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Paani research pic, under the mumbai flyovers

Cannes diary : Dining in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland

It’s very exciting to be on the Jury of the Cannes film festival. Especially when the Jury is headed by the man I affectionately (but also seriously) call ‘the Salvador Dali of Cinema’. Tim Burton is a compassionate and gentle person that is so eager to learn about other people and cultures. He is also completely fascinated by India, so I have invited him to come and see if there is something he would like to shoot in India.

India is a country that accepts mythology and magic realism as an essential part of it’s culture, as does Tim Burton in is film making. It would be fascinating to see Tim Burton’s visual take on some of our tradition folk tales.

For the first dinner with the Jury, the Chef had designed the dinner as an ‘inspiration’ from Tim Burton’s movies ! Everything looked like it was from the Mad Hatter’s dining table. And while it was terrific looking an delicious, I kept waiting for the rice ! After all what’s a meal without rice and dal, or roti and dal ?

Did George Mallory ‘conquer’ The Mother Goddess of the World ? Everest.

George Mallory and Sandy Irvine disappeared a few hundred meters from the summit of Mount Everest in June 1924. In doing so they created the most enduring mysteries and myths of mountaineering. Did they get to the summit before the clouds covered them from the view of his comrades following them through binoculars from a lower camp ? Especially Mallory, for not only was he leading, but also because he is reputed to be the greatest climber the world has ever known. And if so, then Everest was ‘conquered’ long before Hilary and Tenzing did in 1953.

75 years later Mallory’s amazingly preserved body was found by another expedition. He had obviously fallen. Yet the mythology surrounding Mallory created even more of a mystique. Did he fall on the way up or the way down ? His body was lying in a strange position, almost supplicant to the peak. Like he was prostrating and praying to ‘Chomolungma’ – The Mother Goddess of the World – as the Tibetans call it.

So when I was asked to make a film on George Mallory by Julia Robert’s film Co, that was the first idea that struck me. I have been a sort of amateur climber myself, always attracted to the sheer immensity of the mountains.

Why is it that when faced with an immensity that threatens to challenge our own sense of individuality on this planet, something that threatens to make us feel small, our instinct is to challenge and conquer it, rather than sublimating itself to it and thereby being part of it ? One an act of incredible ego, ambition and violence, the other an act of letting one’s ego drop, of letting the individuality go. A great act of Love actually.

We talk of ‘Man’s conquest of Space’. Of the ‘Conquest of Everest’. And of course have just come to terms with the horrendous consequences of our attempts to “conquer’ nature on our Planet. Is a religion or a faith, for example, a conquest of people’s minds and hearts, or is it an embracing through love ? These are the thoughts and questions that drove me to consider the film. After all, why do a film unless it is a journey of discovery of yourself ?

I have no doubt that ambition and the desire to conquer was how Mallory understood his need to pit himself against Everest again and again. he went there three times. At a time when no one had used oxygen for climbing before, and there was none of the sophisticated mountaineering gear we have today. If you look at pictures, you would think they were climbing in tweed jackets and trousers! But underneath ambition and the need to conquer, was there an underlying need to discover one’s identity ? A need to discover who we are really, beyond the idea of being individual ? After all Mallory had just come back from serving in the First World War, and when you see so much needless death and destruction around you, your own place in the Universe must come into question.

When Mallory got the summit, if he ever did, did he feel a great sense of conquering, or did he finally find himself embraced by the ‘Mother Goddess of the World’ ? Did he finally sublimate himself to the immensity and become one with it ? Did he, perhaps, discover that which he was searching for all his life ?

Himself.

Shashi Tharoor and the politics of Disruption

Whenever change is coming, the people on top of the pile suddenly let go their own differences and unite against the forces of change. Does not matter where you are. People that have spent their life struggling to the top by fair or unfair means have such a strong investment in the existing system, that change can only be brought about by disruption.

Be it in Technology, in Governments, in Corporations and particularly in Politics,

What is emerging clearly is that Shashi Tharoor was such a disruption. One after another I listened to Politicians, experienced TV media personalities, editors of Magazines and Newspapers gloating over his resignation. In fact the whole gamut of an elite club of Politics, Business and Media that are often seemingly on opposite sides, but fundamentlly would not survive without each other. There was a fundamental fear of the type of politician Shashi Tharoor is. One after another they gave themselves away by saying he is not experienced, or mature, or does not respect existing norms and “it takes time to get into and understand the system”. They should have said manipulate.

