The superhero bug bit me quite early in my early formative years. Amidst all the colourful costumes, mind-boggling powers and twisted realities, I found my hero in a certain Caped Crusader wearing a black costume and possessing the power of being “just a human”, albeit a highly trained and motivated one.
At that point of time, being the only superhero who did not have special powers appealed massively to me and I became an instant fan. Watching the 80s and 90s films, the legendary animated series in the 90s, the group ensemble Justice League in the 00s and reading any comics I could lay my hand on, I imbibed the superhero spirit of choosing the good path despite everything for that is what makes a hero.
As the years added on and thoughts matured, when one can start thinking beyond the superhero stuff, came along a phenomenon that forever etched the Bat into my heart. It was a three-part trilogy by one of the greatest directors of all time, Christopher Nolan, and the movie captured the essence of the Dark Knight like never before.
Although the second part is the much more acclaimed movie, for me the first part, “Batman Begins” drove home what it means to be Batman and the madness started evolving since then. In fact, the series put forth how anyone can be a hero and therein lies the durability of superheroes across centuries.
A hero is anyone who chooses the good path despite everything and not because of everything. The powers are present to show different perspectives, the villains exist to portray different scenarios and the story works towards finding the solution in each scenario, which is not so different from our lives.
What started as a source of time-killing, turned into an inspiration and now it motivates me in every situation I face and has made me a slightly madder, yet better human.
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Long before Robert Downey Jr. made Iron Man/Tony Stark his own, long before the Avengers put their mark on respective characters, and even before Christian Bale became the definitive Batman, Hugh Jackman became the Wolverine in Bryan Singer’s X-Men in 2000. Since then, he has played the role in seven installments including the latest one and uncredited cameos in two more. Hence, for someone who initiated the era of a single actor owning a superhero character, it is a pretty difficult task to send him riding into the sunset. However, James Mangold’s Logan not only delivers a gripping farewell to the popular character, but also puts out a fresh and interesting superhero story,thereby becoming the best Wolverine movie yet and also one of the best superhero movies ever.
The movie, drawing from the Old Man Logan comics, portrays the character beyond his prime, with weakening powers including slowed healing ability, a limp and the attitude of a person, which his dear friend and mentor Charles Xavier attributes as “waiting to die”. His life goes for a toss when the little girl Laura enters and from then the movie becomes an engaging drama for a pleasant change as we witness the emotions of a broken man who cannot stay away from protecting the people he cares for, and while doing so always leaves behind a trail of bodies, including innocent ones.
It is in these moments built up throughout the film and the way we see Wolverine in his absolute bloody glory in the climax, the soul of the character and the essence of a superhero are both captured simultaneously. Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of the character has always been top-notch but the stories told previously always left everyone wanting. However, this time around, the script helps Jackman finally elevate the character and the Australian actor puts on a performance of a lifetime showing the depth of Wolverine’s pathos and angst while never backing down from a fight no matter the odds.
Further, the true essence of a superhero does not lie in his/her powers, instead it lies in their ability to keep fighting for the good cause despite age, failings and situations. Logan manages to drive home the point with aplomb and that is the biggest victory for the film. The action sequences do not disappoint and it is fair to say the brutal nature of Wolverine’s offence is helped immensely by the “R” rating. For this, the film makers and fans are indebted to “Deadpool”, that broke through the rating barrier last year. The rating allows for some amazing Wolverine-esque action that could not be shown before and also gives Hugh Jackman the freedom in showcasing Logan’s feelings. A good point about the movie is that the rating has not been misused in any way and instead, it helps in enhancing the story.
The movie does well to flesh out Laura’s character slowly and gives us a little glimpse of how Wolverine could have been as a child while Patrick Stewart plays an ancient Charles with ease. The background score by Marco Beltrami maintains the sober tone throughout with the required flare-ups during the melees. On the flip side, the movie does slow down a bit in the middles but the payday for those scenes at the end makes up for it.
James Mangold got the character right in his previous film, “The Wolverine”, but could not connect it well to the audience. He rectified it this time around and the occasional references to the past and the little odes to the character through the comic books and cigars work well. Overall, Hugh Jackman lays down the blueprint for his counterparts when they film their swansongs, and in case he never ever dons the claws again (never say never), then it is time to say thank you for making a popular character iconic and he will forever be remembered as the Wolverine!
