Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The ' 92 riots

On Moharram today, my cable-wala decided to show one of the most poignant movie of all times, "Bombay".

The movie starts with a love story peppered by communal tension. Both the protagonists are from different castes, Hindu and Muslim. Their family takes time to accept their love and keep showering each other's families with religious insults. Then the riots in Mumbai break out, in which the couple's twin boys get separated from them. One of the little moys asks innocently,

"Hindu ya ni kya?
Muslim ya ni kya??"

My mother asked me if I remembered anything from those times. And I have some very vague memories. My father and all the uncles in our building gathering in our flat above, with thalis and katoris, and maybe even glass bottles. Everyone stayed indoors and all the lights were shut off. My mother said that all the people in the entire society surrounding ours had decided to keep vigil in each building form the roofs and if any violence was seen near our buildings they would start clattering the vessels, the noise form one building would activate all the others and the cacophany would drive the trouble-makers away. When a procession of naked swords bearing men entered our lane, this plan was put in action which drew the violence away.

Around these days, I remember going for my dancing lessons to the building next to ours on the first floor at that time. Suddenly we heard shrieks from behind my teacher's home. When we ran to her back balcony, we saw that the house in the opposite building on the same floor, occupied by Muslims was being ransacked by some Hindus. They seemed to be in a daze, glassy eyed and faces twisted into a horrible knot of anger. The buildings were close enough for us to understand exactly what was happening there. And my teacher was too stunned by the violence to realize that a seven year old was witness to it too. But suddenly a larger man entered the house. He looked Hindu from his garb, and he took the frenzied men away with him.

Today my mother told me what had happened that day. She did not know till now that I had seen that scene, so she explained it today to me. The place I live in is a fairly gujarati area, and the society exactly behind us, adjacently so, is a totally Muslim populated area. Gujarati Muslims, or Boras. When the '92 riots broke out, the Muslim head and the Hindu head of both these socities had a meeting where they decided to abstain from violence. They would control each other's men and not let anything detoriate here. They would protect their own against outside violence. The Hindu's who were attacking those Muslims were from an outside area, Jogeshwari most probably, and were convinced by the Hindu head of this area to leave, since they had no part in the riots.

When those Muslim, sword bearing men had entered our society, even the Muslim society behind had joined in the thali and katori clattering routine to scare the men away. That's how we had survived unscathed. While my mother assures me that our suburb, Andheri, had relatively less violence, there were some horrifying storIes too. There was a Muslim pregnant woman who was turned away from a Hindu hospital. She had to give birth on the street. There was a major store on S.V. Road which was burnt to nothingness.

My professor of Journalism, had covered these riots and she told me that while the city burned outside, there was a hoarde of reporters at Bal Thackeray's residence. They clamoured to know when this would stop, and what the casualties were. He had a stoic reply,

"Everything is fine. There is peace in the city."

"But", they all stuttered collectively, "we can show you footage showing violence. Children are getting orphaned every hour. "

"Those reports are rubbish" he retorted back with indignance, "I know my city"

The film also potrays Bal Thackeray and his politicking ways. But I have heard that it went through a lot of cuts. The most revealing of his comments had to be edited. But still, the film does its work. It reduces the viewer to tears. It did that to me, and rarely can a film do that. The twin boys have acted beautifully.

Riots and violence move everybody I guess, but somehow its a topic I have always pondered about. Everytime I try to write a script or a story, it always has some riots in the backdrop. Whether its the Partition Riots, Khalistan Riots in Punjab, The'92 riots of Mumbai. The godhra Riots or anyother.. But the kind of justice Mani Ratnam has done to this film, leaves me spell bound.

After the movie finished, I suddenly heard the Bombay tune playing. I jumped, it was my phone. It is then that I realized that my phone's ringtone is the Bombay tone, the haunting flute which plays while the violence unleashes. And the ringtone had never moved me as much..

Aankhon mein ummedo ke kuch ho sapne

Aanchal ho man ka toh tan man mein aapne..

Raatein ho gehri toh kya, aata hai aakhir ek din naya
-Bombay theme tune

Sunday, January 28, 2007

A face from the past

She saw a face from her past today.
Flowing with the crowd on the station's overbridge..
She spotted him walking towards her.. right next to her..

Before the first time anyone ever held her hand..
Before she ever fell in love..
Before she was ever touched with love..

This face had become the friend she was searching for in a crowd
This face had enjoyed her tomboyishnes, her innocent ways,
He said he would always look out for her..

