Why would you want to be merely you?

A looked at my teacher, the tree,  outside my window and it said to me :

You have travelled and listened to the wise ones. Have worshipped with them. Loved them.  Been their best friends. Have seen compassion, yes. But also Ego.

Ego is fear. Fear of loss of individuality. Who am I in this world that surrounds me ? The answer is is there if you look carefully at the world that surrounds you, Without prejudice. Without memory.  Just look and observe and you will see you are nothing but an inherent part of all creation. Perhaps an incredibly essential part of creation but no more essential than a leaf that fell from my branch. You are Nature itself. Just because you have mobility and imagination does not make you individual.  The wind that passes by me has greater mobility and imagination that you could imagine through your imagined prejudices.
Your imagination is a gift to revel in the true meaning of existence. But you use it to define and so confine yourself.
You are both God and the servant of God. You are everything that was ever created and everything that was destroyed. You are also everything that will be created and destroyed.
Here and now you are everything. Then why would would you want to be merely you ?
Sit still like me and you will observe. Feel my 1000 leaves rustle in the wind and you will know.
Did Strindberg denounce Miss Julie’s actions himself ? How is Miss Julie relavant to India today ?

Has the west finally achieved the egalitarian society it boasts about? Does the class and gender war only exist in Asia and Africa? In that context, is a 19th century Swedish play, relevant to 21st century India?

 Social preoccupations and prejudices find a place in August Strindberg’s most popular play, Miss Julie. The daughter of a count, living in a morally upright society,  has an affair with one of her servants. I wonder how many of us Indian women would be able to stomach a one night stand with the khansama and then face the family squarely, the following morning? Bizarre….certainly. Possible? Eminently. And we are not talking khap panchayats here. It goes way beyond. Which is why it becomes all the more important to stage plays like Miss Julie, which force us to introspect and come face to face with our own insecurities and hypocrisy.


–Sohaila Kapur, theatre director.


Heath Ledger and Four Feathers

This letter from Justin just came in and it is so moving that I had to put it on the blog. Thank you, Justin.

I am a 24 Army vet, I did 3 years in the infantry. Sorry it took many years but I have seen your movie The Four Feathers. Words cannot describe what I feel about it. Simply wow. I just wanted to let you know you did a hell-of-a job on this movie. I lost all my emotions during my time serving in the infantry, but this movie took me outta that dry spell. The part where they were running in the desert after he got out of the prison with his friend by the help of Abu, when they were being chased I jumped outta my seat and ran with then until they got away. Unreal. Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks and hope to catch another one of your films soon, I’m sure they’re close to if not better than this one.
Most Sincerely,
Justin Levitt
Death Toll up to 7 in Riots over Water Tanker Killing in Mumbai

The driver of the water tanker, Suresh Salve succumbed to his injuries in hospital, as the death toll in the ‘water tanker riot’ rose to 7. Harish Malvade, the guard who fired the first shot killing Pradeep Amre, the 11 year old boy from the local slum, is fighting for his life even as the police waits to question him. Sources say the gun was unlicensed.

The riot apparently broke out as the people from the slum tried to stop the tanker and ask for water. The driver tried to force the tanker through the crowd, injuring some people, and riot broke out. The driver was pulled out and almost beaten to death.

Meanwhile the parents of the boy, Pradeep Amre are leading a morcha of over a 100 slum dwellers demanding an investigation into why a thirsty young school boy was shot for trying to steal a water from the tanker. The Mumbai police are trying to bring the situation under control as the riots threaten to spread to other parts of Mumbai. The water situation continues to be precarious and water tankers are being brought in to Mumbai, but are often unable to get to their destination as they are waylaid by armed gangs.

This is the 3rd day of no piped water supply in Mumbai.

There are questions demanding to know why an armed guard was traveling with the water tanker. A news bureau report has confirmed that the guard was hired by the new Water Mafia that has emerged in Mumbai. Hotels and Housing Societies in the posher areas are now dealing directly with the Water Mafia to supply them with water as the BMC distribution systems have broken down, and the State Government is trying to bring the situation under control. Promising that supply lines will be restored as water becomes available. The reservoirs are low, as the demand in the city far outstrips the supply of water.

Meanwhile, the State Government has asked schools and colleges to shut down till the situation eases. Five Star hotels have become a refuge against the water crisis, and in the city are already full. Reportedly they are charging upwards of Rs 2 lacs per night, but are not taking any bookings over two nights as they cannot assure any water supply beyond that. Hotels too apparently are dealing directly with the Water Mafia.

Airlines and trains are reportedly showing heavy loads of people leaving Mumbai, and airlines are putting up more flights. The water crises is a financial bonanza for airlines and hotels in the short term, but the chairman of one airline said in a press conference that in the long term such a crisis will drastically reduce the amount of traffic in Mumbai.

