Are crime biopics overrated?

‘Baniye ka dimag aur miyan bhai ki daring’ – lines from movie Raees

The movie audiences were literally emotional when Shahrukh Khan is shot down in a police encounter in movie ‘Raees’. Raees was inspired by an infamous bootlegger in Gujarat who was shot down by cops in 90’s. For the poor, Raees is no less than Robinhood. Ironically in the police files, he is the most dreaded public enemy. Audience whistle, cheer and applaud on the dialogue delivery for the hero even though he is a law breaker.

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What we see in the movies is different from grit reality. After seeing crime biopics, people are inspired in a wrong way. They think it is easy to break law and turn into an outlaw or a hero who lives life on his sleeve. The destiny of a criminal is either life imprisonment or death through encounter or gang rivalry. Mario Puzo’s novel – The Godfather was a sensation in both literature and movies. It took Al Pacino’s career to great heights. Al Pacino again reprised role of a crime lord in Brian de Palma’s movie – Scarface where he played the role of Tony Montana, a Cuban immigrant. Scarface is story of rise and fall of a gangster who ultimately seeks redemption by getting killed by rival gangsters. Movies like ‘Once upon a time in America’, ‘Goodfellas’ showed the dark side of crime and how the street kids rise on to become the happening gangsters of their time.

Brian De Palma's movie - Scarface was a critically acclaimed gangster flick

Brian De Palma’s movie – Scarface was a critically acclaimed gangster flick

Especially Bollywood glorified crime through masala flicks in 70’s which showed the lead heroes as pick pockets, kidnappers, thieves or dacoits. Doesn’t it make a bad influence on the young minds? Movies like ‘Deewar’, ‘Agneepath’ were based on life of real life criminals. There was a huge craze for Amitabh in 70’s and 80’s as he represented angry young man’s image. Actor Ajay Devgan reprised the role of a gangster from 70’s era whose empire comes crushing down when his protégé makes the business ugly with his reckless decisions. Here the ideals of a mentor and protégé clash. To rule Mumbai, either one of them must survive. The gripping climax changes the flow of story and the reckless protégé rises to top in world of crime. What fascinated me the most was the portrayal of Ajay Devgan as Sultan Mirza, the infamous don of 70’s Mumbai who struggle story as a helper in dockyards to becoming the kingpin of Mumbai is really intriguing. His fondness for a Bollywood actress highlighted the connections of movie world with crime. Crime biopics are reflection of grit truth happening in the crime world and the crime lords in the cinema are shown larger than life.

The 1987 movie - Naayakan was a cult classic showcasing Kamal Haasan as a rebel who rises to become a Godfather

The 1987 movie – Naayakan was a cult classic showcasing Kamal Haasan as a rebel who rises to become a Godfather

Director Mani Ratnam’s ambitious movie – Naayakan starring Kamal Haasan as Velu Naayakan was a cult classic in 80’s. Inspired by a true story of gangster in 70’s Mumbai, Naayakan is a heart breaking story of a kid whose father is murdered in broad day light by a corrupted cop. The little Velu kills the corrupt cop and flees to Mumbai and here begins the journey of Velu as the leader, benefactor for the poor but a dreaded gangster of his own league. But in this journey, Velu’s wife is brutally murdered by his rivals. Thus begins Velu’s vendetta against his rivals. The turning point in the movie is the court scene where Velu is shot down by his protégé whom he raised as his own son. The scene had shown the mass hysteria and the craze of public who hailed Velu as demi god.

Critics had compared this movie to Godfather. Though Godfather was a source of inspiration for several gangster flicks, it was a bit over rated. There are several other gangster flicks in Hollywood which were much better than Godfather in terms of storytelling.

Ram Gopal Verma’s Company was based on gang wars between two mafia bosses. Inspired by real life gang wars in Mumbai, Company is story of Chandu who joins Malik’s gang and they together come to make it big in world of crime. A bad stroke of destiny separates them and later begins the deadly gang war which claims the lives of several innocent people. This movie is one of the best movies directed by Ramu apart from Satya and Sarkar.

The 2010 Hollywood movie – Public Enemies was based on the infamous criminal John Dillinger. The titular role was played by the versatile Johnny Depp. The movie resembled closely to the 2013 crime thriller – Shootout at Wadala based on the first police encounter in 1980. In Public enemies the criminal ‘John Dillinger’ is shot down by one of his rivals while Manya Surve is shot down by Mumbai cops in broad daylight in 1982, marking the first recorded encounter of a dreaded criminal. The role of Manya Surve was played by John Abraham. No matter how glamorous, happening the life of a gangster may be, he has to die the death of a filthy dog either at the hands of law or rival gang.

Legend was based real life gangsters – Kray Brothers (twins) who created havoc through their violent actions. ‘Legend’ is based on their rise and fall. Even the 2013 movie – Shoot out at Wadala had a subplot similar to Legend where two brothers – Zubeir and Dilawar rise from the streets of Dongri to clash with Manya Surve, an emerging criminal. The characters – Zubeir and Dilawar were based on real life brothers who resided in Dongri.

‘Once upon a time in America’ is a cult classic in crime genre. Directed by Sergio Leone, the movie featured Robert De Niro as an ageing Don who witnesses the changes in the city and the story moves in flashback where a group of four boys decide to make it big in world of crime. Born on the streets of New York, the young lads grow up to gain their glory as gangsters. This movie is one of my best pick in list of top 10 crime movies. Even Ridley Scott’s movie – American Gangster is a must watch movie.

‘Behind every great fortune, there is a crime’ – Quote

Dharmatma, Vaastav, Gangs of Wasseypur, Zulm ki Hukumat and Aatank Hi Aatank are some of the entertaining gangster movies worth watching. The most noteworthy movie in 90’s was ‘Shiva’ introducing South Star Nagarjun in Bollywood.

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Inspired by corruption in college and cruel ragging, Shiva is rise of a common man into an inspiring leader who dares to protest against the criminal activities happening in campus. The use of cycle chain and soda bottle in violent fights became a cult among the youngsters of 90’s.

