Sunday, February 22, 2009

Delhi 6 - A colorfully smart entertainer!

Delhi - 6 - After what seemed an interminable wait once the trailors and music were released, I finally saw the movie yesterday. At the outset, I declare that this has spoilers. Though touted to be shot in Delhi, a huge set was evidently used and the result is quite mixed. We are taken to a place where there is some kind of a time warp, especially as it is very close to the national capital. Rickshaws, cows, horses and vintage cars - this is what the scene is like and its a little hard to believe especially as the effort seems to be directed towards making all modern transportation non-existent.

The first half of the movie is an introduction of numerous characters and much of the effort goes in establishing how they interplay in a small locality. A money lender, a Muslim sweetshop owner, a family divided by a wall (Om Puri and Pawan Malhotra on either side), a photographer, a mysterious monkey man, two mischievous kids, a low caste garbage collector and an ambitious Bittu (Sonam Kapoor) - they joke, discuss the monkey man and go to see the Ram Lila with their Muslim neighbors. Roshan (Abhishek) arrives with his grandmother to this locality. He is frustrated in the beginning, gradually is drawn to the people and falls in love with Bittu in a subtly sublime fashion and with the place as a whole as circumstances pan out.The setting is complete for the second half.

The cinematography by Binod Pradhan is very good. One gets to see the numerous bylanes with sweet shops, cricket-playing kids, colorful people, the temple and the mosque -they showcase the diversity in a simple and convincing manner. The music is one of the best works of AR Rahman. The Mozart of Madras displays his versatility and even gets behind the mike for a number. The songs are already big hits with 'Masakali' and 'Maula', being my favorites. Kailash Kher and Javed Ali make the latter even more memorable. The lyrics by Prasoon Joshi are again different and innovative. 'Hey kala kala kala bandar/Bahar hai ya andar...Aao Hum shisha dekhe/Apna sandesha dekhe/Apna Ghayal Hissa dekhe/Apna asli kissa dekhe', 'Tujhe badalna na chahoon/Rati bhar bhi sanam/Bina sajawat milawat/Na jyaada na hi kaam' go the lines and they are riveting.

Social messages are conveyed throughout the movie. The struggle between superstition and modernity exemplified by the rumors of monkey man and the launch of Chandrayan, the bane of untouchability in the 21st century and the shame of forced marriages in an age when women are shattering all ceilings - this is where the movie scores high. A lot of characters at times serve to veer away the focus. Abhishek is just good and Sonam has a very good presence whenever she gets the chance.Atul Kulkarni is wasted for his potential.

In the second half, a small spark ignites a communal flare-up in the peaceful and colorful locality. The warmth is suddenly lost and suspicions abound. This shows how tensions and animosity need only a small flame to feed on. Politicians exploit the divide to gain. Things seem head for a disastrous end. Roshan explains the metaphor of Monkey Man which is all the movie is about. He nevertheless falls a victim to the unreasonable anger of the people when he saves Bittu and professes his love.

This is a movie that tries to pack a lot of things together, but ultimately leaves the viewer with some good messages to carry home. It is certainly not as good as Rang De Basanti; that doesn't mean that it should be missed. Watch it without RDB expectations and come out with a better understanding of the Kaleidoscope that is our country and the fickle and prejudiced nature that is mankind!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

On Love, Culture, feminism and Valentine’s Day

The question of whether Valentine’s Day is a western import is irrelevant as we embrace globalization. The very meaning of the word “Globalization” says that it is the process of transformation of local or regional phenomena into global ones. When love, something as universal as love is involved, then without doubt, the pace of transformation would be quick.

To say that it is against our “culture”- referring to the “Indian culture” here- is ridiculous. As is the question, why do we need Feb 14 to proclaim love? Nobody said, declare your love or express your love only on one particular day. Each and every day, humanity is assaulted by a whole gamut of feelings. We struggle to come to terms with the assault. We need time to understand our feelings for each other and why we feel what we feel… Often enough, we don’t express what we feel. Some things hold us back, we are caught up in a vortex of emotions that compartmentalizing is difficult.

Come Feb 14, some of us realize that we should proclaim our love. There is nothing harmful in it. Of course, greeting cards, gifts and associated paraphernalia are deemed necessary by advertisers, media and sundry other influences. If one narrowly defines love as something that exists between a man and a woman with sexual connotations, as some sections of the society do, then, there are all the ingredients for a scrimmage.

When a pub in Mangalore was singled out for demonstration of a “confused” and “warped” mindset, the perpetrators of violent lessons wanted to make a point - That going to pubs was not a woman’s business. If they had beaten up men too, they’d have done themselves some good. Instead, references were made to Indian culture as if culture is a static entity that is immune to change. Also at stake was the “right” as adults that Women can exercise. If one leaves aside the question of whether ‘drinking and having fun in a pub’ is good or bad, and focuses instead on the question of whether ‘violence as a weapon of expression of disapproval in a democracy with defined fundamental rights’ is acceptable, the answer is obvious.

Feminism is the belief that women have equal political, social, sexual, intellectual and economic rights to men. It is not about women being able to do whatever men can or some such crap. In a world where “physical power” is increasingly unnecessary with the advent and evolution of machines, this belief holds more water. To single out one half of the population and preach morality is akin to having “Manu Smriti” as the reference for freedom of women which is very debatable.

The SRS and its chief have now received more than their deserved share of media coverage for confusing all the above issues and threatening to marry off couples on Valentine’s Day. To remain silent is to have acquiesced and moved on. To say that they are wrong and that people who wish to celebrate are free to do so amounts to standing up for these rights – Right to equality and Right to freedom. To elaborate, the state cannot discriminate against a citizen on the basis of sex; there is freedom of speech and expression and freedom to assemble peacefully without arms.

That is precisely what we did on Feb 14 – When a small group of Bloggers and socially-conscious men and women, gathered with placards to spread simple messages. Messages that said “Free hugs” and “Wish you a fear free society”, simple but universally capable of striking a chord.

What we got in the beginning was curious glances, smiles and expressions of surprise. As time wore on, people came to us and spoke about what they felt. ”Why are you doing this”? “Good work” and “Happy Valentine’s day” encouraged us. “Can I hug you?” and “I need a hug” served to prove that human nature is made up, more of love and less of hate. That is why, perhaps the wheels of the World continue to grind and “good” continues to “triumph” over evil. It is a matter of “cruel’ time before this simple realization dawns everywhere.

Monday, February 9, 2009

A letter written in delirium…


The time has come for our ways to part.

The road has taken a cruel turn and fate
has played its dreadful game…

Some memories are wrapped in gold.
So fragile and innocent they are, so vibrant
and brimming with life and energy, that a
faint tickle runs down my spine as I think
about our first meeting…

Your delightful mien and endearing smile, a
thousand fairies would envy. Your graceful
walk and beautifully large eyes – an elixir of
happiness to many a tired soul…

The times we spent together, the evenings bathed in
the light of the setting Sun and the mornings shrouded
in wintry dew - if the soul can wear a hat and dance in
the rain, if it can proclaim loud, the joy and ecstasy of
being alive, it would have danced and cried, a hundred times…

The good natured conversations, the innocuous teasing…
Of the dusk lost in faraway worlds, of the dawn breaking
Out ever so pleasant… it is in your presence that I drank goodness
and realized the face of beauty.

As you go your separate way, you leave me richer
and pure - Cleansed of impurity and harm, it’s something
akin to bliss where Gods seem near and every hurdle, a feather.
Every step you take, every object you grace, peace descends and
Joy Prevails.