I am starting this blog to be able to write to my heart's content. I dont want to advertise this blog but I would want people to chance on it and give their comments. This is the first of many contradictions that will make up this blog

Location: India

Friday, July 26, 2013

Howdy old friend...

I need to start writing again...

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Paris - Winter in the air

The buildings here are proud structures - confident in their permanence. They are fresh
faced in contrast to the grime stuck on to the walls of buildings in a similar city - Kolkata.
The metro in Paris is a jumble of multi-coloured lines; green, red, yellow and blue, like the circuit diagrams from science in school. The metro is an underground lifeline, making travel quick and affordable. The wide roads are paved in stone. There is a delicious welcoming warmth to them.
This is also the warmth that emanates from the smaller shops lining the Champs De Elysees (Shau Ze Eli Ze as the french pronounce it). It is the lighting that only the soft light from bulbs can produce. Tubelights are harsh and efficient; bulbs, profligate and warm.
A light rain falls on and off. It freshens but does not drench. The road-side cafes still spill into the pavements on the street, the temporary roofs and discreetly placed umbrellas a shelter from the rain. A sparrow pecks at tid-bits as it hops on the ground between tables. Tourists flood the streets in a frenzy, taking in the maximum number of sights in the limited time available to them, capturing them digitally, to experience it all later when they are played back to friends, like cows chewing cud.
Christmas is in the air and the Santa costumes and the lighted Christmas trees are out in the open. Chocolates, hot wine, soft toys, puppets, crepes and breads, earthen lamps, shawls, earrings and bangles, caps and hats are displayed in the shops lining both sides of the street.
Carousels and Giant wheels spin in concert with the delighted screams of the children in them.
A group of 6 young men are performing a choreographed hip-hop routine in the street. Each one has his own specialized moves all of it culminating in a group routine. One of them performs incredible contortions, doing handstands, taking off his cap with one foot and putting it on with the other.
His group mate dances his way to a two year old girl in a pink raincoat. He leads her to the centre of the circle and moves her hands and feet to the rhythm of the music, like a baby hip-hopper. The child is dazed. The crowd loves it.
Another dances his way to a lady in the crowd. He thrusts his left cheek at her, motioning her to kiss him on it. Obligingly, she puckers up and leads her lips to his cheek. At the last instant, he turns his head around and their lips meet. The crowd roars its approval. The lady smiles embarassedly and the dancer retreats quickly.At the end of their performance, they hold out their caps for the coins.
The Champs De Elysees is a beautiful street.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Taare Zameen Par - A Review

I have entered a contest for movie reviewing. It's my first attempt at reviewing keeping things like word limits etc in mind (650 words for this contest). This is what I have sent.

'A Sensible Start'

On a recent trip to Hampi, I watched as a group of children were led into a temple ruin as part of their excursion. A round faced child, in his excitement, momentarily broke away from the carefully formed queue, distracted by a monkey on the side. One male teacher came behind him stealthily and cuffed him on his head a few times. Two more teachers followed, beating him relentlessly on his thighs with sticks. All this for breaking away from a line.

Taare Zameen Par makes you relive the same pain by taking you along a 8-year old’s journey as he battles prejudice and his own unknown demons. By the end, it leaves you informed, pensive, uplifted and joyful.

Aamir Khan takes on the directorial baton for the first time and makes judicious use of the tools at his disposal. None more so than Darsheel Safary (in the role of the protagonist Ishaan Awasthi) who portrays a gamut of emotions convincingly through the course of the movie, but more importantly, remains an ordinary child through it all. The animation sequences deserve special mention. The simplicity of their execution adds to their ability to effectively portray a child's psyche in ways that words could never have substituted. The story narrative remains linear with clear delineations. The plot establishes the innocence of childhood, goes on to describe the prejudice faced by the protagonist, takes us to his succumbing to the pressures and finally redeems him. But it is the finer touches that elevate this movie. The physical smallness of the protagonist is exploited wonderfully. Every frame featuring him establishes his vulnerability by contrasting his smallness to all the others in the same scene. The involuntary twitch that the child develops through the course of the movie and the contrast between his initial sprints filled with frustration and the final redeeming one are powerful hooks.

