Sunday, February 28, 2010

Cats - cute, clever and chatur...

This was a comment (I've modified a bit) that I wrote in one of my dear blogs by IHM. Though I quite dislike the acronym but she is a good writer who writes sensibly on sensible topics. I like her passion for the topics she writes.

This blog of hers, however came to my notice not for the topic, but for this photograph that I have presented in my blog, stolen from her blog. (Thanks IHM).
I just loved the way the cat is looking out for someone. Most likely, that someone is a something. It may be a lizard on the other side of the wall. Never can guess a cat !!

I have grown up with a dozen of cats and dogs in Assam. They were so much a part of our lives that I used to find supposedly
popular snaps in urban India like that of 'a cat sleeping on a dog', quite a cliche'.

Cat is honestly great fun. They are the hunters. Quite, fast, clever lovable bastards, they are. Also they are the cleanest animal I have even seen. You would never see her poop, they will cover it with sand. You would never see mud, dust and other dirt in their body. This is interesting because cats hate water and stays as far away as possible. Sure they must be always thinking if they could quench their thirst with something else !

I have had great moments with our cats. Let me tell you a few interesting ones that may sound funny, surprising and cute. Surprising, because we, living in the metros, simply cant get to know the real cat. For instance, we don't have ceilings here where the cat can climb... !!
  1. She playing with a ball of wool. Only trick is that you have to keep it dancing by pulling one end of the thread. Today's urban generation wont believe if we tell them that one of the favourite time-pass activity for the girls was to buy different colours of (balls of) wool to hand knit sweaters, scarfs for their dolls and future husbands. Cat used to love that. She will watch from a distance with full hunting posture at the ball of wool which is on the ground moving, as its being pulled while knitting. With one clean swoop, she will attack the ball of wool and take it a few yards kicking with its front limbs and biting the wool ball dead! My mom used to get irritated but I used to have too much fun.
  2. A similar but of course better scene was to watch the cat catching a rat and playing with it till it dies. It will let the wounded rat to run and then he will run fast and catch it again - the same way she plays with the ball of wool. Sometimes, the rat actually manages to run away. That's the worst, because it would die somewhere and the whole house will be smelling.
  3. Watching her protecting the plate of fish and rice. One of our dogs, a greedy bugger used to finish his share of food like in a second and would slowly come for the cat's share. Slap! Cats are so quick that the dog is left with no clue, when the paw came, hit and went. How many slaps my dog must have got for trying to sneak like that. It was just too much fun. The poor dog barks after getting the hit, then gets scolded by my dad to shut up. Dogs normally do not go near cats. Generations after generations, dogs have got slaps from Cats. Cats do come near dogs, though. Its on her whim! She would slowly come and climb onto the sleeping dog and sleep on top of him. The dog poor fellow forgets that he had got a slap a while back. Stupid dog!
  4. Apart from getting to wear cool jackets, this was the second reason why I used to love winter so much. Once I am 10 minutes on to the bed, she would pull out the mosquito net and get into the bed to sleep next to me. She will purr the hell out of me. But slowly I had got used to it, loving it every passing day. She would mostly sleep to your back. For some time, I wondered and later discovered that they don't want to be in a position where I can hug him or put my heavy hand (sleeping me) on top of him. They consider it binding and cant accept that.
  5. Have you ever seen a cat jumping from a height? what a sight and a miracle. They make absolutely no sound. This used to be my best time pass activity whenever I used to be bored dead. I loved looking at the cats doing their rounds all over the place (roof, windows, ceiling etc) for hunting, perhaps copulating, or just loitering around like kings. In Assam, we have tin houses with ceilings. There is about 2 feet space between the tin roof and the ceiling. They would love to climb to the ceilings looking for mice. They have their usual routes. The tool, dressing table, the window, the cupboard and the ceiling in 2 seconds flat. And no sound. You remove the tool, they will meow you to death. They will hardly come and go through the doors. They know the ventilation that is always open. They basically know all the crevices in the house. It always fascinated me to see them jumping from so high and to such height without making any noice. Whenever they come to sleep with me, I keep touching their paws and wonder how can they be so silent.

There are so many childhood memories with our cats and dogs that I tend to think that keeping a pet in Mumbai is so much of a farce. Dogs are still okay. I have a golden retriever and it is almost the same level of fun. But Cats are wild and their true nature can only be seen in the wild. Come to Assam someday if you like cats.

BTW, I hope you guys know that cat is not a domestic animal by strict definition of domestication. One wild feature of cat is that they wont copulate in the near vicinity of humans. Secondly, it will attack you if you approach him in a closed room from all sides and he/she feels cornered. If it's a he, then better not go near him. They will jump to your trachea, much like other cats. Beware!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The smart alternative to Shallow Political Activism

This is in continuation of Shallow Political Activism - Part I.. an effort to highlight the myopic political activism of the MNS and the Sena in Mumbai.

