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Aman ki Asha

With a new semester already wearing me down (in two days!), I think blogging will be a rare luxury. I’d love to write more about this initiative and this ad, but I think all I’ll be able to do is post it!

Definitely made me smile!

Off to a patient interview…eek!

More praise for Paa…

Won’t be coming from me!

The only good part of Paa? Vidya Balan finally dressed/made up appropriately. Not since her debut film has she looked this good, finally in clothes that fit and make up that actually suits her. Woman needs to hold on to this stylist!

I never for one moment felt for Auro. I have a deep interest in progeria, medically and humanistically. I feel for these children afflicted with this terrible condition, and watching what I can only describe as a horrible parody of progeria-afflicted children was torturing. Never for one moment did I believe in the 6 ft tall ridiculously made up character, and the voice and the insane dialogues seriously irritated the hell out of me. What kind of 12 year old says “unnecessary sacrifices” to his mother so cheekily? The character could have used a nice tight slap. I know very well why Balki could not cast a kid to play the role…that would interfere with his plans of Bachchan puja…but I wish someone would give him a tight slap too. (These points better covered here)

The movie inadvertently produced plenty of mirth, mostly because I was watching it with my family (and we were all in a good mood). A particular scene we watched and rewatched and then rewatched again, till our sides were splitting. This is part of the “emotional” ending (which wins over Kal Ho Naa Ho for inane dragginess and awful emoting) when the little girl finally gives Auro the sorry chart and apologizes. The flashback shown at that point…wow. If there was a yt clip I’d save it to watch in a loop on my bad days. The kid literally prances down an empty hallways, “la-la-la-ing,” on her first day of school, and a 6 ft tall Bachchan suddenly appears at the corridor, and she goes screaming down. I can’t do it justice, you have to watch it on a bootlegged version! Balki’s finest work! Truth be told, I felt for the little girl, because any Bachchan appearing from behind any corridor, especially without makeup, would scare the bejeezus out of me.

And my yearly awards start off with Creepiest Song of the Year, awarded to Paa, for the freaking weirdest, creepiest, hilarious, and at the same time spine-chilling song of the year, played in the very last scene. “Meri Maa Ab Teri Hai Mere Paa…”

All you need for a nightmare!

I’ll say one last thing: maybe 5 years ago I would have watched this movie in a less harsh light, maybe I’d have given it more of a chance to impress me, maybe I’d look for things that were good. But when the standard of cinema in India is improving, slowly but surely, then this just won’t do. Why drag it back down?

Arziyan

I was re-reading some old posts and was surprised that my initial reaction to Arziyan (from the soundtrack of Delhi 6) wasn’t exactly jumping-off-the-walls enthusiastic. I had forgotten that for some strange reason it took time for me to warm up to it. Perhaps because it feels like I’ve always been enamored with this song, with the depth and beauty of its lyrics, with its lovely melody, with the sense of peace and calm it endows me with each time I listen to it. Arziyan has now firmly become a part of those select songs that I listen to in difficult times, the songs that give me strength and hope, that heal my heart and nurse my troubled mind. Each time I listen to it, its lyrics make a stronger and stronger impact on me, and they transport me to a different place. I’ve posted a particularly favorite stanza on my desk, and a friend who asked about it asked me to translate the song for him. I’m going to do my best, because as always, its not easy to properly translate the feelings behind the lyrics, and also I often stumble on the Urdu. And so, as always, anyone passing by is asked to help! 🙂

Arziyan (Supplications) is written by Prasoon Joshi, rendered by Kailash Kher and Javed Ali, to music set by the maestro A.R. Rahman.

Arziyan saari chehre pe likh ke laaya hoon/Tumse kya mangoon tum khud hi samajh lo

(All my supplications I bring to you written on my face/What shall I ask from You; You know it all)

Ya Maula/Maula, Maula, Maula mere Maula (2)

(O God/God, God, God my God)

Ch: Daraare daraare hai maathe pe Maula/Marammat muqaddar ki kardo Maula

(There are creases* on my forehead, God/Help me restore my destiny/fate, God)

*creases: worry or frown lines

Tere dar pe jhuka hoon, mita hoon, bana hoon (2)/Marammat muqaddar ki kardo Maula (2)

(On Your doorstep I have kneeled, been destroyed, been made/Help me mend my destiny (or fate), God)

I: Jo bhi tere dar aaya, jhukne jo sar aaya/Mastiyan piye sabkon jhoomta nazar aaya

(He who came to Your doorstep, he who bowed his head to You/Appears to be intoxicated and dancing with pleasure)

*This is not a great translation! Mastiyan is better translated as something intoxicating. Here, we are told that those who have been given God’s grace appear intoxicated with their love for Him, and they are dancing in pleasure. Dancing and being mesmerized in prayer and devotion is a feature of Sufi practices and beliefs.

