Men and Women

All men, even in their manliest moments, are just boys.

All women, even their girliest moments, are well just that –  women.

Trouble, however is, that a man and a woman, swayed by the emotions of those moments, expect them to last. Or worse still believe that ‘pushing’ the other will have one’s expectations met.

No amount of sex, no amount of emotional entanglement, no mental escape, no path that seems to get close to a solution to this conundrum.

Perhaps, the courage of a woman to confront her fears face to face and of the man to accept those inside him; the willingness of a woman to watch things transform in time and of the man to accept the injuries it causes; and their kindness towards each other and themselves – offer some solution.

But I think importantly, acceptance – that we are different, all men and women is one major part of this solution. That apart from being annoyingly heart-wrenching, there is no beating around this difference  and that’s why this difference is breathtakingly most beautiful thing there is in life.

And so the solution we are looking for isn’t in someone else’s arms or getting lost in work or some idol – but deep inside our hearts. That by staying brutally truthful to the choices we have made so far and looking at where we stand, alone and otherwise, we see a most humane solution, which rakes our fears up and touches our vulnerabilities that don’t want to be disturbed.

This solution may or may not be socially or morally right, but if this desperate need can be communicated well, it perhaps brings a sense of calmness to the soul when all seems lost.

And yet, we men and women, only use the similar energy – hurt and self pity (instead of love) to do the most stupidly outrageous thing, just because we are too muddled in the bull shit our mind, with all its rationalization and conditioning, plays with us . And so we remain – men and women.

Image Courtesy: The Architecture of Love by Judy Volkmann

Play of the Egos

Being a story teller myself, always had a thing for this line – ‘ a story has to work well physically, mentally (intellectually), emotionally (socially) and spiritually’. Weirdly, I have somehow ascribed this line to real life scenarios and come to believe (oh well rationalized it too) that my needs (or of any human for that matter) can also be described that way.

Physical needs – food, clothing & shelter (both protective). Perhaps ‘sex’ comes into this zone too.  These needs create a mental need about how to satisfy all of those needs. While food, clothing and shelter seem to have created a certain level of social need which itself is another emotional need, the need for sex, rather the instinct to procreate, comes with humongous emotional need.

And perhaps when all of these needs are met (at least to an extent), the need to understand things beyond our understanding, or to simply why we always seem to fear the unknown grows higher which perhaps gives rise to a spiritual need. Or sometimes this need is so high that the other three needs don’t even matter.

 

As we consciously or otherwise delve into fulfilling these each of these needs we develop a sense of ourselves – a persona, or ego (ego not in the negative sense), a term to coin our conscious mind with all of its thoughts, emotions, experiences and perhaps even expectations all of which are responsible for identity and continuity.

Of course the way languages progress over the years, the term ‘ego’ today is normally meant to point at an individual’s walls built to protect this identity and its continuity. The fiercer the person’s need for this protection, the bigger this person’s ego is said to be.

Today, in some way or the other, we are all egoists, at least I am. And the only way I can deal with my ego without letting it hurt anyone else, and of course me, is to see where my ego stems from. So if my persona has all these four aspects – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual (PMES in short ) then perhaps my ego will have wrapped around each of these aspects, some stronger and some so-so, but definitely around each one of these.

Can understanding Physical Ego,  Mental Ego, Emotional Ego and Spiritual Ego help in our over all well being (not as a constant state to be in but as a state that is possible to touch at least few moments in our skewed lives)?

The need to stay healthy and protect physique is extremely high in – sports persons, actors /stage performers, sales/marketing people, and in a weirdly conditioned way to all teenagers and also perhaps for most women.

As their their physique consistently helps them fulfill their mental and emotional needs, they grow more attached to their physique, developing a sense of wall around it – growing what  can be called a physical ego. It is not quite unheard about actors or sports persons put their diet and health regimen ahead of their families or improve their craft. Their Physical Ego affects (or sometimes even downplays) their need to nurture or balance the other aspects.

