A weak opposition is the greatest threat to Democracy

Last November a #24Hour #NewsChannel that has been known to be vocal in it’s criticism of the present government was taken off air (#Ban was the actual word used) for a whole day. It was unprecedented having never happened in the #PostIndependence #India. The reason given was that some broadcasts by the channel in question had endangered national security. Amidst widespread condemnation of this ill conceived move, the channel approached the #ApexCourt of the country to get this inexplicable ban lifted. Now at the start of this week the top investigative agency of the country raided the residence of the folks behind the same news channel and quite expectedly large sections of the Indian media expressed their outrage. At what they felt was a blatant attempt to curb the freedom of the press. Now we all know the value that free and fearless media has, especially in a thriving democracy. But truth be told this is something that was waiting to happen. Just that opportunity presented itself to the right wingers only now.

So what has changed since #2014? That was when the #GrandOldParty of India (the #Congress) was voted out in favour of what has been known as a party of hardliners. In these three years since PM Modi came to power though there have been sporadic incidents of violence against the minorities and those from the marginalised sections of society, by and large the focus has been on development. Or at least that has been the image that this government has tried to create. But in the last month equations have changed drastically. That is, after the elections in the largest state of the country, #UttarPradesh. The way in which the BJP was able to decimate all it’s opponents in that election has two huge implications. One, the ruling party is looking quite invincible so much so that a reelection in less than two years time seems almost inevitable. And two, the opposition has been cut down to size. And how!

Contrary to popular belief that an authoritarian government can cause terrible harm to a healthy democracy it is actually the lack of credible opposition in the #Parliament and outside it that is a bigger threat. Look around and you will realise that the #BJP has benefited immensely from the fact that the principle opposition party, that is Congress, seems in such a disarray. Bereft of a leader with the pedigree and/or charisma to take on a popular Prime Minister like #NarendraModi, the Congress has simply been incapable of pinning down the ruling party. Be it on important policy decisions or even on alleged attempts to subvert democracy by targeting individuals, organisation or the media Congress simply does not seem to have the stomach for it. The Communists have become virtually irrelevant with the exception of a state or two. And regional parties like the #SP, JD(U), #TMC and #AAP who have been extremely critical of this government have simply been unable to make much headway nationally.

In the last few weeks we have seen how the ruling regime has stepped on the gas when it comes to
controversial albeit trivial issues like that of #AnimalSlaughter while conveniently side stepping on more critical ones like that of #Unemployment. Law and order in the largest state of the country has taken a backseat. The #RuralEconomy of the country is in tatters, #Farmers all over are finding it impossible to make a living and independent voices of dissent are being throttled. But who will take up cudgels for them is the million rupee question. With the pillars of democracy like the #Judiciary and the media becoming increasingly weakened, there is no better time than now for the opposition to unite. Not just for the sake of democracy but also for the future of this country and it’s citizens. #WeThePeople.

What the self goal by PM May means for Brexit

If you thought that you had seen it all after the dramatic resignation of #DavidCameron (who of course had vehemently opposed the move) last year following a reversal in the nationwide #Referendum on Brexit, think again. In snap polls dubbed as the ‘Brexit Elections’ called for by the newly appointed Prime Minister #TheresaMay the ruling #ConservativeParty suffered terrible losses. So much so that the beleaguered Labour Party has been given a new lease of life and more worryingly the Conservatives are no longer a majority in the #Parliament left with 318 out of 650 total seats. That is a climbdown of 12 vital seats and it is no wonder then that the move is being dubbed as a self goal. In this melee the #LabourParty has made a neat gain of 29 seats riding on the back of their charismatic albeit controversial leader #JeremyCorbyn. Experts are still divided on what impact the General election results will have on the whole #Brexit affair but on one thing they will all agree. This ruling party is completely out of sync with the aspirations of the average British citizen.

#12 years after the #SecondWorldWar ended a group of European countries established what was the European Union in it’s earliest avatar. The premise was simple enough – countries doing trade together were less likely to go to war with each other. Interestingly #Britain was not even part of this original group and it entered into the fray only in the 1970s. In subsequent years Britain and the Union fought on everything ranging from immigration policies to #EU regulations and beef exports to even chocolates (the British had to fight a sustained battle to be allowed to sell home made chocolates in the rest of Europe) and suffice it to say that it was an uneasy relationship that has seen many more downs than ups. The first indication that the United Kingdom might actually exit the EU came as early as the 80s when #MargaretThatcher was the PM. She was however able to save the day by renegotiating many terms with the EU yet undeniably the first seeds had been sown.

