Sunday, January 4, 2015

PK: To ban or not to ban!

Dear Amir Khan and Team,

As a closet writer, I for one enjoyed the script behind PK. It was strong, polished and seemed to tackle a lot of 'touchy' subjects with wit and panache - something I greatly admire. The cinematography (you did the best you could with Anushka's Daffy duck face), the costumes and sound track were all beautiful and at the end of the 153 minutes that was your film - I thought it was money well spent. 

But, my mother and a fair few other people around me felt you had touched upon a very sensitive subject in a crass/cliched manner. On the ride back home, there was a healthy discussion/debate on why your movie should or shouldn't be banned and after much talking (to people of varied opinions) I   seemed to agree with my mom (no, this wasn't just because she was my mom). 

Ah, now before you label me to be as a blood-thirsty fanatic, let me introduce myself. I am 26 year old girl who has had the opportunity to grow up in India, Malaysia and Australia - my view of the world is multicultural and diverse. That said, I do love and am proud of the intricacies of my culture, the festivals, the food and just about most aspects of it.

Your movie PK in its essence asks every Indian to discard the godmen/baba/guru of their religion. Whats wrong with that you may ask? After all, we have no dirth of con artists masquerading as gurus/fathers and maulawi's who convert people on the basis of a heaven/promise them a life with no disease/more money etc. 

The thing is along with the multitude of con artists, India has ALSO given birth to the greatest saints in world - Swami Vivekananda, Rabindranath Tagore, Ramana Maharishi, Mother Teresa, Baba Qamara U Zaman Faridi Chishti and if you look back in history the Buddha, Mahavira etc (I could go on and on and on). Imagine trying to understand quantum physics with elementary knowledge of science and without the aid of an experienced teacher? You would be completely lost and frustrated. The presence of a Guru helps us decipher and understand the religions we belong to in better light. And just like when you were in school and had some good teachers and many not-so-good ones - the same rule applies here as in every field of work.

Additionally, Hindus in large want progress and dynamic change - it is why we are open to changing the systems of yore that no longer work - be it sati, the cast system or anything else thats holding us back - of course there is opposition from people but you must understand that thats what happens when you are changing the nuances of an ancient culture. It is precisely this want that make us all the more vulnerable to poo-poo-ing ALL sadhu's and gurus as opposed to any other religion.

Now, coming to the size of the ashrams/money hungry nature of gurus that you have chosen to
portray in your movie. Again, I personally believe this portrays the whole communities of teachers in a very poor light and fails to highlight the good work that they do. Asking them to sit under a tree with nothing but a lion cloth and do all the work they do is like asking you to let every Indian watch PK with one theatre in Bihar - it would be impossible and impractical. Similarly, to share the knowledge each sadhu/guru has, his devotees come together to help build ashrams in the spirit of a yagna or teamwork. The grandeur of the oscars is not attributed to just one man - its a whole community coming together for a cause and an ashram is no different. It is why the vatican has been granted statehood, mecca is a mini city and a small scale ashrams does everything it does.

Your movies have always had the ability to inspire and cause a shift in the masses. Unfortunately this time round, to quote a dialogue from my favourite movie "I hope your project doesnt kill goodness in an attempt to expose the bad. I hope that in your attempt to destroy evil, you don't end up destroying the divine"and sadly, I think thats what your movie has done.

Now, I know this is not entirely your fault - the Indian audience is an easily influenced one - its why we all want fair skin, straight black hair, holidays in switzerland, a romance like the one in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Patriotism like in Rang De Basanti and wild parties like in most movies. BUT, this is also why as film makers and the influentia of society we have the additional responsibility of making movies that leave positive impacts for generations to come

To responsibility and creativity,
A hopeful fan.

Saturday, September 13, 2014


So, this happened a week back.

With a span of one hour, I went from being the ideal indian beauty with long black hair to someone whose 'hair looked like it was growing back after a tirupati mottai' in my moms own words.

To a culture that set's it beauty standards on straight, long hair - this short, curly, wild hairdo sent shockers. My mom constantly reminds me of how much 'prettier' i looked before. Many of my friends don't say it aloud but think this was by far the stupidest and silliest thing I have done.

Some lessons from this social experiment I accidentally manage to conduct:

1) Society will always have its standards, that it will choose to reinforce at any given opportunity - to me it was hair, to you it could be body type, skin tone, the length of your skirt or the choice of a partner.

2) You need be ready to step outside your comfort zone every once in a while - because how you how you do the small things is how you do the big things. To the whole world, it was just a hair cut to me it having the courage to do something against the norm.

3) Change is scary - I will admit I spent a few hours in front of the mirror thinking of how to hide this 'horrifying' haircut. Scarf, ponytail, hair band - i pondered every option. But I had to embrace the change - I had little other option. And I am grateful for that.

4) You change the world around you changes - The moment I embraced the wild hair cut people around me started appreciating it.

5) Its ok to have self doubt, but soldier on - Self doubt can rear its ugly head at the most unsuspecting of times, acknowledge its presence - because its what makes you human but move on. Soldier on to be braver, to be more beautiful and more innovative even if it is in your own strange way.

Friday, August 1, 2014

More powerful than you know

Out of the blue on a rainy saturday afternoon, I got a text from a junior of mine. It was an image of a a poorly made card I had given my teacher almost 6 years ago. I was curious and asked him how and where he got his hands on it?

