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 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.


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.


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.


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


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:

Rudeness Pays?

In 1995, Gajendra Chauhan came up with (or repurposed) a musical talent show called Saregama. TVS Saregama, I think was the first season. It seems like it happened a lifetime back. Talent shows were about talent, and people on these shows generally seemed nice and humble. Sonu Nigam came across as a guy who couldn’t stop learning. This was also around the same time that Meri Awaaz Suno went live on doordarshan. Meri Awaaz Suno’s final was judged by Lata Mangeshkar, and Sunidhi Chauhan was a discovery of that show. Before this, most musical talent shows (like the one that discovered the voice of Mahendra Kapoor) were on radio.


A deeply etched memory from Saregama is of late-Rajkumari ji singing “guard babu guard babu seeti na baja” and “ghabra ke jo hum sar ko, takraye to acha”. The megafinal had ensemble judges like Anil Biswas, Khayyam, O P Nayyar, Naushaad, Parveen Sultana, Kalyanji-Anandji, Pandit Jasraj, etc. Jagjit Singh once performed a medley of songs as a tribute to the other judges – including “Seene Mein Sulagte Hain ArmaaN” and “Mitti Da Baawa”. Another memory is that of Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia asking one of the participants (Sanjeev, I think, who had come from US) to sing without music, and then telling him where he dropped a note. In the same episode, he asked Mohd. Vakil to sing the aaroh and avaroh of Raag Bhoopkali, not before the confusion between Raag Bhoopkali and Rag Bhoopali. And through all this, Sonu Nigam planted himself on the Indian music scene, never to look back again on his days of coming up with 25 rupee cover version of Mohd. Rafi songs for T-series.


The earlier years had Sanjeevani (who sang Chura lo na dil mera in Kareeb), Shreya Ghoshal (what do I need to tell you about her, except that her first break was “Isshhhh” for Devdas, after Bhansali spotted her in the show), Kunal Ganjawala (Bheege Hoth Tere), Parthiv Gohil (Saawariya), Pandit Jasraj, etc. The general humility and reverence that the participants had, was well supplemented by the purely musical format of the show, and the focus of the judges on singing.  I don’t remember a moment of bickering, complaining, fighting, or melodrama on the show. The only emotional element was when someone was not able to move to the next round. In the video of Rajkumariji (link above), Sonu Nigam starts with how they were not able to show all this footage because airing the show left them little time.


Back in the days, the judges were the judges(1). Public votes were not the deciding factor. Participants had to come and sing, and not plead for audience mercy. Even boogie woogie was squarely judged by Javed, Naved and Ravi Behl. Usually, there would be just one judge for a particular episode. And for the finals, and semifinals there would be more judges. The Mahafinal of Saregama featured their earlier winners, and I think Mohd. Vakil went on to win the Mahafinal, along with Bela Shende. Sanjeevani and Sudeshna missed it by a whisker.



I was totally and absolutely in love with the show. And I read this article on OPEN (Rudeness Pays) that prompted this post. I don’t follow the musical talent shows  as much these days. Most of them have 20 minutes of real stuff and 30 minutes of idiocy. The article rightly points out that Raghu (of Roadies) has made

a career out of abuses. That there is too much riding on idiots like Dolly Bindra in Big Boss. Rationale – TRP. But if that were true, no one should watch Kaun Banega Crorepati, right? Amitabh Bachchan still handles the show with extreme affability and humility. There is a general air of bonhomie on the show. And that probably explains why the only reality show I can tolerate these days is Dance Indian Dance. There is a lot of peripheral time wastage, but thankfully the judges don’t bicker, and Mithunda is happily drunk most of the days.


Does this bother you?



(1) By the way, one of my earliest memories of an audience based decision is a sequence from the movie Bhoot Bangla, where Tanuja sings “O Mere Pyaar Aaja”, followed by “Aao Twist Karein”. The performance is measured through a Taali-meter, and compered by Amin Sayani. Absolutely wonderful songs, both of them.  The movie has some wonderful songs by the way – “Jaago Sone Walon”, being one of my favorites.


