Saturday, October 29, 2011

Ra One loses, G One wins: My Review of Shahrukh Khan playing Superhero in Bollywood movie!

SRK as G One: Indian movie Superhero
I have just watched Shahrukh Khan’s ambitious movie Ra One. I am not going to say that either it’s a great movie or a bad one. But yes it’s entertaining.

I do regret reading so many reviews before watching the film. I should have gone straight walked to the cinema hall rather than getting influenced by others’ opinionated views that do affect us. As I'd got influenced, I don’t want to do the same.

For the critic in me, it could be a ‘long video game’ or a ‘Bollywood-Hollywood synthesis with a touch of Rajinikanth style stunts, new age techniques and the Indian kitsch’.

For the child in me, it was engaging, interesting—at times scary [yes there is very much a child in me, the one who has read Phantom and Mandrake in Hindi-English Indrajal comics, as much as Tilism Hoshruba in Urdu], and riveting for the last half-an-hour.

For the youngster in me, it was a movie that offered a new story, perhaps the tale not woven well, no great music and lacking the finesse of real great movies. But despite the flaws, it does seem to work by the time it ends. At times, you get a feeling that everything was too surreal and you think that it was a tad too predictable.

The real action is in the last 30 minutes or so. Yes, the train scene is clear imitation of Rajinikant’s Endhiran [Robot] and for that lift-up there is a tribute [it was much needed] to ‘Rajini Sir’ from Shahrukh in the midst of the movie.

Amazing Animation: G One stops the train that has ran into Mumbai VT!
Now, an admission, I have never been a die-hard Shahrukh Khan fan. I belong to the generation that grew up on Amitabh Bachchan.

But lately I have realized that the country is divided in people who either love him or simply hate him.

I belong to neither of the sides. Many friends say that they just don’t like him, his facial expressions irritate them or that his acting puts off.

I think SRK cleverly saw the void--the need for an Indian movie superhero, and being aware that children like him more, he took the plunge. He got the role tailor made for him, putting all the ingredients of a masala movie, and then launched the publicity blitz.

Some other hero may not have carried this kind of sci fiction sort of computer game movie. It needed SRK, who has been with us for the last 20 years and has come to symbolize popular culture, to lift it. To his credit, he manages to pull it off.

Though we have had TV serials like Ramayana and Mahabharat where divine & mythical  characters were seen burning the devil with deadly rays and fighting while flying in air or even the genie tales, but trying it in a mainstream movie in India was always risky.

 Chammak Challo enlivens movie. All other songs are forgettable in Ra One
That probably seemed easier with characters like Flash Gordon or Fauladi Singh in the comics or animation heroes in 'He Man’ series or the ‘Superman-Batman’ movies.

So you can give credit to SRK for his attempt in making the movie and trying to play a superhero.

The story goes like this: The kid wanted his father to make a computer game where the villain is more powerful than the hero. The father obliges but the villain Ra One comes out of the game to kill the father [the programmer--Shahrukh Khan] and then hunts for the player [Lucifer].

Aah, I am again reminded of my childhood. Do you remember the Mandrake series where his half-brother, the often faceless, Lucifer [Cobra or Vishdhar], comes back to settle old scores. Remember the hood without face in some comics!

Did the script writer had memories of that popular comic series in his mind and took the name from there? The two sides of the same coin: one good, the other evil. Sorry I again drifted from the subject and went back from movies to the world of comics.

I have always been bad at video games. Always found tough to graduate to the next level. So the last 20-odd minutes, provided some thrill when G One has to reach a particular level and then overcome his capabilities to fight with Ra One, the powerful monster, and defeat him.

In between there are a few comical scenes, the presence of Satish Shah, SRKs accent as a Tamilian, the animation scenes, the sole popular song Chhammak Chhallo where Kareena might allure you with her curves and cleavage, until the racy end. SRK's piercings and the airport scene maylook gross but it could be appealing to his gay fans.

G One gets ready for the final battle with Ra One
In the meanwhile, there is some melodrama and tragedy, ‘Funny scenes’, which are perhaps not as funny.

The 'crotch scenes' every now and then, that appeared repetitive. Also there was a widowed Kareena Kapoor’s ‘Karva Chauth’ episode with SRK’s robotic lookalike from the game.

Finally G One wins. SRK was long dead but the animated SRK, G One, dies fighting and then resurfaces at the end, a la Hollywood movie style so that there could be a possibility of the sequel in future.

So go and watch the movie with an open mind. There is chance you may genuine like it or might return dazed, feeling as if you are just back from the virtual world. But don’t go by self-appointed critics’ opinionated reviews [what about this one?]. had nearly half-a-dozen articles and pieces on Ra One in the first two days itself. Strangely, contrary to their style [they carry two reviews--one positive and a harsh reviews], almost all of them trashed the movie and even termed it a flop on the first day.

