Saturday, February 21, 2009

kolkata boi-mela

during my last visit to kolkata,i did a few things that i would normally not have done.because it is always a rushed trip.meetings after meetings and then time to go the guest house and crash.i had a free weekend with me. like a child my eyes popped out with excitement.when i am in kolkata,i am on familiar is one of my comfort zones. i decided to prioritise my needs. visit to the beauty salon for a pedicure and manicure. and then to visit the boi-mela(book fair) held near 'sonar-bangla, the five-star itc of the biggest book fairs in the world after frankfurt,london and paris. and scotland was one of the partner countries.every year a country is chosen as a focus country.last year it was usa.

known as the "intellectual city",kolkata attracts a huge number of visitors during this is also saraswati pooja time.she is the goddess of learning.the weather is also excellent at this timeof the year.about 50-60,000 visitors come every day,many of them paying their second or third visits.totally about 20 to 25 lakh people visit the fair. it is the largest attended book fair in the world.starting mainly as a book fair 33 years ago, it is now broad based and includes art and cultural activities and food courts which is a major attraction.

the enthusiasm of the organisers motivated by the interest of the book-loving public is phenomenal.but the book- fair lacks infrastructure.the entrance was stinky,the whole area of the ground very unwalkable as it was muddy and slushy,the people- traffic poorly controlled,litter all around giving you a feeling of nausea only soothed by piping bengali music.rabindra sangeet and aadhunik bangla gaans.and outside the entrance it was chaos.motor traffic was out of control.wonder what impressions our scottish guests carried back with them. certainly not very pleasant memories.hopefully,these not very complicated issues will be addressed by the organisers and the annual event turned into a state of the art and world class book fair,kolkata can do it.

the signature tune "oi daakche boi"-the books are calling you, keeps reverberating in your ears when you leave.not only do you bond physically with the book- fair but emotionally too.i will come again,kolkata,next year. but do something to make it not only intellectually stimulating but hygienic and pleasing to the eyes and easy on the legs.

Friday, February 20, 2009

smile with pinky and her dad

in the hype and hoopla of the ten nominations for the oscar for 'slumdog millionaire',a short film from india on pinky,'smile pinky', nominated for the best short documentary has been strangely totally ignored by the indian many unfortunate children born in developing countries,pinky was born with a cleft lip.her poor parents had no money to have the corrective surgery done. she refused to go to school because other normal children shunned her. till she was luckily chosen for the operation.thanks to 'smile train' which teaches doctors in developing countries how to operate on a cleft lip. now her life has transformed and her father rajendra sonkar is overjoyed.she is also flying to watch the oscar awards ceremony. like rubina ali,the little girl from a mumbai slum who acted in 'slumdog millionaire'.'smile pinky' has been directed by megan mylan.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


my mother-in-law who is in her nineties visited us in november last year and stayed with us for a couple of months. her burning desire was to visit the sai baba shrine at shirdi and pay her respects to him.i had to find out an easy way of escorting her to shirdi and bringing her back safely as she is quite frail of health. i was at my wits' end.the only thing that i could do was to look up to sai baba for his help.

last month,i was able to find some time in my tight schedule and took a day off from my work.we took the morning kingfisher flight to ozhar,the hal airport near nasik.we arrived at about 11.30. from ozhar it was a two hour drive to the shirdi sai sansthan.the road is excellent.therefore we reached shirdi by 1.30 pm without much of a strain. it was midweek and a working day.i was surprised to see thousands of people waiting for a darshan.

the sss is supposed to be the second richest shrine board in india after ttd at tirupathi.being the centenary year for sai baba's palki,the sss is going all out to improve the infrastructure out there. a railway station,an airport,better accomodation,darshan passes from mumbai et al to make the darshan and stay a pleasurable experience.the state government has announced the formation of a shirdi development authority to improve roads,water supply,housing etc in this small holy town.wider roads,skywalks,mutilevel car parking,gardens and medical facilities have been planned.

a friend of mine had arranged for a police van to accompany us to the temple.we were ushered in quite fast and we got a terrific darshan.i had to physically pull my m-i-l out as she continuted to enjoy the proximity to the sai baba and appeared to be in almost a trance. we were then taken to an ante-room and prasad was offered to us.we had to leave immediately for ozhar as our flight was to take off at 5pm. the return journey took longer time,almost two and half hours. at one point i almost gave up on the flight and was making arrangements for a stay overnight.we made it just in the nick of time.the aircraft was waiting for us to take off.luckily,i had the foresight to take return boarding passes from mumbai.that made the airport staff wait for that extra few was a miracle that we got on board the flight. and in twenty minutes flat we were back in mumbai.

i consider this to be sai baba's miracle. my m-i-l was overjoyed that she could have his darshan and return home in eight hours' time.quite a feat.thanks to our saviour,sai baba.i would not recommend such a rushed visit to anyone. neither shall i do it overnight's stay and darshan in leisure is what is is good for the heart and for the soul.

