Wah-ji Rau!

Perhaps I was in a real sappy, soppy mood. Perhaps I was in a forgiving mood. Whatever the reason, I loved Bajirao Mastani the movie.

This is what we go to movies for – to have our breath taken away. SLB sure does that. The sheer opulence, the grandeur, the glimmer and shimmer and shine – what a feast for the eyes. The lovely deep and rich colours, the silks and velvets, the rolling landscapes and the symmetrical forts. Every shot is lovingly taken, that eye for detail and perfection never faltering. Be it a simple shot of the fort, or a messenger riding urgently with a message, the camera embraces the scene with adoration.  The colours are used so intelligently to convey different moods, different shades of emotions. How wonderful to witness such exquisite extravagance! (That messenger riding scene is imbued with forbidding greys, a sign of what’s to come. I loved the sensitivity).

The lovely classical music was the perfect foil, crystal-clear voices rising and falling in operatic harmony. The actors and acting were, if I need to be honest, were adequate, satisfactory, fulfilling the roles with what they were supposed to do, no more, no less. And that in itself was something to rejoice about. Poor acting would have pulled the heaviness down on itself. But here, it ably supported the movie as one of the pillars.

The creative licenses taken can be argued about till the cows come home. However, as a pure cinematic exercise, Bajirao Mastani fulfilled its purpose of telling an engaging tale most gorgeously. Full marks for that.

 

Re-Kindled

More than a few years ago, when it was the latest new thing, my niece sent me a Kindle from the States as a gift. Some registration issues and complications ensued, and the little device was relegated to a forgotten corner shelf, never to be used. Not sure why we didn’t pursue it to ensure that I used it, but at the end of the day, it was an unfortunate  stillbirth.

This Diwali I bought a Kindle Paperwhite after much hesitation. I wasn’t really sure if I would take to the device. At the same time, I had practically stopped buying books for both want of space and environmental concerns. The local library was not enough. The Kindle seemed the most appropriate way to go.

Well, the upshot is that I love my Kindle. I love the ease with which I can buy books that catch my fancy at any time, and read them without moving from my seat. The reading is not difficult – I’ve set the font to larger than normal, so it doesn’t strain my eyes. The device is so light and easy to handle, unlike physical books that can sometimes get quite uncomfortable, especially if you like reading in bed. I love the way I can get back to the page I was reading without having to mark the page somehow (the bookmark’s never around when you need it, right?)

The lower price of Kindle books is something that makes me feel better, not to mention the promos and bargains from Amazon. The fact that I’m not scrambling for storage space is also great.

I guess the toughest part is not to go overboard and buy books by the dozen. I’ve been careful and have been restraining myself. But it’s such a delight to have a new book in my hand at the end of a few clicks and spend the whole day (and night) slurping it all up!

What more could I ask for? 🙂

Mad-ia

Just saw this tweet by Rajdeep Sardesai:

Guess Guardian and BBC are also ‘paid’, bikau, news traders and presstitutes!

I think Rajdeep needs to read Frederick Forsyth’s autobiography – The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue.

In it, Forsyth eviscerates the BBC completely. Its “Africa policy” was so despicable that I have lost respect for BBC. I had such respect for this agency. I remember how we used to see BBC first to get the “right” news, rather than watch Doordarshan with its biased coverage. But gradually, the bias in BBC too was becoming quite visible. Reading the book was a revelation. It makes you lose all trust in the media, which is a real pity. Why has the media become so untrustworthy?

Forsyth says:

The calling of a true news and current affairs organization is to hold the Establishment of any country to account but never to join it.

I guess this is what we expect from the media, but there are not many takers for this definition unfortunately, are there? 😦

Repartee-less

Don’t you just hate it when you think of the most perfect retort much after the moment has passed?

I just had this moment when I was reading my own post of a few months ago.

When I read this sentence:

Hmmm, maybe I should go and immerse myself in cleaning up the house. But unfortunately, that does not qualify as a Eureka-moment in my books.

I immediately thought to myself:

That’s not a Eureka-moment, it’s more a Eureka-Forbes moment!

I laughed to myself, then felt a bit annoyed for not having thought of that when writing the piece.

Yeah, I can be silly sometimes. 😀

Looking Outwards

Yesterday, we were all dressed up to go for a pooja. On our way down, a little girl and her father stepped into the elevator. The girl was wearing a really cute little pink skirt that flared so nicely that I couldn’t help complimenting her on it. She was thrilled, of course, and her father got her to pirouette for us too.

