The 2009 Attack on the Sri-Lanka National Cricket Team… Happened in Front of our School!

On March 3rd, 2009, I hear bullets for the first time in my life. They’re so unlike the ones in movies. They’re much scarier in real-life. Our school, LGS (Lahore Grammar School) is situated on Main Boulevard Gulberg Road. The infamous attack on the Sri-Lanka National Cricket Team happens so close in proximity that you’d think the Terrorists have taken over the school. Our left-side of the room is made of a one-way glass. We can see out, but no-one can see in. Despite the fact that we can oversee the whole school, and beyond, we usually get annoyed because the trees obscure a-lot of the view. But on this day we’re glad they’re obscuring it. The first wave of bullets ends and another starts, this time with more aggression and we all jump out of our seats and start calling our parents. Even though bringing phones to school is a big no-no, the rule breaking proves its worth today and I’m glad I’ve bought mine with me today. I call my Mom and explain her the situation. She quickly arranges for a rickshaw and assures me she will be there in 20 minutes.

By this time our class has become a silent orgy of prayers. Outside, the firing has increased and refuses to end. After what seems like ages, the firing slowly dies down and our principal comes up and slowly escorts us down to the big classroom on the right of the school. Parents are coming and going, taking their children with them. My Mother finally arrives, her expression is like as if I’ve just come back from winning a war. The principal accompanies me and my Mother to our rickshaw and tells us to go quickly. Instead of taking the opposite route, we take the roundabout where the shooting has just taken place. I can still see the smoke and people running in a daze.

Subhanallah, nothing serious happens to us, or the school, and we all arrive safely, with me a little shaken by the incident.

Anyway, a lot of good people were killed and my condolences are with them and for their family. When will Terrorism stop, I have no idea.

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He thinks everything inside him is worthless and embarrassing!

These are the words that were spoken by Mr. John Keating to describe Todd Anderson to the class in Dead Poets Society.

They were also spoken by my English sir (who shall remain unnamed) when I failed in to report my essay.

Our topic was painfully simple: Write a horror story. 300 words maximum. By that time, I was around 13, I hadn’t seen many horror movies but I had a good idea on how they were like: Blood, sex, masks, weapons, screaming and the like.  We were given 2 days to write the essay and that was enough time for me. Within 30 minutes I’d written a very gory story about a man who kills a woman and spills out all her entrails “which fell on the ground with a sickening sound”. Edgar Allen Poe would’ve been so proud.

Anyway, the day finally arrived and one by one everyone stepped to the front of the room and started reading their essays. Sitting in the far left end of the room, I started shaking uncontrollably due to two reasons: Lack of confidence. The others really were great and very well written but they were not very horror enough, which made mine look like as if it was written in collaboration with either Clive Barker or George A. Romero. And the second reason: I stutter. That’s right, since the age of 6, it has been going on. Just the thought of going up there and talking aloud in front of the class was enough to make me shiver in my seat. I discreetly hid my essay in my bag and acted that I’d forgotten about it. After two more essays, the English sir called out:

Hamza Ansari!

If you still haven’t guessed, that’s me. Everyone turned around to look at me, some giving me encouraging signals, others indifferent. I started looking around helplessly. Finally I said:

No Sir, I haven’t done my essay

The English sir clicked his tongue and stood up. If I was shaking before, then I was causing a mini-earthquake in my seat. While coming over to me, he addressed the class:

Hamza here thinks that everything inside him is worthless and embarrassing.

Few started to snicker, others not understanding his intentions. He told me to stand up and produce my essay book from my bag and stand in front of the class. I silently obeyed and he sat in my place. Even though I was friends with the whole class, they had suddenly become alien. Complete strangers. When I started speaking, it took me complete 3 minutes just to finish the first line. Not only out of fear, but due to very weak lung power. Stutterers like me will know how it feels like. I painfully read my essay while inwardly cursing my imagination that led me to write 250+ words.

