Saturday, October 31, 2009

Doordarshan at 50: If there were a Ctrl+Z in life!!

If there was Ctrl+Z in life........

Nostalgic memories of those 'good old days' – world has changed and we also changed for the world !!!
Are you missing those days? Sometimes I do

Doordarshan Logo
Doordarshan' s Screensaver

Malgudi Days
Dekh Bhai Dekh

Mile Sur Mera Tumhara

Turning Point
Bharath Ek Khoj

Alif Laila

Alif Laila
Byomkesh Bakshi

He Man
Salma Sultana DD News Reader

Vicco turmeric,
Nahin cosmetic
Vicco turmeric ayurvedic cream

Washin powder Nirma, Washing powder Nirma
Doodh si safedi, Nirma se aayi
Rangeen kapde bhi khil khil jaaye

I'm a Complan Boy(Shahid Kapoor) and
I'm a Complan Girl (Ayesha Takia)

Surabhi : Renuka Sahane and Siddharth

Then were 'Mungerilal ke hasin sapane' and 'karamchand' ...'Vikram Betal', etc.
How did one survive growing up in the 80's and 90's?
We had no seatbelts, no airbags..
Cycling was like a breath of fresh air…
No safety helmets, knee pads or elbow pads, with plenty of cardboards between spokes to make it sound like a motorbike…
When thirsty we only drank tap water, bottled water was still a mystery…
We kept busy collecting bits & pieces so we could build all sort of things … and we were fearless on our bicycles even when the brakes failed going downhill…
We were showing off how tough we are, by how high we could climb trees & then jumping down….It was great fun….
We could stay out to play for hours, as long as we got back before dark, in time for dinner…
We walked to school, or sometimes we even rode our bicycle.
We had no mobile phones, but we always managed to find each other…. How?
We lost teeth, broke arms & legs, we got cuts and bruises and bloody noses…. nobody complained as we had so much fun, it wasn't anybody's fault, only ours
We ate everything in sight, cakes, bread, chocolate, ice-cream, sweet sugary drinks, fruits..yet, we stayed skinny by fooling around.
And if one of us was lucky to find a 1 litre coca cola bottle we all had a swig from it & guess what? Nobody picked up any germs...

We did not have Play Stations, MP3, Nintendo's, I-Pods, Video games, 99 Cable TV channels, DVD's, Home Cinema, Home Computers, Laptops, Chat-rooms, Internet, etc ...
BUT, we had REAL FRIENDS!!!!
We called on friends to come out to play, never rang the doorbell, just went around the backdoor…We played with sticks and stones, played cowboys and Indians, doctors and nurses, hide and seek, soccer games, over and over again…
When we failed our exams we were given a second chance by simply repeating the same grade…without visiting psychiatrists, psychologists or counselors…

Such were the days…
We had freedom, success, disappointments and responsibilities. ..
Most of all, we learned to respect others…

Once in a while we see something that raises mushy nostalgia and one such mail forward from my friend Tess about Doordarshan posted above triggered memories of the growing up years. That was the time when my consciousness, like that of everyone else in my generation, was dominated by what I watched on DD. incidentally DD completed 50 years of its enlightening presence the previous month. Recollecting how we chattered at school the next day after catching an episode of serials like Mungerilal ke hasin sapne' Hum Log, surabhi, knight rider,Giant Robot, Malgudi Days, Dekh Bhai Dekh, Turning Point, Bharath Ek Khoj, Alif Laila, Byomkesh Bakshi, Tehkikaat, He-Man etc amazes me for how simple were those things we were burdened with then. How it would have been if I were growing up in this age of Twitter!? Life was less complex for a kid then. I mean just imagine bearing all those ads only to catch a few songs or 'Chitrahar' or its Telugu equivalent 'Chitralahari'. Or that weekly-once Hindi and Telugu movie. They made our weekend. And we made sure we 'fixed' the antennas in the 'right direction' running up and down the terrace before the movies begin so that the images are steady on screen. Life was indeed very simple.

