Monday, January 31, 2005
Monday, January 24, 2005
Success is a sweet poison. It smoothens the rough road ahead and then as the person prepares for a smooth ride, it dumps him by disguising itself as the unexpected pothole of others’ higher expectations. Even more so, if success is as humungous as that of Lagaan. Lagaan, Ashutosh Gowarikar’s oscar-nominated mega success, not only ensured that Swades began with a full house but also that eight out of ten people came back dissatisfied, thus ensuring a lower turnout in the days that followed. The damp squib that Swades turned out to be at the box office would’ve left Ashutosh Gowarikar feeling like a snake that has bitten its own tail.
Swades, unlike most of the contemporary movies pitted against it, is smeared in honesty. Lets start with the names. The ‘h’ in Swades(h) is conspicuous by its absence, and yet that is precisely how the rural Hindi populace pronounce it. After an eternity, we came across a mainstream movie that didn’t have seductively named lead characters such as “the Raj Malhotras and the Rahul Srivastavs” but chose instead to give them largely unglamorous and yet much more quotidian names.
Kudos to Ashutosh Gowarikar for restraining the unruly horse called Shahrukh. Shahrukh, who needs dramatics to survive and emotional catharsis to thrive, was completely subdued and yet gave arguably his best performance ever. The actor has done an amazing job even without his characteristic K-K-K-K-Kacophonic lilt of overacting. Be it the presentation scene at NASA or his argument with ‘Geeta’ (Gayatri), he has hardly shown the kind of restraint and right emotional expressions to boot in any other movie as he does in Swades. Arguably the best dressed Bollywood actor ever, Shahrukh restrains himself here as well; he dresses like a mortal in Swades and rightly so.
Gayatri Joshi ‘Geeta’ has a refreshing screen presence. Her confidence gives an impression that the role was tailor-made for her. The debutante manages to hold her own against Shahrukh, which is a good start to have. But a tad less make-up on her would’ve done well to augment the authentic theme of the movie.
Rahman’s music makes subtle transitions from the foot tapping and the hummable to the mellifluous. One wonders how easily he flows from folk to pop and back. He just can’t stop inspiring awe.
The songs, although good, are a tad too long. This affects the overall length of the movie; an aspect the director needs to improve upon. Unlike other movie songs though, songs in Swades don’t hold the movie to ransom. They are situational and the story continues to flow through them, which is a welcome relief.
Ashutosh needs accolades for not succumbing to commercial pressure. The movie breathes nobility and sincerity of purpose from start to end. Any individual who is not able to serve the cause he so dearly espouses will share Mohan’s sense of ennui. The dialogs are simple and yet effective. He rightly shelved the unwarranted ‘filmy’ rhetoric, especially the ones on patriotism, which in some movies border on jingoism. Lagaan was about winning over your adversary. Swades is about winning over yourself. The analogy is akin to what Buddha, Christ and more recently Mahatma Gandhi had preached. “If someone slaps you on one cheek, show him your other cheek”. Doing that is a distant dream; we’d rather punch him on both his cheek and bludgeon him to his handicap. Showing your other cheek requires winning over yourself and is not a cowardly act as is so often made out to be. This is precisely where Swades failed. In our failure to win over ourselves, to see beyond our immediate benefit for the holistic good and to dare go beyond the expected and ‘pragmatic’ reactions to events, Swades was doomed.
Swades they say is too preachy. But the movie is far better than the much-abused good-wins-over-evil gibberish, senseless romantic melodrama and the forced-to-laugh comedies that Bollywood dishes out ad nauseum. It shows us a way out of our rut. The least we could do is watch and appreciate the effort. Our failure to do so makes me think we’ve reached the wrong end of societal cul-de-sac and yet seem to enjoy it so much that we even fail to appreciate a sincere effort to take us out of our self-imposed predicament.
Swades is a flop. Not because it was deemed to be so by the box office. Box office is too insignificant a measure to measure the depth of this movie. Swades will remain a flop until it brings out a “Mohan Bhargav” from atleast one of the Indians who earlier chose to blame ‘others’ for or to gloss over the rampant malaise that plagues our society. One “Mohan Bhargav” for any village in India is worth much more than the millions a hit Swades would’ve generated. The day that happens, Swades will meet its success. Box office is a nonentity. It always was.
Is it Swades that has failed us or is it ‘We, the people’, who’ve failed ‘our’ Swades?
Saturday, January 01, 2005
Today, as I sit introspecting my life in this moment of solitude, I ask myself a question, the answer to which is very subtle; subtle enough to give me a new realization, a new perspective to look at things around. The question is, “What is it that is essentially different about my infant and toddler days that causes my memory to fail from any other stage in my life, the events of which I can recollect fairly easily?”
The answer to this question cannot be given in a statement or two. The answer is a realization that your consciousness should slowly absorb as you read on.
You’re more likely to remember the things and experiences you think are ‘important’ to you. The word ‘Important’, in itself, is deep enough for philosophers to write books on. But for the scope of this write-up suffice it to say that you deem ‘Important’ a thing or an experience that gives you happiness or robs your happiness. Bottomline: Anything that meddles with YOUR happiness is IMPORTANT to YOU.
This realization alters the above question to, “Why are infants and toddlers not able to differentiate between things that are important and those not so important to them?”
To understand this, we need to change our perspective a bit. ‘Important’ is a relative term. What is important to one may be entirely useless to another. So what is the reference point that gives the word ‘Important’ the relativity it enjoys? That reference point is none but your royal highness – “The I-ness”. This 'I-ness' is nothing but your 'ego'. Ego is nothing but your soul identifying itself with your body. What is it that you refer to when you use the words such as ‘I, me, myself and mine”? If it’s not the body that you refer to with these words, then you’re an enlightened soul and may choose to discontinue reading further.
If you’re reading this line, then we both are in the same boat. Welcome aboard.
An infant’s soul doesn’t yet identify itself with the body. So, the infant doesn’t have what we call an ego. All it has is the bliss of a soul that has not yet forgotten its true identity even when it is bound by a physical cage. Hence the body is not yet the center of its consciousness. Put differently, the soul is an infant’s reference point. For us, the so-called grown-ups, the ego is the reference point. This shift in reference points is another reason why we struggle to reach the bliss that an infant so naturally seems to possess.
Take a small experiment to understand this well. You’ll hate me for the crudity of this experiment but also love me for the insight it will bring forth. Slap a kid or a grown up and see what happens. The former cries and the latter hits back. There will be so much negativity around. In either case, if you want normalcy to be restored between them and yourself, you’ll have to apologize or explain the reasons behind your action. In short, you’ll have to heal their hurt ego. Now slap an infant. It’ll cry, as the action will cause pain. But does it harbor any negative thoughts against you? Not quite. Its reference point is the soul. And you can’t hurt a soul. The moment the physical pain subsides, it returns to its bliss and you’re welcome to play with it. No apologies or explanations needed. This aspect of an infant brings it on par with God realized saints and prophets who could think of giving back forgiveness and love even in the midst of hatred, jealousy and treachery towards them.
An infant, with the soul as its reference point, doesn’t take the bodily experiences as ‘IMPORTANT’ and hence doesn’t register them in its consciousness. As the infant grows, the soul faces cosmic amnesia and starts identifying itself with the body. Slowly, the ego becomes its reference point and it starts registering the bodily experiences as they slowly become more and more ‘IMPORTANT’ helping him remember them better.
Another reason to call a child the father of man?
So think for a second what you’re doing when you ask an infant or a toddler what his or her name is. You’re giving the body a name. You’re making a soul identify itself with the body. But you’re not doing anything wrong here. The very fact that the soul needed to take birth proves that there is an earthly purpose it has to fulfill. For this, the soul has to identify itself with the body. You’re merely a channel in helping the soul shift its reference point. We all are channels for a purpose much bigger than our brains, in the current state of evolution, could comprehend.
Enjoy your life. It has a purpose to achieve; no matter how useless it seems.