Beer For Life

Draw deep from a glistening bottle to celebrate that perfect kiss

Steadily down yet another one to mourn a near miss;

Washing away remorse and repentance with a tower of Heineken

Let your hair down and hit the floor as the party has just begun

Bottoms up for the sorrow, nice and easy for the strife

Dude there ain’t a problem as long as there is beer for life

Monday is for Hoegaarden and a night with Erica

Tuesday is a date with destiny and don’t forget Jessica;

Wednesday is Sarah’s turn with a pint of Kilkenny

Thursday evening is Tiger time as promised to pretty Jenny

Bottoms up for the sorrow, nice and easy for the strife

Dude there ain’t a problem as long as there is beer for life

Friday flavour is Cider and in my arm’s rests Kay

Strongbow and Sandy lure my Saturday & to their temptations I give way;

Sunday is a day of rest and a day to welcome Adele

To clear the table and make some room for the lovely Bombardier ale

Bottoms up for the sorrow, nice and easy for the strife

Dude there ain’t a problem as long as there is beer for life

One for the pose, one for the tease and one for tomorrow’s Facebook upload

One for the toast, one for the treat and it’s time for the ones for the road

The final ones however are for the drivers of the train, tram, bus and taxis that we call

For we need to be deposited home safe and sound for the pub again to see us all

Bottoms up for the sorrow, nice and easy for the strife

Dude there ain’t a problem as long as there is beer for life

Noon, morning, twilight or at the ushering in of dawn

The time for hauling in a heavy crate is almost always on;

When at any time you hear the loudest and longest cheer

It would be for the setting of sight upon lovely beer

Bottoms up for the sorrow, nice and easy for the strife

Dude there ain’t a problem as long as there is beer for life 

SPARK TO IGNITE A FLAME

Tracing the tendrils of cigarette smoke wafting up into thin air

An overwhelming loss scythed through him as he stared into the harsh sun’s glare

While the dead stay alive in eternal sleep, the living are but the disguised dead

The most powerful and profound words are those that remain unsaid

There wasn’t no time for fear or anger or even to let loose a helpless sigh

Nor was left a dreaded little note with just the word ‘goodbye’

Like the ravaging silence that follows a heartless wrecking storm

Mindless of his silent tears and anguished pleas, she just decided to be gone.

Oblivious to the trickling sand in the hourglass of passing time

Living blissfully enraptured in a fateful song with its own haunting rhyme

“It just takes a spark to ignite a burning flame” once said a man of eminence

Woe betide the one who creates the innocuous spark, but fails to assimilate the flame’s essence

Engulfed by a burning inferno, he was the ill-fated Dante about to lose his Beatrice

Totally incapable of creating a ‘Divine Comedy’ to even explain his caprice

Like a graceful eagle which with strong wings, soars high and on and on

On a bright and sunny morning, she just decided to be gone.

People covet the most which they know they will never get

Still driven by burning desire and a raw passion that knows no let

The moment he set sight on her, for him it was a Faustian bargain

Where pleasure was the same as pain and pain fused into false gain

Why don’t people refuse to realize that they do have a choice?

Does something scramble up their thinking, something like pure white noise?

On a day when the mist faded and the sun came blazing out from its horizon

Leaving him high and dry, she just decided to be gone.

When the time for him to meet his Maker finally came

Fluttering eyelids barely remaining open, his quivering lips uttered her name

A sudden voice resonated from deep within and he felt a new hope surging on

“She was always within you and where else could she have even gone!”

A tired but radiant smile across his peaceful countenance broke

Before his eyes finally closed on life’s material yoke

The voice became a visage and the visage beckoned him to follow on

“All along it was you who willed that I just be gone!”

DROWNING CRUCIBLE OF HUMANITY

A rudderless boat caught in a gale storm with no shore in sight

Leaving the boatman to rant and rue over his dire plight

Trying to flee misfortune only to land in calamity’s hands

The soul desperately struggles to hold onto faith’s last strands.

Every gleam of light is but a laughing mirage of cruel deceit

Every approaching bank turns out to be devious water in shapely surfeit

Every rising wave that slams into the receptacle with malevolent force

Every whistling sound of the storm that resembles veritable death throes.

Is this the price which genuine and pure passion has to pay?

Other than the merciless slaughtering of innocence is there no other way?

Do the hopes sprouting within tender hearts need to be rend asunder?

Is the expectation of togetherness in itself humanity’s greatest blunder?

Fie upon a society that clings to mores archaic and medieval

Curse upon mankind which makes impossible, even kindred survival

As the mighty waves finally wash over the heads of the figures in the sinking boat

It’s the very shameful crucible of mankind that drowns unable to float.

The Illusory Loom

Why does the obstinate heart fail to understand?

That there is no magic ticket to any promised land

On barren patches of soil, roses never bloom

Fabrics of fascinating dreams become the mere products of an illusory loom

Patterns of complex emotions as they abruptly manifest

Alternating between uncontrolled angst and infinite jest

Knowingly clinging on to a fading mirage and still unwilling to let go

Finding myself battered by a vortex of fate’s inevitable show

At the point of no return where reigns only sheer despair

I begin to blame the world deeming existence itself to be inevitably unfair

Failing to comprehend that I am the master of my own prejudice and pride

Having no one but myself to scorn, denounce and deride.

