Thursday, February 24, 2005

Kahan Hai Himalay Aisa, Kahan Aisa Paani

Like most other things in life, I began writing this to get over a bad mood. Like some great man said, to get rid of one’s frustration in life, sometimes, one need only look at some less fortunate fellow human beings. I have been wanting to write this for quite sometime and hence am writing a preface to the rest of this blog about my favourite theme these days.

India in the present age has two main problems and almost all of its remaining problems can be traced to these two – Education (rather the lack of it, partly manifested in Illiteracy) and Poverty.

As anybody with a reasonable inclination towards Economics can realize, one can individually do very little about the second problem above, but can do a lot to alleviate the first. I met up with an old friend of mine who was telling me that the organization that he works with (ICRA - read my next blog for more info on them), wanted to work with rural children in education and as part of their efforts, help some of them clear the X standard board exams.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Indian education system, the standard X exam is an important juncture in an Indian’s education. It is the first time that most students in India face a public exam and sadly most people stop there. It is a rather cruel thing that most Indian children don’t even get till that stage. In fact, the X standard exam (or matriculate exam as it used to be called in the British ruled India nearly 60 years ago) was a qualifying exam for jobs even a couple of decades ago. One could get a job in most banks, PSUs (public sector units) based on a reasonable performance in this exam. Enough said about its significance. Now, the bulk of failures in the standard X failures come from the rural areas and most of them fail in English and Mathematics. In most cases, it is because there was no teacher to teach either of these subjects.

I hope to be of some service to our less fortunate countrymen by aiding their cause in trying to be better in the above two subjects. Which brings me to the larger question. What can we do to better this situation? Most of us are graduates (or in some cases Post Graduates or higher) and hence must be able to atleast teach till Graduation level. I’m sure most of my readers didn’t have trouble clearing their graduation exams. Hence the least they can do is atleast be able to teach someone to do the same. Whether we choose to do it, is another matter altogether.

First, we need a set of people who can part with their resources – some money and mostly time. Atleast as of now; Time is the more important resource, as few of us manage to get out of our set lives, to do something for someone unrelated. We need many such pockets of educators in their own right. These people need to teach free of cost, tirelessly for enough time to be able to make a difference to the community at large. Perseverance will be the most important element of character that shall be tested. The other thing that must be done is to encourage discussion in these settings so that the communication skills of such students improve. Frequently candicates from rural areas find themselves all at sea in a job interview for want of nothing but communication skills. People must be able to understand the larger benefits of education.
Lets look at some numbers. Bangalore has 25 or more engineering colleges. Let us assume that each of these have 8 branches (streams) atleast. Let us assume 50 students per branch. That means every year 10000 engineers come out of Bangalore alone. The actual number is much larger. Now let us assume that there are 100 such centres in India. That means every year India churns out 1, 000,000 engineers! The actual no. again is much larger, but at the moment I need to demonstrate lower potential only. If 1% of us decided to dedicate 6 hours every weekend to educating a few students, we could have a 10000 free teachers in the system. And that, my friends will make a remarkable difference to the lives of our countrymen and our country.

Money would be required to buy minimal stationery for people who need, but can’t afford - even a pencil, let alone an eraser. In some case it may be required to buy a blackboard where they may be none. It may be required to erect a roof for a structure that was partly completed. Sometimes, individuals may be able to do only so much. As a slightly more durable effort, one can set up scholarship funds with money collected from like minded people, to fund the education of atleast one bright child per school in a rural area (The adjective bright is used to highlight the fact that students must realize at an early age that merit is rewarded). This idea is stolen from CRY’s Free A Child Today programme, wherein they say that, to sponsor the education of one kid for one full year - costs only Rs.800/-. Incredible ain’t it? That would be about 4 weekends at PVR cinemas. I would continue watching movies at such establishments. I’m not for a moment saying one shouldn’t. I was only trying to put things in perspective. So it isn’t altogether difficult to collect money. I shall make an organized effort sometime later in life. As for now, I shall concentrate on giving time. This would also help one get a perspective on ground level problems in primary education in India.

There are some respectable foundations like the Infosys Foundation and the Azim Premji Foundation which are doing commendable work in India, even for primary education. So there should be no shortage of funding. If one wants to make Kalam’s awakened India a reality, we need more people giving time.

