Friday, July 22, 2005

Viruddh: A simple storyline sculpted by class acting and direction

One of the advantages of being in Dubai is to have a chance to see a movie a day before it gets released in India. So it happened with Viruddh, a movie that was promoted as struggle of retired couple, Vidhyadhar Patwardhan and his wife Sumi to prove their son’s (Amar) innocence who is victim of a person with police machinery at his disposal. The story line gave a strong semblance of Mahesh Bhatt-directed ''Saaransh” made twenty odd years ago – a story of elderly couple who lose their young son in a fatal accident.

So has Viruddh established its own identity? The answer is Yes, in fact - a distinct Yes.

Viruddh is a movie devoid of any songs, leave alone Item number, sexual innuendos and brutal violence. Movie doesn’t take you to any exotic outdoor locations nor have any extravagant sets or designer clothes. Yet, Viruddh steadily involves audience as a member to milieu of Patwardhan family. The movie has no convoluted storyline with different plots. It just has two parts of Patwardhan family- first with their son and second without him. And both these parts are paced in measured way. The movie doesn’t take audience to the crescendo of excitement nor at the depth of despair in certain scenes. It is like a drama, where every scene is depicted in its original nuance and doesn’t carry legacy of previous frames, yet carry a streamlined continuity.

Mahesh Manjrekar has carried with him his strengths of Marathi drama, Middle Class Marathi ethos and social facets. In many situations, an influence of Sai Paranjpe gets pronounced. Gulzar says, film is director’s medium. Mahesh does that by providing canvass, choice of color and brush and his theme to stalwart like Amitabh Bacchan and Sharmila Tagor to portray their histrionic talents. And how superbly they have done it. Amitabh is now Dustin Hoffmann, Woody Allen of Bollywood. His acting is not just depiction of character but a portrayal of minute mannerisms, gestures and lifestyle of character. He has changed his speech delivery, gait to suit the character with his mesmerizing gift of timing. This wouldn’t have been possible without director+ actor team. Sharmila Tagor despite being at the risk of being overshadowed by male protagonist did commendable assignment.

So often in Hindi movie, in order to gain wider acceptance, script brings different religions and ethnic characters. So is this movie with Sanjay Dutt (Muslim Car Mechanic) Prem Chpora (Sikh), Sharat Saxena (south Indian), and Shivaji Satam (Parsee). But it’s heartening to note that they are not brought just to woo different section of the society but to show slice of Mumbai – as a cosmopolitan slice of life. Son Amar (John Abraham) handles role effectively so is Daughter in law (Anusha Dandekar).

Marathi drama or short stories often revolve around “sutradhar”- a character who narrates the story from bystander point of view. Amol Palekar did this in Paheli with “Naseeruddin”. Mahesh Manjrekar has used one of the main characters of script as sutradhhar- very elegantly. The repartee, humor is very middle class maharashtrian and carries essence of Pu La Deshpande, Va Pu Kale genre.

I often hate to read reviews as they often reveal outcome or narrate incidents that takes away curiosity. I avoided this while writing review. I hope I have succeeded in this endeavor.

Viruddh touches audience in many different forms. One can empathize with helplessness of Vidhyadhar, filial bond of a Patwardhan family and brutal face of those who carry material trappings. This was evident with mute silence of audience (comprised of Indian, Pakistani and Arabs) as they walked out of theater, Perhaps it was little difficult to get detached from Patwardhan family. I would recommend this film to anyone who enjoys sensitive, elegant movie with simple storyline, gripping acting and direction.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Be alone but not lonely

Osho said
Be alone but not lonely.
How apt is the state of mind
Where tranquility rules steadfastly

Now I carve my own life
Chart my own destiny
Be a pathfinder of my own strife
And with exemplary serenity

Me with my senses
Wallop in nature’s splash
Cherish subtle nuances
Rise like phoenix from ash

Undulating tumultuous mind waves
Turn into gentle breeze of Tranquility
Vicissitude of expansive traverse
Transform into pious sobriety

