Hollywood: Cesspool of Secondhand Mediocrity

Although France is the birthplace of cinema, Hollywood has distinguished itself as the most successful film industry in the world since the 1920’s. Hollywood gave us cinematic masterpieces like The Godfather, Taxi Driver,  American Graffiti and ET: Extra-Terrestrial .

Unfortunately, we have yet to see a current flicks which meets half the magnitude of those classics.

Let me be blunt. Hollywood sucks!

Hollywood has become devoid of creativity and innovation. Every year, the same  regurgitated garbage is dished out to a global audience, only to be left unsatisfied. We are currently living in the dark age of American cinema.

What made Hollywood movies become a household brand across the globe? Well, first, let’s dive into some history.

The best films are produced when creative control is left at the hands of the director. In the late 1950s, the studio system of Classical Hollywood was collapsing. The advent of network television corresponded with the decline of artistic talent in films. An evening at the nickelodeon was no longer a treat.

In the 1960s, a new generation of film school-educated aspiring directors ignited a new wave in cinema. Thanks to the collapse of studios, producers gave these aspiring directors the license and funds to do whatever they wanted with their films. In cinema, the more control a director has over the production, the more creative his work will be. This era was known as the New Hollywood.

Where would Hollywood be without Martin Scorsese, Stanley Kubrick, Woody Allen or Francis Ford Coppola? They were the Titans of their field. They introduced to their films a sense of realism, peppered with anti-establishment mores paralleling the Countercultural era. They blurred the distinction between the ‘good guys’ and the ‘bad guys’ and essentially distanced themselves from the rosy-hued romanticism of Classical Hollywood. Imagine if their nonconformist ideas and experimental techniques were overshadowed by the conventions of the studio system.

The studio system resurrected by the mid 1980s, putting an end to the New Hollywood era. However, the residual effects of New Hollywood boosted the drive towards cinematic innovation throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Quentin Taradino introduced a new trend of fast-paced action sequences coupled with a nonlinear screenplay. Visual effects were employed in Forrest Gump to incorporate the titular character in archived footage. Computer-based animation revolutionized movies in 1995 with the release of Toy Story.

Around the mid 2000s, an ugly fad implanted itself in Hollywood. Production houses found a way to garner profits from their previous hits. We are now in the age of sequels and reboots.

You see, Hollywood used to make movies. Now, they just remake movies! The other day I was browsing on my smartphone, scrolling through the selections of film currently playing. More than 3/4 of those movies were either sequels, reboots or rehashings of stories that have been done to death. The current hype is the release of Finding Dory. I don’t understand why I should be so excited about a sequel to a movie I watched in fourth grade! I’m sure it’s a fantastic movie on its own but why should anyone care?

There’s also Ghostbusters…with a female cast! Because apparently there’s a gender quota being implemented and the girls want a chance too! There’s the new Independence Day movie, being released after twenty years. There’s another Ice Age flick (apparently). There’s also the third installment of The Purge (which didn’t do so great with critics).

Not to mention The Secret Life of Pets. So for the last twenty years, we’ve found out what it would be like if Toys could talk, if cars could talk, if bugs could talk, if fish could talk, if airplanes could talk, if rats could talk and now we get to find out how anthropomorphized pets interact with each other!! Oh boy! I can’t wait!!!

It seems that the only director doing anything remotely unique is Christopher Nolan…and his movies tend to be convoluted!

I don’t want to hear about another reboot of fucking Spider-Man! In fact, lets retire all ‘superhero’ movies!  I don’t want to see the umpteenth installment of some Star Wars movie. And I definitely wouldn’t care to watch a movie about some talking orangutan (considering we  have one running for president!)

Hollywood needs fresh blood. We need to be electrified with new ideas. Otherwise, a once glorious film industry will devolve into a cesspool of secondhand mediocrity


Life as an ‘Aromantic’

We, Millennials, are obsessed with categorizing our sexuality. Somehow dating has become a taxonomic exercise. And in the midst of classifying ourselves as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, Pansexual, omnisexual, asexual, and my favorite: Sapiosexual (which is just a hipster way of saying you prefer to go out with smart people) We fail to take heed to Soren Kieradgaard’s advice “Once you label me, you negate me”. We also miss the point of sexuality.

I came across this term:Aromantic. Sometimes I facetiously use that term to describe myself. After all, it does summarize my attitude on romance with respect to dating, marriage, sexuality and life in general.

Every married couple has a ‘how we met’ story. My parents’ tale is the antithesis of a feel-good, heart-throbbing romantic tale. You see, two years after my mother relocated to the US with her two older siblings, she was called back to her home village. Her older brother, at age 30, wanted to get married. According to our cultural traditions, the male sibling had to wait until all his sisters were married before he entertained his own marital aspirations

A newspaper ad was printed for my mother, marketing her as an American-residing NRI (non-resident Indian) who could guarantee a US visa for any potential candidate  (this was before the era of eHarmony/Shaadi.com).

my father answered the marital ad, while skimming the newspaper for potential employment opportunities. In the 1980s, India’s License Raj regime and Kerala’s unionized nokku kooli culture stagnated job growth, prompting young people like my parents to seek economic prospects abroad. In addition, the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s State of Emergency in 1975 haunted the Malayali youth, who were raised with news reports of police brutality, youth ‘suicides’ and ‘missing people’. So much for democracy

Most young men sought oil rig jobs in the Persian Gulf countries but America was idyllic abode for every small-town Malayali. So naturally, without knowing his prospective bride, my father jumped at the opportunity and the two have been married for twenty-eight years.

My parents have never expressed any affection to each other. No hugs. No kisses. No endearing cards. No thoughtful gifts on anniversaries. Not even a ‘I love you, honey’. These are characteristics which would alarm most marriage counsellors. Yet, my parents’ marriage has lasted four times longer than most couples who perform all of those tokens of affection.

My parents never felt the need to ‘spice things up’. They’re content and secure with their relationship. Plus, they’ve invested their energy on more urgent affairs like maintaining a stable life in a foreign country, raising their two children (one of whom is autistic), and attempting to resolve stupid family drama back in their respective home villages.

Our comtemporary culture is obsessed with ‘love’. You can’t get through a novel or movie without coming across tropes like ‘the girl next door’, ‘love at first night’, ‘the adorkable boyfriend’ and of course my favorite, ‘the manic pixie dream girl’!!