DD being the first broadcaster was earnest in its 'educational' mission. It literally tried to school the countryside on everything from personal hygiene to lessons in Trigonometry. Even while entertaining, it carried this zeal. My grandmother who can't understand Hindi watched not just a udaan, neem ka ped or a samandar but even Oshin, that dubbed Japanese masterpiece. DD opened up new cultures and triggered a broadmindedness to folks like her in the most unpretentious manner. Contrast that with all the dumb content like saas-bahu stuff the multitude of TV channels throw at us today. Prannoy Roy hosted a weekly show 'The World This Week' at 10:30 in the night and i almost never missed it. My elder sister would be asleep by then so as to wake up early for the morning tuitions. So I would keep the volume extremely low as I didn't want to disturb her. I used to strain to hear the low volume it would run on sitting right in front of the box. That was the easiest way to get world news then. Life still was simple.

I dutifully catched up with all Hindi, English and Telugu news bulletins of the Rini Khannas and Shanti Swaroops in school holidays while at my Grandma's place as that's the only activity that was possible as I was the only kid around. So I should say I was a victim of our government's propaganda and its spin doctors. All we heard was what the Prime Minister and his ministers said. And how all of them shaked hands with their foreign counterparts while in Delhi or their trips abroad. Same 'official' news about the Chief Minister, but far lesser coverage. Now considering that every party has an associated TV channel, I am subjected to far worse propaganda but, thankfully this one is more revealing.

From the days of DD to today's realty TV, life has become more complex. Black and White impressions about society made way to almost completely Grey images of violence, corruption, crime and bizarre entertainment. While its perfectly understandable why these channels cant produce 'brainy' stuff like 'Bharat Ek Khoj', its Ironical that these cash rich channels cant come with good productions like 'Malgudi Days'. While there is almost no honesty left in news channels, entertainment channels are competing to stoop to the lowest. There is little intellectual curiosity left in watching TV now. I still remember how I loved watching the saturday afternoon's regional cinema on DD. Whether Assamese, Gujarat or Malayalam, I watched it anyway with the subtitles. DD was a lofty dream of folks who made us sing 'Mile sur mera tumahara..' while in Todays' TV we are more balkanised, everyone safe like kupmundak (a frog in the well). BTW this is the word I catched in Satyajit Ray's 'Agantuk' on DD many years ago.

As years pass on, the world gets more and more complex with umpteen angles, viewpoints, stakeholders in a single issue so its inevitable our collective consciousness gets more insensitive, crammed and more mechanical. Doordarshan being a prominent player in an era pre-liberalisation and in our childhood reflects the then simple life as clearly as a mirror. We are lucky in this aspect to go nostalgic so vividly. That 'Rukhawat ke liye Khed Hai' is perfectly okay now. It would have given us a much wanted breathing space in today's mad mad world.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Rahman's Jai Ho Live Concert - Rahmania!!!

As someone SMSed to the giant screen, we had Superman, Spiderman, Batman. Now we have RahMan! Over the years, that is what an immensely talented and unwaveringly hardworking Rahman has become - a phenomenon.

AR Rahman performed live in Hyderabad yesterday at the brand new GMR arena in the Shamshabad airport premises. This Jai Ho concert is part of the worldwide tour Rahman embarked on. It was a treat to watch, especially for someone like me who missed his previous live here some 7 years ago. My beloved, myself and my buddy Harisha trooped in along with thousands of entertainment thirsty Hyderabadis and caused a traffic jam within the sprawling airport. Nevertheless, the organizers managed it well and pulled off the event successfully. Rahman rocked with his troop comprising of Benny Dayal, Blaaze, Rashid Ali, Sivamani, Chitra, Saadhana Sargam, Suzanne, Swetha Pandit etc.

The concert started just after 7.00 PM and lasted till 10:30 PM. Rahman started with 'Khalbali..' and then with 'adharani vadu' from Shivaji. Rahman was warming up and the crowds were settling in. Cops did a good job with crowd management thanks to the high-profile event managers. The evening was spiced up further by some almost comic singing from Vijay Prakash who, if i got it right, was introduced my Rahman as one 'who belongs to this land'. I am not sure though if Vijay Prakash is a local . He simply overdid singing 'Paruvam vaanaga..' from Roja and it was fun watching him doing that on one of the numerous screens mounted all around. He continued the same later with the 'O Cheliya Naa priyasakive..' number from 'Premikudu'. The song bought back memories how BEAUTIFULLY it was sung by Unnikrishnan. If God has a voice, that was it, that was it :) Too bad, he was not around yesterday. But then, this was more than made up with an explosive performance of 'Koncham Neeru Knocham Nippu..' from 'Donga Donga'. The dancers were amazing in the song.

