Taxi No. 9211: Bollywood Movie Review

Film Taxi No. 9211 revolves around two central characters that represent two very distinct lives and lifestyles in the sprawling, living, running, 24 hours pulsating city of Mumbai. The reference to the city is also very interesting. Such a living, breathing city with its own temptations and frustrations has its own impact on the inhabitants. 

Increasing inflation and inability to meet rising economic pressures turns a failed, cash strapped LIC agent turned cabbie (Nana Patekar) into a frustrated, angry man, ready to pick a fight with anyone. He picks up a passenger (John Abraham) who is born into immense wealth but his lifestyle choices and him giving in to every temptation, brings him to a point where he may lose all his wealth, unless he can successfully contest his father’s will.

This one cab ride marks a turning point in both their lives, as they meet their match in anger and dislike of others. It was as if they both were forced to look in the mirror. The film is pacy, entertaining and both actors deliver phenomenal and intense performances, devoid of histrionics.  The film is definitely speeding towards a moral but this moralistic message is not thrust upon the audience; instead it unravels naturally.  Director Milan Lutharia has done a fabulous job in focusing on the core issues, minus the melodrama. The film drives home a point that sometimes, there may be much in common among humans. They may be good or bad, angry and quick to react or take a pause before responding. Even when coming from vastly different lifestyles, temptations and frustrations, there may be similarities in how humans may react to the life around them which in turn rewards or punishes them accordingly. 

This film released in 2020, is interesting and is currently running on @Netflix .  I rate it a 4.2 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent.

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Bagman: Podcast by Rachel Maddow – Review

Bagman, a podcast by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, is not only providing an amazing peek into history during the #Nixon Presidency but is certain to keep the listeners riveted. A film is in the making, written by Adam Pearlman and Mike Yarvitz and with writer, director, producer, Ben Stiller.  Bagman tells a true story of one of the most brazen bribery and extortion scandals ever to happen at the scale it did. But lest you believe this was about the #Watergate scandal, it was NOT. This was an entirely independent crime concurrently happening at the same time that the country was occupied with the Watergate scandal.  

The subject of this scandal, the “individual 1” was not Nixon but who then? The year was 1973. Just the previous year, Richard Nixon and his running mate Spiro Agnew had handily defeated their opponent Senator George McGovern of South Dakota in a total landslide, receiving all but 18 of the 538 electoral votes. For the time being, let us keep the name of the chief perpetrator a suspense here. Despite President Nixon’s initial lack of knowledge about this crime, he soon learned about it and participated in covering it up with support of several Republican senators, including future President George W. Bush. 

Besides telling the incredible story of the chief criminal, the podcast also focuses in equal measures on a team of young federal prosecutors, Tim Baker, Ron Libman, and Barney Skolnik who started this investigation miles away from DC, in local corruption happening in Maryland where they found that local officials were taking thousands of dollars in cash kickbacks from companies that were awarded federal contracts. While the country was increasingly riveted by the Watergate scandal, these prosecutors were far away from the White House. But as they got deeper into the money trail it led them directly inside the White House. 

As these prosecutors began collecting evidence, they found that their case was becoming rock solid. If it was any other individual, that person would be indicted and in jail in no time. However, given the status of the perpetrator and the venue where the crime was opening occuring, they were stumped in how to proceed. We have often heard the expression that behind every successful man, there’s a woman. But perhaps behind a criminal man there are hundreds of women, enabling him and here was a criminal sitting at a top leadership level in the country and enjoyed high popularity among women from the Republican party. 

These prosecutors took the case to their boss, George Bell and together all four of them drove to Washington D.C. to see Nixon’s AG Elliot Richardson. They fully expected to be told by Elliot Richardson something that would amount to shutting down the investigation. Elliot Richardson is the same AG who made history later that precipitated what came to be known as the Saturday massacre in the Nixon Presidency. At that time, President Nixon asked Richardson his AG to fire the special prosecutor Archibald Cox and Richardson refused to do so which led to him being fired by Nixon and then other events followed. But that came later. At this time, Richardson met with the four prosecutors from Maryland with the stunning news of a totally independent crime taking place in the White House. Richardson gave them full cooperation to continue their investigation. 

