Arth (1982) – A Mahesh Bhat Film

Arth,_1982_film

One cannot but think of how ‘woman’ , ‘relationships’, ‘love’ are treated with authenticity in a Mahesh Bhat film. Or is it the case with all the films of yesterday?

Arth explores values, relationships, expectations, feminism, glamour, greed and every possible aspect of human existence with an unparalleled intensity.

Pooja, a girl who grew up in an orphanage desires a stable home after her marriage. It is her dream. Pooja argues with her husband when he quits jobs and presses him for the realization of her dream, her own home.

While her husband played by Kulbhushan Kharbanda buys her a dream home and lavishes her with enough money to adorn it the way she wants, there is a catch to it.

The money he gave his wife was a price for his ensuing absence from her life, paid by his mistress, the famous actress, Kavitha essayed by Smitha Patil.

With the most acclaimed Indian actresses of the times, Shabana Azmi and Smitha Patil pitted against each other as the wife and the love interest of the man, Kulbushan Kharbanda, the story is set to intrigue and entice, with exceptional acting and great onscreen chemistry. Shabana’s waif like slim and slender appearance with clear skin and bright eyes is a treat to watch. In fact, it is her eyes that speak,emote and act in the movie.

When Pooja comes to know of the truth behind her husband’s actions, she vacates the house and moves into a hostel with just Rs. 2000 which she initially had with her. Pooja is comforted by the pleasant company of a Ghazal singer, Raj, who proposes to her.

Pooja’s maid whom she had often counselled and comforted is jailed for the murder of her husband. Pooja adopts the young girl and decides to bring her up as her own.

Pooja signs divorce papers for her husband Inder and even goes to Kavitha’s home to assure her that she was not going to topple their love life.

Inder, Pooja’s husband in the meanwhile has difficulty in his relationship with Kavitha who is insecure about Inder and Pooja.

Kavitha requests Inder to return to his wife.

When Inder returns Pooja expresses her unwillingness to accept him.

Pooja also declines Raj’s proposal to marry her.

She decides to spend the rest of her life with her maid’s daughter, now adopted by her.

I have always wondered at the As-You-Like-It-ness of love and life. You love someone, that someone loves another someone and it goes on….

The inability of one human being to find happiness in what he/she has can lead to endless confusions and trials in the lives of so many others.

But, it is one life, as they say, it is up to each one to decide what is that he/she wants from life.

In matters of love and living, nothing there is no absolutes in terms of right or wrong.

The movie has some excellent ghazals sung by Jagjeet Singh and Chithra Singh, my personal favourite being ..tum itna jo muskara rahe ho…kya gum hai jo chupa rahe ho…

Was it Shelley who said, our sweetest songs are those that sing of our saddest thoughts?!

 

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The Pursuit of Happyness- The Movie

This part of my life is called -Movies for mind food and what could be a better choice than the incredible ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ starring the adorable Jaden Smith(the younger self)and Will Smith.

One can easily relate to Chris Gardner’s devotion to his son and his determination to make it big for both of them.

Not withstanding the truth that hard work alone may not pay every time, the movie manages to make a case for the old school values of hard work and focus that lead to success.

Jaden Smith impresses as a little boy who finds comfort with his father even when there is almost no security.

It is amazing how children can be talked to with affection and respect to understand and accept a situation however harsh it might be.The ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ in the entering the dinosaur era and seeking comfort in the public toilet by the father and son is a case in point.

Chris’ reaching the interview straight from the prison in soiled clothes and then clinching it is another example of the power of sheer grit displayed by the character.

The film is replete with instances of exemplary courage and commitment displayed by Chris Gardner, the understanding of his wife who allows the son to stay on and the little boy who with his mere presence gives comfort to the struggling father.

While some part of the movie may look contrived, it is elevated by the  intense acting displayed by both Will Smith and his son, Jaden Smith.

Inch by inch, bit by bit, Chris Gardner moves towards success and stardom, leaving a hope in the mind of the viewer that a touch of luck, a lot of  hard work and a few good friends can work wonders in any one’s life.

 

 

Drop everything and listen

Lend me an ear

give me a chance

hear me out…

Just listen to someone, any one, because it is a miracle in the happening.

By allowing someone just to speak out to you, you are doing a great service to humanity.

You are saving lives, hopes and dreams.

