Sunday, August 28, 2011 16 comments

A SONG…. ABOUT SOMEONE DIFFERENT


I have often wanted to do a post on some of my favorite  Hindi film songs. But somehow, I have never got down to it- the sheer numbers of lovely songs that I would have to choose from was rather daunting- in fact I have often felt that this subject would require a dedicated blog in itself! But the thought keeps coming every now and then. (Today especially - as I spent the morning at a beautiful presentation on the 1970s Hindi film melodies)

Let me begin by telling you what attracts me to a song. It is first the tune of course – which needs to be catchy enough to get my attention. After that it is the words. No matter how catchy a tune is unless I like the words it does not get into my list of favorites. The words of a Hindi film song are very interesting. The love songs have the hero praising the heroine- usually her looks- her eyes , her hair and comparing them to a lot of beautiful things. The heroine  is often referred to as “gori”  or the fair one! Certainly a fixation in our society (surprising how uptight we get when some American diplomat calls us dark while we aspire so much for fair skins) which has probably led to the huge sales of “ Fair and lovely”.

Therefore this song which I am present below is very unique because here the man describes his beloved as “ a very beautiful but dark girl” – Bahut Khoobsoorat magar sanwali si . He talks about her dreaming of him and tossing in her sleep pushing the pillow off her head!

I love the rest of the words too as it describes very small things that girls/ women in love often do – write the names of their beloved in their books and look at it nervously biting their nails, want to write a letter but don’t know how to begin ( chalo khat likhen jee mein aata to hoga magar ungliyan kap kaptien to hongi). In a way the words describe the man’s own dreams about someone being in love with him.

And of course I love the way Rafi sings it….. with all those sighs. A song from a film in 1977- a film that probably bombed at the box office . The song is not that popular either..! There are many who have not heard it ever!  

 Why is it that love songs are about lovely women? And what has beauty got to do with being fair? Some of the most beautiful women in the Indian film industry – Smita Patil and Nandita Das were/ are not “ fair” .  Indian mythology abounds with stories with women who were not fair. Sita  was not exactly fair( she was after all  the daughter of mother earth) and Draupadi was “ Krishnaa”  or the dark one!

So where did we get this obsession about a fair skin? Racially few Indians are fair as in fair. We discriminate those among us who are not and when we go to the western world we are discriminated against… CRAZY! Let us enjoy the beauty that people of our race have instead of hankering for what we cannot have and idolizing it through song and poetry!
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 11 comments

THE "NEW" INDIAN MIDDLE CLASS


The Indian Middle Class has suddenly become a very talked about group in this anti corruption “drama” that has been unfolding across television channels over the last couple of months! As a person who belongs to this social category, I have been trying to reflect on what are our defining characteristics?  Who is this Indian middle class person? The  images  that come to my mind immediately are that of  Amol Palekar and Vidya Sinha on  a BEST bus- straight out of a Hrishkesh Mukherjee/ Basu Chaterjee film I guess…!

I then get a bit  confused wondering if that imagery isn’t dated by at least two decades? Now that brings me to another question- is the definition of middle class something that is dynamic- changing with time?  Sure, income levels change with time due to inflation but here it is not income that is the defining  factor …… or  is it?

I try to apply the middle class definition  to my own situation.  I come from a family that runs on two salaried incomes   ( mine and my husband’s). Both of us hold jobs that involve cerebral activity of some sort. We have one child who goes to an English Medium school. We own some of the commonly used consumer durables. We go out occasionally for movies or a meal over weekends and have annual holidays at some hill stations or the other. We have one car which my husband drives and I generally use  public transport ! We own some branded clothing and have some savings. Now does this make us  middle class? Yes…. and no..!!! For e.g if we owned two cars would that make us “upper class” or if we took “foreign holidays” would we be going beyond our middle income category? There are number of people who would be doing this and more and yet be classified as middle class!! So this class is  nowadays not as clearly defined as it used to be during the time when we were teenagers watching those Hrishikesh Mukherjee films!

I think one of the reasons has been the way the markets have been ruling our lives. Post nineties with economic  liberalization , there has been a transformation that has over run this country and the middle classes have been the ones who have benefited most from it.  There was a time when the middle classes were largely employed in the government and public sectors. Sure, there were self employed people but somehow the spirit of free enterprise was not as much exploited or appreciated as it is today.

