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.

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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.)

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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.)

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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.

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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.

 

 

The Purpose of Relationships In Our Lives

 

 

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I think the purpose of all or any relationship in our life is self – revelation, helping us understand ourselves better as we go on about our lives. Even Jiddu Krishnamurthy seems to say the same thing here and he delves into it deeper than anyone else I’ve known or read.

A relationship, whether it is between two people or a human and just an object, or whether it is an old one or a newly formed one, is like the one between you and the mirror. You see a mirror, you see a clean reflection – it means that both you and mirror are okay, but if you see a disturbed reflection you first check if you have spots on your face, not on your mirror. But in a relationship we generally tend to do otherwise, don’t we?

If a relationship doesn’t tell us anything new about ourselves in a way we can’t probably tell ourselves sooner or later that relationship crumbles. That is probably why we fill a relationship with a gifts or dinners or travels or surprises  – so that we see ourselves in a newer and setting, and find newness in ourselves through our responses to these new things. Of course to have a companion who can tell us if we are fooling ourselves with this newness or if there is something left in us to be discovered is a big bonus.

Yet, strangely, it is also probably why a person needs some alone time too, to find newness in himself (or herself), that doesn’t have anything to do with others in the world – just that individual and the universe for some great lone moments! It is in these moments one realizes that while mirrors are great reflections to what one is, life isn’t lived in mirrors or life’s purpose is not only to see ourselves in the mirrors, and this is probably just the beginning of our self revelation.

 

Voting for NOTA – few thoughts

To some extent voting for NOTA I felt how an Afro-American might have felt trying voting for the first time in the USA or (just for a closer example) probably how Anna Hazare and his like minded individuals felt when they were pushing for RTI Act say two decades ago.  I knew I was doing the right thing, and not necessarily in the way it is generally practices, even though what is right is already explained in books (also called constitutions) and yet it not done the way it should be.

I strongly believe that India, despite it’s flawed execution of fairly done ‘on paper’ policies, can sustain with any leader at the helm, before some sort of mayhem arises in our system. There is no proof to this, but I am sure we are more or less saner people, when it comes accepting our foolishness. I base my thinking on the fact that YSR, despite his well documented corrupt practices, was and is called great leader, and our system, at least in the erstwhile AP, is still running, – obviously our system is very concrete.

But in the mean time, we have to find a way to hold our leadership responsible at the place where they are most weaker – the elections. That’s why NOTA, despite it’s many obvious weaknesses. But aren’t there many such weaknesses when we vote for someone unknown?

NOTA’s journey has just started, and like many good things in life (in India at least), it has taken the long route. And it will be very long time before we will be able to see it’s impact. However, no one can deny that this is the least corrupt form of voting, is absolutely legal, and its results are going to help the system by forcing further discussions on it ( who will discuss it – the same leaders whom all else have voted, while any one of us can file a case in the SC for further clarity and betterment of NOTA). These three points cannot be absolutely said about any individual who will win or to whom we vote.

Voting for NOTA is moving ahead one concrete step at a time, and of course there is hope. All else, probably, is just a prayer with a HOPE and is like jumping into the river, without knowing how to swim – may be the water isn’t deep, or may be some one will rescue or may be there is going to be yet another butcher winning after his livestock has voted for him/her!
When years later NOTA will be taken seriously, parties will be forced to field stronger and capable candidates, while media – as it usually does during elections – will have great day trying to bring the candidates down, thus – pushing people to think and use their senses more!  Till then, India, with all it’s visionary leaders and/or crown princes, this party or that party – will be all the same – three steps forward, two and a half steps backwards – if you think we are still moving – well then NOTA will make it two and a quarter steps backwards!