I love a well-written, heartfelt romantic tale (which is rarer than a water stream in a desert) but at the end of the day, they’re just stories. Infatuation at first sight is an extremely poor basis for a relationship. Look at American couples. All of them resulted from love (or lust) yet over half of them break apart, like a river diverging into a series of tributaries.

I can’t imagine myself tying the knot while in my twenties. But I probably wouldn’t mind having a life partner once I draw closer to middle age. I figure the constant emotional support and companionship would outweigh the occasional nagging and loss of liberated solidarity.

If I do get married, I wouldn’t want my wife to be my lover. I mean, if I’m paired with a nymphomaniac, that would be a lucky bonus. However, I prefer a friend and life partner. I don’t expect my heart to skip a beat everytime I see my wife. One would have a better chance winning the lottery than hearing me serenading my ‘beloved’.

But I hope we would make a well-functioning team. I would hope that even if we’re not always the apple in each other’s eyes, we can still see the positive attributes in one another. And we would use those positive attributes to our advantage.

Labeling your sexual orientation is meaningless. Historically, whom you were sexually attracted to at a certain point in time was irrelevant. Marriage and sexuality had a societal function and people played their part. Today, our urban upbringing has given us a more individualistic outlook. Not a bad thing in itself. However, we spend too much time in our heads, compelling us to come up with all sorts of random terms to describe what turns us on.

Our sexual orientation is irrelevant because our turn-ons alter over time, and by the time we’re in our 50s, sex will seem more like a chore!

Romance is cute. Lust is electrifying. But there’s fantasy and then there’s reality. And the real world is far more adventurous.

Essay Critique: ‘The Awkward Truth About Gaming’

I came across this article written by Sunil James entitled ‘The Awkward Truth About Gaming’. According to the essay’s bio introduction, Sunil is a UK-based Catholic Youth Minister affiliated with Sehion Ministries. To give a brief background, Sehion Ministries is one of many Charismatic Catholic organizations. A movement rooted in a handful of American Catholic universities during the 1960s, Charismatic Catholicism is an eclectic blend of Pentecostalesque devotionals with Catholic theology, characterized by its emphasis on prophesy, faith healing, glosseria (speaking in tongues) along with an individual, personal relationship with Christ.

In Kerala, the movement was planted and nourished by a rally of ‘generation Xers’, as an alternative to their parents’ culturally-based version of traditional Catholicism. Nowadays, it’s impossible to be a Malayali Catholic without being familiar with the Divine Retreat Centre in Potta, Rexband, or the Jesus Youth (JY) Movement. That is the extent to which the Charismatic movement has penetrated mainstream Kerala Catholicism.

I was never attracted to the Charismatic movement. I found their preaching to be emotionally-manipulative, feasting on people’s vulnerabilities until they are weak enough to be overdependent on their message of ‘salvation’. Their retreats usually conclude by highlighting the various ‘miracles’ performed during that session, ranging from headache relief to leg cramps ‘cures’ (I shit you not!). After all, God doesn’t have the time to cure cancer!

I mean, sure, they’re not flying airplanes into buildings. However, these ‘charismatic’ preachers represent the worst of religion. So, I was intrigued when I spotted this essay written by one such person on the topic of ‘gaming’.

Now, I’m not a gamer. I’ve actually never been a ‘gamer’. I owned a PlayStation2 (and later, a PS3) eons ago. Yet, I only had an handful of games in my shelf and I played them sporadically. But I have a numerous friends and acquaintances who are gamers and I’m always disturbed when I see that subculture unfairly misrepresented by the mainstream media, out-of-touch parents, and ignorant religious preachers including the author whom I am responding to.

This is going to be a tediously verbose rebuttal. If you need to use the restroom or grab a quick drink, I suggest you do so immediately.  It’s ok, I’ll wait.

*cue jeopardy music*

Okay, readydaa??  Let’s get started…

“Innocent Pastimes. In the past, children enjoyed themselves playing games together. Their innocent pastimes would challenge their bodies or their minds. Games like hide and seek, football, tag, boxed games or chess. But today, it is alarming to see even young children playing game that involve killing people, for fun! These days, the majority of games contain violence or explicit material.”

Ahh, yes, the good old days that never were! I love it when people nostalgically present the past with such an idyllic, sugar-coated ‘leave-it-to-beaver’ picture. Sunil is right! Back in the good old days, the only forms of entertainment children indulged themselves in were hide-and-seek, football, tag, boxed games or chess (as if children don’t play them now…). It’s not like cowboys-and-Indians was ever a trend! I mean, four-year-old boys never received toy guns on their birthdays during the 1930’s!

Nope, pure chaste innocence. Children were never exposed to violence….except when a nigger was occasionally lynched and hanged in the town square. But who cares. Its just a nigger! Or when their mothers were knocked to a bloody pulp and raped with no legal consequences! Or when children themselves were beaten to a bloody pulp with no legal consequences! After all, child abuse was just a form of discipline.

Innocent pastimes…..

“Young People spend hours and hours in a virtual world, a ball to an imaginary team mate, meeting strangers in virtual hotels, or trying to kill someone by some gruesome means. Unfortunately, gaming has gone from playing for fun to a way of life”.

Now, the thesis for Sunil’s argument is based on that old, tired canard about Videogames inducing anti-social behaviors in young adults. I’ll address that unfounded misconception in a moment. However, I want to take this moment to discuss his point regarding ‘meeting strangers in virtual hotels’.

First of all, I am not familiar with ‘virtual hotels’. He is referring to those sleazy sex chat rooms? Maybe? I really cannot tell.

Let me tell you all a personal story (which I normally don’t do for this blog). Once upon a time, I was depressed and extremely lonely. I felt distant from people around me, for some inexplicable reason. I randomly went on this chat room, and met this young woman from India, who was also in a similar state of mind. Somehow, the original anonymity allowed us to be open with each other, which enabled our quick chat room session to evolve into an intimate emotional relationship. We’d unleashed our burdens and secrets to each other, and, in return, received comfort, support and practical advice. In other words, we made each other stronger and capable of facing our insecurities and inner demons.

Yes, I befriended a stranger from the internet and I have no regrets. I’m not saying there aren’t any pedophilic predators lurking for pre-teen girls. Obviously precaution should always be taken. But don’t stigmatize internet friendships.

