Book Review: Tenth Avatar

So, when I posted my last review, I decided no more indian mythology read for a while now. But then, I saw this book by Kanchan Joshi, Tenth Avatar. And then my thoughts changed. And I picked it up for reading. Leaving Gone Girl incomplete, I finished this one in a few days. And it left me craving for more.

This is a story with two stories running parrellel to each other. On one side we see the Ramayana from Hanuman's eyes and on the other, protagonist is a hotshot scientist, maths lover who goes to Higgs Boson experiment like it's his daily playground:Krish. Now, physics and maths is nightmare stuff for me but the author here, takes us on altogether different approaches that makes it really interesting to go to. Even the Ramayan bit is portrayed with all possible scientific reasoning, so that you have logical circumstances instead of Hanuman flying off the ocean or uprooting the mountain to heal Lakshman. Present day story keeps you interested but for a while it takes on your nerves when it goes too much into details of the science physics and maths and what not. 

However I felt there was no need for such long part of Ramayana which goes on for every alternate chapter. It all is deja vu and makes it a wasted opportunity. (Spoiler alert) This track proves only useful when we are almost reaching the end. 

Overall, this is not the usual retelling remixing of mythology with current day fiction but needs some brain cell churning. If you are ready for that ride, hop on. 

 My rating: 3/5

Review: Stand Strong - Book 4 of Ramayana The Game Of Life

Just when I was wondering why it took so long for the fourth book in the series of Ramayana : The Game Of Life books, good guys at Jaico Books sent in their email, and after a couple of days, here it was. The awaited fourth installment in the series where Ramayana is presented as it is, without any deviation and variation, yet so differently translated that it makes a perfect self-help book you need to your side.  For background of this series, take a look at my posts on previous three books. (1, 2, 3).

First look at the cover and I was surprised. How this fourth book onwards a new design philosophy has been adapted by the publishers. The earlier books were good looking no doubt, but from this one onwards, it improves itself to higher notch. Fabulously minimally designed cover grabs the attention at first look. And now the title emphasizes on the theme of the current volume. Stand Strong. Yes, that's where the story has reached now.

After losing Sita, Ram Lakshan meet Sugriv and Hanuman. How Ram wins back Sugriva's lost empire in return of favor to find Sita. How Sugriva forms troops of millions and trillions monkeys to find her and how the troops keep their morale high despite of continued failures. This storyline, is the crux of the volume and this time it does better the past all books. Yes, this is the most interesting and unputdownable volume of the series. The way writer Shubha Vilas chooses to tell the tale, selected scenes, that unfolds in dramatic way and creating altogather different universe.

Like, going to all length in describing the mammoth troops of monkeys, the exquisite route each troop has taken, amazingly detailed description of the route described by Sugriva. The encounters of them with legends and magical lands. Everything makes me wonder why do we admire Tolkein a lot and ignore such fictional world created by our very own ancestors. That too, mostly oral history that got penned much later.

The key highlight of this series, shines again in this volume. The wisdom on the basis of this timeless tale. Wisdom at almost each page, as a footnote, describes the points flawlessly and effectively. Sample these -
"Excess fear leads to rebellion. Excess indulgence leads to disease. Excess comfort leads to lethargy. Excess power leads to arrogance. Excess of anything, however good it may seem, only tugs one toward the bad."
"Maturity is the peaceful acceptance of reality that gives one the ability to tolerate instead of agitate".

Many more such gems makes this book stand out when we see all the mytho-fictions are popping around us. And that, makes this book a unique effort.

Going back to the roots, is always a pleasant experience. And this book takes you just there. To the land where Rama walked, Hanuman jumped and great battles fought. And for that, you need to Stay Strong, which this book teaches us how.

Agniputr - When Agni First Spoke : Book Review

So, when I first heard about this book, I thought it to be from my favorite genre : Mytho-thriller. But no, it wasn't. Then, I read the summary, oh, a contemporary thriller, no, it wasn't. I started reading it, I thought its a horror one. No, it wasn't. Surprise surprice, it is about the least favorite subject of mine. Science! That too, quantum science. And finally, while putting down the book as I finished it, Oh my gosh ! I can't believe physics can be so interesting ! 

