Book Review: Far More Than A Game (2020)

“The modern-day journalists and the media professionals would not have even imagined the difficulties and the hiccups that I and other reporters of my generation had endured during the 1950s and onwards.”

Chapter 30 Page 289


INTRODUCTION

Since the 1960s, Qamar Ahmed, the author of the book, has covered more than 450 tests, 700 one-day internationals, and nine World Cups (the first eight and then 2019) as a journalist for many agencies like BBC, The Times, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, AFP, Reuters, just to name a few.

The cricketing journey of the author is not about the history of Pakistan cricket but international cricket. It is a passion that leads you to eternal respect that you earn after a love affair with the game.

Far More Than A Game is divided into thirty chapters that are spread over almost 300 pages. Most of the details are the author’s first-hand experience due to the nature of this book being autobiographic with an assistance of a few national and international books.

The reading of this book is easy, comprehensive, punched detailing with straight incidents from different timelines, and with complete liberty of his opinions.


 PERSONAL ACCOUNT

This autobiography is pretty personal and perhaps I can say the book is a rollercoaster ride about Qamar Ahmed’s life. By latter, I mean that he is totally open to all the parallels if he feels to speak about and thinks of no consequence about a series of questions he may be asked about his life. And I liked the nature of his openness that describes his personality and the autobiography being put to the best use of it. The reader won’t feel the sensationalism of the literature but the admittance about his life that he moved on but were vital to being written in the book.

The author depicted his disappointment in General Zia-ul-Haq’s leadership which was so disturbing to him that he refused to shake hands at a party. There is an entire chapter (no.22) about the two incidents that soured his relationship with Imran Khan. The writing of this chapter clearly indicates an agitation that should be addressed to the reader due to the fact that this eighteen-page chapter is surprisingly the lengthiest of all the chapters he wrote along with another chapter about his first-class career. I do not question the author’s motive but I am writing my honest observation about the writing of the book that this particular chapter was stretched as compared to the other interesting chapters that required more detailing than this. If this chapter had eighteen pages of details, then I reckon that a chapter about the road trip from London to Pakistan (no.14) deserves a separate book.

There are several personal accounts that help in shaping the authenticity of an autobiography. In one chapter (no.9), he writes about a life that was wasted in college because his parents wanted him to pursue a career in science rather than wanting him to choose his own career. An octogenarian passes an important piece of information to the readers about his younghood that his life decisions were made by his parents that succumb to a traditional parental syndrome in South Asia which has been emotionally attached in this region for quite a long time. Deciding about the life of a kid is understood but someone who passes his childhood and enters into college hood has the right to make his/her own decisions. The author addressed this matter, advocated liberty, and encouraged the readers to follow their passion rather than a silly tradition.

There was a French girl he was seeing in 1965 who was in England to learn the English language (no.11). Only a few paragraphs were written about her but nothing much. I liked the idea of keeping it short just like a brief series of meeting in life. It is like a gust of wind that blew from one direction towards the other once in life. It is a special mention of interest people at old age remember despite the time has passed around fifty years to that.


“Never for one moment as a schoolboy then I had even the slightest of inkling of what the destiny had in store for us and what was to come which would not only change the life of my family and that of many others and that of the country itself which would influence also the course of history.”

Chapter 1 Page 20


EUROPEAN PERK AND HISTORY LESSON

Far More Than A Game is a fascinating read for more than one reason but the most significant point to consider reading this life story is that the author was one of those few Pakistanis who got European, especially a British exposure to a socioeconomic life that fetched a lot of international diversity. Living a life in a multicultural country develops individualism and helps in socializing with people from different diversity. So that worldly experience fetched a lot of stories and incidents that happened with the author.

And then the author belongs to the greatest generation who experienced the partition of India. A lifetime that the next generations can neither feel nor imagine the suffering. So his personal account from the earlier chapters is a source of real history that the readers are unable to find in the books that are provided by their academic authorities.

