Two Oscars

Yes, I saw two Oscar-nominated and Oscar-winning movies this weekend!

One was “The Shape of Water“, this year’s Oscar Winner for the Best Movie. Before I get into some comments, let me mention one thing – while this is a fabulously directed movie (Director: Guillermo del Toro) and wonderfully acted by Sally Hawkins as the lead actress who is mute, it is still a fable – a story which combines an extra-terrestrial alien with Cold War secret experimentation and a mute woman who falls in love with the alien (as apparently she has not found love in her life). In my considered opinion, this movie is more about the kind of “eternal” love we all aspire for in our own lives. The fact that it happens between a scaled, terrifying creature and a normal human being creates an aura of romance, love, empathy and passion.

I was surprised with the level of nudity in the movie given that it would always be a sure bet for the Oscars. There are several scenes which does not require much imagination on the part of the audience. Nevertheless, the director has weaved such scenes beautifully into the overall storyline, so that we do not feel at all odd watching these scenes. That skill does not come easily to most directors.

“The Shape of Water” is a beautifully directed fantasy story, trying hard to connect with the reality of this world (or the world of the Sixties). It is hard to believe that two janitors in a super-secret military research facility could kidnap a well-guarded “asset” (as they call the creature in the movie), spirit him away without making much of a noise, escaping in a ramshackle van when the military should be able to send fast cars to chase the van and retake the “asset” – but that does not happen! After this miserable loss of the “asset” the director of the facility goes on a wild goose chase trying to find clues for the disappearance, and accidentally discovers the potential whereabouts of the “asset” in the apartment of the mute. The tempo builds up nicely, and like most everyone watching the movie, I was disappointed when the director of the facility locates the creature and shoots him. But then, the creature possesses “god-like” powers and kills the director, and escapes with his love mate (Sally Hawkins).

Good story, in parts totally unbelievable, but a love story with touches of reality and as I said, directed by Guillermo del Toro in an amazing way, leading to the Oscar win in the recently concluded event.

The second movie is “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri“. I was wondering what kind of movie would elicit such a long name. Frances McDormand who is the lead actress in the movie won the Oscar Award for Best Actress in the recent 2018 Oscar ceremony. She delivers what I would call a stunning performance as the aggrieved mother of a brutally murdered daughter, who demands justice from the police department in the small town of Ebbing in Missouri. There was not a sagging moment in this drama of a movie, and my wife & I enjoyed Frances’ acting thoroughly. She brings to life the real feelings of how such a mother who has unjustly and brutally lost her daughter would feel all the time. Her grief is demonstrated throughout the movie in subtle and sometimes not so silent manner. I was thinking “what has America come to and why is it so violent” – for a country which is #1 in the world in most social, economic and military parameters, why it does not dawn that violence is not the way forward in ordinary peoples’ lives and why police have to be so brutal in smashing normal people, and why racism rears its head on most occasions in their lives. As the police chief writes in his letter to the angry police guy on his team, it is more important to develop a sense of calmness, because thought flows through calm and hate needs to be removed from oneself who is performing service to people.

Frances (I am using the real name of the actress) delivers an amazing stand-out performance in this movie, and impresses even the police chief against who she had put up the three billboards demanding justice for her daughter. Her rage against injustice is palpable and dominates the movie.

It is normal for Frances to possess rage and feel angry all the time because justice has been denied to her daughter in her mind. It is proportionate to her loss. But what about scores of people (which includes cops) always feeling angry against everyone and everything around them? Especially in America. This is not healthy at all. Such angry folks resort to violence, and the damage they cause is disproportionate. In fact, in most cases, these people do not deserve to be angry, and certainly are not entitled to rage.

Overall, this is a good movie, though the issue of race has clouded its acceptance. Without going into that aspect of the movie, I can only state that Frances’ acting prowess has not ceased to amaze me – she is probably the best fit for the character. Even with some good Pinot Noir, the image of the angry Frances and her machinations to get the police to act, remain fresh in my mind as I am ending what has been a wonderful Saturday of movie-watching – the Oscar types!

See both these movies, they both are great.


Vijay Srinivasan

10th February 2018


Weekend Movie Choices

To be honest, I did not see these three movies during one particular weekend.

I saw these movies over several days, but think it is good for me to suggest for your viewing if you are bored during this or the next weekend. Simply because I enjoyed all of these excellent movies, and believe you will also do so.

