Tuesday, November 24, 2009

IMPOTENCE - a mild word.

I start getting this eerie feeling again.
Anger is rising around me as the memory of our defeat at the hands of 10 terrorists surfaces in everybody's mind because the 1st Anniversary of the dreaded day last year is right here.
The Liberhan Report is leaked to certain sections of the media and all politicians on both sides do is to capitalize on the situation. The BJP going to the extent through media to make the Hindu sentiment rise again.
Images of the Rath Yatra and then the demolition of the Babri Masjid eighteen years ago flash in the mind and TV screens to fuel angst further and remind us of how impotent we are.
My friend Soni and I talk about a collective consciousness which is the need of the hour and then realize hopelessly that even the consciousness of Indians is divided, so fragmented that it is an impossibility to acheive a uniform approach in present times.
Meanwhile parts of India burn as bi elections come close in places where development is as remote as they are, and another kind of terrorism which threatens to break the nations back is slowly rising.
Whether it is imperialism we fear, or something else which I don't know, prosperity is elusive to this part of the world and it is heartbreaking that we are unable to get a handle on it, despite everything going in our favour since our Independence in 1947.
I remember last year, in the first week of December, a few of us, enraged like the rest in India, got into our cars, collected at the Gateway of India one very early morning, and left by road for New Delhi, to meet the Prime Minister of India, amidst much media and peoples support.
We were in three cars and had collected enough support and funds to take on the journey through states, cities, townships and villages to reach the house of the Prime Minister and meet him to give him a memorandum which made certain demands that the whole of India was crying out loud for.
While we got tremendous support from whichever place we went past, nobody joined our cavalcade as we had hoped, but wished us the very best for our effort.
We reached Jantar Mantar in New Delhi three days later around 3 pm, and were dwarfed by an entire media and huge numbers of supporters who were waiting for us and completely in support of our venture.
Before we took on the march to the PM's house, which is a 10 minutes walk from where we were, we were met by a bunch of officials from the PM's office who told us that they would like to take us to meet the Prime Minister and that only two or three of us could accompany them.
Making a flash decision, Alyque Padamsee, Aroona Bhat, one of the chief organizers with me, and myself, hopped into the vehicle shown to us by the officials, and found ourselves at first being taken for a 20 minute joy ride around the Rastrapati Bhawan and all.
Then when we asked them what was up, they took us to the PM's residence, where we were told by the security that we could leave our phone numbers at the gate and await a call from the office of the Prime Minister which would give us an appointment in a day or two, as he, himself, was in Srinagar at the time.
We were in state of shock.
Like lightning, the officials who had taken us to the residence of the Prime Minister of India, had dissapeared and the driver of the jeep which had carted us there, offered to drop us back from where he had brought us.
Another 40 minutes later when we got back to Jantar Mantar, where the rest of our gang and supporters were waiting for us on that cold winter evening, the crowds had waned and the media which was wanting to hear from us what had happened, was completely dissapointed, therefore dispersed.
Pratham, Priyanka, Asim, Junaid, Arco, Dev, Nutan, Suryaveer, Aroona and I as well as Alyque were stunned to silence. Left all alone within minutes as it started to turn cold and dark, we now had to figure out what to do next.
We had been had.
Some wanted to carry out a dharna until the PM met us, but some of us felt otherwise, as we had achieved our purpose, grabbed enough eyeballs for our mission and message, and understood that while we were on the road between Mumbai and Delhi, Rahul Gandhi and other young parliamentarians had taken centrestage and demanded action and reforms that the memorandum we were carrying to present to the PM also carried, and had impressed the country with their sincerity and resolve to lead India to modern times.

ONE YEAR LATER...  
Were they just words?
There is no change visible in sight.
Things are only worse than they were, although we can see massive efforts to bring them under control which seem to be getting nowhere.
Security placed outside the Taj Hotel in Mumbai which was one of the places attacked and under seige for 60 hours that terrible time one year ago, is discovered squatting at the Gateway of India because the Police Administration hasn't thought about where to put up the Jawans hired by them.
So much for Police reforms.
The bullet proof jacket of Karkare is still missing and authorities are tight lipped about how and where such an important clue has dissappeared. Moreover, the file pertaining to the purchase of the jackets for those men who are to guard us, is also missing since then.
So much for weeding out corruption.
When asked by Barkha Dutt on her show last night, what he had to say about the squatters at Gateway of India, Ashok Chavan, the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, was scary when he said that a big issue must not be made of such a small incident as authorities had now taken care of things.
So much for accountability.
YP Singh, the ex Chief Commissioner of Mumbai went hysterical on the same show saying that we are just lucky that there hasn't been another attack on us because the terrorists are too busy taking care of their backyard, not because our systems and security have improved or are in place.
So much for promises of advanced security systems.
UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, Bengal, Assam, Orrisa and Andhra Pradesh are in turmoil and there is no solution in sight except for announcements of offensives against internal terrorism, which is obviously going to consume the lives of thousands of innocents without actually solving their problems for which they'll have unknowingly sacrificed their lives.
So much for the delivery and implementation of policy and services.
There are multitudes of people, millions in numbers, to whom education, health care and other basic rights are not even a dream.
I know the arguement for this is that we should look at the flip side and focus on what has been done instead of what has not been done, but it is unfortunate that while there is so much hard work, toil and exhaustive efforts being made to improve the quality of life in our country, problems seem to be compounding because of the fragmentation of intent and politcization of almost everything.
While the most important proceedings in the country, the case against Kasab, the lone captive, one of the horrific 10, goes on and makes him the clown in the circus cracking jokes to make us laugh, I say, so much for fast track judiciary!!!
And 17 years later, the most awaited report, the Liberhan Report, supposed to bring closure to the darkest phase India went through post independence, a politics which threatened to divide people worse than what the partition had done in 1947, gets leaked to a section of the press instead of getting tabled in Parliament. Finally when presented there is nothing but names of people who can be accused, because 18 years post the demolition of the Babri Masjid, there is still no way that those responsible for bringing India down to its knees in front of the world, will be made to pay for it.
So much for trust of the system we are governed by.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

THE DEADLY HEADLY AND PARANOIA!!!

Ritchelle my 21 year old, walked into the house and I greeted her with, 'where are you coming from?'.
She looked puzzled and shrugged her shoulders like I must be crazy.
Don't I know that she gets back from her graphics class at this time, grabs a bite and leaves almost immediately to meet with her friends to walk around Lokhandwala market?
'Where are you going?'.
It was my next question, as she floated past me and reached the main door to the house.
She stopped and stared at me and raised her eyebrows, as she quietly asked me how I would feel if she were to ask me questions like this each time I walked in and out of the house.
I in turn told her that she knows all my friends, whereas I know but just a couple of hers, and therefore I am worried about who she meets and whom she generally hangs out with.
Ritchelle exchanged a confused look with my maid and stepped out of the door, shutting it behind her as I went on to ask my maid Sandhya if she is aware of all the people Ritchelle hangs out with.
Sandhya told me that she knows some of them who walk in and out of the house with her, and by name she knows only those who live in the same building as us.
I blew her up.
Here, I have trusted her and given her the right to virtually bring up my daughter for the last so many years that she's been with us, and she hasn't a clue about who the people Ritchelle hangs out with are?! I wish I had known earlier, so I would never have trusted Sandhya with Ritchelle.
My maid asked me what had gone wrong with me? If I am I ok, or what?
I told her to leave my sight and as she walked away she muttered to herself that I should trust my daughter more, specially since I've had little hand in her upbringing because of my work, relationships and various preoccupations, and that I should shift my gaze on Shiv, my nephew, my sisters son, who lives in the same neighborhood as us, because he is the one who tries to ape me, and he is the one who hangs out with the strangest of folk on the steps outside Barista, opposite Cafe Coffee Day (CCD).

'Shiv, who are these weirdos you hang around with outside Barista, opposite CCD at the steps?', I asked my 18 year old nephew as he stepped into my house because I had summoned him on the pretext that we'll go catch a movie.
'You are offending me!', he said and walked into the kitchen to the fridge to pull out some water to drink. 'Come on lets go see 2012... get up!'.
I told him to sit down because I want to have a chat with him.
I asked him who the strangers are, whom he knows, and why they walk in and out of his house at random. My sister keeps complaining about Shiv walking in and out of the house with all sorts of guys.
'At random?!. Have you gone crazy?! They are all my friends. Teenagers. Guys in their teens, like me!!!'
But does he know who they are?
'THEY ARE MY FRIENDS!!! Don't you get it?! They are people I know and hang out with. People I chill out with!'
Does he even know where they live and who their parents are?
'This is really going nowhere Bebu Masi. You are pissing me off! Are we going for the movie or is this another hoax you've pulled on me to give me a lecture?'
'I need to know Shiv, I'm worried for you. You can't trust anybody these days. You've heard whats happened with Rahul Bhatt right?! He and his colleague Vilas became pals with this American and...'
'Oh please!!! Give me a break man. Half the world is terrorist and the other half is afraid of them. Where do kids like us go? Chalo, I'm leaving. My friends will leave the steps and go away if I don't get back to them fast. They think I'm seeing a movie with you. Bye.'
He went to the door and stopped before stepping out. 'If I meet another guy called Headly, I'll let you know', and he banged the door shut behind him.
Charlie, my dog sat in the middle of the room staring at me, wagging his tail.
'Come here Charlie', I said. 'You are the only one who loves me and the only one who will perhaps never meet a terrorist and befriend him'.
Charlie leaped, and cuddled up next to me, on the sofa.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

RAHUL BHATT AND THE GAMES HEADLY CHASED!