You are giving courage, strength and confidence.

You, by the virtue of being there, with your ears open, are a blessing.

Do not underestimate your value, the value of your listening to someone.

Alternatively, you can use the power of listening to your own advantage.

Speak out to the next person, even if it’s a stranger, about your life, your dreams and your hopes.

You are giving yourself a second chance by doing so.

You are keeping your aspirations alive.

“Hey, listen, this is what I have to say. Hear me out please…”

There is no ego to be lost in saying that. There is instead a lot to gain, maybe a friend or at least a lighter heart.

Well! you can also speak to yourself, if you can’t find any one.

That is good enough too.

Just talk yourself out of anything that weighs you down.

Or look around and read the signs.

The universe is constantly talking to you.  All you need to do is to tune in.

It is amazing how little we listen and how much better our lives would be if we only listened to our own hearts and to what others have to say or are sometimes trying to say.

By listening, I don’t mean the usual “listen to me,now”, the-kind-of-urgency-creation to follow an instruction, but just listening with empathy.

I was at work when I got a message from a friend that I love dearly, “hey, blah…blah..blah and I am feeling terrible..blah..blah..blah”.I don’t remember much about what I said or how it helped but surely I was thrilled to bits. Did I feel privileged that he chose to talk to me? Perhaps.

As a teacher I get to listen to my students as they share their fears and worries.”I am not high class enough, you see. That is why it happens to me all the time”, said a girl otherwise bright and cheerful.

After they read about the gruesome rape and murder of a young girl, my girls came to me ,”What do we do, mam? How do we now go out and follow our dreams? Our parents are so worried,” they said.

A dear friend diagnosed with breast cancer recovered quickly and credited her speedy recovery to the support of friends.

“It helped me a lot”, she said, “that all of you kept talking me out of my fears and that you were always willing to  listen to my anxieties.” Her courage impressed her physicians, her friends and her family.

The other day I called her,” Listen to me,will you?.” ” Of course, I will”, she said.

“What else do you want me to do?,”she asked eager to help.”Just that, I want only that”, said I realizing the value of having someone listen to me.

It seemed like a pact. And it surely is working.

I have a small group of friends and family that willingly listen to me, at my worst or my best.

While my father, my brother and a few select friends listen to me, I spend a lot of time listening to my mother,my daughter , my students and my friends.

At work or at home or wherever you are, keep your ears open, there might just be some one around who wants to talk to you, just you and it is a privilege to be talked to. So don’t let go of the opportunity to lend a helping hand to someone and help yourself in the process…

All ears, aren’t you?

 

 

 

 

So, what does your husband do?

“So, what does your husband do?” My good friend, Anu, is asked this question not at a kitty party or some informal gathering but at a job interview.

Some how, for some reasons that Anu could never fathom, what her husband does or does not do for a living seems to speak a lot about her talents and abilities.

Many a time,such a question is followed by raised eyebrows which ask ,’So, what are you doing about it?’.

Really! thought Anu, what can one adult do about another adult who suddenly becomes a champion of ideas of ‘non co-operation, it’s a bad world outside, I can do only so much etc.?’

Isn’t it supposed to be commonsense to know what is to be done?

Initially Anu loved making up stories about the many talents of her ‘maverick’ spouse who can just about do anything. She loved painting interesting pictures, imaginary, of course, of the wonderful enlightened thoughts and ideas that emanated from that increasingly escapist skull!

The trouble began only when Anu sort of forgot what she had told earlier to someone. It created serious difficulty in giving her ‘my spouse is great even when doing nothing’ story the necessary build up. Some how, her friends and family seemed to have an elephantine memory in this regard and they always caught her off-guard.

“But last time you said?” “Oh, did I?”

Anu realized the difficulties inherent in making up a new story every time. She decided to keep it simple and just be honest.

Definitely, unemployability was no sin.

When the questioning became repetitive and probing, Anu was upfront, ‘Hey, no, he is not working’,a heavy silence ensued from the other side, this was followed by a consolatory, ‘it’s ok, it happens’ .

Anu laughed to herself. ‘What else could you even say?’, she jeered in silence.

But conversation never ended there. Outpouring of suggestions, plan of action, experts’ advice, novice’s guidance, I am not sure, maybe you can try this etc. always followed.

