Monday, January 31, 2011

Poetry that Speaks

dated 14September 2010

Finally a wave of fresh air. Our HOD announced with the utmost of strictness that if we did not attend this seminar, she will stop arranging seminars once and for all. Now seminars happen all throughout the month in the Dept. Of Comparative Literature but few of us ever attend them. When I joined this department, I had the good intention of attending almost every seminar that took place. However over the weeks, months, years, a lethargy (JUites refer to this as "lyadh khawa") grew and the seminars did not do anything to help. I mean while some of them were pretty good, most of them constituted of boring university professors who did nothing more than read from their typed papers. 

Sometimes they were not even audible or clear enough! And they expected us to attend those seminars! In the midst of these event-less and dry seminars, we had a sudden wisp of fresh air when a certain poet from Malta came to lecture. His name is Cassar, Antoine Cassar. And I know, I make it sound like Bond, James Bond. But you guys should know that this post is going to be about this awesome man with a flair for the dramatic (at least that's how it seemed when he recited his multilingual poems).

He began by saying that his seminar was to promote his book, Passport which was a compilation of multilingual poems. Multilingual poems are poems written in more than one language. As a student of CL, I have always been intrigued by , how to say it, "joint ventures". So naturally this intrigued me. He began by saying he will not give us a series of boring lectures but simply read out some of his poems. His first poem was "Rabbit". He told us that we wouldn't understand all the languages employed to write this poem but we should simply go with the flow. 

And it was... beautiful. The way he used different words (of different languages) to describe the sprinting, hopping and graceful jumping of the rabbit astounded us all. Who would have thought that so many different languages could have such similarity-- and that too in merely describing the sprint or hop of a little rodent? 

And then he went to a poem from his book, Passport. It dealt with the tragic life of an illegal immigrant, who is speaking to a guest. The poem begins in the words of this immigrant who welcomes this guest. The word 'Welcome' alone was written in more than seven languages. Then this immigrant begins telling his story to the guest. He explains how they were a happy family with his wife and thirteen children. But one day they found their younger son lying on the field, his leg beside his hand. This sudden description of violence jolted us all. The room was full of students as well as eminent professors and all of us got a big shock. 

The fact that this meek hospitable immigrant could speak of the violence meted out to his family so naturally astounded us all. But violence was a part of his life and so it was natural to him. The poet goes on with the poem where he talks of the other children in this immigrant's life. The poem concludes with the immigrant saying that he has been living in that piece of land for so many years, and then suddenly one morning, armed officials came to inform him that this land,was no longer his. "What am I supposed to do?" he asks regrettably. Reminds one of the days of Partition. People living in a place for years were suddenly asked to leave their homes as that place was no longer "their country" and all because the heads sitting in New Delhi drew borders with sketch pen on a paper map!

Mr.Cassar also went on to talk of the violence he had seen immigrants face. In his own words, he was form Malta which is a small country in Europe. But during his lifetime he had had to move a lot between England and Spain. This had also led to his interested fascination for multilingual poems. He spoke of the thousands of African immigrants who cross the hottest Sahara Desert every year, sometimes by jeep but most often by foot, so that they can enter Europe via Malta. 

Sometimes, these immigrants are captured by the Maltese border force. They have to spend a year in judicial custody after which the government decides whether to send them back or allow them to stay. Most are allowed to stay. But sometimes they are sent back. Once they were sent back to their African nation and the government of that African country ordered the killing of all those civilians. Their fault: They had fled the country because they did not want to join the military, against the government's wishes. All 100 were killed. 

Mr. Cassar also went on to speak about the harassments he had to face because he was from a small nation. With his light hearted touch of humor, he enacted two Bolivian guards who deliberately delayed his permit to the country because they had never heard of his country before. With a deep-set pain somewhere in his voice, he talked of the plight of belonging to a "small" nation; something that Indians will probably never have to deal with. His book Passport, was an attempt in this respect to envision an world, where people would matter more than sketch pens and paper maps; a place where people could travel and communicate freely to each other without any fear of getting shot. Which is precisely why Passport is a book of multilingual poems. 

