Monday, October 7, 2013

J K Rowling's Harvard Speech


'Rock Bottom was the foundation on which I built my life.' unforgettable words by Rowling :) 

Neil Gaiman's Speech


I stumbled upon this little gem of a speech one of those afternoons in office when I was supposed to be 'working'. It was the most amazing thing ever and coming from a fantasy author like Neil- incredibly motivating.

Project READ: Take Two

Back on the burner with a fresh lease of life. Almost finished reading Jeet Thayil's Narcopolis. This is my first book about an opium junkie and I have no idea what to make of this novel. Anyway, a review is due so that's coming up soon. I need to swallow to recall that this book won the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2013 and I wonder what the other books on the shortlist were like.When Thayil said in an interview that this novel was the opposite of catharsis, he certainly meant it. He said: "Catharsis gets stuff out of you. But this put bad feelings into me." It sure put bad feelings into me too. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Satyagraha: A Letdown



Director: Prakash Jha
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Ajay Devgn, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Manoj Bajpayee, Arjun Rampal, Amrita Rao

Prakash Jha’s much anticipated Satyagraha with its multi-starrer cast slumps in critical circles creating only a minor cinematic splash. While the performances of Amitabh Bachchan and Ajay Devgn are commendable, a half baked script and unexploited potential present a string of vapid scenes and at best trophy supporting actors.
Dwarka Anand (Bachchan), a school teacher begins a Satyagraha movement when he lands in jail for slapping the collector. Manav (Devgn), an opportunistic businessman, has a change of heart when his friend and Anand’s son Akhilesh dies in a brutal accident. Along with Arjun (Rampal), a student leader, Akhilesh’s wife Sumitra (Rao) and Yasmin (Kapoor Khan), a journalist, he becomes the brain of the movement.
In a movie in which events tumble one after another like rolling pins, moments of stillness add an element of grace to the pace of the hurtling narrative. After his son is brutally killed, Dwarka Anand finds Sumitra, his daughter-in law, sobbing in the dead of the night and consoles her in silence. Another surprising non Prakash Jha-esque scene sees an emotional Anand reluctant to let Manav go after he has already lost a son.
The muddled depiction of private and public space has openly carried out dialogues cut in medias res and continued in private over a cup of tea. The mob appears and disappears like a poor magic trick just to provide numbers.  Balram (Bajpayee) the corrupt minister becomes the single point of evil and a uni-dimensional character.
One can equally disparage the portrayal of the media when Yasmin interviews villagers with her shades on and repeatedly instructs the cameraman on how to do his job. To add insult to injury, she announces her decision to give up the President’s entourage to cover the movement as if there are no bosses and deadlines in the world of journalism.

In the end, it becomes a game of spotting every headline-making piece of news and identifying characters with real life figures such as Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal. Yet, that recognition does not add anything to film which is neither a poignant reflection of reality nor a bold narrative taking off from it. It is at best a recapitulation of all that has occurred in the public space so far. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Planes: Delightful for kids

                                                                                                                                                
Director: Klay Hall                                                                                       
Cast: Dane Cook, Stacy Keach, Carlos Alazraqui, Priyanka Chopra

