Nirmal Pandey and Bandit Queen

When I was casting for an actor in the role of Vikram Mallah in Bandit Queen, I was looking for a man that on the surface was as rugged and handsome as any. But inside was a gentle and soft. A man completely in touch with his feminine self. After all, we all are a balance between the yin and the yan, the feminine and the masculine within ourselves. But often that balance becomes disproportionate, often with too much of the masculine, which if not tempered by the feminine, becomes arrogant and violent. Looking for self worth in acts against the feminine, against women. I am not talking about sexual preferences at all, just the inherent balance of being human.
The moment I met Nirmal Pandey I knew he was right for the part. He was questioning, searching, yearning, extremely gentle and completely comfortable in his own skin. He was comfortable in his feminine self. And for those of you that remember the first love making scene between Vikram Mallah and Phoolan Devi against the rock wall at dawn will know what I mean. I needed an actor that would allow the actress complete sexual domination without his own ego coming in the way. For a girl (Phoolan Devi) that had experienced sex only as an act of violence and humiliation needed to explore those very acts before she discovered her own sexuality beyond violence.
And few actors would have been able to perform that scene. Seema Biswas was outstanding, creating and exploring the complexities of confusion between sexual desire and the fear of violence and rape. But Nirmal as Vikram Mallah was a perfect foil. Reacting acutely to every moment, every nuance that was happening magically between the actors. In fact Nirmal was the bond between the audience and Seema Biswas – interpreting vividly what Seema was potraying.
Nirmal was so attractive to women that encountered him, that he would set of chain reaction in the crew – and I once even had to let a British make up lady go because her obsession with Nirmal was getting out of hand. At the Cannes and London Film festival he was constantly surrounded by young girls. I thought this was the makings of an International Star. But that never happened. I don’t think Nirmal was ready to make the personal sacrifices for stardom. He was not ready to take on the mantle of narcissism that is so essential to travel that path. He was a small town boy at heart and never comfortable in changing that.
Throughout the filming of Bandit Queen, Nirmal was the searcher. One of those actors that was eager to give all of himself, unafraid to bare his inner soul. He would look to discover things about himself as an actor and a human being through his performance, and never once blocked any suggestion or any idea.
We would sometimes smoke a joint and sit in a temple. He would talk about who we are and our significance in the universe. These issues were important to him. I wish I has spent more time with him. I barely saw him after the all the hoopla of Bandit Queen was over. But then who knew he would go so early ?

Copyright is ‘Right to Copy’ : Wisdom of Collective Conciousness

That is not as foolish a statement as you might believe. Imagine a world in which all of the basic Raga’s of Indian music were copyrighted ? Most of our Indian film composer would be lost without them.
Where would the world be if Einstein’s equations or other scientific/medical knowledge were copyrighted. Where would Hinduism be if the Bhagvad Geeta was copyrighted. Or the Mahabharath. What if the Koran or the Bible were copyrighted ? Or Buddha’s teachings. What if all of Ayurveda and all of scientific discovery was copyrighted. The arguments against IP in life saving drugs for HIV have been well documented. The price demanded for such drugs is out of reach of those that are dying of HIV. Thank god for companies like CIPLA that refuse to bow down to international pressure and make the drugs available at affordable costs. Of course they are flouting international laws, but who’s laws ? Can there be a fundamental law against saving the lives of millions of people ?
Traditionally India has been a society that looked at Arts and all Knowledge as something meant to be shared with the human race. Really well argued in : (thank u for the lead, Kavitha).
I also believe that all imagination is born out of a Collective Consciousness. Nothing is imagined or created out of singularity or in isolation. People’s consciousness moves to a particular need and creativity is provoked. An ecosystem of creativity is created. Why else did the 60’s and 70’s give rise to such incredible creativity in pop music ? Ideas are born out of existing ideas. Innovation comes out of provocation and need and borrowed ideas too. If we block that flow, all innovation and creativity wll cease.
However we accept that we live in a modern world and artists and researchers should no longer be doomed to a life of penury or poverty. There are not many Akbar’s around to support a Tansen. The argument for IP (Intellectual Property) are strong. The fundamental one being that IP protection is essential for innovation, both artistic and scientific. It costs billions to develop a new drug and millions to produce a film. And innovation would not happen if IP is not protected and financially valuable.
So the fundamental argument is not creative but financial and I can understand that. I make my living because what I create has financial value through some kind of value given to it’s IP and copyright. However I do believe that this is a chicken and egg situation. The more IP protection we give in to, the more expensive it becomes to create. Why should it cost 100’s of millions of dollars in Hollywood to make a film, or billions of dollars to create a new drug ? Because in world of Intellectual Property we are also creating and protecting hugely disproportionate returns to a a very few people who feed off this very protection.
However we need to find a balance, otherwise the very idea of Copyright and Intellectual Property will go against it’s very reason to be. Which is to provoke Creativity and Innovation.