JONAH LOMU – RUGBY’S ORIGINAL MAN OF STEEL

In a tumultuous world characterized by unimpeded change, sport remains a perennial constant. An equilibrium that (albeit temporarily) effaces the mundane gloom and misery that is the preserve of every human being. One need not even be a beacon of knowledge for appreciating a particular sport. The sheer act of focus arouses an inherent curiosity, which then transforms into a manifest drive to appreciate the logic underlying the method behind the melee. This fact was taught to me in no uncertain terms by a single individual, who as I write this has decided to call time upon his lambent existence on Planet Earth.

The spectacle of thirty grown up, bustling, impatient men with bulging biceps and broad chests, – who are equally divided into two opposing factions and granted a license to maul, mutilate, and mangle one another to claim possession of a spherical ball, with a committed objective of passing it either side-wards or backwards, all the while running full tilt into a teeming mass of humanity, before finally getting themselves along with the ball over a horizontal line marked in white – initially did not enthuse me or lend itself to any sort of appeal whatsoever. I was content being a cricket crazy fan in a cricket obsessed country where the only visible violence (apart from the inevitable ‘blow to the box’) was that caused by a cricket bat to a cricket ball.

One man, however took hold of my perspective by the scruff of its frail neck and gave it such an impactful shake that “scrum” became the synonym for sacred and “try” transcended beyond being a mere attachment signifying man’s various endeavours spanning his existence. It was the 27th of May 1995 and the occasion, the World Rugby Championship. An accidental flipping of channels on the television transported me to Ellis Park in Johannesburg where an excited match commentator exclaimed in great anticipation that the crowd was now ready for the “Haka”. While the ferocious Maori challenge and the eighty minutes that followed this exhilarating display had me reeling with delight, the poor bunch of Irishmen who were at the receiving end of a wallop were left reeling with more serious consequences. While the entire New Zealand team (I was to, after just a couple more games address them only as the All Blacks) put up a stand out performance, a single individual’s rampaging performance caught my eye and attention.

Jonah Tali Lomu would go on to become my all-time favourite Rugby player and The All Blacks a team that would be closest to my heart.

My resolve to grasp the nuances of this brutal game took nascent wings and before Sean Fitzpatrick’s miracle-men hammered a clueless Japan into complete and unopposed submission (145-17) at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein, I was well aware of the fact that it was perfectly acceptable to use the term “hooker”, in the sport, a drop kick by Andy Mehrtens was worth 3 points and most importantly my hero, Jonah Lomu was a “winger!”.

The “Man-Mountain Truck” pulled off one incredible performance after another. With power as a reliable ally, speed as an able assistant, resolve as a steely companion, Jonah Lomu metamorphosed into a wrecking train that brooked no trespassers. Challenges and challengers alike were shrugged away with utter contempt and incredulous disdain. Trying to tackle a marauding Jonah Lomu was akin to hurling oneself in a suicidal fashion against a block of concrete. While his colleagues reveled in his show of might, hapless opponents seem to rebound off him as they vainly tried to initially tug and later hold on to his powerfully sculpted arms and legs. Owning an imposing physique that evoked admiration and apprehension in equal measure, Jonah Lomu was a natural force of destruction. Scotland came and went, and before long All Blacks were in the semi-finals and waiting in the wings for them was, England.

In this remarkable game, Jonah Lomu redefined the physics of rugby. The semi-final, of all things will be best remembered for the phenomenal quartet of tries that Jonah Lomu conjured to kill England off. The unbelievable sight of the English players lying splayed by the feet of Lomu as he ducked, weaved, shrugged and warded off one challenge after another was one that would have succeeded in evoking a collective gasp of admiration from even the phalanx of Gods!

One try in particular where after imperiously shrugging off two English defenders, Lomu charged into, through and over a flummoxed and dumbfounded Mike Catt has now become the staple stuff of legend and folklore. Even after twenty years, the sheer novelty of this bulldozer of a try by a road roller of a man has never ceased to fade. If you do not believe me, just try playing this link on You Tube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCJfRizqcs0

New Zealand were now in the finals of the rugby World Cup and the only thing standing between them and the trophy was 59,870 hollering South Africans in the Ellis Park Stadium and 15 of their admirable counterparts on the pitch. Alas, for once the well-oiled locomotive failed to accelerate and was stopped in its tracks. The force in the form of Jonah Lomu that was unleashed so effectively throughout the tournament came to an unbelievable standstill, courtesy a gritty South African team in general and a class act in the form of a scrum-half bearing the name of Joost Van Der Westhuizen, in particular, the World Cup finals turned into a drop kick affair between South Africa’s Joel Stransky and New Zealand’s Andrew Mehrtens. In extra time, with the scores tied at 12 apiece, Stransky conjured an exquisite drop kick that had an entire nation immersed in a wave of undisguised ecstasy. Jonah Lomu had for once, been denied. For an undying fan of Jonah Lomu, the sight of Nelson Mandela presenting the Webb Ellis Cup to the South African skipper was a gut wrenching moment. It just seemed improbable for someone other than Jonah Lomu and the All Blacks to be the proud owners of the glittering trophy.

