Boyhood – A Kind of a Review

boyhood3There is a scene in Boyhood when Olivia (Patricia Arquette) suddenly cries out “my life is just gonna go like that… this series of milestones…” We all would want to agree with her. After all what’s a 60 years or more or less of it in this eternal cosmos. And yet what director Richard Linklater (of Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight series and Waking Life) says is far beyond those lines.

Boyhood is predominantly the story of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) as he grows from a dreamy six year old into an 18 year old – literally. In a life controlled, limited, conditioned and ‘what not‘ed by parents (even step ones too), Mason is as much an out of the place kid as we all have been during that age. Mason’s world is as dull or as happy it can be – cycle rides, school, friendly neighborhoods, an annoying sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), along with a yearning for a father who happens to be their mother’s divorced husband. And when Olivia moves out of home in hope of making it better for her kids, their world gets as complicated as it can get. And so begins a child’s biggest and a necessary nightmare – ‘loss of innocence’ and dealing with it.

It is sometimes tough to realize when in the film Mason and Samantha have grown older and we take cues from their changed hair styles or tooth braces or such physical clues. But it is their underlying emotions expressed subtly that tell us about their growth. Richard Linklater ponders on – how quickly these kids grow and yet they are kids, who look at the world with different viewing lenses, coming into their own sooner than later. Linklater delves into the kids innocence and growth as easily as he mixes the talk about pop culture and existentialism ala all his previous films.

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It seems for all the major characters within the story life seems event less – even as the kids’ father Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke) continues to visit them and tries to be as much a limited father he can be within his visiting hours; and even as Olivia continues her education and also marries a second time. The second husband, for reasons never known (how can any child know) turns out to be a good but disciplinarian and an alcoholic father. So the big events in the life of these kids are those when their seemingly working arrangements, for which they might have struggled – at least emotionally, fall out as both their parents make more and more mistakes – probably teaching Mason a lesson or two about life.

The camera is set in places as if we were sitting with Mason, his glass eyes absorbing everything, and we think we have an answer as to why he seems withdrawn. In these withdrawn worlds of these characters come the moments like when – Mason Sr. tries to educate his daughter (in her mid teens) about being ‘protected’, else he gently warns her about mistakes like he and his once wife did. There is no guilt there, just a feeble feeling that life could have been different and better if it were so possible, which disguises a father’s heart-felt confession about not being a better parent. Or when Olivia asks her son if he had had a joint and he replies yes innocently, and she can only smile about it. Or that Samantha and Mason have very little to say to each other as they grow up but connect to each other as silent witnesses of being the kids of their parents. Of course it’s Linklater – he never takes sentimentality take over on what he intends to document. He paints a rare canvas that is real, living and continues to make us wonder bout what is the meaning of everything.

In a world where kids fights for growth have to be dramatized to be understood (Harry Potter), Boyhood is the exact opposite of it. (May be the director knew what he was doing and that’s why he covered the Harry Potter mania here.) In a world where teachers, media and anyone who can boss you will offer advice about making it big in life Boyhood looks at things that are generally considered small.

Linklater’s biggest achievement in the movie is to capture the growth of not just a boy but of what is generally called family – despite it not working the way it is expected to. Life seems to offer them a second chance every time and sometimes they make the best of it, sometime they don’t. It’s all acceptable here. For those who can’t – life’s events are memories. For those who can make the best of these chances – there seem to be more chances. And in a life where chances come and go by the toughest thing is – to not to give up on what doesn’t necessarily make sense but connects us all, to continue to dream of something beyond what is visible, to feel the moment take over you – like how you felt looking at the sky as a kid or when you got really high, and if possible find a partner who can share that dream and make meaning out of it.

No Linklater’s Boyhood isn’t just about Mason. It is about everyone and what makes life tick and how one retains it – despite the odds.

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10 Minutes of Meditation with Sadguru

Since I first saw, Jaggi Vasudev’s answers on an English news channel almost a decade ago, I have always liked his answers, his language, his accent and his quotes and quirks. I had tried getting to know Isha yoga, but somehow it just didn’t workout. And then recently when I heard that Jaggi Vasudev was to give an address at a convention center just about a mile away from my home, I decided (as usual in the last moment) to go and check his speech session, which he called ‘Mystic Guide’.

The talk was usual, nothing more and nothing less. However, the few minutes of meditation, guided by the Guru himself, was definitely not something I had anticipated, but made the session worthwhile. I was definitely caught off guard by the combination of Humming (also probably including some Mantra chants) and the music, comprising of an Earthy voiced female singer, two guitars, a flute and am guessing a keyboard. The fact that I could sit for about three hours on floor, despite my lower back hurting badly, is some sort of a success story for me in the sense that I could push myself at least in the physical realm. ( I remember asking my wife’s kid-cousin just few days ago to sit in a chair and not to move for 10 minutes just a day ago, guess I know how it feels for a kid).

For those who wonder if I am an atheist or a non-conformist or a believer, I would say, I am all and nothing and hence their wondering is invalid. However, I think it is extremely important that you find a way to see/witness greatness at least once in a while (may be that’s why we all go on tours, watch cricket matches and what not). I think for those 10minutes of meditation with the guru, it can be included in my list of very few live Great experiences, I’ve had.

