Airway for the Weary!

If either of the two Wright brothers had seen what they unleashed, they’d have committed hara-kiri. The cramped space which makes a chicken coop seem like a luxurious 4 BHK and food that was probably made from someone’s leftovers (quite possibly the chickens), some of the airlines have finally just let go of trying to please customers.

“This comes from no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience….”

Recently, I decided to undertake a bold 19-hour voyage across the seas to a new home. Post validating my prestigious platinum status, I had zeroed in on the airline and booked the cheapest tickets available.

Welcome to Jet Airways! Uncomfortable no matter what.

Seating

Granted, they were nice enough to give me a seat with ample leg room, but the trouble of sitting in the first row is that you end up starting and shutting your monitors 30 minutes after and before the rest of the passengers. Secondly, the ample leg room is really a myth since it’s not really ‘ample’ cause most of the time you are trying to crawl up in your seat due to the number of people either walking, pushing or loitering around the vast emptiness in front of your feet and the other half of the the time you are trying to not cause the flight attendant to step on your feet whilst dragging her magic tray of milk, cookies and children’s toes.

In-flight entertainment

Calling the shows on the screens as entertainment would be like calling me a writer! The utter trash they have as options make you ask the question, “Does anyone really think that Tareek Mehta Ka Oolta Chasma is funny? Is it funnier with subtitles? Is this why comics are threatened in India? And the major thought…. If the plane crashes now, how much would anyone regret that this is the last show they saw before plunging to their death?”

The rest of the shows on-board are no better. I actually ended up reading a book!

Liquorrrrr yayaeee……wait WHAT?

Everyone knows the best part about travelling internationally…(drum roll)…. free daaruu (ka-CHING!), and let’s face it…. since you can’t dance in the aisles, at least helps you sleep! Now the liquor you can be happy about, but the typical ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ attitude, that is the mixer.

Me (Trying my best accent to sound like I take this flight pretty much daily): “Do you have single malt?”

Her (Bored already): “Do you want Red Label or buttermilk?”

Me (taken aback, but not giving up):” Uh…so only Red Label? Any other whiskey?

Her (bored even more, stifles a yawn): “Yup…you can take it or do you want wine?

Me (punched in the stomach): “Red Label I guess”

(pours a negligible amount…)

Me: “Thank you” (sprinkles some over his head, around the table and dabs lips with it)

*passes out*

Feast

I’m not sure which airlines hire a chef to create a menu for its passengers, but I can only imagine Jet Airways hires those who burnt water during their internship. I am yet to learn how an omelette can be burnt on one side and runny on the other, but who am I to judge these possible Michelin star misses.

 

19 hours later, touchdown!

 

Welcome to Toronto *kisses the ground*

(Don’t do that….it’s not very hygienic)

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Welcome to a Job Fair!

So having sent my resume to roughly 108% of the recruiters in the city, I ended up at a job fair. It was a tough decision, one that kept me up, pacing, strafing, contemplating shaving… for a long time. However, I finally did unpack my suitcase and remove a formal shirt, a pair of trousers and a tie. Well begun, is half done.

So I woke up bright and early the next day and followed the well known 4S methodology. Shit, shower, shave and scram.

The hour long effort to get there raised my hopes dramatically. After all, it was something happening in downtown. A place where I could ‘network’, meet potential recruiters and heck if the stars aligned and I could kiss that leprechaun, maybe even find a job.

Much like a hero reaching the bad guy’s lair, there will always be ‘hurdles’ and I found mine when I reached downtown. The posters, the plethora of photographers, the red carpet…(Oh my GOD!) TIFF 2017 HAS STARTED and somewhere deep inside the recess of my brain, pandemonium erupted!

Screw the job fair, let’s get a ticket to the new zombie movie…oh oh… lets watch the Anurag Kashyap one before it gets censored……how about the new J-Law one…. lets gooooo!”

But NO! The adult side of me wisen-ed up (eventually). So after I scalped the tickets I bought, and managed to get most of my money back, I proudly walked back to the job fair. “Look at me…. all adult-ing!”

Enter the job mela.

With about 300 people, crowding around 20 odd tables, picking pamphlets for applications from bus drivers to call center agents, I KNEW this was the right place. Heck, if they are hiring for bus drivers, once they meet me, they might just put me on their board of directors. You know me…modest and proud of it.

So after walking around the ball room twice, and realizing how Cinderella felt, I finally narrowed on my potential Prince Charming(s).  I wasted no more time. I walked up to the first potential recruiter, nay, I swaggered up to them, brimming with confidence, looked them straight in the eye…. picked up the brochure and walked right back, 190 feet to the end of the line waiting for my time to be called.

