Saturday, March 10, 2018

My Way or Thai Way

कोई मेरे दिल से पूछे तेरे तीर-ए-नीम-कश को
ये खलिश कहां से होती जो जिगर के पार होता

Koi mere dil se poochhe tere teer-e-neemkash ko
Ye khalish kahan se hoti jo jigar ke paar hota.

(Translation: Ask me how this arrow of yours feels embedded in my chest. I would not have this itch if it had gone clean through.)
It loses a lot in translation but a full explanation another time.

This is basically how I feel about Thailand. After spending 6 days there I feel like we merely scratched the surface. Everything I managed to do I want to do again and more of, whereas everything I missed I definitely want to attempt on the next try.

It was not the typical pleasure-seeking Thailand trip that a whole lot of people go there for. Instead, this was a family trip very much in keeping in with the tradition of my trips when I come to India. The difference was that this time we were headed for an off-India destination.

We picked Thailand for its nearness to India and its relaxed visa regulations. Also we had heard a lot about its beaches and its natural beauty. So we packed our bags and shot off to Bangkok by Jet Airways to try and make some great memories of this land of Buddha.

Even though we got to see the pretty beaches we had heard of that was not the most beautiful feature of the country. That credit goes to the people. Knowledge of English was a scarce and sought-after commodity in this country but that didn’t stop the natives from trying to help the silly tourists. Yes, we were the silly ones for not knowing the Thai language, they were in their country, why should they learn English for our benefit?

While we were there I did try and pick-up a few words of Thai from Google and YouTube and my efforts were well-rewarded. I always got a beautiful smile from the people whenever I tried a Thai word, even when I got it completely wrong.

It took me 6 days to learn to say “thank you” in Thai (for a male, it’s kob-shun-krup), but more important than the words is the intonation. It seems that you cannot speak Thai unless you smile with it. Nobody understood my thank you in Thai until I started to say it in the same cheerful, sing-song tone the Thai people use when speaking.

Swimming in the ocean, shooting the gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, playing in the sand, visiting the shrines...we did a lot and still it feels like we needed another 6 months there. At least. A return trip is definitely indicated some time in the future.

We came back with camera-full of photos and heart-full of wonderful memories.

Now, I can see why I have never heard anyone say that they didn’t like Thailand and why so many people I know are addicted to this haven of leisurely fun and natural beauty.

[This time the photo is not from Google. It's my own shot of Sunset from Kata beach. No Photoshop.]

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

धीरे धीरे रे मना

धीरे धीरे रे मना धीरे सब कुछ होय माली सींचे सौ घड़ा ऋतू आये फल होय 

चाहे कितने ही घड़े पानी के डाल लो फल तभी होगा जब उसकी ऋतू आएगी। फल धीरे धीरे पकता है..

मैं तो कहता हूँ ज़िन्दगी में अच्छी चीज़ें धीरे धीरे ही होती हैं. सुनी है वो ग़ज़ल "रफ्ता रफ्ता वो मेरी  हस्ती का सामां हो गए..."? रफ्ता रफ्ताा यानी धीरे धीरे, क्या समझे?

फिर जगजीत सिंह जी ने भी तो गयी है वो ग़ज़ल अमीर मीनाई की -
सरकती जाए है रुख से नक़ाब आहिस्ता आहिस्ता 
निकलता आ रहा है आफ़ताब आहिस्ता आहिस्ता 

आफ़ताब यानी सूरज। जो  पूरी दुनिया को रोशन करता है. धीरे धीरे ही निकलता है न?

और शेर अर्ज़ किया है कि ...
जवां होने लगे  जब वो तो हम से कर लिया पर्दा 
हया यक-लख्त आयी और शबाब आहिस्ता आहिस्ता 

तो शबाब यानी जवानी और खूबसूरती वो तो धीरे धीरे आया और हया यानी शर्म जिसने हमारे हीरो पे इतना गज़ब ढाया वो खटाक से आ गयी।

धीरे धीरे का हमारे जीवन में बहुत महत्व है
दोस्ती धीरे धीरे गहरी होती है
प्यार धीरे धीरे परवान चढ़ता है

और दुश्मनी एक सेकंड में हो जाती है.
मुसीबत फटाक से  आती है
दुर्घटना एक पल में घट जाती है और बहुत बार जल्दी की वजह से घटती है

अंग्रेजी में कहते हैं
Haste makes waste.