Disney’s new 3D animation Planes has everything to entertain the kids right from colourful planes, to swanky races and aerial action over swirling oceans and impressive landscapes. Although the plot is predictable and involves the triumph of the protagonist against all odds, the animation is replete with the message that a fair and just competition can also be friendly competition and need not involve jealousy and sabotage.
While Planes seems to fall short of Disney’s previous venture Cars and has been hailed as a rip off by many, it does not fail to entertain. Comedian Dane Cook infuses life into the lead character of Dusty, a crop duster plane that dreams of being in the big league and racing across the globe in spite of his fear of heights. With help from a WW2 veteran plane Skipper and friends Chug (Brad Garrett) and mechanic Dottie (Teri Hatcher), Dusty participates in the international flying race Wings around the Globe to compete against planes from all over the world.
While the more powerful planes fly high, Dusty flies low over the ocean and takes the railway route instead of taking on the Himalayas because of his fear of heights. With breathtaking visuals and Dusty’s unrelenting spirit, this film is sure to win the hearts of the young audiences although it does not entirely capitalize on 3D.
The addition of international planes brings a motley group of characters to the film from the British Bulldog (John Cleese) to the smitten Mexican El Chupacabra (Carlos Alazraqui) and our very own Priyanka Chopra as the Indian Ishani among others. While Priyanka’s accent is not stereotypically Indian, the film strategically uses a repetitive sitar strain to mark her entry and also regales the Indian audience with an aerial scene over the Taj Mahal with Rehman’s Tere Bina from Guru in the background. Incidentally, Priyanka has also lent her voice for the song ‘Fly High’.

In the end, Dusty is not just the farm boy or the underdog who triumphs against all odds and cunning, but also the plane that achieves more than what ‘he is built for’. While the film encourages its viewers to not be deterred by skepticism in following their dreams, it also emphasizes the importance of empathy over a selfish victory.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Chennai Express


Director: Rohit Shetty
Cast: Deepika Padukone, Shahrukh Khan

Touted to be an action comedy, Rohit Shetty of Golmaal fame brings to screen the much speculated about Chennai express. While the trailer doing the rounds of social networking sites received a lukewarm response especially when it came to the representation of Tamil culture and Deepika’s accent, the film as such has fared much better with the first half outshining the second.
Registering an opening record of Rs. 33 crore, Shahrukh has shown that his fan base is still intact and silenced skeptics who perceived him as the aging romantic hero. While Shahrukh Khan believes in having his female co-star’s name before his in the credits, Deepika seems to have taken that lead rather seriously by giving a delightful performance that brazenly eclipses the King Khan on several occasions.

In a tongue in cheek reference to many of his earlier films, SRK’s character is again called Rahul while Deepika plays Meenamma a South Indian belle and daughter of a village don in Tamil Nadu. Rahul, a 40 year old Punjabi bachelor is entrusted with the duty of immersing his late grandfather’s ashes at Rameswaram although he is more interested in a vacation at Goa with his friends. En route the Chennai Express, he meets Meena who is on the run from her cousins who want her to get married to another don.  

While the plot is a no brainer, the film’s success rests entirely on the comedy arising from the North South clash factor. Rahul constantly tries to outsmart the South Indian mob and sometimes even does an over-the-top act to regale his audience. The vehicle chase sequences, cars and people flying in the air and muscled goons are inspired largely from South Indian celluloid violence. Although your patience wears thin in the second half, other cinematic elements bolster the film. Music by Vishal-Shekhar boasts of a couple of good tracks like ‘Titli’ and ‘1 2 3 4 Get On The Dance Floor’ while cinematographer Dudley’s picturesque scenes of the South Indian landscape are a visual feast.

If you ignore the clich├ęs and the predictability factor, this film is the perfect Bollywood potboiler and a masala flick with all the right doses of comedy, romance and action.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Lootera: A Bollywood Miracle




I just saw Vikramaditya Motwane's Lootera this morning. This was one Sunday morning well spent :)
Partly based on O Henry's short story 'The Last Leaf', Vikram Motwane's Lootera is a poignant story about love, fate and sacrifice. While O Henry's story dwells on the idea of death and the affirmation of life, creating characters and a story foregrounded in Bengal at the end of the colonial era and feudalism was a narrative decision that displayed pure genius on the part of the film's writers. Scripted by  Bhavani Iyer and Motwane, Lootera recreates the mixture of aristocratic decay, nostalgia followed by the emergence of a new class and the proliferation of the popular that marked the years around the Independence. What the film excels at is not just  the portrayal of a beautiful love story but  also the invocation of an entire historical age in a few celluloid frames that do not take away from the theme.

