Changes… changes..

Better late than never!!

Even as I type the heading for this blog, my body shudders! Quite literally!

How often have you wondered about the direction your life is taking? The decisions we make, the paths we choose?! No matter how much we feel and convince ourselves of our preparedness, the unraveling of the events always brings with it a dash of surprise. The touch of realism slaps us to our senses and no matter how much we’ve convinced ourselves, the truth dawns on us at that point of time. What was known earlier was just an idea.. a conception.. the reality…stark and overbearing is what confronts us now.

Everything above may seem ominous! Well it is not! Some of you may know this and some maybe surprised to know now! Eventually nobody may care! ūüėČ LOL! But nevertheless, it is only customary to officially state the facts – I have moved to Canada.¬† I am doing my MBA at one of the most renowned and prestigious institutes in the world – McGill University. Needless to say, it has been a dream come true – one for which a lot of sweat were shed (and sweaty shirts washed!!). My brain had to pump up so much in the past year, I was afraid I’d lose it! But in the end, it has all been worthwhile. There were many heartaches indeed – the process of applying for an MBA is a humbling one! To begin with you have to really assess yourself and despite the best guard, your ego does seem to paint a glorious picture of yourself and so when the top most institutes you apply for don’t respond or¬†reject, its a feeling that leaves a sour taste for a long time to come! But before I could settle myself down to a state of disbelief at my own ineptitude despite a good record, a confirmation from a premier institute redeemed my faith! It is not that I had developed a sense of hopelessness! That never happened, but the roots of your self-belief and confidence do get shaken up!

Anyways, things have come to a pass, and as the adage goes, all’s well that ends well. Only, like yet another adage, this end, is very well a new beginning! A beginning that has dawned in Montreal. On July 20th, I boarded a¬†plane to one of the most beautiful cities in the world – a bedrock of culture and education – Montreal! I quit my job and spent¬†the last remaining days in Dublin soaking in as much of the city as possible. There is a mixed feeling of excitement and deep sadness.¬† It’s a phenomenal change that has¬†flooded me all at once – my work, my family, my environment, everything has undergone a¬†shift that, to be honest, despite my knowing, I was¬†not able to fully comprehend. ¬†The school has started and that means, my tardy updates will only go from bad to worse (or worse to worst!!) ūüôĀ ¬†Between the class sessions, homework and personal work, it has become a tug of war and there is a deafening cry for better time management! All in all, it’s all looking good so far! I’ll try and keep you regularly updated about what’s happening here….tune in if you wanna know more ūüėČ

The Ireland I Love..

As is already familiar to those of you who have actually poked around on this space a bit, I am one of those quintessential software engineers from Bengaluru. I work in the field of Biometric Identification and am totally in love with what I do! And as much as I love what I do, I am also emotionally connected to my company.  Nearly five and half years now, I guess, I can confidently say that I really am indebted to my job and my company.  Of the many things that I love about it, one of my personal favorite is my frequent visits to Ireland.

This year Ireland is celebrating it’s 100th year of the Easter Rising – their first rebellion against the British rule. I am right now in Ireland and in many ways, this visit is a very crucial one for me – personally and professionally.¬† I have reached a stage, where I cannot confidently say how many times I have visited Ireland unless I look into the passport and count the number of arrival stamps printed on those pages. These visits have always been like personal getaways – those moments when I get to reconnect with myself, do things that I like to do – experiment with different cuisines, cook, travel around, visit museums, sleep in on weekends! I am a person who is not too keen about taking pictures! When am traveling I would rather soak in the surroundings than be concerned with the lighting and angle and exposure and such annoyances. I have often seen people more concerned with working out the right angle on the camera than actually cherishing the view or the object! But then, that’s my view! Maybe, they find the view so amazing that they want to freeze it and cherish it forever!¬† What I do in my mind, they may do it in their frames! In short, I am not a person too keen on photography.

But this visit, crucial as it is, also prompted me to let go of this constraint. As I embark on new avenues, I figured that it would be worthwhile to capture some moments.¬† However, this letting go wasn’t a conscious decision! Some of the places I visited this time around, compelled me to click pictures! I didn’t bother too much about the intricacies of a shoot ofcourse! I just took aim and shot! That’s all! It was either a hit or a miss! But it certainly did capture my heart! So here’s a small overview of everything that is so beautiful and lovely about this tender country – The Ireland!