:”Gaming in itself is not wrong, and I can see many benefits from playing videos games, but the reality is that gaming is addictive”

Yeah, what isn’t addictive? Food. Sex. Exercise. All addictive!  It’s baffling how we only associated addictions with ‘societal vices’.

I remember running a session for teenagers and in the 30 minute break, many boys took out their phones to play games rather than having to talk to the others. Some people are so engrossed in the world of gaming taht they prefer not to speak to real people”

Here’s a quote taken from one of my favorite television programs, Seinfeld :”Why does everything always have to have a social component”. And below is a clip from that same episode.

We’ve all done something like this at some point in our lives. And this episode took place before the age of smartphones. Sometimes, we’re just not in the mood for small talk.

Just because those boys took out their phones to play candy crush, it doesn’t mean they’re ‘so engrossed int he world of gaming that they prefer not to speak to real people’. What a baseless assumption to make about a bunch of teenage boys you hardly know. Maybe they’re actually interacting with each other through Fun Run or Trivia Crack. I mean, socialization and gaming are not mutually exclusive.

You think people were extroverted social butterflies back in the good old days of which you speak so highly?


“Many gamers, when they get home, instead of talking to their parents about their day, just throw their bags in a corner, grab something to eat quickly, then start gaming straight away. They neglect their friends and family.”

You think gamers are the only one who avoid talking to their parents about their day upon arriving home? Dude, it’s called ‘being a teenager’. Teenagers have been grunting and rolling their eyes at their parents since the days of the homo erectus.

Don’t worry, I’ll address the ‘they neglect their friend and family’ statement soon….

“I’ve also noticed that after playing games, I can’t concentrate on other things like studying. This is because gaming over stimulates (sic) the brain and then, when you try to read a book, your brain finds it boring and it makes you relive the ‘scenes’ or memories of a recent game”

Well, every person is different. Video games may have negative impact on Sunil’s ability to concentrate. However, a BBC article summarized several studies concluding the benefits gaming has on motor skills, visual-spatial abilities, attention span and memorization. For some people, video games could actually enable one to visualize what he/s is reading from a literary narrative.


There is an added danger when you spend too much time by yourself, in a room with a console that is connected to the internet.

I agree. There is a danger is spending too much time with yourself. We are social being after all. I just wish this author didn’t stereotype all gamers as schizoid adolescents!

“After playing the same game for a few hours, you are bound to get bored and the temptation for young people , with their raging hormones,is to find, watch and do things that are sinful”

Raging hormones? Do things that are sinful? Oh my!! I could just picture it (unfortunately)!!  I mean, the thought of teenagers exploring their bodies and sexuality is just so mind-mindbogglingly horrifying! Won’t someone please think of the children….and pass the tissue!!!!

The author repetitively equates gamers with ‘young people’.


The average gamer is thirty-one!!!!

Not twenty-one. Thirty-one!!!

A few years short of being considered ‘middle aged’.

They are (mostly) guys with families and white-collar jobs who prefer to unwind with Call of Duty, Final Fantasy or whatever game is popular these days. No different from watching sports, movies or prime time television programming.

“Also many games involve killing or have some questionable ‘that kind’ of content. (You know what I mean!)

No, I don’t know what you mean.  Care to elaborate?

“What I don’t understand is that movies with lots of killings and ‘those kind of scenes’ have an age restriction but for some reason games with this kind of content are deemed ok for all age groups”

What the fuck????  Have you never heard of the Entertainment Software Rating Board? Are you that thick-headed and blind? Or are you just intentionally being deceptive? I really can’t tell!

“Gaming takes us away from reality. Many teenagers and young adults complain that their parents don’t spend time with them. Though this may sometimes be true, it is also our responsibility to spend time with them.

You could say the same thing about cinema or literature in regards to ‘taking us away from reality’. Videogames are a work of art, just like cinematic productions and literary works.

What does gaming have to do with parent-child relationships. You know, one way parents could bond with their children is through gaming! I played a round of WWE Smackdown with my father a few years ago. Is that an example of gaming ruining our relationship??

You know, there are families who base their weekly ‘family fun nights’ on video games. And why not? They’re fun, stimulating and an interactive way to involve the entire family. Are their relationships being ruined by gaming?

“I remember reading a quote about gaming from Fr. Edward Connolly, who said “Reality is where I work out my salvation. Reality is where I meet Mum and Dad, brother and sister, son and daughter, wife or husband, God and neighbour and, come to think of it, myself. Video games are an alternate reality. There I can pretend that I don’t have a mum, dad, brother, sister, son, daughter, wife or husband, God or neighbour, only myself. It’s kind of like Hell”

This Fr. Edward Connolly is either a world-class troll or a deeply deluded old man.

When you read Harry Potter, you dive into an alternative reality. When you watch The Matrix, you dive into an alternative reality.  When you catch an episode of Doctor Who, you dive into an alternative reality. When you play fantasy football, you dive into an alternative reality.

Activating your imagination does not negate your real-life relationships!!

“The truth is that games chance us without us knowing it. They can make us more aggressive and we start to expect everything to happen quickly, just like in the games”

The claim linking video games with aggression has been highly disputed.

“Instead of having pleasant dreams, we end up having questionable dreams involving killings or ‘those kinds of dreams’. Our whole lives become controlled by the games that we play”

Well, I can’t comment on dreams ‘involving killings’. Sunil, you might want to see a professional about that. As for ‘those kind of dreams’, well, Sunil Kutta, it’s a part of growing up. You don’t have to fear your sexual urges.

I have a box of tissues if you need them 😉

“The Solution is to control your gaming. If you are addicted and have tried top stop but can’t, it is because you are relying on your own power. It is almost impossible to break any form of addiction, even gaming, in your own strength. YOu are much more likely to succeed by trusting and replying on God’s power. “

So, apparently the author fancies himself to be a psychologist. This is my problem with religion, particularly the charismatic movement. Sunil is promoting the gamer equivalent of alcoholic anonymous, where instead of relying on your own willpower, you put your faith in a ‘higher power’. There is no benefit to being overdependent on a diety that may or may not exist! You’re just replacing one form of addiction with another.

