Archive for March, 2007

Everything’s Going Wrong in Pakistan!

All’s going wrong in Pakistan!

First Mr. Musharraf sacked Chief Justice Iftakar Muhammad Choudhary. Though the charge was ‘misconduct and misuse’, sotto voce was that Mr. Musharraf didn’t intend to step down as planned to let the General elections happen. There were nationwide attacks as it was perceived as attack against judiciary. Lawyers and judges came out on streets mobilizing the masses….Pakistani police attacked and fired at them…Local media channels covering the protests and police firing were suddenly blacked out.

Shock waves were transmitted through the entire world when Pakistani police attacked the Geo TV station. Everybody gaped in horror when they saw pictures of Pakistani police breaking into the premises of Geo TV only because they had dared to bring the truth live into entire world’s home. This was perceived as an attack on fourth state.

Though U.S. stood by Pakistan calling it an “ally,” it was certainly not easy for Pak President Mr. Pervez Musharraf who was being criticized worldwide. He made a tactical retreat by apologizing for the attack. He blamed it on a “conspiracy to foil his image.” Foil his image, huh?

While all this was going on, defeat of Pakistani cricket team in World Cup at the hands on minnows Ireland ensured their early ouster from the race for most coveted prize in cricket-World Cup. But this was not enough, Pakistani cricket coach was found dead in his hotel room in Jamaica a night after Pakistan’s loss.

And now Jamaican police has confirmed what the entire world believed, Bob Woolmer was murdered. There was no forced entry in his room, no sign of theft except perhaps manuscript of his autobiography is missing. So who killed him?

Pakistani TV channel Geo TV’s journalist Hamid Mir (after the attack on his channel, he has emerged as quite an active International journalist. I wonder who his sources of news might be!) said on a live show on CNN IBN:

“Bob Woolmer was under a lot of stress and anxiety. It was Pakistan cricket team captain Injamam-ul-Haq who has the greatest source of stress to Woolmer.” He came short of saying Injamam-ul-Haq had murdered Woolmer. This when the autopsy report was not yet available to confirm if it was a murder, suicide, or a natural death.

The news channels have started treating Woolmer’s murder as a never-ending soap opera. The main characters being Jamaican Deputy Police Commissioner Mark Shields, members of Pakistani cricket team who were finally allowed to return their homes after several questioning rounds, and some faceless bookies who could have been exposed by Woolmer’s revelations about match-fixing.

As the world waits for this homicide case to be solved, Woolmer’s body lies unburied since a week pending coroner’s inquiry. None of the Woolmer’s family members have yet arrived to claim the body, instead they had requested that the body be flown in to their home in England.

Murder or no murder, once a flamboyant Pakistani team with a stylish Imran Khan as its face has already taken an overt extremist stance. It all started with talented batsman Saeed Anwar’s joining Tablighi Jamat. The excessively bearded Pakistani team now comprises mostly of members from this organization. This change, it is alleged, has been spear-headed by none other than captain Inzamam-ul-Haq. So much that Yousuf Youhana, the only Christian in the team converted to Islam and rechristened himself Mohammed Yousuf. It has been widely speculated that this conversion had been done, against his family’s wishes, in wake of the opportunity to lead Pakistani cricket team as captain. The captains, itseems, have always been Muslim. I wonder how Danish Kaneria, a Hindu, survives in the team. I am curious to know what hear what he would say when asked about it.

All in all, it is not going good for Pakistan.

Fun Tools Online to Unleash Your Creativity

World Wide Web certainly has quite a few engaging tools.

Manga (as comics and printed cartoons are called in Japan) and anime (Japanese word for animation) have gained quite some popularity these days. First it was home-grown Sarnath Banerjee who wrote a graphic novel, then came Sanjay Patel who created manga about Hindu dieties. His illustrations in the book The Little Book of Hindu Dieties has earned good reviews from various fronts. I don’t know what RSS might say about this. Nor do I care what they think about it.

Though Sanjay Patel’s take on why he created this book does matter. It was his attempt to familiarize kids, especially ABCDs (American Born Confused Desis) to their Gods in a fun, interesting way. He self-published his first book. Look at his Web page gheehappy.com to read more about how his book came into being.

