Monday, March 29, 2010

Leader: Being the Change

Leader is a powerful, inspiring movie, but more importantly, it tries to be an honest, brave movie. And this, its greatest strength, is also its downfall. What appealed to me the most about the movie is also what has stopped it from being accepted wholeheartedly – its brave but failed attempt to show that changing the system is not a cake-walk, and that to do it, one has to become part of the system and be willing to play the rules of the very game you are trying to change.

The movie struggles to find the right balance between being a fantasy about a single man changing the political landscape, and being an honest film which showcases how deeply corruption is embedded in the system, and how it is impossible for any one person to change it. Unfortunately, the movie is unable to fully embrace either line and go ahead with it, and ends up making compromises and becoming an in-between film, which, though it still makes for excellent cinema, leaves one with a vague sense of dissatisfaction.

For a movie about changing the system, the audience should be raging at the system as they walk out of the theatre, all pumped up to go and change it. If it was more in the style of realistic cinema, one would be coming out of the theatre with a sense of despair that things will never change. In Leader however, one is really unsure how to react.

I found the shades of grey in the protagonist Arjun (Rana Daggubati) quite fascinating. Here is a ‘hero’ who does not hesitate to bribe people to get what he wants, evoke his recently assassinated father’s memory to win people on his side, manipulate an innocent girl into falling in love with him for an ulterior motive. Of course, one is willing to forgive him for all of this because the ultimate goal is noble; but showing that Arjun was willing to play by the very rules he detests and wants to change is a very brave directorial decision in the land of the whitewashed hero of Telugu cinema.

The first half is gripping, and it’s always fun to watch the underdog emerge the winner, and in this case, its Arjun, who shows that he can out manipulate the best of the master manipulators, politicians. A lot of people complained that they didn’t enjoy the second half, and I think that’s because this shows Arjun struggling to hold on to his hard-won seat, having to make compromises, and floundering in the process. Personally, I loved that the movie shows Arjun’s vulnerability, his sense of frustration at his own limitations – but probably for a lot of the audience who was high on the gung-ho-ness (albeit a sober gung-ho-ness) of the first half, this was something of a dampener.

Leader’s rather lengthy digression into romance in the second half is also problematic. My problem is not with the romance per se, but the kind of romance shown here seems out of place in a movie like this. I’m rather surprised at how badly the romance bits were handled, given the Shekar Kammula is a director whose previous movies were all about relationships. However, I was told after watching the movie that the second half actually had a portion about Telengana partition; with the actual Telangana agitation just before the movie was due to release, this portion had to be chopped off, and was replaced with the romance. I don’t know how far if it is true, but it does seem to make sense, given how the romance seemed completely cut off from the rest of the movie, though ostensibly its very much a part of the narrative.

Rana Daggubati is, without any doubt, the best looking thing I have seen on screen in a long, long time. He inspires pure, unadulterated lust. He has an incredible screen presence, and delivers an earnest performance. No awkwardness of the first-timer here at all. Priya Anand is promising – and its such a refreshing change to see a Telugu actress do her own dubbing – I’m rooting for this girl! It’s sad that her role was chopped off so abruptly. Richa Gangopadhyay seems a little uncomfortable in some scenes, and does better in some other scenes, but she really doesn’t have much to do.

The senior actors like Suhasini and Kota give great performances, but that is to be expected. I’ve never cared for Mickey J Meyer (his songs have a sense of sameness) but I really liked the ‘Maa Telugu Talli’ remix – its sad that audiences on the other side can’t listen to it. It’s ridiculous really – what will the people of Telengana speak if not Telugu? Maybe they should replace it with a song about Vijayshanti! Gah!

Anyway, I digress. So all in all, I thought this was a great movie, a very brave effort and I was quite impressed by it.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

New Beginnings

Happy Ugadi! May it herald a year in which all your dreams come true, a year which is filled with good health, and lots of love, laughter and happiness.

On the occasion of Ugadi, and on account of boredom, I have decided to redo the blog. I was really looking for a more edgy, sophisticated template, but when I saw this template, it was SO me, that I just didn’t like anything else after this. I like to think of myself as that girl, sitting next to a shelf full of books waiting to be opened. It’s also girly, bright and cheerful – me, me, me!

I do wish I could get rid of those rather ugly ‘Advertise Here’ boxes, but I am unable to figure out how to. I’m also thinking of uploading pictures where my face is semi-obscure, or partially covered. No, not because I am not good looking! Nor am I trying to become anonymous. But I’ve taken the absurd notion into my head that it will add an air of mystery to me (!) and so we shall persist with the effort till laziness overcomes vanity.

You can now share my posts on twitter or Facebook. I am sure my 3.71 readers are delirious with joy at this stimulating prospect. I have also added a site meter – my need for honesty having finally overcome my sense of pride. Clearly, the only way the darned site meter is going to show any activity is if I click on blog every day like a woman possessed.

