Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Buying a Book Online isn't the Right Experience

Vidit Bhargava
I went to a bookshop last Sunday, my first meaningful visit to one in three years. Traditional Bookstores have always worked for me, a lot more than the online ones. So, for the book I bought, I browsed a lot of others too.

So why do traditional Bookstores work for me? They get a lot of things right.  Serendipity for example. So, when I went to a bookshop last week, I not only got the Agatha Christie novel I was looking for, I also discovered a book on Pakistan’s Cricket History, A book by Basharat Peer and an architecture and design magazine. Fortunate Happenstances like these seldom happen on Amazon or Flipkart. 

Back in 2010, I was a regular at a bookshop in New Delhi’s Connaught Place. The bookseller gradually picked up my reading habits and would suggest me a book or two, while I was at his shop browsing for new things to read. At times, it would be something I really liked at others not very good. But, there’s something to be said about Booksellers here. They are some of the best book curators out their. They lend a Human Touch to the book buying process. Go to a Bookshop about where the ones selling you a book are just as enthusiastic about them as you are and you’ll realise the value of the little suggestions they give you.

The New Book Depot, now closed, was one of the best Bookstores in the city!

Also, you get to the feel the paper, turn the pages and select the book and the paper and bind quality. Now, this may seem trivial and in reality it is indeed a minor detail which many might ignore, but to me making sure that the book I’m buying feels good in hand, is essential in the buying process.

Online stores on the other hand, lack the human touch. Personally, I’ve felt this ever since I started buying things from Flipkart / Amazon. There’s little emotion in the selling process. It’s a mechanical warehouse culture that these books are subjected to. Wrapped in a cardboard box ready to be ‘shipped’, the Book is just another courier consignment and not a doorway to another universe full of amazing things.
Wrapped in a cardboard box ready to be ‘shipped’, the Book is just another courier consignment and not a doorway to another universe full of amazing things.
On Flipkart or Amazon, you get what you want, but seldom do you come across something new. Seldom does Flipkart suggest something that you really might want to read. Both the websites its seems, are always embroiled in a battle to provide the cheapest rates possible. None of them seem to care about the condition and quality of the book they are sending the readers, there’ve been many instances for me when an Amazon fulfilled purchase ended up in a book with dust and scratch marks on it or even a torn cover. Even though the online stores provide an image with every purchase, you still don’t know what you are going to see at your doorstep.

Having said that, the online stores deserve some credit for having a much larger collection of books than a conventional bookstore might have. There’ve been a lot of times when I was unable to find a book any where in the city but found an import edition on Amazon. Also, some of the online stores do care about the books, Flipkart was famous for sending some really beautiful bookmarks, back when they were young and few people knew them.

Buying a book online is sometimes a necessity.  For every other time, I’d prefer to walk to my Bookstore where the experience is much more human. 

Movie Review: Baby

Vidit Bhargava
Director: Neeraj Pandey. 
Starring: Akshay Kumar, Rasheed Naz, Danny Denzongpa, Anupam Kher and Kay Kay Menon.

Here’s what a Neeraj Pandey movie generally is, it’s a decent story with an extraordinary climax and brilliant performances by all actors, which is what makes it a memorable experience. Baby, however is no crowning jewel for the director. 

A terrorist escapes prison, a supposed Dead Agent shows up in Nepal and a trusted recruit turns Rogue, putting the Baby team, a special cell of the ATU, hot on the trail of a major terror attack plot against the country. Complete with Thrilling chase sequences, Guns, Gadgets and espionage, it has all the makings of a decent thriller. 

Coming from the director of ‘A Wednesday’ and ‘Special 26’ both of them known for their originality of ideas and out of the box treatment, this movie’s disappointing in a lot of areas. Baby’s neither got wildly original ideas nor does the thriller genre get a special treatment. Borrowing ideas from Argo and Zero Dark Thirty, it’s a conventional spy-thriller which relies more on thrills and impressive fight sequences rather than content.

