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 ?


IPL: greed caught up with everyone,

IPL was an easy target for the power hungry to swoop down on. It was perfect. There was no land laws or farmer’s lands to forcibly acquire, no licenses for factories, no labour laws. Nothing but an escalating brand at a hyped values that seemed to have no limits. Hyped because the team owners are still in negative cash flow unless they cash in on the brand itself.

Perfect. So perfect that it seemed almost impossible. And so everyone that had power, either in cash or in political clout (often both) swooped down desperately to jump on a train that was fast leaving the tracks.

Except in that desperation they forgot to cover their own tracks. And in the mad crazy tussle that ensued for control and ownership, the contenders forgot an unwritten law in the nexus that has always existed between money, big business and political power. That you do not wash your dirty linen in public.

They did not contend with twitter either. A simple technology that was transferring power to individual voices. Even if those voices were from within the players.

So now the pandora’s box is open. It’s nothing that we did not already know, but for the first time the players are out battling in full public view. Like another game happening outside the stadium that the nation and media is also transfixed by. A nation that should pay more attention to other matters. Like poverty and hunger. Like the fast disappearing fresh water resources. Like terrorism. Like the rebellion from within the country in the form of a Maoist revolt.

I have no doubt that when the fun and games are over, when the media attention has died down, the warring opponents will find a way to resolve the issues and settle down in the same club as if this never happened.

I have no doubt that we will continue to enjoy the pretty fabulous and entertaining game that T20 is, barring those insufferable commercials that take up far more time than the cricket itself. And I have no doubt that other competitors will come in and break the stranglehold that the BCCI has over the Indian players. That will happen as young new players will rebel against the IPL team owners too, and would be willing to join another club. For IPL will gradually erode loyalties to the national team. Which is the real power base of the BCCI

And Lalit Modi will enjoy a quite retirement overseas with his yachts and jets. Shashi Tharoor will continue to win more elections, but will eventually give up and go back to New York and write more books.

And the political opponents will divide the spoils amongst themselves, and the media will divert our attention to some other great melodrama.

After all, does anyone remember the names of the young people that died in the Pune bomb blasts ?

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

A hopeful view of experience: Paani

From Deepak R:

Bijapur,I have lived in this dusty town, fought many college debates on water crisis here,spent many days of my life fetching water and storing it away, taken out protests with the local authorities. In many ways this small historic town has remained unchanged since 100 years. People in reality do not expect water on demand. Supply once in 15days per house has been the norm for the last 60yrs.

The biggest room in most homes here is not to be found within four walls. It is most likely the water reservoir every home builds to store water. People do not waste water here. They know that every mug counts, I knew it. Inspite of the headline, the scarcity of this resource has however not brought the worst out yet. This place churns out the most engineers and doctors in the entire north karnataka, it educates more women than many other regions can dream of, has the only women’s university in that part of the country,it is the second largest region to grow grapes in South India, now also makes some of the finest wines from India. This historic town still grooms the humility and acceptance of Indian culture. The struggle is not a violent one. The silent will of the people to better their situation, that is the struggle. Which side of the struggle does Paani intend to capture. Will Paani speak to people of this town?

Green Zone the film and the truth about Iraq

I just saw Paul Greengrass’s Green Zone, which says it is inspired by Rajiv Chandrasekharan”s ” Imperial life in the Emerald City”. Which is a terrific book. The film may have been inspired by something in the book, but Matt Damon’s character was certainly inspired by the character in Bourne Identity.
Cinematically brilliant (like the Hurt Locker), but when will Hollywood stop trivializing something as serious as the stunning loss of innocent lives in Iraq. Do we have to have a brilliant directors like Paul Greengrass (remember Bloody Sunday) make a carefully and obviously plotted action film disguised as serious cinema ?
Want to know the truth ? Watch carefully this video from Wikileaks. It is disturbing.

The Story of Paani

This came in from Bhaskara :
“Today I was watching a local kannada news channel. There was a news that, people in Bijapur were furious over water supply. The reason was for weeks there was no water supplied to homes. When the public attacked the local water regulation body, they found out that there was water in the tank, but it was being supplied only to influential people like Politicians and Business men. You needed to have political influence to get water in the tap !!”
So this is the story of Paani. 12 years ago when I was trying to get funding for Paani, every one said that I was talking about a fantasy film, that no one would identify with the problem. Today they say I must make the film because it is so relevent.

The Yellow Shirt and Christoph Waltz

Suresh (he, the one that got kissed by Cate Blanchett) laid out my favourite shirt. It’s a yellow shirt that does not fade, and crumples in a way that speaks of casualness and not shabbiness, and it’s so loose that I can slump around anywhere and it will hide my body posture. Plus every time I wear it people say “hey, you look great and so healthy”. As a director I know that is just the bright yellow reflecting on my skin to create an illusion.
So I save this particular shirt for special occasions.
Which it was not today. Just one of those days where I was going to drudge around complaining to myself about not believing in the scene I just wrote for Paani. I did not get goose flesh, I did not shed tears, I did not get angry, so just convinced myself that 50% of all great films too, are just connective tissue between moments of honesty,
So just as I was going to save the yellow shirt for a better occasion, I thought, perhaps it was placed there for a reason ? I mean why did Suresh pick this shirt. What did he know about the events of the day that I did not. Or maybe he did not. Maybe there was a special reason that yellow shirt lay there, staring at me, saying
“you have a Destiny today, wear me and you shall know it”.
Is there an event that calls me, and the yellow shirt a portal to a whole another experience that is already there ? A door that opens every moment in our lives and we either walk through it or not ? Can something as insignificant as the colour of the shirt you wear lead you to an existing experience, or am I causing it by thinking and believing in it. Whichever. I wore the yellow shirt.
No one thought I was looking great. They did not have to. I believed it. Optimism filled the air around me and I smiled. People looked around and thought “why is Shekhar Kapur smiling at us”. I sat and it suddenly came to me. Something I have been wanting to do for long. Very long.
I picked the phone and called my agent and said. I want to speak to Christoph Waltz, the amazing actor that won the Oscar for his performance in ‘Inglorious Basterds’. I must have sounded passionate, the kind of passion that comes from optimism and belief. And so that evening I spoke to Christoph and pitched him Paani. I told him the story and the world of Paani. I told him about the character I wanted him to play. And he said he loved it. And we decided to meet to see how we can work it out etc.
That evening I wrote the troubled scene in Paani. I had a great actor in mind so it suddenly got easier. Reluctantly I took off the shirt and put it the laundry at night. Maybe it will come back through the wash unexpectedly again, and I will walk through another portal !
‘break a blade of grass and you alter the universe” says a Buddhist saying. In this case it was “wear a yellow shirt”

Mohammad Yunus and Social Bussiness. Poor people are more socially conscious and honest.

Spent a day in a discussion and conference with this amazing man. Prof or Doctor, whatever adjective you want to give him, Mohammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank and many other Grameen Enterprises has changed and continues to change the lives of millions of people in Bangladesh and all over the world. Bringing people out of abject poverty and hopelessness into a life filled with hope, enterprise and dignity.
Grameen Bank has consistently lent money to those that not only banks would not entertain, but you would not let into your homes. Destitute women, (90% of all loans are to women include some that had never touched money before), beggars from the streets encouraging and funding them to turn into door to door salesmen.
For every problem, Prof Yunus has a socially meaningful and an amazingly creative solution. He turns the problem into a paradox and then upside down to find a solution. When the kids who were educated through the raising of standards of living by Grameen Bank loans found they could not get jobs, Prof Yunus started to think of solutions to unemployment. He thought their were not enough employers then !!!
“I went to the kids of the families that had grown prosperous through their relationship with Grameen Bank and said :: How many people can say that their mother’s owned a bank ? ”
The Bank is owned by the women (mostly) that borrowed and returned money. He then loaned their kids money to start businesses to generate employment. He effectively turned job seekers into job creators through loaning money to what he effectively calls his 10 million strong family. And to those that wonder, Grameen Bank has the lowest rate of non – repayment of loans anywhere in the world. A record of 95% good debts. A startling proof that honesty and social consciousness if far far higher in the poor than in the rich.
Prof Yunus now is on a mission to inculcate the same values in the corporate world. The values that he found in the poorest and the most downtrodden in the world. He wants to encourage and create Social Business. He does not want, and never has, encouraged charity. For he believes in sustainable business models and feels charity is not sustainable.
All he wants is for enterprises to understand that it is possible to make a difference by ploughing back the profits of your enterprise into the community, once again, not in charity, but in viable creation of social enterprises. Danone (the food and water co) for example has already started to produce yoghurt (Dahi) in Bangladesh that goes out to school kids that is specially formatted to include all the nutrition a child needs in a day. The factories are small scale enterprises spread in the countryside so they are not heavy on the environment, and the milk can come from local farmers and does not need to travel large distances. The technology was developed at Danone in France in collaboration with Grameen engineers, and the price of the nutritious youghurt is such that almost anyone can afford it at least twice a week.
Danone makes money, they show profits after all expenses. It’s just that they do not take the profits out, but plough it back in to the community. Prof Yunus is now, on a campaign to spread this to the rest of the world.
He and I are talking about a Social Media business. Any suggestions ?

Does true love only come with age and wisdom ? Heath Ledger’s screen test

When I screen tested Heath Ledger for Four Feathers I said to him that I wanted him to perform the same scene two ways. One as a young man without the experience and chaos of life. In which love means all about taking. And the other as the same man, having gone through chaotic experiences in which he had to let go structure and understand that the power of love lay in giving and not taking. Heath was brilliant in that. In the same position, with the same girl and the same lines, his eyes changed, and you saw strength of wisdom flowing out of him. I knew I had found someone special.
I have been trying to get that screen test and not yet been successful, for Heath has often said that was the most grueling day he had experienced, but also the most rewarding.
The following video (not of Heath ) has been viraling on the net and if you have not seen it, please do. It will move you to tears and asks the question “does love only come from age and wisdom” ?

We are the stories we tell ourselves. My talk at TED.com

I am a very shy man.
I went in and came out of my TED talk a little uncomfortable. I am not a speaker, but if I do, I use the platform to hear words from myself that I have not heard before. I like to surprise myself and see if I can get in to a situation where my mind has opened up out of the sheer panic of being in front of an audience that is judging every word that comes out, an audience that has heard the best speakers and the most brilliant minds speak to them.
What, after all is the point of being there if you do not take the opportunity to bare yourself, not to the audience only, but to yourself. How often do you get a chance to do that ? To allow the truth to come out of you rather than manipulate it through the prejudices and manipulations of your own mind.
So what have I to lose, I ask myself ? Only my pride, and that is not much of a loss in the face of the truth is it ?
So I know I left people a little perplexed at the and of the talk. And later people asked me what I meant I could not really remember the words I had spoken. Why would I when the words were really not mine ? But suddenly I am seeing a huge interest all over the world in my talk, and through others interpretation, I find the meaning to my words. What a wonderful and surprising life this is.
You can see my talk at : http://on.ted.com/8DK0
Here is a point of view from Caroline who reviews Ted talks @ http://www.talktalk.ca/
“Context – Ted India Hollywood/Bollywood director Shekhar Kapur (“Elizabeth” & “Mr,India”) 2009.


Analysis – There is something about this guy that I find not only fascinating but there is a part of me that feels compelled to watch him. Is he the most phenomenal public speaker in the sense that he follows ?all the rules?? Nope, he follows no public speaking rules, but that is just fine with me because this guy, this guy knows himself. He?s honest with his emotions and deep with his message. I found myself having to go back and listen to sections a few times over to really digest its contents which isn?t the most favourable environment to create when doing a presentation but I?m not going to be terribly harsh with Shekhar…I have fondness for him and thus I excuse some of methods in which he presents, I think you will too. It is fascinating to me that the audience will excuse a lot if they like the presenters character.
Finding moments of what Shekhar calls ?organic truths? in film is the goal…”if you can get 5 moments like that in your film then it is all worthwhile”. Shekhar walks us through how organic moments can be harnessed; through panic, visual storytelling, not measuring…but for me the key to his message comes down to how we talk to ourselves. If you?ve been following this blog at all you know the term ?Pep Talk? and what I would consider to be one of the keys to doing a superb talk (and, I might add is the key to: life, the universe and everything…shout out to the Hitchhiker fans out there)

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