Posted in Kamal Haasan, Politics - General, Uncategorized

Kamal Haasan – A Changing Story

“Life is a beautiful story, your story, and the best part of that story is when it changes.”

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Kamal Haasan

And who better knows how to write good stories than Kamal Haasan?

Six months ago, if someone had asked me if I would be writing a blog post on Kamal Haasan’s politics and his political entry in February 2018, I would have not only laughed it off, but also ridiculed the person for fabricating such a scenario.

Looking back, to be specific, looking back at the past two years of Kamal’s life, both on screen and off screen, mostly off screen (since he hasn’t been doing much work on screen anyways), I am not surprised that we are at this transition point on February 21, 2018, the day he officially starts his political journey as a ‘practicing politician’.  As I string together the missing pages & connect the missing links, it is clear that after all, this is not such an emotional, sudden, and a path breaking transition for him. If you notice the transition now for the first time, you realize that the change has been going on for a while. Like the breaking of sunlight in the morning or boiling of water on a stove.

There have been enough hints in the past six months or so about his eventual political entry. But like many, I had chosen not to take them seriously or was blinded by my primary pinhole through which I have always been used to viewing Kamal Haasan, the influential movie star, the actor, the director, the literary connoisseur, the poet, the rationalist, the social commentator, and the passionate humanist. When it became very clear that the transition is for real, the rooted Kamal Haasan movie fan in me was very disappointed.

I was worried for the man and his eventual failure in politics.

True. I didn’t want someone I consider as a pragmatic intellectual and someone I have lot of respect for, being dragged into the kind of political dialogues and tricks that I am familiar with as the norm in Tamil Nadu. I wanted to protect the man from the sort of the operational rules of the game and in general, how things work in Tamil politics.

Then I decided to give up on my selfish possessiveness as a fan. I didn’t quite accept the transition yet. But I was hoping that this would be more of a political commentary & social critic avatar that he would take, but in a structured way, much like the Voltaires of the world.  All the while, keeping his cinematic connections very much alive. A bit more political than a hardcore activist, but a little less bounded by the rules of the game than an electoral politician. I was fascinated by the thought of how he could pull of social vigilantism using simple tools, effecting in micro changes which all could add up. I was dreaming and I even imagined a few mechanisms using which he could pull that off.

That dream bubble burst in November 2017, when it seemed very clear that he was actually serious about a more direct political route. One that involved building a party ground up and eventually contesting in elections. The exact kind of politics that I didn’t want him to get into.

Fast Forward to January, 2018.

Today, I feel that may be my uncertainty around embracing Kamal Haasan’s political entry was completely uncalled for. It has become abundantly clear that Kamal has in fact been chalking out this path for a while. All the signs of him merging with mainstream politics were always there. But I just didn’t want to look at them. These signs were in fact all the more evident in the past two-three years or so, when I try to look at his life closely.

The man is 62 now. He has gone through a very challenging and an absolutely tragic two-three years. Separating from a partner, losing his professional mentor, losing his personal mentor & brother, surviving an almost life paralyzing injury, battling with the government politically for the release of his movie, etc.

These are enough to drain a man out or enough to make a man analyze his life.

“What have I achieved till now?”

“What is left that I want to achieve?”

“And what in it is possible to achieve in my lifetime?”

It makes complete sense to me that for a man like Kamal Haasan, someone who has never been shy of voicing his opinion on societal issues, what those questions may have meant when he asked these to himself during the past 2-3 years.

Fast Forward to February 21, 2018.

Even though I am leaning towards Kamal Haasan picking February 21, 2018 purely as a matter of convenience considering all other logistical details, knowing the kind of writer & movie maker who likes to play with metaphors and symbols, that he is, I can’t help but wonder, why choose February 21 for the launch?

February 21, 1953 –  It was on this day that Francis Crick and James Watson discovered the structure of DNA-molecule. The Watson-Crick model is the basis for understanding human genome. (They went ahead with sharing this information officially in a public manner only on Feb 28).

February 21, 1848 – It was on this day that Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published “The Communist Manifesto” in London.

These are the two historic events that may symbolize Kamal Haasan choosing this day for his launch. Kamal being a staunch rationalist, and a strong proponent of science, there is every reason to believe that the DNA structure has a significant evolutionary symbolism as far as he forming a party & giving it a structure goes. And as for the communist manifesto, it’s quite obvious to correlate the significance.

