Friday, January 18, 2008

Star Light Star Bright

Clearly, Indian movies are moving in the right direction: Forward. Taare Zameen Par stands testimony to this fact.

Movies that are takes on Bollywood, that are larger than life, that don't make sense: we've seen them all this year. The best was, indeed, saved for the very last.This was the very first time in all my life that I watched a movie on the very first day of its release. It is probably a regular affair for most people, but I have never been able to do this before. I went in with very high expectations knowing that Aamir Khan wouldn't let me down.

The movie is about how parents and teachers deal with dyslexia. Taare Zameen Par's appeal lies in the "real"ness of it all. There is nothing in the movie that I couldn't relate to. Funny in parts, serious at others, but touching for the entire duration. This is not a funny, feel good movie, but one that makes you think.

Being the daughter of not one, but two, teachers, I have always considered myself very close to the education system in India. My mother taught children who were starting the process (kindergarten) and my father taught those who were completing it (undergrad, grad, doctoral and post doc students). Through my mother, I have known enough and more children who confuse their "b"s and their "d"s, their "p"s and their "q"s. I have seen the parents of these children deal with what was until then unknown to them: dyslexia. I've seen teachers who didn't understand what this was all about and recommending admitting the child to an institute for mentally retarded children. And I've seen parents grapple with the mere thought. All this at a time when information was not widely available as it is today.

Maybe I had some background and so thought this film was great. But then again, maybe not. I think anyone who watches this film can relate to it. In its entirety or in parts. I could dissect this film and talk about the glitches and how it could have been made better. But I think the whole is always greater than the sum of the parts. I cried during many scenes and I also noticed many people wiping away tears.

I have had my share of bad experiences at school despite being, for most part, a topper. And I've seen some students get lousy treatment. And many of the children in my school were first generation literates. I can only imagine how traumatic it could have been for them. This film took me back to those days. To a time when my parents threatened to put me in a boarding school if I didn't behave. (God alone knows how much I misbehaved hoping they'd keep their word.) To a time when I wandered the streets after school to reach home two hours after I should have. To a time when my brother and I thought it was a great idea to catch worms in a bottle and name them "Krishna". To a time that should have been the most carefree, yet, in retrospect, seems like the most stressful.

Everyone in the movie has acted so well that it is difficult to move away from the realness of it all. I wonder if there'll be another one that will strike a chord somewhere anytime soon. Great going Aamir. May your tribe increase.

Monday, January 14, 2008

First and Last

I have never been an avid movie watcher. And Indian movies have never made it big on my already tiny "Must Watch" list. I am picky about the movies I watch. And among Indian films, I'd probably watch selected Tamil and Hindi films. At one point, I was watching some Malayalam films as well, but I don't think DD has that "regional movie with subtitles every Sunday" now.

Last Saturday, I had precious little to do apart from bunches of greens that had to be cleaned and put away. Channel surfing brought me to a song and dance sequence that seemed terrible. I was commenting to my husband that the sequence seemed right out of some third rate Telugu movie. We were debating the A.P. connection and ended up watching the entire movie. We made fun of the predictability of the scenes, expressed irritation at the lewd dialogues and "cheap" humour, but we watched the movie to the end. (That's four bunches of fenugreek and spinach in all!) This movie was, as it turned out, Loafer.

We stepped out for lunch and some shopping and then returned home. I told S that I wanted to watch another "pheku" or "time pass" movie. We started surfing and came to a channel where the screen flashed, "A film by David Dhawan". S said, "This is probably as "pheku" as it gets." This movie turned out to be "Raja Babu". We didn't watch it till the end. It would have been impossible for any self respecting human being to watch that movie without squirming. The script was full of innuendos. The plot was so sick. This was the very first Govinda movie that I watched. I couldn't believe what I was watching. The dances were so horrible that I felt they might as well have shown porn.

What were they thinking? Insulting the sensibilities of the public. Such movies give ideas to people if they didn't have them before. And reinforced stuff like "working in the kitchen is a woman's job" etc. This really makes me a little judgmental. Of people who watch David Dhawan's movies. And of Govinda's fans. I agree that I chose to watch these movies. They were not forced upon me. But I was truly appalled at the quality of the films. People call me a snob because I am picky about the films I watch. If these are examples of "movie for the masses", I think I'm better off this way.

