Citizen Stranger

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They say I’m not from here
They say it’s not my own,
Telling me it’s a lost cause,
Telling me to just go home.

They call me an outsider,
A stranger to their plight,
And just another person
Whose candle won’t be the light.

They say I don’t belong
With my Western thoughts and views,
In a place where rapes and honour killings
Make the front page news.

You say I want to change the world
“With a Starbucks cup in hand”.
What you don’t see is the desire
And hunger to take a stand

For what is wrong, immoral
And unpatriotic at worst;
The yearning to alleviate pain
And quench a poor child’s thirst.

You never stopped to ask
Who I am and why I’m here.
A stranger, a shadow, or maybe a voice
Or just someone who cares

To make this world a better place
One small step at a time.
This is the dream of a billion;
I assure you, it’s not just mine.

You say I’m not from here
You say it’s not my own.
Yet, this is the place I care to fix,
And make it what I call my home.

A love affair like no other

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved the power and the effect of words. From rainy Saturday afternoons to that mandatory hour (or three) before bed, nothing compared to falling immensely into the magical realm of a book. As I grew, so did my love and desire to read. There’s always this mental checklist people go through before they leave the house: wallet, keys, phone and cash. My list however, had one more item. Everything from Dahl’s creativity to Rowling’s lessons captivated me from cover to cover. For birthdays, there was nothing I’d rather have received than a stack of books. To me, my childhood meant the library, airports mean bookshops and holidays mean thrift stores. Every day, I glance at my bookshelf with the intention to make it through every single paperback on it, only to return from another holiday with yet another pile.

In fact, my love for books is so deep, I fear breaking its spine would disrespect it, folded page corners would disgrace it, and accidentally spilling something on it would deface it. It is for these reasons I unapologetically say a firm no to anyone who asks to borrow them from me. Taking Literature in high school and university was both the best and worst thing that could have happened to me in my academic career. Having to read for grades was a blessing, but having to highlight and annotate was pure torture. That being said, I’ve never passed a second-hand bookstore without walking through it first. That feeling of someone sharing their favourite book with you is almost synonymous with someone baring their soul. Thus, I was torn between wanting to be a part of someone’s literary experience and not fully appreciating it. Then came the 21st century.

In an era where everyone and everything is connected by technology, books are no exception. It was only a matter of time before someone designed a way to prevent people, avid readers in particular, from carrying heavy books everywhere they went. As much as one could love Hosseini and Rushdie, I’m not going to lie, it’s no easy task carrying their works along with an already heavy laptop and charger. For the longest time, I steadfastly refused to buy a Kindle; it felt like I was cheating on the hundreds of weekly literary relationships I had had in the past. And then it changed. Carrying Shantaram on the Tube was a mission and a half in London’s biting cold. It was time to invest yet again in one of the world’s man-made technological creations.

It took me a while to accept this new friend. It didn’t have that delicious smell of a book, it didn’t have that crisp sound of a turning page, and it didn’t have that wonderful tangibility of someone’s sleepless nights. However, with time, patience and a whole lot of Tube rides together, we clicked. It ensured me that the characters were no different on a screen than they were on paper. It gave me the satisfaction of starting something new immediately when the old was over. Most importantly, it taught me that words have the power to permeate beyond its source; it still had the ability to take you into a world that was created by somebody else, yet make you feel right at home.

It’s been almost a year now, and I’m proud to say, we’re still going strong. We’ve had our ups and downs: formatting errors, delayed releases and more commonly, some pretty off days. But like most relationships, we’ve learned the hard way and have powered through what looks like a long, adventurous journey together. On a side note, late nights have never been better; all I have to do is keep it charged.

Books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators.” – Stephen Fry

An Open Letter to Hong Kong

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In light of what’s been happening in my city, definitely a perspective worth taking into account.

Warewhulf

An Open Letter to Hong Kong                                                                                                         September 29, 2014

From: Ulf Olofsson – resident of Hong Kong

I was personally in Admiralty last night and followed minute by minute the events that unfolded as the public protestors clashed with police and tear gas was used.

My social media feeds (and those of my wife’s) were in hyperdrive. The overwhelming majority of posts and statements were not about the resolve to stand up for a more democratic Hong Kong, nor did they cover any organized direction from anybody.

What they did cover however were statement after statement, photo after…

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New girl, big city

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Taken from Jubilee Bridge, London

Taken from Jubilee Bridge, London

Like a lot of the people I’ve met in the last nine months, I came to London in the hopes of finding a small place for myself in this very big city; a place that I would learn to call home, albeit for a short period of time. Along with my suitcase full of coats and jumpers, I brought with me a new goal: to fall in love. It seemed trivial at the time, but over the last five months in particular, I can safely say, it’s been achieved. I was asked to write an article about my experience at the university and in London for the school website, but always felt that nothing could fully or accurately describe it. Every time I wrote, it didn’t seem enough. This led to me restarting the article a number of times. What could I possibly say about this city that hadn’t been said before?

In just several months, there’s something about this city that has made a pretty apathetic me so dejected about going home. What was it though? My exciting new life away from family? Having my own little place to stay? My independence? While I tried to pin it on one aspect in particular, I realised it was an amalgamation of so many events I managed to experience in the short time I had here. It encompassed everything from my neighbour running into my room at 3 in the morning because she had an uninvited guest who refused to leave, to getting kicked out of the common room at 11pm sharp only to have tea and biscuits on a miniscule kitchen floor, to waiting an hour and a half for a table outside Dishoom in the rain to celebrate Shah Rukh Khan’s birthday, to being up all night in the middle of Lake District in the biting cold (practically a death wish), to staying up late watching the trashiest Bollywood movies in spite of an early morning start, and all with some of the craziest people I’ve had the privilege to come across.

And it wasn’t just friends who made this experience worth the trouble. I encountered a stranger on the Tube who let me sleep on his shoulder after presuming I had had a long day, the Ambassador at Tinseltown always understands me when I’m down, my culinary skills now exceed the successful thawing of broccoli (must add to shaadi.com profile), and I don’t mean to brag, but I can officially say the best brownies I’ve ever had are made by yours truly.

When I first moved to London at the end of September, I wrote a post shortly after that described my complete resentment for the place, the people and the inefficiency, to name but a few. Over time however, I’ve come to eat my words. I have yet to find a place with more breathtaking sunsets (at 10pm in the summer), people who will join in my dislike for kids when I snap at them, and people who sing and give out lollipops on the train just to make commuters happy after a long day.

London also taught me the importance of being comfortable in my own skin, not just around other people, but with myself. The number of times I’ve sat out in the sun with a book or my Kindle at Regent’s Park is countless; it’s something I’ve learnt to find immense bliss in, and if life permitted, I’d do day in and day out. I explored areas of London and found favourites in Tower Bridge, Southbank and London Bridge. Food being an integral part of my existence, also took precedence in increasing my fondness for the city. Chili paneer is a staple at Indian restaurants, a rare occurrence and definitely a drawback in Hong Kong. I’m also a proud regular at Tibits, Dishoom and Jay’s, all of which serve some of the best chai I can only aspire to someday make.

I came to London in the search for love, and love I found. I found it in the incessant drizzle, in the innumerable cups of tea, in the sleepless Bollywood nights, in the bright, sunny days, and in the comforts of Room 32. London, I fell in love with you. You may not have Hong Kong’s skyline, but you have Boomshakes, and in my eyes, that sure counts for a hell of a lot. There’s no other place I would’ve much rather called home.

And THAT kids, is why Friends is a better TV show.

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Disclaimer: this post contains spoilers. If you haven’t seen the series finale of How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM) and want to, I suggest you go watch it and develop your own opinion first. Though personally, I think you’re better off living in complete ignorance of what actually happens and in a world of how you think it should have ended.

Now while I could and should be doing something a lot more productive (like my dissertation or the three other essays I have due by the end of the month), I feel it’s necessary, not just for myself, but also for all the fans of HIMYM to explain (read: vent) why the finale of the nine-year long TV show was not just a mere disappointment, but a betrayal. It was a betrayal to everyone who stood by the show even and especially at its worst. It was bad enough that it took the writers nine seasons to build up to Ted Mosby meeting the girl of his dreams, but we watched on, knowing that he’d eventually find the one and it would all be worth it. It could have easily been wrapped up neatly, concisely and with an ending that encompassed all that the show has been over the last nine years. But no.

The creators, Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, decided it would be a swell idea to completely ruin every main character on the show in the last 45 minutes. I would be lying if I said Ted Mosby, despite being somewhat relatable (being a grammar Nazi is okay), didn’t annoy me every single time he realised he still loved Robin after each failed relationship, that Lily and Marshall didn’t overdo it with their lovey-dovey crap, that Barney’s “legen-wait for it-dary” jokes didn’t get old, or that Robin remained indecisive about Ted and Barney right up until her wedding day; but we sucked it up and went along with everything the writers threw at us. But no.

Unfortunately, all we got out of the finale was an abomination of everything the latter had built up to. And that wasn’t even the worst part. Season 9 finally introduced us to the Mother. In every progressive episode, the writers gave her more character and with that, more reason for us to believe she was perfect for Ted. She was funny, quirky, cute and everything the audience loved and wanted as Ted’s wife. What then, do the makers decide to do? Yep, kill her right off. Like, “you were great and perfect and everything, but no, you gotta go.” Why then, even make her an essential and even more so, a lovable part of the cast if you were just going to make her character die?! What’s more, all of the last season focused on Barney and Robin’s wedding weekend. Given all the courting, troubles, decisions and indecisions, you would expect them to finally get married and live happily ever after. However, somehow getting them divorced and distant from each other seemed to be the better option. Not only was this a complete waste of a season in terms of introducing the titular character, but one that broke up a relationship between two of the main characters—that took a whole lot of the last three seasons to develop—within seconds, only for Robin to realise she’d have been perfect with Ted all along. And all this ends with Ted’s kids persuading him to go after her again now that their mother’s dead, leading him to show up at Robin’s apartment with that godforsaken horn. Well great, the writers not only took nine very long years to do what they could have done in three episodes, but brought down pretty much everything, namely the plot, the characters and all that the show stood for in the final 45 minutes that could have possibly made it go down in TV history. So again, no.

Writers, it’s perfectly fine to give your viewers—especially those that have been rather annoyed at the fact that it’s taken you this long to tell a simple story—a predictable ending to a show they have invested a significant amount of time in. Six friends, three happy marriages and lots of kids would have been more than enough for a show to end gracefully and with a whole lot of dignity. Unfortunately, you decided to take the inexplicable and risky route to include new, and might I add, strange, elements to the finishing product (Barney has a baby, what?!). While it’s something I and, from what social media tells me, almost all your viewers won’t ever seem to understand, I can safely say this goes down as the worst finale I’ve ever seen, and I will most definitely keep myself away from anything you create in the future, for fear that you’ll just screw it up at the end. So thank you for ensuring I never tune in to reruns of this show again; the last nine years were not worth this.

If you TLDR’ed this, HIMYM was basically the longest and worst Ted talk of all time.

22 Reasons Having A Sister SEEMS Awesome

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In response to a Buzzfeed article which I posted on my brother’s Facebook wall (to which my sister may have gotten a tad jealous), I agreed to make a list of my own for her. It warrants receiving a handwritten letter expressing how much she loves me, possibly included with a bag of Hershey’s Cookies N Creme chocolates. It also “gets my creative juices flowing”…or something like that.

  1. She’ll stand up for you. Laughing when you fall.
  2. She’ll tell you you’re too good for anyone. What she means is ‘anyone but her’.
  3. She’ll support your dreams and goals. Provided they’re not cooler than hers.
  4. She’ll like all your Facebook profile photos and statuses. Because nobody else has.
  5. She’ll lend an ear, all while being calm and understanding. Unless it’s the morning. Or when she’s home from work. Or going out. Or hungry. Or sleepy. Or when it involves you fighting with another sibling.
  6. She’ll correct you when you’re wrong before anyone else finds out about your silliness. But only after you agree to let her make fun of you forever.
  7. She’ll protect you. But will tell all your friends about your fears so they can make fun of you.
  8. She’ll get you out of sticky situations. While she plots getting you into another one just for kicks.
  9. She’ll never let you go hungry. But will make you go get the food.
  10. She’ll join in when you do crazy and silly things. After there’s a video recording of you she can and will later blackmail you with.
  11. She’ll let you wear her new clothes and shoes. When she realises she doesn’t fit into/like them soon after buying them.
  12. She’ll understand your quirks. Eating Branston pickle with rice is a real thing.
  13. She’ll never embarrass you. Public smothering is an act conducted PURELY out of love and affection.
  14. She’ll teach you how to be stylish. She’s actually making you look bad so she can look good.
  15. She’ll always be down to go shopping. For her clothes.
  16. Or for a movie. Of her choice.
  17. She’ll always laugh at your jokes. Before passing them off to others as her own.
  18. She’ll introduce you to cool bands and songs. Six months after you discovered them yourself.
  19. She’ll make you feel good about yourself. Even when she’s judging you on the inside.
  20. She’ll always tell you the truth. Tough love is not a joke.
  21. She’ll bear witness to all your milestones. Especially the embarrassing ones.
  22. She’ll ask you to join in when conspiring against another sibling. While doing the same with them against you.

