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Runaway Jury & US Gun Culture

The dozens of shootings that have taken place in last few years, and the number of shootings that take place ever-so-often, begs the question “Do we need a gun rights?”. The latest shootings that took place in a place of worship, a Gurudwara in Wisconsin, and before that in a movie hall in Colorado, is a tragedy of huge proportions. But the failure to act, on the part of the Govt, speaks of a deeper sickness at the willingness to neglect and sideline it in the name of preserving gun rights.

How does a 24 year old PhD student legally buy an assault rifle, a 12 gauge shot gun and two pistols? What justification is there for a young man with no military or police academy training to access weapons whose only purpose is to fight in war? And inspite of such incidents, no one is willing to talk about gun control.

This movie, ‘Runaway Jury’ based on John Grisham’s work, addresses the issue of the gun lobbyists and how easy availability of firearms is making life altering changes to the society. A depressed and psychologically traumatized person with a gun in his hand can take away so many innocent lives. And along with those lives goes the peace and happiness of the families of the victims. How can the victims’ families ever be compensated?

The movie talks of one such shoot-out, but more importantly it was about how a jury can be manipulated to get the desired verdict, for or against. The movie begins with a failed stock trader of a brokerage firm who shows up at his workplace and suddenly opens fire at his colleagues.  The shooting leaves quite a few people dead and others injured. Celeste, the widow of Jacob Wood who died in the shooting, is one such victim; and she takes the Dicksburg Firearms to court on charges of gross negligence. Her attorney Wendell, played by Dustin Hoffman, is fighting for gun control while the defence attorney Durwood is being helped by jury consultant Fitch, played by Gene Hackman. Fitch tries his best to subvert the process so the jury can give a verdict in favor of Dicksburg.

Among the jury memebers is Nicholas[John Cusack], a man who works at an electronics store. His girlfriend Marlee [Rachel Weisz] manipulates things outside the court-room, while Nicholas plays his cards inside the court-room as part of the jury. They both collude to fight Fitch and bring him to his knees while Wendell guides them as the defence lawyer. Both Nicholas & Marlee have a hidden agenda in rigging the jury verdict and that is revealed towards the end of the movie. The wonderful thing is that, even after the movie gets over after a whole lot of action and thrill, the message is not lost; it stays with you.

All the actors did well in the movie, but Gene Hackman as the desperate jury consultant who wanted the jury to be on his side, stood out. His aggression and the recklessness of going to any length, even if it meant wiring 15 million dollars, totally justified the character sketch that Grisham had crafted out. Dustin Hoffman played the helpless lawyer pretty well. Cusack and Weisz went about their work nicely, but nothing extraordinary.

But I must say one thing here, the book was so different from the movie. Actually its the other way round, the movie was so different from the book. While the book ‘Runaway Jury’ concentrated on anti-tobacco brigade, the movie was against the gun culture. The change of theme was probably keeping in mind the prevelant gun rights issue, and it added more drama to the movie.

The number of homicide cases are staggering, and 52% of the suicides in US are executed using a gun. If a student is depressed, he takes his parents’ gun to school and starts firing randomly, if a teenager has been bullied then he picks up a gun to silence the aggressors, sometimes a kid just misfires while toying around with a gun. Gun is the cause of many major incidents and minor accidents.

Its amazing how so many of Grisham’s novels were actually about fighting the system, the corporates and plugging the loopholes in the legal system which were being exploited and how it went against the welfare of the common man.

His indictment of the system and the veiled attack on the flaws of the criminal justice and litigation process was very well highlighted in his works. Grisham continues to write, but off-late his works haven’t made it onscreen. Nevertheless, they are wonderful to read.

This post was also published on MadAboutMoviez

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Posted by on August 10, 2012 in books, hollywood, movies

 

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The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time

Its never easy writing for kids. In fact, its more difficult to write as a kid than as an adult. But Mark Haddon has done both the things splendidly.

He has not only written as Christopher, but has also been able to dive deep into the psyche of a child and come up with unthinkable thoughts. How kids form mind maps so as not to forget people and places and how kids have limited amount of understanding (call it ‘data processing’) and when there is an overflow of information it gets nauseating (call it ‘system hang’). These are some of the things that is very well explained.

