Saturday, 24 May 2014

Film review: Bombay Talkies

Bombay Talkies, directed by four top Hindi film directors is a strange bird.  It is meant to be celebrating the completion of 100 years of Indian Cinema, but actually seems to be showcasing something else.  If it is a tribute, it is a strange one.  Consider these plots:

It opens with a story by Karan Johar, of a troubled marriage; a love triangle wherein opposite genders repel and same genders attract each other.  Yes, a story about homosexuality in which the husband in the triangle appears to be torn between remaining loyal and having a clandestine affair with his wife's male office colleague.  Somewhere in the background, there is a street urchin singing an old Hindi film song - an attempt to keep the film interest intact within the story.  

Next, Dibakar Banerjee tells a bizarre story about a struggling lower middle class guy who keeps emu in his house - for 'egg business', and talks to his dead father - a delightful Sadashiv Amrapurkar in a rare cameo.  He happens to be on a film set where he ends up being cast in a bit role, which gives him a chance to tell his own story with some extra additions to his daughter.  

Zoya Akhtar probably gives us the best of the stories, but also somewhat disturbing.  This one is about a little boy who likes dressing up like a girl and dancing, much to his father's disgust who would rather have him play football - to become "tough".  Katrina Kaif is his role model, as well as his guardian angel who teaches him to keep his interests a secret.  He lies to his father that he wants to be a pilot, when he only wants to dance like a girl.  He ends up arranging a show to raise money for his sister's class trip - a show in which he dresses up and dances like Katrina in 'Sheila ki jawani'.  

Finally Anurag Kashyap gives us a tale about a small town guy who goes to ridiculous extents to get Amitabh Bachchan taste his mother's murabba (a type of sweet), so that his father can taste the same piece and live long!  Bizarre or what!  However this story does show the mindless extent to which fans go to get a glimpse of their superstar.  

Yes, as the promos of the film suggest, it celebrates 'dream, hope, desire, thought, joy, pain, want, love and sorrow' - all parts of the 'emotion of cinema'.  Point taken, but in our films all these emotions are seen in the same film; we don't do genres very well.  After presenting these bizarre and 'non-masala' type stories, there is a montage at the end of the film, in which clips of typical pot-boiler films are shown, along with a song-and-dance medley by the popular actors of these very films.  This disconnect rankles. 

But over-all it is an interesting and thought-provoking affair; watch it if you like to see something... well, hatke!    

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Dynastic politics

So the 'chaiwala', the 'butcher of Gujurat', the 'disaster' has made it.

Incidentally all the above are nicknames given by his rivals, who have all bitten the dust in Elections 2014.

And it isn't a Modi wave, it is a Modi tsunami!

At the time of his announcement that he would 'hand over the baton' to another person, it was amusing that  the ex-PM said it would be a 'disaster' for the country if Modi became the PM.  Well, clearly the people do not think so, Mr Singh.  In any case, it is unlikely to be more disastrous than your term.  For a Dhritarashtra like figure, who said very little and did even less when your stooges were running riot with inventive scams, you did very well to occupy the post for a decade.  

It was also amusing to see Rahul Gandhi plaster a wide grin when he came with his mother to accept defeat - almost as if he was hiding the deep hurt within.  As a panelist in the news studio noted, it was appalling to see that neither of them had the decency to congratulate Modi by name - instead they wished the 'next government' well.  Sorry Congresswalas, they came across as sore losers.  And it would augur well if the dynastic rule in your party ends.  Shouldn't part of the responsibility also include stepping down when indicated?

Where the spokespersons of Congress now?  Digvijay, Sibal, Khurshid, Chidambaram, Tiwari, Soni, Chowdhary, et al?  How disillusioned are they with their leaders?

Speaking of other dynasties, Laloo and his family - wife and daughter - have also lost, and they are all eating humble fodder...err, pie.  Several other family operas have also gone awry.  Thank you people of India!  You finally seem to be realising that it's not family name that counts, but merit and skill.

May this new wave bring about the end of dynastic politics.  


Monday, 5 May 2014

Book review: Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure

Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure
Sarah MacDonald
Bantam Books 2004

When I picked this one up, I thought it would be another attempt by a westerner to highlight the inglorious and uncouth side of Indian life.  Well, it is.  But it is also a lot more else.  What begins as a personal rant at the appalling living conditions, ill-mannered behaviour and just about everything else about India, turns into a personal foray into the desirable side of the same country: culture and spirituality.

