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Nadiya - Hope

As the sun neared the peaks on the distant horizon to hide behind them for the night, three girls slowly picked themselves up from the edge of the cliff they had been sitting on for the afternoon, watching the water sloppily hit the base far below them. While they hurriedly moved through bushes of desert grass, one among them picked up a sad tune she had learned from her mother many years ago. Against the backdrop of a picturesque sunset amid the flash flooded Kyzyl Kum Desert, it sounded just right for the three returning to camp without any good news.

Nightfall in the Amu Darya plain is a strange phenomenon; one moment you will have the sun staring at you from the west sky, by the next time you blink, the sun will have disappeared behind the stone mountains that loom far away, leaving behind a plethora of darkness to haunt you. To an everyday girl from Kyrgyzstan running away from her country in the face of war, these nights do not bring awe, they only manage to instil sadness and fear, and bring her memories of pleasant nights spent under the starlit sky back in Kyrgyzstan.

The night slowly inched forward as they reached their camp - hoping against hope that someone would tell them of seeing rescue helicopters on the horizon - where they took their place around the small fire that had been lit for the small group of twenty refugees stuck atop a cliff in the flood plain, in dire need of fresh water and food.

Nadiya stopped singing the tragic tune as she took her place in the centre of the circle, her long hair glowing in the yellow light that pranced throughout the camp; but kept mumbling the words to herself without giving a thought to it.

One day, everything will fail you,
The sun, the moon, and the fields of rye
And then, whatever you do,
To hope, do not say goodbye

She breathed a sigh as she rested her head on her mother's lap; watching the priest as he bowed before the fire, asking it to save them from the danger that loomed overhead. She closed her eyes and thought about what they would do if the rescue helicopters did not come. She knew that they would grow tired of the desert sun staring down on them sometime soon; maybe they would try to swim to the end of the plain then, lose all their energy midway and slowly drown under the beautiful August sky as its clouds hulk over them with hope, the hope of survival, the hope to live.

Her lips curved around the corners as she remembered the meaning of the name her Ukranian grandmother had given her, - Nadiya - hope. A month ago, she did not know the meaning of hope; she had no idea why she was given this name; at least until she saw the anthill at Amu Darya, she considered it only a fancy word.

Starving in the flooded region, the locusts from Kyzyl Kum had attacked the anthill she sat beside, hoping to get food from their stored ration. Compared to the ants, they were huge and powerful; but that did not deter the mindset of the colony, who teamed up and attacked every locust that dared to set foot on the hill; biting off tiny pieces of flesh. They had to fight for the whole afternoon, until the sun set against an orange sky and told the swarm that it was a lost cause. By the time she picked herself up from the sandy edge, they had already started to rebuild, wiping off all the imperfections caused by the day's havoc.

That day, she had understood hope; it means a new life, it means another long breadth, it means a soft smile, it means emotions, it means happiness. It means living another day to smell the small blue flowers that bloom in summer back home, it means being able to run on the rugged road to the river Naryn once again, it means the soft touch of that shepherd whose name she never got to know; above all, it means being able to get away from this cliff top with a wide smile.

A soft wind caressed her face as her muscles tightened at the thoughts; no, she would not give up against the pangs of hunger, not against the adversity of the flood. She would live to see an end to it; she hopes to see the end of it.

By Eshpelin Mishtak

Tin Men

The Buildup:
I will admit that this movie (Machine Man) almost unmanned me. I delved deep but the requisite courage and mental fortitude needed to bring myself to watch this was found almost lacking. There I sat, in my darkened room, contemplating crossing this particular desert, a desert with no promised land at the end, and I despaired.

But then, miraculously, a packet of Oreos made its way to my table, and thus I took heart in sweetened cookies. And with my faith restored and my courage bolstered by mere crumbs, I set upon this task and looked into the flat eye of my Asus and pressed: Ctrl P.

The Ordeal:
The movie starts off with what I think is a prologue of sorts. I can't be sure. There is this “scientist”, Dr. Amit (or Omit or maybe Emit, I was distracted by cookies, forgive me) who has created a “Machine Man”. Amit here was working for mob boss Danny, who apparently spent 25 crore taka on a prototype Machine Man.

Now, the entrance of said Prototype Machine Man is a feat of pure brilliance. The semantics of whether or not the brilliance was comedic or dramatic is a pointless debate. We will not go there. What we will discuss is how the prototype suddenly jumped into the room. Was there a trapdoor in the ceiling? Where'd he come from? And why were there bottles arranged on tables near him? And other breakable objects? Why did everything that could break suddenly break? Where'd that violent wind come from? Surely the prototype did not engage in flatulence. Machines can't pass wind after all.

See? Pointless debate.

Anyway, this prototype looked like a half made version of the Tin Man from Wizard of Oz. And he was leering quite lecherously at everybody else in the room. Do machines have a sense of libido? Danny and his minions attack this prototype to test it out, because obviously that's how people test machines, through wilful acts of destruction. Unfortunately, while the prototype manages well against human counterparts and small calibre toy guns, it doesn't stand up well to Danny's toy shotgun. More's the pity.

Danny, dejected that things didn't work out, throws the good Doctor out.

Afterwards, the scene shifts to a bar scene, where our main character Inspector Pavel, who's playing an undercover drunk Pakistani, is introduced to us. In this bar, women frequently come up to him as he walks down the room and say quite inappropriate things to him. I wonder if any self-respecting woman would ever act like that in a public place. Cut in between this are scenes of a bunch of mute women dancing to silent music. It's probably some homage to some mime in France.

Pavel, our undercover cop, makes it to the back of the room, where he is introduced to an arms dealer, because arms dealers frequent the back rooms of makeshift bars like that. Here Pavel strikes a deal for six crates of toy guns for one whole crore of taka. Inflation, I suppose.

And before you know it, the scene shifts to some speedboats zipping around in the sea. Here Pavel, still undercover and still pretending to be some drunk fundamentalist, checks out the crates of toy guns. Unfortunately before the deal can be struck, the police show up and promptly kill everyone. It is later revealed that Pavel was wearing a bulletproof tin plate underneath his clothes to protect him from bullets. The arms dealer is killed. The arms dealer turns out to be the little brother (or long lost step son, I can't be certain) of Danny, the aforementioned mob boss who swears revenge.

While Pavel and his family are vacationing in Cox's Bazaar and engaging in some seemingly lifelike camaraderie of normal family life (involving dancing overweight women), Danny comes in force and kills everybody, including Pavel. This movie can be very circular at times.

And just after that heartbreaking scene of Pavel and his family lying dead there on the beach we shift to a dance number in the Chittagong Hill Tracts where we are introduced to Girl Number 2 (I don't think, in the whole of the movie, the name of this girl is ever revealed, it's probably some minor mystery meant to mystify the audience). Girl Number 2 dances herself all the way to Cox's Bazaar where she finds Pavel's body. And lo, Girl Number 2 turns out to be the daughter of Dr. Omit.

The scene shifts to Amit's lab, which is now in Cox Bazaar, where Girl Number 2 brings Pavel. Dr. Amit, who has finally fixed his theories on creating Machine Man (by injecting 10 gigas of… something into his experiments). The doctor has also created an elixir of life or something. Amit cuts off Pavel's arm and leg and attaches metal appendages in place of them. How he managed to do that is never properly shown. It's probably one of those open scenes meant to incite the audience's imagination.

PavelBeta is born. Now PavelBeta is alive again. Except he doesn't have a heart (what is it with these subtle references to Oz). Girl Number 2 who has a Masters in Psychology takes up the daunting task of re-educating PavelBeta and succeeds by taking him to the beach and dancing with him there.

PavelBeta while at the beach, finds his erstwhile son's digital camera lying there, just lying there in the sand. And going through the camera's cache of photos he remembers everything, and promptly murders some thieves.

Once he remembers, Pavel sets off on a quest of murdering everyone who murdered his family and succeeds in killing Danny in a very snazzy fight scene (during which he kicks a motorbike into the air).

Danny's minions then retrieve his body and take him to Dr. Emit (who has by now perfected his Bionic Man experiment, using Anti Virus Material) who, under duress turns Danny into Bionic Man.

The Aftermath:
This movie is all kinds of unholy, from the pseudo-insane-scientific mumbo jumbo to the characters who like to cross dress (or at least that's what it looks like). The dialogue is juvenile and supremely clichéd at best. The acting, oh the acting, lets not talk about that lest I puke. I believe out of some sense of guilt I was trying to punish myself, because I can't honestly justify why I watched 2.5 hours of this drivel. But the fight scenes and the “graphics”, pure comedy.

In the wretched throes of trauma after watching this movie, I called upon my brother. To him I said, in a broken voice: “Hold me,”

And he replied: “No.”

Alas even the Oreos are gone.

By Tareq Adnan


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