House of Sand and Fog (2003)


This is an amazing review written by Hulk (Debarghya Mukherjee of Class XI, 2019) on the movie ‘House of Sand and Fog’. 

For some people, a house is a place to stop and rest at night. For some others, it is a means to build for the future. For others still, it is a place of refuge, comfort, and familiarity. And for a few, it is much more than any of that — it is a key to identity and a reminiscent from the past. The dilemma faced by the characters in Vadim Perelman’s masterpiece ‘House of Sand and Fog’ is that a small, county bungalow is much much more than just bricks and concrete to all of them.

Kathy Nicolo, a recovering drug addict, has been recently dumped by her husband and left to fend for herself. All that she has in the world is a house left to her by her father as an inheritance, and that is now being taken away from her. A bureaucratic botch-up resulted in her being held responsible for unpaid taxes that she doesn’t owe. The county evicts her from her house and puts it up for auction. Things escalate so quickly that she has no time to contact a lawyer. The house is soon sold at a fraction of its original value.

The buyer is Massoud Amir Behrani, an Iranian immigrant who moved to the US with his family some years ago. Back in Iran, he was a high-ranking air force colonel, a genob sarhang, personally acquainted with the shah. But, with the shah deposed during the Iranian Revolution, and with his name on the death list, he is forced to flee for his life. He ends up as a garbage collector in California. Buying Kathy’s house gives him an opportunity to plan for the future. By reselling the house at a far higher price that he bought it for, he can make a good profit and fund his son’s college education.

The problem, of course, is that Behrani’s opportunity comes at Kathy’s expense. As far as he is concerned, he has legitimately bought a house with noble plans of making a profit and funding his son’s college. All of that, however, is lost on Kathy. She views Behrani as a thief. She finds comfort in a sympathetic police officer, Lester, who falls in love as much as with her desperation as with her beauty. To prove his love for her, Lester takes reckless decisions, such as harassing and threatening Behrani. Of course, instead of resolving matters, this only exacerbates the matters.

This is a story where nobody is to blame. Kathy has done nothing wrong, and so has Behrani. She has been the victim of an incompetent bureaucracy’s blunder. He has purchased the house legitimately and has his own reasons for not giving it up. The fault in both of them is their unwillingness to view matters from the opposite sides, and because of their high tensions, they act in ways they both regret. Behrani refuses to yield the house to Kathy in spite of her repeated attempts, and Lester, allied with Kathy, makes a grave mistake that would significantly change the lives of all three of them.

House of Sand and Fog, to its credit, depicts a balanced portrayal of either opposing side. Neither side is lionized or vilified. Both protagonists are presented sympathetically. The characters are depicted as real people, complete with all the virtues and vices one might expect of a common person under such circumstances.

This movie can be mistaken for a thriller. However, it is far too complex to allow such simple classifications. This movie draws from a vast ocean of human emotion. And in return, pays you with an unforgettable, enriching experience. This movie shows how a simple, reversible misunderstanding escalates to an irreversible disaster. I am sure this movie will leave an indelible mark on your mind just like it did to mine.

Dr. Strangelove: A Movie That’s Still As Relevant As Ever


This is a review of the movie ‘Dr. Strangelove’ by Nonny of Class XI (2018).

In today’s world, humankind has power like never before. Technological and scientific advancements have elevated human beings to the position of gods, providing them with the ability to destroy the entire planet by simply pushing a button. But what happens when these deadly weapons are placed in the hands of petty, vengeful fanatics who are no better than children?

That is the central theme of the movie ‘Dr Strangelove’. A parody of the Cold War, ‘Dr Strangelove’ portrays the famous rivalry between America and the Soviet Union as something utterly pointless, and at times even comical.

The movie starts off by introducing Jack Ripper, a general in the U.S. airforce who feels strong hatred and suspicion towards the Communists. Feeling that the U.S. government wasn’t taking a tough enough stance towards the Russians, he decides to take matters in his own hands. Things spiral out of control after he orders the bombers under his command to attack Russia.

The events that follow show how a small incident such as what Jack Ripper did can have immense, unintended consequences. As news of this incident reaches the ‘War Room’, the President of the United States panics since he is unable to figure out a way to recall the airplanes that are now heading towards Russia. Further alarm is caused by the news that any attack on Russia will automatically trigger the ‘doomsday machine’, a machine that would destroy all life on earth.

By demonstrating the huge consequences of such a trivial event, the movie implies that there was actually no substantial reason behind all the animosity between the two superpowers. ‘Dr Strangelove’ makes fun of the Cold War by depicting it as an event that wreaked a lot of unnecessary damage, while being completely absurd and meaningless. This applies not only to the Cold War, but also to the all the other battles waged between nations in the last century. In the end, they were all really just petty squabbles that, masked and glorified by values such as patriotism, were taken much more seriously than they should have been.

