Rebecca by ALFRED HITCHCOCK ( English)

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Movie: Rebecca
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Release date: 1940
Cast: Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, Judith Anderson 

I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said Daphne du Maurier’s ‘ Rebecca’ was safe in the hands of Alfred Hitchcock. Though some alterations were made, he didn’t allow the essence of Maurier’s book to erode.

 

 
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”

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She was narrating her dream about Manderley. She was nameless.
In her dream, she saw, Manderley was deserted and abandoned. The shrubs, the trees , the plants had encroached the drive and all around from their usual place giving it a ghostly look. Like any other bride, when she came to Manderley dreamt of a quiet life with her husband. But there was something sinister going on in Manderly.
Every wall of Manderley was yelling a name ‘ Rebecca’. She was the first wife of Max de Winter who died of drowning in the sea. Mrs Danvers, an ardent devotee of Rebecca and the head house keeper of Manderley intimidated the narrator.

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She met him in Monte Carlo, France where she was accompanying a wealthy American woman called Van Hopper as a paid companion. Her employer’s illness gave her the opportunity to spend more time with Max and eventually, they ended up marrying.
It was not that she had to fight with humans but with the haunting and all pervading presence of Rebecca, the first Mrs de Winter who died of drowning in the sea.
Rebecca was dead. But Manderley retained her undaunting spirits. Mrs Danvers had kept Manderley as if Rebecca had just gone out for a brief vacation and would be back anytime. The narrator did not do anything to alter the situation as she did not want to risk losing Max, her husband whom she thought was still in love with his first wife.
Everyone compared her with Rebecca. Beatrice, Max’s sister told her that she was nothing like Rebecca and when she met Max’s grandmother who also in her senility insisted of meeting Rebecca, leaving our narrator all the more perplexed. When Rebecca was alive, they had their bedroom in the western wing of the Manderly and the second Mrs de Winter and Max used the rooms in the eastern wing which was comparatively smaller in size.

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Mrs Danvers intimidated her to such an extent that the latter was almost successful in convincing her to commit suicide by saying on and on that she was unwanted in Manderley, even her husband did not love her. She would have jumped from the roof of Rebecca had the rockets were not fired indicating that a ship was aground in the sea near to the mansion with Max ordering everybody to offer help to the people in the ship.
A year ago, after Rebecca went missing in the sea, a dead-body of a woman had washed up on the shore and Max identified her as Rebecca. But, to everybody’s dismay, when the divers dived in to check the condition of the ship, they came across a boat with a woman’s body stuck in its little cabin. The boat was of Rebecca’s.
No doubt! there would be an inquest. It was then our narrator heard something from her husband which she never expected. He was not in love with Rebecca and he hated her to the core. She was a woman of loose morals. That one sentence just changed our narrator in a trice.
Why was  Mrs de Winter or the narrator of the story nameless? Was it because even after marrying Max de Winter, the owner of the famous Manterly, she was reduced to a shadow of his first wife. Perhaps yes!
She was living in her own world of imagination.
The revelation by Max that he never loved Rebecca came as a pleasant surprise to her though it came with a heavy price to pay.

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Mrs Danvers was a woman who was absolutely mesmerized by Rebecca. They were alike in spirits -absolutely inconsiderate of other’s emotions. She considered Rebecca’s audacity to continue her clandestine relationships under the nose of everybody at Manderley as something heroic. Mrs Danvers was a cruel soul who lacked judgement. According to Mrs Danvers, Rebecca loved only herself.

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Max, on the other hand, loved his second wife. But he was smarting over his own pain that he could not explicitly express that he was in love with Rebecca. I would say he was not bold enough to confront the reality.

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Speaking of the cast, Joan Fontaine who played the second Mrs de winter was perfect for the role. She could bring forth a naive, timid girl. After ‘ Gone with wind’ actor Vivian Leigh who was Olivier Laurence’s fiancee then wanted to take up the role of second Mrs de Winter. She also gave a test. But it never happened as it was deemed that her personality was too strong to play the demure, timid and gauche second Mrs De Winter.

