Saturday, June 29, 2013

Thought for the Day - The Link Between Gratitude and Being Fully In the Moment

It struck me suddenly that you cannot be grateful to anything if you are not fully present to it.

Why should one be grateful. Good q. You should, because if you are not grateful, it means that you are generally not happy with stuff that is coming your way. That you are not appreciating what you have.

That stuff will slowly dwindle as rejection or not being appreciated is not liked by anyone or anything. So out goes love, money, happiness, good relationships, jobs, opportunities - and that's not a good thing.

To be grateful is to stay in a space of appreciation. Of wonder.One cannot be that if one is not fully present in the moment.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Thought For the Day - What Makes Us Look Forward to Certain Things

Why do I look forward to certain things and want to avoid certain other things?

I look forward to certain things where I feel I can either contribute (or get something I like, such as praise, applause, gift etc). I do not look forward to things when I have nothing to contribute and I am getting something I do not like (criticism, rebuke, ridicule, penalty), or not getting anything.

When I have something to genuinely share, I look forward. (It normally brings the stuff I like.) When I have nothing to share, I avoid it.

I like it when I feel worthy. When I feel worthless I do not.

It is not about that place. It is about me and my sense of self-worth.

I can increase my sense of self-worth by looking to share, to contribute, genuinely. Then we can give a smile, love, knowledge, comfort, peace.

Champions Trophy 2013 - Well Done MSD, Team India and Selectors

My cricket watching has gone down a bit because international cricket in recent times has not kept me interested for too long. Perhaps it's a case of overexposure.

But I saw the final of the Champions Trophy 2013 and bits and pieces of some other games. I liked much about this new look Indian team - for starters - the new look. The Indian selectors led by the clear thinking Sandeep Patil, with his team of Roger Binny, Vikram Rathore, Saba Karim and Rajinder Singh Hans, are all hardworking, behind the scenes cricketers who will do an honest day's work.  They must be complimented on taking some fine decisions and sticking with form and commitment shown by the second rung players and not just sticking to old and sentimental favorites.

1) Shikhar Dhawan has been brilliant ever since he stormed on to the scene. As he repeatedly says he has used the domestic seasons to learn and grow, to sort himself out and now he knows his game inside out (literally). Players who are fully ready, who come after piling on runs for seasons upon seasons, who face rejection, the touch knocks of life are bound to value their time, their place in the middle. You can be sure he will be around for a while - he knows how difficult it was to get where he is now. I liked the way he told Nasser Hussain in the post match presentation that he dreamt he would be the Man of the Tournament. We need such passion, such newness, ambition. Full marks there to the selectors. Sehwag and Gambhir now know there is some self-analysis, some training to be done which is a good thing.

2) Playing Rohit Sharma as an opener was a brilliant move. Murali Vijay has has a woeful domestic season but he came into his own in the Tests against Australia. But in the shorter versions his form has been erratic. But batsman to batsman, Rohit is streets ahead in terms of talent and value to this team, and with his new found responsibility as captain of the Mumbai Indians, a stint that has done him a world of good, I finally see his career settling down. It is a delicious prospect to see batsmen of his calibre playing with responsibility (just as it is equally distressing to see them play irresponsibly, something which he has been guilty of, though unconsciously, for most of his career). To promote him to open was a wise and bold move and it paid dividends. Batsmen of such calibre can play at any position.

3) Virat Kohli cannot be kept out of any of the Indian sides because he brings not merely a huge sense of combativeness, an overwhelming desire to win and backs it with responsible and match winning knocks and performances in the field. And once again in the final he showed what a mature head he carries on his young shoulders as he garnered some crucial runs with Jadeja which ultimately proved to be the marginal difference.

4) Suresh Raina was a huge component in the World Cup 2011 and he still remains exactly that with his brand of aggressive fielding, batting and irrepressible exuberance on the field. He is a sobering effect, a positive influence and a dangerous batsman who can bowl a few overs. He is the silent force behind Dhoni and delivers in every way he can.

5) Dinesh Karthik was another good choice, he got a just reward for his batting performances in the domestic circuit, and he delivered in England when it mattered. He is a professional too and someone who like Shikhar Dhawan, understands the value of his place in the team. Bold move by the selectors to pick him as a batsman and one that DK justified fully.

6) MSD at 6. No praise can be less for this man. His tremendous leadership skills, clarity of thought, focus and vision, rootedness to the moment have once again pulled off the impossible for India. I have never seen anything like this man and I was amazed when I heard stories of how people wanted him out. Where can you get such leaders? I firmly believe that the leader makes the critical difference and when one has such exceptional talent, one should nurture it, not throw it away. MSD should take up leadership roles in society at a later stage in his career, especially at a time when India seems to have such a dearth of leaders. the young man has absorbed so much pressure in the past few years and kept it off his team really that it is shocking and somehow saddening to see how the carefree, longlocked young man who charmed President Musharraf even, has greyed and aged. But the true champion he is, MSD smiles it away, takes it in his stride and says, tomorrow is a new day. I loved the way he clapped his hands and encouraged a nervous Ishant after the tall bowler bowled two wides following a six by Morgan - and Ishant found the courage to bowl a slower one that dismissed Morgan, and then a shortish ball that got rid of Bopara. I loved the way he handled the post match interview with his feet firmly on the ground, the way he received the trophy, thrust it into Shikhar Dhawan's hand and walked off behind the scenes. My vote for MSD any day. What a man!

7) Ravindra Jadeja is a terrific talent and brings exceptional value in all three departments. He seems to have found the confidence of his captain, his team and himself and he can put the demons of yesteryears behind him. One can be sure that under the mentorship of Dhoni he will surely keep all distractions and temptations away and focus on his game and do well for India. His performance throughout the tournament, more so those crucial runs in the final, gave India the momentum.

8) Ashwin brings a mature head, a combative attitude and skill with both bat and ball that can turn matches. He is someone who will be around for a while too, someone who knows himself, his game, who is used to winning and who has seen the ways of his skipper closely. He is a balanced sort of a person and you know he will never go way off the mark even on his off day and that he is the kind who can be trusted to bowl the last over without losing his head.

9) Bhuvaneshwar Kumar carries much courage and skill, a heart of a soldier and the cunning of a fox, within that slim frame and unassuming manner. When he scored a hundred with the last man and secured an unlikely win for Central Zone against North Zone he showed what he is made of. And when he started swinging the ball both ways and knocking openers out even on flat wickets, he gave the Indian bowling teeth that look much sharper than ever. A silent operator who is worth his value in gold, another one who knows his game and is on top of his skill, someone who came out of the process, Bhuvaneshwar gets my vote any day with the new ball in all three versions of the game.

10) Ishant Sharma was another bold pick by the selectors and he fully justified his inclusion with two match winning performances. The rather erratic spell in the final however was the turning point of the game but more than that, it was heartening to  see his deliveries thud into the wicketkeepers gloves in the games he got his rhythm. He loves his wins too and it was a sight to see the lanky bowler jump all over his skipper when they won the game. They seemed to have had some private premonition about the game - good for them.

11) Umesh Yadav is certainly the man to back with the new ball as he is the quickest bowler we have and has the uncanny ability to pick up wickets or bowl overs that push opposition teams into uncomfortable positions. He is strong and as long as he is fit, he can make any batsman in the world hurry through with his expert pace. He can knock over a few wickets any time in the best of team and for that one quality, he needs to be in the team.

Well done everybody. To me it is a clear case of how the best prepared players got the opportunity, how players with the most desire to play and perform for their team and country made the crucial difference and how a good, well-thought-of team combination left no gaps for anyone to exploit. And when you give such a team to an able leader, you cannot keep it from winning.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Anjali's Second Blog - About Nature

Here's Anjali's second blog. About nature.

"hi i am harimohans kid anjali p and i want to talk about plants,animals,under water animals,etc. my dad is writer i know you know his books like the men within,if you love someone. now lets see mom. mom can heal you. 

why do we cut trees? why do we throw litter? no save the earth! do not cut trees do not throw litter i will be a prime minister and save the earth i will plant trees throw litter in the bin.

1. we must stop cutting trees because you will get a lot of sun!
2. always throw  litter in the bin.
3. do not by to many cars and bikes because  you will get cold/cough!
4.make sure the city is clean."