So have you, like Patel, ever harbored the ambition to create your own cartoon graphix? Here are some fun tools: Check out this Web link. You can choose a layout, balloon type, and character to create your cartoon and print it. I could have created a whole comic book if they had some more choices of characters, balckgrounds etc. Still it was fun to print my graphix or mail them to friends. 🙂

Hmm… you can also create your own animated movie online. Go right here and start creating your movie. 🙂

That sparked my interest, I stumbled on these fun Web sites:

  1. Visit this Web page, make your choices, and create your movie. What’s more you can share it with your friends. 🙂 This Web site uses MovieMakerV2.0, upgraded versions are in offing.
  2. This is another crazy Web page, where you can create a Star War movie script just by choosing a few options.
  3. Once your movie is created, visit here to create a befitting poster for your movie. It just takes a few minutes to create one if you have your idea clearly in mind.
  4. You might get few more tips to create your poster at this blog.

If this post has sufficiently piqued your interest about animations and films, do Google some more tools and tips. And don’t forget to share them with me. 🙂

A Note for ‘Nishabd’

My granny like all the Indian old-timers is a staunch fan of Amitabh Bachchan. She will never willingly admit an open admiration. But ask her any day, she will vouch for Mr. Bachchans’s acting prowess and his dignified personality.

My granny who is usually completely oblivious of the new movie releases was baffled at a news she had heard other women gossiping. She soon after sought me out to verify the news. She worriedly asked me, “Is it true that Amitabh Bachchcan is acting in a movie where he is lusting after a girl less than his daughter’s age? All the neighbourhood women were criticizing him, that he is tarnishing his reputation by playing such a role in his now senile age.”

!!!

I was not surprised that the neighbourhood women thought so. I was surprised that my granny who never watches these new movies, most probably will not watch this movie, cares enough to ask. I hadn’t yet watched the movie, but I did not want to miss this opportunity to discourse on the cause of freedom of speech. 🙂 I tried to form a suitable response in my mind, something that would be truth yet amenable from my granny’s viewpoint.

Dadi, this movie maybe just a attempt to project that it sometimes old people do feel attraction toward young people. If anyone wants to simply state a story, they should be able to do it on any subject. Our comments and criticisms should depend on the director’s portrayal. The director may have told his story subtly and honestly without lapping the idea (of old man and teenage girl love)? He may have a useful message, who knows? What’s the harm in making a truthful movie about something that does happen somewhere hither and thither?

And then I flashed my trump card:

“And knowing Amitabh Bachchan, do you think he would do a trashy movie full of objectionable (read steamy sex scenes)?” That did it. I doubt if she will watch the movie. But it was enough to justify the involvement of her (possibly) favorite movie star in any such controversial movie.

Choked on Words: Nishabd

Best Friend insisted on watching Nishabd. Aware of his tastes in cinema, I made several subtle attempts to dissuade him. I failed miserably, as always.

Nishabd had already made splash across various media with its unconventional story of 60-year-old man falling in love with 19-year-old teenage girl. Quite unconventional, by Indian standards. Yesterday’s edition of Hindustan Times enlightened me that 15% Americans undergo this phenomenon.

News channels went berserk hoisting a number of interviews with director Ram Gopal Verma and actor Amitabh Bachchan. Not to mention slew of chat shows and discussions on the subject of older man falling in love with teenage girl. I guess Amitabh Bachchan obliged to forestall any impending controversy on the subject. It sure would have been pain to Mr. Bachchan to answer same questions over and over again:

“Were you uncomfortable giving intimate shots with Jiah Khan (actress who is playing the character of 19-year-old)?”

“Why did you choose this role at this age or at this point of your career?” It had, at one point of time, begun to get on the nerves of a viewer.

Shot in Munnar, the movie carries an excellent cinematography. The pictures of tea estate and other locations can easily be termed exotic. Jiah Khan in skimpy clothes made quite a pretty picture. How long can you watch a woman’s body, even if it is a beautiful one? It didn’t help that the camera kept constantly panning to Jiah’s thighs to capture her walk. I was almost relieved when she started wearing trousers and long skirts.

I don’t know what they mean when directors say that film was shot aesthetically. Does aesthetic means keeping sexual undercurrent without including sex? If that is the definition, the movie is aesthetic. However, at the end of the movie, I wasn’t convinced that it was love between 60+ Amitabh and the teenage Jiah Khan. It looked more of an infatuation on both sides.

