February 29, 2012

Book: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 8:24 pm

The story of Edward Dantes, a story of betrayal and of revenge. Reading it today, it reads like a cliché borrowed from Hollywood movies until you pause to realise that the Hollywood movies borrowed the idea from Dumas and turned it into the cliché that it is now! It is a Classic with an accent on tight, racy storytelling rather than any accent on descriptions or on emotions. Dumas was the Sydney Sheldon of the Classic writers in that sense.  The fact that the story has frequent cliff hangers may have something to do with the fact that the story was first written for the weeklies, as I hear. You want to leave the reader wanting to read the next chapter every week, right?

The story of Edmond Dantes and his love for Mercedes, the Catalan heroine, and the story of his being framed is told in a very racy style against the backdrop of French history (Napoleon’s rise to power and exile, the July revolution that restored another branch of monarchy etc.). His prison accounts and escape are also interesting. The story fumbles and drags a bit – only a bit – in the descriptions of the sons of Danglars, and the later lives of the villains, until the revenge takes place almost towards the end of the book. The other main complaint that I have is that the middle section of this rather big volume is simply devoted to eulogising the Count in superhuman terms. For all that, it is a different kind of Classic and in modern parlance, would be described as “can’t be put down once you start it”, with a few notable exceptions midstream! – I will award it a 7/10

— Krishna


Book: Beach Music by Pat Conroy

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 8:15 pm

The story starts with Shyla McCall jumping off the bridge. The book tells the story of her husband Jack Mccall and their daughter Leah McCall. Stung by a custody battle where his in-laws George and Ruth Fox tried unsuccessfully to claim his daughter Leah by alleging that he is an unfit father, Jack takes Leah out to Rome to grow up. But the lure of Waterford, South Carolina and its `Beach Music’ prove irresistible. A poetic narration, full of drama, and now you know why
almost all of Pat’s books have been made into movies.
The style is unique and is high on drama. The conflicts between people are very well brought out, and the tension in the air when two people enter into an argument is more palpable than in any other recent book I have seen.
He has an eye for character and natural conflict, in the best traditions of Hollywood (think Kramer vs Kramer). An excellent read, if you like pure drama and a magical storytelling. The lyrical style adds to the experience of having read a very good book.
I would say  8/10


— Krishna

February 28, 2012

Book: From the Corner of His Eye by Dean Koontz

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 8:35 pm

That familiar Koontz let-down again! He starts the story admirably and when I read of the Junior and Naomi episode, I saw the promise of a start of another wonderful story from this gifted writer. It takes off fully later, with Bartholomew and Angel, and their entwined stories. In spite of the attempts to create the 60’s and 70’s ambience merely by relating historical events of each year (a method Koontz has used before) it picks up pace… And then crashes totally to the ground with weak explanations and even weaker ending. It is as if the author went into a muddle about how to end it and wrote the first
thing that came to his mind. And to quote Quantum physics in support of the conclusions… was a bit too much for me! A really bizarre ending to a promising start makes for a mediocre novel .

I would give it a 4/10


— Krishna

Book: Warlock by Wilber Smith

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 8:30 pm

The story of Taita continues, (see the review of River God, earlier) and this story is even more taut than River God. The story opens with the murder of Pharoah Tamose by treachery and attempt to murder his young son Pharoah Nefer. Taita brings his considerable skills to keep him from danger. A fascinating story. Especially the villainy of Naja and his Hykos cohort (what is his name?) is explained very well, as are the magical conflict between the ‘great magus’ Taita and the Hykos witch doctor. The story never falters from the beginning to the end and is an astonishing work of fiction from Wilbur Smith. I think that along with River God, this is one of the best written books by the author.
The caveat, of course, is that Wilbur Smith does not write books that have considerable depth, so if you expected a Michael Ondatje or Ann Michaels, you would be disappointed, but he does what he does very well in this book! – 9/10

— Krishna

Kannada Movie: Aapta Rakshaka

Filed under: Kannada Movies — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 8:22 pm

Let us see. Is this movie a mystery movie? Yes it is. Is it historical? A bit of it is. Is it a movie where the hero is glorified as a man of many talents, a polymath who can excel at almost anything? Is the eulogy bordering on the North Korean tradition of the ‘Dear Leader’ who was, among other things, the best golfer in the world? Why, yes! But then this is common in all South Indian movies where the hero has become a superstar, the most glaring example is any of the recent Rajnikanth movies in Tamil. Vishnuvardhan is such a mega star in Kannada, and so the introductory scene where every move of his is swooned upon is par for the course in Kannada movies. (Though, Karnataka has fallen prey to this only recently, even Rajkumar at the height of his glory days was not extolled this much within the movies.). Is it also a supernatural story full of Hindu mythological elements? You bet!