As the investigation progressed, the perpetrator realized that he was in an incredibly deep quagmire. He got his assistant to call an attorney and keeping the name of the client a secret, the attorney was requested to come to a secret location. The attorney was informed that the client was someone at very high level in the Government. How high, asked the attorney? Very high, came the answer. A Congressman? asked the attorney. Answer: higher. Q: A senator? A: Higher. Q: A cabinet member? 

As the indictment seemed imminent, the news broke that “Washington was stunned today by the disclosure that the Vice President, Spiro Agnew is under criminal investigation by federal authorities in his home state of Maryland on serious charges of bribery, extortion and tax evasion. The country was already embroiled in the chaotic Watergate occurrences when this shocking news about the Vice President broke. 

Let us not forget that President Nixon and Vice President Agnew had won in a landslide and if they were both to go down then who would become the President? A secret 19 page contingency plan remained locked inside the personal safe of the Democrat Speaker and Congressman from Oklahoma, Carl Albert, as he feared he may be first in line of succession during this tottering presidency and scandals.

Meanwhile, Agnew went to appeal to Congress to impeach him. He felt that would be a better fate than being indicted criminally. He was laughed out of there. During all this while the prosecutors were in total agony as they were racing against time. Just as the Nixon Presidency was unraveling, Nixon’s exit looked increasingly likely and that meant the next in line of succession would ascend to the Presidency UNLESS they sped up the investigation and brought charges or reached some kind of a deal to get Agnew out.

And while President Nixon supported his VP Agnew and even participated in attempts to obstruct justice and shut down investigation into Agnew’s criminal conduct, he now perceived Agnew as a threat to himself and therefore wanted Agnew out. Not to be outdone, Agnew on the other hand, went on national television and confessed that he feared for his life on account of his own President and President’s law enforcement agencies. Can it get more juicy and shocking than this? Every juicy detail and most of private conversations are corroborated in the podcast with cross references and many from the tapes that Nixon himself had planted.

This podcast marvelously recounts the details of this scandal concurrently happening at the same time while Nixon’s own karma was bringing him down. It is so riveting that once you start listening, you will not want to stop until the end. I highly recommend it – it is a piece of history so beautifully narrated, incredibly well researched, impressively presented and packed with information and details, some of which has never before come to light. This is a must-hear podcast not only because it brings important piece of history to light very comprehensively BUT there are also many lessons for the present and likely for the future, at anytime, when our democracy comes under threat.

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Madoff: The Monster of Wall Street – Series Review

This 4 episode series, starring Joseph Scotto as Bernie Madoff, currently streaming on @Netflix gives an insight into Madoff, the man and the largest ponzi scheme in history that he managed to keep going for decades. 

So what’s a ponzi scheme? It is a form of fraud that lures investors and any profits accrued to them are paid with funds received from more recent investors. Madoff had a small legitimate business where he involved his sons. However, his huge illegal ponzi scheme that operated from the 17th floor in the lipstick building (which later became the crime scene) did not do any trading. 

There are no dearth of people who engage in such schemes and it is not surprising that Madoff began running his business this way. What is completely mind boggling is that Madoff managed to perpetrate a scam that defrauded investors around the world and kept it going for more than 20 years and enlarged it to nearly $64 Billion dollars, making it the largest financial fraud in history.  Madoff Investment Securities was found in 1960 and Madoff pled guilty to eleven felony charges that included money laundering, perjury, false filings with the SEC and fraud, in 2009. For all the interim years, Madoff’s fraud continued to grow. 

The series tells the story of how there were warning bells going on and yet this fraud was not properly investigated by the SEC. One of the earlier persons to ring the warning bell was Harry Markopolos, a financial wizard and analyst who later became an investigator and spent nearly a decade on Madoff’s trail. At one point, he submitted several pages long, point by point evidence of why Madoff’s was not a legit business and he did not have any significant footprint in the market because Madoff never traded stock. Nonetheless, all of Markopolos’ warnings were largely ignored by the securities regulators. 

It is a riveting story of a crime that one story teller describes as different from a violent crime where a body drops before the crime comes to light. Whereas in a financial crime, bodies drop after a crime comes to light. This crime induced incredible stress to huge numbers of people, including Madoff’s own family. One of the earlier people to be impacted was a French aristocrat/ money manager, Thierry Villehuchet, who had put his entire money and all the monies of all his family and diverse group of friends and clients that included aristocrats of Europe, into Madoff securities. He killed himself after losing over $1B in this scheme.

