desultory thoughts while sitting on a mall bench

Sitting here on a bench in a posh city mall, while my family and my friends are on the hunt for the best deals and some window shopping, I am cleaning my cell phone frantically of the deluge of religious and patriotic messages sent by my whatsapp activist friends. Today is Janmastami and tomorrow is the Independence Day.

The mall too is celebrating the Independence Day by organising a fashion show with a swadeshi theme and a lottery. The ground floor where I am sitting is abuzz with preparatory activities. Ironically,  all the shops on this ground floor where the swadeshi event will take place, sell western brand of clothing and other products.

The word mall has some strange similarity with the swadeshi word mela. White skinned Indic scholars and their supporters may say that the word mela is derived from the word ‘mall’. Indophiles and their swadeshi supporters may argue to the contrary.

I  am reminded of the village fairs of my childhood days. The atmosphere would be totally charged up with hustle bustle and noise. Sometime there would be a lot of heat and dust. A mall is protected from the seasonal fluctuations and the heat and dust of the Indian outdoor. And barring those occasional promotional events, it is so cool and silent. Like a funeral .

And nobody treated you at the entrance of a mela as a potential terrorist and groped you by your shirt and pant pockets. Of course, everything has two sides. While on one hand, the global expansion of terrorism has raised concerns of radicalization, on the other hand, it has given a big boost to the billion dollar security industry.

One thing is common between the mela and the mall. Both are places of milan – primarily for the potential buyers and sellers. Of course many other kinds open and clandestine meetings also happen.

Ironically, Indian movies have used the mela for family break up. How can we, the movie buffs of Amar Akbar Anthony era forget the most popular formula  – two brothers or an entire family getting separated in a mela to be reunited in a climax where the villain has bound the some key members of the family in chains.

Reference to mela abound in Bollywood movies and songs, with a number of movies even taking up the title. The word mela has festive connotations. But the ‘mela’ of 1948 starring Dileep Kumar is a tragic movie. The tragedy about the 2000 movie starring Amir Khan and Twinkle Khanna is that it was one of the biggest flops of the year.

Shopping and eating out not being my favourite pastimes I search for other avenues so that I don’t feel out of place here. I was a student of economics honours. Maybe, I should speculate on the macro economics of city malls. But, why to load the brain with the complicated theories learnt and forgotten three decades back.

I decide to go to the the electronics shop on the first floor to have a look at the latest developments in digital technology. A salesman is demonstrating a model of a home theater. The TV channel is belting out –  duniya hasino ka mela, mele mein yeh dil akela. But, the heart of the potential male customer is definitely not alone as he seems to be accompanied by his newly married female partner.

However,  it may be applicable to life in general. It is a different story that our hero cannot find a suitable girl to connect to his lonely heart. But, the author of the song sees the world as a fair ground of fairer sex.

 Basically we see, what we want to see. 

girlfriend by two

 

When I first came across the word Half Girlfriend during the launch of the eponymous book written by our great Indian novelist and twenty first century intellectual Sriman Chetan Bhagat ji, I wondered what might be the meaning of such a word.

In Indian hotels, we are used to the rate card of a full plate as well as a half plate. You have half versions of tea and coffee. In Indian tradition, after marriage the girl becomes ardhangini.

Of course, the concept of ardhangini is understandable. After marriage the wife and husband become one unit. So, each unit is half of this arrangement. But, our male dominated society never uses the word ardhanga which should be the synonym to mean the husband.

Half girlfriend?

Is this  girl gifted with only half of the limbs that a normal girl has? Then, her boyfriend must indeed be a great hero to be emulated by all Chetan Bhagat devotees?  (by the way,  bhagat is derived from the word bhakt– a devotee)

Or, the protagonist boy has two girlfriends concurrently, thus, each one deserving only to be a half girlfriend?

Indian BloggersWhen I confided my confusion to a dear friend and Chetan Bhagat fan and who goes by the name Ketan, he suggested me to read the book to clear my confusion. I shuddered at the prospect. The last time I attempted to read one of his books, after two pages I had such mental indigestion that it took me two weeks to recover. Such heavy stuff.

