Posts Tagged ‘postaday2011’


Anna Hazare on fast unto death

Baba Ramdev on fast unto death

Medha Patkar on fast unto death


Four cars with beacon lights on the top, and driven at high speeds, screeched to a noisy halt outside the Jain temple.

The peace and the quiet of the temple was broken. There was concern inside. So much noise and commotion had not been seen or felt here, for a long time.

The meditation and prayers of many devotees were broken, and their minds diverted to the gate. Some of the people rushed towards the gate to figure out what was going on. Finally, the main trustees of the temple walked ahead to enquire the details.

Just then, first a couple of security guards, and then some assistants, and finally the opposition MLA walked out of the car, and into the temple.

At the gate, the temple security stopped the gun wielding security guards from going inside. There were glances exchanged between the MLA’s security persons, the MLA’s PA and the MLA himself. And it was decided that the gun totting security men, could stay outside.

And the MLA and his PA proceeded inside. Meanwhile the trustees had come out, and started enquiring, “How can we help you? What is the matter?”

And the PA responded, “Yes indeed, we need your help. MLA-saab would like to discuss with you. Can we sit somewhere?”

And some chairs were laid out there. Sensing some seriousness, the trustees asked the public that had gathered around (the devotees at the temple) to go away. They went away a small distance, but still had their eyes and ears on this meeting and the discussion.

Finally, after the MLA, the PA and the trustees had sat down, the MLA spoke.

“Bhai-saab, the country needs your help at this time. You know how pathetic the conditions in our state and our country are, right? This is the time when all citizens have to do their bit, and this is the time, when you can do something for your state and the country.”

The peace loving Jain temple trustees were bewildered. What can we do for the country, they were wondering. And then one of them spoke, “Sir, you are right. There are many of our regular devotees who are quite well to do, and they can certainly give donations to your party. But we do not have any such process from the temple. These are all personal decisions which all devotees can take at an individual level. Our rules do not permit us to promote political donations via the temple.”

The MLA replied, “No, no. We are not talking of money. That of course, I have many Jain friends, who are contributing to our opposition party funds.” And glancing at the PA, he added, “they are also giving to ruling party funds – I am not sure who is getting more!”

The MLA continued “What we are looking for is something different, and which you have a lot to offer”.

Now the trustees were very curious, and asked “Sir, we don’t know what you are referring to?”

The MLA clarified, “You must have heard of Anna Hazare and his fast. How effective it was to get the government on its knees!”

The trustees nodded away.

MLA: “Well, indeed, the fasts unto death are the rage of the day. They are the master political moves, based on which a lot can be accomplished. Now Baba Ramdev and Medha Patkar are also going for the same.”

The trustees, still not clear about their role, continued to listen intently.

MLA-ji: “The situation has become very bad for us. As opposition party, we want to take credit of pulling down the government. But these Anna Hazares and Baba Ramdevs and Medha Patkars will walk away with all the credit. So we had a meeting of our party, and we came up with a brilliant idea. And which is what brings me here today.”

The trustee asked, “Ok, so what is the idea?”

MLA-saab: “Well, in our party, and even in our youth wing, we did not find too many people who could stay without food for more than 1-2 days. And then someone pointed out that, in your Jain community, you have many people who fast for many days together. So what we want is to recruit your fasting people, for our causes!”

Trustees in unison: “WHAT??”

MLA: “Please listen to me. The plan is full proof. See, you have at least 50-100 people who are fasting for long periods? We will make them our ‘fasting army’. We will use them one at a time, and pick up one cause of corruption, one scam at a time. We will put your person ahead, for the cause, and our team, will prepare all the banners, posters, and also bring the 100s of volunteers outside Mantralaya. We will arrange for air conditioned mandap outside the Mantralaya, and we can also arrange for newspapers, TV etc. whatever it is that your person requires. All he needs to do is to sit quietly, very peacefully, as the media comes and reports the goings on. All media interviews will be done by our people.”

Trustees are aghast at the idea. Then one of them asks, “But our people are NOT on fast unto death. They are fasting for few days only.”

MLA: “Don’t worry about that. We only write fast unto death. Death does not happen. The government has to give in before death happens. Our media pressure and public pressure will ensure that.”

The MLA is excited in his own plans. He continues, “In fact, our plan is so perfect. One cause after another, one of your persons after another, and we keep pegging away at the government. Lets look at an average of max 1 week for each cause. Then with 50 of your people, used 1 at a time, we are through for 50 weeks of andolan.”

