Loving someone without seeing him / her

Sirf Tum (1999) is the Hindi remake of national award winner Tamil film – Kadhal Kottai (1996). The same director – Ahathian has directed the Hindi version too, writing the script himself in association with Anees Bazmee. It has a unique love story in which the male-female duo starts loving each other without having been face-to-face. The love just happens due to knowing each other through letters. It may appear unlikely in the practical world. However I believe, it can happen when the hearts are pure on both the sides. Sirf Tum (only you) is a lovely movie with many plus points.Deepak (Sanjay Kapoor) gets a lady’s handbag in the train which is of Aarti (Priya Gill). Kochi based Deepak sends the purse to Nainital based Aarti by post. A thanksgiving letter from Aarti triggers a correspondence between them and through letters only they keep on coming closer and closer in their hearts. Deepak don’t have anybody in his family whereas Aarti also does not have parents and she lives with her married sister (Shagufta Ali) and her husband (Tej Sapru). Aarti is in search of a job to be self-sufficient whereas his typical-nature brother-in-law wants her to get married at the earliest.

Deepak has to get himself transferred to Delhi due to the labourers going against him at Kochi. However he has to leave the job because of his boss who is the sister of his ex-boss at Kochi (Ajit Vachchhani), Neha (Sushmita Sen) who falls in love with him and expects him to reciprocate her advances. Interestingly, she is also lonely in her life. Since Deepak is already in love with Aarti whom he knows through letters only, he quits the job and becomes an auto-rickshaw driver with the help of his friend, Preetam (Jackie Shroff). On the other hand, Aarti comes to Delhi in search of Deepak only. She is able to identify him in the ending scene only through a gift sent by her to him.Sirf Tum is a very interesting movie that engrosses the viewer from the beginning to the end. Especially the final phase of the story when Aarti keeps on searching Deepak with the help of Deepak only (because she does not know him by face) in the heavy rainfall, is damn impressive. The brilliant way this love story has been told, has given it a reliable look.

Well, I firmly believe, true loves is based on the concerned person’s nature and purity of heart only, not just looks. And hence I did not find the love of Deepak and Aarti as something out of this world. I have always been writing letters to my friends and beloveds and I still write letters (in this era of e-mail and mobile phone) and thereby, I know the importance of letters and the magic of written words.

I identify with Deepak in one more way. Like him, I am also fond of wishing birthdays to people, not just my friends, relatives and beloveds but those too who are not-so-close to me. I feel, by wishing birthday (or wedding anniversary) to someone, we give him / her a pleasant surprise.The director has handled the story pretty well both in the South-Indian setting at Kochi as well as in the North-Indian setting at Delhi. Except for the love of the Neha for her employee, Deepak which seems to have been expressed by Neha in a bit hurry, the story moves ahead at a natural pace and the viewer keeps on flowing with the flow of the narrative till it reaches the climax which is sentimentally appealing.

Through the mature personality of Deepak, the office culture in India has also been portrayed quite emphatically. How the office dynamics go on in real as well as how a mature person should handle the people and the situations, has been presented in an impressive manner. Deepak maintains distance with not only his boss, Neha but also colleagues like Ranjeet (Mohnish Behl) without annoying anybody. It’s something to be followed by those (like me) who are working in the offices. How workers go against an officer who is apparently an outsider (from some other state) to them, has also been shown realistically. In fact, it’s the excellent screenplay of this movie which makes it a winner. Simplicity has been maintained throughout the movie sans all pump and show which provides the story being told on the screen a natural flavour.

The lead pair of Sanjay Kapoor and Priya Gill has done justice to their roles albeit Priya Gill could have done better. The complete supporting cast including Jackie Shroff, Jaya Bhattacharya (Aarti’s Christian friend at Delhi), Sushmita Sen, Tej Sapru, Shagufta Ali, Johnny Lever (Deepak’s friend at Kochi), Mohnish Behl etc. all have provided excellent support to the leading characters of the story. Salman Khan and Gurdas Maan in guest appearances have added value to the movie.Nadeem Shravan’s music is mesmerizing. It contains my favourite Qawwaali – Ek Mulaqaat Zaroori Hai Sanam (sung by Sabri Brothers) which is played alongside the activities of the lead pair in the ending reels. Among other songs, Pehli Pehli Baar Mohabbat Ki Hai is an excellent romantic duet by Alka Yagnik and Kumar Sanu whereas Dekho Zara Kaise Bal Khaake Chali Hai is an item number picturized on the singer – Gurdas Maan himself. Panchhi Sur Mein Gaate Hain, Ooparwaala Apne Saath Hai, Dilbar Dilbar (a dream song picturized on Sushmita Sen) and the title track are also pretty good to listen. Sameer has written heart-winning lyrics and the music directors have focussed on melody, making this album a memorable one.