Pyaas le ke aaya tha, dariya woh bhar laaya/Noor ki baarish mein bheeghta sa tar aaya 

(He who came with thirst, has a river in front of him/Is drenched in the downpour of Divine Light)

Maula, Maula, Maula mere Maula…

Ch.

II: Ek khushboo aati thi (2), main bhatakta jaata tha/Reshmi si maya thi, aur main takta jaata tha

(A perfume would come, and I would go stumbling after it/Wealth (material goods) were like velvet, and I followed greedily)

Jab teri gali aaya, sach tabhi nazar aaya/Mujh mein hi woh khushboo hai, jisse tune milwaya

(When I came Your way, only then did I see the Truth/That the perfume I seeked lies within me, and You helped me recognize it)

Maula, Maula, Maula mere Maula…

Ch.

III: Toot ke bikharna mujhko zaroor aata hai/Varna ibadatwala saroor aata hai

(I know too well how to break, be shattered/And I am also aware of how to worship)

Sajde mein rehne do, ab kaheen na jaoonga/Ab jo tumne thukhraya tho savar na paoonga)

(Let me be prostrated in Your presence, I will not go anywhere else/Now if You forsake me, then I cannot be saved)

IV: Sar uthake maine tho kitni khwahishen ki thi/Kitne khwaab dekhe the, kitni koshishen ki thi

(I had raised my head and made so many wishes/I had dreamt of so much, had tried so much)

Jab Tu rubaroo aaya nazren na mila paaya/Sar jhukake ek pal mein maine kya nahin paaya

(But when You came near me, I couldn’t raise my eyes to meet Yours/In that one moment when I bowed my head to You, there was nothing I did not gain)

This stanza is my favorite, I am struck by it every time I listen to it, and this is the one I have taped to my desk so I can be reminded of it daily. I don’t know if the translation does it justice. It speaks of Man’s continuous quest, infinite desire, untiring ambition. Man wants more and more, asks for more and more, tries for more and more. This stanza summarizes this quest. I raised my head and I demanded so much from you: that my wishes may come true, that my efforts bear fruit, that my dreams all become reality. But when You appeared before me, God, and I had to bow my head against Your luminosity, in that one moment I realized I had gained everything I ever wanted.

Maula, Maula, Maula mere Maula

Ch.

Mora piya ghar aaya, mora piya ghar aaya (multiple times)

(My beloved has come home, my beloved has come home)

God is the Beloved, and this is a phrase in many Sufi bhajans, celebrating, in my interpretation, God’s entry to your heart, mind, and soul.

Afterthoughts:

Arziyan speaks to me on a deep, spiritual level. It has a special appeal to me because I find that it traverses all religions and faiths; it does not speak of any single faith or denomination or describes any particular flavor of the Holy. It supplicates to a universal God, a God for anyone who chooses to believe in Him/Her. It is a piece about faith in a greater power, and the hope and the strength that faith can bring to you, when you need it most.

Behti Hawa Sa Tha Woh

I’ve survived my first semester of med school. Hallelujah.

After a torturous last month, we finally were handed a wimpy two week break, but at that point I would have literally taken anything. One week has already rushed by: how depressing. In this next week I need to get back on the horse or the fall will be really painful and dangerous!

Before coming to terms with that reality, however, I took an evening with the parents to go catch 3 Idiots in the theatre. My hopes were high, but still pretty realistic. I came out of the theatre wanting to run back in for a second show.