I added this feature where you can react to a post with a simple click, if you are feeling too lazy to comment. I am rather excited about it, so go and click on it! Pretty please. But to clarify, I still love comments more – every 0.09 comments I receive per post. I have also updated my blog roll, and if you want me to add your blog to this list, let me know (I can so hear you snigger and say “yeah, of course, since this is totally a celebrity blog that will drive crazy amounts of traffic and make me a millionaire entirely from ad sense revenues”).

Well, so do you like the blog’s new look? 

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Giant Leap Into the Late Twenties

My birthday for me is the single most important day of the year, and I start planning for it from January 2nd every year. You would think that as I got older, this whole birthday fancy would reduce and I would start treating my birthday like any normal adult person treats theirs. Far from that happening, it became the other way round, with the birthday gaining more importance with each passing year. So much so that last year, because I was turning 25, and my birthday was almost in the middle of the week, I decided to celebrate it for a whole week – which meant dinners/ lunches/ coffee dates with friends, movies, plays, shopping; something or the other for every day of the week.

However, this year, the birthday excitement was thankfully a lot more toned down (by my standards, not by normal adult person standards, of course). Maybe it was the overdose of birthday celebrations last year. Maybe it was that turning 26, which symbolises Entering the Late Twenties, seems to cry out for a sober celebration, if at all a celebration is even called for.

Which is all to say that toned down celebrations were planned for the day: the morning at a spa, lunch with Nike, a house party for 25 people in the night. The next day, we were going to drive off to spend the weekend in a nice resort out of town, so as to extend the celebrations into the weekend. Yeah, not such toned down celebrations after all; for all my lamentations on the awfulness of turning 26, I just couldn’t pass up a day which was all about me, me, me!

Of course, nothing went as planned. At midnight, despite my protestations that I didn’t expect a cake, and didn’t even want one, I realised I did indeed want one, and got rather upset when there really was no cake. So Nike took me to this rather lovely 24 hour poolside coffee shop, where I cut a sinful chocolate pastry in lieu of a cake, drank a chocolate milkshake, and generally overdosed on chocolate.

Since my friends seemed to have taken it into their heads to wish me at midnight as per their respective time zones, I ended up sleeping only early in the morning. Which meant that I was over an hour late for my spa appointment. I spent over two hours getting pampered at the spa, and generally feeling good about myself – not that it requires a spa to do that!

All this time, I had left my phone in the locker, and got to retrieve it only after the 2 hours in the spa, when I sat down for a haircut. I saw a gazillion missed calls from Nike and worriedly called him back – the brilliant man had locked himself out of the house, and after trying to reach me for the last two hours, had given up and gone to sleep in the car. Of course, this meant that I had to short cut my hair cut (tee hee!) and rush to the man’s rescue – more appropriately, he rushed to his own rescue as he drove up to the spa to pick me up.

I told myself, not very convincingly, that rescuing the man was more important than fulfilling my dreams of sashaying in beautifully blow-dried hair at the party, and decided to focus on lunch. At which point Nike suggested that we go to Nandhinis. Yes, the Andhra meals place. For my birthday. Yes, you read that right. I said ‘okay’ in a brave but shaky voice. Let it not be said that Nike has not learnt his lessons in all these years – we ended up going to a nice, cosy little restaurant called Woodstock instead. * Evil grin *

When we got home, our watchman informed us that the cook had waited for us for over half an hour and had just left. This was a crisis! What would happen to food at the party? Some people might dismiss food as not important at a party, but it just wasn’t done to expect them all to survive on a liquid diet that night, however great that might be. So we gave chase to the cook, found her at the bus stop and brought her back home.

The rest of the evening went swimmingly well. The cook did an excellent job. Everyone turned up. I looked great in my wine-coloured dress (Yes, I do say so myself). We ate, drank, made merry, and played Taboo till Nike went into his obsessive, trance like Taboo state. He was forcibly dragged to the table to attend to the cutting of the cake. And then the straps of my lovely dress snapped. Poof! Like that! Thankfully, I was far too ‘happy’ to let it bother me; also, I always buy atleast two pairs of new clothes for my birthday. Wearing normal non-new clothes was, of course, out of the question.

We played charades for a while, and then started dancing. Actually, it would be more appropriate to say that the girls danced, while the guys sat around and watched. Now that had an almost dance-bar-ish feel. We danced till about 4 in the morning, and then played another round of Taboo, where everyone fell over everyone else in an attempt to grab the cards lying all over the floor, and Nike indiscriminately abused everyone. The party ended at 5am.

Of course we didn’t go anywhere the next day. Nike kept throwing up all day long. And I was exhausted. But it was a good party. And it was a great day. So, that, dear readers, was to tell you that turning 26 isn’t always a bad thing!  

P.S: We did make that weekend trip the next weekend though. And it was awesome!