I could possibly be talking about myself in most of the above (except #12; that’s disgusting). But hey, they’re lucky to have me!

Film Review: Dhoom 3

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Dhoom 3

Image Credit: Yash Raj Films

If any of you have been keeping up with Koffee with Karan, you’ll know that Aamir Khan claimed he chose to do Dhoom 3 based on its script. Strange considering it doesn’t really have one. He also claimed if there’s one thing Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan have that he doesn’t, it’s style. I’ve chosen to put two and two together and conclude that he just wanted to ride a motorbike on-screen in the hopes of looking cool. Fortunately, his bike is pretty much just a transformer and does that job for him.

Directed by Vijay Krishna Acharya (scriptwriter of the first two Dhoom films), Dhoom 3 is about Sahir (Siddharth Nigam), a young boy who lives in Chicago with his father (Jackie Shroff), that struggles to keep his failing circus company alive. Not meeting the demands of the bank, his father kills himself, leaving Sahir to fend for himself. Distraught with his father’s death, Sahir grows up (Aamir Khan) to become a vengeful thief, in the attempt to put the same bank owner out of business. This brings in the cop-duo of Jai Dixit (Abhishek Bachchan) and Ali (Uday Chopra), who attempt to help the Chicago police in nabbing the culprit, but end up getting sent away because, well…they don’t. The film continues with lots more chasing and footage of Aamir Khan’s transformer bike and a silly twist, thrown in with a few song-and-dance routines by body doubles, and after three long hours, ends with a predictable climax. Oh and, Katrina Kaif shows up briefly too.

Unfortunately, the film lacks a) continuity; you can count the number of times Aamir Khan rides past the same 7-11 after his first heist, b) chemistry; Katrina Kaif is at least three inches taller and makes an extremely awkward pair with Aamir Khan, who possibly has more on-screen chemistry with himself, c) concision; it’s high time Bollywood learnt how to tell stories without going round in circles and keeping it within the 120-minute mark, and d) a costume designer; 48 years old and leather pants? A tad ambitious.

The film does however, include some exceptional Christopher Nolan-inspired sequences, a commendable child actor, some great choreography (albeit the underwhelming music), and Katrina Kaif doing her best: looking hot with three lines to say.

Dhoom 3 comes close to being as slick and stylish as Hollywood films, a feat many Indian action filmmakers have aspired to achieve, but unfortunately lacks a great deal of substance and good performances by an ensemble cast. While most people think having Aamir Khan in the lead role is half the battle won, I personally believe this has been his worst performance till date; it seems forced and unnatural. I might need to rewatch Dhobi Ghat to remind myself why I like him.

London Diaries

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Four weeks. It’s been four weeks in what I once called one of my favourite cities in the world. It hasn’t been easy, it hasn’t been that difficult either, but it’s been different. Change is something we all look for at some time or another. Maybe for a little excitement, maybe for a little experience, or maybe because we just need to get outside of our comfort zones and do something that could potentially change our lives forever. Keeping that last thought in mind, I came to this city in the hopes of discovering a home away from home; a place I would grow to love more than I already did, people that I’d have long-lasting friendships with, and experiences that would enable me to see things in a new light.

Fortunately or not, it’s been surprising so far. It didn’t occur to me that visiting this city would be that much more different than living in it. There are things here that I used to consider ordinary, but now find fascinating. Similarly, there are also things that have begun to irk me; things that I never thought much of before.

1) Everyone has the perception that the weather here’s gloomy and depressing. Truth be told, it’s not. It’s actually just annoyingly unpredictable. Half the time, it can’t even make up it’s mind and decides to be sunny, cold and rainy all at the same time. And I thought HK was temperamental…

2) The people. Granted, HK-ers aren’t the friendliest people in the world, but they’re far better back there than they are here, and that’s saying something coming from a person who derives immense pleasure from screaming at people constantly in her way. Here, they show no mercy.

3) The Tube; i.e. the bane of my existence. Closures/maintenance works every weekend? NO. Do it overnight if you have to; how am I supposed to get to Central London the one time in the week I need to, under an hour?

4) The ignorance. Despite having been told, joked about and reprimanded over the years, people here continue to believe that Hong Kong is a part of Japan and people there don’t know a word of English. The number of times I’ve heard “do you speak Japanese?” and  “why is your English so good?” has made my ears bleed and I will punch the next person who dares ask me. Side note: I’ve also received “if you’re from Asia, why are your eyes so big?”. People just never change.

5) I had to learn how to cook. It wasn’t fun and broccoli hates me.

6) WHY IS EVERYTHING SO EXPENSIVE? NO, I DON’T WANT TO PAY 6 POUNDS ON TRAVELLING EVERY SUNDAY, ESPECIALLY WHEN I’M USING YOUR STUPID RAILWAY REPLACEMENT BUSES.

Having said that, I’ll give London one thing: the food here is SO MUCH BETTER. It’s no surprise I’ve put on weight in the one month that I’ve been here. Knowing the fate of my own cooking, I can’t possibly be rambling on about that, but eggless waffles, crèpes and pancakes? GIMME MORE.

Also, it’s a pretty place. It doesn’t have HK’s unbeatable skyline, but it’s got Tower Bridge which almost makes up for it.

Unless I choose to ignore the differences between here and back home, I’m never going to make the most of the place I chose to spend a year in. Until then, I’m back to finding ways to cook my broccoli.

Dear Bollywood, thank you.

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In times of adversity, in times of trouble, in times of self-doubt, we all look for something. It could be the courage to fight, it could be the strength to endure, or it could just be a little bit of peace. Some look for those things in books while others look for them in music. As for me, I look for them in films. For as long as I can remember, films have been a big part of who I am; it has the ability to alter my mood, it has the ability to make me take things into perspective, and it somehow has the ability to answer a lot of questions. Hence, I’m a firm believer that “all of life’s riddles are answered in the movies”.

Not very long ago, I took to this blog as a platform to express my ideas on films. I soon moved on to a more popular medium, targeted at a much wider audience, for that same purpose. However, somewhere along the way, I lost sight of why I started writing film reviews in the first place. It wasn’t just about discussing how good or bad a film was from a technical point of view; it was more about entertaining an audience with sarcasm and humour. This isn’t to say the opinions stated weren’t my own or valid at the time, but it’s far from saying that that’s all there was to those films.

The first Hindi film I remember watching on the big screen was Kuch Kuch Hota Hai by Karan Johar. The seven-year old me walked into the cinema cribbing about wasting a Saturday evening watching a film starring Shah Rukh Khan (who, believe it or not, I hated at the time) by a first-time director. I sat through half of the film yawning and yearning to leave…until Salman Khan appeared and made the rest of the film more bearable. That was the superficial feeling of a seven-year old girl. 15 years later, I still maintain that it is one of Johar’s finest works till date, and that he is one of the most daring filmmakers of our time. He takes the liberty to tackle controversial issues such as extra-marital affairs, terrorism, and with Bombay Talkies, homosexuality. Ajeeb Dastaan Hai Yeh is bold, coming-of-age and a risk that, in this day and age, is well worth taking. In all of 20 minutes.

Dibakar Banerjee’s work is idiosyncratic, to say the least. Be it with Khosla Ka GhoslaOye Lucky! Lucky Oye! or Love, Sex aur Dhokha, his stories are presented with a quality that may be defined as, in the simplest term, weird. They’re unconventional, they’re different, and that’s probably why they’re successful, both commercially and critically. While I may not be the biggest Dibakar Banerjee fan, there’s no doubt he brings a certain eccentricity to his films. Star is no different. Having Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the lead role is half the battle won. With a simple story that’s innocent yet powerful, and so beautifully executed with a compelling supporting cast, there’s your other half.

In 2011, we saw a film that was fun, entertaining and an eye-opener. Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara was about three friends who go on a bachelors’ trip to Spain, rediscovering themselves and each other in ways they could have only imagined. Directed by Zoya Akhtar, she convinced avid moviegoers to believe in the high caliber and potential of female directors. Like ZNMDSheila Ki Jawani is also a film about self-discovery, and one that challenges the notion of “social norms” between genders. While the story lacked depth and connection with the audience, the performance by the main protagonist, a young boy played by Naman Jain, couldn’t have been more honest.

One thing Anurag Kashyap and Dibakar Banerjee have in common is the unconventional means in which they choose to present their films. You will never see a Khan or a Kapoor in their work, and more often than not, their films don’t sit well with the older generation, who have grown up and come to terms with the normalcy of the idea of singing, dancing and running around trees. Murabba, however, is probably the most “Bollywood” Kashyap could get. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing; not in the least. In fact, it is a rather accurate depiction of the middle class population in India and their ridiculous, yet relatable obsession with celebrities. A story that could have been easily exaggerated and mocking turned out to be a simple take on the high regard Indians have for Hindi cinema.

While there’s a part of me that is extremely tempted to pick out the few, but existent flaws in Bombay Talkies, I think I’ll refrain this time. Simply because watching it reminded me why I love Hindi cinema the amount and the way in which I do. It was an evocative and honest attempt at celebrating 100 years of Hindi cinema, a sentiment I feel would be insulting to question.

Over the years, watching Hindi films have taught me one thing: they may be melodramatic, over-the-top and too good to be true, but these are the films which give us a ray of hope that more often than not, there is always a happy ending.

Film Review: Aashiqui 2

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Aashiqui 2

Bollywood, as far as I’ve seen, has a very different take on sequels than Hollywood. While Hollywood sequels either take the story forward from where they left off in the preceding film, or use the same characters to create another plot. Either way, there is some relevance to the prequels. The only similarity Bollywood sequels have to their successor is the title of the film. With sequels produced by the Bhatt camp, however, there’s one more common factor: they’re godawful.

Directed by Mohit Suri, Aashiqui 2, is the story of an alcoholic musician, Rahul (Aditya Roy Kapoor) who is on the verge of destroying his career due to his addiction. He meets Aarohi (Shraddha Kapoor), a bar singer in Goa, and promises to take her to Mumbai and make her dreams of becoming a singing sensation true. He mentors her and establishes her as a singer, all while falling madly in love with her. An unfortunate circumstance convinces Rahul that he is destroying Aarohi’s life by being in it as an alcoholic. So instead of kicking his habit, he decides to leave her. Having fallen in love with him as well, Aarohi decides to help him. He tries to get back to singing, but to no avail as the liquor has ruined his voice. He drinks away the pain, getting back to his addiction. Once again, Aarohi helps him; this time, by sacrificing her career and taking him away from the city. This goes on until her manager finds her and convinces her to get back to work. Rahul, now sober, goes to watch Aarohi perform. He runs into a journalist who provokes him to get drunk, beat him up and get sent to prison. Aarohi helps him yet again, with the intention of letting go of the singing career she tried so hard to get. The film ends predictably with Rahul not wanting to get in the way of Aarohi and her dreams.

The goods:

  1. The music. Like Aashiqui, this film had absolutely nothing to offer except a good soundtrack, composed by Jeet Ganguli, Mithoon and Ankit Tiwari. Oddly enough, all the songs start sounding the same once you listen to them too much.
  2. Shraddha Kapoor. For a debut, this was actually a pretty decent performance, not taking into account that she agreed to say a lot of stupid dialogues. She has a fragile beauty with vulnerability. For Shakti Kapoor’s daughter, that’s a pretty big deal.

The bads:

  1. The plot. It was repetitive.
  2. Aditya Roy Kapoor. For someone that looks like Farhan Akhtar, he sure as hell lacks the talent to be like him.
  3. The plot. It was stupid.
  4. The Twitter craze. My timeline was filled with people gushing over how emotional the film was, making them believe in true love et al. It’s embarrassing, really.
  5. The plot. It was boring.

After all that? My rating is a 1.5/5. My expectations weren’t exactly high, so I can’t say I was disappointed. All I can say is that had a little bit more attention been given to the story and screenplay, it would have been a little more bearable.

Towards the end of the film, when Aarohi’s manager tries to convince his talented singer that she’s wasting her time on an alcoholic, she replies by saying that she’s willing to give up her singing career to become an alcoholic. By doing this, Rahul will be guilt-tripped into getting rid of his addiction. If that doesn’t work, they’ll both die together, lying drunk somewhere. Am I the only one who thinks that isn’t even remotely romantic?

