Wednesday, January 12, 2011

No one killed Jessica - review

The movie (dis)claims to be a mix of fact and fiction. They didn't tell me the ratio, but it must have been 10:90. Otherwise, what else can define the liberty taken in portraying the characters not the way they are in real life, specially when you have direct references available and that itself could make for great cinema. 

Story is of a murder, of jessica, by a rich and powerful lad because she refused to serve him a drink. Its also about the legal fight fought-lost-reopened-and-won by the deceased's sister with help of media.   

I found the movie oversimplified and caricaturesque. Not a bad movie, considering the performances and music (specially the music including background score by amit trivedi, which infuses soul in the scenes, delhi has been painted with music). But it fell short of what it could easily have been, had it avoided the card board characters (like that of murderer's mother who had just three lines in the movie (kuchh bhi ho jaaye, mere monu ko kuchh nahin hona chahiye)). Sabrina is a very strong woman in real life. She has wrongly been shown timid and at the mercy of media in the movie. NDTV didn't do all that (as has been shown in the movie). It was Tehelka, not NDTV. And the positive portrayal for Barkha Dutt immediately after radiagate smells fishy. Its good cinema, but not great cinema. There were moments when it touched (the honest police officer investigating the case telling Sabrina that he had taken Rs. 70 Lakhs just for not raising his hand on the accused and the expression of sabrina (vidya) after hearing this; or the one when the accused's parents visit sabrina's home and put a wreath on jessica's photo and jessica's parents, instead of asking them to get lost, ask for tea.) But these moments  were far and few between.

All said and done, bringing this contemporary story to life, in a format which appeals commercially, is remarkable. I feel the liberties that the director  Rajkumar Gupta took are because he wanted the film to a commercial hit. I don't doubt his (or ronnie screwala's (the producer's) intent). But the execution could have been better. Better than this, atleast. 

But that doesn't mean that this movie is bad cinema (likes of housefull or laaga chunri mein daag). It is notches above the crap that indian cinema has seen (except for the small budget wonders like do dooni chaar and phas gaye re obama). And one must go and see it, just to pass on the message that this kind of cinema is supported not less than Housefull or Khatta Meetha.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Why this fuss?

Read the article here.

My comments:
I feel the defence of Rajdeep Sardesai and barkha Dutt are justified. The tainted journalists seem to be listening to their sources and getting the NEWS, but nowhere it is indicated that they actually acted as mediators or got something for their own from the either side. It is not what it seems like, there is no corruption involved the way it is being looked at. Why have the tapes surfaced now, why are they targetted at Tata, Barkha Dutt, Vir Sanghvi (people who are very very powerful but have unblemished public image). Who made the tapes surface in public? Is there any motive other than what meets the eye. I feel something is fishy abt this. The other day, i was listening to barkha dutt's panel discussion on the same issue. She had invited all the concerned, including Vinod Mehta of Outlook, for an open debate. He refused to participate. I might agree to someone's error of judgment (that they could have reported the story of some PR agent trying to broker deals between political parties). But what where is the corruption in this? I see none. I haven't heard the tapes of Prabhu Chawla and Vir Sanghvi, but for Barkha Dutt, the case seems simple. She reported her facts in the news broadcast without allowing her mind to become biased because of her "source". What she didn't report is not important. Question should be, did she hide anything to benefit someone, or did she broker the political deals? Answer is, No, she didn't. That should rest the case. Rajdeep, U are right.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Tsunami Diary

Here are few memories drawn from the diary that I maintained during my stay at Nagapattinam in Jan-Feb 2005. - Anshul

25th January 2005: Arrived at Nagapattinam today afternoon at three. While coming here, was expecting to see some sign of tsunami ravages. But nothing suggests that the place was so badly hit by the killer waves only a month ago. Except for a bridge connecting Karaikal (Pondichery) and Nagapattinam (Tamilnadu). It was broken, and Indian Army was repairing it. The state transport bus had to take a circular route avoiding that bridge.

Reached the NGO co-ordination center (NCC) directly. Sarat, Niloufer and Sachin had reached there in the morning itself (from Ahmedabad).