Let me start with an Indian movie featured on NetFlix recently – it is “Love per square foot” – I enjoyed every bit of this light romantic comedy. I could sync with the movie rather well, having lived in Mumbai for a little over six years. It is a city with some amazing people, comparable with any other global business city, but has a perennial shortage of living space. It is not at all surprising to witness young people trying to outwit the system in their quest for owning a few hundred square feet of space in Mumbai. Only Mumbai City in India can come up with the unique “business arrangement” of convenience when it comes to getting a space to live – just get married for the sake of convenience and then later throw the marriage to the winds. I always loved the laissez faire attitude of Mumbai, which is so very different from the politically-laced Delhi or the social constraints of the South (meaning Chennai specificially!). With loveable characters acting out almost what sounds like a real-life story, I got hooked from beginning to end (I have to thank the English Sub-titles so well done on NetFlix for my sheer enjoyment).

The second movie I would recommend is “The Bank Job”. This is a movie about a bank heist in London. It is always fascinating to see a movie on a well-planned bank robbery, but how about this movie where there was really no serious plan and no serious robber gang on the job? I liked the movie simply because I could not guess what was going to happen to the gang – are they going to be arrested by the London Police or by the MI5 who knew that the robbery was happening (!)? Or, are they going to be allowed to escape by the government? What is going to happen to the scandalous photos and some serious police evidence involving payoffs to senior police officers, which are found in the bank vault? Good suspense, and ultimately the unknown thing happens and for that, you got to see the movie of course. Quite enjoyable for a Sunday afternoon, with coffee of course. Too early for the wine to come out of the wine cooler.

The third movie that I would suggest is “Perfect Stranger”.  A psychological thriller, this movie gripped me again from beginning to end in a non-stop chase to find out what exactly is the thesis of the movie – who is the culprit, and what is going to happen at the end? It is always thrilling to see a movie with little ability to figure out what is the end game, though I had some suspicion at some point in the movie about the motives of the lead actress (Halle Berry does a great job). Though this movie did not receive positive reviews, I liked it – I chose to view this movie based on its strong story line rather than the film critics’ reviews, and I was not disappointed. There was some very good acting in the movie by the lead actors – Halle Berry, Bruce Willis, and Giovanni Ribisi………suspense is the key and you keep moving the chess pieces to figure out what is going on.

I enjoyed all the three movies. When I select movies to watch, I am careful to ensure that I would like the story line, followed by the actor lineup. I use several tools for fishing out such movies – obviously, there is no time to watch a lot of movies, and most are generally useless from the point of view of a strong story line, and story telling by the director. So, it does take time to identify the ones which will keep you engaged. NetFlix offers an excellent choice of movies and TV Shows, and again, the question is time availability. Even if we start seeing a movie, it is not possible to finish in one evening after coming back from office. So, the movie viewing is usually spread over two evenings, or one weekend. The family will complain if any one of us in the family spends too much time on the laptop seeing movies or spending time blogging about movies!

I would recommend the above movies to you. Enjoy them!


Vijay Srinivasan

3rd March 2018

Atomic Blonde

This post is not just about one movie.

Whenever I travel, I get to see multiple movies. During my recent travels, I saw the following selection of movies on Singapore Airlines flights:

  • Atomic Blonde, starring Charlize Theron (one of my favourite actresses and James McAvoy)
  • American Made, starring Tom Cruise
  • American Assassin, starring Michael Keaton and Dylan O’Brien
  • Security, starring Antonio Banderas (one of my favourite actors) and Ben Kingsley
  • El Bar (The Bar), a Spanish movie starring Blanca Suarez

There were other movie that I wanted to see, but couldn’t for lack of time. I will surely see them in the near future.

In all the above movies, there is a sense of escapism – I do not think such movies are “real” in the experience of a commoner like me. However, these movies could have happened in real life in the Western world – the first three movies involve spy agencies such as MI6 of the U.K., and the CIA of the U.S. The 4th movie is an unbelievable one – just a few security guards who lack any weapons defend a helpless girl against a massive team armed to the teeth wanting to snatch the girl away, her only crime being a court witness in a trial against the armed gang. The last one is totally unbelievable – it is a story of a simple coffee bar in downtown Madrid which gets into trouble with security services due to the fact that couple of its patrons were carrying the Ebola virus – hey, come on. Totally incredulous, the remaining ordinary folks in the bar all kill each other in search of the anti-virus serum, and all action during the entire movie happens in that tiny bar and underneath in its cellar and sewer.

