Hombisilu (ಹೊಂಬಿಸಿಲು)

Rating: 3/4 (An evergreen romantic drama of a working couple by Geethapriya)

Hombisilu (ಹೊಂಬಿಸಿಲು) is a classic romantic drama in Kannada that I found is just as watchable and relevant as it probably was in its day. Directed by Geethapriya, it is based on a novel by Usha Navarathnaram. Dr. Natraj (Vishnuvardhan) runs a nursing home in a town near Mangalore. While looking out to recruit a lady doctor to assist him with maternity patients he falls in love with Dr. Roopa (Aarathi) and marries her. Their match is perfect, but marital discord arises immediately after due to petty issues and threatens to derail their relationship.

Hombisilu (ಹೊಂಬಿಸಿಲು) in Kannada is the word for twilight. It is a perfect romantic drama on the small problems that arise in any new relationship and their potential to create strife between couples if left unhandled. The plot especially focuses on the difficulty of a working woman with her husband and her work. The setting, plot and production of this movie by Geethapriya strongly reminded me of Hrishikesh Mukherjee. Much like his movies, here too the focus is solely on the minutiae of the everyday life of a working couple. For a movie released in 1978, this movie is surprisingly relevant for the hectic and mine-ridden worklives we live today. The songs in the movie are hummable and loving, two of which are my all-time favorites: Jeeva Veene (the tune is to die for!) and Neerabittu Nelada Mele. Vishnuvardhan and especially Aarathi have acted extremely well and are truly at their prime here. Aarathi is so expressive with her eyes and face, she does not need words to communicate in most of the emotive scenes. Hombisilu is a must watch, an evergreen romantic drama of a working couple by Geethapriya.

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I Hate Luv Storys

Rating: 2/4 (A sorely muddled romantic comedy that leaves the viewer exasperated.)

If you are going to mock someone, your game be better good. I Hate Luv Storys tries to mock the formulaic Bollywood romantic movies, but it turns out to be just as boring as the worst of them. The movie stars Sonam Kapoor as a love-smitten girl and Imran Khan who hides under a rock at the mere mention of love and commitment. Ironically, both of them are working on the sets of a Karan-Johar-style romantic movie called Pyar Pyar Pyar (sic). Sonam has been in a steady but boring relationship with her boyfriend (Dhyan) since childhood. Imran drops in, stirs the waters a bit, attracts Sonam. But, he finally loses her since he cannot commit to a relationship. Predictably, he has to woo back Sonam in a never-ending overly-complicated mess of a climax.

Sonam Kapoor and Imran Khan are a great on-screen pair, especially for a romantic comedy. Imran continues to be completely incapable of emoting through dramatic scenes. (Remember Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na?) The premise of the movie is great, but the plot is so muddled that it turns out to be a long drawn confusing affair. The movie has some great tracks which have been on my playlist for several months. My favorites are Bin Tere (both the original and the acoustic guitar versions) and Bahara. I Hate Luv Storys is a sorely muddled romantic comedy that leaves the viewer exasperated.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Rating: 4/4 (Remains a most fantastic dream trip to this day!)

There are a few memories from childhood which remain vivid to this day. One of them is possessing and reading a hardcover copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. This children novel by Lewis Carroll was presented by my dad and I was proud because it was one of the first unabridged novels I read. A little while after this, it would fall into the vicious hands of a cousin, who merrily proceeded to mercilessly vandalize its every page! With age the memory of this book has only grown fonder and I have kept an eye out for this particular edition of the book everywhere, but the search has been futile! 😐

“Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” – The King of Hearts

On a whim, I recently picked up a 1950 edition by Arcadia House to re-read this classic. There is a certain comfort in reading a well worn tale. Alice falls down a rabbit-hole and lands in a Wonderland. She comes across magical drinks, cakes and mushrooms, which when consumed cause her to grow or shrink in size. She meanders through this Wonderland without any purpose, talking and meeting with its creatures. Some of these creatures have now become eponymous in English literature. The Cheshire Cat is probably the most famous, with his transparent appearance, calm demeanour and magical smile. The White Rabbit is always hurrying about, checking his pocket watch for the time and always late for his next appointment. The mad trio of the March Hare, the (Mad) Hatter and the Dormouse, who are stuck in a weird time-warp where  it is always tea time. The coolest creature is probably the Caterpillar who sits on a mushroom sucking on a hookah! And finally the Queen of Hearts who tries to behead anyone she does not like.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland unfailingly brings up a dream universe when reading it. Much like a dream, the story has no direction of any sort, things just happen. This is not surprising since the story was conceived by Carroll to entertain a few kids on a boat journey. The conversations between Alice and the creatures are both non-sense and profound at the same time. The reader can imagine quaint metaphors for every little scene or incident in the book.

“I can’t explain myself, I’m afraid, Sir, because I’m not myself, you see.” – Alice

Like all modern editions, this Arcadia House publication too lumps together the sequel Through the Looking-Glass along with the original. I tried reading the sequel, but gave up. It is neither fun nor easy to read. It is hard to imagine that the same Lewis Carroll wrote that one or that a kid could enjoy it. The original Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland remains a most fantastic dream trip to this day! 🙂

“We’re all mad here.” – Cheshire Cat

Sherlock (Season 1)

Rating: 3/4 (A good modern reinvention of the legendary Sherlock Holmes.)

There have been countless attempts on the big and small screen to either faithfully recreate or creatively reinvent the legendary Sherlock Holmes. The new Sherlock TV series on BBC tries to create a modern avatar of the detective. Benedict Cumberbatch plays an intelligent smart-ass Sherlock Holmes, while Martin Freeman plays a wise Dr. Watson. Season 1 features 3 movie-length (1.5 hour each) episodes.

A Study in Pink is the opening episode, which as you may guess is inspired by the original A Study in Scarlet. In this case, Sherlock investigates a series of suicides, all of whom have died taking a pill. Dr. Watson returning from the war in Afghanistan becomes Sherlock’s flatmate at 221B Baker Street and is drawn into the case to become Sherlock’s partner. In the climactic scene of the episode, Sherlock’s arch-nemesis Moriarty is introduced.

Sherlock’s second case The Blind Banker deals with a spray painted coded message at a bank and a banker who has killed himself. This case leads him to discover a smuggling ring that is communicating by using derelict Chinese symbols for communication. In the third and final case The Great Game, Sherlock is taunted and played around by his nemesis Moriarty. The latter sets up Sherlock on a chase to solve crime puzzles within a deadline, and threatens to kill citizens if he fails. The episode ends in a standoff between Sherlock and Moriarty.

Cumberbatch totally gets into the skin of a new Holmes, while Martin Freeman gives us a very comforting Dr. Watson. Put together, this pair is like fireworks. Each of the cases has been beautifully written. The pace and dialogues are a bit too fast for my taste. The cinematography is lovely, as is the smooth incorporation of modern technology into Sherlock’s repertoire. Each episode is the length of a movie and really does feel like a made-for-TV movie. The story telling is good and there is no way one can pull away once a case has gotten started. I loved A Study in Pink, the other two episodes were merely good. Sherlock is a good modern reinvention of Sherlock Holmes and I will be watching if more seasons are produced.

The Princess Bride

Rating: 3/4 (An entertaining comic fantasy for child and adult alike)

I love discovering new movies by serendipity! 🙂 I was reading Essential C# 4.0, a book on programming recently. Instead of the typical “Hello World!” example, the opening chapter of this book used the greeting “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” It was this strange greeting that led me to watch The Princess Bride, a romance-comedy-adventure-fantasy tale. It is based on a novel of the same name by William Goldman, which, in the movie, is read by a grandfather to his sick grandchild.

