All posts by Sami Naik

Writer | Poet | Book-Reader | Globetrotter | Blogger | Film-Critic

The Stooges: Those Fools On The Mean Streets

Born and raised in Jeddah, I had the luxury in my childhood to enjoy many memorable American sitcoms and cartoons on local channels. In the early 90s, Saudi Channel 2 entertained me with countless shows. One of those was The New Three Stooges cartoons, a very popular animated series of the mid-60s. I was hardly seven or eight and wasn’t aware if those three characters in the cartoons were real. I would have never known in my childhood about their being real had my school timings not changed.

In 1994, when I studied in the 5th standard, it was the afternoon shift of my school Pakistan International School Jeddah (PISJ) but my timings shifted from afternoon to morning when I entered into my 6th class. The year was 1995 when Sony Entertainment Television was launched later that year and the channel was airing three American television series one after one in the afternoon. First The Three Stooges (in English), then Dennis The Menace and I Dream Of Jeannie (both dubbed in Hindi). As Paulo Coelho says, Maktub, isn’t it? And I was astonished at the Stooges being real and funnier than the cartoons. I had to return from school and try to catch this show as soon as possible.

The Three Stooges were the vaudeville team in the golden age of comedy which mostly featured Moe Howard, Larry Fine, and Curly Howard. The man who made me laugh at that show was that fat bald funny guy Curly but I used to get annoyed sometimes when I return from school and catch the show and notice that someone else than Curly was featuring on that day’s episode. And I asked myself where did that fatty go? With time, I came to understand the backstories of unarguably the most well-known comedy team the world has ever known.

When The Three Stooges came to prominence in the mid-1930s, the golden age of comedy was still on the run with Charles Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Laurel And Hardy, and The Marx Brothers already dominating in the United States for more than twenty years. And this team, along with other greats like Abbott And Castello began to carry the torch.

But those were the sickening times as the world moved towards the second Great War. Sometimes I wonder how the golden age of comedy coincided with those depressing decades. Perhaps the entertainers with a disturbed struggling journey, unhappy life, and the tragic personal tales know the meaning of happiness and have the best of laughs.

How The Team Was Created?

In the early days, Moe and his brother Shemp were seeking work in show-business. Then in 1921, Moe got the chance to work in Ted Healy‘s vaudeville shows. Two years later, Moe was performing in one of Ted’s stage performances when he noticed Shemp in the audience. Moe yelled at him and Shemp responded which led to a funny argumentative performance between the brothers leading to amusing the spectators. Ted took notice of all this and immediately hired Shemp.

Larry’s parents, in his teenage years, were sending him to a European music school to make his professional career as a violinist and he would have joined if the first World War had not interfered. By 1925, Moe had prematurely retired from acting when he got married and focused on his new life. So only Shemp was working under Ted for some years until Larry met them and joined in 1928. By the end of the same year, Ted pulled Moe out of retirement to rejoin him. By 1929, Moe, Shemp, and Larry worked as a unit for the first time.

Readers! this is how Ted Healy created the team or to be more precise, the three stooges were unified to perform with their boss. Moe, Shemp, and Larry were the original line-ups and along with Ted, they were named ‘Ted Healy and his Racketeers’. Later on, they were ‘Ted Healy and his Stooges’. Together they performed for some years until their contract expired in 1934.

It is said that employer Ted Healy was alcoholic and abusive. Shemp gave up on his behavior, quit the team, and focused on his solo career. And then entered the man who carried this team on his own to make them world-famous, Moe’s other brother Jerome Howard.

When Moe introduced Jerome to Healy, he was unimpressed because he thought he doesn’t look funny with long chestnut-red hair and mustache. Jerome left and returned with a shaved head and said “Boy do I look girly”. Healy heard girly as Curly and hired him as Shemp’s replacement with a convincing shaved funny face. Boy, I wonder if Shemp had not given up, this team would have never made the name for which we remember them for. It seems like sometimes giving up is the best idea. It was a golden twist of fate as, after the contract expiry in 1934, Ted Healy departed and they officially became The Three Stooges and signed Columbia Pictures.

Curly’s Peak to Tragic End

Columbia Pictures first offered them $600-a-week for the first year with a renewable option. After the huge success of the first film, they earned $1000 for it and the future offer went lucrative with $7500 per film. This hugely successful journey continued for 23 years with the production company. During the period, the team made 190 short films out of which Curly featured in the first 97 films and is widely considered to be the most successful period for the team.

Curly was the God-gifted mercurial talent of the slapstick comedy. Before joining them, Curly used to hang around behind the backstage and enjoy his brothers performing with Healy and enjoy their acts. For me, he is one of the greatest comedians of all time for one major reason, he was an original performer without formal or professional training. Most of the comedy greats of his time were trained but he was handpicked by his brother to take Shemp’s place and the rest is history. His childish mannerism, funny facial expressions, high-pitch voice, silly noises, and physically nonsensical comic timings were his features making most of his fans entertained.

Change of moods...
Three different expressions in 0.75 SECONDS!!!

This is from their short film Pardon My Scotch, a short film released in 1935 (their 9th of 190 films). Here you see his reaction to the bread as if it is staring him. These are the three different facial reactions he gave to bread in around 0.75 SECONDS! If I include the retakes, I wonder how many times he pulled his muscles to one single shot. And many more in his career. And that was Curly’s greatness in the comedy. He was fast and holds an absolute distinction in physical comedy.

Viewers often remember Jerry Lewis, Rodney Dangerfield, Jim Carrey, Peter Sellers, and many many more in the category of one of the greatest physical comedians from the talking cinema of the 20th century. And Curly is mostly forgotten.

Collectively, the team peaked from 1934 to 1941 which many critics agree that Moe, Larry, and Curly were physically at their best to make the viewers laugh. But to the team’s unfortunate innocence, the team never realized their potential and worth. They could never believe how significant was their rank in the world of comedy that for 23 years of business with Columbia Pictures, they remained underpaid and the salary never increased. The biggest culprit was Harry Cohn, the co-founder of Columbia Pictures whose deception to their misjudgment made them realize too late that they were worth millions. All those prime years, Harry Cohn kept lying to them that the market of comedy shorts was meeting downfall.

Harry Cohn’s biggest damage to the team was not taking Curly’s dropping health into a concern for once. In the early 40s, Curly’s physical decline began and suffered minor strokes. His weight increased, wasn’t physically and verbally quick as he used to be. In 1945, Curly was found to have serious hypertension, obesity, and retinal hemorrhage. The doctors had recommended for the rest so that he can regain his health and strength. Moe had pleaded to give him rest for good but Cohn was afraid of losing profits. So he refused to give Curly rest and forced him to continue working leading towards disturbing consequences.

As expected, Curly’s health deteriorated further. In the last few films from 1946 onwards, Moe was coaching him his dialogues as he was forgetting. Frequently collaborated director Jules White had admitted difficulties shooting with Curly. Curly’s voice went deeper and his actions slowed further. A viewer can easily observe the decline in Curly’s comic timing in his final 20 films out of 97. Curly had to prematurely retire from acting when he suffered a stroke during the shooting of Half-Wits Holiday. Shemp was immediately called back to take his place.

Curly's facial difference in 11 years!!
Curly on the left in 1936 picture ‘Disorder In The Court’ and on the right in 1947 picture ‘Half-Wits Holiday’.

Curly being the biggest reason for The Three Stooges’ success faced the most painful years. The miseries hadn’t ended at retirement. After work, he suffered a massive stroke in 1947. A few years later, he was partially paralyzed and was in a wheelchair by 1950. He suffered another stroke the very next year and had to live in the hospital. Later that year, the Howard family was informed to collect him as his mental condition was collapsing and had become a problem for the nursing staff. Moe, being under the contract, was unable to give his family the much-needed time and moved his brother to the other hospital. In early 1952, the Howard family was informed that Curly has died in the hospital. He was only 48.

With Curly’s departure from the films, the team met an obvious decline in humor. It was pretty obvious and predictable that none of his replacements (Shemp, Joe, DeRita) will match his comic timing or fill the gap he left wide open. The weakest of all replacements was Joe Besser. While joining the team, he actually put a clause specifically prohibiting not to hit him. The physical beating was one of the norms of the team’s prime segments of comedy when Moe used to hit the other stooges. In Curly-Joe DeRita‘s time, the team met resurgence when they featured in six films and the animated series ran in the 1960s.

My Favorite The Three Stooges Short Films

1934 – Punch Drunks

1934 – Men In Black

1934 – Three Little Pigskins

1935 – Pop Goes the Easel

1935 – Pardon My Scotch

1936 – Ants in the Pantry

1936 – Disorder in the Court

1936 – False Alarm

1936 – Slippery Silks

1937 – The Sitter Downers

1938 – Tassels in the Air

1939 – We Want Our Mummy

1939 – Calling All Curs

1940 – You Natzy Spy!

1940 – A Plumbing We Will Go

1942 – What’s the Matador?

1942 – Sock-a-Bye Baby

1943 – They Stooge to Conga

1943 – Dizzy Detectives

1943 – Back from the Front

1943 – Three Little Twirps

1943 – Higher Than a Kite

1943 – I Can Hardly Wait

1944 – Idle Roomers

1944 – Gents Without Cents

1944 – No Dough, Boys

1945 – Three Pests in a Mess

1945 – Booby Dupes

1946 – G.I. Wanna Come

Men In Black, release in 1934, is the only Stooge film to reach the Oscars when Jules White got nominated for Best Live Action Short Film.

The Natzy Spy! became the first Hollywood film to satirize Nazis, The Third Reich and Adolf Hitler. Moe Howard was the first actor to play a comic version of Hitler, nine months before Charles Chaplin’s The Great Dictator.


In the past few weeks, I have watched all the 97 short films featuring Curly and I want to sum up that there is no comedy team like The Three Stooges who could perform better surreal humor than them. Their nonsensical slapsticks are a separate dimension of comedyverse. You can pull the same silly actions they attempted but you won’t get that popularity and acceptance which they built in their time. They were unique assembling. They were hardworking and dedicated comedians. In one of the earliest films, Pardon My Scotch in 1935, Moe broke three ribs during one shot. The camera continued to roll, he lifted and walked towards Larry and Curly, and slapped them, and then fainted down.

See, every comedian or a comedy team had the artistry to attract the viewers. But The Three Stooges had no honest quality of presenting comedy of above par standard. They were the stooges who make people of all ages and in every period laugh and burn their bellies out. Entertaining the people by being stupid was their main charisma. They didn’t hold any critical acclaim but watching all those short films make me think about their characters being of lower-class fellas struggling to find work and failing again and again when the Great Depression was alarming at their very pinnacle of comedy.

A bunch of degenerates faking as highly reputed officers, doctors, scientists, and businessmen joining elite parties and ending up throwing pie cakes on each other was a slap on the society. How immoral of those socialites!

Besides Curly, one major reason for the team’s success was that Moe Howard and Larry Fine stayed from the beginning until the end. The Three Stooges lasted for around 50 years in the business, and Moe and Larry featured in almost every single project.

circa 1939: American comedian Moe Howard stabbing his fellow comedians, Larry Fine (left) and Curly Howard with forks. The trio starred in countless films together as ‘The Three Stooges’. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

(Links of Pictures Used in this Article)

  1. https://i.pinimg.com/originals/ee/9c/d5/ee9cd51bfc5d43771e5dc3e880a172d5.jpg
  2. https://www.dailynews.com/wp-content/uploads/migration/2015/201511/FEATURES_151129600_AR_0_OSGLEFBUTKLZ.jpg
  3. https://i.pinimg.com/originals/a6/1a/da/a61adaed4721c8047c981583516d0561.jpg
  4. https://m.media-amazon.com/images/M/MV5BYmIyYTZlZTYtMTA1ZS00ODQ0LTk2OTktNDA4MGJlZDI1YmMzXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTg2ODExNzA@._V1_.jpg

MY BOLLYWOOD’S BEST OF 2019

I cordially welcome to my 6th annual Bollywood honors report.

In the past three decades, I have observed that many showbiz platforms, especially the most prestigious Filmfare, do not do much of the justice with their Hindi-language films with their ultimate decisions about the nominations and wins. So, many ‘good’ work doesn’t get the credit.

Since 2014, I have been publishing an annual report on my blog about the Hindi-language film industry of India. The purpose of this report/blog is to inform my fellow cinephiles about the better prospects of filmmaking in the film industry and making them aware of the rich quality of films that either caught the viewer’s attraction and received the deserving praise or unluckily went unnoticed and unrecognized. Following are my previous reports about the best of Bollywood:

2014  2015  2016  2017  2018

My judgments are based on the realistic measures fetched from the films whether those are big or small budgeted, comprised of an ensemble or lesser-known cast. No compromise on quality. Every year, I dig around three dozen potential Hindi films, watch, and judge, pass the reviews and note down the artistic and technical excellence.

For 2019, the following 35 films were selected:

Gully Boy, Jaoon Kahan Bata Ae Dil, Badla, Bala, Chopsticks, Thackeray, Sonchiriya, Soni, Kesari, Hamid, Batla House, Bombairiya, Article 15House Arrest, The Accidental Prime Minister, Photograph, Laal Kaptaan, Upstarts, Mardaani 2, Saand Ki Aankh, The Fakir Of Venice, The Tashkent Files, Mission Mangal, Ujda Chaman, Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota, The Body, Mere Pyare Prime Minister, Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, Super 30, Chhichhore, Posham Pa, The Sky Is Pink, Section 375, Manikarnika, and Kabir Singh.

Once I am done with all the selected films, I decide by finalizing the works and pick the winner.

So how this all works?

  1. 21 categories are segregating into three different sections. These sections are musical (5), technical (10) and major (6) sections.
  2. Each category has a winner and ‘maximum’ 5 honorable mentions which are unranked and labeled as ‘Other Notable Works’.
  3. If I require, I will provide a short detail for the category.
  4. After finishing with 21 categories, I will write down a total number of nominations and honors submitted in my report as stat fun.

The wait is over…

Allow me to honor Bollywood’s artistic and technical excellence of 2019 according to Sami Naik.


MUSICAL SECTION

BEST BACKGROUND SCORE

PETER RAEBURN (PHOTOGRAPH)

Other Notable Works:

Benedict Taylor & Naren Chandavarkar (Sonchiriya)

Andrew T. Mackay (Hamid)

Benedict Taylor & Naren Chandavarkar (Laal Kaptaan)

Karan Kulkarni (Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota)

Mangesh Dhakde (Article 15)

 

BEST MALE PLAYBACK SINGER

B PRAAK (TERE MITTI – KESARI)

BEST FEMALE PLAYBACK SINGER

SHREYA GHOSHAL (GHAR MORE PARDESIYA – KALANK)

 

BEST SONG & LYRICS

AZADI (DIVINE & DUB SHARMA – GULLY BOY)

To be honest, I decided the winner between the three best songs of 2019 unsurprisingly from the same film; Doori, Apna Time Ayega, and Azadi. All three songs were the outcry on social problems and rebel rage. Azadi was the one I felt the best with much deeper commentary.

Other Notable Works:

Doori (Ranveer Singh/Javed Akhtar/Divine/Rishi Rich – Gully Boy)

Apna Time Aayega (Ranveer Singh/Divine/Ankur Tewari/Dub Sharma – Gully Boy)

Ghar More Pardesiya (Shreya Ghoshal/Amitabh Bhattacharya/Pritam – Kalank)

Ve Maahi (Arijit Singh/Asees Kaur/Tanishk Bagchi – Kesari)

Tum Hi Aana (Jubin Nautiyal/Kunaal Vermaa/Payal DevMarjaavan)

 

BEST MUSIC

ANKUR TEWARI & VARIOUS ARTISTS (GULLY BOY)

Other Notable Works:

Amaal MallikMithoonVishal MishraSachetParamparaAkhil Sachdeva (Kabir Singh)

Arko Pravo Mukherjee, Tanishk Bagchi, Jasbir JassiChirantan Bhatt, GurmohJasleen Royal (Kesari)

Pritam (Kalank)


 

TECHNICAL SECTION

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

DIVYA GAMBHIR & NIDHI GAMBHIR (SONCHIRIYA)

Other Notable Works:

Manish Tiwari (Hamid)

Arjun Bhasin & Poornamrita Singh (Gully Boy)

Niharika Bhasin (Photograph)

Maxima Basu (Laal Kaptaan)

 

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

SUZANNE CAPLAN MERWANJI (GULLY BOY)

Other Notable Works:

Subrata Chakraborty & Amit Ray (Kesari)

Nikhil Kovale (Article 15)

Rita Ghosh (Sonchiriya)

 

BEST SOUND DESIGN

ANTHONY RUBAN (MARD KO DARD NAHIN HOTA)

Other Notable Works:

Anish John (Laal Kaptaan)

Kunal Sharma (Sonchiriya)

Anirban Sengupta (Badla)

 

BEST EDITING

MANAS MITTAL (THE SKY IS PINK)

Other Notable Works:

Charu Shree Roy (Chhichhore)

Monisha R. Baldawa (Badla)

Nitin Baid (Gully Boy)

 

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

SHANKER RAMAN (LAAL KAPTAAN)

Other Notable Works:

Tim Gillis & Ben Kutchins (Photograph)

Ewan Mulligan (Article 15)

John Wilmor (Hamid)

Ravi Kiran Ayyagari (Posham Pa)

Jay Oza (Gully Boy)

 

BEST ACTION

ANTON MOON & SUNIL RODRIQUES (SONCHIRIYA)

Other Notable Works:

Parvez Sheikh & Lawrence Woodward (Kesari)

Amin Khatib (Batla House)

Abdul Salaam Ansari (Laal Kaptaan)

Eric Jacobus (Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota)

 

BEST STORY

AIJAZ KHAN & RAVINDER RANDHAWA (HAMID)

Yes, it has to be Hamid. People tell me that Bollywood doesn’t make good films. The point is if Bollywood is coming up with quality stories, yes. That is the other thing if viewers are ready to accept or not. Article 15 raised the equality issue and Upstarts was a much-needed push for the people who create a startup with dreams of building it big. Section 375 was a courageous effort of depicting a misleading part of feminism and Photograph was a situational drama about the meeting of two very different people. While Gully Boy was about the struggles of the street rappers.