Cinematographer has done a brilliant job. Whether capturing the beauty of Kerala in the first part of the movie or bringing the natural look of Delhi in the later part of it, he has excelled like anything. Editing is also good. The movie is long but the uninterrupted interest and curiosity do not allow the audience to feel its length. Despite simplicity of presentation, producer Boney Kapoor has maintained a high production value in the movie.

Summing up, Sirf Tum is a very simple yet heart-winning movie which can be put in the league of the simple movies once made by Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Chatterjee. It’s a big treat for the romantic movie audience.

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If only I were the director of this movie !

With sincere thanks to my friend Suketu who inspired me to write a review of Bollywood movie – Rakht which was released in 2004, the first thing that I am willing to say is that I wish I were the director of this movie. Good direction can convert an average script into an admirable movie and poor direction can spoil even the greatest script. And that’s what exactly happened to this flick produced by the then liquor-cum-aviation baron, Vijay Mallya; whose plot has been lifted straightaway from a Hollywood movie – The Gift (2000).

There is an ancient Indian maxim – JISKA KAAM USEE KO SAAJE, AUR KARAY TO PAAGAL BAAJE (one should do that job only which suits him or in which he is skilled; if he does someone else’ job, he will be considered mad because he will fail miserably at that). And that’s what I am willing to convey to Mahesh Manjrekar, the director of hard-hitting, realistic and touching movies like – Vaastav, Tera Mera Saath Rahe, Nidaan, Ehsaas, City of Gold etc. Making a good suspense-thriller is not anybody’s cup of tea. There was a time in Bollywood when brilliant suspense-thriller specialists like Vijay Anand, Raj Khosla, Raja Nawathe, Shankar Mukherjee, Biren Nag, Raghunath Jhalani and even B.R. Chopra were active in the field who gave us memorable suspense-thrillers like Teesri Manzil, Jewel Thief, Hamraaz, Mera Saaya, Woh Kaun Thi, Anita, Gumnaam, Mahal, Bees Saal Baad, Baat Ek Raat Ki, Kohra, Anamika, Uljhan, Kanoon, Dhund etc. Now there are no such directors with the exception of Abbas-Mustan who have directed some good suspense-thrillers like Khiladi, Baazigar, Soldier, Race etc. Mahesh Manjrekar made an attempt to do their job, falling flat on his face. He could not just handle the brilliant script stolen from The Gift in his inexperienced hands (for this type of movie). Had someone like Raj Khosla made this movie during the sixties or the seventies, it could have been a classic.It’s a murder-mystery with insertion of supernatural element through the God-given capability of the main protagonist (Bipasha Basu) to foresee future events. She is a single mother (widow) of an eight years old son, other than being a tarot card reader and an astrologer by her profession. The mystery is of the murder of Amrita Arora who first goes missing and then is found murdered with her dead body lying in a lake. There are many characters associated with the life of the central character of the movie, i.e., Bipasha, viz. Sanjay Dutt who is the principal of her son’s school, Payal Rohatgi who is her friend, Neha Dhupia who is her another friend, Dino Morea who is a rowdy and Neha’s wife-beater husband, Sunil Shetty who is a crazy motor-mechanic and considers Bipasha as his good friend, Shashikala who is her granny and whose spirit comes to bless her after death (Bipasha doesn’t know by that time that her granny is no more), Himanshu Mallik who was Amrita’s secret lover, Abhishek Bachchan who is her ex-beau etc. Finally the face of the murderer is revealed, bringing an end to the suspense after many scenes which consist of the police activity and the court-room arguments of the lawyers involved too.The treatment of this excellent plot is not at all coherent and impressive and the only face-saving grace is the outstanding performance of Bipasha alongwith some really good scenes (the best one, in my opinion, is the scene in which the spirit of Bipasha’s granny, Shashikala gets evaporated into the air in front of her eyes). Due to poor direction, the movie which could have become an excellent one on overall basis, has been reduced to an assembly of some good and some bad scenes. It was promoted as a spine-chilling thriller but there is neither any chill for the viewer’s spine, nor any good suspense (most of the viewers can guess the real murderer with relative ease), nor any momentum to keep the viewer continuously on the edge of his seat. The script of a good suspense-thriller should be well-knitted and all the incidents being shown on the screen should have a logical association among them whereas the narrative of Rakht seems to be scattering here and there amidst the scenes which have not been sensibly linked and kept in proper sequence.Anand Raj Anand’s music is passable. Two songs are good though. However these songs as well as the flash-back entry of Abhishek Bachchan only block the flow of the narrative. Had I directed this movie, either I would have made it sans any songs or would have made the music team prepare at least one good mystery song(in terms of words and composition) deepening the mist in the story.I am a die-hard fan of Bipasha Basu and hence my opinion towards her performance may be biased. Still the viewers will agree that she is the pivotal character of the story around whom the other ones move in a circle. And it’s her only who keeps the viewer’s interest alive in the movie. Though performers like Sunil Shetty, Dino Morea, Sanjay Dutt, Neha Dhupia etc. have tried their best to do justice to their assigned roles, the problem is that their characters have not been properly developed in the movie. They are sketchy and therefore, fail to leave a mark.

