Last night I watched Limitless at The Halfpipe relaxing with my arms draped casually behind my head while resting my back on the beanbag seat. The movie dragged you in from the beginning because of the artistic manner in which the viewers were told they were going to be taken on a journey. Surprisingly for an action thriller, it began with the narration of main protagonist, down and out writer Eddie Morra. When the audience is first introduced, Eddie is contemplating suicide but then the story moves backward in time to inform us what brought him to this state.
He was introduced to a drug – NZT40. This drug allowed him to extract all the information he had in the recesses of his memory and the book he couldn’t write a page of gets completed in four days. He gambles and makes some winnings. He uses some money he obtain to trade and buy stock and becomes a financial genius all because of the drug that makes him feel invincible. Without it, he can’t make sense of any stock related data. Naturally he became an addict without ever knowing how it was really created but fails to realise his meteoric rise from nowhere is not a secret to some and gets careless in his greed and exposes the girl he loves to danger.
Eddie’s sudden transformation from the unmotivated, slacker, behind-his-rent writer without a chance to charismatic financial daredevil is portrayed very well by Bradley Cooper. This movie takes him from his traditional romcom safe zone to new heights during a particularly gruesome scene involving licking blood. This is an action movie for those who appreciate intellectual dialogue but the plot is full of holes for such an interesting premise.
Nevertheless the idea was a creative and original one even if the approach that was taken could have been improved.
Well, I think it’s time to enjoy some foreign films again even if the English BBC adaptations of detective novels are pretty good. This time perhaps I might give you some insight into the tragicomedy romantic epics of Bollywood. One thing: I hate the song and dance numbers and fast forward the sequence in mute but apparently within the cinematic theatres of India, people get up and dance and sing along with the flick. Now I know, I will never go to watch a Hindi film in India.
Kuch Kuch Kota Hai
The first film I saw in Hindi, which gave me an introduction to the foreign world of Bollywood, was called Kuch Kuch Kota Hai. Roughly translated, it means Something Happens and conveys nothing about it.
The story begins on the 8th birthday of Anjali, the daughter of a widower called Rahul (Sharukh Khan). Her mother Tina (Rani Mukherjee) has left her eight letters with the dying wish that she read a letter each birthday. The eighth letter Anjali receives on her 8th birthday is the last and the most important. It contains a very special request that she reunites her father with an important friend (Kajol) who meant a lot to him. Tina had been responsible for the breakdown of that friendship and wants to mend bridges even after death. This drives the crux of the story but the question is will the gap of 8 years be too late to reunite Anjali’s father with his long lost and much loved friend?
Trust me, you’ll be varying between laughter and tears with this one. But it’s a lovely film with a sweet film. If you enjoyed P.S. I Love You or Dear Frankie, this is your kind of movie with an Indian flavor.
The next Hindi film, which made an impact on me, that I saw was Veer-Zaara.
It is a love story about a star-crossed romance akin to Romeo and Juliet but minus the suicide. Set against the backdrop of a conflict between India and Pakistan, with main actor Veer being an Indian Air Force Squadron Leader and lead actress Zaara being a Pakistani girl from a well-known political family, odds are stacked against their being together. Veer meets Zaara when she makes a pilgrimage to the Ganges to fulfill the last request of her grandmother. When she is leaving, her bus meets with an accident and Veer rescues her and offers her a place to stay and has her meet the people of his village. After she leaves, Veer realizes he is in love and goes after her but his offer of marriage is dissuaded by Zaara’s mother, Mariyam. It would be political suicide for their family if their Pakistani daughter married an Indian. Besides Zaara has to keep her political alliances intact by marrying Rezaa since he will help aid the career of Zaara’s father even if she herself has realised that Veer is whom she loves.
This love held by Zaara makes Rezaa have feelings of dishonor and shame so he has Veer imprisoned on the charges that he is an Indian spy. After he is taken to cell 786, he does not speak for 22 years. A new female lawyer, Saamiya Siddiqui, enters the scene to bring prisoner 786 to justice but he imposes some difficult conditions on her because he refuses to speak ill or testify against Zaara’s family. In addition, her ex-boss who had never lost a case took on the defense. To set Veer free, she travels back to Veer’s village where she finds an unlikely witness.