Hamid is a completely different plot than any 2019 film I have watched. Hamid is an impressive, heartbreaking and emotional story about a 7-year-old kid in Kashmir who has lost his father and his relatives comfort him that his father has gone to Lord to do some work. Desperate to meet his father again, he quests for some source to speak to God in all innocence.

Other Notable Works:

Zoya Akhtar & Reema Kagti (Gully Boy)

Anubhav Sinha & Gaurav Solanki (Article 15)

Ritesh Batra (Photograph)

Udai Singh Pawar (Upstarts)

Manish Gupta (Section 375)

 

BEST SCREENPLAY

KETAN BHAGAT & UDAI SINGH PAWAR (UPSTARTS)

I am much focused on screenplays whenever I watch a film. The entire film can drop your emotions wherever the screenwriting falls flat. It is a very essential part of filmmaking. People hardly know about this film and astonishingly is the best screenwriting against many excellent writings of 2019 for me.

Let me tell you why. In almost 120 minutes of the screen time, writers Ketan and Udai (who is also the director) tell you about some friends who think about creating a startup and convincingly fit all the phases of business cycles. The film neither runs in haste not goes slow. The pace is neutral and the story easily grows on me. It is not easy to tell all the business phases in precision in given limited screen time. And that is why for me, the screenplay of Upstarts is the best.

Other Notable Works:

Manish Gupta & Ajay Bahl (Section 375)

Ritesh Batra (Photograph)

Anubhav Sinha & Gaurav Solanki (Article 15)

Zoya Akhtar & Reema Kagti (Gully Boy)

 

BEST DIALOGUES

VIVEK AGNIHOTRI (THE TASHKENT FILES)

I don’t know if anyone will agree with me but this film actually had the most contrasting dialogues than any film last year. A young journalist gets an assignment to solve the decades-old mystery about the assassination of the former prime minister of India, Lal Bahadur Shastri. She gets a place in a committee to dig into this matter where different kinds of intellectuals sit and argue.

So for this kind of political thriller, the dialogues require a terrific momentum of an intellectual conversation, history talks, rumors, blames, heated arguments, bold and bullet criticism, and I believe Vivek Agnihotri nailed it. Impressive dialogues were the main reason that the loud performances of such an ensemble cast doubled the worth of this film.

Other Notable Works:

Manish Gupta & Ajay Bahl (Section 375)

Sumit Saxena & Ravinder Randhawa (Hamid)

Piyush Gupta (Chhichhore)

Anubhav Sinha & Gaurav Solanki (Article 15)

Aadish Keluskar (Jaoon Kahan Bata Ae Dil)

 

BEST SCENE

BASANTI DON’T DANCE (SUPER 30)

This may be unpopular or unexpected choice after watching all the films of 2019 but I found this 8-minute shot one of the best things ever happened in Bollywood in recent years.

This is when teacher Anand Kumar orders his students to perform a street act outside the school for 20 minutes strictly in English without uttering a single Hindi word. The next day, the kids strive out in front of the scores of students and get an outrageous response. The spectators roar to leave and the performers refuse. In repetition, the performers somehow finds the way to extend the act by giving an unexpected entertainment for which they didn’t prepare for. The beauty is that Basanti Don’t Dance naturally happens without the teacher’s instructions with the help of the spectators and angry response by floor beatings.

This crazy segment was deep, dark, bizarre and a remarkable commentary of class divisions. This was an astonishing presentation of a mind-blowing provocation against classism. Ganesh Acharya’s superb choreography and powerful performances by those youngsters gave that lengthy sequence a distinguished quality of filmmaking.


 

MAJOR SECTION

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

VISHAL JETHWA (MARDAANI 2)

Not MC Sher from Gully Boy? I am afraid not. I admit it was, without any doubt, a wonderful performance on his debut but my opinion is that it is the popularity of the character and the performances leading to his favor, especially in the awards function. Tremendous confidence in the role he played but there weren’t many minutes to invest for acting than the focus was on his performance. I think Murad’s other friend Moeen had a much sensible performance.

Another factor that the readers must understand is the comparison with the other supporting roles. There were other actors last year who I believe certainly did better than Siddhant. In my mind, two were the closest in this honor, Deepak Dobriyal, and Vishal Jethwa. Deepak’s case was highly physical and Vishal’s case was mental. Deepak has the experience, Vishal is a 25yo debutant whose incredible villainous role in Mardaani 2 caught our attention. Vishal’s facial performance and killer eyes brought horror in the script and gave a memorable performance which will certainly remind anyone of Ashutosh Rana’s earliest success in Dushman and Sangharsh. Imagine, both Dobriyal and Jethwa were not nominated in this category in Filmfare!

Other Notable Works:

Vijay Varma (Gully Boy)

Ranvir Shorey (Sonchiriya)

Manoj Pahwa (Article 15)

Deepak Dobriyal (Laal Kaptaan)

Varun Sharma (Chhichhore)

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

AMRUTA SUBHASH (GULLY BOY)

Other Notable Works:

Rasika Dugal (Hamid)

Farrukh Jaffar (Photograph)

Pallavi Joshi (The Tashkent Files)

Anjali Patil (Mere Pyare Prime Minister)

Mahie Gill (Posham Pa)

 

BEST ACTOR

RANVEER SINGH (GULLY BOY)

I never thought Ranveer will ever impress me but one thing was for sure that his energetic charisma can get the use of better promises. He needs a director who can develop his acting potentials and here we are. Zoya picked the right man for the role. Ranveer is naturally the perfect Gully Boy.

An escapist and socially furious Murad is lost in the troubles from his domestic life and love affair. Addicted to his passion, he raps his social commentary and inclines towards the changes in the coming times.

Other Notable Works:

Ayushmann Khurrana (Article 15)

Talha Arshad Reshi (Hamid)

Anupam Kher (The Accidental Prime Minister)

Hrithik Roshan (Super 30)

Akshaye Khanna (Section 375)

 

BEST ACTRESS

BHUMI PEDNEKAR (SAAND KI AANKH)

I don’t know how did Alia Bhatt win Filmfare in this category. Technically, Alia’s role in Gully Boy is more of supporting as the film is completely centralized on Ranveer as Gully Boy. More bizarre was Bhumi not being nominated for her performance in Saand Ki Aankh but won the critics award.

Anyway, why Bhumi? She plays the role of an old villager and the portrayal is spot on. She brilliantly gets hold of the Haryanvi dialect and superbly adopts the mannerism of an old woman. Observe her walking style, rage, facial expressions and all funny scenes with Taapsee. This is Bhumi’s best performance to date and I found her to be the most impressive in executing her role. 

Other Notable Works:

Rani Mukherjee (Mardaani 2)

Vidya Balan (Mission Mangal)

Sayani Gupta (Posham Pa)

Priyanka Chopra (The Sky Is Pink)

Taapsee Pannu (Badla)

 

BEST DIRECTOR

SHONALI BOSE (THE SKY IS PINK)

This was a difficult decision. The tie was between Zoya and Shonali. Why I chose latter is because she took a very sensitive subject to its utter depth and also directed a few shots which hit straight to the heart like the couples arguing over transplant in the hospital, Aditi’s first mental collapse, Niren falling on his son’s lap and crying and many more. Shonali had a tough time in developing the characters due to different time periods.

Other Notable Works:

Ajay Bahl (Section 375)

Ritesh Batra (Photograph)

Anubhav Sinha (Article 15)

Abhishek Chaubey (Sonchiriya)

Zoya Akhtar (Gully Boy)

 

BEST FILM

GULLY BOY

What other film wins this honor than Gully Boy? There is no strong competition. There do are excellent films as mentioned below but none comes close to this. Gully Boy is the outcry from the slums of Mumbai where Murad is stuck in his tense domestic life and for escapism, tries to focus on rapping and does the social commentary.

Gully Boy, from all sorts, was a unique cinematic achievement where the voice of a lower-middle-class common man was whispered and the struggle of street rappers was depicted. I wish Gully Boy had made to the final round of the Academy Awards for the foreign-language category because this film was the most potentially acceptable film from all standards to reach the Oscar.

Gully Boy is full of energy and covers a few significant aspects like parent abuse and child labor. The story, screenplay, and dialogues are so carefully worked that the film easily grows on the viewers. Then the characterization also goes in favor to apply on remarkable writing. Some very impressive characters in the support develop the plot. The brilliance in the musical numbers does the rest.

Other Notable Films:

Sonchiriya

Hamid

Article 15

Upstarts

Section 375


 

MULTIPLE NOMINATIONS
NOMS FILMS
15 Gully Boy
10 Article 15
8 Sonchiriya
8 Hamid
7 Photograph
6 Laal Kaptaan
6 Section 375
5 Kesari
3 Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota
3 Kalank
3 Badla
3 The Sky Is Pink
3 Chhichhore
3 Posham Pa
3 Upstarts
2 The Tashkent Files
2 Super 30
2 Mardaani 2
1 Marjaavaan
1 Kabir Singh
1 Batla House
1 Jaoon Kahan Bata Ae Dil
1 Mere Pyare Prime Minister
1 The Accidental Prime Minister
1 Saand Ki Aankh
1 Mission Mangal

 

MULTIPLE HONORS
HONORS FILMS
6 Gully Boy
2 Sonchiriya
2 The Sky Is Pink
1 Photograph
1 Kesari
1 Kalank
1 Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota
1 Laal Kaptaan
1 Hamid
1 Upstarts
1 The Tashkent Files
1 Super 30
1 Mardaani 2
1 Saand Ki Aankh

Thank you for reading my annual Bollywood honors report. I will return with a new report next year. Share your opinion below. Stay safe.

Film Review: Joker (2019)


“You don’t listen, do you? I don’t think you ever really hear me. You just ask the same questions every week. How’s your job? Are you having any negative thoughts? All I have are negative thoughts. But you don’t listen. I said, for my whole life, I didn’t know if I even really existed. But I do, and people are starting to notice.”


You know it is extremely difficult to write a review of Joker and sum up the presentation of Joker’s character. It cannot be explained in a few sentences or paras. It depends on how you judge the film and how better you can translate your opinion into words. I will try.

See, Joker, the archnemesis of Batman is reimagined out of the comic books and all those 80 years of the remarkable writings. You don’t have to follow or compare it with the comic pages. The understanding is that how one director understands human psychology and observes Joker as a human. Full marks to Warner Bros. for picking a very interesting name who I never imagined to direct about Joker – Todd Phillips. Amongst all the directors, alive or dead, if I am asked about the most fitting director who can do justice with Joker, it has to be Stanley Kubrick.

Many Gothamites will realize that most of Batman’s villains are mental and they all have their issues which we don’t follow because who wants to know about the villains. They are bad people, right? We only care about h.e.r.o.e.s. because they are good people and they are always right, they are angels, they are Godly people to serve humans. Bad people are evil, right?

But the provoking part is why villains choose this path? Why villains feel glad to make people suffer? Why Joker is so evil? He is one villain who has put Batman to the most difficult tests to the most extreme lengths than anyone in Gotham.


“I think I felt better when I was locked up in the hospital.″


Arthur Fleck, a failed comedian, a bullied, a society-reject, majorly ignored, mocked and an isolated Gothamite who suffers PBA and is bound to take care of the only person who is cordially associated with him – his ailing old mother.

Like I described before, this film is completely out of comic book pages about Gotham and the related characters. For me, Fleck is an assumption about his becoming Joker. Todd Phillips focuses on how the human loses his/her sanity in difficult circumstances and unfortunately makes him/her evil to society? How does he or she become a menace or a reckoning? Anyone of us can become Arthur Fleck in the given circumstances but only a few of them, unfortunately, turn to the wrong side of humanity and become a ‘problem’ for the society who were ‘victim’ in the past.


“I Hope My Death Makes More Cents Than My Life.”


Joaquin Phoenix‘s entire body language in the film needs to enter the case studies and lectures in the medical and educational institutions. How is someone so talented to describe the emotional fluctuations and reflex/nerve behaviors. Look at him when he tries to avoid those episodes of laughs on the bus, at the office, and in the stand-up comedy show. Observe his almost nervous breakdown when the boss warns him, or when he paces his feet to shoot the last culprit outside the station.

And then the iconic moment of Joker’s stair dance at West 167th Street at The Bronx was, I believe, much-needed breathing in Fleck’s terrible life. It aired freedom from all the sufferings. That is why that scene was so important. That scene has made that site a regular visiting spot.


“I used to think that my life was a tragedy, but now I realize, it’s a f**king comedy.”


So who played a better Joker? Ledger or Phoenix? I think it is a tie and on a different note, the roles cannot be compared. Both versions of Joker were interestingly not comic-based. One was created from Nolan’s imagination, the other from Todd’s. Fleck’s one is Joker’s sorry past reaching to the initial phase of his crime career as Joker, Ledger’s is the existing Joker at his crime peak. So both roles are excellent in different BATverses.

I still believe there was room for improvement in the plot writing especially in the final 30 minutes. But I think the story has met its ultimate ending and there is no need to bring the sequel.

Joker is an outstanding standalone film. I will count Joker amongst the best films which were fully centralized on the major character like Robert de Niro in Taxi Driver, Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange, Tom Hanks in Cast AwayAdrien Brody in The Pianist, and a few more.

Not aware of the outstanding male performances of this year but if Phoenix again misses the Oscar,

“Is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there?”

Ratings: 8.8/10

Film Review: The Irishman (2019)

The Irishman is about the rise of hitman Frank Sheeran who first joined the infamous Pennsylvania crime family of the Bufalinos and then worked for a powerful union activist, Jimmy Hoffa.

I am mesmerized to the directional greatness of Martin Scorsese whose crime drama detailing lost not an inch of fascination. The Irishman is remarkably constructed in the very same crime tone as Scorsese’s previous unforgettable crime works like Mean Streets, Goodfellas, Casino, etc. I am impressed by how can any director maintain the same aura of directional artistry for more than 5 decades. The Irishman is a ridiculously superior crime saga of around 3 hours and 29 minutes.


It is not the hype of this hugely awaited film for which I am excited, it is the brilliance of the filmmaking, narration, production designing blended with rich performances by the stellar casting and spectacular action sequences which have impressed me.

Another aspect worth mentioning is Scorsese’s careful use of onscreen chemistries. I am talking about two of the most talking pairs of the film; Robert de Niro with Joe Pesci and with Al Pacino. Sad to see Joe Pesci gone slow and less angry due to old age but each of his screentime was worth and displayed a memorable performance.

Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) and Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) debate Hoffa’s next move. © 2019 Netlfix US, LLC. All rights reserved.

But with de Niro’s splendid performance in years, I will say it was Al Pacino’s magnificent supporting role equating with de Niro’s leading character. Al Pacino as Jimmy Hoffa was a talking point in the entire middle part of the film. Scorsese fixed them together in the most suitable screen minutes and heavy dramatic moments of the final hour. Every sensible viewer will enjoy their chemistry, especially in the final hour.


Harvey Keitel and Bobby Cannavale were decent in pretty short roles, Ray Romano as Bill Bufalino and Stephen Graham as Tony Pro played very good supporting roles.

Hoffa’s political adversity highlighted some political tensions between Kennedy and Nixon eras. Some of the most notorious crime families were also depicted like Genovese, Philly, Gambino, and Colombo.

The Irishman is a phenomenal film. The final 30 minutes will drop you, break you and wreck you. There is no aspect that doesn’t impress you. In my opinion, the film deserves the Oscar nominations for the best picture, director, actor (de Niro), supporting actor (Pacino), editing, production design, and cinematography at least. Maybe also for the adapted screenplay which I have read to be very precise, for a few I have doubts which I don’t like to ponder here.

Overall, The Irishman is one of Martin Scorsese’s finest works, easily one of the greatest crime films, one of de Niro and Pacino’s most memorable roles of their careers.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP/Shutterstock (10428524co)
Joe Pesci, Al Pacino, Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel. Actor Joe Pesci, left, actor Al Pacino, director Martin Scorsese, actor Robert De Niro and actor Harvey Keitel pose together at the world premiere of “The Irishman” at Alice Tully Hall during the opening night of the 57th New York Film Festival, in New York
2019 NYFF – “The Irishman” World Premiere, New York, USA – 27 Sep 2019 

Ratings: 9.3/10

AN IMPECCABLE STINT (EPISODE 3 OF 3)

AN IMPECCABLE STINT

EPISODE – III

FEROCIOUS

 

Characters:

Qaisar Amjad

Mr. Rodriquez

William Proctor

“Being alone with fear can rapidly turn into panic. Being alone with frustration can rapidly turn into anger. Being alone with disappointment can rapid turn into discouragement and, even worse, despair.”

Mark Goulston


“HE HAS MURDERED HIS WIFE AND CHILDREN!!”


13

MONDAY

9.05 PM

My jaws drop. My handbag too. I sense that my soul has departed already. My body is cold like dead meat for a few seconds. My brain is losing blood and cannot think furthermore. This ridiculously generous man who did a huge favor to me by giving this job and helped me recover from what I was suffering for all these months is… a criminal? Mr… Rodriquez? A killer? Did I give my semi-personal job interview to a murderer?

He said he loved his wife and she was expecting. How can he kill his pregnant wife? He was worried about his daughters. All his life stories about survival that day and being a responsible and loving husband and father at his yard-

[“Always love your family. Always always love and shield your family.”]

This is conflicting and unthinkable!

“He what?”

*PAUSE*

“He has murdered his wife and his children this morning. We just saw the evidence and he has also confessed. He does have murdered his family.”

*PAUSE*

This is just gruesome and dreadful. That day, he was in such a jovial mood that he planned to watch the NBA game with me today. And he just committed homicide this morning.

“I cannot believe this. I never felt in our last conversation if he can be a criminal.”

