Saturday, January 31, 2009

Some Dog is a Millionaire!

Slumdog Millionaire is the story of a slum-dweller who was born and brought up in what is depicted as the crap-pit of the world. But he’s like no other. He decides to grab the world by its crack, and beat the crap out of it. He’s the kind who takes all the shit that the world doles out at him, only to emerge a victor, eventually. The only difference between this movie and several Indian movies which celebrated the underdog’s life in the 50s is the fact that Danny Boyle, the director of SM, focused on the “crappy” part of slum life with details that went to tasteless proportions.

But why has it elicited praise and accolades from western critics, while it continues to face the wrath of various sections of the Indian public. The answer, I believe, lies in the differing perspectives of Indians and the rest of the world about abject poverty.

Danny Boyle’s SM was a bullet which shattered the Kevlar that protected me from the knowledge of life in Mumbai’s Slums. Has he or any of the members of SM’s Team experienced life in Mumbai’s Slums, you ask. I cannot say for sure, because I never wanted to know what lies beyond whatever little I saw of Dharavi, from the window of a local train. Honestly, I’d turn away from the stench and avoid the ghastly sight. I’d never even mention this place when I spoke of the city I loved dearly. Never had I thought Dharavi could actually inspire a thought, leave alone poetry, songs, music, a story, romance or anything with a remote semblance of a good life. This is where we should draw a line with our cynicism and appreciate Boyle, Rehman and everyone involved with the fairy tale that is – Slumdog Millionaire.

While Bollywood Directors spend millions of dollars to fund their “dream” projects in “dream” locales, here’s a Brit who found his latest “love story” in the most disowned area of Mumbai, in the labyrinthine lanes of Dharavi. I’ve not read Vikas Swaroop’s book to use it as a parameter to judge the screenplay, so I’ll just speak of everything else.

Firstly, if we had a scale which would have artsy and masala on the two ends, SM would be inclined towards the latter end. It is neither a Bicycle Thief that would inspire Ray to make Pather Panchali, nor is it a DDLJ that would inspire every production house to make movies with larger-than-life NRI storylines, which would relegate Laxmi Mittal’s opulent lifestyle to modesty. Slumdog’s different.

SM narrates the life of a slum-dweller, who turns into a renegade, fighting all the norms of a “slumdog” – a term that has offended many. It is Jamal’s pursuit of love against all odds – poverty, religious vandalism, child abuse, fraud, the underworld, prostitution, organized crime, violence, economic and social disparity, corruption, and everything else that every Indian would turn their head away from in shame. And yet, he emerges a victor. “Larger than Life”, did I hear you say? But why “dwell” so much on all these ills, you ask. It is because we have simply refused to do so ourselves, “dwell” on the subject that is, that we are not able to digest Boyle’s bold portrayal. How much can a vilayati possibly sugarcoat the crap, which is life in the slums?

Now coming to the direction and editing. Brilliant! Each answer on the TV show becoming a key that unlocks the pandora’s box of Jamal’s past, a narrative device kept from cliche by deft direction and slick edits. And SM is certainly not without its share of inspiration. Black Friday and Satya probably had a big role in shaping Boyle’s directorial route, but that’s taking no credit away from the chase sequence early in the movie. Lathi-laden Havaldars chasing a bunch of brats all over Dharavi, with “Oh Saya” is the background is undoubtedly a directorial masterpiece.

There is also a powerful visual interpretation of Mumbai. The movie, much like the city itself, overflows with opposites. Paradoxical collisions were never known to make a memorable cocktail - horror and joy, colourful fantasy and grimy reality, history and hyper-modernity. Through SM, we find that there are rich hues in the homes of the poor, beauty in the grotesque, music in noise, happiness in sad living conditions, and poetry in poverty. Haven’t we been guilty of turning our aristocratic heads away from Dharavi, because it inspired little? Hasn’t this westerner just exposed our myopic outlook of cinema, and life in general?

As for Rehman’s original background score, which may win him a maximum of two Oscars, though being far from his best, it was apt, definitely worthy of an Oscar if it wins one. Rehman composed music that fit the mood of the film like a glove, much like the soundtrack of Atonement or American Beauty did for their respective movies. And I reiterate, “Oh Saya” rocks!

