Thursday, 25 March 2010

The God of Small Things

There's a huge smile on my lips and a twinkle in my eyes that just refuses to fade away. The reason--bumping into long-lost friends!! Just a few days ago, I ended up meeting my college friends and this time, I met my school buddies, my partners-in-crime in all those endless pranks and full on masti moments. All those gossip sessions, heart-to-heart talks and even the bitter arguments--every little bit resurfaced and it was a deeply fulfilling rehashing of memories. Those hours spent in their company gave me such immense happiness and such a crazy burst of excited energy that even my dance crew members were amazed at how totall contagious my joie-de-vivre was!

It got me thinking: If one such incident can have such a momentous, such a mammoth effect on my mood and my demeanour, there's got to be so many other moments that I don't necessarily pay attention to and take for granted. So today I am going to list out all those small and little and big and bigger things that make me go "Whoopee!!"

* My parents: If God truly sends his angels on earth to look after us, He definitely sends them as parents. My parents are my ultimate mood-enhancers. Being with them and spending time with them is such a beautiful feeling, especially when I have had a rough day! Watching them dance together to their favourite retro music. They simply keep my belief in love going!

* Getting asked out for the first time by my husband Sudhir, who has been crushing on with me for a long time. (More on this another time :-))

* Going shopping with my friends for my very first branded outfit and denim jeans. I can never forget that day. The noise, the banter, the girly giggles and the incessant trying on of clothes and jeans accompanied by a steady flow of hilarious comments is very high up on my happiness list.

* Since I am talking about my friends, an all-night chat session and secret-exchanging makes me happy like nothing else can. Especially now, since these opportunities are few and far in between what with my crazy dance rehearsals and show schedules.

* Playing my favourite music loudly and dancing alone all over the house. Yes, I do that quite often! :).

* Giving up music to pursue dance was one of my biggest regrets in life. Hence, I try to sing aloud no matter what I sound like! Throw caution to the winds--this is super therapeutic! Hehe.. :D.

* My mom-daughter chat sessions, especially when Amma is cooking and I'm literally dying to dip a finger in whatever she's making (she's a fantastic cook by the way, her avial and thoran will vouch for it!). I end up feeding myself far too much.

* Marathon movie watching days, with my favourite movies from Bollywood like DDLJ, Salaam-E-Ishq, Kuch Kuch Hota Hain and Hollywood favourites like Notting Hill, Love Actually, First 50 Dates, The Notebook, Holiday etc... you get the gist!

* Hearing my choreographer say, "Now that was a great pose!!". Cheering along with the crowd while supporting my favourite baseball and soccer teams. It's a different high altogether and an instant burst of positivity.

This list could go on and on... Now that I'm thinking hard there really are way too many things that make me just not just plain happy but ecstatic! Now, I want you to make your own list and smile while you do your thinking. It's not necessary to send them to me, but still, if you want to, please send them to . And yes, remember always... If you're happy and you know it--CLAP YOUR HANDS!!

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Movie Review: Love Sex aur Dhokha (LSD)

If you are craving for something different from the usual Bollywood trash, ensure that you buy tickets for Love Sex aur Dhokha. The film isn't anything like what you have seen on the silver screen before. But be forewarned. Dibakar Banerjee's film is meant to be seen--and savoured--by shedding all your mothballed beliefs about how commercial cinema must or must not be. Like the 3D glasses that gave me a whole new kick out of James Cameron's Avatar, here too, you need a new kind of vision to understand how a breed of young, professionals are hell bent on pushing the envelope of traditional Bollywood and literally pulling out the rabbit from the hat. The rabbit? A completely new idiom that only the bold and venturesome can dare to enunciate.

