Bard of Blood review: Emraan Hashmi’s Netflix series pales in comparison to Amazon’s Family Man
Bard of Blood
Director – Ribhu Dasgupta
Cast – Emraan Hashmi, Sobhita Dhulipala, Vineet Kumar Singh, Kirti Kulhari, Jaideep Ahlawat
Ironically for a show about espionage that tips its hat to Shakespeare, Bard of Blood is undone by its rotten writing and a glaring lack of intelligence. Unfolding across seven painfully convoluted episodes, Netflix India’s latest has neither wit, wisdom, or value. And based on expectations alone, it is the streaming service’s most disappointing Indian original series.
Arguing that Bard of Blood is intended for an audience that isn’t accustomed to dense, thought- provoking drama is disrespectful not only to millions of paying Netflix subscribers, but also to an industry that is yearning to be more ambitious. It is so disappointing to see such wonderfully talented actors, each of whom has proven themselves on multiple occasions — Raazi actor Jaideep Ahlawat has shone even in the same genre — be wasted on such drab material.
Watch the Bard of Blood trailer here.
You feel for poor Vineet Kumar Singh, who was so mesmerising in Mukkabaaz, as he struggles with his accent, which is supposed to be Punjabi, but sounds like it took a hard right from Chandigarh, and entered Haryana. I have a suspicion that he re-recorded a majority of his lines in post- production, unlike his cast-mates. You feel for poor Emraan Hashmi, eternally pigeonholed in the wrong boxes, like a dignified movie star at the mercy of a stylist who insists on dressing them in ill-fitting casuals.
But nothing can compare to my dismay at seeing the glorious Sobhita Dhulipala, who has been outstanding in literally everything she has done, be reduced to an exposition machine. In one scene, when the name of a Balochistani separatist leader is mentioned, Sobhita’s character, Isha, provides viewers with a quick summary of his hypothetical Wikipedia page. “Bashir Mari?” Isha says, “Yaani Balochistan ke Yasser Arafat? Kuch saal pehle unki death hui thi. ISA ne hi maara tha unko.” She says this in the presence of two others, both of whom are guaranteed to be aware of this information already.
This happens a lot in Bard of Blood. Information that should, ideally, be relayed through story and character, is simply blurted out loud. Every emotion, every thought, every fleeting idea is verbally explained, but rarely ever shown. After a point, watching a story that relies on such inelegant means of communication becomes exhausting. You’re hearing things, but not really listening to them. For a moment, I thought I’d been transported back to school, sitting in an unbearably boring class.
But even my maths lessons were occasionally more enjoyable than the seven hours it took for me to finish Bard of Blood, a show that feels at once glossy, yet bafflingly cheap. Based on the 2015 novel by Bilal Siddiqi, it tells the story of former spy Kabir Anand (Emraan Hashmi), who is plucked from his life as a Shakespeare professor at a Mumbai college, and hurled headfirst into a dangerous mission in Balochistan. Kabir has a personal history with the region, and with the Indian intelligence agency that threw him under the bus after a botched job there several years ago.
I must confess that I haven’t read the book, but I am aware that several key changes have been made to the text. For instance, the names of the Indian and Pakistani intelligence agencies have been tweaked, and Isha Khan has been renamed Isha Khanna. I wonder why; her name certainly bore no relevance to her character. But I was pleasantly surprised by how Bard of Blood avoided jumping on the patriotic bandwagon, especially when it could have, so easily, turned into a celebration of national pride. Neither is it antagonistic towards Pakistan, which, in today’s turbulent times, comes across as a minor miracle.
The central objective of Kabir’s mission requires him and his team — he is joined by the rookie Isha and the veteran Veer (Vineet) — to go rogue as they infiltrate enemy territory and attempt to rescue four Indian spies who’ve been kidnapped by the Taliban.
There are several interesting ideas in this premise that Bard of Blood flirts with, but never fully commits to exploring. It could, for instance, have examined the idea of patriotism, and how tragically some agents are treated by the government. The four kidnapped spies are considered collateral damage by the agency, whose flat-out refusal to stage a rescue compels Kabir to take matters into his own hands in the first place. But even in captivity, the prisoners of war display a sort of blind faith in their country that begs to be scrutinised, but is sidelined in favour of scenes that serve absolutely no purpose in the plot.
For example, on one occasion, Kabir concocts an elaborate plan to have himself kidnapped in order to arrange a meeting with a young separatist, when all he needed to do was simply knock on his door. They are old acquaintances. And then there is the objectively pointless romantic track, which was quite literally shoehorned in; it did not exist in the book. Again, handled with a delicate touch, the romantic storyline could have breached some morally dubious themes, in addition to making grand humanist statements, but Bard of Blood’s stilted writing makes Murder 2 look like Before Sunrise.
It is one thing to have a poor script to begin with, but the problems metastasise when neither the filmmaking nor the acting is able to elevate it. Director Ribhu Dasgupta maintains a consistently messy style, and handles the multiple threads by routinely tangling them up. But there is little he could have done with the material he had. Ladakh doubling for Balochistan provided him with a suitably large natural sandbox to play inside, but the extras are laughably exaggerated, and the locations are distractingly glossy for a war zone. They don’t have a lived-in feel — instead, the several towns and villages our central trio visit appear to have been dressed mere hours before their arrival. The scenes set in Mumbai and New Delhi, meanwhile, give off a distinct whiff of having been completed in haste.