In more modern times, giving these squabbles more importance than they deserve could have dangerous consequences. Empowered by scientific advances, leaders of nations could now annihilate entire civilizations at will, and ‘Dr Strangelove’ shows that the leaders of the past were indeed at the brink of doing so for all sorts of trifling reasons.

We may think that our current leaders are more responsible than the ones of the past, but that’s not really so. The kind of god-like power that humankind now has should not exist with anyone, because the risk of it falling into the wrong hands is too great. If Kim Jong Unlost his temper on one fine day and decided to push that button, we are all as good as dead.

Likewise, the movie ‘Dr Strangelove’ ends with a scene that shows mushroom clouds erupting everywhere, portending the end of the world. The chain of events that followed Jack Ripper’s actions demonstrate the extent of the damage that can be wreaked by one deranged zealot wielding toys too powerful for him to handle. And when we really think about it, aren’t some of our current world leaders very much the same?

Animal Farm


This is a review of the book ‘Animal Farm’ by Sohom Mondal (Criminal) of Class VIII (2018).

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The story is set in the Manor farm where oppression has crossed all limits. The animals are forever starving. Meal without fight is a luxury. And above all, their cruel master is exploiting them mercilessly.

But there is an air of change in the farm, just like the time when ideas about equality were taking shape in early Europe. Enlightenment dawns in the animal minds after the meeting with an respected old boar, the Old Major, where he talks about his dream of a farm smoothly run by the animals themselves, where food is plentiful and all animals are equal. Just as Marx had once dreamt, years ago.

After a while when the animals’ frustration goes over the edge, Old Major’s words began to tantalize the animals. They drive their drunken master out of the farm, hoping never to see his face again.

Meanwhile the Manor farm, sorry, the Animal farm, is doing well under the guidance of the pigs. But this is anything but a fairy tale. It doesn’t end with the animals living-happily-ever-after.

Drunken with greed and ambition, a pig called Napoleon decides to hold the reins of power in his own hands. He forgets about the pledge of loyalty to the Animal farm. He forgets Old Majors warnings about animals adopting the vices of man. He forgets the glory of singing ‘Beasts of England’. All he wants is power, absolute power.

Power corrupts man. This has occurred multiple times in the past, in the Russian revolution, in the French revolution and in the endless dictatorships around the world. Yes, history repeats.

Napoleon spends his time haunted by suspicion. He is always looking for traitors in the shadows. Old Major would persuade the animals with his charisma, but Napoleon, on the other hand, uses his bloodthirsty army of state police. The lives of the animals are more miserable than ever. For his hunger of power many are butchered. And no one bothers, they are simply too busy surviving.

But does it mean that there can be no more revolutions? The animals can again unite in a common cause as they had done once, it wasn’t that long ago. But being fed the state’s propaganda, they fail to see the truth. Animal farm shows us the might of State surveillance, totalitarianism, and how a dictator can control his people, and more importantly their minds.

Only few animals – including Benjamin, the cynical donkey, and Clover, the mare – could see the truth. But what were two insignificant individuals against the might of state? If they dare question, then their voice can be silenced with ease, so they think the better of it.

In the end we see Benjamin and Clover standing motionless in a kind of uneasy bewilderment, unable to make up their mind on whether it is Napoleon they are looking at, or it is the great tyrant – man.

Talvar


This is a review of the movie ‘Talvar’ written by Parthib Chandra (Mule) of Class VIII (2017).

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The people screamed for justice. The media screamed for justice. The government screamed for justice, for that’s where the votes are. And justice is what was served, but the Indian version of it. And Indian justice is, simply put, injustice. Perhaps no event in the recent history has been a better example of this than the Aarushi double murder case, as portrayed by the movie.

We all know the story. We all read the screaming words ‘TALWARS ACQUITTED’ on the papers, the same papers which, some years back, screamed ‘TALWARS MURDER DAUGHTER IN HONOUR KILLING,’ the same papers which convinced the judge of the verdict before the trials began. But do we know the true story? Do we know to what extent the nation’s incompetence went?

A new CBI director determined to not glorify his predecessor, determined to save the face of his police chief friend who suggested the theory of the honour killing. A judge determined to sentence Aarushi’s parents before the trial begins. The media determined to sell scores of papers with juicy gossip rather than the truth. Households determined to gossip about how barbaric Aarushi’s parents were. The true murderer determined to spread rumours which might help convict the wrong people. What was one honest CBI investigator against all that? He was an insignificant grain of sand facing the tide.

