WALLS PEOPLE BUILD

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Even in the most formulaic of products cinema can surprise you to lengths that you could have ever imagined.

2 states is no new story, two people from diverse background fall in love and naturally their parents oppose, how the couple convince their parents form the rest of the tale. Yes, how many times have we seen this story? Yet 2 states gets most things right where others slip.

This writer walked in expecting a clash of cultures, a comedy of manners and other such gags, but that was not the case to be. Usually not one to expect authentic portrayal of south Indians in Hindi films, there was really anything for me to complain about.

Most of the films in the same fashion, in fact even with the same story reduce characters to prickly caricatures, taking ample advantage of existing stereotypes, the troubled couple usually have to tread carefully amidst the culture bushes while not rustling them, but trying to win their approval as well.

It is not to say that 2 states does not take the help of the stereotypes, just that they are not gags, like first you think Mr. Swaminathan is the grumpy  simple south Indian dad, then we come to realize that he is not grumpy  because he is south Indian, but he is tired of doing others’ work, likewise  the “middle-class” minded fast talking groom’s mother also begins as a staple, not unlike many Bollywood Mas; but she too just wants some respect after being mistreated for most of her life. Her issue is really not having a ‘Madrasi’ daughter-in-law, but her fear of losing her son’s love and respect, something her husband could never provide. 2 states aptly bring out the motivations behind the stereotypes rather than just painting them in stock expected colors.

When characters are written with respect, it shows on screen! Even if respect did not allow much time for research, the previous clash of the culture films only seek to bring the differences to one common ground for the benefit of the lovers, so much so that we do not really care in the end if the protagonists get married or not.

In the end it is not the diversity of the cultures that is the hindrance; it is the minds of the people who preferred to be safely walled up in the name of society and culture.

Marriage is about individuals, not about culture. Yes it does involve culture, but it is not to be seen as a solid unmovable entity that shuts out people and selectively allows some in. Culture is a result of individuals, accumulated over the years to make things easier, if it makes life a chore; then a lot of rethinking needs to be done.

Well written characters are essayed by finest supporting actors (Ronit Roy, Amrita Singh and Revathy deserve more than special mentions), while the biggest hurrah must go to the likeable lead, Alia ‘light-in-her-eyes’ Bhatt and the surprisingly effectual Arjun Kapoor.

While the film does stop and get into the usual Bollywood song and dance occasionally, all that is forgiven. Also nobody gets married at the Shore Temple, it is a UNESCO world heritage site for God’s sake.

2 States is immensely pleasant even at its length, a film that rightly captures the scenario while not being either youth-rebellious or teacher-preacher in its handling of marriage, that is an achievement.

Yes it also ends well.

PS: Two paragraphs on how good this Alia Bhatt is, as Ananya Swaminathan was written, it was deleted keeping in mind that Arjun Kapoor(Krish Malhotra) too is amazing. Further problems were averted by using simpler adjectives in the piece.

PS 2: Remind yourself that this film is not an ad for YES Bank and Sunsilk, repeat this again please for your benefit.

PS 3: This writer did not read the Chetan Bhagat novel from which the film was adapted from and thus cannot speak about loyalty to text issues.

X Box: Kya Yaar, we also see Hindi films.

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NO MINISTER

The folktales of Tenali Ramakrishna are something quite inescapable down south, much like the Akbar Birbal up north. The tales involving a quick witted minister to a historical king are basically fun and common sense driving.

Logically the film version should be expected to have some humor, needless to say that we were disappointed. This Tenali Raman focuses more about the comeback of Vadivelu after a hiatus rather than his exploits as minister.

Things become worse when the king is also being played by Vadivelu. Never a fan of his histrionics, we found the comparatively straight faced Tenali more likeable than the king.

Then there is the economics lesson, the movie more or less is a campaign against Foreign Direct Investment. Film as a medium of propaganda is well documented, even this film’s predecessor the 1956 Tenali Ramakrishna (a superb Sivaji Ganesan as the titular wit) was laced with the Dravidian agenda of the time.

The king’s ministers enter into a devious agreement with Chinese businessmen and the Chinese quickly set up shop in the city, there by rendering millions jobless, people also take to eating snake pakoda and noodles. All this is sorted when the king (in guise of a commoner of course) leads an Arvind Kerjiwal-esque protest to sort things out.

