Posted in featured, Movie, Uncategorized

Over Coming Fears via #Xdubai #Zipline #Xline

It was in 2016 when I first heard about the XDubai, a group that advocated extreme sports and stunts in Dubai. It was the kind of thing I had always wanted to get into: jump off skyscrapers, ride BMX bike up and down the crazy routes, and ultimately skydive! On my recent trip to Dubai, the Xline caught my eye, and it turns out that this zipline is the world’s longest urban zipline.

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Just reading these statistics got my heart racing! 

I finally paid for my ticket (it cost me a whopping And 650/ $177) and showed up at the Dubai Marina Mall. There were about 10 other people, and either you could Go Solo or do the Double. Since I was on my own, I was paired up with another guest who was going solo. The excitement and the nervousness had begun to set in when they weighed me in– if you are over 100kgs, you cannot do the stunt.

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The took us to the building in their minivan. At this point, you are absolutely forbidden to take any recording devices with you. I wish I had my cell phone to capture the anticipation that was getting to all of us. Once we got to Al Amwaj building, we took the elevator to the 44th floor, from where we had to climb another four floors up.

So we were standing on the 48th floor, which makes it 170 meters above ground. There air up here was so different from down below. I could almost feel my legs giving away, as if I were standing on a shaky ground. The views from up here were no doubt gorgeous and something I mentally registered. However, my mind was focused on the ground below– I am literally standing 48 floors high!!

I chickened away from being the first one to go, so another group went first. I was second in line. They asked me to move forward to the main prep area, where they suited me up with a padded jacket and wrapped up all the straps behind me.

A guy was there with a camera who recorded what I was feeling at this point. I didn’t have any words but was just wondering to myself why the hell I signed up for this. What if I fall? What if I die? What if I fall and break and my body and don’t die and suffer the pain? I shared my concerns with the guy and he laughed it off and told me how super safe their equipments are. I had no choice to back out and so mentally prepared myself for this task.

Finally, I was strapped in, with my helmet and go pro camera attached. I was asked to lie down on one of those stretcher bed you see at the hospitals. I ay down on my chest while they strapped the zipline behind my back. I had no idea what was going on, as all I could see was the marina in front of me. Shit! I am about go down this zipline for an entire minute.

All I could tell myself at this point was how I need to conquer my fears. I need to do this. If I can do this, I can do everything. Everything I need is on the other side of fear. I need to tackle this fear, this unknown. I need to push myself. I need to defy my limits. I am a free spirited person, who refuses to stay put in a box. I need to feel this freedom. I need to scream all the way down!

 

 

“Are you ready??!!” screamed the guy. “NO!” I screamed back! He laughed some more. “Don’t worry! You will love it” he shouted back at me. The stretcher bed was lowered and now I was literally hanging from the rope line. I was still thinking about what if I fall. In a matter of few seconds, I changed my mindset– come on Mansour, this is an experience of a lifetime! you are about to zipline over the marina. take in this moment. enjoy this moment. it’s about conquering your fears. 

Ready, set go! My heart was literally pumping out my chest. I was instructed to hold my arms in till I cross over the edge of the building. My breathing had become heavy. I didn’t even discuss with anyone who will get what when I die. I felt like as if my own body was leaving my physical body. I felt lighter already.

The second I was released, I flung forwards, as if someone pushed me from the edge of the building. My screaming had begun. I could see the parapet of the building, and then the roads down below. Shit. That’s so far down. I could see cars and tiny little people. But I was also flying fast forwards. The air blowing into my face was strong and I could feel my speed increasing. I am supposed to go from 0 to 60km in 2.5 seconds.

The sensation of flying overtook my feeling of being scared. I was literally flying in the air. I felt so free, as if I were flying away from the world. The feelings turned rather quickly from fear into feeling so free and blissful. It was quiet up here too. A few seconds later, I spread my arms across and I was literally flying.

The entire experience last about a minute, and I cannot tell you what an experience it is. Flying over Dubai Marina, watching the water, the yachts, the people down below from up above was an incredible moment to register. It brought my entire life into perspective. Everything seems so petty and little– I was looking at the bigger picture on my life. I was realising how I needed to stay focused on he bigger picture and avoid the petty things. Yes, all of this happened in a matter of seconds.

 

I finally landed, and all I could feel was super accomplished. I conquered my fear. I wish I could have done it again. It’s incredible to be able to experience such stunts. It’s amazing to see how far one can push their bodies, mentally and physically. Overcoming fear is one of the biggest hurdle we all face in our daily lives, and just by overcoming our fears can push into directions we never knew we could go to.

I for one know I am a completely different person with a renewed perspective on life. All because I was able to conquer my fears.

 

Posted in Bollywood, Movie, Review

Padmavaati

My biggest fear while watching Padmaavati was that it will be like Bhansali’s previous outing Bajirao Mastani. Both movies are based on historical characters, set in 13th century or so, revolving around a love triangle set in an era where matters are solved through battles. My fears were wiped away as soon as Padmaavati started and I knew I was in for an exciting ride into the times and lives of this woman known as Padmavaati.

