Sep 17, 2014

Taking Care (Silence)

All kinds of sound,
A child wailing, a train running
Sound that resides in a guitar
Noise that comes from within and far.

Rain lashing a tin rooftop
A bird's lazy morning chirp
Crickets playing a night-long match
To each soul, a voice you can attach.

The sound and its healing verb
It would all be futile
Without a lasting doze of silence
Peace suffices after gunshots and violence

Silence of the rain, the guitar, the people
Silence of a bird, a friend, a mountain
They may look a little out of place
But if sound is a shoe, silence is the lace.

So sit back, cut off, let go
Everything can wait, or else fall silent
Don't always seek, just be there
Life has a million ways of Taking Care.

Sep 6, 2014

'Mary Kom' is Neat, Sincere and Inspiring

Attempting to make a biopic on a sportsperson is tricky enough, add to it the fact that the subject in question still happens to be active and very much in the news; then you are virtually playing with fire. Howsoever ignorant the Indian public may be about the Northeast, most of them would have at least gone through the real Mary Kom's Wikipedia page since a movie on her life was announced. It is in this context and the fact that you already know which way the boxing match in the climax would go, 'Mary Kom' stands out and deserves praise. Debutante director Omung Kumar and story & screenplay writer Saiwyn Quadras smartly go up, close and personal into the champion boxer's life and beautifully weave the narrative around her life's challenges and predicaments.

The film interestingly and cleverly does not follow Mary Kom's career's most recent events (the boxer's bronze medal winning effort in the last Olympics Games). Starting from Mary's younger days in Manipur where she battles insurgency, poverty, her father's resistance and society's prejudices, the film eventually closes after tracing the boxer's unbelievable comeback to the top (wining the 2008 Women's Boxing World Championship Gold in China) after getting married and delivering twins, and while battling the sports administration's apathy.

The film's biggest strength lies in the way it depicts Mary Kom's unusual relationship with three important men in her life- her husband, coach and father, and how it shapes the boxer's life on and off the boxing ring. Darshan Kumar as Onler Kom, Mary's out-of-the-world husband beautifully underplays his part and ends up making you smile and dote over him (and of course, the 'real' Onler). The actor as the ever-supportive husband, friend and motivator who gives up his own career, baby sits the twins and digests all the barbs of the world for being a man who 'lets his wife go out and get beaten', looks very believable and effective. Shiv Thapa as Mary's maverick coach is affable and outstanding.

Aided by a wonderful support cast, Priyanka Chopra gets into the role of Mary Kom with her heart and soul, and boy it shows! The actress is almost flawless in her dialogue delivery and diction, powerful and fierce when she is punching her opponents, and vulnerable and excitable when she is confronted with emotions. This is easily one of Priyanka's finest performances that is oozing with sincerity and dedication. The gorgeous actress has gone de-glam, bulked up and trained really hard to play her part and it has come out magnificently on the screen. Thankfully, the director does not fall prey to the temptation of trying to make Priyanka 'look' like Mary Kom. This is an out and out commercial film that never tries to come across as something which it isn't or cannot be (characters maintain a consistently believable accent while they speak in Hindi, no one goes overboard in trying to look and sound like a Manipuri).

But, everything is not ten on ten in the film. The film's soundtrack, although played in the background, is a big downer and distracts you many a times from the narrative. Also, the first half of the film gets a tad slow towards the interval and you suspect that the makers look a little lost while trying to bridge the pre-marriage and post-marriage events of Mary's life. The climax of the film also looks a little over-dramatized, especially when most of the film moves you without trying to be too dramatic.

All said and done, Mary Kom definitely has more pluses than pitfalls and it surely qualifies as a fine biopic that never lacks purpose and honesty. Watch it for Priyanka Chopra's stellar performance, balanced storytelling and to get inspired from one of India's greatest sportswoman's unbelievably remarkable journey to the top.

Rating: *** 1/2 (Three and Half - Very Good)

Sep 3, 2014

10 Reasons Why Modi is Proving To Be a Gamechanger

It's been 100 days and you know it. You know that you have a Prime Minister who is not as stiff as a robot and does not wear a mask in place of regular human face. The new Prime Minister has eyes that rove, muscles that flex, hands and a head that move and most importantly a mouth that utters words. Behold India, you have just gifted yourself a rather energetic, spontaneous and 'lively' prime minister, ending a decade-long agony of drift, lethargy and uncertainty.