[The same with those who have high mental needs to be fulfilled and hence create a mental ego- scientists, engineers, medical practitioners etc.; the ones who build emotional ego – artists, counselors, teachers, students, politicians ( no wonder university students and politics are somehow closely involved – sigh sigh),  etc.; to further elaborate on those who build social ego – citizens of a nation, speakers of a language, parents – relatives, friends etc; those with spiritual ego – gurus, priests, practitioners of a sect or a religion, or even worse simply believers etc. ]

To make matters worse, the development of this defensive ego(s) is itself attached to emotional well being of a person. It’s as if the daily PMES practices (done consciously or otherwise), release some strange hormones in our bodies -making our emotional balance more and more warped, and hence driving us to repeat these exercises, even at the cost of self-worth (examples of people continuing to find and staying in one abusive relationship after the other come to mind). Not that repetition is bad or such practices always result in the negative, but the more we become dependent on these little practices, the more distant we become to the needs of other aspects making us lose out on our over all well being.

What I mean is, in an extreme example,  if a professor is so attached to ensure that all the students are treated equally, he/she will have equaled the needs of a physically sick student with that of a mentally capable but socially inept student, perhaps resulting in making the sick student runaway from him/her while the other student feels his talent remains invisible to the professor- thus losing the very essence of being a professor!

I am not sure I understand all of these fully but in the silly little attempts to think them through, I feel like if we can pin point what our major ego is attached to and what our weaker ego is we can attempt to be a balance them by purposefully boosting the weaker one, while we carefully watch what it does to the stronger ego, witnessing how its protective mechanism comes into play. Of course easier said than done.

Also no less difficult is identifying which aspect of the ego is our stronger protective ego. And of course it is extremely risky to get the weaker ego into play where the stronger one once took the center stage.

I personally believe that in today’s society, the one aspect that earns us more money and perhaps a little fame is where our strongest ego is – and the more we get attached to it – the more we intellectualize the whole exercise, distancing it from the other needs and draining the other egos. ( But if my belief was true, why would I be talking about people in abusive relationships – duh?!) Anyways artists losing their touch, doctors becoming careless about patients’ emotional statuses and general conditioning, gurus blinded by the power their words have on their followers etc. are a result of how ego controls the self – the same self that once ventured out to explore and learn through the beautiful world.

 

 

So in my case if somehow I bring down my – the emotional ego down and put my mental ego into play, while taking care of my health and psyche in general, I can make use of my abilities better while I stop bullshitting myself about stuff, that somehow, without my own knowledge, turned into obstacles, limiting me from exploring myself. (In someway this entire intellectual discourse on the play of the egos is me trying to give my mental self boost – why does filmy title ‘Mental Hai Kya’ come to my mind?) The only risk though is that while I may have puked something  totally stupid idea, the negative feedback may perhaps affect my emotional ego, but the mental ego stills stands to benefit. Hmm…

 

 

 

(Image sources: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/323907398173446215/; https://selkhastings.com/blog-post/awareness-ego-cannot-co-exist/; cherylpastor.com)

 

Why I won’t mind if and when a terrorist kills me

I guess the heading of this post is as much friendly and as much attention grabbing as any other media outlet’s news heading these days. Now that that’s covered read on, if you haven’t already decided to troll me. You could still do that after reading no?

Woke up today, rather late-ish compared to my recent pre-sunrise awakenings. Morning pages revealed yet another insight into something that I needed to work on.  And just when I thought I was pretty satisfied with the insight, the news hit me. That Paris was attacked, just like Mumbai not too long ago – with coordinated terrorists brandishing guns and weapons and killing anyone randomly. BBC was its usually stoic self, CNN had too many headlines – in fact it seems to be enjoying the job a bit too much for my convenience. President of France declared a ‘state emergency’. A twitter hashtag had already appeared. #PrayForParis. I shared it too. What could anyone do except pray, especially when the shoot’s still going on even as I write this one from a safe distance of thousands of miles!