The film works through three short stories which focus on contemporary India's attitude towards love and sex and it's unending appetite for voyeurism. In the first story two film institute students have to complete a diploma film which is their tribute to Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge. They fall in love, believing themselves to be a real-life Raj and Simran, much to the discomfort of the girl's conservative family. In the second film, a boy wants to make an MMS clip and uses the closed circuit television in a mall to meet his devious ends. But first, he must befriend a gullible girl and win her trust... before betraying it. In the third film, a TV journalist is sent on a sting operation by his TRP hungry employer. He must unveil the ugly underbelly by exposing the casting couch. His instruments: his spy camera, a small-time dancer who wants to cut a music video, any which way and an exploitative pop singer.

Of course, the box office does matter to them, as it does to everyone else. But unlike the rest, these restless filmmakers also believe that creativity isn't about bottom lines alone. There's a whole new Pandora that lies beyond the tried and tested terrain. The question here is: Do we let these Columbus-like Creatives voyage on into Noman's land or do we insist on demanding a new genre of cinema that simply blends with the butter in our popcorn?

Now that's a difficult choice, I do agree. But here's a suggestion: How about juggling the popcorn flick with the new edgy, avant-garde one that may neither be the laugh riot nor the sugar candy romantic-comedy you like to round up your weekend with. Instead, it might be that one watershed mark in movielore that might enter your diary as ''Films-to-see-when-I'm-bored-with-blah-blah-Bollywood''.

Hence, the importance of Love Sex aur Dhokha (LSD), a film that not only dares to take up every sleazy story that has grabbed the headlines of Indian newspapers in the recent past, it also endeavours to tell it differently. The film uses hand-held cameras as an integral character in the story, even as it narrates the entire plot through its jerky, shaky, intimate angles. So, you end up watching a painted toe nail, while the struggling dancer tries to seduce the pop singer or maybe, even the plaster-peeling ceiling, while a scuffle ensues on the floor of a mall. But, hey, the Director of Photography Nikos Andritsakis ensures the audience is always there, at vantage point, as the VVIP Voyeur. Could you ask for a better place?

Thematically, the film is a sledgehammer too. You'll find shades of every sex, love and crime scandal--Miss Jammu, Nitish Katara--Bharati Yadav, Tehelka's sting operation, the MMS clip and many more--you've closely read in the newspapers. Yet, kudos to the scriptwriters Dibakar Banerjee and Kanu Behl, who have steered clear of all moralistic judgmental pronouncements on the proceedings. The revulsion, the pathos and the hypocrisy of our middle-class morality springs out naturally, through restrained storytelling.

The other innovation of the film is its casting. Getting raw actors has proved to be a boon for the film and added a slice-of-life realism to the proceedings. The boy who lures the simple mall attendant, the lovers who see themselves in the Raj--Simran avatars, the desperate wannabe diva who oscillates between the good guy and the sleazy guy are completely believable with their surging hormones and sometimes shaky morals.

A word of caution: if you're going to watch LSD, DO NOT expect timepass entertainment. Think beyond the run-of-the-mill and see how Ekta Kapoor reinvents herself as the producer of contemporary Indian cinema's first full-blown experimental film.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Reunited we stand

Sitting at a coffee table for twenty people, I was for the very first time extremely thrilled and intensely nervous in the same breath. Why excited? Well, all those seated at the table were my few college friends and I was meeting them after nearly 18 years. And why nervous? At the risk of sounding repetitive... I was meeting them after 18 LONG YEARS.

I was staring at everyone, looking around the table. I tried to superimpose the faces hidden in my memory onto existing ones. Many things have changed over the years and I kept questioning them throughout the afternoon. Hey, how much weight have you put on? Your hairline is receding, Oh! So, you are married? were just some of the general banter that we asked. And then suddenly one of my friends made a statement and literally in thirty seconds I had aged to another generation. She said that she has a five year old son. Which made me realize that I was officially an ''aunty'' to a kid. The dichotomy of the situation is that they make you feel young and old at the same time.

Time had taken a toll on all of us but one thing that even time couldn't battle was the spirit that we still managed to retain amongst each other. These were my college friends, my second choices within the same species. Together, we grew up. Together we spent five years laughing, playing, bunking lectures, fighting, studying and eventually graduating to wearing sarees. (Getting the sarees from your mum to wear it on the first day of the college was nothing less than receiving the Padmashri at that young age).