I realized that multilingual poetry was the next step of Comparative Literature. In a world where single literature disciplines have been deemed grossly inefficient of studying cross culture contact, may be literature written in more than one language was the only way we could finally develop a more harmonious way of looking at cultures. Keeping the multilingual and multicultural context of India in mind, multilingual literature becomes all the more important. The seminar left us a lot of food for thought and made us smile long after it had ended...


The slums of Kolkata are full of unbathed children, poor mothers who hide behind their shabby veils. The fathers sit outside the modest huts smoking, drinking or playing cards. The streets are full of dirt, mud and spit. The streets of Kolkata occasionally harbor a lunatic man or woman who lives on the alms of kind strangers or nearby shopkeepers. If the lunatic is a woman, then most often at nights, she might have to fall prey to the lust of some passing truck driver, some random stranger who wants to satisfy his greedy desires. I know such a woman, she stays beside a bus stop I pass on my way everyday. One day I saw a little girl beside her. 

I had not seen that girl before. And I wondered. How can this woman, who has no mental control over herself get pregnant? And then it occurred to me. Some brave bold man chose to plant his seed on this mentally unstable woman, one who has no family, and nobody to help her. After all, how else will you prove your masculinity? But now I see that little girl, playing by her mother. And curiously my anger subsides. 

This little girl is dressed in rags and is very playful. The shopkeepers around have taken a kind heart to this mother-daughter duo and probably had given them something to eat. The daughter helps her mother to eat, and then eats herself. The mother too sees that her daughter gets enough to eat before eating herself. When I see her with her mother and I see her mother's face, I find her smiling, I see her..happy. May be her mother lacks the reasoning power with which we, the highly intelligent (and sometimes over intelligent) beings are blessed with. But when you look at that smile, you realize that it is not different from the smiles of other ordinary mothers when they see their children. And curiously that smile relieves me. How can the consequence of a greedy cowardly animal act of lust give rise to something so pure, so tender, so joyful; like the love of a mother for her child? I wonder.

In a completely different street of Kolkata, I see dirt, grime and mud all around. People are making the streets  dirtier. My attention suddenly slips to one side of the street, where a mother dog is sitting with her puppies. The little ones are all scurrying around her, excited to get milk. A competition ensues as to who would get milk first. The mother dog sits patiently while the kids run around her. They are like little soft toys, a little bigger than the palm of your hands, soft ears, black noses, and body so soft that a hard touch can break them. You carry one of them and it is a trip back to innocence. Even if you go near them, they will not notice you; they are so engrossed in their play. I watch from a distance. 

The dirt, the pollution, the repulsiveness, the lust and violence---- everything vanishes suddenly! It's so full of despair, darkness yet what is it about these two scenes that blows away all the sins? I wonder. And then it occurs to me. Nature with her powerful gift of Life. Life that washes away everything bleak and gloomy. But can Life really blow away all sins? All markers of violence, indifference? Is it that easy? But how else do you explain happiness, birth following an act of hatred or repulsion? I wonder. And I wander the streets of the city, hoping to find an answer.... But the sight of life in these two varied inhospitable circumstances among these two different species astound me with a new ray of hope....

Sunday, January 30, 2011

My Little Brother

You were the one who ever truly loved me. And I let you down. I am sorry. Forgive me.

