books · Fiction

Monsoons, a Movie and a Book


Monsoons

While the north of India seems inundated with storms and rain showers, in the west so far Monsoons seem to be making a come-and-go-as-you-please appearance, making brief promises of a longer spell and disappearing just as easily. This evening though the weather turned fine and it rained a bit, the sky was overcast and for a change, I loved it. I think I am beginning to appreciate the clouds once more, even though I started hating rains after spending three years in Assam, where it never seems to stop!

Here’s a photo of the roads that I took today, from the back window of an auto. I love this picture, despite its assymetry. What I had been aiming to capture was a typical view of an Indian road during monsoons, that is to say, minus the potholes and mud that is a lot more common. Still, I think I did a good job with it:

2013-07-06 18.57.34

 

 

A movie

I watched Raanjhanaa today (do not ask why), staring Dhanush and Sonam Kapoor and a cameo by Abhay Deol. Despite its flaws and excessively dramatic plot, a lengthy storyline and the desire of the Indian Film Industry to cast its characters as absolutely black or absolutely white (God forbid we leave a shady character in the grey zone with the audience left to muse about his motives and intentions after all is said and done), I surprisingly enjoyed the movie.

This was because of the storyline, i think. Even though, give me a chisel and a knife and I would sharpen the character’s emotions, cut out the extra scenes and the abundant overflow of unnecessary dramatics, Raanjhanaa did a good job of telling a story with unconventional twists (for Indian audiences).

Set in the colourful lanes of Benaras and the shady corners of New Delhi, this movie starts out as a love story. We’re introduced to Kundan, a Hindu boy who will immediately strike you as bipolar and requiring psychiatric assistance, and Zoya- the beautiful young Muslim girl he falls in love with and woos with his perennial stalking and wrist-slitting. Kundan is quick to love Zoya and equally quick to abandon her in the name of ‘self-interest’ and then return again after having ruined another part of her to try and fix her once more- as I was saying, absolute nuts!

While a fourteen year old Zoya is easy for him to win over, a grown-up Zoya who returns from JNU is just as hard. However, Kundan tries to make up for all that with some more theatrics, involving more wrist-slicing. When he finds out that Zoya is in love with a smart young man (Abhay Deol) from her university- someone who has political ambitions and is embroiled in the fierce battle for power in the capital city, he reacts in much the same ways- moving between promises to help convince Zoya’s parents for her love marriage and expressing in some really bitter words that he’s never even going to utter her name again.

However, things take a darker turn in the second-half and both Zoya and Kundan find themselves in the midst of a political power struggle in New Delhi, involving hints of some very real political events. An embittered Zoya played by Sonam Kapoor is fun to watch and quite makes up for the lusty-bipolar-stalker-glorifying done in the first half of the movie.

All in all, despite some shaky dialogue delivery and mispronunciation, I think Sonam Kapoor did a good job. She carried off both the salwaar kameezes of Benaras and the kurti jeans street wear of Delhi’s JNU with equal grace and acted quite well (for herself). Dhanush’s character did not impress me which is perhaps why I did not enjoy him but that probably means he did a good job as an actor.

But the thing I liked about this movie, the thing that gave me a good feeling about even the weird and ugly bits, was the ending. Very unconventional, very un-Bollywood. Though it could have been more fine-tuned and clipped down, it was the ending that made me go ‘aha’ for this movie.

 

A Book

To go off in a completely different direction, I recently finished reading The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman. I think that the fact that this book keeps getting more and more outdated every year, despite having first come out only in 2005, is a testimony to Mr. Friedman’s terming the world as ‘flat’- that in today’s day and age, books about technology and globalization can actually sort of go out of context in less than a decade. Isn’t that kind of…scary?

I’ve always liked Mr. Friedman’s writing style- its personal, crammed full of anecdotes, engaging and even funny in places. He uses comparisons which are entertaining and very good at making you understand.

In The World Is Flat, he takes to telling us about how, indeed things that began with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the advent of the Internet and user-friendly web browsers and went on to outsourcing, off-shoring, uploading (he calls them flatteners) have changed the way we look and see and understand the world, its cultures, politics, relations, trading, expressions and self-identification.

He also devotes chapters to understanding how certain occupations have become obsolete in front of our eyes and how the education system, the political system and the approach of students in USA should accordingly be revamped to fit in with the changes in the world.

Mr. Friedman also devotes a lot of pages to analyzing relationships with India and China,; the factors pushing development in these countries, the challenges they have to face and the challenges the rest of the world has to face as these over-crowded, developing nations join the rat race for success with hard-working young population (something I can vouch for Mr. Friedman. You talked about coaching institutes in India training students for the prestigious IITs late into the night; its something I have witnessed and been a part of, and yes, many, many Indian students are hard-working and not afraid to break every bone in their body to get into one of these colleges. They’re the cream of our technical institutes but their importance cannot be undermined). But in some ways, I think he is overestimating Indians. We have a lot of corruption in our core government and police and poverty in our core population. The middle class needs to be taken seriously though because we’re walking on a line and we can fall both ways but we see both sides and that makes us desperate to clamber through into the safety net., for the most part.

But the mashing together of cultures is something Mr. Friedman hits upon next, talking about cultural identity in a positive way- he feels with so many ways of self-expression, our identity is only going to amplify, not die out and ‘Americanize’ as so many seem to think. This seems somewhat right. This seems like a nice point for me to say: how about getting USA to shift to the Metric system, Mr. Friedman?

With flattening of good things, comes the flattening of bad ones and the ever-increasing expansion and improvement of the terrorist network- something we all need to be extremely fearful about. For the most part, however, this book is about hope. I haven’t managed to scratch one fifth of the things this book leaves you pondering upon. If you want to feel a new-found respect for the Internet (being a 90s kid- I have seen a decade without it and can imagine a world without Google better than someone like, say my brother, who was born in 2003) and a better understanding of how we got where we are- this book is a good place to start sating some of that curiosity.

Bonne nuit 🙂

 

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