 

I have read the book before watching the movie and I could never imagine anybody else in the role other than Joan Fontaine. Though Vivian Leigh could not work with Hitchcock in that movie, Alfred Hitchcock thought there was one role she could play and it was none other than the role of ‘ Rebecca’.
Like Joan Fontaine, the other actor who took her character to another level was Judith Anderson. The sinister look she had on her face was horrifying and the rigid look never wavered even for one single moment.
One of the main alterations which Hitchcock did with the movie was the death of Rebecca. When Daphne made Max kill her, Alfred made it an accidental death.
Laurence Olivier was good in his role as Max but it was more of Joan’s movie. My imagination of Max after reading the book was a bit different, the primary one being his look. I imagined him to be somebody without a moustache. It did not mean that I did not like the ‘ Olivier Max’. Daphne like his Max.

Loved the movie and always a Hitchcock fan.

by Shalet Jimmy

 

 

 

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The Painted Veil ( English)

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Director: John Curran ( based on Somerset Maugham’s ‘ The Painted Veil’
Release Year: 2006
Cast: Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Liev Schreiber, Toby Jones, Diana Rigg

Has any woman loved a man for his virtue?

Kitty, the wife of Walter Fayne had her own reasons to justify her clandestine relationship with Charles Townsend. She never liked Walter, a bacteriologist working in Shangai where she meets Charles who unlike her husband was a popular government servant. She married Walter just because she was not getting any suitable proposal though she was garnering a lot of attention from most of the men around.

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To her utter dismay, her sister who was not as popular as she was received a decent proposal from a Duke and this forced Kitty to go for Walter. On the other hand, Walter was neck-deep in love with her and every hell broke loose when he found out her infidelity.
He says ” I know you are worthless – still I loved.”
He loved her knowing all her defects. Still, he expected a lot from her.
Though Kitty thought getting a divorce from him would not be a strenuous task, Walter’s conditions for granting it shattered her expectations.
He would divorce her if Charles divorced his wife Dorothy and promise to marry Kitty. If not, she would have to accompany him to cholera stricken Mei-tan- fu where people were dying like flies. She never doubted for a minute that Charles would disown her which was exactly what happened.
Charles was more keen to hush up the issue by asking her to deny their relationship.
Kitty was quick to understand that Walter too expected the same reaction from Charles.
Perhaps, this episode sowed the first seed of awakening in Kitty.

Based on the story by acclaimed author W Somerset Maugham by the same name, ‘The Painted Veil’ tells the story of a woman’s transformation from a worthless being to an awakened soul.
If Charles did not agree to divorce his wife and Kitty still needed a divorce, it would come to her with a heavy price – Walter would sue her for adultery. Hence, she was left with no other option but accompany him to cholera-stricken place.

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Walter was fiercely in love with Kitty. He volunteered to go to the Cholera stricken place to punish himself for loving her. Though she realised her mistake and accepted it, Walter could not forgive her. At the same time, he also could not stop loving her.
In the novel, though she gradually developed a respect for Walter, she could not bring herself to love him. Human minds are strange and Maugham had delved deeply into the abyss of those human emotions. But in the movie, Kitty’s admiration for Walter slowly grows and she fell for him for his virtues. He also couldn’t resist the transformed Kitty.

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Both of them accept that they were looking for qualities in each other which neither of them possessed. Now, they were ready to accept each other without any preconceived notions. They were back to life. Walter was gracious enough to accept the truth that Kitty was pregnant with Charles’ child.
Though in the book, it is just the opposite. Walter’s love for her was too fierce that he could not bear the news that she was pregnant with Charles’ baby. Perhaps, this induced him to experiment the medicine for cholera on himself.
Walter has a small part to play but his presence literally swayed all through the book. The major focus was on Kitty. On the contrary, he occupied an important space along with Kitty. Perhaps it was to augment his presence in the movie, he was picturized as a heroic person who helped the local population to have access to clean water for polluted water was spreading cholera.

