Saturday, June 30, 2012

Movie 15/50 Satte Pe Satta

Satte Pe Satta      fiftyfiftyme category: Major
      I can't remember who recommended this film to me, or in what context. I know it that it was an Internet friend, and to whomever it was, thank you!
      A great fun comic adaptation of  Seven Brides for Seven Brothers this film struck me with its innocence. There is a jaded, and guarded, self-awareness of most mainstream Hindi films these days that can be refreshingly honest, but at times it's just tiresome, labouring under the same misapprehension as the creative (and I use that word very loosely) team behind Family Guy, that endless unoriginal pastiches and parodies can be mistaken for genuine wit and humour. Few films today are made with the sort of naive (and I use that word in its most complimentary sense) simplicity that shone from Satte Pe Satta.
      As the picture above shows, Amitabh in a double role, as the hero Ravi and "Satan in human form" Babu, was the headliner for the film. For me, though, Hema was the star.  When Indu quit her job as a nurse to be wife to Ravi and de facto mother to his 6 brothers, I was a bit disappointed, but the trademark spunk and vivacity I associate with Hema still shone through. Her great chemistry with Amitabh and comic timing made her role a delight to watch, as she domesticated the family she'd inherited and trained them in the ways of the world, as in this song:

      The songs in this film wsere more proof of its innocent charm. The noxious Western stereotype of Bollywood as being all about song and dance would mock the way songs are jammed into this film, but they all felt right to me. No showy sets with whory goris or emaciated NRI models, the songs in this film belonged to the story. They were devoid of any of the snide "we're doing this ironically, of course" attitude that taints many modern songs, which often seem to be there simply because somebody said there must be songs. The other thing I enjoyed about the songs were the multiple singers used. Listening to Pyaar Hume Kis Mod Pe Le Aaya the different singers made it easier to believe that all 7 brothers were singing, and I love the song for its affectionate display of the bond between the brothers.
      It's easy to imagine that everyone who went to see this at their local cinema in 1982 did so knowing what they were going to get in terms of the plot development. While such predictability can be boring, being able to work out in advance what happens and how can free up the viewers to sit back and let themselves be entertained. For me and mere sapnon ki rani, Satte Pe Saat was just that, a relaxing, entertaining trip back to a simpler time in Hindi cinema. Did I mention that Hema totally rocks and that poor Gabbar Singh continues his unlucky relationship with other people's feet?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Movie 14/50 Paan Singh Tomar

Paan Singh Tomar      fiftyfiftyme category: Major

            Some movies are quite excellent, others are quietly excellent. Paan Singh Tomar is both. Everything about the movie is understated competence, making for a very satisfying viewing experience.
           A biopic with a storyline that I'm sure could only happen in India, this tale of a man's journey from soldier and star athlete to rebel/bandit is not typical Bollywood fare. Almost songless, its low-key storytelling, literally. The lead character recounts his tale to a very nervous reporter hoping for a career-making scoop. The absence of Bollywood style melodrama really drew me into this film. It was almost the anti- Mangal Pandey - a movie built around one character, but without hype or exaggeration. From the perspective of my limited knowledge it seemed authentically grounded in its setting, and I enjoyed the dialect used, it reminded me of the Dakhini of another favourite of mine,  Well Done Abba.
           The artist formerly known as Irrfan Khan definitely filled this film up. Thanks to all the training he did, he was believable as an athlete, but more importantly he did a very good job of portraying an intelligent man with a very simple world view. He made it very clear that he was an athlete first, and a bandit only because he felt that he had no choice, a fact about which he remained very angry right to the end. The film did not turn him into Robin Hood, but it made his choices understandable and he remained a sympathetic character. From beginning to end it his personal ethics remained the same, even his reluctance to resort to violence. When shown using violence, his pained reluctance and sense of aggrieved necessity was very clear.
           I also really enjoyed Mahie Gill as Paan's wife. I'd just seen her playing a very different role in Utt Pataang, and was impressed at how believable she was as both a shallow, slick urbanite and a devoted but still independent village woman. She really loved her husband, but it was a realistic affection, no pati parameshwar syndrome here that I could see. Her skilled performance in  Paan Singh Tomar highlights a problem with the current Bollywood obsession for fair-skinned gori PIOs - Angela Jackson, Evelyn Sharma et al could easily play the role that Mahie Gill played in Utt Pataang, but they would never be able to play the role she played in this film.
           The film's end credits, with a list of Indian athletes who were forgotten and died penniless, was a very effective way to drive home the message of Paan Singh's lifestory. If anything, in today's world where MS Dhoni can earn more than $20 million US annually, the point may be even more relevant - other sports and their participants have to fight for  scraps, and outstanding achievers in minority sports can still be unsung and underpaid heroes in their own land.
            I would recommend this film to anyone who thinks "Indian cinema=Bollywood". Distinctly and distinctively Indian, it's also very accessible to people not used to the style of cinema associated with Bollywood. A good story, well told and convincingly portrayed. I hope that, unlike its title character, this film gets the long-lasting recognition it deserves. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Movie 13/50 Utt Pataang

