Meera – Episode 2

First a background confession time: I am not a Chetan Bhagat fan; I read his first two novels but I found his writing style so abominably bland that it put me off forever. I reckon he is quite a hit with the youngsters; and that’s the audience the film wants to latch on to. That’s why his name is prominent on the posters, ambulance recipe with the blurbs also proclaiming ‘from makers of Rang De Basanti’ a supposedly ‘cult film’ (though for sure, buy UTV has produced many more since then).

(I made a lame half-hearted attempt at seeking Three Mistakes of My Life, cardiology on which this film is based, at the Amazon Kindle stores a few weeks ago, but since it’s not seemingly not available there, I left it).

I am also not too well-versed with Abhishek Kapoor’s sole directorial venture: Rock On, having missed it in theaters, and watched it in fragments on TV (I saw its biggest chunk just today when it was aired on some channel; and found it a fake film in intent: a true blue Hindi melodrama masquerading as something seemingly ‘different’)

So coming back to Kai Po Che – with no overt interest in any of its makers, and not knowing the plotline or the characters, I had a key advantage of approaching it with an open mind. I was so clueless about the basic plot that I had no inkling as to whose ‘three mistakes’ the title refers to – though the film doesn’t really help to spell it out clearly.

Kai Po Che is about three friends, two of whom (Govind & Ishaan) have clear cut ambitions, and the third (Omi) is quite a drifter. And it’s this drifter who gravitates towards something rather unfortunate and propels the plot to its murky denouement. While Govind is the narrator, and Omi leads it to its conclusion, it’s actually Ishaan who is the main hero, a live-wire energetic crackling character, the axis on which the film revolves. As are three important historical events: the Jan 26 Bhuj earthquake, India-Australia cricket series & the infamous Gujarat riots.

I believe the film does not faithfully stick to the book, which is good. From what I have read about the book’s plot, I feel the new end

Such bromance films have a set template: open with mild guitar strums to a montage of successful/doomed heroes, often separated, with their expressions shouting out that they have ‘the past’; start a journey and then recede into a flashback to reveal the real plot. KPC follows the template to the T.

Where it actually departs from the usual is the story’s main body. It’s not so much about their friendship and how it begins which is kind of given and assumed, as much as it is the disintegration of the same. We start with cracks already becoming visible. Govind is ‘pataoing’ Ishaan’s father for a cheque to start off a sports store; right then, Ishaan begins a fight with some unwanted suitor to his sister. The exasperated father who finds his son’s hotheadedness useless, calls off the deal. Blame game amongst the friend erupts.

At first the cracks are rapidly band-aided together ( replete with shots of them travelling off on a rather adventerous trip, jumping off old forts into the deep sea – a blend of Dil Chahta Hai and Rang De Basanti!).

However, as time turns into more serious events, the chasm just keeps widening. The events around them throw their friendship in a tumultuous spin, with every shifting fault lines and equations : e.g. one moment Govind is defending Ishaan’s anger in front of Omi, and the next he is mad at Ishaan for being reckless in squandering their meagre income. These kaleidoscopic shifts lend a multihued texture to the film.

Every character is well written, with their acts rooted in their persona, background and ambitions: for Govind, it’s his love for money and the desperate need to be a successful entrepeneur, even forging a shaky partnership with his two best friends in the sports shop; for Omi, the need to stick around with his friends, yet be indebted to his maternal uncle, who is a local politician and pays for their start up, though not without insidiously demanding his own pound of flesh; and Ishaan, with his passion for cricket, and the compulsion to prove that he can be successful in what he is good at and foisting his own dreams on Ali, the boy prodigy with herculean talent he has inadvertantly discovered- and the boy’s religion will play an important role!

The film’s pace is brilliantly fluid (and I always have to mention this). Abhishek Kapoor’s direction is extremely deft and mature. There are several quieter moments (for example, the romance between Govind and Ishaan’s little sister Vidya is sensitively played out). The screenplay is very well written garnished with believable dialogues, peppered with some Gujarati (just enough to set the milieu, without it getting uncomfortable for those who don’t grasp the language). The script involves the audience. Perhaps, it’s brightest point is the palpable climax, which sucks you in (and here, not knowing the story helped a big deal!). The two blows to Ishaan – learning about his sister’s affair with his best friend, and Omi’s crossover to the other side, is a tense filled moment. Crisp. Curt. Cutting.

The film left me a bit disturbed, with a sense of a deep void, and a personal loss.

Manipulative? Yes. But that’s the beauty of Hindi cinema, why would I not like it? I am sure many people will immediately junk that scene where the peeved father refuses to give his son ‘aashirwaad’ at the railway station and then just when the train is about to pull off relents and calls his son back for a big hug!

The cinematography is absolutely ravishing. Hitesh Sonik’s background score is adequate. Amit Trivedi’s music is sparse (just 3 songs, and all of them in the first half, with ‘Manja’ being the bestest, also repeated in the second half).

The weak moments? Not many. Perhaps a bit dry patches here and there, especially in the first half. And of course, at times the feeling – oh, this is so ‘new age cinema grammar’ and the overtly smugness as if to say ‘ see-this-is a quality product away from the 100-crore grosser-bad-ass-films-and-we-are-so-realistic’ (even though most of us wouldn’t have gone on such trips jumping off forts/cliffs ever; even the ‘straight six sixers’ by Ali, however much a prodigy he be, is a bit too much)

The film, like all good politically correct people, steers clear off the Godhra incident (fleetingly told via a news item) but dwells on the other riots, but thankfully stays neutral, makes no statements, and immediately zooms onto the micro world of the protagonists.

And now for the best thing in this film – the superlative performances. Amit Sadh as Omi is superb; and Raj Kumar Yadav (after the seedy, lusty Ragini MMS) is just pitch-perfect as the most responsible friend.

And Sushant Singh Rajput is absolutely a cracker – not many have been able to cross from TV to cinema (and for good reasons!) But Rajput surely is different – he has an awesome screen-presence, and perfectly nails it …Ishaan’s raw lean energy, his anger, his frustration, his enjoyment, his non-judgemental friendship, his convictions, make him immensely likeable despite all his flaws and quirks. A mindblowing debut!

Amrita Puri adds her own sweet charm – a deep anchor to both her brother and her boyfriend.

Overall – Do watch it!
First a background confession time: I am not a Chetan Bhagat fan; I read his first two novels but I found his writing style so abominably bland that it put me off forever. I reckon he is quite a hit with the youngsters; and that’s the audience the film wants to latch on to. That’s why his name is prominent on the posters, viagra approved with the blurbs also proclaiming ‘from makers of Rang De Basanti’ a supposedly ‘cult film’ (though for sure, discount UTV has produced many more since then).

(I made a lame half-hearted attempt at seeking Three Mistakes of My Life, denture on which this film is based, at the Amazon Kindle stores a few weeks ago, but since it’s not seemingly not available there, I left it).

I am also not too well-versed with Abhishek Kapoor’s sole directorial venture: Rock On, having missed it in theaters, and watched it in fragments on TV (I saw its biggest chunk just today when it was aired on some channel; and found it a fake film in intent: a true blue Hindi melodrama masquerading as something seemingly ‘different’)

So coming back to Kai Po Che – with no overt interest in any of its makers, and not knowing the plotline or the characters, I had a key advantage of approaching it with an open mind. I was so clueless about the basic plot that I had no inkling as to whose ‘three mistakes’ the title refers to – though the film doesn’t really help to spell it out clearly.

Kai Po Che is about three friends, two of whom (Govind & Ishaan) have clear cut ambitions, and the third (Omi) is quite a drifter. And it’s this drifter who gravitates towards something rather unfortunate and propels the plot to its murky denouement. While Govind is the narrator, and Omi leads it to its conclusion, it’s actually Ishaan who is the main hero, a live-wire energetic crackling character, the axis on which the film revolves. As are three important historical events: the Jan 26 Bhuj earthquake, India-Australia cricket series & the infamous Gujarat riots.

I believe the film does not faithfully stick to the book, which is good. From what I have read about the book’s plot, I feel the new ending is far superior,

Such bromance films have a set template: open with mild guitar strums to a montage of successful/doomed heroes, often separated, with their expressions shouting out that they have ‘the past’; start a journey and then recede into a flashback to reveal the real plot. KPC follows the template to the T.

Where it actually departs from the usual is the story’s main body. It’s not so much about their friendship and how it begins which is kind of given and assumed, as much as it is the disintegration of the same. We start with cracks already becoming visible. Govind is ‘pataoing’ Ishaan’s father for a cheque to start off a sports store; right then, Ishaan begins a fight with some unwanted suitor to his sister. The exasperated father who finds his son’s hotheadedness useless, calls off the deal. Blame game amongst the friend erupts.

At first the cracks are rapidly band-aided together ( replete with shots of them travelling off on a rather adventerous trip, jumping off old forts into the deep sea – a blend of Dil Chahta Hai and Rang De Basanti!).

However, as time turns into more serious events, the chasm just keeps widening. The events around them throw their friendship in a tumultuous spin, with every shifting fault lines and equations : e.g. one moment Govind is defending Ishaan’s anger in front of Omi, and the next he is mad at Ishaan for being reckless in squandering their meagre income. These kaleidoscopic shifts lend a multihued texture to the film.

Every character is well written, with their acts rooted in their persona, background and ambitions: for Govind, it’s his love for money and the desperate need to be a successful entrepeneur, even forging a shaky partnership with his two best friends in the sports shop; for Omi, the need to stick around with his friends, yet be indebted to his maternal uncle, who is a local politician and pays for their start up, though not without insidiously demanding his own pound of flesh; and Ishaan, with his passion for cricket, and the compulsion to prove that he can be successful in what he is good at and foisting his own dreams on Ali, the boy prodigy with herculean talent he has inadvertantly discovered- and the boy’s religion will play an important role!

The film’s pace is brilliantly fluid (and I always have to mention this). Abhishek Kapoor’s direction is extremely deft and mature. There are several quieter moments (for example, the romance between Govind and Ishaan’s little sister Vidya is sensitively played out). The screenplay is very well written garnished with believable dialogues, peppered with some Gujarati (just enough to set the milieu, without it getting uncomfortable for those who don’t grasp the language). The script involves the audience. Perhaps, it’s brightest point is the palpable climax, which sucks you in (and here, not knowing the story helped a big deal!). The two blows to Ishaan – learning about his sister’s affair with his best friend, and Omi’s crossover to the other side, is a tense filled moment. Crisp. Curt. Cutting.

The film left me a bit disturbed, with a sense of a deep void, and a personal loss.

Manipulative? Yes. But that’s the beauty of Hindi cinema, why would I not like it? I am sure many people will immediately junk that scene where the peeved father refuses to give his son ‘aashirwaad’ at the railway station and then just when the train is about to pull off relents and calls his son back for a big hug!

The cinematography is absolutely ravishing. Hitesh Sonik’s background score is adequate. Amit Trivedi’s music is sparse (just 3 songs, and all of them in the first half, with ‘Manja’ being the bestest, also repeated in the second half).

The weak moments? Not many. Perhaps a bit dry patches here and there, especially in the first half. And of course, at times the feeling – oh, this is so ‘new age cinema grammar’ and the overtly smugness as if to say ‘ see-this-is a quality product away from the 100-crore grosser-bad-ass-films-and-we-are-so-realistic’ (even though most of us wouldn’t have gone on such trips jumping off forts/cliffs ever; even the ‘straight six sixers’ by Ali, however much a prodigy he be, is a bit too much)

The film, like all good politically correct people, steers clear off the Godhra incident (fleetingly told via a news item) but dwells on the other riots, but thankfully stays neutral, makes no statements, and immediately zooms onto the micro world of the protagonists.

And now for the best thing in this film – the superlative performances. Amit Sadh as Omi is superb; and Raj Kumar Yadav (after the seedy, lusty Ragini MMS) is just pitch-perfect as the most responsible friend.

And Sushant Singh Rajput is absolutely a cracker – not many have been able to cross from TV to cinema (and for good reasons!) But Rajput surely is different – he has an awesome screen-presence, and perfectly nails it …Ishaan’s raw lean energy, his anger, his frustration, his enjoyment, his non-judgemental friendship, his convictions, make him immensely likeable despite all his flaws and quirks. A mindblowing debut!

Amrita Puri adds her own sweet charm – a deep anchor to both her brother and her boyfriend.

Overall – Do watch it!
First a background confession time: I am not a Chetan Bhagat fan; I read his first two novels but I found his writing style so abominably bland that it put me off forever. I reckon he is quite a hit with the youngsters; and that’s the audience the film wants to latch on to. That’s why his name is prominent on the posters, cardiologist with the blurbs also proclaiming ‘from makers of Rang De Basanti’ a supposedly ‘cult film’ (though for sure, cialis sale UTV has produced many more since then).

(I made a lame half-hearted attempt at seeking Three Mistakes of My Life, on which this film is based, at the Amazon Kindle stores a few weeks ago, but since it’s not seemingly not available there, I left it).

I am also not too well-versed with Abhishek Kapoor’s sole directorial venture: Rock On, having missed it in theaters, and watched it in fragments on TV (I saw its biggest chunk just today when it was aired on some channel; and found it a fake film in intent: a true blue Hindi melodrama masquerading as something seemingly ‘different’)

So coming back to Kai Po Che – with no overt interest in any of its makers, and not knowing the plotline or the characters, I had a key advantage of approaching it with an open mind. I was so clueless about the basic plot that I had no inkling as to whose ‘three mistakes’ the title refers to – though the film doesn’t really help to spell it out clearly.

Kai Po Che is about three friends, two of whom (Govind & Ishaan) have clear cut ambitions, and the third (Omi) is quite a drifter. And it’s this drifter who gravitates towards something rather unfortunate and propels the plot to its murky denouement. While Govind is the narrator, and Omi leads it to its conclusion, it’s actually Ishaan who is the main hero, a live-wire energetic crackling character, the axis on which the film revolves. As are three important historical events: the Jan 26 Bhuj earthquake, India-Australia cricket series & the infamous Gujarat riots.

I believe the film does not faithfully stick to the book, which is good. From what I have read about the book’s plot, I feel the new ending is far superior,

Such bromance films have a set template: open with mild guitar strums to a montage of successful/doomed heroes, often separated, with their expressions shouting out that they have ‘the past’; start a journey and then recede into a flashback to reveal the real plot. KPC follows the template to the T.

Where it actually departs from the usual is the story’s main body. It’s not so much about their friendship and how it begins which is kind of given and assumed, as much as it is the disintegration of the same. We start with cracks already becoming visible. Govind is ‘pataoing’ Ishaan’s father for a cheque to start off a sports store; right then, Ishaan begins a fight with some unwanted suitor to his sister. The exasperated father who finds his son’s hotheadedness useless, calls off the deal. Blame game amongst the friend erupts.

At first the cracks are rapidly band-aided together ( replete with shots of them travelling off on a rather adventerous trip, jumping off old forts into the deep sea – a blend of Dil Chahta Hai and Rang De Basanti!).

However, as time turns into more serious events, the chasm just keeps widening. The events around them throw their friendship in a tumultuous spin, with every shifting fault lines and equations : e.g. one moment Govind is defending Ishaan’s anger in front of Omi, and the next he is mad at Ishaan for being reckless in squandering their meagre income. These kaleidoscopic shifts lend a multihued texture to the film.

Every character is well written, with their acts rooted in their persona, background and ambitions: for Govind, it’s his love for money and the desperate need to be a successful entrepeneur, even forging a shaky partnership with his two best friends in the sports shop; for Omi, the need to stick around with his friends, yet be indebted to his maternal uncle, who is a local politician and pays for their start up, though not without insidiously demanding his own pound of flesh; and Ishaan, with his passion for cricket, and the compulsion to prove that he can be successful in what he is good at and foisting his own dreams on Ali, the boy prodigy with herculean talent he has inadvertantly discovered- and the boy’s religion will play an important role!

The film’s pace is brilliantly fluid (and I always have to mention this). Abhishek Kapoor’s direction is extremely deft and mature. There are several quieter moments (for example, the romance between Govind and Ishaan’s little sister Vidya is sensitively played out). The screenplay is very well written garnished with believable dialogues, peppered with some Gujarati (just enough to set the milieu, without it getting uncomfortable for those who don’t grasp the language). The script involves the audience. Perhaps, it’s brightest point is the palpable climax, which sucks you in (and here, not knowing the story helped a big deal!). The two blows to Ishaan – learning about his sister’s affair with his best friend, and Omi’s crossover to the other side, is a tense filled moment. Crisp. Curt. Cutting.

The film left me a bit disturbed, with a sense of a deep void, and a personal loss.

Manipulative? Yes. But that’s the beauty of Hindi cinema, why would I not like it? I am sure many people will immediately junk that scene where the peeved father refuses to give his son ‘aashirwaad’ at the railway station and then just when the train is about to pull off relents and calls his son back for a big hug!

The cinematography is absolutely ravishing. Hitesh Sonik’s background score is adequate. Amit Trivedi’s music is sparse (just 3 songs, and all of them in the first half, with ‘Manja’ being the bestest, also repeated in the second half).

The weak moments? Not many. Perhaps a bit dry patches here and there, especially in the first half. And of course, at times the feeling – oh, this is so ‘new age cinema grammar’ and the overtly smugness as if to say ‘ see-this-is a quality product away from the 100-crore grosser-bad-ass-films-and-we-are-so-realistic’ (even though most of us wouldn’t have gone on such trips jumping off forts/cliffs ever; even the ‘straight six sixers’ by Ali, however much a prodigy he be, is a bit too much)

The film, like all good politically correct people, steers clear off the Godhra incident (fleetingly told via a news item) but dwells on the other riots, but thankfully stays neutral, makes no statements, and immediately zooms onto the micro world of the protagonists.

And now for the best thing in this film – the superlative performances. Amit Sadh as Omi is superb; and Raj Kumar Yadav (after the seedy, lusty Ragini MMS) is just pitch-perfect as the most responsible friend.

And Sushant Singh Rajput is absolutely a cracker – not many have been able to cross from TV to cinema (and for good reasons!) But Rajput surely is different – he has an awesome screen-presence, and perfectly nails it …Ishaan’s raw lean energy, his anger, his frustration, his enjoyment, his non-judgemental friendship, his convictions, make him immensely likeable despite all his flaws and quirks. A mindblowing debut!

Amrita Puri adds her own sweet charm – a deep anchor to both her brother and her boyfriend.

Overall – Do watch it!
First a background confession time: I am not a Chetan Bhagat fan; I read his first two novels but I found his writing style so abominably bland that it put me off forever. I reckon he is quite a hit with the youngsters; and that’s the audience the film wants to latch on to. That’s why his name is prominent on the posters, allergy with the blurbs also proclaiming ‘from makers of Rang De Basanti’ a supposedly ‘cult film’ (though for sure, UTV has produced many more since then).

(I made a lame half-hearted attempt at seeking Three Mistakes of My Life, on which this film is based, at the Amazon Kindle stores a few weeks ago, but since it’s not seemingly not available there, I left it).

I am also not too well-versed with Abhishek Kapoor’s sole directorial venture: Rock On, having missed it in theaters, and watched it in fragments on TV (I saw its biggest chunk just today when it was aired on some channel; and found it a fake film in intent: a true blue Hindi melodrama masquerading as something seemingly ‘different’)

So coming back to Kai Po Che – with no overt interest in any of its makers, and not knowing the plotline or the characters, I had a key advantage of approaching it with an open mind. I was so clueless about the basic plot that I had no inkling as to whose ‘three mistakes’ the title refers to – though the film doesn’t really help to spell it out clearly.

Kai Po Che is about three friends, two of whom (Govind & Ishaan) have clear cut ambitions, and the third (Omi) is quite a drifter. And it’s this drifter who gravitates towards something rather unfortunate and propels the plot to its murky denouement. While Govind is the narrator, and Omi leads it to its conclusion, it’s actually Ishaan who is the main hero, a live-wire energetic crackling character, the axis on which the film revolves. As are three important historical events: the Jan 26 Bhuj earthquake, India-Australia cricket series & the infamous Gujarat riots.

I believe the film does not faithfully stick to the book, which is good. From what I have read about the book’s plot, I feel the new ending is far superior in underlying the

Such bromance films have a set template: open with mild guitar strums to a montage of successful/doomed heroes, often separated, with their expressions shouting out that they have ‘the past’; start a journey and then recede into a flashback to reveal the real plot. KPC follows the template to the T.

Where it actually departs from the usual is the story’s main body. It’s not so much about their friendship and how it begins which is kind of given and assumed, as much as it is the disintegration of the same. We start with cracks already becoming visible. Govind is ‘pataoing’ Ishaan’s father for a cheque to start off a sports store; right then, Ishaan begins a fight with some unwanted suitor to his sister. The exasperated father who finds his son’s hotheadedness useless, calls off the deal. Blame game amongst the friend erupts.

At first the cracks are rapidly band-aided together ( replete with shots of them travelling off on a rather adventerous trip, jumping off old forts into the deep sea – a blend of Dil Chahta Hai and Rang De Basanti!).

However, as time turns into more serious events, the chasm just keeps widening. The events around them throw their friendship in a tumultuous spin, with every shifting fault lines and equations : e.g. one moment Govind is defending Ishaan’s anger in front of Omi, and the next he is mad at Ishaan for being reckless in squandering their meagre income. These kaleidoscopic shifts lend a multihued texture to the film.

Every character is well written, with their acts rooted in their persona, background and ambitions: for Govind, it’s his love for money and the desperate need to be a successful entrepeneur, even forging a shaky partnership with his two best friends in the sports shop; for Omi, the need to stick around with his friends, yet be indebted to his maternal uncle, who is a local politician and pays for their start up, though not without insidiously demanding his own pound of flesh; and Ishaan, with his passion for cricket, and the compulsion to prove that he can be successful in what he is good at and foisting his own dreams on Ali, the boy prodigy with herculean talent he has inadvertantly discovered- and the boy’s religion will play an important role!

The film’s pace is brilliantly fluid (and I always have to mention this). Abhishek Kapoor’s direction is extremely deft and mature. There are several quieter moments (for example, the romance between Govind and Ishaan’s little sister Vidya is sensitively played out). The screenplay is very well written garnished with believable dialogues, peppered with some Gujarati (just enough to set the milieu, without it getting uncomfortable for those who don’t grasp the language). The script involves the audience. Perhaps, it’s brightest point is the palpable climax, which sucks you in (and here, not knowing the story helped a big deal!). The two blows to Ishaan – learning about his sister’s affair with his best friend, and Omi’s crossover to the other side, is a tense filled moment. Crisp. Curt. Cutting.

The film left me a bit disturbed, with a sense of a deep void, and a personal loss.

Manipulative? Yes. But that’s the beauty of Hindi cinema, why would I not like it? I am sure many people will immediately junk that scene where the peeved father refuses to give his son ‘aashirwaad’ at the railway station and then just when the train is about to pull off relents and calls his son back for a big hug!

The cinematography is absolutely ravishing. Hitesh Sonik’s background score is adequate. Amit Trivedi’s music is sparse (just 3 songs, and all of them in the first half, with ‘Manja’ being the bestest, also repeated in the second half).

The weak moments? Not many. Perhaps a bit dry patches here and there, especially in the first half. And of course, at times the feeling – oh, this is so ‘new age cinema grammar’ and the overtly smugness as if to say ‘ see-this-is a quality product away from the 100-crore grosser-bad-ass-films-and-we-are-so-realistic’ (even though most of us wouldn’t have gone on such trips jumping off forts/cliffs ever; even the ‘straight six sixers’ by Ali, however much a prodigy he be, is a bit too much)

The film, like all good politically correct people, steers clear off the Godhra incident (fleetingly told via a news item) but dwells on the other riots, but thankfully stays neutral, makes no statements, and immediately zooms onto the micro world of the protagonists.

And now for the best thing in this film – the superlative performances. Amit Sadh as Omi is superb; and Raj Kumar Yadav (after the seedy, lusty Ragini MMS) is just pitch-perfect as the most responsible friend.

And Sushant Singh Rajput is absolutely a cracker – not many have been able to cross from TV to cinema (and for good reasons!) But Rajput surely is different – he has an awesome screen-presence, and perfectly nails it …Ishaan’s raw lean energy, his anger, his frustration, his enjoyment, his non-judgemental friendship, his convictions, make him immensely likeable despite all his flaws and quirks. A mindblowing debut!

Amrita Puri adds her own sweet charm – a deep anchor to both her brother and her boyfriend.

Overall – Do watch it!
First a background confession time: I am not a Chetan Bhagat fan; I read his first two novels but I found his writing style so abominably bland that it put me off forever. I reckon he is quite a hit with the youngsters; and that’s the audience the film wants to latch on to. That’s why his name is prominent on the posters, and with the blurbs also proclaiming ‘from makers of Rang De Basanti’ a supposedly ‘cult film’ (though for sure, sale UTV has produced many more since then).

(I made a lame half-hearted attempt at seeking Three Mistakes of My Life, on which this film is based, at the Amazon Kindle stores a few weeks ago, but since it’s not seemingly not available there, I left it).

I am also not too well-versed with Abhishek Kapoor’s sole directorial venture: Rock On, having missed it in theaters, and watched it in fragments on TV (I saw its biggest chunk just today when it was aired on some channel; and found it a fake film in intent: a true blue Hindi melodrama masquerading as something seemingly ‘different’)

So coming back to Kai Po Che – with no overt interest in any of its makers, and not knowing the plotline or the characters, I had a key advantage of approaching it with an open mind. I was so clueless about the basic plot that I had no inkling as to whose ‘three mistakes’ the title refers to – though the film doesn’t really help to spell it out clearly.

Kai Po Che is about three friends, two of whom (Govind & Ishaan) have clear cut ambitions, and the third (Omi) is quite a drifter. And it’s this drifter who gravitates towards something rather unfortunate and propels the plot to its murky denouement. While Govind is the narrator, and Omi leads it to its conclusion, it’s actually Ishaan who is the main hero, a live-wire energetic crackling character, the axis on which the film revolves. As are three important historical events: the Jan 26 Bhuj earthquake, India-Australia cricket series & the infamous Gujarat riots.

I believe the film does not faithfully stick to the book, which is good. From what I have read about the book’s plot, I feel the new ending is far superior in underlying the overall senselessness

Such bromance films have a set template: open with mild guitar strums to a montage of successful/doomed heroes, often separated, with their expressions shouting out that they have ‘the past’; start a journey and then recede into a flashback to reveal the real plot. KPC follows the template to the T.

Where it actually departs from the usual is the story’s main body. It’s not so much about their friendship and how it begins which is kind of given and assumed, as much as it is the disintegration of the same. We start with cracks already becoming visible. Govind is ‘pataoing’ Ishaan’s father for a cheque to start off a sports store; right then, Ishaan begins a fight with some unwanted suitor to his sister. The exasperated father who finds his son’s hotheadedness useless, calls off the deal. Blame game amongst the friend erupts.

At first the cracks are rapidly band-aided together ( replete with shots of them travelling off on a rather adventerous trip, jumping off old forts into the deep sea – a blend of Dil Chahta Hai and Rang De Basanti!).

However, as time turns into more serious events, the chasm just keeps widening. The events around them throw their friendship in a tumultuous spin, with every shifting fault lines and equations : e.g. one moment Govind is defending Ishaan’s anger in front of Omi, and the next he is mad at Ishaan for being reckless in squandering their meagre income. These kaleidoscopic shifts lend a multihued texture to the film.

Every character is well written, with their acts rooted in their persona, background and ambitions: for Govind, it’s his love for money and the desperate need to be a successful entrepeneur, even forging a shaky partnership with his two best friends in the sports shop; for Omi, the need to stick around with his friends, yet be indebted to his maternal uncle, who is a local politician and pays for their start up, though not without insidiously demanding his own pound of flesh; and Ishaan, with his passion for cricket, and the compulsion to prove that he can be successful in what he is good at and foisting his own dreams on Ali, the boy prodigy with herculean talent he has inadvertantly discovered- and the boy’s religion will play an important role!

The film’s pace is brilliantly fluid (and I always have to mention this). Abhishek Kapoor’s direction is extremely deft and mature. There are several quieter moments (for example, the romance between Govind and Ishaan’s little sister Vidya is sensitively played out). The screenplay is very well written garnished with believable dialogues, peppered with some Gujarati (just enough to set the milieu, without it getting uncomfortable for those who don’t grasp the language). The script involves the audience. Perhaps, it’s brightest point is the palpable climax, which sucks you in (and here, not knowing the story helped a big deal!). The two blows to Ishaan – learning about his sister’s affair with his best friend, and Omi’s crossover to the other side, is a tense filled moment. Crisp. Curt. Cutting.

The film left me a bit disturbed, with a sense of a deep void, and a personal loss.

Manipulative? Yes. But that’s the beauty of Hindi cinema, why would I not like it? I am sure many people will immediately junk that scene where the peeved father refuses to give his son ‘aashirwaad’ at the railway station and then just when the train is about to pull off relents and calls his son back for a big hug!

The cinematography is absolutely ravishing. Hitesh Sonik’s background score is adequate. Amit Trivedi’s music is sparse (just 3 songs, and all of them in the first half, with ‘Manja’ being the bestest, also repeated in the second half).

The weak moments? Not many. Perhaps a bit dry patches here and there, especially in the first half. And of course, at times the feeling – oh, this is so ‘new age cinema grammar’ and the overtly smugness as if to say ‘ see-this-is a quality product away from the 100-crore grosser-bad-ass-films-and-we-are-so-realistic’ (even though most of us wouldn’t have gone on such trips jumping off forts/cliffs ever; even the ‘straight six sixers’ by Ali, however much a prodigy he be, is a bit too much)

The film, like all good politically correct people, steers clear off the Godhra incident (fleetingly told via a news item) but dwells on the other riots, but thankfully stays neutral, makes no statements, and immediately zooms onto the micro world of the protagonists.

And now for the best thing in this film – the superlative performances. Amit Sadh as Omi is superb; and Raj Kumar Yadav (after the seedy, lusty Ragini MMS) is just pitch-perfect as the most responsible friend.

And Sushant Singh Rajput is absolutely a cracker – not many have been able to cross from TV to cinema (and for good reasons!) But Rajput surely is different – he has an awesome screen-presence, and perfectly nails it …Ishaan’s raw lean energy, his anger, his frustration, his enjoyment, his non-judgemental friendship, his convictions, make him immensely likeable despite all his flaws and quirks. A mindblowing debut!

Amrita Puri adds her own sweet charm – a deep anchor to both her brother and her boyfriend.

Overall – Do watch it!
First a background confession time: I am not a Chetan Bhagat fan; I read his first two novels but I found his writing style so abominably bland that it put me off forever. I reckon he is quite a hit with the youngsters; and that’s the audience the film wants to latch on to. That’s why his name is prominent on the posters, bronchi with the blurbs also proclaiming ‘from makers of Rang De Basanti’ a supposedly ‘cult film’ (though for sure, UTV has produced many more since then).

(I made a lame half-hearted attempt at seeking Three Mistakes of My Life, on which this film is based, at the Amazon Kindle stores a few weeks ago, but since it’s not seemingly not available there, I left it).

I am also not too well-versed with Abhishek Kapoor’s sole directorial venture: Rock On, having missed it in theaters, and watched it in fragments on TV (I saw its biggest chunk just today when it was aired on some channel; and found it a fake film in intent: a true blue Hindi melodrama masquerading as something seemingly ‘different’)

So coming back to Kai Po Che – with no overt interest in any of its makers, and not knowing the plotline or the characters, I had a key advantage of approaching it with an open mind. I was so clueless about the basic plot that I had no inkling as to whose ‘three mistakes’ the title refers to – though the film doesn’t really help to spell it out clearly.

Kai Po Che is about three friends, two of whom (Govind & Ishaan) have clear cut ambitions, and the third (Omi) is quite a drifter. And it’s this drifter who gravitates towards something rather unfortunate and propels the plot to its murky denouement. While Govind is the narrator, and Omi leads it to its conclusion, it’s actually Ishaan who is the main hero, a live-wire energetic crackling character, the axis on which the film revolves. As are three important historical events: the Jan 26 Bhuj earthquake, India-Australia cricket series & the infamous Gujarat riots.

I believe the film does not faithfully stick to the book, which is good. From what I have read about the book’s plot, I feel the new ending is far superior in underlying the overall senselessness of all that happened

Such bromance films have a set template: open with mild guitar strums to a montage of successful/doomed heroes, often separated, with their expressions shouting out that they have ‘the past’; start a journey and then recede into a flashback to reveal the real plot. KPC follows the template to the T.

Where it actually departs from the usual is the story’s main body. It’s not so much about their friendship and how it begins which is kind of given and assumed, as much as it is the disintegration of the same. We start with cracks already becoming visible. Govind is ‘pataoing’ Ishaan’s father for a cheque to start off a sports store; right then, Ishaan begins a fight with some unwanted suitor to his sister. The exasperated father who finds his son’s hotheadedness useless, calls off the deal. Blame game amongst the friend erupts.

At first the cracks are rapidly band-aided together ( replete with shots of them travelling off on a rather adventerous trip, jumping off old forts into the deep sea – a blend of Dil Chahta Hai and Rang De Basanti!).

However, as time turns into more serious events, the chasm just keeps widening. The events around them throw their friendship in a tumultuous spin, with every shifting fault lines and equations : e.g. one moment Govind is defending Ishaan’s anger in front of Omi, and the next he is mad at Ishaan for being reckless in squandering their meagre income. These kaleidoscopic shifts lend a multihued texture to the film.

Every character is well written, with their acts rooted in their persona, background and ambitions: for Govind, it’s his love for money and the desperate need to be a successful entrepeneur, even forging a shaky partnership with his two best friends in the sports shop; for Omi, the need to stick around with his friends, yet be indebted to his maternal uncle, who is a local politician and pays for their start up, though not without insidiously demanding his own pound of flesh; and Ishaan, with his passion for cricket, and the compulsion to prove that he can be successful in what he is good at and foisting his own dreams on Ali, the boy prodigy with herculean talent he has inadvertantly discovered- and the boy’s religion will play an important role!

The film’s pace is brilliantly fluid (and I always have to mention this). Abhishek Kapoor’s direction is extremely deft and mature. There are several quieter moments (for example, the romance between Govind and Ishaan’s little sister Vidya is sensitively played out). The screenplay is very well written garnished with believable dialogues, peppered with some Gujarati (just enough to set the milieu, without it getting uncomfortable for those who don’t grasp the language). The script involves the audience. Perhaps, it’s brightest point is the palpable climax, which sucks you in (and here, not knowing the story helped a big deal!). The two blows to Ishaan – learning about his sister’s affair with his best friend, and Omi’s crossover to the other side, is a tense filled moment. Crisp. Curt. Cutting.

The film left me a bit disturbed, with a sense of a deep void, and a personal loss.

Manipulative? Yes. But that’s the beauty of Hindi cinema, why would I not like it? I am sure many people will immediately junk that scene where the peeved father refuses to give his son ‘aashirwaad’ at the railway station and then just when the train is about to pull off relents and calls his son back for a big hug!

The cinematography is absolutely ravishing. Hitesh Sonik’s background score is adequate. Amit Trivedi’s music is sparse (just 3 songs, and all of them in the first half, with ‘Manja’ being the bestest, also repeated in the second half).

The weak moments? Not many. Perhaps a bit dry patches here and there, especially in the first half. And of course, at times the feeling – oh, this is so ‘new age cinema grammar’ and the overtly smugness as if to say ‘ see-this-is a quality product away from the 100-crore grosser-bad-ass-films-and-we-are-so-realistic’ (even though most of us wouldn’t have gone on such trips jumping off forts/cliffs ever; even the ‘straight six sixers’ by Ali, however much a prodigy he be, is a bit too much)

The film, like all good politically correct people, steers clear off the Godhra incident (fleetingly told via a news item) but dwells on the other riots, but thankfully stays neutral, makes no statements, and immediately zooms onto the micro world of the protagonists.

And now for the best thing in this film – the superlative performances. Amit Sadh as Omi is superb; and Raj Kumar Yadav (after the seedy, lusty Ragini MMS) is just pitch-perfect as the most responsible friend.

And Sushant Singh Rajput is absolutely a cracker – not many have been able to cross from TV to cinema (and for good reasons!) But Rajput surely is different – he has an awesome screen-presence, and perfectly nails it …Ishaan’s raw lean energy, his anger, his frustration, his enjoyment, his non-judgemental friendship, his convictions, make him immensely likeable despite all his flaws and quirks. A mindblowing debut!

Amrita Puri adds her own sweet charm – a deep anchor to both her brother and her boyfriend.

