Monday, May 18, 2015

PIKU-Review of the Movie


 
Piku:
Released: 8th of May, 2015
Script and Screenplay: Juhi Chaturvedi
Director: Shoojit Sircar
Actors: Amitabh Bachchan, Deepika, Irrfan, Maushumi Chatterjee
 
All great works of art bring out strong emotions. You cannot stay lukewarm about them. They will either be loved greatly or hated thoroughly. I watched Piku yesterday. Shoojit Sircar comes out with a winner. Well, he crafts and weaves a world of Bengali mind and paints masterly how a Bengali views the world. Every state has its own nuances and Shoojit captures the Bengali perspective masterly. But that is not a credit. What would a Bengali do, if not capture a Bengali character well? Kolkata has largely stayed stuck in the time-warp with its old world charm intact, if you leave Salt Lake part out of it. Even in the New Kolkata part, the character of old Kolkata lingers on as at the first hint of cold monkey caps come out. This makes it easier to invent older time Kolkata on the screen, especially if the director is a Bong.

The movie gets most of its credit for the subject it touches. It looks at the older people and at the risk of going against public idea of morality, is also sympathetic to the young who bear the brunt of the moodiness of the old. But then, the story follows a delicate balance. It tells what it wants to tell. It doesn’t largely take sides. It narrates, without judging which is to the credit of story writer. It is full credit to Juhi Chaturvedi, who wrote the story and screenplay of the film. It is always very possible for a writer to take a position and fall into the trap of becoming a judge instead of being a neutral narrator or story-teller. Juhi has always been a great watcher of people, looking at patterns. We watched it first in Vicky Donor she brought out Lajpat Nagar so vividly in her words and pictures. She touches those caricatures, those cultural ethos of CR Park here in Piku with rare softness.

Bhaskor Bannerjee (not Bhaskar) lives in CR Park, the mini-Bengal in Delhi with his Architect daughter, Piku. He is a forward-thinking man and a man who speaks his mind. He believes marriage is something which ‘Low- IQ’ women do, even in the context of his own, now-dead wife, who he blames for having put her own needs, wants, dreams and choices subservient to Bhaskor. He lives with his thirty year old daughter, Piku, Deepika Padukone. Bhaskor a hard-headed, even if forward looking man, is not much liked by those around him. Bhaskor, in his seventies is a hypochondriac and is not much liked by people in his household, due to his plain-speaking and hard-headedness. Piku, his daughter is an independent minded, but duty conscious daughter of his. Old age is a continuous effort to remain relevant; and the fact remains, that the less the effort, the more graceful the aging. However, Amitabh from the very beginning is not in a bit obnoxious, except for in very rare patches. Mostly he comes across as affable man with naughty tinkle in his eyes. He is true reflection of Terry Pratchett's words, “..inside every old person is a young person wondering what happened”  and even his hypochondriac nature finds resonance in Hemingways, “No, that is a great fallacy: the wisdom of old men. They do not grow wise. They grow careful.”  Well, Irrfan as the owner (rather the son of the owner)- phlegmatic, prudent and troubled by tempestuous tempers of beautiful Piku, who agrees to drive the father-daughter duo from Delhi to Kolkata is Hemingway here, who fearlessly, though with some nervousness, points out Bhaskor’s own old-aged selfishness to him.

As the old oftentimes falls into the trap of crediting themselves with something which they did much as a part of life, as they forget their own ruthlessness with the kids when they were young and kids were truly the kids and believe that the world, or at least their children exist merely to please and entertain them, to bring them glory from the world, in which they are no longer strong and fit enough to compete. I, while writing this, came upon a very wise quote from JK Rowling in this regard where she writes, “Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young.” It weighs heavy on the shoulders of righteous kids aware of their duty towards their parents. Deepika portrays this heavy stress, this anguish wonderfully. She is too talented to be dismissed as another beautiful actress. The trio reaches Kolkata and urged by Irrfan, Bhaskor lets himself go, eats without fear, cycles through the city and then dies a happy man, with relieved emotions and good motion. I could almost hear Dylan Thomas, whispering lightly, “Do not go gentle, into the night.”  

