Monday, 25 April 2016

The Sialkot Saga - Ashwin Sanghi

'When it’s a question of money, everybody is of the same religion.' The Sialkot Saga, Ashwin Sanghi's latest book after his successful The Krishna Key, where he established himself as an Indian Dan Brown. In his new book, again, there's a quest of an ancient secret, but that doesn't take the center focus in this book. This book is about two individuals Arvind and Arbaaz, about their rise and rise in their status, about their conflict and something which connects them.

This books starts in Amritsar during that period of partition between India and Pakistan, in a railway station where a constable saves a small boy from the piles of dead body in that last train which traveled from Sialkot. And, we shift to king Ashoka's court where they talk about choosing a person to preserve a secret and he should also select his successor. So, this secret travels through different periods and different kingdoms.

Arvind, son of  a businessman from Calcutta, whose sole aim is to get rich and become a top one richest men in India. He only thinks about how to make money. Arvind plays smart and earns a lot of money, he cons many big businessman on the way. He easily deceives many tycoons and make them invest in his lies and leaves them without a trace. He becomes so successful in this game and rises to one of the most wanted businessman of India. On the other hand, he had a love failure, his high school sweetheart leaves his to become an actor in Bollywood. Then, he marries a different girl and becomes a father of twins. This whole Arvind episode reminds me of movie Guru.

Arbaaz, son of a poor man, who loses his father early and forced to work. Arbaaz's sole aim is also money. He joins a small time thief, Raju, then with the local don Abdul Dada. He rises the ladder among the Abdul Dada's men and becomes his most trusted one and eventually becomes successor. During his days with Abdul Dada, he does everything, including murder. And, again he uses his tricks to get back on people and to get things done. After Abdul Dada's death he joins politics and he becomes one of the most important player in Indian politics. And, this part is, we have seen in many of our don movies.

Both Arvind and Arbaaz's target is always money. They are completely opposite to each other. Arvind is a Hindu, Arbaaz is a Muslim, which is very obvious by their name. Arvind supports BJP where Arbaaz joins congress. Arvind just plays with his business mind and tricks to earn where Arbaaz goes to any level. Arvind is from a rich background, where Arbaaz isn't. Arvind is educated, unfortunately Arbaaz couldn't afford it. But, both their lines cross each other several times. Arvind's high-school sweetheart, Paromita, who becomes a famous Bollywood heroine end up as Arbaaz's wife. Arvind and Arbaaz cons each other in many deals throughout their life. However, they end up doing business together and even become relatives. And, both of them are not entirely bad people.

I liked the way Ashwin Sanghi connected each and every important event in Indian history with Arvind's or Arbaaz's life. Each and every event plays some role in their life and it was fascinating. And, not just event in India, but also 9/11 attack in America as well. It's interesting to know about India's political history as well through Arvind and Arbaaz's life. And, it features some of the well-known faces fictionally, especially Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Even Steve Jobs does a cameo here. Among others were Modi, Dawood Ibrahim, etc. So, Ashwin Sanghi has done enough research before writing his book.

This book also tells us how easy to bend the rules in our country if you know right men and have enough money. It also talks about share market trading, where some of them wasn't quite clear to me, but gives some insight. But, really hates his stereotype usage of lunghiwala while talking about a guy from Tamil Nadu. For God's sake "Lungi dance" is really not about people down south.

Towards the end, we get to know why Sialkot plays important role here. And, it also ends with much surprising note related to immortality and a connection between Arvind and Arbaaz. The ancient secret which was passed on for generations from Ashoka empire is about immortality and Arvind and Arbaaz somehow ends up working towards that.

The Sialkot Saga was an interesting read, it's more of politics, business, betrayal, rivalry, heartbreaks and less of quest for ancient secret. It's really well played by Ashwin Sanghi, easy to follow and provides interesting twists and turns. A very good follow up to his "The Krishna Key."

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Theri - Usual masala, usual taste, watchable.

After "Therikidhu therikudhu mass", "Therikka vidalama" here comes Theri. Theri, director Atlee's second movie after his successful debut RajaRani and for Vijay an important movie after his ambitious movie Puli turned out to be disastrous.

This FL increased my curiosity.

The plot, which can be guessed easily after watching the trailer and there isn't a much of a surprise there either.