Almost jumping out of his seat, he continues enthusiastically, “And if we have got them to bend down on 50 items in a year, can they ever return to power in the next elections?? No way! Government will be ours.. ha ha ha.. ”

The trustees are staring at him unbelievingly. They ask another crucial question, “What if on some occasions, the government does not bend down and the fast goes on for many days? What if it hurts our fasting person?”

The MLA is stumped by that question. He pauses. Does not have an answer to that. But being the astute politician, he recovers quickly, “Nahi, nahi. Aisa ho hi nahi sakta. Don’t worry. We are there for you. We will never allow that to happen. Not even one of your persons will have to die!”

And then in a whisper, he tells his PA, “But if one had to die, then the government will fall immediately, and we will be in power the next day.. ” and smiles wickedly..

And just so that they have the proposition well covered, the trustees ask this final question, “But why should we do this?”

And the MLA quickly responds, “Ah, now you  are talking. I knew you Gujaratis understand the language of negotiation. So I am going to make it very interesting for you. When we get into government, we will institute a Ministry for Minority Affairs at the Cabinet level, and your person can be a minister there. AND we will also have a special committee for Jain affairs, with a budget of Rs. 100 crores, and of course, you can have your people there.”

MLA: “So should I consider this a DONE DEAL??”

First there were iconic individual restaurants..

You remember Khyber, Copper Chimney, China Garden, Little Italy and many more of such type.

Far some of these may have been, but we’d drive down on the Saturday evenings, wait in queue, but ensure that we get a table and enjoy the great fare they’d serve.

And then came franchising.

And suddenly we had many Copper Chimneys. And we were tempted to go to the ‘nearest’ Copper Chimney.

Unfortunately, not every F&B brand can do franchising like McDonald’s does. With the result that the different outlets would not have consistency. So you start missing the ‘real’ Copper Chimney, for example. But by now, the brand has given you a disappointment, and now you are not so sure, if you want to take the trouble to go all the way to the ‘original’ Copper Chimney. Also you have a doubt whether the quality is down for the brand itself, since you did eat from a Copper Chimney itself, didn’t you?!

Well, if this was not enough to damage the brand, we now have the Food-Courting of good F&B brands!

The temptation of those huge spaces in the malls, where there are thousands of footfalls, got these branded restaurants to open cubby hole spaces in the food courts as well. Well know and very popular restaurant brands like Little Italy, Swati Snacks and others have started opening these mini-outlets in the food courts of malls.

With disastrous effect!

In most cases, they are unable to live up to the overall quality or experience standards associated with their original branded outlets. I have personally had very disappointing experiences with both, Little Italy (at K Star Mall in Chembur) and Swati Snacks (at Oberoi Mall in Goregaon). Food quality, service levels and apathy on the part of the people on the counter were the main reasons for feeling bad!

So what happens? The goodwill that the brands built painstakingly over the years, is damaged, due to being unable to maintain those standards, perhaps constrained by the format of the food courts.

Why then, do these brands still get to the food courts? Are they not killing the golden goose in the process?

Subhash Ghai and his company, Mukta Searchlight, seem to be encouraging some young filmmakers doing alternate cinema. I saw two trailers of films coming from his stable, even as I saw the one that was actually released, viz. Kashmakash.

Kashmakash is based on a story by Rabindranath Tagore, called Nauka Dubi. Story-wise, there are elements of a Salim Javed lost and found style of old. But other than that, there is no resemblance to typical Hindi cinema at all.

In fact, it is a classical Bengali style, based in the 1920s, and superbly directed by Rituparno Ghosh.

The story is about dialogue, and moves slowly. Yes, there are times when it seems too slow too. But if you can take the slow pace, there are enjoyable moments in the film.

There are elements of small town, and of periods gone by. Old houses, pianos, villages by the river, traditional Bengali wedding, all have a certain charm about them. Make for excellent visuals too.

The director has ensured details – the old style fans and regulators, the short and puffed sleeved blouses of the women, typewriters, fountain pen written letters that needed to be “air-dried” before folding the paper, etc. Nice touches, all.

It is interesting that the director uses the otherwise more glamorous sister, Riya Sen to portray the illiterate village girl, and the other sister Raima Sen to be the city girl. Not that it would have made much difference. It was not a modern day story, which would have allowed Riya to play a real glam-doll that she does in other modern cinema!