Aamir Khan has made a bright start as a director by being secure about his abilities. He has not succumbed to the weight of any expectations by resorting to gimmickry. It is a heartening script and the director allows it to rule. The DVD deserves pride of place in his library.

The supporting characters constantly play the balancing act on the bridge of stereotypes (The authoritarian father, the caring yet powerless mother, the caricaturish teachers). But they refuse to fall off. Credit for that has to be given to the performances of some unheralded actors and the occasional fine lines that they are entrusted with. Tisca Chopra's (playing Ishaan's mother) plaintive 'Eenu' is simple, powerful and so, forgiven for it's melodrama. Vipin Sharma (as the father) is convincingly menacing and will have to come out of hiding soon.Aamir Khan (as the teacher) delivers what is expected of him but remains firmly in the background. It only helps the movie.

The parts of the movie dealing with dyslexia seem to have been researched thoroughly from the layman's point of view. The ability to portray that feeling is a key strength of the script and enhances the impact. The recurring theme that comes to mind for this movie is 'apt'. Not individually extraordinary but 'apt' for what needs to be depicted. The same applies to Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy's music as it fits in seamlessly with the theme and elevates it.

Taare Zameen Par works because there can only be one winner, one topper in each class. The readymade audience is everyone else who identifies, each in their own way, with the trials of the protagonist. It identifies a key failing - Ignorance, and makes a start at tackling it. At the end of it all, you wish for primary school teaching to be the highest paid job in any country so that the country's best take it up - if only for it's life changing abilities.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Truth? You must be joking!!

Hansie is a film currently under production - about the life and times of Hansie Cronje.It brought back memories of that turbulent time in cricket when Outlook magazine carried out an expose on match fixing and cricket fans worldwide were scarred for life.

As a subtext, I remember the glee with which I received the news of Hansie Cronje's confession to the King's commission probing match fixing. I felt vindicated as an Indian (almost as if I was personally a part of the Mumbai police investigation team that implicated Cronje). Of course, it had more to do with the the universal derision that greeted the first claims by the Mumbai police that Cronje was involved in murky, underhand dealings. The derision had all the typical qualities that raises the hackles of a citizen of a former colony.

The voices defending Cronje were predominantly white.
The questions were mostly about the competence of a police team from India.
And the attitude reflected was: 'This is typical subcontinent nonsense'

Of course it didn't help that Cronje was revered and worshiped as one of the great South African heroes. Someone who was credited with single-handedly taking South Africa from the lowest rung in cricket almost to the very top. He had great charisma as a leader and was universally admired. So, the fall was all the more spectacular. Patriotic pride swelled as a villain had been unearthed and that too by an Indian police team (Especially because you yourself shared many of the sentiments openly expressed by the South Africans: Cronje in match fixing? A scandal actually unearthed by the Indian police?).

So we heaved a collective sigh of relief that the Mumbai police was actually right. Hansie Cronje was banned for life and lost his life in a plane accident within a couple of years of his revelation.
But the controversy was not about Hansie alone. In a crime notorious for the difficulty in proving it, other names were tossed about. Marquee names like Azharuddin, Jadeja, Kapil Dev, Salim Malik were accused of playing slowly, throwing their wickets, dropping catches and ultimately losing matches for their country...

In an atmosphere vitiated with rumours of every hue, it became increasingly difficult to distinguish between what was true and what wasn't; whether to believe in the tears so copiously shed on national television by Kapil Dev protesting his innocence or to go with Manoj Prabhakar's allegation that kapil had offered him money to throw a match.
No one confessed to doing anything wrong.

Only Hansie did. In front of the King's commission, Cronje confessed his complete involvement in the match fixing saga. What prompted him to confess publicly and unequivocally (After having denied any role in the scandal when the allegations first surfaced) leaving him no path to redemption is open to conjecture.

Maybe the evidence against him was irrefutable and he had no other choice but to confess.
Maybe he had got advice that to come clean was his best hope.
Maybe he was actually remorseful for all that he did.
Or maybe, he believed that his countrymen would forgive him for his transgressions.

