Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Aaal well indeed.

Aamir Khan’s annual Christmas present has opened to a fantastic response. I was expecting a lot from this film for 2 reasons – first because it stars Aamir Khan  and second because it is directed by Raju Hirani. From the two earlier films of Hirani it is clear that he literally thinks out of the box and is secure enough in his rather ethical outlook on life, to try and convert the cynical viewer. To get the audience to agree with Gandhi in India is astonishing. And yet he managed it triumphantly in his last film. In 3 idiots he has a much easier task. That of telling us that our education system stinks. We know that already, and agree wholeheartedly.

Aamir does his role of a genius-with-not-the-slightest-interest-in-marks as brilliantly as one could expect from him. Am more than a little sick of the ageing 40+ stars playing students, one of the reasons I was not sure about this film – but that just doesn’t come up as a glitch, as Aamir looks seriously young. Madhavan and Sharman Joshi who make up the other 2 idiots, are reliably good too. Kareena Kapoor plays the simple girl well enough, but really, there is not much for her to do. ( Manish Malhotra dresses her in pretty but fuss-free clothes for a change and she looks super). Boman Irani shuffles around in his typical professor attire looking like grim the reaper and inducing you to chuckles.

The story uses Chetan Bhagat’s 5 point-someone as a base but makes some significant changes, the most important one being the mystery behind Rancho (Aamir). Hirani’s refusal to be in awe of the wealthy or the titled or the certified, makes up much of the altered vision in this story. The black-and-white take on the poverty-stricken parents of Sharman whose filmily sad lives still manages to evoke good-natured-humour must be a first for hindi cinema. The movie packs in every dramatic situation – from the runaway bride to natural birth by engineers-turned-nervous-obstetricians. It’s all there - masala entertainment that still tells you the hero could be from some godforsaken part of unmainstream India. I believe the critics are holding back their stars after gushing about something as insipid as New York. Fikar not – you are going to love this one.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Keep, Keep, Keep, Thy blue ship……..

I was prepared to be blown by the whole experience. That, definitely did not happen. There are any number of films that I have seen, even in the recent past, that I would say are far better than Avatar. Having got that clear (and out of my system) let me say that I would recommend the movie to any fellow-movie-buff.

Everyone, by now, knows that the movie is about Earthlings trying to infiltrate the Na’vi – a blue-skinned alien species – so that they may obtain the unobtainium which is available in plenty on this alien planet and which is desperately needed by the dying planet of the humans. So ex-marine Jake Sully is given a Na’vi avatar and sent off to their astonishingly beautiful planet to learn what he can so that the knowledge can be used to get to the unobtainium. That being the premise on which the film unravels, the viewer spends the first half of the film expected to marvel at the flora, fauna and Na’vis on the planet. It gets boring pretty quickly. There is a surprising lack of characterizing in the film – so that the main actors are no more than clich├ęd stereotypes. I can see how this might have helped the good-vanquishes-evil kind of story-telling philosophy that works for any good myth or fable where the characters end up representing certain qualities that we all aspire to. In this particular case, that did not happen. I wanted to see more flesh, figuratively speaking, on the characters. Instead Sully is the intrepid warrior who is child-like in his simplicity; the girl is beautiful and innocent and trusting; the scientist understands the beauty of this alien world and wishes to preserve it, realizing we can learn from it; the”colonel” is a trigger-happy moron (which is the only okay characterization as far as I am concerned coz there is nothing so stupid as the chest-thumping-aggro-male) and so on. Surely, even sci-fi benefits from the eccentricity and individuality of its characters?

In the process of being accepted into the fold, Sully predictably aces the tests (the most important one being akin to taming the bucking bronc) and falls in love with the chief’s daughter.

