Alert viewers will guess the big twist in Vodka Diaries within the first five minutes. What is to be done with the remaining 113?
Kay Kay Menon plays a police officer named Ashwini who sets out to investigate a series of murders at a club named Vodka Diaries in Manali. Ashwini is accompanied by an assistant, Ankit (Sharib Ali Hashmi), who is given to making bad jokes about corpses – he calls the one hanging upside down Batman, and complains that he cannot say “freeze” to another found in the snow.
Kushal Srivastava’s movie has several such groan-worthy moments, so Ankit is hardly the only dim bulb around.
The murder investigation gets sidetracked by the disappearance of Ashwini’s beloved wife Shikha (Mandira Bedi). The bodies seemingly come to life, and it appears that there were no murders at all. Is Ashwini hallucinating? Where has Shikha vanished? We should care, but why don’t we?
Vodka Diaries has more false moments than the mighty eye-lashes of Raima Sen, playing a femme fatale. The screenplay loses its way after the angle of Shikha’s disappearance is introduced. The ones who have guessed the direction in which the plot is going will have all the time in the world to ponder over why the talented Menon agreed to be a part of such dross. They might stay on till the bitter end, propelled by sheer wonder at how the plot will untangle itself.
Tracing the formation of Al Qaeda and its path to 9/11
A new show looks at some of the crucial moments leading up to the attack.
“The end of the world war had bought America victory but not security” - this quote from Lawrence Wright’s Pulitzer-Prize winning book, ‘The Looming Tower’, gives a sense of the growing threat to America from Al Qaeda and the series of events that led to 9/11. Based on extensive interviews, including with Bin Laden’s best friend in college and the former White House counterterrorism chief, ‘The Looming Tower’ provides an intimate perspective of the 9/11 attack.
Lawrence Wright chronicles the formative years of Al Qaeda, giving an insight in to Bin Laden’s war against America. The book covers in detail, the radicalisation of Osama Bin Laden and his association with Ayman Al Zawahri, an Egyptian doctor who preached that only violence could change history. In an interview with Amazon, Wright shared, “I talked to 600-something people, but many of those people I talked to again and again for a period of five years, some of them dozens of times.” Wright’s book was selected by TIME as one of the all-time 100 best nonfiction books for its “thoroughly researched and incisively written” account of the road to 9/11 and is considered an essential read for understanding Islam’s war on the West as it developed in the Middle East.
‘The Looming Tower’ also dwells on the response of key US officials to the rising Al Qaeda threat, particularly exploring the turf wars between the FBI and the CIA. This has now been dramatized in a 10-part mini-series of the same name. Adapted by Dan Futterman (of Foxcatcher fame), the series mainly focuses on the hostilities between the FBI and the CIA. Some major characters are based on real people - such as John O’ Neill (FBI’s foul-mouthed counterterrorism chief played by Jeff Daniels) and Ali Soufan (O’ Neill’s Arabic-speaking mentee who successfully interrogated captured Islamic terrorists after 9/11, played by Tahar Rahim). Some are composite characters, such as Martin Schmidt (O’Neill’s CIA counterpart, played by Peter Sarsgaard).
The series, most crucially, captures just how close US intelligence agencies had come to foiling Al Qaeda’s plans, just to come up short due to internal turf wars. It follows the FBI and the CIA as they independently follow intelligence leads in the crises leading up to 9/11 – the US Embassy bombings in East Africa and the attack on US warship USS Cole in Yemen – but fail to update each other. The most glaring example is of how the CIA withheld critical information – Al Qaeda operatives being hunted by the FBI had entered the United States - under the misguided notion that the CIA was the only government agency authorised to deal with terrorism threats.
The depth of information in the book has translated into a realistic recreation of the pre-9/11 years on screen. The drama is even interspersed with actual footage from the 9/11 conspiracy, attack and the 2004 Commission Hearing, linking together the myriad developments leading up to 9/11 with chilling hindsight. Watch the trailer of this gripping show below.
The Looming Tower is available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video, along with a host of Amazon originals and popular movies and TV shows. To enjoy unlimited ad free streaming anytime, anywhere, subscribe to Amazon Prime Video.
This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Amazon Prime Video and not by the Scroll editorial team.