Life as it ain't

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My First Reviews

Posted by Ronak M Soni on November 14, 2009

Today, entirely by accident, I found my IMDb review history. I realised that these two were the first two reviews I had ever written. Then, I realised that these two were the first symptoms of what would later develop into this blog. So, I’m posting them.

First, on the twentieth of August 2009, I posted a review of Sudhir Mishra’s brilliant Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi (literally Thousands Such Wishes; sorry, I can’t come up with a better translation). Honestly, I need to watch it again and write some more about it. I should warn you that there is the general idea of a spoiler here, but I feel that you can enjoy the movie nevertheless.

A movie that raises many questions and answers them in an inevitably simple way

Have you ever watched a movie with one girl and two guys, one guy a stud and the other a nice guy at heart, and in which the girl tries to have a relationship with the stud and ends up realising that she should be with the nice guy?

I’m guessing, yes. Well, imagine a movie with a problem at its heart. The characters: one girl(Chitrangda Singh), two guys(Kay Kay Menon and Shiney Ahuja). The girl loves the man who tries to solve the problem(Kay Kay). The other man(Shiney) – who’s poorer – feels that those are all rich kids’ games. He is, at heart, a nice man, but a practical man. I won’t say any more, but you should have figured out by now what the title of this review means.

It isn’t, however, just about the characters. It’s also an insightful treatise on society. For example, very near the beginning, there is a scene where Kay Kay’s character realises the weight of tradition, an idea that comes back later in the film. The landlord’s son has raped a lower-caste woman and the untouchables are all up in arms, when the landlord gets a heart attack and is cured, by the untouchables.

But what really struck me about the movie was that the characters spoke English like…well, human beings. In most Hindi movies nowadays the characters’ English accents makes me cringe, bringing up words in my mind that I won’t reproduce here.

So, on the whole, a very very good movie with a lot of brilliant scenes in chronological order that don’t feel like part of the story – though they are -, as being part of an overarching story would ruin them.

The second, on the twenty-eighth of August 2009, was of Iron Man. This one, I feel, is a complete review.

A bloody comedy!

‘Iron man’ is the first superhero movie that is mostly a comedy. Sure, there are lots of fights and all, but it’s all about the dialogues and the characters – there were, I think four action sequences in the whole movie.

The movie, refreshingly, doesn’t take itself too seriously: Stark stops and explains himself a sum total of one time, for about two sentences. And it makes sense. You see the weapons you have made in the hands of the terrorists, you don’t sit back and philosophise, you bam.

It’s as simple as that. A man who thinks he’s helping the cause of peace finds out he isn’t and tries to rectify it.

Yes, the other characters. Well, they are never established. Need I give Favreau a bigger compliment?

Now that I think of it, I wrote a few short reviews of books before these, on World Literature Forum. Here’s the first one, posted on the thirtieth of April 2009, of Vikram Chandra’s Red Earth and Pouring Rain (original thread here):

The only accurate word I can think of to describe this book is big. Not in terms of length, not even in terms of scope and imagination but in terms of the realistic universe Chandra creates. Here, by realistic, I mean rooted in reality: it could very well have happened and we don’t know about it because we just didn’t see it. Every new element of fantasy he brings in first looks like it is only there to satisfy Chandra’s sense of humour. Then, we eventually get to see the self-wrapped ness, so to say, of the universe he’s created and how every element fits in.
I absolutely love the way he layers story-telling upon story-telling to create a web of stories within stories(most of the book is a monkey telling a story about a man telling a story about someone telling him about the monkey’s previous life). This circle of stories also adds to the impression of bigness that you get.
His writing is remarkably accurate, modelling most of the narrative style according to the style of the narrator at that point, which tops off in the war scenes where there are sentences spanning pages; this is how people talk in that sort of epic excitement.

The only problem with the book that I could find was that it was too verbose in some parts (that is, more verbose than the style of the moment demanded).

PS: I’m sorry I could not give specific examples here, but I read the novel almost three and a half months ago(couldn’t write the article sooner because of a series of exams).

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5 Responses to “My First Reviews”

  1. S M Rana said

    It took me some time to realise I saw Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi some years back. Since one can only see a finite number of films I have now decided to stick to the top rather than the latest.

    The present film has some similarity to the political “Bihar” movies by Prakash Jha–Mrityudand, Gangajal etc., but Jha’s films were more gore-laden but down to earth than the present JNU/Oxford centric version of the Bihar environment. Two or three doses of that was enough.

    You are probably right that this is one more masaala.

    As for English I don’t have preference for any particular brand–I accept it as it comes. After all it does not belong to the English. English is a thousand languages and India owns hereditary rights to a couple of dozens of them. So long as it is natural and not put on give me any flavour–N, S, E or W. Of course linguistic proficiency is important but accent is something I prefer to be accomodative about. After seeing some BBC Shakespeare plays I was quite fascinated with the way they articulated but now after American exposure it seems quaint.

  2. Personally, I prefer Hazaaron… to Jha’s movies. But then, the last time I tried to see one was three years ago, when I thought Bollywood produced good comedies, so I ought to try him out again.

    About the English, they don’t sound even close to natural. In fact, even the Hindi rarely sounds natural. I think bad Hindi actors have a peculiar brand of bad acting. The closest I’ve seen to an accurate description is Roger Ebert’s observation that, in this review, that “It’s done with great energy but with a certain detachment, as if nothing really matters but the energy.” Even this, though, isn’t exactly perfect as a description. It’s something that makes me feel that even a character spewing grammatically perfect language isn’t comfortable in it.
    Yeah, ‘accent’ might not have been the right word to use.

  3. It’s always fun to discover our first forays into a subject, isn’t it? I recently discovered the first poem I ever wrote (back in fourth grade). I had hoped it had been lost to the ages, as bad as it was, but no, I still have it (the second poem I ever wrote is much better, and separated by the first by at least five years). I do wish, however, that I could have found a certain short story that I wrote for English class in sixth grade which, years later, became the basis for the novel that I’m working on now (though even at the time, I knew the story could be expanded into novel form).

    As for reviews, I also came across my first reviews, written for my high school newspaper as a freshman. The first one I ever wrote was a positive double review for two new shows on Fox. One was The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., which would only last one season. The second show was by the same creator as the first, and it was also threatened by cancellation its first season. Good thing it wasn’t. That series was The X-Files.

  4. Plum said

    wow your first reviews are better than my latest ones!

    Don’t Be a Plum

  5. Plum:
    A) I don’t agree.
    B) Even if true, you ought to take consolation in the fact that I wrote these right after a month of continuous reading of Roger Ebert. Before I read the man, I hated all reviewers, and then suddenly I find some great reviews, and I just couldn’t stop reading them.

    Literary Dreamer:
    You just reminded me of my first poem. I wrote thirteen lines, and then a professional poet, who had given us the assignment, took it and made it four lines long. Then, I started writing lots of poems in Yoda-speak. Now, happily, I’m normal.
    And my first stories. Two phases: Jeffrey Archer inspired twist in the end stories and then Terry Pratchett inspired unbelievably crazy stuff.
    Shit. I need to go back to all that, and have a great laugh.

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