Saturday, August 28, 2021

Classrooms, notes, first love and Pratik Parmar’s Tuition

I watched a Gujarati web series and it reignited my love for nostalgia. Gujarat is a culturally rich land with distinct folk art and literary heritage, and of course, it is a gold mine for storytellers...

Talking about love, I just watched the Gujarati web series Tuition. I am not usually the one to be entranced by the romanticising of yesteryears, although I indulge in tastefully crafted works of nostalgia sometimes. Also, because works on nostalgia are essential as our procedural memory is slowly blurring our ability to recollect the distant past. Or perhaps, our routine doesn't allow us the space to sit back, recollect and smile at the follies of our younger selves.

Source: IMDB
The five-episode web series on teenage love stirred nostalgia in me; it brought back the days and nights of my adolescence. My life at my home in Vadodara, all the bitter-sweet moments, puberty that unravelled a whole lot of other complications leading to more funny awkward situations. One of the most fascinating things about living in my city is that you can reach anywhere at any time, ancient markets are flanked by historic monuments, sculptures, and a world-renowned university - my alma mater. 

Tuition by Pratik Parmar is a heart-warming trip down memory lane, a definitive visual treat for the 90s kids from Gujarat and mostly from northern India. Each frame, moment in the classroom, or the casual exchanges among friends made my heart leap with joy. Those who think that Gujarat doesn’t offer many picturesque meadows should watch it, as the crew has presented the majestic Girnar hills and the pristine mornings in Junagadh with sublime beauty. Each place and character beam with the contentment of a life resigned to simple tasks, conversations, and ruminations.

The lyricism and the simplicity of the story set in 1998 are heightened by break-taking photography and soul-stirring music. All my life I have only read about Girnar, Tuition has shown the fortitude and serenity of the hill in the most alluring way. I possess no desire to get into the prognostics of the plot or what transpires between the teenagers, instead, I offer a slice of life from my experiences as a school-tuition going kid in the early 2000s.


Warm dusty summer mornings, some years ago, were times when I woke up and got ready to take on the day. Back then, there were no smartphones to schedule meetings or hatch plans with friends, all we held close were our hopes. The hope of waking up on time, having a hot breakfast to the heart's content, or hopes of evading traffic cops since most of us were driving without a driver’s licence. It was a time much before metro rail and cab-hailing applications got onto our palms. What a profound joy it was to get ready and hop on bicycles to ride it with an infectious abandon. Those were the years of liberation.
Source: IMDB

A 20-min bicycle ride took us to our tuition centre, a place which was almost school with no uniforms as the only discerning character. Teachers were more at ease unlike their counterparts at school who took the individual onus of each wide-eyed pupil. If hurling chalks and dusters were a sport, I am confident that the teachers at my nondescript tuition centre had several Olympic gold medals in their closets. Also, classroom humiliation and caning were a part of the daily routine.

There were casual banters with students; some noisy ones often broke into a sleazy commentary in the middle of the sessions stirring the entire classroom. More or less all the teachers had a predictable disposition; they all made the same snide remarks at underprepared boys, girls getting late to class, or over anything that they deemed as an anomaly in their regimental routine.

Of course, all of us had a favourite teacher; it was a funny man who taught us accounts. I struggled with accounts, but his lectures with role-playing and humorous anecdotes made learning accounts sufferable. The steamy samosas and coca-cola at a fancy store below the tuition centre were a staple for most of us who had to sit for hours at a go. Another peculiar habit we enjoyed was waiting outside after the classes, sitting on our bicycles and scooters chit-chatting mostly poring over what went wrong in the test or girls.


I always disliked the coaching centres; it always felt like attending two different schools on the same day. How could another school make any difference if the first one never got me interested in academics?  However, most of my recollection of higher secondary school and tuition has been the experiential bliss, the comings, and the goings. I still recall the simple pleasure of moving around carefree on my bicycle and later on my father's old cranky Bajaj Super teal scooter. Like most adolescents, I too felt many things. Confusion and chaos prevailed yet there was so much harmony in being with friends, home-cooked meals, sibling rivalry, and of course the sweet pangs of unrequited love.