The film doesn’t fall into the usual traps. It treads treacherously close to becoming an Irrfan-Deepika love story, but no, the story escapes the usual narrowly. A plain, charming story of a father – daughter duo, this movie remains just that, full of wit. If wit means Oscar Wilde or Sharad Joshi and you cannot be easily pleased with fat man slipping over a banana peel on the road, this is movie you will love. Timing is an important element of the wit, otherwise what is humorous about the wry retort by ‘Non-Bengali Chowdhury’ Irrfan to Bhaskor’s translation of a bangla song ‘Ei Poth Jodi Na Sheh hoi’ translating to “What if this road doesn’t ends” that “Aisa gana gao jiska koi kaayde ka meaning ho (Sing something sensible rather) ” and points to the silliness of intellectual narcissism. He laments as to why parents at time feel it is alright to emotionally blackmail their kids who on their own are trying best to take care of them, offering possibly the first emotional release to all the pent up anger of the righteous daughter. 
Death can mean many things. It depends on how you look at it. One can be scared of it, enchanted of it, or one can be matter-of-factly about it. It also obliquely tells that most of the difficulty, self-centeredness of the old arise from their own fear of old age and death and at times, they are haunted by their own ways when young. If their strength in youth gave them the confidence to turn away their olds and their young, being unkind to them; they fear the same may come about to them when they are weaker. Their own past haunts their future as debilitating old age is around the corner. Death is inevitable and it will not be traumatic if one approaches it without fear, with a degree of dispassionate acceptance. If you always had trouble embracing life unless it conforms to your desires and plans, you will have trouble embracing death as well, inevitable as it might be. Death and  life after all, are interlaced to one another, as Bhaskor discovers cycling down the lanes of his city, a day before he dies happy. He is able to discover happiness inside, not wanting his daughter to establish happiness for him, learning to be grateful with what he had, his loving, even if busy daughter, his brother, and his beloved, Champakunj. The movie has amazing message, brilliantly written and amazing actors lifts it up further to the point where high literature touches public minds.

My Rating: Not to be missed at all.

Disclaimer: Being father to a seven year old only daughter might have biased me in favor of the movie.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Seven Years of Bliss

There are some events which cuts through one’s life, distinctly breaking it off into two parts like a ripe fruit which has just fallen from the tree. Fatherhood is one such before-after event.

The day is bright one, still bearable for this time of the summer, blessed by unseasonal rains yesterday. Nonu, my daughter, otherwise known as Sanskriti, turns seven today. I still go back seven years back this day. The cool, benign hospital room, her mother slept tired, having brought in a new life into this world. The weather was kind that year as well. Sun was bright, splendid, but kinder than the usual harsh summer day of Delhi. Still remember, walking into the nursery, in a small world of tiny kids, yet unknown to this world, walking into it a stranger. They would open their eyes, tired, somewhat unhappy, out of the safe, comforting womb of their mothers and look a while, disenchanted and go back to sleep.

I went around and saw the third bed and the little one there, held a band on her hand which proclaimed her as Baby of Seema Suryesh. Father is still alien, an outsider to the child, an intruder in the cozy world of togetherness, a magical island of charm between the mother and the child. But I walk to you and hold my finger to you and you wrapped your pink, wrinkled palm around that finger. It is as if we had known each other when you were not yet there beyond a dream. I correct myself. We knew each other even when we both did not exist beyond a dream. As if all my life was a wait for this moment when your palm will curl around my finger.

Daughters are marvelous beings. They are the soft music emancipated from the divine worlds to bless the otherwise bleak, unbelieving world we inhabit. I believe, the saddest, most tired and bruised souls get blessed by daughters as if an embarrassed God wanted to compensate us for having a soul which felt more than what mind could understand. I held you that night, and we slept together. I supported your soft head on my palms, and it was as if your little mind spoke to me through my palms. Little did I know that my entire being since will become centered around you.

I have almost surrendered being anything else other than being a father since you walked into my life with uncertain steps. Then came the school, and still remember being first time addressing myself as Father of Sanskriti. My whole identity, crafted and cultivated all my life will melt into this singular identity- Father of Sanskriti.