Barun Chanda, a wealthy zamindar fails to see, even on the repeated counsels of his Majumdar, how the Government's Zamindar Act will strip him of his lands. He is further taken advantage of by Varun,(Singh) who poses as an archaeologist and robs him and leaves his daughter Pakhi (Sonakshi) in the lurch on the wedding day. In the second half, the film portrays Pakhi living out her days after the death of her father until fate brings Varun back to her. The ensuing story unfolds as the two lovers face each other and the law catches up with Varun.

 The first half of the film is as much about class differences as it about two robbers clandestinely  robbing a wealthy Zamindar.  The film itself opens to the pomp and gusto of Durga Puja followed by a drama during which the Majumdar advises the Zamindar to establish a trust with his money. The debate between the naive Zamindar and the practical Majumdar is taken up later in the film between  Pakhi and the Majumdar's daughter. But Pakhi also seems to live in the same oblivious haze as her father as she does not try to find out more. Her driving escapade sees her bullying the driver into taking the blame for the accident.
Even the 'archeologists' Dev and Varun make fun of the Zamindar with his English interjections like 'Of course.' At the same time, Dev and Varun have to deceive the Zamindar's labourers and find themselves trying to explain why they want to dig. 'We are digging because there is earth!'  tells Dev comically to the villagers squatting in front of him. While the Zamindar clings on to the remnants of colonialism through his English and his Western music, the very next scene has a Bollywood song playing on the radio. The juxtaposition of two Indias and two classes becomes strikingly clear with Dev's obsession with Dev Anand and the latest Bollywood films that represent the emergence of the popular and the middle class.

The Zamindar, a 'Romantic' product of the Bengali Renaissance, tells his daughter the story of the Bheel Raja who kept his life 'locked' in a pigeon. Although the Zamindar is afraid of his daughter's wheezing attacks and says that his life is 'locked' in her, it is eventually being robbed and betrayed by an imposter that kills him. Motwane skillfully weaves in this O Henry idea of investing life in an external object and negates it. Varun, who reciprocates Pakhi's feelings but cannot leave his old way of life because of his debt to his uncle, is forced to deceive Pakhi. 'You  have always lived opulently in these four walls. You cannot know what it is like to have a debt' he explains his actions to her. In the end, we suspect the love story is as much about circumstances as about ways of life and class differences. The villain in this story is not the unrelenting orthodox family that opposes the lovers but the law. The lovers are doomed to stay apart from the very start not because they come from different circumstances or classes but because the law can never overlook Varun's deeds. In that sense, the theme resonates with Les Miserables. The only thing that redeems Varun is his supreme sacrifice for Pakhi, making amends for her condition and giving her a reason to continue to live. This is certainly a most brilliant adaption in parts of O Henry's story.

 Sonakshi has matured from Dabbang's trophy wife into an actress skillfully capable of portraying feminine frivolousness as well as intense anguish and pain. Her futile attempts at writing in to the Dalhousie scenes speak for her ability to portray depth of emotion and it is a pity directors make more use of her 'traditional' face instead of these skills. Ranveer Singh's performance is commendable and is brilliantly supported by the inimitable Vikrant Massey who is already a small screen legend. From elements of Bhansali's celluloid master strokes, to Anurag Kashyap's insightful characterization and Dibakar Bannerjee's new-humanist style, this film has bits and pieces of all that comprises Bollywood today and yet stands in a league of its own which promises to be unmistakably Vikram Motwane. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Project READ