The options in terms of employment were few and far in between with people preferring to migrate out of the country to chase their so called “dreams” of making it big. But today, fortunately or unfortunately these “dreams” have every possibility of becoming a reality within this  country itself. There are youngsters  working in sectors that pay over hundreds of thousands of rupees per month! Credit is  easily available and with that comes the desire for acquisitions!  The middle class today knows the cost of almost everything but the value of only a few things.

So, we have Amol Palekar today, transforming himself into a Saif Ali Khan or a Shahrukh Khan resulting in  “Raju ban gaya gentleman” .And though Raju lives in the US or the UK  he is  as “Indian” as possible dancing and singing with chiffon clad lasses having brown hair and light eyes celebrating “karva chauth”!  That is sufficient so far as middle class values go I guess!

Now let us come to the crux of the issue- why has corruption started bothering this  middle class group suddenly?  I mean corruption was not something that came up on us yesterday!  Corrupt politicians and corrupt government officers were very much part of the system even two decades ago..

I guess what is different now  is that the middle class no longer identifies itself with government or public sector which they  say is the seat of all corruption! Today, the government or the state plays a very marginal role as a source of power over their  lives unlike the 1970s and 80s. Small favours that used to require “Sifarish” or recommendation those days now need “Rishvat” or bribes. Both these are like exchange commodities helping us meet our ends. When we had no money, we used our influence – someone’s  uncle or cousin knew someone in some government department and that is how favours were curried. Today, with those uncles and cousins having retired and with the next generation being largely employed in the private sector that is thriving in our free economy, the exchange commodity is currency!

While this is change on one side, on the other we can also see the diminishing hold that the government or the state has as a source of power over the life of the average middle class citizen. Today we have the  money and so we can ignore the options that were at one time only offered by the state!  Money can buy everything from a seat in an engineering college to a beautiful bride or a foreign holiday. Big money as I said earlier is no longer a dream- 

Our lives now are shaped as much by popular public opinion that is driven by the corporate media as it is by our own analysis of any situation. We have less time to discuss issues and we therefore believe what the news channels tell us and thus builds a “ movement” around corruption. We are also so starved on role models that are appropriate to the confused value systems that govern our lives today that we jump at the first sight of someone who in some way comes close to it! No offence meant to Anna Hazare but I would like to know how many of these candle light marchers actually can locate Ralegaon Siddhi  on a map?

To conclude I can say that unless we do some inner reflection and sort out who we are and what our values are, we are likely to get more and more shallow in our approach to any issue.. Raju is  trying today to become more than a “gentleman”  he wants to be an “activist”- only he has no clue what activism is all about. It is more than a photo op or having a mike thrust under your chin in a crowd by a TV channel reporter!  Middle classes do not signify passivity as we seem to have come to believe (wrongly). Remember, it is not just Raju who became a gentleman, there was a Naseer as the middle class protagonist  in The Wednesday who almost become a terrorist!

Friday, August 19, 2011 11 comments

THE CHANGING CHARACTER OF CONVENT EDUCATION

 
My wonderful Alma Mater in Calcutta
Christian Missionaries have  contributed immensely to the development of our country particularly in the field of health and education There was a time in India when “convent” education was the most “coveted” form of school education. I am a product of this kind of education.

I did my schooling in the 1980s when India was relatively uncomplicated. There was no “Hindutva” feeling that was visible ( atleast not among the middle classes) and what parents wanted was wholesome education for their children in a fairly disciplined environment. The nuns who taught me and thousand other girls from my generation ensured that. Education was good albeit a bit Victorian in its approach to issues. Being an English medium school, we were expected to talk in English and the nuns ensured that the accent was right. We were also introduced to literature in English and taught the social graces. In short, I can say that while it was  focussed on churning out students who scored well in studies there was also may be the odd socialite that it produced.

But what was important was the stress on values- honesty, kindness, modesty, respect for elders- words that have gathered dust over the years in our world today. There was no “brainwashing” into Christianity for the non Christians. We led a fairly happy life at school with the various Sisters and Mother superiors – some of whom were foreigners. The world outside thought that we were the “snob brigade” but then when I see my friends from school I cannot spot a single snob!

When I moved to Chennai I was keen on putting my daughter in the kind of school that I had so enjoyed going to! But unfortunately there were no convent schools in Chennai which follow the ICSE syllabus and so I had to look for a different school. While the school she goes to is really good, I used to sometimes feel nostalgic about convent education and that she is missing out on it.   “Used to” – being the operative word because what I hear about convent education today is not very encouraging.