Empathize with those
Forlorn souls Shunned
As destitutes in old age homes
Incarcerated and banished

When I yearn for company.
They come like flock of swans
when I sense the traces of felony
I retreat to my cocoon of warps

Connoisseur of Chalice
Ruling the Kingdom of mind
As nice as a paradise
With no such thing as dead end

There is no fear of stagnation
No travesty of justice
There is no Subjugation
And fear of any malice

With choice of more & more
Conjuring to live dangerously
I would be with myself allover
Be alone and not lonely

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Little Buddha’s showing the way :

How often we find ourself helpless for loss for words. Sometimes things can be beyond description. We can empathize with them but find it difficult to express the significance or the impact they have on us. We mull them over and often communicate with ourselves in the silence. Those images we carry for some time and after a while we get a chance to express what we have witnessed.

Something like this I experienced when I saw little children with shaved heads at Enchay Monastery in Gangtok City reciting Tibetean scriptures under watchful eyes of their Lama teacher. However obedient they may have appeared their naughty eyes did roam around to explore a possible prank that could be accomplished without being caught.

Seeing them run towards dormitory during lunch recess , clutching crimson colored robes to prevent it from being spoilt from rain-drenched mud was amusing. At dormitory a small wooden bench with neatly tucked bed-sheet, blanket and tin trunk is what their worldly possessions are. Housed in big hall numbering in 100’s, they wake up at early dawn. A common toilet and washroom adjacent to the hall give them their first experience of managing life on their own. Scurrying from the school to dormitory , rummaging through tin trunk to pick up their plate and cup and running downstairs in a smoke filled kitchen( fuelled from natural wood) to stand in a queue to grab their meal will make anyone’s eyes moist. Every minute is precious as they could use remaining recess to play pranks with fellow students. Those who are a bit fortunate to have their pocket money from parents and guardians hover around street vendors to see if they could have their crunchy munchy chips and candies if menu at dormitory is unpalatable. As they strut back to monastery for afternoon classes, one could feel their heavy heart. My mind went back to our city-spoilt kids who throw tantrums at everything that they don’t possess.

As these children grow up, some of them slip into worldly affairs of raising a family and some reach to become Lama. Most of them do not live secluded life but amidst people on devout mission of spreading Buddha’s teachings. Often you see them on monasteries flitting at great speed, with robes rustling as they pass pausing briefly to bow reverently in the direction of the Buddha stupa. However, it does amuse when they mix with other Lamas and act like normal people, laughing and joking among themselves, rather than feeling lost in the trance.

How does one embark on the journey to become Lama? This question often intrigued me.

When a person wishes to join the Buddhist Order, he is first ordained as a novice. Often parents from far flung areas decide to have their child ordained. His journey begins with a symbolic act of his renunciation of the worldly life by shaving off his hair and put on a robe appropriate to the monastic tradition, which he has entered. The Preceptor, who is a senior monk and an instructor are then given the responsibility for guiding this novice through his period of monastic training. At the end of this period, the novice may receive the higher ordination as a monk (bhikkhu) or a nun (bhikkuni). There is no specific age for entry; you would often find a 6-year and 10 year old together in same class.

An ordained member of the Order is provided with shelter, food, clothing and medical cares. His life is secure but not luxurious or ostentious. His parents do come and visit him. If he has local guardian, he is allowed to spend his time at their home.

What does he do in monastery? He spends his time mainly

· Studying mostly in groups in formative years and later on individually if subject need arises
· Carry out any assigned task. I have seen a small child correcting visitors at Rumtek Monastery who were taking anti clockwise rounds.
· Meditate and participate in recitation of the disciplinary code on new moon and full moon days
· Perform religious services for the community.

There is no fixed time to complete the curriculum. It depends on the individual’s abilities and skills. Although all members are vowed to the code of discipline and have renounced all but the most basic possessions, they retain the freedom to express their views. The system appears highly democratic. Important decisions are normally made collectively and only after all the members have had the opportunity to air their views.