You can relate to the child instantly, as he starts writing down a book about how his
neighbour’s dog, Wellington, was found dead. Christopher loved the dog and he takes it upon himself to find out who killed it. Not for a single second does he think that the dog could have died accidently. And that’s because his thinking faculties provides the reasoning that it had to be a murder.

Haddon’s child-like approach towards many everyday things, like policemen, overcrowded places, people being too nice all of a sudden, are exceptional. Christopher’s fascination towards science and maths is very well justified by his knowledge of the subject and that he sits for A-level exams. So, nothing in the book is mentioned for the heck of it. Every mean has its end, and its not like the end justifies the means.

As we go along with Christopehr’s adventure of finding the killer of the dog, we soon realise that the dog is just a tool to take us through the various facets of Christopehr’s lonely childhood. It no longer remains about the dog, but his inner helpless self that worries the readers. When Christopher gets chatting with Mrs.Alexander or when he walks around the gardens of Mrs.Shear, we realise his innocence. But his innocence is not his undoing, its his inquisitiveness that keeps you interested.

Christopher’s running away from home, for a minute took me back to ‘Catcher In The Rye’. But it does not follow that path, thankfully. Unlike CITR, where the protagonist was lost and was out there searching for something he could identify with, Christopher’s struggle is more of a child who wants to be happy, but not without his grades and his parents.

The book is an extraordinary in more ways than one. It tells how and why kids are afraid to approach strangers or how they could consider their own parents to be a threat to their existence. It touches upon topics of life and death, marriage and separation, studies and playfulness; and despite all this the book doesn’t get childish for a single moment.

It had been really long since I read a book, so I did think that it would take me more than couple of sittings to finish the book. But clearly, I was wrong. I read the entire book in a single sitting of 3 hours. Its a book that’s not to be missed. And please don’t read it as a children’s fiction, read it with some seriousness because there is a lot of learning for parents in it too. As I earlier said, its about a child, written like a child but its not childish!

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2012 in books, literature

 

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Illusions : The Adventures Of A Reluctant Messiah

I have just finished reading a book called Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach. This is not the first Richard Bach book I have read. Earlier I had enjoyed his Jonathan Livingston Seagull which was about breaking away from conventions, taking the path less trodden and achieving the impossible.

This book Illusions is about enlightenment, about search for a master who can tell us the real meaning of life. The book is slightly slow paced and the story takes time to unfold, but it keeps you interested. The book has two main characters, Donald Shimoda and Richard, both pilots who entertain people by taking them on joyous flights. Donald Shimoda can be considered as your present-day Buddha ….. who walks the earth amongst us …. is an enlightened soul, while Richard is a lesser human who chances upon Shimoda. Shimoda takes to flying a plane and performing miracles in the air because he believes that people are more interested in “illusions” of life, rather than understanding the deeper meaning and the message behind them. Both these characters get talking, and the true master Shimoda, hands Richard a Handbook Of A Messiah. This handbook is filled with words of wisdom[wow]. That’s what I kept saying all through the book ‘wow’…

There are lots of people who may not get a chance to read the book, or may not be interested in reading the book. For their benefit, I am listing some of the quotable quotes:

  • Don’t be dismayed at good-byes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again.
  • Every person, all the events of your life are there because you have drawn them there. What you choose to do with them is up to you.
  • Your conscience is the measure of the honesty of your selfishness. Listen to it carefully.
  • You’re never given a wish without also being given the power to make it come true.
  • Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they’re yours.
  • There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands.
  • Your friends will know you better in the first minute you meet than your aquintance will know in a thousand years.
  • Your only obligation in any lifetime is to be true to yourself.

The best quote of the book is: Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished. If you are alive it isn’t. This quote also appears on the back cover of the book.

But my favourite is: What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2010 in books, literature

 

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Ankhiyon Ke Jharokhon Se : ‘Love Story’ By Erich Segal

Its been exactly 40 years and 40 days since ‘Love Story’ was first published. The publication of this novel was more of an afterthought than a piece of original literary work. The movie ‘Love Story’ whose screenplay was written by Erich Segal, was later adapted it into a novel which would serve as a pre-cursor to the movie and help in promoting the film. Hence, the novel came out on 14th Feb, 1970 while the movie released later, in December of the same year.