Watching Tuition brought back memories of my childhood; it transported me to being that shy yet occasionally boisterous youth. My days were spent balancing school, tuition, and home, the anxiety over exams, and if I could meet the expectations of my relatives, neighbours, and everyone else except my generous and loving parents.

Tuition is the screen adaption of a short story by famed writer Dev Keshwala. Interestingly, it is just the tip of the iceberg; there are thousands of aspiring writers, storytellers, and stories waiting to be told from Gujarat. The literary heritage of Gujarat is rich and it is heartening to see so many stories being told via OTT, I hope Gujarati plays, books, and poems continue to inspire more filmmakers.

Monday, November 11, 2019

On sublimity: Breaking Bad

There are several kinds of stories. Some are built around a central plot, while some revolve around the time and life of the central character.  There are some that have a metaphor or an idea at its core and characters and plot structure fall in place around it. 

Image via

Breaking Bad by Vince Gilligan is perfection beyond words could describe as it has got all three in one. There is a compelling plot, incredible character metamorphosis, and most importantly the series is replete with metaphors that evoke life, death and the dark times in between. 

I watched Breaking Bad in 2014 partly because of my fear of missing out on what’s trending and partly for my affinity towards stories that are more humane and offer boundless ways to explore the human experience.

The sublime series, that was aired perhaps a decade ago, continues to bewilder and charm even today. With a story that consists of polar opposites in its offering – from shades of drama, a murky murder mystery to a gangster noir film, fans worldwide were kept on tenterhooks throughout the five seasons. The pertinent question is what exactly is the thing that worked well for Breaking Bad garnering it international acclaim like no other series in its genre?


Walter White’s (Bryan Cranston) eventual fall into the trappings of the world of crime is arguably the best ever character development in any series. A meek teacher turning to the world of crime is perhaps an idea that invokes a grand tragedy. Very Shakespearean in its essence, White’s gradual descent is symbolic of the archetype of the good turning evil for personal motives. The diagnosis of terminal lung cancer in Walter White sets the narrative afloat. It is a moment of epiphany as well as the catharsis that propels the narrative further. 

With cancer, looms an uncertain future. Just like any family man would do, instinctual as it is, White too drifts into the abyss of darkness. Providing a secure future for his wife and kids is his immediate concern. Perhaps this is the moment where the conflict between the two takes place – morality and self-interest.  This, in my opinion, is what makes White relatable to many of the audience. It is a universal sentiment to fight for the interests of the family or community. 

Image via
However, just as the narrative is filled with several twists and turns, White’s character too is a complex one. For the viewer, white took to making batches of methamphetamine to horde money so that his family has a secure future.

The beauty of the series lies in the fact that it skilfully blurs White’s motives, to the point that the viewer is dubious as to what end is White’s dangerous pursuit.

White has been shown as a dejected man, who has lost billions from the sale of Grey Matter, a man whose life is haywire with no control over his job or his family. White is what any millennial would call a failure. This aspect of his life makes the viewer even root for his nefarious ways.


Breaking Bad has an assortment of characters. White’s accomplice who leads him to the world of drugs, Jesse Pinkman, opens a whole new dimension. Pinkman can be called the fulcrum of the narrative. From being the one to introduce White to the seemingly dark world of methamphetamine production and distribution, Pinkman’s trajectory makes him the moral arc of the story. 

Pinkman is aware of travails of the world and perhaps is too lazy to tread the path of honesty. His vile and decadent life has rightfully earned him the scorn of his family. What strikes about his character is the fact that he feels intensely, he is aware there is no window of hope in whatever he has chosen for himself. 
Image via

The uncanny camaraderie between White and Pinkman is the one that is united by tragedy and a shared sense of failure. There are many more characters in the series that reflect the human condition eloquently and with the brusqueness of the real world.


