Category Archives: Movies

#A2ZChallenge: R is for Romantic Comedies

Dear Romantic Comedies

What draws me mindlessly to you?

I have excavated and watched so many rom-coms, that Wikipedia could wiki me on this. Are you a guilty pleasure? Like hell, you are. You simplify love, destiny and our happy endings (except for that one time in 500 Days of Summer) in a glittery gift box and tingly musical interludes.

However, just like all tiramisu is not created equal, so it is with you. For something so formulaic, right down to the last pan-up to the clouds, there is some serious range in my high and low scorers. The score is just a statistic though. I would watch every rom-com ever made, and so does she. As I keep score, I managed to distill this equation so:

Lead Characters

If the movie has Colin Firth, then this straightway takes the score to the stratosphere. Else, even his other beguiling compatriots will do. I will extend the scope to include Irishmen and Scotsmen. All the twangs, drawls and accents will work. The other side of the pond, any of the Chris or Ryan guys will do. They are all extremely dishy, and one can substitute a little bit of old-world Brit charm with American (or even Australian) rakishness. While exploring other continents, maybe South American people with last names of Bardem might work swimmingly too. And of course, all bets are off if we are talking about When Harry met Sally.

The female lead? Anyone would make the grade I think, suitably channeling 1980s Meg Ryan or Drew Barrymore, or even Katherine Heigl, on a lazy day. For the slightly more ballsy characters, we are looking for more Sandra Bullock-ness with a touch of Julia Robertseque vulnerable appeal.

In Bollywood, this space is cornered entirely by Alia Bhat, Varun Dhawan, Parineeti Chopra and Siddharth Malhotra, in various permutations and combinations onto themselves. After Ranveer Singh went full costume drama, he wrote himself out of this club.


Is the conflict an angry, selfish, greedy father-in-law? Are goons beating up people to a pulp? Does someone have to pay off a large housing loan? Is there a tragic parting that circumstances have forced on the truest love that ever was? Yes? Then sorry, please show yourself out. You are not a rom-com. The whole premise of a rom-com is to airbrush real life’s dark and implosive craters, and make a little potpourri photo-frame of alabaster and wrinkle-free people flying on gossamer clouds.

The conflict is usually that someone left the city or did not take a big hint, which his/ her friends were holding up in large placards. Such as



This is an overriding feature which when added to the rom-com analytical model, just melts everyone into pink blobs of strawberry crush on the floor, from whence you shall never rise. This is when a special protocol is initiated, and the heart turns into several fluttery butterflies and floats around in the room. These lines/ moments are the equivalent of “the unbreakable vow” in romantic comedies (unnecessary Harry Potter reference detected).

Like when Jerry Maguire says “You complete me” or when John Cusack silently holds the boom box up outside her house. And if you like over-the-top, when Justin Timberlake breaks into a flash mob dance in Grand Central station or Heath Ledger’s one-man opera for Julia Stiles.

There is a reason why psychologists say romantic comedies mess with our perception of romantic love and help feed a frame of reference that boyfriends and husbands come up short against. I would say these guys are lucky. They can easily rustle up home-whipped dinners and desserts, cuddly plush toys, rushed airport rescues and hidden diamond rings in a dainty mise-en-scene to win over the ladies. Now, imagine if they had to go up against William Darcy. No, I could n’t watch that.


Bridget Jane Austen Jones

Romantic comedies



#A2Z Challenge: N is for Nivin Pauly

Dear Nivin Pauly

I have an imaginary Malayalee friend. He imagines he is Malayalee, but he is also, in fact, imaginary. Apart from passing up no opportunity to make “coke-cock” jokes and lamenting the declining authenticity of Kerala cuisine adaptations (including stuff he makes himself), he has done little else. First, he failed me on Dulquer Salmaan, and then on Nivin Pauly. So, this friend is a “dharti pe bojh”, loosely translated as “a waste of gravity.”

I did not get the Nivin Pauly memo or see the t-shirts. Some of your movies are blowing it out of the water. They have unthinkably futuristic elements – a script (!), living-breathing main leads, well-defined characters other than the central acts, nuance and an effective level of unpredictability.

