Films & Starters
(500) Days of Summer 
One of my favourites, this is the perfect light but smart romantic comedy– that is, full disclosure, not a love story – good for weekend viewing. Perhaps romantic comedy is a bit of a misnomer – by its own definition, it is a ‘boy meets girl‘ story of Tom Hanson and Summer Finn. But really, it is much more than that.
At one level, it is a coming of age film– how Tom finds himself and at another level, it is about relationships and the different stages of it, the highs and lows. For a movie that states upfront that it is not a love story, it really is a good meditation on the funny ways of love. The non-linear narrative disrupts the neat boy meets girl trope and fittingly the movie crosses between genre – there’s a dance sequence and a depressing French short (it has something for everyone!). But what makes (500) Days so endearing in its experimentation with form is that there is a level of self awareness that you do not always find in movies. Though things may not turn out as expected for Tom, ultimately (500) Days of Summer is a mood-lifting, life-affirming watch that warrants a second and third watch.
Books & Main Dishes
Disgraced (Ayad Akhtar)
This Pulitzer Prize- winning play by Ayad Akhtar is one of the most powerful plays I’ve read. The play centres around a dinner party hosted by Amir (an American lawyer of Pakistani origin, who is living the “American dream”) and his white artist wife Emily. Guests at the party include Emily’s Jewish colleague Isaac and his lawyer African-American wife Jory. What makes the play so powerful is its subtlety.
On one hand, you have Amir who takes every opportunity to dismiss his religion for being extremist, while on the other you have Emily, the liberal who is exploring Islam through art. Add a Jewish man and an African American woman to the mix, and you have an explosive conversation on race, religion, identity and tolerance. This play is like a powerful piece of music, building up to the crescendo, and sustaining your interest until its satisfactory end. It is a short read of just 87 pages, but it will linger in your mind for days to come.
Podcasts & Desserts
Episode 613: President Barack Obama [WTF With Marc Maron]
Amidst all the chaos and din of the US Presidential Nominee Election circus, this seemed like an apt podcast to revisit. Stand up comedian and podcaster, Marc Maron has a knack for coaxing personal, intimate stories out of his guests, usually fellow comedians. His ability to mix comedy, satire & cultural commentary is in full form in this particular episode with outgoing U.S President Barack Obama.
In a freewheeling conversation about everything from his mother and his childhood to race relations, gun control, terrorism to his children and how he manages stress, peppered with a few laughs, this podcast, honest and reflective, will go down as one of my favourites at a time when Obama’s legacy will be much debated. A candid glimpse into the man, “every man”, the persona who captured the imagination of millions, not just in his country, but across the world.