Soon after Lomu contracted a very rare and life threatening kidney disorder. But staving off the dangers of the disorder, Lomu made yet another World Cup appearance bagging a total of 8 tries. Reading about his personal life in snatches, I never really made an attempt to know more about the intimate details of the man’s life. Although it may sound strange, I had always envisaged Lomu only as an once-in-a-lifetime winger, sprinting away to glory with the ball held firmly in his grasp. I have not been able to and I will never be able to visualize in my mind’s eye a Lomu other than the one described here. I do not regret this fact one bit.

Since the epochal World Cup of 1995, I have developed a keen sense of interest in tracking the progress of wingers. Every time I see a winger in action, an automatic tendency arises to compare him with Jonah Lomu. Lomu for me is the unchanging yardstick, the sacrosanct threshold and an uncompromising criterion which all wingers have to achieve, clear and satisfy. Two decades after I had the honour of watching the man in full bloom, and excusing my amateurish expertise over the game, I have no hesitation in unequivocally opining that there has been no winger, who could hold a candle to Jonah Lomu let alone surpass him in his remarkable abilities! He was and forever will remain Rugby’s Original Man of Steel.

What a phalanx of adversaries and concerted endavours could not accomplish, the vagaries of life and the machinations of fate have contrived to achieve. 37 tries, 63 Tests and a rare kidney disorder later, the colossus has been brought down. This time as he lays low, Lomu as well as the whole wide world knows that there is no dusting off the grass, shrugging off the pain and bouncing back to have yet another go. Jonah Lomu is lost to us all forever. It is cruel irony that the most poignant and heart wrenching tribute represents the contribution of a man who also has fallen prey to the ravages of a merciless fate. Joost Van Der Westhuizen, Lomu’s much vaunted and respected foe, sent a moving tribute, courtesy an eye tracker, his body being racked by the vigours of a remorseless Motor Neuron Disease. As Westhuizen gamely puts up a fight against the impending advance of pernicious death perched at his doorstep, he might be all too aware of the fact that it is only a matter of time before he follows the indomitable Kiwi. Meanwhile we can only hope that a miraculous cure is contrived to beat the dreaded Motor Neuron Disorder at its own game, which will enable this superstar to point the finger at it, exclaim, “up yours you bastard” and continue leading an enriching and invigorating life.

Athletes like Joost Van Der Westhuizen are rare; superheroes like Jonah Lomu are rarer still. The probability of the world witnessing the likes of a Westhuizen v Lomu encore is much much lower than the probability of the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence meeting with stupendous success!

There can be no better words than those escaping the lips of Mary Lou Retton, which both embellish as well as encapsulate the beauty of sport, “A trophy carries dust. Memories last forever”. Joost won the Webb Ellis Cup; Jonah was never destined to put his arm around it.

Leap…Catch…Run…Pass….Receive….Sprint….Ward…THUMP…..Shrug….BOOM…..Tackle….Sprint….CRRUNCH…..WHACK….Holdoff….Sway…..Swing…..Flail…..Joost……Legs……Blood….Bone…..Splinter…..Gregan…..Westhuizen…..Fall…..

JONAH LOMU!

REST IN PEACE, L.E.G.E.N.D. We LOVE YOU! RUGBY ALWAYS WILL!

KRRISH 3 – (K)ATASTROPHE

Mutilate a few characters from X-Men; plagiarise a part of an ending from the latest Superman release; put Robocop to unbridled shame and Presto – you are left with an unpalatable concoction titled KRRISH3! Deficient in intent, demoralising in content and deplorable in execution, India’s indigenous Superhero elicits more derision rather than entice demand. The movie has for a plot, the demented intentions of a devious scientist going by the clichéd name of Kaal. Not only is Kaal deranged in mind, he is also debilitated by quadriplegia. But the physical deficiencies are more than made up for by an inexplicable supernatural power which allows him to lift, levitate and line up objects using the magic of telekinesis. Just to demonstrate the extent of his prowess, Kaal for the benefit of an exhausted audience manages to shatter a few glass windows, shear his adopted father with a knife and spin chairs around a room, all with a face that though meant to be contorted is in reality constipated! The role of Kaal is played by Vivek Oberoi who for most part of the movie keeps traipsing through his ‘state-of-the-art’ laboratory in a wheel chair and staring at a bank of blinking monitors with an unblinking eye.  As the movie would have you believe, blame it all on a mischievous strain of DNA! It is a matter of great mercy that the pioneers in the field of DNA Watson and Crick are not around to see this fiasco. But there is no denying that the two of them would be screaming, kicking and cart-wheeling in their respective graves!