The NCC is situated in two parts-A tent on the right hand side of the district collectorate building (within the campus) and the first floor 5-computer enclosure in the collectorate office. Met few very interesting people acting as volunteers with the NCC. Mr Rammohan from Bangalore, a very senior development professional, has headed national level interventions, and now heading NCC for the last ten days and is with us till 28th. Ms. Latha Vasudevan, who lives in California and is from Chennai, has come out as a volunteer from Bhumika India, taking care of the front desk at the NCC. Ms. Archana, TISS alumnus and FES staff, has done good job in last 20 days and is now leaving tomorrow, taking care of demand aggregation and procurement at NCC. Ms. Achamma, from Canada, a senior finance executive and a documentary producer, cousin sister of Arundhati roy, and mentioned as little Sophie mall in God of small things, taking care of finance and logistics at NCC.

The rescue phase is over here. The rehabilitation phase is on. Temporary shelters are being built, provisions have been distributed, demands for left out items- women undergarments and fishermen's tiffin carriers- is now coming from villages.

27th January: Today we went to Tharangamwadi village. We four didn't know Tamil, and Lata akka acted as translator for us. Tsunami had caused 400 deaths in this village. The habitation starts 30 meters from the sea. The houses, the huts as well as those built of brick and cement, have been washed away. Few stronger ones that have been ravaged but not fully destroyed have watermarks at human heights, signifying what level the tsunami waves reached on 26th. The sand at beach was not visible. The mortar and brick layered it fully. A half standing wall at the other end of the village had the other half swept away 100 meters away in the form of a boulder lying near the beach.
This is a SIFFS village. SIFFS has built 267 temporary shelters (@ Rs.8000 per shelter) and is repairing the boats in its newly constructed boat-repairing center at the village entrance. Government has also been very professional and efficient in responding to the disaster, and has put up 272 community sheds (@ Rs. 1 lakh per shed, one shed for 20 families) as temporary shelters. The ration (50 kg of rice and related eatables) and the Rs. 4000 per family compensation has been distributed. The list of deceased for compensation of 1-lakh has been finalized.
The destruction was mammoth and total. However, people seem ok, not complaining much. They have been provided with utensils, mats, clothes, and they have faith in the future- better shelters, better equipments. They are putting up brave face, but that's only a mask.
While talking to shelter number 103 (There was a child of eight or nine years saying something in Tamil to me. On enquiry, I got to know that he was saying "I live in shelter 103". I don't know what he meant. He belonged to a joint family and has lost his aunty and the cousin sister. Perhaps he identifies with his shelter number.), we got an insight of how difficult it is for them to do the daily household chores. There is a small enclosure of 12 feet by 12 feet for each family. No separate space for cooking, toilets ten for the whole village, one drinking water spot with three taps. Water supply is two hours a day. Only one donated pot for water. No place to take bath. Etc……………………………

A group of children were playing near the shelters. Sarat and Niloufer joined them. A small girl came near me and asked for one of my two pens. I gave her one. In two minutes time there were ten more children asking for the only pen left with me. I refused and walked towards the community shed.

The community shed is used for community prayers or meetings. I met there with two counselors from Sri Ravishankar's Art of Living Foundation. They informed me "The shock is very deep with people. But fishermen are very proud people. They will bear brave face in front of outsiders and will come as people that are not much affected. But each of them is deeply hurt, disturbed and desperate. Unlike the other disasters, tsunami doesn't leave many people physically injured. But their mental agony, people who understand what a bank is, won't be able to understand. These fishermen don't have any fall back option, and everything of theirs has been washed away. If it were an easily detectable depression, its treatment and handling would have been easy. But this silence of theirs is more disturbing. Since we realized the very nature of fishermen society, and understood that they won't feel comfortable in sharing their individual agony, we have started organizing the ma prayers two time in a day, in the morning and evening."

Nagapattinam has 73 such affected villages, and the number of NGOs working in tsunami hit villages had crossed the 400 mark.

6th Feb: A Mr. Shyam from Software firm Delphi, Bangalore called me (he visited the site tsunami-india2004 and got the number) a week ago.

He wanted to help in any way that the NGO co-ordination center will be willing to take in software or database management. He wanted to be there at Nagapattinam for a day or two and design few things if needed. He sounded like those many calls that we were receiving from the compulsive but less serious volunteers. After consulting Vivekanandan sir on this issue, I got back to him saying 'no thanks'.