Until, Anu sighed resignedly to announce, ‘So, it’s like this. The situation is grim, but as you can see, I am pulling along”, with a ‘Vote of Thanks’ sort of gravity.

This was a clear signal and the conversation was steered on to other interesting habits of other spouses on the planet and their misdemeanors.

But, what relevance does the question have in a job interview, Anu wondered.

Do men get asked the similar questions she wanted to know.

Pyaasa – A Gurudutt Film

pyaasa

That artists and writers don’t earn enough is social scandal that is centuries old. The film ‘Pyaasa’ takes inspiration from life histories of innumerable artists and writers who have died in penury to illustrate the point.

Produced and directed by Gurudutt, the movie also stars him as the protagonist. Vijay is a struggling poet who is trying to get social acceptance and recognition. His verses are considered useless by his 2 brothers and is sold off as waste. While Vijay’s mother argues the case of her youngest son and urges his elder brothers to take care of him, they are ruthless in their treatment and throw him out of the house.

Vijay rummages the shop of the old man who sells waste paper in search of his precious poems or ‘nagma’. The note books in which he had scribbled his poems have been bought by a prostitute, Gulabo, who sings the songs enchantingly. While sleeping in the park, Vijay listens to her songs and follows her. Gulabo, however, turns him away rudely, when she realises he is not a worthy customer.

She regrets this soon as she finds a few lines of his poetry that fell from his pocket and realizes that Vijay is the poet whose lines she had been singing all the while.

In the meanwhile, Vijay meets his ex-girl friend who is now married to a successful publisher, Mr. Ghosh. Ghosh hires the services of Vijay as a servant. At a party at Ghosh’s house, Vijay renders his poetry with elan and is well received by the public. Dejected at his fate, Vijay wanders aimlessly to the railway tracks where he gives his coat to an old beggar shivering in cold. The beggar is then run over by a train and it is believed that Vijay has been killed.

Mr. Ghosh in the meanwhile discovers the potential of Vijay’s poems from the note books that Gulabo gives him to preserve the memory of the great poet and publishes his works. His poems are a great hit and receive great public acclaim. A recuperating Vijay realises that his poems are a rage and asserts his identity. Influenced by Mr. Ghosh who does not want to share the profits, Vijay’s friends and family refuse to accept who he is.

Vijay then reaches a grand memorial service purportedly organized in his honor.  Vijay is hurt by the hypocrisy of the society and in front of the whole crowd accepts that he is not ‘Vijay’, the poet.

He decides to start a new life with Gulabo, his only true friend and lover.

Hailed as a classic,the film though melodramatic strikes a chord with the audience even today.  Though a few scenes look contrived,the film sends a powerful message across and forces the viewer to introspect upon the deteriorating values in the society.

It’s my body

“It’s my body,” she said angrily. “Its been months now years even, since I allowed my husband to touch me.He barely tolerates me otherwise. Why should night be any different? I hate to be used by anyone.”

“He calls me useless because I refuse to sleep with him. Yes, I refuse to sleep with my husband and it’s my decision. Do I still enjoy sex? Perhaps I do. Not for perfunctoriness of the act, not as a conjugal duty but as an act of love, yes, may be.” As she spoke, lines of worry creased her otherwise beautiful visage.

She’s, 43 and looks half her age. Her perfectly coiffured hair sets off her brown eyes brilliantly, the colored lips and the wide smile makes her a warm inviting person. Yet, she said, “Its a cold life, rather too cold. I am threatened that I will be left back home. Oh, yes, I said do it. I will be delighted to be on my own. That’s exactly what I want.”

Married soon after her graduation, Anu barely had time to make sense of what was happening in her life. At her marriage, she said, “I am not very beautiful, perhaps there cannot be a better guy for me. My parents are insistent and I just agreed to their demand. ”

The birth of her little boy and the joys of nurturing him kept her engaged. It helped that her husband was well-placed monetarily. “Yes, we did have our share of fun.”

After coming to Bangalore, Anu wanted to explore work like other ladies in her apartment. Her friends urged her to find some work and get out of the confines of her home. Anu was keen, her husband did not agree. “What will you do outside? Who will employ you? You are pretty stupid.” He said to her,killing whatever self esteem she had.

When her husband got a transfer to another place and with her only son in college, Anu took her friend’s help to get a job, a decent one, an administrator in an educational institution.