We will win and lose together and your pain and sorrows will find a resting place in my heart. You are growing and your world expands beyond me. Sometime, a father may lose out to the mother, especially when you go out to buy all pink from the market. You might be amused when I ask you to run, to play, when I frown at you when you wear your mother’s high heels. But that is all about being a father. I know, I can see your world expanding beyond me. I can see my arms grow weaker, my voice grow fainter. You will have to be strong to be able to live without me, as I will live through you, in you.


That’s is the father for you, a little eccentric, a little paranoid. I try not to scare you when I am scared- for you. Your strength as a person will depend upon my ability to pretend strength when I am scared as hell for your well-being. That and a faith of unquestioned love, which stands beyond my need to look well in family, in the society. I have suffered being measured against the social yardsticks, being asked to prove being worthy of love. I will never hold it against you, not ever. I hope when the world wants me to measure you, against someone else, I will remember myself. I will be the one standing beside you, against the whole world, even when I do not understand you, old and ancient that I am. I will not tell you the right from wrong, I will educate you to know that. We all make our own mistakes, I know you too would make your own.

I will not judge you from the mistakes you make, but by how you bounce back from them. You know, child, father is not a person, a body. It is a cloud which walks with you on harsh summer day and it is a warm thought which wraps around you on cruel winters. I will always be that cloud, that thought. You have blessed my being by the first time you called me Baba, and the first time you smiled your first toothless smile when I came back from the office, in a bright yellow shirt and a brighter tie and you looked at me from your rocker. You have already given me much more than I could ask for by being what you are. I must not want anything more. You are not here to fulfil my dreams, I am there to cherish you flights to the sun, big and small. Go my little Angel, go, be brave and gulp the Sun, for you are loved and watched over.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Media Circus Around Salman Khan Verdict


“Orlando sat so still that you could have heard a pin drop. Would, indeed, that a pin had dropped! That would have been life of a kind. Or if a butterfly had fluttered through the window and settled on her chair, one could write about that. Or suppose she had got up and killed a wasp. Then, at once, we could out with our pens and write. For there would be blood shed, if only the blood of a wasp. Where there is blood, there is life.- Virginia Woolf.

This paragraph picked out of wonderful masterpiece of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando as she explains the predicament of Orlando, the man turned woman, struggling to write a poem, a novel is something every writer faces. Ms. Woolf mentions this as a challenge thrown at a novelist every waking day. But I would presume, the challenge extends in even graver proportions to a new set of writer, which is a journalist.

A modern day journalist needs not only blood, she needs a fresh blood, a blood which is not many day old. She writes not as a response to her need to write, but as a response to her need to be read. If she is a journalist of new age media, she further has the responsibility of keeping people glued to her TV channel. She will shout, hound, harangue against imaginary people who are out to kill and exterminate humanity. Human mind is very adaptable. This flexibility is what is great about human mind. This flexibility is his curse. You put him in the mess and he starts believing it to be his home after a while. He will no longer struggle to get out of it. Beneath the veneer of human intellect, he is no better than Pavlovian frog in such matters. He begins believing that journalism is entertainment. The lines thin and merge. On one hand it kills real literature, it obfuscate the true purpose of journalism.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that a Journalist should surrender the right to a position. But all this frothing out of the corner of the mouth righteousness, irrespective of the position which the event takes, one its own, unguided by the journalistic narrative. That is something which does not quite qualifies for journalism. There has to be some sense of proportion in the outrage, some space of silence in the noise. Just because you hold the mike, doesn’t make you a lawyer, a patriot, a moralist, all rolled in one. I may be one of these, with the most silent voice and you should come to me and ask my opinion. If not, then this becomes what is often termed as media circus.

An accident, an unfortunate event is just that. You report it without jumping up on the table and become a studio socialist carrying forward the case for the masses. A movie star runs over footpath dwellers. Thirteen years hence we come around to some justice, or as we later realize, some semblance of it, only a semblance, a pretense. The Gods of the people come around on Television and announce it as a victory of justice. Something inside me shifts in unease. Didn’t we read somewhere, Justice delayed is justice denied? But then, justice is such an odd and outrageously out-of-reach of human mind kind of idea. We dance in absurd happiness about the vindication of the idea of equity of human beings as court, after wise deliberation of thirteen years convicts the star with five year imprisonment for running over people sleeping on the footpath. He is charged with culpable homicide. The story ends. The studio programming goes for a toss. What do we talk about? The ticker had already run about twenty-four hour non-stop coverage of Salman Khan Verdict. Verdict came, story ends. Prosecution lawyer does not come on TV to talk about biryani. Evidently he is not interested in becoming a celebrity beacon of justice in a country where under-trials equal the population of Denmark.