Cinematography and technical aspects of the movie are more or less okay. Background score is also okay though I have already mentioned that the movie fails to scare despite the tall claims of its makers. All things said and done, it’s not a horror movie; it’s a suspense movie.The title of the movie is also totally inappropriate because the story has nothing to do with Rakht or Rakt (blood).

Still, I recommend this movie to the fans of Bipasha Basu as well as those who like mysteries very much because though it’s not well made, the story is pretty good. The mystery-fans who have not watched the Hollywood movie – The Gift, may like it as a one time watch. I wish Vijay Mallya used his business prudence while choosing the director of this movie which could not ensure the recovery of his invested money.

My overall rating for the movie is 2.5 stars. It could have become a movie worth the rating of 4 or 5 stars, had it been directed by Jitendra Mathur instead of Mahesh Manjrekar.

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An epic too big to be enveloped in three hours

The maker of hard-hitting movies like Damul (1984), Mrityudand (1997), Gangaajal (2003) and Apaharan (2005), Prakash Jha came up with Raajneeti in 2010. What had happened to Raju Hirani in 3 Idiots (2009) after his extremely appealing Munnabhai series, happened to Prakash Jha too in his third venture in the new millennium as he made a good movie but it did not live up to his reputation. The reason is simple. He tried to force the tale of the Indian epic – Mahabharat in the realistic story of the Indian politics. And the result was that he fell flat on his face.

The fact is, the Mahabharat is too big an epic to envelop it in a time duration of three hours. Just by showing feud in a political family and unnecessary killings, the Mahabharat cannot be brought on celluloid. Right from the very first scene, the movie proved so engrossing for me that I never knew when it had arrived at the interval point. However, the second half could not prove to be that impressive. Reason ! As against its first half, the movie deals with less the Indian politics, more the Mahabharat style relationships and dealings among the protagonists in its second half.The first half is a typical Prakash Jha one, completely realistic and baring the true face of the Indian politics which is power-based and not people-based. How the tickets for the seats in the election are distributed, how conventional vote banks are kept intact, how power is grabbed and kept under control, how dynastic dynamics takes place in the Indian politics, how meetings are conducted in the Indian political parties, to which extent our politicians are greedy and finally, to which extent they can fall from the ethics for the sake of winning elections and grabbing powerful positions, have been depicted with utmost realism. Up to that, it is no less than Gangaajal and Apaharan.