The movie starts interestingly enough, where a painting of a dancer is found abandoned by a painter, who takes it home and protects it. This then reaches the house of a dancer called Saraswati and then all hell breaks loose. Strange occurrences, sightings of a gigantic Cobra (I mean the size of the entire house) and such. The family gets scared enough to invite the great sage cum psychic Acharya Ramachandra Shastry. He decides that the ancient curse of Nagavalli has been resurrected and seeks the help of the only man who can deal with it, who is Dr Vijay (Vishnuvardhan).

Vijay lands in the house and without being told, knows all about everyone there, including their past and future. (Please don’t laugh.)

Turns out that Nagavalli was a dancer in Andhra, who was abducted by the evil king Raja Vijaya Rajendra Bahaddur (also Vishnuvardhan, justified by the fact that Dr Vijay, while studying the ancient history “discovers” that the old evil king “looked just like him”)

Nagavalli was in love with a commoner (forget his name) and refuses to acquiesce to the king’s wishes to be his bride, even when she thinks he is dead. When she discovers that he is alive, she plans to meet him secretly but the king finds out and kills her lover. She self immolates,  promising gruesome revenge from the other side of death. She then torments people and searches for the king for centuries.

The king, meanwhile, has been chased off by the people and due to his extraordinary powers of concentration and meditation, has managed to live atop a mountain in Ramanagara for centuries.

The story revolves around the final revenge of Nagavalli, who in the house has been the vehicle of her revenge (a very nice twist there, after what looked like a forced introduction of the dead daughter Saraswati as deus ex machina ending)

Dr Vijay is glorified and the story suffers from an inability to decide if it wants to be a mystery film or superhero film or historical or what.

The comedy track sucks, but then most movies have the same problem. If you are put off by that, most Kannada movies are off limit for you!

In spite of it all, it is quite entertaining, and the suspense at the end is really unexpected. If you ignore the ridiculous spectacle of people standing in front of the house debating whether there is a snake in the house when a giant Cobra as big as the house itself is spreading its hood atop the house under their very noses, the movie can entertain.

I would say a 6/10

— Krishna

February 27, 2012

Book: Lords of Light by Deepak Chopra

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 4:37 pm

Did you know that Deepak Chopra, the spiritual guru and a successful person in many fields, has also tried his hand at fiction? This came as a complete surprise to me, and I simply had  to read this book to see what it is all about.

Mr.  Chopra’ s foray into fiction starts promisingly enough, with a Koontz like plot, and amazing twists. In fact, it strikes one of being the ideal Hollywood material, special effects and all. The story starts and proceeds brilliantly, with an amazing narrative style and brilliant plot. I think that at about one quarter of the way through, I was enthralled and thought that this book is turning out to be an excellent read.

But somewhere soon after that point, the whole tone and tenor changes abruptly. It is as if Mr Chopra and his co-author have run out of ideas completely and have struggled to finish the book. The book could have been so much more, with the central idea intact. To tell you more would be to give away what little suspense there is in that book.
However, the depth of knowledge of the authors in various religions does come through nicely. As stated before, the first quarter of the book is astounding and amazing, and even makes you sit up and think of fundamental things as good and evil in a different light, for a while. Then the book drowns in its own mire of confusion and lack of direction and by the time you finish it, you get the feeling of having sat through an unnaturally long story with little content, a feeling of profound disappointment to see such an immense potential squandered.