Movies should be seen as source of entertainment, not as a means of learning. Unfortunately young minds get attracted to the bad things shown in the movies. Gangster biopics should be made, but not glorified. No wonder, there will be more gangster flicks made in future.

Far from the heartless city

‘Home is where the heart is’ – Quote

‘Koi lauta de mere beetey hue din’ is one of the most memorable songs sung by versatile singer Kishore Kumar. There is so much depth in the lyrics as well as pain in the song. A person yearns for his old happy days requesting someone to bring back his old times. Nowadays this is the plight of every person living in city including me. Be it New York, Sydney, Mumbai, Bangalore or any city in this world, the city is bustling with cynics. In my past 10 years in this corporate world, I have minutely faced the cynicism of the heartless city people. Is the city too fast forward or I am too slow to adapt to its swiftness? I will never know the answer. The dreams which I had aspired to make it big in the corporate world came tumbling down when I realized that world is not as I had thought for. We see the world according to our perceptions, emotions and feelings and expect the same response from others. This is where disappointment begins. The hands that extended towards me for friendship were most opportunists, manipulative and cunning. The wisdom dawned on my mind very late. I pity on those people who recharge their mobile with high talk time options. But do they have that intention and time enough for their friends? I too extended my friendly hand towards people only to realize that no one was ready to shake hands. The city has become very cynical to a great extent. Corporate firms boast of great job opportunities, lucrative perks and encouraging work environment.
What you see later is the opposite picture of what has been shown? Horrible bosses, nagging team leads, cold & insensitive colleagues and above all a negative work environment. There is no place for genuine feelings. Everything is calculative, mechanical and opportunistic. Is this what I had aspired for? Is this what I dreamt for? I am desperately missing the old days which I still cherish it in my heart – the old school friend, my loving relatives, a forgotten crush and the paper boat which has drown somewhere deep in abyss.

‘Udaas hai mohalle ka paani aaj kal. Lagta hai kaagaz ki naav bananey wale bachchey bade ho gaye’ – Hindi quote

There is lot of depth in this Hindi quote which implies that nowadays no one is interested in making paper boats. All kids are now grown up. Life has become robotic and people are behaving like machines. A simple heart has no place in this city. Today the strength of love is measured by lavish treats, luxurious shopping, heavy bank balance and an imported, posh car with air condition. This is what today’s 21st century girl aspires for. Isn’t she right? Nowadays girls choose a rich boy with a poor heart than choosing a poor boy with a rich heart. Even love has become calculative.

‘Seeney mein jalan, aankhon mein toofan sa kyon hai, iss sheher mein har shaks pareshaan sa kyon hai’ – lyrics from movie ‘Gaman’

Through his short stories and full length novels, Ruskin Bond has captured the happiness of small towns, hill stations and villages. Despite being such a celebrated author, Ruskin still lives in a small town of Mussoorie. He still prefers writing letters and posting it in postboxes. When I read ‘Night train at Deoli and other short stories’ penned by Ruskin, I too feel to leave this city and retire to a simple life in a small town which can give some place to me in its big heart. Ironically the city is big, but there is no place for emotions, truthfulness and kindness. I guess it is time for me to pack my bags and disappear somewhere in a small hill station or a town where I can live my life as per my comfort. It is time to say good bye to the heartless city. I conclude my feelings with this beautiful song sung by Kishore Kumar.

‘Gaadi bula rahi hai, seeti baja rahi hai, chalna hi Zindagi hai, chalti hi jaa rahi hai’

Lanka’s princess – A vengeful vamp or a misunderstood princess

Title of Book – Lanka’s Princess
Author – Kavita Kane
Publishers – Rupa Publication
Genre – Fiction/Mythology

‘The fault lies not in our stars, but in ours’ – Shakespeare

lankas-princess

On international woman’s day, we accolade, salute and admire the feminine spirit of woman race. For a girl, various mythological figures like Sita, Durga, Urmila, Sati, Anusuya and Savitri are role models. Would a girl consider Surphanka as her role model? No, never. She is the lesser known and most hated character from Ramayana. She was Ravana’s sister, the dreaded demon king of Lanka. For those who feel that Surphanka was really a hateful character should read the novel – Lanka’s princess to know the tragic story of Surphanka who was once known as Meenakshi, the dusky princess of Lanka. Born with long sharp nails, she was partly demon, party human. Her mother, Kaikesi was a demon while her father Vishrava was a rishi (sage).

Right from her birth, Meenakshi was always unwanted for her parents because her mother showered affections towards Ravan and Kumbhakaran while her father was more caring towards Vibhishan. Deprived of parental love, she found the affection in her grandmother Taaraka. Through this novel, author Kavita Kane has highlighted the mediocre mindset of parents to yearn for a male child. Even today, a girl child is considered inferior in rural areas and is sometimes often left abandoned or killed. Surphanka too goes through this same plight. She is considered evil, timid and ferocious by her mother. Meenakshi and Ravana can’t see eye to eye. It is Ravana who kills an innocent pet of Meenakshi. Meenakshi’s hatred for Ravana grows up with time and flares up when Ravana kills Meenakshi’s husband. Even Meenakshi’s son gets killed mysteriously. And thus begins the transformation of Meenakshi into villainous Surphanka. She turns into a ferocious vamp to see Ravana destroyed. She masterminds conspiracies to trigger a war between Ram and Ravana. But in the vengeful vendetta, she realizes that she hasn’t gain anything in this senseless bloodshed.

In Ramayana, there is very less mention about Surphanka. We only know that Surphanka made lecherous advances towards lord Ram and Lakshman. It was Lakshman who humiliated her by disfiguring her face. What happened before Ravan abducted Sita and what happened later after the death of Ravana is mentioned well to detail in Kavita Kane’s book – Lanka’s princess.