As Kaal indulges in his favourite past-time of creating deadly strains of virus, deliberately spreading their toxicity across the globe and concocting an antidote from his – yes you guessed it right – BLOODY DNA, all with the intent of making tons of money to find a cure for his quadriplegia, there is an imminent need for a superhero to stop the mad genius in his tracks. Not only is it amply evident that Kaal has no inkling of more temperate or intemperate money making avenues such as playing the share markets or perpetuating scams, he banks on India as a potential target for the most obvious reason – more the population, more the spread of infection and more the spread of infection, more the quantum of anti-dote required and more the quantum of anti-dote – you guessed it right – more the rolling of banknotes! At this juncture I would request the forgiveness of an exasperated reader as I could have explained the rationale in a few words, but attribute this condition to the movie! I am affected or rather infected! By the way the choice of India is arrived at by Kaal by a contemptuous twirl of a compact globe accompanied by the same constipated look of purpose!

Cutting to the chase, the green coloured, miniature kidney-bean shaped virus (why are these obnoxious things always green making them look more eco-friendly rather than esoteric?) is transported to India by a couple of mutants, one of whom has the ability to morph and take the form of any living human and re-morph into a female mutant looking more like a product straight out of a Lakme Beauty Salon rather than an intimidating alien! Appropriately she is named ‘Kaya’ (played by Kangana Ranaut). Giving Kaya Company are two mutants, one of whose power lies in a tongue capable of extraordinarily ugly elasticity and whose utility ranges from the trivial (such as flicking ice creams off cones) to the terrible (slurping butterflies and strangulating unsuspecting necks). Very soon India, or rather Mumbai is held in the throes of an incapacitating virus and a great many casualties occur.

Enter KRRISH or to be more precise KRRISH and his father! The offspring by this time is understandably tired after having pulled off an incredulous rescue act, involving the freeing of a locked landing gear of a Boeing 747, or was it an Airbus A-320? Who cares, the flight was really big anyway!  Unlike Superman who instinctively materialises at the scene of an impending disaster, KRRISH (3 that is – not the father), seems to rely upon the accuracy and reporting timeliness of News Channels on Cable Television. For in what must indisputably be the singular instance of its kind, a News Channel telecasts the fact that a flight approaching the Mumbai Airport has developed landing gear snags. Our Superhero appropriately is tuned in to the television set at the right time. Decorating his face with a suitably grim look, he dons his flowing black attire complete with a cape, puts on his mask, the latter looking like one that is strategically torn before being worn, and half-flies, half-jumps, adding slinging and catapulting motions before attaching himself to the front wheel of the aircraft in distress. The rest is not worth describing.  Enough of digression. Back to the insidious virus! After a couple of emotional father-son bonding within the confines of a laboratory, a cure for the virus is finally found and Mumbai is relieved of the mayhem. This not only puts Kaal to furious tumult, but also results in a statue of KRRISH being unveiled. The unveiling is inevitably accompanied by a song and dance sequence involving, inter alia Mrs and Mr.KRRISH!

What follows is an intolerable, indecipherable and incomprehensible sequence of mangled mutants, men enraged, machines engaged and matters dissolved. The scene where pieces of metal mysteriously cling themselves onto a rejuvenated Kaal, is sufficient, in isolation to bring unrestrained tears of regret to the movie goer. The intended-to-be-ROBOCOP look fails miserably and Kaal ends up looking as though his wardrobe was designed by a street side scrap metal vendor. However the most peculiar bit in the movie involves a continuous voluntary trembling of the head and face of KRRISH when he dons the mantle of a superhero! It is as though the superhuman powers are accompanied by an unfortunate bout of Cerebral Palsy, or maybe the shaking leads to strength – after all it is common to “shake well before use”.

Even after reading this review, if you feel like watching the movie, remember this phrase “Light Leads to Life” or was it “Light gives light”? But please do not deny that you were forewarned! If there were to be a filter embedded in the human brain which would weed out the ridiculous and retain the relevant, the only bits that would remain after a viewing of KRRISH 3 would undoubtedly be the trailers of the other ensuing releases! By the way I had just watched “Thor” the previous day and to describe my sacrilege in the parlance of KRRISH and Kaal, it was like “consuming poison after partaking the anti-dote!”

Hrithik Roshan as KRRISH disappoints and Hrithik Roshan as KRRISH’s father disappoints tremendously! Priyanka Chopra as Mrs KRRISH is completely wasted as her only value add lies in either emphasising the fact that she is pregnant, or vigorously shaking her hands and legs to uninspiring tunes with utter disdain to her pregnancy! Vivek Oberoi as Kaal, must surely be regretting his choice in the role. If not then definitely he ought to get his DNA examined! He might be mutating from an intelligent specimen to an imbecile! Kangana, first as a mutant on a mission and then a maiden in love, has done no good whatsoever to her career prospects. The soundtrack is incredibly insipid. It also does its bit to disturb great souls resting peacefully in their graves. For example, after listening to the track “Raghupati raghava Raja Ram” (especially the bit hummed by a Jamaican looking Barbadian or an Antiguan or a Trinidadian), Gandhi would surely abhor all tenets of non-violence, if he were to be reborn! None of the songs have an iota of retention value. The action sequences range from the macabre to the heartlessly mimicked.

All in all this is a movie which needs to be avoided like the plague! KRRISH 3 – DON’T EVER CONSIDER EVEN IF ENTRY IS FREE!

For those of you who have already been mind numbed and brain murdered by an unfortunate viewing – please read up “The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA” – by James Watson. You will understand that the makers of this movie had no clue as to what they were engaging in!