“You never forget the ones you loved”. And I will never forget you. I promise. Every time I see a movie based on you, I fall apart crying. How could I not appreciate you? Fancy me getting vocal about how kind and giving animals could I be unkind to you? When nobody cared, nobody bothered, you were there for me. I still remember the night of the load-shedding when I was deeply morose. I was sitting there in the dark blankly. You came and began calling me with your paws. I knew then that you loved me. Tonight I was watching the film, Hachiko: A Dog's Story. The film is about the true story of a faithful dog who waited nine years for his dead owner. I thought of you my little brother. All those times we spent together. We had so much fun. Everyday I used to look forward to coming home. You made my day. You made me happy. And then you started getting sick. May be we did not take proper care of you. May be we could have done better.I still can't stop blaming myself for what happened to you. You improved but then got sicker. And I got irritated with you when you messed up the house. But it still did not occur to me that you would leave us, dear brother. How can I ever forgive myself for having been cruel to you? And that too when you needed me the most. I don't like watching dog stories any more. Coz they remind me of you. I never found pet tragedies fun to watch but now they pierce me even more. Remind me of how cruel and insensitive I was. Even that night when Ma began crying out aloud complaining that you were not moving, did I not imagine that this was your last movement. I still remember standing aside when the doctor came by, you with your soft furry head on Ma's lap. My mother was gently brushing aside your fur; tears softly flowed from her eyes. The doctor was sitting on our bed looking downwards. And I was looking at both of them. Getting prepared for the worst. How hard could it be? Yes you were a part of life and in some moments, you would be there no more.... No I'm sure something can be done, my alter ego shouted. For once in your life, be optimistic. Nothing will happen to him. My pessimism got hold of my timidity and warned me. Get prepared now, or else.. I just stood there silently. I called up your mother and father and waited silently by the dressing table. I could see Ma sitting on the floor, the doctor sitting on the bed. But I could not see you clearly. Just a part of your black body. Once or twice I advanced to see your face.... And then went back. May be it was better this way. No attachments. Really? I know how I masquerade as brave and tell my folks to move on in's been years. But I still cry for you at the dead of nights. I have not given up forming attachments like Ma has or given up eating Biriyani like my sister, I pride on myself at keeping a balance. Seriously? A Balance? How I kid myself! I still blame myself for shouting at you when you could not get up from the bathroom. I couldn't take uncleanliness. And you just looked at me. You didn't shout, or even make a noise. You just looked. And I was taken aback, by that stare. You knew then, didn't you? But I brushed it aside and shouted at you for dirtying yourself. I'm sorry my little brother, it never occurred to me that I should not shout. I did not know you were in so much pain. I neglected you. How could I? You were the best thing that ever happened to me. And I just neglected you. May be it's not so bad that you left me. May be I deserved it. And as I sit here at my table, writing this post, I remember those brown eyes of yours. You were with us for only two and a half years but during that time you showed me love, you showed me that I was capable of being loved and you loved me the way I was. And how did I pay you back? Take care my little angel, wherever you are. You were always so inquisitive. Remember the one time when I was sitting with my back towards your face pretending to do something interesting and that intrigued you so much that you quietly crept up to me and actually pulled my arms out, so you could get a glimpse of what I was doing? Tell me, how is that side of the world? My sister always said, that you were some angel, who may be, was here on earth to do some penance. And after your penance was complete, you had to leave, like all the other angels. I find it hard to disagree with her. How else could someone explain the astonishingly perfect handsome looks? I know girls would have always sighed for you, you were such a heartthrob. My little brother was perfect, he was the handsomest man I have ever seen. Take Care, Little Brother. I hope you rest in peace, wherever you are. 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Cruel Intentions

"Sorry, I have to go". He pulled himself out of her embrace. 

"Why? Why can't you stay here? We'll have... fun". Her eyes pleaded.

"No. You know I can't stay here. What happened has happened. But I can't do this any more. You know it's not right." His voice was determined.

"What do you mean?" Her voice became cold suddenly.

"I know what I mean." He measured his words carefully.

"Right...All you are all so typical! 10 years and it still doesn't count, does it?" Fierce intensity was choking her voice.

"I'm sorry. But I have to go." He turned towards the door.

She restrained. "C'mon..I was kidding." she called back smiling. "We have known each other for so long. Don't we deserve even a last toast?" 

He looked back. "This is over."

Ungrateful leech. They suck and then they leave as if it's all over.

"Have you ever thought what would happen if everybody came to know about us?" Her voice was cold, calculating. She was smiling. Her eyes were steel gray.

He looked in those opaque eyes. "Look, I am trying to start a new life..."

"Without me? Aww...My Best Friend, how could you think of leaving me? You don't love me any more." She made a sad face. "But, if you leave, then I have to tell them what you did....All those nights, all those sweet remember, my dearest brother?" she smiled sweetly.

He went pale. "Don't this..." His voice was shaking.

"Aww..look at how you are shaking. See you can't prove to people how much we love each other. They'd never understand. But you and I...we don't need anybody else. We have known each other since my mother and your father met. Best friends, weren't we? You promised. Brother and Sister, Two of a Kind. Turns out our bond is stronger than theirs, isn't it?" She winked.

