Gold

Gold

I am in the middle of reading Shashi Tharoor’s An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India. If you have been living under a rock like I was, then you may not have heard about his Oxford debate where he smashed his contemporaries on why Britain should do reparations to India.

At this time, I chanced on the movie Gold in Amazon Prime. What perfect timing! A movie about India’s first Olympic gold medal – as a free country. The movie stars Akshay Kumar as a sports manager of the British India National Hockey team, and their ability to keep winning the Olympic gold for British India. History buffs and hockey buffs (preferably both) would be quick to point out that during that time the team was led by the Wizard of Hockey, Dhyan Chand.

For the sake of preserving identities of the negative roles, the names have been changed, and Dhyan Chand is portrayed by Kunal Kapoor as the legendary captain Pritam. If you do not know who is Dhyan Chand, please stop reading and head on to the wiki link. India was well known in the history of hockey largely due to this chap. We owned the international circuit from 1928 (pre-independence) up till as late as 1980. Pretty much the time cricket took over as the national craze and the national sport lost its crowds. Ironically, in 2014 when Dhyan Chand’s name was being considered for Bharat Ratna (the highest civilian award in India), it was never nominated and the award winner was none other than apna Sachin!

But I digress, this is about the movie and not a diatribe about hockey losing out to cricket!

The movie is about getting India’s first Olympic gold, and how the main character in the story (a Bengali team manager played by Akshay Kumar) helps the team get its gold. This under the backdrop of the partition and post-independence struggles that the new country faces make for a riveting story.

Bollywood has oft taken an anti-Pakistan stance in the past, and it’s very easy to take this stance. However, you should see how this movie has spun the entire India-Pakistan tale. It’s heart-rending and one might wonder … a magnificent what-if … our national leaders back then were brave and foolhardy to take such a decision then. What stops from doing something equally foolish now?

History tells us the outcome of this story … India dominated the hockey scene for a long time. However, the story also talks about the role of administration in ensuring that the sport has enough backing. In the chaos of IPL and slogans like fan banna padega … I ask you this … what about our national sport? I wish this movie had done much better on the box office, it deserves to be seen, not only for the acting – but also for the narrative.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

As a child, I had seen Blade Runner … in fact that was when I first came across the phrase Android. Yes, back then android did not mean an operating system for a smart phone.

The title of this blog post is a book by Phillip Dick, this book was adapted as the story behind Blade Runner. The movie on its own was also a fantastic experience, but if you read the book, and then watched the movie, its even better.

Blade Runner Then

blade-runner
Blade Runner the Original

The original Blade Runner tells you pretty much a story adapted from the book. A world where cybernetic human androids are used to do the tough work, and these android somehow not only find sentience, but also free will.

The story itself is about one such android hunter, or a Blade Runner, and how he starts seeing the point of view of the androids.

You have to realize that the time when this movie was shot, a lot of the effects that were shown on screen were difficult to pull off. Yet, here they are. The casting and the characters were spot on, with Harrison Ford, Sean Young and Rutger Hauer making their mark on screen.

Blade Runner Now

blade-runner-2049
Blade Runner 2049 – The Sequel

Blade Runner 2049, is a different story. It picks up from where the previous story left. It does star Harrison Ford, and to explain the age, it does cast him as an aged and retired Blade Runner.

Incidentally, this happens to be the third of Harrison Ford’s characters that has come back and has finally been put to rest (Indiana Jones passes the mantle to his son Le Bouf, Hans Solo is killed by his son, and Deckard finally gets to …). I won’t talk about the details, but the sequel is a good attempt to re-kindle the story. It pays homages to the previous flick in the right dosage, ditto to Ford, and yet … it tells a different story.

A story that makes you wonder. A story that sometimes you want to read as a book.

All the stories have a uniform theme … and all of them raise the question … what is life, and is a sentient being really alive? What do they think … and is an Artificial intelligence still a cognitive being.

