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That strangeness in our minds

19 May

Orhan Pamuk is  a Turkish writer. He has published thirteen books so far.

He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2006. He lives in Turkey.

orhan pamuk

This is the story of Mevlut, a street vendor and boza seller from Istanbul. He is agile and ardent, like the city he resides in.

This is also the story of Istanbul, a city that is subject to rapid changes due to capitalization. It is baffled yet unaffected, just like Mevlut and the thousand other migrants like him.

Orhan Pamuk’s new book ‘A strangeness in my mind’ is a tale of changing city and its changing people. It expresses the restlessness inside a fast-growing city and the unusual loneliness it’s people carry in their hearts. Pamuk tells the story of the people hopelessly falling in love with one another and with the world around them. While doing this, he doesn’t ignore to throw some light to search true love (if at all it exists.)

Our protagonist Mevlut is naive and gentle, hardworking and lovable. He falls in love with a beautiful girl Samiha whom he meets at his cousin’s wedding. Unaware of her real name, he writes long letters describing her ensorcelled eyes for three years, only to elope with her less attractive elder sister Rayiha.

Like his father, he grows old in the city with a dream of becoming rich. Apart from the various not-so-successful day jobs, he sells boza, a mildly alcoholic drink at night for the rest of his life. The gradually shrinking roster of regular customers doesn’t seem to bother him. He seriously believes his life is all about selling boza on the streets of Istanbul – I can only meditate when I’m walking.

As ‘elopement is a  tricky business,’ he gracefully embraces the serendipity, makes peace with Rayiha, later joined by his daughters Fatma and Fevziya. Much later, when his platonic love for Samiha comes true, he recalls that strangeness in his mind and his true love for Rayiha. Surprisingly, that strangeness becomes ours too.

Pamuk attractively portrays the different voices his characters carry inside them. Every character, however small it may be, narrates it’s own story and perspective without overlapping or interrupting the storyline. By doing so, Pamuk strikingly makes us realize that his characters are more trust-worthy than it’s narrator. Thanks to his unique way of story-telling, behind these different voices of peculiar characters, lies the success of the book. As Mevlut’s father Mustafa rightly puts it in his own context It’s the boza seller’s voice that sells his boza.

The bundle of letters Mevlut wrote in his military days do play an exceptional role in the story. If you give a good look, these letters tend to have their own perspective too. After all the years of happy and contented marriage with Rayiha, Mevlut starts to believe that he truly wrote those letters to her. Many twists and turns later, he only agrees to disagree with the same opinion after Samiha’s mysterious come-back into his life.

A significant shift is created in the story when Samiha deals with insensitivity with those thirty-year old letters. Along with Mevlut, the cruelty of ‘game of letters’ is heart-breaking to the readers as well. Samiha says– “You might love me less now, but back then, I was the one who loved you less.”

strangeness in my mind

The strong female characters the writer creates in this novel are remarkable. The women here are amiable, funny, unapologetic and real. Take Vediha for instance who mends all the fences between the family members or the sensitive Rayiha whose needlework depicts those ruthless eyes Mevlut described in his letters. It is disheartening to see Rayiha suffer in jealousy.

The quick-witted Samiha who demands to be wooed at all times cannot be forgotten. “I would have preferred to marry Mevlut because everyone was against it, not because everyone wanted it.” You look at Samiha, and you know how freedom looks like. (This is how she describes herself.)

Pamuk has written on the search for true love in his earlier novels. In this novel, he sees true love as a mirage. At the end, Mevlut admits his true love for Rayiha. If Mevlut had stayed a little longer with the readers, I’m sure he would not be fully sure of his earlier comment. He genuinely feels that love for Rayiha only because she is not with him anymore.

Along with Mevlut’s story, ‘A strangeness in my mind” is also a tale of a slowly transforming Istanbul. Just like any other economically developing city, the inequalities prevail in Istanbul where the poor remains poor unless something magical happens. It is flooded with rich and poor people who always find ways to tap into power lines without paying. The city is full of people who think differently in private and say different things in public.