However, in the second half, the director has shown everything over the top. An industrialist bargaining for a Chief Minister as his son-in-law in view of her daughter’s matrimonial negotiations, big political guns taking weapons in their hands and fearlessly killing their opponents, a senior and mature political leader instigating a young one to murder his political opponent as he had killed his father (knowing very well that the would-be victim is none else but the would-be killer’s own brother) and several other things which are uncalled for and does not fit in the original plot. Several incidents have been taken from the Mahabharat to justify the claim that the movie is inspired from the epic. However these incidents are not natural to the original story, they clearly look purposelessly imposed and superficial. My biggest objection on the movie is that high profile political killings take place, a very senior police officer is murdered in the day-light and even a foreigner is killed, yet no serious investigation takes place either on the part of the police or any other investigating agency(like the CBI or so). This is highly unnatural. Yes, there is anarchy in India, no law of the jungle all the same. Big political leaders arrange murders. They do not commit murders (that too quite openly) themselves.The incidents borrowed from the Mahabharat have not been led to their logical conclusions and left as loose ends without proper tying-up. In fact, they are totally superfluous and the movie could have done without them. This is an insult to the great epic. Shyam Benegal had made Kalyug in 1981, bringing the framework of the epic into the story of an industrial family. Prakash Jha has tried to imitate (perhaps inadvertently) the legendary filmmaker in this regard but has not been very successful. In fact, he has drowned himself (the film) by riding two boats at the same time, i.e., making a hard-hitting political drama as well as drawing the Mahabharat saga into the narrative. Had he concentrated upon his first objective only, he would have made a memorable film.Reducing the female characters to mere puppets in the hands of the male ones as well as showing the central character (Ranbir Kapoor) as using everybody and every relationship is another highly objectionable thing on the part of the director. Ranbir Kapoor (the modern Arjuna) shamelessly uses the emotions of Katrina Kaif and others and murders many people without a hitch. Even then the director very conveniently allows him to return to abroad (from where he had originally arrived) and shows him in a bright light which is quite indigestible. The director has distorted the characters and the situations to suit his purpose but this has snatched the flair of naturalness from the movie. The biggest distortion is in the character of Ranbir Kapoor. The director has emphasized his genuine love for Sarah at many places, yet he gets ready to marry Katrina Kaif for the sake of arranging funds from her father to fight the elections. This is too contradictory.

The character of Nasiruddin Shah has been removed totally after the first reel. This is irritating. His return into the narrative could have provided some logic as well as spice to the story. Besides, the character of Ajay Devgan (the modern Karna) being very emphatic in the first half but sidelined in the second one, is also a factor which disturbs the balance of the movie. Further, the character of Nana Patekar (the modern Krishna) is totally confusing and unconvincing. His reaching Ajay Devgan’s house with a pistol in his hand to personally kill him, looks ridiculous. The mother (the modern Kunti) is shown as politically active in the beginning but later on she is totally passive and submissive to anything and everything done by the males in the family. This does not look natural. And finally, except Nasiruddin Shah, all and sundry (including the modern Krishna, Nana Patekar) are shown with low morals, ready to do the meanest things. At least one character could have been shown with some morality in him. Katrina Kaif has been given the get-up resembling Mrs. Sonia Gandhi in the end, without any reason. The scenes of physical intimacy are also unnecessary and they could have been toned down, if not removed totally. The thing Prakash Jha has emphatically shown is that our politicians consider political power as something like their fief.The look of the movie is realistic. The performances are admirable. Ranbir Kapoor has given an amazing performance in the role of the modern Arjuna. All others have done well. However, Manoj Bajpayee (the modern Duryodhana) appears quite theatrical and over the top which is clearly the director’s flaw as he is such a natural actor. Such movies do not need any songs. However the songs played in the background are quite good. Technical and production value aspects are admirable. The movie is too long, yet could not cover the Mahabharat story properly.

Frankly speaking, Madhur Bhandarkar’s Satta (2003) was a better political movie which was closer to reality than Raajneeti when we make an overall comparison between the two. Prakash Jha, however, has been able to underscore a significant fact – the canvas of the Indian politics is too large which has space for everything but one.

The public !

