HaiderVishal Bhardwaj has clearly earned his place in the Hall of Fame of Indian cinema! I would rate him as one of the most creative filmmakers that we have, and of course, he also is one of our best music composers (to begin with!).

His latest creation, Haider, clearly bears his stamp of class. I have heard people say that this one is Vishal’s best work so far. I would personally not go that far, not because I can pick some other film that deserves that position, but simply because it is a tough call to make. Vishal has made many amazing movies, and Haider does rank amongst bis best works, but I would find it hard to give it a specific number 1 tag.

While the admiration for Vishal Bhardwaj is clear and total, another person that demands an even greater acknowledgement is William Shakespeare!! I have not read much of Shakespeare but of course, recognise his stature! After seeing Haider, I read up a synopsis of Hamlet and realised that Haider was so closely related to the original story. And that is amazing! Haider as a story, is very believable in today’s times, and yet, it’s inspiration was Hamlet, which was written by the Bard of Avon, who lived from 1564 to 1616!! A story written nearly 400 years back, continues to seem relevant in today’s times, is the absolutely mind-boggling fact to appreciate!

VishalbAnd as I now relate to the other works of Shakespeare that Vishal has converted to movies, viz. Omkara and Maqbool, what comes out as a common ground, are the complex characters that he sketched.  Tabu and Irrfan in Maqbool, Ajay Devgan and Saif Ali Khan in Omkara, and Shahid and Tabu here in Haider, play characters with extremely mixed and complex minds, and it is their behaviour that makes the very interesting story-lines.

Salute to the most amazing writer ever, perhaps, William Shakespeare, for writing such timeless beauties!

Having heard and read enough about Haider, I couldn’t wait longer than the morning of the first day of a long weekend, and landed up at a 9-30 am show! And as the canvas opened up, very early, I could sense a similarity with Gulzar’s Maachis, which incidentally was the Bhardwaj’s first major film as a music composer, in 1996.

A society ravaged by terrorism in the names of freedom struggle, the accompanying free hand to the army, and which creates its share of monsters and abuse, the disturbed youth and disturbed life in the region, the helplessness and resigned fates that people feel under the circumstances… all of these were seen in the Punjab of Maachis, and were felt similarly, in the Kashmir of Haider. Gulzar, Vishal and Tabu were the common factors in the two films, as were the snow filled winter mountains!

A67_ssVishal does love to work with his ‘regulars’.

I guess, Shahid Kapoor may do nothing for 3-4 years (or do some inconsequential stuff) before Vishal gives him a great film each time, and he should be happy with that state. After Kaminey, this is the next big one for Shahid with Vishal, and it is indeed, a tremendous, power-packed, central role. Subdued by the character, Shahid needs to bring out a range of emotions, and he does so quite brilliantly.

Tabu is another regular Vishal Bhardwaj favourite, and she is clearly one of the best actors we have. She picks and chooses her films, so we don’t see much of her, and it is always a pleasure to get those rare opportunities of seeing her on screen. Like Maqbool, her character here too is a challenging one, and she is impressive as ever.

While Hamlet apparently had a strong Oedipus complex from the central character, here that aspect is underplayed. But a strong emotional relationship does exist between the two.

Kay Kay Menon is one underrated actor in Bollywood. Over time, across many films, he has shown his acting prowess, and he does so here as well. Shraddha Kapoor also gives a very credible performance, and does look the part of a Kashmiri girl. There are good cameos from Kulbhushan Kharbanda and another Bhardwaj regular, Irrfan Khan.

haider1There are stunning visuals of Kashmir, especially the snow clad mountains and trees, the beautiful foliage. And as the credits conveyed at the end, all of the Kashmir scenes were actually shot in Kashmir, no matter the security issues etc. So we got a chance to see the absolutely fabulous landscapes that Kashmir is about.

Original score from Vishal Bhardwaj had to be good! Specifically, he has brought in tremendous authenticity with sounds and words from the region, which evoke emotions related to the story, even as you hear the songs. Gulzar and Faiz Ahmed Faiz have been credited for the lyrics. Gulzar, of course, had to be there! Vishal’s and Gulzar’s is a strong bond, almost approaching the one that Gulzar shared with R D Burman, maybe..?!

The Bismil song which enacts a scene, so to say, from the story, is quite like the “Janm leke kahi phir woh pahocha wahin..” recap song-scene from Karz. But it is interesting to see that it is not just Vishal Bhardwaj’s way of enacting the story, but that this was part of the original Shakespeare tale!!

