Review: Dil Dhadakne Do

Zoya Akhtar’s next film is finally here! Dil Dhadakne Do (or DDD, or D3, or Dcubed) is about the problems in the lives of the rich and affluent, which are magically fixed by taking a five-thousand-euro-a-family cruise. If I had five thousand Euros, I really wouldn’t have problems, but these guys have some.

(For all desis mentally converting five thousand euros into local currency, it’s 3.5 lakh Indian Rupees. This is approximately equal to the price of four glasses of Coke at your local multiplex.)

So DDD is about the 30th anniversary of the Mehras (why are all rich fictional families called “the Mehras”?), a dysfunctional Punjabi family living in Mumbai, played by Anil Kapoor and Shefali Shah. Their “iklota waaris” is Ranveer Singh, who takes more pleasure in flying planes than worrying about the weakening of the Dollar, as he should be doing. Their daughter is a budding entrepreneur Priyanka Chopra who is married to Rahul Bose, who belongs to another rich family.

Now rich is an understatement. These people are super rich. By the time you finish reading this sentence, they would’ve earned enough to buy your house and still have spare change to buy a car. Kids throw fits when their private planes are being sold, servants stand beside the dinner table with rotis on a plate. You get the idea.

Aamir Khan lends his voice to a Dog who acts as the narrator. This seems kinda pointless, but maybe Aamir just wanted to be a part of a movie called D3 which didn’t completely suck.

Did you notice how I’ve written over two-hundred words and I haven’t even started the review? Because this is how DDD begins. You feel restless for the movie to lift off in the first half.

This doesn’t mean the film is boring, though. A run-length of nearly three hours seems massive at first, but DDD soars effortlessly. Alternating between moments of laughter and misery, Zoya Akthar ensures the presence of a little humour even in the darkest scenes. This helps in not taking the movie too seriously, which is important not to exhaust your brain.

“Money can’t buy you happiness” is something this movie tries to convey, and it succeeds a fair bit. Life problems isn’t something you generally associate with people, and DDD provides an interesting insight into that dichotomy. You’re shown problems of multiple failing marriages, bankruptcy, patriarchy, love which are basically solved by spending lots of money. So that message was pointless.

This review is turning out to be negative, but that isn’t my viewpoint on the film at all! It’s superbly written (the Kagti/Akhtar partnership strikes again!) with sharp, witty dialogues written by Farhan Akthar. Carlos Catalan returns after working with Zoya on her previous films, picking off where he left off. The shots of the cruise and gorgeous Turkish locales make the film look like a million bucks.

Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy deliver some catchy songs. One of my sequences in the film was the song Galla Goodiyan. While egregiously named, it’s performed by the entire extended cast and is shot in a single take, culminating in everyone meeting at the bar. As soon as the movie ended, I wanted to go back and watch this song again. The camera fluidly traverses while giving you fleeting glimpses of everyone, successfully preserving the entire picture in your mind. An outstanding aesthetic and technical achievement which made we want to stand up and scream “DID ANYONE SEE THAT”.

(This video embedded above isn’t the complete song – which explains the single cut you see midway. But you get the idea.)

With a star-studded cast, lack of chemistry is bound to be an issue. A big payday is obviously ensured, and DDD could very well have been big-name actors just hamming their lines and collect a fat paycheck. Surprisingly, this isn’t so. The actors are perfectly cast, creating an ensemble which is hard to take your eyes off. Everyone hits the right notes with utter perfection. Shefali Shah is brilliant as the depressed housewife who has to put on a facade of happiness for the society. Watch her in a short-but-bittersweet scene where she binges on cupcakes as an act of defiance against her husband’s tiresome quips about her diet. Priyanka Chopra displays a varied range of emotions as the underappreciated daughter of the Mehras, who doesn’t boast about her self-made status. Anushka Sharma is a dancer on a cruise ship and she doesn’t really have much to do other than look pretty, which she does. Ranveer Singh walks away with the best lines in the film. He effuses boyish charm and his cocky nature goes extremely well with his comic timing. There’s a spectacular scene in which a lady threatens to slice her wrists, and Ranveer helpfully points out that wouldn’t achieve that using a butter knife. While this cast sets the bar quite high, they don’t hold a candle to Anil Kapoor who smashes that bar and delivers a career-best performance as an acrimonious, philandering business magnate who never misses a moment to criticise his wife. The cast really holds the film together and in addition to some excellent camerawork, makes it hard to take your eyes off the screen for a second.

While casually mocking the way the privileged take their lives way too seriously, there arises a small problem. The characters are perfectly believable, but I had a hard time relating to any of them. This is eventually, my biggest grouse with the movie. While Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara also showed rich folks, you could connect with them as it wasn’t about the problems of the rich – it was a road-trip with old friends and made me want to call up my school buddies and go backpacking across Europe. In many ways, DDD is the perfect film. The production values are stunning, the direction is expertly done and the writing is top-notch. However, Dil Dhadakne Do ironically fails to connect with your heart because it crucially misses the most important part of any film – soul.

None of this really matters, though as it has no bearing on the ending – which is terrible. It looks like a frantic finale lifted straight out of an Aneez Bazmee movie. I won’t go into the specifics, but it leaves a sour aftertaste after a delectable main course. A pity. It’s almost as if Kagti and Akthar gave up at the end and let the dog use the laptop.

