Shades Of Words


The Palace of Illusions


A  story so powerful that it has transcended thousands of years, Mahabaharata is timeless , relevant and inherent in the pschyce of every India. It takes courage to mess around with it and re-write it. Well, Chitra Banerjee has done a pretty good job. No, the story is neither changed nor there is an alternative ending but what the readers are treated to are a fresh new perspective. Imagine being there when it all started..and imagine seeing it through Panchaali’s eyes – the woman who started it all.

The narrative starts from her birth – moves back and forth between flashbacks and present , digging out stories of the past and building out characters. Chitra’s Draupadi is a young rebel, a tomboy foerver craving for her father, King Draupad’s attention. She is determined to leave a mark on this world. Always conflicting with her elders on her expected role as a princess and a woman, she finds comfort and solace with her confidante Krishna, King of Dwarka.

Though Draupadi’s tries hard to fight the social structures around her, from very early on in her life, she has to bow down to higher values – like protecting one’ family honor and pride , like choosing for the greater good of the kingdom. It starts with her Swayamvar, where she compromises on her heart’s desire chosing Arjun over Karna. Next, when Kunti asks her to wed all her five sons. We see her evolution frpm a young , rebellious girl to a queen of the times. She starts moulding into the role expected of her showing flares of herself on some rare occassions.

Chitra provides interesting glimpses on dynamics of certain relationships (that could be very well true) . We take a look at our heroine’s relationship with Kunti –  by forcing her to wed all her sons, Kunti does not endear herself to her new daughter-in-law. What’s interesting to read is how Draupadi creates a position for herself in the household and learns to gain importance in the eyes of her husband. Then there is Arjun and Draupadi – how Arjun fits the bill with her image of prince charming and how early their relationship collapses with her marriage to his brothers.

What is probably truly original is Draupadi’s secret love for Karna…well I thought it was orignial till I did some research and found out that popular folk lore hints at an infatuation between Draupadi and Karna.

Though it is the story of Draupadi, what makes this book really interesting and worthwhile is the original background story of Mahabaharta. In a few chapters itself, Draupadi becomes a narrator and just one of the characters as the greater drama unfolds.

When I started reading the book , I thought that this first person narrative would help me understand and get an insight ( all hypothetical , ofcourse) into one of the most powerful and enigmatic heroines of all time. Well, it did. I also thought that maybe she will redeem herself for causing as much trouble as she did. Well she didn’t. But everyone else was at fault too. Mahabharata was a huge battle  of egos.

Should you read this book ? Oh yes.



Wake Up Sid

Indian cinema is changing – we are moving away from larger than life characters and situations to more people oriented stories.Finally we get to see real characters and slice of life moments. ‘Wake up Sid’ is not a brilliant but definitely an enjoyable movie.
This coming of age story of Siddharth aka Sid ( Ranbir Kapoor) is not exactly a novel concept but its the brilliant acting that makes it fresh.

First the synopsis – Siddharth is our average ‘bigde hui baap ka beta’..whose only aim in life is to …well… is to blow up his dad’s money.
Repeated attempts from his parents to get him serious about his life falter and things come to pass when he fails his graduation exam.
Annoyed with his failure and refusal to take the blame for his shortcomings  Sid walks out of his home in a fit of anger.
He finds refuge at Sapna’s ( Konkana Sharma) apartment , his new friend , who has come to Bombay from Calcutta, to make her dreams come true. No she does not want to be an actress but a journalist.
The story then takes the predicable path – Sid gets a wake up call when even Sapna refuses to put up with him, he grows up, takes responsibility and also…falls in love.
Yes , not exactly novel and interesting but its the way its portrayed that keeps the viewer hooked.

The music is very average –  though goes well with the story – moving it forward in several places. A remarkable piece is the song ‘Iktara’ .
Ranbir Kapoor is a good actor and is convincing,but, I believe is looks work against him. He is too boyish looking to fit seriously in an adult role. Konkana Sen Sharma gives a good performance. Anupam Kher and Supriya Pathak are both well fitted in their roles as the parents.

Verdict : A good movie..


The Crucible

I first learnt about the Salem Witch trials when I read Robin Cook’s “Acceptable Risk’ way back in 1998. Post that I did a lot of reading and was always intrigued by what would drive intelligent educated people on witchhunts – what was that hysteria that gripped Europe in the middle ages and the US as late as the 17th century. Arthur Miller’s critically acclaimed play ‘The Crucibles’ , dramatizes the Salem Witch Trials and gives a glimpse of what may have happened.

The play opens up in the home of Reverend Parris sitting by the bedside of his pale sick daughter Betty Parris. The doctor cannnot say what ails her and there are rumours of  devillery abound. Parris is nervous for his daughter and his neice , Abigail Williams , whom he has seen and suspects of indulging in pagan rituals. Thomas Putnam and his wife add fuel to the fire by suggesting that the devil has cast a spell on village and is making all the children sick. Also , in the first act , an adulterous affair is hinted between John Proctor and Abigail Williams – which  casts a shadow on Abigails character. ( This affair is purely a figment of Arthur’s imagination and no proof of it having been true exists)

The first act sets the stage for what is to come – it explains to the readers the social, political and economic context that could have triggered off the Salem witch trials. There is poverty and fight for land and church power – the Church is too scared of losing its power and is eager to make away with the what could be even the slightest threat to it. The witches of Salem are clearly scapegoats and means to a larger end.

