Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Squid Game - A Review

"I am not a horse; I am a human."
Amidst the brutality and violence, Squid Game, at its core, is a social commentary on the ethical and moral ambiguity of human beings. It makes us question our existence. Who are we? What values do we stand for during our lowest points? 

The theme of Squid Game is not new—we have seen such dystopian themes in films like The Hunger Games, Battle Royale, and 13 Tzameti. 

But the compelling, diverse, and relatable characters—and the tenderness of their bond—will make you root for them. 

A group of desperate individuals, in dire financial straits, are manipulated into participating in children's games with a cash prize of roughly $40M. But, they leave out one tiny detail—the games have deadly consequences. 

The commentary on the class divide and the perils of capitalism are apparent throughout the series. 

After the horrors of Red Light, Green Light, the participants unanimously quit. Not only they're compelled to return but are made to believe they did it voluntarily. 

During the course of the series, Seong Gi-hun, a gambling addict in serious debt, tries hard to be honest and self-righteous in a place of continuous moral decadence. 

Oh Il-nam, as Player 001, is delightful. During the initial few episodes, he was my favourite character, and I wished to have his zest for life despite suffering from a terminal ailment. 

Kang Sae-byeok is the most enigmatic character among the main characters. She begins to open up during the latter half of the season after she is paired with another girl with a tragic past, Ji-yeong, who helps her open up. 

Cho Sang-woo is a selfish person who will descend to any depths to survive and win the game. On the other hand, Abdul Ali is a kind-hearted, easily manipulated, but physically powerful immigrant. 

Episode 6, Gganbu, is one of the finest hours in the history of television. This episode wrecked me and moved me to tears. 

The set-up of Game 4 reminds Il-nam of his childhood home and is disinterested in playing the marble game, but Gi-hun eventually convinces him to play. 

With Il-nam on the verge of winning, Gi-hun takes advantage of the former's dementia to cheat, even though he feels guilty about it. The scene where Il-nam reveals he was aware of Gi-hun's betrayal but allows him to win anyway—absolutely gut-wrenching. 

Meanwhile, Ji-yeong and Sae-byeok discuss their lives before playing the marble game. After their poignant interaction, Ji-yeong loses the game on purpose and makes the ultimate sacrifice as she believes Sae-byeok deserves to live more than her. 

Ali, who unwittingly gets the upper hand in the game, is made to believe by Sang-woo that both can survive the game. He deceives Ali into giving up his marbles. Sadly, Ali's innocence eventually leads to his downfall. 

I loved the tug-of-war episode too, which had one of the best cliffhangers. Despite lacking in physical strength, Gi-hun's team comes out on top—thanks to Il-nam's experience and Sang-woo's quick thinking. 

After the sixth episode, the quality of the series dipped a tad due to the introduction of VIPs. Acted horribly, the VIPs sounded like poorly dubbed American characters in old Chinese movies where the dialogues were written by someone with Chinese sensibilities. 

In this instance, the dialogues of the VIPs were written in English with Korean sensibilities. And, that's why they sounded more like caricatures instead of normal people. Also, the actors playing these characters were really bad, and that didn't help either. 

That twist, in the end, involving Il-nam was unexpected and it ruined that wonderful moment in Gganbu to a certain extent. Overall, I enjoyed the show. It was my first K-Drama, and I had a wonderful experience. 

My Rating: 9/10

Monday, March 9, 2020

600 Days

TCS World 10K - May 19, 2019

I was discharged from the hospital on the 8th of March, eight years ago. When I was wheeled out of the hospital, I remember feeling extremely insecure and helpless; overwhelmed with emotions. 

The first four years were the toughest of my life; had to overcome anxiety, chronic depression, loneliness, and a lot of other demons. 

But, something amazing happened four years ago -- I decided to finally fight back! I was not going to let my depression hold me down any longer. Not surprisingly, the last four years have been my happiest. 

When everything seemed to be going well, a car accident in 2018 threatened to take me back to the depression era again. But, I was not ready to part with four fucking years of my life again!

So, as always, I fought back.

I came up with a simple yet radical solution -- to walk more every day. And, I decided to count my steps. It has turned out to be the best decision I have ever made.

After a steady start, I was confident enough to hit 10K steps every day.

With proper planning, discipline, and motivation, I completed 600 consecutive days of walking at least 10,000 steps.

As a result, my physical, emotional, and psychological well-being is better than it has ever been.

