May 29, 2011

A conversation with Mahesh Bhatt

This evening, I went for a play titled 'The Last Salute' on the Iraq War, George Bush's administration, and Muntadhar al-Zaidi's act of throwing his shoe at the President. It was produced by Mahesh Bhatt and directed by Arvind Gaur with my mother and her friend today. Before going, I called up my boss at Indian Express and asked if I ought to cover the play and he said I should. I watched the play intently, took down running notes, and after it got over, I went to the director and cast to take quotes. I also approached Mahesh Bhatt. This was the conversation:

R: Sir, I'm Rohini from Indian Express and I wanted to ask you a question or two. Are you free?

MB: Go ahead. Wait, you're saying you're from Indian Express? Are you kidding me? You look like a school girl.

R: Yes I am. I'm interning with them. I don't look like a school girl! Sir, since you are a filmmaker, why not take the tried and test platform of film and instead, use the stage to convey the realities of the Iraq war and the shoe throwing incident?

MB: Well, cinema is an illusion-manufacturing business. They sell pain killers and put you to sleep and take you away from the reality. This is a play that wakes you up to reality. Besides, Bollywood worships a new deity these days-the Oscars. If you eye that deity, you cannot speak up against the land of that deity-the USA in a film or they'd ostracize you. Hence, the stage.

R: All right, thank you, Sir. Can I have your autograph, please?

MB:  (He signs on my play ticket) Sorry my handwriting isn't too good since there's nothing to keep the book on and write. (sees my handwriting behind that) Oh, neither is yours. I don't feel so bad now. (I'm just standing and laughing. It's not the first time I've heard this about my handwriting!)

R: Uh, Sir, in case this quote doesn't work, can I have an email address or something to ask you for another one?

MB: Sure. (gives it to me)

R: Sir, what assurance do I have that you'll reply?

MB: (shows me his three phones) I carry three phones with me. Be rest assured that I will reply almost immediately. Take care, Rohini. (smiles and walks away)

Quite a different end to a play than what I thought it would be.
Quite a different end to a day than what I thought it would be.

Into The Wild

Everybody has a particular film or book as their favourite for different reasons. It could be because of  associations with it or the one who bought you the book or with whom you saw the film; it could be a guaranteed  feel-good factor in your life or perhaps, you love it because it always evokes a particular emotion in you. And  then there are some that just change your life without your even knowing it as a fact.

I've seen a lot of movies in my life because my father used to be an avid fan of HBO and Star Movies while I was  growing up. But when I think about it, the longest discussions about one particular movie and what it stands for  has been for Sean Penn's Into The Wild. I saw it in Rishi Valley School in class 12, just a few months before I got  out of the comfortable protected school environment and out into the 'big bad world' where I'd have to do my  college. On every Saturday, seniors had the option of watching the main school film being shown, which were usually  comedies, or to go and watch the 'alternate film' being shown, usually classics that have appreciated over the  years. That Saturday, it was Into The Wild or a Tamil comedy. I'm glad I made the right choice for myself.

The film is the real life story of Christopher McCandless, who calls himself Alexander Supertramp, and his journey  after college to the wilderness, leaving parents and materialism behind him in an attempt to reach out to the basic  qualities of human nature and survival. Emile Hirsch does an excellent portrayal of the civilised man willingly  giving up everything to try and find his roots in Nature and to feel grounded once more. As I watched the film, I  remember feeling completely taken in and be in awe of the man. He died very early because he ate poisonous berries  on his travels. But, the beauty of it lies in how his story makes you feel absolutely human and relate to him and  desire to do what he managed to do. It explores human emotions in the simplest of ways and leaves you smiling and feeling each emotion he feels.

After watching the movie, I returned to the hostel and started writing what I felt on some of the concepts explored in the film like consumerism, human survival, man versus nature, and the like. I sat up till 2 in the morning discussing the film and hearing criticism on the man and some decisions of his portrayed in the film. I found myself strangely defending his actions very strongly. I realized then that this movie had stirred something in my mind and really left an impact. I would never be able to do what he did by living off plants and more so animals, since I am a vegetarian and will be so unless I am to survive in the unlikely occurrence of an apocalypse where me and chickens would be the only survivors. It made me understand the value of money and how essential it has become in our lives, contrary to the complete dismissal of it that it done by him.

The day after I saw the film, I started researching on the man and discovered that there was a book by Jon Krakeur, which retraced McCandless's journeys and conversations in his free spirited exploration of life. My sister bought it for me when I told her about the film and till today, she will never understand how thankful I am for it. The book makes you relate to him at an even closer level with the excerpts and quotes from the works of authors he enjoyed reading, the elongated conversations with people he met on the road, which were cut short in the film, and more so, the maps of his travels, which made you feel like a navigator yourself. For once, the film did do proper justification to the book. But neither would completely be able to do justice to the life of that man who changed me. When I think of Into the Wild, I feel happy and free and sense a rising desire to explore and understand everything.
Christopher McCandless, May your soul rest in peace.

