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400,000 Men Couldn’t Get Home, So Home Came For Them


The message from hell descending from the clouds. The sea waves escorting back the dead bodies. The civilian boats rescuing the freezing fate-less soldiers. Casualties outnumbering the survivors. Hark! the bombers are approaching and releasing your death certificates. Realize! the fuel is getting low! So decide either you drop your plane to the sea or shoot your rival pilot.

There is panic everywhere, there is sonic everywhere. There is no amount of food, there is no hope for good. More than 300 thousand soldiers are trapped on the beaches and harbor of Dunkirk in an uncanny weather. France has fallen to the Germans and their troops are to reach the site anytime. But the Commander is hoping that they all will be back – Home.

Dunkirk is Christopher Nolan‘s latest project, a war film whose storyline and characters are fictional in nature but relies on the rich historical accuracy based on the historic evacuation of the Allied forces during World War II. Nolan has touched the new dimensions of the filmmaking of war films. For ages, the filmmakers have strived in convincing the audience by making ‘lengthy’ war films but Nolan’s warfare drama runs for only 106 minutes and proves that it is just a matter of speaking the story in the most formidable manner. Nolan proves that to make a successful war film, a coherent presentation plays a major part, not the length of the script.

 

 


“I’d rather fight waves than dive-bombers.”


The story is divided into three divergent segments of land, water, and air. There is a stupendous balance in all the three segments with the land story definitely being more of a blood boiler. Thousands of the soldiers standing, sitting, lying in the queue on the sands of the beach await their fate and hope for deliverance. When I say lying on the beach, few are the dead bodies.

War films are acutely loud and noisy. But here there is no massive bullet-firing in the whole film, no earth-shattering blasts or powerful destructions. The grip of the plot is kept at loose ends. Dunkirk’s script is build on intensity. More than killing, the film is about saving the lives and rendering a valuable service for the people stuck in the battle.

Yes, the nature of this war-subject is saving more than killing but like I wrote above that it is the intensity, the incredible screenplay of bringing things into either an argument or a question mark. The sequences and consequences of numerous scenes drop the emotions displaying the significance and tragic life conclusions like a boatman losing his son, a soldier dropping his helmet and walking towards the sea waves, a pilot watching his plane burnt etc.


“He’s shell-shocked, George. He’s not himself. He might never be himself again.”


Angel of death knocks the door everywhere and it is not a matter of bombs but other critical things like an oiled human body trying to wash himself in haste before it catches the fire on the water or a young soldier making an unsuccessful attempt to catch the ladder of the boat before fainting into the water.

Another impressive factor of the film is the target age-group of the troops portrayal. Mostly in the film are extremely young men. The impact is hard but I like the way the young skins are put to test in the biggest scare of their lives. There were two such scenes shot on the boys giving a fascinating look on the labor and patience during the war times. One was when the two young soldiers witness a helpless gashed soldier on the stretcher. Both heed each other’s possible signal and prepare to lift the heavy stretcher miles towards the boat running and staring the other dead bodies on the beach. The other scene is when the German troops shot at the trawler for target practice where the young soldiers are hiding and no one has the courage of volunteering to release from the boat.

The film is blessed with an ensemble cast whose characters are equally divided in all the three segments. The beauty of the screenplay is that there is no main character. All the characters support each other in their segment i.e., the character of the boatman, Mr Dawson, played by Mark Rylance is indeed the lead character on the sea but his sons, Peter and George, have decent onscreen appearance subjected towards the gallantry. Rylance piloted his character boat every day and listened to the audio recordings at the Imperial War Museum. Cillian Murphy plays the rescued soldier who suffers the psychological impact of the war. Being short in the role, his mental acting performance was exceptional. To improve his character, Murphy read about the psychological trauma the soldier endured.


“Men my age dictate this war. Why should we be allowed to send our children to fight it?”


Tom Hardy is the RAF pilot playing the major role flying in the clouds but his fellow RAF pilot, Collins played by Jack Lowden, is not to be considered underrated. On land, Kenneth Branagh is the commander, loosely based on Admiral William Tennant, but also attached to him is James D’Arcy as Colonel Winnant. But the weight of the characters is equal keeping in mind that the former’s character is verbal as compared to the latter’s character being physical.

Among the young soldiers, the character of Tommy played by Fionn Whitehead was impressive than Alex played by Harry Styles. In fact, Fionn’s performance was indeed the most impressive one who surely had the most minutes throughout the film. Fionn’s character Tommy was named after the slang term Tommy which was commonly used for the ordinary British soldiers. When Nolan auditioned Harry Styles, he was not acquainted with his immense popularity.

 Audience pointed Hardy’s contribution to the film as best but he was just a pilot flying the plane in the whole film. It was actually not Hardy’s performance but the character to be counted as the most valuable one.


“How hard is it to find a dead Englishman on Dunkirk beach, for God’s sake?”


Musical department? Hans Zimmer to Nolan is what John Williams to Spielberg. Easily the most powerful director-musician combo after the latter. And here Zimmer has gifted the audience with just another masterpiece in music. The sound of the watch ticking (often played at the start of the trailer) was actually Nolan’s own pocket watch synthesized by Zimmer. Also to his credit is including Edward Elgar‘s most famous variation ‘Nimrod’ from his Enigma Variations in the film’s dramatic theme. Sound mixing is excellent. The roar of a falling enemy aircraft from the sky will haunt you.

Dunkirk is supreme at almost every technical department. Nolan’s screenplay is superbly balanced with Lee Smith‘s editing. The timing of the segments’ stories kept changing ahead and behind to show from other character’s point of view and it is indeed the beauty of editing which makes Dunkirk attract the audience understand the depth of the story from different angles. Hoyte van Hoytema‘s cinematography is sublime. I loved the aerial plane attacking shots.