Be it Helen of Troy or Draupadi, women were indirectly the reason behind great wars. In Ramayana, it was Surphanka who triggered the war by manipulating events and provoking Ravana to kidnap Sita. The novel – Lanka’s princess is not just about Surphanka, it is also the story of the ambitious Ravana who becomes a pawn in hands of Surphanka. I really accolade author Kavita Kane for giving a voice to the character Surphanka through the book. In the first few pages the reader will feel sympathy for the poor Meenakshi. In the later pages, as Meenakshi’s happy family gets devastated, she takes no time to show her grey, vamp shades. I won’t divulge too much detail about this novel and let the reader discover the true nature of Surphanka.

The USP of this novel is the prologue where Lord Krishna meets an ugly, deformed hunchback woman named Kubja and tells her about previous birth when she was a demon princess and how her villainous deeds brought her destruction. The story moves to flashback and the story of Surphanka begins. According to my views, Surphanka was not a born evil vamp. It was the circumstance that shaped her destiny and transformed her into an ugly vamp. Had Surphanka’s parents brought her with same love and affection as they showered on Ravana, Surpankha wouldn’t have destroyed Ravana.

Since I have enjoyed this read, I am looking forward to read Anand Neelkantan’s book – Asura to know more about Ravana.

I rate Lanka’s princess – 10/10. After reading this novel, readers will definitely change their views about the demon princess Surphanka who was once a dusky, beautiful princess named Meenakshi.

Highly acclaimed gangster movies of Bollywood

In India, youngsters are crazy about three things – cricket, movies and crime. Though profession of movie and cricket is about luck, sportsmanship and glamour, crime is more than that. It takes brains, brawns, luck, money and guts to rule the world. Be it Hollywood or Bollywood, movie industry has glorified crime, gangsters, smugglers, bootleggers, bandits as robin hood, messiah and savior of the poor and a ruthless vendetta who sets his own rules. From Don Vito Corleone, Tony Montana to Manya Surve, Maya Dolas, Sultan Mirza and Vijay Dinanath Chauhan, audiences has seen various faces of crime lords. There is an old saying that ‘Behind every great fortune there is a crime’. Let’s catch a glimpse at the best gangster movies that were inspired by legends of real crime lords and mafias.

1] Once upon a time in Mumbai –

Once upon a time in Mumbai highlighted the 70's crime

Once upon a time in Mumbai highlighted the 70’s crime

This gangster movie is my favourite pick as the role of Sultan Mirza played by Ajay Devgan always sent goosebumps. Inspired by a yesteryears gangster who worked in docks to later emerge as the leading icon in crime world, this crime movie focuses on the rise and fall of Sultan Mirza. Labelled as criminal in the police records but hailed as Robinhood by the poor and needy, Sultan Mirza’s name is on the lips of every citizen. Sultan’s fall begins when he takes a protégé named ‘Shoaib’ under his wings and assigns him as the caretaker of his crime business. Here Sultan’s ideals clashes with Shoaib’s recklessness and what happens later is the fall of an aging don and rise of a reckless crime prince. Both the protagonists are inspired by real gangsters. Ajay Devgan scores high as the 70’s don who once the city feared. The climax of the movie is the turning point in the story where a single bullet brings end to the rule of Sultan who was once feared and loved by the masses.

2] Daagdi Chawl –

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Those who live in Byculla, ‘Daagdi Chawl’ is not just a residential area, but a den of a most feared crime lord. The 2015 Marathi motion picture is about scuffle between an ordinary man and the crime lord of ‘Daagdi Chawl’. A small scuffle with local goons pulls an ordinary mechanic in world of crime and how he crosses path with the enigma called ‘Daddy’ is worth seeing. There is a new movie slated for release in 2017 which will trace the journey of the gangster right from his early days as a goon to his rise as a politician. The movie is titled as ‘Daddy’ and the titular role is played by actor Arjun Rampal who has worked on his physique, mannerisms to get into the skin of the role.

3) Raees –

Shahrukh stole the hearts of audience in the role of Raees Alam

Shahrukh stole the hearts of audience in the role of Raees Alam

Loosely inspired by a life of an infamous bootlegger in Gujarat, ‘Raees’ is a gangster movie which features actor Shahrukh Khan as the dreaded bootlegger who clashes with the law through his illegal liquor business. Shahrukh’s role in Raees was larger than life, similar in lines of Godfather played by Marlon Brando and Al Pacino. A thorn in the flesh of law, Raees Alam is locked in a deadly battle with manipulating politicians, rival gangsters and cops. By coincidence, the story of this movie was bit similar to Net Flix TV series – Narcos which was based on real narcotic mafia – Pablo Escobar who was shot down by Colombian Police in 1993.

4) Agneepath –

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Rumoured to be based on life of a dreaded gangster – Manya Surve, Agneepath is regarded as a cult movie in history of Indian cinema. The role of Vijay Dinanath Chauhan not only fetched Amitabh Bachchan a national award, but also took his career to great heights. Though it regarded as an underrated crime movie, nevertheless it is a thrilling story about a village boy who rises to become a gangster to avenge the death of his father. Some of the scenes from the movie are inspired by Brian De Palma’s movie – Scarface. How Vijay settles score with his arch rival Kaancha Cheena (played superbly by Danny Dengzopa) is best to be seen on the silver screen.

Vijay Chauhan became an iconic character in Indian cinema and the role was again played by Hrithik Roshan in the 2012 remake. The role of Mithun as the south Indian coconut seller added a comic touch to the otherwise intense movie.

5) Satya –

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The 1998 motion picture based on clash between mafia and Mumbai police changed the definition of crime thrillers in Indian cinema. Wrongly accused in prostitution case, an innocent young man ‘Satya’ befriends a local gangster ‘Bhiku Mhatre’ (played to perfection by Manoj Vajpayee) and soon they become a crime team against the law and rival gangsters. Calm minded Satya engineers plans to take down on all the rivals and law and becomes the most wanted public enemy of Mumbai. Among all the characters, Bhiku Mhatre steals the show with his one liners and the sweet presence of Urmila Matondkar gives an emotional touch to this dark crime drama. This is one of the best directorial works of Ramu. Ramu came up with new crime movie – Company featuring Ajay Devgan and Vivek Oberoi. Though Company was a brilliant gangster flick, it was nowhere closer to Satya.

