Friday, September 08, 2017

Excellent Answer!

Excellent answer by Prerna Singh! Wish more and more people would start using their brains and understand this simple concept. Then we would really have nation-wide peace and harmony.

Read Prerna Singh's answer to When will all of the loudspeakers in mosques be removed across India? Why should Hindus have to hear those prayers? on Quora

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

MovieReview: Ghazi Attack

Simply put:
Ghazi Attack = [U-571 + Crimson Tide] 

When I started watching the Ghazi Attack (fortunately I watched the TV premier, so didn't lose money), I was reminded immediately of the Hollywood flicks with the same story, and was even more surprised to see the exact same events unfold. Notwithstanding the claims that it is based on a true story, I found it too close a match to be shrugged off as coincidental. Therefore, I am forced to conclude that this is one more of the long list of Hollywood rip-offs. It seems these days the Indian movie industry simply lacks the creative edge to produce anything original that could beat Hollywood productions.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

BookReview: Penumbra by Bhaskar Chattopadhyay

I liked this book. But I can only give this book 3 stars.

As a cozy mystery, it was good, but not extraordinary. And it had some irritants that gave rise to an uncomfortable reading experience. It was certainly not unputdownable.

The first sixty-six pages were quite slow, dealing with just introductions. Of course, every book must introduce its characters, and I do understand the first 1/3 of the book is where they usually occur, so the author hasn't done anything awful, but somehow I felt the book got a bit mundane and monotonous in this section. Sprinkling some kind of suspense or action or foreboding may have given it a lift. What kept me reading was only my knowledge that this is a murder mystery; if I didn't know that, I'd probably not have read beyond the first 50 pages.

I thought it could have been edited better. There were one too many repetitions, which I thought could have been avoided or at least camouflaged by a good editor. Also, the phrase "a few minutes" has repeatedly been used in a very vague sense, sometimes when it actually should have meant moments. To illustrate, nobody can sit absolutely still looking at you for a few minutes, even if they were surprised or shocked by something you said. That's does not practically happen. Also, one has only 2 (a maximum of 3) minutes to smoke a regular cigarette under normal conditions. The wretched thing just doesn't last much longer. When the narrator says a man who was smoking as he spoke could hold on to one cigarette for "a few minutes" and then evidently some more time as they continued to discuss, specially when there was a raging storm blowing and water splashing all over the veranda they stood on, it sort of irritates that the brain because it seems implausible. I really think the editor should have caught and resolved the "a few minutes" disease. There are many such small glitches, which perhaps don't take much away from the story and can be forgiven, but do cause irritation and an uncomfortable reading experience throughout the narration.

Another big cause for irritation was the police procedure. I'm not very sure I understand the author's premise here. When a double murder has been committed in a house, wouldn't it be natural for the police to immediately take the other inhabitants into custody and to cordon off the place so nobody can contaminate the scene of crime? That would make perfect sense to me at least. But in this story, the police inspector goes off after making preliminary observations and removing the bodies, leaving four constables at the scene, where the other inhabitants are also held in house-arrest. It is then that one or two of them play detective and try to solve the case. Somehow this whole premise didn't strike me as too credible. Why would any police inspector called to investigate a double murder risk holding back all the suspects at the scene of the crime, giving them ample opportunity to tamper with evidence either intentionally or accidentally? Maybe this would happen in a masala Bollywood flick, but I'm not sure otherwise. At least I thought it was just too incredible. And that affected the immersion factor, because I did not totally believe the story.

Even with all those irritants, I liked the overall story. That is the reason I'm giving it 3 stars.

I have also bought "Patang" and "Here Falls the Shadow" by the same author. I hope they are better written and edited. I shall review them when I've read them.

Monday, August 07, 2017

BookReview: 3 and a Half Murders, by Salil Desai

This is the first book I've read of this author. I wouldn't mind reading another after a while.

As a murder mystery written by an Indian film-maker, this is a nicely woven and well-narrated story. It was almost like watching a well directed motion picture. Though it is not an extraordinary story (I've read better whodunits), it is still a good read over a weekend.

The action and thrills were gradual and well drawn out throughout. There were no boring moments. There were no page-fillers which had nothing to do with the story, so I didn't find the need to skip or skim through pages at any point. I count this as the biggest plus of this work, which made it definitely readable.