Every faith practised in India is examined by the author, who seems to have taken a lot of pain and pleasure in travelling the corners of the country experiencing each of these and encountering interesting adherents of these faiths.  It seems that the free time she had at her disposal as her fiance/husband left her for his own journalistic pursuits was put to good use by her.  

Of course there are plenty of errors: names misspelt, and liberties taken with a few explanations, to name a few.  That apart, the author says most things like they are, without hiding behind diplomacy or political correctness.  

It can be a racy read as it is engaging, and those into religion, travel and culture, or wanting to retrace the author's steps would find it most interesting.

Sunday, 4 May 2014


ADHD, which stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, also called Hyperkinetic Disorder, is increasingly being recognised as a clinical problem in India.  More and more parents, exasperated with having to deal with the lack of attention, misdirected antics, and poor scholastic performances in their little ones are visiting specialists to seek help.  Gone are the days when it was explained away as being 'just childishness' or something which could be set right with a couple of tight slaps.  In these days, when corporal punishment is looked down upon at all levels, there is a need for managing this condition differently, especially since excessive punishment could have a negative impact in the long run.

Parents reach a stage of desperation after trying to cope with the extreme recalcitrance exhibited by the children.  Poor parenting skills and excessive use of punitive measures, often to no avail, further compound the problem.  In addition, since almost every child born in this day and age appears to have a pre-fitted motor of inexhaustible restless energy, it augurs well for parents to be able to recognise the signs and symptoms of the condition and seek early help.
The origins of this condition, as with other complex conditions, is multi-factorial and does not depend on any one explanatory thought.  Genetics is said to play a role, as also upbringing, triggering that oft-repeated debate about nature versus nurture.  Boys are said to be more affected and the role of diet is also said to be vital.  Other developmental disorders, such as autism, mental retardation or specific learning disabilities may co-exist with the condition.  According to the International Classification of Disorders Version 10 (ICD-10), devised by the World Health Organisation as an aide to diagnosing disorders of the mind and body, three factors are considered in each child; inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity, with certain number of symptoms to be present under each factor to make a full diagnosis of ADHD. 

The signs will be obvious right from the beginning to an observant parent or teacher.  The hyperactivity should be pervasive, that is, persistent in all situations; whether at home, at school or elsewhere.  In addition, the other recognisable signs include:

  • inability to sit still,
  • displaying a never-ending resource of often ill-directed energy,
  • destructive behaviour not amenable to suggestions or curbed by punishment,
  • failing to learn from previous mistakes,
  • poor attention and concentration and
  • a tendency to blurt out answers or interrupt other children at play or in answering.
These symptoms are contrary to the behaviour expected of the child whilst at school and hampers learning, often leading to several complaints from teachers to the parents.  These children may be either very popular due to their natural tendency to break the ice and make friends or very unpopular due to their irksome habit of getting into others’ way.

It is better to seek help and advice at an early stage as the condition, contrary to popular belief, persists well into adolescence and even adulthood.  Several individuals, sometimes well into their 50s exhibit signs of the condition, albeit at a subtler level.  Help is available in the form of medication, usually referred to as stimulants, which are actually variants of amphetamines and help reduce the hyperactivity and inattention.  As with any medication, they have their own set of side effects, as well as unique dosage regimes, which are best decided upon by professionals in conjunction with the family. 

The role of psychosocial interventions in the form of reinforcement techniques, proper education about the illness, and behaviour therapy is as crucial as that of any of the drugs.  Salt and sugar restriction, as well as avoiding foodstuff containing the additive, mono-sodium glutamate (MSG), is also advocated.  Some parents may find alternative modes of therapy such as Ayurveda and homeopathy more efficacious.

Finally, one should not make the mistake of labeling natural exuberance and assertiveness of a child as ADHD; what with opinions as to the very existence of the condition itself vary among professionals.  On a more positive note, it is not all bad news if your child has ADHD.  Even though academic performance may not be up to scratch, children with the condition can be very creative and more inclined towards sports.  Some of the best artists and sportspersons have had ADHD during their childhood, so it is important not to lose heart.  It may well be about channelising all this explosive energy in the right direction and allowing the child to express herself creatively or through physical activity, instead of laying excessive emphasis on academic perfection.

First post

It's been a while.  Not being a social creature I have not really bothered glossing up my social profile.  But now I have to.  No, I have not changed in personality, but in vocation.  The new undertaking requires this.  So here goes.  Expect errrrrors...yeah, like that.  But shortly the fruit of toil will be out.  Watch the space.