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Shallow and frivolous, Kitty is not a likeable character in the book but it is not easy to dislike her in the movie as she fell for him for the person he is. Besides, the convent and the mother superior plays an important role in her transformation.
My heart went for her when she was telling Walter, tears streaming down her eyes that it was not her fault that she was brought up that way. Kitty was right when she asked Walter why did he assume her to be of a higher order when she was not.
Speaking of the characters, they perfectly did justice to their roles especially Naomi Watts. To put Edward Norton’s words on the picturization on China, he says “China becomes a “fully realised” character in the film”.

Before 2006 movie, there were two movie adaptations of the novel – The painted veil ( 1935), The Seventh Sin ( 1957)
The film ends with Kitty is back in London five years after the death of Walter. Though she meets Charles on the way who invites her to spend time with him, perhaps to rekindle the passion once they had, Kitty turns it down by saying a Good bye.

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When her son asks who he is ( without knowing it is his own father), she replies ” No one important.”
She is a perfect example of a ‘ Round Character’.

The caption is interesting ” Sometimes the greatest journey is the distance between two people.”

– by Shalet Jimmy

The Lady Vanishes ( English)

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Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Releasing Date: 1938
Cast: Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, Paul Lukas, May Whitty, Basil Radford

Talk about murder mysteries on trains, the first one that pops up in my mind is the movie and the book “ Murder on the Orient Express” by Agatha Christie. ‘ The Lady Vanishes’ reminds me of the same, though both are unique in their own way. The murder is committed in a moving train and most of them know that the murderer is still on the train. The excitement intensifies when the mystery has to be solved before the train reaches its destination.

To begin with, a moving train is a limited space for a murderer or a culprit to escape after committing the crime. But even with such faint chance, when the characters who are into investigating the incident encounter bottlenecks in their moves ahead, it becomes a real challenge not only to the investigating characters but the readers and spectators as well.

Without a speck of doubt, Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘ The Lady Vanishes’ easily fits into the above-mentioned category. Called as “ One of the greatest train movies from the genre’s golden era” by The Guardian, it is based on Ethel Lina White’s novel ‘ The wheel spins’, though with slight alterations in the plot to make it tighter.

The backdrop of the story is the political situation existed then which eventually gave way to the Second World War. The mystery begins when an old woman called Miss Froy disappears from a moving train. Iris, one of the protagonists met the old woman who calls herself a governess when another inmate, a musician named Gilbert disturbs their sleep by playing the music loudly in an inn where they all stayed for one night as the railway line was blocked by an avalanche.

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The next day at the railway station, Iris gets hurt in the head when a big flower pot falls on her head. The attack was originally intended to hurt Miss Froy. Iris blacks out once she boards the train and the ‘lady’ helps her. Once she regains her consciousness, both women go to the cafeteria on the train for a cup of tea. After a short nap in her coupe, when Iris opens her eyes Miss Froy has just vanished. The real mystery begins when the magician and family travelling with her in their coupe denies there was any old woman.

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To Iris’ shock, her fellow passengers – the two gentlemen – Charters and Caldicott obsessed with Cricket, Mr Todhunter and Mrs Todhunter in fact, his mistress denies seeing any older woman with her though they have seen her.

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The denial is to due to several reasons – the first two just because they do not want to miss cricket and the second to avoid a possible scandal as they are involved in a clandestine relationship. Within a few hours into the journey, Gilbert with whom she had a ruckus in the previous night joins hands with Iris in search of the woman once he was sure she was not hallucinating.

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To speak about the casting, it was perfect. Iris played by Margaret Lockwood and Gilbert by Michael Redgrave who were relatively unknown actors, then became International stars instantly once the movie was released. The chemistry between them was great. I fell in love with Miss Froy played by Dame Mae Witty, the moment I saw her on the screen. Not for a single moment, I felt that the movie was shot 79 years ago. The emotions were universal and displayed well by the characters all through the movie that made me as a spectator to instantly connect with the character irrespective of being a foreigner.

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The characters of cricket-loving Englishmen, Charters and Caldicott became so popular as comedians that other writers and directors included these two characters in some of their films.

Humour was displayed brilliantly, especially in the scene when Iris and Gilbert come across a dingy room which supposedly belongs to the magician who was travelling with Iris in her coupe. The fight then ensues is utterly humorous and the actors did it perfectly without overdoing it.

The project, at the outset, was initiated under the name ‘The Lost Lady’ directed by Roy William Neil. But it had to be shelved as the Yugoslavian police accidentally discovered that they were not portrayed in the film in a positive way. This happened when the crew were in Yugoslavia for the shoot. Later, Hitchcock took up the project, which became an instant. The only thing which I did not understand was the scene where a hand comes from the behind and strangles a singer who was singing a song which the Miss Froy was listening from her room.

Before I conclude, I would add that like most of his several films, he had a cameo appearance in this movie too.

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– Shalet Jimmy

 

American Sniper ( English)

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Director: Clint Eastwood
Releasing Date: 2014
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Seana Miller,  Luke Grimes
(American biographical war drama film directed by Clint Eastwood and written by Jason Hall)

American Sniper can be easily categorized into a war – movie, but with many underlying layers to it- emotions, faith, duty and certain viewpoints which are of course debatable.

Based on the real life story of Chris Kyle, acclaimed as the most lethal sniper in the US military history who had 160 official killings to his credit, the film solely speaks about ‘ Chris’, though the war is the backdrop. Nevertheless, through him many perspectives come to the fore, the first one being the definition of ‘Evil ‘which is no doubt, Iraq. If we keep aside that particular aspect for a while, the film is worth watching for its sheer display of emotions – a man caught between his duties towards his country where he has to take lives to protect his people and the humanity in him.

When the movie opens, Kyle is on his first operation at Fallujah, Iraq. He is on the rooftop of a building aiming at his enemy. His first target is a woman and a son. The woman, presumably his mother hands over a grenade to the little boy and he is about to throw it towards the convoy. One single shot – the boy is down. Chris is unflinching in his duty but is sad without remorse that he has to gun down the little boy.

It’s the lesson taught by his father that he should be a sheepdog who protects his flock, makes him one of the best snipers. When he guns down his enemy, there’s no remorse written over his face. He is clear – the evil should not thrive. The humanity in him is intact, but that does not deter him from taking over his enemy irrespective of who it is. But when he is away from the war – front, the gore and the violence consume him. As the film progress, we could see the real man whom he has subdued for a while. The scene where he struggles with himself when he has to aim another little boy who picks up the weapon dropped by a terrorist who has been shot by Chris clearly reveals his dilemma. When the child drops the weapon without firing, he heaves a sigh of relief.

Bradley Cooper is at his best that we could never find a trace of him in his character. Sienna Miller, though her scenes are a few, her acting made her presence felt all through the film. Her scenes throw light on what the families of the soldiers go through.

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Chris might be the ‘legend’ as everyone calls him, but, when he’s home, we can see a mentally torn Chris struggling with the conflict that’s brewing inside his mind. But he refuses to acknowledge it. Besides, it is also the protector image which is ingrained in his mind right from the inception of his childhood aggravates his dilemma. He feels that when his buddies are dying in Iraq, he is with his family unable to save them.

It draws our attention to a universal issue – the trauma experienced by the soldiers all across due to their exposure to wars. Whether they are being addressed is the burning question. The scene in a bar where Chris spends time before going home after the war-front is a perfect example of that. As the audience are immersed in his dilemma, the scene cuts to another shot which is the last shot where Chris is seen enjoying with the family and goes out with a war veteran who later kills him. It seems as if the issue has been abruptly cut rather than delving into it a little further.

For a foreigner watching the movie, the answer to the question ‘ why did the war veteran kill Chris’, will be ambiguous, leaving him/her to rely on Google. When you search, you will figure out that he was killed by a psychopath who was affected by the sheer violence he had to see while he was deployed.

Eastwood and Jason decided to cut the final scene after a request from Chris Kyle’s widow – Taya Kyle. The team of American Sniper came up with five different endings once Kyle’s widow informed them that “ This is going to be how my children remember their father, so I want you to get it right.” The film ends with the ‘real funeral scene’ of Chris Kyle.