Utt Pataang              fiftyfiftyme category: Major

       I put this movie on my rental queue shortly after watching Chalo Dilli and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi and being impressed by Vinay Pathak's performances. I was not  disappointed by Utt Pataang, because I had realistic expectations going into it.
       A crime farce with Vinay playing a double role, and told  in flashbacks from each main character’s perspective, it's mildly amusing and competently put together. As the dotty francophile villain Lucky Sardana, his appearance and performance reminded me of a less-threatening Crime Master Gogo, which sums up the spirit of the film. As the "hero", Ram, he's the aamest of aadmi, the sort of role he carries off well, I think. The two female leads both did OK, Mahie Gill had almost nothing to do, and her character's ultimate departure was a flat note in the film,  anticlimactic and unsatisfying, but at least it wasn't a wannabe skin flick like Hate Story.
       I really enjoyed Mona Singh's performance as Koyal, and would like to see more of her. I clearly need to rewatch 3 Idiots, because I don't remember her role in that at all. Here she played a low-key central role with a believable quietness, and I hope she gets meatier roles in bigger films in the future. It was a treat to see Murli Sharma turn up, plying his trade as Bollywood's go-to-guy for LEO roles in a slightly humorous setting, with a nice twist at the end.
      The star of the show, in terms of its comic impact, was unqestionably Shaurabh Shukla as Nandu, Ram’s private eye best friend. His was the liveliest character and the most grounded, possibly, and the scene where he pretends to be a pizza delivery “boy” was genuinely absurd in a deadpan way, the comic high point of the film for me.
      This was a pleasant diversion for a Sunday afternoon. At just over ninety minutes, it was not bloated, and it’s sparing use of songs helped. I was left with the impression that it was a film made by some top flight character actors, getting the chance to have some fun and play leads. For a moderately amusing “crime” comedy, you could do a lot worse.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Movie 12/50 Potiche

Potiche            fiftyfiftyme category: Other

When I started the fiftyfiftyme challenge I decided not to count any English-language movies I watched toward my total. This was mostly to inspire me to cut into my backlog of unwatched Indian movies, but gave me a pass for the relaxing fun of watching light French comedy. Potiche is a good example of the genre.

Over the last 5 or 6 years, I've come to think that the French have mastered the art of, and cornered the market for, light comedy. It's a ghastly, hideous cliché but there really is a certain je ne sais quoi about many French comedies that make them very entertaining and distinctively different from Anglo fare.

This film, the story of a trophy wife (the "Potiche" of the title) who discovers a talent for running a business when her husband is incapacitated, is a good example of the difference. The most striking difference is the age of the leads. This is a film about middle-aged people primarily, and that's not common in Anglo films. Catherine Deneuve was very good in the lead role, and I enjoyed both Fabrice Luchini (who I'd previously liked in Molière and La fille de Monaco) as her thoroughly caddish, chauvinist husband and Gerard Depardieu as her once-and-would-be-future paramour.  Neither Depardieu (now) nor Luchini would be considered for leading man roles in Anglo films, I'm sure. Especially would the idea of them being romantic leads be incomprehensible.

That is another part of the difference - the attitude toward sex. French matter-of-factness about sexual behaviour means that it can be used as a part of the comic element of a story without heavy-handed crudeness or juvenile snickering, which afflict many Anglo (and most Indian) films that try it. Here it's a big part of the plot, but handled with a competent lightness of touch that I doubt would be possible in the Puritanical US cinema tradition (which revels in violence but recoils from sex), and is definitely not possible in mainstream Indian cinema, which becomes puerile whenever it tries ( cf Desi Boyz).

Films like Potiche  are bit like a pavlova. A basic meringue-style dessert may seem easy to make, but everything has to be just right for it to be a melt-in-the-mouth confection. Afterward, there will be no life-changing impact, just the memory of a pleasant sweet interlude. All the ingredients in Potiche come together to deliver just that, a sweet little diversion, one that features real people, even old ones!

Movie 11/50 Desi Boyz

Desi Boyz   fiftyfiftyme category: Major

From "to thine own self be true", to "trust your instincts", English has generated plenty of aphorisms designed to warn us that we know ourselves best and should heed our own advice in many matters. Watching Desi Boyz was a salutary lesson for me in the painful consequences of ignoring all those clichéd axioms. Everything about it said that I would not enjoy it, the always funny Vigil Idiot savaged it with particular ruthlessness, yet still I went ahead and watched it. Why? I'm still asking myself the same question.

The main reason I overrode the legion of voices in my head screaming at me to avoid it (they all laughed wickedly when proved right) was Chitrangada Singh. She is a very attractive woman, but I first saw her in Sorry Bhai, liked her performance in it, and was intrigued by her story as an actress returning to the spotlight after marriage and a child, which was still newsworthy when she did it, before Lolo's return. I hoped that her parts of the film at least might be worth watching. I was so very, very wrong. There is a place for films that are just big dumb fun , but this film only scored one out of three, and to paraphrase Meat Loaf, that IS bad.

If I was pressed to sum up this film in one word, it would be tawdry. I think of it as a movie that aims for sleazy but doesn't quite make it, tries for vulgar but falls flat at crass. Perhaps most important of all, it was painfully unfunny. Vigil Idiot skewers every film they review, but I enjoy seeing films I liked getting the treatment, because I can acknowledge the points made while knowing there were redeeming features (at least for me) that let me enjoy the film. This is particularly relevant when it comes to plotholes. I can like a film with more than a few of them, if there are things about the film that compensate for them.  Sadly, there were no such compensations in this painfully awful, insultingly stupid, film.

Actually, that's not entirely true. There were two bright spots  in this ugly morass for me. One was the soundtrack. I discovered that I quite liked the songs, finding them pleasant to listen to and moderately catchy. They were quite easy to enjoy, as long as I only listened to them and did not watch their picturisations, which were as bad as the rest of the film. The other highlight came at the very end, the outtakes played during the credits. I actually laughed, something I hadn't done for the entire two hours of the movie. It looks like the cast may have had real fun making the film, which at least slightly made up for my having none at all watching it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Movie 10/50 Kahaani

Kahaani  fiftyfiftyme category: Major

A week may be a long time in politics, but a hundred days is an even longer time in the world of Hindi cinema. That's about how long  after its release I finally got see Kahaani. The downside of that delay was missing out on all the discussion about the film while it was current, having to strictly avoid all reviews for fear of spoilers. The upside was the objectivity that was possible in watching it well after the hype and buzz had worn off.
    Kahaani was a  good film, one I enjoyed greatly, and could easily watch again. Was it the quantum leap forward in filmi thrillers that it was widely described as? I don't know, but if it was, that says more about the dire state of other filmi thrillers than it does about this one.
    Right from the start, it had a familiar, comfortable feeling. I knew there was a surprise of some sort coming, and the biggest part of that surprise took perhaps a femtosecond to work out. I don't really blame Kahaani for this, I blame my own familiarity with similar ruses in other, Western films. Therein lies the film's weakness and its strength for me.
    The weakness lay in just how obvious the most visible part of the surprise was. I did not work out the entire story before the climax, but I recognised the elements of Western thrillers that had been blended into this film, and that enabled me to know one important thing about the lead character for certain. Familiarity did not breed contempt, but it did kill the chance of "wow, I didn't see that coming!"
    That same Western style of storytelling, though was also part of the film's great strength. Many, many Indian films rip off Western films, and do so with excruciating ineptness. Some pad out a Western film's story with too many songs and self-indulgent lack of editing, creating unpalatable slop that does neither cinema justice. A precious few merge a Western genre with an Indian milieu and sensibility and get it just right. For me, Kahaani is right near the top of the list of that elite group. Director Sujoy Ghosh said that he wanted Kolkata to be a star of the film, and he succeeded magnificently, I thought. The authenic feel of the film, the sense of being there and the feeling that the city herself was a major character was a big part of what kept me interested, even when the story was unremarkable. Atmospheric is perhaps a clichéd term, but it fits so much of this film, especially the climactic final scenes, making good use of the crowds and colours of Kolkata's Durga Puja to make that iconic Bengali tradition an integral player in the story. Making the film a tribute to his hometown definitely added a personal warmth to the viewing experience.
    If Kolkata was a star of the film, Vidya was the star, without a doubt. The promotional posters made it clear that this was her film, and she owned it. Her performance was so good that I was invested in seeing how the story developed for more opportunities to watch an expert ply her trade, rather than focusing on her non-secret. She is the complete package for sure, brains and beauty. That clear intelligence and captivating beauty power  a melting smile that is  irresistible. There were plenty of scenes where her beauty and guile made the story's developments plausible.
    The one at whom Bidya's magnetic charm and intelligence was mostly directed also deserves special mention. Parambrata Chattopadhyay played his "double agent" role really well. The relationship between his character and Vidya's was deftly handled, a nice blend of restraint and implication, with volumes left not only unspoken but only very subtly hinted at. A tribute to the actors and the director, I thought.
    The other standout role and performance for me was Saswata Chatterjee as Bob Biswas. Some might argue that it's not much of a stretch to see an insurance salesman as a detached psychopathic killer, that there's a Bob Biswas in almost all of them, but I think it's a scary tribute to his performance that I was reminded of Anders Breivik.
    The weak link in the key cast was Khan, the IB agent. I say Khan, because I see the flaw as being the character, not the actor. Nawazuddin Siddiqui has received praise for his performance, but I found the character he played extremely problematic. Up until almost the end, he's a bombastic bully, with all the finesse and subtletly of an avalanche, and I can't see how such a character could rise so high in the world of intelligence and covert operations. There's nothing remotely covert about commandeering a police station by means of a profanity-laden outburst at its commanding officer.
    That was the only real flaw in the film, from my point of view. Some have said that the thriller element was weak and too easily ascertained. but I thought it was competent and serviceable. Perhaps that's just because the one major assumption I'd made about the film turned out to be wrong, too obvious after all. The strong characterisation and excellent performances made the film interesting and involving even if the structure seemed a little  familiar. And the film could definitely be used as a model to explain the unfamiliar concept of editing to may filmi directors. A very good film, perhaps not a great one, but one that makes me want to see more of everyone involved in it. One of the main cast has already appeared in a film directed by my filmi favourite, Nandita Das. Now more than ever  I want to see her direct a Vidya Balan starrer. That way, my cause of death could officially be listed as, filmi bliss overload. What a kahaani that would be!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Movie 09/50 Howrah Bridge

Howrah Bridge     fiftyfiftyme category: Major

After a break from movie-watching to focus on reading a bit more, I got back into my fiftyfiftyme film challenge with this 1958 film starring Ashok Kumar and Madhubala. I really wanted to like it, as it had been described as a fun mystery film. I did not dislike it, but I was left underwhelmed. Here are the things that did not work for me.

The characters: Specifically Uncle Joe and Mr Chang. Uncle Joe looked like he was supposed to Chaplinesque and his role as one of the bad guys was also apparently intended to be partly comic. Instead, it was irritating and clumsy. Mr Chang was a cartoon villain, not just in the  sense that his character was a shallow stereotype of a villain but also in the more literal sense that he looked cartoonish, with eyebrows that appear to have have been drawn on to heighten his villainous appearance. Neither was helpful in hooking me into the story, a real problem given how much they dominate the first forty minutes or so. Which leads me to the other problems

The pacing and the plot development: For the first, too slow; for the second, too jerky. A mystery/thriller needs to make the viewer care about the mystery straight away, to raise intriguing questions and ensure that the viewer wants to find out the answers. Howrah Bridge did not do that for me. It was sluggish and slow to get its story rolling and I had to make myself watch the first half hour or so. There was at least one mystery about the plot development, though. In one scene, Edna is telling the man she knows as Rakesh that she doesn't speak Hind properly, and demonstrates this by mangling it even worse than I do. Having seen Edna in the conference where the drug trafficking was being discussed, I figured she was dissembling for some reason. If so, I never saw the scene where the reason was given.All I know is that for the rest of the film, she's talking completely normal Hindi. Did I perhaps doze off and miss the explanation, or was this truly an unexplained mystery of the plot, like the fact that the woman who sat calmly and matter-of-factly listening to her uncle talk about buying her a Christmas present with drug money was later a crusader for justice? Flaws like that distracted from the story, making it difficult for me to engage with and feel like I really cared how it ended.

Helen: Try as I might, I cannot see the allegedly irresistible allure of this most famous of filmi vamps. In this film, I actually quite liked both mera naam chin chin chu and Helen's performance in it.Of course Geeta Dutt's voice was as lovely as always, and the song was a cheery little number, but that was all. I thought it an OK song, and Helen's performance satisfactory, and for me, that's high praise for a Helen piece. My reaction to Helen is as incomprehensible to most filmi buffs as my similarly meh reaction to Sholay but in this film, it nicely sums up my problem with the film as a whole - it was just OK. Now for the things that emphatically did work for me in this film:

Madhubala: Unlike my reaction to Helen, I've always admired Madhubala as an actor, and enjoyed her films. I've also long been very fond of the song aaiye meherbaan, one of my favourite Asha songs, and one that nicely shows up the difference between her and her didi, the difference that makes me prefer Asha. I had not, however, seen the song. When I did, my reaction was a string of exclamations of the "haai allah!", "arre vah!" variety. Y'all can keep your Helen, here is some va-va-voom! Scales fell from my eyes and I saw why many have waxed lyrical about Madhubala's great beauty. In this song, she positively drips seductive allure, a perfect match for the earthy, sultry tones of Asha's voice. Those descriptions are not my coinage, I've seen them used as pejoratives(!) when comparing Asha's voice to Lata's. After watching aaiye meherbaan I have no idea how anyone could consider those terms to be pejorative. This song, with its absolutely perfect pairing of a sultry voice and a come hither Madhubala (pun intended) is what scraped Howrah Bridge a passing grade for me. Here it is just because I want to, I mean, for art's sake:

Throughout the film from this song onward, Madhubala's beauty helped carry me through. She seldom looked better than she did in this film, and it's almost a pity that she was on the side of the angels, because she would have been a very credible femme fatale. The other thing that worked for me about this film is something else that marks my filmi tastes as idiosyncratic:

Shamshad Begum: When I tell people that my 2nd-favourite filmi playback singer from the golden era was Shamshad, another tick goes on the "bilkul paagal" checklist, alongside "doesn't find Helen hot" and "was kinda bored by Sholay". I can't explain why, but from my first introduction to her, in teri mehfil mein kismat (which she "won", of course), she's been a singer I really enjoy listening to. I was genuinely excited to see her name come up while watching the opening credits for this film, and I enjoyed her duets with Rafi very much. Hearing her distinctive voice opening main jaan gayee brought a smile to my face, which didn't happen often enough in this film.

In summary, this film was OK. For the crores of more normal filmi fans who get Helen, mera naam chin chin chu is obviously a classic. For me, this best thing about this film was the revelatory experience of seeing Madhubala smoking up the screen in tandem with saddi rani's voice. I will definitely be obeying her invitation again, that's for sure. For now, I leave the Calcutta of Howrah Bridge behind. Next up, the Kolkata of Kahaani.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Book 10/50 The Last Continent

The Last Continent   Terry Pratchett                fiftyfiftyme category: Major

Looking for discussions on Pratchett's best novels, I was surprised at how often the Rincewind series was dismissed as inferior. Because I'm reading all his books in the order of publication, Rincewind was my introduction to Pratchett and still holds a special place in my heart. in The Last Continent, he's back in all his inglorious patheticness, and the results are as funny as ever.

In every Discworld story, the main "target" is pretty obvious, subtlety is not an important part of Pratchett's writing. Nevertheless, in  The Last Continent, the target is so obvious that Pratchett takes the unusual step of writing a disclaimer to state that , and I quote, "this is not a book about Australia". Obviously, he's lying. Everything about EcksEcksEcksEcks is Australia, even the name, and the book is one long joke at that prisoner island's expense. Naturally, that alone should be reason  enough to make the book a favourite of any true Kiwi, but unlike the petty, mean-spirited envy behind most NZ digs at Oz, this book is a celebration. Clearly Pratchett is very fond of Australia and that shows through in all the playful swipes he takes throughout the book. Of course one of the things that helps make Australia what it is is having a whiny, insecure little sibling hanging around craving attention, and Pratchett remembers that. In fact, he doesn't even bother disguising it with a pseudonym as he did with the land of Four Ecks: Since the word is derived from an island that did not exist on the Discworld, the wizards had never heard of a bikini. In any case, what Mrs Whitlow had sewn together out of her dress was a lot more substantial than a bikini. It was more a newzealand - two quite large respectable halves separated by a narrow channel.

Besides being the only mention of Australia's noxiously insecure little neighbour, that passage also highlights the other taget of this book - the Wizards. Occasionally, the depths of my own obtuseness still manage to astound even me, and this was one of those occasions. Perhaps it's because I never attended University that it was only in this, the sixth book in the Rincewind  series, that I finally realised that the Wizards are Dons, and that the Unseen University is, of course, University in the meta, as it were. Happily, that spectacular ignorance on my part did not prevent me from being hugely entertained as always by the incredibly frustrating antics of the Wizards. 

In The Last Continent  the Wizards are on a quest to help one of my favourite of all Discworld characters, The Librarian. Their quest ends up intersecting with Rincewind's and along the way, there is barely even one Aussie icon left unscathed. It is to my deep and abiding shame that I must confess to having got only almost all of them when they first appeared. One reference I missed until it was mentioned again near the end. That was truly shameful because the Aussie icon in question is one that most Kiwis have adopted with eagerness and are happy to acknowledge as possibly Australia's only, and certainly its most important, contribution to the advancement of world civilisation - VEGEMITE. 

This is not Pratchett mocking the big ideas, like belief, or patriotism, or intolerance. This is Pratchett having fun poking fun at a place he obviously has real affection for, and because of that, it's a great fun read for everyone else, too. If you want to laugh aloud, a lot, as you learn the real story behind "Waltzing Matilda", "Mad Max" and the creation of the duck-billed platypus, you simply must read this book. It’s a fair dinkum corker of a book, cobber, and you’re sure to enjoy it. No worries, mate!

Book 09/50 Jingo

Jingo   Terry Pratchett          fiftyfiftyme category: Major

George Bernard Shaw once said, "patriotism is a pernicious, psychopathic form of idiocy", and Einstein asserted that "nationalism is an infantile disease, the measles of humanity". Those two quotes are very dear to me, especially the Shaw, since they express a little something of my depth of feeling about the concept of the nation-state and the absurdity of giving any fealty to it. As pithy and expressive as those quotes are though, they are definitely  not reomtely funny, and that's where Jingo comes in. It pours scorn on nationalism and patriotism and  does so while raising many laughs.

The fifth in the City Watch series, Jingo uses the sudden appearance of an island in between Ankh-Morpork and Klatch as the framework to poke much fun at the ignorance and xenophobia associated with blind patriotism. Much of the book examines the plight of Klatchian immigrants in Ankh-Morpork, "towelheads" who come from a place that's nothing but sand, "invented a number for nothing" and whose cuisine includes vindaloo and korma. This was a clever hybridisation of two immigrant communities prominent, and prominently despised, in Pratchett's England, and offered plenty of opportunities to mock the sheer stupidity of xenophobia. 

Of course, what makes the best Discworld books so good is the way they show up Earthly absurdities in order to laugh at them, and Jingo has many laughs. It's by no means an earnest treatise along the lines of "why can't we all just get along?" It is a very funny skewering of the ridiculous human tendency to separate into "us" and "them", on the flimsiest of imagined reasons, and then to be prepared to fight and kill (or, preferably, have others fight and die) over them. The fifteen years since its publication have seen world events and global immigration trends make its message even more topical and universal than when  it was released.

The other thing that makes Jingo so much fun is, again, The Patrician, Havelock Vetinari. The ultimate politician, whose machinations make Machiavelli seem mildly mediocre, Vetinari is always good for a laugh. The City Watch stories can be heavy-handed in their message of equality and tolerance, but Jingo avoids that trap by hovering firmly on the edge of the absurd. By doing so, it shows just how absurd the whole idea of "them" vs "us" is, and how laughably petty the debates really are.

For its handling of a subject very important to me, Jingo  ranks with  Small Gods as one of my favourite Discworld novels. That it is also very, very funny, made the experience of reading it that much more memorable. If you enjoy laughing at human absurdities, you should enjoy this book very much.