I am a little puzzled by what I hear because I did my schooling in Calcutta- so I am not sure if the data is really comparable as most of what I hear about convent schools today is about the convent schools and colleges in Chennai. One of my good friends has a daughter in a very popular convent school of Chennai affiliated to the matriculation board. She herself is an alumnus of the same school and she is extremely disturbed by the quality of education and the values that the school is promoting.

Now, let me explain this better. One of the very nice changes that has occurred in the Christian missionary run educational institutions is that they have tried to rid themselves of the “snob factory” tag by making the education more inclusive- bringing in children from the villages- dalit children who are first generation learners in their families. But somewhere along the way, I think in their anxiety to reach the poor and needy they have compromised on the quality of the teaching staff. My friend was telling me about the pettiness of these teachers – many of them nuns and the scant regard they have for values. They shamelessly promote their own relatives among the students ( making them class monitors and captains), picking on children who they feel are not complaint enough and humiliating them publicly. There was an incident where my friend’s daughter was scolded thoroughly because she had a pencil box shaped like the “little mermaid” as it was perceived to be “indecent”. Another child was reprimanded for reading “Harry Potter” as it was supposed to be “against the Holy Spirit”.  A third child’s parents were summoned to school because she was doing something terrible – feeding the dogs on campus !( the child’s parents, staunch Catholics enquired innocently if dogs were not creatures of the Lord?)

I am not a Christian and so I really do not know the working of the church but my friend who is a Catholic tells me that there has been a change today in the type of men and women who don the robes. Today, it is not the spiritual calling but often economic necessity or inability to get married that makes a girl become a nun. Many of them come from small towns and teaching is one option that they all want as it is probably the easiest!  For such people power over a student is more important than the actual welfare of the child.

Many of these schools pass for English Medium but the quality of English teaching that is expected from a “convent school” is way below standard! I guess this may be due to the fact that Christianity is getting more Indian and therefore it is being taught differently. However I cannot understand why other subjects are equally bad? Some of the so called good colleges of Chennai run by the Christian minority institutions today are apparently equally pathetic. My husband who is an alumnus of one such prestigious institution tells me that the teachers of his alma mater today do not know anything. Students of B.A Economics  are going for tuition outside of college!!!

I am extremely disturbed by these changes that seem to be coming about in the education that is being provided today by the missionary institutions.  I don’t know if it is because of increasing number of students from poverty backgrounds? Do the school and college authorities feel that if a large proportion of students are from such backgrounds then the quality of teachers can be equally mediocre? If that is so then it is very unfair!! Every student has the right to the best education.

And I am in no way demeaning the work done by the Sisters and the Fathers! There are so many of them who are working in dangerous areas like the  Maoist infested regions of Jharkhand trying to provide decent education to the children there and preventing them from taking to violence. There are also those who are trying their best to save lives in hospitals in far out places with the limited medical supplies that they have! Some of good friends are Jesuit Priests who are activists trying to change the system. And of course  there are nuns who are daily facing the threat of rape from Hindu fundamentalists!

So obviously, there are good priests and nuns with strong values and conviction to causes. But it appears that providing education in elite institution is not a priority for them. So education in urban  schools and colleges today is now in the hands of those who are not really the committed ones! It is a pity because these institutions produced some of the best brains in the country and I feel a sense of despair seeing them deteriorating in quality like everything else around !!!

Monday, August 15, 2011 17 comments

BAAR BAAR DEKHO.. HAZAR BAAR DEKHO

Yesterday, as I was casually flipping channels on television, I wondered why so many Shammi Kapoor songs were being aired. The reason was evident soon- enough- this  wonderful actor had passed away!