Instead I always believed that the smallest of developmental initiatives goes a long way towards building public faith.

Lets take the Maharashtra cabinet's decision to give new taxi permits to only those persons who are well versed in Marathi and have resided in the state for at least 15 years. Would it really help the Marathi Manoos? If it does, at what cost?

My proposition is that there are easier ways to get Marathi Manoos engaged in the taxi driving business. MNS or SENA just needs to gives this responsibility to a shrewd Marathi businessman to start a taxi business only for Marathi youths. The money has to be organised by the MNS and Sena, which is no big deal looking at all their foreign SUVs.

This will even do wonders for the Party because word will spread about the positive initiative to engage youths. And the youths will actually earn money for real and get busy from being idle.

This brings me to this idea of political parties having a defined cell for development initiatives. The guys (leaders) who are good for speeches and politics should concentrate on speeches and politics. The guys in the development cell should work at the grass root level in various possible initiatives to uplift the common man.

Businesses can be started. Schools/colleges can be opened. NGOs can be formed.

Ironically, MNS was distributing 50000 Marathi alphabet books to all the North Indian Taxi drivers.

Why cant we think positive?

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Shallow Political Activism - Part I

It defies wisdom. It defies all that we speak as educated office-goers. It defies all that productive development is. Its mere politics. I am referring to what the top regional parties in my city - Mumbai are vociferously noising the populace.

Mumbai belongs to the Marathi Manoos.

Although that's a debatable fact (read Who’s Not A Mumbaikar?), yet I understand that this statement is a sensitive emotion for majority of the Marathi population living in Mumbai and Maharashtra. Any population whose mother tongue is the local language would feel strongly about outsider population coming in hordes and occupying a sizeable proportion of the good jobs available.

So it becomes an easy & obvious strategy to take advantage of this strong emotion for any political party. An obvious decision is likely to be myopic and short term. In this case, the decision to hang on to this emotion by SS and MNS is clearly regressive, myopic and short term.

This kind of obvious political activism has a strategic drawback. It needs active mobilisation of the youth. We have to understand that youth is a transient term. Today's youth is tomorrow's married responsible man.

So, if a political party mobilizes today's youth to support this emotion, effectively their focus on career, education and focus on a bright future will suffer, which in effect will make them unsuccessful married men and fathers.

Secondly, the point to note is that the political party suffers too when a generation ages. Once a youth, now a husband cannot support the party as well. The party suffers. They have to get the support of the next generation as well. We have seen it happening to Shiv Sena when their first generation supporters had grown old. My analysis is that this phenomenon of eroding support base of Shiv Sena gave an aperture to Raj Thakeray to form MNS with a new generation of youth with the same principles.

Tomorrow, I see MNS losing grip, and Shiv Sena or a new regional party harping on the same emotion becoming stronger.

MNS and SS should understand this point of view and engage in developmental politics, rather than divisive politics. Being a political party of the local people, they have an upper hand in executing developmental plans which help the "aam marathi manoos." They should work with in conjunction with the non-local successful population for the development and overall well-being of the city and the state.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Joru Ka Gulam - A mind numbing phenomenon

Thankfully I bumped into IndianHomeMaker in this closely knit web world and I got to read her blog inviting definition for Joru Ka Gulam. I was one of the last to read and by then there were quite a few definitions that have come to define JKG. I read almost all of them.

It was quite an expected set of responses. The synopsis of all the comments was a
t-shirt design by a fellow writer Tara Bhatt that said, "I love my wife". So if you love your wife, think that wife is equal to the husband (one comment said, "if the husband touches the wife's feet to reciprocate..."), fight injustice meted out to women, teach the women to be on her own (one comment said, "instead of driving her around, teaches her how to drive), you are a JKG. Ironically, with all these definitions, I wonder if JKG is almost about to be extinct.

I have to say that I disagree with most of these comments. I find a
herd mentality trend in all the answers. A good-at-heart, rationale man who loves his wife, who believes in gender equality, who is socially secure and blah blah blah (meaning the ideal-est man for a woman) is NOT a JORU KA GULAM. I get a feeling that most of these are written by women with high high hopes from men and that they love to call their ideal man - JKG.

