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A jumbled sea of stories

A jumbled sea of stories

Usually I steer clear of movies that have characters with disabilities of any kind. I don’t like feeling forced to empathise with a character or be called insensitive if I don’t. But Bollywood, despite Guzarish and some others, has really handled disability very well in recent times. Paa, Taare Zameen Par and this week’s Barfi.
Barfi is a story about deaf and mute boy (Ranbir Kapoor is absolutely incredible in this movie and so cute!), an autistic girl (Priyanka Chopra) and of course the message of all Bollywood movies: love surpasses everything.

The movie successfully manages to skip past sympathy and gets straight to the story; that there is an autistic person and a deaf-mute is almost kind of incidental. I’m not an expert at writing movie reviews but this is a movie I would recommend to everybody. The music is very sweet and some of the scenes are shot extremely beautifully. The cast is great; it’s just a wonderfully made movie.

I caught the 11pm show and at 2.30 am, I took a rickshaw home from Andheri alone, plugged my headphones in and I realised, it was 2.30 am. A few years ago I wouldn’t dare go alone anywhere past midnight and yes, there is still that occasional moment of anxiety when I’m the only woman on Khar station and the sleeveless kurta seems to reveal more than it actually does. And then there are nights like these when I’ll stop on the way and smoke a cigarette with the rickshaw driver, when all of Bombay seems to mutter stories and the song that plays on shuffle seems to fit your life and even the street lamps look like fireflies. Nights like these when coming home and opening a word document seems organic. You have almost no idea what you’re writing but you do. It may not be as inspiring as you thought it was in the morning but what I’m coming to, after all this pointless build up is that Bombay is so full of stories, so many worlds, so many characters.

Speaking of Bombay stories, this week, Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil (of the super cool Sridhar Thayil) was nominated for the Man Booker prize. Honestly, I’m not the biggest fan of the book, the story is great, the narrative is exciting but somehow it seem a bit, erm, pretentious. I know. Maybe I just didn’t get it. Maybe I’m being a hipster and don’t want to like anything that’s popular (Ok, that’s not true. Look at the fangirlism on this website). But this is still terribly exciting news for Indian fiction and I do hope Thayil wins. We’ll know in about a month, and till then if you haven’t read Narcopolis yet, you should. Do tell me what you think.

And here’s something else I recommend this week, Go on. Matthew Perry’s latest show is about a radio jockey who loses his wife and has to attend mandatory group therapy sessions. Matthew Perry is one of my favourite actors and every time he fails I take it personally. Studio 60 lasted only one season (and what a spectacular season that was), Mr. Sunshine was terribly lackluster so I had my fingers crossed for Go on. Two episodes in, and I predict good things to come. A very cute story with Perry’s trademark humour and wit and a cast that makes for some crazy and sweet moments, Go on might just be the show to watch this season.

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Preach alert: How to read when all you want to do is not

Preach alert: How to read when all you want to do is not

This weekend I indulged in some serious guilty pleasure reading. I was struggling with Orlando by Virginia Woolf and suddenly I found myself scanning my roommates bookshelf. One Sophie Kinsella, several Mary Higgins Clark and around two thousand romances. I chose a slim volume called “The Brazilians blackmailed bride.” I know that enough of you have read Mills and Boons at some point so you know how the story goes. I was mildly surprised at how sexist it was (“She was weak, just like all women.”) but mostly I was surprised at how much I didn’t care that I was wasting my time reading a book like that. To be fair, it wasn’t bad writing, but the characters were terribly annoying and what they did was incredibly predictable. End of story. After they kissed on the last page I closed the book and pondered.

Bombay is not kind to the readers among us. We work ourselves to the bone, we get home smelling of sweat and trains and we’re always hungry, tired and trying to rid our lungs of all the exhaust fumes we inhale on a daily basis. I’ve heard several people say “I used to read a lot but now I barely get the time.” I get that. Are we really expected to curl up on the couch with Ullysses on a Monday night? If at all we read, we want it to be a light escapist soiree involving fluttering blonde women with names like Sophia and bronzed Brazilians who in my mind are built like Gaston from Disneys’ Beauty and the Beast. Does that make us stupid? No it doesn’t and there’s no shame in the occasional “The disobedient virgin’s secret affair. In Rio. They do it several times.” But as readers, we need to be disciplined.

Reading is not easy. I’ve always been a reader and sometimes I struggle like hell with the books I choose to read. Here are some things I’ve learned about the habit. I hope it will help you.

1. Categorise your books into those that will go fast and those that require concentration. Don’t read the latter in the train or when you’re tired. There are train books and there are non-train books.

2. If you’re reading something written several generations before you were born, trust me, no matter how exciting the plot, it will be slow at points. The best example I can think of is Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. You’re several pages into the book before the narrator even gets to the Congo. It’s worth it, so keep reading. Be patient.

3. You don’t have to finish the book all at once. It can get to you. Take a break for a month or two and get back to it.

4.  Make time. If you are genuinely too tired during the week, give yourself three hours on he weekend.

5. Allow yourself the occasional indulgence. For every three Gabriel Garcia Marquez you read, you can read one “A summer in Copacabana.” That’s just good maths.

How to identify a Bombay Hipster

How to identify a Bombay Hipster

They’ll always drink at Janta even though they can afford to drink at a place with fancier decor than peeling walls and resident cockroaches. It’s habit, they’ll claim. Habit from when we were struggling copywriters, journalists, singer-songwriters, and record studio chai-bringers. They’re lying. It’s hipsterdom.

They’ve been to both NH7 weekenders and constantly compare one to another, every damn time.

They watch Dangerous Ishqq and Housefull ironically. And in Gaiety or Galaxy. Refer to point one.

They wear shorts to work because they work in advertising/film and television. If they don’t work in advertising, film and television, they wish they did.

They’ll spend Over Rs 3000 on a small ridiculously kitsch item from PlayClan, Tappu ki Dukaan and Attic. Like a miniature rickshaw that serves no purpose. And then they’ll put it on their desk at work.

First of all, Carter Road? Psht. Too preppy. They’ll go to bandstand instead and then claim they do it to make fun of the couples making out on the rocks.

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