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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Not So Buoyant.....

I am feeling not so buoyant this week..... yet a sense of compulsion makes me write a post for my blog..... I am appalled, like millions of people, by the Mumbai mayhem that has seen so many people dead, and many more injured and grieving. As if the financial depression, the social tension, the communal strife, the natural calamities, the freakish accidents and other disasters were not enough as dampeners, now we are scarred by distrust as well as a mammoth fear of being devoured by the senseless violence unleashed on us by the terrorists.

I wish people were more aware of our environment and I also wish I knew how to make it more harmonious. At the micro-level, there is a larger need for creating balance and harmony in relationships. We can't help feeling more and more stressed about meeting about smaller - read baser - things, preventing our biological clock from running out. There is too much clutter in our lives. Either we succumb to the loneliness, or in an effort to be more social, we increase our anxiety manifold, dogged by silly little concerns. Trying for a last bid effort to save our very existence with drastic changes, we might struggle with even achieving the sustaining levels. Things keep changing almost overnight for many of us. And a quick and easy fix that works in mysterious ways isn't likely to be found. We often need to take a good cleaning out, after a hardcore recce is done.

As I reflect on my own journey just a little, I lament lacking the strong convictions that could have otherwise strengthened me. I try not to formulate adjustments too hastily. But I still am unable to conserve my physical strength by organizing your domestic and daily responsibilities into an efficient schedule which allows ample rest periods. I keep feeling overworked, and relief is hardly in sight.
My annoyances and inconveniences keep piling up. Having differences with housemates or workmates or friends or relatives has become a norm. I hate to admit that even my affability has hit an all-time low. How do I stay strong while I am butting heads with someone important and influential? How do I reach a fair compromise?

I wish my work and daily responsibilities were more stimulating and interesting for me during this period. But work and domestic duties never seem to blend harmoniously! My friends are important to me now, but my social interactions in this realm of your life have hardly been helpful. It is a paradox that I look for guidance and support in all the odd places. Generally, it is my emotional intensity that multiplies my confusion. Today my only concern should be in stabilizing my directions and desires, tempering my passions with faith.
I wish it is just the stars, the celestial confluence & combination, and may the negative celestial influence not last long.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Mumbai Mayhem

My Heart Bleeds for Mumbai

Mumbai- City of joy, opportunities, and glamour

City of wealth, wit and humour,

City of cricket, films and vigour,

City of health, hotels and Reliance power

The picture today is really grim and gory.

It is Mumbai but with a different story,

My heart bleeds for Mumbai as it grapples with a terror strike of the worst kind

And innocent lives are lost, and thousands are in pain...!!!!

[For the uninitiated:
(Newsfeed -courtesy- Yahoo News, Associated Press, Google & Press Trust of India)
Mumbai, on the western coast of India overlooking the Arabian Sea, is home to splendid Victorian architecture built during the British Raj and is one of the most populated cities in the world with some 18 million crammed into shantytowns, high rises and crumbling mansions. Mumbai is the commercial and entertainment capital of India, and houses important financial institutions, such as the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), the National Stock Exchange of India (NSE) and the corporate headquarters of many Indian companies.
The Hotel Taj,flames seen leaping out from the domed structure in the pic above(one of the heritage hotels that assume a place of pride for all Indians,overlooks the fabled Gateway of India that commemorated the visit of King George V and Queen Mary), Oberoi Hotel and other prominent places were under siege - as a band of terrorists attacked last night, with a view to kill, and even hold on ransom, foreign tourists and innocent civilians. The terrorists opened fire at nearly half a dozen places in south Mumbai at around 10pm on Wednesday,26th November, 2008 and soon took hundreds, including foreigners and businessmen, hostage. Gunmen opened fire from AK-47 rifles at the city’s busiest railway terminal, CST, killing nearly 20 people. Fear swept through the city, as frequent gunfire was heard from public places. Explosive-laden vehicles, including a taxi near the international airport, blew up. The Indian Army, Navy, Mumbai police and STG & Ant-terror Squad are jointly countering and trying to restore normalcy, as the entire world condemns the dastardly act of the terrorists. ]

May Mumbai Shine Again!! May the People of Mumbai Fight Back With Resilience & Uniform Solidarity! The Kolkatans Are With You!

Friday, November 21, 2008

The U.S. and Us

There has been a universal interest in the American Presidential election this year, and after the victory of Mr Barack Obama, the international response and jubilation has been unprecedented. Shortly after the results were announced, there was a deluge of posts and write-ups on the Net, expressing a range of emotions including excitement, discomfort, reservation and hope. This in itself is quite remarkable and, at a time when our world needs, more than ever, greater synergy, to face mounting challenges of terrorism, financial crisis and global environmental degeneration, I am nothing but hopeful.

Of course, in Britain and in much of Europe, Obama's victory has been met with both excitement and enthusiasm for the American people and for what they accomplished. Europeans seem to believe that this election represents a shift in thinking about American policies and racial issues. They feel that this decision will help to redeem America in the eyes of those who have developed negative feelings over the last decade.

In our country, and also in the countries in the Indian sub-continent, it is a pleasant surprise that the U.S. has finally elected a bi-racial president, especially one who has been so vocal about his strong global views. Even in the Middle East, there seems to be a feeling of relief as a result of president-elect Obama's views on the U.S. involvement in the war-torn regions in that part of the world.

In Africa, and in particular in Kenya, the homeland of Obama's father, people are too overwhelmed. The African people obviously feel a close tie to this man who represents a strong connection between the two continents. Likewise, the pride that many African-Americans have expressed in lieu of the president-elect's achievements has also been very touching.

It is good to see that so many American citizens chose to take advantage of their right and privilege to vote, unlike the previous years. Just before the elections, there were non-partisan Public Service Announcements on the Net, which encouraged the American to be more forthcoming, and participate in the democracy, by voting. American celebrities teamed up to spread awareness among the otherwise politically indifferent, and somewhat diffident urban middle-class and upper middle-class Americans. The non-partisan PSAs, produced by Leonardo DiCaprio's Appian Way, in particular, caught my attention. They attempted successfully to engage and inspire young people to register and vote and participate in the election process. Celebrities appearing in such PSAs included: Amy Adams, will.i.am (of the Black Eyed Peas), Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Bacon, Halle Berry, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Connolly, Courteney Cox, Ellen DeGeneres, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jamie Foxx, Jonah Hill, Dustin Hoffman, Anthony Kiedis, Ashton Kutcher, Adam Levine, Laura Linney, Eva Longoria, Tobey Maguire, Demi Moore, Natalie Portman, Giovanni Ribisi, Ethan Suplee, Kyra Sedgwick, Michelle Trachtenberg, Usher, and Forest Whitaker. The substantial increase in voters who actually went to the polls is remarkable and represents hope for the democratic process. Likewise, the fact that many Americans looked beyond race when they marked their ballot choice is a win for democracy for all the world's citizens.

As I listened to Mr Obama speak, right after winning the race for the White House, at a rally in Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois (broadcast on CNN), my heart was filled with joy and immense admiration. It may be freezing in Washington in January (20th of January, 2009, has been announced as the date of the swearing-in ceremony), but for millions of people from around the world the excitement would be palpable to see the new President-elect being sworn into office. It would not just be a change of party, that always fuels a little more interest, but this time we are all keen to see a member of the African-American community becoming the President of the United States of America. For most African-Americans, Mr Obama's election as the President is a dream come true that they didn't think they would see in their lifetime, and the same applies to me, a representative of a society developing and striving against all odds, clamouring for its share of progress and of equal opportunities. It is important for all of us to feel hope and to feel the ability to make our world a better place. Mr Obama has a tall task ahead!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Solitude, Twilight & Love

I have been so used to solitude
I used to bask in it.....
For me, solitude is... twilight
But, now, when I look at you,
I think: How can I live
Without you? You're the person of my dreams.
Of course I know I can, but I must give
My heart room to tell it as it seems.
Romance must have a language fit for feeling
More than fits between the earth and sky.
For love there cannot be a floor or ceiling:
My love goes down too deep and flies too high.
So when I say I cannot live without you,
Know I can't imagine so much pain;
And when I claim to always dream about you,
Well, know the moon is happy once again.
The sun reveals cold truths for all to see,
But I must light my soul, my heart
While your smile can light up the world,
For me, shining from within,
Breaking out between the clouds
That form the skin of self.
Love seems sweet as the sun's liquid joy
Love is my twilight,
Sweet it is, captured in sweet wine,
My happiness is captured in your love
My solitude engulfed by sweet love.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Friendship redefined?

Dostana is the new film from producer Karan Johar's.... and it puts friendship in a whole new bracket - something of a first for mainstream Indian cinema. Dostana literally means friendship, and the film celebrates friendship, period. But.... yes, there is a big 'but' that separates it from the yarns on celluloid that we are so used to, and even indifferent to. This time, the story takes a whole new dimension as the two leading lads pose as gay lovers, to be able to share a swanky apartment in Miami. Hey, the film's basic premise suggests that director Tarun Mansukhani does not intend to break new grounds as there isn't a serious take on homosexuality. On the contrary, it's a madcap comedy perpetuating the silly same-sex stereotypes that has been the staple fare in Hollywood B-grade ventures for a really long time. The promos of Dostana did prepare one for a no-brainer laughathon, however, on seeing the movie today at a packed house morning screening, I have had to do a rethink. I must say that the zany romantic comedy does dare to push the envelope in its own way. It brings homosexuality out of the closet, gives it respect and dignity and doesn't treat gays as 'abnormal'. Well, maybe not in gigantic scoops and servings, but in a small-dollops kind of way.

Love triangle in Hindi movies often centre around two guys falling in love with the same girl, or two girls choosing to love the same guy. But Dostana is a first! It's the first Hindi film that, at the core, is a rectangle (three men loving the same woman), but two of them pretending to be a couple. The so-called shock-value associated with the screenplay is diffused thanks to a stellar cast that seems to understand the director's brief perfectly.
Besides John Abraham and Abhishek Bachchan who are the talking point, as the mock-gay couple, Priyanka Chopra looks stunning (she has never looked better) and delivers a first-rate performance. Bobby Deol lends apt support as her boss, who is later besotted with her. On the whole, Dostana with its new-age friendship funds is a winner all the way, helping one chillax in these depressing times.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Body of Lies

Body of Lies is a must watch film, for all fans of director Ridley Scott, and for all fans of Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe (Thinking, everytime: 'What next?'), and for all Kolkatans - Kolkata is given a miss by many of the superlative films from Hollywood - this is one of the rare & pleasant exceptions for the cine-buffs of Kolkata!

Body of Lies is a thriller based on the novel of the same name by David Ignatius about a CIA operative who goes to Jordan to track a high-ranking terrorist. The film is written by William Monahan, and stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, Iranian actress Golshifte Farahani and Australian actor Vince Colosimo. Production took place in Washington D.C. and Morocco. Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe have had an amazing partnership, with such great films as 'Gladiator', 'American Gangster' and 'A Good Year' between them. However, Crowe reportedly agreed to do the supporting role in this film after the script was revised by Steve Zaillian. Significant contributions to this intense narrative has been made by Alexander Witt, the Director of Cinematography, and by Marc Streitenfeld, who has scored the original music for the film.

Detailed plot synopsis
(Alert - Do not read it if u want to steer clear of the spoilers!):
Roger Ferris (DiCaprio) is a CIA operative in Iraq who is trying to track down a terrorist by the name of Al Salim. Upon following up a lead, Ferris' asset (who he has become good friends with) is killed during a car chase involving terrorists, RPGs and two missile-firing U.S. helicopters. Ferris recovers from his injuries at a U.S. facility in Qatar before he is sent to Jordan to run down some intelligence he recovered in Iraq. Meanwhile, unknown terrorists plan to follow up an offscreen series of bus bombings in Sheffield, UK with more attacks in Manchester, England but blow themselves up when the police find their cell. Later, another cell undertakes a cell phone-triggered bombing in a Dutch flower market that kills at least 75 people.
Ferris' handler, Ed Hoffman (Crowe), keeps tabs on Ferris via Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. Towards the start of the movie, Hoffman speaks to his CIA superiors. He explains to them how terrorists are turning their back on technology by throwing away their phones and computers and using old methods of communicating face-to-face and with written messages. Because of this, the terrorists are very hard to track.
In Jordan, Ferris tosses the ineffectual Chief of Station out of his office before he meets Hani Salaam (Mark Strong), head of the Jordanian General Intelligence Department, or GID who tells Ferris to never lie to him. Hoffman finds an Al Salim safehouse in Jordan and tells Ferris to conduct a surveillance operation on it. However, Hoffman organises another operative to conduct an operation without Ferris' consent. The other agent screws the operation up and blows his cover after saying something compromising to a terrorist from the safehouse. The terrorist takes off running, intent on relaying information that the safehouse is being watched. Ferris chases him down and kills him by stabbing him, getting bitten by dogs in the process. Hani covers up the killing by passing it off as a robbery and Ferris accuses Hoffman of running "side operations", telling Hoffman to lay off.
Ferris meanwhile goes to hospital to tend to his wounds.

While in the hospital he meets a nurse named Aisha, and he gradually falls in love with her. Hani recognises one of the men living in the safehouse as a man he had known for years named Karami and He takes him out into the desert and coerces him into working for Jordanian intelligence (he has been sending money to Karami's mother and making it appear as if it came from her reformed and successful son, so she doesn't know Karami is still a thief and now a wannabe terrorist, and he is shamed and surprised when Hani does not kill him but lets him ride away on his bicycle). Hoffman asks Hani to hand Karami over to the CIA, most likely to interrogate him but Hani refuses, having earlier told Ferris he does not believe in torture. Unknown to Ferris and Hani, Hoffman tells Ferris' CIA subordinate to follow Karami and kidnap him. Karami gets away and notifies the terrorists in the safehouse that it is being watched, resulting in the safehouse being lit on fire and abandoned. Ferris' partner is caught and Hani blames Ferris for the destruction of the safehouse before telling Ferris to leave Jordan.

Ferris comes back to the States for a while and argues with Hoffman, whom he derides as power-hungry and fat. He then comes up with a plan to make contact with the terrorist Al Salim (Alon Aboutboul) by staging a significant terrorist attack, the logic being that Al Salim will hear about this attack and try to make contact with the terrorist group who committed it. With the help of one of Hoffman's CIA friends, Ferris is able to frame a Jordanian architect named Omar Sadiki by posing as a financier contracting a bank's construction in the UAE, making him look like the head of a terrorist cell.
A "terrorist attack" is staged at a US Military Base in Incirlik, Turkey. A bomb is exploded in the base and Ferris uses unclaimed local bodies dressed as soldiers to legitimise the attack. Al Salim sees the report of the attack on television and tries to make contact with Sadiki.
Hani tells Ferris to come back to Jordan because he knows that he needs Ferris. Hani then talks to Ferris about his suspicions that Omar Sadiki is a terrorist to which Ferris lies and says he doesn't know anything. Ferris later tries to save Sadiki from being kidnapped by Al Salim's henchmen but fails and sees another CIA agent nearly killed in the subsequent car crash. Salim gets information from Sadiki about Ferris, realising that Sadiki is not a terrorist at all, and then kills him. Ferris goes back to his apartment and finds out that Aisha has been kidnapped. He then desperately asks Hani for his help, explaining to Hani that he made up Omar Sadiki's terrorist cell and the attack was faked but Hani refuses to help Ferris because he lied to him.
Ferris gets a call from the kidnappers and is told to wait for a van. The van picks him up and drops him in the desert. Meanwhile back in CIA headquarters, Hoffman is watching everything via an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. Ferris is then picked up by a group of men in cars and the vehicles create a massive cloud of dust before splitting up. Hoffman attempts to follow Ferris but loses track of which van he is in.

Ferris is taken to Al Salim, just across the border in Syria. When Ferris asks Al Salim about Aisha, Salim tells Ferris that someone has lied to him and he has been doublecrossed. While Ferris insults Salim and laughs in his face, an angry Salim crushes two of his fingers with a hammer before turning on a video camera and ordering Ferris to be cut loose. He is to be executed on video in a manner similar to other cases in Iraq. Just before Ferris is executed, Hani and his men burst into the room, killing all of the terrorists and arresting Al Salim.
While in hospital, Ferris is visited by Hani who reveals to him that it was his men who kidnapped Aisha, using blood she donated regularly at work to make it appear she'd been killed or wounded. He then brokered a deal with Al Salim (using Karami) to trade CIA agent Ferris for money. It was one of Hani's men who rang Ferris and dropped him in the desert. The plan was to wait for Al Salim's men to pick Ferris up and then follow them to Al Salim's location, where they could then arrest Salim. The plan played out successfully, even though Ferris was nearly killed, and Hani tells him that Aisha is absolutely fine.
In the end Ferris tells Hoffman that he quits the CIA. Hoffman prepares to leave Jordan and resigns himself to Ferris not changing his mind. At the movie's end, Ferris preapres to make contact anew with Aisha. The culture clash that is evidently in the purview interestingly never becomes a blown-up issue in the nuanced moments between Ferris and Aisha, and that espouses hope for their relationship, at least we viewers can hope so.

Courtesy: Wikipedia, Warner Bros.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Happy Birthday Tabu!

Today happens to be the birthday of Tabu, (born Tabassum Hashmi Khan) who is one of my all-time favorite actresses. She has had a rather interesting career, having acted in several crassy, commercial ventures, alongwith some rather offbeat films where she has carved a niche for herself with her sensitive performances. She has acted in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Bangla and even American films. I personally think that she has a lot more to offer, even though she has won the National Film Award for Best Actress twice.

Despite being launched by Dev Anand many moons ago, in a typical forgettable potboiler called Hum Naujawan, she gave acting a backseat and pursued her studies for a while, as she was very young at the time. Her elder sister Farha was the one who enjoyed the limelight back then, acting in mainstream Bollywood movies. Tabu was launched as a heroine by Boney Kapoor in a huge reincarnation opus called Prem, in 1993. The film bombed badly. But Tabu was noticed as a rustic beauty, with an infevtious smile. She did some rather forgettable movies in which all she had to do was to shriek, and dance around the trees, dressed in a ghagra-choli, or in garish outfits. I gave all of them a miss - though now am quite eager to catch them on telly, just for the heck of it!
I fell in love with Tabu's charms when I saw her in the Tamil film Kadhal Desam in 1996. Her character - called Divya - was so full of life, so vibrant, that I could instantly feel the vibes as I saw her for the first time on screen.
Since then I've seen her in numerous films, and here comes the list of her films that I have seen till date, be it on the big screen or the small:

Jeet (1996)
Maachis (1996)
Virasat (1997)
Darmiyaan (1997)
Border (1997)
Iruvar (1997)
Chachi 420 (1998)
Kohram: The Explosion (1999)
Hum Saath Saath Hain (1999)
Hu Tu Tu (1999)
Biwi No.1 (1999)
Thakshak (1999)
Hera Pheri (2000)
Kandukondain Kandukondain (2000)
Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar (2000)
Astitva (2000)
Chandni Bar (2001)
Aamdani Atthani Kharcha Rupaiyaa (2001)
Filhaal (2001)
Saathiya (cameo) (2002)
Aabar Aranye (2003)
Jaal: The Trap (2003)
Maqbool (2003)
Main Hoon Na (cameo) (2004)
Meenaxi: A Tale of Three Cities (2004)
Silsiilay (2004)
Fanaa (2006)
Cheeni Kum (2007)
Om Shanti Om (cameo) (2007)
The Namesake (2007)

My personal favorites are: Maqbool, Chandni Bar, Kandukondain Kandukondain, Iruvar, Maachis, Cheeni Kum, Abar Aranye, Astitva & The Namesake. Tabu is known to have become selective in her film roles, fair enough, but I want her to be seen in many more films that would endear her even more.
Wishing Tabu a Very Happy Birthday!