He said that was ok, and we can ask for him if the need arises.

Exactly a week passed, and yesterday (i.e. saturday evening) when I was coming out of the meeting organized for all the NGOs on the issue of construction of permanent shelter, this individual was waiting for me at the NCC tent. "Well, I felt that I sounded less serious, and in order to make up for the tone, I felt the need to come up and see for myself if the call that I made from my ITPark office in B'lore was a bit away from reality" is how he put it. We were happy to receive him.

I was taking care of the database at NCC, and with help from the programmer from SIFFS (Pradeep) I showed him how we were managing the database their. Surely, there were problems and inefficiencies. He stayed for a day, removed many bugs, and offered further assistance in web site management. Today he went, quietly back to Bangalore.


8th February 2005: Visited the tsunami hit areas with subhash today.
Subhash is a Nagapattinam born engineer working in Singapore. When he heard of the tragedy, left his job at Singapore and rushed back home.

For initial days he lived in tsunami hit village 5 kilometers from Nagapattinam, slept in the verandah of the only home left standing in the village. Then he heard of the NCC and volunteered his services.

Raman, the American born Indian volunteering with NCC and taking care of the front desk queries and documentation, was also supposed to come. However, he was not feeling fine and went back to the hotel in the afternoon.

The beach here again was only 25-30 meters from sea. The port at Nagapattinam is hardly 3 kilometers away. The household with whom subhash was living shared their experiences with us. There is a bridge that connects the village with the city. When tsunami wave struck for the first time at 9:30 AM on 26th December, the bridge got obstructed.

The big trawlers (looked like steamers with capacity to carry more than 200 people) were flown in tsunami over the bridge and thrown five kilometers inside the fields. It came in a flash, with few minutes only. One trawler was thrown just across the bridge, preventing people to cross it. Thankfully, there was the parallel bridge under construction and the concrete has been put only a week ago. More than 3000 people took refuge on this weak concrete structure, few with the dead bodies of their dear ones in their laps. The second wave came at 9:50 and brought with it scores of dead bodies. But these bodies were of foreign tourists, swept away from the port few kms away. The dead bodies of people from this village were later found five or six kms down the sea. The third wave came after half an hour, bringing in more dead bodies. There was no connection from outside world even two days after the disaster. The whole habitation has been flattened and turned in to rubble. People, fearing outbreak of disease, dug up trenches near sea for bodies to be cremated or burnt. The water level in the area, because of proximity to sea, is hardly eight to ten feet, and hence the pit thus dug up was only of man height. Later, the low depth became a problem. The sea waves during the tide would come till the place and will bare the bodies or bones. The street dogs will take them out and eat. The street dogs had also become very ferocious and had bitten many since then. The district administration had to take out the bodies and recremate them. The health commissioner also ordered for all the street dogs to be poisoned (killed).
We met a small boy who goes to school in the near by town. He is a creative boy, and showed me few new sketches of his, three to be precise. Small hands had drawn three versions of his badi (colony)- immediately before the tsunami, during tsunami wave one, and after tsunami wave two. He says that people died in first wave as they were caught unaware. But destruction was caused more by wave number two.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Oscar to Gulzar and Rahman

Two geniuses of our times - Gulzar and Rahman - have won the coveted and most famous award in the world of Cinema - Academy Award (Oscars) for their song Jai Ho! in Slumdog Millionaire today (22nd Feb 2009 in US, 23rd Feb 2009 in India)....... I am so happy!! here is the lyrics of song that won them the award.

Jai Ho!

Aaja aaja jind shamiyaane ke taley
Aaja zari waale neele aasmaane ke taley

Jai Ho!
Ratti ratti sachchi maine jaan gawayi hai
Nach Nach koylon pe raat bitaayi hai
Ankhiyon ki neend maine phoonkon se udaa di
Gin gin taarey maine ungli jalayi hai
Eh Aaja aaja jind shamiyaane ke taley
Aaja zari waale neele aasmaane ke taley

Baila! Baila!
(Dance! Dance!)
Ahora conmigo, tu baila para hoy
(Now with me, you dance for today)
Por nuestro dia de movidas,
(For our day of moves,)
los problemas los que sean
(whatever problems may be)
Baila! Baila!
(Dance! Dance!)