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When every intention of Clint Eastwood was to portray war as something that annihilating, there’s another side to that portrayal – Dehumanisation of Iraq

Though not explicitly, Eastwood has shown it as an evil that has to be obliterated which makes the story one-sided.The explanation on why ‘Iraq’ became one of the ‘axis of evil’ is glossed over conveniently. Iraq is completely dehumanised in the movie.

Barring this single aspect, he deserves every appreciation for making one of the best war movies which is also the highest grossing war movie ever made.

Interestingly, the release of the movie ran parallel with the trial of Eddie Ray Youth who was guilty of murdering Chris Kyle.

The movie was nominated for six Oscars including best actor for Bradley Cooper and best picture. It won several other awards including Academy Award for best sound editing.

by Shalet Jimmy

BEGUM JAAN ( Hindi)

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BEGUM JAAN ( Hindi)
Releasing Year: 2017
Director: SRIJITH MUKHERJI,
Cast: Vidya Balan, Gauhar Khan

 

Feminism, women empowerment, being true to oneself etc are a few words which are unfortunately being misinterpreted all the time and its true meaning still lies subdued. ‘ Being unapologetic’ is one way of getting empowered. Being true to one’s own reality is another way of getting empowered. Begum Jan is both.

The message is clearly conveyed when the protagonist says ‘ the brothel is ours, the body is ours and the rules are ours’. Though sex workers, we cannot see any victims there. They might have been victims at some point in time in their lives, but once they came under the safe roof of ‘ Begum Jaan’, they ceased to be victims.

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Director Srijith Mukherjee has clearly drawn a demarcation line for the protagonist from becoming a larger – than size character.

She is strong but vulnerable too. As usual, you cannot see a single trace of Vidya in Begum Jaan. The characters lack hypocrisy and it is well conveyed too.
The movie opens with an incident that shows a striking resemblance to the gruesome Nirbhaya case. But unlike the real incident, the girl is saved by an old woman who strips herself in front of the miscreants. Proved to be a knock on their conscience, they leave the girl unharmed.

From there, we are taken to 1947 when India was about to get freedom. Cyril Radcliff, who was utterly clueless on the diversity of India was called by the last viceroy Mountbatten to have the final cut on the country – perhaps, the most brutal atrocity which the English had ever committed in the country.

When Radcliff completes his task successfully by drawing the infamous ‘ Radcliff line’, there stands a brothel as a major bottleneck in the border of Punjab and Pakistan.
For the Radcliff Line is passing through ‘ Begum Jaan’s brothel and to evict her is not an easy task. The crux of the story is how the two officers from the Congress and the Muslim league ( Rajat Kapur and Ashish Vidyarthi) who also happens to be friends become successful in their mission. Will they be able to revel in their success once the mission is accomplished?BJ2

Begum Jaan is an unrelenting opponent – a woman shaped and moulded by the scars of her life. She is running a brothel with 12 sex workers from all the castes. Though a brothel, it is a close-knit unit. Though they have their personal woes, they are happy at the moment.
Right from the outset, we understand that things are not going to end on a happy note.But how they deal with their reality makes the story.

Of course, there are many loud outbursts and use of expletives. But you cannot expect the refined use of language from a brothel and its inmates. The partition is being used just as a background and you cannot see any worse ramification of the holocaust as you are watching the whole story either from the view of Begum Jan who is least bit bothered about the partition. ” Partition is only for men. For us, everything is same once the light goes off,” she says or from the officers’ viewpoint who are only witnessing the Begum Jan’s story.

Perhaps, this was how the people of India at the time of partition might have felt too. They had to bear the brunt for something they had not done. Unfortunately, the situation has not changed one bit.