I admire the directors who venture to take such daring movies – I would be surprised if any of these movies were to become big box office successes, though all of these movies are interesting action movies. Adventure and thrill characterise all the movies, and some of the actors are outstanding – Charlize Theron, Tom Cruise, Michael Keaton, Antonio Banderas, et al.

I look at the very short synopsis of the movie in the KrisWorld magazine, look at the names of the actors, and check to see if there are English subtitles. Then I select the movies, and tackle them one by one. I see non-stop, right through the flight, so that I get to the finish of the last movie – if for some reason, I cannot do that, then I continue from the last movie onwards during the return flight.

Movies make me think on the sheer escapism of life. We like to see what we ourselves cannot or will not do in our own lives. It is simply because of the pleasure of imagination – I like to visualize myself as a CIA or MI6 Agent for instance, and parachute into action in a global city with all the resources of the State supporting me, and with the thrill of rapid fire action encompassing me. How about that? I am not going to drive a bike even at 80 KMPH anymore in real life! I have never touched a gun (except for the thrill shots in game machines in a video parlour), and it is likely to remain so for the rest of my life!!

So, here we are – we know there are spy agencies, and well-trained secuirty guards almost everywhere. But we do not see spy action or the Antonio Banderas action. As I walked back from the gym yesterday, I realized how much muscle buildup would be necessary to tackle any surprise attacker – I do not have even 40% of what would be required. We do not pay attention to gym workouts and do not focus on body exercise and development, so we do not stand a chance in fighting an usurper. I am happy the younger boys are getting military training, and I would think that the girls also should pick up similar training. It is essential pre-requisite for self defence.

Enjoy your weekend folks, we have one more day off due to the Chinese New Year long weekend!


Vijay Srinivasan

18th February 2018


Newness is a 2017 Hollywood movie.

I selected this movie recently on Netflix for joint viewing with my wife.

May be a wrong choice, but then one gets to see the latest trends in Hollywood’s thinking on millennials. This movie, in a nutshell, is all about social media, unfettered social hookups via special apps and resultant dating, cavorting for physical pleasures, night club culture fascination, but also about how a young couple struggle together for intimacy in the midst of visceral fights and disappointments.

The movie reflects American culture today – especially amongst young folks who are not able to deal with the surprises that life throws at them, not very stable emotionally, and constantly seeking “newness” in experiences. If one hookup does not work out, so be it. Even if it has resulted in a strong physical attraction. Go on to the next one. Smoke and dance in nightclubs feverishly. Drink a lot of alcohol (the so-called “shots”). And, so on and so forth. It is all about the gist of Western culture which defines a free-wheeling drive in the spirit of men and women, not directed or influenced by parents or traditional supporters of emotional well-being. In fact these others would not even be aware of the alternate persona of young people that they are connected with. It is just the opposite variation of a traditional, family-oriented culture that was dominant in the 20th Century.

If relationships get damaged because of foolish and futile behaviour, so be it. How about mending the fractured relationship? No. Instead, go for another social hookup, in the hope that the newness of that new potential relationship (which always ends in dating and sex) would heal the rift of the previous relationship. In fact, relationships are completely dispensable.

It was funny when our heroine (Laia Costa) asks the hero (Nicholas Hoult) to be totally transparent with her, even after he protests on the basis of emotional damage he had incurred due to the untimely death by accident of his sister with who he was close, and due to the divorce that happened in his first ever marriage after a short 8 months. The Spanish heroine resembles so much of an Indian girlfriend who is perennially nosey and totally intrusive, and will not tolerate even minor indiscretions or secrets. It was again funny when she, after having obtained the oath of transparency from the boyfriend, proposes that it would be perfectly all right for each of them to continue dating others as long as they tell each other what they are upto. Absolutely amazing!

