Book Review: Rafa , My Story

rafa-my-storyWritten by Rafael Nadal with John Carlin .

The book is a phenomenal piece of insight into how the mind of Rafael Nadal, one of the most brilliant athletes to play the game of Tennis, works.  The single minded focus with which he pursues the strategy, and the ability to execute what is often discussed in the war room on the field, that’s what makes Rafa special. Some may find it obtuse, but I have a feeling that one of these days, if Rahul Dravid were to expose the inner workings of his mind as candidly as Rafael Nadal does (has done), we would see how similar these two might be.

The book is written in two voices – one of Rafa himself, as he goes through “the final” against Federer – the first Wimbledon victory. The second is of the editor/author John Carlin. The chapters alternate with Rafa’s voice getting you as close to being inside Rafa’s mind as is possible (from the vantage point of the wimbledon final), and a third party narrative of how Rafa became what he is. The fans of Rafael Nadal may worship the book, while the non-fans would enjoy only about 30% of it.

Rafa’s narrative (half the book) is erratic and at the same time, so ruthlessly honest that you get a ringside view of the match, his mindset, his preparation, and his work ethics. The section has no literary value, no profoundness in the form of overbearing statements that every pack of jokers will claim to be their trump card. It’s a simpleton’s explanation of (probably) his biggest triumph, the victory of doggedness and mental strength over sublime talent.

Carlin’s narrative, on the other hand, is bland. It touches on several key aspects of Nadal’s career, but the focus on his relationship with his uncle Toni, the closely knit Nadal family, and his relationship with the world around him are barely scratched. The book steers away from almost all controversies, has nothing negative to say about anyone really. What one finds at the end of it is a warrior competitive to his core, who’s polished his swordsmanship talent by being in the arena for hours and days. And a gentleman. However, despite being bland and full of cliches, this is the part that reveals Nadal, the person, better than Nadal, the athlete compared to the other section..

If you don’t enjoy the sport, the chances are that you won’t like the book. It’s not a Mein Kampf, or My experiments with truth, which have a meaning for everyone. Rafa- An Autobiography, written halfway through Rafael Nadal’s career, is an enjoyable read, but not a great work of philosophy, as most awesome biographies/ autobiographies have the potential to be.

The Murder of David by Jayantabhai Ki Luv Story. Part 3

My middle name is Constipated

My middle name is Constipated

Vivek Oberoi has invented the expression that Neil Nitin Mukesh is adopting. The one of constipated anger. We will see large volumes of it in Zilla Ghaziabad, but for now, JKLS has him playing the role of a constipated bhai who takes dumps quite frequently. The comic relief is not bad at all!

The short description of the movie is – Girl has tough time in big city. Girl moves into a flat next to bhai. Hence, the rented status – Bhadotri. Bhai has an acquired status – Padosi. Padosi is a nice guy, and comically continues to help Bhadotri – with the frequent “just joking re…. sense of humourous”. One thing leads to another, and bhai and bhabhi get together. Some complications and twists thrown in here and there, and you have JKLS. Girl has a back story with her Baapu’s expectations. Bhai has side story with Big Bhai’s promises, Altaf bhai played by Zakir. Most likely, someone wrote a lot of funny mumbaiyaa dialogues and one liners, and then created a set of scenes around them. ‘That’, finally, led to a movie.

I have no money, and you are a bhai

Not a dream sequence, this one!

The plotline is wafer thin, but the acting and quips keep it together. Naseer, Zakir, Vivek Oberoi are the ones that keep things fun. Though, watching Naseer play a buffon rival gangsta/cop Alex Pandian (which by the way is a 2013 Tamil movie’s name as well). Alex Pandian’s fascination with bollywood is intentionally funny though, unlike the bulk of the movie. Neha Sharma, the bhadotri, does her bit by wearing fine and few clothes in a small time locality, living next to a supposed bhai, thereby creating unintentional hilarity. Surprisingly, she does not create any sense of awkwardness in the locality, or in the minds of a really conservative father who’s scared of sending her daughter to a big city, lives about 4 hours away from Mumbai, in a coastal city and pool-based-properties. Alibagh, you think? Main kya tere ko alibagh se aayela lagta hai?