6) Shootout at Wadala –

Shootout at Wadala was based on the first police encounter in 80's

Shootout at Wadala was based on the first police encounter in 80’s

Based on the first encounter registered in the file of Mumbai Police, Shootout at Wadala is story of 1980’s feared criminal – Manya Surve who became the first local goon to be shot down by Mumbai Cops in 1982. Wrongly framed guilty in a murder case, the honest Manohar Surve turns into a brutal gangster ‘Manya’ who dares to shake the empire of most dreaded kingpin of Mumbai. Similar to the plot of Hollywood movie – Public Enemies, Shootout at Wadala sees the rise and fall of Manya Surve. The 1990 movie ‘Agneepath’ is rumoured to be based on Manya Surve. Shootout at Lokhandwala was the first movie in ‘Shoot out series’ which was based on the dreaded gangster ‘Maya’ who was shot down by Mumbai Police in Swati building at Lokhandwala.

6) Parinda – Earlier titled as ‘Kabootarkhana’ Parinda changed the definition of movie making in history of Indian cinema with its gripping story line and changed the conventions of Bollywood drama with the disturbing climax where the lead protagonist is gunned down miserably by the antagonist. The 70’s and 80’s movie used to be formulaic based on pick pockets, robbery, love triangle and all the masala entertaining stuff the audiences loved to watch. Sadly, the directors of that era were never innovative in their approach.
The dynamics of storytelling changed with Parinda. After witnessing the gruesome murder of his friend, an honest man decides to take down on a crime empire to such an extent that he himself gets sucked in the world of crime. Parinda is said to be based on life of a real life gangster who was unknowingly dragged in world of crime. Parinda is counted as a milestone in history of Indian cinema and took director Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s career to great heights.

7) Rakhtcharitra – Based on life of Andhra’s famous personality – Paritala Ravi, Rakhtcharitra is a vengeance drama full of gruesome violent scenes. A dangerous game of politics and crime happens in this vengeance saga where the family of an ordinary man is wiped down by his enemies. How the ordinary man starts a vendetta of hatred against his enemies and rises as a politician is best to be seen in the movie – Rakhtcharitra directed by Ram Gopal Verma. The story is split in two parts. The sequel is continuation of the vengeance drama where Pratap Ravi the lead protagonist comes face to face with his most sworn enemy.

8) Dharmatma – Actor Feroz Khan’s ambitious directorial venture – Dharmatma was a rip off of Hollywood’s magnum opus gangster flick – The Godfather. Loosely inspired by life of a ‘Matka King’, Dharmatma is saga of an ageing gangster and his refusal to alliance with narcotic dealers costs his life. Feroz Khan stepped in the shoes of Al Pacino while Hema Malini played role of Afghan girl who gets accidentally killed in a bomb blast. All the sequences in this movie were heavily inspired by Godfather. This movie was a huge hit and later several filmmakers made unofficial remakes of Godfather which included Aatank hi aatank, Zulm ki Hukumat and Sarkar.

9) Sarkar – Rumoured to be based on life of a great political supremo, Sarkar is a dark, menacing movie which focuses on ups and downs in life of an ageing patriarch Subhash Nagre and his son Shankar Nagre. Shankar Nagre takes the reins of family business in his hand when Subhash Nagre is falsely accused in a political conspiracy and is mortally wounded by a hitman of one of his enemies. What follows is Shankar’s pursuit for vengeance against the enemies of Nagre family. Similar in lines of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Sarkar is one of the best works of Ram Gopal Verma. He later made the sequel ‘Sarkar Raj’ in 2008 where Shankar Nagre becomes a pawn in hands of cunning politicians. Sarkar 3 will be the continuation in the trilogy and is set for a 2017 release.

Apart from Dharmatma, Sarkar, Shootout movie Series, there are countless gangster movies based on life of real kingpins and smugglers. In 2017, Arjun Rampal will be seen as a local gangster in movie ‘Daddy’ while Shraddha Kapoor will portray the role of a mafia queen in new crime biopic – Haseena. No wonder, movies have always glorified crime and gangsters and continue to entertain viewers who have affinity for such crime stories.

Remembering Marilyn

On August 5th, 1962, a crowd of paparazzi swarmed the residence of a noted Hollywood actress who was found dead in her room. The reason of her death was overdose of drugs. Her death is still shrouded in mystery till date. Some investigations say that she committed suicide while some assume that she might have been murdered. That day, the departed actress left behind such a legacy that even several years after her death, no Hollywood actress could fill that space. Her name was Norma Jean Baker, but Hollywood knew her by the name – Marilyn Monroe.

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Who was she? – An aspiring Hollywood actress, a sex symbol, a broken hearted girl or a victim of political conspiracies. There are already countless biopics, books and articles dedicated in her memory, but none have succeeded to know the reason behind her untimely death. This exclusive article is a tribute to the Hollywood Diva who went too soon, leaving behind the footmarks of her ambition, dreams, struggle and her sensuality.

‘Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world’ – Marilyn Monroe

I got familiar with Marilyn through her biopic – Marilyn and Me, a TV movie telecasted on History channel in 2006. Blessed with a sensual body, Marilyn was no less than a celestial nymph. Everyone marveled at her sensuality, her flamboyance but no one noticed the tears behind her sunglasses. No matter how illuminating and happening is this stardom, there is a brooding darkness behind the success of an actress. Nothing comes free in this world, not even success. Even Marilyn paid a big price for stardom. It was surrendering her sensuality to famed people of Hollywood.

Marilyn’s life was never a bed of roses. Her disturbed and melancholic childhood in orphanages and her broken marriage with her first husband James Dougherty was just the beginning of her struggles. She auditioned for small roles in movies but got rejected countless times by 20th Century Fox studios because they felt she lacked the sex appeal. What an irony!! No one ever knew that this rejected girl would go on to bright up Hollywood with her electrifying presence. Marilyn became a topic of scandalous gossips when it was revealed she posed nude to get her portfolio noticed.