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Whodunnit in forest

Shikar (Hunt / Victim) is a Dharmendra, Asha Parekh and Sanjeev Kumar starrer murder mystery released in 1968, directed by Atma Ram and produced by Guru Dutt films (four years later than Guru Dutt’s death). Quite different from Guru Dutt’s famous movies, it is a murder mystery. The fact which makes it different and more interesting when compared with the traditional murder mysteries, is the forest backdrop of the story. The complete drama related to the murder and the investigation takes place in a forest with the abundant beauty of flora and fauna cooling the eyes of the audience.Dharmendra is an estate manager whose employer-cum-friend, Ramesh Deo is murdered at his residence in the forest estate. The needle of suspicion points at Asha Parekh who is the daughter of a retired police commissioner, Rehman and who had come to Dharmendra’s residence in a mentally and physically disturbed condition in the night in which the murder had taken place, only to disappear even more myseriously. Dharmendra alongwith the investigating police officer, Sanjeev Kumar makes attempts to reach the real murderer. Since he falls in love with Asha, her turning out to be the murderer does not suit his sentiments. However he is convinced that she is not the murderer. The activities of an employee in the estate office, Helen and a professional hunter, Manmohan are also suspicious. The twist in the tale comes when an old woman confesses before Sanjeev Kumar for this murder. The mystery is resolved in the ending scene amidst the hair-raising movements of wild animals.Shikaar is a thoroughly engrossing suspense thriller. The beginning itself is very good when a man-eater beast is hunted by Dharmendra. Soon thereafter, the murder takes place and then the wildlife environment provides a highly suspenseful backdrop for the murder investigation and activities of the people involved. The narrative moves fast and blocked only by the intermittent songs. However the insertion of the songs does not irritate the viewer because the songs alongwith the dances are just very good and a treat to listen and to watch. There is no boredom in the movie throughout. However the comedy track of Johnny Walker and Bela Bose should have been shortened.The flip side contains the usual irritating element found by me in most of the Bollywood suspense thrillers, i.e., the untied loose ends and unanswered questions. Being a great mystery fan, I am of the opinion that a good suspense-thriller is one which does not leave any question unanswered in the end and provides a feeling of satisfaction to the logically thinking viewer. In a good mystery, not only all the loose ends are tied in the climax but also the suspicious activities and gestures of the guilty as well as non-guilty are properly justified. Shikaar does pass this test but not with distinction.The cinematography of V.K. Murthy is outstanding. Any nature-lover will find this movie, full of scenes of flora and fauna, nothing short of a visual treat. There are several scenes involving wild animals like elephants, tiger, deers, bear and likewise. The running of the wild elephants in the climax is highly thrilling.Shankar-Jaikishan duo was in top form while composing the music of Shikaar. They have not only composed melodious songs like Tumhaare Pyar Mein Hum Beqaraar Ho Ke Chale (Rafi) and Mere Sarkar Meri Aahon Ka Asar Dekh To Lo (Mahendra Kapoor) but also pretty good songs for memorable dance numbers like Parde Mein Rehne Do Parda Na Uthao (Asha Bhonsle) and Jabse Laagi Tose Najaria (Lata and Asha together). Choreographer P.L. Raj has done a marvellous job with the great dancers like Helen, Bela Bose and of course, the movie’s heroine – Asha Parekh.I also appreciate the filmmaker for giving the titles of the movie in Hindi as I feel very bad about this fact that the credits of Hindi movies are given in English.

The original He-Man of Bollywood, Dharmendra is the perfect choice for the lead role who not only performs quite naturally but also looks utterly reliable in the action scenes involving wild animals. Sanjeev Kumar in the supporting role of the investigating police officer is as natural as rainfall in the month of Saawan. Asha Parekh, though not a great actress, maintains amazing on-screen chemistry with Dharmendra and she looks quite gorgeous in the dance sequences as she was a dancer par excellence. Helen and Bela Bose, being outstanding dancers, have performed well in dance numbers alongwith their acting performance. Johnny Walker, Rehman, Manmonan etc. are also quite okay.Shikaar is an interesting watch for both, the mystery fans as well as the people fond of watching wild life. I recommend this engrossing mystery having a forest backdrop, to all the suspense-thriller fans.

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The blank paper of life sans the colours of love

I consider myself as a good motivator and consoler for the people experiencing heartache though my profession (to earn a living and raise a family) is a different one. The people whom I have motivated acknowledge it too (that Mr. Jitendra Mathur is a motivator and consoler par excellence) . Whenever I guide someone on interpersonal relations or self-motivation to do something worthwhile with the help of networking with significant others, I always assert one sentence – keep remember that communication gap is the biggest enemy of all relationships. I reiterate on this page too – if you consider your certain relationship as a very significant one for your life, then never allow any communication gap to creep into that. It destroys any relationship (howsoever strong it might be) the same way termite eats up wood.

And which relationship can be more significant than the relationship of life-partners in wedlock ? There is no dearth of jealous people or idiots or free consultants or the ones who interfere in your personal affairs without any need or a right on their part for doing so. Then it’s the duty of the married couple only to at least maintain free and frank communication with each other so that the issues get timely resolution and no eruption gets an opportunity to turn into a canker with the passage of time. Hurting your partner through words is bad but keeping mum and suppressing your feelings towards him / her within yourself is worse. And that’s what Vijay Anand and Jaya Bhaduri starrer Kora Kagaz (1974) underscores. It is an underrated classic from Bollywood which every newly married (or marrying) couple should give a watch.Kora Kaagaz (blank paper) is the story of Archana (Jaya Bhaduri) and professor Sukesh (Vijay Anand). Archana has a full-fledged family containing father (A.K. Hangal), mother (Achala Sachdev), sister (Nazneen) and brother (Dinesh Hingu) whereas Sukesh is almost alone and has no living relative other than an aunt (Sulochana). Archana and Sukesh get married but despite their abundant love for each other, cracks appear in their marital life due to the undue interference of Archana’s mother in her wedded life. Misunderstandings prop up and lack of communication on the part of the married couple aggravates them to an extent that ultimately they get separated. Archana realizes her error of giving her mother too much free hand to play with her married life and repents but only when it’s too late. She feels the depth of her love for Sukesh after they are divorced and her family members insist her to remarry.

