Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: A Roundup

If you have a blog and you don't compile a Best of Year list, they revoke your account, report you to the nearest police station and send you a DVD of Neal 'n' Nikki. Now, much as I am a fan of Uday Chopra, I don't think I can do without a blog. Hence, here goes... 
My lists of some of my favourite things of the year. They are not the best. They are not the most popular. They are simply the ones I felt happiest after reading. 

Last year (2012), I promised myself that I would read 48 books and ended up reading less than 30. This year, I took a GoodReads Challenge of 52 books and I am happy to report a 110% achievement. (All my ex-bosses are muttering under their breath, "Saale ne sales target toh kabhi kiya nahin tha...")
Okay, all you pedants - the GoodReads list shows only 51 books because six books (and some very good ones too!) are not listed on the site yet. 
From the many worthies, here are my favourite five books of the year. (Cheated a bit to sneak one extra one in.)
5. Behind The Silicon Mask - Eshwar Sundaresan 
A great thriller, set in Milwaukee where a serial killer is targeting immigrants while a group of Indian software engineers go about their daily life. Edge-of-the-seat tension and very real views of the techie life in USA merge seamlessly to create a very strong debut novel. And oh - the real life parallels of the software company and its founder are very amusing. 

5. Bongpen - Tanmay Mukherjee 
His blog, his Twitter feed are to my regular corporate life what a dab of Boroline is to the cheek after a rough shave. This book is a slim one - a collection of some of the best pieces from his blog, with some new material added on. It is a delightful, keep-on-the-bedside-table-read-when-you-feel-like book. I hope to read a lot more of Tanmay in the coming years, online and offline. 

4. Hatching Twitter - Nick Bilton 
Hatching Twitter is a thrilling read as well as an informative one. Midway through it, I realised that of the four founders, one was a lot like me. When I was almost through, I realised the founder I was rooting for was not the one who was similar to me. I have read (and hated) many business/self-improvement books but none of them pointed out my own shortcomings as well as this one did. 
Also, I got to know that two of my favourite websites - Blogger and Twitter - were incubated by the same person's company. Ev Williams, you are my hero.

3. Flashback - Avijit Ghosh, Srijana Mitra Das, Sharmistha Gooptu
A compilation of the various articles on cinema from The Times Of India, this book is a great archive with a great perspective. From Tanuja to Tanisha, from Rajinikanth to Uttam Kumar, from Raj Kapoor to Ranbir Kapoor, it has it all and it is luscious.  
(And compiled by three Bengalis, FTW!)

2. In the Company of a Poet - Nasreen Munni Kabir & Gulzar 
When Gulzar stars talking to a film historian on his life and times, you just pray the conversation never ends. Gulzar talks about his films, his lyrics, his life, his father, his daughter with the clarity and sensitivity we have become accustomed to. 

1. The Cuckoo's Calling - Robert Galbraith 
An one-legged detective, recovering from a bad relationship. An assistant whose fiance doesn't want her to waste her time with the detective. A supermodel dabbling in sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. And the supermodel's dysfunctional family. One second, this is a detective novel - you said? Well, it is. And if you haven't read it already, you must do so right now. 

This was a relatively lean year for me at the movies though I liked pretty much everything I saw. I even enjoyed watching my son watching Chennai Express. But the films I just loved this year are: 

5. Raanjhanaa
Kill me, sue me, ex-communicate me. But I enjoyed this trivial tale of romance and retribution just too much. Maybe it was Banaras. Maybe it was the East UP panache. Maybe it was AR Rehman's soaring music. Maybe it was the heroine who was also the villain. Maybe it was Dhanush. 
Why I loved Raanjhanaa was illogical but then, that's what love is all about. 

4. Fukrey
This has got to be the most under-rated of 2013's films. I feel that Fukrey is going to be a cult film of the generation, for the oh-so-real people who populated its script. Four wastrels trying to leak exam papers and play roadside matka games touched a chord because I knew these guys. Unlike the lead characters of Raanjhana whom I didn't know, I had met each of the lead characters of Fukrey. Who knows, I might have been one of them even. 

3. Bombay Talkies
When four - okay, three - of my favourite filmmakers got together to make a film celebrating hundred years of cinema, I had mentally placed this at the number one slot anyway. It did not turn out to be as fantabulous as I hoped but it was a wonderful piece of memorabilia anyway. 
And Dibakar Banerjee's film is the best short film in the history of Hindi cinema. I will kill you if you disagree. 

2. The Lunchbox
If I told you in Jan 2013 that in a film starring Irrfan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, the best performance will be by a newcomer, you would have laughed - right? But Nimrat Kaur - sigh. 
There are so many people punching logical holes in The Lunchbox and generally agreeing that it is not Oscar material. But fellow 90s fans, pause and tell me this - if the hero's name is Saajan and you are the director, what song would you choose for the soundtrack? Yes, correct
And Nimrat Kaur - sigh. 

1. Kai Po Che 
After a lot of deliberations, I realised this is the film I loved the most while watching and would love to watch the maximum times in the coming years. The setting was perfect. The friends were perfect. The soundtrack - oh, the soundtrack - was perfect. And as realists cribbed, even the ending was perfect. But what would you rather see? Rioters being given clean chits and Muslim boys getting slaughtered in riots? 

Overall, 2013 turned out to be decent for me. 
Apart from work, I managed to meet a lot of cool people, do a lot of cool stuff - much of which will hopefully be presented to you in the not-so-distant future. That means, 2014 is also looking quite good and hopeful too. And in these troubled times, that is never a bad thing. 

Wish all of you a great 2014! 


Mukesh said...

Nice post, once again!
Have been reading your blog for some time now, though commenting for the first time...
By the way, if a book is not listed on Goodreads, you can always add it on your own, with all the details.

Moloy said...

About 2013, how could you miss Lootera? The rest are, of course, acceptable in the list.

Sreemoyee Mukherjee said...

Hi Diptakirti,
Have been reading your blog and books for many years now, somehow I love your posts on books more than films. (Yes, Dibakar Banerjee's short film is the best in the history of Indian cinema!!)
Since you are avid reader, I would request you to read either of below books (maybe you have read already) which are on the mystery of disappearance of Netaji. These are the best books currently in the market, no less than any fictional thriller, and the author's research is tremendous and deserves appreciation.. since you have many followers as well, spreading the word on the truth about this great Indian mystery would be helpful to the cause..
India's Biggest Cover Up by Anuj Dhar
or No Secrets by Anuj Dhar (kinda shorter version of the first book for not-so-avid readers)
Happy New Year!!

Parama Ghosh said...

Your lists are lovely. The movie list specially. For Lootera, I am tempted to share a review I read by Happily Unmarried. Acc. to them, Lootera was like a restaurant with lovely cutlery and horrible food. Couldn't agree more. It was like Kangana Ranawat. Beautiful to look at...but totally useless and boring.
Please read Anuj Dhar. Ami chharao dekho aro loke bolche.