Extremely happy and content with life at the moment. At one time, I was bereft of hope, but now I am brimming with it. That's life, I guess. 🙂

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Are we truly independent?

Image Courtesy: Google
Seventy-five years ago, we told the British to Quit India. It's been seventy years since we achieved absolute independence. But are we truly independent? Do we really have the freedom to express our views—especially on topics such as religion, superstitious beliefs, and certain violent traditional practices—without the fear of getting arrested, or worse, murdered? The answer is sadly in the negative.

Women’s Safety

"The day a woman can walk freely at night, that day we can say that India has achieved independence."
- Mahatma Gandhi

Unfortunately, we are a long way away from realising Gandhiji's dream. As per the statistics, a woman is raped in India every 20 minutes. The safety of our women should be of paramount importance but not enough is being done—by our governments and our law enforcement agencies—to protect them. From college girls, single mothers to women from every stratum of society are being eve-teased, molested, raped, and murdered in the name of family's honour. If that wasn't enough, the women of our country are subjected to acid attacks, human trafficking, domestic violence and domestic rapes.

Are we ever going to realise Gandhiji's dream of making India a safe place for women to live?

Attack on Rationalists

Over the past few years—especially since the new government came into power in 2014—there have been increasing attacks on free speech in India. And those who dared to speak up against such practices have been categorically silenced.

In 2015, M.M. Kalburgi was shot dead on his doorstep because he was a long-standing critic of idol worship by the Hindus. Similarly, rationalists such as Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar have been killed for questioning some of India's religious superstitions.

India's secular values are what makes our country great; secularism has distinguished our country from our neighbours. But such attacks have threatened to dismantle the secular fabric of India, and it is a dangerous trend.

Cow-related violence and Jallikattu

I have been a vegetarian a proud animal lover all my life, but I have never imposed my beliefs on others. Under the purview of the law, every law-abiding citizen is free to follow their own personal diet. No one should be allowed to question that. The cow vigilantes aim to protect cows and prevent cow slaughter. But the number of Muslims and Dalits targeted and killed in the name of cow vigilantism tells a whole different story. The 2015 Dadri mob lynching is a prime example where a Muslim man was dragged out of his home and beaten to death because there was a rumour that he and his family were storing beef for consumption.

I respect each person's right to follow their religion, culture, and tradition. But hurting and abusing animals in the name of tradition is not acceptable. We must voice our support for the voiceless and not misuse them to propagate our personal superstitions.

Censorship in India

The censorship, especially in film and television in India, has taken a bizarre turn in the past few years. The Censor Board's job is to certify the movies based on their content. But when the chief of the Censor Board—influenced by his religious and political beliefs—starts acting like the judge and the jury, the freedom of expression is severely threatened. There have been a multitude of examples in the recent past that accentuate my point.

Parting Thoughts

India can truly become an independent and progressive nation, if only:
*Women are considered equal to men and are given equal opportunities to prove themselves.
*Everyone has the freedom to express themselves without the fear of backlash.
*You are allowed to love who you love and wear what you want, without being subjected to moral policing.
*Everyone gets to choose their own life partner and not chosen by their family or relatives.
*Irrespective of gender, sexual orientation, skin colour, religion, or caste—treat everyone with kindness and give them the respect a human being deserves.

Seventy-five years ago, we told the British to Quit India. The time has finally come for us to say, "Intolerance, Quit India."

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Oscars 2015: Predictions, Tweet Reviews and More

Courtesy: The Oscars

It’s that time of the year again! (Ah! It feels great to come out of my self-imposed hibernation after almost two years, by beginning the post with a cliché). I am very jaded, and this post will probably make you cringe. So I apologize and thank you in advance for putting up with this post.

The Oscars are around the corner, so now might be the perfect time to reflect upon some of the best movies and some of the best performances in the past year. When the nominations were announced on 15th of January, the members of the Academy received criticism because of the lack of diversity in the nominations – not a single Black actor/actress was nominated in the main acting categories. This is the third instance in the past 20 years where no Black actor has been nominated in the four main acting categories – 1995 and 2011 were the other two instances when all the nominees were White actors. Nevertheless, throughout the awards season, many favorites have emerged but there are bound to be a few surprises when the awards are announced on Sunday.

The 87th Academy Awards will take place on Feb 22, 2015 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles. Neil Patrick Harris aka Barney wait-for-it Stinson will be hosting the awards for the first time, this year. Last year’s show, hosted by the super-hilarious Ellen DeGeneres, is famous for that iconic Oscar Selfie. NPH being equally talented and funny, we can surely expect some memorable moments when he hosts the awards this year.