Overall – Do watch it!
First a background confession time: I am not a Chetan Bhagat fan; I read his first two novels but I found his writing style so abominably bland that it put me off forever. I reckon he is quite a hit with the youngsters; and that’s the audience the film wants to latch on to. That’s why his name is prominent on the posters, implant with the blurbs also proclaiming ‘from makers of Rang De Basanti’ a supposedly ‘cult film’ (though for sure, UTV has produced many more since then).

(I made a lame half-hearted attempt at seeking Three Mistakes of My Life, on which this film is based, at the Amazon Kindle stores a few weeks ago, but since it’s not seemingly not available there, I left it).

I am also not too well-versed with Abhishek Kapoor’s sole directorial venture: Rock On, having missed it in theaters, and watched it in fragments on TV (I saw its biggest chunk just today when it was aired on some channel; and found it a fake film in intent: a true blue Hindi melodrama masquerading as something seemingly ‘different’)

So coming back to Kai Po Che – with no overt interest in any of its makers, and not knowing the plotline or the characters, I had a key advantage of approaching it with an open mind. I was so clueless about the basic plot that I had no inkling as to whose ‘three mistakes’ the title refers to – though the film doesn’t really help to spell it out clearly.

Kai Po Che is about three friends, two of whom (Govind & Ishaan) have clear cut ambitions, and the third (Omi) is quite a drifter. And it’s this drifter who gravitates towards something rather unfortunate and propels the plot to its murky denouement. While Govind is the narrator, and Omi leads it to its conclusion, it’s actually Ishaan who is the main hero, a live-wire energetic crackling character, the axis on which the film revolves. As are three important historical events: the Jan 26 Bhuj earthquake, India-Australia cricket series & the infamous Gujarat riots.

I believe the film does not faithfully stick to the book, which is good. From what I have read about the book’s plot, I feel the new ending is far superior in underlying the overall senselessness of all that happened in those two fateful

Such bromance films have a set template: open with mild guitar strums to a montage of successful/doomed heroes, often separated, with their expressions shouting out that they have ‘the past’; start a journey and then recede into a flashback to reveal the real plot. KPC follows the template to the T.

Where it actually departs from the usual is the story’s main body. It’s not so much about their friendship and how it begins which is kind of given and assumed, as much as it is the disintegration of the same. We start with cracks already becoming visible. Govind is ‘pataoing’ Ishaan’s father for a cheque to start off a sports store; right then, Ishaan begins a fight with some unwanted suitor to his sister. The exasperated father who finds his son’s hotheadedness useless, calls off the deal. Blame game amongst the friend erupts.

At first the cracks are rapidly band-aided together ( replete with shots of them travelling off on a rather adventerous trip, jumping off old forts into the deep sea – a blend of Dil Chahta Hai and Rang De Basanti!).

However, as time turns into more serious events, the chasm just keeps widening. The events around them throw their friendship in a tumultuous spin, with every shifting fault lines and equations : e.g. one moment Govind is defending Ishaan’s anger in front of Omi, and the next he is mad at Ishaan for being reckless in squandering their meagre income. These kaleidoscopic shifts lend a multihued texture to the film.

Every character is well written, with their acts rooted in their persona, background and ambitions: for Govind, it’s his love for money and the desperate need to be a successful entrepeneur, even forging a shaky partnership with his two best friends in the sports shop; for Omi, the need to stick around with his friends, yet be indebted to his maternal uncle, who is a local politician and pays for their start up, though not without insidiously demanding his own pound of flesh; and Ishaan, with his passion for cricket, and the compulsion to prove that he can be successful in what he is good at and foisting his own dreams on Ali, the boy prodigy with herculean talent he has inadvertantly discovered- and the boy’s religion will play an important role!

The film’s pace is brilliantly fluid (and I always have to mention this). Abhishek Kapoor’s direction is extremely deft and mature. There are several quieter moments (for example, the romance between Govind and Ishaan’s little sister Vidya is sensitively played out). The screenplay is very well written garnished with believable dialogues, peppered with some Gujarati (just enough to set the milieu, without it getting uncomfortable for those who don’t grasp the language). The script involves the audience. Perhaps, it’s brightest point is the palpable climax, which sucks you in (and here, not knowing the story helped a big deal!). The two blows to Ishaan – learning about his sister’s affair with his best friend, and Omi’s crossover to the other side, is a tense filled moment. Crisp. Curt. Cutting.

The film left me a bit disturbed, with a sense of a deep void, and a personal loss.

Manipulative? Yes. But that’s the beauty of Hindi cinema, why would I not like it? I am sure many people will immediately junk that scene where the peeved father refuses to give his son ‘aashirwaad’ at the railway station and then just when the train is about to pull off relents and calls his son back for a big hug!

The cinematography is absolutely ravishing. Hitesh Sonik’s background score is adequate. Amit Trivedi’s music is sparse (just 3 songs, and all of them in the first half, with ‘Manja’ being the bestest, also repeated in the second half).

The weak moments? Not many. Perhaps a bit dry patches here and there, especially in the first half. And of course, at times the feeling – oh, this is so ‘new age cinema grammar’ and the overtly smugness as if to say ‘ see-this-is a quality product away from the 100-crore grosser-bad-ass-films-and-we-are-so-realistic’ (even though most of us wouldn’t have gone on such trips jumping off forts/cliffs ever; even the ‘straight six sixers’ by Ali, however much a prodigy he be, is a bit too much)

The film, like all good politically correct people, steers clear off the Godhra incident (fleetingly told via a news item) but dwells on the other riots, but thankfully stays neutral, makes no statements, and immediately zooms onto the micro world of the protagonists.

And now for the best thing in this film – the superlative performances. Amit Sadh as Omi is superb; and Raj Kumar Yadav (after the seedy, lusty Ragini MMS) is just pitch-perfect as the most responsible friend.

And Sushant Singh Rajput is absolutely a cracker – not many have been able to cross from TV to cinema (and for good reasons!) But Rajput surely is different – he has an awesome screen-presence, and perfectly nails it …Ishaan’s raw lean energy, his anger, his frustration, his enjoyment, his non-judgemental friendship, his convictions, make him immensely likeable despite all his flaws and quirks. A mindblowing debut!

Amrita Puri adds her own sweet charm – a deep anchor to both her brother and her boyfriend.

Overall – Do watch it!
First a background confession time: I am not a Chetan Bhagat fan; I read his first two novels but I found his writing style so abominably bland that it put me off forever. I reckon he is quite a hit with the youngsters; and that’s the audience the film wants to latch on to. That’s why his name is prominent on the posters, side effects with the blurbs also proclaiming ‘from makers of Rang De Basanti’ a supposedly ‘cult film’ (though for sure, dysentery UTV has produced many more since then).

(I made a lame half-hearted attempt at seeking Three Mistakes of My Life, on which this film is based, at the Amazon Kindle stores a few weeks ago, but since it’s not seemingly not available there, I left it).

I am also not too well-versed with Abhishek Kapoor’s sole directorial venture: Rock On, having missed it in theaters, and watched it in fragments on TV (I saw its biggest chunk just today when it was aired on some channel; and found it a fake film in intent: a true blue Hindi melodrama masquerading as something seemingly ‘different’)

So coming back to Kai Po Che – with no overt interest in any of its makers, and not knowing the plotline or the characters, I had a key advantage of approaching it with an open mind. I was so clueless about the basic plot that I had no inkling as to whose ‘three mistakes’ the title refers to – though the film doesn’t really help to spell it out clearly.

Kai Po Che is about three friends, two of whom (Govind & Ishaan) have clear cut ambitions, and the third (Omi) is quite a drifter. And it’s this drifter who gravitates towards something rather unfortunate and propels the plot to its murky denouement. While Govind is the narrator, and Omi leads it to its conclusion, it’s actually Ishaan who is the main hero, a live-wire energetic crackling character, the axis on which the film revolves. As are three important historical events: the Jan 26 Bhuj earthquake, India-Australia cricket series & the infamous Gujarat riots.

I believe the film does not faithfully stick to the book, which is good. From what I have read about the book’s plot, I feel the new ending is far superior in underlying the overall senselessness of all that happened in those two fateful

Such bromance films have a set template: open with mild guitar strums to a montage of successful/doomed heroes, often separated, with their expressions shouting out that they have ‘the past’; start a journey and then recede into a flashback to reveal the real plot. KPC follows the template to the T.

Where it actually departs from the usual is the story’s main body. It’s not so much about their friendship and how it begins which is kind of given and assumed, as much as it is the disintegration of the same. We start with cracks already becoming visible. Govind is ‘pataoing’ Ishaan’s father for a cheque to start off a sports store; right then, Ishaan begins a fight with some unwanted suitor to his sister. The exasperated father who finds his son’s hotheadedness useless, calls off the deal. Blame game amongst the friend erupts.

At first the cracks are rapidly band-aided together ( replete with shots of them travelling off on a rather adventerous trip, jumping off old forts into the deep sea – a blend of Dil Chahta Hai and Rang De Basanti!).

However, as time turns into more serious events, the chasm just keeps widening. The events around them throw their friendship in a tumultuous spin, with every shifting fault lines and equations : e.g. one moment Govind is defending Ishaan’s anger in front of Omi, and the next he is mad at Ishaan for being reckless in squandering their meagre income. These kaleidoscopic shifts lend a multihued texture to the film.

Every character is well written, with their acts rooted in their persona, background and ambitions: for Govind, it’s his love for money and the desperate need to be a successful entrepeneur, even forging a shaky partnership with his two best friends in the sports shop; for Omi, the need to stick around with his friends, yet be indebted to his maternal uncle, who is a local politician and pays for their start up, though not without insidiously demanding his own pound of flesh; and Ishaan, with his passion for cricket, and the compulsion to prove that he can be successful in what he is good at and foisting his own dreams on Ali, the boy prodigy with herculean talent he has inadvertantly discovered- and the boy’s religion will play an important role!

The film’s pace is brilliantly fluid (and I always have to mention this). Abhishek Kapoor’s direction is extremely deft and mature. There are several quieter moments (for example, the romance between Govind and Ishaan’s little sister Vidya is sensitively played out). The screenplay is very well written garnished with believable dialogues, peppered with some Gujarati (just enough to set the milieu, without it getting uncomfortable for those who don’t grasp the language). The script involves the audience. Perhaps, it’s brightest point is the palpable climax, which sucks you in (and here, not knowing the story helped a big deal!). The two blows to Ishaan – learning about his sister’s affair with his best friend, and Omi’s crossover to the other side, is a tense filled moment. Crisp. Curt. Cutting.

The film left me a bit disturbed, with a sense of a deep void, and a personal loss.

Manipulative? Yes. But that’s the beauty of Hindi cinema, why would I not like it? I am sure many people will immediately junk that scene where the peeved father refuses to give his son ‘aashirwaad’ at the railway station and then just when the train is about to pull off relents and calls his son back for a big hug!

The cinematography is absolutely ravishing. Hitesh Sonik’s background score is adequate. Amit Trivedi’s music is sparse (just 3 songs, and all of them in the first half, with ‘Manja’ being the bestest, also repeated in the second half).

The weak moments? Not many. Perhaps a bit dry patches here and there, especially in the first half. And of course, at times the feeling – oh, this is so ‘new age cinema grammar’ and the overtly smugness as if to say ‘ see-this-is a quality product away from the 100-crore grosser-bad-ass-films-and-we-are-so-realistic’ (even though most of us wouldn’t have gone on such trips jumping off forts/cliffs ever; even the ‘straight six sixers’ by Ali, however much a prodigy he be, is a bit too much)

The film, like all good politically correct people, steers clear off the Godhra incident (fleetingly told via a news item) but dwells on the other riots, but thankfully stays neutral, makes no statements, and immediately zooms onto the micro world of the protagonists.

And now for the best thing in this film – the superlative performances. Amit Sadh as Omi is superb; and Raj Kumar Yadav (after the seedy, lusty Ragini MMS) is just pitch-perfect as the most responsible friend.

And Sushant Singh Rajput is absolutely a cracker – not many have been able to cross from TV to cinema (and for good reasons!) But Rajput surely is different – he has an awesome screen-presence, and perfectly nails it …Ishaan’s raw lean energy, his anger, his frustration, his enjoyment, his non-judgemental friendship, his convictions, make him immensely likeable despite all his flaws and quirks. A mindblowing debut!

Amrita Puri adds her own sweet charm – a deep anchor to both her brother and her boyfriend.

Overall – Do watch it!
First a background confession time: I am not a Chetan Bhagat fan; I read his first two novels but I found his writing style so abominably bland that it put me off forever. I reckon he is quite a hit with the youngsters; and that’s the audience the film wants to latch on to. That’s why his name is prominent on the posters, population health with the blurbs also proclaiming ‘from makers of Rang De Basanti’ a supposedly ‘cult film’ (though for sure, visit UTV has produced many more since then).

(I made a lame half-hearted attempt at seeking Three Mistakes of My Life, on which this film is based, at the Amazon Kindle stores a few weeks ago, but since it’s not seemingly not available there, I left it).

I am also not too well-versed with Abhishek Kapoor’s sole directorial venture: Rock On, having missed it in theaters, and watched it in fragments on TV (I saw its biggest chunk just today when it was aired on some channel; and found it a fake film in intent: a true blue Hindi melodrama masquerading as something seemingly ‘different’)

So coming back to Kai Po Che – with no overt interest in any of its makers, and not knowing the plotline or the characters, I had a key advantage of approaching it with an open mind. I was so clueless about the basic plot that I had no inkling as to whose ‘three mistakes’ the title refers to – though the film doesn’t really help to spell it out clearly.

Kai Po Che is about three friends, two of whom (Govind & Ishaan) have clear cut ambitions, and the third (Omi) is quite a drifter. And it’s this drifter who gravitates towards something rather unfortunate and propels the plot to its murky denouement. While Govind is the narrator, and Omi leads it to its conclusion, it’s actually Ishaan who is the main hero, a live-wire energetic crackling character, the axis on which the film revolves. As are three important historical events: the Jan 26 Bhuj earthquake, India-Australia cricket series & the infamous Gujarat riots.

I believe the film does not faithfully stick to the book, which is good. From what I have read about the book’s plot, I feel the new ending is far superior in underlying the overall senselessness of all that happened in those two fateful years.

Such bromance films have a set template: open with mild guitar strums to a montage of successful/doomed heroes, often separated, with their expressions shouting out that they have ‘the past’; start a journey and then recede into a flashback to reveal the real plot. KPC follows the template to the T.

Where it actually departs from the usual is the story’s main body. It’s not so much about their friendship and how it begins which is kind of given and assumed, as much as it is the disintegration of the same. We start with cracks already becoming visible. Govind is ‘pataoing‘ Ishaan’s father for a cheque to start off a sports store; right then, Ishaan begins a fight with some unwanted suitor to his sister. The exasperated father who finds his son’s hotheadedness useless, calls off the deal. Blame game amongst the friend erupts.

At first the cracks are rapidly band-aided together ( replete with shots of them travelling off on a rather adventerous trip, jumping off old forts into the deep sea – a blend of Dil Chahta Hai and Rang De Basanti!).

However, as time turns into more serious events, the chasm just keeps widening. The events around them throw their friendship in a tumultuous spin, with every shifting fault lines and equations : e.g. one moment Govind is defending Ishaan’s anger in front of Omi, and the next he is mad at Ishaan for being reckless in squandering their meagre income. These kaleidoscopic shifts lend a multihued texture to the film.

Every character is well written, with their acts rooted in their persona, background and ambitions: for Govind, it’s his love for money and the desperate need to be a successful entrepeneur, even forging a shaky partnership with his two best friends in the sports shop; for Omi, the need to stick around with his friends, yet be indebted to his maternal uncle, who is a local politician and pays for their start up, though not without insidiously demanding his own pound of flesh; and Ishaan, with his passion for cricket, and the compulsion to prove that he can be successful in what he is good at and foisting his own dreams on Ali, the boy prodigy with herculean talent he has inadvertantly discovered- and the boy’s religion will play an important role!

The film’s pace is brilliantly fluid (and I always have to mention this). Abhishek Kapoor’s direction is extremely deft and mature. There are several quieter moments (for example, the romance between Govind and Ishaan’s little sister Vidya is sensitively played out). The screenplay is very well written garnished with believable dialogues, peppered with some Gujarati (just enough to set the milieu, without it getting uncomfortable for those who don’t grasp the language). The script involves the audience. Perhaps, it’s brightest point is the palpable climax, which sucks you in (and here, not knowing the story helped a big deal!). The two blows to Ishaan – learning about his sister’s affair with his best friend, and Omi’s crossover to the other side, is a tense filled moment. Crisp. Curt. Cutting.

The film left me a bit disturbed, with a sense of a deep void, and a personal loss.

Manipulative? Yes. But that’s the beauty of Hindi cinema, why would I not like it? I am sure many people will immediately junk that scene where the peeved father refuses to give his son ‘aashirwaad’ at the railway station and then just when the train is about to pull off relents and calls his son back for a big hug!

The cinematography is absolutely ravishing. Hitesh Sonik’s background score is adequate. Amit Trivedi’s music is sparse (just 3 songs, and all of them in the first half, with ‘Manja’ being the bestest, also repeated in the second half).

The weak moments? Not many. Perhaps a bit dry patches here and there, especially in the first half. And of course, at times the feeling – oh, this is so ‘new age cinema grammar’ and the overtly smugness as if to say ‘ see-this-is a quality product away from the 100-crore grosser-bad-ass-films-and-we-are-so-realistic’ (even though most of us wouldn’t have gone on such trips jumping off forts/cliffs ever; even the ‘straight six sixers’ by Ali, however much a prodigy he be, is a bit too much)

The film, like all good politically correct people, steers clear off the Godhra incident (fleetingly told via a news item) but dwells on the other riots, but thankfully stays neutral, makes no statements, and immediately zooms onto the micro world of the protagonists.

And now for the best thing in this film – the superlative performances. Amit Sadh as Omi is superb; and Raj Kumar Yadav (after the seedy, lusty Ragini MMS) is just pitch-perfect as the most responsible friend.

And Sushant Singh Rajput is absolutely a cracker – not many have been able to cross from TV to cinema (and for good reasons!) But Rajput surely is different – he has an awesome screen-presence, and perfectly nails it …Ishaan’s raw lean energy, his anger, his frustration, his enjoyment, his non-judgemental friendship, his convictions, make him immensely likeable despite all his flaws and quirks. A mindblowing debut!

Amrita Puri adds her own sweet charm – a deep anchor to both her brother and her boyfriend.

Overall – Do watch it!
First a background confession time: I am not a Chetan Bhagat fan; I read his first two novels but I found his writing style so abominably bland that it put me off forever. I reckon he is quite a hit with the youngsters; and that’s the audience the film wants to latch on to. That’s why his name is prominent on the posters, viagra buy with the blurbs also proclaiming ‘from makers of Rang De Basanti’ a supposedly ‘cult film’ (though for sure, UTV has produced many more since then).

(I made a lame half-hearted attempt at seeking Three Mistakes of My Life, on which this film is based, at the Amazon Kindle stores a few weeks ago, but since it’s not seemingly not available there, I left it).

I am also not too well-versed with Abhishek Kapoor’s sole directorial venture: Rock On, having missed it in theaters, and watched it in fragments on TV (I saw its biggest chunk just today when it was aired on some channel; and found it a fake film in intent: a true blue Hindi melodrama masquerading as something seemingly ‘different’)

So coming back to Kai Po Che – with no overt interest in any of its makers, and not knowing the plotline or the characters, I had a key advantage of approaching it with an open mind. I was so clueless about the basic plot that I had no inkling as to whose ‘three mistakes’ the title refers to – though the film doesn’t really help to spell it out clearly.

Kai Po Che is about three friends, two of whom (Govind & Ishaan) have clear cut ambitions, and the third (Omi) is quite a drifter. And it’s this drifter who gravitates towards something rather unfortunate and propels the plot to its murky denouement. While Govind is the narrator, and Omi leads it to its conclusion, it’s actually Ishaan who is the main hero, a live-wire energetic crackling character, the axis on which the film revolves. As are three important historical events: the Jan 26 Bhuj earthquake, India-Australia cricket series & the infamous Gujarat riots.

I believe the film does not faithfully stick to the book, which is good. From what I have read about the book’s plot, I feel the new ending is far superior in underlying the overall senselessness of all that happened in those two fateful years.

Such bromance films have a set template: open with mild guitar strums to a montage of successful/doomed heroes, often separated, with their expressions shouting out that they have ‘the past’; start a journey and then recede into a flashback to reveal the real plot. KPC follows the template to the T.

Where it actually departs from the usual is the story’s main body. It’s not so much about their friendship and how it begins which is kind of given and assumed, as much as it is the disintegration of the same. We start with cracks already becoming visible. Govind is ‘pataoing‘ Ishaan’s father for a cheque to start off a sports store; right then, Ishaan begins a fight with some unwanted suitor to his sister. The exasperated father who finds his son’s hotheadedness useless, calls off the deal. Blame game amongst the friend erupts.

At first the cracks are rapidly band-aided together ( replete with shots of them travelling off on a rather adventerous trip, jumping off old forts into the deep sea – a blend of Dil Chahta Hai and Rang De Basanti!).

However, as time turns into more serious events, the chasm just keeps widening. The events around them throw their friendship in a tumultuous spin, with every shifting fault lines and equations : e.g. one moment Govind is defending Ishaan’s anger in front of Omi, and the next he is mad at Ishaan for being reckless in squandering their meagre income. These kaleidoscopic shifts lend a multihued texture to the film.

Every character is well written, with their acts rooted in their persona, background and ambitions: for Govind, it’s his love for money and the desperate need to be a successful entrepeneur, even forging a shaky partnership with his two best friends in the sports shop; for Omi, the need to stick around with his friends, yet be indebted to his maternal uncle, who is a local politician and pays for their start up, though not without insidiously demanding his own pound of flesh; and Ishaan, with his passion for cricket, and the compulsion to prove that he can be successful in what he is good at and foisting his own dreams on Ali, the boy prodigy with herculean talent he has inadvertantly discovered- and the boy’s religion will play an important role!

The film’s pace is brilliantly fluid (and I always have to mention this). Abhishek Kapoor’s direction is extremely deft and mature. There are several quieter moments (for example, the romance between Govind and Ishaan’s little sister Vidya is sensitively played out). The screenplay is very well written garnished with believable dialogues, peppered with some Gujarati (just enough to set the milieu, without it getting uncomfortable for those who don’t grasp the language). The script involves the audience. Perhaps, it’s brightest point is the palpable climax, which sucks you in (and here, not knowing the story helped a big deal!). The two blows to Ishaan – learning about his sister’s affair with his best friend, and Omi’s crossover to the other side, is a tense filled moment. Crisp. Curt. Cutting.

The film left me a bit disturbed, with a sense of a deep void, and a personal loss.

Manipulative? Yes. But that’s the beauty of Hindi cinema, why would I not like it? I am sure many people will immediately junk that scene where the peeved father refuses to give his son ‘aashirwaad’ at the railway station and then just when the train is about to pull off relents and calls his son back for a big hug!

The cinematography is absolutely ravishing. Hitesh Sonik’s background score is adequate. Amit Trivedi’s music is sparse (just 3 songs, and all of them in the first half, with ‘Manja’ being the bestest, also repeated in the second half).

The weak moments? Not many. Perhaps a bit dry patches here and there, especially in the first half. And of course, at times the feeling – oh, this is so ‘new age cinema grammar’ and the overtly smugness as if to say ‘ see-this-is a quality product away from the 100-crore grosser-bad-ass-films-and-we-are-so-realistic’ (even though most of us wouldn’t have gone on such trips jumping off forts/cliffs ever; even the ‘straight six sixers’ by Ali, however much a prodigy he be, is a bit too much)

The film, like all good politically correct people, steers clear off the Godhra incident (fleetingly told via a news item) but dwells on the other riots, but thankfully stays neutral, makes no statements, and immediately zooms onto the micro world of the protagonists.

And now for the best thing in this film – the superlative performances. Amit Sadh as Omi is superb; and Raj Kumar Yadav (after the seedy, lusty Ragini MMS) is just pitch-perfect as the most responsible friend.

And Sushant Singh Rajput is absolutely a cracker – not many have been able to cross from TV to cinema (and for good reasons!) But Rajput surely is different – he has an awesome screen-presence, and perfectly nails it. Ishaan’s raw lean energy, his anger, his frustration, his enjoyment, his non-judgemental friendship, his convictions, make him immensely likeable despite all his flaws and quirks. A mindblowing debut!

Amrita Puri adds her own sweet charm – a deep anchor to both her brother and her boyfriend.

Overall – Do watch it!
First a background confession time: I am not a Chetan Bhagat fan; I read his first two novels but I found his writing style so abominably bland that it put me off forever. I reckon he is quite a hit with the youngsters; and that’s the audience the film wants to latch on to. That’s why his name is prominent on the posters, here with the blurbs also proclaiming ‘from makers of Rang De Basanti’ a supposedly ‘cult film’ (though for sure, more about UTV has produced many more since then).

(I made a lame half-hearted attempt at seeking Three Mistakes of My Life, sildenafil on which this film is based, at the Amazon Kindle stores a few weeks ago, but since it’s not seemingly not available there, I left it).

I am also not too well-versed with Abhishek Kapoor’s sole directorial venture: Rock On, having missed it in theaters, and watched it in fragments on TV (I saw its biggest chunk just today when it was aired on some channel; and found it a fake film in intent: a true blue Hindi melodrama masquerading as something seemingly ‘different’)

So coming back to Kai Po Che – with no overt interest in any of its makers, and not knowing the plotline or the characters, I had a key advantage of approaching it with an open mind. I was so clueless about the basic plot that I had no inkling as to whose ‘three mistakes’ the title refers to – though the film doesn’t really help to spell it out clearly.

Kai Po Che is about three friends, two of whom (Govind & Ishaan) have clear cut ambitions, and the third (Omi) is quite a drifter. And it’s this drifter who gravitates towards something rather unfortunate and propels the plot to its murky denouement. While Govind is the narrator, and Omi leads it to its conclusion, it’s actually Ishaan who is the main hero, a live-wire energetic crackling character, the axis on which the film revolves. As are three important historical events: the Jan 26 Bhuj earthquake, India-Australia cricket series & the infamous Gujarat riots.

I believe the film does not faithfully stick to the book, which is good. From what I have read about the book’s plot, I feel the new ending is far superior in underlying the overall senselessness of all that happened in those two fateful years.

Such bromance films have a set template: open with mild guitar strums to a montage of successful/doomed heroes, often separated, with their expressions shouting out that they have ‘the past’; start a journey and then recede into a flashback to reveal the real plot. KPC follows the template to the T.

Where it actually departs from the usual is the story’s main body. It’s not so much about their friendship and how it begins which is kind of given and assumed, as much as it is the disintegration of the same. We start with cracks already becoming visible. Govind is ‘pataoing‘ Ishaan’s father for a cheque to start off a sports store; right then, Ishaan begins a fight with some unwanted suitor to his sister. The exasperated father who finds his son’s hotheadedness useless, calls off the deal. Blame game amongst the friend erupts.

At first the cracks are rapidly band-aided together ( replete with shots of them travelling off on a rather adventerous trip, jumping off old forts into the deep sea – a blend of Dil Chahta Hai and Rang De Basanti!).

However, as time turns into more serious events, the chasm just keeps widening. The events around them throw their friendship in a tumultuous spin, with every shifting fault lines and equations : e.g. one moment Govind is defending Ishaan’s anger in front of Omi, and the next he is mad at Ishaan for being reckless in squandering their meagre income. These kaleidoscopic shifts lend a multihued texture to the film.

Every character is well written, with their acts rooted in their persona, background and ambitions: for Govind, it’s his love for money and the desperate need to be a successful entrepeneur, even forging a shaky partnership with his two best friends in the sports shop; for Omi, the need to stick around with his friends, yet be indebted to his maternal uncle, who is a local politician and pays for their start up, though not without insidiously demanding his own pound of flesh; and Ishaan, with his passion for cricket, and the compulsion to prove that he can be successful in what he is good at and foisting his own dreams on Ali, the boy prodigy with herculean talent he has inadvertantly discovered- and the boy’s religion will play an important role!

The film’s pace is brilliantly fluid (and I always have to mention this). Abhishek Kapoor’s direction is extremely deft and mature. There are several quieter moments (for example, the romance between Govind and Ishaan’s little sister Vidya is sensitively played out). The screenplay is very well written garnished with believable dialogues, peppered with some Gujarati (just enough to set the milieu, without it getting uncomfortable for those who don’t grasp the language). The script involves the audience. Perhaps, it’s brightest point is the palpable climax, which sucks you in (and here, not knowing the story helped a big deal!). The two blows to Ishaan – learning about his sister’s affair with his best friend, and Omi’s crossover to the other side, is a tense filled moment. Crisp. Curt. Cutting.

The film left me a bit disturbed, with a sense of a deep void, and a personal loss.

Manipulative? Yes. But that’s the beauty of Hindi cinema, why would I not like it? I am sure many people will immediately junk that scene where the peeved father refuses to give his son ‘aashirwaad’ at the railway station and then just when the train is about to pull off relents and calls his son back for a big hug!

The cinematography is absolutely ravishing. Hitesh Sonik’s background score is adequate. Amit Trivedi’s music is sparse (just 3 songs, and all of them in the first half, with ‘Manja’ being the bestest, also repeated in the second half).

The weak moments? Not many. Perhaps a bit dry patches here and there, especially in the first half. And of course, at times the feeling – oh, this is so ‘new age cinema grammar’ and the overtly smugness as if to say ‘ see-this-is a quality product away from the 100-crore grosser-bad-ass-films-and-we-are-so-realistic’ (even though most of us wouldn’t have gone on such trips jumping off forts/cliffs ever; even the ‘straight six sixers’ by Ali, however much a prodigy he be, is a bit too much)

The film, like all good politically correct people, steers clear off the Godhra incident (fleetingly told via a news item) but dwells on the other riots, but thankfully stays neutral, makes no statements, and immediately zooms onto the micro world of the protagonists.

And now for the best thing in this film – the superlative performances. Amit Sadh as Omi is superb; and Raj Kumar Yadav (after the seedy, lusty Ragini MMS) is just pitch-perfect as the most responsible friend.

And Sushant Singh Rajput is absolutely a cracker – not many have been able to cross from TV to cinema (and for good reasons!) But Rajput surely is different – he has an awesome screen-presence, and perfectly nails it. Ishaan’s raw lean energy, his anger, his frustration, his enjoyment, his non-judgemental friendship, his convictions, make him immensely likeable despite all his flaws and quirks. A mindblowing debut!

Amrita Puri adds her own sweet charm – a deep anchor to both her brother and her boyfriend.

Overall – Do watch it!
First a background confession time: I am not a Chetan Bhagat fan; I read his first two novels but I found his writing style so abominably bland that it put me off forever. I reckon he is quite a hit with the youngsters; and that’s the audience the film wants to latch on to. That’s why his name is prominent on the posters, viagra with the blurbs also proclaiming ‘from makers of Rang De Basanti’ a supposedly ‘cult film’ (though for sure, angina UTV has produced many more since then).

(I made a lame half-hearted attempt at seeking Three Mistakes of My Life, surgery on which this film is based, at the Amazon Kindle stores a few weeks ago, but since it’s not seemingly not available there, I left it).

I am also not too well-versed with Abhishek Kapoor’s sole directorial venture: Rock On, having missed it in theaters, and watched it in fragments on TV (I saw its biggest chunk just today when it was aired on some channel; and found it a fake film in intent: a true blue Hindi melodrama masquerading as something seemingly ‘different’)

So coming back to Kai Po Che – with no overt interest in any of its makers, and not knowing the plotline or the characters, I had a key advantage of approaching it with an open mind. I was so clueless about the basic plot that I had no inkling as to whose ‘three mistakes’ the title refers to – though the film doesn’t really help to spell it out clearly.

Kai Po Che is about three friends, two of whom (Govind & Ishaan) have clear cut ambitions, and the third (Omi) is quite a drifter. And it’s this drifter who gravitates towards something rather unfortunate and propels the plot to its murky denouement. While Govind is the narrator, and Omi leads it to its conclusion, it’s actually Ishaan who is the main hero, a live-wire energetic crackling character, the axis on which the film revolves. As are three important historical events: the Jan 26 Bhuj earthquake, India-Australia cricket series & the infamous Gujarat riots.

I believe the film does not faithfully stick to the book, which is good. From what I have read about the book’s plot, I feel the new ending is far superior in underlying the overall senselessness of all that happened in those two fateful years.

Such bromance films have a set template: open with mild guitar strums to a montage of successful/doomed heroes, often separated, with their expressions shouting out that they have ‘the past’; start a journey and then recede into a flashback to reveal the real plot. KPC follows the template to the T.

Where it actually departs from the usual is the story’s main body. It’s not so much about their friendship and how it begins which is kind of given and assumed, as much as it is the disintegration of the same. We start with cracks already becoming visible. Govind is ‘pataoing‘ Ishaan’s father for a cheque to start off a sports store; right then, Ishaan begins a fight with some unwanted suitor to his sister. The exasperated father who finds his son’s hotheadedness useless, calls off the deal. Blame game amongst the friend erupts.

At first the cracks are rapidly band-aided together ( replete with shots of them travelling off on a rather adventerous trip, jumping off old forts into the deep sea – a blend of Dil Chahta Hai and Rang De Basanti!).

However, as time turns into more serious events, the chasm just keeps widening. The events around them throw their friendship in a tumultuous spin, with every shifting fault lines and equations : e.g. one moment Govind is defending Ishaan’s anger in front of Omi, and the next he is mad at Ishaan for being reckless in squandering their meagre income. These kaleidoscopic shifts lend a multihued texture to the film.

Every character is well written, with their acts rooted in their persona, background and ambitions: for Govind, it’s his love for money and the desperate need to be a successful entrepeneur, even forging a shaky partnership with his two best friends in the sports shop; for Omi, the need to stick around with his friends, yet be indebted to his maternal uncle, who is a local politician and pays for their start up, though not without insidiously demanding his own pound of flesh; and Ishaan, with his passion for cricket, and the compulsion to prove that he can be successful in what he is good at and foisting his own dreams on Ali, the boy prodigy with herculean talent he has inadvertantly discovered- and the boy’s religion will play an important role!

The film’s pace is brilliantly fluid (and I always have to mention this). Abhishek Kapoor’s direction is extremely deft and mature. There are several quieter moments (for example, the romance between Govind and Ishaan’s little sister Vidya is sensitively played out). The screenplay is very well written garnished with believable dialogues, peppered with some Gujarati (just enough to set the milieu, without it getting uncomfortable for those who don’t grasp the language). The script involves the audience. Perhaps, it’s brightest point is the palpable climax, which sucks you in (and here, not knowing the story helped a big deal!). The two blows to Ishaan – learning about his sister’s affair with his best friend, and Omi’s crossover to the other side, is a tense filled moment. Crisp. Curt. Cutting.

The film left me a bit disturbed, with a sense of a deep void, and a personal loss.

Manipulative? Yes. But that’s the beauty of Hindi cinema, why would I not like it? I am sure many people will immediately junk that scene where the peeved father refuses to give his son ‘aashirwaad’ at the railway station and then just when the train is about to pull off relents and calls his son back for a big hug!

The cinematography is absolutely ravishing. Hitesh Sonik’s background score is adequate. Amit Trivedi’s music is sparse (just 3 songs, and all of them in the first half, with ‘Manja’ being the bestest, also repeated in the second half).

The weak moments? Not many. Perhaps a bit dry patches here and there, especially in the first half. And of course, at times the feeling – oh, this is so ‘new age cinema grammar’ and the overtly smugness as if to say ‘ see-this-is a quality product away from the 100-crore grosser-bad-ass-films-and-we-are-so-realistic’ (even though most of us wouldn’t have gone on such trips jumping off forts/cliffs ever; even the ‘straight six sixers’ by Ali, however much a prodigy he be, is a bit too much)

The film, like all good politically correct people, steers clear off the Godhra incident (fleetingly told via a news item) but dwells on the other riots, but thankfully stays neutral, makes no statements, and immediately zooms onto the micro world of the protagonists.

And now for the best thing in this film – the superlative performances. Amit Sadh as Omi is superb; and Raj Kumar Yadav (after the seedy, lusty Ragini MMS) is just pitch-perfect as the most responsible friend.

And Sushant Singh Rajput is absolutely a cracker – not many have been able to cross from TV to cinema (and for good reasons!) But Rajput surely is different – he has an awesome screen-presence, and perfectly nails it. Ishaan’s raw lean energy, his anger, his frustration, his enjoyment, his non-judgemental friendship, his convictions, make him immensely likeable despite all his flaws and quirks. A mindblowing debut!

Amrita Puri adds her own sweet charm – a deep anchor to both her brother and her boyfriend.

Overall – Do watch it!
First a background confession time: I am not a Chetan Bhagat fan; I read his first two novels but I found his writing style so abominably bland that it put me off forever. I reckon he is quite a hit with the youngsters; and that’s the audience the film wants to latch on to. That’s why his name is prominent on the posters, caries with the blurbs also proclaiming ‘from makers of Rang De Basanti’ a supposedly ‘cult film’ (though for sure, pharm UTV has produced many more since then).

(I made a lame half-hearted attempt at seeking Three Mistakes of My Life, on which this film is based, at the Amazon Kindle stores a few weeks ago, but since it’s not seemingly not available there, I left it).

I am also not too well-versed with Abhishek Kapoor’s sole directorial venture: Rock On, having missed it in theaters, and watched it in fragments on TV (I saw its biggest chunk just today when it was aired on some channel; and found it a fake film in intent: a true blue Hindi melodrama masquerading as something seemingly ‘different’)

So coming back to Kai Po Che – with no overt interest in any of its makers, and not knowing the plotline or the characters, I had a key advantage of approaching it with an open mind. I was so clueless about the basic plot that I had no inkling as to whose ‘three mistakes’ the title refers to – though the film doesn’t really help to spell it out clearly.

Kai Po Che is about three friends, two of whom (Govind & Ishaan) have clear cut ambitions, and the third (Omi) is quite a drifter. And it’s this drifter who gravitates towards something rather unfortunate and propels the plot to its murky denouement. While Govind is the narrator, and Omi leads it to its conclusion, it’s actually Ishaan who is the main hero, a live-wire energetic crackling character, the axis on which the film revolves. As are three important historical events: the Jan 26 Bhuj earthquake, India-Australia cricket series & the infamous Gujarat riots.

I believe the film does not faithfully stick to the book, which is good. From what I have read about the book’s plot, I feel the new ending is far superior in underlying the overall senselessness of all that happened in those two fateful years.

Such bromance films have a set template: open with mild guitar strums to a montage of successful/doomed heroes, often separated, with their expressions shouting out that they have ‘the past’; start a journey and then recede into a flashback to reveal the real plot. KPC follows the template to the T.

Where it actually departs from the usual is the story’s main body. It’s not so much about their friendship and how it begins which is kind of given and assumed, as much as it is the disintegration of the same. We start with cracks already becoming visible. Govind is ‘pataoing‘ Ishaan’s father for a cheque to start off a sports store; right then, Ishaan begins a fight with some unwanted suitor to his sister. The exasperated father who finds his son’s hotheadedness useless, calls off the deal. Blame game amongst the friend erupts.

At first the cracks are rapidly band-aided together ( replete with shots of them travelling off on a rather adventerous trip, jumping off old forts into the deep sea – a blend of Dil Chahta Hai and Rang De Basanti!).

However, as time turns into more serious events, the chasm just keeps widening. The events around them throw their friendship in a tumultuous spin, with every shifting fault lines and equations : e.g. one moment Govind is defending Ishaan’s anger in front of Omi, and the next he is mad at Ishaan for being reckless in squandering their meagre income. These kaleidoscopic shifts lend a multihued texture to the film.

Every character is well written, with their acts rooted in their persona, background and ambitions: for Govind, it’s his love for money and the desperate need to be a successful entrepeneur, even forging a shaky partnership with his two best friends in the sports shop; for Omi, the need to stick around with his friends, yet be indebted to his maternal uncle, who is a local politician and pays for their start up, though not without insidiously demanding his own pound of flesh; and Ishaan, with his passion for cricket, and the compulsion to prove that he can be successful in what he is good at and foisting his own dreams on Ali, the boy prodigy with herculean talent he has inadvertantly discovered- and the boy’s religion will play an important role!

The film’s pace is brilliantly fluid (and I always have to mention this). Abhishek Kapoor’s direction is extremely deft and mature. There are several quieter moments (for example, the romance between Govind and Ishaan’s little sister Vidya is sensitively played out). The screenplay is very well written garnished with believable dialogues, peppered with some Gujarati (just enough to set the milieu, without it getting uncomfortable for those who don’t grasp the language). The script involves the audience. Perhaps, it’s brightest point is the palpable climax, which sucks you in (and here, not knowing the story helped a big deal!). The two blows to Ishaan – learning about his sister’s affair with his best friend, and Omi’s crossover to the other side, is a tense filled moment. Crisp. Curt. Cutting.

The film left me a bit disturbed, with a sense of a deep void, and a personal loss.

Manipulative? Yes. But that’s the beauty of Hindi cinema, why would I not like it? I am sure many people will immediately junk that scene where the peeved father refuses to give his son ‘aashirwaad’ at the railway station and then just when the train is about to pull off relents and calls his son back for a big hug!

The cinematography is absolutely ravishing. Hitesh Sonik’s background score is adequate. Amit Trivedi’s music is sparse (just 3 songs, and all of them in the first half, with ‘Manja’ being the bestest, also repeated in the second half).

The weak moments? Not many. Perhaps a bit dry patches here and there, especially in the first half. And of course, at times the feeling – oh, this is so ‘new age cinema grammar’ and the overtly smugness as if to say ‘ see-this-is a quality product away from the 100-crore grosser-bad-ass-films-and-we-are-so-realistic’ (even though most of us wouldn’t have gone on such trips jumping off forts/cliffs ever; even the ‘straight six sixers’ by Ali, however much a prodigy he be, is a bit too much)

The film, like all good politically correct people, steers clear off the Godhra incident (fleetingly told via a news item) but dwells on the other riots, but thankfully stays neutral, makes no statements, and immediately zooms onto the micro world of the protagonists.

And now for the best thing in this film – the superlative performances. Amit Sadh as Omi is superb; and Raj Kumar Yadav (after the seedy, lusty Ragini MMS) is just pitch-perfect as the most responsible friend.

And Sushant Singh Rajput is absolutely a cracker – not many have been able to cross from TV to cinema (and for good reasons!) But Rajput surely is different – he has an awesome screen-presence, and perfectly nails it. Ishaan’s raw lean energy, his anger, his frustration, his enjoyment, his non-judgemental friendship, his convictions, make him immensely likeable despite all his flaws and quirks. A mindblowing debut!

Amrita Puri adds her own sweet charm – a deep anchor to both her brother and her boyfriend.

Overall – Do watch it!

(Contains spoilers)

I loved Ayan Mukherjee’s first film – Wake Up Sid. It’s a magnificent coming-of-age film, site embellished with scoops of quieter moments that make the film introspective yet not dull; and some superlative performances. So I approached YJHD with huge expectations.

WUS was essentially a small film; neat & compact in its design; and a linear but taut timeline and was essentially without any ‘stars’ (Ranbir at that point was very new!) Perhaps, Wake Up Sid’s surprise success guaranteed Ayaan Mukherjee a bigger budget and a wider canvas, and to incorporate it in YJHD the film stumbles & wobbles.

There are a few recurring motifs in both films : Seeking one’s goal, and reconciling it with one’s loved ones; the father-son conflict that can be best described as ‘generational gap’ or perhaps, better as simply ‘ideological differences’, without any malice and filled with brimming love; friendships turned sour and eventually sweetened by passing time (as said in the movie ‘Thoda waqt do, sab theek ho jaayega’); and the central theme about two individuals who are neither right nor wrong, but just different to each other. Of course, passion for photography is another returning refrain.

However, where the film falters is its wider timeline, geography and canvas – all those perfect locations, flawless dresses, and also the need to incorporate an ‘item song’ (Madhuri Dixit, no less!). Blowing up a photo meant for a smaller bit size will only heighten its pixelated flaws.

Hence, too much gloss and loss of detailing ( why would a so called studious girl like Naina who is so burdened by her studies and her parents’ expectations flaunt perfectly waxed legs in skimpy shorts? Pity, Ayaan resorts to the age-old Bollywood cliché that a ‘studious girl’ means wearing a pair of ugly specs! Or, how did they all manage to finance such an elaborate trip in all those designer clothes? I fondly harked back to the scene in WUS where Ranbir couldn’t even pay for a pizza dressed in a normal crumpled T-shirt! And then Ranbir’s entire so-called ‘journalistic career’ is swept aside in a few hasty montages where all he does is wave about his camera!)

No doubt the whole gamut of gloss & glamor is very eye-pleasing, but it also smothers the film’s soul, which thankfully is very much throbbing & making its presence felt in its own charming but muted way. Especially in the second half.

The first half is wholly devoted to the Manali trip, where Naina (Deepika) and Bunny (Ranbir) meet, and gradually get attracted to each other. They are accompanied by two of their best friends Aditi (Kalki) & Avi (Aditya Roy Kapoor). Aditi has a soft corner for Avi, who doesn’t seem to realize it. In this section, we befriend all the 4 lead characters … especially how their aspirational goals will clash. Bunny is a nomad at heart, and wants to roam the world (and carries an empty scrap book which he wishes to fulfill with his experience); Naina is the rooted one, caught between a wish to break her chains and her inherent sense of practicality. She falls for Bunny but doesn’t express it.

This section also has a short but superbly etched track featuring his father (Faruque Sheikh in an excellent cameo!) and his stepmom (Tanvi Azmi).

Eight years later they meet at Aditi’s marriage – no, not to Avi, who has spiralled downwards to being some sort of a loser, but to a man who looks silly, and is perhaps silly, but as Aditi says ‘with some people you just want to be with’ !

It’s in this section that Ayan’s writing gets razor sharp, and Hussain Dalal’s dialogues very interesting. Here Ayan leaves the geographical widespread, and is now contained in a wedding home, and hence gets his chance to take us into a wider tour of his characters! Perhaps a small canvas is his forte, and he should stick to that!

In this section there are some shining gems: ‘We grew up very fast’ laments Aditi at one stage, shining the torch on what I believe is a complain we all at some point of time carry. The characters for sure do. Here, Bunny & Naina reunite, rediscover each other. And reconcile with each other ( ‘You are not right, we are just different – says the hero; and a few scenes later she asserts ‘You are not wrong, we are just different’ – a mirror dialogue that I just loved!)

Since I am simultaneously reading Khaled Hosseini’s And The Mountains Echoed, there is somewhat similarity between the two …in the sense of a bottomless vacuum that lies beneath the successful facade.

The film’s technical aspects are all first-rate. Attractive costumes (lots of brand placements), amazing cinematography and fairly competent editing.

Pritam’s background score is very good (especially that piece when they are at the mountain peak is absolutely sensational!). His songs are good too, esp Badtamiz dil, Balam pichkari and Re Kabira.

I firmly believe Ranbir Kapoor cannot do anything wrong, and here Bunny is a character made for him, so he is outstanding. Deepika, though, was a very pleasant surprise. And both Kalki & Aditya hold their own fort strongly.

In a way, I empathized & understood Bunny; the character touched a chord inside me – that gnawing urge to follow one’s dreams; to explore the unchartered territory; to not be bound in one place; to not be tied down; to eat at new places; to stay at fresh cities; to see new sights. But as his father says, not all have the guts to pay the price for it. Because it all comes at a heavy emotional cost. Bunny had those guts.

I walked back from the theatre at 2 in the night thinking about Bunny – in the city that never sleeps – cars swept by in their manic rush; a couple sat having tea from a roadside vendor, a few stood around the cigarette stall; a cricket-match was on in one society under faux-spotlights; beggars slept precariously on the road-divider; autos slowed down and then seeing my disinterest sped away ; I reached home, put my laundry for washing (neglected due to my tour); cleared some loose junk lying here and there; kept the rubbish can outside the door for it to be picked up early morning; popped a beer; and sat to write this review. The night outside is heavily quiet; the humidity is oppressive; a drop slithers down the beer can; I like this space; this time with myself; this is my bargain …. random sights random views, but something within despairingly clawed trying to find a hook, a wall- I guess it was just an attempt to patch an incomprehensible hole with a jagged collage of sights & sounds. Much like Bunny. But very unlike him. For I haven’t paid that price. Yet.

In all – An interesting film, if only it had been much smaller in its canvas.

DO WATCH IT.

Note: I had written these reviews immediately after viewing the films and put them up for my Facebook friends. Thought of adding them here for posterity’s sake.  These FB reviews are usually hurriedly written first impressions typed late in the night; I have pasted them here with minimal editing;  please forgive any stark grammatical or spelling errors.

Shuddh Desi Romance – First up, prescription SDR is neither shuddh (the characters are confused, capsule convulted though cute in their own way!) nor desi (heck, capsule since when has live-in relationships become so, and this film unequivocally champions that cause right till its climax!) – and certainly, the romance is not the one to last from one qayamat to another qayamat tak – unless running away from marriages counts for a ‘qayamat‘! And in this film, there is a plenty of that!

Yet, having said that, the film is absolutely shuddh in its intent, it doesn’t deviate from it’s purpose however shocking it may ostensibly be;  very desi in its demeanour (right down to the sugary syrup in the gulab jamun that the hero offers to his lady) & yes, it is romantic if you scratch the knotty & confounding surface! And true, its a ‘rom-com’, so let’s not get too preachy or critical about it.

The thin plot revolves around Raghu Ram (Sushant Singh Rajput) who dumps his to-be-wife Tara (Vaani Kapoor) at the mandap, and starts to live in with Gayatri (Pariniti Chopra) – who in turn dumps him at their own wedding. How the three reconcile facing each other in awkward moments (after all this running-away-from-mandap madcap) is the second half’s crux.

The film is propelled not so much by plot as it is by its characters, and that’s where writer Jaideep Sahni and director Maneesh Sharma invest their resources, which is markedly refreshing. So, the entire chain begins because Raghu is unsure, and then later the next big event is sparked off by Gayatri’s uncertainty. And both have fairly acceptable excuses for their thoughts.

It’s a wittily written film. Sequences are repeated, but with a purpose, and with humour (e.g. how Rajput and Chopra surreptitiously check each other’s background from Rishi Kapoor is a hilarious one. Then there is that entire ‘running away via the toilet’ plot point – and how a ‘bathroom break’ gets a whole new meaning.)

The dialogues are conversational with smart lines weaved in carelessly but very carefully ( "What is all this about ‘settle’ down for a man" cheekily laments the hero in the opening sequence "when the country has not been able to settle its differences between its neighbor for sixty years!"). There are several more. They’d bring in chuckles and smiles in right proportions. The film’s tone is kept fluffy and frothy.

The characters are believable, likeable, having their flaws and pasts, but without the director or writer getting judgemental. So, Gayatri smokes. And has had numerous affairs, even a hinted abortion. Big deal. It’s not a grand issue for the film to beat its chest over. Further, Raghu & Gayatri decide to stay together. It simply happens, no magnificent ‘voila’ moment a  la Salaam Namaste (a previous YRF film on ‘live in relationship). Another shrug, no big issue. The bigger issue is to weld that trust between the two before it wedges a deeper hole between them. And that is where Sharma & Sahni simply excel. Raghu discreetly checks out on Gayatri’s past, even though he is not exactly a ‘doodh-ka-dhula-hua’, which ups Gayatri’s own mistrust antenna against him. Even the jilted woman, Tara, doesn’t dissolve into copious tears. Almost rubbing her hands off the dubious incident, she non-chillingly calls for a cold-drink. And when she gets the chance, she’d teach a lesson or two to the ‘runaway groom’. Cool. Composed. Collected.

Of course, Sharma gets some good artistes to do the job. On top is Rishi Kapoor as the ‘caterer and ghodi-supplier’ and a kind of father-figure to Raghu – he  is mind-blowingly outstanding. When Gayatri runs off his expression is sensationally priceless, and brings the entire theatre down in uncontrollable laughter!

Sushant Singh Rajput is confident and assured, and superb, though at times I could sense Ranveer Singh’s shadow in his dialogue delivery ( Sharma at work? After all, Band Baaja Baarat was his baby!) Pariniti Chopra retains her fiery self, but has to add a lot more – she nuances Gayatri’s insecurities & quibbles very well. Debutante Vaani Kapoor is easy on the eyes, quite adequate, but falls a step behind the other three.

Considering the film had to deal with quite a controversial subject, rooting it in Jaipur helps. So you do have those pesky neighbours reacting not so kindly to Gayatri’s independence, which makes the core not a norm but a healthy deviation. It cushions the shock-value. And yes, there are plenty – other than mooting that ‘live in relationship is fine’ (that, by the way, in ‘normal Indian standards’ is quite shocking!) the film is sprinkled with generous dose of kisses that should give poor Emran Hashmi some serious nightmares!

In the good old archaic parlance – a typical nice ‘time-pass’ film! And yes, we have to harken back those times, because right from the posters to the ‘interval’ announcement vide a shrill bell as it used to ring in single screens, the film brings in that ambience.

One last point  – don’t confuse the film’s theme with its making.  I agree ‘live in relationships’ (and the easy, almost casual way shown in the film) may be a bit hard to swallow, but that doesn’t take away from the film’s inherent wit, humour and entertainment quotient.

Overall – Viewable!

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Satyagraha -  I am sure many from my generation have grown up idolizing Amitabh Bachchan, generously aping his styles and dialogues, and simply being overawed by his larger-than-life screen presence. So before I get into the movie, a small tribute from a fan-boy!

In Satyagraha I couldn’t peel my eyes off Bachchan Saab’s superior performance. In one scene Amitabh Bachchan’s character (an upright retired school principal Dwarka Anand) confesses to his son’s friend Manav (Ajay Devgn) that he couldn’t really understand Manav and it was Dwarka’s fault for not having done so. It’s a quiet and emotional moment in the film. Amitabh Bachchan hungrily usurps the scene to make his own – every vein on his visage, his sunken grey eyes and his drooping body language acts out his pain, his guilt, his sorrow, his hopelessness, and his urge to accept Manav. Poor Ajay Devgn, an otherwise consummate actor, is left with his jaw dropped as Bachchan gives his monologue!

In another scene, right after his son is slain, Amitabh hears the young wife Sumitra (Amrita Rao, largely wasted) sobbing. He totters to her room, unsure and uncertain. He hesitatingly enters the room, she is lying with one arm above her eyes, crying. He sits tenderly on the bed’s edge and gives an assuring fatherly pat to her other hand. No words are exchanged. That would have been meaningless – how does one even begin to console such a loss? Amitabh Bachchan is again smashingly wonderful! And in this scene, salute to the director too for adding a small but extremely humane touch. Before Bachchan sits by her side he first adjusts the crumpled bed sheet she has wrapped casually on her. She is his daughter-in-law. He has to have that modesty. Neat gesture. Very tiny. But makes a difference. And shows a seasoned director at work.

In another similar scene, Bachchan desperately gropes the hot tar road where his son was brutally killed, after he learns about the exact spot. Again his expressions, his entire being, conveys the sense of helplessness, hopelessness and how he is internally thoroughly shattered. Too good!

Coming back to the film, though, Prakash Jha falters – and pretty heavily at that!. Sad, the film & the script do not rise to the levels of the performances within it.

Jha cleverly seagues the murdered NHAI engineer Satyadev Dubey’s tale to Anna Hazare type movement. In the film, Akhilesh (Indraneel) is killed because he was too close to find the nexus between corruption & politicians (led by a wily Home Minister, Manoj Bajpai). His father (Amitabh Bachchan) who wishes to utilize the ‘compensation money’ to build a school, is driven up the wall by the corrupt bureaucrats and inordinately complex red-tapism. So he fights back. And takes on to the streets to fight corruption. He is aided by Akhilesh’s best friend Manav (Ajay Devgn) who also brings along with him a reporter (Kareena Kapoor).

The film’s failure is that after the set-up it grounds to a wobbly halt. Nothing really happens, till the badly forced upon climax. If Jha by doing that, wished to show how frustrating it was for a common man to fight peacefully against the very own leaders they have supposedly chosen, well then he has succeeded. It is indeed frustrating. The common man wails the powers-that-be laugh it off and go about their own corrupt money-swindling means.

But then, that doesn’t necessarily translate into riveting cinema. So the second half spirals itself to protests, marches, fasts and what-nots and then more protests, walks, candle-light vigils, fasts and what-nots… and the ‘sarkar‘ goes about its business playing deaf.   Event unfold in haphazard half-baked manner; it’s like reading headlines over several days’ newspapers in one go, without delving into the details.  Seemed Jha was in a rush to execute the film before the theme cooled off and couldn’t really devote time to the writing.

Over that the characters are largely hazy idealistic sketches. Kareena Kapoor gets the rawest portion. I failed to comprehend how she could be a neutral reporter and a part of the protest, crossing the border as and how the scene required. Plus, she is never shown reporting back to her office? A long working sabbatical to support her pet-cause? Eh? Even the romance between her and Ajay Devgn is half-baked & wishy-washy.

And, ‘Ras ke bhare tore naina’ is a song that needed to be axed immediately. It severely breaks the already losing momentum. Not that there were any need for any songs anyway.

Arjun Rampal’s character is another painful appendage that has no meaning to be there. Poor Arjun even looks suitably lost. Ajay Devgn does a good job as always, and so is Amrita Rao great (but why was she looking anorexic?). Manoj Bajpai is dependable as always, and he has done this mean act so often I am sure he could sleepwalk through it.

Jha has usually given us shaded characters. But in this one the black and white is a bit too stark & mono-chrome, leaving no scope for nuanced human drama. At times, this leads to some incredulous moments – like how Manav donates away his Rs 6000crore business empire! Whoa!

The music (by a bevy of composers) is okayish. I like ‘Ras ke bhare tore naina’ but then it wasn’t required in the film. The background score is functional. The editing is good but could have been tighter.

Jha’s direction is fairly smooth and I adore his simple straightforward story telling narration – sad, this time, he actually had no story to tell. We have read it all in the newspapers and TV Channels.

Overall – Average, but watch it for Amitabh Bachchan’s superlative performance.

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Madras Cafe -  Madras Cafe is a tight, gripping and engrossing film on the events leading up to Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination.

Of course, the makers play it safe and ‘fictionalize’ the whole event (e.g. LTTE becomes LTF, and the PM is jarringly never named and always referred as ‘PM Sahab’ or ‘ex-PM’, which sounded a bit weird). It also stays politically correct, neither mentioning that LTTE were in the initial days supported by India’s R&AW; nor does it question India’s pressing need to be ‘Oh-This-Problem-Solving-Big-Brother’ of the sub-continent (though there is a brief dialogue that a bureaucrat wryly comments that ‘this could be our Vietnam!’).

But anyway, it wasn’t required. The film never means to be a political statement. It stays on it’s path to depict the machinations behind the events that possibly led to that crucial day.

The film moves swiftly, in short but brutal takes, giving us adequate background history in brief spurts, as we get sucked into the narrative. The story revolves around a R&AW agent Vikram (John Abraham) who is sent to the war-torn Jaffna as part of Indian Peace Keeping Force to negotiate and broker peace between the Sinhalese Government and the Tamil fighters – by hook or by crook. The conspiracy, the leaks, the resistance & the help (in form of a war correspondent – Nargis Fakhri) constitutes the rest of the taut two-hour-ten-minute narration.

No, this is not a thriller with some ‘twist’ left to be unearthed in the climax. The denouement is known to all. Rather, it’s quite like reading a Ludlum page-turner, with all the eighties espionage masala thrown in (remember, those were still ‘low-tech’ times, where intercepts were done over landlines!)

Yes, this is a film where you *have* to carry your brain along! It’s difficult to provide the entire story – suffice to say that Vikram’s journey in Jaffna as he goes about his mission is rife with troubles, including a mole in the Indian set-up.

The film is shot brilliantly – tight close-ups and hand-held camera lending it a deep sense of urgency. It’s also edited sharply. Brutal & cracking. And the background score enhances the exigency. Director Shoojit Sircar shows his adept finesse again – his previous two films Yahaan & Vicky Donor were also brilliant.

The director chooses to do away with excess emotionalism, leaving the film pithy & succinct. For example, Vikram’s personal grief is a brief contemplative scene, retained there just to convey his loss, but not to excessively milk the emotion. Compare this to D-Day (another thriller released recently), and you will know that sometimes it’s best to leave things unshown. Like his character Vikram, the director also goes about his work in a no-nonsense fashion.

The war is captured through a neutral lens, detailed but not to make you cringe (though I felt they could have done away with the obvious cliché about wars fought &won by governments but lost by common people!)

Perhaps for the first time, I truly liked John Abraham. He really gets into Vikram’s character, looks the part and acts very well. (I always had a problem with his annoying habit of pursing his lips after every dialogue; mercifully except for two-three places, it is wholly done away with!).

Nargis Fakhri (after the horrendous display in Rockstar) shines in her brief role. That she is shown from London, and given no Hindi dialogues makes way for her to concentrate on her performance. Rashi Khanna has a small but beautiful role. Siddharth Basu (the erstwhile quizmaster from the time when the movie is set!) makes an impressive debut as R&AW Director. Other supporting actors are superbly cast – and keeping away ‘known faces’ helps. (Loved the performance of the guy who played Bala, in the movie!)

Just last week I was lamenting that Indian viewers hardly had a choice between inanity (Chennai Express) and insipidity (OUATIMA), but along comes Madras Cafe offering a rich, stimulating and awakening brew!

Overall – Go For It!

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Once Upon A Time In Mumbai AgainOUATIMA is a dull, insipid & listless movie that provides a long runway but simply fails to take off. It’s a perfect example of making a sequel just for the sake of making one!

In fact, it hardly looks back to its prequel except for one fleeting shot of Ajay Devgn in that film. Else, there is no reference to that film, it’s characters or its drama which supposedly lays the foundation for Shoiab’s (Emran Hashmi in the earlier one, Akshay Kumar now) character. And talking of fleeting shots, Vidya Balan’s appearance is probably the shortest ever for any star appearances!

The film is shoddily written & lazily directed. The characters lack passion & their motivations are hardly explained. So we have this supposed big don Shoiab ( and please note we see nothing of his ‘work’) who is huge on style and spews more dialogues than bullets; it’s impossible to take such a ‘well groomed’ don (with a smart-alec punchline for every occasion) seriously.   Then he meets this supposedly innocent girl Yasmin (so innocent she doesn’t know the difference between ‘intercourse’ and ‘intermediate’ even though when she stands guard to her friend making out in a taxi – huh?!?!).

Of course, she doesn’t know he is a don – never mind, she didn’t bother to think once when she was showered the ‘Best New Face’ award at his behest, that too without giving even a single shot.  Later she moronically gasps ‘he is a gangster’. Hello, lady? Shouldn’t you have thought of that while coyly accepting the award and making that huge Oscar-winning kind speech. Basically, in the film’s universe,  innocence and stupidity are inter-changeable!

Then there is the other main person – Aslam (Imran Khan) – who is Shoiab’s protégé (again no reason provided for what purpose). And he too falls for this bimbo. Ya ya, it’s a small world, and a smaller city! Then there is some nebulous track about a rival gangster (Mahesh Manjrekar) who seeks his own revenge … yawn! again, no reason provided; I am sure by this time you get the picture – and sadly, coming from Milan Luthria, this ain’t either dirty or anything else.

This vapid love triangle gets some adrenalin shots in the last 30-40 minutes, when the drama hesitatingly peaks (that is after the script thankfully puts the bimbo out of action into the hospital bed); but then, as the cliché goes, it’s too late, too little.

Imran Khan is totally miscast. Neither does he come across as a rugged / street-smart gangster nor is he able to spike up the passion in his love and friendship. Over that his irritable pouting only adds to the woes. Dude, you are out of the ‘I Hate Luv Storys’ kind of rom-com sets. Show us some meat, or else quit! Sonakshi Sinha does her bimbo act with aplomb: charming and cute but that’s about it.

Sonali Bendre makes a comeback in a special appearance as Shoaib’s mistress, first love, or what (again, you see, the problem is we are never told who she exactly is!) – but well, she is really good! Mahesh Manjrekar has a vague role and he sleep-walks through it. I was taken aback to see a good actor like Vidya Malwade criminally wasted in a blink-and-you-miss role as his wife. Desperate measures, eh?

As for Akshay Kumar..sigh! Did he have to mouth all those lines in that annoying drawl throughout the film? It was fine for a PVR-advertisement on keeping the mobiles shut. But to bear it for 2.5 hours is painful.

The music is below average. In any case, I am tired of these so-called ‘Sufiana’ type of songs. Enough, please! The background score is functional. Cinematography, editing and art direction are just about ok. Rajat Arora’s dialogues are typically filmi, elaborate and away from reality – they worked in a good set up like Dirty Picture, but here they end up looking forced & contrived.

 
It’s a sad time for viewers – to choose between the inanity of Chennai Express and insipidity of OUATIMA!

Overall – As the don Shoaib would say – ‘Iss picture ko dekh liya toh Hindi cinema ki izzat bura maan jaayegi‘ ;-))

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Chennai Express – Not worth reviewing!

Overall – ‘Pakau’ film!
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The film is not worth reviewing or viewing. Yet please allow me to rant against it and take the burden off my chest. First up, let me confess my tolerance level for masala potboilers is very high; this can be gauged from the simple fact I didn’t mind Himmatwala. So it’s not that I have anything against commercial cinema; on the contrary, I thoroughly enjoy them & celebrate them as well. But Chennai Express is way beyond even my lenient tolerance levels; and it brought back the uncomfortable memories of Ra.One from the same actor-producer!


Chennai Express is a torturous, annoying & grating 2.5 hours journey that goes nowhere and is overstuffed with moments that make you throw up and cry out in pain. I fail to believe that Rohit Shetty directed this mashup which has no entertainment quotient whatsoever.

It’s been long since I have been so annoyed, so irritated, and so angry at any movie (and as I said, the last time it happened it was for Ra.One!)

The film’s sole silver lining is Deepika Padukone’s damsel-in-distress act and her cute Tamilian Hindi. And to an extent Vishal-Shekhar’s music (especially Titli), but then I am desperately clutching at any available straws. Else, the film drowns you miserably in its burdensome din, distaste & dullness.


If you still want to see it please do it at your own mental risk. My recommendation is to avoid this trauma by a huge margin.

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Lootera – It’s is a hard film not to like. It’s filmed gorgeously. The detailing is apt but subtle. It’s garnished with good dialogues. The performances are brilliant. And it’s music is superb.

Yet, somehow it failed to move me as it should have. Which was rather despairing. Because as I said, it’s hard not to like the film’s individual aspects. But somewhere the emotional connect between the script and the audience is not properly established.

I guess the film is being held up by critics as some sort of rebel placard towards all the 100-crore ‘masala‘ grossers. Personally, I love those too. Actually, I feel I belong somewhere in the middle of these two diametrically opposite current cinematic styles.

I adore movies that have a languid pace. But there is a thin line dividing a languorous pace & a suffocating stillness, which pervades Lootera. No, the silences didn’t really speak poetry to me, as they did, in say Kuheli – the Bengali movie which I just saw on Youtube a few days back. Fanaa is another movie that crossed my mind. It’s second half was trashed to be ‘slow’ and ‘unmoving’ though I found the bulk of dialogues there between the lead pair very interesting. On the other hand, Lootera is no Ghanchakkar (which by any standards was outright boring!)

Perhaps, Lootera suffers from the malady that all films based on short stories do. To flesh out a full fledged film , the padding often reacts negatively with the story’s soul. Which happened earlier with Ek Thi Daayan. And now Lootera.

In O’Henry’s story The Last Leaf, it was about this woman who irrationally thinks that if the last leaf of the vine clinging to her window falls, she will also lose her life. The leaf never falls. It’s learnt that an artiste living below her house, who cares for her, had painted the leaf and had died doing so. The story left out ‘showing’ his act and it’s sheer hard-work is left for the reader’s imagination.

In Lootera, a supposedly subtle film, this act is strangely very elaborately shown. Even then, the act gets depressingly diluted with the hero running away and facing the chasing cops. Before all this, we also witnessed a superbly executed chase sequence embellished with some magnificent background score (Amit Trivedi), but alas, all that added nothing to the story or the film. Akin to an item song rudely interrupting the narrative.

I am hard-pressed to write a review and had almost abandoned it. Even now I am unable to gather my thoughts. Like the film. They’re scattered.

The film is character driven. And they are well presented. For example, I understood Pakhi. Born in ‘zamindari‘, boisterous yet grounded, suffering asthama/TB, having lived a cocooned life, doted by her father, vulnerable yet not a door-mat. But her plight unmoved me as she scribbled her wandering thoughts on distraught pieces of paper and threw them unceremoniously. Varun, the rake who loots her family (hence the title) and returns in her life a year later, is also understandable, but not the way he leaves her without a fight. Seemed tad too easy.

The performances are really worth gloating about. Sonakshi Sinha has nailed Pakhi’s character perfectly. In her first meaty role she hungrily gorges on the material presented to her, & presents a beautiful Pakhi, in her marvellous sarees, tormented by love & disease. It’s quite a revelation from the lady who has till now remained in shadows of big superstars.

Ranveer Singh is also very good, and one feels the pulsating energy so forcefully restrained beneath his calm exterior – a deep storm within the quiet surface ripples.

Divya Dutta is wasted in her brief apperance. Adil Hussain (named KN Singh!!!!), Vikrant Massey & Barun Chanda are all first-rate.

The cinematography is awe-inspiring. The sound design is lousy though, eating away some dialogues (and sometimes drowned in the music).

Amit Trivedi’s music is absolutely stunning – both the main score & the background music.  All six songs are listen-worthy and worth treasuring.

Overall – it’s nice, but didn’t have me gushing or mentally preparing for a repeat view!

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Ghanchakkar  –  Not worth a review

Overall – Yawn!

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Aatma -  Ten or so years back Bipasha Basu showed her ‘Jism’ to good effect; a decade later, she bares her Aatma, and sad to say her body had more substance than this vacuous and soulless flick.

The best thing is that it is merely 95 minutes long, and the worst thing is that those 95 minutes seem way too long!

The narrative moves in fits and jerks that would make even a ghost go giddy. The makers surely thought ‘different’. Rather than have disjointed and dismembered bodies on-screen they chose to display a disjointed and dismembered script! The real horror lies in the ruined screenplay that would make even a graveyard look like a palace.

So, in one scene a harried Bipasha is at her home, and in the next at her friend’s place (or is it a neighbor? Near her house? Far from her house?) and the subsequent shot has her back in her own house. Or was it the neighbor/friend’s only? Hard to tell. The director Suparn Verma doesn’t bother. He only shoots individual scenes without much care for what happens before or after; or for the characters or settings ( A 6 year kid being asked the spelling of ‘constitution’ was the heights!) . And the editor mechanically pieces them together.

Characters are introduced randomly. And they remain vague throughout. The entire film is superficial. There are a few spooky scenes, but they are few and far between. Hardly worth wasting your goose-bumps!

All clichés are adequately used – the ‘taaviz’ and the ‘pooja‘ and what nots! But the sum total never adds up.

The story is about a psychotic father (Nawazuddin) who is no good in life, and turns worse off in death. However, he obsessively loves his daughter and as a ghost spooks his ex-wife (Bipasha) to steal the kid. It had potential to be an emotionally distraught story with some strong horror flashes. Alas, that was not meant to be!

The dialogues are hilarious. In one scene, the kid’s teacher grimly states ‘Nia is distracted’ and Bipasha’s very intelligent response is ‘So Nia is not paying attention?’ Really?! Had they cut out such brilliant gems the length may have been a mere 60 minutes!

Everyone seems to be working in night – a primary school teacher is shown sitting alone late in the dark correcting test papers. Bipasha herself works alone in the night in a weird office. And horrors of horrors, the child psychologist meets the kid in the dead of the night. More than the kid, the doc needed a cure for insomnia!

The art director is on her/his own trip! The vast house is perpetually dim-lit with sad candles of various size and shapes strewn all over. (Who finds the time to light them?) The kid’s room has the TV built in an obnoxious looking bear-shaped cabinet. And whenever the kid is put to sleep there are always dolls and cartoon-printed bedsheets. Understandable in Bipasha’s house. But in the neighbour’s too? And *gasp* to stretch it further, even at a police inspector’s place? (Or was it police station?) Does the police now haul dolls?

Bipasha is ok, she has gone through this routine earlier. Nawazuddin (who had a dream run last year starting with Kahaani) grounds to a screeching halt in a criminally ill-defined & nebulous role which he evidently sleep-walks through.

But it’s the character artistes that bring the entire butchery with them. Shernaz Patel got her brief all wrong – lady, it wasn’t maa tujhe salaami! She hams and hams to the extent that I fear PETA would ban the film. Especially in scenes where she is not in the forefront she makes such annoying faces that one actually applauds the ghost for bumping her off.

Darshan Jariwala appears for a brief while as some ‘gyaani’ or pandit or whatever, we are never really told and probably not told to the actor even, for he looks absolutely clueless about his role.

And then there is the staple of such horror flicks – Mohan Kapoor!!! (Ya, that saanp-seedi or whatever televison show one!) (He played a funny priest in one such film, and in Raaz 3 he was the most irritating & artificial doctor ever) He recreates that vexatious doc act yet again – this time a child psychologist! Pray for the kids who are his clients!

Jaideep Ahlawat (also in Gangs of Wasseypur as Shahid) plays the Inspector who turns up after every death, and he brings some semblance of normalcy but he is limited by the overall script.

Hitesh Sonik’s background score is okay. Sangeet & Siddharth Haldipur’s songs are not used (barring one lullaby in the titles).

I have a strong liking for Bollywood horror flicks. But this one left me sorely disappointed. If Suparn Verma’s idea was to create with Bipasha in the lead a film even a worse one than Raaz 3 then he has definitely succeeded. (On hindisight and in comparison, Raaz 3 is Oscar material!) Else, it was a sheer waste of time & money.

Overall – STRICTLY AVOIDABLE!



__________________________________________________

(Contains spoilers)

I loved Ayan Mukherjee’s first film – Wake Up Sid. It’s a magnificent coming-of-age film, malady embellished with scoops of quieter moments that make the film introspective yet not dull; and some superlative performances. So I approached YJHD with huge expectations.

WUS was essentially a small film; neat & compact in its design; and a linear but taut timeline and was essentially without any ‘stars’ (Ranbir at that point was very new!) Perhaps, salve Wake Up Sid’s surprise success guaranteed Ayaan Mukherjee a bigger budget and a wider canvas, and to incorporate it in YJHD the film stumbles & wobbles.

There are a few recurring motifs in both films : Seeking one’s goal, and reconciling it with one’s loved ones; the father-son conflict that can be best described as ‘generational gap’ or perhaps, better as simply ‘ideological differences’, without any malice and filled with brimming love; friendships turned sour and eventually sweetened by passing time (as said in the movie ‘Thoda waqt do, sab theek ho jaayega‘); and the central theme about two individuals who are neither right nor wrong, but just different to each other. Of course, passion for photography is another returning refrain.

However, where the film falters is its wider timeline, geography and canvas – all those perfect locations, flawless dresses, and also the need to incorporate an ‘item song’ (Madhuri Dixit, no less!). Blowing up a photo meant for a smaller bit size will only heighten its pixelated flaws.

Hence, too much gloss and loss of detailing ( why would a so called studious girl like Naina who is so burdened by her studies and her parents’ expectations flaunt perfectly waxed legs in skimpy shorts? Pity, Ayaan resorts to the age-old Bollywood cliché that a ‘studious girl’ means wearing a pair of ugly specs! Or, how did they all manage to finance such an elaborate trip in all those designer clothes? I fondly harked back to the scene in WUS where Ranbir couldn’t even pay for a pizza dressed in a normal crumpled T-shirt! And then Ranbir’s entire so-called ‘journalistic career’ is swept aside in a few hasty montages where all he does is wave about his camera!)

No doubt the whole gamut of gloss & glamor is very eye-pleasing, but it also smothers the film’s soul, which thankfully is very much throbbing & making its presence felt in its own charming but muted way. Especially in the second half.

The first half is wholly devoted to the Manali trip, where Naina (Deepika) and Bunny (Ranbir) meet, and gradually get attracted to each other. They are accompanied by two of their best friends Aditi (Kalki) & Avi (Aditya Roy Kapoor). Aditi has a soft corner for Avi, who doesn’t seem to realize it. In this section, we befriend all the 4 lead characters … especially how their aspirational goals will clash. Bunny is a nomad at heart, and wants to roam the world (and carries an empty scrap book which he wishes to fulfill with his experience); Naina is the rooted one, caught between a wish to break her chains and her inherent sense of practicality. She falls for Bunny but doesn’t express it.

This section also has a short but superbly etched track featuring his father (Faruque Sheikh in an excellent cameo!) and his stepmom (Tanvi Azmi).

Eight years later they meet at Aditi’s marriage – no, not to Avi, who has spiralled downwards to being some sort of a loser, but to a man who looks silly, and is perhaps silly, but as Aditi says ‘with some people you just want to be with’ !

It’s in this section that Ayan’s writing gets razor sharp, and Hussain Dalal’s dialogues very interesting. Here Ayan leaves the geographical widespread, and is now contained in a wedding home, and hence gets his chance to take us into a wider tour of his characters! Perhaps a small canvas is his forte, and he should stick to that!

In this section there are some shining gems: ‘We grew up very fast’ laments Aditi at one stage, shining the torch on what I believe is a complain we all at some point of time carry. The characters for sure do. Here, Bunny & Naina reunite, rediscover each other. And reconcile with each other ( ‘You are not right, we are just different – says the hero; and a few scenes later she asserts ‘You are not wrong, we are just different’ – a mirror dialogue that I just loved!)

Since I am simultaneously reading Khaled Hosseini’s And The Mountains Echoed, there is somewhat similarity between the two …in the sense of a bottomless vacuum that lies beneath the successful facade.

The film’s technical aspects are all first-rate. Attractive costumes (lots of brand placements), amazing cinematography and fairly competent editing.

Pritam’s background score is very good (especially that piece when they are at the mountain peak is absolutely sensational!). His songs are good too, esp Badtamiz dil, Balam pichkari and Re Kabira.

I firmly believe Ranbir Kapoor cannot do anything wrong, and here Bunny is a character made for him, so he is outstanding. Deepika, though, was a very pleasant surprise. And both Kalki & Aditya hold their own fort strongly.

In a way, I empathized & understood Bunny; the character touched a chord inside me – that gnawing urge to follow one’s dreams; to explore the unchartered territory; to not be bound in one place; to not be tied down; to eat at new places; to stay at fresh cities; to see new sights. But as his father says, not all have the guts to pay the price for it. Because it all comes at a heavy emotional cost. Bunny had those guts.

I walked back from the theatre at 2 in the night thinking about Bunny – in the city that never sleeps – cars swept by in their manic rush; a couple sat having tea from a roadside vendor, a few stood around the cigarette stall; a cricket-match was on in one society under faux-spotlights; beggars slept precariously on the road-divider; autos slowed down and then seeing my disinterest sped away ; I reached home, put my laundry for washing (neglected due to my tour); cleared some loose junk lying here and there; kept the rubbish can outside the door for it to be picked up early morning; popped a beer; and sat to write this review. The night outside is heavily quiet; the humidity is oppressive; a drop slithers down the beer can; I like this space; this time with myself; this is my bargain …. random sights random views, but something within despairingly clawed trying to find a hook, a wall- I guess it was just an attempt to patch an incomprehensible hole with a jagged collage of sights & sounds. Much like Bunny. But very unlike him. For I haven’t paid that price. Yet.

In all – An interesting film, if only it had been much smaller in its canvas.

DO WATCH IT.

(Contains spoilers)

I loved Ayan Mukherjee’s first film – Wake Up Sid. It’s a magnificent coming-of-age film, malady embellished with scoops of quieter moments that make the film introspective yet not dull; and some superlative performances. So I approached YJHD with huge expectations.

WUS was essentially a small film; neat & compact in its design; and a linear but taut timeline and was essentially without any ‘stars’ (Ranbir at that point was very new!) Perhaps, salve Wake Up Sid’s surprise success guaranteed Ayaan Mukherjee a bigger budget and a wider canvas, and to incorporate it in YJHD the film stumbles & wobbles.

There are a few recurring motifs in both films : Seeking one’s goal, and reconciling it with one’s loved ones; the father-son conflict that can be best described as ‘generational gap’ or perhaps, better as simply ‘ideological differences’, without any malice and filled with brimming love; friendships turned sour and eventually sweetened by passing time (as said in the movie ‘Thoda waqt do, sab theek ho jaayega‘); and the central theme about two individuals who are neither right nor wrong, but just different to each other. Of course, passion for photography is another returning refrain.

However, where the film falters is its wider timeline, geography and canvas – all those perfect locations, flawless dresses, and also the need to incorporate an ‘item song’ (Madhuri Dixit, no less!). Blowing up a photo meant for a smaller bit size will only heighten its pixelated flaws.

Hence, too much gloss and loss of detailing ( why would a so called studious girl like Naina who is so burdened by her studies and her parents’ expectations flaunt perfectly waxed legs in skimpy shorts? Pity, Ayaan resorts to the age-old Bollywood cliché that a ‘studious girl’ means wearing a pair of ugly specs! Or, how did they all manage to finance such an elaborate trip in all those designer clothes? I fondly harked back to the scene in WUS where Ranbir couldn’t even pay for a pizza dressed in a normal crumpled T-shirt! And then Ranbir’s entire so-called ‘journalistic career’ is swept aside in a few hasty montages where all he does is wave about his camera!)

No doubt the whole gamut of gloss & glamor is very eye-pleasing, but it also smothers the film’s soul, which thankfully is very much throbbing & making its presence felt in its own charming but muted way. Especially in the second half.

The first half is wholly devoted to the Manali trip, where Naina (Deepika) and Bunny (Ranbir) meet, and gradually get attracted to each other. They are accompanied by two of their best friends Aditi (Kalki) & Avi (Aditya Roy Kapoor). Aditi has a soft corner for Avi, who doesn’t seem to realize it. In this section, we befriend all the 4 lead characters … especially how their aspirational goals will clash. Bunny is a nomad at heart, and wants to roam the world (and carries an empty scrap book which he wishes to fulfill with his experience); Naina is the rooted one, caught between a wish to break her chains and her inherent sense of practicality. She falls for Bunny but doesn’t express it.

This section also has a short but superbly etched track featuring his father (Faruque Sheikh in an excellent cameo!) and his stepmom (Tanvi Azmi).

Eight years later they meet at Aditi’s marriage – no, not to Avi, who has spiralled downwards to being some sort of a loser, but to a man who looks silly, and is perhaps silly, but as Aditi says ‘with some people you just want to be with’ !

It’s in this section that Ayan’s writing gets razor sharp, and Hussain Dalal’s dialogues very interesting. Here Ayan leaves the geographical widespread, and is now contained in a wedding home, and hence gets his chance to take us into a wider tour of his characters! Perhaps a small canvas is his forte, and he should stick to that!

In this section there are some shining gems: ‘We grew up very fast’ laments Aditi at one stage, shining the torch on what I believe is a complain we all at some point of time carry. The characters for sure do. Here, Bunny & Naina reunite, rediscover each other. And reconcile with each other ( ‘You are not right, we are just different – says the hero; and a few scenes later she asserts ‘You are not wrong, we are just different’ – a mirror dialogue that I just loved!)

Since I am simultaneously reading Khaled Hosseini’s And The Mountains Echoed, there is somewhat similarity between the two …in the sense of a bottomless vacuum that lies beneath the successful facade.

The film’s technical aspects are all first-rate. Attractive costumes (lots of brand placements), amazing cinematography and fairly competent editing.

Pritam’s background score is very good (especially that piece when they are at the mountain peak is absolutely sensational!). His songs are good too, esp Badtamiz dil, Balam pichkari and Re Kabira.

I firmly believe Ranbir Kapoor cannot do anything wrong, and here Bunny is a character made for him, so he is outstanding. Deepika, though, was a very pleasant surprise. And both Kalki & Aditya hold their own fort strongly.

In a way, I empathized & understood Bunny; the character touched a chord inside me – that gnawing urge to follow one’s dreams; to explore the unchartered territory; to not be bound in one place; to not be tied down; to eat at new places; to stay at fresh cities; to see new sights. But as his father says, not all have the guts to pay the price for it. Because it all comes at a heavy emotional cost. Bunny had those guts.

I walked back from the theatre at 2 in the night thinking about Bunny – in the city that never sleeps – cars swept by in their manic rush; a couple sat having tea from a roadside vendor, a few stood around the cigarette stall; a cricket-match was on in one society under faux-spotlights; beggars slept precariously on the road-divider; autos slowed down and then seeing my disinterest sped away ; I reached home, put my laundry for washing (neglected due to my tour); cleared some loose junk lying here and there; kept the rubbish can outside the door for it to be picked up early morning; popped a beer; and sat to write this review. The night outside is heavily quiet; the humidity is oppressive; a drop slithers down the beer can; I like this space; this time with myself; this is my bargain …. random sights random views, but something within despairingly clawed trying to find a hook, a wall- I guess it was just an attempt to patch an incomprehensible hole with a jagged collage of sights & sounds. Much like Bunny. But very unlike him. For I haven’t paid that price. Yet.

In all – An interesting film, if only it had been much smaller in its canvas.

DO WATCH IT.

Meera

An Epic Love Story

By Deepak Jeswal

 Episode One

The hooves pounded on the earth with dull thuds as the horse flew its way over the expansive rough terrain of Sujanbhoomi’s outskirts, cialis 40mg
raising a cloud of sand and a rhythm of excitement. The wide horizon spread its rich wares of a sad sun setting in its own bloodied redness covered unsuccessfully by the gauze of vapory clouds; a bashful moon, in its weak whiteness tried its feeble attempt to whimper its existence.

With the darkening jungles behind him, the horse and its regal rider rode on the open green space of the hills with a ferocious vigor and without any respite. Arjun clutched the reins with a sharp grip, his knuckles whitening, his hands cold by the biting wind that cut through the unrestrained countryside and hit his pale visage. His scarf, wrapped around his neck to protect against the cold, flapped remorselessly behind him; the sleeves of his thick woolen dress flailed around him.

As he neared the sharp drop at the end of the open field, he reined in the horse, his eyes narrowing to discern any human form in the lengthening shadows. There, in the corner, on the edge of the precipice stood a woman; with, a chariot of royal bearings standing at a close distance.

Turning his horse, he rode towards her. The woman, startled by the sudden noise, looked up. She wore a hard expression- her eyes, large, dry and unemotional; her lips pursed in a tight grip, slightly curved down, adding to the hardness. She wore an expensive sari of purple, the color merging with the borders of the open skies, and the silver zardozi work reflected off by the dying light.

Arjun brought his horse close by, pulling it to a quick stop with a sharp jerk of the reins and a quick push of the stirrups; the horse shuffled to an uneasy halt. Jumping down, Arjun adjusted the silk scarf and took wide strides to the woman; his ruffled long hair settled nervously and recklessly over his broad forehead.

“A warm greeting to my lady!” said Arjun, bowing down; his voice was deep and dynamic.

The lady did not reply; she merely nodded her head imperceptibly, in an obviously reluctant acknowledgement of the greeting. An eerie howl of the wind filled the space between them. Behind her was the grand drop of the green gorge, with a stream gurgling its way in rough rapids and over sharp rocks, beyond which were the mighty mountains- unexplored and unconquered.

“May I know the reason for calling me here at such hour?” asked Arjun, a little reverentially, a little hesitant at the stern but stately aura that the woman exuded.

The two stood on the gigantic open space, unpunctuated except for their respective riders. The horse had begun its task of grazing at the grass; the chariot and its horse, stood motionless, like their owner.

“Have the men of Sujanbhoomi lost all notions of honor and valor?” she asked her voice soft but controlled and very strong, piercing through the wind with the finesse of a taut thread.

Arjun looked up sharply; their eyes met- hers, dancing with a feral agitation; his, steely and cold.

“May I ask the meaning of this taunt?” he enquired, his words nearly hissed out between his teeth. He looked at the woman’s glowing white skin. She was beautiful…but in a very wild sense; he felt a strange churning within his groins as he took in her upturned face and the redness of the mouth – as red as the diminishing sun behind her…as red as the blood that he felt boiling within him. Her chin was turned up in a mocking way, and he felt a surge within him to grab her and kiss her. There was an unconquerable attitude around her that stirred the man in him to possess her and ravage her.

“I am talking about your fiancée. Meera’s eyes are wandering much more than they should at this age!”

Anger erupted within him, and he raised his voice. “What are you saying, woman!”

“There is an unhealthy concoction brewing between Meera and Rudra”

Arjun was aghast. He was taken aback, and it showed on his face. The lady’s lips curved slightly into a small smile; her stare was relentless on him.

“Rudra is my husband; I will take care of him. I know how to! Men always fall for the doe-eyed ladies who smile coquettishly at them. Restrain that smile on Meera’s face…for if it continues, I promise you, Sujanbhoomi shall not see the next Dushera ever. Convey this to your king that he must tie chains instead of anklets to the straying feet of his daughter!”

The air was chilling, and the wind whistled a shrill tune over the rugged territory; Arjun shivered- the lady’s voice was unfeeling but simmering with unforeseen consequences. His anger intermingled with his desire as he again observed the wanton demeanor of the lady standing before him: Roopmati, the wife of the Crown Prince of Sahastragarh, the neighboring kingdom, on the other side of the River Mukti.

She took a few steps towards him, her purple sari rustling in the wind, but barely containing the curvaceous figure beneath it. She raised a hand and placed it on his shoulders.

“I hope you will understand!”

He felt the deepest lust at the touch of her warm hand; the heat singed through his woolens. Turning sharply she turned towards the waiting chariot. She sat on her velvet seat, her back straight and ordered the chariot driver to drive off. The vehicle rushed passed him, the wheels and hooves whipping up a froth of cloud and wind, and the sound of the rolling heaviness reverberating into the night’s abyss.

Long after she left, he stood near the edge, his eyes unwaveringly gazing at the piles of mountains strewn by nature in a supposedly random order; the sun now engulfed by the crevices of the hardened terra firma of the hills. His mind was galloping with the same rhythm that the horses had created.

“Meera…you shall pay for this betrayal!” he cursed within his breath. “And so shall you, Rajasaheb! History will not forget this easily”

 

************************************************************************

 

“Tell me, what you have to say…fast!” He barked in his throaty rasping voice; he spoke with such force that the thick mustaches on his lips quivered with impatience.

“Why do you get angry, sahib?” smiled Raktaprasad slyly, shifting his weight from his lame left foot to the other- he was getting to his strong point.

“You know I have not much time…”

Raktaprasad looked around wickedly and smiled. Of course, Prince Rudra’s brother Shourya did not have much time, especially in the place where he stood. The large white marbled hall of the courtesan Chanda Bai was spotlessly polished; Raktaprasad could almost see his reflection in the same. Four gigantic pillars supported a ceiling so high that the short-height endowed Raktaprasad felt a pain in his neck when he watched the intricate hundred candle chandelier made of pure crystal special imported from abroad. Beyond the hall, he could hear the sounds of the nimble footsteps dancing to the strains of saarangi and harmonium, set to a mild rhythm of the ghoongroos and the percussion of the tabla. The mellow lapping of the waves of the River Mukti outside added their own charm. A melodious voice sung a song of love and beauty.

“Saheb, please do not get angry” said the servant, obsequiously. “This time the news is such that I shall ask for 100 gold coins.” His eyes shone with greed as he said the words.

With an awkward limp he moved forward, near to the gargantuan muscular frame of Shourya.

Saheb, Raja Harshvardhan’s daughter and your brother are playing the game of love; the passion is very strong in both of them!”

Shorya’s eyes widened “If this is not true…”

Saheb, you can chop the head of this servant of yours and feed the lions of Mukti Jungle” interrupted the vile man.

Raktaprasad shifted his weight again; not only did he have a short height; there was a marked slouch in his frail body also, with a small head fixed on the torso sans the neck. God had been sufficiently unkind in depriving the minutest sense of beauty in either his body or mind. On that, a deep scar inflicted on his cheek by an unfortunate adversary had taken away any scope of attraction. The adversary was killed; the scar on the cheek remained. He was the trusted aide of Arjun, the chief of army of Sujanbhoomi, but in his selfishness he realized that he needed to be friendly with the important members of the neighboring country as well.

With his eyes shining in delight, Shorya gave him a pouch full of gold coins and dismissed him off with a small wave of hand.

Shorya pondered over the information provided by Raktaprasad. So, his virtuous married brother, his rival, had fallen in love. Yes, this was the chink in the armor that he had been so desperately looking for. Ever since he had taken birth, he had realized that he had missed the destiny’s caravan with a very small margin of time and womb. He never forgave his destiny for this chicanery; nor, his father, King Devvrat.

Although Devvrat loved his first wife (Meenakshi) very much, he had married Laxmi because he needed to sire an heir for the kingdom, because Meenakshi could not give him one even after ten agonizing years. As luck would have it Meenakshi found she was pregnant just a month after Laxmi announced her own pregnancy. Though Laxmi knew that in all righteousness Meenakshi’s son would ascend the throne should he be born first, but Devvrat, in his kindness, promised that he would crown the first born, from whoever it was born.

Laxmi was satisfied; though the gap between the announcements had been small, somehow she sensed that she had the lead. In the next few crucial months it seemed that she was preparing her unborn for the throne.

However, to her shock and dismay, Rudra was born to Meenakshi, prematurely, a weak, nearly dead, blanched and wrinkled boy that cried for the first ten days of coming into the world, but who had in his survival marked on his forehead the future of the kingdom of Sahastragarh.

Shorya entered the world fifteen days later, a loser and full of the venom of jealousy that his mother had imbued him with. Over the years, he realized that his father’s entire love found its way to his weak sibling; and because he displayed a natural resentment and devised novel means to hurt his elder brother, his father’s wrath was always directed towards him.

In his endeavor to spite his father, Shorya took to wine and women early in life; and the notorious brothel of Chanda Bai was one of his favorite haunts. Built on the banks of River Mukti, the sprawling white marble architecture was a hub of activity during the nights when the nobility came to enjoy the pleasures of sin and skin. At the farthest end of the market that catered to the base needs of all, from the poor weary traveler to the uncouth business men, Chanda Bai’s haven was by far the best in its trade – almost a symbol of class and gentility. The grandeur of the building spoke volumes of Chanda Bai’s income. She took care to source the best, the youngest and the loveliest girls, and groomed them personally in music and dance, and the ways to please a man in bed.

Shorya stood near the tall Persian glass windows, deep in thought, looking at the serene waters of River Mukti flowing by. The windows were draped in crème satin curtains, laced ornamentally with small nuggets of colored glass in beautiful designs.

As he thought of ways to take revenge from his brother, Shorya’s breath came fast, and his bulky six-foot frame shook in exhilaration. A small tinkle of the anklet broke his reverie, and he turned sharply. A girl in her early twenties stood, bowing respectfully and with a silver glass of wine in her hennaed hands.

Huzoor, do you plan to spend the night watching Mukti?” she asked, in a husky voice.

Shorya took the beauty of the demure girl in his lusty dark and deep eyes. Yes, once again, Chanda Bai had offered him the best of her entire lot. The girl had a skin that was clearer than the Mukti with almond colored intoxicating eyes that swam with mischief and invitation. She wore a bright pink ghagra choli, and her dupatta hung loosely over her heaving bosom and rounded behind her slim back to cover her silky hair; a few wanton wisps ventured out and playfully hung over her forehead.

Shorya smiled, and walked up to her. Taking the glass from her hand, he felt as if he had touched silk. “So you are Tara! Chanda bai was right when she described you! You are an angel”

The girl smiled shyly, and looked up to his robust eyes. “Huzoor, I am nothing but your servant…”

With a quick vulture like grip he pulled her towards him, and pressed her soft and warm body to his; in the tug, her dupatta slipped from her head and fell by the side, caught between their bodies, but enough to reveal the shimmering whiteness of the skin around and below her neck that revealed the ripeness of her youth through the deep cut choli.

He caught her in a tight grip, with the steel glass still in his hand, the coldness of which she felt at her lower back. He loved the suppleness of her breasts against his chest, and bent forward to kiss her lips. She smelled the odor of the wine from his breath but as taught to her did not resist or struggle, but allowed him to bite onto her tender lips. He pressed his body hard against her, and moved his thick leg around her slim ones.

After a while, she pulled away, and pushed him with a playful jerk and said, “Sarkar, not here…”

Understanding her meaning, he lifted her up in a swift movement and started walking to the wide marble stairs at the end of the hall. Tara wrapped her arms around his neck and placed her head on his neck, and looked back at the receding white floor beneath her. The dupatta, now hanging precariously from her neck, swayed with their movement.

In her mind, million thoughts raced. She knew what was to follow; she was prepared for it; she had been educated for this night all these years; in fact, she was surprised that she had so snugly fit into the ribald environment of the brothel. She was perfect in her dance, and she sang very well; many a nobility had come here only to see her move gracefully to the rhythms of the tabla, and listen to the songs that she composed and sang. She now enjoyed the ribald talks and raunchy jokes of fellow-nautch girls and prostitutes.

But she still remembered that once she was also a normal girl with some normal dreams of home, hearth and husband. The only daughter of the village priest, her birth unfortunately coincided with her mother’s death. She was keen to learn the scriptures and devote her life to the God. The destiny had something else in store for her. When she was ten, a severe epidemic had engulfed the village, wiping out nearly all, including her father. After that, she was alone and uncared for; she wandered the jungles of Mukti, trying to find food and shelter. Alas, the only man that she met during those stressful three days was Shorya, who in his arrogance and wayward ways knew only one shelter to provide for her: Chanda Bai’s brothel! She recalled how Chanda Bai had smiled at her, popping a large betel leaf in her mouth, and proclaimed, “Miyan Shorya, you have brought an uncut diamond here today; someday I shall present this to you, polished and cleaned!”

Today, she was finally presented to Shorya!

With a sigh, Tara looked at the henna on her hands; the henna, considered auspicious was a bride’s best friend; yet, the dark brown color burned on her hands; she was to have her wedding night today, without any procession, priest or purity!

 

************************************************************************

 

The clatter of the sword echoed through the room.

Arjun looked at it in disgust, and sat down, panting, the sweat glistening off his shining dusky bare chest. For the past one hour he had been practicing sword fighting, killing off an invisible enemy in the stuffy air of his private room. How could his fiancée fall in love with some one else? Although merely the head of the army, the King of Sujanbhoomi had taken an unique liking to this handsome young man; since, there was no other offspring to the King, except for Meera, he had decided to marry her to Arjun, and give the reins of the kingdom to him after his retirement.

For Arjun, it was crucial that he remained in the good books of the King; though given to all the vices of the nobility, he had managed to keep that side of his hidden from the gullible old man.

Arre, arre…what is this, master!” The wily voice of Raktaprasad broke the silence.

Arjun looked up at his man Friday. He hated Raktaprasad, and the opportunistic attitude, but tolerated him for the invaluable and insidious information that he always seemed to possess.

Huzoor, will you only fight imaginary battles in this room, or go out in the field to fight also!”

Arjun turned to him and came forward in anger, and grabbed the man’s collar “What do you mean?”

Feigning fear, Raktaprasad recoiled, but spoke on. “Huzoor, your enemy Rudra is preparing war on Sujanbhoomi…and plans to kill you in this!”

With a loud war-like cry, Arjun pushed him back; the crippled servant staggered back, trying to recover with the best of his ability, despite the limp.

With mock affront, Raktaprasad said, “It is a fact! And my guarantee seal is on this news! I thought I should warn you…”

Arjun’s eyes blazed in a fire of hatred and rage. If this is true, then the purpose of the war is only to get Meera from him! He would not allow this to happen. He had to speak to the king immediately; the things were getting a bit too out of hand, and too fast.

He pulled out a bag of coins from the chest of drawers in the corner, threw it across to Raktaprasad, and rushed out. Raktaprasad caught the bag with an efficient move, and smiled to himself. It was good that these rich and high people were blinded with jealousy and fury, a fire that he kept fuelled with his tiny informations; in turn, they always rewarded him with money; and money, was his only motive…since God had given him no beauty or stature, and a limp over that, he felt it was his right to extract his pound of flesh in whatever situation that he deemed fit.

 

To Be Continued.

(Contains spoilers)

I loved Ayan Mukherjee’s first film – Wake Up Sid. It’s a magnificent coming-of-age film, malady embellished with scoops of quieter moments that make the film introspective yet not dull; and some superlative performances. So I approached YJHD with huge expectations.

WUS was essentially a small film; neat & compact in its design; and a linear but taut timeline and was essentially without any ‘stars’ (Ranbir at that point was very new!) Perhaps, salve Wake Up Sid’s surprise success guaranteed Ayaan Mukherjee a bigger budget and a wider canvas, and to incorporate it in YJHD the film stumbles & wobbles.

There are a few recurring motifs in both films : Seeking one’s goal, and reconciling it with one’s loved ones; the father-son conflict that can be best described as ‘generational gap’ or perhaps, better as simply ‘ideological differences’, without any malice and filled with brimming love; friendships turned sour and eventually sweetened by passing time (as said in the movie ‘Thoda waqt do, sab theek ho jaayega‘); and the central theme about two individuals who are neither right nor wrong, but just different to each other. Of course, passion for photography is another returning refrain.

However, where the film falters is its wider timeline, geography and canvas – all those perfect locations, flawless dresses, and also the need to incorporate an ‘item song’ (Madhuri Dixit, no less!). Blowing up a photo meant for a smaller bit size will only heighten its pixelated flaws.

Hence, too much gloss and loss of detailing ( why would a so called studious girl like Naina who is so burdened by her studies and her parents’ expectations flaunt perfectly waxed legs in skimpy shorts? Pity, Ayaan resorts to the age-old Bollywood cliché that a ‘studious girl’ means wearing a pair of ugly specs! Or, how did they all manage to finance such an elaborate trip in all those designer clothes? I fondly harked back to the scene in WUS where Ranbir couldn’t even pay for a pizza dressed in a normal crumpled T-shirt! And then Ranbir’s entire so-called ‘journalistic career’ is swept aside in a few hasty montages where all he does is wave about his camera!)

No doubt the whole gamut of gloss & glamor is very eye-pleasing, but it also smothers the film’s soul, which thankfully is very much throbbing & making its presence felt in its own charming but muted way. Especially in the second half.

The first half is wholly devoted to the Manali trip, where Naina (Deepika) and Bunny (Ranbir) meet, and gradually get attracted to each other. They are accompanied by two of their best friends Aditi (Kalki) & Avi (Aditya Roy Kapoor). Aditi has a soft corner for Avi, who doesn’t seem to realize it. In this section, we befriend all the 4 lead characters … especially how their aspirational goals will clash. Bunny is a nomad at heart, and wants to roam the world (and carries an empty scrap book which he wishes to fulfill with his experience); Naina is the rooted one, caught between a wish to break her chains and her inherent sense of practicality. She falls for Bunny but doesn’t express it.

This section also has a short but superbly etched track featuring his father (Faruque Sheikh in an excellent cameo!) and his stepmom (Tanvi Azmi).

Eight years later they meet at Aditi’s marriage – no, not to Avi, who has spiralled downwards to being some sort of a loser, but to a man who looks silly, and is perhaps silly, but as Aditi says ‘with some people you just want to be with’ !

It’s in this section that Ayan’s writing gets razor sharp, and Hussain Dalal’s dialogues very interesting. Here Ayan leaves the geographical widespread, and is now contained in a wedding home, and hence gets his chance to take us into a wider tour of his characters! Perhaps a small canvas is his forte, and he should stick to that!

In this section there are some shining gems: ‘We grew up very fast’ laments Aditi at one stage, shining the torch on what I believe is a complain we all at some point of time carry. The characters for sure do. Here, Bunny & Naina reunite, rediscover each other. And reconcile with each other ( ‘You are not right, we are just different – says the hero; and a few scenes later she asserts ‘You are not wrong, we are just different’ – a mirror dialogue that I just loved!)

Since I am simultaneously reading Khaled Hosseini’s And The Mountains Echoed, there is somewhat similarity between the two …in the sense of a bottomless vacuum that lies beneath the successful facade.

The film’s technical aspects are all first-rate. Attractive costumes (lots of brand placements), amazing cinematography and fairly competent editing.

Pritam’s background score is very good (especially that piece when they are at the mountain peak is absolutely sensational!). His songs are good too, esp Badtamiz dil, Balam pichkari and Re Kabira.

I firmly believe Ranbir Kapoor cannot do anything wrong, and here Bunny is a character made for him, so he is outstanding. Deepika, though, was a very pleasant surprise. And both Kalki & Aditya hold their own fort strongly.

In a way, I empathized & understood Bunny; the character touched a chord inside me – that gnawing urge to follow one’s dreams; to explore the unchartered territory; to not be bound in one place; to not be tied down; to eat at new places; to stay at fresh cities; to see new sights. But as his father says, not all have the guts to pay the price for it. Because it all comes at a heavy emotional cost. Bunny had those guts.

I walked back from the theatre at 2 in the night thinking about Bunny – in the city that never sleeps – cars swept by in their manic rush; a couple sat having tea from a roadside vendor, a few stood around the cigarette stall; a cricket-match was on in one society under faux-spotlights; beggars slept precariously on the road-divider; autos slowed down and then seeing my disinterest sped away ; I reached home, put my laundry for washing (neglected due to my tour); cleared some loose junk lying here and there; kept the rubbish can outside the door for it to be picked up early morning; popped a beer; and sat to write this review. The night outside is heavily quiet; the humidity is oppressive; a drop slithers down the beer can; I like this space; this time with myself; this is my bargain …. random sights random views, but something within despairingly clawed trying to find a hook, a wall- I guess it was just an attempt to patch an incomprehensible hole with a jagged collage of sights & sounds. Much like Bunny. But very unlike him. For I haven’t paid that price. Yet.

In all – An interesting film, if only it had been much smaller in its canvas.

DO WATCH IT.

Meera

An Epic Love Story

By Deepak Jeswal

 Episode One

The hooves pounded on the earth with dull thuds as the horse flew its way over the expansive rough terrain of Sujanbhoomi’s outskirts, cialis 40mg
raising a cloud of sand and a rhythm of excitement. The wide horizon spread its rich wares of a sad sun setting in its own bloodied redness covered unsuccessfully by the gauze of vapory clouds; a bashful moon, in its weak whiteness tried its feeble attempt to whimper its existence.

With the darkening jungles behind him, the horse and its regal rider rode on the open green space of the hills with a ferocious vigor and without any respite. Arjun clutched the reins with a sharp grip, his knuckles whitening, his hands cold by the biting wind that cut through the unrestrained countryside and hit his pale visage. His scarf, wrapped around his neck to protect against the cold, flapped remorselessly behind him; the sleeves of his thick woolen dress flailed around him.

As he neared the sharp drop at the end of the open field, he reined in the horse, his eyes narrowing to discern any human form in the lengthening shadows. There, in the corner, on the edge of the precipice stood a woman; with, a chariot of royal bearings standing at a close distance.

Turning his horse, he rode towards her. The woman, startled by the sudden noise, looked up. She wore a hard expression- her eyes, large, dry and unemotional; her lips pursed in a tight grip, slightly curved down, adding to the hardness. She wore an expensive sari of purple, the color merging with the borders of the open skies, and the silver zardozi work reflected off by the dying light.

Arjun brought his horse close by, pulling it to a quick stop with a sharp jerk of the reins and a quick push of the stirrups; the horse shuffled to an uneasy halt. Jumping down, Arjun adjusted the silk scarf and took wide strides to the woman; his ruffled long hair settled nervously and recklessly over his broad forehead.

“A warm greeting to my lady!” said Arjun, bowing down; his voice was deep and dynamic.

The lady did not reply; she merely nodded her head imperceptibly, in an obviously reluctant acknowledgement of the greeting. An eerie howl of the wind filled the space between them. Behind her was the grand drop of the green gorge, with a stream gurgling its way in rough rapids and over sharp rocks, beyond which were the mighty mountains- unexplored and unconquered.

“May I know the reason for calling me here at such hour?” asked Arjun, a little reverentially, a little hesitant at the stern but stately aura that the woman exuded.

The two stood on the gigantic open space, unpunctuated except for their respective riders. The horse had begun its task of grazing at the grass; the chariot and its horse, stood motionless, like their owner.

“Have the men of Sujanbhoomi lost all notions of honor and valor?” she asked her voice soft but controlled and very strong, piercing through the wind with the finesse of a taut thread.

Arjun looked up sharply; their eyes met- hers, dancing with a feral agitation; his, steely and cold.

“May I ask the meaning of this taunt?” he enquired, his words nearly hissed out between his teeth. He looked at the woman’s glowing white skin. She was beautiful…but in a very wild sense; he felt a strange churning within his groins as he took in her upturned face and the redness of the mouth – as red as the diminishing sun behind her…as red as the blood that he felt boiling within him. Her chin was turned up in a mocking way, and he felt a surge within him to grab her and kiss her. There was an unconquerable attitude around her that stirred the man in him to possess her and ravage her.

“I am talking about your fiancée. Meera’s eyes are wandering much more than they should at this age!”

Anger erupted within him, and he raised his voice. “What are you saying, woman!”

“There is an unhealthy concoction brewing between Meera and Rudra”

Arjun was aghast. He was taken aback, and it showed on his face. The lady’s lips curved slightly into a small smile; her stare was relentless on him.

“Rudra is my husband; I will take care of him. I know how to! Men always fall for the doe-eyed ladies who smile coquettishly at them. Restrain that smile on Meera’s face…for if it continues, I promise you, Sujanbhoomi shall not see the next Dushera ever. Convey this to your king that he must tie chains instead of anklets to the straying feet of his daughter!”

The air was chilling, and the wind whistled a shrill tune over the rugged territory; Arjun shivered- the lady’s voice was unfeeling but simmering with unforeseen consequences. His anger intermingled with his desire as he again observed the wanton demeanor of the lady standing before him: Roopmati, the wife of the Crown Prince of Sahastragarh, the neighboring kingdom, on the other side of the River Mukti.

She took a few steps towards him, her purple sari rustling in the wind, but barely containing the curvaceous figure beneath it. She raised a hand and placed it on his shoulders.

“I hope you will understand!”

He felt the deepest lust at the touch of her warm hand; the heat singed through his woolens. Turning sharply she turned towards the waiting chariot. She sat on her velvet seat, her back straight and ordered the chariot driver to drive off. The vehicle rushed passed him, the wheels and hooves whipping up a froth of cloud and wind, and the sound of the rolling heaviness reverberating into the night’s abyss.

Long after she left, he stood near the edge, his eyes unwaveringly gazing at the piles of mountains strewn by nature in a supposedly random order; the sun now engulfed by the crevices of the hardened terra firma of the hills. His mind was galloping with the same rhythm that the horses had created.

“Meera…you shall pay for this betrayal!” he cursed within his breath. “And so shall you, Rajasaheb! History will not forget this easily”

 

************************************************************************

 

“Tell me, what you have to say…fast!” He barked in his throaty rasping voice; he spoke with such force that the thick mustaches on his lips quivered with impatience.

“Why do you get angry, sahib?” smiled Raktaprasad slyly, shifting his weight from his lame left foot to the other- he was getting to his strong point.

“You know I have not much time…”

Raktaprasad looked around wickedly and smiled. Of course, Prince Rudra’s brother Shourya did not have much time, especially in the place where he stood. The large white marbled hall of the courtesan Chanda Bai was spotlessly polished; Raktaprasad could almost see his reflection in the same. Four gigantic pillars supported a ceiling so high that the short-height endowed Raktaprasad felt a pain in his neck when he watched the intricate hundred candle chandelier made of pure crystal special imported from abroad. Beyond the hall, he could hear the sounds of the nimble footsteps dancing to the strains of saarangi and harmonium, set to a mild rhythm of the ghoongroos and the percussion of the tabla. The mellow lapping of the waves of the River Mukti outside added their own charm. A melodious voice sung a song of love and beauty.

“Saheb, please do not get angry” said the servant, obsequiously. “This time the news is such that I shall ask for 100 gold coins.” His eyes shone with greed as he said the words.

With an awkward limp he moved forward, near to the gargantuan muscular frame of Shourya.

Saheb, Raja Harshvardhan’s daughter and your brother are playing the game of love; the passion is very strong in both of them!”

Shorya’s eyes widened “If this is not true…”

Saheb, you can chop the head of this servant of yours and feed the lions of Mukti Jungle” interrupted the vile man.

Raktaprasad shifted his weight again; not only did he have a short height; there was a marked slouch in his frail body also, with a small head fixed on the torso sans the neck. God had been sufficiently unkind in depriving the minutest sense of beauty in either his body or mind. On that, a deep scar inflicted on his cheek by an unfortunate adversary had taken away any scope of attraction. The adversary was killed; the scar on the cheek remained. He was the trusted aide of Arjun, the chief of army of Sujanbhoomi, but in his selfishness he realized that he needed to be friendly with the important members of the neighboring country as well.

With his eyes shining in delight, Shorya gave him a pouch full of gold coins and dismissed him off with a small wave of hand.

Shorya pondered over the information provided by Raktaprasad. So, his virtuous married brother, his rival, had fallen in love. Yes, this was the chink in the armor that he had been so desperately looking for. Ever since he had taken birth, he had realized that he had missed the destiny’s caravan with a very small margin of time and womb. He never forgave his destiny for this chicanery; nor, his father, King Devvrat.

Although Devvrat loved his first wife (Meenakshi) very much, he had married Laxmi because he needed to sire an heir for the kingdom, because Meenakshi could not give him one even after ten agonizing years. As luck would have it Meenakshi found she was pregnant just a month after Laxmi announced her own pregnancy. Though Laxmi knew that in all righteousness Meenakshi’s son would ascend the throne should he be born first, but Devvrat, in his kindness, promised that he would crown the first born, from whoever it was born.

Laxmi was satisfied; though the gap between the announcements had been small, somehow she sensed that she had the lead. In the next few crucial months it seemed that she was preparing her unborn for the throne.

However, to her shock and dismay, Rudra was born to Meenakshi, prematurely, a weak, nearly dead, blanched and wrinkled boy that cried for the first ten days of coming into the world, but who had in his survival marked on his forehead the future of the kingdom of Sahastragarh.

Shorya entered the world fifteen days later, a loser and full of the venom of jealousy that his mother had imbued him with. Over the years, he realized that his father’s entire love found its way to his weak sibling; and because he displayed a natural resentment and devised novel means to hurt his elder brother, his father’s wrath was always directed towards him.

In his endeavor to spite his father, Shorya took to wine and women early in life; and the notorious brothel of Chanda Bai was one of his favorite haunts. Built on the banks of River Mukti, the sprawling white marble architecture was a hub of activity during the nights when the nobility came to enjoy the pleasures of sin and skin. At the farthest end of the market that catered to the base needs of all, from the poor weary traveler to the uncouth business men, Chanda Bai’s haven was by far the best in its trade – almost a symbol of class and gentility. The grandeur of the building spoke volumes of Chanda Bai’s income. She took care to source the best, the youngest and the loveliest girls, and groomed them personally in music and dance, and the ways to please a man in bed.

Shorya stood near the tall Persian glass windows, deep in thought, looking at the serene waters of River Mukti flowing by. The windows were draped in crème satin curtains, laced ornamentally with small nuggets of colored glass in beautiful designs.

As he thought of ways to take revenge from his brother, Shorya’s breath came fast, and his bulky six-foot frame shook in exhilaration. A small tinkle of the anklet broke his reverie, and he turned sharply. A girl in her early twenties stood, bowing respectfully and with a silver glass of wine in her hennaed hands.

Huzoor, do you plan to spend the night watching Mukti?” she asked, in a husky voice.

Shorya took the beauty of the demure girl in his lusty dark and deep eyes. Yes, once again, Chanda Bai had offered him the best of her entire lot. The girl had a skin that was clearer than the Mukti with almond colored intoxicating eyes that swam with mischief and invitation. She wore a bright pink ghagra choli, and her dupatta hung loosely over her heaving bosom and rounded behind her slim back to cover her silky hair; a few wanton wisps ventured out and playfully hung over her forehead.

Shorya smiled, and walked up to her. Taking the glass from her hand, he felt as if he had touched silk. “So you are Tara! Chanda bai was right when she described you! You are an angel”

The girl smiled shyly, and looked up to his robust eyes. “Huzoor, I am nothing but your servant…”

With a quick vulture like grip he pulled her towards him, and pressed her soft and warm body to his; in the tug, her dupatta slipped from her head and fell by the side, caught between their bodies, but enough to reveal the shimmering whiteness of the skin around and below her neck that revealed the ripeness of her youth through the deep cut choli.

He caught her in a tight grip, with the steel glass still in his hand, the coldness of which she felt at her lower back. He loved the suppleness of her breasts against his chest, and bent forward to kiss her lips. She smelled the odor of the wine from his breath but as taught to her did not resist or struggle, but allowed him to bite onto her tender lips. He pressed his body hard against her, and moved his thick leg around her slim ones.

After a while, she pulled away, and pushed him with a playful jerk and said, “Sarkar, not here…”

Understanding her meaning, he lifted her up in a swift movement and started walking to the wide marble stairs at the end of the hall. Tara wrapped her arms around his neck and placed her head on his neck, and looked back at the receding white floor beneath her. The dupatta, now hanging precariously from her neck, swayed with their movement.

In her mind, million thoughts raced. She knew what was to follow; she was prepared for it; she had been educated for this night all these years; in fact, she was surprised that she had so snugly fit into the ribald environment of the brothel. She was perfect in her dance, and she sang very well; many a nobility had come here only to see her move gracefully to the rhythms of the tabla, and listen to the songs that she composed and sang. She now enjoyed the ribald talks and raunchy jokes of fellow-nautch girls and prostitutes.

But she still remembered that once she was also a normal girl with some normal dreams of home, hearth and husband. The only daughter of the village priest, her birth unfortunately coincided with her mother’s death. She was keen to learn the scriptures and devote her life to the God. The destiny had something else in store for her. When she was ten, a severe epidemic had engulfed the village, wiping out nearly all, including her father. After that, she was alone and uncared for; she wandered the jungles of Mukti, trying to find food and shelter. Alas, the only man that she met during those stressful three days was Shorya, who in his arrogance and wayward ways knew only one shelter to provide for her: Chanda Bai’s brothel! She recalled how Chanda Bai had smiled at her, popping a large betel leaf in her mouth, and proclaimed, “Miyan Shorya, you have brought an uncut diamond here today; someday I shall present this to you, polished and cleaned!”

Today, she was finally presented to Shorya!

With a sigh, Tara looked at the henna on her hands; the henna, considered auspicious was a bride’s best friend; yet, the dark brown color burned on her hands; she was to have her wedding night today, without any procession, priest or purity!

 

************************************************************************

 

The clatter of the sword echoed through the room.

Arjun looked at it in disgust, and sat down, panting, the sweat glistening off his shining dusky bare chest. For the past one hour he had been practicing sword fighting, killing off an invisible enemy in the stuffy air of his private room. How could his fiancée fall in love with some one else? Although merely the head of the army, the King of Sujanbhoomi had taken an unique liking to this handsome young man; since, there was no other offspring to the King, except for Meera, he had decided to marry her to Arjun, and give the reins of the kingdom to him after his retirement.

For Arjun, it was crucial that he remained in the good books of the King; though given to all the vices of the nobility, he had managed to keep that side of his hidden from the gullible old man.

Arre, arre…what is this, master!” The wily voice of Raktaprasad broke the silence.

Arjun looked up at his man Friday. He hated Raktaprasad, and the opportunistic attitude, but tolerated him for the invaluable and insidious information that he always seemed to possess.

Huzoor, will you only fight imaginary battles in this room, or go out in the field to fight also!”

Arjun turned to him and came forward in anger, and grabbed the man’s collar “What do you mean?”

Feigning fear, Raktaprasad recoiled, but spoke on. “Huzoor, your enemy Rudra is preparing war on Sujanbhoomi…and plans to kill you in this!”

With a loud war-like cry, Arjun pushed him back; the crippled servant staggered back, trying to recover with the best of his ability, despite the limp.

With mock affront, Raktaprasad said, “It is a fact! And my guarantee seal is on this news! I thought I should warn you…”

Arjun’s eyes blazed in a fire of hatred and rage. If this is true, then the purpose of the war is only to get Meera from him! He would not allow this to happen. He had to speak to the king immediately; the things were getting a bit too out of hand, and too fast.

He pulled out a bag of coins from the chest of drawers in the corner, threw it across to Raktaprasad, and rushed out. Raktaprasad caught the bag with an efficient move, and smiled to himself. It was good that these rich and high people were blinded with jealousy and fury, a fire that he kept fuelled with his tiny informations; in turn, they always rewarded him with money; and money, was his only motive…since God had given him no beauty or stature, and a limp over that, he felt it was his right to extract his pound of flesh in whatever situation that he deemed fit.

 

To Be Continued.


Meera

An Epic Love Story

By Deepak Jeswal

 Episode One

The hooves pounded on the earth with dull thuds as the horse flew its way over the expansive rough terrain of Sujanbhoomi’s outskirts, case raising a cloud of sand and a rhythm of excitement. The wide horizon spread its rich wares of a sad sun setting in its own bloodied redness covered unsuccessfully by the gauze of vapory clouds; a bashful moon, in its weak whiteness tried its feeble attempt to whimper its existence.

With the darkening jungles behind him, the horse and its regal rider rode on the open green space of the hills with a ferocious vigor and without any respite. Arjun clutched the reins with a sharp grip, his knuckles whitening, his hands cold by the biting wind that cut through the unrestrained countryside and hit his pale visage. His scarf, wrapped around his neck to protect against the cold, flapped remorselessly behind him; the sleeves of his thick woolen dress flailed around him.

As he neared the sharp drop at the end of the open field, he reined in the horse, his eyes narrowing to discern any human form in the lengthening shadows. There, in the corner, on the edge of the precipice stood a woman; with, a chariot of royal bearings standing at a close distance.

Turning his horse, he rode towards her. The woman, startled by the sudden noise, looked up. She wore a hard expression- her eyes, large, dry and unemotional; her lips pursed in a tight grip, slightly curved down, adding to the hardness. She wore an expensive sari of purple, the color merging with the borders of the open skies, and the silver zardozi work reflected off by the dying light.

Arjun brought his horse close by, pulling it to a quick stop with a sharp jerk of the reins and a quick push of the stirrups; the horse shuffled to an uneasy halt. Jumping down, Arjun adjusted the silk scarf and took wide strides to the woman; his ruffled long hair settled nervously and recklessly over his broad forehead.

“A warm greeting to my lady!” said Arjun, bowing down; his voice was deep and dynamic.

The lady did not reply; she merely nodded her head imperceptibly, in an obviously reluctant acknowledgement of the greeting. An eerie howl of the wind filled the space between them. Behind her was the grand drop of the green gorge, with a stream gurgling its way in rough rapids and over sharp rocks, beyond which were the mighty mountains- unexplored and unconquered.

“May I know the reason for calling me here at such hour?” asked Arjun, a little reverentially, a little hesitant at the stern but stately aura that the woman exuded.

The two stood on the gigantic open space, unpunctuated except for their respective riders. The horse had begun its task of grazing at the grass; the chariot and its horse, stood motionless, like their owner.

“Have the men of Sujanbhoomi lost all notions of honor and valor?” she asked her voice soft but controlled and very strong, piercing through the wind with the finesse of a taut thread.

Arjun looked up sharply; their eyes met- hers, dancing with a feral agitation; his, steely and cold.

“May I ask the meaning of this taunt?” he enquired, his words nearly hissed out between his teeth. He looked at the woman’s glowing white skin. She was beautiful…but in a very wild sense; he felt a strange churning within his groins as he took in her upturned face and the redness of the mouth – as red as the diminishing sun behind her…as red as the blood that he felt boiling within him. Her chin was turned up in a mocking way, and he felt a surge within him to grab her and kiss her. There was an unconquerable attitude around her that stirred the man in him to possess her and ravage her.

“I am talking about your fiancée. Meera’s eyes are wandering much more than they should at this age!”

Anger erupted within him, and he raised his voice. “What are you saying, woman!”

“There is an unhealthy concoction brewing between Meera and Rudra”

Arjun was aghast. He was taken aback, and it showed on his face. The lady’s lips curved slightly into a small smile; her stare was relentless on him.

“Rudra is my husband; I will take care of him. I know how to! Men always fall for the doe-eyed ladies who smile coquettishly at them. Restrain that smile on Meera’s face…for if it continues, I promise you, Sujanbhoomi shall not see the next Dushera ever. Convey this to your king that he must tie chains instead of anklets to the straying feet of his daughter!”

The air was chilling, and the wind whistled a shrill tune over the rugged territory; Arjun shivered- the lady’s voice was unfeeling but simmering with unforeseen consequences. His anger intermingled with his desire as he again observed the wanton demeanor of the lady standing before him: Roopmati, the wife of the Crown Prince of Sahastragarh, the neighboring kingdom, on the other side of the River Mukti.

She took a few steps towards him, her purple sari rustling in the wind, but barely containing the curvaceous figure beneath it. She raised a hand and placed it on his shoulders.

“I hope you will understand!”

He felt the deepest lust at the touch of her warm hand; the heat singed through his woolens. Turning sharply she turned towards the waiting chariot. She sat on her velvet seat, her back straight and ordered the chariot driver to drive off. The vehicle rushed passed him, the wheels and hooves whipping up a froth of cloud and wind, and the sound of the rolling heaviness reverberating into the night’s abyss.

Long after she left, he stood near the edge, his eyes unwaveringly gazing at the piles of mountains strewn by nature in a supposedly random order; the sun now engulfed by the crevices of the hardened terra firma of the hills. His mind was galloping with the same rhythm that the horses had created.

“Meera…you shall pay for this betrayal!” he cursed within his breath. “And so shall you, Rajasaheb! History will not forget this easily”

 

************************************************************************

 

“Tell me, what you have to say…fast!” He barked in his throaty rasping voice; he spoke with such force that the thick mustaches on his lips quivered with impatience.

“Why do you get angry, sahib?” smiled Raktaprasad slyly, shifting his weight from his lame left foot to the other- he was getting to his strong point.

“You know I have not much time…”

Raktaprasad looked around wickedly and smiled. Of course, Prince Rudra’s brother Shourya did not have much time, especially in the place where he stood. The large white marbled hall of the courtesan Chanda Bai was spotlessly polished; Raktaprasad could almost see his reflection in the same. Four gigantic pillars supported a ceiling so high that the short-height endowed Raktaprasad felt a pain in his neck when he watched the intricate hundred candle chandelier made of pure crystal special imported from abroad. Beyond the hall, he could hear the sounds of the nimble footsteps dancing to the strains of saarangi and harmonium, set to a mild rhythm of the ghoongroos and the percussion of the tabla. The mellow lapping of the waves of the River Mukti outside added their own charm. A melodious voice sung a song of love and beauty.

“Saheb, please do not get angry” said the servant, obsequiously. “This time the news is such that I shall ask for 100 gold coins.” His eyes shone with greed as he said the words.

With an awkward limp he moved forward, near to the gargantuan muscular frame of Shourya.

Saheb, Raja Harshvardhan’s daughter and your brother are playing the game of love; the passion is very strong in both of them!”

Shorya’s eyes widened “If this is not true…”

Saheb, you can chop the head of this servant of yours and feed the lions of Mukti Jungle” interrupted the vile man.

Raktaprasad shifted his weight again; not only did he have a short height; there was a marked slouch in his frail body also, with a small head fixed on the torso sans the neck. God had been sufficiently unkind in depriving the minutest sense of beauty in either his body or mind. On that, a deep scar inflicted on his cheek by an unfortunate adversary had taken away any scope of attraction. The adversary was killed; the scar on the cheek remained. He was the trusted aide of Arjun, the chief of army of Sujanbhoomi, but in his selfishness he realized that he needed to be friendly with the important members of the neighboring country as well.

With his eyes shining in delight, Shorya gave him a pouch full of gold coins and dismissed him off with a small wave of hand.

Shorya pondered over the information provided by Raktaprasad. So, his virtuous married brother, his rival, had fallen in love. Yes, this was the chink in the armor that he had been so desperately looking for. Ever since he had taken birth, he had realized that he had missed the destiny’s caravan with a very small margin of time and womb. He never forgave his destiny for this chicanery; nor, his father, King Devvrat.

Although Devvrat loved his first wife (Meenakshi) very much, he had married Laxmi because he needed to sire an heir for the kingdom, because Meenakshi could not give him one even after ten agonizing years. As luck would have it Meenakshi found she was pregnant just a month after Laxmi announced her own pregnancy. Though Laxmi knew that in all righteousness Meenakshi’s son would ascend the throne should he be born first, but Devvrat, in his kindness, promised that he would crown the first born, from whoever it was born.

Laxmi was satisfied; though the gap between the announcements had been small, somehow she sensed that she had the lead. In the next few crucial months it seemed that she was preparing her unborn for the throne.

However, to her shock and dismay, Rudra was born to Meenakshi, prematurely, a weak, nearly dead, blanched and wrinkled boy that cried for the first ten days of coming into the world, but who had in his survival marked on his forehead the future of the kingdom of Sahastragarh.

Shorya entered the world fifteen days later, a loser and full of the venom of jealousy that his mother had imbued him with. Over the years, he realized that his father’s entire love found its way to his weak sibling; and because he displayed a natural resentment and devised novel means to hurt his elder brother, his father’s wrath was always directed towards him.

In his endeavor to spite his father, Shorya took to wine and women early in life; and the notorious brothel of Chanda Bai was one of his favorite haunts. Built on the banks of River Mukti, the sprawling white marble architecture was a hub of activity during the nights when the nobility came to enjoy the pleasures of sin and skin. At the farthest end of the market that catered to the base needs of all, from the poor weary traveler to the uncouth business men, Chanda Bai’s haven was by far the best in its trade – almost a symbol of class and gentility. The grandeur of the building spoke volumes of Chanda Bai’s income. She took care to source the best, the youngest and the loveliest girls, and groomed them personally in music and dance, and the ways to please a man in bed.

Shorya stood near the tall Persian glass windows, deep in thought, looking at the serene waters of River Mukti flowing by. The windows were draped in crème satin curtains, laced ornamentally with small nuggets of colored glass in beautiful designs.

As he thought of ways to take revenge from his brother, Shorya’s breath came fast, and his bulky six-foot frame shook in exhilaration. A small tinkle of the anklet broke his reverie, and he turned sharply. A girl in her early twenties stood, bowing respectfully and with a silver glass of wine in her hennaed hands.

Huzoor, do you plan to spend the night watching Mukti?” she asked, in a husky voice.

Shorya took the beauty of the demure girl in his lusty dark and deep eyes. Yes, once again, Chanda Bai had offered him the best of her entire lot. The girl had a skin that was clearer than the Mukti with almond colored intoxicating eyes that swam with mischief and invitation. She wore a bright pink ghagra choli, and her dupatta hung loosely over her heaving bosom and rounded behind her slim back to cover her silky hair; a few wanton wisps ventured out and playfully hung over her forehead.

Shorya smiled, and walked up to her. Taking the glass from her hand, he felt as if he had touched silk. “So you are Tara! Chanda bai was right when she described you! You are an angel”

The girl smiled shyly, and looked up to his robust eyes. “Huzoor, I am nothing but your servant…”

With a quick vulture like grip he pulled her towards him, and pressed her soft and warm body to his; in the tug, her dupatta slipped from her head and fell by the side, caught between their bodies, but enough to reveal the shimmering whiteness of the skin around and below her neck that revealed the ripeness of her youth through the deep cut choli.

He caught her in a tight grip, with the steel glass still in his hand, the coldness of which she felt at her lower back. He loved the suppleness of her breasts against his chest, and bent forward to kiss her lips. She smelled the odor of the wine from his breath but as taught to her did not resist or struggle, but allowed him to bite onto her tender lips. He pressed his body hard against her, and moved his thick leg around her slim ones.

After a while, she pulled away, and pushed him with a playful jerk and said, “Sarkar, not here…”

Understanding her meaning, he lifted her up in a swift movement and started walking to the wide marble stairs at the end of the hall. Tara wrapped her arms around his neck and placed her head on his neck, and looked back at the receding white floor beneath her. The dupatta, now hanging precariously from her neck, swayed with their movement.

In her mind, million thoughts raced. She knew what was to follow; she was prepared for it; she had been educated for this night all these years; in fact, she was surprised that she had so snugly fit into the ribald environment of the brothel. She was perfect in her dance, and she sang very well; many a nobility had come here only to see her move gracefully to the rhythms of the tabla, and listen to the songs that she composed and sang. She now enjoyed the ribald talks and raunchy jokes of fellow-nautch girls and prostitutes.

But she still remembered that once she was also a normal girl with some normal dreams of home, hearth and husband. The only daughter of the village priest, her birth unfortunately coincided with her mother’s death. She was keen to learn the scriptures and devote her life to the God. The destiny had something else in store for her. When she was ten, a severe epidemic had engulfed the village, wiping out nearly all, including her father. After that, she was alone and uncared for; she wandered the jungles of Mukti, trying to find food and shelter. Alas, the only man that she met during those stressful three days was Shorya, who in his arrogance and wayward ways knew only one shelter to provide for her: Chanda Bai’s brothel! She recalled how Chanda Bai had smiled at her, popping a large betel leaf in her mouth, and proclaimed, “Miyan Shorya, you have brought an uncut diamond here today; someday I shall present this to you, polished and cleaned!”

Today, she was finally presented to Shorya!

With a sigh, Tara looked at the henna on her hands; the henna, considered auspicious was a bride’s best friend; yet, the dark brown color burned on her hands; she was to have her wedding night today, without any procession, priest or purity!

 

************************************************************************

 

The clatter of the sword echoed through the room.

Arjun looked at it in disgust, and sat down, panting, the sweat glistening off his shining dusky bare chest. For the past one hour he had been practicing sword fighting, killing off an invisible enemy in the stuffy air of his private room. How could his fiancée fall in love with some one else? Although merely the head of the army, the King of Sujanbhoomi had taken an unique liking to this handsome young man; since, there was no other offspring to the King, except for Meera, he had decided to marry her to Arjun, and give the reins of the kingdom to him after his retirement.

For Arjun, it was crucial that he remained in the good books of the King; though given to all the vices of the nobility, he had managed to keep that side of his hidden from the gullible old man.

Arre, arre…what is this, master!” The wily voice of Raktaprasad broke the silence.

Arjun looked up at his man Friday. He hated Raktaprasad, and the opportunistic attitude, but tolerated him for the invaluable and insidious information that he always seemed to possess.

Huzoor, will you only fight imaginary battles in this room, or go out in the field to fight also!”

Arjun turned to him and came forward in anger, and grabbed the man’s collar “What do you mean?”

Feigning fear, Raktaprasad recoiled, but spoke on. “Huzoor, your enemy Rudra is preparing war on Sujanbhoomi…and plans to kill you in this!”

With a loud war-like cry, Arjun pushed him back; the crippled servant staggered back, trying to recover with the best of his ability, despite the limp.

With mock affront, Raktaprasad said, “It is a fact! And my guarantee seal is on this news! I thought I should warn you…”

Arjun’s eyes blazed in a fire of hatred and rage. If this is true, then the purpose of the war is only to get Meera from him! He would not allow this to happen. He had to speak to the king immediately; the things were getting a bit too out of hand, and too fast.

He pulled out a bag of coins from the chest of drawers in the corner, threw it across to Raktaprasad, and rushed out. Raktaprasad caught the bag with an efficient move, and smiled to himself. It was good that these rich and high people were blinded with jealousy and fury, a fire that he kept fuelled with his tiny informations; in turn, they always rewarded him with money; and money, was his only motive…since God had given him no beauty or stature, and a limp over that, he felt it was his right to extract his pound of flesh in whatever situation that he deemed fit.

 

To Be Continued.

(Contains spoilers)

I loved Ayan Mukherjee’s first film – Wake Up Sid. It’s a magnificent coming-of-age film, malady embellished with scoops of quieter moments that make the film introspective yet not dull; and some superlative performances. So I approached YJHD with huge expectations.

WUS was essentially a small film; neat & compact in its design; and a linear but taut timeline and was essentially without any ‘stars’ (Ranbir at that point was very new!) Perhaps, salve Wake Up Sid’s surprise success guaranteed Ayaan Mukherjee a bigger budget and a wider canvas, and to incorporate it in YJHD the film stumbles & wobbles.

There are a few recurring motifs in both films : Seeking one’s goal, and reconciling it with one’s loved ones; the father-son conflict that can be best described as ‘generational gap’ or perhaps, better as simply ‘ideological differences’, without any malice and filled with brimming love; friendships turned sour and eventually sweetened by passing time (as said in the movie ‘Thoda waqt do, sab theek ho jaayega‘); and the central theme about two individuals who are neither right nor wrong, but just different to each other. Of course, passion for photography is another returning refrain.

However, where the film falters is its wider timeline, geography and canvas – all those perfect locations, flawless dresses, and also the need to incorporate an ‘item song’ (Madhuri Dixit, no less!). Blowing up a photo meant for a smaller bit size will only heighten its pixelated flaws.

Hence, too much gloss and loss of detailing ( why would a so called studious girl like Naina who is so burdened by her studies and her parents’ expectations flaunt perfectly waxed legs in skimpy shorts? Pity, Ayaan resorts to the age-old Bollywood cliché that a ‘studious girl’ means wearing a pair of ugly specs! Or, how did they all manage to finance such an elaborate trip in all those designer clothes? I fondly harked back to the scene in WUS where Ranbir couldn’t even pay for a pizza dressed in a normal crumpled T-shirt! And then Ranbir’s entire so-called ‘journalistic career’ is swept aside in a few hasty montages where all he does is wave about his camera!)

No doubt the whole gamut of gloss & glamor is very eye-pleasing, but it also smothers the film’s soul, which thankfully is very much throbbing & making its presence felt in its own charming but muted way. Especially in the second half.

The first half is wholly devoted to the Manali trip, where Naina (Deepika) and Bunny (Ranbir) meet, and gradually get attracted to each other. They are accompanied by two of their best friends Aditi (Kalki) & Avi (Aditya Roy Kapoor). Aditi has a soft corner for Avi, who doesn’t seem to realize it. In this section, we befriend all the 4 lead characters … especially how their aspirational goals will clash. Bunny is a nomad at heart, and wants to roam the world (and carries an empty scrap book which he wishes to fulfill with his experience); Naina is the rooted one, caught between a wish to break her chains and her inherent sense of practicality. She falls for Bunny but doesn’t express it.

This section also has a short but superbly etched track featuring his father (Faruque Sheikh in an excellent cameo!) and his stepmom (Tanvi Azmi).

Eight years later they meet at Aditi’s marriage – no, not to Avi, who has spiralled downwards to being some sort of a loser, but to a man who looks silly, and is perhaps silly, but as Aditi says ‘with some people you just want to be with’ !

It’s in this section that Ayan’s writing gets razor sharp, and Hussain Dalal’s dialogues very interesting. Here Ayan leaves the geographical widespread, and is now contained in a wedding home, and hence gets his chance to take us into a wider tour of his characters! Perhaps a small canvas is his forte, and he should stick to that!

In this section there are some shining gems: ‘We grew up very fast’ laments Aditi at one stage, shining the torch on what I believe is a complain we all at some point of time carry. The characters for sure do. Here, Bunny & Naina reunite, rediscover each other. And reconcile with each other ( ‘You are not right, we are just different – says the hero; and a few scenes later she asserts ‘You are not wrong, we are just different’ – a mirror dialogue that I just loved!)

Since I am simultaneously reading Khaled Hosseini’s And The Mountains Echoed, there is somewhat similarity between the two …in the sense of a bottomless vacuum that lies beneath the successful facade.

The film’s technical aspects are all first-rate. Attractive costumes (lots of brand placements), amazing cinematography and fairly competent editing.

Pritam’s background score is very good (especially that piece when they are at the mountain peak is absolutely sensational!). His songs are good too, esp Badtamiz dil, Balam pichkari and Re Kabira.

I firmly believe Ranbir Kapoor cannot do anything wrong, and here Bunny is a character made for him, so he is outstanding. Deepika, though, was a very pleasant surprise. And both Kalki & Aditya hold their own fort strongly.

In a way, I empathized & understood Bunny; the character touched a chord inside me – that gnawing urge to follow one’s dreams; to explore the unchartered territory; to not be bound in one place; to not be tied down; to eat at new places; to stay at fresh cities; to see new sights. But as his father says, not all have the guts to pay the price for it. Because it all comes at a heavy emotional cost. Bunny had those guts.

I walked back from the theatre at 2 in the night thinking about Bunny – in the city that never sleeps – cars swept by in their manic rush; a couple sat having tea from a roadside vendor, a few stood around the cigarette stall; a cricket-match was on in one society under faux-spotlights; beggars slept precariously on the road-divider; autos slowed down and then seeing my disinterest sped away ; I reached home, put my laundry for washing (neglected due to my tour); cleared some loose junk lying here and there; kept the rubbish can outside the door for it to be picked up early morning; popped a beer; and sat to write this review. The night outside is heavily quiet; the humidity is oppressive; a drop slithers down the beer can; I like this space; this time with myself; this is my bargain …. random sights random views, but something within despairingly clawed trying to find a hook, a wall- I guess it was just an attempt to patch an incomprehensible hole with a jagged collage of sights & sounds. Much like Bunny. But very unlike him. For I haven’t paid that price. Yet.

In all – An interesting film, if only it had been much smaller in its canvas.

DO WATCH IT.

Meera

An Epic Love Story

By Deepak Jeswal

 Episode One

The hooves pounded on the earth with dull thuds as the horse flew its way over the expansive rough terrain of Sujanbhoomi’s outskirts, cialis 40mg
raising a cloud of sand and a rhythm of excitement. The wide horizon spread its rich wares of a sad sun setting in its own bloodied redness covered unsuccessfully by the gauze of vapory clouds; a bashful moon, in its weak whiteness tried its feeble attempt to whimper its existence.

With the darkening jungles behind him, the horse and its regal rider rode on the open green space of the hills with a ferocious vigor and without any respite. Arjun clutched the reins with a sharp grip, his knuckles whitening, his hands cold by the biting wind that cut through the unrestrained countryside and hit his pale visage. His scarf, wrapped around his neck to protect against the cold, flapped remorselessly behind him; the sleeves of his thick woolen dress flailed around him.

As he neared the sharp drop at the end of the open field, he reined in the horse, his eyes narrowing to discern any human form in the lengthening shadows. There, in the corner, on the edge of the precipice stood a woman; with, a chariot of royal bearings standing at a close distance.

Turning his horse, he rode towards her. The woman, startled by the sudden noise, looked up. She wore a hard expression- her eyes, large, dry and unemotional; her lips pursed in a tight grip, slightly curved down, adding to the hardness. She wore an expensive sari of purple, the color merging with the borders of the open skies, and the silver zardozi work reflected off by the dying light.

Arjun brought his horse close by, pulling it to a quick stop with a sharp jerk of the reins and a quick push of the stirrups; the horse shuffled to an uneasy halt. Jumping down, Arjun adjusted the silk scarf and took wide strides to the woman; his ruffled long hair settled nervously and recklessly over his broad forehead.

“A warm greeting to my lady!” said Arjun, bowing down; his voice was deep and dynamic.

The lady did not reply; she merely nodded her head imperceptibly, in an obviously reluctant acknowledgement of the greeting. An eerie howl of the wind filled the space between them. Behind her was the grand drop of the green gorge, with a stream gurgling its way in rough rapids and over sharp rocks, beyond which were the mighty mountains- unexplored and unconquered.

“May I know the reason for calling me here at such hour?” asked Arjun, a little reverentially, a little hesitant at the stern but stately aura that the woman exuded.

The two stood on the gigantic open space, unpunctuated except for their respective riders. The horse had begun its task of grazing at the grass; the chariot and its horse, stood motionless, like their owner.

“Have the men of Sujanbhoomi lost all notions of honor and valor?” she asked her voice soft but controlled and very strong, piercing through the wind with the finesse of a taut thread.

Arjun looked up sharply; their eyes met- hers, dancing with a feral agitation; his, steely and cold.

“May I ask the meaning of this taunt?” he enquired, his words nearly hissed out between his teeth. He looked at the woman’s glowing white skin. She was beautiful…but in a very wild sense; he felt a strange churning within his groins as he took in her upturned face and the redness of the mouth – as red as the diminishing sun behind her…as red as the blood that he felt boiling within him. Her chin was turned up in a mocking way, and he felt a surge within him to grab her and kiss her. There was an unconquerable attitude around her that stirred the man in him to possess her and ravage her.

“I am talking about your fiancée. Meera’s eyes are wandering much more than they should at this age!”

Anger erupted within him, and he raised his voice. “What are you saying, woman!”

“There is an unhealthy concoction brewing between Meera and Rudra”

Arjun was aghast. He was taken aback, and it showed on his face. The lady’s lips curved slightly into a small smile; her stare was relentless on him.

“Rudra is my husband; I will take care of him. I know how to! Men always fall for the doe-eyed ladies who smile coquettishly at them. Restrain that smile on Meera’s face…for if it continues, I promise you, Sujanbhoomi shall not see the next Dushera ever. Convey this to your king that he must tie chains instead of anklets to the straying feet of his daughter!”

The air was chilling, and the wind whistled a shrill tune over the rugged territory; Arjun shivered- the lady’s voice was unfeeling but simmering with unforeseen consequences. His anger intermingled with his desire as he again observed the wanton demeanor of the lady standing before him: Roopmati, the wife of the Crown Prince of Sahastragarh, the neighboring kingdom, on the other side of the River Mukti.

She took a few steps towards him, her purple sari rustling in the wind, but barely containing the curvaceous figure beneath it. She raised a hand and placed it on his shoulders.

“I hope you will understand!”

He felt the deepest lust at the touch of her warm hand; the heat singed through his woolens. Turning sharply she turned towards the waiting chariot. She sat on her velvet seat, her back straight and ordered the chariot driver to drive off. The vehicle rushed passed him, the wheels and hooves whipping up a froth of cloud and wind, and the sound of the rolling heaviness reverberating into the night’s abyss.

Long after she left, he stood near the edge, his eyes unwaveringly gazing at the piles of mountains strewn by nature in a supposedly random order; the sun now engulfed by the crevices of the hardened terra firma of the hills. His mind was galloping with the same rhythm that the horses had created.

“Meera…you shall pay for this betrayal!” he cursed within his breath. “And so shall you, Rajasaheb! History will not forget this easily”

 

************************************************************************

 

“Tell me, what you have to say…fast!” He barked in his throaty rasping voice; he spoke with such force that the thick mustaches on his lips quivered with impatience.

“Why do you get angry, sahib?” smiled Raktaprasad slyly, shifting his weight from his lame left foot to the other- he was getting to his strong point.

“You know I have not much time…”

Raktaprasad looked around wickedly and smiled. Of course, Prince Rudra’s brother Shourya did not have much time, especially in the place where he stood. The large white marbled hall of the courtesan Chanda Bai was spotlessly polished; Raktaprasad could almost see his reflection in the same. Four gigantic pillars supported a ceiling so high that the short-height endowed Raktaprasad felt a pain in his neck when he watched the intricate hundred candle chandelier made of pure crystal special imported from abroad. Beyond the hall, he could hear the sounds of the nimble footsteps dancing to the strains of saarangi and harmonium, set to a mild rhythm of the ghoongroos and the percussion of the tabla. The mellow lapping of the waves of the River Mukti outside added their own charm. A melodious voice sung a song of love and beauty.

“Saheb, please do not get angry” said the servant, obsequiously. “This time the news is such that I shall ask for 100 gold coins.” His eyes shone with greed as he said the words.

With an awkward limp he moved forward, near to the gargantuan muscular frame of Shourya.

Saheb, Raja Harshvardhan’s daughter and your brother are playing the game of love; the passion is very strong in both of them!”

Shorya’s eyes widened “If this is not true…”

Saheb, you can chop the head of this servant of yours and feed the lions of Mukti Jungle” interrupted the vile man.

Raktaprasad shifted his weight again; not only did he have a short height; there was a marked slouch in his frail body also, with a small head fixed on the torso sans the neck. God had been sufficiently unkind in depriving the minutest sense of beauty in either his body or mind. On that, a deep scar inflicted on his cheek by an unfortunate adversary had taken away any scope of attraction. The adversary was killed; the scar on the cheek remained. He was the trusted aide of Arjun, the chief of army of Sujanbhoomi, but in his selfishness he realized that he needed to be friendly with the important members of the neighboring country as well.

With his eyes shining in delight, Shorya gave him a pouch full of gold coins and dismissed him off with a small wave of hand.

Shorya pondered over the information provided by Raktaprasad. So, his virtuous married brother, his rival, had fallen in love. Yes, this was the chink in the armor that he had been so desperately looking for. Ever since he had taken birth, he had realized that he had missed the destiny’s caravan with a very small margin of time and womb. He never forgave his destiny for this chicanery; nor, his father, King Devvrat.

Although Devvrat loved his first wife (Meenakshi) very much, he had married Laxmi because he needed to sire an heir for the kingdom, because Meenakshi could not give him one even after ten agonizing years. As luck would have it Meenakshi found she was pregnant just a month after Laxmi announced her own pregnancy. Though Laxmi knew that in all righteousness Meenakshi’s son would ascend the throne should he be born first, but Devvrat, in his kindness, promised that he would crown the first born, from whoever it was born.

Laxmi was satisfied; though the gap between the announcements had been small, somehow she sensed that she had the lead. In the next few crucial months it seemed that she was preparing her unborn for the throne.

However, to her shock and dismay, Rudra was born to Meenakshi, prematurely, a weak, nearly dead, blanched and wrinkled boy that cried for the first ten days of coming into the world, but who had in his survival marked on his forehead the future of the kingdom of Sahastragarh.

Shorya entered the world fifteen days later, a loser and full of the venom of jealousy that his mother had imbued him with. Over the years, he realized that his father’s entire love found its way to his weak sibling; and because he displayed a natural resentment and devised novel means to hurt his elder brother, his father’s wrath was always directed towards him.

In his endeavor to spite his father, Shorya took to wine and women early in life; and the notorious brothel of Chanda Bai was one of his favorite haunts. Built on the banks of River Mukti, the sprawling white marble architecture was a hub of activity during the nights when the nobility came to enjoy the pleasures of sin and skin. At the farthest end of the market that catered to the base needs of all, from the poor weary traveler to the uncouth business men, Chanda Bai’s haven was by far the best in its trade – almost a symbol of class and gentility. The grandeur of the building spoke volumes of Chanda Bai’s income. She took care to source the best, the youngest and the loveliest girls, and groomed them personally in music and dance, and the ways to please a man in bed.

Shorya stood near the tall Persian glass windows, deep in thought, looking at the serene waters of River Mukti flowing by. The windows were draped in crème satin curtains, laced ornamentally with small nuggets of colored glass in beautiful designs.

As he thought of ways to take revenge from his brother, Shorya’s breath came fast, and his bulky six-foot frame shook in exhilaration. A small tinkle of the anklet broke his reverie, and he turned sharply. A girl in her early twenties stood, bowing respectfully and with a silver glass of wine in her hennaed hands.

Huzoor, do you plan to spend the night watching Mukti?” she asked, in a husky voice.

Shorya took the beauty of the demure girl in his lusty dark and deep eyes. Yes, once again, Chanda Bai had offered him the best of her entire lot. The girl had a skin that was clearer than the Mukti with almond colored intoxicating eyes that swam with mischief and invitation. She wore a bright pink ghagra choli, and her dupatta hung loosely over her heaving bosom and rounded behind her slim back to cover her silky hair; a few wanton wisps ventured out and playfully hung over her forehead.

Shorya smiled, and walked up to her. Taking the glass from her hand, he felt as if he had touched silk. “So you are Tara! Chanda bai was right when she described you! You are an angel”

The girl smiled shyly, and looked up to his robust eyes. “Huzoor, I am nothing but your servant…”

With a quick vulture like grip he pulled her towards him, and pressed her soft and warm body to his; in the tug, her dupatta slipped from her head and fell by the side, caught between their bodies, but enough to reveal the shimmering whiteness of the skin around and below her neck that revealed the ripeness of her youth through the deep cut choli.

He caught her in a tight grip, with the steel glass still in his hand, the coldness of which she felt at her lower back. He loved the suppleness of her breasts against his chest, and bent forward to kiss her lips. She smelled the odor of the wine from his breath but as taught to her did not resist or struggle, but allowed him to bite onto her tender lips. He pressed his body hard against her, and moved his thick leg around her slim ones.

After a while, she pulled away, and pushed him with a playful jerk and said, “Sarkar, not here…”

Understanding her meaning, he lifted her up in a swift movement and started walking to the wide marble stairs at the end of the hall. Tara wrapped her arms around his neck and placed her head on his neck, and looked back at the receding white floor beneath her. The dupatta, now hanging precariously from her neck, swayed with their movement.

In her mind, million thoughts raced. She knew what was to follow; she was prepared for it; she had been educated for this night all these years; in fact, she was surprised that she had so snugly fit into the ribald environment of the brothel. She was perfect in her dance, and she sang very well; many a nobility had come here only to see her move gracefully to the rhythms of the tabla, and listen to the songs that she composed and sang. She now enjoyed the ribald talks and raunchy jokes of fellow-nautch girls and prostitutes.

But she still remembered that once she was also a normal girl with some normal dreams of home, hearth and husband. The only daughter of the village priest, her birth unfortunately coincided with her mother’s death. She was keen to learn the scriptures and devote her life to the God. The destiny had something else in store for her. When she was ten, a severe epidemic had engulfed the village, wiping out nearly all, including her father. After that, she was alone and uncared for; she wandered the jungles of Mukti, trying to find food and shelter. Alas, the only man that she met during those stressful three days was Shorya, who in his arrogance and wayward ways knew only one shelter to provide for her: Chanda Bai’s brothel! She recalled how Chanda Bai had smiled at her, popping a large betel leaf in her mouth, and proclaimed, “Miyan Shorya, you have brought an uncut diamond here today; someday I shall present this to you, polished and cleaned!”

Today, she was finally presented to Shorya!

With a sigh, Tara looked at the henna on her hands; the henna, considered auspicious was a bride’s best friend; yet, the dark brown color burned on her hands; she was to have her wedding night today, without any procession, priest or purity!

 

************************************************************************

 

The clatter of the sword echoed through the room.

Arjun looked at it in disgust, and sat down, panting, the sweat glistening off his shining dusky bare chest. For the past one hour he had been practicing sword fighting, killing off an invisible enemy in the stuffy air of his private room. How could his fiancée fall in love with some one else? Although merely the head of the army, the King of Sujanbhoomi had taken an unique liking to this handsome young man; since, there was no other offspring to the King, except for Meera, he had decided to marry her to Arjun, and give the reins of the kingdom to him after his retirement.

For Arjun, it was crucial that he remained in the good books of the King; though given to all the vices of the nobility, he had managed to keep that side of his hidden from the gullible old man.

Arre, arre…what is this, master!” The wily voice of Raktaprasad broke the silence.

Arjun looked up at his man Friday. He hated Raktaprasad, and the opportunistic attitude, but tolerated him for the invaluable and insidious information that he always seemed to possess.

Huzoor, will you only fight imaginary battles in this room, or go out in the field to fight also!”

Arjun turned to him and came forward in anger, and grabbed the man’s collar “What do you mean?”

Feigning fear, Raktaprasad recoiled, but spoke on. “Huzoor, your enemy Rudra is preparing war on Sujanbhoomi…and plans to kill you in this!”

With a loud war-like cry, Arjun pushed him back; the crippled servant staggered back, trying to recover with the best of his ability, despite the limp.

With mock affront, Raktaprasad said, “It is a fact! And my guarantee seal is on this news! I thought I should warn you…”

Arjun’s eyes blazed in a fire of hatred and rage. If this is true, then the purpose of the war is only to get Meera from him! He would not allow this to happen. He had to speak to the king immediately; the things were getting a bit too out of hand, and too fast.

He pulled out a bag of coins from the chest of drawers in the corner, threw it across to Raktaprasad, and rushed out. Raktaprasad caught the bag with an efficient move, and smiled to himself. It was good that these rich and high people were blinded with jealousy and fury, a fire that he kept fuelled with his tiny informations; in turn, they always rewarded him with money; and money, was his only motive…since God had given him no beauty or stature, and a limp over that, he felt it was his right to extract his pound of flesh in whatever situation that he deemed fit.

 

To Be Continued.


Meera

An Epic Love Story

By Deepak Jeswal

 Episode One

The hooves pounded on the earth with dull thuds as the horse flew its way over the expansive rough terrain of Sujanbhoomi’s outskirts, case raising a cloud of sand and a rhythm of excitement. The wide horizon spread its rich wares of a sad sun setting in its own bloodied redness covered unsuccessfully by the gauze of vapory clouds; a bashful moon, in its weak whiteness tried its feeble attempt to whimper its existence.

With the darkening jungles behind him, the horse and its regal rider rode on the open green space of the hills with a ferocious vigor and without any respite. Arjun clutched the reins with a sharp grip, his knuckles whitening, his hands cold by the biting wind that cut through the unrestrained countryside and hit his pale visage. His scarf, wrapped around his neck to protect against the cold, flapped remorselessly behind him; the sleeves of his thick woolen dress flailed around him.

As he neared the sharp drop at the end of the open field, he reined in the horse, his eyes narrowing to discern any human form in the lengthening shadows. There, in the corner, on the edge of the precipice stood a woman; with, a chariot of royal bearings standing at a close distance.

Turning his horse, he rode towards her. The woman, startled by the sudden noise, looked up. She wore a hard expression- her eyes, large, dry and unemotional; her lips pursed in a tight grip, slightly curved down, adding to the hardness. She wore an expensive sari of purple, the color merging with the borders of the open skies, and the silver zardozi work reflected off by the dying light.

Arjun brought his horse close by, pulling it to a quick stop with a sharp jerk of the reins and a quick push of the stirrups; the horse shuffled to an uneasy halt. Jumping down, Arjun adjusted the silk scarf and took wide strides to the woman; his ruffled long hair settled nervously and recklessly over his broad forehead.

“A warm greeting to my lady!” said Arjun, bowing down; his voice was deep and dynamic.

The lady did not reply; she merely nodded her head imperceptibly, in an obviously reluctant acknowledgement of the greeting. An eerie howl of the wind filled the space between them. Behind her was the grand drop of the green gorge, with a stream gurgling its way in rough rapids and over sharp rocks, beyond which were the mighty mountains- unexplored and unconquered.

“May I know the reason for calling me here at such hour?” asked Arjun, a little reverentially, a little hesitant at the stern but stately aura that the woman exuded.

The two stood on the gigantic open space, unpunctuated except for their respective riders. The horse had begun its task of grazing at the grass; the chariot and its horse, stood motionless, like their owner.

“Have the men of Sujanbhoomi lost all notions of honor and valor?” she asked her voice soft but controlled and very strong, piercing through the wind with the finesse of a taut thread.

Arjun looked up sharply; their eyes met- hers, dancing with a feral agitation; his, steely and cold.

“May I ask the meaning of this taunt?” he enquired, his words nearly hissed out between his teeth. He looked at the woman’s glowing white skin. She was beautiful…but in a very wild sense; he felt a strange churning within his groins as he took in her upturned face and the redness of the mouth – as red as the diminishing sun behind her…as red as the blood that he felt boiling within him. Her chin was turned up in a mocking way, and he felt a surge within him to grab her and kiss her. There was an unconquerable attitude around her that stirred the man in him to possess her and ravage her.

“I am talking about your fiancée. Meera’s eyes are wandering much more than they should at this age!”

Anger erupted within him, and he raised his voice. “What are you saying, woman!”

“There is an unhealthy concoction brewing between Meera and Rudra”

Arjun was aghast. He was taken aback, and it showed on his face. The lady’s lips curved slightly into a small smile; her stare was relentless on him.

“Rudra is my husband; I will take care of him. I know how to! Men always fall for the doe-eyed ladies who smile coquettishly at them. Restrain that smile on Meera’s face…for if it continues, I promise you, Sujanbhoomi shall not see the next Dushera ever. Convey this to your king that he must tie chains instead of anklets to the straying feet of his daughter!”

The air was chilling, and the wind whistled a shrill tune over the rugged territory; Arjun shivered- the lady’s voice was unfeeling but simmering with unforeseen consequences. His anger intermingled with his desire as he again observed the wanton demeanor of the lady standing before him: Roopmati, the wife of the Crown Prince of Sahastragarh, the neighboring kingdom, on the other side of the River Mukti.

She took a few steps towards him, her purple sari rustling in the wind, but barely containing the curvaceous figure beneath it. She raised a hand and placed it on his shoulders.

“I hope you will understand!”

He felt the deepest lust at the touch of her warm hand; the heat singed through his woolens. Turning sharply she turned towards the waiting chariot. She sat on her velvet seat, her back straight and ordered the chariot driver to drive off. The vehicle rushed passed him, the wheels and hooves whipping up a froth of cloud and wind, and the sound of the rolling heaviness reverberating into the night’s abyss.

Long after she left, he stood near the edge, his eyes unwaveringly gazing at the piles of mountains strewn by nature in a supposedly random order; the sun now engulfed by the crevices of the hardened terra firma of the hills. His mind was galloping with the same rhythm that the horses had created.

“Meera…you shall pay for this betrayal!” he cursed within his breath. “And so shall you, Rajasaheb! History will not forget this easily”

 

************************************************************************

 

“Tell me, what you have to say…fast!” He barked in his throaty rasping voice; he spoke with such force that the thick mustaches on his lips quivered with impatience.

“Why do you get angry, sahib?” smiled Raktaprasad slyly, shifting his weight from his lame left foot to the other- he was getting to his strong point.

“You know I have not much time…”

Raktaprasad looked around wickedly and smiled. Of course, Prince Rudra’s brother Shourya did not have much time, especially in the place where he stood. The large white marbled hall of the courtesan Chanda Bai was spotlessly polished; Raktaprasad could almost see his reflection in the same. Four gigantic pillars supported a ceiling so high that the short-height endowed Raktaprasad felt a pain in his neck when he watched the intricate hundred candle chandelier made of pure crystal special imported from abroad. Beyond the hall, he could hear the sounds of the nimble footsteps dancing to the strains of saarangi and harmonium, set to a mild rhythm of the ghoongroos and the percussion of the tabla. The mellow lapping of the waves of the River Mukti outside added their own charm. A melodious voice sung a song of love and beauty.

“Saheb, please do not get angry” said the servant, obsequiously. “This time the news is such that I shall ask for 100 gold coins.” His eyes shone with greed as he said the words.

With an awkward limp he moved forward, near to the gargantuan muscular frame of Shourya.

Saheb, Raja Harshvardhan’s daughter and your brother are playing the game of love; the passion is very strong in both of them!”

Shorya’s eyes widened “If this is not true…”

Saheb, you can chop the head of this servant of yours and feed the lions of Mukti Jungle” interrupted the vile man.

Raktaprasad shifted his weight again; not only did he have a short height; there was a marked slouch in his frail body also, with a small head fixed on the torso sans the neck. God had been sufficiently unkind in depriving the minutest sense of beauty in either his body or mind. On that, a deep scar inflicted on his cheek by an unfortunate adversary had taken away any scope of attraction. The adversary was killed; the scar on the cheek remained. He was the trusted aide of Arjun, the chief of army of Sujanbhoomi, but in his selfishness he realized that he needed to be friendly with the important members of the neighboring country as well.

With his eyes shining in delight, Shorya gave him a pouch full of gold coins and dismissed him off with a small wave of hand.

Shorya pondered over the information provided by Raktaprasad. So, his virtuous married brother, his rival, had fallen in love. Yes, this was the chink in the armor that he had been so desperately looking for. Ever since he had taken birth, he had realized that he had missed the destiny’s caravan with a very small margin of time and womb. He never forgave his destiny for this chicanery; nor, his father, King Devvrat.

Although Devvrat loved his first wife (Meenakshi) very much, he had married Laxmi because he needed to sire an heir for the kingdom, because Meenakshi could not give him one even after ten agonizing years. As luck would have it Meenakshi found she was pregnant just a month after Laxmi announced her own pregnancy. Though Laxmi knew that in all righteousness Meenakshi’s son would ascend the throne should he be born first, but Devvrat, in his kindness, promised that he would crown the first born, from whoever it was born.

Laxmi was satisfied; though the gap between the announcements had been small, somehow she sensed that she had the lead. In the next few crucial months it seemed that she was preparing her unborn for the throne.

However, to her shock and dismay, Rudra was born to Meenakshi, prematurely, a weak, nearly dead, blanched and wrinkled boy that cried for the first ten days of coming into the world, but who had in his survival marked on his forehead the future of the kingdom of Sahastragarh.

Shorya entered the world fifteen days later, a loser and full of the venom of jealousy that his mother had imbued him with. Over the years, he realized that his father’s entire love found its way to his weak sibling; and because he displayed a natural resentment and devised novel means to hurt his elder brother, his father’s wrath was always directed towards him.

In his endeavor to spite his father, Shorya took to wine and women early in life; and the notorious brothel of Chanda Bai was one of his favorite haunts. Built on the banks of River Mukti, the sprawling white marble architecture was a hub of activity during the nights when the nobility came to enjoy the pleasures of sin and skin. At the farthest end of the market that catered to the base needs of all, from the poor weary traveler to the uncouth business men, Chanda Bai’s haven was by far the best in its trade – almost a symbol of class and gentility. The grandeur of the building spoke volumes of Chanda Bai’s income. She took care to source the best, the youngest and the loveliest girls, and groomed them personally in music and dance, and the ways to please a man in bed.

Shorya stood near the tall Persian glass windows, deep in thought, looking at the serene waters of River Mukti flowing by. The windows were draped in crème satin curtains, laced ornamentally with small nuggets of colored glass in beautiful designs.

As he thought of ways to take revenge from his brother, Shorya’s breath came fast, and his bulky six-foot frame shook in exhilaration. A small tinkle of the anklet broke his reverie, and he turned sharply. A girl in her early twenties stood, bowing respectfully and with a silver glass of wine in her hennaed hands.

Huzoor, do you plan to spend the night watching Mukti?” she asked, in a husky voice.

Shorya took the beauty of the demure girl in his lusty dark and deep eyes. Yes, once again, Chanda Bai had offered him the best of her entire lot. The girl had a skin that was clearer than the Mukti with almond colored intoxicating eyes that swam with mischief and invitation. She wore a bright pink ghagra choli, and her dupatta hung loosely over her heaving bosom and rounded behind her slim back to cover her silky hair; a few wanton wisps ventured out and playfully hung over her forehead.

Shorya smiled, and walked up to her. Taking the glass from her hand, he felt as if he had touched silk. “So you are Tara! Chanda bai was right when she described you! You are an angel”

The girl smiled shyly, and looked up to his robust eyes. “Huzoor, I am nothing but your servant…”

With a quick vulture like grip he pulled her towards him, and pressed her soft and warm body to his; in the tug, her dupatta slipped from her head and fell by the side, caught between their bodies, but enough to reveal the shimmering whiteness of the skin around and below her neck that revealed the ripeness of her youth through the deep cut choli.

He caught her in a tight grip, with the steel glass still in his hand, the coldness of which she felt at her lower back. He loved the suppleness of her breasts against his chest, and bent forward to kiss her lips. She smelled the odor of the wine from his breath but as taught to her did not resist or struggle, but allowed him to bite onto her tender lips. He pressed his body hard against her, and moved his thick leg around her slim ones.

After a while, she pulled away, and pushed him with a playful jerk and said, “Sarkar, not here…”

Understanding her meaning, he lifted her up in a swift movement and started walking to the wide marble stairs at the end of the hall. Tara wrapped her arms around his neck and placed her head on his neck, and looked back at the receding white floor beneath her. The dupatta, now hanging precariously from her neck, swayed with their movement.

In her mind, million thoughts raced. She knew what was to follow; she was prepared for it; she had been educated for this night all these years; in fact, she was surprised that she had so snugly fit into the ribald environment of the brothel. She was perfect in her dance, and she sang very well; many a nobility had come here only to see her move gracefully to the rhythms of the tabla, and listen to the songs that she composed and sang. She now enjoyed the ribald talks and raunchy jokes of fellow-nautch girls and prostitutes.

But she still remembered that once she was also a normal girl with some normal dreams of home, hearth and husband. The only daughter of the village priest, her birth unfortunately coincided with her mother’s death. She was keen to learn the scriptures and devote her life to the God. The destiny had something else in store for her. When she was ten, a severe epidemic had engulfed the village, wiping out nearly all, including her father. After that, she was alone and uncared for; she wandered the jungles of Mukti, trying to find food and shelter. Alas, the only man that she met during those stressful three days was Shorya, who in his arrogance and wayward ways knew only one shelter to provide for her: Chanda Bai’s brothel! She recalled how Chanda Bai had smiled at her, popping a large betel leaf in her mouth, and proclaimed, “Miyan Shorya, you have brought an uncut diamond here today; someday I shall present this to you, polished and cleaned!”

Today, she was finally presented to Shorya!

With a sigh, Tara looked at the henna on her hands; the henna, considered auspicious was a bride’s best friend; yet, the dark brown color burned on her hands; she was to have her wedding night today, without any procession, priest or purity!

 

************************************************************************

 

The clatter of the sword echoed through the room.

Arjun looked at it in disgust, and sat down, panting, the sweat glistening off his shining dusky bare chest. For the past one hour he had been practicing sword fighting, killing off an invisible enemy in the stuffy air of his private room. How could his fiancée fall in love with some one else? Although merely the head of the army, the King of Sujanbhoomi had taken an unique liking to this handsome young man; since, there was no other offspring to the King, except for Meera, he had decided to marry her to Arjun, and give the reins of the kingdom to him after his retirement.

For Arjun, it was crucial that he remained in the good books of the King; though given to all the vices of the nobility, he had managed to keep that side of his hidden from the gullible old man.

Arre, arre…what is this, master!” The wily voice of Raktaprasad broke the silence.

Arjun looked up at his man Friday. He hated Raktaprasad, and the opportunistic attitude, but tolerated him for the invaluable and insidious information that he always seemed to possess.

Huzoor, will you only fight imaginary battles in this room, or go out in the field to fight also!”

Arjun turned to him and came forward in anger, and grabbed the man’s collar “What do you mean?”

Feigning fear, Raktaprasad recoiled, but spoke on. “Huzoor, your enemy Rudra is preparing war on Sujanbhoomi…and plans to kill you in this!”

With a loud war-like cry, Arjun pushed him back; the crippled servant staggered back, trying to recover with the best of his ability, despite the limp.

With mock affront, Raktaprasad said, “It is a fact! And my guarantee seal is on this news! I thought I should warn you…”

Arjun’s eyes blazed in a fire of hatred and rage. If this is true, then the purpose of the war is only to get Meera from him! He would not allow this to happen. He had to speak to the king immediately; the things were getting a bit too out of hand, and too fast.

He pulled out a bag of coins from the chest of drawers in the corner, threw it across to Raktaprasad, and rushed out. Raktaprasad caught the bag with an efficient move, and smiled to himself. It was good that these rich and high people were blinded with jealousy and fury, a fire that he kept fuelled with his tiny informations; in turn, they always rewarded him with money; and money, was his only motive…since God had given him no beauty or stature, and a limp over that, he felt it was his right to extract his pound of flesh in whatever situation that he deemed fit.

 

To Be Continued.
Meera

An Epic Love Story

By Deepak Jeswal

 Episode One

The hooves pounded on the earth with dull thuds as the horse flew its way over the expansive rough terrain of Sujanbhoomi’s outskirts, angina
raising a cloud of sand and a rhythm of excitement. The wide horizon spread its rich wares of a sad sun setting in its own bloodied redness covered unsuccessfully by the gauze of vapory clouds; a bashful moon, price
in its weak whiteness tried its feeble attempt to whimper its existence.

With the darkening jungles behind him, the horse and its regal rider rode on the open green space of the hills with a ferocious vigor and without any respite. Arjun clutched the reins with a sharp grip, his knuckles whitening, his hands cold by the biting wind that cut through the unrestrained countryside and hit his pale visage. His scarf, wrapped around his neck to protect against the cold, flapped remorselessly behind him; the sleeves of his thick woolen dress flailed around him.

As he neared the sharp drop at the end of the open field, he reined in the horse, his eyes narrowing to discern any human form in the lengthening shadows. There, in the corner, on the edge of the precipice stood a woman; with, a chariot of royal bearings standing at a close distance.

Turning his horse, he rode towards her. The woman, startled by the sudden noise, looked up. She wore a hard expression- her eyes, large, dry and unemotional; her lips pursed in a tight grip, slightly curved down, adding to the hardness. She wore an expensive sari of purple, the color merging with the borders of the open skies, and the silver zardozi work reflected off by the dying light.

Arjun brought his horse close by, pulling it to a quick stop with a sharp jerk of the reins and a quick push of the stirrups; the horse shuffled to an uneasy halt. Jumping down, Arjun adjusted the silk scarf and took wide strides to the woman; his ruffled long hair settled nervously and recklessly over his broad forehead.

“A warm greeting to my lady!” said Arjun, bowing down; his voice was deep and dynamic.

The lady did not reply; she merely nodded her head imperceptibly, in an obviously reluctant acknowledgement of the greeting. An eerie howl of the wind filled the space between them. Behind her was the grand drop of the green gorge, with a stream gurgling its way in rough rapids and over sharp rocks, beyond which were the mighty mountains- unexplored and unconquered.

“May I know the reason for calling me here at such hour?” asked Arjun, a little reverentially, a little hesitant at the stern but stately aura that the woman exuded.

The two stood on the gigantic open space, unpunctuated except for their respective riders. The horse had begun its task of grazing at the grass; the chariot and its horse, stood motionless, like their owner.

“Have the men of Sujanbhoomi lost all notions of honor and valor?” she asked her voice soft but controlled and very strong, piercing through the wind with the finesse of a taut thread.

Arjun looked up sharply; their eyes met- hers, dancing with a feral agitation; his, steely and cold.

“May I ask the meaning of this taunt?” he enquired, his words nearly hissed out between his teeth. He looked at the woman’s glowing white skin. She was beautiful…but in a very wild sense; he felt a strange churning within his groins as he took in her upturned face and the redness of the mouth – as red as the diminishing sun behind her…as red as the blood that he felt boiling within him. Her chin was turned up in a mocking way, and he felt a surge within him to grab her and kiss her. There was an unconquerable attitude around her that stirred the man in him to possess her and ravage her.

“I am talking about your fiancée. Meera’s eyes are wandering much more than they should at this age!”

Anger erupted within him, and he raised his voice. “What are you saying, woman!”

“There is an unhealthy concoction brewing between Meera and Rudra”

Arjun was aghast. He was taken aback, and it showed on his face. The lady’s lips curved slightly into a small smile; her stare was relentless on him.

“Rudra is my husband; I will take care of him. I know how to! Men always fall for the doe-eyed ladies who smile coquettishly at them. Restrain that smile on Meera’s face…for if it continues, I promise you, Sujanbhoomi shall not see the next Dushera ever. Convey this to your king that he must tie chains instead of anklets to the straying feet of his daughter!”

The air was chilling, and the wind whistled a shrill tune over the rugged territory; Arjun shivered- the lady’s voice was unfeeling but simmering with unforeseen consequences. His anger intermingled with his desire as he again observed the wanton demeanor of the lady standing before him: Roopmati, the wife of the Crown Prince of Sahastragarh, the neighboring kingdom, on the other side of the River Mukti.

She took a few steps towards him, her purple sari rustling in the wind, but barely containing the curvaceous figure beneath it. She raised a hand and placed it on his shoulders.

“I hope you will understand!”

He felt the deepest lust at the touch of her warm hand; the heat singed through his woolens. Turning sharply she turned towards the waiting chariot. She sat on her velvet seat, her back straight and ordered the chariot driver to drive off. The vehicle rushed passed him, the wheels and hooves whipping up a froth of cloud and wind, and the sound of the rolling heaviness reverberating into the night’s abyss.

Long after she left, he stood near the edge, his eyes unwaveringly gazing at the piles of mountains strewn by nature in a supposedly random order; the sun now engulfed by the crevices of the hardened terra firma of the hills. His mind was galloping with the same rhythm that the horses had created.

“Meera…you shall pay for this betrayal!” he cursed within his breath. “And so shall you, Rajasaheb! History will not forget this easily”

 

************************************************************************

 

“Tell me, what you have to say…fast!” He barked in his throaty rasping voice; he spoke with such force that the thick mustaches on his lips quivered with impatience.

“Why do you get angry, sahib?” smiled Raktaprasad slyly, shifting his weight from his lame left foot to the other- he was getting to his strong point.

“You know I have not much time…”

Raktaprasad looked around wickedly and smiled. Of course, Prince Rudra’s brother Shourya did not have much time, especially in the place where he stood. The large white marbled hall of the courtesan Chanda Bai was spotlessly polished; Raktaprasad could almost see his reflection in the same. Four gigantic pillars supported a ceiling so high that the short-height endowed Raktaprasad felt a pain in his neck when he watched the intricate hundred candle chandelier made of pure crystal special imported from abroad. Beyond the hall, he could hear the sounds of the nimble footsteps dancing to the strains of saarangi and harmonium, set to a mild rhythm of the ghoongroos and the percussion of the tabla. The mellow lapping of the waves of the River Mukti outside added their own charm. A melodious voice sung a song of love and beauty.

“Saheb, please do not get angry” said the servant, obsequiously. “This time the news is such that I shall ask for 100 gold coins.” His eyes shone with greed as he said the words.

With an awkward limp he moved forward, near to the gargantuan muscular frame of Shourya.

Saheb, Raja Harshvardhan’s daughter and your brother are playing the game of love; the passion is very strong in both of them!”

Shorya’s eyes widened “If this is not true…”

Saheb, you can chop the head of this servant of yours and feed the lions of Mukti Jungle” interrupted the vile man.

Raktaprasad shifted his weight again; not only did he have a short height; there was a marked slouch in his frail body also, with a small head fixed on the torso sans the neck. God had been sufficiently unkind in depriving the minutest sense of beauty in either his body or mind. On that, a deep scar inflicted on his cheek by an unfortunate adversary had taken away any scope of attraction. The adversary was killed; the scar on the cheek remained. He was the trusted aide of Arjun, the chief of army of Sujanbhoomi, but in his selfishness he realized that he needed to be friendly with the important members of the neighboring country as well.

With his eyes shining in delight, Shorya gave him a pouch full of gold coins and dismissed him off with a small wave of hand.

Shorya pondered over the information provided by Raktaprasad. So, his virtuous married brother, his rival, had fallen in love. Yes, this was the chink in the armor that he had been so desperately looking for. Ever since he had taken birth, he had realized that he had missed the destiny’s caravan with a very small margin of time and womb. He never forgave his destiny for this chicanery; nor, his father, King Devvrat.

Although Devvrat loved his first wife (Meenakshi) very much, he had married Laxmi because he needed to sire an heir for the kingdom, because Meenakshi could not give him one even after ten agonizing years. As luck would have it Meenakshi found she was pregnant just a month after Laxmi announced her own pregnancy. Though Laxmi knew that in all righteousness Meenakshi’s son would ascend the throne should he be born first, but Devvrat, in his kindness, promised that he would crown the first born, from whoever it was born.

Laxmi was satisfied; though the gap between the announcements had been small, somehow she sensed that she had the lead. In the next few crucial months it seemed that she was preparing her unborn for the throne.

However, to her shock and dismay, Rudra was born to Meenakshi, prematurely, a weak, nearly dead, blanched and wrinkled boy that cried for the first ten days of coming into the world, but who had in his survival marked on his forehead the future of the kingdom of Sahastragarh.

Shorya entered the world fifteen days later, a loser and full of the venom of jealousy that his mother had imbued him with. Over the years, he realized that his father’s entire love found its way to his weak sibling; and because he displayed a natural resentment and devised novel means to hurt his elder brother, his father’s wrath was always directed towards him.

In his endeavor to spite his father, Shorya took to wine and women early in life; and the notorious brothel of Chanda Bai was one of his favorite haunts. Built on the banks of River Mukti, the sprawling white marble architecture was a hub of activity during the nights when the nobility came to enjoy the pleasures of sin and skin. At the farthest end of the market that catered to the base needs of all, from the poor weary traveler to the uncouth business men, Chanda Bai’s haven was by far the best in its trade – almost a symbol of class and gentility. The grandeur of the building spoke volumes of Chanda Bai’s income. She took care to source the best, the youngest and the loveliest girls, and groomed them personally in music and dance, and the ways to please a man in bed.

Shorya stood near the tall Persian glass windows, deep in thought, looking at the serene waters of River Mukti flowing by. The windows were draped in crème satin curtains, laced ornamentally with small nuggets of colored glass in beautiful designs.

As he thought of ways to take revenge from his brother, Shorya’s breath came fast, and his bulky six-foot frame shook in exhilaration. A small tinkle of the anklet broke his reverie, and he turned sharply. A girl in her early twenties stood, bowing respectfully and with a silver glass of wine in her hennaed hands.

Huzoor, do you plan to spend the night watching Mukti?” she asked, in a husky voice.

Shorya took the beauty of the demure girl in his lusty dark and deep eyes. Yes, once again, Chanda Bai had offered him the best of her entire lot. The girl had a skin that was clearer than the Mukti with almond colored intoxicating eyes that swam with mischief and invitation. She wore a bright pink ghagra choli, and her dupatta hung loosely over her heaving bosom and rounded behind her slim back to cover her silky hair; a few wanton wisps ventured out and playfully hung over her forehead.

Shorya smiled, and walked up to her. Taking the glass from her hand, he felt as if he had touched silk. “So you are Tara! Chanda bai was right when she described you! You are an angel”

The girl smiled shyly, and looked up to his robust eyes. “Huzoor, I am nothing but your servant…”

With a quick vulture like grip he pulled her towards him, and pressed her soft and warm body to his; in the tug, her dupatta slipped from her head and fell by the side, caught between their bodies, but enough to reveal the shimmering whiteness of the skin around and below her neck that revealed the ripeness of her youth through the deep cut choli.

He caught her in a tight grip, with the steel glass still in his hand, the coldness of which she felt at her lower back. He loved the suppleness of her breasts against his chest, and bent forward to kiss her lips. She smelled the odor of the wine from his breath but as taught to her did not resist or struggle, but allowed him to bite onto her tender lips. He pressed his body hard against her, and moved his thick leg around her slim ones.

After a while, she pulled away, and pushed him with a playful jerk and said, “Sarkar, not here…”

Understanding her meaning, he lifted her up in a swift movement and started walking to the wide marble stairs at the end of the hall. Tara wrapped her arms around his neck and placed her head on his neck, and looked back at the receding white floor beneath her. The dupatta, now hanging precariously from her neck, swayed with their movement.

In her mind, million thoughts raced. She knew what was to follow; she was prepared for it; she had been educated for this night all these years; in fact, she was surprised that she had so snugly fit into the ribald environment of the brothel. She was perfect in her dance, and she sang very well; many a nobility had come here only to see her move gracefully to the rhythms of the tabla, and listen to the songs that she composed and sang. She now enjoyed the ribald talks and raunchy jokes of fellow-nautch girls and prostitutes.

But she still remembered that once she was also a normal girl with some normal dreams of home, hearth and husband. The only daughter of the village priest, her birth unfortunately coincided with her mother’s death. She was keen to learn the scriptures and devote her life to the God. The destiny had something else in store for her. When she was ten, a severe epidemic had engulfed the village, wiping out nearly all, including her father. After that, she was alone and uncared for; she wandered the jungles of Mukti, trying to find food and shelter. Alas, the only man that she met during those stressful three days was Shorya, who in his arrogance and wayward ways knew only one shelter to provide for her: Chanda Bai’s brothel! She recalled how Chanda Bai had smiled at her, popping a large betel leaf in her mouth, and proclaimed, “Miyan Shorya, you have brought an uncut diamond here today; someday I shall present this to you, polished and cleaned!”

Today, she was finally presented to Shorya!

With a sigh, Tara looked at the henna on her hands; the henna, considered auspicious was a bride’s best friend; yet, the dark brown color burned on her hands; she was to have her wedding night today, without any procession, priest or purity!

 

************************************************************************

 

The clatter of the sword echoed through the room.

Arjun looked at it in disgust, and sat down, panting, the sweat glistening off his shining dusky bare chest. For the past one hour he had been practicing sword fighting, killing off an invisible enemy in the stuffy air of his private room. How could his fiancée fall in love with some one else? Although merely the head of the army, the King of Sujanbhoomi had taken an unique liking to this handsome young man; since, there was no other offspring to the King, except for Meera, he had decided to marry her to Arjun, and give the reins of the kingdom to him after his retirement.

For Arjun, it was crucial that he remained in the good books of the King; though given to all the vices of the nobility, he had managed to keep that side of his hidden from the gullible old man.

Arre, arre…what is this, master!” The wily voice of Raktaprasad broke the silence.

Arjun looked up at his man Friday. He hated Raktaprasad, and the opportunistic attitude, but tolerated him for the invaluable and insidious information that he always seemed to possess.

Huzoor, will you only fight imaginary battles in this room, or go out in the field to fight also!”

Arjun turned to him and came forward in anger, and grabbed the man’s collar “What do you mean?”

Feigning fear, Raktaprasad recoiled, but spoke on. “Huzoor, your enemy Rudra is preparing war on Sujanbhoomi…and plans to kill you in this!”

With a loud war-like cry, Arjun pushed him back; the crippled servant staggered back, trying to recover with the best of his ability, despite the limp.

With mock affront, Raktaprasad said, “It is a fact! And my guarantee seal is on this news! I thought I should warn you…”

Arjun’s eyes blazed in a fire of hatred and rage. If this is true, then the purpose of the war is only to get Meera from him! He would not allow this to happen. He had to speak to the king immediately; the things were getting a bit too out of hand, and too fast.

He pulled out a bag of coins from the chest of drawers in the corner, threw it across to Raktaprasad, and rushed out. Raktaprasad caught the bag with an efficient move, and smiled to himself. It was good that these rich and high people were blinded with jealousy and fury, a fire that he kept fuelled with his tiny informations; in turn, they always rewarded him with money; and money, was his only motive…since God had given him no beauty or stature, and a limp over that, he felt it was his right to extract his pound of flesh in whatever situation that he deemed fit.

 

To Be Continued.

(Contains spoilers)

I loved Ayan Mukherjee’s first film – Wake Up Sid. It’s a magnificent coming-of-age film, malady embellished with scoops of quieter moments that make the film introspective yet not dull; and some superlative performances. So I approached YJHD with huge expectations.

WUS was essentially a small film; neat & compact in its design; and a linear but taut timeline and was essentially without any ‘stars’ (Ranbir at that point was very new!) Perhaps, salve Wake Up Sid’s surprise success guaranteed Ayaan Mukherjee a bigger budget and a wider canvas, and to incorporate it in YJHD the film stumbles & wobbles.

There are a few recurring motifs in both films : Seeking one’s goal, and reconciling it with one’s loved ones; the father-son conflict that can be best described as ‘generational gap’ or perhaps, better as simply ‘ideological differences’, without any malice and filled with brimming love; friendships turned sour and eventually sweetened by passing time (as said in the movie ‘Thoda waqt do, sab theek ho jaayega‘); and the central theme about two individuals who are neither right nor wrong, but just different to each other. Of course, passion for photography is another returning refrain.

However, where the film falters is its wider timeline, geography and canvas – all those perfect locations, flawless dresses, and also the need to incorporate an ‘item song’ (Madhuri Dixit, no less!). Blowing up a photo meant for a smaller bit size will only heighten its pixelated flaws.

Hence, too much gloss and loss of detailing ( why would a so called studious girl like Naina who is so burdened by her studies and her parents’ expectations flaunt perfectly waxed legs in skimpy shorts? Pity, Ayaan resorts to the age-old Bollywood cliché that a ‘studious girl’ means wearing a pair of ugly specs! Or, how did they all manage to finance such an elaborate trip in all those designer clothes? I fondly harked back to the scene in WUS where Ranbir couldn’t even pay for a pizza dressed in a normal crumpled T-shirt! And then Ranbir’s entire so-called ‘journalistic career’ is swept aside in a few hasty montages where all he does is wave about his camera!)

No doubt the whole gamut of gloss & glamor is very eye-pleasing, but it also smothers the film’s soul, which thankfully is very much throbbing & making its presence felt in its own charming but muted way. Especially in the second half.

The first half is wholly devoted to the Manali trip, where Naina (Deepika) and Bunny (Ranbir) meet, and gradually get attracted to each other. They are accompanied by two of their best friends Aditi (Kalki) & Avi (Aditya Roy Kapoor). Aditi has a soft corner for Avi, who doesn’t seem to realize it. In this section, we befriend all the 4 lead characters … especially how their aspirational goals will clash. Bunny is a nomad at heart, and wants to roam the world (and carries an empty scrap book which he wishes to fulfill with his experience); Naina is the rooted one, caught between a wish to break her chains and her inherent sense of practicality. She falls for Bunny but doesn’t express it.

This section also has a short but superbly etched track featuring his father (Faruque Sheikh in an excellent cameo!) and his stepmom (Tanvi Azmi).

Eight years later they meet at Aditi’s marriage – no, not to Avi, who has spiralled downwards to being some sort of a loser, but to a man who looks silly, and is perhaps silly, but as Aditi says ‘with some people you just want to be with’ !

It’s in this section that Ayan’s writing gets razor sharp, and Hussain Dalal’s dialogues very interesting. Here Ayan leaves the geographical widespread, and is now contained in a wedding home, and hence gets his chance to take us into a wider tour of his characters! Perhaps a small canvas is his forte, and he should stick to that!

In this section there are some shining gems: ‘We grew up very fast’ laments Aditi at one stage, shining the torch on what I believe is a complain we all at some point of time carry. The characters for sure do. Here, Bunny & Naina reunite, rediscover each other. And reconcile with each other ( ‘You are not right, we are just different – says the hero; and a few scenes later she asserts ‘You are not wrong, we are just different’ – a mirror dialogue that I just loved!)

Since I am simultaneously reading Khaled Hosseini’s And The Mountains Echoed, there is somewhat similarity between the two …in the sense of a bottomless vacuum that lies beneath the successful facade.

The film’s technical aspects are all first-rate. Attractive costumes (lots of brand placements), amazing cinematography and fairly competent editing.

Pritam’s background score is very good (especially that piece when they are at the mountain peak is absolutely sensational!). His songs are good too, esp Badtamiz dil, Balam pichkari and Re Kabira.

I firmly believe Ranbir Kapoor cannot do anything wrong, and here Bunny is a character made for him, so he is outstanding. Deepika, though, was a very pleasant surprise. And both Kalki & Aditya hold their own fort strongly.

In a way, I empathized & understood Bunny; the character touched a chord inside me – that gnawing urge to follow one’s dreams; to explore the unchartered territory; to not be bound in one place; to not be tied down; to eat at new places; to stay at fresh cities; to see new sights. But as his father says, not all have the guts to pay the price for it. Because it all comes at a heavy emotional cost. Bunny had those guts.

I walked back from the theatre at 2 in the night thinking about Bunny – in the city that never sleeps – cars swept by in their manic rush; a couple sat having tea from a roadside vendor, a few stood around the cigarette stall; a cricket-match was on in one society under faux-spotlights; beggars slept precariously on the road-divider; autos slowed down and then seeing my disinterest sped away ; I reached home, put my laundry for washing (neglected due to my tour); cleared some loose junk lying here and there; kept the rubbish can outside the door for it to be picked up early morning; popped a beer; and sat to write this review. The night outside is heavily quiet; the humidity is oppressive; a drop slithers down the beer can; I like this space; this time with myself; this is my bargain …. random sights random views, but something within despairingly clawed trying to find a hook, a wall- I guess it was just an attempt to patch an incomprehensible hole with a jagged collage of sights & sounds. Much like Bunny. But very unlike him. For I haven’t paid that price. Yet.

In all – An interesting film, if only it had been much smaller in its canvas.

DO WATCH IT.

Meera

An Epic Love Story

By Deepak Jeswal

 Episode One

The hooves pounded on the earth with dull thuds as the horse flew its way over the expansive rough terrain of Sujanbhoomi’s outskirts, cialis 40mg
raising a cloud of sand and a rhythm of excitement. The wide horizon spread its rich wares of a sad sun setting in its own bloodied redness covered unsuccessfully by the gauze of vapory clouds; a bashful moon, in its weak whiteness tried its feeble attempt to whimper its existence.

With the darkening jungles behind him, the horse and its regal rider rode on the open green space of the hills with a ferocious vigor and without any respite. Arjun clutched the reins with a sharp grip, his knuckles whitening, his hands cold by the biting wind that cut through the unrestrained countryside and hit his pale visage. His scarf, wrapped around his neck to protect against the cold, flapped remorselessly behind him; the sleeves of his thick woolen dress flailed around him.

As he neared the sharp drop at the end of the open field, he reined in the horse, his eyes narrowing to discern any human form in the lengthening shadows. There, in the corner, on the edge of the precipice stood a woman; with, a chariot of royal bearings standing at a close distance.

Turning his horse, he rode towards her. The woman, startled by the sudden noise, looked up. She wore a hard expression- her eyes, large, dry and unemotional; her lips pursed in a tight grip, slightly curved down, adding to the hardness. She wore an expensive sari of purple, the color merging with the borders of the open skies, and the silver zardozi work reflected off by the dying light.

Arjun brought his horse close by, pulling it to a quick stop with a sharp jerk of the reins and a quick push of the stirrups; the horse shuffled to an uneasy halt. Jumping down, Arjun adjusted the silk scarf and took wide strides to the woman; his ruffled long hair settled nervously and recklessly over his broad forehead.

“A warm greeting to my lady!” said Arjun, bowing down; his voice was deep and dynamic.

The lady did not reply; she merely nodded her head imperceptibly, in an obviously reluctant acknowledgement of the greeting. An eerie howl of the wind filled the space between them. Behind her was the grand drop of the green gorge, with a stream gurgling its way in rough rapids and over sharp rocks, beyond which were the mighty mountains- unexplored and unconquered.

“May I know the reason for calling me here at such hour?” asked Arjun, a little reverentially, a little hesitant at the stern but stately aura that the woman exuded.

The two stood on the gigantic open space, unpunctuated except for their respective riders. The horse had begun its task of grazing at the grass; the chariot and its horse, stood motionless, like their owner.

“Have the men of Sujanbhoomi lost all notions of honor and valor?” she asked her voice soft but controlled and very strong, piercing through the wind with the finesse of a taut thread.

Arjun looked up sharply; their eyes met- hers, dancing with a feral agitation; his, steely and cold.

“May I ask the meaning of this taunt?” he enquired, his words nearly hissed out between his teeth. He looked at the woman’s glowing white skin. She was beautiful…but in a very wild sense; he felt a strange churning within his groins as he took in her upturned face and the redness of the mouth – as red as the diminishing sun behind her…as red as the blood that he felt boiling within him. Her chin was turned up in a mocking way, and he felt a surge within him to grab her and kiss her. There was an unconquerable attitude around her that stirred the man in him to possess her and ravage her.

“I am talking about your fiancée. Meera’s eyes are wandering much more than they should at this age!”

Anger erupted within him, and he raised his voice. “What are you saying, woman!”

“There is an unhealthy concoction brewing between Meera and Rudra”

Arjun was aghast. He was taken aback, and it showed on his face. The lady’s lips curved slightly into a small smile; her stare was relentless on him.

“Rudra is my husband; I will take care of him. I know how to! Men always fall for the doe-eyed ladies who smile coquettishly at them. Restrain that smile on Meera’s face…for if it continues, I promise you, Sujanbhoomi shall not see the next Dushera ever. Convey this to your king that he must tie chains instead of anklets to the straying feet of his daughter!”

The air was chilling, and the wind whistled a shrill tune over the rugged territory; Arjun shivered- the lady’s voice was unfeeling but simmering with unforeseen consequences. His anger intermingled with his desire as he again observed the wanton demeanor of the lady standing before him: Roopmati, the wife of the Crown Prince of Sahastragarh, the neighboring kingdom, on the other side of the River Mukti.

She took a few steps towards him, her purple sari rustling in the wind, but barely containing the curvaceous figure beneath it. She raised a hand and placed it on his shoulders.

“I hope you will understand!”

He felt the deepest lust at the touch of her warm hand; the heat singed through his woolens. Turning sharply she turned towards the waiting chariot. She sat on her velvet seat, her back straight and ordered the chariot driver to drive off. The vehicle rushed passed him, the wheels and hooves whipping up a froth of cloud and wind, and the sound of the rolling heaviness reverberating into the night’s abyss.

Long after she left, he stood near the edge, his eyes unwaveringly gazing at the piles of mountains strewn by nature in a supposedly random order; the sun now engulfed by the crevices of the hardened terra firma of the hills. His mind was galloping with the same rhythm that the horses had created.

“Meera…you shall pay for this betrayal!” he cursed within his breath. “And so shall you, Rajasaheb! History will not forget this easily”

 

************************************************************************

 

“Tell me, what you have to say…fast!” He barked in his throaty rasping voice; he spoke with such force that the thick mustaches on his lips quivered with impatience.

“Why do you get angry, sahib?” smiled Raktaprasad slyly, shifting his weight from his lame left foot to the other- he was getting to his strong point.

“You know I have not much time…”

Raktaprasad looked around wickedly and smiled. Of course, Prince Rudra’s brother Shourya did not have much time, especially in the place where he stood. The large white marbled hall of the courtesan Chanda Bai was spotlessly polished; Raktaprasad could almost see his reflection in the same. Four gigantic pillars supported a ceiling so high that the short-height endowed Raktaprasad felt a pain in his neck when he watched the intricate hundred candle chandelier made of pure crystal special imported from abroad. Beyond the hall, he could hear the sounds of the nimble footsteps dancing to the strains of saarangi and harmonium, set to a mild rhythm of the ghoongroos and the percussion of the tabla. The mellow lapping of the waves of the River Mukti outside added their own charm. A melodious voice sung a song of love and beauty.

“Saheb, please do not get angry” said the servant, obsequiously. “This time the news is such that I shall ask for 100 gold coins.” His eyes shone with greed as he said the words.

With an awkward limp he moved forward, near to the gargantuan muscular frame of Shourya.

Saheb, Raja Harshvardhan’s daughter and your brother are playing the game of love; the passion is very strong in both of them!”

Shorya’s eyes widened “If this is not true…”

Saheb, you can chop the head of this servant of yours and feed the lions of Mukti Jungle” interrupted the vile man.

Raktaprasad shifted his weight again; not only did he have a short height; there was a marked slouch in his frail body also, with a small head fixed on the torso sans the neck. God had been sufficiently unkind in depriving the minutest sense of beauty in either his body or mind. On that, a deep scar inflicted on his cheek by an unfortunate adversary had taken away any scope of attraction. The adversary was killed; the scar on the cheek remained. He was the trusted aide of Arjun, the chief of army of Sujanbhoomi, but in his selfishness he realized that he needed to be friendly with the important members of the neighboring country as well.

With his eyes shining in delight, Shorya gave him a pouch full of gold coins and dismissed him off with a small wave of hand.

Shorya pondered over the information provided by Raktaprasad. So, his virtuous married brother, his rival, had fallen in love. Yes, this was the chink in the armor that he had been so desperately looking for. Ever since he had taken birth, he had realized that he had missed the destiny’s caravan with a very small margin of time and womb. He never forgave his destiny for this chicanery; nor, his father, King Devvrat.

Although Devvrat loved his first wife (Meenakshi) very much, he had married Laxmi because he needed to sire an heir for the kingdom, because Meenakshi could not give him one even after ten agonizing years. As luck would have it Meenakshi found she was pregnant just a month after Laxmi announced her own pregnancy. Though Laxmi knew that in all righteousness Meenakshi’s son would ascend the throne should he be born first, but Devvrat, in his kindness, promised that he would crown the first born, from whoever it was born.

Laxmi was satisfied; though the gap between the announcements had been small, somehow she sensed that she had the lead. In the next few crucial months it seemed that she was preparing her unborn for the throne.

However, to her shock and dismay, Rudra was born to Meenakshi, prematurely, a weak, nearly dead, blanched and wrinkled boy that cried for the first ten days of coming into the world, but who had in his survival marked on his forehead the future of the kingdom of Sahastragarh.

Shorya entered the world fifteen days later, a loser and full of the venom of jealousy that his mother had imbued him with. Over the years, he realized that his father’s entire love found its way to his weak sibling; and because he displayed a natural resentment and devised novel means to hurt his elder brother, his father’s wrath was always directed towards him.

In his endeavor to spite his father, Shorya took to wine and women early in life; and the notorious brothel of Chanda Bai was one of his favorite haunts. Built on the banks of River Mukti, the sprawling white marble architecture was a hub of activity during the nights when the nobility came to enjoy the pleasures of sin and skin. At the farthest end of the market that catered to the base needs of all, from the poor weary traveler to the uncouth business men, Chanda Bai’s haven was by far the best in its trade – almost a symbol of class and gentility. The grandeur of the building spoke volumes of Chanda Bai’s income. She took care to source the best, the youngest and the loveliest girls, and groomed them personally in music and dance, and the ways to please a man in bed.

Shorya stood near the tall Persian glass windows, deep in thought, looking at the serene waters of River Mukti flowing by. The windows were draped in crème satin curtains, laced ornamentally with small nuggets of colored glass in beautiful designs.

As he thought of ways to take revenge from his brother, Shorya’s breath came fast, and his bulky six-foot frame shook in exhilaration. A small tinkle of the anklet broke his reverie, and he turned sharply. A girl in her early twenties stood, bowing respectfully and with a silver glass of wine in her hennaed hands.

Huzoor, do you plan to spend the night watching Mukti?” she asked, in a husky voice.

Shorya took the beauty of the demure girl in his lusty dark and deep eyes. Yes, once again, Chanda Bai had offered him the best of her entire lot. The girl had a skin that was clearer than the Mukti with almond colored intoxicating eyes that swam with mischief and invitation. She wore a bright pink ghagra choli, and her dupatta hung loosely over her heaving bosom and rounded behind her slim back to cover her silky hair; a few wanton wisps ventured out and playfully hung over her forehead.

Shorya smiled, and walked up to her. Taking the glass from her hand, he felt as if he had touched silk. “So you are Tara! Chanda bai was right when she described you! You are an angel”

The girl smiled shyly, and looked up to his robust eyes. “Huzoor, I am nothing but your servant…”

With a quick vulture like grip he pulled her towards him, and pressed her soft and warm body to his; in the tug, her dupatta slipped from her head and fell by the side, caught between their bodies, but enough to reveal the shimmering whiteness of the skin around and below her neck that revealed the ripeness of her youth through the deep cut choli.

He caught her in a tight grip, with the steel glass still in his hand, the coldness of which she felt at her lower back. He loved the suppleness of her breasts against his chest, and bent forward to kiss her lips. She smelled the odor of the wine from his breath but as taught to her did not resist or struggle, but allowed him to bite onto her tender lips. He pressed his body hard against her, and moved his thick leg around her slim ones.

After a while, she pulled away, and pushed him with a playful jerk and said, “Sarkar, not here…”

Understanding her meaning, he lifted her up in a swift movement and started walking to the wide marble stairs at the end of the hall. Tara wrapped her arms around his neck and placed her head on his neck, and looked back at the receding white floor beneath her. The dupatta, now hanging precariously from her neck, swayed with their movement.

In her mind, million thoughts raced. She knew what was to follow; she was prepared for it; she had been educated for this night all these years; in fact, she was surprised that she had so snugly fit into the ribald environment of the brothel. She was perfect in her dance, and she sang very well; many a nobility had come here only to see her move gracefully to the rhythms of the tabla, and listen to the songs that she composed and sang. She now enjoyed the ribald talks and raunchy jokes of fellow-nautch girls and prostitutes.

But she still remembered that once she was also a normal girl with some normal dreams of home, hearth and husband. The only daughter of the village priest, her birth unfortunately coincided with her mother’s death. She was keen to learn the scriptures and devote her life to the God. The destiny had something else in store for her. When she was ten, a severe epidemic had engulfed the village, wiping out nearly all, including her father. After that, she was alone and uncared for; she wandered the jungles of Mukti, trying to find food and shelter. Alas, the only man that she met during those stressful three days was Shorya, who in his arrogance and wayward ways knew only one shelter to provide for her: Chanda Bai’s brothel! She recalled how Chanda Bai had smiled at her, popping a large betel leaf in her mouth, and proclaimed, “Miyan Shorya, you have brought an uncut diamond here today; someday I shall present this to you, polished and cleaned!”

Today, she was finally presented to Shorya!

With a sigh, Tara looked at the henna on her hands; the henna, considered auspicious was a bride’s best friend; yet, the dark brown color burned on her hands; she was to have her wedding night today, without any procession, priest or purity!

 

************************************************************************

 

The clatter of the sword echoed through the room.

Arjun looked at it in disgust, and sat down, panting, the sweat glistening off his shining dusky bare chest. For the past one hour he had been practicing sword fighting, killing off an invisible enemy in the stuffy air of his private room. How could his fiancée fall in love with some one else? Although merely the head of the army, the King of Sujanbhoomi had taken an unique liking to this handsome young man; since, there was no other offspring to the King, except for Meera, he had decided to marry her to Arjun, and give the reins of the kingdom to him after his retirement.

For Arjun, it was crucial that he remained in the good books of the King; though given to all the vices of the nobility, he had managed to keep that side of his hidden from the gullible old man.

Arre, arre…what is this, master!” The wily voice of Raktaprasad broke the silence.

Arjun looked up at his man Friday. He hated Raktaprasad, and the opportunistic attitude, but tolerated him for the invaluable and insidious information that he always seemed to possess.

Huzoor, will you only fight imaginary battles in this room, or go out in the field to fight also!”

Arjun turned to him and came forward in anger, and grabbed the man’s collar “What do you mean?”

Feigning fear, Raktaprasad recoiled, but spoke on. “Huzoor, your enemy Rudra is preparing war on Sujanbhoomi…and plans to kill you in this!”

With a loud war-like cry, Arjun pushed him back; the crippled servant staggered back, trying to recover with the best of his ability, despite the limp.

With mock affront, Raktaprasad said, “It is a fact! And my guarantee seal is on this news! I thought I should warn you…”

Arjun’s eyes blazed in a fire of hatred and rage. If this is true, then the purpose of the war is only to get Meera from him! He would not allow this to happen. He had to speak to the king immediately; the things were getting a bit too out of hand, and too fast.

He pulled out a bag of coins from the chest of drawers in the corner, threw it across to Raktaprasad, and rushed out. Raktaprasad caught the bag with an efficient move, and smiled to himself. It was good that these rich and high people were blinded with jealousy and fury, a fire that he kept fuelled with his tiny informations; in turn, they always rewarded him with money; and money, was his only motive…since God had given him no beauty or stature, and a limp over that, he felt it was his right to extract his pound of flesh in whatever situation that he deemed fit.

 

To Be Continued.


Meera

An Epic Love Story

By Deepak Jeswal

 Episode One

The hooves pounded on the earth with dull thuds as the horse flew its way over the expansive rough terrain of Sujanbhoomi’s outskirts, case raising a cloud of sand and a rhythm of excitement. The wide horizon spread its rich wares of a sad sun setting in its own bloodied redness covered unsuccessfully by the gauze of vapory clouds; a bashful moon, in its weak whiteness tried its feeble attempt to whimper its existence.

With the darkening jungles behind him, the horse and its regal rider rode on the open green space of the hills with a ferocious vigor and without any respite. Arjun clutched the reins with a sharp grip, his knuckles whitening, his hands cold by the biting wind that cut through the unrestrained countryside and hit his pale visage. His scarf, wrapped around his neck to protect against the cold, flapped remorselessly behind him; the sleeves of his thick woolen dress flailed around him.

As he neared the sharp drop at the end of the open field, he reined in the horse, his eyes narrowing to discern any human form in the lengthening shadows. There, in the corner, on the edge of the precipice stood a woman; with, a chariot of royal bearings standing at a close distance.

Turning his horse, he rode towards her. The woman, startled by the sudden noise, looked up. She wore a hard expression- her eyes, large, dry and unemotional; her lips pursed in a tight grip, slightly curved down, adding to the hardness. She wore an expensive sari of purple, the color merging with the borders of the open skies, and the silver zardozi work reflected off by the dying light.

Arjun brought his horse close by, pulling it to a quick stop with a sharp jerk of the reins and a quick push of the stirrups; the horse shuffled to an uneasy halt. Jumping down, Arjun adjusted the silk scarf and took wide strides to the woman; his ruffled long hair settled nervously and recklessly over his broad forehead.

“A warm greeting to my lady!” said Arjun, bowing down; his voice was deep and dynamic.

The lady did not reply; she merely nodded her head imperceptibly, in an obviously reluctant acknowledgement of the greeting. An eerie howl of the wind filled the space between them. Behind her was the grand drop of the green gorge, with a stream gurgling its way in rough rapids and over sharp rocks, beyond which were the mighty mountains- unexplored and unconquered.

“May I know the reason for calling me here at such hour?” asked Arjun, a little reverentially, a little hesitant at the stern but stately aura that the woman exuded.

The two stood on the gigantic open space, unpunctuated except for their respective riders. The horse had begun its task of grazing at the grass; the chariot and its horse, stood motionless, like their owner.

“Have the men of Sujanbhoomi lost all notions of honor and valor?” she asked her voice soft but controlled and very strong, piercing through the wind with the finesse of a taut thread.

Arjun looked up sharply; their eyes met- hers, dancing with a feral agitation; his, steely and cold.

“May I ask the meaning of this taunt?” he enquired, his words nearly hissed out between his teeth. He looked at the woman’s glowing white skin. She was beautiful…but in a very wild sense; he felt a strange churning within his groins as he took in her upturned face and the redness of the mouth – as red as the diminishing sun behind her…as red as the blood that he felt boiling within him. Her chin was turned up in a mocking way, and he felt a surge within him to grab her and kiss her. There was an unconquerable attitude around her that stirred the man in him to possess her and ravage her.

“I am talking about your fiancée. Meera’s eyes are wandering much more than they should at this age!”

Anger erupted within him, and he raised his voice. “What are you saying, woman!”

“There is an unhealthy concoction brewing between Meera and Rudra”

Arjun was aghast. He was taken aback, and it showed on his face. The lady’s lips curved slightly into a small smile; her stare was relentless on him.

“Rudra is my husband; I will take care of him. I know how to! Men always fall for the doe-eyed ladies who smile coquettishly at them. Restrain that smile on Meera’s face…for if it continues, I promise you, Sujanbhoomi shall not see the next Dushera ever. Convey this to your king that he must tie chains instead of anklets to the straying feet of his daughter!”

The air was chilling, and the wind whistled a shrill tune over the rugged territory; Arjun shivered- the lady’s voice was unfeeling but simmering with unforeseen consequences. His anger intermingled with his desire as he again observed the wanton demeanor of the lady standing before him: Roopmati, the wife of the Crown Prince of Sahastragarh, the neighboring kingdom, on the other side of the River Mukti.

She took a few steps towards him, her purple sari rustling in the wind, but barely containing the curvaceous figure beneath it. She raised a hand and placed it on his shoulders.

“I hope you will understand!”

He felt the deepest lust at the touch of her warm hand; the heat singed through his woolens. Turning sharply she turned towards the waiting chariot. She sat on her velvet seat, her back straight and ordered the chariot driver to drive off. The vehicle rushed passed him, the wheels and hooves whipping up a froth of cloud and wind, and the sound of the rolling heaviness reverberating into the night’s abyss.

Long after she left, he stood near the edge, his eyes unwaveringly gazing at the piles of mountains strewn by nature in a supposedly random order; the sun now engulfed by the crevices of the hardened terra firma of the hills. His mind was galloping with the same rhythm that the horses had created.

“Meera…you shall pay for this betrayal!” he cursed within his breath. “And so shall you, Rajasaheb! History will not forget this easily”

 

************************************************************************

 

“Tell me, what you have to say…fast!” He barked in his throaty rasping voice; he spoke with such force that the thick mustaches on his lips quivered with impatience.

“Why do you get angry, sahib?” smiled Raktaprasad slyly, shifting his weight from his lame left foot to the other- he was getting to his strong point.

“You know I have not much time…”

Raktaprasad looked around wickedly and smiled. Of course, Prince Rudra’s brother Shourya did not have much time, especially in the place where he stood. The large white marbled hall of the courtesan Chanda Bai was spotlessly polished; Raktaprasad could almost see his reflection in the same. Four gigantic pillars supported a ceiling so high that the short-height endowed Raktaprasad felt a pain in his neck when he watched the intricate hundred candle chandelier made of pure crystal special imported from abroad. Beyond the hall, he could hear the sounds of the nimble footsteps dancing to the strains of saarangi and harmonium, set to a mild rhythm of the ghoongroos and the percussion of the tabla. The mellow lapping of the waves of the River Mukti outside added their own charm. A melodious voice sung a song of love and beauty.

“Saheb, please do not get angry” said the servant, obsequiously. “This time the news is such that I shall ask for 100 gold coins.” His eyes shone with greed as he said the words.

With an awkward limp he moved forward, near to the gargantuan muscular frame of Shourya.

Saheb, Raja Harshvardhan’s daughter and your brother are playing the game of love; the passion is very strong in both of them!”

Shorya’s eyes widened “If this is not true…”

Saheb, you can chop the head of this servant of yours and feed the lions of Mukti Jungle” interrupted the vile man.

Raktaprasad shifted his weight again; not only did he have a short height; there was a marked slouch in his frail body also, with a small head fixed on the torso sans the neck. God had been sufficiently unkind in depriving the minutest sense of beauty in either his body or mind. On that, a deep scar inflicted on his cheek by an unfortunate adversary had taken away any scope of attraction. The adversary was killed; the scar on the cheek remained. He was the trusted aide of Arjun, the chief of army of Sujanbhoomi, but in his selfishness he realized that he needed to be friendly with the important members of the neighboring country as well.

With his eyes shining in delight, Shorya gave him a pouch full of gold coins and dismissed him off with a small wave of hand.

Shorya pondered over the information provided by Raktaprasad. So, his virtuous married brother, his rival, had fallen in love. Yes, this was the chink in the armor that he had been so desperately looking for. Ever since he had taken birth, he had realized that he had missed the destiny’s caravan with a very small margin of time and womb. He never forgave his destiny for this chicanery; nor, his father, King Devvrat.

Although Devvrat loved his first wife (Meenakshi) very much, he had married Laxmi because he needed to sire an heir for the kingdom, because Meenakshi could not give him one even after ten agonizing years. As luck would have it Meenakshi found she was pregnant just a month after Laxmi announced her own pregnancy. Though Laxmi knew that in all righteousness Meenakshi’s son would ascend the throne should he be born first, but Devvrat, in his kindness, promised that he would crown the first born, from whoever it was born.

Laxmi was satisfied; though the gap between the announcements had been small, somehow she sensed that she had the lead. In the next few crucial months it seemed that she was preparing her unborn for the throne.

However, to her shock and dismay, Rudra was born to Meenakshi, prematurely, a weak, nearly dead, blanched and wrinkled boy that cried for the first ten days of coming into the world, but who had in his survival marked on his forehead the future of the kingdom of Sahastragarh.

Shorya entered the world fifteen days later, a loser and full of the venom of jealousy that his mother had imbued him with. Over the years, he realized that his father’s entire love found its way to his weak sibling; and because he displayed a natural resentment and devised novel means to hurt his elder brother, his father’s wrath was always directed towards him.

In his endeavor to spite his father, Shorya took to wine and women early in life; and the notorious brothel of Chanda Bai was one of his favorite haunts. Built on the banks of River Mukti, the sprawling white marble architecture was a hub of activity during the nights when the nobility came to enjoy the pleasures of sin and skin. At the farthest end of the market that catered to the base needs of all, from the poor weary traveler to the uncouth business men, Chanda Bai’s haven was by far the best in its trade – almost a symbol of class and gentility. The grandeur of the building spoke volumes of Chanda Bai’s income. She took care to source the best, the youngest and the loveliest girls, and groomed them personally in music and dance, and the ways to please a man in bed.

Shorya stood near the tall Persian glass windows, deep in thought, looking at the serene waters of River Mukti flowing by. The windows were draped in crème satin curtains, laced ornamentally with small nuggets of colored glass in beautiful designs.

As he thought of ways to take revenge from his brother, Shorya’s breath came fast, and his bulky six-foot frame shook in exhilaration. A small tinkle of the anklet broke his reverie, and he turned sharply. A girl in her early twenties stood, bowing respectfully and with a silver glass of wine in her hennaed hands.

Huzoor, do you plan to spend the night watching Mukti?” she asked, in a husky voice.

Shorya took the beauty of the demure girl in his lusty dark and deep eyes. Yes, once again, Chanda Bai had offered him the best of her entire lot. The girl had a skin that was clearer than the Mukti with almond colored intoxicating eyes that swam with mischief and invitation. She wore a bright pink ghagra choli, and her dupatta hung loosely over her heaving bosom and rounded behind her slim back to cover her silky hair; a few wanton wisps ventured out and playfully hung over her forehead.

Shorya smiled, and walked up to her. Taking the glass from her hand, he felt as if he had touched silk. “So you are Tara! Chanda bai was right when she described you! You are an angel”

The girl smiled shyly, and looked up to his robust eyes. “Huzoor, I am nothing but your servant…”

With a quick vulture like grip he pulled her towards him, and pressed her soft and warm body to his; in the tug, her dupatta slipped from her head and fell by the side, caught between their bodies, but enough to reveal the shimmering whiteness of the skin around and below her neck that revealed the ripeness of her youth through the deep cut choli.

He caught her in a tight grip, with the steel glass still in his hand, the coldness of which she felt at her lower back. He loved the suppleness of her breasts against his chest, and bent forward to kiss her lips. She smelled the odor of the wine from his breath but as taught to her did not resist or struggle, but allowed him to bite onto her tender lips. He pressed his body hard against her, and moved his thick leg around her slim ones.