When it was over, it wasn’t greeted with scattering claps like they had done with the others. Instead, I was greeted with silence. Most of them were staring at me with their mouth open as if I’d just come out of the closet.

Then, as if a spell had been lifted off, everyone started clapping and the nearest ones started giving me pats on my back and high-fives. The English sir was visibly impressed and declared it the most violent essay from the class. After when the class ended, everyone snatched the book from me and asked me all sorts of questions and read their favourite lines from the essay. And even though I never got the chance to write another essay (I left school 3 months after that incident) and despite the fact it was all 6 years ago, I still remember it vividly and I like to bring it to the surface time to time, if just in my mind.

This story may seem nondescript in front of other better stories but to me it was an experience. And this is why I connected to that particular scene in Dead Poets Society.

Thank you, Sir, for making me do the one thing that I’ve always declared to be impossible.

Floater!

Due to the imperfections in the fluids in my eyes, various brown stripes dance before me. They go where my eye goes. They dance relentlessly and unforgivably, with me being the only audience. A reluctant, and quite-possibly, a doomed one.

I’m talking about a phenomenon that occurs when the vitrous humour inside the eyes get filled with Floaters. They’re known by many names but I call them “flying bacteria” because they resemble like one. Harmless they may be, these devilish Floaters can be mischievous at times. Here you are, minding your own business and suddenly something whizzes by by the corner of your eye at close proximity. Your heart jumps to your throat and just when you’re convinced it could’ve been a ghost, an innocent Floater floats into view, settling your heart back to its original place but incuring your wrath.

Who needs horror movies when you have these?

When someone tells you to look up at the clear blue sky, it’s quite-clear that they’re not “suffering” from said phenomenon because when you look up, all you see are disturbing, misshapen “birds” against a clear blue backdrop.

But having them is not wholly bad.

People with an imagination like Amelie can make use of them on a dull, boring Sunday, and how? All you need is a clear background and a-lot of absurd creativity. Remember, you’re playing with your sanity! Well, almost! It could be, let’s say, a War of the Brown Ribbons. Or a re-creation of Star Wars with, of course, Darth Vader as an elongated ribbon, with the rest of the Rebellion Clan reduced to the same level.

Of course, I know it’s not as fun as spotting weird clouds or imaging yourself as a respected and admired rock-star but Floaters don’t go away that easily and how should one go about tackling them? By either using them for weird entertainment (Remember: They may be on your stage but you control them) or having them cured. But what’s the fun in that? It’s these little imperfections that makes Life different, and unique, and weird, and, annoying they may be to some, are just some of the things that are missed by a majority.

In conclusion: Floaters are like relatives: They never leave you, not even while you’re sleeping… and that’s about the extend of it! Sorry to have finished it in such a bittersweet way!

File:Floaters.png

What do you see? I see an S and a musical note.

To read more: go here!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Floater

Captain America: First Avenger!

Director: Joe Johnston

Stars out of 10: 6.5

Captain America: The First Avenger

Since I was in the mood for something light and fresh, Captain America proved to be a good surprise. It gave exactly what I wanted but frankly speaking, could’ve done much, much better. The thing about Marvel movies are that they’re hardly violent, dark or gritty and are all about one-liners, colourful display and a wide array of characters. The three very ingredients this film is made up of. Since I got nothing much to write on this film, I’ll skip to the best part: performances!

Chris Evans is one of the top 10 best actors to ever portray a superhero (seriously, Human Torch was pretty decent) and Captain America is probably his second-best effort to date, performance-wise, the first being Sunshine. Uptill to the point where he gets injected by the Super Soldier Serum, he pretty much had his character in check but kinda lost focus after the injection. He became the script, not the character but I really enjoyed it. A new surprise was Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter. She reminded me some of the female cast from Schindler’s List. Very eye-friendly and a great performance. After what seemed like a long time, Tommy Lee Jones and Stanley Tucci were very interesting to watch and very likable in their performances and their characters and they both shared good chemistry. Full of interesting small scenes here and there, I still like watching the whole scene where Colonel Chester Philips (Lee Jones) is introduced. Great line delivery. Then we have Hugo Weaving who, in my opinion, ruled the film by his mastery. He is flawlessly talented and has a knack for playing great, almost classic, characters and Red Skull is his latest, and one of his damn greatest, effort to date. He held the film in his shoulders to the point where he and Captain America first meet near the end of the film. After that it was like he lost interest in his character but managed to pack solid punches. If there’s just one reason to watch this film, then it has to be Hugo Weaving!