The book went on to become a best-seller and the movie too was a huge hit, and some lines from the movie have achieved so much popularity that they are oft repeated in quotes and romantic write-ups, one of them being ‘Love means never having to say sorry’. Although Erich Segal went on to write quite a few novels like ‘Oliver’s Story’ [which was a sequel to ‘Love Story’], ‘Class’ and ‘Doctors’ ; but none of them could match upto the success and fame of ‘Love Story’. This is a book for keeps, the romance is so beautifully portrayed and with so much innocence and honesty.

As most of us have read the book or know the story, I shall not delve much into it. I would just like to pay a small tribute to writer, Erich Segal, who passed away earlier this year, on 17th Jan. It was a huge loss to the literary world. And people who have been affected by the book, directly or indirectly, must have sent a small wish up there; may his soul rest in peace.

Coming back to the post, when Rajshri Films decided to adapt the book into movie, Ankhiyon Ke Jharokhon Se was born. Keeping the tradition of family entertainers, this movie too matched the innocence and honest depiction of love. Sachin and Ranjeeta in lead roles excelled. And so did Madan Puri in a small cameo as Arun’s dad. But the movie truly belonged to Sachin and Ravindra Jain; Sachin for his mature performance and Ravindra Jain for his wonderful music and lyrics.

With the backdrop of a college, the movie starts with a tiff/competition between Arun and Lily. This went on to become a formula for a whole lot of movies, where the guy-gal are up in arms against each other in first half hour and then coyly in love soon after they get to know each other well. Even to this day, movies have this formulaic approach.

Anyways, Arun is an extrovert guy with playful nature, and he is smart and intelligent. He happens to be rich and that also brings in a bit of arrogance. While Lily is a girl from a modest family, and they live with limited resources. When Lily tops the class, it hurts Arun’s ego as he was the previous topper and now stands second in class; and this ego leads to the boy-gang ragging Lily with reference to her Christian background and lack of knowledge in Hindi literature.

Arun pushes her into a contest of sorts, in Hindi; that’s when Lily matches wits with him in a doha duel where she chants dohas of Kabir and Rahim. The war of words, or should I say dohas is perfectly pitched where Lily makes Arun realise that arrogance is not a good quality and Arun ends the contest by saying that she should accept his friendship in all humility.

But this is just the beginning of the love story. Everything runs smoothly until the couple decide to marry. Arun informs his rich dad about his love interest, which has to now surmount cultural and religious differences. When Madan Puri visits Lily’s house, I was scared it would be a repeat of the ‘Bobby’ scene of Pran embarrassing Premnath by talking of his riches, social status and cultural barriers. But this movie being a Rajshri Films, no such drama happens.

This is one of the most crucial and differentiating turning point in the novel ‘Love Story’. While In the novel, Oliver’s dad does not approve of the marriage ; Arun’s dad  is more than happy to go with his son’s choice. This juncture also marks the difference between the book and the movie. In the book, Oliver’s dad disowns him. Oliver and Jennifer get married and settle down. But their days of hardship have just begun. When they decide to start a family and are unable to, they visit a doc who diagnoses Jennifer’s condition.

But in the movie, when all things are running smoothly Lily suddenly takes to bed. She had fallen ill before too, but no one knew the severity of her suffering. She is finally diagnosed of blood cancer and she has very less time left. This concept was later picked up in many a movie, with variations in screenplay. Most memorable being Hrishi da’s Mili and Mani Ratnam’s Gitanjali. And Erich Segal should be credited with this sensitive love progression in which one of the partners is terminally ill. The true test of love is when we can accept someone for who they are and stay with them despite their inadequacies; take them ‘in illness and in health’; and be with them till the end of their lives. The movie epitomises the sacrificial nature of love and shows what selfless love is all about.

Arun’s dad is very supportive of him, but Lily does not wish Arun to go through the trauma when she learns of her own illness. This is where the movie was a welcome change from the novel. In the novel, Oliver and Jennifer are strapped for cash and so he requests financial assisstance from his dad for her treatment; he still does not mention to his dad about her illness.

How Arun and Oliver deal with this situation forms rest of the story. How they unselfishly decide to show happy and fulfilling days to their loved-ones, despite knowing their condition and how they cope-up with life is not just romantic but tear-jerkingly sweet.

