Category Archives: Reviews

A Prisoner of Inspiration

One book I wanted to read for a long time was Jeffrey Archer’s newest release – A Prisoner of Birth. It has been ages since an Archer book has really impressed me and I thought this would be a welcome change from the drivel I had been reading for some time. From the description on the back cover itself, I could guess that the book had been heavily inspired by “The Count of Monte Cristo“, an Alexandre Dumas classic and one of my favourite books.

The story is simple. Danny Cartwright is falsely accused and convicted of the murder of his best friend and brother in law to be Bernie Wilson. The testimonies of four men – an aristocrat, a lawyer, a well known actor and the youngest partner in a well known firm, are instrumental in ensuring his incarceration in the high security Belmarsh Prison, from where no one has ever escaped. These four men are the ones responsible for the murder but only Danny knows that. The typically prejudiced jury ends up believing the four rich men instead of the commoner Cartwright.

A much grieved Danny begins his sentence in a cell shared by Sir Nicholas Moncrieff and his crony Tom. Nick who is a Scottish aristocrat begins to educate Danny who is an apotheosis of the bourgeoisie. A fast learner, Danny excels and in no time he becomes soft spoken and cultured like his mentor. His thirst for revenge rages as strong as ever as his girlfriend Beth, who is pregnant with their child, carries on an arduous struggle in the courts for his freedom.

Under extraordinary circumstances, Danny slips out of prison in search of revenge and also the fabled Moncrieff fortune, which Nick bequeaths to Danny before his untimely demise. The usual tomfoolery follows with Danny eventually proving his innocence after a protracted legal battle.

What amazes me more than the story is the manner in which Archer has contemporarized an age old classic. One can almost see Archer turning the pages of his copy of Dumas’ great work as he seeks to find a plausible parallel between the characters of the classic and his own effort.

Danny Cartwright is what Edmond Dantes would be in the 21st century, a garage mechanic and a coarse lowbrow. Nicholas is a very suave Abbe Faria. The four bad guys are caricatures of the four villains Danglars, Cadderouse, Villefort and Fernand. Belmarsh however, does not sound as formidable as its equivalent the Chateau d’If. But the funniest analogy is that between the treasure of Monte Cristo and the Moncrieff Fortune. Before I discovered that Moncrieff is indeed a surname, I believed it to be an unholy amalgamation of Monte, Cristo and Jeffrey. Dark humour indeed.

Does the book live up to its hype? Certainly not. It is definitely not a masterpiece as it has been almost entirely sourced from a magnificent work of literature. Full marks to Archer for finding ways to get the hero out of sticky situations though. If more people would read the original work, they would discover there is nothing new in this book. But for those who have not, it is entertaining enough. After all Archer will make a fortune out of this one.

A 6 on 10 for this one and I hope to God Jeffrey does not start reading the three musketeers after this.

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A Good Movie with EMF round the corner

Bhavans college has just started a movie club and they had their first screening today. They screened “Super Size Me“- a documentary that focuses on the American fast food industry and McDonalds in particular. The maker of the film went on a McDonalds diet in which he ate nothing but food available at McDonalds for 30 days just to see how it affects his health.

A superb movie but a bit too long for some morons in the audience who got impatient about halfway through and started passing some loud comments. Typical Bhavans style I must say and I now realize why two years in that college were enough for me. Nivi was kind enough to let me know about the screening and I am definitely going to see the next movie Godzilla- the original Japanese one. Just the kind of movie I want to see during exams. Hope there is no paper on that day.

Speaking of exams I have Electromagnetic Waves and Fields on Friday and I am taking far too long over the subject. Got to cover a lot of ground since about 60% of the syllabus is Greek to me. 3 more days to go for the eggjams so wish me luck…….

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Chak De Hockey

I just saw Chak De India and I have to admit it is a fine movie. A bit melodramatic, but surprisingly down to earth and true to life for a Yash Raj Films venture.

We have all heard of such stories and watched many movies on this theme. A ragtag bunch of sportsmen come together to form a dream team. It is a tried and tested formula and it has almost always worked. However the question is, will it work for a game like hockey?

The answer is yes. Shahrukh, is Kabir Khan, one of India’s finest centre forwards. Its the finals of the Hockey World cup, and he misses the decisive penalty which costs India the gold. He is accused of match fixing and retires into obscurity after being branded a traitor by an unforgiving public.

