Prince Dance Group wins India’s Got Talent !

Congratulations to them for their incredible act, commitment, choreography, versatility and sheer will to fight all odds and come out on top. I can now admit without prejudice that they were, from the time that I first saw them on the first phase of shooting in Kolkatta, my favourite act.
Many other acts came over time through the auditions and semi finals etc, that I grew to love. Some performed better in the semi finals and auditions, others outclassed themselves in the finals. But none were so visually stunning, so aesthetic, so zen like and transcendent. So confident in their own art of formations, that did not feel the need for constant energetic movements that most other acts fell in the trap of.
I thought others were great too. I thought that three acts completely stood out in the finals. Sneha and Richard completely surpassed my expectations and did a flawless and a world class Salsa act. Rohan and Group with their Hip Hop dance pulled off an incredibly difficult group choreography with such amazing precision that they could teach the Gansta Groups in the streets of New York a thing or two. And of course the ever green Alsam Langa Group that brought age old Rajasthani folk tradition with more energy and passion to a song made famous by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
But I think the Prince Dance group had won the hearts of the Indian people even before the finals. There was something so emotional and completely Indian about their acts, but on par with the best international traditions of modern group choreography that made us all proud to be Indian. And to know that some of the participants of this group were brick kiln labourers, who normally come to our attention more because we read stories about how this class is completely exploited by the Kiln owners, and earn bare subsistence wages.
Then there were others. Like Rajesh Amrale with his devotion, skill and mastery over the Mall-khamb form of traditional Indian Gymnastics. So beautiful and fluid did he make it seem that it made Olympic Gymnastics feel simplitics.
And I could go on. Little Viren, India’s mini Micheal Jackson, the little Super Star as Sonali kept calling him affectionately, won the hearts of all us judges. But when it came to a tussle between the Rajasthani Aslam Langa group and Viren, I was the only one that voted for Viren, the other two judges ruled more by their heads then their emotions made perhaps the right choice. Both were excellent.
I’m going to miss the show, but on to other exciting adventures now. Lets see what the moment brings.

Message from the Webmaster

Many of you might have faced the problem of logging to the blog in the past two days. It so happened that a malicious code was injected into a few pages of the blog and Google bots marked this site on their watch list. Readers who have been using Firefox or Chrome would have received messages in their browser warning them not to enter the site, the reason being these browsers and Google follow a common list and hence it showed at these places. The site has been quarantined thereafter and precautions taken that this issue does not happen again.
Apologies to all of the readers who faced the problem. You can now visit, read, participate and interact with Shekhar Kapur as you used to. It’s heartening to see so many insightful discussions happening over here. You can write at admin (at) shekharkapur.com if you face any problems or have any queries.

Google removes korean malware alert from popular Blogs in India

Thankfully Google has removed the red alert from some of India’s popular blogsites including our own. I do not totally understand it, but apparently there was an attempt through a Korean website to attack some popular Blogs in India. What they gained from this I am not sure, but if you tried to access shekharkapur.com through Internet Explorer, there was no such warning and our Bog was clear as always. Sorry about the inconvenience and it is back to business as usual. Shekhar

Kaminey catapults Indian Cinema in modernity beyond Tarantino

The greatest thing about Vishal Bharadwaj’s kaminey is that you cannot work out why it is working. You cannot work out why you are laughing amidst the ugliness of violence in perhaps India’s first real dark comedy. And why in the final moments of the film with the brilliant background song by Vishaal himself, you finally get the point of the film. With Violence all around you, you sense innocence caught in the crossfire of unnecessary violence. And finally you come away with a great sense of the pointlessness of it all. It’s terrific.
Yes the cinematography is great, as are some of the performances, the script and the editing. But it is ultimately a director”s brilliant vision of the world that is playing through. Vishal better think hard about how to surpass this one. Hidden also in the credits is Sabrina Dhawan, who also wrote what I think is Mira Nair’s best film – Monsoon Wedding, which also had the same pattern of many stories being told separately and that finally come together in a great emotional revelation.
Did Vishal have to use the idea of stuttering and stammering with the main character though ? It was a little over done and the only thing that harked to a more traditional form of comedy in Indian films. The film could have done with a little less of that.
Kudo’s to Ronnie Screwvala and his team at UTV for backing a director’s vision. No one could have read the script of Kaminey ( or DEV D for that matter) and found a commercially successful film. They are taking chances and winning. Both films – and especially Kaminey were risky films and are hits.

Swine Flu pandemic over in Mumbai

Or so the State Government would have us believe. And the fickle Indian print and TV news media circus. Where the headlines three days ago were about how we are plunging headlong into the greatest pandemic of all times. And three days later ?
The Malls and the Cinema halls are open again. The week long order to close schools is over. The Media has found a new obsession in Shah Rukh Khan’s 90 minute questioning by US immigration.
So is the pandemic over ? Is the State Government saying that it is safe now to go into the Cinema’s and Malls. In three days ??? Or was the original order that created such a panic in Mumbai completely not thought out ? Just a casual knee jerk to gain political mileage ? Should the government not come out with a statement to it’s citizens ?
It probably is so muddled that it does not have one.
The word on the streets is that while the police went around closing some Malls, others were left open. Why was that ? The word on the street also is that it depended on how much the Malls paid. Paid who ?