Director’s Message. Now that is a tricky one! After sitting through two hours of movies, best friend and me concluded here were the two things Ramu wanted to convey:

It quite happens that old ones do fall in love with nublile 19-year-olds.  When that happens, such men are lost. They can neither get what they want for the fear of losing social acceptance nor are they able to do justice to their existing relationships. They are nowhere.

So is Nishabd meant to send out a “Beware” message to all those 60-somethings who yearn for Lolitas. Not quite, it is more of “Look before you leap” message to them. There is another sotto voce message when Amitabh tells Jiah Khan in the movie, “Jindagi apne faisle pur hi jiyo!” Sad, he failed to live up to his advice in the movie. 😦

Amitabh Bachchan, as always, is convincing in his performance. Revathy, as Amitabh’s wife, was wasted, as is cliché for film critics to say when a good actor has nothing much to do in the movie. 

And Jiah Khan? Well, she was the surprise in the movie. She has a great screen presence and was effortless in her role as a carefree teenager. I particularly remember her expression in one scene where she made veteran Amitabh admit that he was in love with her. I thought I saw triumph in her face. It must have been a daunting task to match up to India’s one of the most iconic actors. It was one of the best performances of a debutante. I am looking forward to see more of her. It would be interesting to see how her career shapes up in Bollywood. (😳I am dead if any of the film fraternity finds me using this term. Bollywood, huh? ) 8)

Lotus in the Mud

Every day we get bombarded with huge number of forwarded e-mails in our mailboxesbe it official or personal. For all the forward mails you receive from your colleagues or other friends working in other corporate offices, you can be sure they are being exchanged amongst 10 others at the same time you receive yours. As it happens, sometimes you receive the same mail thrice in a day from three different people. Sometimes you forward a mail to your colleagues that they might have received already. 😦

Sad thing is this most of us don’t realize it. Whenever we read one of these mails that we liked, we don’t miss a moment to hit the “Send” button. Only problem is others like it too and they too forward same e-mails with similar swiftness. It is especially cumbersome when several friends from the same circle, workplace, or community take liking to a same mail. It is quite possible you receive same mail several times. 😡 It has happened to me quite often and I have sulked at the trend.

Having said that, I must admit my love for the emails that have Web links for puzzles, online advertisements, video clips and so on. Take a look at these viral advertisements for Airtel, Microsoft Outlook, and Protex. All of these Web links arrived in my mail box with instructions to have audio on. They are all very enjoyable and successfully manage to get their messages across. I wrote appreciation mails to the sender of these Web links. 8)

I have also come to love some online tests. I particularly liked this personality test. The feedback that I received from my friends was awesome, they agreed that the results reflected their true personality. It was particularly hilarious when I persuaded a colleague, Arvind, to take this test as a experiment. His final result stated, “You take fashion trends to the EXTREME!” We all burst out laughing. That was true. Arvind is known to wear most rangeela and flamboyantly patterned clothes at work! 😀

As for me, I like to believe all these online tests whenever the results are good to me. 😉

It is like finding lotus in the mud of spam.

Happy Woman’s Day!

Wow!

The flurry of both sms and e-mails received today makes me think of Holi that was on 4th March. Four days later, women’s day wishes and messages piled up with same zest they had on Holi. Does that mean women is more respected and enpowered in my country now when we have started celebrating the spirit of the day?

I could not believe it when HR department of the company where I work appears with goodie bags meant to be distributed among women. We were given beautiful roses that had all thorns well hiddden in a glittering plastic. (How apt!)

There were other goodies and chocolates for us. For once, greedy men at work were really J:mrgreen:

I do not know what happen to billions of other women especially those who inhabit the countryside. I revelled in the day. 🙂

But I need to find out about others.

Satyajit Ray: Speaking of Films

I did not regret my decision to buy Satyajit Ray’s book Speaking of Films for even a second. After seeing my friend off, I started reading the book while traveling on my way back home. I was completely captivated by the book for next hour. So much that after the Metro dropped me at the station near my home, I headed straight to a small park that was en route my home. My reading continued, while I had comfortably ensconced myself in a bench at park. My reading was interrupted only when I received an anxious call about my whereabouts from my grand father on my cell phone.

