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REVIEW

Books

Contemporary uncanny: Modern-day mysteries that defy solution

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Gone are the days we were content with trying to find out if the Loch Ness monster actually existed (or in other places, Big Foot or the Abominable Snowman), or aliens regularly visited us, or whether a shadowy cartel actually runs the world. In the contemporary era, there are many other strange, weird and spooky mysteries we are unable to solve despite all our technological development.

Mission Impossible? The odyssey to become and stay Alec Baldwin

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Beginning with a list of desired occupations spanning proprietorship of a bespoke stationery shop to prison warden to nightclub owner (like Rick Blaine of "Casablanca" whom "all men would envy" and "women, against their better judgment would throw themselves at me nightly"), he tells us he didn't intend to become an actor.

A miscellany of 'misfits' and what we can learn from them

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There is a "lot packed into that little word", she holds in this book form of her acclaimed TED Talk "The Beauty of Being a Misfit", but clarifies that misfit doesn't mean anyone who occasionally feels weird, lonely a failure or left out. Nor does it mean feeling out of place, resenting social roles, or caught in a midlife crises "though these states of being are important".

Power: A new paradigm to ponder over -- and pursue

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The power paradox, as he holds in this book, is that "we rise in power and make a difference in the world due to what is best about human nature, but we fall due to power due to what is worst".

'1984 anti-Sikh genocide not spontaneous, government orchestrated'

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"At the time, the authorities projected the violence as a spontaneous reaction to the tragic loss of a much-loved Prime Minister. But evidence points to a government-orchestrated genocidal massacre unleashed by politicians -- with the trail leading up to the very heart of the dynastic Gandhi family -- and covered up with the help of the police, judiciary and sections of the media," the author writes.

Averting the end of the world with a motley crew's help

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Welcome to the world of Magnus Chase, one of Odin's "einherji" (chosen immortal warriors) in the third and final installment of Rick Riordan's "Gods of Asgard" trilogy, as he faces what could be his final adventure.

Perceptions, Postures and Pragmatism: India-Pakistan relations down the decades

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Beyond these, the Partition, Kashmir, river water sharing, terrorism, the nuclear arms race and many other facets, including cooperation, make India-Pakistan ties cover a large and complex canvas, painted and repainted over for seven decades, leaving those well-versed at one point not as adept later.

The cold, brutal world of Cold War espionage and its hard legacy

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It is the latter fear that strikes long retired British spy as he is suddenly summoned from his uneventful retired life in the remote French countryside to London by his former service for a matter which might be a bit urgent.

A Sanskrit poet's celebration of human experience across the spectrum

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The work (literally three centuries), comprises a hundred-odd "poetic epigrams" each under three major themes of "Niti", "Shringara" and "Vairagya", which "broadly reflect the political, erotic and philosophical modes of thought and, in turn, focus on worldly life, pleasures in beauty, and total abjuration of both".

Silence and its significance: A wide-ranging investigation

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In an another of Bloomsbury's intriguing, informative and incisive "Object Lessons" series focussing the "hidden lives" of ordinary things, ranging from dust to golf balls, the author begins by delving into what silence is not -- and this may be counter-intuitive to our perceptions.

Movies

'The Commuter': Typical Liam Neeson fare

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This film, like all Liam Neeson's previous solo endeavours, lands up being just another thriller, packed with Neeson's brand of badass action.

'Kaalakaandi': Black humour hard sold

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What makes "Kaalakaandi" interesting, though, is its dark comedy, easy to relate situations and characters. It is one of the easiest films to love and one of the hardest to think of as a work of art. It approaches the notion of pure filmmaking as entertainment; it is a nearly flawless example of- itself.

'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri' is a stunner

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This is a film where we are expected to constantly keep searching for signs of emotions in characters that are not prone to being emotionally demonstrative.

'Kadvi Hawa': A timely warning about global warming

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Look at what we've done to Mother Earth. She is no longer Mother, she is Muddle Earth heading towards Murder Earth. In director Nila Madhab Pandya's new work aptly entitled "Kadwi Hawa", the bitter truth of ecological plunder, is wrapped in a parable about a blind restless patriarch played by Sanjay Mishra who wanders the merciless hinterland of Mahua.

'Spyder': Brings the thrill back into the thriller

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Innovative writing in Indian cinema is hard to come by. One that synthesises thrills with a certain sobriety so effectively is rare. Murugadoss' writing is always ahead of his (considerable) skills as a director. And that's a good thing. While he lets Mahesh Babu's star power do all the talking (even while the actor himself remains distractingly quiet through most of the mayhem), the director leaves nothing to chance.

'Lucknow Central': Outstanding study Of imprisonment and freedom

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The smartly thoughtfully written script (by Ranjit Tiwari, Aseem Arora) delves into the dynamics of freedom and comes up with a super-chic musical with wings that often allow vivid characters to fly higher than prison dramas generally do in India.Undoubtedly "Lucknow Central" is a prison-break drama on a par with Franklin Schaffener's 1973 classic "Papillon" and certainly superior in its intellectual political and spiritual ramifications to the overrated "Shawshank Redemption".

Latest 'Transformers' film better than expected

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Bay has a great sense of fun underlining even his most grim apocalyptic thesis on the ruination of civilisation. Here in the fifth "Transformers", he is on sturdy ground, enabling him to create visual splendour on a scale that's both awesome and believable. The relentlessly sweaty narrative is occasionally let down by actors who don't get the joke, who play their characters far too seriously.

'Baby Driver': A breezy musically driven crime romance

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Baby is quirky because he rarely speaks and is always listening to music. He listens to music because he has tinnitus, which causes a constant ringing or buzzing in his ears and he needs the music to drown that out.

'Sarkar 3': Performances keep you riveted

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Amitabh Bachchan, whose character Subhash Nagare is designed on the lines of the late Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray, dressed in black flowing robes and sporting a grey French beard long with the characteristic rudraksh, emulates the chieftain to perfection. With his steely gaze and paused speech, he effectively conveys the conniving persona.

'Aftermath': could have been a lot Of things which it isn't

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The script continues its shaky journey through the indescribable grief of the two men without leaving any lasting impact on us. The fringe characters who are teased into the terrifying duet of depression are so sketchy they seem to de-energize the grief that resides at the core of the narrative. Neighbours, friendly journalists, nosy lawyers trying to pry open the two grieving men's wounded hearts occupy a dead-end .

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