Mr. Proctor shoulders me as he acknowledges the significance of my meeting with him and we go to the office. No formal introduction. The office is silent. I see people around muttering with each other. As I try to regain my shattered confidence, some cops behind me are murmuring. It is the most unexpected beginning of the first day at the office in my professional career and I-

“Please go to my office *indicating*. I will see you anon.”

In his office, I observe an enthralling abstract painting of Kandinsky’s Composition VII framed on one of the walls. The other wall has a fine art print of the album cover of Miles DavisKind Of Blue. On the main wall behind his Victorian office table is a wonderful portrait of Mr. Proctor sitting on his chair and Mr. Rodriquez standing behind him inclined towards him dropping his arms on his shoulders.

“An astounding work of art, isn’t it?”

“Without an inch of doubt. You, sir, are the man of the art.”

He hands me a cappuccino. A phone on his table rings. He attends, speaks, apologizes and confirms that the candidate has been recruited. Reminds me that Mr. Rodriquez instructed him to tell the candidates to call today. We sit on the sofas opposite each other.

“As it is very clear that I am much older than Mr. Rodriquez but we share a camaraderie because we have spent a lot of time in office life. And I have known him for years. *sipping cappuccino* He was never a criminal. Mr. Rodriquez and his wife, Julie, loved each other all their lives. They were childhood friends. With age comes responsibility. He was a prodigy, exceptional student and held managerial promises when he topped in business management. His father immediately put him to work and fulfilled his wish to marry his wife. They had 3 daughters, Nancy, Shirley and Maggie, and had a son, Peter. Nancy was the eldest, Shirley and Maggie were twins. The fifth was supposed to arrive… in a few months.

*PAUSE*

Mr. Rodriquez and Julie were the perfect couples. He took me to many opulent parties with his wife. Opulent because he has many rich friends. And in those parties, they were eyes and ears to many.

We go to a party and everyone turns to see
This beautiful lady that’s walking around with me
And then she asks me, Do you feel all right?
And I say, “Yes, I feel wonderful tonight”

The couples were so generous, benevolent and meek to their *thinking* Cercle des Amis that no one spared a moment to speak maliciously about them. I… still remember… their slow dances.

I feel wonderful because I see
The love light in your eyes

[*Julie tight hugging Rodriquez during the slow dance. Her arms rounding over his shoulders. Her feet over his. Rodriquez kissing her forehead. Julie smiling in response. Rodriquez whispering something at her ear and smoothly kissing her ear lobe. Julie feeling shy and burying her face over his chest.*]

And the wonder of it all
Is that you just don’t realize how much I love you


14

Years passed by, Mr. Rodriquez led a very happy personal and professional life. And no curse assaulted their companionship. But then, someone spread a false rumor that Julie was cheating on him. First, he didn’t believe but some terrible coincidences fixed Mrs. Rodriquez meeting her old schoolmate, Thomas, to whom he never liked since his childhood. The most annoying part was that Thomas looked like him. No one brainwashed him. No one discussed it with him. It was a very sensitive matter. He just happened to unintentionally eavesdrop in a gathering. He expressed his fear to me, I calmed him and advised to trust his woman. After all, they have been together since childhood.

But he, unfortunately, began doubting on her. On a few occasions, he noticed Julie being with Thomas at some distance from the weekend parties. Once, he dropped her to their home. Julie was wearing that Michael Kors ruffle dress he gifted her on their wedding anniversary. Rodriquez told me that she never happened to wear that dress until that night. He questioned her the choice of her dress for that evening and asked her about the emergence of Thomas followed by a series of sudden frequent meetings. Julie could not believe nor tolerate the magnitude of suspicions Rodriquez built on her. In the coming days, there were heated arguments. Julie intentionally began to see Thomas in front of him to infuriate him as a reprisal for doubting. They began to verbally fight and disappear from the weekend parties. Their kids began to notice the shambles.

The mother convinced her children that their father has gone naive and has started to doubt her character. She let the children meet Thomas and sometimes, he offered Julie and children the ride and dinner. Soon, he lost the company of their children. No more birthdays were celebrated at home. No more gifts were accepted at home. And… no more money was demanded by his children at home.

Things were falling apart. His family was everything to him but he couldn’t bear the growing distance. A couple of times, he was lost during the meeting. I once asked and he revealed that he saw his wife on the call in the middle of the last night.

Once, she came home as late as two in the morning. As expected, Thomas dropped her. Rodriquez explained that he noticed from his window that she, in his car, was visibly upset. Maybe she shared the recent tensions between them to him but he could be encouraging her not to finish with her husband. But then, Rodriquez noticed Thomas’ hand touching her bare knee as she was wearing a knee-size skirt and smoothly comforting with the tip of his fingers around her knee for a few seconds. Her upset face and the body language stood unchanged and she didn’t even warn him of any possible harassment. Things had really fallen apart.

Sporadically, I noticed him weeping in his office looking at his tab or sometimes gazing outside the window.”

Was he pretending to watch the polo game through his binoculars that day?

“I advised him to revert to his Catholic faith and give up atheism expecting that God may listen to his prays with the change of heart. There could be a miracle, who knows. He accepted. This was the first time since his university days that he began to follow his religion. It was a very difficult period of time and he struggled to maintain the balance in personal and professional lives.”

“But he told me during the interview that he is an atheist.”

“Because he was secretive. He maintained his repute and didn’t let his personal distraught interfere with his office work.”

“Hm. So what happened then?”

“His close neighbor, also an associate of mine, informed me this morning that around 1am, a friend of them, surely Thomas, left the apartment and Mrs. Rodriquez delightfully waved her hand for goodbye. A few minutes later, Mr. Rodriquez parked and came out of the car looking furious. The neighbor stayed on their window to check their lights and tried to listen from them but there was no sound and the light went off after an hour.

The neighbor heard the screaming outside the door at around 7 this morning. There were two old couples which I realized were in-laws of Mr. Rodriquez because he had informed me a few days ago that they were coming to spend a week with them. So they noticed the bodies lying on the floor through one of the windows. Mr. Rodriquez wasn’t there and the cops were called immediately. So was I. The couples had tried to ring the bell for 5 straight minutes, knocked on the door and call on their phones. Even checked them on social networks. Their last activities were around seven hours.

The worrying old couples guessed that Mr. Rodriquez may have left for the job early morning like he does every day. But the neighbor disagreed as he informed that he leaves for a job at around 8.30 am because his duty starts at 9 am. Why would he leave so early? And didn’t he see his family dead while leaving? And if they were killed after he left then when were they killed? Because the neighbor noticed an incensed Rodriquez entering his house at midnight. There is a possibility that he may have witnessed Thomas before reaching the doorstep. And why would he leave so early when he knew that his in-laws were arriving? Then why would he murder his family when he knew that they were arriving to spend the whole week? Mr. Rodriquez would have noticed Thomas before reaching his home from some distance as the neighbors confirmed that Mr. Rodriquez entered a few minutes after he left.”

“What about the evidence?”

“Mr. Rodriquez is stranger to crime as this was his first. Rage summoned him to spill more blood. As the series of questions were uttered to make a case, one of the phones rang. It was Julie’s phone. It was Thomas. He informed that Mr. Rodriquez has just threatened him but didn’t tell him anything about the crimes he has just appalled. At the same time, one of our colleagues called me to reach the office as Mr. Rodriquez looked pretty suspicious as he was threatening to someone on the call. It was then apparent. The cops and I immediately reached to the office. When we entered his office, he was just sitting on his chair and weeping while looking at his phone. One of the cops grabbed his phone and when he checked, a photo album was open. The cop noticed the latest picture and clicked.”

“He… *eyes wide open* he took the picture of his criiime?”

“No. He took the picture of the family sitting on their chairs. And each of them had their wrists, feet, and mouth duct-taped. And they were looking straight to the camera as if they were ordered to do. The time was 2.57 am. Their bodies were… *thinking*… lying… on the floor when we found this morning.

*NODDING*

The cops began their formalities. Rodriquez started crying. He confessed despite the cops gave him the Miranda warning.

[‘Mr. Proctooor! *gulping* He was there. He was theerree at myyy home. In myy absence. She callled him in *lump in throat* when I was not there. The kids were okay about their mom seeing him. *voice breaking* They let him come to see her. And then I realized *shouting* that thoose were never my kids. *shaking head* I was nevver their faather, he was!’

‘Mr. Rodriquez! You have the right to remain silent.’

‘I could not bear it. *moaning* I beat each of them in their rooomms, taped and made them sit on their chair so they can listen to me for once. Listen to me for once. But… but they were trying to yell and pulling force to cut the tape. *shouting* It drove me craazzier that they can let her lover in but cannot spare a minute to listen to meee??? *screaming* I took the chef knife and started stabbing their children one after one.’

A call for blood for what you’ve done
No tolerance for what you’ve done

‘Anything you say can be used against you in the court.’

‘I positioned her chair to witness the wrath!’

‘You have the right to talk to a lawyer for advice before we ask you any questions.’

*shouting* I made her watch me whamming the knife on their bellies and breaking their ribs. I made her eyes observe the horror of their eyes popping out of the affliction after I stuck their faces with the sharp blade. *screaming* IIII made herrr watch themm diiieee!!’

A call for blood for what you’ve done
No tolerance for what you’ve done

*moaning* She swooooned. I sat there on the blood-floor with the knife in my hand anxiously waiting for its final victim. I kept rocking until she regained her consciousness. I wasted no second. Then I reached her. *shouting* I glarrred at her. Gazzed at her knee which allowed him to touch. I said to myself *eyes wide open* that this part deservves a better toool *nodding*. I searched and brought my hammer. She got frightened, piddled and wet her skirt. *head shaking* But I didn’t forgive her. *shouting* And I smmmashed the hammer on her knee and kepttt smashing until the hammer crushed the knee structure. Her mouth struggled to screeaam and resulted in altering her voice. Her head shook rapidly, maybe the pain was unbearable but not more than mine in deceiving me all these years. Then we looked at each other *slowing down* one last time… taking me back into the times… when we were in our teens… enjoying each other’s company… until, *voice raising* to my disgust, he shows up *shouting* and she leaves me to speak to him. I thrust the knife into her belly without blinking my eyes and yelled I LOVED YOU. *moaning and screaming* IIII LOOOOVVVVEEEEDDDD YOOOOUUUU… She felt the excruciating pain but I didn’t. Because *screaming* I whipped the knife again…

*WHIPPING KNIFE ON HER*

Let the blood spill
Vengeance is mine

and again…

*WHIPPING KNIFE ON HER*

Let the blood spill
Vengeance is mine

and again…

*WHIPPING KNIFE ON HER*

*MORE BLOOD ON HIS FACE*

Let the blood spill
Vengeance is mine

and again…

*WHIPPING KNIFE ON HER*

*MORE BLOOD ON HIS FACE*

Let the blood spill
Vengeance is mine

and again…

*WHIPPING KNIFE ON HER*

*MORE BLOOD ON HIS FACE*

A call for blood

even after she died.’]

The cops and the entire staff stood on their feet unmoved and listened to him for the final few minutes of his laments. The cops couldn’t continue the typical warning during that horrible confession.”


15

“Mr. Proctor?”

——————–

“Mr. Proctor??”

“Yes?”

“You were lost for almost a minute, sir. You remembered something.”

———————-

“Yes? Yess. Mr. Qaisar. Yes, yes. I remembered… something. I was lost deep in my thoughts.”

“So, what did he confess when they were arresting him?”

—————————–

“Well, *thinking* h.he began crying and *thinking* admitted to homicide. He wanted to fetch the details but the cops hurried because Mr. Rodriquez was fainting.”

Cappuccino is now poison to me. I have a dry neck. An associate enters the room and shoulders Mr. Proctor for his courage to listen to the details at this age what Mr. Rodriquez uttered. I realize that Mr. Proctor didn’t speak the detail to me on purpose because it was unnecessary. He looks blenched and lost. He tries to regain his composure. He is a gutsy ol’ man. The associate leaves the room.

“Mr. Proctor”

“It was a scary confession, Mr. Qaisar. He raised his tone and gathered a sympathetic crowd. He was not in his senses but he was. Because he remembered every detail of the crime he submitted. His disturbing statement blew the minds of everyone. Some of them quickly left the scene. A few left the office. One of our associates vomited due to a sudden headache. It’s a rough day.”

“I have no words. *shaking head* This whole horrible incident has moved me. I never imagined that my first day at the office can be like this. The other day, I came to know so much about him, about his life, about his struggles. He already had lost so much in his life when he was young and now these murde-”

“I.I’m sorry. Perhaps I am not following you here. What did he lose when he was young? What did he tell you?”

*PAUSE*

A thought twisted my head. Wait a minute. Wait a minute.

“Apology for not understanding. What did you mean that he lost so much in his life?”

“I just remember. Why did you say earlier that his father made him work and let him marry his wife?”

“I asked you the question first, and twice.”

“That his parents died in a fire when he was very young. And his sister during the delivery.”

“His father is sitting right in front of me in the GM room pretending that he is on a business call which I am guessing that he is speaking to his wife who is not here because she has gone to attend an art exhibition somewhere.”

I look back where he points through his eyebrows about his… father. I stand up looking at him, hands in my pockets. Trying to understand what story was Mr. Rodriquez telling me that day.

“He said his parents died in the fire!”

“And he doesn’t have any sister. He is his parents’ only child. Which means that once his father retires running this company-”

“Running this company?”

“he will take the seat and run the company which I believe is not certain to happen after this horrible incident.”

*PAUSE*

“What is going on? I just don’t understand. Why did he lie to me? I was so impressed listening about his success story and this was all fake?”

Mr. Proctor doesn’t look surprised at me. He is sitting on his sofa with the same facial expressions, blank. He does look hurt by the vicissitude but the contradiction in the stories doesn’t bother him at all. So what is that supposed to mean?

“You know all this? Right?”

“Mr. Rodriquez is strange but was a humble and generous individual. You are not alone. He lied to most of the candidates. Even to the younger generations like students or friends of his children.”

“But why? Why did he lie to the people? It doesn’t make any sense. Why waste your time speaking spurious stories when you don’t want to hire them? I.I am filled with gratitude for his munificence but was this all necessary? I was praising about my new boss to my parents who live in Lahore now. Can you understand how my emotions have dropped after knowing that he is a liar?”

“One day I asked him about lying but the response moved me and I never ventured to doubt him or his worthiness. He told me,

[‘Mr. Proctor! *looking outside his window* I wish if I was born poor so I would understand the value and significance of money. But that wish has vanished because *smiling and facing Proctor* I am the son of my father. The fees for my school and university were all paid with ease. I never stood in this queue full of job seekers nor did I wait in the guest room… for hours. Nor did I pay my bills or any expenses. *sitting with hands on his back* I live a lavish life.

I got this chair by my father and when I sit on it… and the candidates show up into my office. I look at their desperate faces. All of them. The accountants, the salesmen, IT people, all of them. Some fake in front of me about their confidence as if they have multiple interviews and it doesn’t bother if they are to be eventually rejected. And some enter the room like beggars who pray day and night to pass this interview. These all candidates are the same people who want the jobs to survive, to get the money and make that life which I already have. And their faces and body language drops the moment I tell them that we will call you. Mr. Proctor! Whether they get the job or not, they need to be encouraged.

You understand the ongoing global economic crisis. *shaking head* Millions and millions of people around the world are losing their jobs. Many companies are cutting jobs or reducing the pay scales to avoid the deficit. When people go jobless, it is like his/her family goes homeless. Social and economic lives are hit by some kind of rock. With people going jobless, the country’s economy is also hit by a rock too. The policies should be revised to boost the chances of those who lost their jobs. In my capacity, they must be helped. If not in my company, I recommend to my friends in the other company to hire them.

I have seen people committing suicide due to failures. Many of them struggle without any outcome. I know that people at my position in most of the companies won’t even care about them. So on many occasions, I ask them to confidently open up and I lie to them convincing that my story is more miserable than theirs so that they can buck up their spirit and stay positive. And why won’t they? *smiling* I make my story more frustrating than what they inform to me. They surely ask themselves that if he had more problems than me then my series of whining is completely useless.’]


16

I feel sooo anguished that this man has to end up this way. May God force his wrath on the culprit who spread rumors about his deceased wife. She didn’t deserve this *wet eyes* nor did their children. He began to theorize that his children were actually Thomas’ because Thomas and Mr. Rodriquez resembled. You see how one rumor or a gossip destroys the house? I am in no position to speak to his father.”

“And I was so excited all this weekend because that man cheered me with his fictional stories and offered me the job. He helped me, Mr. Proctor. I cannot express the crisis I was suffering for some time before this interview.”

[“Do not fail me, young man! And never ever give up!”]

“Mr. Qaisar! Do well and have well in return. And never whisper false as this leads to no good. Slandering harms, distrusts and distances people. Mr. Rodriquez did a favor and helped you. You have a lifeline to prove that he wasn’t wrong about you.”

[“Do not fail me, young man! And never ever give up!”]

“So tell me, young man. After all what happened today, are you still willing to work with us?”

[“Do not fail me, young man! And never ever give up!”]

“Yes, Mr. Proctor. I am more determined to work.”

[“Do not fail me, young man! And never ever give up!”]

“And I promise I won’t fail him.”

*PAUSE*

“Very well. *nodding* I think you should start by tomorrow. Most of us hardly will make the day.”

“Yes. You are right.”

“I will leave too.”

“Sh.Should I speak to his father?”

“No, no need to bother him. Even I cannot speak to him. I will introduce you to him myself when the time is right. Come on! I will drop you home.”

“Oh, that is very kind of you, Mr. Proctor.”

*PARKING LOT*

*WALKING*

“By your age, you have to be close to his father more than his son.”

“Who? Ah, yes yes. His father and I have been close associates. He gave me this job and I started as his helper. Learnt a lot from him with age and time. Our families have strong ties for some decades. When Rodriquez was growing, I promised I will look after him when he starts to work. I feel I have disappointed him but I will speak to him soon. Maybe tomorrow.”

“You did your best, sir.”

“You see that old Cadillac?”

“Gray one?”

“Yes, this one is mine.”