Film Review: Nautanki Saala!

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Nautanki Saala

Last year, our beloved B-town saw a promising newcomer make a fine entry into the world of Hindi cinema. He could act, sing, dance and hosted almost every possible award ceremony early this year, all while looking quite dapper. In fact, there was very little Ayushmann Khurrana couldn’t do as far as entertainment was concerned. Thus, the Vicky Donor star’s latest venture, Nautanki Saala!, was one of the most anticipated comedies this year. In addition, having lent his voice to his own compositions once again, he raised the audience’s expectations of the music and in turn, the film.

Adapted from a French play, Après Vous, Nautanki Saala!, basically meant to be a comedy of errors, tells the story of two guys, who happen to meet by chance—that suddenly become best friends—and their complicated love lives. Ram Parmar (Ayushmann Khurrana), a theatre actor, finds the suicidal Mandar, on his way home one night and considers himself responsible for the latter’s life thereafter. Finding out that the reason for Mandar’s suicide attempt is due to heartbreak, Ram takes it upon himself to play Cupid and make Mandar’s ex-girlfriend, Nandini (Pooja Salvi), fall in love with Mandar once again, while making sure she breaks up with her existing and cheating boyfriend, Loli. Ram also tries to cheer Mandar up by giving him a role in the play for which he works. Things become even more complicated when Ram’s girlfriend breaks up with him, believing that he spends more time mending his new friend’s broken heart than with her, who, by the way, he accidentally proposed to. What’s worse is that he finds himself falling in love with Nandini and vice versa, despite knowing she’s his best friend’s girl. With everybody discovering the truth about Ram and guilt successively getting the best of him, he ends up losing his friend, his fiancé and his newfound love.

The goods:

  1. The music. In his unique genre of Punjabi soft rock, Khurrana excels once again with tracks like Mera Mann and Saadi Galli. After Pani Da Rang (which was my favourite song last year), there were high expectations for him to sing in his future films. Fortunately or not, this happened to be one of the only good things about the film.
  2. Abhishek Bachchan. This isn’t me trying to ruin the film for you by telling you about his cameo. If anything, it only gives you a reason to watch this excuse for a film; or you could just wait till the 2-minute clip he’s in releases on YouTube.

The bads:

  1. Pooja Salvi. She was to this film what Diana Penty was to Cocktail. A face with no soul and a performance that was so lifeless, one could only conclude the makers were desperate.

  2. Kunaal Roy Kapoor. After a hilarious performance in Delhi Belly, I expected a lot more from the actor who somehow redefined the concept of ‘toilet humour’. His role as Mandar was simply annoying, and memorable for all the wrong reasons.

  3. Ayushmann Khurrana. As much as it hurts me to put his name in this list, considering the exceptional-for-a-first-film job he did in Vicky Donor, there is nothing in the film which lives up to the hopes pinned on him after his debut.

  4. The story. While it may have been an adaptation, one can only presume the original was good enough to rip off. Having said that, the end result of Nautanki Saala! goes to show why Rohan Sippy could never make it as a storyteller—if Dum Maaro Dum and Kuch Na Kaho weren’t already enough indication. The life of every film is the story. Unfortunately, it had the same fate as the lead actress.

All things considered, my rating for this disappointment is a 2 out of 5 with the music and a cameo by the director’s good friend being the only two things that give Nautanki Saala! something to look forward to. Everything else is a let down.

On a side note, Ayushmann Khurrana might just be the next Emraan Hashmi. Who woulda thought?

A letter to the Prime Minister

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Dear PM Manmohan Singh,

Despite having lived outside of India my whole life, despite the numerous crimes that have occurred and despite what people might say about the place, I have been immensely proud of the culture, the traditions and the values that come with being an Indian. However, over the last month, I have read some of the most horrific things about the Indian subcontinent, which have led me to question this respective pride. These are not the values I grew up with, these are not the traditions I’ve been taught and this is not the culture I was made to believe in. With an innocent girl being stripped, raped, thrown off a bus, unable to defend herself in any which way, and now, finally losing her battle to the atrocities faced, to the rest of nation standing up for her to no avail, it has made me sad, disgusted, scared and more than anything else, furious. And this wasn’t even the first time.

In July, a 19-year old girl was molested by a mob of sixteen men in Guwahati outside a pub. The accused justified this action by saying the girl was drunk and was a shame to the Indian culture and society. Earlier this month, a 32-year old woman was groped and sexually assaulted by a mob in Banaglore, including a traffic policeman. They made verbal abuses, obscene gestures and the crowd jeered on. What followed each of these cases was a call to society to stand up and speak against the atrocities to women, accusations against the women in question for a) being out too late, b) traveling alone and c) dressing “too provocatively”. Finally, the events moved out of public memory. These are only two of the hundreds of cases (most of which went unreported) that have occurred this year.

More recently, an incident everyone is extremely familiar with by now was brought to light: the Delhi gangrape case that involved an innocent 23-year old woman, her 28-year old male friend and five sexually frustrated men who “just wanted to have a little bit of fun”. What causes these incidents? Why hasn’t anything been done about them? Does the government not think this is a problem big enough to deal with? As a girl, I have a problem with it. As an Indian, I have a problem with it. As a person, I have a problem with it. In a predominantly Hindu, god-fearing and goddess-worshipping country, does it not strike you as the least bit surprising that these acts are occurring far too often?

Allow me to tell you why. The lack of sex education. India is a country that considers even the mention of the word ‘sex’ as taboo. However, this is the same country that has reported more rape cases than anywhere in the world this year; keep in mind that there are most definitely lots more that haven’t been reported. These people — I say ‘people’ because there are a large number of women who fail to understand the negative repercussions of sexual assault — don’t have the level of education required to understand the consequences of rape: unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and not to mention, the shame of the victim and her family for an act she didn’t invite, nor welcome. The National Crime Records Bureau recently released data validating that victims of rape are more likely to be assaulted by those who are known to them. This comprises of friends, neighbours and even relatives, including husbands. What makes things worse is when people don’t report these crimes. Be it victims or witnesses, they have a rational fear from the repercussions of their reports. Their families could get involved and the respective gangs find ways of seeking revenge, to name a few.

In April 2003, Sonali Mukherjee, a 17-year old girl, had a mixture of acids poured over her face in the dead of the night, burning 70% of her skin and leaving her partially deaf and almost blind. The attackers were her three neighbours who persistently harassed her every morning until she threatened to call the police. Nine years on, she continues to appeal to the Indian government for either skin reconstructive surgery or euthanasia. This case goes to show that girls don’t even have the ability to stand up for themselves without the fear of being scarred for life. Is this how you want the girls in your country to live, in fear, suffering and preferring death?

Moreover, in situations like these, it is the girls who are victimised in more ways than one. In addition to being physically and emotionally traumatised with the way in which they’ve been treated by their attackers, these girls are accused of the way they in which they choose to live their lives. Be it through the way they dress, the places they go or the people they meet, they are reprimanded with not being conservative enough and living life on their own terms. In a country that has progressed so much economically and technologically, where women stand shoulder-to-shoulder with men, is this even a valid judgment to make, just because she is a girl? This sort of backward thinking is the result of such acts as well as the ignorance of the dire consequences, of which nothing has been done. I don’t want to live in constant fear of getting molested when turning a corner just because I’m dressed how I please, because I’m on my own, irrespective of how late it is, or just because I was born a girl.

As the Prime Minister, it is your prerogative and responsibility to take a stand on the atrocities that these women face, in order to prevent them from happening in the future. This is far from saying that capital punishment needs to be implemented to punish the rapists. This would not be a deterrence nor an effective means of ensuring safety to the women of your country. However, there are certain measures that can be taken to discourage similar events from occurring in the future: drawing stricter laws, stronger police protection and most importantly, education. Despite being the national capital as well as one of the most advanced cities in the country, Delhi continues to be referred to as the nation’s ‘rape capital’. It isn’t just the small towns and villages that need lessons on sex education, it’s everyone. Condoling the girl’s family after her death was a gracious act. However, that’s not enough. What we need is the promise and the assurance that our country is a safe one.

To the politicians, election period is a busy one, and understandably so; what with making the other parties look bad and finding numerous ways to defame them just so you can reach to a desirable position. They say man is selfish by nature, so how about you spend a little less time bringing scandals to light (or hiding your own) and a little more time suggesting how you can make the country a better and safer place to live in. You’d be surprised as to how it might work wonders for your campaign.

And finally, to the rest of the country, you’ve got mothers, daughters, sisters and wives at home. Don’t wait for an incident like this to happen to them before you say something. Speak up against these brutalities, teach your daughters to stand up for themselves and most importantly, teach your sons how to behave.

I speak on behalf of girls across the nation as well as those outside of it. This is not what you want your country to become. Fix it.

With warm regards,
An Indian girl who hopes to regain the lost pride in her country

Film Review: Jab Tak Hai Jaan

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Thoughts before the film: I hope the two girls die, Yash Chopra brings in Kajol/Rani Mukherjee and she lives happily ever after with Shah Rukh Khan.

For those who have grown up watching and enjoying Yash Chopra’s romantic films, namely ChandniSilsilaDil Toh Pagal Hai and Veer-Zaara, to name but a few, Jab Tak Hai Jaan became one of the year’s most highly anticipated films. With Shah Rukh Khan, Katrina Kaif and Anushka Sharma in the lead roles, the late director’s final venture was nothing less than star-studded either. Hence, expectations were kept high, leading to tickets bought in advance for full-house cinemas throughout the busy week of Diwali.

Jab Tak Hai Jaan is about a 21-year old documentary filmmaker, Akira (Anushka Sharma) who, after finding and reading the diary of the perpetually grumpy Major Samar Anand (Shah Rukh Khan), a bomb disposal expert, decides to make a film about him. The diary presents Akira with a flashback of Samar’s life in London where he met, fell in love with and left Meera (Katrina Kaif) ten years ago to go to Ladakh. Meera is an engaged, churchgoing Punjabi girl, who falls in love with Samar while learning Punjabi from him. When Samar meets with a fatal accident, Meera goes to Jesus and asks him to save her beloved. In return, she would never meet him again. Circumstances lead Samar back to London, where he meets with another accident and gets retrograde amnesia, forgetting everything that had happened since his first accident. The doctor believes it’s best to bring everyone Samar knew ten years ago to help him retrieve his memory. Meera makes Samar believe they have been married for ten years but stops herself from getting close to him because of her promise to Jesus. Not seeing results from her love, Meera asks Akira to go in front of him to remind him of his recent experiences. Nothing seems to work until Samar sees a bomb in a train which he suddenly knows how to defuse. Samar subsequently remembers everything, gathers he has been lied to by Meera, and returns to his life in Ladakh. Akira’s documentary is successful and Meera follows Samar back to Ladakh, realising Jesus kept Samar alive to be with her.

Thoughts during the film: I hope Katrina Kaif dies.

The goods:

  1. Shah Rukh Khan. There’s a broody SRK in an army uniform on a motorbike AND a charming, guitar-playing SRK in the same film.
  2. Anushka Sharma. Despite having done the same role in every film she’s been in, she’s the only one who played her role well without being annoying, all while looking great.
  3. The music. A.R. Rahman. Need I say more?

The bads:

  1. Shah Rukh Khan. Before watching it, you’d think he’d do the same thing he’s done innumerable times before, but he’s really just weird and awkward. Playing a character 20 years younger than his actual age with girls who are old enough to be his daughters doesn’t help either. In addition, when he gets retrograde amnesia, he turns into Rizwan Khan. Yes, SRK as an autistic is the same as SRK as an amnesiac.
  2. Katrina Kaif. She can’t act. She can’t dance. She can’t smile. She can’t speak Hindi. And she’s too old to play a 21-year old. In short, she’s useless. I will hereby stop putting her in my list of ‘goods’ just for being pretty.
  3. The script. Quite possibly, one of the worst scripts any Yash Chopra film has had, with the exception of Parampara. If you don’t remember it, you’re probably better off.
  4. 3 hours. A bad film that’s three hours long is a pain in the backside (quite literally).
  5. The comparison. Being a Yash Chopra film, Jab Tak Hai Jaan will inevitably be compared to his previous films. It doesn’t even come close to the standard set by classics such as DarrDil Toh Pagal Hai and Veer-Zaara. It’s not touching, it’s not that romantic and it’s way too long.

Keeping in mind everything else the late director has made, I give Jab Tak Hai Jaan a mere 2 out of 5, with the music by A.R. Rahman being its saving grace. Being an ardent fan of the Yash Chopra-SRK duo, I went in expecting (and hoping for) a corny, romantic film. I didn’t get one.

