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December 25, 2007

I have a hangover

I thought of this title the moment I came out of the theatre. Several distinct thoughts came across my mind as I watched the movie. I wondered, for an instance, if I would be able to paint all the shades of emotions I encountered on a single canvas, and if it would make a clear picture.

Phew. As I sit down to type these words, I pray lest words betray me in the next half an hour. I kept mum as I walked out of the theatre lest my spoken words take me out of the hangover.

What an experience! It was not just a movie; it was a three-hour experience. That tear in the corner of my eye, that comfort, that sense of identification, that moment of realization indicated that I was going through not moving pictures on the screen, but something much bigger than that. I started the experience as a critic, thinking of evaluating the concept, the direction, and the performances. For the first few minutes, I was engrossed in the visual and mental relief the pictures promised to provide. I was wrong. The pictures would in some time torment me mentally; they would invoke thoughts and conscience, and shatter my peace, albeit in style. In the next few minutes, I marvelled at the performances, to an extent that a couple of lines of a song made my eyes shine with moisture. Then came the interval and I realized I was left wanting for more. It wasn’t time yet to declare the interval. During the interval, I found myself praising the guts that man has. After all, he wasn’t the hero.

As I saw Ram Shankar Nikumbh feel for his student and ascertain the reason for his silence, I remembered my own guide and teacher, who once upon a time, had this great influence on me. I missed Rajuda and wished I could be a kid again and relive those moments – moments of endless discussions on now trivial matters, moments of cutting and fixing cardboard and glass to make a kaleidoscope or a periscope, moments of tutoring on balancing a cycle on two wheels. Well, I have digressed, away from the main concept. This movie brought out thoughts in me so much so that I am forced to type out these words in the dead of the night.

As I saw the children in Tulips perform with fervour, I remembered the day when a nervous-wreck, I was on my way to the examination centre during college and a mentally challenged kid, my co-passenger, cheered me up with unspoken words.

As I saw Ishaan come to terms with reality and yet create a masterpiece, I thought I too can overcome the current uncertainty and reach my zenith.

I painted a canvas with varied colours as I watched Taare Zameen Par. I hope it brings out a canvas and a plethora of colours in front of you too as you enjoy it.

P.S.: Words have defintely betrayed me. I felt much more than I have painted here. Let me close my eyes and see if I experience utopia again.

Afterthought: Aamir is a superb director. Darsheel is good actor. Hats off to the writer. Technically brilliant and emotionally fulfilling, Taare Zameen Par moved me. Ram wept at almost all instances and I did not. It made me feel stronger than Ram. Yet, I know I am not. Someday, someday…

November 14, 2007

Greener Pastures - The Trip - II

A hastily-written entry. For my friends…

As I entered the house, the smell of gobar (cow dung) and straw hit me. In a nostalgic way. You may wonder if I was brought up amidst cows and cow dung. Well, when I was a kid, I had cows accompanying us in the playground as well as on the roads, at times. I spent my childhood in a house that was surrounded by greenery. We lived in a town, but in an area where we were still witness to the earthy culture. We had a potters’ community living a stone’s throw away. My next-door neighbours, though rich, affluent, and educated had a couple of cows with them. The lady of the house used to take care of them. My friends and I were used to a cow treading the boundary line in a kabbadi match, or one sitting right next to the wickets in a cricket pitch.

The smell of the wet earth and the straw and the cow dung all brought me closer to the sentiment of association with my gramin nation. In a single moment, I had breathed the fresh air. I felt free, away from the chaos of my daily life.

I looked at the two calves lazing in the cow shed and smiled and exclaimed, “I love the smell of gobar”. My husband made a face and wondered if I had gone insane.

We entered the house to find a few elders chatting away on the charpoi in the verandah. They screamed in chorus when they saw us. (I cannot say that they exclaimed, because when it comes to my mom’s khandaan, it’s voice is its identification. If you don’t speak loudly, you do not belong here!) We were greeted with the usual – three or four elders enquiring at the same time, same thing being asked by everyone, we being asked to change, we being asked to eat. It was such a chaos. And I was loving it.

I told them that we would go to the Durga Mela (Durga Puja Mandap) before sitting with them. My mom, my mama, my cousin, her husband and her son accompanied us. I was taken aback to see a massive crowd at the mandap. I had never seen the place so crowded before. (I had forgotten that I was visiting this place after a decade.) I was told that there were a lot of people from other villages present there.