The second half gets far better however as the climactic war between the humans and the Na’vis unfolds. The central philosophy of the Na’vis, which is that we are all part of the system on our planet and NOT creatures meant to rule it has been laid out earlier. As far back as in Asimov’s Foundation, humans ultimately learn to live as part of Gaia (a Greek name for Earth) so that all their actions enhance HER well-being. The emotional parts in the film came from these references – that the colonel and his army would kill their “own mother”, that you are automatically an enemy if you are sitting on "shit" that other people want (America in Iraq), the colonel swearing to “fight terror with terror” after initiatinganall-out invasion on another race...etc.
The war scene is something else and deserves every bit of the praise being heaped on the film. I was watching the whole thing literally open-mouthed. The lithe blue aliens with their unsophisticated weaponry against the ultra-sophisticated army of humans proves to be a visual treat. And when the underdogs win in the most unexpected ways, you can’t help but cheer them. So, you leave the show feeling that it was money well spent.
Now if only Hollywood’s sympathy for aliens could be reflected in their country’s foreign policy towards the non-white countries…….sigh!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

City Of God among other things.




Saw the internationally acclaimed Brazillian film, Cidadede Deus - City of God on DVD last night. Had the film with me for ages but never got down to seeing it because I was afraid I would get all gloomy about it. Thankfully nothing of the sort happened. The movie, which is "based on a real life story" is gripping from the word go. Starting from the end and then taking us back to introduce the various people that come together, the movie does a "pulp fiction" with finesse. Rio de Janeiro,the city that immediately brings to mind an aerial shot of Jesus with his arms outstretched,over the city, is shown only in its ugly side in this film. The director's camera however, does not allow you time to brood. Quick pans that have the handycam effect are means to a gripping narrative so that you refuse to blink. Billiant film.

While watching the film I couldn't help comparing the miserable conditions of living (of the characters shown in the film) with that of slum-dwellers in Mumbai. While the violence must exarcebate the misery of poverty, at least the Brazillians have shelter, AND water AND sewage. They even have a proper road in the midlle of their houses. Their living quarters are actually organised into neat rows. Exactly where does one begin to feel sorry for Indians on this count? The places where people - hard-working, self-respecting people(like our domestic help)- live, do not even have water connections. A toilet in the house would be considered a luxury. Families of 6to 10people squeeze themselves to sleep in bed-sized areas. And, inexplicably, kids happen. Actually kids are swarming all over the place. Obviously a "standard of living" is simply not a consideration. The Indian mindset seems hell-bent on proving - "I reproduce, therefore I am."

Thursday, July 2, 2009

<





Section 377 violates the right to life, liberty and equality - thus judged the Delhi HC. Thank You! Der aaye durust aaye.




With Hindustan Times carrying out a series of articles on racism in Mumbai - a self-analysis, post the Oz brouhaha - it looks like we may have matured enough to realise that we have some overhauling to do. Like throwing off old attitudes about what is mockable and what isn't. Fat, Black, Gay or as it still happens with Hindi films, Women, should not be seen as easy targets. Dostana took the smart track - it did not actually have a gay couple but it explored the idea in a funny, non-judgemental way that has never been seen on Hindi screens. Lighten up!was the message, not the yucky "tum logon ki biraadri aaj kal kuchh zyaada hi badh rahi hai" type of dialogue seen in films like "Welcome".




I have known no one who is a gay in my life but as a teen I saw it as an "abnormality" that was perhaps the result of debauched ideas or unfortunate abuse. When my MBBS cousin told me that some people were just born, "wired" that way, I told him in no uncertain terms - "what rubbish". His ten years of analysing the human physiology did not after all make him a superior judge of such things as far as I was concerned.

Today, I feel glad that this silly ignorance which is essentially based on the fear that things that don't conform could be dangerous, has given way to a more accepting outlook. After the media-bashing in the last post, I have to admit that the media has played no mean role in nudging this belief into me. The only time I came across a gay couple was on a bus ride to the Grand Canyon from Vegas. They were young and good looking and ridiculously quiet throughout the journey - clearly self-conscious. It made me think why the sight of them holding hands should offend anyone so much. The pursuit of happiness is a noble goal after all.