While the book explores the heartlessness of a person, Oliver’s dad; it also shows to what extent a person in love can go, Oliver. Its a beautiful story of love and difficult times that it can make us go through. But its all worth it, if love is all a person seeks. Its better to live a short life filled with love, than a long one without it.

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2010 in bollywood, books, literature, movies

 

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Funny Quotes From ‘Side Effects’ by Woody Allen

# The good people sleep better, while the bad ones seemed to enjoy the waking hours much more.

# The night was windy and dark, and Cloquet had a split second to decide if he would risk his life to save a stranger. Unwilling to make such a momentous decision on an empty stomach, he went to a restaurant and dined.

# It is impossible to travel faster than light, and certainly not desirable, as one’s hat keeps blowing off.

# Interestingly, according to modern astronomers, space is finite. This is a very comforting thought – particularly for people who can never remember where they have left things.

# It should be recalled that when we talk of “life” on other planets we are frequently referring to amino acids, which are never very gregarious, even at parties.

# More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.

# True, science has conquered many diseases, broken the genetic code, and even placed human beings on the moon, and yet when a man of eighty is left in a room with two eighteen-year-old cocktail waitresses nothing happens.

# Can the human soul be glimpsed through a microscope? Maybe – but you’d definitely need one of those very good ones with two eyepieces.

# We know that the most advanced computer in the world does not have a brain as sophisticated as that of an ant. True, we could say that of many of our relatives but we only have to put up with them at weddings or special occasions.

# True, science has taught us how to pasteurize cheese. And true, this can be fun in mixed company – but what of the H-bomb? Have you ever seen what happens when one of those things falls off a desk accidentally?

# I often think how comforting life must have been for early man because he believed in a powerful, benevolent Creator who looked after all things. Imagine his disappointment when he saw his wife putting on weight.

# He believed everything in existence occurred by pure chance with the possible exception of his breakfast, which he felt certain was made by his housekeeper.

# Unfortunately our politicians are either incompetent or corrupt. Sometimes both on the same day.

# Figures tell us that there are already more people on earth than we need to move even the heaviest piano.

# I made a list of my faults, but could not get past : 1) Sometimes forgets his hat.

# Suddenly, and with a clarity one usually associates with LSD, my course of action became apparent.

# “In order to be a writer,” Maugham continues, “one must take chances and not be afraid to look foolish. I wrote The Razor’s Edge while wearing a paper hat….”

# She possesses a speech impediment so audibly juicy that to be near her when she pronounces a word like “sequestered” is equivalent to standing at the center of a monsoon.

# Connie Chasen and I had taken to each other in a way that would not be denied and one brief hour later were thrashing balletically through the percales, executing with total emotional commitment the absurd choreography of human passion.

# How does anyone ever stay married for forty years? This, it seems, is more of a miracle than the parting of the Red Sea, though my father, in his naiveté, holds the latter to be a greater achievement.

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2010 in books, literature, quotes

 

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The Gamechangers : ‘Fake IPL Player’ Writes A Book

The 2nd ecition of IPL [ipl-2] saw the emergence of a blog that go very famous for its scandalous content. A person called himself Fake IPL Player, and he kept revealing details of their team meetings, strategies and late-night parties. He kept everyone guessing as to which IPL team he belonged to, and no one was sure who it was till the very end.

Now, this player is back with a book that contains all the blogs of IPL-2 and other juicy stories. So, rush to get a copy of his new book The Gamechangers

Top blog lines that did not make the book:

From reader’s choice awards – Little John to Bookha Naan where Little John barges into his room and says “You say new pitch, but it’s old pitch. How you say how to do balling when you don’t know pitch”. Amidst FIP’s fans, the fiery dialogue is as famous as the Big B’s lines from Zanjeer!