Christopher Nolan keeps experimenting a new genre and develops his directional methods and ways of telling the stories. His direction is frank, polar and strict to the subject. In first half an hour, the presentation of the film is concentrating on the happenings at the beach, in the air, and at the sea with very remote dialogues. With the help of a phenomenal film editing, Nolan has crafted his Nolanistic method of depicting the heightened realism and giving the viewers a chance to see his artistry like resurrecting for a reason.

Dunkirk is so superior film that in a premiere the Dunkirk veterans wept and expressed if they time traveled back in Dunkirk. The veterans approved the realism and precise presentation of the war. Many critics have declared Dunkirk to be Nolan’s best work to date. It truly is a difficult question with more arguments than announcing the conclusion. Between his Inception, The Dark Knight, Interstellar, and Dunkirk, it seems impossible to pick the best and ignore the rest.

In my opinion, Dunkirk is the greatest war film ever made and will be remembered for ages. The greatest in a sense that the subject has been addressed and crafted in the most excellent form and has to be included in an elite list of the greatest war films like Apocalypse Now and Saving Private Ryan.

Ratings: 9.5/10


“We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds. We shall fight in the fields and in the streets. We shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender. and even if this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

 

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GLOBAL MUSLIMS

“Saudi Arabia! Learn from UAE. See how they improve their living standard, enhance opportunities, provide social entertainment, invest money in public interests and recreation activities. When will you join the other countries this millennium? You don’t even let women drive on the roads. How backward you are? Grow up!”

SAUDI ARABIA

“Alright alright! We will allow women to drive but will allow them to drive by next year because we have to establish driving facilities for the women and train them first. Also, we will try our best to adopt general measures to avoid traffic accidents. We will further allow women to work in the shops and offices, even on stalls, fairs and as cashier too.
Let’s add some entertainment for your amusement. We will decide to bring WWE wrestlers including John Cena and Big Show for your best luxury because most of you are fond of wrestling. But our sincere apologies, we will not add wrestling divas, we cannot go that far. I hope you understand.


In addition, considering your enthusiasm in comics, we will plan to stage a globally recognized international convention like Comic-Con. No no no you can wear costumes and fashion accessories in love of your favorite characters. Yes, you can become cosplayers. And don’t worry, we will invite well-known celebrities who will mesmerize you all. You will have the moment to meet and greet them, shake hand and even take a selfie with them. 
This is just a beginning, and we do realize how music has been a significant part of our culture. So we will treat our locals to listen and watch the performance of their favorite, Mohammad Abdu, to your cities. We will experiment some other musical interest in the future. How about Jazz music? We can organize that for you in an industrial city. And how about inviting the world-famous musicians? We can start from Yanni and bring the musical phenomena of team Yanni near to your cities. Why not? We can bring him and his team.


Indeed all you people are fond of watching the Western and Arab films but do you know that our Saudi people are not behind of cinematic talent. There are many talented filmmakers and actors. We shall consider organizing film festivals and bring theatres close to you.

We never focused on attracting tourists to enrich our history and culture before. Like other countries, we are not behind in attracting the tourists and we will earn the global reputation. We do realize there are numerous sites which can attract millions of visitors. Let’s work on few of these. We will invest heavy money in such places. If things work as per the plan we will begin issuing tourist visas too. Just wait and see.”

GLOBAL MUSLIMS

“Astaghfirullah bro! How can you allow women to drive the car? This will bring fitna and raise the opportunity for gender mixing. The woman will have every chance to drive by herself all alone which will lead the men’s society to stare her and raise concerns about the reasons for her driving.

She will be at ease to hang out with other girls (or maybe boys) and walk on the streets like stray dogs.

Students at Effat Women’s University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, 2009; photograph by Olivia Arthur from her 2012 book, Jeddah Diary

No need to let them step out of home for huh work? Why does she want to work when her brother, father, and husband is earning? What could be the reason for going out for ‘work’? And what kind of ‘work’ does she want to do? They should stay at home, learn to cook food, produce offsprings, teach their children and obey every word what her husband or parent wishes or commands.
How can you consider inviting kuffar and their inventions to the holy country? Wrestling discourages peace and encourages viewers to fight. So what if you didn’t invite wrestling divas due to the obvious reasons as hellfire is already approved on them, the male wrestlers also promote nudity and shamelessness.


Comic books lead the readers towards mental illness and make them think and develop a theory that superheroes actually exist. By believing the fictional heroes, they will stop believing in our beloved messengers, their message and the true warriors of Islam. Do you know there are nauzubillah (I seek refuge in Allah) so many Gods in comics? How can you let them wear improper dresses and make them shake hands of the famous kuffar people? May Allah guide you.


Music? The voice of Shaitan? The world is near to end. Oh, Muslim Ummah! Do you know you are fulfilling the needs of Western countries? Do you know you are inviting evil by encouraging people to listen to their music? Seems like you have lost your credibility as a Muslim country.


You should realize that they are enemies of Islam and by investing your money in advertising their culture and fashion, we will be manipulated and one day they will occupy our holy land. They will marry our Muslim women and produce offsprings who will tweet/retweet their false religion. Auzubillah Auzubillah. May Allah have mercy and guide you to the right path. Amen.”

 

SAUDI ARABIA

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If War For The Planet Of The Apes is the ultimate conclusion then it is easily one of the greatest film trilogies ever made. Caesar, the leading ape, has gone through a lot of pains and hardships to protect his fellow apes in the two previous parts, “Rise” and “Dawn“. Now the “War” in the continuity is the final showdown of the survival of the apes led by the old Caesar against a rogue faction Alpha-Omega led by the ruthless Colonel (Woody Harrelson).

The common factor between all the three parts is the dependency of survival of the creatures on the shoulders of the humans who are considered by the apes the worst of its kind, who believes are the one who destroys and fight against each other and the apes have to pay the price. And it is somehow unfortunately true. Animals, involve or not, are the victims who painfully die in the war or battle started by us humans.

