Saturday, February 21, 2009

Delhi - 6

The rapturous sound track of Delhi-6 and the promos had me waiting with bated breath for the release of the movie for atleast 2 weeks now. A just ok review in the Times (3 stars) threatened to indicate disappointment (especially considering the fact that Raaz 2 also got 3 stars), forcing me to scale down expectations. Finally managed to see the movie on Saturday courtesy extra tickets that a friend had.

The movie is a good one time watch, especially for its marvellous cinematography and brilliant sound track. The story if you dare ask is hmmmmn... hmmm........ well its about a guy (Roshan - Abhishek Bachan), who accompanies his grandmother to India as she wishes to spend her "last days" in Delhi. There are a lot of characters -
  • neighbours, specifically two brothers who spend most of their time fighting with each other,
  • their sister who is unmarried and disappointed with her life,
  • a daughter (Bittu - Sonam Kapoor) who aspires to become an Indian Idol - anything that would get her away from her middle class life,
  • her mom and aunt who maintain their family link despite the walls created by their husbands' egos
  • a local money lender with an adulterous wife,
  • the adulterous wife's paramour - a small time lecherous photographer
  • religious leaders who are quick to take the cudgels to defend their religions without thinking of logic or reason
  • a simpleton who is actually much wiser than he seems
  • an untouchable who is also equally wise
  • pigeons including one Masakali whose wings have been clipped so she can't fly
  • two cute kids who give Abhishek & the pigeons a lot of competition in looking cute and end up coming second after the pigeons
  • a "Kalabandar" (black monkey) whom everyone in Delhi is mortally scared of for the "crimes" that "he commits"
  • a Local politician who somehow vaguely seems to resemble a watered down version of a prominent MP based MLA belonging to a leading Hindu National political party
  • Amitabh Bacchan in a brief guest appearance
The movie is set along the time that the Ram Leela festival is happening in Delhi. The movie depicts various socio-political issues like untouchability, influence of politics on religion, poor governance and the acceptance of the same (power/water), lack of freedom for a lot of women in shaping their life, lawlessness, and the chaos that's a part of our lives. All these almost convince Abhishek to leave the city with his grandmother. However he stays back on account of his love for Sonam and the city. (Choke)

The movie about how the "Kalabandar" is being used by everyone an excuse to unleash their inner evil or to cover up their mistakes. The main message is that both God and Satan ("Kalabandar") are present in each of us, and that we should recognize the God in others. Further it cautions us against letting the Satan within dominate our thoughts & actions. While all the songs move along with the story and hold it together, the picturisation of Arziyan song is commendable as the camera smoothly pans the prayers in the huge mosque in varied sequenced angles. The movie will do best with the young adults.

It comes across a rehashed version of Swades especially if you consider the similarities of NRI returning to India, NRI attached to an old lady, NRI falling in love with a young girl who is/wishes to be independent, NRI staying back, issues of untouchability, poor electricity and NRI dealing with the chaos that our life is ! Even Ram leela scenes reminded me of Swades. In fact while the song of Swades has a line "Ram tujme hai, Ram mujme hai, Ram ham sab me he", Delhi-6 has Abhishek say that God is in all of us. The difference -Delhi-6 is more on the emotional/social/psychological nature than Swades which was more about doing something physically tangible to make a difference to society at large. Delhi-6 is also more about changes at a personal level, love for the idiosyncrasies of life, observations on how we complicate things, and how everyone is actually good at heart. The events covered in the movie are not really Delhi centric - in fact they do happen in every city/town of India. Overall an interesting movie that has something to say in a refreshing way.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The pangs of being 25 something and somewhere there

If you’ve crossed the effervescent age of twenty five just recently you would probably empathize best with this blog. Prominent characteristics – recent member of the rat race called work, just couple of years out of B-School or any Post-Graduate, unmarried/single and yes trying to figure out what life wants of you and what you want of it. The most common issue that I have encountered in my conversations a wide range of people who’ve past 25 recently and experienced myself is:

What is your true calling in work? - You don’t seem to be enjoying what you do, or atleast think you don’t but aren’t sure, or you know someone who is enjoying theirs better. You aren’t sure you want to continue the same work for life unlike your parent/s. Thinking doesn’t seem to help as you either are blank, or are sure what you don’t want to do, or get such obscure out of the box ideas that your middle class and risk averse mind doesn’t want to harbor it further. Dissatisfaction with status quo and not knowing an alternative seem to torture you day after day.