Gulzar’s lyrics have his magical touch, and the end, is surprising but interesting.

I can only say that I am even more of an admirer of Bengali culture, art, writing, cinema etc. now, than I was before! If you like that kind of stuff, you may enjoy this film..

I understand that IPL is all about entertainment, for the viewer, the spectator. And which is fine!

After all, entertainment is good business.

But for the business owners, is it about entertainment, or is it about business like any other?

So how would it be, if all businesses ran like the IPL business??

I mean, as business owners if the family and friends came together and partied, not really worried about where the business itself was going?!

So at the tender opening of the infrastructure project, the owner gets along his wife, sister-in-law, and a few (20-30) friends to the opening. And even as the officials get down to the business of opening the bids and discussing them, in the reception lobby outside, champagne and cheese is served. And the ladies appreciate the new diamonds and the Gucci bags that some of them have carried on them. Light music’s in the air.

People keep coming and going, with papers and intense discussion going on inside.

Once in a while, the sis-in-law asks the wife.. “when will jiju come and join us here?” and the wife peeps inside, and looks at the hubby who’s in the middle of the tender opening. And the wife shouts out to him, and he looks up, and kisses her an air kiss. And she winks back..

And comes and tells her sister, “soon now.. “.

And when he comes out, he is offered a ready glass of champagne.

Did anyone ask about the tender itself? Oh.. who cares?!

And as for competition? Hey, it’s all fun. We are friends. And we party together.. !

So who cares about market share or profits or other such boring things, right?

On a relaxed Sunday, happen to catch about half of Jewel Thief, the Dev Anand classic from old times.

The movie was a lot of fun, but I was again (as I have been in previous viewings) amazed by the absolutely fantastic dance sequence on the song, Hoto Pe Aisi Baat.

Note these facts:

  • The song is from those days where technology was so much poorer compared to today,
  • Which means that they didn’t have sharp edits that could get stitched together, and look like one single camera sequence,
  • So if you see a single camera capture of Vyjantimala’s magic, it was ACTUALLY done in a single shot,
  • See HOW MANY of such long, single shot sequences are there in the song? Unbelievable, from today’s times, where they cut and chop and somehow put  a dance together (e.g. Deepika in Dum Maro Dum – pathetic compared to this!)
  • Think of the choreography with the support dance troupe, and other stars like Dev Anand, floating in between the long sequence otherwise focused on Vyjantimala,
  • That was the time when actresses were actually trained (long term!) in dance. Vyjantimala of course, was the best of the best. But others like Waheeda Rehman, Hema Malini and others have also given some great dance sequences.
Check the song out – it is outstanding:
If I ever get to meet Vyjantimala, I’d want to touch her feet in salute, ONLY for this dance!! All else she has done is bonus.. !

I clearly suffer from this.

And I have heard similar thoughts from some friends.

About forgetting names and sometimes forgetting words.

Struggling on them, and suddenly, they come back. Ahh… eureka!

Like how a typical Windows machine, sometimes takes a little time to fetch a file, sometimes slows down..

And we are recommended that we need to de-frag the hard disk, and maybe, things will be fine again…

Do I need to de-frag the disk in my head too? 🙂

Well, the situation is not much different.

All of a sudden, we are seriously stretched for things to remember. The number of individual points or references that get into our heads has multiplied many fold.

Take for instance, the number of people we “know”.

In traditional times (and I am talking no more than 10 years back), we had a few of our school and childhood friends, some college friends, neighbours, relatives, in-laws, and perhaps, we belonged to 1-2 clubs or gyms and knew people there.

And now???

Hundreds or thousands of additional ‘connections’ / ‘fans’ / ‘followers’.. ! You know what I refer to, right?!

How often have I been greeted at events by smiles and handshakes with “thankfully, you look like your DP on Twitter – so I could recognize you”, or “We connected on Linkedn, remember?”

Heck, I DON’T. Remember!!

I just have a few thousand connections on LinkedIn, and a few thousand followers on Twitter or few hundreds of people I met and shook hands with, at various events.

No, I am NOT trying to make myself look busy and important. At all!

I am saying, this is life. And if the person opposite to me feels I should remember him because we connected on LinkedIn, it is only a matter of time, when HIS LinkedIn connections go to a large level as well, that he will realize why I didn’t remember him today.. !

