Tuesday, September 29, 2009
An eleven-month's stay in the same room is a boon,
A travel in local train with lights and fans on is a surprise,
A temple visit without an hour-long wait in queue is deity’s blessing,
A day without the drop of sweat or rain is unimaginable,
A day with three meals at right time is yet to come,
A visit to a restaurant without having to wait for the seat is unheard of,
A phrase to capture it all, "The Spirit of Mumbai"
PS: Spent 2 and half hours in taxi from VT to Andheri yday, a kind of tribute to everyday life in Mumbai.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
It was the occasion of ‘Navratri’ and celebrations were going on in my complex building. The DJ had come at sharp 8 pm. At 9pm, he started playing loud music. Soon, kids, youngsters and oldies started dancing on his beats. The big gate, which usually, remains open, was shut tightly. But, I could not understand why?
Soon a deluge of bystanders gathered at the gate and started staring inside. Perhaps, this was why the gates were shut for the bystanders are not people like us. They belong to that part of the society, which cannot afford to spend even a single paisa on entertainment. Surprising was not merely the act of staring, but also the look on their faces. They were looking in with a kind of satisfaction and interest we have while watching a film in theatre. Few of them must have cursed the fact that the gate was shut.
I don’t know why but it arouse a kind of insecurity in me. After all, what is the difference between me and them? Why is that the gates are not closed to me? Why does the guard of local electronics store warmly open the gates of his shop, while a numbers of bystanders are staring at television sets inside to know the score of the match? The difference is simple and the fact that it is so simple strikes me.
Ten years back, I and a friend used to attend coaching classes. There was this fellow known as Prakash. He was bright and cunning. His father was not making much money and therefore he had started taking coaching classes for school kids. As I said, he was cunning, the only reason that a deluge of students would come up to him was because he could get the examination paper leaked. Those who had rich parents labeled him as crook. Even I think he was a crook, but he was smarter than all of us. He could crack any accounting or tax question faster than us.
It was the third and final year of our course and we were all writing entrance exam for MBA schools. I asked Praskash “Aren’t you also writing the exam” He said “No, I am not interested in this course”
I told this to my friend Karthik. Unlike me, he was not surprised. I said, “Why is this fellow not appearing in exam” Right then Karthik said “You know Sachin too is appearing in entrance exam” I replied “Sachin that hardworking yet dumb guy” Karthik said “Yeah, you can say that he is dumb but he will make it to a MBA school”
“But why not Prakash” I said. “Prakash can’t do it even if he wants. His dad does not have money to fund his education. Don’t you know that” said Karthik irritatingly. So what is the difference between Prakash and Sachin? That Sachin’s dad can spend on his education. And because Prakash’s dad can’t, no matter how bright he is, he will still struggle.
Till this point of our conversation, I was only surprised. But Karthik’s following words shocked me, “It’s always like that, as if you dint know” The world is cruel towards Prakash and those bystanders for reasons they cannot do anything about. The only difference between me and them is our parentage. I was born to educated middle class parents and therefore I am an educated and upper middle class guy. The bystanders were born to illiterates and destitute and therefore they are ignorant and poor. The difference between us is just a thin line of fate.
We really don’t wonder when a rickshaw puller asks us , “Sir, what is the time”. He is so poor that he can’t even afford a watch. We simply tell him the time thinking that it’s normal for him to ask. Strange are the ways, we are conditioned that we are oblivious to reality most of the times.
The fellas who were dancing within the boundaries of my complex did not know that the onlookers, who were staring at them, were hapless poor. For them, they were merely onlookers.
Friday, September 18, 2009
"jaadon kee narma dhoop aaur aangan mein let kar" wrote Gulzar in a song for his film 'Mausam' in 1975. The poet is nostalgic about the times; he had spent relaxing at his home. Times when soft rays of sunlight would fall on him in harsh winter. If you listen carefully to this song and to many such songs, you would realize that often a relaxed state of mind is the inspiration behind.
When I came to Bombay in 2006, this was one of first things, which struck me that how can a restless, congested and filthy city has become home to so many creative people.
We hardly have anytime for ourselves in this fast paced city. Hardly that we think about our surroundings. So what if there is a stinking public toilet right outside our house, so what if there is a dustbin right outside our office and we have become habitual to seeing dogs, cats, cows and buffaloes struggling for their share of trash, our minds and eyes have become numb to all kinds of filth. And if we are actually numb, how can we think and if we cannot think, how can we be creative.
Well, one can always argue that ‘artists’ in Bollywood are not creative. But, there are exceptions after all. How can Gulzar write those soulful songs? That’s because he is from Punjab and he has seen the better part of this country. In spite of spending close to 40 years in Bombay, still those yesteryears provide the much-needed inspiration for all his songs.
Agreed that even fast paced life can be the source of inspiration. And it was the same Gulzar who wrote ‘siney mein jalan, aankhon mein toofan sa kyun hai, is shahar mein har shaks pareshan sa kyun hai”
But how much can one write on Bombay? I do not know much about the hubs of film making in the world. Hollywood is one such hub for American filmmaking. It’s in California, which is perhaps the most beautiful state of US.
With Bombay remaining as it is, or worse going further down, it is important for Bollywood that people from better and more relaxed part of India to pour in and provide succor to this talent starved industry. Ever wonder, why we are not able to produce a good lyricist after Gulzar.
Monday, September 14, 2009
We all suffer from a disease. It is late realization. It occurred to me when I read the reviews of Vishal Bhardwaj's latest film 'Kaminey'. Critics said, "Vishal has turned the art of movie-making upside down". Few of them also said "It is an intelligent film and you can’t keep your mind dysfunctional even for a second". I watched the film and really liked it. But in hindsight, apart from good camera work and tight screenplay, there was nothing extraordinary about the film. Vishal’s best work to date is Maqbool, which got rave reviews but critics did not go mad about it. His another film ‘Omkara’ was good but certainly not as good as ‘Maqbool’. None of the many films he has directed were received by critics like Kaminey has been received. And if you read the reviews of Kaminey carefully, you would realize that it is not merely the critique of Kaminey, it is actually a critique of ‘Vishal – as a director and his body of work’. For some reason, movie-lovers, journalists and critics have now realized that there is someone by the name of ‘Vishal Bhardwaj’ and the fact that he is one of the best filmmakers of India.
On the New Year eve of 2007, we were discussing which was the best movie in 2006. And most of my friends said ‘Rang De Basanti’. I am sure if I ask the same question today, it will be ‘Omkara’. I felt like laughing, how could a sane mind rate RDB over Omkara. Agreed that choice is personal but I can bet if I were to give an option to my friends to watch RDB or Omkara on a DVD, 90% of them would watch ‘Omkara’. This was about the disease of late realization. Ever wonder, if you tell an aspiring writer to publish his work, he would reply that he still needs time. Perhaps he has not realized his own talent. And if we are such poor judges of ourselves, how could we say that our critique of someone else’s work is objective?
Now lets go back to the point of Kaminey being more appreciated than Maqbool and Omkara. In one of his interviews, Vishal said that Bollywood needs full-time writers. He also said that good writers come to Bombay and want to become directors. This is all too evident from the quality of dialogues in Kaminey. While Omkara starts with a powerful dialogue “Bewakoof aur chootiye mein dhaage bhar ka farq hota hai”, Kaminey had to manage with “Life badi Kutti cheez hai”. No doubt, quality of writing was much better in Omkara. If Maqbool had the best-penned dialogues heard in a long time, Omkara had lines, which would stay with you, Kaminey hardly has a dialogue or two like that. But none of the critics have mentioned this in their review. In fact, one of the critic said “Dhan-Te-Nan song has a huge part to play in Kaminey”. I think it was just a song in the film. Thankfully, Vishal is much more intelligent than insane critics and has not overplayed the song in the film.
Now coming to point of Kaminey being an intelligent film. It has parallel plots much like Yuva. I am sure Yuva was never particularly appreciated for parallel narratives by critics. Somehow, they have woken up with ‘Kaminey’. I feel the film had brilliant camera-work. At one point the next scene appeared, while the previous scene was not completely over. The scenes were changing so swiftly that I felt as if I was seeing a photo album. Kudos to that and kudos to Shahid, who has put in a lot of effort for the film. And thumbs down to critics, who mindlessly write about films.