love is the way

love is the way durga dashLate nineteen eighties. Just when we thought we were out of our teenage hangovers and stupidities, and the advent of TV and DVD players would sound the death knell for Bollywood, a spate of romantic films ruled the box office. These movies also launched the career of a lot of stars: the innocent looking Juhi Chawla, the dhak dhak girl Madhuri,  the chocolate boy Amir Khan, and romantic singer Udit Narayan  to name a few. We enjoyed listening to those great romantic songs without bothering much about their meanings or origins.

Now we don’t have to even wreck our brains to understand the lyrics of some of the popular songs.  We have to just google it. I found out this from a site:

Aye mere humsafar
Ek zara intezaar
Sunn sadayein de rahi hai
Manzil pyaar ki

O my companion
wait just a while
Listen to the calling
of love’s destination

Even after a little help from the Google, the song may not be fully understandable. I too write poems that friends say they don’t understand. But what I do understand from the above song is that it treats love as some kind of a goal to be achieved. And I have an objection there. Because I think love does not have any destination. Love is the way.

When your goal is to become a doctor, it means you are not a doctor now. Same way if love is your destination you are not in love now.

In those days, not having the advantage of Google to check out the exact lyrics and not being native Hindi speakers, the lines we sang sometimes went like this:

App jaise koi
Mere jindegi mein aai
To baap ban  jaye
…… to baap ban jaye

Duniya kaminooo.. ka mela
Mele mein yeh dil akela

Those days we never tried to understand the meaning of Hindi film songs. These days, even after trying my best I fail to understand the mystic connotations of the majority of Hindi film and pop songs.

 

In Bhakti Sutras (which some translate loosely as the Aphorism of Love), Narada says that love is the goal as well as the way. Of course he was talking of divine love. Similarly many of the songs written by Rumi and other Sufi saints are about divine love.  For the spiritually inclined love is the way to self realisation.

But, for the Bollywoood lyricists love is the way to make lots of money. Some highly paid lyricists have brought down many Sufi bhajans from their high pedestals to the level of teenage infatuations. They don’t even acknowledge that they have plagiarized the songs from Sufi and Bhakti writers. Don’t think it is only the script writers who plagiarize.

Of course our popular bhajan singers do not do a better job when they sing bhakti songs following the tune of Bollywood songs that reminds you of  semi clad heroines and item girls gyrating to the tunes in all their vulgar glory.

In my book Idle Hours, I have dealt at length about my ruminations on love at length in an article. I have also discussed about the origin of the Valentine’s Day.

According to one theory, this day is associated with the St. Valentine who performed secret marriages in the 3rdcentury Rome against the diktat of the emperor to debar young men from marrying so that they became better soldiers. However, St Valentine would hang his head in shame if he now learns that marketeers are exploiting his name to sell cards, roses, and chocolates to gold, diamond, and platinum. Moreover, we are not satisfied with marketing the ‘ways’ associated with love only for one day. We have invented so many curtain raisers (Rose Day etc.) before the Valentine’s Day.

On a serious note, St Valentine will also hang his head in shame when he learns that even though we are living in the twenty first century we are seducing girls so that it will add to the numbers of our community.

At the other extreme, we are killing the people who genuinely choose love in spite of differences in social status, religion, caste, or creed.

I was deeply touched by the way poet Rahat Indori has put it.

फूल इस सोच में गुम हैं, के कहाँ महकेंगे, 
तितलियों के लब ए इज़हार पे पाबंदी है..... 
क़त्ल करने की खुली छूट है अब भी लेकिन, 
प्यार मत करना, यहां प्यार पे पाबंदी है.....

one life is not enough – the paradox

One life is not enough, yet for now, this moment is full in itself.

One life is not enough, yet for now this moment is enough unto itself. The statement may  seem to be a paradox, self contradictory, and outright goobledygook. However, it is not when you see different parts of the statement from different perspectives.

When you are playing the role of an experiencer, when you are drowned in sense pleasures, you crave to experience the pleasures again and again. The lustful man wants to have sex with all the women in the world, the greedy wants to own all the wealth of the world. Same way one can be greedy for experiences and achievements. Alexander wanted to leave no corner of the earth unconquered.

But, you can switch your role from being an experiencer to being the observer, or  a witness. Then you have a glimpse of the depth of the moment.

Baffled by the myriads of the creations, I have often made the petition to the maker  that one life is not enough to experience His limitless creations. At the same time, to experience the depth of His creation, one must learn to dive into the depths of the present. One who is bothered too much by the past or concerned too much about the future, loses the opportunity to utilize the fare of the creation on offer right now. Same way, being grateful gives out a message to the universe that you deserve to be an active part of His creation for ages to come.

Time is fleeting. It is a continuum. The moment one tries to catch hold of it, it is already gone. So where is this moment and how to catch hold of it? One can experience the relative dimensions of time depending upon one’s state of mind. In deep meditation one can experience time stop and a stage comes when is established in the witness consciousness. In doing 100%, one is not bothered by past or future.

It may not be possible to play the role of the observer or be in a state of samadhi through out your life. Same way it is tiring to hanker, non stop, experience after experience. Deep real rest and an attitude of letting go helps a lot in recharging one self from time to time.

Life in its myriads of colours, shades, flavours and tastes

There are six basic tastes, according to Ayurveda. Depending upon the person, some tastes are pleasant some are unpleasant and some may be outright atrocious. However, to have a balanced diet and thus a balanced body and mind, one should include a bit of all the tastes.

Same way according to Bharata’s Natya Sastra, the artistic expressions involve nava rasas or nine falvours- some positive some negative. Contrasting flavours makes any story interesting.

So also in life. There are positive as well as negative feelings and  emotions.

If one has experienced only the height of joy and not the depths of depression and sorrow, if one’s journey of life has been a smooth road without any ups and downs, any twists and turns, one has missed to live life in its totality.

Life is such an enigma

This is my translation of a favourite Hindi film song from Anand – a  popular movie of yesteryears.

 

Life is such an enigma

Sometimes it makes you laugh

sometimes it makes you cry.

The mind never wakes up.

It continues chasing after dreams

Sometimes it so happens

The traveler on the path of the dream

leaves behind the dreams

and goes away somewhere

never to be found again.

Those who came together

to set up the ‘mela’ of life

together struggle and are

partners in happiness and sorrow.

Suddenly one of them chooses silence,

and goes away somewhere

never to be found again.

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.

 

 

 

 

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

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.

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

Indian Bloggers

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.

You may also read: Happy New Year- When the Writers and Directors run out of Ideas

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 )