Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Book Review: Open-eyed Meditations

Meditation is an essential tool for introspection. It helps you to look deep into your self and come up with fresh insights that is inherent within you. According to Indian thought, every knowledge that a man needs to live in the world is already provided to him. It is coded inside his subconscious. To uncover this knowledge, it only requires a patient quest into oneself. This quest itself is termed  introspection. Meditation is one practical way to do introspection. It is done by concentrating hard on only a single aspect and avoiding every other distractions, caused by self as well as the world.

Most of the ancient knowledge from India developed after undergoing a thorough polishing through meditation. All the vedopanishads, sciences and epics of India are fruits of countless hours of meditational thought undergone by several saints and teachers. That is the reason why all these works contain timeless spiritual as well as practical- real world wisdom in equal measures. For the benefit of common men, who were tied up with the living, conscious world, saints embedded the knowledge gained through meditation into tales with which they can relate easily.

The intention behind the writing of Indian epics was not just the entertainment of the masses, but their upliftment in life. The intention was to cause an awakening of sorts after understanding the principles of thoughts generated through meditation retold as relatable stories. Mahabharatha and Ramayana were stories depicting conflicts between kings. But these were conflicts that happen universally in human minds. These were tough choices and dilemmas that men faced and still faces every moment in his life. These were about how to deal with a merciless world effectively without compromising on one's innate goodness and sense of justice.

Open-eyed Meditations is a book written by Shubha Vilas that aspires to interpret some of the wisdom emanated through our epics and find out how it can be beneficial to modern living. I had read some parts of his series Ramayana- The game of life, which concentrated on retelling Ramayana in a way that would be helpful to practically use it in our everyday life. This book also has a similar approach, but instead of a structured retelling, it consists of simple essays that deals with individual issues that we face daily and remedial measures that can be adopted from classics. This is more like a self help reference guide, that can be consulted easily by using the content section which, I find more practical and effective.

The book consists of sixty four short essays about topics as varied as professional choices, mental health and marital relations. Each chapter has a clear example from either Ramayana or Mahabharatha from which we can learn how they tackled similar issues and how we too can take a similar approach in our life. Each chapter has a crisp summary in its end which is really helpful for future reading and referencing.

The topics covered in the book is pretty exhaustive, so I would have loved if the chapters were clubbed into sections dedicated to a particular aspect of life- like profession, relationships, family, society etc. It could made it more user friendly.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Jolly Good LLB 2

I didn't watch the first part of Jolly LLB starring Arshad Warsi. But I've heard pretty good reviews of the movie. The second part was a bit controversial when the makers decided to cast Akshay as the lead and up the stakes. Fans of the first movie were pretty vocal about this decision, but Arshad decided to stand with the director.

I am not in a position to comment about the differences between them, but the second part is a good one time watch. It tackles a serious issue in a semi serious manner, satires the legal system in a healthy way without getting preachy and never loses focus. The story is nothing new or original. But the narration is thankfully devoid of clutter.

For a change Akshay never try to go overboard with comedy or action, even with ample opportunities present. That decision turned out to be a wise one. It is the supporting cast who does a great job. Even the minor ones deserve a pat on their backs. The moments to watch out happens between the judge, played by Saurabh Shukla and the opposite lawyer played by Annu Kapoor.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Manchester by the Sea : To Be Or Not To Be...

Manchester by the Sea is nominated for Oscars. I would love if it wins one for the best picture. Actually I would love if Silence wins, but as I told before, its the Blade Runner of 2016. And it's not even nominated. Coming back to Manchester By The Sea, I don't think it'll win the best picture award. It doesn't have any narrative gimmicks, no social realistic theme and not even an existential conflict. It just has a protagonist who let his chances of redemption pass. So the award jury too probably will give it a pass.

But that doesn't make it any lesser movie than the one that is going to end up winning it (La La Land?). It is a very personal story about a man who lost everything once and is not interested in rebuilding it. He passes all the chances of redemption that the life throws at his way. Casey Affleck shines in a career defining role and gets full support from a perfect script, the director and all the supporting cast.

All That Man Is by David Szalay: A Warm Portrayal of Male Psyche

All That Man Is is written by David Szalay and was short listed for Man Booker prize 2016. Though it is listed as a novel, it is actually a collection of nine stories with many recurring elements and themes. Basically it is a portrayal of manhood through specimens of nine European men of different ages and at diverse stages of life.

The book starts with the story about Simon, a young introvert British teenager, sightseeing in Berlin along with his friend. It ends with the story of his knighted grandfather Tony who is seventy three and recuperating from surgery. In between there are diverse stories about men of many ages and social status facing testing life situations where either love, money or in most cases both are at stake.

All the protagonists are invariably flawed men in humiliating circumstances, mostly of their own making. Some are indifferent, some are with bloated egos and most of them totally break down. The stories are pretty bleak, but told with a very mild dose of humor and with much sympathy. They are so realistic that they have the potential to be case studies of psychologists.

All nine stories feature their protagonists in international journeys- some of them holidays, some personal errands and some business trips. Invariably while they are in a foreign situation, they face an issue where a tough choice has to be taken which can affect their life. The stakes- sex, love, money, job, assets and ultimately life- build up as the age goes up. The book is an existential comedy.

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Friday, February 3, 2017

Hell Or High Water: Resurrection of Westerns

There's nothing new in Hell Or High Water, the Oscar nominated heist movie directed by David Mackenzie. It is essentially a western movie set in modern times, with many elements derived from great movies of yesterdays. Even the character of Jeff Bridges getting ready for his retirement after cracking a final case reminds you of Tommy Lee Jones from No Country For Old Man. The decadence, crazy bravado, casual violence, all the usual point outs of the genre are thrown at the viewer. There's even a cowboy-Indian duel albeit with words and in good spirits.

But none of this stands in the way of enjoying this well crafted, gritty character drama. The movie is shot picturesquely, with a pacy, razor sharp narration and specimens of wonderful acting. I loved the care given on the minute details that tells a lot about the setting and the characters. It also helped to do away with a lot of exposition.

The movie follows two brothers who team up with a plan to rescue their barn from loan shark banks by robbing them and two Rangers who are out to nab them. The heist plan is pretty basic, but interesting nevertheless when we review how it finally ties up all the loose ends. The violence is kept minimum, but once unleashed, gets effective and shocking. The movie plods to the climax with clockwork precision and every component of it works well within the whole. It's a must 'watch'.