leaving Russia to emigrate to America but fate and the war affect their plans. And finally, the over-privileged American diplomat, Gus Dewar, who serves as an aide to Woodrow Wilson, plays his part in drawing America into the war.

The reader is taken into a riveting story that weaves together the lives of the main characters with each other and with real historical characters. As the story unwinds, so does the war.  The time period is well researched and serves as an informative history lesson on coal mining, trade unions, women’s rights, attitudes of the aristocracy, politics, revolution and of course, the events that led up to the First World War.

I really like Ken Follett’s development of characters, and I noticed this in Pillars of the Earth also. He portrays their motivations in such a way that the reader develops an ambivalent understanding for even the most unsympathetic characters, such as Lev Peshkov or the Earl.  None of the characters is perfect, and none are completely bad either. They all have their strengths and flaws that make them undeniably human and thus, relatable.

This is another magnificent, epic novel of historical fiction that I thoroughly enjoyed. A hefty book at 1000 pages, it would be easier to download on your slim kindle or ipad. Book two of the Century  trilogy is called Winter of the World…but I have not read it as yet. Enjoy!

 

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

A fantastic book review by ‘Deep-ends’.
Would love your comments and also what you thought of the book if you have already read it.
Thanks!
~ Kamal
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

This book is not new. It has been out for quite a while and I read it a few years ago but I recently recommended it to a friend and she came back from her holiday raving about it!

A historical novel set in the middle ages, the story is basically about 2 men; Tom the Builder, and his life-long dream to build a church, and Brother Philip a young, ambitious monk who helps Tom realize his dream. The story spans about 30 years, which is what it takes to build a gothic cathedral in the 12th century England. Keep in mind that this was an era in which life expectancy was no more than 40 years.

Follett has done an excellent job, capturing the feeling of a period when religion and anarchy went hand in hand. The research that went into this book was excellent. The characters are all well developed, from the staunchly religious monks, the hard-working, superstitious commoners to the nobles and gentry with their sense of entitlement. Brother Philip struggles with pride and ambition, Tom pursues his dream at the cost of his wife, and he basically sacrifices his newborn son to save the rest of his family. Nobody is perfect – all of the protagonists have their flaws that make them undeniably human.

Don’t let the size of this book overwhelm you; it is 973 pages but the story moves along at a surprisingly quick pace for a novel of this length.

My recommendation…read this book. It is simply riveting. But be warned!  Pillars is a compulsive page turner, so if you are planning to catch up on your sleep, don’t even start reading! I could not put the darned thing down!

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Here’s a movie review. Thanks to ‘Deep-ends’.
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Based on the 2004 novel, These Foolish Things, by Deborah Moggach  the story of  The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is basically about a collection of Brits of retirement age who for various reasons, mostly financial, decide to spend their retirement at what appears to be a luxurious palace in Jaipur, India that has been renovated into an attractive retirement home. The 7 retirees undertake the physical journey with all the inevitable hiccups but the palace turns out to be a dubious, run- down place where the phones don’t work, there are no doors, the dirty, grimy accommodations are less than inviting and the whole fiasco is run by the hopelessly inexperienced Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel). In his words, he wants to create a home for the elderly, so wonderful, that they will simply refuse to die! The stage is set for a collision of cultures, misunderstandings, life lessons and an eventual meeting of the ethnic minds. Gradually we learn the story of each of the characters.

The film has an stellar cast that manages to make all the main characters enchanting in their own way. The brilliant cast are well served by an intelligent, witty script with some dry, British humor thrown in and some killer one-liners like one of the character’s, Jean Ainslie’s, response to Alu Gobi ka Parawntha… “If I can’t pronounce it, I don’t want to eat it!” Occasionally it gets sentimental, but that is what gives the comedy a story. It’s good to see a film that doesn’t treat old people as nutty idiots. The characters are intelligent & funny.

This is an entertaining and wholesome film that I recommend highly! My only criticism of this film is Dev Patel’s over-acting. He looks 16 but the character he portrays was actually well into his 20s. Partly that he doesn’t look his age but mostly I think the problem is that he is a British Asian and his fake, put-on Indian accent is way over-done. I mean, who really talks like that? In my opinion, an Indian actor like Rahul Khanna would have done the role far more justice.