Media is desperate. The man, the heartthrob, till yesterday proclaimed by them as Controversy’s favorite child, has been convicted, and an efficient battery of lawyers has obtained a quick bail and taken him home. The drama has ended prematurely, tossing off their plans of 24 hours coverage, announced prematurely, with a hope of an immediate jail terms, fans running rampage, rolling on streets, tonsured heads- all such stupidity. No Jail, no drama, what to do. Then, Bollywood comes in solidarity. There is a competition to prove loyalty. Someone says, those sleeping on street are akin to dogs and like dogs they died. A respite, a lifeline of stupidity, and the debate turns to the supporters of Salman. The unsure idiots come to studios trying to justify.

“This accidents could not have happened, if people weren’t asleep on the footpath and had government offered them with shelters” – say some. True, in which case her friend could comfortably have driven on the pavement without killing anyone. What man doesn’t want to drive on a pavement at one time or other? What kind of people would come and sleep on those pavements and prevent him from driving there? I am rich, I paid taxes to the government to make those pavement, I would bloody-well drive over them. She doesn’t know what she is talking about. The singer who compared the dead with the canine is even more absurd. Music surely can take you close to the divine, it cannot cure stupidity. It confounds everyone. So far so good, 5 more hours out of the proclaimed goes in covering this. In the meantime, the story turns. Higher courts grant bail to the superstar. The rich gets the machinery move at dizzying past. The same fuel which made the machinery move so slow that it did not catch up with one elusive witness for all of thirteen years, suddenly moves it so fast that within no time that the star is back at home.

The narrative by this time has lost its pivot. It does not know where to go.

Should we attack the star, his loyalists, the victims or the government? It was an accident. It was nothing that the star wanted to eliminate all the poor people from the face of the city like some politician who visited him to express solidarity. There was no case of class struggle. It was an act of accidental illegality, nothing more, and nothing less. What could however be considered an act of class- discrimination is about how the case was pursued by the legal system and how it was covered by the media. In the meantime, from being a murderer of people, the media has to go back to the tag of conspiracy’s favorite child. The act is barely as disgusting as is our response as a society, as a nation, as media to the act of this innocent drunk accident on one September night, 13 years back. Let us pause, mute the TV sets and introspect. The act while turned out ghastly with death of innocent people, is not the first act of drunk driving, nor will it be last. What about law enforcement? How do you enforce law in a city, where the insult of local food is prime concern of lawmakers and they can bring privilege motion to safeguard the feelings of a sad Vada pao, and when a policeman asks license from a lawmaker, he gets thrashed in public. Let us not go on pretending that Mumbai is a cosmopolitan city and the fact it is not has nothing to do with migrants who went in there to build a pretense of a global city.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Faith In The Time of EarthQuake

Tragedy brings out the best and worst of human beings. They take away the veneer of sophistication and morality stands in its nakedness for all to see. Nepal had one of the worst earthquake of the century, with thousands dead. Tragedies of such magnitude have in them the capability to unclothe us of all the pretensions of larger human good that we have.


We are all fair-weather gentlemen (and ladies) when things are going good. It is easier to adhere to gracious dignity when you are fed well and your life is not in jeopardy. Even more important is the well-being of those around you. You do not take advantage of people when you are not in a position to take advantage of them, or rather they are not in a position to allow you to take advantage of them. That is what defines morality. When we are kind to people who we cannot afford to be unkind to that is nothing but animal self-protection. It is when we are kind to people with whom we have no reason to be kind, people who cannot hit us back; that is divine decency.