This reminded me of my awareness of terrorism via the 9/11 attacks. Even though it had no direct connection to me, the visuals of falling WTC towers brought tears to my eyes. Why tears? I could only find the answer much later – I was suddenly aware as to how silly and meaningless life can be – for those who killed, for those who were killed, for those who were related to both, for those who were related to none but tortured in the name of pre-emptive action, and for people like me whose world view changed forever suddenly. And years later as I hear of wars being fought, democracies established, people trolled for speaking out, cows made gods vehicles, men made scapegoats, women made fashion or sex or empowerment symbols, my world view gets more concrete. That somewhere our idea of terrorism and what defines terrorist is all wrong. And I think we are all terrorists in our own might. That a terrorist chooses to kill is just he/she explicitly expressing himself, while we are all terrorists for wanting to face terrorists’ reactions with more merciless reactions. Let me explain, though I think even my friends will misunderstand me for saying this:

It must be Carl Jung who said – ‘Only that which can destroy itself is truly alive’. Sad but it seems to be the truth. That as a civilization, we’ve created terrorists – probably unconsciously with our completely fear-conditioned minds – is proof enough. And even though it is extremely wrong time to say, I will never blame a terrorist if he kills me, for I know somewhere in my urge to ‘buy things’ and ‘stay in competition’ I may have affected his life so sadly that he found only one way to react. This doesn’t however mean we must pardon any terrorist, I only mean to say that we need to face the fact that we are as much a terrorist by our own limitations or inability to look into the eyes of another man/woman and to seek understanding as to why he/ she chose to kill. The very fact that we all shout for a caught criminal’s hanging, irrespective of his reasons, is probably proof enough. Perhaps some reasons are better some not, but that we haven’t cracked the code which enables living for all kinds is something that we as a civilization must ponder upon. (Or do we think hanging is one aspect of the code? My god that makes us even dangerous than terrorists).

And in the mean time, when my near and dear ones, including perhaps me, will be attacked and killed mercilessly someday, how do I respond?  I have no answer. Do I have a solution to stop this problem: No. But who said I was alive anyway. I only live in my myth of freedom and independence. In fact even this freedom is only as much as the media and conditioning seems to tell me I have. I am born because my parents wanted me (seriously they did, I mean this exact me or some other me?); I go to school because education is good (despite the current situation of the world that this very education created); I marry after comparing research notes on religion or education or economical status (I guess people really wish they were born in those countries in which parents help in sharing these notes); I work my way up through all the office and start up politics; if I succeed I buy estates, homes, furniture, fashion and what not irrespective of their use and if I don’t succeed I blame everyone else; and in the mean time I act like I care – for vegetarianism even though I drink cow or buffalo milk, buy leather wallets and shoes, collect silk and woolen wear and what not; (and even for cows – how dare they eat cows – my friends just eat chicken, mutton, lamb, venison, crabs, fish etc; and for my revered laddus – how dare ‘they’ reject my laddu when I offer it to them;) for my family which I have no reason why I created it; for a society which I often truly believe is full of morons; for a country that seems to be giving me my rights though secretly its rulers, those for whom I hypnotized myself to vote for, take the very rights away from my hands everyday, and then…and then I die.

But my death was already done – when in the coincidental moments of clarity I could have acted more courageously, unconditioned myself and found meaning and joy in little things I did – but alas, I was too busy for all of it. But please don’t blame me for this, I was busy making someone else responsible for all the things that I didn’t have in my life, just like a terrorist does. I blame the TV for the anger it creates in me; I blame the hospitals for the health issues it can’t solve; I blame the cinema for rapes (though I’m up for every chance that I can get with women); I blame the politicians for corruption (even though I won’t mind getting away without a traffic challan with minimal tea-biscuit charges). And so instead of some bacteria / virus / cancer inside me killing me, why should it be any more tragic and criminal when the cancer of this civilization kills me. In fact I can argue with gods, saying probably I could have controlled virus in me, but how can I control cancer in society! Probably I will blame them and I will blame god too.

Because they, the ones I call terrorists, were bestowed with the ability and had the choice to do things differently; because like me they were humans who could change their world view? Seriously, then what am I doing with my ability to find that change in me? If I’m not up for that change – what does that make me then? Can I be someone who accepts responsibility with all that is extraordinarily wrong with this world? May be there in lies my clue to the answer as to how I can resolve this issue . In the mean time, I will live with this fear, make peace with it until I find the answer. What if I’m killed in the mean while? I don’t know. Why should I care about my life, when even terrorists, the so called scum of our society, don’t seem to care about it. And when did I actually care about it – except when I had to troll or spit venom on someone who questioned my conditioning. And by the way didn’t I already mention this, I was dead anyway. And that’s why I won’t mind being killed by a terrorist. May be I will even tell a sorry to him for making him kill me, as I die dramatically as they show in movies. But I won’t think of what I can do to change now.

