Growing up with Cinema

My journey with films started in 1987 when my parents took me to the theater for the first time . They had purposely bought tickets to the night show because it would be easy to manage with a 3 yr old when he is asleep. As soon as the screen lit up I got up on my seat, eyes wide open in amazement and asked my parents “Itna bada T.V., yeh chalta kahan se hai??” and my parents pointed upwards to the projector room from where a faint glare was coming into the large theater. Sleep was nowhere to be seen in my eyes that night, only the joy of watching something magical. My mom kept trying to force a milk bottle in my mouth and I kept pushing it away with all my might, eyes glued to the giant screen. Maybe if the film had been boring my enthusiasm would have died down, but how could it be, after all it was Mr. India, one of the finest films in Indian Cinema.

From that point on I was hooked to the world of cinema and could never get enough of it. Unfortunately, I didn’t get too many chances as going to the theater was rare at that time and my dad got posted to Baroda which meant even fewer films. So whenever I traveled back to Delhi to visit my relatives I would try my best to watch as many films as possible. I was particularly interested in going to my grandmother’s house because there was a video library downstairs. It was at my grandmother’s place that my love for cinema reached new heights and I discovered my first idol. 1991 saw me go crazy over two Amitabh Bachchan films, Ajooba (my first superhero film) & Hum . I would watch these films back to back the entire day and fight with anyone who wanted to watch something different. I would even enact scenes like running in slow-motion, jumping from the bed, shouting, and so on. Amitabh became my idol and I saw every movie which he was in. I distinctly remember a 1983 film called Pukar featuring Amitabh which I was watching with my parents on TV. In the climax of the film Amitabh gets shot and probably dies. As soon as I saw him dying on screen, tears started rolling down my eyes and I started howling (not crying).  Bollywood had totally taken over me, Hollywood was next.

I got my first taste of Hollywood and Steven Spielberg in 1993 with Jurrasic Park. It was an extraordinary film and simply blew me away. I was a 9 yr old boy with a powerful imagination but this film was beyond anything I could ever imagine. It was all I talked about for so many days, at home, with other kids at school, narrating to those who had not seen it in back in Baroda.

Then came the age where I could start understanding love stories somewhat and think of the girl in class I had a crush on. I am sure we all have done that at some point during that age. 1994 was Hum Aapke Hain Kaun which I saw 3-4 months after the release as it was running house-full all the time. One year later in 1995 I saw Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge and just like every other guy I wanted to be like Shahrukh Khan. He was my next superstar, one I followed to the extent of buying & wearing the stupid ‘Cool’ neck chain he wore in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. I went on to do some more crazy stuff like exploding imaginary bombs after watching Border & wearing powerless glasses after watching Kaho Na Pyaar Hai. 

My hysteria went to an all time high with The Matrix in 1999 which influenced me to the extent of getting me interested in computers and technology. My email ids, my computer, my hard drives, everything was derived from the film. I even bought the original soundtrack which made me fall in love with rock music. It is this film that made me call myself a film buff because I have probably seen it more than 100 times and there was a point when I could narrate the lines of the entire film. (Have stopped doing that coz people started suggesting that I needed professional help)

Last but not the least by any means are Lagaan in 2001Haasil in 2003 which are two of my all-time favorite films (Haasil taking the top slot). These were the films that made me appreciate the nuances and subtlety of acting and cinema. I love cricket and I love films, It was only logical that I would go crazy about Lagaan. However, it was not just the cricket that I loved, it was the manner in which it was portrayed. In comparison, Haasil is special for a very different reason, It was the first time that I realized that there can be good films without big stars, there is acting without shouting and a film can also tell realistic stories and still entertain. For me Haasil is one of the finest pieces of acting I had ever seen. Instantly Irfaan Khan became my favorite Khan and Haasil became my favorite Hindi film.

This love continues with Wall-E, Khosla Ka Ghosla, Rush, Oye Lucky Lucky Oye, Argo, Wolf of Wall Street, Gravity, Gangs of Wasseypur, Do Dooni Chaar, Udaan, Inception, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Peepli Live, Talaash, Queen…………and so many more. Each one leaving a mark on my life, each one having its own signature.

