Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The highlight of the last three years or so of Hindi popular cinema is that power ‘seems’ to have returned to where it belongs the most – the audience ; probably an effect of the greater control that the audience seems to have in choosing films to watch.
Completed but yet unreleased films found their space in cinema halls, independent practitioners entered the film making arena from multiple training grounds and of course brought with them a greater diversity in the stories our mainstream films tell – at least when compared to the last two decades or so!
There is now a greater connectivity and interaction between the film-making community and the audiences.
Even a platform such as this website, run purely on the passion of the audience where practitioners themselves choose to communicate with their audiences underlines this fact.
Of course a lot of this change has to do with the broadening of the communications’ spectrum – where cinema competes with other forms of communication technology, there’s a greater transparency in movie making and myth making processes. In fact when audiences themselves have greater access to technology to create their own myths – through the internet, and television programming – in this multimedia world, maintaining cinematic audiences, perhaps is also a challenge.
Writing on this website has coincided with the years that I chose to spend being on the side of the audience.
In my opinion, an active audience such as the one that seems to blog here, is already a part of film-making, active – (in ways beyond contributing to box-office returns!) in terms of actively choosing films to watch, gaining from them in terms of emotional experience or reacting to the story – by patronizing it or outright rejecting.
It is often quoted of these last few years, that the parallel is now the mainstream.
If this really is a ‘change’ – one repercussion of this change also seems to be that it has absolved the storyteller from any responsibility in terms of presenting any clearly-defined ending to their characters’ stories, not promise to direct the course of their characters’ lives but represent portions of stories even if taken from ‘reality’.
A mainstream film is no longer expected to compulsorily take the responsibility of presenting any moral code or value system, or guidance on ‘how to live’, or what ‘should be’ but also work like a mirror representing ‘what is’ ‘this happens’ ‘this is reality – whether good or bad’.
Of course, whether a filmmaker chooses to be a film maker looking for personal creative expression or a storyteller who takes responsibility of communicating through cinema or both – is also just that – a question of choice.
The onus therefore is on the audience to choose what film to watch and what they wish to take from it or what they choose to reject, the audience now decides for themselves.
More power to the audience then, that they continue to make their choices and hopefully choose to support stories that represent diversity – of culture as well as of opinion.
This is my closing blog on PFC as audience – a personalized, opinionated rant – quite the luxury of no one but the ‘audience’.
Best Wishes


Irfan Kamal’s “Thanks Maa” releases tomorrow, 5th March. Simply put, It’s a Must watch for it’s effort and more for it’s storytelling.
It’s back to the streets of Mumbai but this film was made way before Slumdog Millionaire. I am sure it was, it’s an original story. So, why would it take so long for a release? or is it that it had to actually take a Slumdog Millionaire to succeed internationally for this film to be noticed at home? Anyway, at least it’s here and that’s a good sign.
‘Municipality’ (portrayed brilliantly by Shams) who leads the film is quite a hero, more heroic than any mainstream one lately!
And his group of friends - Soda, Sursuri, Cutting and Dhed Shaana add a lot to the energy as do all other actors who find fine characters to portray.
Most of all Thanks Maa offers the promise of a ‘story’. Here’s a twelve year old child on the streets of Mumbai who comes across an abandoned baby and takes up the responsibility of taking that baby to it’s mother. This ‘high concept’ itself is the promise of a journey and it is quite a journey led by the sheer determination and intelligence of our hero Muncipality. On this journey, he meets several characters – their own stories unravel.
Thanks Maa stays true to it’s nature of being an ‘issue based film’ – it takes up the cause of children abandoned, but remains engaging throughout in it’s scenes and characters, never preachy, more ‘show’ than tell – that is quite an achievement of the screenplay. (Irfan Kamal, Vishal Vijay Kumar)
While the film begins by showing us the world of the children – realistic, engaging, the second half has Municipality and the baby finding their way through challenges and dangers, through noisy places (a very literal and brilliantly shown sea of humanity during Ganpati Visarjan) and silent ones.
If I give away the scenes I liked, i’d be giving out spoilers. Watch it, you are assured of scenes that have a twist to them.
As audience, I could have done without some of the music underlining the emotion, because Municipality and his friends do such a brilliant job at emoting anyway.
For those who live in Mumbai and know that Mumbai is as much of trains and streets as its of apartments and cars, it’s one of the films that you watch and when you step out of the theatre it is heartening to know the Mumbai you found on the screen is the same as the one you just stepped into reality.