Among the dead are roaming the religious people of various hues moving around not to protect and serve them, but to convert their faith. They know out of their homes, having lost their loved ones, these children of broken Earth are at the edge of their fractured belief. How can one continue to believe in a God which sits there on a judgment chair, presiding over the deaths of children, so young that they aren’t yet corrupted by life? How can someone explain to a believer that the tectonics plates shifted without the mother earth pausing to hear the cries of despair of her own children? Although, thanks to the atheist communist philosophy, Nepal is not a Hindu nation anymore. The last bastion of arguably the third largest religion in world is no longer that constitutionally. Beguiled by the developed nations, where heads of state still swear oath to the God and Holy Spirits, Nepal had embraced secularism, but the ethos and the faith of its people is still is Hindu. This tragedy saw people in droves coming in telling them not to restore the citadels of what they call ‘pagan’ belief, the temples and all and rather come to the only savior, the Jesus Christ or to the Religion of Peace which is currently causing big trouble to world peace on account of fanatic believers. They propose to serve the troubled with shamelessly undisguised appeal to join their religion in return to earn their right to their service.

I wonder whatever happened to the sense of humanity. Why this quid pro quo? Why can they not stick to their already shaken belief and still be served? When days are bleak and everything that you know as way of life is lost by the enormity of nature in face of which humanity is next to nothing, it is faith, however fractured, kinship with fellow human beings, however distant and hope in future, however disfigured which keeps life going. It is our capacity to keep on hoping which separates us from other life forms, and elevates us. On the same count, it is our ability to spiral into the deep, dark abyss of hopelessness which again separates us from any other human being. A time of disaster is the time to help our brethren to hold on to that holy hope. The roads are dust filled, debris of a devious, devastating nature is spread around, but life holds hope. The Dharahara Tower came down in 1834, and came up, it went down again in 1934 and again came up. It is the proud head of unbeatable human spirit. Let us fill those audacious wings, through broken and tired at the moment, with our prayers, whichever God we may pray to and see them soar high towards the Sun. We are all one in tragedy. The hope will rise from those broken crevices of the earth on the street of Nepal and make a new nation, of people defiant of the cruelty of nature. All they need is little time and faith, for their faith to heal up. They do not need a new faith.


They need to know that we, who haven’t seen them, breathe for them and pray for them to our Gods which might be different for theirs. It is just a coincidence, a stroke of luck that we are not in the news that we watch and luck, as we know is pretty capricious. Let them be with their faith and be loved as human souls. Let us not deprive them of whatever of faith is left with them, ashen, dust-filled it may be, it is theirs. Let us not hit the people when they are down.  No religion can keep those tectonic plates from moving, or the volcano from erupting in Christian Europe or Tsunami from hitting Indonesia. Religion can help survive these disasters and help us keep the hope alive. I am not a religious person and I do not know if God exists. As Jules Renards once famously quipped, “I do not know if God exists, but it would be better for His reputation if He didn’t”, my sad despair shakes head in agreement in the face of such large-scale, heart-wrenching disaster, but then I also agree with Voltaire in the interest of my best reasons, which I would call hope, that “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him”.  

It would be necessary to restore faith, not to exchange it with a new one as those people that Internet defines as soul vultures, who would scout troubled grounds for religious conversion. I have spent years and years in sales. I still remember when I had been to Nepal for a sales meeting with a prospective customer. The morning when I landed, I got a call from the customer asking if I have reached safely and to further surprise me, asking if he needed to send a car to pick me for the meeting. When was the last time it happened to me that a customer proposed to send conveyance for me for a meeting- Never. Not in India, only Nepal could do that, pamper you as a guest and disarms you as a friend with complete trust. A nation like that needs to be preserved with its faith and philosophy. It would do well for the rest of humanity to preserve such a nation without attempting to scavenge over its dead, to make such a sweet soul subservient. Let us stand by Nepal and preserve the old in the new we build. When the Tectonics moved centuries back, a glorious mountain came into being. A glorious nation will emerge this time as well, glorious, defiant and brave. 

(I hope Rubesh Jha and his family, Deepak Shreshtha (who wanted to send that car) and all the Subishu Staff and their families are safe in this disaster. I hope, my pen-friend, who I lost track of years back, Rhicha Maharjan who ran a book shop in Thamel is fine. You are all loved and thought of, and prayed for. God bless you all.)

Cheeky Quotes

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