Friday, March 06, 2015

I feel. Therefore I am.

I am an emotional person. I am a sentimental person. Remove these qualities from me and I cease to be ME anymore.

I don't care for people who judge me based on these qualities. I don't care for people who click their tongues in sympathy, muttering to themselves "oh, she lives only in the past." "oh, she hasn't moved on" and such.

Everybody has a core personality. Why would anyone want to change that? I will never want to change anyone. So why would anyone ask me to change? This is how I am, feelings, sentiments and all. Take it or leave it. And please I don't want sympathy. I just need some solid understanding. Please remember, I might be sentimental but I am not a sad person. I might be self-absorbed but I am not a loner. No one likes to be sad. No one likes to be lonely.

If I am left to be myself, those who've labelled me 'Queen of Melancholy' will realise just how funny I can actually get. All I want is to be left to my own devices...to live life my way. If you try hard enough, you might perhaps be able to change me even. But you will be left with factory produced 100% nylon fibre. I don't have to tell you the qualities of nylon.

Thank You.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Carpe Diem. Really.

Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Carpe diem (Sieze the day) is a concept that dates back to 23 BC and YOLO - You only live once. A concept that is fast catching up today.
People take up piano lessons. People go scuba diving or do bungee jumping. There are people who start travelling across the world. There are people who walk out of 'seemingly' perfect marriages.

Basically, people start living their dreams. They go and out do everything that they've been wanting to do all their lives because YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE.

Well, it has been a much debated philosophy. While some people accept it and appreciate people who follow it, there are some that don't. Salsa and Spanish lessons or a one-off trip to Tibet often gets a tap on the back. But travelling all alone leaving behind a family, walking out of marriages back into singledom is frowned upon and even openly criticised. Such people are tagged as 'selfish'. Two recent articles that I read, come to my mind:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/04/divorce-in-your-40s-_n_6058130.html?ir=India
This article is about a woman who left home because marriage made no sense to her anymore. She wanted breathing space. She went ahead and did all the things she always wanted to do. She claims she is at peace with herself now.

http://www.afar.com/magazine/the-wanderer-the-story-of-an-american-who-left-home-and-never-came-back
This article is about a man who just wants to wander. He wanted to leave America but his wife didn't want to. So he left his wife and daughter and went away...to wander.

We have also heard of people giving up their cushy executive jobs to take up organic farming.

Back home many of us have heard atleast one story of a distant uncle who just left upped and left one fine morning to take up sanyas.

The society is quick to label these people selfish, irresponsible, foolish or just escapists. They say they have left their families to suffer, particularly the children. My question is weren't we all born individuals? Didn't marriage, kids and  top-jobs happen much later?

This is still a question I am thinking of and so I am not judging anyone or taking sides. (More than writing with an idea, I more often write to get ideas. :))

Right from childhood, a person is always told what to do. Right from when to eat, when to study, when to play, what to wear, right up to when to marry and when to have kids. Not just that, our decisions about most of these things are also influenced directly or indirectly by the people around us. We are raised with this fear of "take up the first and the best that comes your way." "Don't give up the present for an unknown future." So, all the time, people just jump into things - be it academics, marriage or career choices. Many of them somehow slip into their roles and settle in. But then there are a few who are never able to settle down in the paths chosen by them. So, what then?

While at this self-questioning juncture, they have nowhere to go because all they get as advice (solicited or unsolicited) is a shrug of the shoulders and an accusatory "You chose this path. You'd better stick to it." Or a philosophical "Its all destiny. Just go with the flow." That is where a person feels completely alone, with a numb-buzz around him.

While there is constant doubt about their own judgements, people also fear being judged. What will people say? Is it the right thing to do? I ask, who defines what is right and what is wrong? Each person has his own truth. What makes one happy might not make the other happy. For some, having two children might give the ultimate happiness even if it doesn't leave them any time to pursue their own interests. For some owning a home might give the maximum joy, though they are trapped in the loans cycle for life. And for someone else, its not their definition of happiness.