If at all this film preaches anything at all, it preaches ‘compassion’.
It’s been heartening to spot posters around, if only now there would be enough of spreading the word, to make sure that this release doesn’t go unnoticed in the noisy media.
Please do watch this film.


Persona: a term in Jungian psychology which defines the nature of your personality as the world sees it.
The Amitabh Bachchan persona – A celebrated image of success and achievement in India. (contentious?)
This post is dedicated to the Persona of Amitabh Bachchan and it’s taken me about a decade to choose to write this, but here it is in whatever form.
(This is purely a personal rant/opinion piece and corrections et al of factual inaccuracies are welcome)
Indian cinema has known personas (Guru Dutt’s Vijay, to Raj Kapoor’s Raju, Amitabh Bachchan’s Vijay, Shah Rukh Khan’s Raj) but that ‘Amitabh Bachchan’ is the greatest Indian event in Indian popular culture itself is a different story. Any doubts about that?
I don’t want to know the person behind the image, what I do know is the image itself, that has communicated itself quite effectively through generations.
What I do know is that he has made some sort of effort to maintain communication with those who genuinely want to own that image – online fan groups that have been active for more than a decade now would certify this.
As a young media student I chose to incorporate Mr Bachchan’s name in a college project about the most ‘influential’ icons of the millennium gone by. It was debatable and purely on instinct.
But in the decade that just passed, it would become somewhat clear that it wasn’t any wrong decision after all, for usually, a truthful instinct carries with it depth of unexplored thought.
Writing this, I am trying not to fashion this as a fan girl ode but to make sense of what place does his image have in our Indian lives after all.
Till about that time, at the turn of the millennium, I thought that everyone in this country wanted to be Amitabh Bachchan – most loved, most admired, most successful, and I couldn’t understand why anyone would aspire to be someone else. Till then I had experienced a limited world and his films and presence on television were very important and inspiring – nothing unusual about that.
In news reports they often equate Amitabh Bachchan’s presence with his ‘persona’.
Amitabh Bachchan makes good ‘copy’ for news. There are news reports of court cases about him, people who challenge him, incite him to react and then the issue settles down. Every Indian seems to own that image.
It seems that once in a while, someone from his audience who feels an ownership towards his iconic status, challenges him to a fight and there he is back in the game of standing up to his actions.
Why don’t they let him be! He is an actor after all, not bound by any official office or seat of authority.
To me, his persona comes across as an actor with intelligence in his craft and humility in his superstardom and of a hard working professional who abides by ‘Indian middle class values’ consistently(if anything like that exists). He dotes on his family, respects his parents, pays his taxes, exercises his right to freedom of expression as a citizen and is fiercely protective of his private space. His actions are meant to be politically correct. When they are not he comes back to defend them, not with antagonism but with humility.
The irony is that even as he fights for his private space he comes back to the public space to do this, often burdened with explaining his choices, his business deals, his family routine, his choice of films and characters, the people he chooses to befriend, his personality itself, with no real promise of offering a peek into the life of the ‘real’ man behind the revered persona but just doing what is his chosen job. Even if that chosen job comes across as one to maintain the celebrated image of a dedicated actor with leading potential!
With his television exposure that coincided with the electronic media explosion in India, probably now, the man and image are finally one! Maybe, a classic example of the blurring of boundaries between the Image and reality within Indian popular culture.
The values of professionalism, his image embodies aren’t unique to him; how many of us actually track the work schedules of dedicated teachers, doctors, other service professionals but yet his values are visible, perhaps the most visible and therefore his ambition distinguished and that these values reached an ordinary middle class or lower middle class home to children with ambition in their nature and stars in their eyes.
Maybe, he really does have something in common with ‘Auro’ – being the child at heart that an actor ought to be – in his case, that child lovable and surrounded by a lot of love, clever, and pretty accommodative.
The child of literary parents, a child of mixed culture and religion, a child of the idea of ‘One India’, one who seems to do what he chooses, does it well, with responsibility, without antagonism towards any and does it forever with somewhat nationalistic fervour; an individual who seems to, at least now, incorporate in his personality the forces that make him one.
He admits in one of his latest blogs about his acting work, “I prepare. I Peform, I push-off” Nothing wrong with that. Time maximized. A job well done! An actor’s prerogative, if not the luxury to maintain responsibility towards one’s self and one’s work, and now with the Blog, master of your own Interview in a way 
Of course an actor is also as good as the work that he chooses or gets to be part of.