The author concludes his dreadfully-written essay with the following:

“choose gaming and then, as research shows, you are choosing to be depressed, lonely, isolated. This is the harsh but awkward truth about prolonged gaming. You might think playing games will make you appear cooler and bring you many ‘friends’ but the reality is that you will end up all by yourself as a loner’

Yeah, except video games have been instrumental in alleviating depression and anxiety, as research has shown. And the variety of gaming subcultures have allowed people with similar interests to network, meet-up, and discuss new trends in gaming. You know, kind of like book clubs or film discussion groups.

No one will bat an eye at someone curling up with their copy of Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October or leaning back on their chair to watch Guardians of the Galaxy (for the third time). Yet, somehow, playing Mortal Kombat makes you a schizoid pariah prone to violence and depression.





What’s the Deal with Public Discourse?

I’m not sure why the title of this post is noticeably Seinfeldesque. Perhaps, jerry-seinfeld-stand-up-stephen-colbert__oPtin the midst of polarized rhetoric and hyperpartisanship dominating the political sphere and our contemporary culture, the bland comedic styling of Jerry Seinfled magically come across as refreshingly comforting.

Political discussions have always been a chore…but for different reasons. Back then, the excruciating requirement of having a sound dialogue on a current event was actually knowing your facts. Which is difficult and time-consuming for most (this guy included!). I mean, we’re all been involved in conversation revolving around topics we know nothing about. And what do we do? The only natural thing….distinguish ourselves to be erudite and knowledgable by quoting key phrases like ‘well, statistics show…’ and nodding our heads in approval as often as possible.

Today, knowledge is at our fingertips thanks to our smartphones, brought to you by child labourers in Chinese factories!  However, immersing yourself in a political discussion is like voluntarily shipping yourself off to Iraq, or Afghanistan or whichever country the US military is bombing nowadays! It’s a brutal warzone, where you’re consistently hit with buzzwords like ‘bigot!’, ‘misogynist’, ‘moonbat’, ‘pinko commie’, ‘fascist’ etc. 

I had a recent conversation online concerning feminism. Even though I’m a passionately fierce supporter of women’s rights (especially in culture which severely lack such a concept), I don’t self-identify as a ‘feminist’***. Feminism is a all-encompassing umbrella ideology broad enough to patronize sets of viewpoints which are in direct opposition to each other. There are feminists who are pro-pornography/pro-prostitution. There are those who oppose such sexual permissiveness. There are feminists identify as ‘pro-choice’. Others use feminist ideals to support their ‘pro-life’ stance. The list goes on. In addition, I deplore the methods and trends initiated within third-wave feminism, which are nothing more than a messy conglomeration of troll-baiting, misandric rhetoric and ‘shocking’ publicity stunts.

Despite attempting to justify my non-identification with feminism (as if I really need to defend myself!), I was unable to inhibit the bombardment of name-calling and accusations of bigotry thrown towards me. What a productive discussion!

In the wake of recent acts of police brutality, Trevor Noah from the Daily Show articulated a brilliant point about being pro-black and pro-police. Does it really baffle anyone that one could acknowledge systematic racism in our legal system, while having admiration for the men and women who perform their duties diligently in uniform? Is it so bizarre for one to admire police officers while advocating for policy reforms to prevent future instances of police brutality?

Seriously, whatever happened to shades of gray?? Why are we forced to paint ourselves as either ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’? ‘Pro-choice’ or ‘Pro-life’. ‘Feminist’ or ‘Men’s Rights Activist’. ‘Leave’ or ‘Remain’. ‘Aging Hippie Liberal Douche’ or ‘White Trash Redneck Conservative’.

Yes, it is possible to morally oppose abortion while being wary of overturning Roe V Wade. Yes, it is possible to be infuriated by the hyper-bureaucratic structure of the European Union while opposing Brexit! Yes, it is possible to be concerned about police brutality while opposing the BLM movement. Yes, it is possible to be against the candidatures of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump

When did public discourse become an ‘us-vs-them’ crusade? Why can’t we have a civil discussion with those whom we disagree? Why can’t we acknowledge the numerous nuances in controversial topics, rather than submit ourselves to ideological camps like we’re about to embark in a holy jihad!?

We live in a free market of ideas. We should be able to discuss controversial topics openly. We are not our ideologies. We are not our religions. We are not our national identities.

We are not the product of our political/religious/racial labels. We are individuals who belong to no one.


Top Ten: Most Overrated Hindi Movies

10) Devdas


Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas is a film adaptation of Sharat Chandra  Chattopadhyaya’s novel of the same name. Set in Bengal in the early 1900’s, Devdas is a story about the titular character, a English-educated Brahmin who returns to his native country. He anticipates renewing his love for his childhood sweetheart, Paro, played by Aishwarya Rai. Unfortunately, shocking information of Paro’s lineage of nautch performers, deemed inappropriate for Devdas’s elite family, disqualifies Paro from marrying her beloved. As a result, Devdas, portrayed by Shahrukh Khan, drowns in despair and depression, seeking refuge in a tawaif with a heart of gold named Chandramukhi, played by Madhuri Dixit.

The flow of the story is intolerably slow-paced. In fact, this movie should be patented as a suitable antidote for insomnia. The characters are just not well-developed and despite their supposedly intense passion for each other, I sensed no chemistry between the characters of Shahrukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai. Perhaps the makers should have been more selective in casting.

Someone needs to give Sanjay Leela Bhansali sound advice on his post-production techniques. In almost all of this movies, the oversaturation of colors is distracting to the viewer. The setting of the film dosen’t seem natural, thus depriving the story of its authenticity..

The only saving grace of this movie is Madhuri Dixit’s alluring portrayal of Chandramukhi. No Hindi actress today can ever match her charisma and elegance.

9) Lagaan

lagaan_640x480_71445740723Lagaan is a story about a group of villagers in the Oudh Province of British India who compete with stiff-lipped British officials in a cricket match in order to mitigate their taxation burdens. Nominated for an Academy Award, Lagaan is a brilliantly-produced movie, with breathtaking cinematography, dazzling costumes, and a beautiful soundtrack composed by the one and only A.R Rahman. The aura invokes nostalgia,  as if you’ve time-traveled to Awandh in the late 19th century .

However, just because a movie is brilliantly-produced, it doesn’t make it a brilliant movie. The plot was incredibly simplistic, which I could forgive if this was a Disney children’s movie. It is not. The characters are shallowly written and it seem that the entire movie orbits around Aamir Khan’s character, as all of his movies do. Even though this film was produced eleven years before the premiere of Satyamev Jayate, Aamir Khan seemed to have been cultivating his persona as a socially-conscious activist in this film. For example, he takes on the role of the knight in shining armor who defends the poor, crippled, dark-skinned untouchable, who’s too weak to defend himself.