So now we should be suspicious of every white skinned person we meet for the first time and take him or her through a verification process before we become friends with them, is it?
First it was the men with beards and turbans (the Sikhs), and the guys in beards and caps, (typefying the quintessential muslims), and then those in Saffron, (labeled Hindu hardliners) we feared, and now, in this part of the world we will need to look at everyone wearing white skin with a sort of doubt, so that we are secure from getting linked to a terrorist movement which, by the time we are given a clean chit from, has the potential to swallow our lives and those of our near and dear ones.
I wonder if the next movement in France which Sarkozy is going to have to deal with, is going to be that of giving all innocent white men, women and children an identity through the look they wear, else they could all be under the scanner as far as the rest of the world outside the white public is concerned. Maybe he will have to forget about the ban on turbans and hijabs for the time being and order his offices to appoint the best designers in Europe to outfit innocents who have no links with terrorist outfits in other parts of the world.
Come on guys, its high time we mature as a media and stop sensationalizing everything that comes are way in a bid to grab eyeballs. The NIA is the newly appointed agency by the Government of India, which needs to be publicized to the people of India, for them to be rest assured that they are being governed by an active order which is concerned about their security.
And most of media is falling for it like nobody's business and overlooking the real facts, which are:
  1. How did David Headly Coleman escape every intelligence in the country and roam around in India like he was free to, for more than three years, and stay at the most important places in different hotels for as long as he wished to? Is that how assured we should be of our intelligence and security? And therefore, should we really trust the NIA or let it be known that it is just another cover for the ineptness of our system?
  2. How did the guy get a membership in the gym 'Moksha', which belongs to the well known journalist turned film producer Pritish Nandy, where Rahul Bhatt and Vilas, his friend, work as fitness trainers, without attaching a photograph to the form every member is supposed to fill and submit?
  3. How was every intelligence outfit in India clueless about who the Rahul mentioned in the e mails between Headly and Rana was, until Rahul and Vilas went personally and submitted themselves to authorities, informing them that they knew Headly?
India is a country that doesn't deserve the democracy it boasts of and is not prepared for the freedom it has. Neither the beaurocracy, nor the government, and neither the media and nor its civil society, are prepared for as mature a condition as that.
This is a nation where the weather bureau predicting a cyclone due to hit its coasts. delivers its findings hysterically and the media goes into a frenzy while passing on the information to people, which should be otherwise told in absolute calm.
God help the people of India who are dependent on the prediction and certain reporters in a city like Mumbai, when they are told through insane rendition, that they should close all institutions and offices at 2pm and get home by 745pm, before the cyclone hits the coast!
It wasn't funny what the state of Mumbai was that afternoon earlier this week. Those crazed in the media should have more sense of how they should report facts so that they don't create a panic which can have more disastrous effects than the cyclone itself, and that at a time when the government servants are too busy closing down their offices and getting home themselves.
What a pity?!!!
Everything is approached by our system in the same manner.
Even an otherwise respected Shobha De behaves like a 'has been', a nouveau unleashed upon technology, when she twitters about the dysfunctional Bhatt clan, obviously conveniently forgetting her own, at a time when the crisis is deep and the issue is serious.
Here are two kids who should be applauded for having had the courage to approach authorities on their own and for having provided the agencies information about the white man Headly, which they otherwise would never have got.
Two kids who were led by the advise of a man like Mahesh Bhatt, his daughter Pooja and the rest of the family to fearlessly inform the caretakers of our system about what they had encountered during their association with a man who they had no idea was a mastermind of devious plans.
Two kids who should be promoted to India as an example for others to follow so we are able to collectively eradicate the menace.
Two kids who should certainly not be viewed as a confirmation to people that they are right when they know of serious matters and deliberately turn their backs on them, or right when they see others writhing in pain in a road accident and walk away from it, instead of helping them to the nearest emergency.
Mahesh Bhatt who is outspoken and straightforward, who is righteous and stands by his words, a man of integrity and a man who has done all he can to further inclusion as a policy, as well as tried in the best way he can to support Indo Pak relations culturally through his films and the music in his films, a man whose family is quietly proud of following the religion of their choice because they firmly believe that all religions are various paths that lead you to the same God, cannot be suspect.
We cannot allow the situation, which needs to be harnessed well in time, to go berserk and become a chapter in our mythology as one which will mark the era where everybody in the country got sufficient reason to stop coming forward to aid the government and its institutions in combating any threat that ever faced the nation?!
Remember it was one shepherd in Kargil who reported to the nearest defence post that he had seen suspicious activity, which in turn alerted our forces about the entry of Pakistani soldiers in our territory, and that is what led to the Kargil war which was eventually won by us.
Had he been afraid to tell, wouldn't it have been too late for us to have known what was going on behind our backs?

Friday, November 6, 2009

OF BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE AND EVEN MORE :)

Gosh! This has been a week filled with 'Fun' Cinema, 'Pun' intended, and parties, dinners and endless celebration for me. The closing ceremony of MAMI last night has not exactly ended the season of frolic because so many folks have reconnected and rounds of dinners with different mixes of friends are on the cards for the next whole week. I also have one in my house on Sunday night where Subroto, an old friend Soni and I connected with after ages at Cinemascapes organized by the Producers Guild of India, where various states of India and foreign countries were exibiting their offers for Indian Movie Makers to shoot their films, has promised to cook the most awesome mutton curry and land up at my place to feed a whole gang of hungry us.
Such like the list of get togethers goes on and on .....
One also realized and discussed at the closing ceremony how the support of BIG Motion Pictures to MAMI has finally brought an Indian Film Festival the prestige and scale of an International Event where the atmosphere for the first time was charged with an energy unimaginable.
Finally Film Events are getting it right as Tina Ambani takes centerstage managing the proceedings personally and Amit Khanna supports her with his vision. You can see 'Bollywoodism' slip out and 'class' replace it across the board, as proffessionalism and seriousness becomes the idiom with a no nonsense approach where technology largely drove processes, and serious film makers were aknowledged and rewarded for their works and where there was not much of the usual appeasement of the who's who going on.
I wouldn't like to criticize the compering at most events which were otherwise so well handled by young and old proffessionals who ensured a seamless quality to the proceedings despite some unrehearsed hosting by 'STARS'.
Other than when the event was opened and closed by Shyam Benegal who was dignified and stood tall as the only true star amongst all, the compering could have been better.
I wonder why all our comperes are unrehearsed at all our events, specially when they are celebrity/star hosts?
Obviously they have no time for rehearsals which is why they land up at the last minute, reading lines and fumbling with names and pronunciations of names, essentially of our foreign guests which is so insulting to them.
When the busiest musician and composer AR Rehman could be in LA for 40 days to rehearse the Oscar Awards event, why can't our organizers take a tough stand as well and make sure that only those available for rehearsals get selected?
Why do we have to get so desperate to have 'stars' on stage that we are ready to compromise our entire event for it?
I can bet you that each one of them would leave all their crazy schedules behind in distress to accomodate an International Event outside the country, specially if it is the Oscars, for rehearsals for as many days as was required, but giving grief to Indian organizers and being inconsiderate to their proceedings goes unnoticed by them. Once this attitude of the Star performers, hosts and comperes changes, our events will be class apart which we so yearn for them to be.
The hosts at MAMI were a lot better, but Aman Varma at the Miss Mumbai show at Royal Palms on the 1st of November was pathetic. A brilliant show choreographed by Nisha Harale Bedi and organized by Dr. Anuj Saxena and Deepak Chopra for Maverick Productions was awfully hosted by the TV Star who obviously couldn't care less what his silly tomfoolery and witless humor to an otherwise seamless show was doing.
Instead of motivating the young pretties and making it a night to remember for them, he not just deliberately made them nervous but even bungled up with the stage design. However, the panel of judges comprising Dipanita Sharma, Udita Goswami, Prasad Biddapa, Praveen Dabas and others, carefully handpicked by Anuj himself, made the night memorable and gave it credibility. Pankti, the chosen one looked particularly fabulous as she shashayed across the ramp in the gown designed by Salim Asgarally.
While the gowns by Salim Asgarally were extraordinary and made the girls look stunning, some of Nisha Merchant's bridal wear also dazzled and made the beauties shine. Ishq Bector was entertaining and proved that he is the next big thing for the world of music to watch out for.
Ranjit Rodriks my friend, then insisted we gather for another dinner party at Yellow Tree which he hosted the day after, where the most beautiful and talented couple I have met in recent times Nisha Harale Bedi and Adam Bedi, Janice Pearl Sequiera and Santhal Chowdhury, the two Reality Show participants from Fear Factor who chose appropriate times through the dinner to tell us about their experiences with yuck and muck and creepy crawlies which they had to take in their mouth to keep their ratings up, Ranjit, Colin Rodrigues, Salim Asgarally and myself met, to be looked after by Roy and Nicky, who made sure that we were fed the best Salads, Shepherds Pies, Steaks and Pastas, so none of us are complaining.
The desserts at Yellow Tree are to die for, so whoever reads this blog of mine is advised to go there and feast on them and perhaps make a meal of desserts if they don't care about the calories.
Nisha and Salim kept everyone laughing with their tales about the crows who hound Salim and the owls that chase Nisha, while Adam was all about his underwater experiences as well as his connect with dolphins. When it came to Salim calling my dog Charlie, whom I love to death, a goat, I just had to stop all and go into raptures about my lovely four legged friend who is the best looking black creature on earth!!!
Meanwhile Ranjit ensured that the gang must leave while wanting more, and succeeded in planning a night out to watch 'This is it' and then huddle up in one or anothers house to drink ourselves silly enough to carry on about the crows, the owls, the dolphins and my dog Charlie.
Tonights another mad night you'll hear about tomorrow I suppose :)