(2) A big thank you to the good folks who keep sharing these videos on youtube. I had no hope of finding these, but here they are.


10 Questions for Pope Benedict XVI, Now That He Has Resigned


So, we all know that Pope Benedict XVI, the leader of the Catholic Church, the 265th Pope, has resigned. This has been considered to be one extremely rare phenomenon, and the world has gone from being aghast to sad to crazy to ROFLMAO.

There’s lot of nice trending on Twitter and other places, and Mashable came up with twenty hilarious tweets, etc. So, I thought I’d chip in with my ten questions for Pope Benedict, the 16th one.

Ten Questions I have About the Pope’s Resignation

  1. What is the Poper process for Pope’s resignation?
  2. What is the notice period that he has to serve? If there isn’t one for one of the most important jobs (apparently), why is there one for mundane jobs like programming and consulting?
  3. Who’s going to conduct the exit interview for the Pope? Will the feedback about physical and mental demands of the job be incorporated while selecting the next Pope? Will the JD be refined for better work-life balance?
  4. Did the pope also jump with joy after putting in his papers? Like most human beings do? Heel-click? At least breathe a sigh of relief?
  5. Does he have another job offer?
  6. Is he planning a startup? Does he have funding? Is he looking for a consultant? Is offshoring part of the plan?
  7. Does the resignation turn him into a Poper… err… pauper? What is the pension scheme? How much wealth does a Pope have, typically?
  8. Will the Pope be at peace now? If no, why resign? If yes, then what was he doing for so many years communicating with God?
  9. Did the Pope have any unvested options? Considering how deeply vested he was in the religion?
  10. Did he also feel that his career had come to a standstill with nothing more to learn? In the modern day and age and with people’s increasingly dwindling faith in religious institutions? Did he feel overwhelmed by Social Media and the visible general outrage against his outrage on various issues?

Oh, and in case he’s answering these questions, my last and the most real question that I have been asked on my resignation in the past – how does it feel now that he has resigned?



Note: I am really scared of people with strong religious sentiments. Please understand that this post is all in good humor, and not to offend anyone’s sensibilities. I would if I could, but I don’t know of a market where you can buy some sense of humor or some tolerance. Peace!

Special 26: Smart, Tight, and Busy


When the previous outing of a Director is a movie like A Wednesday, you’re bound to have very high expectations. A Wednesday brought on screen the feelings of a large majority of people without making a political mess of it all.

Special 26 does not appear to be a moralistic or a social commentary. At its heart, it’s a heist movie. However, somewhere, there is a very strong comment on the Indian governmental institutions. About how a man with a gifted mind, takes on the system, cons it, uses it for his own benefit, but has an ethical aspect to his actions all the same. It’s a movie that makes you root for the conmen. And its comical in how easy, or ridiculously simple it might be to con the system. I am surprised that CBI endorses the movie in a way, through the opening disclaimer. Or, did Neeraj con them into not getting offended by the movie ☺

Simply put, it is one of the best heist movies from India. The Ocean series kinds. I don’t remember another one. Bunty Aur Babli? Not quite.

Airtight script leads the way. Set in 1987, with a good use of older parts of the cities, some digitally recreated/ superimposed shots, the movie is inspired by some true reported stories about how some conmen posed as CBI officials and conducted false raids on some businessmen.

Good no-frills editing keeps the movie well paced. The movie cuts between scenes quickly. The dialogues are short, crisp and witty. Barring that odd-ball Punjabi song in the first half, I am struggling to snip out any unwanted parts. The details of every city captured in that 1987 era are quite accurate. And to see Gyani Jail Singh on screen was a nice moment!