“You have maintained it pretty well.”

“Thank you, Mr. Qaisar. Oh, and do you see the one on the left?”

Mustang in blue with a broken bumper and headlight?”

“Correct. This one is Mr. Rodriquez’s.”

*SITTING IN THE OLD CADILLAC*

“Wow. He even met an accident recently?”

“Unfortunately.”

“He really met a lot of troubles in recent times.”

“Mr. Rodriquez and I were picking a business friend from the airport early morning. *driving* We dropped her at her hotel and then we routed towards my place to drop me. During the drive, his wife called him. In a few seconds, they began shouting and he drove fast. I requested to slow down but he was furiously abusing to her on the call.”

“Then?”

“Then? He came back to his senses only when he hit a dog near the signal.”

[“Things… happen… for a reason.”]

♪ He blew his mind out in a car
He didn’t notice that the lights had changed
A crowd of people stood and stared
They’d seen his face before
Nobody was really sure if he was from the House of Lords
 

THE END


(Soundtracks Used in this Episode)

Eric Clapton – Wonderful Tonight

The slow dance of Mr. Rodriquez and Julie

Hatebreed – A Call For Blood

Mr. Rodriquez murdering his family

The Beatles – A Day In The Life

Final Song


(Pictures used in this episode)

  1. https://www.geo.tv/assets/uploads/updates/2018-05-10/194806_8099292_updates.jpg
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AN IMPECCABLE STINT (EPISODE 2 OF 3)

AN IMPECCABLE STINT

EPISODE – II

THE INTERVIEW

 

Characters:

Qaisar Amjad

Mr. Rodriquez

William Proctor

“I feel that luck is preparation meeting opportunity.”

Oprah Winfrey


[“Mr. Qaisar! We have observed your CV and expect you to visit our office today at 1’o’clock sharp. Regards, William Proctor.”]


5

FRIDAY

12.15 PM

Gobsmacking!

Minutes have crossed since I received the message but I am still not accepting that there is still hope. I can still cope.

*HYSTERICALLY LAUGHING*

I am reading the message again. Finger-pointing each and every word. Yes, I am asked to reach at 1.

*LOOKING AT MIRROR*

*ZOOMING IN*

This time tomorrow where will we be
On a spaceship somewhere sailing across an empty sea

I slowly touch my throat, gulp and feel the movement over there. I shake my head in shock. I am still wearing the shorts I vomited and piddled. The exploding heart has slowed down in these past few minutes. The house is silent. My shrieking ears have gone deaf. Push, my fatty, is returning with contentment by seeing me normal but after sniffing my shorts, she leaves within the seconds disgruntled.

Although, this is just a response to the job opportunity so I must not fall deluded believing that I will get the job. They are obviously calling me for an interview. And there will be many more prospects waiting for their turn. Which means I will not be alone. I will be surrounded by many bootlickers with no quality experience but strong reference. Or I may be adjoined by the candidates with fake CVs who really are digging jobs like me but do not have work experience. But will I get the job? I cannot refuse to visit the office just because I am not prepared for this. Forty-five minutes is too rapid and difficult to manage coming out of a suicide attempt to reaching the office.

*THINKING*

A suicide attempt! Yes, Qaisar. A few minutes ago, you were about to take your life with a sorry note to your brother. Is this the sign? Was Qaisar waiting for this all these months? Is this why you lost your job?

Gosh, my hands and feet are still shaking. I feel stomach ache. I have to be sober and try to come back to my senses. Ponder, Qaisar! Ponder! I’ll take the bath and wear the most suitable attire for the job interview.

Oh, wait! My car! *palm slap on forehead* Oh my car! It is at the car repair shop. I emptied my wallet this morning. I don’t have money for transport. It is a very important moment in my life. I see no other solution than asking my neighbor for a favor. And I hope my neighbor be kind enough to lend me some money as I feel embarrassed to ask them every week. I am afraid that one day, I will disappoint so many people when they ask me to return.

*THINKING*

I am thinking but I am not thinking. I am confounded but excited. My brain, my throat, my stomach is still sensing the aches. Recovery will take time but I don’t have enough… time. So what I am going to do is prepare a strong coffee and take a quick cold shower.

Relax, Qaisar! Everything will be alright. This message is the indication that I will have good news by the end of the day. Be optimistic, Qaisar! Be optimistic!

I don’t know where I’m going, I don’t want to see
I feel the world below me looking up at me


6

ONLY 40 MINUTES AFTER ATTEMPTING TO COMMIT SUICIDE

To the receptionist, “Good day, madam. Mr. Proctor asked me to show up at-”

“Mr. Benjamin!”

An old man in his sixties dressed in an impressive classic Burberry suiting approaches me. He resembles Mark Rylance.

“I beg your pardon, Sir!”

“Are you Mr… Benjamin?”

Oh, a British.

“No. I am Qaisar Amjad. And and I was asked by-”

“Aaah Mr. Qaisar! The name is William Proctor. I mailed you an hour ago to join at this precise time. *looking at his watch*

“Oh! Mr. Proctor! Good to see you, Sir.”

“I cannot share both the titles simultaneously. You can simply call me by my name. But if you still insist, then add Mr. and avoid the first name.”

“Very well Proctor Sir. Ssorry, Mr. Proctor.”

“Are you in haste? Do you have an appointment at two different places at a similar time?”

“No no. Actually, I wasn’t ready for…. Mr. Proctor! Maybe we should discuss the reason I am called for.”

“Mr. Qaisar! Please have a seat in the guest room. Be prepared when your name is announced. Then I will respectfully escort you to Mr. Rodriquez.”

*nodding* espectflee scort you to Mr. Rodriquez. *losing confidence* Understood. Thank you.”

When I enter the guest room, it is already full of my competitors looking for a white-collar job. As soon as the door opens, they all stare at me. Some of them smirk to make me feel sheepish. I have undergone this all my life. I remember such similar awkward memories like my parents introducing me to their entire ugly extended family in the hometown when I was a kid, or when I was stepping in the school bus and then in the classroom for the first time and in the waiting rooms of the hospitals.

3.00 PM

I have been sitting for the past couple of hours and almost a dozen candidates have left. And then, when the time is near to call my name, I realize that I have come to the office empty-handed and looking around hither and thither like a nincompoop. Like a panicked Basil Fawlty. In hurriedness, I left all my project notes from my previous works behind. I look at my palms and then bury my face in it. My palms had the boldness to hold a knife but cannot occupy with the documents. I have badly forgotten the documents on the dining table. *reasoning* Is this why some of the candidates were smirking at me?

I raise and look at myself in the mirror and to my misery, I notice that the visible portion of my shirt between the sides of the suit jacket has visible marks of my old sweat.

“Mr. Qaisar Amjad! Your wait is over. Let me escort you.”

*BLOWING AIR*

At the corridor, I am receiving a call. Oh my God! It is Nizam! I forgot to call him.

“Brother! At least answer my phone.”

“I.I.I’m so sorry. I am about to give a job invertiew. Call you later, bye.”

I step on Mr. Proctor’s shoe. What a terrible mistake! While I stepped on him, I notice that I am wearing a pair of running shoes.

“Oh, I am so sorry, I.I.I don’t know how did I step on-”

“Never mind Mr. Qaisar. It was-”

“A.Allow me allow me to collect your documents and and *thinking* your coupons, Sir”

“Pardon?”

“Coupons, Sir. These are, are they?”

“It is coupons, Mr. Qaisar, not coupons.”

Humiliation at its pinnacle! Never came to my attention aaalll my life that the correct pronunciation is kew-pon, not co-pun. And here I slipped my tongue in all innocence in front of this old British gentleman.

“Oh, I get it. A.Actually I-”

“Mr. Qaisar! *grinning* Let me state you a fact which you do not realize while being in a jiffy. You are not the only gentleman who discovers the nervousness of listening about his fate from the interviewer. Did you notice all the gentlemen and gentlewomen who were sitting before you?”

“Yes”

“When they came out of the room, they behaved the same way as you. One of them actually couldn’t reach the interview room and left for the restroom. *laughing* So, you see! You are better than-”

“Thank you, Mr. Proctor, for the tenth consecutive motivational speech. It is very certain that you should take rest from escorting the candidates and drink a glass of water. Now, if you are done, will you please be kind and send Mr. Qaisar to my office?”

“And *smiling* this was the voice of your interviewer. I wish you the best of luck.”

Mr. Proctor leaves me at the door. Bare hands, sweat on my shirt and the running shoes. I have already chopped more than enough onions. I take a deep breath and knock at the door.


7

“Come In”

*ENTERING THE ROOM*

Tall man *speculating* in his forties of height near 6 feet sporting long hair brushed back and a stubble beard. He is watching polo through his binoculars outside the window with a folded arm.

“May I come in, Sir?”

“You already are in, Mr. Qaisar.”

Oh wow! His attire is desire. He is dressed in Brioni suiting perfected with Brown Cartesio jacket and his hardwood floor is knocked by his Kenneth Cole’s Oxford shoes.

*HANDSHAKING*

*FAKE SMILING EACH OTHER*

“Thank you, Sir. I am happy to see you, Sir.”

“Happy? Why?”

“Because of *eyeballs down* considering me for the interview, Sir.”

“Have a seat.”

“Thank you, Sir.”

“Why are you hoarsing?”

“No, Sir. It is just the dryness of-”

“Take this glass of water.”

“Thank you, Sir.”

“This morning, I found your response to my offer in the junk mail. I don’t know how that mail moved to that category. But anyhow, I found your CV interesting and informed Mr. Proctor, the one who escorted you, to message you to visit us.”

“Thank you, Sir.”

“And now, you will address me, Mr. Rodriquez.”

*NODDING*

“Ok, Mr. Rodriquez.”

*CHECKING CV ON HIS TAB*

“Your latest job ended three months ago. Why?”

“My direct manager didn’t honor the agreement. My working hours were fixed for 8 hours a day. But he made me work for 11 to… 10 to 11 hours several times which was not acceptable to me.”

*scoffing* Not acceptable to you? *surprised* Why? Didn’t your boss pay you overtime for working extra hours?”

“He did. But this led towards work stress *he is listening carefully with eyebrows near his eyelashes* and I was not able to balance my mental capaticy, oh sorry, capacity between home and office.”

If I haven’t committed suicide a few hours ago, my English certainly will make me in a moment.

“For how long were you working there?”

“Three years, Mr. Rodriquez”

*LOOKING IN THE TAB*

“It says two years here.”

“Yes, I think two years. But overall… five years.”

“And you were appointed as?”

“BM. Brand Manager.”

“A Brand Manager. Hmm. Gooood. So what were your responsibilities as a BM?”

10 MINUTES LATER

“I notice you do not bring any folder or document with you which I find quite strange. Even a flash drive of your works supporting your lengthy details would have convinced me. So how can you help me understand your potential as a BM as the oral presentation is not enough, you know?”

*GULPING*

“Mr. Rodriquez! Believe me, if I had time to prepare a.for for the interview then I would not have raised your doubts by coming empty.”

“I am not doubting your capability. But it is quite strange to understand that you were not ready for this. Candidates who seek jobs are always ready for the call. *head shaking like NO* I am sorry but-”

*EYES POP AND MOUTH OPEN IN SUDDEN SHOCK*


8

“What?”

*GULPING*

I am not able to maintain myself at all. My composure is compromised. He shook his head. It is over. I was an imbecile to arrive here with no preparation. I should have requested for a-

“Are you alright? Take another glass of water. Feel free.”

*DRINKS IN ONE BREATH*

*NODDING*

“Alright”

“I assume you took my ‘sorry’ as rejection. I was about to say sorry if you mind because I find the response terrible. That is it. That is what I was going to say.”

Duffer you, Qaisar. Duffer you.

*MUSTERING THE COURAGE*

“Sorry to facially embarrass you, Mr. Rodriquez. Actually, this is the first call in three months for a.any job. So I was lost.”

“If you don’t mind, may I discover what have you been doing for the past three months?”

“I will try to sum up in a few lines. Basically, I have arrested myself at home because all my savings have been incurred on my brother’s education, *voice breaking* shopping, bills, rents, etc. I tried to mail about the job vacancies in this time period but failed to get any response. I lost all my money and had to seek help from my friends to pay the rent to the landlord.”

“And did you physically hunt? for the jobs? anywhere?”

“I did.”

“Only one brother with you at home?”

“Yes. My parents left the city due to the financial crisis a few years ago. At that time, I had a job and good money enough to help myself, my brother, and send a few to my parents. Now, they are not aware of my current situation because I don’t want to-”

“bother sharing, heart-breaking account, to the parents, who depend, upon you. Yes yes. Hm.”

“Yes, Mr. Rodriquez. But not that they require my financial assistance currently. They are in a much better situation then they were when they moved back. They are a large migrated family so they have each other’s back.”

“Migrated from?”

Pakpattan

“Forgive me?”

“Pakpattan. Not a very well-known city like Lahore.”

“Ahaan”

“But very prominent for the shrine of *thinking* a local legend.”

“Yes yes. There are myriads of shrines in Pakistan as well as in India.”

*SMILING*

“Feeling better?”

*NODDING*

“Where you from? If you don’t mind.”

“I’m a Luso-Indian. *thinking* I’m a HispanicKeralite from Malabar. My people are Syrian Christians. But *apologetic smile* I’m an Atheist.”

*PAUSE*

“Mr. Rodriquez! You asked about these months and that is why I spoke in length. And I know that this has nothing to do with my work. But thank you for listening to me as a person.”

“Hm”

“Therefore, I sincerely request you to give me time to prepare myself for the next day.”

“You mean Monday.”

“Oh yes yes yes. Today is Friday. Kindly give me one more chance. I promise you will listen to no complaints when you conduct another interview.”

*PAUSE*

“Do you realize Mr. Qaisar that you are selling yourself pretty quickly? I understand your situation but you do not have to drop yourself that your professional appearance compromise at your current situation.”

“My apologies, Mr. Rodriquez. But my life heavily depends on this job. It took three months to finally get a response. I don’t know what would have happened if I had not received the message. Sir, you are the boss. We have different economic situations. *smiling* You will understand my situation only if you are in my place.”


9

*scoffing* In your place? *smiling* In your place? Mr. Qaisar! Are you assuming that the man in front of you has enjoyed an ideal and perfect life? Without any suffering or hardship? Do you ween that employers or those employees in senior positions or those working at some collar jobs with high pay never face difficult situations?”

*HESITATING*

“I.I never meant that, Mr. Rodriquez? What I want to make you understand is that I am mentally disturbed in my life for some time and that is why I am not able to impress you in a job interview.”

He separates his folded hands, stretches his palms, brings close to his chest and tries to make a point.

“You are mentally disturbed in your life because this is how you feel in the given circumstances. And believe me from your most exhausting brain and heart that I have seen worse cases than yours. Every individual in his/her magnitude of depression and stress behaves and believes that he or she is at the lowest possible form of life crisis. They behave like any normal human caught in flu or body ache. I am not a doctor but a human with the emotional experience.”

*THINKING*

“Mr. Qaisar, how old are you?”

“I am 28.”

“28 haan! *grinning* You feel you are facing the worst crisis at 28 haan!? Are your parents alive?”

“Yes. Both of them. Like I told yo-”

“Both of them? *raising eyebrows* Both of them? Now imagine a 15-year-old boy in the hostel been informed that his parents have died trying to save the house on fire.”

I am unmoved for a few seconds and not believing what he just said. I am honestly lost for words but trying.

“I.I.I am sooo sorry to know this, Mr. Rodriquez.”

He lifts from his chair. Inspects outside. No more polo. Fills his pockets with his hands and speaks to me.

“They were burnt in our home where I was born and raised with my toys, cards, cassettes, music player, childhood pictures, drawings, and countless memories. My sister was teaching in the kindergarten as the fire ate our house in daylight. She was six years elder than me and at 21, she agonizingly screamed that it affected her brain and also lost her voice.”

*DOOR OPENS*

“No more candidates today Mr. Proctor. Inform them to call on Monday morning. Thank you.”

*DOOR CLOSES*

“While *pointing at himself* this prodigy returned from the hostel, myself and Suha, my sister, were taken by my childless uncle and aunt who later admitted me to a better school and Suha, who was not able to teach further after losing her voice, was married to an old businessman. Three years later, I lost my sister in her maternal death. So I was alone at 18. Mr. Qaisar! *grinning* Have you lost anyone in your family?”

*BREAKING PAUSE*

“No, I haven’t. My parents are old but alive and my younger brother is with me.”

*TAKING HIS JACKET OFF*

“We humans are a subject of comfort and torture. Somewhere, we are responsible and somewhere, we are put to test. Young man! Realize that you are put to test and your case or crisis is not that bad as many others are suffering. Be thankful Mr. Qaisar! Be thankful! Look at you! Only three members of your family are depending on you. And *looking in the tab* you are not even married, are you?”

*SMILING*

“No, I am not.”

He hits politely on the table and sits back on his chair.

“Are you engaged? Or committed to someone?”

“No Mr. Rodriquez, I am not.”

He shakes his head in bewilderment.

“So why are you so depressed? Look at me! *pointing at himself again* I am married with my lovely wife and four kids. 3 daughters and a son. The fifth is arriving soon in a couple of months.”

“Oh congratulations in advance to you, Mr. Rodriquez.”

“Thank you, young man! But try to understand my point here. You are a bachelor and your depression is nowhere close to a married man like me.”

*SMILING*

“I understand, Sir”

“No, you don’t understand, young man! *lifts from his chair and stands nearby* When I was 24 and I married the woman I loved. She gave me twins. We were bubbly. One day, the company went bankrupt and it shut down within a week. After all the promises, the owners didn’t pay a penny to me or any worker. It was a recession period but somehow my family and I survived. Some helping hands and some labor force. With work, I was preparing for my graduation exams. But I gave up due to no money. And the family was my obvious priority. It took 18 months to get a new job, 18 months young man!

Today, I am worried about my young girls. Every father naturally is. Every time they see me, they insist to hand them some money and I cannot refuse. And this belief kills me, what if I meet the crisis again? So I have more things to worry about, Mr. Qaisar.”