The birth of the United Kingdom Independence Party (#UKIP) around the same time was no mere coincidence. In the #2014 European elections, UKIP won 27% of the votes setting the tone for things to follow. The then PM David Cameron under increasing pressure from people within his party and outside announced that if the #Tories won in 2015 there would be a referendum at the end of 2017. Cameron was in favor of negotiating terms and staying in the EU but clearly he could not gauge public sentiment. As global terrorism, economic slowdown and immigration woes all hit Europe together #Nationalism has taken centre stage. So it was expected that calling for a snap election promising a #HardBrexit would do the trick or at least Mrs May thought it would. Instead what UK is staring at is a hung Parliament for which the reasons are not difficult to see. The Conservatives never really mentioned how those in power hoped to tide over what is likely to be a messy divorce. After all exiting the world’s largest free trade bloc cannot be done on a whim.

As things stand today UK needs a leader with forcefulness of purpose, vision and foresight to guide them through what is a tricky phase and it seems quite clear that Theresa May is not that person. As Mrs May tries to cobble support and stay put as PM, how things will pan out with regards to Brexit remains unclear as of now. And somehow one feels this one has a twist or two still to come.One thing is certain though. Expect more fireworks.

Anand Kumar – The humble visionary behind Super 30

 Meet Arbaaz Alam. His father ekes out a living selling eggs on the roadside in the Bihar Sharief locality of Nalanda district. Then there is Aditya Anand, son of Gautam Pandey who works as a labourer at some factory. Or even Kundan Kumar. His father Manoj Kumar Verma has a roadside clothshop. And let us not forget Abhishek Kumar whose father is a priest. How about the twins, Sumit Raj and Subham Raj whose father runs a small hardware shop? Each of the kids at the #RamanujanSchoolOfMathematics comes from an economically backward class and have got awe inspiring tales to recount. It is only through sheer grit, determination and hard work that all these #Super30 candidates have been able to crack the #IIT-JEE. And without a doubt they all owe it to Anand Kumar, a Maths teacher from the state of #Bihar who started this pathbreaking educational program in the year 2002.

Anand Kumar knew all there was to know about poverty. His father was a clerk in the postal department who could not afford private schooling for his children. But Kumar was no ordinary kid. It was while studying in a Hindi medium government school that he developed a keen interest in #Mathematics and after graduating he secured an admission in the prestigious #CambridgeUniversity. But the untimely death of his father and the financial condition of his family put paid to his dreams. He would study vigorously during the day and go around with his mother every evening selling papad (or Papadum as some call it) to make ends meet. It was around this time that Kumar started a small institute titled The Ramanujan School of Mathematics with just two students but within two to three years this number rose to about 500. The turning point came in the year 2000 when a student approached Kumar seeking coaching for the IIT-JEE but being poor could not afford to pay Kumar. Thus was born the idea for #Super30.

In the year 2002, The Ramanujan School of Mathematics started competitive tests for students hailing from economically weaker sections of the society and the best of them, thirty to be exact, were enrolled in the Super 30 program. As part of this Super 30 program, for one year Kumar provides free food & lodging for these students while coaching them (even providing all relevant study material) to crack the IIT-JEE. It is said that Kumar’s mother herself cooks food for these students while his brother manages the day-to-day affairs. In the last 15 years close to 400 (396 to be exact) of 450 students who enrolled for the Super 30 have cracked the IIT-JEE which is a success ratio of about 88%. What makes this achievement special is that the IIT-JEE admits only 8000 students out of about six million odd who apply every year and it is known as one of the toughest entrance examinations in the world.

As word about Super 30 spread far and wide, Kumar has been bestowed with accolades and awards. The man who could not afford a foreign education due to his humble background has been invited by reputed universities like #MIT and #Harvard to speak about his pioneering efforts in the field of education. Government organisations and private institutions from all over the world have offered to provide Kumar with financial assistance but he has politely declined. Nor does he accept any donations for his noble endeavour. To this day it is by running evening classes in Patna that his team raises the funds needed for Super 30. Speaking to the press after his Super 30 had yet again miraculously scored a 100% thisyear, Kumar felt this was the opportune moment to take his Super 30 to other parts of the country.

More power to you, Mr Kumar. May your tribe grow.

Is DRS a game changer or a necessary evil?