And that is what I genuinely liked about this final part that the film showed a very ugly naked truth about the existing political scenario. Despite being a film focused on the animal survival, the film shows an intolerable fascist army who are here to bring an end to their kind. Begins a depressing state of torturing their kind under the American flag with the beginning of the anthem, that is an agonizing pain and misery on the apes to be watched. The apes become slaves of the army just like us humans are to the technology.

“War” is a dystopia alarming the rise of the revolt. Spectacular provocation is that there is no woman in the whole movie but a young mute girl for a reason. Secondly, the whole casting is white. I am confused if showing a rogue and fascist white army against the apes was intentional.

Besides, the film is just a remarkable human-animal story mentally projecting and testing Caesar’s behavior and relation towards good and bad humans once again like the previous two films. Director, Matt Reeves, has brilliantly completed Caesar’s life phases with emotions and drama. The trilogy is a complete life-story and understanding of a real ape and consequences of living in a cruel world.

The musical score, visual effects, film and sound editing has made this film live in a special place. Andy Serkis has many unforgettable contributions to the cinema and Caesar is his another masterpiece. “War” is a superior show in all the departments.

RATINGS: 9/10

FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER @saminaik_asn

I happen to notice a small fire in the woods by a few scores of lumberjacks in the forest where I live as an expatriate. This is an incident occurred in the heritage village of Ushaiger which is situated 200 km from Riyadh. Ushaiger is one of the oldest towns in the Najd region. According to social media and few websites including Okaz, a model named Khulood walked the village in a short dress breaking the strict dress code implemented by laws in the Kingdom.
Although I see nothing wrong with a girl wearing a short skirt and traveling to any sites (besides religious places). But I have to forward few of the points towards the incident happened in the heritage village.
 
1) KSA’s strict dress code on women has to be applicable and under such law, she should be treated as per the law. And let me clarify that this is not my opinion.
 
2) Like seriously, who wear short skirts on historic places??? This is absolutely silly and beyond any common sense! Tourists in Arab countries like KSA and Jordan wear track suits, track pants, long shorts etc. Even the female Westerners travel to such places wearing an abaya (loose over-garment) to maintain the dress code as per the law.
 
3) The reactions on the social media sites are mixed. Some have demanded to arrest her or kicking her out of the country. Few considered her act as brave and there is some number of people who consider it welcoming with freedom of expression. Those who want to read the reactions on Twitter can hashtag with the name Ushaiger in Arabic.
In a country where the women are not allowed to drive, the coming years can meet the demands of change and accept the freedom of expressing. But will take a lot of time to accept this.
 
Being a staunch supporter of personal freedom, my opinion is that the local sharia laws have to cut loose the grip, ease the environment and make it welcoming. There was a time back in the 80s and 90s when the ladies in the Kingdom have to hide their hair and wear plain abayas. Now it has become a fashion and has nothing to do with the religion. Gender mixing is already seen in the public places. So the social environment is not to be confused with Islamic principles. You cannot judge on the basis of the dress if the lady is provoking and abusing her religion or if she is a Muslim or not. What about the mannequins in the shopping malls displaying much shorter dress than the one in this incident?
 
What happened in this incident was a silly display of show-off but this act will raise a lot of eyebrows on the Ifs and Why-Nots across the Kingdom.
Follow me on TWITTER @saminaik_asn

My Bollywood’s Best of 2016

Posted: June 30, 2017 in MovieTalks
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The thing is that I am indulged in presenting the very best of Hindi-language cinema every year and I enjoy investing my precious time for the sensible readers and filmgoers who would like to know what honestly have been the best films under different categories. It is a common understanding that the film awards in India have lost its credibility by handing the awards mostly to the wrong hands from a very list of nominations. It exasperates me when the deserving individual or a film is not recognized on the stage in any given function.

For the past two years, I am making such a specific blog to recognize the contributions from the Indian films released in India in that specific calendar year. You may read my previous selections here in 2014 and 2015.

This blog will focus on the year 2016. Like before, I will segregate the categories in three different sections i.e., musical (5), technical (10), and major section (6). In most of the categories, I will brief a small explanation where I find necessary. In most of the categories, I will also make some honorable mentions which are the individuals or the films deserve to be counted among the best.

This is to inform you that the list of 21 categories from the 3 sections is created and presented from my selection and observing the following films released in India in 2016: Chauranga, Wazir, Chalk N Duster, Airlift, Saala Khadoos, Neerja, The Blueberry Hunt, Fan, Nil Battey Sannata, Traffic, Buddha in a Traffic Jam, Sarbjit, Veerappan, Waiting, Dhanak, Te3n, Raman Raghav 2.0, Madaari, M Cream, Pink, Parched, Dear Zindagi, Dangal, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, Baar Baar Dekho, Udta Punjab, Kapoor & Sons, Fitoor, Mirzya, and Aligarh.

The above-mentioned films which miss all the recognitions below are to be believed that those films didn’t live up to my expectations. Also for your reading, let me clear that the films are not ranked in ‘Other Notable Works’.


MUSICAL SECTION

BEST BACKGROUND SCORE

TAPAS RELIA (DHANAK)

Other Notable Works:

  1. Mikey McCleary (Waiting)
  2. Studio Fuzz (M Cream)

BEST PLAYBACK SINGERS

There wasn’t a decent vocal competition in the year 2016. I have listened to a lot of tracks from the 4-5 successful music albums of the films and I found only a couple of male tracks from the same film and a few good female singing in the other films but still not good enough.