By the end of the book, the old generation’s gecekondu (which means, placed overnight) homes are replaced by the new tall buildings. The city’s cultural shift is shown by enthralling sales of TVs, movies, cigars, raki, a bottled boza and packaged yogurt. A loosely tied head-scarf is also one among them.

Mevlut’s own fantasies about life and his attachment to the ever-changing streets of Istanbul are enthralling. It is a serious book, elegantly written by the master story-teller, who is undoubtedly one of the greatest writers of our times.

(Originally published in Kannada in Connect Kannada Website


Just hand him an Oscar, will you?

19 May

all oscar movies

Yes, movie lovers throughout the world had this unanimous exclamation when it came to their favorite star ‘Leo’. They hoped this time the Academy ‘dare’ not go wrong. When Leonardo DiCaprio emerged as a strong contender to this year’s Oscars in the Best Actor category for his performance in ‘The Revenant’, other nominees like Eddie Redmayne and Matt Damon went a step forward and put his name above theirs in front of the media. This was because they too knew playing a revenant was not an easy task.

‘The Revenant’ is a story of scars, the scars we all carry inside and out. Leonardo DiCaprio plays a frontiersman named Hugh Glass, who was on a fur-trading expedition with his hunting team in 18th century America. In a deadly hunting encounter with a bear, he is left with scars throughout his body. As supporting and carrying him grows impossible for his team members, he is abandoned and left behind in the snow to die.

But Hugh survives. He eats raw bison meat, gives himself a burn shock to prevent infection, gets inside a dead horse’s skin to keep himself warm, gets help when he is totally exhausted, but he survives. “As long as you can still grab a breath, you fight. You breathe… keep breathing-“ he keeps his heart warm with his dead wife’s soothing words “When there is a storm, and you stand in front of a tree, if you look at it’s branches, you swear it will fail, but if you watch the trunk, you will see it’s stability.”

On his death-bed after the bear attack, Hugh has helplessly watched his son put to death by one of his teammates, John Fitzgerald. He survives for this lone reason to find John and to kill him. Hugh is a revenant himself. But when he finally gets hold of John after his incredible life battle, Hugh sees the glimpses of his own life in a brink. “Revenge is in God’s hands.. not mine-“ he realises.

DiCaprio carries Hugh with such a poise, you cannot stop commending him. It is not one of those movies you see Leonardo usually in. Unlike his role in ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ where he plays a ruthless stock-broker or in ‘Django Unchained’ where he is an evil landlord who finds pleasure in watching two black men fight to death, DiCaprio brings his soul to the forefront in his latest ‘The Revenant’. This sixth Oscar nomination, is undoubtedly Leo’s best performance so far.


‘The Revenant’ has also brought home two other Oscars to Direction (Alejandro J. Inarritu) and to Cinematography. It is a second consecutive win for Inarritu after last year’s epic ‘Birdman’.

Brie Larson’s performance in ‘Room’ is worth an Oscar. She plays a young mother who is locked up in a shed for seven years by a sadist-rapist. Her journey of preparing her five-year old son to face the outer world is convincing, yet terrifying in this powerful film. Although Jacob Tremblay who plays her five year old son is a real star of this movie, Brie, with her large depressed eyes brings the tale of a troubled mother to life.

How can I end this article without mentioning ‘Spotlight’? In this ‘Best Picture of the Year,’ a group of journalists from ‘Boston globe’ uncovers a scandal of child molestation in several churches throughout Boston. A victory for true journalism, this real story is a tale worth telling.

Before I conclude, tell me how many actors we can find who mentions climate change in their victory speeches? Kudos to DiCaprio who ended his Oscar speech by saying “Let us do not take this planet for granted. I do not take this night for granted.”

Oh, yes Leo! You have earned it!


A Naive Crave for Love

9 Apr


Meet Shankara, a school boy from a socially neglected community who blasts a fertilizer bomb with a simple detonator in the classroom as a protest against a bragging teacher. At last, even if he admits the villainy, Shankara is ignored.

