Sunday, February 26, 2006

Rang De Basanti

I saw the much talked about movie "Rang de Basanti" last weekend. Not being a run of the mill Hindi film fanatic I usually restrict myself to watching only the best ones, the last being "Black". Anyway, I decided to give it a try with RDB as had heard loads about it and read lot of blogs on the same. I really did not have any high hopes but wanted to see why people are so ga ga about the movie. By the way, let me make it clear. I have absolutely no prejudices against Hindi movies nor is my grasp of the Hindi language very minimal, but then I wouldn't shy to admit the truth when I see a good Hindi movie.

While the script had its flaws but that’s Ok, at least someone tried to experiment it, Rang de Basanti was an honest attempt at balancing social and commercial cinema, urging this apathetic generation to awaken to the country's corruption and need for social change. The story line is pretty neat and simple and revolves around a bunch of college kids agreeing to act in a film scripted by a young English student.

The plus points are the environ is simple, college campus and the characters normal people whom you can connect to. There is no explicit mention of malls, ostentatious and gaudy dance performances, which have become an integral part of most of the Hindi movies, released these days. If you are looking for something posh and highbrow, then I would suggest it’s not of those kinds, which has some big many syllable words. This was one of the dialogues I liked the most and then when I bisected, trisected and n-sected it, found its true,"ik paair future maaain, tau ek paair past maaain rakh kar, aaj ke uppaar haaam moot raaahe haain."

The film to many people I spoke to was crappy but for me whatever it may be, I liked the idea. The essence of the movie was in igniting the cynical apathy of India's youth for a cause. The interactions among the six protagonists and the videshi Sue make for pleasurable watching, the real issue which the Indian youth face today in a very subtle way. The stand out performance for me was Siddharth, but it helps that his character was given a key role near the end of the movie. There are still people in India in real life and not reel life who have sportively supported these values, few that come to my mind are

a. Manjunath - A 27-year-old IIM Lucknow graduate from Karnataka paid with his life few months back for his crusade against corrupt petrol pump owners.(Read here)

b. Satyendra Dubey - An IIT Kanpur graduate in his mid-30s, was supervising construction of the former Prime Minister’s (Atalji’s) dream project in the Koderma division in Jharkhand and had been recently promoted as a deputy General Manager.Dubey had a reputation for being an upright and honest official. This probably cost him his life but he never deterred from his job.(Read here)

If someone might have read through the lines of a few dialogues, then many messages have been passed on in a very indirect way. To highlight what I have mentioned above, there are few statements, which are oft, repeated,"Agaar system ko baadaal na haai tau IAS join karo, desh ke liye kuch karo". This clearly to my understanding is a pointer to the educated and the intelligent class of India who moves for greener pastures but never hesitates to make a comment. This again is said in "Koi bhi desh perfect nahin hota,usey perfect baannaana paadta hai" but the question is "baaanaayeega kyoon ???". The wind of change has started and I wish that it continues. Recently I read, how five high flying IIT’ians all in their late 20’s left their MNC jobs in the US of A and got into something that touched their hearts. (Source: Youth Curry)

The most striking images in the movie were when it flashed back to the 1930s freedom struggle by Bhagat Singh & co. They portrayed the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in a nightmarish haze, and I have to admit in terms of the technicals of Indian movies it was a job well done. The music was great and kudos to Rehman for this, just listening to the sound track would inform you of the film’s thematic trajectory. The casting was perfect, all the characters poured real life to their respective parts. I liked Aamir, Soha Ali Khan, Kunal Kapoor, Atul Kulkarni, Alice Patten and Kiron Kher in particular though not in the same order but all were good.

I also liked the casting because these people are learned and educated and that’s what brings more versatility to the characters. Soha is a LSE grad and before entering into movies, she was a financial whiz with Citibank in Mumbai. Siddharth is a MBA grad. Alice is the daughter of the Lord Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong before it was taken over by China. "Laal tammatar Sue, tusse movie maain great thee, I love you Sue".

The Indian society in the movie is portrayed as open, honest, tolerant, and affectionate and yes in the end patriotic too. I don’t know about others but the people I move with (say 20-35 age bracket) and the junta I connect to, have all these attributes if not more. The ultimate message, I guess, is never to let that passion for progress and reform die out, and never to let your cynicism trap you in apathy. The movie concluded with a very brooding question, this generation has two sects of people, one, which adheres to the existing system with its faults and fallacies, "chalta hai kind", and other who want to change, as they cannot tolerate the suffocation for long.

Which one do you belong to?

To my immediate right in the movie hall were seated an old Bengali couple in their late 60’s and in between the wife and husband were discussing in typical Bangla accent "movie bhalo haaaue chilaam, kintuu aaama ke cheelear beer kaabaata bilkul bhaalo laage na".Even though it was old wine in a new bottle kind of movie but the message was crisp and clear and that’s the reason I give it a 7/10. Go watch it, if you can.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Dil Vil Pyar Vyar

The week that passed by had a particular day, which of late has created lot of news of various shades not just black and white. Everyone calls it the "Valentine’s Day".

What used to be just another day in everyone’s life in India per se, 20 years back has assumed a new importance and dimension today. The new global face of India has shed off old inhibitions and embraced like never before the festival of Valentine's Day despite opposition from conservative voices.

Of late many many groups and outfits in India have opposed this day on grounds that the values and message propagated on this day are against Indian traditions. The values are something that Indians are not part of intrinsically. These days anti-Valentine's Day protests have become more violent and to me this is all pre-planned just to divert the minds of people and I feel the protesters eagerly wait for this day to draw media attention. Year after after, they religiously make protests and shower violence with stoning of shops/hotels/coffee houses etc.

The rightwing organisations such as the Shiv Sena and the VHP that support the BJP are the chief patrons.

My say:
a.Please don’t mix and match "netaji’s and mantri babus" for your personal benefits. Hindu religion by its very nature and definition is an open religion that believes in peace and love and so please don’t give a regional/communal ting for inciting people. You have no right to destroy any property or harm any one because they do not agree with your belief system/practice. The youth in India embraces V Day not because they respect St. Valentine or Western ideas or Christianity but because expressing love is an innate need. Times have changed now and educated Indians are mature and the best part is children openly discuss everything with their parents and elders. If they do not like the St. Valentine by name, call it the "Krishna-Rukmini" or "Laila Majnu" or "Heer Ranjha" Day but let the people in love(get full clarity as to what this means to each) express their affection.

b.It is true that knowledge is power and this just shows what lack of knowledge can do. The history of Valentine's Day is shrowded in mystery with many legends and stories. Learn more about the various legends and stories surrounding Valentine's Day, visit "The Hisory Channel".But we have given it a tone without being aware of the reason,that’s stupidity . Valentine's Day is celebrated to express love not just between two young individuals. It can be expressed between a brother and a sister, a mother and a son, a father and a daughter, basically any relationship. (for me Chotu is the best, and she is just 1 year old now and she is my cutie,"Chotu don’t listen to what crap people talk".). We do it everyday and Valentine's Day is just another special day where we express our love for a person in a special way. We Indians really need to think properly before we act.

I like the marketing, branding and the idea behind generating business that is remotely connected to heart/soul/emotions in any way on the pretext of this occasion. Some year’s back, when a few love-struck Indians first began to celebrate Valentine's Day, a rose would suffice to mark the occasion. Coming to roses let me remind you that my city, Bangalore earns "hazzar" money, as it is India's V Day rose capital and exports around 40% of the annual sales in one day, with Amsterdam alone this year ordering more than 2 million Indian roses.

No longer today, love cannot be conquered without splurging the right amount. As consumerism catches on in India, incomes rise and a young population finds gainful employment, the number of customers ready to pay for the requirements of love is getting larger and larger. The corporates have responded, cajoling lovers to spend big. Newspapers were rife with advertisements from corporates using the occasion to promote anything from contact lenses,electronic gadgets to watches to websites apart from traditional gifts like flowers, chocolates and jewellery. Shopping malls and middle class markets wore a festive look as the occasion was time for big business, and enterprising retailers left no stone unturned to cash in on the demand. The 14th Feb edition of TOI also stated that the sales from various segments have already touched the numbers that reach on festive seasons such as Diwali in most Indian cities. Valentine's Day is almost a Rs 22 crore industry in India, and like Sensex, it seems to be going just one way - up!

Whatever the arguments may be, the trend of celebrating the day is slowly percolating from the urban strongholds to the domain of smaller towns where the media has served to popularize and market once alien concepts. I love this, as there is a smile on the face of many people, the air of feel good lingers everywhere and this peppiness is something yummy.

This is a piece of info which I became aware of this year while flipping through a website. For the detective agencies across the United States, the romantic holiday is a boon for business as it is the ideal time for a spouse to catch a cheating mate. Don’t cheat,else you are caught.

The same day as I was returning from office, I saw some huge hoardings from (AOL,"see below for the full-form")planted at various strategic junction points of Bangalore roads. The celebration and spirit was not just confined to the city’s upmarket malls and multiplexes. At the Art of Living ashram on Kanakapura Road, hordes of spiritual seekers from abroad swayed to the tune of love.

My survey sheet of "V day" friends (celebs :-) hey giving all a soft pamper) whom I spoke to on that day.
Sanjay – my elder brother had to drive and do all the job himself as he was moving to his new apartment@ Chicago, for him it was “re-location day”
Seema 22 F – lovebird, says for her every day is a Valentine day (sounds like the usual ones you hear in channel V or MTV.)
Kutti 25 M – this fellow was struggling in the lab conducting experiments @ Florida Univ lab and then had been to gym for a workout and finally back home,just another day.
Bhavna – this techie had to rush home early to evade the busy B’lore traffic and join her husband and Chotu for a “Family Day’s out” and celebrated the day, enjoying a nice cosy dinner.

As the commercial demands of love spiral ever upward, what we must not forget that more than half the Indian population still lives on less than a dollar a day. We all know that we cannot make a change and swing the economy over night but in our fast lives,it is good to have a day when we can take a deep breath and follow our hearts.

For me it was just another day, keep reading and remainconnected.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Week gone by

The last week was hectic and I like the kind of life where in you have no time to breathe and you have a new task at your hands or planned for you the moment you complete one. That’s my way of thinking and I am pretty sure that many won’t agree with me.

Well in all these things and life going on, I have decided to take up something, which I had in mind for long and I am working in that direction. Last week, I did attend the “MBA Tour” @ Taj Residency and was fortunate to attend a few open house sessions. The talks were informative and the teams from various schools were able to give to clear and crisp picture of what the program is all about and related matters. What struck me most was that, they were very frank and clearly stated facts and never gave a rosy picture and an imaginative world someone expects to land in. I had informal interview/talk sessions with 3 Universities and they impressed with my profile and I found the interaction interesting and something positive came out of all this but its too early to say anything.

The drive and the quest is still on.

Well all these bring to light, one question: “Why are US Schools coming to Indian Shores”.
After the Indian Diaspora based in the United States have proved their capabilities, brilliance, talent, acumen and credibility in the field of engineering, science, medicine and law, a new wave has just started.

What’s that?

Of late, India has started capturing the imagination of top business schools in the United States. Catch tomorrow's global leaders and hard sell them the India story today. That seems to be the slogan.Check the list for the Indians who have recently made it to the list of most influential business thinkers.(Source:Thinkers50).Most of the schools I spoke to say of the large number of the international students from Asia most are generally from India and China and this is a new phenomenon in the business education per se.

Over the last 2 years, leading business schools like Kellogg, Harvard, Stanford and Wharton have organised annual India trips to familarise their students with the world's fastest growing democracy. More than a dozen Indian companies now figure as case studies at these schools, and now the latest trend is for business schools to organise India specific conferences.

I spoke to the student’s advisor, an old lady from the University of Washington and she asked me so many questions and when I answered those she used to analyse those and ask me more. The talk though very informal centered around three points:

a.The emergence of the Indian economy on the global scene in spite of so many problems, (even she didn’t forget to hint at the Bangalore traffic and was zapped when I gave her some information.)

b.The important role in the decoupling of services from where work is done and where it is delivered keeping the 24/7 business clock ticking.

c.This was very personal and that was age factor. She asked me is it something inscribed/engraved in the mindset of Indians that at a very early age we want to do so many things and then are we not “ageing” early when we should be enjoying life. Well she was never against me being 25,but she said she was asking this out of her inquisitiveness and has seen this trend/pattern across all Indian students.

I simply loved the discussion, though I miss those kinds of talk in my day-to-day life. People who can understand your point of view and then state their viewpoint and you have a healthy discussion. Someone who can point out your flaws and follies and speak it bluntly on your face “lagta hai you need improvement in this area” and share their vast repository of maturity and real life experience.

Have loads to blog and will do that soon and that’s a promise. I have become addicted to blogs and when at times I am not able to do justice to this, I feel something missing.Whatever may be the case, I read blogs regularly during the lunch break or when work becomes monotonous (Rashmi,Sujatha,Amit,Gaurav,Sanchzo and Kuntal,so junta keep blogging).

Shine on and remain connected.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Ek Raat @ Call Centre

One Night @ The Call Centre is a not so a gripping story and this time I, read this book during my commute time to office and completed it yesterday. To be frank it never lived upto my expectations as has been set by Chetan’s first book as they say one always sets the bar a bit higher with each success in one's endeavors. But I sincerely feel that was missing. Well this is a personal opinion and I feel Chetan was in a bit hurry to float a second novel. Regular life and problems discussed (yes, probably for the first time someone thought of writing about it and that was nice) but none of the characters were interesting, most were flat and one-dimensional. The nearly 300-page book is extremely racy and also engaging. It is all the more interesting because the novel is centered on the contemporary world of India’s new generation.

The novel starts with the meeting of Chetan Bhagat and a young lady in a train and she tells him the story of a night at the call center in Delhi on the condition that it would be his next book. The girl said the story was about six people working in a call center, set in one night. She said it was the night they got a phone call.That phone call was from God.Welcome to One Night @ The Call Centre, another witty, dark novel from the award winning author of the national bestseller, "Five point someone".

The story is viewed through Shyam, a call centre agent and a tame team leader and it revolves on him, his colleagues Vroom, Esha, Radhika, his girl friend Priyanka and an aged Military Uncle. Shyam suffers from the break up of his affair with Priyanka apart from the threat all of them face on the uncertainty of their future at the center.

The happenings of the night carry the romance and break up interludes of Shyam and Priyanka as flash back. Each character has a sob story to bemoan. But, the narration runs interestingly because it has the natural flow and the high sense of humor (at times black) of Chetan Bhagat.
Catch this one (FYI if someone happens to read this book.)

With all these the novel ends rather cinematically, like a typical Hindi movie, last minute heroism, change of mind, chase in the car and bike etc. Does Chetan expect the novel to inspire some Bollywood filmmaker to make it into a movie? Well well I am told his “Five Point Someone” is already edited and is on cards for movie to be cut out of it. I have given my copy of the debut novel of Chetan to one of my friends and I have asked her to take the second one too after I am done with my reading with a condition that once the movie (hope it comes soon) is made, she is going to return me my books with the movie’s DVD as a complimentary. "Deal yah No Deal………" hahahahaa

One more point what I have noticed is that Chetan has showed as if the Americans are a dumb lot and they call for fixing minor issues such as defrosting a refrigerator and like wise. He goes on to say that though on a lighter note that 10% of Americans are innovators and smart and the rest 90% dole in their glory. The language he has used is very much day-to-day kinds and more like the one you often hear from a recently graduated college student with loads of 4 letter words. It sounded to me a bit unfair.

Isn’t it odd and funny?

But the book has invited comparisons with formulaic Bollywood films, which throw in generous doses of melodrama, romance and fantasy. Few weeks back I happen to see an interview of Chetan by Shekhar Gupta (Indian Express) and they were walking through the lush green lawns of a golf course and talking as such in an informal way.What I liked about Chetan was that he said that he had a flair for writing but never got a chance to express it and when he was doing good in life he thought of trying his hands at it and its simple. He even ahead to say that he considers his small twin kids his inspiration,that’s so yummy . Also what I liked was that he said his a work should strike a chord with people. "My books touch the Indian middle class, where I also come from. I understand their problems and can make them entertaining.''

On the whole, I believe One Night@ the Call Center is an OK Read, Value for Money Purchase,"Paisa Vassol". However, I have one request. Do not compare this novel with his debut novel, Five Point Someone as I believe this would lead to the essence of the former being lost.

More from his this link :

Have a nice weekend and remain connected.