Together we shared the pressure, anxiety, strain, stress and the tension of giving our final university examinations. Together we passed the hurdle and crossed the threshold that between college and jobs. And suddenly, we were not together. After spending nearly five years together, we landed in different parts of the globe pursuing our own individual dreams and we kept drifting away from each other. After 18 years, without any reason we were sitting at a coffee table, laughing, remembering and reliving all the moments we shared.

It's fascinating to learn that how everybody seems to remember every little detail, it's almost like being teleported to the past. I had the most amazing time and enjoyed every bit of this congregation.

One question: What the hell was I thinking all these years? I should have done this long ago. At the end of the afternoon I had made one resolution: Reunions are a must. I came to the conclusion: childhood memories are laced with an anti-ageing cream.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Movie Review: Arth

I'm not very appreciative of Mahesh Bhatt movies considering he mostly wastes the talent of actors in his movies. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered Arth which made a mark. It is made with utmost honesty and sincerity and the film turned out to be very original and according to me is nothing less than a cult classic.

The story is very simple but what makes it special is the treatment. Due to the superb direction, one can easily identify with what is going on the film and can relate to the characters, relationships and how they deal with it. There are no gimmicks, over-the-top glamour or unnecessary melodrama. It doesn't emphasize on paraphernalia like high-end budgets and item songs.. Despite this, it makes you sit throughout and share the highs and lows of its characters.

The story revolves around three people Inder Malhotra (Kulbhushan Kharbanda), an ad filmmaker, Pooja Malhotra (Shabana Azmi) as his wife and the ''other'' woman Kavita Sanyal (Smita Patil). The film talks about how a woman faces her husband's love-affair and deals with it. After the initial shock, she later moves on to acceptance... then to divorce. It also throws light on how life is for a single working woman and what she might have to face. During her breakup, Shabana finds herself drawn towards another man who is a singer/musician, but she does not wish to take any chances. There is much more for you to see in this movie and interpret accordingly.

No doubt, Shabana Azmi has given one of her best performances here. Kulbhushan Kharbanda as her husband and Smita Patil as his love or lust interest have also in put in good performances. This is also one of Raj Kiran's best movies since he is the comfort with whom Shabana finds during her breakup. Siddharth and Geeta Kak play family friends to Shabana.

I must let you know what fascinated me the most in the movie. Rohini Hattangadi has a small but significant role in the film as Shabana's domestic help. A fantabulous performance from her. She effectively portrays the role of a typical domestic help in the Mumbai variety. Not only that, her well-written character brings respect, dignity and sympathy towards such people. Amazing acting skills. I just loved her portrayal of a domestic help. It's only when you see such people perform, that one realises what ''acting'' is all about.

Coming back to Raj Kiran, he is one lucky guy!! He got to sing some of the memorable ghazals. Full marks to ghazal singer and music composer Jagjit Singh and Chithra Singh, who seemed to have saved some of his best ghazals for this film. The lyrics by Kaifi Azmi are deep and soulful. The ghazals blend very beautifully into the storyline of the film. It is one of those rare examples of how songs should be in Hindi films.

Summing it up, this is a movie meant for a reasonably mature audience. It is best enjoyed when watched on a silent and peaceful evening or late night. On the ratings scale, the movie gets four stars out of five which means it is highly recommended.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

For one more day...

Sunsets have always made me pensive; and the further I am away from home (I'm in the USA at the moment) the more potent and overpowering is their effect on my mood, my thoughts and very recently my words--ever since I've taken up the initiative of writing this column. There are people I know who romanticize sunsets and turn them into lovers, in whose arms they can spend the beginning of darkness; there are yet others, who term sunsets as one of the most beautiful sights nature bestows upon us. Yes! Beautiful, they sure are! But, it cannot be denied that sunsets are Mother Nature's very own double-edged swords.

