22 May 2017

'Hindi Medium': Review

A review of 'Hindi Medium':

Some people think a movie must not merely entertain but must also have a 'social message'. But movie is a fictional art and fictional art's primary purpose is to entertain. If it directly tries to give a 'social message', it will deviate from its basic purpose. It will become boring and preachy – and it will fail. But if it tries to do it indirectly – without deviating from its basic purpose of entertaining (by emotionally connecting with the audience) – then it can work. Now imagine an entertaining movie about big issues like society, development and poverty. Impossible? Well, writer-director Saket Chaudhary has achieved the impossible with his Hindi Medium.

A Chandni Chowk businessman's (Irfan Khan) wife (Pakistani actress Saba Qamar) wants to put their daughter into a prestigious Delhi school. So begins their Great Indian Circus: the School Admission – an endless merry-go-round of applications, consultants, interviews and lists. Hindi Medium starts off as a hilarious comedy about our education system. But it doesn't stop there. Saket Chaudhary has something much bigger in mind. He gradually widens the lens to look at no less a subject than Indian society itself.

Hindi Medium examines all the 3 sections of our society: rich, middle class and poor. The rich think modernisation means Westernisation and de-Indianisation. The middle class are desperate to become like them. And the poor struggle for the basic needs of life. Hindi Medium ruthlessly exposes our hypocrisies and double standards on every major issue – be it language, education or culture. It looks at Indian society better than any sociology textbook. It looks at development better than any economics textbook. And all this while being a heart-warming entertainer throughout.

70 years after getting freedom, most of our people still don't have a decent life. Hindi Medium brutally looks at this harsh reality – but never becomes even remotely depressing at any point. When you walk out of the theatre, you have a smile on your face. Why? Two reasons. First reason: though we still face grave challenges, we know that things are slowly improving. And second reason? It is right in front of your eyes – a movie like Hindi Medium has been made, and people are watching it (and liking it). Why does this matter? It does matter. Because if we can look at ourselves mercilessly – through the eyes of an honest and courageous artist (like Saket Chaudhary), then something must be right with us.

Hindi Medium is ambitious, brilliant and powerful. Watch it. Tell your friends to watch it. Tell them to tell their friends . . . (OK, you get the idea)

13 May 2017

'Sarkar 3': Review

Why did Ram Gopal Varma make Sarkar 3? (A review)

A. DRDO made him do it.
Sarkar 3 is a series of completely illogical scenes with absolutely no connection with one another whatsoever. I desperately tried to somehow connect them all together into a remotely logical story – but failed miserably. Further, the level of absurdity went on increasing at an exponential rate. So my head exploded into a hundred pieces. If you walk out of the theatre with your head intact, that means your skull is the hardest substance on earth. Then DRDO will harvest it and use it to develop a next-generation cutting-edge super-weapon – one that China and America can never hope to match. Of course, the easiest solution for all this is to simply kidnap people and directly test the hardness of their skulls. But that is technically illegal under Indian laws. So Sarkar 3 is nothing but a part of DRDO's top-secret weapons program.

B. A drug cartel made him do it.
Cocaine, heroin and meth can move over. They are now just for kids. Because a drug cartel has synthesised a new chemical that makes all these drugs look like chocolate. And they have been injecting it into their test specimen – Ram Gopal Varma – for the last one year. Then to market their new product, they told him to make Sarkar 3. Because after watching this mind-numbing sense-destroying brain-killer, people will know the power of the new drug. So Sarkar 3 is nothing but a 2-hour long ad for the drug cartel's new drug. The only question is which drug cartel. Sinaloa? Tijuana? Juarez? Which one?

C. Amit Shah made him do it.
In Karnataka, BJP is in such a great shape that Congress will easily win the state election next year. So Amit Shah had to make a master plan. He got his chance when Chief Minister Sidramayya announced he will reduce movie ticket prices to Rs 200. Then Amit Shah immediately told Ram Gopal Varma to make Sarkar 3 and release it on the Friday when the ticket prices were reduced. Due to the reduced ticket prices, the people of Karnataka will flock to the theatres and see whichever movie is released that Friday – ie, Sarkar 3. And after watching this ridiculous piece of shit, they will be totally outraged. They will be totally mad with Sidramayya. And they will overwhelmingly vote against Congress in next year's election – thereby giving BJP a landslide victory. So Sarkar 3 is nothing but Amit Shah's master plan to win the Karnataka election next year.

D. Nirbhaya's rapist-murderers (NRM) made him do it.
NRMs are desperate to delay their hanging. So they told Ram Gopal Varma to make Sarkar 3. Because after watching this atrocious piece of crap, the people of India will be so furious that they will demand the hanging of each and every single person who is involved in any way whatsoever in the making of Sarkar 3 – starting from the producer and going all the way up to the sweeper. This also includes all those critics who gave this monstrosity a score of anything above minus infinity. And that will be quite a few people to hang. So it will automatically delay the hanging of the NRMs. Thus Sarkar 3 is nothing but the NRMs' desperate plan to somehow delay their own hanging.

