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Friday, January 25, 2008

My Favorite Books

These are some of my all-time favorite books:

Many of my favorite books are the ones I grew up with, so there is a deep sense of attachment with them. Every time I read them or just leaf through their pages, I almost bring back my childhood or my adolescence. There are some books that have shaped my psyche, that have helped me battle my crises and have guided me with a certain wisdom, they too have invariably been my favorites. And there are also, rather oddly, some classics, which I have been able to associate with a profound manner, the reason they are celebrated classics is perhaps because readers can resonate with characters' feelings and they never date, even after centuries, and I have been no exception, I too have grown fond of them. So this is a list of favorites, which a reader may find maddening, irritated to find no semblence of order or classification, but I am undone, it is yet another list of personal preferences and hence no attempt has been made to be methodical; there are books of fiction and non-fiction, books meant for children, young adults and strictly for adults. A random listing from a voracious reader who is in love with the printed word. 

Fire Child - Sally Emerson 
The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks 
Esmond in India - Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
The Turn of the Screw - Henry James
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
The Client - John Grisham
Love Story - Erich Segal
Jonathan Livingston Seagull - Richard Bach
The Night Train at Deoli and Other Stories - Ruskin Bond
A Quiver Full of Arrows - Jeffrey Archer
The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Stories for Children - Oscar Wilde
Pinocchio - Carlo Collodi
A Pocketful of Rye - Agatha Christie
Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle
The Swimming-Pool Library - Alan Hollinghurst
Howards End - E. M. Forster
An Immaculate Mistake: Scenes from Childhood and Beyond - Paul Bailey
New Boy - William Sutcliffe
Ice-Candy Man - Bapsi Sidhwa
The Bridges of Madison County - Robert James Waller
The Enchanted Wood - Enid Blyton
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Goodbye, Sweet Prince.....

[A tribute to Heath Ledger, my Sweet Prince]

[A makeshift memorial in front of the New York building where Heath Ledger died on Tuesday.

Pic courtesy: Reuters]

Heath Andrew Ledger (4 April, 1979 - 22 Jan, 2008)

Yesterday, when I saw the saddening news of the 28-year-old Australian actor being found dead [on Tuesday, January 22nd], in his New York apartment, I could not control my tears.

These are the films of Heath Ledger that I have had the good fortune of seeing:

Casanova (2005)

The Order (2003)

Ned Kelly (2003)

The Patriot (2000)

I had been keenly awaiting the release of the latest Batman film in which Heath plays the role of The Joker (pic below), the arch villain of the comic-strip based series. I also hoped that I would be able to see him in the much talked about film of 2007 I'm Not There. Here, in Kolkata, it isn't too easy for me see the latest films from around the world, but after having seen Heath in Brokeback Mountain, I instantly became an ardent admirer and sought him out in as many films I could (just 9 till date). I wish he could act in many more intense films and that he could have made himself endeared through his superlative performances. Heathy, as he was fondly called by many, was best loved for his sweet demeanour and also for his rich voice. While he stayed in Manhattan, New York, many a New Yorker had seen him display his natural affable charm which he commonly exuded, instead of a star-like aura.

His death is still shrouded in mystery, as is the case with such unfortunate exits of celebrities. Yet he will forever remain the Sweet Prince in my heart and in the hearts of millions of his admirers worldwide. Goodbye........ goodbye, Sweet Prince!
[Movie title links: www.imdb.com]

My Top Ten Favorite Films of All Time

The films that have influences me in more ways than one, are not too many. Though I have been watching a whole lot of movies, especially in the recent past.

There are some movies that I watched as a kid or as a young adult and had thought that they shall remain engraved in my psyche forever have sadly lost their charm, some have dated to a great degree and others must have seemed novel because of my immaturity and infrequent exposure, but now seem stale and unworthy of celebration. 
Yet there are some personal preferences of mine which have moved me, provoked me, challenged me and have unconsciously shaped my thoughts.

These are the movies which have stood the test of time, for me.

