Sunday, March 22, 2009

Brave or Foolish?

The great Indian electoral tamasha is well and truly underway. And in a couple of months time, we will have a new government at the helm in New Delhi... (or the same one, again). A cursory visit to CNN IBN's website last week brought my attention to an interesting story. Challenging BJP's LK Advani himself, on home turf, in Gandhinagar, is former dancer, actress and activist, Mallika Sarabhai. Also, from Trivandram, we have the articulate, cosmopolitan and former UN official, Shashi Tharoor. Rajdeep Sardesai, on the channel, called this, rather sarcastically, the so-called rise of the urban, English-speaking neta. He seemed to believe that while this made for a good story and all that, these neophytes had nil chance of actually winning at the hustings. Hence their efforts in this regard would end up being nothing more than interesting day time news fodder.
I reckon Sardesai might have been a tad uncharitable to both Tharoor and Sarabhai. The current political scenario is already replete with examples of young, educated, professional, articulate albeit second generation politicians, ie, the Abdullahs, Pilots, Gandhis, Scindias et all. It is perhaps rarer to see urban, educated professionals, who after making a name for themselves globally in their chosen fields, opt to give up their flourishing careers and get their hands dirty, so to speak, in the muck that is Indian politics, and therein lies the heart of the matter. They have chosen not to be armchair participants in India's destiny. They intend to use their expertise to make a change in the India they see around them, and that is laudable. Take Tharoor's case. One of the most passionate Indophiles I know (as well as an alumnus of my high school in Calcutta), his writings on India and being Indian have influenced me a great deal. He has risen to the top of the UN in an exceedingly short span of time. Imagine what a person like him could accomplish in Government. An effort in the right direction this is indeed, as India needs bright, educated and clean professionals in politics. Outsiders we may brand them, but it is this breed that we need now more than ever, if we are to build on the momentum of India fulfilling her destiny. They might well lose the election, more Sarabhai than Tharoor, but this is a start and hopefully they have already set an example for others to follow. In a small way, the cleansing of the political system has begun. So go forth Mallika, and continue your 'Satyagraha against the politics of hate'.

PS - Here's a link to an interview with Tharoor, about his life and work, from the archives of UC Berkeley(Conversations with history series). It's an hour long but a very interesting watch.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

The Stoneman Murders

In the mid 80s, a mysterious serial killer terrorised the streets of Bombay, stoning sleeping street dwellers to death. Large numbers of police personnel were deployed, but the killer was never brought to book. The killings then stopped as abruptly as they started, only to resume a couple of years later in Calcutta, where again the killer was never caught. I was in Calcutta at the time and as a 9 year old was suitably petrified of the legend of the 'Stoneman', as he was christened. Our first 'rock' star!! :-)
Manish Gupta, best known earlier as the writer of 'Sarkar', brings this real life incident to life with chilling effect in 'The Stoneman Murders', one of the finest thrillers to emerge in recent times. Although a fictionalised account of the investigation of the Bombay leg of these murders, the film almost convinces you that what transpired was anything but fiction. Kay Kay Menon plays a suspended cop who views the case as a vehicle to forge his way back into the force and to credibility. He carries the film on his able shoulders and doesn't fail to deliver, as usual. His manic and desperate portrayal of the fallen from grace Sub-inspector Sanjay is what keeps you glued to the proceedings. Well not quite... the script is the other hero, tight, focused and with only minor blemishes, one of them being the track with the protagonist's wife and his marital life, which gets a little jarring and takes a little away from the surrounding tension and intended claustrophobia. Arbaaz Khan, in another sleep walk of a performance, plays Inspector Kedar, Sanjay's colleague and the biggest roadblock in Sanjay's parallel investigation. You see, Kedar believes that Sanjay is the 'Stoneman' and will go to any lengths to see him brought to book. This subplot takes shape in the second half of the film as the film hurtles to its thrilling climax. 
Manish Gupta as a director does a fine job and keeps the suspense up right until the very end, when the killer's true identity is revealed. The real life incident provides him with great ingredients for a thriller and he redeems himself as a fine chef indeed. Shooting most of the scenes in the night, amidst Mumbai's desolate streets adds to the pounding tension and recreates the atmosphere of the time pretty well.
The film is a good take on a 'what could have been' scenario. And it delivers.


Filmfare Awards 2008-09 - Winners

The winners of the 54th Filmfare awards now stand announced. Lets see how I did. 
I must say the best actor award came as bit of a suprise. Hrithik Roshan gave in a competant performance, but did he deserve the best actor award? Well, apparently. Another one I got wrong was the Best Male Playback. Well, something had to go to the Chopra camp, didn't it? :-)
8 out of 10 ain't bad.