I do believe most of the times when people do bad deeds they meet their Karma in a number of ways and rarely do they get to enjoy the fruits derived from their Karma in peace and without guilt or stress. Sadly, after Madoff went to prison, his family refused to see him; later one son, Mark committed suicide and soon after that his son Andy died of cancer. Madoff’s sister and her husband were found dead in an apparent murder-suicide in 2022. In 2020, Madoff requested early release and his request was denied on the basis that his crime was “unprecedented in scope and magnitude. Madoff who ruined so many lives and unleashed devastation on so many families, died in prison in April, 2022.  

The series is sure to keep the audience riveted as to how such an enormous financial fraud occurred and how it unraveled with a potential to shake up the world economy.

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Trial by Fire on #Netflix – Serial Review

Trial by Fire – Serial Review

Currently playing on @Netflix, seven episode series “Trial by Fire” is a true account of a horrific tragedy and is based on the book by the same name, written by Neelam and Shekhar Krishnnamoorthy. Rashshri Deshpande and Abhay Deol deliver flawless and understated performance as the couple Neelam and Shekhar who lost both of their children in the fire and smoke at Uphaar Cinema, the largest theater at the time in New Delhi, on the fateful day, Friday, June 13, 1997.

But the series does not simply revolve around the actual events. In fact, actual events of the tragedy are more in focus only in the 7th and last episode of the series. Directed by Prashant Nair and Randeep Jha, the series depicts the struggle of these parents, of other victims, their families and survivors to bring those responsible to justice. Krishnamoorthys soon found out that they could not get answers. The rich and powerful people who seemed to be responsible had a myriad ways to interfere in the investigation. Shekhar announced to his wife that they would be stronger together and they need to bring in other survivors and families seeking justice. The owners of the theater, the Ansal Brothers (Gopal Ansal & Sushil Ansal) kept a tight lid on the expenses and operated their several properties with focus on making profits under all circumstances. Under persistent leadership of grieving Krishnamoorthys, a group AVUT (Association of the Victims of Uphaar Tragedy) was formed. 

Ansal brothers rarely appeared in court and employed an army of rich attorneys to fight on their behalf. They bribed, implicated others, employed people to deliver threats to anyone seeking justice. During the decades-long struggle Krishnamoorthys muddled through the cumbersome process, going through several attorneys after realizing that some attorneys were just not interested and others were often bribed by the Anals. In the process, they also uncovered several problems and the trail kept leading them to the owners. However, Ansals kept succeeding year after painful year in evading justice.
Occasionally some episodes meander through somewhat unnecessary details, but overall the series is sure to keep the audience riveted through the heart-breaking saga of grieving families.  Despite the lack of success for years, through the painful process of seeking justice for their loved ones, the group manages to get success on their many additional agendas – for instance, every public school in Delhi, is henceforth required to have working fire extinguishers on every floor. Fighting through the bureaucratic process, even while mourning their loss, is no small feat. Their struggle is both immensely heart-breaking and absolutely inspiring. 


Some additional facts (spoilers) & a small personal story 

Uphaar Cinema fire and smoke claimed 59 lives and 100+ people had severe smoke inhalation and other injuries. 

Almost 900 plus people were in the cinema hall that tragic day.

The people witnessing the event on that fateful day frantically ran with pots and pans to save lives. Others procured mattresses from the stores close by to put on the ground for those jumping out of the window.

The AVUT group fighting for answers and justice got some resolution in the last couple of years, after nearly 25 years since the fire that claimed so many lives. 

During the two plus decades, since the victims group has been fighting in court, the rich and powerful Ansals employed several tricks, postponements, bribes, and threats to evade justice. They also shifted the blame down the line and that led to jail time for some and loss of jobs for others.

AVUT group’s decades-long struggle to find answers and get justice for those who perished on that fateful day uncovered many safety violations, severe disregard for public safety and single minded focus on profits. The theater had faulty transformers, no public address system in place, no emergency lights when power was out, few or no working fire extinguishers and hundreds of people in balcony were trapped inside with doors locked so no one without a ticket can get in – but that also meant the people inside had no means of escape and the entertainment hall became their tomb.