So basically I wanted a light, cartoonish film and this really is one. I wasn’t expecting much but it had nice surprises here and there. So, overall, my verdict: A pretty good film, could’ve done better, suitable for watching it one time only!

 

 

 

Picnic at Hanging Rock

Director: Peter Weir

Stars out of 10: 9.3

Picnic at Hanging Rock

My third Peter Weir film and his best so far. I’ve rated all three films, The Truman Show, Dead Poets Society and Picnic at Hanging Rock more than 9.0 stars and this one is the highest rated, so far.

There’s cinema, then there’s beautiful cinema and then there’s Picnic at Hanging Rock, a movie so tantalizing, so ethereal, so sublime, that you may scream out IMPOSSIBLE because no-other film has quite reached this level. There are others, yes, and I’ve seen many, but this one is a true eye-candy. The innocence and sweetness is in the beautiful ladies and the excellent cinematography but they start and stop there. You see, Picnic is not a sweet movie, far from it, it’s a haunting, surreal movie with a violent atmosphere to it. Students of Appleyard College go on a picnic trip to Hanging Rock. Once there, three students and one teacher end up missing and the rest of the film is about searching for them. The teacher is implied to have been raped and as for the students, no-one has the foggiest. One of the students, Irma, is found one week later, badly scratched and dehydrated but are unsuccessful on the others.

Beautiful the movie may be, it left me disturbed in a way no other movie ever did. I mean, anything explicitly violent could’ve happened to them. Attacked by a wild animal? Brutal kidnapping? Falling down a deep hole? OK, seriously, stop thinking, don’t make it worse! I think I actually cried when the film finished because they’re still out there… that’s it!

I’ve noticed one thing that music has always been a great part of Peter Weir’s movies and boy ‘o boy! Is the music the greatest ever? To me the most beautiful music score was the one in Blade Runner but this one, called Diona, beats it by miles. It’s powerful, haunting and seriously attention grabbing. Perfect way to start off a film and to fuel it. Excellent job!

So far I haven’t written about the performances and yet that is the reason why I write reviews. Now, it has a host of relatively-unknown Australian/Welsh actors that you may or may-not have seen in other movies. The only two that kinda impressed me were by Dominic Guard as Michael and Wyn Roberts as Sgt. Bumpher. Both were good in their respective characters but that’s all. To some extend, I said some, Magaret Nelson as Sara. She had a classic dark quality to her that had me mesmerized!

So, Picnic at Hanging Rock is one of Australian Cinema’s finest works and one of the most, most beautiful piece of work I’ve ever seen. If it doesn’t leave you haunted, then go play Limbo… at-least that will, if not anything else!

 

 

 

Toy Story

Director: John Lasseter

Stars out of 10: 9.4

Toy Story

The arrival of Toy Story announced two things: That Pixar is the new creative kid in town and that it is putting Disney out of business. Seriously, has Disney, before it took over Pixar, ever produced a great cartoon after 1999’s Tarzan? One-or-two maybe but not to the level of their previous classics. Now, the 90’s was a cool decade and I’m glad I’m one of those 90’s kids because I grew up with the franchise. Instead of tackling dragons, monsters, anthropomorphic animals or flying elephants, the team of Pixar tackled the life of toys and bought forward some of the greatest cartoon characters in the history of cartoons. The animation is mind-blowing still but the 90’s kids will know exactly how it felt watching it for the first time, as if Toy Story was the very-first cartoon ever produced. It still to this day remains a perennial classic and, apart from Tom & Jerry and Disney’s earliest classics, can be enjoyed by both children and adults alike.