Yes, huge population of patriotic people are going to be enraged at the words “Indian justice is injustice.” They will argue “But they did get acquitted, what about that?” Sad thing is that it was just pure luck that the case was heard by a sound judge. Such judges are not commonplace. They are the exceptions who prove the rule.

“She was reading ‘3 mistakes of my life.’ Hence, she must have made three mistakes for which her father became angry and killed her!” the police reasoned. Any sane person would have laughed at such logic, as I and my classmates did. But did the nation laugh? Did the judge laugh, who convicted the innocent?

Aarushi’s parents were lucky enough to be released after 5 years in prison, though their life is now forever tainted. But who knows how many countless such people have gone through the same fate, if not worse? This case was one that was brought into light, out of the millions of others in which the victims simply faded into oblivion. No, erupting in hue and cry over one case isn’t enough, correcting mistakes isn’t enough. Such mistakes must be prevented, killed from the roots. The rust from the sword of justice must be removed, the blindfolds put back, the balances balanced.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest


This is another of Nonny’s great reviews.

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The world we live in is dominated by rules and myths which have become so ubiquitous in society that most of us unquestioningly adhere to them. The few who are independent enough to see the absurdity of our norms and courageous enough to rebel against them are always crushed by the might of the system and turned into outcasts.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is an allegory set inside a mental institution. It is run by the stern and inflexible Nurse Ratched, who upholds the established order and maintains structure and routine. Under her, the asylum remains an oppressive environment where patients are forced to speak in group therapy sessions and given medication at fixed intervals.

Into this scenario comes McMurphy, a prison convict who has pleaded insanity so that he can be transferred to a mental institution. He attempts time and again to rally up support against Nurse Ratched among the patients, only to end up frustrated and thwarted each time. All the other inmates have either been tamed into submission by Ratched or are simply too dull-witted to comprehend McMurphy’s rebellion. In the beginning, however, McMurphy refuses to surrender himself to the system and all of Nurse Ratched’s attempts to subdue him only seems to make him more stubbornly defiant.

But, eventually, the system proves to be too big for an individual to fight and attempt to change, and after an encounter with Ratched where he tries to strangle her, he is given a shock treatment which paralyses him. Bedridden and comatose, he no longer can pose any threat to the establishment.

Ratched is the personification of the oppressive authority figures who control us, and McMurphy is a vanquished rebel. His defeat shows that however arbitrary, however wrong, however unfair the powerful are, they always win. Individuals who are sensible enough to see the absurdity of all the rules we have to follow and all the myths we believe in are presented with little choice. Either they have to fit in and take part in the absurdity, or they are crushed under the might of the entire system. No matter how capable or determined one is, you cannot fight the world. It is too big, and you are too small.

Does that mean no revolution can ever succeed? Maybe a failed attempt can give people hope and inspire them to follow in the same footsteps. McMurphy’s rebellion set an example for others to follow. In the last scene of the movie, we see the Chief, another inmate of the asylum, shattering a window and breaking free. His escape symbolises a small victory against the all-powerful authorities.

This movie compels us to ask ourselves whether we really are any more sane than the inmates in the asylum. After all, we readily believe in all the stories that are fed to us, however ridiculous or impossible. We never question the rules that we live by, and we can’t distinguish the myths that surround us from reality. Maybe the ones who don’t conform to the norm, the ones who don’t meet the expectations of society, the ones whom we label ‘insane’, are in reality saner than us.

The Assassination of Richard Nixon


This is a review of the movie called ‘The Assassination of Richard Nixon’ by Sir. Read the story of a man who feels so frustrated with the society that he sets out on a dangerous mission.

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The Assassination of Richard Nixon is a story of how Sam Bicke slowly becomes unhinged. Or is it, really?

In truth, isn’t it a story of how the norms of the society, the myths of the current world, exert enormous pressure on each one of us – ordering us to fit in, or be torn apart? Isn’t it a story of how powerful our social and political institutions have become – making us feel terribly small, like a ‘grain of sand’? Isn’t it a story of how alone we are in the modern world?

Sam Bicke is so lonely that his only companions are audiotapes – some that he listens to, some that he talks into. Devoid of real friends of who would understand him, he finds succour in pouring his hearts out in audiotapes addressed to his idol – music maestro Leonard Bernstein. To Sam Bicke, Bernstein represents not just a confidant, but an oasis of purity in a world full of hypocrisy and corruption. Because music, at its best, is always ‘pure and honest’. The real world can never approach the perfection of Mozart’s symphonies and Beethoven’s sonatas.