This all reveals the innate desires of young people to keep experimenting with newness – new people, new experiences, new adventures, irrespective of any moral value destruction in the process. However, at the end, they do not discover anything “new”. As the close friend of our hero (Matthew Gray Gubler) says “it is critical to keep working on the relationship, and not give up on each other”. Long-term hookups (to use the terminology of the movie), meaning “partnership-based marriages” are tough to sustain, and are prone to blowups similar to the ones which happen in this movie. We all know that it is tough to stay invested in wedded bliss forever, but then we stay committed though there are issues and challenges. It is a partnership that should not be broken despite strong differences, emotional fights, dislikes, and potential misbehaviour on either side. The new theme of life tends to ignore the valuable life lessons of a true partnership, and makes it fleeting – something which is like most other things in life – non-permanent. The couple in this movie try to hurt each others’ feelings almost constantly despite their very obvious physical attraction for each other; this is nothing but destructive progress towards an unintended separation, which occurs couple of times. Feelings can be hurt only when you do not care about your partner, like what our heroine tells her older partner (Danny Huston) towards the end of the movie. The director has done an excellent job portraying the emotional breakups and impact on the actors.

What about romance and falling in love “permanently” with someone? Does it not happen anymore? Does the young generation of tomorrow surrender their ability to fall in love to, after all, a dating app?

Come on.

This is not the way it was supposed to be. Technology cannot destroy love and romance, and cannot also induce moral destruction.

This is an interesting movie which deserves to be watched. It proves that human relationships are not eventually dictated by dating apps, but by real feelings for each other. Struggles and disappointments are common in life, and if younger folks haven’t yet realized it, then that is a shame. As our heroine says……”…..I am yet to start my life……” which only means that she has all along been experimenting with herself but now has arrived at a milestone when she is ready to start living her life seriously with just one serious partner. No more wild experimentation, but she acknowledges the fact that her partner is likely to spew some disappointments at her, and she should have the strength of character to deal with them.

New-age movie. You “might” just like it. See it.


Vijay Srinivasan

11th February 2018


Movie from Sunday – “Wanted”

I chose this movie from the Netflix “Action Thriller” offerings. It takes quite some time to choose any movie, while it is rather easy to pick a TV serial on Netflix. I had seen a number of TV serials on Netflix in the past, but dropped out of Netflix viewing some 6 months ago. I thought I will try a movie, and chose this one.

I expected lots of action, but this movie has truckloads of action and gruesome violence on its way to glory – sometimes one cannot understand why movie stories have to build in lots of unnecessary things into the final script. The movie starts in an innocuous manner, but quickly graduates into some implausible theories and unbelievable action sequences which defy reality. There are always mysterious stories circulating, especially in Western countries about secret societies and highly trained private assassins who live by an unspoken creed, and never show who they are to the rest of the world. They are otherwise normal people, but when danger lurks around the corner, their hearts start pounding, like it does to our hero Wesley, acted so well by James McAvoy.

The movie is full of “unrealities”, or unbelievable and implausible stuff that one tends to focus more on the action sequences featuring Wesley (a rather small made man compared to other assassins in the Fraternity), Fox (Angelina Jolie), and others (such as Cross, who is Wesley’s father in the movie). The “Loom of Fate” in the eerie textile mill produces the code on the next target to be assassinated, and Sloan (so well acted by Morgan Freeman) deciphers the code, and issues the kill order. I was laughing, as it resembled some cock and bull story that we usually see in Indian action movies.

Man always has wanted higher physical and mental powers than he has been endowed with, and it is no wonder that movies try to capitalize on this hidden desire. The “Wanted” movie takes this aspect to levels of incredulity like bullets which swerve from their straight path (could become a reality in future with the aid of artificial intelligence and IoT technology), and a train which stops on a high mountain bridge while at high speed and then starts hanging all the way down to the valley into which it ultimately falls, while there is a fierce gun fight waging between several assassins inside the hanging train!

This is a super-duper Rajnikanth movie – the actor who delivered impossible stuff in Tamil movies from India!

Overall, this is a good action movie that you can enjoy on a lazy Sunday afternoon instead of sleeping which action will only add inches to your waist. Sometimes, an escapist movie such as this helps to relax and enjoy the fun. Obviously, you cannot get to do any of these stuff in your own life, except to imagine the luck of actors who have all the fun, while probably laughing at all the stupidity of it all. The audience, of course, pays for their fun and get some in return.

Not recommended for the avid critic of movies and books.

Recommended for blokes who don’t give a damn and just wish to while away some time, warming up for their evening cup of coffee!

Caution: Wives do not like such movies which are full of violence, and also has Angelina Jolie. In fact, my wife told me that I selected this movie because of Angelina.

Have fun!!!