He told me that he had gone to my teacher for advice on what to do in life, a few weeks ago. And after some long powerful conversation, my teacher spoke fondly of me and gave him this card as a reminder of a little girl he knew who always followed her heart. My teacher went on to say a few more nice things about me.....none of which really matter.

What matters, and what took me by surprise is the fact that not only did my teacher bother to keep my silly card for all those years but also that the card went on to act as a catalyst for change, in someone else's life.

We're often so caught up in the narrative of "Oh but what can I do, I am only just one person...." or "How can I do that, I am so young/inexperienced/fat/....( fill in your excuse)"  - That we fail to realise the actual extent of the influence we have on ourselves and the people around us.

That text reminded me of the fact that all of us are a lot more powerful/influential/inspiring than we choose to believe. It reminded me to not only be grateful for that opportunity but to also constantly challenge and push myself, so that I remained worthy of it. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Depth Vs Diversity

As someone who usually diversifies her energies in a varied number of projects, I thought I was hurtling towards the old adage " Jack of all trades, Master of none". So I took a deep breath in and decided that this year's new year resolution would be to find depth, to dig my heels in deep and see where the rabbit hole takes me.

Should have been simple enough. But it has by far been the most hardest thing to stick to. By early feb I was getting bored with my work. It was too repetitive and monotonous. I was ready to quit my job and go wandering under the guise of self discovery. Luckily for me, a wise friend told me so to stay put. He said "It is easy to do things when they are exciting and fun. Anyone can do it. But, if your in the pursuit of excellence, you need to learn to stick it out past the boring phase"

Excellent advice to live by I think. Thoughts?? 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

I'm just a girl and he's just a boy!

I stood at the gate, jaw open... watching the spectacle unfold.

She was poor, I could tell from the stains and tears that adorned her sari. Her hair was tied in a messy knot, probably because she had just finished work. I watched her walk up to the store with two beautiful children dangling from each arm. The boy was in some sort of school uniform complete with black shiny shoes, whilst the girl, who looked younger was in a ragged skirt and blouse.

The lady bought an ice cream at the store and handed it over to the boy. She said something, which I couldn't really decipher and left. As I watched on...I could see the girl pleading with her brother for just one lick of the ice-cream. But he refused despite her many requests.

Since I love poking my nose into everything, I walked up to him and asked him to share - but he cooly told me in tamil "Amma, ennaku than vangu nanga ( mother, bought this just for me)". Irritated at his answer, and the tone it came out in, I went up to the store and promptly bought a more expensive ice cream for the girl. I watched her open the shiny wrapper with a huge grin on my face.

Just as she took her first bite, her brother came over and said "Ne indha ice cream a sapptiko, anna ku ada koditudu (You eat this one and give your older brother the new one)". The boy continued telling her that it was bad to eat without giving her brother and went to extent of "I'll tell mom if you eat the new one". Annoyed, that he had used both the gender and seniority card, I told her not to listen to her brother and to continue eating

I am not sure if what I did was the right thing or wrong, but the issue annoyed me a whole lot. Why did the mother just buy the boy alone an ice-cream? Why did he think it was ok to have the new one just because he was older and a boy?

This disparity is something I see in India a whole lot - in varying degrees. The boy always gets the better, the boy always gets preference, the boy enjoys more freedom - But Why? 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The alternative to Failure

In follow up to yesterdays story, I found an article that strongly resonated:

“What would you have me do instead?

To the critic who decries a project as a worthless folly, something that didn’t work out, something that challenged the status quo and failed, the artist might ask,

“Is it better to do nothing?”

To the critic who hasn’t shipped, who hasn’t created his art, anything less than better-than-what-I -have-now appears to be a waste. To this critic who thinkg, progress should only occur in leaps, in which a fully functioning, perfected new device/book/project/process/system appears and instantly and perfectly replaces the current model.

We don’t need your sharp wit or enmity, please. Our culture needs your support instead.

Each step by any (and every) one who ships moves us. It might show us what won’t work, it might advance the state of the art or it might merely encourage others to give it a try as well.

To those who feel that they have no choice but to create, thank you.

----Awesome post by Seth Godin

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Self worth?

Class was over. I got up with the kids to leave, when I  heard the comment made by a peer who decided to sit in that day "You really did not miss much at all. That was nothing great"  It was made loudly enough to someone who just came in, so that I heard it. I mean after all it was directed at me (the teacher of the class) with all intention of causing irritation/annoyance.

And without doubt, it did exactly that. Nay, it did more....I was upset and hurt. Upset because in that moment, I felt I failed. I felt I was worthless. I felt that all the effort I was taking - was all pointless. 

Words hurt, more than we give them credit for.

A cloud appeared over my head, and my usual cheeriness disappeared in an instant. The cloud followed me all day, leaving behind an aftermath of glumness, poor self-esteem and wanting to give up. Mind you, I am a masterful actress and despite the inner turmoil put up the best smile - but ever so often there was spill over!

That was until I had the thought " Why in heaven's name am I giving this guys so much air-time in my head? My self worth, in no means, is measured out by one person's opinion. Besides, the work I do, is not to earn praise, I do it because I want to and love to - in a way I think is best. I cannot fit into a niche someone else built for me. It would be the same as thinking Danush and Hugh Jackman needed to be exactly the same because they were actors. The two greats had their own ways and appealed to their own masses - I need to be the same"

In that instant I felt liberated and grounded.

NOTE: As a society, we are very adept at being critics but fail at giving support. Encourage the struggling artist, the young inventor, the girl who wants to change the world, or the guy who wants to be the next tom cruise. They need encouragement, not sniggering. Thoughts?