Thursday, December 27, 2012

OF Livewire LIVEMINT and Indian Mothers in law!

http://www.livemint.com/Consumer/Lybufe1rqIfUUnqVUPLwcI/Indian-soap-operas-ruled-by-mothersinlaw.html

Reading the article from Livemint above, sends a chill up my spine and is capable of leading a nation into a state of despair.
Accepting the argument provided by those who select content which runs on all television channels in India would spell doom.
Lets not forget that those who believe Indian Television is not ready for progressive programming are taking a growing television market for granted and depending on viewership which they will accumulate irrespective of whether the content they provide is of good quality and forward thinking, or not.

Lets also not forget that if content in Indian Films is becoming more and more ahead of time, it is because writers of depth are acceptable in the industry of films unlike that in the industry of television, not just acceptable but respected as well.

There is a fear of good writers in the television industry.
Good writers are more informed and therefore more assertive. Good writers trust their instincts, draw from the well of their vast experiences and research.
Good writers make the fore tellers of change, redundant, in this case those executives who give precedence to collections above all else, even above the damage they cause to a psyche of a country as a whole.

The pundits who believe they know the viewers' needs because of skewed numbers that arrive at their desks every week are not just pulling wool over eyes of the larger public but also doing harm to a society struggling to understand the complexities of its times.
If the article above is true and all that those who are quoted say is right then what a contradiction it is then that Ballika Vaddhu is the topmost rated program in India, and it is a series that hits hard at the worst social malaise in India, which is child marriage?
It is a series that cuts across all audiences in India, not just appealing to slum dwellers and villagers, because it is a series well made, well written and with top quality performances.

None of the youth is watching storytelling on Indian Television and it comprises of more than 60% of the Indian Population.
None of their problems are addressed through storytelling, none of their real issues resolved.
That is why they are on the streets today, protesting against evil, demanding answers.
That is why the son of the President of India has the audacity to call those women agitating on the streets in the capital city of India, dented and painted, women who go to discotheques in the night, and walk the streets by day!
There is a complete apathetic attitude of the spin doctors who care for the results in cash, more than in behavioral or attitudinal change. Have no clue what to do when the need of the hour is to give impulse to a revolution in the hearts of a whole society.

Whoever talks about content being generated on Indian Television at present is for aspiring viewers, is completely out of sync with the aspirations of an average Indian and if they think it is the archaic sets and costumes of serials that people of India aspire to ape, they are sadly mistaken.
There is nothing worse than dishing out mythology upon mythology to an average Indian viewer who laps it up daily, the viewer who cannot discern between mythology and religion.

I have said time and again, and often made myself unpopular with my trade, that there is a responsibility, we as a creative industry, carry upon our shoulders.
We cannot afford to mete out what we believe that Indian audiences want, from the analysis derived out of a dismal sample, just to prove our point right which we so easily can because of the positions we hold, the chair we occupy, the huge funds we can release.
Like the Government of India, we too collect sycophants around us, yes men, who make us believe that we are right all the time, who revel when we delude ourselves.

We need to go into those places where our television reaches and observe what is missing.
Not just depend on what we think is there.
Because what is missing out there is a lot about what we have and they don't.
Other than uninterrupted water supply and electricity that we have and is missing in those lives, there is a culture standing still out there, which fortunately is evolving in our societies and because of which we can sit out here in privileged domain and pontificate about what we think we know.
Those people who consume our television also desire that their lives should move forward, their cultures should evolve, their futures should blend with ours.

Let's not be shortsighted and imagine that what is too far in the horizon is blurred therefore we can get away with anything that we want.
We have turned our passions into our business and now we cannot afford to exploit it by keeping the business rolling at the cost of a generation of young aspirants lost, mindsets led astray.

We have to blame ourselves for a confused youth today.
It is the result of the last 15 years of programming on our television which has slipped into the lives of young impressionable minds whom we have fooled into believing that what we show is how we are, how we think and how we live, whereas we ourselves look down upon what we create and consume programming from the west which provides us with the impetus to design our own evolving cultures.

The attitude of disdain towards our own audiences is the outcome of our feudal backgrounds which compel us to believe that what we like, should be different from what people we consider to be lesser beings, like.
Let us not make no mistake that programming from the west may be cheaper to run on English Channels, but is not the answer to qualify our substandard output.
There is no alternative to home grown quality work, and it can only emerge from sensitivity of executive functioning in a creative industry, a genuine concern towards its creative resources.
Money will be made either way.
Hierarchy has to shift from the carpetbaggers to the bard.

THEEK NAHIN HAI MR. PRIME MINISTER!!!

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

As I start to write this letter to you, the brave 23 year old who was a victim of the most heinous crime in our capital city is being moved away from Safdarjung Hospital to a hospital in Singapore.

While the whole country prays for her, the Government that you are the head of is doing everything it can to ensure that she gets the best treatment and returns to a healthy life, not because you care, even if you would like to believe you do, but because you are damn afraid of what will happen on the streets of the capital city of India if anything goes wrong with her, and God forbid, if she loses her life.

I choose to write to you because I believe that you as a leader, the chief executive of our country, have failed us.
You may take responsibility for this victim because she is making the top headlines of these times, but where you have let us down, is in your response to the questions that this incident raises.
What about the number of rapes, indignities upon women, ignored by enforcers of law, in all parts of the country as we speak? Upon 2 and 4 years old, on young girls?
What about this unforgivable crime being committed upon innocents every day, hour and minute, in some part of the country or the other?

What we expect from you is ACTION!
But what we have got from you in return is a half hearted speech giving assurances of the same kind which you have been giving to us every time something boils over, be it the molestation of a teenager in Guwahati, Assam, or be it the terrorists attack of 26/11 in Mumbai.

I still clearly remember you and your colleagues using the same words at the time when Mumbai protested and reached the gates of your office to ask for answers.
And I hope you know that as I sit today to write to you, none of those steps were taken, none of those promises kept.