My dad said it best…after a long, long time we watched a movie that was thoroughly engaging, hilarious (but clean), touching and kept you guessing. Not to mention visually beautiful, with terrific dialogues (and delivery) and music that really fit it. My dad, mind you, has not LOVED a movie since probably the Hrishikesh Mukherjee period. Its difficult to make him laugh, but he was literally laughing the entire first half. Which, for me, is another reason to love this movie 🙂

3 Idiots is filmy, very filmy. At the same time, its philosophy is real, and everything in the movie clearly works hard to touch you in the audience, and affect you with its simple lessons even while you’re sitting there guffawing along the jokes. That takes me back to the movies I used to love as a child, movies like Golmaal. You have the good, well-meaning boy who has to resort to hilarious tricks to fight the system which is bent on an old-fashioned, robotic method, complete with a mean despot with a mustache. He gets found out, but he succeeds in changing the environment and somehow warming that despot’s cold heart. In essence, the story isn’t that new, but its been dressed up for the times, and it draws on the lives of youth going through the education factories today. The result is something refreshing, and wonderful, and heart warming. Hirani and Abhijit Joshi (screenplay) work wonders in transforming the predictable into something unexpected. Sometimes its the witty dialogue, sometimes the presentation (eg: Raju Rastogi’s family), sometimes its the way the greatly talented actors work with what they’ve been given, sometimes its the way things unfold. Not a single moment passed by when I wasn’t wholly engaged and engrossed by the movie.

I’m glad that the movie is only VERY VERY loosely based on Bhagat’s book, and the creative licenses taken by the makers do good for it. There’s no mistaking that the story overall is fantastical. But at the same time, the world its set in is all too familiar for any kid who has spent any time in the Indian education system (or, perhaps in any system of brutal competition…say, med school?). Every kid from 2 to 110 in the theatres can relate to the world these idiots are in, and if you were educated in India the nostalgia might be enough to make you the loudest one in the hall. You empathize with the idiots from the start, and the actors do a tremendous job in making you a part of their struggle and their story. From the moment Farhan Qureshi walks through the doors of the intimidating university, you’re there, and that kind of involvement does wonders for the experience of watching this movie.

3 Idiots is a platform to talk about the problems of earning a robotic education in a brutally competitive environment, a stage to loudly declare and illustrate that a system based on mindless, rote memorization which suppresses creativity, individuality, self-learning and motivation is toxic. We’ve heard those statements before…its an echo from every rebel movie you ever saw, and the idiots are another set of new-age rebels. But in Hirani and Joshi’s talented hands, you don’t get endless monologues and didactic speeches, and with Aamir Khan and Boman Irani you don’t get painfully over-dramatic and endlessly long standoffs. You get simple, condensed, straight bits of philosophy which make their impact and stay with you long after the movie has ended. You get appropriate drama that stays light. The movie isn’t afraid to discuss the pressure on the average youth today, or the student suicides that result from the exhausting environment, yet it doesn’t give you a self-righteous lecture about it. Hirani maintains this quality from his Munnabhai movies, and for me at least, that is one of the most endearing aspects of a Hirani film. Its still a Bollywood movie, its still filmi, but it makes a statement, yet it doesn’t tire you in the process.

I have loved Shantanu Moitra from the time I got hooked on Shubha Mudgal’s Ab Ke Sawan, but I have to admit I wasn’t too crazy about the music till I saw it in the movie. It fits perfectly, and I now own the OST (its available on ITunes, fyi). Swanand Kirkire is one of my favorite lyricists who is heard from too little, and he does a fab job, keeping it light where it needs to be and deep where it needs to be. Its a sensible, suitable soundtrack, and it fits the setting completely. When its mixed with the fantastic photography…whoa, what an effect! Behti Hawa Sa Tha is a great example…the hills of Shimla look simply astounding! And my desire to travel to Ladakh intensified about a zillion times, making me more envious of this prolific traveler (he’d probably judge better if the shots were true to life, but they looked amazing to me). Shaan is at a personal best in this same song, and I thought he was a great choice for this song, and so was Suraj Jagan for Give me some Sunshine. Sonu Nigam is good, but he didn’t really blow me away as he can, except maybe in Jaane Nahin (which probably has more to do with the sequence itself).

