Wednesday 23 June 2021

Maharani (Web Series) (2021)

Genre - Drama
Cast - Huma Qureshi, Sohum Shah, Amit Sial, etc.
Director - Karan Sharma
No. of episodes - 10
Watch it on - Sony Liv

My View
Despite the good reviews, I was skeptical about watching Maharani for some time. Reason being, most of the dramas on OTT platforms (most prominent examples being Mirzapur, Sacred Games etc.) are loaded with nudity, violence and bad language. One likes to watch good drama, but not at the cost of getting uncomfortable watching a person's eye popped out of his skull on being shot at. Thankfully, Maharani came out totally clean, atleast on the nudity and extreme violent scenes aspect. Considering the plot, expecting abuse free dialogues would be too much.

The series is based on the political scenarios in Bihar in the late 90s. Being a 90s kid, the series just took me back in time when Rabri Devi became the first Chief Minister of Bihar. Although, the makers have tried to stay clear of any possible controversies by clarifying in the beginning itself that the series is fictional, one can easily draw a lot of parallels between the plot and the actual turn of events back then. 

So the story goes like this...Rani (Huma Qureshi), is a simple housewife living in a Bihar village with her three children. While she happens to be the wife of the Chief Minister of Bihar, Bheema Bharti (Sohum Shah), that in no way affects her humility and simplicity. Having no interest in politics, Rani's world revolves around her husband, children, housework and cattle. 

Rani's life changes overnight on an uneventful Chhath eve, when her husband Bheema Bharti is shot in his own village by some unidentified men. The same Rani who had vowed never to leave her village, is forced to move to Patna to attend to her husband. Bheema barely survives the assassination attempt and a paralytic attack however, the future of the CM's seat goes in for a limbo. Amidst joyous opposition leaders and jealous party members, ready to grab the post, Bheema plays a master stroke, by announcing his wife, Rani as the next Chief Minister. 

As an unaware Rani brings a tray of tea cups to serve to party members, she is shocked by the shower of garlands and congratulatory messages. She is shell shocked to find her on the position she has never understood or liked. For the initial few days as the Chief Minister Rani is shown to be furious and non cooperative as a child who doesn't wish to be sent to school.  But when there are attacks on her self esteem and abilities, the queen decides to take charge and famously states in the legislative assembly "The lady who can manage a house, can manage the state." The screenplay, indeed justifies the description as despite being the Chief Minister, Rani is shown to be the loving and caring wife and mother - isn't that the ideal working Indian woman that all husbands and in laws desire?

Struggling to stay afloat in the high tide of political events, the innocent Rani is shown to learn tricks of the trade hard way and often falls prey to conflicts and controversies. As the show progresses, Rani is shaken to discover the muddy reality of the politics that is her husband's first love. But, like the real queen, an honest and sincere Rani is determined to save her state from the corrupted few. In the male dominated political map, she is often compared with Indira Gandhi by her critics and mocked at. Like all women centric political dramas, the protagonist always has to win. Hence, despite all odds, the directors do find some success in throwing some hard to believe events and Rani playing the perfect check mate. 

The screenplay is very gripping and focusses on various issues faced by Bihar in the 90s - caste system, Naxal upsurge, position of women and the infamous scams that once ruled the headlines. 

Huma Qureshi as Rani does justice to the role in every sense and has worked hard to replicate the typical Bihari accent as well. I actually went back to episode 2 after reaching the 8th or 9th episode, just to notice how effortlessly Huma portrayed the drastic transformation from Rani to CM madam.

While Sohum Shah has the obvious meaty role, it is Amit Sial who leaves the audience impressed with his expressions and dialogues, despite being the lead antagonist. For those who have watched Pramod Pathak as the pervert politician in Mirzapur, his portrayal of the loyal Mishraji is a welcome change. Inammulhaq as Pervez Alam with his cute Bangla accent is the hidden surprise. 

