ITR-1 (every salaried Indian must-read)

Rating 5/5

So its the end of July, tax time again. No time to do anything other than work (and a few movies). This period is especially a pain for me as I have to file 3 tax returns, my parent’s as well as mine. Also I actually need to pay tax for dad before filing.

So there I was hoping, nay praying, for the last date to get extended, which it has for every year I have filed so far, which should be proof enough about the benefits of (beseechful) prayer to all you non-believers (let that be another blog post)!

Finally with one week to go, I went hunting for a tax consultant, who regularly extracts about 150 bucks per filing, to file my families taxes. It is only through providence and equally lazy colleagues that I stumbled across

The one stop shop for all your filing needs. Everything on one website, get your pan details, pay taxes, submit your returns.

The only thing I had issues with is that they dont have a tie-up with HSBC, so you need an account with an Indian bank to pay online, luckily I had an unused bank account with HDFC.

Anyway at the end of it all, I can say I am quite happy with the experience and I have also managed to save 300Rs! (I had to pay the tax consultant to calculate Dads tax), guess that calls for one more movie!


The Golden Compass (2007)

Rating 4/5

The Golden compass is a fantasy, adventure movie with interesting settings and nice graphics. This is one movie I really wish I had seen on the big screen, sadly had to make do with 21 inches :-(.

The story is set in a parallel galaxy to ours where a persons soul runs alongside him as an animal. The soul of a person keeps changing until adult-hood after which it settles on a particular form. The soul acts as ones inner self, giving ideas, suggestions or just plain companionship. If the Soul is harmed, so is the person and vice-versa.

The “Magisterium” is a religio-political group who control the whole world through indoctrination in various forms. They are the villians. Their major worry is that ancient knowledge of a substance called “dust” will cause people to doubt their teachings, causing a revolutionary uprising.

Lord Asriel(Daniel Craig) has discovered a possible source of “dust” and is planning a journey there to study it in more detail. Enroute he visits his ward Lyra, to inform her of his plans and hand over an ancient relic, a golden compass, for safe keeping. Lyra, the heroine of the movie, is a courageous young girl with a very biting temper.

The magisterium learns of Lord Asriels plans and wishes to keep tabs on him. To do this they try to woo Lyra, but they soon learn that Lyra is not about to fall for any of their advances. Lyra escapes from their clutches only to fall into more adventures on her way to warn Lord Asriel.

The “souls” have been flawlessly rendered and their interaction with the other characters is very real. Apart from the souls there are other characters also computer generated and each is done with the same level of reality, a special mention must be given to the armoured bears. The eye candy does not stop there though, the sets of the movie are just awesome and convey a very picturesque view of the world.

Dakota Blue Richards (Lyra) does a fantastic job as Lyra. Her character is always full of life and full of surprises and this comes out amazingly in Richard’s rendition. Other stunning performances by Nicole Kidman and the armoured bears make the movie a real nice watch.

The only thing I have against this movie is that its too short. Many details of the worlds are neglected due to the paucity of time, and one gets the feeling of watching the world through the windows of a moving train. The ending of the movie is very abrupt which points to an editors “Timeover” cut. Finally, when the movie finishes the narrative feels like it is just about to start, with the whole movie being just the epilogue. I am waiting for the sequels to come out, but from what I have read, there doesnt seem much chance of that happeneing! I think the only hope I have is to buy the book, which I plan to.

Pachelbels canon

In the end when things go right, when families are reunited, when hope triumphs over despair, when the future generations are being shown as successful, during periods of happiness, prosperity or growth shown as images with musical accompaniment, you will probably hear this tune

This is one of the more famous (they say, <I just found out about it>) classical pieces, found in movies as background music. I came across this particular piece by accident while reading about Ruby Why’s poignant guide to Ruby (another fascinating confusion which I will try and review when I finish it).

What strikes me or struck me, is that this particular tune is one I have heard before on many occasions. The image of Pierce Brosnan pops up when I hear this (I dont know why, but I think its from repeated usage of this in the soundtrack of remington steele), I cant place which movie exactly, but its there!

A Fish called Wanda (1988)

Rating 2.5/5 passable (you will sit and giggle)

A silly slapstick movie written by “our Lord” John Cleese :-). Funny in parts, terribly vulgar and completely bonkers. It really is of the level of the Monty python movies. I never really liked Monty python, but you end up giggling through all of it because the situations are just so Bizarre. There are a few laugh-out-loud moments  and the characters are completely daft. In conformance with Monty-Python it spends 80% of its time making fun of the British and the Americans.

Definitely NOT a family movie, you cannot take  your family along.

Acting is all Monty-Python level, no trying to display human feelings and emotions, its all just being as outrageous possible, while remembering the script. If you are looking for a thinking movie, strike this out immediately.

A good watch on a boring sunday evening with nothing else to do. Unless of-course if you are a monty-python fan, in which case it becomes the movie to call the guys together on friday night and dont forget the strippers :-).

Kim (Rudyard Kipling)

Rating 5/5 superb.

I was reading a collection of short stories by Ruskin Bond by the name “Delhi is not far”, when I came across an adulatory piece, venerating Rudyard Kipling. I, ofcourse, had heard of Rudyard Kipling as the author of “The Jungle Book”, but had never read any of his works, being satisfied with Walt Disney’s interpretation of the same. The adulation heaped on Kipling by Bond, to the effect of dedicating a short story to him, peaked my interest in Kipling’s works. The same evening I hopped over to Crossword to begin my collection. I got hold of 2 books, “The Jungle Books” and “Kim”. This is a review of “Kim”.

Kim is the name of our Protagonist, a child of a British sahib, who is orphaned at birth and handed over to an Indian Maid Servant with instructions (in the form of a sheet of paper) to send the boy to a (British) government run boarding school. The maid servant makes the paper into a pendant to hang around the childs neck, thinking it to be a charm, like those the Babaji’s write and place in metal containers to ward away evil spirits. Thus Kim begins his life on the streets as a beggar. The second of our heroes is a Lama (Monk) from Nepal who is in search of a sacred river, which is said to have sprung from the ground where the Buddha had pierced it with an arrow. The Lama meets Kim on his search, and Kim becomes his Chela (student, learns from the teacher, while looking after the teachers needs, like begging for food etc). Kim is partially driven out of concern for the Lama who is too innocent for the hardships of an indian beggar and partially to learn the secret of the pendant that hangs around his neck. The Lama is in search of his river, but also feels it is his duty to train Kim on the true path.

Throughout the narrative Kipling shows the depth of his knowledge of the Indian people, their customs, their beliefs and superstitions. Every page is filled with colourful characters that breath life into the narrative and each character is coloured with Indian idiosyncrasies and beliefs. The British Raj is described as well in all its contradictory glory. On the one hand the Englishman towers above the natives controlling them by their superstitions, but on the other hand he cannot survive without their sincerity, kindness and faith.

Amid all the chaos and cacophony of the British Raj, the central story of a boys growth into a man and the fruition of an old mans faith, is treated with utmost tenderness. Ultimately this tenderness transforms into a deep love in the heart of the reader. A love for the holy man, so innocent but determined and a love for Kim, who is pulled in all directions by his environment, but is unwilling to abandon his holy man.

Salt (2010)

Rating 3/5 a good watch.

If you are looking for a movie to get your blood racing, this will definitely find its place in your list. The overall storyline is not really fair to the viewer and is a bit like the murder mysteries of old, where the key piece of evidence is kept away from the reader, until the very end. What keeps it from my list of top10 thrillers is the fact that there are no scenes where doubt is planted ,meant to be missed by the viewer. To explain, consider Night Shyamalan’s “sixth sense” where throughout the movie, nobody (except the boy) actually talks to the hero or even confirms his presence, the truth is in plain sight but no-one catches it. In this movie the actors act as if the present storyline (the false red herring) is indeed the truth, with no slips or any clues left behind. The action sequences are nicely done, and the music is superb. No oscars for the acting here though, atleast not from me.

The Girl with the dragon Tatoo (The Millenium trilogy)

Rating: 4/5

This is a murder-mystery-thriller somewhat on the lines of “bones”. The storyline though not unique is handled very well and is very well grounded. The narrative is fast-paced and touches a number of topics on its journey to its ultimate end. Its quite an old book and its “fantastic” descriptions of the internet and its power, for example the holy-grail-like-handling of the word “Hacker”, seem a little corny in the present day, but it presents a nice picture of how the internet was perceived in those days.

What stands out in this novel is the number of interesting characters and their depth. From the journalist to the private investigator to the “suspects”, each character has been well fleshed out and presented.

I really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to the rest of the series.