‘I’ve been on calendar, but never on time’ – Marilyn Monroe

She shot to fame and her made her mark with several successful movies –Niagara, Gentlemen prefer Blondes, How to marry a millionaire and Seven year itch. Her failure was meteoric as was her success. Her ambitious movie – Let’s make love was a horrible disaster. This debacle gave an opportunity to her critics to write her off. Her unstable mental conditions, incompetency to handle stardom and her poor health was taking a toll on her personal as well as professional life. Her link ups with noted personalities in Hollywood and politics was defaming her image. Everyone knew Marilyn as a successful sex symbol but no one ever knew that she was suffering from Endometriosis – a gynecological problem which led to intense pain in abdomen, irregular bleeding and even infertility. According to some news sources, it is also been said that she suffered painful miscarriages from her unhappy marriages. She was married thrice but none of these marriages ever brought happiness in Marilyn’s life. Despite all these traumatic events, she was enthusiastic to make a comeback in Hollywood. The Hollywood movie ‘Misfits’ was the last movie of Marilyn’s career followed by an incomplete movie – Something’s gotta give.

‘Keep smiling, because life is a beautiful thing and there’s so much to smile about it’ – Marilyn Monroe

The 2015 TV series was based on life of Marilyn Monroe

The 2015 TV series was based on life of Marilyn Monroe

Her untimely death due to drug overdose was a big shock to Hollywood and her million fans. Whether her death was a suicide or a planned murder, this mystery will remain a mystery forever. The 2011 Hollywood movie – My week with Marilyn was based on Monroe’s relationship with Colin Clark, a struggling writer. The role of Marilyn Monroe was played by Michelle Williams. The 1991 TV movie – ‘Marilyn and me’ threw a light on her struggles, fame, debacle and her relationship with Robert Slatzer, an American writer. It is been said that Marilyn had secretly married Robert Slatzer before she became a Hollywood sensation.

Other TV movies – The secret life of Marilyn Monroe, Norma Jean & Marilyn and Blonde were based on Marilyn. Even the 2010 series – Kennedys based on Kennedy Family had an episode which highlighted the relationship of Marilyn with Kennedy Brothers. A new book on Marilyn Monroe has thrown intimate details on her death which clarifies that she was murdered. Marilyn knew the inside secrets of Kennedy Family and it was a fear that she may spill out the secrets. Marilyn’s death is one of the most intriguing mysteries in history of Hollywood. Ironically Marilyn was victim of her own flamboyant nature. All she needed was a true person who could understand her feelings. On the contrary, many people played with her emotions. She was a toy for them. Though Marilyn was a star to the world, in reality she was still the humble, down to earth girl Norma Jean Baker who struggled to find her identity in the male dominated world.

This blonde starlet rests in a cemetery, alone, far from the spotlight, craving for the glimpse of her fans who once crowded at studios to gaze her sizzling beauty.

Norma is just a pin up girl on a wall, a forgotten starlet the world who knew this blonde as ‘Marilyn Monroe’. Gaining success in Hollywood is a stroke of luck, but handling success is traumatic. There are countless actresses in Hollywood & Bollywood who died a tragic, untimely death. Some either committed suicide due to emotional conflicts or some killed themselves due to over consumption of alcohol. The legendary Bollywood actress Meena Kumari was so much emotionally broken that she drowned herself in alcohol and died alone, disconnected from the spotlight of the cruel stardom. Even Parveen Babi met the same fate. Divya Bharti, the bubbly actress of 90’s died accidentally by falling from building. The latest actress to depart was actress Jiah Khan who committed suicide in 2013. Is this bright world of stardom really that shining or there is a melancholic darkness hidden within it? Marilyn became the victim of this bright stardom which claimed her life at tender age of 36.

Marilyn Monroe is the only actress in Hollywood who has lot of impersonators/look alike who kept her legacy alive by appearing on stage shows. Though several Hollywood actresses have charmed the movie world, but no one was able to live the flamboyant life like Marilyn did. She touched the lives of many people including me.
I would like to thank her for becoming my inspiring muse to write this story.

Love you Marilyn!!!

Decoding the myth of dark side

Every year on auspicious eve of Dussehra, the gigantic effigy of demon Ravana is burnt to celebrate the victory of good over evil. In the battle between good and evil, goodness is victorious while the evil is vanquished. What if the existence of evil perished? We will never acknowledge the value of peace, goodness and harmony. To maintain the significance of goodness, evil must exist. Despite all these theories we learn in ancient scriptures, why do we crave for the darker side? Why people love evilness? There is a dark side to every individual on this earth. Though science and technology has made tremendous development, there are some sects of people who still crave for super natural powers from God or demonic forces. Human sacrifices are made to please God. Isn’t that absurd? In rural side, such practices are carried out by tantriks, Aghoris and God men.

If we read literature, writers like Shakespeare, H.G.Well and Oscar Wilde have explained about the passion of people for dark powers. Bewitched by the predictions of witches, Macbeth unleashes his dark side by slaying the king Duncan of Scotland and declares himself the emperor of Scotland. But his passion for power becomes the cause of his downfall and his ultimate death. Even the dark moor Othello who is so obsessively in love with his wife Desdemona ends up killing his own wife. His insecurity and suspicious thoughts unleashes his dark side.

In the novel ‘The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’, Dr. Henry Jekyll creates a potion to bring out a scientific miracle. But the results are adverse and horrifying. Jekyll transforms into a deformed, evil personality named ‘Mr. Hyde’ who goes on committing crimes in dark of night. Hyde is the alter-ego & the darker side of Dr. Henry Jekyll. Even the novel – Invisible man was about the dark side of invisibility where a maniac scientist creates havoc in a town with invisible powers only to die later in the climax. Oscar Wilde’s character – Dorian Gray craves for youthfulness and makes a deal by selling his soul. For every crime Dorian commits, his portrait becomes disfigured but he stays youthful as ever. He is so obsessed for this evil youthfulness that he fails to realize that he is heading for path of doom. Whether it is the vampire Dracula or the Frankenstein monster, evil has taken several forms to make its presence felt.

