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Showing posts from February, 2014

Beauty and the Beast

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The Secret History
By Donna Tartt
You are hooked from the first page. How can you not be? The narrator is confessing to a murder. So you know it’s not a whodunit (you know who the murderer is, don’t you?); yet it has all the thrill and intrigue of one. The dream-like, sensory world absorbs you, leaving you so enthralled that you have to drag yourself away to the real one. And everything there is suddenly a pale shadowy version of the one in the book. It’s like a drug-addled brain is being weaned away from the narcotics it so craves.
Okay, I exaggerate. But just a bit, really.
Richard Papen is a small town California boy who lands up in Hampden College in Vermont. The college is all that he has dreamed of - shockingly pretty, East-coast intellectual, as far removed from his mediocre, middle class Californian hometown as it’s possible to be. Richard is Jay Gatsby - completely smitten by the Ivy league-like glamour.  
He falls into the company of a group of five students who take Greek and cl…

Bollywood romance and Oscar-worthy performances at the movies

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Ram Leela Inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, it says. The basic premise is  - the feuding families, the star crossed lovers, the tragic end. But Sanjay Leela Bhansali takes a leaf (or rather a tree) out of Buz Luhrman’s book, and gives it a colourful contemporary spin, setting it in Kutch. Of course it’s a Kutch no one has seen - where guns abound and people go around killing each other with little legal consequence. But then it’s Sanjay Leela Bhansali, and who is looking for realism?
I don’t quite know what to make of SLB - I liked his Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (even though I find Salman Khan pretty much unbearable) and loved his version of Devdas; but I couldn’t sit past the first 10 minutes of Saanwariya or Black or Guzaarish.
I can be quite bewitched by the excess in his films - the saturated colour and the large set pieces of song and  dance, the gorgeous clothes and jewellery, the beautiful women (who do show glimpses of spunk, while remaining doll-like most of the time). It…

Teenage angst and class divides

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PrepBy Curtis Sittenfeld Lee Fiora is a working class student on a scholarship in a fictional boarding school, Ault in Massachusetts. She is there because she saw a brochure of that school, saw prep school students in blazers, playing lacrosse and rowing, an OC world set in Massachusetts. Lee decides that is where she wants to spend the next 4 years of her life, away from her normal middle class home, where her mother works as a bookkeeper and her father owns a mattress shop. She gets the scholarship, convinces her bewildered parents and enters Ault, prepared to be part of that dream brochure.

Ault of course is a place where no one talks of money, but where money permeates every aspect of student life - from the choice of bedspreads in hostel rooms to the hotel parents stay when they come visiting. “The equation was that simple. Being rich, in the end, counted for the most - for more, even, than being pretty.” Lee is a misfit in class terms. She is an obviously intelligent young girl bu…

All is Well

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The GoldfinchBy Donna Tartt Theo Decker is grief stricken. He loses his mother, in a bomb blast in a New York museum, and with her he loses that ‘daily, commonplace happiness’ he rarely finds again in his life. But as he loses his mother, he gains a 17th century painting - Carel Fabritius’ The Goldfinch. A dying old man entrusts this painting, saved from the blast, to the thirteen year old’s safekeeping. But Theo, for reasons unknown to even himself (perhaps it is the last remnant of his mother’s life, perhaps he just couldn’t let go of such beauty) keeps it to himself. He moves cities and homes, but the painting accompanies him, occupying a corner of his mind that provides him joy and wonder, even as life around him turns upside down. Theo carries his painting and his grief with him through a temporary home with his school friend Andy’s family in New York, through Las Vegas where his gambler and alcoholic father takes him, through New York again, this time with Hobie, the dying old man…