Surfacing after an eon and hoping that the incubation period has enhanced my creativity. Suddenly I find myself overwhelmed by the need to make my reading orderly. I have been struggling for some time now to create a proper reading list instead of randomly reading whatever piques my interest. With the eventual goal of pursuing a doctorate, my aim is first of all to find out what I am interested in. I know, this is something I ought to know by now. Yes, but this is an attempt to raze down all that I have in order to start from scratch in an orderly manner. So every week or fortnight, I will be updating my read list and foray in writers in today's world.
I think that it is simpler and more relevant for me to follow the writing that is happening in today's world at this moment instead of tracing masterpieces decade by decade and reading history. I've tried that and somehow I've lost interest. It seems to me that the kind of writing that is going on these days is a lot more fun and whatever is fun stays with you. When it comes to something like literature, the best of it is done and enjoyed without too much mental work. So now my job's to come up with realistic goals for the month. I am already onto Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of a Day, which is the last of my random reading although it would have inevitably found its way in my read list. After I am done with this book, plan to chart more writers for the coming months. Till then, good night!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Ghanchakkar: Trying too hard


Director: Raj Kumar Gupta
Cast: Emraan Hashmi, Vidya Balan, Rajesh Sharma, Namit Das

Raj Kumar Gupta, director of the critically acclaimed Aamir (2008) and No one Killed Jessica (2011) fails to stir the box office with his newest venture Ghanchakkar starring unlikely duo Emraan Hashmi and Vidya Balan. While the film is as much about marital problems as about a bank heist booty gone missing, the only thing that salvages an erratic script and half-baked characterization is the generous dose of black comedy along the lines of Jane Bhi Do Yaaron or Is Raat Ki Koi Subah Nahi.
Sanju (Hashmi) a reluctant robber agrees to pull off a bank heist with two rogues Pundit (Sharma) and Idris (Das) to please his fashion-obsessive, boisterous Punjabi wife Neetu (Vidya) who wants money to live a better life. After the robbery, the trio decides to lie low for three months and let Sanju hide the money. Things take a turn when Sanju loses his memory after an accident and cannot remember where he stashed the loot.
True to its name, the film tries to portray each character’s quirkiness from Neetu’s outrageous sense of fashion to Sanju’s somnolent memory loss and Pundit and Idris’ comic-evil personas. The film’s redemption lies in the way it elicits fun in the most unlikely situations. The robbers wear paper masks of Amitabh Bacchan, Dharmendra and Utpal Dutt to loot the bank, Idris and Sanju discuss TV models on the phone at a crucial moment in the plot; from Neetu’s cooking to phone-calls from Sanju’s mom and the vegetable man on the train, the domestic drama that ensues as Pundit and Das shift into Sanju’s house is a laugh riot at times and downright insipid at others.

With side-splitting performances from Rajesh Sharma and Namit Das, one wonders how much better the film would have fared had the gap between scripting and filming been effectively bridged. The first half is definitely tighter and racier while the film slumps in the second half and jolts to a halt with an abrupt ending.  Although the climax is intended to have the audience linger in the murky aura of black comedy, what remains is a sense of suspicion that in spite of strong lead performances and supporting roles, maybe the movie didn’t get its act right this time. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Stellar Epiphanies

I never dreamed that one day I would shake hands with Madhavan or rub shoulders with Hansika. Not that any of these were my life's amibitions, but it is sort of strange how it turned out like this. Happily meandering through the meadows of my life, I end up in glamworld, seeing Trisha, Dhanush, Sania Mirza, Jiiva and god knows who else up close. I could stretch my hands and touch them. They have always been the stuff of tv and newspaper ads. Dhanush was nothing more than Kolaveri's mindless lyrics two months ago. Yesterday I saw him in his black suit and tie, and he is alive, kicking. What is it about the media that creates this kind of up-there world that the common man lives out his days thinking it exists but in a way that does not matter to him.

Dhanush presents the award to Sania
Trisha getting the award from Maddy and Jiiva

Yes they are stars, they throw tantrums, they are insecure, they are bored, they are haughty. And in the end with the red-carpet celebrities, the endlessly flashing cameras, the glitz, glamour, the 10-inch heels and blinding lights, they are just human beings. It is that easy. There is no stepping stone between stardom and commonality- it is not another 'world' somehwere else. It is just an artifice of manners, airs and dresses, colours, hairdos, accessories, makeup.