In a slow and jerky first half, joggling between frequent lapses in logic and jingoistic dialogues, Baby’s hardly passable. In one of the early sequences, The escape of a terrorist in broad daylight on a busy Mumbai road is just one of the many logic-less sequences from the movie.The second half however, catches a bit of pace, providing better thrills and with a much more gripping screenplay and even though the climax isn’t entirely original, it’s extremely gripping.
Rana Daggubatti deserved a lot more screen space, He can definitely act! 

Baby’s strength however lies in crisp conversations with clap inducing dialogues and some good comic timing in particularly tense situations. That, along with good performances from every one makes Baby an enjoyable experience. Amongst the actors, Rasheed Naz looks in good touch in his role of the Terror Master Mind, Anupam Kher and Rana Dugabatti, although in short cameos are extremely impressive. But credit to Tapsee Panu who plays her cameo with surprising aplomb.

Going to watch Baby, I was expecting a different take on conventional thrillers. I was disappointed. What I got instead, was an enjoyable and brisk action thriller, but hardly something memorable. Despite it’s many flaws, Baby is still worth a watch but don’t expect too much from it.
That's how they shot down logic!

Rating: 7/10 It’s good but not Neeraj Pandey Good

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Imitation Game: Review

Directed by: Mortem Tyldum
Starring: Benedict Cumberbach, Matthew Goode and Keira Knightley
Music: Alexandre Desplat
Running Time: 1 hour 54 minutes

At one point in the movie, the character of Joan Clarke tells Turing that while taking a train to the city she went passed a village which wouldn't exist had it not been for his genius. This is exactly the reason why you should know about Alan Turing too, had it not been for his work and genius we'd still be years behind in technology.

The Imitation Game is a biopic which heavily benefits from the protagonist's character and some powerful performances by Benedict Cumberbach and Matthew Goode.

Based in the 1930s, The imitation game tells the often ignored story of how Alan Turing broke the Enigma codes to help England win the war. While, also touching on the subject of inclusivity and how geniuses sometimes find it hard to have a social life.

Packed with powerful performances from Benedict Cumberbach, Matthew Goode and Keira Knightley, the imitation game manages to strike the right chord of emotion throughout it's 2 hours of running time.

A strong story and a well written screenplay captures your attention even in the most trivial of mathematic discussions.

There's also something to be said about how well shot the movie is, from the perfect reproduction of the 1950s, to long shots of Turing with his computer Christopher, the Imitation Game is a very elegantly made movie and incredibly calm for a movie about the very urgency of war time problem solving.

But the Imitation Game is far from perfect. There's a touch of everything in the movie. It's a war movie, a spy thriller and a science drama at the same time. The imitation game discusses the war time problems, Turing's personal challenges (to which Cumberbach lends  surprising finesse) and Turing's relationship with Christopher the computer and the genius of Joan Clarke at good lengths but it's only skin deep when discussing about mathematical and engineering challenges. Going to watch a biopic on Alan Turing, I was expecting a little more on the Enigma Codes. The director, generates a whole lot of interest in cryptography and enigma codes and mathematics but doesn't really let the movie sink it's teeth on those subjects.

Despite Cumberbach's award worthy performance, the socially inept genius character is starting to show its age, Jim Parson's already doing it as Sheldon in the Big Bang theory and Cumberbach's doing it in Sherlock too. Nearly 8 years into watching these types of characters on TV shows, one wonders if it's time we took some break off them and talked about the more social academics, one's who don't insult every passerby on the street.

Also, The Imitation Game is a movie that’s best watched without an interval. Sadly, however not many theatres offer that privilege in India. So I’d suggest you either ask the theatre personal before hand about the no-interval screening (if its available, though I am heavily skeptical) or watch it at home through a legally distributed copy, for the best experience.

It’s also interesting to note the makers’ choice of using Imitation Game as the title, which is a direct reference to Turing’s work on what we now call Captcha, instead of something like Enigma or Christopher. Moreover, the way the Imitation Game was used in the movie’s narrative is surprisingly good, it doesn’t stick out as odd or unnecessary, moreover you expect something like this from Turing.

The Imitation Game isn't a perfect movie but it's definitely worth a watch, just for the story itself! Alan Turing's is a story that every one must hear and the Imitation Game does justice to it a large extend but you still come out wanting more.