Here is the story of Kittur, a fictitious town in Karnataka. It should not be confused with the town by same name in Belgaum district. The author brings out the nuances of this delusive town while portraying the stories which took place between the assassinations of Indira Gandhi and Rajeev Gandhi. If you read R K Narayan’s novels and short stories, this book will doubtlessly hold your attention.

Kittur, a small but diversified town pictured in this book is Adiga’s Malgudi. It is located on the banks of Arabian sea and surrounded by Kaliamma river and Bajpe forest. It is named after the Kittamma Devi temple which is located in this town. You can find all sorts of people in this town. A neglected man of the town Ziauddin obeys an incendiary party just because he finds some respect and care from him.

Characters in this book personifies trustworthiness with certainity in the beginning and gradually tend to become corrupt. Murali, a communist who later counterblows Sulochana’s family as she doesn’t accept his marriage proposal, is one of them. George, who slowly manipulates his employer Mrs. Gomes for his own good who later suffers, is the other.

In Adiga’s short stories, the poor are more vulnerable to acid test than the rich. Jayamma, a house maid who takes care of a plump rich child of Valencia faces hardship in picking up a punctured cricket ball for her little Brijju in the village. Even when she asks for it, the rich child disagrees and neglects her plea.

The author never dramatizes the rich- poor relationship. After reading the story of Chenayya, a coolie who craves for a few extra tips for his hard work and gets insulted again and again is a mock to the economic differences in Indian society. You do not find a single character who is forced to be a God. Everyone have their own benefits in their behaviors. A fair- skinned stranger who skillfully influences Ziauddin is a good example.


Two people with same nature are quite common in these stories. The teacher in Alfonso’s School D’Mello and Journalist Gururaj Kamath are two such exemplars. D’Mello’s only objective is to save his dear student Girish from bad company and Gururaj’s passion is to print the truth. He goes so deep in the chase of truth and falsehood, at the end the line between the two vanishes before him. His search finally leaves him in the disheartened reality.

Soumya, a little girl who begs to serve drugs for her father and longs just one hug and kiss in return from him leaves a complex image of today’s poor.

All the stories in this book can be described as the naive thirst for love and respect that every human soul demands.

Adiga sketches many pictures of social and economic discrepancies in the society. For him, the enormous nation is within this small town, Kittur. Most of the times, he reckons with the poor despite the rich, as talking to the poor and understanding them is more effortless to him.

The above mentioned reason is sufficient to continue reading this author of Man Booker fame. 

This is Rockstar, a film on passion

5 Jan

Ranbir_Kapoor-rockstarHe murmurs in a deep shivering voice confessing in front of his senior friend, “Please kuch karo, mera dil nahi thutna chahiye” (Please do something; my heart should not be broken). This utterance doesn’t come to his rescue but reluctantly succeeds in venturing a rockstar in him. Few years back, you would see the same vehement guy who went in search of pain to rediscover that ‘go’ from within. He denies it, anyway, thereafter.

This is ‘Rockstar’, a film on passion. It depicts the life of a pop-singer who aptly has a passion for music, for desire and for his lady love.

The film casts Janardhan, an enthusiastic guy from an ordinary family in Delhi whose life, a morsel of monotony, without ups and downs. The pain of a broken heart, according to him, would pave the way to success. In search of fault pain he finds a true companion in Heer, an ebullient girl of crazy desires which she wishes to quench before her to- be- held arranged marriage. Jordan, a nickname given by her becomes Janardhan’s identity, his signature in his music career.

Throughout this film, one can find various forms of pain. The malaise of girl friend’s marriage, the piercing pain inbuilt in Sufi songs, the pain to lose his lady love for the second time, physical pain of being beaten down… the pain which drives Jordan into the passion towards creative endeavor.  Jordan who cannot imitate others paves his own way. But later, this pain comes out as such a popular music; even his loud shriek will be followed by the applause of a crowd.

Beyond his eccentricities which make his fans crazy and a media crowd around him, Jordan lives in his own world, where he bothers about no worldly affairs.

Amid all his films, Rockstar serves as Ranbir Kapoor’s extraordinary masterpiece which proves him as an established actor. Jordan, who discovers the sound of guitar in his girl’s physique, whose fingers play the tunes of guitar in air when he hears a rockband, finds the right stage to emulsify his talent and his love for music even in the brothel.

