Stunning opening to the Beijing Olympics

The opening ceremony for the Beijing Olympics was the greatest show on Earth that will be hard to beat. It was the best of art, choreography, design and technology combined to create what could be one of the greatest live events ever presented on this planet. Kudos to the Chinese and if this is the way the Olympic games are going to be, it will turn out to be one of the best ever. To me it was a live spectacular with the aesthetics of the great Chinese film director Zhang Yimou (Hero) and artists like Chai Guo- Qiang, who made his name in pyrotechnic art. Simply put – creating art through gun powder and pyrotechnics in the sky. Chai had a brilliant installation at the Guggenheim in New York untill about 2 months ago. And guess what – both of these brilliant men have created the opening ceremony together. I am told that Steven Speilberg was supposed to do the show but pulled out in protest against absence of civil liberties in Tibet. I appreciate his honesty and commitment to a cause, but do not believe that he would have been able to create a spectacular of such aesthetics, for it was so Chinese !

The unified theory of everything, faith and emotion

There will never be a scientific unified theory of everything. Simply because the mind consistently looks to define while the universe exists on infinite layers of existence. Which are both true and not true at the same mpment. How can something be true and not true at the same time ? But then we have always lived with that dichotomy. We learn to evaluate space and objects through measurements in the three dimensions. We learn to perceive distance, which we can measure. Even unamiganibly large distances in terms of ‘light years’. We learn and are adhered to the linearity of ‘time’. Time is running out is something we always say.
Yet we live in a universe that cannot be be measured. It is infinite. We learn to ‘fix’ the beginning of time from different contexts. For science it was the Big Bang, for Religion it was – for example – ‘and God said ‘let there be light;. But essentially we cannot imagine the end or the beginning of time simply because there is none. We cannot measure or imagine the end of the Universe simply there is none. Our concepts of measurement exist only as contexts between two measurable points. Take one away then there is no context and therefore no ability to measure.

Read the rest of this entry »

Virgin Comics

Deepak Ravindra asked why I do not write more about Virgin Comics of which I am a co founder, so I am posting his following comment as a blog entry. Though I am a co founder, a huge part of the kudos are deserved by the team, the very young team, of artists in Bangalore led by Suresh Seetharaman, and by the creative leadership of Gotham Chopra and Sharad Deverajan in the US. Go to But thank you Deepak in any case for the following :
“Let me tell you this, I am a huge movie buff and comic art buff.Like any average Indian babyboomer (post Independance 🙂 I grew up on Amar Chitra Katha (ACK).Anant Pai single handedly defined fantasy and mythology for the Indian mindset. As a child up I lost those comics to other friends only to doggedly start collecting them again now.
Your work with Deepak Chopra in adapting Indian mythology to an International audience is simply up there,outright visionary.I have recently finished savouring ‘Devi’,’Shiva’,’Sadhu’,and am eagerly waiting for ‘Ramayan’ to arrive.I wanted to tell you what I loved most about the comics
– The Art work , simply stupendous.Its simply beautiful how you guys have managed to keep it strikingly Indian while giving the characters a western fantasy wrap.The art work is so intricate with personality,you love to go back to it purely to enjoy the art itself.
– The content is surely top notch.You carry an immense responsibility while handling Indian mythology.Its not written by one author who can place a ‘fiction disclaimer’,but is part of tradition,culture and ethos of world’s oldest civilization.Utmost sensitivity while keeping it relevant and interesting is required – and again the team’s done such an incredible job….

Read the rest of this entry »

The illusory force of Gravity :Newton and the apple

When Newton perceived the apple fall to the ground and proposed the principles of Gravity, why did he assume that the apple fell to the ground and not that the earth and everything else was pulled towards the apple ? It is perfectly plausible the other way round too as the earth is not a solid structure but a mass of particles that ‘seemingly’ bind together to give the illusion of a solid mass. Similarly we keep thinking about light and other particles being pulled into ‘Black Holes” – why do we not see that as the smallest particles also pulling the black holes towards them ? Why do we imagine such ‘movements’ towards ‘objects’ that we imagine to have a greater mass and therefore greater gravity ? Partly because the concept of ‘distance’ is perhaps an imagined and perceived illusion. Effectively in modern particle physics and in what my uneducated mind understands from the string theory, there is no distance between anything as all is effectively part of an all encompassing ecosystem. Even the theory of Dark Matter seems to be saying the same thing. So how can the idea of gravity be proved at all if there is no ‘distance’. Any physicists out there ?

Sonya’s Picks: Sea of Poppies

Sea of Poppies
Imagine being whacked on the head, and force fed opium. Made to cultivate it (instead of food) and made to take it . And by what an all-powerful drug dealer – a giant cartel, like in the movies, of trading and shipping companies, supported by the government of Great Britian.
Yes – all this really happened. It’s true. It’s the story of 1839 and the Opium Wars.

Read the rest of this entry »

Ahmedabad Blasts, who do YOU blame ?

