Monday, December 31, 2012

India Bleeds

The Preamble to our Constitution reads:

‘We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:
JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY, of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;
and to promote among them all
FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation;
IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, DO HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION.'

The Preamble explicitly highlights Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity as the basis of our constitution. I remember in school - it was mandatory for us to learn the Preamble verbatim. I always took pride in knowing the Preamble by heart. With so many un-consitutional incidents happening year-after-year, I cannot be sure about that 'pride' anymore. 

As India bleeds today, I wonder how our freedom fighters would have felt had any of them been around to witness this state of affairs! We have a judiciary but no independence of judiciary for extreme crimes like rape, that continues to be a 'baillable offence'.

The police, law courts, or politicians never have any deadline for completing any work they undertake. Isn't that appalling? We, as the 'aam janta' have dates to go and cast our votes, dates to register for our voter IDs, dates to submit our electricity bills and dates to file our income tax. There is heavy penalty if we dont meet the deadlines.

But when it comes to the government:
1. No dates to build better roads
2. No dates to punish criminals
3. No dates to punish corrupt politicians
4. No dates to hang terrorists
5. NO PENALTY if they dont make or meet deadlines. Safety and security of the nation is always LAST PRIORITY.

WHY THIS DIFFERENCE when we are all part of the same country and look up to the same Indian Constitution? 

The latest incident which has shaken all of us is the gruesome crime in Delhi. The crime took place on December 16; the victim suffered for a fortnight and breathed her last on December 29. The media is all over the place. The Delhi protesters have shown tremendous courage and are contunuing their fight for justice braving all odds. They have inspired us in Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Jammu, Chennai and many other cities. The youth is protesting and voicing their opinion all across the country. It is a matter of grief and a cause of protest for each and every one of us.

BUT, the government has done NOTHING. They are planning to implement better laws in February 2013. WHY WAIT TILL FEBRUARY? WILL IT TAKE ONE MONTH to make stricter laws? Even if February, why is there no concrete date? Does that mean people continue to commit such ghastly crimes till new laws come up? Is that the excuse the police or government will give if another such crime is attempted? Even when this incident is so fresh in our minds, perverts in many parts of the country have the guts to continue committing crime against women. And government officials say, 'we need to think'! What were they doing all these years? When are these THINK TANKS going to act?

While the news channels have started displaying pictures of the criminals of the Delhi brutality- the government has made no effort to name them or share details. Why are we protecting the criminals? When I open the newspaper everyday, there are headlines like " 16 year old raped" or "42 year old gangraped in village" etc. Why can't it be written as "3 drunken goons named X, Y, Z commit rape in a village"? Why don't we focus on the criminals instead of further victimising the victim?

In the Delhi case, the criminals Ram Singh, Pawan Gupta, Vinay Sharma, Mukesh and Akshay Singh (Thakur) are the culprits. I still dont know the name of the 6th offender. I hope we have a law whereby we can expose identities of criminals as soon as the police arrests them. If they have the guts to commit such a heinous crime, dont we have the courage to name them? 

The Delhi case has acted as a catalyst- an eye opener for common people like us. However, this has also turned into a war between the government and the people. The police are safeguarding the government from the public! If the government continues to ignore the people of India – mobocracy will take over democracy in no time.

As we come to the end of 2012, India continues to bleed. The youth in the country are not willing to wait anymore. We have had enough!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Being Salman :)

What is it about Salman Khan that has suddenly caught the fancy of the crowd? He was never a hero of the masses if I look back to the 90s. Girls loved him in each generation and that is a process that will not end abruptly. But this 'new' Salman avtaar that has surfaced since his blockbuster 'Wanted' (2009) is incredible. From a romantic hero, he has developed into this angry young man who is very different from the other 'angry young men' we have watched in movies over the decades. That's what makes Salman Khan and his recent movies unique. People enjoy his style, his eccentricities, his charm, and his genuineness. Besides, his good looks and well, good looks...take care of everything else.  

I have never written a film review for a Salman Khan movie. Reason: Being an ardent admirer of the person he is, I would feel bad to write a review if I didn't like the movie. But Dabangg 2 is a movie I recently watched and totally loved :). So the writing follows.

Dabangg 2 is a thorough Bollywood action drama. I would watch it again and many people I know have already gone for a 'repeat watch'. Interestingly, the movie has a good storyline and adheres to a script. Unlike its prequel, this movie has more rhythm and meat. There is never a moment of boredom. Good music, great action, dollops of humour and natural acting will keep you entertained for 2 hours and 10 minutes. Dabangg 2 is a complete entertainer and full credit to Arbaaz Khan for this directorial debut.

The charactertisations in this movie are meaningful and the script highlights a very interesting social angle too - in several scenes. There are no cliches or stereo-types even though the setting we are talking about is semi-urban. We traverse through the roads of Kanpur and meet the goons there. The cops are at their best trying to control corrupt politicians and the senior police officials are indolent and slow. So the story is not a new one. But the treatment is. There is a constant hint towards social progress throughout the movie. It is very subtle and doesnt take away from the movie's main genre- action. But the 'progress' theme is intelligently blended in the main story. 

For instance, when Makkhi's (Arbaaz) wife (Mahi Gill) informs him of her decision to take up a job - Makkhi doesnt discourage her. She explains why it is significant. The way in which this important message about the economic contribution of women in society is conveyed to the single screen masses through a simple conversation between the couple is commendable! There are also instances where Chulbul Pandey (Salman) tells his wife (Sonakshi) that she doesnt need to come running every time he calls just because he is the husband! Usually we see the opposite in commercial 'masala' Hindi cinema. To add a scene like this in a 'mass appeal' cinema is a good gesture on the part of the director to convey a 'social equality' message to the audience. Usually in 'angry young men' movies - we have instances of boys having an upper hand and the girls playing the 'damsel in distress'. But here again, Dabangg 2 conveys a subtle social message of women empowerment.

It doesnt end here. There is a scene where Chulbul Pandey talks to his father (Vinod Khanna) about life insurance planning. Applaud applaud!

Oh yes - one more thing - the charity angle. It's funny but then that's how a Chulbul Pandey movie should be :). So when Robinhood cop Salman cracks a case, all the money that is recovered either goes to the poor or is deposited in the Chulbul Pandey fund, which again works for the upliftment of the poor. Good thinking by the writer/director.

For a movie which is targeted at the masses and expected to be a nonsense action-packed 3 hours entertainer, Dabangg upsets its critics. It is not just a great action movie that can boast of excellent onscreen chemistry between the primary characters; it also successfully portays an evolved 'angry young man'. This man is angry for the right reasons. He makes good use of his muscle power. People not just respect him, they love him and want to hang out with him. That is the true success of Dabangg. It has a tremendous connect.

Please go watch Dabangg if you haven't. If the above reasons weren't enough, here are a few more: Salman Khan rocks anyway; Sonakshi Sinha looks fabulous and scores full marks on acting too. Vinod Khanna, Arbaaz Khan, Mahi Gill and of course the villain Baccha bhai - the entire star cast contribute handsomely to this very enjoyable movie. The 'fevicol' song could have been avoided though.

You will enjoy this movie even if you are not a Salman Khan fan. But if you love him, you definitely have an edge ;)

Happy Birthday to you Salman!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The height of tolerance!



' These perverts should be hanged till death'

'Oh no, that won't help. Life imprisonment of 20 years should be the minimum punishment. Rather, I'd say something gruesome should be done with the rapists.'

The above is an extract from a conversation between two friends. As India is discussing the heinous rape in New Delhi that has shocked India once again, some pervert in some part of this country is committing this ghastly crime for the 'n-th' time. I can feel a shiver down my spine even to think of such a beastly act. How ironical that my last blog was about celebrating 'International Girl Child's Day'.

Respect for women is not in-built in our social system. We are trained to respect the 'goddess' and 'mother India'. But the matter gets diluted when we have 'real' people in front of us to deal with. 'Ideal sons and daughters' come alive only in Bollywood blockbusters. Children who see their mothers being beaten up by their fathers more than often grow up to repeat the same actions- the sons beat their mothers, wives and daughters.

What are we doing to prevent such cowardly acts and atrocious crimes?

Nothing.

Instead of getting justice for the victim, we are asking our women not to travel alone at night. Worse, we teach them to ignore eve-teasers; if we react - the consequence won't be good for the woman! If we lodge a police complaint, our policeman asks us 'Madam, aap itni raat ko akele sadak pe kya kar rahi thi?' (Madam, what were you doing alone on the streets at night!).
We - as in a select section of people in the society are protesting against such crimes through protest marches, media discussions, newspaper reports, blog posts et al. But we are still awaiting ACTION and REACTION from the government and our law courts. Instead of discussing the victim, why can't the government or media flash photographs of the criminals everywhere and publicly humiliate them? Why can't there be fast-track courts to close these cases quickly?

We are a very tolerant society. We tolerate corrupt politicians, we tolerate rape, we tolerate female foeticide, we tolerate child abuse, we tolerate cruelty against animals...and more ! Corruption has invaded each one of us and we fail to 'think beyond' what we tolerate. So do we end up tolerating everything? Of course we don't. We fight back when a vegetable vendor doesn't give us a 5 rupee discount, we scream when the cab driver doesnt have a 'change' to return, we growl when a trans-gender person comes begging for some money. And of course we don't tolerate bad employees and bad bosses. We can go to any extremes to get rid of them to make our lives better.

When it comes to social issues- serious ones like this- we don't interfere in other people's business! We expect the police to take action and the government to act- none of which usually happens. Political connections win all battles. And victims? Well they continue to be victimized. We read it in the papers and then forget it next day.

We want criminals to be brutally punished for atrocities against women!
Why can't we give Taliban-ish punishments to the perverts- chop off their hands and legs? Or beat them up brutally and keep them inside a cage with a hungry hyena? Not a lion or tiger- but a hungry, ravaneous hyena- a real violent one. The public should beat them up brutally and then cage them along with a hungry hyena. While the hyena eats up one of the culprits bit-by bit, the other perverted men should be chained outside the cage awaiting their turn to be the hyena's next prey. I've heard that only spotted hyenas are man eaters. Hope we can find a good number of them in India.

What happens in reality?

Gangrape victims are treated as outcasts in our society. People are more interested in discussing the victims rather than the culprits. Why did the victim go out alone or what was she doing on the 'unsafe' road in the dead of the night or 'oh she was drunk' ?- are loose comments which people make to boost their ego and to justify their survival in a 'horribly tolerant' society.

Teach them when they are young 

When a son is born in the family, teach him to respect his mother, his sister, and his friend. Don't ask him to protect them. Ask him to behave himself so that the women in his family feel comfortable in his presence. Every school should create awareness about these crimes among young boys. Don't train your girls to be ladylike and fragile. Teach your boys to behave like gentlemen.

LET US NOT STOP PROTESTING TILL THE GUILTY ARE BRUTALLY PUNISHED.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Literary Fe(a)st...

The Times Literary Carnival | December 2012

I don’t know if I should call it a Literary Fest or a literary feast! The last three days have been a one-of-a-kind experience for me. I missed out on the festival last year but more than made up for it this year. Each year the Times of India organizes this festival in Mumbai. The ambience at Mehboob Studios was super-awesome. The fact that every second person you bump into is either a scholar, historian, author, poet, film-maker or litterateur, made this an invigorating experience!
My boss was kind enough to give me a day-off as the Carnival started on a Friday!

Day 1

On the first day the session I enjoyed the most was the conversation between literary stalwart Anita Desai and her award-winning daughter Kiran Desai. Chikki Sarkar- Publisher, Penguin India was the moderator of the show. What I really liked about the Desai duo was their simplicity and commitment. When they spoke- one could understand their commitment to writing and the earnestness in their dedication to their work.

Anita Desai confessed to being a loner. She beautifully explained that no matter how social a life a writer leads, s/he would have to delve deep within and shut doors to the outside world while penning their thoughts. It is a private affair and their was so much earnestness in the way she conveyed this! It made me think – is this the reason I am not able to write as much as I always wanted to? Am I not finding my lone corner? The answer was – No, I have just been lazy.

Anyway.. shifting to Kiran Desai. She is another exemplary icon. Kiran was even more soft-spoken than her mother. Both of them spoke very less and I wondered how they expressed themselves so well when they wrote. They have written so much! So one more lesson learned is – speak less, write more.

Kiran Desai also went on to explain that disciplining oneself as a writer is not easy. I mean, writing around 6 hours a day, spending some more hours reading the drafts.. and doing that for months.. or rather years together… that’s not easy. It’s funny but ‘reading’ is far more interesting than ‘writing’. But again, the joy of writing can only be experienced by a writer! The happiness you feel after completing a chapter after months of struggle – the reader wouldn’t understand that. But as long as the writing has evoked an emotion in the reader’s mind (happiness, sadness for instance) – it is a job well done. Kiran mentioned that she shows her work drafts to her mother before sending to the editor. If she sent it to too many people and took their views and start implementing their thoughts – she would never be able to complete her work. Thought provoking! Anita on the other hand mentioned that she recently started sharing her final drafts with her daughter. Otherwise, she never shared them with anyone but the editor. Her writing is her private world and she likes keeping it that way till it becomes ‘public’.

Day 1 of the Carnival was very interesting and inspiring. For one, it brought me back to this blog of mine which I have been neglecting for quite some time now.

I also attended Katherine Boo’s session earlier. There was so much happening in all the venues that I didn’t know which one to pick and which to drop. Besides, authors were available at the coffee shops outside to interact with the audience. That was another nice experience too. It’s always good to talk to authors, and meeting legends like Anita Desai – made me a very happy soul today.

There was a session with Sania Mirza, one with noted historian Ramachandra Guha and several others illuminating literati.


I wanted to stay back for Usha Uttup’s show in the evening too. But hanging around at Mehboob studio all alone all day – I wanted to rush back home when I still had some energy left and write a bit.

Day 2

It’s just growing better. For me, today’s main attraction was the talk show of the script writers Anusha Rizvi, Urmi Juvekar and Juhi Chaturvedi. I wanted to hear Juhi especially as Vicky Donor is a movie I thoroughly enjoyed. She wasn’t able to make it to the Fest unfortunately. But Anusha and Urmi more than made for her absence. The former is the writer-director of Peepli Live and the latter wrote Shanghai. The ladies’ points of views were sharp and effective. The moderator posed a question similar to what was asked to the Desais yesterday – are authors lonely soles? They both agreed- unless authors carve out their own lonely zone and build a fort round it, they can never settle down and nurse their ideas and express them in words. So, being lonely or rather spending time alone is very important.

I also managed to peep inside the other auditorium overflowing with people – William Dalrymple was presenting Mughal paintings and rulers there. I suddenly remembered my days at www.oxfordbookstore.com. How I cherished reading Dalrymple and writing short reviews of his books! This was surely a 'history' day for me as soon after this, Dr. Ramachandra Guha was launching his new book at the Carnival. Noted historian and prolific writer, Dr. Guha’s writing is bound to move you. I don’t know if this is a history student speaking but the way Dr. Guha paints India and makes history relevant to the current day is exemplary. He is a great presenter and his oratory kept the audience engaged till the end. We didnt get a place to sit - the auditorium was packed! 

After this past-paced session, we needed a lunch break. After 1.5 hours- we were back at Mehboob Studios. William Dalrymple’s session on India and Afghanistan – 1839-42 was a thought-provoking session. A result of the scholar’s research over multiple years, the presentation and book launch saw a full-house.

But to me- the best part of today was the session called ‘Mythology to PowerPoint’- Business and Mythology. The speakers were Devdutt Pattnaik and Santosh Desai. It was a brilliant session and especially for people like us – who are an integral part of the corporate world. Pattnaik’s sense of wit set the floor roaring with laughter. His logic and the brilliance with which he made mythology relevant to current Indian economics and polity was astonishing! It’s as simple as – asking someone in a meeting – would you prefer a Ram (follow rules) or a Krishna (break rules). He clearly established in less than an hour how our master epics are a part of our lives and how changing the society cannot happen unless ‘we’ change ourselves. The institution (non-living thing) cannot change if we (living beings) are rigid with our thought-process. He was duly accompanied, supported and challenged by Santosh Desai. When the session got over, we thought it should have continued for some more time.

There was fun and comedy – with Ranbir Shorey and Vinay Pathak reading sessions. Nandita Das was also present in another talk-show. The Mehboob studio lawn was constantly hosting one workshop after the other- some for children and some for all. The whole experience was very inspiring and mood-uplifitng. For once, I was back to my college days where we were surrounded with debates, cultural activities, literary fests, music contests and so on.

I am soo looking forward to the final day tomorrow. I have been missing the evening sessions which generally have a live performance by a rock-group/band or noted musicians/singers. But I get tired and after the day- I feel like running home and penning down my experience. So am happy.

Day 3

Day 3 was a delight too. I ended up attending a session which was unexpected. At 9.30am, it was Arvind Kejriwal in conversation with Arnab Goswami. Am not sure why this session was a part of the Literary Carnival – perhaps to pull the crowd. And it did! The turnout for this event was massive. I hadn’t seen so many people in any other auditorium in the last few days. Kejriwal spoke like a winner and the crowd responded to everything he said. Whether I agree with his ideals and school of thought or not is a different question altogether. But he was a crowd puller for sure- and very motivating when he spoke. Loved the session.

This 2 hour session ate into the next session’s time. The next one was equally interesting. It was a discussion between Barkha Dutt and Chetan Bhagat on ‘What today’s youth want-Naukri and Chhokri’. Mind-blowing session! The auditorium was overflowing with youngsters. On the other hand, a lot of senior citizens attended the session too, which was very heartening. These two youth icons pepped up the spirits of the audience and people laughed and laughed when Bhagat spoke. His sense of comic timing is amazing and I was very happy to be part of this one.

There were more. Javed Akhtar and  Prasoon Joshi in conversation; another auditorium hosting Mira Nair. There was Suketu Mehta’s slot too and one more by Devdutt Patnaik. The session on graphic novels was a novel concept. We attended as many as we could and retired very happy and content at the end of the day. It was a long extended weekend very happily spent.

I look forward to more such festivals going forward. There was no glamor or glitterati here. One would see illustrious authors, thoughtful filmmakers, newbie writers, acclaimed historians, popular journalists, established publishers – all finding a common forum at this Carnival. There was no queuing up or paying money to meet your favorite stars. Authors were available to chat at the lounges and coffee shops. The ambience was pleasant, peaceful and inspiring. This is the kind of milieu every author and writer wants to be part of.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

International Girl Child Day - Oct 11, 2012

Today is International Girl Child Day (Oct 11). This is significant as Oct 11, 2012 marks the start of this event and 2012 is the first year that this day is being celebrated. For me, the biggest takeaway from observing a day such as this is the 'awareness' it generates. May be there will be one less female foeticide, one less child marriage, one less child abuse case. Again - may be one more girl will go to school, may be one more abandoned girl will find a good home, one more girl will get good nutrition... the wishlist is endless.

No matter how much we do to ameliorate the plight of the girl child, it is not enough. It will take us decades and generations to really be able to see the difference. Our attitude towards women in our families is a reflection of how we perceive a girl child who is not part of our family, or our immediate social circles. People can make hefty donations or conduct fund-raising campaigns to help a girl child. But even among those you will find some who are either making a donation to get tax benefits or those who join a fund-raiser volunteering campaign to bag a certificate on a summer-internship project !

I hope more people come forward to spend time in educating the girl child, starting with their own family. In villages, even in 2012 there are instances when child marriage is considered auspicious and education of girls a 'crime'.

Food, nutrition, education and respect-- every girl child's fundamental need. Every girl is special and deserves to celebrate her childhood, cherish her fun-times and receive education and nutrition. I dont think this is an event to be celebrated only by NGOs, social reformers and feminists. It is an occasion that has relevance to all of us...all of whom have loved a girl child and seen one in the family or been one herself.

Cheers to this cause! Happy International Girl Child Day to all. May the road ahead point to progress.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Mockery of Loyalty!


Film Review: Cocktail

Cast: Deepika Padukone, Saif Ali Khan, Diana Penty, Dimple Kapadia, Boman Irani
Produced By: Saif Ali Khan and others
Directed By: Homi Adajania
Music: Pritam
My Rating: 3/5

The English Dictionary defines ‘loyal’ as ‘firm and faithful in your support.’ Cocktail twists and tweaks the term per convenience. The lead characters give their best to justify disloyalty in the garb of loyalty! Confused? Well, I sure was after watching the movie. I wondered if I witnessed a mockery of loyalty in friendship for three long hours!

Cocktail and the hype around it created a lot of expectations from the Saif- Deepika onscreen chemistry (think Love-Aaj- Kal). But I was disappointed—not with the movie so much but with the casting. Had Mr. Khan just remained producer of the movie and let a younger hero like Ranbir Kapoor, Ayushman Khurrana or Shahid Kapoor play the male lead, the movie would have fared better. I have nothing against 40+ heroes. In fact, I love many of them (Salman Khan rocks!). But this movie just wasn’t cut out for Saif Ali Khan.  

Coming back to the story, Cocktail doesn’t say anything new with the script. But the treatment is different. And this is where Deepika Padukone’s character stands out. As Veronica, she sets the screen on fire with her spontaneous acting, beauty and sex appeal. The characterization is refreshing. Veronica rescues the damsel-in-distress Meera (Diana Penty) and the two soon become the best of friends. Diana adds freshness to the movie and acts quiet well in her debut film. Her character is opposite to that of Veronica and she exudes the ‘mystery girl’ charm (the one who plays hard to get).

All was good till Saif (Gautam) entered their lives and ruined the friendship. For a while, the friendship between the trio was building up well. But too much of Saif-ism failed to blend with the persona of the two young leading ladies. The music is good and the ‘Tum hi ho bandhu’ track is my favorite.

The movie stretched in the second half. It was indeed a cocktail of affairs with Gautam sleeping and sharing even the toothbrush with one of the girls and romancing the other! He was literally ‘in love’ with one and ‘in bed’ with the other with all three sharing the same apartment! Imagine the ordeal of the audience.

I give full marks to the director for trying out a new concept through Veronica’s character; and a big zero for failing to take the concept to fruition. The woman with ‘high morals’ has to win! And win what? A 42 year old good-for-nothing geek whose only passion in life is to sleep with women and fool around with an equally foolish and loose uncle! There is NOTHING about Gautam’s characterization that will impress you! Being the producer himself, Saif could have worked a bit more on his character. If this was a Hollywood flick, both girls would have dumped this pathetic guy! Dimple Kapadia as the mother and Boman Irani as the uncle are totally wasted in this movie.

In the end, I want to ask the director: Did we really need a mockery of loyalty? The youth in this new age are fast, ambitious and like to enjoy a good life. But does it mean they are disloyal to their friends? On the one hand, we have movies like ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’, ‘Ek Main Aur Ek Tu’ and even ‘Bol Bachchan’ celebrating loyalty and friendship. And here we have a ‘Cocktail’ where loyalty and friendship are at par with one-night stands! The equation between true friends is seldom so shallow.

The movie is worth a one-time watch only due to the music, the cinematography and the girls. But you can easily skip it if you have something better planned for the weekend!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Write, write, write!

Blogging was never planned!

I enjoy writing and was always comfortable jotting down thoughts in a diary or bits on pieces of paper. Earlier this year when I went home to Kolkata, I was looking through my old diaries, albums etc and smiling to myself. I thought-- God, I really wrote all this and so much of it? Some poems made me laugh (they were silly!) and some write-ups were decent-ish :p. But if I was to write them today, would they be different? Perhaps not.. if I was jotting them down on paper. For one, scribbling to myself helped me write in a certain flow--uninterrupted, happy and peaceful.

Writing a blog perhaps helps one plan their write-ups better (not that I planned to write this one though). Before publishing, am sure everyone reads their draft one more time--thinking about the audience reading it. Even if nobody reads, we still revise the draft once! Writing on paper gives you more independence--you can write anything and everything because you are writing to yourself.

Nevertheless, I enjoy writing on my blog these days. When I joined blogspot, I had a dormant account for over a year. After I 'published' my first post, I thought a few times, 'should I just delete it?'. And there was a funny feeling--publishing my own work! I always related 'publishing' to well...publishing. Then I don't know when, I got used to writing on the web.

However, I still write on paper. I love notebooks--the ones with handmade paper or the ones with decorative covers. I once had a notebook with a Jaipur print cover. It was beautiful and I loved writing in it. Even today, I like collecting beautiful and ethnic looking notebooks and diaries. They have a nice fragrance in them too, just like old books. I just love the old book smell.

In the end, its all about writing after all! We look for experimenting with different media when it comes to penning our thoughts. Whether one writes on a banana leaf, on the sand, on rocks, on walls, on paper, or over the net- writing is a friend who always stands by your side--in happiness, in sorrow, in pain, and in celebrations!

Cheers to writing and writer friends!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A wee bit of true love!

Sometimes we just want to write about love—doesn’t matter who won, who lost, who received it and who didn’t, who handled it best or who let it slip away just like that. Doesn’t even matter what kind of love—romantic, platonic, friendship or any other kind of love in any other relationship! It is that feeling of love that matters.
Talking about romantic love, a lifetime of togetherness with a loved one is what we all desire and cherish when we have it. But a fleeting romance that tug at your heartstrings long ago can hit you unaware years later when you least expect it! The same ‘feeling of love’ can come back to you in waves even if the person hasn’t. It may sound weird, but it happens! Perhaps that is what I would call true love, though many people would have different and valid viewpoints. True love comes in so many different forms and versions evoking so many different kinds of emotions and reactions from so many different people. Yet, the common factor binding them all is love.

True love to me is when you love someone deeply even long after they are not in your life. There is pain attached to true love and a strange pleasure in that pain also. A glimpse of your loved one is what you want to avoid for the rest of your life, yet every moment you pine to catch a glimpse of him/her. Each time you see something, eat something or visit a new place—you want to share it with your true love. But the next moment, you dread that you don’t bump into the person at a public place! It is very difficult disguising your emotions in public and most of the times we end up embarrassed, artificial or over-the-top, trying to look happy in front of that person. There is kind of a hidden message—'See how happy I am without you?' The reality of course is far from that.

When you so want to hug someone you love tightly and all you have with you is a rugged pillow, you hug the pillow anyway! But in front of our true love, there is a tendency to put up a ‘don’t-care’ attitude that interprets as ‘Hug? What’s that?’

Once in a while we all need a hug…the more the merrier. Friendly hugs, a romantic hug, a caring hug, a JLT tight hug and so on and so forth. The warmth of a true-love’s hug can melt the hardest hearts too. The best way to experience true-love’s hug is hugging your pet dog. It just feels so awesome and I miss it for so many years now. The hugs, the licks—the best stress buster in the whole world!

True love sticks on to you. It refuses to leave you even when all that you share with each other is prolonged, infinite, and uninterrupted silence. But yet, we desire to love truly and experience the magic as long as we live.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Create, procreate, recreate!


Film Review: Vicky Donor


Cast: Ayushman Khurrana, Yami Gautam, Annu Kapoor
Produced By: John Abraham and others
Directed By: Shoojit Sircar
Music: Abhishek-Akshay
My Rating : 4.5/5

Ayushman Khurrana has 'come' of age (No pun intended). If you are a cricket fan, you may remember this excessively handsome, intelligent, and witty young man from Indian Premier League (IPL) 2010. He hosted several matches and became very popular in that season. I was quite disappointed not to find him in the following years of IPL and wondered where this ‘dude’ disappeared! Not for long. The fellow did his homework right and got himself this unconventional launch as the protagonist in ‘Vicky Donor’.

How many debutants would dare to get introduced in a movie like this I wonder!! Most would prefer to get safely unveiled under a Yash Raj banner or a predictable yawn-worthy mushy drama or some multi-starrer where the Khans, Kapoors or Kumars play the lion’s share of the meaty role! That’s where Ayushman scores with a big thumbs up- for daring to debut in Vicky Donor. The debutant heroine Yami Gautam is impressive too and the two share a lively onscreen chemistry. As Ashima Roy, her acting skills are notable and some of my male friends already find Yami ‘yummy’! The lady reminds me of ‘Gayatri’—the beautiful female lead in 'Swades' who packed off from Bollywood as soon as she arrived even after a dream launch! Hopefully we will see more of the graceful Yami in Bollywood in the years to come.

The characterization in the movie is commendable. The roles are sketched to play meaningful characters and yet the treatment is light. When they gel in the story, we create a hilarious impact and yet convey a positive social message to the audience. John Abraham has surely chosen the right first film to produce! The script is novel and the approach is fresh, funny, and thought-provoking. Kudos to the director for portraying a taboo topic like ‘sperm donation’ with such √©lan and confidence!

Annu Kapoor is a doctor who runs a ‘fertility’ clinic where he helps childless couples conceive. In other words, he finds them a ‘sperm donor’. At the start of the movie, we see Dr. Chaddha (Kapoor) tensed as most of his clients complain about no pregnancy even after coming to his clinic. Some even threaten him with dire consequences. Annu tried his best to explain to the clients that even after sperm donation, 100% fertility cannot be assured. Simultaneously, he starts searching for a ‘productive’ sperm donor and chances upon Ayushman who looks to him as the perfect ‘procreation’ machine. The movie progresses with Chaddha trying to convince Vicky (Ayushman) to donate and how Vicky keeps dodging the doctor till he finally agrees to give it a shot. The scenes are knit together with great deft; and humor sprinkled here and there make the audience break into splits of laughter.

Ayushman and Yami stand out with their acting skills. Annu Kapoor is commendable. Also special mention for the ladies who play Vicky’s mother and grandmother. The scene where the two Punjabi women share a drink in the evening behaving like perfect ‘bewras’ is wonderful! The modern tech-savvy grandmom who dreams of a 42 inch flat TV and a Ritu Kumar dress is a darling. It is great to see elderly women being portrayed like ‘normal women’ with an inclination for alcohol and not getting bullied by the typical 'emotional baggage' that most Hindi movies depict all the time.

Also a special mention for the gentleman who play’s Yami’s father and the lady who plays her aunt. The Bengali duo have acted splendidly. The show-down shown between North Indians and East Indians (read Punju Vs Bong) is hilarious, healthy and in good taste. The movie takes a light-hearted dig at the ‘cons’ of each culture and glorifies the beauty of both. So on the one hand, we have the show-off Punjabis accepting a divorcee Bengali girl as their daughter-in-law. On the other hand, there is the conservative Bengali dad who encourages his daughter to accept Vicky as her husband, regardless of his ‘sperm-donor’ status. Love wins over all and cultural barriers are meaningless there—that’s what Vicky’s mom and Ashima’s father bring to the fore. The stereotyped rhetorics are absent and this tussle between the cultures is great fun! Probably that's the real USP of the movie :).

Of course the movie also has its flaws and tends to get too filmy at times. But if you overlook those, you have a racy script, a fresh concept, brilliant acting, full-on humor and total entertainment for 2 hours—that sums up Vicky Donor.

Ayushman Khurrana certainly has a very bright future ahead. He has lent his voice to one of the songs and done the lyrics for it too. Good luck to this talented new kid on the block!

The movie is highly recommended.  

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Back to School...


Saturday morning 5. 45 am! I don't remember when I saw that last. May be on a vacation to witness the Sunrise or decades ago--to get ready for school! On Feb 25, 2012 it seemed like I was reliving my school days. I was up in the morning and running to school! And all this thanks to the lovely kids of Navjivan school, Mumbai.

Though my association with the school was temporary and I met my students only on Saturdays over 4 months, we spent a lot of time having fun. I was associated with this school as a voluntary teacher on the Teach English Project, part of an initiative by an NGO, Dharma Bharathi. Thanks to the socially aware organization I work with, I met this NGO through a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative. The introduction was through another reputed NGO- ivolunterers.

The project concluded on Feb 25 with a gala Annual Day function. The venue was an auditorium in Chembur, Mumbai and students from 12 schools that have been adopted by Dharma Bharathi participated. My students stole the show on that day. We had three performances-- a drama, duet song, and a group dance.

The group dance set the stage on fire and the audience requested a repeat performance. So, these little bravehearts waited till the end of all other performances and a rather lengthy awards ceremony to go up on stage again. They were tired, hungry and some even sleepy. But the combined energy and positivity they exuberated was exemplary. The enthusiasm to go up on stage again kept the tired faces smiling.

At the end of the program, we volunteers teamed up again and the whole gang returned back to our favorite Navjivan school laughing and singing all the way. The to-and-fro bus journey was great fun and the children never got tired of yelling, giggling, smiling and pulling pranks :). I totally understand how satisfying and yet tiring it is to be a teacher and manage 50 odd students in a class!!! At the corporate world. we make such a hue and cry about team management and project management and blah... but managing Class V to VIII students is quite a challenge :p.

When we bid adieu to the students, all of us felt very bad. Ankur Goyal from our team got the Best Volunteer Award from our school.

Prakash, Ankur, Nehal, Mahesh, Ritu, Prateek, Rakhee, Suneeta and I- along with all other vounteers - were thinking how fast these 4 months had passed. Kudos to Ajay Dhooth--the coordinator from our school who made this event a grand success. He also bagged the best Project Coordinator award at the function. 

Last but not the least, had it not been for Kajol Basu--our main support and the organizer of the whole event on 25th Feb, our students wouldn't get a chance to perform. Kajol worked relentlessly over months to bring us all together, impart sessions to us on how to teach, seek feedback from us at regular intervals and send us training material. Hat's off to the tenacity and determination, she surely qualifies to be a new age social reformer.

I hope we have another program with the students again next year. All volunteers thought 4 months was quite less to bring the children totally up-to speed with an almost new language. So, investing at least a year would be more meaningful. So, I'll wait till next year's plans open up.

Till then, I wish my students luck, love and laughter! God bless the angels always. Amen!

Here are some pics I clicked to capture moments from the D day and on the final day of rehersal:
      
Bharatmata- the showstopper of the group dance
 
Make up session



            
Sankesh who played Hindi Professor at the play
 
The awesome children as audience
 
A glimpse from the Group dance

and another
   
The 'porey porey' boys set the stage on fire

The Drama team in action



Magic show for the kids
  
Dance Rehersals
 

Volunteers chit-o-chat
 


Grabbing a quick bite



















Naughty and lovable young heroes

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Lets Sing Along :)


Music has always been close to my heart! If writing is my first love, music surely is a close second. And so when office organized an 'Antakshari' competition, it was but natural, I would participate :p.

Antakshari has been special, right since childhood. Whether in school, college, ex-offices, neighborhood, parties, gatherings, picnics-- I rarely miss a chance of being part of this game. Celebrations become livelier with this game. Like me, several others enjoy playing Antakshari and so it is natural to make new friends and bond over Antakshari.

Coming back to office, this is the first time ever in our Mumbai office that we had a celebration like this. There have been different other kinds of games and fun events organized, but one where people meet in an 'Employee Club' like atmosphere--this was a first of its kind. My colleague and new joiner in our team Sanhita coaxed me to participate and she was also instrumental in building the team that represented us on this event on Feb 23, 2012. Sanhita was the main lead for our team, motivating everyone to perform and sing :).

So, we had to form a five member team. On D day, our fifth participant backed out, just like someone retires hurt in cricket :(. We were looking for someone so that we weren't disqualified from the game. Akshay came to our rescue and happily accepted the offer to join our team aptly named 'Besurey Rockstars'. Shamim and Deepa made our team complete. Special mention for Shamim who came to office especially to attend the event despite being on leave! And also for Deepa, who stays near Dockyard and works at our BKC office, but came to Goregaon only for the event. Shows we have real rockstars in our team :)

Well, well... we had tough competition at the event. 18 teams participated in the Antakshari and after multiple 'knock-out' rounds, we finally made it to the FINALS :)). Of course there were teams who were well prepared and had great singers. To be fair on us, we didn't even get a minute to discuss as a team before the event. After all, we needed to ensure that our work assignments were delivered to our clients on time. And that happened to end just as final annoucements for 'Antakshari' registrations were being made by the HR team.

Overall, it was a fun-filled event. Sudhanshu was the perfect Master of Ceremony for the evening and he entertained the audience with his classy voice. Rajesh on the synthesiser played melodious 'dhuns' for us--every tune rightly identified got the teams 10 points and if we missed, the bonus point would go the next team guessing it right. The full HR team was also present cheering everyone continuously and clicking pictures.

After 10 rounds of the game in the FINALS, we were crowned 'Second Runners Up'. The winning team had excellent singers who had great knowledge in music. They truly deserved to win.

On our team, it was a combined effort...all of us took turns in singing and I was lucky a few times to be able to identify some unknown numbers :). Of all the interesting rounds in the Finals, there was one round where we had to sing a superimposed song...meaning.. sing the lyrics of one song in the tune of another. Our team was asked to sing "Urvashi Urvashi, take it easy policy" in the tune of "Ka karu sajni, aye na balam". Imagine the plight!!! Poor but happy me, went on stage for the final rendition. (Holding the mike to sing actually feels great!).  After singing, I got a new name during this Antatshari. The host kept referring to me as the 'Urvashi girl'. I finally had to announce my name before the audience started referring to me as Urvashi :p.

We got yummy chocolates as prizes and the event ended on a happy note with people promising to set up a committee and volunterring to be part of more such gala evenings. More than anything, this was a great opportunity to bond, to get to know colleagues with whom we have been working for over 3 years but didn't have a name to put on the familiar face.

I look forward to more such fun events this year.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Familial Bliss and Woes

Film Review: The Descendants
Starring: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller

I never thought I would be writing a film review of an English movie, and that too of one which has earned high acclaim from all quarters--awards,  accolades et al. I haven't watched too many Hollywood flicks, so anyone reading this blog please note this disclaimer sentence :). After watching Descendants, I wanted to write about it, talk about it and go for a second viewing. I guess thats what great movies do to us. They leave an impact on our minds with their sheer simplicity. And like going back to a crazy, uncanny lover who is irritable and loving at the same time, these movies and their magic grow on us. We never get enough of them. Some of my all time favorites are Serendipity, As Good As It Gets, The Sound of Music, A Walk to Remember, and Before Sunrise.
The Descendants hit the theatres in India around the same time that Agneepath did. I was sure of writing a review on Agneepath as it was a Hrithik movie. That was before I watched the movie. In the last couple of years, I've enjoyed watching Hrithik Roshan movies and writing about them. But Agneepath didn't allow me a hattrick on Hritthik reviews :(. It was a royal let down. After Guzaarish and ZNMD, Hrithik looked such a misfit in Agneepath as Vijay Dinanath Chauhan that I wanted to leave the theatre before the interval! The only good reason...rather evil reason why one can sit through Agneepath is Sanjay Dutt alias Kancha. His dreadful guise and deadly acting will freak you out for sure!

Coming back to The Descendants, the story is about George Clooney. And it is such a treat watching him on the big screen. Killer looks, subtle expressions, incompatible acting, undomitable screen presence, sparkling chemistry with co-stars--- Clooney made the movie what it is. The storyline is simple and flows smoothly through well-knit incidents and exotic locales while finely depicting the family life of Matt King (Clooney). The movie revolves round the Matt family and their ancestral land in the Kaua'i island. Matt and his cousins control the family trust that owns these huge acres of land. Matt, the sole trustee of this property decides to sell it off after discussion with his family--all of whom want to sell it off too. Just when the family is ready to seal the deal, the news of Elizabeth's (Matt's wife) accident reaches and the whole family rushes to the hospital. Doctors foresee no chances of recovery and Elizabeth sinks into coma.

Matt suddenly sees his whole world drifting apart. He realizes he had a loving wife he never paid attention to as he was busy building his career in law, his teenage daughter Alex (Shailine Woodley) who is in college and stays in another island in a hostel doesnt want to return home. The younger daughter Scottie (Amara Miller) who is barely 10 is outspoken, brash and every second day teachers in school complain about her. Matt tries to be a good father and gets Alex home. In the meantime, doctors advise Elizabeth cannot recover and life-support should be removed.

There is a twist in the tale when Matt realizes that Elizabeth had an extra-marital affair that he was not aware of. After this, the story takes on a whole new dimension. Natural and spontaneous acting by Alex and Scottie make the story lively and even more interesting. With the entry of Alex's friend Sid (Nick Krause), there are some lighter moments in the story. The characterisation and the ability of each actor to emote the depth of their feelings on screen is fascinating. Whether it is Cloony trying to stalk Elizabeth's lover Brian Speer (Matthew Lillard) or Scottie freely abusing at the top of her voice, or Alex showing her natural authority and suppressed anger on her parents for their ignorance in upbringing--each portrayal is unique and beautiful. Cloony's expressions, whether he is expressing happiness, anger, guilt, disappointment or authority is commendable.

The glimpses of father-daughter relationship is captured very well too. Cloony, Woodley and Miller bond very well onscreen and their chemistry is memorable. Whether strolling on a the beach, sharing an icecream together, or discussing on teaching a lesson to Elizabeth's lover, the father daughter trio create some memorable moments for the audience to take back home. On the other hand, the moments when Elizabeth's old parents go to the hospital to say a final goodbye to their daughter is also very touching.


Another sweet scene to remember is when Elizabeth's friend applies make-up on the coma patient in the hospital to uplift her mood.. mood of the friend who has been sleeping for weeks with no hope of recovery. Only despair and sorrow for her loved ones. 

Hat's off to Alexander Payne for a movie of this stature. 

Family values, bonding, the true worth of ancestral heritage and the significance of the family tree---hold key to The Descendants. Family is not just about loving and caring, it is also about owning responsibillities and making life worthwhile. The Descendants demonstrate all of this and portray them very delicately, so that we, as the audience can savour each moment and let it grow on us.

I would recommend this movie to one and all.