In conclusion, one can harshly say DDD is Zoya’s weakest film. It doesn’t have the emotional gravitas of ZNMD, and it doesn’t come even remotely close to her directorial debut Luck By Chance (few films do, anyway). It still remains a wonderful film and certainly deserves a watch.

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You Are Anderson

I’ve been meaning to write this post ever since the third Sherlock series concluded, but I never had the time to. Mainly because of laziness, but lack of time sounds cooler.

Contrary to popular belief, I didn’t find it disappointing at all. I honestly felt that it was one of the most intriguing, well-written and wonderfully directed series currently on air. Even the second episode – The Sign of Three – was an achievement in character development, pacing and writing. I’m not here to talk about the show in general, though. I’d like to focus on a cheeky move Moffatt & Co. pulled on us all.

They decided to introduce a new character to the show.

Well technically, he wasn’t a new character. He was an existing one.

It was Anderson. You are Anderson.

Ever since Sherlock jumped off the rooftop of St. Barts’, fans have spent countless hours coming up with meticulous theories, each more convoluted and contrived than the previous. We spent two years watching and re-watching the final moments, trying to figure out what we missed. We even extended our scope of study beyond the final episode, linking theories with events from the previous episodes (a theory said John was still under the effects of the nerve gas in Baskerville). We obsessed over the tiniest details, convinced that they were vital to the theory we were constructing. I was particularly obsessed with some chalk markings on the road which outlined the path for the cyclist who hit John right after Sherlock fell. I was convinced that these had been deliberately laid out by Sherlock to ensure that the cyclist (obviously from his homeless network) crashes into him while Sherlock pulls some stunt in the confusion. All this despite being repeatedly told the chalk marks are simply production markings.

So, Anderson. In the Christmas special (which was the perfect birthday gift, btw), we see an obsessed Anderson. Gangly beard, surrounded by notes, building theories and analysing patterns. He’s convinced that Sherlock lives on, and he’s coming home.

Cue the first episode of the series. Anderson is delighted to see him back, as the very foundation of his many theories was Sherlock’s survival in the first place. We see a group of like-minded individual from all walks of life who participate in formulating theories – some as enthusiasts, and others equally as obsessed as Anderson. In fact, he loses his cool when they don’t take the entire process seriously.

His wall is littered with photos and notes and those threads from detective movies to make connections and come up with wild ideas. He’s formulated multiple ideas by now, each of varying degrees of complexity, knowing that Occam’s razor doesn’t apply to Sherlock and doesn’t put hilariously complicated methodologies beyond him. This increases his expectations by several notches, as he expects the actual escape plan to be a brilliant, yet simple procedure which would explain everything.

At the end of the episode, Sherlock “tells” Anderson the details of his plan. Anderson listens intently, paying attention to each detail, after all this, he has a look of dissatisfaction on his face. He’s disappointed that it wasn’t as clever as he thought it would be. He even exclaims he has a better way to do it. Of course, it’s still not clear if Sherlock revealed the actual theory to Anderson, as Anderson would be the “last man” who Sherlock would tell anything.

Doesn’t this all seem familiar? Anderson is simply a mirror for your thoughts about the show for the last two years. You have built plans, scrapped off old ones, debated vehemently with friends and lost yourself for hours looking for that crucial piece of information. Obviously, there was no way to satisfy you, the audience, with any theory, as everything would feel unsatisfactory. While the writers have written brilliant scripts in the past, they wrote themselves into a corner at the end of the second series. They’d set up a conflict splendidly, but the cliff-hanger had to be resolved very delicately, especially after keeping audiences guessing for so long. Any other writer would’ve tried to make up some far-fetched theory that would leave us shaking our heads in frustration. Not Moffatt & Co., though. They attempted something unique and pulled it off with some style. They both, gave us and did not give us, a theory, and will probably never tell us. Like Anderson, we realised what fools we’ve been made off and tore away all our theories, never to be resolved. We’ve gone back to our lives, knowing we’ve been tricked. That, or we’re satisfied that our theory is better than Sherlock, giving us a sense of superiority.

To summarize, you are Anderson. And you’ve been played.

Hannibal

Hannibal

I recently finished the second season watching NBC’s Hannibal and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s one of the best – if not the best – crime dramas on television today (along with the splendid True Detective). Even if you don’t agree with this hyperbole of mine, a few episodes will be enough to convince you that it is, at least, an extremely underrated show.

It’s been twenty years since Jonathan Demme’s wonderful Silence of the Lambs released, and even then the film didn’t catch public fancy immediately. A murderous cannibalistic psychopath and a female FBI agent seemingly did not appeal to the average movie goer.  Irrespective, Anthony Hopkins’ fifteen-minute appearance as Hannibal Lecter was so terrifying and convincing, it was enough to earn the film the Academy Award Grand Slam (not that it matters). Tight scriptwriting and superbly envisioned characters gave us a memorable film. Hopkins did reprise his role as Hannibal in the eponymous sequel with decent success, albeit not to such a level. We wanted a greater insight into Hannibal’s life, which Silence of the Lambs did not provide, and although we had a glimpse in the sequel. It was a decent attempt.