Some of the dialogues are hilarious –  the Umrao Jaan reference while beating up a guy, the dig on Indian jails – when JB mentions that he graduated from IJU – Indian Jail University, because udhar bahut type ke English binglish bolne wale log aate, is a witty one. The movie has a Hotel Decent equivalent of Night Lovers as well.

The flow of sequences has no bearing whatsoever to whatever narrative storytelling might be all about, assuming the Director read the script, assuming there was a script, assuming script matters. Most set-piece scenarios are ludicrous. Thankfully, the movie ends while your patience with the chewing gum may still not be exhausted. Couple of songs are decent, though with sub-zero relevance to the movie.

The high point is Vivek Oberoi, which itself serves as a warning for a movie, usually. But honestly, he is quite decent. As decent as a constipated man can be a not so well ventilated room. The lady looks pretty. And is just about better than being a complete washout in the acting department. She is somewhat better than a fashion street top that fades on the first wash.

Short of it all – watch it on TV. You may actually like it.

This one was a 2 on 5 for me.

The Murder of David by Jayantabhai Ki Luv Story. Part 2

David ke do aage David. David ke do peeche David. Aage David. Peeche David. Bolo kitne David. 3 David! Correct. As you all know, David has 3 Davids.. And as you an guess, they do have a linkage somewhere. Otherwise, it’d be a lame idea to make a movie named David, right?

Davidar? Gower? Fincher? Schwimmer? No. Just David.

Make it 30 minutes shorter, cut down Monica Dogra’s and Lara Dutta’s presence, and tighten a few scenes. That’s all that David needs to be transmogrified into “Great Cinema”.

At the beginning of the movie, all three Davids are at the cusp of a life changing action.  A scene that we see at least thrice in the movie.

D1The first David is a perennially constipated Neil Nitin Mukesh. Since it is expected that he, having lost his father, would be a grumpy young man, his constipation is a disguised strength actually. Like that tweezer trick of Joey Tribbiani (FRIENDS). The second David (Vikram Virmani) is a hippie, who is so genuinely nice and all that you start wondering what exactly can go wrong with such a nice guy who doesn’t even have a girlfriend. The third David is a loony Chiyan Vikram. His (lack of) hindi skills don’t hurt him because of three reasons – he is a Christian (since independence, we have given Indian Christians the responsibility of speaking Hindi like leftover Brits would), he is in Goa (so speaking native hindi would be very unoriginal, a fact that is not applicable to the  other born and brought up in London desi David), and he is, in reality, a Tamil speaking superstar who was last seen in Ravana (after Ravana, one can forgive anyone anything).

D4Previous commentary withstanding, the third David track is the most interesting, with Saurabh Shukla adding a zing to the proceedings. Tabu waltzes in and out of this act and is brilliant in her role. Vikram himself is not bad at all. The supposed weak link of the story, Isha Sharvani, playes a deaf and mute character, looks ethereally beautiful, and has but a few expressions to take care of. The lady that plays Vikram’s mother is another piece of brilliant furniture in this large well lit room. The lighthouse symphony is a beautiful composition. AND, the constant ear trick is funny, a trait of the seafaring fishermen, I believe.

The first track, shot completely in black and white is reasonably tight. Though one wonders why Milind Soman is there to waste screen time. And Monica Dogra flirts and bites, but with little effect, and lots of boredom. Rekha Bhardwaj’s O Laal Meri filmed on Sarika is a nice touch, especially with the merging into the rock version. This is also the track where everyone seems to be wearing black or white, despite the shots being done in Black and White. Ah. Those were the days. Why waste on color when it has to be colorless.

D2The second track, the hippie track is the most disconnected track from the movie. If my opinions were counted for, I’d have asked Bejoy Saar to take it out, and focus on the other two. Nothing against Virmani though. Maybe, he was required for continuity, but I’d have figured out something else. But then, why waste 5-10 minutes on Lara Dutta and general sop. Moreover, since with the exception of the second track itself, the timelines don’t really have an impact on the proceedings. the 2011 story of Goan David could have happened in 1999 or 1973 as well. I hope I got the years right. I was too bored to remember such details by the end of the movie.