Notwithstanding Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s contribution to his personality, what followed next was perhaps inexplicable at the time. Did Salim-Javed scripts create the Amitabh Bachchan of the 70s or did the latter endorse the right choices? Maybe, they happened together, born out of similar angst!
Salim Javed scripts finally seem to be revisited for their rightful contribution in creating the angsty ‘Vijay’ and in turn scriptwriting itself seems to be once again reclaiming its lost space in the Hindi film industry.
It could well be, that a part of the industry after his super success tried searching for the ‘formula’ of his success and spent several years writing bad scripts and making bad films instead!
But, Amitabh Bachchan, the myth, continues to live upto his own ambition, when failing, failing badly in his choice of work, but not giving up the fight.
His films (read risks) fail – Boom, Aag, Eklavya – but he can’t give up, bcause he must come back until … success, for that is the responsibility we seem to have given to his ‘persona’.
Success and ambition – the two metaphors that drive his persona are also the metaphors which largely drive the business of movie making as well.
Voyeurs still revel in making personal observations about this actor (take the example of this write up itself) and yet cannot answer why is it that we are concerned about what he does is morally right or wrong, why are we bothered at all or why is it a given fact that everything that Amitabh Bachchan does has to make news.
When troublesome news crops up, he reacts and defends himself in all seriousness. He fights back and someone out there seems to keep waiting for his answer. So his persona eventually lives through the farming case, the income tax issues, issues of faith and political involvement.
What I sense is that, everyone in this country wants a bit of ‘Amitabh Bachchan’ in their lives, whether they admit it or not – that, usually unfulfilled desire to be an individual and live out their own ambition. They challenge him, because they know he would answer them, fight back, because he is after all Vijay, the hero who fights back? And thanks to that, they’d get their bit of newsprint too (or sound-byte).
Maybe, in our country, where individual ambition is still regarded the greatest challenge, his image – undoubtedly the most powerful ‘image’ of popular culture in India is one that has been consistently successful and for that – love him or hate him, acknowledge that we need a little bit of ‘Amitabh Bachchan’ in our lives.
Those who claim they don’t, probably already have. 

In Mumbai, In India and around the world, we are shocked, confused and some of us shattered, of course. But, maybe this ignorance will unite us to search for an answer until we escape into our safer zones. Maybe that is what the terrorist wanted, for us to understand his side of the story.

At this moment I have no feeling of shock, fear or hatred, all I know is that I am deeply, terribly pained.
The terrorism story has been haunting me for the last eight or nine years. Who are the characters of the story that keep reappearing every time we are jostled by a terror attack ¦
The Policeman “ the officer, the ground police, the commando, the army, who is expected to save us, protect us because he has chosen to do this, even though he may be paid pittance in return. His choice to be in the Security is reason enough for us to hold him responsible for our safety. Sometimes, when he can’t keep up with the expectations or out of sheer ignorance and disinterest in his work, he crosses the line too.
I feel for him and his family that supports him.
The professionals - who made their choices early on, became doctors, journalists, who know they want to make a difference then and there as soon as a crisis occurs. Of course if they don’t believe in the real purpose of their job, they are severely criticized.
The ignorant Politician  who is virtually out of touch with reality, lost in his own fool’s paradise; who feels plastering the city with billboards of martyred officers, taking a courtesy round around hospitals, being visible at funerals and his job is done. He took over from the British officers after all or blindly pursued his ambition to get a seat of power, he deserves to be treated like a reigning monarch himself.
The victims who have by now made peace with fear, who by now have no choice but to be prepared for anything to happen anywhere at any time¦
And of course there is the Terrorist who hits out at the raw nerve of our ignorance, leaving the sensitive miserable.
The survivors at the JJ government hospital in Mumbai tell me he was a good looking young man, dressed like any urban youngster and firing ruthlessly, mercilessly, firing at women, children with no hint of emotion on his face. In the same breath, they confess they can̢۪t understand why he would do this, so animal like.
