Haircut

“Akka, can you please buy the pavadai for me from the mall. I cant go in there but I will pay for it” – My help requested me the other day.

The chasm that divides the have and have-nots is so abysmal and vast, that having the necessary financial resources is trivial in the whole scheme of things.

I recently watched an award winning Tamil movie called “Kakka Muttai” (Translated: Crow’s Eggs) which is about two slum kids longing to eat pizza and their unrelenting quest for it. Written and directed by M Manikandan, it’s a marvelously simplistic plot yet rich with serious undertones.

For two very enterprising boys whose life’s goal becomes tantamount to biting into a succulent pizza, their simplistic conjecture, that acquiring money for the pizza was all that was required,was rudely shaken when they face a barrage of hurdles.For a moment, my naivity almost made me make the same mistake.

The simple act of walking up to a pizza shop and eating a pizza seems like a gargantuan task.The invisible shackles that a society enforces is a thought that often escapes our mind when we see only well-dressed folks in a mall.The film is superb in how it translates such a simple aspiration of kids into such deep societal questioning and our so called “normal” way of living.

The Times of India gave the film 4 stars out of 5 and wrote, “Manikandan’s Kaaka Muttai is multi-layered; on the surface, it is all warm and inviting — a feel-good film about two kids and their simple desire and the earnestness in the filmmaking invites comparison with Iranian films like Children of Heaven…there is a hard base to it as well and from time to time, the film turns into a commentary on the class divide in our society and how it is exploited by wily politicians, an allegory of the effects of globalisation, and even a satire on media’s obsession with sensationalism”

For me, the best stories are the ones which leave things unsaid. The simple and relatable ones but which are delightfully multi-layered. Kakka Muttai is a movie that’s going to remain with me for a long time. I couldn’t find one with subtitles but if you do get a chance, this is a movie that you shouldn’t miss.

Along the same lines was this succinct 9 mins short film called “Haircut” by Anand Tiwari and Sumeet Vyas. A film about a man from an economically disadvantaged section of the society, who goes to get a haircut at a fancy salon.Unlike Kakka Muttai, the protagonist does manage to gain access to the hallowed precincts of the salon but, the chasm is still too wide to be crossed. And interestingly, is it time that we shouted that the emperor isn’t wearing clothes 🙂

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Teaspoon

“Life is difficult
this is a great truth, of the greatest truths.
It is a great truth because once we truly
see this truth, we transcend it.
Once we truly understand and accept it –
then life is no longer difficult.
Because once it is accepted,
the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

 – M Scott Peck, The Road less traveled

Life is definitely not smooth sailing but how does one negotiate the troughs of life. Mental conditioning with liberal doses of spirituality, positivity , stoicism,meditation and learning from other’s experiences are great coping strategies. Recent research has shown that repetitive mental activity can rewire and physically change the structure of the brain. So in effect,reinforcing and repeatedly being positive in day to day life,definitely goes a long way towards strengthening the neuron synapses. That throws up interesting possibilities, as it might be possible to condition oneself for being positive even in preparedness for an event ,that is yet to occur.

To maintain equanimity as age & time deal a hard blow, requires great inner fortitude.To suddenly find your physical strength deserting you,to be trapped within your own body, can be intensely traumatic and despite all the mental preparation, one can precariously totter on the verge of a complete collapse. And while the tide of destiny sweeps away the tenuous hold on a patient’s physical well-being, equally and if not more exacting is the role of a caregiver in taking care of a terminally ill or a bed ridden patient.

The Gita says – “If you only enjoy the gifts of the Universe, the life-giving sun, the nourishing rain, the fertile earth, the lofty mountains,the flowing rivers and not put your own shoulder to the wheel, offering your effort back to the Universe, you are no better than a common thief”

Duties need to be done, just like nature performs its role unerringly.Our own body,with its rhythmic heart beats infusing us with life-giving blood,is no less an inspiration. And no duty can be more urgent,more righteous than filial duty. Dwelling on this thought might help in cultivating the huge amount of energy,that being a caregiver entails. Being human and having a conscious choice in matters, weighs us down with enormous responsibilities. That,in which lesser men and women have been known to fail.

And so, we must not forget that a caregiver too is a human and unfortunately carries the burden of human fallibility. Most of us sympathize with the patient but few spare a thought to the continuous toil of a primary caregiver. And just like a mother,who becomes a primary care giver for a baby, needs support and needs to take a breather once in a while,so does a caregiver. Rachna wrote this beautiful post on a caregiver’s side of the story some time back.