Leaving aside some hard to believe scenes, overall the makers of Maharani have proved that a combination of good script and great actors can be the perfect delicacy without the unwanted tampering of nudity and extremely violent scenes.

My Rating - 3.5/5 

Saturday 19 June 2021

Trippin' with the Kandasamys (2021)

Genre - Comedy/Family/Drama
Director -Jayan Moodley
CastMariam Bassa, Maeshni Naicker, Jailoshini Naidoo, Koobeshan Naidoo, Yugan Naidoo, Madhushan Singh 
Duration93 minutes
Watch It on - Netflix

My View

So, Netflix suggested this movie to me on a lazy Sunday afternoon. With masala dosa and sambar dancing in my tummy, the last thing I wanted to watch was something where my brain was required. From the face of it, the movie promised lot of humour and fun! However, only after finishing the movie did I realise that I had accidentally watched the sequel of the famous South African movie series without watching the previous parts! But even if you start with the latest part like me, the warmth of the Kandasamys will make you feel like you have known them all this while.

The plot is pretty simple and relatable to the Indian context. Neighbour cum friends, Jennifer and Shanti are facing the midlife crisis. With their children almost out of the nest and husbands taking them for granted, Jennifer and Shanti had been struggling to get the spice in their married life back. That's when they decide to take a romantic vacation with their husbands. Shanti's 50th birthday was the perfect occasion!

Soon they realise that the vacation they were hoping to rekindle the romance in their life turns out to be a grand family reunion, as their carefree husbands had secretly invited the children and mom in law!

To add fuel to the fire, Shanti's hubby Preggie invites his sister, Baby to accompany them to the vacation. While Preggie justifies the intrusion as his way of helping his sister get over a heartbreak, the bold and beautiful Baby is hardly a deserving candidate for anybody's pity. To Jennifer's horror, Baby is almost always hitting on her husband Elvis, who seems to be enjoying all the attention! 

As if uncaring husbands and a sarcastic mother in law wasn't enough, all hell breaks down on Jennifer and Shanti when Baby announces she is moving in with them for good.  

That's when Jennifer and Shanti wage a secret war against Baby to save their marriages and sanity.

The movie then goes through waves of humour, drama and overwhelming emotional moments. 

Almost all characters, go crazy and silly for their age, including Jennifer's mother in law, who can't hold back her double meaning statements and addiction to gambling. The only sensible characters are Shanti's son Prishen, and his wife and Jennifer's daughter Jodie who, on the face seem like the perfect couple, but deep down are struggling with the agony of the failure to conceive!

There are moments that will make you go LOL, and then there will also be moments that are meant to be funny but fail in tickling the funny bone. 

Like all Indian movies, all goes well towards the end even here, the viewers do feel a bond with the crazy yet strong willed Jennifer and Shanti. How they end up making their husbands realise their worth is well, for you to watch. 

Overall, a good time pass, light hearted comedy. The song towards the end is supposed to be inspired by the big budget Bollywood movies, but rather looks funny, half baked and can be conveniently skipped. 

Now that I have discovered this South African brand of movies, I look forward to spending another lazy afternoon with one of Kandasamys older movies!

My Rating


Sunday 13 June 2021

Movie - Instant Family (2018)

Genre – Family-Comedy-Drama-Emotional
Director – Sean Anders
Duration – 118 minutes
Cast – Mark Wahlberg, Rose Byrne, Isabela Merced, Gustavo Escobar, Julianna Gamiz
Watch it on – Netflix

My View
In these gloomy and tough times, one feels rather scared to switch on the TV or even login to social media, for the media is flooded with stories of pain, loss and grief. Having lost my brother few months ago to the deadly pandemic, I can say that the ones who are left behind are called survivors for a reason and the only option left with them is to pick up the broken pieces of their life and try to drag to move on. In such a pursuit of diverting my mind, I was browsing through movies on Netflix when  Instant Family popped up as a suggestion. Not in a mood for serious stuff, I thought let's give it a try and the movie proved to be an excellent cheer me up on a gloomy evening. 