Glendalough (pronounced Glan-de-lock): Though I was talking about the places I visited this time, I would be doing a grave injustice if I didn’t write about Glendalough that I visited last year. Ireland is an amazingly green place! The number of parks and trails that this place has is just unbelievable! I hope they preserve these at any cost! Having seen how much the unbridled, disgusting and disgraceful real estate greed has eaten up the culture and greenery of Bangalore, I hope and pray that Dublin and Ireland would never see it! Glendalough is one such beautiful National park is the Wicklow County – about an hour or so bus drive from Dublin. There are bus services that run everyday from Dublin City Centre (the bus stop is very close to St. Stephen’s Green) to Glendalough. The entry to the park is free! People can purchase a route map for 25 cents and start exploring the place. There are different walking trails that have been marked for the convenience of the visitors and the difficulty level for each is mentioned too. The park has two beautiful lakes and the remains of what was once upon a time a Christian monastery and a miner’s village. It’s a perfect weekend day-long getaway to lose one self amidst the lush greenery and history by the side! And if you are lucky enough, a herd of deer or a fox may even show up to greet you! ūüôā

Killiney: Very close to Dun Laoghaire (pronounced Dun – Leary!!!) is a sub-urban seaside trekking point – the twin Dalkey and Killiney route. You can either take the DART (sub-urban railway) to Dalkey or Killiney and walk to the Killiney Hill. While there are different ways to get up to the Killiney Hill from the Dart station, for those who don’t mind a bit of uphill walk, I’d recommend a road that goes through the calm residential areas right alongside the Killiney Hill and brings you to one of its many entrances.¬† Since the thoroughfare is very less, it is my personal favorite.¬† The hill itself isn’t too challenging but makes for a nice walk.¬† There are a couple of follies built on top of the hill and an Obelisk over seeing Dun Laoghaire on one side and the sea shore on the other.¬† An abandoned stone quarry and a small fort make up for other spots around but the walk is particularly refreshing. Hitting the area by 9 AM is ideal as not many people would be around and it helps find that tranquil and peaceful atmosphere to soak in – the chirping birds and happy dogs running around just put a smile on your face! There are many pathways that run deep into rocks and muddy terrains that tempt for an exploration! It doesn’t take more than 3-4 hours to cover the entire area of Killiney hill and on the way back, the lovely Dalkey village serves an excellent pit stop point for some refreshing lunch and some cone ice creams to rejuvenate yourself!

Cliffside Walk – Bray to Greystones: Bray is a beautiful coastal area – quite on the outskirts of Dublin city. The DART runs from Howth or Malahide on one side all the way to Bray or Greystones on the other. The travel towards Bray is particularly lovely as the DART runs along the coastline and the stretch from Bray to Greystones is a visual treat what with the cliffs on one side and the sea on the other. For those who would love to bask in this lovely environment, a provision has been made to walk alongside the cliffs all the way from Bray to Greystones – a distance of roughly 6.5 Kms. It is a must have experience when visiting Dublin. There is also an option to climb atop a hill that has a huge cross at its top, but the cliffside walk would be my personal favorite any time. Passing alongside the sea shore, one is greeted with lovely scenic views of the rocky terrain inhabited by Sea gulls, an occasional seal (if you are lucky) and a variety of birds.¬† There are old ruins of what was once a fort/castle on the cliffs but what takes the cake is the breathtaking view that dazzle the eyes for as long as we can see.¬† Upon reaching Greystones, a leisurely walk along the beach, some snacks and/or lunch should get the adrenalin pumped up again. For those who don’t mind, I’d definitely recommend walking back to Bray from Greystones and catching the DART back to the city, or else the DART runs directly from Greystones via Bray anyways.

Hell Fire Club/Montpelier Hill: Quite a weird name for a nice place. Isn’t it? Well not by the history of what’s there! There are stories of satan worshippers, black magic, evil clubs and what not! But what was once a hunters’ lodge eventually turned into a place for prostitution (hence maybe the place for satan’s followers!!) and debauchery. It seems that a story was eventually circulated to dissuade people from going to this place – isolated as it was from residential areas as it is. Well, eventually the club was destroyed in a fire accident and what remains now is just ruins of what was once a place for sensory pleasure.¬† But flesh aside, what the visitors can still feast on to this day is a breathe-taking view of the city of Dublin! Flanked by the Dublin mountains behind us, and the sprawling view of the city in the front, Montpelier Hill is a visual treat that enthralls the heart through the eyes! There are many walkways – one that runs around the hill is relatively easier when compared to the walkway that cuts across the hill and climbs up straight to the summit where the ruin is located. Spirits and supernatural aside, one can find little girls and boys playing around. A nice picnic bag and a sunny day should seal the deal.