Imagine. If I struggle for a day and break my head to make sense of only one word invented by this great innovative author, what will happen to my chetan man (conscious mind)  if I go through the whole book.

So, I let the meaning of ‘half girlfriend’ remain a mystery. What is going to happen after all. Already I am living with half a million mysteries of the universe that may not get solved in a million years to come. That includes the greatest unsolved mystery of all times, “Why did Kattappa kill Bahubali?

At the same time I am afflicted by another mystery. The name half girlfriend is an insult to the women folk. To be more politically correct he could have used the word half boyfriend. Is Chetan, a misogynist?

I expected some feminist organsiations to take up the gauntlet, come in an Arnab Goswami show to  spread  the fire of protest so wide that the nation wanted to know only one thing – How dare Chetan Bhagat be more incoherent than the host of the only fire powered show in India?

The nation wide controversy would have made Chetan rolling on the floor laughing all the way to the bank while the sales figure of his books reached the moon.

But all this did not happen. Chetan did laugh his way to the bank, though. But, what happened to the feminists? Did they think it too trivial an issue considering the history of this nation in treating its female species, or, all of them got converted to the cult of Chetan Bhagat?

Of course, there were some halfhearted protest responses. One wrote a book titled Half Boyfriend. Another wrote a blog post titled Half Girlfriend/ Half Boyfriend.

A few days back,  Ketan  phoned me. He said he was speaking to me from Thailand. He had taken a short break from his vacation activities just to speak to me.

“Hey buddy. You know what. The movie trailer is out.”

“What movie?”, I asked.

“The movie based on Chetan’s  book,  Half girlfriend.” He was so enthusiastic – like  a cult member out to recruit.

“So what?”

“You wanted to know the meaning of half girlfriend. Well, see the trailer”.

He sent me the link. I opened the link and saw the trailer. My confusion got more compounded.

So what is a half girlfriend?

A character in the trailer, who seems to be the protagonist’s friend, tries to describe the boy girl relationship as – Dost se thodasa jyada, boyfriend se thoda sa kam. Somehow it makes some sense, vaguely though.

But man, how do you decide it fits the definition of a half girlfriend/boyfriend or, a half relationship.  How do you assign a numerical value to an abstract concept.

Of course, there seems nothing special about the relationship that the author tries to hype up by assigning it a value of  half. In any boy meets girl story, there comes a point from where the relationship could go either way. It is just a short lived phase of a relationship.

But the relationship must have a number. Otherwise, it will not bring good luck to the book. Thus spake Chetan’s astrologer.

Yes, it is the same astrologer that Ekta Kapoor is affiliated to. Let me reproduce the enlightened conversations between the astrologer and Chetan here:

Astrologer:  Look Chetan. I have already given alphabet K to Ekta. Knowing your type, for you no alphabet. Only numbers will do. Use any number between five and half in your title.

Chetan: Surely I will do. By the way, anybody who knows five words (three English and two Hindi) can not only understand my book, but also aspire to be a best selling author like me. But sir, after spending four rigorous years in IIT, and later on at IIM,  this much I know that half is not a natural number.

Astrologer: It is a combination of two numbers one and two. So don't worry.

After a few years Chetan wrote a book and wanted to titled it - Point Five Someone, to sound like the earlier one and to ride on its popularity all the way to his bank account. But before sending it to the publisher he wanted to have the final word of advice from his astrologer.

Chetan: Sir, I have written another book about a guy who is not even worth five points.  Shall I call the book Point Five Someone? 

Astrologer: No no. Make it more spicy. Give him a girl friend and call the book Half Girlfriend. It will achieve two things - confusion and curiosity. They go hand in hand. Good for marketing, you know. 

Chetan: By the way Sir, I thought you are an expert in astrology only. But, I see you are good in marketing too. 

Astrologer: Ha ha. Why not? let me tell you. There isn't much difference between you and me. Both us make millions by selling truckloads of bullshit.

Love him or hate him, you can’t ignore him. His books adorn the bookshelves of half of my friends, occupy at least half a self in any library you visit, cover half of all the total space available in leading book stores- offline or online.  He is on TV- on talk shows and f**k shows. (I was thinking of a match making show where he acts like a f**ked up host).