Acting nails it. Anupam Kher is mindbogglingly brilliant in the movie. Just watching his body language evolve from scene to scene should be good training for body actos. Here is someone who is a complete antithesis of Katrina Kaif who, for the records, looks exactly the same irrespective of the movie or the emotion or the occasion. This is the first Akshay Kumar movie that I have dared to see in a long time. I have skipped his last 10 movies I believe. And never regretted it for a moment. But this Akshay Kumar reminds you of the Akshay Kumar of Sangharsh, the time he did come across as an actor and not a buffoon. He is a revelation. Manoj Bajpayee, Rajesh Sharma, Jimmy Shergill are rocking. Jimmy is in a rehash of his cop role from A Wednesday. Grumpy, quiet and adequate. Manoj Bajpayee is leaner, meaner and awesome. Rajesh has a small role this time, but he scores. The one who outscores these guys with just 3 dialogues in the movie – Divya Dutta. I don’t know why Kajal Agarwal was needed for this movie. Waste of time. Now I know what I’d have snipped from the movie.SC2

The detail that did not always go right – Airport! ☺ With so many shots of the airport, having the current airport showcased as the 1987 version was a bit of a sadness.

And that’s all I will say without posting any spoilers.

The movie keeps you on the seat, and thinking. And it’s a very smart movie. And as most of the readers of this blog might agree, Bollywood has a serious dearth of smart movies. So. Go ahead. Enjoy the movie. Once the plot is revealed, I am sure it’d still remain a good second time watch. Why, you ask? The level of detailing for everything that you are going to notice in the second run, that’s why. Thank you Neeraj Pandey for another awesome movie.

Rating: 4 on 5.

ABCD – Anybody Can Dance. And boy oh boy, did they!


I walked in with not too many expectations. I was expecting a bad copy of the Step Up series. I was expecting worse because the attempt was to get a 3D movie going, and I am not a fan of 3D for the sake of 3D. And I came out pleasantly surprised. I had a great time watching ABCD.

The movie does not begin that impressively. The first sequence featuring a couple of dances are not very impressive. And the stage is set with a showdown between Vishnu (Prabhu Deva) and Jahangir (Kay Kay Menon). Enter the bastis and chawls of Mumbai and the talented bunch of rowdy kids that most TV watchers would remember from Dance India Dance – Dharmesh, Salman, Punit, Vrushali, Mayuresh, Prince and co. Laurenne Gottlieb of So You Think You Can Dance fame is introduced almost uncermeoneusly in the beginning – her real introduction reserved for much later. The movie trudges along with songs and dance.

But just before the interval, we are treated to a ‘Down Under’ sequence which features a street/betting based series of dances ending with Prabhu Deva showing us why he is considered one of the best dancers of India. Even at his age. And from hereon, there is one brilliant choreographed sequence after another. And whatay fun it becomes.

There isn’t much to worry by way of the story. As expected. There is a twist towards the end, and there is an inspirational dance performance in the end to win the finale of the championship – Dance Dil Se. Typical underdog story.

This movie is meant for, and only for, those who love to see good dance performances. If you’ve enjoyed the Step Up series or Dance India Dance/ So You Think You Can Dance, you’d love ABCD. The dance sequences are more, almost as good if not better, Indianised enough to not seem like a direct aping of Step Up series, and the acting skills of these dancers is bad, but not as horrible as it is in Step Up series. Acting has primarily been left for Kay Kay Menon, and he acts and overacts at the same time. Ganesh Acharya scores in his role. Prabhu Deva is the pivot that holds the movie together. The other actors are only given a few dialogues, and mostly inane ones.

A big shout out to the music directors Sachin-Jigar who have come up with a truly danceworthy soundtrack. There are two ganpati tracks in the movie, strategically placed, they make you feel rightly pumped up (like the popular Deva Shree Ganesha track from Agneepath), and are not soppy to make you feel overtly religious.


The 3D need not have been used.  There are a few frames where the finished products looks tacky. Especially the crowd shots. But in certain sequences, the depth of the frame helps you appreciate the choreography a lot more.

There isn’t much to tell you about the movie otherwise. The fact that the movie is not very long helps. And the movie is a “definitely watch” for those who enjoy dances. And support India’s first contemporary dance movie by watching it in theaters. You won’t be disappointed. I want to give  a big round of appreciation for Remo’s debut attempt – there couldn’t be a better tribute to dancing. And a very small piece of detail that he gets perfectly right – he does not give in to the temptation of having trained dancers dancing like trained dancers from the first sequence itself. His dancers evolve with every dance. And his choreography too.