Buttercup and Westley live on a farm and are in love with each other. Westley goes away on a long journey and Buttercup soon learns that he died on the high seas. While she is wallowing in her sorrow, Prince Humperdinck chooses her to be his bride. While on a ride in the woods, she is kidnapped by a gang. The gang consists of a short, clever and devious man named Vizzini, a giant named Fezzik and a fencing master named Inigo Montoya. They are pursued by a masked man, who defeats them all and reveals himself as Westley to Buttercup. Westley becomes friends with Fezzik and Inigo, the latter revealing to him that he is in pursuit of a six-fingered man who killed his father. Prince Humperdinck tricks them, imprisons Westley and takes away Buttercup to marry her as part of his evil plan. It is up to the hodgepodge duo of Fezzik and Inigo to thwart his plans.

The Princess Bride feels like a breath of fresh air. With a light-hearted story that is full of comedic capers, it is refreshingly different from today’s Disney-isque fantasies full of noisy expensive special effects and produced with the sole intention of selling movie paraphernalia and possible sequels. The plot intrigues, entertains and evokes laughs with ease. The Princess Bride is an entertaining fantasy for child and adult alike.

The Social Network

Rating: 3/4 (A good drama on the murky beginnings of Facebook)

Releasing in 2010, The Social Network is the first big-budget Hollywood studio movie about a software company. It is a sign of the times that such a movie revolves, not around IBM, Microsoft or Apple or even Google, but Facebook. The movie is based on the book The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich and portrays the murky beginnings of Facebook. It also felt ironic watching a movie about an Internet startup sitting at a theatre! 😉

In 2003, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) is a geeky Computer Science student at Harvard, who is irritated because he has no access to the final clubs. He is pissed off one night when his girlfriend dumps him and in his drunken stupor he proceeds to insult her on his Livejournal blog and creates a website called Facemash, a Hot-Or-Not clone website where Harvard female students can be compared by their photos. Facemash becomes a hit and Harvard shuts it down. But, Zuckerberg’s notoriety attracts the attention of the Winklevoss twins and their friend Divya Narendra. This rich trio invite Zuckerberg to join their startup called The Harvard Connection, a social network exclusive to Harvard students. Zuckerberg agrees, but cheats on them by instead starting to work on his own social networking site called TheFacebook with financial help from his friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield). TheFacebook, later shortened to Facebook, takes off like no one imagined and Saverin’s friendship is tested when Zuckerberg brings on the flamboyant Sean Parker (founder of Napster) on to the team. Zuckerberg and Facebook are caught up in lawsuits with Winklevoss, Divya and Saverin and are forced to settle with all of them.

The script by Aaron Sorkin turns The Social Network into a movie about the most primal of human characteristics: love, greed, envy and wrath. The plot is dark and engaging, laced with sarcasm. The cinematography is delicious and the acting is spot on. Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake (as Sean Parker) are especially good. I also loved the background score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, lots of techie beats, Moby-like. The Social Network is a good drama on the murky beginnings of Facebook.

Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions

Rating: 4/4 (Takes the reader on an inter-dimensional journey!)

If you dip your toes into any general reading involving dimensions, space or topology, Flatland is the book that comes heavily recommended. Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions was written by Edwin Abbott Abbott more than a hundred years ago in 1884. It is a fictional story narrated by a resident of Flatland. As its name might imply, Flatland is a 2-dimensional world, whose residents are straight lines and regular polygons. The book is seemingly written by A Square, a square Flatland resident, who now finds himself behind bars for proselytising the existence of a higher dimension (3D). The first half of the book introduces the layout and beings of Flatland. A strict class system is in force in this land, based on the number of sides of the polygonal residents. Straight lines (line segments to be precise) are women, the lowest class, they receive no education, have no careers and exist mostly for procreation. Isosceles Triangles are soldiers and workers. The more sides the polygon has, the higher his class. The highest class are the Circles, who are actually polygons with innumerable tiny sides. All irregular sided polygons are either fixed or killed to prevent their spread. Flatland residents perceive each other by sight and touch (feeling). The most interesting event in Flatland’s history was a Color Revolt which threatened the existence of the entire class system. This revolt, ironically, would have given residents the freedom to color (paint) themselves as they wished to. However, this revolt was cleverly put down by the Circles whose authority it undermined.