If finding love in the unusual way is your means to it, it should definitely not be anybody else's problem.
Here's hoping that society stops agonising over these non-issues and takes to conserving it's energy for something positive.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009





I was watching an episode of a serial on Nick which goes by the name of Maruko. It is about a Japanese (I think) girl who lives with her parents, sister and grandparents. It is sweet in a non-cloying, heartening way. At a time when most kid's serials are about overtly aggressive behaviour and scarily adult themes like vengeance, this one felt like a breath of fresh air. Maruko's best friend is her doting grandfather - an emotional person given to shedding tears at the drop of a hat. The serial actually mocks his sentimentality - but in a way that endears him. It is often deprecatory to the main characters but what emerges is the reassuring feeling that things like family and love and affection, and the small things in life are important enough to make a story about.

Simple situations and characters are all but extinct in the media today. Whereas our lives will involve precisely these factors. Entertainment that touches this chord sensibly will surely be rewarded with a loyal viewership. The apathy towards most issues among people today has a lot to do with exaggerated, negative, media concerns. And then, despite all the sensationalism and "breaking news" attitude, the media does nothing to help change the lives of people where it matters most - by ensuring better governance. For all its relevance today the media may as well only give us the economic analysis - socially it has only helped foster cynicism. Even the political news is mere reporting and is very often nothing more than the dictated gossip of some power-that-is.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

100 things about me. Task done:)

1. Last beverage → carrot and lauki juice!
2. Last phone call--> last night
3. Last text message→ was a pj.
4. Last song you listened to→ chupke se chupke se raat ke chaadar tale on the radio.
5. Last time you cried→ Yesterday

SIX HAVE YOU EVER:
1. Dated someone twice →nope
2. Been cheated on? →yes
3. Kissed someone & regretted it? → Yes
4. Lost someone special? → Yes
5. Been depressed?→ Yes, (what morbid questions).
6. Been drunk and threw up? → Nope. Just gotten pleasantly tipsy. Iam so good!


HAVE YOU:
1. Made new friends → Yes. I do that sort of thing.
2. Fallen out of love → Yes. I don't normally do that sort of thing.
3. Laughed until you cried → Only while reading PG Wodehouse as a collegiate.
4. Met someone who changed you → Everyone is an influence in some way. I like these lines, they hold true for me :

My life is like a landscape,
where everyone leaves a mark.
Another pebble overturned
or a mountain range.


5. Found out who your true friends were → and who weren’t, unfortunately.
6. Found out someone was talking about you → Behind my back? Now there’s a line! but yes
7. Kissed anyone on your friend's list →………..but I was so young and it happened such a long time ago.
8. Made the first Move → Yep. You live, you learn the tricks.
10. Do you have any pets → No though I do like dogs – the four legged ones.
11. Do you want to change your name → Why would Ido that? And after my parents went to all the trouble to get their bong neighbour's help on this!
12. What did you do for your last birthday → Had a blast.
13. What time did you wake up today – 8 am on a Sunday.
14. What were you doing at midnight last night→ Listening to the radio, reading a magazine and trying to sleep. I multitask when Iam not sleeping.
15. Name something you CANNOT wait for → Opening my gifts!
16. Last time you saw your father → Six years ago.
17. What is one thing you wish you could change about your life → Be a morning person.
18. Most visited webpage → blogspot

ABOUT U:
1. What's your name→ M
2. Nicknames→ Monica
4. Zodiac sign → Scorpio – though I lack sting.
5. Male or female or transgendered → Female and so glad for it.
6. Elementary→ was the teacher’s pet.
7. Schools → the primary till the 5th was good. The convent boarding experience – not good.
8. Colleges → No more Quant. Lots of friends. Fell in love (and how!)
10. Hair color → Mahogany at the moment.
11. Long or short → shoulder length sir/ma’m.
16. Height → 5ft3in
17. Do you have a crush on someone? → just Aamir (as in Khan)
18: Ever been in love? → Yes
19. Piercings → Honestly? Don’t care for them at all.
20. Tattoos → they look good when they don’t appear desperately sexy
21. Righty or lefty – Would have enjoyed being a lefty.