Every sunset, for instance, is a glaring reminder of things that come to an end. One day less to work harder to achieve my dreams, one day less to enjoy the excitement of a new city, one day less to devour good food, one day less to hear a loved one saying, "I love you" to me, one day less in the game of life.

On the contrary, sunsets help you forget the day's pains and start anew --for sunsets are the bearers of eternal hope! It is interesting how everything we do during the day transforms itsel into a memory and how strange it is that with the rising sun, memories resurface. But for me, it is always the sun disappearing into the horizon that makes me remember things. It is always at sunset that I find myself connecting with myself. A sunset triggers in me a memory that either makes me smile wistfully or evokes sheer nostalgia. It makes me tell myself, "If only for a day..." and depending on whether it is a memory of something good or bad, I feel the desire to relive that day again and undo what I did wrong.

Sunsets make me feel responsible for the past that shaped my present and my present that is sculpting my future. I remember as a little girl, my mother would often tell me to make wish upon the setting sun. Wishes made upon the setting sun come true, it is said. So today, as I look at the setting sun from my window, I think of all the things that I wish to be and my eyes will close on that thought... I smile... I wish... I wish upon a wish-bearer--the fading sun--that at this minute will be observed by millions of people, but at the same time is giving me my very own moment of peace, love and hope or tomorrow.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Movie Review: Chhoti Si Baat

It was a perfect Sunday I always wanted to spend. Sitting lazily on the couch and watching an old film from the 1970s. I am a big fan of the Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Basu Chatterjee and their style of filmmaking. That's why, I chose to watch Basu Chatterjee's "Chhoti Si Baat" starring Amol Palekar, Vidya Sinha, Ashoke Kumar and Asrani. I was told that Chhoti Si Baat was released in the mid seventies when I wasn't even born :).

Chhoti Si Baat is a story of Arun Pradeep (Amol Palekar), a middle-class bachelor who works in a private firm. He is a very shy and low on self confidence. Following the tradition of his company of love marriages by all its employees, he also falls in love with a girl Prabha Narayan (Vidya Sinha). He sees Prabha daily at the bus stop en route to his office. He follows her everyday but is scared of talking to her. Prabha (Vidya Sinha) takes notice of this and also starts liking him. After an incident, he collects all his courage and starts a conversation with her.

Nagesh Shastri (Asrani), a friend of Prabha. Amol finds him to be the unwelcome guest because he is a very street-smart guy and an expert in all fields. Now, starts a series of hilarious situation between these three where Nagesh shows his smartness and how he makes Arun feel jealous. After losing all hopes to get Prabha and express his love, he goes to take lessons for personality from development from retired Colonel Julius Nagendranath Wilfred Singh (Ashoke Kumar) in Khandala. The rest of the film comprises of how he gets lessons and then how he implements them too woo Prabha.

Although, the story is very simple and straight, it is the execution and the storytelling which turns out to be the highpoint of the film. How a very simple situation makes you laugh out loud is the beauty of the film. Since this was the first movie I saw of Basu Chatterjee, I can't comment much except that the direction was topnotch. The most important thing I liked about the filmmaker is his expertise of showcasing everyday middle class life which is still untouched by any other director even after nearly three decades.

Sitting in 2010 and watching Bombay of the 1970s in the film is an experience in itself which gives a nostalgic feeling. Empty roads, trailer and double decker buses, trains, fashion, offices, telephones, lifestyles, buildings, cars or anything for that matter of those years is a pleasure to watch. Everything leaves an impression which cannot be erased from one's memory soon. For example, I personally cannot forget the name of the company Arun Pradeep worked, "Jackson Tolaram & Sons".

The music of the film is not as popular except the title track and Jaaneman Jaaneman. Amol Palekar has always been top grade and portrays the role of a shy bachelor with perfection. His style and acting is another highlight of the film. Vidya Sinha fits the role of a conservative middle glass perfectly. Asrani is perfectly cast for the role of Nagesh. Ashoke Kumar as a retired army major and the personality development trainer is a pleasure to watch.

