Ganga, The Girl Child

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NImi is a partition baby in the truest sense. She was born in a train carrying refugees from Pakistan to India. Many did not make it. Nimi almost did not. Not because of the savagery of those times. But because of a savagery that exists even now. In abundance. Because Nimi was bundled up in a cloth by her aunt (mother’s sister in law) and thrown out in a Nallah as the train stopped. For her Aunt knew the plight of her Nimi’s mother. With partition, and her husband away looking for a new life and work, , Nimi’s aunt did not want her brother and sister-in-law burdened with a girl child. She told Nimi’s mother that the child was still born. But the mother insisted on seeing the dead child. And found the little baby still alive and breathing. Today Nimi is married with two children, has a flourishing career as a designer, and a beautiful family of her own. She has forgiven her aunt, because both she and her mother understood why. But now NImi wants to tell the world that the girl child is not a burden if you do not consider her one. So she has started a movement called Ganga. It is the name she has given the doll she designed you see above, representing the girl child and her dreams, ambitions and future. Through this doll she hopes to create a movement for the rights of the girl child to live and survive with dignity and hope.
Read further for Nimi’s own narrative titles STILL BORN, some of which was posted earlier on our blog.

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Rahman and the Oscars

I am really happy for A R Rahman. He is a musical genius, and deserves everything he has got. In fact I gave him the title “Mozart of Madras” and it caught on. But does the West really get his art and his genius ? I remember getting into an argument with Andrew Lloyd Webber about allowing A R Rahman to explore his own creativity for Bombay Dreams. We had co produced the show and I had introduced Rahman and his music to him.
I asked A R Rahman to score the music for Golden Age, and even then I was allowed only to take him as a co composer. And I watched as the studio rejected the most beautiful compositions from A R Rahman, because they did not get or were not willing to embrace something from another culture. As it happened the score of Golden Age was not half as good as it could have been.
Recently Rahman did the score for my short film that I did for Swarovsky, called Paasage. The one I shot in Argentina. One of the pieces in it is a beautiful song and an aria in French. I ask people to guess where it is from, and they search for all the great composers of the western classical form. And are stunned when I tell them the piece was composed by A R Rahman, sung by an Indian girl from his Music Academy, and produced in his studio in Chennai.
That is the genius of A R Rahman. Then why do we need the West to tell us how great he is ?
And that’s why I don’t understand why this hype of the Oscars for A R Raham in Indian Media (Rah Rah Rahman was the TOI headline).. He is bigger than the Oscars Slumdog is not his best work. His music has been far more evocative than in Slumdog.
We in India have a far greater culture of music. Our depth of understanding of music, its resonance, its culture, be it classical or modern, is far greater than any culture I know. So why don’t I see that the West celebrates when one of their artists becomes popular here in India ? Why don’t we see headlines in the LA times then ?
Why do we admire the West so much. Even in my career I thought that Bandit Queen was a far far better film, a more heartfelt film, and a much more meaningful film than Elizabeth or any of the other films I made in the West. But in India I was suddenly celebrated as a film maker after Elizabeth. I even was awarded a Padma Shree after that film. Why ? Because the film was nominated for 7 Oscars, and Bandit Queen was not.
When will we stop being aspirational towards the West ?

Shekhar Kapur is an Animal Abuser

Check this out. it’s really funny
http://www.desinuts.com/2009/01/26/shekhar-kapur-animal-abuser/

Girls beaten up in a Mangalore restaurant

It is well known that men who become the moral police for women are sexually immature and insecure about themselves. It is a condition that arises mostly from the environment they are brought up in, dominated by or taught to disrespect the other sex. It is a condition that if not checked, can lead to rape. And in societies where a woman’s sexuality is considered immoral, rape almost becomes an accepted form of humiliation and punishment. But it arises not from a moral perspective, but a far deeper, darker insecurity of their own ‘maleness’ and a need to dominate and humiliate the other sex in order to give themselves feelings of self worth.
The young men that beat up the girls in Mangalore are a slur on their religion and completely screwed up inside. They represent a danger to society, and should be locked up. As do the young men that raped the girls in Noida, the most horrendous part of which was the way the village elders blamed the girls for the act.
It was ultimately what I explored in Bandit Queen, where Phoolan Devi was gang raped for the audacity to become a leader of a gang and trying to stand up to men. Both as a woman and low caste.