More interesting events occur in the second half of the book. One night A Square has a dream where he visits a 1-dimensional world called LineLand. Residents of LineLand are line segments of different lengths, they all live and die on a single straight line, which is their entire world. A Square shocks the king of LineLand when he is able to not only enter and leave their world at will, but can see their entire world and their insides too. Soon after this dream, A Square is visited by a Sphere, a being of SpaceLand, a 3-dimensional world. He takes A Square to his higher dimensional world and introduces him to the existence of solids. Being a 2-dimensional being, A Square initially finds it very hard to perceive this 3D world. But, by using analogy Sphere is able to convince A Square. For example, A Square already knew that a Point when moved along a direction formed a Line and a line moved parallel to itself formed a Square. Using such analogies, Sphere educates him on the existence of polyhedrons such as himself and Cubes. Together they visit the 0-dimensional world of PointLand, where a single Point is the sole happy resident. Unsurprisingly, the Point is found to be quite full of himself! 🙂 A Square’s story though ends in tragedy. On his return to Flatland, he tries to spread the Gospel of 3 Dimensions, only to be punished with life imprisonment for this heresy.

Flatland is a tiny book and has undergone lots of editions over the years. I read the Princeton Science Library (1991) edition, with an introduction by Thomas Banchoff. In my opinion, it is better to read this introduction after reading the novel. Banchoff introduces the life and times of Abbott. He lived in Victorian England, when education was not yet provided to women and the class system was in play. Both of these are well satirized in Flatland, by representing women as lower-dimensional (1D) entities and by the rigid polygonal class system. The eradication of all irregular polygons is also a representation of Abbott’s times, when anyone who deviated in form or thought was labeled as a freak.

Flatland is above all a dimension-travel book. It is surprisingly easy and light to read. By anthropomorphizing polygons, Abbott skillfully makes all dimensions easy to understand. After reading his book, the reader cannot but believe that higher dimensions must exist! Even if seeing such a higher dimension is beyond us, Flatland provides us the signs and hints of how such a higher dimensional being will appear and affect our world. For example, a 4D being could see inside us and could appear and disappear at different places at will. It is no secret that Abbott might believe that God is such a higher dimensional being. The book does not deal with space-time, where time is the 4th dimension. This is not surprising since space-time became popular only after Einstein. But, even then, I believe time would be (or is) a different kind of dimension, not a strict topological higher dimension. Flatland is a highly recommended read that is sure to take the reader’s mind on an inter-dimensional journey! 🙂

***

A few quotes from the book:

Sphere: “I had hoped to find in you — as being a man of sense and an accomplished mathematician — a fit apostle for the Gospel of the Three Dimensions, which I am allowed to preach once only in a thousand years: but now I know not how to convince you.”

I: “[…] take his servant on a second journey into the blessed region of the Fourth Dimension, where I shall look down with him once more upon this land of Three Dimensions, and see the inside of every three-dimensioned house, the secrets of the solid earth, the treasures of the mines of Spaceland, and the intestines of every solid living creature, even the noble and adorable Spheres.”

“That Point is a Being like ourselves, but confined to the non-dimensional Gulf.  He is himself his own World, his own Universe; of any other than himself he can form no conception; he knows not Length, nor Breadth, nor Height, for he has had no experience of them; he has no cognizance even of the number Two; nor has he a thought of Plurality; for he is himself his One and All, being really Nothing.  Yet mark his perfect self-contentment, and hence learn his lesson, that to be self-contented is to be vile and ignorant, and that to aspire is better than to be blindly and impotently happy.”

“It fills all space […] and what It fills, It is. What It thinks, that It utters; and what It utters, that It hears; and It itself is Thinker, Utterer, Hearer, Thought, Word, Audition; it is the One, and yet the All in All.  Ah, the happiness, ah, the happiness of Being!”