I need to tell you a little more about the family puja before I proceed. This village had only two families initially: the Mukherjee family and the Bannerjee family. Later, tribals from other places settled here. I have been told that my mom’s pisi (fua – Father’s sister) was married into the Bannerjee family and that’s how the two families got related. These two families have been celebrating Durga Puja for almost 150 years. The Durga Puja celebrations showcase the healthy rivalry between the two families. It is amazing to see how these families have held on to their tradition and kept the spirit of festivity alive.

In cargos and a tee, I looked an outsider amongst the crowd. Thanks to the frequent visits by outsiders and firangs, the villagers were familiar with this kind of dressing and I found nobody staring.

My husband is a bhagwan-bhakt, though he does not show any enthusiasm in festivals. I wondered if he would enjoy the celebrations in Dhawani. I saw him bowing down in front of the idol. In a few minutes, I saw him shooting with his camera, and I knew he would have a great time. We came back to the house, changed into festive clothes (My husband wore Kurta-Pajama!), and left for the evening aarti.

After attending the aarti at the Mukhorje paada (Mukherjee colony), we headed towards the Badudje paada (Bannerjee colony). The blaring music and the absence of people at the Badudje paada was in complete contrast with the hustle and bustle at our Durga mandap. Years ago, I wanted my family’s Puja to surpass theirs in all respects. This day, however, I felt sad to see their place empty. I was later told that the extended family of theirs no longer contributes to or takes part in the Puja. I left the mandap with a terrible sense of loss. We uprooted ourselves from the earth a long ago. Now we don’t even realize its worth.

To be continued. :)

November 13, 2007

How lost am I... - The Trip - I

As I sit down to write this post, I wonder if I am writing this with a reason, or it it going to be random blabbering? I know not why I type out these words on my screen. I have a thousand things that need my attention right now, but I choose to ignore them for a silly blog entry. I know not why people write blogs. I know not why I write blogs. I know not why I keep that journal at my bed side when I haven't looked at it in ages.

I sound delirious as I type these words. I sound hilarious as I type these words. Rather, I feel pathetic as I type these out. WHY? I do not know. Several friends have been pestering me to post a new entry. I guess this is to honour them. So, here's to Megs and Gops and the others who have been coming to this blog hoping to see a new entry.

Forgive me if this turns out to be as uninteresting and boring as I appear right now. But then, these words reflect my current state of mind.

Exactly how lost am I...

I was away from my chaotic lifestyle for some time. I spent a few days at my maternal ancestral village in Bankura in West Bengal. The village is called Dhawani. I am told that there are several villages with that name in and around Bankura. I was given proper directions to reach 'our' Dhawani. The cab guy at the Durgapur station (We had to take a bus or a cab from Durgapur to Dhawani. Being the 'healthy' people we are, we opted for the cab.) asked if we would be ok with being dropped at the bus stop in the village. I readily agreed, telling him that that's where I wanted to be dropped. The guy further enquired if I wanted to be dropped near the tetul gaachh (tamarind tree). I could not recall seeing an imli ka ped there. But I somehow trusted the guy and nodded my head in the affirmative.

Forty minutes later, we were at the door of my Mama's house. And though I always claimed that I could identify it in seconds, I could not identify it immediately. The door was painted red. Well, the entire wall was painted red. The front wall was promoting a famous cement brand. Or was it a toothpaste. God knows! Given the state of mind, I can't remember anything.

My husband, being the second non-Bong (the first being my father) in my Mom's khandaan was extremely sceptical of this entire expedition. Gaaon aur upar se Bangali! He screamed at me when he saw me knocking at the red door. He really thought we were going to get beaten. The door was open, and I saw a young girl inside. Kept wondering if she was a part of the family. Later I found out that she was one of the maids helping my Maima (Mami - Mama's wife) handle the inflow of guests during the Puja time. Oh that reminds me, I forgot to tell you the purpose of our visit. (See how well structured this entry is!)

My mom's family have been celebrating Durga Puja for over 150 years. I had last visited the village during the Puja about 10 years ago. I wanted to show the family Durga Puja to my husband.

Ok, that's that... will write about the second part of this trip tomorrow.

June 05, 2007

Cheeni Kum: How sweet was it

Before I begin, I want to state the purpose of writing this review. I want my friends and acquaintances to watch the movie.

Wow! Hindi cinema is changing! This is how I reacted while watching Cheeni Kum. I am sure there are many like me who will welcome these winds of change.