In colonial-themed Indian movies, all the British characters are undeservedly portrayed as cold and heartless. Yes, I am aware of the atrocious impact the British Raj had on the Indian subcontinent. I watched Shashi Tharoor’s speech in Oxford Union after all! But can we allow some room for nuances? Not all British officials hated the Indian natives. There were quite a few Englishmen and Irishmen who were involved in the formation of the Indian National Congress. In fact, numerous Labour Party politicians in the British parliament were supportive of Indian Independence! Seriously, “colonial oppressor vs innocent native” trope has been nauseatingly overused

8) Pyaasa

Guru Dutt’s Pyaasa is not widely-known outside the high-brow literary circles of Calcutta.images It’s an arthouse film which is simply not marketable to a mass audience. To watch this movie, I desperately attempted to activate my bohemian, avart-garde hipster self so I could try to enjoy this apparently acclaimed cinematic masterpiece. But alas, I failed.

Pyaasa had a few positive moments. Mohammed Rafi’s playback singing is nothing short of divine. The Urdu lyrics invoked sentimentality as it poignantly captured the hypocrisy of a cruel world driven by greed. The conclusion provides a ironic twist, exposing how we only value people once they turn to dust.

In order for a movie to resonate with an audience, the main character has to have some sort of everyman appeal. That did not happen in Pyaasa. While I can certainly identify with the protagonist’s depression and lack of fulfillment (something we can all relate to), his choice to staying away from his house to wander aimlessly in the streets, rather than assist his brothers in earning extra cash, shows how pretentious he is. Yes, I understand he has a university degree and aspires to write poetry. But in life, sometimes you have to suck it up and lower yourself to menial labor. When he is requested by the publication company to write happy poem, because that is currently in demand, the protagonist deludes himself in ‘taking the high road’, forgetting that money doesn’t come from trees.

7) Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayange

downloadThey should call this movie ‘Bollywood Movie’, because this film might as well be a parody of every Hindi movie ever released. It’s a story about an London-based NRI storekeeper, Baldev Singh Chaudhary,  who bashes his adopted country (despite consciously choosing to live there) and longs for his native Punjab (which he left by his own accord). He has a wife, who bows to every word of her pati parmeshwar, and two children,  Simran, who has wet dreams about her lover despite never meeting him, and Chukti, who just thinks she’s better than everyone.

Baldev, in sanskari pride, raised his children with outdated, regressive values to prevent them from being polluted by the heathen West (typical NRI mentality). Simran wants to take a trip around Europe and she wins her father’s permission by pretending to be a good sanskari Indian girl. During her trip, she meets Raj Malhotra, a college failure, who, like every desperate Indian boy, attempts to woo Simran by relentlessly stalking her. Somehow, Simran caves in, because like most Indian girls, she has no self-esteem.  And they fall in love.

Baldev adamantly disapproves of Raj. He arranges his daughter’s marriage to an equally stalkerish boy who is the son of his beloved friend, because children are commodities to be traded between close companions. Stuff happens. There’s a fight scene, after which, Raj is forced to live and never see Simran. Then, at the last moment in the train station, Baldev releases Simran’s hand (while appearing to have a stroke) and utters those famous words “Ja Beta Ja. Ja apne zindagi!”. Then the instrumental theme to “Tujhe Dekha Ko Yeh Jana Sanam” ensues. Yeah, that’s the entire story. SMH.

6) Kuch Kuch Hota Hai

downloadKuch Kuch Hota Hai was a milestone in Hindi cinema. The film is the directoral debut of Karan Johar, who would proceed to infect the Hindi film industry with films burdened with his atrocious sense of direction, poorly written screenplays, romantic cliches and offensive stereotypes.

Kuch Kuch Hota Hai stars Shahrukh Khan as Rahul, who plays a wannabe college casanova despite being thirty-three years old. Kajol plays Anjali, Rahul’s tomboy BFF. Suddenly a new girl emerges in the college scene. She is Tina, the principal’s daughter played by Rani Mukherji, who, for some insane reason, left London to finish her studies as her father’s third-rate Indian institution. Consequently, a ‘Betty and Veronica’ situation ensues and since Rahul is not Muslim, he has to choose between Tina and Anjali. Tina is picked and Anjali forgoes her entire future and leaves college. Forever.

Rahul and Tina get married. Tina becomes pregnant despite her awareness of the complications of her pregnancy that would result in her death. Tina takes the logical approach and continues her pregnancy, relinquishing her life while leaving Rahul alone with a daughter to raise. Tina leaves one final wish for Rahul: to name their daughter, Anjali. Yes, I’m serious….

Tina also leaves a series of posthumous letters for her daughter. The last letter, given on Little Anjali’s 7th birthday, elaborates on how Tina deceptively won Rahul’s heart, knowing Rahul was destined to be with (grown-up) Anjali.

Tina assigns Little Anjali the task of uniting her father with grown-up Anjali, as all 7-year-olds are expected to do.download (1)

So, our kid hero Anjali, with the assistance of her mute sidekick, Baby Manmohan Singh,
embarks on her mission to fulfill her mother’s dying wish. Oh, and our favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger wannabe/hit-and-run driver makes a cameo. Yes…him!…you know…the Other Khan!

5) My Name is Khan

my-name-is-khanAnother Karan Johar film. And this one also stars Shahrukh Khan and Kajol! Shahrukh Khan portrays (very poorly) an autistic man named Rizwan Khan, who, apparently like all people with his disorder, was born with the savant intelligence of Rainman and the charming innocence of Forrest Gump. He meets Mandira, portrayed by Kajol, a sexy MILF who’s single, to Rizwan’s delight. They get married and Mandira and her son adopts Rizwan’s last name. The unfortunate events of September 11th spark a sea of anti-Muslim rage across the country.

Despite the risk of losing their jobs on grounds of religious discrimination, school teachers teach their students that Islam is a violent religion and Muslims are to be feared! Mandira’s son, Sameer, is assaulted as a consequence of his adopted last name and consequently passes away. The police assure the emotionally-volatile Mandira that her son’s death was a result of a hate crime, despite being given no evidence at this point of the movie. Mandira flies into a fury, asserting to Rizwan that if she ‘had married a Khanna instead of a Khan”,  her son would be alive. She sarcastically challenges Rizwan to prove that not all Khans are terrorists.

