Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Jai Bajrang Bali!

It is probably an indicator of the sorry state of Indian cinema (as a whole) that you're left wondering in amazement if you've really seen two back-to-back Indian movies that not only *didn't* make you cringe, but actually left you with a contented feel when you exited the cinema theatre.

Stripped to its bare essentials and bereft of all intellectual over-complications, a movie can be judged by how it left you feeling when you take those few steps from your seat in the movie hall till you exit the building. Unless you are one of a handful of people in this world, the probability of you reviewing the movie in those precious few minutes tends to one. And this is quite a definitive opinion to hold.
And by this method, both Baahubali​ and Bajrangi Bhaijaan​ are resounding successes.

Since reviews/opinions of Baahubali are dime a dozen and the fact that I agree, by and large, with most positive reviews, I'll dedicate this post only to #BajrangiBhaijaan.

Shortly after the movie starts, your first impressions of the movie (after, of course, noticing how cute the girl is) are -
1. Bhai's dance steps reminded me of Rajinikanth's dance moves ever since he turned 50. And what's with the constipated look? Was he trying to be funny, cute or both?
2. How Kareena Klux Klan is still eye-poppingly attractive in those chudidhars so many years after Jab We Met.
3. How it must be such a hard time to be a left-liberal these days - if Baahubali's not-only-unabashed but also in-your-face Hinduism wasn't enough, we now have Bhai playing a Hanuman-bhakt who keeps chanting "Jai Shri Ram", even to Pakistani Rangers. #BurreDin indeed. :D
4. Sallu bhai, however your subtle point about the RSS being a political body was not missed. Like at all. ;)

And then Harshaali Malhotra takes over. And HOW! Her initial cuteness is merely a smokescreen to unprepare you for how she would later tug at your heartstrings. We all know how humans have this inherent *inability* to *not* fall for cuteness in children (notwithstanding the "all children are cute" epithet). Now add generous doses of innocence to that cuteness (it may be personal, but innocence has always ranked high on my list of attractiveness). Top that with mind-blowing expressions for every situation. What you get is the simply irresistible visage of Shahida.
At some point in the 2nd half of the movie, you reach a stage where every time she appears on screen, you either go "Awww" or there's a few droplets lurking in the corner of your eyes (monsoon has officially set in, no? :) ). It doesn't help that the cuteness gets compounded by actions such as her piggybacking on Bhai, her head-shake, her hand-shake, her holding the corn, her dropping the corn on the road, her curled up next to Bhai, her recording him on the video camera - so that's basically most of the scenes she appears on screen - you get the drift right? The girl carries the entire film on her fragile shoulders. Politically incorrect though it might be, but the movie wouldn't have been half as effective had the girl even been half as cute. However, credit where due - simply being cute would hardly have sufficed. And that's where all that I've said above comes into the picture.

Sallu bhai has played very well. No not his role, but the overall scheme of things - a role which doesn't require much histrionics (KKK fell in love with him in approximately 4.5 minutes and 3 scenes) but allows him to express essential emotions at strategic locations - a fight, an intro dance - just about enough to establish his mass'ness.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui​ is officially my favouritest character artiste today. I have begun to adore him as much as I felt Irrfan Khan​ was overrated. The screen lights up every time he appears. Life's unfairness hits you when you see him and Salman Khan​ share screen-space and you realize how famous each person is.

And the rest - well Harshaali is simply awesome to take over. But credit again to Sallu bhai for choosing such a script. By the end of the movie, there would probably have been 3 people in the movie hall who didn't shed a tear - all 3 being the security personnel waiting to show directions.

A movie has won if the audience know what's going to happen in the climax but are waiting for that exact same thing to happen with the eagerness of a child - which is exactly what happens here.

