Shades Of Words


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Mamma Mia!

It is not often that musicals are ever produced in India so when I heard that Chennai’s The Hot Shoe Dance Company was presenting Mamma Mia in an auditorium nearby I jumped at the chance.

Now those who dont know , Mamma Mia is a famous broadway show that tells a story through ABBA songs and dance. The story is really very simple. Sophie, a 20 something is about to have her dream wedding at a lovely Greek island. Brought up by her unwed mother, Donna, Sophie is determined to find out who her dad is. With the help of her mother’s diary, Sophie, narrows it down to three men who might be her dad. She invites them to the wedding and all confusion ensues.
Well obviously Mamma Mia is not popular for its script. What is really interesting and after 1 hour into the show , also annoying, is that the whole story moves forward in songs and dance,literally. Now if you really love ABBA music you will love the show. But after the 10th song in one and a half hour one starts wondering….
Well anyway, that is a problem with the script and not the presentation. Well my first impression of this show by the aforesaid company  was that it was very ‘International’ . The dance company had put up beautiful props, lovely costumes and light and sound effects. The choreography was obviously the strength of the whole show. I really enjoyed the dance numbers. Overall I felt that the musical was nice but a little long. For instance they did not have to do the whole song for a situation – maybe a few stanzas would have moved the story forward.
Verdict : Only watch it if you like ABBA music
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The House on the Strand

After having read ‘Rebecca’ some 3 years ago I have always been very apprehensive of trying any other Daphne De Maurier (DDM)  book. I did not want to spoil the memory of that lovely haunting book. But I had been reading a lot of reviews on DDM’s work on blogs and so,off I went to the store to chose my second book. “Time travel” and “fourteenth century england” were the key deciding factors in picking up “The House on the Strand” -I love period books and this seemed like an interesting concotation of contemporary and old England.

Well here for my review – I really enjoyed reading it. It was not an ‘unputdownable’ like Rebecca but it was gripping enough. The main characters are Richard Young ( sitting idle , between jobs) and his best friend Magnus Lane  ( slightly eccentric biophysicist). The story is set in Cornwall and the geographic layout is quite essential to the central plot of the book. Magnus offers Richard and his family his country  house, Kilmerth for the summer. Richard arrives early to set things in order and that is where our story begins – Magnus has persuaded Richard to try out a new experimental drug before his family joins him at Kilmerth.

Well, Richard takes the prescribed dose and is transported back to 14th century England.  Gone is his house and in place stands a much humbler dwelling, half the village has also disappeared , to replaced by the river and expansive green fields. DDM drags Richard and in turn the reader, into the lives and stories of people who lived and breathed six hundred years ago.Roger Kylmerth, steward to Sir Henry Champeroune, is the connecting link – it is through his eyes that Richard observes the ups and downs of the lives of the lords of Cornwall – Sir Henry, Sir Oliver Carminowe, Lady Isodola Carminowe, Sir William Ferrers and others.

There were times when I felt a chill up the spine thinking what if this was really possible, what if I , where I was standing could go back to the same spot , six hundred years ago…what would I see.

The story is not just about Richard’s journey into the past – its also about how it starts effecting his present life. Richard is so infatuated by Lady Isodola that he must know what is her fate. He keeps on taking ‘trips’ in the past inspite of negative side-effects of the drug showing up. Things nearly come to pass when Magnus who has been self-administrating the drug walks into a moving train under its influence.But Richard must go back. Isodola is trapped by her husband and is plotting to escape under Roger’s protection – he must know what happens to her. Richard takes one more trip  and this time the past and present are so intertwined that he attacks his wife mistaking her for the ghost from the past.

There are sevaral themes in this book – friendship and  loyalty, marriage and betrayel, homosexuality, drug addiction.Two elements really made the book gripping – the parallel story line of  England of  the Middle Ages and Richard’s discovery of the truth behind the events that happened in the past.DDM’s vivid description of Cornwall terrain added to the whole mood of the story and really did make you feel as you were a part of that book.

Verdict : A must buy if you enjoy reading Daphne De Maurier


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A huge let down : Harry Potter and Half Blood Prince Movie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a motley group of us who went to watch Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Some of us were die hard fans of the books, some of us die-hard fans of the movies ( and had never read the book), and some of us just for watching an interesting movie. And not one of us liked it.

I just love the Harry Potter books and hence have been time and again moderately disappointed by the movie versions simply because they dont always capture some of the essential details or parts of the storyline. But I have always appreciated the fact that it is practically not possible to do so in a movie.

However, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is so far away from the actual book that you wonder if David Yates had even bothered to read the book. And how on earth did JKR allow this to be screened.

Okay now for the review ( spoiler alert for people who have not seen the movie!). The story gets darker as Voldemort has risen and death eaters cause havoc throughout England.Harry has been declared as the Chosen One and the pressure on him to protect the wizarding world is even higher. Draco Malfoy also has chosen his side and its apparent that he is working under the orders of the Dark Lord – but what exactly are those orders? Meanwhile,Professor Dumbledore and Harry, work together to find that one weakness of Voldemort that can help in destroying him. An important new character in the movie is Professor Horace Slughorn, the new potions master, who is the only one who possesses the secret to Voldemort’s immortality. Sounds action packed and dark enough right?

Wrong. What could have been the darketst movie of all…is instead a frothy angsty teenage romance movie..urgh. The main themes mentioned above are given fleeting moments in the movie but otherwise we only watch and suffer the hormonal changes that trio ( Harry, Ron, Hermoine ) go through.

What is really frustrating is that not only has Yates taken away the meat of the 6th book – Voldemort’s history, the fight between the death-eaters and Order of Phoenix , the grand funeral of Dumbledore but has added scenes that we could have done without. The inane Lavendar Brown romancing Ron, Ginny tying Harry’s shoelaces ( WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT ABOUT), the stupid smirking and snogging by Hogwart’s students – yes we know they are getting older and horny, but do you really want to spend  1 hour of precious movie running time on that??

Enough said. Even if you had not read the book, there is very little in the movie to watch out for maybe except for the performances. Daniel Radcliffe is definitely maturing to be an above average actor ( still struggles with the emotional scenes), Emma Watson is convincing as usual and Rupert as Ron is hilarious and fits his role to a T. Bonnie Wright as Ginny Weasly is boring. Jim Broadbent is a delight as Prof. Slughorn and the rest of the teacher’s team perfect.

Verdict: Yuck. It made me want to go back and read HP series once again just to remind myself why it was a good thing.

And I am not being biased – do check out another review by Silver Mists on this movie.


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Persepolis

A Poignant yet funny Movie

A Poignant yet funny Movie

Directed by Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi

As much as I love watching movies, it is very rare when I get the feeling of time well spent after watching one.

‘Persepolis’ is one such movie. It is based on the autobiography of Marjane Satrapi , an Iranian based out of France. This quirky animated movie is about the coming of age of young Iranian girl amidst the volatile political climate of the country in 70s and 80s.

Marjane lives with her parents in Tehran. Her grandfather was in prison for being a communist and unsupportive of the Shah regime. Her family supports the underground movement to overthrow the Shah’s rule. As the Islamic revolution takes place, and Ayotollah Khomeni heads the country’s new government, Marjane’s family participates in the universal celebration of a better time to come.

They are however proved wrong, as the new Islamic Government starts indiscriminate execution of all nationalists and Marxists and imposes stringent rules on the general populace. The fibre of the country weakens and Iraq, its neighbour commemces attacks, weakening further the strength of the people.Its in this environment that most of Marjane’s childhood is spent. She experiences loss for the very first time when her Uncle Anush is executed by the government. Her God and grandmother form her strength and her touchstones.
Apart from being a basic lesson in Iranian history , the movie depicts the chaos as soon through the eyes of this young girl. Smuggling into underground parties, buying rock albums in the hiding from the moral police, listening to concocted pro-government history in the classroom – all form the daily life of Marjane.And the constant fear of being executed for having offended the rulers.

The movie is not only about the political turmoil, its also about the growing pains of an average girl, her first love, her first heartbreak, her first experience away from home, the need to fit in a new country and so on. Its about innocence and its loss.

Though the movie deals with very serious themes, the poignant but humorous script and  animated depiction never lets you take anything too seriously. It’s amazing for someone to see all this in a lifetime and be able to tell it the way it is told.

 Verdict : A must must watch


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300

I am a big sucker for period movies. And because I heard very average reviews about 300, I was looking forward to watching it with less than average enthusiasm. Well honestly, I enjoyed the movie. It was not the lesson in greek history which made it interesting, it was the cutting edge use of CGI ( computer generated imagery). Its absolutely stunning and never has a battle scene looked so good.