After all, what does one want, when one leaves this life - The goodwill of a billion countrymen?

P.S. The title of the blog is from a popular song from an old Hindi movie meaning, "Where can you find such a thing as the Himalayas, Where can one find such water?"

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Inspired Music

I was recently listening to a piece of music in a cab and was initially smiling to myself as the tune was the familiar violin piece at the beginning of "The Fiddler on the Roof." My initial reaction soon turned to rage when the song morphed into some disgusting dance music with beats. Turned out it was from a Telugu movie named "Jayam." This is no isolated instance.

Enough movies these days flick shamelessly from original (classical or otherwise) compositions.
Almost none has been lacking in the "inspiration quotient."

And there are those, who just embed it in arbitrary contexts with no heed to appropriateness, the issue of copyright being ignored for a second, to highlight the decadence in music composition.

I have heard some Tamil song recently with an evidently Spanish theme all through. Whither the original talented composers?

With the trend in movies being remade in the other 2 or 3 South Indian languages, after its been made in one (usually Malayalam), there's no shortage of songs sounding the same in 4 languages.
How I long to hear music from people like Illayaraja. The issue of originality is an endless debate. Guess one may have to end up listening to nature and then one may never know if one songbird is copying another!

I wish people could atleast license it from the owners, use it and hopefully with some taste.

Right now, its like making a photocopy of the Mona Lisa and hanging it on your Loo (vre!)

Monday, February 14, 2005

Happy Valentines Day?

I was just wondering whether there should be an apostrophe after theValentine or should I treat it as a plural as in just 'valentines!' In any case, I guess I would rather wish St Valentine rather than valentines, considering my present status! Maybe he will bless me :)

Happy Valentine's Day.
Love,

D


Here's a random quote that I used as an email signature years ago.

"Don't be sad because it's over.
Smile because it happened."

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Naach

This movie which came out sometime late last year, disappeared quickly, as the Indian audience is yet to mature to see movies, which have a strong individual theme and a script favouring the woman. Another excellent experiment by Ramu. The movie does have a self referential thread where characters are caught between maintaining artistic freedom and trying to keep the masses happy and also making money from movies. I guess Ramu must go thru the same – Every time he has to make a Mast or Naach, he should have made atleast one Company, Bhoot before.

The movie is set in the now familiar Mumbai’s landscape - the hero and the heroine in the suburban train/BEST bus and then the rooftop of an apartment block, Chowpatty… all make their appearances. Antara Mali is out of this world in her dancing and the choreography of Terence Lewis and another chap who has done most of the choreo work is largely western and has a massive sensual appeal. Forget Antara Mali’s dancing, her sheer athleticism in the movie is mind boggling. And as for her character, Ayn Rand’s fans will easily identify with a Roarkian dancer

Ritesh Deshmukh delivers a fine act as the understated director who’s besotted with her. There are some veiled “thumbing the nose” attempts at some existing practices in today’s Bollywood.

The soundtrack is largely unspectacular, save for the Berang Zindagi hai, Mujhe Pyaar Chahiye rendered by Sukhwinder Singh. The chemistry between the pensive Abhishek and the ‘sometimes serious, sometimes enigmatically smiling’ Antara holds the movie together. Ramu is guilty of extravagance on Antara – costumes, dancing, performance in the second half. A clear 20 mins could have been clipped in the movie, to make it a slick product.

While I keep hoping for the perfect Indian movie, one could go and watch this as well.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

The title of this movie (certain to be a cult classic) is based on a quote by Alexander Pope. Don’t miss the discussion of this itself in the movie.

If anything, the movie should have won an Oscar for the screenplay; for the freshness of the script. Kate Winslet sparkles yet again in an unusual role. Kirsten Dunst has a nice little supporting role in the movie. But to me the reason to go watch is Jim Carrey. He has acquired a nice scrawny look. And he pulls off a fantastic performance as Joel, the protagonist, whose incurable romantic memory refuses to let go off his Clementine.
How long will the Academy ignore him?! @#$*s .If you haven’t seen Man on the Moon, Truman Show and this one, you might think Jim Carrey is capable of only ‘Dumb and Dumber’ roles! In fact you could also see The Majestic, which is also a good showcase of his talents.