Anjali, amongst nature
As I heard in the car today Anjali feels strongly about nature. She gets distressed at the cutting of trees because "even they have a life and they are our friends....if we cut trees there won't be any butterflies and birds...they will die...". She also confessed in rather great detail about how she wants to be a Prime Minister because then she can spread the message "..through newspapers..." and not allow "...cutting of trees...". Another initiative she thought of, and by now she was really animated and at the top of her voice, was of bringing all the attas (aunts) and relatives together and tell them about this initiative of hers, and about not using plastic.

I suggested that she express herself through a blog and she typed in one letter after another, pausing to get correct spellings, checking with us etc. I left the other stuff as it is, unpolluted, if I may say so.

Good for you Anjali. Your bit for your friends - I am sure they will remember your gesture.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Thought for the Day - The Outcome or the Process

This is a puzzle. Should one be focused on the outcome or the process. In my opinion they are both part of the process and the goal.

Being entirely goal or outcome driven may take all the enjoyment out of the process, the journey. By not enjoying the journey, you may not enjoy the results of the journey. You may miss the forest for the trees. You may lose your soul in a mad rush to reach the goal.
The goal and the process, trees and the forest

On the other hand if you are focused on the process and keep improving on it constantly, you would certainly garner enough expertise to get to the goal anyway. You would be reaching the outcome that the process throws up by itself consistently. You would be more aware, compassionate and understanding of both the goal, the process and the medium (yourself).

The second method is advisable certainly because it is more wholesome and growth oriented. The three aspects to this endeavour of excellence - the goal (long term, comprising of several short term goals), the process and the medium (yourself) - must be employed jointly and harmoniously for a healthy growth. However it is easier said than done because you must first go through the process of goal-oriented work to understand what the process is all about. You must first learn to be honest about the endeavour and commit yourself to it.

In my opinion, being goal oriented at the first stage is not a bad thing to start with (unless you are already an evolved soul who can see everything in perspective). It makes the amateur honest. It makes you understand the need to be honest, to understand the purpose of striving for something, to also understand the importance of intensity and earnestness. Competing hard and winning makes you stretch and push. It makes you understand that the process comprises of many parts and not merely the actions. And it makes you realise that achieving goals require sacrifices, commitment and constant improvement. When one goal that is aspired for is achieved, it is a great revelation, a complete education in the process. If not for the goal oriented approach, you may not understand the process itself.

In the second stage, as the amateur matures and takes on the pride of a professional, there is more focus on the process. As the professional you hone your tricks, learn new tricks, learn to fall and fail, and still smile and get up. You know that you are there for the long haul, that you are there to make a difference as only you can, by being the medium and letting your art flow through you. It makes you compassionate, understanding and unyielding, in a loving manner. This is the stage where the process reigns supreme, where the practitioner knows how infinite the journey is and how capricious the route can be. It requires patience and love.

A shoe maker begins to make the shoe with an outcome in his mind. His understanding and love for the process, the shoe and the customer, can elevate it to a fine art. But this elevation happens only after repeatedly making shoes in a goal oriented manner, after knowing how shoes are made. One cannot just begin making shoes without a goal, a shoe, in mind. Goal orientation is very much part of understanding the process itself and the learner's evolution. With considerable practice, he will embrace the process for the love of it. The process then becomes the goal.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Pyaasa - Movie Review

I watched 'Pyaasa; again after decades. Or am I imagining things? Maybe I never watched the movie but always believed I did. But I do remember one scene from the movie, the famous 'Jala do, jala do' scene, which could have settled in off Chitrahaar for all I know. Of Guru Dutt on the steps of the packed auditorium. But whichever way, I did see the classic and am glad I did.

Vasant Kumar Shivshankar Padukone  a.k.a. Guru Dutt's classic movie is soft and gentle, sensitive and romantic, thought provoking and intense. With lovely music, a fine story and some wonderful performances the movie comes alive. Guru Dutt plays Vijay, a poet who wishes to make a living writing poetry. This kind of escapist thinking is not liked by his brothers who taunt him constantly. Vijay, though mollified and protected by his loving mother, leaves home and lives like a vagrant. His brothers, evil chaps, sell off his poetry files to the raddiwala. From the raddiwala the poems reach a prostitute Gulabo (Waheeda Rehman) who falls in love with the young poet's intense poetry. When she is singing one of his poems, in her attempt to lure customers, Vijay accosts her and demands that she give his poems back. She is unhappy that he is not the prospective customer that she thought he was, and throws him out. But she soon realises that he is the poet who wrote those wonderful poems, and starts helping him out (by paying his food bills to start with). She also falls in love with him because he speaks kindly and gently to her, little knowing that Vijay does not know to speak in any other way.

Vijay meanwhile meets his collgeheart sweetheart Meena  (Mala Sinha) who is the chief object of his affections and his pain and the inspiration behind his poems. Meena, ever so practical, realises that life with Vijay will take her to the streets, and breaks off her youthful dalliance with him and marries a rich man Mr. Ghosh (Rehman) who is also a well known publisher. In an alumni meeting Ghosh senses some sparkling, unfulfilled chemistry between Meena and the sad song-singing Vijay and decides to explore it, jealous husband that he is. He offers Vijay a job in his publishing company, as a servant, and keeps a jealous eye on him. Vijay soon realises that Meena is married to his master, Ghosh. He also comes to know of his mother's demise and feels pretty dejected with life.

In a classic twist sometime at that stage, a slightly suicidal looking Vijay offers his jacket to a beggar who is shivering in the cold. The beggar, for reasons best known to him, follows the suicidal-looking Vijay on the tracks and is knocked down by a train (in a scene, which was later copied in Yaadon ki Baarat I think, of the foot getting caught between railways tracks when they are changing). It is reported in the news that young poet Vijay died, and his badly mutilated and unidentifiable body found; information based on his jacket and some papers found in it. Distraught, Gulabo goes to Ghosh with Vijay's poems and asks him to publish them, paying for the publication with all her savings. The poems become a super hit and everyone is reading Vijay's poems. As a nurse reads the poems ecstatically, her almost-comatose patient Vijay wakes up, and talks after a long time. He recognises his poems. But his claims to be the famous poet Vijay are soon dismissed and he is sent to a mental asylum. Ghosh and his friend Shyam do not recognise him, thinking that it might harm the commercial interests but his friend, Sattar the maalishwala, helps him escape.

In a big function held to mourn the death of Vijay, the real Vijay appears. But he soon claims that he is not the real Vijay and is actually an impostor and chooses to walk away from the world of money, fame and deceit. He goes to find Gulabo, who apart from Sattar, has been the only true friend and asks her to accompany him on his wanderings. Gulabo is not as smart as Meena and agrees.

The look on Waheeda Rehman's face when she sees Guru Dutt in the last scene will always remain with me. It is fantastic. I rewound and watched it a few times just to see how anyone could bring such expression of love and longing to the screen. Guru Dutt is perfect in Vijay's role, soft spoken, idealistic and self-destructive. The rest of the characters are brilliantly etched with no ambiguity and each serving a purpose. I loved the character of Shyam who moves the way the breeze blows. Meena and her practical approach, Sattar and his tel maalish. Guru Dutt's movie brings across the angst in every heart, the senselessness of being, the futility of living, and the dangers of growing up and out of the romance of youth into a real world. But in the end it is a love story of a man and his poetry, his inspiration and his ardent fan and his disillusionment with life and perhaps love. His love will always remain Meena and his poetry, Meena's love will always remain money and comfort, Gulabo's love with always remain Vijay and his kindness. In a rather ironical twist, it is the Ghosh family which bestows money and fame to the poet, whose poetry is inspired by Meena Ghosh. And it is Mr. Ghosh, the jealous husband who does not get his wife's full quota of love, who makes all the money from the poet's heartburn, pining for his wife. And Vijay yet again, chooses to walk away from what life offers him on a platter, and goes down the hard path.

More interesting is Guru Dutt's story itself. He is the original Padukone! And for someone who was born in Bangalore, had a tough childhood, did not complete his education for lack of money, he made some wonderful stuff, full of clarity and passion. Thrice married, last of whom was Geeta Dutt, his death, considered by some as suicide, when he was 39, and at the peak of his fame, is also not clear. Alcohol and sleeping pill induced, it could have been a mistake some feel. Guru Dutt was also related to Hyderabad born and Nizam College educated Shyam Sundar Venegalla a.k.a. Shyam Benegal. After spending early years in Calcutta he trained with Uday Shankar's India Culture Center at Almora before moving to Mumbai where his parents were. He got a job with the Prabhat Film Company in Poona and that is where his initiation into films happened. He achieved much in 39 years, directing 8 movies including classics such as Pyaasa, Kaagaz Ke Phool, Baazi, produced an equal number of films including Saheb, Biwi aur Ghulam, Chaudhvin ka Chand, C.I.D. and acted in 16. Some body of work, but more importantly what quality of work.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Rendition - Movie Review

One of the post 9/11 movies as you can make out in scene no 1 when the delegates address one Mr. Anwar. Soon Mr. Anwar is shown speaking to wife Isabella (Reese Witherspoon) who is American. Now you know where this can go from there. But seriously 'Rendition' is based on the true story of Khalid El Masri, a German national who was mistaken for Khalid-Al Masri, and abducted under 'Extraordinary Rendition' practice that US had begun post its famous War on Terror. Under this Rendition they can abduct those whom they suspect of terrorist activities and ship them off to countries where they are tortured.

A suicide bomber explodes in an African country killing an American agent and 18 others. The target is the police official Fawal who conducts the torture program for the US in that country. Based on call records, young chemical engineer Anwar is apprehended on his arrival in Chicago from the conference he attended in South Africa. All traces of his arrival are deleted and he is shipped off to Mr. Fawal's care. Now Isabella is a true blue American and she will not take this sudden disappearances quietly. She starts kicking up a storm claiming that he was on the plane because she has records of his credit card purchases on the flight. She soon finds out that the person who may have ordered this rendition is Ms. Corrine Whitman (Meryl Streep) a high ranking CIA official. Whitman is all ice and ignorance. In Africa Anwar is tortured so badly that he agrees to crimes he never committed. Something that the young CIA agent sent to observe the torture, Douglas Freeman suspects.

In a parallel story Fawal's daughter is involved with a young poet Khalid who is also a bit of a revolutionary. She does not know that he is planning to eliminate her father in revenge for the death of his older brother, another revolutionary. The story slowly unveils the plot behind the suicide bombing while on the other hand Freeman helps Anwar escape to America. News of his torture is out in the media and all hell breaks loose. Fawal finds that life has its own ways of getting back and is left to deal with his demons.

It's taut, gripping and tense. It's also a statement on the futility of some of the methods these people use. Meryl Streep is brilliant as Corrine White and Alan Arkin is his usual lovable self. Moral of the story: Use your credit card often, including in flights.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Paradoxes of Our Lives - We Set The Frame, And Expect Others to Behave Outside It

We set the frames for every person in our mind, in our eyes, in our demeanour, in our expectations. This is how you will be, we say firmly.We can expect nothing better from you. We do that with or children, our wards, our students and our trainees, our subordinates, our spouses - in fact with almost anyone close to us.

The Limiting Frame
You are like that only!

Having fixed them in rock hard frames, we expect them to behave otherwise. To constantly surprise us. How will that ever happen? Especially when we are not willing to see what they do outside our frame.

The paradox then - to see the best of everyone, do not frame. Do not set hard and fixed boundaries.

Even if you do (most of us tend to) - have the flexibility to look outside your narrow frame. Perhaps, you could tell yourself, this chap has something else I cannot see.

When you are prepared to be surprised, they will surprise you.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Garbage Beat - Richa Lakhera

Garbage Beat is a story of a tv journalist Laila who covers movies and fashion for a tv channel EMTV - two areas that brim with sex and scandal. Author Richa Lakhera is a tv journo herself and it might not be too far off the mark to say that it is autobiographical. But only to the extent that the reader gets a hazy idea of the way the world of the super cool tv journos functions - and little else. It is one breathless ride that hops from one event to another and we end not knowing anything about Laila at all. I did not. After sometime, you don't really want to either, which is a pity because at the end when she is thinking about a baby etc she does sound human and normal and you soften a bit. But frankly my dear, it is too late by then.

Perhaps written as a breezy tale that takes an irreverent shot at all the goings on in Bollywood and in the world of fashion, it does end up sounding like a Madhur Bhandarkar movie after a while, with one liners fling quick and fast passing judgement on the characters involved. Madhur Bhandarkars characters do that - the bunch of drivers who discuss their bosses and their sex lives and such other people who pass their judgements and opinions - and Richa uses that a lot in every chapter almost to pass judgement on the scandalous person - which does not help at all. It could have done with some more care, some more 'showing' and developing of the scandals so that they do what they should which is scandalise. As for the scandals they disappoint because it all sounds like we have heard it before (I am sure we have). I wish Richa had really created some scandals that would have knocked us off but she chooses to be in the safe area and rehashes existing scandals with different names.

Laila is generally running pillar to post with various cameramen. She has a bunch of colleagues who use profanities comfortably and I never figured out who they were except that one becomes a sexy item girl, one wants to commit suicide and some more. Some stars, some scandals and that's it. The story moves from one incident being covered to another. There is no real plot. I never felt that Laila and her boyfriend might marry or that they were sharing anything intimate so it was rather nice when it comes down to some real feelings. But like I said, it comes too late.

Richa could do well to really go the whole hog if she wants to shock and scandalise the reader, or she should stick to the feeling part, which she seems to be perfectly capable of doing. She can write surely, and perhaps better than most, but I felt this was a hurried attempt that suffered because it was not conceptualised with some more clarity. I would have given it more feeling, more passion, instead of breezing through it like a diary of events. I breezed through it as a reader in the quickest time ever because it is a breezy read. Would I recommend it? Not really. Which is a bit sad, because I think they had enough raw material that got squandered. 

Intimate Relations - Sudhir Kakar

This is an academic book. Sudhir Kakar is one of India's leading psychoanalysts. His book 'Intimate Relations' explores intimate relations in India, or the lack of them, through sexual fantasies in Hindi novels, folktales, films like 'Ram Teri Ganga Maili', proverbs and a huge insight into Gandhi's autobiography. It is an interesting read.

I must confess that I read it with as much interest as I could muster but found it rather too academic for my state of mind. Somehow the mind seems to take on the mindset of reading sex columns in magazines and that perspective puts the brakes on any serious reading. But despite that there were interesting tidbits that I picked up in his many observations about the Indian psyche, religion, obsession with purity, the understanding of the purpose of sex and so on. I breezed through how sex has been interpreted in popular culture through novels, films, proverbs and all that until I suddenly stopped. Where I read it word to word is in the chapter titled 'Gandhi and Women'.

Gandhi's autobiography becomes the issue on which Sudhir Kakar dwells on. It is interesting to see Gandhi change from a (what it appears to be) a sex driven young man who at some point in life begins to experiment with his mind to banish all desire. He experiments in many ways to banish sexual thoughts from his head - following severe diets, practicing celibacy, attempting to keep out thoughts even unconsciously. But  not to the extent of banishing the root of the desire - women - though. He in fact kept himself in the company of his women followers, some of whom  may not have had his chaste ideals, and from within that cauldron, experimented on himself. Every now and then he would be distressed at signs of his mind weakening, even for a moment. For someone who saw food as a prime mover of sexual thoughts, the many fasts he undertook also could be seen as a manner of purifying himself. The words Gandhi uses to describe the passions are interesting as he calls it the beast, the enemy, the battle etc. Highly interesting to read that part of the Mahatma and his inner battles with truth.

One para is really interesting, which explains all the talk of celibacy or brahmaharya and Sudhir Kakar mentions how yogis seek to conquer sexual longings and convert it into spiritual power. He says that Indian mysticism is concerned with the alchemy of the libido which would be converted from a giver of death to bestower of immortality. The theory of sublimation goes like this. Sudhir Kakar writes:

"Physical strength and mental power have their source in virya, a word that stands for both sexual energy and semen. Virya, in fact, is identical with the essence of maleness. Virya can either move downward in sexual intercourse, where it is emitted in its gross physical form as semen, or it can move upward through the spinal chord and into the brain, in its subtle form known as ojas. Hindus regard the downward movement of sexual energy and its emission as semen as enervating, a debilitating waste of vitality and essential energy. Off all emotions, it is said, lust throws the mind into the greatest chaos, with every violent passion destroying millions of red blood cells. Indian metaphysical physiology maintains that food is converted into semen in a thirty-day period by successive transformations (and refinements) through blood, flesh, fat, bone, and marrow till semen is distilled - forty drops of blood producing one drop of semen, which is equivalent to the vitality produced by the consumption of sixty pounds of food.

In another similar calculation wihth pedagogic intent, each act of copulation is equivalent to an energy expenditure of twenty-four hours of concentrated mental activity or seventy two hours of hard physical labour."

And so on and so forth. With such deep calculations and promises of ojas, no wonder the yogis walk the path of celibacy. What they do with those powers, the ones that they accumulate, is what I would like to know. Does all that spiritual energy go into some universal bank and balances the good and bad? Or is it just kept in place? I would love to hear what Osho has to say on this topic. He does come with some refreshing perspectives. Like I said, some interesting stuff surely.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Parking Woes - City Centre Mall Shines Bright

I am a bit worried about driving anywhere these days. That's because I can get to my destination but I cannot get out of my car. (It's a bit like Hotel California - you can check out but cannot leave.) Not that I have some unmentionable problems or that I am smitten by a sudden case of shyness - it's simply that there is no place to park. I drive around in circles and come back home without even getting off the car many times.

That's true. I spend a lot of my time circling the place where I want to go to, looking at it longingly, as I would any object of my affection, looking for some opportunity to get close to it. Sometimes I pick up some courage and park in a place that seems safe to park - normally a fifteen minute walk away from my destination - my heart beating in fear at what might happen to my car.

I find out soon enough that no place is safe. Sometimes the car gets locked up, sometimes it is towed away, sometimes I have scratches on it left by some jealous competitors. It's not that I have parked in a No Parking zone - merely that I have parked in a zone that has not been declared safe to park. The penalties, legal and illegal, cost a few hundreds of rupees for me. It would have been cheaper for me to stay at home.

Why, I wonder, do all these commercial establishments not have places to park? How come there are miles and miles of roads with no parking places? Who conjured up such designs where they did not envisage parking spaces at all? How come so many illegal structures park themselves on the road but there's no space for parking?

But let's move to the safe to park places. These are places that come with a price tag. All malls in Hyderabad charge upwards of Rs. 30 to park, some charge by the hour, roads that have paid parking charge Rs. 20 and more, and so on and so forth. So much so that I have stopped going to certain places because they are exorbitantly pricey. (I sometimes think they price themselves so they can keep people like me out. You see I like places where we can park free of cost. Like the good old days.)

Just when I was thinking that I'd probably be better off getting into my car, parked securely in my own compound free of cost, and getting out of it after a while, so it saves me the trouble of circling around like a hungry eagle, I saw hope the other day. Like a huge breath of fresh air I came across a shopping mall in Hyderabad that does not charge for parking. City Centre mall, on Road number 1 Banjara Hills advertises the fact proudly and rightly so. In a muddy pool of malls and multiplexes that do not offer parking facilities that are half as decent, City Centre mall shines bright. It did the right thing and offers free parking space. No wonder it tops my list of favorite destinations these days. Good job fellows, there's hope for the world. And my car also gets to go out once in a while.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Paradoxes of Our Lives - Love and Responsibility

Where love exists, responsibility cannot.

Love can only bring out acts that are made of love. Acts of responsibility are not acts of love.

Because the moment the word responsibility comes in, the 'I' comes in. What is 'my' responsibility to 'you' becomes a forced, assumed, victimized act. Most times this forced responsibility brings on resentment and while doing the act we do it with anger, hate and frustration.

It is better to keep responsibility out of love. In fact when there is true love, responsibility dies.

In love, there is no responsibility. Only love. We do because we love doing. Not because we feel responsible. There is a huge difference. It is about freedom.

The Good Shepherd - Movie Review

This one is full of big stars - Matt Damon, Anjelina Jolie, Alec Baldwin, Robert De Niro, William Hurt - and claims to be the Godfather of spy movies. With little action and much inner dialogue, the film may appear slow, but somehow, in Director Robert De Niro's hands, it possesses enough energy in every scene to make you want to find out what happens till the end. It succeeds as a good movie in my definition as it disturbs and leaves behind a slow impact. That feeling of dullness of pain, of a job with no real end, of spying in the CIA, and we feel the sense of weariness and entrapment that Matt Damon feels by the end. Unconventional but brilliant and a good one for Robert De Niro who not only directed it but produced it as well.

Told from the perspective of a bright young man from Yale, Edward Wilson (Matt Damon) who rises to be one of the main counter intelligence operatives and a founding member of the CIA, it starts with the embarrassing failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion that was initiated by CIA. Cuba, under the Soviet friendly Castro, beats the invaders who were backed by the US government, in three days. Heads are set to roll - mainly that of Edward Wilson - as they know that there has been a leak from within. A photograph and a audio reel sent to Edward Wilson give some information about the possible traitor. As Wilson tries to find out who the traitor was who leaked information from such a closely held group, his past flashes back, showing him as a Yale student, as a member of the famous Skull and Bones society, as an early recruit for the OSS and then the CIA. His young and idealistic world soon becomes silent, dark and full of secrets, a world where one cannot trust anyone. His wife is distanced by his coldness and feels ignored, his son is scared forever and is always trying to win his cold father's approval. As Edward tries to get to the bottom of the betrayal he finds some uncomfortable truths. Truths that require radical decisions. Decisions that may prove to him that he has lost his soul as his old professor had warned.

It is a film unlike most. Rober De Niro assumes that the audience is intelligent and goes about telling the story at a fast pace, letting us figure out the gaps, the nuances. And even as he does, we get the soul of the film intact, even though we may not get everything that happens in a rather complex tale that spans a two decade period across several continents, across groups as diverse as counter intelligence officials, foreign officials, spies and moles, Nazi officers wishing to defect and his own loves and family. Passes my standard for a good movie - it kept me wanting to watch it till the end despite a rather tired state of mind. Good stuff. Matt Damon is brilliant. Robert De Niro steals every scene he is in.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Story of the Young Men Who Wanted to Go Somewhere

Okay here is the story of the young men who wanted to go somewhere.

Once upon a time there were a few young men who were working very hard to go to a place called Somewhere but were not getting much results to show for what they were putting in. These young men soon started thinking that they were really unlucky, that the system was unfair, that there was no justice, that the gods were unkind, that the stars were not favorable, that the vastu was not good, that their numerology was bad, that their astrology was bad, that their forefathers astrology was bad, and so on.

Painting by Anjali
One day a wise man passed by their camp. He heard their hard luck story. He said that as far as he knew the process behind anything works in a certain way - that we first know where we stand, that we aspire for a particular goal and then we put in efficient work to get there. The work put in is the process, said the man. The more efficient the process the better the result. If the process is inefficient, the results will show similarly.

Since the young men were not getting anywhere he told the young men to look at their process and see if there were certain inefficiencies in it. If they were, they were repeating the same mistakes and not getting the results they wanted. The young men looked on angrily. Here we are working so hard and this man dares tells us that we are not following the process, that we are to blame. They rejected the idea. They told the man to leave.

Another year passed and the young men had not got anywhere yet. The wise man came again. They looked at him with circumspectly. They were exactly where they were last year. The older boys looked away angrily. But one young boy was curious to know.

'Why are we still here?' asked one young man. 'We are putting in some much hard work.'

The wise man changed his story. 'Look. You are here. You want to go Somewhere. Logically you ought to find out the best route to Somewhere and start walking in that direction. While traveling you must check on landmarks so you know you are on the right path. Then you know that your effort is showing some result. The one who reaches Somewhere first is the one who has figured out the best way to get Somewhere, the shortest and the most efficient.'

'On the other hand people like you go round in circles. You may put in more work than the chaps who reached Somewhere because you have no process at all. You will keep running round like headless chicken. You might even land up at Wherever instead. Then there is no point blaming the world for the hard work you put in. It is useless.'

The young man asked. 'How do we start moving? I want to move from here.'
The wise man said. 'If you really want to go Somewhere, you will figure out the process. You would have looked around and sought all the information on finding the best route. You would have met all the experts in the area, everyone who has been Somewhere or even heard of it. Even if you had to wait for a couple of days, the expert can guide you perfectly through the dangers on the route. After meeting enough people and getting guidance, you would have got a reliable route map in hand with milestones to monitor progress. Then you will start your journey. You will keep checking along the path if you are on the right route so you do not go too far off. In time you will reach Somewhere for sure.'

'Where will we end up?' asked the bright young man pointing to his friends.
'Nowhere. You do not want to reach Somewhere or Anywhere at all. You are only putting up a charade of doing some work and creating a drama around that you actually want to go Somewhere. All you want to really do is stay here and be known as the one who someday will reach Somewhere. You are running in the same place because that is the process you have adopted. Or  you may end up in some other place far off the mark. You are not even in the competition.'

So saying the wise man got up and left the place. In some time the young man also left the camp.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Walking Clubs, Laughing Clubs

Today I saw the epitome of the laughing club. A group of friends who, after their walk, were laughing heartily at the general banter in the group. It was sheer joy to watch. As opposed to the forced, strict and unrelaxed laughing of some of the clubs I have seen. Ah, nothing like a bunch of good friends and hearty laughter to relax the soul.

But while watching this laughing group of friends I also looked around and noticed the other informal groups. The other informal clubs fall under these major heads.

The Self-Righteous Club: This is the group that somehow seems to believe that what they are doing is the right thing and that they are somehow morally superior to the rest. In my park this group is one yoga group that somehow emits the self-righteous vibes, the morally superior vibes. They speak in low, self-effacing tones and beam peacefully at each other as they walk slowly, or rather, glide slowly.

The Block Everyone Club: This is a bunch of rather thick businessmen (I see this club in all parks) who somehow believe that they are best stuck to one another. Consequently they hog the entire width of the path. True to their competitive business nature they do not give an inch and mostly end up banging into someone or another. But they insist on moving like a block, even if it blocks all traffic, with chaps on the fringe running up to cover any gaps like little puppies.

The Resentful Club: This is a separatist group that goes about loudly resenting all that is going on in the world. They are the newspaper readers with their own set of expert comments, all equally morbid. toxic and resentful. They are normally found in some cozy corner of the park from where they have a vantage view point so they can spew their bile on one another.

The Loners Club: Made mostly of boys but then a few girls too, these clubs come to the park to snare some single of the opposite sex. But since they are the types who hope that things ought to happen on their own, they end up being single anyway. They have forlorn looks and are constantly seeking to make eye contact with all and sundry.

The Yelling Club: This club is always yelling at the top of their voices for no reason at all. They are also the type who normally play shuttle or other such games in the park which allow them to yell loudly.

The Land Sharks Club: This club is made up of members who are used to some real estate in the park and believe that they own it since they have been sitting there every day. If anyone sits there by mistake the club members hover around them menacingly. If the newcomers still does not get the message, club members move into close proximity shooting daggers with their eyes, and hint in loud overtones that they better leave soon before blood is spilled.

The Mobile Phone Clubs: This club consists exclusively of people who come to the park to talk on their mobiles. Once they are done with their talk in a couple of hours, they leave peacefully, having exercised their vocal chords or their ears as the case may be. In some cases, there are tears too so the eyes are also exercised.

The Fight Club: This consists of members who are always looking to pick up a fight for no reason at all. Their main reason for coming to the park is to pick up a fight and they will - with the watchman, to fellow walkers, to the chap who issues tickets, the parking lot fellow - anyone.

The Watchers Club: This is a set of members who mainly come to watch others at the club (I belong to this club). A small variant of this club is the bunch who goes to the parks to watch members of the opposite sex only.

I am sure there are some more. Later then.

Fifty Shades of Grey - E.L. James

This falls under the category provocative romance. Erika Leonard James, former TV Executive and mother of two, spun the Fifty Shades trilogy which have together sold 35 million copies in the US and 70 million copies worldwide, shocking even the author. After reading the first, on second attempt, and finishing it, even I am shocked. A bit. Not by the contents, but by the success. Ms. James has been ranked by the Times magazine as one of the world's 100 most influential people in 2012. What is happening the the global reader?
Arrow Books, 514 p,

Why am I shocked? Because there is nothing much in the book to make you want to actually want to read it completely. Nowhere do you feel a sense of urgency to know what will happen to the two protagonists because somehow you know they are secure even in their weird relationship. Their biggest problems are where and when to have sex and how (Mr. Grey's problem is how not to hurt her so much that she does not run away from his red room of pain) and whether to sign an agreement agreeing to be this slightly perverted businessman's submissive sex slave (the twenty two year old virgin Ms. Anastasia Steele's problem). This dilemma of the two continues throughout the book along with pages and pages of sex (bad) thrown in and pages and pages of juvenile emails sent by the two to one another. That is about it.

But let me begin at the beginning. Christian Grey, the handsome, delicious, lovely, delectable, so good looking, arrogant, business magnate who is never seen with a woman all his life is taken by a normal twenty two year old college student Anastasia Steele who goes to interview him for the college magazine. He is completely smitten by her and so is she. Now comes the catch. Mr. Grey does not, or rather cannot, have plain vanilla sex. He has some fifty odd variants that he wants and by the looks of it, that is all he is doing for a living, and perhaps that is how he has made a fortune too. Ms. Steele is shown as an intelligent woman to start with but you realise that maybe she is not as smart as she gets into an out of control relationship with Mr. Dark History who has had a troubled childhood and craves to be spanked which shows why she is there in the first place. And after that there is a series of romps of which the less said the better.

As fantasies and sex writing goes Ms. James is not a patch on Mr. Harold Robbins who still holds the gold standard for that. Its a tough form of writing - this passion and sex writing bit - and few can pull it off convincingly. Closer home in India Anita Nair is the only one who can do it with great ease and style - its a rare art. For a provocative romance the least it should do is provoke but E.L. James really does not, so the fantasy writing did not work for me. The characters are too one dimensional right now and their motives to jump into bed at all times with the exclusion of all else seems rather tiresome. Does the romance hold? Not for me. I grew tired of it after the first 100 pages and finished it only because I was still searching for some reason why someone wrote a 514 page book around this and why it became such a rage. Not just one, a trilogy! Would I read the second book? No. (But that does not take anything away from Ms. James and I wish her all the success and more.) If there's one thing, I'd ask her to invest some more passion in the scenes so they drag the reader in. Right now its rather dispassionate and hard in a flat manner. Would I recommend it to you. Not unless you have time to waste.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Paradoxes of Our Lives - To Grow Inside, Empty Yourself

The more we empty ourselves, the more we grow.
Flower against the blue sky

Be it old baggage, or intellectual arrogance of 'I know', or whatever judgements and opinions, we carry needlessly inside, the best thing is to throw them out and empty yourself. (It's a huge relief first to rid oneself of all this baggage.)

Stop holding onto what is good and bad, just empty it. Because all the good things we have stored have also served their purpose, and will reappear in some other form as we move on, if we need them. Fresher and livelier.

Then, we all grow as we were meant to grow. As the good god intended.

Thought for the Day - What You Want Is Not Outside, It's Inside

I was looking at a self-help book. 'All that you want and more' it promised its readers. I wonder, is it really about acquiring all we want or crave for? Or is finding the peace inside so that we get only what we really want?

To get the peace inside we need to clear out some unwanted stuff. Old baggage if you may. When we have the space, we can get what we really want.

Until we rearrange the interiors a bit, and make space, there is no point in wanting and expecting 'more' because we really cannot handle it.
In that sense, it is about growing the inner 'space'. 'More' is then on the inside.  Once the inside is 'clear', the outside will manifest. (I love the way the words 'space' and 'clear' pun in this context.)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Aashiqui2 - Movie Review

I am now convinced that Aditya Roy Kapoor can take over all Amitabh's roles in the sequels/remakes. Ah, he would fit in brilliantly in a sequel for 'Sholay' - I do have the scene when he dies in mind apart from his intense and quiet love story. In addition to the intensity, Aditya has a strange vulnerability, that Karna like look on his face of someone who knows he is going to die but who will stick to his path despite that. Of someone who has accepted his fate. (Someone script a Karna for this kid soon - he will knock the box office off its feet.) Who better to play the role of RJ, the pained rock star, in Aashiqui 2.

But take away the brooding melancholic and intense Aditya and the soft soft spoken Shraddha Kapoor and there is little else in the movie. Mohit Suri as always appears to be in a hurry to tell his story and does not tie up some ends. But this RJ, this boy with those sad eyes, is someone you want to know about. You care for him and want to know what he will do to himself with his sad eyes, and that alone is enough to sit through the movie, whatever he does. You root for this kid even when he pushes his love away and causes her injury in a drunken rage.

And then there is some fantastic singing by the new voices Arjit Singh and Ankit Tiwari. The music is haunting and stays with you. What's the connection to Aashiqui? Was Rahul Roy a singer who has broken through in that movie? I don't remember now. It's two decades gone. But Aashiqui had great music too and its still fresh in our minds.

Rahul Jaikar, RJ, (Aditya Roy Kapoor) is suicidal to start with, apparently because he has got fame and money too quickly and did not know how to handle it. He is an alcoholic and if the booze does not kill him, he looks all set to die anyway. What does Mr. Walking suicide note do - find an amazing singing talent in a bar in Goa. He makes her the biggest singing sensation - a tough job for anyone surely, has it in him to give her vocal training, loves his sur and sangeet a lot, does not envy her success, loves her passionately and she loves him too - seems to have found a great purpose to live. But then life is not so simple eh. Will she be a good enough purpose or does he need to find his next purpose in life. Will he or won't he, is the question?

Is it a love story? Not really. Does she love him? Yes, I suppose. Does he love her? Yes, but more like a mentor. What is it about really? I don't know. But it's a love story with a wonderful chap with sad eyes. Now Mr. Aditya Roy Kapoor, I'd like to see you not swigging the bottle, in something suave and mean. Should you go and watch it? Go for this kid. And the music.

ABCD - Movie Review

I like Remo D Souza as a director. He tells simple stories and simply. He has one clear hook that guides the movie and his characters are generally credible. Nothing too dramatic, too sad - alls well and that ends well kind of movies. I see a good future ahead for him as a director. He is responsible, thoughtful, gives a lot of youngsters chances and makes movies that are entertaining and meaningful as well.

ABCD (Any Body Can Dance) is a dance based movie and one wonders why anyone did not come up with any good dance based movie yet. Actually I am glad they did not because you can leave it to the safe hands of Remo and his magnificent bunch of choreographers and dancers like Salman, Dharmesh, Punit and others. And playing key roles are Prabhu Deva and Ganesh Acharya who play choreographers. No one can tell their story better than these choreographers and they dance away all their frustration, hope and joy in every frame. The choreography is of the highest standard and is breathtaking.

Prabhu Deva as Vishnu sir and Ganesh Acharya as his funny friend, the rival groups of dancers from the slum, all trying to express themselves and their desire to win a major dance competition becomes the central theme of the story. Vishnu has his adversary, the commercial minded Jehangir played brilliantly by Kay Kay Menon. I thought all the choreographers did a good job of acting with Punit playing the drug addict role especially well.

I loved the line 'Don't try to impress, express' to which I dedicated an entire blog. And also that bit about trust issues. Remo tells what he has learned through his art well without resorting to any gimmicks. He knows the dangers of trying to 'impress'. Chal bhai jo sikha uspe dhyan de!

Good show. Honest stuff. I liked it. No reason why anyone won't like it.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Thought for the Day - Don't Look to Impress, Instead Express

In fact this is a brilliant line from the movie ABCD where Prabhu Deva, the hardworking dance guru tells his students that they must not try to impress, but seek to express themselves. At the same time we have his rival guru, Kaykay Menon telling his upscale students that they must look to impress, to dazzle and every move they make must be to impress!
Some place on the Mumbai-Pune expressway

But we all know that when we seek to impress we will not even do justice to what we have trained to. Our minds are totally occupied by what others are thinking, whether they are already judging you, whether you should do something flamboyant to impress them. In such circumstances (ask me, I have done this many times and have fallen flat on my face!) we perform much less than what we have prepared for, what we are capable of.

Aditya asked me this good question today in a small chat we had at Kindle Your Mind, Gachibowli in a 'Meet the Author' session. He asked me how he could keep his focus in a game where he knows everyone is watching and cited an example where he lost 6-0, 6-0 in a tennis match against the Goa campus. Two things could have happened in his case. One is an extreme focus on losing. And two, related to the first one, what others may think. In both cases, the mind is thinking about others, about how to impress them. How not to fall in their eyes.

The thoughts are not about the racquet and the ball.

In such circumstances, clear your thoughts of all external factors and stick to the absolute present. The NOW. Focus on nothing but the ball and the racquet meeting the ball. Empty all other thoughts. Focus on the exact moment of the ball meeting the racquet. That kind of concentration will shut out the outside and all thoughts related to it.

It happens in presentations, in meetings, in interviews too. If we look to impress, we are more likely to make as ass of ourselves. It is better to be focussed on the process. On the purpose of why you are there.

Be in the now. And express yourself. You will make a meaningful contribution. You will bring 'you' to life.

Beware the Scary Anti-Smoking Ads in Theatres

These days, I get a little worried when I go with Anjali to watch movies - children's or otherwise. The Anit-Smoking ads that pop up without any warning are the sole reason. They are scary enough to watch for me (truly off putting stuff) and I am sure anyone who is smoking in the theatre at that moment will surely stop smoking which is perhaps the noble intention behind it. Good for you guys - I mean why can't you sort it out with the smokers and leave the rest of us out of it.

But spare a thought for the trauma that all the others (the non-smokers) suffer from watching the gory visuals. More so, little children. If the ads cause me to flinch every time I see them, I can only imagine what impact they would have on little children.

So I try to distract the five year old or get her to shut her eyes in my mistaken belief that I am protecting her from the evils of this world. But certainly she will be exposed to this ad sometime (and some more of its kind) and wonder if all smokers are going to end up like this. Or if all movies will always begin with such stuff. Pain must come before pleasure.

Personally I do not think it is appropriate to show family audiences, certainly ones where young children are likely to view them. whoever is in charge of having these ads forcibly shown could certainly do a rethink before an entire generation grows up with these traumatic visuals shown to them just before the pleasant experience of watching a movie. It reminds me of Pavlov's dog and I am behaving more and more like that dog, tensing up before the movie until this ad is done. Maybe in later years every time a movie is shown I will tense up involuntarily at precisely the same time that the Anti-smoking ad comes on. Only time will tell. Or the chap sitting at the bottom of the couch.

I asked my friend Ranjan, who smokes, if he would quit smoking because of this ad. He categorically said no. Perhaps it is for all those smokers who might start smoking. We don't know really. Surely there must be some thought to it all. I don't think it's a pleasant memory for the family of the lad who died of mouth cancer who is in the ad. Rather insensitive again.

But if smoking is so harmful, why is the government allowing its sale?

Naive question me lads I know.

But I fail to see the logic that we allow sale of such harmful stuff. And then spend a fortune from the tax payers lot to make these ads which serve no purpose but to traumatise the poor lot of non-smokers. (The smokers probably wander off to smoke a couple to rid themselves of this stress.) The non-smokers will probably have to spend much more to treat the Pavlovian responses later on in our lives perhaps.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Paradoxes of Our Lives - To Reach High Up, Keep Your Head Down

To reach for the stars, we must keep our head down.

A patch of the summer sky
Head down works both ways - as in a) keeping ourselves rooted and focussed on the job and the process and b) being humble (again rooted to the ground). We cannot climb the mountain if we have our head in the air. We cannot hit the ball for a six if our head is in the air.

The ones who are most in touch with their job, their work, the real purpose of their profession or existence, are most likely to reach the heights. Those who walk around with their heads in the air, may find it difficult to rise above the step on which they are standing. (They may, quite likely, fall.)

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Bank Job - Movie Review

A true story allegedly. The movie is based on a 1971 Baker street bank robbery where about 4 million was stolen from the bank's lockers and was never found. The movie sets up the actual bank robbery as it is and the conspiracy behind why the stolen goods was never found. And this is where it gets interesting, as the interests of three conflicting parties gets caught in a seemingly straightforward bank robbery.

Firstly, the bank robbery is initiated by MI5 which suspects that the black revolutionary leader Michael X has some compromising pictures of a royal family member which he is using to evade getting caught. MI5 zeroes down to a bank locker and initiates a staged bank robbery through a woman who is a petty criminal. Outwardly she is to lure a team of petty criminals into the big job and while pulling off the bank job, retrieve the photographs. She contacts her friend, one who has gone straight Terry (Jason Statham) and sells him the story of a bank job where she has some key information. Terry assumes its a straight bank job and gets his team together. Parallely we discover that the bank lockers also have photographs of some senior officials in compromising positions, ledgers of pay offs to policemen by a porn film maker and many such highly incriminating evidences. The interested parties - Terry and his gang, the MI5 and the porn king - are all stuck in the heist. But the job goes on smoothly.

Unfortunately the conversations between the bank robbers and their lookout are intercepted by an amateur HAM operator and the police is alerted while the job is in progress. Terry also starts doubting the girl's motives and her focus on one locker. When he sees the pictures of the royal family member that he finds in the locker, he is astounded. But he is smart enough to avoid the trap the MI5 sets for them once they get out. Once the robbery come to light several people go into hiding. The porn film maker starts sending his henchmen to get hold of his diary and the men who robbed him. In the process he tortures and kills one of Terry's men. Two others a killed by unknown people when they are on the run with the loot. Terry knows that he could get killed too and he uses all the material he has to secure his safe passage and the others in return for the photos. The money is not recovered - in fact much of it was never claimed. The robbers were not caught. The robbery died a quick death in the media raising suspicions that a gag order was issued by the government.

The Bank Job is a racy movie and it's even more interesting to know that it's based on a true story. The royal member in question is Princess Margaret. Good crime thriller to watch. Also the real stories that inspired the movie are pretty interesting too.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani - Movie Review

It's a movie you can sit through. Bearable. A few moments. And that despite having powerhouse stuff in the cast. Somewhere the film stays on safe ground and never searches for anything extraordinary. But why should they - it's after about entertainment, entertainment and entertainment. Does it entertain? It does enough to keep it going. But its not stuff you'd be running to recommend strongly either.

So what's the movie about? Three friends who are really close from school - two guys and a girl who behaves like a guy (Ranbir, Aditya Roy and Kalki) seemingly cannot live without one another. They are headed to the hills for a holiday, a trek at 16000 feet. Quite by chance they get Deepike Padukone, the bespectacled, front row bookworm from school, who is now studying medicine on the trek. Now how the bookworm turns into an alcohol swigging adventurer and how the push-my-limits Bunny (Ranbir) finds her attractive is something that goes on in the trip. Obviously the other two behave like they do not know the other's gender, in fact the two boys almost treat like like she is a boy almost. But hey, Kalki is in love with the handsome and intense Aditya Roy. What happens on the trek is - nothing really. What we get is that Bunny wants raftaar.

Second half shows a marriage, a destination wedding in Udaipur. Eight years later. Kalki is getting married to a rich geek. All the friends come back. Deepika finds that she still loves Ranbir the globetrotting photographer and Ranbir finds that he loves her too. Sadly, not enough chemistry between the two - not shown well at least. It's a thanda romance with a thanda kiss thrown in. Happy New Years and all is fine yaar.

Aditya Roy Kapoor showed a side to him that reminded me of Amitabh in his younger days. An intensity, anger, angst, tragedy - something that sets him apart from any other new comer I have seen the screen in many years. And with Ranbir, its their chemistry that's sizzling really, I was left wondering if someone remade Anand - Ranbir in Rajesh Khanna's role and Aditya in Amitabh's - that would be interesting. For my money this kid is the same stuff that Amitabh was made of and I expect him to go places. Ranbir is superb with his natural ease before the camera. Deepika looks good and holds her own well. But if there is something to be said it is for Farooq Shaikh who sparkles like a crackling fire in the few precious moments that he is on screen. He raises the bar every time he is  in the frame.

A bit of this, a bit of that, characters that don't belong, that don't have strong convictions, some good songs, some time pass stuff. But do you take a great story home? No. Are you sure that there is great love between Kalki and Kunal? No. Do you think Kalki loves Aditya? Yes. Do you think Ranbir and Deepika are going to be happy in their marriage? I doubt it. He will, as she suspects rightly, run away. But what the hell, Happy New Year buddies.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Mr. Popper's Penguins - Movie Review

Jim Carrey is Popper, son of Captain Popper the adventurer, who does not have much time for his son as he is always traveling on his adventures. But before he dies, the senior Popper sends his son a unique gift, a penguin. I never understood the reason why the senior Popper thought penguins were ideal pets in New York, but he has been out of civilization for so long that he probably can be excused. Junior Popper is some kind of a con man real estate agent who cons people into parting from their real estate using some techniques that are hard to follow and believe. He also has an assistant who talks like a penguin or some such creature. The penguins arrival marks a new twist in his life.

First hing that happens after the arrival of the penguin is that Popper's separated wife and kids find the idea of a penguin as a birthday gift for his son cute and there are hints of a family reunion. Secondly the penguin gets five more friends, sent by the senior Popper's crew, and the apartment is turned into a miniature version of Antarctica. All this activity gets junior Popper to lose focus on a big real estate deal and lose his job. Job or family? Head or heart? Penguins or deal? Deal or restaurant with childhood memories? These are the dilemmas faced by Popper.

Popper thinks he has his family back - or so he thinks - but things change when the penguins are taken away by the wicked zoo keeper. But Popper tells his children that they will now get their penguins back and in a dramatic attack on the zoo, the penguins are rescued. Captain penguin flies, hatches an egg and all sorts of things happen. Finally the penguins are returned to their home in Antarctica.

Not funny (unless you laugh at the way penguins walk  or at Carrey's faces). Not convincing. Loose screenplay. Perhaps they took on too much with the penguins. Or depended too much on them. Or did not know who the hero was - Carrey or the penguins. It was just too predictable right till the end - the family drama, the penguin drama and the job drama. Left me feeling cold.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Bright Spots - Sunil Kumar, Chief Secretary, Chattisgarh

A look at some of the bright spots in our lives.

I was reading the article in The Hindu a few days ago on how the Chattisgarh Chief Secretary, Sunil Kumar Kurup, stood up and accepted responsibility for the Maoist killings when a fuming Congress President Sonia Gandhi demanded that responsibility be fixed. As a posse of politicians and top beaurocrats watched in silence Sunil Kumar 'saved the day'. He offered to resign, accepting responsibility for the security failure, as the top man in the administration.

It needs moral fibre, conviction and the noble qualities of great leaders we used to hear of the past. The good news is that such qualities are still alive in people like Sunil Kumar Kurup.

For every weak-kneed, spineless and self-centred official and politician we see, there are several such officers. It warms the heart to see such news being reported. And hope that many youngsters choose that path of self-respect, courage and professionalism.

Good for you Hindu for reporting and good on you Mr. Sunil Kumar. In days when people cling to power at any cost, avoid responsibility and thrive on blaming all and sundry through blatant lies, you could have shown the way.

Midhunam - Movie Review

This one is a classic. It's the ideal post-retirement dream that most senior people dream of, full of love and caring, good humour and health, hopes and yes, even fears too. One for the family to watch together, and think of the trials and tribulations of the seniors at home, and for the seniors to feel a lot more useful than useless. I loved it and the way the typical rural Andhra household is portrayed with its pujas and pickles, letters and relatives and the daily ups and downs. Tanikella Bharani is a thoughtful filmmaker and a really good one and I only wish he'd make more movies. And as typical of Bharani, the tongue in cheek humour sustains throughout the movie and lifts it above what could have been a sentimental melodrama. Instead it becomes a highly empowering treatment, of facing life and death with a smile, with equanimity. Great grace.

The film has only two characters. The human ones I mean. Then there is the house, the cow, the calf, and every part of the house that becomes important - the well, the fruit trees, the vegetable garden, the letter box, the kitchen, the attic, the puja room. Here the two senior citizens, played brilliantly by S.P. Balasubramanyam (as Appadasu) and Lakshmi (as Buchi), live their post-retirement life in an idealistic setting. SPB appears to be a retired government teacher, a recipient of a President award, whose children are all settled, most in the US, and all we hear is their voice over the phone. The old man's cravings for food, his penchant to do all his work himself, the little romances between the old couple, their fights are stuff that could happen in every household. It's a house where you would like to be a fly on the wall and watch the two delightful characters go about their lives in the traditional Andhra style - from foods, to pickles, pujas to traditions.