Monday, November 2, 2009

IT'S THE MOTHER OF ALL SEASONS!

My life only gets more exciting as days go by while this city of impossibilities turning to possibilities continues to bring dreams alive. Somebody asked me today what the significance of the International Film Festival which is being held in Mumbai as we speak, is, and I jogged back in memory so many years ago when I stepped into this city to become a film maker and remembered, how at the time we were so hungry to see world cinema to understand how we could shape and sculpt our futures, while it was but a privelege for just a few. Video cassettes and VCR's were rare at the time and DVD's were not even imagined to be true. Then we would grab a video cassette of any great film that we could lay our hands on, and huddle together in the house of a friend who owned a VCR and watch the film so many times over, that by the time the cassette went back to the library, it wasn't watchable anymore. We would sit for hours discussing each aspect of the film with each other. Some of us were aspiring actors, some writers, some aspiring directors and other aspirants like music composers, lyricists etc. We all had our points of view and we would discuss each scene like there was a story behind each shot, each performance, each dialogue and each stroke of violins which played in the background score believing that it was used by the director to convey something. Those who were actually able to attend the Festivals of films at Cannes, Venice and Berlin were so few and so envied that we would await information from them on their return to know what was happening in the world of Cinema. Then we would start hunting for those films to be available to us through friends who would return from abroad or at the video library. As things changed and technology grew everyone became isolated in their approach to cinema. Right till the time LD's were the rule, we would exchange and borrow films from each other, therefore discuss the films we were sharing. DVD's changed all that, and intense discussion of each film became remote. We were left with just a question or two to ask each other, like, "Have you seen this film?" and "Did you like it?" and "Uh... ah!... I must try and catch it soon as well".
Then finally, world cinema came to our doorstep through MAMI and we started to devour films like there was no tomorrow, often watching three to four films a day for almost 10 days and stepping out for discussions and analysis of each film with whoever was interested in talking. Everyone was, and everyone till date is. That to me is the significance of the Festival of Films in Mumbai. The fact that the entire fraternity is walking in and out of theatres and talking over coffees, lunch and dinner during breaks about what they saw and what they made of it, makes me feel energised, enthusiastic and full of zest for life. Because, while everyone at the theatres during the festival is a lover of cinema, those in the business of Films are obssessive and cumpulsive and desperately hooked to a way of life which they can experience once a year at the most, either in Mumbai, Pune or Goa. I'm now hearing of International Film Festivals in Nashik, Indore, Ahmedabad and other cities in India as well. World Cinema throws open the doors of our mind to absorb the time and space we live in emotionally, and enables us to connect with the depths explored through characters, music, imaging and technology, by awakening our senses to the way people who look different and speak different languages, feel. Felicitating Shashi Kapoor for a lifetime of Achievement were Ambika Soni, Tina Ambani and my favorite Amit Khanna at the opening ceremony which was compered by Karan Johar and Farhan Akhtar.
Total credit to BIG Cinemas and BIG Motion Pictures for having supported another spectacular event in such terrible times for the industry which is reeling in shock with the impact of not expecting change when it happened. Fun Cinema's is the perfect venue for the week long festival and the two days which I have attended so far have been surreal. I'm in conflict as I deal with a sense of deja vu when I meet with people I haven't seen in ages, and an excitement about what lies in store for me in the coming days. I actually feel like doing nothing else but hanging out there, but hate the fact that life takes me away from there every now and then.
Like it did on the 31st October, which was Halloween, when I was seduced to attend the irresistible party hosted by the most amazing Nisha Harale and Adam Bedi at Elbow Room in Bandra. Fulfilled emotionally after having seen 'Eden is West' Directed by Costa Gavras, which was a compelling story of the tragedy behind illegal immigration in Europe and which had moved me enough to smile through the 1 hour and 50 mins of its duration, getting unmasked at a mad party over vodka shots was the perfect end to a fabulous day. I was with Salim Asgarally who was nervous about the gowns he had designed for the girls on the ramp for the Miss Mumbai beauty pageant to be held the next day, as he smiled at almost everybody he met like he was there to make their evening for them. Umesh Pherwani, Soketu Parekh, Sidhartha Kanan, Rahul Dacunha and many other lovely friends were there and Ranjit took these awesome pictures for me to use here. The party rolled on as we left it pumping to get some food at well, hours past midnight. There was nowhere other than Bandra Station we could find to stuff our faces with Tangdi, chicken rolls and boti kebabs.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The death and the burial of Storytelling.

I used to laugh when my soulmate Salim Asgarally used to say that soon one day when we turn our light or fan switch on, a jingle will start playing and not too long after that, a virtual screen will appear in our living, bed and bathrooms with an actual commercial running on it, but now I don't.
I really believe it is going to be a reality quicker than even he has predicted.
It's crazy how household and food products are promoted through 'in program' advertising in shows like Lux Perfect Bride and Big Boss as well as other reality shows.
'In film' and 'In TV program' advertising is the beginning of the most bizzarre phase that story telling and fiction, (I don't call reality shows non fiction because they are more scripted and manufactured than any fiction can ever be), has ever seen.
It has reached a point where the producer and the platform are no longer concerned about the audience because the returns on their investment is in their pocket before a product reaches a viewer and then the marketing of the product ensures vierwership by teasing the vicarious senses of the audience. (I wonder how many of you watched Sherlyn Chopra do a semi strip tease on Big Boss last week, and more than that, the promotions for the much awaited moment).
Between a story and the viewer is an active plan managed by a system that ensures that the spender and the viewer are both happy, oblivious of the damage it is doing on the psyche of an entire generation of people over a long period of time. When challenged with a good story told artistically and sensitively which will impact the audience in a progressive manner, the system collapses and rejects the idiom for its own survival before it is too late.
And now that the decline has plunged to depths of no return, from when good TV and good Cinema was not only watched by everyone but also popularized by the very consumer which devoured it and allowed its' influences to permeate their minds enough to change positively, the excuse of the creatively challenged system is that there is no benchmark in recent past.
Don't they realize that they have buried the wheel of art and creation so deep in the recesses of a chaotic and crowded world because of their comittment only to the numbers, that they have impoverished vehicles like Television and Film which have the greatest outreach to steer change for the better, almost permanently? That in their arrogance they have converted the art of storytelling from Literature to Math?!!!
I founded and launched Project Smita Society, a NGO, way back in 1989, with a commitment to work alongwith other NGO's working at the grassroots of urban and rural India to create commercial stories with a social slant and tell them through all popular media. From Tara, Umeed, Raahat, Shatranj, Rahein, Agnichakra and Sansaar on Zee TV, Kabhie Kabhie, Aur Phir Ek Din and more recently Miilee on Star, and Sheila and Kasbah on Doordarshan, I ensured that the impact on the viewers of all my productions was positive, progressive and falling in tandem with programs and policies of the Goverment of India and thousands of NGO's which were aiding it to make them work on the ground. Influenced by the research and understanding of the times we live in, each one of the shows remained popular on the charts in the top five of the rating meters, whether they ran for five years at a stretch or two.
Dissapointed when the most regressive political times fell upon us with the emergence of BJP in power, I rebeled when the market changed its tune and started singing a song which didn't make sense at all.
'Spend to cloak with decorations the worst practices and traditions', which are holding India back, became the new mantra, and it rent the air like a cacophony to such an extent that numbers went on growing and viewers continued to watch, never realizing when the taste buds which were being tickled, changed from good to bad, and when the effects of the mindless nonsense started to harm them.
It was a growing market for emerging tecnologies which provided exciting media to a hungry people when 'the concerned' were outnumbered by 'the opportunists' who were only interested to make a fast buck.
Now the tables have turned, and the two industries, film as well as TV, are floundering.
While the film industry and its lords, who sit in swank state of art offices atop the wealth they have amassed in most terrible times, is going to take a long long time to sort itself out, the fiction of the TV industry is in desperate state.
GEC's have become C grade Television.
News, Sports and Imported Entertainment have taken over and Entertainment Online is not making it any easier.
While the rona dhona of the poor woman, no longer in finery but now in tattered clothes and the same story continues set differently, the channels are frantically trying to garner ratings through reality shows which is their next attempt at confusing the viewers, or all that is left of them, more than they already have in the last 10 years with Saas Bahu fare.
Nobody can be fooled by the paucity of creative content here. The bad quality of writing packaged and marketed to an audience who doesn't care anymore. Now the audiece which has been made monster by the industry itself, is set to pay back in the same coin, unless and until the systems and the networks do not realize and understand that weaving good story to drive progressive change is a science which requires investment of time, research and respect for the creative mind.
At first it is the market, that pumps iron into the system to make it churn, which has to be influenced and sensitised to real issues, and then only will the perplexed programmers and producers, who don't necessarily 'have' to have deep pockets to hire the correct thinkers and minds, as there is enough money within the very system, be able to produce content which in the next five years can lend a helping hand to the millions of workers who exhaust themselves in the heat and dust to aid India's progress.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

