Monday, July 30, 2007

Arabi Katha

I watched ArabiKatha only for Srinivasan. And I wasn’t disappointed. It’s been really long since I watched a good Malayalam movie, probably the last one being Notebook. Though the movie is not scripted by Srinivasan, it still carries the flavour of a Srinivasan –scripted movie. There are some light moments layered in between more intense, heartening scenes.

Watching ArabiKatha, one cannot help but remember another Srinivasan-starrer Sandesham. Both Arabhikatha and Sandesham (one of my all time fav mal movies) are satirical takes on the Communist ideologies.

This is also one of the myth-breaking movies. It breaks the mighty illusions people garner about the grandeur and splendour in the Gulf countries. I, for one, have been constantly advised by relatives and acquaintances (Never friends. Thank you guys for having sense). to shift shop to Gulf.

The track ‘Lalsalam’ is beautiful. Inspiring. Oh! and I’m reminded of another communist movie titled Lalsalam - again a favourite.

PS: This is not a movie review. I realize that a movie review details all aspects of moviemaking, right from scripting to sound engineering. So this is just a tribute. Lalsalam… Oops! I meant Ciao!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Namesake – Just a read’s sake

- Jhumpa Lahiri

There are no surprises here. You have heard a similar story before, watched a movie on similar lines, and though you might not have crossed the seven seas to start a new life you can still relate to the story. So the familiarity of the story is the dampener here. But also the winner.

This is not a ‘never been told before’ story. In fact, the story closely resembles a book penned by another Indian author. When Shoba De’s Second Thoughts showcases the journey of a Bengali woman who moves to Mumbai after her marriage, Jhumpa Lahiri’s Namesake tells the story of a woman (Bengali again) who comes to terms with her new life in the US. And the opening pages of the novel narrating the birth of a child has been seen before in Anita Pratap’s Island of Blood . (But the similarity with Island of Blood ends here. You can’t draw parallels with the storyline) Hence the author doesn’t stretch our imagination and take us to an unexplored territory. She merely puts to words emotions that have been living inside us. But it is this very familiarity that makes the novel appealing.

At some point each one of us might have faced the heartbreak of uprooting ourselves from a place where we were deeply rooted ( probably born, raised or spent the best years of life), and lived through the apprehensions about discovering, accepting and eventually loving or learning to love a world that has been alien hitherto. Jhumpa Lahiri captures this emotion beautifully. Ashima, one of the chief characters leads a life of constant regret. Despite having a supportive husband in Ashoke, she experiences an enormous sense of loss. And she lives with that sense of loss until the day she decides to leave US. And then when she finally gets to leave, she grieves for having to leave a land, where she, together with Ashoke build a home, a family, a life , a land where Ashoke breathed his last breath.

The characters in the novel are well etched. They are normal people with no out- of-the ordinary experiences, just trying to make the best out of the life they have. The story begins with the life of Ashoke and Ashima but later their son Gogol becomes the central character. Though reasons have been given for attaching so much significance to Gogol’s name (hence the title Namesake), I found the explanations unconvincing. Probably the author was trying to add a different dimension to a common NRI story.

Gogol’s unfulfilled love life is another aspect of the novel. He goes through a series of relationships and eventually marries a woman he loves. But the initial fondness turns into boredom first, and then resentment. Two people who fell so easily in love with each other, falls out of love as easily. But that’s what I liked about the ending of the book. The author kept Gogol’s love life hanging, reminding the readers that finding love is not the end of life (unlike in most movies/novels), but living with ur love is. Marriage and courting are different ball games altogether. Probably the author wanted to underline the instability of relationships. And with reference to Gogol’s divorce, Ashima mouths something like – “America’s common sense has taught them to separate” (can’t remember the exact line). Through Ashima’s words, the author tells us that if the divorce rates are comparatively lower in India, its not because we love our spouse any better than the Americans , but because we have been conditioned to live with resentment inside. We probably con ourselves into believing that we can still make it work if we try harder. Or worse still, we fear wagging tongues, being alone or like Ashima hinted, lack plain common sense. And we Indians believe in clinging on and not letting go.

The book is a bit of a drag in between, but ends on a beautiful, hopeful note. I read it because it was widely recommended. It is definitely one of those ‘feel good’ reads. Haven’t seen the movie yet. Need to catch it sometime. Just for Mira Nair’s sake.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Monsoon fables

The monsoon is finally here. And though we are heaving a big sigh of relief that the welting days are finally giving way to chilly nights, I’m not too happy with this change in the weather. I wonder what is inherent about the rains that makes me lonely, depressed, and nostalgic – all at once? I decided to dissect the issue –

1. The number of friends I have are the same since this summer (unless some had died an unfortunate death drowning in the flooded waters. Sorry guys… no wishful thinking this is!). So why lonely only when it rains?

2. I haven’t discovered a particularly disheartening problem to brood over. Why depressed then?

3. Neither do I have any fond memories from the recent past that would turn me suddenly nostalgic.

The climate is pleasantly cool. And I know that it is reason enough to cheer up. A rise in temperature can upset some. Ahem! Like it did to my sis the other day. On a hot summer day she suddenly broke into tears and started crying profusely. When asked about the reason, she blamed it on the soaring heat which was playing spoiler. But we guessed that the real reason would be having to leave a college she spent 4 years studying, bonding, fighting, and living. Heh heh.. Sorry Gee! But I couldn’t resist it.

The first memory that rains bring to me is the school reopening. It is a mixed feeling, a bundle of emotions - the excitement of growing up and moving into a higher grade, the joy in meeting friends who were away visiting grandparents, uncles , aunts and hundreds of relatives an Indian child is entitled to have, the pride in exhibiting all the new things bought for the new academic year, the reluctance to leave the cozy comforts of home – all rolled into one. It’s a beautiful sight to see the colorful umbrellas and bright raincoats. And I would be wrapping my arms around my new bag fearing that it would get wet, successfully avoiding the smaller puddles, only to fall into the biggest one!!! The effort of balancing the umbrella against the wind, getting dirty with the speeding cars splashing muddy water, the fear of writings being ink-stained ,all put together would tire me out. And I wouldn’t want to step out in the rain again.

Then I grew up, went to college, carried fewer books and stopped fretting over them, learnt to balance the umbrella and even to accommodate more people under one, mastered the art of avoiding puddles, and suddenly rains became such good fun. I found a new thrill in getting drenched. So one rainy evening, ignoring my parent’s concerns, I set out alone. I boarded a bus, got down at the stop and started walking towards my destination. Suddenly I was caught in a torrential rain. I got excited thinking about the sympathies I was gonna get once I was home. But then I had learnt to enjoy only the rains and not the accompanying lightning and thunder.

I heard the deafening voice of the loud thunder and saw the lightning streak the sky. My heart started pounding faster. I was assured that my death was nearer than I thought. (More so, because this incident took place just a few days after a lightning tragedy that killed many people ). But somehow the idea of getting killed when struck by a lightning didnt appeal to me. It was too silly for words. So brushing the thought aside, I started walking as fast as my legs would carry me. I remembered that being under a tree during lightning can only increase the risk of getting struck by one and noticed, ( surprisingly for the first time after walking that road for almost three years) to my dismay, that the road I had to walk on was dotted on both sides with huge sprawling trees. All I could do was to avoid the sides and move to the centre of the road. But when debating over which was a better option – being struck by a lightning or being run over by a car- I knew that the latter was more probable on Indian roads.

Meanwhile, the thunder grew louder and the lightning closer and I saw (erm.. probably imagined) it just above my head, within my hand’s reach. I saw death really close that day. I tried to remember all those precautionary measures I had learnt when I was a kid. And something inside me said – METALS! I had to get rid of all the metals. I frantically took out my chain and pulled out my ear studs, one of which I lost in the frenzy. I almost abandoned my umbrella with a metal top. I ran for my dear life. And from that day onwards rain has almost managed to top my endless list of fears.

Years passed… Rains took a new meaning. And now when the rain lashes outside, I sit indoors watching a mushy movie, attempting to read a soppy book, but all the while feeling lonely, depressed and nostalgic. Guess falling into puddles was better. Sigh!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Starting Afresh!

This is the nth time m dirtying my hands with blogging. Sadly, my blogs have never taken off after the first post. I abandon it ruthlessly, never to look back at it again. And everytime 'm filled with a new urge to write, I create a new blog. The reasons for this being pathetic excuses ranging from ''unable to recall the login name'' to "hate to see a wide time gap". But now I'm starting afresh, with a new determination to pursue. (Clearly, a lil late in life) Well.... being a devoted blogger is nothing like being a devoted warrior. I realize that. But for sloth machines like me, its nothing less!!

That said, I always face a writer's block. Blogging, like any other activity, requires commitment. If ye manage to get regular readers, they expect you to write something for them consistently, something to laugh about, smthg to chew on, smth to ponder over. And then they move on to the next blog, looking for the same something. So this commitment-phobia, coupled with my slothness more often that not paralyses me.

I often wonder what is it that I write about. I have read innumerable blogs in the past and found them to be unabashedly open, refreshingly different. And that is simply cuz each person is refreshingly different . And that for me is the biggest challenge - to let the mask down and bare the soul and be just that - unabashedly open. And I fear being overwhelmed by a drive to write, scribble something and later be ashamed of wot I have written. But a few inspirational reads here and there did the deal. I vowed to guard my space less fiercely and be less possessive about my thoughts. So here are my takes .... on wot ever that matters to me, and only me... I will try and be point blank here! But there are no guarantees wotsoever!!!