Cheeni Kum subtly disturbs our beliefs and inhibitions about the role of age in romance. No, Cheeni Kum does not preach anything. And there lies its beauty. It is about two individuals who meet in the backdrop of Indian flavours in a foreign land. They meet, they flirt, and then they fall in love. Now comes the time to face the giant problem they had all this while assumed to be trivial. The boy is older than the girl's father! How does he pop the question to his prospective father-in-law?

Cheeni Kum is not a 'Nishabd' or a 'Ek Chhoti Si Love Story'. It is a light-hearted yet a more thought-provoking movie. On the one hand, you see the eccentric Buddhadeb, irritatingly obsessed with his work, and on the other, you notice his equations with his mother and his little neighbour, so strikingly different. When he meets Neena, we see another facet of him. And all this while, ignoring the fact that he is well past his sixties. He is not a father, an uncle or a father-figure. He is just him. The human relationships have been well portrayed in the movie. He plays his little neighbour's boyfriend with all sincerity, as does he play the kid-son to his mother.

It would be very difficult to meet someone like Buddhadeb in real life, but I am sure you can run into a Neena at some point in your life. Neena is more real. She is lovely but not coy. At 34, she does not flirt like a teen. She takes charge of the romance and leads it. She is the better half of the couple - stronger, smarter, more sensible.

Simple, day-to-day lines impart amazing drama to the dialogues. The romance is fairy-tale sans the over-the-top sweetness. The movie is aptly called Cheeni Kum. Cheeni Kum is a mint-fresh movie, thanks to the cinematography and the fresh performances.

Oh yeah, the performances! Amitabh Bachchan and Tabu will leave you convinced that they are a couple. Amitabh is adorable as Buddhadeb. I wonder if anyone else could have played Neena with as much grace as Tabu has. The little girl, Swini Khara is good. There is little doubt that she is a confident actor. If you have missed Zohra Sehgal for a while, you will enjoy watching her in this movie. Her character is witty, sarcastic and adorable. Paresh Rawal did not have much to do in this movie. He is somewhat wasted in this role. However, I think Balki cast him considering no one else can bring along with his presence what Rawal can.

Last but not least, the music is extremely fresh and soothing. However, you are left craving for more as the movie does not play the songs completely.

Only one bad point in the movie: The movie limped for a while when Rawal went on Satyagraha. I expected a little more than what happened at that point.

May 21, 2007

As I think of the little girl...

“I am struggling everyday, nay, I am struggling every hour so that I make true this dream I have been dreaming of. This is achieving one milestone. Will this do, I question. No, no, never! I want to achieve many a milestone. Are my endeavours then commensurate with my ambition? At one moment I feel like mocking at my fantasy, but at another, my dreamer comes to my rescue. Like a colossus he rises before me and I feel fully possessed. I suddenly bask in the clear sunshine around the little pond near my house, hear the birds chirp with emotional appeal, and feel delighted over the usual pranks of the neighbourhood children. I feel so light and elated.

“Who says that dreams are mere dreams and they have hardly anything to do with hard realities? Yes, this can come only from the mouth of the hard-core pessimist. I say the panacea lies with the dreamers. Dream, and dream with positive optimism. It requires stupendous amount of mental strength and courage to be a dreamer. A dreamer is he who has absolute faith in spiritual potentiality. He does not dismay, his is the Himalayan hope, stable and unflinching. My dreams are all self-created. Dreams that visit me during nights, I forget them all. I am a manufacturer of dreams. Even if you wish to call me a fanatic I will never give up my habit of dreaming. For God's sake, do not brand my dream as wishful thinking. Even if you do so, please remember, without a great wish or a great dream, you can hardly make human life worth living.”

I wrote this almost seven years back. Today, when I look at it, I see a little girl, in pigtails, scribbling something in her diary. I dreamt of a perfect world then. Or did I dream of having the power to make the world perfect? I perceived all things around me with an eye that looked for the good. And if I didn’t find any, I would think of ways to make it good. How I believed in goodness! How I believed in optimism! How I believed I could change the world! In retrospect, do I find the girl in pigtails foolish? I think not the way she does. I see not the way she does. I live not the way she does. And I regret it. I want her dreamer to take over and help me dream again. I fail to see my own dreamer.

Have I buried him beneath layers of gloom that I vainly term maturity? When did I let my humble self deride the colossal dreamer in me?

I can see the spark in the little girl’s eyes. She will not take even a moment to tell the right from the wrong. She will not hesitate to give up her security of comfort for her dreams. Why do I hesitate then? As I think of that little girl today, I beckon my dreamer to help me dream again.