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


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.