The Gamer

Posted on 23 May 2016 under Random

I’ve lived many lives,
Many times I’ve lived, loved, and died
And been reborn
Many places I’ve called home –
Masyaf, Persia, Rapture … Los Santos
I’ve killed and been killed
Sinned
I’ve made mistakes, and learnt
I’ve grown
I’ve been a legend and a legend killer
A killer of gods, a god myself
I’ve raised entire civilizations,
And razed many others…

The life of a gamer is never linear; we don’t go from Point A to Point B. We journey, criss-crossing across time periods and generations, wielding weapons and woe with equal ease. We have many lovers, all of whom are the loves of our lives. We’ve crawled to the depths of despair, and climbed the peaks of redemption.

And for ever, may it be so.

 

A View From The Window

Posted on 21 May 2016 under Random

In the dead of the night, when the major contributor to the ambient noise is silence, life goes on. Flights land on the not too distant runway. The street dogs are the kings of the road, inheriting this domain from the two- and four-wheeled metal monsters that claim dominance during the day. The clocks tick-tock as per freaking usual, reminding one that time waits for no one.

At midnight, as the hands of the clock pass the “12”, the date changes. A day has ended, and another has begun. The date changes … but everything else remains the same.

 

Book Review: Jangshersingh.com by Vishal Bhatia

Posted on 22 Apr 2016 under Essays

Disclaimer: I was contacted by the author through email to write a review of this book. I agreed. The book was delivered to me free of cost. No other conditions or constraints were placed on me.

Jangshersingh.com by Vishal Bhatia is the second book I’ve read recently written by a new/aspiring Indian author (the previous one being the atrociously bad The Recession Groom by Vani). This one is significantly better, but considering the low benchmark set by Vani, that’s not saying a lot. Ultimately, taken on its own, this is a book that starts off with a lot of promise, but becomes a bit of a mess by the end, mostly because of the terrible editing. It feels as if the editor received payment mid-way through the assignment and then just couldn’t be arsed to do a good job thereafter.

Credit must go to the author, though. There are a lot of aspiring authors in India, but very few actually successfully publish a book. The rest maintain boring blogs, write vignettes and review others’ books (hmm … that sounds familiar). Anyway, on with it.

Here’s the plot in a nutshell: Jangsher Singh, aged 15, tries to seduce a girl in a village in Punjab and gets caught by her brothers. In typical Punjab style, they hack and slash him and leave him for dead. But since all of this happens in only the first chapter, he survives and goes on to become India’s best tennis player ever, reaching the finale of the Australian Championship. There’s a parallel plot about two cousins, Aman and Yug, who drive a really expensive car that doesn’t belong to them. They cause an accident, get blackmailed by the accident survivor, and then a lot of other things happen (not getting into the details in order to avoid spoilers), as a result of which they have to figure out a way of making money fast. And the way they make that money is by creating an unofficial website for Jangsher (I think the name of the book comes from that website … which we’re only introduced to after getting through almost two-thirds of the book), and then selling it at a premium.

The plot is functional, in that it serves to get you from Point A to Point B, but it’s generally not very engrossing. All along, you know where you’re going, particularly with Jangsher’s story, which almost never goes off the beaten track. There are a few more twists in the side-story about the two cousins, and that adds some drama and spice to the plot. Characters generally react in a realistic manner to the events that unfold, and thus nothing feels jarringly out of place. Some parts are too long and boring (one tennis match is described in detail over almost 30 pages), there are a couple of passages that add absolutely no value whatsoever (like a couple of pages dedicated to Jangsher flirting with a random girl at a random party, before his drunk girlfriend appears to escort him away). One can make an argument that the novel could have used a bit of trimming to make it crisper.

Characterization is not bad.  I’m thankful for the consistency, even if the characters are somewhat uni-dimensional. Jangsher’s character is the only one that changes, going from being a strong, calm, unfazed fighter in the first few rounds of the championship to a damaged, pain-filled, hurting, emotionally-exhausted shell of a man who still manages to put up a good fight in the end. Yug and Aman enjoy a good dynamic with each other, complementing each other’s personalities. Other than the cousins, the other characters are forgettable. In fact, it almost feels as if Mr Bhatia almost forgot them too. Jang’s mother makes her first appearance on page 225 (out of 337 pages), a brief appearance necessitated by a plot element. She’s introduced thus: “Tina, his mother, blessed him as he knelt and touched her feet.