Just for the choreography, the movie has a 4 on 5 from me. Overall, 3 on 5.

RGGiri on Amit Trivedi

Insofar as Bollywood Music Directors are concerned, I remember a time when every alternate album was done by Nadeem Shravan. And then Anu Malik, and then Jatin Lalit. Within a few movies, their sound would become repetitive, and one would wonder if they have exhausted their tricks already. And then A R Rahman happened. The world seemed a better place. He made others innovate and compete for the top dollars. One waited for A R Rahman to create magic over and over again. And he obliged.

And then, Amit Trivedi made a quiet entry with Aamir. Since the world was not ready to acknowledge his brilliance yet, he blasted the doors open with Dev D. And has continued to go strong. Or, at least, that’s what it feels like as I started typing this post. Latest – Kai Po Che. So, I decided to look at his list of albums (movies only) and do RG giri. RG Giri is relative grading giri for the uninitiated. Majorly potent if you want to humiliate the studs, by telling them that you’re cool, but not cool enough. Or, as a friend pointed out long back – “If I lose because of RG Giri,  then I wouldn’t have lost at all. That’s why I don’t feel bad about my grades Macha!”

In 2008, he came on to the scene with Aamir. Excellent movie backed by an excellent track. Ha Raham continues to be one of my favorites till date. Ek Lau, Chakkar Ghumyo, and Phas Gaya were excellent tracks as well.

In 2009, DevD happened. And not much should be debated about the album being one of the finest of the last decade. My favorite – probably, Payaliya. However, in that year itself, the honors were well split between DevD (that won him the National Award) and that solitary song in that movie where the primary music directors were the brilliant Shankar Ehsaan Loy. Pushing all the songs from Wake Up Sid to the background, Iktara became one of the most requested songs on all radio shows.

In 2010 – He gave me Udaan. I consider Udaan to be one of the best OSTs I have heard in Indian cinema. There are few tracks that have done as much justice to the movie as Udaan. It’s difficult to pick a favorite from this album. Aazaadiyaan might have done more on the loop, but I am totally in love with the spontainety of Motumaster. Then came Aishaa. I don’t think its as good as Udaan, but it’s  important to understand how Trivedi was able to move away from being predictable. Aisha is a formulaic soundtrack – a punjabi number (Gal Mitthi Mitthi Bol), an acoustic romantic ballad (Shaam bhi koi), a peppy track (Suno Aisha), an excellent latin beat in Behke Behke Nain, and a sad song (Lehrein).  Fairly complete album with enough of his own brand stamped on it. Just to round up 2010, there was that one song in Striker too (Bombay Bombay). Decent, but not the best.

In 2011, No One Killed Jessica topped the charts. Intezaar, Dilli, Aali Re, Dua. #Nuffsaid. Then came “I Am”. Which had Baangur. He did only three songs in Baangur, but probablyt the most recognizable ones. 2011 also had Chillar Party. I haven’t paid much attention. It had that Ranbir Kapoor item song (Tain Tain Phiss) that did well. But as an album, I found it to be just OK. (Mental note- go check it again).

2012 – The tribe is growing now. Ishaqzaade, Ekk Main Aur Ek Tuu, English Vinglish, Aiyaa, Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana. Five remarkably different from each other soundtracks. Aiyyaa didn’t work for met at a broader level. But had some good peppy numbers and a reasonable amount of justice done to Laavni and Marathi folk. Aga Bai and Dreamum Wakeuppam became quite big hits. I was supremely impressed by the track of Ishaqzaade. Again, formulaic in a way, but extremely fresh. Had two item numbers (Jhalla Wallah and Chokra Jawan Re), both of them very sticky and very un-gross. The music of Luv Shuv was pleasant punjabi folk. A big departure from the non-Punjabi’s perception of Punjabi music being just Bhangra. Let it grow on you. It’s beautiful. Tere laiyon haazir biba luv shuv tey chicken khurana. English Vinglish and Ek Main were decent. I won’t go crazy praising them, but they were better than average. My favorite track from English Vinglish is Dhaak Dhuk. From Ek Main, its Gubbare. Though both the title tracks are quite catchy as well. Key point. I am not getting tired of his sound yet.

