Life and death are conjoined twins. Nothing makes us ruminate more on life than the news of death.
During those demonetization days if everyone became an economist, on the demise of Sridevi everyone seems to have become a philosopher. This was evident from the first tweet and the first whatsapp message that I came across.
The conscience keepers of the nation too had their grudges vented. Some lamented that while the nation and her pressmen were obsessed with a matinee idol, the death of soldiers in the boarders got only passing mention.
Some moralists even cried foul to see her body wrapped in the tri-colour. Actually, these moralists should protest when an artist is given any national honour like the Padma Awards. If we don’t have any objection to someone being given a national honour while living, why should we protest when, out of protocol, the same person is given a national honour when dead.
Ironically, these so called gatekeepers of Indian morality must have, at some point of life, indulged themselves in one of her movies to escape from the mundane affairs of everyday life.
Ram Gopal Verma, in a blog post, has shed light on some of the harsh realities of Sridevi’s life. He says that the only moments when Sridevi seemed comfortable with life were those when she was in front of the camera. If cinema has been an escape for the Indian public from the harsh realities of life, so was the case with her, from a different angle though.
During those days when she was gaining her foothold in the movies, high payments to filmi people were in black money to avoid tax. Her father entrusted the money to different relatives. When he died the relatives refused to give back the money.
Subsequently, her mother took charge to manages her financial and other professional affairs. She made a lot of bad investment decisions. By the time Sridevi and Boney Kapoor met both were in deep financial trouble.
I am not much of a Sridevi fan, though she came to rule Bollywood with a spate of super-hits with Jitendra when I was a late teenager. For casual fights and arguments, in our college hostel, we had two major Bollywood groups: one was the Jeetu-Sridevi group, another was Amitabh Bachchan group. I belonged to the later. My one-to-one combat used to be with Subrat Satpathy, who also had been my high school classmate. When I came in contact with him after a long gap (thanks to facebook) the first thing we relished was about our fights over Jitendra-Sridevi and Bachchan.
Nevertheless, we can definitely draw inspiration from the struggle and the achievements of persons like Sridevi. An artist’s contribution to the society as well can never be undermined in spite of the foul cry of the moralists.
We know that it is only a minuscule percentage of prospective artists who make it to the top of the celebrity charts and stay there for some time. The road to stardom is paved with thorns of sacrifice and struggle.
Still then, we fail to see the struggle, the pain, and the tears behind the grease paint applied to give us the picture perfect.
In those good olddays of Doordarshan raj, I never had a fight with my wife for the remote, it being still a remote possibility when I had my first TV. Otherwise also you could not fight as there was no alternate channel to switch to.
Ironically, the first Doordarshan telecast that I watched was the live coverage of the final journey of our Late PM Indira Gandhi. A TV station had started functioning in Berhampur a few months back. The college hostel where I was staying did not have TV. In front of our college hostel were the staff quarters of Berhampur’s only Government women’s college. A staff member who had a TV was generous enough to allow us to witness the telecast. I was lucky enough to be inside the drawing room through a connection while many of my hostel mates were jostling outside the door and the windows to catch a glimpse. It was 1984.
Subsequently our hostel got a TV set. But it was not untill I got married and had my own TV that I became a DD convert. From college Days till the days of bachelorhood in Indian Air Force the only serials I remember watching regularly were Ramayana and Mahabharat, which were of course hugely popular in those days.
Whatever becomes scarce or does not happen frequently, becomes fascinating. Thus was the case with the weekly feature films or, chitrahaar – the half hour show of film songs telecast twice a week.
Apart from the regional films, the serial Chanakya was one program that I eagerly waited to watch every weekend. Some of the other programs of my interest, as far as I remember, were: Jaspal Bhati’s Flop Show, Malgudi Days, Zaban Sambhal ke, Bharat Ek Khoj, Tamas, World This Week, Karamchand and programs on classical/folk music & dance.
Even after the availability of a plethora of channels, I have not lost touch with DD. It is only on DD that one may get to watch programs on Indian classical dance and music. Some of the programs on DD Bharati, DD India and DD Kishan are quite interesting. If you want a wrap up of the important events of the day, I think DD news is still the best. On DD channels you may get to watch a lot of documentaries of interesting people and places. Some of these programs are far better than those shown on National Geographic.
Here I would like to make a special mention of a film that I watched on DD. It was Basu Chatterjee’s ‘Ek Ruka Hua Faisala’. Later on I learnt that the film was a remake of an award winning English movie Twelve Angry Men. The movie is about the deliberations of a jury constituted to decide whether a nineteen year old should be pronounced guilty for killing his father. Eleven members of the jury are in a hurry to vote ‘guilty’ while there is a lone dissenter who succeeds at the end, in convincing the jury, after a lot of patient persuasions that they should not take decision based on popular opinion, or personal biases.
In my previous post, based on a couple of movies, I have touched upon the issue of fair trail that happens only in the world of fiction. Ek ruka hua faisala is one more such movie. But, it is an eye opener, provided the people who take such decisions watch and learn from this movie. In addition to immaculate direction, superb performance of all the actors in the movie (Pankaj Kapur, Annu Kapur, Aziz Kureshi to name a few) created such an impression in my mind that I remember the movie vividly even after three decades.
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:
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.
There was proof of sexual intercourse, but there was no conclusive proof of rape. Even the forensic report said so.
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.
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.
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.
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?
When 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.
“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.
First of all, here is wishing my dear reader a wonderful New Year. May you remain cheerful and passionate irrespective of whether a few wishes got fulfilled or not.
Note that I have not used the word happy. There are reasons for it – profound and scary reasons that google threw at me in form of quotes while I was searching for something else. Take the first example:
So there is no point in having good health and selfishness if, these are not backed by a healthy dose of stupidity. However, it provides for a lot of hope. To be happy is not that big deal after all. It paints a very rosy picture of human society since time immemorial- the vast majority of human society have never been as unhappy as we have made it out to be.
The following one is a very strong argument as to why one should not wish another anything related to happiness:
However, the following is the scariest of them all:
And finally a ray of hope, provided by non other than one of those highest priests of Christianity:
Of course, I am not sure whether all/some/any of the above quotes have been attributed to the right source. Now a days on social media, every now and then one comes across strange quotes attributed to strange people. Sometimes, people making up these quotes do not seem to have even elementary knowledge of history. So, Swami Vivekananda gives very sound advice on the side effects of social media and Mahatma Gandhi warns us about the impending disasters when one harbours thoughts like those of Donald Trump.
But I am sure the following one must have been spoken (or, at least thought of) by Adolf Hitler, who swayed even the most intelligent persons of Germany to his Nazist point of view with his banal rhetoric. I am afraid this must also be the secret of success of writers like Chetan Bhagat churning out best sellers and Salman Khan movies making multiple crores.
Here is wishing you again, a happy (er. sorry) , a wonderful new year.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
It is a humongous task for any director to convert a novel into a movie retaining its authenticity. It becomes all the more difficult when the story is humorous. In my young adult days I used to be a great fan of RK Narayan. I still am. Malgudi Days, directed and produced by Shankar Nag did full justice to the characterization of the denizens of the fictional town Malgudi. Rarely did I miss an episode when it was first telecast on Doordarshan. Sometimes while random channel surfing I come across an episode of Malgudi Days on DD. It is as delightful to watch it today as it was three decades back.
In our country, we have more memorials built for religious and political leaders than writers and artists. If you go to a country like England or Canada, a famous writer’s erstwhile residence is marked as a must visit place for tourists to that city. But not here in India. How many of the present generation who visit Mysore would know that RK Narayan was a resident of that city. Of course after much hue and cry, the dilapidated house of RK Narayan was restored a couple of years back and now it functions as a memorial. Still, does it feature in the top ten, or, top twenty five places to see in Mysore?
This is in sharp contrast with the adaption of RK Narayana’s Guide for the eponymous movie. The movie was a hit. But it was so different from the theme of the book that even RK himself got disappointed with the movie.