Latest Entries »

Movie Review : Mr. Holland's Opus

Mr. Holland's Opus tells the story of a high school music teacher who fails to realize all the ways he's touched his students' lives through his decades-long career, of how the job he had once reluctantly accepted as a fallback option becomes his main priority while his dream of writing a truly immortal composition becomes more and more distant.

The movie beautifully brings out the greatest irony of Mr. Holland’s life in the form of the deafness of his son and the consequent effect on his life. The disappointment, frustration gives way to angry outbursts and tension between the two. But all is resolved when Glenn Holland learns to sign John Lennon's song, “Beautiful Boy,” and dedicates it to his son, emphasizing the line about how “Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans.”

But what cuts through all of this and makes the film not just watchable but quite enjoyable is the excellent performance delivered by Richard Dreyfuss. He seems perfect - and his aging makeup is quite remarkable.

The passage of time is beautifully denoted by using archival-footage (with references to everything from the Kennedy assassination to the Vietnam War to Watergate and Nixon's resignation) and musical montages.

The film’s got a brilliant score composed by Michael Kamen. The most remarkable feature of the score is way it blends so perfectly with the film. It effortlessly integrates with the film, highlighting the different emotions and transitions Mr. Holland goes through.

Dead Poets' Society told a similar story in a similar setting with similar themes, but Mr. Holland's Opus steers ahead of it in many aspects.

A symphony of great screenplay, strong performances and good vibes, Mr. Holland’s Opus affirms my believe that a life spent in a worthy pursuit, is a life well spent.

Movie Review : No Man's Land

Set in the 1993 civil war in Bosnia (Former Yugoslavia), No Man’s Land is the story of 3 soldiers trapped between the enemy lines. Chiki a Bosnian soldier has taken refuge in the trench after all of his comrades were massacred by the Serbian soldiers. He manages to kill one of two Serb scouts sent to investigate and has a standoff with the other, Nino. One of Chiki's fallen comrades, badly wounded but still alive, is paralyzed by the bouncing mine placed under him by the Serb soldiers. UN forces are called in and the media caravan comes along. There is now more world focus on getting three guys out of the trench than on the war which placed them there.

The movie opens in the midst of a dense fog - an apt metaphor for the chaos that rei
gned within the two countries. After the initial rounds of combat and attempts at gaining the upper hand, a shaky truce is established between the two. Once trapped inside the trench, the two soldiers discover that waving white flags only draws fire from both the sides.

The director brilliantly portrays the futility of the war through the conversation of the two soldiers who while talking about the peaceful times find out that th
ey both knew the same girl. And even though they talk, they never really warm up to each other, they still do not have any solidarity for the other the hatred and contempt being very deep rooted.

The film also beautiful
ly portrays the bond Cera (the Bosnian soldier paralyzed by the bouncing mine) and Chiki share. Chiki is willing to go to any lengths to save his compatriot’s life even it means risking his own. He defiantly refuses to leave the trench without Cera. Cera on other hand is well aware of his helpless situation and urges Chiki to leave.

This little conversation between them was particularly ver
y heart –wrenching. Cera: I hope those aren't my cigarettes. Chiki: When I took them, I didn't know you'd need them. But now I hope . . .
[lighting one up and taking a drag, then putting it into Cera's mouth]
Chiki: that you'll die of cancer. Again the director has effectively used the precarious situation of Cera to symbolize the political conundrum of the country. The other aspect of No Man’s Land is about the role of UN and media. Tanovic takes a condemning view of the United Nations' bungling ways and how the media manipulates, and is manipulated by, the military. Though Sergeant Marchand from the UN forces is determined to save those trapped in the trenches he is unable to do so because his hierarchical seniors are a bunch of ludicrous people who can’t take any concrete decisions. Then enters the media who desperately want to get the live “bites” from the battlefield. The media ensures that within no time the incident is escalated to international proportions. This finally prompts the UN officials to send their troops along with a bomb defusing expert and the media of course. As they await the prognosis of the bomb diffusing expert, the media sets about questioning the soldiers.
s cold behavior of the journalists combined with his inability to help his friend angers Chiki and pushes him into violence ultimately killing Nino.

No Man's Land poses some disturbing questions about the nature of hatred and the wars it spawns. . No Man's Land presents a balanced and devastatingly accurate look at the Serbia- Bosnia conflict, strongly condemning the policies of the (western nations dominating) UN.

With it’s rich tapestry of characters, dark humor and violence all combined with an engaging story, No Man’s Land is truly one of the best anti-war films.