Most of us take the imperfection in our stride, and sometimes even add to it. We say things that we do not believe in. Sometimes we lie and cheat. We tell ourselves that those are necessary for our survival. To start a business if we have to pay a little bribe to a government official, who among us have the courage to fight the system? After all, we are too small, and they are too big.

When we stop fighting the system, we ‘fit in’. Most of us still feel the occasional surge of anger when we are forced to nod when a pompous boss dispenses his worthless advice to us in a self-important tone. We feel the occasional desire to strangle the government bureaucrat who ignores us, pretending we do not exist, while we wait outside his cubicle for getting an all-important file signed. But we do nothing. We know the cost of rebellion is too high. We nod, we comply, we flatter. We add to the imperfection of the world. We fit in.

Sam Bicke could not fit in. He was too sensitive to bear all the injustice of the world, but too ordinary to change it for the better. He raged against his boss, but he couldn’t set up on his own. He hated selling, but he did not realize that this is the age of shopping – when everybody has to be a salesman. As he raged against every imperfection of the world, the world rejected him. He was fired from his job, his loan application got rejected, and, in a final act of rejection which really pushed him over the edge – his wife divorced him.

As a character said in the famous movie The Lives of Others – ‘Hope dies last.’ But when hope dies, it takes our soul with it. We do not remain ourselves. Sam Bicke too, in his utterly hopeless state, could not retain his sanity. All his rage against the world found its target in Richard Nixon – the embodiment of everything Sam hated. For Sam, Nixon, being the president and most powerful person on the earth – was the biggest symbol of the evil system. During his life, Sam Bicke lost all his small battles against the system. In his final act, Sam Bicke wanted to win big.

But that was not to be. Instead of a heroic end he imagined, Sam’s life ended in a tragic bungle. Though he could not win the battle against the evil system, at last, through death, he could escape the world he could never adjust to.

Fifteen Million Merits


This is a review of another episode from ‘Black Mirror’ called ‘Fifteen Million Merits’ by Ankini Banerjee (nicknamed X by her friends) of  Class X (2017).  Read this to get a glimpse of the scary future.

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In the modern world, screens have become our best friends. We blindly trust them, we count on them to cheer us up when we are lonely, we can’t spend a single day without them. And slowly, without realising it, we are becoming dangerously dependent on them. Yet, in future there might come a time when we long to escape from the very same screens, but it will be too late to do so. That time, screens will be all around us and we will be forced to look at them, and we will find this equivalent to torture. In this episode of Black Mirror, we look at such a world.

Bing, our main character, is one of the millions of people who pedal on bikes for several hours a day in order to generate electricity. By doing so, they earn ‘merits’, which is equivalent to money. Everybody lives in box-like rooms where all four walls are screens. In these screens, people are always watching stupid comedy shows, porn, or a reality show called ‘Hot Shot’. All they look at is screens. Nobody gets to see anything real. Even food is grown in Petri dishes.

Bing falls for a girl, Abi, who he hears singing in a toilet. Determined to spend his merits on something real, he says he will gift her a ticket to Hot Shot. One of the best scenes of this episode is when Abi tells him to spend his millions in buying something for himself, he says, “It’s stuff, it’s confetti. You’ve got something real.” In the end, he ends up spending all his 15 million merits on the ticket.

Abi goes to Hot Shot to become a singer but, manipulated by the judges, she becomes a porn star. Watching her on the porn advertisements becomes a torture for Bing. He can’t even skip them because he doesn’t have enough merits to do so. If he closes his eyes the screen detects it and continuously tells him to ‘resume viewing’. This is a frightening scenario. It’s like when you are playing Temple Run on your smartphone and you don’t get to click that tiny cross at the corner of the ad because you don’t have enough coins. Bing’s situation is similar, but even scarier because you could have chosen not to look at your screen. He cannot.

Frustrated by how fake everything is, Bing decides to go to Hot Shot, where he will get to speak his mind in front of a huge crowd. He works day and night and earns back his 15 million in just a few months.

The greatest part of this episode is Bing’s speech in Hot Shot. He holds a shard of glass near his throat, which he threatens to slit if they don’t listen to what he has to say. All his emotions; his frustration, his anger, his exasperation is poured out in the speech. He talks about how fake everything is. People, like things, are processed. Their whole lives have become a lie. Even their goals, their dreams are fake. “The peak of our dreams is a new app for our Dopple, which doesn’t exist,” he says, “We buy shit that’s not even there.” People have become so engulfed in the fake system that they can’t even see how fake it is. “Show us something real and free and beautiful. You couldn’t. It’d break us.”

Bing’s speech was the only authentic performance among millions of meaningless ones. But one man against the entire system never succeeds. As he said, people had lost the ability to take in anything real. They failed to relate to anything that he had said. The judges just treated him as another of their “fake fodders”, a way for them to make money. The audience just cheered for him without understanding how real his emotions had been. Everybody treated his speech as just another “performance”. The only one who realised the falseness of the system and tried to protest against it was made into another “product”, augmented, packaged and sold until all his authenticity had been squeezed out.

 

An Entire History Of You


This is a review of  ‘An Entire History of You’ from a sci-fi TV series ‘Black Mirror’ by Nonny of Class X (2017). It gives us a disconcerting glimpse of the future world and the changes technology might bring into our lives.  

960 In today’s world, technology has become such an all-pervasive force that it knows more about us than we do ourselves. In the world of the future, it might start to play an even greater role. ‘The Entire History of You’, an episode in the TV series ‘Black Mirror’, shows such a future. In this world, everybody has a memory implant called a ‘grain’, a device that records everything they do, see, and hear.

The main character in this episode is Liam Foxwell, a well-to-do lawyer working in a corporate job. His life is a typical modern one- he worries about his next promotion, complains about his boss, and has the occasional quarrel with his wife, Fion. The episode opens with a scene at Liam’s office where he is getting an appraisal, and then proceeds to a dinner party with some of his friends. Liam isn’t particularly fond of one of the people he meets in the group, Jonas, an old friend of his wife.

Like the modern smartphone, the ‘grain’ is the most all-important piece of technology in this imaginary future. It is used for security in airports, for payment in cabs, and for monitoring health conditions. Just like we tend to forget our surroundings, our worlds consumed by our smartphones, we see the inhabitants of this future world ignoring the present and endlessly using their grains to replay memories from the past.

As innovations like these envelope the world, there is little choice that we have. It is not within our power to refuse to accept them. As individuals, life in a world that we can’t keep up with is near to impossible. One of the characters in this episode, Helen, did not have a grain. After an incident when her grain was stolen and sold, she chose not to get a new implant. In a world where the grain was used for almost everything- from playing redos of the past to personal safety- not having one made life much more difficult. In another scene of the episode, we see the police refusing to accept Helen as a witness in a case of physical assault because she could not show the re-do of the event. If we fail to keep pace with each of the innovations that slowly start to change the world, all of those changes will eventually render us obsolete.

As the episode goes on, Liam replays the scenes from the dinner party several times. Each viewing makes him more and more uneasy- the way his wife looked at Jonas at the dinner table, how she laughed at his jokes, the subtle ways in which her behaviour changed when Liam entered the room. Each further replay continues to haunt him, leading up to the final confrontation at the end of the episode.

‘The Entire History of You’ shows that however powerful human beings become, however much the world changes, human nature will not change. Our primordial instincts of insecurity and jealousy will continue to dictate our lives, in spite of living in times of unparalleled prosperity and power. In fact, as technology gives us power and makes information more accessible, it enables us to act on those primordial instincts rather than curbing them.

Technology might make our lives more convenient, making us richer and more powerful. But is that really worth it if we spend our lives haunted by doubt and suspicion, fuelled by all the knowledge and power that it can give us?

The Godfather


This review is written by Rhea Banerjee (Nonny) of Class IX (2016). She has watched this movie over 20 times, mainly because of her admiration for a character in the movie, Michael Corleone, the head of the Mafia family. So much so that for a while the goal in her life was to become a DON!

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The Godfather shows us the two ways of ruling, in the form of Vito Corleone and Michael Corleone, the heads of the most powerful Mafia family in the city of New York. The Godfather Part 1 shows the ageing patriarch pass over the reins of control to his son Michael. The Godfather Part 2 alternates between flashbacks from Vito’s young life and his rise to power, and Michael as he expands and tightens his hold on the empire.

In the first film, Vito Corleone is portrayed not as a gangstar, but as a reasonable man who values friendship and and loyalty over money and power. We see him refusing to deal with narcotics, saying drugs are a dirty business. We see him refusing to murder for money because he thinks it is unjust. We see him as a man with conscience and empathy.

Michael, on the other hand, starts out as a civilian who wants no part in the family business. He appears to detest his father for what he does and chooses instead to join the military. But, in the end, we see him becoming a far worse man than his father ever was. He lacks the self confidence that Vito had, and that makes him terrified of threats to him and his position. Vito would win people over by using persuasion instead of threat, ending any chance of disloyalty even before there was any. However, Michael lived in a state of paranoia, suspecting everyone, trusting no one, and always looking for traitors in the shadows. He cannot tolerate disloyalty, and ends up killing his brother Fredo, divorcing his wife Kay, and suspecting the closest person to a friend he ever had, Tom Hagen. He acquires unimaginable wealth and power, but becomes an empty shell, alienating everyone.

What makes The Godfather a great movie is that it not only a story, it also has many parallels in history. One of them are the Mughals. Akbar, greatly renowned for his magnanimity, had a close resemblance with Vito. As Michael said in the movie, ‘Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer’, both of them would forge alliances with potential rivals, winning the war without ever stepping on to the battlefield. But, Michael and the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb would make enemies out of everyone until they could trust nobody, somehow holding their empires together with sheer force of their personality. Akbar and Vito had both left behind empires that could be built on. Aurangzeb and Michael had expanded their empires, conquering new territories, but in doing so, stirred so much discontent that their position became untenable. When it was time for power to change hands, the pent-up discontent would surface and the empire would fall to pieces. When they passed away, their empires passed away with them.

This movie shows the transition of a man from an idealist who believed whatever his family did was wrong to a man who becomes insecure and ruthless, not hesitating to punish even the closest of friends and family. It shows the decline of an empire as the stack-up of deaths are piled together. The movie’s final scene shows Michael sitting alone, remembering the old times that were forever lost.

Match Point


We watch a lot of movies in school. But they always come at a price. We have write a review of the screened movie as homework! But is it such a pain? No. We don’t only hone our skills by writing but also get to read our friends’ reviews which sometimes even surpass the quality of reviews of Roger Ebert, one of the best movie critics in the world. This review is written by Tanushree Sow Mondal of Class VIII (2015).

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The man who said I would rather be lucky than good saw deeply into life.

In the opening scene of the movie Match Point we see a tennis ball brushing over the net, and then for a mere brief moment it is a matter of pure luck to which side it would fall. “It falls on the other side and you win. It doesn’t and you lose.” Chris, the main character’s own fate is determined by such a lucky toss.

Chris, a poor boy striving to make the ends meet, is a new tennis pro in the area. Not even days have gone by in his new job, when he attracts the daughter of a rich and successful businessman, Chloe. With her sweet behavior and a job offer in her dad’s company, she soon persuades Chris into marriage. But Chris’s own interests lie elsewhere, in another woman, Nola. Proceeding further into the movie, their affair which had began with a little flirting soon goes beyond the point of no return, when Nola is obsessed with their future together. She constantly harps on the matter that Chris should tell Chloe about his affair, giving threats every now and then that she herself might inform Chloe if he doesn’t. Chris has to choose between everything and nothing, between wealth, influence, reputation and lust. He is torn apart between desires to fulfill both the biological and the social need. But to satisfy either he has to forgo the other. Amid all these, Chris takes an undesired step. He finds the solution to his problems in the death of Nola. He tries to portray the whole incident as a burglary but in his attempt to wash his hands of the stolen goods in a river, a ring manages not to fall over the bridge. This was the scent that misled the police.

A major human tendency is to view ourselves as the world sees us. Within the initial few days of the murder, when the possibility of Chris’s arrest is on the air, he is overwhelmed with guilt and regret. But soon enough the whole thing is called off as a burglary and life is back to normal for Chris.

Fortune smiled at Chris and laughed at Nola.

Although this might not be a common way in which luck plays with most of us, but at the end of the day, how much of our lives are really within our control?

1984


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Rhea Banerjee (also known as Nonny) was the winner of the All-Rounder Trophy from Class VIII in 2015. She has exceptional capabilities in many areas and one of them is writing. This is one of the winning entries of the Essay writing contest written by her in Class VIII (2015).

 

 

 

 

1984‘Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two makes four.’

The book 1984 shows how the individual can be crushed by the might of the state, how the questioning voice can be silenced forever, how the ones who dare to rebel can be wiped off the face of the world. 1984 demonstrates this by telling the tale of a rebel named Winston, who refuses to submit to the all-powerful authorities in a country named Oceania, where every act is monitored and every traitor is punished. Oceania is a world dominated by telescreens and microphones, a world where privacy is the privilege of only the elite few.

Winston is accused of Thoughtcrime, a crime committed by those who think and speak about the inadequacies of the country, and effectively the Party, the ruling elite. Winston also stands guilty of falling in love. The Party rules that no citizen should be capable of any other love than love for Big Brother, the ultimate representation of the Party, the supreme leader. Nobody has ever seen Big Brother, because he is above everyone and everything.

Winston’s job is to rewrite history, to change the past so that it reflected current reality, to remove all references to people who have been made ‘unpersons’. The world that 1984 describes may seem a bit too extreme and unreal. But, perhaps it is a prediction of the world we might inhabit if power were left in the hands of a few. Man’s lust for power can compel them to go to any lengths to retain and increase it. Perhaps this story warns us about the stifling and oppressive world that can be created if those who want absolute power and are paranoid about rebellion are granted what they want.

The world is becoming more and more technology-driven, and the world that 1984 describes seems like one which is perfectly possible to create. Given the increasing power that states are acquiring, it seems a likely scenario. But, it also can be said that the common person is gaining more freedom and more rights, and most countries of the world are turning into democracies. Will the picture of the future be ‘a boot stamping on a human face- forever’, or will it be of an individual whose every right is enforced? It seems tough to say now, and we might be on the threshold of either.

 

Into The Wild


‘Into the Wild’ is a movie based on a true story. Here Christopher McCandless, disgruntled by the society, heads for the wild. Goody Goody was so inspired by this idea that for a while she always said, “all I want in my life is to become like Christopher McCandless”. 

into-the-wildThe road had always led west for him. “Thou shalt not return because the West is the best”. It was promising for a man who hated the society shaped by hypocrites, politicians, pricks. So “no longer to be poisoned by the society he fled” to experience, what he called, “Ultimate Freedom”.

Christopher McCandless was a book-reading loner in his own quiet world. His outlook of life was very different or maybe even far too elusive for some. There are scenes in the movie which depicts it well with numerous impactful lines.

Poor people want to be rich and rich people want to be richer. People always crave for various things. In the age of shopping the world is full of consumerists. There is a scene in the movie where Chris’s father wanted him to gift a new car and he said “I don’t need a new car. I don’t want a new car. These things, things and things. I just don’t want anything.”

We are too emotional and sometimes even possessive when it comes to somebody very close to us, somebody we love. Chris said to Ron, one among the handful of people he met in his journey, “You are wrong if you think that joy of life comes principally from human relationships.”

This sort of a man couldn’t stay and won’t stay here. In addition there was another story in Chris’s life. His father married his mother even after having a first wife. Life had not been peaceful for his parents which had a huge impact on Chris. He felt that his parents had cheated him out of the joy of childhood.

So Chris set out on his long nurtured adventure that would give meaning to ‘his definition of life’. He renamed himself as Alexander Supertramp.

Seldom was he halted by the irksome obligations which he intended to escape. One occasion was when he needed an approval to paddle down the river and it could possibly take 12 years to get one.

But he got there. He got to his dreamland, Alaska. He finally felt like a free man away from the civilization. He discovered his true self in the lap of nature.

Nature is beautiful but at the same time it can be harsh. Alaska was no exception. It showed no mercy on Chris. Very soon Chris found himself in a desperate situation.

Until the very last moment of his life he did not realize that “Happiness is only real when shared.” Chris who had little concern for human relationships felt a strong urge to share and therefore the need for a company.

What would have happened if he had survived? What if the river was not flooded and he could go back to his parents? Were they capable of putting themselves in his shoes? He died with a doubt in his mind. His asked “What if I were smiling and running into your arms, would you see then what I see now?”

House Of Sand And Fog


After watching a movie there is always a lot of discussions about the plot and the characters. But this time it was different. Those of us who watched the movie ‘House Of Sand And Fog’ sat without uttering a word, empathising with the characters of the movie. Later on some of us wrote a review on this movie. This is one of the reviews on this movie by Sreedutta Samanta of class VIII (2015). 

house-of-sand-and-fogAndre Dubus’s magnum opus “House of sand and fog” is a saga about life’s extreme merciless play being played upon three people- Kathy, Behrani and Lester each with their version to add. For Kathy, life was a reflection of her addictions and overflowing emotions. For Lester, his life was a reflection of his utter readiness to succumb to his temptations. For colonel Behrani, Life was nothing but a reflection of his hurt pride and his utmost trial to protect it from being hurt again which prevents him from giving up or surrendering no matter how difficult the situation is.

In this fabulous tale, Kathy’s house is the bone of contention between the two families. Behrani, a colonel from the Imperial Air Force of Iran, has to migrate to America when a revolution breaks out in Iran and his name is put on the death list. However, he does not surrender and bravely puts up the masquerade of a wealthy colonel while he actually works as a garbage worker to get his daughter married to a renowned Iranian family. Later when the bag of money dwindles to a purse, he buys a disputed property- Kathy’s house at a cheap rate only to sell it after getting a good buyer. On the other hand, Kathy as unfortunate as she is, gets evicted out of her own house on the accusation of owning a business tax. As a result, the lives of two people get irreversibly changed for forever.  Deputy sheriff Lester Burdon falls in love with Kathy on seeing her desperation as well as her beauty. He takes many hasty decisions to prove his true love. He leaves his family and children for the sole reason of his attraction and his affair. After this, he commits many other crimes which dismantle his life, for his lover’s sake. This story has a sad and a violent ending and I am sure it will touch your heart just as it has touched mine.

Court


This review was written by Goody Goody. A song from this movie (originally Marathi but translated in Bengali) which talked about the tyranny of governments, was sang in the Contest Week(2015) by the Class IX girls. We really appreciated the fact that the audience was so enthusiastic and demanded the Marathi version to be sung too.

court

A court is in session. A police is dozing off inside. Lawyers are pursuing potential clients outside. The judge refuses to hear a case of a woman whose offence is to wear a sleeveless kurti. All the procedures move very slowly. Cases get delayed by months and years with no intention to end.Quite unmistakably this is India, one of the heartland of poverty, corruption and stupidity where justice is a mere fantasy for it lies in the hands of our government.

For years the government has overlooked the needs of common people. Hypocrite politicians have done no more but filled their own pockets. Still many live in the awe of them, under the illusion of progress.

And now the very idea of democracy is threatened. Common people are even afraid to exercise their own rights. Time has come for the people to awaken.

Narayan Kamble, a Dalit activist and a folk singer tells us the same through his song when he is arrested with an irrational charge of murder where he has allegedly provoked a manhole-worker to commit suicide by his song. It is through his case the movie ‘Court’ introduces us with the other characters and along with them we get to see the rest of India.

Viney Vora, Kamble’s lawyer is an educated, open-minded and well-off man. On the other hand the public prosecutor, Nutan is a prejudiced woman, struggling to handle both her profession and responsibilities as a wife and a mother. The contrast in their backgrounds is presented through a series of day to day events.

Vora can afford to attend clubs, shop without restricted budget and even aid his poor client with money while Nutan cooks meal for her husband and children, goes to cheap hotels in weekends and can’t even imagine buying olive oil for cooking.

They are fighting each-other in court. Sitting in the judge’s chair is Justice Sadavarte, a pseudo-intellectual with strong moral principles.

The case proceeds monotonously with no thrilling arguments but the lawyers reading out some charges from a piece of paper. Yet it catches the attention of some people. They attack Vora because he had supposedly insulted an obscure tribe.

This movie represents India perfectly through the people, their mindset and its settings.

We don’t get to see the fate of Narayan Kamble in the movie. But it’s not difficult to picture him aging behind the bars while probably his case still goes on. An innocent man crushed beneath the might of the government. And who knows how many more like Narayan Kamble will be penalized?

Carlito’s Way


This movie review is written by Rhea Banerjee (Nonny) of Class VIII (2015). If you have read the Godfather review, you would know that Nonny has developed a great liking towards Michael Corleone, played by Al Pacino, a famous hollywood actor. This movie also features Al Pacino. But regardless of his presence, we can always rely on Nonny to write the best possible review.

carlitos-way

Carlito’s Way’ shows the life of an ex-convict who, just after getting out of prison, is determined not to go back to his old ways in the street. He dreams of living a quiet life in the Bahamas, where he could simply watch the Sun going down and the waves rolling in.

Carlito Brigante, a former big shot in the underworld, gets inevitably involved in the criminal world as the series of events progress. He intends to simply make enough money to be able to go out of the city, but the people he surrounds himself with- his lawyer, Kleinfield, Benny Blanco from the Bronx, Pachanga- drag him back to his old life.

We see Carlito as he is struggling to choose between friendship and his promise to himself to live a straight life. Even as he slowly realises that his lawyer, David Kleinfield, isn’t really a good choice for a friend he feels compelled to help him out. And so, Carlito takes yet another step back towards his old life when he decides to go along with Kleinfield while he tries to help a Mafia chief escape from prison.

Carlito’s Way is not the usual crime thriller, this movie also shows the way a man can be forced back into the world he tries his best to escape. In the first scene of the movie, Carlito is shown addressing the court about how he has learnt his lesson and how he no longer is the man who had gone to prison five years ago. That was probably the truth, but he couldn’t have foreseen the turn of events that would conspire to finally seal his fate.

From the beginning of the movie when Carlito gives a lengthy speech after his release, to the frantic chase in a railway station at the end, we hear the story from Carlito’s point of view, and we begin to understand the man beneath the preachy, self-righteous impression that he initially gives. We see that Carlito is actually a man of firm values, as he himself says later, ‘Never give up your friends, Dave, no matter what’. We see how Carlito is betrayed by these very values as he tries to only gather his money and go out into the Bahamas. In the end, even as he realises his mistakes, it becomes too late to change them, and he goes beyond the point of no return.