और हिंदी में कहते हैं -  जल्दी का काम शैतान का

तो जल्दी और जल्दबाज़ी से तौबा कीजिये और इस शायर की बात पर गौर कीजिये जिसने धीरे धीरे के  सिद्धांत को न सिर्फ समझा है बल्कि पूरी तरह से आत्मसात कर लिया है

लगा लाये तो हैं उन्हें राह पर बातों बातों में 
और खुल जाएंगे दो-चार मुलाकातों में 

Monday, January 22, 2018

My Thesis on Laziness

People pick on me for being lazy. And I let them. Fighting with everybody is too much effort.

Hmm, maybe I am lazy?

But then who isn't?

I propose that laziness is a human being's native, stable state. Being lazy is what we aspire to. We strive for laziness all our lives.

You don't believe me?

Okay, consider this. Non-lazy people work, right?

What do they work for... Retirement.

That's the end goal, isn't it?

And what do people do after they retire?

  • They sleep till late. 
  • They read the newspaper. 
  • They lounge around. 
  • They have a drink at noon. 
  • They eat. 
  • They sleep. 

Sounds pretty lazy to me. 

Okay, I can see you are not convinced. I will give you another example.

What is it that you must do at least once a year or you'll go mad? Take vacations.

Everybody takes vacations as much as they can afford. Once a year, twice a year, once every month...whatever they can afford.

And what do people do on vacation?

  • They sleep till 10. 
  • Order breakfast from room service. 
  • Lounge around the pool. 
  • Have a mojito by the pool. 
  • Take a lazy swim in the pool. 
  • Lounge some more. 
  • Have another drink. 

What does this sound like? I will give you a starts with an L and rhymes with "hazy". 
Yes, LAZY!
It's lazy behaviour.

I think I have made my point though I had many more examples but you know...I am feeling lazy!

If you are not feeling lazy, leave a comment. 

Friday, January 12, 2018

Movie Review - Shandaar - Salvage Operation

This was a flop, it was a train wreck. It has already been ridiculed in news stories and award functions so let's take that as granted.

You know this word - salvage? From a wreck, from the scene of a total loss what can be gathered or saved, that's salvage.

Considering that Shandaar is already a spectacular wreck let's see what we can salvage from it. It does have some pretty long animation sequences which are like its cardinal sins and some actor choices that I am sure the director regretted pretty quickly. But what does it do right?

The story. It does actually have basic story with some sub-plots. Most Hindi films only have basic story (lots of Hollywood ones too),  so that's at part with the industry. Two families coming together for a destination wedding that's also a business deal. The bride is fat, the groom is an asshole who doesn't appreciate her and the family is oppressive. This is the backdrop against which the love story of Shahid and Alia is played out. Shahid is the wedding planner and Alia is the bride's adopted orphan sister.

Characters. The cast of characters is good and varied, many of them are caricaturish but chalk that up to its mistakes. There are 4 main characters though that I really liked - 1. Vipin or Beeps (Pankaj Kapoor), Jagjinder Joginder or Tent House (Shahid Kapoor), Alia (Alia Bhatt), Isha (Sanah Kapoor).

That leads us to the actors. The performances by these 4 are excellent and watchable. The director has tried to leverage the Pankaj Kapoor-Shahid Kapoor real life relationship for comedy, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't but they both perform well.

Alia looks lovely, I do like her as an actress but Sanah Kapoor as the chubby bride-to-be Isha is what took my heart and the reason I decided to write this review. She's a sweet, warm-hearted person and has an adorable smile. Her genuine love for her adopted sister Alia, actually I should say the love shared between the two step-sisters, leads to a few nice, sweet scenes in the film.

I maintain that even a terrible film usually has a few scenes, or at least one that can be salvaged from it. Or maybe a quote, or a message, or a visual. Like Justice League. The movie was so bad I called it a bitter disappointment and was really angry with Zack Snyder for this crap. But it had many Wonder Woman scenes that were worth watching. Shandaar has many nice, worth-watching scenes.

There is some comedy in Shandaar which makes you smile and maybe a few moments which make laugh out loud.