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Fleecing the Farmers – 2

Kasargod, Erezha in Kerala, Plachimada, and ironically enough good old Varthur in Bangalore are just a couple of examples of areas where chemical effluents have wreaked havoc in the life of people. ¬†Several villages in Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Chattisgarh, Bihar have been rendered uninhabitable, forcing people to vacate their lands, houses and become destitute in the city or turn into daily labourers. ¬†Children have been rendered physically deformed due to severe chemical contamination (endosulfan for example has destroyed the lives of nearly 10,000 victims who still continue to suffer its debilitating impacts). ¬†Government compensation to these victims cannot even sustain their family’s livelihood let alone restore them to normalcy. ¬†Particulate matters released by factories such as cement industries has increased bronchial diseases and illnesses amongst the population residing in the vicinity of such industries. Untreated chemical effluents that are released into the streams and/or land areas, have contaminated ground water, food crops and eventually rendered entire swathes of land unfit for cultivation. With the paranoia of chemicals percolating into the food chain gripping people, the elite of the society have taken up the fad of consuming organic products by paying a premium price. ¬†One cannot but laugh at our¬†stupidity and sheer brainless behavior! The pinnacle of creation we just don’t seem to be!! ¬†Having destroyed the very fabric of nature due to our excessive indulgence, we are now paying a premium for something that was once naturally available in its pristine form. ¬†In this context, when the Government views with contempt the Social impact assessment clause, one cannot but wonder whether they have suspended their brains in the cash registry and the ka-ching has deafened them to the cries of the multitudes who are suffering due to negligence by the industrial set ups.

By saying that Social impact assessment would cause undue delay in the clearing of industrial projects, the underlying tone signifies a negligent attitude towards the long term impact of such industrial setups on not only the surrounding ecology but also the life of the people and their future generations.  While economic development is a necessity, if the money earned is only going to be spent in attending to the treatment of ourselves or our progeny, it seems quite foolhardy to harp on it!  Understanding the requirement of an industry in a particular area, its impact on the lives and livelihood of the people surrounding the area, and most importantly the ecology there, is paramount for sustainable growth.  Bypassing long term sustainable development for immediate economic gains may postpone the pain to the future, but when it hits, it will shatter the very fabric of development that is being harped upon by everyone.  Economic development HAS to be holistic.  While the State cannot be the only provider of welfare for the people, it would be stupidity to believe that the industry and industrial development is the panacea for all the ailments of the society.

Selective blindness isn’t a monogrammed suit that can be flaunted proudly nor is it a last name that will win the loyalty of the party cadres. ¬†But both the ruling coalition head and the touted leader of the ‘principle’ opposition party have a panache for this selective blindness syndrome. ¬†Chattisgarh is a living example of how tribals are being exploited by grabbing their lands without their consent or by faking their consents. ¬†People have been killed or silenced in a bid to grab fertile lands. ¬†In many cases, the land owners were themselves not aware of their land being handed over to industries. ¬†The nexus of babus, industrial heads and village administrators have ensured that their¬†voices shall never be heard. By openly removing the clause for the owner’s consent, the Government has now made it a field day to themselves kick the owners of the land out of their possession. ¬†The notion that Government will not do anything detrimental to the wellbeing of the community is now a joke that can at best be scoffed at. ¬†And this is more true in the case of tribals and villagers in Chattisgarh, Bihar, UP and Odisha. ¬†Neither Modi nor Rahul¬†have truly displayed an understanding of the dynamics of tribal and village communities. The parties they represent can cry themselves hoarse when they are in the opposition, but when in power, they have both failed miserably in alleviating the cause of the public at large.

In short, if the earlier Land Acquisition Bill did not entirely ensure protection and rightful treatment of the aggrieved farmers, the modifications being introduced have¬†outrightly dismissed any hopes that may have existed among the land owners. There are two important remedies that are being highlighted to redress the loss suffered by the owner. 1. A compensation that is 4 times that of the existing market rate. 2. Job for one of the family members. It would be quite interesting to understand how the Government proposes to educate the owners in utilization of their financial remuneration for a sustainable future. ¬†The lands in many regions aren’t owned by one particular person and typically its a family. ¬†How would the compensation be divided under such circumstances? The compensation that was provided to the families displaced due to the Kudankulam project has led to such an increase in family rifts that a record number of cases have been filed in the civil courts over sharing of the compensation package. Not only have the beneficiaries lost their property, but their Quality of Life has been completely destroyed due to such instances. Also, if a job is assured for one of the family members, what would the nature of that job be? ¬†Has the Government provided amenities that would help them qualify for a decent job? Is this job guaranteed? If the land is again shared by multiple families, which member of which family would be given the job? A single land can be a source of income for the entire family and also be worked upon by all the members of the family – including women and children. ¬†With that lost, what would the women do? Has the Government any idea of utilizing the excess resources that are available? The way the current Government is hell bent on destroying MGNREGA scheme, even the semblance of work that could have been provided to these members will be lost.