The book starts with a sorry tale of partition and his childhood memories in the first chapter followed by a gripping narrative of his family’s migration from Chapra to Hyderabad. There are two chapters that are history lessons, one is about Hyderabad city and the other is about his ancestors, a knowledge that was treasured to him by his uncle from Mairwa, a city in Bihar state.


UNFORGETTABLE MEETINGS

One of the luxuries in the field of journalism is meeting important people from different walks of life, and so did the author. Qamar Ahmed missed no chance detail in separate chapters about his once-in-a-lifetime moments when he met Kerry Packer (no.15), Sir Don Bradman (no.16), and Nelson Mandela (no.21). Touring India was mostly personal for Qamar Ahmed due to his origins. But he holds the distinction to have met with the Indian film industry’s greats. Imagine people in those times like the author getting the honor of meeting the great Raj Kapoor at his residence where along with the Kapoors, they also get to meet Dilip Kumar. Meeting two of the biggest superstars of the golden age at the same place is surely one of the best memories of a lifetime.


CRITICAL CHAPTERS

Far More Than A Game is not only about history and the people he met in his lifetime, it is also about some very serious highlights that were needed to be addressed that occurred in the last chapters of the book. One was about Salim Malik and the kind of world he entered to regret for life.

There is a special place for Indian cricket legend Sunil Gavaskar in his heart and the twentieth chapter is dedicated to him to talk about some situations which may have gone unheard of. It was shocking to understand that Sunny was stopped by the MCC staff twice to enter the Lord’s cricket ground. The details about these incidents are covered in the chapter.

A much-needed drive to address some controversial incidents like the Gatting-Rana altercation, the Inzamam-Hair ball-tampering controversy, the bus attack on the Sri Lankan team, etc through his experience made rounds in the book.

The twenty-eighth chapter is full of funny and priceless moments that the readers will read with keen interest. I like a few of his moments like the historic moment of South Africa’s re-entry into international cricket, his brawl with a mugger, mistakenly calling Alec StewartHansie’, a cricket manager asking to sacrifice a black sheep, and many more. If I was sitting along with the author when he called Alec Stewart ‘Hansie’, I would have seriously couldn’t stop myself from laughing my ass out. It was a really funny and ‘innocent’ blunder.


CHAPTERS ARRANGEMENT

Arranging and compiling chapters in a book, especially in autobiographies are very vital. I have read a few autobiographies and being a bibliophile, I have this idea that there are two different arts involved in shaping and publishing a book; one is writing it as a whole, and the other is giving the whole writing the best possible finishing in a way that reader is captivated to read a life story.

I will be a little critical here about the arrangement of the chapters. As per my reading experience, Far More Than A Game didn’t conclude fittingly. I think the thirtieth and the second-last chapter where he wrote about the evolution of sports journalism and the use of technology, would have been the perfect end with a personal message or some inspiring words for the readers.


“When checking out to proceed to Calcutta (Kolkata) for the sixth and final test of the ongoing series between Pakistan and India, I requested the receptionist at the hotel for my bill.

The reception officials gave me a pleasing smile to say: “No bill Sir, we know who you are. We have been told by Dr. Hari about you that this was your house before you left for Pakistan as a schoolboy.””

Chapter 4 Page 47


The first three chapters in the book highlight in detail about his childhood, migration, and painful history. And then in the next chapter, he remembers his return to India. That fourth chapter needed to be distanced from the previous chapters and arranged in the middle of the reading.

With a gap of a few chapters and crossing the time to the late 1970s, this reunion moment would have melted the emotions more. It is my opinion that talking about the reunion in just the fourth chapter of the book was way too soon.  The editor or compiler of the publishing company should have considered giving the sentimental feel to the reader by arranging this chapter somewhere far from the earliest details.

The fourth chapter has an amazing detailing of reuniting, giving the readers a staunch view that partition gave us a lot of painful stories and reunions of a lifetime. Imagine if hatred had its say and those landlords had killed Qamar and his family? There would be no story to tell us, there would be no legacy of cricket journalism and broadcasting, and there would be no reunions or faith in humanity to hope from those tragedies.