Rating: 8/10 ( Worth a Watch)

Friday, January 02, 2015

Movie Recommendation: PK

Vidit Bhargava

Movie: PK
Director: Rajkumar Hirani
Story: Rajkumar Hirani and Abhijat Joshi
Actors: Rajkumar Hirani, Anushka Sharma, Sanjay Dutt, Parikshat Sahni, Amardeep Jha and Roshitash Gaud
Rating: *** 1/2 (A Must Watch)

PK is a well made Satire, It's a strong message served with comedy and emotion in equal quantities and most importantly PK is an enjoyable experience. 

To start with, PK has a good and innovative story to tell, with an Alien on board, It’s not conventional science fiction, in fact it’s not even Science Fiction. The writers use an Alien to tell the story of human prejudice here, giving it a satirical treatment more than Sci-Fi or Drama. 

The First half is pretty much flawless, the movie breezes through with a some exceptional comic timing and a tight screenplay, there’s also a tinge of emotion which lends a lot of depth to the central character here. 

To be honest, PK works because the central character is entirely believe-able, which is where Aamir Khan does a great job here. This is easily one his best performances. As an alien, PK is intelligent & observant, yet vulnerable and distraught when he loses a valuable when he arrives on Earth to carry out a research on the living beings on the planet. With no external cues from anywhere, this is an extremely difficult role to play, Khan makes sure that his Portrayal of the Alien, doesn’t only tick of the character traits but lends a certain amount of charm to it, making PK a character that’ll stick longer than the movie itself. 

Amongst others, Saurabh Shukla is just flawless in his role of the fake godman, Again it’s a combined effort of good writing and brilliant acting, notice how the character of ’Tapasvi Maharaj’ shows his skills of a powerful and observant public speaker when he turns the tables on the journalists who come to question him over PK’s allegations. If the movie’s a showdown between the two, the actors make sure that they give an extra edge to their characters.  Sanjay Dutt does an impressive job of playing Bhairon Singh, in the little screen time his character gets, Dutt’s acting leaves a lasting impression.

For the support cast, the director sticks to his regulars here, and they don’t let him down. Parikshat Sahni, Amardeep Jha and Roshitash Gaud leave a mark here. They play their short roles with great conviction. Their performance being just as good and important as that of the lead actors.

But Not everything’s great about PK. If the first half is flawless, the second half’s where the narrative slips and topples upon the ‘well trodden path’ problem. For a first half that was unique in all aspects, the movie’s second halves a sham. Hirani & Joshi use the same media ploy they used in Lage Raho Munna Bhai. It’s so repetitive that at one point PK feels more like a sequel to Lage Raho Munna Bhai. Then there’s the rushed up and unconvincing climax, which definitely leaves a lot to be desired from the film. But it’s still pretty much watchable. 

PK’s soundtrack isn’t great either. However, it’s not something that comes in the way of the movie watch experience. It’s in an unimportant position here, It doesn’t really add much to the movie watching experience and could be loads better but it isn’t something that’ll hinder the movie flow or make you say, “what’s up with the music, it’s irritating!” (believe me, a lot of mainstream movies have managed to do that off late).

The message here is about Human Prejudice and how people are shy of reasoning, and how to some, Asking ‘Why?’ seems to be a lot more difficult than just following. The questions that the movie raises are directed more at it’s audience than a certain group or its followers.

PK has Rajkumar Hirani written all over it. There’s a strong Lage Raho Munna Bhai vibe to the movie, which isn’t necessarily bad but tells a lot about the director’s style of making satire with a message. It’s a well made movie, gets a sufficient amount of critical acclaim and yet is an entertaining experience which gets a good commercial response, not judging a movie by its commercial success but it’s definitely worth noting that some of the other good movies this year, didn’t even find enough theatres in the metropolitans, what could are great stories, if there’s no one to hear them?

PK is largely an enjoyable satire. Watch it for Aamir Khan’s portrayal of the alien astronaut, this is arguably his best acting performance, ever. It’s definitely a good movie, which ought not be missed!