AMIT MISHRA (BULLEYA – AE DIL HAI MUSHKIL)

Other Notable Work: Arijit Singh (Channa Mereya – Ae Dil Hai Mushkil)

NEETI MOHAN (SAU AASMAAN – BAAR BAAR DEKHO)

Other Notable Works:

  1. Qurat-Ul-Balouch (Kaari Kaari – Pink)
  2. Kanika Kapoor (Da Da Dasse – Udta Punjab)

BEST SONG & LYRICS

CHANNA MEREYA (ARIJIT SINGH/AMITABH BHATTACHARYA/PRITAM – AE DIL HAI MUSHKIL)

Other Notable Works:

  1. Tere Bin (Sonu Nigam-Shreya Ghoshal/Vidhu Vinod Chopra/Shantanu Moitra – Wazir)
  2. Pashmina (Amit Trivedi/Swanand Kirkire – Fitoor)
  3. Gehra Ishq (Shekhar Ravjiani/Prasoon Joshi/Vishal Khurana – Neerja)

BEST MUSIC

AMIT TRIVEDI (UDTA PUNJAB)

Other Notable Works:

  1. Tapas Relia (Dhanak)
  2. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy (Mirzya)

TECHNICAL SECTION

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

ASHIMA BELAPURKAR (PARCHED)

Other Notable Work: Theia Tekchandaney & Shruti Wadetiwar (Neerja)

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

ANNA IPE & APARNA SUD (NEERJA)

Other Notable Work: Amardeep Behl (Parched)

BEST SOUND DESIGN

SUBHASH SAHU (NEERJA)

Other Notable Works:

  1. Boby John (Dhanak)
  2. Vinit D’Souza (Raman Raghav 2.0)

BEST SCENE

MADAARI

There have been few scenes in my mind which were quite outstanding. Like Aliya’s expressions of misery to Shahid in Udta Punjab, or Nawazuddin killing a family in Raman Raghav 2.0, or the hijacking scene in Neerja, or the final court scenes in Pink. But I decided to choose the winner between two of the best scenes of the year 2016. Shakun Batra’s marvelous direction bemused me about the selection of the best scene of the film. The plumber scene, Annu aunty in party scene, and the truths-revelation scene before the family photo all carried equal weight of remarkable sketch of a highly intense family drama. So undecided that I prefer to conclude the winning scene with Irrfan’s showstopper and a heart-melting scene from Madaari when he asks for whereabouts of his son in the hospital. Perhaps no one would bring the efforts what Irrfan did here and hence proved again why is he the most inspiring actor holding more demand in the global cinema than any other Indian. This scene really beats the others.

BEST EDITING

GAIRIK SARKAR (TE3N)

Other Notable Works:

  1. Aarti Bajaj (Raman Raghav 2.0)
  2. Monisha R Baldawa (Neerja)

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

MINGJUE HU (M CREAM)

Other Notable Work:

  1. Chirantan Das (Dhanak)
  2. Priya Seth (Airlift)
  3. Jay Oza (Raman Raghav 2.0)
  4. Satyajit Pande (Dangal)

BEST ACTION

Parvez Singh (Raman Raghav 2.0)

The action is not about larger-than-life supernatural fights. My science of understanding here says to me that the action is when the reality is bound to bring intensity in the screenplay. Violence is the key, torture is a form and dismantling the brain and eyes towards the seriousness of the buildup is where the finest of action qualifies. Neerja and Raman Raghav 2.0 were the only films in my mind. Neerja’s technical aspects helped to build the intensity from hijacking till the last attempt of escaping. Whereas Raman Raghav 2.0 was a silent screamer and a gritty writing making the viewers hopeless and disconsolate of any likelihood of survival, the bloodbath is a sine qua non.  

BEST SCREENPLAY

RITESH SHAH (PINK)

Other Notable Works:

  1. Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, Neeraj Singh, Pranjal Choudary, and Nitesh Tiwari (Nil Battey Sannata)
  2. Gauri Shinde (Dear Zindagi)

BEST DIALOGUES

SHAKUN BATRA & AYESHA DEVITRE DHILLON (KAPOOR & SONS)

Other Notable Works:

  1. Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, Neeraj Singh, Pranjal Choudary, and Nitesh Tiwari (Nil Battey Sannata)
  2. Atika Chohan (Waiting)
  3. Agneya Singh (M Cream)
  4. Ritesh Shah (Pink)

BEST STORY

NITESH TIWARI (NIL BATTEY SANNATA)

Other Notable Works:

  1. Bikas Ranjan Mishra (Chauranga)
  2. Anu Menon, James Ruzicka, and Atika Chohan (Waiting)
  3. Agneya Singh (M Cream)
  4. Gauri Shinde (Dear Zindagi)

MAJOR SECTION

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

RATNA PATHAK (KAPOOR & SONS)

 

Parched acting trio of Tannishtha, Radhika and Surveen was highly expected to surpass the expectations but the trio of Pink was a massive surprise to me. Alia Bhatt gave her remarkable presence in Kapoor & Sons.

Well, a pause in the clause is that the Indian theater actresses will eat your skull if they outplayed the emotional character. Shabana Azmi for Neerja and Ratna Pathak for Kapoor & Sons were the most standout performances from this category. It wasn’t easy to pick and ignore the other nor do I want any joint winners. But as per the capacity of acting and appeal on the screentime, Ratna had more space to suffer Mr. Kapoor and Sons than the mother of Neerja waiting for the updates after the hijacking incidence. Ratna had more time to fight and argue with more than an individual at a time than Shabana’s emotional resistance. 

Other Notable Works:

  1. Shabana Azmi (Neerja)
  2. Kirti Kulhari (Pink)
  3. Tannishtha Chatterjee (Parched)
  4. Alia Bhatt (Kapoor & Sons)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

RISHI KAPOOR (KAPOOR & SONS)

The mad terrorist in Neerja was phenomenal as well as a highly potential debut of the singer Diljit Dosanjh in Udta Punjab. Rajkummar was decent in assisting Manoj Bajpayee in Aligarh and Vicky Kaushal is rapidly making his name with Masaan and 2.0. But the real focus was on the dadaji of the dysfunctional family in Kapoor & Sons.