CLOSING REMARKS

“Far More Than A Game” is the anatomy of cricket journalism, a pocket dictionary to the evolution of cricket, a time-traveling diary that settles nowhere but gives you an experience of a lifetime. A cricketing life to celebrate, thank you so much for your lifetime contribution and service to this beautiful game.


“I always believed that if you are good with people they are good with you and in turn respect you for what you do. That is how I thought a journalist should be when dealing with a story or with people related to it.”

Chapter 22 Page 207

The autograph of the legend himself…

Film Review: Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 (2022)

Reet Thakur (Kiara Advani) along with another traveler Ruhaan Randhawa (Karthik Aaryan) travels to her hometown to marry her fiancée when she discovers that her sister loves him. Unwilling to marry, Reet plots to get her sister married to him by faking her death. When the family gets suspicious of her being alive in the mansion, Ruhaan covers her identity by giving a false idea that he has the ability to see the unseen that coincides with the reappearance of Manjulika’s spirit that was imprisoned in one of the rooms of the mansion for eighteen years.

The first thing that the audience must understand is that Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 is not the continuity from Priyadarshan‘s Bhool Bhulaiyaa, the 2007 big hit that achieved cult status. Nor the film needs to be compared with it. There are a lot of emotions the fans attached to the original work due to the memorable roles of Akshay Kumar and Vidya Balan, Priyadarshan’s typical comedy, and Pritam‘s music, especially the title song.

Akshay’s role going to Karthik also raised eyebrows including mine because I felt it was too risky to hand over this role. The role was made for Akshay and vice versa. Not sure if any other actor would have done justice. The only similarity in the casting was Rajpal Yadav‘s memorable role of Chhote Pandit played again.

Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 is the reimagining of the original story with some smart elements in writing that makes bring back Manjulika but I think the writer fails to conclude the story for preferring to sensationalize the climax. Some portions of humor were silly and lame but some were funny. Karthik did a fair job in his capacity but nowhere close to what Akshay did. That element was badly missing.

The wisest decision in making this film was signing Tabu for Manjulika, a role that Vidya perfected in the previous film and gave her her first shot at recognition as a promising actress that later on shaped a wonderful acting career. Who else could have played this difficult role other than Tabu? Tabu is senior to Vidya in age and career so I was concerned about the character’s strength and body language but I later realized that this is a different Manjulika. And I must pause my review and express that I was hypnotized at Tabu. She looked so young and beautiful for a 51-year-old actress. And unsurprisingly an excellent performance.

Was the second part necessary? I think it is not about the need. There is no harm if the director reimagines the whole story to go in a different direction. If I do not assume this film to have any respective link with the previous film, it may look acceptable to some extent. For me, this film keeps reminding me of the former which is a sentimental form of judging the current film. Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 is an entertainer and this is what clicking here.

RATINGS: 6/10

Film Review: Runway 34 (2022)

Captain Vikrant Khanna (Ajay Devgn) is an accomplished and self-possessed pilot whose next mission is to fly Skyline Airway from Dubai to Cochin along with his First Officer Tanya Albuquerque (Rakul Preet Singh) but the aerial journey gets complicated when a cyclone hits Cochin and are diverted to Trivandrum. A miscommunication jeopardizes their landing because Trivandrum is also affected by the bad weather. And during all this, Captain Vikrant attempts to save all the lives from an aviation disaster.

Runway 34 is a thriller film also starring Amitabh Bachchan and Boman Irani. And within a film, there are two films or shall I say a film easily divided into two different parts of the continuity. The first half of the screentime is about the flight, the aerial sequence of Vikrant and Tanya; and the second half is about the courtroom drama, the inquiry about facts and findings to determine whether the pilots were at fault or not.

