Sunday, October 27, 2013

Book review -The White Tiger

 The White Tiger By Aravind Adiga

        2008 was a year reminiscent to most Indian book lovers.  Chennai born Aravind Adiga and Delhi bred Amitav Ghosh were the Indian names among those shortlisted for the 2008 Man Booker Prize for Fiction. It was the then 34 year old Adiga who walked away with the £50,000 award for his ambitious debut novel ‘the White Tiger’ , a book whose complex take on the whimsical  notions of Indian modernity were marvelled yet criticized by literary figures and readers alike.

     Adiga’s protagonist Balram Halwai, a self-confessed scoundrel cum “successful” entrepreneur, writes a letter to the visiting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in which he narrates his rags-to-riches story, a tale devoid of all traits bearing resemblance to honesty, loyalty or kindness and where greed unashamedly greets you in its entirety.

     Balram, son of a rickshaw puller, is drawn out of his rural life in Laxmangarh and forced to work at various places by money-hungry relatives. He eventually ends up as a driver to an insensitive yet filthily rich son of a landlord. His sojourn in Delhi is marked with painful descriptions of how an uncouth villager perceives city life.(The conversations he has with fellow drivers on crime and urban women for example)

     There is greed all around him in the form of politicians, officials and the wealthy and soon enough Balram, kindled by all that avarice, murders his master and runs away with the money. The fruits of his sin help him abandon his past and he flees to Bangalore where he assumes a whole new identity as a taxi-cab runner.

   Adiga’s social commentary is intense, dark, verbose and most of the times, bitter to swallow. His intrepid and unassuming observations of the caste system and his theory of how all Indians are part of ‘the rooster coop’ are brilliant both in prose and idea. Though the excess of superficial characters and lack of ‘the silver lining’ slightly mar the flow of the story, Adiga doesn’t make an effort to appease us and lets us go through what he calls as “self-examination”. “The White Tiger” is a book that is rich in detail and hard on thought. The Indian inside us may not exactly find the book scintillating but the reader part of us would definitely find it splendid enough to fetch a Booker!

***The reason why this review comes 5 years late is that I wrote this piece for my department magazine 'Magbyte'. I read this book when I was 15 years old and didn't like it back then. Now having re-read it, it's not a bad book after all...!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Thank God I watched these movies !

There are quite a handful of movies that bored me the first time I watched them. Later on, I kept thinking about them, reminiscing their scenes  which made me realize how bad a movie buff I've been. Here is a pick of such movies (in no particular order) that have enthralled me every time I watch them(pity not the first time..)

Apur Sansar (1959)
                      -Satyajit Ray

Satyajit Ray’s genius unfolds in each scene like poetry. The final part of “the Apu Trilogy” shows us a struggling, aspiring writer Apu (Soumitra Chatterjee) tricked by fate into loving and losing a charm of a wife like Aparna (a rather young Sharmila Tagore) to childbirth after which he abandons both his manuscript and his son, Kajal . Apu’s subsequent acceptance of his son and therefore his life ends the movie on a poignant note.


 A Separation (2011)
     - Asghar Farhadi

    A harsh divorce and a set of convoluted half truths set the tone for this emotionally charged Iranian drama.  A masterpiece of a movie with strong religious overtones, its biggest asset lies in an insightful screenplay backed by some of the most powerful and moving performances I’ve ever watched


Virumaandi (2004)

                      -Kamal Haasan

           Controversies apart, this movie employs the ‘Rashomon effect’ effectively to give a convincing portrayal of vendetta and its consequences, replete with a social message on abolishing the death penalty. An impressive cast and Ilaiyaraja’s lilting music does more than justice to this ambitious magnum opus of Kamal Haasan.


The Perks Of Being a Wallflower (2012)
                                                 -Stephen Chbosky

            One of the most loveable coming-of-age movies in recent times. Chbosky adapted his 1999 novel of the same name to screen, casting a lanky Logan Lerman as the traumatized teen Charlie and Brit wit Emma Watson as his crush (though in a less nerdy avatar). A group of seniors at high school act as apt replacement to drugs and therapy, helping Charlie forget his bullied past and embrace life. With perky dialogues and lively scenes to boast of, this movie captures the best moments of both Charlie’s life and the 90s .


Taken (2008)                                               
                - Pierre Morel

            Liam Neeson is the best thing about Taken.  In this international smash-hit, Neeson essays the role of an ex-CIA agent/estranged father who embarks on a mission to rescue his kidnapped daughter from human traffickers. Taken is a no-brainer of a movie when it comes to the plot but it has enough adrenaline pumping sequences to make it one of the most successful man-on-a-mission movies ever made. 


**Was published in The Hindu Metroplus "Myfive" column on 27 Dec!