Vijay, after trying few films a cop he gets act right in this film. He looks really fit and the dress suits him perfectly this time. And, he really can pull off a character of 30 year old with ease. In some of the scenes his dialogue delivery was still irritating, but better than Jilla and Puli. Even with three different getup he didn't offer much difference, it was much better in Kaththi.

Amy’s character was totally not needed and her look was oh god! Samantha was cute, but some of her romance scenes were little boring. And, her dance was better than Selfie Pulla. Mahendran wasn't used much, but he was good in those few scenes he appeared. Mottai Rajendran’s scenes with Vijay provided some comic relief. He was good throughout the film. And, the baby Nainika was real cute and her scenes with Vijay in the first half were cheesy and must laud her dubbing as well.

The movie talks about few social issues like women safety, child trafficking, but I felt they were lost within this package. The biggest drawback of the movie is the screenplay which was slow and predictable. I felt there were too many sentimental scenes, few worked, few went overboard. And, the movie was like a mix of many old movies and the hangover of recent Yennai Arindhal was unavoidable.

The real hero of this movie is the DOP George Williams. Not just the lead actors, each and every character looks good. And , the movie was colourful from the start just like Raja Rani. The visuals really elevate the film. And, GV in his 50th movie has come up with few good songs and Vijay as usual made it  watchable with his dance moves. Few mass moments were equally complimented by his BGM and loved the theme mixed with Kerala style melam. And, thanks to Atlee for not including the Raangu song into the movie which was already long.

The film could have been little shorter. The villain could have been little deadlier. The romance portions could have made little more enjoyable. The investigation portion could have been made little more exciting. A cop story's usual element, cat and mouse chase, between the hero and villain was missing. But, even with all those flaws the movie didn't make me yawn or groan in my sit, somehow it was watchable.

Theri, doesn't offer anything new in this tried and tested genre. But, the rich visuals made this bearable. It wasn't as good as a Kaththi or Thuppaki, but at the same time not as bad as Jilla or Puli either. It may not live upto the curiosity and expectation it created with its firstlook and other promotional activities. So, Ajith goes back to Siva again after Vedhalam and with Theri Vijay returns to commercial route as well, god save our "Mass" heroes.

Theri -  2.5/5.0.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

24 - On Loop 24/7

An ARR album released, it's as exiting as a new release of any big hero's movie. So after hearing it as many times as possible since its release, here's what I think about this album, which contains six tracks (balls), let me see how much ARR scored in this over.

Naan Un - Best song of this album easily. ARR’s trademark melody sung by two singers, who are best in business, Chinmayi and Arjit. Really soothing lyrics by Madhan Karky and didn't take many hearings to fall in love with this song. And, glad to hear Arjit in Tamil and he did a good job. SIXER.

Mei Nigara - What happens when both composer and the lyricist experiments in their own domain? We get an interesting tune and interesting lyrics. Be it different sounds that we discover on each hearing or that “Oodathe..” line which travels throughout the song, this is one hell of an exciting song. And, MeiNigara = Virtual Reality, kudos to Karky as well. And, sung by our ARR’s new favorite Sid Sriram and Jonita, another pick of this album. SIXER.

Kaalam En Kadhali - Here comes the intro song of a sci-fi film written by veteran Vairamuthu. This was typical Rahman song, didn't invoke much interest when released as single and as usual with repeated hearing making it as a must in current play-list. Benny Dayal’s energetic voice and that “Aattral arase” chorus makes it a fantastic intro song, can't wait to watch it in the big screen. FOUR.

Punnagaye - This song reminds me of some old Rahman song, but sounds fresh. Another melody in the album, the flute portion which comes now and then is the real highlight of this song. Haricharan does a neat job and Sasha sounds like Chinmayi, but beautiful nevertheless. FOUR.

Aararo - A lullaby sung by sweet Sakthisree Gopalan with very minimal orchestration, just like “Enga pona rasa” from Maryan. Shortest track in this album and sweetest. A lullaby in a sci-fi is really interesting. COUPLE.

My twin brother - A scintillating theme for, maybe, Athreya. The “Ayush man Bhava”chant sounds deadly and trailer shows Athreya mouthing the same. This theme just reassures that ARR is on a different level. FOUR.