My observation is also divided into two and perhaps this is why Runway 34 failed at the box office but that is the other debate to look after. The first half was a remarkable aviation tale to dramatize. An interesting build-up to a flight. Ajay Devgn, the director himself, presented the character of Vikrant in a way to the audience that we realize that the captain is self-possessed, cold, confident, problem-fixer, and eideticker. And then the preparation of flying the plane. Here, I liked the editing of the film, in fact, the whole first half had the drama holding distinction in the editing. Yes, I expected a better ambiance building from the passengers due to the low-scale acting. But more than that, the first half gave us quite an intensity you really do not expect from a mainstream film from B-town. Not an expert or hold some advanced knowledge about aviation so really cannot judge the entire pilot-to-pilot conversation or the one with the air traffic control tower.

review of ‘Runway 34’.

As much as the first half peaked with excellence in most aspects, the second half lets you down. It was easily one of the worst follow-ups from an impressive first half I have watched in recent years. And I am surprised because usually, the dramatizing of courtroom sequences is mostly the one that captivates the audience. Even Hindi films from the past decade hold quite an impressive track record of courtroom dramas. And here, that should have been a piece of a delicious red velvet cake, and moreover that having the luxury of two highly impressive lengthy dialogue-speaking actors, Ajay and Amitabh, the courtroom drama failed to live up to the hype and ruined the film.

The settlement of the courtroom and the entire proceeding was boring, predictable, and built on dubious writing. Amitabh’s Narayan Vedant, the head of the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) was certainly a brain teaser in the courtroom sequences but the character was not developed nor did we get a magnitude of investigation on a broad scale. Narayan’s fact-finding needed a lot of minutes. There was no heat between Vikrant and Narayan. I wanted to see the same intensity in the courtroom sequences as Ajay Devgn built in the flight sequences. Vikrant’s wife being so cool about discovering that her husband was partying with some Anjali that the whole night looked so artificial. How did the passenger, whose mother died, get Vikrant’s number? In light humor, Ajay Devgn was quite inclined to advertise smoking cigarettes throughout the film.

Acting-wise, they were all to their usual, nothing special. We have watched Amitabh giving lengthy addresses quite a lot in his recent films. Rakul perhaps gets a career boost through this film.

I have observed most of the audience on social media comparing Runway 34 to Clint Eastwood‘s Sully and Robert ZemeckisFlight and declaring it copied which is utter nonsense. Runway 34 is based on the real incident that happened in 2015 when Jet Airways flight 9W 555, a Boeing 737-800, flew from Doha to Kochi but the pilot decided to divert to Trivandrum.

The viewers need to fact-check because due to the negativity, the idea of watching a certain film is taken into a negative perspective. As far as I can write about this film, Runway 34’s biggest disappointment is the second half which ruined a promising first half. The execution went wrong; therefore the film missed out on talking about a quality aviation story.

RATINGS: 6/10

Film Review: The Kashmir Files (2022)

The film centers around Kashmir Valley in 1989 or 1990 when the hatred for the Kashmiri Hindu Pandits ignite and the Islamic militant terrorists begins to butcher them in their way. This is the story of an old teacher Pushkar Nath Pandit (Anupam Kher) who witnesses the riots and protects his grandson Krishna (Darshan Kumar) but loses everyone in the family who are murdered by his own former student Farooq Malik Bitta (Chinmay Mandlekar) who is now the militant commander of the terrorist organization there.

I assume ‘The Kashmir Files‘ is the second chapter of director Vivek Agnihotri‘s Files Trilogy because Vivek’s previous film was The Tashkent Files and his next project is The Delhi Files. So it is quite an interesting and bold step towards planning to make films in Bollywood in a particular direction that is out of stereotypical masala entertainment which is still the usual existence. Plus a type of casting in both Tashkent and Kashmir indicates that the director is selective to rope actors where he believes that they suit the roles. He is not prioritizing his options to commercialize the chances of generating a lot of money but addresses issues through his stories.

His previous film Tashkent was a necessary wake-up call to the audience for remembering India’s former PM Lal Bahadur Shastri whose death is still a mystery. And now he raises the political issue of Kashmiri Hindu Pandits in the latest film. A subject hardly anyone had been raising for decades. Genocide of Kashmiri Hindus that, to my surprise, is termed their exodus. Being impressed with how Vivek executed Tashkent, I was interested to see how he directed Kashmir. With a cordial disappointment, ‘The Kashmir Files’ heavily turns out to be some propaganda film.