Vijay Srinivasan

04 February 2018

Seven Years in Tibet

This is an excellent movie in my opinion, though slow-moving. Dalai Lama has always fascinated me, especially after my visit to Dharamshala in 2008. The movie depicts the Dalai Lama’s life when he was very young, and how he was tutored by the Austrian mountaineer who managed to reach Lhasa, the capital of Tibet in 1944, and lived there till 1951.

Since I am sort of educated on Tibetan history, this movie appealed to me. The Peoples’ Liberation Army of China invaded an independent and proud Tibet in 1951, and continued its attack on civilians and monks during the course of the 1950s, murdering a million Tibetans and burning down over 6,000 Tibetan Buddhist monasteries. China had absolutely no right, and no business in Tibet, but wrongfully claimed sovereignty over Tibet. All that could have been eventually resoved amicably, but China chose to attack and kill defenceless people who were and still are, peace-loving. Any such large country which invades a small defenceless country and murders civilians and religious monks, will have to suffer consequences eventually, and that applies to all large and powerful nations, including the U.S., U.K., France and Russia. There was no one to question their violations and infraction, their killings and assassinations, their illegal acquisition of land and wealth, and their destruction of religious faiths.

The first half of the movie is not about Tibet, so it could mislead the audience as one could misunderstand that this movie is all about mountaineering and the second world war. Nothing can be farther from the truth. The second half focuses on Tibetan way of life and the Dalai Lama, and the impact that the mountaineer had on the educational and social development of the very young Dalai Lama. The essential learning is that though China now heartlessly rules Tibet, the Tibetan culture and way of living continue their path to salvation. It demonstrates the unassailable faith of the Tibetans and puts to lie China’s claims that the 14th Dalai Lama is an enemy of China who is intent on splitting China, which is absolute hogwash. China invaded and occupied an independent Tibet, and Tibetans now agree to be part of China, so why keep hurting Tibetans and the Dalai Lama? What is the rationale behind it?

The movie gracefully depicts the bond which develops between the Dalai Lama and the Austrian, though it is not clear how the very conservative advisors to the Dalai Lama would allow a total foreigner complete access to the Dalai Lama, but that is part of the real history.

Heinrich Harrer, the mountaineer (acted by Brad Pitt in the movie) says in his book “Seven Years in Tibet” – Wherever I live, I shall feel homesick for Tibet. I often think I can still hear the cries of wild geese and cranes and the beating of their wings as they fly over Lhasa in the clear, cold moonlight. My heartfelt wish is that my story may create some understanding for a people whose will to live in peace and freedom has won so little sympathy from an indifferent world.”

The only country in the world which gave asylum to the Dalai Lama was India in 1959, it also allowed him to form a government in exile. Dalai Lama is widely respected around the world, and continues to live at Dharamshala.

I connected with the movie rather well, and it has synced up my feelings towards Tibet, which in my mind, will never be a true part of China. This may be heresy, but so be it. The ultimate truth is what one feels, not what one is told. Every country on the planet is afraid of China, but China will also attain soft power one day, and it will then realize it is not necessary to demonstrate its hard power.


Vijay Srinivasan

21st January 2018



The Verdict

Excellent movie by Sidney Lumet, who is the Director of this 1982 movie featuring an intense court-room drama. I have not seen much of the lead actor, Paul Newman, and I should say I enjoyed his acting – he came through as a talented actor with deep skills which he brings to play. I am sure I will see more movies with Paul Newman as the main actor in the coming months.

While I am not going into the storyline in any detail in this post, suffice it to say that this movie demonstrates that the U.S. Judicial System was plagued in yesteryears with favouritism, nepotism, and corruption of sorts, especially where strong vested interests were in action. We always think that justice can be manipulated in places like India, or justice can be delayed, and there are reasons for that belief to percolate into society. Powerful people and institutions, especially business magnates and politicians seem to escape justice, and poor unsuspecting people seem to be at the receiving end in most casees. This was almost the case in the U.S., and this movie is a good example of how the presiding judge can be manipulated by powerful lawyers and institutions.

Was I surprised? No, surely not. The U.S. developed the art of lobbying. It also developed advanced techniques of power plays which leverage on position in society, wealth, and political power to damage the foundations of justice. While in most common cases, it is apparent that proper justice is being meted out, things are not transparent in most other “power” cases – where a common man (as in this movie, represented by the patient who was wronged) fights against the entire class-based societal system, its biases and prejudices. In this movie, the presiding judge even instructs the jury not to consider vital evidence from a surprise witness who goes against the “powerful defendants” – in this case, the hospital and the concerned doctor.