Jai Ho!
Chakh le, haan chakh le, yeh raat shehed hai
Chakh le, haan rakh le,
Dil hai, dil aakhri hadd hai
Kaala kaala kaajal tera
Koi kaala jaadu hai na?

Aaja aaja jind shamiyaane ke taley
Aaja zari waale neele aasmaane ke taley
Jai Ho!

Kab se haan kab se jo lab pe ruki hai
Keh de, keh de, haan keh de
Ab aankh jhuki hai
Aisi aisi roshan aankhein
Roshan dono heerey hain kya?

Aaja aaja jind shamiyaane ke taley
Aaja zari waale neele aasmaane ke taley
Jai Ho!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Movie Review - WALL E

WALL – E is an abnormal story of warmth-filled silence (film has hardly any dialogue), animated, on an earth which is uninhabited except for a cleaning-robot called WALL-E and his sidekick (a cockroach).

You hardly have any hook if you just hear the story before viewing it. But my god, even the machines can espouse emotions and that’s when you realise you are getting interested in the whole affair hardly 30 seconds in to the movie.

Pixar, the makers of this animation, show how real the animation can go, when you realise that the vast angles shown of earth and its sky scrapers are animated schenes and not the real life photographs/ videos. How the movie carries on with its narration despite no characters and no dialogue is a new chapter in movie making. A must watch for those who like feel-good movies.

The movie is a love story of Wall-E with another cute robot Eva. Premise is pre-posterous, of two machines falling in love, but not at all unbelievable the way it has been portrayed.

Anything from Pixar next time, and you will surely be tempted to see what new frontiers have they conquered. Wall-E is a defining effort.

Review - Rock On - the Hindi Movie (genre: musical)

I have seen two movies in last two days – ROCK ON and WALL-E.

'Rock on' ke baare mein kya kahoon! It’s a wonderful musical, lekin who music rock hai is baare mein shak hai mujhe. Music behad acchha hai, kahani ko aage badhata hai aur film ki jaan hai, lekin pop-music ki tarah sunayi deta hai aur mere ROCK jaanane waale dost kahte hain ki electric guitar use kar lene se aur drum ke sounds highlight kar dene se koi music rock nahin ban jaata.

Criticism aside, the film has got something that keeps you engaged (depsite its slow pace), mixes emotions in to stories and songs to good effect and when the film credit rolls you can see everyone humming one or two lines from one of the 6 songs……….. lyrics are ajeeb – pedestrian but unique and hence its difficult to decide whether its lyricist’s genius to write such simple and well meaning lyrics or its one of those ‘chance’ products. Farhan, Arjun Rampal, Luke Kenny and Purab are top-class performers – on stage and in acting. All said and done, one of the rare musicals made in India that really shall find its place equal to “once” or “singing in the rain”.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

DARK KNIGHT - Moview Review

I saw the movie "Dark Knight" yesterday at a multiplex. The movie is too good, but I am confused about the genre I should place it in. It is a superhero movie, action movie, thriller, social drama, great face-offs through dialogues, great photography, great acting, moral drama where characters play mind-games (see Heath Ledger to know what the evil looks like. One of the promos for the movie said for the character played by him "Joker" – "Joker doesn't have any shades of Grey. He is absolute.")
One of my colleagues who watched the late night show said to me next morning that he couldn't sleep because Joker's slurping face came before his eyes the moment he closed his eyes. Such is the effect this character has on mind. So much so that even superhero Batman finds it difficult to understand his motivation and hence find a way to corrupt him. In one of the scenes, Joker burns all the money that whole of underworld had as parallel black economy saying that "Crime because of money is petty. All present day crop (of convicts) is sub-standard. Gotham city needs better grade (of criminals), of those who do not do it because of these petty gains." He, in another scene, questions "You do good, that is good, but what is good. That's a good question. I mean, if what I do was labeled good, you would have felt good in doing this as well. Its about everything going as per plan. If I blow a lorry full of soldiers, you won't feel a prick, because its acceptable in world's sinister plan. But if I kill a single poor Mayor after announcing that I will kill him, your world topples over its head because its not what the plan is. I do not plan, but make sure to demonstrate that no plan succeeds." Well, others have done their part very well, including Christian Bale as Batman. Special effects are top class, so is specially-done photography with new-gen camera with INOX experience (didn't know what it means, till I saw it and it looks spectacular). But no one comes close to what Joker stands for – pure evil, who is surprisingly convincing.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Are TV serials barometer of societal paradigms?