Vadhan's Agniputr (Son of Fire) is the book I am talking about. Its a story about an unknown force and how it has got so much power, enough to destroy whole world, or enough to create altogether a new world ! Leading the story are Sheila the 'sci-fi' scientist and Surya the 'hifi' lawyer. Indeed, the pair is amusing and entertaining while they are together. The writer keeps the mood pretty light while they are in the scene. Similarly, when there is a mention of the power, the 'Sutram', the feeling of spook, the uncomfortable feeling of being scared in dark even at night, comes naturally. That indeed, is sign of perfecting the words. Full marks to the writer for that. 

The plot starts in 1940s but soon comes back to present. Writing style is fluid, which won't let you go check your phone notifications. Surprisingly, while the story progresses, the characters starts giving you dose of lightweight humor. A welcome relief indeed in otherwise 'getting tense' mood. I won't reveal any more characters or the storyline further. But will say, this is worth reading if you love thrillers and even paranormal things, it will be added bonus. Oh, and as the title already has given it - waiting for the sequel. 

4/5 from me ! 

Oh, and here's the trailer of the book. You can buy it from here .

Kaafiron Ki Namaaz : Movie Review

Three years back, when I heard the soundtrack of this film, I didn't know that actually watching this film, would be such an experience ! It certainly is not an easy film to watch. It jolts you from inside, it makes you think, ponder over many issues which are (and will be) a part of any society, any country, despite the fact however advanced and 'civilized' it becomes. Where feeble issues and brittle slogans and jingoism has place while the pandemonium behind their back, hits deaf ears.

Set in Kashmir, the first 10 minutes takes you on a whirlwind of expressions and happenings. This is not your usual 'beautiful valley' Kashmir. Neither it is 'just another terrorism wala movie' Kashmir. The haunting shots of empty streets and a stunning and equally depressing aerial shot of the lake will still not make you ready for whats coming next. Further most of the film is set in just one room [and a bathroom] this is something most unique I have ever seen. A court martialed army man, his friend and a musician- a tea vendor and a writer. The three confessing their most personal secrets on a rainy Christmas eve that leads to those shocking revelations and layers of lives and lies we all are living in.

While the trailer was launched, it got me intrigued how, how a movie can be shot in just one place. With just a few characters. Of course there are a few movies with such setup. But still, it is not an easy job to make people glued at screens with such limitations. Here, DOP A.Vasanth does wonders with his games with light and shadow, aided by Jyoti Sankar Bhattacharya's art direction. This brainchild of Ram Ramesh Sharma, writer and director, gets perfect team for this dark tale. Perfection is in casting as well where (Late) Chandrahas Tiwari, Alok Chaturvedi and Megh Varn Pant, soaked in their characters, strip themselves on screen by opening pages and pages of their own book of dark secrets. In the end you get to experience something never before on screen. Despite of such perfection on all fronts, Music of Advait Nemlekar leaves its own impression on you. While Sawaalon Ki God Mein starts off the film on a curious note, Jhalkiyaan shakes you by the time it reaches on its climax (uniquely done, again, with animation) and mysterious Yeh Raat Monalisa adds yet another layer of darkness.

Its really unfortunate that our censor board still haven't grown up, or say has gone back to bygone era, that such movies are proposed to be shredded in order to get public release. May be, because it shows us the mirror, we are scared to see how ugly we look to ourselves. Thank you and Kudos to Producer Bhargav Saikia, for taking this revolutionary step to release this film, that already has seen many festivals worldwide, for everyone. Way to go ! Here's to more such awesomeness, called Cinema.
My rating : 4 / 5.
Here is the link to watch the film : Youtube.
P.S. Bold language used, and some sensitive arguments. If you are easily offended, you are warned. 

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.