The Fourth Protocol -Book & Movie Review

The Book

3.5 stars.

This was the first Frederik Forsyth for me and I was very excited to get my hands on a first edition copy of the book from a second hand sale. Even found a small souvenir inside from the last owner of the book maybe – a sticker with English Cox and the British flag printed on it. A quick Google search told me this was a brand of apples in the UK! Funny connection. Almost like a clue to suit the novel’s genre.

Took me exactly a month to finish as the initial 100 pages were so detailed and had so many dimensions and names and secret service manoeuvres across the MI5, MI6 and KGB that I lost track and interest too. There were some very interesting facts in there too, with Kim Philby as a key character, who I discovered was an actual double agent and defector to USSR, and also a certain section where Forsyth mentions Ian Fleming and how he modified some terms from the real MI6. But I read nearly 70% of the book in the last 3 days and the story picked up quite well. I enjoyed it after all.

The Movie

1 star.

A movie was made soon after the book’s release and its runaway success, starring Michael Caine and a young Pierce Brosnan. But take my advice and don’t watch it. It completely ruins the book, makes several plot changes and over simplifies the whole operation that is actually very very complex and much more interesting than what the film shows. I was surprised that Forsyth being one of the producers of the film allowed that to happen. The one thing that stood out in the book was the absence of any key characters that were women. But the movie takes care of this aspect more than willingly in more than one instance that adds nothing to add to the plot but only reminds us, that well, this is Hollywood.


MSG2 – Done n Dusted!

So I’ve been meaning to write this post since Sunday, two days ago. But mostly I’ve been struggling with the decision to write it at all. You see, this post was supposed to be about my amusing and somewhat unique experience of watching MSG2, the second installment from self-proclaimed saint and human GurmeetRamRahimSinghJi Insan’s pool of film making talent. And now, after watching and enduring the movie, and having survived to tell the tale, every time I thought about writing it down, words failed me. I guess I was pressurizing myself too much into writing what I thought would be a movie review. But I now realize that there is no reason for me to bind my thoughts so, and therefore I shall only write it like the cerebral experience it was.

To be fair, I won’t deny how much I anticipated the release of this movie. Over the last few months, or rather, since being part of a crazily themed birthday party, where the birthday boy played the said ‘human’ (read insan), the movie and the god man have become a bit of an obsession. Emulating these god men / women was a real eye opener on how much fun it really was, having people gawk at you in awe (or horror) and basically dress up, dance and be showered with flowers. We took ourselves quite seriously and much preparation went into getting ourselves in character – leading to a rediscovery of MSG1 and its exquisitely composed music. While I won’t go into the details of the original soundtrack here, an honorary mention of the song ‘Daru ko Goli Maro’ (Shoot down the alcohol) is due. Quite possibly the most ‘singular’ song I have ever heard, I believe no one and no one but the ‘human’ in question can sing it in the same tune and tone. Do take a listen some time, and make sure you also have the lyrics handy for a fuller and more complete experience.

So anyway, coming back to MSG2, we were booked in advance with great last row seats in one of the first PVRs of south Delhi. We got there, bought our cola, pop and sandwiches and found our seats in the ever filling auditorium, all set for the show to begin. And what a show it was. From the ever increasing crowd that kept pouring in; to a stylish credits opening with a familiar sounding, though unidentifiable, catchy EDM* track; to the vaguest movie plot ever; to flashing beads and fabric and rhine stone studded head gear; to hair, lots of hair; to color changing tribals that needed converting from ‘animalness’ to ‘humanness’ if you please; to bad dialogue and worse character names; and to some very very second-rate VFX – I came away with a buzzing head and a complex physical, intellectual and psychological blend of experiences. I don’t exaggerate, I actually got goosebumps a few times.

The purpose of the film, as is evident from the previous one, was to – create, disseminate and propagate. And a seemingly effective means of propaganda it was, if one is go by the rapt attention with which the audience watched, cheered and clapped. Many times through the movie I would look around to get feedback on how people were responding, and was amazed to see how they watched with bated breath as the ‘human of humans’ took on tribes and army factions single-handedly. Always emerging undefeated and unscathed from these over the top long drawn conflicts,with not a single hair from his beard or updo going astray – he clearly has set the bar high for even Rajnikant.

The means to achieve this propagandized objective was a bizarre movie plot, completely lacking logic or common sense – that centered around bettering the world by converting tribals into humans – because obviously as meat eating, scantily clad, mahua drinking, dark skinned, muddy looking people, they fell very short of qualifying the civilized human index. So the ‘human of humans’, as a favour to all mankind, took it upon himself to humanize the tribals with love and affection, a few life lessons here and there, and some bizarre acts of bravery that included saving a child from a digitized elephant. But wait! The transformation was not yet complete. As the thankful tribals start dancing in his honour, he stops them mid-song and says that a proper human is one who is dressed modestly. He then orders his minions to catch the tribals and make them wear ‘tailored human’ clothes to be truly called humans. And so in an extremely weird and patronizing sequence of events, the tribals are chased, caught, nail clipped and hosed down to then emerge not only in colourful clothes but also with skin tones five times fairer than their orignal one – all while comic music plays in the background. And then ofcourse the song resumes and as the new ‘humans’ dance their clothes eveolve as well – from ghargra choli and dhoti to salwar kameez and kurta pajama to a long maxi dress and pant-shirts.