The burden of bad debts, the unseasonal rainfall, lost crops, Government apathy and sheer mismanagement has pushed thousands of farmers to the brink of suicide. ¬†The Government is yet to act constructively on this spate of suicides but all it has done so far is offer lip service. Modi’s Mann ki baat, was only¬†a one way communication at best. ¬†If he had even deigned to address some of the burning issues the farmers are facing currently and have been facing, it would have made it worthwhile. ¬†So far, his walk and talk have barely matched. ¬†A ‘rejuvenated’ Rahul may be back with smart retorts and energized walkathons, but he would do well to first accept that his party had a major role to play in the debacle the farming community is now facing. ¬†And follow it up with constructive feedback and suggestions for the Government to implement.

The development of a country cannot be a short term vision progressing from election to election. Sustainable development needs a holistic approach in which environment and ecology plays a primary role.  The incumbent Government has no sense about this Рas is evident in the slew of measures it has undertaken.

(To be continued….)

Fleecing the Farmers – 1

On 11th of March, amidst the growing debate on the Land Acquisition Bill, there appeared an editorial in Times of India. The title of this editorial was “India’s Farmer Fetish”. ¬†The contents of the editorial aside, the very title stands testimony to the bias and the prejudiced mind set¬†that the farmers in the country are being viewed by the incumbent government, the political parties and the media to tow.

As stated in the editorial, yes, the India of 2015 is fundamentally different from that of 1965. But it would be interesting to check whether people have stopped eating food and started consuming plastic and cement. The last I checked this wasn’t the case! ¬†A lot of blah blah has gone into the editorial and eventually the claim made by the column is that since agriculture’s share in GDP is just 13.9% arising from 60% of Indian population, privileging farming above other occupation would kill growth and does not make any sense.

The idea that farming community is growing to be a liability to the economy is something that is fast catching on. A lot of events have already taken place since the date of this editorial, and the same paper has later written editorials lamenting the state of the farmers too!  And a glaring point that must be noted is that if farming has not only turned a liability to the farmers but also to the National economy and its growth, we have none other than ourselves to blame!  This is a situation that has been distilled through our years of flawed policy implementation and political as well as commercial exploitation of the farming community.

While the British Raj had forced the Agricultural practices within India to give up many of their traditional, indigenous farming methods and crops, post independence, a much needed boost to the renewal of agricultural practices failed to maintain its efficacy.  While irrigation was extensively promoted and industrialization of the farming practices was emphasized upon, agriculture was pivoted to become the rallying factor for industrialization and new industry set ups.  Whether this was a good move or not is a topic for another discussion.  The rampant famine catapulted the need for a green revolution, but something that must have been seeded from within the Indian eco system was triggered by the borrowed seeds of West.  While it ensured excess production of grains, it came at a heavy cost Рone that we are paying for now.  Extensive use of chemical fertilizers, monoculture farming and excessive relying on cash crops has significantly destroyed the fabric of Indian agriculture.  Fields have gone barren and those that can still be tilled require more and more chemical fertilizers and excessive water to be producing at the same level as before.  In regions of Maharashtra, indigenous and climatically suited crops have been forsaken for the sake of cash crops like sugarcane, which are most unsuited for its soil.  In Maharashtra, only 4% of the total cropped area that grow sugarcane, consume 70% of the irrigation water supply. Such unsustainable practices are prevalent in many regions of India thus laying a heavy burden on the natural resources of the country. Unscientific farming (including excessive use of industrial and chemical equipment) is killing the lands Рsustainability is a lost cause, where everyone seems to be looking for shortcuts to success and financial uplift.

Rampant deforestation, growing pollution, depleting water resources have left Indian agriculture to the mercy of the monsoons Рwhich have time and again hit hard on the farming sector. Excessive or insufficient rainfalls have become a common feature.  The unseasonal rainfall this year have destroyed the rabi crops and there is a surge of farmer suicides across the country.  Yet, neither the Government, nor the farmers seem to be set to rectify their mistakes.  With the number of ineffective lands on the rise, there is a strong need to set a corrective course before it is too late for everyone.

In this context the current Land Acquisition Bill is set to sound another death knell to the farming community that is already reeling under the pressure of years of mismanagement. By claiming that seeking of the consent of the farmers and social impact assessment would delay the process of Land Acquisition and there by hamper the growth of the country, the Government and some portion of the media is taking a myopic view of the situation where a holistic perspective is essential.

That the State can procure farm lands without the consent of the farmer for causes that are beneficial to the country is akin to stating that a section of the society can be robbed in order to fulfill the needs of others. ¬†This is nothing short of state sponsored crime under the garb of development. ¬†In return, the robbed will be handed over a penny’s worth of job. ¬†The glaring stupidity of this whole set up seems to be conveniently sidelined by the Government, and the Opposition party instead of rationally approaching the issue, is only trying to sensationalize and emotionally ignite the farmers. ¬†Narendra Modi may be using his hackneyed speaking skills in trying to woo the farming community with the promise of better life, but the shallowness of the whole proposition cannot be hoodwinked with honey coated words.