Thirty minutes later and after ensuring that I was much more educated, experienced and overall a genius compared to the two people ahead and behind, I knew that I shouldn’t expect a confetti shower when I reach the recruiter, but if she asks me to step aside and goes to speak to her boss (who is obviously back in the headquarters, secretly watching all applicants, through a hidden video camera set up below this table), a confetti shower is the least they could do. I thought a good way to pass my time in line would be to practice my “Aww shucks guys, you shouldn’t have” smile.

So, for those of you who have never gone to a job-fair, lemme paint the picture. You stand in line for the chance to meet a potential recruiter. When you reach the front, you have a few minutes to explain what you do and hand over your resume. They give a cursory glance to it, eventually tell you that, yes they do have openings, however it would be best to go on their website and check for relevant ones (duh!) They hand you a brochure/visiting card, write an email address and ask you to drop them an email or find them on LinkedIn and add them to your network. And then you shake hands ending the productive meeting.

Not quite the confetti shower, but I guess it’s a step in the right direction.

On a scale of 1 to 10 about its effectiveness, I’d have to say this ranks right alongside you grabbing a pigeon on the street, tying a $5 bill to its feet, and hoping it buys you a pack of milk and brings the change back before breakfast the next morning.

Anyway *gets back to LinkedIn*

The Ship to Nowhere

The chimneys launch their darkness upwards,

Upwards and into the clouds.

The smoke comes from the sweats of brows,

of those toiling beneath.

The heat, the grind, the burns, the bruises, they run deep.

The blood mixes with the sweat,

drops trickle into the fiery abyss,

and all you see is the darkness rise up.

The destination is death,

Or at least a version of it.

The shore you left is too far behind,

the closest land,

is where the dead sleep.

The dark abyss at the bottom of the sea,

has the eerie feel to the land you reach.

Both are dingy, surrounded by the like-minded,

And the unlike.

Yet…it reeks with the feel of desolation.

Fear for the known ahead

Fear of the unknown around,

Remorse for the life behind,

Broken with the long walk in between.

There are no life boats,

There are no flare guns,

For a flare gun just sparks and sputters,

and its incandescence,

is a blaze of shame.

To ask for help… unthinkable.

To show emotion…regressive.

Man overboard!

The icy depths chill your spine.

You feel the murmurs,

the tremors,

the lurk of the darkness you gave yourself to.

Head back?

Head away?

You look around and all you see is darkness.

The closest to land is a thousand feet down.

Hell is closer than land.

The light in the distance,
is the ship that left……

Too much number 2 and not enough Kahaani!

So I had the misfortune of watching yet another Vidya Balan movie…sigh.

Ever since she has put on weight and worn less clothes to make a disappointing biopic, she has been elevated to a demi goddess in our world of untalented cast of abs and legs, what we call Bollywood. On the other hand, there is Scarlett Johansson who gained 30 pounds, shaved off her eyebrows, won an Oscar and is currently the hottest Avenger……just saying!

Based on some feedback about how amaze-balls Kahaani was, the director obviously wanted to ruin it and decided to make a sequel, and now, not only have they messed it up, they have ensured that I never watch any more Vidya Balan movies, ever again!

The movie is so predictable that it defeats the purpose of being categorized as a ‘suspense/thriller’, so I will just tag this under family drama. Single mother Vidya Sinha (Vidya Balan) has but one dream, and that is to see her waist down paralyzed teenage daughter, Minnie (Tunisha Sharma/Naisha Khanna) walk. Vidya works as a small time clerk in a nearby school, trying to save money so that she can take Minnie to the US to get operated. The movie kicks off when Minnie is kidnapped and Vidya gets a phone call asking her to show up at a pre-determined time and location to see her daughter. Being the calm, composed and rational person that she is, Vidya jumps in front of a cab, falling (yet again) into a coma. (and yes, this is the reason the movie is called Kahaani 2, because the lead is not Vidya Balan, but coma).

Enter sub-inspector Inderjeet Singh (Arjun Rampal…I don’t care what you think…. drool!!) Inderjeet recognizes the woman in a coma as Durga Rani Singh, a criminal wanted for kidnapping and murder. (dah dah daaah!!) Inderjeet does some fascinating detective work, finds Vidya’s diary (cause yes, that’s just how school clerks roll!) and reads about her life. He finds out that Vidya was obsessed with a kid named Minnie who was punished daily for sleeping in class. Vidya befriends Minnie to find out the root cause of her narcolepsy. One thing leads to another and it turns out Minnie is spending too much of her sleep time with her pedophilic uncle Mohit Dewan (the long forgotten Jugal Hansraj). Arguments ensue and Minnie ends up jumping off the roof which leads her becoming paralyzed waist below…. soooo yes, Vidya’s daughter is the school kid Minnie. (Yawn!)