In the year #1945 the US dropped nuclear bombs on the Japanese cities of #Hiroshima and #Nagasaki. The effects were disastrous in both places with thousands of civilians killed and many other injured but for many who defended this controversial move it was a #NecessaryEvil. For it was done for greater good, the end of the #WorldWar. Sure enough within 10 days of the Nagasaki bombing Japan surrendered signalling the end of War. Point being that sometimes tough decisions have to be taken while looking at the larger picture, cliched as that sounds. And change is something that is inevitable as time passes by. Talking of change, it is something that the game of cricket has been averse to and the connoisseurs have often scoffed at attempts to usher in modern technology. When #ODI cricket first made it’s appearance thanks to visionary media mogul, #KerryPacker the purists were dismissive calling it #PyjamaCricket. Now we all know who is having the last laugh on that one.

Likewise when the #ThirdUmpire was first brought into the fray (in the #1990s) not many were pleased least of all the onfield umpires many of whom felt that the role of such an officiating authority must be as minimal as possible. Not surprisingly, controversy broke out when the DRS also known as #UDRS (short for Umpire Decision Review System) was proposed to be introduced in the longer version of the game that is Test match cricket. The DRS gave players the opportunity to get umpiring decisions(that they deemed to be wrong) to be reviewed. Those supporting DRS talked of umpiring errors that had quite inadvertently changed the course of a match and argue that when there is technology available why not make use of it? It was first tried in #2008, in a Test series between two sides from the subcontinent India and #SriLanka. Though most #Cricket boards agreed to start using DRS technology, India strongly opposed DRS.

The fact that India opposed DRS was worrisome for the game what with the Indian board being one of the most cash rich cricket boards of the world and the team itself drawing huge crowds wherever they went. India’s contention was that DRS was ineffective if it only relied upon #BallTracking (they felt the one field umpires had a better view) and it needed to incorporate others like the #HawkEye, #HotSpot & #Snickometer into the mix for decision making to be more accurate. Both the above mentioned are handy tools in determining where the ball hit the batsman, the bat or the pads. And if it was both then which was first. And with the rule being that both teams had to agree for DRS to be used in a series India’s refusal to use it was a matter of worry for the ICC (the world body of cricket) There are those who question the need for having a limit on the number of reviews per innings and/or match. And some who argue that DRS further diminishes the role of onfield umpires.

Some argue that DRS goes against one of the basic tenets of cricket, that the benefit of doubt in any tight decision must go to the batsman. But fact is cricket, as it is played right now is
already batsman friendly so one rule that helps bowlers cannot be all that bad. Fortunately in the last decade since DRS first came into the game technology has grown astonishingly and DRS in it’s revamped avatar is getting a large number of decisions spot on. Additionally using DRS in real time has only helped the administrators of the game understand shortcomings in the system. So that it is tweaked accordingly. As of 2017 the DRS is still a work in progress, albeit making good progress. So much so that umpires having an off day can get caught on camera. Ask former Sri Lankan offie and umpire #KumaraDharmasena.

Pullela Gopichand – The man with the Midas Touch

The year was #1997. Arguably India’s finest shuttler #PrakashPadukone was on a rampage against the #BAI (Badminton Association of India) and in a rebellion that was backed by all the players formed the #IBC (Indian Badminton Confederation) The reason being that those at the helm of affairs seemed to treating it like their own personal fiefdom. It was also alleged that there was widespread corruption and nepotism in the sport. Players were not being given world class practice facilities and denied the international exposure that was essential in producing world beaters. And with the dismal results in top international tournaments over the last decade and more, the writing was on the wall. #Badminton, in the country was down in the dumps. So when Pullela Gopichand won the #AllEnglandOpen (considered the #OscarAwards of badminton) in #2001 it was completely unexpected. More so because Gopi had undergone three surgeries on his left knee in recent years which is perhaps why he lost quite tamely in the pre quarter finals of the #SydneyOlympics an year earlier. But clearly Gopi had other ideas.

Today almost two decades later, his proteges #HSPrannoy and #SrikanthKidambi have both entered the last 4 stage of the prestigious #IndonesianOpen. This is while the girls coached by him, #SainaNehwal and PV Sindhu (both had surprising early exits in the same tourney) have both gone to win Olympic medals for the country – a cherished dream which Gopi failed to achieve during his own playing career. It has been a long and arduous journey for the champion shuttler ever since he hung up his boots in the year #2003. Looking at the terrible situation that the sport was in, he decided to take up coaching and was soon named the #ChiefCoach of the Indian team. But this move did not go down well with many. After all he was self taught. As a result many senior players refused to train under him. Also Gopi realised while coaching the wards that there was one big drawback which was hampering the growth of Indian players. A world class facility.