The Road Not Taken

He : There's no road ahead.
She : But there's a path.
He : Still, there's no road.


Image Credit: Flickr

Love In The Time Of Cholera

I was on way to Panjim. I got into the bus and settled myself in. There was a steady flow of people coming in. Soon the bus was full except for the seat next to me. A lady entered the bus, carrying a baby in one hand and a heavy bag in another. Shabby clothes, disheveled hair - she appeared to belong to the laborer class. She was followed by her husband. I smiled at her and shifted in my seat to make place for her to sit. She smiled back, but she didn’t sit, instead she asked her husband to take the seat. My immediate reaction was that of anger and contempt for her husband who I thought was shameless to take the seat while his wife stood there carrying the baby and the bag. I gave the man a scornful look who seemed to be too absorbed in settling himself in the seat. I turned to his wife and indicated her to take my seat. She politely refused.

Immediately after he had seated himself properly, he asked his wife to let him have the baby. His wife kept on insisting on holding the baby herself. After his continuous requests, she reluctantly handed him the baby. Now I was infuriated at that lady, the typical Indian wife – going to extremes to please her husband, always assuming a subordinate position and inadvertently letting her husband to completely control her life. While my mind was churning out thoughts about the plight of such women, I observed that the man was now asking her to give him the bag. After much persuasion, she handled him the bag. The man bent down to place the bag next to his feet.

Instinctively I turned to watch him and what I saw put me to shame. Shame for being so thoughtless, for making instantaneous and outright wrong judgments and for my disdainful behavior towards the man.

The man had a deep wound on his right ankle. Blood had coagulated all around that wound. There was no antiseptic applied nor was it bandaged. The skin around the wound was badly bruised too. He noticed that was I was observing, so he tried to cover his wound with his dhoti and then as he was adjusting his bag to block it from my sight, the driver applied brakes and he mistakenly hurt his wound. He groaned in pain, his wife instantly bent down to help him. The calm expression on her face was quickly replaced by anxiety. She didn’t panic, but she wasn’t exactly unruffled too. She seemed to be in as much pain as him, if not more.
I was so moved by the entire incident. Both of them had so much love and affection for each other. They were genuinely worried about the other. I was so moved that I continued staring although I was aware of how discourteous it is to stare at people. The saree she was wearing was crumpled and had stitches all over it. Her dry and dehydrated skin spelled the effects of the scorching sun she slogged under. Her craggy, wrinkled face spoke about the adversities she had to face. Her teary eyes showed how sincerely she cared for her husband. In spite of her distressing plight, she had a certain aura about her.

Today, as I sit reflecting on Valentines Day and about love, theirs is the only picture that comes to my mind over and over again.

I feel a certain lump rising up in my throat. I’m not choked up on sentimentality; I’m choked up on bile. Today the concept of Love has become as distorted as the concept of Valentines Day. Valentine’s Day epitomizes the blatant consumerism of modern love. These days the pursuit and display of love has become far too materialistic and corporate, and the worst thing about it is people don’t seem to care.

The “Hallmark” version of Valentines Day just seems so in your face as an exploited version of true love to sell cards and other red/pink items. We have become so materialistic that we have missed the focal point of the Valentines Day. Nowadays Valentine's Day requires that everyone immerse their significant other with love and then go back to everyday life, as if this immersion were a special treat. Every year millions of people gift cards and roses Valentine’s Day each allegedly symbolizing love for another through the purchase of merchandise. No one cares about the thoughts, emotions and efforts behind the gift, all that matters is the price tag. Taking over the love for others is the love for objects. Inanimate things that seem more reliable than the people who control them! The human heart is the most beautiful gift a person can offer to another yet this gift is often taken for granted and unappreciated.

If you love someone, why wait for this one day to show it to your loved one. If you really love someone, everyday is Valentine’s Day. It shouldn’t have to be about a material gesture. People will go out and spend money on something that they hope will send a message to someone they care about. Wouldn't it be easier to just tell someone you love them instead of spending money? Why don’t we try and return to the heart of Valentine’s Day: the celebration of the individual love of two people through the things that are special in their relationship. A simple “I love you” is worth more than anything anyone could ever make or sell.

Speaking of love, how many really mean it when they say I love you?
It’s a phrase thrown around too often with very little sincerity involved, in fact it’s about as common to hear as a “What’s Up” or a “How are you doing” it’s told to the other person in the relationship more so as a common courtesy than with sincerity. The phrase has totally lost its intended meaning.