At first, education in Buddhist monasteries was confined to the study of topics on Buddhist Teaching, History that covers Buddha’s doctrines and his deeds. However, with change of times, monastic education has became more comprehensive. Now day’s students are taught everything from Buddhist and non-Buddhist Philosophy and History, Grammar and Composition, Logic, Mathematics, Medicine and even the creative Arts and debating.

So often in India and in other developing countries we see small children abandoned from school or engaged in labor for the benefit of parental economic sustenance, while this goes on State Govt Machinery watches it with mute silence. In Sikkim, Poor parents in far away areas alongwith Buddhist monastic universities play a crucial role in providing these children not just education but secured and enriched life.

In today’s world begeted by violence, terrorism and religious intolerance, these little Buddha’s come as messenger of peace and co-existence.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

SIKKIM: a symphony of nature

Every tourist destination evokes a specific template response. Switzerland – for her alpine mountains, Mediterranean – temperate climate, Black Forest – flora and fauna, Grand Canyon – majestic gorge, Niagara – awe-inspiring waterfall, Kyoto- Mystic buddhist shrines nestled in green environs. If one were to create a montage of all the above templates, only one place would emerge. That is ‘a small and beautiful enchanting dreamland of Sikkim’. Add to this, a backdrop of snow clad Himalayan mountain range; this montage is transformed into a portrait that embodies munificence of nature at her best. We have not yet given a final touch. Rustling soundtrack of ever flowing water streams and mischievous crimson gold colored draped lama students of monastery turn Sikkim turn into a movie spectacle that no film or camera would be suffice to capture.

At Sikkim, one can go from 500 ft to 14,000 ft within few hours of drive. As one ascends, landscape gets magnificent. Hills rise to give mountains creating a valley all along its traverse. Teesta River runs along the valley pronouncing a roar that hums the eardrum day and night. In monsoon, cascading waterfalls and numerous streams from steep mountains makes nature demonstrate her breath-gasping attribute. As one reach pinnacle of mountain range, rivulets of Teesta River flanked by vertical cliffs soars through azure sky. On one side is valley and the other side is steep mountain with her peaks lined with pine tress all along her contour. Waterfalls creating mist with massive cloudbanks providing a blanket of fur. Moreover, if sunrays were to pierce, mystic Sikkim turns into sparkling Sikkim creating a perfect harmony of nature. From Monsoon to spring, make few replacements – waterfalls give away to spring flowers, cloud cover banished with sunshine. Valley in summer adorn her green carpet with emergence of spectacular colorful pattern of rhododendron and primula flowers and naked eyes gets transfixed on Kanjanjunga peaks.

It is unlikely that anywhere in the world an area as small as 7000 sq Km would house more than 4000 species of plants. Sikkim is dream place for Botanists and Bird Lovers. Over 400 varieties of butterflies and moths adorn the forest with color and life. Giant Lammergeyer Vultures, Eagles, Whistling Thursh, Minivets, Bulbuls, and Pheasants are some from among the 550 species of birds that embellish Sikkim. The hillsides and mountain slopes of Sikkim are strewn with bright patches of myriad colours. The lower mountain slopes are abundant with lush green bamboos and ferns. The northern valleys are spruced with wild cherry, oaks, chestnuts, pines and white magnolia with large plantations of cardamom, orange and tea.

If north Sikkim offers a mesmerizing scene with yaks grazing on flower-carpeted meadows against a backdrop of towering peaks surrounded by mist-shrouded mountains, West Sikkim, with chain of monasteries bring a divinity. South Sikkim offers unmatched views extending from the Himalaya to the plains of Bengal. East Sikkim too does not lag behind with Gangtok demonstrating a vibrant city life with its charming people.

When times comes to leave Sikkim , one just does not just carry a spirit of daredevil adventurer influenced by trekking on snow-clad mountains, river rafting on Teesta river but also a sublime spirit of divine land from the influence of Rumtek and Enchey Monasteries.