Though I  do not exactly belong to his generation, I did grow up listening to songs from his films and watching them- probably much before I was even aware. My parents had moved from Chennai to Bilaspur- the place where my father had his first posting as an officer in the Central Services.  They did not know Hindi. In order to learn the language they took to watching Hindi films in the sole theatre that town boasted of.  When I arrived on the scene, they often took me with them too ( taking turns to carry  me outside the hall when I became restless and started yelling). Among the genre of films which they refer to as “ Bilaspur films”  are the Shammi Kapoor films which soon became their favorite.  Though I was probably unable to appreciate them during the time I saw them at Bilaspur, over the years as we moved around India, “ Man Chahe Geet” and the Sunday films on Doordarshan soon re introduced me to this world of Shammi Kapoor films.
I wonder now why I liked those films and by extension Shammi so much. He was not exactly good looking like his brother Shashi and neither were his films very profound like those of Raj.  He was actually quite comical what with his crazy dancing and head shaking. I remember the song “  Yeh chand sa roshan chehera  where he goes crazy on a shikara and “Tumse Accha Kaun Hai ( janwar)  where he  is hopping around clad in a blanket. What was unique I guess was how he lightened up this emotion called LOVE and brought in the FUN element! That, coupled with some excellent music made those films completely enjoyable!

I am told by my husband that he copied Jerry Lewis and that this was not an original act. But I don’t really care. Imagine how many Indians in small towns and villages would have heard of the American comedian? Shammi probably adapted those mannerisms into an Indian context and popularized them across the country!  

One of my favorite Shammi Kapoor film songs is “Deewana Hua Badal” – the song is interesting in the sense that it begins with the Antara “ Yeh dekh ke dil jhooma…”.  The voice of Rafi  is central to all the Shammi films. It was only fifteen days ago that we remembered Rafi on his death anniversary – interesting coincidence!  Rafi, Asha, S.D., R.D., Shankar Jaikishan, Madan Mohan and O.P. Nayyar are part of this magic.. Shammi Kapoor!  

Some hard to forget songs from Shammi Kapoor films are  “ Dil ke jharokhe mein tujh ko bithakar”, “ Ai gulbadan”, “ Aja Aja Main hoon pyar tera”. While many of my friends rave about  his crazy antics in “ Yahoo, koi mujhe jungle kahe” my personal favorite where it comes to his antics are in the song “ Oh mere sona re sona re..” He is so adorable.. especially in that part of the song where Asha Parekh grabs his bag and breaks the handle!

There were a lot of similar heroes during that period – Biswajeet, Joy Mukherjee but somehow this guy with the green eyes who made weird faces caught every one’s fancy!  He invariably wore a suit in almost all his films so that his girth was well camouflaged. He did not have Dev Anand’s flamboyance but then he was not Dev Anand!  My sister and I used to start giggling whenever we saw Shammi in a sad song like ‘ahsaan tera hog mujh par” but then, as I had mentioned earlier, it was the happiness and energy of love that he was good at portraying not the pain.  He acted with some of the most beautiful heroines of his times- Sharmila, Mumtaz, Saira Bano, Asha Parekh Rajshree…, giving us all so many wonderful films and great songs to remember him by!!
Over the years, Hindi films started being called “Bollywood”  films. They were no longer shot in Simla or Kashmir but in Switzerland. The songs started sounding mundane and heroines began looking like clones of each other ( brown hair, white skin, light eyes). The heroes became muscle men with “six packs” .  FM radio replaced Vividh Bharti in our lives and I moved south where even FM radio did not play any Hindi songs! There was World Space Radio for a while where Radio Farishta took me back to that world.  Television started airing all the shaadi songs from those immensely forgettable movies and I stopped watching it. I think I renounced voluntarily the world I loved so much – that of Hindi films.

But whenever I hear  one of those old Shammi film numbers, I feel that I am on a time machine back to the good old days! Each one of those films seem to be calling out to me  “  bar bar dekho"
Rest in Peace Shammi- Tumse accha kaun hai?
Sunday, August 7, 2011 12 comments

SAKHI …..MERI….. SAHELI!


Indian languages are very interesting in the sense that the word “friend” is not gender neutral as it is in English. Almost every Indian language has different words for male and female friends. Sakhi, Saheli, Thozhi, Bandhobi – words used to denote the feminine gender when it comes to friends. So, today, as you may have guessed from the title, I am going to be reflecting about friendship between women. (Please note that this does not in any way suggest that I do not value my friendship with men!)

I often feel that friendship has  been idolized and depicted as a strong masculine relationship. In Hinduism, the friendship between Krishna- Sudama is well known .  In history  we have read  about the special friendship between Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru as also between the Mahatma and Jinnah ( apparently Jinnah was the only person who could smoke in Gandhiji’s presence). We also hear about  the friendship between C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkien. Each writer is famous for the worlds they created: Lewis's Narnia and Tolkien's Middle Earth. The two became the best of friends because of not only their belief in the power of myth and writing but also because of shared religious beliefs. I am not able to get similar examples of friendships between women.