Time to understand how to work in a manner where you are networked into the undercurrents of handshakes and whispers which have led to one of the most corrupt governance on the Planet ?

Shashi on Twitter also made him a darling of those that were able to adapt to the new technology. If New Media goes the way it is, it would take a away the power of the Gatekeepers of Indian Media, and then who would the Government or Corporations deal with ? Who do you secretly shake hands with when a technology is out there where people talk to each other completely ignoring or disbelieving the Old Media. After all without Twitter the whole IPL scam would not have been exposed.

Shashi recognized the power of the new medium and used it as a very effectively to force attention on himself at his own terms. Without compromise. That was not acceptable to the Old Boys Club. he had to be destroyed. What if all the members of parliament twittered their true opinions from parliament to the public at large ? It would be chaos for the Club, but it would herald the truest form of fluid democracy.

Shashi Tharoor is the first soldier of disruption and like front soldiers they are all shot down. I hope he survives. I hope he is able to explain to the Indian people what really went on in his dealing with the IPL in Kochi and remove all doubt about his integrity.

But mostly I hope there are many more disruptive foot soldiers that are willing to face the bullets of an antiquated corrupt and bloated system that feeds upon the incredible resilience, enterprise and fortitude of the Indian people.

For if there is not, change is coming from outside the political system that is already threatening us more than terrorism. While we all celebrate IPL, there is a revolt brewing in India that is threatening to break us out into civil war. For when a government is forced to send out it’s troops again and against it’s own citizens, what is it but a civil war ?

And I do not buy the argument of elitism. Remember Rajiv Gandhi ? There was a such a groundswell of support for him from every class and caste in India. Why ? Because he was young, fresh, and promised change, he represented hope for the people of India, to somehow change to a better, cleaner and fairer system of governance,

Change, I am afraid in the air, and if not from within the system, it will happen from outside it with dire consequences

The economics of consumerism

I always wondered the logic of President Obama’s economic stimulus package. It was based on restoring confidence. And confidence (whether Obama meant that or not) is measured by the people consuming more. Every Christmas, for example, the economy is measured by the amount people spend in stores. And this is becoming a measure of economic resurgence all over the world, In India for example, the increasing number of automobiles sold is touted as measure of an economy that is surging ahead.
But isn’t excessive consumerism the one basic problem facing the planet ? And the fundamental problem with the US economy is also that it’s model has to be driven by increasing consumerism (aside from trade in military hardware) that cannot be accelerated beyond a certain point ? How then can ‘consumer confidence’ be a measure or a long term solution of the fundamental problems facing us. How does it help that China and the US have become co- dependant on each other, fundamentally doing the same things. Driving each others consumerism
Please, it you have not already, watch this video :

For Heath Ledger, again

Dear Shekhar,
it’s always a pleasure read the beautiful words you dedicate to Heath…they make me feel better and I’m happy that every year you write something to remember Heath on this bad day. I discovered your blog after that tragic 22 January. Now I don’t know how to express, but my feelings are confused…sometimes it seems to me that just yesterday Heath was with us, like as the time stopped and it’s still too early to understand, sometimes instead I feel like if the time moves on and every day with all the chaos around us I have not the time to think about him regularly like I did before. I don’t like this sensation!!!!
It’s the first time I’m writing on your blog, I’m just a cinema’s lover and I loved follow every movies and every project of Heath, he was so unique, so different from any other, so special. I never had thought his life was so early interrupted. He was so full of energy. It’s hard to express all the emotions I feel. After his passing, I promised to myself to try to get what I want,without regrets, without fear, the life is so unique and unpredictable to waste time, it’s time to face the life.
Heath will be alive forever ’till we are here to remember, speak and love his films and his life.
Rest in peace, young cowboy.
Thanks Shekhar
Un abbraccio
Martina

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At Isha with Sadhguru

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Interviewing Sadhguru on the meaning of God, Love, Shiva and relationships. You should be able to see the interviews on Youtube.

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Kaveri with Bruno, her Ski Instructor in a snow storm in Innsbruck

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in Hong Kong with Kaveri