This is a beautiful film that will haunt you with all the injustice dealt with by Veer and creates questions about how much power higher authorities have. This is a film about racial politics getting in the way of love and succeeding up to a point. If you liked films like The Joy Luck Club and West Side Story, this one’s another you want to watch.
Another film in a similar vein is Mohabbatein in which a strict school principal of a boarding school tries to forbid students from expressing their love because of a tragic personal incident.
Sam at IMDB has written an excellent review of the film so I’ll display his/her work below in a condensed form.
The setting of Mohabbatein is the Gurukul School, an elite school housed in a cold, uninviting, castle-like edifice. Narayan Shankar (Amitabh Bachchan) is the stern, disciplinarian and somewhat tyrannical headmaster of Gurukul who rules the school with an iron fist.
The story begins on a dark and quiet night at the local train stations where three young men, prospective students at the school, meet on the platform and set out on a journey that brings them closer together than they ever could have imagined. Vicky (Uday Chopra) is an athletic, energetic playboy type, seemingly unshaken by the harsh reality of the school. Sameer (Jugal Hansraj) is the timid and shy one with boyish charm and innocent looks. And Karan (Jimmy Shergill) completes the trio as the more mature, intense member of the pack.
The three lads are struck by cupid’s arrow when they meet the three heroines; Vicky loses his heart to a rich and spoiled girl named Ishika (Shamita Shetty) while Sameer is reunited with his childhood buddy, the bubbly Sanjana (Kim Sharma) and Karan falls hard for the bashful widow, Kiran (Preeti Jhangiani).
A glimmer of hope comes their way when a maverick music teacher, Raj Aryan (Shah Rukh Khan) sweeps into the picture and helps nurture their young love.
To read the full review, click here.
The Sinhalese and Tamil New Year is an annual cultural celebration I partake in because of my Sri Lankan heritage. It is a time we prepare traditional meals and sweetmeats and exchange gifts. For my Theravadha Buddhist family, a season with the spirit of Christmas falls during this week of April. There are New Year customs to adhere, New Year prince and princess pageants and some traditional games. These include feats such as the ones below:
Lissana Gaha (Slippery Pole)
Kotta Pora (Pillow Fight)
Kana Mutti (Blindman’s Pots)
Households that celebrate the Sinhala & Tamil New Year follow various types of traditions and rituals from the past. A fire is lit and milk is boiled according to an auspicious time predicted by an astrologer. Bananas along with traditional food items such as kiribath (milk rice), kavum (an oil fried flour cake) and kokis (crunchy rice flour wheel) are prepared and served out by most households since families visit relatives and friends at this time.
My mum and I prepared Kokis this weekend. You’ll find the recipe below.
1. First of all, you need a kokis mould. It should look like the thing circled in red:
2. It is also better to have a fry pan with a curved round bottom. Basically we used a pan akin to a mini wok but you can use a larger one. It could be similar to this:
3. You might also need a wooden scraping stick shaped like a bamboo skewer. I think a wooden toothpick would work just as well.
Tip: Have some oil absorbent paper handy to drain excess oil from the kokis once prepared.
Now the equipment issues are out of the way, here are the ingredients:
- 500g Rice Flour
- 2 Eggs (optional)
- 1 tablespoon Sugar
- 1 litre of Vegetable Oil
- 2 teacups of Coconut Milk
- 1 teaspoon Turmeric
- ¼ teaspoon Salt
If you have access to all those, here is how to make it:
Step 1: Beat the egg yolk.
Step 2: Mix the rice flour, egg yolk and 1 teacup of coconut milk. You can also use coconut cream but you might have to add some water to get the desired batter consistency. Add the turmeric for the deep yellow shade and then the salt and rest of the coconut milk.The batter should be thick as pancake batter.
Step 3: Pour the oil into the wok pan and heat it until it begins to boil.
Step 4: When the oil starts to show bubbles, dip the kokis mould into the batter but without dipping it in completely (if you do, it will be hard to remove once it hardens).
Step 5: Remove the mould from the batter and dip it into the hot oil. Then the batter will detach from the mould but will keep its shape while it is deep-fried. If it sticks to the mould without separating, use the skewer/toothpick to ease it out.
Step 6: As they turn brown and harden, remove the kokis using a spoon. We used a large sieve spoon as it stopped us from scooping up excess oil. Put into a bowl lined with oil absorbent paper.
Step 7: Repeat 4-6 until you finish your batter.