Why Rahul Dravid has been an Inspiration in My Life!

I have erred often in my life, and more so often I have repeated the same mistakes again and again than learn from them! It was during days when I was making more mistakes in my life that someone by the name Rahul Dravid took my attention. I had seen him earlier, years ago, playing or probably captaining an Under 19 team Vs New Zealand early in 90s. I think he kept wickets, also bowled and batted as well in one of those matches (I’m not sure). Anyways, I wasn’t much into Test Cricket, when he had made his debut in England scoring wonderfully. However, years later, I started to like the way he had held himself in the few matches that I watched. My most sympathetic moment came for him, when he was dropped from the ODI teams because of his slow approach to batting. What started as sympathy had later turned into tons of respect towards this man, who would go onto change my life in the way I have never imagined.

Coming back to sympathy, watching Dravid bat in Wold Cup 1999 was a joy. He was the top scorer in the World Cup, even though India didn’t make it to Semi Finals. He had been involved in two 200+ run partnerships in the same world cup. Dravid had a made come back. Always being the supporter of the Under Dog, I loved the way Rahul Dravid made his come back. His comments, off the field, never said anything loud, but never left anything incomplete or unfufiling. He was a wonderful talker, and till date he remains one of my most Loving Speakers, both in and off the game. It seems it was around this time that Rahul Dravid’s role as the supporter came to the fore. He has supported many others achieve their highest individual scores. Just to mention few he was at the other end when the likes of Sehwag, Sachin, Ganguly, VVS Laxman would achieve their highest scores either in Test or ODIs (till then)! Now that was a team player, who would fit into the supporting role as easily as he would lead it when required. (For example: He finished off the game against Pak in 2003 WC, with a 40+ score along with Yuvi).  True Team Player, and this is the biggest lesson I learnt from him – being a team player, no matter what role you are in.

Then came a cricket event that would put me into complete awe of this fellow. It was another useless day for me, when me and a dear friend, gathered ourselves in front of TV, talking of kings and cabbages. By the end of the day we saw three sessions in a day of a Test Match in which two players batted all along. VVS Laxman was at the helm, scoring 200+ runs. Rahul Dravid was at the other end – supporting him. The Kolkata innings completely turned him into my God. Yes Laxman was the leader in the match, but try taking any thing away from Rahul – you would find nothing! I wonder if both Rahul and VVS Laxman were in tune with the God that day. They just played. We watched. It was as if Rahul had silently told me – look into the best within you – that will change the way you look at your life. And Rahul kept proving it, in Australia and South Africa (much later) bringing India’s 1st Test Victory in both these places, and then winning another in West Indies – all with his amazing solidity.

It was only natural that he became the LEADER. It was only natural that he would lead. He had (still has) great vision – he was instrumental in picking India’s most important players, without bias; he played his role when ICC demanded him to work for it; and yet he would come back and play Ranji Trophy – in silent thanks to where he came from, and wanting to share with juniors, what he has learned so far! But leadership brings with it, great difficulties. His team lost the WC 2007 in the first round! Rahul never came into the fore after that, proving that he was after all a human, whose determination, hard work and working on priorities helped him nurture his talent. He left none of these qualities even though his good times deserted him, like they most naturally do. Only Navaratilova, whose story is as inspiring as Rahul’s, could explain what Rahul must have gone through – “What matters isn’t how well you play when you’re playing well. What matters is how well you play when you’re playing badly.” Rahul played well. His team supported him, deservedly. His critics raised voices, but he would silently play – most often struggling, but ensuring that he had atleast wasted balls in order to make them get older for the players coming in late, making a new record of playing more balls than anyone else in the game! In the mean time, though, he worked on other things that he could work on – fitness, on catching, and on everything else he could.

There have been painful contributions, there have been some easier ones, but what Rahul Dravid did was that he never let his guard down, even in the moments of failures. It is through these failures that the second nature of a man comes out. I wonder if anyone had discussed this earlier anywhere – but Rahul comes across as a saint, who had left everything else, detached from the happenings of the world, working more on his penance! Incidentally, saints in India are expected in temples or in mountains, not in our homes! Voices rose against him, even though Rahul egged on improving himself. Personally, though, I think if there is the biggest critic that Rahul Dravid ever found, would be Rahul Dravid himself. That there is no other person who would be able to point your negative at you, other than yourself, says a thing or two about Greatness. I’m not sure how many else can be in that situation, now that is the position I someday would like to be, and I know that I have a long long way to go.

Has Rahul Dravid found a second winding (even after the century in West Indies) or has he weathered the long storm, it would be too early to try to answer. But having followed Rahul Dravid for sometime I know that whatever he chooses to do next, be it in Cricket or away from it, would be as pure as the man himself – useful to himself, useful to his team or family or society and quite remarkable for the coming generations.

I’m not sure if, in my life, I will be able to do things the way Rahul did. But in the search for the best within, it is indeed inspiring, insightful and enlightening, to have someone like Rahul Dravid in my life time. I render a sincere thanks and bow to this man for just having been there, doing what he does best – being there among the most gentlemanly great the gentleman game ever produced.