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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Films Seen in 2010: Top Ten - and more

As the year 2010 comes to a close, here's looking back at all the films seen, be it on television, on home video, or in theaters, and, as per tradition, I offer my readers a selection of the very BEST from amongst them.
The Top Ten films are as follows, ordered according to personal preference:
1) Mr Nobody (2009)

2) A Single Man (2009)

3) Wonder Boys (2000)

4) Udaan (2010)

5) Peepli Live (2010)

6) The Kids Are All Right (2010)

7) The Social Network (2010)

8) Les Roseaux Sauvages / Wild Reeds (1994)

9) The Hurt Locker (2008)

10) The Wings of the Dove (1997)

As I have seen 300 films the whole year, the above listing required some deliberation and some re-appraisals. However, there were so many exceptional and interesting films that comprised my movie viewing experience this year that it would be sinful not to doff my hat to some of those films. Hence, I would love to have them randomly culled from memory. I am sure some of my readers would settle for many of them in their own listings, and I would be more than happy if they do. I thoroughly enjoyed watching them. And, here, they all get a special mention:
Love Sex Aur Dhokha,
Arekti Premer Galpo/ Just Another Love Story,
Little Children,
Crazy Heart,
All the King's Men,
An Education,
Good Dick,
The Private Lives of Pippa Lee,
Assassination of a High School President,
Final Destination,
The Freshman,
The Wendell Baker Story,
Dorian Gray,
Breaking the Waves,
The Men Who Stare at Goats,
Confessions of a Shopaholic,
My Beautiful Laundrette,
The Time Traveller's Wife,
The Lovely Bones,
Atithi Tum Kab Jaoge,
The Other Boleyn Girl,
Were the World Mine,
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day,
Alice in Wonderland,
Well Done Abba,
Can't Think Straight,
The World Unseen,
Little Ashes,
The Japanese Wife,
Romance and Cigarettes,
The Imagination of Doctor Parnassus,
Twelve and Holding,
Becoming Jane,
Bombay Talkie,
the Open Road,
G. I. Jane,
Up in the Air,
Last Life in the Universe,
Shutter Island,
Gone Baby Gone,
Me & Orson Welles,
Room to Rent,
Never Been Kissed,
Shrek Forever After,
The Draughtsman's Contract,
Step Up,
Half Nelson,
The Indian Runner,
Hotel Rwanda,
You Can Count on Me,
Rumble Fish,
I Love You Phillip Morris,
It's Complicated,
Rails and Ties,
Grey Gardens,
Tere Bin Laden,
I've Loved You So Long,
Shukno Lanka,
Pineapple Express,
My One and Only,
The Brothers Bloom,
Paris, je t'aime/ Paris,
The Informant,
The Boy in Striped Pajamas,
Y Tu Mama Tambien,
Los Abrazos Rotos,
Lafangey Parindey,
Nowhere Boy,
Bin Jip/ 3 Iron,
Smart People,
The Witches of Eastwick,
Big Bang Love - Juvenile A,
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,
Knight & Day,
Get Him to the Greek,
The Dreamers,
The Boys Are Back,
Zwartboek / Black Book,
Eat Pray Love,
Do Dooni Chaar,
Despicable Me,
Angus, Thongs & Perfect Snogging,
The Boat That Rocked,
Fifty Dead Men Walking,
Band Baaja Baaraat,
The Town,
Moner Manush,
Phas Gaye Re Obama,
Marley and Me,
Head-On/ Gegen Die Wand,
District 9
Donnie Darko.
'Donnie Darko'

Happy movie viewing in the coming years, friends. Long live cinema, and the magic of cinema!
Wishing all a Happy New Year in advance!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Merriments

Christmas in Kolkata isn't about looking at snowclad
landscapes or singing carols by the fireplace or other such things that the images from the West have always haunted us with..... thanks to umpteen films and books and television specials, but Kolkata dazzles and shines in its own way at Christmas.
The Christmas revelries in Kolkata obviously dates back to the colonial past which still makes the citizens nostalgic about many a good thing that has had Kolkata (then called Calcutta) basking in the Yuletide merriments.