Dear D and me gushed. And that would have been the end of it.

But her father was thoughtful enough to point out something.

Look at Dear D, he said. She’s also looking so pretty all dressed up, isn’t she? For the first time, the little girl looked up, away from her little pink skirt. She gazed at D, smiled shyly and agreed with her dad.

What a a thoughtful and useful life-lesson! Not to get so caught up in yourself that you fail to notice the beauty around you. To take a moment to admire and compliment other events that are worthy of notice.  To keep the ‘me’ aside for some time and look at the world with fresh eyes.

Life’s lessons come at the most unexpected of times. Being open to them is enriching.

Laughing Out Loud!

It was one of those things that looked like we’d keep talking about it, but never get around to doing. Only this time, we managed to pull it off.

A bunch of us engineering classmates got together and went to Kochi, where another classmate lives, and has been inviting us over forever. Oh what a fun time we had! Stuffed ourselves with food, including the sumptuous Onam spread she had prepared, had a lovely day out, and laughed till we cried! We were back to our silly selves, giggling away, not bothered about anything, just having a jolly good time.

Kochi is known for a lot of things like the port, naval base, synagogue, church, spices, etc. But what took all of us by surprise was this.

Thrikkaakara Vamana Moorthy Temple
Thrikkaakara Vamana Moorthy Temple

A beautiful temple, only one of its kind, the Thrikkakara Vamana Moorthy temple is dedicated to Vamana! None of us had heard about it, so it was quite a revelation. Apparently, Onam has its origins in this very temple. Very interesting history indeed. It was so peaceful when we visited it, though the aftermath of the Onam celebrations was quite visible.

We also visited the Hill Palace museum and the Kerala Folkore Museum. The latter was absolutely fascinating, and astonishing because it is the collection of a single man!

Face Writing
Face Writing

We wound up the day with a stroll down the beautifully lit Marine Drive and some yummy appams.

All in all, a great weekend in the company of friends, and really laughing out loud! 🙂

Tea-Time

The ubiquitous tea or chai.

So many varieties, right from the railway station hot chai in small cups, to the golden liquid that swirls into your cup in a plane. So many tastes, from the strongly brewed and sugary chai to the delicate flavours of green tea.

Some of my chai memories include a really tall glass of very strong and rich tea that I drank at a Punjabi household. I still remember trying hard to finish it and hold it in without throwing up.

I have green tea every morning which is just plain, no milk or sugar added. In the evenings, I have the usual Indian chai, with the tea leaves boiled along with the water, and a moderate quantity of milk added to it. I like my tea without sugar (I gave up adding sugar a few years ago), but I like to eat a little sweet before my tea. I dislike the taste of sweetness that lingers on after sweet tea; this way, I get a taste of sweet, but it gets washed away by the taste of the tea. Marie biscuits dipped in hot tea are a favourite.

For some reason, I just love the tea served on airplanes. I like drinking it plain, without adding the chalky milk powder or sugar. Some of the best teas I have had include my friend’s masala chai, made with homemade masala. Nothing better than to drink one of her chais while gup-shupping with friends!

The other one is the chamomile tea I had in Madrid. It was just too good, so comforting and everything about it – the flavour, the aroma, the temperature –  just right. It was heavenly!

I bought a little teapot in the fond hope that I would brew my own tea, but it didn’t work out so well. I do know some folks who brew their tea in teapots, but I haven’t made a decent cup of tea this way. I love that teapot though – it’s red and cheery and cosy.

I'm a little teapot
I’m a little teapot

I remember our tea in Darjeeling, when we sat on the terrace (or was it a balcony) overflowing with flowers, looked out into the drifting mist, and sipped hot tea. That was straight out of a book!

The weather today is so perfect for curling up in bed with a book and a hot cup of tea. Ah, the small pleasures that life offers.

So, how do you like your cup of tea?

Celebrate!

There are people who think singing and dancing to show your love for your country is stupid and shallow.

There are people who think that giving flowers to someone is an empty gesture.

There are people who think that spending some time selecting a good gift for someone is a waste of time.

There are people who think everyday is special and so celebrations are meaningless.

There are people who think saying “I love you” to the people they deeply care about is just lip service.

I was one of them.

I dismissed all gestures as empty and ostentatious.

I hated celebrating my birthday.

Now, however, I’m older and wiser.

What’s wrong in singing and dancing if that gives you joy and a sense of overwhelming love towards your country?

What’s wrong in saying it with flowers?

What’s wrong with a well-chosen and thoughtful gift?

What’s wrong with joyous and happy celebrations?

What’s wrong with expressing and reaffirming oneself whole-heartedly?

I say, go ahead and celebrate! Laugh and sing and dance and be merry to your heart’s content (please do not use loudspeakers though :D). Life is boring when you treat everyday just like the next. Let your voice soar, your feet move, and release your spirit. That is what freedom is all about. And don’t let people who scoff at these efforts pull you down. Let them go ahead and be the same everyday. After all, that is also what freedom is all about.

Down To Earth or Larger Than Life?

I watched two very different movies recently.

Masaan was a movie that impressed me with its writing/editing. This is the second movie, the other being Kaaka Muttai, in which I found the scenes chosen and crafted carefully, with no extraneous scenes at all. Everything was relevant to the storyline. The movie was so authentic, yet so beautifully shot. The boy-girl love story was really so cute, yet so completely realistic, and the casting could not have been more perfect! On a personal note, I too have used Benares as the backdrop for my prize-winning story City of Gods (which I’m very fond of), with the theme of modernity straining for release from the centuries of history and religious culture. So I felt very happy to see a somewhat similar theme. Benares is really a different experience altogether.

Baahubali was the other movie I caught. What a movie! I loved it. True, the story is the usual larger than life legendary figure, some of the songs could have easily been dispensed with, and Tamanna was a very weak link, both story-wise and acting-wise. However, the sheer lavish scale of the movie, the attention to detail, the way every frame is so lovingly mounted, and of course, the special effects, make the movie really worth watching. Especially the war scenes. They are beautifully done, and plunges the viewer right into the middle of the action. I’ve never seen any movie that takes the viewer along the complete war path, right from the strategy, to the retreat, and then to the glorious victory. The scenes are extremely effective without being explicit, and that’s the beauty of the whole second half of this movie. The cliff-hanger ending is a fantastic way to wrap up the first part. I actually felt proud that an Indian moviemaker had not only been so ambitious and aimed so high, but had delivered on it.

So, down to earth, or larger than life? Which did I prefer?

Honestly, you need both to make life interesting, don’t you? 🙂

Dancing To My Tune

Choreography is defined as primarily “the sequence of steps and movements in dance”.

If we go strictly by this definition, then yes, I’ve choreographed dances.

I love dance. I love the fact that the human body is so beautifully expressive, that just a flick of the hands or a look in the eyes can convey so much. I tried to learn formal dancing very late in life. I could not take the whirls of Kathak and so stopped even before I could put on ghungroos. Bollywood dancing was very interesting in terms of the different steps, the basic tools that they use, and the interpretation of various gestures. However, it felt rather alien to me, and I could not connect to it as much as I’d have liked to.

So, I am not a trained dancer. When I dance, it looks like I’ve stumbled onto the stage by chance, even though I know all the steps perfectly. I was told this in college once by a classmate, and I was highly offended. However, recently when I saw a dancing video of mine, I realized how accurate that assessment was! However, I am much better at choreographing. I learn steps very quickly, I’m able to break down the dance into palatable little bits, and I think I am able to get a good dance out of an interested group, even if I say so myself! 🙂

When I was a kid, I used to make up steps to popular tunes. I think TV had a huge influence on me. I loved the dance programs on Doordarshan. Some of the dance ballets deeply moved me. I began to weave fantasies about bigger and better productions. In college too, I quite enjoyed choreographing a few dances. I began branching into more abstract dances, trying to translate what I felt when I heard the music into dance. I remember chalking up a rather ambitious dance-drama based on Sleeping Beauty for Chitti Babu’s music on the veena. I choreographed a “Dance of the Waves” for one of his lovely numbers, because that was what I visualized when I heard his music.

All this was laid aside for quite a few years of my life, when career, marriage, and kid took over. The spark glowed again with DD’s interest in dance. Slowly I’ve got into the groove again. Now it’s become an almost regular feature, and I enjoy the challenge of choosing and editing the appropriate song(s), learning and coming up with the steps and expressions, and bringing the dance to shape. Now that DD and her friends are grown, they learn much faster, and I need to keep abreast with all the latest trends. It’s fun and though I’m still quite old-school, I try to keep an open mind.

I’m sure in a couple of years, DD will no longer want to be guided by me and will want to do things her own way. Till then though, I’ll derive great pleasure from making her (and her friends) dance to my tune. They are the Dancing Queens of my life!