E. Karan Johar and Aditya Chopra made him do it.
Karan Johar and Aditya Chopra have made Bollywood's biggest blockbusters. But in spite of this, intelligent movie fans don't respect them. So they told Ram Gopal Varma to make Sarkar 3. Because after watching this worthless piece of garbage, even intelligent movie fans will agree that K-Jo and A-Cho are the apex of cinematic brilliance – second only to the great Satyajit Ray. So Sarkar 3 is nothing but K-Jo and A-Cho's amazing plan to somehow earn some respectability.

F. Ram Gopal Varma did it himself.
RGV is depressed that his Satya is just one of Bollywood's all-time greatest movies (along with Sholay, Deewar and Maqbool) – and not the all-time greatest movie. He wants a superlative completely for himself, one that will not be shared with anyone else. Hence he decided to make Bollywood's most pathetic movie ever, one whose record will never be broken. So he made Sarkar 3 – and succeeded beyond his wildest dreams (and our wildest nightmares) . . .

29 April 2017

'Baahubali - 2': Review

Review of 'Baahubali-2':

Remember when we were kids? We used to make up stories of brave kings, princes and warriors. We used to turn our simple toys into vast armies of soldiers, horses, chariots and elephants. And we used those armies to fight big bloody battles. Then we grew up. We became mature. And we forgot those stories. But one kid called Srisaila Sri Rajamouli refused to grow up. He remained a kid. He kept those stories with him. And now he has told it to us with a ₹ 200 crore special effects budget. Watch Baahubali-2 - and feel like a kid again . . . :-)

There have been a few negative reviews criticising Baahubali-2 for its lack of subtlety, restraint and understatement. Such criticism only reveals the reviewers' complete ignorance of Indian society, culture and art. Because the same criticism can also be made about any village drama version of Ramayana or Mahabharata. But it misses a much larger point.

For 5000 years, India has been held together by Dharma. But Dharma is an abstract philosophy. And only 1% of people are interested in philosophy. So how do you teach Dharma to the remaining 99% people? The genius of our ancestors lies in successfully dealing with this challenge. They wrote two great epics - Ramayana and Mahabharata - that taught the abstract principles of Dharma to ordinary people by using entertaining stories and characters. Thus our ancestors taught Dharma to every man, woman and child in every village - and nourished this civilisation for 5000 years.

True, Baahubali is no Ramayana or Mahabharata. And Rajamouli is no Valmiki or Veda Vyasa. They don't have to be. They are what they are. And that is good enough for 21st century India . . .

PS: My review of Baahubali-1

09 April 2017

The Economics Of Government

The economics of government:

* Govt has no money of its own. Its money is nothing but the people's (tax-payers) money. When govt spends on something, the money doesn't come from politicians - it comes from the people.

* The govt/people's money is finite, not infinite. When it is spent on something, there will be less of it to spend on other things.

* Leftists have succeeded in making
'efficiency' a bad word - by painting it as 'elitist' and 'anti-poor'. The truth is the opposite: there is nothing more pro-poor than efficiency and nothing more anti-poor than inefficiency. Why? Because the poor depend the most on the govt. So they are the ones who lose the most when the govt is inefficient. We must restore efficiency to its rightful place.

* "Giving a man a fish feeds him for a day, but teaching him how to fish feeds him for a lifetime". Poverty can't be removed by simply throwing money at the poor. That will only keep them poor. We must give them the ability to work and earn - ie, we must give them education, healthcare and infrastructure. That is, govt's money must go into investment and not expenditure.

* Debt is bad. When you borrow, you have to pay back the amount you borrowed and also the interest on that amount. So your spending must not be more than your income. This is a basic principle of economic management - every family knows it. But strangely, we don't apply it to our govt.

* A system's efficiency is directly proportional to its simplicity. And nowhere is this more true than for the tax system. Tax exemptions make the tax system complex and therefore inefficient. So all tax exemptions must be removed. As a compensation, tax rates can be reduced.

* Govt's job is to make rules and enforce them. It is not to make products - which can be done much more efficiently by private sector. So all govt-owned industries must be privatised.

* The price of any product/service is decided by the demand for and the supply of that product/service. If prices are decided in this way (the 'free-market system'), then a society's resources will be allocated in the most efficient way. Any deviation from this leads to inefficiency. The two biggest deviations are:
a) Govt directly fixing the price of any product/service
b) Govt paying a part of a product/service's price (this payment is called 'subsidy')
Subsidies reduce the price of a product/service for its buyers. This distortion in the price leads to inefficient allocation of resources in the society. So subsidies are bad.