I won’t go more into the story because I feel the rest is something Minnie wrote herself.

Now I’m not too sure if our directors have some certifications or a degree or some sort of license that allows them to direct movies, but Sujoy Ghosh needs his, revoked and should commit to doing some community service as a punishment for the devastation he has caused by holding a camera. He might have been lucky with Jhankaar Beats, since it didn’t make me claw my eyes out, but movies like Home Delivery and Aladin are so painful that even their trailers hurt my head. He has delivered a below mediocre movie and has definitely used trained penguins to write the script.

As far as the acting goes, Vidya Balan needs a reality check. The last good thing she did was probably Hum Paanch and yes, Paa and Ishqiya might salvage her some pride. However, I still refuse to believe that The Dirty Picture was a movie worth watching. Her performance ranks right up the rest, forgettable and asinine.  Arjun Rampal does a decent job of a duty bound police officer and a loyal husband, but let’s face it, he hasn’t done anything that qualifies him as a real actor. Jugal Hansraj is …well…Jugal Hansraj, don’t even know if there is much I could say about him. The rest of the cast do their part time roles as best as the sad and disappointing script allows them to.

I haven’t seen Kahaani 1, but based on the awesome reviews and the hullaballoo around it I will take a safe bet and assume that it is head and shoulders above this one, and extrapolating this performance -if there is a Kahaani 3, then it could be identified as the beginning of the decline of our civilization.

The movie lacks everything to be tagged as a thriller and falls ridiculously short of expectations. As the movie progresses the pace slackens to a level where you think it might start moving backwards. And a special mention to the ending which makes The Jackass movie seem like Schindler’s List. Not sure what Sujoy Ghosh (also the writer) thought of the masses in this country, but I assume he considers all of us to be mentally less developed than a 7-year-old.

I just pray this is the end of Ghosh’s career since I am not paying a paise more to watch his farts on screen.

The Bronze is Golden

Sundance movies have a “feel good” factor about them, and this is clearly visible in every aspect and every moment in the reel of pretty much every movie they show. The Bronze is no different in this regard.

The Bronze is the story is about a former Olympic medalist (not a true life story) who is struggling to move on with her life. Hope Ann Gregory (Melissa Rauch, or better known as Bernadette from the Big Bang Theory), is an extremely crass and bad mouthed ex-Olympic gymnast who hasn’t’ really moved on from her 15 minutes of fame. A decade ago, Hope landed a flawless beam dismount despite having an injury in her Achilles heel and till date gets off on it! (Literally!) She parades around her small, podunk town of Amherst, Ohio in her USA outfit owning her celebrity status, as she is a regular at a local mall and the diner where she never pays for anything and has drink and food specials in her honor.

As a result of her foul mouth and pretty horrible attitude towards everyone around her, she still lives with her father Stan (played by the often under-appreciated Gary Cole), who is trying hard to tread the fine line between being a responsible father and slapping the teeth off his obnoxious daughter. In an effort to get her out of the house, he fakes a letter from Hope’s Olympic coach who has committed suicide and claims that she has left a will, stipulating Hope could receive $500 million so as long as she sets her ego aside, and trains the town’s up-and-coming gymnastics star, Maggie Townsend (the vivacious Haley Lu Richardson).

Tossed up between her want to milk her fame in her small town versus the possibility of losing her fame in exchange for 500 big ones, Hope has to decide and strategize her next steps. Will she train the new incumbent and step aside from her fame or will she burn the youngster? (It’s not a tough decision is it? J )

The film is satirical but not comic satire per se and this isn’t a movie like Office Space and obviously it won’t win any awards either, however it does have what you call a high level of ‘re-watchability’ and some of its one liners are absolute gems. The opening scene for one sets the outrageous tone and hats off to Melissa and her partner in crime (and life) Winston Rauch for writing something silly and intangibly wonderful.

The cast isn’t stellar but they are somehow apt for this low budget indie film. Melissa is the heart and soul of the movie and is competently backed up by Cole, Richardson and the rest of the cast. Special mention to Twitchy Ben (Thomas Middleditch of Silicon Valley fame) who plays the sweet guy and burgeoning love interest of Hope and does his best to pull her away from the dark side.