However, the TV show has really hit the nail on its head with its adaptation of Red Dragon. Having not read the book, I cannot comment on the faithfulness of this adaptation, but it certainly is an enjoyable one. Although the show is titled Hannibal, it focuses primarily on Will Graham (played by Hugh Dancy). Will teaches at the FBI academy and tries to solve crimes by predicting the chain of event that might have preceded the murder. Dr Hannibal Lecter is his psychiatrist, and is often responsible for most of the events in the show.

While we’re not shown how a psychopath was made, we’re given an idea of one manages to be a part of society without letting the clouds of suspicion shroud him, or tarnish his reputation. This is the show’s greatest achievement. I’m in admiration of Mads Mikkelsen’s fabulous portrayal of Hannibal Lecter, which, while being quite different from Hopkins’, is worthy of applause in its own sense. There isn’t any specific reason to his madness – much of it arises from a sense of curiosity. Hannibal toys with others’ minds simply to see what would happen. (Before you Google, Mads is that villain from Casino Royale. Before you Google that, Casino Royale was the new Bond’s first movie).

The writers have shown him to be a skilled cook with an interest in various cuisines. To emphasise his love for exquisite food even further, each episode of the first and second season is named after an element of French and Japanese cuisine, respectively. Naturally, as his profile suggests, he likes to cook with human flesh. Something so utterly disgusting portrayed with an undeniable charm, generally set to light classical music. I say charm, because it’s fascinating to watch – almost as an art from, while you know exactly how horrifying the task at hand is. Mikkelsen goes over all this with such ease and slips into his character so convincingly, it’s hard to imagine he himself isn’t a psychopath. Mads Mikkelsen plays Hannibal with such disdain, coupled with expressions of mild interest while cooking human kidneys, plating the food and relishing it while sharing it with unsuspecting guests – it’s a privilege to watch him operate.

Importantly, the writers are aware of the pacing and don’t rush the show. Initially, I was sceptical of this gradual approach, but I realised it was important to glide through plot points, tying them intricately with one another. Anything different would make the plot seem convoluted. While the first season showed Will and Hannibal’s friendship blossoming, the second season takes it up a notch in ways I cannot explain without divulging too much information. The scenes in which they’re conversing provide some of the series’ most chilling moments. Each line is deliberately enunciated to create a tension which is deliciously thick, often leaving you gasping for breath. I was missing their interactions at the beginning of the second season, but it was fixed with brilliantly as the season progressed.

Of course, Hannibal isn’t without its flaws. After a while I was slightly sceptical of Will’s uncanny ability to perfectly predict the nature of a crime, which seemed more like tired writing than anything to advance the plot. Moreover, the romance in the second half the second season (which ends as abruptly as it begins) seems like an unnecessary complication. Laurence Fishburne, who plays Jack Crawford, head of the FBI Behavioural Science Unit, seems lost and utterly clueless about the events happening in his own department right under his nose. Even as a major character is killed off, their colleagues seem to weep only for three minutes, following which they completely ignoring their absence and not being bothered with it at all, which was a pity, as that murder, and the following scenes, were one of the most chillingly executed sequences in the show. Gore might also be a problem for some viewers, as the show is not at all reluctant in showing you organs or blood or other unspoken horrors. Certainly not for the faint of heart, but with the drama associated with the show, you may be able to tolerate the gore.

As the tension builds up, the second season concludes with two magnificent episodes. The second season’s finale was one of the best TV episodes I’ve ever seen (it’s also rated 9.9 on IMDb, for the curious). It is thematically different from the rest of the season, while still retaining the general tone of the series, giving us an unforgettable visual treat. The finale is emotionally satisfying and more – an impeccable end to an outstanding season. The inevitable cliff-hanger it leaves us with makes the wait for the next season even longer…

…which brings us to the bigger problem. Hannibal airs on NBC. Their viewership ratings aren’t that great (you probably didn’t even know it was airing in the first place). Call it poor marketing or niche interests… we arrive at the same conundrum. What happened the last time a genre-defining, ground-breaking, innovative show with a passionate fan-base failed to meet the high expectations of NBC executives? It didn’t exactly end well. NBC seems too trigger-happy in cancelling shows and I don’t want Hannibal to meet a similar fate. I hope that Bryan Fuller has more influence on the NBC board than Dan Harmon did.

At this point, I can only urge you to go on a quick two-season binge of Hannibal, and you’ll come out of it wondering why you hadn’t seen it before (you can buy me some cookies later).

For Indian viewers, Hannibal airs on AXN in the same week as the US! I haven’t seen an episode there, though, so I have no idea about the extent to which they will censor gore. It can’t be worse than Star though, who feel the book with Ishmael as the main character is Moby-**** (true story).

Review: Man of Steel

Man of Steel theatrical release poster

Man of Steel theatrical release poster

I was one of the rare persons in my friend-circle to not be too excited regarding Man of Steel. I’d read that Chris Nolan would be returning to reboot the Superman series, and having done such a fantastic job with the Batman series (which no one would touch by a long stick after the sad demise of Batman and Robin), I was intrigued. However, when I found out that he would be involved only in the production and story, and not directing, my heart sank a little. It plummeted when I found out Snyder had been handed over the directorial responsibilities. Admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of Snyder’s films. I disliked Watchmen, generally and hated Sucker Punch. Of course, I loved 300. I was worried that there might be too many slow-mo sequences in Man of Steel as well, which would destroy the movie like Sucker Punch. Nevertheless, a little Nolan touch couldn’t hurt, so I had to know how the movie was.