After joining, after earning her first salary, Anu was thrilled to bits.” They absolutely adore me at my work. They have only compliments to shower on me.” Soon Anu was driving herself to work.

The work, the appreciation,the admiring glances of her colleagues worked wonders. Anu was all aglow when her husband came home for a short vacation. And the fight broke out.

“What is it with him?”,Anu cried, “Why can’t he take no for an answer?”

As her disgruntled spouse threatened to divorce her and find a new partner for himself, Anu cried in delight, “I want just that!”

Anu’s spouse has returned to where he is posted.He has assured her that he will get himself transferred back to the city. ” I want to see how long you will enjoy, once I am here”, he added menacingly.

Anu sighed. Until he returns….peace!

Of teachers,today and tomorrow

I was listening intently to a young girl, a teacher, a college lecturer, one who lived to teach. ‘It is my passion’, she said simply. ‘To teach’. And then she recounted her experiences in the classroom. Its not always that I am able to listen without butting in, but here I just sat my ears tuned in,my eyes glued to her expressive face. I could see how she would have been in the classroom, with utterly no pretense about her. There’s no air. She is simple. Down-to-earth, practical, sorted out.

She was more than what I would normally expect from a 25 year old. I laughed heartily, felt her emotions, saw what happened in the classroom. I saw the joy she brings to a class room in her eyes,neatly kohled, now tearing up in laughter.

I see a teenager at home engaging a 8 year old in her classes. Intent, concerned, pain-staking in her efforts to explain, the teacher wins a grudging admiration from the pupil. The student’s constant questions like ‘So what?Then what? But why?’ keep the teacher on her toes.

A student in my BBA session expressed his desire to teach. When I pointed out that teaching is a job for only those who have the passion, he  seemed bent on proving his dedication to the cause. From the next day after this conversation, there was a definite change in his demeanor. He submitted his assignments and politely asked for feedback. The future educator seemed to be preparing for his role.

Not many youngsters openly admit their love for teaching.

Is it because it is not a well-paid job? Or is it the social hypocrisy that entrusts teachers with responsibilities to take care of its most important asset and neglect them altogether?

A lot has to happen to restore the teacher’s faith in his role in the society.

In recent years, it was only APJ Kalam who reiterated the role of the teacher in the making of a good tomorrow thus giving a major boost to the plunging self confidence of the teaching community.

Towards happy hours in teaching, towards a better tomorrow.

Julie & Julia – The Movie

Julie and JuliaJulie and Julia is a classic. A story spanning the lives of two women rescued from the drudgery of life by their love for food.

Julia played by the incomparable Meryl Streep smirking, throwing off her shoulders in gay abandon, sniffing the air and closing her eyes in orgasmic joy even before she takes her first bite is a real treat for the eyes.

It is impossible  to forget Julia’s delightful mannerisms which prompt Paul her husband to say that ‘to watch Julia in the kitchen is to be present at an orchestra’ or something to that effect. Paul is that adorable man who stands firmly by his ladies side even when she literally towers over him.

Scene change to Julie, the young, newly married assistant at the LMDC, Lower Manhattan Development Corporation’s call centre where all she can do is to listen politely to the grievances and abuses hurled at LMDC by the aggrieved residents. Julie is tormented by the guilt of not being able to complete any task, especially writing the novel in which she invested a lot of time. In order to  restore her self confidence, she decides to cook 524 recipes of Julia Child’s famed ‘Mastering the art of French cooking’ in 365 days, challenging herself to take the task to its fruition. She records her experiences in blog which becomes wildly popular. The complete self-absorption of Julie  in her task causes matrimonial discord but her husband returns to support her after a brief period of alienation.

More than the individual journeys of two self willed and competent women to fulfill their personal goals, the movie is also about the men in their lives who bask in the glory of the success of their loved ones.

True relationships are spaces where individuals grow with the support from each other.

Neither Julia’s nor Julie’s journey to professional success would  have materialized with out the support by their respective spouses.

There are no self scripted stories of success. There is always the prayers and good wishes of some special people in every rags to riches story.

More power to Meryl Streep, you are a true legend!

 

 

13 skills life taught me

I am in the midst of a crisis. Either crises love me or I love them. Crises are situations of great intensity sometimes emotional, sometimes professional , sometimes financial or even nonsensical.