The greatest strength lies within oneself and so does our greatest weakness. And it is times like these that truly test our mettle and although each step forward might be excruciatingly hard, the day will come when we can look back without regrets. There’s no weight that’s heavier to bear than a troubled conscience.

Presenting this beautiful 2015 short film today “Teaspoon” (Running time: 20 mins) by Aban Bharucha Deohans.

Advised reading after viewing:

The plot of this film was really rich with myriad perspectives. The overall direction and acting was quite good other than the slightly jerky acting by the husband. But what I loved was the theme, which has been explored with all its nuances. I give full points for the story and the masterful ending, leaving open possibilities which were left unsaid.

Viewed in a different light, what if the lady had actually been imagining things and had actually become unhinged.But in retrospect, there were teaspoon marks by the bedside. Our mind plays weird games and it doesn’t take long for the lines of imagination and reality to quickly blur. The story brings out the need to be compassionate to all. It’s also quite possible that, for the want of a bit of compassion from the husband, a tragedy could have been avoided.

Overall a beautiful and a very thought provoking film.

Do watch and tell me your thoughts about the film !

Little Terrorist

There was an interesting article in The Hindu recently quoting Rabindranath Tagore on nationalism. To quote Tagore’s words –

“I am not against one nation in particular, but against the general idea of all nations. What is the Nation? It is the aspect of a whole people as an organised power. This organisation incessantly keeps up the insistence of the population on becoming strong and efficient. But this strenuous effort after strength and efficiency drains man’s energy from his higher nature where he is self-sacrificing and creative. For thereby man’s power of sacrifice is diverted from his ultimate object, which is moral, to the maintenance of this organisation, which is mechanical.

Yet in this he feels all the satisfaction of moral exaltation and therefore becomes supremely dangerous to humanity. He feels relieved of the urging of his conscience when he can transfer his responsibility to this machine which is the creation of his intellect and not of his complete moral personality.

By this device people who love freedom perpetuate slavery in a large portion of the world with the comfortable feeling of pride of having done its duty; men who are naturally just can be cruelly unjust both in their act and their thought, accompanied by a feeling that they are helping the world in receiving its deserts; men who are honest can blindly go on robbing others of their human rights for self-aggrandizement, all the while abusing the deprived for not deserving better treatment.”

Nationalism can often come into conflict with humanism. And when it does, which direction should the moral compass point to. Should one choose to be a nationalist or a humanist, even if is at the cost of being deemed unpatriotic.It is far easier to be a rightful nationalist as one confines to a set of rules and enjoys the luxury of limited options.The blind following of rules for national identity sometimes leads to catastrophes like the disaster of the German camps. While more than a handful of people who orchestrated the whole machinery, could be classified as zealots and sadists, what can be said for the vast majority of SS people who blindly followed orders. How were they able to justify the atrocities they were committing ? It was probably easier to hide behind the cloak of moral responsibility as the rightful guardians of their nation than it was to face their conscience in the sunken eyes of their hostages.

When a country’s security becomes a machinery, it can no longer afford itself the luxury of humanity and innocent people caught in the cross-fire of border conflicts are often collateral damage.With this heavy backdrop, who would have thought that it was possible to capture so many emotions through a delightfully light short-film about a small child. I present this beautiful short film “Little Terrorist” (Running time: 15 mins), written and produced by Ashvin Kumar.

Advised reading after viewing:

I loved the way such deep aspects have been brought forth so delightfully in such a simple movie.The acting was polished and it was therefore, a surprise to know that not one of them was a seasoned actor. Zulfuqar Ali who played the part of Salim was a street child, Sushil Sharma a clerk and Meghna was a 12th student when the movie was shot.The movie was nominated for the 2005 Academy Award for Live action Short film.

The bonds that united and the bonds that divided, both have been woven intricately. Both present and undeniably woven into the fabric of their personalities and yet, ultimately it’s a victory for humanity.

There were slight inconsistencies that mildly rankled the “realism” bit, but these were easily overshadowed by the beauty of this wonderful piece of art.

Do watch and I would love to hear your thoughts on it !

The Epiphany

Broken marriages and increasing divorce rates, often leave shattered self-worth and simmering resentments in their wake.The vitriolic bitterness with which several couples lash out at each other is often several notches higher than what the situation would warrant.It’s regrettable to see how two people, who actually start off by liking each other enough to get married and with a cup full of shared memories,still end up with so much bitterness.