Your finished product should taste crunchy and look like:
Post Preparation Tip: If the crunchiness fades after a day or so, heat them up in the oven.
Poirot visits a Cornish seaside resort and meets Nick, a young girl attached to a crumbling and dilapidated house by the seaside with a mortgage. So when she informs Poirot that she had several near escapes, his detective streak comes into play. There are a few potential suspects but it seems unlikely any of them would profit from the paltry inheritance Nick would leave in her will after her death. The suspects are Freddie Rice, a habitual cocaine user; Commander Challenger, who seems to be in love with Nick; Jim Lazarus, an art dealer in love with Freddie and also Freddie’s husband who refuses to grant her a divorce. Then there is also Charles Wyse, Nick’s appointed solicitor. In addition, there are two lodgers using the garden cottage at End House, Mr. and Mrs. Croft, who say they are Australians.
So Poirot suggests Nick call her cousin, Maggie Buckley, for protection. But an unfortunate incident involving the exchanging of coats leads to Maggie’s death because she was wearing a black dress. This baffles Poirot until he assumes the murder was due to the coat exchange. When he goes to interview Nick – whose true name is Magdala – she says to his puzzlement after a telephone call, that she has nothing to live for left. He then puts two and two together to figure out she had been secretly engaged to Arthur Streeton, a pilot who has been missing for some time and she had received news of his death. He sends her to a nursing home for protection while he investigates End House.
The Crofts arouse his suspicion and so does the love letters written to Magdala. But he is then informed that Nick has almost died of poisoning by chocolates, purported to have been sent by him. He calls in Miss Lemon for assistance. Using the help of Nick to stage a séance to talk with the dead through a medium during an arranged early reading of the will, something very odd comes to light. Her will leaves her inheritance to an unexpected party. But the fun doesn’t end there. Hercule Poirot reveals a charade has been going on under his nose the whole time and points out the true murderer of the Magdala Buckley that was engaged to Arthur Streeton who had a considerable fortune left to him by his uncle. He says he was inspired by the conversation on nicknames between Miss Lemon and Captain Hastings to reverse his original thought process.
The TV episode of Poirot doesn’t change the plot much because there was only one major change: the attempted assassination in front of Poirot did not happen in a lonely garden in the back of the hotel but a crowded spot near the swimming pool.
This work originally appeared under the title Murder with Mirrors. It starts out with Ruth Van Rydock conferring with Miss Marple about her sister, Carrie-Louise, who runs a sort of rehabilitation home for former delinquents. Ruth does not approve of this scheme and thinks it rather hare-brained, as she believes it might end up being harmful to her sister. So she persuades Miss Marple who is an old school friend of theirs to visit Carrie-Louise to keep a watchful eye on her. True to form, there is a murder and it comes to light when the police investigate the murdered party was trying to warn them of an impending attempt of a poisoning.
The thing with this plot is it involves a family cast of several relatives who have some connection to Carrie Louise through her three marriages. She was once widowed and once divorced. Her third husband Lewis Serracold assists her to run her reform home by having the misfits involved in theatrical production and other productive pursuits. Carrie has two daughters: one biological born to her first husband called Mildred and one adopted called Pippa, who died after she gave birth to Gina.
When we are introduced to Gina, she is a recent returnee to Stonygate after having married an American husband called Walter. In addition to these people, Jolley is the caretaker who has a trusted position. Stephen and Alex Restarick, the sons of Carrie Louise from her second marriage, are frequent visitors. Also the secretary of Lewis Serracold, Edgar Lawson, resides with them although he seems to be on edge and mentally disturbed most of the time as he claims to be the illegitimate son of some famous man.
The murder happens after a visit from the son she had during her first marriage, Christian Goulbrandsen. But the puzzle is everyone present at the time has an alibi – they were trapped inside a room except for Alex Restarick. But when he is disposed of, Miss Marple uses her wits to figure out who is behind the murders and what the motive is to enlighten everyone.
The TV adaptation starring Julia McKenzie as Miss Marple follows some of this storyline but infuses it with additional subplots involving possible guilt of Gina’s husband, the second husband of Carrie Louise being still enamoured with her, a love affair between Gina (here she is only the adopted daughter that is lavished with more affection while the biological daughter is neglected) and stepbrother Stephen. But to say the least, it is still entertaining and worth watching if you don’t mind it strays into entirely different territory. Look out for Joan Collins as Ruth Van Rydock not to mention the cast playing the roles Walter Hudd, Edgar Lawson and Stephen Restarick are eye candy!
