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.