And even as you marvel at Hamlet and Shakespeare, and at Vishal Bhardwaj and Shahid Kapoor and Tabu, what is most striking is the reality of life in Kashmir. As a dialogue says, “the entire Kashmir is a jail” or another that urges Haider to go to Aligarh, so as to “experience another India, where there are no day time curfews, and night time closures”. Such has become life in Kashmir, and with it, it has taken a toll of entire generations of people, of trade and tourism, and deprived the world of seeing “Jannat” on the face of earth!! Thank you, Vishal Bhardwaj, for giving us a perspective of all of this..

 

For a few years now, I have zeroed in on a simple white-shirt-and-blue-jeans as a regular form of dressing for myself. Most days, if not all.

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It started as a whim of sorts. Our planning team was debating a pitch and had come up with an interesting central theme for a brand. I am able to share it now, as it did not take off, for whatever reason.

The central theme thought of then, was “Simple Hai, Great Hai”. And while I won’t get into the relevance of this, for that brand, as an example of what’s simple and great, came up the white-shirt-blue-jeans concept. That it symbolised the “Simple-Hai-Great-Hai” story.

It stayed in my mind. And refused to go out.

Till one fine day, I thought of embracing it. And decided to make that my dress. My way. My uniform. My style.

Whatever you may call it.

And while the whites have not been a specific type of white, nor have the blue jeans been only a particular kind of blue, broadly speaking, the combination has stayed. And I have been extremely comfortable about it.

And which is when I came across this really interesting article recently:

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While  I had not thought so deeply when I chose to shift to a defined pair of clothing, I feel flattered to even think that eminent luminaries have / had followed a certain practise of this kind too! In fact, the first person I had seen in my life, personally, who had chosen a standard pattern of clothing, also happens to be someone I have idolised, for the longest period of time, viz. my paternal grandfather.

From the time that I can remember, he only wore a white shirt and a white pant, both cotton. Simple living, high thinking, is what he symbolised.

But obviously, about the only thing I share with these great people, including my grandfather, is that I have also been dressing in a certain, standard manner, for a while now.

But reading the above mentioned article, and thinking a little more about this, I do realise that this dressing sense, has been a part of a certain larger shift that has happened in my life, over the last few years.

And which fundamentally is about LIVING the life that “doesn’t fret the small stuff”!

Yes, in many ways, the message from the article resonates. That there are far too many decisions that DEMAND our time, and if there are others that are not critical, why worry much about them.

I am fine with what food is cooked at home. I don’t want to play a role in planning the menu.

I am okay to be driven by my driver as long as he can take me to where I want to go. I don’t want to tell him much about bearing to the left, going little slow, or taking a particular route.

I am okay to let my colleagues or my team take decisions in areas, where my involvement is not a necessity. I’d rather stay focused on areas where it is important for me to participate as I am probably best suited in those, and they are critical enough for me to be involved.

One always has choices in life. The option could be to stay extremely tense, be stressed about the smallest thing that happens around you (which you must necessarily be in control) or let some things be. And find peace within yourself. And focus to do best, what you anyway, need to do.

Believe me, this is easier said than done, for an entrepreneur. I work on it, but I wouldn’t say I have mastered it. But increasingly, in a busy-busy, dynamic world, this is only becoming more critical, the way I see it.

That is my choice anyway.. don’t know what you feel about it? Would be great to see your views too, on this. Do share your comments.

Finally, as this refers to my white-shirt-blue-jeans routine, I cannot help but mention the wonderful gift that my team gave me on my last birthday. To my pleasant surprise, as I walked into the office that day, I saw the sea of white and blue, as the team came dressed in white shirts and blue jeans! Pretty amazing, it was..

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We live in the era of war and tragedy and accidents and some mayhem.

So usually, when we hear of the gallantry of a fire fighter who fought and saved people from burning to death, or the man on the border, who fought an attack from the enemy, or a bus driver who rescues passengers from the bus, even while risking his life, we do find ourselves applauding these brilliant acts and the people responsible for them.

And rightly so.

And yet, there are possibly many many more who need to be acknowledged, but who don’t get the same (or any) credit.

Let me give a few examples:

1. Recently there was a fire in a commercial building in Mumbai, causing a lot of damage, injuries to many firefighters, and even the death of one of them. This is the incident I refer to:

http://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report-mumbai-building-fire-one-fireman-dies-in-multi-storey-building-fire-in-andheri-2003106

Most certainly the fire fighters did a commendable job. Perhaps against a lot of odds. And they ensured that damage was restricted to the minimum, even at the cost of their own lives.

Think however, if there could have been another bigger hero.

The building inspector maybe, who spotted inadequate fire fighting facilities, or some changes made in the building which made it a fire hazard, etc. and who orders those to be fixed, much before the fire happened.