On the whole, Chhoti Si Baat is a very plain simple comedy without any over the top performances as seen in today's films. It's the perfect treat you can give yourself if you like this clean and family oriented cinema. I can assure that it will be worth the two-and-a-half hours on any holiday. On the ratings chart, this movie gets a four star out of five therefore making it highly recommended.

Friday, 5 March 2010

We Aren't Family

I've been thinking a lot about the only child syndrome (or the 'lonely' child syndrome, depending on my mood) lately. In a classic case of always wanting what you can't have, my childhood was spent pining for a sibling to grow up with, gawking enviously at my friends who would share rooms, clothes, secrets, practically everything, with each other. I imagined every night to be a slumber party for them, every meal to be a riotous affair. I really, desperately, wanted a brother or sister to be my closest confidante, but eventually, I found my siblings in my friends and I realised that while blood maybe thicker than water, it doesn't always make for a stronger bond.

Today, I read about countless siblings, once attached at the hips, lashing out at each other in shameful displays of legal know how, humiliating not only themselves, but also the parents who raised them. Property disputes, corporate battles and petty familial politics adorn the front pages of newspapers and the corridors of courtrooms are littered with siblings slinging accusations and threats at each other, fighting tooth and nail for territory, possession and ultimately, to establish who's the boss. Gone are the days where clawing for the last triangle of Toblerone or fighting for who would sit in the front seat of the car were the big issues to contend with. It seems with time, siblings, especially brothers (sisters, according to me, would never turn on each other), find that healthy competition gets replaced with a heady cocktail of ownership, envy and a false sense of pride.

It's always sad to see siblings battling it out in court over property and financial matters. Invariably, whether you're an outsider looking in or a member of the feuding family, the most common explanation for their actions narrows down to one cold, hard consensus; unsuccessful parenting, because children are reflections of their parents and their upbringing is directly proportionate to their actions as adults. Is this a fair accusation? I really don't know, but at the end of the day, after much psychoanalysis, you have to blame someone.

If you're going to take on the responsibility of parenting, you've pretty much signed on to assume responsibility and accountability for most of your children's deeds, good or bad, but how can you ever anticipate, or prepare yourself for a chilling reality; what if your children grow up to despise each other? Picnics and holidays may make for photographs worth framing, but it appears that memories fade fast when it comes to assets and acquisitons.

Our cultural DNA spotlights our beliefs in large families and multiple siblings, but peer closer into the lives of modern couples and you'll see that the model has changed. Maybe, we aren't as extreme as China, with their rigid one child policy, but it seems "Hum do, hamaare do" has managed to create quite an impression on our future fornicators who strive for a more balanced family structure. Maybe they've learnt from their lessons in the past, or maybe, couples today are more selfish, more set on remaining autonomous, and realise that the more children they have, the less time they'll have for themselves. Whatever it is, it's helping in population control and I think we can all agree it's about time we practiced some restraint.

There was a time when a family of three appeared incomplete, and more often than not, that was the case. Women were only as proud as the children they raised, and so they had them in abundance to prove their maternal prowess. The families that weren't as lucky, had to make to do, and it seems now that they were the ones to get it right. Smaller, simpler and significantly stronger, the childhood of an only child may not mirror the Brady Bunch, but it has its merits. Despite being raised in a family of three, I value my family ties and traditions more than most people I know. I cherish the bond I share with my cousins and know that my parents would go to battle for me. I don't know whether if I would've turned out differently if I was raised in a house full of kids, but I know first hand the joys of choosing your people in the world and I wouldn't like to have it any other way.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Puzzle of Life

As a child, I loved puzzles. For me, they stood for challenges and mystery--the greater the number of pieces, the more it would egg me on to complete it. I was out to prove to everyone, including myself, that I had what it takes to piece things together. Then came baseball that made me believe in being a team player that again is based on the premise of being part of the glue that binds the team together and is responsible for the final success.