To discuss Bard of Blood’s handling of the very real, very relevant socio-political context of its story would be admitting that the show should be taken seriously. It shouldn’t. The very idea that a series which reduces Islamic terrorists to sloganeering, kohl-eyed caricatures can exist in the same world as Raazi, or even Amazon’s The Family Man, is mildly aggravating.
All this is evidence of a troubled production; of a building that was, in typical Indian fashion, constructed despite a rocky foundation, upon unstable land, and with subpar raw material.
Books & Authors
Book Review of Debutant Author, T. Shree, ‘What If….’
|Title:||You’ll Always Be My Favorite “What If”|
This was the book we had mentioned in our article of last month ‘What If…’ The book is a romance based on contemporary times. If we look at romances and novels we have a preconceived notion but this book drags down that notion and brings in space for so much more. Romance is the most versatile topic and it has been beautifully expressed by T. Shree in the book. It’s a fairytale-like pretty story bringing in the different emotions at different moments.
The book will blow one’s mind, it’s a book filled with a variety of characters, the building of the characters, the plots, and their twists put you to think more about this story. It’s a book on the details are kept to the story there is no loose end in the story making it a blissful read.
Amisha & Avyansh had met up in an arranged set up but the marriage never happened because of Avyansh’s abrupt refusal to the marriage proposal. The protagonist of the story faces tragic situations in her day-to-day life. She has herself a social network and then she has her true own self. Managing two different personalities, two different images becomes a task for her. She has a big void formed inside her, as the social image of her being this happy, bubbly, and cheerful girl has completely taken a toll over her personal life making her empty of all her emotions and feelings. The book is settled in a middle-class family, talks about the pressure and Amisha was married to Nikhil forcefully and Avyansh was married to Sunanya but there was something between them. Destiny got them again into the same settlement after 15 years; professionally in the same company. Avyansh was President Band 2 and Head of Business Development for APAC and UK. He was famous as “The Forbidden Fruit aka Tempting.” He had already proved to be the one of all the ladies in the company with his intense looks and attitude. Amisha also joined the company as a VP- branding and social media strategy in the same company and she had looks and style to turn a million heads around. It was all fine until they met each other; it was the silence before the sea Strom.
The book is based on a beautiful saying, what if it happens? And it says it all. There is such a deep connection with the characters in the story that you at one point will feel like being part of the book. It’s a great experience to read something this connective. It’s that one piece of contemporary romance that’s filled with thrill, bits of aww moments, and lots of hows and what’s.
Life is the result of our decisions taken at every point in life. Amisha, who was 18, and Avynash, who was 21 were in love with each other; it was love at first sight. They had planned to spend an entire lifetime of togetherness. But none can do their will against destinies play. Amisha’s family got her married to someone else, the marriage couldn’t stand for a very long time. Destiny had its plan of crossing their paths after 15 years.
The book is very engaging, The little notes at the beginning of each chapter are super adorable and the highlighted dialogues and quotes make it very interesting. This book basically tells u- “If it’s meant to be, it will be” The book is full of suspense and makes us so much familiar with the protagonist of the story. It’s like indulging in something so much interesting. The author deserves appreciation for the small details and the well-put story making it a beauty in itself.
This YA Yarn Would Be A Bit More Bewitching If Its Witch Made Better Choices
The Fourth of July has come and gone, so *checks calendar* it’s time for everyone to start decorating for Halloween, right? Yes, I am That Girl who uses spiders in all of her decorating. But really, who couldn’t use a little magic in their lives right about now? Time to break out the Hocus Pocus and pick up books like Laura Sibson’s Edie in Between.
Edie in Between was touted as “a modern Practical Magic.” An intriguing idea, as Alice Hoffman’s bewitching Practical Magic is not only a critically-acclaimed classic, but one of my favorite films of all time. Having read Edie, I think a more realistic comparison would be The Craft — still a lot of fun, but far less nuanced and ambitious.
Celtic/Wiccan magic runs in Edie Mitchell’s family. The Mitchell women dry herbs, note the solstice, and hide secret forests with rhyming spells. Edie herself can see dead people, among other things, but she’d rather just be a cross-country jock that has nothing to do with any of it. Which she got away with, until her mother’s death outside their home in Baltimore almost a year ago, at which point Edie moved onto her grandmother’s herb-covered houseboat in the Chesapeake Bay.
Despite being a socially awkward person who loathes this small town, Edie does make a couple of friends: Tess, who runs with her, and beautiful Rhia, who works at the local occult shop. It’s Tess who tells Edie about the “haunted” Mitchell property, so of course Edie has to investigate. Her presence bungles some sort of spell there, triggering a chain reaction of dangerous magic that goes from bad to worse. With the help of her new friends, GG (her grandmother), Edie’s mother’s journal, and a lot of magic, they manage to unlock these secrets of the past one by one.