Premam is for the everyday

I see women depicted as tea-drinking, impromptu-dancing, track-pants wearing, sometimes grimacing, often meandering, but never-porcelain characters. I see men doing their goofy and grown-up thing, being epiphanic and egg-headed as life’s prescription is. Premam, prima facie, looks like any of the prosaic “love stories” where an extremely good looking man goes through a sliding door of love interests, only to end up with Deepika Padukone or the closest match. No siree, though. Premam is, first of all, not a labels movie. It is at once a buddy movie, resplendent with nods to the force our friends are, often taking in all the shards of a broken heart. It is a nimble movie about love’s rite of passage. That it will only come to us when it has to, when we least expect it. Every person’s story.

I almost expected to see cathartic breakdowns, melodramatic paeans to the grieving heart, a lot of literal face-palming, and shade-throwing by family and friends. I did n’t.  What I saw instead were lilted men and women, being funny, hopeful, disillusioned, spontaneous and restive, through more directorial and storytelling prestidigitation than I have seen in a long time.

Good and good hair days

There is a product description for good looks, and it differs from household to household. In Bangalore Days, you were the pastoral-loving, guileless brother whose to-do list did not include “be that hot guy in this movie”. However, that was irrelevant – the turns your seemingly stereotypical character took made it winning. Again, no thundering, chest thumping and million glares were involved. Having said that. Having said that. You score in the looks department, and bonus points for the facial hair. The reigning kind of beard, Idris Alba called, and he said, “Smooth. Bro. Smooth.”

Also, Hey Jude?

You are making a movie called “Hey Jude”. Named after one of The Beatles’ more complex and experimental beauties,  it is said to have been written by Paul McCartney to cheer up John Lennon’s five-year old son, when his parents were divorcing (aching heart anyone?).

When you tweet describing this movie as “a wonderful tale of love, self-discovery, healing and transformation”, you already win. It’s a tweet that is a microcosm of all the movies you have been making. The hot mess our lives are, told to us, by handsome men in beards and women who could n’t be bothered by their mascara game. Bring it on. All of it. We want to walk away with our faith confirmed in real people, their imperfections, their lessons, sparkling comic moments and their courage.


Hey Jude Jude

#A2ZChallenge: F is for Frozen

Dear Frozen the movie

You have been a good movie. I love the break from tradition, and you were one of the first to go there. By now, most of the queens, princesses and village seamstresses have had their little retelling interventions, including the Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Maleficent, Rapunzel and even Gretel. Some of these have gone full dark, with ninja Snow Whites and witch-hunting Gretels hopping around dystopic, sepia townscapes on important looking horses with good dental condition.

I love you movie

As a movie, you are kick-ass. Sister power is the most awesome thing ever, and has always made women look gangster. Long before Beyonce’s Lemonade. That true love’s only qualification is that it’s true. There are no other boxes to be checked on this form. Such sacrifice as we never thought we would make, and more love than we ever imagined we could receive will touch our lives, and make every moment soar. In the last few minutes of your story, all this came alive for me.

The child though

The child in me adores Elsa and Anna and and Kristof and Olaf and Marshmallow. I walked away moved by the movie and all its messages. Women, men, snowmen, overbearing guests, unlikely friends, good looking A-holes, slipping through sand, second chances and redemptions. The other child, my actual child, a five-year old girl, however – COMPLETELY DIFFERENT THING. She watched the movie and her mind came out chrome-plated and snow-flaked with Frozen. Now every reference, of good or bad, heroism and sacrifice, pink and blue, idli and dosa, is heavily steeped in the Frozen frame of reference. I tell a story of Malala and pat comes the question, “Why do you need to go to school if you have ice powers”. I speak of igneous rocks, ready to answer if fjords can be made from snow and igneous rocks. Cumulus clouds are merely Elsa’s extra snow supplies. If there are airports, there are planes to icy castles and if there is hair, it is snowy silver. Everyone else’s hair is all wrong, and Elsa’s wand might help fix you.

And the merchandise and music

Avoiding Frozen merchandise even after all these years is not a listed option. Toothbrushes, underwear, school bags and bedspreads are passe. A place in my brain close to the Amygdala has been hijacked by repeated Frozen merchandise exposure. I can no longer process regular items of everyday use without seeing green gowns or transparent blue shrugs. The rods and cones in my retina have become Elsa and Anna. I have been contacted by John Hopkins to advance the cause of neurosciences, on this account.