It's "Hello Dolly" from YELLOW TREE!!! :)

Last night was just one of those days which Ranjit, my best friend, makes happen with such ease. At YELLOW TREE! The newest most happening cafe set up at Pali Naka, Bandra by catering institute buddies Nicky Bedi and Roy Edwin, an all day restaurant, spread over three floors, that offers all time classic continental cuisine and some fusion fare as well.
As usual, Ranjit had brought together his most ecclectic gang of friends for a taste of the most awesome food where spirits were high because of superb cocktails served with style. I went there for half an hour and stayed for 5 hours instead, right until Roy and Nicky literally had to beg us to leave...
Everyone was there from Bunty Walia to Azeem Khan, from Shibani Kashyap to Jimmy Felix, Anaida, Umesh Pherwani, Surabhi Kalsi, Leena Mogre, Sherrin Verghese, Viren Shah, Siddhartha Kanan, Jatin Kampani and more.
Throughout the evening, everytime I bumped into Ranjit, somebody or the other was telling him what a good time they were having and he, his humble self, kept repeating, 'it is all because of all of you, without whom this would not be possible', little realizing that it's only him I know, who brings together people whom he instinctively knows, will love to meet and live it up for an entire evening wherever it is in the world.
What's great about Nicky and Roy is that they are so warm, friendly and young and just blend with the atmosphere like they are also guests at their own party.
I stepped out of my car singing 'Yellow Tree very pretty and the Yellow flower is sweet...' to be constantly corrected by soulmate Salim Asgarally, who was lost amidst a bunch of girls who wouldn't let him go. No cliches here, as the girls, led by gang leader Achala Sachdev couldn't stop laughing and having a blast, while I sat with Madhusudan Kumar, an artiste beyond, as he recounted stories of how he approaches all arts with the same passion that he feels for what he primarily is, which is a painter. He has composed music, he had made films and is now moving on to make one more film for which he is writing his own script. Wow! A pure genius he is and I have known him for years, which is why it was great to meet and sit and chat with him after a loooooong time.
While Achala played hostess, (it comes naturally to her, whosoever's party it may be, because she has to see to it that everybody has to have a good time), Anuradha Tandon wanted to inspect the joint from the top floor to the bottom and had to be escorted through a guided tour by Ranjit, Nicky and Roy. Anuradha, a writer, columnist and film maker herself had ideas spilling out of her and had a bloody good time with the lemon margueritas she had by the dozen/s I think ;-P !!! She will kill me for revealing this truth, but high in the sky Anuradha is so much fun as her voice gets huskier and she is told by almost everybody she meets, that she has a voice to die for.
Ken Ferns, my partner in drag on whichever occasion that permits, kept each and everyone laughing with his antics and looked edible in his off white shirt with blue jeans with an even more off white waist coat to add to the subtle he is so absolutely known for.
Salim, most attractive to all men and women, kept getting dragged in different directions but made it a point to see that the spirits of the girls remained lifted as he chased the bar to ensure that no glass was ever empty, be it Natasha Selims or Anuradha Tandons or Achala's or the wild and crazy Ananya's whom he has planned to do a photo shoot with for the promotion of his next line for 'men'.
And Dolly Lal, the party animal who loves to dance, drink, laugh and pump the music was here from Pune, and she came along with us because she is common as a friend to all of us. She has a house on the ground floor in Khar, and it was early in the morning after that dreadful night which caused havoc in Mumbai in July, 2005, when she managed to reach home safely, that she got a stroke when she saw the state of her appartment after an exhausting night filled with fear for all of us. Paralyzed on the right side of her body instantly, Dolly has been through excruciating pain and endless treatment to bring herself back with the mountain of power she has within, which has given her the strength to get back to partying with her friends, which she loves the most. She still needs to put one leg in braces to walk, and is on the last stages of healing herself completely and I'm proud to be one on the list of friends from her past which she left behind after she was dissapointed with the way most of her other friends went on with their lives, leaving her to recover alone with sister Lippy and her parents being the only ones by her side.
Now the long curly haired wild child is back in action, pumping both Mumbai and Pune to her beat, and Yellow Tree loved to relaunch her into the scene alongwith its own launch.
Everybody loves Dolly and Ranjit adores her.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

THE ART, THE ARTIST AND THE CULT

It's interesting to see a new breed of young talent among fashion artists who believe and trust their work enough not to need top notch filmstars to endorse it so to find an identity in a chaotic world of me too's, where one can't be distinguished from the other.
Here was a bunch which stood out on their own because their products withhold effortlessly.
I've always believed that art is that which cannot either be contained or controlled by just a spin alone. Art is something which pushes boundaries and finds it's space trickling like water around every block to present itself to everyone in all forms.
Art like, good writing, will get noticed, however insignificantly placed it may be depending on how much it can impact you.
Curiosity and my undying obsession with Salim Asgarallys' detailing as a fashion artiste (I don't refer to him as a designer anymore), led me to attend the presentation of six young artistes by Ranjit Rodricks, my good friend whom I believe has an eye for the most unique, at young, dynamic and beautiful Surabhi Kalsi's boutique Aspasia in Bandra on Friday evening.
I was stunned with the collection of Neha Badlani's crystal jewelry, Ken Ferns kurtas and shirts in linens and paper cottons denoting a twill weave. I fell in love with, and even came back home with one of Dyana Linda's bags which were screenprinted with Bollywood images and embellished with antique lace, buttons and rivets.
Karan Berry's collection of footwear evoked a sense of deja vu as well as a feeling of excitement as I stared at the newest cosmo chic collection in a blend of modern design crafted with traditional fabrics.

ASPASIA also introduced a fabulous range of men's shirts by established designer SALIM ASGARALLY.

He has created a range of men’s shirts in linen and cool mull mull’s (fine cotton voile). Subtle yet trendy, this collection is for the man who appreciates subtle styling. “Understated elegance” which is Asgarally’s design philosophy shines bright here.
Tone on tone appliqué in silks and cutwork organza enhance the appeal of the slim-cut linen shirts which move with ease from day to evening. Earthy and masculine colors ranging from sand, brick, ecru to black become the perfect balance for the delicate floral cutwork patterns to evoke an overall macho look the men so love.
The mull mull collection plays up on tonal appeal again with “self patti work in rosettes” adorning the fronts. Shades of grey, olive, and navy make up the color palette here.

Also available in the store is a wide variety of party and trousseau wear by Aspasia's SURABHI KALSI. You can see Surabhi who is so beautiful herself, in almost all her own creations and wonder if she would ever need a model for her work when she could carry it off on herself so well.

I have to give it to Ranjit, who is finally in his element, because, since I know him so well I can vouch for the fact that if there is one person in the fashion trade who understands the evolving culture of fashion art and curates it so provocatively, it is him. Never needing more than the presence of the art and the artistes themselves to prove that it is all that is required to sell interesting work. And then he turns each of these evenings into super fun for all his friends like Nisha Harale Bedi, Jacqueline Pearl D'souza, Shraddha Kaul, Celebrity Chef Max Orlati and his son Jocopo, Siddhartha Kannan, Umaesh Pherwani, Leena Mogre, Gary Richardson and Ananya Dutta, a melange of creative folk from different art forms, who intensely live and love their work, sculpting a cult of their own collectively.


I believe Aspasia, with Surabhi as the vision, Ranjit Rodricks as the curator and Salim Asgarally as the idiom which sets a benchmark, is going to be one of those landmarks where you will always find what you want for whichever occasion - but, only, if you have the courage to be who you want to be in your own future.