SPECTRE – An Apparition that fails to haunt

Right from the time Sam Smith begins his nerve jarring wailing with “The Writing’s On The Wall” and till such time the dust settles at the end in a crescendo of explosion, Sam Mendes’s latest James Bond flick “Spectre”, grunts, gasps, heaves and barely remains alive as it gets mashed, blended and ultimately lost trying to be a medium between the past glittering offers of the franchise and the current stirrings of time.

Whether it be the clichéd muttering of “hello Pussy” (a lame attempt at sacrilegious innuendo) by 007 whilst being latched on to a torture chair, or remorselessly trying to whip women up into bed (including one inconceivable sexual jaunt right after a funeral with the wife of the deceased), “Spectre” loses its plot massively. What begins with a bang ends with a predictable whimper, and an extremely feeble one at that.

The movie begins with a heart stopping, gravity defying, high altitude fight sequence within the confines (and at times outside) the confines of a helicopter, that has as its audience a packed mass of frenzied crowd celebrating the Festival of the Dead in Mexico City. Two deaths and a destruction of a massive block concrete, later, Bond is grounded by M as the Mexican fiasco was an unauthorized mission. However, the unyielding Bond refuses to be shackled to inaction and with the aid and assistance of a reluctant Q, smuggles himself out to Rome for attending the funeral of the very man whom he had assassinated.

A sexual romp, a high speed car chase, and a solo investigative mission to Austria gets Bond not only a sniff into the murky underbelly of an insidious organization called “Spectre”, but also gets him acquainted with a beautiful doctor going by the name of Madeleine Swan. Avid Bond aficionados will remember Spectre as the very organization which first made its dreaded appearance in the 1971 Bond offering, “Diamonds are Forever”

In the meantime, in a radical move, MI5 is merged with MI6 to create a gigantic institution of Surveillance, with a Charter known as “Nine Eyes”.  This part of the script has an uncanny resemblance to the immortal Dystopia of George Orwell, “1984”, where the “Big Brother” looms over all he can survey. The new Head of the merged Network, Max a.k.a “C”, takes an instant aversion to the “007” programme and intends to replace the work of human agents with mechanistic modes of Surveillance.

What is the objective of this invidious organization called “Spectre?”; Is there a method to the madness of the “Nine Eyes” Charter?; Who is the elusive Dr.Madeleine Swan?. Bond has to risk his life and take hitherto envisaged gambles to go to the root of these mysterious questions.

The answers lie in the long drawn out, but very paced 148 minutes of bedlam and bedding.

Christoph Waltz as Ernst Stavro Blofeld, distinguishes himself as the brain behind the monstrous Spectre. While holding his own on most occasions, he tends to lapse into moments of extreme melo-dramatic monologues that do very little to embellish an otherwise brilliant performance;

Lea Seydoux as Dr.Madeleine Swan, manages to stay pretty as well as stern. But unlike the normal Bond girl, who possesses a detached attachment towards the protagonist, she manages to evoke passions that can only colloquially be described as “mushy” in Bond. This is where she unfortunately fails when compared with say, for instance the spectacular Eva Mendez in “Casino Royale” or the sexy Halle Berry in “Die Another Day”

Ben Whishaw as “Q” displays his innate talent as an actor but is made to mouth irrelevant and meek humoured dialogues, most of which concern his shared habitation with a pair of cats;

Naomie Harris as “Eve Moneypenny” has barely any role worth its muster;

Dave Bautista as “Mr.Hinx”, the silent assassin, just grunts and groans through murders and portrays a feeling that he would do well to return to the ring in the World Wrestling Federation rather than try his hand in acting as a formidable adversary of the most celebrated fictional agent on the Planet;

Andrew Scott as “Max Denbigh” a.k.a “C” is a refreshing antidote to disappointment. With an irritating accent and equally exasperating actions, he manages to get on to the nerves of the watcher and at times elicits feelings of murderous rage – an outcome which was exactly what was expected out of him;

Monica Bellucci, as “Lucia Scarria” is completely wasted as all she has to do is fall to the seductive temptations of Bond, bed him and flee the silver screen thereafter!

The value of Judy Dench as the conscious keeper of Bond, and the irreplaceable “M”, is brought out in stark detail from watching the performance of a stiff Ralph Fiennes. No way near the perfection attained by the marvelous Dench, he ploughs his way through his role with poker faced expressions, that at times are literally painful to watch;

But the saviour of the movie is Mr.James Bond himself, Daniel Craig. In his fourth installment as the celebrated, womanizing, cold blooded agent and assassin, the Englishman waltzes and breezes through the movie with effortless panache and élan. Exquisitely fine tuning his expressions and whole heartedly plunging into his action sequences, Daniel Craig provides a clinical demonstration behind the current reasoning of him being the best Bond, post the Sean Connery era. It is a travesty that Sam Mendes has not strived to extract the best out of this invaluable performer. Making Bond mouth corny lines instead of candid conversations, choosing to cast him as a sex maniac instead of a cleverly plotting, conniving seducer, and more than everything else, placing a god dammed white cat on his lap and making him mutter “Hello Pussy” under his breath (an unwarranted, unforgivable and unwanted act of travesty) takes some gloss and sheen out of an otherwise impeccable and extraordinary performance.