Music is okay. Not great, but the Gulaabo song became popular when the movie first came out.

One of my tests for a film is - does it make you care about the characters and what happens to them? Shandaar does. The situation in the story is like - an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. Something's gotta give. You want to know how it gets resolved. On that topic, the climax was also alright, entertaining and open-ended enough to make it a good ending.

Conclusion: Watch it with low expectations and you may be pleasantly surprised. 

Monday, December 25, 2017

Movie Review - Firangi - Excellent Entertainer

"My movie is coming near year - Firangi".

Kapil has been talking about it for so long that you can't even remember how long.

Firangi is his second film. His first one was a pure comedy whereas Firangi, his home production, is more of a romance-drama-social-comedy kind of film.

It's a period film, set in the 1920's, the pre-independence India. It would be hard to believe now that the movie has come out but I have thought about this topic many times before. Here's my angle.

There are some topics, or themes, which have...let's call it consensus after the fact. It's kind of a universal hindsight. In hindsight easy to see that what the correct choice was. Similarly this is something that everybody agrees on after it has happened. Like everybody knows now that Gandhi was a shrewd politician, but not at the time!

Another case in point is Brexit. There's a great majority against it now but not when it happened. There are many thing like that.

This whole thing about Indian independence is like that. Right now after 6 decades of the independence everybody agrees that it was a good thing that we fought for it and got it. There's no doubt about it now. But often I have wondered if I had lived in that age would I have struggled for the independence? Right now it's easy, everybody thinks that they would have been in Bhagat Singh's party if they had lived in that time.

Being honest with myself I question it. Would I have been a freedom fighter. Or would I have chosen the path of the least resistance and found some logical, rational, common-sense argument to convince myself that my first duty lay with taking care of my family? There's enough evidence of that sort of thinking with me. I have worked on my career, my job, taking care of my family. How many revolutions have I taken part in? None. Not even a single march on the parliament. So I have wondered about that many times.

This story is also about a person who is not joining the movement for the struggle for independence. His first and foremost consideration is to find a job. And since the better paying, more available jobs are things that you can do in the British government he tries to find a job in the police. That's the beginning of the story. From there it goes on with showing how he finds a job with the top British officer as an orderly. And how he makes peace with the fact by thinking that the Brits are also not such bad people.

From there on the story goes on to include a king, a corrupt, frivolous type of king, a corrupt British governer and the struggle over the land of a village.

The beginning of the film is a simple family life and romance kind of story. But it soon picks up speed and includes that whole tug of war over the land. Throughout the story the role of our hero - Mange - changes as well. He grows up through the story and becomes a better man.

Speaking of performances, Kapil Sharma has done a great job. I sometimes feel that he suffers from overexposure in TV. We have seen him in so many different characters in his Comedy Circus days and later in his own shows that it might seem that he has exhausted the possibilities. Fortunately, he has a lot of acting talent and carries off a new role very convincingly. It it still a delight to watch him on screen, in the funny scenes and also in the dramatic scenes.

Ishita Dutta is beautiful and believable in her role as Sergi - a village girl that Mange falls in love with. Monica Gill has done justice to her role as a princess. But then pretty much all the actors have done well in the film.

Music is a strong point of this movie. There are about 5 songs in it, all are ok, but 2 of them are really lovely, melodic pieces that take your heart. First one is "Sajna sone jaya" and the sad song, which is my most favourite and my current loop song "Sahiba russ gaiya" sung by Rahet Fateh Ali Khan saab. The lyrics and music are so beautiful that it's nice to hear it in any good voice but the original, of course, is the best. The picturisation of both the songs is also very nicely done.

And that brings to mind the cinematography. I noticed even as I was watching how wonderfully the scenes had been captured. A true visual treat that was worth watching on the big screen. Of course the editing also deserves the credit here.

Finally, the feel of the movie. It is phenomenal! Because the first part of it is about the family life and the start of Mange's love life, it's very identifiable. Having been born in the pre-whatsapp, pre-Facebook era I can vouch for the problems that he faces. In that age it was like a thousand miles from seeing the girl you immediately fell in love with and producing a love story out of thin air. That's what you see here and the situations are directly lifted from Indian village life. They feel believable and realistic but also entertaining at the same time. Kudos to the writers and the director for that.

