MOVIE REVIEW: UDTA PUNJAB

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To write or not to write a review on Udta Punjab was a question because there are many. We made it to movie plex right on time to witness first shot. The movie had a good share of controversy, do we say ‘thank you’ to Pahlaj Nihalani? Finally, the movie is here through a legal battle and without a piss scene. Fair enough.

Two of my prejudices are smashed, Alia Bhatt is making a wise selection of movies and Shahid Kapoor can look like a man. This is a first movie I see muscular Shahid. Despite powerful acting in the role of a confused prince Hamlet in Haider, his distinctive boyish charm was consistent.

Shahid Kapoor. Tommy Singh a.k.a. Gabru is a drug addict, high on stardom and cocaine, Alia Bhatt surpassed my expectations in the role of Bihari farm labourer. She is nameless in the entire movie. The minute details are an expertise of the director and appreciated. Ishqiya and Dedh ishqiya proved that Abhishek Chaubey brings the essence of the local soil, be it honking of trucks, the fields and the authentic dialogues in Punjabi and Bhojpuri. Amit Trivedi did a remarkable job as a composer. Udta Punjab has an agenda, a concealed message and it reaches to us.

Sartaj Singh, a corrupt police officer played by Diljit Dosanjh is convincing. He is already a big star in Punjab, new for the rest. Kareena Kapoor is mediocre in comparison to the performance of Alia Bhatt and Shahid Kapoor. Mr Husband concludes, “she laughs, all unnecessarily.” 😀

The song Ikk Kudi pays tribute to Shiv Kumar Batalvi (poet of the song and prominent name of the Punjabi poetic scene) with his picture in the background when Tommy Singh is rehearsing. Udta Punjab has a very sensitive subject including the stark realities of drug dealers and the mutual association of police and politicians to rot the state. It does not have the gloss of comfort, needless layer of Bollywood preaching. In fact, it leaves us in the awe of shockingly robust performance and script. The censor board might have disagreements with the profanity in the movie, I clearly remember my first road trip from Delhi to Chandigarh began with every possible cuss word by the driver.

Last part, the theatre is packed with Indians, determined to make sure you should not miss hullabaloo of Indian movie theatre. The chatter, unavoidable phone calls, few enthusiasts in a row ahead us busy with their respective important business on WhatsApp, loud message notification from the left and right, we would do fine without the added nuisance. Final verdict: A surprise from Bollywood you can’t miss.  

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SALMAN RUSHDIE: CONTROVERSIES AND LITERARY CONTRIBUTIONS

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While browsing through Masters Syllabus I was curious about a controversial name on the list. To a certain extent for literary achievements, largely for his writing style Salman Rushdie appealed me. At that juncture, awareness about the controversies and fatwa followed him regarding The Satanic Verses (1988). That was a phase I didn’t read him at all. He received a death threat for crude and upsetting depiction of Muhammad in The Satanic Verses. They call it ‘Blasphemy’. The death threat was issued by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a religious leader of Iran on 14th February 1989. It is human temperament to get hands on what is banned. I tried looking for The Satanic Verses with no luck. No offence reading it anywhere except 18 countries including India where the book is banned. There are plenty of reviews of people who actually read and found nothing sacrilegious. The curiosity shared irritation kept questioning me, what it is so offending to lead killing of more than 60 people. I read Shame (1983) by Salman Rushdie, borrowed from a professor during Masters.

I tend to forget characters of novels most of the times; it takes extra efforts to commit to memory. With novels of Rushdie, you just cannot forget characters. They stay with you. The plot is mesmeric, rich with insinuations, the bewitching range of imagination and clever captivating dialogues. The allegory in Haroun and the Sea of Stories (1990) makes you wish to write something of his calibre. I can read his works, again and again, each time you discover it in a new light.

Next text is Imaginary Homeland: essays and criticism, 1981-1991 (1991) which I read while commuting for coursework, a single trip of three hours. He would go interviewing people born in 1947 for Midnight Children, a section of essays in the book. The topics are ranging from politics of India and Pakistan, novels, novelists, world politics and experience of migrants.

Rushdie’s writing stayed with me during a long pause from formal education after Masters. When it came time to pick research topic for M.phil the wide spectrum of subjects was tempting, I ended up taking bulky Joseph Anton: A Memoir (2012). Again read this book during commutes, to make sure I am not going overboard with my enthusiasm, re-read. A mutual choice of I and Prof. G. R. Taneja to discover about more than 9 agitated years of his life under death threat of fundamentalists and protection of the Special Branch of Scotland Yard. ‘Joseph Anton’ was his alias during hiding, combining the first names of his two favourite authors, Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekhov.

Joseph Anton recounts his life under an ongoing fatwa, the stress of hiding years, a brief period of stagnation and how he used to see his friends in secrecy surrounded by security guards all the time. A visit from Christopher Hitchens is comparable to two authors donning soldiers fighting for a purpose. His battle for creative freedom, ups and downs of his personal life, his relations with his partners, break-ups with his former wives, Marianne Wiggings and Elizabeth West. The glamorously wrapped disclosures on his supermodel ex-wife Padma Laxmi are fairly repulsive. You learn the novelist you adore is an ordinary man with human self-doubts and longing to be loved. But then you see a worn-out man behind his brutal words, someone not ready to give up artistic freedom and all geared up to overpower extremists with his substantial writing.

X-MEN: APOCALYPSE

A couple of movies; some alone, few together. He began watching You Have Got Mail (1998) slept within 20 minutes, I watched it alone again, whereas He watched Colonia (2016).

Children of Heaven (1997): Iranian moviemakers are one of the powerful and talented artists. It is the first Iranian film to receive a nomination for an Academy Award. Director Majid Majidi has done near perfection job. It is sweet enough to bring back childlike innocence. Check subtitles. Watch. Watch. Watch.

Parzania (2007): An Indian movie. It might be technically weak; some scenes can be re-worked yet remains essentially powerful movie. Just watch it for the stealing performance of Naseeruddin Shah and Sarika.  Some call it eye opening movie. It is all about viewpoint, how did you manage to keep your eyes closed so long.

Bonnie & Clyde (1967) Remarkable opening follows interesting arresting story. It is one of the first modern American film based on the real-life bandits Bonnie Parker and Clyde Champion Barrow. Bored Bonnie (Faye Dunaway) is waiting for actions in her boring life as a waitress. Clyde sees (Warren Beatty) it through, their criminal adventure begins. A fine movie.

Thelma & Louise (1991): A cult feminist and controversial when it was released.  All I can say every woman should watch it, every man must watch it. Geena Davis (Thelma) was Darryl (Christopher MacDonald)’s ex-fiancée in real life, must be remarkable on set.

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016): Beginning promised a good movie.  An extraordinary  scene when Sweet Dreams by Eurythmics is playing was created by visual effects studio in Adelaide. Undoubtedly marvelous. The Mutants include disgruntled Jew, unaccepted characters and an Egyptian god brace themselves for a fight against super power. Nice allegory, familiar. I am tired of superman clichés, why they have to save the world, the same scene, an isolated villain keeps making plans where he has a decent view of the city to fit it as the world. Silliness follows some fight, VFX, and happy end.  Where is a script? It bored me. Every time I step into a multiplex with high expectations of probable improvement, and this. some day… While I dug till last popcorn was found, Mr. Husband dozed off.