Joru Ka Gulam as a concept, is much more complicated. To me, JKG is

  1. is a termination of an extremely complicated and strict social fabric where we have a male and a female staying under one roof for life with a conscience that this is it. In fact, it is not about a man-woman relationship. I had this one room theory when I was in college which said, No two boys, two girls & a boy and girl can stay together as best of friends, company, partners for more than 6 months under one roof. That aside, men intrinsically do not prefer monogamy and their wandering ways (followed by guilt & conscience) take some of the men towards being a JKG.
  2. is a fall out of the inability of most of the men to fight the tears and jigsaw emotions of the women. Men always tend to please their women with short term 'to be broken' promises and lies just to keep the woman happy for the moment and in effect goes towards being a JKG
  3. is a result of male dependencies on the female's expertise & core competency in handling the house-hold intricacies such as managing the vegetables, maintaining cleanliness, managing the kids to a simple task like making a cup of tea. Even when there is a girl friend who is not living in, the house gets a cleaner, fresher and organised look. Men love it and some men become JKG to it.
  4. is a result of the society of JKGs where we have had our upbringing. We are taught to be JKGs for a happy marriage. In Assam, the mother of the groom doesn't attend the marriage because she has to accustom herself to believe that her son is no longer hers now and he has gone onto another woman. Another woman owns him now. One of the first lesson told to me jokingly was, "whatever she says from now is your word of destiny"
For me, JKG is the man who has lost his sense of being, independence to his wife. The man who listens to his wife blindly in front of the wife. Outside of marriage, he may be a different man (though he cant do late nights as 'on the mobile' is almost like 'in front of' in today's day and age). He more often than not, bitches about marriage and wives in general and may also get into extra-marital or into prostitutes. Since he cant feel his authority in the marriage, he wields his authority outside of it.

There are degrees to being a
JKG. Some men go to lowest degree of JKG. He actually lose authority in general and become calm, quieter in general, more so in front of his wife. I wonder if women like such men, for us men, he becomes a changed man - a JacK ass(Gaand).

We all know '
gulam' is derogatory, and for a meaning so negative, to get associated to marriage and then to become a household term requires a hell lot of reasons, circumstances, inequillibrium and chaos. Interestingly, this negative term today has lost its negative-ness to quite an extent. Without a qualm, superstar SharRukh Khan proclaims on TV that he is a Joru Ka Gulam. That whole program was about promoting the concept of JKG.

However easy the term
JKG might have become, I see a sense of helplessness especially in India. Once I was sitting with my uncle (a doctor) and an Italian doctor, who was talking about his late night research work and that he does not get time otherwise. My uncle joked, “Doesn't your wife say anything?” He point blankly non-chalantly said, “No, but if she does, you make her understand. If she doesn't understand, you divorce her for incompatibility and professional reasons”. My uncle was stunned. In India, marriage is largely a one-way ticket convention.

JKG is not the person who is the ideal husband who loves his wife. JKG is the man who feigns it. One interesting comment that I read on the t-shirt design was "my hubby loved the design but he will wear it as a night suit."

Point that I would make is that we cannot make this term so easy and omni-present. A good husband cannot be termed JKG. We are effectively discouraging good husband-ism. JKG to me is a spineless man who feigns to listen to his wife or is afraid to not listen. A man with self respect and confidence to give his wife the same pedestal is the real man.

So we should stop sarcasm equating good husbands to JKG. Lets not allow these sarcasms create social norms or support social norms already so deeply entrenched.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Ishqiya - Vidya Balan's blouse et al

Finally bunked the office early at 7:30PM to come for Ishqiya, to devour Naseeruddin Shah with an open mouth, to laugh with 'Circuit'... sorry Arshad Warsi and to just understand why is this movie seemed different.

Surely it was different. The storyline was kick-ass. More specifically the set in which the movie is shot is very realistic. The house of the widow, furniture, the village, the cars and everything that was selected to be part of set design is simply superb. Production design credits go to Nitin Chandrakant Desai. I wonder how much research must have gone into it. And it was surely entertaining. Recommended for sure.

Naseeruddin Shah is simply great and funny. Story (Vishal Bhardwaj, Sabrina Dhawan and Abhishek Chaubey) is intelligent. Cinematography (Mohana Krishna) is beautiful with some awesome editing. The dialogues are written well & quite funny. The characters are well sketched.. ya the movie has many good points.

But I expect a lot from a movie.

The dialogue delivery was not consistent in the native dialect, pronunciation and way of speaking. Only Naseeruddin Shah could carry it through the movie. Our Vidyadhar Verma - the Sena leader and village leader was ironically the worst. It seemed he is from the Tollywood taking Hindi lessons to enter Bollywood.

The screenplay had some flaws. People peeping through windows with half their heads visible from inside, and the guys romping inside the room don't get to know the intrusion, was a bit too much to digest. I can expect that from a comedy but not from Ishqiya. The police people disappearing suddenly in the last scene was also very glaring.

Vidya Balan was a cute disappointment. She is beautiful, feminine and all but her acting is a fight. She sings a slow number with her Veena. If I had my way, I would have made her dance in that scene. Then it would not have been so clear that she is actually not singing. That she is only lip-syncing. She gave it away big time on that scene. I could only think that Nandita Das would have been a great choice. In fact, that actress from Haazaron Khuwaishein Aisi - Chitrangada Singh comes to my mind too, and would have done a better job, to my opinion.

One point ironically stuck me was Vidya Balan's blouses. In an effort to get into the seductive zone, they have become very city-ish. The cut & the stitching of the blouses were very un-villagelike.

I wonder why that stuck to me as the sore point !! Go and watch.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Rann - bad camera work

Just back from a bad experience with Rann. Actually I had gone to see Gul - you know who. My Favourite actress ;) So I was only expecting Gul Panag. I was into a mindset that nothing can put me down as I was anyway going to watch Gul. And she is beautiful and a good actress. Morever, there was Amitabh Bachchan sir who does not know how to act BADLY. There was Riteish who is quite good, improving each day. On the whole, there was this consolation that how bad can RGV go. It had to be a watchable movie.

But the camera work, I tell completely tested my patience. I was hissing pissed by the time the movie ended. The DOP/cinematographer was so bad that I wanted to kill him. Its a rare emotion to get about killing people. Believe me, its not everyday that I get such strong emoions. Okay let me cool down. Let me be a bit polite. He was so bad I wanted to slap him.

To start with, I couldn't even read the DOP's (Director of Photography) name. The movie started with a play of zillions of remotes going blur and clear, blur and clear. Such a give-away to start a movie with 'remotes' and 'people switching on news channels', for a movie which is about news and the news channels. Having said that, its a director's prerogative to start the movie in whatever ways he want to.

The point is that the start coincided or collided with the titles. The titles and the zillions of remotes were shot and edited in such a distracting way that reading the titles was simply impossible. I missed all the names. I actually missed the titles completely. And now, as I write this blog I am trying to google the name of the DOP, but can you believe it that I cant find it. O ya, I need to look up IMDB.COM.

So I finally get the name of the DOP / Cinematographer and I am really surprised. It is Amit Roy whose work, I genuinely loved in Sarkar. Unbelievable. Perhaps his assistants did this movie and he was doping.

The whole 15 minutes of final dialogue delivery of Mr. Amitabh Bachchan was eaten away by the awfully creative camera work of Mr. Roy. I mean, "how can you create so much of distraction during a serious dialogue delivery, which is the main climax of the movie". The shot has a laptop and some other furniture in between Mr. Bachchan and the camera in various avatars. And the camera man is continuously playing with Mr. Bachchan, the laptop, the furniture, the India 24x7 logo etc etc.

In another scene, it seemed that the camera was right in the nose of Riteish. I could see that it was very difficult for him to even act. He was looking for something in 'khanna's house'. Riteish, if you are reading this blog, you need to tell me @lifeisbetter, if I was right in my assumptions.

I wouldn't be able to write about all the bad scenes, as most of the scenes were poorly shot. The one that comes to my mind is a shot of Mr. Paresh Rawal putting his foot to the lens of the camera, effectively to audience. Some people may seriously consider it rude to point legs to the audience. Ya there may be some who would consider it creative. But I think the latter will be fewer. Secondly, it seems to me that the idea was to symbolically depict that Mr. Paresh is the villain and he is kicking the media. Was it required, really? Till this point it is fine but I sincerely feel that you cant change the setting to suit your camera's focal length. In the same dialogue, in the close up of the foot, Mr. Rajat kapoor was sitting straighter than in the long shot !!

I know that normally the DOP does not care if the dialogue delivery is getting communicated properly to the audience. He only cares if the shot is looking good and creative. But that cannot be the case when DOP is mature. Only if the DOP immature, childish and amateurish, I may understand.

Overall, the lighting was not good. Brightness and contrast was poor. The shadow affects were not crisp and clear. The framing was very shaky. There were too many change in the lens work for a scene. On the overall it was an unnecessary attempt to go over-creative.

The cinematographer was clearly abusing creativity and making it irrelevant to the context of the movie. You cannot let your creative emotion become over-confident and take over your rational thought processes.

For instance, we understand that shaky camera work is one of the theories of photography. Handheld camera work is taken on a high note and is considered very creative in the industry circles. But one needs to know where to use it. It was relevant for movies like 'Blair Witch Project' and 'Paranormal Activity' and so was beautiful and satisfying to watch. In Rann, it was a flop show.

Very disappointed. The only saving grace was Gul's face. :) On a serious note, the story was good. Acting was very good and as usual Amitabh Bachchan sir is God. If only the camera work was downplayed...