There are thousands of farmers who have to this date not received due compensations for their lands that were acquired as far behind as 1950s for ’causes of national interest’. ¬†There are many incidents of farmers from Chattisgarh having lost their lands due to the devious methods adopted by the industries – many farmers were terrorized into handing over lands, and many more were duped into selling it without their own knowledge. ¬†Exploiting the tribal laws framed by the Government, the industries have bought land in the name of their tribal watchmen or workers without their knowledge and in some instances paying them pittance to win their allegiance for their nefarious purposes. ¬†Ignorance and illiteracy is bleeding the nation while the incumbent government as well as the previous regimes have only paid lip-service for the cause of true progress and development. It is this ignorance that all the political parties, irrespective of their ideologies refuse to fix…nay, they would rather that it flourishes, so that the masses can be exploited under the garb of socialist or capitalist principles. ¬†It is our shame that even after 6 decades and more of independence, as citizens, we still look to be pampered and spoon fed, instead of demanding the basic rights of education and awareness!

(To be continued….)

My Favorite Musicals from Hollywood – 2

Can you believe this???!!! Ofcourse you do!! This is not the first time I have delayed writing something on this space!! It’s been 4 months since I wrote here!!

Last year in July I wrote about my favorite Hollywood musicals, and well, the time has now come to revisit that. So let’s continue our journey. Most of the movies we saw in the last post were children’s movies. ¬†In this post, it’s the other way round. ¬†Musicals have always been an attractive genre for me. For one, they hold mirror to the developing tastes in music through the decades. ¬†From Elvis’ hips to Chicago’s Razzle Dazzle, music has carved a spectrum of varieties that have each been incorporated radiantly in many of the movies that we shall now see.

Grease: John Travolta with a hair so well set, it almost looks like it was nailed down stole the heart of many through this iconic movie that went on to become one of the celebrated musicals of all time. ¬†Much before the time of High School Musicals, this coming of age movie set in California, rocked the Hollywood scene ushering in an era of romance that was unbridled and wildly infectious. With John’s killing looks (the perfect dimple in the chin) and Olivia Newton-John’s blonde abandon, they had probably become the one of the most celebrated young couples in the movie. ¬†The songs busted the charts that year resulting in grandiose plans for sequels. Unfortunately Grease-2 was such a box-office disappointment that thankfully it put a full-stop to the idea of generating more sequels. ¬†There is only so much you can do with teenage love story and Grease had already accomplished it. ¬†Love, conspiracy, heartbreak, scheming rivals and dumb friends – this movie had it all and more. The songs are a pleasure even to this day – “You’re the one that I want”, “Summer Nights”, “Greased Lightning”, “Born to Hand Jive”, “Beauty School Dropout”, “Hopelessly devoted to you” ….

West Side Story: ¬†It pains me endlessly to be writing about West Side Story – a movie that I had loved and enjoyed so thoroughly all through my college days, only to watch with horror as it was destroyed to bits by the Bollywood gang of insufferable Mr. SRK, sloppy Aishwarya Rai and whatz-his-name Singh. ¬†A love story in the backdrop of ethnic and cultural struggle in a developing American economy, this movie was a Romeo-Juliet love saga of the modern times. ¬†With amazing performances by all the lead roles, the movie had foot tapping music, memorable songs and a story that was captivating inspite of its worn out theme. ¬†It was not a big surprise that it swept the Academy Awards bagging 10 out of 11 categories. The tragic love story on Manhattan streets tugs on your heart and leaves a lump. It almost feels like a criminal act that Bollywood took this classic and turned it into a shit-pile called Josh. ¬†The songs that haunt include “I just met a girl named Maria”, “Tonight”, “America”, “One hand One heart”, “I feel so pretty” while the electric performance for the “Mambo” is a thrill to watch!

The King & I: ¬†Based on a true story, the movie King & I appealed to me a lot mostly due to my affection towards “Sound of Music”. Both of these movies were incidentally made by Rodgers & Hammerstein and have been adapted to Broadway. ¬†Although quite different in their treatment and stories, the underlying current of creative expression and dogmatic ideas that surrounds the love of Anna and the King on one hand while that of the slave girl and her lover on the other, made the film a viewer’s pleasure. ¬†With grandiose sets, Victorian dresses, melodious numbers, topped with excellent performances, the film won critical acclaim. ¬†Songs like “Shall we dance”, “Getting to know you”, “I Whistle a Happy Tune”, “We kiss in a shadow” have made the movie a delight. ¬† Deborah Karr’s performance and the humor laced story line remain the highlight of the movie.

