Book Review – The immortals of Meluha

I heard of the book from my colleague, as the first in a trilogy on Lord Shiva. Even as I heard him describe the book as Shiva’s story completely re-written, I thought I was traipsing into a dangerous, even if, interesting territory. For its tough to cope for most of us, if long nurtured beliefs, especially religious one, are challenged and up turned suddenly one fine day.

My sense of alarm eventually proved unjustified. The author does not claim his book to be factual or a slice of actual Indian history. The events in the book merely form a ‘story’. I suppose that is why the book didn’t court controversy, especially with the touchy right wing that takes offence to anything even remotely ‘tainting our culture’.

And I will not reveal much of the story in this review. Suffice to say that it talks of Shiva, not as a divine being, but actually a human being, a tribal Tibetan leader who happens to get entangled in the lives and battles of the people of the Indus valley.

The thing that appeals to me most about the book is the idea itself. The concept of Shiva as a human and not anybody divine. This is a thought I share with the author. Rama, Krishna and company, to me, are not mere mythological characters, but very much flesh and blood people of yore who have been glorified as Gods. Yes, I suppose they deserve to be worshipped for their ideals and what they left behind for the people of this country, but that does not make them any less human. Like Jesus, in all probabilities, they lived and walked on this planet thousands of years ago, crossing over to Sri Lanka to vanquish an evil king or witnessing an epic battle in Kurukshtera, as the case may be.

So the author’s prowess and imagination is laudable. What brings Shiva to Meluha, as the book begins and the course of destiny that finally takes him to Ayodhya (yes, according to this book, Rama pre-dates Shiva) towards the end, form a very interesting plot. The characters of Shiva, Sati, Nandi, Daksha, Parvateshwar  and all the other main  players are etched out well. The story is also peppered with interesting episodes and references. Like the periodic appearances of the pandits to guide Shiva. Or the philosophy that laces the book throughout – if a leaf abosrbs all colors and reflects only green, is its color green or anything but green?

Another interesting aspect of the book is how the conflict between the Suryavanshis and Chandravanshis plays out. At one point, the Suryavanshi king even  dispatches a letter to the Chandravanshi empire asking them to hand over the terrorits who attacked Mount Mandar – the proverbial final straw. And the reply they get is that there is no terrorist they are harboring and they themselves are victims of terror (sounds familiar? reminds you of any present day neighbors you know of?)
The author, Amish, is a first timer and belongs to the Chetan Bhagat/Sarita Mandanna school of writers, balancing a corporate day job with  night time literary pursuits. And unfortunately, the amateurishness is amply evident in the writing. So what, according to me, could have been a literary masterpeice in the league of The Lord of the Rings, for the sheer strength of its imagination, is reduced to the  level of a paperback fiction. Shiva mouthing dialogues like ‘I’ll teach the son of a bitch a lesson’ etc. does not help either.

But inspite of all its flaws, as the book ends with a promise of an action sequence to follow and a lot of unaswered questions, I can’t help but wait for the sequel.

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WW’s verdict…

on Masterchef India is out!

Eeks… I didn’t like it! I dont even bother remembering the timings it is telecast in, and that shows what I think of it.

Ok, top three reasons why it sucks?

  1. The celebrity judges are  ho hum
  2. The format – nothing captivating, yet.
  3. The filmy element – the “oohs and aahs” Akshay evokes and the Bollywoodish drama seem forced.

Guess after having seen Masterchef Aus, this one pales in comparison.

Enthiran Review

Inspite of not being a Rajnikanth fan, I had thoroughly enjoyed ‘Sivaji’ the big trio’s (Shankar-Rajni-Rahman) last outing. Despite its sheer ridiculousness, the movie was enjoyable, thanks largely to Rajnikanth. And anything following the massively successful Sivaji was bound to be bigger and better.

So when positive reviews began pouring in for “Enthiran/Robot” since Oct 1, I simply couldn’t wait. Inspite of steep ticket prices and the busy day that Saturday usually is, I managed to steal a few hours to catch the highly anticipated ‘Enthiran’.

Was it worth it? Well, perhaps not entirely, I should concede. The first half is definitely engrossing and worth your time. Contrary to most critique, the downslide starts when the “villians” start appearing and going on a rampage. Amateurish would be an understatement to describe the climax.

Since the story et al has been repeated ad nauseam, directly jumping to the pluses and minuses, as I saw them.

Positives:

+ the concept of a robot evolving and developing human emotions and its aftermath. Interestingly tackled.

+ Songs: Tunes are worth the CD price, the picturization excellent, and the locales are refreshingly new. Costumes too are good and Aishwarya is at her graceful best.

+ Attention to detail, especially in the first half. The way Dr. Vasi’s beard grows when he is engrossed in work or the human-like teeth the android has even when it does not have the Rajni exterior. Or making sure there is reason for Aishwarya’s appearances in fancy dresses and make up towards the end (Lifestyle shop gets robbed by robots!). No misses there.

The negatives

– The longdrawn climax sequence and its flaws. I had no clue as to what was happening – just how many Chitti clones were there, what was the point of all the shape formation etc. If it is known that the strength of a single robot is equal to a hundred humans, why isn’t there adequate planning to handle them than just spraying bullets randomly. And if the robot can scan and detect the blood group from a drop of blood in the distance, why does it take a while for chitti to track the lone human in their midst and finish him off.

– The “hero” Dr. Vasi, reduced to a “mere human” (remember, this is Rajni!) He ignores his girlfriend, mercilessly attacks another Rajni (albeit, a robot), panics at the sight of blood or any confrontation. Realism is alright, but in the process a demi-God is demystified. And to Rajni fans, that is blasphemous.

– Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. She has taken the “bimbette” role a few notches up. Over-the-top screeching and preening, standing all decked up and made up in the villian’s lair with a plastered smile when your boyfriend’s life is on the firing line – and more such things, probably a new high for even Indian heriones!

Summary: Probably it was the sky-high expectation that did it in, I felt let down this time.

The perils of multiple parenting

(Pre Script. Before  I begin, my definition of multiple parenting: Multiple people – grandparents, nannies included – involved in parenting, besides the mother-father duo)

I dont know how women survive joint families!

Mine is a quasi-joint family. Or a quasi-nuclear family, the way you wish to see it. We comprise a working couple and 2 tiny tots, with parents and in-laws at a stone’s throw away providing all support (or is it?).  And free with support comes, guess what, ample advice and criticism too…

And this is where the complexity of multiple parenting starts.

Unlike a non-working mother (who, no denying, has enough troubles and frustrations of her own) a working mom leaves her kids with nannies and grandparents. And that is like to pry open a world of trouble.

Different people with different sensibilities and philosophies, each feeding their own beliefs to the kids is a sure shot recipe for trouble. So if mom has 1 thing to say on the kind of diet DD1 should follow, m-i-l has the reverse philosophy. Nanny pitches in with her 2 cents and no one cares what the hapless parents actually think about all this.

Yesterday, I lost my cool and shot back at m-i-l which obviously upset her! Well, I am usually restrained , respect all sentiments and all that, but just how much s**t can one take? Listening to daily lectures on how one should bring up kids can erode your patience and finally get on your nerve, as I learnt yesterday.

To let them handle technology or not, to buy them toys every month or not, to shout at them or not, to feed them x-y-z type pf food or not, to give them a-b-c medicines or not etc. etc. – when seemingly mundane things in life get dissected, analysed and blown out of propotion every moment, it is bound to have its repercussion. Having to answer someone for every move in your life can really get tiresome.  These are the times I begin doubting if the roles elders play in lives of their children is really worth it.

For all the chest thumping we do and the pride we take in our ‘culture’ and ‘support system’ , the numerous complexities these lead to in our everyday lives is always overlooked. In that aspect, I am a fan of the Western society. Good or bad, they decide their way of life, are independent and  have their own space – which parents, in-laws or even spouses are not allowed to invade.

So this leads me to wonder, just what the heck do girls in joint families do? How do they remain sane?

I really dont know, do you?

Telly Tales

Of late, one television program has been keeping me hooked… ‘Masterchef Australia’!

The program, currently aired on Star World, is being shown late to India TV viewers by a couple of monhs – as always, I suppose. The actual show was long over (in April, if I am right)  so that takes out the zing a bit, but nevertheless I still look forward to it every Tue-Thur.

All the famous aussie accent and fighting spirit is in full glory here. And like in any reality show, the emotional investment of viewers is important here too. You root for some contestants (Alvin and Jonathan, in my case), are indifferent to many and detest some others. Riding along is fun, speculating and guessing the winners and losers each week!

The innovative and creative means of testing the contestants makes for very interesting viewing. Every week, there is an invention test – there was an Indian Invention week also, where contestants had to cook exciting Indian dish with goat (mutton) as the principal ingredient. Wonder how someone can suddenly come up with a fine Indian dish (or any native dish, for that matter) when they dont have any experience ever working with it! Ask me, 7-8 years of on-off experience, working in Indian kitchen and I still can’t confidently cook up a decent roti… LOL!

Every week, typically 2 teams are formed, given interesting challenges, and the winning team (or super performers from winning teams) are treated to some nice lunches and dinners. Losers, of course, face pressure tests and the ones who succumb, get eliminated. So not just culinary skills, but also contestants’  leadership skills, team performance, stress tolerance etc. is tested.

Ok, any negatives at all? Yes, for a vegetarian like myself, the overdose of meat on the show can be a real put off. I mean, how many times can you not squirm as a chef goes on, like a doctor giving a practical anatomy demonstration – cutting and slicing through the various body parts of a poor dead animal.

Masterchef India is coming soon, I believe. Hosted by Akshay Kumar, it keeps up with the Indian telly tradition of signing up a Bollywood star for all and sundry things to hook viewers. I love Bollywood and mean no disrespect to its stars, but having had a dose of MC-Aus and seen how original and interesting the show can get, I only hope the channel doesn’t reduce the brand to a Bollywood masala pot boiler version in India.

So as of now, all I do is Wait ‘n Watch –  Wait for MC-India and watch MC-Aus!

Ads

Ads

I have mixed feelings about them.

I consider them an irritant when they interrupt a nice movie or show I am watching on telly. And then there are some, which I prefer over the actual show. But in either case, they get me thinking. No denying the fact that I have always had a fascination for the copywriting business. Always wondered how ads are created – Where does the germ of the idea come from (it is a sudden burst of inspirtation, brainstorming, or a dedicated group sitting down in a conf room and working on it?), how is it developed, how is it translated on the screen, what makes some instantly likeable and some others loathsome, do celebrities endorsing a brand have a say in making of the ads… I can go on and on. If I had a chance to choose any other job, I’d probably choose ad making (how successful I’d be in it is another matter altogether)

So here I write out my ad list – the good ones & the bad ones. Strictly including only whatever is being aired currently.

First, the Yucky ones:

1. The Shah Rukh Khan one, advertising fairness creams. At least, celebrities should stop endorsing fairness (and creams for fairness) Also add the OTT Hyundai ad. This inspite of my not being a SRK-hater.

2. The Salman Khan ad with some Chinese(?) girls asking about some extra fittings (or whatever) on cows! Gosh, I thought it was awful.

3. Amul Macho. For torturing the primates, and us.

4. A random boy walks up to a random girl on the road, and not only demands a bite of her chocolate, but also decides he is going to drop her home. Sorry, don’t know about that girl, I’d FREAK OUT if I were to meet such a stranger on the road!

5. The Kotak Mahindra Bank ad, where a man follows his pretty wife and suspects her when she is found talking to an attractive man. Come on, any woman interacting with a man other than her husband is worth suspecting? Not sure what they were trying to convey.

6. The Reliagare Insurance Ad. True, death can strike anytime, but I thought the ad smacks of insensitivity when talking about that.

The Nice ones:

1. Aamir’s “athithi devo bhava” Nothwithstanding the frequency of the ad and Aamir overdose on TV nowadays, I think the series is quite nicely done and timely, what with the CWG round the corner. We Indians sure need some lessons in manners.

2. The Kareena ad for Vivid laptop. Not a big fan of hers and nothing spectacular about the ad, but love her attitude and gait in it. And not to forget the groovy music. This one hits the target well.

3. The Kajol ad for Alpenliebe. Again, nothing amazing, but effervescent Kajol and her monkey-man master make it work for me.

4. Saffola – where a man offers his son a “crocodile ride” as wife watches on. Nicely conceptualized. Manages to get its message across humorously.

A side note – For some reason, I never particularly took a liking to ‘zoozoos’. Me thinks they were ok, but highly overrated.

A novice question

I am interested in politics- not joining, of course,  but following – to some extent, that is.

Have a fair idea of ministries and ministers, and have indulged in some ‘Basic’ level of lunchroom discussions around politics with colleagues. But that is about all. 

Here is a ‘Beginner Level’ question on the working of our Parliament – Since our PM is not an MP (Lok Sabha) does he ever come to the House and indulge in debates. I am assuming he should be. So can a non-MP enter the House?

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