Yes, the makeup has a prominent role in the building of the character which doubles the charm in the performance like how Amitabh brought the momentum in his Auro character in Paa after an extraordinary change in his stature and looks. But Rishi as a nonagenarian fittingly classified as the best dadaji whose role grew on the viewers with the growing heat in the disturbed family. Chintuji and Amitji are the only boys of the 70s badge who are regularly performing in the selective roles being recognized with the positive responses in today’s cinema. And this role again defines Rishi’s versatility in acting. The film would be incomplete if Rishi would not have been picked for this role. 

Other Notable Works:

  1. Jim Sarbh (Neerja)
  2. Vicky Kaushal (Raman Raghav 2.0)
  3. Diljit Dosanjh (Udta Punjab)
  4. Rajkummar Rao (Aligarh)

BEST ACTRESS

ALIA BHATT (UDTA PUNJAB)

If there is any category which was the most impressive, that was the performances of the leading actresses in the films released in the year 2016. There is Swara Bhaskar who is rapidly becoming of the noticeable actresses who brought a spectacular performance to her credit in Nil Battey Sannata. The body language and the emotional details of her character-play were striking. Kalki’s strong CV continues to fill more golden pages with Waiting. Ash in Sarbjit was a surprise package. Throughout her acting career, this is easily her first and best acting performance. That is the other thing that Ash doesn’t resemble or remind us Dalbir Kaur but the director has really worked with Ash on her character. People were informing me that Taapsee has done a wonderful job in Pink and I was not coming out of my visual understanding after watching her in Chashme Baddoor. Taapsee Pannu displayed a powerful role and I hope she is not a one-role wonder lady.

As far as Alia is in the wacky race, she is my girl for this category. She is at the peak of her career and easily one of the fastest growing actresses in the Indian cinema. Alia does have a lot of help at home from her mother Soni Razdan who has pulled the strings of acting and playing mentally complicated characters in many of her husband’s films in the 80s and 90s, and papa Mahesh Bhatt who has been critical in making top-notch films in the parallel cinema. But then, it is the baby who has to face the camera and has every potential to make her name with acting greats like Shabana Azmi, Smita Patil, Tabu, or Nandita Das in very near future.

She began performing from Highway and sought attention from the sensible viewers including me. But 2016 is her best year ever with high-class performances in not one but three films (Kapoor & Sons, Dear Zindagi, and this). As far as the mental or physical challenge is the condition, it definitely is her role of Mary Jane in Udta Punjab which beats the other competitors in the wacky race. She has shown the misery of a girl stuck in the series of unfortunate events. You feel sorry for the character but when you feel apologetic, there is Alia’s success to justify the role she plays. Highway’s Veera Tripathi and Udta Punjab’s Mary Jane have suffered but their character-destruction from Alia’s visual presentation is different. Well done Alia. 

Other Notable Works:

  1. Swara Bhaskar (Nil Battey Sannata)
  2. Taapsee Pannu (Pink)
  3. Kalki Koechlin (Waiting)
  4. Sonam Kapoor (Neerja)
  5. Aishwarya Rai (Sarbjit)

BEST ACTOR

MANOJ BAJPAYEE (ALIGARH)

If you are mature enough to understand the credibility of the actor and his substance of a performance in a given screentime, you will realize that the award functions in India are commercialized which depends on revenue and care less for the individuals who deserve the award at the right time in their lives. In 2015, Filmfare omitted Sanjay Mishra for Ankhon Dekhi, who was a clear winner in the category of Best Actor. Last year, Filmfare omitted Nawazuddin for Manjhi who actually was the most deserving individual to win the category of Best Actor.  And now a hattrick of blunder is completed with Manoj Bajpayee’s turn who lost his place to get into the nominations. And most of the viewers will raise the eyebrows over the quality of decision making by the juries who repeatedly add box-office mahatmas, Salman Khan and Shahrukh Khan, in the category almost every year from nowhere.

This is easily Bajpayee’s best performance ever and is the toughest character of a homosexual teacher he can play. The best part of the role is his complexity towards the sexual orientation for which he is suspended and bringing his ass to the court. He has a portion of love for the lettering and listening to Lata’s songs but overall a disturbed soul. He is a departed loner but expects people to understand him. Bajpayee has given the word ‘Tragedy’ a fresh cinematic meaning. A wonderful and very underrated performance I subject to recognize here.

Besides, Shahid enjoys another successful year with another role of a maniac, this time in Udta Punjab. Shahid is like Saif Ali Khan who is reintroduced to the viewers as a promising actor not to ignore. After a series of repeated failures, Shahid is finally off the mark from Haider. Irrfan’s Madaari is another brutal omission from the same category in Filmfare and you will be surprised to know that besides Paan Singh Tomar, he has never been nominated in this category in Filmfare.

Naseer sir in Waiting is magnificent as always in almost every film which he is part of. Amitabh had three different roles in Wazir, Pink, and Te3n, and I must say that Amitji at this age has become more choosy in his roles than ever. Since 2015, he has played some very good roles in Shamitabh, Piku, and the above-mentioned films. If I have to pick between the three, it would be Te3n.

By watching his superior performances in first Badlapur and now Raman Raghav 2.0, I am fully convinced that if in any timeline the Batman franchise happens to drop in Indian cinema, the only actor who can play the role of the Joker is Nawazuddin Siddiqui. His latest role of a psychotic killer will disturb you, by watching this performance you will never wish to meet him. What Randeep did in Sarbjit was the most dedicating among all the best performances of 2016. He lost 18 kgs in 28 days to justify his role in the prison life. Randeep presents you the pain of being an unfortunate and displays an impressive emotional drop and terrific body language. He makes the viewers feel when he groans and express his pain to Aishwarya in the prison.

