Friday, April 25, 2008

On why I am not a monkey

“Thank God it is Friday” was on my lips the moment I left office on February 22 2008. Tony (Toddy) Pullachen had invited us over to his flat for a drinking binge. I had been of the drink for quite some time due to viral fever and other god forsaken ailments, so I took to the invitation like fish to water.

Now, I pride myself on being a reasonable man when drunk.
Drunk and loud? Guilty your honor.
Drunk and obnoxious? Guilty again.
But Drunk and Unreasonable? No way. I aint the type who says “Don’t hold me, I can walk straight” or the type of guy who insists on driving the moment he is drunk. In fact when I am drunk, I insist that the sober man drive. But Friday was different..:(

After successfully downing God knows how much of those divine cups of Ambrosia, we turned on the idiot tube and lo! There was this old Mohanlal starred movie “Pakshae”. As we lay about watching the movie passing snide comments on how beautiful olden time heroines looked, Innocent (another actor) who does a cameo in the film entered the scene. One of his dialogues roughly translated to “let’s rock at the city centre, that’s where the fun is”.

You can’t tell that kinda dialogue to four drunken men without a response. Pullachen was on his feet in a second shouting “let’s go for a night ride, all the fun is in the city”. Not surprisingly in five short minutes I found myself the pillion rider of a bike driven by Shyam who was fortunately not too drunk. I would have stayed there if not for Samjith driving the other bike. You see, Samjith did not know how to ride a bike and he was riding it. I did not know how to ride a bike and I wasn’t riding it. Blatantly undemocratic and un-socialistic if you ask me.

I wanted to drive our bike then and there. Shyam soothed me with some soberly words and finally we compromised that I would drive up till the gate and he would take on afterwards. But, at the gate I decided that I could go up to the main road and I drove up to the main road. At the main road, I felt that I could drive up to Hyderabad (from Bangalore!) but fortunately two things stopped me from doing it.
1) The biked had very little petrol
2) Shyam decided to get the bike back (big monkey do as he please!)

All this time, Samjith to his credit was driving his bike very well. After going past Marthahalli on the outer ring road, we stopped due to lack of petrol. There was only enough left to get back in one piece.

Samjith on the other hand drove away with not a care in the world. As we waited for them to return, I badgered Shyam to allow me to drive “a little on the main road”. Finally Shyam agreed. Just as I spotted Samjith’s bike, I jumped on mine and accelerated away. Shyam was holding on for good life.
I: Ever seen “matrix re-loaded”
Shyam: Yes
I: Let’s teach Trinity a few moves shall we?
Shyam: No Way!
I: Yes! Here’s the way
Shyam: Oh noo….

I zigzagged between trucks like a maniac, my alcohol induced self-confidence kept telling me to “push it dude, push it” and I pushed it. At one point, I looked back to see where Samjith was (somebody forgot to tell me about the wind factor! You can’t just turn around and look when driving a bike at speed, you loose your balance!) Fortunately, the bike was stable and Shyam did not notice anything. But that moment of imbalance send electric shocks down my spine.

All the alcohol in my blood seemed to vaporized away. The foolishness of what I was doing struck me. Crazy! that’s what I was in those moments. What the f*** did I think I was doing? and that too with somebody in the pillion seat! Me, I didn’t have a license and more importantly I didn’t know how to drive a bike, this was maybe my 2nd/3rd time driving a bike.

It was only a few months before that a cousin* of mine had a bike accident and here I was happily repeating what my parents and relatives had pleaded me and my cousins not to do. I slowed down carefully, stopped the bike and gave it back to Shyam.

The good part:
1) I screwed up, but it did not harm anyone else, so thank you God
2) I screwed up, but I did not get harmed, so thank you God

To err is human and err I did, hence proved that I am not a monkey! Friends who for long had suspected simian antecedents in me are thus proven wrong!

*If my cousin reads this blog then all I gotta tell him in my defense is “hey! I was wearing a helmet!”