[Spoiler Alert: Stop here if you haven't seen the movie yet. ]
[Spoiler Alert: Stop here if you haven't seen the movie yet. ]
[Spoiler Alert: Stop here if you haven't seen the movie yet. ]
[Spoiler Alert: Stop here if you haven't seen the movie yet. ]
[Spoiler Alert: Stop here if you haven't seen the movie yet. ]

Okay, you didn't stop. So, here goes.

My only gripe about the movie is that I wish they hadn't brought Gandhi in towards the climax but then, they had their own reasons.

Another one is a scene where Gandhi asks if they had done any violence in trying to solve their problem, Mange says that they didn't. But in reality they did quite a bit of violence just before that.

In conclusion: It's a worth watching movie, either with family or girlfriend. I will be getting it on the streaming or DVD as soon as it comes out to watch again. And again. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Poem: ज़िक्र उस दर्द का

ज़िक्र उस दर्द का 

चल रही थी बात, प्रियतमा थी साथ,
प्रियतमा थी साथ, चल रही थी बात,
दर्द की.
दर्द की बात थी हमने कहा,
प्रिये दर्द बहुत तड़पाता है,
न खाया जाता है, न सोया जाता  है.

वह सकुचाई, शरमाई, हौले से मुस्कुराई,
और बोली, दर्द तो सबको होता है,
प्यार में कौन चैन से सोता है,
वही दर्द तो हमें भी सताता है,
तुम्हारे बिना कहाँ रहा जाता है!

हम चौंके, "कहाँ बह रही हो?
क्यों बेतुकी बात कह रही हो?
दो लोगों को वही दर्द,
यह कहाँ सुनाई पड़ा है?
सच कहो, क्या तुम्हारा भी दांत सड़ा है?"

अब चौंकने की उसकी बारी थी
त्यौरी पर पूरी युद्ध कि तैयारी थी
बोली, "तुम भी कितने अजीब हो,
कल्पनाशक्ति से गरीब हो!
मेरे दिल में प्यार मोहब्बत की बात है,
तुम्हारे दिमाग में सड़ा हुआ दांत है!"

आह भर कर हमने बताया, 
दर्द ने कितना सताया,
"हाँ प्रिये, मैं सचमुच बड़ा अभागा हूँ,
तुम्हारी नहीं, डेंटिस्ट की याद में रात भर जागा हूँ!"
वह रूठ कर चल दी कि, "अच्छा तो जाओ,
डेंटिस्ट से ही जाकर नज़र मिलाओ.
तुम तो दिल से ज्यादा दांत के सहारे हो,
इसीलिए शायद अब तक कुंवारे हो!"

- सुनील गोस्वामी 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Joss Whedon is my personal therapist

Well, it's not like I go lie down on his couch and tell him about my childhood once a week. But when I do have issues, and not always filmmaking-related issues, his words give me solace.

I watched one of his interviews where he was talking about his feelings regarding the cancellation of Firefly. His words, as best as I can remember them:
"It's like losing an arm, you learn to tie your shoes with the left hand but the pain of loss never goes away."

Not saying that made me feel better but it did give me comfort, not just about the loss of Firefly but many other losses in life as well.

Then last night I was watching a Q&A session that he had at the Oxford Union on YouTube and someone asked him  how he feels when his ideas are not supported, or he is forced to change something because the studio wants it that way, or something doesn't get delivered the way he envisaged it.

"Rage!" He replied "Endless rage! And it never goes away either. I can take you through my career, 25 years of rage!" Although he smiled when he said that I could totally understand where he was coming from.

And again it gave me much comfort considering how I had been feeling since my last project. I am a tiny player in the vast world of show business, so if the great Joss Whedon has this rage from his previous projects, it's perfectly understandable for a mere mortal like me to have the same frustrations when things don't go my way despite best efforts.

To be honest, it made me feel good that Joss Whedon and I share the same frustrations and rage even if on radically different scales.

In the climax fight of "Avengers" Dr. Bruce Banner says to Tony Stark "That's my secret!" while he's becoming the Hulk "I am always angry!"

Joss had shared in an interview that he realized that that was him. It was him that was always angry and he could see himself in the character of Hulk that he was writing. I get it now. Totally.