Gopi felt he had to take things into his own hands i.e., start an #Academy of his own. But it was
easier said than done and he ran into difficulties in raising the funds necessary. Many corporates felt that badminton was simply not a sport that could attract eyeballs. And lest we forget ours is a #Cricket obsessed country. After five years of struggle, Gopi decided to put it all on the line by mortgaging his family home which finally helped him get the funds needed to start the Gopichand Academy in his native city of #Hyderabad. The year was #2008. Naysayers calling it a self destructive move were forced to shut up and take notice when a 16 year old Saina Nehwal who he had been coaching since 2004 started winning tournaments everywhere. Saina rose to become the first ever Indian world no 1 and her proudest moment came with the bronze medal at the #LondonOlympics in 2012. Life had come a full circle for Gopi.Pullela Gopichand

But the success did not come without it’s fair share of controversies. Critics point out that he seemed inept at achieving the same kind of success with the doubles players. To make matter worse, top doubles player #JwalaGutta openly accused Gopichand of being biased towards singles players (read Saina) In 2014 his star protege Saina split up with Gopi because she felt his training was not ‘upto the mark’. But even before the dust around the controversy could settle down a new name had emerged from the Gopichand stable – Sindhu. In the next couple of years, Sindhu rose rapidly through the ranks and did one better than Saina by winning a silver in last year’s Olympics. Now with the men from his Academy making waves internationally, Gopi has proven it yet again. That he is the man with the Midas touch.

Should our armed forces be above criticism?

#9thApril was a busy morning in central Kashmir’s #ShiaMuslim majority district of #Budgam. After all #Bypolls were being conducted for a #ParlimentarySeat. While voting was still underway a mob appeared out of nowhere and started pelting stones and the paramilitary forces (read #CRPF) made a distress call to the army fearful that things could get really violent. #MajorGogoi who was leading his men made a spontaneous decision to grab the person leading the #StonePelters and tie him to the Army jeep. Then using this person as a #HumanShield the Army was able to disperse the violent mob, save a number of precious lives and diffuse the entire situation without any casualties reported. As soon as the incident came to the attention of the #MainstreamMedia it caused a huge furore with questions being raised about the use of a human shield. Was this the first incident of stone pelting in the #Valley or was this the first time that human shields were being used in the Valley? The answer to both questions is NO.

The first reported incident of stone pelting by the local population goes back to 1990s when the
conflict was at it’s peak and usually such protests would be led by #SeparatistLeaders many of whom have today joined mainstream politics. Be that as it may, fact remains that even back then this was a tricky issue with no ready solutions available to the #Army. But it must be noted that post #2008 stone pelting as a form of protest against the Army has become a favorite among the Kashmiris. One of the options that has been used for some time in order to disperse a mob is firing #TearGas shells but unfortunately in the Kashmir Valley this move has proved counter productive in effectively handling large mobs that are violent and appear virtually out of nowhere. The other option has been to use #PelletGuns but due to the terrible repercussions on the protestors hit by these pellets this method has come under sharp criticism by human right groups.

Coming to the matter of using a civilian as a human shield it might be interesting to note that this has happened in the Valley several times in the past as documented by #IndependentJournalists covering the #Conflict in Kashmir. Where civilians were made to walk in front of the paramilitary forces while they conducted operations in sensitive areas. But as explained above the armed forces have their work cut out with the options to deal with such protests being limited. Lest we forget the Army routinely finds itself on the other side of the barrel and in places where there is an armed conflict and/or insurgency it is always a fine balance that the law enforcers have to strike. Easier said than done especially when there are lives at stake. In the matter involving Major Gogoi the actions of the Army and the government to fete the officer has only further complicated matters. All this even as an inquiry was ordered into the whole episode thus sending out conflicting signals about the stand of the current regime on the whole matter.

In all this a top retired Army officer publicly stated that using human shields was part of the #SOP (standard operating procedure) in counter insurgency operations in the #NorthEast. But the current Army chief has ruled out this being a part of the SOP in the Valley. After all it cannot be denied that these methods do violate the #GenevaConventions of war and are not the best way forward. Critics point out that even in #Israel where the use of human shields was once a common practice it has been outlawed since #2005. Hopefully the Major Gogoi incident will be a one off which will not recur anytime soon. But in the volatile Valley of Kashmir nothing is ever certain. Ever. Watch this space for more.

RAMAN RAGHAV 2.0 (2016) – A journey into the mind of a psychopath

  Disclaimer: These are the ones that got away. Below are impressions from a belated viewing on the small screen.