Rizwan, whose understanding of sarcasm is on par with Sheldon Cooper, accepts her challenge and proceeds with a series of advantages, including spending a night in a shack with an overweight Black woman who looks like Aunt Jemina. Because a film that attempts to eradicates false stereotypes of one group of people should, paradoxically, promote them if they involve a different group of people.

4) Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham

Yet another Karan Johar movie! Also starring Shahrukh Khan and Kajol! Seriously bro!

But Amitabh Bachchan is in the house! He portrays the role of Yashvardhan, the patriarch of the prestigious Raichand clan. He resides with his doting wife and two sons, Rahul and Rohan, in Hogwarts which, according to the film, is apparently in Delhi. Rahul is the grown-up adopted eldest son. While Rohan is spoiled brat who had one too many ladoos. Rahul, being the romantic that he is, manages to woo Anjali, a working class Punjabi resident of Chandni Chowk, portrayed by Kajol.

download (6)

Fun Fact: Harry Potter’s real name is Hari Putar

In case you can’t tell, the first half of this film is an unsubtle reference to Johar’s Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Seriously bro? And in case the audience hasn’t been insulted enough, Shahrukh’s character is arranged to be married to Naina, who is played by none other than….you guessed it….Rani Mukherji!! And it doesn’t help that Bachchan’s character is constantly hitting on Rani Mukerji. Like creepy much???

Anyway, Shahrukh marries Kajol. Amitabh kicks them both out. And the fat kid grows up to be Hrikrik Roshan302627-kabhie-khushi-kabhi-gham, which is a pretty remarkable deal if you ignore the sixth finger on his left hand. In the second half the film, Roshan initiates a quest to unite the family. During his journey, he meets Pooja, his childhood friend, who is now a total skank played by Kareena Kapoor. The rest of the film is quite a head-smacking ride so enjoy!

3) Rang De Basanti
imagesSix years before the premiere of Satyamev Jayate and Aamir Khan is still cultivating his socially-conscious activist persona. In 2006, a new generation took the world by storm: The Millenials. As Millennials, we perceive ourselves to be social activists and we need movies that cater to our need for controversial hot topics and current issues. So, here’s Rang De Basanti!

Rang De Basanti opens with a British filmmaker named Sue who travels to India to make a documentary concerning the revolutionaries, led by ‘Shahid’ Bhagat Singh, who, according to her grandfather who served as a jailer for the Imperial Police in colonial India, retained smiles on their faces while hanging from the gallows. After being eve-teased by thirsty locals, Sue meets with her friend Sona at the University of Delhi, who introduces four of her male friends, suitable to play the roles of the revolutionaries.

Let’s take a minute to talk about ‘Shahid’ Bhagat Singh. Although he is hailed as a ‘youth icon’, Bhagat Singh was nothing more than a violently-prone moron who should be ridiculed for his stupidity. In an attempt to avenge the death of radical freedom fighter, Lala Lajput Rai, Bhagat Singh and his companions resolved to assassinate James Scott, the superintendent of police. Instead, they unintentionally killed John Saunders, the assistent superintendent because all White men look alike. Bhagat Singh actually didn’t witness the blows endured by Lala Lajput Rai but he sought revenge anyway. And he didn’t regret killing the wrong person because its all the same cause, comrade.

This film glorifies violence. This movie misleads impressionable young viewers that in order to change the system, you have to throw rocks at the establishment! India is a democracy. A dysfunctional democracy…but a democracy nevertheless. You want to change the system? You want to change the country? Then why don’t you invest more time in studying and earn a Law degree. Join the bar and open your own law practice. Or better yet, apply for a position in the Indian Administrative Services (which would definitely require more studying). Maybe run as an MP and join the Parliament. And use your influence to enact laws that would improve the country. That’s what those idiots in that movie should have done.

2) 3 Idiot

I don’t disapprove of the message promoted by 3 Idiots. After all, one should pursue a images (1)
degree based on personal ambition rather than parental/societal expectations. And yes, the hyper competitiveness in Indian universities is counterproductive, instigating high rates of suicides in hostels.

It’s one thing to have a strong message. However, there is the matter of delivering that message. From the contrived romantic subplot between Rancho and Pia to that horrendous baby delivery with a vacuum cleaner scene, the direction was atrocious. The film’s overreliance on Aamir Khan’s stardom inhibited basic character development. There was no chemistry between any of the leading players. The dialogues were pretentious and sanctimonious. The overall flow of the plot was extremely awkward. So in short, good message, bad movie

1 PK
My criticism of 3 Idiots could be applied to PK. It’s refreshing to see Indian filmmakers brave enough to tackle a topic held dear by the majority of their country’s population. In a nation contaminated with opportunistic ‘babas’, superficial rituals, regressive caste trends, and beef bans, rationalism and freethought should definitely be promoted in India

And what better way to do so than through cinema?

Unfortunately, everything about this particular movie was cringeworthy at best. Examples of poor filmmaking include the laughable depiction of an incoming spaceship (apparently, Hindi movies are still 50 years behind in the Sci-Fi department), a contrived and nauseatingly cliched romantic subplot, Aamir Khan bulging eyes (because apparently that’s an accurate portrayal of an alien), and an excessive amount of unnecessaryFunny-Aamir-Khan-In-PK-Movie-Images low-brow, potty humor.

Ever since Rajkumar Hirani started collaborating with Aamir Khan, his movies have become intolerably preachy. Let’s compare 3 Idiots and PK with the Munna Bhai series. Munna Bhai wasn’t exactly what you would call ‘high-brow’. In fact, two films consisted of immature slapstick comedic gags. But unlike PK and 3 Idiots, those films didn’t take themselves seriously. They didn’t scream the message at the audience, delivering it in most sanctimonious manner. The flow of the screenplay worked its way towards the moral of the story, rather than have Aamir Khan preach from the pulpit every fifteen minutes!!

And what exactly was the message in PK? For a preachy film, its sermon was more incoherent than a Pat Robertson’s anecdotes! It disparages religion yet strongly affirms the existence of God based on…….?

Obviously the filmmaker need something to appeal to the ever-growing ‘spiritual but not religious’ (whatever the fuck that means) millennial base.