2013 has a lineup. But for now, we have Kai Po Che. Manja already has me hooked. Though I must say that it has the 2009 Amit Trivedi feel to it. Shubharambh is excellent too. I am eagerly waiting for the rest.

So, in terms of the top 10 –

#10 – English Vinglish

#9 – Ek Main Aur Ek Tuu

#8 – Aishaa

#7 – Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana

#6 –I Am

#5 – Ishaqzaade

#4 – No One Killed Jessica

#3 – Aamir

#2 – Dev D

#1 – Udaan

I am sure many of you like Dev D better than Udaan. But what tilts it in Udaan’s favor is the quality of poetry in Udaan. And that takes me to a special mention for Amitabh Bhattacharyaa who has fantabulously supported Amit Trivedi with some awesome lyrics. The quality of lyrics has improved with Swanand Kirkire, Amitabh Bhattacharyaa and Piyush Mishra.

I have not included Wake Up Side here (just one song) and Kai Po Che (whole album isn’t available yet). The dude has a long way to go from here before his body of work is significant. But then, there is hope that he will deliver.

p.s. Just realized that Amit Trivedi composed for Trishna as well, a movie that sank without a trace. Should try and get hold of the soundtrack.

Top 10 Bollywood Movies of 2012

It’s been long due. But, thankfully done before the rounding off takes us to 2014.

I saw a total of 26 movies out of the 102 that I have the list of. There were 14 that I kinda missed out on. Which means that I might have seen them when they released, but haven’t for one reason or the other. Sometimes, too much negative sentiment in the first week itself. There are 17 that I had not even heard the name of. And 45 that I couldn’t be bothered about.

Of the 26 that I saw, two get combined into one. Yes. Gangs of Wasseypur. Though, if you ever ask me to compare, I like GoW I more than GoW II. And I am still not sure if there is a way to compare Nawazuddin’s performance with Manoj Bajpayee’s. Both were insanely brilliant.

I wanted to do a top 10, but I will do 11. *Drumrolls*

#11: Arjun – The Warrior Prince
The reason I extended the list to 11. This movie deserves a mention for, finally, doing some good animation work in Hindi. There are parts of movie which are breathtaking and with excellent animation qualities. But it seemed like a case where the budgets ran short at some point, and the quality of animation and editing too. But, I was still very happy to see this movie. The creative interpretation of some of the scenes is wonderful in this one.

#10– Talaash
Aamir Khan’s supernatural suspense thriller had pace issues, but compensated with excellent performances from the entire cast. A wasted Nawazuddin shines in that tiny role (probably the last we see him being so insignificant). A grumpy Aamir does not hog the limelight more than he needed to. Reema Kagti had a winner with this one. (Review)

#9 – English Vinglish
Sridevi had an excellent comeback with this movie. The movie is soppy at its worst, and very light at its best, but managed to keep me entertained for most of the movie. The soundtrack was good. And the support cast was able.

#8 – Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana
With the most known actor being its biggest weakness (Kunal Kapoor), the movie is an endearing watch. Basesar brings back memories of a long gone era, Huma Qureshi is exceptional, and Mamaji owns the movie.

#7 – Shanghai
Dibakar Bannerjee’s latest moved from Delhi and NCR region to Mumbai and Bharat Nagar. Emraan Hashmi was playing way outside his comfort zone, and the movie has the usual DB quirks that we have all come to love.

#6 – Barfi!
For all the DVDs that were contributed for inspiration, Barfi! Is an excellent piece of entertainment. Ranbeer, PC and Ileana keep you rooting. My most difficult moment – should I root for Ileana or should I let Barfi go with PC? (Review)

#5 – Kahaani
An excellent thriller. I am not sure if too many people saw the suspense coming, I did not. And I enjoyed it till the end. Vidya Balan deserves the best actress awards for this one. And Nawazuddin – what an year he’s had. Or, probably, it was long time coming.