I like the sharp, witty writing and cynical, sarcastic characteristics of Hamm and Mr. Potato Head, the latter, in my opinion, the break-through character of the first film. The pop-culture references and quirky personalities also did the trick, making the toys more believable and near-human. I don’t know why but I’ve always found the humans in Pixar productions to be very weirdly shaped, either big jaws or high-foreheads or big eyes or small head and big body and I don’t even know why I’m complaining. Anyway, the human characters Sid and Andy get 10/10 stars from me because of their realism. I should know because I was both of them when I was young and now that I’ve grown up, have witnessed it numerous times while watching my sisters and cousins. Not only they associated themselves with Andy but their imaginations grew and became more protective of their toys, so that’s a good thing, right?

The scene where Buzz finds out that he is a toy and Woody was right all along is just heart-breaking and even though Pixar has created more touching moments, this one will always be in the top 3.

In all, if you still haven’t seen this and if you’re planning on watching a feel-good cartoon with your kids, Toy Story should be up your alley!

 

 

 

Dead Poets Society

Director: Peter Weir

Stars out of 10: 9.0

Dead Poets Society

DPS is as warm a film as an electric blanket, as rich as history and as likable as any wise old man with inspiring words. First off, I’m a sucker for inspiring movies and since I have recently taken an interest in poetry, connected with John Keating because we kinda share almost the same views on life. Now, DPS is either a really great flick with scenes that you just wanna rewind over and over or an unnecessarily over-rated one. Finally, for once, a decent, mature, flawed yes, movie comes from Hollywood that not only breaks certain stereotypes, like, for example, boys mulling over poetry more than girls, but also makes you come out of your shell and associate yourself with at-least one character. I mean, whether we’re verbal about it or not, aren’t we all really like them, if just a little? If you wanna talk about plausibility, then DPS is a whole lot more plausible than those rebel flicks, any John Hughes one and those 80’s action movies that we’ve come to love. Dead Poets Society is a thinker’s film. No IQ drop here.

The only qualm I have is why didn’t they use English actors, (I’m talking about the boys), giving the English atmosphere of the film. Not to say the American actors were miscast or anything, its just that it could’ve been times better with English actors, because most of the seniors talk in an English accent.

Anyway, Robin Williams has one of those careers that can be divided as hits and misses. Great performances they may be, he has a-lot of misses but DPS is certainly not one of them. It’s a hit, in fact more than that. After watching him in countless comedy roles, it certainly was surprising to see him do a dramatic one. Something that I did not see coming. Although his performance as the charismatic and utterly likable John Keating is of no match to his own performance asSean Maguire, it certainly is one of his damn greatest. He is one of those cool teachers that you wish you had in school, high-school, university whatever. Robin Williams almost perfectly combines comedy and drama, as noted when he gives an inspiring speech and then does an imitation of Marlon Brando and John Wayne. Now that’s class, something you don’t see everyday and something not everyone has the power to do, except maybe, I said maybe, Tom Hanks.

From the others, Robert Sean Leonard was truly excellent and he was the king of all sans-Williams scenes. Nearly all were excellent in their respective roles but Leonard was a rung above than everybody else. The closest was Ethan Hawke as Todd Anderson, a character with whom I quite-associated myself with. I swear, that was me up there, you know. When Keating drags Anderson to the middle of the class and encourages him to say aloud his poetry was something that happened to me, almost similar, but, instead of poetry, it was reading an essay I’d written. That moment won me over and I rewinded that oh-so many times. I may not be exactly like Todd Anderson but we share common characteristics.

In a time where the more CGI the more better your film will be and idiotic high-school movies with unbearable airheads as the lead, Dead Poets Society was a good surprise and certainly one of the films that requires a revisit. 10 times!