The book in question is an insightful beginner’s guide to the art of film making. Speaking of Films is a collection of Satyajit Ray’s writings on cinema that were published in 1976. Ray is India’s most prolific director who has also penned several memorable characters and stories in his books. His Apu triology movies—Pather Panchali, Aparajito, and Apur Sansar are some of his best known work. He won a special lifetime achievement Oscar award 1992 just a few days before his death. As a kid, I remember reading in Bournvita Quiz Book about Ray’s famous reaction when he lifted the Oscar while in his sick-bed. It was something like, “It’s so heavy!”

This book begins with Ray recounting the story of his life and work. He loved music. He left no stone unturned to explore all the music that caught his fancy. He wanted to become a commercial artist. He joined Tagore’s Shantiniketan against his own wishes “in deference of his mother’s wishes.” He dropped in the middle of his five-year course at Kala Bhawan—College of Arts and Crafts at Shantiniketan. Shantiniketan groomed him to discover his roots. His repertoire of work has been clearly indicative of culture and development of Bengali cinema. He had, learned two other things from Shantiniketan that would perhaps later aid him as a film maker- to look at paintings and nature.

He traces an enlightening outline of evolution of cinema from the silent era to the color films. Though he chiefly speaks about evolution of Bengali cinema, he has also recorded the development of other cinema such as Soviet cinema in some articles. He speaks about every aspect of film making—adaptations from book, imagery, script writing, music, dialogue, use of color, etc. As if to present an example, there is a chapter “The Making of a Film: Structure, Language, and Style” that explains frame-by-frame how a scene from the original book has been translated into his movie Pather Panchali. He speaks about old films like De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves that influenced him deeply. He keeps referring to tidbits from Soviet Russia’s Sergei Eisenstein, whom he considers one of the greatest directors of the world. His unmistakable admiration for Eisenstein’s lectures and theories is so profuse, I decide to Google Eisenstein at the next opportunity available.

Ray writes about difficulties directors face while adapting books into films. The difference is in the language of the medium. Writers use words in their books, while film directors use images and sounds to narrate their stories. He enumerates several examples of challenges encountered by him while translating various stories from books that often lacked visual details into his screenplays. He explains his discontent with available Bengali literature with these words:

“I don’t now if it is a reflection of the Bengali temperament, but many of our writers seem more inclined to use their minds, rather than their eyes and ears. In other words, there is a marked tendency to avoid concrete observation.” (22)

He deftly analyzes his movie Charulata, based on Tagore’s story Nastneeer, to defend why a director needs to invent or modify details while narrating the same story from the original book on the large screen. Perhaps if you read Ray’s analysis on the subject, you will gladly absolve the sins committed by likes of Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Pradeep Sarkar, who presented their magnum opus adaptation of original novels of Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay in Devdas and Parineeta respectively.

Ray is open in expressing his admiration and reverence for the Bengali writer Bibhuti Bhushan Bandopadhyay. Most of Ray’s famous films such as Pather Panchai, Ashani Sanket, Aparjito, Apur Sansar have been based on the works of Bibhuti Bhushan.

Ray candidly writes, “If film books did not help me much, I was helped enormously by Bibhuti Bhushan. He is one writer whose stories are a gold mine of cinematic observation, and it is fortunate that I developed a taste for him right at the start of my career. Even in his lesser works—and there aren’t many that rise to the heights of Pather Panchali and Aranyak—his eye and ear produce marvels of observation.”(19)

He goes to the extent of advising the aspiring screenplay writers:

“However, if a scriptwriter wishes to learn how to writes such lines by studying literature, I can recommend one writer without slightest hesitation. He is the late Bibhuti Bhushan Bandopadhyay. No other writer can be looked upon as a guru in the matter of writing dialogue for a film script.”(122) :mrgreen:

Ray goes on to express his views on the complicated love-hate relationship between a film critic and movie director. He asserts that it is a critic’s main responsibility to “build a bridge between the director and audience.” A critic, according to Ray, should “substantiate his praise or criticism with appropriate evidence.” Ray is quite merciless when he counters his critics:

“From the lines quoted from Bibhuti Bhushan, it becomes quite clear that the critic has neither read Pather Panchali nor Aparajito with care; or else the only intention behind quoting these lines was to belittle the script of Apur Sansar.” (136)

Sample his following comments for another unfortunate critic, Mr. Rudra:

“I do not know if Mr. Rudra understands anything of literature. Of films he understands nothing, but it is not just that. He doesn’t understand when things are explained to him. In other words, he is totally beyond redemption. He may have seen good films abroad. But who has told him that anyone who has seen good films can automatically appreciate them, or has the write to write about them?” (143) 👿

And unlike his critics, Ray never fails substantiate his counterpoints with rock hard evidence.