#4 – Vicky Donor
Who’d have thought that Baldev Chaddha’s infertility clinic will give us so many laughters. Ayushman Khurana, one hopes, will do justice to his debut. I don’t have much hope from Yami Gautam, though. Pani Da continues to be one of the best songs of the year. And lastly – Tathastu!

#3 – Malegaon Ke Superman
The plight of our multiplexes. Thank you PVR Rare. What A Movie. I would probably have missed this one completely. But was I happy after seeing this movie. It was one of the most honest pieces of brilliance in the cinemas this year. (Review)

#2 – Gangs of Wasseypur
Insanity. Anurag Kashyap gave us something totally unexpected. This was earthy to the core, had minute long characters with week long impact on your mind, a mindboggling soundtrack by Sneha Khanwalkar, phenomenally brilliant performances from Tigmanshu Dhulia (who shall forever be known as Ramadhir Singh – rehne do beta, tumse na ho payega), Manoj Bajpayee (and that moment with Rimi Sen at the pump), Nawazuddin Shaikh (and the rooftop scene), Huma Qureshi (Permission nahi lena padta hai kya) and Richa Chaddha (Ae faijal, khoon nahi khaulta hai re tera). Oh, and Wasseypur. (Great Bong’s Review)

#1 – Paan Singh Tomar
The modha modhis may not remember this movie for the struggle it went through (its release was delayed by a few years), but it is difficult to think of another deserving best actor performance after watching Irrfan Khan here. One of the best screenplays in the recent years that I have seen, superlative cinematography, and top class performances. Paan Singh Tomar was my favorite movie of the year, not by a mile but clearly so.

02 0310 04 05 0601 07 08 09  11

And since I am picking the top 10, a special mention must go out for “Heroine” – for helping me appreciate almost every other movie that I saw this year.

CAT- GD/ PI/ Essays

I have over the years answered hundreds of questions about CAT, GDs, PIs, MBA, Job Interviews, etc. It’s less about cluelessness, and more about people thinking there’s something that could give them an ‘edge’. So, for future reference, since there are no edges to be offered really, here is a blogpost celebrating the greatness of ND Kunjika (Nandlal Dayaram).

There are four types of broad questions.  –

  • Preparing for CAT (I have no clue, I think I should do an MBA stage)
  • GD PI stages (I’ve got a call, yayy, stage)
  • The post-MBA job scenarios (I want day 0 and so, I want Investment Banking stage)
  • The MBA job interviews (I want to do consulting because I am a good problem solver stage)

The flavor of the season is GD/PI / Essays. And hence, the how-t0 for that.  Add your own points, and make it better.

