Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge- Foreign Film Review

As you might not know, I'm an FFF a.k.a a Foreign Film Freak. I adore watching foreign films since I consider them usually more interesting than the watery-weak Hollywood films of today and offer fascinating insights on the cultures of the countries they are set in.

For my very first foreign film review (drumroll please!) I'm going to write on the Bollywood film of 1995 called Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. I chose a B'wood film because I grew up watching them and these experiences partly served to whet my appetite for foreign films.

And DDLJ, as it is fondly abbreviated among the Indians, is one of the freshest, funniest and most heart-warming films out there ( Bollywood or otherwise). After many years and many more B'wood movies, this movie still ranks as numero uno on my list of Bollywood Top Ten.

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge -(literal English translation) The Brave-hearted will Carry Off the Bride.

Simran Singh (Kajol) is a bright-eyed plucky young girl living with her parents in London. Her father Chuadery Baldev Singh is an Indian shopkeeper who emigrated to England when Simran was a little girl, but who has never found acceptance in England. He thinks of India with deep nostalgia, and is careful to educate Simran and her sister in Indian ways, fearing that they will be spoilt by Western notions.

As a result, Simran's childhood is sheltered, but restricted. She dreams of finding true love but these dreams are dashed when her father receives a letter from his best friend in India, who reminds him of the promise he had made twenty years ago. Baldev had promised his friend that he would marry his daughter Simran to his friend's son Kuljit. Simran has always known of this arrangement, but she had hoped that her father would relax ( or forget) this imposition.

Knowing that once she goes back to India and marries Kuljit she might never have adventure, she persuades her father to let her tour Europe for one month with her friends. Her father gives her his blessing, and she departs for lands unknown.

Enter Raj Malhotra! At first glance,  Raj seems like your average Indian jock ( if there exists such a thing). He plays every sport invented by mankind, and never says no to a beautiful lady requesting a lift. He's just failed university, but his rich businessman father does not mind such ruination, and instead promises him he'll fix him a job at his office. Raj agrees, but first tells his father that before he settles to a life of utter drudgery (!), he wants to tour Europe.

Thus, on that well-fated Europe trip, Raj and Simran meet, and it's hate at first sight. Simran thinks Raj is a flirt and a fool ( in reverse order) and Raj tries to win her interest. They are of course, thrown together during the course of the trip and they... fall in love!

Yippee! This calls for some energetic dancing in the streets! But, no. Simran is going to be married. To a perfect stranger. To someone who isn't exasperatingly engaging Raj Malhotra. Whatever is she going to do?

I won't reveal the rest of the story. Suffice to say, that DDLJ keeps you on your toes (or rocking with laughter) the entire three-hour trip. What really makes this movie utterly enchanting is the sparkling chemistry between Kajol and Shah Rukh Khan ( Raj). Shah Rukh Khan wears the Roadside Romeo persona like a second skin, and it truly is wonderful to see how he and Kajol complement each other. In fact, they are the most famous onscreen couple in India today, and it's not hard to see why. We fall in love with them through their witty banter, fights, and mutual respect for each other.

Another winning feature of the film is the take on family. The movie does not centre on the couple alone. Each family member from the young sister to the frail old grandmother has a part. And when the scene shifts to India, family takes over as a central theme of the narrative.

And what Bollywood movie would be complete without songs? The DDLJ songs ( like the movie) are still fresh and catchy. In fact, I plan to play some of them at my own wedding ( if I ever do get married).
Here's a sprightly number:

The only caveat I can think of is the fact that the Western clothes appear painfully outdated. However, when the actors move to India, they adopt Indian garb which looks fine, as such clothing is still worn by Indian people today.

There is very little swearing/bad language ( I can't recall any words at the moment, which should be a good thing), and there are no sex scenes. There are what I term "coy" scenes, but the film remains clean overall. I was six when I watched this as a kid, and I think that children aged ten and above can see it. It'd definitely one of my favourite family movies.
 Fun bit of trivia: this movie is still playing in selected Indian theatres today. It is the longest running Indian movie ( theatrically) and still garners good ticket sales. Imagine that! 15 years in a theatre! You can also rent/buy the dvd with decent English subtitles.