When grieving Krishnamoorthys lost their two children Unnati (17) and Ujjwal (14), they were in their 30s. Many advised them to plan more children, but they refused saying their children were not toys to be replaced. They have not seen any movies in a theater since then.

Anslas were finally sentenced in 2021 but only after 6 months they were released due to old age.

Victims were compensated about Rs. 25 crores after 25 years.


Personal story

When I visited India several years ago, I had a US Green card but an Indian passport. Despite going through other countries, no one had checked that my passport had expired about a year ago. I had to renew my passport before I could return to the US. I went to the passport office in Mumbai. After standing in several lines in a crowded hall that did not have all working fans (with over 100 degrees summer heat), I managed to get access to an officer. He asked me to go there two days later on Thursday. My husband said he will never go with me unless I participate and find someone to bribe and I told him that I will get it done without bribing. He told me then I was on my own. 

I went to the passport office on Thursday. Unlike my previous visit, the entrance was not busy and there were no people around. One lone guard sitting on a chair stopped me and said I could not go in. I asked why not and he said आज साहेब किसीको  मिल नहीं सकते. आज पब्लिक को मिलनेका दिन नहीं है.  Today Sir cannot meet anyone, today is not for the public. Seeing that he was determined to not allow me to enter, I sat down beside him, right on the pavement. He asked me – what are you doing? I said, brother can’t you see, I am sitting down next to you because I will not go back without meeting sir. He said, but I told you, he won’t meet you today. I said, don’t worry, sir is here right? In that case, I will meet him later. He said, he won’t meet you at any time today. I said, look brother, I am sure sir may go out for tea or for lunch or at least he will go home in the evening. It is 10 am and in that case I will sit here and give you company this entire day but I am not leaving until I see him. He looked at me in disbelief. Then he went inside and I saw him talk to a couple of other people. Then he returned with a piece of paper and a pen and asked me to write my name. Then he went in and came back again and told me to go in. I went in and met the officer and got my passport renewed. 

In countries where things don’t work for all citizens, only the rich and powerful can live stress free lives and enjoy all kinds of benefits; have law and order work for them, justice bends to their will and they can get their tasks accomplished. For majority of the population however, everyday tasks present a multitude of challenges and there’s frustration every step of the way all the time. It takes enormous effort, persistence and high ideals to continuously struggle to live with integrity and honesty.

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JP Morgan & #BiotechShowcase #Healthcare events 2023 – Major themes for the decade ahead

During JPM 2023 week, I attended #BiotechShowcase and observed and mingled at many receptions. I met incredible professionals in pharma, biotech, medtech, digital health and almost anyone working with anything to do with health or healthcare. I met VCs, CEOs, and others, witnessed all sorts of deal making conversations, sat in as attendee in investor panels and listened to media roundup. 

From these observations, panels and conversations, here is my assessment from very inexperienced eyes – (please take it with a spoonful of salt).

