Pain and more pain and even more pain. On the terrible doodle that Google India put up for MS Subbulakshmi:
There’s not a note of music or any indication of what an amazing woman she was, rather than that scribble of a non-descript little old woman. It’s a static, boring drawing that gives the viewer not even the slightest indication of the fantastic woman who broke through the barriers of convention and created such unforgettable music. Internationally, Google has created fantastic, dynamic doodles for so many foreign luminaries. They’ve been fun, inventive and wonderful odes to the people or occasions being celebrated. Is it too much to ask that Google India put a little more effort into the doodles they create?
But that was nothing compared to the awfulness that is the new television serial, The Mahabharat:
The least you’d expect from a TV show with a budget of Rs 100 crores is that it would look good. But the actors in Mahabharat are still wearing the same satin dhoti with tinsel borders and mukut made of cheap, spray-painted metal and rhinestones. The only difference between the look of this new Mahabharat and BR Chopra’s Mahabharat from the 1980s is that this time round, the men are more buff, the women bare more well-toned midriffs and the budget for jewellery is better. But bling can’t save the day, particularly when it’s adorning actors whose idea of expressing emotion is to hold their breath. Most of Mahabharat’s outdoor sequences look like they’ve been shot against a desktop wallpaper. I’d like to include a special slow clap for the geniuses who thought that it made complete sense to set a fishing village in the Himalayas. Also, a garland of chappals please for the bright spark who decided the south Indian temple dance of Bharatanatyam would be a neat fit as the court dance of the north Indian kingdom of Hastinapur.
The whole piece is here.
Fortunately, there is light at the end of this tunnel, in the shape of The Lunchbox.
Most people say that trashing something is easier and makes for more fun reading. As a writer, I have to disagree. I hate having to tear a film/book/work of art apart. When someone’s created something that’s crap, as a critic I must explain my argument for thinking it’s crap. It doesn’t mean that I’m not aware of the fact that however crappy, people have worked and invested in that work. But if you’re a critic, your job is to criticise (just as it is the artist’s job to articulate their vision with integrity). That means to note what’s awry and what’s working. It’s not a fun thing to do and it is certainly not a fun thing to have to read if you’re involved in the project. I’ve actually started dreading the latter half of the week because it invariably means writing reviews of films that I’ve sat through only because it’s my job to review the damned thing. I’m glad it entertains some and I confess, there are occasions when a work murders a subject so brutally that I take cruel pleasure in skewering it but those moments really are very few.
So it was nice to be able to finally be able to review a film I loved. Watch this film, if you can. Indie Wire thought it was one of the top 20 films at Toronto International Film Festival, it was screened to good reviews at Cannes… and for all this, it’s not a poncy or depressing film. It’s simple, and that’s its greatest charm.
There’s something timeless about The Lunchbox even though it’s set in the present. The trains, offices, dabbawallas, homes, cooking utensils – they’re all poignantly real. Debutant director Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox (he also wrote the film) is set in a familiar city, the one inhabited by the middle-class. There are no gangs or socialites here. Rather, it’s a labyrinth of relationships forged with trust and riddled by loneliness. Batra recreates Mumbai’s layer cake of solitude and solidarity exquisitely.
The full review is here.