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Wednesday, February 25th, 2009 | Author:

Allow me to take you to a picturesque village in Kerala, among the Western Ghats, where I was born and spent some beautiful years of my life. The beauty of the village lay in its ponds, streams, temples, lush green scenery, simple village folks, and last but not the least, the majestic mountains.

For me, the word “mountains” conjures up countless images of romance, beauty, mystery, grandeur, tranquility and pure bliss. As children, my cousins and I were perpetually intrigued by what lay beyond and over these mighty structures. Thus, to douse our curiosity, we once planned an expedition to explore them, on foot. However, despite the resoluteness, we could only muster the courage to explore the smaller ‘rocks.’

Thus, on a cheerful, bright afternoon, during the summer vacations, we set out on our ‘daring’ mission. With great laughter and excitement, we climbed the rocky terrain. Once we reached the summit, we were totally delighted by the beauty around us. Also, the exuberance of having reached the ‘top’ was evident in every tired soul. We sat there for hours, sinking in the feeling and enjoying the bonuses, like the cool breeze against our faces, the swaying paddy fields below, the people in their colorful clothing working on the fields, and so on. Most important, we got a totally new perspective; one that was very interesting and exciting! We longed to go there everyday.

Soon, as the monsoons arrived, we would watch the sight of clouds hovering over the mountains. We would spend hours, doing nothing but witnessing the clouds change shape, color, and eventually come down as rain drops. Those were the moments of true revelation; the moment of a lifetime!

As I grew up, my love for the mountains also grew; and so did the intrigue factor. The Ruskin Bond stories that I read with great interest further enhanced my belief in the mystery of the mountains. When I read these stories, I could see the entire story unfold in front of my eyes and I felt being a part of it. Then, to add fuel to fire, my friend who belonged to the Garhwal region, would relate unending tales of first-hand supernatural experiences with such conviction that I was seriously sure about the mountains’ mystique factor. The mountains continued to elicit special emotions in me.

Most recently, a wonderful rendezvous with the mountains happened during our visit to Nainital, Uttaranchal. This journey once again flamed my eternal love for the mountains. While at the hotel, we could sink in beautiful sights of the placid Naini Lake, surrounded by the rising mountain ranges. During the evening, while taking a stroll along the Naini Lake, I felt a sudden sense of nostalgia. It was probably a result of the cool weather and the beautiful scenery. I was inundated by the soothing memory of my wonderful childhood days, along with my long-cherished perceptions about the mountains and an unexplainable happiness on visiting the place. The entire experience was so humbling, it reiterated the insignificance of ‘me’ in the entire scheme of things. Unknowingly, my mind wished to be a part of it, forever, to know and love them more.

When I look back, I feel extremely fortunate to have obtained such invaluable moments of beauty and pleasure, which every man truly deserves. I also believe that it is our responsibility to preserve this beauty, so that the generations to come can cherish such wonderful moments of revelation and self-discovery, and in the process, remember their forefathers for the good things they left behind.

Thursday, February 12th, 2009 | Author:
An open-ended journey

An open-ended journey

It is 2.25 am. I was supposed to leave for home five hours back. But these three hooligans imprisoned me in the hostel. Unless we put up a 45-minute play, we can not go to the festival in Pakistan. So, here we are – struggling to create a standard production with five nights, four days, three cigarettes, two writers and one good actor.
After quadrupling on a bike, we reach VKRV. Over paraanthas, we discuss the chains that restrict us. We have only one more person in our team, the only girl who had a passport ready. Hence, we have fewer options. We can not dream of big sets. No script in our knowledge can be performed by such a small team. A kind of frustration builds up. We start asking questions.

Who am I?

How free am I?

What am I looking for?

The search for a good script actually transforms into a more personal search. I close my eyes. Three friends in a room explore issues of identity, freedom and purpose. We are able to visualise the product in the process. I take the pen out of my pocket and get hold of a tissue paper. Our “baby” is born – ‘Kamra Khula Hai’.­

Category: Articles, Story  | Tags: , ,  | 3 Comments
Friday, February 06th, 2009 | Author:

480BC in the narrow Thermopylae pass in the northern Greece 7 thousand of Greek soldiers waits to face the largest force ever assembled, over 300,000 soldiers of the Persian Empire. Greeks were led by the 300 deadliest fighters The Spartans, their job was to hold that pass or die trying. In the Thermopylae pass, few stood against many for freedom and made their last stand.

Xerxes led the largest fighting force ever assembled, some of the historians still believe that their number was over 3 million. The Persian Empire was very big its border extends from the Indus River in India to Nile River in the Egypt. Xerxes invested lot of money and 5 years to assemble that army, built ships and buy food for invading Greece, his intention was to burn the Greek city Athens to punish them for supporting a rebellion against Persia 25 years ago. Xerxes sends a man to find out what lies in the way. The man discovers 7000 Greek soldiers blocking the east of the pass. The Persians out numbred the Greeks nearly 50 to one. In a strategic move the Greeks have chosen the Thermopylae pass as the battle place which is a narrow pass of around 200 yards in width. Leading the Greek army is the great Spartan king Leonidas one of the 2 kings of Sparta who was chosen to lead the army by all the Greek city states to go and hold the Thermopylae pass.