Top Chapters :

The Legend of Appam Chutiya:

Excerpt:

“ ‘Appam Chutiya! Appam Chutiya!’ they chanted as a bemused Prasanth stood in the middle of the room. People were rolling on the floor, clutching their stomachs, tears streaming down their faces……………… The blogger’s special focus on him and the response to his nickname reinforced his belief that he was rich,famous and absolutely irresistible to women.”
Missing Pieces

Excerpt:

“They made him jog, which he did willingly. Then they made him sprint, which was in execution at best a fast jog. They made him stretch and i was happy to see that he could actually touch his toes. They made him do crunches, during which he came dangerously close to falling asleep everytime he lay back……………….. The coaches screamed and shouted at him to go for it, but he said, ‘Too far’ and waited for the next ball”

The Moment of Truth

Excerpt:

“I looked up and saw Ashok staring at me. ‘Yaar,’ I said, ‘Woh hum sabko Appam Chutiya bana raha hai’ ”

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2010 in books, cricket, ipl

 

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Two States : New Book By Chetan Bhagat

Neither is he a great writer nor do I love his books, but the curiosity factor is there. Invariably, all his books do well. It only gives me the impression that people want to read something light, easy and breezy. Nothing too complicated, no conspiracy theory, no big-fat words; just simple plain old English phrases and ordinary stories.

The hype around his books has also increased because of the fact that two of his three books have been adapted on screen. His book One Night At The Call Center was made into Hello which starred Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif, Sohail Khan, Isha and Amrita Arora. And his first book Five Point Someone is being made into 3 Idiots which has Aamir Khan, Madhavan, Sharman Joshi and Kareena Kapoor in it.

That’s the only reason that I am interested in his new book titled Two States:The Story Of My Marriage. Here’s what the book is about:

Love marriages around the world are simple:

Boy loves girl. Girl loves boy.
They get married.

In India, there are a few more steps:

Boy loves Girl. Girl loves Boy.
Girl’s family has to love boy. Boy’s family has to love girl.
Girl’s Family has to love Boy’s Family. Boy’s family has to love girl’s family.
Girl and Boy still love each other. They get married.

He has also released a few excerpts, read the below:

Chetan Bhagat“Why am I referred here? I don’t have a problem,” I said.
She didn’t react. Just gestured that I remove my shoes and take the couch. She had an office like any other doctor’s, minus the smells and cold, dangerous instruments.
She waited for me to talk more. I hesitated and spoke again.
“I’m sure people come here with big, insurmountable problems. Girlfriends dump their boyfriends everyday. Hardly the reason to see a shrink, right? What am I, a psycho?”
“No, I am the psycho. Psychotherapist to be precise. If you don’t mind, I prefer that to shrink,” she said.
”Sorry,” I said.
“It’s OK,” she said and reclined on her chair. No more than thirty, she seemed young for a shrink, sorry, psychotherapist. Certificates from top US universities adorned the walls like tiger heads in a hunter’s home. Yes, another South Indian had conquered the world of academics. Dr. Neeta Iyer, Valedictorian, Vassar College.
“I charge five hundred rupees per hour,” she said. “Stare at the walls or talk. I’m cool either way.”
I had spent twelve minutes, or a hundred bucks, without getting anywhere. I wondered if she would accept a partial payment and let me leave.
“Dr. Iyer…”
“Neeta is fine,” she said.
“OK, Neeta, I don’t think my problem warrants this. I don’t know why Dr. Ramachandran sent me here.”
She picked my file from her desk. “Let’s see. This is Dr. Ram’s brief to me – patient has sleep deprivation, has cut off human contact for a week, refuses to eat, has Google-searched on best ways to commit suicide.” She paused and looked at me with raised eyebrows.
“I Google for all sorts of stuff,” I mumbled, “don’t you?”
“The report says the mere mention of her name, her neighbourhood or any association, like her favourite dish, brings out unpredictable emotions ranging from tears to rage to frustration.”
“I had a break-up. What do you expect?” I was irritated.
“Sure, with Ananya who stays in Mylapore. What’s her favourite dish? Curd rice?”
I sat up straight. “Don’t,” I said weakly and felt a lump in my throat. I fought back tears. “Don’t,” I said again.
“Don’t what?” Neeta egged me on, “Minor problem, isn’t it?”
“Fuck minor. It’s killing me.” I stood agitatedly. “Do you South Indians even know what emotions are all about?”
“I’ll ignore the racist comment. You can stand and talk, but if it is a long story, take the couch. I want it all,” she said.
I broke into tears. “Why did this happen to me?” I sobbed.
She passed me a tissue.
“Where do I begin?” I said and sat gingerly on the couch.
“Where all love stories begin. From when you met her the first time,” she said.
She drew the curtains and switched on the air-conditioner. I began to talk and get my money’s worth.

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2009 in bollywood, books, movies

 

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