The action sequences are as usual, magnificently shot and the background music deserves wholehearted applause and appreciation. To reiterate, although the movie is a bit too lengthy for comfort, the sensible pacing of it compensates for the exertion that could have been. Sam Smith’s “Writing’s On The Wall” is a charade, when weighed against the brilliant Adele’s “Skyfall”

Overall, this 24th movie to roll out of the stables of the James Bond franchise, even though possessing the customary thrills and the expected spills, inexplicably loses its way in trying to establish a connect between many previous sub-plots that are intricate. Sam Mendes forgets to look to the future as he gets too very occupied and enmeshed in traversing the past.

SPECTRE – An Apparition that just refuses to haunt!

STAR WARS – THE FORCE AWAKENS: A GLORIOUS RESURRECTION

The preternatural anxiety surrounding the release of the George Lucas spectacle climaxed last night with the Seventh installment of the iconic Star Wars series being premiered. Only this time the wait has been exacerbated by a thirty year break which for some hard core fans has been just too long to tolerate. Directed by J.J.Abrams, “The Force Awakens” does not disappoint and does more than just living up to expectations. Without nursing a sadistic intention of mercilessly dousing the enthusiasm of Star Wars freaks and fanatics, let me construct an extremely broad and simplistic overview of the plot characterizing “The Force Awakens”.

Luke Skywalker has vanished (yes you read that right) leaving no perceivable clue as to his whereabouts. While concerted searches for him come to a frustrated nought, an insidious force terming itself the “First Order” prepares to wreak wanton destruction on the Rebel forces led by Leia Skywalker a.k.a General Leia Organa by employing a machine of Death and annihilation, capable of putting even the Death Star to literal shame. The First Order decides to hunt down Luke with the intention of obliterating the existence of the sole remaining Jedi Knight. The Republic on the other hand, pulls all stops to ensure that the unthinkable does not materialise. Will the Republic be able to ward off this seemingly unstoppable peril? Will the First Order be successful in spreading the perverse influence of the strong and vile Dark Force across the Galaxy?

The movie blends an eclectic mix of exuberant old faces and egregious new and young characters. The cliched mix of youth and experience combines to deliver a performance worthy of acclaim. Right from the moment the omnipresent theme music signals the commencement of events “a long time ago in a galaxy far far away”  till the appearance of the ending credits, the movie keeps one engrossed and riveted. Among the old suspects, the peripatetic Hans Solo (Harrison Ford) holds the  movie aloft with an impeccable exhibition of effortless acting. Combing gallows humour with a gullible filial emotion, Ford breezes through his sequences in a manner which is inimitable, unique and incapable of being mimicked.

Carrie Fisher as Leia is dignified and almost minimalist as the situation demands. Her loss at the disappearance of her dearest brother and savour makes her taken on a weather beaten yet determined appearance, a paradoxical combination of resignation and resoluteness. The taken-for-granted ebullience is replaced by a quiet and knowing elegance. The perennial Chemistry between Hans Solo and Leia Skywalker is unwavering and electric. Their interactions are pregnant with meaning and premonitions. Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca evokes smile and sorrow in equal measure. Adam Driver as Kylo Ren manages to distinguish himself well in a role cleverly designed to invoke scores of surmises and conjectures amongst a  perplexed audience, while John Boyega as Finn puts in a creditable performance. However the star of the show is undoubtedly Daisy Ridley. Donning the role of Rey, a Space Scavenger, Rey is a central character in the movie and disappoint she doesn’t! Without resorting to overtly extravagant acting exaggerations, she smoothly weaves in and out of sequences with the dexterity of a seasoned veteran. Rey will be the central element and unavoidable focus of all ball room discussions, board room deliberations and booze induced debates until George Lucas demonstrates a willingness to appease the inveterate curiosities of a zillion fans by bringing out the eight portion of the franchise.

There is much to cheer in this extravagant offering by J.J.Abrams. The Millenium Falcon is back to ply business as is the inseparable combination of R2D2 and C-3PO. The light sabre duels pitting the red against the blue are back and how! But the most telling point made by J.J.Abrams lies neither in the awe inspiring Computer Graphic Imitations nor in the breathtaking action sequences, but in the scintillating tug and pull of syncretic human emotions. Deceit and devotion; Resilience and Revenge; Slavery and Sycophancy all conflate, collude and collide to produce a myriad mix of both predictable and unpredictable outcomes. Power metamorphoses into vulnerability while weakness transforms into determination. There are no long drawn out, enervating talks for stillness and silence constitute a powerful medium of expression. There are a couple of twists and turns capable of bringing a tingling chill up the spine of the viewer. The usual blend of dry humour and wit is present albeit in a degree that is disappointingly subdued. This is the sole aspect of the movie that evokes some consternation as the generally conspicuous element of thought provoking punchlines is unusually inconspicuous.

On the whole, “The Force Awakens” is a brilliantly conceived culmination of a prolonged wait of thirty years. It’s time to sit back, let your hair down, relax and watch the fated conflict between good and evil; darkness and light; Jedi Knights and the dark forces and more than everything, between truth and deceit.