Interestingly 'Midhunam' is based on a Telugu novel of the same name by Sri Ramana and has also been made into a Malayalam movie. Heartening to see so many novels being adapted into movies these days.

I really wanted to see 'Midhunam' in the theatres simply because I'd like to support this kind of a film. In fact I did make many efforts too but somehow it never happened. I was glad to buy the CD in the shop yesterday and its an investment well made. Great job Tanikella Bharani and team. I definitely know that Soumya is part of the movie and I did detect Mohana Krishna's voice over the phone to SPB. Surely worth a watch - specially if you're over forty. It's never too late to realise that life is what you make of it, not something that happens to you as you judge, fear and resent it.

Life Lessons from a Grandmother

This is an interview I’d done with Dr. Nalini Nargundkar, all of 83 years now, on the lessons she learned from her life. I had done the interview almost six months ago, in the hope that perhaps her grandchildren could use it, and I told her to address it as she would address her granddaughter Anjali, but it may be relevant to others as well. (I certainly found some high impact takeaways that have settled down in my head.)
Dr. Nalini Nargundkar (Pic. Satish Nargundkar)
Dr.Nalini Nargundkar served as a doctor at the Singareni Collieries Limited, Andhra Pradesh and retired from there before settling down in Pune. However she continues to support and heal family and friends  in all crises, medical and otherwise till date and it is this indomitable and unflagging spirit that remains her hall mark. The first to get to the door when the bell rings, the first to get up and offer tea in the morning, the first to walk to the garden to pick up her favorite flowers, the first to plan the days breakfasts, lunches, dinners, the first to jump on in any sort of travel, the first to watch her favorite soaps and any IPL match, the first to head off for any film festival in town, the first to show an interest in anything new, her spirit is younger than most teenagers. An active bridge player with a fine bridge club that assembles every other day, she is a thorough professional, a caring and strong human, one who experienced much in life and certainly one who can share much. A bit of the distilled wisdom that I could grasp in that interview is presented here.

On work: 
Plan your work properly. Try to do it with full attention to detail. Achievement of whatever you have planned to work gives happiness. If there is a problem, get expert advise. If not possible to do it, go around the problem. But get it done. Work should be completed. If not in the ideal way, some other way.

On Life: 
Be optimistic. Be happy and make everyone else - and most importantly yourself - happy. Ignore setbacks, overcome them. Go ahead. Don’t get stuck. Learn something from the experience and move on. Be prepared to face uncertainty. Whatever the problem, try to solve them. Try to predict as much as you can.

On Love: 
Start with loving yourself first. Then you love everyone else around you properly. If you love everybody, everybody loves you back.

On Money: 
It’s an important thing in life. In our childhood we never had any money but we were happy. But I decided to earn money. Don’t get married unless you start earning money. Every move is uncertain then. Economy. Save as much possible for the future.

On People: 
Good to have people around you. But don’t trust at first sight. Take time to understand the person and then take your call. Be neutral and wait and watch.

On Relationships: 
Maintain cordial relationships with family and friends. Once they are friends I’d do anything for them. But relationships have to be both ways. Cannot be one way.

On Emotions: 
Keep emotions under control. Be balanced. Be spontaneous too.

On Winning/ losing: 
Winning makes us feel happy. Try to win. Compete. If you lose, improve. It’s not the end of the world if you lose. Losing a person, end of a relationship. Feel the loss, continue. Life goes on.

On Happiness: 
Nothing lasts permanently. We feel happy for a moment. We feel sad for a while. It will go. It will come in another way sometimes. You have to find your happiness all the time. It’s your attitude which makes you happy or unhappy.

On Fun: 
People are fun. Playing cards is fun for me. Buying something for someone is fun. You look at the thing it is fun. Sometimes even teasing people is fun.

On Fear: 
No fear for me these days. But really, there’s nothing to fear in this world. You need not fear about anything. Everything’s alright. If you fear, just talk to someone and it is alright.

On Family: 
It is important. Keep family members happy. I feel happy when I am with family. Feel happy to keep relationships going on with family.

On Success: 
Whatever aims you have in mind, if you’re achieved them that is success. Everyone should have some aim. If I want health, I need to work for it. If I want to be happy, I need to work for it. My success is within my limits. Whatever success I have, I am happy. I have been successful I’d say. My job, how I lived my life.

On Peace: 
Minor irritants are always disturbing your peace. But get on. Scold, Shout. Then forget about that. Don’t keep it on your mind. Be peaceful after that instance is over. Drop it.

On Responsibility: 
It is most important. Carry it on till the end. Whatever you have taken up, end it. Or don’t take it up.

On Her Secret formula: 
Adjust. Get on. Don’t wallow in the past. Learn how to tackle situations. Go ahead all the time. Find ways and means to do the work.

On How to keep oneself happy: 
Attitude. You find your happiness. Decide that I’ll be happy. That you won’t be unhappy. Then find ways to be happy.

On Keeping thoughts positive: 
Don’t worry about the past and the future. Past cannot change. So forget it. As for the future - just trust that everything is happy. Nothing will happen which will make you unhappy. Be happy now.

On the 3 most important things in life:
1) Health
2) Sufficient money (so you don’t have to beg, borrow or steal)
3) Good relations with positive attitude

Thus concluded my short interview with Dr. Nalini Nargundkar. Thank you Aunty, for sharing your thoughts.I simply loved the one on finding your own happiness. I think most of us expect it to come on its own! Also the one on responsibility, success, fear, winning and losing...pretty much all of it.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Sense of an Ending - Julian Barnes

Julian Barnes won the Man Booker Prize for this novel, all of 150 pages, after three other novels of his made it to the shortlist. I wish they had not advertised the fact that the book won the prize because that instantly makes me as a reader cautious, suspicious and prone to seek something to pull the book down. If I'd read the book by itself, I would have enjoyed it a lot more, I am sure, because I like short books, I like books that keep me going till the end wanting to find out what happens, I like books that are honest. 'The Sense of an Ending' is all three. And some more.

The novel spans the life of the narrator Tony Webster, from school to his post-retirement days and hinges on his relationship with two people he wants approval from - Adrian Finn, intellectually superior and emotionally deeper, and Veronica, his first girlfriend whom he never understood nor felt worthy of. Adrian in fact is a late entry into Webster's circle of friends at school - Alex and Colin making up the other two - but quickly takes over as the boy everyone wants to impress. More so Webster. In the case of Veronica, he finds that she and then her family whom he spends a weekend with, seem to look down upon him and he is constantly trying to keep up. When he introduces his friends to the haughty Veronica (who permits 'full sex' only after they break up), she seems to take to Adrian. When Veronica and Webster break up, Webster gets a letter from Adrian seeking his permission to go out with Veronica. In his anger, Webster writes to both. Months later he hears of Adrian's death. Webster goes on with his life, marries, divorces, retires and is living out his life peacefully when he receives a letter from a solicitor. He has received some estate from Mrs. Ford, Veronica's mother, which include 500 pounds, a letter and Adrian's diary. Webster comes to know that the diary is now with Veronica and he tries to secure it from her, and what he finds in the process is rather shocking.

Many pluses as mentioned earlier. It kept me going all through. I also liked the way the twists were introduced. But it left too many questions unanswered for me (I do like things laid out on a platter). The 500 pounds (blood money?), the contents of the diary especially since it was important to Webster to figure out what happened, Veronica's behavior that makes no sense especially when she knows that Webster really has no blame in what transpires. But then apart from reading it and enjoying it while I read it, would I carry it as one of the books that made an impact on my life for its content? Not really. Too dark and hopeless.

I liked the style, his honesty and even the way Barnes went about twisting and turning (despite keeping many facts to himself which was unfair) but its too sad and tragic for me and leaves no room for hope. It does in the end appear to be a bunch of loosely hinged characters especially all those from Veronica's family and certainly the deep and melancholic Adrian Finn. Webster, his wife and his other friends appear more sane, or rather, people I can identify with, sane or otherwise. Or perhaps, safe was the word I was looking for. But certainly a book to read and I would recommend it whole heartedly. And thanks Raja for lending it to me.