I showed this movie to a friend who'd never watched Bollywood movies before, and she loved it. Even if you're not a romantic, you will enjoy DDLJ. And after watching it I can guarantee that you will start to despise the Hollywood "romantic comedies". DDLJ combines both romance and comedy in such a winning combination that you won't help but savour each delicious moment.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Daily Devotional Review- Pure by Rebecca St. James

Doesn't that cover look delicious? Warm pink with luscious chocolate hues and icing- green...mmmm... *brief pause while I chew on my sugary-sweet danish*

Anyway, I'd been looking for a daily devotional for some time, and this girly one from Rebecca St. James intrigued me. After forcing  requesting my mother to buy it, I then spent the next ninety days reading from this devotional during my quiet times with God.

The verdict? Very inspiring. The book is titled "Pure" and it encourages us to strive for absolute purity in this morally decaying world. What I especially like is that the book is divided into three sections : Purity of mind, purity of soul and purity of body.

While some themes central to St. James' message were present ( like abstinence until marriage for instance), I was pleased that  she had also written on other topics such as witnessing, being vulnerable to other Christian brothers and sisters, and putting the focus solely on God.

This book calls for total purity, not just purity of body, but purity of mind and soul as well. I was challenged to give my all for God, and not hold back when it comes to trusting Him. I found this especially hard to do, as I value my independence and usually attempt to do things my way which usually ends in a big fat fail.

So yes, I was glad that I forced  requested my mother to buy me the devotional. This book is aimed at the preteen to college crowd though,  as it has much advice for those who are single. Still, don't let yourself be pigeon-holed by that if you're truly eager to read the book. I've realised (wait for the words of wisdom) that when God wants you to learn a lesson, you will learn it, regardless of how you learn it.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Prince of Persia- Should I?

As I recall, Prince of Persia was the only video game I ever became attached to. Two reasons for this.
One: I was a child, and therefore all the more susceptible to attachment.
Two: Anything with a prince in it should get me interested. Haha, I kid. Actually, I became totally wrapped up in the game because the prince has to try and get through a myriad of dungeons and hideous beasties to rescue the princess.

I used to try my utmost to get the prince to rescue the princess, since I, as the player, was jerking the prince along with my pathetic gaming skills. I hated seeing him gutted in splashes of blood by those pointed dungeon gates or coldly murdered by some evil foe.

However, this happened about ten years ago. And now some Hollywood producers have trotted out a Prince of Persia movie.

Good grief. I've never been too fond of games-turned-to-movies, but I was actually toying of the idea of spending my sweat-produced cash to see this. However, after the trailer, I think I'll just redeposit the money back into my little trust fund.

Yeess. That did not look good. At least, it did not look like my definition of good. And-er- where are all the Persian people? If you're going to call a movie " The Prince of Persia", try to make it look as real as possible, please. Attaching black extensions and smearing on black eyeliner does not transform you into an automatic Persian, in fact the actors look about as Persian as my cat. Sir Ben Kingsley is probably the only one who looks right ( but this could be because he's half-Asian anyway.)

 The story sounds idiotic. Then again, it comes from the producer of Pirates of the Caribbean, those movies with plotlines famed for making no sense.

And the costumes? Bleh. Gemma Aterton's got some rather nice tunics on, which are actually good to fight in and help in running away from evil villains unhampered by long skirts. They are very light and airy ( I've got a few myself).

However, with such a beautiful and culturally rich kingdom as Persia (modern-day Iran), I was hoping that the costumes would have extra pizzazz and colour. And while I think Gemma's a promising up-and-coming actress, her polished Brit accent rather threw me off in the trailer. The actors didn't even appear to be trying to mimic Persian/Iranian accents. I know Hollywood doesn't think much of historical accuracy, but really?

I've decided only to watch movies which have either complex characters, or intriguing plots or well-expressed emotions. I do not want to waste the time God has given me in watching movies which are practically useless. Doing so would not be leisure. I'd rather read a good book.

Book I am currently reading, no joke. So goodbye Prince of Persia. I never did make it past Level Two anyway.