The building secretary maybe, who against all odds of the clout of the owners, who insist on having their way, manages to get changes done, so as to make the building a safer building for fires.

And ensures that the fire does not even happen!

Will such people even be acknowledged?? They will, in fact, be hated because they cause inconvenience, and force changes, and cause discomfort and expenses!!

2. War heroes or security forces who fight terrorists, are always celebrated. Those who combatted the insurgents in Kargil and won the war for India. Or those who fought off the terrorists at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai.

Absolutely deserved heroes of our times!

How about the ones on the border who day in and day out, look for the gaping holes from where enemy could sneak in. And keep covering those gaps. Keep ensuring that an enemy attack does not even happen. Perhaps risking their own lives, as they expose themselves to risk out there.

Or in case of the terror attack in Mumbai, what if a Coast Guard had identified a weakness in the system, ordered for fixes, ensured that some new equipment was ordered and installed, and fundamentally prevented an attack of this sort. We’d probably be thinking of the large capital expenditure, and whether there are kickbacks involved!

Leave alone giving him any due, for potentially preventing a Mumbai terror attack of that quantum, from happening!

3. This post was inspired in fact, by this story about an Air India plane that averted disaster,on account of some quick and smart thinking from the pilots on board.

http://www.rediff.com/news/report/how-air-india-crew-averted-a-major-air-disaster/20140718.htm

With 315 passengers on board, we could have been staring at a major disaster. Which thankfully, did not happen, due to the adept handling by the captains on board.

But as the article says, there was little or no mention of this heroic deed. As against that, if there had been a crash, God forbid, it would have been all over the papers!

That is the sad situation where a lot of heroes who ensure that disasters don’t happen, remain unsung heroes in society.

There is a certain apathy around those who are process oriented, who are finicky to the detail, who seem to have an eye to spot mistakes and alert.. they are not celebrated, but in fact, made fun of. Little realising that, these in fact, are the bigger heroes in our lives.

Let’s learn to respect processes, respect these individuals who work at it, relentlessly..

politician-cartoon-in-india_sIt was quite a unique and interesting proposal that the party had come up with, as a part of their manifesto, so the journalist decided to go and meet the senior minster to understand more about the proposal..

Interviewer: “Sir, where other metros have been working on setting up conventions centres and exhibition grounds in the city, your proposal for Delhi is something very different?”

Leader: “Yes, it is. You see, what Delhi needs today, is not one more convention centre or exhibition ground. What we needs are a few places where Dharnas can happen comfortably..”

Interviewer: “Few places? Why not just one??”

Leader: “See, this is the problem with you, young reporters. You do not go to the depth of any issue…”

“You know that there are all kinds of Dharnas and we need to take care of all of the different types…”

Interviewer: “Sir, pardon my ignorance on this. But for the benefit of our viewers, can you please explain what are the different type of dharnas?”

Leader: “Offooo.. yeh bhi samjhana padega.. chalo theek hai…”

“See, one is the length of the dharna.. from few hours to a full day to a few days to in fact, the Anna Hazare kind, of many many days…; so we need to see if we need to provide sleeping facilities, toilets, bathrooms, changing rooms, etc…”dharna

“Then, we have to consider the size of audience that the dharna may attract. From few where barely 10-15 people gather – ok, never mind, that is not even called a dharna then. But say, from 100 to 500 to 5,000 to 50,000… we have to account for different kinds. Not only to cover the standing / seating space, but the approach road, exits, canteen facilities, toilet blocks… nahin to bahut gandagi reh jaati hai, dharna ke baad. Akhir log kitna control karke baithe rahenge..?”

“The other aspect is the quality of the dharna. Is it a fast-unto-death? In that case, we have to arrange for refrigerated nimbu paani facility…”

Interviewer: “Sorry to interrupt you, Sir. But if they are fasting, why do you need nimbu paani service?”

Leader: “When is the last time that someone actually fasted to his death?? Arre, yeh death-beth kehne wali baat hai. Koi nahi marta. Everyone waits for the right moment to have the nimbu paani. Now, when that moment comes, we do not know. So it is best to provide for a refrigerated supply of nimbu paani ready and available. After all, if we are creating the state-of-the-art dharna facility, we have to take care of this aspect too, no?”

Interviewer: “Wow, I never thought of all this. Sir, what other facilities you plan to have in these centres?”

Leader: “We have a large media centre at all of these places. Of course, if it is a 100-member dharna place, there will be space for only one OB van. The media will have to find a way to share the signals. But for the larger facilities, multiple OB vans can be parked and there will be space for the on-ground reporters and the cameramen to freshen up, do their last minute makeup, have chai-paani, etc. What we must appreciate is that, while the suited-booted stars of the news channels sitting in their air-conditioned studios get all the limelight, it is the on-ground reporters and the cameramen, who really struggle to send the news as it happens, and it is our duty, to take care of their well being..”

