Friday, February 29, 2008

Six o' clock

Back in India, every evening, I was wafted into a sea of devotion, thanks to MSS, whose enchanting voice rendered the complicated slokas of Sanskrit in perfect clarity. The pristine voice filled the surroundings with a sense of calmness and everlasting composure. But, there were many a times, when my brother and I wanted to change the evening atmosphere at home, by replacing the usage of the only tape recorder with the latest happenings on the television. So, on many days, we have watched the only sport that the whole of India supports, and on many other, we would end up watching one of the latest movies being played on many different channels.

"Praveen, today is a very auspicious day. Why don't you both play some devotional songs on the tape recorder?"

Even before I could open my mouth, my brother would let out a cry of anguish as if she had just asked us to go to war, "No, let the movie finish. We are watching Alai Payuthey."

She would agree reluctantly, for we would never be in a mood to let go. At exactly six o' clock on this particular auspicious day, the scene that was played out would make my mother seethe in anger. The heroine's father would have passed away and the inconsolable cries from the women folk would make the whole scenario look anything but auspicious. Immediately, my mother would cry out from the kitchen, "For heaven's sake, today is Pongal, and why the hell are both of you playing this scene. At least change the channel."

Both of us would laugh and attribute this scene to a strange kind of coincidence. Obviously, we did change the channel; there were no two ways about it! Sometimes, the other channel would not bring the best of news either. The news reader would blare out the news of somebody's death or report famine or a bomb blast somewhere. After all, today, the world is not such a safe place to live in, with so many things happening around us all the time. But, over a period of time, we had virtually got used to the fact of seeing bouts of depression mixed with auspicious times. Sometimes, when I used to watch television sitting in the hall, my brother would call out jokingly, "I am sure that it is six o' clock in the evening." We had come to a conclusion that we could time our watch based on what was running on the television.

Generally, back home in India, an auspicious time is associated before taking up any task. There is also a belief in the omens. The basic idea is to create a feel good atmosphere at all times, and especially before venturing out to do something important. A typical situation is generally met with funny anecdotes. I would be in an intense prayer moment with Him, when my brother would have turned on the news channel to the highest volume - India certainly are facing defeat in today's game. I would grit my teeth, continue with my prayers, and come out with a feeling Oh, today is going to be a tough day! It never mattered much at the end of the day, but we, Indians, have a tendency to be highly superstitious. It is funny, though, that more we try to avoid something, the more it hits us. The best thing is to avoid the trivialities and move on with life. But, one thing is for sure; if you happen to watch something depressing on television on an auspicious day, get ready to time your watch!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Jodhaa Akbar

Ashutosh Gowariker
, when he decided to make a magnum opus on one of Indian history's significant and finest characters, would have had a tough time to take up the challenging task of bringing out the appropriate fusion of fact and fiction. History is a daunting subject, the moment you decide to merge it with the present, there are people - those who know history and those who have no idea about what happened five hundred years ago, are literally baying for your blood for an unknown reason. There is little wonder that Ashutosh researched on his pet project for more than four years before getting down to the basic aspect of film making. It would have been easy for him to give up and proceed with the same old cliched subject of hero romancing heroine set in contemporary times. But, he stuck on to what he had set out for, getting the right people to do what he wanted, and in the end, he has come out with an outstanding movie of monumental grandeur transcending all possible imagination, with a beautiful blend of past and the present, leaving you with an awestruck feeling - Oh, Ashutosh has pulled it off in style!

I had as much doubt as appreciation for one of India's finest directors, Ashutosh Gowariker, when it came to his epic film. The topic he was dealing with had all the ingredients of a potential disaster. The problem is, he was dealing with authenticity. When you deal with reality, you are answerable to everyone, and it is impossible to please every section of the society. At the start of the movie, Ashutosh makes it absolutely clear that princess Jodhaa is known by different names over the years, but he has interpreted his version of the history which refers to Akbar's wife as Jodhaa, as this name strikes a familiar chord with the widespread audience. According to me, the intentions are very clear. He wants to portray the love that transpired between Akbar and his wife. Period. It is disturbing to see widespread criticism in many states in India from different sections of the society, questioning the existence of Jodhaa, and even going to the extent of getting the movie banned. One has to see the movie to understand that Ashutosh has interpreted the popular version of history.

