Onaatah – From darkness to light!

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Onaatah

I saw Onaatah at the Siri Fort auditorium in Delhi last summer. They were screening National Award Winning films. The reason I went was because I saw the writer’s posts on Facebook (why should the very best of Indian movies not be promoted well is something which defies logic, but more on that another time).

Now I am a fan of the writer, Paulami Duttagupta. I am yet to come across such a powerful writer in recent times. Her book, A Thousand Unspoken Words, was such a spectacular love story.

Now Onaatah is a Khasi film (Winner of best Khasi Film at the 63rd National Film Awards) hence I was skeptical if I’d really be able to appreciate the film. Boy, was I wrong! It turned out to be one of the best movies I have seen in recent times. If I were to make a list of must watch films, it definitely will be one of them.

Paulami’s Onaatah is not the heroine extraordinaire, she is the girl next door, a dutiful doctor, who’s about to get married to her childhood sweetheart. But all that changes when she gets raped on her way home from work one evening. You would think this would be one of the umpteen rape films we have seen…from those horrendous one where the victim woos her rapist to make her marry her, to insensitive but clichéd courtroom dramas to the extreme ones where the victim turns into a gun-wielding vigilante overnight to take revenge. Well it isn’t, the writer here chooses to delve into what happens to the victim outside the courtroom. The story here begins where stories end, after the court serves justice.

Despite being a Khasi Film (subtitled in English), with a majorly north Indian audience, the film ended to a thunderous applause.

Onaatah, the book, came a while after the movie. And despite having the watched the movie the book kept me glued. As a matter of fact, the book being more elaborate had moments which moved me more.

There are instances in the books, like where Onaatah gets nightmares, or where she is on the brink of taking her life, which disturbed me.  There are no melodramatic court room scenes, no man vs woman monologues. The film creates some wonderful, credible male characters, be it the men who bring Onaatah to the hospital or her father who stands by her like a rock, or her Uncle or Duh, the village idiot.

The book makes you ask a lot of uncomfortable questions….Why do we as a society look at women as the flag bearers of the family’s honor?  Why do we look at sexual crimes against women as dishonoring a woman? Is the physical and mental trauma that a victim goes through not enough that we need to shame them for what happened? Why is the shame of the victim’s, not the perpetrators’? Does victory in a court of law truly help the victim make peace with her demons, or is it the world outside the court, where the victim actually looks for validation and acceptance? And then tries to help you find some answers through Onaatah’s journey of re-discovering herself and finding hope and purpose.

Her journey takes her to a small village where her Uncle and Aunt live. She thrives in the obliviousness of the simple village folks (They don’t judge or sympathize or question because they obviously don’t know). Their love, compassion and simplicity endears them to her…till Duh, the village simpleton decides to profess his love to her. She is taken aback, her sense of inadequacy takes over, her past comes hurtling back to haunt her…that’s when she realizes that everyone in the village knew about her past and yet gave her the space to move forward, like Duh says ‘we don’t trap people in their past’.

The story ends with Onaatah being more at peace with herself and her past…the book does not attempt to answer if Onaatah is able to completely exonerate the demons  of her past, whether Onaatah and  Duh have a happily ever after…it chooses to give Onaatah time and hope….

Paulami’s etches some wonderful characters, Onaatah’ s father, her Uncle, Duh, his grandmother, or Dondor are so lovable, it’s difficult not to fall in love with them. Her language is fluid and unpretentious. One of my favourite moment in the book is when Dondor, a blind man, takes Onaatah on a tour of the village blind folded; profound, heartfelt!

It’s a book on finding strength where there is none, a book on never ever giving up on life, it’s a book about giving love a chance….

As I write this I am reminded of an old hind couplet I had read somewhere!

तमसो मा ज्योतिर्गमय (from darkness to light!)

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An absolute must read! Read the book and watch the movie too or vice versa…but do both!

The movie is available on Netflix

The book is available in all bookstores and online portals as well!

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Christie-ing a detective!

My school was a quaint little convent in the middle of a busy city. Being a bookworm, my favourite place in the school was the library. The library wasn’t too big, just three walls full of books, rather small I’d say. My favourite shelfs however were the ones in the extreme left corner which had hordes of Enid Blyton books and the one at the far end of the room, which had Agatha Christie books.