I shuddered at this particular sequence in the film for the deprecating and degrading manner in which such a perception about tribal communities was portrayed –  as unclean, unaaceptable and inferior beings. And seeing that literally 98% of the audience in that theater was poorly educated or under-sensitized and unaware about tribals and their lives, I feel they all went back home with a completely screwed up image of them. So good riddance that the film was banned in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh and while the censor board did pass the film, it really shouldn’t have, for projecting the indigenous, legitimate and very equal tribal citizens of India in such a  demeaning and insensitive manner.

But as all this takes place we’re only halfway through the movie. What next one wonders? He’s sorted the tribals, what now? Ofcourse there is a bigger, badder, meaner tribal head to deal with, whose love story is yet another masterpiece. This guy is called ‘Ajgar’ – The Python, named so becasue he played with pythons as a kid. His wife ‘Chabuki’ also gets her name from a childhood habit – bullying other kids with her hunter (chabuk) and growing up to lash men who couldn’t live up to her expectations of a mate. When Ajgar confronts her at a tribal fair, she challenges him to a mahua drinking match and when he beats her at drinking a whole potful, she declares that she has found the one. And of course, we cut to a dream song sequence where this newly in love couple is dressed in very western clothes, dancing to the undecipherable singing of the all rounder ‘human of humans’ and basically all logic has taken a back seat by now.

Anyway, the rest is not of much consequence. This tribal too is brought into line, set on the right path – and while that is in process, the ‘human of humans’ also takes the opportunity to further establish his credibility by inserting information about his lineage – going as far as even depicting Maharaja Ranjit Singh as a spitting image of himself, to Guru Gobind’s armies and some such. Basically blue blood, warrior blood, and the works. There is more still, a prolonged and repetitive action scene on a man made mud hill, but it ends as expected with the final enemy, the local politician, getting kicked in the butt and all is well for humans again.

To conclude, MSG2 – supposedly a big improvement on MSG1, is essentially a B grade Hindi film at its core. And had it not been written, produced, acted, directed, sung and composed by the one man army that the ‘humanly saint’ is, it would have never seen a theater release or garnered the cult status for the likes of me. So I guess there is either a very smart marketing case study or a purely monetary one  in there that should be worth exploring, in addition to being a very interesting opportunity for psychoanalysis.

I cannot sign off without acknowledging that the movie and the associated overarching personality have been a huge source of ‘happiness’ and entertainment for me and my brethren – and if you allow your mind that freedom too, then it is sure to bring you the joy it did me 😉 Try.

*electronic dance music

the TALAASH ends here…..!

SPOILER ALERT!!!! (if you haven’t yet seen the movie, you might want to save reading this for later :))

Talaash is the kind of film that re-instates my faith in the hindi film industry, or rather in the “commercial” hindi film industry.

The credits are barely over and the first sequence of the film jolts you in your seat, pulling you into the story immediately. Aamir Khan enters the scene and so begins the unraveling of a mysterious death that seems to have no logical explanations.

Playing a hardened police man, Surjan Singh Shekhawat, Aamir Khan is delightful as the no-nonsense yet sensitive guy, with a tragic backstory. Rani Mukherjee, as his wife and the other half living their shared tragedy, underplays her character perfectly. Even though her role is not dialogue heavy, her acting is so emotive and sensitive, it is endearing. Dressed in simple sarees and minimal makeup, she blends comfortably into a policeman’s humble flat.

What I really miss in Bollywood movies is a good murder mystery, one that keeps you thinking and engaged till the very last. Talaash for me, was one such film that checked all the right boxes where story, direction, editing, acting and dialogue – were thought through and executed with detail and precision. Isn’t it obvious why Aamir Khan takes so long to make a film – the experience of watching it clearly evident when you come out of the movie hall amazed / thoughtful / surprised / delighted all at once.

Aamir Khan is undoubtedly the king of conviction, perfection and execution. His insistence on his movies / shows being produced by his own production house is what the production of his movies most often reflect. Though I wouldn’t say that’s true always, especially in the case of the recent PK.


Note: This post was written almost 3 years ago in Dec 2012. I found it sitting in my drafts folder today and decided to publish it as it was. The decision to revive the blog was rewarded with a ready piece of writing to lend me some much required encouragement and impetus. I hope to do it more justice this time. 🙂

Jab tak thi jaan………

What happens when you watch the 10:30 pm show of a movie like this ?? – – – – it ends in hysteria and headache!

But you see, I had to watch the movie, I just had to. And what it confirmed was, my absolute and accurate prediction – that it was going to be exactly as bad as it was! So yay!

But, what I have a problem with is not the underlying basic story / concept of undying love, rather how it was portrayed in the film.