Aamir Khan is changing Indian cinema with every film he does, and he’s doing that while looking freakishly young. I couldn’t fathom how he’d play half his age, but he does it, and I bought it. Dude has to be on something. I’m hugely biased towards R. Madhavan, so I can only say good things for him. Sharman Joshi I always knew was talented, but I think this is the first time I sat up and noticed him carefully. All three had amazing chemistry as friends, and they embraced their characters with such enthusiasm that you felt like embracing them all. You can’t leave the theatre without a tinge of envy that you weren’t in their gang. I endured Kareena and she didn’t disturb the flow (for which I’m thankful), but girlfriend looked older than Aamir. Omi, who played Chatur, I’ve seen for the first time, and he had the power to steal the scene in many scenes. My mom loved him! I’m impressed by the accent he maintained throughout. Boman Irani is no doubt an artist, and I think this role will be my favorite for him. His lisp and the way he carried himself was just too good. And the kid who played Millimetre was hilarious and a skinny bag of endearing spunk!

Despite all my praise, the movie is definitely not without its faults. It could have been shorter and could have been tightened, it could have easily been a little less filmi, and it could have done without some sequences completely. And I’m sure plenty more…but on the whole, it leaves you happy and satisfied, and right now I’m really choosing to look over the faults!

I write long reviews, and they become longer when I haven’t written in ages. Watching this movie was uplifting, and I came out feeling happier than I have in a long time, and aching to get back to writing. I’m easily affected by art, and this film affected me in the best way possible, and it came at just the right time. It was nice to be reminded that at the end of the day, not all of us are made for the rat race, and running the fastest won’t bring you peace. Success isn’t defined by your rank in the race but your willingness to follow your heart and work hard for your dreams. Free thinking isn’t a crime, and to think for yourself is courageous and necessary. There will always be someone taunting you and always someone trying to push you down, but they can only have that power if you give it to them. And at the end of the day, love and friendship will be the best measures of your wealth. As long as you have those two, aal izz and will be well.

All cliches? Perhaps. All things I (and perhaps we all) need to be reminded of? Definitely.

Vote for Imli!

Take a minute and vote for this adorable pup:

http://tinyurl.com/mcrobn

Imli is a 4 month old Shih Tzu with infinite energy and she brings joy everywhere she goes! She’s a pup of a poor medical student, and she definitely could use just the weekly prize 🙂 Also, a significant part of any winnings will be donated to charity!

Please vote! You can vote once/day! You’ll be blessed and smothered with hugs and Imli will kiss your face till its wet!

Tune Jo Na Kaha, from New York (rendered by Mohit Chauhan)

I had the chance today to return to my campus after the span of a year, which is a long time when you consider the chunk of time we as students spend in our college campuses. I always loved my college campus. As I’ve written elsewhere, I also grew to be deeply affectionate and grateful for my college itself, and the time I spent there was something I’ll never regret. My best memories are of the wonderful people I met there, my best friends, who are still such a constant part of my life.

And so, invariably, while walking those familiar paths I know so well, while taking the shortcuts and walking in and out of hallways and meeting dear professors and old colleagues, a deep nostalgia set in. Walking past the flowerbeds, around the fountain, down to the quad and past the green fields…walking past benches my friends and I had often accosted, past hillsides we had rolled down or just sat and chatted, past halls where we’d gather to do our homework, past the campus coffee house…past all these places that brought to life so many memories. I could almost see us there, almost see ghostly selves wandering around with me. I was struck with this deep longing of going back to that time. I wanted so much to be, once again, one of these students who walked around with a sense of belonging and a sense of ‘owning’ the place, which was something that had once belonged to me. Just for a day, I wanted to be the college student I was eighteen months ago, running around with a hundred things to do, holding on to a gigantic book and constantly smiling and waving at acquaintances as they passed me by. Stopping for a quick chat with a friend at the fountain. Taking a breather in the late afternoon at the park and watching the ducks go by. For one day, I wanted to go back to that time, or rather, to that feeling. It hasn’t been that long since I left that phase of my life, and yet, I already wanted to revisit it.

I got back to the car and, while driving around the campus, impulsively decided to visit a Chinese restaurant that was a favorite joint back in the day. A few of my friends loved this place, and I loved its dumplings and hot and sour soup. I wasn’t especially hungry; I simply wanted to relive that time, that taste, those late night take outs. I just wanted to vividly taste that past.