I was an Enid Blyton fangirl. I even wore my hair short, a la George from the Famous Five and imagined that I owned an island too. I must have read and re-read and then re-read all of the famous fives, and had no option but to switch to Agatha Christie (I had devoured all of Sherlock Holmes stories as well by that time)

Wondering, why I am taking you a trip down memory lane? Because it was the birthday of one of my favourite authors yesterday, September 15th!

So without further ado, let’s talk about what Christie would want us to talk about…her detectives!

Miss_Marple_First_ImageI must admid I took time to warm up to her. My first acquaintance with Miss Marple, an elderly spinster with a knack for solving cases wasn’t too exciting. It was only through ‘The Murder at the Vicarage’ which I read later, that I truly fell in love with her. She is a complete gossip, interfering into people’s lives with elan and offering her ‘I-told-you-so-‘ opinion unabashedly which  didn’t really make her a very nice woman, but definitely helped her solve the cases.

Do you think Agatha Christie was a feminist? I’d believe so! To create a character like Miss Marple, who was neither young, nor really like-able and make her take on a man’s job in an era which wasn’t so progressive is brave to say the least.

By the way did you know that Miss Marple was so famous that there is a biography on her life? It has been on my reading list for a while, shall let you know soon how the book was!

Statue of Hercule PoirotA short stout man, with an egg shaped head and upward curled moustache…ring a bell? Ofcourse I am talking about the impeccably dressed Hercule Poirot. ‘The Mysterious Affairs at Styles’, ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ and ‘Death on the Nile’ remain my clear favourites. The Mysterious Affairs… is ofcourse Christie’s first work, wherein she introduces the eccentric Poirot. Apparently Poirot was inspired from Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, who was in turn inspired from Edgar Allen Poe’s Auguste Dupin (who I have unfortunately not read). And despite the fact that Hercule Poirot is her most famous detective, like Conan Doyle, Christie also apparently got tired of the egoistic Poirot and found him insufferable! However there is no denying Hercule Poirot was widely loved so much so that when Christie killed him off, the New York Times carried an Obituary….read it here – https://www.nytimes.com/1975/08/06/archives/hercule-poirot-is-dead-famed-belgian-detective-hercule-poirot-the.html

Not only was she one of the most successful writers of all times, her personal life was no less than a bestselling book. Do check the movie Agatha by Michael Apted

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So Happy Birthday to the Queen of Detective fiction!

More on iconic detectives in the coming weeks!

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The Breakup

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I knew before even looking at the vibrating phone, that it was Radhika.

Did you have your lunch? she’d ask, I’d say yes. She would sense the dejection in my voice and ask me if I had seen the latest celebrity fitness video (babes you must watch Namrata and Kareena’s Pilates video, its rocking), I’d say all the right words, she’d then tell me whats for dinner… some new recipe that she would have dug up (she thinks that can take my mind off the break up) and then we’d hang up.

‘Sigh’! the usual.

The phone vibrated again. I did not want to pick up, not that day, not after what I had done!

But I knew she wouldn’t stop, the phone vibrated again. I steadied myself and picked it up

‘Lunch khaya? How was it?’…the usual…

I kept the phone down. She promised me smoked salmon with asparagus for dinner.

My heart broke.

Radhika and I had been roommates for about 5 years, well, were…nowadays, she was my mother. She knew how hard the break-up had been for me. She had been telling me from day 1, how toxic it was for me, but love is a strange thing.

And, after all that she had done for me in the past few weeks…Orange Olive Salads, Salmon Greek salads, Thai salads…how could I? How….just how?

She deserved better, a friend who she can be proud of. Not someone who betrayed her behind her back. But what could I do, a girl has needs….

Just once! This won’t happen ever again

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I knew it wasn’t right. I knew I was hurting my best friend, maybe I was harming myself more. But I couldn’t help it…just couldn’t.

Saket had sworn me to secrecy, he said she won’t understand…He had cheated before, I have known it forever, we work in the same office afterall, and now….but it felt good…great infact…and I couldn’t stop!

‘I think Radhika knows’ I told Saket over lunch at work

‘Oh come on….she never found out about me…I have been fooling her for such a long time’ he winked at me

‘But how do I explain all this?’ the words pierced my ears, my heart bled. Was this me? Plotting behind my best friend’s back with a serial cheater!