Breaking Bad is set in the quaint town Albuquerque of New Mexico. Deft cinematography has transformed the location into a character in itself. The hues and tones in every scene merge with the inner turmoil of the characters and their trepidations. Every shade in the palate speaks for the character and blends perfectly with the plot development. 

The music the various shots and angles, panoramic views, overhead shots, and the vast expansive landscapes add to the unsettling story as it unfolds. The story which is laden with motifs, themes, metaphors, and oblique symbolism is propelled further with its technical brilliance.

In all Breaking Bad is sublime. A brilliant story with its heart and mind at the right place!

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Court of Satire

It’s been long that I have been contemplating to watch the much acclaimed ‘Court’. With my personal experience with the daily grind of the court, I had a hint of what story was to unfold. I thought it to be a man’s adversity heightened by the apathy of the courts and endless and meaningless trips for hearings. The last film that moved me to splinters with its thought-provoking theme and unabashed realism was Masaan. Directed by a debutant Neeraj Ghaywan, Masaan captured the quintessential small town and the lives of its characters embroiled in a series of ill-fated events. I anticipated a similar drama laced with pricking realism.

The Court is light years from the larger-than-life escapist dramas and claims to create a genre in itself. It is not a Marathi, Hindi or English movie. The movie surpasses the boundaries set by language and the subtexts of socio-cultural differences of people. It is raw in its essence and greatly captures the fleeting experiences of the ordinary lives in the suburbs.
The hero here is the master craftsman himself Chaitanya Tamhane. Although not very well versed with the dynamics of film making (although I would love explore that prospect someday) but from the wide shots of a middle class kindergarten, an ordinary household  to a court room that is gradually emptied and fades into obscurity the film has succeeded in capturing the tangible reality on screen.
Narayan Kamble, a LokSahir (people’s poet), through his confrontational songs voice corporate invasion in the form of malls, aggrandized consumerism, exploitation of the working class and also the pitiable plight of that dejected part of the society that is left do manual scavenging.
The film mirrors the issues that are very much seen around today. There are hues of casteism, extremism, societal regression and the traces of the trifling xenophobia of a metropolitan towards outsiders. Although none of these are out there jarringly, the creativity lies in the perceptiveness of Tamhane who subtly juxtaposes these issues in an unobjectionable way.
This chronicle of a simple yet rebellious street artist is also a reflection of the stark reality that obliterates any hope for the righteous and those raising their voice against various social concerns. Be it disapproval from the courts or the general lack of interest by the masses, the activists’ fate here is very much condemned.
Comic by Manjul
 Kamble, the defiant poet has been framed over flimsy charges under section 306 (abetment of suicide) after a sewer worker dies while working in a sewer. What follows is a witch hunting of the activist. The absurdity of the functioning of the politico-legal system is exposed grandiosely.
The attempt of lynching or suppressing dissent is brusquely represented. The hyper-realistic depiction of the series of incidents, from court trials to the intricately woven regular lives of the defendant and the public prosecutor is remarkable
Curiosity had me do a Google search on 'ChaitanyaTamhane', he turned out to a 28-year-guy from Mumbai. Interestingly he began writing the script for court at the age of 24. This is evidently a genius at work. Honestly, I feel the youth have tremendous energy, intellect and yes boundless imagination.  The novel script and the movie making here puts a lot of ‘instant’ social causes at shame. A group of young people decide to make a court room drama, their efforts sum upto a much more profound and thought provoking cinema. It is an effort that is self-effacing yet hard hitting on many grounds. This movie leaves you thinking for hours. After a week of binge watching Pedro Almodóvar and Majid Majidi, the universality of the ‘Court’ much like the European and Iranian films is amazing.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Nebraska : An ode to old age

"Just watched Nebraska, one of the finest films to have released this year. Again, I am awfully thankful to my insatiable hunger for good cinema. Well, this is the best thing that happened after the refreshingly melancholic account of a downtrodden folk singer – Inside IlewynDavis by Coen Brothers. Films dealing with real people and circumstances always tend to leave you dumbfounded with severe existential questions. Right from hearing about Nebraska on the television, to reading about it on IMDB, I had a feeling that this is something that I would feel for a really long time."

