Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The unfortunate problem of plenty!

This is the last thing I wanted to read. An article that talks about children getting affected by plain stupid stereotypes and weak role models!

"The media pretend to enhance their capacity to take on the challenges of modernity whereas in fact, it is training young girls to accept oppression as a way of life." - Very true. Media seems to target the fringes - extremes would be more apt. There is no middle line, no moderation. Its stupidity at one end V stupidity at another. So, you can get to enjoy Balika Vadhu on one channel and Roadies/Splitsvilla on another. Now, if you say, you enjoy both, you need to visit a psychiatrist soon.

The whole gamut of serials and reality shows do not appeal to the majority of the sane youth today. I don't see anybody discussing Roadies, Splitsvilla, Big Boss and their like, at least not the set of people I move among regularly everyday. I am thankful for that. My sanity is intact!

Mera sindoor bantt gaya lekin main patni dharma nibhanungee" - how much more substitute your favorite curse word here can it get? Imagine hearing blip, blip continuously once every 30 seconds, supposedly to cut off the choicest filthy phrases, that is the alternative available unless you choose to forget thinking about alternatives and decide to abandon by switching off!

It is sad that with an explosion of choice, quality is getting compromised. I remember those days when DD National had something called Public Masti (the host name was Tarana) in the morning Subah Savere show. Tarana used to go to the public, pose some question and this part of the show had some 5 songs played - all short capsules. I fell in love with her. (Later in my life, Juhi who is still with channel V stole my heart!) I used to see it till the end, then tie my shoelaces and run to school that was just 5 mins away! Those days, their simplicity is in stark contrast to the mind numbing choices we have with the remote today.

Sadly, with regards to quality, I pity the generation that is growing up now. Pointless Social networking, computer games and dumb TV shows have replaced a far simpler life - a life of fewer choices it was, but much more joyous and healthy! Cricket in the evenings followed by Chitrahaar and the weekly countdown shows, Crazy Mohan dramas - how I yearn for them now! Choices are not always welcome especially when they offer no relative merits over each other.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Project S.T.R.I.P - Intellectually stimulating!

Play - How powerful is this medium in today's age?, an age that is increasingly embodied by impatience and instant gratification. Play as a creative medium, requires an extraordinary amount of patience, commitment and practice. Doesn't this look like a contradiction? Indeed, yes at the outset, but then aren't we all victims of an atmosphere that feeds stereotypes and worships them? If we reach out to cultivate varied interests, we find that there are passionate youth with a creative energy that somehow doesn't catch the limelight devoted to page 3 parties, gloss and fashion! Some food for thought here...

Project S.T.R.I.P - a play written by Bangalore boy Ram Ganesh Kamatham and directed by Quasar Thakore Padamsee - was staged at Rangashankara on the 13th and I was very excited about the concept - Environmental exploitation - from the moment I had the printout of the ticket in my hand. I was lucky to find enthusiastic company in Pratibha and Omkar. The three of us thoroughly liked what we saw even if it sounds a lot cliched.

Caricature and Satire- how skillfully they can be leveraged as a means to emphasize the gravity of environmental issues? The play is an essay in demonstrating it. It is the story of a cash rich greedy corporate fixing its eyes on an island for mining and how it impacts the indigenous tribe living in the island. The number of issues that the play touches upon in a span of nearly two hours is simply astounding!

Are you against Progress? This is the question posed to the activist Aarti (Dilnaz Irani) in the play. In one stroke, it sums up the apathy and indifference inherent in such a simplistic interpretation of an issue that is laced with several nuances and is quite obviously being stripped to a generalization here. We should honestly try to introspect to examine if we have also been victims of such crass ignorance.

Revealing the exact story would be committing an injustice so let me try to stick to the aspects that appealed to me. A conglomeration of issues that has been beautifully woven with apt doses of humor - now this is hard to achieve given the nature of the subject being explored. But this play does that exceedingly well with aplomb.