However, years later, destiny arranges their unexpected meeting in the waiting room of a railway station when both of them are going to board different trains for their respective journeys. They get emotional and regret their mistakes. Once the suppressed love in the hearts of the husband and the wife is exasperated through the sweet memories of the past, they reunite.Kora Kaagaz is the symbol of a life which can be compared to a plain sheet of paper without any picture or any colour or any words on it. Love is the thing which fills this blank sheet and turn it into a beautiful painting (or a beautiful story). Once the love is gone, the life is no better than a blank piece of paper. And let me say, it is even worse than that because due to the evaporation of the colours of love which were once there on it, it does not remain worthy of making a new painting or writing a new story on it. That’s the pain of Sukesh and Archana vented out in the words of Kishore Kumar’s immortal song – Mera Jeevan Kora Kaagaz Kora Hi Reh Gaya (my life was like a blank papaer and it remained like that only).The director of this movie – Anil Ganguly has given many good movies during the seventies. Kora Kaagaz is, unarguably, one of his best works in Hindi cinema. The story catches the viewer since beginning and leaves a highly feelgood impact upon him in the end after a time-span of two hours and odd minutes. The starting and the ending scenes are actually two pieces of a single scene in between which the complete story is told in flashback. This way, the narrative has become quite impressive and appealing.Kalyanji Anandji have composed highly admirable music for this movie. In addition to the immortal title song (brilliantly penned by M.G. Hashmat), the other songs – Mera Padhne Mein Laage Dil and Roothe Roothe Piya (both sung by Lata) are quite hilarious to hear and to watch on the screen.Today’s birthday babe – Jaya Bhaduri (born on 09.04.1948) has delivered one of the best performances of her career. The director of gems like Guide, Jewel Thief and Tere Mere Sapne – (Late) Vijay Anand has proved that he’s no less when in front of the camera than he was when behind the camera. Others have supported them well. The only flaw in the movie is caricature like portrayal of certain characters.Technically, the movie is good despite its simple milieu. Length is also okay. It does not bore the viewer anywhere who effortlessly starts empathizing with the lead pair and longing for their reunion when they are broken-up.The great lesson rendered by this movie is for the parents of married children (especially the girl who has to shift to a new household after her marriage). Once married, the children should be left free to manage their affairs (until and unless the life-partner of the child turns out to be a real villain). When the children are grown-up, educated and sensible, too much interference in their married life brings about disastrous results only. Misunderstandings may arise and everything may be messed-up due to that, leaving a lot to be done for rectifying the things. Please never give your child an opportunity to curse you one day because of your undue interference in his / her married life as Archana curses her mother after it’s all over in her married life.Finally, I revisit my assertion in the first para – communication gap is the biggest enemy of all relationships and especially the marital relationship, so please consider it a taboo in your married life. Before this review ends, I am reproducing the final dialogues of the lead pair in the ending scene :

Archana : Kya Saara Dosh Mera Hi Tha (Did the complete fault lie with me only) ?

Sukesh : Kuchh Dosh Tumhaara Tha, Kuchh Mera, Aur Kuchh Hum Dono Ka (Some fault lay with you, some with me, and some with both of us).

I rest my case.

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Kal Kya Hoga, Kisko Pata . . .

The following song from the Hindi movie Kasme Vaade (1978) is very dear to me – ‘Kal Kya Hoga Kisko Pata, Yaaron Zindagi Ka Le Lo Mazaa’ (who knows what’s in store for tomorrow, let’s enjoy today to the full). Well, being a movie-buff and a music lover, I have found this lesson being given by several Bollywood songs. However we forget it and start either worrying for the tomorrow (the coming Kal) or yesterday (the bygone Kal) and ignore today (Aaj).All the same, a close friend told me during a meeting with him in the room number 201 of Hotel Balaji Palace at Hyderabad on 25.12.2010 – ‘We always expect tomorrow to be better. Else it’s very difficult to live.’ What a great truth revealed by him !