Falling in and out of love has become the order of the day. You date someone for few days, after the initial excitement gets over, boredom creeps in and one person in the relationship dumps the other. The one who dumps (the one superior in some respect like money, looks) brags about it and “moves on” to date someone else. The one dumped – well, he goes to the McDonalds to celebrate his single status. Har choti Khushi Ka celebration jo karna hai !

Change is good. Change your phone, your computer, your car. People in their 20s that used to get married and settle down now spend money on clothes, gadgets and booze. They change their partners, avoid commitment, and act like teenagers well into their 30s and beyond.

In the current world “Love” and “Being in Love” are two different things. People love each other but they aren’t “in love” with each other. In other words people love what the other person in the relationship is offering them on a materialistic level. They love them for either the money, social status, sex or gifts that the other person in a relationship gives them. Love is no longer about morals it’s about what the other person can offer. Love is no longer about compassion, understanding and the ability to put someone else’s needs ahead of your own.

If love is all this, then all I can say is "Blessed are those who are poor".

PS: Happy Valentine's Day to all. May you all celebrate the love and not the day.

PPS: My blog turns One today. The procrastinator I am - have been anything but regular with my blog posts. But I hope to change that, i have resolved to make at least one post per week.

PPPS: The Title of this post is inspired from one of my favorite poems. Image Credit - It's from NatGeo's compilations of best photos of 2009.

Blind Faith

Disclaimer: This post isn’t about religion or religious conflicts and it has not been written under any intentions of hurting the religious sentiments of anyone.

TIRUPATI: The reluctance of the management of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) to readily disclose the gold and other precious items in its possession is reinforcing the theory that the irregularities detected at the hands of chief priest Venkatramana Dikshitulu of Sri Kodanda Ramaswamy temple last week is just the tip of the iceberg and that a mega scam may be staring at the richest temple in the country.(Complete article)

I feel extremely frustrated, agitated and embittered.

Every now and then, such temples make it to the news for all the wrong reasons. However, it doesn’t affect the blind faith people have in such institutions. People still throng in millions to offer their prayers in the temples giving donations amounting to crores or rupees.

Tirupati temple on a daily average gets about Rs. 2 crores through donations. It has jewelry worth 56,000 crore.

Do the people who continue to faithfully visit the temples ever give a thought to what the temples did with such tremendous amount of money.

No, they don’t.

Corruption is not only limited to the temple trust, it breeds and flourishes in all other forms too.

Hate the slow moving queues?

Pay a few thousand bucks and get direct access to the temple.

The politics and corruption involved in giving the contracts for running temple amenities like canteens and guesthouses is immense.

Even when they hear news about the rampant corruption in the temple trusts, it doesn’t bother them a bit, they comfortable forget it only to give more hefty donations in their following visit to the temple.

The religious organizations hold society within a tight framework of rits and rituals. Nobody dares to go against the tenets of religion. In home, we must be guided by religion and in daily life by religious practices. Even if you hate it, you must do so by copy-book maxims on religious morality.

Let me ask a very basic question: Why do we go to the temples?

In times of adversity, we go to the temples to pray for good things.

In times of prosperity, we go to thank the god for his benevolence.

Sometimes we go to the temples as remorse or to seek forgiveness for our mistakes and crimes.

Sometimes we go the temples for peace of mind.

So basically, we go to the temples to pray for ourselves and our loved ones. Nothing unnatural about it, after all we are all self motivated, right?

Praying doesn’t change the scheme of things, it just gives us an emotional support , solace to our souls that god is looking after us and a hope that things will soon change for good. So why is there a need to go to the temples to offer prayers?

Does the god recept our prayers better in temples?

Does the god do greater favors if we visit the temples?

Certainly not.

Some might say that temples give us peace of mind. Being in the company of god, gives us a feeling of being spiritually connected with him.

Right, very right.

But then how do you expect to find peace of mind in a place crowded by thousands of people.

How can one spiritually connect to god, when he can’t even stand and pray there for a few seconds?

( I have myself experienced this at the Shirdi Sai Baba temple, after waiting for hours in the queue, you just get a passing darshan of the deity and I’m pretty sure that the condition is no different in other such big temples.)

Whenever we make visit to any temple, we dutifully put some money in the donation boxes. (Has anyone ever seen a temple without a donation box? Be it a shoddy little temple under some tree or a huge, magnificent temple, they all have a donation box.) Some even give jewelry , gold and silver ware or coins.

Thanking god for his kindness and compassion is a rightful thing to do. But why does one have to do it through money or gold? In this materialistic and money driven world, we even measure god’s bounty in terms of money and hence thank him though money.

If at all, we need to thank god, thank him through love. Love your fellow beings, share your happiness by helping a needy person. In our pursuit of higher, bigger and faster we seldom give a thought to the plight of millions of people who are less fortunate than we are. Instead of donating money to a temple, give the same amount to an organization that helps the underprivileged people. A visit to a temple like tirupati etc or a pilgrimage costs a minimum 5-6 thousands for a family. That same amount if put to some good use can make a huge change is someone’s life.

If this proposition of contributing to a social cause isn’t entirely digestible to some, or if you’re too lazy to find and join such an organization, the least you can do is give money to the beggars sitting outside the temples. Now some narcissist will point that, sometimes these beggars earn a lot more. Still, it makes more sense giving money to a beggar than to a temple, which already has crores of rupees. Or buy flowers from the old ladies and children, it will help earn their daily living.

Have faith , but not blind faith.

PS : Just because I condemn giving donations to temples doesn’t mean that I’m an atheist. I do believe that religion, belief in God form an integral part of who we truly are.

For you, a thousand times over

4 hours
16 minutes
5 sets
77 games
50 aces

At the end of the longest match in the history of Grand Slam finals Roger Federer emerged not just as the winner, but also as the greatest player of all times. He surpassed Pete Sampras's record total of 14 grand slam titles – with the American in attendance to view his record finally go. He also reclaimed the No. 1 ranking he had surrendered last August to Nadal.

Earlier this year he defeated Robin Șderling to win the French Open Рthe grand slam title that had eluded him for more than 5 years. With this win, Roger moved into the exalted company of the men to have won all the Grand Slam titles.

Roger Federer has overcome the greatest obstacle in his way – History. History that filled him with last lap nerves has finally been conquered. Now that Federer has got rid of the weight of history, we may see him freed from the fear that he would fall short of his goal. He will now be able to play with total freedom, total confidence, and total certainty in his new role as the unquestioned champion of all champions. Moreover, with age on his side, he’s going to cover many more milestones in this astounding journey of his.

Federer has earned this. He has paid for his every triumph in the pain and suffering caused by a huge ambition — to be the best ever — and an implacable opponent over the years in Rafael Nadal. When Nadal beat him in the final of the Australian Open, Federer looked a broken man. Many critics wrote him off after his loss to Nadal and his subsequent losing of No.1 Title. His dreams were broken, but he was not heartbroken. One year from then and he has regained all that he had lost with his undaunted spirit. He has regained his aura of invincibility. This is not the first time resilient Federer has risen from the ashes. Shortly before his 21st birthday his mentor and coach Peter Carter died in a road accident. Federer was utterly distraught. At first, the quality of his tennis plunged even further, and yet he gradually emerged from his grief with a new resolve, his wondrous shot-making now complemented by a sense of purpose and, that most difficult of skills to acquire for sportsmen of an easy-going disposition, a killer instinct. Eleven months after Carter's death, he won his first Grand Slam event, Wimbledon, the most prestigious title of them all. And afterwards wept copiously, assailed by contrasting emotions of elation and sadness.

It has been a hard and bitter road at this championship alone. He has stuttered and faltered, played some truly ugly points, made some hideous unforced errors and played at times in a way that made his millions of supporters despair. But again and again, he found something more. That, every bit as much as his wonderful racket skill, is what Federer does best. He can raise his game and then raise it again. He has more raises than anyone else in history.
He has this quite extraordinary consistency, a testament to mental and physical strength, and above all, testament to the fact that tennis enthralls him. He is never bored by its triumphs nor is cowed down by its inevitable reverses.

What's remarkable is not just the degree and duration of his dominance, but the artistry with which it was achieved, and the grace and humanity that accompanied it.

Federer’s game is a thing of wonder and beauty, Magic and art. At his best moments Federer seems to be looking beyond victory to create a masterpiece. He has this elegant playing style coupled with brutal power and what we have is total tennis. Federer's versatility was epitomised by Jimmy Connors' statement: "In an era of specialists — you're either a clay court specialist, a grass court specialist or a hard court specialist... or you're Roger Federer".
In the words of a popular sports columnist: If a mad scientist created a composite of the finest tennis players, it would perform like Federer: he has the extraordinary speed, agility and focus of Borg, the brilliant improvisational skills of John McEnroe, the overwhelming power of Sampras. But he also, almost dispiritingly for his opponents, has the friendly personality of, let's say, John Lloyd. When you cannot find a chink of vulnerability in your opponent on the tennis court, you can sometimes find some personal animus to light your fire. That tactic doesn't work with Federer.

Andy Roddick, when asked about what he respected most about Roger said "He's probably the most talented person ever to carry a racket around.The shots that he can come up with ... the way he's kind of become a totally complete player. But I think off the court, it [the respect] is huge. There have been a lot of good champions, but he's just classy. He is never high and mighty in the locker room or anything like that. He treats people with respect. Even if it's the locker room attendants or the people serving food, he is 'please' and 'thank you'. I think that's why he's so well-liked on tour. There's not a whole lot of animosity towards him, even though he has been that successful."

Taking Charles Dickens’s words into account: “He isn't a great man who makes every man feel small. But the real great man is the one who makes every man feel great”.

Federer certainly belongs to the second category.

A very Happy Birthday to my favourite sportsman and my idol.

PS: Title is from one of my favorite books "The Kite Runner". It may seem a little out of context over here, it's just there because i wanted to dedicate the line to him.

Man & The Moon

A journey of thousand miles begins with a single step.

- Lao Tzu

The journey of humankind, which began, from standing on his own feet crossed a remarkable milestone when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the lunar Sea Of Tranquility on this day, 40 years ago. Buzz Aldrin followed him, while Michael Collins was circling the moon in the command module. The words of Neil Armstrong were beamed to 600 million people – a fifth of the world's population at the time who tracked the event on TV and radio. Americans were jubilant at this huge technological accomplishment, which marked their win over their bitter counterparts Soviet Union in the space race- a culmination of the Cold War.

The Moon, which has long been the source of inspiration for many a poets, artists and lovers was finally conquered by man. It spurred many new dreams Рwalking in the moonlight was a pass̩ now people started dreaming of walking on moon. Apollo 11 mission became the harbinger of many technological innovations; it inspired and continues to inspire all those working in the field of space research. The success of Apollo -11 was crucial in deciding the fate of other space programmes.

The three moon astronauts will go down in history as the greatest astronauts of all time. School kids will have chapters in their science textbook describing this historic event. Each year we will celebrate the anniversary of the success of Apllo-11 Mission. NASA will release some video footages, images, or organize some events. Science clubs all over the world will hold special events to enlighten the kids about the space odyssey. Newspapers will publish yet another interview of the three astronauts. Some upcoming writer will write another biography of the astronauts. Buzz Aldrin may publish another memoir. We all will recall our experience when we first saw the pictures on man landing on moon.

Won’t we?

Why not, we will most certainly.

How about this: the three of them grew bore of this planet and decided to take a walk on the moon for a change. That explains why every inch of the newspaper articles is devoted to extolling the three of them.

Sadly, that’s not the actual state of things. (Trust me, I earnestly wish I could buy that over-the-top and outright ridiculous theory.)

How many of us know about Max Faget, the NASA chief engineer who didn’t deter his work in spite of his ailing health? About Charlie Mars who helped build the lunar Lander or Eleanor Foracker who stitched the space suit?

A mammoth project like Apollo was completed successfully only because of the lakhs of people who work determinedly and devotedly to complete it. From the space scientists who did extensive research and worked it out to the tiniest of detail , the engineers who designed the space shuttle & the heat shield, aerospace technicians, flight directors , camera designers, software experts, suits designers and testers, photo developers, ground operators, engineers and navigators to the workers, welders who actually built the space shuttle – the transformation from a mere idea on the paper to reality was possible only through the incessant efforts of countless number of people. However, the contribution of all these people gets pushed in the background and the three astronauts become the face of the Apollo -11 Mission. They are hailed as heroes but not a passing mention is made about the people who worked behind the scenes to assure the success of Apollo-11.

It’s a lot similar to the case of Taj Mahal. Shah Jahan merely ordered the construction of a mausoleum for his dead wife;the magnificent monument we see today was the culmination of painstaking efforts of hundreds of architects, laborers and artists. However, talk about Taj Mahal and we would hear more about Shah Jahan, Mumtaz;their love story & anything and everything remotely related to their love story but not a word about the men who actually built it. I pray that such a fate does not befall the unsung heroes of Apollo-11 mission.

I am not trying to undermine the achievements of the three astronauts – whatever they did is equally laudable.It takes enormous knowledge, experience, expertise, courage and determination to accomplish a task of such high caliber. However, let us not allow the contributions of all others go into oblivion. The next time we celebrate the anniversary of Apollo-11 mission, let us also remember all these great people.

This article is a tribute to the 4,00,000 men team whose dedication, ingenuity and perseverance helped man take the first step on that great gray rock in the sky. In memory of the greatest team ever……..