In the Indian films we have many stories around friendship– Namak Haram, Satyakam, Sholay, Dosti, Dostana, Dil Chahta hai etc. But all these friendships are between men.  I do not remember if there are any stories around women friends on the Indian screen.

So, coming back to the question- why is it that much is not written about women and their friendships? Or is it that women’s relationships are so guided by family that they do  not have the time or opportunity for any relationship outside of that? There are some  nasty people who believe that women can never really be friends! Women’s feelings of insecurity, jealousy etc have been stated as the cause! It is really sad because some of my closest friendships have been with women. I can never share with a male friend what I can tell a female friend because a man will never understand how I feel about something the way a woman would.

I think one of the reasons that friendships among women has not been recognized or acknowledged is not because it does not exist but because men have always been the chroniclers of history and creators of literature. So they wrote about this emotion as it applied to them. But listen to all the folk songs- songs that women sing while working in the fields, while swinging on the swings during the month of “Sawan” (the rainy season) or even during weddings and that is where you will feel the fragrance of our friendships! These songs, unfortunately are not written anywhere. They move from generation to generation in  true oral tradition!

I was once involved in a study with adolescent girls who were working in the garment units of Chennai. These are really awful places in the sense that they overwork the girls, do not pay them much and have poor working conditions. But we found that while these were issues that the girls did not like, what they really enjoyed was the camaraderie of going together to work, talking to each other, giggling and sharing stories and that made workdays bearable and enjoyable! We probed further to understand why that was so because most of them came from villages and neighbourhoods that were very close to each other. It then came out- girls , unlike boys faced a lot of mobility restrictions. They could go to school but not visit friends after school, or “hang out” with them in public places like boys. So opportunities for friendships to develop did not really arise.

Friendships require opportunities for nurturing. We women often change our  surnames after  marriage and leave the towns and villages we grew up in and with that goes the ability to stay in touch and nurture the relationship. I remember a telephone call I received from an old lady a few days after my mother-in-law's death. She was an old school friend of hers who had read the obituary column and had called me wanting to confirm if it was the same "Susan" she knew at school. When I told her that it was she was very upset because it turned out that she stays in our neighbourhood, has been staying there for nearly ten years and she never knew that her classmate from school was living so close by! Both the ladies had lost touch after school, each one's life moving in a different trajectory!

 I also realize that almost all my women friends are those who I have known from my school, college and days prior to my marriage. There are of course some who I have met at work but they are fewer in number. Today, I do not have time to make any new friends as my life is a very busy one. Once I return home from office, I am busy with cooking, homework etc and weekends are spent catching up on what I could not do during the week. It is the same with all my other women friends. But we do try to meet or at least speak over the phone. Unfortunately, these opportunities may not be available to my less fortunate sisters.
There are stereotypes about women being jealous of each other’s clothes, jewellery and “bitching” about one friend to another. I would like to ask the people who have created these stereotypes whether men and their friendships are so pristine pure that it does not have these blemishes? Believe me folks, we women do discuss things that go beyond our clothes and our various acquisitions. We discuss our children and  our marriages probably much more than men do! I think that is because of the way we are so much involved in these matters that we are unable to separate ourselves from them. Besides, for women, we have been taught to believe that our success lies in being a good wife and mother. So whatever happens, we want to do these things right! Hence, we spend a lot of our quality time with friends discussing these issues. Our expectations from our friends are also higher. Ask any woman about what she feels about loss of trust and you will hear the word “betrayal” come immediately on her lips.

There has been an interesting study done by a US based university that talks about how women relate to each other in an office . It says that these relationships between women at the work place often have negative overtones simply because the office as a work place is an unnatural one for development of relationship between women as  relationships  here are determined by rules which are different – usually developed keeping the male gender in mind. We women as you all know have been relatively later entrants to this corporate world. As we have tried to imbibe these rules and internalize them we have somewhere along the way tried to behave like men and that is where the problem comes in – the way we make friends is just too different from what such imbibed behaviour prescribes. We have tried to use power the way men do and it does not fit well with our kind of  friendships!