It all starts off in Krypton. The planet’s core has become unstable and will soon lead to the creation of a singularity which will consume the planet. Pike sends Kirk and Sulu to disable the machine which is killing the core. Unfortunately, it’s too late and Vulcan is dest–

Wait. Wrong movie. I can’t be blamed, though. Because this is exactly how Man of Steel opens. Krypton is being destroyed, villains to fight, too late to stop it, yada yada yada. There’s also some babble about some Codex or something (reminiscent of the babble in Prometheus) to be sent with Kal-El to Earth, which is seen to by Jor-El. Zod is there to ensure this doesn’t happen.

On Earth, Kal-El (now Clark Kent) hops from job-to-job, falsifying his identity and disappearing after being forced to reveal the full powers of his superhuman strength while saving people around him from dangers. In second act, the film alternates between real-time and flashbacks continuously as you see Clark’s childhood, teenage and young-adult days as he struggles to cope with his unusual powers. None of this is particularly confusing, and I personally felt this portion was handled nicely. Lois Lane (played well by the charming Amy Adams) is also introduced as a beauty-with-brains Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist who tries to decipher the Superman’s real identity. Halfway into the movie, Zod arrives to seek out Kal-El, leaving us with a massive and really, really long battle sequence which constructs the film’s finale.

Now you’d be an idiot if you walked into a Superman movie and detested the action. Clark Kent isn’t an intelligent detective like Bruce Wayne was. So there’s less of intellect and more of bad-guy bashing, upholding humane ideals and dealing out justice. The supposedly true embodiment of America. Here is where Zack Snyder seems to take over the reigns of the horse and boy does he race well. The action sequences are unlike anything you’ve seen before. This is CGI-porn at it’s finest. We haven’t been strangers to massive on-screen battles which leave large cities in ruins (consider the Transformers movie series or more recently, Marvel’s The Avengers), but watching just a few individuals battle it out is a sight to behold. There’s a particularly gripping choreographed fight sequence between Zod and Kent where they fly through the city trading blows. There’s no slow-mo involved anywhere and yet you’re able to keep track of the action.

There are a few problems though – ones which cannot be ignored. The film was shot in 2D and converted to 3D, which explains why the colours look terrible. It’s a pity Nolan (as Producer) allowed such a travesty to happen, as he’s always been particular to shoot movies in good ol’ normal 2D, opting for IMAX cameras only in The Dark Knight Rises, and ignoring 3D even then. When you see Superman flying over green pastures bisecting hordes of zebras, you want to see it in glorious, gorgeous 2D.

There’s also the excessive use of shaky-cam which may lead to bouts of dizziness for the inexperienced. Znyder also prefers to zoom in really quickly onto the subjects in certain scenes. This, too, is used a lot, but works to a large extent.

Maybe Znyder tries too hard. Maybe he doesn’t. Maybe it’s perfect. But many may not agree with his skills here, and opinions are certain to be divided on this.

But he does manage to extract great performances from his cast. Russel Crowe as Jor-El manages to make the otherwise boring opening act watchable. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane portray Clark Kent’s adoptive parents who love their son, but know that he’s destined for greater things. They’re instrumental in convincing Superman (and you) why he shouldn’t reveal his powers to the rest of humanity. Michael Shannon is terrific as General Zod. Here we have a villain who has a fairly justifiable agenda to conquer the Earth and pursue Clark Kent. He’s every bit as menacing as a villain and is equals Superman’s ability. He’s ruthless and unrelenting in his quest to fulfill his mission. Henry Cavill is also fantastic as Clark Kent/Kal-El/Superman, exhibiting just enough vulnerability when required, and bringing the action-movie-man looks when the time comes to battle. Surprisingly, however, it is Antje Traue as Zod’s sub-commander Faora who kicks ass in the final act. It’s difficult to explain how, or why, but you’ll understand when you watch the film.

While watching Man of Steel, my mind continuously wandered to Nolan’s Batman, and here’s where most of the film’s criticism lies. There’s hardly any humour. Not that there was much in the Batman series, but there was general amusement throughout the movies, something which is a staple of Nolan’s directorial flair. Not here, though. As a result, it pales in comparison to Batman Begins. It simply fails to be a satisfying reboot to reach the fairly high standard Batman Begins set (as a reboot).

What really binds the movie, though, is Hans Zimmer’s exceptional music score. You might complain that it is deafening during the final act, and you’d be right, but it makes the action sequences all the more exciting to watch. If you listen to the soundtrack while pooping, it would be the single-most epic poop you’d have ever pooped. The sound effects, especially when Superman takes flight, sound so marvelous reverberating through the hall while shaking your seats. It’s a visceral experience, with each sound punching your gut knocking the wind out of your stomach till you gasp for breath…

…which puts me in the unusual position of wholeheartedly recommending a film to watch at the cinemas, despite it being only a good film. Man of Steel isn’t the best superhero film, but probably one of the better Superman films. It is, however, an extremely promising reboot and I eagerly await the next edition. You must keep in mind that Batman Begins wasn’t the classic it’s successor was, so we can hope for a better Superman film from Znyder-Nolan-Goyer in the future.