In the Hollywood motion picture – Dracula untold, a knight makes a deal with a devil to save his city from invaders. Though the knight gains super natural powers to beat the enemies, he also realizes his dark side – The Dracula, a blood sucking vampire that survives on blood of humans, especially beautiful damsels. When our desires and dreams aren’t fulfilled through noble ways, the mind starts getting corrupted and begins scheming evil plans. Even the superheroes have a darker side to them. In Spiderman 3, Peter Parker gets affected by the presence of an extra-terrestrial force which brings grey shades to his personality both as Parker and Spiderman. The radiation has such an adverse impact on Dr. Bruce Banner that he can’t resist turning into a green monster called Hulk. People idolize dark forces. The incomplete desires sometimes unleash the monster in us. Especially in unrequited love affairs, people have turned into psychopath/serial killers. Whether it is Jack the Ripper or the deadly psychotic Poison Ivy (seductress from Poison Ivy movie series), people have idolized such dark characters. According to psychology, our mind thinks from both views – positive as well as negative. It is the negative view that corrupts our mind and brings out the evil in us. It is up to us to tame our mind towards good thoughts.

Evil will persist as long as goodness survives.

Bahubali – The Rise of Sivagami (Novel Preview)

Novel – Bahubali: Rise of Sivagami
Author – Anand Neelkantan
Publishers – Westland Books
Release date – 7th March 2017

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Director S.S.Rajamouli’s magnum opus blockbuster – Bahubali will soon be adapted for novel. This spectacular fantasy movie’s prequel will be authored by writer Anand Neelkantan, the famed author of best sellers like Ajaya & Asura. Unlike the movie, this novel will be more detailed and trace the story of Amarendra Bahubali, Bhallaldeva, Kattappa and the fierce queen Sivagami. The first part in this series will be titled – Rise of Sivagami and will be based on Sivagami, the mother of Bhallaldeva and foster guardian of Amarendra Bahubali. The movie Bahubali: The beginning began with the wounded Sivagami protecting an infant child from the soldiers and her death by drowning in the sea. The book will throw a light on her rise as a courageous queen and her journey to seek vengeance with her sworn enemy, the king of Mahishmati.

Prior to starting the project on Bahubali, director S.S.Rajamouli had conceptualized a character called ‘Sivagami’ and was planning to make a sole movie on her. As the story further developed, it evolved into an epic storyline – Bahubali. Sivagami is a fusion of several strong mythological characters like Amba, Kunti, Sita and Draupadi. The Rise of Sivagami is first book in the Bahubali trilogy and it will be really intriguing to read the story of Amarendra Bahubali and why he was slain by Kattappa? As for now the storyline of the book is kept in wraps.

The cover of this upcoming novel was unveiled by actor Rana Duggubatti and director S.S.Rajamouli at Jaipur literary festival 2017 in presence of writer Anand Neelkantan.

The role of Sivagami was played by actress Ramya Krishna in the movie – Bahubali

The cover of this upcoming book has generated lot of curiosity among readers on social networks. For the readers who love fantasy and mythology genre, the Bahubali series will be a literary treat. The movie Bahubali had created a buzz even before its release and was much searched movie on Google. Bahubali: The conclusion is set for release in April 2017, the final chapter in the movie series.

Actress Ramya Krishna as Sivagami in the movie - Bahubali : The beginning

Actress Ramya Krishna as Sivagami in the movie – Bahubali : The beginning

Fantasy books like Harry Potter and Game of thrones have created curiosity even before their release in foreign nations. With the release of Bahubali in book stores, I hope that readers as well as the fans of Bahubali movie will definitely queue up in bookstores to read the origins of Mahishmati.

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If you have enjoyed reading King Arthur, Lord of the rings, Percy Jackson, you will definitely like the Bahubali novel series authored by Anand Neelkantan.

The last comrades of Chittagong Uprising

‘War never ends quietly’ – Quote

History has been biased towards the revolutionaries and their daring feats for freedom struggle. India has witnessed several uprisings and Chittagong Uprising was one of them. No one knows the heroism of Surya Sen, the mastermind behind this revolt nor does anyone care to know about the young boys who gave a tough fight to British soldiers in Jalalabad hills. Several young boys were killed in that skirmish. Their only dream was to see the nation free. Joining hands with Surya Sen, the young boys had dared to defy the colonial rule by carrying out the Chittagong Armoury raid. Except Kalpana Datta, Subodh Roy and Binod Bihari Chowdhury, no one survived. These 3 young comrades probably survived to tell the forgotten story of Chittagong Uprising to the coming generation.

A rare photograph of Surya Sen fondly known as 'Masterda'

A rare photograph of Surya Sen fondly known as ‘Masterda’

The only source of information about Chittagong Uprising was the Amar Chitra Katha comics – ‘Saga of Indian revolutionaries’ which was published by India Book House in 1980’s. It was this comic book that introduced me to Surya Sen. Later in 2010; Amar Chitra Katha comics came up with a fresh new comic book on Surya Sen. As I turned the pages of the book, I came to know more Masterda and his comrades – Pritilata Waddedar, Ganesh Ghosh, Ambika Chakravarti, Anant Singh, Lokenath Bal and Kalpana Datta.

Binod Bihari Chowdhury was the last comrade who lived up to 103 years. He passed away in 2013

Binod Bihari Chowdhury was the last comrade who lived up to 103 years. He passed away in 2013

Among the 3 survivors of Chittagong Uprising, veteran comrade Binod Bihari Chowdhury (100 years old) was the last sole comrade whose narrated details on lesser known facts of Chittagong revolt were source of information for the 2010 periodic movie – Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey which was based on Surya Sen and his comrades. Sadly Binod Bihari Chowdhury passed away in 2013. His demise brought an end to the legacy of brave hearts of 1930’s Chittagong. In an interview, he mentioned about his first meeting with Masterda when he was a teenager. The young Binod in his teens was waiting in dark night at a cemetery to meet Surya Sen. After a long wait of two hours Surya Sen arrived.