The movie is based on director Sean Anders's personal experience of adopting 3 siblings. Perhaps that's why the director was so effortlessly able to bring up the issue of adoption while sticking to the genre of family comedy drama. 

A happy go lucky childless couple Peter and Elle are passionate about giving old properties a makeover. One day, Elle purchases a property and decides to do a turn it over into a beautiful house for her sister. However, when she reveals the property to her sister and her husband, their sarcasm leads to an argument which gets Peter and Elle thinking about adopting children. Soon, they enrol for a foster care program. 

While attending an adoption fair, they find it tough to zero down on a prospective kid. However, Peter finds himself drawn towards a group of teenagers, whom nobody was interested in adopting. Despite Elle's warnings, Peter tries to approach them and is welcomed by a raw and blunt 15 year old Lizzy who asks Peter and Elle to stop showing pity and look for younger children who almost everyone preferred to adopt.  Peter and Elle develop an instant liking for the brave and straight forward Lizzy and immediately express their desire of wanting to adopt her. However, that this was a package deal, for Lizzy came with her two younger siblings, Juan and Lita. Now you see, why the title is Instant Family!

While Peter and Elle were brave enough to adopt the three siblings, little did they know what they were signing up for. While the first few days were a dream family come true, soon they too joined the league of parents sharing their horror stories at the foster parents support group! 

By the way...biological or adopted...who said parenting was easy?

And thus began Peter and Elle's struggle with parenting their three adopted kids. To make matters worse, the children's biological mother's frequent meetings with the children makes it almost impossible for Peter and Elle to develop a bond with the children. But Peter and Elle were not the ones to give up so easily.

The movie is not about who wins or loses in the end but the beautiful journey of transformation from foster parents to parents. One is left tearful and moved towards the end, for the movie proves that parenting is based on the bond of love and care, not umbilical cord!

The funny dialogues between the social workers Sharon (Tig Notaro) and Karen (Octavia Spencer) add to the fun and the audience are sure to fall in love with the straight and sass Karen!

In these tough times when orphaned children is a sad and cruel reality, movies like this give a ray of positivity and give a shoutout that the world can be a much better place with some genuine and selfless love and care.

Wednesday 9 June 2021

Movie - Muramba (2017) (Marathi)

Cast - Amey Wagh, Mithila Palkar, Sachin Khedekar, Chinmayee Sumit
Director - Varun Narvekar
Watch it on - Netflix/Sony LIV

My View
The lockdown situation has introduced me to regional cinema and I am glad it did! Having grown up on Bollywood, regional cinema feels like a breath of fresh air! This is the first Marathi movie I am blogging about however, this isn't the first one I have watched. These are not one of your pompous, big budget, big star cast movies, but these are carefully picked stories from everyday life situations, which instantly make a connection. Almost like when you eat home cooked food after days of surviving on restaurant food! 

This evening, I chanced upon Muramba (Sweet n Sour...AKA Murabba in Hindi) on Netflix. Honestly, my reason for picking this up was Sachin Khedekar, for I have loved his work in every other Marathi movie I have watched. But after watching the movie, I fell in love with the entire cast!

While most Bollywood movies portray parents as Pyar Ke Dushman, Muramba is a reverse case altogether!

After being in a relationship for 3 years, childhood friends Alok and Indu decide to part ways. Alok, a Gold medallist in MBA, is unsure about what he wants to pursue his life and ends up quitting any job that tries to take him out of his comfort zone. This puts off his girlfriend Indu who is serious about her career in the advertising world. But when Indu is unable to get Alok to get serious about doing something in life, she decides to take up a job in Kerela and a broken Alok ends up calling it quits. 

However, little did Alok & Indu know that more than them, it was Alok's parents who were serious about the relationship. The breakup comes as a shock to them, for they had weaved dreams of welcoming Indu as their doting daughter in law. But not the ones to give up, Alok's parents decide to mend the matters.  From making futile attempts to counsel Alok, sharing their own experiences, getting out of their comfort zone to get Alok and Indu to talk about their breakup, they make every possible attempt to unite the couple. The movie oscillates between present and flashbacks, as Alok begins to reflects upon how things went from being sweet to sour between him and Indu and finally both Alok and Indu admit that as individuals, they might be having their shortcomings and insecurities, but united they strengthen each other. 

The real charm of the movie is the sweetness of Alok's parents. Alok, in an attempt to ignite hatred in their hearts, tells them that Indu parties and drinks. However, instead of throwing a fit, Alok's father orders Indu's favourite white wine for everyone at a dinner and even gets his wife to try it out. You watch and wonder, is it for real?

While I am a fan of Sachin Khedekar, this time Chinmayee Sumit impressed me with her portrayal of a simple homemaker from Dharwad, who goes out of her comfort zone to do everything to unite the couple. 
Mithila Parker, was her usual fab, but Amey Wagh was so good at depicting Alok - confused and rebellious on the outside, but insecure and child like on the inside. 

Watch the movie with your parents on a lazy evening and you will love it for its simple and effortless portray of such deep emotions!

By the way, the movie won several awards at Filmfare Marathi! So in case you too haven't had much flavour of regional cinema, start with the sweet and sour Muramba!

Saturday 10 April 2021

Book Review - Here, There and Everywhere - Best Loved Stories of Sudha Murthy

Author - Sudha Murthy
Publisher - Penguin Books
Genre - Non-Fiction
Pages - 243
Price - Rs. 250

First Impressions

This is the first book authored by Sudha Murthy M'am that I have read. I usually address authors in their name, but after watching her interviews, reading about the work she does and reading about her experiences in this book, it would have been very rude of me not to give her the respect we all give to school teachers. Hence, I address her as M'am. 

I am sure if you are a book lover in India, you must have definitely watched or read at least one interview of Sudha M'am. While her simple living high thinking nature impresses us all, one can't help but be charmed by her smile...the kind of friendly smile your mom or teachers would give you when they would give you important lessons in life in a very friendly manner. Hence, the simple and smiling face of Sudha M'am greets you on the cover, as if asking you to join her over a cup of coffee and a warm conversation about life. 

My View

When this book was released more than a year ago, I casually picked it up influenced by the hype. However, life got busy and the book was lying unread and forgotten in my carton of books. Fortunately, few days ago, as I was browsing through videos on youtube, I came across an interview of Sudha M'am with Mr. Shashi Tharoor. While I was obviously impressed by her simplicity and out of the league thoughts, her smile reminded me that I had seen this face somewhere before. It didn't take me long to remember that I had seen this smiling face on the cover of a book lying with me. 

So the next day itself I pampered myself to this book. Before I had finished the 100th page, I couldn't resist ordering few more books of hers, as I had already fallen in love with her writing!

Here, There and Everywhere, as the title suggests, is a compilation of stories and incidents from Sudha M'am's life. These may not be stories that have been garnished with flowery language, illustrations or elaborate description of the subjects to hold readers' interest, but these are stories of the common people we come across in our daily life. Yet, these are stories that will leave the readers hooked on till the last page. 

We all have had conversations with our mothers/teachers/aunts/grannies where they shared incidents from their life inspiring us to become a better version of ourselves. While reading the book, that is the same feeling one gets. 

The stories are basically snippets from Sudha M'am's life. The subjects are diverse, ranging from a beggar in the train to a multibillionaire in the US, to a devdasi in a temple. But the common thread that binds all stories is the fact that the situations and the subjects seem very relatable. These may be the people we may have come across and ignored in our busy lives. But the author, in her subtle and simple fashion reminds us of what we could have done with a little more compassion and empathy in that interaction. 