Bejoy Nambiar has got his casting quite right, I must say. Except Monica Dogra. Actually, her existence in the movie is not quite unjustified, but the length of her role is. In a movie of Davids, she is the real David turning everyone else into Goliath.

The detailing is quite nice too. Like, the David2 getting pager based messages. Or, people talking about the cost of bullets in 1973.
Soundtrack is praiseworthy . Very different, and very versatile, which is explained by the fact that there were 15 composers involved.

D3David, however, should have been cut down brutally by a good editor. Anurag Kashyap has been missed on this venture. I have been told that the Tamil version has only two stories. I think something like that should have been done for the Hindi version too. The end is quite well done. And Vikram’s Satku Santa is an idea that I’d love to take up some day. So much for secret Santa.

The movie is experimental, and well conceived. But not that well executed. And given the flavor of the season, executions should come easy, right?

Rating – 2 on 5.

The Murder of David by JayantaBhai Ki Luv Story. Part 1

Yep. All three. Not on the same day. But pending reviews. No? Not interested? Damn you!

This post is about Murder. The Third One. David and JKLS follow shortly.

Murder 3, as you might know is adapted from a novel, which is sold in some non-descript areas of the city as “how to get laid by ogling at a girl and asking inane questions”. The sequel to this book, which is similar to the original book, goes by the name “how dumb should you be to fall for a really dumb creep”.

Tera mujhse hai pehle ka naata koi

Here’s the movie for you. Chick leaves message that she is leaving the dude. Pause. Flashback. Chick is a successful architect in South Africa. Dude is a bumming photographer who gets the chick to pose with panthers and leopards. Dude gets an assignment to move back to India. Chick dumps her job and everything else, and comes back to India with him (after all, India is the land of opportunities). Fast forward. Dude is a hotshot. Dude buys a mansion in the outskirts of Mumbai! (Might as well have been a futures trader, this chick).

Switch. Current. Dude is devastated. And drunk. At a bar. Enter Chick2. Chick2 mouths profound inanities (which shortens to profanities) – iski aankhon mein ajeeb si udaasi hai kinds (can’t you see true louu is happening). Dude gets into a bar fight. Chick rescues.  Chick drives him around town. And finally takes him to her home. Where else she could have taken her, she asks. Thankfully, she doesn’t dress him up with her innerwears. After all, what else could she have changed him into. Come morning, the cuts and bruises and the dude decide to leave.Quite abruptly. Thankless job, this bringing people home.

Dude decides to act nice next evening. And keeps ogling at Chick while she serves others with a smile. Chick relents. They make spaghetti together. Eat from the same bowl. Together. And bam. Time to get some action. Together.  And no, this movie is not Jism3. Its Murder3.

Kahin deep jale kahin dil

Enter creepiness. Sounds from the washroom. More action. Shower turning hot and cold. More action. Dead body found. More action. And then, the announcement of the old chick – you b**** from inside the bathroom mirror. Woah!  Interval. Heady? No?

Repeat the entire sequence again. Additional footage. Chick has but one confidante, the seller of the house, a lady who speaks firangi hindi and tells chick about the secret bunker in the house. Chick decides to measure Dude’s true louu by hiding in the bunker. Alas, chick leaves the key outside, and is locked inside with pre-1947 era food, no water, and lots of guilt. But then, gets front row seat  to all the slam-bam action going on in the bedroom. Chick thinks Chick2 is dumb, even though she is the one locked in, while Chick2 is getting all the action.

Here comes the twist. Chick2 realizes that Chick1 is alive. What does she do? I won’t tell you. Suspense.

Somewhere in the middle of all this is a Dude2 – an inispector with a permanent hard on for Chick2. Chick2 doesn’t dig Dude2. Dude2 decides to bring down Dude. But he is an inispector. Do not forget. And Dude2 also has a boss who’s only contribution, I’d like to tell you – agar aapko kasht na ho to!