In my childhood, I remember some of the traditional centreposts
of the city's British heritage still being there and, despite makeovers and evolutionary changes, decorated rather regally.
I am talking about Park Street and its string of eateries
on both sides of the street, the New Market, the entire stretch
from Lindsay Street to Esplanade, the shops in front of Tiger cinema and the Grand Hotel, used to thrill me with their aura and splendour.

For a young child, the Christmas merriments used to be simple
yet plentiful.... watching a movie at the Lighthouse cinema,
or at Metro, or New Empire....
feasting on the scrumptious delights....
laying hands on some cherished toy-cars.... the list goes on.
But nothing can beat the joy of me and my sister finding our socks filled with goodies galore on the morning of Christmas.
I do not till date know how my mother - a far cry from one who would happily imbibe a a typically Western custom - made my Dad a co-conspirator to play Santa Claus.
Christmas makes most of us relish the days gone by.

For most people childhood remains the best part of their life,
and most have a lot of memories to cherish, wishing they could
revisit their childhood and re-live those moments.
I, however, am not too fond of my childhood per se,
but I surely do miss the Christmas merriments now.
They seem like oases of hope and promise, from afar.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Natural Highs

Natural Highs

[I came upon a beautiful piece on some of the things which give us a natural high, and hence thought of sharing the same with my readers, some parts were edited and composed afresh by me.
Think about them one at a time BEFORE going on to the next one...

1. Falling in love.
2. Laughing so hard that your face hurts.
3. A hot shower.
4. No queues at the supermarket
5. A special glance.
6. Getting some special mail.
7. Taking a drive on a pretty road.
8. Hearing your favorite song on the radio.
9. Lying in bed listening to the rain outside.
10. Hot towels fresh out of the dryer.
11. Chocolate milkshake (or vanilla or strawberry).
12. A bubble bath.
13. Giggling.
14. A good conversation.
15. The beach.
16. Finding a long-forgotten 100 rupee note in your shirt pocket.
17. Laughing at yourself.
19. Midnight phone calls that last for hours.
20. Running through sprinklers.
21. Laughing for absolutely no reason at all.
22. Having someone tell you that you're a beautiful person.
23. Laughing at an inside joke.
24. Friends.
25. Accidentally overhearing someone say something nice about you.
26. Waking up and realizing you still have a few hours left to sleep.
27. First kiss (either the very first or with a new partner).
28. Making new friends or spending time with old ones.
29. Playing with a new puppy/kitten.
30. Having someone play with your hair.
31. Sweet dreams.
32. Hot chocolate.
33. Road trips with friends.
34. Swinging on swings.
35. Making eye contact with a cute stranger.
36. Making chocolate chip cookies.
37. Having your friends send you some homemade cookies.
38. Holding hands with someone you care about.
39. Running into an old friend and realizing that some things never change.
40. Watching someone's expressions as they unwrap a gift from you.
41. Watching the sunrise.
42. Getting out of bed every morning and being grateful for one more day.
43. Knowing that somebody misses you.
44. Getting a hug from someone you care about deeply.
45. Knowing you've done the right thing, no matter what others think.

..... that's all friends!
You may add your own contributions to the list and even speak about your not approving of any of the ones featured by me above.
Friends, let's see if we can collectively expand the 'natural highs'.

Let's acknowledge the significance of friends in our lives:
"Friends are the angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly."

Friday, December 03, 2010

A tête-à-tête with Shaiju Mathew

I was unaware of Shaiju Mathew even a year ago.
An e-friend of mine had first mentioned him and told me that he was too talented and literally inclined and had been contemplating his first novel.
Soon, we became friends on Facebook, and within a few months, he gave me the good news: He was ready with his first book. It was published, and I would be soon able to pick up my copy of the same. My excitement knew no bounds. I was overjoyed to see him promote his book extensively through the excellent online platform that Facebook offered.
His book has met with stupendous success. Shaiju has become a sensation as a budding author. His book, 'Knocked Up' has not only garnered superb sales, but has also received good reviews from many quarters.
So, here, for the readers of my blog, I present a tête-à-tête with this young achiever:

Ani: Hello, Shaiju, I am too keen to find out more about you, now that I have read the book. Please tell me about your literary beginnings. Who have been your early influences?

