Netflix, youtube, and other stories #2

Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories

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Knowing that I have a fascination for things Japanese and also a fan of Malgudi Days, my daughter suggested to watch this series on Netflix. I am into the fifth episode and I have not been disappointed.

Each episode is an independent short story. However they have one thing in common. Most of the actions take place in a restaurant that is open from 12 in the midnight to 7 in the morning.

Through these stories, one gets glimpses of life and the mind of the everyday (or, every night :D) life of the Japanese living in the city of Tokyo.

Binge watch 1: World’s longest bus journey

All the five episodes of this DW documentary is available on youtube. When a peruvian bus company decided to run a bus service covering the 6300 km distance from Rio in Brazil to Lima in Peru along the Transocenica Highway, DW decided to send a crew to be part of the maiden journey.

It was supposed to make the journey in five days, but unforeseen delays along the way extended the journey by another day and a half.

In the backdrop of this journey one can peep into the life of the common men in South America. One can draw a lot of parallels with the life and governance in our developing south Asian countries – unplanned growth and lack of proper control playing havoc with the environment, unfinished and corruption riddled infra projects, and even frequent roadblocks by local to draw attention to their problems.

The journey is spiced with glimpses of personal life of the main driver and some of the passengers. Main tourist spots along the way are also explored in detail.

Binge watch 2: Harmony with AR Rahman

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This series on Amazon Prime also has five episodes in total. AR Rahman, one of our greatest music directors, has a plan to conduct a special symphony that includes rare artists of vocal and instrumental tradition of classical and folk Indian music.  The first four episodes explore the back story of these four artists as Mr Rahman travels to the homes of these artists starting from Kerala to the North East.

Sajith Vijayan may not be well known even in his home state Kerala. Equally lesser known is the instrument that he plays. It is known as Mizhavu, a drum traditionally played during temple festivals.

From Kalamandalam of Kerala, Rahman travels to Mumbai to meet with Ustad Mohi Baha’uddin Dagar, one of the dozen surviving players of the musical instrument Rudra Veena. It was interesting to learn that his ancestors, who were Brahmins before getting converted to Islam, hailed from a village named Dagar. Rudra Veena is the oldest among the stringed Indian instruments.

The third artist,  Lourembam Bedabati, is a folk singer from Manipur. She has dedicated her whole life to revive the folk music known as Khunung Eshei, even preferring to remain unmarried. She is the main vocal artist in the symphony of the final episode. Her rendering was heart touching in spite of the fact that I could not understand the meaning of the lyrics. That is the power of music.

Mr. Rahman’s search ends in Sikkim where he meets with Mickma Tshering Lepcha who plays a bamboo flute know as Pangthong Palith.

Now the challenge  remains for Mr. Rahman to harmoniously blend and amalgamate all these diverse traditions of music. The master of music that he is, there is no doubt everything falls into place in the  grand symphony in the final episode.

It also shows how in spite of India being a land of diversity and plurality, since time immemorial, music has always found a way to transcend the boundaries of religion, ethnicity and other difference.

 

 

Netflix, youtube, and other stories #1

India is full of places of pilgrimages. Each state and each district can boast of thousands of places of pilgrimage, each associated with a puranic legend or some form of divinity. After all, according to Hindu belief, even though the ultimate reality is only one, it manifests in 3.3 bn different divine forms.

But, the four main places of pilgrimages, known as char dham,  are located in the four corners of the country. Badrinath in North, Puri in East, Rameswaram in South and Dwaraka in West. These four divine abodes were established by Adi Shankaracharya who is credited with reviving the Hindu religion and culture that was in a dying state due to the influence of Budhism.

Some say Lord Vishnu takes morning ablution in Badrinath, breakfast in Dwaraka, lunch in Puri, and retires to Rameswaram for rest. Some versions start with Vishnu taking morning ablution at Rameswaram. There seems to be some confusion among the pundits as to the association of the places with lord Vishnu’s daily rituals. However, there is no confusion with regard to one thing which is  with regard to the fact He comes to Puri for his lunch.