So 24 is a fantastic album from our Isai Puyal. He hits 26 of six tracks (balls). A sci-fi based movie which has plenty of melodies, and after exiting teaser and stunning trailer can't wait for the movie now.

24 - 4/5.

Monday, 4 April 2016

WT20 2016 - India over steps, West Indies triumphs

Well, 2016 WT20 in India and everyone thought India is favorite to win the cup this time and given the current form in T20s this year I thought it's true. But, the very first match proved us wrong. After bowling out NZ for a paltry 126, we failed to chase it down. It was a remarkable collapse and NZ assessed the condition well and played with three spinners and Indian team played like they have never played spin before. Dhoni fought till the end, but it was too much even for him. Now, the expectation changed from winning the cup to qualifying for the semis.

Then, the biggest game of any ICC tournament, INDIA vs PAKISTAN. Rain threatened to stop the match, we had an 18 over a side match and once again India bowled well. But, again our batting threatened to collapse, thanks to solid Kohli who had it under control and steered India to victory in front of his idol, God of cricket, Sachin. Kohli saluting to Sachin and Sachin acknowledging was my favorite part of the match. And, with that win India's campaign was back on track.

The most thrilling and entertaining match of this tournament was, sadly, India vs Bangladesh's league match. After making a modest total, Bangladesh was excellent in the chase until the last three balls of the match. Mushfiqur and Mahmadullah getting out in two successive deliveries going for a big shot when they needed just two from three balls was a brain freeze. And, the last ball was excellent from Pandya and as usual Dhoni kept his cool and sprinted towards the stump to run-out Mustafizur and finish the match. And, his stumping of Shabbir was one of the best stumping I have ever seen. And, with that we kept our hopes alive. But, I would have liked to have a game of this kind against a better side than BAN. And, India made it to the semis with a win against AUS with another Kohli special. He played clean and proper cricketing shots along with some amazing running with Dhoni.

On the other side, Group A, it was mostly high scoring games. It was Gayle storm against the ENG and they chase down 180 runs comfortably and that was his only major contribution. Then, SA starts their campaign with hitting 229 against ENG and to everyone's surprise ENG thrashed Steyn & co to chase it down comfortably. Thanks to Roy, Root and Butler. And, AFG almost repeated the same against SA after AFG's Dhoni, Seshzad's amazing innings in that match. But, they managed to win their last game against the table toppers WI (world champions now). The best moment of that match must be when Gayle joined the AFG team celebration after their victory. And, the tournament's other favorites SA and the defending champions SL exits after the first round when ENG stunned everyone.

NZ after playing excellent cricket throughout the league phase was knocked out by ENG. After defending any kind of total in the league, they failed to defend against the ENG, Roy once again gave an excellent start and took the game away from NZ. And, in the second semis, WI chases down 193 quite easily after letting Simmons go on and on by taking his wicket in two new balls. No-Balls can change the match. It was a convincing performance with the bat from India for the first time in this tournament, with the openers getting runs, Rahane replacing Dhawan. And, as usual Kohli was in sublime touch, even got a wicket and bowled an over without a boundary, but it wasn't enough. Even though India got rid of Gayle and Samuels cheaply within the power-play. When Indians took bulk of their scoring by running, these guys were hitting the balls out of the ground easily. But, still you can't hate these guys even they knocked out India.

India never looked like a side to win the cup, but they looked completely different before the start. They played poor cricket, but for one man Kohli, huffed and puffed into the semis and a well deserved team beats them in the semis. And, another excellent find was Bumrah and his death bowling, it was exiting to see him bowl those yorkers consistently. And, the oldest-young man Nehra, amazing and consistent throughout the tournament. So India deserves this, but I really feel sad for Kohli, I hope he gets his cup soon.

And, the finals was a terrific game between two worthy teams and a game worthy of the finals. Samuels stepping up on a big day and won his second MoM in a World Cup final, but everyone will just remember the finish. 6, 6, 6, 6 in the last over of a World Cup final is beyond imagination. Brathwaite, you beauty,  now I get to know why you were most wanted in the IPL and feel sorry for Stokes. That was an unbelievable finish to the world cup and WI lift the cup for the second time and their third title this year after U19 team and Women's team this year. Great year for WI, well played and we don't mind losing to such a side. And, I don't think we would have loved any other side as much as WI after knocking us out.