Yes, despite all the worries and apprehensions for tomorrow, we expect it to be a better one than today. Else either we will lose our sleep or get willing to leave this mortal world. It doesn’t happen because despite all the despair, frustration and melancholy, there is a hidden hope (howsoever slight it might be) in some corner of the heart that tomorrow will bring about something better. That’s why it is said – Ummeed Pe Duniya Kaayam Hai (the world exists on hope).

Now the thing is that the memories of the past and the dreams of tomorrow are important on one hand and the today which is in our hands is also important on the other, how to decide between the two. The thing is, we can’t decide in the absolute sense. We can only maintain a balance between the two.

That friend of myself also reminded me of a very good song from the movie – Phir Teri Kahani Yaad Aayi (1993)Aane Wala Kal Ek Sapna Hai, Guzra Hua Kal Bas Apna Hai, Hum Guzre Huye Kal Mein Rehte Hain, Yaadon Ke Sab Jugnu Jungle Mein Rehte Hain. And he only enlightened me regarding the significance of the last line – Yaadon Ke Sab Jugnu Jungle Mein Rehte Hain (all the glow-worms of memories reside in forest). Yes, the glow-worms of our memories do not provide us any light but still they have a great importance in the darkness of the forest of hard life.

I am quoting some lines penned by that friend only :

                      Meri yaadon ke jugnu kaabiz hain mujh par

                      Ye bujhte bhi nahin, jalte bhi nahin………

(the glow-worms of my memories possess me, they neither light-up nor quench out)

I am busy thinking about me in my past and how will I be in my future……………will I be there because I was there!!!!!!!!!!!’

Yes, it happens with the thoughts of most of us. But let us get out of this approach and see the light of today because we don’t know whether the sky will be clean or cloudy tomorrow and the past is already over which can’t be revived. Memories have their enormous importance in life but they are like the glow-worms which can provide relief but not light-up the life. Hence they should be cherished but not allowed to supersede today.

In the popular novel of eminent Hindi novelist Late Gulshan Nanda – Shagun, there is a dialogue – ‘Jo Beet Gaya Usay Kya Yaad Karna Aur Aane Wala Kal Kisne Dekha Hai’ (what’s the need to miss the time which is over and who has seen tomorrow). I adore these lines and for reading them only, I start turning the pages of this novel time and again.

Well, let us understand the importance of today because as a song says for tomorrow – ‘Jo Hai Sama, Kal Ho Na Ho’ (what’s there today, may not be tomorrow). It’s something we know but omit to bear in mind time and again.

Finally, let’s not ignore that yesterday has gone off our hands and tomorrow is yet to come. The thing available with us is today which is the most important day. And today only will lead to a better tomorrow if utilized properly.

I end my post with the lines from a famous English poem :

                      The dark today leads into light tomorrow

                      There is no endless joy, no endless sorrow

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Mysterious murder on an archaeological site

Mystery Queen Agatha Christie and her brain-child Hercule Poirot, the middle-aged Belgian detective are my favourites whenever I have to read a suspense story. Hercule Poirot has been the second most popular detective hero in the world of mystery based fiction, next only to Sherlock Holmes. Madam Christie has shown this hero who keeps a low profile but possesses a razor-sharp mind, as solving mysteries in different parts of the world. Today I am reviewing a novel in which he resolves a murder mystery on an archaeological site in the sandy region of Mesopotamia (Iraq). This novel is Murder in Mesopotamia.Murder in Mesopotamia starts with the receipt of an employment offer to a trained nurse, Amy Leatheran who is working in Iraq. The job is to take care of Mrs. Louise Leidner, the wife of an archaeologist, Dr. Erich Leidner who is situated on an archaeological site in Mesopotamia near Hassanieh (Iraq). And all the subsequent events of the novel are narrated by the nurse – Ms. Leatheran only who while giving company to Mrs. Leidner, comes to know of a lot about her personality which fascinates the males on one hand and leads the females to dislike her on the other. And shortly, it’s no secret for Ms. Leatheran that Mrs. Leidner is deeply scared of something (or someone). What’s that (or who’s that) – wonders Ms. Leatheran, the narrator for us. She comes to know of the fear of Mrs. Leidner when she confides her past with Ms. Leatheran. She had had a marriage with some Frederick Bosner long back, in the days of the first World War which did not last long because Bosner under charge of spying for Germany, was caught by the US authorities, tried and sentenced to death only to escape but die in an accident. However his threatening letters coming regularly to Louise (now Mrs. Leidner) warning her against marrying someone else, evidenced that he had actually not died in that accident. Due to his threats, Louise did not marry for years and could marry Dr. Leidner only when such letters stopped coming for a while. However now she has again started receiving threatening letters in the handwriting of Bosner only. Besides, she has also happened to see a ghostly face  appearing just outside the window of her room. The combination of these two things has lead Louise, i.e., Mrs. Leidner into a state of dread.

