Thursday, 28 April 2016

Return to Big Screen Parents!

It was a landmark day in the history of our 6-year-old family life.

For the first time in years, the four of us watched a movie together at a theatre.

Now regular cinegoers may scoff at this (what’s the big deal!) but couples (like us!) who gave up on movie theatres after kids, will know what I am on about.

As newly-weds, we loved looking out for the latest releases on the big screen. Often, it would be an ad hoc case of last minute booking, catching up movies on a whim.

When our daughter was about a year old, I remember sneaking out once to watch a matinee on our anniversary and then rushing back in time to collect her from day care.

When the second one came along, we still went to movies, albeit separately. Either of us had to be with the kids and it was much easier and stress free that way.  However, that meant giving up on the shared experience and the movie chat thereafter.

We did watch movies on the telly, though. The pause button on the remote control played an invaluable role, allowing us to take care of nappy changes and watch the movie at our pace .

It seemed to suit us fine. Years rolled on and then last weekend…

It was a lazy Saturday evening. The kids and I were plonked on the sofa watching Mr Bean. I was mentally reviewing evening meal options requiring minimal culinary effort. Suddenly P broke into my thoughts:

“Jungle Book movie evening show, what do you think?”

I knew P had an ongoing love for this childhood favourite flick. He had drilled “Bare necessities” into the kids and my 3-year-old boy had watched the animated version numerous times.

I had heard good things about the latest 3D movie too. But I did not think it was worth getting off the sofa.

I squirmed and put on my budgetary tone. “The tickets will be expensive.”

“No, they are not. There is a show in an hour’s time and the tickets are available. It will take us 20 minutes to get there. Are you up for it?”

Wait, was that a challenge? I caught his smile as I turned around. It appealed to my long-buried, impulsive self and I shot off the sofa. Teamwork saw us get out of the front door in half an hour’s time.

We were bang on time to pick up some popcorn and nachos. Soon it was a case of settling back on our seats and watching the adverts roll.

It was my 3-year-old’s first trip to the cinema. He was waiting to see his hero. “Where is Bagheera, mummy?”

My 5-year-old had her own concerns. “Can I hold the popcorn, please?”

The movie started. The storyline though familiar had a very modern and a high tech feel and the visuals were awe inspiring.  It was a movie that appealed to us adult viewers and kids alike. Much to my surprise, the kids who sat down at the start, got up only when the credits rolled.

It was way past their bedtime but they did not look tired or bothered.

Neither was I. It was as though we had all crossed a threshold. Just as the movie had come back with a new look, so had we – as parents.

Bye bye babyhood, welcome family time!

Sunday, 10 April 2016

The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins

A much hyped book that delivers.

I have been looking forward to reading this book for a long time. Apparently, it is a celebrated book which has topped all the relevant lists and is touted as the latest in the "intelligent crime fiction" genre.

Hype about a book always puts me off. Therefore I waited a long time before I got the opportunity to read this one. I read a lot of interviews about the author where she talks about commuting and how people who do it on a regular basis will be able to relate to it. The concept is intriguing I admit. Being a train lover myself I have imagined the lives of people of houses that I pass by. That the author has managed to weave a fascinating tale from such a random activity that it has sparked a lot of interest and promise for the book.


Rachel, a daily commuter, is fascinated by a house she passes by on train. One day she sees something that brings right to the centre of the case of a disappearing woman. What follows then is a turn of events that pulls in Rachel deeper until it threatens her sanity and her life.

What works:
  • The style. It is engaging and compels the reader to read on. The fact that the author was a journalist shows through her clipped sentences and tight arrative.
  • The narrative works through the point of view of the main characters. I have always been a fan of the technique where the reader gets a 3D view of the situation. It is a tough one to pull off and the first time author does it well.
  • The characters. I loved the character of Rachel. Her flaws and her fight with her internal demons are shown very well.
  • The psychology of the characters are shown very well too. Loved Anna and Megan and the way they have been etched.
What doesn't:
  • The story is a big boring to begin with. It took me a good number of pages to get hooked. Had this book not been famous, may be I would have been tempted to given up. But stick with it and the skill of the writer is revealed.
  • It is grim and depressing. That is not a bad thing but the mood gets so sombre that it affected me too. That doesn't mean the book is bad, in fact the opposite. But those looking for a feel good crime thriller may be disappointed. 
Overall, a great read. It is skillfully done, the characters remain with you for a long time and there is this satisfaction of having read a good book by a skilled author.


Thursday, 7 April 2016

Pradyumna - Usha Narayanan

Photo courtesy:
A novel way of handling a mythological character.

It was fascinating to see how mythology is India's answer to the fantasy genre of the West where Gods take human forms and take on the demons in a brilliant, action packed stories.

In a market where peripheral mythological characters like Sita's sister and Karna's wife are telling their versions of Mahabharata and Ramayana, the book adds interest to the already popular genre.

It is not a well known fact that Pradyumna was Krishna's son and the fact that it says in the title draws attention and curiosity in equal measure.

Secondly when  you have a multi faceted full bodied character like Krishna, can Pradyumna stand up to him? Hmm..I soon found out.


Pradyumna is raised as the son of Kalasura, Vama, a weakling, unable to match the ferocity and the capabilities of his mighty father.  He has an ally in Mayavati, his mother who shields him from the wrath of the King. However, matters come to a head when an angry Kalasura decides to kill Vama. Why does he have so much hatred for his own son? What does Mayavati know about the young Pradyumna?

Like all mythological characters, Pradyumna is the avatar of a God in human form. He is one of the two sons born to Krishna. Narada the celestial rishi foretells a dark vision for the sons - one the saviour, the other destroyer. So who is Pradyumna after all?

The story spans from his fight with Kalasura to his reunion with his real parents to developing as persona like his father. The character comes to life in these pages as he battles demons both physical and psychological.

What works:
  •  The pages contain many mythological stories. It is the amazing the way these tiny stories have been threaded with the main plot. It shows off the author's knowledge and her ability to weave a good plot with these stories.
  • The choice of the character Pradyumna is really an intriguing one. Krishna is a well loved character and since it is about the son, it definitely piques interest.
  • Krishna is seen her in a different role. He is the all knowing one, the one  with all the answers. However, he does not intervene and when he does, he plays a pivotal role.
  • The characters of Shiva and Brahma add depth to the story.
  • There is lots of action in the story. It reminded me of Harry Potter dodging illusions and fighting off demons.
  • The language is superior and sophisticated and adds value to the story. 

What doesn't:
  • At one point the stories in stories tends to get a bit much. That's the trouble with having too much background information.
  • Where there are other strong characters, Pradyumna tends to get a bit overshadowed.
  • There is too much action that it becomes hard to find out what is happening and  becomes demanding of the reader.
  • There is a bit of repetition where at one  point all that Pradyumna seems to be doing is wooing maidens and killing their dads.
  • The plot tends to feel a bit patchy at times and that affects the flow of the story.
Overall a good read for lovers of Indian mythological fiction.  I am a big fan and the book refreshed my memory bank of mythological stories. It is amazing how there are stories within stories. 

The book is a good projection of Indian culture through the mythological lens - it offers a fascinating 
 perspective on age old stories.