Monday, February 23, 2009

"Slumdog Millionaire" is One in a Million!

Those were the days when I, as a kid, like most others of my age, used to be fascinated about a few things that were clearly larger than life; so much larger, that they were dreams, not a part of life at all. It was a protected India then, and what we folks got to taste and relish were homegrown produce. The rest of them were only 'hearsay'.
Like the "Fastest" bike, Yamaha; like the sleak, trendy, powerful BMW; like that mystic fabled drink, Coca-Cola; like those awards they used to give to amazing films beyond imagination, the Oscars!
As we grew up, we thought it was okay to have expectations of Indian movies winning at the Oscars. The first movie that I could recall having associated with Oscar dreams was by the Legendary Mani Ratnam, starring none other than the versatile genius, Kamal Hassan, "Nayagan". "Hey, did you know that they are going to "send" Nayagan for the Oscars?" That should be way back in the mid 80's.
Then, there was serious talk about our own Aamir's "Lagaan". And boy, did it not deserve a Universal Acclaim as the Academy Awards! By then, Oscar was very much within reach. Still, it was eluding.
Fast forward to Aamir Khan, again. With "Taare Zameen Par", we made a convincing case for the most Prestigious awards in the industry. With such delicate handling of the subject, we did have a right to expect the best in the world.
Then, History was made! One movie about the slums and shit holes of Mumbai was seen winning the Golden Globe. Then, it was again in the news for BAFTA. By now, there were 10 nominations for the Oscars! There were celebrations all around. Channels and news papers were beaming with hope.
And here has it arrived like a bolt, storming across nations, cultures and audiences, with people across India identifying so emotionally with their long cherished dream. Amidst mixed reactions, disbelief, debates, editorials, analyses, "Slumdog Millionaire" has literally smashed all expectation levels, with a sweeping 8 awards at the Global arena!
The kids are on stage now, stealing the limelight among the most watched, talked about and enormously paid international stars. For them, Oscar is not a dream beyond imagination.
The Nation adores AR Rahman, now more than ever before. The audience that has been mesmerised by his intriguing notes, thrilled by his technically sound beats, enthralled by his voice that goes weaved along the finest blend of instrumental magic, now has a new Face of the Nation to be proud of.
Oscar is no yardstick for Indian cinema. For the average Indian, "Slumdog Millionaire" may not be as good a movie as, say, a Masterpiece like "Roja" by Mani Ratnam. For a hardcore AR Rahman fan, "Jai Ho!" may not even be in the top ten compositions by the magician.
What "Sumdog Millionaire" has done, is to project Indian cinema, its technicians like Resul Pookutty and Indian Music to movie lovers the world over. It may not be the best of Indian movies ever made, but it has gone a long way in making the world take notice of "Bollywood". The incidents narrated through the movie, its characters, the backdrop, they may all be mostly negative, painting a bleak picture of what the fabled Indian shine and glory is, for the curious foreigner who wants to take a sneak peek of this historical nation; but we are not here to seek certificates on our standards and culture on world stage. This is cinema and the immensely talented pool of artists have got abundant world-wide recognition today, which not many other creations of this medium have succeeded in as yet.
For those who are really worried about an exposed underbelly, let's work to clear the filth out there in the real world. For the average Indian movie lover who celebrates the celluloid dearer than the things he loves in life, let's rejoice this moment with no guilt or remorse. This is an Indian movie, a sound Indian technician and an Indian music Ace that have glittered all the way through the Red Carpet on that big arena. There haven't been many moments that would parallel this glorious occasion!
"Bollywood" has got itself coined after "Hollywood". It's time we created our own unique identity and a powerful brand out of Indian Cinema. "Slumdog Millionaire" may very well have come to define that new era!
"Jai Ho!"

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Taliban and the Valentine

At last, Valentine's Day is gone past. Phew.

I'm not sure of the other news papers, but the Times of India made it look as if Velantine's day was the only activity that occurred in India in the first half of February 2009. The Buzziest Brand went all out for lover boys and girls, women's liberation, individual freedom, 'Pub Bharo' "Movement", Pink Chaddi's and sarees, Indian culture, Pub Culture and anything that one would never have even remotely associated with the V-Day Celebration! Well, the media only reflects the society. Just that, sometimes, it uses a magnifying glass in front of the mirror and the mirror's angle too, perhaps, gets a bit skewed. Well, it's all in the game, anyway.

