Thursday, June 25, 2015

Thoughts on Mistress of Honour by Bhaavna Arora

"Mistress of Honour" by Bhaavna Arora is the tale of a patriot's supreme love and sacrifice for the country. Given the distrust and cynicism with which the Indian Armed Forces is viewed by some of the Indian English Writing brigade, this is a welcome positive look at life in the Army (too positive at some places though; as if a fine Army toothcomb had visited this novel and picked out a few uncomfortable thorns).

It is that novel that you wish were better written - the author's inclination to resort to stock resolutions for sticky situations greatly affects the level of writing. There is a lot of promise and intrigue in the story - Pansy's conflict of emotions at being rescued by the very Army that shot dead her parents, Advik's self harm to tide over his parents' bad marriage, etc. However, none of this is fleshed out well - the characters are miraculously redeemed whenever they come in contact with the Army. Maybe that is what a daily reminder of their closeness to death does to people; however, it cannot be used to condone their conversion into one dimensional characters in the book. The epilogue, although inspiring in its intentions, has the feel of a school drama play with the characters proclaiming loudly their love for the country.

Overall, the novel scores with its noble intentions to portray a life in the Army as the most noble calling in one's life. Just wish it read better.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Thoughts on Bond in Quantum of Solace

James Bond. Played by Daniel Craig. A British spy 'horribly efficient' at being reckless, seemingly deceived by a girl in an earlier instalment (who actually ends up trading her life for his), seeks answers (later revenge) and in the process, uncovers a plot by assorted corporations (under the banner 'Quantum') to seize, endanger and profit from all sorts of natural resources. Like clean water in South American countries, for example.

The second movie in this reboot stalls, wanders headless, before Daniel Craig pulls it together for the reckless tumble downhill billing that these movies usually promise.

And why all this? Why replace the devilish charm and frivolousness of the earlier instalments with something resembling real life? Why substitute the heady sunshine of the prior ones with a morbid pall this time, when such intensity can only count as a negative for someone like Bond?

Like the earlier movies, Bond still survives in the end, still blows up stuff all around the place,still loses one girl and saves the other (he doesn't sleep with one though). Gone though is the need to maintain the thin veneer of charm, the need to keep comforting the audience that this is all a piece of cake, all in a day's work for someone like Bond. We are in the 21st Century and we are seemingly mature enough to appreciate layers in our heroes and superheroes (think Bourne and Batman reboot). Our heroes do get hurt and make mistakes, and take some time in redeeming themselves. And this layering is what the movie almost succeeds in bringing about.

A layer exhibits the complex relationship between M and Bond; another exhibits the need for Governments to humour corporations involved in foul play when it is the latter and not the former who get to control natural resources. One more layer showcases guilt and regret, and for Bond, this movie is almost about Scorcese like redemption as much as these movies are usually about Reid and Taylor suits. He seeks answers to assuage his guilt and anger - he is unable to forget and forgive the woman who betrays him to save his life and he is hell bent on hunting down the person who had set her up for sacrifice.

Amidst all this, we have Mathieu Amalric play 'Dominic Greene', the villain, whose only resemblance to past Bond villains is the gruesome manner of his eventual death. He plays an awkward string puller, a French Godfather, except that his interests are crude Oil, toppling Governments and the like, instead of Olive Oil and Gambling. An intrepid traveller, he takes keen interest in the affairs of South American nations in the morning, over lunch in chartered flights, talks spymasters into sponsoring coups, and finds time before dinner to co-ordinate a call between the various members of his cartel at an Opera house in Austria.

Bringing the two together in Haiti is 'Camille' (Olga Karylenko), the girl who plays with fire and tries to use Greene to reach the object of her hatred, a Major Medrano, an ex Bolivian General that Greene now wants to install as the dictator. Bond follows her and stumbles across Greene, figures out that there is more to him than political horse trading and raising funds for a greener planet.