Hansika receiving the award from Khushboo
My first experience in a 5 star hotel, all dolled up and waiting as an escort to a major South Indian celebrity, was something I will never forget. My pretty colleague and the centre of attention, tossed her hair and gave Madhavan a dazzling smile. She was supposed to escort Maddy and Sania both to the venue. My heart was palpitating with the thought of waiting it out for my celebrity whose flight had landed later than all the others. I call reception from my changing room. She has already arrived, room xyz, he tells me. I straighten the wrinkles on my white anarkali, slip on my lace slippers and make my way down. Dimly lit passageways, ornate walls and ceilings, a maze of empty hallways and room after room with numbers in gold-301, 302, 303, 304. Reminds me strangely of hotel california. A cold fear clenches my heart and I head to the lift, a little traumatised about potential faux-pas. I find room xyz, the door is open. The image I see will probably never leave me. Across the narrow passage into the room, she sits at a table, one hand on the lap the other holding a phone to the ear; her attendants moving about her busily like house elves. The first thing I see is the thick layer of make up on her face and her fake eyelashes that make her look a little scary up close. I introduce myself shakily and she acknowledges me briefly. She is skinny and her thick hair is permed and left untied. Beside her on the floor, lie massively elevated black heels with gold studs at the ankles. "There is something in her eye," she is saying, visibly upset as I make for the door and go to the lobby to wait for her.

After 15 min, she struts into the lobby  in black skinnies and a top of the same colour. She looks like a gothic rockstar. She certainly knows how to carry it off. Her mother hovers by her side, a tad overdressed but grand never the same.We wait for the corolla, I slide in front beside the driver while the grand ladies sit at the back. The ride is quiet and ghostly. I make light conversation of flights and trips. I notice that the mother's eyes are nearly closed. She seems to be in pain. I enquire about her health. Faux-pas. The celebrity's voice quivers. I think she even sniffs and sobs at the back. She is going to have a breakdown at the set, she sniffs. Her mother has some sort of eye haemorrhage and needs to get checked. The celebrity is worried and afraid and the mother reassures her that she will be fine. "Insecure, afraid, vulnerable," I note in my mind.
We reach the red carpet venue, she alights and in her gait she is the rockstar again. Flashing cameras, pointy stilettos. No more tears, no fear. She smiles photogenically and disappears into the auditorium to her VIP seat while I instruct the driver to reverse the car into the parking slot.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Kai Po Che


Director: Abhishek Kapoor
Cast: Sushant Singh Rajput, Rajkumar Yadav, Amit Sadh, Amrita Puri.
Kai Po Che is an adaptation of Chetan Bhagat’s book The 3 Mistakes of My Life and revolves around the struggles of three friends Ishaan (Rajput), Govind (Yadav) and Omi (Sadh). The three friends struggle to open their own sports academy during the years spanning the Gujarat earthquake and the post-Godhra riots. The hot-blooded Ishaan is passionate about cricket and takes the young Muslim Ali, under his wing to groom him as an international batsman.  The simple and down-to earth Govind is the practical brain behind the sports venture, but things take a turn when he falls in love with Ishaan’s sister Vidhya, played by newcomer Amrita Puri. The naive Omi metamorphoses from a happy-go-lucky guy to a fanatic Hindu under the influence of his extremist uncle Bittu.
The film perks up because of its talented actors and the meticulous narrative touches like the Gujarati ads scribbled on public walls, side characters talking English with a thick Guajarati accent, archaic buildings and settings. Rajput plays the hot-headed and boyish Ishaan with startling conviction especially after an established role as the docile husband in the TV series Pavitra Rishta.
On a narrative level, the film tries to grapple with too many things at once. The several themes in the movie include friendship, the sub-plot of the love story, sports and the Indian scene, Ishaan’s naive humanism and the violence of religious fanaticism, and in the end Omi’s reconciliation with his past.  The viewer is bombarded with the battalion of events and incidents before they, like Ishaan, can have the time to grasp or react to what has happened. While the film does have its moments especially with the heart-warming camaraderie of the three friends, the storyline is sketchy with half-hearted characterization and kaleidoscopic narration. In the end, the film seems to be torn between being faithful to the book and scoring at the box office. The casualty in the process is the screenplay. Characters fall in love a little too suddenly, historical incidents appear because they have to, each character’s life could be a film by itself, characters die abruptly, and the climax fizzles out without a build-up even after much sound and fury.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Of Books and Launches