Bryan Buckley (of Asad fame) has done a decent job in his direction of this R rated comedy. However, if truth be told, the movie is carried on the petite yet powerful Melissa Rauch and her impeccable dialogue delivery with her poker face profanity-spewing-tongue.

If you break the story down to its basic elements, you will realize that there is nothing new in it. Evil ogre turns into village saving hero. But what really works for the movie is how it has been handled. A basic concept directed well and a script written funnily enough to ensure the audience does get its money’s worth of laughs. Throw in the aforementioned talent who all enact their parts to perfection and you somehow have a mix that breathes life into a resuscitated storyline making it entertaining and a reliable ‘sports’ movie.

The only downside of the movie is something I haven’t been able to pin so far. The movie is worth a watch, but the more you think about it, the more you realize, that the movie had the potential to be a Gold, but falls short …agonizingly so and thus gets a Bronze. (My sense of humor needs work, I know!)

It could be the lack of a stronger story or maybe the screen presence of someone more iconic, but the movie falls short at a certain level and maybe that is why it isn’t up there with Office Space or even Dodgeball or Blades of Glory.

With dialogues that would make a sailor blush and a scenes that will burn hysterically disturbing imagery in your mind for life, I wouldn’t recommend this to someone who is easily offended. But, if you’ve got the skin for it, I can’t recommend this comedy more.

 

Wilderpeople are the best!

There is a certain element about movies that are released in Sundance. They have this part-emotional, part-humorous, part-sentimental and yet overall a very happy-go-lucky feel to them, and the best part about these movies is the sweet after-taste they leave, that is etched in your memory long after you have watched them.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople fits this genre ….to use a cliché…..like a glove!

Refreshing concept, the story starts with the introduction of the movie’s lead Ricky (Julian Dennison) aka ‘A Bad Egg’J.

Ricky is a hip-hop loving, haiku writing gangsta who is currently with child protection services after jumping a few homes and is finally dropped, on the laps of Bella (Rime Te Wiata) and Hec (Sam Neill), by his batty child-services worker Paula (Rachel House). Ricky begins to adapt to his new home and is slowly settling in, but tragedy strikes when Bella unexpectedly passes away and the child services agency is now no longer okay leaving Ricky solely with Hector. So it becomes family hunting time for Ricky again. Ricky, however is no longer interested in going back to the city since he knows that his future (based on his past) will lead him straight to juvenile detention. Ricky thus escapes to “The Bush” (a million hectares of dense forest with little to no contact with civilization) and Hec goes chasing him. Once Hec comes to his eventual rescue, an accident strands the pair, causing Paula to believe that Hec has kidnapped the boy.

Thus begins the cat and mouse game and the Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

For starters, the cast is brilliant. The lead Julian Dennison, who is in his third movie, shows acting skills far beyond his age and is delightful as problem child, Ricky. His confused teenage self: a self-reliant yet dependent boy, creating a façade of emotional strength hiding his innate need and desire to be loved by someone is beautifully depicted and poignant.

His care takers/foster parents Bella (Rime Te Wiata) as the big hearted motherly loving types really does a heart-warming job and Hec (Sam Neill of Jurassic Park fame) as the crotchety ex-con bushman excels in his performance of a man trying to stay away from the deliquent but who eventually gets drawn to Ricky’s innocence. A special mention goes to the nutty child-services worker Paula (Rachel House) who acts as the love child of Rambo in SWAT gear with the attitude of a bad Robocop. J

Directed by Taika Waititi, who has this distinctive family-adult brand of humor, which was the highlight of his vampire mockumentary “What We Do in the Shadows”, brings his finesse to the movie and it is such a fresh delight. The comedy in “Wilderpeople” is quieter than his mockumentary, which makes the story ‘real’. I honestly can’t wait for his mainstream “debut” with the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok. His ability to balance humor and action, fits perfectly with the Marvel superhero and here’s hoping him well with the same.

One of the insights I realized was how the movie touches upon an aspect of life, which is an addendum to its flavor. It highlights how past actions dictate the future, it shows the meaning to freedom and how people who need to break free from their past struggle to do so at times, and due to which their future actions are pre-determined by forces beyond their control. The film gives hope to those who believe that freedom is possible and we are in control of our own destiny.

On one end, Wilderpeople showcases a hilariously intensified world. On the other end, it might nullify the ‘people’ aspect of it seeing that it engages in reductio ad absurdum, but it’s mitigated by a strong sense of warmth, sweetness and humanity pervading the entire film. In short, I’d recommend you find the DVD version, flame up a bag of popcorn and chill on a Sunday afternoon watching the Wilderpeople. J

Dhoni’s untold story….remains untold!

