Saturday, April 29, 2006

Shantaram - Gregory David Roberts

First I read A Suitable Boy and then I read Shantaram. Well one thing is for sure I do not have any fear of fat books any more. Shantaram was a cool 900+ pages which I read with relative ease and a lot of dedication.

These were my thoughts when I picked up the book as a birthday gift from my sister. Thanks Sis! I was thinking, hmm interesting topic ( Escaped convict, mumbai slums and a lot of crazy things in between), fat book - so there should be a lot of snob value attached in reading the book! You can say anything you like, but seeing a fat book in the hand does evoke a lot of questions...!

Anyway, enough about why I bought the book....This book is fascinating. There are a number of reasons why I loved it and I am going to list it point wise

1. I have always had a fascination for the Mumbai slums. This book gets me as close as possible to them without getting my hands dirty ( you know what i mean ).
2. Through out the book, Gregory talks about the various restaurants in Mumbai which actually exist.I mean in a regular novel one does not need to mention actual restaurants but here it has got me all the more interested. I am keen to check out Leopold's and Mocambo after reading about them. I have already seen Shamiana. These restaurants make the story just the more believable and helps the reader to identify with Shantaram and his world.
3. There is a good amount of philosophy involved in the book which does not go over the head. It has been presented to the reader in a digestable manner.
4. There are some incidents and places mentioned on Mumbai which sound utterly crazy and unbelievable, for instance the Standing Babas!

There are hundreds of more reasons hidden in the book to make it interesting. I suggest go explore!

Read it!!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Munich - Much munch more

Saw a late night show of Munich yesterday. There were two factors that had made a positive impact on me even before I stepped into the theatre
1. My friend, Rohan had passed a very important test successfully and he is now well on his way to become a PhD! Yeah!
2. Rohan's blog on Munich, had sort of derated the movie for me.

So as you guessed it, with my expectations lowered and my spirits high, I ended up quite liking the movie. The fact that it deals with the events after the killings did not matter too much. The presentation was nice and through out the movie there was a desirable effect due to the absence of a constant background score. Well made and well accepted.

Couple of observations.
The movie was made around an international event that must have been well publicised inciting a lot of emotions. This some how was missing in the movie. Do not get me wrong, I would put the movie down in the genre of Drama / Action / Thriller and that too a top one. Films like Schindler's List how ever have a category of their own, and I had expected it to be in that league. I believe given the sensitivity of the event, the theme had the potential of moving emotions in people and be critically acclaimed. So now I am not surprised of its treatment at the Oscars (though I have come to believe now that Oscars are no longer a yardstick to rate films effectively).

I was pleasantly surprised to see Eric Bana in the lead role. I liked his acting and association with the character. As a whole his performance was appealing. I saw him in Hulk and was much impressed. It could have been because I liked Hulk a lot, but the actor finds himself in my favour.

The only spoiler in the movie were the explicit scenes (which were not really explicit really). The desparation show in Evner's mind could have been displayed on a much better platform than the nocturnal bed.

Good movie, glad I watched it. Lets put at it this way, I cannot affored to scoff at a Spielberg movie with out experiencing it first hand.


Thursday, April 13, 2006

Sermons over a cut

Ever since I moved from SPJIMR, I have not had a decent haircut. I like this slope on the back which is short and neat. The barbers in my area dont have a clue about it. Some have come close but even a 50 buck "Hazel" haircut did not meet my expectations.

So as evident from where I am coming from, I went back to the same barber near my college in Mumbai. Light of Asia. Manned and operated by a muslim family. Situated next to the mosque, you can say it is pretty much a muslim "dominated" area. For me dominated means that in the event of riots who emerges less brutalized. Anyway, I had gone to this salon with happy memories of college and in hope of a good trim.

The man (owner) seemed to recognise me vaguely until I introduced myself as a former student. It did not really matter but he was very pleasant anyway.

I told him the kind of cut I desired and he started on with his craft. Very artistic, polite and delicate in his movements. I do not know how it started, what was the seed that initiated the conversation which followed for the next 1 hour over a haircut..

I asked him if he knew the price of a flat next door. ( Some swanky place where flats are available for 70-80 lacs a piece)....He was genuinely astonished by the price and commented that if men were wiser they would group together and erect a building for themselves in the collective capital. Logical yes but feasible no....I guess this was how co-operatives came up in mumbai...anyways...

We spoke at length and then the topic veered towards religion. Here was a devout muslim who even used to read the Aazan in the adjoining mosque. His view was very simple. There is one and only one way to reach God. It is either Hindu, Christianity, Muslim or any other religion. But there is exactly one religion. There cannot be multiple paths. Only one path is the true one and the others are a quagmire. He was not saying his religion is the right one but there can only be one religion. I on the other hand believe that religion or no religion God can be reached. There was bashing of idol worshippers where as I supported idol worshipping. A lot was discussed.

One of the questions I raised was "Why has God sent us to earth?" Prompt came the reply, to worship Him. My response - so basically He has sent us here to praise Him and laud Him. If this is what was all that we were to do, then why didnt we stay where we came from and praise Him from there? Why would God choose to have people follow Him? Does He have a point to prove to the Devil? Anyway......This and many other things were spoken and debated.

I didnt oppose him vehemently on every point ( not advisble to argue with a man having both your neck and a razor blade in his hands). The reason why I thought a lot about this conversation was because I had assumed he had knowledge of his religion and I believe that all religions preach peace and advocate tolerance towards other religions. This I hope forms the basis of all religions....It didnt seem so at the Light of Asia......I am also not too sure what does Kaballah preach....

The poor man had a terrible head ache coz of the high involvement talk we had. He infact had to lie down after giving me the haircut....Well, at least I have something to write about.