She went up to him and put her hand on his heart. "Your heart is beating so loudly. Come to me, my dear brother, I will take away your pain.." She kissed him.

His eyes went cold. For the first time in years. Despair.

The next morning, his body was discovered from his bedroom. He had died of an overdose of a fatal alcohol drug combination. Police discovered that the drug was Xanax which was commonly used to treat anxiety and depression.

When they were taking the body out, she looked at him pitifully. "Too bad, we could have been friends. But if you are not with me," she smiled softly, "then you better not be."


I wake up on my bed. Everything is dark. I sit on my bed. It's hot. I sweat. Suddenly in the floor below I find something moving...I look down. Something slithery coils around, I try to look more clearly...A Snake?!! Here? How! I get astonished, scared. I look elsewhere, trying to find a way out. As my eyes get used to the darkness around, I see  more slimy wriggling creatures around. I am horrified. One of the creatures coil up around my bed post and try to come above. I jump out of the bed and land on the stark white marble floor. Two of the slimy creatures are moving around my feet. Small wriggly snakes. I run on to the adjacent dining room. More snakes there. S**t! I run and run but there is no place safe. No Place free of snakes. The streets are full of them. I am alone. Snakes all around me. I climb to the highest point in my room. But they find me there. They find me. I try to run. But one of the dark coils begins to roll up my sleeve, reaching my hand..... And then all is gone. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Barney Stinson, Chandler Bing and The Police Inspector: A Case of Social and Personal Rejection

I have recently developed an attachment towards How I Met Your Mother and The Simpsons. Robin and Barney are my particular favorites. While I can relate to Robin, Barney's character intrigues me. He is the epitome of hypocrisy; he engages in meaningless flings to complete his score card; he keeps on competing with himself and all for what? Nothing. Barney is probably the best character that shows the ennui, the loneliness and the anguish of modern life but not without a biting sense of humor. Particularly the narrator is also not sympathetic towards Barney's "exploits" or "conquests" as he terms them. 

Barney Stinson

He is rather cynical and this comes out in the form of biting sarcasm. However the narrator's friendship with Barney also leads us to seeing Stinson in a different light altogether. It just struck me while watching this show, how lonely a person can get even when he has the best suits, cars and riches that money can buy; a sense of anguish that even his friends cannot fulfill. When you compare this character to that of Joey of Friends, there is virtually no similarity. Joey was a much simpler guy, his comedy was much more down to earth as compared to the arrogant self obsession of Barney. 

I don't know why Barney Stinson has been compared to even Chandler! Frankly it escapes me. The kind of sarcasm as shown by Chandler and Barney are clearly of two different categories. Chandler showed his despair and frustration at the society through his sarcastic remarks. Barney on the other hand is a part of this very society. 

Chandler Bing

Chandler was a disgruntled office employee who criticizes about the shallowness of the corporate job everyday but never quite makes it out of the pond (except at the end when he quits his high paying job to become a junior copywriter). Barney is successful. It is very difficult to imagine Barney quitting the luxury of his life (and particularly his 'suits') for something more adventurous, more alternate! 

Barney has internalized the superficial hollow plasticity of society; it eats him up and he tries to break free of it by engaging in conquests which he thinks are acceptable by this very society. He doesn't take chances coz he fears rejection by society. He desperately holds on to the same mechanisms of society that eat him up. 

But my post is not about this. The concept of friendship struck me while I was watching a late night episode of The Simpsons. That's right, not How I Met Your Mother or even Friends; though I would say the friends are a much more harmonious combo in the latter. In the former, they seem all too busy with their own lives; much more estranged than they do in Friends. Anyways let me get back to this particular episode of The Simpsons before I digress further. 

Last night, they showed the story of a police inspector who had no friends and who is befriended by Homer. Homer likes this inspector but being the All American prototype that he is, he also does not fail to take advantage of this friend; the advantages being he wiping out his jail records completely from the police files. There is a shootout and the police inspector saves Homer while getting injured himself. We do not see if it really happens but when he wakes up, the police inspector finds Homer sitting right by his bed and saying that he has been there "the whole time". 