Another debate doing the rounds among the intellectual circles in India is if SM really deserved 10 nominations. In response, I’ll say Slumdog will only compete with movies that have been released in 2008. It’s not competing with a Life is Beautiful or a Schindler’s List. So either we celebrate the production of a well-executed movie, or a fall in the standard of movies competing for the Oscars. If it wins an Oscar for the best movie, Bollywood will proudly flaunt her Digitus Impedicus to her glamorous sister in LA.

To sum it up, Slumdog Millionaire is a feel-good movie. You’ll be glued to your seats, just like the time when you cheered Harshvardhan Navathe, who went on to become the first Crorepati on KBC. You’ll rejoice the triumph of Jamal at the denouement, just as you jumped with joy when Shreeshant held on to a skier, which brought India the first T20 World Cup. And you’ll even be implored into dancing in the very streets where this movie was shot, or sing “Jai Ho!” at CST (I thought it looked like Victoria Terminus, but correct me if I’m wrong). Alright, maybe that’s pushing it too far. Probably that’s sending reality into a different Space-Time coordinate. But then, isn’t it what we come to expect from movies?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Dangling Conversations

I've gone through an ABBA phase, and then a Beatles phase. This followed a Bob Dylan phase. And a Frank Sinatra phase. And preceding all this was a Simon and Garfunkel phase. So why does one go through these phases over and over again. It's definitely not a passe, and I believe it, as a subject, deserves some pondering on my part.

So why does a Frank Sinatra tune run in my head. Why is it that when I try my hand at poetry, my muses are straight out of Bob Dylan's verses. Or why does Paul Simon's lyrics inspire me to write, when Robert Frost's poems fail to do the same? Why do I sing "With a little help from my friends" at a karaoke bar, or tap my feet to "Take a chance on me"? Why is it that the more we listen to their music, the more indelible our mental image, of these artists, becomes? The answer lies in the astonishing detail in every note, in every lyric, in every emotion.

The aforementioned "phase" is a time when all the emotions that an artist's song elicits somehow chimes with our own thoughts. And the artist's ability to express only highlights our own inability to do the same.

Its a still life water color,
Of a now late afternoon,
As the sun shines through the curtained lace
And shadows wash the room.
And we sit and drink our coffee
Couched in our indifference,
Like shells upon the shore
You can hear the ocean roar
In the dangling conversation
And the superficial sighs,
Are the borders of our lives.

And you read your emily dickinson,
And I my robert frost,
And we note our place with bookmarkers
That measure what weve lost.
Like a poem poorly written
We are verses out of rhythm,
Couplets out of rhyme,
In syncopated time
Lost in the dangling conversation
And the superficial sighs,
Are the borders of our lives.

Yes, we speak of things that matter,
With words that must be said,
Can analysis be worthwhile?
Is the theater really dead?
And how the room is softly faded
And I only kiss your shadow,
I cannot feel your hand,
Youre a stranger now unto me
Lost in the dangling conversation.
And the superficial sighs,
In the borders of our lives.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Before Sunrise

Y: tell me there is hope for ambition-less people like me.

X: what you talking abt??Y!!

Y: I feel all hope is not lost.
I didn’t mean that in an offensive manner :)

X: sweetheart! there was no offense taken!

Y: heh :)
that 'Y!!!' was almost like X giving me a earful for my nonsense
reminded me of the times when i have fucked up
n you have managed to set me straight

X: it's just that you relegated yourself to one with no ambitions...

Y: be honest

X: I know that's not true

Y: what do you call someone who only wants to earn some money
so that she can buys books, camera lenses, travel, watch movies
there is nothing else..
i shoot film too. i must show you some pics when i scan them

X: what do you call a lady who does all the things you do?
highly date-able!
are you still single?

Y: hahaha

X: :D

Y: yes. i'm very much single.

X: awww...(blushes)

Y: do I look like I’ll have a body double? :P

X: oh man!
you just killed that spark of romance!!
Here's a love story that suffered a "pun"ishing end,
even before it began

Y: hehe
sorry sorry i was just being myself.
now ill get back...
on track

X: i worry abt you...
i do...

Y: heh. why do you worry about me X?

X: it's just that when you were arnd here...

Y: yeah...

X: i could walk down to your place from my match box
and I'm not able to do that now

Y: yeah...

