Thursday, December 24, 2015


After five years, I am starting a new year without a book to be written.
To gainfully (?) employ my late nights, I am starting the 100 Movie Pact (inspired by my wife’s Saree Pact in 2015) with which I also hope to revive my comatose blog.

In some of my best movie-watching years, I have crossed the 200 count and thought nothing of it. However, in the present scheme of things, hundred seems to be a fairly steep target and I will have to judiciously add Pixar/Marvel to the mix in order to get to the number.

Also, I have listed down some criteria to make the #100MoviePact a little more than turning up at the nearest multiplex twice a week.

Here they are:
  • Will write a minimum of hundred words about each of the films I watch. These will not (necessarily) be reviews but a random collection of thoughts during the viewings. 
  • Will only include first-watch movies. Repeat viewings won’t be included in the count.
  • Will watch at least five movies as part of film festival(s).
  • Will watch at least five first-day-first-shows. (This is likely to be the toughest to get to.)
  • Will watch movies in at least three different cities.
  • Will watch the movies with not more than one break. This also means TV movies don’t count, unless I record them and watch in one go.
  • Will watch at least 50% of the movies in languages other than Hindi and English.
I have kicked off the project by ordering DVDs of Court, Masaan and the Criterion edition of the restored Apu Trilogy. Goes perfectly with my plan of bringing in non-Hindi, non-mainstream films into the mix.

I will start the #100MoviePact on 1st January, 2016.
If you also love watching movies, join in…

(Leave a comment on the post if you are planning to take this up as well. Would be good to exchange notes, share thoughts and talk movies!)

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Shelf Esteem: On Books in The Times of India

Recently, the good people of Times of India Bangalore asked me to answer some fun questions on books for a weekly column of theirs called 'Shelf Esteem' (ha ha, whatay pun). It was a listy kind of thing and everyone knows where I stand on lists. I promptly filled in the answers and they appeared yesterday, causing much joy among my friends and relatives. (Don't think anyone else read it!)

Since my long answers to the questions ensured that all of what I wrote could not fit in their compact column, here is the full questionnaire. 

Read it and then answer these questions for yourselves! 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

What are you reading right now?
Toggling between two books – an old favourite (Jeffrey Archer’s The Prodigal Daughter) and a new one (Salman Rushdie’s Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights). The first one is still as enjoyable and the second one may just become my favourite Rushdie novel.

Which book, author or series do you reach out for when you want a comfort read?
Satyajit Ray’s delightful Feluda and Professor Shonku stories – that were my staple reading as a child – still come to my rescue. Several other Bengali authors – Rajsekhar Basu, Lila Majumdar, Narayan Gangopadhyay – are great sources of comfort.
Ramachandra Guha’s cricket books, Mental Floss’ trivia books and Roger Ebert’s movies reviews are books I keep coming back to. 

Name one book you picked up at the airport that blew your mind.
Many years ago, the bookshop attendant at Calcutta airport recommended a book (that turned out to be the third in a series) – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I was hooked from the first page and when I landed in Patna an hour later, I walked across to the Departure section and bought Books One and Two. Finished all three books over two sleepless nights and have been a JKR-devotee ever since.

Who are your favou​rite contemporary writers, and your favourite writers of all time?
​​Contemporary: Amitav Ghose, JK Rowling, Gillian Flynn among the celebrities. Arnab Ray and Sidin Vadukut among the young writers.
All-time: Apart from the ones named in the ‘comfort books’ list, Saradindu Bandopadhyay (creator of Byomkesh Bakshi), Bill Watterson, Douglas Adams, Bill Bryson are all-time favourites.

Which was the last book that made you laugh?
Sahil Rizwan aka The Vigil Idiot came up with a full book of his trademark retelling of iconic Bollywood movies earlier this year – 42 Lessons I Learnt From Bollywood. It was the kind of book that made you choke on snacks and spill water all over yourself with its zany brand of humour.

Name one book you wish everybody would ​​read.
(Would it be too much self-publicity to plug one of my books here? Oh yes, it will be!)
I wish all of India would read Sunil Gangopadhyay’s Shei Samay (translated in English as Those Days), a stunning piece of historical fiction based in the times of the Bengal Renaissance. It is an example of how rich regional literature in India actually is. Also, how popularity and quality can coexist in the same book.

Which was the last book you just couldn't finish?
By and large, I finish books. A recent book that took the most effort to finish was Pranab Mukherjee’s autobiography. His sincerity and scholarship are in no doubt but he chose to concentrate on the minutiae of Congress governments and the Gandhi family.

Name one book that is on m​​ost must-read lists but you haven’t cracked a page.
I just could not go beyond the first chapter of Shantaram. The exotic India from the POV of exotic foreigner did nothing for me. I had started reading it when I heard of a Mira Nair film on the book starring Amitabh Bachchan. I remember wondering that it would all of their considerable talents to swing this book into a worthwhile film. Thank God the film got shelved!

If you had to get the PM of India to read one book, which one would it be?
The Complete Yes Prime Minister (by Jonathan Lynn and Anthony Jay). While at it, I should get him to send copies of Yes Minister to his Cabinet colleagues.

Are you a book hoarder or do you read every book you buy?
Unfair question to ask after forcing me to name two books I could not finish/start! But I am a book reader, I read pretty much everything that I buy.