Local internet magazine fights back as mainstream media goes for sensationalism

Hamari Awaaz (our voice) is an issue based video magazine I found ( or my assistant Anish Patel did) on the internet. I don’t know much about it, but I can feel the depth of commitment of the young people involved. Neither looking for fame, not for a lot of money, nor carried by the sensationalism that drives mainstream press and tv stations today. They are driven by commitment to a cause, and the way we can support them is by viraling the magazine as many times as possible.

The video magazine should be called Hamari Asli Awaaz ( our true voice). This issue is about water privatization in Mumbai, an issue explored in my film Paani.

Is it a wonder that India’s roads are dangerous ?

Problem is that this looks like a lot of fun. And the problem is that it’s what I used to do when I was in college. On my lambretta as if even death could not touch me in the flush of youthful optimism and daring. What was it about us in those days ? What looks so foolish now, looked so daring and exciting then. Sometimes I wonder about my poor parents who used to get reports of my crazy antics on the Delhi roads. Always wondering if i would make it safely back from university everyday.

And I ? I loved the thrill of it. I still remember going down the wrong way on the ring road standing on my vulnerable little lambretta with my arms stretched wide. About to be crushed any second by an on coming bus or truck, daring death and accident.

Madness ? Stupidity ? Yes both. That’s one thing I will never ever let my daughter do, ride on someone else’s pillion. Because of the stupid things I got up to

This video was shot by Tara Bedi – budding film maker on the GT Highway between Delhi and Chandhigarh

Water as a weapon in battle against terrorism ?

Rabid nationalism may yet drive a nation to wage war against another through blocking water resources. China could do it to India through damming the Brahmaputra. Turkey could do it in the Middle East, and it is common knowledge that whoever hold Goan Hights also controls the flow of Water.

But I am talking about many of the suggestion on my twitter account and blog. That starving Pakistan of water is a way to control terrorism that originates from there. I am afraid that is not and never should be an option. The worldwide war on terror is not against the people of a nation, the children of a nation, but against the terror outfits that exist or are protected by that State. Even of it was considered a strategic option in a state of war, it would be a stupid one.

For the terror outfits, the military and the high command will be the first to draw for themselves whatever water resources they may have. Leaving the ordinary powerless civilians, women and children dying of thirst. Thereby driving more of them into a frenzy of fundamentalism and war. Three days of watching your kids die of thirst will drive you to extremism, however non violent or liberal you may be. Within India we are watching killings everyday over mere buckets of water at wells.

Using water as a weapon of war is a to set a precedence from which there is no escape. Expect it to be used against yourselves too. Over 100 million people in India depend upon the water that flows down from the glaciers of Tibet.

Using water as a weapon is the surest way of inviting an all out nuclear war. For it leaves no other option.

Thirsty Pakistan gasps for water solutions

Thirsty Pakistan gasps for water solutions
Experts say country is facing a water crisis that could see it run dry in several decades
Sahar Ahmed Karachi Reuters
Friday, Jun. 18, 2010 10:15AM EDT

Pakistan is facing a raging water crisis that if managed poorly could mean Pakistan would run out of water in several decades, experts say, leading to mass starvation and possibly war.

The reliance on a single river basin, one of the most inefficient agricultural systems in world, climate change and a lack of a coherent water policy means that as Pakistans population expands, its ability to feed it is shrinking.

Pakistan faces a raging water crisis,” said Michael Kugelman, program associate for South and Southeast Asia Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.

It has some of the lowest per capita water availability in Asia, and in the world as a whole.”

The vast majority – between 90 and 95 per cent – of Pakistans water is used for agriculture, the U.S. undersecretary for democracy and global affairs, Maria Otero, told Reuters. The average use in developing countries is between 70 and 75 per cent.

The remaining trickle is used for drinking water and sanitation for Pakistans 180 million people.

According to Mr. Kugelman, more than 55 million Pakistanis lack access to clean water and 30,000 die each year just in Karachi, Pakistans largest city, from unsafe water.

Of the available water today, 40 percent of it gets used,” Ms. Otero said. The rest is wasted through seepage and other means.”

Ms. Otero was in Islamabad as part of the first meeting of the U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue Water Working Group.

Pakistans Indus river basin is supplied by melting snow and glaciers from the Himalayas. A recent report in the journal Science by Walter W. Immerzeel of Utrecht University in the Netherlands said the Indus could lose large amounts of its flow because of climate change.

Both India and Pakistan make use of the Indus, with the river managed under a 1960 water treaty. Pakistan has lately begun accusing India of taking more than its fair share from the headwaters by building a number of dams and waging water war against its downstream neighbour. India denies this.

If the current rate of climate change continues and Pakistan continues to rely on the inefficient flood system of irrigation, by 2050, it will be able to feed between 23-29 million fewer people than it can today with approximately double its current population.

The United States hopes to encourage Pakistan to modernize its agricultural system and plant less water-thirsty crops. Ms. Otero said Pakistan and the United States are also exploring ways to improve the storage of water and Pakistan must look at ways to charge more for water as a way of encouraging conservation.

Such measures would likely be unpopular in the desperately poor nation. Measures to reduce subsidies on electricity, as mandated by the International Monetary Fund, amid chronic power shortages have battered the already unsteady civilian government.

Pakistan needs to either pass land reform or a series of laws to govern proper water allocation, Mr. Kugelman said.

If nothing is done, the water crisis will continue, no matter how many canals are repaired or dams constructed,” he said.

Paani adviser Maude Barlow : The world has divided itself between rich and the poor…

Worlds most renowned water activist Maude Barlow gives a fiery and factual speech at the Earth Summit in response to the G 20 Summit meeting at Toronto. Maude is one of the biggest supporters and adviser to our film Paani. It is a speech worth listening to as it drives home many truths,


What does it take to become an Actor ?

This is a question I am often asked and want to answer it as truthfully as I can

You must want to be beyond the needs of being accepted as being glamorous and beautiful. Looking for acceptance from other people is to put yourself at the doorstep of unhappiness. Acting is not an indulgence. Do not do it unless the passion is for the art of acting, even if that is expressed through stage, and no matter how small the exposure is – even street theatre. The passion to express stories through the process of acting should be paramount rather than aspiring to live and emulate the lives of the people photographed in the Bombay Times. Do not be led by falsehood. I am presenting to you the answer to the question “what does it take to become an actor” – not what does it take to become a star. For that there are enough people teaching acting in 3 months.

Acting takes incredible discipline. You body is the instrument through which you express yourself, like a violin is the violinists instrument. It takes years of discipline to create mastery over your body and voice. It takes years of introspection and hard work to learn how to use the inherent emotions in you, to be able transfer them seamlessly to your mind and emotion and from there seamlessly to your body and voice. The discipline and riyaz of an actor is no less than that of a classical dancer.

Moments of absolute truth are the most satisfying moments in any art, and the only way you know them, or recognize them, are because you feel closer to something infinite, some power beyond yourself that seems to be in control of your emotions, you body, your heart, your mind.

Those are the moments to aspire to and just a few in your lifetime will make you a true artist.

You asked me a a question about the art of acting I assume and not the commerce. The second I know nothing about and do not care to. You go to the Gym, get great pictures taken, discover your best angles, and go to parties to network. Get a six pack or a great body and go to photographers that know how to exploit those assets and then later photo shop them into perfection. Being attractive on the outside may be important , but the art of acting is to be attractive on the inside.

Elizabeth and Golden Age : Mythology and Melodrama

Question “‘you make a distinction in your audio commentary of “The Golden Age” between mysticism and melodrama (one being a product of the East and the other of the West). I wonder if you might elaborate on this for me’

Mythology are the stories that are buried deep inside ourselves, that struggle to connect our finite imagination to to that which seems or is infinite. Till science came along with logical reasons for lightening and clouds, they were part of our Myths (and often still are) with Gods letting forth a series of lightening strikes and roaring in anger. However all cultures in their struggle to comprehend infinite questions like the nature of the universe, the reason for our here, the miracles of birth , of death, of falling in love, betrayal and even possibilities of afterlife, have developed mythologies/stories to explain these. Often these migrate from Mythology into faith.

What differs between the West and the East is the openness of expression of such Mythic events. For example in the West you are taught to be silent and not to cry when someone dies, while in India we have ‘rudali’s’ that come to encourage to openly sob and express you grief. In this age of reason Western filmakers (for example) are often shy of expressing human reaction to such mythic events, calling it Melodrama – while films in the east tend to more expressive and accepting about ‘Mythic’ events and therefore the ‘Melodramatic’ nature of the presentation, the story and the performances. That sense of Myth then permeates all aspects of filmaking – the design, the costumes, the lighting and the shots. And of course the story telling.

In both Elizabeth and it’s sequel the Golden Age I realized that we were dealing with times before ‘the age of reason’ or the age of ’scientific temper’ had set into England. The Industrial revolution had yet to come, as had the proliferation of the British Empire. Arrogance of the mind and ego, led by conquest of the seas and manufacture had yet to set in. The tudor period therefore was to me what film critics call ‘melodramatic’ and I saw a culture largely in synch with it’s inherent mythic nature. After all Elizabeth herself was constantly relying on astrological predictions and had used ‘virginity’ as a mythic idea beyond the realms of the loss of the hymen.

So I brought my inherent Mythic sense to a film genre’ that was considered to be more much about Costumes, Royal and Court politics and (most of all) wit. And turned it around to look at it from it’s own melodramatic point of view. After all with intrigue and death always around the corner , and when life expectancy in the court was about 27, .how could you not be superstitious or mythic in your thinking ?

In Elizabeth it seemed to completely in synch with the writing performance etc. It was a woman moving from youth, love and childhood, to power, ruthlessness, monarchy but most importantly Divinity. Declaring yourself a virgin an then walking through the court, seperating yourself from the human form forever, and declaring your self Divine – in India she would have been called a Devi and still happens everyday. How mythic/melodramatic is that ?

The second one – The Golden Age – ran into difficulty. To my mind Elizabeth was now Divine,even if only in her own mid. How did she now comprehend herself falling n love ? being jealous ? Having sexual desire ? How does all of that affect your sense of Divinity ? Did she see her enemy Phillip as divine too ? All pretty mythic stuff – or you can call it melodramatic if you are a pure historian. And that’s where the film did not reach the expectations the first one had set up. There was an ongoing tussle between normalcy of a man/woman love story, as against the need to see it from a Divine perspective, Also between History and Mythology, which a lot of critics called Melodrama.

What I would say though is that any culture that is not in day to day touch with it’s own mythology, is a culture that will build tension and be open to exploitation – such as the rise of dangerous cults and creation of mythic evil figures to satisfy their need for connecting with their sense of mythology.

As I write this the news flashed that the next film in the Twilight series (Eclipse) has grossed an all time record of $ 30m in one night ! Now I would say a love story between a a young girl and a sexy vampire is pretty Melodramatic – or would you call it Mythic ?

What does a teacher make ?

this was sent to me by Kiran karnik and given the campaign everywhere on teaching and teachers, is worth a read.

A Teacher Answers…

The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life.
One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with ?education. He argued, “What’s a kid going to learn
from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a?teacher?”

To stress his point he said to another guest; “You’re a teacher, Bonnie. ?Be honest. What do you make?”

Bonnie, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness replied,

“You want to know what I make?”
(She paused for a second, then began…)

“Well, I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.

I make a C+ feel like the Congressional Medal of Honor winner.

I make kids sit through 40 minutes of class time when their
parents can’t make them sit for 5 without an I Pod,
Game Cube or movie rental.

You want to know what I make? (She paused again and looked
at each and every person at the table)

I make kids wonder.

I make them question.

I make them apologize and mean it.

I make them have respect and take responsibility for their actions.

I teach them how to write and then I make them write. Keyboarding isn’t everything.

I make them read, read, read.

I make them show all their work in math. They use their God
given brain, not the man-made calculator.

I make my students from other countries learn everything
they need to know about English while preserving their
unique cultural identity.

I make my classroom a place where all my students feel safe.

I make my students stand, placing their hand over their heart to
say the ‘Pledge of Allegiance’ to the Flag,?One Nation Under
God, because we live in the United States of America .

Finally, I make them understand that if they use the gifts they
were given, work hard, and follow their hearts, they can succeed in life.

( Bonnie paused one last time and then continued.)

Then, when people try to judge me by what I make, with me knowing money isn’t everything, I can hold my head up high and pay no attention because they are ignorant. You want to know what I make?

I MAKE A DIFFERENCE. What do you make Mr. CEO?”

His jaw dropped; he went silent.

Even all your personal teachers like mothers, fathers, brothers,
sisters, coaches and your spiritual leaders/teachers.

A profound answer!!!

Mr India: Mogambo Khush Hua: The creating of Mogambo

Amrish Puri ?immortalized the film Mr India through his pitch perfect playing of Mogambo,?so much that it’s difficult to imagine the much talked about sequel to Mr India without him.

What’s even more startling is the fact that when you look carefully at the film Mogambo actually does not do much in the film ?He talks, he threatens, he clicks his fingers on a globe on his throne, he strides, he builds missiles and threatens to blow up India. He threatens, and he threatens and threatens. But actually does nothing !! ?And out of doing nothing he created along with Gabbar Singh from Sholay?two of most famous villains of Indian cinema of all time.

At least Gabbar Singh cut off the Sanjeev Kumar’s arms, ruthlessly killed 3 of his men, Killed A K Hangal’s ( Sachin) son and sent the body back to the blind father, and worst of all, made Hema Malini dance on broken glass.

But poor Mogambo ? Nothing but empty threats, other than where he causes a few beautiful looking and well fed kids to go hungry. For a couple of nights. And then to add to his misery, he finally gets beaten up by an impoverished violinist (Anil Kapoor without his power to become ?invisible). ? How on earth then did Mogambo become one of the greatest villians on Hindi commercial cinema ?

Before I talk about the incredible performance of Amrish Puri, let me give credit to writer Javed Akhtar. ?I know very few script writers that have such an understanding of how to create mythology through dialogue. It’s no coincidence that both Gabbar Singh (with his then co writer Salim Khan) and Mogambo were his creation. ?Also to Javed Akhtar’s credit, he completely understood the ‘comic book’ pitch of the film, knowing that in this tounge and cheek film, the villian can be bloodthirsty only in intention, but never in action.

In fact it was I that insisted on the scene where the cute young girl Tina that everyone loved died in a bomb explosion. ?I was worried that the film would not be rooted and would pass us by as a farce. So I was hoping in that scene Mogambo’s threats would become real and the audience get a sense of real jeopardy. ?Just today my 9 year old daughter, (who finally caught up with Mr India in her drama class last week), asked me

“why did you kill the little girl , Daddy ? That was so mean”

” I didn’t ” I protested. ?She dies in the film. Mogambo caused her death.

” But you are the Director, you could have saved her. ?Why didn’t you ? That was really mean !”

Oh well, can’t win em all.

During the making of the film, I remember constantly asking Mr Akhtar if he had nailed down the character that would later become Mogambo. After all we were already begun filming even with scenes of Daga and Teja, Mogambo’s henchmen. ?I was worried that I could be headed to creating a film that was effectively two separate films. One not quite knowing the other. And then one day Javed Sahib (as we call him) triumphantly said he had written the character, and said the following words to me :

“Mogambo Khush Hua”

Hmmm, I thought – there must be more to that. There was of course. He lived on island. with one ambiton, to destroy and take over India. He was building missiles to destroy India too. But all his grandoise and diabolical plans were completely unachievable unless he threw a group of poor orphans out of an insignificant orphanage in Mumbai. No one quite understood why, and I don’t think anyone cared. ?For ?’Mogambo Khush Hua’ ?and Amrish Puri’s performance was the predominant defining characteristic of the character called Mogambo. .

“Shekhar Sahib, when Kapil Dev hits a six over the grounds, people will shout Mogambo Khush Hua, and when people play three card brag (teen patti) and if they get three aces, the will shout “Mogambo Khush Hua. ?You trust me on that”. ?Javed Akhtar assured me. ?Now this from the man who is responsible for some the greatest one liners of all time (‘Mere paas Ma hai’ from Dewaar) . So I convinced myself he was right. I had to.

Enter Amrish Puri. We had thought of other actors, but it was clear to me (and to others soon) that if there was an actor that could carry of this very very difficult part, it was Amrishji. He was not easy to convince, but then he did not contend with the charm and persuasive power of producer Boney Kapoor.

Along with my team, we set about designing the sets and the ‘look’ of Mogambo. Knowing that each high point of the character in the film would be defined by the words “Mogambo Khush Hua”. How many ways could you shoot the lines, so that at the end of each scene , Amrish Puri would say “Mogambo Khush Hua’ and the audience would react both in anticipation of those lines, loving those lines and also sensing that each time there was a different emotion or style to them ? ?Yes we built a globe along with his throne, gave him rings to click the globe with, used every trick in the book. But finally I knew I would have to depend on the actor. ?Amrish Puri.

Rarely does an actor so embrace a part and give it life that I as a director could not have imagined. Amrishji asked me how I wanted him to interpret the part. I was nervous. I could not just say “Mogambo Khush Hua” to an actor of his stature, could I ? After all this was the same man that had done brilliant performances like the ruthless landlord in Shyam Benegal’s Nishant. And many such films. He had an acute understanding and experience of the art of acting.

So I said ” Imagine you are playing Shakespeare to 9 year old kids that have no idea who he was. Imagine you have to make it feel mythic and entertaining”. ?Amrish Ji got it. Never did I have to give him any more instruction, other than stage directions. ?Each time he brought a new flavour, a new emotion, a different resonance in his voice. He became threatening and lovable at the same time. Each time bringing ?something out of the ordinary for those lines that have now gone down in history.

“Mogambo Khush Hua”

And some time later as I was watching Kapail Dev hit a six over the Sharjah grounds I saw a huge banner go up in the Indian supporters. It said :

“Mogambo Khush Hua”

Javed Akhtar was right. But we needed all the performing skills of Amrish Puri to pull that one off.  Happy Birthday Amrishji, wherever you are.

Sorrow .. to a friend facing tragedy

if you do not feel sorrow

you are not human,

if you don’t deny sorrow and welcome it

you have understood what it is to be human,

if you let sorrow so completely engulf you,

like a monsoon rain, drench you completely, right to your soul

then, when the sun comes out, and you dry out,

you will have experienced your true universal, God like self

and a new beginning

Sorrow is often our path to experience that

which is beyond the ego and the self,