Thursday, January 27, 2011 2 reflections

Poem - Children's Day

Don’t hate me for who I am.
Don’t hit me or shove me around.
Don’t make me beg for alms today.
Don’t wrestle my blossoming dreams to ground.
Don’t stick me to walls with the MISSING sign.
Don’t nip me in the bud for your petty gains.
Don’t rape me. Don’t kill me.
Don’t trick me into living with so many pains.
Don’t treat me like dirt and without respect.
Don’t cheat me and abuse my innocence.
Don’t light my unexplored land on fire.
Don’t teach me to see things with a shallow offense.
Don’t stop me from being a hero tomorrow.
Don’t crop out my talents for a vain win.
Don’t preach to me the song of faith.
Don’t leech from me since that is a sin.
Don’t hide me from the truth that you fear.
Don’t ride me as a vehicle of glee.
Don’t chide me for your mistakes and faults.
Don’t side me away into dark debris.

We are your hope. We are your future.
We are the ones who will change your fate.
We are everything but without your help,
We, the children, have no day to celebrate.

Monday, January 24, 2011 0 reflections

Poem - A breezy moment

She feels a breeze pick up her mood,
Like a piece of good news is in the air,
She doesn’t whine, complain, brood,
But watches nomadic flowers everywhere.

Her eyes fill up with a moisture that isn’t tears,
She inhales deep, exhales out her pain,
Letting them transform into foggy reindeers,
Letting their prints form and remain.

Her hair dances to the melody around,
Stray, yet at peace with that singular moment,
Snaking their way across the oasis they’ve found,
Looking for more such that might have been sent.

She feels a breeze that has managed to allude,
And keep all her troubles far away from here,
In those few seconds, that are now set to conclude,
She is without care, without plans, without fear.

Saturday, January 15, 2011 8 reflections

The dangers of a single story

A few days ago J and I were watching 'Coming to America'. Eddie Murphy's '88 movie that showcases an African prince from Zamunda traveling to America to find the woman of his dreams. If you haven't seen this original (since I am sure you'd have seen some hybrid Indian remake of this) please do. It's one of the few movies where you don't see Eddie going nuts with his performance – well, not as himself anyway. Once the movie ended, J said 'That was probably the first movie I've seen where Africa was shown to have rich people!' I agreed instantly. In all my experiences with Hollywood, most movies dealing with that continent have been of pain, despair, brutal cruelty, hunger and absolute human misery. We have seen such movies in shock and reflected upon how there is no end to the tragedies one man can inflict upon another. Be it 'Amistad', 'Blood Diamond', 'The Constant Gardener' or 'Hotel Rwanda' – despite their historic accuracy, these were stories that focused primarily on the negatives. A story we believed represented the entire African continent hence painting our imaginative minds instantly with a deep set stereotype. Why, even the more adventure based flicks like 'The Ghost and the Darkness' show hapless Tsavo residents fleeing in panic at the arrival of the two lions. How awful, we thought and moved on while placing a sympathetic eye on every African face thereafter feeling extremely sorry for them without even bothering to investigate their story – their individual story.

Incidentally, being the avid TED Talks viewer that I am, I happened to chance upon a talk given by noted Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie where she talks about what she refers to as 'the dangers of a single story'. She says one of the biggest problems in the world is the telling and retelling of these 'single stories' that focus so much on one singular aspect of a community or land, that it ends up becoming what or who the people from there are. She spoke of her experience of being overwhelmed with shame on visiting Mexico and finding a completely different aspect to the country than the 'America-crazy illegal immigrant public' that they're so often portrayed as, during the journey of her writing. The best quote of the video for me was – 'The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.'

These two incidents made me think back to my own brushes with stereotypes. In India, if there is no dearth for something, then it is this. Everyone has a set image of folks from each state – Sardars, Mallus, Gujjus, Biharis, Bongs and of course the crass generalization of every South Indian as 'Madrasi' – the list is endless. What then if we choose to read literature that attempts to break these set frames of people and who they truly are? How different would societies be if they weren't based purely on one story – that all consuming singular tale that sometimes tramples all possibilities for an alternative? How different would the cities in our minds be if we heard stories that didn't paint every wall in a house with the same color?

I must confess, now I cannot wait to read Adichie's novels and experience a totally new perspective of what is often, quite unfortunately, referred to as the 'dark continent'. I invite you to watch the video (link below) and, hopefully, find a new definition of that paradisaical light I now find myself thrilled by.