I believe that I can still do so, not just with puzzles and football but also with life. However, with the tide of life, the dynamics of my puzzles and games often change. Every time a few pieces would remain for me to complete my jigsaw puzzle, strong currents seem to sway them in various directions. I am often so close to completing it but I am forced to start it all over again. So, I say to myself--OK, here goes... I'll try again. Slowly and steadily I work towards piecing the various facets of my life together, but this time with a different glue--one that sticks to everything I stand for, believe and hope to achieve. The glue is a mixture of my beliefs and convictions--to be honest in my efforts, self confidence and the faith that someone up there is watching out for me.

When I went to audition for Kalyana Sowgandhikam, I was among hundreds of girls who thought they fit the role of Athira probably as much as I did. All I knew then was that I will give this my best shot and leave the rest to God. After six months when I got a call back from Vinayan sir confirming my role, it made me feel that the team saw not just my fit with the character but also my belief and conviction that stood out to help me piece such a fantastic episode of my life together. Having acted in teeny-weeny roles earlier as a child artist, I had to leave or rather down slow down my dance and education to be Athira as almost a newcomer in the Malayalam film industry, which was the point where I had to start all over again.

So now while I sit on my couch reading the newspaper, I often recall that scene from Guru where Abhishek Bachchan stands tall amidst the hustle-bustle that surrounds him with his courage of conviction and belief in himself. It reiterates one basic premise--it is indeed our strengths and confidence that help put together the pieces of our life's puzzle. What do you think? Let me know on

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

My name is Divya and I'm straight... are you?

Staring at the blank page... An hour later, I'm still staring at the blank page. Okay, I think it is high time I start moving my fingers on the keyboard. What do I write about? Well, I think this is a good topic, no, no wait I think that is better. Hmmm, but the other thing would be interesting. Oh God! Help!

It's a strange feeling of too many thoughts running through my head and at the same time, I'm completely blank. It's like sitting for an examination staring at a question, the answer to which you know but can't remember. Ok, hold on... let's do this slowly for I hope to keep you vying for more for just a little longer. So firstly, welcome to my word space and my honest confessions and general musings! Here's where I can share my thoughts and opinions and may even give you reason to think... Well, atleast I hope to. I'm quite excited, pretty obvious, isn't it? (Even though I can hear my conscience saying "Control Divya, Control", you have to make an impression as it's the first day). Ok Ok... so let me start by being absolutely straightforward!

Being straightforward is a term that's fascinated me. There are times when I find it strange, there are times when I find it honest, but there are still other times when I find it absolutely blunt, mean, a pretext to being rude, or a nice way of simply insulting a person. If you're thinking that I got carried away with the latter part of the sentence, honest to God I didn't.

Straightforward--is it used or abused, is a question I've always asked myself and continue to do so even today. Most dictionaries published across the world may define straightforward as being honest, frank, not ambiguous or obscure and I'm sure we all know that but how many of us know it's real usage in our world? How often do we see two people being downright rude to each other and justify the insolence as being straightforward? We'll also find people who insult, yet ever so politely but still manage to etch the pain in your heart justifying it under the guise of being "straight-forward".

It's not like I don't believe in being frank and straight forward... of course, I do. I believe we need to be vocal about our feelings, because there lies the charm and the beauty of being truthful and nothing and no one can be more beautiful than an honest person. However, I also believe that one could hold back from being straightforward at an inappropriate and trying time. Discretion is critical in deciding the timing--as to when to be straight forward, as you need to know when to hold back and when to be completely upfront.

Decide if being forthright would help bring the best out in someone or result in making the recipient treasure your words for life or if it served as a ray of hope in life's most trying times and not be a reason to kick someone into the dumps when they're already down and out. So, let's put it to the test--why don't you be straightforward with me on and let's together unearth possibly some more interesting facets and some additional "honest" interpretations?