Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Mahishmathi Bucket

2015. The entire nation wanted to know the answer to the one question which etched itself so deeply in the hearts of all, that hundreds of speculations were formed surrounding the biggest mystery ever - ‘katappa ne bahubali ko kyun mara?’

The 2017 sequel did not only provide with an answer, but also gave commercial bollywood a much needed lesson in the art of storytelling. The movie easily became a cult favourite and inspired merchandise, an animated tv series, and now even a show on Star Plus.

But the best form of art it could turn into was surely The Rise of Sivagami’. Authored by Anand Neelakanthan, it narrates the tale of the authoritative and ambitious queen of Mahishmathi, Sivagami, but at a time when she was just 17. The book traces the story of Sivagami, a girl orphaned because the State of Mahishmathi declared her father a traitor and killed him in one of the most inhuman ways ever. Having discovered an old book in a language which only a few know now, she has embarked on a treacherous journey with the single aim of destroying each of the royals of Mahishmathi. It also traces the journey of a 21 year old Katappa, when he is appointed as the slave of Bijjaladeva. His mindset, his relations with his younger brother, and his brainwashed sense of duty. But this is just a small part of the massive storyline.

While the original movies revolved around just 6 characters in the entire kingdom (well, happy realisation), the book has a lot more of them. It has a prime minister, other ministers, noblemen entitled to land (Bhoomipathi) and mines (Khanipathi), the royal harem with eunuchs gossiping around, a massive brothel which plays a huge role in the story, a tribe of people planning a coup for reasons I won’t spoil now, pirates indulging in human trade illegally with the nobility of Mahishmathi, and a group of women who valiantly try to save women and children from the pirates.

Opening to a thrilling start, the pace slows down a bit before rapidly accelerating, taking you along on a smooth coaster of words which describe detailed settings with scenes and characters intertwined so beautifully with the plot that one is just left addicted to the book after about only 3 quarters of a century of pages. Developed beautifully, each character has its own breath, its own ambitions, its own idiosyncrasies. All characters are way different from each other, which keeps you interested all through. Women are shown in a strong light throughout the book. They are strong and proud, they don’t succumb to men, they are authoritative and can fight for themselves if the situation demands so. Can’t really praise more about them without spoilers now. The eunuchs are shown as strong and influential, which actually used to be the case in kingdoms. Most of the men, being the nobility, are their usual egotist and haughty selves, but some are sunken deep in the ocean of servitude, and there also is Prince Mahadeva, who wants to be anything else but a prince.

Achi Nagamma and her army of women is worth a mention. Goosebumps arise at their entry point in the story. If you aren’t thrilled at the scene of their entry, then nothing in this world can thrill you. There are a lot of empowered women and men in the novel, but Achi Nagamma has a separate seat among them.

Overall, the book is worth a read. Brilliant character development is the origin of the fabulous river of a story which seamlessly flows through your mind, converting it from its bored barren self to a thrilled fertile region of addictive creativity. Being the first part of the trilogy, it ends at a cliffhanger too, making the wait for the second part seem to be a long and unbearable wait!

Jai Mahishmathi!

- Apurv Tiwari

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Pride Bucket

As much as I look forward to the holidays, I should also concede that this vacation was not as productive as I had set out to make it. Nevertheless, prodded by an article on the internet, I ended up binge-watching some really good LGBTQ+ movies. While all of them were appreciable, a few of them particularly stood out for me.


Pride poster.jpg

Released in 2014, this movie is based on the real-life incidents that happened in Wales in 1984. The movie chronicles the rise of the support group created by gay and lesbian activists, led by Mark Ashton, in order to support the miners striking against the Thatcher government. Aptly named Lesbians and Gays Support Miners (LGSM), the group takes up the challenge to back the orthodox miner community, risking the conservative government’s ire and the miners’ homophobic jibes while not being able to garner support from within their own community. Undaunted, they set about their task with equal parts fortitude and flamboyance.

