Tell me not in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal.

When I go from hence
let this be my parting word,
that what I have seen is unsurpassable.

Friday, 19 December 2008

It's bliss to be back in Delhi.... Read More

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Happy holidays

The days just don't seem to end. My vacation starts this friday and it seems like it is a hundred years off. The last couple of months have been pretty stressful what with multiple release schedules in office and troubles with bank accounts, loans, cars and everything else under the sun at home. This leave has come at the perfect time for me. The best part is that it is compulsory - all employees have to take the next week off. So I will not feel guilty about running off without closing all issues here. I have added a week more to the leave of my own so that I will be back only next year.

I am going home initially but then the entire family is taking off to Puri. We might even visit Konark and Chilka if we have time. I have never been to Orissa. Actually, none of us have except my Dad. He has been there four times. It is one of his favourite places. We will all be traveling together after a long, long time. I am really looking forward to it.

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Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Cinema: Two movies

Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! is not a comedy. Sure it has lots of humour. But ultimately it is a tragic tale of a bright boy lead down the path of crime by his environment and his own greed, taken advantage of by everyone around him and then betrayed by all. It is to the film maker's credit that he manages to tell the tale with humour instead of with the usual dose of glycerine.
It might have something to do with the fact that I am from Delhi but the first thing that I noticed about the movie was its atmosphere. This movie has captured Dlehi in all its avataars. From the posh colonies of South Delhi to the run down mohallas, Oye Lucky! does for Delhi what Aamir did for Mumbai. Abhay Deol and Manjot Singh as the teenaged and adult protagonist are terrific. Abhay is quickly becoming one of my favourite actors in Bollywood today. His just being in a movie guarantees that it will be different from the run of the mill stuff. Paresh Rawal is great in all his roles. I did not understand the logic behind him playing three characters though. If there is some hidden meaning behind it I totally missed it. Both Archana Puran Singh and Neetu Chandra do justice to their roles. The pace flags a little in the second half but not so much as to prove distracting. This is probably where the director's first movie Khosla Ka Ghonsla scores over it with its tight pacing through out. I liked it the open endedness of the story and the morally ambiguous ending. Any attempt to tie all ends would have made it either sermonizing or clicheed. Dibakar Bannerjee set out to make a more difficult movie than his first movie which was an out and out comedy and has succeeded admirably. I would have liked to see this movie become a big hit but that will be tough considering that it does not offer push button entertainment like most audience seems to expect.

Dil Kabaddi seems less like a movie than a collection of random scenes taken from a different movie. It starts and ends abruptly and zig zags in between. For a movie which claims to be a comedy, very few situations have anything funny in them. The only saving grace of this movie is Irfan Khan. He practically carries the film on his shoulders. Khan has all the rib ticking scenes in the movie and does full justice to them. The movie becomes entertaining whenever he comes on screen and goes back to boring when he exists. Rahul Bose is totally miscast as a college professor and also has the most irritating story arc. But then he also has the best (and only) kiss. Konkona Sen is competent as usual, Rahul Khanna has nothing much to do and Soha Ali Khan is incompetent, again, as usual.

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Why should Pakistanis leave India?

Now that our Army and police have cleared the streets of Mumbai the self appointed moral guardians of our society have started stepping out from under their beds. Shiv Sena was the first to proclaim their return to action with another of their all too familiar diktats. They have proclaimed that all Pakistanis in Mumbai have to leave the country. I was watching a Shiv Sainik on TV calling all "rashtra bhaktas" to join them in driving out all the Pakistanis in our media yesterday. Their main targets are basically the people who are trying to make a name for themselves on the various television talent shows. Apparently, they (Shiv Sainiks) respect their(singers', actors', etc) art but they do not need Pakistanis in Mumbai. He also said that all producers and directors of television serials have been served notices to expel Pakistanis from their shows or face rashtra-bhatks's wrath. It is funny how these people are so creatively challenged that they cannot even come up with new speeches for their different agitations. Replace Pakistanis with North Indians or Muslims and you will get the speech they used in their "agitations" against those people. What is not so funny is how these people, who presumably represent a significant number of our countrymen, can never come up with anything that is constructive for our society. They are obsessed with dividing and destroying the fabric of our society. What harm have any of these Pakistanis done to anybody? They are ordinary people who are trying to realize their dreams with their hard work and dedication like millions of other Indians. How will driving them out help us? Why target them? The answers are simple. Driving them out will not help anybody but these people do not carry AK-47s and hence can be attacked without fear of retaliation. The people who attacked Mumbai did not ask for Shiv Sena's permission before entering Mumbai. They attacked Mumbai in broad daylight. They were easily recognizable after they fired their first shots. Where was Shiv Sena then? Why didn't this band of rashtra-bhakts come forward to protect their rashtra then? When all of Mumbai was out on the streets expressing solidarity with the victims of the attacks the leaders from Shiv Sena and MNS were conspicuous by their absence. Raj Thakeray has not issued a single statement since the attacks. The fact the a Bihari has been hounoured by the Maharashtra Governor for saving the lives of many Indians with no regard to his own life during the attack on CST has probably put a seal on his big mouth. I am waiting to see just how long this seal lasts. Probably, till he decides that the public has forgotten this inconvenient fact. We will never be able to face the enemies by dividing and persecuting helpless people or by pointing fingers at foreigners. Doing so will only serve to justify the actions of these extremists. The only way to face them is to become so strong and united ourselves that these enemies give up trying to divide us. In view of this fact, I submit to you that the only people that Mumbai and India do not need are these Shiv Sainiks and their copies.
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Wednesday, 3 December 2008