I just saw the list of movies that he has directed so far and found that I'd not watched any of his films... except for... wait... want to guess?... Loafer!!!! That made it two David Dhawan movies in one day. I swore on Saturday never to watch a David Dhawan film again in my life. Nothing will ever change that.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Small is Beautiful

I am extremely excited about the Tata Nano. I am unable to contain my excitement. My mother promised to gift me one whenever it is released. But that's not the only reason I am excited.

I have always been worried about the scooter or the motorcycle being the complete family vehicle. This car will change that. OK, the basic model doesn't have an AC... but no motorcycle or scooter that I have seen has one. In the last 24 hours, I have met so many people who feel this car shouldn't be on the roads. That this is the biggest mistake the Tatas are making. That our roads will be congested. That too many people will be able to afford it. Somehow I think the fact that everybody can afford something that would make their lives a little easier and a little safer is a good thing. Not something we should complain about. But maybe people in India think of cars as a luxury. Why, even I did, for a long time. But maybe the people's car will mean that it will cease to be a status symbol. Maybe that's why people are worried.

If you ask me, it is the huge Mercs and BMWs that congest our roads. Not the likes of the Nano. There's no hue and cry about the number of luxury limos that come into the country. Our roads seem to be OK with them. But when there is a small beauty that everyone can afford, it becomes something we are not OK with. I am more convinced that we are either a nation of hypocrites or one of confused souls.

At the end of the day, I feel that most of the criticism for the Nano is because it is a Tata car. When we bought our vehicle last year, there were so many people, including some of our "closest" friends, who asked us if we were planning to start a taxi service. Just because we own an Indica. I have never felt my pride dip even once. I'd much rather drive a Tata Car than any other. I was all set on the Marina as our next car, but now I think I'd love the Nano more.

We plan to go and check the baby out at the Auto Expo. I was least excited until the news of Nano's release came out. Babies take 9 months and mothers and grandmothers do get excited. So, it is normal for my mother and I to feel this way. We shall await our little one.

It is a huge step forward for the car industry, for the Tatas, and for India. It is a bonus that it is as cute as it is. Maybe we can have Nano autos. And maybe more people will make fun of me then for driving around town in it. But I will never be ashamed to be seen in a Tata car a.k.a. a People's car. I hope this car meets with success. I hope for a safer and accident free India. I can only wish Ratan Tata well. What I (and millions like me) dreamt of, he has achieved. I hope that it will replace the two wheeler as India's family vehicle.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Promoting Promiscuity?

A few months ago, I noticed an ad on TV. This was after days of having my mother ask me if I'd seen it. It was for an OTC drug called i-pill. The drug helps terminate an unwanted pregnancy.

Since then, I have noticed at least 2 other drugs being advertised. And I am shocked to say the very least. As with cigarette packets, the advertisement for the pill carries a statutory warning:

Important safety aspects: i-pill is neither a regular contraceptive nor an abortion pill. It is not a substitute for condoms and does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS.

How does this help? While on the one hand, we claim to be promoting sex education and are attempting to create greater awareness, on the other hand, we sell pregnancy termination drugs across the counter without a prescription. Are these the elements that a progressive society is made up of? While we have guys who are shy to pick up a pack of condoms, we expect our girls to pick up a drug such as this without as much as a prescription. No checks and balances in this system. Nothing that says "practice safe sex". Instead we have a product that says, 'Go ahead, have fun. If the girl happens to suffer later, that's fine." We seem to be treating the symptom than the disease.

While the advertisers are targeting married couples who may want to avoid an unplanned pregnancy, I think the real and bigger market is elsewhere. It is in our schools and colleges, our hostels and universities. Most married couples I have met have their own ways of preventing unwanted pregnancies. None of them involves swallowing a pill such as this. Of course I understand that my sample for this exercise has its limitations. Somehow I feel that this pill will give more power to molestors. It will give kids a different degree of independence that they, in my humble opinion, are not mature enough to handle. I feel that all this is nothing but promoting promiscuity.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Another New Year

Another new year has sprung itself upon us. I have resolved to keep this blog active and I fully intend to not let this become one of "those" new year resolutions that are broken in the first week. As long as I have things to write about, I think I will.

Most of my resolutions for 2008 are joint ones. The only independent resolutions are about this blog and my other blog: The Singing Chef. The rest pertain to food, fitness and finances.

What are your plans/resolutions for 2008? I'd love to hear from you.

Happy New Year!