Somewhere along the way, our friendships take us back to our girl hood – the happiest time in our lives. I have discovered through Face Book atleast  twenty of my school friends and we are reliving those moments in the virtual world. I think it is important that we bring back that energy into our relationship with each other and find the time to talk about things besides family and children. Let us do some wild things- go for a movie, eat some street food and laugh the way we used to. Let us be ourselves and not be Mrs XYZ or ABC’s mum. So that is my resolution for Friendship day! Sakhis, make it yours too!

Thursday, August 4, 2011 19 comments

WHEN PARENTS AND TEACHERS BECOME THE POLICE


Today I read an article in "The Indian Express "that spoke about how teachers in some schools of Chennai went on social networking sites using fake ids and then tried to add the students of their school on their network as their friends so that they can spy on them- trying to see what they spoke to each other. Students who were found speaking badly of the teachers or criticising the school were pulled up later in the school by the principal!! The parents also encouraged this- they were particularly keen to know if their children were interacting with classmates of the opposite sex and what was it that they were talking!

To say that I was shocked  when I read this, would be an understatement! I think it is a serious case of deceit being practiced by adults in an attempt to “control” and wield their power over these youngsters! It impinges on their freedom of expression ( a fundamental right that this country grants all its citizens). How can we prevent teenagers from doing what comes naturally to them in this age?  All children have at some time in their lives ( ourselves included) have made fun of teachers, drawn cartoons of them and mimicked them. If teachers cannot take this in their stride then there is something very SERIOUSLY wrong with the individuals who are entering the teaching profession today. And about preventing interactions with the opposite sex in the  real or  virtual world- I think it is laying the ground for some serious personality problems later on in life!

 I am a pretty ordinary middle class mom and I do realize that social networking sites can be addictive and interfere with children’s concentration in studies. When our daughter turned thirteen she wanted a face book id. After a lot of discussion we agreed provided she limited her interactions on FB to about 2 hours a week. Another ground rule that we laid was that she could not accept friend requests from people she did not know. I must say that she has used these privileges really well and has been cautious about accepting friend requests. There are a lot of her classmates- both boys and girls, their parents, her teachers, her cousins, aunts, uncles on her list of friends. I am also on the list of friends among her class mates. None of us here have used any fake IDs and we are who we are. Sometimes I enjoy joining a conversation with some comments. I have seen some cartoons that some of her classmates have put on their profiles and the only thing that strikes me when I see them are that these children are very talented. Knowing the teachers of the school she goes to, I am sure they would also be taking it all in with a smile.

About the interactions between boys and girls –I would say that it is probably the most healthy thing that can happen in a co ed school. It is important that they grow up studying together and being each other’s  friends so that when they are adults the opposite sex is not a mystery that has to be unravelled! It also prepares them for mature relationships with the opposite sex because if you have been in a coed and had a healthy interaction with the opposite sex you are less likely to lose your head or heart over someone simply because that person looked at you or talked to you! I was in a co ed college during my under grad years and I think I transitioned very well into a co ed post graduate institute unlike some of the my female classmates who had done their under grad in exclusive girls colleges.. Many of them behaved like they were on the “Gold coast” when they joined their MA program. Those in the hostel went even crazier!

I cannot understand the fear that parents have of interaction with the opposite sex. It is the most normal thing that after a certain age girls and boys would be interested in each other. The article that I had quoted above also mentions about how one of the parents of a school in Chennai, made a big hue and cry when he found that some of the boys of his daughter’s class had made what he termed “lewd” remarks  on some of his daughter’s photos. I think the more practical thing would have been to advise his daughter to learn how to deal with such comments. After all life for a girl or a woman  is full of people passing lewd remarks- over the years we learn how to deal with it.

I must say with pride that my parents always encouraged us ( both me and my sister ) to bring all our classmates- both girls and boys home. There was never any restriction about not talking to any boy. Whenever I told my parents that a group of our classmates were going out for a movie together my father’s  automatic remark would be    “ Hope you girls are not going all alone. Take some boys with you”. We never tied rakhis to any of these guys- they continue to be my good friends even today . My husband knows them and I am really close to some of their wives. Now, I am wondering how things would have been had my parents been different!

But coming back to these restriction, I must share the case of  an engineering college in the outskirts of Chennai which prevents boy students from talking to the girls. If   they do then they are fined. The bus that takes them to and from college has a physical barrier separating the girls’section from the boys’s section. When I hear about all this, I wonder if we are living in the middle ages. We  have no business to comment about restrictive practices in the middle east when a so called metro city like Chennai has a college like this!