Shaiju: Well, I started young when I was introduced to the world of books by my elder brother when I was in Class 5. Although as a kid I used to read a lot of comics like Mandrake, Superman, Tintin, Archies, Chacha Choudhary, Amar Chitra Katha etc... but the first novel I read was Enid Blyton's The Magic Faraway Tree. Since then at every stage of my life the likings changed from Enid Blyton to Mark Twain, from Famous Five to Hardy boys ...from Shakespeare to English Classics written by Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy etc from RK Narayan to Khaled Hosseni...I still like to read magazines and Readers Digest. I still remember when I was a kid my best friend from school used to gift me Sputnik and Misha magazines which he used to subscribe from Russia.

Ani: How inspired and encouraged were you by your parents, and your teachers?

Shaiju: My parents were strictly against me reading novels during my regular school days but they never discouraged me from reading during my holidays and vacations. In fact, my dad used to narrate to me Shakespearean classics when I was just a kid. My English teacher was very particular that everyone in our class should read books to improve our vocabulary and we also had a library period where we used to pick up books from the library for reading.

Ani: 'Knocked Up', your first novel has definitely had some personal impressions, something semi-biographical there? Do you identify in particular with any of the characters?

Shaiju: You see, every writer conciously or subconciously draws parallels or inspiration from his / her life while writing a book. Even I have done the same thing. My book is part fiction and part reality, and, yes, every character in my book is influenced by people around me and Sid's character is somewhat similar to me during my teenage days.

Ani: Sid's cool. I must say, the situations in the tale are naturally funny, and they have been narrated with effortless ease, did you style it in any particular way?

Shaiju: I am an avid reader and, to tell you frankly, if you check out most of the books in stores these days you will only find Chetan Bhagat clones. The same IIM, IIT graduates and their stories. There is no novelty.

Ani: That's very true. Plus, there's an upsurge of a certain kind of young confusion flavored writings.

Shaiju: But, I still cherish the books written by literary greats like Munshi Premchand, Tagore, Mark Twain, Jerome K Jerome, Ruskin Bond, RK Narayan and Sudha Murthy because their language is simple and the narrative is uncomplicated. Such books are rare in the market now. So, 'Knocked Up' is an ode to these literary greats. That doesn't mean I am trying to compare myself with them but I am showing my gratitude to them & also trying to take their legacy ahead by writing simple stories that will connect with people from every walk of life and people from every age group.

Ani: Saiju, you seem to be quite accomplished as an individual with multiple skills and talents. I was genuinely awestruck when I read about you on the blurb. Do you feel privileged?

Shaiju: I definitely think I am God's favourite child and I am blessed that he has bestowed multiple talents on me so that I can entertain others and bring a smile on their face.

Ani: Your debut has been a huge success, the talks are even on for a movie adaptation; does all that mean more pressure for you?

Shaiju: I don't understand the term 'pressure' when it comes to creativity.... because, every artist in this world works towards appreciation of his/her art by the world. For me, success means more and more people liking my work and not on the basis of money generated for my publisher which is last in my agenda. 'Knocked Up' is a success because the story connected with the readers and touched their heart, so in that way I will have pressure on me to deliver another good story, but I am a person who likes to tell a story from the heart the kind that I myself loved reading during my growing up days.

Ani: Very well articulated..... do tell us about your future plans....

Saiju: Currently, I am working on few Hindi movie scripts and also on my next book. Apart from that, I am working towards a new concept in publication industry through Magic Moments which is a One Shop Stop for all aspiring and established writers. We are a group of creative people associated with the cause of writers in India and trying to bring more visibility and respect to fellow authors.

Ani: I feel that Magic Moments has really set out to do some inspiring work in that sense....

Shaiju: You know, authors in India - unlike their counterparts in the West - are a neglected lot. If you would see... most of the authors we have in the market are not full-time authors but they only work part-time, because writing in India doesn't pay well. I am encouraging authors to be business partners with us on individual projects and share profits instead of royalty, and also would want to promote them to the fullest to garner more visibility and recognition, so that people can slowly start taking writing as a full-time career.

Ani: Wow! That's commendable. Writers need not be ashamed of mentioning 'author' on their passports, eh?

Shaiju: I hope this endeavor works out.

Ani: I wish you all the best. In all your endeavors. And, I thank you for sharing your thoughts, in this candid conversation. May God bless you.