Jesus is the star of the show. The power he seems to have on Katrina Kaif’s character and her relationship with SRK is incredibly humorous, to say the least. It’s almost like he’s looking down at them and laughing at their stupidity.

Thoughts after the film: I wish they all died.

Yash Chopra: a legacy of love

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October 21st, 2012. It was a sad day for everyone in the Indian film fraternity and for those who follow Hindi films around the world. That woeful Sunday evening saw the shocking and unforeseen demise of one of the country’s leading filmmakers, Yash Chopra.

For some, it was the end of love and romance encapsulated onscreen. For others, it was the perfect adieu just weeks before his final release, Jab Tak Hai Jaan. For me, it was the end of an era.

From the chiffon saris in Silsila and Chandni to the yellow mustard fields in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ) to the snow-capped mountains in Darr, Yash Chopra managed to signify and present romance with equal doses of innocence and passion with everything he brought to celluloid. For those who followed his films, one glance was all it took to recognise it was his creation.

Chopra was also one of the first few producers who tackled the hills of Switzerland and the streets of London to shoot his films. He began this venture with the Rajesh Khanna-starrer, Daag, his first film under the Yash Raj banner. This practice of shooting subsequent films abroad was followed by ChandniDDLJ and Dil Toh Pagal Hai, to name but a few. In short, the movie mogul pioneered romantic Indian cinema as we know it today: singing and dancing around trees or in sleeveless chiffon saris in the snowy Alps.

For over 50 years, Chopra made what he knew he was the best at making: poetic, idealistic films which audiences couldn’t help but love. He set a standard for future romantic films that was, more often than not, difficult to beat. The actors were different (most of the time), the locations were different (kabhi kabhi), the stories however, as similar as they may have been, were too beautiful to be taken lightly and not be entranced by. Be it the dialogues, the cinematography or the music, Yash Chopra had a deep involvement in each aspect of the filmmaking process, which resulted in him making a masterpiece out of every creation. Despite being predominantly associated with the romantic genre, Chopra also tried a hand with serious and drama-oriented scripts, most of which were equally applauded and praised. These films included: Deewar, Trishul and Chak De! India. With his concluding film, Jab Tak Hai Jaan releasing next week, his audience has one final Yash Chopra masterpiece to look forward to, after which we’re only left with his legacy of love.

To the man who gave girls much like myself unrealistic expectations of men, through characters enacted by Shah Rukh Khan with arms spread wide open, there will never be another filmmaker like you. Thank you for teaching the country how to make love stories. Here’s hoping Heaven’s a garden of yellow flowers. Rest in peace.

Film Review: Student of the Year

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Cameos: check. Elaborate wedding: check. Masala: check. Disco song: check. Unreasonably attractive, rich, well-dressed (if at all) actors: check. Actors too old to be playing high school students (read: Kuch Kuch Hota Hai): check.

Student of the Year is everything you’d expect from a Karan Johar film. It’s cheesy, it’s over-the-top, it’s unrealistic and makes you question why you even bother watching something you know you’d never believe could happen. Hot, shirtless guys with Ferraris just do not drive into campus every day and students actually have classes at school instead of fighting over girls whose intellects don’t exceed those of a spoon…well, mostly.

Narrated by friends of the three protagonists ten years later in a hospital while waiting to meet their dying Dean, SOTY tells the story of a bunch of students from St. Teresa’s High School, a posh and prestigious institution attended by the children of the rich and famous. It mainly revolves around the rivalry between two young boys: Rohan (Varun Dhawan), the flirtatious son of an affluent businessman (Ram Kapoor), who despises his father for his disapproval to become a musician, and Abhimanyu (Sidharth Malhotra), an orphan who lives with his uncle and aunt and gained admission on a sports scholarship. It’s implied he’s not exactly rich, but he somehow possesses the ability to ride into school on a snazzy motorbike. The two become best friends in two days, magically eliminating any sense of competitiveness there was previously. Enter Shanaya, the rich, beautiful, neglected-by-her-parents girl who dates the school hottie, Rohan. Irritated by his promiscuous ways, Shanaya cries on Abhi’s shoulder, who, being the nice guy that he is, makes Rohan realise her worth, while simultaneously falling in love with her (surprise surprise). He gets distracted when Dean Yoginder Vashisht (Rishi Kapoor) announces the commencement of the Student of the Year competition, which all the main leads manage to get shortlisted for, despite never being seen in a classroom or behind a book until said competition is announced. With having ambitions to win the coveted trophy, friendships broken and relationships destroyed, the students are forced to redefine and ponder over their choices. Who will be the Student of the Year?

The goods:

  1. Kayoze Irani. Boman Irani’s son makes his acting debut in a role outshining everyone else’s. He doesn’t have a six-pack, he doesn’t own a flashy car, he doesn’t get the girls, but he’s got acting abilities that could go a long way. I wonder where he gets those from!
  2. Varun Dhawan. By far, the best acting amongst the three leads. Being his first film, expectations were kept low, but were exceeded nonetheless. His entry in the film however, presents him as a fusion of Salman Khan, Ranbir Kapoor and Aamir Khan, but that’s more KJo’s fault than anyone else’s.
  3. The music. I have to admit, I hated the soundtrack when it first released, but it grows on you when it incessantly plays on every channel you switch to. Not Vishal-Shekhar’s best, but bearable.
  4. The dialogues. A lot of witty lines and references to other films and TV shows, which keeps the audience entertained when there are no shirtless boys and bikini-clad babes to look at.

The bads:

  1. Sana Saeed. For those of you that don’t know, she was the 8-year old girl in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. She pretty much plays a walking, talking (unfortunately) Barbie doll. What’s worse is that she isn’t even remotely attractive. 14 years later, she’s still annoying.
  2. Alia Bhatt. Let’s just say that if Katrina Kaif is too busy being an accessory in other peoples’ films, directors now have the next best thing, only a few inches shorter. But hey, there’s nothing a pair of 5-inch heels can’t do.
  3. Sidharth Malhotra. KJo’s old assistant director has everything it takes to be a successful supermodel: the body, the face and the lack of facial expressions. He also makes John Abraham look like an amazing dancer.
  4. The tributes. The old Bollywood numbers incorporated into the film were not only unnecessary, but also ruined. Yeh Chand Sa Roshan Chehra in particular, will make your ears bleed.
  5. Rishi Kapoor. The pink shirts, the flirting, the giggling and the magazine of John Abraham in his desk drawer; there’s nothing about his character that doesn’t make you uncomfortable. 2012 presented the best and worst performances of his career, of which Dean Vashisht belonged to the latter. WatchAgneepath and tell me I’m wrong.
  6. Ishq Wala Love. This has to be in a category of its own. Since its release, all I’ve wondered is what the hell it even means. The video doesn’t make it any better; they’re in a snowy jungle in the middle of nowhere where the guys are wearing scarves very awkwardly wrapped around their necks and Alia wears dresses three sizes too small for her.
  7. The story. Seriously, what the *insert expletive*?

If there are more flaws than strengths in this excuse for a film, I find it difficult to give SOTY anything more than a 3.5 out of 10, a point each for Kayoze Irani, the music and the dialogues. Varun Dhawan gets half a point for being a tad better than everybody else. A must-watch for a bunch of friends wanting to laugh at a film. Face it, Vivah’s gotten old.

No, Shah Rukh Khan isn’t in the film. Shocker, I know. Had he been, the film would’ve been just that much more predictable. As if Kajol wasn’t enough. Oh…did I spoil it for you?

Amitabh Bachchan: a class act

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An actor, a singer, a producer, a television presenter and an entertainer. There are very few things Amitabh Bachchan cannot do. In his 43-year long career, he has starred in almost 200 films, received fourteen Filmfare awards, won three prestigious National awards and has been honoured with the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan civilian awards by the government for his vast contribution to Indian cinema.

He is the epitome of poise, grace and charisma, and exudes a charm that speaks volumes for itself. An inspiration to some and a superstar to others, Amitabh Bachchan has time and again, with his extensive and versatile body of work, raised the bar for the standard of performances that has been produced over the last four decades. Be it Vijay Dinanath Chauhan or Auro, his competition is with nobody but himself. He has managed to outdo not only his contemporaries, his sidekicks and his co-stars, but also himself, with every subsequent film. He revolutionised Indian cinema by making people believe in the authenticity of every character he brought to life onscreen.

Thus, I’ve rounded up six must-watch films which I believe have been crucial in creating the Amitabh Bachchan the world now recognises as an institution and a legend.

The 70s was an iconic era for Hindi cinema; we had the likes of Dharmendra, Shashi Kapoor and Vinod Khanna gracing the silver screen alongside their leading ladies, all while standing in direct comparison to the new rising star, Amitabh Bachchan.

Zanjeer (1973)
Directed by Prakash Mehra, Zanjeer is about a boy orphaned at a young age with his parents killed by an unknown murderer wearing a bracelet with a white stallion, Vijay Khanna (Amitabh Bachchan) grows up to become a police inspector who tries to cease drug dealings carried out by Teja (Ajit Khan). Through a series of events involving a street performer he falls in love with, Mala (Jaya Bhaduri), and an informer (Om Prakash), Vijay becomes vengeful of Teja, later finding out he was the one responsible for his parents’ death. This film became one of the actor’s most recognised performances of all time, pioneering his image as the Angry Young Man.

Deewar (1975)
Directed by Yash Chopra, Deewar is about two brothers and their struggle to survive in the demanding city of Mumbai, after being misled of their father’s identity. Vijay (Amitabh Bachchan) is a smuggler and Ravi (Shashi Kapoor) is a policeman responsible for hunting the former down. Victimised for his fathers misdeeds, Vijay tries to break away from the humiliation by fighting for his rights and in the process, becomes a leading smuggler of the underworld. With an abundance of memorable dialogues penned by Salim-Javed and ground-breaking performances by the two actors, Deewar went on to become one of the most iconic films and performances of Bachchan’s career.

Sholay (1975)
This Ramesh Sippy creation tells the story of two small-time criminals, Jai (Amitabh Bachchan) and Veeru (Dharmendra) who are summoned by a vengeful ex-policeman, Thakur (Sanjeev Kumar) to hunt down and bring a dacoit, Gabbar Singh (Amjad Khan) to him alive for a reward of Rs.70,000. Any list describing the brilliance of Bachchan would be incomplete without mentioning Sholay. Not only is it one of his best films, it is also one that any Hindi filmgoer would swear by. Its unforgettable dialogues, the chemistry between Dharmendra and Amitabh Bachchan, and the foot-tapping music all contributed to making Sholay nothing less than a masterpiece.

Agneepath (1990)
Directed by Mukul S. Anand, Agneepath is about Vijay (Amitabh Bachchan) — the son of a Gandhian schoolmaster killed by drug trader, Kancha Cheena (Danny Denzongpa) — whose primary goal in life is to seek revenge on his father’s killer, by working his way up into the drug trade, close enough to be able to kill Kancha on his own. The poem Agneepath, written by Bachchan’s father, Harivansh Rai Bachchan, is the theme incorporated into the film, both literally and metaphorically, recited by Vijay’s father and is repeated in the climax. Agneepath is also the film that gave Bachchan his first National film award for Best Actor.

Black (2005)
Directed and written by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Black tells the story of a young blind and deaf girl, Michelle (Rani Mukherjee) and the relationship she shares with her teacher, Debraj (Amitabh Bachchan), who later develops Alzheimer’s disease. Michelle, due to her disabilities, lives in a world of darkness, which Debraj aims to eliminate. He considers himself a magician and takes it upon himself to bring Michelle into a world of light and colour using harsh, but successful methods. Winning the National awards for best feature film and best actor, Black is a fine example of path-breaking cinema. The performances by Bachchan and Rani Mukherjee are touching, genuine and unmatched, proving to be one of the best films of the decade.

Paa (2009)
The second film starring the father-son duo, R. Balki’s Paa, sees the roles reversed onscreen. Auro (Amitabh Bachchan) is a witty 12-year old boy suffering from progeria, a genetic disorder that makes him look five times older than he actually is. He lives with his mother (Vidya Balan) and grandmother (Arundhati Nag). One day, Amol (Abhishek Bachchan), a politician, visits Auro’s school and meets Auro, whom he decides to take to Delhi to see the president. Auro eventually finds out that Amol is his father and tries to bring his parents back together. Paa saw Amitabh Bachchan receive his third National award. The chemistry shared between the two Bachchans was evident and endearing. A successful attempt at creating a gem of a film and a character.

These are only six of my favourite Amitabh Bachchan films, which have required a lot of thought due to his incomparable performances with every film. He continues to entertain audiences worldwide with unmatched performances and remains an inspiration to those who are fortunate enough to work with him. Happy 70th birthday to one of the finest actors the nation will ever see and here’s to many more years of groundbreaking cinema any other actor can only hope to achieve.