With a decent premise, officially copied from a Columbian movie (but with the explicit scenes deflated), Murder3 murders your sensibility with a giant swipe usually reserved for Fruit Ninja on Micromax tablets.  The twist in the tale is actually interesting, except that the tail seldom wageth the dog. Randeep Hooda is not as bad as he was while screaming Izznnnaaaaahhhhh in Jism2. But then, he is not as creepy as Prashant or as harmless as Emraan Hashmi. Aditi Rao is hot, but unfortunately for the audience, Sara Loren gets more action than her, while Aditi looks creepier and creepier. One gets a feeling that she was more comfortable with Arunodaya Singh in Yeh Saali Zindagi than she was with Mr. Hooda. Given HUDA’s reputation, one cannot really blame her either. Ms. Loren tries to give an enigmatic performance, and succeeds. All her expressions remain an enigma for the audience.

One small problem – the music is not as catchy as it has been with the Vishesh Films banner.

But then, things could have been worse. This could have been Jism3. So, I’d go with a 1 on 5.

Update your feed settings please

This blog is moving to a new domain http://amitdas.me and the updated feed is here. If you’re an old worlder like me and still add everything to a feed reader, use the revised link.

cropped-banner91.jpg

Thank you for your love and support.

Faiz – Nahi Nigaah Mein Manzil

There is this sublime ghazal of Abida (written, yet again, by Faiz) that I never get tired of. Nahi nigaah mein manzil to justju hi sahi. So, in an effort to have more people appreciate the beauty of this ghazal – here is a loose literal translation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AV1cKluT-f0

*************

Nahi nigaah mein manjil, toh justju hi sahi.
Nahi visaal mayassar to aarzoo hi sahi

नहीं निगाह में मंजिल तो जुस्तजू ही सही
नहीं विसाल मयस्सर तो आरज़ू ही सही

If not a destination in my eyes, let there be the desire of thee
If we are not destined to meet, let there be the wish to see

(Justju – desire/ yearning, visaal – meet/union, mayassar – destined, aarzoo – wish)

Na tan mein khoon faraaham na ashq aankhon mein
Namaaz-e-shauq to waajib hai, be-wuzoo hi sahi

न तन में खून फराहम न अश्क आँखों में
नमाज़-ए -शौक़ तो वाजिब है, बेवुजू ही सही

So what if there is no blood in the body, nor a teardrop in the eyes,
The prayer of yearning will still be obligatory, impure as it may be

(faraaham – accumulated, bevuzu – without washing (the ablutions performed before each namaaz)

Kisi tarah to saje bazm maikade walon
Naahi jo baada-o-saagar to ha-o-hoo hi sahi

किसी तरह तो जमे  बज़्म मैकदे  वालों
नहीं जो बादा-ए-सागर तो हा-ओ-हू ही सही

The show must go on, and the tavern must rejoice,
If not with wine and clinking glass, with raccous noises and celebrations let it be

Bazm – Party/Meeting/Mehfil, Maikade – Bar/Tavern, Baada – Wine, Sagar – the wine container

Gar intezaar kathin hai to jab talak ae-dil
Kisi ke vaada-e-farda ki guftagu hi sahi

गर इंतज़ार कठिन है तो जब तलक ऐ दिल
किसी के वादा-ए-फर्दा की गुफ्तगू ही सही

If it is so difficult, then as we wait,
Lets discuss the promises of another day, the promises still to keep.

farda – kal (tomorrow/yesterday), guftagu – conversation

Dayaar-e-gair mein maharam agar nahi koi
To faiz zikr-e-vatan apne rubaruu hi sahi

दयार-ए-गैर में महरम अगर नहीं कोई
तो फैज़ ज़िक्र-ए-वतन अपने रूबरू ही सही

In this land of strangers, if you have is no friend,
Faiz, then, discuss with yourself, of things back home, and how everything would be.

Mehram-confidant, zikr – topic/discussion, rubaru – facing/ in front of.

If there are any learned urdu readers who notice any errors, please let me know.

[ADDENDUM]

As V points out in the comments, the literal/loose translation of such a ‘kalaam’ is a bad idea. So, I decided to throw in a bit more weight.

To understand Faiz, in addition to understanding the words, there are three things you must know – he was one of the foremost progressive/liberal voices of his era and a lot of his kalaams are revolutionary while being romantic. He was also living away from his wife for long durations, and several of his kalaams reflect his longing for her. And lastly, the effect of Sufiyana compositions and Diwan-e-ghalib is unmistakably present in his works.

The ghazal is again written during his self-imposed exile (I think he was in Lebanon then). So, who knows what exactly prompted this one – the longing to be with his wife, the longing for the nation, or the love of the Almighty. And I shall try to take the flavor of yearning for the beloved flavor as I re-compose the above lines. Thoughts?

Here, today, I can’t see how we’ll meet someday, but I shall always yearn for thee

Though I may not be destined to be with you, let it still be my undying wish.

The blood in my vein runs dry, and my eyes shed no tears no more,

My rituals have become incomplete, unclean. But my prayers for you shall always be pure.

The show must go on, and the gatherings must be joyful, so I am told,

If not for the wine and the song and the dance, with merriment of company and the stories untold.

How difficult it is to wait for us to meet, lest I die in this misery oh dear,

I shall try and keep my hopes alive, with those promises of tomorrow yet to bear.

In this land of strangers, with none a friend nor a confidant I see,

Oh Faiz, thou shalt converse with your own, of that yearning destiny.

Zero Dark Thirty – Entertaining Without Being SuperHeroic

zero-dark-thirty1

I  had a lot of apprehensions about watching this movie. For one, I was afraid of super-heroics. Second, it could a little too loaded on the American vantage point, and how they’ve figured out everything too easily, and hence, a little too biased. Third,  if neither of the above, then a boring docu-drama. Fourth, making it seem too either too profound or too easy.

My point is that there are so many reasons I may not have liked the content of the movie. And with all those apprehensions, the movie was sitting comfortably on the queue, giving space to the others. (Note: The last Oscar movie pending for me is Amour after this. And I still think its between Lincoln and Argo. Though Argo may win because of overcompensation)

Last night, the biwi insisted, and I agreed to take the plunge.

The movie runs for about two and a half hours (which is long), but is not boring. It’s very well paced, except for the probably the first five ten minutes as your mind settles into the rhythm. Watching a serious movie at home is different from watching it in a theater. Home has too many distractions to offer. Including the typical neo-urban habit of checking twitter, email ad facebook updates. So, does that mean score one for ZDT? Yes.

The movie, thankfully, doesn’t do too much of either of the problems I might have had. It shows the evil side of the pursuit, as well as the personal side. The tortures, the loneliness (“do you have any friend?” moment), the contrived judgement calls, the references to Iraq WMD fiascos. It’s detailed to the extent of being a documentary, heroic enough to seem like a victory, and yet does not go too crazy. It does not glorify anything, apart from the need for the job to be done. It’s a single minded (almost entirely fact based) retelling of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, and Maya’s (Jessica Chastain) focused pursuit of the most dreaded terrorist, with that one solitary important lead. The approximations make you wonder if it really happened, and whether one fine morning, we won’t again see a videotape of Osama Bin Laden. And therein, to me, is the biggest success of Katheryn Bigelow and Mark Boal’s work.

Jessica Chastain starts of as an unlikely choice for being the centerpiece of this movie, but she is top grade. It’s very difficult to not come out of this movie and not root for as a top choice for best actress. The others needed to be good/adequate, and they all are. Jason Clarke is impressive though.

The ending makes you feel a little cheated, but its bound to happen in such movies. And as I mentioned, the movie is not really about heroics.

If you have time this weekend, do enjoy this one. I won’t go out on a limb supporting this for best picture like I would for Lincoln. But it’s a super fine movie. Loved it.

Where do I rate it? Probably, a 4 on 5.

 

(Image source: Boingboing.net)

%d bloggers like this: