Monday, July 24, 2017

Men Without Women

That’s what it’s like to lose a woman. And at a certain time, losing one woman means losing all women. That’s how we become Men Without Women.

The unpredictability of this author is mesmerizing. He begins without any pretext. So much so that the book does not have the usual long and irrelevant waste of pages known as the foreword. Before you know it, the setting is in place. You are already familiar with the characters. Or the central character at least. Which is almost without exception a lonely middle-aged man. The story moves at a brisk pace as you become intimate with the life of that lonely man and his thoughts. And then suddenly, as you turn a page, the story ends. But not before a twist which is delivered more often than not in a single line. A change of perspective or a change of heart.

I generally do not look at the foreword or chapter index of a book but head straight to the first page. So, I had no idea that this book is a collection of six stories. I was almost heart broken when the first story ended. I had wished to be with those characters for a little longer.

Perhaps that is why I liked the first story the most. First love, as they say, can never be surpassed.

As with most people who are well raised, well educated, and financial secure, Dr. Tokai only thought of himself.

Murakami has a beautiful way of building his characters. Though there is a common theme to these characters, each is very different and deep. There is no repetition or overlap. But there is always a dark, restless side to them. Sometimes it is so intense that it is incomprehensible, at least to me.

To be honest, not all stories were that great. But just like music, you don't care for the average. In the end you only care if there was a high point somewhere which made it all worthwhile. Some of the stories will stay with you and some won’t. As one of his characters says, remembering someone for a long time is not as easy as people think.

[This is part of a series of book reviews I am doing for Flipkart]


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Lipstick Under My Burkha

Sensible movies are rare. Sensible movies which are well made are rarer.

As I watch the women's cricket world-cup final,  I realize it is every bit as exciting as the men's world cup final. The skill and the attitude are as you expect at the topmost level. Yet many members of this Indian team hail from small towns like Sangli and Chikmagalur. Is small town India changing in it's attitude towards women?

Lipstick Under My Burkha is a story of four women set in Bhopal. Not a small town but not a city either. The direction is smooth and the acting sharp. But what is it about? What is it trying to say? What is the message?

I would like to steer clear of these questions. Or at least I will steer clear of discussing them. I believe they are meant for introspection and not debate. That was the feeling I got through-out the movie. It just shows us four lives. It stops just few inches short of a reaction. We wait for the characters to react, to fight back, to give us some catharsis. But it never comes. Perhaps it is not supposed to come in the movie hall but outside it, in the real world. Where we direct our own plays and act in it.

This movie will not generate a lot of chatter. Perhaps won't do well at the box office either. But it succeeds in making the audience uncomfortable. And that is value for my money right there.