Citizen Stranger

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They say I’m not from here
They say it’s not my own,
Telling me it’s a lost cause,
Telling me to just go home.

They call me an outsider,
A stranger to their plight,
And just another person
Whose candle won’t be the light.

They say I don’t belong
With my Western thoughts and views,
In a place where rapes and honour killings
Make the front page news.

You say I want to change the world
“With a Starbucks cup in hand”.
What you don’t see is the desire
And hunger to take a stand

For what is wrong, immoral
And unpatriotic at worst;
The yearning to alleviate pain
And quench a poor child’s thirst.

You never stopped to ask
Who I am and why I’m here.
A stranger, a shadow, or maybe a voice
Or just someone who cares

To make this world a better place
One small step at a time.
This is the dream of a billion;
I assure you, it’s not just mine.

You say I’m not from here
You say it’s not my own.
Yet, this is the place I care to fix,
And make it what I call my home.

A love affair like no other

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved the power and the effect of words. From rainy Saturday afternoons to that mandatory hour (or three) before bed, nothing compared to falling immensely into the magical realm of a book. As I grew, so did my love and desire to read. There’s always this mental checklist people go through before they leave the house: wallet, keys, phone and cash. My list however, had one more item. Everything from Dahl’s creativity to Rowling’s lessons captivated me from cover to cover. For birthdays, there was nothing I’d rather have received than a stack of books. To me, my childhood meant the library, airports mean bookshops and holidays mean thrift stores. Every day, I glance at my bookshelf with the intention to make it through every single paperback on it, only to return from another holiday with yet another pile.

In fact, my love for books is so deep, I fear breaking its spine would disrespect it, folded page corners would disgrace it, and accidentally spilling something on it would deface it. It is for these reasons I unapologetically say a firm no to anyone who asks to borrow them from me. Taking Literature in high school and university was both the best and worst thing that could have happened to me in my academic career. Having to read for grades was a blessing, but having to highlight and annotate was pure torture. That being said, I’ve never passed a second-hand bookstore without walking through it first. That feeling of someone sharing their favourite book with you is almost synonymous with someone baring their soul. Thus, I was torn between wanting to be a part of someone’s literary experience and not fully appreciating it. Then came the 21st century.

In an era where everyone and everything is connected by technology, books are no exception. It was only a matter of time before someone designed a way to prevent people, avid readers in particular, from carrying heavy books everywhere they went. As much as one could love Hosseini and Rushdie, I’m not going to lie, it’s no easy task carrying their works along with an already heavy laptop and charger. For the longest time, I steadfastly refused to buy a Kindle; it felt like I was cheating on the hundreds of weekly literary relationships I had had in the past. And then it changed. Carrying Shantaram on the Tube was a mission and a half in London’s biting cold. It was time to invest yet again in one of the world’s man-made technological creations.

It took me a while to accept this new friend. It didn’t have that delicious smell of a book, it didn’t have that crisp sound of a turning page, and it didn’t have that wonderful tangibility of someone’s sleepless nights. However, with time, patience and a whole lot of Tube rides together, we clicked. It ensured me that the characters were no different on a screen than they were on paper. It gave me the satisfaction of starting something new immediately when the old was over. Most importantly, it taught me that words have the power to permeate beyond its source; it still had the ability to take you into a world that was created by somebody else, yet make you feel right at home.

It’s been almost a year now, and I’m proud to say, we’re still going strong. We’ve had our ups and downs: formatting errors, delayed releases and more commonly, some pretty off days. But like most relationships, we’ve learned the hard way and have powered through what looks like a long, adventurous journey together. On a side note, late nights have never been better; all I have to do is keep it charged.

Books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators.” – Stephen Fry

An Open Letter to Hong Kong

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In light of what’s been happening in my city, definitely a perspective worth taking into account.

Warewhulf

An Open Letter to Hong Kong                                                                                                         September 29, 2014

From: Ulf Olofsson – resident of Hong Kong

I was personally in Admiralty last night and followed minute by minute the events that unfolded as the public protestors clashed with police and tear gas was used.

My social media feeds (and those of my wife’s) were in hyperdrive. The overwhelming majority of posts and statements were not about the resolve to stand up for a more democratic Hong Kong, nor did they cover any organized direction from anybody.

What they did cover however were statement after statement, photo after…

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New girl, big city

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Taken from Jubilee Bridge, London

Taken from Jubilee Bridge, London

Like a lot of the people I’ve met in the last nine months, I came to London in the hopes of finding a small place for myself in this very big city; a place that I would learn to call home, albeit for a short period of time. Along with my suitcase full of coats and jumpers, I brought with me a new goal: to fall in love. It seemed trivial at the time, but over the last five months in particular, I can safely say, it’s been achieved. I was asked to write an article about my experience at the university and in London for the school website, but always felt that nothing could fully or accurately describe it. Every time I wrote, it didn’t seem enough. This led to me restarting the article a number of times. What could I possibly say about this city that hadn’t been said before?

In just several months, there’s something about this city that has made a pretty apathetic me so dejected about going home. What was it though? My exciting new life away from family? Having my own little place to stay? My independence? While I tried to pin it on one aspect in particular, I realised it was an amalgamation of so many events I managed to experience in the short time I had here. It encompassed everything from my neighbour running into my room at 3 in the morning because she had an uninvited guest who refused to leave, to getting kicked out of the common room at 11pm sharp only to have tea and biscuits on a miniscule kitchen floor, to waiting an hour and a half for a table outside Dishoom in the rain to celebrate Shah Rukh Khan’s birthday, to being up all night in the middle of Lake District in the biting cold (practically a death wish), to staying up late watching the trashiest Bollywood movies in spite of an early morning start, and all with some of the craziest people I’ve had the privilege to come across.

And it wasn’t just friends who made this experience worth the trouble. I encountered a stranger on the Tube who let me sleep on his shoulder after presuming I had had a long day, the Ambassador at Tinseltown always understands me when I’m down, my culinary skills now exceed the successful thawing of broccoli (must add to shaadi.com profile), and I don’t mean to brag, but I can officially say the best brownies I’ve ever had are made by yours truly.

When I first moved to London at the end of September, I wrote a post shortly after that described my complete resentment for the place, the people and the inefficiency, to name but a few. Over time however, I’ve come to eat my words. I have yet to find a place with more breathtaking sunsets (at 10pm in the summer), people who will join in my dislike for kids when I snap at them, and people who sing and give out lollipops on the train just to make commuters happy after a long day.

London also taught me the importance of being comfortable in my own skin, not just around other people, but with myself. The number of times I’ve sat out in the sun with a book or my Kindle at Regent’s Park is countless; it’s something I’ve learnt to find immense bliss in, and if life permitted, I’d do day in and day out. I explored areas of London and found favourites in Tower Bridge, Southbank and London Bridge. Food being an integral part of my existence, also took precedence in increasing my fondness for the city. Chili paneer is a staple at Indian restaurants, a rare occurrence and definitely a drawback in Hong Kong. I’m also a proud regular at Tibits, Dishoom and Jay’s, all of which serve some of the best chai I can only aspire to someday make.

I came to London in the search for love, and love I found. I found it in the incessant drizzle, in the innumerable cups of tea, in the sleepless Bollywood nights, in the bright, sunny days, and in the comforts of Room 32. London, I fell in love with you. You may not have Hong Kong’s skyline, but you have Boomshakes, and in my eyes, that sure counts for a hell of a lot. There’s no other place I would’ve much rather called home.

And THAT kids, is why Friends is a better TV show.

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Disclaimer: this post contains spoilers. If you haven’t seen the series finale of How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM) and want to, I suggest you go watch it and develop your own opinion first. Though personally, I think you’re better off living in complete ignorance of what actually happens and in a world of how you think it should have ended.

Now while I could and should be doing something a lot more productive (like my dissertation or the three other essays I have due by the end of the month), I feel it’s necessary, not just for myself, but also for all the fans of HIMYM to explain (read: vent) why the finale of the nine-year long TV show was not just a mere disappointment, but a betrayal. It was a betrayal to everyone who stood by the show even and especially at its worst. It was bad enough that it took the writers nine seasons to build up to Ted Mosby meeting the girl of his dreams, but we watched on, knowing that he’d eventually find the one and it would all be worth it. It could have easily been wrapped up neatly, concisely and with an ending that encompassed all that the show has been over the last nine years. But no.

The creators, Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, decided it would be a swell idea to completely ruin every main character on the show in the last 45 minutes. I would be lying if I said Ted Mosby, despite being somewhat relatable (being a grammar Nazi is okay), didn’t annoy me every single time he realised he still loved Robin after each failed relationship, that Lily and Marshall didn’t overdo it with their lovey-dovey crap, that Barney’s “legen-wait for it-dary” jokes didn’t get old, or that Robin remained indecisive about Ted and Barney right up until her wedding day; but we sucked it up and went along with everything the writers threw at us. But no.

Unfortunately, all we got out of the finale was an abomination of everything the latter had built up to. And that wasn’t even the worst part. Season 9 finally introduced us to the Mother. In every progressive episode, the writers gave her more character and with that, more reason for us to believe she was perfect for Ted. She was funny, quirky, cute and everything the audience loved and wanted as Ted’s wife. What then, do the makers decide to do? Yep, kill her right off. Like, “you were great and perfect and everything, but no, you gotta go.” Why then, even make her an essential and even more so, a lovable part of the cast if you were just going to make her character die?! What’s more, all of the last season focused on Barney and Robin’s wedding weekend. Given all the courting, troubles, decisions and indecisions, you would expect them to finally get married and live happily ever after. However, somehow getting them divorced and distant from each other seemed to be the better option. Not only was this a complete waste of a season in terms of introducing the titular character, but one that broke up a relationship between two of the main characters—that took a whole lot of the last three seasons to develop—within seconds, only for Robin to realise she’d have been perfect with Ted all along. And all this ends with Ted’s kids persuading him to go after her again now that their mother’s dead, leading him to show up at Robin’s apartment with that godforsaken horn. Well great, the writers not only took nine very long years to do what they could have done in three episodes, but brought down pretty much everything, namely the plot, the characters and all that the show stood for in the final 45 minutes that could have possibly made it go down in TV history. So again, no.

Writers, it’s perfectly fine to give your viewers—especially those that have been rather annoyed at the fact that it’s taken you this long to tell a simple story—a predictable ending to a show they have invested a significant amount of time in. Six friends, three happy marriages and lots of kids would have been more than enough for a show to end gracefully and with a whole lot of dignity. Unfortunately, you decided to take the inexplicable and risky route to include new, and might I add, strange, elements to the finishing product (Barney has a baby, what?!). While it’s something I and, from what social media tells me, almost all your viewers won’t ever seem to understand, I can safely say this goes down as the worst finale I’ve ever seen, and I will most definitely keep myself away from anything you create in the future, for fear that you’ll just screw it up at the end. So thank you for ensuring I never tune in to reruns of this show again; the last nine years were not worth this.

If you TLDR’ed this, HIMYM was basically the longest and worst Ted talk of all time.

22 Reasons Having A Sister SEEMS Awesome

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In response to a Buzzfeed article which I posted on my brother’s Facebook wall (to which my sister may have gotten a tad jealous), I agreed to make a list of my own for her. It warrants receiving a handwritten letter expressing how much she loves me, possibly included with a bag of Hershey’s Cookies N Creme chocolates. It also “gets my creative juices flowing”…or something like that.

  1. She’ll stand up for you. Laughing when you fall.
  2. She’ll tell you you’re too good for anyone. What she means is ‘anyone but her’.
  3. She’ll support your dreams and goals. Provided they’re not cooler than hers.
  4. She’ll like all your Facebook profile photos and statuses. Because nobody else has.
  5. She’ll lend an ear, all while being calm and understanding. Unless it’s the morning. Or when she’s home from work. Or going out. Or hungry. Or sleepy. Or when it involves you fighting with another sibling.
  6. She’ll correct you when you’re wrong before anyone else finds out about your silliness. But only after you agree to let her make fun of you forever.
  7. She’ll protect you. But will tell all your friends about your fears so they can make fun of you.
  8. She’ll get you out of sticky situations. While she plots getting you into another one just for kicks.
  9. She’ll never let you go hungry. But will make you go get the food.
  10. She’ll join in when you do crazy and silly things. After there’s a video recording of you she can and will later blackmail you with.
  11. She’ll let you wear her new clothes and shoes. When she realises she doesn’t fit into/like them soon after buying them.
  12. She’ll understand your quirks. Eating Branston pickle with rice is a real thing.
  13. She’ll never embarrass you. Public smothering is an act conducted PURELY out of love and affection.
  14. She’ll teach you how to be stylish. She’s actually making you look bad so she can look good.
  15. She’ll always be down to go shopping. For her clothes.
  16. Or for a movie. Of her choice.
  17. She’ll always laugh at your jokes. Before passing them off to others as her own.
  18. She’ll introduce you to cool bands and songs. Six months after you discovered them yourself.
  19. She’ll make you feel good about yourself. Even when she’s judging you on the inside.
  20. She’ll always tell you the truth. Tough love is not a joke.
  21. She’ll bear witness to all your milestones. Especially the embarrassing ones.
  22. She’ll ask you to join in when conspiring against another sibling. While doing the same with them against you.