FIRSTS

:23. First piercing → Ears (and the last)
24. First best friends → My cousins who I grew up with.
26. First sport you joined: running/catching, chor police
27. First pet → Never had any
28. First vacation → My dad was in the army, so vacations were to my grandparent’s place.
29. First concert → Never been to one.
30. First crush --> in school. Never even said hi.
49. Eating → a little more than I should ideally?
50. Drinking → lotsa water and breezers on weekends.
52. I'm about to → go to a mall.
53. Listening to--> someone pottering about in the kitchen.
YOUR FUTURE :
58. Want kids? --> they have happened already.
59. Want to get married ? --> too late. It’s done.
60. Careers in mind? --> writer – how original is that?
68. Lips or eyes → both?
69. Hugs or kisses→ both?
70. Shorter or taller → than what, me?
71. Older or Younger → doesn’t matter.
72. Romantic or spontaneous → spontaneously romantic! (spike this was too good to change)
73. Nice stomach or nice arms → arms is sort of a priority. Even though I don’t cling. Really.
74. Sensitive or loud → the person? Why would I care for loud?
75. Hook-up or relationship → Relationship
77. Trouble maker or hesitant → Either or………….

HAVE YOU EVER :
78. Kissed a stranger → No
79. Lost glasses/contacts → No
81. Sex on first date → ai aiyooo. Devare and hai tauba.
82. Broken someone's heart → Yep
83. Had your own heart broken → Yep... that too
85. Been arrested → Not yet
86. Turned someone down → many times :D
87. Cried when someone died → Yep!
88. Liked a friend that is a girl/boy? → ??? Oh! they can be a transvestite too..!

DO YOU BELIEVE IN:
89. Yourself → You would too, if you were me. Seriously though, I do.
90. Miracles → Yep.
91. Love at first sight → I do believe in attraction at first sight.
92. Heaven → No and not in hell either...
93. Santa Clause → Is cool
94. Peace in this lifetime→ Umeed pe duniya kaayam hai.
95. Kissing on the first date? → Nahin yaar. This tag is beginning to make me feel old now
96. Angels → Sure
97. Is there one person you want to be with right now? → I AM old.Ishould have never attempted this.
98. Had more than one boyfriend/girlfriend at one time in the past? → I can truthfully say no. Phew!
99. You will die Young→ 50 is young, right?
100. You will end with the one you love and learn to love the one you are with → Brilliant. What more could one ask for oh spirit of the blog-tag :)

Spike, i did not even have to answer 82 to 88. Just kept yours.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Eat, Pray, Love is a book that comes highly recommended - from places as diverse as The Guardian to Julia Roberts. It is funny in that self-deprecating way that so instantly endears the writer to you. After a traumatic divorce and a love affair gone awry, she talks about her experiences over the course of a year as she visits Italy, India and Indonesia - staying 4 months at each place - in an effort to get her life in order. It is a year of self-analysis and healing that she takes up with missionary zeal.
As you follow her on this journey, you laugh aloud every so often as she wisecracks about everything - from the moment she starts praying ("like,.........to God") in sheer misery, to the outcomes of her vow of celibacy for this period (where she accepts that choosing to visit Rome is dangerusly at odds with being celibate).

While she reports her grief with the same funniness as she does everything else, you cant help but empathise with this girl for her bring-it-on attitude to life. Her relentless search for happiness is what has definitely found an echo with most women today - considering that this book is an international best seller and is all set to be made into a movie starring Julia Roberts.
Her stint in Rome, where she learns Italian and diligently steers clear of Italian men, is still an exercise in pleasure as she feasts on pasta and pizza and wonders along with her friends as to why people even bother to cook or eat anywhere else in the world - Italian cuisine is that yummy.