Xerxes waited for around 4 days to attacks and finally attacks on fifth day. About 150 yards away from the Greek army, thousands of Persian archers launch a barrage of arrows. Leonidas and Spartans waited all their life for this moment as they were born for battle.

Around 530BC 50 years before the battle of Thermopylae Spartan king Leonidas was born and inspected by a Spartan elder. Sparta at that time was a hard core warrior society. After birth every child was examined and was decided if he is fit to live in the society, if the baby has any imperfection, they didnt allow him to live. At the age of 7 every male child including leonidas is sent to the army camps for training. Leonidas was a strong baby and was spared by the Elders to live and was sent for the army training where young Leonidas will live, train and learn to kill or be killed, for the next 12 years. At the age of 18 his education completed and he enters the Spartan army.

This is the time for every Spartan mother to feel proud of, while handling his son the shield she would tell them in Greek Come with the shield or on it.

581BC one year before the battle of Thermopylae a Greek spy discovers that the Persian king Xerxes has assembled his army to invade Greece. The Xerxes plan was to burn the Greek city state Athens to the ground. When the Athenians discovered the intention of the Xerxes they quickly realized that they are going to need help. Despite their poor relations the Athenians reach their one of the major regional rival Spartans for help. Before deciding whether to help the Athenians the Spartans consult the Oracle (one of the most sacred Greek shrines). According to them the death & sacrifice of Leonidas will save the Sparta and Leonidas agreed to help the Athenians to battle the Persians as he believed that he is the descendant of Heracles and Gods have chosen him to save Sparta. The counsel of Sparta isn’t convinced and allows Leonidas to take a minimal force of 300(all with father and son) chosen by him.

Before the battle of Thermopylae, Xerxes sent a messenger to negotiate with the king Leonidas.
Messenger:
Don’t be stupid Spartans, lay down your weapons or prepare to die, you are facing the largest and the strongest army ever assembled, our arrows will blot out the sun.
One of the Spartan: Then we shall have our battle in the shade.

The Spartans used their shields to avoid the barrage of Persian arrows.

Stuck in the narrow pass the Persians could not break the human walls(phalanx) of the Spartans and were slaughtered.

Sooner the Persians began to realize that it was not the best of the idea to launch themselves on the Spartans waves after waves.

End of the day the Spartans killed many and lost few which gave them a hope of Victory, on the other side Persians were trying to find a way to surround the Greeks land force from behind.
Next morning Spartans and the Athenians took their respective positions prepared for the second Persian attack. In the noon Xerxes decided to march 10,000 of his best fighters (also known as the immortals) to the front.

Xerxes believed that the immortals will end the action, but the Spartan phalanx were so rock steady that even the immortals were not able to break it and were killed. One of the main reasons of failure of the immortals was that they had never faced such a highly skilled, trained and tactically flexible fighters like Spartans.

After 2 days the Persian body count was enormous.

After the second day of battle a Greek traitor named Ephialtis revealed the goat path to Xerxes in order to get rich quickly. Seeing that he can’t penetrate the Greek defense, he decided to use the path and ordered 10,000 of his soldiers to march and climb up the hill in the dark to surround the Greeks from behind. But this path was not unknown to Leonidas. Before the first day of the attack Leonidas had stationed 1000 people(Phoceans) in the pass. But when the Persian approached the Phocean land, the defending force was missing. Now the Persians have a unhindered path. By this time the Leonidas was doomed from above and behind. In the mid of the night Leonidas knew that the Phoceans have deserted the path.

Knowing that he has been out flanked, he decided to order his army to retreat, leaving only around 300 Spartans.

By the dawn all of the Greek troop retreated except Spartans and around 700 soldiers from Greek city state of Thespia as they decided to fight with the Spartans to the death(very few know about this). Now Leonidas and his 1000 men were surrounded by the 10s of thousands of Persians. Cleaned and prepared for the battle the Spartan took the field for the one last time. Third day fight began and the Spartans & Thespians fought like mad, they had nothing to lose as they were destined to death. After some time all the Spears & Swords of the Greeks were broken and they were fighting with whatever they could.

Somewhere in between the fight Leonidas was struck with the Persian arrow fire and fell on the third day.

There was a great battle over the body of the Leonidas, finally the Greeks recovered the body. At last the Persians called their archers for the one last time.

The last stand of the few hundred men will always be remembered.

Ē tan ē epi tas

Tuesday, February 03rd, 2009 | Author:

Director Rosshan Andrrews represents Kerala’s new generation of film directors who have vision, passion and commitment but not necessarily a good understanding for story or screenplay excellence.

Four decades ago, the Malayalam film industry had been the envy of nearly every Indian film maker. It boasted of veteran directors who ruled cinema because of their excellent screenplay techniques and the ability to tell stories that were different yet rooted to reality. Those who believe that directors such as Priyadarshan represent Malayalam cinema on a broader platform in Bollywood are ignorant because his movies are not a patch on the superlative quality of films that veteran film makers of Malayalam are truly famed for.