“It is very understandable that you are a practical man who has encountered more difficult times than me. Maybe I have solutions but I am not thinking that deep to overcome the crisis. But I fear that one day, those who helped me in difficult times may question because it is their right.”

“See, my experience and moral teaches me that when you help someone, never ever expect for a favor in return. Never. And ever. If they are able to help you in return or repay you, it is up to you to accept the aid or money or just simply refuse in good spirits. Your friends at least helped you to pay the landlord recently. That is what you said before, right?”

“Yes, yes, they helped me.”

“Goood! At least you were helped by your friends.”

“What about you? Did you happen to-”

“Yes. *laughing* A few years ago. Before joining this company, I was broke and lost much of my earnings in a failed business venture. That resulted in fake promises to my landlord. For two consecutive months, I sought financial favors from my friends but no help came. It was not their fault because none of them were that financially stable as I was before my business failed.

And one day, the owner arrived at my door. He ordered me to empty the apartment within two hours. Imagine the agony. I was helpless as a husband and unprotected as a father. He was just standing there gazing my hopelessness and I was wandering and staring at the flats in my neighborhood. To my good luck, someone solaced our agitation. One neighbor offered the money to the landlord at the eleventh hour. And then we stayed there. After observing that neighbor, another showed up at our door and gave us some curry. *smiling*


10

“Honestly, I am speechless to your accounts.”

*laughs* Mr. Qaisar! *sits on his chair and both hands on the back of his head* This is life. Always love your family. Always, always love and shield your family. We are different people from different backgrounds for different purposes but one facet which should always remain common is humanity. Someone in the neighborhood was human. I cannot repay him for what he did. And again, if I would ever repay that kind of favor, I do not know if he would accept or refuse in good spirits.

Life has taught me to help people. This reduces the distance between them. Now, you were supposed to impress me by your professional capacity as a BM but thanks to you, Mr. Qaisar, that you forgot to bring your work material to start a different conversation. And this is a very important point that you *pointing finger* must always remember *pause* that things… happen… for a reason.”

*NODDING*

“Because humans today have lost themselves in materialism, violence, self-destruction and greedy competition so they don’t realize. But you, Mr. Qaisar, after all that lengthy heart-to-heart conversation, I honestly believe that you deserve a chance.”

*FLABBERGASTING*

*DIAMOND IN MY EYES*

“R.Really, Mr. Rodriquez!?!? D.Do I?”

“Yes, young man! It will be too jarring and discourteous; and I will be evil to send you empty, hopeless and distorted after that *thinking* tête-à-tête. Today is Friday, so you can commence working from Monday. I will put you on trial and will scrutinize you if you really are capable to work as our company’s BM. If things work well and you surpass my expectation, I will make sure that you are paid with all the possible allowances and provide you vehicle and accommodation. *grinning*

He takes his key, a journal, a handbag. That is it. Interview ends. I get the job. Yes, I get the job!

“Thank you so much, Sir. *shaking head* Thank you sooo much. Much obliged, Sir. *handshakes* I am… I am lost for words and I wish if my parents were with me, I would have invited you to meet them.”

“Otherwise, you won’t?”

“No no no. *grinning* I didn’t mean that. You are most welcome, Mr. Rodriquez.”

He is folding his suit jacket.

“You have no idea how much I am grateful to you despite the fact that I wa-”

*pointing index finger at me* TV?”

“UHD”

“K?”

“8”

“Gooood… NBA?”

*laughs* Clippers

“Drink?”

Guinness

“Attaboyyy!! I have your number. See you on Monday.”

Honestly, that ‘Gooood’ was in Palpatine’s voice. But he has surprised me. What a jolly fellow he is. Such a friendly gesture he has. And he also likes NBA! We actually are watching NBA together soon? With drinks? Am I dreaming? Who does this? I haven’t even started working. Is this for real? I hope this is not a prank. I hope he is normal.

“Leaving, Mr. Rodriquez”

“Yes, Mr. Proctor. Please look after the employment formalities of the newcomer.”

“Will do, Mr. Rodriquez.”

*looking at me* And you! Do not fail me, young man! And never ever give up! See you on Monday. And we’ll plan about watching NBA. Mr. Proctor will also join.”

“Me? *laughs* Oh, I’m afraid I-”

“Come onnnn! It will be fun. This guy has 8K UHD! Even I don’t have at my home. Oh, by the way, Mr. Qaisar! He is Celtics. *sarcastically laughing*

I am confused. Why is he laughing? And should I laugh with him or not. He prepares to leave.

“I must leave now. It was delectation to have you and speaking in length. Come prepared, Mr. Qaisar. Do wash your shirt and wear a better pair of shoes here.”

He kneww itt! And he still recruited me!

“Welcome aboard, Mr. Qaisar.”

*HANDSHAKING*

*WALKING TOGETHER*

“Mr. Proctor! I must admit that Mr. Rodriquez is a very generous and humble man. He is completely the opposite of my former boss. If we have people with such qualities holding the chairs in most of the companies, we employees can never feel distressed.”

“I wish if the global powers would have been that kind and perfect, there would have been no economic crisis.”

“Is he always like this with all the candidates?”

“Most of the times. Yes. He is fond of making people optimistic. But today, he invested more time on this young chap.”

*BREAKING PAUSE*

“One question, Sir!”

“I am not a British, Mr. Qaisar. I am a South African Jew born in Bloemfontein and raised in Chelmsford. A few family members of my great-grandfather were the subject of abuse in the British concentration camps during the Second Anglo-Boer War. In short, you learn from your life… when you lose your family.”

*AGREEING WITH HIM*

“You are right. I can relate to your point somehow.”

“And I hope *smiling* that you won’t lose your… job.”

“I am confident that I am staying here for long.”

“It’s 4 and I suggest we should do these formalities on Monday.”

“Mr. Proctor! I am yet to ask about your position in the company.”

“I am the secretary to the company’s GM and also have my say as a consultant. Enjoy the weekend.”

*HANDSHAKING*

I come out of the building. Then I gaze back at the building to the top. Heavy clouds pouring drops on my head in laziness.

It wasn’t pouring for some time. The weather forecast was sunny this morning. I went to the building empty-handed but I feel that my hands are carrying some weight now. The weight of my fate.

I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin’
Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world

Heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin’
Heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’

A few hours ago, I was about to take my life. I was lost and hopeless. I had an accident this morning. My phone was not mute. I had no money to reach here. I left my documents at home. My e-mail was on the junk. The interview was semi-personal. And this man under his authority gave the chance I was craving for some months. Maybe he was in high spirits before I stepped in to meet him and he may have thought to make the life of any of the candidates. But the point is *thinking* that things happen for a reason. Things… happen… for a reason.

*PAUSE*

*AIR BLOWING*

I am looking around, trying to notice why the vehicles stop at red and run at the green from my wet eyes. I think I understand something. I am clapping and joyously chuckling while still looking around. I am smiling as if I have fallen in love again. I look around the busyness of the city.

Two kids of around 8 licking ice creams at a stall. A woman reading a book on the bench with her poodle sitting near her. The workers lifting bricks and some working on a billboard. I am loving everything whatever I see.

But there are things which provoke me to observe the harsh realities on the same streets. A mime entertains a small crowd nearby and after the act, no one drops a penny to his name. A beggar bundled in torn clothes whines for food and a group of witnesses strangely guffaws over his misery imagining if this is a slapstick. A street singer goes unheard lamenting about the man of words who committed suicide after his poetry fell on deaf ears.

Heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin’
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter
Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley

I help an old woman with a walking stick cross the street on the red signal. She thanks me and leaves. I wave my hand on her back which goes unnoticed. Then a beggar from my back appears to me asking for money. I realize on his face that my wallet is empty of notes. I stare at him.

*NIZAM CALLING*

Aaaahhh.

*RAINING*

And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall


11

MONDAY

8.30 AM

“Nizam! Don’t forget to collect your key. I am leaving now.”

“Good luck, brother.”

*DOOR CLOSING*

I have my parents’ blessing. I spoke with them on the weekend and informed about the new job. I pretended that I left the previous job for this and skipped reporting all the jeopardies. Why should I tell them? Why should I?

[“Beta! I am so happy and proud of you. Always work hard and earn good money.”

“Thanks, Ammi.”

“Oh yes. Something I forgot to tell you. Mrs. Khurshid came last night at our place. You know her daughter, Saba? She has returned from Amsterdam completing her studies. Maa Shaa Allaah, Saba is such a beautiful-”

“Bye, Ammi.”]

My car is still in the workshop because the workers later that day left for strike due to non-payment. The neighbor lends me more money as I informed him about my new job. That day, I called the landlord and my friends to inform about the job. Now I am at peace.

I have my Montblanc business bag and derby shoes of Hugo. And there are no marks of sweat as my attire is laundered. So I am missing no chance to give a better impression this time.

And I am enjoying cool breeze hanging in the bus. Above my head, the sun is hiding behind the clouds… just like my recent past. *smiling* And behind my head, I notice a teenage girl making a video of a sleepy passenger with saliva dropping from his mouth and snoring loudly. The scene catches the attention and his nasal thunders chuckle the other passengers, so does I. I recognize the delight on many faces and suddenly my eyes catch sight of a striking girl in a red and white sleeveless fit and flare casual dress of an unknown brand who notices me after chuckling at the sleepy passenger exactly the same time as I to her. She reminds me of Lauren German.

Black Sabbath – Orchid

As soon as we look at each other, my eardrums hark Black Sabbath’s Orchid. We are not chuckling anymore. We don’t care whose snoring has been funny all these seconds. We are glaring at each other. Her sparkling hazel eyes are inviting. She looks at me as if she is daunted with the unwanted coincidence of the chuckling faces fixing the eyes over each other. Maybe she is augmenting her careless mettle where emotions foolishly wander. Maybe she is making a statement. All my conundrums have vanished.

Oh, wait. Some lady holds her arm from the back. She looks back and they are smiling at each other. And she leaves with her at her stop and doesn’t glance back at me. Maybe she is with her. Maybe she is her sister or a friend. Maybe I am thinking too much. Maybe this is becoming my tendency. I remembered Sakina for a moment when she and I fixed our eyes at each other. Our misfiring chemistry led to abysmal farewell.

*BUS STOPPING*

Now I realize how stupid I was thinking about killing myself. The opportunity knocked and I got a new job hours later. And that is why we should never lose hope. Because someone above the clouds is very kind to you. He is testing my patience. He is observing me.

8.55 AM

I have reached on time and I am a few minutes away from 9. It is the new beginning and I hope that I will fit in the working environment with my new….

*STOPPING AND STARING AHEAD*

Why are the cops patrolling down? What is happening in this building?

I walk a few steps ahead. People on the streets are gathering to observe the situation. I ask a few who are standing near the cops. They have no idea. I have no idea. I am getting late on my first day but I am not allowed to enter the building for some time. I must call Mr. Proc-

*EYES WIDE OPEN*

*JAWS DROPPING*

A team of police escorting a handcuffed Mr. Rodriquez out of the building!


12

Mr. Rodriquez is handcuffed! The cops are here for him?

Mr. Rodriquez is arrested? What is going on?

Life ain’t always beautiful
Sometimes it’s just plain hard
Life can knock you down
It can break your heart.

My eyes are not believing the scene I am witnessing. I try to reach to one of the patrolling cars nearby.

“Why is he handcuffed?”

What did he do?

He is three steps away.

“M.M.Mr. Rodriquez! What happened??”

He is smiling. Shaking his head. He looks like he was crying before reaching here. He doesn’t look like if he has slept the last night. The cops are making him sit in one of the vehicles.

“Things happen for a reason, Qaisar. Always remember! Things happen for a reason.”

“Mr. Rodriquez!”

The door of the vehicle shuts!

“Do not fail me, young man! And never ever give up!”

Life ain’t always beautiful
You think you’re on your way
And it’s just a dead end road
At the end of the day.

I stand there as the cops leave the site. Mr. Rodriquez keeps looking at me until he disappears from the scene. I am believing as if he further wanted to say something to me. I am feeling if he is downtrodden by the authorities for being humble and kind to the helpless people like me. The spectators around become pedestrians. The time has passed 9. I am allowed to enter the building. Should I? I can barely move my feet from where I am standing.

But the struggles make you stronger
And the changes make you wise
And happiness has its own way
Of taking its own sweet time.

A silence spells for a few seconds then I see Mr. Proctor reaching towards me.

I am dumbstruck but I have to begin from somewhere.

“What in the world just happened now? I cannot believe what my eyes just witnessed. What did he do?”

“Please come to the office and we will speak on this matter.”

Entering the building and the gate from where he was escorted out handcuffed is not helping me make up my mind because I want to know.”

“Please Mr. Proctor! Tell me. What did he do?”

“I hope you realize that this is not the place to sp-“

“What did he d-“

*RAISING HIS VOICE*

“HE HAS MURDERED HIS WIFE AND CHILDREN!!”

…………………………………………………………………………………………

[“Always love your family. Always, always love and shield your family.”]

No, life ain’t always beautiful
Tears will fall sometimes
Life ain’t always beautiful
But it’s a beautiful ride.


(Soundtracks Used in this Episode)

The Kinks – This Time Tomorrow

Looking at the mirror and touching his throat.

Bob Dylan – A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall

Nizam calls Qaisar and the rain breaks.

Black Sabbath – Orchid

Qaisar and a girl look at each other on the bus.

Gary Allan – Life Ain’t Always Beautiful

When Qaisar witnesses Mr. Rodriquez escorted out by the police.


(Pictures used in this episode)

  1. https://s3-eu-central-1.amazonaws.com/centaur-wp/theengineer/prod/content/uploads/2015/03/05161100/meeting.jpg
  2. https://www.cpacanada.ca/-/media/cpa-digital-hub/featured-images/2019/05/hub-05-29-jobinterviewlies-hero-1200×900.jpg
  3. https://thereviewonline.files.wordpress.com/2018/11/fire-cover.jpg
  4. https://drnealranenbaltimorepsychiatrist.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Depression.jpg

AN IMPECCABLE STINT (EPISODE 1 OF 3)

AN IMPECCABLE STINT

EPISODE – I

MESSAGE

 

 Characters:

Qaisar Amjad

 “I have seen many storms in my life. Most storms have caught me by surprise, so I had to learn very quickly to look further and understand that I am not capable of controlling the weather, to exercise the art of patience and to respect the fury of nature.”

Paulo Coelho


1

FRIDAY

7.00 AM

♪ Amarillo by mornin’
Up from San Antone
Everything that I got
Is just what I’ve got on
When that sun is high in that Texas sky
I’ll be buckin’ at the county fair
Amarillo by mornin’
Amarillo, I’ll be th- ♪

I have changed around three dozen tracks in the past five minutes. But nothing is diverting my mind. I’m driving at 50kph on a road whose name I never bothered to know. My eyes are wide open to locate my home which I am not recalling for some time because my mind is lost somewhere thinking about the reasons I lost my job almost three months ago.

Why do I cogitate so much when I shouldn’t? Why do people drive reckless? Perhaps they don’t cogitate like me. Or maybe they haven’t lost any job. Or possibly they are not working but enjoying their life on their father’s money. Or maybe I am thinking too much. Or maybe the dystopian ark is too heavy to collide with the sacred tsunami. Maybe I am not driving on the road at all and the other vehicles are honking for fun. Possibly this journey is leading me somewhere but I am not perceiving. Perhaps the reckless driver has an emergency. Perhaps the race of life is settling on the road. No, I am thinking too much.

I should not have lost my job. But what was I supposed to do? That boss was irking me. He was putting me to work for abnormal working hours. He was insanely scolding me almost every day. Despite completing the assignments, he was lambasting me in front of my team. It was humiliating. Perhaps he wanted me to lose my patience and do something terrible. But why was he being so stern?

*YELLOW SIGNAL LIGHT*

50kph… 45kph…

A car on my right, racing at more than my speed. I think he wants to break the signal.

*RED SIGNAL LIGHT*

40kph… 35kph…

A street dog crossing at zebra in front of the assembly of the stopping vehicle but that…

*DHHATTTTTT*

*BRAKE*

30kph… 35kph…

*DHHATTTTTT*

……………………………………

*EYEBALLS ROLLING*

*ZOOMING OUT*

*HEAVY BREATHING*

Oh my Lord! I hit mine on the back of the car ahead in the queue. My foot presses the accelerator instead of the brake in the panic.

My heart is beating fast. My hand is pressing the gear tightly. I am sweating. The driver of the other car reaches my window to shout and argue. The other vehicles are honking. The pedestrians are staring. The driver of that car is still shouting and indicating to come out. Come out of the car.

*CARS HONKING*

*CARS HONKING*

The driver’s family comes out from the car now. A woman of his age, visibly pregnant, questions in front of my car about my possible blindness and driving. A frightened girl appears with a crying baby in her arm.

*GREEN SIGNAL LIGHT*

*CARS HONKING*

*CARS HONKING*

Another car from my back shows up to my right, abuses me and leaves.

*SHIVERING*

The driver is angry and cannot tolerate further to the discontinued situation. He spits on my window. The baby is crying out loud. His woman is still shouting.

*HEAVY BREATHING*

*YELLOW SIGNAL*

*RED SIGNAL*

*CARS HONKING*

*CARS HONKING*

On my right, the dog is dead. Its bleeding face is towards me. I am weeping. I cannot bear this. I feel I will urinate at any moment.

*CARS HONKING*

*CARS HONKING*

*CARS HONKING*

The pedestrians have stopped to watch this freak show. The entire family is yelling and shouting.

*SWEATING*

*GREEN SIGNAL*

*CARS HONKING*

*CARS HONKING*

All eyes are on me. The disfigured bloody dog is also gaping at me.

*CARS HONKING*

*CARS HONKING*

The crying baby is not giving up migraining despite migrating from sister to mother.