With all the essential ingredients taken care of (Harshaali, her looks, her expressions, her actions), the director just needed to ensure he didn't mess up the other aspects. And he doesn't.
A movie with an excuse for a story, a superstar for a hero and an angel for everything else - #BajrangiBhaijaan is a tear-jerker alright but a tearing succcess all the way!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

To a Gentleman Officer With Respect

"Officer-Like Qualities" or "OLQ" are one of the first things one hears of after entering the Services. Though there exists no textbook definition for the same, by popular perception, it is identified and understood. If you are one for discipline, sincerity and a stickler for rules, you are in for a rude surprise when you enter the Services. As much as it requires passion, dedication and consistent effort to get in, sadly, once inside, very little of that translates to behaviour *towards* the Service. It isn't about implicit acceptance of the System (however 'flawed' it may be) as it is about respecting the rules of an institution.

These days, it appears as if the default "setting" in many individuals is "unacceptance" of established rules (as opposed to norms, convention, etc.). While not wearing sunglasses when receiving the Prime Minister might be a norm, attending classes regularly, avoiding usage of phones during classes, attending PT's in the morning, etc. are closer to "rules". Besides, incorrect thought it may be, there is this tendency to think that obedience to these rules, especially in a severely lax environment, reflects the sense of idealism and commitment an officer has (to have) - towards the service, society and nation.

Swapnil Tembe - AIR 84, is one of those rare officers with full possession of such "Officer-Like Qualities". I am not sure if his ITBP background contributed to his officer-like persona or if he has always been this way, but he was one of the few who you could look up to - a constant in the morning PT sessions notorious for mass bunking, one who stood by the very principles you came to the Service expecting to see - be it in attending classes or not using unfair means during the exams or back-biting about other batch-mates. He was one of the few who shared my sense of idealism - towards the Service, Department and the Nation, despite a bleak outlook for especially the first 2. Barely 2 days ago, we were talking about how it'd be great if this "idealism"-based group (of 5-6 of us) could be together in whichever service we got/remained and promote/propagate it. Fortunately or unfortunately, Swapnil was the only one to get into the IAS (one other batch-mate got the IPS).
In a batch notorious for its delinquent behaviour and studious violation of rules, principles and general sense of idealism, Swapnil gave hope as a fellow comrade - someone whose thoughts you could echo, someone with whom you could share your disillusionment without fear of being ostracized as an "inconvenient idealist", "pro-establishment guy", etc.

When we were preparing for the interview, Swapnil took it upon himself to update his blog on everything we studied - geniespeaks.blogspot.in - converting it into a fantastic repository for interview preparation.

Farewell Swapnil, you were someone I had (and will continue to have) tremendous respect for - you were number one on the list of people I wanted to get through to the IAS. I am sure you will make a fabulous IAS officer. Have that sense of idealism running high and remember our motley group of "idealists". Would love to exchange notes with you from time to time and look forward to working with you some time in the future!

One Final Time . . .

5 hours. 300 minutes. Or thereabouts. The tension. The anticipation. The exhilaration. One final time. There are moments in your life when it all boils down to one specific incident. At the risk of over-hyping UPSC (technically, it's "just another part of life", "exam", etc. Yeah right. Try telling it to the 3000-odd folks who gave the interview :D), one has to admit that these moments do impart that extra zing to life. You know...adrenalin rush and all that.

30 is a lot of things to a lot of people. To me, it signals coming out of experimenting with life (that's how I'm thinking of it right now at least ;)). I know there will definitely be more exams. I know there will be more moments of tension. Hell, there might (or definitely will) even be a life-altering event or two. But few that will come announced-yet-unannounced. Few that would have had your prepare for years. Few that would have 3000 others waiting with bated breath, with you. And to add to the intrigue, UPSC announces, probably for the first time, the exact date the result would be out.

Which brings me back to these twenty hours.

Truly one of a kind. Irrespective of what happens at the end of these 20 hours, and I know I'm repeating myself, What a pulsating journey it has been.

May the best man (ok woman too)! smile emoticon

*tick tock* *tick tock* *tick tock*