May 22, 2011

Conversation about Mamata Banerjee/The Grassflower Revolution

Earlier this week, at a family dinner, the most obvious topic to speak about was Mamata Banerjee becoming the CM of West Bengal and the poribortan that was to be seen. While the question of who supported CPM and who supported TMC was avoided, the focus was brought to a seemingly silly decision she made-the entire Judges Court Road that leads up to her house on 30, Harish Chatterjee Street is now extremely brightly lit at night because of extra lights that have been put by her on either side of the road. While this is good for the pedestrians and maintains safety at night, one must also look at the wastefulness of these lights that are placed less than 20 feet from the next, having three bulbs to each lamppost.

Another point of debate that stirred up was on her attire. Someone said that Didi should start dressing in a more 'dignified' manner and more appropriately to her post. This angered me greatly and I brought up the point that if someone with the level of dedication as her can deliver the work she has taken up, why should anyone have a problem or even look at what she wears? I got only two thumbsups on this point from a room full of twenty people or so.

I had recently read that the story behind her white saree is this: When her father passed away, her mother, Gayatri Devi, started wearing white sarees as was expected of a widow at her time. They were very poor at the time and that is why Didi also started wearing the white saree to save on expenditures. The image of her in the saree stuck, and it continues to be worn by her all the time, which does not reflect a lack of dignity in any way.

When I told everyone this story, they questioned me on her state of apparent 'poverty' now. There have been claims that like any politician, she too has taken enough bribes and is not poor by any standard. Owing to this, she could buy more clothes and better shoes and change her house if she wanted to. My only defence to this was that though money might enter someone's life, it need not change them the way people expect them to. Why would anyone want to unroot themselves from an established, familiar place that you can call 'home' just because of the lure and prospect of a bigger, fancier mansion?

(History is being made in Kolkata: the uprootment of communism and the defeat of the 34 year old Leftist regime led by CPM, by TMC's Mamata Banerjee, a struggle that met its deserved end; the resignation of CPM's Buddhadeb Bhattacharya as the CM of West Bengal; the resignation of Didi as Railway Minister after being reelected in 2009 to give her post as CM her full concentration; the swearing in and Didi becoming the first woman and non-Marxist CM of West Bengal, bringing in the Grassflower Revolution.

I am just glad to be able to see history unveiling itself and working with a newspaper like Indian Express during this time. For the first time, politics and government-related issues is actually genuinely interesting me. After a long time, I am reading not only the headlines that interest me but reading the newspaper cover-to-cover (minus Sports and Stocks). Being the first internship in journalism, I can feel how inclined it is making me towards the field.

I have a strong feeling that this poribortan will stay.)

May 18, 2011

What is real beauty?

They say that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. I believe it lies in the entire being that is capable of feeling it through the various senses. It is something else to feel a soft silk scarf in your fingers, to smell the rain right before it pours down on you, making the now wet clothes stick to your skin. It is an overwhelming sensation to see a life being born, be it a calf or a human baby. It is overwhelming to see or hear or smell or feel or speak death, the departing of the soul from one state of being to another-another form of beauty. Metamorphosis is beauty. Change, deliberate or natural, is beauty in some convoluted, twisted way to somebody, somewhere.

To listen to the music of beauty helps one transcend to another state of being altogether. When I have witnessed things so majestic that I am left wanting words to be put in my mouth, like a sunset against the snow-clad Alps or a grandparent's last breath as a passage to another life, I feel awe at the presence of something so much bigger than us. It is not God that I refer to but the magnificence and rawness of Nature and everything natural in our existence. We breathe our first breath, we breathe our last breath. The time between the two differs for each individual but the essence of the process does not change.

There is a certain underlying symphony in Nature, the tones and pitches of which vary with life itself. Spring sings a song different than the Monsoon. Day and Night set a different mood The stars are just a blanket of notes enveloping the entire Universe.

For, the music is everywhere. It is in you and me. It is you. It is me. It is the soil, the rainwater, the mud, the worm. It is life. It is beauty, in its most natural form. Raw. Unchanged. Untouched.

This is a submission for an IndiBlogger contest here.

May 12, 2011


You say the word,
And I'm on my way,
On my way home.

I'm on my way,
But I know not where
Or which way I am to go.

This way or that,
That way or this,
Nobody seems to know.

I see a light,
The end of the tunnel one,
But I fear it would just make me blind.

But what is blind,
Is the path of love?
That I no longer know.

Is the path I took
So long ago
No longer visible to the eye?

May 11, 2011

Goa: A photostory

Behold the Church of Our Lady of Rosary, an epitome of Portuguese influence on Goan architecture.

There's just something extremely charming about the doors and windows of Goan houses...

Sit on that rusty ol' chair, watch the rain fall, and sip on some brandy...Or chilled beer if you wish. :)

Walk barefoot on the wet sand and let your feet sink in. Screw the heat! It'll make you feel alive at least!

Pick up something the waters left behind and feel each grain of sand stuck to its body...

It's raining. 

It's not. 

It's raining.

Oh, it stopped. 

Today, the weather seems to be as indecisive as me! 


May 3, 2011

To the men who fell for others

To the men who fell for others,
You rose in our eyes each day.
The sacrifices made by you,
Shall not go forgotten from today.

Today the eyes open wide,
Today the anger rises,
Today of all days I did wake,
From my oblivious sleep.

I stand ashamed for not have I
Contributed to this motherland.
No longer blindly shall I turn
My face away from problems on the rise.

Of my actions I am not sure,
Of the pride I feel for you I am,
Lest you feel forgetten, be rest assured,
We will redeem you.
We will redeem you.