So, I don't need to find a therapist, I just need to watch more Joss interviews.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Big Bang Theory - Sometimes things just click

It just made me laugh out loud so much that I wanted to keep it for later. 
(click to watch the video)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

What I learnt from my father

I learnt a lot from my father. Some things he taught me consciously, some he taught me by example which he didn't know he was teaching me and some he taught me that even I didn't know I was learning!

But learn I did!

My father was a simple man! If I have to define him in one word it would be that. He had no pretensions, no delusions that he was a very wise man with a lot to teach, no, nothing like that. He simply was!

Much of his life was spent in earning a livelihood for himself and then later in life for his family. This he did with remarkable success. I say remarkable not because he left us a business empire but because of the distance he covered in his life. He started as modestly as anyone could, at the age of 10. And he learnt and improved himself and made a life for himself. And for us - me, my mother and my siblings.

I will try to keep this brief as I have so much I can put in here that it will become a book. In fact, I did at one time decide to write a book about him. I was not diligent enough. Even before that, when I was just a boy I had started collecting quotes, things that he just said, but sounded like pearls of wisdom to me.

They still hold true today.

Simplicity is very powerful. This I learnt from his example. My life and desires are not as simple as he kept his but nevertheless the learning is there, rooted deep in my mind. Simple, is beautiful!

I can describe his life philosophy in this couplet from poet Rahimdas.

रहिमन इतना दीजिये जामें कुटुंब समाय
मैं भी भूखा न रहूँ साधू न भूखा जाय

[God, give me as much in which my family should be covered.
May I not stay hungry, and may I not need to turn away hungry a beggar (saadhu, fakir, saint, sanyasi) who comes to my door.]

I learnt from him the strength of truth. No matter how poor or weak a man may be, if he has truth on his side nobody can touch him.

That was his word and that was his life. I have seen him turn down material temptations that any other man would jump at, with no effort, without even considering them as temptations.

I learnt that money has a purpose. I always saw him care about money only insomuch as it was his livelihood and the daily bread for his family. He never ran after money, never compromised his principles, never compromised his family life for money.

Quality is important in everything you do. That lesson he taught me without saying anything. But everything he did, he put all of himself into it. Anything less than perfect quality was never even a consideration for him. It was always achieved by the sweat of his brow but he did the hard work as a matter of course, nary a complaint on his lips. Ever.

There are many, many other things that I learnt from him.

To this day, I often pause and think "What would dad think if I did this?" and it guides my choice.

It has been 6 years. Today.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Artist's Growth

Once upon a time, in a village in India lived a poor artist who used to make idols of Hindu gods and sell them in the daily marked in the neighbouring village.

In due course, this poor artist had a son. As the son grew up he watched his father make those idols, and he got interested. The son also started making the idols under the guidance of his father. Then one day the father took the son with him to the market with his idols. The idol made by the son sold for Re. 0.25. He was really happy. The artist's own idols sold for Re 2.00 each.

The young son made more idols, and his father pointed out the flaws in them and urged his son to do better. The son did do better and his idols started to sell for more - first 50p, then 75p and then a whole Rupee.

There came a day when the son sold his first idol at Re. 2 alongside his father. He was ecstatic. The father was very proud of his son. But he never stopped criticising his son's work.

Slowly the son's work started to surpass his father's. His idols would sell for Re. 3 while the father's idols still sold for Re.2. 00. He still criticised the son's work every day.

One day the son flared up "My idols sell for more than yours. How come you still criticise my work?"

The father took a deep breath "Son, I also used to be like you, my idols used to tell for 10p and slowly I got to where I could sell them for 2 rupees each. But once I became proud of my work, I never got better than that. I stopped at 2 Rs. and I don't want you to stop like I did."

Moral: There never comes a time when you can stop learning and growing.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

The Value of a Gift

I like to give useful gifts. Something that the recipient can use and employ in their job or hobby. So flowers are out, at least on their own, no show pieces, and not even clothes, they get worn and torn. It has to be something useful and durable that will remind the recipient of me for a while.

So, what are these things in the picture? They are two little figurines given to me as a gift by my niece Santosh on one of my birthday. They are two little matching angels. I don't remember how long I have had them or which birthday she gave them or even my other kids were in on the gift or not. They would remember better.