  • Assess yourself. Don’t be ashamed of saying that your vocal output sucks. Or, that you are prone to making grammatical mistakes while speaking. Or that you have a squeaky voice. Unless you are ready to jot down your weakness on a piece of paper, chances are that you won’t spend time fixing them.
    • Summary assessment even as an alumni interviewer for PGP admissions – most of the aspirants have no clue how bad they are.
    • I realized very late in my preparations that whenever I was unsure, my voice became a barely audible mumble (while inside my head, I was still being pretty loud).
  • Write a detailed resume. A detailed resume is difficult to write. It means going back to all your activities and achievements. Don’t discount one thing.
    • A nice bullet point on a resume that I saw – worked in stage plays as a child artist. Deeper probing several months later revealed that it was only in a homogenous township based group. Not falsification, but projection. And if you don’t value what you might have learnt from it, don’t expect others to.
    • Write your autobiography. This is expanding your resume. Not as a bestseller. But as a way of remembering what you’ve done and what it has meant for you over the years. Resume is a set of bullet points you draw from during your interviews. Autobiography is the conversation you want to have. Chances are that it may not mean much to be an IITian. But if you are the only IITian from that tiny town of yours where there are three schools and no IIT Coaching Centers, then it’s a mighty achievement.
    • A mistake of mine – during my IIM-A interview, we talked for 45 minutes about poetry, which was my primary hobby at that time. I was happy talking about Ghalib, Meer and Qateel Shifai, but I stuttered badly when they asked me to recite a few of my own. Reason – I wasn’t prepared to do so. I spent a minute too many to pick one and the next. And I was always thinking about whether I had picked the right one. Even though, I had written writing as a hobby of mine. IIM-A was the only college I didn’t get an admit from. Because of that? I would never know, but I know I didn’t do well enough.
  • Form a group. The group should allow two things in a mutually beneficial way –
    • One on one sessions. Have someone hear your answers out. Have someone conduct mock interviews for you.
    • Group sessions. Have a watcher, and the rest as participants into discussions. Let the watcher critique. Let the participants debate.
  • Find a mentor/ teacher. Be clear on a few things –
    • How much time would you need to work on your weaknesses?
    • Those who are good, will typically be more expensive. Or, like family. Others don’t have time.
    • Do you want the mentor to be a be-all-end-all person, or a mentor for a very specific thing on your agenda. For instance, you can work with a theater artist to work on your voice modulation, but they can’t help you with content practicing.
  • Practice talking. Doesn’t matter if you have been shy all your life. Doesn’t matter if your English is not that great. Doesn’t matter if you don’t have much to say.
    • Stand in front of a mirror and talk. Get comfortable with your own face. Do not fall in love with your face. If you’re not comfortable with your own face, chances are that the interviewer isn’t either.
    • Record and playback. Most smartphones allow this. You can even video-record. If you are not comfortable with hearing your blabber, chances are that the interviewer isn’t either. At the same time, this is not bathroom singing. Everyone sounds great as a bathroom singer. But make them listen to that recording and they are devastated.
    • Practice voice modulation. Amitabh Bachchan is a great example. Its years of practice alright, but you have to start your own sometime. Loud is different from modulation. You need to be audibly loud as well. Don’t lose sight of that as you add a bit of melodrama to your voice.
  • Read, and jot down notes. Always helps. In articulating. In noticing the flaws of arguments.
    • Read a lot. In a wide variety. One of my questions during my XAT was a 10 question RC passage. It was a lift from Catch-22. And I had to fill in the blanks. Easy? Impossible? If you’ve read the book, it’s a breeze.
    • Know the context, know the names.
    • Read the backstories.
    • A friend of mine had this Wikipedia habit, which I tried to imbibe over the years. He clicked on embedded links a lot when reading articles. Gave him knowledge much deeper than a cursory reading of the topic. If you keep notes, maybe you will have to sell ten filled notebooks at the end of this month, but it will still be worth it.
    • Reconstruct stories from notes.
  • Respect other people/things.
    • The people you will talk to in a GD will have names and personalities. On an average, in a GD, its extremely unlikely that there will be more than 2 or 3 well prepared students. But that does not make the rest of the crew any less respectable.
    • During the interview, the person in front of you is looking to have an interesting conversation. Don’t bore them.
    • Always make eye contact. If while referring to someone’s earlier arguments you make eye contact with them, they are less prone to interrupting, and more likely to rallying back to you later on.
  • 15 rounds of firing
    • Malcom Gladwell wrote about the 10000 hour rule. To be really great at something, you must have done it for 10000 hours. So, Michael Jordan must have played 10000 hours of basketball before he became so good. The same rule applies to essays. Not 10000 hours. But I call it 15 rounds of firing. You need to have your own ~15 attempts at writing the answers to the typical essay questions. The list of questions for every college is most likely available online already. But even if you’ve done 5-10 awesome colleges, chances are that you are practiced sufficiently. After about 15 rounds, you are a lot clearer on your thinking about what your personality is, what your strengths and weaknesses are.
    • Critical review. Have your mentor critique it. Have your mentor suggest improvements. Clean. Rinse. Repeat. Keep doing it. 3 more times after you’ve had enough. It will hold you good for the rest of your corporate life as well.
    • Get a group of friends and independent reviewers to look at it. But don’t take everyone’s suggestion. Ask them not just about the negatives. Ask them about the positives too. Negatives generally tend to be inconsistent. But the positives “need” to be consistent.

I realize that there isn’t usually enough time. But then, if you don’t get it right, you will have to wait for another 12 months, right? And this regime does not require more than 3 hours a day for 30 days to get into a momentum.

%d bloggers like this: