Saturday, October 4, 2008

I am not a 300 word blogger!!!

5 days (actually, only 4) holidays, and a hostel empty enough for me to get online at any time I please... Now you know why I have been posting daily! :D (i wanted to put a wicked smile there, but dunno which smiley to use for that!!!)
Well, this time though, I didn't try completing my short stories- after a point, you know it's getting futile... I decided instead to go on a round of blogs (mostly my collegemates') and do a little reading. I must admit it was an interesting exercise. But what struck me a lil too glaringly was that when a post got to be more than 300 words, I read ONLY if it was a review or something. I jus skipped the ones that were abt coll events n stuff if they wer long. Im a VERY impatient reader, I guess. (On second thoughts, that is also not true! I don't mind staying up for 1000 page novels, but I just can't stand staring at the monitor, for beyond 400 words! Maybe, I m not that modern yet! :( )
Anyway, the moral of the story was a lil too bitter for me to take! Cos on my own blog, I ve very few posts tat are short. But I try making them as short as i can. Maybe I have too many things to say. (That is a chronic problem with me, u know- I always have too much to say; and torture my friends by non-stop talking! :D) I thought and thought and thought.... (on how to reduce the length of my posts, of course!!)
And then it dawned on me- yes, a simple statement that proved to be the remedy ( i was too tempted to use 'panacea' here! :P ) to all my problems! --- The simple realisation that "I am not a 300 word blogger!!"
I mean, I just can't write posts that short, conveying at least half of what I wanna say... I ve really tried.. Only Microsoft Word can tell you how many sentences I delete, and how many phrases I replace with single words, and yet, word count never decreases!! :( So, now i ve decided... to leave things as they are.. and continue.. And declare to the world with head held high (Tagore likes that, doesn't he?!) that I shall write what I like, n rattle on and on, till they shut their ears, and then to proudly smile and say- "
I am not a 300 word blogger!"

(Special Note:- T S Eliot is more popular for his 1000 line poem than for his shorter verses! :) :) )

(Bonus special note (NOT added to increase word count!):- Pls dont comment saying I need a course on more effective communication or something. ;) U kno I don't take advice... N ya, i really like writing long posts... :D )

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A Review

(It is probably too late to write this review, as the movie was released quite a while ago. But I couldn’t resist the temptation of reviewing it; and doing a little advertising for the movie, just in case, someone didn’t watch it yet!)

It’s rare that you feel a sense of completion after you see a movie. I have always believed that the easiest way to judge a movie is to see what you feel once it is over. You know, there was ‘Sivaji’- which made you feel empty, ‘Dasavatharam’- that made you marvel at Kamal’s talents, ‘Mozhi’- that made you feel happy about life, that filled you with hope and told you that the world is a happy place, whatever our problems, ‘TZP’- which woke you to the world of children, and made you want to do something for them.

And there is this amazing movie I saw yesterday- (quite surprisingly, Hindi)- that filled me with energy. For one thing, the movie itself was racy, and had your adrenaline pumps working on overload. But not just that, when the movie was over, you were so overflowing with energy- you wanted to face a hundred new problems, meet them square in the face, and yes, you knew you could make a difference in this world. It was not just a feeling of completeness, but as if u refueled ur mind! It did not just rejuvenate you, it made you feel empowered! N yet, it did not have beautiful cars racing (unless you call police vans and yellow buses beautiful), or hot women running, or romance or dupatta-udne-wali songs. (It did have a pretty(?) gal on the run, and the angry young man hero but not really the masala type!) In fact, what made it a beautiful movie was the simplicity, and the genius in story telling…. O, I am sorry, I didn’t mention the name of the movie, did I? It was “A Wednesday”.

(Note: Please don’t read the review before watching the movie. It is too beautiful to be spoiled by knowing the plot beforehand! And as usual, the review may not make much sense if you haven’t seen it yet…)

When the movie began, since I had already read the review, I knew the basic storyline- that it is an encounter between Anupam Kher and Naseeruddin Shah, that it is a bomb scare etc. However, thankfully, I didn’t know the ending. And reading the review usually keeps me from getting caught (I mean, over engrossed) in the story and helps me to stand apart and look at the movie as a pure critic. However, in this case, I must say I lost to Neeraj Pandey. Though, initially I was trying to analyse each shot, it didn’t take long for the director to get me trapped, and he had me biting my fingernails in eager.

The beginning is not spectacular, and THAT is the beauty of this story. It starts off with a simple man walking into a police station and then climbing the stairs up an unfinished building with a bag of sabzi (the way he pays attention to details and picks that one tamatar that fell, as though it were the most important element of the story- man, do we have a great storyteller here!) The simplicity of Shah holds you on for a little while, (and the gag at the news creators of our media, is good), but these things can’t sustain your interest for long. And at the precise moment before which you might begin to lose interest, Shah sits in front of a table of gadgets (the changing sim part is pretty outdated) and makes that much awaited strategic phone call and the momentum picks up, what with Jai and Arif running behind men, and the police headquarters getting busy and before you know it, the race has begun. (I was regretting I didn’t have popcorn in my room, to add to the mazaa!)

Then it’s all running, and waiting for the next phone call, and I really don’t know how time flew. The scene about the hacker and reiterating the fact that the best equipment of the police is still outdated, fit. Of course, the cartoonist gimmick to figure his face is too old, they should have used a computer instead!! The video about a man who might be the mastermind behind the blasts is cleverly done, though the author could surely have come up with better tools to divert the spectator's attention!

But there were many instances that made me marvel. One being the depiction of Kher. He is the man in complete control of the situation, and in his decisions lie the fate of a city. But he doesn’t shout, no melodrama; only a subtle play of emotions, and knitted eyebrows! The other, of course, is Shah! He is brilliant, to say the least, though I am still not sure whether it is his acting or the role itself. But it takes some mettle to underplay and still convey. Besides, in the scenes where the city stands in his background, you can smell raw power. You think- this single man, unpretentious, quite ordinary, but as he sips tea, holds the power to blast an entire city. And all the action behind, the running, the police, the guns, the blood, the Ethernet cables, and the network trackers , all revolving around and being defeated by his brain! Beautiful…

Of course, the twist in the end is clever, and the (Shah’s) dialogue, very intelligent. But what stands out, even in such moments is the simplicity. We have seen so many of Shankar’s movies- all of them trying to tell us that the common man can and should question atrocities. However, there is so much drama built by Shankar, and so much hype and glitz that really masks the theme; and reduces the movie to one among many others. That, is where, “A Wednesday” stands out. Even Naseeruddin’s dialogue is not sophisticated. And his reasons are amazing. He is not fighting because his son dies in a blast. It is for some unknown stranger. Again, he doesn’t say it is for the society, it is for his own self. And the statements about ‘aam aadmi’ –wah!!

If you thought that was the end, hold on. There is more to appreciate this movie for. Though the movie is about violence, there is very less bloodshed. It is an action movie alright, but no unnecessary gore! Again, no unnecessary romance. No hero running behind heroine, and all that crap. N more importantly, the hero (which is definitely Shah and not Arif) is an old man wearing specs and carrying, with effort, a bag of vegetables. Makes me wonder if Hindi movies are really improving! Also, no unnecessary bad dialogues- most action movies use such vocabulary that you really wanna watch them muted. Of course, these things make the movie very serious. Not much of humour except the poor attempt at it, initially. But what the movie lacks for in glamour, it more than makes up for, in speed and storytelling.

Of course, there are a few plot glitches too- why Ibrahim Khan had to be shot by the police and didn’t have to die in the blast. If it is only to add spice, well, that was poorly done. Or worse, still, if it was to tell us that terrorists are not all that brave when they face death, how very farfetched! And the whole idea that anybody can make a hoax call and get away with it- is our police force THAT bad?? Surely, logic was seriously lacking there…

But I guess we should forgive the director for these minor errors, and applaud anyway…

N yes, last but never the least, it is a movie you can go watch with children (if such a breed still exists!). It might be a little too serious for them, but it surely does not have any vulgar or violent content. That is itself very commendable, as most Indian movies have lost the habit of being watchable with family. Most of the times, we are forced to accept whatever is shown and loosen our own norms of censorship, out of very less choice. And if nothing else, in that sense alone, “A Wednesday” is an amazing movie. Or in the words of the director- “Sahi ya galat- pata nahi; lekhin jo bhi tha, achcha tha!”

Movie: A Wednesday
Genre: Action
Director: Neeraj Pandey
Actors: Naseeruddin Shah, Anupam Kher, Naseeruddin Shah, Naseeruddin Shah, …
Story: One man has the whole Mumbai police force running on a bomb scare
Bottomline: Don’t miss it!!

(P.S:- If it sounds like I am only praising movies, I would like to tell you about “Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na”. I heard raving reviews of it, and it had done very well at the box office, so I quite expectantly wasted more than two hours on it. It was an ordeal to watch, and had me desperately wishing it would get over soon. The story was obvious, and the treatment poor, but the worst part was there was nothing to grip you. Nothing that touched you either. A poor attempt at cinema, for, even with a simple storyline and popular stars, the director was unable to use the medium effectively. Incidentally, the only part I liked there too was Shah, and his Rathod dialogues! Luckily, a few movies like “A Wednesday” relieve us of the burden, and make us feel hopeful about Indian cinema.)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The horror of stampedes...