How do we believe you?
How do we accept that you will do anything about the safety of not just women, but all citizens of the country, when you have failed in securing the capital city and the financial capital of the nation?
When we know that all you are waiting for is for this uprising to exhaust and tire itself out, to die down so you can go on with life in the same vein until the next incident takes place?
What must be the plight of other metropolises, cities, towns and villages, if these are the conditions that prevail in the two most so called empowered cities of India?

The blatancy with which your spokespersons defend the indefensible is the biggest giveaway that the party you represent is incapable of handling the system and driving it towards modern times, that it sure knows how to come into power and stay there but is absolutely inept at managing its administration, and above all else, you must know that nobody trusts you anymore.

Mr. Prime Minister, lets cut the crap!
Let's stop playing those games of the past which a generation hurt and wounded post partition forgave you for because it was simply grateful for having survived the worst bloodshed during the most painful separation it was forced to endure.
This generation and the ones following this one are unforgiving.
They are informed and they are aware.
They can see through your devious devices and petty politics and they can understand what you are up to when you make attempts to muzzle their voice and pull a fast one on them by creating a chaos around the systemic problems under which you bury real issues. E:g: Sheila Dixit at loggerheads with Commissioner of Police, New Delhi.

Face it Mr. Prime Minister, the youth today means business and will not settle for anything less.
They are not impressed with any of you in power, and they cannot tolerate you patting each others backs for having caught the culprits behind the rape within 24 hours of the crime.
If you are listening, which I doubt, you will hear that you cannot be in power if you don't do your jobs right, and doing your jobs right is not about nabbing offenders, but ensuring that the offenders dare not commit an offence.

I hope you can see that the future of politics is not going to be about secularism and non secularism.
The next generations do not believe that their religion defines them.
The next generations are searching for their identity in their achievements and they will find it, even if it means that it will be at the cost of losing you.

Please understand that they understand consumerism Mr. Prime Minister, and know that they should get value for the price they pay for a product and since you are a renowned economist, let me speak in your language.
You, your government and your administration, are products which the citizens of this country, the educated, the uneducated, the privileged and those not, your consumers, pay for with their hard earned money and you must know that they are not at all satisfied with the adulterated form of management they get back in return for it.

Mr. Prime Minister, I beg you to see the writing on the wall.
The theater in parliament is unacceptable.
The adjournments and the waste of public money to uphold the drama, your pageant, even more so.
You have been elected and appointed, paid and given privileges, to work for us, not for battling your opposition, and day by day, week after week, session upon session. and every year, you are letting us down and wasting our money.

Now you please listen to us:
Get to work and call for a special session of Parliament.
Make up for all the precious time you have wasted and assure us that you will deliver the goods.
Pass all those laws pending which will secure Indians.
Amend those which are archaic.
There should be 33% representation of women in Parliament and it should be mandatory for every party to have necessary number of women contesting elections in 2014.
You have to depoliticize the police force and set in reforms in its institutions with immediate effect.
Let heads of those who don't perform roll.
We don't want even one candidate of any political party who has a criminal track record in past or present to get a ticket and to be able to contest elections in 2014.
We want you to see to it that each and every candidate who stands for election in 2014 has a minimum qualification, that of being a graduate.

Mr. Prime Minister, the people of this country are much more powerful than what you, the media and your propagandists think, far more reliable and popular.
They are gentle and sensitive.
Don't arouse the worst in them and don't impose your will upon them because if it explodes, there will be an awakening, but one that will blind you and your tribe forever.
Don't push it Mr. Prime Minister.
We beg of you!!!





 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

OF WHORES AND PROSTITUTES?...

Lets face it.
We're a banana republic, a puppet democracy.
We're spineless, we're hopeless.
We want popularity at any cost, even if it means when compromised with murder, brutality, regression and anarchy.
We want power at the price of abdicating responsibility.
We want money if it means we create distressing scenarios' for the rest of those who belong to this world, those other than our community and families.
We want to let the poor remain poor, and we want to grow the middle classes but ensure that along the way their upward trot, they remain muzzled and silent fearing loss of what they have so painstakingly earned in their lifetimes.

Lets get it right, we have lost our morality, our values and we stink.
We stand by Khap Panchayats for vote banks, we support crime for coalesce.
As a polity we are failed and will remain so for many generations to come because we are nepotists and we don't give a damn about how people who think, perceive us because they don't count and their voices will never be heard.
We control the media, we control fiction, we control reality with policy and our money and we have a hand in every pie cooking and will see to it that it be garnished with what works best for us, whether anybody likes it or not.
We stand united when we wish, and oppose each other as and when we need to pull wool over peoples eyes, so that things ignited get doused when we want and things quiet, erupt as and when we believe they should.

Make no mistake that we're the usual suspects you see on television and yes, we have all appointed spokespersons who will speak to you on our behalf because we want to remain nameless and faceless and we know that you can say or do nothing about it.
The Minister of Law will speak to you even if the issue is pertinent to the department of sports and the Home Minister will appear if we so deem fit, when we are talking about the development of women and children.
It is all subject to their availability and therefore it is our prerogative because we really don't care about what you in your cosy little apartments and homes, cuddled on your couches, think about us.

A dialogue from the recent film, written by Reema Katgi and Zoya Akhtar, Produced by Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani and Directed by Reema Katgi, a film called Talaash haunts me, when Kareena Kapoor, playing the part of a prostitute tells Aamir Khan, the cop, that how can we disappear when in reality we don't count, how can those who don't exist, not be ever found.

That is the state of the nation.
We are all whores and prostitutes because we have sold ourselves to this politics for a livelihood, for shelter and for the food that we feed our children.
Only those who appear on television every other day, who are seen regularly in futile arguments and debates in newsrooms every night, count, and that also because they shield the real culprits who hide behind them and make merry while the rest of the country goes to seed.

From traffic to education, health services to shelter, the list is endless and everything has gone to seed.
And therefore law and order.

What the hell is going on?
Why are we allowing ourselves to be treated this way?
How dare they do this to us?