He writes half banal and half unintelligible centre page articles on national newspapers. Like his books, movies based on his books make millions. Ketan, says that the movies are not exact adaptations of his books, but are loosely based.

Oh God, that is the saving grace. Being loosely based, the movies can take any kind of spin off.

It is said that the Americans are so adept in sales and marketing that they can sell real estate located on the moon to the Chinese. Well, Yankey dudes, here in India we have got the baap of  all salesmen.

chetan.png
image credit: schoopwhoop.com

On Her Departure

Full of foliage
the gulmohur is on the verge
to deliver a message of condolence.

The lake of monsoon has begun to swell
to herald the Great Deluge
sparing only me and my melancholy.

Sunny days have gone out of stock
not to be replenished for a millennia.
But life would continue

to exist as a curse forever.
Now that no one knows her whereabouts
there remains this glimmer of hope.

Heaven is a politician’s promise
for a better tomorrow – a myth.
But hell is not.

Dreams and memories
are the only privileges
that remain untouched.

(After writing the poem I was reminded of the famous classic Bollywood number: chalo ek baar phir se ajnabi ban jaye hum dono.)  

indispire

What is in a Name?

Whats-in-a-Name.jpg

Shakespeare was not born in India. If he were, he would not have said, “What is in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet”.

If I meet Shakespeare I would point out, “Sir, even if calling rose by any other name does not affect its smell, it does not sound the same or spell the same and these differences have different connotations for different people”. Go and ask our celebrities who would place equal weightage on hard work as on the spelling of their names.

The celebrity is actually more obsessed with the composition of her name than what her name smells or sounds. “Success ke liye kuchh bhi karega’ is her mantra as she runs to astrologers, palmists, numerologists, tarot readers and parrot readers to work out what alphabet to insert or delete from her name to come out of the bad patch afflicting her life. Surprisingly, many name changer celebrities have hit the jackpot. And it has reinforced our nation’s belief in the composition of the name as an invaluable ingredient of success.

 My page three specialist friend himself being a star astrologer argues, “It only shows the impeccable professional attitude of our celebrities. This is the age of professionalism. Every aspect of the celebrity from dancing to dialogue delivery to posture correction is taken care of by a professional. So, what is wrong if the composition of the name is taken care of by a professional soothsayer”.

Here in India Name is everything, not only in a spiritual context as popularized by the saying , “The name of Ram is greater than Ram”, but also in a social, materialistic and patriotic context as glorified by the common man, as well as the politician.

In a society that puts a premium on honour and reputation people would rather reduce themselves to ashes than see their name being reduced to dust. Being well known is like having a big name (naam bada), being disgraced is to get a bad name (badnaam), and tarnishing somebody’s reputation is as good as reducing his name to dust (mera naam mitti mein mila diya).

When we evaluate our post independent progress, along with population growth and advancements made in different areas of human activity we must give due weightage to the number of times we have changed the names of squares, villages, streets, cities, districts and states. Sometimes it becomes a politician’s first priority after assuming office so that he can tick at least one election promise as fulfilled.

In case a foreigner, who has not been keeping himself updated about Indian current affairs for the last twenty years, comes across an updated India map now, may assume that cities like Bombay, Calcutta and Madras have been gobbled up by the sea due to global warming.

Our swadeshi leaders would like us to believe that a more Indianised name is the first step towards reclaiming national pride. However, as globalised Indians we cannot sever our ties with all things English. While the Indian name of our country is Bharat, we have English abbreviations for all lengthy Indian names. Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited becomes BSNL and not bhasanili, BJP rather than bhajapa is the more popular abbreviation and who would understand what you are saying when you refer the Biju Janata Dal as bijada instead of BJD?

Shakespeare apologists may counter argue, “But it is your Gods who justify his point. In your country every God of some reckoning has a thousand names. Yet, don’t you claim they are the same in essence?”

They may also lament the fact that in the western part of the world God cannot afford to have so many names.

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Here and Now

Age bhi janena tu.. pichhe bhi janena tu.. jo bhi hai bas yehi ek pal hai. ( You do not know what lies ahead.. nor what happened earlier.. whatever there is, there is only this moment)

I am reminded of this song from the Hindi movie Waqt now that the topic of present moment has come up. Of course we understated that we do not know what will happen in future. But the song says  you do not know the past. In a way, even though we know some events of the past, we do not know how to put it in right perspective. If you tell your story to five people, each may interpret it differently. Some one will say that whatever happened,  happened for good. Someone may say how miserable it was. In a larger context, we are not sure how much myth and propaganda material go into the making of what we officially read as history.

In fact, the concept of present moment is not new. Our ancients were not only familiar with this concept,  but also devised many methods to bring the mind to here and now.

Hindu rituals of worship begin with the customary sankalpa. It starts with something like this: In sweta varah kalpa …. in Jambudwipa (Indian sub-continent) … in the country of Bharatabarsha …. in so and so state, in so and so place, on so and so day, at so and so time ……. It starts with the higher  denomination of place and slowly brings our awareness to the present place. Same way it starts with a bigger expansion of time and brings our awareness to the present. The time and place are put in proper context. If one follows this sankalpa, our awareness is brought from the vastness of time and space to here and now at the end.

sankalpa_mantra

If you have attended any evening arati at any of the temples, especially the Ganga Arati at Varanasi or Haridwar,  you must have experienced that the overall ambiance crated by sights, smells  and sounds act  as a kind of shock therapy to hammer out your wandering mind out of its dwellings in past or future.

You may also read: One life is not enough, yet for now this moment is enough unto itself

It is said that the symbol of Jesus on the Cross indicates the importance of present over past and future. The horizontal line of the cross representing past and future is much shorter than the vertical one representing the present. The Buddhist practice of mindfulness aims at bringing the awareness to here and now. So are many of the meditation techniques and yogic practices.

Since ancient times,  volumes have been written and spoken revolving around the importance of living in the present moment. In spite of all these talks and practices, scientifically speaking, the elusive present moment is just a concept,  like the geometric concept of line or point that have no real existence.  Time is a continuum. The moment I say moment, the moment is already gone.

However, it is a useful concept to rid the mind of the unpleasant feelings that comes from dwelling too much in past or future. To a certain extent, it is good to take the mind to past and learn the lessons it taught. It is equally good to have fixed goals and have a vision and know where one is going. It is only when the mind is too much anxious about the future or obsessed with the regrets of the past that one does a lot of harm to one self.

Here again I am reminded of another old Bollywood hit and let me conclude this post humming it:

Ae bhai ! jara dekh ke chalo.. age hi nahin pichhe bhi.. daen hi nahin baen bhi ….upar hi nahin  niche bhi

Ae bhai! jara dekh ke chalo


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Sunday Musings and Random Notes #7

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The Great Indian Escape

“Which movie are you going to watch today, elder brother?” I would ask quite often in a routine manner to one of my senior fellow boarders. He  was a great movie buff. Or, so I thought that time. I am talking of those  glorious decades of 70s and 80s for the Indian Cinema.   His answer was equally routine, “I do not know. Let me see. Any way I will tell you once I come back.”

It would be in one of those Telugu movies that he would land up most of the time. My home town which has a large Telugu population lies near Andhra border. Odiya movies were few and far between and Bollywood reels of new releases took six months to arrive. So, if you made up your mind that you must see at least twenty movies a month, it had to include a fair dose of Telugu movies, irrespective of whether you understood Telugu or not.

My senior boarder was not alone in such adventures. There were many. Every now and then, we would hear of stories of  so and so who failed for the fourth time in the final year exams. Then, we would hear the town loudmouth’s foregone conclusion: If you substitute the cinema hall for the class room round the year, what better results can you expect?

 If somebody was found in the cinema hall to bunk torturous classes, some one might be there to escape a sadist boss. Or, maybe a father. Or, wife. Or, real life in general.

The majority of the middle class of those days was not moneyed enough to afford escapes of these days like weekend getaways, dinner in a fancy restaurant, day out in an amusement park or such things. Television was not in vogue. Twenty twenty was not conceived of yet.  Nor was an evening in a mall just for the sake of window shopping. Whatever little surplus a lower middle class had, after his roti kapda aur makaan needs, went into buying a few second or third class seats in a movie hall that did not have the basic amenities like  ac, cooler and sometime a toilet. And to cater to the fantasies of this middle class, Indian movies with angry young men or, different types of other larger than life characters became the hallmark of block busters.

Coming to the present times, before I had the opportunity of watching a movie in one of the multiplexes in a posh mall, I had thought, it must be the serious movie buffs who went to watch a movie paying such hefty sums. (And not to speak of the cost of the snacks and cold drinks that remind you of an international airport). But I was proved wrong the very first time I saw a movie in one of those multiplexes. It was some Hollywood block buster 3D movie that I  was watching in an Imax. Even a  slight disturbances in the form of somebody moving in front or lighting up his cellphone caused great annoyance. But my neighbour was not bothered by any of these annoyances. Nor was he aware about the annoyances he  himself was bent upon perpetrating by being engrossed in his whastapp chat through out the length and the breath of the movie.

“So, he has come to the theater because he thought it the best place on earth to carry on an engrossing whatsapp conversation”, I concluded.

Not being born and brought up in an English speaking country, I  strain hard to listen and make out the whispering dialogues of the Hero. It is a crucial moment of the movie. So I strain harder. And how fervently do I wish the  crackle crackle cuddre cuddre, chap chap, ha ha ha, he he he coming from my back seat stopped. But finally I resign it to my fate of the day. As if the whole universe was conspiring to see that I did not enjoy the movie smoothly, in spite of buying the the city’s most expensive cinema ticket of the day.  The sounds have been there, as if these were part of the soundtrack of the movie, intermittently from the first reel to the last reel, with a little respite during the interval when the gobblers went  for replenishment. And to top it all,  a hearty laugh at the most melodramatic moment of the movie.

Maybe, some come here just to eat, drink and make merry and to laugh at yesterday’s jokes remembered and understood in the typical ambiance of a cinema hall and that to at the most melodramatic moment and in spite of the pricing of snacks reminding one of air travel.

And some say, a large number of flop movies are made so that unofficial romantic couples could have some private space and time for themselves.

My conclusion is that, whatever money the movie made, only fifty percent of it came from people who really wanted to see the movie and enjoy it. That should give a realistic assessment of the popularity of the movie, for the sake of the movie.

Producers, directors and actors please take note.

But there is something one cannot escape from, alive

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.

Sunday Musings and Random Notes

Our movies are like our food

While switching channels ( Sometimes I enjoy this bad habit), got stuck with Star Action. The movie was – The Other Man. It was supposed to be an action movie. There was so much silence. The dialogues were few. Some of the dialogues were not complete sentences. Yet the movie made such an impact.

Of course such a movie, if made in any Indian Language, may not make any impact. We like our movies like our food, a lot of varieties, a lot of spices, lots of loud and bright colours and of course, lots of sounds.(Have you heard the sounds of a self unconscious hungry person taking a south Indian meal, starting with papad and ending with rasam?)

Even the most macabre of the movies must have a song and a dance thrown in every half an hour in addition to the usual punchlines and lengthy harangues. For us, silence in the theater is unbearable.

For every minute of silence in the theater, the audience may legitimately wonder:

Itna sannata kyun hai bhai

Day of the Bandh

A Bandh rarely solves the problem it is associated with. Of course it causes a lot of inconvenience to a lot of people. Especially people who come on a short visit from outside and are caught unaware. But it has some positive side effects.

For a day, the pollution level of the city falls down drastically. The fuel saved in turn, saves foreign exchange and cushions government subsidy on fuel. It is such a pleasure to drive in the city in the afternoon when the enthusiasm of the protesters have died down. Or, for some busy city souls it may get the much needed surprises rest.

May be it is  good to have a bandh once a while for the sake of a healthy city and its citizens.

 Leisurely Sunday

Sometimes a simple unpremeditated shot taken with a cell phone (not the iphone 6 type) may take on artistic quality. Loved this photo taken by my son Dipayan. Look at the composition of the objects and the use of natural light.

liesurly sunday

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.”

Happy New Year – When Writers / Directors Run out of Ideas

When singers/music directors run out of creativity they bring out remix albums. When writers /directors run out of original  ideas, the product is ‘Happy New Year’.

The movie has just the right remix to entertain the Indian audience, particularly those  who are not great fans of Holllywood movies, or so the director thinks. And the producer, as if to make a statement . – ‘Mere pass paise ki kami nahin hai’ has shown her largess in lavish sets and exotic locale. The hit jodi of SRK and Deepika are backed up by Sonu Sood and Abhisek Bachchan and seasoned actors like Boman Irani and Jackie Shroff. Then there are attempts to raise the patriotic fervor. The only ones who would be disappointed are those looking for some originality and depth.

So there are clichés and clichés – in dialogues, jokes, scenes, acting and themes. The film is a remix of Ocean’s Eleven, The Italian Job, Step Up, Comedy Nights With Kapil, DID, SRK’s old movies and may be many more. Rather than copying one movie, it is safer to lift from a number of sources. No one can accuse you of plagiarism.

Only I wish, Farah Khan had been as adept in stealing  as her heroes in the movie, or rather avoided copying shamelessly some English movies to do justice to the main song of the movie ‘Dushman ke chhake chhuda de hum Indiawale’.

Nevertheless, the producer is laughing all the way to the bank carrying on with latest  trend in Bollywood that irrespective of the quality and originality, movies breach the 100 crore mark riding on branding and aggressive marketing.  Let us see, how long does this trend continue?

Happy-New-Year

Hyder – To Rank or not to Rank

shahid-shraddha

If Shakespear’s Hamlet gave us the famous dialogue “to be or not to be- that’s the question”, the dialogue – “Ek alag nazaria bhi to ho sakta hai” from the movie  Haider haunts me time and again. True to this dialogue – ‘Ek alag nazaria bhi to ho sakta hai’, which has been used in the movie a number of times by various characters,  Vishal Bharadwaj has given a different perspective of the situation in Kasmir. Even though the movie is an adaptation of Shakespear’s drama Hamlet, there is nothing ‘English’ about. In other words, it was hard to find any trace of Hollywood in it.  Contrast the movie with many of the commercially successful Bollywood movies released during the last two years. Many of these movies borrowed heavily from Hollywood, even theme by theme and scene by scene. I expected Amir Khan starrer Dhoom 3 to be something different, but was disappointed. For major part, the movie reminded me of “The prestige”.

In addition to just the right casting, director Vishal Bharadwaj has brought out the best of not only the lead actors like Shahid Kapoor, Taboo, Kay Kay and Shradha Kapoor, but also the actors in smaller roles and cameos. The director himself declares the movie to be his best movie so far and a masterpiece. And a masterpiece it is, in terms of cinematic art.

Barring one  colourful sequence that provides a cheerful backdrop for the  meeting of mother and son, for most part of the movie, the white backdrop provided by the snow fall contrasts with the grim reminder of impending disasters. Murders, betrayals, compromises and the overall atmosphere of distrust overshadows the pristine scenic enchantments of the valley. The movie evokes this unfortunate confluence of contrasts. Gone are the days when, enchanted by the beauty of Kashmir, the  poet could declare, “If there is any heaven, it is here, it is here, it is here”. The poet in Haider could only discover the hell that the modern day Kashmir has turned out to be and wonder whether ‘to be or not to be’ in such a situation.

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Those who have lived in Kashmir would relate with the nuances of the movie better. The director and the actors have brought out in an in-offensive manner the typical way of English and Hindi pronunciation by the natives of Kashmir – school as shakool, chance as chaanas, bhai as bai and so on.

Contrary to the Shakespearean saying – “All is well that ends well’, the movie does not end in an optimistic note. But, it could not have been more befitting. Haider walking into uncertainty amidst gory pictures of violence, is an apt representation of  the current situation in Kashmir.

While the movie has been highly acclaimed by the critics and connoisseurs, another movie that was released on the same day crossed the 200 crore mark in record time. At a time when, with utter disregard to the artistic value, Bollywood movies are ranked  by the crores they have raked in, where would a movie like Haider fit in? Should it be ranked and compared with the contemporary releases? Or, may be, it would be better to put it in a class of its own.

(The article was originally written two days after the release of the movie )