Its the little things…

People watch films for entertainment and praise some of them a great deal. But do they really embrace them or learn from them? Just to clear the air, this article is not about films, its purpose is very different. I want to talk about a particular instance from a film that inspired me a great deal.  It helped me to live a better life & find meaning in small things. The scene is from Bluffmaster where Boman Irani asks Abhishek Bachchan “How many days of your life do you remember?”  and let me tell you, no answer is good enough!

When this question came up, my mind started racing, sifting through memories trying to locate the best ones. It was like the timeline from Person of Interest moving back & forth or maybe even like Sherlock, running across my mind palace opening one door after the other. I don’t think the point was to count nor was it meant as a memory test, it was to realize that the ‘pursuit of happiness’ should never end.

So what did i remember? after racking my brain, I stopped at a memory which was of a time when I was maybe 12 years old. I had been living in Bangalore for over 2 years and I had not been able to find a ‘Go To’ place for comics. One day in school, I heard about this library that rented out comics and I thought to myself “Could this be it or is it just a myth?” I took directions and peddled away on my Hercules Top Gear using all the strength in my legs. I reached the location only to spot a very small shop with an single bulb. My heart sank. “How could this be a library?, There is no way they would have any comics. All this peddling for nothing?” As I parked my bicycle next to a street lamp and started walking towards the shop, I started prioritizing. “Please please, if nothing else let there be Tintin, and may be Asterix and may be even Archies and….” Clearly I had no clue what prioritization meant. I reached the entrance and heard some kids shouting “Aaj mein leke jaunga, last time tu leke gaya tha Dhruv wali, Kirigi Ka Kahar“. I stepped inside and got blown away. Endless rows of comics stacked one rack after the other, the entrance was small but the collection wasn’t. It was like Alice in Wonderland, I tumbled down the rabbit hole and was amazed at the world of comics underneath. There was Nagraj, Dhruv, Chacha Chaudhary, Tinkle, Champak and….Archies, Asterix, Tintin and may more. It couldn’t get any better.

I took the membership, picked up a Tintin and rode back home without a care in this world. No thoughts of pending homework, assignments or upcoming tests could bother me. I reached home with a Joker-esque smile on my face, had a bath, picked up the comic and started reading it lying down on the bed. That moment, as I lay there reading, i remember very clearly, saying these words “This Is Life”. I was just so happy because my mind was constantly going back to the hundreds of comics still lying on the shelf waiting for me.I couldn’t stop smiling.

This was such a small incident and yet, it has been with me for so long. There are so many little things like this that make us happy. I think the problem is that we focus too much on that one big happiness (a huge birthday bash, a lavish wedding, a long holiday) rather than the small innocuous moments which we always recollect with so much fondness. That is why we forget a big dinner party at a friends house but remember countless moments from our college cafeteria with the same friends. So If you still want to ask for more, ask for more such days because no matter what you say now, these will be the only days that will be worth anything in your life.

I hate my job! Don’t you?

Over the years a thought has come to my mind countless times but somehow I never got around to writing about it. How many people do we meet who say “I am satisfied with my job”, one or two in a lifetime. Today a job is where we spend more time than even our home. What is also true is that most people are unhappy with their jobs. I have thought long and hard as to why this happens. Why is it so hard to find jobs that one would enjoy, be passionate about, or be happy with? I am sure most of the people want such a job, then why can’t they get it? The answer lies within each one of us.

What I have noticed is that people from good colleges, even IITs and IIMs, are unhappy with  their jobs. Why I point out the colleges is because these are the most elite institutions in the country and passing out of such an institute not only gives you a much better chance to get a job than the rest of country, most of the times it also gives you the privilege to choose. Is the problem then in the factors that our decision is based on? Do we not assign a proper weight to passion or interest? Maybe. Let me give an example. Back in 2007 there was this person who left a job which paid him 17k/month for a job which paid him 13k. That was not the end of it. In 2012 he did it once again, left a job paying 75 grand/month for a job which pays just 50 grand/month (These are take-home figures).  I think a lot of people would call this person crazy. “Abey thode din aur kar leta na kaam, acche paise toh mil rahe the”, “Itna bhi kya bura hoga, salary toh achi hai na”. Well I did it, and I don’t regret it at all. For me, passion will always weigh more than CTC.

Today we live in a world where we are judged 24X7. When we go to office, go for a meeting, go for a party, go out for coffee or even go to the kirana wala to buy bread n eggs. So what one values is how he/she is perceived by the world. Uncle aunty package poochenge toh kya batayeinge? MBA ke baad bhi itne hi paise milte hai? Saath wale toh keh rahe ki unke beta ka package isse double hai. I want to ask the saath walon ka beta, ‘Dude even with a package of 20 lacs, Are You Happy?’ Each and every person who steps into the world for a career is reduced to just three letters, CTC. Most poeple who ask don’t even know what it means. But, what they accomplish is to push people away from doing what they would love to, what they are passionate about.

One of my professors told me this story and that became my inspiration for writing this article. Once a baby camel asked his mother “Mom, why do we have a hump on our back?”,  the mother replied “So that we can store water for a long time”, then the son asked “But why do we have such huge feet?”, the mother replied “So that we can walk properly on sand” and then the son asked “Then WTF are we doing in the Zoo?”. If you are made for the desert, you belong in the desert. Another inspirational message for this piece came from a book written by Sir Ken Robinson, The Element – How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. He also has the most watched talk on Ted.com about how ‘Education Kills Creativity’. Its a must watch (attached at the end). I strongly believe that this problem would not have been so bad had education been a little different.

Basically what I am trying to say is Do what you Love, Its not that difficult. The first step to doing that is to get out of your comfort zone. (Yes even though we are miserable in our jobs, we somehow manage to be comfortable as it is routine). Remember what Joker said in The Dark Knight, “No one panics when things go according to plan”. So I insist very strongly to ‘Take A Chance’. Come out of your comfort zone and make an effort. If you want to work on something you are passionate about then you need to make things uncomfortable for yourself. This is not that difficult if you are unmarried and don’t have major responsibilities.

If for some reason you think all this is not possible in your case then I suggest you find time to do other things that you are passionate about. Read, write, play a sport, catch up with friends. If you are packed during the week, find time on the weekend. If sports is something you like then getup at 6 and go play. I am sure you can find time at 6 in the morning. Unless you are happy, you are just wasting time and these lines from Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara say it all

Dilon mein tum apni Betaabiyan leke chal rahe ho, Toh zinda ho tum; Nazar mein khwabon ki Bijliyan leke chal rahe ho, Toh zinda ho tum; Hawa ke jhokon ke jaise Aazad rehno sikho, Tum ek dariya ke jaise Lehron mein behna sikho; Har ek lamhe se tum milo Khole apni bhaayein, Har ek pal ek naya samha Dekhen yeh nigahaein; Jo apni aankhon mein Hairaniyan leke chal rahe ho, Toh zinda ho tum; Dilon mein tum apni Betaabiyan leke chal rahe ho, Toh zinda ho tum!

Centenary for Indian Cinema, 25 Years of Magic for Me

Indian Cinema just completed 100 years and Bombay Talkies was released to celebrate the occasion. I am sure that for so many of us out there, cinema means so many different things like the 4 short stories of Bombay Talkies. Frankly, for most of us cinema means so many different things at different points of time in our lives. When I was watching the film I had short flashbacks of what films have meant for me at various points of my life. There were more flashbacks as I narrated parts of the film to my fiancee over the phone. So I decided to share the joy that films have brought in my life with the world (or actually, the handful of people who read my blog) Continue reading “Centenary for Indian Cinema, 25 Years of Magic for Me”

Kya Zinda Ho Tum?

Over the years a thought has come to my mind countless times but somehow I never got around to writing about it. How many people
do you meet who say “I am satisfied with my job”, one or two in a lifetime. Today a job is where you spend more time than even your home. What is also true is that most people are unhappy with their jobs. I have thought long and hard as to why this happens. Why is it so hard to find jobs that one would enjoy, be passionate  about, or be happy with? I am sure most of the people want such a job, then why can’t they get it.

The answer lies within each one of us, we just need to deep dive into our subconscious mind and take a peek. I come across people even from IITs and IIMs who are unhappy with  their jobs. Why I point out the colleges is because these are the most elite institutions in the country and passing out of such an institute not only gives you a much better chance to get a job than the rest of India, most times it also gives you the privilege to choose. Is the problem then in the factors that our decision is based on? Do we not assign a proper weight to passion or interest? Maybe. Let me give an example. There are so many people who would be shocked if someone told them that he/she left a job paying 75 grand/month for a job which pays just 50 grand/month.  I think a lot of people would call him/her crazy. “Abey thode din aur kar leta na kaam, acche paise toh mil rahe the”, “Itna bhi kya bura hoga, salary toh achi hai na”. Well I did it, and I don’t regret it at all. For me, passion will always weigh more than CTC.

Today we live in a world where we are judged 24X7. When we go to office, go for a meeting, go for a party, go out for coffee or even go to the kirana wala to buy bread n eggs. So what one values is how he/she is perceived by the world. Uncle aunty package poochenge toh kya batayeinge? MBA ke baad bhi itne hi paise milte hai? Saath wale toh keh rahe ki unke beta ka package isse double hai. I want to ask the saath walon ka beta, ‘Dude even with a package of 20 lacs, Are You Happy?’ Each and every person who steps into the world for a career is reduced to just three letters, CTC. Most poeple who ask don’t even know what it means. But, what they accomplish is to push people away from doing what they would love to, what they are passionate about.

Passion is what drives me and people who know me know that. One of my professors told me this story that became my inspiration for writing this. Once a baby camel asked his mother “Mom, why do we have a hump on our back?”,  the mother replied “So that we can store water for a long time”, then the son asked “But why do we have such huge feet?”, the mother replied “So that we can walk properly on sand” and then the son asked “Then WTF are we doing in the Zoo?”. If you are made for the desert, you belong in the desert. Another inspirational message for this piece came from a book written by Sir Ken Robinson, The Element – How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. He also has one of the most watched talks on Ted.com about how ‘Education Kills Creativity’. Its a must watch. I strongly believe that this problem would not have been so bad had education been a little different.

Basically what I am trying to say is Do what you Love, Its not that difficult. The first step to doing that is to get out of your comfort zone. (Yes even though we are miserable in our jobs, we somehow manage to be comfortable as it is routine). Remember what Joker said in The Dark Knight, “No one panics when things go according to plan”. If for some reason you think that’s not possible with your job then I suggest you find time to do other things that you are passionate about. Read, write, play a sport, catch up with friends. If you are packed during the week, find time on the weekend. If sports is something you like then getup at 6 and go play. I am sure you can find time at 6 in the morning. Unless you are happy, you are just wasting time and Farhan Akhtar rightly puts it in a film about living life. Toh Kya Zinda Ho Tum?

Dilon mein tum apni Betaabiyan leke chal rahe ho, Toh zinda ho tum; Nazar mein khwabon ki Bijliyan leke chal rahe ho, Toh zinda ho tum; Hawa ke jhokon ke jaise Aazad rehno sikho, Tum ek dariya ke jaise Lehron mein behna sikho; Har ek lamhe se tum milo Khole apni bhaayein, Har ek pal ek naya samha Dekhen yeh nigahaein; Jo apni aankhon mein Hairaniyan leke chal rahe ho, Toh zinda ho tum; Dilon mein tum apni Betaabiyan leke chal rahe ho, Toh zinda ho tum

Freedom is a Privilege

(One of the contendors for the PFCone, Independence is a short film directed by Neeraj Ghaywan)

Is a picture really worth a thousand words? It sure is and Neeraj Ghaywan proves it with Independence, a one minute film about a poor street girl who struggles to sell. India earned independence 6 decades ago but people didn’t get freedom. There are people who haven’t gotten freedom from hunger, poverty, illiteracy or lack of opportunity and the film drives home this point with great sensitivity. What’s truly commendable is that in one minute, Neeraj uses many subtle references to show the plight of the little girl. A reflection of a beggar kid in the girl’s eyes; the girl’s refusal to alms; the school named ‘Free Bird High School’ where girls are happily playing; all these references beautifully depict the state of the girls mind.

The little girl (meenakshi) gives a great performance and uses her eyes to convey a lot of emotions, which Neeraj captures cleverly using close-ups. What enhances the mood even further is the background score which complements the film and the subject. And the director saves the best for last, the rain which puts a smile on the girls face and gives her the liberation that she seeks, also washes away the saffron from the flag almost making you feel that the flag is bleeding. The bleeding flag is the last reference and it has a lasting impression on the viewer because it further reinstates the fact that, freedom is a privilege.

