Happy Holi :”Once they had water to throw at each other”

Those are the first words in the Script for Paani.
The film tells the story of a city divided into two. Those few that can afford water, and those that cannot and have to fight for it. And those that can afford it protect it with armed might.
It tells the story of one year in the life of this city. From one Harvest festival of Holi to the next.
Wherever I go in the world it is the same story. Just been around Rajasthan and that’s what is on everyone’s mind. We are running out of Water. In Africa it is the same. In China it is the same. In Australia it is the same. In California it is the same. And when a city runs out of Water, pipelines are created to bring the water from agricultural areas. Creating huge social unrest because the farmers in that area start running out of water.
So this time as we play Holi, and everyone squirts water at each other, remember we may be the last generation that has the luxury to do that. Unless of course you are rich and selfish enough to use bottled water to do so.
Happy Holi, everyone.

Who do Blogs really belong to ?

When I first started to blog, I saw it as a way to express myself. I enjoyed putting thoughts down first thing in the morning. And then as the blog caught on, it was like relating to a whole universe of people with diverse thoughts. I then discovered that people like to express themselves back through this medium, not only to themselves, but also with each other. And then as our community got larger, I was approached by many people to sponsor the blog with advertising. I resisted that, and continue to resist it. After all their is a difference between a Newspaper and a Blog. One is a forum of discussion of diverse points of view of which I am merely the convener. The other a commercial enterprise for the benefit of the owners.
Anyway, for the moment no advertising. I will consider it if I need to spend money on the blog eg if and when we need a search engine, or I need to begin to pay people to manage it. In the meantime I wanted to tell you all that Himanshu is now back in India and working with me. He has left his beloved city of NY and decided to plunge into the world of film making. I wish him luck and all of those of you that are looking to do the same. Including Kedar and Sanjay and other that have actually completed their films within the years that they have been members of our community.
Good luck to you all and the only advice I have is : It’s not a career, it a passion. and ‘kal kisne dekha ?”

like the drop

like the drop
lost in the ocean
searching for the Ocean
like the wave
imagining itself separate
from it’s own immensity
before collapsing back into it
we are divine beings
existing in divinity
and yet searching of it
we are the created
and the creator both,
existing in the vast play
of creativity

Did you hear a whisper ?

Did you hear the whisper
that floated by
that you thought
was your mind
playing games
as usual ?
consumed
as you were
by the noise
inside your head
did you hear the whisper ?
that you tried to catch
but wafted away
even before you could listen ?
did you hear the whisper
like a gentle song
in a distant land
trying to come through
in the roaring traffic
of everyday existence
did you hear the whisper ?

7 Oscars for Slumdog millionaire

As the media frenzy behind the Oscars hots up, and the contenders are exhausted by the publicity, marketing, partying, and hype enforced upon them, it is good to sit back and take a clear picture of what is really going on behind the scenes and the incredible hype of the Oscars.
First the contenders who spend 3 months eating drinking and breathing the Oscar hype. Most of them forced to do so by their distributors, publicists and their film distributors. Soon they are so exhausted that all their speeches sound the same and they use the same ‘key words’ again and again in their interviews. After a while they start believing in their own key words and their own hype ! Believe me I have been there.
But who are the people that decide. Who is behind the Academy of Motion Pictures that put out what is essentially one of the most lucrative TV franchises in the world ? Lets divide the Academy into those that are working and those that are not. Those that are working rarely see film in theatres but on DVD’s, so do not get a clear idea of the intentions of the film maker. Many do not even see the films and vote on basis of the media hype. That is why Studio’s spend so much money on Oscar campaigns. Knowing as they do that Academy members are influenced by reviews and by media hype. Like normal people. In fact the Academy had to publish a booklet warning distributors/producers and studio heads not to over hype their Oscar campaigns. That was aimed at Harvey Weinstien without naming him after his campaign for Shakespeare in Love.
Then there are those that are not working, retired comfortably or not so comfortably in retirement homes. Since you are an Academy Member for a lifetime, the average age of the Academy tends to veer towards the older, and especially as the retired have the time to see the films and fill in the voting papers. There is no compulsion to vote. I am a member, but since I do not manage to see all the films in theatres, or even on DVD, I do not vote. How do you see a hundred odd films every year, and be fair to all of them ?
That is why the journey of Slumdog Millionaire has been incredible. It is not a film that was over-hyped, nor the kind of film that would be considered Oscar worthy. It is a film who’s time had come. It was a film that broke all the rules and brought something fresh and culturally different to jaded Academy viewers. It got them to sit up and watch as Rahman’s uplifting score bashed away over images of poverty and opression, and the kids seemed to dance with their eyes to that score even under the most extreme circumstances. Just for it’s freshness and experience of new cultures it deserves every success it is getting. And Danny Boyle has done that before – his compassionate view of drug addiction in Scotland in Trainspotting still holds as a ground breaking film.
Today I leave for a retreat and unlike the rest of the world I am not going to watch the Oscars. But I think it will walk away with 7 Oscars. I will be disappointed if it does not. But is the best film of the year ? That I cannot say as I have not even seen all the nominated films. But I know how I reacted to Waltz with Bashir. It had a tremendous emotional impact on me.

Is the current economic reccesion caused by a more equitable re alignment of wealth ?

