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 ?

Art or Commerce? Swarovski installation

Here is a short interview that I wanted to share that I did just before the opening of Sankalpa, the installation at the Swarovski Crystal Gallery.

Swarovski Installation : Sankalpa by Shekhar Kapur and David Adjaye

2009-06-19_kapur12-2.jpg
This is a picture of the installation that David Adjaye and I created based on the short film I made called Passage in Argentina. The still frame does not give a complete idea of the immersive experience of sound and moving picture that you get once you are in there. The idea is to sense the nature of illusion and of the deconstruction of linear time once in the maze of moving images from different points of view of the same film.
The installation uses ten screens of different luminosity and reflectivity including two screens made of thousands of tiny crystals. Seven projectors are creating reflections at various angles creating half and full images at the same time – and as you get lost in this sound and light show, you see yourself reflected in the image, as well as other visitors.
What you can’t make out quickly is where the other visitors are, and whether you are watching them real through clear glass, or their reflections through the film.
The people at the Swarovski Crystal Palace (where there are works by Dali and Picasso too !) went through a tough time not knowing what the installation would look like, while I kept assuring them I knew exactly what I was doing. The fact was that I did not, but was on an adventure of exploration and discovery !
Both David and I was were taken aback at what we created when we saw it finally as the video projectors were turned on. It took all our breaths away, and we realized the beauty of the art of light and reflection. Because we were creating illusion through that medium, it took hold of itself organically and developed a life of it’s own.

And the sage said to me :

that there is no one definition
of anything –
that it is only the ego
that desires to define
that most pain is caused
by the need to define something,
which, like a whiff of a mist
disappears
when u try and catch it,
that as long as we cannot accept the unknown,
the uncertain,
the indefinable,
the infinite,
the duality
life will be a series
of unfulfilled desires
” My conversations with Death”

here and now

if the universe is infinite
wherever it is
and ‘forever’ does exist
wherever it does
then wherever you are
you are forever
and
whenever you are
you are here, and now
and
whoever you are
I cannot find
a better way
to say
I love you

Hope floats

Hi Shekhar,
Its extremely moving to see how touched you are by many of the performances on the show that you are judging esp the ones by special children who have such an amazing spirit to overcome challenges despite their special needs. Given that you have made such real , heart wrenching films like Bandit queen I was really moved and surprised to see how emotional you were through the show.
I run an initiative called Towards A Special Cause (TASC) that provides free and voluntary support to various causes (www.towardsaspecialcause.in). With a special focus on children with special needs.
Shekhar there are some wonderful and soul stirring performances that I have witnessed by blind, deaf and deaf- blind children and young adults that deserve to reach an audience beyond the premises of their institutions and if there ever was an opportunity to make that happen it would help spread some light and cheer in their world of physical darkness. Vocational training support, specialised education and life skills learning so that they can earn a lively hood and lead a life of dignity and self respect is perhaps the most important aspect of support to a special child and their parents.
We encourage people to spread awareness, volunteer time,
Give money or actual items of use ,
Visit a special school , do anything
Anytime and in whatever way possible to help any cause close to their heart..
I am also taking this opportunity to share that one of the most outstanding live shows I’ve ever seen has been Shiamak’s show with deaf and deaf-blind children of the Helen Keller Institute.
The length of this letter indicates how much I wanted to share after I saw you truly cared .
Hope Floats ,
Pooja

Judgement and Prejudice on India’s Got Talent

Vishal asked “saw you on television ……just thinking ‘at what point of time in a person’s career or in learning cycle ….a person gets confident enough to judge others?’
Never is the answer to that one Vishal, as there is a very thin line between judgment and prejudice. How can you judge anything except from your own life experience, which colors your own perception of what is good or what is bad ? What should or should not be ? Through the prism of my life experience, that both expands and contracts my world view at the same time, is how I see the world.
Tough to be fair. I try to react to everything emotionally. I try and give myself to the act and allow being entertained. I try to look at it from the performers point of view. I look for the performer’s passion beyond the technical expertise. I look to see if the performance has soul. But what do you do when your own sense of aesthetics is completely different from the performance ? Knowing there is a completely different set of aesthetics inherent in that performance. I often then look to my co judges to see if they tune to that aesthetic and take my cues from them.
Of course there are performances that have no aesthetic at all. I believe most of those performers know that when they are performing, and if they don’t then they should be told that firmly ! I am sure the channel sets them up for us, though.

The Universe has no answers, just questions

“For every body that walks into this blogs for an answer just leaves with 10 other questions.Will you ever walk in search of yourself on the Himalayas..or you just wrote it because it makes sense ?”
Thank you Gaurav for the most searing question.
The Universe is an infinite question. To me, to spiritualists, to scientists, to artists, to philosophers, to you and all of us that come to our blog. In fact to anyone that is honest and in search of the truth. Each single answer is a false truth unless it raises many many more questions. In the yearning for answers lies the quest for spirituality and truth, not in the finding of answers.
Unfortunately my mind, my Ego, looks for definiteness. It tries to define everything by confining everything. It cannot accept that a million truths can exist in complete contradiction of each other. There is no one true God. There is no one great truth. The Divine is a sum of all imagination, of all perception and of all eternity.
Till we stop looking for finite answers to explain the infinite, the only truth is the quest for truth. There is no finite answer, just as there is no one question. The yearning is to finally merge with infinite without questioning, without analysis. Meanwhile I battle my ego to stop it from settling into a finite ‘code’ of perception. That battle is expressed and shared in this blog.
And will I ever go to the Himalaya’s in search of that merging ? Am I not ‘traveling’ the Himalaya’s as we speak ? Or am I just fooling myself, and driving everyone else into some kind of intellectual escape from reality. Don’t think that I do not ask myself these questions every day, all the time. Not allowing my mind even to settle and find solace in this argument. The Ego is clever. It will seduce me by intellectualism too.
A question, Gaurav. Just keep questioning. Refusing to settle for answers, any one answer.

Attention seeking

We spend our lives trying to get attention and loving it. Getting attention is what provokes people, creates relationships and also destroys relationships. At some levels the ego is propelled to do greater things while it seeks attention. But at other levels, for so many of us attention seeking becomes an obsession. Therefore self-destructive. You can’t spend your life seeking affirmation through other people’s eyes. More often than not this leads to a loss of self-worth with all its associated problems.
I spent many years of my life as a young man in wonderful adventures, but also in “Vanity” about myself. I often look back at my life and wonder how many beautiful relationships I missed out on, how many great adventures I did not give myself to, because of my own vanity or the need to seek attention.
But better late than never, I am on a different path now as I realize that the greatest adventure of all, the greatest potential relationships of all, the greatest love of all, lies in what’s given. Not in what is received.
Not because of some great “altruistic” or “selfless” illusion of myself. But because the greatest adventure of all lies in seeing yourself not as an individual drop, but as the ocean. To lose my sense of individuality. To lose that which is “Shekhar Kapur” the individual allows me to lose “me.” I am not saying that I am there yet. My ego still carries too many remanents of the past. Past desires, past aspiratons and past insecurities. But I’ve made a start.
Everyday, for a part of the day I argue against my own ego to remind myself of the greatest illusion of all.
My individuality.