Colin Lamb, who walks around in the guise of a marine biologist, is paying a visit to Wilbraham Crescent when Miss Sheila Webb runs screaming out of a house straight into his arms. She tells him there is a corpse inside the house. When he goes in to check, her hysteric tale is confirmed. There is a dead body in the house and what is more mysterious is that four clocks in the room are frozen at 4:13 even though the actual time is 3:13. The house turns out be the residence of an elderly blind lady, Mrs. Pebmarsh. To the astonishment and consternation of everyone involved, she states she did not call the Cavendish Secretarial Bureau to specifically inquire for the typing services of Sheila Webb. Is Miss Webb the target of a conspiracy or is she actually hiding something?
When Colin Lamb gets Hercule Poirot, the famous Belgian detective concocted by the queen of crime writing, involved in the case from his armchair no less, he enquires as to why Colin was found at Wilberham Crescent. Apparently he was investigating another case that pointed him towards this address. Unfortunately here the main role doesn’t fall to the detective but when murder rate spikes higher, Poirot uses his grey cells to figure out this case doesn’t follow the one plot but two which intertwine with each other.
As the mystery unravels, you finally figure out the motive for the murder of that unidentified man, why the girl with broken high heel was prevented from giving evidence, the significance of 4:13 and who is committing treason by passing information to the enemy. This one is littered with red herrings so it is almost impossible to figure the case out by reasoning.
Below is the television adaptation based on the novel. Please note the story is mostly true to type but there are some modifications made such as the time in which it was set.
In the book, the tale goes as follows. Luke Fitzwilliam shares a carriage with Mrs. Pinkerton, a sweet but absent-minded old lady. They get into conversation and she tells him murders disguised as accidents are happening in her town. She informs him she is on her way to Scotland Yard because the local police are not up to it but she has identified the murderer.
Luke later finds out Mrs Pinkerton was prevented from reaching the police due to an accident. So he goes to the town where she resided posing as a researcher to investigate who is responsible for the murders. Several suspects emerge:
- An antiques dealer
- A solicitor
- A doctor
- A self-made businessman engaged to a pretty young woman
Yet Luke feels disturbed by dark forces at work as he pursues the line of detective work out of curiosity. Could it even be none of the above?
You will have to read the novel for the true story because the Miss Marple television adaptation drastically changes the plot by removing and adding new characters, altering their ages and afflictions, including new subplots and changing the type of accident Miss Pinkerton had. The original plot involved Miss Marple’s nephew but not his aunt.
In the Marple episode of Murder is Easy, it is Miss Marple herself who meets Mrs Pinkerton. Upon hearing of her accident, she decides to investigate by going to the funeral of her newly found acquaintance. By observing the goings on in the village, she comes to the conclusion that someone is doing everything possible to keep buried secrets from being out. After Miss Marple discovers a valuable clue for a motive that had its origins in the past, she neatly solves the puzzle.
The best bits about the TV series are the drama stars you can identify : E.g. Benedict Cumberbatch from the BBC series Sherlock, Moaning Myrtle from Harry Potter and Miss Bingley from Pride and Prejudice ’95.
This week I’m going to honour the author who produced the longest running play in the history of mankind. Fan of Agatha Christie? You’re in luck because I’m going to make a post each day this week featuring her mysteries.
She always awes me with the amount of crime stories she’s written, never mind her crime unrelated writing on the side. Besides they make for a great rereading experience. Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile does not need an introduction to most people so I’ll introduce you to one of her less well-known tales. This one is called The Tragedy at Marsden Manor which is available in the Poirot Investigates collection.
Famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot is sent on an errant journey to the town of Marsden Leigh by a hotel owner who informs him a spate of murders have occurred. When Poirot gets there, he finds out to his dismay the hotel owner fancies himself as a mystery novelist and needed ideas on whom to blame as the culprit in his book. Nevertheless the trip takes an interesting turn for him when the owner of the local manor house dies and his pretty young wife is convinced that ghosts are responsible for scaring her husband to death because of his weak heart condition. When Poirot makes a deeper investigation into the death of Mr. Mantravers, he unearths all is not quite as clear-cut as it seems.
Here is the TV episode starring David Suchet who rarely disappoints me with any of his performances: