Ramayana : The Game of Life Book 3 - Stolen Hope | Book Review

After reading first two books in the series, I was eagerly waiting for next part in this series. Written by Shubha Vilas, The Game Of Life series is a something that made me want to read whole series together. Depsite of the fact that I have, we have read numerous versions of the epic-Ramayana. As the reviews of last two books states, this too has its own strength in terms of wisdom put in footnotes. Making it different, than just being just a 'tale'.

Stolen Hope starts and ends in the exile period of Rama. How things take turns when they face demons never seen before. How they meet sages waiting for just a glance of their beloved Rama. How the delicate princes and queen Sita spend their lives in simplest manner.

Some reviews point out to excessive use of adjectives. But I see it as a valuable addition. As our original texts of ancient times, are full of such phrases. Comparing a simple thing with beautiful words. Translating them and putting them in this modern version, is commendable effort by the author. We can only imagine the vast vocabulary of our ancestors.

Combining various versions of Ramayana, we get to know some really interesting tales hidden in the large canvas of stories. Example - the story, how and why 'Sitaphal' arrived on earth and why it is in-edible for monkeys. Was 'Lakshman-rekha' really there to protect Sita or was it just another addition over the time? Why Ravana restricted himself and didn't impose Sita to be his wife? And an interesting twist why and how Sati became Sita and the twist ended up as a painful end.

Though there are glitches this time in the book in terms of mistakes so common that could have been avoided with proper proof reading. Like use of 'his' in place of 'he' and so on. Hope this would be corrected in next edition. The cover too, is underwhelming. Out of three books till now, the second book had best cover design.

In the present times, when every other author is turning to mythological tales and twisting it as their own will, The Game of Life series, is a welcome change in this scenario. A series we should preserve as a keepsake so that the original story don't get lost in many imaginative versions. Thank you Shubha Vilas for this effort.

Favorite soundtracks of 2015

So, turns out 2015 is another year I've refrained from writing down my thoughts on the music. But, somehow I feel this year has been a dud in terms of fresh sounds and great soundtracks. Or maybe I'm turning old !

That aside, here are five of my most favorite soundtracks from this year. Albums are selected the way they grew on me. The way, they translated and complemented the happenings on the screen. The way director has used it and it fueled the film. And, in no particular order.....

Bajirao Mastani:
The Obvious, the mandatory and obligatory choice. Only a few directors left today, who understands the value of music. How music is the integral part of our movies. Bhansali is one. There are reviews saying 'he finally has got his tune right with this album', that I disagree with. He always had it; be it the sound seashore of Goa or the soul of Gujarat. The Indian-ness, excessively rich in everything that is used - Bajirao Mastani is nothing short of a perfect album. Well, there is a glitch here too. Malhari - sounds totally out of the place, both in the movie and the album. But that is forgiven when you have soul stirring Aayat, Ibadat, Albela and stunning Jane na doongi.

Piku :
The sitar - that refuse to leave your head even after you finish watching the film. This is Bollywood's first encounter with Anupam Roy, and is definitely promising. The uplifting Journey song makes me want to make a playlist of journey songs, every time I hear it; Roy's voice has that charming quality that makes you love his croon. Apart from that, there is bright, alive title track; soulful Lamhe and Bezubaan and lovely Teri Meri Baatein. A perfect little album, just like the movie.

Bombay Velvet :
I passed it off as 'overdone-indulgent' work of Amit Trivedi. But the view got changed drastically after watching the film. After watching Rosie crooning 'Malaal mein......' on screen. And after watching those bullets flying from the Tommy gun. Yes, I am in the minority of those who loved the film and even re-watched it. Jazzy and sexy, and weirdly addictive. Disappointing that they haven't included the Geeta Dutt number featured in the film, the album is a perfect in all aspects.

Masaan :
One would outcast me if I say I did not follow Indian Ocean when they were at their peak. But that's the truth. I never followed them seriously without any reason. But here, you can not imagine anyone else doing the score for this wonderful film. The picturesque ghats looked more beautiful with frames sprinkled with Bhor. Or the poetry, that sounded endearing with flamboyant voice of Kirkire. This 3 song soundtrack is most complete even with its short playtime.

Tamasha :
Rahman. Alright? Well, not this time. Again, an underwhelming feeling when I first listened to it as we are getting this from the pair that gave Highway and Rockstar. But as always, Rahman's magic worked like slow poison. Add to this, the finesse of Imtiaz Ali, that shone on screen. Chali Kahani literally started the story as it should and Tum Saath ho moved to tears as it should. We danced off at Matargashti and even the odd sounding Wat Wat Wat got editing so good it now feels inseparable from the story.And, ah, what I can demand for, when a song has Rahman and Lucky Ali in background, while having Ranbir on screen?!!

Would like to mention other albums as well that were, well, decent. Tanu Weds Manu Returns, did have heavy burden of expectations, felt a bit short on them, for me. Dil Dhadkane Do was again, nice, but cliched SEL one. Humari Adhuri Kahani, ABCD2, Shamitabh and Detective Byomkesh Bakshyy were good. And Prem Ratan Dhan Paayo and Dum Laga Ke Haisha : 1-2 song each. Irony is - the later one, has one of the best song of the year.

Tags: Best of 2015, best songs, soundtracks, music, music list 2015.

Book Review : Mrs Funnybones by Twinkle Khanna

Such a breezy and fun entertainer this book is. Unlike Twinkle's movies, of-course. ;) A fun idea it is to peep into her semi-fictional world. Because, well, if you love Bollywood - you would surely be interested in 'an ex-star married to a superstar's life!?

Have read only a few of Tina's columns, most of which are about current affairs. This book, is pretty different from those and thankfully, written in a very light manner. Making you go LOL at almost every page. Even there were some lines so hilarious, I really had to try hiding my laugh thinking what my co-traveler (in bus) would think.

Read it, because it won't harm your much time. And yes, God Blues You.

Highway : Thoughts overflow

Tu Kuja was haunting my mind since two days. Couldn't get over it unless hearing it on headphones. With all those electronic 'noise' thrown in. Yes, the reason why I love the track so much is because of that electronic treatment ARR has given to it. And for which, people often criticized it. But for me, the sound creates more mysterious atmosphere. More 'black' 'dark' and 'unknown' element it adds. There are two ways to enjoy this track - close your eyes trying to get away from everything. Or open your eyes, while traveling, sitting at window and look at visuals passing thru it.

The exact way to enjoy whole soundtrack of Highway, is like that. I just did it for umpteenth time. And that's why I am penning this down, without any purpose. Just as my mind felt about the songs, getting immersed yet again in this journey of sound. Highway.

Who knows, if Tu Kuja, initially, wouldn't have designed like this? Can anyone confirm, if it was actually made a qawwali as we heard on radio in the movie. May be, that sounded out of place to the director for the situation he wanted this song to be played to. So enter the mysterious version, for a scene where Veera is running away from reality, towards unknown.

That one track, isn't alone inspired by the visuals. Almost all of them, tells the same tale. Moving on to next, the one which got least accolades, for having more 'pop' sound.  Maahi Ve is another one, which takes you on a journey. Passing trees, one by one, as the 'clap' sound goes in the song. Another song, almost bordering on structure of Phir se udd chala. With no fixed lines to repeat. (agree, its not, but). It ends very unusually. But by that time, you already have lump in your throat, by the lyrics and the violins in the last para.

Sooha saha, again, an emotional journey. Scenes in the movie, are put in flickering motion. Coming and going in seconds, from the past of Mahabir. By the time song reaches its climax, and Veera starts singing - Toota Tara sa... for the broken Mahabir. You can't help, and tears well up in your eyes. Visuals of Veera consoling Mahabir come up in front of eyes, when Mahabir totally breaks down, right before the climax. And Veera consoles him like a mother would. Aching pain the scene had, that reflects in a song, that comes way earlier in the movie.