Who are these men who had the audacity to pick up a young girl and boy in a privately run vehicle and commit such a heinous crime, a dastardly act that has left the young girl battling for life and to remain scarred forever if she survives it, and her young escort beaten to pulp?
Why was that bus plying the roads at a time when public transport should have been available to every citizen in the city in full force?
Why is public transport not available in this country to match the size of its population?
Who is responsible for that?
Is policy deliberately tampered with to allow private players into the fray for them to make hay while the sun shines?
Is that why every city in India is infested with auto rickshaws, tempos and two wheelers which follow no rules and which get licensed in the same corrupt manner in which they find existence.
Did the corporates manufacturing those bumblebees not know that they could have supported the Government to push its public transport agenda instead of finding opportunity in there and quietly slipping its own agenda in, to make a fast buck.
There is no social consciousness, no sense of responsibility anyone in position of power in this country has, because all are tied in with each other in one way or another.

Why is the media not going out there and bringing on the real people who are responsible for the crime which was committed two days ago?
Why are the Commissioner of Police, the State Transport Department, the local players who should be made to face the viewers, missing in action on screen?
Why are the spokespersons of the two national parties, the ruling and the opposition doing the needful?
Why are celebrities talking?
Why are all those people doing the talking, in the newsrooms, in the discussions, who should be talking a few days later, if at all?
What is it that the media, politicians are scared of today?
That their complicity will be exposed?
That if the enforcers on the ground, the ones who actually implement the law will reveal the truth that they are unable to do their jobs with authority because they are afraid of being transferred or of being penalized for executing their powers?
Will they be forced to stay silent like the rest of us, because they don't count as much as we don't?

Time has come to end the rhetoric!
We will not, and should not take things lying down anymore!
Let's understand, that if we do not raise our voice now, we will be slut ting it out forever!
If we do not insist, yes absolutely insist that every single candidate, standing for elections in 2014 is qualified to a minimum degree of requirement, if we do not make mandatory, that a man or woman with a criminal track record in present or in past, cannot contest, what kind of a world will we be creating for our children, our next generations?

Let every single candidate be on national television in the lead up to the elections starting now, and face the people of India, answer legitimate questions and present to the country why they think they deserve to be elected.
Let there be follow up after the elections to see if those who promised lived up to their words or not.
Let those who did not live up to their words, be shamed.
That is the role for media to play.

Modi wins or Congress, let that be information provided on tickers at the bottom of television screens. Let cricket belong the sports channels and not become prime time debate just because it is the anchors' passion!
Let cinema belong to its pages and its screen space.
End these painstakingly boring discussions on everything other than the real issues.
Why are children dying of malnutrition, hunger and disease?
Why is there so much filth on our streets?
Why do we have to live with substandard facilities in every walk of life?
Why are women not safe in this country?

Get down to business newsrooms and bring on each and every member of parliament one by one, and let him or her expose themselves, for their good or their peril.
Let not a single television series come on air which erodes values and perpetuates nonsensical dramas in which women remain the worst enemies of women.
Let no film, in humor or in all seriousness, reach the screens which idolizes men who chase women in the most uncouth fashion and objectify them.
Let not those item songs prevail, which titillate the frontbenchers who are neither educated, not socially conditioned to understand what to do with their dicks when they rise.
India cannot afford this for some years to come!
India has to repair itself, heal and recondition itself with inclusive agenda's by forming strong communities which make its people belong.
India has to reconcile with itself!
 

Monday, November 19, 2012

BAL KESHAV THACKERAY 1926 - 2012

Today was a holiday.
No, not because it was a Sunday as usual, but for another reason.
Normally Sunday's are busy days, filled with the personal agenda's, filled with things one couldn't have done on week days.
Sundays are days when you wake up in the morning, maybe slightly later than usual, get ready and go, ending the day sometimes well spent.
However today, it was declared a complete holiday.
You couldn't go shopping, to spa, neither meet friends nor go for a general stroll through a new store at Phoenix or Raghuvanshi Mills or even go check out a restaurant at BKC.
And most of all, you couldn't watch TV, or atleast those channels you would've liked to serf through since you were stranded at home with nothing better to do.
Today was a day of mourning.

Bal Thackeray passed away last evening, and from the time I heard the news from my friend Salim Asgarally, who called to tell me to get home as soon as possible, it was barely 30 more minutes later, that the entire city had shut down.
My first instincts were to stock up on ciggerettes, but my local baniya was closed by the time my maid went running to it and so were all the paan shops in my area which perhaps were the first to shut down.
She managed to pick up a bottle of Vodka for me though, from the local liquor shop which was downing its shutters at the time she reached there, so I was happy that I could replenish my bar with my most preferred drink before the streets went empty and it became dark and lonely.

Now I sat in front of the TV set all of Saturday evening as well as the whole of today, and switched between news channels, since they were all that was running on the box, watching the proceedings of a funeral which was huge, the biggest I have witnessed in all my years.
At first I was kind of disinterested but it didn't take me long to get involved with the funeral as crowds around the cortege swelled and the anchors started stating numbers in as much disbelief as I was in.
There was a surge of 2 million people around the Sena Chiefs body which was being carried from Bandra to Shivaji Park, where the final rites were going to be performed at sundown.
I was intrigued. I was mesmerized. I was stunned to see the devotion, the pain, the anguish and the sheer loyalty at display of lakhs of people towards their leader who had formed the Sena 46 years ago and had been the single head of the political organization throughout his life thereafter.
From Mumbai is orphaned, to Mumbai has lost it's soul, one celebrity after another, industrialist and common man, spoke of the loss, the void their Tiger had left behind.

I have lived in the city for over 25 years now, and been at the receiving end of bandhs, been in complete disagreement with Balasahebs brand of politics.
The fiercely secular me had always been repulsed by the Hindutva agenda adopted by his party in the '90's and had been critical of the encouragement he gave his men to riot and wipe out Muslims from the city then.
I had also read a lot about the man and personally disliked his attitude towards outsiders in Mumbai, counting myself as one, because I am not a Marathi Manoos.