Besides, it’s the loudness which made me connect to their traumas and tribulations.
The two officers – Rajat Kapur ( Iliyaz and Hari Prasad) are also caught in the dilemma. They too had to sacrifice a lot due to partition. Unlike Begum Jaan and her girls, these are two characters who are trying their level best to run away from their realities. Though ruthlessly quelled, Begum Jaan and her girls emerge victoriously and these two men put themselves in a state of being where even their success becomes their failures.

 

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Ila Arun’s character recites the story of Jhansi Rani, Padmavathi, Meera Bhai. I don’t believe those narratives have sidetracked the story, instead, it is an attempt to reinforce the resilience of Begum Jaan and her girls.

Every actor in the film deserves special mention especially Chunky Pandey who played perhaps one of the best roles so far in his film career.

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Begum Jaan is the remake of Srijith Mukherjee’s Bengali movie Rajkahini which was a major hit in Bengal.

Loved Begum Jaan

by Shalet Jimmy

Riot – Sashi Tharoor

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I read this book around 10 years ago. Ever since Lakshman and Priscilla Hart remained with me. Ten years after, I thought of re-reading it again. Just because I felt I can understand the emotions portrayed in the book much better.
When the story starts, Priscilla Hart, a 24 year old American24-year-oldad. Why did she die? Was she murdered or was she at the wrong place at the wrong time?
Though there is the element of ‘ Who dunnit?’, the story is not said through the shrewd eyes of a sleuth but with a heart full of emotions.

 
Priscilla came to India when she was a little girl. Her dad was a Coco Cola executive. Though she had to leave India after some time, she left her heart and soul in the country only to return after a couple of years. She volunteered a population control programme in Zalilgarh in Uttar Pradesh, a place completely marred by the riots. She gets acquainted with the District Magistrate Lakshman and slowly the acquaintance blossoms to love. An abandoned ‘Kotli’ in the district is the witness of all their romantic trysts.
But Lakshman is married and could not leave his wife ( though he knew that he was not in love with her) and his little daughter. But he knew that Priscilla is the love of his life – with whom his life again bloomed. On top of that, he is in charge of a city marred by riots.
Putting an end to Lakshman’s dilemma, Priscillia was about to leave India when the fate struck its hardest blow. In the riots that broke out in Zalilgarh, there were eight people killed and her name was one among them. She is found dead in the same Kotli where she used to love Lakshman. The story slowly unravels the mystery of her death.
Tharoor has written a beautiful love -story in the backdrop of a riot-torn city.

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Almost Single – Advaita Kala

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After a considerable long gap, I was able to read a book – Advaita Kala’s ‘ Almost Single’. For the first time, I realised that be it Bhatinda or Kerala, the mothers of single women nearing 30 speaks almost the same language. ‘ Mama Bhatia ‘, the mother of Aisha Bhatia, the protagonist resembles my mother too strongly and there are times I had to pinch myself to make sure that it was not my mum who was speaking.

I never had the intention of buying this book when I came across it. I used to frequent bookstores when I am depressed and I chanced upon this book during one such visit. Went through many books and the huge amount printed on the cover literally threw cold waters on my strong inclination to buy a book. But this one was different. Its title lured me like anything for my age. Besides the price was comparatively low that I had no other alternative other than succumbing to my inclination. That’s how I bought Advaita Kala’s ‘ Almost Single’.

I would definitely not call this a masterwork or great piece of art. It is a book which has been written in a simple language and absolutely apt for casual reading. There is no plot as such. It is the story of Aisha Bhatia from Bhatinda along with her two friends who are on a groom hunt, to be precise, it would not be wrong if I say ‘ NRI groom hunt’. ( One friend just got a divorce from her husband and the other is on a search ).

As far as Aisha is concerned, unlike her friends, he did not want to flow with the age old tradition of groom hunting whether it be through social networking sites or by conventional methods. Her faith eventually triumphs at the end as she falls for Karan, an NRI. The story concludes with hero and heroine coming together just like a typical Bollywood movie.

If you are somebody who needs food for thought after reading a book, Almost Single is just not for you. You won’t get anything serious out of it. Keeping all those seriousness aside, if you need a light reading while you are travelling or mired in depression, this could be a perfect remedy.

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