This movie is a concept in itself as romantic science fiction if I may so term the genre. The day may not be far off when people can ‘wash off’ parts of their memory. The engaging activities of the mind of Joel as he grapples with a decision to erase his memory of the woman who has already done so with her memory of him, reminded me of Being John Malkovich, where a character experiences what it is to being John Malkovich. Outstanding background score and fine performances by everyone as participants in a new system of just wiping off sections of one’s painful memories. One wishes one could do that. I have a list of things I want out of my memory!!!

Page 3

Madhur Bhandarkar's movie which I finally saw today is worthy of praise and not for Konkona Sen Sharma's role alone. Even the guy who plays the role of a chauffeur of one of those permanent page 3 fixtures, impresses. Apparently Madhur had initially planned the movie as seen thru the eyes of a chauffeur, (maybe the one I mention); then he decided to script it as seen thru the eyes of a journalist. Who knows how the movie may have turned out if he had stuck to his idea!

Konkona who smashed onto the scene thru Mr and Mrs Iyer essays a credible role. Tara Sharma is extremely believable as the girl from Delhi who's eager to enter bollywood. She even sounds like one of the women in Delhi! Sandhya Mridul who plays the third roomie
is a little out of sorts as the air hostess. But she's got a meaty, humorous part of the script.


Madhur Bhandarkar’s forte seems to be recreating the magic of mumbai. He starts off where he left in Chandni Bar. The landscape he creates in the movie is very real. Also the script maintains the realism with the language which is occasionally vulgar, but commonplace in today's speech. Although the characters are modeled on real life personalities such as fashion designers, none of them wear anything out of hand such as what you see in some cliched casting and accompanying costume design in most Indian movies, these days.

The soundtrack is mostly ordinary, save for 2 tracks – one each by Asha and Lata. The one by Lata (Kitni Ajeeb Rishte Hai Yahan Pe) weaves the movie around itself (much like Shubha Mudgal’s track in Raincoat). It is a virtual commentary on our own lifestyles, if one may say so – …Do Pal Milte Hai, Saath Saath Chalte Hai. How true.

I would think the Page 3 is a bigger milestone than BLACK, since I am a fan of movies which are closer to reality, unless the fantasy is something that one would dearly want, like The Lord of the Rings or for that matter, even Harry Potter. And Bollywood needs someone whose USP isn’t being pretty, alone, but can make each role she portrays her own. Good going Konkona, your momma will be proud of you.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

BLACK

This review would have started differently had it not been for a friend who saw the movie with me. He expounded that nothing great usually happens in a flash. First you get to good and then you get to great.Black is a step in the good direction. My take as to why it is not a great is in the comments to the blog. But my friend reminded of me what the Japanese call Kaizen thinking.

The first thing that hits you when you see black is the lack of clutter in the movie. Everything is neat. Its like the windshield of a new car - spotless.The best performance in the movie undoubtedly comes from Amitabh. Rani is excellent, make no mistake. But Amitabh, especially in the first half transcends ordinary acting and is finger-licking good.He manages to replicate his flair for humour (seen in several Hindi movies) in English, for the first time - atleast to my knowledge. This brings to mind something which isn't missable. Black is almost entirely in English and goes a long way towards making it easy for audiences outside India.

The kid actress, Ayesha Kapur, impresses with what must be a debut performance. The cinematography is fantastic & the movie is a must see if only to see a songless yet entertaining movie.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Blog on Blogs!

before you wonder why I am sounding like an enthusiastic mountain brook attempting some alliteration,
the following are 3 interesting blogs that I found in my daily excursion on the internet
the first is an article on blogs and the new issues that they are bringing to the fore
http://www.informationweek.com/story/showArticle.jhtml;jsessionid=4LIZMGIVEVVQ4QSNDBGCKHSCJUMEKJVN?articleID=59100462

the next two are pertaining to an interest of mine - automobiles and are both real time blogs by auto industry folks
http://smallblock.gmblogs.com/

http://fastlane.gmblogs.com/archives/2005/02/best_in_class_t.html