Before I get into the movie, I did some research and it’s interesting to see where the source material for the movie came from: an ancient Sufi poem, Padmavaat, written by Malik Muhammad Jayasi in 1540. The epic poem revolves around Rani Padmini, Queen of Chitoor, who is wife to Ratan Sen, and Sultan of Delhi, Allaudin Khilji, who goes out of his way to get Queen Padmini. This is the basis for the movie. There is a lot of debate of how far the truth is, and allegedly the two men are indeed historical characters, but it is still not sure whether Queen Padmini actually existed or not.

Why the controversy? Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali has indeed taken some liberties with the characters, for which he had to face a lot of protests and uproar from the Indians. One, the Rajputs are very upset for glamourizing the role of Khilji, the Muslim tyrant who desires Padmaavati; two, the women are very upset for making the movie more about the love angle rather than focusing on Padmavaati’s ultimate sacrifice; and three, general historical inaccuracies, and oh yes, Queen Padmavaati never really danced in front of so many men and women, as is shown in the movie.

Padmavaati is a grand, opulent film with the typical Bhansali’s excesses: huge sets, hanging chandeliers, royal costumes and jewelry, swords and shields, large forts and huge cinematic landscapes on which battles are fought. There is a lot to feast on visually—with each nose ring and necklaces, to the embroidery on the costumes and head gears, to the decorations of the rooms.

In the hands of a competent director, every scene is a piece of art- I mean I could easily take lots of pics and frame the scenes. The pacing of the movie works really well, and surprising moves at a decent pace to keep us audience engaged. The script worked well, the dialogue was not heavy handed—it was understandable enough for someone like me (otherwise I rely on subtitles in movies with heavy Urdu!)

The only part one starts to lose interest are the few moments before the explosive finale. It does tend to drag a little, and one song Khali Bali could have been shortened, or removed altogether. But it doesn’t ruin the movie watching experience.

Having said that, I cannot help but praise all three main actors: Ranveer Singh as Allaudin Khilji, Deepika Padukone as Padmavaati and Shahid Kapoor as Ratan Sen.

ranveer-singh-padmavati-7591Out of the three, Ranveer Singh comes out the strongest, for his role is the meatiest one. He plays a Muslim tyrant, who is hungry for power and wants to be the Sultan of Delhi. He is told about Padmavaati, and is hell bent on ‘seeing’ her. It is his desire for her that forces him to camp outside her fort for six months and striking a deal eventually to get to see her, with some disastrous consequences. Singh brings his usual energy to the character, and does an extremely incredible job of humanising an otherwise vile character. There are moments we hate him, and there are moments we feel for him- which is a trademark of an accomplished actor. Ranveer Singh has gone on record to say that essaying the role of Khilji, a character with such dark and evil shades, had a negative impact on him in real life, and actually had to work hard to come out of it to regain a sane mind. Singh is a brilliant, dedicated actor and I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins all the major acting awards.

Deepika is not far behind in terms of strong acting, and I was worried she might do something similar to her role in Bajirao Mastani, and thankfully she doesn’t.

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Her eyes, her facial expressions, her body language are all so masterfully handled. She is currently my favorite Bollywood actress and with this role, she has another feather in her cap.

Shahid Kapoor, who is another brilliant actor, does a fine job of playing Ratan Sen, even though his role isn’t as fleshed out as Khilji’s.

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Despite that, Shahid Kapoor stands out in some of the more intense scenes, as well as the battle scenes. I was reminded of Shahid Kapoor’s role in another brilliant film of his Kaminey.

(On a completely different side note, both Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor have made me set some serious health and fitness goals– they have the perfect bodies with six packs and all, which I have noticed Bhansali loves to show in his movies! There are some homoerotic moments between Khilji and the male eunuch which had overtones of male bonding, including one where both of them are in the same bathtub).

I will also mention two other characters that stood out: Mehrunnisa (Aditi Rao Hydari) who is Khilji’s wife, and Malik Kafur (Jim Sarbh), a male eunuch who is Khilji’s right hand man. Brilliant acting all round.

The songs were adequate and Ghoomar actually stood out the most, with its mesmerizing dance sequences and music. The action sequences were fun to watch, especially when the arrows are shot and the catapults are used. There have been some complaints of some shoddy CGI work and unnecessary use of 3D, which wasn’t really an issue for us since it was 2D for us (yes, there are some moment when CGI is indeed shoddy, but at the moment it didn’t really matter for the movie was intense!)

Over all, Padmavaat will be a film that many will remember in years to come and will always be referred to as that definitive film on love, war, valor and sacrifice.

Which brings me to the finale—OMG! I was blown away. It is an ending that will stay with you for a while after the movie ends. It was such an unexpected ending, I didn’t even imagine it would end like this. The entire end sequence, with its loud background noise and ongoing battle, this one little sequence involving Deepika just tugs at you emotionally.

Bhansali and cast and crew—a job extremely well done!

4.5 out of 5

Genre: Drama, Romance
Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Cast: Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapoor
Rating: PG
Synopsis:  A period drama, the story unfolds as Allaudin Khilji, a Muslim tyrant, longs for Queen Padmavati, and the ensuing battles he faces with her husband Ratan Sen, set in 13th Century India.
Running time: 163 mins
Seen at: Cinestar, Xinhua Mall, Lahore

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Bollywood, Movie, Review

Kapoor and Sons (Since 1921)

 

In the Asian culture, family is a very important element. There have been countless movies that revolves around families, ranging from the brilliant Piku to the high profile but phony Dil Dhadakne Do (though in my opinion Monsoon Wedding is the best movie that deals with the breakdown of familial relations and ultimately redeeming themselves).

We meet two estranged brothers, Rahul (Fawad Khan) and Arjun (Sidharth Malhotra), who are forced to return to their home in Conoor, India from London and New Jersey respectively, to be with their grandfather, Dadu (Rishi Kapoor) who had a heart attack. The brothers’ parents are also there, Harsh (Rajat Kapoor) and Sunita (Ratna Shah). Rahul is a successful novelist in London, and exemplifies the image of a man who’s achieved everything in life. He is according to his mother the “perfect child.” Arjun, on the other hand, an aspiring novelist, is seen as someone who’s confused in life, having attempted several things in life, but never completing them. He’s the “black sheep” of the family.

No sooner have the brothers landed in their home after five years of not speaking to each other, are the parents are embroiled in a fight, putting all four of them in a rather precarious situation, where several issues come up.

Enters Tia, a young woman, who happens to meet both Rahul and Arjun under different circumstances. She falls for Rahul, but he doesn’t reciprocate her feelings. Arjun finds out that Tia has also been seeing his brother, which makes for a very awkward love triangle. Things start getting complicated when truths are finally being revealed, and all those simmering tension moments come forth.

It’s so refreshing to see a movie from Bollywood that doesn’t sugar coat family problems. Their fights and arguments could pass off for a fight you may have witnessed in your own family or someone that you know off. Their problems are real, where the issues are not merely glossed over a cup of tea. That’s not to say Kapoor and Sons is not without some humorous moments, mainly provided by the 90-year old grandfather whose only desire is to have one last family portrait taken; the portrait that holds the movie together.

Among the actors, Sidharth Malhotra is the weakest of them all. Though he’s improved a lot from Student of the Year, he’s overshadowed by the others. He does have an intense scene with his mother, which tugs at your heart.

Alia Bhatt is a competent actress (check out the moment when she shares a story about her own family), but her character doesn’t get much time on screen.

Dadu the grandfather, was good in parts, and his only role was to hold the family together and provide comic relief.

The parents, in my opinion, did a great job. They face real world problems: bills not being paid on time, not knowing when the next income will come on time, taking care of the sick grandfather and running the house. Throw in the accusation of having an extra-marital affair, and we get to witness the powerful acting chops from very competent actors.

Which brings us to the main highlight of the movie: our very own Pakistani, Fawad Khan.

Truth be told, I was not really a huge fan of him in his previous movie Khoobsurat, but I am highly impressed by him in Kapoor and Sons. His acting is remarkably mature and right from the start in the first family fight scene, you are convinced Fawad Khan is a brilliant actor. He brings warmth and grace, yet that slight bit of vulnerability, to his character extremely well. He slides so effortlessly from being the doting son, to a big brother to a romantic.

There is also some talk of why Fawad Khan chose to do a character like this in his second film in Bollywood. Some people have criticised him for doing such a role. To that, I will say that he is first and foremost an actor, and this is merely a character he’s playing, and he essays the character quite well. He will be getting acting awards, and he will be showered with praises for choosing to play the role of Rahul Kapoor. Kudos to the director for having show the character of Rahul Kapoor in a mature and sensible manner.

Having said that, the chemistry between ALL the actors is believable and convincing, and you very quickly drawn into their lives, for these are people you suddenly care about and feel their moments of joy, happiness, despair, anger and tears. (For those of you who are emotional, do carry a box of Kleenex!)

Along with this, the sole winner of the movie is the script: it’s real, it’s realistic, and it’s dripped in reality, which I love!

Kapoor and Sons is directed by Shakun Batra, who directed the brilliant Ek Main Aur Ek Tu, which is a huge favorite movie of mine, merely because it’s unconventional and turns the whole formula upside down by redefining what a friendship or relationship could mean.

In the same manner, Batra has taken us down this journey where there are no easy answers to life’s problems, but somehow things sort out when family members are there for each other during dark and stormy weathers. It’s all right if you make mistakes. It’s all right if you don’t know what to say. It’s all right if you need space and time away from each other. But as long as you are there for each other, a family can get through life’s problems.

By the time you leave the theater, you will have something to relate to in the movie, and something will make you super grateful to know that you have a family. It may make you want to pick up the phone and make several calls to your siblings or your parents and tell them you love them. It will certainly make you want to appreciate your own family members for their presence in your life.

Princess Diana once famously said “Family is the most important thing in the world” and Kapoor and Sons drives that point home in a movie that’s poignant, profound, humorous and surprisingly, real.

4.5 out of 5