“I am the best at what I do, but what I do is not very nice”
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The last couple of months have seen two famous filmmakers trying to reinvent and adapt the romance genre defined by them two decades ago. Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil saw the director come full circle from his blockbuster debut film “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai”, where the protagonist played by Ranbir Kapoor finally accepts that his love will not be reciprocated and understands the value of her friendship. Aditya Chopra’s “Befikre” is a modern take on the notions of love and commitment he has built since his legendary debut film,“Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge”.
Both the films felt fresh and had a sense of maturity showing the mental growth of directors. Further, they showcased the fast and confused lives of the present generation that the protagonists live in where chastity is no longer as important and in spite of the cool, surface-deep emotions they seem to portray, the leads go through an emotional roller-coaster before coming to terms with what they really want.
On the surface, the unabashed conversations, the “act first and think later” mentality and the various partners tried out before finding the right one can feel from being morally wrong to absolutely right depending on which age group one belongs to. the depiction of present culture has also got to do with the society’s acceptance levels. A case can be made that having multiple partners has been prevalent since the time of kings and emperors. However, it was considered a right only of the rich alone. The increase in society’s acceptance levels over the centuries has thrown much-needed light on it and the current movies reflect that.
However, on looking deeper, in terms of emotions, the present two films are not much different from those 90s classics. Yes, the present movies do not have classic starts and the leads are at various mental stages when they meet. We travel with them as they embrace their turbulent emotions and finally settle at a common mental wavelength. The reality is that this is the only main difference between the old and the new. If we look deeper, the feelings of love, friendship, heart-break and separation are experienced the same way as in the past.
The joy in finding love, the sense of realization and the angst of a heart-break are felt in exactly the same way no matter how much the cultures have changed and how much cooler people seem to be. This is because love is truly universal. Times change, cultures change, but be it Shah Jahan, or Raj/Rahul or Ayan/Dharam or us, true love always works the same. The same applies for the female protagonists as well. There is a scene in “Befikre” where Ranveer asks Vaani Kapoor whether she is waiting for her date to palat as he walks off in an obvious nod to Adi’s DDLJ. Vaani replies such things happened in the 90s and that she was just checking him out. However, towards the end of the film, she does palat, which proves the point. In being able to portray that while showing the superficial changes of time, both Karan Johar and Aditya Chopra have reinvented themselves.
Another interesting tidbit is the casting of Ranveer Singh and Ranbir Kapoor for the roles. The energy and enthusiasm of Raj is seen in Dharam and the more subtle and romantic Rahul is seen in Ayan. In essence, they are playing Raj and Rahul, the only difference being the present ones are more evolved.
To conclude, love finds new forms and helps build new stories but love in its truest form never changes. It only becomes “old wine in new bottle” with time and the films depict exactly that.
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Every individual has some of their maddest and best moments as a child. No matter how silly it might sound now, those moments felt sprightly, thrilling and even heroic at times. The crazy feats, the sweet gestures, the unabashed love, the unapologetic impersonations and the countless dreams are integral to one’s younger years. And then on reaching teenage, one is forced to “grow up” – a phrase that has no fixed meaning and evokes varied thoughts in every individual.
“Growing up” invariably ends up curbing the individual’s million dreams to pursue a successful career, to control the madness in order to look mature and a whole host of things making one resemble a perfect person in the society.
Yet, over the years, a cloud starts darkening within. A cloud that does not rain away no matter how much success one achieves, building an internal storm that rages for years. That is the storm caused by the “little child” inside. That “little child” which defines the core of the individual. That “little child” yearns for those tiny moments, tiny cravings, tiny moments of madness which actually make a person feel alive.
When one is truly alive, is when life is truly lived. When life is truly lived, is when one experiences fulfillment and happiness – the actual feelings every individual needs, is when the clouds rain away to unleash the pristine dawn of the sun.
In order to do that, one always got to keep the child alive – a line that we hear hundreds of times. However, just like “growing up”, “keeping the child alive” has different implications for different people. All it means is to do not stop doing the little things that give little joys no matter how old one becomes. As kids, life is simple, thoughts are pure, actions are honest and memories are many. It is those little moments that provide the sparks in everyone’s complicated lives. Those simple moments are what we need while we chase stars and try to become one.
A very Happy Children’s Day to one and all!
Keep the child alive and dream big! It is never too old and never too late!
I miss the piercing gaze from those almond eyes,
I miss the soul-stirring elixir that is your voice,
I miss those luscious lips that ignite passion,
I miss the ruffled hair inimical to me brewing a concoction,
I miss the puppy face that makes my heart melt and bare,
I miss the familiar touch that accompanies me everywhere.
I miss you.