Friday, November 26, 2010

Two years on

Exactly two years ago, almost to the hour, I was downstairs in our basement, doing my usual combination of watching TV while tweeting/blogging/Facebooking. The parents were in their room, watching TV. Suddenly, the mother called; NDTV was saying shoot-outs were happening in South Bombay. No one knew exactly what was happening; it seemed like some gang war had broken out.

I called my friend who lived in Powai at the time to ask where he was; he was home, but told me to keep him updated since he didn't own a TV. The brother, in faraway Boston, tended to get worried when attacks happen here, especially since mum and I had almost got caught in the GK blast just two months prior, so I shot off this mail to him:
shootouts happening all over south bombay... not too sure at this point if it's a gang war or terror attack. cafe leopold, taj hotel, oberoi hotel, vt station. find out if your friends are ok.
I wasn't very big on punctuation back then.

By midnight, we knew it was a terrorist attack, but it hadn't yet struck home just how bad the situation was. I put up this utterly frivolous post which I have never yet forgiven myself for, shut down my computer, and settled down to watch TV. And for the next two hours, watched in increasing horror as Bombay burned.

26 November 2008. It's one of those dates when practically everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing when the news came in.

2008 as a year was bad for India. There were attacks happening every few months, if not weeks. Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Delhi - all these cities got hit one after the other that year. And this is what we heard about. Back then the Naxal situation wasn't even getting the media attention it has got over the past year or so; no one was even bothered about Kashmir.

But Bombay caught everyone's attention. The sheer audacity, the targets, the execution, and the way it went on for nearly 60 hours - quite literally, the world watched as Bombay burned.

Everyone knows someone who was affected - directly or indirectly. Even after it was over, emotions ran high for weeks, with India wanting action. Heads had to roll, and India didn't care whose heads rolled. Kasab got the fastest trial and verdict ever, and is now sitting in jail, awaiting the day his sentence is finally carried out.

But a post by Dilip D'Souza asks a very pertinent question: why this and not others? There's a lady he has quoted in his article which hit me.
“If we have a remembrance for one,” she said, “I want it for all. I want it for everyone who dies like this. Otherwise we wonder, what did our sons die for?”
Two days ago, on the roads of Delhi, I saw a piece of graffiti saying 'Justice for 26/11 victims. What about victims of 1984 riots?' As I tweeted when I saw that, it's never going to be enough in this country. There will always something else that'll come to mind and make you feel the despair.

1984, 1992, 1993, 2002. Events that make me cringe when I think of them. Events where justice hasn't happened even today.

I'm not trying to take away from the trauma of 2008. It was a terrible time - I personally know someone who was in Singapore at the time, and whose mother was in Hong Kong. And whose father spent the night hiding in a restaurant in Colaba. And he couldn't tell his mother this, because she was in hospital with her daughter, who gave birth to her first child that night. Can you imagine what this guy was going through? Knowing that he may just lose his father the same night he gets a nephew?

But see, that's the thing. This time, we were hit, so to speak. We knew people who were impacted. It wasn't faceless, nameless Indians dying in some corner of another city. It was people who have access to twitter, to blogs, to freaking candles.

Why don't we ask for the same kind of justice for other victims? Why don't we speak out for any other tragedy?

This is a very hypocritical post. Apart from sharing a whole bunch of links on twitter, what have I ever done, after all?

I don't even know the point of this post. It's more rambling catharsis than anything else.

It's just... the bleakness of it all is very frustrating at times. Isn't it?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The beginning of the end: A review

Amidst the plethora of tweets I've been sending your way about sponsoring my run against Child Sexual Abuse, let us not forget that there was another, equally important, event this weekend: the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part I. And since my obsession for the series is fairly well-known by now to long-time readers of this blog, and since I have reviewed the last two movies on this blog, why not this one?

First things first, I had terrible expectations from this movie. No, really. I know I always say I go in for the HP movies with zero expectations, but this time I went in expecting it to be terrible. David Yates turned one of the best books in the series into the worst movie in the franchise, so I really didn't expect anything great with this one, even though I was marginally impressed with the one preceding that, also directed by him.

However, if I have to review the latest movie in one word, it is this: fabulous. No, really, after Prisoner of Azkaban, I really think this is one of the best in the entire franchise.


The movie starts off with the MoM addressing the media, and moves to the shots of the trio in their respective homes. Which brings up the first lump-in-the-throat moment of the movie - seeing Harry visit the cupboard-under-the-stairs, and Hermione leave her parents' home. The scene with the Death Eaters is suitably creepy, and the chase decent. The gathering at the Burrow could've been better, as could've some of the subsequent ones - no, I'm not going to do a scene-by-scene review, don't worry.