And then there are all the nicknames. Omaigod, WHY does everyone (and everything!) have to have a nickname? The tennis players that Jangsher plays against have nicknames that EVERYONE uses more than their real name, even in the dialogues. These are nicknames like “The Assassin” and “The Bull”. Heck, even the bloody sportscar that Aman and Yug almost lose is called “Flame”. Obviously, this is an attempt to raise some level of excitement or awe towards these characters. But personally, I found it fairly grating and cheesy.

And now, to the technicalities of writing: Vishal NARRATES way too much instead of letting us find out the story through the eyes of the protagonists. This doesn’t happen very frequently, but when it does, it feels lazy and unimaginative. However, this is made up by ambitious attempts at incorporating interesting metaphors and vivid descriptions. Sometimes, Vishal gets over-ambitious. The descriptions get into details of how engines work, how the brain works, etc. It feels a little clumsy and boring, which is a cardinal sin. The intention is positive, but it doesn’t always pay off.

Where the book fails massively is in the editing department, something that cannot be blamed on the author. The most basic mistakes appear here. Homophones (“your” vs. “you’re”), typos (“unthinkinkable”) and errors I don’t even know how to describe (“curtsied” instead of “court-side” … yes, I’m serious) appear multiple times, way too many times for any self-respecting editor to allow. It’s difficult to take seriously a book with such a low level of quality in the end-product. Bah.

In summary, Jangshersingh.com is a decent first book by a new author, and provides signs of encouragement. There are flaws, but the flaws are born of ambitious attempts at writing quality literature. If you can get past the unforgivable editing, the core of the book is not bad.

Rating: 3/5

The meek…

Posted on 18 Apr 2016 under Asides

…shall inherit the world one day, apparently.

And with it, my deepest sympathies.

The Late Night

Posted on 22 Mar 2016 under Random

It’s late enough at night to be considered early the next morning. The world is largely asleep, the city glowing softly in the moonlight. I stand at the window, tiredness pouring out of me, staring into the distance.

It’s a lie, though, isn’t it, what I said earlier? Because clichéd as it may sound, the city truly never sleeps. Buildings in the background have lights turned on, and headlights quiver on the roads below as the cars snake their way through the urban maze. In the distance, there’s a man standing at a window, looking out into the world, just like me.

I wonder briefly if there’s anything we share, other than this moment of consciousness.

Probably nothing. I turn away, slink into bed and pull the blanket over me.

All The Right Reasons

Posted on 18 Mar 2016 under Life

I may be no more than a third of my life through, but there are certain things I am fairly confident about.

I may not be likely to do anything that will change the world or invent something that makes everyone’s lives happier and more peaceful. I may not be able to do something that will change the way people treat each other, and promote tolerance and acceptance. I don’t have the answers to life’s big questions and maybe I never will. I might live my entire life wondering and being frustrated at trying to understand whether things are meant to be this way, and why.

I am imperfect, I make mistakes. I’m occasionally selfish and insecure. I want to love and be loved, but I also want to be left alone. I like to think I am nothing like you, but I also know that in many, many ways, you and I are exactly the same person. I am a mass of contradictions and inconsistencies, but that’s what makes me human.

I may not leave a legacy, I may not leave a mark. I am a statistically insignificant speck of existence on the infinite plain of space and time, and nothing I do may make a change to the overall picture.

Much like most of you, actually.

But if I could leave a legacy, then let it be this: When I’m gone, when those who knew me think of me, may they remember me for all the right reasons.

 

Shades

Posted on 14 Mar 2016 under Journal/Life Updates

I use various shades of grey and black to paint my picture, only now and then using some other colours because I’m not sure I’m using them right.

So you see, I’m eternally grateful for all you others, who take it upon themselves to add a splash of colour every now and then, sometimes without realizing you might have done so.

When the portrait is done, I believe I’m very likely to see a canvas full of shades of a rainy morning sky, peppered with streaks of colour that stand out because they’ve rebelled against the general theme.

And yet, I know that what will matter the most is not the background, not what I’ve filled in myself, but rather, all these errant streaks that all you others have contributed. So, thank you.

