Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Book Report

Sen has tagged me for the book list thats been doing the rounds of Indian blogs lately. Before I jump to the list itself, I thought I'd reminisce a little bit about my reading over the years.

I've always been a 'light' reader. I usually stick to crime thrillers that come with blurbs like 'hard to put down' and 'has many twists and surprises'.

My earliest memories of reading are the bi-weekly and monthly children's magazines that were published then. At one point I used to read 7 such magazines and among them were Chandamama, Mickey & Donald, Superman & Batman, Tinkle, Children's World and Dew Drops. Among those, I have all the issues of Mickey & Donald and Superman & Batman bound and still browse through them when I go back to India. Truly timeless.

My introduction to full-length fiction was through Enid Blyton. I was into thrillers even back then as I read books in her Famous Five and Secret Seven series. The most intelligent children's books I remember reading were those in the Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators series. With the master of suspense himself making cameos in each book, the books had some very clever mysteries, riddles and solutions.

Next came Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, which were all the rage in school. We used to read them at the rate of 2 or 3 a week and I remember having read every published Hardy Boys novel by the time I finished my 10th standard. I then progressed to Alistair Maclean, whose thrillers were truly of the 'cannot put down' variety. After that it was a free-for-all as I read any author who caught my fancy. Some of my favorite authors then were Jeffrey Archer, Sidney Sheldon, Irving Wallace, Arthur Hailey and Ken Follett.

I guess my current phase started after that. I now read books by James Patterson, Jeffery Deaver, David Baldacci, Dan Brown, John Grisham, Michael Crichton, Tami Hoag, Tess Gerritsen and Iris Johansen. In the non-fiction category the only author I read is humorist Dave Barry. I'm a huge fan. His Guide to Guys is a must-read for pretty much everyone.

And now for the list...

Total Number of books I own: About 50

Last book I bought: The Five People You Meet In Heaven

Last book I read: 4th of July

Five books that mean a lot to me(since I typically read 'light' fiction, I'm changing this to simply five of my favorite books):

Kane and Abel - A true masterpiece from Jeffrey Archer that portrays the lives of two men who come from completely different backgrounds but find their lives intersecting in unexpected ways. Has some amazing surprises and goosebump-inducing moments.

The Second Lady/The Seventh Secret - Two of the best 'what-if?' books I have read. The Second Lady has the Russians placing an impostor in place of the First Lady of the United States while the Seventh Secret goes into what could happen if Hitler's wife is still alive. Great storytelling built upon intriguing scenarios.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - The best of the Harry Potter books that contains the best elements of the series. Rowling's soaring imagination presents characters we've come to know well and love and amazing set pieces and action. There are also skillfully constructed twists that we never see coming.

Shantaram - An exhilarating tale of an Australian whose life is proof that truth can be stranger than fiction. A drug addict and bank robber who broke out of prison and escaped to India, the book is about his life in the slums of Bombay. He writes amazingly well and his love of India and Indians comes through clearly.

Absolute Power - This book holds a special place since it reintroduced me to the joys of reading after I took a rather long break. A thriller that races along at breakneck speed, it has an ordinary thief go up against the most powerful man in the United States, its President.

I'll go ahead and tag Munimma, who had some interesting titles in her recent post on her reading habits over the years.


At 12:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry maaps, enakku karpoora vaasanai theriyaadhu...
so jagaa vaangikaren!

At 6:53 AM, Blogger Munimma said...

At this rate, I am gonna say I don't know you :-|
Seriously, we have similar tastes in books I guess, at least in the light reading thriller variety. I remember being introduced to Alistair Maclean either by you or by Ramya and to Baldacci. I can't believe I still haven't read Absolute Power.
Will write this up soon.

At 6:54 AM, Blogger Munimma said...

BTW, a PJ esp for you ;-)
Balajikku vazhukkai vizhuntha ennavaan? Baldacci :-) sorry, couldn't resist.

At 8:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Off-topic: Anniyan early bird review(Sent by a friend in Chennai)..
Director: Shankar
Producer: Oscar Films
Music: Harris Jayaraj
Cast : Vikram, sada, Prakash Raj, Vivek, Nedumudi Venu
Sizes do matter. Big is beautiful, especially when it costs Rs 27 Crores !! For months, everybody has been talking about this Shankar directed big budget fantasy movie. However, the beauty of Anniyan lies in Vikram's characters which have been superbly presented by Shankar.

For Shankar, cinema is a packaged fantasy with a message and he has lived up to his expectations with Anniyan, a yarn spun beautifully to entice the moviegoers to part with their hard-earned money for three hours of pure entertainment. The film holds you riveted due to its racy narration, a relevant message backed with technical wizardry, never-seen before colourful song picturisation and above all the performance of Vikram.

Ramanujam alias Ambi(Vikram) is a lawyer who goes by the rule book. He reacts to people who disobey traffic rules, eve teasing in transport buses, spitting on roads, not providing standard meals in trains and so on... Ambi takes up cases of the underdog but loses in court due to lack of evidence. Everyone calls him `Rules Ramanujam`. Ambi cribs and his favourite line is- "I hate disorder". His father Parthsarathy (Nedumudi Venu) keeps advising him that he can't change the world, his best friend Chari (Vivek) says he is obsessed by law and Ambi is shattered when Nandini (Sada) the girl whom he loves feels that he is a big bore and is not worth loving!

One day he stumbles on a website which follows the Garudapuranam, the Hindu equivalent of the Christian judgment which says "Those who sin will be punished in hell". And the mild mannered Ambi turns into Anniyan, a modern day avatar of 'Chitraguptan' who keeps account in 'Yamalokam' (hell). Anniyan is a vigilante who wreaks havoc on people who cheat, loots or conned Ambi including Nandini. By the time Ambi reaches police station to file a complaint, he realizes that the accused is already killed by Anniyan! Meanwhile there is another character Remo, a suave supermodel who tries to woo Nandini and she falls head over heels in love with him.