And besides people, think about the things that we need to remember today.

Earlier, you forgot what they taught you in school, when you went to college. And then when you went to work, you could forget your college stuff. It was enough to remember what you were currently involved in. And read the papers for a bit of this-and-that on current events. Could safely take you through an evening party, in terms of conversation pieces.

And suddenly, the world has expanded in terms of the bits and pieces of information that people talk about. At parties. Not just in R&D labs!!

Cloud computing, Quora, Android, Wikileaks, Kanimozi, KG basin, derivatives, Miss India, Get Idea, leopards and Mukesh Ambani, the Land Rover, Kate’s dress at the royal wedding, nano tech, Warren Buffet, China, tsunami, etc. etc. etc. etc.

And words.. new words thrown at you everyday. So Wikileaks is a common noun now? What about Radiagate? And those twitter / SMS short forms. You are supposed to know what FTW means, and that WTF is not just a Welcome to Facebook 🙂

Can my head cope with all this??

Hey you medical types? Have you come up with a concept of de-fragmentation of the head, just yet? I might be interested..

They say there were more than 30 women and children, in the safe house (well, not-so-safe ultimately) of Osama Bin Laden, in Abbottabad. Some even saw the killing personally.

I am reminded of Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Mission Kashmir.

Where a young Hrithik (well, a child artist) is witness to a killing in the family, by an Indian security force (Sanjay Dutt), and grows up with revenge in the mind, and becomes a terrorist.

We don’t want a Mission Abbottabad!

On the other hand, these women and kids and perhaps, other mute witnesses who are not that harmful, have a huge economic opportunity.

I am sure the big publishers of the world, and the television networks, are all clamoring to get to these survivors.

For book contracts, to begin with:

“My Days in Abbottabad”

“Osama: The Last Days at Abbottabad”

“Know The Man Behind the Terrorist: Personal Encounters with OBL”

Ah.. I am sure, the publishers are salivating at the thought of these titles, and the multi million dollar opportunities that each convey.

And the television networks?
What a scoop if CBS can get an exclusive of ‘the child who was in the room, when the Navy SEALS reached Osama in Abbottabad’, or an interpreter assisted first time to the world, interview with ‘women of Abbottabad’.

Oh, the riches that these survivors will get, will hopefully make them forget the stress of “that night in Abbottabad” and we will not have a repeat of Mission Kashmir..

What do you think?

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. However, any similarity to persons living or dead is purely intentional :)


Panic had set in the ranks.

Tension of this kind was never ever seen before. Not when the Americans entered Kabul, nor when they attacked Iraq.

Their safe havens were always safe. Dubai, Karachi, Islamabad.. no one could touch them there. No matter that American troops were present in Pakistan. But there was enough protection to them, from their friends in ISI and elsewhere in Pakistan.

Life was fun.. !

And then, one night, the Americans came quietly, without letting anyone know, and took out Osama Bin Laden, in his own home, closely protected by the nearby military academy, in Abbottabad.

The board members of GTA (Global Terrorists’ Association) were in total panic now. If the Americans could get into Abbottabad, no place was safe anymore.

What is their next strike was in Karachi?? Or in Islamabad, for God’s sake?!

An emergency board meeting was held. Most of them could turn up and attend, but those who did not make it, still came on the video conference, and it was a 100% attendance. Panic does this to people. Everyone was concerned and for once, they had to join hands to figure out their solutions.

After a lot of debate, and after going round and round in circles, there was no solution in sight to possible prevention of such attacks by the Americans.

So when that debate was not going anywhere, finally the veteran terrorist made everyone quiet and said: “Friends, we are going nowhere. We will spend days trying to figure out how to stop the American rampage, we may not get answers, and who knows, if the Americans find us here, and attack all of us together?”

The possibility shook everyone up. And suddenly there was quiet in the air.

The veteran terrorist continued, “Let us be practical here. Till the time we figure out how to stop such attacks, we have to address the next issue. IF an attack happens on our hideout, and if they take us down, it’s all over for us! What we must figure out is a way to survive. If we are alive, we can still hope for help from our politician friends all over the world. And maybe regain our power in course of time.”

There was a murmur in the room. Everyone agreed. The wise veteran terrorist had made a crucial point.

The young, brash, new kid on the block terrorist asked “But sir, how do we save ourselves? Osama was not even armed, he did not fight, and yet, they took him down. How can we hope to survive?”