Today’s Malayali directors are young and aspire for quick fame. Their techniques are more focused on infusing their movie with young dialogues, peppy music and great cinematography. The technique of story telling has been affected badly in the process.

Even then, the screenplay rights of most Malayalam movies are bought at staggering sky-high prices by the Tamil industry and now, Bollywood. Some of Bollywood’s poor adaptations of Malayalam movies include Gardish, Baghban, Hera Pheri, Hungama, Hulchal, Garam Masala, Bhool Bhulaiya, Dhamaal, Chandni Chowk to China, and Billu Barber. I use the term ‘poor’ because the movies had senseless screenplays when translated to Hindi while in Malayalam the context, the dialogues and even the themes were justifiable and justly portrayed by veteran film makers.

A Malayalam movie that I recently watched is “Notebook” which was directed by Rosshan Andrrews. Thankfully, the rights of this movie haven’t been grabbed up. With excellent music, cinematography, editing and fine camera techniques, this movie is interesting though it doesn’t do much on an emotional scale due to its excessive modernity.

The movie depicts a beautiful journey into the intimate friendship between three high school girls who stay in hostel and become as closer than siblings. One of the girls ends up pregnant and the two girls cover up for her to the extent that they force her to abort and finally, the girl dies.

When she dies, the two friends hide her death till the police grill them and one of the girls (played by actress Roma) breaks and conveys the truth.

The second friend denies having any involvement in the abortion. The boy who was involved with the deceased girl doesn’t even hear about her death till much later. When he does, he is filled with pangs of guilt and longs to do something to make amends though he knows it is too late.

The betrayal of friendship and the subsequent estrangement between the girls throws them into separate lives and separate ways of dealing with the loss of their friend. Everything is questioned in the screenplay and tosses out some truly important questions for parents, teachers and all of us to ponder about:

  • What is friendship really? Is it a whim, commitment or responsibility?
  • What forces young girls into making choices like abortion? Is it broken homes, wealthy lifestyle, lack of morals or a desperate choice fearing the hypocrisy of Indian society?
  • Who has a right to pass judgment over choices that young people make – those who give birth to them yet have no time or inclination to be with them, those who call themselves ‘teachers’ and can’t see beyond the syllabus or curriculum or those who are their best friends?
  • What role do parents or teachers really exercise when it comes to the ‘morality’ of their children/wards? Can they make a positive difference?

Ultimately, it is broken homes, rich families and lots of money which bring these children together to live in a top residential Convent school, where money power, management power and vested interests are more important than a student’s talents or aspirations.

Category: Reviews, Story  | Tags: , , ,  | 2 Comments
Sunday, February 01st, 2009 | Author:

“Think cold.” That’s what I used to say to myself (in my mother’s voice) every time something went wrong. It probably wasn’t meant to be a motto, but it evolved into one… not just a motto, but a way of life, a philosophy. But I am getting ahead of myself. So, let me step back a few years to explain.

When I was a child, we lived in an area where not having electricity for six to ten hours a day was not unusual. In the heat of the Delhi summer, just when we were ready to get into bed, everything would go dark. And we would prepare for another night of having to sleep without even a fan. Whenever I complained about the heat, my mother would say (most unmoved by my plight), “Think cold.” That was her way of saying, “Yes, I know it’s hot. Yes, it’s miserable to sweat through the night. But there is nothing we can do about it. Complaining will only make it worse.” So, I would lie down and think of swimming in a pool or of drinking a cold glass of lemonade. And guess what. It actually stopped being hot.

For more than a decade, I believed in that. Every time something went wrong, I would say to myself “THINK COLD.” And that philosophy made things better for me. You could say I was in the “blue” phase. Little did I realize that I had come to accept several things as “that’s how it’s always been” or “I can’t do anything about it.”

It was only when I was a little older that I began questioning things. I think that was my “red” phase. There was disgust and anger for how things were run in the country, the stringent rules that society had laid down for people to live by, the discrimination that was lashed out based on money, gender and color as well as the people who were not in the “questioning” mode. The rebellious phase had me totally discontent, very different from the “blue” phase.

Then one fine day, a beautiful thing happened. I was in the driver’s seat and I felt the fire from the sun on my face. It came to dawn on me that when things go wrong, it’s not always another who is responsible for fixing them. I am responsible. I began to seek out problems and greeted them with passion. And then made choices about which of them I would attempt at fixing. Somewhere between contentment and discontent lies orange… the fire that drives us to make the world a better place. If something angers us deeply or if we feel passionately about something going wrong, that’s the cue. The problems and shortcomings are there for us to take responsibility for and help fix.

I have chosen the wounds I want to dream of healing and the problems I wish to try alleviate. And now, when I see something going wrong… I have the faith that someone, somewhere is rolling up his sleeves to fix it… someone, somewhere is painting his face orange.