Coming to the movie itself, Ashutosh has pulled off an absolute winner. After seeing the movie, you have little doubt as to why there is the houseful tag displayed in the theater for as many as five shows in a day in Boston for the fourth consecutive day. There have been many movies in the past, where the directors have flaunted the set with little significance (Saawariya immediately springs to mind. It is a different matter that even the sets of that movie was absolutely terrible), but Jodhaa Akbar had a fast paced storyline to match the brilliant grandeur on screen. Hrithik Roshan, as Jalaluddin Akbar, has grown brilliantly as an actor, and Aishwarya Rai, as princess Jodhaa, has made that transition from a glamor doll to a convincing actor in recent times. If Guru had her in a strong role, here, she can walk with her head held high with a perfect blend of beauty and acting prowess. The chemistry between Akbar and Jodhaa is showed in exhilarating style, and Ashutosh has come up with beautiful sequences that leave an everlasting impression in you. This movie is definitely not a preachy history lesson. The scenes change so rapidly that you are literally waiting in anticipation to know what's going to happen next. That doesn't happen often in a period movie. It is easy to get lost in the vast resource of information, and the director in his eagerness to include each and every minute detail, can lose the plot to nothingness. But, it is very clear that Ashutosh is clear about what he wants. Yes, the movie is about 200 minutes long, and there are a couple of scenes that can be easily reduced in length, but when you watch the movie, you definitely won't be complaining.

Hrithik Roshan has not had a film release in a long time. But, it definitely was worth the wait. His acting prowess has never been so powerfully captured before. No one has any idea of how Akbar looks like, but after seeing Hrithik portray Akbar, you just get that feeling Akbar must certainly have been like this. Akbar is shown to be idealistic and just, but ignoring the cinematic moments, you just cannot help but like the character. As for Aishwarya, she has proved a point, that her acting skill is as strong as her beauty. Her costume design is brilliant. She has never looked so stunning before. Anybody would fall in love with Jodhaa. It is a long time since we have seen an author backed female role in Hindi cinema. After seeing Aishwarya in this role, it is difficult to imagine if anybody else could have pulled it off with as much conviction. She just catches your attention!

If I say the music is enchanting, my friends would say I am biased to AR Rahman. But, I would not be far from the truth to say that. The song Khwaja Mere Khwaja is the song of the album according to me. ARR in his Rediff interview says:
"Ashutosh told me he would use the song in a sequence showing Akbar triumphant," Rahman continued. "He is married to a Rajput princess and he had made an important political alliance. But he also sees a spiritual light as he watches the singers and dancers. It is accompanied with a Rumistic, Sufi kind of dance."
ARR has this amazing way of getting the music to grow on you as you listen to the songs over and over. This album is no different either, as the light hearted romance between Akbar and Jodhaa is matched by a super special background score, leaving you with a nice feeling. The Azeem O Shaan Shahenshah track has a lavish set, with about 1200 people thronging the scene to highlight the frenzy of the festive aura surrounding Akbar.

As the support cast revolving around the main protagonists play an equal part in catching your attention, you are left with an overwhelming feeling of having watched a beautifully crafted movie. Ashutosh Gowariker has gone leaps and bounds from Lagaan to Swades and now with Jodhaa Akbar, he has treaded the dangerous territory of history, without losing sight of what exactly the audience wish to see. He has made sure that the images of Akbar and Jodhaa linger in your minds long after having watched the movie.

(All images have been taken from the official website for information purpose only)

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Life is composed of many simple things, and the pleasure of spending time on them takes you to an unexplainable high. Sometimes, on the spur of the moment, you envision something out of the blue, and you realize that you have to do it at that instant. I have this tendency to visit these online shopping sites often - Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Borders, and try to catch up with the latest offerings in the book world. So, last week, as I was casually browsing through B & N, I happened to see the Scrabble Deluxe Edition game advertised on the main page at half the normal price. Word games are fun to play, and Scrabble, according to me, is one of the best word games ever. As soon as the nicely displayed advertisement caught my eye, there was no looking back. I did not even think twice in deciding to buy it. Again, this was a decision based purely on instinct, just like many other things that I have done throughout.

I gloated over my new found acquisition in front of who else, but the duo of the trio Sameer and Chetan. I was holding the board as if I had made the biggest deal of my life. Come on, the packaging was just brilliant. Sameer was not too enthusiastic on the prospect of playing a word game when I explained the rules to him initially. Sounds like fun, GK, he said. The way he conveyed the message to me, I was more than convinced that it sounded anything but fun to him. I was thinking, "Looks like I have to play the game alone!". But, Chetan sounded a lot more optimistic, though I never felt that he would be the kind of a guy to take the initiative to play Scrabble. But, that's exactly what happened, when one fine evening, Chetan barged into the house, and voiced out excitedly, "Come on guys, let's play Scrabble".

I was happy that finally I will be using the board. After all, I had bought it and it was imperative that my investment came to good use. So, the three of us sat in the middle of the hall, with the board spread out nicely in the middle, each of us having a marker to place the letters. All of us took seven letters each, and based on the initial rule, I opened the game with a neatly worded P-E-A-R much to the annoyance of the other two. I am sure GK has done some foul play, screamed the two. But, I coolly updated the points against my name. As the game rolled on, somehow or the other, we were able to keep the scoreboard ticking, thanks to the "brilliant" vocabulary that is embedded in me (I mean us!!!). Sameer scored twenty points on more than one occasion. I am sure even he will agree how he got those points! Is P-I-T-A a valid word? Can I use Z-E-N? Are proper nouns allowed? How can you use plural forms? We played around negating all the doubts, and fixing rules according to our needs and whims.

It was 8 in the evening, and we had to get ready for dinner. So, I decided to prepare the most native dish of Karnataka - slurp! slurp! Bisibele bath! You just have to ask the other guys how well it had come out. Three of us had a good time figuring out the words with a plate of steaming Bisibele bath in our hands. The final score read thus: Chetan - 111, me - 116 and Sameer emerging the clear winner with 130 points. Overall, it was a great way to end the evening.

Friday, February 08, 2008


I've been out of reckoning with the blog world for quite some time now. Last month was pretty much busy with a lot of things rammed into my head, and my focus could just not shift away from some of the important priorities. At every stage in life, it is so important to realize what is important. In the vagaries of life, it is easy to lose what you have been searching for all your life. But then, I have been inculcated with the typical Indian middle class values, so it is not easy to lose track of the fact that one wrong move can hurt you and everyone around you. So, people around you look upon you to make the decisions, let alone the right ones.

Dedication, deference, sincerity, hard work, merit and the typical adjectives used by fathers and mothers drive home a sense of responsibility just too difficult to get away from. My father, right from my school days has tried to convey a simple point It is not the will to win, but it is the will to prepare to win that is important. Nice quote to live your life with, but then the practicalities expose the frailties of life shredding every strand of optimism, now and then. Determination is the key to succeed in life, and thankfully, God has bestowed me with the right amounts to pursue what I want, and sometimes help me succeed in it, and at other times, helped me find the reason as to why life is not all about success and failures. Life follows a strict pattern for people like me. Do all that you can, put in your best efforts and leave the outcome to Him. At the end of the day, you always have the chance to send the outcome to the pathology department hidden in you, and unearth every single nerve in you to reason out the outcome. Most of the time, you learn to move on and as a part of the unending learning process, you know that you have picked an important know how of life. Tough lessons learnt, but there is the satisfaction of having picked something along the way.

Sometimes, you do all that you can and then you see everything that you have given to washed away by a tide; the waves totally uncontrollable, and you just realize that the waves are a part of the game, and you have no role in it, but just to accept the fact that the washout was not a result of your misgivings, but something beyond you. Unexplainable, literally! You know that nothing much can be done as not much is within your control. As long as you can take control of your life, life is great, but then there are those moments, where you do everything right, and by forces of circumstances, you do not get what you want because of things not within your control; that's when it becomes difficult to move on. It is the intriguing aspect of life, but life is tough when you have nobody to blame. Life throws such challenges, and you, a participant turned spectator, have to walk away from it as though nothing has happened; as though it never came into your life at all. But again, it is important to move away from the disappointment, as you are forced to stay in the current page without getting on to the new chapter. As IF by Rudyard Kipling rings continuously in your ears, you go back and forth, and then these lines really drive home the point, that what you experience now is experienced by millions of others, and life is more about learning, than about anything else.

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;

I am going to spend the next few days doing some much needed soul searching, giving myself the much needed solitary space, masking my mind away from things that are way beyond my control, and pacing my life the way I want it to be. At the end of the day, there is always HOPE.