She was a tender sixteen but strong inspite of that,
He was an older 26 and seemed soft inspite of that,
He looked down at her through his thick glasses
His thin face giving an experienced kind of a smile

She she accepted his friendship guilelessly
He came closer to her, artfully
He cried about his problems and asked for a shoulder
She complied, they were friends after all

Younger though she was, she heard his worries through
She patted his hands and told him all would come true
He grasped her hands in his and clung to her for life..
She thought he needed support and he needed strength

She noticed his hands growing firmer and thought all would be fine
But he refused to let go of her hand instead held on tighter
He held her by her shoulders and demnded to be comforted..
He sneaked up behind her and forced a kiss on her..

She pushed him away and said a firm no,
They were friends and friends is all
He laughed on her innocence and pulled her even closer
His face dint look thin anymore, his touch dint seem friendly

He told her he dreamt of kissing her, and he wanted to see reality
Terrified, she turned away from him,
She had nowhere to go, she was stuck with him in a car
A car full of all their friends, each busy with another

He put a hand on her shoulder and said,"Gimme a kiss babe"
No, she screamed in hr head, let me go far away
She pushed her face into the glassed window, as far from him as she could
He put a hand on her shoulder and moved it back and forth..

She shrugged the hand off, it came back again
A little rougher this time..
She shrugged it off again
and it came back again

Before she could shrug it off this time,
his fingers caught on to the elastic at her shoulder
He tweaked the little strap and whispered,
"you are mine sweetiepie, dont run now"

She rammed her elbow into his stomach
But the yelling was only in her mind...

The car screeched to a halt,
the door was opened and he was thrown out

Before the first time anyone ever held her hand..
Before she ever fell in love..
Before she was ever touched with love..
This face had violated her trust..

He had pressed her to a corner
And demanded payment for his friendship
This face had breached her innocence
This face polluted her thoughts.. thrown her into a shell..

She dint see him again till today
Walking past her at the station..
Their eyes collided and recognized the other
She dint falter, she dint stop.

She walked down the stairs, out of the station,
Up her street into her lane..
She entered her building and shut the door
She dint look back, not even once..

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Salaam-E-Ishq...Deserves no Salaam's

Dialogue pre-Salaam-e-Ishq between Nikhil Advani (Director) and Suresh Nair ( Producer)

Nikhil Advani (NA) - Hmm, after Kal Ho Na Ho, I wil have to prove my mettle as a stand alone director without Karan Johar's Backing..

Suresh Nair(SN)- So how do you plan to do that?? you will need a solid script and a solid casting for that if you want to do it without Johar or Chopra backing..

NA- Hey!! How about we take six scripts instead of one, and instead of just a lead hero and heroine, we take a dozen. Dozen ka bhaav sasta padta hai na??...

SN- Hmm, its an idea.. If we take six different kinds of scripts then we can even take six or seven differnt songs. And looking at so much will occupy enough braincells of the Audience hence the technical nitty gritties like directing and editing will not matter to them.

NA- We'll try to rope in a couple of actors who have crossed their hey days, and if we can we'll even put in a pardeshi mem.. we'll put in one middle aged couple, one married struggling couple, one to be married couple and one in love couple. The sixth one can be the just married today kind of a couple. Hmm, I think we also put in a mix of locales. One location will be London or paris, one will be Mumbai ofcourse, then we have Delhi, Udaipur/Rajasthaan, and ofcourse a U.P type setting for the rural crowd.

SN- And we'll put in one Item number type of song, one or two marriage and sangeet wala song, one romantic number, one sad number, one will be proper dhinchak bollywood number and one can be a soft making love number. Oh for the oldies we'll even throw in a old song but remixed ofcourse.

NA- That sounds perfect for me. But I think we can take liberty with the film's duration when we have such an amazingly solid starcast, script, locale and even songs. Let's make the movie some four hours long?? Afterall, boring movies like Mohobbatein and Border too were that long and people were entertained.

SN- What about the characters Nikhil Bhai??

NA- See, we'll take one hot and happening pair, say Priyanka and maybe Salman?? Another pair should be very romantic..

SN- John Abraham and Bipasha Basu??

NA- No no, romantic and unlikely. How about John and a very gharelu homely kind of actress..

SN-(Doubtfully) VIdya Balan??