Rahman who worked mainly in Tamil and Hindi and whose original Tamil songs are dubbed into Telugu invariably gets caught in language limbo when performing in Hyderabad. Someone who grew up mesmerised by Lata Mangeshkar's 'Jiya jale zaa jale' in Dil se would find it hard to take that song sung in Telugu. In fact, I was shocked when the beautiful 'Fiqraana' from Blue was sung in Telugu! I mean this movie, unlike Dil Se, didn't even work and no one knows it's Telugu songs. So the choice to sing in Telugu is baffling especially when the Hindi version of the song is so popular. Similarly, Jashn E Bahaara is sung in Telugu. In fact songs from 'Shivaji' should have been sung in Telugu instead of Tamil as they are popular here. This limbo somehow highlights the immense success Rahman enjoyed all over the country.

While the strictly Hindi audience revelled in numbers from 'Delhi 6 (Rehna Tu)',' Jodha Akbar ', Rang De Basanti, Rangeela and Dil Se (title song), Telugu and Tamil audience revelled in numbers from 'Sakhi', 'Roja', 'Shivaji', 'Bombay', 'Yuva', 'Premikudu', 'Amritha'. Some other wildly successful performances have been 'Mustafa Mustafa..' and a sitar instrumental. Blaaze simply rocked and almost everyone grooved wildly for 'Humma Humma..'. Talk about growing up years and their influences we carry forever.

Almost everyone would have felt bored with a GMR and Saakshi TV sponsered tribute for YSR with 'Sarfaroshi ki tamanna..'. I only thanked Rahman in my heart for sparing 'Lukka Chuppi..' for the same! In addition to this song, I missed some more like 'Masakkali', 'Thee Thee Thiyyani (Donga Donga), something from 'Iddaru' etc..But then not all from a 2 decade career can be accomodated in a single show. After all, we need another ARR Live :)

Rahman aptly closed the concert with 'Jai Ho' and 'Vandemataram' with some stunning fireworks lighting up the sky and the crowds grooving and clapping. Jai Ho Rahman. We trooped out, caught a cab, had a laugh about Vijay Prakash, and were discussing AR Rahman and his first name while the Muslim cab driver proudly chipped in. Rahman, what a leveller!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Blue: Bollywood's shame

AR Rahman could have as well made Blaaze and co sing '....Blues...' instead of '..Blueeeeeeeeeeee, Buluuu..'! The headache we are rewarded with for watching this far overwhelms the only plus of the movie - the songs. It is entirely believable if we are told Rahman took up this assignment just because if was paid a bomb. Nothing else could have inspired him to take up a dumb project like this. Well,my focus in this post is on him because his association lured me to go watch this. Otherwise i would have struck to my long standing rule of watching movies based only on the sole criteria - the filmmaker. A debutant director here poured in a 100 crores to dish this trash, almost with a confidence of making another Dhoom2 on an extra large scale! It's unbelievable. Not a single scene looked imaginative! Dialogues are dumb and aimless. Even the superb songs are picturised with little taste. Just see Fiqraana to get my point. There is no soul. All we are dished out are those stunts we can sit home and watch in star movies. Collectively, all actors can say this is their worst movie in acting department. The credit goes to the debutant director. It is a shame to call this Bollywood's most ambitious project just because the makers had too much money to waste. And about Rahman's choices, I learnt my lesson. I will Stick to my rules.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Do we know Mr.Gandhi!?

October 2nd has become inexplicable as a public Holiday. It's not a flag-hoisting day or is it a religious festival day. Nor does anyone, including our scores of print/electronic media channels spare a serious thought about the person whose birthday we are supposedly celebrating this day.

For Indian public, Gandhi remained a caricature, whom we routinely tag with a few fancy words like 'ahimsa', 'truth','vegetarianism', etc. He is deified and so it automatically meant no one, being mortal, should even try to understand him as a person. We are told from our childhood that he asked us to show another cheek if we are slapped on one. What he actually meant through those words in not explained in any school or college textbook. We are asked to literally follow it as blindly as we follow our religions. Gandhi, we are lectured, is the new god.