Interviewer: “Wah, that is so noble of you. Sir, you have taken care of television. But we are living in the times of social media. Are you doing anything special for them?”

Leader: “This is the first smart question you have asked! And yes, of course, we are a forward thinking party, and we have considered everything for the social media folks…”

“All the dharna centres will be fully wi-fi equipped – that too at 3G levels, and when 4G comes in, we will upgrade too. And there will be no license wars here.. hahaha.. (*laughs heartily as his own joke*). Plus, we will have charging stations all over, for the phones and the tablets and for those, who are still on their old laptops! There will be facility for the dharna organisers to constantly release video clips and official photos, that the social media types can take and share ahead.. and there will be facilities on the stage, where the dharna leaders are sitting, for them to live tweet too….”

“PLUS, we are doing something that not even the biggest of exhibitions or tradeshow folks have done in India yet. We will set up mega Social Media Command Centres at the two biggest dharna facilities, where multiple large screens will show in realtime, all the various tweets and facebook updates about the dharna, as they are happening, so people can pick up trends, see if any other political leaders are also tweeting, etc. and take necessary further steps…”

Interviewer: “Wow.. I am so impressed. This is truly a first-of-its-kind anywhere in the world…”

“But Sir, while you are doing all this for Delhi, the people of Delhi are definitely NOT going to be happy about this. It causes tremendous inconvenience to them in terms of traffic snarls and what not. And now as per your plans to create 5 different dharna centres in Delhi, the people are going to get disgusted. And in fact, they may not vote for you, in spite of this fantastic plan that you have come up with…?”

Leader: “Haha.. hum ko kya bewakoof samjha hai? Do you think, we will do all this, only to lose votes from Delhi??”

“The concern for the people of Delhi comes first. What we are proposing, for each of these dharna locations, is a direct flyover to the place, from the nearest railway station and from the airport. This flyover will not disturb any other traffic and that way, it will ensure that regular traffic in Delhi, keeps moving on fine. Now you understand? Delhi will get the benefit of numerous dharnas that will be based in the city – and the accompanying economic benefits to the trade in Delhi – and yet, it will not impact any traffic problems for the residents of the city…”

“Now, isn’t that a winning strategy??”

Interviewer: “Yes, Minister…”

We flew out of Christchurch and into Sydney. The flight from Sydney to Singapore has a morning time, so the only way we could come back from Christchurch was on the previous day, and then stay over in Sydney for a day.

Which is what we had to do.

In fact, as per plan, we were to go and see the England-Australia test match that was going on at that time, and that one day that we were in Sydney, was the fourth day of the test match. We had taken advance tickets for the same too.

Except that Australia decided to win the test match in only 3 days, and there was NO play on the 4th day. So our tickets went for a refund, but we had not planned anything else to do in Sydney.

We went off to the harbour, and did some stuff there, before heading back to the hotel, as it was extremely hot out there, in Sydney.

Some photos from this one day at Sydney, on our way back:

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Post Sydney, we headed to Singapore, where we chose to take a short 3 days break, before returning back to Mumbai.

Singapore is a modern and efficient city, with new things coming up all the time.

Check pictures of our 3 days at Singapore..

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With the Singapore leg ended our fabulous vacation of Dec 2013-Jan 2014.

And we headed back home to Mumbai, and back to routine.. :)

After the excitement of Queenstown, we headed to the small, quiet and scenic town of Twizel, a perfect contrast to Queenstown.

The town was in the middle of extremely vast stretches of flat and open land. You could see the horizon almost 360 degrees around, as you could stretch far away into the distance all around you. At a distance, you could see the peaks of Mount Cook and which was one of the places to visit, from Twizel.

We had 1.5 days in Twizel, so we did Mount Cook Village on one of the days and the Lake Tekapo on the other day. Both were great trips, very scenic and full of more natural beauty, which we had got quite used to seeing in New Zealand, by this time. The interesting thing about Twizel was that the small town also had a presence of a Thai restaurant! We enjoyed our meal at Jasmine Restaurant, the Thai place there!

Finishing these trips, we headed back to Christchurch, our last stop before heading out of New Zealand.

We happened to reach Christchurch on a Sunday and had half a day at our disposal. However, other than drive around and have a meal, we could not do much. Most of the shopping places were closed, and even the restaurants were open, only selectively. We used the half day to take a deserved break from constantly being on the move, and relaxed, before our departure out of New Zealand.