I do not deny the sufferings of Kashmiri Pandits who became refugees in their own country nor do I whitewash the tragic chapters of Kashmir’s history. It is the awful screenplay that indicates that the intention of the director was more to highlight straight visible hatred for the Muslim community rather than addressing the political event’s bullet anecdotes. Almost all the sequences that involved a Muslim character portrayed some special kind of evil sent on the earth to uproot the existence of Hindus in the state.

A stereotypical portrayal of the Muslims was something else we have watched in Indian films for decades but this film looks intentionally clear sending a wrong message to raise hatred for the Muslims. In one particular scene, a woman seeks advice from an elder Muslim with a Jinnah cap and reddish-brown dyed beard about her son’s education. In reply, out of nowhere, the man goes pervert and starts harassing her. Crazy writing!

I can judge the film by considering any of the two possibilities. One is that the hatred of Kashmiri Muslims for the Hindu Pandits was as real as portrayed in the film and involved no intentional agenda of misleading the general population of India believing that the Muslim community is the root cause of the evil that aims to kill their race. Second, the director chose one side of the story to address the fate of Kashmiri Pandits by dragging the Muslims in a villainous nature and labeling it a religious matter rather than a political matter. I choose the latter.

Why? Because every single Muslim character had a negative portrayal that sparks the intentions of the director and raises eyebrows. There were no sides to the coin, the story of the film was genuinely one-dimensional which made me think if Vivek Agnihotri directed the film or Narendra Modi? Did RSS finance this film? At such a terribly slow pace of almost a three-hour film, I felt as if this was some experimental film where the makers decided to treat Muslims like Nazis and Hindus like Jews.

Again, I do not deny the historic events of the Kashmiri Pandits’ genocide and indeed Muslims were the ones involved in their killings but the film played a vital role in making this an issue of religion rather than politics. As compared to all the agenda films produced in Bollywood, The Kashmir Files got unusual publicity, media coverage, and endorsement from the ruling party despite mixed reviews from the critics. The film was screened at around 600 cinemas across India which speaks a lot. Narendra Modi himself endorsed the film by stating the film as a truth that was suppressed for years.

Coming back to my review, the motive of watching the film was not only to observe the nature and the aesthetics of the film but to judge the technical aspects that made my case for watching the film right. I feel that ‘The Kashmir Files’ was made personally for Anupam Kher who has his sentiments involved in the story. Not only is he a Kashmiri Pandit but the name of his father was also Pushkar Nath. It is like an offer for a lifetime he cannot refuse and this is why we watch a different Anupam Kher that we never observed in his past 500 films. Surely his best performance since ‘Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara‘. Mithun Chakraborty also gave quite an impressive performance. At first, I was concerned about how come a Bengali actor will portray a Kashmiri as Mithun’s usual accent doesn’t change while playing any character at all. But the name of Mithun’s character is Brahma Dutt and Dutt are Bengali Kayasthas so his role in Kashmir fits. Cinematography is one of the film’s plusses.

The Kashmir Files is bleak, one-dimensional, and committed to factual inaccuracies with awful script and direction leading to nowhere but encouraging hate speech by generalizing Islamophobia.

RATINGS: 3/10

Film Review: Jayeshbhai Jordaar (2022)

Jayesh lives in a traditional and conservative Gujarati household and is the son of a sarpanch. Jayesh is married to Mudra and has a nine-year-old girl, Siddhi. To give birth to a boy, Mudra has miscarried six times and is expecting a girl again. Therefore, Jayesh protects his wife and daughter by secretly running their way out.

Jayeshbhai Jordaar is a satire that raises the issue of women’s rights and gender complexity over the consequences of a pregnancy. But the film misses out on broadening the thickness of the plot. JJ started pretty impressively in the first half and then left a massive gap in writing in the second half. The film became a never-ending cat-and-mouse-chase.

