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The D is silent! Ruminating about Jolly and Django

My movie fix for the past week were these two strange tales, from contemporary India and 17th century America. Both full of drama, both full of affected male characters. Very masculine films both, the women mere wallflowers in the script. The difference is that I disliked the first and rather loved the second. And no, it’s not about being partial to Hollywood at all!

Let me start by tabling my views on Jolly LLB. Despite its talented cast, brilliant performances by Boman Irani and Saurabh Shukla and a decent show by Arshad Warsi, the film fell flat. The script was too predictable, the first half slow. A few sharp dialogues and colloquialisms were all that it had going for it and a sense of satisfaction, the good old good-over-evil win in the end. Nothing to write home about at all.

What piqued my interest though was the few minutes spent on discussing the plight of the homeless and pavement dwellers in the film. Because I work in the area of shelter and urban poverty, I was happy to see the movie tackle head-on the issue of the tremendous prejudice with which elite society treats the homeless and the downtrodden, how little their lives are valued and how meager our understanding of the conditions that drive them to leave their rural homes and come to work in the big, mostly bad city!

Coming to Tarantino’s Django Unchained, I have to say it was sheer entertainment. Once I got used to the copious amounts of blood and gore that splatters the screen at regular intervals, I sat back and savored the beautifully constructed shots, the oh-so-apt background score and the well-etched characters in the film. The period setting is impeccably done and life on the plush plantations of the Southern States in pre-Civil War America shown in all its splendor. Django, the D silent mind you, is fashioned after our own Rajnikanth (Rajni Sar!), shades and all! The story, haunting in its sadness and poetry, is a parody of itself almost, the emotional angle underplayed to the point of getting a bit lost in all the melodrama. Quite a bit like Gangs of Wasseypur and I believe Tarantino is Anurag Kashyap’s inspiration for his work.

ImageNo comparison is possible and I won’t attempt it! The common thread is only the subtext of the reality of injustice in a world where survival is the only truth and a belief in destiny your only hope. In that sense, the D is silent indeed!

Have I (in leading the comfortable city life) gone too soft? Thanking my stars! Jan 29, 2012

A week ago, plans we had made for a family weekend out were placed in doubt when my daughter (all of nearly 4) realized her annual play was planned the same saturday and simply refused to sacrifice it for our carefully planned outing! No grudges against her, but the news threw me into a day-long tizzy. A part of me was really really upset and the other part of me could not stop laughing about how little it now takes to upset me!

Last night as we received news of a grandparent’s demise, I revisited the thought of how we seem to have lost the art of being able to take the hiccups of life in our stride. I certainly find I have gone much softer than I was about a decade ago. I reasoned a large part of this is because the consequences of bad news simply did not occur to me way back in my twenties. The other major cause is there are a lot more responsibilities, commitments, stuff to be taken care of. Third, we are so used to the humdrum of our routines, that the slightest uncalled for deviation is hard to handle, no matter how much we complain about that same humdrum routine!

I also suspect that life is too darned comfortable. I have no major struggles, only trifling existential ones! Since the day of discomfort and sniggering at myself a week ago, I have been thanking my kismet that this is all I need to worry about, nothing more fundamental and life-threatening looms like a dark cloud over my existence. As I skim the papers everyday, this is not what I can say for a lot of people in this city and nation. So here’s to showing some gratitude and hoping that, when disaster does strike, I will have the strength of mind to cope!

Why the tremendous urge to know the future? A doubting Dragon’s musings on the Chinese New Year-Jan 24, 2012

Dragons are destined for success, as per Chinese beliefs and it is expected that there will be a 5% increase in the number of children born to Chinese parents this year. This isn’t just speculation, its what actually happened in 2000, the last Year of the Dragon!

Well, I’m a Dragon too, so is Rahul and a lot of our friends and I’m really wondering if we are more ‘successful’ or ‘fortunate’ or ‘intelligent’ that other people born under the other eleven Chinese signs! Of course itโ€™s nice to think so, but it’s really hard to believe this could be true. Yet, belief in all sorts of astrological phenomenon and deductions seem to play a significant factor in our lives. While in India, the traditional Vedic system of astrology that uses birth charts (the janampatri) is predominant, urban Indians are adopting all of the new systems being practices the world over

In my teens, I remember that the Greco-Roman zodiac signs (Aries, Taurus, etc) being a huge craze. Propagated by Linda Goodman, whose book was referred to endlessly and formed the basis of many gossip sessions, many of my peers went to the extent of pursuing or terminating relationships on the basis of Goodman’s interpretations.

By the time I was in my 20s, I became aware of a confusing array of beliefs, some based on astrology, others on differing systems that claim to understand current situations and predict the future. The Chinese Zodiac, Tarot cards, healing crystals, numerology, Feng Shui and Vastushastra as well as the old palmistry stuff are now all around to add to the pleasure of finding out what the future holds for you.

I have always been extremely wary of any methods that claim to offer all of life’s decisions on some sort of a platter. Experts practicing any of these systems, I feel, have been developing an increasingly stronger hold on their followers. Its not just readings that they offer; they go on to suggest and sometimes prescribe how their followers should lead their lives.

Now individuals are free to believe in what they wish to, but it seems to be extremely irrational to place my faith in any of these systems instead of on my own judgment! Of course, I happen to be born to parents who made their disbelief clear to me, so I was never predisposed to seeking my answers through this route. My dad did not waver in his disbelief even when he was detected with cancer and in the entire year of his fight against the dreaded disease.

I also observe that the higher the stakes, the more the urgency to know the future. So celebrities, politicians and industrialists frantically consult soothsayers, as do ordinary folks when they wish to take decisions about their careers, marriages, children, etc. Clearly, as the stresses of life increase, these kind of beliefs prosper. Urban centers where concentrated populations compete bitterly for opportunities to progress become great markets for opportunists who exploit insecurity.

I guess my basic question is- What’s wrong with leading life without knowing? Isn’t most of the fun in the journey anyway, learning along the way, tweaking strategies and being able to take credit for the good stuff also ๐Ÿ™‚ Do we really believe that bad luck is avoidable (through pujas, chants, crystals and other forms of ‘good energy’)? It’s an open question. My skepticism is apparent…and I’m willing to take my chances!


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