Yes, it is a well-paying top executive job but what if a person is not happy doing it? What if his/her calling lies elsewhere? Yes, there are 15 years of marriage and 2 children behind them, abandoning isn't the intention but what if the person wants to travel, to explore the world and in the process do some self discovery? If living in a 'trapped' existence makes a person restless, what's the point in living as a family? Are you being fair to the family that way? Being there and yet not there is unfair in my opinion. I don't mean to stereotype but a man isn't an earning machine. Similarly a woman isn't a sacrificing angel. Beneath each person's adapted role, there is an individual still there, perhaps suppressed beyond the point of recognition, leaving both the body and the soul dull and grey.

I have heard and seen people throwing short time suggestions like, "You don't have to leave home to learn Jiu Jitsu. You just need to balance out you day." A woman who leaves kids for a couple of hours every evening to go for classes is labelled irresponsible. A man who does the same is labelled selfish. What is a person to do? You are paid more than a  lakh of rupees each month but you don't even have the time to stand and admire the sunrise. So, we have already stressed men and women stressing themselves further with packing every minute of the day with some activity or the other. This leads to a conflict between the subtle body and the physical body.

We are all human. Many of us make certain decisions due to some or the other kind of pressure (directly or indirectly). After taking the decision, what if we realise we actually need something else? I definitely don't think that is immaturity or frivolousness Does one have to essentially be in  a bad job scenario or an abusive relationship to want to break free? What about wanting growth?

There are possibly two things I can think of at the point. Put the decision off till a 'safe' time, perhaps when the children are settled or till you have saved up a decent amount of money for them. I don't know. Sometimes putting off decisions, give you time to come to grips to what your true calling is. Make a plan maybe, for 5 years, 10 years?

More than anything I wish for at least our next generation to grow up with a free mind. I wish them to have enough time and mental space to think for themselves and understand themselves better. Nobody should be pressurised, even emotionally threatened, to do anything. Many European countries have a practice wherein children, after high school are allowed time to travel, to work and then decide what their true calling is. I wish for a time when 14-year olds are not forced to 'plan' and prepare for what  they should be doing when they are is 30. I wish for a generation that is raised to have a calm conviction about their own dreams and desires, to have the self-confidence to stand up to their own decisions. I definitely don't hint at anything violent or hurtful or abusive. In fact, respecting every person for an individual that he/she is, I am sure, will clear a lot of confusion in our society. Thereby, bringing a lot of the much-needed peace and calmness to this world.

Edit/Footnote: As for me I would definitely like to stand up to my own dreams sometime in my life without worrying about responsibilities. And without having to answer anybody but MY conscience.

Friday, January 30, 2015

All ye Veerappans

Why on earth do some men use Sandalwood based perfumes?

Come on please.

There is a guy who smells of incense sticks and another who smells of Vicco Turmeric. And every time he passes by I hear the song "Vicco Turmeric nahin cosmetic..."

I am sure men wouldn't want to remind women of their Pooja Rooms or their Gokul sandal talc-using mothers or even the forest brigand Veerappan.

Try musk, there's amber, Try grass, or the ones with aquatic notes, why, even citrus (though that's a risky one in my opinion). If you want to go woody, try patchouli with a woody moss combination.

But save the forests and stop the sandalwood perfumes.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Bhima - Lone Warrior

Pic courtesy: Goodreads.com
Ever since I read a review of this book in The Hindu Literary Supplement, I have been wanting to read it.

Thanks to a friend, I finally got a chance to read this book originally written by the great Malayalam author, Shri M T Vasudevan Nair,with the title Randa Moozham. This is the story of the Mahabharata as told by Bhimasena, the second Pandava brother, fondly called Bhima.

The character of Bhima has always intrigued me, especially after reading a similar book by Chitra Banerjee Diwakarunni, Palace of Illusions. Was he just all brawn? Did he ever feel pain? What was the real person like?

These are the questions that Lone Warrior answers for you. It introduces you to the person that Bhima might have been. It traces the story right from Bhima's childhood to the end of his life. Just like how a warrior's perspective should be, Bhima mostly talks about his valour, the duels and the battles with various people and armies. The description of the Kurukshetra war is told in complete detail, keeping the logic completely intact. We, as readers of the Mahabharata know the story from many perspectives but Shri M T does not talk of things Bhima would not have possibly known.