In an attempt to implement my resolution on becoming more regular in blogging, I had decided I should put something up these 2 days (hols, u know…). Of course, I had thought I should finish the story that I had been trying to complete for very long. But as usual, "The Hindu" came in my way, and made me change topics yet again. Yes, it was the Chamunda Devi stampede…

For those of u who did not check the news, 147 people (not considering the confusion about the exact number) died in a stampede yesterday at the Chamunda Devi temple, Jodhpur, Rajasthan. (The picture accompanying the article in the paper is quite horrible, and is sure to make you frown, but then, it depicts the situation quite well. Not putting it up, as I don’t believe in sadism!)

The first question that came to my mind when I saw the paper was- "Is it right to stamp a hundred people just to have a glimpse at the lord? " Would a God really save you only if you visit his temple on the first day of Navarathri? I did not think about the relief measures, only about what I’d have done, had I been there. Most victims were trampled or suffocated. But was it worth it? I mean, is standing in a crushing crowd justified by the darshan of the lord on an auspicious day? Maybe, I am not devotional enough! But then, what could anyone have done once they were part of the crowd? I don’t think there was any option but to continuously push, thrust and move forward, once the stampede began. But then, the photo returns to my mind…

Imagine the horror of having hundreds of people walk right over you! I know it is gruesome. I know it is not something we’d like to talk about. But that’s how most important topics are- "we don’t wanna talk about them!" It’s so safe and comfortable to pull the mask of civilization over our faces and evade the responsibility. Child abuse?- C’mon… No "respectable" girl writes that on her blog; only weirdo feminists! Foeticide? Eve teasing? –Oh, pulee..eez.. grow up! And legalizing homosexuality? –I can already see "taboo" on your face. Not that we don’t talk about these issues. Only, not in public; or mixed company. It is so easy to be able to walk into star hotels and have oh!-so-romantic candlelight dinners and enjoy the luxuries money can buy us, and talk about the nuke deal and be called intellectual anyway. Why write dark stuff on your blog? After all, it’s more enjoyable (even for the author) to write humour, ManU, movies and college news on his blog. And definitely so much easier (read fun) to read?!! Well, I guess someone has to do the dirty work, but maybe we are digressing too much…

Any mass debacle is sad. But an earthquake or flood is not really in our hands. We are still not equipped enough to put out the fire of nature’s fury in such cases. However, a stampede is caused by men. N not world leaders greedy for power. (How easy it usually is, to talk about World War II and say all the destruction was caused because one man named Hitler got greedy! The picture of a power hungry politician causing a mass massacre is such an easy one to paint and shrug the guilt off your safe guileless shoulders…) But, in a stampede, there really is no politician to blame. It is plain obvious that it was caused by another so-called common man, who very well could have been u or me! It’s just lucky that we didn’t go to the Chamunda Devi temple yesterday. But there are millions of temples across the length and breadth of our country, and hundreds of ‘special pujas’ that offer innumerable occasions for stampedes to occur. No, I don’t mean to psyche you out in Reader’s Digest style, and say that each of us is guilty and must be punished- that is not really necessary! But then, we very well could have been the cause. I know so many of my friends who push their way to the front in queues. And that is precisely how the stampede began yesterday: somebody in the queue wanted to get the darshan over with asap, and decided to push his way through. And the others followed. This happens at temples most of the time- maybe standing in queues just doesn’t suit the Indian temperament! And the worst part is that, once u are in the queue, even if u don’t wanna push, u are sure to get rammed.

However, the story doesn’t end here. What about the victims? Of course, the government pays them a lakh in compensation. For one thing, the money won’t’ last long; what with inflation still not under control. And for another, there is always the cliché I can quote- that any life is too valuable to lose. What if there was a boy in the crowd, on whose salary his family depended? Ok, that is old fashioned. What if there was a youngster all brainy who could have invented a new generation of computers and changed the way the world runs? Those of us who believe in God can only hope he isn’t THAT cruel. Or maybe, our governments should think of offering jobs and not money in compensation. (I will not talk about the ordeal of getting the compensation money, for that is another long story).

Then there was the lawyer (or former judge or somebody) who had been asked to submit a report about the debacle. Honestly I don’t see the point. How many government executives read these reports? And how much action is taken based on them? And come on, what can the report contain- figures of numbers attended, injured, died; a theory for the cause of the accident and suggestions that nobody implements anyway? Nobody can report the failures, the dreams that became castles in the air, shattered down to dust, the hopes, the ambitions, and all the happiness that was lost. And is this report all the answer that we have got, to give the innocent victims?

But really, what else should have been done? The authorities have said that "temples should have better arrangements for devotees on special puja occasions!" Now, (Forgiving the innate Indian tendency to take measures post- crisis) that does make sense, but it only brings me back to square one. What can a host of guards do if hundreds of devotees decide to shove their way in? Isn’t it more the fault of the devotees than the authorities? Isn’t it more the small fault in your and my mindsets that grew up to such horrendous proportions?

Ok, so what can we do? Start respecting queues and hope that since you have done your bit, the world shall do its. I know it sounds old fashioned and straight out of a sermon to say ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’, but then it does seem to work in our world. Or at least, let’s hope it does…