09 October 2016

'Queen Of Katwe' - Review

Review of 'Queen Of Katwe':

2005, Kampala (Uganda): An engineer called Robert Katende joins an NGO and starts teaching chess to children in a slum in Katwe (the poorest area of the city). One of his students is a 10-year-old girl called Phiona Mutesi - the daughter of a widow with 4 children, who sells vegetables for a living. Under Katende's guidance, Phiona achieves the unlikely feat of becoming Uganda's national chess champion and an international chess player.

In 2012, Sports Illustrated reporter Tim Crothers wrote a book about Phiona Mutesi called Queen Of Katwe. And now, Meera Nayyar (Mira Nair) has made it into a movie - featuring Madina Nalwanga in the lead role.

The most striking thing about Queen Of Katwe is its depiction of the Kampala slum. The word 'poverty' is too feeble to be used here. This is a world where life is not a wide zone of comfort but just a thin line of existence - and any chance event (like a road accident or heavy rain) can push you right off that line. Where a simple thing like taking a bath is a major project. Where shops don't have open fronts but iron grills instead. But somehow, in the midst of all this deprivation and despair, the poor people of the slum manage to celebrate life - through music, dance and colour.

Queen Of Katwe is a simple and heart-warming story about real people, their real pain and suffering, their real hopes and dreams, their real victories and defeats. It is definitely a welcome change from Hollywood's mind-numbing superhero factory.

05 October 2016

Purusha, Prakriti, Brahma, Kshatra

A categorisation of human qualities:

Intelligence + Knowledge
Strength + Courage
Softness + Gentleness

02 October 2016

'Sully' - Review

Review of 'Sully':

On 15 January 2009, a plane took off from New York to Seattle with 150 people on board. Shortly after takeoff, a flock of birds hit it and blew out both its engines. The standard solution in such a situation is to return to the airport. The pilot, Captain Chesley Sullenberger (Sully), had just seconds to make a decision. He chose instead to land the plane on the Hudson River - a very dangerous move. Miraculously, the plane landed safely and all the 150 people survived. Sullenberger became an American hero.

Clint Eastwood's Sully tells the story of that incident (which everybody knows) and more importantly, what happened behind the scenes (which everybody doesn't know). Because even as the American public and media went ballistic about Sullenberger's heroism, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was conducting its investigation into the incident. And its initial direction was that Sullenberger had been reckless and irresponsible in landing the plane on the river - instead of taking it back to the airport.

The first half is average. The writing (script by Todd Komarnicki) and direction could have been better. The second half is the part that delivers. Eastwood tells the story in his trademark no-nonsense style. Aaron Eckhart as the co-pilot (sporting a thick mustache) and Laura Linney as Sullenberger's wife give solid performances. But the movie, needless to say, belongs to Tom Hanks. He portrays Sullenberger as a genuine hero. Not a movie/media hero who is flashy, flamboyant and larger-than-life. But a real hero who is no-frills, down-to-earth, simple and humble.