Watch out for a killer of a climax though! The final minute is capable of making one’s hair at the nape of the neck stand and bristle!

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” – The Glorious Resurrection of a Buried Saga!

MAY THE FORCE BE WITH US ALL

13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI – AN EXERCISE IN INTENSITY

Intense; Taut; Gripping; Edge of the Seat Thriller. Michael Bay’s adaptation of Mitchell Zuckoff”s 2014 book “13 Hours” must surely rank as one of his best ever offerings till date. While the plot is unerring, its execution is near flawless. Although a wee bit lengthy at 144 minutes of running time, 13 Hours leaves you reeling and enervated by the time the credits roll out.

The year is 2012. The much despised despot Muammar Gaddafi has been brutally deposed by his own countrymen. However, Libya is in a state of dangerous flux. Insurgents and separatists clash openly on the streets causing wanton mayhem not to mention about the destruction of people and property. Amidst this raging inferno of civil unrest, all the foreign embassies shut shop and flee to safety. Only the United States mans a Special Mission in the dangerous city of Benghazi, along with a ‘supposedly’ secret CIA outpost, not so imaginatively termed the “Annex”. The Annex is guarded by a team of Private Military Contractors.

In an act of foolish optimism and misplaced confidence, the US Ambassador to Libya, J.Christopher Stevens decides to arrive in Benghazi to further the fabric of diplomacy between the two nations. The Ambassador makes the Special Mission (Embassy) his temporary residence paying little heed to the fact that the security at the Mission is to say the least, sparse. All hell breaks loose when the Embassy comes under brutal siege, courtesy a Group of rampaging Libyan fundamentalists. The CIA Annex, alerted to this catastrophe makes desperate calls to various US military bases and air support pleading for help. As all their impassioned pleas go in vain, a meagre and motley band of six Soldiers are forced to hold at bay, armed militants teeming around their place of refuge like savage predators.

The courageous deeds of the six brave hearts who went many a mile beyond their call of duty forms the spine and substance of the movie. James Badge Dale as Tyrone “Rone” Woods puts in a compellingly power packed performance stealing both the show as well as the adulation of the audience. John Krasinsly as Jack Silva, a former Navy SEAL plays able second fiddle to Dale. David Constabile as “The Chief”, the Benghazi Chief of Base, CIA both exasperates as well as enthuses, in equal and alternative measure.

The most engrossing part of the movie is the depiction of the pitched battles at ground level pitting six no hopers against a massive aggregation of hate filled barbarians. The action sequences are deeply penetrating and endearingly meaningful. Although the historical accuracy of the facts as portrayed in the movie has been clouded by some  controversy, there is no denying the fact that the Director who enthralled us all with fare such as “Armageddon”; and “The Transformers” series is back at doing what he does best – entertain. But this time the entertainment does not involve any juvenile trying to ram a cube into a metallic chest of a gigantic monster. This time the entertainment is engaging, inspiring and for real.

Watch out for the last 30 minutes of the movie and if you can refrain from gripping the handle of your seats until your knuckles turn white and demolish a third of your fingers along with the nails, you would have accomplished a commendable feat of restraint!

As the real names of the six brave hearts roll out at the end of the movie, you are left with nothing but a feeling of respect for the selfless soldiers who did not even bat an eyelid before putting their own lives on the line to keep their brethren out of the vicious jaws of death.

13 Hours – Michael Bay’s marvelous tribute to the magnificent men of Benghazi!

KABALI – OVERCOOKED YET UNDERDONE

First it is time for a confession. I am not a Rajini fan; I am a THALAIVAR FANATIC! So much so that when the legend was in Malaysia for shooting the very movie which I would be reviewing below, I hunted him down like a bloodhound for 3 days playing Russian Roulette with fate before the latter gave up its obdurate stance, yielded and contrived to bestow upon me my life’s greatest privilege– a private audience with the Superstar for 15 minutes and an autographed personal copy of Living With The Himalayan Masters!

Now that the facts are out of the way it is time for an unbiased, impassioned and candid review of Kabali, the directorial offering of PA Ranjith. The hype surrounding the movie (as is the case with any Rajini release) was close to unprecedented with Airlines vying with jewelers to nudge themselves into the maniacal marketing pyramid. The last time Rajini wore the mantle of a full fledged gangster was in the immortal and eponymous epic “BAASHA”. Hence it was with great anticipation and unbounded expectations that I rushed to view the premiere screening of Kabali at an archaic shopping mall in KL which boasted a theatre imaginatively named “MY Cinemas”. MY Cinemas’ desperate and urgent need of a makeover mirrored the lacuna that is the feature of Kabali! Yes you read it right! Kabali is 150 minutes of unmitigated disaster! If Manick Baasha was the Don Vito Corleone of Indian cinema, Kabaliswaran a.k.a Kabali is an abstruse saviour of the downtrodden Tamil populace in Malaysia. Kabali leaves his ardent fans ambivalent, agonized and asking “WHY?”