But then broken marriages is much more than just people.It’s about changing circumstances, priorities and personalities.People who should have never have got married in the first place, sometimes end up together.And the bitterness at the situation and the “what could have been”, manifests against the other person. Two great people need not always make a great couple and that’s something which often gets overlooked in the barbs and insinuations that inevitably follow. Life was never fair but we don’t take it kindly when one day, we are suddenly made to realize that ourselves.

Unfortunately there are far too few cases, where the adults are mature enough to understand that a broken marriage doesn’t define their own worth as people and separate gracefully.

While some are able to move on quite easily and start life anew, for some the separation is just as painful as death of a loved one. And akin to grief phases, a separation trauma also goes through several phases, before a person starts accepting and seeing the other as a ‘human’ with normal fallibility again. And it is perhaps at this juncture, that one starts the process of living all over again.

Today, I am featuring a beautiful short film by Neeraj Ghaywan – The Epiphany.Running time: 21 Mins


Advised reading from here after viewing:

I loved the way the differing personalities of the couple has been brought out. The simmering tension that is evident right from the start, has been built up superbly.A chance encounter and a sudden chain of events lead to the faint rays of acceptance shining through, bringing forth this very interesting aspect of human behavior. The bond that develops between people handling the same stressful situation.A shared vulnerability that also inspires a shared connection and support, which finally worked to break down the walls between the divorced couple.

On a separate note, I also admired the way the aspect of right vs. wrong has been brought out and people not being essentially “good” or “bad”. The fact that even good people get caught up in the humdrum of daily existence is a very good wake up call.At times,all one needs is someone who shakes you hard enough, for the cobwebs of apathy to fall away.

Ahalya

Sometimes a moment of weakness is all it takes, for the vision to blur and for the world to come crashing down. That millisecond in time when, in the battle between the right and the wrong, the good and the bad, the wrong wins. A momentary lapse in judgement and one loses sight of one’s own compass.

But does a moment of weakness define a person.

The deed would definitely determine the intensity of the misstep. What is but a small lapse of overindulging on a scrumptious cake, cannot be likened to a more serious crime committed in a provoked, heat of the moment.And for the very same reason, pre-mediated murder and voluntary manslaughter have been accorded their distinctions in courts of law.
But what if such moments occurred with unerring regularity? I would think, if that indeed were the case, one should be more equipped to guard against the mis-step versus a sudden one-time manifestation of an emotion.

Today I would like to present the much acclaimed Sujoy Ghosh’s Ahalya (Running time: 15 Mins). A short film seeped in suspense and intrigue.Having purposely withheld from discussing anything about the film,as it’s difficult to do so without revealing too much, let me take the liberty of continuing with the rest of my ruminations after the movie.I would also advice you to refrain from reading my post any further until you have watched it.

 

Spoiler Alert from here:

Watching the movie after having read virtually next to nothing about it, was a big plus and I enjoyed it purely as a entertaining thriller with the unexpectedly spooky and eerie ending.Hopefully you too were not restricted by the baggage of knowledge and the resultant filter that would have imposed.

Eventual reading of multiple reviews revealed, that it is being touted as a “contemporary or rather a feminist remake” of the old story of Ahalya. To quickly recap,

“In the old story of Ahalya, Ahalya who was the wife of the old sage Gautam, has an adulterous relationship with Indra (who dupes her by taking the form of Gautam) and on being discovered, both Ahalya and Indra are cursed. There are variations to the story on whether Ahalya was innocent and was actually duped or was a knowing partner in the act. Innocent or otherwise, in all versions, she’s cursed to being a stone.”

I would be hard-pressed to call it a “feminist remake” essentially because even the modern day Ahalya doesn’t seem to be controlling the sequence of events, rather seems to be more of a bait for the unsuspecting visitor.I also do not subscribe to the opinion that a feminist retake infers re-casting the woman in the role of the aggressor rather than a victim.

Terming it ‘contemporary’ is more apt, even if the link to the old seems tenuous.Interesting, in the older version of the story, at least one out of the three main characters had an unblemished character, versus Ghosh’s version where all the three have personality cracks.The inspector suffers a grave consequence for a moment of weakness. Would he have been more culpable,if it had been pre-mediated like Indra’s.