RAMAN RAGHAV 2.0 (2016) – A journey into the mind of a psychopath

And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you – Friedrich Nietzsche

INTRO

A few weeks ago heard about the sad demise of writer-director #JonathanDemme, the man behind what is arguably the finest #SerialKiller flick of all time, #THESILENCEOFTHELAMBS. A number of notable films have been made in this genre like #AlfredHitchcock’s #PSYCHO, #OliverStone’s NATURAL BORN KILLERS and David Fincher’s #SEVEN to name the ones that come off the top of one’s head. Yet nothing comes close to the character of #HannibalLector (a spine chilling Anthony Hopkins) Never before had one got to see a psychopath at work, from such close quarters. It was disturbing(mostly), nauseating(several instances) and enthralling(at times) Compare this with our own Bollywood which is surprisingly bereft of good movies in this genre. Look around and all you will find is #KAHAANI (whodunit) #EKVILLAIN (puerile) and GUPT (commercial potboiler) Can RAMAN RAGHAV 2.0 fill up this lacunae? Read on.

STORY

RAMAN RAGHAV is inspired by the real life story of a person called #SindhiDalwai (Nawaz calls himself by this name several times in a scene) While the original killer lived in Bombay (now Mumbai) of the 1960s and used to specifically target pavement dwellers this fellow is a copy cat. The whole film plays out like a game of cat and mouse (Tom & Jerry anyone?) between the killer (#NawazuddinSiddiqui) and the cop (#VickyKaushal) chasing him. Only here it is the other way around. As the film hurtles towards a stunning climax, the body count rises.

SCREENPLAY & DIALOGUES

The introductory scene of the film is reminiscent of Kevin Spacey’s delightful whodunit #THEUSUALSUSPECTS and the chapter wise style of story telling is perhaps a subtle homage to #Tarantino. Also the way the hunter becomes the hunted by the latter half of the film reminds one of Coen Brothers’s haunting NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. But that apart, RAMAN RAGHAV 2.0 is all Anurag Kashyap. Vintage Kashyap that is. The real locations (set in the city’s vast slums) and the dreary lighting creates a sense of foreboding in the viewer. Never once does the camera voyeuristically pan on the splattered bodies of the victims. Never do we see Nawaz striking any of his victims dead (Though one does see Kaushal’s character whacking someone on the head in the penultimate scene) No blood curling screams, no sound of metal against skull, nothing. And almost always during a crime the camera is on the killer.

In fact, in what is the most terrifying chapter where Nawaz’s character murders his sister & her family the mere sound of iron car-jack (the murder weapon) being dragged along the floor is enough to send chills down the spine. Therein lies the victory of the director. If you thought all this made for difficult viewing wait till you see the cop’s side of things. As a cocaine snorting ACP whose life is coming undone, Kaushal is sublime. Be it the scenes where he kills a drug peddler or the one where he roughs up his father, edgy does not quite do complete justice to how terrifying the character is. Just like in RGV’s COMPANY where the cigarette becomes like an extension of Ajay Devgan (his most underrated performance) here it is the sunglasses of Kaushal’s. Credit must go to the taut writing (by #VasanBala & Kashyap himself) for keeping both the parallel tracks equally engaging.

TECHNICAL CREDITS

Having edited close to half a dozen films directed by Kashyap, Aarti Bajaj knows a thing or two about Kashyap’s films. And the world that they inhabit in. While self indulgence is something that he has been accused of in the past this one has no extra flab. With a running time of 135 minutes, RAMAN RAGHAV 2.0 moves at a frenetic pace all the way through. Choosing Jay Oza (the lensman of the hit Hindi TV series #24) who has not really shot any feature films was fraught with risk but the gamble pays off and how! The music by Ram Sampath is in sync with the sombre mood of the film and Qatl-e-Aam is pulsating while the background score is unnecessarily loud at times (like in the scene where the cop accidentally kills his lover)

PERFORMANCES

When Mukesh Chhabra is the casting director rest assured that even the smallest of roles will stand out. Be it the person who plays Nawaz’s sister (Amrutha Subhash) the sister’s husband or even the man playing the money lender everyone is right up there. As the girl stuck in an abusive relationship model turned actress Sobhita Dhulipala makes a sparkling debut with the film. Kashyap’s incredible eye for detail comes to the fore in a scene where she is seen having a conversation with her father in chaste Telugu (the actress was born in Andhra)

For actor Vicky Kaushal who won a lot of accolades for his role in the criminally under rated MASAAN this role is as different as chalk is from cheese. Hiding his face in large sunglasses for most part of the film, you never really get to see what is going on in that mind. Nor does he speak much. Yet his extraordinary body language ensures that the tension is palpable as long as he is on the screen. Though Nawaz has the eyeball grabbing, flamboyant role, that Kaushal underplays his role and yet never gets overawed by Nawaz is testament to his talent. The scene in which he accidentally kills his lover in a bout of anger is quite surreal.