The most endearing part is when Bhima talks about his feelings and emotions. The hurt he feels at being insulted by the Kauravas as a child, his love for food, his first love, Hidimbi, his feelings towards Draupadi and his lament for his dead sons, especially Ghatotkacha who, for being a tribal woman's son, does not only get his due credit but does not even get a decent funeral. One really feels sorry for Bhima when everyone keeps calling him 'blockhead' right into his adulthood. We, as readers know, he isn't. That fraction of a second when Bhima almost dreams of becoming King after the war is conveyed so beautifully.

For me the most striking part is his relationship with his brother, Yudhishtir, who is generally looked upon as a symbol of righteousness and high morals. Though he is always respectful towards his brother, Bhima is often miffed when Yudhishtir's virtuousness becomes more important than fairness. This makes Bhima think some very sarcastic, often irreverently funny things about Yudhishtir.

Interestingly, his equation with Krishna is also not great,  though there is immense outward respect. He adores Draupadi, though she seems to use him. Even Bhima doesn't know this but the writer secretly conveys it to the reader through his wonderful craft.

We've all grown up listening to the glorification of the Mahabharatha heroes, giving them an almost godly status. But Shri MT turns it all around and portrays everyone as normal human beings but much more strong - emotionally and physically than the average queen and king. The vastraharan scene is explained in detail but the most popular incident of the endless yards of saree is not even hinted at. Similarly the mayasabha event is not made a big deal out of. Even Bhishma's bed of arrows is not mentioned. Many such surprises. This kind of interpretation makes the story-telling so much more stunning.

There is an ample sprinkling of wry humour by the way of Bhima's thoughts and this brings us closer to him.

I had two wishes while I was reading this fantastic book. I wished I knew how to read Malayalam so that I can experience the joy of such brilliant writing, first hand. It would have sounded so poetic. Since that will not be, my second wish was that the translation could have been much better. Though the translator (Gita Krishnankutty) has captured much of the essence, a lot of emotion has been lost in translation, as the cliche goes. Also she has used many terms which seem inappropriate in a book like this. Though there are many instances, the one I am unable to forget is the use of the phrase "red light area", which I am sure wasn't used in Bhima's time or even Shri MT would not have used! The title however, is very apt to the story.

The narration sometimes seems a little too prosaic and monotonous, like the drone of a man talking without a pause in unending baritones. I need to check this with someone who has read the original.

Yet, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in the human nature or the lives of celebrated people. Men and women readers will like this book equally. While Palace of Illusions uses every thread of emotion possible to weave its story, Lone Warrior makes use of a perfect blend of fabric to build a sturdy tale.

Thottal Thodarum - Sparking Off a Flying Start

Thottal Thodarum - a film that made its way quietly to the theatres, relying on no fanfare or hullabaloo but just the confidence of the makers.

Just like its title does, the film builds up a good air of mystery around it right from the start. The story line is so tightly packed that putting together a synopsis becomes difficult without giving away at least some of the suspense. So, the central idea of the film is how a small incident can take you to the most unexpected and dangerous corners in life. A thriller weaved into a sweet love story is Thottal Thodarum for you.

To my surprise and to the I am sure to many others as well, the story revolves around the female lead. And this is such a welcome relief amidst all the misogynistic 'hero' glorification happening in our films today. What happens in Thottal Thodaurm is kind of a heartwarming 'team work' between the male lead and the female lead, played by Thaman Kumar and Arundhathi. 

The film is a debut directorial venture of Sankarnarayan, known by his friends and fans as Cable Sankar. 

That he is a lover of quality cinema comes across clearly in the way Cable Sankar has envisioned, written and executed the film. He seems to have put in everything that he had ever wished for in a film. Oodles of sugary-sweet romance, some good music, extra-ordinary events that can take the love story forward and some good comic moments. It normally happens that when you are dreaming of something for a long time, there is a baggage that gives away the start date of the dream. However, nothing of that shows and the film has a young, breezy air about it. There is the internet, there are the apps, there are the gadgets..things that youngsters can easily relate to.