Homer Simpson
He does not hesitate to insult his subordinate who was waiting for him the whole time and had just come with a bouquet saying that he did not care about him. So anyway Homer gets bored and leaves. And later the inspector catches him saying what a "needy clingy" bore he was. This complicates situations but in the end everything is resolved and Homer and the inspector resume their friendship and as a guard puts it, "their friendship is like a flame now, it lacks the fireworks but it is more stable". This got me thinking. 

Is this a phase through which all friendships go? I particularly know a friend who is a lot like the inspector; needy, demanding, possessive, clingy at times. I am sure a lot of her friends might have behaved like Homer. "Needy clingy" people have been beautiful critiqued by Western comedy series as well as films before. It seems as if the dominant trait in Western popular culture is to make fun of anything and everything; from Justin Bieber to Barack Obama. 

The inspector is too blind to see people who care for him (refer: his subordinate who waited for him at the hospital the whole time while he got shot). On the other hand, Barney Stinson's ennui cannot be filled by even his most caring friend, Ted Mosby. Barney refuses to be needy, he channelizes his frustration through wanton sex and being arrogant to people. The police inspector channelizes his insecurity and egotism by blatant show of power; harassing his subordinates as well as the common people. How many of us have a dormant Inspector or Barney among us? Why is it so bad to be needy, to want somebody to care for you, even if it is just a friend? And who gives people the right to mock these "needy" people?

All in good humor, they say. Well I would like to know who actually laugh at these wisecracks. And how "strongly liberated" those viewers are. It is funny for a while but not always. Rejection might seem terrible to some. There is nothing to be ashamed of that. Everyone has flaws. Surely the fear of being rejected by a friend is an unreasonable one, surely you can't expect everyone to like you all the time or do exactly as you wish, but if it exists, it exists. Mocking these "needy souls" who only "act out as victims" won't help. Coz sometimes it might just be real.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Last Kiss


It was the onset of my last semester exam. I had just returned from a trip to the mountains. A friend studying in film school messaged me saying that she wanted me to play the lead in her next film. Ami Toh Sunei Attohara ('Listening to this I was overjoyed'). I held my breath steadily for the rest of the exam. What fun! Me acting in a movie! Wow..That had been a dream, since like a decade! I have always wanted to direct movies. The creative potential of the director always intrigued me. It also occurred to me that if I could not be the director, then at least I could be an actor, as then I would be able to actually act it out...So I waited. With patience. 

I asked my friend twice about the script and she said she would work on it as soon as she was finished with the heavier stuff. So I waited. With Bated Breath. After that, the time came. My friend met me one day to narrate to me the script of the movie. I listened quietly. The role was so intense that I could not say anything immediately. Just my kind of role; the kind I would love to do. And thus began our work.

We sat with the script one day. Another evening, I spent around 2 hours in the university acting out my role and discussing with her. One Saturday several still shots were taken. Further discussion was made with my co star. And shooting began from Monday. It was scheduled to happen for only two days, that is, Monday and Tuesday (Jan 10 and 11, 2011). Call Time was 6 am. :D Big Laugh. For any of the ones who know me, this is a big joke! I CANNOT ever get up early in the morning. 

As a matter of fact I am always late for my morning classes! My friend, the director knew this very well. So she chose to call me at 5:20 am! I opened my eyes, saw the phone ringing and strove to pick it up. But the ringing had stopped. And I chose to concentrate on the next best thing- trying to wake my mother up with whatever little sense I had so that she would in turn wake me up properly! (Yes I can be a very spoilt child st times. :|)

My Director called me up 20 times after that. I did not pick up the phone. Mostly coz of the fact that I was busy getting ready for the shoot and partly because I was scared she would shout at me. I said I would be at the shooting spot by 7:30 am. I was only 15 minutes late, which is acceptable by me. My Director knowing me inside out told me very directly, "Call Time is at 6 am. When will you be able to come?" I almost burst out laughing. So anyways I went on the shooting spot and soon I discovered that I was being treated like a star...It was amazing. 

Here I was sitting in the sun giving some expressions and there were bright young people with camera, sound and a bunch of other technical stuff who were doing a whole lot of physical and mental labor and I was the Star! I also discovered that even if there are two scenes in a movie, all those scenes have at least 50 shots which makes it all the more painstaking. I might be doing the same action over and over again but they take it from at least 5 different camera angles. Combine this with the sound systems and the technical snags that happen and film making is one hell of a project! I vowed that I will not act in movies ever after this project! Needless to say though, it was tremendous fun. Got to know a lot, see a lot.

The first day came to a halt. Ah finally. Sweet Bliss. I asked my Director friend when will it GET OVER? She smiled. She knew that one day of shooting was enough for me. 

The Second Day.

We prepared for a tough shoot. The final shots of the climactic scene had to be shot today. This was shot in the highest point of the college building. The Roof. It might sound very simple but it was not. We had to climb the stairs to a terrace of the main building. From their we took spiral steps only to come to a roof on an even elevated level. To reach that roof, one had to traverse through a couple of narrow cemented steps that did not have any railing. getting up was fine; it was coming down that made my heart skip a beat. Literally. So from that roof we had to go round till we came to a ladder- well not really ladder as it had a strong iron railing to go get up to the roof where the finale was shot. 

The roof was similar to the one in 3 Idiots, though the shots and frame are different in this movie. The director lost her cool and so did I during this part of the shooting. The only two people keeping their cool were my co-star and our cinematographer. My esteemed director became frustrated and threw away her notes and shot synopsis. The crew was scared to death of her. The rest of the shots progressed as they should, lots of edgy interactions between me and my friend. By the end of the shoot, I was extremely irritated and she was completely exhausted. And thus ended our extremely eventful shoot. :P 

Waiting to see the Final Print Out. 


Times change. People change. Memories Fade. But some memories..never fade. Or do they? You are traveling light heartedly engrossed in thought. Suddenly you see something. A newly built café. Quaint. Reminds you of a time lost, a memory forgotten. Another Restaurant. Heavy rain. Festive Season. You with a dear one. Little hands holding on to firm premature hands. Premature by hardship. Premature by struggle. You are seeing the world with big frightened eyes; feeling security in those firm hands. Firm young hands. Firm not by age but by overwork. The two of you enter that big restaurant. Both are extremely hungry. Greedily the menu card is opened. Dishes you don’t even know the names of. Sooo many…and they all seem so tasty. One dish. But..the price…. Okk another dish. This one costs less. But there is money only for one. How can you buy one plate of vegetable curry in such a posh restaurant? No money to order two plates. Quietly the two of you close the menu card, grin at each other at the idiocy of the prices and hold hands. Quietly the two of you step outside the restaurant in the blistering rain. The manager looks up from his newspaper. He takes a look at the departing strangers and goes back to reading.

Outside. In the Blistering Rain. The grins broaden. Wholehearted laugh. He saw us. Hehe. He didn’t say anything. What would he think? Goodness, to hell with that! Who charges soo much? We could have ordered at least something doesn’t it look bad? The premature voice of the firm hands comforts the little hands. Dhurr… Who cares? Let’s go find something to eat. Onekkhon khidey peyeche….

Times change. People… yes People also change. Sadly. But memories …do they fade that easily? You are ordering Biriyani from a posh restaurant. You keep the phone down and smile. The premature eyes have become more deeply set now. The eyes look at you and both smile instantly. Remember? Yes I do. How can I forget? Times change. But our roots don’t. Our roots make us who we are.

The bus. The quaint café. Sigh. Days of hardship are over. At least for now. But where are the premature eyes, the firm hands? The hands on which your whole world rested? The eyes were wide and bright. The firm hands had long shapely fingers. Where are they now?
Past. Togetherness. Love. Bond.
Present. Freedom. Alienation. Memory?

The bus speeds on. You look away and continue listening to music. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Touch- The Second Coming

All was forgiven and forgotten. Now as he stood near her with loving gaze, she realized how much she had loved him, missed him. The room was dark. Scattered rays of sun came through the only window in the room. She was standing next to it. He was standing behind her. Suddenly he touched her hand. She shivered. His contact with her. The first time. She closed her eyes. He was with her. She could feel his smile on her face. His sweet smile. The one that had made her heart go awry. She could feel him closer. His breath fell heavily on her neck. The soft neck. Slowly she felt a kiss on the neck. A soft kiss. She trembled. She couldn't believe he was kissing her. All that time, the first time, when he had hurt her, rejected her love, all was gone. He was with her now. Forever. She smiled.