As the film reflects on the social issues that I am not aware of in the Gujarati culture, a kind of superstition that the film has presented could have been managed with better care. But the problem lies in the continuity of the plot I wrote before. The director was compromised about the tone of the screenplay. At my first phase of observation looked like will settle on Jayesh protecting his family with true spirit. However, the film after the second half was pretty lost and the final thirty minutes became impossible to tolerate.

Somewhere the humor was flat and somewhere I liked the applied comedy the director reasoned for, like when Jayesh’s sister makes everyone unconscious, or the couple along with daughter faking the beatings to the elders, etc. Ranveer Singh, Boman Irani, Ratna Pathak, and even Shalini Pandey performed above average, one of the few plusses to talk about. I like how Ranveer performs this particular Gujarati role. Not an expert on the culture but this is totally different Ranveer than we usually watch. He was excellent in Gully Boy and at this scale of choices he is making at his career peak, this shows that Ranveer is serious about making his name as an actor who wants challenges.

The film deserved better writing with such a vital message. Inconsistent writing led to damages and Jayeshbhai fails to impress. The audience should watch the film for Ranveer’s performance, the rest is shattered and broken. A film that had potential is ruined by miles.

RATINGS: 3/10

Comics Review: The Umbrella Academy: Dallas (2008)

Two time-traveling serial killers Hazel and Cha-Cha are on a quest for Number 5 (The Boy) whereas Number 5 lives fifty years in the future where he gets training by Shubunkin Goldfish (Carmichael) and later on an assignment to assassinate President Kennedy.

The Umbrella Academy was abstracted by the leading vocalist and co-founder of My Chemical Romance, Gerard Way. In 2007, Way completed the writing and visual artwork of the first comic book limited series ‘Apocalypse Suite‘ with the cartoonist Gabriel Bá. Dark Horse Comics published the graphic novel and was first presented in the annual promotional event Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) the same year. The first issue was immediately sold out and indicated staunch interest amongst the readers. By next year, this graphic novel won Eisner Award for Best Limited Series.

This storyline, Dallas, is second in line, which began to run its issues in 2008, exactly nine months after Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá concluded the first chapter, Apocalypse Suite. Just like the predecessor, Dallas also has six issues but the writing elements are darker and more complex than Apocalypse Suite. And it is the upgrade over the first chapter that the tag team of Gerard and Gabriel have improved the method of storytelling to the readers with a lot of potential bettered for Number’s character.

Kraken, who is Number 2, is also a welcoming signal who looks physically visible to lead the perplexed team. The readers may get disappointed by not finding much presence of Vanya in Dallas as compared to Apocalypse Suite. But I sense it was a risky move to continue the story without not much contribution from Vanya who lies on her bed after what she has been through in the first chapter. But there are moments in one of the issues to read where Rumor holds grudge against Vanya.

The fifth issue is mostly based on the Vietnam War and has impressive writing. In fact, the one parallel that bridges both the chapters is the marvelous take on the dysfunctionality of the lost children under the Umbrella Academy. The reader must have to keep his/her hours passed on the Netflix version aside because these two chapters were published almost ten years before what the global fanhood hooked up with on the television.

I must admit that the writers of the Netflix adaptation did some hard work in giving the idea of presenting the original work to the television in the rightest and most acceptable direction. The elements of both chapters are mixed to construct a plot that looks good enough to move on. I thought Hazel and Cha-Cha were created straight on television until I read Dallas. Because they didn’t appear in Apocalypse Suite.

I think Apocalypse Suite will be remembered more than its sequel because of the plotline that inspired the first season of the show. But writing-wise, Gerard-Gabriel have matured their storytelling in Dallas. Surely, an important read one cannot miss at all. The next in line is ‘Hotel Oblivion‘ which started to publish the issues in 2018.


REFERENCE

The Umbrella Academy: Dallas Issues 1-6 (2008-2009)

DOWNLOAD

https://torrentgalaxy.mx/torrent/111289/The-Umbrella-Academy–Collection—2006-2019-

SUPPORTING VIDEO

If you want to read/listen to the commentary about The Umbrella Academy: Dallas, I recommend you follow this link.