What I do remember is that I either still lived in India at that time or had recently moved to the UK. Santosh was not married at that time and now she's married and has her own little daughter who goes to school. So, a long time ago. Considering that I have been living in the UK for last 10 years, they are at least 7-8 years old in my possession.

In the 10 years I have moved several times within the UK. Every time I move, they move with me (obviously) and they are the one of the first things I unpack when I get to a new place. And they always end up in front of my telly. My telly may sit on a table, a desk or a dresser but they always end up on that piece of furniture in front of the telly.

Sometimes one of them would fall down and I would pick it up. Sometimes a wing may bend and I will pull it straight. But other than that they have lasted the test of time.

Every time I look at them, every single time, they remind me of Santo and my other kids!

So what's the moral of the story? The moral is not for you but for me, "The value of a gift is what it means to the receiver, not the general world."

Yes, I do love my kids! 

Friday, March 31, 2017

Movie Review - Badrinath Ki Dulhania - Social and Fun

I liked it!

In short, it's a social message wrapped in an entertaining package. And that's the best way to deliver a social message not in an art film that nobody will watch. By the way, all films are art.

This is not a spoiler to tell you that the social message is about the dowri issue and gender discrimination against girls in India. When I made my first (short) film in India it was on the same topic. So, you can guess that the topic is close to my heart.

BKD has done it well. A message film would inevitably have some lecture moments, but they have been separated well and kept short. The situation shown is very realistic, this is how things happen in India. It is disgraceful but it's the sad truth. I like the that makers of BKD had the guts to present it like that.

Acting-wise, Alia Bhatt delivers well, in a similar but different character from Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania. Varun can also act, one of my favourite star kids along with Alia. The parents for both hero and heroine are a bit weak actors, somebody well-known would have been better but they have not done badly so, alright. Liked Badri's brother and his wife. Good new actors.

Music is okay, not as great as HSKD but not bad, at par with the current Bollywood film music.

The twists are not too hard to predict but they are well-paced and with good direction the audience can forgive the lack of surprise. I did. Last twist I did not get as well, so well-done.

The climax  is a bit short but that's not a bad thing. The epilogue is a bit forced but then they wanted to end on a happy not with no loose ends and I can understand that both as a viewer and as a filmmaker. I like happy endings in my own films as well.

Go watch it! 

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Forgiveness is a double-edged sword

In the Hindu scriptures forgiveness has been compared to a "yagya" a huge religious ceremony with immense spiritual benefits.

But forgiveness works both ways. Are you forgiving because you don't want to carry the burden of the negative thoughts and want to purify your aura? Or are you forgiving because that's your only option?

Monday, February 27, 2017

The best teacher award

..and..the best teacher of 2016 is....

The crowd goes wild. Applause! Cheers! Whistles!


What year is this?

What country is this?

What UNIVERSE is this?

Because in our universe, in our world, teachers are not celebrated. It's the filmstars and sports personalities that are celebrated and applauded.

A teacher can literally change your life. Yes, literally. Our teachers have great influence on our life choices, our confidence, the skills we acquire and the way we approach the world. I can still track in my character which traits were influenced by which teachers in my childhood. And later when I learnt computers.

In contrast, actors and directors, provide you entertainment but mostly what you see is fake. Fake on the screen, fake in the press and fake on the stage. We even know this.

Mind you, I am not saying that the film celebrities don't work hard or what they do is not important to society. They do. It is. Hard work should be rewarded and recognised in every field.

But that's it. In EVERY field!

That doesn't happen. In reality, making a film makes you a star with billions of people shouting your name, and changing lives on a daily basis condemns you to a life of meagre and ignoble existence.

We live in a world where teachers and scientists live and die with hardly ever a mention and filmstars and singers are celebrated like they invented the sunshine.

In Jubal Early's style...Does that seem fair to you?

Friday, February 24, 2017

Random Ghazal - Hijr ki shab - Saqib Lakhnawi


(saqib lakhnawi)

Sher 4 is very famous but my favourite is the 5th. And the makta is the reason I was searching for this ghazal this morning. 

The link has meanings on click -

Google Web Search

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