Tuesday, September 22, 2009

MASTER(BATOR)S OF THE UNIVERSE!

I'd better clarify things so that some people important to me stop worrying about what is happening to me.
A lot of you guys have been reading my blog posts, and status updates on Facebook and been asking me if everything is alright.
It all alright folks!
I'm like this only and I've always been this way since the day I was born.
Hyper, absurd, loud, crazy, almost insane as they say... but yet its been like totally ok for me to be the way that I am because of the acceptance and understanding of those who have always been closest to me.
I think now, my father must have known that since I was really young, and worried about how I'm going to get along in life being the way I was, which is why he pushed me to read and read and read more till I would fall apart as a child and wonder if all the things which were written in the texts that I was lapping up were going to be of any significance to my life in my later years at all. It was always a problem for my folks to get me to bite into a book, but once I did, I wouldn't stop chewing on it.
This went on for many years until, as a result of it, I started writing.
That, I remember was my dad's most proud moment when I wrote my first play and showed it to him. He loved it and that was enough for me.
Thereafter I continued to write, and couldn't stop, like all writers do. I carried on reading more as time went on and I grew up to devour more complexed literature. I enabled myself with the ability to watch, absorb and observe, and then comment through my writing in a manner that didn't offend anybody, but shook up almost everybody. Once my father was clear that I was a writer, he was confident that I would make a living and also be able to cloak my eccentricities behind the veil of an intellectual aura... because if he hadn't prepared me in such a way, people would have really thought I'm mad. :)
Words consume me and compel me. I live with a constant monologue in my head as I go about the normal things that people usually do in a day. That monologue is a racy assimilation of my observations of what is going on around me. Used to be a chaotic experience at first, but has toned itself into a soothing rendition quite often layered with some interesting background piece of music, to make it more acute and dramatic.
I have lived my entire life so far like this. Making comparisons of people in life, with characters from fiction, and events in the surroundings with mysteries of the deeper mind.
The only people who can hang it there and be my friends for long times to come are those who understand that I am doing bakwas and talking nonsense... the rest get terribly terrified and run away. Its not that I haven't  understood this but whenever I have tried to give others the time to understand me first, before I reveal myself, the fake behavior has boomeranged on my face so badly, that its been even worse. There has been many a time when I've had to explain my actions to others as precociousness or dark humor. But those whom I've hurt have been unforgiving and left me in pain and regret.
I often wonder if I should change. And when I did change once, for a few years in time, I harmed myself so badly that I am still recovering. I became sensible, decent, humble, kind, caring and soft spoken. This destroyed me. I went from pillar to post looking for myself again and finally, having walked through the murkiest and darkest lanes of life, reached here, where I am today. Back to being myself, only surrounded by the people who are either as crazy as I am, or at the least desire to be, therefore understand me.
My family and those few friends with whom I can laugh after having spilled out the sharpest razor edged comment which could have left an unknown to my sense of description and humor, slashed to bits and bleeding profoundity.
Gosh! Had my father been alive, he would've never let me go through the mind altering experience of becoming whom I wasn't. But having said that, I guess he was taken away from me so he could not be there to protect me when I plunged into an abyss of darkness on an impulse to know what else there is to life.
I'm glad I'm back, hurt, but not without the capacity to heal myself.
I also returned having found, what else there was to life.....
To know that, you will have to read my next blog post :)
But I must end this piece by saying, "Guys I'm alright. Don't worry for me because I'm just a writer, playing with words like you do with your tools. While your tools are inanimate, I want you to know that words, however harmless they are, are animated and therefore capable of throwing you off, although you'd wish it was the writer who had lost balance at the edge of the cliff, instead."

Sunday, September 6, 2009

PROCRASTINATION THEORY :)

Procrastinating, specially if I have some work to deliver, is my most comforting pass time.
For years I've made music my best known excuse, because it's quite interestingly convincing to tell myself that it inspires me to think, which then drives me to write.
So I start my day, just before the date of delivery, with promises I make to myself and setting targets.
Then I set out to write, opening pages, aligning and realigning them to suit my state of mind.
I casually go to my music to surf through my collection, which I also term doodling, and then find a track which goes well with the mood for what I have to write.
I tell myself that I will listen to one track to get myself in with the space I need my head to be with, and go for it. I avoid confronting the truth that the next ten odd tracks are one better than the other and that I haven't heard them for ages.
So while I make myself comfortable on the couch to spend just as much time as it takes for one track to end, my dog Charlie repositions himself somewhere close to me. He knows me better than I admit to myself that I do. He knows now that I am here for a while.
At least an hour.
He knows after one track ends and the next begins, I'm bound to shout out to my maid and ask her to give me a cup of tea.
And he also knows that by the time I'm done with the tea another couple of tracks will have played out.
So now, and hour or sometimes more, are past and I'm deep in my thoughts.
Music makes me either nostalgic or takes me into an unknown world of fantasy, depending on how ancient or comtemporary my choice has been for the moment.
I travel back, or ahead in time. I particularly enjoy going ahead these days for the badgering I've got from some friends about the power of such positive thinking that you can make what you imagine happen.
I go far away from where I should've been to slowly glide myself into work which is lying waiting for me, and at the end of an hour or two realize that I have veered much further away than where I should've been before I had ventured on this little trip of mine.
Now I need to come back, but it's lunch time.
Gosh! I havn't eaten lunch with my daughter for very long, have I?
So Charlie goes wagging his tail to Sandhya, as I call out to her, to put my lunch alongwith my daughter Ritchelles, on the table. (Normally I pick food up in the form of a rolled up chappati with sabzi or dry meat or something and walk around the house pretending to be thinking of what I should write next).
Now I end up having this long lunch with Ritchelle asking her inane questions, which I know are irritating her no end, because, like Charlie, even she knows what I am up. I'm being unnecessarily interfering with her, so I tell her that I just have to get to work now and leave the table.
I go to the wash room through my bed room and as I step out, my bed invites me, and I accept.
Bloody hell, this is crazy, the sun is setting now.
Sandhya is walking around the house shutting windows and turning lights on in the house.
I'd better play this one last track, get into the mood and get down to what I have to. There's only but a few hours left to deliver. This is the nth time I have promised the person to whom I have to deliver my work that he will have it on his desk top when he gets to his office the next morning.
I can't let him down.
I turn on the music. This time it is Techno Trance. The perfect waves of sound which are going to steer me towards where I need to be in my head. Its Tiesto, or its Shiva Shidapu...
Hell... back to back tracks that somtimes run for over an hour each.
Gimme a spliff and here I am, completely ready to write.

Midnight..... :(
I only have the next three to four hours of wake left.
Facebook is going beserk with activity I'm addicted to.
The friends I'm hooked on are waiting online. I'm afraid they'll go offline if I turn my eyes away from the spellings of their names twinkling at me.
It's 2am and I'm angry with myself.
I shut everything out.
I go to the page perfectly aligned and lying waiting for me to paint it with some of my black humor.
I go for it, as I chain smoke, often letting a stick lie on the brim of the ashtray and wear itself out.
It's over.
Done, loaded and sent :)
6am, it is.
Charlie's just woken up and needs to go for a walk.
I don't want to see day break, but he is happy to.
As I crawl into my bed after a cup of tea finally, I swear I will never do this to myself again.
But here I am, this Sunday, doing it all over again.
As Sandhya waddles around shutting windows and turning lights on, I'm writing my blog, another time pass I've found which goes kinda well in a lunatic way, with music.
It's going to be a long night.....

Sunday, August 30, 2009

CHILDREN OF OUR OWN FATHER :)

Normally I have to force myself to write my blog, but today I feel compelled to do so.

I woke this morning to the disturbing picture in the papers, of a 14 year old housemaid in a TV stars home, who was battered by the starlet for having eaten some shrikhand from her refridgerator without taking her permission.

I have been watching some discussions on Television about the same thing, where eminent folk have been talking about this curse upon so many children in our country, but have yet found no solutions.

Should children be allowed to work? Should parents who send their children out to work like this be prosecuted? What is the way out of this evil?

There are no answers.

In a poor country like India, where education and health care is not something that covers each and every individual, there is no option but for children to work and earn for their own livelihood because otherwise, this nation leaves them to die.

The poor young girl who was beaten by her mistress who was obviously no less than a brute. It made me feel disgusted. Disgusted enough to tell something that I have never really written about till date.

I have never written about the four young boy children who worked in my company Tracinema when it was at its peak.

I have never spoken about Loku, Vishnu, Inder and Anil because right until now they were growing up and making their lives.

Today, I feel comfortable telling their stories because the four of them have conquered such heights within themselves, that there is no way that my account of their lives will in anyway give any one of them the feeling that I am taking away from their achievements.

And much more than that, I'm speaking because it is a time that their story be told.