She took his hand and kissed. She didn't want him to leave. Ever. She opened her eyes, looked at his hand, kissed it again. He slowly turned her towards him. She looked up at him. He was smiling."I..I can't believe you are back."

"Back..When did I leave?" He spoke in his honey sweet voice.

"I hated me. I can't believe that you are with" She mumbled. Expressing herself had always been difficult.

"Shhh.." He pulled her closer to him. "I never hated you. But yes, I do think you are stubborn, crazy and basically..just plain weird." He gave her a naughty wink.

"Oh really?" Now the twinkle was in her eyes. "So what are you doing with me, Mr. Smartass? "

"Actually I did not want you to go any crazier than you already are.." There was that smile again, spreading to his dreamy eyes. The eyes that made her heart jump. The eyes that she couldn't take her gaze off.

Once she had kept on looking at them even though she was aware that he had noticed. It was a gathering, they were playing a game. And in the midst of all the crowd, she had simply kept on staring at his eyes. Those kind eyes. It had taken a harmless question on his part to make her stare away. They were playing Antakshari, a game where the opposite team had to sing with the last vowel of the song by the team.

They were in opposite teams. And throughout a particular song, she had kept on staring at him. All were singing. He had noticed her, but she kept on gazing at him. So when the song ended, he asked her what vowel should they sing with, just to check whether she was intently playing the game or lost somewhere. She being ever vigilant, quickly replied.

All that time he had defended her against a minor taunting question by a classmate echoed through her. She couldn't believe he really was with her. She had forgotten about him. Especially after she had seen him with that friend. She had run out of the college crying. That girl had taunted her so many times. But now...he was with her? Enough. She didn't want to remember the past. It was too hurting, too scary. What mattered was the present. And he.

He pulled her closer to himself. He was warm. She grasped him tightly. Her nails pierced his shirt. He winced.

"Goodness you are wild", he said naughtily.

"Oh sorry." She pulled away embarrassed.

"And yes..stop apologizing all the time." He said with a twinkle in his eye and pulled her closer to himself again.

She looked at him with big brown eyes. He was optimistic. He always helped people even if they were not his close friends. His kindness, his sensitivity had attracted her and she had respected him. Till that day. That day which had sent her running and crying off. Since that incident she had tried hard to forget him. And she had. Until now. Until this day when he held her in his warm comforting embrace.

He looked at her longingly. Then he slowly bent his face down, his lips coming closer to hers...

And then all was dark.

"Wake up!!" The sound of her mother's shrill voice broke her dream. "Don't you have class today?"

"Huh?" Her vision was still clouded by his eyes, his whole being, his check shirt, his warm embrace. " I won't go to class today." Have to write something, she thought; a smile spread across her lips. And she went back to her dreams.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Who Killed Jessica?

Even before the film No One Killed Jessica released, I had huge expectations from the movie. Rani looked smashing and the promos were hot! I was dying to watch the movie even though I had heard mixed reviews since its release. So tonight I went to watch the film. The film begins with a bang, with a voice-over from Rani and the song "Dilli Dilli...". As expected the audience sit tight with unfurled enthusiasm waiting for something to happen. The camera moves over to a scene where Vidya Balan is introduced and soon we see the ill famed night of the party when Jessica Lall was killed.

Myra Karn puts up a very believable Jessica; her charm, light heartedness and chirpiness makes Jessica come alive on the screen and the audience feels an extended empathy towards the victim. Dialogues are hard hitting. Vidya's dialogues, "Kya kisiki janki kimat itni kam hain humari country mein?" and "Is the life of a person cheaper than a glass of wine?" make viewers sit up and think. But then something happens to Raj Kumar Gupta.

The intensity with which the movie began is lost somewhere. Surely the director had to keep pace with the patient determination of Sabrina Lall, but can this account for an extremely slow 1st half? Throughout the first half, we see Vidya coaxing and trying to encourage the witnesses to speak the truth but nothing really comes out of it. I think the first half could have been shorter if not speedier.