NA- Bingo!! OK, then we should have one middle aged couple. Lets take Juhi Chawla, Yash Chopra sir will be happy. And with her we can take Anil Kapoor. They can be this comfortable predictable NRI couple.

SN- Let's give a break to an actor past his hey days too Nikhil Bhai. Lets try and fit in Govinda in any role if you can..

NA- Suresh you are right. We can have the role of a coolie or maybe a taxi driver?? that sounds like a good idea.. and make him tht. With the typical accent and all. Hmm, we now have the working class puller. If we put in a U.P type couple, crude, vulgur noises et al. How about Isha Koppikar for that?? She was crude enough in Kya Kool Hai Hum right??

SN- Yes boss.. And we'll put in Ayesha Takia, she'll bring in all those FYJC & SYJC students in hoardes.

NA- And we'll put her hero as the most eligible bachelor in Mumbai.. or maybe Delhi.. Hmmm.. and he'll be absolutely vella, with mounds and mounds of money to throw around...

SN- that forms all our couples.. uh.. sir.. umm.. what about the.. you know.. the dates??

NA- Oh they'll give it. We'll float a rumour that Karan Johar is gonna ghost direct the movie... Now thinking logically we'll need good music.. lets use Shankar Ehsaan Loy

SN- Oh that should account for some brilliant music then. Even if the settings of the songs are cliched, the music will bring the visuals alive.
But sir what if the audience dont sit thru the four hours...

NA- hmm.. I think, that they ll keep waiting for the movie to reach some milestone till the end of the four hours.. so even if they think about leaving, they'll keep hoping that something will turn the tide and make the movie good...

SN- Sir will we make the couples, all of them, meet sometimes or somewhere atleast once??

NA- Hmm.. we'll see.. if all turns well.. maybe Karan can get Kajol or ShahRukh to do a cameo.. hmm maybe Karan can himself do a maeo in the film.. I;ll tell him that that would be my homage to him.. hmm.. free cameo..

And hence an absolutely well publicised, well advertised, well rhymed movie got ruined. The editor, the cinematographer, the actors have all done their two bit in ruining the film. In all, from the entire 3 hours and 45 minutes of the film, only ten minutes were worth remembering.. Those were the times when Vidya Balan was grappling with her memories and Govinda was grappling with his vocab. The only time I really laughed was when in the end Shannon Esra, the pardesi mem goes up to her rejected in-laws and spurts hindi expletives. Priyanka just looks good, goes on random ego trips and screams. Salman has a new wig (??) or hair transplant. Sorry, that was the only thing noticeable about him. Sohail Khan and Isha Koppikar were downright vulgar. Although Vidya Balan and John Abraham has scenes showing more physical proximity, it was done aesthetically. The absolutely lovely Ayesha Takia had no scope for performing, and Akhshaye Khanna blew his top on the role. The new face, Anjana, shows a lot of skin but also a lot of promise. Juhi was just satisfactory. Nothing spectacular.

Despite the fact that it was a special premier show, people were audibly pissed, bored and absolutely disgusted with the movie. Meeting the stars too did not compensate enough for the absolute torture this film is.

The only ones who tried to not be bad were Vidya Balan and Govinda.
Imagine if I'm saying that Govinda is good in the film.. what happened to the rest!!!!

Lesson Learnt: Never ever try to copy American hit films thinking that the Hindi counterpart will be even better. Even a mix of Love, Actually's stories and Crash's technique cannot CANNOT turn out good..

Word of Advice: PLEASE please dont see this movie. Even if you are paid to see it dont. Even if anything.. Dont.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Five years later...

Do you wonder how lives move on??
Do you miss those times we spent together??

Its a dusk I'll never forget..
I questioned, You dint answer
I provoked you to reveal your intentions,
You dint let go till the end..

I abused, you agreed,
I kept enticing you, maybe you'd say what I wanted to hear
You kept quiet, took the blames.

It could have meant that you pleaded guilty
It could have meant that you were defenseless
It could have meant that you did not need to give excuses
It could have meant that I was senseless

Its a ride I will never forget..
I knew I'd never see you again
You were already etched in my mind,
Yet I etched you all over again

You knew you would never touch me again
You had already touched my life,
You touched it all over again..

It could have meant that I finally knew the truth
It could have meant that you were sorry
It could have meant that I was still giving you a chance
It could have meant that it was the real end of the story

Its a night I will never forget..
Alone in the wide expanse of my house
Alone devoid of the love I'd known so long
Alone, rid of the farce that I had known as truth

It meant that what had changed my life,
had itself been an illusion
It meant that what had become my truth,
had never been the true.