My rating for Man of Steel: 7/10

Review: Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani

I have a confession to make. I have a slight man crush on Ranbir Kapoor. He’s undoubtedly one of the finest young actors in the country right now. Not only are his acting skills impressive, his choice of movies is also generally unconventional and bold. A risk which no A-lister will generally take (referring to Wake Up Sid! and Barfi! in particular). So when I heard about his participation in YJHD, I was intrigued. Director Ayan Mukherjee had returned after a long time, his debut film being the surprisingly mature Wake Up Sid!. This raided my excitement level. The trailers didn’t look particularly promising, but hey. Don’t judge a book by its cover, right?
Never have I been so wrong.
Within the first five minutes, I knew I had made a huge mistake spending Dad’s precious money. We’re introduced to Deepika Padukone, a nerdy girl with biology textbooks being her only companion. She leads a frustrated lifestyle simply because she’s sick of studying and wants to enjoy life. So when she learns that her acquaintances (played by Kalki, Aditya and Ranbir) are planning an excursion to Manali, she leaves her place in an impromptu decision and decides to accompany them. The first half chronicles their adventures in Manali (actually shot in Gulmarg and passed of as Manali, much to Omar Abdullah’s annoyance). Initially shy and reserved, Deepika quickly loses her inhibitions when she bonds with her aforementioned acquaintances and showcases her wild side. Now since this is a Hindi movie, she inadvertently falls in love with Ranbir (named, I kid you not, Bunny. How does one fall in love with someone named Bunny?). Obviously, since this is a Hindi movie, she can’t be with him because Ranbir wants to travel the world, against the wishes of his caring father and step-mother.

This is typical Karan Johar. The cinematography and locations are prime with no blemish in sight. People break into perfectly choreographed dances given the opportunity. There’s even that moment when the leads know they’ve fallen for each other. Now since this is Karan Johar, he can’t seem to satisfy his endless appetite of marriages. So naturally, the second half there’s the wedding. That’s right. An entire half. The funny thing here is the second half is significantly better than than the first. You can imagine how the first half was, if I’m stating that I enjoyed watching yet another Karan Johar Big Fat Indian Wedding.

There are some inexplicable moments throughout the movie. An extremely experienced and adventurous trekker, Ranbir tires faster than Deepika, who you’d remember, has had practically zero adventures. The duo trek to an abandoned mountain completely obvious to their instructor who specifically advised them against it, without any repercussions. The narrative hinges itself on certain plot points which will leave you scratching your heads, most of which I cannot reveal because spoilers.

Credit where it’s due, though. The film isn’t entirely unwatchable. This mostly because of Ayan’s masterful direction. The friendship amongst the four is beautifully done and you can feel their troubles as they to through them. There’s a wonderfully understated romance between Kalki and Aditya, which tends to become a major plot point in the future. But Ayan doesn’t unnecessarily give us mushy-mushy scenes. It’s a refreshing take on relationships; a mature one – something he has proven he can handle in his directorial debut. Of course, the two leads do get together in the end but I loved the way the eventual fate of the other two was decided.

Some scenes stand out for the emotional impact they have on the audience, although these are few and far between. There’s a powerful, poignant moment where Ranbir reconciles with his step-mother as he longs for catharsis. It’s beautifully shot and never overstated. There are no words spoken and there’s no over-the-top crying. But it manages to moisten your eyes when you least expect it.

Then there’s the cast. The ensemble cast is excellent. This is not exaggeration. Everyone hits the right notes. Farooq Sheikh and Tanvi Azmi are nicely cast as Ranbir’s caring yet misunderstood parents. Kalki is a revelation as she fits well into the vodka- guzzling adventurous-girl role torn between love and stability. Aditya exhibits the right amount of vulnerability when required as he plays a financially unstable bar owner who struggles with his gambling problem and alcohol addiction (which I learnt was basically his role in Aashiqui 2). Ranbir is great as always, oozing charm, although his character seems a little too perfect to be successful in the real world. It’s surprising how Ayan managed to extract every shred of emotion from Deepika as well. In what is arguably her best performance till date, she’s able to essay her equally incredulous character with ease, never once failing to drop the high level of chemistry she shares with her (alleged) real-world boyfriend.

In the end, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani is essentially a flawed film, but only because of the incredulous plot. However it’s made immensely watchable by a fantastic assortment of actors. I’d certainly not recommend seeing it in a movie theatre, but it won’t be a bad idea to rent it on DVD (or those new-fangled Blu-Rays, if you’re classy) to watch it on a lazy weekend.

My Rating for Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani: 6/10

Competition Success Review : Code Wars 2011

What’s that?! you wonder, seeing my blog’s name pop up in bold in your feed reader. I’m sure you forgot my blog even existed, considering that the last post was months away.

But here I am. Of course, not for long. Maybe one post. Maybe two.

When Pulkit contacted me via Facebook chat urging me to write a post about Code Wars, I demanded an archive of all the questions. While he still hasn’t responded (unless you call giving the JQ finals a response), the real reason is much more different. I didn’t know if I’ll be able to bring myself to write a post about my last quiz ever as a school student. I’ve had some wonderful times while quizzing, and this was officially the competition where I retired.

Of course, my “retirement” isn’t a news as groundbreaking as I make it appear. It’s like Ramesh Powar announces retirement from ODI cricket “to concentrate on his test career”. Nobody really cares much.

If Wikipedia is to be believed, he “has had weight issues for a considerable amount of time and his weight is unknown because the ICC have yet to find a weighing scale that doesn’t collapse when he stands on it.”