Now, my upbringing was heavily influenced by Greek culture, so I am predisposed to have certain views on superstitions and the supernatural. I’m also a poet, so I have strong opinions on rhyming poetry. I acknowledged both of these things, and then set them aside so I could enjoy Edie’s story with an open mind. And for the most part I did, apart from Edie’s willful disregard for meter — I wish she’d thrown that out the window a lot sooner — and blatant ignorance.
For whatever reason, Edie’s mother allowed her to have a childhood without the “burden” of knowing how to properly harness magic that is powerful enough to kill a person. Even after she bumbled into that old house and screwed up a spell she didn’t know was there, Edie continued making one bad decision after another. By halfway through the book I was as mad as GG, as concerned as Tess and Rhia, and yelling at Edie like she was a character in a horror movie that should NOT go into the dark basement. Which did lead to considerable personal enjoyment, but I suspect it wasn’t what the author was going for.
I did appreciate that Edie’s story was about fear and the power of grief — appropriate themes for the current time. It highlighted the importance (and frustration) of communication within a family, no matter what the generation. When there are words you can’t say, it definitely puts the words you won’t say into perspective. But I really would like to have known more about the Mitchell family’s history and the origin of their magic, and I wish Rhia and Tess’s characters both had had a bit more substance.
So if you’re craving cooler weather, hot apple cider, and the classic Charmed TV series, Edie in Between is a magical adventure right up your dark alley. And if you’re anything like me, you’ve already got Practical Magic in the queue anyway.
Four Thousand Weeks: Time and How to Use It by Oliver Burkeman – review
This wise meditation on human transience strikes a perfect balance between self-help manual and philosophical odyssey
In the current average human lifespan we get 4,000 of each day of the week: 4,000 Saturday nights, 4,000 lazy Sundays, 4,000 Monday mornings. When we are young, that might feel like a dizzying number of tomorrows. As the years go by, not so much. Oliver Burkeman’s midlife inquiry into how we might most meaningfully approach those days is perfectly pitched somewhere between practical self-help book and philosophical quest. Having been the Guardian’s resident “pursuit of happiness” correspondent for a decade, offering the weekly promise that “This column will change your life”, this is something like his accumulated wisdom.
It starts with some necessary caveats. The day will never arrive when you have emptied your inbox. There will always be too many demands on your time, or nowhere near enough. Anything might happen in the next half an hour. Burkeman’s own journey as he describes it over the past years is perhaps a familiar one. He started out in his adult life believing there might be a trick to optimising personal productivity. He was a planner, a to-do lister, a buyer of highlighter pens. He was half-persuaded that there might be three or seven or 12 robust habits that allowed you finally to feel in control, on top of things.
Slowly, as plans never quite went to plan, and choices were made, and kids arrived, he came to understand that in any interesting life, time will almost never be your own to “spend” efficiently, and that most of the secret lay in embracing that fact. As he works his way towards these truths, Burkeman provides a brief history of human ideas of time. The definition that we are most familiar with, the stuff that might require urgent management, was really, he suggests, the product of two things: the sharp decline of faith in an afterlife, and the Industrial Revolution. Our acceptance of finite time – of this being all there is – roughly coincided with clocking on and clocking off. This made time more pressured and precious. Most of our anxieties, Burkeman argues, derive from the fact that “every moment of our existence is shot through with what Heidegger called finitude”, or a nagging sense that we might be wasting what little time we have.
As he explores more closely what this might mean, he also proposes some strategies, or thoughts, to counter that anxiety. The traditional airport-bookshop volumes about time-management tend to emphasise the importance of finding focus. These concerns have been exacerbated by the great global engine of digital distraction; social media companies make their billions from the time you aimlessly, addictively provide them, “making you care about things you don’t want to care about”, as Burkeman says.
It helps, he suggests, rather to understand certain basic human limitations. Procrastination is unavoidable, though we can get better at ignoring the right things. Fomo – fear of missing out – is only debilitating if you fail to realise “that missing out is basically guaranteed” in life, the inevitable consequence of one path chosen over another. The self-help gurus might tell us never “to settle” in a relationship or a job. Burkeman argues rather that “you should definitely settle, or to be more precise, you don’t have a choice”. It is inevitable that you come to realise any chosen partner or job is not all other potential partners or jobs. Happiness is a factor of what you do with that information.
Productivity is also revealed as a fairly dubious modern virtue. “The Latin word for business, negotium, translates as not-leisure, reflecting the view that work was a deviation from the higher calling [of ease],” he says. If we make leisure only another arena for self-improvement then it sacrifices the present in favour of an imagined future. One hero of this book is the hobbyist, who can steal an afternoon for no purpose; another is the person who “develops a taste for having problems”, in the knowledge that the state of having no problems only arrives postmortem. Burkeman ends his book, as his publisher perhaps insisted, with 10 tips to take away. The how-to is not necessary; as with all the best quests, its many pleasures don’t require a fast-forward button, but happen along the way.
Four Thousand Weeks: Time and How to Use It by Oliver Burkeman is published by Bodley Head (£16.99). To support the Guardian and Observer order your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply
Source: The Guardian
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