Heard the term ‘Nero fiddles while Rome burns’ ? Well, replace Nero with the Indian Politicians and Rome with an India that is descending into chaos. While the Indian politicians play games with the lives of the people and horse trade between themselves to somehow, anyhow, at any cost, keep themselves in power. This year Jaipur, then Bangalore and now Ahmedabad.. I heard the Home minister Shivraj Patil say something strange on TV like ” this is not time to blame the police, or the government.” Excuse me sir ! But when you lose your loved ones, who are you going to blame ? Who is in charge here ? Someone must teach the politicians that with power comes RESPONSIBILITY. Well, I guess for our politicians power means not responsibility, but cash. OK, lets hear everyone’s voices here – who do YOU blame ?

Heath Ledger and the Dark Knight

Now that the Dark Knight has broken all records at the BO, Heath left a legacy that is unforgettable. Angels do that. They visit us for short periods of time and cause huge impact on our consciousness. I always told Heath he was an ancient soul in a very young mind, a very young body. Angels, or Ancient Souls are never comfortable trapped in their human selves. They will make you restless and the need for honest creative expression of the deepest nature is a driving force. For those of you that knew his music, the other person that had that quality was Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Who I did Bandit Queen with.
My screen test with Heath for Four Feathers lasted a whole day. He would often call me down the years and laugh his deep laughter, and remember that day with a lot of affection . It was a day of deep exploration between an actor and a director of each other…..

Read the rest of this entry »

Sonya’s Picks: Princess Paanchali’s Story

Mahabharat Picks
Princess Paanchali’s Story
Is having 5 husbands a great thing ?
What more could any woman want, you might say. Specially if the 5 husbands, between them, bring to the table, a sons-of-gods combo. Of righteousness, strength, bravery and beauty.
Certainly the lot of Draupadi, husband to the 5 Pandava brothers, doesn’t seem bad ( OK OK she had to spent 13 years of her life in exile, and also get gambled away to bad cousin-in-law Duryodhana). But then she had a whole war fought over her. All the men who abused her were killed, or the blood of their hearts drunk up.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Nuke Deal : Does India’s democratic system not allow great leadership ?

Leadership =Courage =The ability of an individual to get out there and stake everything on what he/she truly believes in. The fundamental idea of democracy has a flaw though. It assumes all decisions are of the collective, that nothing major will get decided unless there is a majority in the parliament. And those of us that have watched how the parliament works (on TV), it is a wonder that any decision takes place ! If I were to direct a film based in the principle of consensus, I would not be able to take a single shot in the whole day. So when we say we lack a great leader, are we not then burdening that leader with the collective principles of democracy ?
That has long been the argument of the Armed Forces and the Bureaucracy in India. “Those bickering fools in the parliament are just a bunch of dithering monkeys, and we are the ones that really running/defending the country inspite of them”. It is an argument that is difficult to refute if you have spent two confrontational days in the parliament. Remember the swell of public sentiment that once wanted Sam Manickshaw to take over the reigns of the country ?
The current political crisis in India leaves me in no doubt that as we have no strong leader, the collective is bringing the decision making process down. Not in ‘the best interests of our nation’, (the mantra they keep repeating everyday), but completely in their own selfish interest.
A leader needs to be bold, passionate. Needs to carry the the parliament with his/her beliefs. Needs the respect of even the opposition. And needs to place the needs of the country above both, the self and the party interests. We have not had one like that since Nehru. That’s just one in almost 60 years. No wonder we are a mess. Can India afford democracy as we know it in a modern and Global world ? Are we going to go on dithering like this or change the system.
To a system where minister’s are NOT elected politicians (who trusts that process in any case ?), but appoint the best proffesionals in the field to lead. So why not have head of Infosys as the minister of IT ? Or our best Military tacticians as the Defence Minister. Allow such highly skilled professional to lead the executive decisions, and to leave the Parliament to discuss, argue, fight over issues of over-all policy.
I for one applaud Manmohan Singh’s decision to go ahead with the Nuclear Treaty and stake everything on it. It’s what he believes in.

Sri Lanka… aaahh !

Like when the God’s created Sri Lanka they must have been so jealous of their own abundance that they created a war over it’s ownership, and that is the war that is being reflected in Sri Lanka and tearing the country apart. But it is impossible to go there, as I did last week, without just letting out a deep breath at the sheer beauty of the place and become one with nature. How often do we feel that urgent need to let go of the individual self ? Sri Lanka will do that you.
Most people bemoaned the lack of development. The lack of tourists. And though I completely understood, I thought of what we have done to our environment in India ( has anyone been to Goa recently ?) and the question that streaks to my mind is ‘what price development ?’. Is development something that lives as a deep desire within ourselves, or do we become slaves to development because someone has created a false aspiration for us, to profit from it themselves ? Just look at the city of Mumbai and ask whether it is worth putting your life’s savings into a matchbox that you call a house, surrounded by the greatest filth and pollution that a city can generate. Why ? because you are told that ultimately someone else will be willing to similarly sacrifice their life at a higher cost. We have become slaves to the God of ‘capital growth’ to whom we sacrifice the quality of our lives. We have become slaves to ‘ownership’.
Despite a war that has lasted 25 years, despite very little industrial growth and stagnation, Sri Lanka still has one of the highest per capita incomes in our region. Is there a lesson here that we are not learning ?