Life is all about chasing dreams that may or may not be accomplished; the joy lies in embarking on the journey. We all love to dwell on our temporal whims and fancies to get away with the existential issues that worry us at every turn of our lives. Loving and being loved is what life is all about. Doing well for others knows no limit. Nebraska, beautifully scores for depicting the unconditional and purely detached notion of love. Detachment in modern day seems divine, while the world is rushing towards material prosperity; we are left to do little with love that is unattached. Every action is propelled by self love, Nebraska is a subtle reminder of love that is detached, and beyond superficial pangs of showering love for the sake of own good.
The movie revolves around a septuagenarian’s pursuit of prize money of a million dollars. Old age as it is always looked upon as degenerative and vile is one of the main motifs in the film. The youth buzzes with vitality and vigour, with all kinds of aspirations, frolic and fun; however it seldom touches upon some grave yet essential questions of life i.e. life, old age, and death. Old age is a phase, which none can escape, but none of our chat room conversations, and yapping would acknowledge the inevitability of it.

“Knock it off! We all are going to get old”
Ageing can be fun too

I am not up to too much on what we do when we get old, but more or less on reworking our ideas about old age. In times when there are cases of elder abuse reported world over, millions of elders die due to insufficient medications and while several elders are suffering from depression and neglect by kin, there is certainly a dearth of dialogue between the young and the old.  This is no academic dialogue, but rather a much more humane, mankind to mankind acknowledgement of solidarity regardless of age. There is certainly a need to think about what we do for them, and in we fail to do for them as our successors. Parental love is wonderful, devoted, and passionate, today amidst the unsettling chaos of materialistic pursuits, how often do we stop and think about our own ability to love back our elders the way they loved us. Films like Nebraska evoke all those guilty feelings that eventually seem much needed to retain harmony alive amidst this disarrayed web of self-interests that confound the feelings of love and detachment.
No welfare talks, but on a serious note, Nebraska is a movie that needs to be felt. The film is brimming with the idea of detached love - a son willing to turn all the odds to fulfil his ageing father’s wish, even though being resolutely aware of its futility.

The Movie

Bruce Dern as Woody Grant
In the first scene, we see Woody Grant, a tall lanky old man, around 75 years of age; trail obstinately alone on a highway. He walks with a haughty gait; his awkward disposition appears funny. On being stopped by a patrolling officer, he casually tells them the reason they find him walk relentlessly without worrying about the cold, is that he is on his way to Lincoln to fetch his prize money. A couple of minutes later as the opening credits end, enters the son David Grant – a thin handsomely pale man - himself broke after the certain end of a confused relation. He picks up the father from the police station, afterwards it’s a journey filled with a colourful palette of emotions. David goes out of his way to put an end to his father’s flight of delusion, by actually taking him to Lincoln.

A still from Nebraska
The movie spells magic in its monochrome frames. To an extent the extravagant use of a monochrome frame for the film works in the favour of its underlying theme – the decrepitude of life as it ages. It in a way deconstructs popular notions of old age. Life is what we make of it, while most of our future plans include a rewarding career of our choice; earning millions; making merry; and plans of eventual resignation to nothing i.e. a life in the comfort of welfare schemes and medications, precisely a life wheezed out of aspirations. Woody is a man who spent a lifetime serving others, busying himself with routines of life for years, he probably missed on a lot many things like; securing the future of his children, and wife; and more irrefutably his own will to make his life the way he wanted it to be. Men and women in their old are quite convinced of their doleful state, which inadvertently leads them to a state of nothingness, where they are gripped in mundane chores till they die, however, Woody’s character in Nebraska seems to defy all these social norms, his perseverance is quite motivating, especially for people who think they gave up trying at a very early stage in life.
June Squib as Kate Grant

