The Greatest Political Show on Earth

For the past few months, like millions of people across the globe, I have been keenly following the trajectory of the US Presidential Election campaign. During the course of the campaign, I watched the three debates between President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney on Youtube, shook my head at the below-par performance of President Obama in the first presidential debate and tsked tsked disapprovingly as Romney made the “binders full of women” remark. I was not the only one who contracted the US election fever. Each and every word and action of the two Presidential candidates were picked apart and analyzed thoroughly by news channels, media outlets and people across the globe. In conversations with my family members and work colleagues, I freely peppered my remarks with terms such as “swing state”, “early voting” and “electoral votes” and vehemently argued the pros of “Obamacare” and poked fun at “Romensia”. But here is the catch: I am not a US citizen, nor have I ever stepped into the US. There is absolutely nothing that would explain the enthusiasm I have for political happenings of a faraway capitalist country that, according to many experts, is over the hill and past its glory period. So, while I cheered jubilantly as news trickled in that Obama was re-elected, I had a nagging thought that just refused to go away. “Why am I so interested in knowing the election results of another country while I do not know the name of the political representative who governs my constituency”?

Well, I think it is because of a combination of factors. The US presidential elections are always a spectacle unto themselves. And with the TV polls predicting a cliffhanger, the race this year only became more interesting. So while political pundits tried their best to predict the results, avid enthusiasts like me just sat back and relaxed, enjoying the spectacle as the two presidential candidates came face to face in televised debates (something that might never, ever happen in India) and vehemently argued their positions on various issues. Maybe it is because, notwithstanding the recent recession that has put great dents into the American Dream and all the talk of how countries like China, India and Brazil will overtake US in the future, the latter is still the most powerful country in the world right now and its president is still the most powerful political leader in the world. While there is an increasing buzz of how the world is shifting from a unipolar world dominated by a single country for the past century, deep inside, we still know that the day is yet to come. And until then, every four years, the Americans will continue to entertain people all around the globe by unfailingly putting out the greatest political show in the world for all whole world to see, if not participate.

English Vinglish: Sweetish Saltish

So now this movie has been billed as  the biggest comeback of a  Bollywood Queen (after she had spent the respectable amount of time growing tired of domestic bliss). Except they said the same thing with Madhuri Dixit’s Aaja Nachle. And Kajol’s Fanaa. And the married Bollywood actress before that…

Okay, now that the balloon has been busted, down to brass tacks

Sashi (Sridevi) is the proverbial Indian housewife (aka doormat) who is basically ignored by her husband and constantly reduced to tears by her teenaged daughter because she doesn’t know how to speak English. She runs a successful laddoo business but her husband doesn’t give a monkey’s uncle as to what she’s upto while he’s at work “attending an important meeting” (the warcry of all menfolk who go to work). Sridevi feels belittled, ignored, snobbed at, belittled, etc. I do not understand how her onscreen daughter could get away with saying half the things she says <overacting alert>.

And then, out of the blue, she is asked to help out with her niece’s wedding in New York  (now why don’t I get such a chance?:/) and she quivers, literally, at the prospect of going to “Amreeka” alone and lonely as her family would join her later because they have commitments at school and work (another cruel dart at the housewife).

How she successfully navigates the New York subway system then forms the rest of the story.

I am kidding.

No, I am not.

Well, to think of it, the worst part of watching such a once-in-a-while film like English Vinglish is thinking about  all it could have been (The Rise of the Great Indian Housewife), and all it is reduced to (well it is kind of  A Break for the Great Indian Housewife) . Now that’s really sad because this is the greatest comeback of a Bollywood Diva (atleast until Ms Rai Bachchan dons the greasepaint) who, for a change, does not aspire to save a dance academy or falls in love with a Kashmiri terrorist. She “comes back” as one among the millions of married Indian women (and potrays them so well). The movie is upbeat (especially in the parts where she learns English along with half a dozen of mad, assorted characters). It is also subtly unsubtle. But then of course, I could go on picking bone (although I am pure veg). Therefore, to cut a long review short, here are the

Brownie points:

Sridevi, at places (in New York mostly)

Mehdi Nebbou <well, if you think I didnt gloat much about Sridevi’s acting skills, it is because I was too busy staring at him (open mouthed, may I add) whenever he appeared on screen>

Salman Khan and Ramamurthy (not the ones you think!)