Happy Republic Day, but what are we celebrating ?

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Used to be such fun. Getting ready early in the morning, putting on your woollies with my mom trying to get us going as early as possible. To see the parade in Delhi from as vantage a point as possible. It was such a event. As a boy of course my favourite were the armed forces ! The march past, the tanks that rumbled by, pointing their gun turrets to the saluting Prime Minister. I would always wait for the jets to do their final flypast spewing out the Indian colours. Just the sounds of those jets would get my heart pumping. I loved the white uniforms of the Navy and for a long time had the ambition to join the Navy. To a 10 year old it felt like the coolest thing to do. I just liked the way they saluted. It was not like the open palm of the Army or the Air Force. It was so smart. Imagine, that I may have gone into the Navy just because I loved the way they saluted. I guess we will never know what motivates us to take directions in life.
Then we did not think about what we were celebrating. It just was such a celebration. Even my school would participate in one of the floats ( I never made it – I was too quite and shy to express creative urges then). We just celebrated a holiday, a day out and the pageantry. And India was such a young country then. The cynicism had not set in.
What are we celebrating now, other than a long weekend ?
We are celebrating the birth and survival of an impossible Idea. An Idea that is India. An idea that brought a sub continent of different cultures, of different religions, of different races, and of different languages together. That Idea was freedom. And out of that idea, an India that never really existed before, was born as a democracy.
India is still an Idea. A hope. A dream. That it has survived and we still exist as a whole despite all the divisive forces, the complete political failure, the corruption, the poverty, the inequality, the lack of a working justice system, a corrupt police force, the greed of the corporate system, is in itself an absolute miracle. But then, more than anything else, an Idea leads to a miracle
That is what we should be celebrating. That the idea has survived. The Dream still beats in our hearts. And hope still drives us.
And that hope is kept alive not by the politicians who are probably the most treacherous people on this planet, nor the elite or the corporate sector, who will plunder middle class investors and transfer India’s wealth overseas without blinking an eyelid. Nor by us film makers, that find exhilaration in box office results international awards. But it is kept alive by the farmer, who season after season will wait for the monsoons and the crops to feed his family. And still hope. It is kept alive by the working and middle classes that travel in from Virar to Churchgate everyday and have done so all their lives, and still hope and survive and celebrate. For they’re the ones that buy the cell phones that turn our cell phone operators into billionaires.
India’s beating heart, India’s hope, lies in the people for whom life is a daily struggle. This year I celebrate those people.

The Idiot box is so much more idiotic now

With the levels of soaps degrading everyday, news being turned into soap opera, and the complete inability to tell the difference between one reality soap and another, many people are nostalgic of the Doordarshan days when series such as Hum log, Udaan, Shyam Bebegal’s Bharat Ek Khoj, Malgudi Days and Govind Nihilani’s terrific adaptation of Bhisham Sahni’s novel on the partition of India ‘Tamas”.
Yes there were those boring state dominated news broadcasts that became just the state propaganda, and many programmes were merely there because of who bribed who. Not all was good, but there were some terrific things on TV that we don’t get now. Neelesh Mishra has written a wonderful piece that I enclose here about ‘growing up with Doordarshan called :
“inside the idiot box of memory”
Let me take you to several minutes before 6 p.m. on crisp winter evenings in the 1980s. In a cobweb of narrow Lucknow lanes, my four young uncles would be about to return home on their Bajaj scooters, my tough cookie grandfather would be about to have his evening tea and on the first floor, my grandmother would be cutting guavas and bringing them to my twin brother Shailesh and me.
That was the moment when I would get up for the highlight of our winter vacation days, in the neighbourhood someone had so stupidly named Ghasiyari Mandi.
A massive click. I would switch on the thick cylindrical silver knob of the Uptron Urvashi TV set, encased in a wooden cabinet. Vertical vibgyor colour bands would show up, and then, suddenly, the rotating Doordarshan logo that seemed to us like two huge kajus hugging a rasgulla in the centre. Sublime, pre-24X7 moment. The moment my brother and I would have waited for the whole day, killing time to prepare ourselves to open the rolling wooden shutter on the TV cabinet.
Doordarshan was the anchor of my growing up years in Lucknow and Nainital……

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Did Heath Ledger really leave us a year ago ?

The New York Post asked me to write a tribute to Heath Ledger on the anniversary of his passing. It seems just yestrday.
Time, say philosophers, mystics and quantum scientists is an illusion. Before the Big Bang there was Eternity. Beginnings and Ends are just means to contextualize our lives within our limited perceptions of a world that surrounds us.
Every now and again a human being is born to remind us of Eternity. Heath Ledger was amongst those, who we quietly whisper prayers for in our quite moments, wish for in our dreams and in have a special place for our every day thoughts. God knows how many people in this world still carry the pain of the loss of him. Why did a man who lived amongst us for such a short time, and did such few films, leave such a huge imprint upon us when he left ? I have people writing letters on this blog who had never seen a Heath Ledger film, who were not fans, but felt the shock and impact of the loss of Heath Ledger. Everyday ordinary people that a year later are still coming to terms with his passing ?
Like he was an Angel.
Or the Dark Knight. In which Heath left indelible impressions of incredible humanity behind the garb of evil. So much that people went back again and again to the theatres to experience the presence of Heath Ledger. I remember a conversation with Robert Richardson the DP of Four Feathers ” Just make sure that the audience are able to look into Heath’s eyes. They tell a story of ancient wisdom and all of humanity”. Not an easy job for a DP when Heath would so easily break into an Australian crinkle and narrow his eyes, so that the point of light so carefully put by the DP would search desperately for their subject ! I used to tell Heath that he was an ancient soul in a youthful body and mind. That his struggle was between the ancient wisdom he carried in his soul and the coming to terms with youth.
That struggle showed and I was the ‘brother from another mother’ as he called me, that embraced him at those moments.
I wish I was there to embrace him when he passed away. I was so close. But then, it was not meant to be. In his passing he left behind his indelible footprint. As I write this peice I hear that Heath has bean nominated for the Oscars.
Wherever you are Heath, I can see you crinkling your eyes and laughing your deep laughter and saying ” Hey brother, what d you think of that ?” Nothing more, nothing less. Everything just was, is, and will be. In Eternity.

Slum Dog Millionaire scores a perfect 10

10 oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Director, ScreenWriter plus two nominations for A R Rahman. Actually three nominations for Rahman : Best Score and two best songs. I think we need to applaud ?

It’s Slumdog Millionaire’s Summer of Cool !

With film makers in India regretting they did not pick up Vikas Swaroop’s Q&A ( on which Slumdog Millionaire is based), guess which is the next book getting all the hype ? Its Suchitra’s “Summer of Cool. There is a little bidding war going on for it… I should know, everyone is calling me to see if I can help them get the rights ..
‘Summer’ is exactly what it says it is. It is ‘cool’, with the the colors of summer – yellow and orange -with the warmth of the characters who’s hearts almost glow pink !
” A tall glass of lime juice on a warm summer’s day” The Hindu critic called it aptly. And this is just the first of series. This summer is going to be pretty cool for book lovers.. and yes, the book has it’s dark side, but then so does Harry Potter –

addicted

I do
because I want things done
but the more they are done
the more I want done
till
i ask
what did i really want to do ?
and what was really done ?
for the drug
called ‘done’
is a finishing line
that i am constantly
and breathlessly
running towards
that seems to run
away from me….

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