The Shack- A (very) Belated Review

Why, you ask, am I writing a review on The Shack, a book that was published three years ago? Well, I happened to read it last week, that's why. The Shack, written by Canadian novelist William P. Young, has also had the happy distinction of being on the New York Times' Bestseller List, which, I understand, is a list every author should get into to Make It Big.
Anyway, I don't really like reading books when there's too much of a furor over them. I like reading books quietly in my little corner, without feeling like I was pressured into reading it because the whole population was calling it "the best book evaaa!"
I enjoy discovering books on my own and conceiving my own highly original thoughts about them. So when everybody I knew was raving about the Shack, I decided to save it for later, when all the hue and cry had died down. Call it perversity if you like. But two reasons drove the book into my arms this week.
For one thing, the hue and cry had died down, leaving The Shack as one of the staples of 21st century Christian fiction. For another, I was ambling round my library, when the my little eye spied the book smack dab in front of me. I picked it up.
And started reading.
My thoughts? You SHOULD read this book.  I knew when I started crying at page three that it was going to be good. Mackenzie Allen Philips, or Mack as he is known to friends and family is your average nice Christian guy with a love for the outdoors. But Mack's life does not resemble home-backed apple pie, sweet and wholesome. He is under the Great Sadness, a result of the horrifying murder of his six-year-old daughter Missy at the hands of a serial killer four years ago. One stormy morning he gets a note from God, requesting him to meet at the very same shack that his daughter's remains were found.
Well if that doesn't have you intrigued, then I don't know what will. Does Mack find God? And what is God like?
Unfortunately if I answer those questions I will be spoiling the fun for you. Which is why I suggest you read it for yourselves. Cough.

One of the many things I like about the book was that I identified very well with Mack. I look nothing like him by the way ( he is described as a "rather unremarkable, slightly balding overweight short white guy") and I don't share any of his outdoorsy interests, but his questions were my questions. He's not afraid to ask God why his sweet daughter had to undergo such torture, why God even allowed such things to take place, when He had the power of preventing them.

I found the book very insightful and it prodded me to think of my own relationship with God. One of the points made in the book is that humans are made to be creatures of the present, but spend most of their time thinking either about the past or the future. Which is rather a waste of valuable time.

What I really liked about the book was that it drew me closer to God. After I'd read it, I realised that I wanted to be in communion with God every minute of the day and not some hours during the morning or evening. I want to be in a growing relationship with God, with each new day revealing another facet of His extraordinary beauty.

So that's why I like The Shack. While I don't think God as described in the Shack is how God is going to be when we see Him ( no one living knows that), I love how the book inspired me to want to know God more. And that's what I believe good Christian books should do. They should point out the way and inspire, but they should never stand as authorities in themselves.

A little caveat: Bad language was used twice in the book. I understand that the author wanted to make it feel as "real" as possible, but I was not prepared for swear words in a Christian novel, and my personal stance is that Christian novels shouldn't contain them at all. Find more creative ways of expressing anger and/or pain.

And I know this is a horrifically long post, but I just wanted to add that the author, William P. Young was raised among a tribal people in New Guinea and has had a variety of fascinating jobs. You can read more about his life here.

Until the next review ( which hopefully, will not be as long ;))

The Official Website for The Shack
Windblown Media- Christian publishers of The Shack

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Faith in the Emotional Desert

It had been a tough week for me spiritually. I had scheduled a number of social gatherings with friends I hadn't seen for ages thanks to those torture devices a.k.a exams. When I did meet those friends, I was saddened by the fact that none of them knew my God of love and life.

I struggled with this despair the whole week long, somehow managing to keep a cheerful smile pasted on my face. I admit that I was disappointed with God for not touching my friends' hearts the way I had prayed for him to do.

I was reading 2 Kings at that time, and I was suddenly struck by the emphasis on faith, especially during the lives of Elijah and Elisha. Normally I try to get as fast through Kings as possible. It's a book that chronicles Israel's dramatic downward spiral in a way that makes me tsk in horror. How could these kings be so vile? Manasseh even burned his own son in sacrifices to idols!

God, however, had a message for me. While I was reading accounts like "The Widow at Zarephath" or " The Widow's Oil" or " The Shunammite's son restored to life," I am struck by the faith these women displayed.

In "The Widow's Oil," the woman could have said, " Why on earth should I ask my neighbors for all the empty jars they've got? Did you not hear me? I said I have nothing in the house, except for a little oil!"

That would've been my reaction. But luckily that woman was definitely not me, because she turned around and followed Elisha's instructions to the t. She had faith in him, and faith in the God he served. And she was not disappointed.

This struck me forcibly. I admit that my faith tank was running dangerously low. I was accusing God of not caring for my friends. But the fact is, He loves them more than I can ever do. And I know that He works everything out for the good of those who love Him. So I just need to keep on believing.

And maybe one day my faith will be bigger than a mustard seed.  ;)