After eating her way out of her wardrobe in four months, Liz proceeds to gain spiritual insight in where-else-but-India. Spending the whole of the four months in her Guru's ashram, she not only benefits immensely from this self-imposed discipline, she keeps you, the reader as much in splits as she did in Rome. From here she proceeds to Ubud in Indonesia to meet a toothless medicine man who had predicted that she would be back to meet him and that she would have put her unhappiness behind her. This is where she fulfills the last verb/noun of her book's title. Ya, She finds love. The happily ever after ending thus finds our heroine at ease in life finally. The thing is, she does all this with an attitude that is, at the same time,determined and accepting.




Like a Sir Galahead of yore, Liz slaughters her own demons and wins the hand of the ....err, crown prince.
The book has its share of new age spiritual stuff that may have been dismissed as blah had it not been so gently shared by the writer. There is a genuineness to the tale that goes beyond the fact that it is a real life experience. It is somewhat similar to the Dalai Lama's stance on Tibetan Buddhism - you really dont need to change your religion and get called something else - if there is something that appeals to you, by all means feel free to use it. Similarly, you may or may not share her beliefs, but there will be much that could lead you to introspect.
And while most of us would definitely find her behaviour radical, it is fair to think that we would love to be able to do all that. March to a different drummer :)








Sunday, June 7, 2009

You know what they say about shaadi ke laddoo - jo khaye woh pacchhtaye aur jo na khaye, woh bhi pacchhtaye. Translated this would read - The sweetmeat of marriage - he who eats it regrets; and he who doesn't, also regrets :) . I think that actually applies to having children. A few years into marriage, you get all emotional about having children. With the first child you are simply obsessed ( I used to get up at night and nervously check if he was breathing). Once you have them you yearn for those freedom days.


Both my kids go to different schools. One is in the fourth and the other has just started with nursery. Everyone advised me against doing this but the problem is that my older son goes to an international school - which translates into a Very Expensive School. Since my toddler was merely going to spend a couple of hours at school for the next 3 years - I thought it made sense to send him to another, less expensive, school. Which actually meant that their shared vacation period was a total of seven days. Now my younger son has started school while the older one is going to be at home for the next two months, almost. This means poor me gets no time off at all. Add to this the fact that the older one has suddenly decided to become a smart alec. He thinks saying things like "you are such a lazy mom" in front of a queue of people waiting to board a flight is hillarious stuff. He has also gotten umbilically attached to his birthday gift - a psp. Which means I have to repeat every single sentence a couple of times before his brain grasps it. And the younger has this "violent streak" in him which shows up at alarmingly regular intervals these days. The genetic basis of his behaviour was being animatedly discussed at our house as all of us are such thanda thanda cool cool types. Finally after a visiting cousin named him Osama (after watching him pull his brother's shirt in anger yelling " tu ruk mujhe maarne de" for having dared to pull his cheeks"), we decided he is a throwback to some neanderthal ancestor.

Cute na? I can't wait to see what new problems I will face in the coming years. ( Yep that's me being sarcastic.)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

I am Here

Life changes so suddenly and without warning. Three months back i had reached a level of indifference towards life that i never thought was possible. I would look back to the time i was 20 and wonder what had happened to that determination to find happiness in life. And just when I had achieved all that to outward appearances, was exactly what i wanted, i lost it. Literally. Anyway, the disllusionment has passed. I never thought THAT too would. And I am once again left with hope. Umeed pe duniya kayam hai. And its nice to grasp at it again, to feel its pervasive influence in every moment of my life.

Its with eagerness that i look to the year ahead. It is going to be a year of extreme unimagined change for me and for the people I know. I hope I come through the person i want to be. Would love to hear from anyone out there. How important is this pursuit of happiness to you? And how is life treating you?

with love