I’m sure I will find time to think of it another life time. Who was it said who said “We meet ourselves time and time again, in a thousand disguises on the path of life?” You see am leaving the answer to the mercy of time, because my understanding of time is wrong too – else why would time move fast when I’m enjoying life, and why it stands still when a terrorist with a gun attacks me, as I wait… imagining what news channel will my loved ones watch after I’m dead.  Perhaps as a soul (I mean if I ever really had one), I will realize that real-like framing of time (also like in movies) where in one frame I see all politicians, media people, and the so called real terrorists think – “now that we have their attention, lets spin this further for our benefit” and my loved ones agreeing with them – consciously or otherwise.

Disclaimer (wish I could write this piece without this): Perhaps this is a very wrong time to write such a post. But it is this very situation that prompted to think of writing this and no not when someone killed someone else some time ago…but today. Please note that this is not to offend anyone…dead or alive or their relatives, but to make all who have the ability to read and comprehend this fully to ponder on the monstrous meaninglessness of life and the great misconception in our minds that we all are innocent bystanders who get shot for no reason. I write with the belief that we all are responsible for the current fearful, sad and angry state of our lives and probably we will start finding road to the answers when we acknowledge this.

Bombay Velvet – The Machismo of an Ordinary Man’s Naive Dreams (or the Many Themes Of a Potentially Great Film Which The So Called Indian Film Critics Regularly Miss in Their Reviews)

Spoilers Ahead. BombayVelvet-poster-3

 

The thing about ordinary men is that given a chance they can have whatever they wanted, but not what they dreamed. And within those two confusing phrases and fight for understanding the difference lies a certain machismo, an innocence and probably even a sense of masochism. Anurag Kashyap’s Bombay Velvet, apparently inspired from Gyan Prakash’s Mumbai Fables, is the journey of one such man – with dreams of making it as a big shot and his fight to understand the difference mentioned above.

Balraj (a terrific Ranbir Kapoor) arrives as a kid to post Indian independence Mumbai, where survival kills conscience, money made via corruption and crime, dreams built on celluloid and tabloids, and life enjoyed in luxury restaurants with jazz music and whatever is in between is easily passable, forgotten or rotten. When Balraj sees Rosie (charmingly done by Anushka Sharma), a struggling singer trying to make it big in Mumbai, he immediately connects to her – both are frightened but spirited. And for the first time in his life Balraj’s dreams begin to get the best of him, especially when he sees that Rosie is what even a self-righteous and rich communist Jimi Mistry (Manish Chaudhary) desires.

It is from here that Bombay Velvet evokes themes that only few Indian films like Sudhir Mishra’s Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi (I can’t remember any other movie) could dare to. And Anurag Kashyap is up to his job not just in amazingly raising the lowly Indian film’s VFX standards by recreating a retro Mumbai, but also as a master story-teller who knows exactly when and where to work on his themes, and when to mix them into the story. (He definitely faces problems as to when to leave the story reveal itself. Mostly, my doubt is because he gives the reigns of editing to a non-Hindi speaking editor, she kind-of undoes the film, despite her genius, fame and resume.)

masochism

It is no surprise then that Balraj tries to force himself through the ranks with plain masochism for life’s severe blows on him with loyal support from his friend Chiman (Satyadeep Misra). It is his this ability that gets the eye of a crony capitalist Kaizaad Khambatta (Karan Johar) who takes him under his wing exactly for that purpose – to serve as a shield and a punching bag. The issue of why Khambatta baptizes Balraj as Johnny and which exact body part of Balraj he looks at when he gives the new name isn’t off many of the film’s sub-themes either.

While it becomes the job of Balraj to beat what the communist stands for and supports, Khambatta gifts a plush restaurant Bombay Velvet to Johnny Balraj. And it is here that Jonny finds Rosie again. (Now will leave it up to your brains to find more themes and what each character stands for from here on. Of course if you are careful enough not to be mesmerized Amit Trivedi’s exceptionally well done songs, each of them will tell you more about the story. It just takes first few stanzas of the first song to tell us which direction the film’s going.)

fifi5-apr10

However, as the war between communism and capitalism takes a new high, Balraj’s request for his share of his capitalist dreams makes things take a down turn for him. And that is when you begin to see the fight – the fight for what he dreams (but not what he wanted). Strangely for him even his love for Rosie, nor his friendship with Chiman, will enable them to understand him, and it is probably only Kay Kay Menon as the relentless police officer who pursues the real villain in each of these characters is finally the one who really cares. The ending then isn’t surprising, because the themes play themselves out rather too well for Anurag Kashyap. But the real ending is when Kay Kay Menon throws his hat off, for he knows life could have been simpler for all – without the political power and police nexus, without the communist solutions for problems only, without the crony capitalists, without the naivety of all ordinary men who have only guts but very little conscience and believe that that’s how things ought to be done.

bombay-velvet-collection-4742

What works for Bombay Velvet is the machismo and masochism that runs through the frames of the film, great music, amazing sound and it’s awesome visual texture. What may not work for it is that it could be too brainy and intellectual for the minds that are easily pleased by Sunny Leones or Nathalia Kaurs. (And for those who would want to check their braininess despite their obvious partiality to Leones or Kaurs, Anurag does have a simple test in the film – why at a certain point in the film when Khambatta and Johnny have a phone conversation none of them speaks a word throughout this call! Crack that well, and you will see the many themes and subthemes that Anurag Kashyap touches, delves and dives in throughout the film. Personally this alone could be the scene of the century for me – enlighten me if it is copied from somewhere else.)

Bombay Velvet could be the best of Anurag Kashyap as yet, may be even better than Black Friday or Gangs of Wasseypur. Ironically, the movie itself starts mostly with ‘Aam Hindustani Teri Kismat Kharaab Hai’ – aptly speaking about Anurag Kashyap. If Bombay Velvet was made by anyone else from India or by anyone else, it would have been called the film of the decade already!

Denouement:

In a world of lies and liars, an honest work of art is always an act of social responsibility – Robert McKee.

Anurag grows out of his visual rants, from brave and borderline impolite independent films to this extremely heavy budgeted film paying homage to ordinary men’s dreams which – even though I stay too far from him – makes me believe that his growth as a filmmaker, if not as an individual, has been phenomenal. The film may or may not get back all the money it had needed to be made, but it will definitely pave way for more such and this is no less a social act!

On a personal note, no matter who says what about Ram Gopal Varma’s Aag, or recounts great many inspirations made by Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, John Hillcoat or whoever, or relates this film to even awful ones such as Once Upon A Time In Mumbai, Anurag Kashyap becomes all the more relevant and all the more present, and all the more is than he ever was. For those who are not bothered by the spoilers here, please do watch Bombay Velvet and definitely on big screen, because this is something you wouldn’t want to miss simply because some reviewer or trade analyst or half-crack filmmaker talks less of it.

 

 

Missed Moments…

Blankness sweeps
slowly but surely,
Spreads everywhere,
bit by bit, inch by inch

Stories inside
raise a mayhem,
reach nowhere,
yet they bite pinch by pinch

Missed moments,
ask a question,
“sure you going anywhere?”
the answer’s… lost

Catharsis

A violent thought taking shape loses its spark,
vanishes into the infinite synapses; the brain notices

A fist of anger that never fully forms
flexes the limited muscles; the body holds

A loud shout that doesn’t escape mouth
dissolves into ever flowing blood; runs deep down into the soul

A voice whimpers “Towards the end, not so easily, not now, not yet.”

Then a sunset, then a flower, then a butterfly
then a smile, then a song, then a dream, then an idea, then an expression

“Cleansed, purified, silenced right now.”

The Imitation Game – In which the ordinary ones imitate the God

There is a thing about Genius. They are always probably the first of the human kind who can see how things are not just wrong in the world but can also be bettered. That is their win and their romance. Strangely it is their romantic win that makes them the ultimate losers. And that’s the tragedy they will have to deal with, something even the future generations after them will have to deal with, because geniuses have always been too bloody good for their times to be easily understood.

Alan Turing of The Imitation Game is that genius. He is an older version of Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory, lacking the indifferent sense of humor of the British running into World War II. Wronged because he has a separate way to look at things, the problem of being Alan is that he completely understands the mindset of those who wrong him – time and again. His weakness however is that he never has been gifted with the ways of winning them over, except through his work and single minded dedication to it. And so he has to find his own way of cracking the Enigma code of the German’s indigenous information decrypting machine that was beating the Allies black and blue. Break the code and the Allied Powers had the war in their kitty.

For the normal world, the Second World War was killing thousands of Jews and more number of soldiers from across the world. The war for Alan Turing was with the limitations of human mind, of those who seem to understand him, but are out to get him at their first chance. Because you see he is no different from Herr Hitler. In fact he even utters the dialogue “…because we can” ditto like the German Dictator did. But unlike Hitler he was not trying to win over countries or spread a specific flag across the earth, he wanted to celebrate the possibility of having created an alternative brain. His intellect already had derived that the human mind is incapable of making a valid judgment without bias developed with the necessity to live in a saner society, and that human morals create wars, while the morals of his kind create pieces that can imitate God’s greatest invention. (Oh by the way if he created something that could imitate humans, what would that make Alan?)

The-Imitation-Game-Benedict-Cumberbatch

Yet despite his follies, he finds friends, men who are ready to invest in his genius and a woman, Joan Clarke, who wants to be someone on her own. You could call her a genius too – for the times she was living in. They all help him get over the limitations of the war mongers, the so-called peace keepers. Yet every time he found a solution he has had to face a new opposition, and every time it is bigger than the previous one. So Alan’s friends come up with something, holding him away from their biased judgements as much as they could. Together, from being unnecessary expenditure of a war to playing Gods with the lives of millions – they win. But even they too can’t help him for a secret that he holds deep down in his heart. And there is only one bigger tragedy that being a genius, it is being born a genius with a secret. Alan Turing was a homosexual in a country that couldn’t accept his ‘indecency’.

The-Imitation-Game-Cast

Production design, the editing, the visual effects and whatever those popular films from Hollywood are made of are absolutely top notch in The Imitation Game, but there are three great winners who stand out. 1. The ensemble cast – Mark Strong, Charles Dance, Matt Goode and every one else along with the lead pair. 2. The Lead Pair. Benedict Cumberbatch, the Sherlock from BBC’s Sherlock. He is as good here. Oh no he is better. He holds the self-defeating secret in his eyes through out the film like it has been killing him for ages. Keira Knightley shows how terrific actors can reshape everything about the story they tell just with one scene towards the end. 3. The screenplay. An adaptation of Alan Turing: The Enigma, Graham Moore’s story of Alan Turing jumps time at the most unexpected moments. There is the code, and the genius of course has to break it. Alan Turing broke it. Else his story wouldn’t have been told in the first place. But that’s just how the story works at a physical level. At what cost? That’s the intellectual part of it. What did this loss cause him – the secret that ruined his lust for life and his lust to make a difference? That’s the emotional part of it. And what does his story say about human condition? – Ah! There in lies the beauty – the spirit of The Imitation Game. It warns us, though sparsely with cliched dialogue.

And for whiners who want to look at deep into his dark side – stop being a voyeur and think about this: we rarely get a glimpse of Alan Turing without him being with someone else or something else – but of course that’s how any screenplay externalizes a conflict. But the decision to not to go further into his homosexuality works in the film’s favor irrespective of whether it was well planned out for an effect or if it was pure safe play to get a PG13+ rating. As a result we only see a tortured genius from the eyes of those who could only guess and judge what he could be inside, almost like Citizen Kane. But the real rosebud is that The Imitation Game is not just about him but also about how when we as a civilization are faced with an enigma – what we do with it, what gives us the power to do something or anything about it and who suffers in the end.