The US government yesterday issued a travel warning to it’s citizens in Mumbai, and are reportedly moving staff to their other consulates within the country till the water crisis eases out.

Citizen groups are co operating with the police and the State Government. The biggest fear is that sectarian violence will break out as local political parties step up their call for a ban of entry of people to Mumbai. The State Government has appealed for calm and said any panic will only make matters worse. They are promising to repair the pipelines that have been damaged. Reports are coming through that some of the pipelines were deliberately damaged by the water mafia to create the shortage.

In the meantime the Army has been called in to ensure that water tankers get through to Hospitals and other essential services, but there have been reports that some of that water has been diverted to the houses of ministers.

Just 3 days into the Water Crisis, and people of Mumbai are living in fear. And in thirst. NGO groups are angry, saying they have been warning of this crisis for a long time. Mr Debankar Rao of the Dekho foundation says that if the recommendations of the Infrastructure Committee had been implemented, this crisis could have been averted :

a. Better Water Management, with 30% of Water wasted in leakages etc, and stopping the nexus between the municipal corporations and the water mafia.

b. More equitable distribution of water through a steep rise in water charges beyond certain levels of consumption.

c. Creating employment and education opportunities in rural areas through implementation of the Broadband Connectivity Policy, in order to stem the pressure on population in Mumbai.

95 yr old artist defines passion creativity life and defies age

My encounter with Robert Amft, the 95 year old American artist : by Horst Vollman.

As I rang the doorbell to Robert Amft’s home in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on a sunny January afternoon in 2012, I knew that I was about to meet an American icon, an artist whose versatility is unmatched in the art world. Amft, at the age of 95, still produces art to please  himself, first and foremost.

I was cautioned that Robert Amft was wheelchair-bound, with little energy to spare, not to ask too many questions and to keep my exuberance in check. Thus, I entered the room with the hesitation of one who expected to find an ailing man in whose presence words had to be spoken tentatively. His firm, even strong handshake quickly dispelled any such notion. His eyes seemed to belong to a man half his age, his voice had a firmness that belied his 95 years. When, after a while I worked up the courage to ask him personal questions I wanted to know whether his continued painting at this age was a yearning to express unfulfilled dreams. He looked at me the way an errant child is to be taken to task. “Painting is my life” he explained softly,

“sometimes in my dreams I paint and when I wake up I actually want to walk to my easel, forgetting that I need a wheel chair.” There was a pensive smile on his face when he said it. “Honestly, the fact that I still paint has nothing to do with regrets or unfulfilled dreams. Quite the contrary, most of my dreams have come true. Look at this easel. When I sit there I feel happy, no thoughts intrude. Something inside me happens that is hard to explain but let me try it anyway.” Haltingly first, then increasingly firm, he began to open up. “My life is about colors, light and compositions, about brush strokes, charcoal sketches, about a canvas I want to cover with something that only at that very moment develops. I never know in advance what it is going to be but I am always surprised again about the outcome. I don’t analyze, never did. When I paint, everything flows, I forget who I am, age and time lose all meaning. I become part of the process. I would almost push it further and say, I am the process.”

He paused and his look became nearly wistful as though my question had touched a special chord. “I once read that the painter uses the canvas as a battlefield for unresolved emotions where every brushstroke is a Freudian slip. My goodness, the art world reads too much into us. At the end of the day artists are just ordinary people with a talent to paint. When I look at a canvas I don’t see the outside world. At these moments I feel happy, yes, just simply happy. The outcome is not what matters. When I am in that state it is of no consequence to me if my work is liked or rejected.”

Read the rest of this entry »

And God said Let there be light .. fibre optic light

And then God said there be light ..

….fibre optic light

The world now changes at the Speed of Chaos . The changes are non-linear. The year before is not a portend of the trends in the current year. Yet we are caught in an addiction to linear analysis. Why ? Because once the trends were controlled by the very people in a position of linear power to control them. The linear structure of  control over information and ideas was also the way the world was kept linear.

It seemed till just yesterday that  power of the ‘Gatekeepers’ was supreme, whether in Government, Politics, Entertainment etc.  The Power of Linearity.

Suddenly the power has shifted to circularity where information is democratic and opinion polls are no longer the ‘gatekept’ preserve of ‘information or news controllers’. People talk and communicate amongst themselves. At unimaginable speeds. At unimaginable distances. In unimaginable quantities. Where ideas are born and die even before you can catch them. Where only ideas that truly catch the imagination of the people, the heart of the people, the fundamental needs and desires of the people come forth and turn from a slight wave in the ocean to a tsunami,

And before you are aware of it, before you can catch it, the tsunami is a revolution.

Like the Arab Spring.

We have a word for it in Hindu Mythology. Manthan. The Great Churning. Even though it referred to (some say) to the formations and continuing play of the Universe, The Milky Way, the facilitation of of sharing of massive amounts of information and ‘thought processes’ expressed on massive platforms, give rise to new galaxies of events that are completely non linear, chaotic and ….

…express the true and ultimate meaning of democracy…. a continuing democracy, fluid and completely transparent in its expression,

Scary ? Of course. Chaos to our linear minds is scary. Change and the unknown is scary.  But do we have a choice?

The battle will now be between linearity and chaos. The gatekeepers and most of us will fight for a semblance of linearity for that is how we understand the world.  While those that have nothing lose in the constructed oppression of linearity , will revel in hitting back at any linear system through the  chaos of circularity.

What will happen in the future ?

Facebook too, addicted as it is now to linearity, through old world paradigm like transactions with its 100b $ ivaluation, has shifted from circularity and chaos to linearity and gatekeeping.  So the battle is also happening within the internet world too.  But Facebook understands the only option it has is to keep expanding, or the great Manthan will swallow  its individuality and regurgitate it and throw it out in forms yet unknown to itself.  Or It will, like our Sun, expand to a point where its collapses under its own gravity,  gobbled by by another expanding Star – another tsunami idea.

The Universe is the best analogy to the Internet. If we understand that passage of time is a mere perception . History is chaotic, sudden, unpredictable and ever changing. Yet at the points of history in the old world we perceived a linearity which became our reality and even an addiction. Now Internet has made that change observable, constant, touchable and perceptible. Almost instant.  Like observing the seed turn into a flower in speeded up motion.  And the death of the same flower in seconds.

Lets forgive ourselves for sitting back for a few moments and go ‘Phew !’  But then move forward with a new sense of democratic adventure, a step in the unknown, trusting that in the chaos of the Manthan, in the colliding of galaxy’s there is purpose..

And my quest, along with others, is that in this great Manthan, the ultimate events that occur are for the good of society. That ultimately in the balance between the good and the bad, the hate and the compassion, the Asuras and the Devas, the good and compassionate will emerge.

Quite honestly ? Everything points to that. It seems that we will do better without the gatekeepers controlling our lives for their own benefit,

We speak of Darkness

We speak of darkness

as we speak of light

we speak of darkness

as if it arises

and radiates

like light,


as cold is the mere

absence of warmth

dark is the mere

absence of light

and in creating

walls of prejudice

roofs of fear

windows of hate

doors of ignorance

we breed the idea

that darkness

has a protective glow

of its own

not realizing

it is merely feeding off

the maggots of our own


Why I killed Tina (In Mr India)

Good god.  Can you imagine making a film and being responsible for the characters almost 20 years after you have made it ?

I cannot count the number of times that people have stopped me on the streets , and now asked me on twitter or on my blog “why did the little girl Tina have to die ?”

So here is the truth finally. After all these years.  I got cold feet !

There is always a thin line between farce and fantasy.  I was having so much fun shooting the characters of Mr India, with such fine actors, that I thought the film would be turning into a farce.  And films like Mr India cannot turn into a farce, they must be like a fantasy that makes you believe in what is happening, or there will be a rejection from the audience, specially from Children.  There is a sense of emotional involvement and believability that rides through the film.

I looked at Mr India and realized that somehow I had to bring the film back to the ground. Earth it, in a way, so people stay connected to the film in their hearts, and not just in their minds.  If it turned into a farce, the film would just pass by.

So I am afraid I committed the crime of killing Tina. Of course I gave the blame to Mogambo, but I was the guilty one.

And the scene where Tina is in her coffin and all the kids come and kiss her one by one and lay flowers on her body ?  Umm  … another confession to make.  Little Tina could not help laughing all the time.  It was so strange to see the beautiful little girl in a tiny coffin in the graveyard we were shooting the film in –  just burst into peals of laughter every time someone lay a flower over her.

So we decided to wait till she went to sleep. But of course she would not comply.  And with the light getting darker and the producer screaming on my back. I asked her mother what would put her to sleep.  What do you give kids to put them to sleep ?

And yes, I confess, her mother and I gave her a tiny spoonful of that.  And Tina went peacefully to sleep. And something strange happened.

Each kid coming to put a flower on on her, looking like sleeping beauty, but in tiny coffin broke down.  Not acting, but in real. Some of them started to sob.  The Sri Devi started to sob, as did other crew members. And I must admit a let e few tears roll by.  There was something about how beautiful and serene little Tina was looking in that tiny coffin that just affected us all on that day.

If Tina had woken up and seen us all crying that day, she would have just broken into peels of laughter.

a leaf

be vulnerable

so vulnerable

that the pain of

a falling leaf

reaches out, and ..

moves you to tears

be aware

be so aware

that the sound of the first flap

of  new born butterfly’s wings

fills your heart with joy

a love story

let me tell you a story

a story that never ends ..

let me tell you a story

a story that never began

let me tell you a story

that was there when God found himself

and will still be there when God

forgets who he is

let me tell you a story

a story of love