There always exists incredulity in our minds when it comes to the most common situations in society, simply because we ignore such problems, and expect them to go away in a while, notwithstanding the simple fact that the origin of such situations might arise from the wrongs inflicted by the larger society (which includes all of us) on the common man. The powerful doctor wishes that the problem will go away, the archdiocese running the hospital expects their powerful lawyer to win the case, despite the wrong application of anaesthesia to the patient, which clearly amounts to a serious malpractice destroying the life of the patient. If such important people and hospital believe that their wrongs can be corrected by their lawyer, and the court jury will indeed exonerate them, then you see that this is not just an uncommon attitude in any society. Simply because powerful lawyers can win any case provided they have a strong team working on multiple angles (including sending a lady to seduce the prosecuting lawyer, and making the prosecution’s star doctor witness disappear by probably buying him off), and adopting unethical means is not beyond them in any case. The insane thing is that this movie communicates the power of orchestrated deceit, corruption, lack of ethics, and money, yes, lots of money, ramming the rights of a common man (in this case the female patient).

Good discovery, but not unusual – this is the case even today in many large countries, whether democratic or not. Money, position and power can buy powerful lawyers, and they could defeat innocent victims.

But not in this movie. Paul Newman, acting as the prosecution lawyer, investigates the case with the help of his mentor colleague, and discovers that he will easily lose – but then, does not give up. He finds new angles, and new witness. He establishes the credibility of his powerful closing arguments with the jury, despite strong push back from the defending lawyer, and the judge’s one-sidedness and strictures on him. His arguments are so persuasive that the jury not only hands him a win but also seeks to increase the amount of damages that can be sought from the hospital. Medical malpractices have to be punished severely, and they are absolutely right in seeking much higher damages.

Whether Paul Newman returns to a stable lawyer practice on the basis of this remarkable win is anybody’s guess. He is sure to look at women cautiously, given how he was seduced by the mole planted at the bar that he frequents by the defendant’s powerful lawyer!

A great movie with great direction by Sidney Lumet, and fantastic acting by all actors, specifically Paul Newman. No wonder this movie was nominated for multiple Academy Awards. May be the movie is a bit slow at certain times, but that slowness is based on the alcoholic lawyer’s tribulations and his firm attempts to get back control of his own life. A serious movie with serious messages for the society (from who the jury is drawn in the U.S. Jury System) on how not to fall for polished arguments and push wrongs under the carpet. Everyone needs to fight back against wrongs in society, wherever and whenever one sees these – every life is sacred, and as we see in this movie, famous doctors and powerful church-driven hospitals cannot escape simply based on their believable lies and their established fame/power in society. The Jury obviously came to this conclusion in this movie, despite the judge’s obscene interventions in favour of the defendants.

This movie is bigger than that courtroom drama – it is about the resurrection of an alcoholic and failed lawyer, driven solely by the injustice he felt was inflicted on a poor lady. He did not expect to win the case, but he won. On purely moral grounds.

See the movie if you haven’t and you will enjoy it.


Vijay Srinivasan

7th January 2018

Mona Lisa Smile

Well, that is yet another movie I “happened” to see during this festive season.

While reviews of this movie are not great, I liked it – the “experience” of the Wellesley College of Massachusetts is something that parents would like to give to their daughters. So I thought, before seeing the movie. However, after viewing the movie, my opinion of the straight-laced New England private liberal arts colleges for women changed completely.

As Julia Roberts says in the movie………”this is a finishing (grooming) college for women……..“, what she means is that Wellesley grooms young ladies to become good (corporate) wives in rich families in New England. It is not a place where critical thinking and new ways of learning and appreciating modern art happens – it is a traditionalist, conservative, elite college for women in a very conservative and rich society, which does not like surprises and new ways of thinking or doing things. Women are supposed to become wives and mothers, not to aim for professions or corporate career. And, this was as late as the 1950s and 1960s!