Yet, I have never hated Bal Keshav Thackeray.
I admired his personality, loved his oratory and was impressed with his consistent pride in Maharashtra, which the Sena called Marathi Asmita.
Also, everytime I came to the point of hating the politics of Shiv Sena, I was always reminded of 1987, the 31st of August, when my father had died due to a sudden seizure, and when we used to live in Setalvaad Lane in Napeansea Road.
It was the time of Ganpati and there was a Pandal right opposite our building with music blaring right through the day until late in the night.
That night when my father died, and his body was brought back in an ambulance from Bombay Hospital, the Pandal shut down the loud music.
For the next couple of days, they did not play music at all.
After the chautha ceremony, three days later, my mother went up to the Pandal to thank the Shiv Sainiks for being considerate and asked them to go ahead with their celebrations, to which the head of the Sainiks turned around and told my mother that she was like his mother and her grief was his.
They didn't play music until the last day, and when they took Ganpati for visarjan, it was the first time after my fathers death that they got the band and went with His idol, dancing to the music.
So in the years thereafter, all my angst against the Shiv Sainiks would always get dissipated by the memory of those times which had convinced me that like all other people in the world, the Shiv Sainiks also had a heart.

However, today was another day to go deeper into the relationship, or lack of it, that I, as a Mumbaikar shared with Bal Thackerays Shiv Sena.
The closest I've been to a Thackeray is having met the lovely Smita Thackeray a few times when I was a co jury member with her for the Annual Screen Awards in 2004.
Then one meeting with Raj Thackeray after he had broken away from the Sena and founded MNS.
My friends Shobha and Chaitanya Sant had taken me to meet him after I had expressed my desire to do so because I had wanted to work with him and I thought that a young political party like MNS could do a huge deal for the city if the right kind of people joined it and supported him in his endeavors.
When I met Raj Thackeray he asked me why I wanted to work with him, and I said to him that I want to work with him because I liked him. He asked me how long I had been in Mumbai and I told him that I had been in the city for about 20 years.
Then he asked me if I spoke Marathi, in Marathi. That was the end.
At first I didn't understand what he said, and then I told him that I couldn't speak Marathi.
I am a Panjabi but I can't speak Panjabi either.
I can only speak fluent Hindi and English, but it was not the time to tell him that and therefore it was where the meeting with Raj Thackeray had finished.
I knew that my working with him was not going to happen, although both Shobha and Chaitanya told me that it wasn't over yet.

However, today there were two million people, 20 lakh out there in the city that I loved and lived in, and I wasn't one of them.
Nobody, none of my friends, whom I knew closely, were amongst them either.
And the first big question that arose in my mind was, WHY?!

None of us, all my friends and I, were either in politics or industrialists of the stature of Anil Ambani, Rahul Bajaj and Veenu Kumar Dhoot. Neither were any of us, despite being integral parts of the Industry of Entertainment, stars of the stature of Mr. Bachchan, the Kapoors or the Khans.
None of us had ever needed to go to him to pay our respects to him.
And none of us were, even if Maharashtrians, 'the Marathi Manoos'.
So where did we fit?
The answer was that, we didn't fit!

Yet my eyes were glued on to the ocean of people which followed and led the cortege and merged like a tidal wave with the Arabian Sea in the background as it seemed in a top angle shot which was being shown again and again by the channel which I was watching.
Who are they? Why are they there? Where have they come from to converge and confluence like waves overlapping each other?
Their feelings are genuine, but why is it that I am not feeling what they are feeling?

Their emotions were real and their collective grief was palpable.
I knew the instant that the questions arose in, that it was the identity which Bal Keshav Thackeray had given them that was making them feel the sorrow and share the pain with his immediate family.
The power people feel is because of the connection their leader has with them and Balasaheb was a leader who was one with those multitudes I was watching on TV.
Then where had his politics gone wrong?
Why am I caught in this schizophrenia, impressed with him but in complete disagreement with his politics? Why would I never be one with the crowds that wept at his funeral today?

And then I realized that most of the very impressive men, educated, erudite, humble and smart, most politicians in our country are trapped in the politics of helping people find their identity which when associated with religion becomes divisive and none of our leaders, secural or right wing have found a way out of it yet.
I am a Hindu and proud to be one, I don't hate Muslims, Christians or any other and I don't want to desecrate their places of worship.
I want to be free to practice my own religion while they practice theirs.
I do not believe that to be a true Hindu I must stop my friends from being Muslim, Christian or any other religion than mine.
I am educated, I have shelter, I have a job and in that I have an identity therefore I am secure.

Bal Thackeray's Shiv Sena was formed for the right reasons but has lost its way for the wrong.
To give identity to people, our politics has to free itself from religion.
People have to be empowered with education and employment and the role of politics is to make them secure by providing both.
People must uphold their right to the religion of their choice themselves, and not allow the ideology of one political party or another to confuse their identity with their religion.

Like in the rest of the world, people following different religions coexist and respect each other, Indians must do the same or else we are doomed.
To uphold its glory and to give it permanence in the land of its birth, we can convert Hinduism into a monumental pageantry like the British have done to uphold Christianity in the customs of their monarchy, or the Catholics uphold theirs in the theater of the Vatican.
Or else we can even create a space like the Muslims for whom the house of their Allah is in Mecca.
Such a place where Hindu's from all over the world can come and visit to worship their Gods, but our politics has to be far away from it.
There are Mosques and Temples, Churches, Gurudwara's and Shrines everywhere in the world, so must they all be there in India as well.
We can position Hinduism and give it the place we want, but lets not make it so shallow that to make it stand out we have to destroy the practices and places of worship of other religions.

And lets not confuse our religious beliefs with the basic rights of men, women and children in our country which every political party has to ensure they get through education and by providing them access to quality health care.
The identity of our future generations will come from their individual successes and the identity of our nation will come from their collective joy.
Hinduism will and should only be the religion for those who choose to follow it.
Islam, Christianity etc. for others.






