Sunday, 24 July 2016

Kabali - The Hype and the review

photo courtesy:
I arrived in the city just in time when the city was in a frenzy- the Kabali frenzy.

The moment I stepped into the city, posters, radio commericals, newspapers stories launched a visual, audible assault - left, right and centre. This "superstar movie" was the hottest thing in town and the topic of any conversation everywhere.

Everybody was making a beeline for the movie, It did not matter how good or bad it was, you just had to watch it - such was the hype surrounding it.

So, when I got the chance to watch this movie a day after its release, I thought, I couldn't have timed my visit better.

Determined to enjoy the movie despite bad reviews. I told myself it was the hype letting the movie down. But on the other hand, if it weren't for it, I do not think I would have bothered.


Kabali, a tamil gangster in Malaysia comes out of prison at the end of his sentence. He vows to take revenge on people who had wronged him. The reasons unfold as the movie progresses and we get to know Kabali - the messiah of the masses and tragic scars that he carries with him.

What works:
  • Rajnikanth - the only star who still has the power to pull people into the theatres. He is a true superstar with a following that many envy. His style and antics are what people wait for and he delivers.
  • The grandeur. Some of the malaysia shots are so breathtaking. The greenery and the city shots are so good that it made me want to visit the country. 
  • The first half of the movie is better. The cliff hanger on which the interval came on, left me thinking, perhaps people were too hasty in their judgement.
  • The movie is good in places. The build up to a certain element is satisfactory. It keeps the viewer engaged but then the story falls flat and then goes haywire. 
  • Kabali's strength lies in the women in his life. Loved that angle, which showed off the vulnerable and sensitive side of the gangster.
  • Thankfully, Rajnikanth is shown in an age-appropriate role instead of the "superman" who can whip up a storm by stirring up some leaves with his foot.
What doesn't:
  • The story. It is a safe, revenge story packed with the potential for Rajni to show off. Unfortunately, the star is much bigger than the story. There is only so much Rajni you can take, after that you need a tight story with a good flow to enjoy the film. That is when the disappointment creeps in.
  • The superstar is ageing and it shows. What came naturally off the bat, requires a a lot of effort here. The punchy dialogues and style though classy, look forced.
  • Mindless,gory violence. So glad we left the kids behind. Shooting and killing are part of any gangster story but here, it seemed senseless after a point. The villain was shot thrice at close range and still managed to fight back. Left me wondering what will it take to bump him off totally! 
  • The cast. Apart from a few known faces,there are a lot of malaysian actors - bad ones at that. Especially the villain who looks like a pathetic buffoon. The poor acting does not help either.
  • Radhika Apte. I loved her in Sujoy Ghosh's Ahalya and looked forward to seeing her. She has a meaty role in the film and is very much visible (unlike some of Rajni's other heroines) but then the script fails her too. After a point, she is left doing nothing but staring down at the villain.
Overall, there are some good points which makes one think that the movie could have been much better. But then when you have Rajnikanth in the film, the pressure and the expectations move up a notch. There is no way get the balance right when it comes to the weight of this star.

Although the whistles and the claps resonated the theatre at the beginning, it fell silent as the movie progressed. There was hardly any cheering in the end when the hero thrashed the villain. Says something about about the movie, doesn't it?

As I walked out of the theatre with a hardcore Rajni fan, she said, "Rajni is so big that he will draw criticism no matter what he does." This theist fan loved the movie and stood by her star.

But for this agnostic viewer, it was a case of Dil Maange More. That did not happen.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

The Turning Point - Freya North

photo courtesy: Harper
A warm story about domestic dynamics and about accepting change.

The story is about families. We love them, we hate them but we cannot ignore them. Our identity is often defined by domestic relationships and North explores the dynamics of it all quite well in the book.

This is my first book by the author and I enjoyed it. Although it took a long time to come via goodreads and when it did, I received  not one but two copies!

Nonetheless, it was a pleasure to discover this author and her writing.


Frankie is a children's author and a single mum to Sam and Annabel and lives in Norfolk. Scott is a musician and lives with his teenage daughter Jenna in Canada. When sparks  fly between Frankie and Scott, they instantly recognise that what they have is something unique. Making it work over two continents seems like the tough part. The changes that follow as a result, transforms the two families forever.

What works:
  • A storyline that seems so real. It could  happen to anyone and the characters felt so genuine. The plot though conventional is  fresh and fraught with the realities that anyone can relate to.
  • The easy going style. The story  is simple but the way North describes; the hassle of dealing with children, the way single parents struggle to carve their lives while managing their childrens' is so good. North has kids of similar age of her own so perhaps she drew her experience from that. But her plight as a single mum is something many women can identify with, even if they are not.
  • The characters. The main characters make you feel as if you know someone like them already. I could relate to Frankie's "mummy fail" moments and her clumsiness. I loved the way Scott was introduced to Frankie's family, very warm and upfront. It was very easy to visualise christmas in the  family and the friction between Frankie and her mum.
  • Frankie's struggle with Alice. Loved the way North has shown the tug of war with her character. It makes one realise how difficult and solitary it is, to be a writer.
  • Loved the way the lilawat nation is described. I did not know Canada had its native population too and the story with its Canadian native characters offered a new refreshing insight. It enlightens the reader and adds value to the story. 
What doesn't:

The story sags a bit in the middle. Frankie invites Scott over and then she visits him, there was a point when I was wondering where was this going. It got a bit boring but when the twist happens, it really perked up the story and took it to another level.

 Overall, a warm, weepy read. However, it is the writing style and the devices in terms of the different perspectives that won me over. For me that was the highlight.