While Ranjith leaves a lot to be desired and more, the following are the 7 primary and gaping reasons why Kabali does not strike a chord with even the most ardent of Rajini worshippers

1.       Total Absence of a formidable Foe

A Rajini movie is invariably made memorable by the presence of an antagonist who duels with the protagonist in an unrelenting and gripping way. While Manick Baasha squared off with the evil Anthony, Padayappa found his feminine nemesis in Nilambari. The Luddite Annamalai had to test his skills against Ashok while the king of Style Shivaji/”MGR” had to contend with the devious and ruthless Adikeshavan. Even Lingaa faced a low profile albeit impactful enemy in M.P.Nagabooshan. More the stellar cast of villains, more memorable the movie! The late Raghuvaran, Ramya Krishnan, Suman, Prabhakar and Jagapathi Babu all combined to enhance and embellish the aura that surrounded Rajini.

What or who do we have in Kabali for the ultimate face off? A Chinese gang lord going by the ill conceived name of Tony Lee (Winston Chau) who has a coterie of Indian lackeys to do his hacking and haggling! The incomprehensible mumbo jumbo of Tamil spoken (or miserably attempted to rather) by Winston Chua jars the nerves and makes for some extremely painful viewing. With no actor of repute to essay the most vital role of an anti-hero, Kabali disappoints immensely in all its confrontational sequences.

2.       Zero Punchlines

The punch lines of Rajini constitute the lifeline of his movies. Even a Rajini fan to whom Tamil sounds like a customized version of Greek and Latin would more often than not be successful in proudly hollering “NAAN ORU THARAVAI SONNA NOORU THARAVAI SONNA MAADHIRI” or “EN VAZHI THANEEEE VAZHI”. Kabali however does not have a single comparable punch line of note to offer. The dialogues are subdued, the challenges mellow and the narrative damp. What is a Rajini movie without a proper punch line? The answer – KABALI

3.       When Magizhchi does not actually mean good

When the official teaser of Kabali hit You Tube, one phrase attracted the viewers no end – Rajini elegantly folding his palms and saying “Magizhchi”. This captured the imagination of millions and the word almost found a welcome revival in the Tamil Lexicon. However in the actual movie, a total hash has been made of this term. It has been over employed to the extent constituting abuse. One would be tempted to ask for a ban on using “Magizhchi” in movies more than 3 times! The beautiful word has been over laundered so much that it resembles a shirt that has been carelessly albeit repeatedly washed by a Dhobi before his donkey chews away a good part of it!

4.       Rajini Laughs

Thalaivar has a laughter that is distinctive yet ominous. Whenever threatened with dire consequences, Rajini first breaks into a hearty laughter with an ominous ring to it, before wading into a stream of powerful riposte. PA Ranjith either has not seen BAASHA, PADAYAPPA, MOONRU MUGAM, & ENTHIRAN or has no clue how to manipulate this unique laughter. What happens with Magizhchi gets extrapolated to this laughter. Needless laughter punctuates many scenes thereby taking the life out of many potential winning sequences.

5.     Free Life Foundation

The less said the better!

6.       Who the hell is Ranjith’s Target Audience

The popularity of the Entertainer of the Decade and one of the most influential and adoring personas of Indian cinema is encapsulated in a powerful dialogue by Lakshmi in Padayappa. She says that Padayappa has the characteristic traits of camphor. A ball of camphor immediately lights up irrespective of whether the hand striking a match to it belongs to an affluent individual or a poverty stricken wretch. Rajini transcends both class and mass. His is an inimitable stratosphere which to the other aspiring and established actors will always remain a distant and unreachable dream. Fans of Rajini straddle all social, economic and cultural strata. This precious tenet is rend asunder by PA Ranjith in Kabali. With many scenes having been shot entirely in the language of Bahasa Melayu, the official language of Malaysia, and the audience is left reeling having to cope with disjointed moments which resemble a crude cut and paste job on a word document . PA Ranjith seems to be at a loss to decipher whether this movie is meant solely for the Malaysian audience or for the consumption of the global public.

7.       Where art Thou THALAIVAA?

In Samuel Beckett’s celebrated play “Waiting For Godot”, two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, wait endlessly and in vain for the arrival of someone named Godot. After the first 10 minutes of Kabali, following the introduction of Rajini (a crude take of Nicholas Cage exercising behind bars in Con Air), the devoted fan is left – thirsting like a man with parched lips desperately scouring for an oasis in the middle of a scorching desert – waiting for his demigod to appear on the screen. The regal and magisterial presence that unmistakably looms large and overshadows every other actor is unfortunately non-existent.

Like Vladimir and Estragon, I also waited – waited for my Thalaivar with a heart swelling with pride and blood pumping and coursing through my veins. Alas! PA Ranjith, – woe betide the man – never gave me the unbridled pleasure of experiencing him!

While Radhika Apte and Dhansika do veritable justice to their roles, Nasser impresses with a cameo performance.

Neruppu Da leaves a lingering note in the ears long after the movie is done.

It is time for Thalaivar to get rid of the avant garde young guns and revert to the proficiency of the big daddies. We want the Thalaivar verve, the Rajini Swag and the Superstar Style to knock us sideways and senseless – yet again!

Place that SOS call to Shankar and get CHITTI 2.0 off the Production Line NOW!