The funny thing is that Katherine Watson (played by Julia Roberts) as the new lecturer of “Art History” came from UCLA California to Wellesley, and her genuine attempts to teach a new perspective in her classes were considered as “subversive” by many students and the board of trustees of Wellesley – the term “subversive” was derogatory and a criminal term as it referred to people like spies who tried to persuade others to take up communism, or lead a life away from the “morality” that was prescribed by the regular Wellesley faculty based on its long pedigree. Actually, Katherine was a “progressive” who was ahead of the feminist movement in the U.S. – she wanted women to make their own life choices, rather than be subservient to society’s commands and expectations. The board of trustees did not like Katherine Watson obviously, but they were faced with the challenge of expelling her from Wellesley when her course became the most popular one in the Department of Arts.

Katherine tells the President of the Wellesely College………”……….I thought I was headed to a place that would turn out tomorrow’s leaders – not their wives“. She tries to guide her promising students towards a dual-life career – why not do Law while also being a wife, but that does not work out……..her students see her ideas and perspective, but could not bring themselves to make the leap towards the vision that Katherine was laying out for them. She was far too advanced for them and their parents and the elite college that was Wellesley. Her ways were considered too radical for that staid society bent on following the conservative norms and expectations. As Katherine’s short-lived boyfriend (the Italian Professor) says……..”………you did not come to Wellesely to help your students find their way, but to help them find her way…….“; of course, this outburst leads to a quick estrangement between the two.

I can easily relate to those situations as Indian society was no different – women were expected to become good wives and mothers, and give up their career aspirations at the altar of their husbands. Women were expected to take care of the family. Women were not expected to become corporate leaders. However, to India’c credit, things changed rapidly in favour of women engineers, doctors, and other professionals, at least in metro cities. When I studied Engineering in late Seventies and early Eighties, and MBA during mid-Eighties, there were a number of aspiring young women who were bright and competitive. They all went for dual-life careers, wherein they became wives/mothers as well as successful business people – I know a number of them. Things dramatically changed in the Nineties and now there is a strong and clear acceptance of women professionals everywhere. I would love to find out the views of the board of trustees of the Wellesley College now, with respect to their expectations on women.

Katherine was a free soul who was determined to make a positive difference in the lives of her (women) students and make a change in the way they looked at life itself, away from their usual traditional mindset. She was of the very firm view that women students should not fall into the regular stereotypes set for them by a conservative society that pushes them, but rather have an open mind on how they can contribute better to society itself leveraging their true career aspirations.

Is Katherine Watson an anti-marriage feminist? Is she a subversive, intent on upending established moral order and values? Does she throws caution to the wind by persuading one of her students to go for Yale Law, when that same girl is engaged and going to get married? Is Katherine a whimsical anarchist?

More questions come up as you watch the movie, but I will let you do it with pleasure. It is a good movie, and you would experience the true feelings and emotions of Katherine’s students only in the last scene. Watch it!


Vijay Srinivasan

31st December 2017




The Lunchbox

Interesting movie with no ending or conclusions, apparently.

A much-awarded movie released in 2013, The Lunchbox is from the daily grind of Mumbai City in India, depicting how the daily life revolves around time-consuming personal transportation and logistics while following the story of a young woman who is trying to more closely bond with her husband through the lunchbox communication of sending short notes written and left inside for him to read.

The beauty of the film lies in its artful direction by the first-time director, Ritesh Batra, and some fantastic almost “silent” acting by the very talented Irfan Khan and Nimrat Kaur, the lead actor and actress respectively. This is the first time I saw Nimrat Kaur in a film and I was amazed at the depth that she demonstrated throughout the movie – she displayed emotions in a manner which more important actresses would have struggled with. There are no songs and “running around the trees” in this movie – it is all about dealing with very innate emotions, tackling despair, handling daily chores while thinking about how to keep the relationship going via the “lunchbox communication”, and fighting a very challenging family life which is characterized by deceit (by Nimrat’s current husband), unfaithfulness, and loneliness. It is nice to see the guidance provided by the unseen neighbour from a floor above Nimrat’s apartment – that kind of provides a sense of reality in Nimrat’s otherwise boring life filled with despair and loneliness.

I thought the movie dragged a fair bit during the first half and then picked up steam in the second half. I realized “art” movies of high caliber tend to play on emotions and the drag which comes along with long stares, intense thinking, smoking on the rooftop, looking at the daily happenings with a disconnectedness, and what not. So, I was not surprised that “The Lunchbox” took its time to lead the viewer(s) along the ringside of Nimrat’s life of struggles, and Irfan’s tackling of what was pulling his heart at the edge of his retirement life, which was due to start shortly.