I am not trying to draw out a 100-days report card of Prime Minister Modi nor I am trying to say that all that plagues India has ceased to exist. I am a regular young Indian who is very impressed with what he has seen of Mr. Modi thus far. From the historic swearing-in to the just concluded Japan trip, Modi has driven home at least three vitals points - one, he is way more spontaneous and imaginative that even his admirers thought of him to be, two, he will go all out to achieve what he believes in, almost like an adamant child, three, he means business, and he will do everything possible to leave behind a remarkable legacy. To cut matter short, I am here listing 10 reasons that make PM Modi a gamechanger or at least give him a very good shot at becoming India's first great leader of the 21st century:

1. The Man is the Message: Modi is a workaholic, no-nonsense man. He labours every day in his office and he his making sure everyone else around him does the same. Ministers are more accountable and ministries are bustling with activity right at 9 in the morning. Bureaucrats are powerful but their flab has been peeled off. There is zero tolerance towards inefficiency, non-performance, sycophancy, chalta-hai attitude and corruption.

2. The blessed oratory genius: Modi speaks with his heart wherever he goes. Secretary-written speeches have been junked, nicety and typicality have been minimized, he calls a spade a spade. So, not only his speech is extempore on the Independence Day, he takes the great risk of going completely unscripted on a foreign tour as crucial as Japan's. Guess what, he is pulling it off with aplomb thus far.

3. Buidling a personal connect: Mr. Modi has the innate knack of staring into someone's heart, and not just the eyes. Right from his campaigning days to his current status of being the prime minister, Mr. Modi has managed to strike chord with a billion people. You believe him when he says he will build 100 smart cities, clean the Ganges or get us the bullet train. Politics is a game of perception and Indians largely perceive Mr. Modi as a 'doer'.

4. Love thy neighbour: Modi has managed to do what the two successive UPA governments conveniently and dangerously ignored, that is meaningful engagement with its immediate neighbours. In an unprecedented gesture, he invited eight heads of state and chose Bhutan for his first official tour after taking oath. Next in line was the much-needed brotherly (not big brotherly) gesture towards Nepal where he won over everybody's heart while addressing the Nepalese parliament. India's relations with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have dramatically improved and even Pakistan was given an olive branch till they decided to look the other way.

5. Perfect Pakistan Policy: Modi and his government has successfuly underlined a simple message- terror and talks cannot go on simultaneously. Despite opting to engage with Nawaz Sharif on day one of his office, Modi quickly realized that it is futile to 'talk' with a neighbor that is hell bent on gunning down our soldiers and civilians on the border. Add to it to the brazenness of Pakistan to hold separate talks with the so-called Kashmiri representatives, the Hurriyat, a group of largely out-of-job and out-of-favor anti-nationals. By deciding to call off the foreign secretary level talks, Modi has at least cut down on a futile decade-long exercise that yields nothing other than an inflated bill of cookies and table tennis balls.

6. Reinvigorating foreign policy: Modi has left Japan in complete awe of him. From tweeting in Japanese to jamming with drummers to playing a flute, Modi has brought in whole new level of personal involvement in India's relations with Japan. Expect more of this when Chinese come to Delhi or Modi himself visits the US. Also, not to forget the subtle nudge that Modi had for Beijing, hinting the strategic shift in India's position to not treat China with the kind of respect that it hardly deserves. India-Japan partnership may well be the most defining achievement of this 100-days old government.

7. Right noises on economy: There are no tall promises of bringing down the inflation in 100 days. Jaitley, Modi's trusted Finance Minister, is working slowly but surely to bring India's economy back on track. Green shoots are already emerging with the manufacturing and service sectors showing signs of revival, GDP clocking its best ever performance in the last two and half years and a renewed push for reforms and economic management. The fact that Modi has eloquently asked the world to come and 'make in India' shows the kind of interest the PM has in reviving the India story.

8. Rebuilding and reselling the India story: The last five years have seen India plummeting in the eyes of global investors and marketers. Policy paralysis, indecisiveness of the leadership and red-tapism threatened to cut the India story short, but Modi, like a true-blue Gujarati is selling the India model to the world again. He promises to reduce bureaucratic hurdle for foreign investors and offers them a red carpet while underlining the uniqueness and opportunities of the Indian market.

9. Focus on little things that will go a long way: Bank account for all Indians, drive to make India a clean country, cutting down on multiple ministries, scrapping of the planning commission etc. are just some of the examples of small but significant corrective measures that Modi has focused upon. While the big pet projects may take some time to materialize, these tiny jewels may well help India shrug off some of its dirt and troublesome flab.

10. Dodging a thousand provocations: From day one, parties and intellectuals with vested interests have been trying to flare up unnecessary controversies around the new government. From Smriti Irani's educational qualification to random communal statements by fringe elements, an attempt has been made to incite Modi into speaking something silly or out of turn. Dodging all these efforts, Modi has been focused on governance and promise delivery, and has refrained from playing into the hands of his critics.

These are great signs coming from India's new Prime Minister. 100 days is too less a time to judge the performance of a Prime Minister or a government, but it is the kind of mandate, resounding and historic, that Mr. Modi has got from the people, which makes his each day in office an acid test. The man, so far, has delivered more often than not, a feat that has further risen the already towering expectations of this nation of a billion hopefuls.