Let us say the first quarter earned this whole volume a 4/10

— Krishna

Book: Deptford Trilogy by Robertson Davies

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 4:26 pm

Story of the acrobat, and a small town story; what is unusual in this
trilogy is that each volume is the SAME story told by different
persona, and from a totally different viewpoint! It reads like three
different authors have written the same story and in that way, it is
fascinating A “Robertson Davies” kind of author appears in the story,
rather like Hitchcock’s habit of appearing in every movie he made.
Reasonably good storytelling, interesting, if typical, style. – 6/10

Book: River God by Wilbur Smith

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 4:07 pm

A sweeping, magnificent canvas of ancient Egypt and the pharoah’s life and times, told through the eyes of Taita the gifted and eunuch slave. The story of Lord Horus, the commander, Queen Lostris, their tangled web of love and the defeat of the Egyptian Pharoah by Hyskos, all told in breathtaking details. The self eulogy of Taita can be really irritating at times, as he is the narrator of the story and describes how he is great at so many things. I know that this is kind of important to know for the story, but a different technique could have been used to bring it out, at the very least through conversations narrated through another person’s words, even if described by Taita himself.

The characters of Lord Intef and others redeems the book.

All the Wilbur Smith essentials are there – lot of gore, animal hunts, and love/ sex. In addition, the story flies from the beginning to the end, with scarcely any let up in tension, which makes this book a page turner.

If you are comfortable with Wilbur Smith style, this is probably one of his best and you would surely enjoy the ride. 8/10

February 21, 2012

Hindi Movie : Speed

Filed under: HIndi Movies — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 7:58 pm

No, this is not the English movie Speed or a copy of it. What then, is this a Hindi original? No, it is a bastardized version of the hit Hollywood Movie Cellular.

If you have seen the original, you will agree with me that it is one of the best movies made, in terms of tension and the great storytelling, from the beginning to the end.

The Hindi version, unfortunately, does not live up to this. The hero is there, (Zayed Khan playing Sandy or Sandeep Arora to give him his full name) fully energetic and we can accept him as the Indian version of Chris Evans if you squint a little) and the damsel in distress is there (our own Urmila Matondkar playing, convincingly, Richa). But the similarity ends there.

The investigator William H Macy (Sargent Moony, who wants to open a beauty parlour) who makes the movie almost single handedly, is missing. Instead the husband of Richa himself is an MI5 agent of Indian origin (Siddharth Verma, played by Sanjay Suri). OK, what is the motive? No, not corrupt cops. It is too tame for this movie. In true Indian tradition, it is a plot to kill the Indian Prime Minister (a lady) who is on a visit to UK.

The borrowed scenes are just a few – his running out of the cell phone charger and how he gets it, the kidnapped car, and the attempt to get the kid from school; the twist is that he does get the kid and manages to lose the kid again.

I guess that if you did not know that the original existed at all, you may kind of like it, it has its moments. But if you have seen the original, you wonder why the girlfriend meddles in the investigation and goes everywhere, why they did not even copy the most interesting parts of the original – after all, if you decide to plagiarize, why not the best parts?

Even if you have not seem the movie, you wonder why the elaborate plan to kidnap the wife of the MI agent. Once you find out why and what they want him for – let me not spoil the movie by telling you the answer – you still wonder why is it that they could not have done it themselves, given their organizational capacity.

The twist with the movie’s Aftab Shivdasani, which has nothing to do with the original, is interesting, and makes you sit up straight for a few minutes.

If you have not seen the Cellular at all, I would advise you to see that movie instead of this one. That is miles ahead in tension, quality and acting.

As for this one, if you forget the comparisons with the originals, it has its moments and I would rate it a 5/10

— Krishna

Book: The God Of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 7:31 pm

The pulitzer prize winning novel describes the twins in Kerala, India, returning home after ages. The main cast of the book’s story, set in the Indian village of Ayemenem in Kerala is formed by Rahel and Estha, the twins, Ammu, their mother, Baby, their grandmother, and Velutha, the untouchable. The start and ending are gripping but sags a lot in the middle. Sophie Mol, from abroad forms a transient part of the story. You have to wade through a lot of pages where the story just refuses to move before you reach the thrilling end which is gripping. A knowledge of the Indian context is not necessary to get into the story, though references are made to the local politics.

The story brings out the author’s extreme left wing tendencies much like the Communist government that rules Kerala for much of the post independence era, albeit within the broad democratic system of elections in the federal and state levels.

The pickle factory references makes one wonder if this is a wee bit autobiographical or at least biographical, but there is no concrete evidence for suspecting it.

Since there are many more exhilarating books out there to read, this should be in the bottom of your reading pile, if you decide to even give it a try.

Well, let us say an overall 5/10.

— Krishna

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