Overall, I can say I liked the evocative nature of the characters in the movie and the elegant directorial effort of Ritesh Batra. I wouldn’t put this movie at the top of my best movie list, but it will deserve a place in the top 20 of the best movies ever – its portrayal of romance (I wouldn’t call it love) and loneliness felt by both lead characters, and the interwoven-ness of the daily life of Mumbai metropolis, is an outstanding depiction of human emotions. The movie also shows that emerging romance between unknown people provides solace to lonely souls struggling with problems created by others in their own lives (for instance, Nimrat’s husband who is suspected of being unfaithful to a very endearing wife). The lonely soul of Nimrat eventually falls in love with the lonely and retiring soul of Irfan, which is not unexpected given Nimrat’s family situation.

The other key portrayal in this movie is its two -sided delivery: on one hand, we see the hustle and bustle of the very busy Mumbai City, with its trains and road traffic, and people hurrying all over the place; on the other hand, we see the very slow pace of the characters, which while a bit boring, allows us to visualize their emotions and play along slowly in a very measured manner – the way the characters feel. That’s kind of a two-side personality of the entire movie, which adds spice to the audience sensory grasp.

Overall, it is a pleasure to watch the movie and digest its impact. You also start to imagine similar situations in busy cities around the world!

Enjoy it!!


Vijay Srinivasan

29th December 2017

Our Souls at Night

What a lovely movie.

While this movie is not about living your life in conformity with social mores and customs (Indian society immediately comes to mind), it is all about finding a kindred soul who would share his or her thoughts and space with you. What if these souls had been neighbours for a long time without so much as wishing each other occasionally, and suddenly one day they want to link up for emotional support? So be it, though even in this remote Colorado town people start talking about such relationships, as the movie reveals – they start joking and they start commenting, which you wouldn’t expect to witness in a metropolis for sure.

But then, this is a rural town with a small population. It is funny to see how our hero in the movie, Robert Redford, approached Jane Fonda’s house via the backyard as he is afraid that others would see him entering her house! Note that both had been widowed for many years, and are just trying to fight loneliness, especially during the night time! They both live in big houses, but with no families. They struggle to get through their days and struggle even more to get through their nights – as so vividly and simply explained by Jane Fonda (I am using the actors’ real names here in this review).

Both are very experienced and versatile actors with a wide repertoire of skills and Ritesh Batra, the director, has been successful in leveraging them expertly for this movie. The movie drags a bit occasionally, but then gets over it and runs with an expectation that their hook-up will eventually translate into a more intimate relationship, which it does. The director has done a fabulous job of guiding their performances in a manner that flows gently with smooth handling of the minor objections of society while they both glide into a partnership for spending the nights together. While Robert’s daughter is more understanding of this relationship, Jane’s son is not and tries to question.

Folks who are not part of the evolving nature of man-woman relationships tend to unnecessarily intrude, for that matter they become obnoxious in their overt comments. People try to sully the reputation of the partners. Coming from India, I know the very damaging effect it could have. The acceptance level in conservative societies is getting to be better, but the key point to realize is that no one needs a positive endorsement from society at large, but a positive stroke from a relative – son or daughter would help to calm the soul. At the end of the day, what is wrong in wanting to still have a life? Is that a sin? No, it is not. They both have very little time left to finish their lives anyway. Gossiping neighbours and societies-at-large can be dismissed.

Amazing portrayal and expert direction make this movie a must watch. One can gain an understanding of how to form strong relationships, and an ability to do what one wishes to do in life rather than to just conform to others’ wishes. It is important to realize that time is always very short and one needs to lead his or her life to the fullest – not just give it up due to existential or societal pressures. It is also lovely to see how Robert handles his daughter Holly when she tells him she is going to Europe and plans to spend good time in Italy. Just see the movie, I am not stating how he did it here!

I also liked the way the movie ended. The new couple are living separately but talk to each other every night from their respective beds before sleeping! That’s testament to their newly established strong partnership which can sustain physical separation and continue well into their twilight years!! They are very happy in their continuing companionship!!! Lovely.

Great 2017 movie. See it and enjoy it. Do it without any baggage or pre-conceived notions. Then you realize how good it is.


Vijay Srinivasan

27th December 2017

(My Birthday!)