TV Review: Modern Love Mumbai (2022)

Modern Love Mumbai is the Indian version of the Amazon Original anthology series, ‘Modern Love‘. MLM follows the same aesthetics as the original work. Set in Mumbai, each of the six episodes present different love stories expressing freedom and questioning the boundary to reach the human desire.

Modern Love was set in New York and all the stories were based on the essays published in The New York Times under the same title. So I am not sure if MLM also followed this route. But each of the stories has its significance and has the essence of the plot’s simplicity to sensualize. These stories are very close to life and most of the audience can relate.

Three of the six stories are about married women thoroughly divided in ages. One is as young as their twenties, the second is in her forties, and the third is in her late fifties or mid-sixties. One is about homosexuals, and another is about a young woman searching for the ideal man through a dating app. And there is one particular for the Northeast Indian mother-son story who is in the conflict of getting or not getting mixed in multiculturalism. So this indicates that MLM was written and developed with care.

I liked the panel of directors who worked on their part of the stories. Shonali Bose returned to the director’s seat for Raat Rani years after ‘The Sky Is Pink‘. Raat Rani is about A girl from Dal Lake, Lali, who marries a Mumbaikar, a security guard Lutfi and arrives in Mumbai but her life is dull until Lutfi is transferred to the other station leaving his bicycle behind for her.

Hansal Mehta directed a controversial episode ‘Baai‘ about homosexuality. Hansal previously directed ‘Aligarh‘ with the same subject. This is about Manzar Ali who belongs to a conservative Muslim household but is interested in men but is not able to tell his ailing grandmother Baai.

Another veteran director Vishal Bhardwaj did the Northeastern family drama ‘Mumbai Dragon‘ where the mother faces difficulty in accepting her son with his girlfriend who doesn’t belong to her ethnicity.

Alankrita Srivastava did ‘My Beautiful Wrinkles‘ about an old widow Dilbar who takes interest in a young athlete Kunal, a plot that is similar to one of the four stories in her ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha‘. Alankritas direction is like a wave for the liberalism of womanhood where she develops bold intentions in the plot and addresses them in a peculiar way. Alankrita shows the loneliness of Dilbar that absorbs and the passion and hunger in women in general for more adequate lust melts young men to daydream and draw their nudity in their honest illustration. Sticking with the old memories may lessen your optimism. Confessing private intentions is courageous but healthy for releasing the negative energy she had in life.

Super excited to see Little Things-famed Dhruv Sehgal who directed one of the episodes ‘I Love Thane‘ about Saiba who is seeking her ideal through a dating app but gives a shot at Parth to whom she finds out through work this time.

Nupur Asthana did the last episode ‘Cutting Chai‘ about a married woman Latika in her forties thinking about her life decisions, about becoming a wife, and a mother but not a novelist, something that was her ambition.

It is the beauty of small portions in the screenplay that gives you the feel about how these things matter in life, the human connection is strong in the drama. Like in Cutting Chai, Latika begins to regret her life decisions and imagine people around her agreeing and disagreeing with her. That is indicating how careful a young man or woman was when he/she was young and had to listen to society about what he/she should have decided and what not. In Raat Rani, Lali is about to throw her husband’s old bicycle from the flyover until she thinks about utilizing it by learning to ride it and earn bread through it.

Modern Love Mumbai is the positive energy that addresses optimism and encourages us to move on or give it a chance. Although, any tv or film product can have similar elements, but the beauty of MLM stories is that the plot inclines towards a push that is needed to make the audience think. The continuity of each episode never looks pressing too hard at all.

I enjoyed when Dilbar gives a try to fantasize about young athlete Kunal in the fourth story or Manzar meets Rajveer after his fondness for the previous boy matters into heartbreak in the second episode. Same case with Saiba who gives a shot at Parth by breaking her norm to find men from the dating app. That explained a lot. Therefore, the audience gets to learn or realize a few things in life if not all by watching Modern Love Mumbai.