Characterization was good; almost all characters were believable. The human side of the detective, the cops, their families and the antagonists shone through nicely. This was the second plus, as it made me relate to the characters and kept me hooked to know what happens to them.

Events (and clues) unfold in a realistic, well-balanced manner throughout the story. Nothing is hidden from the readers, as they are allowed to follow the case along with the detectives. So readers can also form their conjectures as the story develops, which will not be far removed from those of the investigators, until finally arriving at the final realization.

Perhaps by now it may already be obvious that there are no wild and thrilling twists and turns in this story. No sudden surprises at any point, but only a smooth and normal transition. So if you are a lover of whodunits by authors such as Sathyajith Ray, Sydney Sheldon, Agatha Christie, Edgar Allan Poe or Conan Doyle, then you should know that this story is certainly not in the same league. This is one of the main reasons I gave it 3-stars.

It is a simple, realistic, well-balanced story, but not extraordinary.

Monday, August 17, 2015

BookReview: The Butcher of Benares, by Mahendra Jakhar

I shall have to give a very mixed review on this work. Some parts were good, some not so good, and yet others outright ridiculous.

The good:
Purely as a murder mystery, I think it has done justice to the genre. There is a serial killer roaming the streets of Benares, who with every kill leaves behind hints to the next, openly daring the police force to do whatever they can about it. Then follows the usual profiling and attempting to understand the reason for the murders and so forth. Is it a madman? Is it a fanatic? Is it a Hindu or a Christian? Pretty standard stuff, really. But the author indeed succeeds in keeping the reader guessing about the identity of the killer until the very end of the book. This was all that kept me reading to the end. Apart from this, I found nothing to count among its pros.

The not so good:
Readers who have also read The Da Vinci Code and are also familiar with the typical Bollywood masala productions will not fail to recognize that this book is a strange cross-breed. Set in Benares instead of Paris, on the banks of River Ganges rather than around the Louvre Museum, but otherwise very similar in many respects. The reader is given a leisurely tour of the various cremation grounds, temples and marijuana dens in Benares, and is also fed enough history about the place. Personally, I am quite easily bored by all such babble that has nothing to do with the actual story, so I simply skipped over such parts without losing the thread of the main story. A latent romance between the protagonist and an FBI agent is kept simmering throughout the tale, which also I simply skipped over such parts without losing the thread of the main story.

The outright ridiculous:
Though in general the character development was well-done, sometimes (and all of a sudden) they appear incredible or unbelievable. At some points this goes to the extremes. The protagonist  brings his father to Benares supposedly so that he may die peacefully, but prefers to spend his nights with the FBI agent rather than with his dying father. The father is bent on ending his life at Benares, but he makes his attempts only when his son is around to save him. Anyway--and this is not a spoiler--he does not die in Benares. In one scene the protagonist breaks open a bullet-proof glass-box by simply slamming it twice with his bare fist. The killer--who comes across as an efficient killing machine--throws away several chances of easily finishing off the protagonist for no apparent reason. The protagonist will not die no matter where he is shot (of course, we wouldn't have had this story if he had died right in the prologue).

But perhaps this is all expected of the author, who has been writing scripts for Bollywood and television since 2006, and was a crime reporter prior to that.

Apart from all that ridiculousness, there are some gaping holes in the premises of the plot and the story, which I shall not discuss lest I give away the mystery.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

BookReview: The Riddle of The Frozen Flame, by Thomas W Hanshew and Mary E Hanshew

A very good mystery, though a bit lengthy. The style is mostly straightforward--readers are walked through the events as they unfold, learning what the detective learns, and are given a sporting chance at competing with the detective if they so chose, or to simply enjoy the mystery.

In the backdrop, the police are trying to solve a series of bank robberies--theft of only gold reserves--to which there seem to be no clue at all. But that is by the way. The main case: A nobleman is suspected to having murdered his guest, with all evidence pointing against him and jealousy showing for motive. Detective Cleek investigates under cover--really under multiple covers--the case which right from the start seems dark against the nobleman. At one point he simply resigns! Or, does he?

Several possibilities are imaginable as we read, but what is true? Keeps the readers guessing throughout. Only at one or two places--and this only toward the very end--a petty fact or two are guarded from the readers for a few pages, but it is nothing of as much consequence as to grudge the author.

There is a budding love story intertwined, but I was glad it was formally bound and did not spoil the taste of the mystery.