Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Movie Review: Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa

"Ae rehbar-e-mulq-o-qaum zara,
Aankhen na chura, nazrein toh mila
Kuch hum bhi sunein, humko bhi bata
Yeh kiska lahu hain... yeh kaun mara?"

The much acclaimed film "Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa" is a narration of Sujata Chatterjee's (Jaya Bachchan) discovery of her son's Brati Chatterjee (Joy Sengupta) life. Made in the backdrop of the Naxalite uprising in West Bengal's Naxalbari, the film mostly deals with Sujata's quest for understanding her deceased son's ideologies and outlook towards life. Starting off with a mere corpse number ''1084" (which lends the film it's name), she establishes her son's identity, despite the social barriers surrounding her.

Sujata's character has been defined as a simple-minded mother whose love for her son gave her the strength to not only discover his pursuit in life, but also to find meaning in her own. Adapted from the short story of the same name by Mahaswetha Devi, Govind Nihalani's screenplay brings out a nice diagnosis of the varying ideologies of an entire generation--how a protected and almost shrouded environment can co-exist with an uprising that seeks to change the very foundation of society. The film explodes at a point where Sujata questions this very oddity, thus marking a moment of change in her own life.

The film has some rather intense moments with Nandini (Nandita Das). In almost a monologue, Nandini converses with Sujata where she not only brings to light a revolutionary and romantic episode of Brati's life but also rescues a mother dwelling amidst ignorance and compromises. A stark contrast to the dignified and contained Sujata, is Brati's friend Somu's mother (Seema Biswas) who despite her troubles, has seen more meaning and truth in her motherhood.

Joy Sengupta in a very minimal but crucial role captures the essence of human imagination. He plays with the emotions effortlessly. Seema Biswas in an important role is earnest but still manages to leave an indelible mark in her scenes. The role of an ignorant poor unfortunate woman has been tuned to a finesse by her. Nandita Das manages to bring an aura of dignity to her role. Not only does she enact the role with panache, but also, brings into broad relief the aspirations of the Naxalites and the reasons for their policies and principles. Milind Gunaji portrays his role with admirable restraint and ensures that the character heightens the drama.

On the whole, the movie is a broad swash on the canvas of our times and can indeed be considered as a landmark movie both in terms of the period it highlights and the inner turmoils of the characters it highlights. Socially, the film gains more relevance due to the fact that we are still struggling to eradicate the Naxal menace.

To end the review, one returns from the cinema with Sahir Ludhianvi's sher:

"Yeh hungama bida-e-shab hain, ae zulmat ke farzandon;

Saher ki dosh par gulnar parcham hum bhi dekhenge

Tumhein bhi dekhna hoga yeh alam; hum bhi dekhenge."

Friday, 10 September 2010

Kabhi Kabhie

आती हैं तेरी याद हमको कभी कभी

होती हैं ख़्वाबों में भी मुलाकात कभी कभी

कुछ अपना होश रहता हैं न दुनिया का हमें

जब होती हैं आँखों से बरसात कभी कभी

होता तो होगा तुझे हमारी चाहत का एहसास

होता तो होगा दिल भी बेताब कभी कभी

यह अलग बात हैं मुझे आदत हैं मुस्कुराने की

गुज़र जाती हैं मगर आंसुओं में रात कभी कभी

किस कम्बक्त को ज़रुरत हैं तेरी तस्वीर की?

आंसुओं से बन जाती हैं तेरी तस्वीर कभी कभी

दुनिया कहने लगेगी काफिर हमें भी

तेरे ताखौल को किया हैं सजदा कभी कभी

न पा सकी वो सुकून-इ-दिल तेरे साथ भी

जो मिल जाता हैं तेरे बाद कभी कभी

लिख तो लेता हूँ मैं हाल-इ-दिल मगर फिर भी

होती हैं लफ़्ज़ों की करनी महसूस कभी कभी

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

A French Toast

When two male French tourists unknowingly accompanied their two women counterparts inside the ladies' compartment of the CST bound local the previous Tuesday, an Indian woman politely pointed out to one of the white women, "Excuse me, this is ladies".

To which, the female tourist, who couldn't comprehend the statement was indirectly meant for her male friends, shot back, in heavily accented English, "But I am lady, right?" The Indian passenger then had to point towards the men who were hanging out near the door and blissfully taking in the wet landscape. "Next station, that side", she said this time, stressing on every word as if she herself were French.

Of course, it worked. While the men got off, the women stayed back, making the otherwise sluggish "slow" journey to CST quite a memorable one. For starters, they had almost every female passenger in the compartment, including the one who got rid of their friends, blushing when they started taking pictures of them.

"Bictoria Station?" they enquired and when someone answered "last" perhaps decided they had enough time to subside their hunger pangs. So, from their shopping bag, out came a packet of Indian ginger cookies and pasteurized milk, which, to the amazement of Indian co-passengers, the duo drank directly from the plastic pack.

A rubber-band, fresh from supporting a pony tail, was then used to fasten the remaining milk, securing it for future use. They also watched in awe as women passengers "booked" seats in advance and everytime someone impatiently pushed them while alighting, one of these uninitiated women would say, "Wait, senora", step behind and add, "Now go".

Finally at Dadar, when they were blessed with a seat, it started raining. The always open doors were immediately shut, but what amused the French women was the fact that water found its way to their seats from the window, despite it being shut. They laughed at the sight and this time, the Indian co-passengers surprisingly joined in the laughter. "India, India" they chorused happily, staring at the gaps that were perhaps too obviously symbolic of the loopholes in our system.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Driving Blues

A short fifteen minute drive in any direction will show an individual that if Mumbai's carriageways were better managed, half of Mumbai's flyovers would be unnecessary.

One badly/wrongly/double-parked tempo or taxi throws the brake on a whole line of fast-moving traffic. A garbage bin jutting out an angle, or a foot away from the sidewalk, instead of being flush with the kerbside, creates the same obstruction and gives trucks and cabs to use the "cordoned off" space as legitimate parking. A temporary BMC shed for repair or construction is soon joined by a snaking line of corrugated iron, which becames permanently long after the municipal gangs have moved out, leaving a pile of never-removed debris in their wake.

And now, they saw off monsoon-precarious branches of roadside trees and leave them to rot on the carriageway, creating a literal logjam. I am not even going to mention the potholes, because I have fallen into them a long while ago. How easy it would be to smoothen traffic. And how naive of us to think that this is the primary purpose of sanctioning infrastructure projects.