But beyond the symbolism that the day brings, for me what is truly refreshing is to see his distinct approach to the launch of his political journey thus far. I can list many things to differentiate his approach thus far, but the one thing that has been acting as a huge inspiration and the one thing that has brought Kamal Haasan’s political journey closer to my heart, is his attempt to adopt villages and model them for future. I am sure I will have many things to say about that attempt, as that concept evolves into action.

For now, the very fact that a Tamil Nadu politician has dared himself to show results of his social consciousness and concern, without contesting in an election is reason enough for me to wish him well. Not as a fan. But as a keen political observer & as a social justice seeker.

And yes, I am no longer worried for the man and the man’s eventual failure in politics. Because I now understand that he wants to rewrite the definition of “failure” in politics. 

Posted in My Music, Poem

Pilani Slam (A Slam Poem)

So, a friend posted this poem on his FB wall and the moment I read it, I visualized it in a slam poetry format. Of course, this being about BITS PIlani, I connected with it right away.

The result is this experimental slam poem attempt.

(Soundcloud link below the lyrics)

Slam Poet: Vivek Misra
Programmed/Arranged by: Ganpy
Vocals: Ganpy

white hot yellow sands
dance, myriad mirages
green
peacocks strut
colour riots
tribes encoded saffron
pink red orange
turbaned hardened warriors
gaze from grey eyes
at grey skies
rain of life
pitter patter pitter patter
mops grey-blue
lustfilled suns heat
clouds burst
sheet the land
with water cool
life anew
smell of earth
anklets tinkle 
and muddy feet 
arouse passions…
chillums smoke
rings that dissipate
the smoker thinks
thinker smokes
camels snort, spit
spittle tourists
gaze disparaging
at minoltas clicking
the oohing the aahing
high heels
and fair skin
versus smouldering dark eyes
battle won
the mirrors reflect
on life outside
the red-orange veil…
cows the sentinels
of nighttime bus-stand
asleep standing
circling drunken
reveling boys
tested and sure
or unsure
no matter
tonight alcohol
decimates minds
while watchers watch
and smoke, their thoughts
chaotic….
a refrain floats
on chill air
and musky breath
“…a brilliant red
barchetta,….”
floats away
air guitaring
gesticulating
hop skip jumping
to samosas and tea
“aah …giri!,
goldflake! thanda! moda!…
chai!…”
5 am high….

Posted in Pictures, Poem, Thamizh (தமிழ்)

புது விதி

பாரதியின் 96வது நினைவு நாள்…

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புது விதி

விட்டுக் கொடார்
தொட்டுந் தொடார்
இட்டும் சட்டென
மட்டுப் போட்டார்.

விதிதனை புதிதாய்
இனி செய்ய
தெளியட்டும்
முதலில் இவரவரும்.

Posted in Humor - General, On such things...

On being ‘useless’ and such things…

What’s the point of living through a whole life and attaining wisdom, if you can’t share it with others? It’s utterly useless, if you ask me.

I presume, it’s that exact premise which prompted me to write this blog post.

I have decided to share my wisdom. The wisdom that is all about being in a state of uselessness and why that’s not a bad thing, as long as you are wise enough to realize that you are useless.

Before I dig myself deeper here, let us qualify uselessness. And answer some basic questions.

1) What is being useless?
2) How difficult is it to be useless?
3) Can you really be useless?

Being useless

Firstly, useful or useless is a relative thing. We often associate being useful with an act that is beneficial to ‘others’. That’s where the problem begins and it’s all to do with our society. We live in a society where if we do nothing, by being still or silent and absolutely void of any stimuli, there is a negative stigma associated with it. The implication is that one is being useless. But in reality, by doing nothing, by creating that void for your mind and body, you are being extremely useful to yourself. Neuroscientists would agree with me when I say that the benefits that come out of being useless are tremendous for your own personal health.

How difficult is it to be useless?

The short answer is – It is very difficult. It needs extreme training and rigorous practice of doing nothing before you can perfect the art of being in a state of uselessness.
I am not kidding.

It was before the birth of Internet. A time when you would walk to the street and stop at the first restaurant to get food and didn’t have to look at Yelp for the 25 different choices you had within a 5 min walk radius & didn’t need to rely on the 256 reviews, before deciding to hail a cab to go to a restaurant 29 minutes away from home.

It was a more adventurous time, if you were up for it, or if you were the kind who didn’t want to torture yourself by processing information, then I guess you resigned everything to fate. Either way, this was also the time, when you could sit and stare at a tree while sitting on a park bench, and do absolutely nothing for hours together. There were no notifications or alerts to prompt you or remind you to check your phones. It was during this time, I practiced my skill. I am not saying that it was easy to be useless back then, it was a bit easier. I often had long periods of time before someone realized how useless I was. So, that kept my determination going. The bottomline is, it is much harder to be useless these days. Almost impossible. Unless, you become a Buddha and walk away from everything. Then you can try to become useless.

Can you really be useless?

I think the answer is yes. Although I am a bit split on this question. By answering this question, if I am being useful to you, then the very premise of this question is flawed. I think that somehow makes this state of being in utter uselessness a distorted reality. May be it doesn’t exist. Even when you are being useless to others, you are being useful to yourself.  Right?

That makes me think.
Wait..wait..I know, I know..

You the reader, you are one step ahead of me. I know what you want to ask.
Before you ask me, let me clarify this.  You are going to ask me if I thought Buddha was being useless.

I would say – YES. Buddha was able to attain all his wisdom, only after he forced himself into a state of being utterly useless.  I would imagine his whole exercise would have turned useless, if he had tried to do something instead of nothing.

Buddha attained wisdom. His wisdom entailed the beauty of doing nothing and why being in a blissful state of uselessness provides one happiness. But, What did he do after all that?

He shared his wisdom with everyone.

Damn!! He became useful.

I think I have lost my own plot here. Never mind.

As Bertrand Russell says, there is much pleasure gained from useless knowledge. Hope you gained much pleasure reading this.

You can read my other posts “On such things”, right here.

Posted in Movies - General

Vikram Vedha – A Story of Choices

The two lead characters of Pushkar-Gayatri’s Vikram Vedha have one thing in common. They both are devout to their chosen profession with an obstinate belief in their respective approaches. The confidence they have in their approach with which they go about conducting their business pretty much provides them the drive they need and it also helps them define their moral compass ..a compass that gives them distinct clarity between black and white, in a world full of several shades of gray.

Vikram Vedha

Why Vikram Vedha turns out to be one of the best Tamil movies in recent times is not because of the philosophies and the above principles that define the two lead characters. But because of Pushkar and Gayatri’s screenplay that quite intricately builds the plot for the viewer, leading up to a climax which works in the most cinematically engaging way possible. The element of suspense, when revealed during the climax makes the audience connect all the dots. The hallmark of a great movie & a brilliant screenplay is how much it makes the viewer think about the movie after he or she walks out of the movie hall. I was thinking about the intricate plot for a few hours after I walked out of the movie.

Both Madhavan and Vijay Sethupathi carry their roles with aplomb. Vijay’s character is a more relatable one for the Tamil audience. They have seen him in similar roles (not in a negative shade, but Chennai slang speaking, casual mannerism wielding, etc. etc.) and have cheered for him for his ability to breathe life into these roles. And yet, there was something more intense in this role and Vijay scores big in every opportunity he gets in the script.

Vikram’s role on the other hand was a bit more difficult for Madhavan to fit in and he pulled it off quite brilliantly. His character demanded balancing multiple relationships, each with a different set of nuances. Be it with a attorney wife, who is actually on the other side of the criminal case he is dealing with OR be it during his personal encounters with Vedha, the mobster whose downfall has been his mission and also the person who intrigues him the most by making him look at the gray side OR be it with his colleagues, with whom he shares his ideologies in the most pragmatical way possible with some kind of naiveté – These are some of the different shades of Vikram’s character that Madhavan had to carry on his shoulders.

Vedha is that introspective criminal, who was thrown into the mix due to circumstances. He is fully aware of what he is doing and hence keeps himself detached from other people, except perhaps for his love for his brother, a matter in which he had no choice. He deals with situations in a practical way, weighs his choices justly and sticks with his decision. He is smart and is persuasive.

The Vikram-Betal structure has been used to frame this intricate plot of what otherwise is a simple story. Pushkar and Gayatri have shown their humorous side in the past through their earlier outings and their penchant for brilliant one liners continue here as well but in a more unassuming way than you could imagine in a plot like this. Even though Sam CS’s background score is bright and energetic for this movie, providing the much needed gusto, he also overdoes it to some extent (would have preferred a softer approach in some sequences). The main theme chant inspired by the powerful “Aigiri Nandini” stands out and bodes well with the overall momentum of the movie.

In Vikram Vedha, we get to witness two characters from two sides of the socially dictated moral spectrum of “Right vs Wrong”, pitted against each other and making choices based on their instincts.  When one of the two characters offers the other a different perspective and the other character agrees to accommodate a different perspective, the choice making is no longer instinctive but analytical.

And the buzz of “Oru Kadha Sollattaa Saar?” (“Shall I narrate a story, Sir?”) continues to ring in my ears.