And so our ignorance hurts most when we want to know The terrorist and look for answers, only because he chose to hurt Us. We go back to what we know about characters who picked up the gun or could have …
Gulzar tells us in Maachis that he is a pained, troubled man, who once is trapped is trapped forever. (Kirpal Singh Paliâ /Chandrachur Singh)
Nishikant Kamat tells us in Mumbai Meri Jaan, he could well be an ordinary man who is unfulfilled and forcibly excluded from the shimmering world that hurts him. (Thomas/Irfaan Khan)
Anurag Kashyap tells us through Black Friday, he is a man so lost, so ignorant, so gullible, that he has left with nothing but to save face after committing his crime.(Badshah Khan/Aditya Srivastava)
Subhash Ghai tells us in Black and White he is a loveless man who has not had the chance to know what life is. (Junaid/Anurag Sinha)
Rahul Dholakia’s upcoming Lamhaa, set in Kashmir, might offer an answer too.
But now we are left to decipher the reality drama that has been playing on our Television screens since Nov 26, 2008.
The face of terrorism today is Azam Amir Kasav alias Ajmal Kasab, 21, Faridkot, Punjab, Pakistan.
Some reports mention he is from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir/Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Even if he isn’t that is where he was trained.
Where on the globe is Azad Kashmir where our terrorist was manufactured?
It’s the same place that was once a part of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir in 1947. Where, in 1947 soon after India’s partition, the newly formed Pakistan army, sponsored Afghani and North Western Frontier profince tribal raiders to massacre the Hindu population in an attempt to take over Kashmir by force.
It’s the same place and time where my grandfather was shot dead in front of my father’s eyes. My father grew up motivated to join and serve the Indian army for 30 years.

It’s the same Azad Kashmir which after the United Nations intervened ceasefire of India and Pakistan’s first war (1947-1949) divided from the rest of Kashmir through the Line of Control, lived as a warped zone that in decades to follow became a flourishing terrorism industry, where even our ancestral house was first a military bunker and then became a terrorist hideout.
It is also the same Azad Kashmir that was in 2005 furiously ravaged in an earthquake, where an uncle who survived told me, it suffered damage many times more severe than the 1947 attack.
But, this is also the AJK where men and women live, children are born, adolescents crave to see the world, create online groups on and scream to say that they want to live. I am not surprised Azam/Ajab – our terrorist said the same after being caught alive.
But then, why does he come all the way to kill someone he doesn’t know, maybe that is precisely why. Maybe, he is an ambitious man himself hurt by his own agony and ignorance and to motivate him to strike at what to him is the ambitious face of a country he is not a part of was just waiting to happen.
And of course there are the Motivators, who I don’t know much about at this stage. For that, I look out for content like Khuda ke Liye and perspectives from like minded friends from Pakistan.
I also steer clear from the protectors of Hindutva at this stage, who most likely are right now planning their next move. They have to be dealt with separately and strongly.
My friend from Kashmir, recommends I read Curfewed Night by Basharat Peer. I just started reading and even the first few pages leave me gripped. Here’s finally a voice that speaks out vividly for the generation that has grown up in the war torn Kashmir of the 1990s. I now understand when my friend says that it is sad to know what happened to Mumbai but people do live like that everyday in Kashmir and of course in the North East.
Today, I only hope our ignorance doesn’t stop us from taking a step towards constructive action even if it might be hearing out those who have suffered a personal loss in this tragedy and fulfilling any small need that they might have.
In the same spirit let us not deride the power of uniting and collecting in candle light vigils, prayer meetings and on online groups but without the motivation to take constructive action that too would be futile.
I am sorry to say but we live in times when we can’t afford to be ruthlessly ambitious about personal desires, we need to step back and be more sensitive. There are too many people out there watching us and getting hurt.
In these troubled times I remember Rabindranath Tagore:
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action–
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
All my love and praying for our strength
Smriti vij

December 8, 2008 at 11:52 pm
Now that some time has passed since i wrote this and by now Azam Amir Kasav’s story thanks to the
interrogation of the mumbai police is being told through news reports. Through him the police want to reach out to the ‘root cause’. Through American (read ecomomic pressure} Pakistani leadership has been forced to take action. They have raided the LeT camp and caught the Lashkar commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi or so they say, and the scene of action as expected is Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.
American security of course have their eyes on the terror factories and maybe its just a
matter of time for a full fledged crackdown, war – if what we’re living through is no
less. More bloodshed, more displacement, maybe not into India the way our family came to
build a life from scratch with no government compensation whatsoever but this time into
Pakistan. i don’t know.
