Alexa…Get Me A Gun!

I got too busy catching up with my folks and forgot to publish this last night.

A little girl who’s become a part of our family of 3 was paying us a visit this evening. Needless to say with TO turning 10 and his cuteness factors dipping day by day; a chirping and twirling child always scores higher on the Awww scale. And they know it too!

TO was busy utilizing some unscheduled screen time when his little friend dropped by. After giving her some toys to play with, he snuck back to the living room to watch some inane crap that he’s very fond of these days.

When I asked for a quick sitrep, the little one promptly ratted him out and smugly waited till he came to play with her. Ah..girl power!

They played, they made a dinosaur park, fenced with dominoes and then they started tormenting my poor poor Alexa.

Now our Echo Dot’s a Gen One and getting on in the years. After going back and forth trying to decipher TO’s accent and then just going back to her factory settings, she now had to contend with understanding chipmunk. Because that’s how fast and perpetually talking 3 year old girls sound like.

Today Alexa had to shuffle between Baby Shark, Faded and Bulleya, which she kept interpreting as Imagine Demons’ Believer. After getting barked at by an increasingly annoyed munchkin and being spoken to by a giggling older child, Alexa gave up the ghost and just rebooted. That’s how she lets us know she’s not going to take our shit anymore!!

Soon after I was dropping a reluctant munchkin home. I’d already disappointed her by not forking over chips before dinner time and limiting the cookies to plain vanilla ones and nothing worth licking in leisure.

She was a bit miffed with me and to recover some ground with her I told her Red’s birthday was coming up and asked for gift ideas. She said, “Give him a gun. A big one.” Seeing my surprised face she added, “Give him some polos too. They come in green colors and they are nice to eat. Polos and guns are the best gift ever!”

There. It’s settled. Red’s going to have the oddest 40th birthday ever. Tons of polos and hopefully a gun. But maybe El Munchino isn’t too far off the mark. Look at Red instructing the flesh&blood in the fine art of aiming and shooting. Ah..out of the mouths of babes…

Nostalgia Endures

My father moved around a lot while I was growing up. And it was a good way to live, everything considered. Met new people every few years, or met the same old faces in different cities and towns and had a good time catching up.

India of the late 80s was a vastly different place from what it is now. And while that is a rather DUH kind of statement to make, it’s still very true. In 1988 my father moved to US for a few years. And we were as FOTB as they came. While my folks still knew something about the country and the people, I knew bupkiss. And when the learning began, I was like a sponge. Red still likes to say that I’ve yet to leave the accent and thought process behind although the country was left behind decades ago. With emphasis on the decade. Husbands!

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For me it was a magical place. Imagine if the height of television watching till then had been the weekly mythological serials that the whole family lined up to see on Sundays and then cut to an 8 year old totally having a braingasm in front of a telly with more than 2-3 channels (back then) just for cartoons!

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And there began the journey with music. Till then music was what my folks played on the turntable or what was on the radio or the Bollywood stuff on the t.v. There had been a brief exposure to BoneyM as a tiny tot but that was quickly forgotten as well.

Suddenly there was VH1, and MTV and music videos galore. And it was amazing. It played 24/7 and all you had to do was listen and you’d find something that stuck to your mind. Good or bad it stuck.

Things which kids are exposed to in their formative years always stays with them. And so the 90s with its big poofy, hairsprayed hair (for both men and women) stayed with me. The ripped denim, Gene Simmons’ make-up and guitar smashing and for some reason Slash’s weirdly placed bellybutton…all made an impression. I don’t like B-52 but remember their music. I don’t like any songs from Shakespeares Sister but can listen to Stay on a loop at times.

And that’s why even after all those years, after having spent more time away from that influence rather than time with, I still fall back to that music when I feel restless and fidgety. Listening to Winger (never heard any other song except Miles Away), Skid Row and even Heavy D…all seem very very comforting. Because that’s what music does to you. It transports you to new (and old) experiences, emotions and by the time you descend back to yourself, you’re set. For that moment.

I have a varied playlist on my phone and every now and then when I hit shuffle it comes up with things which really make me stop and listen purely for the nostalgia quotient. And that’s when reality intrudes with a rather jarring sound- that of DJ Snake’s Magenta Riddim because small hands found the phone and thought it would be fun to shake things up a bit from the boring U2’s With Or Without You….kids!

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Redemption At Long Last…

I don’t always deal well with extended weekends where my kid’s a part of the equation and Red isn’t around or not going to be around to be a buffer. We, TO and I, get along well for a few hours and then I feel like asking his school principal to keep the school going all days of the week for the sake of my sanity. And just a day back I wrote this rather sentimental blog post. Oh well, lunacy in all its forms is also par for course in parenting!

Anyhow after a whole day of playing the 5Ws and 1H series of questions I was looking for divine or devilish intervention when the skies opened up and the rains fell and whole petrichor experience did its bit to soothe the savage beast aka Moi. And then the offspring asked Alexa to play my favorite Def Leppard songs and sat next to me, semi head banging.

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Bliss. Oh bliss bliss bliss. Oh damn…I spoke to soon. The queries about all the icons in the Macbook’s dock have started up while I wind up this post. I know when I’ve been bested.

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Movie Review: Luka Chuppi

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What happens when you don’t want to get married but test drive being married by living together? What happens when you get caught being ‘pretend-married’ and have to play out the pretense? What happens when you try to get married for real to make things legit but realize that life is conspiring against you? Luka Chuppi happens. But it doesn’t happen all that well, unfortunately.

Set against the backdrop of militant love jihadis who are hellbent on making sure that every relationship kowtows to societal norms and any deviations are dealt with harshly; Luka Chuppi takes on a rather contrived and elaborate path towards a happily ever after.

Kriti Sanon is a little too well put together to be convincing as a small town girl. Her body language, mannerisms always bring to mind airline attendants who wish you a pleasant flight or people in the hospitality business who smile as they give you your room key and wish you a very pleasant stay. Rather fakeish.

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Kartik Aaryan is a bit more believable but not much. He’s scruffy and has hair (along with Aparshakti Khurana) that’s reminiscent of the scene from There’s Something About Mary.

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Apart from a few genuine laughs sporadically sprinkled here and there, the movie goes from one choreographed mishap to another. The rest of the cast however, is pretty damn good. They’re convincing small towners and never deviate from being in character. Vinay Pathak, Aparshakti Khurana, Pankaj Tripathi, Alka Amin, Atul Shrivastav bring a strong, wholesome and realistic small town flavor to the movie and are the glue that holds things together. Guddu (Aaryan) and Rashmi (Sanon) are effectively the leads but they are far more accurately described as props.

The OST is nothing outstanding either with 2 songs repackaged from an earlier era.

This movie is worth waiting for…till it airs on Netflix on Amazon Prime. It’s no barrel of laughs but is entertaining in its own smallish way.

Rating: 1/5

 

Movie Review: Gully Boy

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For everyone who’s been told something’s impossible, unattainable and to get their head out of the clouds because reality bites; Gully Boy is the answer.

Zoya Akhtar’s latest offering takes us deep into Dharavi, without any of the gore and gristle but without adding any glitter either. Ranveer Singh (Murad) shows how deeply he can get under the skin of a character and make it his own. From Simmba to Gully Boy, he peels off layer after layer and shows us how well honed his craft truly is.

Synopsis: Murad, a college-going young man from Dharavi, makes space in his cramped tenement for his mother, younger brother, grandmother and father (Vijay Raaz) and his father’s new, younger wife along with his dreams, hopes and burning desire to be someone. Being a rapper is as alien a concept to the people of Dharavi as are aliens themselves. You either lie and cheat to get ahead or you keep your head down, work hard and join the rat race because money, food in the belly and a roof over your head cancels out having dreams and aspirations over everything else.

His childhood love, Safina (Alia Bhatt),is spirited, unapologetic and unabashedly in love with him and his dreams. Their chemistry is spot on and very real.

How Murad tries toeing the line, doing what is expected out of him and still tries to be true to himself and acknowledge that having a passion is life is not only ok but essential, forms the crux of the movie.

The lingo, the people are all perfectly typecast although there are times when the movie seems to  move slower than one would like. Friendships, loyalty and dreaming the impossible and achieving it are all the takeaways at the end of the reel.

The music: is middling between mediocre to decent. The tunes are catchy, the lyrics are worth pondering on and the acting seamless and without much of histrionics.

One may not like rap as a genre, or even the rappers with their yo-yoing all over the place and hoodie pants, but Gully Boy shows the poets that live within.

Rating: 3/5

 

Lost In Translation#498

Kids extrapolate things based on their own frame of references. Mine does it quite a bit and even more so with words of a different language.

He loves music and at different times we have played hosts to quite a few different earworms of his. One of his old favorites reemerged due to a shuffle in his playlists and we were both humming along with it when he started off with that singsong tone he singsongs more whenever he has a question to ask me, “So A…is the Bulleya song about…?” And I reacted with a mother’s instinct and one honed from dealing with these particular gems- “No baby, it’s not about bulls. It’s about a poet and thinker (because early morning rushes are rushed enough without stopping to explain what a philosopher is) whose words have been put to song and who people sing about.”

And sure enough, came the expected rebuttal which led to this bit of head scratching fun-” But it says Bulleya…BULL-eya. Are you sure it isn’t about bulls?”Am positive! Baba Bulleh Shah didn’t have anything to do with bulls.” “Baba??” That’s what you call P (his nickname for my dad). Why is he called Baba?” “GO TO SCHOOL. BYE BYE. HAVE A GOOD DAY. LOOK IT UP ON WIKIPEDIA.”

Mom over and out. Oh how I miss Red when he’s out of town.

Movie Review: Kedarnath

This post isn’t advocating that you go and see the movie if you’d much rather not. However, it does stress on the aspect of enjoyment you’d get and the surprise you may feel if you did.

Set in the backdrop of the catastrophic floods that ravaged parts of Uttarakhand back in 2013, this movie has people, communal tensions and the fury of nature playing critical roles without anyone giving an inch to the other. If you have star crossed lovers on one side, you have bigotry on the other and everything getting submerged (excuse the pun) under the torrential flows of water.

Sara Ali Khan- is a surprise. Mainly because so many other young debutantes, barring Alia Bhatt and Anushka Sharma, have failed at being convincing or even realistic. She doesn’t sound like an NRI who just got off the plane and neither does she seem uncomfortable in her own skin. Her body language is spot on when playing a devil may care young girl who flouts societal norms and her ‘in your face’ attitude seems to flow naturally.

She could have gone with more modest attire when playing a girl who’s father is a staunch Hindu priest and one who lives in a town built around religion and myths. But if you have Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla dressing you up for the movies, then the look of a small town girl is probably hard to pull off. She could take a leaf out of Anushka’s book ala Sui Dhaga.

Sushant Singh Rajput as Mansoor is believable as a (pitthoo) guide who lugs the pilgrims up and down the mountains. A lot of Bollywood actors get so used to the urbane, yuppie roles they play that even when they have to go deglam, they can’t get into the skin of the character. Mansoor doesn’t appeal unworldly, far from it, but he does appear to be straight talking and knows who he is. SSR could have avoided the SRK-like posturing towards the fag end of the movie but the scene called for drama and SRK does drama; cliched as it were.

Pooja Gor, Nitish Bharadwaj, Nishant Dahiya, Alka Amin and others round up the cast and bring to life the stronghold that religion has not only on the lives of the people in Kedarnath, but their actions, their thought processes and ultimately what they deem is right or wrong. All these actors with their strong backgrounds in television bring in a whiff of freshness amongst the acting talent that’s been around in Bollywood for a while.

Amit Trivedi’s score for the movie isn’t fantastic but the song Namo Namo certainly is. The visuals are quite breathtaking and made me want to visit the place. Any movie that evokes that kind of a feeling in a viewer must be doing something right.

The images of the lake overflowing, the cloudburst don’t look realistic at all. Even back in the day movies like The Day After Tomorrow was able to make tsunamis and rampant destruction look believable.

But special effects only add to the mix in a movie like this. At the end of the day you still feel bad when the boy and girl fall prey to nature, stigma and society. What remains is a good time that was had, hummable music and lovely visuals!

Rating: 2.5/5

Movie Review: Uri The Surgical Strike

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Not only was this my first movie of 2019 it ticked multiple boxes of requirement for my movie-watching pleasure.¬†Having grown up on the kind of war movie fare that comprises of Border, LOC and its ilk, Uri sets a new benchmark in the genre. While it’s not as taut as Zero.Dark. Thirty or Hurt Locker, it doesn’t drop the ball much and maintains the EQ (entertainment quotient) at an even keel.

The positives:

  • The cast doesn’t ham it up or go excessively overboard A la Manoj Kumar and the jingoism is kept to a tolerable minimum.
  • Vicky Kaushal stands out as always. He has the ability to get into the skin of his characters and make them believable. His Vihaan Shergill is light years different from Vicky from Manmarziyaan. Hopefully he won’t go down the Salman and Shah Rukh route and rehashing the same role over the decades.
  • The cinematography and combat scenes are shot well and look pretty realistic without the main protagonists coming across like invisible superheroes.
  • The locales and terrain are well-chosen and play as much of a role in building the pace as do the characters and the plot.
  • The chest thumping machismo is kept to highly realistic levels while giving a *very* human glimpse into what a soldier’s life is like. Image result for border movie gif
  • The music is spot on and thankfully they don’t burst into a song and dance like Border did. *rolls eyes*Image result for sandese aate hai gif
  • The lack of a romance angle, the staple fare in Hindi movies, is very refreshing. The movie is about brotherhood, vengeful justice and about family from beginning to end.
  • The so-called side characters like Rakesh Bedi, Ivan Sylvester Rodriguez, Mansi Parekh and Riva Arora do their bit very competently in adding layers to the evolving story line and Riva Arora especially, emotes beautifully as the daughter who has just lost her father. Her outpouring of grief is very realistically portrayed in a child this young.

The Not-So Positives

  • Paresh Rawal is wasted in this role IMHO. An actor of his capabilities just frowns and breaks mobile phones in half all through the movie and would have been more apt as a spokesperson for an antacid or IBS.
  • Rajat Kapoor too doesn’t succeed in embodying the persona of the PM. His casting seems to be a misfire.
  • Swaroop Sampat too falls flat slightly as an Alzheimer’s patient. She is restrained, too much at times, to really have any impact at all. Pretty much a wallflower.
  • Yami Gautam is pretty. And that’s pretty much all there is to her. She fails to convey a sense of urgency as a RAW agent. She is entirely extraneous in the whole scope of things.
  • Kirti Kulhari, as always, comes across as very serene and composed as real. Her role could have been a bit more fleshed out.
  • The scene where Asma and her husband get information about of a senior Pakistani official about the troop deployment at the Indo-Pak border could have been choreographed better. But then again, who knows how spooks get the job done.

All in all, Uri is a slick flick where the cast, locale and OST all do justice to the subject- The Surgical Strike. This is the kind of movie that evokes the pride and patriotism slowly but surely.

Rating: 3/5

Mucho Loco Motoring

TO loves to dance. He does his own thang and is unabashed about it while at home or in any place he feels comfortable.

He’s lithe, has expressive eyes (which he widens mainly for more effect) and he loves to twirl, swirl and get his groove on.

Any song he likes becomes our party track for a few months or till the next earworm sets in. Last night I was surprised with an impromptu dance performance to this song

One always hopes that one’s child will be limber and active but this one seems to be choosing artists if their names and songs are animal related. Case in point- Maroon 5’s Animals is another anthem of his.

I wonder if he’d take up belly dancing if I told him snakes can probably writhe similarly…

Movie Review: Andhadhun

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Image courtesy http://www.freepressjournal.in

In a nutshell? This movie is a mad cap caper. Andhadhun translates to Blind Tune or a state of being slapdash and both definitions fit the scenarios perfectly.

Led by Ayushmaan Khurana and Tabu in their usual capable ways, the movie starts out strong in the first half but the director ends up dropping the ball with the tautness in the latter half. Made more elaborate than needed at certain parts and leaving a couple of gaping holes in the story line, the overall execution and narrative is quite a refreshing change. This movie did not come out from the Barjatya stable for sure!

The way Bollywood tells its stories has undergone a major change. There is black humor, taboo topics, flawed people and all without middle-aged people playing roles decades younger than their actual age, taking off clothes or bursting into a flash-mob of dances 5xs in a movie.

Watch this movie for the piano recitals, the peppy songs, Tabu’s unflinching off-kilter moods and the seemingly unending series of greedy, money-hungry, ready to kill people with a rather flexible moral compass.

In Andhadhun…everyone’s crazy and playing blind man’s bluff in the most neurotic way possible. And that’s the whole story right there!