The cute little kid who plays Sridevi’s son

Amit Trivedi’s music

Screenplay and direction  (90% of it, especially a certain scene in the subway where Sashi opens up about her feelings)

Ajith! Ajith! Ajith! <120 rupees well spent>

Sridevi’s monologue in the end

Cakey points:

The remaining 10% of the screenplay

The movie is almost Karan Joharesque at places, aka predictable

The overacting daughter and the undercaring husband

The quivers and shivers that comprises Sridevi’s acting abilities

I would have been more happy, like  jumping up and down in the theater kind of happy,  if Sashi had “undomesticated” herself and fully thrown herself into the thick of things, so it is kind of irritating when she says, toward the end of the movie,  stuff  like “At this point of  my life, all I want is respect, not love”. (Cue eyes rolling upward, high toward the half-heartedly functioning air-conditioning ducts of the movie theater.)

The saddest part of it all is that the protagonist aspires to rise only to the level of a carpet as opposed to  being a doormat. Not even a wall hanging.

Now that’s just plain sad.

When make-believe is not so inviting

I hate it when people do that. It drives me crazy actually. You know, the point when you are sitting in a movie theater and the film (mostly a bad one) ends, the credits roll down. I think those few precious moments when the cast and crew are named are to relish the goodness or the badness of the movie. You know, just sit there, digesting what the movie was all about, but nope, others don’t think so. The cinema goers literally run toward the exit, jostling, pushing, stamping on each others’ feet, yelling at strangers, looking for their kids. It is that transitional moment between the magic of make believe (however bad it may be) and the sordidness of reality. And it looks like people just can’t wait to escape to their blocked cars, dingy pavements and unventilated apartments!

Well good for you, but I am staying. The aircon is effective, and I paid for every single second of that damn thing!

uP

Natalie Keener: How can you not think about that? How does it not even cross your mind that you might want a future with someone?
Ryan Bingham: It’s simple; you know that moment when you look into somebody’s eyes and you can feel them staring into your soul and the whole world goes quiet… just for a second?
Natalie Keener: Yes!
Ryan Bingham: Right, well I don’t.

Up in the Air (2009)

There are very few films like “Up in the Air”. Very few films that make you sit up in the middle of the night, praying to God you don’t get fired (or if you do get fired, atleast it is by a George Clooney looka… no, I’d rather not get fired). I loved George Clooney, I loved the girl from Twilight (who, according to me, held her own in every single scene) and I also loved the guy who danced with Natalie in the party she crashed in. Loved every single bit of it. There is so much to take away from the movie. Like the fact that even though you wish you were detached and single and living in the faux luxury of frequent flyer miles, you still, deep down, yearn to come back to the ground, to be touched by humans, to be loved by someone. And also, like the cardboard cutouts that Ryan carries around, how much ever you try to stay away from family, it finally gets you. Like the tax guy, or knee pain.

Turning Twenty Four

A lot of things has happened during the past couple of months that sometimes made me want to give it all up and fall into the comforting arms of a cup of  hot chocolate

Well, I don’t know. You were coasting pretty well all the while along, feeling secretly happy that you have only turned 21, 22, 23 and then, bam. Suddenly you are 24 and nobody thinks you are young enough.

So there. I wish I could turn back the clock and start all over again.

On second thoughts, no. I like it here. I am a responsible adult who eats chocolates and ice cream at midnight when everyone’s asleep so I don’t have to share.

OMG I am so old!

Stone splendor

I am always partial to Pallava architecture. The Pallavas were erstwhile rulers of parts of South India, and their architecture, summed up in one word, is breathtaking. I decided on a whim to go on a trip along with a friend to see the splendor of the oldest temple in the temple town called Kanchipuram, a 2-hour drive from Chennai. When we visited this temple, there was not a soul in sight. Only us and the magnificence of human effort. This particular temple is atleast 1000 years old. Yep, one thousand!

So I ran my fingers through the sculptures, feeling extremely proud to be a part of such an ancient culture. I marveled at the beauty of the sculptures, each carved with geometric precision, one resembling the other. Also, this temple  is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. Although he is known as the destroyer, he also is the God of Dance. And where there is something to do with dance, I am there!

I wish I could stay at this temple forever and ever…

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By Purplexed