Looking at the decade ahead after the transformational, post-pandemic phase……

  • There is capital available for serious players in the field. Easy seed money may have dried up somewhat but there are many sources of funding available to entrepreneurs who can protect their IP, tell a good story,  and back up their claims with data. There is still a great deal of hype and every entrepreneur claims to be working on the next company worth $4+ billion. But many investors want to see some serious revenue stream before putting down a check.
  • I heard some discussions about the cost of healthcare. We spend a lot of money on healthcare and yet among developed nations, the USA lags behind. There will be continuing increased focus on providers to uplevel care. There was also discussion that we have had fewer curative solutions. My sense is that all these conversations means the industry is seriously focused on solutions that will elevate the quality of healthcare and indeed quality of life.
  • Real winners in the decade ahead will be patients.  Interesting innovations are happening in challenging areas of oncology to chronic diseases. In oncology, previously the focus was mainly on prolonging life by a few months, there are now discussions for more curative solutions. From diagnostics to transformative therapeutics, quality of life will be better for patients and longevity with better quality of life looks very likely.
  • The innovation that is happening is fast paced and on the cusp of several disciplines. The advantages in technology and participation of previously non traditional medtech players like artificial intelligence and machine learning is enabling biotech, medtech and healthcare and facilitating these slower disciplines to evolve rapidly. Remote work, collaborations via zoom and other technologies have broken down silos even further and have facilitated for people from diverse disciplines to come together with ease and without many hurdles.
  • Mental health will be a serious aspect of overall healthcare. However, mental health offers an entirely different set of challenges. I will mention three challenges here – insurance reimbursement, objective markers of mental health, integrating service with solutions –  1) The insurers need to step up reimbursement for mental health. Advantages of good mental health in reducing overall costs are increasingly becoming clear and savvy entrepreneurs have been making that case. The payors have yet to step up to impact innovation, although VA is leading in innovation in the mental health arena. 2) Companies may need to come up with objective markers of good mental health – for instance, differences in behaviors, voice, routine maintenance etc. Markers for health are easy – a patient’s blood sugar or BP goes down or does not. However, objective markers of mental health are not yet clear and that clarity will enable more payors to step up for reimbursement. 3) There is also difference in therapeutic solutions. For instance, for a patient with diabetes, once a solution is provided, a patient can be counted upon for measuring blood sugar levels and taking necessary medication. Even then adherence is sometimes an issue. But among mental health patients, that can be much more challenging. Frequently, patients fall off the routine and then have epileptic seizures, repeat attacks of psychosis and during those times, they cannot be counted upon to administer the medications themselves. So companies working on drug therapies for instance, may increasingly need to integrate service with therapeutic solutions and bridge the gap.
  • We may likely see foundational changes among regulatory agencies like FDA and in the regulatory framework. As mentioned above, increasingly innovation is happening on the cusp of various disciplines. Much of the regulatory framework has not kept up with these changes and in the years ahead we may likely see brand new, better, tech savvy regulatory agencies and frameworks. 

Time to fasten seat belts and get ready for some of the most exciting changes yet to impact quality of life for patients, increase longevity and offer better quality of life overall.


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Tara vs. Bilal: Bollywood Film Review

Tara Vs. Bilal – Bollywood Movie Review

Produced by John Abraham and T-Series, Bhushan Kumar, and directed by Samar Iqbal, film Tara vs. Bilal is not quite just a simple love story of opposites attract. Although the film, set in London, centers around romance between Bilal (Harshvardhan Rane) and Tara (Sonia Rathee), a couple of little side stories sets it apart from typical love stories. 

Tara has grown up in a loving family with a doting grandfather. When she announces her plan to find a husband who resides abroad, from an internet site, her family accepts her decision. Tara is devoted to the concept of marriage between a man and a woman and soon after her marriage, she relocates to London with her husband. There she learns some bitter truths about her husband, tries to find a footing in a new country where she has neither income, nor visa status. 

Bilal on the other hand, has been brought up by four women living together. Being proxy to the challenges of failed marriages of his mother and aunts, Bilal harbors no romantic notions about marriage. When his paths cross Tara and she asks, “vaise is ghar ke sare husbands kahan hai?”, Billal says, “don’t ask, it’s a train wreck”.  
Besides Tara and Bilal’s story, there are a couple of little side stories that I found more interesting. Bilal’s mother and aunts never gave up and picked up the pieces their lives were left in, got together and collectively managed a small business. Equally interesting is the fact that in the process of trying to find her footing, Tara meets some transgender and gay people, working in a gay bar. After getting over her shock, she asks one person, “tumhe yeh sab karte wakht bura nahi lagta hai?” and he tells her, “Mein karta nahi hun, mein hun” (meaning he IS gay. As the film progresses, Tara’s transition is complete where she promotes and encourages her gay friends to get together and eventually Tara vs. Bilal transitions to Tara and Bilal.

I rate the movie 4.3 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent.