The mythology, knowledge and customs of tribes, the plain indifference and vulgar greed of corporates, the power of money when used to destroy entire ecosystems, the disastrous consequences of unbridled exploitation unleashed on fragile and delicately balanced ecosystems (landslides), the silent and ignorant majority to whom progress and development hardly have multiple dimensions, the dubious source of fancy cosmetics and eatables - in the midst of all these, violent players with confusing intentions - like pawns in an unpredictable game whose rules are blurred - and activists with genuine interests of the victims on their mind's radar! That is Project S.T.R.I.P for you, a thread linking all of these!

Immense credit is due to Ram for coming up with such a taut script and the cast and director for executing it to perfection! Aarti - the audience relates to the sincerity, helplessness, passion and conviction they see in her. Oh, the power of youth! When every character is an attempt at caricature, the degree becomes important - beyond a certain point, it would appear lacking in earnestness, but here, the line is so deftly managed.

With umpteen number of jokes thrown in interspersed with piercing dialogues, you have a winner... I can't help relate certain characters to those in the news - Arundhati Roy, the Maoists, the mining giants, the inhuman state with hints at Salwa Judum - to name a few. Hats off to the main cast - Dilnaz Irani (the passionate activist), Tariq Vasudeva (the indifferent CEO), Shruti Shridharan (the secretary busy taking meeting minutes), Harssh Singh (the executor of plans, Roy) for an intellectually stimulating play. Only one regret - the cast members could have introduced themselves on stage :)

As Arundhati Roy says in her essay in outlook, perhaps we should start thinking more about the question - "Can we please leave the bauxite in the mountain?"

Meanwhile, as Arundhati Nag
remarked in the end, we should feel proud that the future of Indian theater lies in the hands of able young men!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

ILPOSTINO - A lyrically sublime beauty

Mario: "How do you become a poet?"

Neruda: "Try and walk slowly along the shore as far as the bay and look around you.."

Mario: "And will they come to me, those metaphors?"

Neruda: "Certainly"

This is one of the most beautiful exchanges in the movie between the simple Italian coastal villager and the famous poet Don Pablo Neruda.

I have taken a fancy to the "International movies" section in a few shops and that is where I happened to pick this one. I must admit that whenever I buy something like this, I have high expectations and sit down to see these movies with an intention to like them and enjoy them for what they offer. So far, I have succeeded!

Coming to this particular movie, the novelty of the story caught my eye. I am somebody who gets smitten by the cover of a book or a DVD and if my instinct tells me it would be good, I would go for it. I have heard of Pablo Neruda but after seeing this movie, I am hunting online for his poems.

The movie is a sublime gem - lyrical in its setting near a coast and in its background score and beautiful because so much is so deftly understated and conveyed brilliantly. As the Wiki entry says, it is a fictionalized account of Neruda in exile for a brief time in Italy when his communist affiliation drove him out of his land of birth -
"His 1952 stay in a villa owned by Italian historian Edwin Cerio on the island of Capri was fictionalized in the popular film Il Postino ("The Postman", 1994)."

The story is simple - a villager who is unemployed gets the job of delivering mail to the famous poet. Slowly, he strikes up a conversation with the genius about poetry and metaphors. As he gets lovestruck by a local beauty, he asks the poet for help to woo the damsel. Neruda's love poems do the trick. The hallmark of the movie is the friendship that evolves slowly between the postman and the poet, their exchanges on poetry and love. The Italian youth hero-worships the poet and even decides to name his child after him.

Some scenes stand out - when he reads poetry to his love, the delight in his lover and when Neruda leaves the village, the moment of departure. Never too dramatic and the waves always forming a backdrop, this movie is something that admirers of elegance and finesse shouldn't miss!

Some lines from Neruda's 'Tonight I write' -I loved these!

"My sight tries to find her as though to bring her closer.
My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.

The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same.

I no longer love her, that's certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.

Another's. She will be another's. As she was before my kisses.
Her voice, her bright body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, that's certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
and these the last verses that I write for her."

How true it is when Neruda says in the movie: "When you explain it, poetry becomes banal. Better than any explanation is the experience of feeling things that poetry can reveal to a nature open enough to understand it." A collection of some of his poems are available here. The movie had some references to this poem - Walking around.