Insight into South Asia

Mahaanagar (The Big City), by Satyajit Ray (1963)

(Bengali Movie)

This movie is not about urban/rural divide, but its about a married middle class Bengali woman(Arati). Parts of India have moved past some of the situations portrayed in the movie, but its a delight to see ourselves in the big screen, with no bells and whistles. Arati goes to work, against the Father-in-Law’s wish to not do so. Her experiences in this process, and the portrayal of husband(Anil) and father-in-law/mother-in-law etc. are a mirror on Indian society. Nothing dramatic nor exaggerated. We would become part of the family, as we watch the movie.

Some highlights of the movie:

On her way to first day at work, at train, Anil holds Arati’s hand.

Anil: “Arati, are you nervous? I have never seen you so nervous before!”

Arati: “hmm.. Yes. I was nervous once before…. During our marriage”

(Thats Ray!!)

At work, an Anglo-Indian woman (Simpson) gives a lipstick to Arati who works as a salesperson. Arati feels shy. Simpson says: “You put red here (head), red here (forehead) Why not here(lips) ?”

Simpson, a sincere employee, speaks in assertive language to the manager, and gets a fair-raise in compensation for the 5 women. The manager talks to Arati later, and says “Miss Simpson is very rude, Her approach is not right. Yours is good” (Arati is a submissive, sincere woman)

After Arati started working, Anil is worried about the changes she goes through. Arati replies “You can recognize me. I am the same housewife” On another time, she says (after throwing away the lipstick) to her husband: “Do whatever you want, please do not misunderstand me.”

After a while, Anil asks Arati to stop working. He says : “More than money, we need peace of mind in this house. Dad has not talked to me. Father, mother, I and our son also do not like you going to work”

The only video I could find on youtube is this:


Filed under: Arts, Entertainment, Movies,

My dog has died

Just like most of you, I have come across the name Pablo Neruda multiple times..I admit that I am a skeptic when it comes to Poets..Not all kinds, but the kinds unraveling life’s knots with flowery language or the ones blabbering about love intoxicated with hormones..It may also be, due to the fact that the poets I read were addicts or simply irresponsible men. So you can understand my sense of insult, when they explain the philosophy of life..But there is another kind I like..The ones who can capture a delicate moment, that you even forgot existed in you..

I already like Pablo Neruda on reading his or my first poem. A friend once told me that you become the author, when you read a story, as only you define its meaning. I can’t define why I like this poem. It may not be because the poem reminded me of my dog, from my childhood. Because I never had a dog like this..But my mother once had a dog like this. It might have been the fish that lived together with me for many years or the chicken I hand-reared Or I am not certain if it is some hazy lost love or a friend I did not have..

But I know this poem. It is mine. I enjoyed it. It could be yours also..I want you to meet Pablo..Please don’t forget to read the postscript later.

My dog has died-Pablo Neruda

My dog has died.
I buried him in the garden
next to a rusted old machine.

Some day I’ll join him right there,
but now he’s gone with his shaggy coat,
his bad manners and his cold nose,
and I, the materialist, who never believed
in any promised heaven in the sky
for any human being,
I believe in a heaven I’ll never enter.
Yes, I believe in a heaven for all dogdom
where my dog waits for my arrival
waving his fan-like tail in friendship.

Ai, I’ll not speak of sadness here on earth,
of having lost a companion
who was never servile.
His friendship for me, like that of a porcupine
withholding its authority,
was the friendship of a star, aloof,
with no more intimacy than was called for,
with no exaggerations:
he never climbed all over my clothes
filling me full of his hair or his mange,
he never rubbed up against my knee
like other dogs obsessed with sex.

No, my dog used to gaze at me,
paying me the attention I need,
the attention required
to make a vain person like me understand
that, being a dog, he was wasting time,
but, with those eyes so much purer than mine,
he’d keep on gazing at me
with a look that reserved for me alone
all his sweet and shaggy life,
always near me, never troubling me,
and asking nothing.

Ai, how many times have I envied his tail
as we walked together on the shores of the sea
in the lonely winter of Isla Negra
where the wintering birds filled the sky
and my hairy dog was jumping about
full of the voltage of the sea’s movement:
my wandering dog, sniffing away
with his golden tail held high,
face to face with the ocean’s spray.