What precedes what - TV content or socially popular/ acceptable norms? Its a classical debate just like "Do films affect society or society gets reflected in films?" If saas-bahu serials are famous and have lot of viewership, does it make the content "in-vogue". Logically, YES.

There will always be people who will have a niche liking for specific content. And there will be a choice of masses. Many a times, the short-tenured fashion (fad) lives like a tornado - momentarily powerful and just that. The bitchy programs are perhaps like that. It was attempted earlier too - in 2001, Neena Gupta presented "Kamzor Kadi Kaun", a game show with participants eliminating by group vote the one they all feared was most likely to succeed, thus increasing individual's chance in next round..... and the program was a flop, signifying perhaps that India was not ready for such a show then. But it seems to have changed now, with Raodies, Big Boss, Get Gorgeous, Splitsville and many other shows capturing/staging the acrimony between participants/ mentors to enhance their TRPs.

High viewership for such programs do reflect achange in Indian choices, even if they may be limited to a specific section of population (read youth). There will always be alternate programming available for arty/ serious/ moral/ traditional/ cultural viewers and its possible that many choices of their are not "mass choices". But so be it.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Guruji of Adilabad

Dec 2002: I was at Adilabad for two months. It’s a tribal area of Andhra Pradesh, very close to the Maharashtra border. Ashish, my senior from IRMA, introduced us to Ravindra Sharma (fondly called Guruji). This man, in such a place, spoke to me in a Hindi that put me to shame "Aapki dincharya kya hoti hai? Aapke shodh ka vishay kya hai? Iska prayojan kya hai? Aapne vishraam kiya na! Agar sihran ho to mutthhi baandh lein, thand muthhiyon mein band ho jaayegi!!!!"............

What he remembers well is Rama's story in Awadhi, and his knowledge of languages is intact....... his cow's family has grown now to three, and NIFT students are now taught by tribal supervisors....... He still speaks to Ashish in the same SHUDHH HINDI.

He signed off a recent conversation by saying, "Ye purabiya log (people from Bihar and West Bengal) sangeet ke rasik hote hain. Maine desh bhraman ke beech dekha, unke jeevan ki har lay mein ek geet hai, har kartavya mein ek sur mila hua hai, har kadam mein taal ki anubhuti hoti hai. Isliye hi wahan chinta nahin hoti....... desh mein kuchh bhi ho, garibi kitni bhi aaye, baadh aapki saari jama poonji baha ke kyun na le jaye.... agli subah wo phir muskura denge. Samaaj ka dhancha wahan mazboot hai, saahitya sabal hai, aur shayad isliye arthvyawastha kamzor. Woh geet nahin suna - O ram-e-ram, saiyaan daaru pee-ke unghalad khet mein....... naayika roti hui apne sasur se keh rahi hai ki mere pati ko dhund laaiye. Sood bahut chad gaya tha, to saahukaar ne hal waapas le liya........ Acche log hain ye purabiya, unke jaisa nazariya rakho to jeevan mast hai, sahal hai, sulajha hua hai."

Chicken Soup for the soul - In Hindi. Nahin!?

What makes music soothing?

What is it in music that makes for good listening, and, at a higher plane, for soulful relaxing. Perhaps its "naad", a sanskrit word meaning "origin of sound", which generates this experience of sound, thus words, and thus songs - giving human existence an exalted position in universe. Perhaps its because music has rhythm, a flow, which helps human atoms synchronise itself with his/ her surroundings. Like a magnet helping electorns in iron bar straigtening themselves, giving them power hitherto unknown to them to attract metal henceforth. Music does it with our heart....... giving a sense of belonging to otherwise chaotic and unattached existence.
Just watched "Music and Lyrics " starring Barrymore and Grant. Genre was musical, but what I loved was the way words unfolded the story, in themselves evolving but helping the progression in an easy flowing manner. And, at the end was the question that i asked at the start of this piece - What is it in music that makes for good listening, and, at a higher plane, for soulful relaxing.