Posted in Movies - General

Here, there, and Beyond the Clouds…

Take that chase scene in Slumdog Millionaire.  In two minutes, Danny Boyle managed to capture so many details of Mumbai slums without making them look too dramatic on screen, while being ably aided by AR Rahman’s synthetic upbeat score. Majidi on the other hand takes a visually dramatic approach in ‘Beyond the Clouds’ to a chase scene that he too shot for approximately the same length of time. Here too cops are chasing. Not young children, but two spunky adult/teenage boys.

Before you go watch ‘Beyond the Clouds’,  I am sure there is an uncomfortable parallel running in your mind. A foreign director, making a movie based out of Mumbai slums, etc. etc. The unavoidable comparison with Slumdog Millionaire even before you watch this movie. Majid Majidi, the master director who excels in making sensitive stories of kids and in weaving poverty tales through the lens of social injustices, puts you at rest within the first 5 minutes that this movie is nothing like SDM. In fact, he also convinces the movie audience who are familiar with his previous works, that even though this too is a sibling story (just like Children of Heaven), he has a completely different turf he is playing with.

Amir (Ishaan Khatter), a vibrant boy, who has grown up seeing the struggles of poverty, is a drug peddler among other things. He is not afraid of vocally seeking his place in the criminal food chain and has a heart that is vulnerable. Tara (Malavika Mohanan), his elder sister has a slightly deeper side to her. She has been abused, thrown out, and has been pushed to the darkest corners of the slum life, as a woman.

Beyond the Clouds, in simple terms, is really a story about the psychological struggle between these two siblings as they battle their own good and evil sides, their own light and dark sides, and their place in this insane society,  a society that has no structure for people at the deep end of the economic spectrum, so that they can at least accept life as it is being offered to them.

Amir, a criminal (by law) ends up outside, while he watches the mental spiraling down of his innocent sister who, as circumstance would have it, ends up in jail for a crime that she may have committed only to save herself. Tara ends up forming an unusual bond with a little boy inside the prison. While Amir ends up forming an unusual bond with the family of the man Tara attacked. The interconnectivity of how each character tries to redeem itself by latching onto the relationships that life offers and the individual victory of each character’s own good over its own evil has been beautifully portrayed through Majidi’s signature visuals all the way to the last shot of the movie – one which symbolizes the very title of the movie.

With a powerful sibling psychological story and a wonderful setting like Mumbai, Majidi had many things going for him in this movie. Yet, he may have been caught in his zest to adapt the melodrama cloud that Indian cinema is used to being hovered over by or he may have simply been pushed by his co-screenwriter to write a screenplay that is soaked with scenes that are perhaps uncharacteristically Majidi when it comes to sentimentalizing and visual choreography. Either way, I felt that Majidi may have lost out an opportunity to make a completely authentic Majidi Indian film, even though the last 30 minutes of the movie more than makes up for the rest of the movie, in terms of leaving the Majidi stamp.

The OST of the film has been playing in my car for the past 2 weeks. And yet, when the thematic musical pice of the movie – “Beyond the Clouds” played towards the end, it was so haunting when superimposed with the last frame, that my eyes were moist as I was left thinking about the happy tragedies of all these characters, now redeemed, and their acceptance of everything, here, there and beyond the clouds.

Posted in Poem, Thamizh (தமிழ்)

மகளிர் தின கிறுக்கல்

நீ நீயுமாய்
நான் நானுமாய் 
புதிரிகளைத் தீர்த்துமாய்
புரியாததைப்  பகிர்ந்துமாய்

சிரித்தும் அழுதும்
அடித்தும் அணைத்தும் 
தனித்தும் கூடியும்
தனித்துவத்தை மதித்தும்

இன்றுபோல் இல்லாத 
நாளை நோக்கி நம்பிக்கையுடன்

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.”

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 to three 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 perhaps 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 operational rules of the political game and in general, how things work in Tamil Nadu 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 off social vigilantism using simple tools, effecting 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.

I began to feel that may be my uncertainty around embracing Kamal Haasan’s political entry was completely uncalled for. It had become abundantly clear to me 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
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
a refrain floats
on chill air
and musky breath
“…a brilliant red
floats away
air guitaring
hop skip jumping
to samosas and tea
“aah …giri!,
goldflake! thanda! moda!…
5 am high….

Posted in Pictures, Poem, Thamizh (தமிழ்)

புது விதி

பாரதியின் 96வது நினைவு நாள்…


புது விதி

விட்டுக் கொடார்
தொட்டுந் தொடார்
இட்டும் சட்டென
மட்டுப் போட்டார்.

விதிதனை புதிதாய்
இனி செய்ய
முதலில் இவரவரும்.