I went to see this film with a bunch of friends who are of Indian origin and many complained that it is always the underbelly of India that is portrayed in films. To be honest, as a person living in the west who is fascinated by India, I am not really interested in seeing a sprawling metropolis that could be any other city in the US. The rickshaws, fruit and vegetable carts, camels and elephants make India uniquely Indian and when I go there in the movies that is what I want to see. Not shiny, glossy malls with air-conditioning and the same stores that I would find anywhere else in the world.

Conclusion: This is an entertaining and wholesome film that I recommend highly! I give it 5 stars! It’s not playing everywhere but look for it and make it a point to go and see it!

Palace of Illusions

Please welcome to the Korner someone who has been very supportive and takes a keen interest in what goes on in here. Meet Deepa who will be updating us with fabulous book reviews, views and lots more on the Korner.
Thank you!
~Kamal
**************************

I had the pleasure of meeting Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni who was in Chicago on a book signing tour. This sari-clad author hails from Calcutta, but she came to the United States for her graduate studies, receiving a Master’s degree in English from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. She is married, has 2 children and teaches in the Creative Writing program at the University of Houston. She comes across as a pleasant, warm, down-to-earth, articulate woman and it was an absolute delight to meet her and listen to her talk about her books.

She is in the process of promoting her next book which is called Oleander Girl, and if you “like” her on facebook she will post previews of it. Unlike most writers, she started writing quite late, only after coming the the US. This would explain the main themes in her books which are always about women, immigration, the South Asian experience in America, mythical history, magic and the celebration of diversity. Before she attempted novels, she used to write poetry. She started with a reading of “The Garba” from her book of poems called “Black Candle”.

Having touched a chord with everyone who was even remotely Indian, she then went on to read a few paragraphs from her last book which is called “One Amazing Thing”. This is set in California during an earthquake. She told us that the inspiration for this book came to her, while observing the different characteristics that people show when under stress, while going through a similar natural disaster in Houston, TX where she lives with her family.

It seemed obvious at the question-answer session, that the book that her audience has enjoyed the most, is “The Palace of Illusions”. This is the book that I have read and that I am going to review today. She also wrote Mistress of Spices and An Arranged Marriage.
~Deepa
‘Deep-ends’

The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni 

Like most of us, born and living outside of India, my knowledge of the Mahabharata is limited to the television serial that my parents’ watched and re-watched religiously in the late 80s and early 90s. The Palace of Illusions is the story of the Mahabharata narrated by Draupadi (or Panchaali, the name she prefers here) from her unique perspective.

Everybody’s fascination with Draupadi stems from her being the only woman in history to have had 5 husbands. Nobody names their daughter Draupadi as she holds the stigma of the woman that brought the downfall of her clan and started the worst war ever. This book however, is sympathetic towards her. She is like a child, angry, petulant, impatient, proud, dutiful, infatuated, confused between love and duty, she makes mistakes and repents like all of us…many common references can be made to one’s life.

The book illustrates the day-to-day running of this complex household with 5 husbands and 5 different sets of egos that have to be stroked and fed (most of us are lucky if we can handle one!). It tells of her favorite amongst them, the competition between the brothers for her attention and which one of them truly loved her. Her other relationships are also well handled, like the childhood game between her and her brother Dhrishtadyumna (Dhri), where one of them starts telling a story, and the other continues it. This creates intimate scenes where their innermost fears and feelings are expressed. Her controlling mother-in-law with whom she eventually develops an understanding. Her arch-enemy Duryodhana, portrayed as a one-dimensional Hindi-film villain, which is perfectly all right, because Panchaali sees him that way. She deeply fears and loathes the man whom she blames for doing her so much harm, and has no occasion to see his good side. The Panchaali-Karna relationship, specifically their secret feelings for each other and her lifelong questioning of whether she did the right thing by humiliating him at her swayamvara. Could the war have been avoided if she had accepted Karna’s proposal? Particularly beautifully described is her relationship with Krishna, her friend, advisor and confidante. Krishna is the supreme in her life who was always there for her, like GOD is always there for us, if and when we want him.

I was intrigued at the research the author had to do for this book. If you have any interest in Hindu mythology, read this book. You will enjoy it. You will also be interested to know that Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is presently embarking on a new project, which will be a retelling of the Ramayan… as you may have guessed… it will be from a female protagonist’s point of view! After her spin on Draupadi  (pun intended!), this should be a interesting read…most probably based on the life of Sita (but she is not telling!)