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Leadership lessons in 2023 #KevinMcCarthy saga 

  • Clarity among leaders is important: Had McCarthy been clear what he stood for, then no one would have imagined that he can be beaten into submission of their choosing. But what exactly does McCarthy stand for? Rigged elections? Election integrity? What he stands for has never been clear. McCarthy has no ideology – that is like a leader without a compass – who can coast along only for so long. Eventually a leader without a compass is going to sink.
  • Leaders with compromised integrity will always be weak: This goes hand in hand with clarity. Had McCarthy not gone on bended knee to hail the chief liar, had be not given tacit support to lies and conspiracies of #electiondeniers from the start, then the rogue members of his party would not have imagined that he can be pushed into any corner of submission. Integrity simply means consistency. Leaders need to be consistent overtly in their actions and personally in their belief and values. Once a leader compromises integrity, they can be asked again and again to do so, weakening them in the process.
  • Compromising to stay in power?: I am not sure what is the choice that McCarthy has right now. But it is unsightly to see McCarthy giving into demands of the rogue members who are holding him hostage. Even as McCarthy gives in to their many demands to shrink his way into power, he is disappearing and weakening in the process. 
  • Your team, your party, your group can prop you up but also can bring you down: As a leader, how do you ensure their continued support? If you are the leader, you set the strategy. If you blow in any direction that the wind blows for personal survival then the team will also look for personal survival during crises and not of the company, group or team.
  • Effective leaders are those who have worked their way up: Has McCarthy worked into different positions  before ascending like Pelosi to leadership position? They say, women must not sleep their way to power. Well then no one should also appease their way into power.
  • Subscribing to double standards can be a dangerous path: This lesson is for GOP, not McCarthy himself and in future, can apply to both Dems and Reps and Dems should take note. On one hand, GOP is concerned about power being centralized in a #SpeakeroftheHouse but they want #POTUS to behave like an emperor and demand head on a pike of anyone who disagrees. Strong leaders set strategic direction independently of circumstances and then don’t waver when things don’t go their way. 
  • Leaders should be clear, it’s not about a personal win but about getting the job done/ leaving a legacy: What kind of legacy McCarthy will be leaving after compromising his position, his integrity, his strategic direction, his goals and objectives to gain a leadership chair? Chaney and Kinzinger on the other hand, were clear about their values, their position, and did not let circumstances dictate them into submission. The legacy they have left will be etched forever in history and the service they provided to the country is so valuable that the country will forever be in their debt.

For the sake of the country and #democracy, I hope we have strong leaders who will emerge in both parties, for no democracy can be strong without at least two competing parties with strong democratic values, and independent media and judiciary.

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Double XL: Bollywood Movie Review

Double XL: Movie Review

Flim, Double XL, directed by Satramm Ramani tackles an important subject pertaining to standards of beauty levied on women and the judgements that accompany women who may not fit within defined societal norms. 

Saira Khanna (Sonakshi Sinha) is an urban Delhite girl who dreams of her own fashion designer label one day. Saira is deeply in love with her boyfriend, only to find out that he is a philanderer who neither cares to win her love, nor to support her in her aspirations. Rajashri Trivedi (Huma Qureshi) lives in the heartland of Meerut and dreams of becoming a sports presenter. Meanwhile, her mother, played by Alka Badola Kaushal, is constantly making attempts to find a suitable boy to wed Rajashri.

When Rajashri meets her potential groom that her mother has found for her, Rajashri announces to him that she aspires to become a sports presenter and he asks, “woh jara jara se kapde pahenke mech ke bich ghumti hai woh ladki”? Rajashri replies “Woh cheer leaders hote hai. Aur woh jara jara se kapde nahi, costumes hote hai”.  About this time in Delhi, Saira has lost her opportunity to lead a fashion travelog, and she is lamenting “Saira Khanna ki purani aadat, aukat se uncha sapna dekhneki”. At a low point in their lives their paths cross and after lamenting and crying over how society views women of their size and all opportunities close out even before they have a chance, Saira and Rajashri get a brainwave of how they can support each other. 

When Rajashri is a overwhelmed, Saira tells her “bhale hi tum fashion na samjo, lekin passion jarur samajhti ho” and when Rajashri is ready to call it quits, Saira supports and encourages her. The duo then find that as they shed their emotional baggage, they make strides in their professional aspirations and also meet two men, Zorawar (Zaheer Iqbal) and Shrikanth (Mahat Raghavendra). Keeping with Bollywood’s happy ending preference, Zorawar and Shrikanth look beyond the girls’ large size and support Saira and Rajashri’s aspirations.

What I liked about the movie is that with increasing frequency, Bollywood has begun tackling  “weighty” issues and in this film they have taken up the issue of how large women are viewed in society, how that can affect their professional lives as well as their chances of finding a life partner. And yet, the movie falls short in its handling of the “weighty” issue, and it seems it is handled a tad too lightly. 