One may say that it is easy to have such incidents to quote, for Sudha M'am has been a globe trotting philanthropist. However, as you read the book, you come across several inspiring people who, without any money or resources have been able to contribute to the betterment of their fellow human beings. Be it the amma from the remote village who treats every child delivered by her in the village as her own, or Sudha M'am's own grandfather who taught her the value of giving the best while donatng, or Kashibai, who raised the orphaned son of her Muslim neighbour as her own. There are however, some stories which are eye openers about the reality of relationships that we so heavily count upon. 

Many stories are just lessons from the life of a young woman growing up, stories of her struggles, triumphs and failures. But the common message one gets is that one shouldn't give up on efforts when the intent is right.  


The best part about the book is that Sudha M'am pours her heart out in each story, which makes the narration so powerful that by the time one flips the last page, the heart is already introspecting upon our understanding of compassion and empathy. 

The language is very simple and crisp so anybody can read this. The writing is so powerful that one literally enters the world of the protagonist. Ultimately, it is the message that matters, not the packaging. 

I remember while in school, our curriculum had Hindi and English books which had inspirational stories which taught us to be better human beings. In today's times, when children automatically gravitate towards immense materialism in their formative years, making them read such books in their academic life will not only make them value the quality of life they have, but also understand the aspects of life which really matter. 

My Rating

Thursday 9 July 2020

True friendship and humble beginnings

The humble besan cheela is as dear to me as the first best friend in childhood. When I didn't even know how to prepare a chapati properly, I knew how to get my cheela right.
It gave me the confidence to try and perfect my art.

Whenever I prepare the cheela, I reflect at the culinary journey so far. Those days I couldn't even in my wildest dreams think of preparing the stuff that I prepare in a breeze today.

No matter how great we become, never forget the first friend who appreciated u for your humble beginnings.

This is the way I like my cheela....enjoying the bear hug to brown bread slices.

To true friendship and humble beginnings.

Tuesday 7 July 2020

Mumbai ki wo pehli baarish

शायद बचपन में ही बारिश पसंद थी मुझे. बस. स्कूल से लौटकर अगर बारिश आ रही हो, तो खाना खाने से पहले बारिश में भीगना तो बनता ही था. अपने घर की हरी भरी बालकनी में मैं जमकर बारिश का मज़ा उठाती. क्यूंकि घर पहली मंज़िल पे था और मालती और चमेली की बेल काफी हद तक प्राइवेसी दिला देती थीं, मैं बारिश में ऐसे नाचती और नहाती की जैसे कोई देख न रहा हो! अंग्रेजी में कहते हैं न "dance like nobody is watching you" बस वैसे ही.

फिर पता नहीं कब बड़े हो गए.

जीवन में कितने सारे नियम बन गए. बालकनी से ज़्यादा देर तक नहीं झांकना. अच्छी लड़कियां ऐसे नहीं करती. सरे आम बारिश में नहीं नहा सकते. अच्छा नहीं लगता. और न जाने क्या क्या.

जैसे जैसे जीवन की व्यस्तता बढ़ती गयी, बारिश महज़ चाय पकोड़े लेकर बालकनी या खिड़की से बूंदों को देखने तक ही सीमित रह गयी. कभी कभी मैं और पतिदेव बारिश में लोधी गार्डन जाते सैर करने, और बेहद खुबसुरत अनुभव होता वह.

मुंबई ने इस सुखद अनुभव में भी ज़्यादा नमक डाल दिया.

मुंबई की वो पहली बारिश आज भी मुझे याद है...

मैं मुंबई कभी आना नहीं चाहती थी. दिल्ली ही मेरी सब कुछ थी. लेकिन जीवन इतना परिवर्तनशील और ज़िद्दी है की अक्सर जिस चीज़ से हम दूर भागते हैं, वही हमारे जीवन का एक अभिन्न अंग बन जाती है.

खैर....मैं मुंबई आ ही गयी.

संयोग तो देखिये, हम मुंबई में जिस दिन आये उसके अगले दिन ही बारिश ने दस्तक दे दी. मानो हमारा स्वागत कर रही हो.