*YELLOW*

*RED*

*ZOOMING IN*

*CARS HONKING*

*CARS HONKING*

*CARS HONKING*

*CARS HONKING*

*BLACKOUT*


2

11.00 AM

 

*LOOKING AT THE MIRROR*

*ZOOMING OUT*

♪ All day staring at the ceiling
Making friends with shadows on my wall
All night hearing voices telling me
That I should get some sleep
Because tomorrow might be good for something ♪

My name is Qaisar Amjad. I am a 28-year-old bachelor, born and raised as a foreigner, living in a rental apartment. My parents are Amjad Chishti and Bilqis Amjad from Pakpattan, a city of central Punjab. This is the land where the shrine of Baba Farid is situated. But a long time ago, when they were living here, they sold their property in Pakpattan and moved around 200 kilometers away to Lahore to reunite with my father’s siblings. But they continued to visit the shrine and pay their respect. My father apprised me that our ancestors have been revering to the shrine for the past two centuries and I was born by his blessing.

I haven’t visited my country that often. I was a kid when I went with my parents. Even there, I was a foreigner to my extended families. Those were strange and different species to me and I was alien to them in all sorts. So I was alone and isolated in my childhood. Here, I grew up meeting people from different backgrounds, learned different languages and gathered on many different occasions. I usually preferred to stay out from home because apart from my studies, I had nothing to do.

My parents were very remote to diversity. Almost every social contact with their lives were the mortals belonging to our own country. When they tuned in to the television, the only programs they watched were the news and entertainment channels of our country. On the road, they used to stop only those taxis whose drivers were their native. In the stores and malls, they stood only in that queue where the cashier was their native. Punjabi was the only language they spoke at home and on the telephone. They spoke Urdu when the national guests of the other provinces showed up. With time, they learned to speak broken English which they improved, again, with time. It was extremely hard for me to adjust with my parents because of our preferences and priorities. Luckily, my parents and I realized that we were people from different backgrounds under the same roof. My parents tried to accustom me and I did try to acculturate them with the norms of a multinational country but we, unquestionably, failed each other.

I have a 17-year-old brother, Nizam. He is studying at home and is not enrolled in any institution due to the costly semester fees. I was paying for his tuition but since I lost my job, paying any kind of money has become a huge burden. We have mutual respect due to a gap of generation but that gap vanishes when we watch the NBA together. I am Clippers, he is Lakers.

3 months ago, my landlord notified me to pay him the agreed quarterly rent. At that time, I was losing my job and the money was already spent on the required domestic expenses. My expenses were already talking as my pay was low and the boss was refusing to raise my pay. Therefore I was out of solutions. So for the first time in my life, I sought financial help. To my good luck, a few friends gathered the amount and I was able to pay to the landlord.

When I lost my job, the prices of food and petrol and the bill for electricity hiked, and it became exceptionally hefty to save money like before. The suffocation period has now arrived and a couple of days ago, the landlord had rung me twice to pay him this week.

*GULPING*

My friends already have done the favor in the previous quarter and I b.bothered them this morning. So I am in no position to ask again within a few hours. I am yet to return their money used in the last rent payment. No no no, I don’t have the courage to ask for the help again.

*PUFFING*

What will they think about me? That Qaisar is raising his asking habit and not seeking a job to fix the critical issues? I do was hunting jobs but no vacancy, no message, no e-mail, nothing. Nothing. And now this morning, I hit a car and emptied my wallet with the remaining notes which were for my brother. Now I am not able to pay for Nizam’s tuition again. But I have to buy more time from Nizam’s tutor and request to pay him next month.

*LUMP IN THROAT*

I have never encountered so much restlessness in my life and this is getting really hard to tolerate.

*PUFFING*

*LIGHTS OFF*

♪ Hold on
Feeling like I’m headed for a breakdown
And I don’t know why ♪

In my room. On my knees. Bowing and pressing my palms on my head. Using my nails on my skull. Then making a fist and hitting on my knees. Then smacking my face until it gets red from one side.

♪ But I’m not crazy, I’m just a little unwell
I know right now you can’t tell
But stay awhile and maybe then you’ll see
A different side of me


3

11.30 AM

 

*DOOR CLOSING*

Nizam leaves for tuition. He doesn’t know that his tuition fees are not paid for the past two months. I could have paid if I had not panicked this morning. I must call the tutor before he reprimands his arriving without the fees and considers to scold him.

*CALLING TUTOR*

Author: “Yes?”

Qaiser: “H.h.hi hi sir. Howa you?”

“I’m good. Yes?”

“I want to… *thinking* I want to speak something very important.”

“Is Nizam unwell?”

“No no no. He is on his way to your place. I I want to speak to… about about your fees.”

“You have it now?”

“No no. I mean, p.p.please. Thank you for giving some time. But *sweating* b.but-”

“But what Mr. Qaisar? I am occupied with students here. Will you please be quick?”

*PUFFING*

“Yes yes. Can you please give me *raising index finger in the air* one… one more month, sir? I I promise I-”

“What is this Mr. Qaisar? This is the third time! *glasses off* I really cannot afford this. I cannot say much as I am in the middle of teaching the students. You must consider paying me this month. Okay, Mr. Qaisar?”

*WET EYES*

“Okay, sir. I will… I will conta-”

I’m not crazy, I’m just a little impaired
I know right now you don’t care
But soon enough you’re gonna think of me
And how I used to be, me

I keep my phone in the room and come to the drawing room. *tears dropping* The tutor was not attending my calls before because I was embarrassing him giving the same excuse. But this time, he looked forced to utter some words in a higher tone.

*LANDLORD CALLING*

And I am ignoring his call. I don’t know what to say. He knows that my friends helped me the last time so if I request to him for a delay in payment so he may suggest me to ask my friends. And I don’t wa-

*DOORBELL RINGING*

*HEARTBEAT RACING*

*DOORBELL RINGING*

I am sitting down the floor with my hands on the back of my head. My legs are curved as I feel I will piddle any second.

*SWEATING*

*GULPING*

*FOLDING HANDS*

The landlord calls again and I completely forgot to mute my phone.

*RIGHT EAR MOVING IN TAUT*

My phone is in my room. I am standing a meter away from the main door. So I am not aware if he can listen to my phone ringing from a distance.

The phone stops ringing. Pin drop silence for the next couple of minutes. All that I hark is my series of puffing.


4

12.00 PM

*ZOOMING OUT*

I have lost my weight due to severe desolation and depression in these few weeks. I have been regularly losing my appetite due to tensions and not eating in entirety to save the food for long. No job offer calls or emails. No vacancies. Nothing. And here I am sitting on the toilet shirtless and wearing cargo shorts; sweating and looking at my fate in the carving knife which *voice breaking* I am holding t.tightly for the past five minutes.

*TEETH CRUSHING*

This moment was certain to occur because my life w.was not moving nor revolving towards any hope. My old parents in their hometown have been assuming for several months that I am still working *voice breaking* and things are normal here. I know what they have suffered while growing us *teary eyes* and I am in no position to lie to them after *lump in throat* I put them in numerous jeopardies since my rough teenhood.

*WEEPING*

I realized my responsibility only when I got the job the first time five years ago and involved myself in contributing to pay the house rent and Nizam’s fee from my first pay.

*GROANING*

*TIGHTLY HOLDING KNIFE*

Now, I cannot fight from the bonafide miseries and look into Nizam’s eyes *voice breaking* and tell him that he will be able to sit in the examination room.

♪ But I’m not crazy, I’m just a little unwell
I know right now you can’t tell
But stay awhile and maybe then you’ll see
A different side of me ♪

*THINKING*

*SWEATING*

Ok ok. *eyes rolling* I will stab myself in the belly. I must make my mind. That is it. Go for it. Go for it. *gulping* Goo for itt.

*BOTH HANDS TIGHTLY HOLDING KNIFE*

*BLOWING AIR THRICE*

*EYES WIDE OPEN*

Gooo for itttt! Gooo for itttt!

*HANDS SHAKING*

Do it! Doooo ittttttt!

*GUHHHHHH*

Oh God! I can’t! I can’t! You mmust do it, Qaisar!

I must do something quickly. Cut the vein? Shove the knife on either skull or heart? But I should do in a rage so that I endeavor a powerful force without hesitating. *lump in throat* Then I am gone in a few seconds. The ravage culminates. I can do it. I can do it. I can do it. I can do it. It is just a matter of a few seconds. *weeping* Then I’m gone. No more pain, no more stress, no more agitation.

♪ I know it doesn’t seem that way 
But maybe it’s the perfect day 
Even though the bills are piling 
And maybe Lady Luck ain’t smiling ♪

Heart then. That is it.

*HEAVY BREATHING*

It is the heart. A hand is enough.

*CLOSING OTHER FIST TIGHTLY*

*CLOSING EYES*

I’m sorry ammi.

*CRYING*

*HEARTBEAT RACING*

I’m sorry abbu.

*SWEATING*

I’m sorry Nizam.

*CRYING*

Oh Godddd.

*SHOUTING*

Oh Godddd.

*MOANING*

Sorry sorrrryyyy.

*HAND SHAKING*

My pregnant Siberian cat, Push, hears my whining, reaches the toilet, stops, and stares at me holding the knife in the air with my eyes wide open. She certainly looks terrified with my strange behavior as if the knife is meant to kill her.

*SWEATING*

*GULPING*

*HEAVY BREATHING*

Throat it is. Is It? Yes, throat. Troat, thrrooat. Throat it is. Shove the knife breaking my trachea *puffing*. That is it. May Lord forgive me. *crying* I’m sorrryyy.

*MOANING*

Now I am holding the knife from both the hands and pointing the tip of the knife towards my throat.

*SHAKING*

*BLOWING AIR TWICE*

*CLOSING EYES*

Give me the strength. *blowing air* Please forgive me, God. *heavy breathing* I failed my life. *holding knife tightly* I failed my family. *gulping* I failed myself.

♪ But if we’d only open our eyes ♪

[*Children laughing on Qaisar in the classroom*]

♪ We’d see the blessings in disguise ♪

[“See beta. This is Hafeez uncle. Come on, say salaam.”]

♪ That all the rain clouds are fountains ♪

[*Father continuously smacking Qaisar*]

♪ Though our troubles seem like mountains ♪

[(On TV) “We had no domestic attacks under Bush; we’ve had one under Obama.”]

♪ Every now and then life says ♪

[“Qaisar! Your name is not on the list!”]

♪ Where do you think you’re going so fast ♪

[*Thugs beating Qaisar*]

♪ We’re apt to think it cruel but sometimes ♪

[“Nizam! Stop playing with your food!”]

♪ It’s a case of cruel to be kind ♪

[“Wake up Bono! Please meow to me. *voice breaking* Please wake up! Please don’t leave me! *crying* I promise I’ll feed you, my baby. Please don’t go, pleeeaaase.”]

♪ There’s gold in them hills ♪

[“My wedding is fixed. Please forget me Qaisar.”]

♪ There’s gold in them hills ♪

[(On laptop) “Please come soon beta”]

*MOANING*

I’mm sorrrrry ammmmmmmiiiiii maaaaaaaaaaaa.

*SHRIEKING*!!!

*PHONE RINGING*!!!

*RIGHT EAR MOVING IN TAUT*

*GULPING*

*PHONE RINGING*!!!

*HEAVY BREATHING*

*SWEATING*

*EYES WIDE OPEN*

An uncontrollable painful headache suffers me to vomit on my lower body. My shorts is dirty with the substance. I am unmoved on the toilet seat. All I listen to is my breathing. I cannot gulp anymore. I felt someone was hitting my head with a sledgehammer before throwing.

*COUGHING*

The phone rings again. It may be the landlord.

*CRYING*

This predicament has made the temperature of my body disordered. I am sweating but at the same time, I am feeling icy-cold. I am still sitting on the toilet seat without moving an inch of my body. I am urinating in my shorts. My feet and palms are cold. The heart is beating fast again due to this unnatural phenomenon. I am still not on my own.

*EYES STRONGLY BLINKING*

*PHONE STOPS RINGING*

I take a deep breath. I try to move. For some time, my body was stiff. Only my arms and face were moving. I feel some neuralgia when I distance my head from the wall. I stand up trying to balance myself. Some drops of my urine and vomit were absorbed on my shorts and some dropped down the floor which the shorts couldn’t absorb. The frightened cat runs away pussyfooting. The knife is still in my hand. I take the mobile which I had left near the soap dispenser. It was Nizam. Ohhh. Is he returning?

*VOICE BREAKING*

Has the tutor demanded his fees and send him back?

I can’t. I can’t. I can’t. I cann’t. I cannn’t.

*CRYING*

*SITTING ON THE TOILET SEAT*

No noo noooo no no.

*MOBILE ON MY KNEE*

*THINKING*

*CRYING*

What else can I do? The tutor is asking to pay three months of tuition fees. I have to pay back to my friends. The landlord is calling me to pay the rent. Nizam is calling me. I am lying to my parents for months.

*REPEATEDLY HITTING PALM ON FOREHEAD*

*REPEATEDLY SLAPPING FACE*

*SHAKING HEAD*

*HAND ON MY FACE*

*PAUSE*

*THINKING*

*SLOWLY BREATHING*

*BLOWING AIR*

I take the mobile from my knee. Opens the photo album and see Nizam’s picture one last time. I am smiling and looking at the bathroom walls. Push ran away because she sensed my death. *shaking head* It is over.

*TEXTING*

“Nizam! Brother! Never ever give up on your dreams. One day you will realize how much I-”

NEW MESSAGE!!!

Re: Job Offer

……………………………

*EYES WIDE OPEN*

*SLOWLY BREATHING*

*HANDS SHAKING*

*CLICKING MESSAGE*

“Mr. Qaisar! We have observed your CV and expect you to visit our office today at 1’o’clock sharp. Regards, William Proctor.”

*KNIFE DROPPING*

Seems like repeatedly forgetting to mute my phone is a good omen.

♪ So don’t lose faith 
Give the world a chance to say

A word or two, my friend 
There’s no telling how the day might end 
And we’ll never know until we see 
That there’s gold in them hills

There’s gold in them hills 
So don’t lose heart 
Give the day a chance to start

There’s gold in them hills 
There’s gold in them hills ♪


(Soundtracks Used in this Episode)

George Strait – Amarillo by Morning

Introductory song played in Qaisar’s car.

Matchbox Twenty – Unwell

Qaisar introducing himself while looking at the mirror.

 Ron Sexsmith – Gold in them Hills

Qaisar making his mind about how to commit suicide.


(Pictures used in this episode)

1) https://www.telegraph.co.uk/content/dam/news/2016/04/06/EEAPNT-restricted-toilet-xlarge_trans_NvBQzQNjv4Bq7Pfl9MMCa_diGnmd9jnHSzWcL90dqBb9YR4bjIG0oJU.jpg

2) https://i.pinimg.com/originals/58/8c/5c/588c5ce4b2f66d34666a38db86369b1e.jpg

3) https://www.rapidhypnotherapy.com.au/uploads/1/2/1/6/121671427/man-suffering-depression-looks-out-the-window-of-a-dark-room_orig.jpg

Zaira Wasim And The Collision Of Understanding

Is it a drop of blood from a disgrace or did I confuse a phrase? In no time, an alarming wave of emotion twists the fate and admittance or riddance of false feelings dictates the change in remedies. Was I wrong before, am I right now or vice versa? Anyway, I hereby announce that I quit from my piece of Neverland and discover a new America of hope. Yikes, the worlds of pious and Godless Freeville collide over my early retirement. Run Zaira Run…

I don’t realize why I wrote the above paragraph. Maybe it is making any sense or maybe not. But the news spiced all over breaking the guitars and sitars across India over the young secret superstar, Zaira Wasim, waving her final goodbyes to the social media spectators before she sailed into the religious cruise ship. We are not aware of the coordinates of this voyage but the eyebrows of the observers have been raised as if she has eloped with her boyfriend for good.

Many questions have been raised over her professional departure, numerous people have shared their opinion, and many have criticized her explanation about quitting on her Instagram account. So I thought, why shan’t I jump into this crazy center of the jury and advertise my blog. Perhaps, the readers may find my opinion interesting.

Ok, so here is the peanut butter on your toasted bread. Zaira Wasim posted an announcement on Instagram that she is quitting the showbiz with a lengthy explanation which, after reading and observing, I have understood that she has considered the profession as a path of ignorance ‘for her’ which she feels is misleading and distancing herself from her faith. Zaira perhaps feels that this line of profession is taking her somewhere else from where she cannot return and maybe the Lord will be extremely unhappy of her supposed-to-be wrongdoings. Therefore, Zaira decides to leave this line of work so that she can focus on her religion/faith. Maybe in the future, she does something different than showbiz which won’t distract her from practicing her faith.

WHAT MADE THIS NEWS SENSATIONAL?!?!

Hmm… Most of the popular leading Indian actresses have taken early retirement or temporarily disappeared due to their marriage. I am not remembering if any ‘well-known’ Muslim woman in the Indian film industry quit for her religion. So many well-known actresses from the Muslim background made their name in the industry but neither their work nor their faith was a hindrance.

Zaira’s popularity in the mainstream Bollywood was broadly speaking especially after her fabulous performance in Secret Superstar. She worked in two films and on both the occasions, she shared the silver screen with none other than Aamir Khan. Aamir even went on to state about her that she is the best female actor in the film industry which was an extremely bold statement. With such a reputation, Zaira’s breaking ties from her work for her faith came as a shock.

NATURE OF ACCEPTANCE IN DIFFERENT CULTURES

In my opinion, the news is also shocking because of the culture an Indian film industry brings to this secular country. People belonging to different faiths (either they practice their faith or not) work together and contribute. So it is hard to digest/accept the fact that a Muslim personality in this showbiz can quit at her career peak for the religion. Now take an example of their neighbors. Pakistan’s showbiz is mostly populated with Muslims so if someone quits for a religious purpose, most of the people accept. Famous Pakistani actress, Sarah Chaudhry, left showbiz at her peak to practice her faith. No one had an issue with it.