Thsi is from Horst :
When we have such pangs of bad conscience ( on my post on water) where do we go from there? The slum that you saw from the hotel window, as close as it appears to be, may as well be on the moon. That is the felt distance between the two realities we are dealing with in our daily lives. One reality has to do with the existence of the haves and the other with the have nots. I have belabored that very subject on your blog many times and have increasingly realized that our societies are terribly flawed in their concept to distribute wealth.
Over the last century the large experiments in establishing an equitable social system by introducing communism have failed, albeit some countries are still in a state of denial. As we can now safely say capitalism, the widely heralded alternative, has not kept its early promise and has rather turned into a sordid tool to promote elitism and to exploit the vast masses of humanity. All the learned and celebrated theorists of the past have failed to include one important calculus in their sophisticated treatises: human greed and the inherent unwillingness to truly share good fortunes with others. The current worldwide economic crisis is considerably more than just a down phase in the endless chain of cyclical undulations. I think it is a worldwide awakening to a reality that can no longer be sustained. There will be an increasing number of Shekhars who are exceedingly unwilling to act as though all is well and to view the misery of billions of people as something so abstract as to be virtually non-existent. The dynasties of wealth will eventually tumble and in the sobering aftermath there will be profound changes to prevent a recurrence of the excesses that have incurred our collective wrath. Conspicuous consumption are becoming dirty words, fabulous riches are no longer viewed with benign envy but rather as a growing irritant. People are increasingly stacking up their own limited lives against the charmed realities of the ones who cannot even fathom the concept of daily survival and who know of no existential fear that too many of us have to live with.
All great upheavals in human history have been fed by the dissatisfaction of the masses and their inability to improve their lives. We may very well be in the early throes of such a moment. I think there is now an incredible opportunity for introspection, for the exchange of thought processes to try to establish a new, more equitable world order in which 80 % of humanity is not just simply ignored but is given a chance to live with dignity rather than in shame that abject poverty engenders. We must afford them the same respect we all expect from each other.
Horst

Waltz with Bashir

Probably the best film this year. If the film was in English, it would be a serious contender for the Oscar. It left me moved and shattered at the same time. It is psychological, political and mythical at the same time. And about our modern day politics. It is animation, but it draws you so deep into the characters that you forget that you are watching an animation film. You find yourself searching for expression and meaning in the faces of characters as if they were real.
I am told some of that was done by filming actors and then turning them into animation. I don’t know. Whatever it was, it was a the most innovative form of Cinema I have seen recently.

Cinema as a tool of social change ?

Harijim asked : “Can cinema be a tool for political change and can we make a film in 2 months flat here in India that will have a definitive effect on the coming elections and the whole region in general?”
I think all art can be a tool of social change. Before Cinema became so popular poetry was a great tool for the mobilization of emotion and sentiment. And passionate writings before that have caused revolutions. Some of the best Art is born out of rebellion. Out of repression. Unless it is born out of yearning, Spiritual or otherwise. However Cinema can question, but is unlikely to give effective answers. It would be arrogant to do so, because then it just becomes a stereotype. Propaganda. It can suggest ways to change through the film makers own conscience and the moral choices he/she makes in telling the story.
My own favorite film of mine is Bandit Queen. It was born out of an anger I felt not only against what I saw, but also against myself because of not having seen it before. And I believe it caused people to pause and question. By making them angry. Often the anger is expressed against the artist, but thats OK.
I do wish more film were films of the artist’s conscience. But it’s a big ask in an art form which is so expensive. And of course it is possible to shoot a film in 2 months. Masoom, Bandit Queen and Elizabeth were all shot in that time period. It is not the filming but the writing and the editing that takes a long time.

Looking for a hot bath ?

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Completely jet lagged from my flight from NY, I thought perhaps that I would indulge in a hot bath in my hotel room in Powai (Mumbai),. And I felt really guilty doing so. I imagined the water lying in the bathtub and looked out of the window and saw a slum. I wondered how many families would be standing near dry taps for hours waiting for water. The water in my bathtub would be at least 20 bucketfuls. I realized when you read and think deeply about issues, like the environment, you really do change your perspective. Its all about re-educating yourself to the changing world around yourself, and re – aligning to it.
All my life, living in India, in Europe and in the US, I have loved the idea of soaking in a hot bath, but having thought about the issue’s of water facing our planet, and especially India, I find I am no longer able to do so. After all my film Paani is just about that. The people in the upper city have swimming pools while those in the lower city are standing in line for hours waiting for tankers to bring them water
The pic above is from my hotel room. The swimming pool against the gradually dwindling lake at Powai. I remember this lake. The late Kaifi Azmi ( Shabana’s poet father) and his friends used to come here and spend hours fishing. It felt like the countryside then. But now of course, it is teeming with high rise buildings, and a gradually shrinking lake.

Bad films justifies harrasment of young girls ?

Here is a comment by Brahmshastra, which I would like to open out for discussion. Bad films (with some good ones too) , and a level of moral corruption throughout every activity in India (including corporate India, Indian justice system, Indian administration system, Indian political system, Indian religious systems) does not justify harrassing young vulnerable girls that are trying to become part of the economic system in India rather than sit at home. It does not make hooliganism moral. But perhaps Brahmsastra has his own point when he says of Indian Cinema and the Indian corporate sector, which we should discuss :
“And of course, the hooliganism you talk of excludes the progressive bunch of Bollywood directors, corporations and such who are ‘abusing’ women on a daily basis by taking advantage of and steering them in one way or the other into promoting lust and materialism in society, and are making all this possible with money from the underworld, while probably cheating on their taxes and engaging in bribery of government officials on a daily basis. Morality is a double-edged sword.”