As the play unfolds, we realize that two categories of people are accused. They are those who are completely inconsequential to Salem and are seen as a burden -the village drunkard, the beggar and the foreign slave – and then they are those whose death would profit people by land or kind. It is implied that Abigail and other girls who claim to have visions of the devil and who accuse several people of witchcraft are doing it for sport and venegance. In the beginning Abigail and Betty accuse other women and men to remove attention that is focused on them as they were caught performing pagan rituals in the forest. They go on to accuse anyone whose death would benefit their families or anyone who casts a doubt on their accusations.

The church is blinded by its duty and refuses to see through the fraud and is quickly and irrationally putting away half the village of Salem behind bars.  Apart from the characters mentioned above, Reverend Hale , too is a key role ( not only in the play but also in the real life events). Hale, prided himself  on being God’s servant , and was dedicated to  cleansing the society of all creatures of the devil. He was an important figure in the anti-witch movement and later went on to become a key opponent of the witch trials. In Act 2 and 3 , we begin to see how he is surprised by the turn of events as the most upstanding figures of society come under witchcraft accusation. In Act 3 , he is so upset by the stubborness of the court and its refusal to see the fraud in the witchcraft trials that he quits the proceedings.

The play is a strong comment on the power of hysteria and the power of suggestion – it is incredible that how a bunch of juveniles are able to create an atmosphere of fear and suspicion in minds of mature and experienced clergy and how that was manupilated to everyone’s benefit. Miller also compares the situation of the witch hunt to the US governments search for communists during the Cold war.

Thought provoking and gripping but mostly frightning – it makes one realize that when the collective conscious sleeps there is not much a few thinking individual can do to ebb the tide of tragic events.


Rachel Getting Married

My first impression of this movie based on its cover and cast was that it would be a light hearted chick flick. Boy, was I wrong. Starring , Anne Hathway, ‘Rachel Getting Married’ is a docudrama that deals with issues like drug addiction and rehabilitation.

Kym ( Anne H) is a chronic drug addict who has been in and out of rehabiliation for the past 9 years. She gets a few days of leave to attend her sister, Rachel’s ( Rosemarie DeWiit) wedding. The story is very ‘slice of life’ – the focus being how Kym who tries to fit in with her ‘normal’ family who are always conscious of her illness and are watching her. Interesting relationships are potrayed – the overprotective dad who dotes on Kym even though she has disappointed them in several ways, the tender and deep bond between Kym and Rachel which has strains of tension due to the long separations and rivalry for their dad’s attention. The story gets interesting as more traumatizing family secrets tumble out of the closet.

Anne H was very convincing as a disturbed person in a dark place and though I dont have any sympathy for drug addicts , I could empathize with Kym’s struggle to live a normal life. Rosemarie D. acts beautifully and juggles the role of bride-to-be, loving sister and distraught daughter.

One thing that I found strange and was wondering about the whole Indian theme of the wedding – since neither the bride nor the groom , Sidney ( Tunde Adebimpe) were Indians. If there was a deeper message with all the rituals than I missed it – and its kind of strange cause I am an Indian myself.

Though not an entertianer and probably not the best movie on the subject, it is something that can be watched once.


48 Shades of Brown

Interesting title, right? That’s what caught my attention when I picked this book up. It helped ,ofcourse, that this was a coming of age story. I am a big sucker for those.

This award winning book by the Australian writer Nick Earls is funny and refreshing. The focus of the book is Dan , an average Australian teenager, and his last year in school which he spends away from his parents and instead with his very young aunt and her roommate -Naomi. Dan faces all the typical dilemmas ( and this brought back memories from my last years in school) – trouble with Calculues, a completely inappropriate crush , dealing with an overprotective parent and difficult family secrets.

The story begins with Dan accompanying his aunt Jacq, to her apartment, which will be his home for the year while his parents are in Geneva. He is on his own and initally struggles to fit in with the typically collegiate lifestyle that Jacq and her roommate have. His unexpected crush on Naomi also adds to his level of discomfort.

What’s interesting are Dan’s attempts to fit in and to seem cool and more mature to impress Namoi. On a picnic lunch in the university gardens, Naomi notices that the trees have been labelled with their scientific names, and mentions that it would be pretty impressive for someone to know them. It’s this that instigates Dan to become an expert in something that would seem intelligent but believable – bird watching.It is during studying the art of bird watching does he learn that birds are named using several versions of brown – 48 in all 🙂
These shades of brown become representative of the types of people and problems in the book.

There is no plot per say..but the book moves at an even pace and is definitely funny. Nick Earls uses metaphors and symbolism heavily and it takes a while to figure out deeper meanings. I truly enjoyed reading this and would recommend it .