I don’t remember if I ever happened to see Naseeruddin Shah playing a Sikh character, that is another accomplishment in his celebrated career I reckon. Good to see Sarika after a long time, she deserves to get more recognition. Pratik Gandhi is quite an actor who has the ability to play different roles. From a rich Gujarati stockbroker to a Muslim homosexual from a conservative household, Pratik really has made a distinction in his choices. For me, from all the stories, the one actor amongst all who is the winner is Fatima Sana Shaikh in the first episode. The accent, the body language, the emotional breakdown, everything was there. She nailed her character. It was a delight to see such a quality performance.

MLM has impressive writing and direction as well as quality performances due to good choices about casting in the stories. Ram Sampath‘s music score is very touching and full of life. Modern Love’s creator John Carney was involved in financing MLM so that is also why the tone was maintained and none of the makers Bollyfied with curry aesthetics.

There is every capacity to go for more than one season. Because MLM is all about some quality essays to write about and stories to speak about. Stories will never die, and love won’t compromise. There is much human connection still to work on through different mediums. So MLM must go on.

TV Review: Man vs. Bee (2022)

Trevor Bingley is a rookie housesitter who is assigned to a high-tech mansion for a few days but to his bad luck, a bee begins to circulate around him and enters the property. After the owners hand over their place to Trevor and leave, the latter struggles to get rid of the bee that jeopardizes his work.

Netflix‘s Man vs. Bee has to be Rowan Atkinson‘s grand comeback to the comedy-drama on television since The Thin Blue Line he did for BBC back in 1995. Rowan Atkinson co. created this show with William Davies, the screenwriter who wrote Johnny English trilogy. So the artistic chemistry is there with David Kerr on the director’s chair who worked as a director with both of them in Johnny English Strikes Again.

Man vs. Bee is a fresh idea for a comedy. This is like someone showed up in a meeting with a plan that, to everyone’s surprise, works and suits well. No forced representation, no lovemaking, just an old-school comedy. Rowan Atkinson as usual displayed his slapstick magic that ages well with the audience. There is still Mr. Bean inside him that teases him to present his usual misfortunes. And the impressive part is that nothing looks unnatural, no portion of the jeopardizing moment is forced at all. The timing of the unfortunate incidents one after one defines a person’s worst Monday to begin with.

Another element of superb writing is the application of old-age or simply non-rich people struggling to settle themselves in a lifestyle that is so unusual and futuristic to them. The complexity of living in a high-tech residence is really well written. The exaggeration is sublime. The problems Trevor senses never end from the first day, it is the hardship of understanding such rich domesticity that leads to misfortunes, not only the bee.

Perhaps Trevor could have gotten rid of the troubling bee if it was a simple apartment. But then, the application of realism gets compromised for the sake of fun and laughter. Man vs. Bee does defy logic that questions realism. A few questions and Man vs. Bee cannot help escaping from the plotholes or obviousness. When the bee made Trevor break the first showpiece, why didn’t he inform the owners? Fine, he panics, and he recently got the job. But when he takes the dog to the vet, why doesn’t he inquire about catching a bee? And who in the right state of mind will detonate in the residence? Perhaps he gets so lost that he cared nothing and even puts the house on fire? Maybe this is an exaggeration to its peak but certainly, logic failed for the sake of comedy. I just felt that these are some portions where the writing and humor looked compromised.

One questionable part of writing was not killing the bee in the microwave when he had the chance. This can be theorized from several angles like sympathy with a living creature after spending some time with it for good or bad reasons, or being foolish by forgetting to close the glass sliding door, etc.

I think it was a smart move to divide a simple comedy into a maximum of 12-minute episodes. Maybe Trevor’s battle with the bee would have looked boring or silly if this was a one-hour film. But in any case, I believe that Man vs. Bee makes you think about those small moments that build nerves if you take this way too seriously. It was just a bee that happened to enter with Trevor and made the mess. Perfect timing for misfortunes and embarrassment that offers the finest displays of remorse and distress none other than Rowan Atkinson can master around.

A very funny take on mistakes, Man vs. Bee has a remarkable discomfort to laugh at.