Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Review Roundup

This is a list of reviews for the latest books and movies I have recently watched.

1. Book: Inferno
    Author: Dan Brown

This book again finds Brown's character Robert Langdon, Harvard symbologist, in a situation straight out of an action thriller, hardly a regular occurrence in the life of an academician (not counting the grant deadline weeks!). The extra touch is Langdon being a savior of the planet this time, against brilliant semi-mad scientist Bertrand Zobrist who has designs to unleash "hell" (hence the name Inferno) on the human civilization which just refuses to stop growing. Additionally, the backdrop constantly derives from Dante Alighieri's epic poem 'Divine Comedy' of which Inferno forms a celebrated first section. In the process, Brown frequently slips into a travelogue spirit where he spends paragraphs after paragraphs giving the reader a "wiki-like"  description of  cathedrals and museums in the Italian city of Florence (birth place of Dante), some of them not even relevant to the plot. Quite typically as in his previous works, this takes the readers into the regime of reading between the lines, deciphering symbols, and navigating dark corridors of medieval history and even futuristic science. I think this is an essential component of Brown's style of writing which makes him tick with such a wide audience --- of making the reader feel as if  'he/she knows' while keeping a pace which precludes the question 'how' or even 'what'. Add a dash of conspiracy theory, which Brown specializes in and you have a bestseller on your shelf. This is what Inferno manages to achieve quite successfully, especially as compared to Brown's previous effort 'The Lost Symbol' -- where reading the fine print only leads to an empty head throbbing with pain. So go ahead and pick Inferno; you will enjoy it if you flow along with Brown's spirit of crashing head long into historical tidbits, but do not question much.

2. Movie: Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani
    Actors: Ranbir Kapoor, Deepika Padukone et al.

I am not surprised this movie is doing well, but I am not happy about it either. It is easy for a movie with lead actors like Kapoor to be saleable hits these days, unless the story line is irretrievably retarded. This movie exploits the presence of its lead actors to its full advantage, but unfortunately neither of the characterizations seem genuine. The misplaced view of self, the main protagonist Kabir (Kapoor) seems to champion throughout the movie and almost gets away with it, seems absolutely contrived to say the least. If the contemporary generation is finding a resonance with this so called "devil-may-care" attitude, this portrayal goes from being annoyingly superficial to downright disturbing. Unlike the movie, where Kapoor manages to salvage all his relationships and sings/sobs his way into hearts of family and friends whom he has trashed, real life can be pretty stingy in offering redemption opportunities. The other stereotype this movie promotes is that unless you are a wastrel in your school/college days, you would turn into a self-bashing, forlorn wretch with little meaning to your life. This is what 'padhaku' Naina (Padukone) seems to personify when she yells at her mother and says "I want a holiday", before running off to Manali with her cool friends. When she comes back, the ugly duckling has turned into a swan, shed her number 5 glasses, is comfortable flaunting her waist along with her legs, and has fallen in love with the cool Kabir. The reinvented Naina then even dares to sermonize foreign-returned Kabir on 'how to lead a life' (with whom she is still in love for some god-forsaken reason), sharing pearls of wisdom like importance of viewing DDLJ at Maratha Mandir over Phantom of the Opera at Broadway. Cliched does not even begin to capture it.

If you want better worth for your popcorn, go and watch DDLJ at Maratha Mandir. Seriously!


  1. I agree this movie is only good if you want senseless entertainment. It basically promotes chauvinism to the extent that you can do anything in the world and still have everyone more than ready to bring you back in their lives. Such morality!

  2. Seems like its straight out from a national daily..crisp and clear!!

  3. @Nishant, yes our movies pride in jingoistic machoism a bit too much. It even reflects in the kind of roles defined for leading ladies, reduced to playing love interests to some alpha male.

    @Anupam, Thanks :)