But the fact is, Ramesh Powar would feel nostalgic. After all he did have his moments. So did I.

*

St. Xaviers’ tech fest Interface was supposed to be the last quiz for me. But it was so absolutely pathetic, I didn’t feel it was justified to end like this. (Seriously, look at the quiz archive.) After hours of coaxing Mom to let me go for this, I finally told my quizzing partner Saumey that I was ready to go.

Who then celebrated.

Unfortunately, the decision had come a little too late, and the school vice principal refused to send us for the competition, citing lack of transport, probably because something roughly equivalent to the size of the Olympics were being organized (aka the zonals) for which all the vehicles were needed.

Then in a move which baffled everybody, he encouraged us to go on on our own using our own methods of transport. Which was something I was initially skeptical about, but agreed. Needless to say younger kids who were enthusiastic about going to Code Wars decided not to come because “Mummy ne mana kar diya“.

Eventually, only a few of us were going and Shikhar dropped the big bomb – he wasn’t coming with us.

See, we’ve being going for competitions since the fourth grade, and I really wanted to go my final even ever with him (since it would probably be the final event ever for him too, and I didn’t want the memory of Interface 2011 to tarnish his memories of him winning at nearly every event he went to). Basically, he had the Chemistry practical the next day and refused to budge. It was disappointing, but I had to let it go.

Then on Friday (the D-Day), I got a (huge) text at 4 in the morning from Shikhar, which stated that he was coming. To this day, I haven’t quite understood the reason why it took so long for him to reach that decision, but I really don’t care.

Then I celebrated.

So basically, we were set to go. Accompanying us was the audio-cum-video editor guy Mayank (who’s Code Wars participation story is exactly the same as Shikhar’s, me celebrating and all), Shubham (a really, really weird kid), Tirthankar (Mrittunjoy’s brilliant brother – more on him later), Ashmeet (another potentially great quizzer) and of course, my quizzing partner (whose name you should remember by now). I think I’m missing someone’s name, which should be okay as long as they don’t chase me with knives or something.

Shikhar was going meet us at Chattarpur Metro station (which is the nearest Metro station to DPS VK, a piece of information I got from a source who calls himself “the dolt“).

Anyhoo, we began the long ride to the metro station, almost certain that we would be late. Finally, we made it and squeezed ourselves in Shikhar’s Swift DZire. There was little trouble in locating the school, but thanks to Nokia Maps, we made it.

(Important note here. Shikhar will tell you in the comments section or in subsequent blog posts on his blog that we took no assistance of GPS whatsoever. He’s lying. Do NOT listen to him.)

After reaching the familiar school, I saw absolutely no familiar faces. Just lots of people hustling around. Instinctively (being close to that wooden-floored auditorium), I began removing my shoes when I found out that it was locked. We were then redirected to the library, where we had to wait for further instructions. It was really odd, but I think that they did this because they finally realised that the audi simply wasn’t big enough to accommodate everyone. (I realised, later, that this was not the reason).

So after catching up on some latest Guinness World Records in the library, Saumey spots the New Era team (aka Arch Rivals #1). We go and have a chat, when Vidit from Manavsthali shows up (aka Arch Rival #1). He has the Junior Quiz prelims sheet, which, IMHO, was tough. I realized from their discussions about the questions that I had really grown old and stayed out of touch from the world of quizzing for a long time now.

After a long and agonizing wait, we were led to some random classroom (lets just call it RC1, because, why not?) for the crossword prelims.

And boy were those hard.

They were great, but hard. The grid had been shortened to a mere 20 questions, as compared to 50 from last time. I had great difficulty in figuring out some, and of course, in the process, slashing out correct answers to favour the wrong ones instead. When we were through, I had absolutely no hope of qualification. Aur mera shak sahi nikla.

We stayed back for the quiz prelims, which was equally tough, if not more. There were some silly errors, like the question in which I wrote PalmOS, when the answer was acutally webOS (which is the OS on Palm devices), in response to why HP Touchpads suddenly became so cheap. It was a little sad, as just the previous day I had seen this topic emerge on Twitter and didn’t bother to investigate.

As soon as we were through, we were notified of the crossword results. The time was about 11.40, and we decided to leave instantly, as we both had to get to FIITJEE. We caught an auto, and headed back to the metro station and back home.

–Official end of day 1–

Then the wait for the results of the quiz prelims began. Towards the end of the second class (which was Physics) my phone started vibrating with message alerts multiple times. I knew something was up. After the class was over, I found out that we had qualified. Shikhar had texted, tweeted and called about the results. I let out a sigh of relief that was characterized with such an immense release of heat from my body, I think it single-handedly contributed to the phenomenon that is global warming.

I had also learned via their website that Prempal and Arnav (AKA Arch Rivals #1) had failed to qualify again! The jinx carried out. Vidit (AKA Arch Rival #1) still made it, though.

I went home. Told parents that I had qualified (Mom: “Another day?!” Dad:”Do I have to drive you there?”) and went back to studying the wonders of alternating current. (Did you know that an inductor with high impedance can actually make power consumption negligible, thus virtually giving us free electricity?)

Also, unlike last time, Shikhar and I decided to do at least something about Techathlon. So at about 12:20 AM the next day, when I was just setting up the laptop, I got a phonecall from some unknown number.