Film Review: Nil Batey Sannata

A mother’s love surpasses her adolescent daughter’s unruly stubbornness. Nil Batey Sannata is a poignant story, written and directed by Ashwini Iyer Tiwari, about desperate lengths a humble maid will undergo to ensure a respectable future for her daughter. The film touches on the delicate nuances of a typical mother-daughter relationship. As beautiful as downloadthe overall flow of the story is, there were a few facets of the plot which I’ve would written differently.

There won’t be any spoilers because I want you all to judge for yourselves and jot your own thoughts in the comment section.

Chanda Sahai, portrayed by Swara Bhasker, is a single mother who work four menial jobs in the heartland of Uttar Pradesh in northern India. Being a high-school dropout, her frustrations and regrets translate into her aspiration towards higher education and a professional career for her daughter, Apeksha (affectionately called ‘Apu’)

Nil Battey Sannata Full Hindi Movie DownloadUnfortunately, Apu, played by Ria Shukla, does not give a shred of thought about her own future, preferring to resign to her destiny of being a  maid, like her mother. According to Ria, a doctor’s son becomes a doctor and a lawyer’s son becomes a lawyer. Same logic applies to a maid’s daughter. The movie opens with Chanda frantically waking her daughter for her first day of Class 10, the most crucial year for Indian students as they await to write the SSLC examinations, determining their fate for life.

Although Apu is a girl of vast potential and astute aptitude, she struggles in mathematics. Chanda applies for tuition for Apu only to be told that tuition courses only grant financial discounts to higher-ranking students (that’s Indian education for you!!). During her shift at Dr. Diwan’s home, Chanda’s intuitive yet slightly absent-minded physician employer, portrayed by Ratna Pathak, suggests she enroll in Apu’s class and learn the material necessary to tutor her. Although Chanda is reluctant, with Dr.Diwan insistence, she enrolls as the oldest student in the classroom.

The title Nil Batay Sannata is a reference to a  Hindi idiom roughly translated to “Zero divided by silence”, implying one as good-for-nothing. Throughout the movie, Apu, who is perceived as lazy and dim-witted by her mathematics instructor, gradually realizes her potential, proving to herself and her instructor that she is not ‘good for nothing’. However Chanda, endowed with motherly intuition, had already foreseen her daughter’s brilliance, despite being increasingly irritated by her apathy. Throughout the film, the working-class single mother craftily devises strategies to motivate her daughter to succeed.

There were a few facets of the story which I found misplaced. In the second half of the film, Chanda is adamant to make her daughter a Collector, the foremost position within the Indian Administrative Service. The reason for this ambition is her encounter with the local collector, who was courteous, resided in a mansion guarded by security, and stated he didn’t have to take too many math courses or attend expensive college to earn his position.

Of course the film doesn’t seem to take into account how savagely intense the competition is among IAS aspirants, many of whom are engineering and medical school toppers. Ten of thousands of the best students in India apply, only to have a very small percentage be accepted.

Not to mention there are other careers for a Class 10 student to consider besides engineering, medicine and civil service. Just saying…

Another aspect of the film I found severely misguided was the characterization of mathematics as the purani dushman (common enemy) of womankind? What the bhen?! Tell that to Ada Lovelace! I understand the screenplay is addressing the underepresentation of women in STEM career fields. However, to declare such an unfounded Blanket statement is counterproductive!

One aspect I appreciated from the movie was the lack of contrived exposition dialogues to explain the absent father’s whereabouts. And I applaud the screenwriters for not taking the overdone approach of explaining the father’s absence as the reason for Apu’s lack of ambition!

Despite being a film primarily about women, Nil Batay Sannata is refreshingly NOT a women’s rights film. There is nothing in the story revolving around rape, sexual harassment, dowry burning, honor killings, slut-shaming or general misogynistic attitudes. Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s important for cinematic productions to address those crucial issues. However, any woman would tell you her life is more than suffering for the fact she possesses breasts and a vagina!

Class Status. Financial Stress. Academic competition. A parent’s worry. A teenager’s stubbornness. The frustrations of unconditional Love. These are the reoccurring themes in the story. And these are issues a number of women ( and men) endure on a regular basis.

Nil Batay Sannata is a female-centric film which advocates for the empowerment of its (female) lead characters. However, the movie doesn’t scream SJW-inspired third-wave feminism at your face!!

Swara Bhaskar played her role beautifully despite being only twenty-nine years old. The viewer can really sense the frantic anxiety that plagues every mother who, in Chanda’s words, “want their children to do better than them”. Ria Shukla accurately capture the rebellious bullheadedness of a typical teenager. Yet she is one who elicits sympathy, lamenting her humiliation at the hands of her instructor. She is a character to whom we could all identify ourselves during our teenage years.

Ratna Pathak was exceptional as Dr.Deewan. I found Chanda’s relationshipNil Battey Sannata Swara with her employer very intriguing. Despite their professional arrangement, the two interact as sisters. They have this symbiotic bond where they’re equally reliant on each other. To witness such an egalitarian setup in a culture drenched in caste attitudes is always welcoming.

The overall screenplay provided a glimpse into the life of the working poor and their struggles. For example, consider the dialogue “Poor people also have dreams, but not resources”.  We’re always told we can be whatever we want to be. Yet only a small percentage of the wealthy elite can actually fulfill that adage. The majority of us work within our limited means, affording to only strive for a semi-stable life.

The cinematography was exquisite. For example, the angle in which the Taj Mahal was captured during one particular scene was quite alluring. You felt you were in Agra, relishing the enchanting mystique of Mughal royalty. A scene which symbolizing unconditional love, whether it be Shah Jahan’s faithfulness to his beloved Mumtaz or Chanda’s dedication to Apeksha’s never-ending potential.

Despite my criticisms, this film is worth a watch. Its inspirational message is complemented with innovative tropes and original methods of character development.


Book Review: Five People You Will Meet In Heaven

I have immense respect for Mitch Albom. Not only is he a well-known author and columnist, but he is also a incredibly generous philanthropist. The Water Ice Factory, his ice cream shop in downtown Detroit,opened on August of 2015 and is currently operated by his charity organization whose proceeds are allocated to fund after-school programs for the city’s youth, assistance for the homeless, along with viable care for the elderly, particular veterans. As a fellow Detroiter, I applaud everything he is doing for our city.