Well, what Ambi suffers is Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) that is diagnosed by a psychiatrist (Nassar). In split seconds, Ambi changes into Anniyan and then to Remo much to the surprise of the doctors and Nandini. In a flashback, Shankar tries to explain why Ambi suffers from MPD. Meanwhile,a cop Prabhakar (Prakash Raj), is investigating the mystery behind the murders happening in the city. What happens to Ambi,Remo and Anniyan in the climax forms the rest of the story.

When you first heard the songs of Harris Jayaraj, it left you cold, but on screen all the five songs are visual treats. The first song "Kumaari...Kumaari..." shot in the tulip fields of Amsterdam is breath taking. The Iyengaru Veetu simply stunning and hats off to art director Sabu Cyril and cameraman Manikandan for recreating the Thyagaraja Thiruvizhai along with veteran musicians like Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan and Sudha Raghunath.

The third song "Kathal Yanai..." shot on a ramp choreographed by Ahmed Khan is stylish. The peppy number "Kannum Kannum Nokia..." is brilliantly captured at KL airport under Raju Sundaram and the surprise packet is "Andangkakka...", a visual stunner. The special effects and graphics are awesome and the action choreography by Peter Haynes needs mention with the slicing technique used in stunt scenes.

Anniyan truly belongs to Vikram and the film is unthinkable without him. He is superb and does the roles with conviction, suaveness and chill into the three characters of Ambi, Remo and Anniyan that he portrays. His body languages and voice modulation is amazing as he plays all the characters with different style, get-up and attitude. It is a role that could have been reduced to a caricature by a lesser actor.

The movie is clearly at its best in the climax scene when Vikram changes from Ambi to Anniyan in split seconds in the confrontation scene with Prakash Raj and truly the versatile actor walks away with all the accolades. Sada is good and does her part well, Vivek's comedy is bankable and Prakash Raj is good. Nedumudi, Kalabhavan Mani, Haneefa and Nassar in cameo roles fit in well.

On the downside the plot of Anniyan is a rehash of Indian and Muthalvan with the character of Ambi etched out of Jim Carrey's The Mask, about a mild mannered guy changing into a one-man army, craving to see natural justice realised.

The film is too lengthy at three hours and the story is too thin on logic and depends largely on the three characters played by Vikram to take it forward. Anyway, it is an escapist comic book like fantasy family entertainer sans any vulgarity or bloodshed.

Verdict:Must see

At 8:40 AM, Blogger pk said...

Off topic,
thanks for droping by and the nice comment.
Congratulation, saw ur son's picture he is soooo cute, can you post more pix of him.

At 9:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Balaji, Shantaram was a fascinating read ..Remember picking up the book from the library, after reading your enthusiastic recommendation at am eagerly looking forward to the film version of the same..It definitely looks to be an interesting project, with Johnny Depp (who acquired the book rights) slated to play the protagonist.

At 11:47 AM, Blogger Balaji said...

munimma, 'absolute power' is definitely a must-read. and PJnaalum its related to the post and actually a pretty good one! So u r forgiven for that :-)

vijays, will read after seeing it tomorrow night :-)

kal, thanx for stopping by. will check with him on more fotos :-)

asokan, don't think i've even heard of most books u mention. except for 'angela's ashes' which I think was made into a movie. but i have seen and enjoyed the movie versions of the 3 early detective books u mention.

the film version of 'absolute power' was greatly watered down and just OK. just a tidbit since u havent read the book *MUNIMMA, DONT READ FURTHER IF U PLAN TO READ THE BOOK!*
clint's character actually dies halfway thro the book. The 'hero' in the book is actually another character that was completely eliminated in the movie!!

vijays, glad u liked it. just curious, how did u even know i reviewed it for amazon? i did read about some studio acquiring the movie rights. still in 2 minds about that!

At 3:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Balaji, I even know the hidden review of yours(anniyan style!) ;-)

At 3:37 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

packer, yes 'eye of the needle' is a great thriller.
i saw recommendations for 'a tourist in yucatan' in some reviews for other books on amazon. but havent checked it out yet.

vijays, hidden review?!

At 4:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

BB,I was browsing the reader feedback for 'Shantaram' in Amazon, when I came across your recommendation..If I remember correctly, you had mentioned your full name and Location .That, along with your TM writing style, instantly gave away your identity! :-)

At 6:33 PM, Blogger Narayanan Venkitu said...


Thanks for writing about Enid Blyton.

Secret Seven and the Famous five.

Took me down the memory lane.!

Wonder why Enid Blyton is not popular in the US?

At 11:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have u tried Perry Mason ? I remember being hooked in school !

Also, Richard Feynman in the non-fiction category .... He is simply too good, and for a Nobel Prize winning scientist, he is very very down-to-earth. Great sense of humour too , especially the ability to laugh at himself !

At 10:30 AM, Blogger Balaji said...

packer, i share your sorrow on finding any real good thrillers lately. i believe 'absolute power' was the last great one i read.

narayanan, she might've been popular in the 60s or 70s which was when she published her books. nowadays newer authots have become more popular.

ruchi, i have read a couple of perry masons. my sis used to be a fan if i remember right. but havent heard of richard feynman. but considering how little non-fiction i read i'm not surprised :-)

At 9:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Try this one

At 4:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you are looking for a good story/mystery I found:

It was very different from all the others that are out there.


Post a Comment

<< Home