Now that the V-Day demonsrations are over, with people pondering over what to protest against now, Pakistan is back in the news. But the picture is really cluttered with too many microcosms within our friendly neighbourhood - Fidayeen, Mujahideen, Deccan Mujahideen, Al Qaeda, Taliban, Afghanistan, Sharia, AQ Khan, Dawood, Drone fighters, Geo News . . . the list, or rather, the mixture is whopping! There are too many stake holders in the Sub-continent, so many voices and noises being raised, so many diplomatic and multilateral dialogues and statements being exchanged, so much chaos that the picture is rather murky, with a lot of dust in the air refusing to settle down any time soon.

To be candid, I did give it a cursory thought if I should be really be mentioning all those names that I just did in the previous paragraph and fall in the radars and scanners that keep scourging through the information on the internet for any misguided connotations. For the record, I love peace and I am staunchly against terror, in any form!

But what really was special about this V-Day in India was that, people from all walks of life became aware of such a significant festival. So much so that I wished my elderly uncle, "Happy Valentine's Day to you!". He was bemused and was at a loss for words: "How do you think I should respond to THAT? This is the first time in my life that someone has wished me on a Valentine's Day!"

That apart, V-Day drew parallels between the movement to "protect Indian Culture" and "Talibanisation". The pink Underwear campaign gathered pace, much beyond expectations, not because of the abundant supply of the commodity in question: Underwears are available in most households. The reason, I would say, was that it was a right campaign that appealed to the right audience, who were already perturbed by the developments after 26/11. Let's not get lost in silly questions about who gained, go drew mileage, who shot to popularity or what was achieved in the entire episode that marked the 2009 V-Day miles apart from its predecessors. Questions like these seldom matter in a democracy!

Finally, though all attempts are made not to ask silly questions at this juncture, I have to ask this before I sign this piece off:

  • What is Indian Culture?
  • What is Western Culture?
  • Is it the duty of every citizen to play a part in preserving one's unique culture?
  • Do people of other cultures try to protect their cultures?

That's it. Four questions are too many to ask at a stretch. Not that anyone is going to be even slightly bothered about them. Still, whether asked or not, whether answered or not, questions remain questions.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Project Change - a step closer to Dream India - 1

How is "Change" going to be effected?
There is no disagreement on whether Change is needed or not. Given the fact that even in the best of circumstances, change may not only be inevitable but also be highly desirable, the current state of affairs dictates that a change prevail now, more than ever.
This is not a discourse on the need for change. This is Clearway's take on what it takes to effect Change.
At the moment, the problem is vast, rooted deep and is an accepted part of culture. Optimists would like to hope that things are changing for the better. "Today's younger generation has been brought up on the internet; they spread cheers over sms; and they are increasingly getting frustrated with the status quo . . "
The pessimists wouldnt bother to take note of developments inching forward. And the older generation is aghast with the whims and fancies of the youth today, at their speed bordering on rashness, at their tendancy to "Live Life before it melts away".
It is another issue that the present age older generation has spent its productive years talking its heart out and doing little to change the course of the inevitable. If responsibility is to be fixed on someone who has let this rot, where will the buck stop?
Yet another conflict is the "Comparison Syndrome" of the veterans and the "When's the next dose of advice please?" attitude of "Youngistan". "If we, at this age are this, why are you, at such an age, so bla bla bla . . . ?", countered by "Why is this space around me shrinking into suffocation?"
Getting back to the point: Who's going to fix what matters? Remember: We are not discussing the problems here. Problems are obvious, omniscient and an accepted part of tradition. We are no longer concerned with the "What" of it. It's only "How?"
This series will discuss precisely these questions: "How"? "Who"? "When"?
"Why" is redundant. "What" is obvious.
As we step into this series, a word of caution. This is no thesis or research paper. This is not fiction. This is not a fad. And, this is not the Solution.
The Solution lies out there, in the real world. The solution lies amidst the problem, lurking dangerously to pounce on the problem. The problem is at peril. But the solution will lie dormant as long as it is not whipped into self-realisation.
Who's responsibility is the whip? How to wield it? And when would it be unleashed?
For those who are looking for a solution here, you may be disappointed. If you want to be part of it, this series may strike a chord. Because, you lie in the solution; and the solution lies amidst the problems.
Let's see how close we can get to it.