Woody is done with his life; his apparent end is nearing, less time, some more self-commitments to be fulfilled. Even though certain of the apparent doom, all his conscious efforts are directed to the pursuit of a prize money – a million dollar. The million dollar sweepstake here is conceivably a metaphor for an unfulfilled longing. His old frail frame is degenerating, and this does not hinder his significant personality, with a heart of a prudish kid. His measured words and obscure humour, and brash assertiveness add to the mirth in the narrative. The film sways between sardonic humour, and significant moments, where the viewer is compelled into introspection. The stark contrast between the idealist Woody and his pragmatic wife leads us to interludes in the narrative that are pleasantly humorous. JuneSquib's part as Kate Grant, the wife, a woman who is illustrated as a practical counterpart to the whimsical protagonist, occasionally dwells on fancies of her own kind. Needless to say the wife too is a character that is incandescent with confidence. Kate Grant is hysterically funny. She comes across as a brash women, who is robust about her past, and do not hesitate to be loud and reproachful. She has one of the most important scenes, where a completely humane side of her personality is revealed to the viewer.

Will Forte as David Grant
Beyond all the beauty of the narrative and the crisp finesse of the monochrome frames (breathtaking photography), Nebraska is a father-son movie. David, the son, notwithstanding his personal loss (the recent break up), is the pacifier between Woody and his ever antagonizing wife. David is the sweet reassurance that there is hope in every faltering bond, be it due to ageing, or physical and emotional discord. His tolerance of Woody’s delusion seems to grow from his everlasting unconditional love for his father. Acceptance of his own inadequacies and the inconclusive fate of his father’s quest make David the real good-natured man. David constantly assures that it is perfectly harmless to put aside work, life, and chores, for the happiness of your loved ones, regardless of what they may or may have not done for us. Nebraska directed by Alexander Payne is a humanist film the deals with real people; all the characters are presented in their natural impervious self.

Nebraska is a life journey, which compelled me to write my own thoughts upon watching this timeless marvel. I duly hope that it touches millions, and reaps awards and acclaim in galore, as personally I feel films celebrating life - with all its assiduous attempts at making it worth living, ought to be treasured.

Friday, August 16, 2013


I lost it to the wobbly winds, 
And scathing rains,
Moments of silent restraint
Fly-by-night sorrow, 
Forlorn times of uncertainty,
Despondent strolls in the lobby
Staring at the roof – mute with an air of whispering,
Waiting for the emissary of light,
Talking to the indifferent placidity of the walls,
Whilst waiting for the apostle of grace

Glad I found it now!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Midnight's Children

As I turn to the last page of Midnight's Children, am aroused by a certain pathos that the journey of Saleem Sinai, which held me on tenterhooks, is finally over!

As Rushdie’s Midnight's Children plays around the foreboding nature of destiny, similarly it was in my destiny to read this book at the turn of my 24th year. Somewhere in 2008, I was gifted a marvel called “Midnights Children”, little did the person know that I might be reading it exactly after four years.

Midnight's Children, tells the tale of Saleem Sinai, one of the twin born on the midnight of 15th august 1947, the other being a cataclysmic nation gripped by a plague of conflicts. It skilfully critiques the infant nations (India, Pakistan and Bangladesh) in the teething phase of finding its sovereignty.

A panoramic narrative, with lots of chutney, love, conviction, denial, nose and knees, sorcery, ghosts, innuendos on the exploits of the government, language riots, gods, snake charmers, and curious characters.

The language is complicated, and the multiplicity of ideas certainly makes it more difficult to explain the book to others, there is something for every reader. This allegorical narrative is further embellished by lush imagery.

A book that will never cease!

Saturday, May 18, 2013


Woke up with an overwhelming melancholia;
Soaked in an endangering thought,
Of losing my sense of being,
Tough choices are drowning the self,
A state of helplessness;
With all relations going awry
Today seems to be in a quandary;
Quite oft, I feel the need to wake up no more,
With piles of blank sheets; to be filled with wails
Cry Cry Cry
And fill my sockets with delirium..

Classrooms, notes, first love and Pratik Parmar’s Tuition

I watched a Gujarati web series and it  reignited  my love for nostalgia. Gujarat is a culturally rich land with distinct folk art and liter...