A few scenes do deserve a mention, however: Godric's Hollow was good. I had my face hidden in the father's shoulder in places, that's how scary they made it (and no, you don't get to call me a wimp). The father was chuckling and wishing we could've seen that scene in 3D; I swear, I would've walked out if that had been the case. The scene at Shell Cottage was heartbreaking; I was always very fond of Dobby, and the movie handled it so well. I also loved how they used animation for the Three Brother story - made it very cool.

I was disappointed in places of course. In terms of performance, both Rufus Scrimgeour and Xenolius Lovegood were utter disappointments - I don't think either of them brought to the screen what I imagined their characters to be. Their scenes were among the flattest parts of the movie.

I also didn't like how they left out fairly key stuff - but I think that is by now a common refrain by all HP fans for all the movies. For instance, however, in the Godric's Hollow scene, at no point does it get covered why Bertha Bagshot has been replaced, which made the entire scene fairly pointless, don't you think? One of my biggest problems with the HBP movie was that Voldemort's back-story and what and where the horcruxes could be was completely left out - so here, when these people are looking for the horcruxes, you really are as clueless as they are.

Also, I could shoot David Yates for the minor appeasement of Harry/Hermiones shippers that he tried to bring in. Pointless, silly, stupidly executed - WHY? Oh and given that they didn't show how Patronuses can be used as messages in HBP, Kingsley's voice coming out of a ball of light made no sense, and the doe, while well done, didn't link to anything, y'know? Which makes me wonder about Snapes' story.

I thought they ended the movie at the right moment - it made perfect sense. I've been having a discussion with Suprateek on twitter about the second part - he feels they've left too much to be covered in it. I disagree: if you go by the book, there are really three-four things to be covered, out of which I'm fairly sure they will discard Dumbledore's entire back-story. Snape gets practically no screen presence in this movie, so I don't know what they'll do with him in the second one. Which really isn't leaving much then, is it?

My BIGGEST bugbear with the movie however, is this: HOW could Harry walk all over the place as himself? Yates clearly missed the memo about Harry being listed as Undesirable No. 1 by the Ministry, even though there is a brief scene of such posters being printed. And given that this book is about the Hallows, where in the name of heaven was Harry's cloak?

I loved the movie, but like I was telling the brother last night, in retrospect, I think I loved it in a relative sense. In an absolute sense, I'm not so sure. It's by far the most faithful to the book of all the movies, and is really well made. As a Harry Potter fan, the movie was a delight. As a Harry Potter nut, it could have been better - but then we've always known that about the movies.

Fair warning though, if you haven't read the books, you won't understand a thing of what's happening. Yates makes no effort to give a context to anything, and assumes you know what's happening. Moreover, given the liberties taken with the script, there are places you will have no idea about what's happening if you haven't read the books. A friend wants to go without ever having read any of the books, and wants me to go along to explain what is happening - I don't know if I have the patience for that.

FINAL WORDS (promise): In terms of performances, I thought almost everyone was brilliant, particularly the trio, who have really grown into their roles with this movie. Of course my favourites, the Weasley twins, were brilliant and funny as always, in the brief role that they had. The Death Eaters were all terrifyingly awesome. The only performances I did have a problem with, honestly, were Rufus Scrimegeour and Xenolius Lovegood, and to an extent, Bill Weasley. He just wasn't... cool enough.

For more excellent reviews of the movie, go here, here, and here.

Also go and sponsor my run. Go on, shoo now.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A round-up of news

If you're following me on twitter and/or posterous, you'll know I've been bombarding people with requests to sponsor my run against Child Sexual Abuse, to raise funds for RAHI Foundation, an NGO I've been associated for the past six-odd years. Details here, link to donate here. Please, do donate.

In other news, I was in Bombay last week. It was supposed to be a quick 24-hour round trip, but I had to stay back for an extra night because the workshop I was conducting ran late. My first experience at Delhi's brand-new Terminal 3 wasn't very nice, and Indian Airlines convinced me never to fly with them again, with their long delays and fixation with Akshay Kumar movies as part of the in-flight entertainment. I was constantly tweeting from the airport both in Delhi and in Bombay; plan to compile them into one post when I get a bit of breathing time.

The other news from the Bombay trip is that I conducted a workshop, all by myself, for the first time. Was strangely non-nervous about the whole thing, and by that, I don't mean I was confident about it either. Just strangely... detached about the whole thing. Went off quite well though, although I could've probably been firmer with the participants and not allowed them to stretch the day so long.

But the detachment worries me.

So anyWAY, donate okay? And pass the word around too. If a couch potato like me can sign up for a 7-km walk, the least you can do is donate.

Yes, I'm trying to guilt-trip you into it. Is it working?