I think I would have enjoyed a bit more had I not read some much about the film. The hype perhaps led to this and it’s a double-edged sword anyway as expectations were raised too much. What do you expect of a movie, after all?

A Crumbling Mumbai Railway Station: That's the Best Scene in the Film
I don’t think every flick can be a masterpiece that could be rated high on all parameters.

There was visual delight, the ultimate being the crumbling scene of Mumbai CST [earlier VT], a hallmark of computer generated animation.

Box office reports suggest the movie is earning enough of crores to keep him in race for Bollywood’s top slot.

Do we, the cine-watchers, need to think in terms of hit or flop, when the film has just been released! I think I am not disappointed after watching the movie. It was different and it did entertain me. In the end, it was victory to good guy, which most of us like.

Isn’t that enough! What’s your verdict?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Watching A Circus: Getting Entertained But Returning Sad

It was after a long time that I saw an advertisement in the newspaper about a circus in the town.

For years I hadn't gone to a circus and I decided to watch it. The Crown Circus advertised itself as a Chinese circus, probably, because most of the artists were either local or from Nepal and North East.

And anything from abroad, even Chinese, is apparently more chic. The tickets were priced at Rs 30, Rs 80 and Rs 120. Though it was not a holiday, the stands were almost 70% full even in the afternoon show.

Once inside, it was easy to see the difference in the circus industry today compared to the yore when Gemini, Venus, Apollo, Jumbo were popular circuses in India. Some of them still survive but mostly in smaller towns in the country.

Here there was hardly any pomp and show. There were lights but the electric atmosphere that was typical of circuses earlier was missing. The performers' dresses were not as fancy, in fact, some artists were wearing old and worn out clothes.

The chairs, the wooden bars and the iron framework all looked pale and depressing. Meagre resources and lack of money is clearly making it tough for them to run the circus on grand scale. Still, it was fun to watch the performances.

A family goes to see the Circus
Of course, scantily clad women ran around, rode tiny bicycles and balanced themselves on ropes. The show of skin perhaps is always an attraction for some people, either it's watching tennis on TV or in the circus arena.

There were acrobatics on the wire, then a troupe of girls who gave an astonishing performance of rifle shooting--hitting at things kept on joker's head while they shot from either of the hands or just by watching at the target in the mirror.

Some other performances were truly scintillating. The fact that even after 24/7 TV, if something amazes you so much, then credit must be given to artists.

I really wonder why the sports authorities don't see the talent in such people, particularly, for sports like gymnastics and shootings these artists can be groomed.

There were some strange performances. A girl who did amazing balancing act, a young man who would drink different colours of water by litres and then vomited out the colored water intermittently as if he had separate compartments in his stomach to store water.

The Babes and The Breathtaking Performances

There were youths dressed as Samurai warriors who enthralled the viewers. Holding spears they fought each other. Later one of them, blindfold, went on a mad assault with an axe in his hand. For a moment you felt that he might accidentally kill the persons lying on the ground but, nope, he did it with perfection.

That was breathtaking. There were a dozen-odd other performances including that of lasso and some 'magic tricks', which one could afford to miss. There were no lions or other big animals as one saw in the past. A girl gave a good show riding a horse and some trained dogs entertained the spectators.

Girls bring glamour to circus
A man exhibited his driving prowess, riding a motorcycle in a metal spheroid. In the meanwhile, there were jokers who cracked cheap jokes and some really vulgar gestures.

Among the last items in the show was the trapeze artists. I felt they weren't as good as in the past but I had the satisfaction of watching a circus.

Almost 2-1/2 hrs had passed by then when the show finally ended. I felt that the circus owners must be earning a good money from the sale of eatables. During the entire show, almost every five minutes, there was something the vendors would come out with, ranging from wafers to pop-corns, ice-cream, samosas, soft drinks, bottled water et al.

Falling Fortunes: The Decline of Circus in India

Still, the condition of the circus artists was depressing. They have to spend a lot of money in publicity in whichever city the go. Apart from charges for the ground where the tent is put up, the electricity and other allied expenses account for a lot of money.

Even if there are barely 25-30 artists that also include musicians, trainers & other staff, the salaries alone need lakhs every month. There is profit for the owners but this is not so much that the artists can get good salaries and save for their future.

Trapeze artists' acrobatics in the air
A large number of people who go to see circus come from lower-middle class or middle-class. With crumbling structure and lack of adequate show, the circus owners can't charge excessively either. After the ban on keeping animals, the circus-walas have to rely mostly on artists.

Though it is meant to entertain, after watching a circus, one feels sad, thinking about the lives of the artists, the short men who are made to act as clowns & make children laugh and the artists who take risks to earn their living.