Sunday, January 09, 2011 8 reflections

No one killed Jessica - A review

'No one killed Jessica' is an onscreen adaptation of the infamous Jessica Lall murder case that rocked the news time and again a few years ago. The title of the film was taken from a news article that appeared in the Times of India in 2006. Of course, it seems to be an apt characterization of the highly corrupt and ineffective judiciary system our country is gaining quick reputation for.

So we are shown the murder where Jessica is shot point blank by Manish Bharadwaj when he and his buddies are refused alcohol in an upscale party where she is bar tending one night. What follows is the usual power play of Manish's rich and influential daddy trying to pull every string possible to ensure his son walks a free man. Fighting against this is Jessica's defiant young sister Sabrina Lall (Vidya Balan) who is turning every stone possible to ensure witnesses maintain their integrity and help her get justice. But as would be expected from our reliable system, justice isn't delivered. Manish and co. walk out unharmed as Sabrina, understandably, loses all faith in the system and tries to move on with life.

Enter firebrand reporter Meera (Rani Mukerjee). She is being celebrated as the powerhouse journalist who captured the goings on in Kargil just about the same time Jessica's case was making news. Being the arrogant scribe that she is, Meera ignores the Jessica case as being an 'open and shut' case given the abundance of evidence only to find out, years later, that the news headlines reads 'No one killed Jessica'. This, despite the presence of hundreds of witnesses. She then heads out to set things right through a barrage of sting operations and tape leaks thus reigniting the case with fresh energy.

'No one killed Jessica' had all the makings of a brilliant film that could have been a benchmark. Yet, in the heady preparation to create something as inspiring and 'cool' as 'Rang De Basanti', Rajkumar Gupta (the guy who made 'Aamir') unfortunately makes way to some loud clichés. For one thing, he gives Rani a pretty free hand with her performance which turns out slightly counter productive. In a bid to showcase her character as a tough no nonsense journalist, Gupta instead lets her turn out to be a potty mouthed stereotype. He needlessly shows us that she indulges in casual sex and is fond of calling herself (and others!) a bitch every time she gets a chance. How this was relevant to the plot is something we are supposed to decipher. Now, I am no media professional, but I felt the whole act put up by Rani was just too contrived and didn't come out as convincing. Letting her be a journalist with her heart in the right place would have sufficed aplenty but apparently Indian cinema these days needs a generous dose of expletives and rude gestures to make it a box office success.

Then there is Vidya who is possibly the only reason anyone would want to go back and watch this movie a second time. She delivers an extremely convincing performance with her restraint coated silence. Established stars find playing the victim sometimes an open invite to ham their way through it. But Vidya instead chooses to do the right thing and zip up her emotions until when they are required to be exhibited. In fact, I have no qualms in stating that it is her portrayal as the wronged citizen that helps avoid this movie from being yet another painting determined to get preachy about words like nainsaafi and andha kanoon. If you had to, do watch it for her.

The supporting cast is consistent too, primarily Rajesh Sharma (corrupt Gunjaal from Khosla ka ghosla) who plays a cop with very clear gray shades. He has no problems confessing he took a bribe not to smack around the arrested rich kid but he also cares about justice and wants to do what he can to make the truth win. It comes out as a portrayal that stays true to the reality on the ground of how authentic policemen behave in India.

Stories such as these need to rely heavily on the sensitivity of how such untimely and shocking incidents cripple the common man in India. They need to weave their narration around the subtle nuances that form the complex fabric of human emotions. Even though Gupta achieves that in a few select scenes, by and large the narrative, sadly, sticks to commercial formula. O
n a brighter side, it does remind us once again that people power still matters in democracies. A reminder that will hopefully serve us well as more multi-crore scams are unearthed each year in the glorious nation of ours that is still known as a 'developing' one. For this, I'd recommend giving 'No one killed Jessica' a watch.

Sunday, January 02, 2011 0 reflections

Godt Nytår MMXI!

Dear Reader,

Wishing you a fun filled and productive MMXI!

I sincerely hope your 2011 is full of creative work, good health, good relaxation, blissful peace and most of all - pure love. 2011 arrived in Copenhagen with much pomp. We were at the city square Rådhuspladsen to ring in the new year. It was a brilliant spectacle of light, fireworks, drunk party folks and just plain joy everywhere. The entire square was lit up with the boom of explosions in the night skies as the clock struck 12 and we had our first experience of a truly Danish New Year welcome. As almost everyone passing by wished each other "Godt Nytår!" (Danish for Happy New Year!) we joined in too and did the same. Here is the video compilation of clips I shot that night of what will certainly be memorable moments.

Best wishes,