The newly awakened

Would the Mumbai attacks have caused such a furor among the public if they had been directed at the usual targets? There is no doubt that these attacks are completely different from those in the past, both in their nature and their intent. But they are not so different when it comes to the body count. The serial blasts in Mumbai claimed more lives. And as for the symbolic value of the targets, they are definitely not more important than the parliament. So why is it that this time we are so angry about it? Is it because this is the first time that the victims are not just the common people on the streets or trains? Is it because this time the victims are the people who "count" in our society, the ones who actually have a voice? People died at CST just like they died in Taj but I do not hear about their miserable fate on TV. Our society has traditionally shown a strange kind of apathy whenever the nameless and faceless people have been affected by violence of any kind. Take the last serial blasts in Mumbai. The media sang about the spirit of Mumbai for a day or two, the authorities offered condolences and things went back to just the way they were. The people who survived the blast just took the same train to wherever they had to go the next day. There were no protests, no vigils and no calls to change the system. This time things are different. TV screens have been taken over by celebrities who have suddenly woken up to the threat of terrorism. Chat shows are filled with current and has been Bollywood stars talking about how unsafe the country has become. Media is filled with accounts of how angry the people are. I do not understand who are the people they are talking about. The "aam aadmi" has been frustrated and frightened for years now. Who are the newly awakened people? Are they they people who are not affected by bombs in trains or richshaws because they do not travel in them. Have they suddenly started to realize that they too are vulnerable? If the answers is yes, it is both pathetic and encouraging. Pathetic because there is this vast segment of society which just does not matter, people whose lives and deaths do not evoke any reactions from any one who has the power or the position to better their lot. Encouraging because maybe finally, the two classes are identifying with each other. All that remains now is to unite the political class with them. Or will they have to become victims themselves too before that happens?
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Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Divided we totter

Mumbai police was not able to protect Taj and Oberoi from terrorists even though it had received information about their plans in September. It did not have resources to guard the hotels and also protect the rest of Mumbai from being ravaged by Raj Thakeray and his goons. The ATS chief who died fighting terrorists at CST was busy investigating Malegaon blasts done by Hindu fanatics from within the country. He probably didn't even get time to plan for threats from outside. Our public is more interested in real or perceived insults exchanged between communities than in threats from outside. We are all fighting against each other - Marathis vs. north Indians, Hindus vs. Muslims, south Indians vs. north Indians, Christians vs. Hindus, tribals vs. non-tribals, lower castes vs. upper castes. The list is endless. The ironic part is that in all the fights all the communities involved use the same arguments to justify their violence. Apparently, "someone else is always trying to humiliate them, demean their culture, rape their women, take away their jobs, or inflict some other horrible injustice upon them. They are just returning the favour". Is it so surprising that somebody from outside will try to take advantage of the situation? Every time we have fought against each other some one else has been there to exploit it to his advantage. All this makes me think. Can we really blame outsiders for trying to use our infighting to his advantage? After all, if we have so little sympathy, kindness, consideration or respect for our own people, why should an outsider have any such feeling for us? Our behaviour after the attacks has only served to justify the fact that we deserve to be taken advantage of. Look at how our leaders are behaving. The home minister of Maharashtra dismisses the attacks which took 200 lives as a "small incident". The chief minister of Kerela calls the home of a fallen soldier not worthy of a visit from his dog. Every political party is out to gain political mileage from the attacks. Every celebrity wants to turn the event into a PR drive. Every security agency is busy trying to pin the blame on somebody else instead of analysing and rectifying its own errors. If this is the way we react to these attacks, how will ever prepare ourselves for the attacks that are bound to happen in the future. We know they will happen but we are just not ready to give up our petty concerns and unite against them. Ariel Durant might have not been speaking of India when she said that a great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within but it sure fits us more than any one else in the world today. But we, as always, will just not listen.
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