Thursday, October 11, 2007

Blast at Ajmer Sharif Dargah

Why do terrorists attack Islamic places of worship? There was the attack in the mosque in Hyderabad, and now this. Were the perpetrators of this crime not Islamic terrorists? That's unlikely - after all, the Hyderabad police claim to have uncovered a role of the ISI in the blast. Did they expect people from other faiths to be hurt? (Unlikely again, it being the time of Ramazan.) Are Indian Muslims blamed because they are not radical enough? Are mosques and dargahs easier targets than other congregations of people?

I remember going to the Ajmer dargah a few years ago. I remembered having heard of the amicability it represents, being revered not only by Muslims, but also by those of other faiths.

And when I went in, I was put off, as I often am at religious places, by the consumerism on display. The demands for alms were similar to what I had encountered at many Hindu temples earlier, yet more shocking to me because of the reputation of the place. I remember seeing a huge tub (more like a large well) full of money and jewellery, offerings of devotees who believe their wishes will be granted. I do not know if I was more awed by the faith or apalled by the waste.

This is the first time I have heard of some place I have been to outside of Assam being bombed. I do not know why or how that affects me, but that is a thought that came to my mind when I was watching the news on TV.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Six Movies in Five Days

Yes, I had a lot of time on my hands. The Guy and I were home taking a vacation. (That sounds like such a waste of time . To have a week off and stay at home. (Actually, it was two weeks, and I made a trip in the first week, but that’s another story that will probably remain untold.))

My employer generously gives movie vouchers on birthdays. It being mine recently, the Guy and I had the opportunity of watching a movie for free. We thought we’d hold out for Bhool Bhulaiya, whose title song has had us humming along and shaking our bodies for weeks. We were also tempted by Johnny Gaddaar, again, by the title song and its video. And this review by Jai Arjun intrigued me. But we have been disappointed by two many pricey movie outings to decide lightly.

Then I had a sudden whim on Wednesday and we were off to watch Johnny Gaddaar. It’s been hard to get it off my mind since. It’s the most entertaining movie I have watched in a long time. It is slick and stylish, and tells a riveting story. It is perfectly cast, and even Dharmendra fits into the character well.

The movie didn’t feel very real, which, for me, worked out to its advantage. It seems clearly a stylish work of fiction, and any sympathy you have for any of the characters soon runs out. And yet, you want to watch what happens next, want to see if the protagonist gets away with it all or gets only his just desserts.

The director pays various tributes throughout the movie to his influences, including James Hadley Chase and Vijay Anand’s Johnny Mera Naam, and the Amitabh Bachchan starrer Parwana, which has a role to play in the movie.

The Guy and I were so taken with the movie that we could discuss nothing else after that. We had to watch another movie to take the edge off – that partly explains the movie watching spree last week.

I had loved the director's earlier movie, Ek Haseena Thi. This one is if possible, even better (though perhaps less realistic and more entertaining). Move over, Vishal Bharadwaj. Sriram Raghavan is my new God.

Hazaaron Khwahishein Aisi is a movie I’ve wanted to watch for a long time, ever since I read the reviews a couple of years ago. My new-found adolation of Shiney Ahuja post-Gangster only added to the eagerness. But we hadn’t been able to lay our hands on the DVD. We finally struck gold last Thursday.

The movie was every bit as good as I’d expected. Even though I’d known the story beforehand, it was engrossing. If Johnny Gaddaar was like a good piece of popular fiction, Hazaaron Khwahishein Aisi was a hard-hitting piece of literature drawn from real life.

It was scary in a sense, because it drove home to me what a privileged and comfortable life we lead. We take for granted rights that do not exist for many, and that might be taken away from us as well. It angered me to remember that Indira Gandhi is still spoken of with respect, is still publicly feted by the Congress party, when she did something so deplorable as impose a dictatorial rule on a democratic country.

The story was heartrending, the characters were well fleshed out, the performances were powerful. I cannot point out one thing that I did not like in the movie, and it is rare to be able to say that.

Friday was the turn for To Kill a Mockingbird. It was, in one word, disappointing. I suppose our luck was bound to run out. It was nowhere close to the book, and it being one of our favourite books, it was a high standard to live up to.

The movie seemed in too much of a hurry, it rushed into the trial without taking care to establish the characters and the atmosphere. The children didn’t seem like the endearing, confused little people they were in the book – just a bunch of kids up to mischief. And Gregory Peck – so often lauded for his role in the movie – seemed loud to me. I had imagined Atticus as a tired, kindly, elderly man, not a smart and strong one. I had imagined him speaking gently, courteous to everyone. Peck was powerful and theatrical. There were scenes that seemed illogical, like Ewell threatening Atticus right in front of Tom Robinson’s house, where his relatives and neighbours might have been expected to scare him away. I liked how Heck Tate was played, though; the actor seemed to put in just the right mix of deference and authority for the part.

On the Guy's recommendation, we watched Something's Gotta Give. I loved parts of it: loved how strong and independent the Diane Keaton character was portrayed as. I fell in love with the house on the beach, and was willing to go right back to work so that I could save up for something like that some day. I liked how they exposed the hypocrisy of older men dating younger women with impunity while older women cannot find nice men to date. But I felt that the film fell into its own trap and winced when the female protagonist was so obviously uncomfortable seeing a younger guy. And I wasn't convinced why she would leave the very nice young man for a chauvinist, selfish older one (especially when the younger man is the droolworthy Keanu Reaves). I also found the ending rather sappy.

Victory was a movie I’d watched as a kid, and loved, and it had sparked my long (illogical?) fondness for Sylvester Stallone. It was perhaps expected therefore, that I would not like it as much when I watched it as a grown-up. Stallone seemed loud. I was disappointed that Pele received so little screen space: I had hoped for more football action. The movie seemed melodramatic and unconvincing. In the last scene, the German guards have guns that they do not fire, even into the air, when prisoners are escaping in a crowd. That credits the Germans with a kind of humanity that contradicts the character of a people that established concentration camps.

Oscar is another Sly Stallone movie that I had watched years ago and loved. I did not find this as funny this time, but it had its moments. It’s a nice watch on a lazy afternoon when your mind wants a rest.

On the whole, it was a week well spent!