Thursday, December 29, 2011

In the eyes of the beholder

They are strange droplets of water, or could I say magical? They are like mirage in the dry desert of life. Well, they might not necessarily quench your thirst but they give you hope and the strength to carry on. But they are magical also because they appear at other times too, when you do not necessarily expect them to be there. Any overwhelming emotion, happiness, surprise, delight, fear, love…absolutely anything in excess could ring an alarm and call for them. They are always at your disposal. Believe me, they are! You just have to knock your forehead, check the exact location of this inexhaustible well and there you go! Women are believed to have an easier access to them than men. Some even go to the extent of saying that they are a woman’s best weapon. Well, I really do not know how far it is true, but I really do not mind if it is! It is indeed a good feeling to go to bed with your head resting on a wet pillow. That makes me think about 2 things: they are a great sedative and have several advantages: they do not need a prescription, they come for free and it is an absolutely discreet and personal affair. Second thing, if they were specifically a woman’s property, thank God there is no menopause for them! Wow!! Tears are so many things and we thought they were just another salty excretion of the body?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

गणेशोत्सव 2011

At this moment, the entire nation is burning in the fires of "the second war of independence" and writing about something else just does not seem appropriate. But there are, nevertheless, other important issues to tackle....
Ganeshotsav is just around the corner and we, the devotees are eagerly waiting to welcome our dear Bappa home. Markets are flooded with the most mesmerizing, near-live murtis of Ganeshji. Like many others, even I get tempted to bring Bappa home, I really enjoy the excitement around this festival. But then there are certain things that deter me from doing so.
My dad tells me stories of Ganeshotsav celebrations as a child, in our village in Orissa. Although the celebrations there didn’t witness such grandeur, the enthusiasm was always unchallenged. My granny would bathe and redress the Ganesh idol at home, He would be brought out of his usual residence n be presided over a special throne for his birthday. My granny would then treat him with laddoos. The next day, he would go back to his domicile.
What a rationalist celebration!!
Those who understand the significance of His arrival and immersion know that it is only symbolic of the life and death cycle of the Hindu mythology. Now the question we should be asking ourselves is: if the whole idea is just symbolic, can’t the celebration be such too? It’s time we started reasoning our actions! I beg you not spend so much money on buying new idols every year. Let the visarjan be only in your bath-tub or wash basin. We REALLY cannot afford wastage of gallons and gallons of water in the process of immersion. Let alone the damage caused to the ecological system through thermocol and other chemical waste that is let into the waters. And above all that is the grief to sea beheaded and amputated bodies of our dear Bappa lying on seashores the next day.
Although Anna's fight is corruption, the basic underlying idea there is thinking for oneself. It is the need of the hour to change our outlook towards customs and traditions and to modify them a little to match up with the current scenario.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

post-calamity effects

Not a very happy occasion to write. Yet another page of Mumbai’s history has been colored in black ink. Yet another series of blasts! The tough Mumbai spirit was again put to test. And the strong Mumbaikar once again took control over the situation. People came out on the roads and helped their brethren. The ones who survived the blasts called friends and family to check if they had survived it too. Some emotional fools, too shocked even to make those calls, sat and cried. And the not-so-emotional fools gave them a piece of their mind. Some others made their cries loud enough to be heard by the government. The government, in turn, turned a deaf ear to people’s chaotic cries and said, “Things like these happen, they can’t really be controlled.” And for Kasab, it was actually like,
फूल क्या तेरे कदमों में हम
भेंट अपने सरों की चढ़ा जायेंगे


Done with a series of actions that usually follows such an attack! Yeah! It has become such a usual thing for us! Tomorrow morning, after the high tide of rage has passed, we’ll be back to our 7.47s and 6.20s. But what else do we do? We all have our families, our ambitions, our lives! We can’t do an “A Wednesday” in real lives. But what we can, and must do, is to channelize our energy, our anger into something constructive, let’s make it a way of life! Let’s swear today to be more alert, and not to laugh when someone checks under the seat for bombs. Let’s not make a fuss when the security guy takes 10 seconds extra to check your bag. On the contrary, let’s make sure that the security guards do their job well; we have all the rights to remind them their duty. Instead of cribbing about how the government asks for heavy taxes and never does anything about it, let’s make solid and meaningful use of tools like PIL and RTI. Not voting, because of all of them are crooks, is not an option. Throw the government out of power if you are not satisfied with it. DON’T BRIBE! Even for the smallest of the things! Corruption, even at the most unimportant level, is still corruption.

Everything said and done, change takes time. What do we do in the meanwhile? Die in blasts? Let’s govern ourselves. With the course of time, we have become emotionally and physically more independent. Let’s have an internal security system, in our neighborhood, and even in buses and trains. If we can celebrate our birthdays in train, we can come together for more serious things too. Let’s have a non-corrupt anti-corruption department in our workplaces, where both employees and customers can report about the slightest of corruption in any form.


And last but not the least, let’s live and let live. Spread love! Don’t forget to make at least one person happy everyday! That’s the only way to make this world “livable”! Care! If we care for others, we’ll think 10000 times before doing something anti-social. Pray! It might sound silly and out of context but pray that we achieve our goal soon. Let’s pray for the terrorists, too. May be that’s all that they need.
कर्मणि वाधिका रस्ते
माँ फलेषु कदाचन

Many of you might just discard this as a post-calamity-frustration-piece! But if all of us really make an effort, it seriously doesn't seem impossible to my eyes. Let's make a conscious effort this time and just see if it works.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

मीठा अचरज - 2

When one travels by train (all Mumbaikars take it as a given that “train” naturally implies THE local train), one always has a bagful of experiences to share, some good, some bad, some simply…strange. Today’s experience was strange but rather pleasant!
I was sitting in the train, staring out of the window, when one of the ladies sitting opposite me, called out, “Ashish” (name not changed) in the direction where I could not see who this Ashish was. (Now, as a woman, when you hear a man’s name in the ladies’ compartment, the brave side of you immediately takes on guard while the timid side hopes it is just a kid that you will have to face). But I was completely taken aback to see that this Ashish was a eunuch! She comfortably came and sat next to me. I just kept staring at those two women (trying hard not to be caught while doing so), who were so sweet, so kind with her (I think it is only justified to say “her”). They started discussing everything from mundane chores to family matters to the flowers that Ashish had bought to offer at the temple).
Some time back I saw a student play, pleading the audiences to treat these marginalized individuals with dignity (if love and care were too much to ask for). It felt like they had succeeded in their effort, although it was quite clear that neither of the two women were learned enough to watched a play. But how does it matter? They were definitely more cultured than the “cultured”.
Today I saw India Shining!!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

L’Amour Courtois: Really a phenomenon of just the Middle Ages?

After the “epopee” or epic that greatly valorizes the honor of a chevalier who dies in the battle field, literature took on a new dimension, with love playing an essential role. The chevalier was now more eager to prove his worth to his mistress than to his land. It was not just important to love but win his love over the others.
Almost ten centuries later, the concept of love, for men, does not seem to have changed much. This is especially true for Indian men (am not commenting on others as I hardly know any). L’amour courtois rejects all kinds of indiscretion and also any hasty confession of love, everything has to be done as per a “code of conduct”: friendship --> courtship (the most important and probably also the longest lasting stage) --> love.
Is it related to the masculinity of men and their perpetual need to prove it to themselves and to others? Even in today’s age, men prefer a woman who plays the role of the Dame courtoise, or of the Indian “devi” in the Indian context, who needs to be venerated and pleased. A woman, who breaks this code of conduct, is not quite popular among men. What is really interesting is to trace this to the Indian mythology. Studies on collective unconscious conclude that at the back of the mind, the Indian woman has an intense desire to imitate Sita, to please her spouse. But we must not forget that in order to get this treatment from her, Rama first had to break the “baan” and win her over. But the modern scenario resembles l’amour courtois more where it is not enough to prove just one’s physical strength but also to seduce her with mastery over the art of loving.
As I am no expert of either medieval age literature or Indian mythology or have any concrete proof to support this hypothesis, I can only express my opinion and wait for a counterargument. I would love to read your point of view on this. Please respond to this post.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Satrangee Parachute


For all those who got excited in seeing Kay Kay Menon, Lilliput, Rajpal Yadav and Rupali Ganguli on posters and in promos, rest assured that they were the only assets that film makers could flaunt about this film!
The film is about Pappu (Siddharth) who wants to fulfill the dream of his visually challenged friend Kuhu (Rajvi) to fly a parachute. In order to do this, the fugitive Siddharth, along with his friends, runs away from Nainital to Mumbai. Although one would expect some deliberate heroism on the kids’ part, it is only on the basis of chance that the plot functions and the kids happen to crack a terroristic plan and prevent a major attack. And the parachute tale is completely forgotten about. Besides this too, there are a lot of loop holes in the script and verisimilitude is missing throughout.
As far as the performances are concerned, the kids cuteness and dimples capture your attention, their slow and predictablt dialogue delivery fail to hold it for too long (but are the kids to be blamed for that?) "Encore!” for Rajpal Yadav, Lilliput and Kay Kay Menon who have impactful but very little screen time. Jackie Shroff is equally unwanted and unimpressive. While Hussain beautifully brings out the dilemma of a loving yet severe father, Mishra is not any less in portraying the contrast between a “Sarkar ka damaad” inspector and a pitiable father.
The multitude of colors of nature partially succeeds in justifying the title. Lyrics go well with the story but neither music nor lyrics hold the audience’s attention for too long.
Your children or you would not regret missing this film.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

मीठा अचरज

मुंबई, और ख़ास कर भारतवर्ष में अनेक वर्ष रहने के बाद शायद ही किसी को किसी चीज़ का आश्चर्य होता है. पर हाँ, कभी-कभी ऐसा कुछ हो जाता है, कोई ऐसा मिल जाता है, जिससे मन में एक मीठा अचरज हो उठता है, दिन में एक रौशनी सी भर जाती और चहरे पर एक मुस्कान छा जाती है :)

ऐसा ही कुछ आज सुबह मेरे साथ हुआ. लोकल में सर की क्लिप से लेकर पैर के जूतों तक सब कुछ बेचनेवाले सुबह से शाम तक दिखाई पड़ते हैं. आज सुबह लडिज़ स्पेशल में एक औरत साबूदाना वडा, खिचड़ी, पोहा इत्यादि बेचने आई. नीली सलवार और फूलों वाली सफ़ेद कमीज़. छोटा कद मगर कद से कई ज्यादा ऊँची आवाज़. चहरे पर गज़ब का तेज़. "जल्दी बोलो, मैडम" की धुन से उसने पूरा डब्बा बाकायदा हिला रखा था. मैं एक कोने में खड़ी अख़बार पढ़ रही थी, वो छोड़ कर मैं तो बस उसकी फुर्ती देखती ही रह गयी. एक पल यहाँ तो एक पल वहाँ. बगल में दो चेन वाला पर्स टांग रखा था. उसका झोला मानो कोई अक्षय पात्र हो उस तरह चीज़ें उस में से निकलती ही जा रही थी. उसने सब कुछ इस सहुलियत से सजा रखा था की कोई भी चीज़ लेने-देने में उसे दस सेकंड से ज्यादा न लगे. अँधेरी और सान्ताक्रुज़ के बीच उसने हमारे डिब्बे की कितनी ही औरतों का पेट भर उन्हें लंच टाइम तक के लिए निश्चिंत किया और स्टेशन आते ही मानो नदारद हो गयी.

इतनी भाग-दौड़ के बीच भी उसके माथे पर कोई शिकन न पद रही थी. उसको रोज़ देखने वाली कई औरतों में से एक ने मज़ाक करते हुए कहा, "तेरी आवाज़ तो सुने दे जाती है पर कुछ खरीदना हो तो तू दिखाई नहीं देती! कल से ऊँची एडी की चप्पल पहन कर आना." उस पर वो ठहाका मर कर बोली, "ऊँची एडी की चप्पल तो मैं पहन लू, पर ट्रेन में चढ़ते हुए कहीं गिर गयी तो?"

उसका नाम तो पूछने का मुझे कुतूहल ज़रूर हुआ लेकिन उसके पास शायद ऐसी बेकार बातों के लिए फुर्सत न होगी यह सोच कर मैंने अपना इरादा बदल दिया. और उसका नाम जानना वैसे ज़रूरी भी न था. हम चाहें तो उसे "प्रेरणा" बुला सकते हैं. :)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Bloody Life

Like any baby, covered in blood
I came into being
The other end of the umbilical cord
Held my twin.
Too huge to be a new born
I had to be tied
A white cloth wrapped around
For a safe, cozy inside.

When I was three,
All my parents came together
Time to choose a school:
Socialist, Communist or Democratic?
Democratic, they said
And I set my foot in school.
How good or bad?
I don’t have an answer today
And, the Deciders are dead!

When I was young,
I had quarrels with my twin
(Like all you young)
I only wish they were not so bloody
An eye for an eye.
And we both became blind…
Unfortunately,
Our mothers were dead too early!

At 64, we still quarrel
I wish we had grown up a little!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

abstract

The only abstract thing that is “living”. Its abstraction is not defined by the virtue of being intangible but by being sublime; there is no way you can hold on it, it just evaporates. It is like sand that slips through your hand if you hold it tight, but it is like water that changes form if you keep it light. It belongs to all and yet it is no one’s property. For some it’s like a part of their body, of their being* and yet people deprived of this part have the same right on it. “To play around with language wisely is like practicing a sort of evocative witchcraft.” – Baudelaire.
Language: the only divine thing that man owns 



* in Urdu n French, tongue is the same word as language; zubaan n langue respectively :)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dhobi Ghaat


After films like Lagaan, Taare Zameen Par and Peepli (Live), Aamir Productions is back with another project – Dhobi Ghaat (Mumbai Diaries).
As the subtitle (in plural) suggests, the film is about the lives of four different people in Mumbai- a painter- Arun (Aamir Khan), Shaay, a New York based investment banker on a “sabbatical”, Yazmin Noor (Kriti Malhotra), an innocent girl from UP who has never been to Mumbai before she is married off here, and Munna (Prateik), the Dhobi. As you would expect, their lives are intertwined in a strange manner. It would be difficult to reveal these entanglements without giving away the total plot, so go watch it for yourselves.
If people decide to walk out of theatres complaining, “story nahin hai”, they would only be partially wrong. Stories just form the most superficial layer of the film and hence there are not hundred events one after the other like in a James Bond movie. The movie is about the city, its different facets, its meaning to each one who lives here. It would not be wrong to say that it’s the city that’s the protagonist of the film. Kiran Rao has beautifully used various means to do so; “chitthis”, photographs, guided tours, views from different kind of windows, different kind of residences and many more. The viewer definitely knows that not even of one the characters nor anything that makes up for what they are, is not a matter of chance, every color has been carefully chosen to complete this tableau. Although color and poetry play an essential role, lack of adequate background music seems to bother the viewer at times.
While Aamir Khan tends to be “old” and repetitive, Prateik is the showstopper! His smiling, crying, blushing, everything is to die for! Kriti Malhotra and Monica Dogra are pretty convincing with their roles.
Rather than the film being constituted of diaries of these people, it’s a diary of the city itself. Like the eternal nature that becomes the “seul soutien” for the Romantics, the city is the silent witness of every little movement. You can just confide in it.
The film ends with the most unconventional confessions of love...If you always thought life in Mumbai was like a harmonious synchronized piece of music, but you could not compose it, Kiran Rao does it in the most aesthetic fashion for you. Must watch for all city lovers. And for those who do not belong here yet, this Mumbai Darshan is totally reliable and enjoyable!!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Printed Rainbow


Printed Rainbow is a short animation film that won three awards at the Cannes International Film Festival. As animation is not something that Indian film industry takes pretty seriously, it’s an honor to have a filmmaker like Gitanjali Rao and her films.

The film starts in black and white and for a while one tends to forget the “colorful” title of the movie. This movie is about this old lady who lives alone in an urban apartment. Well, not exactly alone, with her cat. Color appears for the first time when the lady opens a wooden box that contains her collection of colorful match-boxes with hundreds of different designs. The only human presence in her life is that of another elderly man of the neighborhood who visits her regularly to exchange match-boxes. These are not just match-boxes but our granny’s gateway into a fantastical world full of colors, in contrast with her black and white life.

What really steal’s the audience’s attention is the brilliant imagination of the filmmaker and the minute attention paid to the laws of Physics in the use of color, light and movement. What is also very interesting is the use of parts to depict the whole. The background score is pretty intriguing in certain parts of the movie. The constant alternation between internal and external focalization, color and black ‘n’ white, biting loneliness and frenzy of the dream world gives the film an appealing rhythm.

It is the final scene and the end note that add a whole new meaning to the movie. It’s really commendable how Rao has been able to put up a masterpiece in a short span of 15 minutes. A little sensibility on your part, and you are sure to enjoy the film and love it too! Super job!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

dosar


Dosar- The Companion- A 2007 entry for the Cannes International Film Festival, this film gives several reasons for it to be one of the seven films selected that year. Functioning through three plots, the thread that weaves them together is marital fidelity. Dosar is the story of Kaushik (Prosenjit Chatterjee) who cheats on his wife Kaberi (Konkana Sen Sharma). He is caught when he and his mistress meet with a car accident that kills her on the spot while he is left seriously injured.
What strikes the audience first and foremost is the making in black n white. The classic look makes the film extremely appealing, and one is tempted to ponder upon the director’s decision to try his hands on this technique when blinding colors seem to be imperative to make a good film. It seems to make sense to use B&W for a theme that has appeared in art and literature since time immemorial! But he would not be Rituparno Ghosh if he didn’t make something magical out of this ordinary theme. It’s not just using different plots that make the film interesting but it’s the presenting the opinions of all the characters on the issue that compels the viewer, in his turn, to contemplate.
While Konkana Sen Sharma takes the cake as usual, Prosenjit Chatterjee, too, is a pleasant surprise for an audience that’s not so familiar with Bengali Cinema. The spontaneity of the actors puts them easily into the skin of the character. Their intimacy in terms of thoughts is very well brought out by all the actors. The constant duality of strength and helplessness of Kaberi’s character could not have been presented any better than this!
Kudos to the costume designer for having kept it simple and thus, apt. Flowers and poetry have more than an ornamental use in this film, they punctuate the story. The wisely title has been wisely picked to mark the different kinds of companionship.
For those who are already familiar with the genius of Rituparno Ghosh, the film is yet another reason to celebrate; and for those who are not, its time you watched some of his films, starting with this one.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

विपाशा

ज़िन्दगी यूँ थी बंदिनी
जैसे काली घोर कोई निशा
प्राची की एक किरण सुहानी
अब हैं मैं और मेरी ज़िन्दगी विपाशा

अब पंख बने हैं आशा
हुई हूँ मैं यूँ दिवानी
बस उडती जाऊं बिन खोजे दिशा
नशा कर रहा है यूँ मनमानी

आज है कुछ नयी उषा
आज है कुछ नयी जवानी
आज है यूँ खुला आसमां
कौन जाने कहाँ है ज़मीन...

निराली