Sunday, 30 June 2013

Raanjhanaa: a short review

Let me first point out that my main motive behind watching any film is the story. If the story is too simple (read non existent story) or too complex (read mind boggling), the movie doesn't work for me. As an example, I did not like Avatar because the story didn't have anything new. I watched the 2D version because it was not the technology that dragged me to the theatre. So, my review would be more story centric. I would try not to reveal the complete story of the move but discuss a few scenes to deconstruct it. Essentially, this would be what one might call 'a social scientist's review'.

Raanjhanaa: return of the 'you and I' hero
So, with that basic information (bias) let me proceed to the new Bollywood movie Raanjhanaa. In the first instance I think I would have to accept that just like its name the movie seemed a bit long, which also translates into the fact that the story did not hold throughout. However, Raanjhanaa did somewhat succeed in transporting me to the era of Amol Palekar and Farooq Sheikh when heroes used to be real men. They did not sport six packs and slick hair.

Kundan (Dhanush) is a simple boy next door. The son of a Tamil Brahmin, now settled in Banaras, Kundan runs in the streets, playing Holi. He drenches himself and others in colour, just like you and I would do. He never tears his cloths off, just like you and I wouldn't. He falls in love, is jealous and angry when the girl loves someone else, just like you and I would be. The chink in the armour of this boy next door, 'you and I-like' 12 year old Kundan reveals itself when he falls in love with Zoya, a muslim girl living nearby. Religion is such a strong divider in any society (more so in Indian) that a Hindu (or a muslim) boy may like (or love) a Muslim (or a hindu) girl but would think a 100 times before approaching her. Bollywood, which has been unifying India for about a 100 years now, intervenes here. Kundan seamlessly approaches Zoya and professes his love. This is not something you and I would easily do.
Hindu Kundan professes his love to Muslim Zoya

However, after this reality strikes. The girl's parents find out about their puppy love and the ugly face of our social fractures is revealed. Zoya is send away from the boy (mainly for falling in love with a Hindu). Their 'paths of love' diverge for ever. After this Zoya and Kundan meet each other at several instances in the movie but their love never does. The story continues on a very realistic path meandering here and there. The screenplay writers have done a decent job bringing in references of some recent social and political movements. As I said before, the story did not hold throughout, but did the job mostly. Dhanush, I thought, was very good while Sonam Kapoor was midiocure. Both Swarna Bhaskar (Bindiya) and Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub (Murari) were excellent. Abhay Deol had a comparatively smaller role so I would refrain from passing a judgement on him. The streets of Banaras were excellently shot complementing Dhanush's small town charm.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

चश्मे की धुंध

बाबा हमें हैरत से देख रहे थे और हमारा ड्राईवर बाबा को 
कुछ साल पहले की बात है। औरंगाबाद (महाराष्ट्र वाला नहीं, बिहार वाला) में घूम रहा था। तब मेरे पास नौकरी थी, गाड़ी थी (कंपनी की), बैंक बैलेंस था (छोटा सा)। लेकिन करता तब भी वही था जो आज करता हूँ। गाँव गाँव घूम कर लोगों से बातें। फर्क सिर्फ इतना है की तब सिर्फ दिन में घूमता था और अब रातों को भी घूमता हूँ। खैर, सर्दी की एक सुनहरी दोपहर में, एक खेत के पास खटिया पर बैठकर कुछ ग्रामीणों से चर्चा कर रहा था। तभी थोड़ी दूर से चलते हुए एक बुज़ुर्ग वहां पहुचे। सफ़ेद धोती और हल्का पीला कुर्ता। गाढ़ा सा एक कम्बल ओढ़े और सर पर अपना सफ़ेद गमछा लपेटे। हाँथ में सहारे के लिए एक छड़ी लिए हुए। हमलोगों से थोड़ी दूर पर खड़े हो गए, शांति से। कुछ बोले नहीं, बस ताकते रहे हमारी ओर। ऐसा लग रहा था जैसे कुछ ढूंढ रहे थे। न जाने क्या? न जाने कब से?

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Ohm's law or Shukla's

I distinctly remember that 6th form (Class 12) classroom. As usual I was sitting on the last bench, doodling on my notebook. My nemesis was standing at the head of the class. Our physics teacher, Mr. Ranga Reddy. We used to fondly (or hatefully) call him Ranga. Ranga was a serious man. The lines on his forehead were always distinct. He was tall and dark but sadly not handsome. Everything about him was dominating, except his pencil moustache and the bushes (of hair) on his ears. They gave him away, made him look damn funny. But make no mistake. Runga was not one to make or take humour. Ranga was a serious man. He wasn't one to tolerate kids making doodles in his class. Ranga was alway Reddy (ready) to bash such kids up. 

