Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The lost art of raising voice

Mass protest is in the air. Turks are still pro-development but they can't let a historic park disappear. Brazilians still love football but they can't tolerate a price hike. They are frustrated people just like us. But they react appropriately whereas we remain inert. The closest Indians came to mass protest was a few months ago when our nation was outraged by a gruesome act in New Delhi. Before that, there was an anti-corruption crusade as well, more centric to the capital than any other city in India. For some shameful reason, Mumbai remains immune to mass protests. As if her citizens are fully satisfied with the way things are. Or aren't, to be politically incorrect. Imagine the sight if Mumbaikars decide to give their indifference and tolerance a break and emulate the Istanbullus or the Paulistanos. Given the condition our roads and railways and almost everything else is in, we don't have to wait till we grab the right to host FIFA World Cup.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

An auteur's touch

Some filmmakers don't belong here. They come from a different place, a different time zone, a different mindset. And they don't bother to change. Such human beings are indeed rare and ought to be preserved from decay. It's in our best interest to not to give in to mortal indifference. But there is very little we can do even though they are totally worth the pain. Their world is similar to ours but they add new dimensions. Not because they have to but because they think they should. What do you do after waking up watching a beautiful dream? You try to share, if you are that type who talks a lot. In most cases, people stay quiet. A filmmaker doesn't have that luxury. If he watches a dream, he has to find ways to share it with others. Sometimes he watches these dreams with his eyes open and he can't wait to let others have a peek. In the quest to be God, new worlds get created and some, destroyed. The thirst to make others believe that there is a perspective possible which is slightly different from our daily what makes a filmmaker filmmaker. More often than not, obstacles rule. The weather conspires and art suffers. It's easier done than said. Money is least of their worries. However, he keeps scratching the surface until he gets what he desires. He's not your everyday guy. He's a fucking filmmaker. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

The train and its trainee

Harbour Line has to be Indian Railways' stepchild. Nothing else can explain the kind of treatment it (we, the commuters, that is) receive on a daily basis. Today, the trains were more than an hour late. That is 60+ minutes, numerically speaking. On top of that, it was pouring, thus providing the authorities a reason to hide their inefficiencies. Whatever. I too waited along with half the population of Bangladesh at Kurla station on platform number seven for 300 years. But not a train in sight. 
The drama unfolded here. 
At last, a locomotive lost its way and reached us. Full to its brim, there wasn't an inch to be budged. But then, in a  Mumbai local train compartment, there's always space for one more person. In this case, however, there was space for at least a dozen. I tried my luck but couldn't grab anything so i did what my amma would NEVER want me to. I climbed onto the steel steps on the back of the compartment. Yes, the space between two bogies. In my defense, i wasn't alone. There were six more of us. None of us exchanged a word. Space management at its best. I've done this before but never in a downpour. Everything felt wet and cool before pain crept into my limb joints. The thing is it's difficult to stand in such an uncomfortable position for long. Approximately 22 minutes of heroic ride from Kurla to Vashi platform number three.
The real drama unfolded here. 
This train i was hanging on to my life—quite literally—was supposed to go till Panvel but the motormen halted their 'office' at Vashi itself. They even switched off the light: an indication that the local will be moving to car-shed at Juinagar and all the passengers should alight. One can imagine the kind of reaction the public must have exhibited at this point. And they did. Perhaps they were high on Turkey protest news. Some started banging the door of the motormen's compartment. Others tried to break the glass in front of the train. Two fools even managed to slap the motorman (poor fellow got slapped twice while his colleague didn't even receive one) for not listening to their demands. This went on for like 12 minutes before another train headed for Belapur reached platform number two. 
The bigger drama unfolded here. 
Six of the most violent-looking men rushed towards the Belapur local and threatened the lonely motorman not to move the train. Being afraid (read: sensible) after observing the gherao on the right hand side of his window, he didn't make a move and stayed put. The born-again protesters felt as if they have conquered Timbuktu and once again diverted their  attention to the train on platform number three. 
The bigger and better drama unfolded here.
As soon as they moved back to the Panvel train, i went to the compartment at the forefront and asked the Tamil-accented motorman to start the train. He seemed surprised and relieved at the same time and hit the alarm bell pronto: a green signal given to the motorman on the other end of the train. As soon as that happened, I quickly ran back and found myself space enough for my right foot to place and hanged (again!) on the footboard from Vashi to the next station.
The biggest drama unfolded here.
On reaching home, i told dad that i saved thousands of people from unnecessary frustration by making a motorman do what he was supposed to—hit the gear and run the train. Funny he listened to me. The funnier part is not many can claim that they've made a train move although many can claim that they've made a train stop. The funniest part is none of the above mentioned episodes is untrue.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Hopeful and all

not very far away
from where we are today
A light shall burn our bones
and set us free
in order to guide us home
where we wanted to be.
The voice from within
will touch our ears
and make us hear
what can't possibly be seen.
Little needs to be changed
not now, for a while, never again,
a case of disgust and unease
an unrequited war for eternal peace.
If at all. Maybe.
Yesterday was an attempt at past
as expected, it couldn't last
— long enough to breathe
life into the soulless breeze
or make a dream turn true.
not very far away
from where we are today
A light shall burn our bones
and set us free
in order to guide us home
where we wanted to be.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The incontinent clouds

It rained earlier and much more than expected, bringing relief from the sun that basically has the hots for Mumbai. During the first few drizzles, romanticism was in the air. Chai dates pakoras. Life turns bearable again. For some days at least. Before the monsoon melodrama ultimately takes over and the following takes form: trains delay, roads clogged with water from the nearby gutter, traffic stagnates, the working class gets drenched, crib and reach office late, roof leaks, little kids fall ill leaving no clue why, couples rain-walking and then reach home shivering, the faceless BMC custodians caught napping as usual, walls create flaky art, filthy spots become filthier spots, football returns to the park, cricket sulks, rainwater fulfills potholes, the stench of damp clothes, sunlight-deprived underwears dying to be dry, people disappearing into manholes, lightning strikes (misses most of the time), cheap Alphonso mangoes, students bag holiday provided their schools reopened on time, photographers delight…

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Cannes, did she do it?

The best thing about our media is it asks plenty of questions but the problem is it seldom does so to the right person at the right place on the right time. More often than not, what happens is we journos go overboard with a given event and forget to analyze the structural design (read: agenda) behind it. Who led to what and which is to how and when happened to where are those stuff that get broomed beneath the mainstream cover. Perhaps it has a lot to do with the way a reporter look at things. After all, a story will remain the same although the storytellers vary.  

Something of this nature happened at Cannes about three weeks ago when Vidya Balan was invited to be a part of the jury at French Riviera. On cue, as usual, the Indian media went berserk on her elevation to such a pedigreed platform. But nobody—AND I MEAN NOBODY—bothered to ask why? I haven't come across a single column (although i've waited for quite some time now) inquiring why exactly is she on the jury. Instead, everybody started deriding her for her sartorial choices—even though i felt that she looked great in her desi outfits—and totally forgot the real purpose behind her visit. I've nothing against her. In fact, i genuinely feel that she's the finest young actress of our times. The word to be underlined is young. And that's also the reason why her selection seems hotchpotch. The 35-year-old who made her Bollywood debut in 2005 with Parineeta has appeared in less than 20 films since then. Can one assert that she has attained the experience needed to be a juror within a span of just eight years? Her film career is blitzkrieg of sorts given her nose for choosing challenging scripts but still. Besides, we're talking about the biggest film fest in the world here. Even someone as remarkable as Amitabh Bachchan hasn't been considered yet to serve their jury. Because the question is not about an Indian doing the honours. It's about the kind of qualifications a certain task demands. Judging world cinema at its purest form ain't everybody's cup of tea. Besides, what prompted the organizing committee to go for her? Spielberg's recent visit to Mumbai? Her recent wedding to an influential producer? Or let's blame it on globalisation then? If Nandita Das could be there, why not Vidya? Not to undermine her presence but when you look at the group photographs of all the jurors together, our national sweetheart appears like the odd woman out. Sharing the deliberation room with accomplished names like Steven Spielberg, Ang Lee, Naomi Kawase and Christoph Waltz is simply begging one question: what exactly did she bring to the table?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Being commitment-phobic

There's no such thing as an untimely death. I'm not an expert on death but i know a thing or two about being alive. And trust me, it's tough. Particularly when you're not the person you could have been. More so, when you've become the person you once so famously dreaded. As you turn older, you acknowledge the growing hollowness in you and the sheer amount of fakeness that goes in to it  just to cover it up. It doesn't and can't heal itself on its own. That's sad, undoubtedly. What's sadder is some young Bollywood actress going ahead (climbing upward, to be precise) and killing herself just because she wasn't finding enough work and her relationship status sucked. But are these reasons valid enough to die? Nope. When a farmer from Vidarbha dies, your heart slows down for him because a part of you knows that he couldn't make the clouds rain or farm with his tears. So, you need to come up with stronger excuses. If someone from a privileged background won't deal with failures, then what's the point of luxury? Or maybe we're missing the point here. On a daily basis, 170,000 of our species die on this planet. If five of them committed suicide, one of them is of Indian origin. At least that's what the statistics dictate. Of course, death has nothing to do with one's racial or regional identity but it is a matter of great concern to see youth being so disoriented and callous to jump to such fatal conclusions in the face of dire situations. Furthermore, suicide is something that Indian culture has remained alien to for the major part. Even our mythology is rife with stories where suicide is not an option. Even a brave soul like Bhishma delayed his suicide. Coming back to the present, becoming the person of your choice might be arduous but it requires one to be breathing—not hanging onto a dupatta from the ceiling fan. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

From home to house

Every time my mother leaves for her native place, a soft purry kitten dies. Hold that thought, PETA. Just got the metaphor wrong! What i meant to say was: whenever my mother leaves for Manipal, we find ourselves in a fix. It's only when she is not at home that we realise how important she is to everyone's survival—including the houseplants'. This time around, she will be gone for about two weeks or so. And as usual, my dad will pretend to take over only to give up within 48 hours and announce "To Each His Own, Boys" silently. Anyway, he's 66 so can't blame him for...being so smart. My brother is going to be smug thanks to his self-reliant techniques. He doesn't bother anyone, unlike us two. Regardless, several factors are going to bother us. The cobwebs, for instance. You see, if you don't clean them regularly, they become a part of your pessimistic life. Anyway, change is a way of existence too, right? You wish. In our house (no, no, not sweet home), nobody is going to enter kitchen anymore—except for water perhaps when one is dying of thirst—as each of the three fusketeers (read: fuss-creators) will depend entirely on outside food. The sparrows and pigeons are going to miss their morning nosh. The tulsi is going to curse us for not taking proper care of her. Milk shall become an alien food because it requires boiling and more importantly, the need to make sure it doesn't spill. The bathroom is going to reek of bachelorhood. Water is going to overflow and clothes are going to remind us that although May has ended, Indian summer hasn't. The fridge will continue to be our BFF but its biochemical status will change significantly. For what this 'change' is worth, i can assure that none of us are going to learn our lessons or treat my father's old wife properly when she returns. Fair enough.

PS: Three soft purry kittens dying in a year is not a big deal, PETA.