Heath Ledger and Four Feathers, a beautiful letter

Dear Shekhar–
I’m only 20 years old( though I often feel older) and I’ve recently begun to understand that reality really is an illusion. I’ve taken a break from school in order to get know myself & the world better. So far it’s been the most eye-opening year of my life. I have a better appreciation for life and see beauty in nearly everything. Everything is becoming so synchronized. This weekend I was working on some drawings and decided to put a movie in. It was a copy of The Four Feathers that my roommate had left with me. Sometimes I just put movies in for the background noise while I work. But I actually set down my sketchbook and watched the whole movie. I was hooked and couldn’t believe that it hadn’t received more recognition. It was one of the most powerful movies I’ve seen in a long time. Afterwards I watched the interviews with you and the screenwriter–it was like watching you affirm thoughts that have been swimming around my mind for the past year! I was so grateful and touched that I couldn’t stop crying. But it felt amazing. The next day I looked you up, and found this wonderful site where you continue to share insight with all of us. As well as many of the other posts and articles I’ve read on the site so far, this piece for your daughter is just what I need right now. I just wanted to say thank you for all that you share, and I’m looking forward to exploring your films!
Much love,

Pune Bomb Attack :Indian Government openly capitulates to terrorists

Subsequent to the Bomb attack in Pune, the Home Minister of India virtually accepted his Governments inability to protect it’s citizens from carefully planned and targeted bomb attacks. His stunning words of acceptance of defeat :
“Their has been no Intelligence failure, or any failure on part of the Police or the State Government. We cannot protect soft targets against ‘insidious’ bomb attacks. The establishments must install their own security”.
I am not sure what the Home Minister is suggesting. It is this kind of statement that will give credence to self appointed ‘protection’ groups that become thugs and goons in the name of nationalism. I understand that protecting against unexpected attacks is difficult for the greatest intelligence agencies in the world. But this was an area that a major terrorists suspect called Headley (who is in prison in the US) had openly surveyed. And every politician has admitted that was common knowledge in both the Central and the State Intelligence, as well as the Police.
The other surprising thing that emerged in the press statements was a representative of the Home Ministry consistently telling the Press that “we had informed the State Government and the Police of the possibility of this attack in October 2010”. I am sure he meant 2009. But he was trying ( under instructions I presume) to absolve the Central Government of the responsibility and putting the blame squarely on the State Government. These Politics, merely two hours after Indian Citizens have been killed in yet another Terrorist attack actually are very very sickening. Especially as they are becoming a pattern and India is fast turning into the softest terror target outside a conflict zone.
Our Home Minister is right. This was not a failure of our Intelligence. It was a failure of the Indian Political system that consistently plays chess games with lives of it’s people. It is the games that are played for power jockeying between the Centre and the State Government that do not allow for Intelligence to be of any value.
The citizens of India that have died are Martyred by Terrorists, but just as much by the personal interests of a few Individuals that will stop at nothing to retain their Political Power.

Shiva’s Night

where is my place
in this night
of your sky
existing as I am
in my own head ?
if you are
the God of all
that is,
and is not
can you not
embrace me
in your folds of
existing as I am
in my own head ?

My Name is Khan fiasco. How far is the Media responsible ?

I want to see the film. I saw the trailers and sensed that I was watching a very mature performance from Sharrukh Khan. I sensed that after Monsoon Wedding this may be another film that actually crosses over internationally. But I want to see the film and I cannot.
The political chess game that the film has got embroiled into is so unfortunate. I watched for a while last night as the melodrama was being played out on one TV channel after another, and I wondered. How far is a frenetic Media responsible for forcing people to take stands publicly to a point where the threat of violence looms large over the common people ?
Don’t get me wrong. I would rather have frenetic, melodramatic, TRP driven Media than no Media at all. Those of us that remember how our Media completely capitulated under the Emergency declared by Indira Gandhi, leading to a nation driven by whispered rumors and fears of saying the wrong thing at the wrong place, learned to respect the value of free Media as the bedrock of Democracy. But free Media is ‘free’ to do what ?
I watched last night as responsible ( i thought) presenters tried to out shout the screaming participants, completely subverting the real or potential issues. Should the Media become the ‘moral police’ of the country themselves ? While I, and most of the country will support Mr khan on this issue , I am afraid of a Media that garners huge TRP’s and then present themselves as the Moral police without a commitment to anything but their own market capitalization.
I know that political parties, and in this case the Shiv Sena (though the others are playing their own game) play the Media for their own political purpose. But why is the Media becoming a willing participant and a player in that game ?
I asked my driver, who is Maharashtrian and a once active member of the Shiv Sena what he thought of the whole issue as he watched the drama being unfolded, glued to the TV. His answer ?
“It’s all about jobs, Sir. There are so many people without Jobs in the slums of Mumbai that this is bound to happen” Simple.
To 90% of Mumbai’s population that cannot afford to go to a Multiplex in any case, the real issue is not whether Rahul Gandhi’s traveling a suburban train in Mumbai was pre-planned or not, nor whether the film releases today or not. The real issue is still ‘Roti, Kapada aur Makaan’.

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

The concern about Commonwealth Games in Delhi

After China stunned the world with the incredible show they put up for the opening of the Beijing Olympics. I do hope we in India have something at least more spectacular than our ever dependable star acts on stage. Actually they are very good and most of them (and the best really is A R Rahman’s concert act) have developed very professional acts on stage. But we need to go beyond that now.
What is of concern are the constant news items that keep appearing of the lack of preparation for the commonwealth games, even though I know that in India we are all used to somehow pulling everything off at the last minute. But of far far greater concern is this article that appeared in an Australian paper about child labor being used to accelerate the preparations. Of course the Western (and I guess now the Australian) press loves to put down accelerating economies like ours, but the following article is pretty disturbing :

View of Bangkok from my hotel room

View of Bangkok from my hotel room
If you look carefully, that’s the river in the center that runs through the City. The photograph does not represents the true nature of the city (unlike my photo of New York), but when I saw this, I could not resist clicking it

Cisco partners conference in Bangkok

Have set up this blog as a discussion piece for participants who had many questions but there was no time to take them up.