Running to just about 2 hours, the film comes with a taut screenplay with interesting twists and turns. The love story does, at a point make you impatient. Perhaps it was deliberately done to make you root for the new lovers. One is almost goading them to meet and kick start their love story at a point. And this is exactly the point when the story takes a sudden twist.

There are a lot of small touches that the director has put in to show the depth of his involvement. Like the ring tone of the hero's phone that in a way establishes an endearing feeling towards him (who can forget the sweet but naughty music from Geethanjali/Idhayathai Thirudaathey?), the heroine, someone from a middle-class background repeating her normal-looking, realistic costumes in more than one scene, the hero actually clicking open his car lock each and every time he has to open the door (I've only seen people directly getting into their cars, no matter where they are parked). I particularly liked the way the heroine looks up to the hero for moral support at a moment of crisis. This is the first natural thing likely to happen in a relationship built on trust. There are many more such small things. These are touches that speak about the director's efforts. 
Coming to the casting, Thaman Kumar and Arundhathi have given their all to portray their roles to the maximum perfection. Thaman Kumar is sure to get noticed for his confidence, looks and voice. Unusually for Tamil films, be it the way he carries himself or his comfort with both Tamil and English, he looks every inch a city slicker. Tamil films have a distance to cover where girls still need to be shown with a bindi, saree, half-saree. The heroine in fact doesn't have as many lines in English as the hero has. I wonder why? Just because he is from a better financial/educational background? But with due credit to the director, though albeit coy in appearance, the protagonist Madhu is no way demure or weak.

The hero and heroine are not under any pressure to showcase their dancing prowess or rib-crunching action shots. They come across as just normal people who face just one abnormal incident that they deal with cleverness.

Balaji plays the role of the ubiquitous side-kick with a funny streak. He has done his best and has given some really funny lines. But I really wish these side-kicks (everyone starting from Santhanam) stop making know-it-all sweeping statements about women and matters of the heart. The "dei ponnungaley ippidithaan" theories can get your goat after a point. 
Thankfully this film has no place for the ever so common TASMAC (and its aftermath purgatory) scenes. There are in fact no scenes depicting either smoking or drinking. 

Talking about dialogues, they have general been written very well - crisp, contemporary and clear.

The music by P C Sivan is quite catchy. The background score is worth paying attention to. Two songs are particularly nice - Penney-penney and Poo pola-poo pola. The latter in fact, even when I heard it before watching the film, imagined it to be a road-song and I am not disappointed. The way Penney-penney has been filmed is very pleasant, just like the song itself. The famous Bossu Bossu serves as a montage for the very interesting opening credits. Again a first in a long time, there are no 'kuthu songs' in the film. In fact, the director has broken away from the heavily choreographed-100 dancers-exotic locales-weird costumes routine completely. 

The cinematography is noteworthy especially the aerial highway shots. 

The writer of the film has cleverly given his debut film an auspicious title of sorts (Thottal Thodarum, loosely translated to "just get it started and it goes on forever") because the film has certainly paved a way for not just the director but also for Thaman Kumar, Arundhathi, P C Sivan and the entire young crew that is raring to go.

Photos Courtesy: https://www.facebook.com/ThottalThodarum/timeline

Friday, January 23, 2015

Loving my Levis



Just like good leather (though I don't use leather), good jeans age well. Jeans of a good quality look better with more use.
















Pic courtesy: zazzle.com

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

My Girl (Fan Chan)

I was reading a story by Ruskin Bond - The Meeting Pool. And I remembered this fantastic movie that I watched at least three times many years ago on TV. (Those days when movie channels used to play good films).

Anyone remember this?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fan_Chan
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CmomCzAcLRs

Could Nee Thaane En Pon Vasantham have been based on this?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

half entertainer

Palace of Illusions, Angela's Ashes, Eat Pray Love, Bhima, the Lone Warrior...such are the books I have been reading for quite sometime now. So when I received Half Girlfriend as a birthday present, I was rather pleased. Ah! Something different, I thought.