The veteran terrorist responded “Ah, the trouble with you young kids of today. You do not want to do any homework, and just rush into battle.. ”

The young kid on the block did not like the comment from the veteran. He was about to shout some profanities. Nobody told him things like this! But looking at the hall and the seniors around, he held back his response.

The veteran terrorist continued “Check this story out. Can you spot the opportunity of survival there?”

And as he said this, and clicked the mouse, the story was flashed on the giant projection screen in the room. It was long form text and not SMS / Tweet length 140 characters. So it took time for the GTA members to read and digest it.

First one, and then others, slowly got the message. And they were aghast. What WAS the veteran terrorist suggesting??

The headline of the story suggested:

Only a naked Osama would have been spared the bullet

By the time they were all done, and murmuring amongst themselves, it was again left to the young, brash new terrorist to blurt out, “What? You are suggesting that we roam around in full monty? Are you crazy or something?”

The veteran terrorist shook his head again. He looked at his senior colleagues hoping to get sympathy from them, but they were also all staring at him in disbelief.

What the hell was this old man suggesting?!

Finally, the veteran terrorist responded, “You are a real slow lot. No wonder terrorism is going to the dogs and the law is catching up on us. Where are your smarts, you idiots?!”

“Wait, I will not speak anything.. let me call a few guys whom my boys have ‘picked up’ from Mumbai!”

So saying, he summoned his team to bring in the guests, all blind-folded…

And slowly the faces became clear. These were all name brand designers from India – Manish Malhotra, Ritu Beri, Rohit Bal, Neeta Lulla and others.

The group was still open mouthed. What the hell is this veteran upto?
And the veteran – well, he looked at the question marks on the faces of the group, and shook his head. He thought, “now I know, the days of terrorism are numbered – we have such idiots who have to be told EVERYTHING..”

And so he explained, “Guys, I wish you’ll would have understood. But dumb that all of you are, and still not getting the point, I have no choice but to spell out the details to you.”

“As you saw in the report, as per US rules, if the terrorist was naked, they’d have spared him the bullet. Now, I do not expect all of us to walk around without clothes (and while saying this, he looked sharply, at the young, brash terrorist – who, in turn, turned his head down!).”

“What I am looking for each of us to do, is to wear clothes, which can come off FAST. So if you sense noise outside your room or unusual movements or noises from your compound, within seconds, you need to be naked.”

And as he said this, there were small smiles coming on to the faces of the group. There were nods of affirmation and sighs of relief.

The veteran continued, “In the last couple of days that these famous Indian designers have been here, we have got them to come up with concepts of such clothing. To suit all of our tastes, and yet have the fundamental feature of quick removal.”

“The challenge given to the designers was a 5-second removal target. And by jove, these Indian designers are creative. And respond to challenges. We have two dresses here, which can actually come out in 3 seconds, and others in the 4-5 seconds range.”

“And not that these are sparse.. these are good looking to suit our respective preferences, and yet quick to remove.”

“We will see demonstrations now, and we have flown in John Abraham and Akshay Kumar to walk the ramp, to demo these dresses, including their functionalities!”

The guard at the door observing the goings on, murmured to his colleague, “Ah.. now I know why those 500 bundles of VELCRO were ordered the other day.. !”

I have been in the Rotary Club movement for many years now. About 15 years or so.

Most of these were as a member of the Rotary Club of Bombay Worli, where I was even Director on the Board, for a few years. I was reasonably active and had a great time as a member there. We did some good projects there, besides having a lot of fun at parties and picnics and outstation trips.

Then, we sold the business and I moved to Delhi for a year and a half. And due to that reason, I came out of Rotary for a couple of years.

Once I returned back to Mumbai and started the new venture, Social Wavelength, for a while I was busy with the set up. But Rotary Club beckoned, and I found my current club, the Rotary Club of Deonar, and joined it. But with a new startup and the priority that work takes in life, and on account of the fact that the weekly meetings are on a weekday evening, I have been a pathetic participant in Rotary Club activities of this club. Not liking it, but that’s how it has been.

Few weeks back, I took a resolve. No, not about Rotary. But about my life and my time!

We have two Saturdays off, in a month, and I realized that I would end up working most times. And I did not want to do so, as there was no end to work, and the holiday had to mean something. I decided that I will NOT work on those holiday Saturdays, and typically, try to do funner things like visiting new places, or something equally interesting.