मुंबई की बारिश दिल्ली की बारिश से काफी अलग है. न बादल, न आंधी, न गर्जन. बस ये तो कहीं भी, कभी भी, कैसे भी शुरू हो जाती है. दिल्ली की बारिश कुछ मिनटों में शांत हो जाती है. लेकिन मुंबई तो ऐसे बरसता है, मानो किसी ने पानी का नल ही खोल दिया हो. आप रुकें भी तो कितना. इसलिए यहां के लोग बारिश में भी चलते रहते हैं. रेनकोट, छाता और जूतों के सहारे. मुंबई नहीं रूकती।

कुछ दिन तो सब ठीक चला. सामान दिल्ली से नहीं आया था तो पतिदेव रोज़ दफ्तर छोड़ देते और शाम को लेने भी आ जाते. पर एक सप्ताह बाद मेरी गाड़ी घर के सामान के साथ आ गईं. फिर तो मुझे एकेले ही दफ्तर जाना था.  सोचा, जब ओखली में सर दे दिया है दो मूसल से क्या डरना!

वो सुबह मैं भूल ही नहीं सकती.

अपनी गाड़ी से मैं दफ्तर के सामने वाली पार्किंग में उतरी. हाथ में फोल्ड हो जाने वाली एक प्यारी सी छतरी, दिल्ली से लिया हुआ मेरा अच्छा सा महंगा बैग, सुंदर सैंडल्स पहने जैसे ही मैं गाड़ी से उतरी और पार्किंग के निकास की तरफ बढ़ी की एकाएक झमाझम बारिश शुरू हो गयी. बचने का तो सवाल ही नहीं उठता था. खुली पार्किंग में ऐसी कोई जगह नहीं थी जहाँ मैं पांच मिनट सर छुपा सकती।  लेकिन रुकने का फायदा भी कहाँ था. बारिश कौनसी रुकने वाली थी और दफ्तर के लिए वैसे ही देर हो रही थी.

अब सोचती हूँ, शायद रुक ही जाती तो यह कड़वी याद न बनती.

मैंने छतरी खोली और चलना शुरू कर दिया. चार कदम भी नहीं चली थी की बारिश से मेरी छतरी पलट गयी (बाद में समझ आया की मुंबई वाले इतने बड़े बड़े छाते लेकर क्यों चलते हैं). हवा इतनी तेज़ थी की लाख कोशिश के बावजूद वो छतरी ठीक नहीं हुई. जब तक मैं कुछ सम्भलती, मैं बुरी तरह भीग चुकी थी. बारिश के पानी से बैग और जूतों को दूर रखना चाहिए. यहां तो मेरा बैग और सैंडल्स बारिश के पानी में डूब चुके थे. चश्मे से कुछ नहीं दिख रहा था क्यूंकि बारिश ने उसे भी नहीं छोड़ा.

उस दिन हिंदी  फिल्मों की हेरोइन की तरह मैं भी बारिश में खूब रोइ. बारिश की बूंदो में मेरे आंसू भी घुल गए. मुंबई आने के निर्णय के लिए कभी ईश्वर को कोसा,  कभी अपने पति को, और सबसे ज़्यादा स्वयं को. पर अब पछताय होत क्या जब चिड़िया चुग गयी खेत!

आज मुंबई में रहते हुए ये मेरी छठी बारिश है. बारिश से मेरा नाता आज भी वैसा ही है. बस अब उतना रोना नहीं आता. बारिश के लिए बैग, जूते, कपड़े सब अलग होते हैं. बड़े बड़े छाते होते हैं.

बारिश से दोस्ती तो नहीं हुई, लेकिन इस दुश्मन से झूझना अब सीख लिया है. क्यूंकि मुंबई में रहना है तो बारिश का डटके सामना तो करना ही पड़ेगा.

पर मुंबई की वो सुबह, वो बारिश और वो आंसू मैं कभी नहीं भूल सकती.