Plight of Circus Artists, Fears of Exploitation

There are always fears of exploitation of artists, particularly, the women, who work in this industry. There are several other issues. But these circuses do provide employment to lot of people and they still attract the crowds.

However, there is need for a body for welfare of circus artists and their families apart from keeping a check on the circus owners, so as to redress the issues pertaining to problems of artists, allied staff and their children.

Perhaps, it's time for the circuses also to reinvent themselves, considering how people are spending much more at multiplexes compared to the old cinema halls to watch movies. Also, it's time for Government and private sector to come to their aid, if this traditional form of mass entertainment has to survive and flourish in future.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Saba Anjum: Muezzin's daughter is now Indian hockey team captain

Saba Anjum
The story of Saba Anjum Karim, 26, is nothing short of a fairy tale.

It has been a long and tough journey for the girl from Durg (Chhattisgarh) who has finally managed to turn her dream into reality.

Saba is now the captain of Indian women's hockey team. Today she is a role model not just for Muslims but all young girls who come from unprivileged background.

The daughter of a muezzin, who got barely Rs 400 a month, Saba, overcame the odds and her determination got her into the national team. Over the years, she became an integral part of the team.

Finally, the veteran striker was named captain of the squad that will play a four test series in Australia. The team will also participate in the three nation nine-a-side international super series championship there.

Unlike the Pathan brothers--Irfan and Yusuf Pathan, who also came from humble background to play international cricket, Saba Karim's fight, which is even more remarkable as she also had to fight gender discrimination apart from financial hardships, finds little mention in mainstream media.

But it doesn't matter much for Saba, who says that its an honour to play for the country and even more to lead the national team. Her success is already inspiring girls in Chhattisgarh. Saba had held stick at an early age and his father, who gave Azaan [call to devotees at a mosque], supported his youngest daughter.
Saba Anjum (extreme right)

Saba had played in the IHF's Under-18 which India had won in 2000. After the gold medal in commonwealth games, she got recognition.

Saba scored the winning goal in final of the four-nation Shastri Cup and had had six goals to her credit in tournament.

In her interview to a local radio station, she said that she didn't have any idea that one needed a passport after getting selection in the national team.

But that was long back. Now she is an established player and also the skipper. There is good news from personal front also. The experienced striker has just got engaged to former hockey player Abdul Fahim Khan, whom she has known since her childhood.

The engagement ceremony was held in Durg recently. Our best wishes to her. The success of sporting stars like Sania Mirza, Saina Nehwal, and now Saba Anjum will certainly inspire more girls to take to sports and earn a name for themselves and the country.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Salvation of Soul: 'Pind Daan' for MF Husain, Indian-Pakistani writers performed as per Vedic rituals in Gaya

Pind-daan: Hindu rituals for salvation performed in Gaya
Just the other day, I read a news that the 'Pind-daan' ceremony for the famous painter late MF Husain was performed at Gaya in Bihar.

This was indeed surprising. After all, the furore over his controversial paintings had even upset many liberals.

Umpteen cases were filed against him, forcing him to self-imposed exile. But now a social organisation led by Mr Suresh Narayan offered the Hindu ritual for the salvation of his soul, apart from others.

Narayan also performed performed the 'pind-daan' for Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad, famous Hindustani classical singer Pt Bhimsen Joshi, eminent writer Kanhaiya Lal Nandan, Swami Nigamananda and a few others.

Social activists performed the rites under the guidance of Swami Raghavacharyaji Maharaj. Narayan said that the legendary figures who departed from us, had given society a lot, and the onus was on the people to ensure that they live in peace after death also.

Every year, the social organisation performs the rituals for salvation of souls of eminent persons who die apart from those killed in tragedies and mishaps. The rituals were held at Devghat on the banks of Phalgu river in Gaya district of Bihar.

Cynics may easily dismiss it. But the fact that despite all opposition to the famed artist, holding the ceremony for a Muslim person as per Vedic rites, is surely a courageous job. There is definitely a message, which the organisation, sends here. It's about humanity, it's the intrinsic Indian secularism, it's about their belief in composite culture.

If one seeks publicity, there are myriad ways. There is no dearth of celebrities who pass away ever year, even controversial one. But remembering a person like MF Husain, knowing well that it can raise heckles of the right-wing groups, along with other personalities is laudable.

The 'Pind-daan' is a Hindu ritual for salvation of the deceased's soul. As per Vedic beliefs, even after death the soul may retain its materialistic links. In this body less state, the soul suffers and undergoes pain until it gets another body.

It is said that after this ritual, the cycle of birth & death ends and the soul gets salvation or eternal peace. Gaya is considered one of the holiest places and every year innumerable people reach here for the pind-daan of their ancestors during the Pitr Paksh.