Hansie was banned for life and became a pariah in the cricket world. This was followed by a multitude of bans. Commissions and inquiries were set up in other countries. The CBI in India banned Azharuddin for life; Ajay Jadeja, Ajay Sharma and Manoj Prabhakar for 5 years each. The Justice Qayyum commission in Pakistan banned Salim Malik and Ata-Ur-Rahman for life. Others like Gibbs, Williams, Odumbe were implicated and punished. All in the face of 'conclusive' evidence against them.But no one admitted to any wrong.There were no public confessions and if there were any private ones, they were never made public.

The closest it came to public admission was when Mark Waugh and Shane Warne admitted to having provided 'pitch information' and 'team composition' details to a book maker (A fact that was known to the Australian board for almost 4 years but which they chose to keep under wraps). Both of them believed that they had been 'naive and stupid'. It was deemed to be a transgression mild enough to be settled with a fine. No other inquiry was conducted to probe their role.

So, with all the revelations of match fixing, bookie involvement, matches lost, players under-performing and viewers being taken for a ride for so long, Hansie was the only one stupid enough to confess. Everyone else bided their time.

Today Azharuddin inaugrates fitness centers and is honoured with other former captains by the BCCI for their services to Indian cricket; Jadeja spouts his expert views on myraid TV channels and his sound bytes are sought on his views of Rahul Dravid's omission from the Indian team; Shane Warne is idolised and feted for having been arguably the best cricketer of the 20th century.

And Cronje is dead.

In a pantomine played out for long involving only villains with unbridled greed, no moral scruples and absolutely no shame, Cronje's grave is a testament to our times.
Of a man stupid enough to confess.

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Hey Bloggie...

Long time no see friend.
The Internet, life, workplace-blogger-restrictions, laziness, nothing-to-write, life...
Wanting to see 'No Smoking' very badly..
Will be back soon bloggie...
Won't leave you alone for so long again...


Monday, July 23, 2007

A Request

I feel that I am becoming more discerning, that I am growing up.
At least in my reading.

There was a time (not too long ago) when anything esoteric appealed to me. Anything clever dazzled. Now I want writing to get to the point. Tell me what you want to. Don’t weave stories to show off. Don’t lead me through winding roads and present me with dead-ends expecting me to retract my steps. Just because you can.

Describe but only because you genuinely feel the need to. I am not interested in your vocabulary or your innovative use of language or your great eye for detail.

I have a choice and I am beginning to exercise it. I will just stop reading and cast you aside. Reputations don’t matter. I am mature enough to decide.

Give me simplicity and I will be indebted to you.


Friday, July 20, 2007

A writer's life

A writer’s life has to be lonely.

A flash of illumination that struck me at 3 AM in the morning as I devoured through the ‘Boyhood’ and ‘Youth’ of JM Coetzee. It is the first time I am reading Coetzee. I get easily impressed but the charm of the first books I read of most authors stays alive, forever a warm memory.

I have read enough about authors who claim that the art of fiction is always to mix and match. A nose of your first cousin, the sexual escapades of your grand aunt, the secret cupboard of your grandfather, the sing-song guffaws of your colleague at work – and there you have it, your original character.

Maybe it works, but only if you write for yourself shielded from readers, judgements.
Else, there is nowhere to hide.

It doesn’t matter how clever you are at deception. Or how many readers you have. You will most definitely have 4; your first cousin, your grand aunt, your grandfather and your colleague – and no place in their lives henceforth.

Because it is always easier to write about what is wrong in a person, like a cartoonist who exaggerates trivial flaws. Good is boring. It is the dark, the quirky and the hidden that excites.

Honesty cannot be masked. As in life, so in writing. And only the brave can be unfailingly honest. Because what you really know; deeply, intimately – is only your life (if that).
To be a writer is to betray everyone you know – an offence nakedly visible, at least to all betrayed.
And it is to give birth to a suspicion in everyone else as to whether they are next in line.

To be a writer is to lose spontaneity in friendships; to give up on relationships.

A writer’s life has to be lonely.

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