Some I am too fond of in an obviously biased manner, maybe the viewing experioence, the associations are too deep, and have manifold increased the inherent charm of the films.

Some such films have been featured, actually only ten of them, and the most recent viewing among them happens to be the one which I considered as the best movie seen in 2007, no wonder my distancing from that very movie hasn't been made as yet.
Others on the list are films seen much earlier, the oldest viewing happens to be the only musical in the list too!
These are the films:
[They have not been ordered according to my preferences, or chronologically, but in the order that the pics from these movies appear on this page.]
Fargo (1996)
What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)
My Own Private Idaho (1991)
Brief Encounter (1945)
The Talented Mr Ripley (1999)
Forrest Gump (1994)
Back to the Future (1985)
Trainspotting (1996)
The Sound of Music (1965)
E.T. Extra Terrestrial (1982)

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Notes, Reflections, Fulminations & Hullabaloo.... Our Films in 2007

Two thousand and seven has been a good year for Indian films. Why do I think so? For one, this year has seen more of what is commonly called middle-of-the-road or alternate cinema, and quality products which had something or the other to recommend them for - on a global platform.
Indian films have almost always been straight-jacketed under two broad categories, mainstream cinema and parallel (sometimes strangely called 'art') cinema. I used to protest this simplistic division even as a young viewer, as the divisions are hardly tenable. The so called art- cinema movement that happened to rise amidst much fanfare and excitement surrounding the novelty of the themes and the executions, died its slow but natural death in the late Eighties, as the cliches and the formulaic approaches made the majority of such offerings stagnate in the viewers' reception or, worse still, in archives and cans!
Films, I believe, can never survive if they do not appeal to an audience, as a filmmaker must communicate with his work of art to his audience, regardless of its size. Due to the spiralling costs involved in the business of movies, it is indeed a lucrative proposition to attract as many eye-balls as possible, and, in the present context, in as little time. The business pragmatism may well be so, yet it is unthinkable to hit upon a unique and foolproof scheme to achieve this. Unfortunately, our Hindi filmmakers (the largest chunk of Indian movies are made in Hindi; commonly referred to as Bollywood as they have been continually churned out by Bombay, now christened Mumbai) do not understand this. Over the years, there has been a deluge of mindless, formulaic films (unlike genre films of Hollywood) that try to repeat earlier success stories of filmed offerings, or even the theatre of the masses. Crass executions further dilute the inane plots, and hence a whole range of masala films or commercial potboilers have been thrust upon us viewers. Needless to say, the producers and distributors, coupled by corrupt financiers and the superficial, glamour-conducive star system plagued the system of filmmaking and it has been a pseudo-realistic industry, a mirage of creativity. Our stories were unreal, and so were our films.
The advent of the multiplexes, in the late Nineties, the official granting of 'industry status' to the filmmaking sector, and the willingness of the 'youngblood' makers to create films for a niche audience have given a big boost to our films. In the Twenty-first Century, the scenario looks quite promising. In an earlier post I had talked about the exciting ventures that we audience got to see in the year 2006. Last year, luckily, the trend is seen continuing. Actors like Aamir Khan and ShahRukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan are found to endorse the concept movies; they have reaped profits too, for themselves and the production/distribution houses. Films like 'Taare Zameen Par', 'ChakDe! India', 'Cheeni Kum', 'Johnny Gaddaar', 'Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd', 'Life in a ... Metro', 'Khoya Khoya Chand', 'The Blue Umbrella', 'Jab We Met', 'Black Friday' and 'Bheja Fry' have been toasted for reasons aplenty. Not that they were all perfect as finished products; they aren't so blemishless that they would be beyond the faultfinders' criticism. But they all had one thing in common - the urge to move beyond the stereotypes, in one way or the other. They all were about real people, or real situations, or way beyond the real - to etch out an appealing canvas and help us let go of our staid conventions. Hats off to the new age screenplay writers and dialogue writers (people like Jaideep Sahni and Prasoon Joshi have been bringing on a subtle but perceptible change even in the big production houses' products)! And there has never been any dearth of talent in the acting world or in the world of skilled technicians. We are finally moving beyond the ghettoed dominions of stars and starlets, the wide horizon of storytelling (which has always been our forte in the literary world) beckons, the makers now have to spread their wings and make us all take a flight!

