Monday, December 31, 2007

Taare Zameen Par

Finally saw the much-talked about and admired movie, "Taare Zameen Par". It took me a while to sit down and write about it because I was a bit over-whelmed by it and wanted to sit back and look at it objectively. I think I can do that now.
Despite the hype, it did measure up to my expectations and the following are the reasons why.
  1. In the midst of scores of movies about lovers, gangsters, mindless comedies, here comes a movie with a very relevant theme and treats it with sensitivity and maturity. The fact that Aamir Khan chose this particular topic to make a film about is its biggest plus-point.
  2. The absolutely beautiful songs. The lyrics move you to tears; of sadness, of joy, of hope! The music and picturization are the icing on the cake.
  3. The performances of the actors. Everyone from the child, to the parents, his brother, his friend to Aamir Khan have done an excellent job.
  4. The message that this movie conveys. That "every child is special" is so important, especially these days in India when parents are so worried about their kids academic and financial futures that they become blind to the individual "specialness" of each child.
  5. That the hero's name is one that sounds more like an ordinary person's. I was so sick of all the Rahuls and Rohans and Prems and Rajs.
  6. Finally, Aamir Khan....He is reason enough to go see "Taare Zameen Par", at least for me!

Friday, December 28, 2007

To be or not to be....a Great Soul

Last night we watched the movie "Gandhi, My Father" on DVD. It was a superb movie. And not just because it was well-researched, well-directed, with superlative performances from everyone, but also because it made me think about it for hours later..
For those who haven't seen it, let me give the gist of it. It is about the relationship Mahatma Gandhi had(or didn't have) with his eldest son, Harilal Gandhi. Gandhiji's idealistic views prevent him from being a normal loving, affectionate father. He puts his principles and his work above his family though it is clear that he does love his family. Anyway, so Harilal ends up being very bitter about not getting any support from his father in what he wants to do in life and after one failure after another, gives in to alcohol and other vices and ends his life in poverty and misery...
First of all, it was amazing that before this, we (or at least, I) had never even given thought to Gandhiji's family. I mean I didn't even know how many children he had and their names and if there were any descendants today; except for Tushar Gandhi.
And after watching this movie I wondered how it must've been to be the children of such an illustrious person! Maybe Harilal turned out to be a failure in life because he was not given enough attention/affection by his father. But surely there were some things that he himself was responsible for.
Another thing that bothered me was this. I felt bad that Gandhiji ignored his own family for the Indian Freedom Struggle but then I thought, if he'd been like any other man, earning a living, raising his kids, would we have gotten independence from the British when we did? So, for the greater good, is it OK to sacrifice your family, who may not have wished to create history but just lead an ordinary life? Is their life less important that the whole country? Which is bigger? Personal happiness or achieving greatness?
I would love to hear every one's views on this.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Unexpected Snow

We were driving to Los Angeles a few days back and came across an unexpected and breathtaking sight. Just North of LA, the freeway passes through these mountains. They reach a height of over 3000 ft. It was a cold week in December, still as we headed into the mountains we had no idea that they would be covered in snow!
It was the first time I was seeing snow from so close ---- well, it wasn't that close, I was in the car and the snow was a good 100 yards from me but still... It was kind of eerie (in a nice way!) to suddenly find yourself surrounded by snowy hills on both sides..I went click-happy with my camera and here are some of the pictures I took.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Finally, discussing movies!

If there's anything I enjoy more than watching movies and listening to music, it is discussing them with whoever I can get hold of! I've been thinking of writing about this here for some time now. Well, "Carpe Diem", "Kaal kare so aaj kar"..etc. etc. and here goes....
I just heard the songs of "Om Shanti Om" earlier this week. One of the reasons why I knew they'd be good even before I heard them was that the lyricist was the fantastic Javed Akhtar. I am a huge fan of his and thank the stars that he made the transition from writing scripts to lyrics. He is one person who can make a meaningless-sounding song like "Ek Do Teen" from "Tezaab" actually have some meaning to it!
So imagine my surprise when I heard the song "Dard-e-Disco". Sure, catchy, racy song but the lyrics seem to be penned by some city-dwelling teenager who happens to know a few Urdu words...I mean, come on...trying to make lines rhyme to "disco" by putting in "New York, LA, San Francisco"??! Javedji, please tell me you were having a really really bad day!
P.S.: One of the lovelier songs, "Aankhon mein Teri" has been written by Vishal, one of the composers. That was something that sounded like Javed Akhtar! Very nice!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Customer Service-Government Style

I happened to visit the office of the local Consulate General of India a few days back. I came away feeling so strongly about some of the things I saw there that I had to write about them.
Now this is an office that handles matters related to Indian Passports, Visas etc. It has some four or five officers who man the counters, accepting the documents, verifying them, processing them among other things. And there is one security guard whose job is, well, obviously to guard the place. As it turned out, nothing obvious about that, since there was more to her job than just that.(Did I forget to mention, the guard is a young girl called Sylvia?)
As soon as I entered the office, she came forward and directed me to a table where I could take out my documents and hand them to her for checking. She was polite, friendly and cheerful and answered all my questions with a smile. She pointed out a couple of things I had left out in some forms and once I had corrected everything she sent me to the "officer"-lady at the counter.
Now this lady seemed to have a rule that forbade her to smile or be friendly in any way. She rechecked my papers and sent me to another officer who seemed to take the "Don't be friendly" rule even more seriously. I was quite behind in the long line and I saw her berating almost every person ahead of me for some mistake or other. And her tone was one of a stern teacher reprimanding an errant student! I couldn't believe it! Have these people even heard of customer service? OR did they think the had earned the right to scowl, be rude and intimidate others just because they were on the other side of the (Government) table?
And all the while they didn't even have to look very far to see an example of good service. Sylvia was helping one and all with whatever questions they had when it was not even her job! At one point I was outraged to see that this "officer" whose job, according to the plaque in front of her, was "Document Verification", was sending a man to Sylvia to "Go get your documents checked by her!" Hey, isn't that your job? And this was while she was sitting twiddling her thumbs while Sylvia was surrounded by the dozen or so people that she was already assisting!
I don't think Sylvia will ever get to read this but if she does, I hope she knows how impressed I was with her work the other day. And if her bosses are reading this, they ought to raise her pay to equal that of all the "officers", combined!!
The one thing that glared at me through all this was that while all the officers were of Indian origin, Sylvia was Hispanic. I've always fiercely fought racist stereotypes that paint Indians as rude, inefficient workers, at least in the "Sarkari" context, but this incident made me stop and think about it. And it didn't feel good...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Stage Debut by Proxy

My 4 year old went on-stage for the first time last evening. And I don't know who was more excited about it, him or me!
It was his preschool's Fall Song Festival, where his class and a couple of other classes performed - sang, danced or both, most of them for the very first time on stage in front of a large audience.
As we were waiting for the curtains to rise, we parents were wondering if our kids would perform anything at all since none of them had given us any preview at home. We were prepared to encourage them and applaud them even if they came onstage and did nothing but stand around. Boy, were we in for a surprise!
When the curtain rose, there they were...looking a little lost. But then, one by one they spotted their moms/dads/siblings and started waving and calling out to them. Parents were equally excited, blowing kisses and waving to them and taking pictures frantically.
As my son's number came up, I moved to a strategic spot to shoot a video. When the music began, all the children started singing and dancing. And then it was like they were completely at ease with their surroundings, they were having so much fun! They laughed and jumped and simply had a blast! For once, I was so happy to be proved wrong!
Its only later when I saw the video of the show that I realised how shaky it was because my hands were shaking with excitement! It was like life had come a full circle in a way; I had gone on stage for the first time at exactly the age that my son is now!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Weird Me

Hiphopgmom tagged me a few days ago to write about 7 weird things about me. I could think of a few but 7?? Well, I decided not to wait till I could get all 7 so here goes.
1) As a kid I did a couple of things that would definitely qualify as "weird". After every visit to the bathroom I'd not only wash my hands with soap but also the tap, the wash-basin and (believe it or not!)the soap itself!!
2)After taking out toothpaste on my toothbrush, I'd fill the cap of the paste with water and then close the tube. So the next time anyone unscrewed the tube, he'd get watery toothpaste...!! Used to drive my brother mad with that!!
3)Now, as an adult I occasionally remember very old songs, complete with the lyrics and the melody not only of the opening lines but also the stanzas. These are not popular or famous old songs, they're from some B-grade, long forgotten movies that I've never heard in the last 15-20 years and I'm sure even the singers / actors/composers must not remember! How's that for weird?
4)I love people-watching. If I'm waiting in line somewhere or in a crowded place with time to spare, I'll start looking at people and think about what his/her life would be like? Is he in love? Did she just fight with her sis? Are this couple going to get married soon? Is that old lady missing her children/grandchildren? I wonder how it'd be to spend one day following one of them invisibly and observing their life, specially people who're culturally different from me.

OK, let's see. That's 4 things. I still can't think of any I'll leave that to my readers who know me...I'd like you to tell me what you think is weird about me. (Now that surely will be interesting!)
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