Then the business of THAT SONG. It was ok reading The Gruffalo’s story every night for 7.4 million nights straight, with a passable quality of voice overs and hand animation. I am saying its ok but if Hercules was up for his 13th task, this would be it. The Guiles of Gruffalo or the Gruffalo Groundhog Day, it might be called. But then “Let it go” happened. And by happen, I mean it played on loop for as much time as it takes for Rajma to cook, or a more fathomable reference, since the last T-Rex walked this earth. We now charge the MP3 player by directing plugging the wires into a small windmill we have installed just to meet this power surge. It is still playing.

Let it go, let it go. Turn away and slam the door. That’s the song, and my recent selfie confirms that my ears have now been replaced entirely with words from this song, appearing in C minor.


Shaken, Stirred and Frozen

PS: Apologies to Julia Donaldson, The Gruffalo is an amazing childrens’ book and I actually laughed non-stop every time for the first 65,000 times.


#A2ZChallenge April 05: D is for Dulquer Salmaan

Dear Dulquer Salmaan

There needs to be start-up kit for up-to-speeding on you.

The most roundabout way to find Dulquer Salmaan is to watch “OK Jaanu” in an uninspired indecision, and then have someone go Alaipayuthey on you. Alaipayuthey is that moment when you realize there is a solid gold Mani Rathnam original of this movie somewhere (in this case, OK Kanmani). After that, of course, as any self-respecting stalker would, I scanned all there was to scan on every conceivable piece of online real estate from 1234ramshyammovies. com to DARPA and and Sonam Kapooor’s Instagram. I even searched on BING, for crying out loud.

So the idea of a general “All you need to know about Dulquer Salmaan” came to mind.

1. You had jobs in all those movies I saw

Regular, everyday, messed-up jobs. “Fighting-with-the-boss, having-drinks-after-work-in-workwear, showing-up-annoying-colleagues” kind of jobs. Some were borderline exciting like the gamer in OK Kanmani, or the political satire-cartoonist in 100 days of love, or the flotsam do-gooder in Charlie. Props just for not hanging around London and Paris and nearby cruises in search for love and kisses. Which sums up an 87% of the recent roles and entire scripts of Ranbir Kapoor and Ranveer Singh’s movies. No big grudge there, but it was like when your mom goes from yelling at you everyday for everything vs your mom leaving you a text saying, “Hey, am leaving for Mandalay today, don’t call me till September”. Extreme much? Basically the contrast between Rich People Problems We will Never Face to Real Stuff that could Happen to Me in some Alternate Reality.

2. Your movies turned out to be good movies

I was aware of regional cinema in so much as every Mahesh Babu movie is a Salman Khan movie waiting to be made. Or that Aparna Sen has not stopped making movies or that Karan Johar has bought the rights to Sairat (many rabbits was mildly offended in the making of this statement). But I was never invested till I became so woke to Malayalam cinema through your films. You shine no doubt, but nicely placed in a stellar constellation of great ensemble casts. What began more as a journey to not be on the next “You don’t know Fawad Khan which rock have you been living under” ignominy list, became 1) Oh my God, you are quite dishy looking, steadily moving to 2) Ok I did not see the acting chops coming to 3) Wow that movie which was a guilty pleasure had no business being that good. I ended up loving the movies, the set-up, the small deets, the winds, the seas, the accent walls.

3. And so, you have helped me discover regional Indian cinema

For someone raised on a rather unhealthy diet of Bollywood, all the vicissitudes of Hindi cinema have given me a major handicap in recognizing subtlety, artfulness and nuance. One day Jaya Bachchan’s heart is going Plonk-Boom-Thump because her son got off airplane on windy day (or was that the chopper?). Then Amit Trivedi is making awesome music, more or less. Then Sanjay Leela Bhansali is making movies that I cannot decide are good or bad because some intestinal sections are churning. My movie sensibilities meter goes completely off-kilter, like the abandoned guitar. And I am not about to watch A Clockwork Orange to set it right. I have reserved that for when I am cryogenically preserved in a hammock.

Long story short, watching your movies gives me a great fillip. That all is well in the world of our unique brand of movie-making. Its loud, but understated. The messages are delivered, unerringly, but with large helpings of emotive connectedness and “moments”. How wonderful to have a whole lifetime of movies to savour, constantly hedging off every big bad Hindi movie with these little diamonds. And as far as your movies are concerned, Point 2.1 still holds. You are dishy.


I follow you on Twitter.