August 25, 2008

' Death at a Funeral ' - Great Situational Comedy!

It's been a while since I laughed so much! The movie 'Death at a Funeral' is a must-watch for anyone who likes situational comedy. Director Frank Oz put together the most bizarre characters in a most unlikely setting for comedy and yet the guffaws this interplay creates is to be seen! I would do a disservice to some of the characters by putting them all under the one label of bizarre; they are differently unique. Some of them could be termed dysfunctional, either at a social or physical level and yet they get the movie magic going and have the viewer in splits despite the somber funeral setting.

'Death at a Funeral', the least likely venue for two hours of pure fun! Frank Oz has done a splendid job with this British comedy released in 2007.

Don't miss this movie!

August 14, 2008

Kashmir Conflict - About to Boil Over?

This post on the Kashmir conflict makes a lot of sense to me!

Kashmir 'separatists', as they are called, cannot be 'home-grown'; for who would want to see one's homeland perpetually in the throes of joblessness, hunger, and communal violence!

The so called 'Kashmiriyat', "believed to be an expression of solidarity, resilience, patriotism... believed to embody an ethos of harmony and a determination of survival of the people and their heritage", has to surface, and soon, among both, the Kashmiri Muslims and the Kashmiri Hindus, for reason and hope to prevail in this beautiful Himalayan region that in the past was called 'a paradise on earth'!

August 13, 2008

Amulya Malladi's "The Sound of Language"- A 'Honeyed' Tale of Immigrant Experience in Denmark

"THE SOUND OF LANGUAGE is the story of a unique friendship. Every language has a sound and beyond that sound is acceptance and that's what my book is about. I hope that those who read it will re-evaluate any prejudices they have, and I hope very much that they will start to question how their governments treat refugees and immigrants." A. Malladi

Amulya Malladi came in recommended as 'has yet to disappoint' author and that is how I picked her "The Sound of Language" to carry with me as I traveled half way across the globe this summer. I must say the novel delivered; in that I finished it in less than a day! A light summer read that captures the travails of a recently widowed Afghani woman, who after escaping the clutches of the Taliban, finds herself in Denmark, a country which is not always immigrant friendly; especially to those who though forced out of their homeland, still carry the hope of returning there at some point in time.

Amulya Malladi, an Indian who lived in the US for a while, now writes out of Denmark where she lives with her Danish husband and has this to say about her country of residence: " Racism is rampant among Danish youth, and I'm not sure that boys like Anders and his friends (characters in this novel) are going to remain a minority in the not-so-very-distant future...the hardest part about living in Denmark is that as an immigrant you are expected to leave where you come from behind, completely, and become Danish...I rarely meet immigrants who say they love living in Denmark. It's a difficult country to immigrate to...hard for people who don't have my advantages." In the same breath she admits, " I miss the USA very, very much. I miss the friendly people, I miss the wide open spaces, I miss..."

Despite her mixed feelings for Denmark, Ms. Malladi, an immigrant herself, has in this novel, painted a Danish canvas that hosts some very likable Danes as also some delusional refugees who live out a lifetime on Danish welfare hoping to return to their homeland; a homeland that had so mercilessly forced them out not so long ago. Malladi's portrayal of the immigrant experience is very fair, and inspires the reader to believe that the milk of human kindness runs in every vein regardless of national identities.

An easy 'honeyed' summer read with the bees, the breeze et all!

August 07, 2008

'Olympic' Restrictions on Freedom of Expression in China

China 'allows' public protests during the Olympics provided the protest is:

- pre-registered
- conducted at the place assigned

"In terms of assembly and demonstrations, China has related laws and regulations," Sun, spokesman for the Beijing Olympics organizing committee, said, "and those rules - stringent in normal times - have been tightened further for the Olympics. Beijing has said it would allow applications for public protests in three designated areas... The government also has used its visa rules to try to keep out foreigners who might want to protest ...

Sun said the Tibet demonstrators were "persuaded to leave" by police and were not detained.

Foreigners who protest Beijing's human rights record or official policy of atheism on Chinese soil would normally face deportation. Chinese who demonstrate would face detention and hours of questioning by police, at least."

August 05, 2008

Divakaruni's 'Palace of Illusion' is in fact 'Draupadi's Mahabharata' and demands exclusive readership

I liked Divakaruni's short stories so when I saw The Palace of Illusions, her latest novel, I couldn't help reading it.

Divakaruni, a professor of Creative Writing at the University of Houston, has always had a penchant for the immigrant experience and for the role of women in society, and this novel caters to the latter; the role of women in Indian mythology. Given this context, did Divakaruni intend to exclude all of those readers not familiar with this exclusive context, namely the story of Draupadi as told in the Indian epic 'Mahabharata'?

I was fortunate in that I had read the Mahabharata so I was captivated by Draupadi's story in The palace of Illusions as told by Divakaruni, a modern woman who questions the legitimacy of Draupadi being wife to the five Pandava brothers, simultaneously and not out of choice. The character of Draupadi is colored in some stark hues and with some bold strokes that present her as a narrator with a mind of her known that she bares to the reader as also to Krishna ever so often. Krishna, the godly 'avatar' in the Mahabharat is Draupadi's mentor and an apparent saviour who conducts Socratic exchanges with her but in a benign sort of a way; something that might infuriate a modern day reader, perhaps what Divakaruni intended. A bold and intelligent Draupadi takes the reader through all the important happenings in her life that are pretty much brought upon her except for the one incident that she is destined to bring upon herself which would result in changing the course of History as predicted by the Sage Vyasa.

Did Divakaruni want to create a tragic figure out of Draupadi through this novel? Afterall she fulfills most of the Aristotelian requirements for a tragic hero: belongs to a royal family, suffers due to the flaw of excessive pride, experiences reversal of fortune, suffers extensively and her suffering is in excess of what she deserves. Having said that, as a reader I am not convinced that that was Divakaruni's intention because despite all the foretelling and all that happens to Draupadi, she never thinks of altering the prediction by opting for different choices. Instead she continues steadfast on the path she knows leads to devastation. Though strong and powerful, she chooses to go along with the dictates of fate. Her stoicism irrititates because it borders on masochism in a modern day context. You finish the book wondering why Draupadi couldn't have done better for herself and altered the course of history positively.

Fate is almighty! Is that the theme of Divakaruni's Palace of Illusions, and if so how is that any different from what the epic Mahabharat said? Nevertheless, Palace of Illusions is very readable if you are familiar with the Mahabharata, and its remoteness of context makes it ideal material for reading on a transatlantic flight.

August 04, 2008

Iain Banks's 'Post-scarcity civilization'

I've not read much of science fiction in the last decade or so; something I sincerely regret! As a result, whenever I come across an intriguing write up on a sci-fi novel I can't help recommending the read.

Folding the map, who is an avid reader of science fiction and a fan of Iain Banks' writings, has an interesting take on the viability of a post- scarcity culture.

Those of you wanting to know more about the Banksian alternative civilizations might want to read his novel "Matter" that presents 'a world where ships are sentient, humans live for half a millennium, and living on a planet is probably the most backward thing you can do'.