Initially Surya Sen was reluctant to enrol Binod in his revolutionary group but finally agreed after seeing the zeal of Binod to participate in freedom struggle. From that moment, Binod Bihari Chowdhury fought shoulder to shoulder along Surya Sen during the Chittagong armoury raid and the bloody encounter at Jalalabad hills. Binod and other teens fought valiantly in every action, witnessing the destruction of telegraph office, raiding of armouries and disruption of railway lines.

The house of Binod Bihari Choudhry is adorned with photographs of Surya Sen and Pritilata

After the armoury raid, Surya Sen and the teenagers went into hideout and took refuge in Jalalabad hills. Unfortunately the luck was not in side of Surya Sen and his comrades. In the gun battle between Surya Sen’s comrades and the police, there was heavy casualty on Surya Sen’s side. Lots of boys lost their life in this encounter. Tegra, the young brother of Lokenath Bal was also killed in this encounter. For the ruthless British Police, these innocent teenagers were nothing but terrorists. Even Binod Bihari Chowdhury was hit in the throat. The bullet hole in Binod’s throat was causing lot of blood loss. Binod even considered ending his life with a bullet as the wound was too painful to tolerate. But Binod survived that fatal wound and lived on to 100 years to tell the story of forgotten heroes of Chittagong Uprising. For Binod Bihari Chowdhury, it seemed like yesterday when he had joined the revolutionary group of Masterda and participated in the most memorable uprising for Chittagong. If you ever visit the house of Binod Bihari Chowdhury, you will find the abode adorned with photographs of Surya Sen and Pritilata Waddedar.

In the book ‘Do and Die: Chittagong uprising’, Author Manini Chatterjee has penned down the untold story of the heroes of Chittagong armoury raid which was a tribute to their dare devilry. Manini’s mother-in-law was the famed patriot Kalpana Datta who had seen Surya Sen and Pritilata Waddedar closely. Pritilata and Kalpana were only the girls in Surya Sen’s group. According to historical sources, Surya Sen had once mentioned about his late wife ‘Pushpa Kuntala’ to Kalpana Datta. Apart from having respect for Surya Sen, Kalpana Datta had a soft, emotional corner for him which she had once expressed to him. Though Surya Sen respected the feelings of Kalpana, he never reciprocated to her affections. Surya Sen had sacrificed his marital life for sake of nation and he couldn’t dare to accept the emotions of the young Kalpana. Kalpana was Pritilata’s close friend and they both shared their ideas and feelings to each other. Pritilata had also mentioned about her love for Nirmal Sen who was one of the comrades in Masterda’s team. Kalpana was the only member who had closely interacted with Surya Sen and Pritilata.

A rare photo of young Kalpana Datta

A rare photo of young Kalpana Datta

Kalpana Datta passed away in 1995 at age of 81. Some of the memories narrated by Kalpana became a source of inspiration for Manini to pen down the book – Do and die. Even Manini’s uncle Subodh Roy was one of the teens who had participated in Chittagong armoury raid.

Photo of Subodh Roy fondly called as Jhunku

Photo of Subodh Roy fondly called as Jhunku

Fondly called ‘Jhunku’, Subodh was only 14 years old when he had joined Surya Sen in Chittagong armory raid. He was the one who had closely seen Surya Sen. Born and raised in an aristocratic family in Chittagong, Subodh chose the struggle-some path of revolution. He had once sneaked in his father’s room and stolen a .303 gun which was used later while fighting the British police in Jalalabad Hills. Jhunku was later arrested and subjected to physical torture in jail. He was later sent to Andaman to undergo a hard life of imprisonment. Subodh Roy passed away in 2006.

The 2012 movie – Chittagong was based on Subodh roy’s role in Chittagong revolt

His story was inspiration for director Bedrata Pain to make a movie on Chittagong uprising. The 2012 movie – Chittagong was based on Subodh Roy.

Though these three heroes of Chittagong revolt are no longer anymore, they were the one who had closely witness the Chittagong armory raid, a biggest uprising in history of India. Through the stories of Kalpana Datta, Subodh Roy and Binod Bihari Chowdhury, I have taken an effort to go back to bygone era where a school master named Surya Sen along with his comrades and band of boys struck a terror in hearts of British on April 18, 1930.

In memories, love always lives forever

‘In love there are no boundaries’ – quote from movie ‘The English patient’

There are two types of lovers in this world. First one is the flamboyant, optimistic guy who is ready to go till the end of the world to win back his love. Second one is the melancholic, introvert lover who is deeply in love but is too shy to express his feelings to her. Some people stay with their love till their last breath while some live in their memories of their beloved. The 1996 movie – The English patient was a timeless love story of a Cartographer (Map maker) named Almasy, now a disfigured patient recollects the memory of a doomed affair which not only left him for dead, but also claimed the life of his beloved. A painful tragedy, The English Patient was about encountering love in the most unusual places and situations. They say it is the heart that does the choosing, not you. Sometimes I connect myself with Almasy – the character from The English patient’ because for a lone lover like me, memory is only the safe place where I can meet my love without any fear of restrictions of world. It is not that a one-sided lover doesn’t have guts to express his love. His courage is boundless. It takes courage to see sweet heart in someone’s arms happily. It takes courage to swallow your disappointments and move away from her life.