I could possibly be talking about myself in most of the above (except #12; that’s disgusting). But hey, they’re lucky to have me!

Film Review: Dhoom 3

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Dhoom 3

Image Credit: Yash Raj Films

If any of you have been keeping up with Koffee with Karan, you’ll know that Aamir Khan claimed he chose to do Dhoom 3 based on its script. Strange considering it doesn’t really have one. He also claimed if there’s one thing Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan have that he doesn’t, it’s style. I’ve chosen to put two and two together and conclude that he just wanted to ride a motorbike on-screen in the hopes of looking cool. Fortunately, his bike is pretty much just a transformer and does that job for him.

Directed by Vijay Krishna Acharya (scriptwriter of the first two Dhoom films), Dhoom 3 is about Sahir (Siddharth Nigam), a young boy who lives in Chicago with his father (Jackie Shroff), that struggles to keep his failing circus company alive. Not meeting the demands of the bank, his father kills himself, leaving Sahir to fend for himself. Distraught with his father’s death, Sahir grows up (Aamir Khan) to become a vengeful thief, in the attempt to put the same bank owner out of business. This brings in the cop-duo of Jai Dixit (Abhishek Bachchan) and Ali (Uday Chopra), who attempt to help the Chicago police in nabbing the culprit, but end up getting sent away because, well…they don’t. The film continues with lots more chasing and footage of Aamir Khan’s transformer bike and a silly twist, thrown in with a few song-and-dance routines by body doubles, and after three long hours, ends with a predictable climax. Oh and, Katrina Kaif shows up briefly too.

Unfortunately, the film lacks a) continuity; you can count the number of times Aamir Khan rides past the same 7-11 after his first heist, b) chemistry; Katrina Kaif is at least three inches taller and makes an extremely awkward pair with Aamir Khan, who possibly has more on-screen chemistry with himself, c) concision; it’s high time Bollywood learnt how to tell stories without going round in circles and keeping it within the 120-minute mark, and d) a costume designer; 48 years old and leather pants? A tad ambitious.

The film does however, include some exceptional Christopher Nolan-inspired sequences, a commendable child actor, some great choreography (albeit the underwhelming music), and Katrina Kaif doing her best: looking hot with three lines to say.

Dhoom 3 comes close to being as slick and stylish as Hollywood films, a feat many Indian action filmmakers have aspired to achieve, but unfortunately lacks a great deal of substance and good performances by an ensemble cast. While most people think having Aamir Khan in the lead role is half the battle won, I personally believe this has been his worst performance till date; it seems forced and unnatural. I might need to rewatch Dhobi Ghat to remind myself why I like him.

London Diaries

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Four weeks. It’s been four weeks in what I once called one of my favourite cities in the world. It hasn’t been easy, it hasn’t been that difficult either, but it’s been different. Change is something we all look for at some time or another. Maybe for a little excitement, maybe for a little experience, or maybe because we just need to get outside of our comfort zones and do something that could potentially change our lives forever. Keeping that last thought in mind, I came to this city in the hopes of discovering a home away from home; a place I would grow to love more than I already did, people that I’d have long-lasting friendships with, and experiences that would enable me to see things in a new light.

Fortunately or not, it’s been surprising so far. It didn’t occur to me that visiting this city would be that much more different than living in it. There are things here that I used to consider ordinary, but now find fascinating. Similarly, there are also things that have begun to irk me; things that I never thought much of before.

1) Everyone has the perception that the weather here’s gloomy and depressing. Truth be told, it’s not. It’s actually just annoyingly unpredictable. Half the time, it can’t even make up it’s mind and decides to be sunny, cold and rainy all at the same time. And I thought HK was temperamental…

2) The people. Granted, HK-ers aren’t the friendliest people in the world, but they’re far better back there than they are here, and that’s saying something coming from a person who derives immense pleasure from screaming at people constantly in her way. Here, they show no mercy.

3) The Tube; i.e. the bane of my existence. Closures/maintenance works every weekend? NO. Do it overnight if you have to; how am I supposed to get to Central London the one time in the week I need to, under an hour?

4) The ignorance. Despite having been told, joked about and reprimanded over the years, people here continue to believe that Hong Kong is a part of Japan and people there don’t know a word of English. The number of times I’ve heard “do you speak Japanese?” and  “why is your English so good?” has made my ears bleed and I will punch the next person who dares ask me. Side note: I’ve also received “if you’re from Asia, why are your eyes so big?”. People just never change.

5) I had to learn how to cook. It wasn’t fun and broccoli hates me.

6) WHY IS EVERYTHING SO EXPENSIVE? NO, I DON’T WANT TO PAY 6 POUNDS ON TRAVELLING EVERY SUNDAY, ESPECIALLY WHEN I’M USING YOUR STUPID RAILWAY REPLACEMENT BUSES.

Having said that, I’ll give London one thing: the food here is SO MUCH BETTER. It’s no surprise I’ve put on weight in the one month that I’ve been here. Knowing the fate of my own cooking, I can’t possibly be rambling on about that, but eggless waffles, crèpes and pancakes? GIMME MORE.

Also, it’s a pretty place. It doesn’t have HK’s unbeatable skyline, but it’s got Tower Bridge which almost makes up for it.

Unless I choose to ignore the differences between here and back home, I’m never going to make the most of the place I chose to spend a year in. Until then, I’m back to finding ways to cook my broccoli.

Dear Bollywood, thank you.

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In times of adversity, in times of trouble, in times of self-doubt, we all look for something. It could be the courage to fight, it could be the strength to endure, or it could just be a little bit of peace. Some look for those things in books while others look for them in music. As for me, I look for them in films. For as long as I can remember, films have been a big part of who I am; it has the ability to alter my mood, it has the ability to make me take things into perspective, and it somehow has the ability to answer a lot of questions. Hence, I’m a firm believer that “all of life’s riddles are answered in the movies”.

Not very long ago, I took to this blog as a platform to express my ideas on films. I soon moved on to a more popular medium, targeted at a much wider audience, for that same purpose. However, somewhere along the way, I lost sight of why I started writing film reviews in the first place. It wasn’t just about discussing how good or bad a film was from a technical point of view; it was more about entertaining an audience with sarcasm and humour. This isn’t to say the opinions stated weren’t my own or valid at the time, but it’s far from saying that that’s all there was to those films.

The first Hindi film I remember watching on the big screen was Kuch Kuch Hota Hai by Karan Johar. The seven-year old me walked into the cinema cribbing about wasting a Saturday evening watching a film starring Shah Rukh Khan (who, believe it or not, I hated at the time) by a first-time director. I sat through half of the film yawning and yearning to leave…until Salman Khan appeared and made the rest of the film more bearable. That was the superficial feeling of a seven-year old girl. 15 years later, I still maintain that it is one of Johar’s finest works till date, and that he is one of the most daring filmmakers of our time. He takes the liberty to tackle controversial issues such as extra-marital affairs, terrorism, and with Bombay Talkies, homosexuality. Ajeeb Dastaan Hai Yeh is bold, coming-of-age and a risk that, in this day and age, is well worth taking. In all of 20 minutes.

Dibakar Banerjee’s work is idiosyncratic, to say the least. Be it with Khosla Ka GhoslaOye Lucky! Lucky Oye! or Love, Sex aur Dhokha, his stories are presented with a quality that may be defined as, in the simplest term, weird. They’re unconventional, they’re different, and that’s probably why they’re successful, both commercially and critically. While I may not be the biggest Dibakar Banerjee fan, there’s no doubt he brings a certain eccentricity to his films. Star is no different. Having Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the lead role is half the battle won. With a simple story that’s innocent yet powerful, and so beautifully executed with a compelling supporting cast, there’s your other half.

In 2011, we saw a film that was fun, entertaining and an eye-opener. Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara was about three friends who go on a bachelors’ trip to Spain, rediscovering themselves and each other in ways they could have only imagined. Directed by Zoya Akhtar, she convinced avid moviegoers to believe in the high caliber and potential of female directors. Like ZNMDSheila Ki Jawani is also a film about self-discovery, and one that challenges the notion of “social norms” between genders. While the story lacked depth and connection with the audience, the performance by the main protagonist, a young boy played by Naman Jain, couldn’t have been more honest.

One thing Anurag Kashyap and Dibakar Banerjee have in common is the unconventional means in which they choose to present their films. You will never see a Khan or a Kapoor in their work, and more often than not, their films don’t sit well with the older generation, who have grown up and come to terms with the normalcy of the idea of singing, dancing and running around trees. Murabba, however, is probably the most “Bollywood” Kashyap could get. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing; not in the least. In fact, it is a rather accurate depiction of the middle class population in India and their ridiculous, yet relatable obsession with celebrities. A story that could have been easily exaggerated and mocking turned out to be a simple take on the high regard Indians have for Hindi cinema.

While there’s a part of me that is extremely tempted to pick out the few, but existent flaws in Bombay Talkies, I think I’ll refrain this time. Simply because watching it reminded me why I love Hindi cinema the amount and the way in which I do. It was an evocative and honest attempt at celebrating 100 years of Hindi cinema, a sentiment I feel would be insulting to question.

Over the years, watching Hindi films have taught me one thing: they may be melodramatic, over-the-top and too good to be true, but these are the films which give us a ray of hope that more often than not, there is always a happy ending.

Film Review: Aashiqui 2

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Aashiqui 2

Bollywood, as far as I’ve seen, has a very different take on sequels than Hollywood. While Hollywood sequels either take the story forward from where they left off in the preceding film, or use the same characters to create another plot. Either way, there is some relevance to the prequels. The only similarity Bollywood sequels have to their successor is the title of the film. With sequels produced by the Bhatt camp, however, there’s one more common factor: they’re godawful.

Directed by Mohit Suri, Aashiqui 2, is the story of an alcoholic musician, Rahul (Aditya Roy Kapoor) who is on the verge of destroying his career due to his addiction. He meets Aarohi (Shraddha Kapoor), a bar singer in Goa, and promises to take her to Mumbai and make her dreams of becoming a singing sensation true. He mentors her and establishes her as a singer, all while falling madly in love with her. An unfortunate circumstance convinces Rahul that he is destroying Aarohi’s life by being in it as an alcoholic. So instead of kicking his habit, he decides to leave her. Having fallen in love with him as well, Aarohi decides to help him. He tries to get back to singing, but to no avail as the liquor has ruined his voice. He drinks away the pain, getting back to his addiction. Once again, Aarohi helps him; this time, by sacrificing her career and taking him away from the city. This goes on until her manager finds her and convinces her to get back to work. Rahul, now sober, goes to watch Aarohi perform. He runs into a journalist who provokes him to get drunk, beat him up and get sent to prison. Aarohi helps him yet again, with the intention of letting go of the singing career she tried so hard to get. The film ends predictably with Rahul not wanting to get in the way of Aarohi and her dreams.

The goods:

  1. The music. Like Aashiqui, this film had absolutely nothing to offer except a good soundtrack, composed by Jeet Ganguli, Mithoon and Ankit Tiwari. Oddly enough, all the songs start sounding the same once you listen to them too much.
  2. Shraddha Kapoor. For a debut, this was actually a pretty decent performance, not taking into account that she agreed to say a lot of stupid dialogues. She has a fragile beauty with vulnerability. For Shakti Kapoor’s daughter, that’s a pretty big deal.

The bads:

  1. The plot. It was repetitive.
  2. Aditya Roy Kapoor. For someone that looks like Farhan Akhtar, he sure as hell lacks the talent to be like him.
  3. The plot. It was stupid.
  4. The Twitter craze. My timeline was filled with people gushing over how emotional the film was, making them believe in true love et al. It’s embarrassing, really.
  5. The plot. It was boring.

After all that? My rating is a 1.5/5. My expectations weren’t exactly high, so I can’t say I was disappointed. All I can say is that had a little bit more attention been given to the story and screenplay, it would have been a little more bearable.

Towards the end of the film, when Aarohi’s manager tries to convince his talented singer that she’s wasting her time on an alcoholic, she replies by saying that she’s willing to give up her singing career to become an alcoholic. By doing this, Rahul will be guilt-tripped into getting rid of his addiction. If that doesn’t work, they’ll both die together, lying drunk somewhere. Am I the only one who thinks that isn’t even remotely romantic?