Constantinopolis

Constantinopolis
Constantinopolis

My interest in Historical titles was piqued by books such as Alexander, Mahabharata, Ramayana and Camelot. However, when I saw Constantinopolis by James D. Shipman, I knew I had to read through this book.

Settled between Europe and Turkey, Istanbul (the erstwhile Constantinople) is right between the crusaders of Europe and the Ottoman army. The tale of Constantinople and its eventual fall at the hands of the Ottoman empire makes for an interesting story.

The Prelude to Constantinopolis

The author does a good job of explaining the history behind the fall of Constantinople. The reason behind Mehmet’s (the then Ottoman emperor) hunger for taking on Constantinople. The reason behind why the Vatican sent such a meagre force to help out the besieged city. The explanation of King Constantinople and the daily frustrations he faced in holding the Ottoman empire at bay.

The Siege

People know of the Trojan War because of the horse, the malware and the movie. However, this tale bellies the same upheavals (if not more), the entire siege had both the sides teetering on the brink of destruction and coming back up to save the day to fight again.king

Sieges take time and well defended cities take months to fall. Likewise even this city which had some of the most formidable defenses took 6 months to finally fall in the hands of the Ottoman Turks. It’s not as if the Ottoman war machine was running in perfect synchronization.

They had their own set of problems, and the politicking within the large empire was subtle and this victory ensured that Mehmet become the all powerful emperor that he was destined to be, surpassing the feats of his father who was loved (and feared) by all his people.

Not just a Story, but History

All in all, the book is not just a tale, but also tells us the truth behind the events that led to the great city’s fall, and the subsequent rise in the Ottoman empire’s impact on Eurasian trade. If you love historical tales, do not forget to pick up this book!

The Mahabharata Quest: The Alexander Secret

The Mahabharata Quest
The Mahabharata Quest

Last month, I read 6 books – thanks to the Kindle Unlimited library I had subscribed to. Ample food for thought for some book reviews. I would have loved to go through some classic sci-fi books, however, I chanced upon some historical and mythology books, one of them being The Mahabharata Quest.

Since I had already read through a series of books on Alexander, and was thoroughly piqued to see how Mahabharata is related to Alexander.

Turns out, it wasn’t! Read on to know more :)

 

The Mahabharata Quest

The Mahabharata Quest is a previous hit book by the same author, and it involves the same characters in another sequel.

The great thing about this book is how the author has interwoven the past and the present into one coherent novel. The book is about Alexander’s declaration of being a god (son of Zeus-AmmonRa), and how his prowess in battle could be attributed by scientific reasons.

I will not divulge into much details here, suffice to say that I started reading this book to see how Alexander is related to Mahabharata. Turns out the plot characters were connecting the two books. The good part about the book is that the author has done an excellent job of keeping a fast narrative and has the readers interested through the book till the end.

Yes, there are parts where the scenes seem to Bollywood like, but that’s entertainment for you. No, I am not a grammar nazi and I won’t complain about the bad English. If I can read C’Bag, then I might as well pay homage to the rest of the Indian authors.

Give this book a read, you might just enjoy it! Please keep in mind to not nitpick about mythology and history being intermingled like this, the narrative style is fast and something that I thoroughly enjoyed.

 

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

For the past couple of years I was waiting to see how Peter Jackson treated The Hobbit. His Lord of the Rings trilogy was a treat to watch, and although many plots of the book were left out, the trilogy remains one of my favorite.

The Hobbit on the other hand is much smaller, and uses the lore already built around Middle Earth. This was why, watching the movie was an entirely new experience for me. Take the Game of Thrones series, where the episodes match verbatim scenes in the books … the Hobbit’s treatment adds an interesting angle to the way Peter Jackson has unfolded the story for all of us.

Warning: If you have not watched the movie yet, stop reading, this is a SPOILER alert. I generally do not reveal plots, however I make an exception in this case … there are multiple aspects within the movie which I wanted to rant and rave about :-)

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