 Somewhere along the way our generation is regressing. I think a lot of our parents were more open about many things than we are. Let us not give excuses about how there are more bad influences on TV and cinema today. If we guide our children well, they are going to indulge in any of this! We need to be proactive encouraging our children to talk to us about issues that are bothering them and seek answers from responsible older people like us. If we start saying “Don’t”, “No “ to all these things then we are only encouraging a double life. One in which they say “Yes mummy” “Ok daddy” and behind our backs run wild! Would we like that?  As a mother I can say that I wouldn’t!


Monday, August 1, 2011 17 comments

KYA YEHI PYAAR HAI- Is this love?

Now… please wait friends, this is not some philosophic treatise on love and neither is it a love story ( you can get all that in Kaleidoscope not here!). I have been inspired to write this post after watching two movies over the weekend!

The first one, a Tamil movie called “ Myna” is all about the “love “ of a young man for a girl who he had rescued along with her homeless mother and brought into his village to live with an old lady who is conveniently all alone. The movie starts with the couple as children and moves on to adolescence ( hers) and youth (his)! This is a recent movie and has apparently won a National award.
The second one is an old Hindi movie from the 1980s- “Dhund”-a murder mystery where an abusive husband is supposedly murdered by his wife. The wife had fallen in love with another man who was sympathetic to her condition and she takes on the blame of the murder thinking it was her lover who had murdered her husband. The story of course, follows a lot of twists and turns and you know towards the end that neither of them had actually murdered the husband!

Now, I am not questioning the plot or the story of either film but what struck me were the extreme manner in both cases that this emotion called “love” was being portrayed. In  “Myna”  you see the hero pedaling away on a cycle to generate electricity so that his beloved can study for her exams during a power cut ( If my daughter were not asleep during this movie, I would have used this to show her how the “ dynamo” that she studies about in physics operates!). You also see him run with a huge knife attacking anyone who tries to prevent him from approaching his girl.  In “ Dhund”  you see the heroine telling right at the beginning of the film very dramatically to a stranger who discovers the murder “ I killed this man!”.  She also faints with a scream when the prosecuting lawyer announces in the courtroom that the accused ( the lover) be hanged!

I used to wonder if love really makes people behave like this? I agree that some of us are given more to theatrics than others but really, is all this necessary to show that one is in love? I find that much of such behavior gets internalized and learned by the audience of such movies particularly the youth who probably think this is how they are expected to act when in love.  There was this boy Albert who used to run errands and  serve us coffee in the office where I worked some years ago. While working late one evening, I was surprised to find him in the kitchen area his eyes closed and face grimaced in pain. When I went closer I found that he had slashed his arm. After pulling the knife out of his hands and getting a couple of colleagues to come with first aid, I asked him the reason for his behavior. Eyes filling with tears he told us about how the girl he loved was getting married to someone else! Not to belittle his love, but I had to control myself from bursting out laughing when I heard this story. Albert had never spoken to this girl and had only watched her from the kitchen window, so what was all this drama about her having rejected him? There is a similar incident involving another young man again, someone who was a messenger in another office where I have worked. So, what was it about both these chaps? I think besides ,their youth, it was their complete involvement in the world of cinema which defined for them how they should behave.  The second young man was beaten up once by some “public spirited”  citizens for having been perceived as harassing a girl. Poor guy, in his scheme of things, if Vijay can chase a girl in the streets and sing her into loving him then why not him? The trouble is when movies draw a very thin line between love and sexual harassment then both the stalker and the stalked think that there is some other angle to it!!

I think somewhere along the way, most of our film makers need to learn how to portray love and its various manifestations. It is not about running around trees or chasing a pretty girl. I do agree that in the two hours or so that they have our attention, they need to take us through the lives of the hero and heroines but isn’t that what creativity is all about?  Not to say that there haven’t been film makers who have attempted it successfully ( “Jab we met” being a very good example)
And folks, rejection in love- there has to be some other way to portray it – besides the hero holding a glass or the heroine trying to jump off a cliff? Defeatist attitudes popularized by the biggest one of them all –  Devdas ! How about showing a person surviving the break moving on and then may be finding someone else? But I guess that is maturity –something difficult to find among our film makers who have mentally remained frozen in teenage!
 
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