Tuesday, June 30, 2009

An Indian take on Sense and Sensibility

Before I review this Indian version of Sense and Sensibility- Kandukondain Kandukondain(Loosely translated into ' I have found it'), I think it's important that the predominantly non-Indian reader knows of the scenario of society in most parts of India. As my examiner from Trinity once remarked " What women went through with regards marriage in the times of Austen is what most Indian women go through today".

This is a society where arranged marriages are still very prominent. A society which is as conservative as it is vivid, as developing as it is traditional. Sexism is still very rampant. Marriages are made more out of convenience than out of love. So yes, this is probably the reason Austen means so much to me. Because I can absolutely understand her female characters and her brilliant depiction of society and its idiosyncrasies. In Austen, I find an understanding companion. I've met my share of Caroline Bingleys, Fanny Dashwoods and Lucy Steeles. The Mr. Darcys, Wentworths and Knightleys are scarce though, sadly.

With this scenario in mind, I hope the film and its relevance is much better comprehensible to the reader.

The film revolves around the lives of the descendants of a much respected family of royal lineage. Soumya( Eleanor), Meenakshi ( Marianne) and Kamala( Margaret) are the daughters of Padma( Mrs. Dashwood) who is the head of the family, and is considered one of the most prominent people of their village. She presides over major religious/social events in the village and unlike the Mrs. Dashwood in Austen's book, exhibits much more spunk in bringing up her three daughters by herself, having lost her husband quite a long time ago. She lives in her ancestral home while taking care of her bed-ridden father.

Soumya an exaggeration of Eleanor Dashwood, an exaggeration meant to fit the mold of a 'traditional Indian girl' that is, does not believe much in love marriages and even goes to the extent of proclaiming " Have I chosen my name? My femininity? My appearance? Then why should I choose my husband? "

Meenakshi, on the other hand, is passionate about the idea of love and looks forward to falling in love. If it is Cowper for the Marianne Dashwood in Austen's book and Shakespeare's sonnet no 116 for the Marianne in Ang Lee's film version of Sense and Sensibility, it is Bharathi's wondrous poetry that is the staple for Meenakshi.

Manohar ( Edward Ferrars ) is an aspiring film director, who has given up a luxurious life with his over-protective, almost obsessive parents and has decided to make his own fortune. He meets Soumya and the two fall in love. He promises to marry her after he is able to direct his first film successfully.

Major Bala ( Col. Brandon) lost his leg in a war; something which he claims didn't hurt him as much as the reception( or the lack of it) to his return from the war zone did. " Do you know what is worse than death? Being forgotten." he says to Meenakshi once. He is captivated by Meenakshi's singing and asks her to take up singing professionally. She agrees to learn music if he quits drinking obsessively. Deprived of love, care and affection for a long time, he falls in love with Meenakshi.

But enter Srikanth( John Willoughby), a world famous businessman in quintessential- hero- style rescuing Meenakshi in the pouring rain, sharing her love for poetry and Bharathi, Major Bala is reduced to being the 'friend'. As the sisters' love lives progress, a major blow is dealt when Padma's invalid father dies. His will, written in anger when Padma married someone against his wishes ( Love marriages were scandals in India, about 30 years ago), gives their family nothing, leaving their fate in the hands of Padma's brother Swaminathan ( John Dashwood).

Swaminathan aka Sam and his wife arrive at their ancestral home after 10 years to attend the funeral of his father. Sam's wife ( Fanny Dashwood) doesn't look forward to parting with anything, despite her husband's wishes to give his sister and her family enough money. The family decides to leave their village and search for a living in the city. This when Srikanth's company goes through a major setback angering investors and leading to severe protests.

Soumya finally finds a job in the city, while Meenakshi lands a singing contract even as she finds that Srikanth has married someone else in exchange for being offered money to wade his company out of trouble. She refuses to elope with him despite his repeated protests and finds that love isn't about sharing the same hobbies or sweet talk, but about caring and being there for a person when they need it the most.

Manohar finds it tough to direct his dream film without compromising on the script. Problems also loom as gossip columnists talk about his alleged love fling with the heroine of his first film. How Meenakshi and Soumya resolve problems and marry their true love forms the rest of the story.

Tabu is brilliantly mature and her emotions are aptly minimalistic as Soumya( Eleanor), while Ajit acquits himself well as Manohar( Edward). Tabu's acting is top notch, be it while suspecting that Manohar might be having an affair with an actress, or be it breaking into inconsolable tears when Manohar too feels that she is unlucky for his career. Oh yes, here comes the healthy dose of superstition: Unlike Austen's Eleanor, this film's Soumya is widely construed by many people, especially Sam's wife( Fanny Dashwood) as a symbol of ill-luck.

Aishwarya Rai in her role as Meenakshi is more exasperating than Marianne ever was! Abbas as Srikanth gets on my nerves with his poker face and cheesy delivery of even the most simple lines. He sure can't act even if his life depended on it. One major plot in Austen's Sense and Sensibility is that we're all supposed to like Willoughby at first, like Marianne, before discovering what he could actually become. But with Abbas' Srikanth, you are sure to hate him right from Scene 1, which sort of defeats the purpose of his character. The 'romantic' scenes between Meenakshi and Srikanth are as cringe-worthy as any I've ever seen.

Mammooty as Major Bala is easily the show stealer- emotional, sad, vulnerable, caring- all the characteristics we adored in the Col. Brandon in the book and Alan Rickman's version in the movie are intact here. In this film Meenakshi is self-admittedly very rude and harsh to Major Bala. She once exclaims" You are confusing the emotions of love and sympathy. What I show towards Srikanth is love, what I show towards you is sympathy"

All Indian films are 'musicals' and the characters burst into songs and colourful dances at the most opportune moments. The cinematography is pleasing and former Miss World Aishwarya Rai, regardless of her acting skills or the lack of them, looks like a million dollars in the film. Incidentally, this role inspired by Marianne was Aishwarya's first outing playing a Jane Austen character. The second of course is Gurinder Chadha's widely popular take on Austen's classic Pride and Prejudice- Bride and Prejudice where Aishwarya played Lalita ( Lizzie).

Academy Award Winner A.R.Rahman's music is scintillating and definitely one of the major strengths of this film.

The film stays true to the spirit of Austen even in places where it delineates from the book. This film and its reach is yet another testament to Austen's universal appeal and relevance.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

I shall be watching Kandukondain Kandukondain - an Indian film adaptation of Sense and Sensibility today. I'll probably review it soon.

I'm not sure if I can include this in the Everything Austen challenge though, since this does not feature in my initial list for the challenge. I'd be watching/reading a lot of Austen-related things that are not in my list for the challenge. I'm not sure if they will be included, though I'd like it to. Oh well, the more the merrier.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Everything Austen Challenge

I have decided to take part in the Everything Austen challenge hosted by Stephanie at Stephanie's Written Word. This looks like fun and must be quite easy considering the fact that I will be reading 5 of Austen's novels - one per month in the coming 5 months as per the schedule for my Jane Austen Book Club. I've already finished Sense and Sensibility, but I have the 5 other novels left( some of these will be re-reads). I can easily find more than 6 things related to Austen that I shall hopefully be doing this year, but let me finalize my list.

1. Re-read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

2. Read Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

3. Re-read Emma by Jane Austen

4. Read Persuasion by Jane Austen

5. Re-read Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

6. Watch Miss Austen Regrets

I will by all probability re-watch both Pride and Prejudice (2005) and Lost in Austen, both of which are delightful. However, I wanted to have something new to watch on my list, so I decided on Miss Austen Regrets. This seems like loads of fun. I'm looking forward to it. Thank you for hosting it Stephanie! =)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Emma goes Bollywood

Popular Bollywood actress Sonam Kapoor is all set to play Jane Austen's famed heroine Emma in a Bollywood film produced by her father Anil Kapoor( Yes, the same Anil Kapoor who played the game show host in Slumdog Millionaire)

The only Indian version of Austen's novels I like is Rajiv Menon's beautiful take on Sense and Sensibility- Kandukondain Kandukondain and this is a Tamil film. I've never much liked Bollywood taking up Austen; they have this tact of making it glitzy and add so much masala that they take away the Austen-ness of the story. I'm not a fan of Bride and Prejudice( It had the worst Darcy ever!) and I'm not expecting too much out of this yet to be released version of Emma. But oh well, this is certainly something I'll watch out for.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Today's serving of Austen

Ah yes, if it still unclear, I do have a bit of a liking for Elliot Cowan.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I downloaded this amazing free Jane Austen font by Pia Frauss. It is so awesome! =)

Austen Addiction level raised to 5. Alarming :P

I am Elizabeth Bennet!

Take the Quiz here!

Today's Austen Quote of the Day

Courtesy: JASNA.org

'Something Rotten'- Jasper Fforde

Rating: 10/10

This is the Fforde we've been waiting for. The characters and plot lines from the previous books The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book and Well of Lost Plots are handled so well and blended into this wonder of a novel.

There are plenty of laugh out loud passages in the book. Fforde is at his sarcastic and creative best here as Thursday Next fights to save the world from Yorrick Kaine and the Armageddon. The Swindon Mallets need to win to help save the world- a highly unlikely thing considering they're amongst the worst teams ever. But Thursday tries to make the impossible happen, all this while babysitting her son Friday, trying to get back her eradicated husband Landen and fighting Goliath to its end. Not to mention repeated assassination attempts on her and taking care of the greatest Dane Hamlet at a time when Kaine calls the Danish to be responsible for all the problems faced by Britain.

It is a laughter riot- be it the Goliath Apologarium, Evade the Question Time, all of Kaine's anti-Danish proclamations, Thursday's very own stalker from the Amalgamated Union of Stalkers, St Zvlkx or the Superhoop finale. A fitting ending, exceeding even the most Himalayan expectations, leaving you wanting for more of the genius that is Jasper Fforde

Recommended for: Fans of uber creative writing.

Confessions of an Austen addict

I have always loved Austen. My first memory is of reading a horribly abridged version of Pride and Prejudice when I was about 12 and not appreciating it enough. The next year or the year after next, as I was looking for a DVD to buy in Landmark and I wanted one that everyone in the family could sit together happily and watch, I chanced upon Pride and Prejudice, the movie, 2005 version. I loved the movie and I remember I cried in the end as love triumphed after all hurdles. Such a sucker for romance! That was my first brush with Austen and to me, Pride and Prejudice was nothing more than a great romance, at that time.

It took me some more time and after repeatedly re watching Matthew Macfadyen walk through the misty morning and falling totally in love with the film, I decided to read the book. It wasn't easy to read though, at first. But I read it and re-read it and totally enjoyed it. And then I started trying to read all of Austen's works and understood that her novels are 'romances' only on the surface and are actually a magnificent study of the human character. I also watched several of the movie adaptations of Austen's works including Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park.

Then, I remember watching the BBC mini series Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. I loved it too and unlike other Austen fans who argue which is better: Macfadyen's version or Firth's, I love them both. I loved Bridget Jones' Diary( inspired by Pride and Prejudice) as well. Both the book and the movie were very entertaining.

And then the Austen addiction phase sort of went down. It didn't go away, it never does, but it's impact was reduced. And then I saw The Jane Austen Book Club and I remember being blown away by the brilliant film! I loved it and the first thing I did after watching the movie was to come online, find a few people who'd like to join our very own Jane Austen Book Club and read her six masterpieces. Over the past month, we've been reading Sense and Sensibility. We started with it first because it was Austen's first published work. Reading it wasn't easy. But totally worth it. That's the sort of a book that you learn from. So real, so brilliant. I've been analyzing the book a lot along with my other friends in the book club. It's been fascinating and all the time, every minute and second, I wish I could slip into Austen's world.
To compound this already himalayan addiction, I watched the Sense and Sensibility movie again. It's amazing to see the effect Austen has on so many people. Her relevance is amazing. As for her universal appeal, check out Kandukondain Kandukondain, a Tamil film based on Sense and Sensibility.

If this wasn't information enough, I read upon her all I could, in wiki and found some other interesting sites as well. I also found some amazing Austen blogs which I either follow or have it bookmarked. The Jane Austen Centre in Bath ( Austen's town) is certainly so very absolutely tempting. I'd love to go to Bath first up, if I ever could decide on my own and had the money to do what I want to.

Austen is everywhere, I find. Online: you can find Austen icons, read blogs about her books, find websites. How many books has she inspired? From the hilarious Bridget Jones' Diary to the creepily weird Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Also, here I am, reading Salman Rushdie's masterpiece Midnight's Children, something in which you can never find an Austen connection, anyone would think. But here I go, reading Rushdie's introduction where he thanks Austen " for her portraits of brilliant women caged by social convention of their time, women whose Indian counterparts I knew well;" Probably not a great Austen link, but you get what I mean! She just doesn't leave me alone! I find her everywhere. And in real life you find people so like the people Austen beautifully understood and portrayed in her books.

While looking at one of these websites, I found interesting reports about Lost in Austen, the story of Amanda, an ardent Austen fan, who lives in present day London with her boyfriend Michael, until she finds she's swapped places with Austen's fictional creation Elizabeth Bennett. What a delightfully hilarious TV series this is! So so good. Jemima Rooper is amazing as Amanda, but whew, the man who blew me away was Elliot Cowan as Mr. Darcy. Oh my God, Elliot!! I've seen Macfadyen, Firth, but nobody was as strikingly magnetic as Mr. Cowan. Fantastic, very appealing performance: he's arrogant, contemptuous, pompous, yet suave, charming and loving- a perfect Darcy in other words. This series picks Austen's characters and plays around with them at will. But it provides great entertainment and I'd say is a must watch for every Austen fan. I heard this TV series is soon to be made into a movie. I can't wait for it!

I know so much has been said about the legend of Colin Firth and his famous wet white shirt, but in my opinion, Elliot Cowan totally blows Colin off with this. Just the first minute or so is enough to satisfy all the fangirls!

As though I wasn't addicted enough, this TV series has rocketed my obsession for Austen. I desperately, seriously hope everyday that I will explore Austen's world or probably go to Bath. Well, easier dreamed than done in this case. I sometimes feel the internet that has made so many things accessible has made ambitions and dreams soar too. Which isn't seemingly a bad thing, but now makes me want to book the next flight to England and go live Austen. Oh well, I'm glad there are five more books to discuss in my Jane Austen Book Club, which, I hope will give scope for more delightful obsession.

Edit: Clearly, this loooooong post is enough indication of the addiction. I'm hopelessly addicted and need to be saved. Get me Darcy, quick! ;)


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