The issue is not about propaganda that is irritating but the fact that all propaganda is one sided. There is also one hard line left wing group ready to assassinate this gullible king.

I get it guys, you want to mirror current day politics, and we see the parallels and all, but then it is not funny.

Yes yes, there are songs with one inebriated heroine (comfortable for the hero so he can ‘hold’ the heroine under the guise of making her steady) and countless other court songs.

We don’t think further words should be spent on this film.

THE LAST TIME I SAW LANDMARK

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Whenever something shuts shop, the memories associated with that something swell out, that is only natural. Because memories need not be rational, this is some loss however.
One thing I realised that, we can continue to have the memories even if the source of those memories has shut down or changed course, because basically these are our memories and we can construct them however and whenever we wish to, immaterial of conditions. So basically this is not a nostalgia piece, but masquerading as one.
I do not know how my generation spent their birthdays; mine was always at Landmark Nungambakkam. Weekdays or weekend whenever it came, didn’t matter; it was the unspoken norm, lunch and dinner also didn’t matter. It wasn’t that we returned with a kart load of books, maybe just one or two.
Landmark Nungambakkam was my first idea of what a bookstore should be, a major introduction to the genres and authors I read now. An idea of a bookstore is important because my reading was and is still to a large part unguided. Earlier I was able to open myself to some authors without knowing anything about their stature. With age comes irritations and information, details which make me doubtful about picking a book rather than urge to pick one up now.
I have moved on, there were other bookstores, libraries and of course the internet and as years passed my visits to the subterranean bookstore decreased, and even if I did I was not as compulsive in buying anything. To tell the truth I was not much surprised when I walked into the store today which looked like a ransacked supermarket in time of a zombie-apocalypse.
Empty shelves.
A Nora Roberts here, a Wilbur Smith there, Chetan Bhagat everywhere.
But Landmark had become like this for many years now, the McDonalds of the bookstores, it may be true that Indian writing in English is the new boom, but this boom had made Landmark into a storehouse, but not of knowledge. Often one could see numerous copies of the same book occupying an entire genre shelf only adding to my existing irritations. There was a constant fear of bumping into the same book cover, like the horror when numerous stern looking Mani Ratnams looked down upon me from the cinema shelf; no he was on the science shelf too.
I think that was the moment it dawned upon me that this shop has to go, at least I would like to think that this was the moment I arrived at this thought. It is a selfish thought of course, to expect things to remain as they were. I never cared for the other stores in the city (City Center, Spencer’s) and I shouldn’t care about this one too.
As people trickled into the store on Monday evening, the unsettling sight of near empty store made them reach out to the nearest attendant. Yes the store was closing, the ‘bestsellers’ would be going to a storage facility in Pune, while the remaining would be put out on clearance in the coming weeks.
Maybe they too were thinking about an early morning many years ago when the store was filled with eager enthusiastic kids and yawning parents to get a copy of the latest Harry Potter. Now people just do some clicks online. Packet delivered.
To keep the bookstore atop a pedestal is in fact a very wrong thing to do, just like how the theatre in which we watch a movie is immaterial, where we buy a book too.
But then the memories?
I got my own Agatha Christie at Landmark, my first LOTR copy, a cassette of Crazy Thieves in Palavakkam and the DVD of Guide too; but my consuming of them would have been no different wherever I had purchased them.
So what are these memories then?
A good bookstore will enrich the informed reader and educate the novice, in these last years Landmark had, I felt never put a step in that direction. The reasons might be many, but it was not my bookstore anymore.
If it had not been landmark, then I can safely say that the same job would have been done by some other similar store. After all there is no point of wasting sympathy on a store which had just the same set of books everywhere, an uncaring enterprise.
Nostalgia should be guarded it is not a time wasting device, it represents the core of our thoughts, and it shouldn’t be spilt on a commercial venture which will anyway be present online. The closing of Landmark Nungambakkam in effect signifies nothing, people who read will always be reading. Maybe nostalgia is also like a bookstore, it should enrich the dreamer and educate the newcomer.
While I waited for my turn at the billing counter with a perfunctory book, the lady next to me was buying an iPhone Scratch Guard.
No this ‘bookstore’ had to go.