I should have told her about Saket long back….maybe he would have just stayed away from me then

Saket was saying something…but I cut him mid-sentence. I needed to go and confess to Radhika…right away! I had made up my mind.

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‘Is that her?’ right outside our building, just across the street. There she was…with him!

No…not Saket…HIM!

The memories came flooding back, oh how his hands moved, those eyes, they just knew what I wanted…always. Why did she force me to break up? Why did I break up?  And what was she…?

I wanted to go and slap her but I was not angry though…I rather felt relieved.

I cheated, she cheated! The world was good again. I realized bystanders had started gathering around me. I realized I was on my knees, tears rolling down my cheeks. I stood up. They were looking, but I didn’t care, I ran to her anyway and hugged her.

She mumbled ‘I…I dont’t….this is the first time…’

‘Happens…a girl has needs…’ I told her and then I turned to HIM…’Bhaiyya, do plate golgappe dena’

His hands moved with dexterity as he mixed up the boiled potatoes and the chickpeas…a man of few words, his eyes pointed at the chutneys around….I nodded, he scooped up double the measure of the tangy chutney…just the way I always loved…I told you, he always knew.  I picked up the first golgappa and kissed it…welcome back honey, I said to it.

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Things are back to normal now. Radhika is still the diet-nazi, but she understands now. I am allowed a cheat day on Sundays. We both gorge on golgappas together now.

And Saket, well, I haven’t told her about him. We still gorge on that absolutely delicious chocolate pastry from our office pantry every day along with the asparagus, broccoli and smoked salmons she dutifully packs for us for lunch.

‘This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda’

A Novel Idea!

If I were to ask you about books made in to movies, you would probably rattle off names without a thought. In fact isn’t that something we all look forward to every time we like a book? But did you know novelizing movies have quite been the trend as well? While there would be a long list I am sure, here I talk about the ones I have seen…errr…read!

Home_alone_posterI read Home Alone in a local library as a child and thoroughly enjoyed it. When I got around to watching the movie, I assumed it was adapted from the book. I have to admit it was only years later that I realized it was the other way round. I have tried wracking my brains to separate the two to list out differences and similarities, but they somehow overlap. May be its time to re-watch as well re-read the book! Surprisingly though I haven’t come across it at bookstores or online retail stores (No, it isn’t the illustrated storybook, which came out recently).

ETI am sure everyone has watched E.T the Extra Terrestrial, but how many of you have read the novel? My guess is very few. This again was courtesy the local library. The movie of course remains a classic, the same cannot however be said about the book. I gave up reading it mid-way given the length and other unnecessary details of the lives of the brother-sister. Oh and yes the E.T in the book also had the hots for Mary….I mean…like really? Totally avoidable…go watch the movie again instead!

 

I wonder though what could trigger novelization of block buster films. These are watched by a large audience and are anyways available for further viewing easily. I think it would make a lot of sense if movies made in languages not widely spoken, were novelized, it’s more cost effective than making a multilingual movie I believe.

OnaatahCase in point is my next pick – Onaatah…a National Award Winning Khasi film about a rape victim’s journey of self-discovery.  I saw the film at a National Film Festival screening. The sublime screenplay by Paulami Duttagupta, the brilliant performances and the breathtaking cinematography made it one of my favourite movies last year. Despite being a Khasi Film (with English subtitles) with a mostly north Indian audience, the movie ended to a thunderous round of applause from everyone in the audience. Paulami came up with the novel soon after and it only made me fall in love with the story and the characters even more. If you ask me it’s a hard for me to pick which I like more – the movie or the book.

elixirAnother novelization that I have liked lately is Elixir by Sinjini Sengupta. In this case I read the book before watching the film, a short (selected for Cannes Short Film Corner in 2016). Here is a classic case of how the novel actually helps enhance the movie viewing experience. The book delves deep into the mind of the protagonist Manisha, who seemingly has ‘everything needed’ for a happy life, but grapples with loneliness and anguish and slowly slips into an alternate universe that she creates in her dreams or like the blurb says ‘A Dream of a Story, A Story of a Dream’. Do give it a read/watch or both

You can watch Onaatah on Netflix and Elixir on pickurflick.com. The books are available in bookstores as well as Amazon (Book reviews of Onaatah and Elixir coming soon)

Home Alone and E.T? Of course you’d know where to watch, and if you can figure where the books can be bought from, let me know!