Film Review: Nautanki Saala!

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Nautanki Saala

Last year, our beloved B-town saw a promising newcomer make a fine entry into the world of Hindi cinema. He could act, sing, dance and hosted almost every possible award ceremony early this year, all while looking quite dapper. In fact, there was very little Ayushmann Khurrana couldn’t do as far as entertainment was concerned. Thus, the Vicky Donor star’s latest venture, Nautanki Saala!, was one of the most anticipated comedies this year. In addition, having lent his voice to his own compositions once again, he raised the audience’s expectations of the music and in turn, the film.

Adapted from a French play, Après Vous, Nautanki Saala!, basically meant to be a comedy of errors, tells the story of two guys, who happen to meet by chance—that suddenly become best friends—and their complicated love lives. Ram Parmar (Ayushmann Khurrana), a theatre actor, finds the suicidal Mandar, on his way home one night and considers himself responsible for the latter’s life thereafter. Finding out that the reason for Mandar’s suicide attempt is due to heartbreak, Ram takes it upon himself to play Cupid and make Mandar’s ex-girlfriend, Nandini (Pooja Salvi), fall in love with Mandar once again, while making sure she breaks up with her existing and cheating boyfriend, Loli. Ram also tries to cheer Mandar up by giving him a role in the play for which he works. Things become even more complicated when Ram’s girlfriend breaks up with him, believing that he spends more time mending his new friend’s broken heart than with her, who, by the way, he accidentally proposed to. What’s worse is that he finds himself falling in love with Nandini and vice versa, despite knowing she’s his best friend’s girl. With everybody discovering the truth about Ram and guilt successively getting the best of him, he ends up losing his friend, his fiancé and his newfound love.

The goods:

  1. The music. In his unique genre of Punjabi soft rock, Khurrana excels once again with tracks like Mera Mann and Saadi Galli. After Pani Da Rang (which was my favourite song last year), there were high expectations for him to sing in his future films. Fortunately or not, this happened to be one of the only good things about the film.
  2. Abhishek Bachchan. This isn’t me trying to ruin the film for you by telling you about his cameo. If anything, it only gives you a reason to watch this excuse for a film; or you could just wait till the 2-minute clip he’s in releases on YouTube.

The bads:

  1. Pooja Salvi. She was to this film what Diana Penty was to Cocktail. A face with no soul and a performance that was so lifeless, one could only conclude the makers were desperate.

  2. Kunaal Roy Kapoor. After a hilarious performance in Delhi Belly, I expected a lot more from the actor who somehow redefined the concept of ‘toilet humour’. His role as Mandar was simply annoying, and memorable for all the wrong reasons.

  3. Ayushmann Khurrana. As much as it hurts me to put his name in this list, considering the exceptional-for-a-first-film job he did in Vicky Donor, there is nothing in the film which lives up to the hopes pinned on him after his debut.

  4. The story. While it may have been an adaptation, one can only presume the original was good enough to rip off. Having said that, the end result of Nautanki Saala! goes to show why Rohan Sippy could never make it as a storyteller—if Dum Maaro Dum and Kuch Na Kaho weren’t already enough indication. The life of every film is the story. Unfortunately, it had the same fate as the lead actress.

All things considered, my rating for this disappointment is a 2 out of 5 with the music and a cameo by the director’s good friend being the only two things that give Nautanki Saala! something to look forward to. Everything else is a let down.

On a side note, Ayushmann Khurrana might just be the next Emraan Hashmi. Who woulda thought?

A letter to the Prime Minister

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Dear PM Manmohan Singh,

Despite having lived outside of India my whole life, despite the numerous crimes that have occurred and despite what people might say about the place, I have been immensely proud of the culture, the traditions and the values that come with being an Indian. However, over the last month, I have read some of the most horrific things about the Indian subcontinent, which have led me to question this respective pride. These are not the values I grew up with, these are not the traditions I’ve been taught and this is not the culture I was made to believe in. With an innocent girl being stripped, raped, thrown off a bus, unable to defend herself in any which way, and now, finally losing her battle to the atrocities faced, to the rest of nation standing up for her to no avail, it has made me sad, disgusted, scared and more than anything else, furious. And this wasn’t even the first time.

In July, a 19-year old girl was molested by a mob of sixteen men in Guwahati outside a pub. The accused justified this action by saying the girl was drunk and was a shame to the Indian culture and society. Earlier this month, a 32-year old woman was groped and sexually assaulted by a mob in Banaglore, including a traffic policeman. They made verbal abuses, obscene gestures and the crowd jeered on. What followed each of these cases was a call to society to stand up and speak against the atrocities to women, accusations against the women in question for a) being out too late, b) traveling alone and c) dressing “too provocatively”. Finally, the events moved out of public memory. These are only two of the hundreds of cases (most of which went unreported) that have occurred this year.

More recently, an incident everyone is extremely familiar with by now was brought to light: the Delhi gangrape case that involved an innocent 23-year old woman, her 28-year old male friend and five sexually frustrated men who “just wanted to have a little bit of fun”. What causes these incidents? Why hasn’t anything been done about them? Does the government not think this is a problem big enough to deal with? As a girl, I have a problem with it. As an Indian, I have a problem with it. As a person, I have a problem with it. In a predominantly Hindu, god-fearing and goddess-worshipping country, does it not strike you as the least bit surprising that these acts are occurring far too often?

Allow me to tell you why. The lack of sex education. India is a country that considers even the mention of the word ‘sex’ as taboo. However, this is the same country that has reported more rape cases than anywhere in the world this year; keep in mind that there are most definitely lots more that haven’t been reported. These people — I say ‘people’ because there are a large number of women who fail to understand the negative repercussions of sexual assault — don’t have the level of education required to understand the consequences of rape: unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and not to mention, the shame of the victim and her family for an act she didn’t invite, nor welcome. The National Crime Records Bureau recently released data validating that victims of rape are more likely to be assaulted by those who are known to them. This comprises of friends, neighbours and even relatives, including husbands. What makes things worse is when people don’t report these crimes. Be it victims or witnesses, they have a rational fear from the repercussions of their reports. Their families could get involved and the respective gangs find ways of seeking revenge, to name a few.

In April 2003, Sonali Mukherjee, a 17-year old girl, had a mixture of acids poured over her face in the dead of the night, burning 70% of her skin and leaving her partially deaf and almost blind. The attackers were her three neighbours who persistently harassed her every morning until she threatened to call the police. Nine years on, she continues to appeal to the Indian government for either skin reconstructive surgery or euthanasia. This case goes to show that girls don’t even have the ability to stand up for themselves without the fear of being scarred for life. Is this how you want the girls in your country to live, in fear, suffering and preferring death?

Moreover, in situations like these, it is the girls who are victimised in more ways than one. In addition to being physically and emotionally traumatised with the way in which they’ve been treated by their attackers, these girls are accused of the way they in which they choose to live their lives. Be it through the way they dress, the places they go or the people they meet, they are reprimanded with not being conservative enough and living life on their own terms. In a country that has progressed so much economically and technologically, where women stand shoulder-to-shoulder with men, is this even a valid judgment to make, just because she is a girl? This sort of backward thinking is the result of such acts as well as the ignorance of the dire consequences, of which nothing has been done. I don’t want to live in constant fear of getting molested when turning a corner just because I’m dressed how I please, because I’m on my own, irrespective of how late it is, or just because I was born a girl.

As the Prime Minister, it is your prerogative and responsibility to take a stand on the atrocities that these women face, in order to prevent them from happening in the future. This is far from saying that capital punishment needs to be implemented to punish the rapists. This would not be a deterrence nor an effective means of ensuring safety to the women of your country. However, there are certain measures that can be taken to discourage similar events from occurring in the future: drawing stricter laws, stronger police protection and most importantly, education. Despite being the national capital as well as one of the most advanced cities in the country, Delhi continues to be referred to as the nation’s ‘rape capital’. It isn’t just the small towns and villages that need lessons on sex education, it’s everyone. Condoling the girl’s family after her death was a gracious act. However, that’s not enough. What we need is the promise and the assurance that our country is a safe one.

To the politicians, election period is a busy one, and understandably so; what with making the other parties look bad and finding numerous ways to defame them just so you can reach to a desirable position. They say man is selfish by nature, so how about you spend a little less time bringing scandals to light (or hiding your own) and a little more time suggesting how you can make the country a better and safer place to live in. You’d be surprised as to how it might work wonders for your campaign.

And finally, to the rest of the country, you’ve got mothers, daughters, sisters and wives at home. Don’t wait for an incident like this to happen to them before you say something. Speak up against these brutalities, teach your daughters to stand up for themselves and most importantly, teach your sons how to behave.

I speak on behalf of girls across the nation as well as those outside of it. This is not what you want your country to become. Fix it.

With warm regards,
An Indian girl who hopes to regain the lost pride in her country

Film Review: Jab Tak Hai Jaan

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Thoughts before the film: I hope the two girls die, Yash Chopra brings in Kajol/Rani Mukherjee and she lives happily ever after with Shah Rukh Khan.

For those who have grown up watching and enjoying Yash Chopra’s romantic films, namely ChandniSilsilaDil Toh Pagal Hai and Veer-Zaara, to name but a few, Jab Tak Hai Jaan became one of the year’s most highly anticipated films. With Shah Rukh Khan, Katrina Kaif and Anushka Sharma in the lead roles, the late director’s final venture was nothing less than star-studded either. Hence, expectations were kept high, leading to tickets bought in advance for full-house cinemas throughout the busy week of Diwali.

Jab Tak Hai Jaan is about a 21-year old documentary filmmaker, Akira (Anushka Sharma) who, after finding and reading the diary of the perpetually grumpy Major Samar Anand (Shah Rukh Khan), a bomb disposal expert, decides to make a film about him. The diary presents Akira with a flashback of Samar’s life in London where he met, fell in love with and left Meera (Katrina Kaif) ten years ago to go to Ladakh. Meera is an engaged, churchgoing Punjabi girl, who falls in love with Samar while learning Punjabi from him. When Samar meets with a fatal accident, Meera goes to Jesus and asks him to save her beloved. In return, she would never meet him again. Circumstances lead Samar back to London, where he meets with another accident and gets retrograde amnesia, forgetting everything that had happened since his first accident. The doctor believes it’s best to bring everyone Samar knew ten years ago to help him retrieve his memory. Meera makes Samar believe they have been married for ten years but stops herself from getting close to him because of her promise to Jesus. Not seeing results from her love, Meera asks Akira to go in front of him to remind him of his recent experiences. Nothing seems to work until Samar sees a bomb in a train which he suddenly knows how to defuse. Samar subsequently remembers everything, gathers he has been lied to by Meera, and returns to his life in Ladakh. Akira’s documentary is successful and Meera follows Samar back to Ladakh, realising Jesus kept Samar alive to be with her.

Thoughts during the film: I hope Katrina Kaif dies.

The goods:

  1. Shah Rukh Khan. There’s a broody SRK in an army uniform on a motorbike AND a charming, guitar-playing SRK in the same film.
  2. Anushka Sharma. Despite having done the same role in every film she’s been in, she’s the only one who played her role well without being annoying, all while looking great.
  3. The music. A.R. Rahman. Need I say more?

The bads:

  1. Shah Rukh Khan. Before watching it, you’d think he’d do the same thing he’s done innumerable times before, but he’s really just weird and awkward. Playing a character 20 years younger than his actual age with girls who are old enough to be his daughters doesn’t help either. In addition, when he gets retrograde amnesia, he turns into Rizwan Khan. Yes, SRK as an autistic is the same as SRK as an amnesiac.
  2. Katrina Kaif. She can’t act. She can’t dance. She can’t smile. She can’t speak Hindi. And she’s too old to play a 21-year old. In short, she’s useless. I will hereby stop putting her in my list of ‘goods’ just for being pretty.
  3. The script. Quite possibly, one of the worst scripts any Yash Chopra film has had, with the exception of Parampara. If you don’t remember it, you’re probably better off.
  4. 3 hours. A bad film that’s three hours long is a pain in the backside (quite literally).
  5. The comparison. Being a Yash Chopra film, Jab Tak Hai Jaan will inevitably be compared to his previous films. It doesn’t even come close to the standard set by classics such as DarrDil Toh Pagal Hai and Veer-Zaara. It’s not touching, it’s not that romantic and it’s way too long.

Keeping in mind everything else the late director has made, I give Jab Tak Hai Jaan a mere 2 out of 5, with the music by A.R. Rahman being its saving grace. Being an ardent fan of the Yash Chopra-SRK duo, I went in expecting (and hoping for) a corny, romantic film. I didn’t get one.