Friday, February 13, 2009

slumdog millionaire

jhopadpattikutta karorepati.that would be the literal translation of the title into hindi.but when i first read about this movie, i looked up the oxford dictionary to get the meaning of slumdog. it wasn't there,so i tried wikepedia. and i got the answer. the word is new.coined by simon beaufoy who has done the script for the movie. it is made up of two words slum and dog. the dog here refers to the who is is not favoured to win a competition. one million is ten lakhs and ten million makes a crore.a crorepati pronounced as karorepati is a millionaire.

there was a hue and cry for the reference to the word dog for the poor usual some even went to court to get a stay on the film's release.but they didn't get any relief.i decided to see the movie as it had won so much approbation.awards galore.and the 'real thing',the oscar almost there,if you believe in the law of verdict. well deserved.danny boyle and his team have done a marvellous job.

right from the start of the movie,it grips your dull portrays the life in a mumbai slum like no other hindi movie has ever done.true.hundred exaggeration.even to the extent of showing the young would be millionaire jamal(dev patel) sitting in the loo and when he hears that his favourite film star amitabh bacchan is landing there in a helicopter,he tries to run out to meet him and take his autograph on a photo of his that he has preserved.finding the door of the loo bolted from outside by a mean guy,he jumps vertically down into the shit and runs and succceeds in getting the autograph.that grit perhaps helps him to face all odds to win the coveted "kaun banega krorepati?"

adapted from diplomat swarup's novel titled 'q and a', an award winning book by itself,simon beaufoy has made the story look so compelling.for every question raised in the gameshow,the answer to the uneducated slumboy comes out of experience.the host(anil kapoor) is awestruck at jamal's capability and is sure that it is a case of fraud. the police(irfaan khan and saurabh shukla) step in. jamal is harassed and tortured by but finding no evidence of any wrongdoing he is released for the final round.

the kidnapping of young children in the slums,their torture to make them handicapped and to be used as beggars is vividly shown.the perpetrators initially treat the children well,feed them and once they win the innocent children's confidence,they go about their ruthless task.jamal,his brother munna and their friend latika get caught in this racket.jamal and munna escape,but poor latika remains behind.jamal can never forget latika(then rubina ali).he yearns to get back to her.over the years she has been trained to sell her body. and be the object of pleasure.according to danny boyle there are as of now 26,283 latikas in mumbai alone!

jamal's brother becomes a member of the underworld.latika(now freida pinto) works in the house of a don(mahesh manjrekar).jamal establishes contact with his brother and later latika who is now the object of pleasure of his brother too.taking all this in his stride,jamal goes for the final show sure that latika his childhood sweetheart will be watching and will come to meet him from wherever she is.he answers the last question on the names of the three musketeers correctly and wins the competition.latika and jamal are together.the don has been killed and so too his brother.

the finale is the dancesong "jai ho". beautifully picturised at cst(vt) station,brilliant music by rehman,well choreographed,it was a treat to watch this dance alongwith the credits rolling at the end of the twohour movie. to sum up,sm is a very realistic portrayal of mumbai slum life and shows how the spirit to fight against all odds finally triumphs.

what i admire about danny boyle(aaram se is his favourite expression) and christian colson,one of the producers of sm,is their plan to pump significant profits from the film back into the mumbai slums where the film is set.they want to give back to an extraordinary city which has helped them produce an extraordinary film.the objective of the fund would be to help deprived and underprivileged children and to distribute money to projects in mumbai and the rest of india. a good lumpsum amount would be paid to the slum children actors once they reached 18 and completed their studies.they are giving them an incentive to finish many indian producers have ever put back their profits into mumbai and their slums? when some of the slumchildren were asked about the movie they said that it gives an accurate picture of their kind of life."we like it better than the usual bollywood movies".that should answer all the critics.

partly funded with american money,directed by a british director and an indian rags to riches and gut wrenching story has done so much for bollywood than any other locally produced movie has done.the movie is dark and gloomy and also funny,breathing happiness and is a fastpaced film with everyone putting in outstanding performance.the unknown young actors take the cake.the young protogonist jamal(dev patel),the humble callcentre chaiwallah(as he is ridiculed by the show host) still hangs in there and does not collapse under the weight of the mind games played by the showhost and the trauma of torture by the cops. all just to win his sweetheart back.

the winner is also mumbai slums like dharavi and the one at juhu.dharavi was a fort and a fisherman's hamlet and now asia's biggest slum occupying an area less than half of new york's central park with ten lakhs people cramped in there.

will the $10 million sm win the top honours next week in the academy awards or will the $150 million dollar benjamin button? is it a million dollar question? or is it a no-brainer? i had earlier mentioned about the law of probability. that is in sm's favour.also the odds offered by the bookies in india and abroad is also some indication.while sm gets 1.53 odds in india,the international community's is 1.16.and for bb it is 6.50.that is surely an indication of things to come.