Cabaret:  Jazz, Music, the razzmatazz of the kit kat club, Berlin under the Nazi regime, the then sexy and steaming Liza Minnelli, Helmut Griem with his weird caterpillar mustache, and a shy Michael York  Рall of this together made Cabaret a phenomenal movie Рone that swept the Oscars with eight wins but lost the Best Picture award. The plot revolved around the relationship between an academician and a sexy Cabaret dancer. Homosexual tension, love, tears, betrayal, reconciliation Рthe movie was peppered with it all and the classic cabaret to top it off.

Originally a novel by Christopher Ishwerwood, the plot was adapted into a Broadway musical which eventually found its way to Hollywood and into the hearts of millions of movie buffs. Though I don’t¬†really have¬†any favorite numbers from this movie, this movie deserves a mention for the sheer brilliance that was put together to make this an everlasting master piece.

Beauty & the Beast: ¬†I have had a huge dilemma including this in the list. I mean, in all honesty, we can classify almost every Disney animation to be a musical – or actually do another post for animated musicals! But I guess, given my promptness in posting on my website, that would be a far cry. So when the time came to choose, for me, of all the musicals by Disney, this movie really stood apart. (And I have kept the irritating ‘Frozen’ out of this purposely.. and hence effectively earned myself a horde of enemies!) The story is known to almost everyone. But with this movie, I could really find that Disney animation had come of age. There was an outstanding talent that came forth through this movie, that I feel even Disney has failed to match. There was a sensitivity to the story and the treatment of the characters in spite of the usual spicing¬†with despicable villains. This was a movie that really tugged at many emotions, and a story that really left a mark. A timeless classic!

Moulin Rouge: For a long time through the 90s it seemed as though Hollywood had washed its hands off of musicals. They were mostly to be found in animations. But all that was set to change with the release of the brilliant production – Moulin Rouge that revived the glory of the musicals and added to it the zest and glamour of glittering production sets and the tragic romance. It seemed as though we had traveled back in time! Nicole Kidman as the dying Cabaret dancer, Ewan McGregor as the be-smitten poet¬†rewove the magic of love on the grand sets of the MontMartre Quarter of Paris. It was interesting that the movie had a sub-plot set in India involving a courtesan, a Maharaja and a poor Sitar player – alluding to the main plot. And in line with this, the movie had included the song “Chamma Chamma” from the movie China gate. ¬†Given its lavish settings, it was no wonder that the movie grabbed the Oscar awards for Production Design and even Costume. A veritable treat to the eyes and ears, Moulin Rouge succeeded in reviving the musical genre and establishing them as top grossing even in the midst of the high voltage action movies. The song below is my favorite from the movie ūüôā

Chicago: What Moulin Rouge set in motion in 2001, was taken to new heights by Chicago that was released in the year 2002. ¬†Catherine Zeta Jones, Richard Gere, Renee Zellweger and the awesome Queen Latifah turned this movie into a phenomenon for me! I can’t count the number of times I have watched this movie. There are so many things about¬†this movie that I can list which¬†are so outstanding – the acting, the music, the lyrics, the costumes, the dance, the settings and most certainly the plot of the movie. Every character is introduced through numbers that hold a mirror to the character. ¬†The plot itself holds a mirror to the society, the media and the questions of justice and morality. ¬†If ever there was a film in the past decade that would mock the modern day for¬†all its vanity and hypocrisy with such glory, I would pick this movie. ¬†Songs like “When you’re good to mama”, “the cell block tango”, “Roxie”, “All I care about”, “Razzle Dazzle”, “We both reached for the gun” are just awesome. ¬†The Cell block tango that outlines the stories of other inmates along with Roxie is possibly the best in the entire movie followed by Latifah’s “When you’re good to mama”. ¬†The movie swept the Oscars that year, including the Best Movie, Best Supporting Actress, Costume, Sound and even Art. All of these were very well deserved for the movie.

Mamma Mia: I had written about this movie in an earlier post. ¬†The two best parts of this movie were the ABBA songs and Meryl Streep. ¬†That Meryl Streep was belting out some of my favorite ABBA numbers was the icing on the cake. ¬†The famous broadway musical was finally made into a movie and though disappointing in parts, over a period of time, it kinda endeared itself to me. ¬†Now I am not sure if that’s because I have started getting older or if I am struck with Stockholm syndrome. In any case, the story of a young to-be-married girl attempting to discover who her father is became lovable to me only because it took me back to my childhood. Having grown up listening to ABBA I could see the beautiful shady Malleshwaram unwrap before my eyes. ¬†The leisurely summers and the lovely Mariyappanapalya Park stood before me. ¬†Ofcourse they are all history now. Everything that Bangalore was and represented has become a history now. But these songs still warm my heart! “Money Money Money”, “Voulez vous”, “Winner takes it all”, “Mamma Mia”, “Dancing Queen”, “Chiquitita”, the list just goes on and on. ¬†All I can say is “Thank you for the music…” ūüôā