 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A FAILED SPEECH



    At a recent event, I was meant to give a talk on "MUMBAI AND THE POWER OF A COLLECTIVE CONSCIENCE".
    I went prepared for the speech, but the unimaginable happened.     Something that has never happened to me before. 
    The moment my turn came, and I stepped on to the stage to speak, I blanked out and lost complete connect with what I had gone prepared to say. 
    With all my thoughts muddled up in my head, I ended up being incoherent, and finally left the stage leaving everyone in the audience surprised, some worried.
    I apologize to the organizers, most of all Jerry Johnson, of TEDx Churchgate, who completely trusted me and whom I must have greatly let down.
    The speech which I had prepared to speak and which I blanked out on is below:

    I grew up in small town India. I was born in Jammu and grew up in places as diverse as Amritsar, Kota, Jallandhar, Chandigarh, Indore and Ajmer. People in all those places were in awe of Mumbai, and so was I. We would wait to hear stories of Mumbai from those who came back from or went visiting to the land of the sun and sea, the land of movies and the city of dreams. 
    From our girlfriends we would want to hear stories of the freedom they had experienced while they were in Mumbai.
    
    Women in small town or big city India, other than in Mumbai, didn't ever know independence, neither did they have any rights to make their  own choices. There were certain rules they were supposed to follow, and if they dared to break them, which some have at times over so many past generations, they were made to face consequences. 
    Consequences for wearing western clothes and stepping out on the streets, even when escorted, was molestation, which was justified by all as, 'oh then, isn't it her fault?'. 
    Consequences for going out after dark with anybody other than her father, brother or husband was extortion and/or rape with a battered boyfriend left totaled by the side of the road.
    Women could be touched, felt, pinched or lynched if men on the streets felt they were behaving indecently, and laughing loudly, walking with confidence as well as wearing jeans was considered to be indecent behavior.
    That was about 25 years ago. 
    Today it is even worse.

    Today, one Chief Minister of a state says that rape can be prevented if women are married of at an early age, and another Chief Minister says that rape takes place because men and women interact with each other freely.

    So coming to Mumbai and making a life in this city, for a woman in India, is an achievement in itself. To be able to feel the freedom, to be able to make ones own choices; for a woman to actually be able to negotiate life without being dependent on one man or another, is possible in the city of Mumbai only. This is one, perhaps the only city in India, where there is no consideration of caste, color, religion, language or sex and therefore no question of any kind of discrimination for those reasons.

    I came to Mumbai after graduating to become a journalist and found myself slip into the world of television, growing along with the industry which had just about taken birth in the country at the time when I started. As I became a Mumbaikar, the media, television and entertainment industries in the city grew larger than was ever possible to have imagined.

    Our fiction at the time I began my career, reflected lives and mirrored hope. It celebrated Indian values, exploring and discovering solutions for the confused as India made its way towards becoming a developing country and the churn taking place was left with no alternative but to fracture families, and break traditional habits to prepare a new generation for a globalized world. 
    Rapid urbanization was taking place everywhere in India and because Mumbai and its stories were being carried to every nook and corner of the country by the growing networks, our city had become a sort of model for other cities in India to follow.

    Due to uneven distribution of opportunity in India, Mumbai, the land of plenty had attracted the most daring talents from all parts of the country post India's independence, and therefore become a metropolis defined by its multicultural nature. 
    Can you imagine the collective courage of millions of people who had dared to dream in their hometowns and come to Mumbai, from different cultures and different geographies to realize them?
    That is how brave a city Mumbai was, and still is.

    I worked as an Assistant Director at first and went on to establish my own content production house by the end of the ‘80’s in Mumbai. Creating a series, a film, a documentary or any other product in the entertainment industry meant bringing together forces from all different parts of the country and jamming with them. 
    So Panjabi’s, Gujarati’s, South Indians, Sindhi’s, Maharashtrians, Hindu’s, Muslim’s, Christians, all merged their influences and cultures, and formed a blend, to tell a story.     
    Here is where diverse cultures would confluence to create the contemporary narrative which was in tandem with India’s development and growth story.
    It was the vision, the concepts, the blend of ideas that emerged from the multicultural idiom which defined Mumbai that went on to become the basic foundation for a modern India, especially post liberalization, when every other city in India began to evolve and started to throw open its gates to other cultures, languages, people and diversities to its fold, settling themselves into the cosmopolitanism Mumbai was leading as example.

    Mumbai, being the commercial capital of India with the most vibrant and thriving industry of entertainment, brought together cohesive forces and as the outreach of media grew, the city was able to express itself beyond its borders.
    
    But somewhere around the same time the rumblings of discontent began to gather dust and rise in the interiors of India where media, had reached, the stories were being told and heard, but development, education, health services and political solutions were still very far away.
    Our stories made those people who heard them restless when they saw and realized that there was a heaven out there which they also wanted a piece of, but was one going to remain elusive to them and their kin for a long time to come.

    Politics in India changed and India began to be trapped in a schizophrenic conscience.  
    Globalization could be achieved if there was harmony midst diversity during the process of growth, but politics unable to deliver, began to rely on local leadership which to garner vote banks started to divide people on basis of caste, religion, cultures and languages and tore them apart further.
    India was trapped in a paradox created by a paralysis of governance and lack of political will. 
    Media, much against its will, became a pawn in the hands of the wrong and got used by politics to spread hatred and mistrust across the length and breadth of the nation.

    The layers beneath the earth shifted in Ayodhya, but the epicenter of the earthquake was Mumbai. The shocks felt in Mumbai, shook the basic secular foundation of the city and utter disbelief led people who had co-existed harmoniously for decades, to burn down the edifice which now stood for a lie.
    Revenge followed, and since then Mumbai has lived in factions retaliating emotionally, laying itself out and open to manipulations of those with political motives and anti national agenda’s.

    Confusion reigned, and like me, many a idealistic youngster in the ’90’s either, corrupted himself, surrendered to cynicism, or else then, settled into a life as a silent spectator.
    The corrupt became the danger, the cynic the emotion and the silent spectator became the hopeless critic.
    The silence held by a large section of our generation set in an apathy and enabled society to debauch further and this, because of the democratization of voice and opinion unleashed by internet and social media in India and the rest of the world with the advent of the 21st century, is not acceptable anymore.