And then she is found murdered in her room through a stroke on her head by some blunt object. When her murder took place, the door of her room was constantly under watch of one or the other and nobody visited her during that particular time period. Then how could she be murdered ? Belgian detective Hercule Poirot comes into picture, being called to investigate the murder and he is also troubled by the same thought of howdunit more than whodunit. The time of the murder gets pinpointed by the hearing of a scream by Ms. Johnson who is a member of this archaeological group. However the puzzle remains the same because at that time, Mrs. Leidner was alone in her room and it is confirmed that nobody visited her during the period which covers the time of the scream. Poirot feels that the nurse – Amy Leatheran is not very safe because murder becomes a habit and if she knows (or supposed to know by the murderer) something important, then there can be an attempt on her life. However, it’s Ms. Johnson who becomes the next murder victim. After scrutinizing and analyzing the personalities and activities of the various members of the group on the site, Poirot succeeds in unravelling the mystery behind these two murders and unmask the murderer.

Murder in Mesopotamia is a signature novel of Madam Christie, containing all the ingredients of a spellbinding mystery that we expect in her work. The final revelation comes as a jolt for the reader and then it is found that sometimes the answers to intricate puzzles are very simple but since they are just below our nose, we are not able to see them. Once the main screw gets loosened, all the smaller screws open up easily and the seemingly very tightly sealed case becomes wide open before the eyes of any intelligent sleuth (like Poirot).Like her other works, in Murder in Mesopotamia too, Madam Christie has relied on human psychology for explaining crimes. She has vividly portrayed all her characters including the victims and the suspects and that’s why when the suspense alongwith the identity of the murderer is revealed, it does not appear to be a bolt from the blue and the reader is convinced properly for the motive behind the murder. And he is also convinced perfectly for the methodology of the murder because everything logically falls into place once Hercule Poirot is finished with his final demystifying talk.

Alongside human psyche, Madam Christie has dealt with human relationships also in detail while doing the ground work for the happening of the murder as well as while examining the suspects. When the people involved are human-beings, they may like, they may dislike; they may love, they may hate. Both these opposite feelings are two ends of the same continuum or two sides of the same coin, that’s an eternal truth and Madam Christie has reaffirmed it time and again in her stories. Murder in Mesopotamia falls into the same league.

On the flip side, I found the length of the novel as on the higher side. It could have been shorter and crispier. Besides, the character of Father Lavigny and the things related to him, appeared to me as simply adding to the bulk of the novel and not any value to the main story. The suspects are too many but all of them could not be painted as potential murderers. Further, a couple of significant points in the final revelation appeared as too far-fetched to me. However the climax is certainly mindblowing and the revelation of the mystery speaks volumes of the quality of work of the legendary authoress.

The language used appears to be the narration of a novice but that’s the art of Madam Christie that allows the reader to see the things from the viewpoint of a particular character, i.e., Amy Leatheran in this novel. Madam Christie has established in some of her novels that nobody is above suspicion and whosoever has a presence in the story for whatsoever reasons can turn out to be the real culprit. Hence presenting the things in the simple words of Amy Leatheran is a smart move by the authoress which keeps the reader guessing till the climax.First published in 1936, this novel had got praise from the critics but it was considered a cut below the best of Agatha Christie. She had set so lofty standards for herself that every work of hers had to be evaluated against them only and when not found as meeting them, this fact was underscored despite acknowledging the otherwise high quality of the work. As a  female Tennis player – Mary Joe Fernandez had once asserted – ‘When you are accustomed to excellence, just being good never satisfies.’

No prizes for guessing my final verdict for this novel. It’s a treat for not only the fans of Agatha Christie but also all the mystery lovers. Just slip through the cover of this novel to enjoy a more than 350 pages long mysterious ride in the sandy region of Mesopotamia more than 8 decades back.

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