Monday, August 31, 2009

Pride and Prejudice (2005) - The Report Card

This is the eleventh or twelfth time I'm watching this version of Pride and Prejudice and the first time I'm watching it after having seen the masterly BBC version starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. And I must admit I had a change of opinion regarding some things about the film. I still enjoyed the film, but not as much as I used to. Or is that because I couldn't get cake and had only tea for company?

Ah, anyway, here's the report card for Pride and Prejudice (2005)

Direction and Cinematography: 10/10
This film is perhaps the most visually pleasing version of Pride and Prejudice.

The delightful scenery and the enticing sunrise, the glorious visuals at dawn, absolutely divine shots of Pemberley( Yes, the love affair continues. I was gaping breathlessly at the introductory shots of Pemberley. Almost poetic!) The direction was swift, crisp and though some people consider this very precise reason as a drawback, I thought it worked perfectly for a film.

Oh, and thankfully, I watched the British version of the film , meaning I don't have to put up with the cringe-worthy 'Mrs. Darcy' bit.

The Cast: 8/10
This is where I've had a change of opinion. Matthew Macfadyen is still my favourite Darcy- a more passionate, brooding and extremely attractive Darcy, even without a wet white shirt. Just saying.

It's with Keira Knightley where things change. After watching Jennifer Ehle's magnificent portrayal of Lizzie Bennet, Keira's performance seems to me a little bit incomplete. Rosamund Pike as Jane however, is still my favourite, probably because she looks as angelic as Jane is supposed to be.

The chemistry between the leads is quite perfect. Especially the scene, which you can view here, where Darcy holds on to Elizabeth's hand as she sits in the carriage and they glance- an almost electric moment!

The Music: 10/10
The soundtrack of Pride and Prejudice has always been on my list of best soundtracks ever and with every viewing of the film, you enjoy it infinitely more. Two thumbs up for Dario Marianelli!

Random favourite moment:

'You have bewitched me, body and soul, and I love, love, I love you.'

Gosh, what is it with that line that makes me love it so much? Is it Macfadyen's voice, or the tender, longing expression, or the fact that it leads to a perfect finale? We're left with a beautiful scene and a wonderful line to savour.

Final verdict: 9/10

A great watch for an Austenite with limited time. I think if we brush aside the BBC version and have in mind the fact that Pride and Prejudice has to be shrunk and fit into the timings of a film, we would appreciate this film for what it is- a glorious, aesthetically and visually pleasing tribute to Austen.

This makes it 6/12 of my Extended Austen Challenge! Yay, the half way mark! Its been great fun reaching there, thanks to your feedback for the reviews :)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Another Award and Update

Thanks to Colette of A Buckeye Girl Reads for giving me this Beautiful Blog Award.

This award was started by Bookin With BINGO and here are the rules: This "B-I-N-G-O" BEAUTIFUL BLOG AWARD means that this blog is...
B: Beautiful - Colette at A Buckeye Girl Reads
I: Informative- Stephanie at Stephanie's Written Word
N: Neighborly - Meg at Yesterday's Tuna
G: Gorgeous - Heather at Gofita's Pages
O: Outstanding - Velvet at vvb32reads

I've at last got a breather from stuff ( Yay!) and amidst all my serious reading, I'm planning to unwind, relax, get myself some tea, cake and watch the 2005 Pride and Prejudice version tomorrow- one of my favourites. I hope to get a review up by tomorrow or the day after.

P.S I always wonder how I never tire of watching this film, though I've watched it 10 times at least.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Kashmir: Behind the Vale by M.J.Akbar

'If there is a Paradise on earth, he said after seeing Kashmir, it is this, it is this. One problem, however, with any Paradise is the envy it tends to arouse.'

That is indeed the sordid truth as M.J.Akbar chronicles the story of the troubled valley, Kashmir, with poignancy, sarcasm, dry humour, remorse and great emotion. The book begins with the origin of Kashmir, its myths, legends, the stories surrounding the beautiful land, its saints, its kings and emperors.

It isn't a tough read at all, which is an excellent sign for any non-fiction book. The book is at its best when it details the entry of the British into India and Kashmir, the freedom struggle, its confusions, partition, accession, war, peace etc. That's the real deal. The real triumph, if and when it comes, is only due to the spirit of the Kashmiri which Pandit Kalhana says 'may be conquered by the force of spiritual merit, but not by the force of soldiers'

Great men and not-so-great men made their mistakes. Kashmir was their litmus test, the quintessential Achilles heel, politically, and many faltered. The problems were far too many, their repercussions were of scary proportions and it only seemed to get worse. But it is during the troubled times, the harshest of moments that history brings forth its greatest heroes. And so it does here.

Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah is a fascinating man and this book is a wonderful tribute to him and his spirit to unify, strengthen and bring pride to Kashmir and to make a state beyond religious and other borders. No, Sheikh Abdullah wasn't flawless. Who is? But as the author points out beautifully:"This man was much more important than his mistakes."

The book presents the martyrs ( the tale of Mir Maqbool Sherwani is just heart-wrenching and brought me to tears), the heroes, the freedom fighters, the politician and the common man who makes Kashmir, in an unforgettable, comprehensive form. It is as political as it is historical- the Nehru-Gandhi family , especially their relationship with the Abdullahs ( which continues, very interestingly, till today , with Rahul Gandhi and Omar Abdullah ) is analyzed and for someone like me who loves reading of dynasties and their politics, the book gave me almost all I needed.

To the reader who isn't acquainted well enough with Indian history or politics, I wouldn't recommend this book. But for the ardent admirer of history, politics and its manifold controversies, this book is just the treat you've been waiting for.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Let's Be Friends Award

Thank you to Colette of A Buckeye Girl Reads and Velvet at vvb32 reads for this award!

The award is for

Blogs that receive the Let’s Be Friends Award are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to seven bloggers.

My note:

I'm pretty much still a novice in the big, wonderful blogging world and some bloggers have been exceptionally kind by often stopping by my blog and leaving me comments that have more often than not, made my day. They've got excellent, fun blogs themselves and there is so much to learn from each of them and I recommend you check them out!

1. Gofita at Gofita's Pages
2. Velvet at vvb32reads
4. Colette of A Buckeye Girl Reads
5. Stephanie at Stephanie's Written Word

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Discovery of India

I intended to post this update about The Discovery of India on August 15, but then I got all busy with work, so here goes:

The Discovery of India, as far as I have read, is an intimate study of India and what she has been to Jawaharlal Nehru- a man who would later go on to be India's first ever Prime Minister. This book was written by Nehru at Ahmadnagar Fort Prison Camp and chronicles his thoughts on India in general and also in relation to her impact on Nehru's life.

Every incident in life, every small occurrence, every visible image- all lead to Nehru's greater understanding of his motherland. It is a deeply emotional, often stirring and certainly a moving read. To me, the strength of this book is definitely how Nehru analyzes India's problems with just as much clarity as he proclaims with pride, his love for his motherland. Now that is not easy, I'd say, to be critical of the place you so much love. But Nehru's writing is like a mother chiding the child she so much loves. The criticism is out of love, not hatred.

The topics that Nehru analyzes in the book are mind-bogglingly varied, which is why it takes me a lot of time to read it all and actually internalize it. Nehru talks of the Indus Valley civilization and often wonders how the civilization survived for 2000 years and yearns to discover that spirit, that strength that held a country together. He talks about India's diversity, her rivers, her languages, her people, the Bharath Mata, philosophy, Lenin and Marxism, his refusal to meet the Duce Mussolini and so much more!

At one point in the book, Nehru admits that at first he did not know the real India. The Cambridge educated Nehru felt like a 'friendly foreigner' delving into India's mysteries, history, culture and heritage.

As Nehru discovers India through this book, you begin to discover Nehru. I found myself agreeing with him so many times which is why I'd say he was a man with quite a formidable vision.

Sample this:
'India, constituted as she is, cannot play a secondary part in the world. She will either count for a great deal or not count at all'
I entirely agree with this line! 'Constituted as she is' obviously refers to India's immense population that leads to great man-power and her significantly large landscape, her culture, her unity in diversity.

Nehru's admiration for China, which would later initially influence India's policy regarding China and was at one point symbolized by the catchphrase Hindi- Chini bhai bhai ( Indians and Chinese are brothers) during his tenure, is also evident from several instances in this book.
They (the Chinese) are not a new race, nor have they gone through that shock of change, from top to bottom, which came to Russia. Undoubtedly, seven years of cruel war has changed them, as it must. How far this change is due to the war or to more abiding causes, or whether it is a mixture of the two, I do not know, but the vitality of the Chinese people astonishes me. I cannot imagine a people endowed with such bed-rock strength going under.
The book is a treasure to cherish for sure. It is a long read, but a rewarding one which teaches you as much about India, her glories and challenges, as it does about one of the men who helped make India what it is today. I look forward to reading the rest of the book and I certainly recommend it for anyone who wants to know more about India as seen from the eyes of one of her sons.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Countdown to August 15

When there is a revolution in the waiting- with body, soul and spirit in towe to fight for righteousness, justice and freedom- its magnitude cannot be imagined in its actuality. Tired, physically and mentally bruised men and women who fought for India's freedom from the British rule found inspiration from poems and songs that evoke a beautiful fervour even now.

Poems are not usually my favourite literary medium, but then, immortal poems like this one are certainly never to be missed out on:

Where the mind is without fear:

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow
domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the
dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought
and action--
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

- Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore.

India's Independence Day is nearing and as I read through Jawaharlal Nehru's masterpiece The Discovery of India, there is a mingled sense of awe, pride, understanding, sadness and yet, hope. Since a lot of bloggers were looking forward to my review of the book, here's something that would add to the excitement:

( Copied from the backcover of my book )
Princeton, New Jersey
February 18, 1950
Dear Mr. Nehru

I have read with extreme interest your marvellous book The Discovery of India. The first half of it is not easy reading for a Westerner. But it gives an understanding of the glorious intellectual and spiritual tradition of your great country. The analysis you have given in the second part of the book of the tragic influence and forced economic, moral and intellectual decline by the British rule and the vicious exploitation of the Indian people has deeply impressed me. My admiration for Gandhi's and your work for liberation through non-violence and non-cooperation has become even greater than it was already before. The inner struggle to conserve objective understanding despite the pressure of tyranny from the outside and the struggle against becoming inwardly a victim of resentment and hatred may well be unique in world history. I feel deeply grateful to you for having given me your admirable work.

With my best wishes for your important and beneficient work and with kind greetings,

Yours cordially
Albert Einstein
Please remember me kindly to your daughter *


* Nehru's daughter being referred to here is Indira Gandhi who would later go on to be Prime Minister, as would her son Rajiv Gandhi.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Bridget Jones reviews her Diary

Contains spoilers for those who haven't read the book or watched the film

Tuesday, 11 August

Not counting calories any more ( Mark says I look just perfect now and I don't need to slim down. Take that Magazines that claim 'slimmer the woman the better her prospects'!)

I had today:

Pizza with mozarella cheese lavished on top of it.
Chocolate raspberry mixed cake
Watermelon salad ( Found it in one of those Diet books after feeling guilty about the mozarella cheese)
2 Bloody Marys

I woke up today and decided suddenly that I ought to look through my diary and see how random I've been with scribbling things. And its an embarrassing read. I'd go bonkers if I found someone else reading through it( I mean, do I actually sound THAT desperate!? ). Or maybe not. I may not have achieved inner poise but I'm pretty sure so many people go through the er.. embarrassing situations and societal problems that I do. Or so I hope.

But I still stick by my 'Why-is-society-so-unfair-to-singletons?' stand, though currently I'm not one ( Yipee!! It's such a relief, though Uncle Geoffrey still says " At last...Bridget landed herself a man" ) The Smug Marrieds are as unimaginably irritating as usual, but not as much to me nowadays.

Oh anyway, Daniel Cleaver aka the Bingley of my story is now officially the biggest mistake I made last year ( Yes, even worse than the disastrous 'And now back to the studio' event with the fireman. And the bunnygirl costume. ) But boy am I glad Mark rescued me from disaster that Mum could have become- he's got that absolutely amazing 'saving people thing' doesn't he? Oh wait, did I just quote from Harry Potter? Oh, well.

I now need to run. Mark Darcy is calling me out for dinner where Shazzer, Jude and Tom are joining us. Oh what is it with that name Darcy!? He was such a snob, perfectly impolite and clearly bad at conversation initially but he's the sort of man that will stick with you and be there for you when you need him the most. There. I think I just achieved inner poise.

My Notes:

Helen Fielding is not just a hilarious writer, but someone who I feel makes perfect, biting observations on society a la Jane Austen. This in my opinion is one of the best Austen inspired books set in the 21st century.

The characters are so believable and ultimately hilarious as they send you in spirals of laughter with their antics. Especially the Mrs. Bennetesque mother of Bridget. The best thing about the book ( and the famous film version ) is that it does not go over-board with things. It sticks to the all important line and never annoys me.

This is the third time I'm reading the book and I never stop enjoying it. Highly recommended for anyone who wants to laugh their heads off at an amazing take on Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

This makes it 5/12 of my Extended Austen Challenge. I just wanted to have fun writing one entry in Bridget's diary :) No copyright infringement intended of course.

Teaser Tuesday- August 11

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Miz B at Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Here's how it works:
-grab your current read
-open to a random page
-share two teaser sentences from somewhere on the page (avoid spoilers!)
-be sure to include the title and author so other TT participants can add the book to their tbr list if they like your teaser
-leave a comment with your link at Should Be Reading

My Teaser:

Since India's independence day is nearing( August 15 ) and I've always wanted to read some of this great man's books, I picked The Discovery of India by India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. It isn't an easy read but I'm thoroughly enjoying it and hope to make a special post on August 15 with how much ever I've finished of the book along with some poems that came to the fore during the Indian freedom struggle.

" Our women came to the front and took charge of the struggle. Women have always been there of course, but now there was an avalanche of them, which took not only the British Government but their own menfolk by surprise. "
( Page 41 )

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Lost in Austen- Viewing Manual

Step 1: Find the coziest couch in the World and snuggle onto it with your comfiest cushion.

Step 2: Get some icecream.

Preferably chocolate icecream that has a hint of mocha, garnished with gorgeous nuts. Watch Lost in Austen.

Step 3: If you're an Austen purist, good luck watching this.

I suggest you try thinking that Bingley, Darcy, Lizzie are all puppets, willing to be pulled and moved the way anyone wants to. And, be thankful that scriptwriter Guy Andrews has an absolutely delightful sense of humour( Downtown? Stroke of genius) . A sense of humour that every Janeite would appreciate with glee.

Step 4: Do not look for loopholes. They are aplenty.

Instead, ignore the inconsistancies, noticeable flaws and look at this TV series for what it is- a delightful and hilarious tribute to Jane Austen's masterpiece and the irrefutable place Pride and Prejudice holds in the hearts of millions.

Step 5: This TV series is the end result of a scriptwriter having great fun playing with our beloved Pride and Prejudice. Expect the unexpected.

Though you may be aghast at some of the extreme liberties taken with the script and the characters, you're so undeniably in love with this tv series that you're willing to look past it. Some juicy details that Guy Andrews drops( 'Claude' Bennet?! Mr. Collins' three brothers. Mr. Bennet actually duels !?), will be best appreciated by the Austen fan who's read the book time and again and longed for more.

Step 6: Enjoy watching how it would be, to be in the midst of Jane Austen's beautiful classic.

Amanda Price is where we would all give anything to be. Inside Pride and Prejudice, playing cards with Lady Catherine, dancing with Darcy and finding help in the most unexpected of places.

Confession: Tom Riley is such a gorgeous man. I'm ashamed to admit I adored Wickham.

Step 7: Be patient. Good things come to those who wait.

Though Lost in Austen is peppered with amazing references that only an Austenite would catch, the best truly comes towards the end. I have gotten extremely tired of authors/script writers trying to work in Colin Firth or the wet white shirt to any Austen inspired book/movie. But here, I have no complaints.

This tribute to BBC's 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice is aptly placed and entirely spell-binding. Guy Andrews, take a bow.

Step 8: Enjoy the performances.

Full marks to the cast. Jemima Rooper is fantastic playing a character that is assuredly going to be the envy of every fan of Austen.

And thank you Mr. Casting Director. Thank you for Elliot Cowan.

Step 9: Watch out for the beautiful costumes.

Pemberley is of course, as beautiful as it ought to be. The costumes, especially Amanda Price's, are gorgeous. Plus, if you like me adore old fashioned libraries and books, the scene where Darcy stands in front of the neatly decked books is totally attractive.

Step 10: Try to watch this TV series with some fellow Austen fans. The experience is as good as you can ever imagine :)

This is the second time I watched Lost in Austen and I enjoyed it thoroughly, again. Also, this makes it 4/12 in my Extended Austen Challenge.


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