    The apathy, the cynicism and the deepest divides began to reflect in the expression that sprang out from the industries of television and entertainment from Mumbai, which had not just a pan Indian outreach anymore, but a spread that was touching the entire South Asian Diasporas in every part of the world.

    The land of Amar Akbar Antony became the land of Saas Bahu saga’s. The narrative became Hindu and those who were not Hindu's were neither addressed, nor represented in our stories.

    Instead of watching its leadership speak of it's vision for a modern India, the youth of India today, is bombarded with scams, criminal accusations and blatant corruption being exposed to politicians and their oppositions who spew venom at each other from every available platform.
    Instead of a robust debate about the future, there is mindless argument about the past.

    Today, to doctor a battered and hurt India, it is Mumbai that needs to heal.

    The leader, the commercial hub, the city which reverberates to the beat of a million plus creative hearts, needs to be made to feel secure and unafraid of destructive and divisive forces, so that it can express itself freely.

    Cosmopolitanism has to thrive, and reflect through the works of every form of expression which emerges from Mumbai and spreads to the rest of the country, because it is a reality, and because it is the only solution in sight for India to remain undivided. 
    For India, not to ‘have’ to face another partition.

    Mumbai and its people ‘have’ to continue to respect their differences like they once did, and celebrate the contemporary fusions of their cultures which provide oxygen to emerging arts, be it music, dance or cinema which have, despite every attempt to quash it, arrived upon a world stage today.
    We have to bring courage to the fore and envision a powerful  future collectively.

    We have to inspire collectivism through tolerance. Encourage the multicultural spectrum to evolve which in turn can break the ethnic divide created by a corrupt politics and Mumbai can and will be truly secular; opening a whole new world of possibility for itself and for the rest of India. 


    
     


    

Monday, August 6, 2012

JISM 2 - WELL FLESHED OUT! :)

Yeh Jism hai to kya, yeh rooh ka libas hai, yeh dard hai toh kya, yeh ishq ki talaash hai... and so go on the beautiful lyrics of the No 1 track in India, one destined to keep the charts rocking for a long time to come...
Jism is a film driven by lust, breathing sensuality, as three actors defy the gaze of a sexually starved audience and take voyeurs through an experience of the places it explores with a languid camera brushing past green outdoors dripping with lush, and revealing the bodies of a woman and two men, unabashedly, drawing viewers towards their innermost desires and permitting  them to share personal  moments of passion and love as a story unfolds simplistically.
Like Jism, Jism 2 is unapologetic and deals with a subject that all of India is shy to discuss but that which all of Indian media devours and exploits to gain the trp, readership and success with every opportunity it gets, be it the molestation of a young girl outside a nightclub in Guwahati or an MMS floated by a young school student about another girl giving a blow job to her boyfriend.
The hypocrisy of our society is so deeply rooted that its double standards come glaring to the fore when most elite media trashes a film like Jism 2 and when a harsher reality is, that at the box office it tears past all previous records.
I remember a few months ago when another friend, Vivek Agnihotri's 'Hate Story' was released and it went breaking box office records as was expected. The same pseudo critic who has gone on a limb taking off on Jism 2 was mostly quiet. Why?...
I'll tell you...
It was because 'Hate Story' was made by a man.
There was sex, violence, powerful dialogue and an intense script backing a film which Indian audiences were waiting with bated breath for. I could hear the heaves and sighs on twitter despite the silence of these hypocrites who today have the audacity to criticize a successful Jism 2.
They do it, and get the courage to do it because there is a woman director, Pooja Bhatt, the maker of the film on the top here, giving no concessions to flesh just because the domain is primarily considered to be that of a man's, yes, in India, sex is to be enjoyed, created, recreated and expressed by a man in a mans world only, therefore these men and women tapping away at their keys aimlessly, don't know what else to do but to spill venom.
Women making films, the big ticket ones, most successful commercially, Farah Khan and Zoya Akhtar, who too have pushed the envelope and broken the norm, have yet to crossover from fun flicks or romantic flicks to hard hitting, straight in the face punching, cinema dealing with sex, violence, death and its ramifications.
Or else they say, women must stay with art and realism, non commercial, as it is a space in the industry which  has been allotted to them, yet so reluctantly.
I know for a fact how hard it is for a woman to express herself honestly in the world of Television and Cinema in India. I struggle to survive it every day. I release my need to speak, here on my blog and through the smallest opportunities I get, whether it is through the making of a short film, writing a play or via the making of a documentary film.
So when another friend, Pooja Bhatt, charges past all male detractors with a defiance and makes the films she chooses to produce, direct or write, I salute her.
She has the guts, the finesse, the panache and the ability to supply her craft upon an audience which she knows limits her sensibilities, but one she also knows, accepts her art when she speaks the language they dare not admit that they understand.
For in India for many years still to come...
... they will not admit that women love sex.
... they will not admit that men like to have sex with women every single day of their lives.
... they will not admit that men fantasize having sex with women of all different colors, shapes and sizes.
... they will not admit that women fantasize the same about men as men do about women.
... they will not admit that from the day Pooja Bhatt announced that she was casting a porn star as the main lead of her film, they have been waiting for it to be completed and released, so that they can rush to see it at the first show that they can get themselves to...
... they will not admit that they find the pace of the film slow only because in all those moments that Sunny Leone was not having sex with the two absolutely divine hunks, they actually wished that she was devouring them, and they virtually prayed that the dialogue would end soon so that sex and nudity could take over again...
... they will not admit that they can't wait to see the porn star in her next film...
... and most Indian women dare not admit that when Sunny Leone touched Arunodaya Singhs nipple, they fantasized doing the same...
... and so on and so forth...
Fact is, that the BOX OFFICE speaks the truth. Jism 2 is a BIG HIT and Pooja Bhatt has the verve, the sophistication and passion to do next, exactly as she would like to because she has made enough money on this one, to do that!
Pooja is a star who breeds stardom and unlike the rest of this apologetic population, she speaks her mind through her aesthetically created visuals and honest work which she has intelligently defined for herself, to achieve commercial success.
I, as a woman filmmaker myself, am jealous of her!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

THINK!!!


(MY COLUMN ON SATYAMEV JAYATE IN SAHARA TIMES)                                                                              
Aamir Khan is no longer just a hero. He is a phenomenon.
I attribute Aamir’s achievements to his simplicity. Aamir is not a complicated man and that is the chief reason why he is acceptable to audiences of all kinds belonging to different demographics. He reaches out to everyone through his work and through his presence on various media with a comfort, an effortlessness which relaxes those who watch him, hear him and absorb him, instead of exhausting them.
It was ages ago when I first met Aamir at a preview of his film Dil Hai Ki Maanta Nahin, at Dimple Theater, Pali Hill, Bandra, when I used to be an assistant director and I remember clearly that he sat outside chewing on his nails while others watched the movie inside the theater. At the end when everyone stepped out, Mahesh Bhatt hugged Aamir and told him not to worry because all those who had watched the film had loved it, so there was no reason for them to believe that that they had left any stone unturned while making the film, and Aamir had smiled quietly at everyone who congratulated him for his performance and stepped out.
I have never met Aamir Khan after that but followed him through media all along and watched almost every film which he had starred in. More than being a versatile actor, I believe that he is a versatile thinker. Over the years as he grew up, Aamir has understood the power he wields as a star and has steered himself and all his actions towards impacting people through some of the work he does and some that he supports. At the same time he realizes that in order to do that he needs to continue to be a star, therefore the Ghajini’s and the Dhoom 3’s carry on dominating the repertoire he is and will keep on building.
Having been in the business of television from the time of its emergence in India and having been one with its growth, I am but by default, a keen observer of what plays out in its universe on a daily, weekly and yearly basis. So when film stars began to see the commercial sense it makes to be a performer on the small screen, starting with Mr. Bachchan in KBC and settling down with Salman Khan’s, and now paired with Sanjay Dutt’s, tom foolery on Bigg Boss, I have seen many succeed and many fail. I believe, and stand firm by my belief that it is not a star that works on television.
It is a format, which either works, or doesn’t.
And no one other than Aamir Khan and Mr. Bachchan know it better. As the publicity of their respective show’s tears through media and grabs eyeballs for the release of their respective first episodes, they are both aware of the responsibility they have shouldered, and that is what drives them and keeps them working at it to make their audience not just stay, but to swell as well.
They know that television audiences are whimsical, that they are quirky. They know that if the format they choose to do is not sustainable, they will fail.
So when I first heard of Satyamev Jayate, and then heard that it was slotted to be broadcast on a Sunday morning, I knew that there was a thinking that had gone in here, and I know that a gap had been found which needed to be filled. I knew that it was going to be the revival of Sunday morning entertainment for an average Indian family which had been lost in the TRP driven madness that had gripped the media and marketing industries of our business, for them to have considered weekday evening’s as the only available prime time, for so many years now. I still remember watching Mashoor Mahal, Mahabharat and Ramayan when I had just about started my career. I still so know that good television and progressive television is what average television viewers want despite statistics proving and speaking otherwise.
Star TV and Aamir Khan have pulled off a coup of sorts. Not just because they have a fabulous program, now a yearly format, in place, but also because they have propelled the industry which had got lost in those woods which were crowding with money growing trees, back to the realization that television is a powerful medium which has the ability to change lives, change the way people think.
At this juncture, when India is poised to become a global power, and when the biggest road block it faces is corruption, there could not be a better time to release a show, on a Sunday morning when everybody can watch, a show that can have enough impact on minds of the viewers to change them, a vehicle designed to monitor change as it takes place.
In the life of Indian Television, there have been four defining moments so far.
One was when India’s first long running soap opera Hum Log gripped the nation with its perspective on the changing Indian middle class in the early nineteen eighty’s, followed by Buniyaad and the rip roaring comedy, Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi. The second came with the advent of Satellite Television in the early nineteen nineties when Zee TV emerged with a path breaking Tara which defined the contemporary urban Indian woman. The third defining moment which rocked the space and stopped the clock from ticking, that clutched at our conscience and has left us feeling guilty forever, was the era of the long winding saas bahu saga’s that came straddled on the KBC horse. Thankfully KBC remained and regressive fare was abandoned by the discerning Indian viewer.
And the fourth defining life altering moment for us to recognize is Aamir Khan’s and Star Networks Satyamev Jayate.
Not just has the clock been fixed and time started rolling again, it is a moment in time for all of us to realize that a nation progresses if its television progresses and a nation regresses, if its television regresses. 
All those sitting on high chairs blindly depending upon statistics, must understand, that if it was only numbers which determined success and failure, numbers that decided what was relevant as opposed to what was not, then they should be on a holiday and let their drivers do their jobs.
Think!!!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

OUT OF BODY!

I can't stay put on one thought, can't think beyond the surface about anything.
From the absurd theatrics of selecting the President for the country, to Dhoble's Shakespearean antics, everything is surreal.
Mumbai Unite, Mumbai Unite, Mumbai Unite!!!
Adam Bedi, Nisha Harale Bedi, Viren Shah, all those hundreds of awesome DJ's who drowned in their craft, turning the table, spinning the wheel, those creative friends of mine who shout from every platform, media, padestal and tower, remain unheard because their music ended with the whip of terror justified in courts of the Indian law which sent frightened girls to remand, and a terrorist on flight.
Nitish opposing Modi, Mamata marching on the Government she supports, Jayalalitha and Sushma, it looked like politics is now a place reserved for either the goon or the fool, not the artiste, nor his muse.
Newsrooms fill with highest thinkers, editors, spokespersons, frenzied news reporters and sports commentators, modern day Brahmins commenting and paving the path for the silly Kshatriya's, wondering if Paes and Bhupathi will make up or go their own way, in which case, who will kiss Rohan Bopanna?
Is it about the Olympics?
You can make entertainment, or be itself, the only legit industry, unrecognized but providing a bizarre dignity to individuals or collective people who can be jokers themselves, or make them dance.
Which is this industry, and which not, the confusion on the epitaphs of all those who stay breathing, having let the dead go?
Accidents, alcohol, drugs, murders, traffic snarls, potholes, hunger, pain, all come together in collages at the push of the button with the remotest click and wailing widows at the banks of the Ganga with weeping wives on television collide with sound in a cacophony of chaos.
Bob Dylan, Marley, Morrison, Hendrix, Gandhi and Lincoln pinned on walls of screens that stare at the quotation drama unfolding in homes, offices, roads and cop stations.
Life imitating art, copying fiction, cheating reality and screeching to a dramatic halt, which is real and which is naught?
I'm about to go crazy but a semblance of dawn rises every time silence prevails in the dead of the 'delayed' monsoon night.
A wait begins for rain to drop, fall, pelt and flood but nothing of the sort happens and the dark shatters to pieces as the light at the end of the tunnel traps the eyes in the blindness of a black haze.
It's another day when many people die, kill and are sent to prison innocent, while most of those who committed crime and walked openly threatening peace, grin and uncork their wines to raise a toast to desperation and anguish, trauma and despair.
To their own livelihood.
This is that nation where children cry and the young fall to the abysses of acid and cocaine, to trance electronic and psy, to rebellion to revolution, to song and lyric, in Parvati Valley, in Goa, at railway stations and airports, awaiting a miracle.
Where they hoped to end their sane, as the unleashed terror upon them of the state and the underbelly consumed their appetite and gave them their daily dose of comedy, tragedy, drama and a potboiler.
Where it was predicted that when rain falls, everyone would come out, on to the streets and dance!
I'm amazed we're still alive.
The plane had crashed, but we never died!!!

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Golden Retriever: UDAAN - Talent knows no blindness :)

The Golden Retriever: UDAAN - Talent knows no blindness :): Man, I can't believe I'm here after so long. The last time I wrote on these pages on this blog was on September, 11th 2011 and thereafter I...

UDAAN - Talent knows no blindness :)

Man, I can't believe I'm here after so long.
The last time I wrote on these pages on this blog was on September, 11th 2011 and thereafter I decided to give myself a break from reading, not realizing that the decision was going to have a direct impact on my need to regularly write.
But so it was, and so I let it be.
I didn't read the papers, no books, no magazines except only that what I found to be positive and interesting on my facebook and twitter pages.
Positive it had to be. Fun as well!
And here I am, more that six months later, a completely changed person.
Atleast I think so.
No rape, no murders, no bribery, no corruption and absolutely no politics.
I must admit I did get hooked to two soap opera's on an Indian channel and have religiously watched Uttaran and Na maine kucch na tumne kucch kahaa... back to back on most week nights between 10pm and 11pm if I was home and hadn't drifted off for a drive or a coffee with my friend Salim Asgarally, who keeps me smiling and laughing through life and has been doing so since the last seven years now.
On such days I lurked around my mother in the early mornings wanting to know what had happened in the two serials the previous night.
I turned away from news on the television as well as the morning papers every single day.
I had decided to see what my life would be like if I were to know nothing about what is happening around me, neither sound smart when people I was surrounded with were to discuss the events surmounting them.
Obviously I had no choice but to know what was going on because of the frequent outbursts on twitter and facebook when they went ballistic with trending topics, but that was it. No more.
I just never went beyond updates, even if I wanted to.
Life turned into a dream.
I began to laugh and smile and for the first time in the last 15 years that I have been obese, I've completed eight weeks of a diet and am into my ninth week now, not feeling exhausted, nor tired of it.
When people gossiped about celebrities, chatted politics and discussed huge turning points in our social world, I smiled and sat silent, realizing that they could never guess that I knew absolutely zilch about what they were in conversation about.
The truth about ignorance embraced me and gave me a sense of warmth which I'm never going to lose for anything under the sun again.
Slowly as time went by, I felt wasted as a writer and creative person so I dealt with the void by drawing inspiration from music and things of beauty around me.
The timelessness of doing nothing in the mornings, not filling my head with worry about the world around me and that which was distant, instead letting the emptiness bring about a calm that one day became an addiction which I live with today.
Then once I started to write finally, words began to spill out of an emptiness and my own writing which had always been clever and calculated flowed effortlessly from places which I had never known existed within me, and started to surprise me.
I was confident again.
I was armed with my innocence and the power that resided within me again.
I was ready to work, able to articulate what I wanted to do and I was there where I had always wanted to be, at the destination which had always eluded me.
I was in my heart and I could fall to the rythm of its beat.
And it was last night when it all came together at a concert by a band called Udaan.

What started as a mission by two visually impaired, but musically blessed, youngsters, is now an established entity in the music loop. Founded by Keval Liladhar Haria and Deepak Govind Bedsa, rock band Udaan is now a 10-member band — comprising of proficient singers, percussionists, pianists, guitarists and sitar Players. The band is a culmination of the fervent dream of these 10 members. Their versatile repertoire includes Folk, Classical, Western and Bollywood music.
‘Udaan’ that came into existence in 2005, holds a special meaning to many. The band is financially supported by 27-year-old Marzy Parakh, who has been committed to the cause of this blind band through The Faith Foundation — which he started at the young age of 17. The main objective of The Faith Foundation is to bring about a life-altering transformation in the lives of the physically disabled. It also raises funds for the medical treatment and surgery requirements of those genuinely in need from time to time. (source: anfresh.com)
While watching them and moving to their beat I realized how talent knows no blindness and it is a certain blindness which makes you conquer heights and dive to your depths.
I connected with the band in a strange way.
I could feel what they had achieved and when Salim sighed as it ended and told Vickie (our friend) and me that he felt thrilled after listening to and watching the amazing Udaan which made us soar in our hearts, we agreed with him.
Shutting windows and closing doors to look inwards is as amazing an experience as opening the shutters and letting the cool breeze in, because for the breeze to touch you, you neither need to see, nor do you have to know anything.