Anyway, this story suddenly came to my mind because its an outlier, a never before, never after incident. I don't exactly remember the date or the day. More importantly I don't remember which direction the sun came out from that day. As usual Ranga entered the class and we all stood up (good moring sir!). Thats how we do it in India. A teacher is only next to god, sometime before god. So, Ranga, our god for the next hour walked in, took off his coat and hung it on the back of his chair. He picked the chalk (remember the cylindrical chalk) and wrote on the blackboard, 

Ohm's law

Yes, we were in Ohm territory. Not the Sanskrit Ohm though. That particular Ohm was my nemesis until class 8 when Sanskrit was compulsory for us. God knows how tiered I got of failing every exam. Thank god Sanskrit was out of way now. But this Ohm was no less scary. This was some German who had made some kind of law in physics that apparently now we had to learn and mug up. Dam Ohm! As usual the topper of our class (sitting on the first bench) stood up and asked,"Sir! Will this be in exam?" Ranga who would have otherwise got angry of such a question, mildly said, "Yes, of course". God knows what the astral positions were today. Ranga was mild. 

Anyway, he proceeded with Ohm's law. 

Saturday, 8 June 2013

random strangers, random encounters

Some of us live for random encounters and some of us are scared of random encounters. Rajneesh lies somewhere in the middle. He loves random (happy) encounters but is scared to approach random strangers.  Its like a curse.

the lanes buzzed with people
Rajneesh admires people who can smile at others on the street, being absolutely confident or not caring at all about other person's reciprocation. He looks up to people who are able to approach random strangers in a gathering and talk to them flawlessly. Rajneesh is ok if someone introduces him to a stranger (no longer stranger eh!). So, Rajneesh is not a socially awkward person, he just lack initiative.

Anyway, this is the story of a few days from Rajneesh's life, packed with random encounters, colours and experiences.

colours of the morris dancers
It was a nice sunny day. The lanes were full of people, arms brushing against each other (sorry! pardon me! excuse me!). And why wouldn't they be, it was the weekend, the sun was out. In short it was what the british like to call 'a glorious day'. To add the cherry on the cake, 'the festival' was on. So, the lanes with  their amazing shops and cafes were not only buzzing with people but also artists, bands and dance groups. Rajneesh was walking around with his friend Chutki. They were looking for a place to grab some lunch at. As they were looking around, two old women passed by them and one said to the other, "there are too many good shops here". Rajneesh and Chutki looked at each other, "just what we were thinking". The lanes with 'too many good shops' were just mesmerising. Anyway, they grabbed some lunch and moved on. As, they reached 'the Tavern', another amazing sight greeted them. A crowd had gathered near the Tavern and several groups of Morris dancers were standing by. Several dresses, head gears, face paints, masks, feathers, colours, shapes, sizes, ages were in front of R&C. This is where they had their first encounter.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Mao rules in the land of Gandhi

Gandhi as we all know is known as the father of the Indian nation. Similarly, Mao Zedong is seen to be the builder, if not the father of modern China. However, both have striking differences, as do the two nations. Gandhi believed in the power of non violence and not only practiced it but also rejected those using violence. Case in point, Bhagat Singh. Gandhi always carried a stick in his hand but never used it on anyone (as far as I know). Mao on the other believed in the power of violence. According to him, power grew out of the barrel of the gun. After all it was the gun which brought him and his party to power after several years of civil war. 

The gun taking over in India?
But then, that is China. We in India believe in the philosophy of Gandhi, more or less. Not really. I was just trying to sound patronising. If the media is to be believed, large parts of the country (India that is) are embracing Mao and his philosophy. Although I am doubtful if these embracers are able to actually pronounce Mao's full name correctly. Anyway, according to some reports about 175 districts across India are now affected by Maoists. A couple of weeks ago about 200 maoist guerrillas surrounded a Congress party (Gandhi's party?) convoy and killed several of its prominent leaders. I wonder if this is some kind of a proxy war of ideology being fought by Gandhi and Mao in the heavens (or where ever they may be) using those on the earth as pawns.

Although, at this point I must clarify that the Congress party as it is currently is not really Gandhi's party. Its more like Congress (I), Congress party of Indira. Some say she also believed in the flow of power or the growth of power from the guns. So, this should have been the reconciliation point with Mao. However, it isn't. This actually is the point of departure for the government of India and the maoists.

The very fact the India is no longer a country run on the principles of Gandhi (Mohandas not Indira) may be at the root of some of its citizens (do they qualify as citizens) bent towards Mao and his gun. Gandhi (Mohandas) believed in the power of the grassroots. He wanted the power to be with village councils, the power of choice, of decision making. Modern India (shaped possibly a lot by the other Gandhi (Indira)) believes in centralised power. Power and choice flows from the planning commission in Delhi to the tribal village in Chattisgarh. Gandhi believed in harmony with nature. Modern India believes in growth rates and nature doesn't contribute to growth rate. Forests don't power growth rates, its the coal under the forests that powers growth rate. These are just two examples of modern India's departure from Gandhi's (Mohandas) principles but there are several others that one could come up with. So, while the government or the ruling class as bit adieu to Gandhi's principles why should the guy at the bottom embrace it. He now finds Mao more appealing. Walking on Gandhi's path hasn't brought him justice so why not try Mao once.

Is this growing disenchantment the reason for the spread of Maoists in India or are there more materialistic reasons? I am still confused so I am leaving this post with only half the discussion, possibly one side of the story, one pathway. I am looking for the alternate pathways, other narratives and hopefully write another post on why now Mao rules in the land of Gandhi.