[PostScript: Apart from the eight films noted above, there have been some other Indian films too which I loved watching....... in an earlier post I did mention The Bong Connection as the best Indian film of the year, I was really impressed by it - yet I did not mention it above because it was not made in Mumbai, and Anjan Dutt's film is both in Bengali and English as it traces the diasporic experience. Another of his engaging films was released in 2007 - 'Bow Barracks Forever!' - about the Anglo-Indian community in Kolkata, and hence filmed in Kolkta itself, has been left out as it is essentially an English language film, also I left out the diasporic films 'The Namesake', 'Loins of Punjab Presents' and 'Provoked'. Other mentionables, to a lesser degtree, were 'Anwar', 'Guru', 'No smoking', 'Manorama Six Feet Under', 'Gandhi My Father', 'Water' (which again was actually a Canadian entry at the Oscars), 'Chain Kulii Ki Main Kulii', 'Say Salaam India', 'Bhool Bhulaiyaa', 'Traffic Signal', 'Namastey London', 'Yatra', 'Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal', 'Eklavya - the Royal Guard', 'Om Shanti Om', 'Saawariya' and 'Aajaa Nachle', some of which had more flaws and warts all over them than the high points,
and the rest couldn't go the whole nine yards because of crass conventions playing out rather largely.]

Johnny Gaddar

Taare Zameen Par

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Perfect Gift

What is the perfect gift to gift someone?
Irrespective of the age of the giver, or the recipient?
How perfect?
It relieves tension.
It improves blood flow.
It reduces stress.
It is non-polluting.
It boosts self-esteem.
It generates goodwill.
No batteries required.
Absolutely no cost.
Silent performance.
Extremely personal.
Fully refundable.
Recommended for ages 1 (even below) to 100 and up!

The answer is: A HUG!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!
I wish all my readers, and fellow bloggers, have a wonderful year ahead!
Blogging has been the most intuitive and impulsive way to express oneself, the year 2007 has reportedly seen an unthinkable rise in blogging and blog-related exchanges.
Most of the leading newspapers and journals of the world now feature regular sections on blogs from the Net.
People have been seen speaking on issues and topics, hitherto brushed off, or considered non-mainstream, or underground.
As a result of which these subjects have captured the sensibilities of the majority like never before.

Discussions and discourses are bound to open up newer and fresher approaches to conflict resolution, redressal and reconciliation. However unsavory an issue may be, only debating on the same can help open vistas for integration and eventually all possible aspects can thus be explored.

As a new blogger, I won't say that I have been able to fully reach out to all who would be potentially interested in the banter and the blabber that I have ventured to exhibit herein. Anyways, I haven't exactly been a prolific blogger, many of my readers complain. But I do try my best to treat them to my spontaneous outpourings, never mind how trivial they might be.

I had started my blogging journey with the declaration that being an out and out Kolkatan, I will keep you all posted on the developments and the city-specific events that most Kolkatans would to be too happy to carry out an animated discussion on. But, unfortunately, I have not been able to do so....... rather I consciously chose not to. The reason being my city was and still is under a spell.......a spell that is dark, deadly and dangerous. I never expected my Kolkata to witness such turmoil, such unnecessary, utterly avoidable strife as it did in the past year. Nationally, and internationally, Kolkata was continually in the news in 2007 for all the wrong reasons. It pained me. The blows suffered by the city bruised me, scarred me, I earnestly hope that, at least, they haven't maimed my psyche! I am sure I will be able to talk about the unpleasantness, the political, social and cultural blows that my city, Kolkata, dealt with - but only in the future, when I am able to distance myself a bit and offer a gainful perspective. I hope to do that soon ........ very soon....... in the near future. But before I do that I do pray for the solidarity and amity which has been the hallmark of Kolkata and its people over the ages.