 

On Bajirao Mastani

Posted on 17 Jan 2016 under Essays

The more I read professional movie reviews (is there such a thing?), the more I realize how under-qualified I am to critique movies. Nevertheless, because any fool with an internet connection can create a blog nowadays, here are a few thoughts on Bajirao Mastani:

  1. This film won the Filmfare Award for best picture? REALLY? This was better than Masaan (which wasn’t even nominated, by the way)?
  2. Ranveer Singh and Priyanka Chopra were both pretty good, especially the former, who should get extra credits for getting accent and punctuation right. Deepika Padukone was unconvincing, failing to bring the intensity and strength required to the character of Mastani. All of the other cast were “meh, ok”.
  3. A word of praise must be given for the extravagant sets and the fairly impressive battle scenes.
  4. It’s just too long, especially the second half. It just drags on and on and ends with a Devdas style, over the top death scene.
  5. For 75% of the film duration, it felt like the director was balancing fairly well between sense and sentiment. And then the last half-hour just became a mess. After having spent close to three hours (including interval), you walk out of the cinema hall wondering “WHY?”, and not in a good way.
  6. Again, I must ask … THIS film won the Filmfare Award? The fact that a movie like Masaan wasn’t even nominated makes a mockery of our awards, which seem to pander to the films that have the biggest box-office collections. But that’s a post for another time, one I’m not bothered to write about anyway.

Bajirao Mastani: 6/10

Movie Review: Wazir

Posted on 09 Jan 2016 under Essays

There is no doubt that Amitabh Bachchan is a fine actor. In particular, I’ll remember this one scene in which his character in Wazir teaches a kid how to deliver a particular line. It was a 5-second masterclass. But there’s only so much a fine actor can do in the hands of a mediocre director in a film with a mediocre plot line.

Wazir_Poster

Wazir is not a bad film, it’s worth a watch. But it does leave a lot to be desired. It has a bit of everything (although I’m not sure that’s a good thing). There’s the soppy romance between Farhan Akhtar and Aditi Rao Hydari, the heart-wrenching tragedy of a young girl dying, some mystery in the plot in the form of the mysterious eponymous character, etc. But the story is not complicated, and it will not force you to think about it after the titles roll, because everything is dumbed down for you in the final few minutes.

While it’s a fairly short movie (given Bollywood standards), it’s still a little too long. The aforementioned tell-all scene felt like an unnecessary tack-on. All six of us who saw it said the same thing — “Anyone with a half a brain could have put the pieces together, so why was that last scene there?” The expose should have been the crescendo, but unfortunately, it feels like a big let-down when it finally happens. If you’ve been told this is an intelligent question, please question the intelligence of the person who told you so.

As for the acting, as I wrote earlier, Amitabh Bachchan is solid, as expected. I have a lot of respect for Farhan Akhtar, he’s multi-talented and his understated style of acting feels genuine. On the other hand, Aditi Rao Hydari must never act again. To be fair, I’m forming this opinion on the basis of her performance in a film that required only three things of her — look pretty, laugh on demand, and cry on demand. Neil Nitin Mukesh gets acting credits, but really only appears in a couple of scenes in an overstated, exaggerated manner. And then you have the guest appearance by John Abraham, who does what John Abaraham does — look big and tough and talk in a thick, deep voice. Anjum Sharma does ok as the Sikh friend and good cop, but he struggles to convince he’s actually a proper Punjabi Sikh (of course, that’s a deeply ironic comment coming from me, I recognize). Why can’t you just find a real Sikh to portray an on-screen Sikh? As for Manav Kaul, who plays the primary antagonist, there’s a reason I haven’t mentioned him so far. Because I can’t think of a single frame he owned, not can I think of anything he did terribly badly either. “Meh” would be the appropriate way to describe his performance.

A note for the special effects. Amitabh Bachchan’s character is legless and wheelchair-bound. It’s quite convincing. I remember being impressed by this in Forrest Gump with Lt Dan’s character. 22 years later, Bollywood has done just as fine a job. Yay.

To summarize: Wazir is a mediocre film, with average acting and not enough brains to keep you engaged throughout. It’s not bad, but don’t pay too much for the ticket, eh?

Score: 6/10

 

Winter

Posted on 08 Dec 2015 under Random

I can feel the cold seeping in through the gap under the front door, twisting in through the gaps between the french windows in the living room. The tips of my fingers start to wrinkle, I wish my feet were in socks.

Outside, the night is black as carbon and quiet as an easy conscience. I let my mind’s eye wander and imagine weird colours while my thoughts run wild.

There’s no noise inside the house either, the dark screen of the television dimly reflecting the few lights I’ve bothered to switch on.

Today’s been a trying day, tomorrow will be longer still. I want to forget about work and think about a million other things I’d rather be doing — reading a book and sipping something warm, lying down on my bed and listening to music, curl up inside a blanket and day-dream, some or all of the above.

All of the above … none of which requires anyone else.

Only me.

The cold makes me wish there was someone here I could hug to keep myself warm.

Like you.