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‘Ek tarfa pyar ki taqat hi kuch aur hoti hai … auron ke rishton ki tarah yeh do logon mein nahi bat’ti … sirf mera haq hai ispe – lines from movie ‘Ae Dil hai mushkil’

Ranbir’s character ‘Ayan’ in movie ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’ is really relatable to every melancholic lover. His love for Alizeh (played by Anushka Sharma) is so intense that he stays with her as a friend till the last moments of her life. The life’s most irony is that we love the person who ignores the most and ignore the person who loves us the most. Love lands us in awkward situations where expressing emotions is more difficult than taking a leap from a high cliff. O. Henry’s last leaf became a source of inspiration for the 2013 movie – Lootera. Again a story of star crossed lovers separated by fate and situations. The winning aspect of the movie Lootera was its climax when Varun (played by Ranvir Singh) creates a leaf out a paper and ties it on a branch of a tree. As long as the leaves are on the tree, his beloved will live till that period. The hero creates a fake leaf with a view so that his beloved will live a longer age, gazing at that leaf. Though he is not a painter, he creates a masterpiece that will increase the life span of his love.

Based on O Henry's last leaf, Lootera was a timeless love story

Based on O Henry’s last leaf, Lootera was a timeless love story

Someday I too want to create a masterpiece for my love. A painting that Rose cherished in her heart, a masterpiece that Pakhi gazed every day from the window (reference to the movie Lootera), after all love is all about living in memories. As for now, I have to live in memories of my love, recounting every beautiful moment of her presence that unknowingly glowed up my face and made me feel younger regardless of my age.

‘Mohabbat karna hamare bas mein nahin. Uss mohabbat se door chale jaana woh hamare bas mein hai’ – lines from movie ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’

The Legend of Bhagat Singh – A biopic of an unsung hero

On 23rd March 1931, three bodies of young revolutionaries were smuggled out of prison in midnight. The bodies were secretly cremated to avoid public outrage. The British were clearly aware that handing down the bodies of these 3 revolutionaries to the families will definitely agitate the Indian masses. The dead patriots were not any ordinary people. They were the bold young patriots who shook the British Empire through their revolutionary actions. The patriots were Rajguru, Sukhdev and Sardar Bhagat Singh. Among the three, Bhagat Singh’s name became synonymous with patriotism, sacrifice, courage and dare devilry. What was such fear in minds of British that they had to cremate the body of this brave heart in dark of night? The opening scene of the 2002 biopic – The legend of Bhagat Singh starts with the brutal cremation of these young revolutionaries. The movie then goes in flashback where Bhagat Singh’s father Kishen Singh remembers every event that transformed his son into a brave revolutionary.

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I still feel patriotic goosebumps whenever I see this patriotic biopic which gives a stiff competition to Richard Attenborough’s biopic on Mahatma Gandhi. From collecting blood soaked earth from Jallianwala Baugh, killing British officer Saunders to hurling bombs at legislative assembly and undergoing hunger strike in jail, the patriotic journey of Bhagat Singh has really been a path of rocks. The titular role of Bhagat Singh is played by Ajay Devgan who fully justifies the role with his realistic, convincing performance which makes him stand apart from the crowd. Though Ajay Devgan didn’t resemble Bhagat Singh completely, it was his power house performance that gave teeth to his words.

The legend of Bhagat is a brilliant biopic on Bhagat Singh

The legend of Bhagat is a brilliant biopic on Bhagat Singh

In 2002, there were five movies on Bhagat Singh lined up for release in June. Out of five movies, only three movies were released in that period. Extensively researched and superbly directed by ace director Raj Kumar Santoshi, The Legend of Bhagat Singh throws a light on various untold facts which were not answered in earlier biopics on Bhagat Singh. His decision of becoming atheist, his opposition to Gandhian views and his far sightedness on situation of India post-independence are the major highlights of this movie. Though he could have preferred to live a comfortable life by running a dairy farm, he selected the hard life of patriotism. The climax scene will break you into tears when the jailor comes to take Bhagat Singh to gallows and Bhagat Singh replies by telling – ‘aaj ek krantikari doosre krantikari se mil raha hai’. These lines were actually spoken by Bhagat Singh in reference to Lenin’s book which he was reading in his final hours before getting executed.

From his childhood, Bhagat Singh had taken a oath to fight against British  Empire

From his childhood, Bhagat Singh had taken a oath to fight against British Empire

What really appealed was the convincing performance of actor Sushant Singh as Sukhdev. Sadly, history never gave Sukhdev the recognition and due which he really deserved. If Sukhdev hadn’t insisted Bhagat Singh to throw bomb in legislative assembly to protest against the public safety bill, then Bhagat Singh wouldn’t have got the recognition and political spotlight. It is very sad to know that today Sukhdev’s family is managing day to day living by selling lotteries. The courtroom scenes, jail torture and debate of Bhagat Singh against the barbaric British government make you applause with pride. The movie not only showcases on Bhagat Singh’s struggle but also highlights the sacrifice of Jatin Das, Rajguru and Chandrashekhar Azad. Though it is very difficult to showcase every single detail of Bhagat Singh’s life in a 2 hour movie, Rajkumar Santoshi has nearly succeeded to highlight all the facts that were related to Bhagat Singh. The popularity of Bhagat Singh was so high that even British women visited jail to get a glimpse of this brave patriot. His hunger strike in jail and growing popularity in a short span overshadowed Gandhi.

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A.R.Rahman’s music infuses more patriotism in the song – Mera rang de Basanti chola which was sung by Bhagat Singh while marching to the gallows. I feel that this biopic on Bhagat Singh is as brilliant as Mel Gibson’s movie – Braveheart which was based on Scottish patriot William Wallace. Whatever we read in history textbooks about Bhagat Singh is not even 1 % of the actual facts mentioned in the biographies based on his life. On 23rd March 1931 Bhagat Singh smilingly stepped on to the gallows. That day a patriot died and a legend was born. Bhagat Singh’s photo in a hat is as popular as the picture of Che Guevera of Cuba. Even though biopics on patriots of being made, the harsh truth is that we have really forgotten the sacrifice of this brave hero whose teachings are just limited to books, stage plays and movies.
Through this article, I have to revive the memories of Bhagat Singh and his great comrades who were fighting a war they were not going to win.

References – Without Fear: The life and trial of Bhagat Singh by Kuldip Nayar is a highly recommended book on the untold facts of Bhagat Singh’s life.