Me: Hello?

*silence*

Me: Hello?

Person at the other end: Bhaiya, second waale ka answer ‘Seagate’ hona chahiye.

Consider this: I had just studied physics for three straight hours and Tirthankar (who’s in the seventh grade) calls up and gives the answer to techathalon! Holy crap is this child dedicated!

Me: Whoa, well done. Go to sleep now, it’s midnight for heaven’s sake!

I’m still reeling in shock for a while. He also cracked one or two more. This is a sizeable chunk considering we got about six correct.

So after some clue solving with Shikhar, we decided to end the session and go back to sleep.

–Finally, the end of day 1–

Oh and if you thought I was making up that story about Shikhar texting me at four in the morning…

Next morning (wait, actually this morning, considering I had already stayed up until the next day) I was ready for the challenge. Dad was faced with the task of driving me to Saket, which is not really cool because I had to listen to an hour-long lecture about how studies are ridiculously important and how I’m not putting in the required amount of hours for cracking the JEE. Of course, I did have my trusted earphones with me to bail me out at precisely timed moments.

We finally reached DPS VK. It was almost 9, when I got a call from the other people who had to arrive at school via Metro. Turns out, the Metro had stopped at Qutub Minar. Which is why they requested me to ask my dad to pick them up. Dad had already left, so I had to ring him up again, much to his anger. He returned, I sat in the car, we were driving, and I got a call from Saumey explaining that metro trains alternate – one stops at Qutub Minar and the other runs the whole duration. Who knew?

Anyway, after an awkward explanation to dad following which I was dropped off at the school again with multiple swear words uttered under his breath, I was reunited with the kids. The time was now well past nine and all the quizzers were apparently waiting impatiently for me. This is weird, because this is India. 9 AM means 10 AM. I was early!

Before the quiz began, something strange transpired. The VGA cable for the monitor wasn’t working apparently, so the projector couldn’t be connected. Naturally, the obvious solution was to get another cable from somewhere.

Me: Jaldi la yaar cable.

Pulkit: Kaha se? Ek hi hai.

Me: (eyebrows raised) Abey tumhare school mein monitors nahi hai kya? Kisi se bhi cable nikal le.

Pulkit: Aren’t the cables fixed to monitor permanently?

At this moment all the quizzing teams are looking at each other awkwardly wondering if this man standing in front of us was really the quizmaster.

Me: Er, dekh le. Try kar le.

The quiz started. Now, nearly two years have passed, so details are a little hazy, so forgive me if I get something wrong (factually). What I do remember is that Namunay was in prime form nailing questions. Saumey was also getting the occassional guess right. One question which distinctly stands out was one about some “music service”. It was some screenshot, if my memory holds well, but Saumey was quick to spot “London” before the question “bounced” to us.

Saumey: Bhaiya shayad Spotify hai.

Me: Kyo? Crossword ke baad kuch aur galat karana hai, abhi?

Saumey: Bhaiya yaha London listed hai. Ankur bhaiya ke bohot posts aate hai Facebook pe Spotify ke.

Me: Hmm. (to an unusually smug Pulkit). Spotify?

Pulkit’s smirk vanishes and is replaced with an expression of awe and incredulity. “How did you know that?”

I claimed that it was an intelligent guess, which it was. Only difference was, I took the credit for his. (*snort snort*)

The quiz went on. Eventually, it was poised nicely with the final three questions remaining which had to be played on the buzzer.

Now we were sitting in a conference room, which is no place was a self-respecting quizzing buzzer to be. Now being the masters of jugaad, Pulkit ordered us to shout “HALT” for the buzzer. I could not think a single way this could go wrong.

Here’s where the dirty quizzing started. DPS RK Puram and we were tied in second place. DPS Dwarka (Naumnay’s team) was ahead by 15. The rules stated that a correct answer got us +10 and a wrong one got -5.

The first question is put up on the slide: some huge paragraph which automatically had me mumbling the longest word in the English language, “Mutufalfundinvestmentsaresubjecttomarketriskspleasereadtheofferdocumentcarefullybeforeinvesting“.

But suddenly! A light bulb! One word clearly stood out. One word.

Greatbong

And in the split second when I realized it, Namunay had already pressed the buzzer… offering no answer. They didn’t know the answer. They wanted to to see off the questions, accepting penalty and ensuring their first position.

A similar chain of events transpired in the next question as well. I was once again slow to get the connect. (A bulldozer was shown – a reference to AMD).

Now, DPS RKP and us were still tied for second. DPS D had a five point lead. No one got the final question. Namunay had won, and his menacing victorious smile sparked my brain into thinking up various methods of maming or seriously injuring him (but no killings). Jokes aside, it was a fine performance deserving of a victory.

It was down to the tie-break. The first question: “name the co creators of the USB.”

Now we knew this! We framed a question on this.

Me: I think it’s Intel and Microsoft.

Saumey: Sahi lag raha hai.

Me: Par doubt hai mujhe.

Saumey: Koi nahi, likh do.

This is where the magic happens. I write down Intel and Microsoft, stand up to hand over the paper, cut Microsoft and replace it with HP, and submit it.

Pulkit: Both have got only one company right. The answer was Intel and Microsoft.