What triggered this post is a new Telugu movie - Krishna Vamshi's 'Mahatma'. Any logically thinking person would come out after watching it swearing non-violence is a stupid idea! Consider this, the hero just survives the 'climax' purely because of luck - the bad guys by mistake ended up killing each other. Earlier, in the mandatory climax-fight the hero refuses to fight because he embraced mahatma and his ahimsa! Bucket loads of hero's blood was being spilled out by the bad guys in the movie and yet the hero refuses to put up a fight because we are told that is what ahimsa means - just stay put even if the villain is going to ram a truck onto you. Now with this kind of interpretation of Gandhism, we are not surprised with the common man's indifference to Gandhism. They end up saying Gandhi afforded to be that because he was mahatma while they being mortals can't afford to embrace his principles. Period.

I think a good tribute we can pay to our father of the nation is to spare some time to go through his autobiography, at least on October 2nd when we have a full day of free time. The book, having been written by Gandhi himself, leaves no scope to misinterpretation. If folks like Krishna Vamshi, who obviously didn't take the pain to read the book, can not find time to spare or just finds it too demanding to sit and read, they can contribute to Gandhism in their own way - by not speaking about it! After all it is grave injustice to misinterpret Gandhi's principles as irrational and just altruistic and forever alienate the uninitiated, especially the young from them.

Gandhism: Missing the wood for the trees!?
When we discuss Gandhi, we have to bear in mind the age he lived in, the people he dealt with and strategised for and against. He was no god, not even an apostle. He was shrewd and was a man of convictions. He was a England educated barrister, lived in the diverse South Africa, enriched his worldview enough for being rational. He called his own autobiography 'The story of my Experiments with Truth'. He devised his principles rationally over a period of time and not on some blind faith. He went testing with each principle through his own experiments and stood by them once they passed out. In fact he went on to say in his autobiography that no one should follow him as he is on his own path of self-discovery through his own experiments. He said he may have to switch paths for a better one, if he finds one, after a period of time and so he advised his followers to think on their own before committing to follow him. He went on to mention how he failed initially in his pursuit of non-violence, truthfulness, celibacy, vegetarianism, alternate medicine etc.. Gandhi is the same man who beat his wife, ate meat, succumbed to carnal desires despite vows of celibacy, failed to rescue his son despite his belief in hydropathy medicine. He discussed his failures elaborately and that is the cornerstone of his fearless character that later came to be referred to as Mahatma. Gandhi's success is not as much about his principles of ahimsa, truthfulness, celibacy, vegetarianism etc as it is about the path he took to experiment, evolve and adhere to these principles. Making Gandhi synonymous with ahimsa and truth is like missing the wood for the trees! There was rationality behind his principles and unless they are understood, Gandhi and his principles can not be understood or appreciated.

For instance, Gandhi advocated ahimsa as the way to achieve independence not just because he wanted to avoid human casualties in the struggle but because it was the only feasible solution to achieve independence. By eschewing violence, Gandhi forced the British too not to use their army and firepower. This was a strategic move that would not just weaken the oppostion (in South Africa and in India) but paves way for a civilian engagement where voices of reason would be heard. The rules of the game were hence changed by Gandhi when he forced the British to discuss the rights of natives over table. The British were denied a chance to violently put down the freedom struggle as the freedom fighters themselves refused to be violent. For all the civilizational glow they painted their empire in, the British had no way but to engage the Indians in a dialogue. In this non-violent struggle, the masses hence followed Gandhi as they realized sooner or latter the numbers would matter and reason would be heard and they were proved right. It is this strategic thinking of Gandhi that influenced leaders of the civil rights movements, including those of Martin Luther King, James Lawson, Nelson Mandela, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Steve Biko, Dalai Lama, Aung San Suu Kyi across the world. While Indian media never tires of trumpeting this fact, it hardly finds any time to find the reason for this. Not for nothing was he TIME magazine's man of the year in 1930. He made major achievements through mass moments like Champaran with his principles. Gandhi was a man of action, not words and it is high time we grasp about Gandhi, the agitator to understand the Mahatma halo we are shown around him.

To further strengthen the struggle, shrewd Gandhi went on to use religion as well as the common unifier despite the diverse languages and regional historical backgrounds across the country. Otherwise how would a distant Punjabi or Gujarati find a common cause with a Madrasi in an age where there is no TV or Internet? Gandhi was the think-tank that made it possible. Using the same religion now in politics produces disastrous results. This is an aspect which importantly shows that Gandhi's strategies and principles have to be seen and understood against the age they were designed in. Gandhi was pragmatic and so should we be.

Gandhi's strength is his conviction and his efforts to follow celibacy were to be read to understood what it means to adhere to a principle. He would cut down on all diet that he thinks would contribute to carnal desires in human body. This showed how practical Gandhi was. So when someone tries speaking about Gandhi's principles, it is apt if they explain the logic behind those principles too. If we are not informed, let us learn about them instead of dumbyfying Gandhi into a god.

It is nauseating to repeatedly hear a question like 'Are Gandhi's principles relevant to this age' every year on TV shows on his birthday?. I have only one thing to say - to know if something is relevant, first get to know it! If people are too busy to learn about him, why make a sham about him in discussions and movies?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Mahatma: Krishna Vamshi fails to measure up

Krishna Vamshi's ambitious 'Mahatma' evoked much interest as it is the first Telugu film with Gandhi as central theme. Especially with a top-notch 'Lage Raho Munnabhai' setting the trend, I had some anticipation on what KV has to say. After all here is the guy who is capable of a 'Sindhuram'. Of course he later veered off to produce some insensitive mass stuff like 'Khadgam' and 'Raakhi'. I thought he would be back to his 'Sindhuram' touch with 'Mahatma' but then KV showed he had no such plans. Mahatma as a regular Telugu film is average but as a film about Gandhi will be rated miserable.

KV, unlike lyricist Sitarama Sastry, does not show an understanding of Gandhi's principles. Sastry's lyrics about Gandhi are the high-point of the film and conveys the spirit of Gandhian principles and how we caricatured him in our present age due to our ignorance but KV does not carry forward any of that seriousness from songs into the movie. The hero claims to fight non-violently when in fact he does not even fight. Being non-violent does not mean being inactive and let things happen. Nor did it mean self-immolation! Did Gandhi say things would just fall into place if we just sit there in the middle of the problem non-violently or kill ourselves!? In fact in the climax, the hero refuses to fight the bad guys but gets away with his life purely on luck. That does not in anyway vindicate Gandhi's non-violent principle. Does it? My sky-high admiration for Raju Hirani grew even more after watching this fare. So bland is this one. Ironically, this has bucket loads of blood and a self-immolation scene, which again is supposed to be non-violent. If that's not enough, we have YSR's snap all over in the titles and in the movie. Wow, that's the cherry on the cake..YSR lauded in a movie preaching non-violence. Ultimate tribute i should say. Gandhi would have turned in his grave, that is if he were not cremated.

The biggest negative is that the movie couldn't focus on Gandhi and instead meandered aimlessly touching other topics like politics and Telugu film industry. The duets are misplaced and not even great to bear with. They slow the film down. While 'Mahatma' and non-violence preaching looked half-hearted in execution,the titillating item songs and few gratifying fight sequences are superbly executed! In fact hero Srikanth poured his heart out in these sequences! Maybe they are the only scenes where he is not confused :) Another positive is the casting. The actors suited the roles to the T. The guy who played Dada's (Jayaprakash Reddy's) son was superb as is the lady who plays his sister. The scene where the lady kicks Srikanth from behind is one flash in the pan that speaks eloquently of the creative director. KV also cleverly tries creating some sequences as pointers to real-life events for entertainment. So Ahuti Prasad's appa reminds us of Veerappa Moily sent by 'high-command'. The shooting episode resembles similar one involving congressman KK's son. The Gandhinagar constituency delimitation sequence reminds us of Khairatabad and the subsequent dynastic politics involving election contest of PJR's son and daughter. While the movie is littered with these details which shows that KV keenly follows regular politics, he hardly gives us any new insight or revelation into the affairs which is what we require especially in this serious subject. Even in his previous ventures like 'Raakhi' and 'Khadgam', KV did the same. He emotionally empties himself out but does not coherently say something meanigful at the end of the movie. On the otherhand, he picturized romantic sequences very well even in these otherwise serious movies. It looks KV is much more at ease with light-hearted romatic subjects. 'Ninne Pelladutha' was a trendsetter. I even liked his 'Sasirekha Parinayam' as it looked effortless and subtely gave the message even while entertaining. Here, it is just that this movie is not a honest attempt to understand and unveil the Mahatma, so it does not have a soul and fails in the core.