7 years later, the Indian Hockey Association needs a coach for the women’s hockey team for the World Championship. Enter Kabir Khan, who feels this is his one chance for redemption. The attitude of the association is, these women are going to come back in the first round itself, so why even bother? Kabir thinks otherwise and is determined to prove his point.

In the training camp, he becomes a strict disciplinarian, as he almost kills the girls during training. He brings them together as a team, teaching them to put the team ahead of their egos. They hate him at first, but soon realize his good intentions and start to believe in themselves. A stuttering start to the cup, then a resurgence, sees the team enter the nerve wrecking finals, and the rest is history.

What I really liked about the movie is the cast, and the relentless cricket bashing. For the second point alone, I am ready to give this movie a 5 on 5. I loved the way the team members are portrayed. Like the two girls from the North East, who are called Chinese or Nepali by the rest of “us” or the girls from Jharkhand, who cannot speak proper Hindi. They are stereotyped but I think that was required to get the message across that it is the country that is important, not the state.

What I did not like, was the unnecessary melodrama and the predictable dialogues.

But overall, it was a decent film. Shahrukh was good, but hammed it a bit in the middle. This movie seems to be a somewhat accurate reflection of the attitude of people, and the authorities, towards hockey. A cricketer even calls it Gilli Danda. Also women are always looked down upon when it comes to Indian sports. The conditions they train in are truly appalling. The movie also seems to prove one thing – people have short memories because immediately after the team’s triumphant return, the public forgets all about his missed penalty and fall in love with him again.

Definitely worth a watch. I would say, 3.5 on 5.

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The Boss Rules

The other day I finally saw Sivaji: The Boss at infinity. This was my first Rajni movie in a theater and it was simply an awesome experience.

Ticets were 130 bucks. Total rip-off but thats a multiplex for you. I really thought the place would be empty but was surprised to see it was almost full. Even the 175 waala seats were taken. I waited in anticipation for the spectacle which was to unfold.

The cheers and whistles that could be heard when Rajni made his big entry, could have blown the roof off any theater. I found myself clapping and cheering with the rest of the crowd.

The story is simple. Rajni is Sivaji, a computer engineer who returns from the US with a fortune of Rs. 200 crores, with which he plans to open a hospital and college for the poor in India. He is also on the lookout for a bride, a girl who is a total Bharatiya Nari. Someone who sings classical music, knows Bharatanatiyam and all that.

So he tries to get things done legally, obtaining permission for building and stuff but finds out nothing can be accomplished without bribing people. So going against his principles, he bribes a lot of people and gets the construction of his college started.

Now the baddie is Aditya. A guy who is desperately in need of Close Up. He is the owner of another medical college and charges hefty amounts for seats in his own college. So Sivaji’s free college is obviously going to screw up his entire business and so he plans Sivaji’s downfall.

After a lot of bad stuff happens to Sivaji, he ends up penniless and vows to take revenge and construct his hospital and college.

What follows is an extravagant display of Rajnikanth’s trademark style and fights. He kicks everyone’s ass and ends up victorious.

There is a sub-plot which follows Rajni’s rather hilarious attempts to try to get Shriya, the girl of his dreams, to like him. In this task, he is ably assisted by his uncle Vivek who gets in some good comments and has acted really well.

Special mention should be made about the incredibly hot Shriya. If being bald, 55 and really not that good looking was the price to pay for getting close to this girl, I would embrace my fate gladly.

What Shankar lacks in the story, he more than makes up for in the ambiance and sets. The art director has done an exceptional job in creating the sets for most of the song sequences. Really extravagant and lavish. And of course, he has Rajnikanth, who could make even a pathetic movie like Jhoom baraabar Jhoom a success.

The first half of the movie is all about Shankar, the dialogue writer and the art director, along with the various supporting cast. the second half is all about Rajnikanth. He pulls off the most insane stunts with ease for example the stoppie he performs with a car or the way he does a simple thing like eating chewing gum.

All in all a movie that should not be missed. And all those who still think Amitabh or (God forbid) Abhishek is better, watch Sivaji: The Boss and see your beliefs get scattered among the dust. It is full paisa vasool.

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