Given the wide spread occurrence of this thought it may be fair to conclude that we – the current generation possibly do get disillusioned easily. Books in general don’t seem to have the answer quite rightly so. Pro Bronson (in his book W should I do with my life?) states that there are two ways by which people figure it out - one being lucky to know what your calling is, and alternatively two - by being forced into a situation where in survival is at stake and the work that one is pursuing automatically becomes the calling. Possibly the recent good times (before the crash) and the fact that most of us are financially better of than our earlier generations were may contribute to more of us being dissatisfied.

How do I plan of tackling it? Hmmn… by taking calculated risks or so I have been thinking for a long time. Easier said than done.. Its complicated because at times you get a sporadic kick (feeling of exuberance) at having something right at work which makes you feel albeit temporarily that you have found your calling and then you question your dissatisfaction! The games your mind plays or rather you play with your mind :)

Apart from this the other common thoughts that seem to weigh down on the average bloke who has just passed 25 are:

1. Sudden confusion of one’s self identity

2. Anxiety concerning life goals, and finances in the long run

3. Lack of confidence in self and one’s present accomplishments

4. Loneliness, even more so in crowds or gatherings

5. An presentiment that everyone is, somehow, doing better than you

6. An overwhelming feeling that no one really understands you

7. Aversion to social interactions

8. Tendency to hold stronger opinions – knowing new things that bother you a lot surprisingly so. Involves realising that its your mind devil which needs to be tamed but at the same time finding it unshakable.

9. Emotional frustrations in personal relationships

10. Anxiety in taking decisions and a constant fear of failure

Labeled as “Quarter life crisis” this seems to be very commonly prevalent in both India & the world. An article dated 13th January 2008 puts India’s median age at 24.9 years – with over half its billion people under 25 indicating the huge demographic dimension. The term “Quarter life crisis” originated from the U.S according to some news articles. Help is handy it seems as there are apparently books on coping with the Quarter life specifically. There is a website called & even a movie called Quarter life crisis. To sign off the blog lyrics from a John Mayer song, Why Georgia Why , that rings aloud:

"it might be a quarter life crisis
or just the stirring in my soul
either way

I wonder sometimes
about the outcome
of a still verdictless life
am I living it right
am I living it right
am I living it right
why, why Georgia, why

so what so I’ve got a smile on
It’s hiding the quiet superstitions in my head

don’t believe me
don’t you dare believe me
when I say I’ve got it down

everybody is just a stranger
but that’s the danger in going my own way
I guess it’s a price I have to pay
still everything happens for a reason
is no reason not to ask yourself if you are
living it right"

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Life for granted!

Read this article about the recent birth of octuplets – the second set of octuplets born in the United States and now the longest surviving. The mother Ms. Suleman lives with her parents, Angela and Ed Suleman, and her six other children. Normally do not feel strongly about the personal lives or decisions of others but the startling pieces of information have had an impact.

News reports have emerged the mother of fourteen, a divorcee aged 33 years, living within modest financial circumstances had all her children through in vitro fertilization. She had refused the option of a selective abortion when told she was expecting multiple babies. Strange world indeed!

Without judging right or wrong wish people used their head more than their hearts especially when it s to do with bringing lives into the world. If as her mother indicated Ms. Suleman did indeed want to be surrounded by children adoption or even taking a profession as a kindergarten teacher might have been more sensible. If one does play the ethical card then how is it that using science to propagate children is acceptable, while selective termination especially when one lacks the financial means considered sinful.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

An evening with Nandita Das, at IIT Madras

A chance visit to IIT Madras to meet up an old classmate of mine yielded the opportunity of attending a talk by actress and activist Nandita Das. Being an ardent fan the expectations were high.

The session was on Social change brought about by Cinema and turned out to be an extempore followed by a Question and Answer session.

The session was quite interactive, as she began with asking the audience their definitions of social change. Accepting that it was a change in social behavior and perceptions manifested by change in attire, attitude etc., she proceeded further. She went on to explain how cinema and society have a chicken-and-egg sort of relationship in influencing each other. Her belief was that this nexus was the raison d’etre of commercial cinema. I would choose to believe that this applied to the all cinema parallel or otherwise i.e., art influences society and is influenced by it. Though she was quite erudite we soon felt that it could have been better structured. However a few interesting points that she conveyed and my opinion on the same are what this post is about.

It was an interesting point that she made about each of us having multiple identities, one of which is emphasized by various interested parties to provoke us into action, which helps them achieve their end, often divisive. She went on to explain that quite a few of her movies and dramas were believed to influence society. The opposition to her movies, from fundamentalists, only emphasized the fact that they were believed to have the potential to influence society. Not a convincing justification in my opinion. In my opinion, movies do influence by making things that happen behind closed doors more apparent to people. This might have a side effect of provoking insecurities of a few who are thirsty to make non-issues issues and using the publicity to their gain (typically votes). That wouldn’t make the side effect the cause now would it ! For example, the recent hindi movie which got banned attracted more publicity because it was banned. The movie, which had the perfect credentials of a C grade movie, might have sunk without a trace but for the unnecessary ban – an instance of a movie with poor influencing power. The ban doesn’t necessarily grant it any influencing power in spite of improved publicity.

She concluded her talk with a short clip of her movie Firaaq based on Gujarat a month after the riots, before opening it up for questions. The trailer looked interesting and boasts of a stellar cast (Nasserudin Shah, Deepti Naval, Paresh Rawal to name a few). Apparently the movie has already won a few accolades.

A few nice take-aways not necessarily related to the subject of discussion were as follows:

  • Hearing her, I couldn’t help feeling that she was truly one person who loved what she was doing. She came across as someone who was clear about her priorities, focused on the kind of subjects she wanted to work about, and as someone well aware of crime rates and such events in spite of her schedule. On the contrary she confessed to not seeing or hearing about a lot of commercial movies like Dostana, Singh is King, Chandni Chowk to China etc.
  • Simplicity and sense of humor work well with anyone
  • Even if movies are thought provoking they influence different people differently – quite obviously so. Related to this a question was put to her whether directors of movies like Rang de Basanti and A Wednesday were being responsible. I do agree with her response that ends need not always justify the means. She went on to emphasize that every director/actor/each of us has to be socially responsible. Valid point, however in my opinion a director is merely putting forward through a movie his thought and the actions that the characters take in response to a situation. Doesn’t mean that it is expected to influence each of us to adopt the same response! That’s where our own discretion comes into play. Awakening people to a thought is also influence.
  • While explaining the different identities/conformist labels being applied to people she gave the example of fair skin and the instance of a parlor lady trying to convince her to a facial promising her a cure for the tan. Her response this tan is congenital! This has been something I have encountered and my standard response has been the same. Was amusing to hear her recount a similar experience. Have always found it ironical since the parlor lady who asks you also inadvertently has the same permanent sun tan !
  • Being an IIT student need not necessarily mean asking intelligent questions… No offense but the sample that I saw/heard definitely led me to that conclusion! As an afterthought may be they were overwhelmed by her presence… Then again probably not :)

Goat @ Mayajaal

A hungry goat climbing on the cars to eat some leaves fresh off the trees.. The fox from the Aesop's fables might not have had a problem had it found a car underneath the wine and taken jumping lessons from the goat!

Up on car now

Let me nibble a bit

Ah Tasty.. Need my fore-feet now for Petpuja.....

Go away you .. let me see if I can climb on to the branch...

Sunday, February 1, 2009

From the movies

The last fortnight of January saw me catching up with a lot of movies – Six DVDs on the computer and 2 movies in the theater. A few of them lingered on beyond the 2-3 hours of playtime. This post is about the thoughts/views/learning (in the lighter vein read Raaz-2) from the same:

1.Mona Lisa Smile –
A movie that had been eluding me for a long time, it turned out to be a beautiful realistic story where the director did not tie up ends to make it a “happily ever after” kind. A bitter-sweet story with a poignant ending endorsing the need to retain one's identity to the best possible extent and encouraging women to go beyond the so called “role” pre-ordained for them by society. It is a movie that shakes every woman into self-introspection and forces her to reassess her priorities in life. While the film may initially be perceived to deride the traditional role conceived for women, it redeems itself later in a very subtle way. A confidence booster as well as a thought provoking movie.

2. Friends with money –
A movie about mid life crises with a happy ending. It dealt with multiple issues of couples/families/psychological changes/unemployment/changing value systems in a group of friends. It was not preachy, instead it focused on the issues and solutions that they came up with – not all necessarily wise. Considering the fact that it pertained to a generation at least 10 years and more older I decided not to burden myself with “how I would have dealt with it?” thought process thus preserving my peace of mind.

3. Serendipity –
A beautiful love story after which my conclusion was 2 fold – one John Cusack is really cute (:P) and two try not to leave things to chance as you wouldn’t really want to torture your self waiting for the universe to put you together. Am a bit crazy and romantic but wouldn’t risk so much – the side effects of being a risk manager.

4. Slumdog Millionaire –
A realistic well-made movie. It showcases an underprivileged kid’s triumph over the dark side of India as it tries to cripple his childhood, his life, his love, and even his luck. While there is no denying that it shows India in bad light one must acknowledge the truth in the depiction. It’s a pity that as one of the largest democracies in the world we aren't able to protect a vast majority of our citizens, provide them a safe haven, or shake prejudices and genuinely help out the underprivileged. It's a reality check for a country whose citizens have defined it as a sovereign socialist secular democratic republic. Secular, & Socialist seem to be lost some where ! Population control and Poverty remain un-addressed. Easier said than done yes but my only take away is to find a way to contribute in addressing the same. May be more long-term objective I think considering the typical middle class worry of financial security, and as usual my risk aversion!

5. Raaz 2 –
Ah! This movie started as a disaster ended as a comedy! A tight schedule on Saturday made me make an advance booking for this movie (no other shows available at suitable timing!) on Thursday. Just as I overcame the disbelief at booking a ticket for an Emraan Hashmi movie (first ever) the scathing Friday review (The Hindu) stumped me with a googly … We considered different options including selling the tickets in black before it struck us that there would be no buyers! We approached the theater on Saturday steeling ourselves and mentally convincing each other we could turn the movie into a comedy. This since we were sure that the movie would succeed in disappointing.

The learning from this movie on the lighter vein:
  • Going into a movie with negative expectations always works – you end up feeling much better at the end of it (than you did at the beginning that is)
  • Carry ear plugs and use them liberally as soon as you sight a long pause especially if you don’t enjoy being stressed by the high pitched shrieks of the damsel in distress
  • Focus on the hair styling of the actors – its bound to be hilarious as a good luck sign. You see the ghosts take one look at the hair and go ha ha he he.
  • If the lady (heroine) wears heavy eye make up she’s bound to shriek and get animated in the scene. Be wary of the one screen histrionics to follow immediately.
  • If you find your friend disinterested and getting carried away distract him/her on whether there is God and Satan or just God in the theater loud enough for others to hear. It gives them a break. A few of them might just reach the conclusion that there is no God since the Intermission or The End sign is no where near.
  • Do not carry liquids – if you do wish to sip on any liquid ensure its water. Also ensure that people on the 4 seats around you carry only water, and do not sip on any hot liquids, and colorful liquids with any form of fruit pulp. Why? - you may be subject to a sudden air drop of the liquid which drenches you in case the heroine shrieks too loud or a hand reaches out to grab one of the actors and the person like yours truly decides to get scared for once! As a corollary do not wear white or light colored clothes and carry a lot of tissues! If you inspite of these precautions do end up subjecting your neighbor and your self to the divine shower – remember to use sorry liberally and then do not forget to drink up the rest of the juice (from the one remaining in your glass of course!).