SHOWBIZ AND PRACTISING FAITH

Most of the observers have taken Zaira’s Instagram explanation very severely. She opened up pretty much like her working in an environment that interferes her faith on a consistent level, or her relationship with her faith being threatened, or leading towards a path of ignorance, etc. which all sounds like if showbiz is a hellfire where the people of Islamic faith should not step in.

Generally, it is not easy to practice their faith in the showbiz especially Muslims. We have a few Muslim cases where they have practiced their faith to some extent and stayed in showbiz. But it is not easy for most of the Muslims. And this is a girl in her late teens.

Let’s assume, Zaira comes from a background where the family performs their religious and professional duties on a daily basis as for example if she prays 5 times a day or let’s assume say 3-4 times, how is she going to pray that much on daily basis being in showbiz? Then her line “working in an environment that interferes her faith on a consistent level” perfectly fits. We have to go deep and understand about a Muslim woman in showbiz instead of passing judgment over her statement.

DID SHE APPEAL TO DISSUADE SHOWBIZ?

The most important part for the reader/observer is to understand before reacting over her Instagram message. Many are arguing because they think this is a silly reason. But what the readers are forgetting or not understanding is that this is her part of the story, she is addressing her problems on the platform. She is resting her case in front of the viewers and giving the reason for her announcement of quitting.

Did Zaira suggest anywhere that the people of her faith should not step in this line of work? NO.

Did Zaira discourage the readers/observers that the people of her faith will meet the same fate as hers if they enter this industry? A big NO.

Is Zaira rallying/protesting/voicing for the Muslim community to boycott the film industry because of above-mentioned reasons? NO, NO, NO.

Then why are people making it an issue or digging controversy in it? Did she advice/request the Muslim community to stop watching films or listening to the songs? No, right?

Yes, it is a piece of big news because no one at her height of showbiz career leaves for her faith in India so the media can run this story but why is the news triggering many people? Why is her reason unfortunate or regressive for some readers? Whatever she has decided, it is a personal matter.

WHERE IS RELIGIOUS FREEDOM OR WOMAN’S FREEDOM OF DECISION NOW?

In this point, I will try to raise some questions similar to her case to give a better understanding instead of surrendering in state of confusion.

Now, in the wake of this feminism wave for some years, most of the people have advocated individual freedom and liberty. People even voice that the woman or generally us humans should make decisions about their personal lives and faith. We have the right to decide what and how should we practice in our faith. It is about religious freedom. No?

So here my observation complains because I just don’t understand why people make objection when the decision about liberty or freedom is made. If a woman wishes to wear a veil or hijab why do most of the observers start to believe that she has been forced to cover her head? Maybe she has made her choice to wear a veil or hijab or maybe she feels more protective. Same case with Zaira. If she has made the choice that she will leave this line of work and focus on her religion because of whatever reasons then why many observers think that she has been forced or brainwashed? Why don’t they accept that she has made her choice? Where is the freedom of making your own choice now?

People speak about woman’s freedom and the woman herself advertises her liberty especially when she leaves Iran, Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia. But what if she likes or prefers to stay/live there. That is also her freedom of choice. We are no one to dictate her then. Why do most have to apply or assume if she has been forced to live there or wear a veil or hijab by her father, brother or husband? Now, how quick was Anupam Kher to believe that something assisted Zaira to take that decision when she gave her explanation?

TWO MUSLIMS AND THEIR PERSPECTIVES

New Delhi: Actress and Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Nusrat Jahan at Parliament House during the Budget Session, in New Delhi, Tuesday, June 25, 2019. (PTI Photo/Manvender Vashist) (PTI6_25_2019_000100A)

Many people in their defense are comparing Zaira and bringing the example of local MP Nusrat Jahan who being a Muslim sports sindoor (red dot on the forehead of Hindu married woman) and mangalsutra (a sacred necklace to be worn by a Hindu married woman). She is married to a Hindu and the Muslim clerics have issued a fatwa (legal opinion by a jurist on a point of Islamic law) against her.

Now the defenders against Zaira’s will states that being a Muslim, Nusrat Jahan can adopt the culture or tradition of other faith but Zaira feels discomfort to continue her work due to her faith being threatened. In my opinion, Nusrat is free to sport sindoor/mangalsutra or adopt any Islamic/non-Islamic culture or tradition if she wishes to. The same case with Zaira too, if she wishes to quit showbiz for religion then she is free to do. Both are Muslims, both are from the same film industry, both are from the same country but both have different perspectives in their lives. Not all are equal and have the same choices, right?  


I don’t have many words to type upon this case any further. All I can say is that we are no one to dictate or instruct what a person should do. Zaira surely had thought to somehow work this career out for long and perform religious responsibilities. Just like most of the people in sports have to give up their education to focus on their game, Zaira also gives up one between the two. If Zaira has made the decision, I wish her all the best wherever her decision takes her to.

My Bollywood’s Best of 2018

My yearly review season has arrived to inform the readers what Hindi-language Indian films do I find the best in different categories. This is my 5th annual review work on the Indian cinema and to read my previous works, kindly follow the links:

2014 2015 2016 2017

So how do I do all this? I select some three dozen potential films of the calendar year after watching the trailers and reading the minor narrations at the year-end. Then I spent a few months watching the films I selected. It takes me roughly 5-6 months to watch three dozen films because I have some other things to do in life. For the music department, I consider the selected films and explore further on the internet because the discovery of good music is vast and unlimited.

I am glad to see that watching and observing culture in India is changing. Year by year, some good stories are making rounds and getting recognition. Moving towards the new decade, this change may become a blessing. With so many production companies and heavy money involved, some very good talent is polished from any platform. Then the streaming service has developed and improved the viewing quality.

Following films grabbed my attention and I watched these in the past few months:

Andhadhun, Padman, Hichki, Sanju, Karwaan, Raid, Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz, Halkaa, Bioscopewala, Manmarziyaan, Mulk, Batti Gul Meter Chalu, Union Leader, Gold, Sui Dhaaga, Badhaai Ho, Beyond The Clouds, Raazi, Tikli And Laxmi Bomb, Angrezi Mein Kehte Hain, Manto, Mukkabaaz, October, Veere Di Wedding, Pari, Bhavesh Joshi Superhero, Blackmail, Pihu, Helicopter Eela, Pataakha, Hope Aur Hum, Tumbbad, Lust Stories, Love Sonia, and Gali Guleiyan.

Besides the abovementioned 35 Hindi films, I was not able to watch the other selected films, Omerta and 3 Storeys due to lack of availability or availability in extremely low video/audio quality.

Now before I present my winners, let me tell you how this works. After watching the above mentioned 35 Hindi films, I will segregate the categories into 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 unranked honorable mentions under “Other Notable Works” which are the individuals or the films deserve to be counted among the best.

Now I present you my picks from Bollywood’s Best of 2018. The readers can share their opinions below the blog.


MUSICAL SECTION

BEST BACKGROUND SCORE

ANDREA GUERRA (SUI DHAAGA)

Andrea Guerra’s music matches nowhere to Sui Dhaaga’s screenplay but the best thing about it is that the applied score helps us build a fresh perception towards the film. The same thing happened with Darren Fung’s score on Union Leader but Guerra’s score was better. Let us assume if a stereotype Indian music was played in the background on these screenplays, these films may not have built in our observation.

Other Notable Works:

Shashwat Srivastava (Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz)

Sandesh Shandilya (Bioscopewala)

Amit Trivedi (Manmarziyaan)

A. R. Rahman (Beyond The Clouds)

Darren Fung (Union Leader)

BEST MALE PLAYBACK SINGER

ARIJIT SINGH (BINTE DIL – PADMAAVAT)

There is no way anyone can sing better than Arijit Singh nowadays and Binte Dil is an example. The score of this track is middle-eastern and Arijit has worked on his vocal cords as per the style of the track demanded. This was not the same ‘Tum Hi Ho’ voice we listened to. Listen to him when he sings Aatish Kada Adaoon Se until the drop at deeda-e-tar ka hijaab, brilliant. Because the lyrics are not easy, the singer has sung pretty vibrant and unfamiliar Urdu and on a few occasions sang in one breath.

Other Notable Work:

Shahid Mallya (Daryaa – Manmarziyaan)

BEST FEMALE PLAYBACK SINGER

DEVESHI SEHGAL (DARYAA UNPLUGGED – MANMARZIYAAN)

Daryaa is a heart-wrenching track speaking about one’s love being distanced from the others with beautiful Punjabi lyrics and Deveshi’s voice offers a blend of urbanized rural melancholy and agony especially when she shouts Beh Gaya Hanjuaan Da Dariya. What we listen here is a raw voice and is used in the film at some critical junctures. A wonderful vocal rendition here.

Other Notable Works:

Neeti Mohan (Nainowale Ne – Padmaavat)

Sunidhi Chauhan (Manwaa – October)

BEST SONG & LYRICS

KADAM (PRATEEK KUHAD – KARWAAN)

Thumbs up to Prateek for both the lyrics and the music, very deep words and honest translation of human path of miseries and agitation.

Other Notable Works:

Daryaa (Ammy Virk, Shahid Mallya, Shellee, Amit Trivedi)

Qasam Kha Li (Papon, Amitabh Bhattacharya, Amit Trivedi)

Binte Dil (Arijit Singh, A. M. Turaz, Sanjay Leela Bhansali)

Tune Kaha (Prateek Kuhad – Lust Stories)

BEST MUSIC

AMIT TRIVEDI (MANMARZIYAAN)

It is hard to believe that Amit is yet to win the Best Music award from Filmfare. This could be his year but I have to admit that the competition with Bhansali for Padmaavat was really strong despite average reviews. For me, Manmarziyaan will be remembered one of Amit’s finest works to date. The compositions of all his soundtracks were magnificent. Daryaa was indeed the best track.

Other Notable Works:

Prateek Kuhad, Anurag Saikia, SlowCheetah and Shwetang Shankar & Imaad Shah (Karwaan)

Sanjay Leela Bhansali (Padmaavat)


TECHNICAL SECTION

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

SHEETAL IQBAL SHARMA (MANTO)

Other Notable Works:

Eka Lakhani (Sanju)

Aparna Shah (Bioscopewala)

Payal Saluja (Gold)

Karishma Sharma (Pataakha)

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

NITIN ZIHANI CHOUDHARY & RAKESH YADAV (TUMBBAD)

Other Notable Works:

Priya Suhass (Bioscopewala)

Satish Chauhan (Union Leader)

Mansi Dhruv Mehta (Beyond The Clouds)

Rita Ghosh (Manto)

 

BEST SOUND DESIGN

RESUL POOKUTTY & AMRIT PRITAM (BIOSCOPEWALA)

Other Notable Works:

Madhu Apsara (Andhadhun)

Arun Nambiar (Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz)

 

BEST EDITING

HASSAN HASSANDOOST (BEYOND THE CLOUDS)

Other Notable Works:

A. Sreekar Prasad (Manto)

Dipika Kalra (Bioscopewala)

Ajay Sharma (Karwaan)

Pooja Ladha Surti (Andhadhun)

 

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

KARTIK VIJAY (MANTO)

Other Notable Works:

Avinash Arun (Karwaan)

Rafey Mahmood (Bioscopewala)

Sylvester Fonseca (Manmarziyaan)

Ewan Mulligan (Mulk)

Anil Mehta (Beyond The Clouds)

Pankaj Kumar (Tumbbad) 

 

BEST ACTION

VYRIL RAFFAELLI, SEBASTIEN SEVEAU & VIKRAM DAHIYA (BHAVESH JOSHI SUPERHERO)

I think this is pretty agreeable to everyone that Bhavesh Joshi Superhero offers excellent action sequences to seek our attention. There are no silly nonsense out-of-the-world fights and ridiculous visual effects to give up between the film. Because the plot is built in the honesty of depicting the birth of a superhero and the reasons behind wearing the mask. Even in the most possible exaggeration of any sequence, the scenes are acceptable and enough to pass a compliment like Siku’s lengthy attempt of escaping on the bike towards the railway station.  

Other Notable Work:

Vikram Dahiya & Sunil Rodrigues (Mukkabaaz)

 

BEST STORY

SRIRAM RAGHAVAN, ARIJIT BISWAS, POOJA LADHA SURTI, YOGESH CHANDEKAR & HEMANTH RAO (ANDHADHUN)

Andhadhun offers the freshness in presenting a crime thriller in dark humor. Two different stories connect to each other when the man pretending to be blind witnesses the dead body at an apartment and trying to give justice to the dead becomes a huge regret. The continuity is crazy and unpredictable. A story like Andhadhun is some kind of accomplishment and hope that some great stories can be told in the Hindi-language cinema.

Other Notable Works:

Bejoy Nambiar (Karwaan)

Nitin Dixit & Nila Madhab Panda (Halkaa)

Anubhav Sinha (Mulk)

Sanjay Patel (Union Leader)

 

BEST SCREENPLAY

MAJID MAJIDI & MEHRAN KASHANI (BEYOND THE CLOUDS)

I believe Beyond The Clouds had the most powerful screenwriting than any other films of 2018. The biggest reason lies in the happening of the plot. The intros of the leading characters and that cat-and-mouse run of Amir from the police. Then his emotional attachment with Tara and the given agonized circumstances between them in the plot is all splendid writing. Plus the development of mental growth of both Amir and Tara after her imprisonment carries the film. Amir’s changes in attitude with the relatives of Akshi (Tara’s husband) and Tara’s fondness towards the child are some impressive aspects of the writing. Due to the fact that this screenplay was written by the foreigners, they set the new standards of screenwriting in the Indian cinema.

Other Notable Works:

Nandita Das (Manto)

Anubhav Sinha (Mulk)

R. Balki & Swanand Kirkire (Padman)

Sriram Raghavan, Arijit Biswas, Pooja Ladha Surti, Yogesh Chandekar, Hemanth Rao (Andhadhun)

 

BEST DIALOGUES

ABHISHEK CHATTERJEE (KUCHH BHEEGE ALFAAZ)

What is important about dialogues-writing for me? It must fit the screenplay and the entire plotline. A light-heart musical like Onir’s Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz is a feel-good romantic whistler and the main reason is dialogues. So natural that it grows on you. There is decency, there is literature, the conversation between Alfaaz and Archana has a polite affection. Another factor doubling the significance of dialogues is Zain Khan Durrani‘s voice. When he speaks, you just close your eyes and listen to what he speaks. Summing in short, Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz has the most real and natural piece of dialogues-writing in the film.

Other Notable Works:

Hussain Dalal (Karwaan)

Kanika Dhillon (Manmarziyaan)

Anubhav Sinha (Mulk)

Sharat Katariya (Sui Dhaaga)

Nandita Das (Manto)

 

BEST SCENE

CRIME SCENE (ANDHADHUN)

Sold. Diabolical and sold. I was losing my interest in the film and wasn’t believing how Sriram Raghavan can disappoint me after waiting for his next project for years until those blind eyes spotted a dead body in an apartment. His fingers were bought by that dead man to play his wife the piano on their wedding ceremony, the woman who killed her husband with the help of her boyfriend,  masterpiece!

This was just the beginning. The best part was the continuity when both the deceased’s wife and her boyfriend silently try to clean the crime scene on the blind’s piano notes in one take. It was like I was watching good old silent-comedy stunt of the golden age. This is the beauty of the director’s artistic mind dropping the significance of presenting simple scenes in extraordinary ways.

I wish this particular scene is not a copy of any. I am not able to share the video because unfortunately, this is not available on YouTube.

Other Notable Scenes:

Murad Ali’s response to prove if he is a Muslim or not (Mulk)

Shravan lecturing his father about his boxing passion (Mukkabaaz)

Amir escaping from police-chase (Beyond The Clouds)


MAJOR SECTION

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

IRRFAN KHAN (KARWAAN)

The best aspect of Irrfan’s acting is his absorbing the given role. He executes so well that he is no more Irrfan in the film, he is the character watched by millions of viewers. In Karwaan, we didn’t see Irrfan acting, we saw Shaukat helping his friend find his father’s dead body. Irrfan brings a tremendous balance between the two new faces in the film, Dulquer and Mithila, and beautifully completes the trinity of three extremely different characters. His supporting role was well supported by the dialogues and Shaukat’s innocence throughout the journey.

Other Notable Works:

Manav Vij (Andhadhun)

Vicky Kaushal (Manmarziyaan)

Manoj Pahwa (Mulk)

Arunoday Singh (Blackmail)

Raghubir Yadav (Sui Dhaaga)

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

SUREKHA SIKRI (BADHAAI HO)

Thank God, Filmfare didn’t make the mistake of handing Best Supporting Actress to any other actress than Surekha Sikri. Because if not this, then I wonder what further would take her to get the recognition. At her age, she justified her presence and the significance of her being the matriarch. Her series of scolding to his son and later in her daughter-in-law’s defense is magnificently hilarious.

Other Notable Works:

Tabu (Andhadhun)

Shikha Talsania (Veere Di Wedding)

Swara Bhaskar (Veere Di Wedding)

Freida Pinto (Love Sonia)

 

BEST ACTOR

ISHAAN KHATTER (BEYOND THE CLOUDS)

This is one stunning performance I am lost at and cannot believe that a 23yo can bring such maturity and versatility in his given role. A fresh start as an actor, Ishaan is Amir, a drug dealer whose sister is imprisoned in an attempt of killing her husband. Desperate brother is stuck of ill-fate with her husband to care in the hospital but the responsibility doubles when the husband’s relatives arrive and there is no other way than refuge them at home until the admitted patient is fit to stand on his feet.

Amir’s attitude changes from rudeness to friendliness when he is more involved with his relatives. And during all this period, Amir grows Ishaan grows, in his acting on our nerves. The director plays a significant part in growing his character but Ishaan’s mental timing and body language are pretty flawless everywhere. His bursting out of anger and voice pitch control is excellent. That rage in the pigeon room was the summary of Ishaan’s hard work of Amir’s ridiculous tolerance giving up on seeing his sister mad. Between this sequence, it was so natural to make an unnatural response towards the relatives and speak in English in agony. This Ishaan Khatter is pure promise if he moves his acting career in the future in the right direction.