Saumey: But we got both…

Me: Yeah, about that…

The next question involved some mission about some internet giants, which we had to list. We had no clue. DPS RKP listed Anonymous. The correct answer was Anonymous and PirateBay. They had won! We finished third another time.

Disappointment. Total disappointment. Not to mention a twinge of humiliation to complicate feelings. Oh well. At least I didn’t bow out with a trophy-less final quiz…

We got our refreshments and headed to the some classroom to witness gaming. Code Wars was sponsored by FoG (Federation of Gamers), who were organizing it on consoles.

There was no Counter-Strike, or Modern Warfare. No Need for Speed, or Burnout, or Street Fighter, or Mortal Kombat or FIFA.

No kidding.

Here we had, experience and young gamers, dancing to tunes in front of the Kinect. This was followed by a round of Kinect Sports. You know, 110m hurdles, dashes, discus throws, long jumps, etc.

Now I didn’t really agree with the whole concept of asking gamers to dance and throw imaginary javelins (they had gone overboard with the shock factor they were looking for), but boy was it fun! I even recorded some videos on my phone, as did others.

The trophy presentation couldn’t be held in the Gulmohar Hall (Remember? The one outside which I had taken off my shoes?) because, as I learnt later, it was shut down due to maintenance  work. The roof had fallenYikes. Instead, the ceremony was shifted to another room.

Since there was no intro video, we were shown an exit video, which started with Justin Bieber’s “Baby” (Not linking to it because I do not want a Justin Bieber video found in my browser history. Porn is easier to explain.), but immediately ended. Masters of trolling. The video continued with “Just A Song About Ping Pong” by Operator Please (a music video so trippy, you’ll wonder why there’s a Cthulhu on your bed).

With that, Day 2 ended without anything eventful happening. Or maybe something did happen and I can’t remember.

Review: Vicky Donor

That is right, sirs and madams! Your friendly neighbourhood unicorn is back to blogging with this delicious movie review!

The day I gave my final entrance exam the BITSAT, I wanted to go for a movie. Simply because I hadn’t been to one in what seemed like ages. And the last few shows of Vicky Donor were playing in Fun Cinemas, Pitampura and I could not resist. I had to go. I’d heard a lot about the film via Twitter.

Vicky Donor is the story of this Punjabi dude Vicky (Ayushmann Khurana, that MTV VJ) who lives in Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar’s Refugee “Calonee”. Living with a widowed mother and an ultra-modern grandma with expensive taste (“ab maine bhi Sony da TV lena hai, woh bhi bayalee inch da”), all Vicky does is move around doing precisely what I’m doing during these holidays – nothing. His mother runs a beauty parlor in the house and often demands money for him as payment to stay in the house. Frustrated, Vicky reluctantly takes up sperm donation at the insistance of the infertility-curing doctor played by Annu Kapoor.

When I read the outline of the plot on the internet, I admit – it felt ridiculous. Another pointless attempt at cheap humour by our film industry which is running out of good ideas remarkably fast. And another MTV VJ trying his hand at acting, while two others have failed miserably? Looks like a poor idea already.

But I was in for a surprise! Despite the sperm donation plot device playing a major role in the development of the film, the writers don’t rely on it to extract cheap humour from the audience. Instead, they bank on the city the film is set in and it’s perpetually frustrated crowd. The dialogues have that Delhi-esque charm, that tiny attention to detail that makes such supposedly insignifcant films a delight to watch. Ayushmann’s accent as the Punjabi boy is impeccable and not overdone one bit. It comes naturally so you feel as if you’re witnessing a normal conversation rather than watching a film.

Back to the film’s plot which works surprisingly well, the writers don’t try to force too many subplots. They take advantage of a delicious little idea here and weave around it a hilarious tale about the Punjabi boy who falls in love with a dignified Bengali Aashima Roy (“Oh tussi Bong ho?”). Of course, you can expect the standard boy-doesn’t-reveal-embarassing-fact-about-his-personal-life type scenarios but they’re not stressed upon much. Emphasis is paid upon Vicky’s spelunking with Aashima and Annu Kapoor’s insistance on getting Vicky for sperm donation to save his clinic – both providing us with some of the film’s most hilarious scenes.

Of course, the film isn’t perfect. Far from it, actually. After a stupendous first half, the film stumbles in the second. It isn’t particularly bad, but it slows down dramatically, relying on the cast’s fine performances to compensate for the lack of plot here. It almost seems as if the writers ran out of ideas in the second half, knowing well enough how to conclude it (and setting it up for a probably sequel), but not entirely sure about what to do before the conclusion.

Of the cast, everyone performs admirably. The weirdly named Yami Gautam is believeable as the well-educated Bengali girl working in Delhi. Annu Kapoor as the frustrated doctor Baldev Chaddha is simply brilliant. Watch him as he deals with patients and tries tirelessy to convince Vicky to donate some of his sperm.

But the real revealation here is Ayushmann Khurana. He pulls off the role of vella Delhi boy effortlessly, adding small nuances to his performance which demands a powerful screen presence. It’s hard to take your eyes off the screen when he’s there. The film was marketed on his popularity as an MTV VJ and rightly so, as it was what drew audiences to the film in the first place and spread its popularity. It will be interesting to see Khurana’s career path now. But as of now, my perception of his acting skills can be perfectly expressed in a line spoken by the doctor in the film – “Baat hai. Munde vich kuch baat hai.”