When I was in school, I had often heard cynics complaining that Ray only chose to showcase rural Indiain his movies, did he find urbane India lacking the soul of nation? Ray confronts this with two practical reasons: mounting costs and the problems that crop due to huge crowds that always assemble during the shooting of a movie in Indian cities.

Ray reminisces characters, actors from his movies and stray incidents that occurred during the making of his various films. He concludes his writings with:

“….., I can say at least this much with confidence: if I read a good story, or think of one, I can now turn it into something suitable for cinema and present it in a cohesive form. ….”

Fair enough, Mr. Ray!

Books Over Coffee

Other day I discovered the biblical pleasures of Oxford Bookstore standing in the heart of the city at Cannaught Place. It was a dear friend who, well aware of my love for books, took me there.

We browsed for hours looking for books of our choice. More than buying the book, it was more important to discover a book that would satiate that unquenching thirst to delve into the world of interesting unknown. Unknown to us, even if the rest of the world was well aware about it.

We browsed through books recounting exceptional stories of Mukhtar Mai, the courageous Pakistani gang-rape victim; Umarao Jaan Ada, famous courtesan of Lucknow whose life has several times been retold by both writers and film-makers; Feluda, a literary creation by Oscar-winning Indian director Satyajit Ray and so on. We discovered more works of Robin Sharma, packing another cognitive inspirational dose into his book; Mark Tully, celebrated ex-BBC journalist who has described India like no other; Willaim Dalrymple, who has recently emerged as one of the most authentic historians who have captured India; Manju Kapoor, an English Professor at a Delhi college who rose to fame when her maiden book Difficult Daughters won the Commonwealth award. There was English journalist Jessica Hines’s Looking for Big B: Bollywood, Bachchan, and Me. Jessica recently hogged the news for allegedly being mother of Bollywood actor Aamir Khan’s child, Jaan. The reviews of her book hit media a week later than I discovered the book. There wasn’t anything notable in reviews, though.

Then there were latest books on Gandhi written by some of his clan. Not to mention coffee-tablers from Khushwant Singh, whose work more or less seems to be restricted to these coffee-tablers and columns in his now senile age. Not to mention books by various chefs bartenders listing their recipes for all kinds of imaginable cuisine and cocktails. There were several other writers who extolled their knowledge on every possible discipline—photography, painting, paper craft, gift wrapping, job hunting, and what-not. 🙄

My first tentative selections were Mark Tully’s India in Slow Motion, Khushwant Singh’s translation of Umrao Jaan Ada, Sarnath Banerjee’s The Barn Owl’s Wondrous Capers—much-hyped graphic novel, and Satyajit Ray’s Speaking of Films. We carried our books to the coffee table in the bookstore and placed our order. It gave me enough time to devour few chapters of Sarnath’s comic book. I quickly followed the quirky cartoon stories set in Bengal. Having spent considerable time in this state, I could identify with the story. I remember one comic story about “Milk of Magnesia” that Bengalis often need due to their heavy consumption of Hilsa fish. Though I appreciate the comic sense and realism in the stories, I fail to recall the drawings in the book. I regret this because it was after all a comic book. Perhaps it has got more to do with lack of my taste for drawing or imaging or maybe there weren’t any extra-ordinary sketches that merited the memory. I will let the experts decide it.

It was then my friend decided to take charge of the situation. I was quickly reminded that the idea was to spend some ‘quality time’ together and not to immerse completely in book. Observing my dilemma over the subject of buying book, my final decision was quickly expedited after following advisory retorts:

“You don’t need to buy India in Slow Motion. I have it at my place and I have already read it. I will give it to you”

“Why do you want to read a translation of Umrao Jaan Ada? Read it in Hindi when you know the language” 😐 (Though the original is written in Urdu, I believe)

“Buy this Satyajit Ray. It should be good. You will like it.”