So here I go again. My editor beetles in and reads out to me from her iPhone- One book launch to attend. Meet the author who is a debutante, and get a few quotes, a few pictures, the press release and that's it. I sigh inaudibly,  perk up and say 'sure' as she orders me 'You'll have to attend this one.' I sling my green bag over my shoulder, looking very journalistic and zoom off to Amethyst Cafe.

A few stray cars. A small garden cafe, with cane chairs and a homely exotic decor. Lots of grey heads and middle aged elegant women. Another evening of sulking in the corner without company, I think.


I declare myself a media personnel and resign myself to observing the sly company of people in rustling silks, cropped haircuts, impeccable British accents and a composure of manner that only people with a lot of time on their hands can cultivate. The star of the show is a lady in midnight blue. She looks slim and dainty in her layered shoulder-length haircut, a dupatta sideways over one shoulder, perfectly falling salwar bottoms and wispy bangles, obviously gold. She has big eyes and the practiced calmness of  a doctor. She is not very good with public speaking, but the speakers to endorse her book do a good job to get the crowd hooting at times. This is the dentist's first book; 'as my children grew up, I had a lot of time on my hands,' she says. So writing came naturally.

The book is called 'All about smiles.' Yes and dentistry. The pun chokes itself. But the point of the book is a light read. It is about her experiences with patients who came to her clinic. 'I want people to like my book,' she says simply. I wonder calamitously: there's going to be a point when everyone is going to write books and there will be no one to read them. Anyone, just about anyone, at any point in their lives, from any profession, about any topic can just pick up a pen and write. I find it so hard to find time to read all the people I want to read. And now writing is such a thing that anyone can do it! Suddenly, I want to sit back and never touch a pen again!

Friday, February 15, 2013

A Gulp of Kollywood

Everyday after work when I come home to my paying guest accommodation, I get a glimpse of Kollywood through the eyes of my roommate Kanimozhi (whose name by the way means 'language of the fruits' in ancient Tamil-still can't get my head around that one). Anyway so as I was saying, today I learnt that actor Karthi was actually a software engineer before he went on to become an actor and that Prabhu, whose face I have always found a tad too large, is the son of Shivaji Ganeshan. One thing I certainly realised is that Tamilians as a people are very resilient. They pursue precarious acting professions but only on the bread and butter of a 'real job' like an engineer's or a manager's. Think Hip Hop Tamizhla's Adi who told me once that even if his music doesn't work out he always had his MBA to fall back on.

Actor Prabhu

The other thing which I realised through some of my inevitable celluloid encounters (Kanimozhi can be married to a TV such is her devotion) is that these Kollywood types always have a huge element of the grotesque (the last time I heard that world was in my literature class while we studying gothic literature at the end of the 18th century) either through gory and bloody violence with body parts fall apart or through psychotic characters with a strain of madness. Sometimes I think the people who go to see these movies and the viewership by and large revels in being scared, whether it is the gruesome, spirit of Sonu Sood in Arundhati or Dhanush's crazy character in Kaadhal Kondai or more recently Kamal's violence in Viswaroopam, there is a fanatic zeal in portraying the real as the grotesque as if that would be the only way the audience would swallow the gruesome as the plausible.

 Guns, bombs and pigeons: Viswaroopam
                                               
Girls are raped and killed often with body parts torn apart, the archetype of the lecherous relative or neighbour, the psychologically scarred sibling growing up with supernatural energies, sweet prancing whimsical girls are all archetypes that precipitate towards a pervading sense of the grotesque. Makes me wonder what the whole point is? You go through all that trouble to make a film and leave the audience in the end feeling shaken, scared and insecure to live in this world. Maybe it's true the world is like that, it has all the gore, the ugliness and the perverted minds but what's the point in seeing a strip of celluloid that plays all your worst nightmares in front you-and ironically if you're watching in a theatre and you've paid for those nightmares too! Tsk, tsk. Kollywood- I am keeping you at arm's length for now.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Moulds

This morning I woke up with a strange thought, not that most mornings I don't, but this morning it topped the list of strange thoughts. What if, the little wisp of a thought peeked into my mindspace and whispered,one doomed day the devil appeared before me in all his traditional attire of red horns and arrow shaped tail and told me that I had not lived my life right, that I had wasted all the opportunities given to me and that they would now have to be given away to someone else who could better use them. What would I do? He would however, have taken pity on my mortified little face and said that only one talent would be left to me to use in this life. Which one would I choose? "Mind you," he would raise his 'circonflex' eyebrows and remind me,"you would be doomed to eat, drink and live this talent for every waking moment of your life, so choose carefully." Well then, in my cringing mind, I would scurry and stumble rummaging into all my intellectual belongings for what I could give away and what I could not part with. (Sadly, I didn't have much.) But it made me think; is there something I could do for every waking moment of my life, do I have anything that I can truly call my own, my very own talent which nobody could use as best as I could? He would tap his foot impatiently at my rambling introspections and frown.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Inkaar



Director: Sudhir Mishra
Cast: Arjun Rampal, Chirtangda Singh, Deepti Naval, Vipin Sharma

Sudhir Mishra’s Inkaar promoted as a film dealing with office politics is more a convoluted love story than about sexual harassment. Although it does talk of the thin line between flirtation and harassment, the underlying theme seems to be how the urban, competitive world with its greed and ambition has corrupted relationships that would otherwise be simple and straightforward. Mishra, the writer behind the cult classic Jaane Bhi Do yaaron and the director of the bittersweet Is Raat Ki Subah Nahi is known for his black humour and his biting irony. Inkaar is surprisingly fairytale-like although it does touch upon elements of Mishra’s trademark surrealism by portraying imaginary scenes from characters’ minds at climatic moments.

Rahul Verma (Arjun Rampal), the awe-inspiring and suave CEO of an ad-agency, is accused of harassment by Maya (Chirangada Singh), a talented copywriter who owes much of her success to his grooming. The story begins in medias res with Mrs Kamdar (Deepti Naval) presiding over the harassment case along with others member of the board. The non-linear plot spans seven years with a constant shuttling of time past and present from the point of views of both Maya, Rahul and sometimes even the board members and is an effective and gripping narrative device. Rampal is like wine. The older he gets the better he is. His performance is enticingly convincing and he would be among the few Bollywood actors to match the hysteria-triggering charisma of a Hugh Jackman or an Eric Bana. Chitrangda Singh is stunningly breath-taking although her looks at times outshine her acting, especially when she tries to portray emotional trauma.

While the lead characters are sketched in gray shades, the script makes a hazy connection between the Rahul in his childhood-taught by his father to fight for what he deserves-and the CEO who is calm, reticent and sometimes openly sidelined by Maya. Maya herself, shown as a power-hungry, alpha-female go-getter also harbours the irrational, emotionally unstable aspect that renders her unfit to wield power. With fast-paced, edgy music by Rajesh Roshan adding to the dramatic quotient of the film, and hilarious delivery by Vipin Sharma who plays Gupta, this film is a potent mix of drama, humour and Mishra’s usual dose of camera-happy experimentation.

In the end, the film veers away from any kind of social commentary on harassment but instead resorts to a more personal, humane way of resolving conflicts as both, the victim and the accused, learn to give in to each other. If you’re going to the film expecting a serious debate on harassment you will be disappointed, all you will get is a maze of point of views and the impossibility of arriving at the truth.