Other Notable Works:

  1. Shahid Kapoor (Udta Punjab)
  2. Irrfan Khan (Madaari)
  3. Naseeruddin Shah (Waiting)
  4. Randeep Hooda (Sarbjit)
  5. Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Raman Raghav 2.0)
  6. Amitabh Bachchan (Te3n)

BEST DIRECTOR

GAURI SHINDE (DEAR ZINDAGI)

Besides the names mentioned below, the competition for this category, in my opinion, was between Shakun Batra and Gauri Shinde. Both were the masterclass in utilizing the scripts. But I picked Gauri the winner from this category. Shakun’s impressive direction has a blend of major other aspects involved like very realistic dialogues, a lot of impressive performances within a scene etc but Gauri’s direction heavily depends on Alia’s character growth in the film especially a very important first half before Shahrukh is introduced.

Other Notable Works:

  1. Shakun Batra (Kapoor & Sons)
  2. Ram Madhvani (Neerja)
  3. Anurag Kashyap (Raman Raghav 2.0)
  4. Abhishek Chaubey (Udta Punjab)
  5. Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury (Pink)

BEST FILM

KAPOOR & SONS

I mean what else? what really else can be a better film than Kapoor & Sons? A decent family drama which portrays/sketches a dysfunctional family with mix elements of humor and suspense. The film has no nonsense of silly masala, item numbers or unnecessary cameo appearances despite the fact that the film was produced under the banner of Dharma Productions. Then the film is very honest to its script and describes a shattered bond in a very distinctive way.

There are numerous amazing scenes which catch our attention swiftly because we are accustomed to our domestic life especially the plumber scene. Then the revelation of secrets and a tragic accident. The film touches your heart. The remaining plusses are left with superb performances from all the major cast. Everyone has his share and their roles carry the same depth. And that is the beauty of the film that there is no leading character. Every major character is supporting to the other.

Other Notable Works:

  1. Dhanak
  2. Nil Battey Sannata
  3. Waiting
  4. Neerja
  5. Dear Zindagi
  6. Udta Punjab
  7. M Cream
  8. Pink

(Please share your views about my selections. Write your opinions in the comments below. Let me know if you don’t agree and explain your reasons.)

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The events of the World Wars staging in the planet earth not only brought the highest recorded casualties of the 20th century but brought many historical consequences and incredible stories. People in my community often take Hitler‘s genocide of killing 6 million European Jews as an act of achievement or blessing because they theorize the opinion that it is the Jews being blood-thirsty of the Muslims in Palestine for decades. Hardly they are familiar with Zionism movement and do not recognize the difference between a Jewish religion and a Zionism movement.

The complexity of the subject lies in the tragic state where the Jews were the prime target in The Holocaust. In my life, I personally came to realize that Jews have been war or political victims ever in the timeline when I happened to watch Roman Polanski‘s The Pianist back in 2003. I was familiar with the face of the young Anne Frank as I happen to see in some tribute videos played on the TV a few years ago and I calculated the prominence of her picture in the history section that there is something very memorable about this girl.  Later on, through various sources on the internet, I learned her personal and posthumous achievement as a teenage diarist revealing some very critical details of the existing chaos in Nazi Germany and the Netherlands, and her very tragic conclusion of giving up life in one of the concentration camps in Germany at a minor age of 15.

Anne Frank rose to posthumous fame globally when her diary was published with the sharp details of her personal life and the war disturbances during her two-year hiding with her family. It is not just an impression of reading a girl’s diary speaking of the world war but it is a deep psychology of understanding one of the 6 million casualties that how a normal person of any age shapes in the historic or political chaos. How a girl of 13 with all the luxury of a domestic and school life lives an unfortunate life in the two-year hiding with her family?

Everyone in the Europe was affected by the world war and Anne Frank is one of the most discussed Jewish victims of that time. As a reader, when you read the first dozens of the letter, you become a child like her. With her writing and your reading, you begin to create and develop an understanding with her, her ideology, her opinion, her social behavior and attitude towards her parents, her sister, her friends (among which couple of them became more than a friend for a short period), and other people with whom she was hiding in the concealed rooms. Diary was Anne’s best and most loyalist friend but the reading mentally convinces if you are the diary’s replacement and the deceased is talking, admitting and confessing to you.

Anne wasn’t a childish immature diarist as I was expecting. To my surprise, she was a mature girl who had a treasure of words to describe in details her physical and emotional developments. She was impressive in giving detail about the structure of the house where the whole family was hiding which is known as Secret Annex (Achterhuis in Dutch). She has spoken about her relation with Peter in much of the detail that draws your attention. Peter was a 16-year-old son of the van Pels family, the family who joined the Franks in the hiding. Besides, she expresses her love towards history and literature and set her ambition to become a journalist when the war is finished.

To my reading experience, the dozens of books which I have read so far, this is the book which gives me more pain and grief. I have to admit that when I was reading this book, I was traveling the time and wanting that bad to save the entire family from the evils of invasion. It breaks my heart to understand how much people have to suffer from the decisions made by the people in power. I began thinking while reading her letters about my honest opinion that the whole world, its existence, the life, the timeline and every creature arriving at the surface is all scripted by the God. He is the author, a writer to the fate of the earth and its inhabitants. Anne was bestowed with the diary, a present she got on her 13th birthday by her father. A month later, the hiding began and the diary gifted a month ago became Anne’s keeper of the secrets. The next two years, she began writing in rich details a lot of things until she is arrested by the Gestapo and sent to the concentration camp. It was Miep Gies who hid the Franks and van Pels in the Secret Annex. Months after Anne’s tragic death, Miep found the papers and the diaries on the floor of the concealed room. She didn’t read but forwarded to Anne’s father Otto Frank after the war, when her death was confirmed in the Autumn of 1945. If there was no war, there would have been no hiding and this book would never be written nor reach to us. It is all scripted, Anne wasn’t brought in this world to live a normal life. She was born in the most disturbed timeline at the unfortunate place to write the diary and do us a favor to read her. It is all scripted. 

