Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ekla Chalo. Knot.

The recently inaugurated event Maitree Bandhan—a joint initiative by the Times of India and Prothom Alo, a leading Bangladeshi daily, to explore cross-cultural camaraderie—went more or less unnoticed. Understandably, it doesn’t have the aura that Aman ki Asha has (or had?) but it’s a brave campaign and a much-needed alarm. There is this undeniable call for deeper interaction with a country with which we not only share the longest land boundary but also linguistic and cultural ties. Hence it’s necessary to bring these aspects to a broader public consciousness, especially to the non-Bengali spread of India.

Also, typecasting Bangladesh as just a Bengali-speaking nation would be more myopic than tagging India as a Hindu state. B’desh, like us, harbours some very complex cells that presumably hinder her homogeneity. She hosts many ethnicities, common to both of us, including the indigenous Santals, Khasi, Garo, Meithei, Tripuri/Kokborok, Kuki/Mizo/Lushai, Chakma, etc. These commonalities better not to be overlooked. On the cultural front, both Rabindra Sangeet and Nazrul Geeti are wholeheartedly venerated on either side of the border.

So what needs to be done? A lot. Like enhance communication, trade and trust. But that’s not it. A lot more needs to be done. Likewise, the same goes for our other immediate neighbors: Pakistan, Nepal, China, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Bhutan.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Curious Case of Perfection

She is perhaps the greatest actress of our time. She had been part of some of the finest movies ever produced. She personifies a thespian’s flawlessness. She can sing, dance and play musical instruments, not to mention enact her characters. She works hard on recreating accents. She is that angel from America not many chit-chat about. She once left Sophie with no choice. She burned the bridges of Madison County, got out of Africa and then slipped into Marvin’s room—all within a span of few hours. She made the Devil wear Prada. She even cast a doubt on the pedophilic Catholic establishment. She provided voice to an ant, a vixen and a fairy. She managed to cause Robert De Niro fall in love with her during the age of deer-hunting on mountain. She recently made an iron lady quiver. She, for all her efforts, has been nominated by the Academy on a record 17 different occasions. She, for all her efforts, has won it just twice. She seems destined to add one more to the list shortly. She’s in no rush to retire. She is barely 62. She stays beautiful and makes sure her art turns more beautiful than she does. She got married way back in ‘78. She is still married to that same guy. She has four children with him. She didn’t have to Kramer any of them. She balances personal and professional life sans controversy. She effectively brought the mother out of Julia. She could have portrayed as Julia Roberts' daughter—not because the latter looks old but because the former can—in the upcoming movie adaptation of August: Osage County. She’s as brilliant as they come…. never to leave. She once nearly inspired me to become an actress. She is Meryl Streep.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

An untitled work of molested art

Attention: Whoever penned the following magnum opus is definitely not a poet. Whoever thinks otherwise deserves to be my friend.

A poem badly written remains so
Whether the scribbler likes it or no
Words throw jibes at his perseverance
While verses struggle to make sense
Sometimes the ideas turn renegade too
As emotions are denied and stanzas rue
During such moments, life is like a simile
Cut loose from figure of speech with glee
Under the wall of ceaseless expectations
Over the bridge of limited conventions
Nowhere to go yet left all loose
Lacking humour it can so damn use
Meanwhile, an innocent page stays old-schooled
For rhyme’s sake, poetry gets fooled.

P.S.: It feels so great to be friends with folks having such bad taste in literature!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Awwwww, that was cute!

Being the reticent person that my amma is, she doesn’t reveal much. I mean, word-wise. Seldom would she come up with entertaining anecdotes. She’s way too busy for emotional trite. She is a robot. I mean, work-wise. Unlike most of my friends’ moms I know, she finds respite in chores. If there isn’t any, she’ll invent one and get going with it. With such a slogger at home, things are meant to be difficult for a born slacker like me—and it certainly is.

But this morning, something changed. In ways I can’t explain, age seemed to be catching up with her. At least a little bit. She shared a humorous incident that happened in 1989. My younger brother was slightly more than a year old then and asked amma to open her mouth. She was having a chocolate which he earnestly took out with his tiny fingers and popped into his own mouth and walked away. This made her laugh alone heartily almost 23 years ago. This made us laugh together heartily almost 23 years later.

Monday, February 13, 2012

…...since time memorial

Memory is a retirement fund not everyone gets to cash on. If your observation serves you well, your memory never served you in the first place AS IT'S NOT YOUR SLAVE! It is the other way around. Your memory vividly remembers who you are. You may not do so as your mind loves playing weird games. On this confusing note, my dad often jokes that he doesn’t remember the day he married my mom. He even goes on to claim that he can’t even recollect the circumstances that led to their union. Needless to say, this always gets my mom seething but in the end she laughs it away. And my dad moves on to his next bad joke. End result: A good sense of humour saves a family from futile arguments. Perhaps the savior here is age, not one’s ability to maintain calm. Some call it common sense. Others call it wisdom. But this phenomenon seeps in at a price—paid in terms of years and inexperiences. You wisen up enough when to stay quiet and when not to chortle. Along the same line, when time’s busy running memory helps a lot in slowing things down a bit. During such slo-mo moments, it's quite difficult to keep in touch with reality. Fictional characters and events crop up and begin to roam around in your head. And on this confusing note (again), what if my dad isn’t joking?

More than a lifetime of incidents to recall; More than a lifetime of illusions to maul.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

People, meet Saturday; Saturday, meet People

The last time I blogged from office was on a Friday, more than a year ago. And today, this runty post is being dedicated to a day which doesn't get the kind of attention it deserves—all thanks to its fixture between the Big F and the Big S—something it shall have to live with for as long as human race exists. To make situation worse, Fridays and Sundays are designed in such a way that we actually start looking forward to the well-hidden positives of life. To top it all, the idea of killing oneself rarely happens on a weekend. (Yeah, Freud, Hemmingway and Marilyn would strongly disagree!) No wonder people thank God for Fridays as well as Sundays but someway manage to overlook Saturdays. This negligence on our part leads to vengeance on theirs. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that ennui took birth on a bright Saturday afternoon. Thus the resulting ambiance is so dull on this particular day that it doesn’t matter whether a person is at home or at work. Sometimes it even forces Baz Luhrmann to change Sunscreen’s lyrics from 'idle Tuesday' to 'idle Saturday'. The reason behind this disorder lies in an inferiority complex Saturday suffers from that Sunday isn’t aware of. Notwithstanding these hebdomadal baloney, Saturday takes comfort in the presumption that people spend Sundays trying not to think of Mondays. After all, Saturday is just a Sunday away from Monday. And before we realize it, someone will change Saturday into Sunday into Monday.

Friday, February 10, 2012

An agenda against procrastination

I’m sick of everything I am as well as I’m not. But things will change very soon. From tomorrow onwards, I’ll be a new person. With a broader outlook, no-nonsense attitude and a better vision. To begin with, I’ll wake up with the cold sun and go for jogging. (The reason why I've never attempted this stunt before is I feared I may not come back and keep running the way Forrest Gump did.) Then I’ll return home and practise some breathing exercises that I used to when I was an amoeba. This will be followed by a soul-rinsing hot bath. If I survive that, I’d be having an intelligent breakfast in place of the regular healthy one. And by this, I don’t mean idli. Trust a South Indian when he postulates, “Idli doesn’t make you anymore idligent than you already are.” After this, I’ll read aloud any Rimbaud poem at hand and pretend to understand its depth. I won’t pay attention to the newspapers lying on the table. They aren’t worth my short attention span. I’ll then change the course of human history by promptly leaving for office in my usual blue cap, blue tee, blue jeans and blue sandals. In the crowded train, I’ll try to help someone get off the bogey against his wish. I owe people this much kindness. In the meantime, my mind will be an orchard bearing fruits of sanguinity with a scent of humility. I won’t be moved by the depressing sight of a beggar nor would I care to bargain with him. I haven’t figured out how but I’ll avoid ricocheting every obstacle that appears on my path. Once in office, I’ll offload my creativity onto the desk instead of Twitter or Facebook. I’ll smile less and laugh more at colleagues from other departments who ponder why I do that in the first place. (For the record, so do I!) While leaving, I’ll be the face of productivity. And on reaching home, I’ll make sure I don’t waste time going through what tweeps think are opinion or what facebookers believe is cool. On the contrary, I’ll watch at least two movies back-to-back, intervaled by a warm lonely dinner. And then I’ll go to sleep hoping for a nocturnal emission with Malèna in lieu of the usual Tristana. All the aforementioned plans are prone to alterations but overall, they shall prove my existence more meaningful and organized. Like always. From tomorrow onwards.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Thick, not Fat

A: “How fat is your middle finger?” B: “Fat enough to salute.”

Not funny? Hmm. Trust me, it was deliberate. All right. Now move your head from side-to-side. Go ahead, do it. You won’t be surprised to learn that we are surrounded by obese folks. There is a fat chance you might be one of them. Whatsoever you are like, you can’t crack jokes on them. Nope. No way. Why? You just can’t. Turns out people have a lot of sentiments too along with regular junk food. And we can’t afford to offend such beanbags of lard. It’s considered sacrilege by the politically-correct (read: calorically-incorrect) people. On a personal level, I’ve got nothing against those out of shape. And this is not my invisible six-pack abs speaking. Seriously, I adore ‘em. There is so much more to love about fatties. Na, it has nothing to do with the space they occupy. OK. Maybe it does while traveling economy class. Otherwise, there’s hardly anything wrong with them trying to make the most of the available space. But they’ve got to exercise their flabby neck more often.

Monday, February 6, 2012

I am what I ham

Hindi filmmakers make bad movies with good songs. Nobody seems to be complaining though. And those who are, don’t matter. Regardless, music is always the undisputed winner thanks to the industry’s overindulgence in Sufi elements. Now, if only our celluloid had a similar narrative to carry. In case no one else has noticed, Bollywood is in dire need of a Renaissance. In fact, it requires much more than that.

Commercialization had made a brutal mockery of art. Of course, it’s always easier to pinpoint Hindi cinema’s shortcoming but that’s not THE point. We need to pause for a second and ask ourselves a very authentic question: “What the fcuk is going on?”

Iranian cinema churns out just a handful of flicks annually but their simplistic approach can teach even one of the largest film industries (yup, that's us) a lesson or two. Europeans keeps challenging the boundaries. Even the Chinese are tired of exporting martial art. Gory never looked mesmerizing before Koreans entered the scene. When Hollywood runs out of ideas, it turns towards their legends colorful characters from history to binge on. When we face a similar quandary, what do we do? We steal. Unabashedly. Awarding no credit, whatsoever, to the original copyright. Or worse off, we create modern remakes of our classics… and fail miserably.

This piece is sounding harsh but it’s alright. Those who can make a difference are pretending to be indifferent anyway. In this coffer-obsessed tinseltown, writing appears like a dying profession. For instance, Ra.One employed what they call state-of-the-art technology for special effects but missed on that basic ingredient – a good script. This is precisely the reason why we fail to come up with woman-centric storylines as often as we rather should. The filmmakers and producers have somehow convinced themselves that it’s not worth the risk. Or for that matter, a decent horror movie. To make things despicable, almost all the attempts to scare audience make them laugh their ass off.

In the same vein, for a nation with a landscape as diverse ours, there hasn’t been a single cross-country road movie. Na, DCH stopped at Goa and came back. 3 Idiots was in such a haste to reach Ladakh that it couldn’t enjoy the beautiful journey. And ZMND helped boost tourism of a country going through its worst economic crisis. In addition, North-East India is yet to get under Bolly’s myopic radar.

We don’t get to see courtroom movies either. (Shaurya was a brilliant try but lost ground in mimicking A Few Good Men.) Similarly, a generation that was nurtured by Amar Chitra Katha ought to produce a better front on animation. It doesn’t. Luckily, Bollywood can't afford to bother remaking Hollywood animation flicks!

Over the past decades, world cinema has witnessed a paradigm shift in its attitude towards each other. Freedom of expression is the language. But in our industry, things are where they were. Insofar, due to years of flowers making out instead of actors in the song, sex is still the F-word. Ignorance is not only bliss but also an unconventional scapegoat.

There is a depressing trend by which models switch to acting without walking through a very important tunnel: acting school/theater. Something tells them they are born actors. Whatever that ‘something’ is, it mustn’t be trusted. Hollywood, despite its over-glamorous skin, keeps strengthening its core because of their professional mindset. Unlike our so-called superstars, actors out there work hard on their art rather than stardom.

Salman is not a bad actor. He simply prefers not to act. The last film in which he genuinely acted was Tere Naam. In the rest, he stopped being human and was busy being Salman. Even SRK suffers from this malady. In spite of being such a fabulous showman, his big screen presence always leaves something to be desired. Of course, his millions of fans may more than just beg to differ. But to me, his last great act was Chak De and before that, Swades. Aamir deserves applause for turning into a perfectionist and putting his arrogance to good use. Saif proved his thespian mettle in Omkara and has what it takes to be a good painter… of portrayals. Akshay, being the loudspeaker that he is, would prefer to make a bad movie with John than make a good one with someone who can emote. Hrithik redefines fabulous and is the Nadal of Bollywood due to the evident hardwork he puts into each role he chooses. Ranbir has to be the finest actor of his generation but sadly, he's mostly paired with actresses who can't balance his acting scale. On the other end of the spectrum, except for the few 'actresses', a dancing majority are overpaid nautch girls.

Some weeks ago, there were talks of reopening cinema halls in Kashmir following a long lull. After all, why should Kashmiris be exempted from all the terrible Hindi movies the rest of the country inadvertently tolerates?

Friday, February 3, 2012

No City for Old Folks?

Demographically speaking, for a city of migrants with the population exceeding two crore, the words ‘senior citizen’ should ring a loud bell. But it seldom does. With everybody getting themselves in an inexplicable hurry, none can blame none. Unless one converse with them to learn more about their concerns and endless plight. And we are not referring to the 17 senior citizens who got murdered in Mumbai last year – effectively underscoring their vulnerability. If we include the rampant burglary and chain-snatching incidents going on, matters only get murkier.

Having said that, indoor situation could well be more miserable than outdoor. There are lots of aged souls who aren’t taken proper care of by their children. Even though they are on the right side of law thanks to legislations that entitle them maintenance from their offspring in case of negligence. In spite of this provision, not many choose to pursue legal course of action. They’d rather prefer to ‘adjust’ and are compelled to take it way too far. As expected, they are mostly reluctant to share the details.

Like this octogenarian widower I met whose family doesn’t want him in the house except during mealtime and at night to sleep. He spends his day roaming around or sitting outside a nearby retail store. Similarly, there’s an old lady whose daughter-in-law makes sure she looks fine when escorted to bank for withdrawing her pension money. Needless to say, her son pockets the cash and she doesn’t make a sound about ill treatment. Maybe it’s a rare urban Indian thing to do. Maybe not.

Even though a majority of them aren’t treated as good as they should be by their own family members, nobody is prepared to state the obvious against their kin. This defense mechanism apparently saves them from filial repercussions. Moreover, their feeble limbs don’t appreciate heroism. They are living one day at a time and seem to have accepted the norms of a thriving city that almost borders on inhumanity.

Mumbai streets aren’t very famous for warmth towards them. Buses may allow ‘em to board from the front door but there’s no guarantee that someone will offer them a seat. At moments such as these, kindness depends on the distance to be traveled. Conditions worsen when it comes to trains. The overcrowded vehicle proves way too fast and cruel. Like a 73-year old I spoke to remarked, “They have ladies’ special now. Shouldn’t there be senior citizens’ special too?”

Elders assembling in garden every morning as well as evening is a common sight. They share a bond with each other primarily due to common difficulties and joy they experience. On paying close attention, a sense of humour is evident throughout the conversations they indulge in. One 82-year old explains, “Gathering here extends our life...” to which his 76-year old self-confessed alcoholic neighbor interrupts, “Na, it doesn’t. This simply helps us kill our time.” Laughter follows only to get noisier when their 88-year old ‘captain’ calmly adds, “At least it doesn’t kill us!”

They crib a lot, too. The transition from strength to fragility has clearly left a bad taste. Their absolute dependence on medicine is frustrating at times. Finding respite in old Bollywood songs and dismiss today’s movies as crass is a trend. Furthermore, they find modern culture deplorable while pinpointing on ‘lewd’ acts showcased by lovestruck youngsters. And while they are at it, they hope their grandparents “are not like this.”

Over the years, they’ve been a witness to this transformation called Mumbai. Fortunately, not all of them are unlucky. Many are blessed with nice folks at home. For others, life is not a pushover. On being asked why then they don’t shift to their laidback villages if it’s so difficult out here, nearly everyone repeated the same thing in different words: “Having spent almost my entire life here, it’s quite late now to go back. Besides, I’m a part of Mumbai whether those in hurry accept it or not.”