Why not? Anyone, who has tasted the Mahaprasad which is cooked in one fo the biggest kitchens of the world using age old recipes and techniques, will vouchsafe for this.

There also seems to be a lot of misconception and ignorance about the strange looking deities and the strange rituals associated with them. Of course, for any information these days, the internet opens the flood gates.  Out of thousands of videos available on youtube,  I found the three following videos very interesting and informative.

The central theme of every documentary is different. While the first one gives an overall idea about Lord Jagannath Dham and other prominent places of pilgrimage and tourism in Odisha, the other two are associated with different aspects of the grand annual spectacle known as  Rath Yatra and the event of Nabakalebara . 

  1.  Yatra Mahaprabhu Shri Jagannath Dham Darshan with prominent temples of Odisha.  This documentary gives an overall idea about Jaganath Dham, temples  and legend associated with the History of the idols, and other tourist attractions in the Golden Triangle which consists of Puri, Konark and Bhubaneswar. The stunning visuals are accompanied by the mesmerising narration by Sami Narang of Doordarshan fame.

 

 

2.  The Legend of Jagannath.  Originally aired on the National Geographic at the time of Navakalebara in 2015, actor Rajiv Khandelwal takes the viewer on a journey through the preparation for the grand car festival , sprinkling it with glimpses into the history of the temple and the deities from time to time. The documentary is also available on Netfilx with better video quality.

 

 

3.  God’s own people | Jagannath Yatra. This too was produced during the time of Navakalebara in 2015. However, it focuses on the aspect of the selection of the trees with specific divine manifestations. The wood from these four neem trees were used to carve out new idols of the four deities – Jagannath, Balabhadra, Subhadra and Sudarshan.

There are two parallel narratives in this documentary. One is about how the descendants of the Tribal King Biswabasu now known as daitapatis  go on an arduous journey to locate the trees and  the detailed rituals associated with bringing the wood to the temple. The second one which provides emotional depth to the narrative is that of a simple woman of the village where the tree for the idol of  Lord jagannath was located. Hailing from a remote village in Odisha, I had many nostalgic moments while watching it.

The documentary has been made by the famous director Nila Madhab Panda. (Remember I am Kalam, Kadvi Hawa …? ). Amitabh Bachan has lent his voice for narration – a grand actor for the documentary about a place where everything is grand.

Please watch the videos to go through an enlightening journey.

Jai Jagannath.

Educating India (Part-III): Hear it from Sir Ken Robinson

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Education is one of the boring subjects to discuss when you are in a party. Everyone needs it, everyone is concerned about it, but how many are willing to go in for an in depth discussion about it?

When it comes to educating our children most of the parents usually go with the wind of the times, subject to their economic limitations. And immediate economic considerations always takes precedence over anything else like the actual talent or inclination of the child.

In depth discussion about educational issues may be boring. But, you will be surprised to know that a TED talk given by British Educationist Sir Ken Robinson is one of the most watched videos on TED website and Youtube.

Here in India the perception is created that much of the rot in the education system can be traced to Macauley. But, after hearing Ken Robinson I realised that it is a global phenomenon. Education was taken seriously by the governments in the nineteenth century to meet the growing need of the industrial revolution. Thus, while some aspects of education (maths, science etc) are overemphasised, other aspects like arts, music, dance etc., are never given the importance these subjects deserve in our school curriculum.

These talks are sprinkled with generous doses of humour. So whether you are an educationist, a parent, or a lover of British sense of humour, do not miss these videos.

 https://embed.ted.com/talks/lang/en/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity

https://embed.ted.com/talks/lang/en/sir_ken_robinson_bring_on_the_revolution

https://embed.ted.com/talks/lang/en/ken_robinson_how_to_escape_education_s_death_valley

(My book Sixteen Parenting Sutras is live now on amazon. It is also available on #KindleUnlimited)

Part 1: Educating India

Part 2 : Educating India

 

dhan ki jai: of justice and fair play

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If you are monied and influential enough you go scot-free in spite of committing the most heinous crime. In India, we have got used to these kind of incidents. What is worse is – if, you are poor you may get convicted for someone else’s crime.

You have to be a strong believer of karma and rebirth to feel OK with the social injustice meted out on a poor fellow by the combined forces of the state and the media after watching the movie Dhananjoy, which is based on the real life trial and conviction  of Dhananjay Chatterjee.

Dhananjay Chatterji was held guilty and and hanged for raping and murdering Hetal Parekh – a fourteeen year old school girl – on 05 Mar 1990 at  her flat in  the apartment complex where Dhananjay was a security guard.

The media went on a frenzy to brand Dhananjay a rapist and murderer even before the trial began. As Dhananjay’s family could not pay the fees, his lawyer lost all interest in the case. Based only on circumstantial evidences Dhananjay was held guilty by the trial court. The verdict was upheld by the High Court and the Supreme Court. The pressure of vote bank from the influential Gujrati Community was so much that the wife of the then West Bengal CM Budhadeba Bhattacharya held public rallies demanding death penalty for the accused. Public opinion to paint Dhananjoy a monster was kept up through out the trial and his consideration of mercy plea by the president of India till he was finally hanged to death on 14.08. 2004.

Later on many inconsistencies in the so called circumstantial evidences surfaced. Three professors of the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata did extensive research and published the details of the inconsistencies and a probable sequence of events based on their collection of evidences in a book. The movie- Dhananjoy- is based on this book.

If the inconsistencies mentioned in the book ( as I learn from the movie) are true, the probability of Dhananjay being innocent is very high.  Certain facts which were not taken into account while pronouncing the verdict are as follows:

  1. All the twenty one or so injury mark are only on the upper part of the body. If it was a rape some injury marks were expected in the lower parts as well.
  2. There was proof of sexual intercourse, but there was no conclusive proof of rape. Even the forensic report said so.
  3. When Hetal’s mother discovers her injured (already dead)  body, in stead of seeking medical help  as a first thought, the first thing she does is she shouts to know the whereabouts of Dhananjay.

There are so many inconsistencies in the statements of witnesses that even a layman (provided he is totally unbiased) would award Dhananajy at least a benefit of doubt. But, forget about a benefit of doubt, this poor security guard who could not afford a costly lawyer, was held guilty and hanged to death. (Contrast this with the recent case of a film director who hired a costly lawyer, Kapil Sibal in this case and got exonerated of rape charges from the High Court. This director is also well connected in the left liberal circle of Lyuten’s Delhi)

Even the communist government in power, that prides itself for standing for the poorest of the poor and social justice, sided with the moneyed Gujarti Community in this case and went overboard in demanding death penalty for the accused. Dhananjay’s karma was so poor that, the then president of India, who rejected his mercy petition,  himself hailed from a poor family.

Coincidentally, the previous day I had watched the  English movie – Jack Reacher. The base plot line of the movie thinly resembles Dhananjoy, except that in this Hollywood movie the innocent convict is saved by a powerful duo of an attorney and an ex-Army officer from Military Police. Another difference is that the movie Jack Reacher is not based on real life incidents.

Justice and fair play for the poor and the innocent happen after all. Of course, in the land of fiction.

jack reacher

 

 

 

subtitles for a sanskari audience

agoodman

“Hope you **** already know the **** target.”

“Ye. We have to get that ****  **** **** out of the **** hole.”

“*** those intel *** . Everything completely **** up, man”

“Ye. If I meet those ***** , I will **** the **** out of those *****”

“You. **** come with me with your *****. Do not forget to **** or else we all get ****”

“Now now, do you **** see those *** *** **”

“let me go and **** **** **** right through their **** ****”

“No, you are such an ****. you stay here and *****”

“Oh ***, Oh ***”

(First published in one of my earlier blogs)

P.S: No prizes for guessing the stars 😀

 

moving adaptations

There would be, perhaps, half a dozen movies for which I must have read the original book either after or before I saw the movie. Of course, unlike the Hollywood ones the Bollywood productions have been disappointing.

Gone with the Wind

In case of Gone with the Wind, first I saw the movie, for the first time some twenty five years back. By that time this 1939 movie had already become a classic. I read the lengthy novel  afterwords. Contrary to what I had thought the fact that I had already watched the movie did not diminish my interest in the novel. Maybe, had I not watched the movie  I would not have read the novel. It won 10 academy awards and is considered one of the all time greatest movies of Hollywood.

Unlike the Bollywood movies based on  Chetan Bhagat books, this  movie is not a loose adaptation of the novel. The professionalism displayed by everyone connected with the movie is remarkable.  One can experience all the flavours of this 1000 odd page novel in the four hour movie. I watched the movie (DVD) for the second time a couple of months back.  It is worth mentioning that ‘Gone with the Wind’ is the only novel written by Margaret Mitchell in her life time.

Silence of the Lambs

In this case, I read the novel first. In an earlier post on this blog titled A Gripping Tale,  I have written about my reading experience and how I came across the book. I had read the book before the movie was released. Hence I was curious to see how the movie was adapted. I was not disappointed.

Elementary, my dear Watson

Being a Sherlock Holmes fan since childhood, it was logical that I should not have missed the 2009 movie ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and the sequel ‘Sherlock Holmes-  a game of shadows” released in 2011. Robert Downey Jr. has played the eccentric detective perfectly with befitting support from Jude Law as Dr. Watson.

Earlier, I remember watching a number of BBC serials  based on the Sherlock Holmes stories. Even though my memories are vague, I don’t think the serials were as interesting as the books.

Now a days many adaptations of Sherlock Holmes are run as serials on various channels, a Chinese lady passing for Dr. Watson in one version that I saw. It is titled Elementary. With Guinness book of records listing Holmes as the most portrayed movie character, it has become difficult to keep track of the various spin off versions of Holmes.

Tales from Malgudi

R K Narayan was himself disappointed when he saw the movie ‘Guide’.  Narayan’s Guide had to undergo necessary improvisation to fit into the Bollywood version with necessary songs and dance and the usual tadka.

But, the serials produced by Kannada actor and director Shankar Nag brought in all the nuances of RK Narayan’s stories. It is still a pleasure to catch up with one odd episode of Malgudi Days telecast on good Old Doordarshan from time to time.

 

 

 

 

Sunday Musings and Random Notes #3

Indian Bloggers

Of course I am talking of life, from which you cannot escape alive. It was after a long time that I was watching a quality Bollywood movie. That the movie was educative, or rather refreshed my understanding about certain basic fundas of life was an added bonus. At the same time the movie was not preachy.

Never expected such mature acting from Alia Bhatt. Shahrukh is at his as usual best. It seems Gauri Shinde put her heart and soul to make such a wonderful movie- Dear Zindagi. 

You may also read : A few good movies

Previous week, ended up with the Fantastic Beasts, just to accompany my son, whom I had promised to take for this movie long time back. (Actually it was he who made me promise, and it was he who brought my attention to the the movie). I am not much of a Harry Potter fan. But, nevertheless I have watched all the parts. And read maybe, half of one of the books. All the movies had appealed to the child in me. This one was no different. I enjoyed it, if not more, at least as much as my son did. It is a fantastic movie.

Towards the end of the movie,  there is a kind of reversal of time. It is a strange coincidence that this reversal of time occurred towards the end of ‘Dr. Strange‘ as well . Well, this was the movie that I had watched the previous to previous weekend. A strange hotchpotch of Indian concepts of outer body travel, relativity of time, immortality and modern concepts like multiverse. Of course the stunning visuals, and the stray humours thrown in here and there ensured that you were not bored while thinking of the complex scientific (or, seemingly scientific) themes explored in the movie. It was a thoroughly enjoyable movie. Because of the large number of Indian mystic concepts used in the movie, if your are an Indian chauvinist,  you are definitely going to like it man. There may be a slight disappointment because the Hero goes to Nepal and not India to learn all those mystic theories.

So three movies over three consecutive weekends. Each of the movies was great in its own way. Four point nine out of five to each.

And, what better weekends could you ask for.

Of Heroes Real and Reel

Indian Bloggers

Those unknown heroes did not even wait to hear our applause

One day, while I was driving to Bengaluru Airport, I spotted two small IAF planes moving in synchronicity. Instantly I was reminded of an aerobatic display by the Suryakiran team two decades back.

It happened at a  forward base. The local Chief Minister was the chief guest. All were waiting for the first glimpse. The perfect formation of the nine aircraft became visible over the horizon and in an instant they zoomed past the spectators who looked on with awe. There after followed various hair raising stunts and manoeuvres, all in perfect coordination and formation. Every one knew that a split second error could result in a major disaster. Only those at the cockpit knew how much practice, patience, alertness and gut feelings went into producing such an impeccable display.

Of course in some of the later displays that I witnessed at other locations including the displays for the public, there were arrangement for running commentaries where the name of the team leaders were mentioned. But then with all those din and excitement in the surroundings,  the running commentary hardly held your attention. In this particular show there was no such running commentary or public announcement. After the display there was arrangement for refreshments. During that time the Chief Guest was supposed to meet and compliment the pilots. A large part of the spectators was eagerly waiting to see those men behind the machines who gave those miraculous stunts. However, after some time we came to know that the team had to leave urgently. Neither did we know their name then nor did we have any opportunity to let them hear our applause.

This incident is a representative of the larger events involving our soldiers. Forget about the applause, in the theater that the soldier operates there are no spectators to applaud. Sometimes the hero even does not live to narrate or hear his glory. There are case where a soldier is awarded and may occupy a fifth  page mention. But the majority of those heroes go unsung. May be that is why we have so many memorials to the ‘unknown soldiers’.

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 By Sivakumar ThyagarajanSurya kirans !, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

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 Why should the Hero take all the credit

Here of course I am talking about the reel life heroes. There is no need to mention that. Our social conditioning is such that when we talk of heroes, the first ones to come to mind are the filmy ones, even though majority of them could be damn cowards and hypocrites in real life and may be suffering from all kind of fears including fear of not being the best noticed one in a public gathering and not to speak of the fear  of cockroaches. To distinguish a real life hero from the filmi hero, we have to say – so and so was a real life hero; where as,  it should be the other way round.

Now coming to the real (or, reel) issue, the filmi hero is like the body of a car. It is the most visible and highlighted part of the movie. The other fellows (including the heroine) who work equally hard and are equally talented, do not get as much credit as the hero. In the filmi world too there are unsung heroes. The body double who does the real ‘heroic acts’ remains  unsung.

body-double

Lessons from the Movie – The Bridge on the River Kwai

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It was only accidentally that I got to watch the movie. In a friend’s  house once I came across dozens of movie CDs gathering dust. I asked him whether I could borrow those and see if those contain anything worth watching. On a listless Sunday when I had nothing else to do, I started checking the quality of the video of those CDs. After two or three movies, came the turn of this movie-the Bridge on the River Kwai. I could not simply stop watching the movie and kept on watching till the end. It was only later that I learnt I had watched one of the all time great movies. Here are the basics of the movie: (Source: wikipedia)

The Bridge on the River Kwai is a 1957 Second World War film directed by David Lean, based on the eponymous French novel (1952) by Pierre Boulle. The film is a work of fiction but borrows the construction of the Burma Railway in 1942–43 for its historical setting. It stars William Holden, Jack Hawkins, Alec Guinness and Sessue Hayakawa. The movie was filmed in Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka). The bridge in the film was located near Kitulgala.


The film was widely praised, winning seven Academy Awards (including Best Picture) at the 30th Academy Awards; in 1997 this film was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and selected for preservation in the United States Library of Congress National Film Registry. It is widely considered to be one of the greatest films of all time.”

Lessons from the movie:

1. Quite often, the passion for creative activity/inventions/discovery coupled with the urge to display professional competence overrides ethical considerations. That’s why, knowing full well that the bridge would strengthen the enemy, Lieutenant Colonel Nicholson went ahead to construct the bridge. Or else, we would not have people like Einstein inventing the Bomb. That may be one of the reasons why many bright people, who do not find a positive channel to utilize their talent, join destructive movements like the Naxal movement or insurgency outfits.

2. Whatever you do, sooner or later everything returns to dust. That does not mean we should stop creating anything. The sand artist is a great inspiration. Knowing full well that sometimes, the creative work will be washed away even before its completion, he/she does not loose enthusiasm or stop creating.

3. The movie ends with the words of Clipton – “madness.. madness”. Madness is a subjective view of the observer and there is hardly anything in life that’s not madness. If we took out the madness from life, may be, we would loose the charm of living. This also reminds us not to be too much attached to anything. For the enlightened, the crowd is insane; in the eyes of the crowd the enlightened is mad. There is a spiritual sect in West Bengal called the Bouls – the mad people.

4. Leaders, who show courage and stand by their people even in the face of adversity, are respected.

5. Adversity makes strange bed fellows. Even enemies develop cordiality depending upon the situation.

6. The British take pride in engineering marvels compared to their eastern counterparts to the point of showing disdain for the Japanese Engineers in the movie. I think, they deserve to do so. Many of the bridges they constructed in India still survive even though some are more than 100 years old. Sometimes in India we come across news where a bridge collapses even before its completion.

A few Good Movies

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A few good men

a few good men

Finally, last week,  I could catch up with a few good movies that had been on my watch list for a very long time. One of them is –‘A few Good Men’. People with some military background would appreciate certain nuances of ‘military ego’ better. The movie is superbly acted and  crafted.  The film is directed by Rob Reiner and the lead characters are played by Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson and Demi Moore.

The movie is about a Military Court martial, it brings out certain universal truths. If there are a few good men in a given set up, there could in fact be fewer bad people. The problem with the vast majority who are in between is that they would wish to be good but cannot,  due to lack of courage or because they choose the path of least resistance. I was reminded of the Mahabharata where many good people like Bhisma, Drona, Karna etc. sided with the Kauravas.

Then there is also the ethical dilemma. In military, one is bound to follow the orders of the superior. However, what to do in a situation when the superior gives an order and you  know that it has a malafide intention. If you do not follow the order there could be immediate danger to your career and even to your life in certain situations. If you follow, sooner or later you are bound to regret or even fall into self-deprecation for not being able to stand to resist the evil.

Lunch Box

lunchbox

Then there was this ‘Lunch Box’. The story idea and  screen play seems to be original. It was after a longtime, perhaps, that I was watching an Indian movie which had not been inspired or adapted from an English one, in parts or full. The lead actors – Irfan Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Nimrat Kaur have acted superbly and brought out the subtleties of the characters, may be the way the director wanted. It is Art for Art’s sake. It probes a little deeper into human psychology and is an example of cinematic art at its best.

The movie is also a tribute the Mumbai Dabbawalas who run one of the most efficient supply chain systems of the world even though many of those who run it may not even have completed school education.

The Lord Of The Rings

RingstrilogyposterI was able to watch the series of movies in bits and parts. Each part of the series is so lengthy, in fact lengthier than our old Bollywood movies. Of course it is justified as the series is a kind of an epic. So everything that an epic would demand is there – war, faith, courage, magic, the struggle of good versus evil, strange living beings and of course the message behind all these symbolism. Sometimes the message is symbolic. However, often the message is clear like when Gandalf – a character in the movie says,

“So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”