It made sense, we had been talking about making a film little while ago. Decision was made. Sorry Mark Tully. Sorry William Dalrymple. Perhaps, next time. 😉

More on Angst Philosophy

It was revealing to realize I am not the only one who is odynophobhic. I discovered a symapthizer in George Orwell. Here’s what his protagonist Winston says about pain in his book “Nineteen Eighty Four” on page 251:

“Never, for any reason on earth, could you wish for increase of pain. Of pain you could wish only one thing: that it should stop. Nothing in the world is as bad as physical pain. In the face of pain, there are no heroes, no heroes, he thought over and over as he writhed on the floor, clutching uselessly at his disabled left arm.”

How apt! This when few moments ago Winston was considering to take Julia’s share of pain so that she is happy and nothing harms her. Quite a treacherous revelation! Can we betray our loved ones when faced with tormenting unbearable pain? Think about it.

Nineteen Eighty Four

I finished reading George Orwell‘s Nineteen Eighty Four few days back. This book is pioneer of famous Big Brother concept with iconic slogan: “Big Brother is Watching You.” It triggered several popular Big Brother shows that have made millions reality TV celebrities. Recently it was our home-grown actress Shilpa Shetty who made hay while the show was on. Big Brother has also been telecast in various desi versions such as Big Boss that had many little known ‘celebrities’ as their stars.

In George Orwell’s book, Big Brother is watching every citizen every moment to monitor if they commit any thought crime. There were life size large cameras in every home and workplace. People are watched constantly, they are encouraged to give away their spouses, children, parents to the thought police. The Ministry of Love (ironic name, huh) then inflicts pain and other tortures to convert a rebel’s hatred of Big Brother into love for Big Brother. Once rebels are converted and become completely subservient to Big Brother, they are executed. All rebels die loving Big Brother.

Nineteen Eighty Four is story of Winston who secretly does not agree with Big Brother. He keeps secret rebellious thoughts in his mind evading the screen in his room and work. He starts keeping a secret diary. This was an act of rebellion as Big Brother had prohibited diaries. Writing diaries encouraged independent thought and that was considered crime by Big Brother. He participates in Big Brother’s Two Minutes Hate with disdain.

Winston works in record department of Ministry of Truth that is concerned with news, announcements, and entertainment. A part of his job is to edit all the old news that was published or released to public before. Confusing, eh? Let’s take an example. Big Brother awarded Mr. X for excellence in the month of January. As it turned out Mr. X was found to be committing thought crimes in February, thus he was eliminated and locked away in Ministry of Love for correction of his crimes. It was Winston’s department that corrects all the old records such as the news item of the month of January, erasing every trace of existence of the rebels. Winston is aware how Big Brother misles the world.

Winston manages to find his partner in crime in Julia who looks like a good party worker on surface but has been dodging Big Brother’s thought police for years. He is delighted when Julia tells him that she has slept with other guys before. Enjoying sex was a crime under Big Brother, the fact that Julia enjoyed it proved that she was a rebel of his kind. This endeared Julia to Winston. This is what Winston tells Julia:

“Listen. The more man you’ve had, the more I love you. Do you understand that?”

“I hate purity. I hate goodness! I don’t want any virtue to exist anywhere. I want everyone to be corrupt to bones.”

He asks Julia: “You like doing this, I don’t mean simple me: I mean the thing in itself?”

Any man would not say the first two statements to his girl in normal circumstances. But life under Big Brother was not normal in any way. Winston was married, but his wife was an unthinking woman who blindly believed Big Brother’s every diktat including sex, to the frustration and dismay of Winston. She would have denounced Winston to Big Brother any day had she stayed with him.

Winston and Julia find themselves in love with each other in such extraordinary circumstances. They continue with their escapades till they are captured by thought police one day. They are tortured and forced to betray each other. They are inflicted with so much pain that they actually betray each other in their thoughts. During one such painful experience, Winston shouted, “Do it to Julia! Do it to Julia! Not me! Julia! I don’t care what you do to her. Tear her face off, strip her to the bones. Not me! Julia! Not me!”

That was the beginning when Winston, one of the most difficult rebels of Big Brother, embarks on his journey toward feeling love for Big Bother. Big Brother triumphs.


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