The Solutions
Of course, we need answers, thats the point. And if no one gives me the answer what i can i do, right? well, I am no God to answer your questions, i am just an ordinary citizen who
wants answers too but then aren’t we all?
what I can tell you is what I feel because at this stage in life that is the most honest answer I can give.
Of course we need an ‘overhaul of polity’ but we need to give space to all kinds of approach..just like the indian freedom struggle had several heroes with different approaches.. Gandhi, Bhagat Singh, Bose – were all diferent people and each fought their own battles their way.
The end of violence is More violence.
To me it is clear that the terrorist caught has to Die. Anyone who kills other than for self defence has to die. In his case, there is too much clear evidence against him for a ‘fair trial’. The interrogators are doing their job.
The Police forces/Security forces – another overhaul here. We depend on these individuals
for our security and more often than not they are taken for granted.
Did you read that report about faulty bulletproof jackets :
Another Overhaul. I want someone like Kiran Bedi to be given charge again, to be taken seriously. To train, administer and of course control excesses. sounds fancy in words but this is what i want. don’t u ?
But more than anything I want our generation at least to be sympathetic towards the innocent and not spread more hate.
Isn’t that the purpose of a police force, judicial system to protect the innocent,
Otherwise instead of spewing your hate on blogs you would pick up the gun, take the law in your own hands, kill and then die your own death.
Now i’ll tell you why i wrote the blog.
I wrote this for the innocent caught in the crossfire of Hate. For someone who may have nothing to do with the PoK but is Kashmiri, for someone who may have nothing to do with Kashmir but is Indian with roots there. For someone who is Muslim in India but not Kashmiri. For someone
who might have happened to study in a Madrassa in India and had a genuine well meaning true
teacher. And for that teacher. For every innocent who will be looked at with hate and fear because of someone else’s ignorance.
I wrote this here, not as a bleeding heart enquiry but to share knowledge especially when I watched the news with a group of 20 something working women in mumbai and they asked about
Pakistan occupied Kashmir, they thought all of Kashmir is PoK! Well this is what we get
when history is suppressed, people like us left explaning that we are not refugees from the
Punjab partition and that India and Pakistan fought their first war in 1947!
And obviously to the ignorant I would seem a person living in a parallel world…just turn
the mirror towards yourself and god will tell you who lives in a parallel fake world after
I also wrote this, because in times like these when you don’t know who your enemy is emotions of fear and hate abound.
I Know, because i met those who survived and heard their stories.
I wrote this because if anyone reading this wants to vent out their hate and anger, they could do it here.
And of course, I wrote this for myself because no one else would write it for me. and I
thank you for taking the time to comment.
I am closing discussion from my side on this topic unless something compels me to continue,
right now i need to get back to work and earn the money that allows me to access the
internet…you know like some people say, THE REAL WORLD!

I was looking forward to watching ‘Jashn-e-Azaadi’, the documentary by Sanjay Kak at Prithvi on the 30th and i get this email today:
“Dear Friends, We write to bring to your notice yet another violation of the freedom of expression in India. On Friday, 27 July 2007, a posse of policemen attached to the Dadar police station in Bombay broke into a private screening of Sanjay Kak’s documentary, ‘Jashn-e-Azaadi’, and confiscated the DVD. The screening, which was hosted by the Vikalp group of independent filmmakers, was intended to bring to a Bombay audience an eloquent cinematic argument for dialogue beyond anguish and antagonism; for an understanding of the ‘Kashmir issue’ in human and cultural terms. Kak’s ‘Jashn-e-Azaadi’ dwells on the experience of the Kashmiri people during the protracted period of strife they have suffered — with equal elements of militancy, State repression, criminal violence, and a struggle for self-articulation. According to the Bombay police, it contains “scenes of a provocative nature”. To disrupt the screening of such a documentary is only to re-enact the brutality that has become the tragic norm in the Valley. We strongly deplore this violation of the right of Indian citizens to examine, express and discuss questions of great public importance, without falling in line with the official view on these questions. Such high-handedness cuts at the very root of democracy. Please forward this email to all. Ranjit Hoskote Hon. Secretary-Treasurer THE PEN ALL-INDIA CENTRE Drishti Media,Arts & Human Rights Ahmedabad.”
Happy Independence day!
I hope they still go ahead with the next screening on July 30, 2007 (Mon) – 7 pm
Vikalp: Films for Freedom @ Prithvi House, Juhu and those in Mumbai can be there.
More about the film on: