Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Film review: HER – so painfully real!

From net India Today ePage, Film review. See below
Man’s sense of loneliness can be defined by not what he feels inside, but the environment in which he lives.

Born a social animal, the world he has inherited, is one where the term social has evolved to give new meanings. Be it machinery, technology or human beings, social interaction and communication has withstood time to make itself available to engage in new ways, one never thought one could.

‘Her’ is a story that lends itself to what urban human life has become, as the years go by. It builds on what has been happening in the last two or more decades, as the internet has grown to occupy our lives in more than hundred ways. Although the film, is a Science Fiction, and is set in 2025, the reel realities are real today.

Theodore Twombly, recently divorced from his long term relationship with his wife is coming to terms slowly with his life as a single man. For company he is naturally engaged with his handy, through which he is able to meet women, who are able to keep him entertained emotionally and sexually, as a pastime, until a very brilliant OS system takes over his life. The Smart Operating System is voice and emotion sensitive and responds to Theodore as Samantha. An inanimate OS, now speaking, talking, laughing, loving, indeed, even making love, to Theodore, slowly drives away the blues with constant company, sensitive care and being there all the time – only thing is, it is an Operating System and not a real girl of flesh and bone.

Theodore is rather adjusted now, but can happiness last for life? Sadly, the OS is soon outdated and is getting junked and hence, his companion, Samantha, too, will have to go.

Delivered a double whammy, Theodore turns to his real life friend, who has herself just been dumped by her boyfriend. The two rejected souls, both human, are now going to get together, thank god, in flesh and blood, with challenging emotions and real relationships.

On the one hand, ‘Her’, brings to reality, the condition of the human being. When family and friends have been replaced by virtual ones, the world of friends and acquaintances have truly grown large and yet, not one, is here to touch and feel; it is you and you alone, who has a relation with these virtual community and whatever emotions have to be exchanged, it is you and your imagination only that makes it possible.

Here lies a great barrenness of being – the loneliness of being one, you, yourself and your truth only. Nobody can challenge that; it is yours as long as you sustain it, it is gone when you don’t. No one will cajole you to stay, be there. No one will miss you; nor anyone think of you, except you, yourself.

But on the flip side, there is a story that fits our times, when human relationships have become like instant coffee. Once drained out, and the coffee finished, so is the relationship. The virtual world provides the only escape from the frequent gains and losses, the landscape of a life so hurried that even love, or love making at long languid afternoons, or through the night, is just not a luxury the fast moving, multi-tasking modern, masses in urban cities can afford any more.

So, is virtual, telephonic sex, the way forward? Like it or not, when time and space are not available, and the leisure of a slowly simmering love, warming up the heart and flesh is hard to come by, the sultry voice that guides you to your climax at the same time, filling your ears with the hard breathing of the sound of an orgasm, is far better than wallowing in a life all by yourself.

Director Spike Jones, has made a good attempt to bring out the acute loneliness of our times, at the same time, placing the possibilities before the viewer, but finishing with the triumph of the human spirit that bond in flesh and blood.

You are left with a choice; take what best suits you, naturally.

See it; feel it; do it!

Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore Twombly
Amy Adams as Amy
Rooney Mara as Catherine
Olivia Wilde as Amelia
Scarlett Johansson as Samantha (voice)
Chris Pratt as Paul
Matt Letscher as Charles
Sam Jaeger as Dr. Johnson
Luka Jones as Mark Lewman
Kristen Wiig as Sexy Kitten (voice)
Bill Hader as Chat Room Friend #2 (voice)
Spike Jonze as Alien Child (voice, credited as Adam Spiegel)
Portia Doubleday as Surrogate Date Isabella
Soko as Isabella (voice)
Brian Cox as Alan Watts (voice)

Read another review written by Aekta Kapoor:

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Book review: Time out with Teatime for the Firefly by Shona Patel

Shona Patel’s debut novel, Teatime with the Firefly, makes for an interesting read for die-hard fans of romance in 1940s, among elite, well educated, Oxford or Cambridge returned Bengalis.

Layla Deb, born under the unlucky star is orphaned early in life with the death of her parents. Her maternal aunt and uncle, Mima, takes Layla under her wing and Dadamoshai, who plays a pivotal role in the book, takes charge of Layla thereafter. Layla’s life finds wings as an able, educated girl, helping her, Dadamoshai, who is himself a London-returned, highly educated retired barrister, run, his village school, for girls in Silchar, a small town in the far northeast part of India.  In the meantime, Layla is has also received private tutorship from English teacher, Miss Thompson, who patiently tutors willing students, the Queen’s English, with all its emphasis on the where, when, what, why,  holding the palm, six inches away from the mouth. Needless to say, Layla has been a good student and even the English ladies she will meet in the tea gardens later on, are pleasantly surprised that Indians speak such good English!

Not so perfect, with her Ingliiish, Layla’s nieghbour, Konica, short name, Kona, is bigilee, tryiiinj, to brush up her English, in order to be ready to marry, the handsome, and of course, the Oxford returned Manik Deb who is going to join the upper crust Indian in British administrative services, after having been engaged to her, for six years.  That is of course, if cupid had not struck an arrow through two hearts – Laylas’ and Maniks’. Much to everyone’s surprise and the Kano family disgrace, our protagonist decides to join the tea garden working as assistant manager, instead of pursuing what he set out to do in the first place. A series of letters flow, between the two, lovers, Layla and Manik, over three years, a mandatory period to be observed without marital commitment, for all people, employed by British Tea Companies head quartered in Calcutta or England.

The letters get intimate even as, Kona’s father, distraught and angered and feeling betrayed, quickly manages to find her a good, affluent Bengali family to which he is happy to get his daughter married. Neither he, nor Dadamoshai are in the know as to why, a sane Manik Deb, Rhodes Scholar, Oxford, should take such an eccentric step as to go join a tea garden, Aynakhal T.E. The beautiful intellectual romance between the two, finally culminates into marriage and Layla joins her husband in the tea estate spending time among tea garden English ladies, Planter’s Club, evening high tea, needle work, knitting, gardening, baking, bearers, Ayahs and hoards of servants. She is happy to see her husband display his managerial qualities, but dreads the lust he has for her after marriage, fearing of course the first night! It takes a hornet’s bite between her breasts to initiate the sex between the couple. Thereafter, Layla joins her hungry husband to an assortment of surprising love-making in often unpredictable places, giving the romance a character of its own! Together with this, she however, has to cope with the world of bats, snakes, tigers, leopards, and all that comes with wildlife in the jungles of Assam. She lives and she learns.

In the background of all this, the slow growth of trade unionism, the oncoming Indian independence, the riots between Hindus and Muslims, Layla gives birth to their first child. Within days of her birth, Manik Deb nearly loses his life. It is at this moment, and as the book closes, that Layla, proves her love for her husband, over everything else.

The book fulfills another purpose for those with a leaning towards, anthropology. ‘Laahe – laahe,’ slowly, slowly, like a boat ferrying across the water of time, the reader is bound to love the experience of tea gardens in British India with time out with Teatime for the Firefly.

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA, 225, Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario M3B 3K9, Canada
Title: Teatime for the Firefly
Author: Shona Patel
Pages: 427
Price: Rs 299

About the author: Shona Patel, 52, did her English Honours from Kolkata University and lives in Arizona, US, with her husband. She is a trained graphic designer and has won several awards for creative writing. Teatime with the Firefly is her debut novel. Presently, she is working on her second novel.

First published in The Hindu Literary Riview

Author interview in The Shillong Times