What can one say about Nawazuddin Siddiqui that has not been said already? Forget towering personality he is diminutive in height and ordinary looking. Neither does he have a booming voice nor do his eyes burn with intensity. Yet when he appears on the screen, Nawaz is like fire. You take your eyes off him at your own peril. Even in seemingly innocuous scenes like the one where he is locked up by the cops and shouting out for help. My favorite scene is right at the end where Nawaz tells the cop about the reasons that compel him to kill. Mindboggling!

DIRECTION

Anurag Kashyap changes the standard template of serial killer flicks on it’s head by revealing it all in the very first scene. And with the killer stalking the cop convinced that they are both soul mates this is as different a serial killer as any made in Bollywood. From his very first film PAANCH Kashyap has consciously chosen themes that are dark (incest, drugs, violence, crime) and pushed the envelope with his narrative style. His films explore the dark recesses of the human mind and characters that inhabit his world are more black than white with generous doses of grey. Apart from a minor ‘blip’ called BOMBAY VELVET his films have never failed to shock. They always provoke strong reactions – either you love his films or hate them. There is never anything in between. RAMAN RAGHAV 2.0 is right up his alley and will count as one of those films in which it all comes together. For most parts. And coming on the back of the disturbing UGLY this one is uglier.

VERDICT

For those who have not watched a Kashyap film before this one is a must watch. As long as you have the stomach for it. For fans of Kashyap, RAMAN RAGHAV 2.0 is among the Top 5 (Gangs of Wasseypur, Black Friday, Gulaal and Ugly being the others) Not an easy watch this!

Why App based taxi services are a nonstarter in Goa?

For some time now, the tiny state of #Goa, situated on the #WesternCoast has been one of the most
popular tourist destinations of the country. It’s famed #Beaches known for a vibrant #NightLife are a big attraction as is it’s #CulturalDiversity (ruled as it was by the #Portuguese for almost five centuries) languid #FishingVillages and rich variety of flora & fauna. It is also home to some #WorldHeritage sites including the famous #Basilica of #BomJesus that is thronged by believers from all over. Like many of the #Tropical places of the world Goa witnesses maximum footfalls during certain months of the year what with summers being extremely sultry while the monsoon brings torrential rains. Every year millions of #Tourists descend from everywhere to celebrate #Christmas and usher in the #NewYear. As a result of which long unending #TrafficSnarls are a common sight in the coastal pockets of the state. Cost of travel & accomodation goes through the roof and with public transport being virtually non existent, renting a bike/car is the best option. In fact it is the only option.

In other parts of the country and especially in the big metropolitan cities a #RapidTransit system (like #METRO) is already in place and doing swimmingly well. But in Goa there are no intrastate #Trains in operation. Most of the #Buses which are #PrivatelyOperated are inexpensive & run across the length and breadth of the state but the problem is that these buses usually wind up by early evening itself. So if you are a night owl wanting to soak in the sights at the beach side parties then the bus is pretty much ruled out as an option. Goa is blessed with a number of lakes, rivers and of course there is the omnipresent #ArabianSea. Yet strangely connecting these via #InlandWaterways has not been explored as an option in all these years. Now this arrangement perhaps works fine for the local population but in peak season it sticks out like a sore thumb. What about rental taxis, did you say? Now that is the crux of the problem.

For years #TaxiOperators in Goa have been allowed by a lax administration to do as they please and charge whatever they deem fit. Travellers have complained of the high handedness of these folks saying that their fares are exorbitant, their behavior borders on the obnoxious and they are generally very unreliable. But wait. Surely #AppBasedTaxis are a great way to combat this menace. In fact in the last few years as App based taxis gain in popularity in the neighbouring states (read Mumbai, Bangalore) murmurs have begun that this should become the norm in Goa too. But look at the #ModusOperandi of App based taxi operators and you will realise why they will never work in Goa. The moment you order a taxi using an App, the software inside the App quickly lets you know how soon the cab will arrive at your doorstep and how much the ride will cost too. But how well this system works depends on two simple words – Demand and Supply.

In a sprawling metro the network of taxis are so well connected that most times you will not have to wait too long for a taxi to arrive. There is always a cab in the vicinity. More importantly once the taxi driver has dropped you off to a chosen destination he will usually have another pickup & drop request ready for him. That is how these App based taxi operators are able to give you cheap, fast and reliable rides. On the one hand if the supply is found lacking customers will have to wait endlessly for the ride whereas if the demand is less the taxi driver will not find it feasible. Either way the well oiled system that works so well in the metros will come undone. With the local population happy to make do with the existing public transport, the onus of using these App based services will fall on the tourists. Now for two to three months of business which company would be willing to put up with losses throughout the year? This will also mean that using App based taxis might cost you a whole lot more. Which brings us back to square one. Developing inland waterways is a step that is necessary but that is a long term solution. What is the way out, right now? Your guess is as good as mine.

Daniel Day-Lewis calls it quits – The end of an era

 It was at a young, impressionable age that one got to see #DanielDay-Lewis in the incredibly depressing #MyLeftFoot and not knowing any better (remember that this was the pre #Google age) assuming that he was actually like that. A person suffering from #CerebralPalsy capable of only controlling one body part – his left foot. But one suspects it had a bit to do with the #Craft as well. And a lot of madness. For the part Day-Lewis actually spent weeks at a cerebral palsy clinic learning to speak like the character in the film does. All through the shoot he remained confined to his #Wheelchair even having unit hands actually feed him food. All this in the name of preparing for a role. Every actor will tell you about that one role for which they would gladly give their right arm. Day-Lewis gave it his all. For every role that he ever played on the big screen. So when the British thespian announced a couple of days ago that he was hanging his boots, one hopes that this is just one of those #Brain-Fade moments.

Like when he was playing the lead role in #Hamlet at the prestigious #NationalTheatre at #London and to the amazement of everyone left the stage abruptly midway through his performance before collapsing backstage. He was to remark later that he had seen his own father standing (on the stage) that fateful day staring back at Daniel Day-Lewis. The actor subsequently denied having literally seen his father’s ghost that day but that was #1989. Day-Lewis has never returned to the stage again. But then he has different from actors of his generation. #Different in every sense of the much abused word. Unlike many great actors who have these heartrending tales of struggles & tribulations that dot their journey to stardom, Day-Lewis had none. He came from a fairly well-to-do British family (#Posh in his own words) and never really had to worry about where his next meal came from. Some would say that this afforded him the luxury to have five year long breaks between his roles (he has done only five films in the last two decades) Day-Lewis would simply call it being #Steadfast.

For an actor of the calibre that Daniel Day-Lewis possesses it is perhaps very important to retain this enigmatic charm. You know, it lends just that bit of mystery, that bit of aura which is missing in actors nowadays. So no matter how many pounds an actor put on for that dream role or how well another actor nailed a rare accent in the quest for perfection it is already a lost cause. Not so with Day-Lewis. So this whole disappearing act that he does after every epochal performance is as important for us as an audience as it is for him as an actor. One fondly remembers the time when he went off the radar after filming the very underrated #TheBoxer. For five years after that he went to work as a #Cobbler in #Italy under the tutelage of the great #StefanoBemer. Whatever was the logic behind what he did seems to have worked just fine. In 2002, Day-Lewis returned to play his most bad-ass role, Bill #TheButcher Cutter in #Scorsese’s violent #GangsOfNewYork.

Even as Day-Lewis announced his decision to ‘stop working as an actor’ (the words of his rep) he has still one last ace up his sleeve – #PaulThomasAnderson’s PHANTOM THREAD. That in itself in rare, Day-Lewis has only collaborated with only director on more than one film. Which was the Irish filmmaker Jim Sheridan (with whom he actually did three films) Whether Day-Lewis stays true to his word or whether all this is part of the prep work for a new role as an actor retiring from the profession (as a smart alec remarked on a social networking site) one thing is for certain. When Anderson’s film releases THERE WILL BE BLOOD.

Tubelight Movie Review : This tubelight flickers incessantly, never really turns on

Just remember, life is like a box of chocolates – from the book Norwegian Wood

INTRO

Here is an interesting bit of stat. Since the Academys were first awarded (in the year #1929) a
whopping 16% of the awards for Best Actor & Actress have been snared by those actors whose characters have some kind of #Disability. Be it a blind #AlPacino (Scent of a Woman) or an austistic Dustin Hoffman (#RainMan) an OCD afflicted #JackNicholson (As Good as it Gets) or a low IQ #TomHanks (#ForrestGump) they have all been there and ‘won’ that. Back home it is more of the same. A blind Naseeruddin Shah (#Sparsh) a deaf-mute Sanjeev Kumar (#Koshish) a progeria patient Amitabh Bachchan (#Paa) all won National Awards (and we are not even mentioning the women here) So when reigning Bollywood superstar Salman ‘bhai’ Khan decides to play a man-child in a film titled TUBELIGHT it evokes tremendous curiosity. Rajat Kamal beckons?

WARNING : SPOILERS AHEAD

STORY

Set in #1962 right in the middle of the #IndiaChinaWar Tubelight takes us through the journey of a man-child Laxman Singh Bisht (The makers reckon surnames are enough to create authenticity) played by Salman Khan and his brother Bharat (a terrible-as-always Sohail Khan) who is the whole world to Tubelight (nicknamed so by his neighbours for being slow on the take) So what happens when Bharat leaves to fight for his country? How does Laxman fend for himself? This makes up the rest of the film.

SCRIPT, SCREENPLAY & DIALOGUES

The film is based on #Mexican director #AlejandroMonteverde’s LITTLE BOY which was set in the Second World War. In Tubelight the Chinese replace the Japs as the enemy and director Kabir Khan gets Salman to swap places with the ‘Little Boy’ Trouble is that the original film itself was severely panned by critics so it is difficult to understand the director’s compulsions behind adapting what is basically a flawed film. Not surprisingly the results are unflattering, to put it mildly. The writing by Parvez Shaikh and the director himself which seemed simple and yet effective in BAJRANGI BHAIJAAN clearly are the culprit. Situations seemed contrived, emotions are not natural and clearly the pressure to try and outdo the previous film shows. The dialogues by Manurishi Chadha seems too overbearing and preachy.

And that the film moves at a snail’s pace means that the running time of nearly two and a half hours seem excruciating. Yes there are moments when this Tubelight flickers promising to shine in a new light but does not. Like the #BharatMataKiJai scene that is an inspired piece of writing. As are the moments between the two brothers so also the ones involving the young boy who Salman’s character befriends. Yet these are too few and too far in between. In the end director Kabir Khan under duress to outperform BAJRANGI BHAIJAAN forgets that Salman Khan is no Ranbir Kapoor. And ‘Bhai’ is clearly out of depth here.Tubelight

TECHNICAL CREDITS

Like all Kabir Khan films this one is also technically flawless. Well almost. The #DOP by Aseem Mishra who has worked on most films of Kabir Khan is quite extraordinary and every frame seems a picture postcard. Music director #Pritam who cannot do anything wrong right now is in fine fettle here as well. Almost all songs in the film are terrific and the score in Tubelight is one of it’s plus points. A sore point is the lackadaisical editing by Rameshwar Bhagat.

PERFORMANCES

TUBELIGHT boasts of a fine starcast but wastes them in half baked inconsequential roles. Like #OmPuri (his first film after he passed away) who has been given terrible lines that infuriate and irritate instead of inspiring. Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub as the village bully who is always slapping around Salman’s character is clearly getting typecast in roles that are one dimensional and repetitive. Shahrukh Khan appears for a few minutes as a magician and must say that his camaraderie with Salman in that scene is great to watch. Alas! It gets over too soon. Chinese actress #ZhuZhu seems to have jumped right out of a wall hanging. Pretty as a picture and wooden as they come.

Young Matin Rey Tangu like the child actress in Kabir Khan’s last film is a complete natural and his scenes with Salman lift the second half of the movie. The last time one saw the two sons of Salim Khan coming together was in a disastrous HELLO BROTHER. Compared to which TUBELIGHT is still passable but one wonders how the dynamics would have changed had this role been played by someone who could act. Having said that his scenes with Salman are the only reason the film might become a hit.

Last but quite obviously not the least is Salman Khan who clearly seems to have bitten more than he can chew here. Dunno who tried convincing him to take up the gauntlet but the fact he seems unconvinced shows in scene after scene of the film. The eyes are a dead giveaway. Gone is the childlike innocence and the mischievous glint is replaced by puzzlement and unsurity. If given a choice, Salman would gladly be elsewhere. As would the audiences.

DIRECTION

Kabir Khan seems to be smarting from the astonishing success of BAJRANGI BHAIJAAN and to be fair he is not the only one. Be it the great Ramesh Sippy post SHOLAY or Aditya Chopra who in two decades since DDLJ has not been able to make a film that is even half as good they know only too well how it feels. TUBELIGHT has it’s heart in the right place and espouses the right message – of universal brotherhood. But unlike in BAJRANGI BHAIJAAN where it was all organic here a lot of scenes, situations and dialogues seem contrived. And for a film that comes across as overtly emotional there is a surprising lack of emotional connect with the audience. One only hopes that #KabirKhan realises this and goes back to the drawing board.

VERDICT

TUBELIGHT releases during #Eid and the earth shattering initial that it fetches itself might be enough for the producers to laugh all the way to the bank. After all there are worse films of ‘Bhai’ that have made moolah and s**t loads of it. But for those expecting this to set new records at the box office and eclipse DANGAL,P.K. and even BAJRANGI BHAIJAAN will be sorely disappointed. Forget 300 crores. This one will be lucky to cross 200 even.