Notes On A Scandal
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On the scandal range, this film crosses the line twice — with breathtaking strides. The scandal alluded to in the title is about married teacher Sheba Hart's lusty affair with her schoolgoing pupil Steven Connolly. The other relationship, which comes to envelop this one, is fusty teacher Barbara Covett's love for Sheba and her manipulation of her younger colleague.
To some of you, this may sound like a soft-porn plot.
But brilliant empathetic portrayals by Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench ensure that this comes across as a gripping production. What makes it even more interesting is director Richard Eyre's sensitive, non-moralistic treatment of the so-called scandals. And Blanchett's onscreen husband Bill Nighy's frustration underlines this as a tale of human frailties.
When Sheba, the new art teacher from a "privileged bourgeois bohemian" background, falls for her student, she doesn't try to find an excuse. The desperately lonely Barbara, in love with Sheba by then, happens to come across the affair. And she tries to use it to gain intimacy with Sheba. The media turns on Barbara - on how and why she kept the affair secret from the rest of the school. And darkness is unspooled.
You will need the right kind of DVD player at the right time of the evening to watch this film. That's because the film is recorded in the Region 9 format and comes with an adult rating.
Man of the book
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Trouble bubbles up in the bathwater when Mahmud Nasir finds out that he was adopted and goes in search of his biological parents. At such a moment, his son Rashid informs that his would-be father-in-law, the fundamentalist preacher Arshad El-Masri, is coming over to check out the Nasir family's Islamic credo. Now, Mahmud is not a very religious man and hates fundamentalism. But he is devoted to his family and wants to support his son's wishes. At such a precarious moment, Mahmud's world turns upside down as he finds out that he was born Solly Shimshillewitz, as Jewish as can be.
The slime slides further. When he stutters at explaining his unique personal crisis to his local maulana, Mahmud is suspected of being gay. The only sympathy comes from the unlikely direction of his Jewish neighbour, Leonard Goldberg, who has in his library both the regular and 'adult' versions of the classic, Fiddler on the Roof. Lenny teaches Mahmud the Jewish way - Hebrew words (including traipse, which apparently "sounds Jewish"), Seinfeld humour, and "slavish support for Israel". As Mahmud prepares to meet his ailing biological father, the charade at home in front of El-Masri crumbles.
The film, tagged a 'comedy of ethnic proportions', is carried on the broad shoulders of Omid Djalili, the Iranian-born stand-up comic. And as if just to underline the obtuse plot, the film is produced by one Arvind Ethan David.