Now comes the 2nd half. This is where Rani enters. When you find fast paced scenes throughout the promos with Rani everywhere, you have an expectation that she will be arriving very soon in the movie. However it is only in the second half that Rani comes in. Most of her scenes which have been shown in the promo are present in this half. The movie begins to pick up pace. But there is a certain amount of detachment. We never see the witnesses actually being threatened; we hear from different sources. The directness of the action is therefore made blunt.

It could have been a better movie; a much better one; a more sensational one. Of course Rani does what she has come to do, she catches the "witnesses gone bad" and turns the tables around. She makes the higher heads turn back to the case. She generates a country wide protest. But all of this appears very cosmetic. The intensity of the promos is lost in the film. A movie like this also deserved a better ending. But the one who stands in the midst of all this is Sabrina Lall, played by Vidya Balan.

Right from the beginning, Vidya shocks you. You are taken in by her integrity, quiet determination and absolute shunning of a glamorous lifestyle. With the same patience she visits each of the witnesses and encourages them to speak the truth. She even helps out a witness monetarily, not as a bribe but as a means of helping out the "poor fellow" even though she is short of money.

The shots where she sits alone in a chair gazing vacantly into space when the trial does not proceed according to her hopes are excellent. One finds her very focussed in the beginning of the film, determined that she would punish her sister's murderer. However this determination slowly fades away when the murderer gets away scot-free. Since then one finds her wandering across the populated streets of New Delhi with the same vacant expression on her face.

She nearly collides with an elephant and that incident brings her back to her senses. Never have I seen more understated acting! Absolutely brilliant and sexy. What subtlety, What charm! Her mother passes away, her father is taken ill. Sabrina loses hope until Mira (Rani Mukherjee) confronts her at her home. Throughout this time, Vidya's acting is wonderful. Even if you have gone to the movie hall to see Rani (like me), you cannot help but notice the heights to which this Tamil actor has raised acting.

All in all, No One Killed Jessica is a one time watchable. It however is a MUST one-time watch. The characters are highly developed. Mira, Sabrina and Jessica shine individually with their own character merits. Even though Myra Karn does not have much of screen time, she fully utilizes what little is given to her. I wish Rani had been given more of screen time but ah well, Rani does a bombastic job of whatever screen time she has. The plot of the movie could have been probably better especially when Raj Kumar Gupta was working with one of the most high profile cases of modern India. He definitely could have done a better job; since he had great content.

A discussion of the movie would be incomplete without a mention of Amit Trivedi's music. I could go on and on about his sensational numbers. "Dilli..Dilli.." especially hits the right note and it is a pity that the director could not keep up the pace of the movie with that of this number. But even after all things have been said, I strongly recommend everyone to watch the movie.

While lots can be said about what the director could have done, it would be unfair not to mention what he has done: shown the courage and grit to work with a content like the Jessica Lall Murder Case, even though he knew that his work would spark criticism. Fictionalizing a real life incident is always a bit of work, since you always have a lot of critics who are going to compare the fiction with the real incident. Gupta has done the best he could. If you are searching for the hard hitting documentary style action that Aamir had, you will be disappointed. However the movie sticks to a much more concentrated style of events and action than the recent Hindi movies have shown.

My bet: Go watch this movie. If not for the raciness then definitely for a one-of-a-kind film based on a social cause.

P.S: The Jessica Lall Murder case was one of the most high profile cases of modern India that went over for more than 10 years. The prime accused, Manu Sharma was finally sentenced to life imprisonment on 19 April, 2010. Films like this one make you come face to face with reality. I remember I was so in despair during the initial trial that I stopped watching news. However there is no denying the fact that the Jessica Lall murder case got a lot of media attention which the less unfortunate cases like those of Satyendra Dubey have not got. Remember him?

The thirty year old bright engineer who had to pay with his life for exposing corruption in the prestigious Golden Quadrilateral Project by the NHAI in 2003. He had sent a letter to the PM's Office discussing the nature of corruption in the project in Gaya, Bihar and had at the same time requested secrecy and protection. The highly efficient PM Office managed to leak this letter to the Bihar Mafia and the honest government engineer had to pay with his life. The case was disposed of by the Patna Court on 22 March 2010 by stating that Dubey was a victim to a simple burglary. The prime accused escaped and the major witnesses died or disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Will we ever find out Who Killed Satyendra Dubey?