It was way back in the early nineties, when there was a boy at my door asking for work. He was a Nepalese, barely 10 years old, red cheeked, curly haired boy with round soulful eyes asking me to give him a job. He looked like one of the characters from Russian stories which I used to read a lot in those times.

I asked him who had sent him to me and he told me that my buildings watchman had asked him to go door to door to find himself a job. The boy could not speak a word of Hindi and that was all I could gather from his Nepalese speech. I sent my maid to call the watchman to my house.

The watchman was his uncle who had brought him from a remote village in Nepal but had no place to keep him in Bombay. The boy had arrived that morning and had spent the whole day looking for a job which would give him a place to sleep.

It was late on a Sunday evening by now.

The building watchman told me that although the boy did not know housework, he would learn fast and do anything I asked him to.

I asked this most beautiful looking child what his name was, and he said, Loknath Pandey. I told him he could stay in my house.

The next morning when I was ready to leave for my shoot at filmcity, my cook cum housekeeper looked at me and asked me what she should do with the boy. She informed me that he had been weeping all night and she had to ask him to sleep in the same room as her because he was terrified.

Ten year old Loknath Pandey was bathed and ready by then and I asked him to accompany me.

On my sets, where I was the director of a television show, he kept following me around the whole day, so I gave him the duty to carry my files for me.

This went on for days, then weeks and finally months.

An year into his life with me, Loku could speak broken Hindi and had become the manager of all my files and trivia which I would carry to work and bring back, having quickly learnt to manage the episodic scripts for shooting, then editing and finally putting them away in archives.

The rest of my unit gave him a lot of importance because Loku would get to the sets with me and go back home, which was also his house now, with me. Besides he was so cute that he was irresistible and everyone, from the actors to the crew would want to pull his cheeks and hug him all the while.

Then there was this boy Inder, the only other child working on my set who was about Loku's age and was employed by the production staff to serve tea to the crew. He was a long and lanky, extremely wise looking Bihari boy. He would look at Loku all the time and one day when he was giving me a cuppa, I noticed him staring at Loku who was busy prancing around me.

I asked him where he lived and he said he slept at the studio as he had no home in the city. I asked him to accompany me home after pack up that evening and told my staff not to employ children who were below the age of eighteen henceforth. We already had another boy called Anil working and living in our office, who was a little older than these two. Anil by then had requested me to promote him to Loku's position with my business partner at the time, Raman, who was directing another two shows which our company was producing. We had agreed to do that, so he was now the Manager of all the filing for the show 'Tara' which was a super hit in that period of time.

Inder moved in with me as well, much to my housekeepers despair, yet she treated both the boys with a lot of care, ensuring they were hygienic, wore clean clothes and were well fed. It was a small house I lived in then, and it became too crowded for me, so I moved into a bigger appartment where these two boys who were living and working with me, and who were like my shadow, could have a room as well as beds to sleep on.

One day Loku came to me with a request.

Now his speech was a mix of Hindi and English in a Nepalese accent. He told me that he had a brother called Vishnu who was an year older to him and who worked in Lukhnow. He said that Vishnu was unwell and if I'd permit, he would ask him to come to Bombay and stay with us for a few days.

I agreed.

I could never get myself to say no to anything when it came to Loku. He was well mannered, deciplined, loyal and quick on the take when it came to learning.

His brother arrived within a week.

Vishnu was an epileptic child and had been shifting jobs almost every month because as and when he got fits, his employers would get terrified and ask him to leave. He was frail and soft spoken and he was scared. All this I discovered after he got an epileptic fit while he was in my house. We got him treated and neither has he had a fit since, nor did he return to Lukhnow because he stayed with me thereon.

Now my house which was close to my office was more or less a hostel for these boys by night, and a creative office for me by day, because I had stopped directing and had started to focus on writing more. I had other writers working with me at my house through the day, because we had a lot many more TV shows being produced by my company by then.

The boys would leave for shootings early in the morning in the production cars, where they were now assisting other directors hired by the company. Vishnu couldn't keep up with the hectic pace of shooting because of his health, so I got him to start working as an assistant to the editors.

They would all come back at different times, and tell me excitedly about their work. Anil, who was an assistant director in the big bossed team by now, was their role model, because he was sharp, astute and on fire when it came to work. He had also moved into my house from the office, with the other three boys pretty soon, and inspired Loku, Inder and Vishnu to push themselves beyond their capabilities.

One day I overheard Anil telling the rest of the boys, and this was into the third year since Loku has arrived at my doorstep, that he wished he knew English. He was telling them that if he could, he would be at the level of a chief assistant. The only reason he can't be the chief is that the actors are not ready to deal with him because he cannot speak English fluently.

I employed an English teacher for the boys the next day.

Loku and Inder were roughly 15 years old, Vishnu 16 and Anil was about 18. The teacher would arrive at my place at 6am, teach the boys to speak, read and write English for two hours, till 8am, and then the boys would leave for their respective shoots.

Within an year, all four of them were transformed.

Anil was a dude. Loku, Inder and Vishnu were simpler versions of Anil but dynamite. They were doing so well at work and getting along with English so fast because they were like sponges soaking in everything with such ease.

They would party with me and my friends and life went on.

Anil fell in love with Vandana, who was an associate writer with me at the time, later went on to become one of Televisions finest writers, and moved out on his own. He was earning very well by then.

I moved into an even bigger house because I had adopted my Ritchelle by then, who was 10 years old when she came to me. (Hers is a remarkable story I will tell another time).

Loku, Inder and Vishnu stayed with me for another couple of years till all of them had turned 18, and then I let them go into an independent dwelling which was watched over by me regularly for some more time.

All of them continued to learn English for years later even after my company had downed it shutters and they were working for other production houses in Bombay.

Anil, had Vandana to guide him and Loku, Inder and Vishnu was guided by their second teacher Darshana, who had stopped taking money from me to teach them.

For years later, even if they were too exhausted and busy to attend class with her at 6am in the morning, because that was the only time possible if ever, she would insist that they should call her at whatever time in the day or night they got, to speak with her in English for at least 15 minutes a day. And the boys did it dutifully because they were hungry for the ability to be one with the successful world.

Anil went on to direct some of the top rated shows on Television including Kyunki... and Kahani..., and can be easily rated amongst the top 10 directors on Television today. Happily married to Vandana, they have three children.

Loku is director of top rated Mata ki chowki on Sahara TV, and Inder was directing the show Dulhan on Zee TV until recently.

Vishnu is a full fledged editor and works on some of the best shows on TV.

All four boys live in appartments bought by themselves with their own savings and dream now of making holiday homes in places outside Bombay.

I am telling their story because everyone needs to hear it.

There are numerous such stories of children, in the film and television industry alone, coming from where Anil, Loku, Inder and Vishnu did, who have made it too.

I admit, that I must have overdone it, but I had the blessings of God on me, who had given me so much, that I was able to do what I did. Some detractors would make a dig at me and ask me if I thought I was God, and I would only smile and think to myself that I was only doing what every person should be doing. It was all coming so easy because the fire in the kids was enabling me to provide them with certain things.

For the boys were so driven and so grateful for what had been destined for them, that they didn't waste a single day, an hour, a minute and never took even a second of their lives for granted.

If each person or even family were to take it upon themselves to give one child an opportunity of which he/she can make a life, the problem of child labor and brutality towards children would end in no time.

Institutionalizing and pontificating can never be the solution for something which can only be done when everyone collectively is sensitized to the issue. It has to part of the curriculum in school for children as they grow up to learn to do something for those who are not as fortunate as they are. It is upon touching the collective conscience of the whole nation through a program or appeal which can alter the way people treat children in general. Only then will society gain at large and acts like these will cease to occur.

The picture of the battered 14 year old should be published in the papers everyday, for it to haunt us and force us to do something about it.

Friday, August 21, 2009

PANSEXUAL

Gosh! Its crazy to write when random thoughts zip in your mind like lazor beams and strokes of lightening, disconnecting each link from the other, turning into one huge entertainment like fireworks in the sky, making it impossible to put one straight sentence in place.

If I go to start with how I'm feeling, then the answer is, fucked!

But then, that's how I feel most of the time, unless I'm dancing to a tune and swaying to a music.

I'm always either running out of time, or away from it.

Feeling suspended in mid air is a constant.

Then I allow my thoughts to rule me.

They are like gremlins and ghosts, demons and extra terrestrials landing in UFO's, roaming around in my head which is like another planet, definitely not the earth, at free will, completely out of my control. They appear and dissapear just as easily, while I'm left trying to grab them, only to find nothing in my hands when I open them.

I try to give them names, and when I call out to them, I hear them laugh but can't see them. I fire them and they roar back at me, but I still can't articulate them. And if, they ever decide to revisit me, they come in different shapes and form, confusing me and keeping me wondering if I'm mistaken. Do I really recognize them?

Time, is the monster, which changes the identity of thoughts completely, an ogre which encapsulates their passings in past tense, making them absolutely irrelevant to now.