Now for the storyline. 300 is based on the true story of the ‘Battle of Thermopylae” – when a group of a few thousand men of Sparta and Greece stood agaisnt the Persian attack of demi-god Xerxes I. The movie opens with a snapshot of the life of the average Spartan male – born,bred and trained to be ruthless soldiers. When Persian messangers bring the ultimatum – surrender or perish- the brave King Leonidas I decides to do the latter – for the sake of glory and freedom. He is determined to retain the freedom of his country and men from the large armies of Asia, led by Xerxes. Unfortunately, the Oracle that leads Sparta, predicts that Sparta will lose the war and the ephors ( priests to the god) refuse to give permission for the King to go to war. Leonidas senses the corruption in the religious orders and takes his 300 personal body guards to the Hot Gates – a strategic pass that is so funnelled that the numbers of the asian army will not matter. He is joined by the other greek armies and what follows is a spectacular 3 day battle where the few thousand wage havoc on the 100 odd thousand soldiers of the asian army. Alas, it is a losing battle, and as no support comes from the council of sparta Leonidas knows his time is limited. A traitor betrays their only weakness and seeing the sure defeat , Leonidas retains only 300 of the spartan soldiers and sends the rest off. These 300 soldiers become sympbol of freedom vs tyranny for Greek history forever. They lived and died by spartan law – either win or die on the battle field but never surrender.

Now the interesting thing to note that the movie is quite true to the actual account even down to some dialogues. The most famous one – when the Persian army warns Leonidas to surrender his weapons and he replies – “Come and get them”. This is actually inscribed under his statue in Greece. The details to the costumes,sets and the actual fighting techniques is informative and interesting. And the when the story is on the universal theme – Good vs evil, freedom vs slavery, emotions run high. Its also a story of inspiration of what motivated men can do to retain their freedom.
The casting is good. I am not familiar with any actors but the performances were brilliant. Also the typical saga of indescretions and conspiracies in the court of the king add spice to the story. There is not much of a story then the basic story of that one battle – its all fight scenes and special effects. Lots and lots of gory bloodshed.

Verdict- I enjoyed watching it. But is not a must watch. Gladiator and LOTR were better.


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Nancy Drew directed by Andrew Fleming

Thanks to bigflix.com we are watching movies that we would never go to the theatre for. One such movie that I was curious about was Nancy Drew (2007). Like lot of kids I started reading books with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys series. I had never seen an onscreen adaptation of the books so was wondering what it would be like.

Well, to be honest I was disappointed. Everything was wrong from the first frame. First of all, Nancy Drew, has always been an 18 year old, red-haired girl. So imagine my shock when I see a  16 year old brunette Nancy. Nothing against Emma Roberts, I am sure she was doing her job. But , you dont mess around with an iconic image.

Second mistake – the personality – all wrong. Nancy was always the cool, fashionable and ultra-smart character. And just because she was a 50’s character does not mean you have to retain that sense of style for a movie that is based in 21st century. Who was this perky, gawky and geeky teenager?

Even when you manage to get over the terrible costume and casting, there is no reason to really watch this movie. The mystery is mildly interesting. All cliched elements are there – old mansion, possibly haunted, missing will, strange caretaker…blah blah. The characters are too loud and the acting is just okay. The humour is the only saving grace of the movie.

Verdict : Totally avoidable


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R.I.P Michael

I was not planning to do a tribute post on Michael Jackson. I was also not that moved by his death, shocked yes, but not moved. It was only when I saw the memorial service over television that the impact of the situation hit  me. Being an Indian, your introduction to the world of western music is really determined by what your peers recommend or what you hear at home.  I first heard Michael Jackson when I was 5 years old and my dad brought home an MJ album. I remember I had just started reading and speaking English at school and would come home to put on this cassette and try to catch the words. I think the music was what fascinated me . It was so different from the what my mom used to hear the whole day round (Lata M, Kishore K – all hindi music stars). I don’t think my dad was a fan of Michael Jackson – I guess he bought his music because that’s what was topping the charts. By the time Dangerous was released, I was the one wanting to buy the album. I had become a bonafide MJ fan. I remembered the millions of time I replayed – Jam, Black or White, I’ll be there, Do you remember the time?, Heal the world…

It was through MJ’s music that I was introduced to the world of western music – from where I went on to hear other artists like Madonna, Bryan Adams, Shania Twain, the boy bands like Michael Learns to Rock , Backstreet Boys, Eagles, U2, Bob Dylan and so on.

One of the most vivid memories that I associate with MJ’s music is one of our high school annuals. The theme was ‘Heal the world’ . At the end of the last item , a group us dressed in white ,holding candles got on the stage. Students filed in the auditorium balconies, holding lit candles and on cue – we all sang Heal the World from our hearts. In the candle-lit auditorium, only the song could be heard – as if MJ’s message had travelled across the world just for us to pass on.

Rest in peace, MJ.