So one not so fine day, feeling down and low, I thought I'd treat myself to something light and easy. I started reading it. I started smiling. I even giggled. Wow! its been ages since I actually giggled, that too while reading a book. So I proceeded bravely with this happy-happy feeling lingering in my head.

As it might be general knowledge by now, Half-girlfriend is the love story of a boy from Bihar. The backdrop in the first half of the book is the prestigious St Stephen's College, Delhi and the second half is Bihar. The narrative goes back and forth tracing the life of the protagonist, Manav Jha. A boy from a small town called Dumraon in Bihar gets into St Stephen's College in Delhi through the Sports quota. Does Manav's first love blossom? Does his life change? Answers to these questions go on to form the rest of the story.

So what are the characters like?

Manav Jha: Its nice to see a protagonist come with his own flaws and weaknesses. There have been many such memorable characters in literature but there is something in them that makes you overlook or justify their weaknesses. But it is not the case here. Also there is no noticeable growth in the character graph at all.  I shudder to imagine that Chetan Bhagat is somehow trying to generalise the behaviour of small town guys through the almost uncouth, unthinking actions of Manav Jha and even his friends. Manav seems to have just one motive all through his life. The Bill Gates situation is just a coincidence that he reluctantly takes part in. At one point after his graduation, his decision rises our expectations of him, but then nothing we expect happens. He just seems to be an overgrown teenager at the end of it all. So when he goes and achieves his 'dream' towards the end of the story, I couldn't help but think, "Oh? Did he have to cross continents and run 6 kilometers in the snow for THIS?".

Riya Somani. A shallow character, who doesn't do anything to the psyche of the reader. If there was an intention to weave a web of enigma around this character, the attempt falls flat I must say. Those diary entries also don't help her in any way.

The Somanis, the mother aka, Maharani, Rohan...all a bunch of stereotypes, something Chetan Bhagat has never freed his novels of.

The first half of the book has this fuzzy feel-good factor to it. I couldn't help but smile at the small funny observations. The Titan Watch ad couple, the biscuits...and many more. But then one starts tiring of it all. I almost felt irritated with the characters, the erratic movement of the story and ultimately with Chetan Bhagat himself. I am sucker for romance and all mushy stuff on earth but sorry mate, not this time.

The storyline looks very promising through the middle of the story but it lets you down terribly. I feel Chetan Bhagat had a rock solid premise on which he could build on something new and inspiring. I, in fact expected a Swades type of inspiration and purpose at a point.The feeling that one comes across is either that of a lazy author or an over-confident one, rushing to complete a Bollywood film script. We already know this book is ready to be made into a film and I actually found myself thinking about the cast. And Mr Bhagat has conveniently cast himself into it too.

It's a known fact that no one reads Chetan Bhagat for the literary value but I couldn't help notice several editorial errors in the book. A serious flaw in the narration I felt was that the editor ought to have decided clearly who the narrator should be. When the book starts off, the Chetan Bhagat is the narrator. Then the story takes on a flashback mode and the protagonist becomes the narrator. Once the flashback mode is over, Chetan Bhagat and Manav Jha take turns to narrate incidents in the first person. This tool can be extremely strenuous for the reader. Chetan Bhagat ought to be a little more considerate towards his readers especially since he thinks people can improve their spoken English by reading his books (I am not saying it, CB says it himself through Riya Somani.). The editors have also been overlooked a gross repetition of many expressions, one of them being "What?" so commonly used by youngsters today in various intonations to convey so many things. But we don't expect it from an established writer. He can't be running out of words? I am sorry but I had to pause reading the book at a point to check if I was reading the original edition or a pirated one because the basic rules of margins and page numbering are broken in many places. Alright, I am nitpicking now.

Yet, I would say that Half Girlfriend is one hell of a wasted opportunity. I will be last person to say a film or a book needs to carry a message. They work great as just pieces of art too. But  Half Girlfriend has neither style nor substance.

Read it if only you are die-hard Chetan Bhagat fan.