Miep Gies died a few years ago at the age of 100. One of Anne’s friends, Hanneli Goslar, is still alive at 88 who now lives in Jerusalem with her family. Goslar has appeared in several Anne Frank documentaries. Had Anne not died in the camp, she might have fulfilled her ambition to become a journalist and would have been 88 to date. Anne and her sister Margot were buried in an unknown mass grave but the reading of her memoir is buried in our hearts and we have sympathies and respect for the poor little girl. 

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Lackluster performance! Submerging what the servants of the sports are capable of. Demotivated and discouraged by the viewers judging them at every delivery. Mauled by the arch-rivals to whom you were superior in performances against once upon a time. The unpredictables have become highly predictable. Their game is old school but watching them play has become ragefully tormenting with shameful and embarrassing results.

“India v Pakistan”, the title used to define as the Clan of the Titans! The mother of all battles! But in few years with the rise of the cricketing standards in team India and repeated failures in implementing the modern attacking cricket in team Pakistan has bored the tagged anticipation of the rivalry as Wildcat v Pussycat. In the last few years or a few contests, we have observed that India is not only beating Pakistan in results but destroying in all three departments; batting, bowling, and fielding. This has subjected the fans of the latter to expect low in the rivalry games which used to be those special occasions when the employee had to forward his request of a sick leave to his boss. In the countries where multinational people live and work together, the employee (if he is Pakistani) has to face his (Indian) colleagues in the office the next day with embarrassment.

As Imran Khan tweeted a couple of days ago “As a sportsman, I know winning & losing are part of the game but it’s painful to watch Pak being thrashed by India without putting up a fight”. There is no shame in losing but is shameful if you lost without attempting to fight. And the time passes on and we wait for the next Ind-Pak clash in the future ICC events, do we?

WHAT WENT WRONG?

Why did Pakistan lose so badly? What was missing? Was Pakistan really not able to defeat them? The simple answer is NO. We were able to defeat them ONLY if the team had believed in themselves and were self-confident that they can defeat any team on any given day on any given field. On the cricket field, if you want to defend yourself in the game, you have to attack. You have to roar, not meow.

There is no motivator who can make them believe and bring the will power to achieve something in their times. Not even the captain can inspire his own team who stated last week, “We are ranked eight, we have nothing to lose”. Wow! How touched I am reading the words of our captain. The word of the captain matters and no one set examples of what Imran influenced the generations when he wore a white t-shirt with a picture of a tiger before the 1992 World Cup quarterfinal match against the Aussies at their yard. Then there are further cases in our history when the tempo of the team is hurt by the behavior of the captains like Younis refusing to lead in 2006 Champions Trophy without consulting the PCB, Shahid Afridi retiring in tests after a 4-year comeback in the format during the 2010 English tour or his passing the statement that the team got more love in India than his country while stepping in India for his last international assignment, WT20.

Khan sahab is repeatedly repeating the repetitive statement repeated in past 30 years to maintain and strengthen the domestic infrastructure which is weak enough to introduce mentally weak players to the international cricket who would face difficulties in adjusting themselves to the challenges they face in proper standards. No one will disagree with him as all his fears and predictions have gone right. And to our misery, we do are suffering. PSL is not important as building a strong domestic infrastructure is. If other cricketing nations organize T20 franchise leagues than the reason is that they already have developed theirs. Despite the fact the infrastructure is weak, we still have been gifted with many champions and achievers like Wasim, Waqar, Saqlain, Inzamam, Saeed, Shoaib, Razzaq, and many more.

The other factor involved in the miserable defeat was the team selection which is fetched from a squad selection, and the squad selection (good or bad) is subjected from the selection committee whose selection always raise a question mark. And that is a very critical issue. Let me focus on the XI before the blog becomes a book. There has been a severe agonized outcry that the team is so far from time traveling to the existence that they have no hard-hitting batsmen to ease and accelerate the run rate and help push the score towards 300, 350 and even touch 400 which is yet to be done in the ODIs. Now then you have two such players in Fakhar Zaman and Faheem Ashraf, and the latter doing the unthinkable in the practice match against Bangladesh. The captain and the coach still didn’t prefer to pick any of the two in such an important clash! Was it really hard to think of replacing Ahmed Shahzad, Azhar Ali, Mohammad Hafeez with them?

Oh, wait! then there is Junaid Khan, the only potential and capable wicket-taking pace bowler who can make a promising opening partner to Mohammad Amir and make the viewers hopeful of watching their team take all 10 wickets in an inning. Junaid was expensive in the practice game conceding 73 runs, 5 more runs than Wahab Riaz in 9 overs. But the difference was that Junaid grabbed 4 wickets as compared to being wicketless in the latter’s case. To everyone’s surprise, Wahab was preferred over Junaid! And that is easily one of the key reasons for the defeat. Wahab getting smacked and destroyed was always on the card and we don’t have any luxury to witness any economical bowling of him in a lengthy period. I don’t remember if he ever grabbed 5 wickets after the WC semifinal game against India.

One of the tweets yesterday confirmed how worst has Wahab become, what burden of a liability he is on the team since Jan. 2016. In 12 ODIs, he has picked only 9 wickets at an average of 74 with the economy rate of 6.50. His bowling average was 104 vs Aus, 186 vs Eng, and 118 vs NZL. I think the readers are wise enough to understand why would a bowler with such horrible performances still end up in the squad and playing XI but not Junaid Khan.

WAS THE DECISION OF BOWLING FIRST CORRECT?

In most cases, the ideology is that winning the toss is the blessing but I believe either you win the toss or lose, you still have 450 overs in tests, 50 in ODIs and 20 in T20s to win the match. In my opinion, Sarfaraz’s decision of bowling first was correct because of the two factors. One, we know the chasing reputation of India which was avoided. Second, our bowling strength has declined a lot and we are not capable of grabbing all 10 wickets in most of the occasions. Yes, we are bad chasers who collapses even when we have to chase 150 or less but there is still a small percentage of a chance after failing in bowling in the first inning.