Except one; I have watched all the movies nominated for Best Picture, this year. After watching each nominated movie, I review them in a series of tweets that nobody bothers to read. So, I decided it was a great idea to coalesce all those mundane tweets, and post them here - where no soul has stepped foot in almost two years. Genius, I say!

I initially intended to embed the tweets to this post, but that proved to be logistically infeasible. Hence I have posted only the screenshots. Please click on the name of each movie to read the complete review.

So, along with my tweet reviews, here are my predictions for the Oscars 2015:

Movie: Boyhood

Nominated For: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Original Screenplay.

My Prediction: 3 Wins - Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actress

Although I loved Boyhood, it is not my favorite movie of the year. But it is the best-reviewed movie of the year, appears No. 1 on more critics’ annual “Best-of” lists in 2014 than any other movie, and in all probability, will go on to win Best Picture. Director Richard Linklater is tipped to win Best Director and he most probably will. The race for the Best Supporting Actress is between Patricia Arquette and Meryl Streep for Into the Woods – Patricia is tipped to win this race. In the Supporting Actor category, Ethan Hawke will probably lose out again, this time to the outstanding J.K. Simmons for Whiplash.

Nominated For: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Score.

My Prediction: 1 Win - Best Actor

The race for the Best Actor award is between Eddie Redmayne and Michael Keaton for Birdman. Redmayne has pretty much swept all the awards in that category, this season. So unless there is an upset, I expect him to take home the coveted Best Actor award for The Theory of Everything, this Sunday.

Movie: Still Alice

Nominated For: Best Actress

My Prediction: 1 Win – Best Actress

Julianne Moore has received widespread critical acclaim for her outstanding portrayal of a patient with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. She has pretty much swept all the awards this season, and she’s going to win big at the Oscars too.

Movie: Whiplash

Nominated For: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay

My Prediction: 1 Win – Best Supporting Actor

Whiplash, in my opinion, is the best movie of the year. It deserves to win Best Picture, but it won’t. On the other hand, J.K. Simmons will go on to win Best Supporting Actor.

Movie: Selma

Nominated For: Best Picture and Best Original Song

My Prediction: 1 Win – Best Original Song

Selma was unfairly snubbed for Best Direction, and in the two main Acting categories. It is however a favorite to fetch an Oscar for both John Legend and Common for their song, “Glory.”

Movie: Birdman

Nominated For: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing.

My Prediction: Will win the technical awards but may lose out on the main ones.

Technically, this movie is brilliant. I especially expect it to win for Best Cinematography. But the main race is for the Best Director and Actor awards. Alejandro González Iñárritu’s direction is excellent; he deserves to win Best Director, but will probably lose this race to Richard Linklater. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Iñárritu wins it though. There’s probably a much closer race for Best Actor between Michael Keaton and Eddie Redmayne. And here too, Redmayne will probably pip Keaton. Edward Norton was fantastic in this movie, even overshadowing Keaton for the most part, but he too will lose out on the Best Supporting Actor trophy to J.K. Simmons.

Nominated For: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and other technical awards.
My Prediction: No Wins.

Benedict Cumberbatch acted his heart out in this insipid movie, but he is not tipped to win Best Actor. The movie might still win one or two awards in the technical category, but I am not expecting much.

Nominated For: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, and other technical awards.

My Prediction: No Wins.

Considering the track records of the legendary director Clint Eastwood and the movie’s lead actor Bradley Cooper, American Sniper was always going to be nominated big. Also, it may go on to become the highest grosser at the domestic box office for the year 2014. But I don’t see Sniper winning any major awards.

Movie: Gone Girl

Nominated For: Best Actress

My Prediction: No Wins.

Rosamund Pike was absolutely brilliant in Gone Girl, deserves her nomination. The movie should have also been nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, as it had won several awards in that category in various award functions, but it failed to get an Oscar nod.

Note: This obviously is not the most comprehensive post about the topic as I am yet to watch a couple of other nominated movies, and so my opinions are based solely on the movies I have watched so far.

Come Sunday, there will be the usual glitz and glamour associated with the Oscars with the who’s who of the entertainment industry assembled at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. There will be some amazing performances, many memorable moments, some heartbreaks, but mostly joy for the big winners of the night.

So, see you at the Oscars!