(Update: When I wrote this post, I wasn’t as familiar with Mitch Albom’s columns. Most of his column pieces are on sports, a topic I find more boring than the Weather Channel. After reading some of his non-sports pieces, including his “Anthem protesters may want to look at the calendar” article, I find Albom to be self-righteous, out-of-touch, and intolerably condescending. I still applaud Albom’s philanthropic endeavors. However, I  can no longer honestly say that I “have immense respect” for him)

One of my closest friends recommended Five People You Will Meet in Heaven.  At first, I raised an eyebrow, making no efforts in concealing my skepticism.  The title of the book sounded very Oprahesque and new-agey. Spirituality is a topic that doesn’t enticed my interests. Nevertheless, I thought I would give it a try. Why not, I thought to myself. After all, I had nothing else to do during that weekend.

The book length is a mere 196 pages. The paragraphs notably consist of only one line. The prose is simple enough to attract the average, pedestrian ‘non-reader’. You know, the type who would fancy themselves to be intellectual for reading The Da Vinci Code. However, I cast my pretentious inclinations aside to give the book a fair chance.

The narrative opens with an elderly man named Eddie, who is employed by Ruby Amusement Park as the head maintenance man. On his birthday, during his shift, one of the park rides malfunctions due to a damaged cable. One of the cart detach, set to drop on an unassuming girl, to the horror of Eddie. Within a short interval of time, Eddie runs to the little girl in attempts to shield her from the impact, yet he is unable to rescue himself. After being blinded by a bright flashing light, Eddie is ‘transported’ to ‘heaven’ where he encounter five people who had an indirect, yet crucial influence on him during his lifetime.

The narratives reconceptualizes our understanding of death. Mitch Albom makes it clear that death is not the end of life, but a mere part of it. On page 28, ‘The Blue Man’, the first person whom Eddie encounters in heaven, states “Birth and death are part of a whole” Death is not something to fear and mourn. One can think of it as the liberation of the soul, akin to the Dharmic concept of Moksha. 

Think about every people you’ve encountered. Every single person. Not just your friends or a casual acquiescence. I mean every person. The janitor you walked by on your way to the office. The homeless lady to whom you gave a dollar. A cashier at your local grocery store. It’s unfathomable to believe they play any role in your life. I mean, how can they? You’ve never had a conversation with them. Not even a one-minute small talk session. However, when conceiving the bigger picture that is your life, they’ve all had a noteworthy impact on your existence as you’ve had on theirs.

In his encounter with those five people in ‘heaven’, Eddie is constantly reminded that humanity is interconnected. Even if two people have never engaged in a conversation, they’ve had a tremendous influence on each other’s lives.

Eddie laments about his broken dreams. His aspirations towards a career in engineering were cut short and he had to settle for a maintenance job at an amusement park. A position seen as non-professional and meaningless. Nevertheless, during his time in heaven, Eddie realizes his life had purpose, even if he failed to realize it during his lifetime. We’ve all heard the adage “Everything happens for a reason”. To most, including me, it sounds nothing more than a flowery platitude, planted in our minds to inhibit misery and regrets. However, it’s a fascinating and comforting thought worth entertaining, even if you don’t believe in supernatural beings.

Would I recommend Five People You Will Meet in Heaven? Yes, and no. A person who is not spiritual inclined might be annoyed by the numerous spiritual overtones. While the narrative in itself is interesting, I wouldn’t blame anyone for citing the preponderance of platitudes and cliched adages as reasons for discarding the book.

But I would still encourage skeptics to maintain an open mind. In my opinion, the author does a beautiful job clarify philosophical concepts like Monism, Intertwingularity, and Eternal Return in a language that is easy to understand.

You don’t have to be religious to enjoy this book. In fact, the author pleads for a humanistic outlook. For example, on page 80, in his conversation with an elderly woman named Ruby, the third person he meets in heaven, Eddie claims “People don’t die because of loyalty”. Ruby mockingly replies “They don’t? Religion? Government? Are we not loyal to such things, sometimes to the death. Better to be loyal to one another”. I couldn’t agree more with that sentiment.

If you have a Sunday afternoon to kill, why not read this book? You can even access the pdf version online if you don’t want to spend money on a paperback (like me). You may not care for the story or agree with the underlying themes however, the novel will give you something to think about.




The Manic Pixie Dream Girl

I’m sure there are a plethora of articles on this trope found on web outlets like Indiewire, Vice, and Variety. However, I wanted to expand on my own critique of ‘The Manic Pixie Dream Girl’.

Picture a male protagonist. Devoid of happiness and pleasure, he is stuck in the abyss of his existential angst. Then along comes a pretty girl. Quirky and spontaneous in demeanor, her vivaciousness and zest for life brings a silver lining to the dark cloud overshadowing the brooding male protagonist. This is our ‘manic pixie dream girl’, whose sole purpose of a story is to be the object of affection for the lead character. Nothing more.

My recent viewing of Zach Braff’s Garden State prompted my thoughts on this topic. Natalie Portman portrays such a role as Samantha, contrasting with Andrew, Zach Braff’s dull and depressed lead character. While, I am normally a fan of Natalie Portman, she overplayed the trope in Garden State. Instead of being cute and zany, she came across as annoying and semi-psychotic!

I actually don’t have a problem with the trope in itself. After all, cliches can be a refreshing facet of a story as they appeal to our yearning for familiarity. The “manic pixie dream girl’ is no exception. Consider Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Woods. The relationship between the introverted, depressed male protagonist and his bubbly love interest is a cliche, as we have seen this dynamic since  Greco-Roman tragedies. However, Haruki Murakami utilizes this relationship dynamic as a framework to expand on universal truths and the intrinsic nuances of life. Many of Haruki Murakami’s ardent fans include middle-aged housewives in Michigan, who wouldn’t otherwise identify with a tale revolving around a Japanese guy in his early-to-mid twenties.

Unfortunately, most screenwriters lack Haruku Murakami’s penchant for grace and finesse. Screenwriters construct a female lead character in alignment with the generic blueprint of the manic pixie dream girl, in order to fulfill their own romantic fantasies. It’s a very self-indulged vision, ignoring the multifaceted qualities of any woman.

Since screenwriting has been a male-dominated profession for eons, the dissociation from those classic one-dimensional female leads, who serve either as the love interest for the male protagonist or a titillating sex object , will be a gradual process.