After a while, she pulled away, and pushed him with a playful jerk and said, “Sarkar, not here…”

Understanding her meaning, he lifted her up in a swift movement and started walking to the wide marble stairs at the end of the hall. Tara wrapped her arms around his neck and placed her head on his neck, and looked back at the receding white floor beneath her. The dupatta, now hanging precariously from her neck, swayed with their movement.

In her mind, million thoughts raced. She knew what was to follow; she was prepared for it; she had been educated for this night all these years; in fact, she was surprised that she had so snugly fit into the ribald environment of the brothel. She was perfect in her dance, and she sang very well; many a nobility had come here only to see her move gracefully to the rhythms of the tabla, and listen to the songs that she composed and sang. She now enjoyed the ribald talks and raunchy jokes of fellow-nautch girls and prostitutes.

But she still remembered that once she was also a normal girl with some normal dreams of home, hearth and husband. The only daughter of the village priest, her birth unfortunately coincided with her mother’s death. She was keen to learn the scriptures and devote her life to the God. The destiny had something else in store for her. When she was ten, a severe epidemic had engulfed the village, wiping out nearly all, including her father. After that, she was alone and uncared for; she wandered the jungles of Mukti, trying to find food and shelter. Alas, the only man that she met during those stressful three days was Shorya, who in his arrogance and wayward ways knew only one shelter to provide for her: Chanda Bai’s brothel! She recalled how Chanda Bai had smiled at her, popping a large betel leaf in her mouth, and proclaimed, “Miyan Shorya, you have brought an uncut diamond here today; someday I shall present this to you, polished and cleaned!”

Today, she was finally presented to Shorya!

With a sigh, Tara looked at the henna on her hands; the henna, considered auspicious was a bride’s best friend; yet, the dark brown color burned on her hands; she was to have her wedding night today, without any procession, priest or purity!

 

************************************************************************

 

The clatter of the sword echoed through the room.

Arjun looked at it in disgust, and sat down, panting, the sweat glistening off his shining dusky bare chest. For the past one hour he had been practicing sword fighting, killing off an invisible enemy in the stuffy air of his private room. How could his fiancée fall in love with some one else? Although merely the head of the army, the King of Sujanbhoomi had taken an unique liking to this handsome young man; since, there was no other offspring to the King, except for Meera, he had decided to marry her to Arjun, and give the reins of the kingdom to him after his retirement.

For Arjun, it was crucial that he remained in the good books of the King; though given to all the vices of the nobility, he had managed to keep that side of his hidden from the gullible old man.

Arre, arre…what is this, master!” The wily voice of Raktaprasad broke the silence.

Arjun looked up at his man Friday. He hated Raktaprasad, and the opportunistic attitude, but tolerated him for the invaluable and insidious information that he always seemed to possess.

Huzoor, will you only fight imaginary battles in this room, or go out in the field to fight also!”

Arjun turned to him and came forward in anger, and grabbed the man’s collar “What do you mean?”

Feigning fear, Raktaprasad recoiled, but spoke on. “Huzoor, your enemy Rudra is preparing war on Sujanbhoomi…and plans to kill you in this!”

With a loud war-like cry, Arjun pushed him back; the crippled servant staggered back, trying to recover with the best of his ability, despite the limp.

With mock affront, Raktaprasad said, “It is a fact! And my guarantee seal is on this news! I thought I should warn you…”

Arjun’s eyes blazed in a fire of hatred and rage. If this is true, then the purpose of the war is only to get Meera from him! He would not allow this to happen. He had to speak to the king immediately; the things were getting a bit too out of hand, and too fast.

He pulled out a bag of coins from the chest of drawers in the corner, threw it across to Raktaprasad, and rushed out. Raktaprasad caught the bag with an efficient move, and smiled to himself. It was good that these rich and high people were blinded with jealousy and fury, a fire that he kept fuelled with his tiny informations; in turn, they always rewarded him with money; and money, was his only motive…since God had given him no beauty or stature, and a limp over that, he felt it was his right to extract his pound of flesh in whatever situation that he deemed fit.

 

To Be Continued.
Meera

An Epic Love Story

By Deepak Jeswal

 Episode One

The hooves pounded on the earth with dull thuds as the horse flew its way over the expansive rough terrain of Sujanbhoomi’s outskirts, angina
raising a cloud of sand and a rhythm of excitement. The wide horizon spread its rich wares of a sad sun setting in its own bloodied redness covered unsuccessfully by the gauze of vapory clouds; a bashful moon, price
in its weak whiteness tried its feeble attempt to whimper its existence.

With the darkening jungles behind him, the horse and its regal rider rode on the open green space of the hills with a ferocious vigor and without any respite. Arjun clutched the reins with a sharp grip, his knuckles whitening, his hands cold by the biting wind that cut through the unrestrained countryside and hit his pale visage. His scarf, wrapped around his neck to protect against the cold, flapped remorselessly behind him; the sleeves of his thick woolen dress flailed around him.

As he neared the sharp drop at the end of the open field, he reined in the horse, his eyes narrowing to discern any human form in the lengthening shadows. There, in the corner, on the edge of the precipice stood a woman; with, a chariot of royal bearings standing at a close distance.

Turning his horse, he rode towards her. The woman, startled by the sudden noise, looked up. She wore a hard expression- her eyes, large, dry and unemotional; her lips pursed in a tight grip, slightly curved down, adding to the hardness. She wore an expensive sari of purple, the color merging with the borders of the open skies, and the silver zardozi work reflected off by the dying light.

Arjun brought his horse close by, pulling it to a quick stop with a sharp jerk of the reins and a quick push of the stirrups; the horse shuffled to an uneasy halt. Jumping down, Arjun adjusted the silk scarf and took wide strides to the woman; his ruffled long hair settled nervously and recklessly over his broad forehead.

“A warm greeting to my lady!” said Arjun, bowing down; his voice was deep and dynamic.

The lady did not reply; she merely nodded her head imperceptibly, in an obviously reluctant acknowledgement of the greeting. An eerie howl of the wind filled the space between them. Behind her was the grand drop of the green gorge, with a stream gurgling its way in rough rapids and over sharp rocks, beyond which were the mighty mountains- unexplored and unconquered.

“May I know the reason for calling me here at such hour?” asked Arjun, a little reverentially, a little hesitant at the stern but stately aura that the woman exuded.

The two stood on the gigantic open space, unpunctuated except for their respective riders. The horse had begun its task of grazing at the grass; the chariot and its horse, stood motionless, like their owner.

“Have the men of Sujanbhoomi lost all notions of honor and valor?” she asked her voice soft but controlled and very strong, piercing through the wind with the finesse of a taut thread.

Arjun looked up sharply; their eyes met- hers, dancing with a feral agitation; his, steely and cold.

“May I ask the meaning of this taunt?” he enquired, his words nearly hissed out between his teeth. He looked at the woman’s glowing white skin. She was beautiful…but in a very wild sense; he felt a strange churning within his groins as he took in her upturned face and the redness of the mouth – as red as the diminishing sun behind her…as red as the blood that he felt boiling within him. Her chin was turned up in a mocking way, and he felt a surge within him to grab her and kiss her. There was an unconquerable attitude around her that stirred the man in him to possess her and ravage her.

“I am talking about your fiancée. Meera’s eyes are wandering much more than they should at this age!”

Anger erupted within him, and he raised his voice. “What are you saying, woman!”

“There is an unhealthy concoction brewing between Meera and Rudra”

Arjun was aghast. He was taken aback, and it showed on his face. The lady’s lips curved slightly into a small smile; her stare was relentless on him.

“Rudra is my husband; I will take care of him. I know how to! Men always fall for the doe-eyed ladies who smile coquettishly at them. Restrain that smile on Meera’s face…for if it continues, I promise you, Sujanbhoomi shall not see the next Dushera ever. Convey this to your king that he must tie chains instead of anklets to the straying feet of his daughter!”

The air was chilling, and the wind whistled a shrill tune over the rugged territory; Arjun shivered- the lady’s voice was unfeeling but simmering with unforeseen consequences. His anger intermingled with his desire as he again observed the wanton demeanor of the lady standing before him: Roopmati, the wife of the Crown Prince of Sahastragarh, the neighboring kingdom, on the other side of the River Mukti.

She took a few steps towards him, her purple sari rustling in the wind, but barely containing the curvaceous figure beneath it. She raised a hand and placed it on his shoulders.

“I hope you will understand!”

He felt the deepest lust at the touch of her warm hand; the heat singed through his woolens. Turning sharply she turned towards the waiting chariot. She sat on her velvet seat, her back straight and ordered the chariot driver to drive off. The vehicle rushed passed him, the wheels and hooves whipping up a froth of cloud and wind, and the sound of the rolling heaviness reverberating into the night’s abyss.

Long after she left, he stood near the edge, his eyes unwaveringly gazing at the piles of mountains strewn by nature in a supposedly random order; the sun now engulfed by the crevices of the hardened terra firma of the hills. His mind was galloping with the same rhythm that the horses had created.

“Meera…you shall pay for this betrayal!” he cursed within his breath. “And so shall you, Rajasaheb! History will not forget this easily”

 

************************************************************************

 

“Tell me, what you have to say…fast!” He barked in his throaty rasping voice; he spoke with such force that the thick mustaches on his lips quivered with impatience.

“Why do you get angry, sahib?” smiled Raktaprasad slyly, shifting his weight from his lame left foot to the other- he was getting to his strong point.

“You know I have not much time…”

Raktaprasad looked around wickedly and smiled. Of course, Prince Rudra’s brother Shourya did not have much time, especially in the place where he stood. The large white marbled hall of the courtesan Chanda Bai was spotlessly polished; Raktaprasad could almost see his reflection in the same. Four gigantic pillars supported a ceiling so high that the short-height endowed Raktaprasad felt a pain in his neck when he watched the intricate hundred candle chandelier made of pure crystal special imported from abroad. Beyond the hall, he could hear the sounds of the nimble footsteps dancing to the strains of saarangi and harmonium, set to a mild rhythm of the ghoongroos and the percussion of the tabla. The mellow lapping of the waves of the River Mukti outside added their own charm. A melodious voice sung a song of love and beauty.

“Saheb, please do not get angry” said the servant, obsequiously. “This time the news is such that I shall ask for 100 gold coins.” His eyes shone with greed as he said the words.

With an awkward limp he moved forward, near to the gargantuan muscular frame of Shourya.

Saheb, Raja Harshvardhan’s daughter and your brother are playing the game of love; the passion is very strong in both of them!”

Shorya’s eyes widened “If this is not true…”

Saheb, you can chop the head of this servant of yours and feed the lions of Mukti Jungle” interrupted the vile man.

Raktaprasad shifted his weight again; not only did he have a short height; there was a marked slouch in his frail body also, with a small head fixed on the torso sans the neck. God had been sufficiently unkind in depriving the minutest sense of beauty in either his body or mind. On that, a deep scar inflicted on his cheek by an unfortunate adversary had taken away any scope of attraction. The adversary was killed; the scar on the cheek remained. He was the trusted aide of Arjun, the chief of army of Sujanbhoomi, but in his selfishness he realized that he needed to be friendly with the important members of the neighboring country as well.

With his eyes shining in delight, Shorya gave him a pouch full of gold coins and dismissed him off with a small wave of hand.

Shorya pondered over the information provided by Raktaprasad. So, his virtuous married brother, his rival, had fallen in love. Yes, this was the chink in the armor that he had been so desperately looking for. Ever since he had taken birth, he had realized that he had missed the destiny’s caravan with a very small margin of time and womb. He never forgave his destiny for this chicanery; nor, his father, King Devvrat.

Although Devvrat loved his first wife (Meenakshi) very much, he had married Laxmi because he needed to sire an heir for the kingdom, because Meenakshi could not give him one even after ten agonizing years. As luck would have it Meenakshi found she was pregnant just a month after Laxmi announced her own pregnancy. Though Laxmi knew that in all righteousness Meenakshi’s son would ascend the throne should he be born first, but Devvrat, in his kindness, promised that he would crown the first born, from whoever it was born.

Laxmi was satisfied; though the gap between the announcements had been small, somehow she sensed that she had the lead. In the next few crucial months it seemed that she was preparing her unborn for the throne.

However, to her shock and dismay, Rudra was born to Meenakshi, prematurely, a weak, nearly dead, blanched and wrinkled boy that cried for the first ten days of coming into the world, but who had in his survival marked on his forehead the future of the kingdom of Sahastragarh.

Shorya entered the world fifteen days later, a loser and full of the venom of jealousy that his mother had imbued him with. Over the years, he realized that his father’s entire love found its way to his weak sibling; and because he displayed a natural resentment and devised novel means to hurt his elder brother, his father’s wrath was always directed towards him.

In his endeavor to spite his father, Shorya took to wine and women early in life; and the notorious brothel of Chanda Bai was one of his favorite haunts. Built on the banks of River Mukti, the sprawling white marble architecture was a hub of activity during the nights when the nobility came to enjoy the pleasures of sin and skin. At the farthest end of the market that catered to the base needs of all, from the poor weary traveler to the uncouth business men, Chanda Bai’s haven was by far the best in its trade – almost a symbol of class and gentility. The grandeur of the building spoke volumes of Chanda Bai’s income. She took care to source the best, the youngest and the loveliest girls, and groomed them personally in music and dance, and the ways to please a man in bed.

Shorya stood near the tall Persian glass windows, deep in thought, looking at the serene waters of River Mukti flowing by. The windows were draped in crème satin curtains, laced ornamentally with small nuggets of colored glass in beautiful designs.

As he thought of ways to take revenge from his brother, Shorya’s breath came fast, and his bulky six-foot frame shook in exhilaration. A small tinkle of the anklet broke his reverie, and he turned sharply. A girl in her early twenties stood, bowing respectfully and with a silver glass of wine in her hennaed hands.

Huzoor, do you plan to spend the night watching Mukti?” she asked, in a husky voice.

Shorya took the beauty of the demure girl in his lusty dark and deep eyes. Yes, once again, Chanda Bai had offered him the best of her entire lot. The girl had a skin that was clearer than the Mukti with almond colored intoxicating eyes that swam with mischief and invitation. She wore a bright pink ghagra choli, and her dupatta hung loosely over her heaving bosom and rounded behind her slim back to cover her silky hair; a few wanton wisps ventured out and playfully hung over her forehead.

Shorya smiled, and walked up to her. Taking the glass from her hand, he felt as if he had touched silk. “So you are Tara! Chanda bai was right when she described you! You are an angel”

The girl smiled shyly, and looked up to his robust eyes. “Huzoor, I am nothing but your servant…”

With a quick vulture like grip he pulled her towards him, and pressed her soft and warm body to his; in the tug, her dupatta slipped from her head and fell by the side, caught between their bodies, but enough to reveal the shimmering whiteness of the skin around and below her neck that revealed the ripeness of her youth through the deep cut choli.

He caught her in a tight grip, with the steel glass still in his hand, the coldness of which she felt at her lower back. He loved the suppleness of her breasts against his chest, and bent forward to kiss her lips. She smelled the odor of the wine from his breath but as taught to her did not resist or struggle, but allowed him to bite onto her tender lips. He pressed his body hard against her, and moved his thick leg around her slim ones.

After a while, she pulled away, and pushed him with a playful jerk and said, “Sarkar, not here…”

Understanding her meaning, he lifted her up in a swift movement and started walking to the wide marble stairs at the end of the hall. Tara wrapped her arms around his neck and placed her head on his neck, and looked back at the receding white floor beneath her. The dupatta, now hanging precariously from her neck, swayed with their movement.

In her mind, million thoughts raced. She knew what was to follow; she was prepared for it; she had been educated for this night all these years; in fact, she was surprised that she had so snugly fit into the ribald environment of the brothel. She was perfect in her dance, and she sang very well; many a nobility had come here only to see her move gracefully to the rhythms of the tabla, and listen to the songs that she composed and sang. She now enjoyed the ribald talks and raunchy jokes of fellow-nautch girls and prostitutes.

But she still remembered that once she was also a normal girl with some normal dreams of home, hearth and husband. The only daughter of the village priest, her birth unfortunately coincided with her mother’s death. She was keen to learn the scriptures and devote her life to the God. The destiny had something else in store for her. When she was ten, a severe epidemic had engulfed the village, wiping out nearly all, including her father. After that, she was alone and uncared for; she wandered the jungles of Mukti, trying to find food and shelter. Alas, the only man that she met during those stressful three days was Shorya, who in his arrogance and wayward ways knew only one shelter to provide for her: Chanda Bai’s brothel! She recalled how Chanda Bai had smiled at her, popping a large betel leaf in her mouth, and proclaimed, “Miyan Shorya, you have brought an uncut diamond here today; someday I shall present this to you, polished and cleaned!”

Today, she was finally presented to Shorya!

With a sigh, Tara looked at the henna on her hands; the henna, considered auspicious was a bride’s best friend; yet, the dark brown color burned on her hands; she was to have her wedding night today, without any procession, priest or purity!

 

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The clatter of the sword echoed through the room.

Arjun looked at it in disgust, and sat down, panting, the sweat glistening off his shining dusky bare chest. For the past one hour he had been practicing sword fighting, killing off an invisible enemy in the stuffy air of his private room. How could his fiancée fall in love with some one else? Although merely the head of the army, the King of Sujanbhoomi had taken an unique liking to this handsome young man; since, there was no other offspring to the King, except for Meera, he had decided to marry her to Arjun, and give the reins of the kingdom to him after his retirement.

For Arjun, it was crucial that he remained in the good books of the King; though given to all the vices of the nobility, he had managed to keep that side of his hidden from the gullible old man.

Arre, arre…what is this, master!” The wily voice of Raktaprasad broke the silence.

Arjun looked up at his man Friday. He hated Raktaprasad, and the opportunistic attitude, but tolerated him for the invaluable and insidious information that he always seemed to possess.

Huzoor, will you only fight imaginary battles in this room, or go out in the field to fight also!”

Arjun turned to him and came forward in anger, and grabbed the man’s collar “What do you mean?”

Feigning fear, Raktaprasad recoiled, but spoke on. “Huzoor, your enemy Rudra is preparing war on Sujanbhoomi…and plans to kill you in this!”

With a loud war-like cry, Arjun pushed him back; the crippled servant staggered back, trying to recover with the best of his ability, despite the limp.

With mock affront, Raktaprasad said, “It is a fact! And my guarantee seal is on this news! I thought I should warn you…”

Arjun’s eyes blazed in a fire of hatred and rage. If this is true, then the purpose of the war is only to get Meera from him! He would not allow this to happen. He had to speak to the king immediately; the things were getting a bit too out of hand, and too fast.

He pulled out a bag of coins from the chest of drawers in the corner, threw it across to Raktaprasad, and rushed out. Raktaprasad caught the bag with an efficient move, and smiled to himself. It was good that these rich and high people were blinded with jealousy and fury, a fire that he kept fuelled with his tiny informations; in turn, they always rewarded him with money; and money, was his only motive…since God had given him no beauty or stature, and a limp over that, he felt it was his right to extract his pound of flesh in whatever situation that he deemed fit.

 

To Be Continued.
Meera

An Epic Love Story

By Deepak Jeswal

Episode Two

The large double bed occupied the centre of the magnificently luminescent room; from atop the silver and steel bed – specially designed size of seven foot by seven- covered with a bright green silky bedcover of floral design looked like an exotic island in the sea of white marble. Chanda Bai had decorated the bed with a net of flowers, treat
like a bride, fragrant and fresh. The walls, in a soft natural hue of crème and white, were lit by exquisite glass and brass lamps, lighting the entire room in an ethereal glow. A soft canvas painting hung on the opposite wall, right at the centre, below one of the innumerable lamps, the paint shining off the surface like a million minute stars. Against the bed was a small rose wood table, with a goblet of wine, and two tall silver glasses.  The other end of the room was occupied by a stately chest of drawers, made of the same rosewood and on that stood the idols of Lord Krishna and Radha, made of thick silver, and again, shining by the reflected light of the lamp on the wall above it. The windows, of thick stained glass, were closed at this hour.

On the smooth cover of the bed, Shorya placed the delicate Tara, who immediately slipped up, with a mischievous smile dangling on her red fulsome lips. Shorya looked at the languid body of Tara, and immediately felt a flush of passion running with lightening speed in his entire being; her dupatta casually lay by her side, and her bosoms were pumping up and down in a slow but sensuous sexuality.

He placed the glass of wine that he was carrying on the table, and immediately, Tara got up to refill it from the goblet.

Huzoor, drink from my eyes today and taste the heaven!” She forwarded the glass; Shorya smiled, and gulped down the wine in haste, with a small trickle trailing on the rough skin of his chin. With the back of his hand, he wiped it cleaned, and kept the glass on the table and jumped on the bed.

“Today, the fun of conquering is going to be double! At last, victory is mine!”

Tara looked up at him inquisitively. What was he saying? She did not comprehend. But, she did not bother; as explained by her tutor, the grand dame of prostitution, Chanda Bai, Tara just pulled the man towards her, and naughtily started to finger his lips, beneath the hairy mustaches, while wrapping her legs around his.

She did not know what she was doing? She did not actually care any longer. Having given up any hopes for rescue from this hell, she had resigned to her fate. Now, as she started her act of love, she felt awkward, and wanted to run away from all this; she hated the stale smell of his breath, heavily laced with that of liquor; she did not like his sweat, mixed with the perfume of his clothes- a perfume that obviously would have come from the deserts far away. She did not like the stubble pricking her face as he kissed her and pushed his tongue into her mouth. She wanted to push of the large rough hands that were pulling off her choli.

Yet, at the same time, she felt a weird stirring also, somewhere deep within her body. Paradoxically, somehow, she was sort of enjoying it also : a paradoxical affirmation from her skin, but a negation from her mind. What sort of dubious situation was this? She struggled for her breath, as the heavily intoxicated and bulky Shorya pushed against her wildly, and smothered her with wet kisses on her face and neck and pulled out her nipples, and squeezed them with his thick forefingers, and then chewed them, while his hand roughly messaged the innards of her thighs.

She knew it was hard to resist; she knew it was impossible, so she closed her eyes, and succumbed to the feeling that her body was so shamelessly admonishing her to enjoy; and in the vapory state of pleasure, she tried to remember and do exactly as Chanda Bai had taught her.

Shorya was a brutal lover. But today, he was not only making love to Tara. In his mind, he was also waging a war against his brother, Rudra! As he grinded the now naked woman below him, he was also simultaneously in his thoughts finishing off his sibling; and the more he thought, the more rigorous he became, and his thick masculine skin burned with the friction of the smooth body of Tara producing an unprecedented heat of passion and power!

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His steps echoed in the empty hall of the palace that led to the King’s bedroom and his robe rustled as he took long business like steps on the hard floor.  The long bland corridor of brick and mortar was lined with lamps that flickered carelessly on the wall. Arjun was one of the privileged few who were allowed into the sanctum sanctuary of the King. Today, he was to use this passport to speak out his mind to the grand old man. If he refused, he shall declare mutiny.

On entering the room, he was a bit taken aback. He had expected the King to be on the bed, at this hour. But the man stood, with his hands folded, in front of a pure white marble idol of Radha-Krishna, praying, his eyes closed respectfully. The King was in his early sixties, with a rubbery red skin, a consequence of all the alcohol consumed in his own colorful days, pale sunken eyes, large whiskers that were white now, the same color as his hair, and a body circumference that had grown considerably in the past one decade.

Finishing his prayer, he opened his eyes, and was taken aback by the presence of his would be son-in-law standing there, who had entered noiselessly into the room; even the guards outside had not considered it fit to stop the important man.

“Arjun, my child! What brings you here, at this hour? Is all well?” the King asked in his gruff voice.

When Arjun spoke, his deep voice resonated through the room, even though it was not empty; his prominent Adam’s apple bobbed with the intonations. “Sire, I hope you prayed well!”

The King watched him with curiosity. Obviously, there was something deep that was brewing within this man; his statement held many folds of meaning; the King furrowed his brow, and nodded, “Yes, my child, my Radha Krishna take good care of me!”

“Yes, indeed! But they could not take care of their own selves though”

The King cocked his head, and wanted to break this meaningless dialogue and come straight to the point; his knee hurt, so he took support of the pillar of the large bed, and sat himself down on the edge.

“Can you be a little more elaborate?” he questioned; finally deciding to allow the flow of the conversation.

“Krishna could never marry Radha! Theirs was an illicit and ill-fated relationship…”

“Yes, but Krishna was for all his lovers; even for Meera”

Arjun smiled; and within him, he felt another thrust of strong emotions running, as the name came up. “Meera was a stupid and casual woman who left her husband for an elusive love that she could not obtain”. He spoke with force; his eyes staring unblinking at the old man. The King winced at the glare, and realized within that this was not about the legendary Meera.

“What do you want to say?”

Arjun cleared his throat and spoke. As the King heard his tale, the world around him spun in a haze: his sweet child, his own Meera, the tiny little girl who once used to play on his laps, and tickle his whiskers, was now involved in such dangerous passion. In thoughtfulness, his eyes rose to the splendid opulence of the room, done in silk and crème, and filled with myriad expensive artifacts bought from various places of the earth, and he sighed and a small drop of tear formed in his eyes.

 

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“So, madam, how was the night? The redness in your iris says you have not slept a wink!” She sighed, putting one hand on her waist and the other on her chest, in a slow graceful movement. “Haaye, I wish I could also get such a real man to make love to ever!”

Tara turned, and shook her head in mild irritation. “Panna, stop it, please!” It had almost become a custom in the brothel to visit the next morning and exchange notes on the lover of the night; of course, if it was a girl’s first night, it became all the more mandatory. Tara was quite prepared for it; and was not surprised to see Panna, her best friend, so early in the morning; patience was certainly not Panna’s virtue! Realizing that there was no point in getting angry, Tara smiled and sarcastically asked. “Why, you also get Nawab of Awadh so often, don’t you!” She winked and smiled, knowing fully well the outburst that was to follow.

“Chheee…that old man! I just sit massaging him and expecting something to happen, and before you realize it, he is flushed out! Oh, yes, his son is pretty decent though”

Tara laughed, and shirked her wet hair to dry; she had half a mind to tell her of the pain that she felt within her legs, but instead kept quiet.

“I will ask Chanda aapa to send Shorya to you tomorrow; I don’t think it makes any difference to him, any which way” said Tara, placing the wet towel on the chest of drawers.

Arre, where do I have such luck? Come on, you are so beautiful, he would now always ask for you!”

Panna felt slight twinge envy as she took in the svelte form of her friend. Tara wore a simple white laced sari; sans make up except for the kohl lining her deep eyes, she really looked very beautiful.

“Now give me a minute,” she told Panna, and turned to shuffle in front of the silver idols of Lord Krishna and Radha. Lighting an incense stick, she aired the fragrant smell towards them, and placed it on a small brass stand.

Folding her eyes, and ignoring Panna’s stares behind her, she prayed. “Oh God, in this very room yesterday you were witness to the sin that was committed. I do not know the sins for which I am paying this penalty, but do give me strength to bear it, and perhaps absolve myself from this dirty skin of mine!” A few tears welled up her eyes, but she quickly opened them, and did not allow the salty concoction to fall.

Moving away from the idols, she went to the bed to change the sheets; she had removed the rotted vulgar net of flowers in the morning itself, just after Shorya left and had opened the windows to allow the fresh air to cleanse the stuffy air.

From the corner of her eyes noticed that Panna was observing her with intent, still standing with one hand on her hip, near the door, angular, taking support of the wall.

“Really, Tara…what do you get from praying to these stone god. They will never do anything for you!” Again, her free hand moved in a lissome gesture; she never really stopped being the charmer, even when she was not at her job- the ada was always intact, having almost become her innate nature.

With a heavy tug, Tara yanked off the heavy green rumpled bed cover.

“Panna, please! We have discussed this often; let’s leave it today, no?”

“Ok sweetie…as you insist! But, tell me,no…what all you did last night…how was he to look at without clothes?”  She closed her eyes, and made an obscene sound through her lips, imagining the sinewy physique of Shorya.

Tara had taken off the green bedcover and was folding it randomly for it to be given to the washer man, who would be in any moment. As she placed the final fold, she stopped short…a deep maroon stain had placed itself on the sheet, quite prominently visible even from the dark background design. She looked at it with pain: blood stain! A thoughtful smile came on her face…blood! The life force that runs through the veins…it had been sucked out of her yesterday night on this very sheet when Shorya had forced his way into her. In essence, she thought, it was her death.

Realizing that Panna was now again looking at her with same intent, she dropped the bed cover near the bed, in a crumpled heap.

“What do you want to know? You know all!”

Panna nodded; she had seen many in her lifetime; nearing 30, she knew that her career as a whore was about to end; even now, all she got were the old and drunk men, who neither cared nor bothered about her rather plain looks and almost jumped to the bed as soon as the door was bolted behind them; not that she expected anyone of them to fall in love with her- no way, she was far too practical and hardened for any such feeling- but, at least they could do a counterfeit playacting of being in love with her. Now, for her clients, she was just a machine…nothing more, nothing less.

Before she could reply, a voice called out from outside.

“Lo…here comes another of your admirers!” remarked Panna, and moved away from the door.

“Panna, don’t be rude” said Tara, recognizing the voice; Ratanlal. “He is sweet and just a friend, and does not want anything more from me!”

“As if Chanda Bai will allow him to have anything more from you!” laughed Panna, removing the hand from her waist, and waving the air with a dismissive sweep. “Anyways, I guess I got to go now, have to do my singing practice also”

She opened the door, and paid a small greeting acknowledgement to the man standing there, and moved out down the large hall in her languorous walk; her hips swaying seductively, the sari perched just below the shapely curve.

The man, standing with a bunch of flowers in his hand, awaited Tara’s permission to enter. He wore a grayish white dhoti, with a dark grey kurta. Tara called him in, and as usual, he gave her the flowers, and awaited her to praise them; a routine that had been observed for many months now.

“Come, Rattan, sit…” she beckoned him. He squatted on the floor, next to the bedcover that Tara had just thrown. Tara sat opposite him on the bed, and looked at the abashedly lowered eyes of his. Rattan was undoubtedly handsome, but in a very soft and serene manner, exact opposite to the cruel looks of Shorya. His straight hair fell in a casual mop on his forehead, enhancing the square jaw line to the maximum.

Tara could not even recall how and when they became deep friends; so much so that he was a confidante with whom she shared her secrets, her fears and her dreams; in these meetings, he would not speak much, and just keep listening intently…he was her perfect sounding board; quiet, unobtrusive and very sympathetic to her plight.

Rattan knew of Shorya’s visit last night; he looked painfully at the bed sheet next to him, and the grotesque red stain on it.

“It was like I was being killed and something was taken out of me…” she said, concluding her narration of her meeting with Shorya; of course, she left out the details. He would be too embarrassed. “Someday, my Krishna shall also come and rescue me from this…”

“Krishna has no time for you…why do you dream on like this…what is the point…I wish I could do something for you…” Rattan looked up at her sad face.

Rattan knew that most of the women in this building had lives that were darker than the darkest of nights. But, strangely, he felt that they deserved what they got. None of them really cared any longer. Only, Tara was different- there was a deep pain in her eyes, so deep that it had crystallized into a pearl of beauteous formation on her fair face.

Brought up in abject poverty, with a parental love that was shared between his ten other siblings, Rattan was a loner and an introvert; the sixth son of a farmer of Sujanbhoomi (the neighboring country) he lived on the other bank of the river, from where he often saw the lights and revelry of Chanda Bai’s brothel. He forsake his parent’s occupation early in life, because the tiny piece of land could not accommodate any more helping hands – there were already four of his brothers trying to make the best of out it. Since he loved the nature and flowers, he became the official gardener of Sujanbhoomi, and was admittedly doing quite well for himself. Many people from neighboring countries came to visit the royal gardens, and marvel at his natural gardening skills and his nurture of the flowers. He had met Tara on her excursion to the gardens; she was so enamored by it that it became her daily routine to go to the gardens of Sujanbhoomi for a visit every evening. During these sojourns they started talking, and thus from those short formal dialogues, a long lasting friendship began. Of late, with Tara maturing into a saleable woman, she had to forsake her visits, because she had to prepare for her mujra for the night. Consequently, he had started bringing flowers to her room every morning, a slight effort of his to bring spring to her desolate life.

Turning his head, he looked at the painting hanging on the wall. With the lamps burned off, the painting had lost its sparkling veneer of the night. The painting was of Saint Meera, who had forsaken her husband for the love of Lord Krishna, and had consumed poison happily at the behest of the non-comprehending lesser mortals.

He shook his head sadly. “You will remain just Meera while the Lord plays his flute for his Radha”

“I am happy being a Meera; at least my love is eternal and not bound by time or space”

Rattan again shook his head and smiled; was this woman real? And what was she doing in this rut?

“Ok, let us talk something else…tell me, King Harshwardhan’s daughter is also named Meera. Is she good looking?”

Rattan warmed up to the topic, and came closer to her and placed his arms around his legs.  “Madam, she is divine; extremely beautiful; and very innocent. She is as naughty as the Shyamamati that flows beyond the hills; and at the same time as serene and calm as the placid moon that lights up the dark nights. When she speaks it seems as if thousand nightingales have sung! And, when she walks, even the deer can die of shame. Her neck is as curved and as well formed as a perfect piece of goblet from the potter’s wheel; her eyes are molten almonds in viscous wine”

He paused; and looked at her; her eyes were somewhere far off; he did not have a heart to tell her that Meera’s beauty was unsullied, innocent and as yet devoid of any pathos or grime of the world, hence it was much more attractive than hers; Meera’s smile was chaste, her movements were unblemished; her dance – though without form or pattern- was that of a child’s unlike Tara’s performance, though full of strict grammar, was so artificial and flavorless.

As she listened to his narration, her mind wandering someplace else, unconsciously she started to play with her hair, moving a few strands to her face and inhaling the fragrance in them. Immediately she bolted out of her reverie. Was she imagining this, or was her hair still smelling of wine and Shorya? Repulsed, she got up to stand; in doing so, her hand inadvertently touched the face of Rattan, brushing over his cheeks and eyes.

For the tiniest sliver of a minute, their eyes met; and a thousand thoughts communicated between them.

“Are you going?”

“No, come,” she said, “Let’s sit in the courtyard outside, I want to cleanse my hair…”

She placed her uncombed hair fully on the right shoulder and started to walk towards the door to the courtyard beyond the hall outside. Rattan followed besides her meekly.

“Have you met her ever?”

“Oh yes, so many times…she comes quite regularly to the gardens. She knows me, and has spoken to me. Madam, I can tell you this much that she is of such quality that kings can fight wars for her!”

Tara nearly stopped in her track, and shot a sharp sideways glance at him.

The courtyard, or rather the verandah (as it was on the first floor itself), was at the end of the building, overlooking the Mukti; with three sides closed, it was open and unshielded from the northern end,  from where one could have a wonderful view of the river, the kingdom of Sujanbhoomi and the mountains beyond.

In the center of the courtyard was a fountain, again of white marble- cold and uncaring. A statue of a cherubic child churned out the water standing in the middle. The entire pool surrounding the child’s sculpture was covered with rose petals- in fact, the water was hardly visible below the sheet of the bright red flowers.

Placing her head on the stone parapet, Tara allowed her hair to soak into the aromatic waters and lay down against the structure. She found the coldness of the water touching her scalp soothing, and closed her eyes in contentment. Rattan sat on her side, this time cross legged.

Without preamble, and without opening her eyes, she said. “Rattan, you are such a good friend of mine; I would like you to remain one forever. In this market, love and lust are sold interchangeably in each other’s garbs with lot of impunity and carelessness; unfortunately, friendship becomes a rare commodity here…with you I can share my deepest thoughts and fears. And today, I need your support even more!”

He did not speak but let out a small sound in acknowledgement.

“I will tell you a secret; don’t tell this to anyone; I learnt it from Shorya yesterday…”

He leaned forward to listen to her, intently, dutifully.

Below, the sound of the tabla wafted up concomitantly with the seasoned voice of Panna starting her practice and a mild rustle of the anklets; the bells of the temple nearby rang alongside, a natural merger of the divine and debauched sounds.

Tara’s words flew out of the verandah, where the day stretched languidly over the white building of the brothel on the banks of the river of Mukti, which rushed past it in quick pace as if avoiding its ill-influence; on the opposite bank the washer-men had started their daily routine of whipping the dirt off the clothes, and Sujanbhoomi stretched up to the horizon, ensconced within its comforting embrace of the lush jungles, extending towards the mighty mountains further up.

The sky was clear and open and expanded upwards with clarity and largesse onto the space and infinity above.

 

To Be Continued.

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