Joyful, joyful, joyful,
as only dogs know how to be happy
with only the autonomy
of their shameless spirit.

There are no good-byes for my dog who has died,
and we don’t now and never did lie to each other.

So now he’s gone and I buried him,
and that’s all there is to it.

Translated, from the Spanish, by Alfred Yankauer

Pablo Neruda

ps: The poem was introduced from a blog posting of a politician. Ravikumar is a Dalit politician and elected representative from India. You can read his blog here. A country which has a politician who appreciates fine poetry from another country is a very healthy sign. Things are not that bad after all with our politics.

Written by Ronin(not the poem, but the blogpost)

Ronin is a Technology Entrepreneur, Parent, Student, avid Reader and a global citizen

Filed under: Arts, Culture, South America, , , ,

Orhan Pamuk: a true hero of our times!

The first Turkish national who comes to my mind is Orhan Pamuk. I think he is the greatest Turk of the present age and one of the greatest Turks of all time!

Yes, this post is about Ferit Orhan Pamuk, the Nobel Prize winning Turkish novelist and professor of literature. He is one of Turkey’s foremost novelists whose work has been translated into more than fifty languages. He has won numerous national and international literary awards and is the first Turk to receive a Nobel Prize. He studied architecture briefly but went on to graduate from the Institute of Journalism at the University of Istanbul. I have not read any of his books so far, but I greatly admire him for another reason. Read more about this great man here.
Orhan Pamuk
So we would expect such a wonderful human being and a patriotic Turk to be treated as a hero in his own motherland, wouldn’t we? Afterall, here is a man who loves his country but more importantly, is a good human being who prefers to look at the truth.

But the reality is different from the truth! Very different indeed!

Orhan was treated like a criminal! A hate campaign was started and criminal charges were brought against him and he was forced to flee his country! But he made the most courageous decision to return to his beloved motherland and face the false charges against him! Due to an international outcry, the criminal charges against him were dropped! But some scoundrels did not stop with that! There was a group of criminal assassins who even plotted to kill Orhan and others!

But why was he treated like this? The only reason is because he chose to speak the truth!

In an interview, Orhan had stated, “Thirty thousand Kurds and a million Armenians were killed in these lands and nobody dares to talk about it“. In another interview, he said that he wanted to defend the freedom of speech, which was Turkey’s only hope for coming to terms with its history, “What happened to the Ottoman Armenians in 1915 was a major thing that was hidden from the Turkish nation; it was a taboo. But we have to be able to talk about the past.

Now, that is a courageous decision to stand up for the freedom of speech and for the truth by a man who is admired by many for his contribution to Turkey and the world!

But he was treated like a common criminal! Orhan is no killer or liar or cheat or anti-national! He is the exact opposite of those evil types!

It does not surprise me in the least, though. I know why he was treated like that by some of his own fellow citizens. This is the sad reality that honest people have to go through! Why do we do this to such wonderful people? Why do we ask them to shut up, abuse them, ill-treat them, batter them, hurt them, offend them, call them names, put them in prison, torture them emotionally and even try to kill them?

What wrong have they done? What crime have they committed? Why the hell should they be treated like that for daring to speak the truth? Why the hell should they be treated like that by people who don’t want to come to terms with the truth? Why on Earth should they be treated like that for speaking out against oppression? Is it such a great crime for a patriotic citizen to suggest that his fellow citizens should come to terms with the truth so that everyone in that country can have a bright future?

I always admire such great men and women! They are the only hope for our planet! They are the only hope for civilisation! When war, genocide, crime, corruption, greed and pollution are destroying our beautiful planet and all her sons and daughters, it is people like the brave and courageous Orhan who will save Mother Earth from the brink of disaster! They are the greatest heroes of our times! They are the greatest sons and daughters of their countries and of Mother Earth and Father Time!

Orhan, don’t worry about those people who have treated you the way they have! For every such person, there is another person who is more patriotic and more human who will defend you! Turkey is indeed blessed to have a son like you, Orhan! People like you are the last hope for their countries and for our planet!

Written by An-alien-Earthling

An alien Earthling, a.k.a Raj, is a blogger whose interests include current affairs, technology and sports. He is an engineer by profession.

Filed under: Arts, Asia, Europe, Politics, World, , , , , , , , , ,

A Beautiful Mind (2001)

Human Mind is beautiful, and this is about one such mind. An extra-ordinarily Beautiful Mind. When this movie came out in 2001, it bagged 4 Oscars. It was obvious that the reason Russell Crowe (John Nash) was not given the Best Actor Award was only because he received the same award the year before for Gladiator. That speaks volume for the performance of an actor!

Beautiul Mind Poster My intent here is not to pick a random old movie for review. There is something extra-ordinary in this movie, that speaks about Arts & Science. Its important to share.

The movie is about the life of Nobel Prize winner John Nash, who was suffering from Schizophrenia. Its a disease where the patient loses the ability to distinguish imagination from reality. The mind wanders in a delusional state. In this case, John Nash, Princeton Professor of mathematics imagines that his initial cryptographic work for a military project, takes him to be a secret agent, decoding messages from Russians from News Articles.

The objective of a movie is to make the audience feel the emotions that the characters are going through. In other words, place us in the shoes of the characters. Is it even possible to place us in the shoes of a Schizophrenic? Ron Howard, the director, can. He did.

Its just not the first person portrayal, the device employed in the movie, that is penetrating. The interaction between brain & heart, Science & Art, stands out very often, and takes us into the depths of humanity. Here we have a mathematical genius, who has a brilliant mind, so brilliant that in its imagination, it challenges itself. What does one do, if one loses control of ones mind? What does a Nobel Prize winner do?

Nash’s brain could not solve this challenging problem, without the help of another heart, his wife Alicia. Nash’s brain served humanity as a whole, and the single-Mom Alicia’s heart helps Nash overcome his problem. She shows him what is real, and what is not. It might seem an easy task, if you have not watched the movie. To show what is real, and what is not… To show this difference to a mathematical genius who can construct very believable/plausible consistent reasons for his delusions, is indeed a difficult task. Ron Howard gets an Oscar for best direction, for first demonstrating to us how extremely difficult the task is, and then showing us how Prof. Nash solves it in the end, amidst lot of struggles. Everytime Alicia attempts to help Nash, there will be a convincing reasonable explanation in Nash’s mind. It all makes perfect sense. For Nash, & for us. Ron Howard placed us in John Nash’s shoes.

To put oneself in another person’s shoes, requires effort. Once/if done with compassion, a lot of mis-understandings, social evils etc would go away. In developing Nations especially, there is a need for this effort. To really feel another person’s pain & suffering through generations after generations, it is not easy. But we have to try. Artists can help.

The Only Thing Greater Than the Power of the Mind is the Courage of the Heart


Filed under: Arts, Movies

Hungry Hearts by Sohaila Charnalia

Written by guest writer Shekhar Kapur

Ok, so we tend to get a little patronizing about our own family members, especially when that person happens to be your younger sister. You kind of tend to pat them on their back and treat them like a child and then look back at your life and realize how utterly stupid that attitude was. It was a typical attitude of a Punjabi elder brother completely confused about his responsibilities towards her.

So now my younger sister Sohaila is doing things that make me sit up and take notice. Things in my own field. Things that are quite awesome. She has started the Hungry Hearts Festival in Delhi. They need support and I will let Sohaila’s own words take over. I am supporting them and if there is anyone else out there that would like to do so in any way , please write to Sohaila.

Hungry Heart Festival, a registered society, co founded by Monica Bhasin, Sohaila Kapur and Smita Bharti, is a New Delhi based initiative that promotes theatre, filmmaking and the visual arts, empowering creative professionals to turn their visions into realities

Hungry Heart Festival, a registered society, co founded by Monica Bhasin, Sohaila Kapur and Smita Bharti, is a New Delhi based initiative that promotes theatre, filmmaking and the visual arts, empowering creative professionals to turn their visions into realities.

It all began the day the four of us sat down to complain. Two of us had lives beating us down….anti-stress pills, rebellious kids, struggles to put in place careers that would have been easier to handle had we been men, or simply, if we had decided to compromise ourselves. The third grumbled about the tight family bonds that were strangulating her. While the fourth was fighting to keep her partner from straying. All of us badly needed a break from the whirlpool of inane activity that we called life.

`Let’s do a play’, one of us shouted…..

…..It seemed a good way out and we clinked our beer glasses in unison. `F…the world’ the second one shouted, `if the world wants a performance, we’ll give them one’. The other two agreed and a pact was signed and sealed that night.

The Hungry Heart Theatre Group was born that day. Why did we give ourselves that strange name? Because we were bleeding hearts, hungering for some real action. And theatre, cathartic as it was, gave us that. That was in 2005 and we’re still going strong.

People wonder how we haven’t fizzled out in an age of break-ups, when individual egos dominate over group loyalty. And my answer is that we sincerely believe in unity in diversity, which has helped us survive. Each one of us brings a different talent to the group and that is what makes it tick.

We do have our disagreements and creative battles where we fiercely defend our respective turfs . We even lost a founder member who had to return to England because of visa problems, but hey, we’re still around and hope to be for a long time to come. And even though we’ve held grand festivals in conjunction with our partner, The Hindustan Times since 2005 (only missed out on the 2008 one, because of the economic crunch, when sponsors fled the scene), we’ve still a long way to go.

Apart from the festival, where we invited other groups to perform, we’ve also been holding one-off shows, which are usually written and directed by one of us. One of them was a musical, that pays tribute to India’s entertainment hub, Mumbai, and its industry, Bollywood. What could be a more cathartic experience for work tired brains than a song and dance extravaganza, in other words, a Bollywood film unraveling on stage? With the advantage of being live? And `Mahim Junction’ was born!

The musical held its premiere in India on Dec 5. Uncannily, some of the incidents in the story, written initially in 1997, have actually played out in Mumbai post 2003, including the serial blasts. In that sense, the musical also works as a tribute to the resilient spirit of Mumbai.

Repeat shows in Delhi are on April 18 and 19, 2009, at the Epicentre (at Apparel House), in Gurgaon and on May 1, 2009, at the India Islamic Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi.

To check out the musical’s history, awards, press reviews in the UK and India and its photo album, go to mahimjunction.blogspot.com.

Shekhar Kapur is a noted film maker with international repute. One of the few Bollywood directors to make a career in the U.S., Shekhar Kapur has proved his filmmaking worth in both countries. You can read his blog here.

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Movie audience’s audience!

Written by Prakash

Prakash –a people person, is from the Information Technology industry. He writes his observations of the world around him with an analytical inkling

I was in INOX, a movie hall in the metropolitan Bangalore (ticket costs about 250/- rupees on weekends) for a Tamil movie called “Veyil”. I was surrounded by mostly IT guys (few others would pay this much to watch a movie) working with multinationals – don’t ask me how I know!!. These are the guys, who will be at ease to converse on places, people, shopping, food, travel route and climate of the places around the world.

Now let’s get to the movie – the backdrop of the movie is a small town in Tamilnadu. The movie starts around the 70’s and closes around 2000’s. The movie is well woven with the life style of the typical town – love with social restrictions, hair & dress style of 70’s, bus stand, the veranda of the small house, small time hotel, small town habits – evokes so much emotions on the guys around me (of course me too).

Veyil Movie Poster

Veyil Movie Poster

The man who would be generally talking in terms of man days, estimation, and project management is seen emoting so much; his wife should be wondering – is this the same guy she lives with?. I guess the Tamil audience in several theatres around the world will be no different for this movie – be it New Jersey, London, Chennai or Singapore.

Such a powerful medium – where a cosmopolitan is able to go inside a dark hall reminisce, relate to it and find pleasure in it. He may not want to go back to the past, but it drives him into nostalgic moods and immediately he is connected to this medium – atleast for few hours or days. Off late, many Tamil movies have had their backdrop set in the villages, village games like kabadi and life around a common man (Paruthi Veeran, Kaadhal etc).

On keen observation you will notice that Kollywood (Chennai aka Madras film industry) welcomes any nationality/state into its folds when it comes to artists, technicians and producers. However most directors are from the southern most districts/towns of  the state, not even from cities such as Chennai. I find this a healthy mix. 

Very much interested to know how it is going for other languages or countries.


  1. The topic might be specific to movies, but I guess it can be related to any form of art
  2. The topic can be expaneded to include any language/ nationality

Filed under: Arts, Culture, Entertainment, Movies, , , , , ,