I mean, what is it with movies like this that try and place its characters in a near real modern day setting and then make the same characters larger than life in a manner that one cannot even remotely relate to them….?
Take Shah Rukh Khan for example. He is 47 and plays a 25 year old for half the movie. I think even Hrithik Roshan will not be able to pass for a 25 year old anymore. So i ask WHY? Its not convincing, it doesn’t fit and it just interferes with the viewer’s movie experience. What’s the point if we have to do all the imagination!

Unless maybe you are as attentive to detail as Aamir Khan, who being as old as SRK, managed to play an engineering student with such conviction that everyone applauded the effort. I mean right from his look, to his demeanor, to his acting – – everything lent so well to the brilliant story that it was. I know, I know – AK and SRK are poles apart and have very different cinematic personalities, but, they are both still actors and the underlying premise for both remains the same, no matter what roles they do.

And its not that SRK can’t act, or can’t portray a character perfectly. Swades / Chak de India are two of his most brilliant films. But it seems like his superstar image is always overshadowing the character he plays and that really kills it.

Ok, so about the movie then. It was too predictable. There were too many signature SRK scenes (walking away with backpack especially, which seems to weigh nothing) that looked like I had seen them before.

Katrina Kaif wasn’t so bad, but that’s about it. Ofcourse, she has a fabulous wardrobe.

Anushka Sharma is overdoing her “young / tomboyish / oh i’ve been there done that / super cool dilli girl / enthusiasm pumped to the core / fallen in love and reformed” role. She should stop. Before it ends up in overkill. Also, her character is a little irritating – and I don’t understand how a 38 year old man can be interested in the 21 year old girl who has brains not enough to figure that when you jump in a lake somewhere in Ladakh, the water is bound to be icy!

Also, one would think that maybe it was high time that the movie makers got the “army” angle correct. But no, they must still use it only to portray the macho-ism of their hero. After all, woh hero hai bhai! Woh apne desh ke liye thodi lad raha tha…..woh to Sir Jesus ko challenge karne ke liye bharti hua tha.

And that brings me to my next question – usko bharti kisne kiya? The man did not know english, most likely had an interrupted education (which is why he was working multiple odd job shifts in London, else his multi millionaire girlfriend could have given him an office, was 25 when he saw Katrina Kaif and fell in love,  28 when he returned to India – – so how did he get into the army?? On the one month speed english course his girlfriend gave him??

All I ask for is a little authenticity.

Sigh….it wasn’t over until it was over…….jab tak thi jaan, jab tak thi jaan…..

Before Sunset – – Movie Review – – Spot on!

I’m always scouting for good cinema to watch on a weeknight in bed before I call it a day and most times I’m in the mood for something light, interesting and meaningful. Something that leaves a lingering effect, a thought or feeling behind. Most times these turn out to be light romantic comedies or chick flicks – – which are a one time watch and forget affair – and just end  up being freed space on my hard drive. So it feels great when I come across something that just blows me away.

The modus operandi of choosing a movie is generally by watching trailers on Youtube plus a quick read on Wikipedia , IMDB or Rotten Tomatoes.

This is how I pretty much came across “Before Sunset” as well. And am I glad I did!! (Though I dont think I read up too much on it, as i didn’t realise it had a prequel too. But more on that later.)

The movie sat in my downloads folder for about a week ten days before I reluctantly decided to check it out.You know how sometimes you want to watch a movie but don’t have the patience to tolerate a single boring moment or a slack in the story…..most weeknights that’s how impatient I get – – have turned off many films within 2 minutes of them running.

So here’s a movie that is solely based on “dialogue”. It is one continuous dialogue that goes on for an hour and 17 minutes straight and keeps you glued in at every point in the conversation.

The performances nail it to the 100th percent – both the actors Ethan Hawke  and Julie Delpy are such naturals that at one point I wondered if they  even took a break to re do a take.

The story in a gist is that both characters are meeting nine years  after their first meeting which lasted only an evening (thats the prequel Before Sunrise – – which is next on the list to watch). They are complete strangers to each other except that one evening they spent together and then lose touch completely.

When they do meet up after 9 years, there is a suppressed excitement but also the happiness and connection between them that makes the flow of conversation so effortless. The performances are so well done that the viewer relates exactly to how they feel and starts hoping for the conversation to go in a direction that makes their obvious but muted feelings for each other clear. There is a subtle “edge of the seat” build up in their conversation as time passes – but also a slight fear and dread that they may end up losing each other again.

The two long lost acquaintances catch up over a walk in the park, a cup of coffee and on a short ferry ride. They share ideas, thoughts and opinions – just like any two people would, which makes this film so real and natural.

Well adapted characters, clean crisp screenplay, and a great script down to the last detail makes for a very pleasant and memorable movie experience. It is commendable when a movie can sustain itself over just the 3 basic elements and no other frills to cover up 🙂

5 on 5 and two stars!!! if you’ve seen it, maybe you’ll agree, if you haven’t, you have to go watch!

An evening very well spent 🙂 Gunnight folks!