FAILING THE DEPARTMENTS

Even if you lose the toss and select a wrong XI, there is still a chance of winning if you perform well in all the three departments; batting, bowling, and *hehe* fielding. A cricket statistician should do some favor to our team and add a new category of catch drops to add some interest in digging that how many catches did the team drop from their soft buttered palms. At least I am interested to know by average that how many are they dropping the catches each game. I happen to watch one of the youtube videos to understand how this team practice before the game and ended up with this video leading me to nowhere.

Then they have a history of losing the most crucial games by the catch drops. More bizarre of the fact is that Pakistan’s journey to the last two world cups ended by dropping the most important catches, 4 against Tendulkar and one against Watson. The military training that was scheduled before the English tour last year is not possible to be scheduled for them on regular basis nor is this a solution. Not all the teams are physically trained by their country’s military.

Sarfaraz’s plan to open the bowling with Imad in the second over was a bad idea. He is a kind of bowler who comes to bowl in the middle of the inning when he has to stop the batsmen accelerating the score in which he is pretty good at. Change in plans and Imad turned IMad with no idea what to bowl in the opening and death overs. Result? The whole focus and blame go on his silly haircut but this was the worst he has ever performed. He has been one of our best performers in ODIs and T20Is in past 10 months. If spin was obligatory from the start, Hafeez was the best option to go with as he has always stood a threat against the left-handers but hang on! the captain gave him not a single over! Indian openers lose their hands for shots when Wahab’s first intolerable spell began. Pakistan could still have marked a decent comeback but they missed easy chances on the field, the bowling was not on the line. When the fielders dropped catches of Kohli and Yuvraj, you actually gave them the license to kill you.

Their other weakness which adds misery to their woes is that if the batsmen go on aggressive mode, their bowling and fielding goes defensive and last of all, they give up. They choose wrong bowlers for the death overs or if they choose the correct one, then they bowl flat. This shows that the captain and coach had no plans, and if they had then these were not implemented. Had Junaid played this match, he could have calmed the pressure and assisted Amir. There could definitely have been a wicket in the start as Rohit was controlling his hands not to make any mistake but their openers succeeded because Imad was introduced at the wrong time and then Wahab did what he is good at. Amir’s temporary injury also helped India smashing more runs in the end as expected. India was so confident that they send Hardik Pandya instead of their death over assassin, MS Dhoni, and Pandya didn’t disappoint the captain.

In 2017, where openers are the destroyers, regular strike rotators, partnership builders, large-inning constructors; there is our baffling batting order who play with the same flow while batting first and second, press the panic button and lose their mind. Collapse all of a sudden like a plucked leaf dropped from the hand or an old individual from the wheelchair. They think twice when they have to take a quick single and commit suicide on the pitch. Their almost every batting scorecard has an honorable mention of a RUNOUT by someone. In an era when the teams are chasing 300 more often, this team reaching 300 is still a rare event. In an era when the batsman is focusing on breaking records and building huge innings on the flat pitches, scoring a century by our batsman is sapphire-rare. And that is why there are only 3 entries of our batsmen reaching 150 in ODI history. Strauss alone has 3.

When you are chasing a target at the required run rate more than 6, you have to take the risk and play shots, and try to accelerate the score. But once Ahmad Shahzad departed, the humans on the batting crease became zombies. Till the 17th over, the stats showed on the screen that Pakistani batsmen had dotted 60 balls which are precisely 10 overs. Even the commentators complained live that the batsmen were taking the pressure and dotting too many balls which helped the asking run rate climb swiftly and they gave up. This is not how you bat in modern cricket. 

With that target, Sarfaraz must have decided to open with Ahmad and drop Azhar to 4. But the Plan B was missing, so was Plan A. When two wickets fell, they made further mistakes and sent Hafeez instead of Shoaib. And the rest is boring.

ANYTHING TO EXPECT IN CT JOURNEY?

Given the fact that Wahab is injured and out of Champions Trophy for good, Sarfaraz and the coach Mickey Arthur have to decide what should still be done to expect positive or aggressive cricket. Junaid will likely get the ball in the next game. Either Hafeez or Ahmad can make the room for either Fakhar or Faheem. Or both can be dropped and add Haris Sohail with any of the two Fs. But enough is enough, such performances are a huge insult to the global fans who support their team green. So many people from around the world show up on the ground for the love and support but are deceived and bereaved. 

How long will they play old-school cricket? When will they upgrade their game or install the new software/hardware? For how long will we listen to the excuses in the same funny post-match interviews of our captain. Yes, Pakistan is not playing international cricket at home and didn’t get that much exposure of IPL, the home of flat pitch batting circus, the game changer in the modern cricket which put a permanent full stop in the golden competition of bat and ball as it used to be in the old times. But being very honest, this is all excuse. Despite the above-mentioned factors, Pakistan somehow peaked the ranking in Test cricket last year thanks to our heritage of performing well and being unbeatable side on UAE pitches. We did win Asia Cup, defeated South Africa and India in the ODI series at their yard. We claimed the world title in T20 in 2009 and even reached the semis of 2011 WC. Sorry, but there is no excuse of what the team has become. If the international cricket is not coming to Pakistan, then the head of the PCB should ask ICC the reason? If the international wrestlers can come to Pakistan, if Leisure League featuring world famous football legends Ronaldinho and Roberto Carlos can happen, then why not international cricket? If security was really the issue then the above-mentioned entertainers and sportsmen would not have bothered to come here.

I know they will repeat the mistakes but hoping the best for the team is the only thing I can do while writing this blog because since beginning to love this sport in 1997, I have seen my team in fluctuations and in many good and bad unforgettable moments and memories. Cricket is won only when you promise yourself that you will never let the game down. Cricket is won only when the challenges are tough but the desire of achieving is real. Cricket is won only when your heart tells you to be sincere with the game and conquer the game for the sports, for the nation, for the people who support and love you. May you someday achieve what we still wait for.

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