Whats novelized movies made it to your reading list? Do tell me!

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Second time lucky!

Now that’s an adage we have all heard right? Second time lucky in love, in a job, in a relationship…in a book…Aah well…yes, a book. I am sure all of us have come across books which failed to impress us, or books we struggled to finish and then that very book turns out to be what celluloid wonders are made of!

So influenced by the yet another hashtag doing the rounds on social media on best book adaptations, thought about giving it a twist to talk about book adaptations which in fact turned out better than the book…so here goes!

CeceliaAhern_PSILoveYou_bookCecelia Ahern’s love saga, P. S I Love You, had left me quite unimpressed. Not only does she kill off of the adorable Gerry right at the start, she then takes us on a never ending tale of Holly rediscovering herself and turning her life around. I am not sure if it’s the length or the writing style, I struggled to understand Holly a bit. Also the fact that a woman who is shattered and at her lowest would have the determination to hold onto to the package of letters and not just tear all of them open and read at one go was quite incomprehensible.

PS_I_Love_You_(film)And then I happened to come across the movie, Aah! Hillary Swank and Gerard Butler’s Holly and Gerry were so heart-warming, yet normal and flawed. The change in the screenplay, where Holly receives the letter one by one….which pushes Holly into a journey of rediscovery and hope works very well for the story. I could never imagine a film starting off with the hero’s funeral would become one of the greatest love stories for me!

 

Jurassicpark bookJurassic_Park_posterJurassic Park wasn’t really something I did not like reading. It was a great read but let’s get real there is no way the book could compete with the spectacle that Jurassic Park, the movie, was. The movie with its superlative special effects literally breathes life into the book. Even the screenplay seemed tighter and the human characters better etched.

 

images (1)bookThis would probably make you love me less, but I have not been able to make myself love Erich Segal. I have liked love story and I have liked Man, Woman and Child. But they didn’t move me as much, or leave an 220px-Masoom_1983indelible mark. Cut to Masoom, adapted and indian-ised from Segal’s Man, Woman and Child. With an impressive cast, superlative performances and Shekhar Kapoor’s magic, this remains one of my favourite films, don’t think I can say that about the book though. Indu’s despair, DK’s torment, Rahul’s yearning, Rinky and Mini’s innocent candour make it one of the most heart-warming movies I have seen

 

Thorpe_-_Nothing_lasts_foreverDie_hard (1)While Die hard is an adaptation of Nothing Lasts forever by Roderick Thorp, there are more differences than similarities. In fact the movie turns out to be much sharper with better etched characters so much so that despite being an out of action movie, it keeps you invested in the character. Not only does the movie improve upon the character of John McClane by making him more human and relatable, it also gives us the iconic Hans Gruber, who isn’t half as colourful in the book.

 

Dvd_ghare_baire_satyajit_rayNow this one might be tricky, since I had read the book in translation. People who have read the story in Bengali might have a different opinion, but I found that movie far more nuanced than the book. The book had left me unimpressed, which is rare in case of Tagore stories, however Ghare Baire, the movie remains one of the absolute favourites. When Ray meets Tagore what you get is pure magic, need I say more?

 

Honorable Mentions

Silence of the Lambs – Because Anthony Hopkins PERIOD

The Marvel Cinematic Universe – The die-hard Marvel comic fans might go for my head, but I truly feel the MCU has done a phenomenal job with their films, case in point Iron Man, Black Panther, or the female characters for that matter and Thor maybe to some extent. The movies did a great job with their character progression.

3 Idiots – There of course is controversy around whether this book was adapted from Five Point Someone or not, however given the similarities, I would have to say the movie was scripted way better than the book.

Add to the list, tell me your favorite book adaptations which were even better than the books!

Heard to movie to book adaptation? coming soon…

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The Moral of the Story….

Garish makeup, loud costumes (which you wouldn’t even wear for the friendly neighborhood fancy dress competition), cheesy dialogues, even sleazier dance moves and plot lines which were busy waging a war against logic. If you are a 90s kid you would know what I am talking about; yes I am talking about the, they-are-so-bad-that-they-are-good, Hindi movies from the 90s.

ddljAnd even before you throw DDLJ at me…(despite the fact that I have seen it enough times to rattle off the dialogues in my sleep) I must remind you of the iconic train scene where hanging out from the train to catch hold of the heroine was more logical than pulling the damn chain…yes…the chain!…remember? (My not-better-than-me half though believes the intent of the hero was to run away…who would think an overweight heroine with a lehenga double her weight would achieve this feat, but she did and hence there is no sequel!)