Sweeney Todd –¬†The demon barber of fleet street: That Johnny Depp is a splendid actor is a given. But imagining Johnny do the singing was a bit weird! ¬†Added to that, the grim and dark play that was adapted to a Tim Burton movie obviously had its charms. It was this combination that really drew me to Sweeney Todd. Cringing at the cold blooded slashing and baking of the victims, yet sympathizing with the Barber’s anger, I watched the movie marveling at the creativity of Depp. The transition of the simple and loving Benjamin Barker to the demon barber Sweeney Todd is captured brilliantly. Though he wasn’t grand in singing, Johnny Depp¬†definitely did his part for the character and with such aplomb, that he set a new benchmark for himself. ¬†Helena Carter as his female accomplice in the crime and his eventual victim was equally splendid. She after all seems to have made weirdness a second nature to her acting. That the visitors to her bakery do not even recognize the ghastly secret hidden in the pies they are eating is a mirror that the plot holds to our current so called civilized society. Sweeney Todd is a movie that must be watched not only for its music but more so for the top class acting essayed by all the characters in the movie. ¬†A heart rending dark tragedy this movie is one of the best to have come out of Johnny Depp and Tim Burton’s partnership.

Les Miserable: I guess it was in my 3rd or 4th standard that I read a part of the classic Les Miserable. The Gulmohar book that we used to have carried the story of a thief who had a change of heart when the pastor in a church does not hand him over to the cops inspite of knowing that he had stolen the candle stands from the church. The story remained in my mind and after several ¬†years, I eventually happened to learn that this story was actually a part of Victor Hugo’s historical masterpiece. ¬†The movie adaptation was a revelation. Anne Hathaway was perfection personified on the screen. It was no wonder that she won the Academy award for actress in a supporting role. As the movie unfolds through the eyes of the main protagonists, the questions of right and wrong, the turbulent times of France, the morality, the helplessness of human nature in the face of adversity all bursts forth in stark nakedness. In the end ofcourse hope triumphs and love survives. ¬†Oh watch it!! Just watch this movie!

With this, I finally come to an end of this series. It has taken me several months to give this post the light of the day. But the fact that it is done is a relief indeed.  The musicals are a genre that can never ever go extinct. They will continue to reinvent themselves and stay relevant no matter what age we may live in and no matter how advanced technology may be. Music is an integral part of human life and the movies would do well to celebrate it.

Our Leaders and Us

It took me a long time to appreciate the subtle philosophy embedded in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”. ¬†It is not without reason then, that today I am reminded of this beautiful discussion between Alice and the Cheshire Cat.

“I don’t want to go among mad people”, remarked Alice. “Oh! you can’t help that”, said the cat. “we are all mad here! I am mad, you are mad!” “How do you know I am mad?” said Alice. “You must be”, said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

Since a few weeks now, we all seem to be edging towards this madness. As a nation, it seems that we are slowly inching towards losing our sensibilities and handing it all out on a platter to those who rule over. Let’s begin with something closer home. The Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, J Jayalalitha has been convicted of amassing assets illegally – assets worth of over 50 crores has been deemed illegal and she has been fined a hefty sum of 100 croresA Poster campaigning for Ms. Jayalalitha as PM and 4 years of simple imprisonment. The amount of hullabaloo this has given rise to in the neighboring state must be seen to believe. People have apparently committed suicide, died of heart attack and cries of “Amma” “Amma” are tearing through all parts of the state. ¬†There are posters being put up that are questioning the ability of a human being to judge a ‘Goddess’, that are threatening the Kannadigas living in Chennai with dire consequences if the lady is not released immediately, that are decrying the verdict and there are people beating their chests on the streets and burning buses and torching vehicles. Shop owners and even educational institutions are closing down (or have been forced to close down) to show solidarity with the convict. ¬†The cult status that we elevate the leaders to, renders our sense of morality so crippled that we are absolutely OK with whatever illegal activities they may indulge in. To be Ms. Jayalalitha depicted as Goddess Lakshmifair, this is not a sudden development. For most parts, the many poojas, demonstrations, hooliganism and havoc that the mob is creating is really orchestrated by few elements of the party. Needless to say, all that they care is about glorifying their blind devotion to the convicted leader and later earn some sops for their loyalty. But people in general are also swayed largely by the many schemes launched by the ruling party – cheap food, freebies including gold, electronic items, laptops, and many more. This is the sense of empowerment that we have come to expect of the government and the elected representatives. On their part, the elected representatives from both the major regional parties fuel this unquenchable thirst among the masses by announcing glorious freebies during every election. ¬†Democracy is dying a slow death¬†in our country.

