Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Race by Richard North Patterson

With his latest novel 'The Race', Richard North Patterson takes another firm step away from the regular legal thrillers that his fans have been used to. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing, as his previous novel 'Exile', and this novel prove. This time, Patterson takes on an election year in USA, and takes us through a realistic presidential campaign, with such myriad issues as gay marriage, abortion, stem-cell research, and of course, racism.

Corey Grace is a Republican, but an outspoken one at that, and not afraid to speak his mind - like our own Muthalvan (Nayak). He's that rare breed - a politician with integrity, and his advisors fear that it could be his greatest liability as well. Matching wits against the other candidates - an unscrupulous career politician, and a religious fanatic - is not Corey's only headache; he is also incredibly attracted to an African-American movie actress, which is a sure way of polarizing votes. The grueling campaign is extremely well captured, and along the way the author also raises relevant questions on religion, racism, politics and other issues.

How I wish that such books were adapted as movies for the Indian audience. This one has everything in it - drama, passion, betrayal, love and triumph of the human spirit. Needless to add, its an extremely well written book, and I just cannot wait for the author's next.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Book Post

Its been ages since I did a post on books - have been pretty busy of late, hopefully only until the end of 2007. Anyway, here's some of the stuff that I have been reading of late:

Andrew Vachss: The inept website notwithstanding, here is a fine author who would be a dead-sure certainty for those who like the work of Michael Connelly. I am still in the process of completing the Burke series, but there is no doubt in my mind that here is an author whose books I want to buy and read repeatedly. Burke (the word burke is slang for 'killing silently/without leaving evidence', as an audio clip on the website informs you) comes with a deeply scarred past, and today he lives only for his family - and to protect abused children. Each of the novels opens up only a tiny bit of Burke, merely hinting at the rest ever so tantalizingly. Vachss puts it best:

I intended the book as a Trojan horse. A crime novel that pulls the reader into the story at the same time it delivers a steady diet of hardcore reality... Even the name "Burke" is part of that. The infamously homicidal partnership of Burke and Hare began as a graverobbing enterprise. In the early part of the nineteenth century, the duo supplied the local medical school with fresh cadavers. When they finally emptied the graveyard, they began to create their own "product," by opening a hotel. Very few guests checked out. Because they could not present a corpse with fresh wounds to the medical school, Burke became so adept at killing without leaving marks that, to this day, the phrase "to Burke" means just that.

Sandra Dallas: I have read just one novel of hers, 'Tallgrass', which suffers from a definite Atticus Finch hangover, but is an engrossing read nevertheless. I plan to read more from this author, will keep you posted when I do.

David Ellis: Since Grisham seems to have given up on legal thrillers in the hopes of becoming a more serious writer nowadays, and I have exhausted the likes of Steve Martini, Scott Turow and Brian O'Shaugnessy long ago, I had to really search for a new author. I appear to have found a good one in David Ellis. His 'Line of Vision' is as good a thriller as anything else you have read, and his 'Jury of One' is on my bookshelf right now.

Cody MacFayden: I know I wrote about this author before, but I find myself wishing for another novel featuring Smoky Barrett, despite 'Face of Death' not being a patch on the first installment of the series 'Shadow Man'. Smoky Barrett (whoa, what a name!!) is, I imagine, what Clarice Starling would have been if she had never been touched by Hannibal Lecter.

Richard North Patterson: He falls under the category of authors I had mentioned earlier, who seem to have given up gritty courthouse dramas for a 'higher calling'. Well, if it results in novels like 'Exile', I can only be thankful. This giant of a book deals with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in an unbiased manner, and is often an eye-opener (at least for me). Most of all, this book espouses the adage 'One man's revolutionary is another's terrorist' in a pretty convincing manner.

Chris Bohjalian: Am currently reading 'Midwives', my first book by the author. It certainly is an interesting read so far, and the author promises to be another whose collection of books I just have to read.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Sideburns and Bellbottoms

'Om Shanti Om', widely touted as the tribute to the kitschy cinema of the 1970s, features the re-union of SRK and Farah Khan after the hugely successful 'Main Hoon Naa'. SRK, a lot like Sreenivasan in 'Udayananu Tharam', plays a supremely untalented junior artist who wants to make it big. And make no mistake, this is a role tailor-made for the trademark mannerisms of SRK the star (as opposed to the actor, who reigned supreme with effective performances in 'Swades' and 'Chak De') - the stammer, the arched quirky eyebrows and the omnipresent hamming rather make sense in a movie like this, really. And his bubblegum-chewing modern star-son act, though irritating, hits the mark all too well - I mean, I can all too well imagine a Fardeen Khan or Tushaar Kapoor doing the same things!

However, I have to admit that I very much preferred the cheeky 'Main Hoon Naa' to this bloated, bursting-at-the-seams star vehicle. Yes, OSO does have some great in jokes (my personal favorites are the by-now-infamous Manoj Kumar sequence, the throwaway Govinda bit and of course the delightful 'Maine Pyar Kiya' reference), the awesome spoof on Filmfare awards, and also features
the original 'Om Shanti Om' song sequence from one of the greatest masala potboilers of Hindi cinema ever. However, it also has a rather boring plot, inadequate music (despite the catchy six-pack ditty), an over-hyped 31-star song where one is forced to hear (for the first and probably only time ) admiring oohs when the likes of Arbaaz Khan, Sunil Shetty, Dino Morea etc enter the frame, and worst of all, a complete letdown of a climax 'inspired' from the above-mentioned 'Karz' (and another classic too, revealing the name of which would probably spoil what little novelty the climaz holds). 'MHN' managed to pay the same kind of homage, with a lot more tongue-firmly-in-cheek humor, and more importantly, without the conceit and pomp associated with this film.

The supporting cast comprises chiefly of the delightful Kiron Kher (who does the melodramatic Nirupa Roy kind-of role with just that amount of cheesiness), the under-utilized Shreyas Deshpande, and the surprisingly-sleazy-looking Arjun Ramphal (who, judging by his past few films, has firmly hitched onto the SRK bandwagon to make hay even while the sun does not shine). Deepika Padukone looks fantastic, and emotes well with what little she is entrusted with. Farah Khan's song picturizations are, surprisingly, lackluster. She has been claiming in quite a few interviews that conventional Bollywood choreography bores her nowadays, and believe me, the dis-interest shows. However, the rest of the film is super-grand technically, visually and aesthetically.

What does Farah Khan do next, though? She already has two films that pay homage to the bygone era of Bollywood, and appears to have exhausted the nostalgia factor. The litmus test for her would be whether she can make a completely different film next time - a whodunit perhaps?

Thoovanathumbikal: Poetry on Celluloid

Recently, I came across a beautiful piece on one of Padmarajan's oft discussed 'Thoovanathumbikal' on the Passion for Cinema blog. As the writer puts it, this is most definitely a movie that grows on you - disturbed characters, the use of symbols, and most of all, the loneliness that is the mark of the three principal characters make for some really compelling cinema. Indeed, there are not many directors who can convert literature to cinema so convincingly.

Here is the link to the piece - its worth your while. And this is something that I wrote last year about my favorite Padmarajan movies.