But yes, coming back, I (and I am sure a lot of you) grew up on these films. And ofcourse there were the serious films…the arty types…though I wonder why they were called arty, because besides great plots and wonderful performances, they weren’t very artistic or pleasing to the eye. So you were left with either movies wherein the film makers proudly asked you to leave your brains behind or movies which were so depressing to watch that you’d rather not.

The ‘main dil main aata hoon dimaag mein nahin’ brand of movies had infact made me quite not the movie buff. I remember not going to the cinema hall for a Hindi movie for about 4-5 years (the only exception being Jungle Book)…and guess what I did not think I missed anything.

LipstickIt was last year that I went for a Hindi movie in years…the movie in question – Lipstick Under my Burqa. My reasons for going were defiance more than anything. I expected it to be the arty types, dull, boring, slogging on for ages…so much so that you are no longer interested in the message. But to my surprise, here was an extremely well written, rightly paced, well-made movie. No NanaPatekarisue lengthy monologues and no melodrama. In fact despite a complicated and often misunderstood subject on women emancipation, the movie was vibrant, witty and funny, while very aptly conveying the message. It left one with a thought, a sense of power, a sense of hope. I was impressed, this was a new Bollywood.

Close on the heels came Bariely ki Barfi – An out and out commercial film, the masala types, but once again well written, humorous, witty, very intelligently and subtly challenging stereotypes.

Subh mangal Savdhan (minus the whats-going-on climax) came right after, a film on erectile dysfunction without a grim, gloomy storyline a-la arty films of the 90s.

And now as I end up watching Stree twice within a span of a week and with Race 3 memes still fresh in my memory, I wonder what has changed?

I would say the hero! Looks like we are finally waking up to the fact that it’s the story telling and the writing which are the real heroes. It’s heartening when the writers are generously mentioned in movie reviews and conversations. Because what are films if not another far reaching medium to tell stories.

Tell me which are your favourite well written Bollywood movies in recent times?  To more great stories!!

 

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Just another day – Not just another book!!

I happened to read Just Another Day on my way back home after a particularly a long day at work. Though this is the debut book of Piyusha Vir, she is no stranger to the world of writing and I quite enjoy reading her; she has this quirky, easy-breezy style of writing which is unpretentious and hence very relatable, so I was sure I would enjoy it. And I must say as I turned over to the first page where the protagonist was talking about getting pally with a murderer in a…umm..very non-chalant way…I knew this is just what the doctor would prescribe at the end of a long long day….but I was so WRONG…because by the time I reached the 3rd and last story [yes, its short and sweet, just 3 stories] I knew it was nothing like a prescription…rather, more like that shot of tequila…quick and effective;-)

The stories start off very simply, one is about a writers circle…or rather a murder at a writers circle..well..you see so normal…happens all the time…Huh!! and if that weren’t enough to intrigue you, there is also a twist at the end…Oh wait…where did that come from? and that is the USP of the book. You can never imagine what is going to happen [unless you cheat and read the last page first…DO NOT DO THAT!].

The 2nd thing that works for me is that each of the stories are different from each other so it never becomes predictable or boring. And the fact that the short stories are pretty short, shorter than the usual length, it is no mean feat that the writer has been able to still  to make the stories believable, the characters well etched out and even manages to surprise,and in some cases shock, the readers.

The 2nd story especially, though it starts off a little rant-ish…but the writer quickly takes charge and give you a now-heart-warming, now-edge-of-the-seat, now heart-breaking story. The ending had me shocked and stunned!

My favourite story however is the last one…a far cry from the first two stories, this is romance at its best…first crush anyone? totally awww-worthy, it is bound to bring a smile on your face and I was amazed by the writers attention to detail…but wait there a twist here too…a twist which probably wont shock you, but will make you question stereotypes and prejudices…now that again is not a simple task, to make the reader think about an issue without even talking about it.

Go ahead and read it…because Just Another day isn’t Just another book, its entertaining, thought provoking and the perfect read on the go!!

 

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