It takes all of Daniel Craig's acting skills to pull this role off and to convince the audience that an efficient and ruthless Bond is actually better than the chivalrous, charming (occasionally flaky) Bond that his predecessors chose to play. He imbues his role with an intensity never before seen in a Bond. And he convinces the audience in investing a smidgen of sympathy for the first time in a Bond as he gulps drink after drink while trying to wash away regret over his recent past. More Devdas this than the carefree Playboy.

While Pierce Brosnan brought about a touch of class during his incarnation (and subsequently eroded most of it by acting in Die Another Day), Daniel Craig has chosen intensity as the cornerstone of his interpretation of James Bond, as much a reflection of his acting skill as that of the time we live in.‎

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Thoughts on 'God is a Gamer' by Ravi Subramanian

Ravi Subramanian's book 'God is a Gamer' is a cyber crime thriller whose pages flits between the cities of Washington DC, New york, Mumbai at a breakneck pace (with pit stops at Wikipedia to fill the reader with requisite gyaan on Bitcoins and the Dark Web), enough in it to read over a bus journey but unfortunately, less than enough to ponder about later.

It opens with the assassination of a US Senator who was heading a secret committee set up to investigate the workings of alternate currencies, lands at the shores of Mumbai by a financial heist, the rest is mostly spent on proving the link between the assassination, the heist and of course, the virtual game (modelled on Farmville) that is alluded to in the title.

The author's expertise in peeling away layers of the story at breathtaking speed shines through, with each peeled layer revealing the direct and unsavoury links between the primary actors. Be it a bong hitting American teen or the head of the Retail Banking division at an International Bank in India, everyone is somehow related to each other; while the some of the links are quite predictable, the unpredictable ones come across a bit forced or at worst, unnecessary.

The level of detail is quite sparse and taut, everything appearing on the page is either the stepping stone to a reveal or is the reveal itself. There are sleight of hands and smokescreens galore but the author plays them in a deft manner. Characters are coloured a shade too grey - the good are either conveniently bumped off or are revealed to be bad in due course. Some of the cynicism is at Madhur Bhandarkar level but thankfully, the author keeps away from moralising.

There are some cheeky touches about the pressures of a coalition Government, taking orders from a higher command and so forth but Ravi Subramanian keeps humour to the bare minimum, lest it take the focus away from the plot and the narrative.

Overall, the book is a sophisticated and at times, convoluted read on how best to serve a very cold dish, the only caveat being that the dish is liable to be forgotten about as soon as the last page is read.

More details about the book and author below:

About the book:!GOD-IS-A-GAMER/cvmf

Author's Page:
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(Disclaimer: reviewed as a part of the Flipkart Book Bloggers Initiative).

Friday, September 12, 2014

Thoughts on Smiley

It is hard not to be swayed a little by the characterisation of George Smiley. Maybe it is how he, almost single handedly, he rebuilds the fallen ramparts of the Circus. His vulnerability too draws one to him. More than that, there is something I still can't lay my finger on : maybe it is because I saw Gary Oldman play him on screen, or something to do with his innate English politeness maybe? I don't know. And the way he figures his way out of a problem, circling around it, almost teasing the solution out of it is a joy to behold.

Maybe it is the way he is portrayed as this guy with almost a monkish devotion to his work that appeals so much to me? And the way it is so easy for a reader to rely on him, reminding one of the time Indian fans use to heave a sigh of relief whenever Dravid used to take to the crease; maybe reassuring is the way I am really looking for. And in a world like Circus where each square foot has to be tread with caution, where even the naively hopeful would have enough cause to become a hard cynic, where the mind's state usually hovers anywhere between paranoia and full blown insanity, only such a reassuring presence could have breathed life back into it.‎

Saturday, April 26, 2014

False Windows

Dormant flames,tinder
woods; ash, unburnt twigs survive.
Soul traces too.

Thursday, November 28, 2013


Entry for 27th Nov's 3WW

Sparrows, curious
over cluttered urban rests,
inevitably wary.

Saturday, November 16, 2013


Entry for 17th Nov 3WW Entry

Exhaust words,
heighten distortion,

light limits.

Light up words,
exhaust distortion,

Lights exhausted,
words distorted,
heightened aggression.