24 February 2017

'Ghazi Attack' - Review

On 3 December 1971, Pakistan attacked India and started the 3rd India-Pakistan War (which it proceeded to lose in 2 weeks). The next day, its most powerful submarine - PNS Ghazi - sank near Visakhapatnam. Pakistan said it was due to an 'accident'. India said the destroyer INS Rajput had done it. But INS Rajput was in the harbour on that day. Naval warfare experts said a submarine had sunk Ghazi. The Indian Navy refused to comment.

Ghazi Attack - by first-time director Sankalp Reddy - tells the story of what may have happened. We will never know the name of that submarine - or her men. In this movie, the submarine INS S-21 plays a deadly cat-and-mouse game with Ghazi in the waters of the Bay of Bengal, before finally sinking it.

Making a realistic movie on submarine warfare is technically demanding. And making it entertaining is artistically demanding. Sankalp Reddy and team succeed brilliantly on both the fronts. Through a series of twists and turns, Ghazi Attack gradually builds up the tension before reaching its climax.

War itself is a game of death. And when you are inside a metal tube 500 meters underwater, it is even more so. At that depth, the water pressure is so enormous it can crush a submarine like an eggshell. So even if the enemy doesn't kill you, the water surely will. Ghazi Attack superbly portrays the fear and danger of underwater warfare.

Kay Kay Menon and Atul Kulkarni - two of Bollywood's finest actors - play the submarine's captain and second-in-command, respectively. Rana Daggubatti plays the executive officer like an action star. The great Om Puri - in his last movie - plays Admiral S M Nanda. Ghazi Attack is an excellent tribute to our brave men in white.

PS: It was a special treat to watch the Indian Navy's Rudra-Tandava on this sacred day of Maha Shivaratri . . . :-)

19 February 2017

Martin Scorsese's 'Silence' - Review

Japan is a unique country. An island off the coast of East Asia, it is literally on the edge of the world. Westerners reached it only in the 1500s. And almost immediately, Christian missionaries started going there - to convert them to Christianity. But around 1600, the Japanese cracked down. They banned Christianity and outlawed missionaries. Today only 1% of Japanese are Christians.

In 1966, Japanese-Christian writer Shusaku Endo wrote a novel called Chinmoku ('Silence') about this chapter in Japan's history. In 1971, it was made into a Japanese movie. And now Martin Scorsese has made its Hollywood version.

The story is set in the 1600s. A Portuguese missionary called Ferreira (Liam Neeson) goes to Japan and disappears after some time. Then his two disciples - Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Garrpe (Adam Driver) go to Japan to search for him. They reach Japan and find some villagers who are secretly practising Christianity. They stay with the villagers for some time, but are eventually caught. Garrpe is executed and Rodrigues is taken to Nagasaki. There he meets senior Japanese officials - and also Ferreira. He is shocked to find out that Ferreira has renounced Christianity, embraced Buddhism and now works for the Japanese government - writing anti-Christianity books. Finally Rodrigues also becomes like Ferreira.

The first 2 hours is a typical story about Christianity told by a Christian. It glorifies the truth and greatness of the Christian religion. But in the last 30 minutes, the story does a complete U-turn. Here Christianity is brought face-to-face with Buddhism - when Rodrigues debates with the Japanese officials and also with his ex-guru Ferreira. And here, Christianity comes off as irrational and intolerant - as against Buddhism's rationality and tolerance. Of course, this is a debate not just between Buddhism and Christianity - but also more broadly between Aryan religions and Semitic religions.

What was Shusaku Endo thinking when he wrote that last part? Was he just trying to be an honest writer/artist and give space to an alternate viewpoint? Or was it his Japanese side triumphing over his Christian side? And what does Martin Scorsese think about that last part? Does he realise the power of those arguments against Christianity?

Silence is an honest and intelligent movie about Christianity - and religion in general. Not surprisingly, it has flopped in America. And the Oscars have given it only one nomination (for camerawork). Artists say the purpose of art is not to give answers but to ask questions. If that is true, then Shusaku Endo's Chinmoku and Martin Scorsese's Silence are very good works of art.

14 February 2017

A Fool And An Angel

A FOOL AND AN ANGEL

When he first saw her
She looked an angel
In both mind and heart
So he asked her
Will you be my angel?
She said yes I will
So he took out his heart
And he gave it to her
She took it in her hand.

And what did she do with his heart?
She grew claws on her hands
And sank her claws into his heart
She grew fangs in her mouth
And plunged her fangs into his heart
She grew horns on her head
And pierced her horns into his heart
She devoured the flesh from his heart
She drank the blood from his heart
Every day, every hour, every minute
Piece by piece, drop by drop
Then she held his heart over a blazing fire
And slowly reduced his heart to ashes
Finally she threw his heart away
Laughing at him all the while
Her eyes, horns, fangs, claws
All dripping with his heart's blood.

And after all this was done
What was he thinking?
He had only one thought
God, make her happy
If there is any pain in her life
Please give it to me
If there is any joy in my life
Please give it to her
I have never asked You anything
But now I ask You this
So You have to give it
Make her happy always
Keep her smiling always
This is all I ask of You
So please give it
And I know You will.