And I kept at it for a couple of these holiday Saturdays – a trip to Lavasa once, and then to Shapur to a temple another time.

This time, around, we got a Saturday holiday by accident. Our events team at the office, finalized the 2nd anniversary party on the Friday night, and as it would be celebrations that go on till late at night, we decided to give the next Saturday as a holiday (well, we will work on one of the following holiday Saturdays to compensate!). And I got this unexpected Saturday off, which was the 5th Saturday of the month.

I had no other plans on this unexpected off. Then I remembered a Rotary project that was to happen on the Saturday and I decided to go for it.

Our Rotary Club has been associated with a few villages in Taluka Karjat. As a part of this association, there is set up a Rotary Community Corps (local voluntary body) also, out there. In association with the RCC, our club has contributed a lot of good community service projects there, including some 36 borewells, toilet blocks, desks in schools, etc.

I found out most of this information when I went for the project yestrerday.

Seeing this one can really appreciate how some small tasks for us, can give meaningful life for so many.

The households for whom the toilet block happened, live in hygenic surroundings now.

The village gets better water from the borewells.

Classrooms look like classrooms with the desks, and motivate children to go to schools and parents to send them.

In similar vein, we had gone for yet another new project for the village.

There is a river that flows past this village. If left to flow, the extent of water that collects in the lake there, is small, and it also dries up by about December or January. The village has a tough time coping with the last few months of summer.

There is a concept called a check dam – a dam of a few feet in height, that will hold some water in place, allowing the rest to flow over , with the river. There was an old government constructed check dam earlier, but it had got breached and it was not possible to repair that one.

The villagers would then use bags of sand etc. to serve to check the water. This was ineffective beyond a point.

Finally it was decided to build a new check dam. The villagers themselves contributed a decent 20-25% of the cost of this, another good percentage came from a person in the Netherlands, who has been a contributor to projects in this area. Rest of it was arranged and the project coordinated, by our Rotary Club.

Yesterday was the inauguration and final handover of the check dam. This was done by the District Governor Elect, Rtn Vijay Jalan.

Post inauguration, there was a small meeting arranged with the help of the village folk there. Young school girls of the village entertained us with some group singing.

Besides small speeches, the villagers served us vada-pav, sweets, watermelon etc.

There were 5 cars full of Rotary folk (and I mean 5 cars FULL) who had gone for this visit, which only speaks for the extent of interest and effort that the members at Rotary Club of Deonar take, for project and service.

Post this project, we had a planned stop at Saguna Baug, an agro-tourism desination. Run by extremely dedicated and highly motivated folks, the place strives in complete sincerity, to promote the virtues of being an agriculturist, and seeks to guide all of us about agriculture.

A fabulous place, it merits revisit, and perhaps a stay too.

All in all, it was a good trip, a good opportunity to be at a Rotary project after a long time, and interact with fellow Rotarians, and a motivator now, to be a little more regular in Rotary hereafter!

** Spoiler Warning: Scenes and stories of the film, I Am, are described as part of this review. If you intend to watch the film and do not want to know about this, you should stop right here. Perhaps read this after you see the film, and share your thoughts about the film. **

Having seen previous works of Onir (Sorry Bhai and My Brother Nikhil), it did not take much persuasion for me to get to the cinema, when his new film, I Am released this week.

The very few screens that the film was showing at (had to go to a new cinema, where I’ve never been to catch this show), and the sparsely occupied first Saturday evening show after the release, is an indication of his kind of cinema being a niche variety.

But as it turned out, I Am is the exact kind of cinema that I like.

I like stories of real people, their challenges, their weaknesses, their struggles, their emotions.

I like these better than science fiction (someone going into the past and changing things or whatever) or fantasy (magic wands and flying people in strange lands) or stories of people having the rarest of rare diseases, etc.

I Am on the other hand, depicts a story which is more commonplace, something that doesn’t demand a lot of imagination to understand or appreciate.

There is just so much happening in real life around us, all of us have stories to tell, there is drama, there is emotion, there is joy and fear and insecurity and what not. Why do we need to go to out of space or in some strange lands to create movies.

So, thanks to Onir for a real-life story.

Oh wait.. was it one story or many stories??

Yes, that actually is a question. And I am almost tempted to feel that Onir was working on multiple ideas (have seen this often in very creative people) to perhaps make multiple screenplays. And either there was not enough material to do 5 different films, or he just did not want to wait for so long. And hence, he fitted them into a single film, I Am!!

And I did not realize this part. So half-way after the interval, I am still wondering.. “is there going to be some interesting end, where all of these are going to combine into some kind of climax?”. But they don’t and which is fine.

So there are a few independent stories of characters who are thinly – very thinly – connected to each other. And those connections are shown. The only purpose of showing this could be that, while we feel, we are the ones carrying the biggest burdens of stress on our heads, the reality could be that there is a struggle inside each of us. Maybe we just don’t show it, or we don’t notice these in the people we meet and interact with. But if there was a way to glance inside the opposite person’s life, there is perhaps, an equal if not bigger struggle right there.

So with the different characters, Onir takes on some major issues, all at one time:

  • Lady with a bad experience of a relationship, has sworn off men but still wants a child of her own. And believes that the genes of the donor sperm will impact the child, so struggles to want the right person, and struggles with her own decision, of doing it her way. Nandita Das in this role, is brilliant. She is of course, one of India’s best talents. And has that classic Bengali look. Thoughtful, deep thinking, artistic, yet sensual. Onir shows her without much make up, and in some of the scenes (especially the one with a background score, where she is going through Kolkata, in the metro, mostly), the creases on the face show, and she actually looks ‘old’. But this may have been by choice, to depict the dilemma inside her, and the accompanying stress. In this episode, we also see a subdued character depicted by Purab Kohli. Well played again. After Rock On, here’s another good performance by the man, though in a small role here. Aerial shots of Kolkata at dusk, are quite brilliant.
  • Then, there is this other story of a Kashmiri Pundit (Juhi Chawla) who has migrated out of Srinagar during the times when things got very difficult for the Pundits to stay there. And who returns to finally sell off her old family property there. And meets her childhood friend (Manisha Koirala) and her Kashmiri Muslim family there. After so many years, the relationship is stressful. Somewhere deep inside, Juhi feels that Manisha and her family and their kind, were responsible for driving her and her family out of their homes here. Till Manisha talks about her side, and what her life has been reduced to. Without any flashbacks, but just showing facial expressions, as they walk around the now-changed favorite childhood locales, the angst can be appreciated. Juhi and Manisha, both are brilliant here. Also if the Srinagar shown here, and the people of Srinagar shown here, are realities, then it is really, really sad. Streets full of security personnel, fundamental suspicion all around, basically sad faces, dirty barren Dal lake. True, as the Kashmiri says, “meri jannat ko kisiki bahut buri nazar lag gayi”. The destruction of paradise, as it were.
  • We have the story of Sanjay Suri, and the issue addressed here, is about child sexual abuse. And particularly about how, the character abused, learns to first gets gratification for his acts, then learns to demand, and ultimately masters the art of exploiting the elder, in return! As he says later in life, “at age 13, I became a slut”!
  • And then there is the character of Rahul Bose, corporate head honcho, having the best of life. And he’s gay. Pre-homosexuality acceptance bill, we see his struggle to keep this a secret, and a particular harrowing episode of a run-in with the cops. And his feeling of freedom, post the passage of the bill. Interesting to see the evolution of permissiveness on Indian cinema screens. I still remember how a flower would come between the camera and kissing lips, or the long hair of the actress covering the embrace of the couple, as the lip-lock was taboo on the screen. That’s left far behind. Almost seems laughable in today’s times. We have seen so much more, since those old days. So not sure if this was a new first. A gay kiss on screen, between Rahul Bose and his partner. And Bollywood and Indian society move to the next level – will not say, if the next level is up or down. Leave it to your own moral judgment on the matter!!
To summarize, Onir spins an interesting set of stories, in I Am. Extracts excellent performances from all the cast. And that’s important, as it is all about acting and about emotions, and hence totally dependent on the actors to deliver. Which they do.
Seeing performances of Nandita Das, Juhi Chawla and Manisha Koirala, you are left wishing that they would get more good projects, and we get to see a lot more of these trio of good actors!
In terms of a recommendation to see or not, clearly this film is not for everyone. If you’re the Source Code or the Harry Potter or a Shor in the City or a Naughty at 40 kind, you can safely give this one a miss. I Am is chalk and cheese different from all of those kinds. But like me, if you are a sucker for some good storytelling, good acting, real-life depiction, then go for I Am. You will not regret it.