The the playlist moved to ARR's version of Patakha Guddi, which unlike the 'happy' sound of the former version, has its soul more inclined towards devotion. Devotion, towards the one you love. From the silent scattered continued beats, it goes to the height, of belonging-ness, in terms of music - with hard rock portion, gradually coming down. With faint sounds of a dafli. And near conclusion, offering one's self completely to the 'Saaiya'. You hear more faint sounds, almost silent, of 'manjeera', repeating at certain intervals. A symbol of devotion-literally.

And after all this ride into unknown, emotional, physical, devotional peak, and back on soil. Implosive Silence cools down everything. But not for so long. The longing sound remains inside. Like heart beats. Increasing gradually. And then, bass increases, but not outwards. Inwards it takes you. Just like the name of the track. Implosion - of thoughts, of things squeezing you inside. Without shouting outside, without letting anyone else hear you. The one, that makes more devastating effect than an explosion.

Book Review : Gaata Rahe Mera Dil:50 Classic Hindi Film Songs

It used to irk me a lot every time when someone argued 'Gaane to humare/puraane zamaane mein the, aaj kal ke gaane mein woh baat nahi'. (Great songs were in our times/old times, today's songs lack that thing). I always begged to differ, as each generation, each decade has their own share of awesome as well as dreadful soundtracks. But after reading this, my belief proved wrong. Yes, there were bad soundtracks in those times too, but the good ones were so great, from each aspect, and having shelf life so long, it continues to mesmerize us even today.

Balaji Vittal and Anirudha Bhattacharjee's second book, Gaata Rahe Mera Dil tells the tale of 53 such albums (yes, and not just one song from each album), that makes you floored by the detailing and research. Efforts to gather the information, are at remarkable level, that makes you revisit all the songs with totally different perspective. For example, even the simple melody of Yeh raat bheegi bheegi, gave me goosebumps at the lines 'Iss raat ki jhagmag mein, main dhoondh rahi hoon apne ko'. Or some albums which I avoided to listen, just because I love 'well arranged' sound more, when I put on my headphones; are on repeat mode now in my phone. All this because now I know what is the story behind them.

Of course, there are portions, which were difficult for an average 'admirer' of music like me. Like the Komal Ni, Soft Dha and other information about the structure of the songs like chords and coda. But that, makes one want to learn how these things work.

Yes, the list is SDB, RDB heavy. But path breaking, their music was as everyone agrees. Manna Dey has major chunk when talking about male voice, and Lata of course, as female one. But still there are talks of voices like Vani Jairam, Minmini, Bhupinder Singh - rightfully done.

This is one book, you can't afford to miss, if like me, you proclaim yourself a 'music lover'. The only side effect is - this will make your 'To play' list quite longer. And you will miss listening to recent albums, well, though there is nothing to lose in doing so.

Off topic : So I read in this sequence, books that were linked with each other : Conversations with Waheeda Rehman > Sun Mere Bandhu Re:The music journey of SDBurman > The Guide > Romancing with Life by Dev Anand > Gaata Rahe Mera Dil. Phew, now its time to break the link. Though I so want to read Meena Kumari's life account, written by Vinod Mehta, but that can wait. Now its time for a fiction.

Book Review : Romancing with Life by Dev Anand

Always a fan of his works; his style, songs and his movies. Don't know why it took so long that I made this book stay on the shelf. It's a wonderful, often dreamy account of a star shining bright on his own in the very first galaxy of Indian cinema. Knowing no one in the industry Dev Saab's is a story no less than a fairy tale. (wonder what would be the writing material for today's stars when the trend of 'you launch my son I'll launch your new movie').

From the lights and shades of black and white era, to the musical of early seventies to the one after another non-stop failures produced by Navketan. Dev Saab honestly puts it down like no other star has done till date in India.

Of course there are dull moments, and those in larger quantity in last almost 150 pages when he keeps on boasting about the honors he was receiving and the political connections. As everyone's review points out. After the Zeenat chapter, things get boring. But still there are chapters like the shooting of Love at Times Square and his Lahore bus journey, which holds your attention.

I wish he could have written more about working with his two most effective partners on screen : SD Burman and Waheedaji. That would have made this more intriguing. However, for a fan like me, even this is more than enough. Evergreen as he is, the life account is a suitable for the aura he still has, even after his departure.