The Waiting Corner

A lot of things have changed around us over the last decade or so. I can’t imagine where people went for coffee 15 yrs back because there was no Cafe Coffee Day or Barista. Shopping experience is no more on a road overflowing with people bargaining their lungs out, but in a Mall, over flowing with people (some things never change). This list also includes transition of cinemas to multiplex and the arrival of 20-20 in cricket.

While all these things were changing, our good old barber shops made way for hi-fi salons, having hair stylists instead of barbers, wearing matching uniforms. You are greeted as soon as you enter and are requested  to wait in such a manner, that you feel waiting is a privilege. The waiting lounge has a comfortable sofa and trendy magazines. In comparison, when you entered the old barbershops the floor would be dirty, the barber would say “sir abhi time lagega, wait karna padhega”, as if to say “our way or the high way” straight out of The Matrix.  There would be a waiting corner equipped with a single uncomfortable bench, sitting on which made you feel punished. Invariably a friend of one of the barbers would be sitting on the bench with a hindi news paper, gossiping about whatever he reads.

On one of my recent visits to the local barber I noticed some peculiar behaviour and started wondering whether others also feel the same or not. So on my last trip, I entered the shop and was asked to wait in the waiting corner where the barber’s friend was already sitting. As I sat on the bench (punishment for coming late), it made a creaking sound as if to tell me “Bhaagne ki koshish ki toh……” and I saw corroded nails surrounding me ( the barber’s goon had got me trapped, bollywood personified).  I had no choice but to wait so I picked up a Hindi newspaper and began to read. My first observation came when I was called by the barber for my turn and I realised that I had been reading the paper for the last 20 mins.  It had me hooked with stories about wives beating husbands and whacky celebrity gossip. Why did i get so lost reading the paper? Did it have something to do with the place? Why else would I be interested in such stupid things??? I brushed the thought aside and sat on the barber’s chair.

The barber started cutting my hair and switched on the TV, turning to the local channel showing movies. Sanam Bewafa was playing and Salman Khan was on the screen. This immediately started a debate between the barbers and the friend about how real is Salman’s body and is it better than SRK‘s body. One of them said “yeh sab camera ke effects hain asli body toh Sarukh ka hai”, the other countered with, “Arey Salman ka body toh bahut saal se hai, Sarukh ne toh abhi banaya hai” then suddenly my barber turn to me and says “Sir aap batao aapko toh pata hoga”. I didn’t know how to react to that. I just shrugged and wondered why they thought I would know this. Was it my paunch that had given them an illusion of a 6 pack???

The debate ended thanks to a dramatic scene in the film which caught everyone’s attention. Pran was telling his son to calm down and not get carried away in the heat of revenge. He said that revenge will be taken but the way he suggests. Then he asks his son the whereabouts of his dog (I am serious). The movie shifts to another scene and everyone gets back to work except me (duh…I didn’t have any work). In the next scene a bunch of boys are playing football and the ball goes into some bushes. One of the boys goes to pick up the ball and is attacked by a ferocious dog. The boy dies on the spot and his body is brought back to Salman’s house where everyone is devastated by the incident. Somehow nobody is surprised how Pran got his dog to kill the kid.

The next scene answered why. In the next scene Pran’s son is celebrating the kid’s death with a private dance performance from an item girl. The lyrics were “Angoor ka dana hoon, mujhe sui na chubha dena, sui jo chubhai toh ras tapkega, main kiss……main kissmiss ban jaungi”. I was amazed at the educational song but just then a horse (Yes, you read it right) entered the scene of the movie and started hitting Pran’s son till he was dead. At this point my barber told me that my haircut was done, but I didn’t wanna get up. I was so engrossed in the film and wanted to see if the two families had any more pets. This interest would not have developed had I been at home (which was my second observation). Hell, I wouldn’t even be watching the film if I was at home. Then why was I so interested in the film at the shop.

May be there is something about the good old barber shop which made Hindi newspapers addictive and crappy Hindi movies so damn interesting.