Some photos from the last leg of our New Zealand vacation (although some of the water may feel like it’s been coloured using Photoshop, rest assured that unbelieving as these may seem, these ARE the awesome natural colours of the water to see!)…

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As you will see from the table below, we did upwards of 2500 km, over our stay in New Zealand, not counting the trip to Milford Sound and back, from Queenstown.

One of the last lovely memories that we had, was to checkout of our Christchurch motel at around 3 am in the morning, to catch a flight. We were asked to simply walk out of the hotel, and shut the door behind us. We took out our rental car, drove out of the motel, on the empty streets of the city, went to the warehouse location for the rental car return (at that early hour, the main location was not open), from where they dropped us back to the airport. The people at the warehouse location at that early hour were professional, polite and friendly.

At that early hour of the day, everything went off smoothly and safely, and that meant so much to us, in terms of the impact that New Zealand and its people had created on us.

We had had an absolutely fantastic vacation, and we were leaving with some of the most amazing memories of our lifetime!

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The drive from Fox Glacier was through hilly terrain, and amidst drizzling rain. And it was a rainy Lake Wanaka that we reached and stopped at.

It would have been wonderful to have had a drier day at Lake Wanaka, because it is such a pretty location. In fact, quite a perfect tourist spot, with a great promenade to walk around, wide range of food options, and a generally fun feel to the place. When we were there, not only was it drizzling, but it had become chilly too, so we did not spend much time, except to walk around a bit, find a place to eat, and then head out.

We did however, stop at a very interesting place in Wanaka called “The Puzzling World” – a place full of a variety of puzzles, a place where parents can come with kids and hang around all day, amidst a variety of puzzle types.

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From there, it was straight to Queenstown, and what we had been eagerly looking forward to. Even as you enter the town, you see this absolutely stunning, and huge lake, surrounded by hills and really nice looking houses all over. It’s a fabulous picturesque impact, that first view of Queenstown. The downtown is full of life, with several food places, ice cream shops, the lake and the boats, a promenade to walk around. In fact, there are food places with a variety of cuisines – we tried Indian and Mexican over the two days that we were there, and both were great!

One of the must-do things that people had recommended in Queenstown was to go to Milford Sound. It is a 4-hour drive each way, and a 2-3 hour cruise at Milford Sound, in between. I wanted a break from driving, and also 8-9 hours of driving in the day, was not exactly what I was looking forward to. So we wanted to do the trip by bus instead, and not need to worry about driving, at least for the one day! Except that on Jan 2, in the middle of a busy tourist season, almost all buses were full, and we had a struggle to find seats for ourselves. After several attempts, we managed to get those bus seats and we were set for Milford Sound, our first big sightseeing activity at Queenstown.

Milford Sound was an ABSOLUTELY BREATHTAKING experience, and it deserves those capitalised letters!! As the guide explained to us, the place is one of the rainiest of all places in the world, with 300 days of rain in a year. And in fact, 200 days of gale force winds in a year! And yes, we were there on one of those very rainy days, though not gale force winds, thank God!

And it made the entire experience surreal. Going out on a cruise at the fjord, with tall mountains on both sides, and large number of waterfalls coming down from great heights, several at a time! And amidst clouds that were low, the wind blowing strong, including some falls where the wind was literally taking the water UP, instead of down!!

It was pretty much out-of-the-world experience. The pictures may or may not do full justice to the place, you have to be there to experience what Rudyard Kipling called the “8th wonder of the world”!

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So the whole day was devoted to Milford Sound, and that left us the next half of a day to do other things in Queenstown. One of the things that Queenstown is known for, is adventure activities like Skydiving, Bungee jumping, etc. As my daughters, especially the younger one, were keen to try some of these out, we were looking out for these options.

Skydiving was the preferred one, but again, on account of weather issues, the skydiving was not happening, and my daughter was very disappointed. So the next day, we just thought of going up the gondola ride, at the top of which, there was going to be luge rides and a great view of the town.

And indeed, the view was fantastic, and the girls enjoyed the luge ride too. And there was some awesome food up there, as well. But what was a surprise discovery once we went up, was to find a bungee jumping option out there. And my younger daughter was very game to go for it. And she did. And that was clearly the big highlight for us.

Here are some pictures from the rest of our Queenstown experience, including the bungee jumping.

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So that was the breathtaking and awesome Queenstown. We would have loved to stay here some more, but the rest of our tour plan beckoned, and we needed to leave, and get to the next place.

The next stop was to be Twizel, another small town, but from where we would be visiting Mount Cook Village and Lake Tekapo.

We headed out of Queenstown then, towards Twizel.

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