Wednesday, 13 July 2016

The Lighthouse - P D James

photo courtesy:
A reminder of why I like PD James' books.

Her books are a class in their own. It is classified as a thriller, a whodunnit but each book is a lesson in the study of human mind. This book is one of the later ones and I prefer them over the earlier ones. The story has a very contemporary feel to it and builds up a great wintry atmosphere on an island.


Combe is an isolated sanctuary for those looking to escape the ills of city life and enjoys a great reputation. However, when  a famous writer, Nathan Oliver is found dead before a top official's visit, there is an urgent need to find out the cause. Enter Adam Dagliesh and his team who get down to unearthing long buried secrets in the island to solve the case.

What works:
  • The setting is great. A secluded sparsely populated island is such a haunting place to set a thriller. James lays out the plot so well. It is convincing and effective.
  • Her characters have such weird names. Mishkin and Dagliesh - with a distinct persona to match. I love the way she paints them in different colours and keeps adding dimension with each book. You get to know them better with each story as they bring their experience to the case.
  • The story. It is simple and straightforward. But you realise that only when you get to the end. The story is shown in a different light and as light falls on their entirety of the plot, parts lead you to the whole. A great way of approaching a whodunnit.
  • The unique thing about PD James is that the reader doesn't feel like she is reading just a crime story. Every story sheds some light on human behaviour, a lesson in how the minds works. Brilliant.
What doesn't:
  • The writing style. It is full of substance but unfortunately it takes a lot out of the reader. It is demanding and the paragraphs can wear ones patience thin. That is the only problem. Although I am such a huge fan, the writing style puts me off sometimes but I hang for I know there will be nuggets of great writing, titbits of wise perspective from a lady who understands human tendencies so well.
What seemed a bit different in this book is that for once Kate and Benton took the centre stage while Adam Dagliesh stayed out of spotlight when it came to the revelation. It seemed as if Dagliesh was making way for Kate and  Benton to take over the detective mantle. Just an observation.

Overall a great read from the doyen of crime writers.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

The Bones of You - Debbie Howells

A chilling story that had me hooked till the end.

I randomly picked up this book from my local library. The jacket and the premise sounded good and good thriller always tugs my heart.

The moment I ran through the initial pages, gosh it was so compelling, I had to keep going till the end.

I was surprised to realise this was a 2015 book and heard no hype about it. Although the jacket was full of great reviews obviously a marketing strategy, this one is really good. I thought it had its place with other bestsellers slike Girl on the Train and I let you go (that is what it says on the cover). Really good.


In a sleepy picturesque village, Rosie, a quiet teenager is found missing - later her body is discovered in the woods. It rocks the local community and Kate, the neighbour of the bereaved family finds herself pulled into the situation. There are doubts and lingering feelings that she is unable to shake off. She soon finds herself right in the midst of the turbulence that uproots the family from its roots.

What works:
  • The narrative. Very powerful and from the word go, it forces you to get into the story and keep plough through various bits of information.
  • I loved how the story reveals itself as layer by layer. With each bit of information, the truth slowly floats towards the surface, a bit bizarre, unexpected yet convincing.
  • The style.There are so many perspectives and each one offers a different dimension of the situation. Very well done and well crafted.
  • The characters. The flawed and the complex thoughts of the characters are shown so well. Very interesting.
What doesn't:
  • It is a disturbing and a sinister story. I remember feeling uncomfortable, in the dark night, reading some passages. I am not sure if that was my state of mind or the amazing capability of the writer to stir emotions in her reader.
I couldn't help wondering that domestic abuse seems to be a favourite theme with crime writers these days. Of late, it seems to be the best choice for many a crime thriller plot. 

In each book though, Girl on the Train, I let you go and Bones of You, there is a different reaction to the way domestic abuse to borne by the victims. That's it, I am not saying any more lest I spoil it for you.

A superb read. I will be looking out for more from the author.

The Silkworm - Robert Galbraith

photo courtesy:
A well crafted. compelling story.

I am a major Harry Potter Fan. But when Rowling reinvented herself as Galbraith through Cuckoo's Calling, she did not find a fan in me.

I found it had too much hype and the reading experience was no where near the Harry Potter series (I have read the series twice!)

I found it hard to believe Rowling had written in and suspected some ghost writers stepping in to make it work. Cuckoo's calling seemed to be trying hard to break away from its children's fantasy genre and it took great effort, as a reader, just to get to the end.

Therefore, my reluctance to pick this one up. But once I did, I admit, I just zoomed through it. The premise is a bit bizarre and unconventional but it is convincing and the detective duo of Cormoran and Robin are a great pair of solid characters.


Cormoran is asked to locate a well known author who has gone missing. However, he ends up finding his body. Bizarrely, the author's book details his murder. The book is also controversial for he has offended many meaning there are a host of suspects, interested in bumping him off.

Cormoran who has found publicity after the Lula landry case, finds himself in the the thick of things again. Together he and Robin get to the end of the matter even as they go through upheavals on the personal front.

What works:
  • Great characters. Loved the character of Owen Quine and his wife Leonara.  They are distinct, full of flaws and have a great presence. The detective duo is also etched so well. The way they progress into the second book is good and interesting. 
  • The narrative. It is linear and does not attempt experimentation. It is smooth and fluid.
  • The plot is interesting and moves forward at a great pace. There are no boring portions and contain some very interesting twists and turns.
What doesn't:
  • There is gore and violence especially in the way the murder has been described. This can be a put off for those preferring subtle, psychological thrillers. 
Overall, it was a good read. The writing is smooth and compelled me to sit up for two consecutive nights. 

I am looking forward to picking up the latest one now.