So far, I’ve reviewed books that I have enjoyed and liked but unlike most, I do slog through books that I don’t like as well. If I start reading a book, I need to finish it even if it’s awful. Getting things completed is a trait of mine – I don’t like to leave it hanging. For the same reason, I don’t like to watch a film I’ve decided to watch if all I missed was only the first five minutes. Here’s a few I found very hard to get through with patience.
This is a humorous tale by Chetan Bhagat about the events of a night at a call centre and the intersecting lives of six characters who are coworkers in a special team: Shyam Singh, Priyanka, Esha, Radhika, Vroom and Military Uncle. The first five have to pretend they are in Boston and speak with adopted fake American accents to Americans who have problems with their dishwashers, washing machines and computers using a set of scripted answers. Military Uncle deals with the emails as he does not like to talk much. Each have issues of their own.
Shyam is in love with Priyanka but has no self-confidence to stand up to their cruel, cowardly, manipulative and cunning boss Bakshi who has no issues crediting their work as his own. Vroom used to be a journalist but decided to work at the call centre for money while dealing with the stress of his parents’ separation. Priyanka struggles with her mother’s inability to accept someone less than settled for her and her wanting to get her married to Ganesh, a Microsoft employee raking in a six-figure salary. Esha compromises her morals while looking for a modelling contract as she’s an inch too short which pisses of Vroom who is in love with her. Military Uncle struggles with family conflicts as his son objects to him contacting his grandson while Radhika who patiently obeys all that her nasty mother-in-law demands finds out her husband has been having an affair and resorts to anti-depression pills. They decide to cut a shift at work one day and when they find themselves in peril, a call from God comes to the rescue and advise to heed their inner calling.
The cast is inspired to get rid of their boss and find solutions to their personal problems. This is where the story falls apart at the seams. The book starts out with the visit of a mysterious woman on a train who boards the carriage of the author and then before telling the story demands that her story is the next book he writes who is nowhere to be found after he falls asleep. Then as the book ends with the author asking who she is in the story’s cast, she denies being any of the women leaving an improbable explanation. Maybe it was supposed to be inspiring but that was a very cliché, cheap copout for me. Meanwhile bossy love interest Priyanka was not likeable at all – I wanted her to be run over by a truck. I cheered for Shyam when he rejected her but as he crawled back to her like the subservient dog he was to her, I felt ashamed for him. It could’ve been made into a good but cheesy Bollywood movie though, which it was, but Hello failed miserably at the box office due to bad film editing.
The TV show is a raging success right at portraying the lives of catty, biting fashionista snobs with man issues in New York, right? At least that’s what the book was about which is why I am confused about the show being so popular. Disclaimer: I don’t watch the TV show myself. From what I write about in my blog, you can see my tastes are different. I hope this book by Candace Bushnell is satire. It has really made me disillusioned with New York. Good thing I’m more of an Europe fan. I’ve seen the movies – the first was just eh and the second was populated with racist stereotypes which ended up with the Middle Eastern women paying homage to Western culture through designer clothing and to these rich, snobby, self-obsessed bitches. Yeah, avoid picking it up if you can unless the adjectives I used above regarding the empty characters without any friends don’t give off warning bells. It’s not told through the eyes of Carrie, by the way, so if you’re a show fan, I would also give the book a miss too as it’s a collection of articles. After reading, I identified with nobody and disliked everyone. The tagline ‘Jane Austen with a Martini’ is a complete and utter lie.
Given the fact it boldly stated that it had an introduction written by Jonathan Franzen, I tried to enjoy it but the dialogue was a real enjoyment killer. I’m not a fan of inflected dialect in books which decides to erase the letter H from the vocabulary. But I persevered and finished the book reading the story about a vile and neglectful self-indulgent father (apparently based on the author’s real father), an incompetent baby machine mother, a long-suffering aunt and several ill-used children. I’m sorry, Christina Stead but reading this was laborious and therefore it gave me no pleasure even if you came up with this tale of tedious family life in the 1940s. But for you at least, Jonathan Franzen likes your work enough to recommend it and so have many others who rediscovered you. So other readers may actually like it even if I don’t. So pick it up if your tolerance for reading dialect in prose is much better than mine.
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.
I bet you have heard of the saying don’t judge a book by its cover but sometimes in the cases of authors like Cecilia Ahern, it pays off to be seduced by cover art. Armed with the knowledge that it was written by the best-selling author of PS, I Love You (which is an awesome chick flick tearjerker btw), the salmon pink, vermillion and peach yellow cover of Thanks for the Memories (also the title of a catchy Fallout Boy song) with a bottom border of white hearts captivated me despite screaming ‘fluff’.
The back cover blurb persuades you thus:
How can you know someone you’ve never met?
Joyce Conway remembers things she shouldn’t. She knows about tiny cobbled streets in Paris, which she has never visited. And every night she dreams about an unknown little girl with blonde hair.
Justin Hitchcock is divorced, lonely and restless. He arrives in Dublin to give a lecture on art and meets an attractive doctor, who persuades him to donate blood. It’s the first thing to come straight from his heart in a long time.
When Joyce leaves hospital after a terrible accident, with her life and her marriage in pieces, she moves back in with her elderly father. All the while, a strong sense of déjà vu is overwhelming her and she can’t figure out why …
Naturally you’re hooked – we’re all suckers for unknown phenomenons that cannot be explained although some of us are a little less communicative than others about it. In my opinion, stories by Cecilia Ahern seems like Disney distilled into content for adult women. Still, it’s a great formula for success as demonstrated by her penchant for successively making it into bestseller lists.
Justin, on the other hand, can be a bit of a pain to figure out but you realise he’s not as selfish as he is made to look. The support and reunion orchestrated by the friends and families of the main characters is what infuses the book with that grown-up ‘magic’ and combined sense of indecision and spontaneous adventure.
The near misses experienced due to the idiosyncrasies of Justin and Joyce manages the right balance of frustrating the reader without making it exasperating. Three of the characters definitely stand out and Joyce’s Irish father who ultimately gets Justin to think straight is a highlight as you realise how much the old man cares for Joyce while she seems to take him for granted. But given the emotional turbulences she was subject to, it excuses her a little because her trauma was a deep one.
The only place I have recalled a similar storyline was in an episode of Neighbours when Rachel felt a connection with the donor who received the heart of her partner, Scotty, after he fell from a roof and later died from an aneurysm. Although other soap operas could have done this to death and I have no idea because I don’t watch them. That storyline didn’t work out quite as predictably as Thanks for the Memories. With this, you will get the icing on the cake you want when you read these types of stories.
I love Reese Witherspoon as an actress. She is a lady of many versatile talents as can be demonstrated through her career in film. Just Like Heaven, Legally Blonde, Vanity Fair and The Importance of being Earnest are all part of her resume. But then I was invited to watch How Do You Know. Now I wish I had saved it for Black Swan instead because watching this movie that could have been resolved in the space of half an hour had me endure it with stiff muscles for two whole hours!
There is nothing wrong with chick flicks and they are generally predictable but this film had absolutely nothing new in it to recommend it. Reese, what are you doing by putting this nasty blot on that magnificent CV of yours? In the movie, her character Lisa suffers a mid-life crisis after being cut from the USA softball team. In the middle of this, she is caught between a love triangle between a corporate guy who is framed as guilty of an act he did not commit and her baseball playing beau who is beginning to think that Lisa might possibly be the woman he is meant to be with. The lives of three intermingle in coincidental circumstances and makes significant changes in their relationships with each other. James L. Brooks, the director of the film ( yes, the very same responsible for The Simpsons) has infused it with witty dialogue to be sure but for me, it was more fun to listen to because of the good scripting rather than to watch due to poor film editing.
Kathryn Hahn as Emily the pregnant secretary, stands out far more than the main actors and the re-enactment of a proposal to not propose between her and her baby’s father steals the thunder from the stand by leading roles. The conversation within the film sometimes gets a little verbose and it seems this was aiming for a higher potential of humour but failed to fully make it. This is a case of a lost storyline with intelligence behind it that just required a better way of execution.