Jesus is the star of the show. The power he seems to have on Katrina Kaif’s character and her relationship with SRK is incredibly humorous, to say the least. It’s almost like he’s looking down at them and laughing at their stupidity.

Thoughts after the film: I wish they all died.

Yash Chopra: a legacy of love

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October 21st, 2012. It was a sad day for everyone in the Indian film fraternity and for those who follow Hindi films around the world. That woeful Sunday evening saw the shocking and unforeseen demise of one of the country’s leading filmmakers, Yash Chopra.

For some, it was the end of love and romance encapsulated onscreen. For others, it was the perfect adieu just weeks before his final release, Jab Tak Hai Jaan. For me, it was the end of an era.

From the chiffon saris in Silsila and Chandni to the yellow mustard fields in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ) to the snow-capped mountains in Darr, Yash Chopra managed to signify and present romance with equal doses of innocence and passion with everything he brought to celluloid. For those who followed his films, one glance was all it took to recognise it was his creation.

Chopra was also one of the first few producers who tackled the hills of Switzerland and the streets of London to shoot his films. He began this venture with the Rajesh Khanna-starrer, Daag, his first film under the Yash Raj banner. This practice of shooting subsequent films abroad was followed by ChandniDDLJ and Dil Toh Pagal Hai, to name but a few. In short, the movie mogul pioneered romantic Indian cinema as we know it today: singing and dancing around trees or in sleeveless chiffon saris in the snowy Alps.

For over 50 years, Chopra made what he knew he was the best at making: poetic, idealistic films which audiences couldn’t help but love. He set a standard for future romantic films that was, more often than not, difficult to beat. The actors were different (most of the time), the locations were different (kabhi kabhi), the stories however, as similar as they may have been, were too beautiful to be taken lightly and not be entranced by. Be it the dialogues, the cinematography or the music, Yash Chopra had a deep involvement in each aspect of the filmmaking process, which resulted in him making a masterpiece out of every creation. Despite being predominantly associated with the romantic genre, Chopra also tried a hand with serious and drama-oriented scripts, most of which were equally applauded and praised. These films included: Deewar, Trishul and Chak De! India. With his concluding film, Jab Tak Hai Jaan releasing next week, his audience has one final Yash Chopra masterpiece to look forward to, after which we’re only left with his legacy of love.

To the man who gave girls much like myself unrealistic expectations of men, through characters enacted by Shah Rukh Khan with arms spread wide open, there will never be another filmmaker like you. Thank you for teaching the country how to make love stories. Here’s hoping Heaven’s a garden of yellow flowers. Rest in peace.

Film Review: Student of the Year

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Cameos: check. Elaborate wedding: check. Masala: check. Disco song: check. Unreasonably attractive, rich, well-dressed (if at all) actors: check. Actors too old to be playing high school students (read: Kuch Kuch Hota Hai): check.

Student of the Year is everything you’d expect from a Karan Johar film. It’s cheesy, it’s over-the-top, it’s unrealistic and makes you question why you even bother watching something you know you’d never believe could happen. Hot, shirtless guys with Ferraris just do not drive into campus every day and students actually have classes at school instead of fighting over girls whose intellects don’t exceed those of a spoon…well, mostly.

Narrated by friends of the three protagonists ten years later in a hospital while waiting to meet their dying Dean, SOTY tells the story of a bunch of students from St. Teresa’s High School, a posh and prestigious institution attended by the children of the rich and famous. It mainly revolves around the rivalry between two young boys: Rohan (Varun Dhawan), the flirtatious son of an affluent businessman (Ram Kapoor), who despises his father for his disapproval to become a musician, and Abhimanyu (Sidharth Malhotra), an orphan who lives with his uncle and aunt and gained admission on a sports scholarship. It’s implied he’s not exactly rich, but he somehow possesses the ability to ride into school on a snazzy motorbike. The two become best friends in two days, magically eliminating any sense of competitiveness there was previously. Enter Shanaya, the rich, beautiful, neglected-by-her-parents girl who dates the school hottie, Rohan. Irritated by his promiscuous ways, Shanaya cries on Abhi’s shoulder, who, being the nice guy that he is, makes Rohan realise her worth, while simultaneously falling in love with her (surprise surprise). He gets distracted when Dean Yoginder Vashisht (Rishi Kapoor) announces the commencement of the Student of the Year competition, which all the main leads manage to get shortlisted for, despite never being seen in a classroom or behind a book until said competition is announced. With having ambitions to win the coveted trophy, friendships broken and relationships destroyed, the students are forced to redefine and ponder over their choices. Who will be the Student of the Year?

The goods:

  1. Kayoze Irani. Boman Irani’s son makes his acting debut in a role outshining everyone else’s. He doesn’t have a six-pack, he doesn’t own a flashy car, he doesn’t get the girls, but he’s got acting abilities that could go a long way. I wonder where he gets those from!
  2. Varun Dhawan. By far, the best acting amongst the three leads. Being his first film, expectations were kept low, but were exceeded nonetheless. His entry in the film however, presents him as a fusion of Salman Khan, Ranbir Kapoor and Aamir Khan, but that’s more KJo’s fault than anyone else’s.
  3. The music. I have to admit, I hated the soundtrack when it first released, but it grows on you when it incessantly plays on every channel you switch to. Not Vishal-Shekhar’s best, but bearable.
  4. The dialogues. A lot of witty lines and references to other films and TV shows, which keeps the audience entertained when there are no shirtless boys and bikini-clad babes to look at.

The bads:

  1. Sana Saeed. For those of you that don’t know, she was the 8-year old girl in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. She pretty much plays a walking, talking (unfortunately) Barbie doll. What’s worse is that she isn’t even remotely attractive. 14 years later, she’s still annoying.
  2. Alia Bhatt. Let’s just say that if Katrina Kaif is too busy being an accessory in other peoples’ films, directors now have the next best thing, only a few inches shorter. But hey, there’s nothing a pair of 5-inch heels can’t do.
  3. Sidharth Malhotra. KJo’s old assistant director has everything it takes to be a successful supermodel: the body, the face and the lack of facial expressions. He also makes John Abraham look like an amazing dancer.
  4. The tributes. The old Bollywood numbers incorporated into the film were not only unnecessary, but also ruined. Yeh Chand Sa Roshan Chehra in particular, will make your ears bleed.
  5. Rishi Kapoor. The pink shirts, the flirting, the giggling and the magazine of John Abraham in his desk drawer; there’s nothing about his character that doesn’t make you uncomfortable. 2012 presented the best and worst performances of his career, of which Dean Vashisht belonged to the latter. WatchAgneepath and tell me I’m wrong.
  6. Ishq Wala Love. This has to be in a category of its own. Since its release, all I’ve wondered is what the hell it even means. The video doesn’t make it any better; they’re in a snowy jungle in the middle of nowhere where the guys are wearing scarves very awkwardly wrapped around their necks and Alia wears dresses three sizes too small for her.
  7. The story. Seriously, what the *insert expletive*?

If there are more flaws than strengths in this excuse for a film, I find it difficult to give SOTY anything more than a 3.5 out of 10, a point each for Kayoze Irani, the music and the dialogues. Varun Dhawan gets half a point for being a tad better than everybody else. A must-watch for a bunch of friends wanting to laugh at a film. Face it, Vivah’s gotten old.

No, Shah Rukh Khan isn’t in the film. Shocker, I know. Had he been, the film would’ve been just that much more predictable. As if Kajol wasn’t enough. Oh…did I spoil it for you?

Amitabh Bachchan: a class act

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An actor, a singer, a producer, a television presenter and an entertainer. There are very few things Amitabh Bachchan cannot do. In his 43-year long career, he has starred in almost 200 films, received fourteen Filmfare awards, won three prestigious National awards and has been honoured with the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan civilian awards by the government for his vast contribution to Indian cinema.

He is the epitome of poise, grace and charisma, and exudes a charm that speaks volumes for itself. An inspiration to some and a superstar to others, Amitabh Bachchan has time and again, with his extensive and versatile body of work, raised the bar for the standard of performances that has been produced over the last four decades. Be it Vijay Dinanath Chauhan or Auro, his competition is with nobody but himself. He has managed to outdo not only his contemporaries, his sidekicks and his co-stars, but also himself, with every subsequent film. He revolutionised Indian cinema by making people believe in the authenticity of every character he brought to life onscreen.

Thus, I’ve rounded up six must-watch films which I believe have been crucial in creating the Amitabh Bachchan the world now recognises as an institution and a legend.

The 70s was an iconic era for Hindi cinema; we had the likes of Dharmendra, Shashi Kapoor and Vinod Khanna gracing the silver screen alongside their leading ladies, all while standing in direct comparison to the new rising star, Amitabh Bachchan.

Zanjeer (1973)
Directed by Prakash Mehra, Zanjeer is about a boy orphaned at a young age with his parents killed by an unknown murderer wearing a bracelet with a white stallion, Vijay Khanna (Amitabh Bachchan) grows up to become a police inspector who tries to cease drug dealings carried out by Teja (Ajit Khan). Through a series of events involving a street performer he falls in love with, Mala (Jaya Bhaduri), and an informer (Om Prakash), Vijay becomes vengeful of Teja, later finding out he was the one responsible for his parents’ death. This film became one of the actor’s most recognised performances of all time, pioneering his image as the Angry Young Man.

Deewar (1975)
Directed by Yash Chopra, Deewar is about two brothers and their struggle to survive in the demanding city of Mumbai, after being misled of their father’s identity. Vijay (Amitabh Bachchan) is a smuggler and Ravi (Shashi Kapoor) is a policeman responsible for hunting the former down. Victimised for his fathers misdeeds, Vijay tries to break away from the humiliation by fighting for his rights and in the process, becomes a leading smuggler of the underworld. With an abundance of memorable dialogues penned by Salim-Javed and ground-breaking performances by the two actors, Deewar went on to become one of the most iconic films and performances of Bachchan’s career.

Sholay (1975)
This Ramesh Sippy creation tells the story of two small-time criminals, Jai (Amitabh Bachchan) and Veeru (Dharmendra) who are summoned by a vengeful ex-policeman, Thakur (Sanjeev Kumar) to hunt down and bring a dacoit, Gabbar Singh (Amjad Khan) to him alive for a reward of Rs.70,000. Any list describing the brilliance of Bachchan would be incomplete without mentioning Sholay. Not only is it one of his best films, it is also one that any Hindi filmgoer would swear by. Its unforgettable dialogues, the chemistry between Dharmendra and Amitabh Bachchan, and the foot-tapping music all contributed to making Sholay nothing less than a masterpiece.

Agneepath (1990)
Directed by Mukul S. Anand, Agneepath is about Vijay (Amitabh Bachchan) — the son of a Gandhian schoolmaster killed by drug trader, Kancha Cheena (Danny Denzongpa) — whose primary goal in life is to seek revenge on his father’s killer, by working his way up into the drug trade, close enough to be able to kill Kancha on his own. The poem Agneepath, written by Bachchan’s father, Harivansh Rai Bachchan, is the theme incorporated into the film, both literally and metaphorically, recited by Vijay’s father and is repeated in the climax. Agneepath is also the film that gave Bachchan his first National film award for Best Actor.

Black (2005)
Directed and written by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Black tells the story of a young blind and deaf girl, Michelle (Rani Mukherjee) and the relationship she shares with her teacher, Debraj (Amitabh Bachchan), who later develops Alzheimer’s disease. Michelle, due to her disabilities, lives in a world of darkness, which Debraj aims to eliminate. He considers himself a magician and takes it upon himself to bring Michelle into a world of light and colour using harsh, but successful methods. Winning the National awards for best feature film and best actor, Black is a fine example of path-breaking cinema. The performances by Bachchan and Rani Mukherjee are touching, genuine and unmatched, proving to be one of the best films of the decade.

Paa (2009)
The second film starring the father-son duo, R. Balki’s Paa, sees the roles reversed onscreen. Auro (Amitabh Bachchan) is a witty 12-year old boy suffering from progeria, a genetic disorder that makes him look five times older than he actually is. He lives with his mother (Vidya Balan) and grandmother (Arundhati Nag). One day, Amol (Abhishek Bachchan), a politician, visits Auro’s school and meets Auro, whom he decides to take to Delhi to see the president. Auro eventually finds out that Amol is his father and tries to bring his parents back together. Paa saw Amitabh Bachchan receive his third National award. The chemistry shared between the two Bachchans was evident and endearing. A successful attempt at creating a gem of a film and a character.

These are only six of my favourite Amitabh Bachchan films, which have required a lot of thought due to his incomparable performances with every film. He continues to entertain audiences worldwide with unmatched performances and remains an inspiration to those who are fortunate enough to work with him. Happy 70th birthday to one of the finest actors the nation will ever see and here’s to many more years of groundbreaking cinema any other actor can only hope to achieve.