At the heart of the film’s soul lies the way two groups, subject to ridicule by the government, eventually support each other and that is beautiful enough. To realize that this actually happened, thirty years ago, is unbelievable. The movie also contains a few subplots, most importantly the coming-of-age and coming out of Joe Cooper and Mark’s discovery that he is HIV +ve. All the members of the cast do an excellent job of bringing out the little vulnerabilities of the respective characters. For me though, the real star will remain the story and the message of hope and goodwill that it successfully passes on to the viewers.



It is difficult enough to be openly gay in a workplace that does not grant equal rights to queer people, and if that workplace turns out be public service in the 1970s in United States. The eponymous film, released in 2008, is based on the life of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California. Depicting his journey from being a closeted man who sought clandestine encounters to a vocal activist-politician who championed the cause of equal rights, this movie is one of the best biopics that I have seen. 

“I am Harvey Milk, and I am here to recruit you.” Armed with this refrain, tenacity and unflinching support of his close group, Milk manages to make a place for himself in the political discourse, not just in San Francisco or California, but throughout the nation. Harvey pays for all this, however, with not only the pain of breakdown of multiple relationships but eventually his life. The movie went on to win several awards and secured eight nominations at the Oscars and ended up winning two—Best Original Screenplay for Dustin Black and Best Actor (Male) for Sean Penn’s superb portrayal of the title character.

The Way He Looks

The Way He Looks (Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho) is a 2014 Brazilian movie based on the dynamics of friendship and love. In fact, the three leads of the movie had originally starred in a short film directed by the same director, and reprised their roles for this feature. The movie starts off by introducing the viewers to the characters—Leornado, the visually-impaired teenager, his childhood friend Giovana, and Gabriel, the new student. who soon become close friends and start spending a lot of time together.  Although it goes very well for them in the start, Giovana soon starts feeling jealous of Leornado giving Gabriel more attention than her.

The film explores how both the boys come to terms with their sexualities and feelings for each other while Giovana is still adjusting to the fact that she is no longer as close to Leornado as she once was. Despite the unusual characters and relationships, the movie retains the typical elements of the teen drama genre i.e. fights, drunken kisses and realizations. The three actors bring to life the emotions without making it look over-the-top. The movie also ended up introducing me to the foot-tapping music of Belle and Sebastian, for which I would be always grateful.

-Kumaresh Ramesh

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Two-in-One Bucket

1.)Freakonomics and 2.)Superfreakonomics

by Stephen J. Dubner and Steven Levitt

Review of Book 1
This book as the authors state is about nothing. The book has no apparent underlying theme and ranges from sumo wrestling in Japan to gangs and crimes in America to teachers helping their children cheat in tests. The authors have done some quality data collection and have consolidated it in a very reader friendly way so as to not scare away the potential reader while maintaining the beauty of the imbalances that lie in the real world and the way people perceive the real world. It's like a physicist discussing quantum physics with a bunch of high-schoolers; not getting too mathematical and yet conveying the beauty that beholds. A must read for everyone who wishes to be left in awe as his/her entire perception of the world changes drastically, much like the ending of Shawshank (except here the entire movie was the perception of world that you built).

Review of Book 2
(in the voice of honest trailers)...... Get ready for the sequel of the book that completely blows your mind off... ...SUPERFREAKONOMICS.......
(normal voice now) Get ready for some major trust issues when the authors tell you that the first book did have an underlying theme in the opening para. The second book is an even better written book as the authors take on more serious issues and prove unconventional points better than before as readers are left flabbergasted. Defending issues like wage gap and "global warming is not a real issue", the authors support their arguments fantastically with numbers so as to shut the biggest feminazis I've known once and for all. Not only does this book give you a fantastic flipside perspective just like the previous one, it might also give you a few points to argue supporting the male chauvinist in you. This book is the Dark Knight to the prequel that is Batman Begins. However if the first book wasn't motivation enough for you to read the second one I doubt this review will ever be.

-Nirbhay Wadiwala