Imtiaz Ali’s tact of storytelling has given the film an ardent touch of earnestness. The same story would be plain if the editing (Aarati Bajaj) didn’t supported the film so well.

A.R. Rahman’s music and background chore plays complementary to the screenplay; Mohit Chavan’s vocal is a cherry on its top.


Paan Singh Tomar- a worth watch

19 Nov

“Saab, hamen toh choutwa kaksha fail hai. Abhi hum toh kitab kum aadmi zyada pada hai.. (I have not even completed fourth standard Sir, I have read people more than books)” says Paan Singh to one of the senior Army official. The same words prove him wrong in many of his life circumstances throughout.

Paan Singh Tomar, a film directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia showcases the life of an athlete who had verve and who deserved a high place in the society, but was declined of it by negligence. Paan Singh, an innocent and enthusiastic young man who changes his victory path from military to sports just to suffice his passion for good food will not be aware of the gusto in him until his coach discovers it. If a wild beast in him was not invoked by negative elements of his surroundings, this genius of zany humor would have contributed as a retrospective to Indian sports.

But his sportsman spirit was ruined for no cause. The film shows how ignorance may light up a fire in a spotless identity. His words “Hum ko dhar naiy; Jaan dunga magar surrender nahi karunga” (I have no fear. I would rather perish than to surrender)” reflects his audacity towards the putrid system.

It is true that the anti- social elements are celebrated in the media. It is human tendency to gape at something negative, at something which creates discomfort to mankind. But at the same time, when someone wins a high honor by his own effort, the community is least bothered. Same thing happens in case of Paan Singh too. Once, frustrated, he points his name in media with dejection where he was made popular overnight as a dacoit.

The film is all set to exhibit Paan Singh. So the other characters appear to be namesake sometimes. Irrfan has ones again proved his stamina as an actor of international caliber. Mahi Gill deserves applause.

Spark Scenes

  • A police inspector throws away Paan Singh’s gold medal in anger. When Paan picks it from the floor, the faded medal reflects to demonstrate futility.
  • The last scene, when Paan Singh recalls his golden days, he recalls a lovely Japanese fan of his, calling him in her own accent. This holds the audience in grief.
  • Paan Singh asks his fellowman to switch off the radio, his eyes filled with distress.
  • Paan Singh visits his coach’s house to collect his photographs. But realizing the lacuna of times, he quits the pseudo attempt to recall his past self into which he would never return. He leaves the photograph in the album itself.

And many more.. A film worth a watch.



New light into Brothels

5 Nov

‘Born into Brothels’ is a documentary by Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski, focused on saplings of prostitutes who work in brothels and red light areas of Calcutta. It is an Academy award winning documentary produced in 2004.

Zana Briski selects eight children living in Brothels with their mothers. The children were almost ‘used to’ that environment, they washed clothes and utensils and go to play when their mothers were busy in earning bread. Their vision about brothels has become so casual, one of the girl Suchitra answers very coolly to the question of her aunt, “When you decided to join the line?”

Zana conducts a photography campaign for these eight children, Avijit, Manik, Puja, Shanti, Gour, Tapasi, Suchitra and Kochi. ‘Camera’ becomes most attractive source among the children. The purpose of Zana was to understand how the world looks like to these children.

She first shows some photos and asks the children to pick their favorite photo. Then she hands over the camera to the children and asks them to click few interesting ones.

Zana discovers unique sight of children grown up in brothels. They suffer from high insecurity and that was reflected in the photos clicked by them. They were taken to the Zoo and admitted to a schooling belonging to a Christian Missionary. Zana and Ross Kauffman brought them out from brothels and were shifted to hostels during the campaign.

This documentary also focuses on success of their project of bringing the children out of the brothels. Avijit, Gour. Tapasi and Kochi aims to join school whereas Manik, Puja, Shanti and Suchitra are still living in their houses hoping to come out.

I must say that the documentary is all about swimming against all odds and almost hoping against the lost hope!

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