X: especially when you say things like
"I have no ambitions in life"

Y: but X, unfortunately that is the truth everytime i have to look for a job
they ask me to fill up these forms about
short term n long term career goals
and i never have answers
then i sit back n ponder and think what is it that i want
and i realise that i come up with the same answer everytime.
i just want to make some money not great money or anything..
i just want to be able to afford books, travel i dont think
i have any issues living paycheck to paycheck

X: mail me those forms,
I try my hand at fiction often enough

Y:hehe! will do will do

X: but baby, we all live paycheck to paycheck,
Doesn’t matter how much you earn,
You always wait for the next paycheck,
Each of us have our share of mortgages

Y: yeah...but there's no other ambition..
i mean, like you knew you wanted to become a writer
i don't even have any ambition like that
any job will do.
just pay me so that i can pay the rent,
bills, buy books..yeah im ok

X: ok firstly, I’m a poor journo, not a noted columnist,
Nor have I written any bestseller

Y: hehe yes yes

X: and writing also just abt helps me get
thro the monthly expenses...
a couple of expensive dates,
and I look for a freelance assignment :)

Y: but aren't you passionate about it?
i like the creative field don't you? :)
i don't think i even know what i want to do... :(
actually i know. i don't know what i want..
so if i don't know what i want, how do i convince
companies about what i want to do in life

X: :)
“I love my job and i cannot think of anything better that
i could do with my life right now”...

Y: there! i'm soo happy for you. it's good to have that focus

X: that's what i said at all my interviews...
honestly i was not too sure abt it...

Y: :)

X: but I said it like i believed it

Y: hehe

X: it's like this Y...
let's say you do wanna go out with this
girl, or guy to be politically correct

Y: uhuh...

X: you may not really be sure about
what is it that draws you to them,
but then if you want to ask 'em out...
you got to say everything like
you believe it right??
your job is also like a relationship

Y: heh true

X: you'll never be sure about it...

Y: yeah...

X: but then you may fall in love with it eventually

Y: yeah it is a true

X: or you may choose to walk out of it if
something better comes your way...

Y: yeah...

X: but then there's that chance right?

Y: hmm..i see what you mean

X: of you falling madly in love with your job?

Y: yeah..

X: so is it not worth risking a couple of boring dates
for a rewarding relationship?
man! I'm uploading this
on my blog right away...
Of course, no names revealed!

Y: hahaha
link me...when you're done :)

X: once you grant me permission, of course!

Y: of course :D
consider it granted.

many a mile separates them,
but that is what brings them closer - the distance,
They continue to live happily ever after...
well almost...with a few abberations... quite a few actually...
Each of them enjoy their share of glorious uncertainties,
but pray that the other is doing very well,
Every night or day,
with 12-hour time zones between them,
they continue to have blissful,
random conversations with each other,
Their Dangling Conversations.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Indo-Pak cricket now?

A cartoon is worth 537 words, i think! ;)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Stock Market Syndrome

This is a very interesting story. One autumn, not so long ago, Red Indians asked their new Chief if the winter was going to be cold or mild. Now this Red Indian Chief was a typical blue-collar Harvard MBA, who'd returned to become the Chief of his tribe, in a modern society. Although he couldn't predict the weather as he was wont to do, using the knowledge he'd inculcated from his ancestors, he sure had his means. So he kept the tribe in the darkness about his sources (or the lack thereof). Nevertheless, to be on the safe side, he replied to his Tribe that the winter was indeed going to be cold and that the members of the village should collect wood to be prepared.

His education had taught him to be a pragmatic leader, so after several days he got an idea. He took out his mobile, called the National Weather Service and asked, "Is the coming winter going to be cold?"

"It looks like this winter is going to be quite cold indeed," the weatherman responded.

So the Chief went back to his people and told them to collect even more wood. A week later, he called the National Weather Service again. "Is it going to be a very cold winter?"

"Yes", the man at National Weather Service again replied, "It's definitely going to be a very cold winter."

The Chief again went back to his people and ordered them to collect every scrap of wood they could find. Two weeks later, he called the National Weather Service again.

"Are you absolutely sure that the winter is going to be very cold?"

"Absolutely, " The Man replied. "It's going to be one of the coldest winters ever."

"How can you be so sure?" the Chief asked. The weatherman replied, "The
Red Indians are collecting wood like Crazy."

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The writing's on the Wall Street!

Here's to the year that went by! Happy New Year 2009!