I rate the movie as 4.1 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent. 

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Milli – Bollywood Movie Review

Mili currently streaming on @Netflix is directed by Mathukutty Xavier and is a remake of Malayalam language film Helen. Mili is produced by Boney Kapoor and Zee Studios and Janhvi Kapoor in the role of Mili has done a great job. 

Mili lives with her widowed father (Manoj Pahwa) and works in a fast food restaurant while studying for her nursing degree. Mili and her father share a deep bond. Mili is a kind and happy girl with big dreams of migrating to Canada for better circumstances. Mili’s boyfriend Sameer (Sunny Kaushal) appears less responsible and also does not seem to have high aspirations. He seems content with his life with Mili and spending time with friends. 

An accidental, sudden situation traps Mili in conditions where she has only a few hours to survive if she can use her intelligence and creativity. There is reasonable suspense along with the accompanying drama of a concerned father, distraught boyfriend and inept cops, to keep the audience glued to the screen.

I liked the movie and rated it 4.2 on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being excellent.  

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The Serpent (Series on notorious Charles Sobhraj) – Review has spoilers

If you’d like a peek into the psyche of a sociopath, a man without scruples, without any ability to feel guilt, remorse or concern for any other human beside himself then you’ll get to see it in this serial. Most people in their 40s or older have likely heard of the notorious fraudster, thief and murderer, Charles Sobhraj. Early in the series, you see him confide to his sidekick Ajay that upon killing first human, “I expected to feel guilt, but I did not. I felt free, free from judgment; mine and God’s”. Taher Rahim as Sobhraj, Jenna Coleman as one of his girlfriends, Marie Andre Leclerc and Amish Edireweera as his sidekick and partner in crime, Ajay Chowdhury, are very realistic in their roles as notorious criminals. While Sobhraj and Ajay feel no remorse of their actions, Marie feels the remorse from time to time but when the opportunity for riches appears then she quickly gets over her remorse, and actively participates in the crime, sliding into the new identity that Charles gave her.

The serial isn’t focused solely on Sobhraj and his gang of criminals. This serial celebrates the humanity, dedication and commitment of Herman Kannipenberg (Billy Howle), his wife Angela (Ellie Bamber), Nadine (Mathilde Warnier and Paul (Tim McInnerny) to stop the killings. Theirs was an uphill battle considering that authorities in Thailand did not take them seriously, and Sobhraj evaded capture with multiple fake identities and by bribing the police.  Hermann, a Dutch diplomat, couldn’t get it out of his head when he found out that two young tourists were never going to go home. He tells his wife, “my mother made sure we always had books and bicycles. She insisted, wherever you want to go, you must go. We all talk a lot about freedom. I don’t think I really understood it – the sacrifice of it and that some mothers are never going to see their children again”. Paul offered several times to end the nightmare by shooting Sobhraj but Kannipenberg insisted that it must be done legally. Painstakingly and sometimes at great risk to themselves he and his group of friends gathered the evidence and time and again approached the authorities until they got someone’s ear.

And yet, Sobhraj evaded capture in Thailand where he would have gotten the death penalty, since he evaded capture for some time and then got arrested in India and while he served time there, the statute of limitations in Thailand expired. Sobhraj’s killing spree continued for several more years and in the end he killed 20+ tourists in several countries including France, Greece, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, India, Thailand and Malaysia.

Sobhraj risked capture if he visited Nepal and yet such was his ego that he not only visited on fake identity but also took pictures and publicly posted his pictures. When captured, he insisted that he was a different man and he had never visited Nepal before. But the police officer questioning him said that Sobhraj had not only visited but on his previous trip years ago, the same officer had questioned him. And yet due to lack of evidence Sobhraj would have been let go but for the dedicated efforts of Kannipenberg. 

Sobhraj served 19 or his 20 year sentence in Nepal but was released on December 23, 2022 (just two days prior to my writing the review) from Nepal and extradited to France to live as a free man at the age of 78. Sadly most of his young victims will never get to grow old and will never go home. The serial is dedicated to “all the young intrepids (fearless adventurous souls) who set out with big dreams and never made it home”.

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