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Kite Runner

They say that the book is better than the movie. “They” must be pretty wise.

I read Kite runner some months back. Anish Chandran was the first to recommend the book to me. I did not give it much thought at the time, but when Tony K Thayil also mentioned the same book, I decided to buy it. And Boy! Was it worth every single ‘pirated’ paisa, so much so that I bought the original. Once I bought it, I just couldn’t keep it down. I even got up early the next day to finish it off!

The first part of the story focuses on the relationship between two boys, master and servant in erstwhile Afghanistan before the wars. A “nice” read is what I’d call this section. A morbid situation develops quite suddenly that pulls Hassan and Amir into a quagmire that would change their lives forever. This pivotal part is exceptionally well written by Hosseini who weaves in a plethora of emotions finally leaving you aghast. It breaks your heart reading it and you end up asking the “why God why” q. Here readers get the first taste of Khaled Hosseini’s genius. I must warn you that from then on, it is no longer a “feel good” book.

When a person reads a book he or she is affected differently from another person reading the same book. But the differences would be small (I am guessing a lot here). What is special about reading this book is that people seem to be affected in totally different manners. Most people relate to at least one character in the story. The characters are so completely original and different from each other that readers automatically gravitate to one of them and get affected as such.

Amir the cowardly writer is the protagonist. Hassan is his servant, innocent to a fault, na├»ve and completely loyal to Amir, he is the character which shapes the story of Amir. Baba, Amir’s all conquering father is the third character. Other characters worth mention are Ali, Hassan’s father and Rahim Khan, Baba’s friend.

I personally related to Amir, while I would have loved to be like Hassan and aspired to be like Baba. The whole damn this is “haunting”. You keep thinking about the characters weeks after you read the story.

At each point of the story, you are left wishing that something different happened. But the story has a mind of its own. It does not pander to the audience except at one point when Amir takes on his childhood nemesis, Assef and for once sheds his cowardice. Come to think of it, Kite Runner is almost like the antithesis of a “feel good” book. Fortunately, Hosseini does not fall into the trap of making it into a tragedy. The ending is not a tragedy, but then it is no “lived happily ever after” either. If I were to rate best endings I would rate it third after “The city of Joy” and “The Alchemist”.

To me, this story underlines two things, one that “nobody is completely bad or incapable” from Amir standing up to Assef and two that “great good can come out of evil” as explained by Rahim Khan to Amir regarding an incident in Baba’s life that I will not enumerate here(It would take the sting out of the story if you haven’t read it). The whole story is about atonement, about the evil things in your life causing you to do good.

Dialogues by Hassan really take one’s breath away “for you, a thousand times over” being one of the classics. “There is a way to be good again!” uttered by Rahim Khan being another.

The moment I saw the movie at my local DVD rental store, I picked it up. when you see a book you read, made into a movie, you always feel something is missing, that some important things are left out etc. I have the same gripe against this movie too. The biggest being that the way I imagined the characters like Baba and Hassan was not the way they turned out.

The movie also tries to catch a lot of childhood scenes but loses out in coherence since they are all small “flashes”. Character building is another thing that it misses out on. Except for Amir and to some extend Baba, the characters are not built up properly. Hassan is a startling example in that the movie almost completely misses his significance.

I don’t want to sound like a girl here but “Baba isn’t tall enough!” From the novel, he is said to be a huge person with an imposing personality. Homayoun Ershadi in the role of Baba is good but not great. And the heart breaking scene regarding Hassan is nowhere near heartbreaking in the movie. A bit of special effects like slow motion, total silence etc might have helped this scene.

The camera work and the background hue given to the film are fantastic. Afghanistan looks like Afghanistan should look. Thankfully, the characters in the film use native language, which greatly adds to the “originality” of the story. Overall it is a good movie by Marc Foster but I guess it won’t touch your heart the way the book does.

P.S: If you don’t want to lose out on the suspense, don’t read wiki.