Right of the bat and this is one of the times that phrase is perfectly appropriate, Dhoni is a legend among men, I’m not a fan-boy nor some Dhoni-bhakt, but an avid sports fan and I can differentiate between the good, bad, and the ugly in sports and Dhoni is definitely the good.

The movie is probably a decent reflection of him, but in no way is “him”. Bollywood has issues, deep rooted issues in making movies. Our weakest ability, perhaps lies in our incompetence in spinning a yarn and this is best depicted in our biopics and how shoddily we treat them. Movies likes The Dirty Picture, Mangal Pandey, Main Aur Charles, The Legend of Bhagat Singh, Jodhaa Akbar, Sarabjit are all recent (shoddy) attempts at making biopics, personally I believe sports movies bear the brunt of this substandard film making and movies like Bhaag Milka Bhaag, Azhar, Mary Kom, and well….Dhoni, highlight how we just can’t accept a story without masala in it!

Dhoni’s story has all the elements of a great sports biopic. A kid from a small town with dreams so big that they could swallow his city whole, added to this is his gritty determination coupled with a never say die attitude and an unwavering self-belief topped off with a calm composed confident demeanor that oozes credence and has this capacity to trickle to the 1 billion people who watch the sport as a religion. Welcome to the Dhoni show.

To start with, the movie is stolen by the lead. Sushant Singh Rajput is by and far the best thing about this 3 hour epic. Sushant Singh Rajput has spent time and effort in ape-ing our captain cool and the results are clearly visible. The walk, the talk and the approach is all something that SSR has spent hours and probably months practicing and on the 30th of September, he could pass off as a body double for Dhoni.

Although SSR monopolizes the screen time, the supporting cast does a decent job. From Anupam Kher, as the middle class father of a boy who cannot fathom sports as a career to his mother, who cares only about her son’s happiness and from whom flows his belief of being a success someday in the future. From his sister (Bhoomika Chawla) who believes he will grow up to be a big man (Read as “RM in Railways”) one day to his friends (honestly too many to name) who are his support system and his biggest supporters. The supporting cast is fabulous. The gorgeous Dishan Patani who acts as Dhoni’s first love and Kiara Advani who eventually becomes Mrs. Dhoni aka Sakshi Singh Dhoni unfortunately are the ones who really kill the movie. (Though in due regard, it is no fault of theirs).

Whilst we could have seen a little more about the ‘behind the scenes’ of Dhoni’s decisions to remove senior players, or the path he took to become the Indian team captain or probably a few more juicy tid-bits which surround his aura, the movie takes a horrible and unrequired detour to map his love interest which in all honesty was just about as juicy as the stale momos we ate at the theatre. However if one were to judge basis purely acting skills the cast does a great job and although I have missed a few more of the key cast members, they are in no way a lesser part of the movie. (Just due to a limited word restriction that I skip them here.)

Neeraj Pandey is an enigma for me. The director of movies like A Wednesday, Special 26 and Baby which are thrillers and pretty darn good, he took on the colossal task of recreating a national icon’s life in reel and ended up with a mixed bag. Simply put, the first half shows why Neeraj Pandey is one of the best directors in the country and the second half shows why Neeraj Pandey should never be given the camera to make a love story. Though, credit where its due and Neeraj’s style of shooting makes the movie really look like a sport drama, the continuous shots, the focus on the field and the timing of the shots is impeccable.

A special mention to the screen play writer(s) who did an honest to goodness job with the story and stuck to it as far as possible. This is where the movie is better than Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. A huge credit to SSR for his immense hard work and dedication for portraying Dhoni from the D to the I and this where the movie is better than Mary Kom. (I’m not going to compare Azhar since even Raaz 2 was a far superior movie as compared and that is saying something!)

Overall, the movie isn’t as great as it could have been. Following its strong first half, the movie collapses dramatically in the second half. The story lacks that certain punch that keeps the audience engaged and it is during THIS half when you start to look at your watch and realize “This is a very long movie!!” As a slight additional negative to the movie are the weak special effects, where SSR’s face is forcefully transposed in places, which do take away a little from the movie. Though it’s a small flaw and can be overlooked.

A good sports biopic ideally should be balanced and the movie does score on all aspects. It’s a good encapsulation of Sports, Drama, Emotion, Action, Suspense and Thrill. The movie is more than just a biopic and it is more an ode to friendship, to standing tall in the face of adversity and struggle, about dealing with responsibility, making compromises and “playing each ball on its merit” and all this, is the first half. The second is sheer crap.

I’d recommend for some of you to wait till it comes on the television and save yourself some money.