The quantum of the assets accumulated by the erstwhile CM is nothing compared to the latest charges mounted against the former cabinet minister A Raja in the 2G scam. The amount runs to thousands of crores of rupees. If the investigation for 53 crores of illegal assets can run for 18 years, one dreads to imagine the time A. Raja would need to be convicted! The DMK that is now celebrating the conviction of Ms. Jayalalitha is no saint ofcourse! When RajaA Poster comparing Sonia Gandhi to Jhansi Rani was convicted, the DMK government resorted to every means of arm twisting tactics to secure his release and even withdrew from the government. Ofcourse, this is one kettle that is calling the pot black. But even then, several party cadres had taken up the cause of their leaders and staged protests even in the parliament. The fact that they were fighting against the conviction of a crook did not seem to weigh on their conscience at all. It mattered not, that the country’s assets were being siphoned off for their individual profits and well being, but what mattered was that they were the mass leaders and above any jurisdiction. Ofcourse the electorate did vote them out of power and made the DMK taste an abysmal defeat, but then, we seem to forget the lessons we taught very soon.

This deification of the leaders is not a new phenomenon, atleast for a country like India, where kings were considered as ‘gods’! Mrs. Indira Gandhi was the manifestation of Durga when she trounced Pakistan during Bangladesh’s liberation. Even Mrs. Sonia Gandhi was showcased as Durga in an election poster that caused the BJP and other right wing organizations to cry foul. But they donned a divine silence when temples were being The Narendra Modi Templeconstructed for the ‘God’ Narendra Modi. We are very selective about our adoration indeed. The hatred for a party or a person, must be absolute and total – this is the current motto of Indian politics. Thus, Mr. Narendra Modi spares no chance to taunt the Nehru legacy, often discounting the first Prime Minister’s contributions to Indian cause. ¬†And for their part, any Congress man even remotely appreciating anything good that the incumbent PM may say, is branded an anti-party person (read Shashi Tharoor). The citizenry cannot be left behind ofcourse! Anyone who questions Mr. Modi’s works is branded an anti-national! Morphed images are gloriously circulated and shared on all social media forums – images that show how cheap the opposition leaders are and how great and divine their respective leaders seem to be. ¬†Nobody bothers to check the authenticity nor question the ideology behind such works. Heaven forbid if anyone does so much as post a cartoon about a political personality – they’ll be put behind bars in no time!

Sure – my grandmom has fasted for more than 9 days! Sure – there are thousands of people who even to this day fast during festivals for many days together. Sure – it is commonsense that it is every citizen’s responsibility¬†to keepA Poster for Priyanka Gandhi the country¬†clean – both literally and figuratively. ¬†But we need someone else to actually tell us to do it. We need the media to give us a blow by blow account of what the personality is eating, drinking, and wearing so that we can revere the personality. No matter how ridiculous some statements may be, we must ogle and clap and dance at every word! Every major national and regional party has become enslaved to cult politics. ¬†Even those who used to decry dynastic politics are now celebrating one-up-man-ship and banking on a single person’s charisma to tide over every issue and challenge. ¬†Such is the tragic state of affairs that no matter how incapable or inept a person from a family maybe, the sheer chance of being born into a family is enough to endow the person to be named as the heir apparent to administer a country. No one can and no one must question his abilities! Ironically, this is the country which advised the world to gain ‘self-knowledge’ and liberate themselves!

Democracy is an idea that enables people to govern themselves. Underlying this philosophy, are a few basic tenets. First and foremost, the public must be educated and capable of objectively viewing the representatives they have chosen. They must be able to differentiate the chaff from the grain and not succumb to petty temptations. They must be able to recognize the collective good and encourage it.  They must actively participate and remain vigilant of the administrative practices and not deter from questioning its motives and force the administration to be accountable. In India, currently, it is a far cry.  We are content to blindly follow and cry hoarse when we feel betrayed. In this modern era of enslavement, we are in reality not serving the political class, but we are serving our own ignorance and ineptitude. We may have the where-with-all to defy and win over external rulers, but we have failed abysmally in winning over our own weaknesses. This is the tragedy of Indian democracy.

As a parting shot, I am reminded of a beautiful poem composed by the noted Kannada poet Sri Nissar Ahmed –¬†Kurigalu Saar Kurigalu…¬†where he basically shows how we have all become sheep-like.. following others blindly. Well… Baaaaa time now!

Pics Courtesy: IBNLive, IndianExpress, TheHindu, & Google ūüôā