I try to keep up with time, but it is elusive and when I attempt to battle it, it leaves me lost and wounded. If I try to get one with it, it ensures I realize its seperation from me.

Because time for me, is like my lovers, each one of whom I've tried should become one with me, and each one of whom, even when they've attempted the same, have failed just like I always do, except for in those few moments that bring us together as one body and soul.

In those seconds when we forget ourselves and lose ourselves to the short yet divine period of the final pleasure.

The oneness of the mind, the body and soul can be achieved within, but much as I have labored to get there on my own, I know that it only comes about at the time when the gaze of the person I love, is upon me, and it is for his sake that I need to bring it all together for myself.

The purpose eventually, is, the driver of my will, like the attention of an audience is to a performer.

That dance with nature as it pours, and thunders, roars and cries, enlightens and bursts upon me is only possible when the sound and image in my mind synchronizes with the heart of the viewer and takes his soul into an oblivion, away with me, where each one forgets the other, as we lift ourselves into a performance and dance in unity.

Time for me, is that parallel with my life, like the two banks of a river are to each other. We can never meet yet have to run along each other, only knowing what is between us, never really knowing what is at the other side.

The closest we get is when we confluence with other rivers.

And because we trust the waters between us, and know what lies within, we let it be and carry on fearlessly.

Monday, August 17, 2009

VULTURES THREATEN THE CULTURE

I'm not interested in news anymore.
It bores me to death.
And before it comes my way, it has already touched me in some way or another and had its impact on me.
I loathe the manner it which it is presented.
I hate the cover ups it creates for all the lacunae in our governing systems.
I detest the way it has started to mislead people to the extent that an entire population of a billion people, have started to feel inept and unable to follow activism which was until a few months ago, pre the last elections in India, actually driving change for the better.
Its almost sick when you have to sit through discussions on TV between respected people, guided and guarded by prepared mediators who have obviously been asked to lead the momentum in a particular direction.
The divide between India and Pakistan is not because of their diverse cultures and different religions, like we are constantly told and thus, these are not certainly the reason for the hatred between the people of the two countries.
If that were so, India, then because of its diverse cultures, religions and languages would not exist. Europe and America would have perished by now, specially after inviting diverse cultures into their space and integrating with them so beautifully.
If we were so averse to other cultures corrupting ours, then would we have allowed all the influences from the rest of the world to shape our expression in almost every field of performing and non performing arts?
No way!!!
We have to realize that the only reason for the terror and trauma in the Indian Subcontinent, is corruption and bad governance.
If today, we were secure within our boundaries and we could trust that our borders were policed effectively, no Indian or Pakistani would fear each other.
If we can believe that no unwanted element or miscreant would be set free, or allowed to have his way, we would feel safe in our own countries and allow each other to travel and visit at free will, across the borders, like it is in Europe, or in other parts of the world.
Its not because the authorities manning borders in other successful parts of the world are lenient that people feel free. It's because they are so strict, that people feel free to roam everywhere, without fear of being embroiled in incidents which they would have to pay with their lives for.
Every part of the world is under threat today.
Every country which has good governance and evolving systems has made arrangements to see to it that it's people are informed, educated and participative in managing security.
But because, we announce huge budgets in the name of security and because we never see where they are being spent, because we have no arrangements within our system which allows civil society participation and because we live in the shadow of archaic laws which corrupt governments are unable to advance with or change, that the people of India and Pakistan, who otherwise love each other and feel one, are insecure, unsafe and therefore untrusting.
And one thing our governments and political parties have mastered the art of, is the marketing of their dishonesty in such a way, that our media is slowly falling prey to their designs and shifting focus on disease, when critical political issues need attention, and making much of irrational behaviour by politicians in the parliament, when lack of infrastuctures to combat disease at the time it is becoming a global pandemic, is what the medias eye should've been on.
How unprepared we were when we were almost the last to be hit by the Swine Flu? At the time it was such a huge threat in so many parts of the world? At that time when we could have gotten ready?
How prepared were we, when 10 terrorists held us at ransom for 72 hours, during the attack of 26/11, when each part of our own country was on fire for years before that?
Television news needs to focus on each area of our Governance where progress is so slow, that it has got us used to shocks and surprises that spring upon us with such regularity.
Not on some nonsensical discussions about what the people of India and Pakistan want, viewed from a place, which completely alienates the people and what they want from their proceedings.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

JAI HO!

Everyday is different.

One day I wake up feeling upbeat and another, with a sense of despair. Nothing has really changed but the feelings inside me are neither consistent, nor same.

I know I am treading on the cusp of change every year, every month, every week, every day, every minute and every single second of my life, and with the next mail or the next phone call things can turn dramatically different for me, and then, even that as a circumstance will not last forever.

And now, as life goes on I have gotten used to it and don't worry too much. The one thing I have managed to master within myself is the resolve to remain steady and be who I am, as I know that I have no control over anything other than my own self.

The one who drives and steers me to ride the constant crests and troughs of change is me, myself, adapting to each reality as it comes upon me and absorbing shocks as well as pleasant surprises as they try to get me with their stunning quality of mystery and intrigue.

I have managed to contain my reflexes and release them with care at different times, intelligently and with precision, lest I lose the ability to surf the waves that are often threatening and more often than not, soothing.

I have managed to seperate myself from things to the extent that what goes on inside me runs parallel to what is going on outside of me.

And by that I don't mean that I have desensitized myself.

As a matter of fact I am much more sensitive when I view things and allow things to view me from afar.

The distance I have managed to create between the two is, what to me seems to be my third eye, which not just makes me more aware, but heightens my emotions enough to make me react practically.

I feel empowered with this capability. And therfore trust more ferociously.

Having faith in the universe, essentially comes from having faith in yourself. It is about trusting that you will not flow away with every tide that comes your way not knowing where it is taking you.

It is about trusting that you will ride and surf and climb and fall, yet remain unhurt, because there is more ahead for which this is preparing you.

Independence to me is about this freedom that I pocess and the fortune with which I am born which gives me the right to be who I am.

In that I feel a responsibility to achieve getting as many more less fortunate, on to my side, so that they, who do not have the power or the strength to, can also sense the exhilaration and feel the joy that I feel when I am not in despair, which is of my own making.

I want others to revel in the luxury of relationships like I do, and be liberated in love like I am.

And the only way that can be made possible is when each and every person on earth is free from the war they are waging in the bloody battlefield of hunger, poverty, illiteracy and lack of opportunity which is caused due to the irreverence, ignorance and apathy of those who are more blessed.

When we as a mutitude of haves' are able to share our knowledge with those who don't have, and distribute our wealth sensibly.

When we as a nation are able to inculcate the habit and decipline of being responsible socially, not because it is a fad or a trend that works financially, but because it is a norm.

A prosocial approach has to be a behaviour rather than an attitude alone, and it will bring economic dividends across the board, instead of limiting them within a chosen few.

Its time for us who have the freedom and feel liberated, who have the opportunities and feel blessed, to reach out beyond ourselves and push the envelope further.

On this 62nd year of Independence for our country, it is important for us to view within, act correctly and affect what is around us in such a way that we impact change enough to veer towards the right things.

Towards places which need to be swept by such altering experiences that the glow of happiness and joy that we feel inside, spreads far and wide.

Jai ho!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

REMEMBERING ANIL 13th April 1965 - 14th August 2008

Anil.

My best friend for 20 and husband for 2 years.

Anil, the guy who was a marine engineer, studying when I first met him so long ago when he fell in love with me.

At that time I was not aware of what love meant and he scared me away by coming on so strong. I was hugely attracted to this guy I had met through friends and started dating him, but the day he professed his love for me, I didn't know how to react.

I ran away and stopped seeing him.

I would go to shoots at that time when I was an assistant director, or be at edits and return home really late in the night, and find him waiting there for me almost every night. He would tell me he loved me and wanted to marry me, and I would tell him to go away.

Then I fell madly in love with somebody else, or so I thought at the time, and started to run after the man like Anil was running after me.

I could not reveal to anybody who it was I was obsessing, so there was nobody who knew.

Finally, realizing I must tell Anil, because he wasn't giving up, and I felt like he thought I was leading him on because for all practical purposes I was single, I waited for him to turn up one night, instead of him waiting for me.

We went off to the beach, late in the night and sat there, because I told him that I wanted to talk to him.

He listened patiently as I told him that I was in love with this man who was married and was my boss. That I was in a relationship with him and that nobody knew about it.

Anil sat silently as I started to cry and only put his arm around my shoulder and drew me closer to him. He kissed me softly on my cheeks and told me that he would be there for me as long as he lived. I told him not to do that but he was determined.

I didn't think he meant it.

Life went on for both of us, and Anil went to sea soon after that.

Each year, without fail, whether he could be in town or otherwise, he saw to it that he was there at the stroke of midnight on my birthday.

Every party, every place I was at, on my birthday each year, Anil would find out where we were and be there, with a bunch of red roses and a present. The present was always the worlds best and the most expensive perfume. He would stay over the night after the party and right through the day of my birthday until the next day. We would talk about everything under the sun and I would update him about my love life and he would tell me about his.

By now, my life was known to one and all and the man I loved was unable to take a call between his wife and me. Life was a mess. His wife knew what was going on, and the most painful days spent by perhaps all three of us were, my birthday, his birthday and his wife's birthday alongwith New Years Eve etc, because he would be torn and all of us would be miserable.

As years went by, Anil had been out with every girlfriend of mine, married or not. And I would ask him why he was not settling down and he would tell me that he will settle down in marraige once Lippy settled down.

Lippy was his ex girlfriend.

Anil was Lippy's first boyfriend and she loved him to bits. Anil loved her a lot too, but for reasons unknown to me, they were not seeing each other anymore, and had moved on to being the best of friends like he and I were. He would tell me that once Lippy finds someone, he will be ready to take the plunge himself.

Then, as life went on and I began to learn to live with the complications of my life, Anil dissapeared.

For five years in continuation I did not see him.

I waited for him each one of those birthdays but he would not turn up.

I would recieve random calls from one end of the earth or the other, but none were too clear about what he was up to. He had moved to the US to live with his mother and sister and would go to sea from there and tell me that he never wanted to come back to Bombay again. Then for months and sometimes even a whole year I would get no call from him and I wouldn't know what he was up to.

Lippy and I had still never met each other. We had only heard of each other from him.

Thing went on and my life started to fall apart as my relationship with the man I loved started to end and although he was there for me whenever I needed him, it was over.

I couldn't let go and was afraid.

It was Holi roughly 7 years ago when Anil suddenly landed up at my doorstep with some friends. Lippy was with him and this is the first time Lippy and I met.

As Holi came and went, so did they, and neither Anil, nor I got in touch with each other. He had told me that day that he was now back and resettled in Mumbai, after having tried to make a life in the US. He had got married to an American and got divorced and never wanted to go back to the states again.

Anil was very like that.

I had told Anil nothing about what was going on in my life. There was nothing to say. It was all over for me, but I was holding on to threads of the past to make my present work.

When Anil went on the ship again, Lippy called me. She told me that we should meet up. I was excited. I was lonely and pained and needed to do things other than my work.

I was uncomfortable with my friends from the past because all of them had a look of 'we told u so' on their faces when I met them. Oblivious to the kind of things that had happened in their own lives, they were judgemental about what was happenning in mine and it used to make me sick. They had all predicted at one point in time or the other that it would never work out for me, and that I was headed for disaster.

They were right. I was now in the post disaster phase, hunting the debris for my soul.

Lippy, her sister Dolly and I became the best of friends and started hanging out together. By now Lippy had told me that Anil had asked her to call me, before he went to sea because he had felt like I needed friends.

When Anil returned, he turned up as a surprise at my office with a gang of friends to pick me up and whisk me away to Lions Gate where we were going to go aboard a ship.

We spent a fabulous evening together, at the end of which he asked me to his house and I went.

We made love for the first time.

We were inseperable thereafter.

I was making White Noise and he would go for short trips to sea and return before I could say I was missing him.

So much water had flowed under the bridge by now. He would take me in his arms and I would cry for hours.

My film got released and I hit disaster.

I tried to recover from the hit but it was endless.

Now came the time when me and my ex married lover were not even going to remain friends.

As the world around me crashed, Anil held me in his arms four birthdays ago and told me to leave it all and come away with him.

I made the decision to do it in a split second.

By the early morning, we were on a flight to Goa and the next day, we were married.

We returned to our shocked and surprised friends and celebrated like there was no tomorrow.

While here I was thinking all my problems had ended, I had no clue that there was a a bigger disaster awaiting me.

A seperation worst than a ugly legal divorce between a man and wife, was taking place between business partners who had been ex lovers.

There were debts and there were creditors hounding us. There were legal suits against us from people I didn't even know, whom we apparently owed money to.

There were strange guys at my doorstep every day, causing chaos and commotion, calling me names and threatening me.

Anil would ask me what had happened and I, who had no idea what was happenning, had no answers. He was perturbed, specially so when guys started turning up at his door step. We were living in both houses, his and mine, as how we felt like.

It was difficult for me to say whose fault it was. Things had just happenned like that out of the blue and it was impossible for me to blame the man whom I had loved for more than 15 years for having done that to me. It was hard for me to tell who was the victim and who was perpetrator of the crime. We had brought ourselves to this and now as it came to a closure, it was uglier and dirtier than I had imagined life for anyone could ever get.

Between crisis management and absorbing shocks, there was nothing else I could do. Everything I tried to do, failed and I was a wreck. I knew I was breaking down and dared not to take Anil with me. I had a daughter to bring up and a life to put together again.

On his birthday, the next year, while Anil wanted me to get away with him, I couldn't. I had a hearing at a court and at that time I was crazy enough to fear imprisonment each time I went to the courts. I knew no difference between a civil and a criminal case. (I'm a half baked lawyer now, thanks to my inability to afford one due to which I have to stand for myself most of the time).

Anil walked out on me that night.

A week later was Ranjits birthday party on Salims terrace, and I begged Anil to come along with me. He refused and said he was now with another woman and made me talk to her on the phone.

Don't know whether the world had come to an end for me because of Anil who had walked out on me, or because of what I was going through on the other side.

Anil and I never spoke.

I ebbed and closed in. I gave up and succumbed.

I started letting things happen around me, and stopped trying to make anything happen.

I stopped working and closed my doors to everybody.

It was the year 2007, and my birthday came yet again.

I was alone.

Salim and Ranjit had landed up at my place to be with me because I was bedridden.

At a meeting with some creditors I had frozen with a few more shocks a day earlier, and as I tried to get up from the chair I was sitting on to leave, I couldn't.

I was taken straight to the doctors and then through the x ray machine, and I had a slipped disc.

Anil never came to see me.

He turned up at my door the day after my birthday, hugged me and said sorry. He spent the night with me and went away the next morning, as it was Dollys' birthday and made me promise I would be there for the party he was organizing for her.

My back was hurting bad but I went that evening.

Anil was a stranger. It seemed like I had never met him before, and it was the first time we were meeting.

I had probably hurt him so bad, that he wanted revenge that way.

I came back, knowing that I would never meet him again.

We never spoke again, neither on the phone nor otherwise, and also never saw each other.

I never asked anybody about him and never knew if he ever did.

As I fell into a hopeless zone I lost touch with everything.

Salim, was my only friend and Ranjit was there on and off. Salim took care of me like a mother would look after her child. He helped me get close to my family again from whom I had distanced myself so much.

He bridged my friendships and took me away from my troubles with a genteel like I have never seen before.

I wasn't working and he told me it didn't matter.

Between Ranjit and Salim, they saw to it that I was never alone when I went to the courts every month. Either of the two were by my side in seconds and saw to it that I got what I needed.

They took me away from the city every time it seemed like I was caving in and would bring me back healed.

And while time flew by, I still had no idea what I was going to happen next.

I would wake up and go to sleep aimlessly and began to expect nothing from life.

It didn't make a difference to me that I was living on small amounts of money I earned through odd jobs, and small funds I borrowed from my mother, sisters, brother and some friends.

I had even detached myself from my house which I loved so dearly and one I had made from my hard earned money.

Selling it to come out of the mess became inevitable but I kept delaying it.

It was 3am on the 14th August, last year.

A year had gone by since I had last seen Anil.

I couldn't sleep and tossed and turned.

I lay awake all night and called Salim as soon as it was morning to tell him that I could intuit an impending tragedy. He asked me to cheer up. He told me he was taking me away to Khandala the day after the next for a long weekend with his mother and himself. Ranjit was going to come along too.

Dolly called me at 1.15 pm. She passed the phone to Lippy. They were both in Pune. Lippy told me that Anil had died. He had been found lying on the floor of his house.

I was shocked. I wanted to go there.

Salim and Ranjit came running to my house and held me back.

The next two days are a blurr.

On the day of the funeral, after the post mortem and after having found out that he had had a massive heart attack I went to see Lippy, who was back from Pune, at her house in Mumbai.

She was ready to leave for the cremation. She said she would take me.

I told her I couldn't go. I hugged her tight and told her that in meeting her, I had said my goodbye to Anil.

I couldn't face Anils mother. I couldn't face Anils sister. Both of whom had been so good to me after we had gotten married.

As they took Anils body away, Salim drove me past Anils house and took me away to Khadala with his mother and Ranjit.

When we came back three days later, I put my house together and started to work.

I worked and worked like I have never worked before and slowly all my problems began to fade away.

Something told me inside, that Anil wished for me this before he went. Something told me that there was another power within me which was giving me to strength to be this person I had never thought I could be.

I was reborn and different.

I was fine.

Nothing henceforth was ever going to stop me.

I celebrate his life and know that he always loved me.

Much more than I could ever do.

Much much more than I will ever be capable of loving anyone...

He left this world one year ago, giving me his life...