So I walked in and ordered dumplings and the hot and sour soup, and some veggie lo mein to go. All for still the same low cheap student price I remembered. And I sat down, contented and retrospective, to wait.

Ten minutes later a plate of the most unhappy dumplings I have ever seen were brought out. The soup looked attractive, but the dumplings were dumpy and soggy. Nevertheless, I dug in with enthusiasm. The dumplings lived up to their appearance: they were less than mediocre and not at all what I remembered. I had to slosh them in soy sauce for some flavor, and even then I managed only three. Turning more hopefully to the soup, I took a big gulp, almost burning my mouth, tasting something that can only be described as gelatinous water mixed with chili. It was, honestly, terrible. I only managed a few more bites before I just gave up completely, and sat there trying to figure out what had happened…

Did this food, which I once enjoyed so much, deteriorate in its quality? In one year, especially in the past economically turbulent year, had the owners compromised on the taste of their dishes? Had the chef changed?

Or was it that over the past year, my experiences with authentic food all over Asia and tasting true Chinese food had completely changed my expectations? Had the food always been this bad and I just didn’t know better?

I can’t tell you which one is true here, but while I sat there debating this, I took one more bite of the soup (since I hate wasting food) and the intense heat was like a slap that made things clearer. I’m always asking for signs and lessons from the universe and here was a huge one staring me right in the face. I had spent the afternoon mourning for a phase of my life that had passed by for good. I had been indulging myself in nostalgia, wishing myself back to a time that I had already moved on from. And the terrible food of this restaurant, which was just part of that mosaic from the past, was a reminder that I can’t go back. Here, in an unappealing manner on my plate, was clear evidence that I could never go back, and that my life had moved on (as it should).

It was in no way a sad realization. It came in the form of a calm, matter-of-fact, sensible voice, and it made sense. Yes, my collegiate life was beautiful…it had its ups and downs, its emotions and its upheavals, its celebrations and its joy. But…its over. And in the time that has followed I have had experiences of a completely different kind, amazing, wonderful, influential experiences that have changed my life. I differ greatly, in a very good way,  from the girl who came in as a freshman into this campus. I changed over my years as a student, and when I left, I continued to change, and life continued to move, faster than I could ever have imagined. It did for all of us, we all changed, we all moved on, and in the last month I had had the pleasure of seeing all my dear friends and being proud of the lives they are leading, the people they have become. I am grateful for and proud of the person I myself am today. I am wiser, I am calmer, I am more at peace with who I am than that child scurrying around campus. I am at terms with my scars, even proud to show them off, and so much more confident about where I am leading myself and all I want to do. Sure, I am moving onto another phase where I have again so much to learn, where I’ll crash and burn, where I’ll start from scratch and struggle and suffer, where there will be umpteen challenges…but it is still my future, and I will still be eager to be in it.

I can’t ask for the past to come back. I can cherish my memories, but I can’t, and I shouldn’t, try to relive them. That period should be remembered with joy, but never with longing or with a pointless desire to return, because my world has moved on. Just as we shouldn’t regret the past, we also shouldn’t hold it by its coat strings and beg it to take us back when the brilliant surprise of our future is waiting solemnly, hands entwined with the present, waiting for our attention. After all, that is where my attention is deserved.

It doesn’t matter what the real reason behind the disappointing taste of the soup or the dumplings may have been. The fact, I know, is that it wasn’t meant to taste the same to me. That time had changed, that person had changed, and so the taste, too, had changed. It was a sign, or rather, a marker in time.

And so I took a last look at the left overs, smiled, and left, driving away from the city in the late afternoon sun, peaceful with this new knowledge and a true sense of closure.

Heard on TV…

Arz Hai…

मेरा प्यार कोई गैस का बल्लूँ नहीं हैं, जो उड़ जाये
मेरा प्यार कोई साइकिल का टयर नहीं है, जो फट जाये
मेरा प्यार तो बुडापा है…
एक बार आता है, तो साथ लेके ही जाता है!

mera pyaar koi gas ka balloon nahin hai, jo ud jaye

mera pyaar koi cycle ka tire nahin hai, jo phat jaye

mera pyar to budapah hai…

ek baar aata hai, jo saath leke hi jaata hai!

Ha hahahah hahahahahah ahahaha

This had me entertained for some time.