Other Notable Works:

Ayushmann Khurana (Andhadhun)

Danny Denzongpa (Bioscopewala)

Rishi Kapoor (Mulk)

Rahul Bhat (Union Leader)

Varun Dhawan (Sui Dhaaga)

Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Manto)

Vineet Kumar Singh (Mukkabaaz)

 

BEST ACTRESS

TAAPSEE PANNU (MANMARZIYAAN)

I thought a lot about this. Even while deciding to pick this, I reconsidered. But I have made my mind to say that this was Taapsee’s year. And it is utter shame to see her not even getting nominated for Manmarziyaan, forget about winning a Filmfare. Many may not agree with me on Taapsee as far as the choice of film is concerned, why Manmarziyaan? Why not Mulk?

See, despite a spectacular performance in Mulk, her body language is limited to the screenplay. Half of the film is a courtroom drama and her role, her facial and mental performance is one dimensional. Manmarziyaan? She is a complete woman. Emotion-wise, Taapsee has pulled all the strings. There is so much emotional fluctuation in her given character.

Then her chemistry with Vicky plays a significant part because her scenes with Vicky are where she stands to her episodic collapses from pride, emotion, and respect throughout the film repeatedly giving a gem of performances.

Other Notable Works:

Rani Mukherji (Hichki)

Malavika Mohanan (Beyond The Clouds)

Anushka Sharma (Pari)

Mrunal Thakur (Love Sonia)

Sanya Malhotra (Pataakha)

Radhika Madan (Pataakha)

 

BEST DIRECTOR

NANDITA DAS (MANTO)

I must not be taken aback to a slingshot theory that the professional actors cannot become the directors of the quality they were enriched with. The brains behind the camera, a cinematic vision thought on the director’s chair needs the required artistry to craft a story and the camera techniques for shooting which waits for the approval of the applause and compliments. Nandita Das is one exceptional name making me stop thinking about the Bollywood stereotypes for once and watch her Manto work with scrutiny.

Thanks to Das, Manto disconnects you. You are in a different timeline and parallel. You are in an undivided India sitting with your friends in a tea shop describing your work, speaking poetries, narrating a woman’s beauty and criticizing the government and the workers involved in it. You are a rebel to this world which is collapsing near you. You are drinking, you are smoking, you are watching some lights turned on in some flats at midnight. It is time to sleep but some streets aren’t and the lights are on for the women to work and sell their body. It is red, dark and hammer on your head.

The point is that the direction of the film is such a force that you become Manto and your world falls apart. The excellence of Nandita’s direction also lies in balancing so many things about Manto within two hours. Even the Lahore days of Manto were shot well and broke the stereotypical Pakistani portrayal in Hindi cinema.

I never felt I was watching a 2018 film. It was like the excellent golden age of the 50s back or if Guru Dutt’s directional artistry was temporarily inherited by Nandita.

Other Notable Works:

Sriram Raghavan (Andhadhun)

R. Balki (Padman)

Akarsh Khurana (Karwaan)

Onir (Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz)

Anubhav Sinha (Mulk)

Sanjay Patel (Union Leader)

Majid Majidi (Beyond The Clouds)

 

BEST FILM

MULK

The most important category to conclude this blog needs very careful judgment. What needs a film to be the best of the year? A lot of things count. First the story and the message, the brains behind the continuity of the screenplay. The screen time if it justifies the story. The whole body of the film most importantly the final few minutes which need some technical conclusion to convince the viewers. The selection of actors is not an issue because I always believe it is a performance which sells the plot. And that is why I believe that Mulk is 2018’s best film of the year.

Because Mulk opens a very sensitive subject which compels the audience to think about the future of the country. The social portrayal and acceptance towards the minorities in India have not been focused in the Indian cinema because this doesn’t profit the cinemas and the film producers, and there is every certainty that the majority of viewers may not like the idea.

Because most of the films focus on how the terrorism was committed or what role did the police or anti-terror squad play in defending the country or stopping/fighting against the event. But I don’t remember right now if any director tried to focus on the families whose member goes on to become a terrorist and made them regret.

Anubhav Sinha’s Mulk offers such a story about a diverse Muslim family who has been living in the same mohalla for decades. Advocate Murad Ali (Rishi Kapoor) says this is his home and he keeps no grudge with the people of any faith. Hindus and Muslims come together and sit with him, share happiness with him and his family until he nephew Shahid (Prateik Babbar) commits a terror attack.

Anubhav Sinha gives the viewers an intense feeling about such family being surrendered/surrounded by the religious insecurity and social tightness in the society. The behavioral attitude and breaking some ties further makes the family seek an antidote.

Mulk is a very sensitive drama touching a very sensitive subject of the protection and importance of the communities. Half of the film is the intense courtroom drama where Murad’s Hindu daughter-in-law Aarti tries to defend the case against the public prosecutor Santosh Anand (Ashutosh Rana) who tries to convince the court that the Muslim community orchestrates the terrorism.

Anubhav’s powerful writing and direction heavily focuses on the fact that people can be either good or bad whether they are of any faith. There is every chance that the follower of God and evil may be living in the same house under the same roof. The insecurity of being a Muslim is also highlighted well.

Technical aspects have done the talking. Dialogues, screenplay, story, cinematography, and direction are magnificent. These aspects are well supported by the splendid performances of Rishi Kapoor, Taapsee Pannu, Manoj Pahwa and Ashutosh Rana.

Mulk is an agonized cry for love and peace in the cynical times of crossing guns over other shoulders among the communities and even the neighboring countries. It is one of the most important films produced in India with a cinematic masterpiece.

Other Notable Films:

Andhadhun

Padman

Bioscopewala

Union Leader

Beyond The Clouds

Manto

Pihu


Thank you for reading my annual picks and will write next year about Hindi films which are produced in 2019. Share your opinion below.

IS WHITEWASH A WAKE UP CALL?

Two elements in the universe will remain melodramatic and unrepaired, soap operas and Pakistan cricket. The supporters of the team Green deserves a lifetime achievement award for their tolerance and patience for the team. We are aware of the fact that the national team has more weakness in conceding the match than capabilities to win but it is our love for Pakistani cricket that keeps us hoping that the glory days may return soon.

The domestic infrastructure will take time to improve under the fresh hands of the governance of Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). International Cricket Council (ICC) is finally admitting of security improvement in the country to stage more cricket matches than in the past. The level of comfort and perception to play in Pakistan has gradually changed.

So there are signs in the coming times that maybe international cricket return to a normal schedule from next year. Prime Minister Imran Khan‘s announcement of staging the entire Pakistan Super League (PSL) in the country next year is delightful and diverting.

But what is the national team’s own justification for the claim on the mega event happening in a couple of months?

Pakistan’s ODI performance since 2017 Champions Trophy

Pakistan stood a ‘TOP’ ODI team for a long period a couple of decades ago but the stance has dropped with quite a huge margin and in the recent years, Pakistan has built no good memories in the format since winning the ICC Champions Trophy (CT). They were invincible against the mediocre teams of Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe beating them 5-0 each but exposed fragilities while losing against the top ODI sides of New Zealand (5-0), South Africa (3-2) and Australia (5-0), the last team arriving in UAE with many key absentees. During this process, they also couldn’t even qualify for the Asia Cup final last year. With such a monumental discrepancy, the certainty of winning the biggest trophy or even doing wonders look highly unlikely.

What went wrong?

The answer to this question deserves its own library bigger than the Library of Congress. But I will highlight a few because I have other things to do in my life.

This question needs a periodic timeline from where I should begin highlighting the issues and even that will take more than a blog, a volume perhaps. So I will set a scale from winning the CT and try to be quick in my argument.

Winning the CT was one of the golden chapters in Pakistan’s cricket history because our accomplishments in this sport are quite limited. The last major trophy Pakistan ever won before this in the format was Asia Cup 2012, thanks to Bangladesh who couldn’t score 9 runs the final over with 3 wickets in hand.

(Pakistan in ODIs has won one World Cup (WC), two Asia Cups, one CT in their history but their major dominance for any trophy in the format was limited to Sharjah Cup which they won 15 times, a record. One major reason how Pakistan has a better head-to-head record against India.)

No World Cup Planning

After winning the CT in 2017, the cricket board should have focused on the WC preparations. They had a two-year time to shape a plan and devise a strategy under which the national team would have analyzed their strength and weakness through a detailed report which would aid them to build a potential team to form a winning combination and maintain it like the top sides.

PCB has a history of lacking long-term plans and that is a major reason why the performance never improves. Their main focus was in organizing PSL every year and making efforts to bring the international cricket back to the country. That even didn’t help the national team. Pakistan couldn’t find a single batting talent through PSLs in four years. Only the foreigners and the already-established batsmen representing the country before PSL’s existence have been performing.

Pakistan holds the reputation of being the factory where the fast bowlers of the supreme quality are manufactured since Fazal Mahmood in the 50s. If the assumption is applied that more newcomers are making their place in the national team since the introduction of PSL then the question is that why PSL has been made a standard or benchmark to launch their careers? What is the use of the domestic one-day and T20 tournaments then?

 

Britain Cricket – Pakistan v India – 2017 ICC Champions Trophy Final – The Oval – June 18, 2017 Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir celebrates taking the wicket of India’s Virat Kohli Action Images via Reuters / Andrew Boyers Livepic EDITORIAL USE ONLY.

Lacking cricket at home and unfavorable UAE games

Another major issue is lacking international cricket at home which has disturbed and disrupted the natural self-confidence of playing in front of the home crowd. The borrowed HOME country has been of no use for Pakistan in the ODIs.

A decade has crossed playing ODIs on the pitches of UAE but our performances have only declined. Neither has Pakistan adopted the modern cricket system through the UAE games nor have given many of expected positive results.

On the record, Pakistan has never won a single ODI bilateral series against a ‘TOP’ ODI side (Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, England) in the UAE in the past 10 years!

2009 – New Zealand won 2-1

2010 – South Africa won 3-2

2012 – England won 4-0

2012 – Australia won 2-1

2013 – South Africa won 4-1

2014 – Australia won 3-0

2014 – New Zealand won 3-2

2015 – England won 3-1

2019 – Australia won 5-0

India didn’t play any bilateral series in this period against Pakistan in the UAE. Pakistan has only taken the pride of defeating West Indies and Sri Lanka in the bilateral series again and again.

To my surprise, PCB never questioned about considering the UAE their home. With dismal performances and ridiculous predictability in failing to perform and conceding the series, fans in the UAE dropped their interest showing up to the stadiums to watch their team doing no favor and therefore the attendance of spectators has dropped more and more.

The recent Pakistan-Australia encounter was played in almost-empty stadiums which is a disgrace. Much of this year’s PSL was organized there before this series and remained cold as dead. The only time the stadium in the PSL went full throughout PSL was the opening day obviously because of the fondness to watch the opening ceremony and the live performances.

Selection Dilemma

To some extent, there were some good decisions helping the team realize their strength. The opening combination of Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq gave Pakistan many decent starts and during the process generated enough runs to become one of the quickest to 1000 ODI runs. Babar Azam maintained his superb form and his remarkable scoring consistency, something which most of the Pakistani batsmen traditionally lack. Shaheen Afridi and Usman Shinwari were trusted and did some justice.

But during all this, selectors also made grave mistakes like ignoring Junaid Khan several times disturbing his form due to irregularity, giving too many opportunities to underachiever Faheem Ashraf, emphasizing on ever-failing Mohammad Amir who since his CT final heroics has taken only 5 wickets in 14 ODIs, and depending on the failing veterans, Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik who have scored only 426 runs (16 inns) and 716 runs (25 inns) since the CT glory.

The worst was the ego-bound priority of keeping Wahab Riaz regular in the XI for more than two years for his undoubtedly magnificent spell against Shane Watson in the 2015 World Cup quarterfinal. Since then, he went on to play 25 ODIs taking 25 wickets at a very expensive average of 47.08 and conceding 5.82 runs per over. Out of those 25 games, he conceded 50 runs on 10 occasions. One of those 10 occasions was his unforgettable 0/110 recording the second worst bowling performance in a 10-over quota. He was finally dropped after one bad game against India in 2017 CT and never considered to include in the ODIs.

Testing bench strength 3 months before the World Cup?

Let’s speak about the recent crisis which is not helping me understand the situation. During the South Africa-Pakistan ODI series, captain Sarfraz Ahmed admitted passing racist remark to Andile Phehlukwayo for which he was banned for four games which included the starting games against Australia in the recently concluded series. But PCB decided to completely drop him from the Australia series and give him rest. All the players who played in the South Africa series played PSL but then a few key players like Hasan Ali, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi, and Babar Azam were dropped to play against Australia despite performing well in PSL. Reason? To give them rest after the busy cricketing schedule for the past few months and also judging their bench strength.

Ok first thing, Pakistan hasn’t played enough cricket that their key players are exhausted. Even if I assume that Pakistan played pretty much cricket then why was playing PSL that compulsory? Was playing PSL more important than the Australia series? You could have rested your key players after the South Africa series and played directly in the next. And another point, if they are taking rest, how come Hasan Ali and Babar Azam are playing some Gujranwala Premier League? When the squad to face Australia was announced, the reason for resting key players was to give them rest. Then why were they playing this league? What kind of rest is this? 

The second thing is judging your bench strength a couple of months before the mega event is sheer stupidity. If the board was really considering to judge their bench strength, why didn’t the board plan long before this time? How can you judge your bench strength from one series? The pitches of UAE and the WC host England are extremely different.

Then the squad was the question mark. Test fast bowler Mohammad Abbas was selected about whom was rumored to be tried for the WC. There was confusion over him if he should be tried in the ODIs or not. But the problem is timing. Abbas is playing test cricket for the past two years. Why didn’t the board or the selectors make their mind to introduce him in ODIs sooner than pretty later? The result was disastrous with Abbas ending the series with a forgettable performance.

Another inclusion was of another test player Yasir Shah. If Shadab was to be rested then why did Yasir take his place? PSL wonder boy Umer Khan could have been tried. Why is Amir repeatedly picked after failing again and again? He has been in miserable form and is eating other’s chances. And giving chance to Umar Akmal for the umpteenth time proved that his situation will never change. Umar will do wonders in domestic cricket but will repeat the same mistakes when he will play in international cricket. Picking him was actually the selectors thinking backward.

All these points prove that the PCB didn’t plan anything for the WC. Judging your bench strength is sending your B-team to tour Zimbabwe like Indian cricket board did back in 2016.

What Pakistan must do?

After the disastrous conclusion of being whitewashed against a resurging Australia and failed tests in the laboratory, PCB must finalize the WC squad now and send them to play 5 ODIs against England at their home where the WC will be staged a couple of weeks after the conclusion of this series.

Pakistan is the luckiest of all the WC participants to arrive in the country first and fully take advantage of growing their game on these pitches. Pakistan is even playing three limited over games against county clubs and two warm-up practice matches after the series and before the big event which means 10 games of quality practice before the mega event begins. This is more than enough preps any WC participant can ask for.

If Pakistan finalizes the WC squad after the England series then that will be the dumbest of all the decisions PCB has ever made. Because it makes no sense to make changes in the squad after the final preps. Play your 15 men in 10 of those English games to be more prepared than the others.

My 15-Man World Cup Squad

I am mentally prepared to see PCB make a mockery of the selection as they have historically attempted before. That is why under the heading, I am listing the 15 names of what I believe should enter the mega event, not PCB.

Captain and wicketkeeper: Sarfraz Ahmed

Openers: Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Abid Ali

Middle Orders: Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Rizwan, Shoaib Malik

All-Rounders: Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim

Bowlers: Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi, Junaid Khan, Usman Shinwari, Mohammad Hasnain

Squad Explanation

Yes, no more Mohammad Amir. We should come out of this delusion that he will do wonders like 2010 English tour or 2017 CT Final. As stated before, this bowler has picked only 5 wickets in 14 ODIs since that Final. We should admit that he doesn’t justify his place.

What makes me pick Hasnain over him is the fact that this teenager is the fastest of all the picked bowlers and his understanding the pitch makes me think that Sarfraz can make better use of him on the English pitches. Sarfraz already has been his captain in PSL. Give him those 10 games, use him properly and he is a threat.

A lot of talk on Shinwari if he is that good to be considered. Yes, he is very expensive in the T20s but when I see 28 wickets in only 15 ODIs which includes 4/35 vs South Africa and 4/49 vs Australia, that speaks a lot. I will count wickets rather than think about being his expensive.

Indeed, we don’t have power hitters, something which almost every top team has the luxury to cash on. It is highly unfortunate that Pakistan couldn’t produce a single power hitter in all these years. That is why I am bound to pick out of form but heavily experienced Shoaib Malik over him who should come at no.6 and try to accelerate the run rate.

Shadab Khan is must in every single game, he is a genuine spinner with the heavy assistance on batting when in crisis. Haris and Rizwan with two centuries in the latest series cannot be imagined to be ignored for the WC. Babar needs to drop some weight of middle-order responsibility with their support.

Abid Ali is definitely the third opener of my squad who justified his selection by recently scoring a wonderful hundred on his debut. Imam-Fakhar is the permanent pair and this should not change for a long time, even after the World Cup. These openers are the quickest to 1000 ODI runs, something which never happened in ODI history before. Imam has proven against the South Africa series that he can score against the biggies and should not be dropped from any game. We fans should stop voicing against this kind of nepotism because at least this lad is performing.

What my picked batsmen have to do while constructing the inning is to accelerate the run rate, score more boundaries, reduce the percentage of dot deliveries and try to convert their twenty-five into the fifties and fifties into hundreds. There is not a single instance of a middle-order century for Pakistan in the World Cups since 1987. All the hundreds since 1992 have been scored by the openers. So this curse should end and I have high hopes that at least Babar can do it.

WC glory chances? Extremely low. And just like the previous edition, consideration of their reaching the semis will be a miracle. But this is exactly how Pakistan won all the three major trophies. They were not expected to do anything special in 1992, 2009 and 2017 but shocked the global cricket community. So whatever and whenever the squad is finalized, let us hope Pakistan does their best and not let us down. Hoping is living.