Presiden Obama to invite Shah Rukh Khan to a beer

Having heard of many friend’s experiences, I completely empathize with Shah Rukh Khan’s experience at Newark Airport in the US. It is somewhat disturbing to suddenly be interrogated and made to feel like a potential terrorist.
However lets get a perspective on this. The US has a much more compassionate President in Obama, who is trying his best to reach to the Muslim people all over the world to make peace, and the world community must take that into account. But it takes time to change everything. Every country has to do what it believes it needs to protect it’s civilians. I am sure most Indians would ask for far stricter border protection at our airports to screen potential terrorist threats.
I believe what happened to Shah Rukh was a huge blunder, but what happened to our ex President Abdul Kalam was far far worse. It happened on Indian soil. But I admired the calmness with which Abdul Kalam dealt with the issue himself and displayed so much humility. I expect Shah Rukh to do the same as I am sure he will. Only he can defuse the situation.
Unlike our Cabinet Minister Ambica Soni who said we should respond with a ‘tit for tat’. What are you going to do m/s Soni ? Interrogate every American Citizen arriving at our shores for an hour and a half ? Or wait for Brad Pitt to arrive here ? Cabinet Ministers need to make more considered statements.
I do not agree with religious profiling. I still think the world (and not just the US) is Islamic Phobic. The more fear and phobia there is, the more the world will give rise to young Muslim minds that will turn to extremism. I think the US needs to reconsider how to approach the whole problem of Airport Security. Was this not what finger printing and retina photography was supposed to do at immigration ? Give the immigration officer an instant profile of the person entering the US ?
I also think President Obama and his British allies have not thought through there Afghan policies. Creating the nation of Afghanistan into a battlefield for your own perceived notions about a threat to your own security is not fair. In the course Pakistan has been taken over by fundamentalists too. Afghanistan threatens to turn into Obama’s Vietnam.
In light of which what happened to Shah Rukh is a minor incident which we should protest about, yes. Ensure that this does not happen to an Indian public figure like him again, and move on.
And President Obama, adept as he is diplomatically and politically, should invite Shah Rukh to a family dinner over beer and one of his Bollywood films.

Independence day for whom ?

Happy Independence day everyone ! And while we celebrate, lets give a thought to the idea of ‘equality of Independence’. Independence was the both the end and the beginning. The end of the rule of the foreign Colonial Masters, and the dawn of the responsibilities brought with Freedom. Each Independence day should we not evaluate how responsibly we, the people of India, have treated the idea of Freedom ? How many of the citizens of India and the institutions of India have upheld the fundamental rights and duties to the Nation, to fellow citizens, to our environment,
65 % of our population was born in Free and Independent India. To them that day is only marked by an event in History, lots of rhetoric, lots of celebrations, and of course a holiday. Very very few truly understand the nature of living under an oppressive foreign rule. I know because both my parents and the rest of my family were part of the freedom movement and I grew up on the stories of incidents like JalianWala Bagh where my uncles and Grandfather were present.
But to the people of today surely freedom must mean, the Freedom from Hunger, The Freedom from Ignorance. The Freedom from illiteracy, The Freedom from oppression from one of the most oppressive police regimes in the world, Freedom from Injustice in one of the most extended and chaotic justice systems in the world. For justice delayed is justice denied. Freedom from disease, in a country that has one of the highest rates of infant mortality, HIV cases, Diabetic people and Heart ailments in the world. Freedom from the Caste System – which is probably the most oppressive social systems in the world, consigning huge swathes of our population to a life of fear and economic and social servitude. And Freedom from one of the most corrupt places in the world to live.
Yes, India is shining. Yes India is the only growing economy in the world in the current downturn. Yes, India has a mass technological base, with some of the best scientists, entrepreneurs, doctors, technologists in the world. But these skills serve and live amongst no more than 5% to 10% of India’s population.
For 80% of the population of our country 65 years of freedom and democracy has done nothing other than the chance to vote in a completely imperfect and corruptible voting system. How would we ask them to celebrate the Independence day ?
What are we going to ask the poor farmer in Maharashtra, in Madhya Pradesh, In UP, in Orrisa, in West Bengal or Bihar to celebrate ? What about ? Ridden by debt, unsure of his survival, unable to feed his family leave aside educating them, this is the only life the farmer has seen in the last 65 years. Nothing changed for his Grandfather or his father, nor does he see any change or hope for his son since the British left. Other than that those that have used freedom to their own ends have gradually eroded his environment and sucked out water from his land and made it even tougher for him to survive.
I am sorry. But ‘we the 10 % ‘ that have walked away with all the advantages of Freedom usurping power for our own benefit and often at the cost of the rest of the people of India, need to pause on this day and ask :
” Are we following the true spirit of our Constitution and the idea of Freedom that Nehru spoke so fervently about in his midnight speech, that Mahatma Gandhi along with hundreds of thousands of people that gave everything including their lives and those of their loved ones for a great idea, a great dream ?
Or have we corrupted those ideals for our own benefit and good, thereby making mockery of their sacrifices ?”
Today, the 15 of August 2009, we should all pause for thought, and then take the next step foward in our lives.
shekhar

Mumbai underworld set to take over distribution of Water ? ?

So the papers are full of news that the ground water table in northern India is being seriously depleted, and so it threatens destroy our agricultural output. Of course while the media may have just caught up with this story, common people have known this for 20 years now. Ever since the agricultural revolution was based on tube wells in the 1950″s, ground water is being steadily depleted.
In my youth, my Grandfather used to have a vegetable garden in Delhi, to which the water source was a hand pump. It took just one downward stroke to bring the water gushing out. My sister and I had endless joy bathing underneath the hand pump, and munching away at the vegetables in the garden. I don’t think our Grandfather liked us very much. He was constantly shooing us away from his beloved vegetables !
Over the years it was more and more difficult to suck water out of the ground however hard you tried, and today the hand pump stands alone in a dried up vegetable patch as a monument to an ancient time when water was plentiful,
None of us would have believed that water would run out on us, but it has. We have disrespected something that all cultures, in some form or the other, have worshipped. And now it is gone, and we still are too lazy, or have too much inertia to do something about it. Only when the taps run dry will we know the worth of water.
Problem is that all the media and the policy makers and most of us are basically urban dwellers, believing that somehow it is the government’s responsibility to ensure we have running water in our taps or pipes. It is, and bad water management is one of the worst crimes of successive Indian governments over the last three decades. But we too are to blame.
Do not believe that a lack of water in the agriculture sector is not affecting us in the Urban sectors. Other than the obvious conversation about food prices, some of the greatest migrations to urban cities over the last 10 years has been due to collapse of rural communities as agriculture is unsustainable due to disappearance of ground water which supports almost 60% if Indian Agricultural output.
We are growing into unsustainable overloaded Mega Cities now, where the infrastructure is collapsing and taps are running dry. How long before Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai run out of Water ? Where will the people go then ? People learn to live with no food for 3 days at a time sometimes, but no one can go through a day without water…….

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And I thought judging “India’s Got Talent’ would be easy !

I thought, hey ! this should be fun. Go in and sit on a chair and just say whether you liked an act or not, and get paid for it. I saw other directors do it and it looked pretty easy. Just shows how little I know myself. For all my writings on the search for the universal self I forgot my emotional self and how and why I am a director.
I just could not stop myself from getting emotionally involved with the contestants, their dreams, their lives, their courage in putting themselves on the line in front of the whole nation and face applause or ridicule.
I could not stop myself from admiring and responding from some place very deep inside me to those that came on the show with disabilities, for they mirrored my own, albeit hidden from view and without physical manifestations. I could not help responding to the humility with which many of the contestants presented themselves, sublimating their ego completely to their art, or their performance. And I could not help resenting the ego that we judges often showed as if the show was about us and not about the contestants.
I found a new India out there, and India that we in urban areas do not usually come into contact with. Our media ignores that India. This is the aspirational India, the India of laborers and artisans who came to the show with centuries of tradition handed down from generation to generation. It was Indians that live a life of economic and social oppression, and yet are able to find such dignity and art in their expressions. It is the India that seldom gets noticed and I thank the producers of the show for that opportunity.
I apologize if I come across a bit weepy and emotional on the show. Through this show I was reminded of my roots, of who I really am, and where my true beliefs lie. They lie amidst the humility of my people, my country.
And I thought judging a talent show would be easy !!!

Why are private doctors not enabled to treat Swine Flu ?

While no one is sure how real a pandemic the H1N1 (swine flu) virus is, one thing is for sure. The government of India is completely unprepared to deal with what some experts are saying is about to happen. A dependency on government run hospitals, where sanitation conditions are such that infections abound is dangerous. They are just not equipped to deal with a pandemic.
The best thing the government can do right now is to release the drug Tamiflu to private doctors, and set up mobile testing centres all over the city. I know Tamilflu is a brand protected by patent, but a pandemic is as good a time as any to break that code and manufacture a generic drug based on the formulation. Indian drug companies have done it for aids and have sold the drug at affordable prices to Asia and africa and are saving llves. Yes they are being sued, and there are legal issues there – but surely human life is more important than.
There are so many effective NGO’s across the breadth of Urban India that have the resources and the will to act. Large industrial cororations who themselves will be seriously hit if there really is a Pandemic, will be able to look after their employees and provide effective distribution outlets.
I remember when the then Minister of Health made headlines on smoking not being allowed in films and he was splashed all over the media constantly – well, time for the health minister to kick in on a real issue now.
And if this is a Pandemic (and no one is sure that it is), then surely all non essential places where there are crowds in close contact (like cinemas and schools) should be temporarily shut down ?