Do you wonder if I still dream on??
Do you remember our sacred five year promise for a forever??

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Stubborn ignorance

Its taken me more than I had expected to start writing this post. Evrytime I would just open the new post window and stare at it. I knew what I wanted to write, it was inside me, but it wouldn't come out for some reason.

A few months ago, the farmer's suicides in Vidarbha District of Maharashtra got some media footage. As time wore off, the media, as usual and expectedly, forgot about it. My department, as I have always known is the pro-activist sorts. Hence this year, for our study tour we were packed off to Waifad, a village there. In Waifad, we were broken into groups and asked to study and make films on different but significant aspects of the village. I was assigned in the School and Education Group. Our work began the day we arrived. Two days after we had been there and seen some of a lot that we had to see, I suddenly found myself introspecting. Standing on one a roof (which is the only place we got network) I looked around at the sun washing all the farms with its brightness. I saw the school a few minutes away, where we had spent gruelling hours working and getting shocked by what conspires there.

I looked over the small houses, some like shanties and some big, palatial homes with an angna, jhulas, TV and the works. I looked over the small trees, neem, cotton and other trees associated with barren lands. And I thought, " Will this change my life?? Will these experiences, whatever we have seen here, the desoluteness, the helplessness and the lost cause effect my character in anyway?? will it mature me, make me more receptive to human problems and open the doors to the world to me??" It seemed likely then.

The next day, we visited Dorli.

Wardha is one of the main towns of Vidharbha andWaifad, is a thirty minute ride away. Another 20 or so kms away is this village called Dorli.

As soon as one enters the village, there is a banner which wishes a local politician happy birthday and then says below it, Hamara gaon baech do, please!!

Dorli, has been in local news recently because of a very surprising reason. Sick with debts and financial problems faced by the people there, the entire village has put itself up for sale. The village along with all its farms, houses, animals and everything. This was the main destination of our trip. As soon as we get down our Minibus, an Old man comes ambling around, pats the pockets of my professors bomber jacket and says in Marathi, "Give us money"

My professor is a Visual-hungry man. He looks at every scene as a shot of life in a film. He puts his camera on, and speaks to the man. He tries to find out why they are so deperate. The man keeps repeating that he needs money, he asks for a lakh, five hundred or even just hundred rupees.

Somehow, there's no pity or empaathy for these people. I dont think any of us, were sorry for them, or felt like pulling them out of this situation. This lack of understand could not be explained then. But somehow, seeing the old man begging for money, in the foreground of a huge hut, which had a dish antenna sticking out, refused to stir any emotions in us. When we questioned him abt the dish antenna, he said that the man who owns that hut is very rich. Huh?? But I thought that the entire village was so poverty stricken that they wanted to sell their homes out. We asked him if that man too was a part of the entire scheme of selling the village. He said, well I guess the man need not sell but since the entire village is collectively doing it then he cant back out alone can he.

Alright, so the one man, who has enough self-esteem to not beg and has enough sense to make money too has to bend in front of these men. As the Deputy Sarpanch took us through the village, he put up a great show about the poverty surrounding them. The extreme mendicancy they were reduced to. We reached a clearing and took a break. I was busy taking Cutaways with the camera and my prof went and planted himself among a group of villagers. He asked them what their problem was, one of them replied, "we have nothing sir, government gives ur packages which finish immediately, the rates we are given arelow, and the rainfall is unpredictable" So why dont you leave farming?? "we dont want to menial jobs.."why not?? Do you have an option now?? "No we will not do any work, government must give us money"

For a minute before this interlude, me aand my friends had been discussing that giving whatever money we had in our pockets would make no difference to these people. Not only would they beg for more, they would even curse us. Plus giving them money was equivalent to giving them fish to eat, tomorrow if they need more, they wont know how to fish.

And here was my prof, teaching them that if they just came over to Mumbai once, get some kind of a job,. come back to the village in the farming season, and once it finishes resume your job in town. This way you are earning a solid income to feed and clothe your children. But no. These men refused. They did not want to get up on their lazy ass, get out of their cocoon and approach the world outside. If moer money was required, the farmer would suicide. His family would get one lakh from the government out of this wont they??

These people I call farmers, are actually farm labourers. They majorly dont own farms, or if they do they are very small, hence they work on the farms of the other "rich"people in the village. Their yound children visit (please note the use of the word) the school at Waifad apparently to study. The school is a private one, hence the government gives them grants on the basis of their students' performance in standard 10. From first to ninth standard the students are passed through with exams which are just namesake. In standard ten, the exams that are held are university exams, hence the classrooms are locked from outside, and the teachers pass around guide books with marked answers. Those students who are intelligent to passs on their own, do just that, pass, on their own. And the rest, pass with flying artificial colors. The honest students are disillusioned. They get lower marks then the duffers of the class. Once all these students graduate to a junior college in town, the honest ones stick through till twelfth and the artificially colorful ones drop out in the first month itself. Those who dropout, convieneniently forget to mention it at home, and keep visiting the town daily with money to spend on frivolous or negative activities. These dropouts dont learn farming because their parents think they are educating themselves and they are not even literate enough for the lowest of desk jobs anywhere. What we are left with is a generation of misplaced and useless youth. Youth who need money. When out of frustration and need, their fathers commit suicides, these youngsters start evaluating life in terms of money. When my father killed himself, the government gave us a lakh, if my mother will also kill herself after a few months when she is established as the bread winner the government will give us one more lakh. They count death and money on the same fingers. These youths.

No this experience will not enlighten my life ahead. No this desoluteness, helplessness and poverty will not open the door of the world's problems to me. I will just move on, thinking that there are people in this world who have lost their self esteem and their strenght to money. Their are people in this world who are best studied and then forgotten..

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Being immune to feelings..

" There were times when you used to take out time for
the people in your life, no matter how busy you were"

"I dont have people in my life for whom I'd need
to take out the time, which I dont have anyway."

"So dont you have time to miss someone now?? ok then, cant
you remove a minute to remember the good times spent"

"I'd rather not..I dont want to think about
times that have gone, good or bad"

"So you are going to go your way.. you will never consider being a human"

It is possible to not be human, right?? not human enough to have the most vital sensory perceptions.. feel.."

Monday, January 01, 2007

Its Birthday time!!

Some noticed.. some dint..

Along with it being the new day of the new year, it happens to be this blogs First Birthday!!

(Drums roll, and confetti floats all around)

Since it is, I decided to gift my blog something. Its pretty noticeable and pretty obvious and maybe garish. Funny, for someone who does not think that birthdays require huge fanfare, my blog's birthday has seen me grinning like a fool the entire day. I have assiduously hunted up a stat counter, which many people had been asking me to put up and had promised to help me with, tried and understood how it works, and have inserted it in. I even put the little break between I Power blogger and the counter myself, with the help of my limited knowledge of HTML.

Technically, this is not the birthday of my blogging habits but of this blog, because this blog, as few know, has been transported from my earlier MS spaces blog. And since I have no definite idea about when I started blogging then, and since this blog has, for some reason unknown to me, taken on an absolutely different meaning for me, it's my celebrated blog. I would like to thank the people who got me start this blog and they know who I'm talking about. And I would like to thank my friends, family, fellow bloggers... oh enough of that.. :)

If I would have seen this post on someone unknown's blog, I would have smirked at the immaturity, but for once, I just cant help or stop myself. It feels wonderful to do something new to my blog. And yes, I will change the background soon with the help of a knowledgeable blogfriend.

Oh and I dint post this in my earlier post today because I was still hunting for the perfect gift!! You know how difficult that can be!!

A solidified beginning..

It was a peaceful goodbye to the year gone. Spent at home with most of my family sleeping around me, and then watching the sky burst with colors from my terrace. I welcomed the New Year first at Metblogs. And then I did the thing I am most comfortable doing. I spoke to the few people who matter most to me and then drifted off to sleep reading my current obsession in my choice of books, Scruples Two.

Perfectly normal, and perfectly peaceful.

But when I woke up today morning, something has solidified in me. I couldn't put a figure on it, until I was at the breakfast table with my entire family. And it suddenly dawned on me. All the confusion so rampant in me from the past month cleared. It was not a thing to dawn on the first day of a new year. But..

Suddenly I realized that I would go to USA and study. I would come back within 3 years at the max, but I would go.
I will live that life. I will go, far from those I dont want to leave behind me. I will go, see the other kind of life. I will go, and struggle, because I know its more difficult there than here. I will go, and I will hunt for a new life there. I will go, and I will adjust to the change. I will go, and I will still try and remain who I am, a non-conformist.

I will go.