So there I am counting the pennies in my pocket and staring at the calendar, dreading the days of payments due to turn up.

I am terrified of being in debt and having to beg on the streets. I am staring at a rather bleak picture of what looks like my future.

Have I endured this pain, have I stood up to fight to end like this? I ask myself…to fizzle out inconsequentially at the cataclysm of a unpaid EMI?

I count my good deeds and secretly wish the karmic scales to take in to account all my great deeds  and greater intentions.

My parents, baptized into positive thinking by my own preaching are now not ready to listen to my laments. They instead prescribe me my own medicine. “Think good, feel good and it will be good.”

Forget lean in, I don’t even have a shoulder to lean on!

I therefore sit down to make a list of my skills. After all, years of living has given me my share of skills which I have nearly perfected. It amazes me to think that I know these:

Driving– Have been driving for the past 3 years.Have driven the length and breadth of Bangalore and can for sustenance drive around a few more. Sounds great, looks like I can earn a penny or two doing just that!

Cooking-Making Laddus and cakes- Have been cooking for the past 20 years almost with out a break . Am especially good at making delicious laddus of wheat, gram flour and sooji. My healthy cakes and cookies are sometimes a hit. Also I make great puttu, provided someone grates the coconut for me!

Cleaning– I love cleaning like I can go about singing and dancing as I clean and can leave a place spic and span. I don’t do it often but I guess it’s good enough skill for a living.

Public Speaking– I don’t know about the public forced to listen to me, but I genuinely love speaking to the public, anytime, every time. I can just go on and on about topics if only they are not related to money making, business, mathematics and science. I can do a good job of pretty much everything else.

Writing– Don’t I love writing? I do. I guess I do a decent job of it. I have had the occasion to write speeches for the top to the bottom of the ladder in educational institutions, job applications, resignation letters, notices, circulars, web content and what not. I am pretty cool at it.

Advising– I  have wondered why  nobody ever appointed me as the Chief Adviser or something. Their loss!  I am usually very generous with my advice. Also, a few failures in life have made me wiser.

Planning– I plan, you do. The question is can you?  I can plan time tables, home shifts, job changes, trips, elaborate dinners, kitchen stuff, the future, elaborate cooked up stories, parties except of course, the tax. That’s some planner in me.

Teaching– I can teach, tell stories, crack jokes, act stupid and  in general make classrooms a fun place to be in. I really enjoy being out there with people and whether there is any learning or not ,I make the class believe that something worthwhile is happening. More over, I can cajole and coax my students to do pretty much anything while feeling great about it, like writing assignments.

Imagining– I am blessed with great imagination.I can make mountains out of mole hills and mole hills out of mountains, literally! I can do great stuff with my imagination and I can guarantee that I will  make your imagination run riot too. How about that for a great skill?

Helping– I help friends, relatives, acquaintances and anybody else with a smile. I love doing it except doling out money, now that is one thing I  don’t have. I believe in the dictum help and be helped and it has always worked for me.

Smiling– I am particularly inclined to smile, blame it on my lose facial muscles or my over excited nature. I end up smiling even at the wrong places. However, a good smile well received has many times been a savior in my life.

Sleeping– Blessed with great sleep and brought up with a freedom to sleep as much as I wanted, I have never let this particular talent wane. In the most difficult circumstances, amidst the most difficult people, I keep my sleep healthy and that’s something I can boast of.

Understanding– I am good at understanding people even if they don’t understand themselves. I can make sense of the most difficult people and help them know who they are.

The list is already too long and it’s not even complete!

Jobs, you will tell me are scarce but talents like mine are scarcer. So write to me to grab this house of talents and help your future shine brighter.

 

 

Of (Not)Hearing

I was suddenly overcome with a genuine fear -the fear of loss of hearing. I imagined myself turning around in wonderment at what was being said, because of course, I had somehow lost my power to hear. This terrible fear gripped me in such a stranglehold that I intensified my efforts to hear, even managing to hear  the unsaid.

My fears, of course, were not without ground. I had just returned from a trip to Guruvayoor with my aunt, uncle and my daughter. We were visiting my aunt’s aunt who was a teacher.

The kind and gracious woman, teacher valliamma as she was called, was also a perfect host. My uncle, Ravi chetan warned me ahead.

“Lekha, don’t leave your cup half filled. Teacher valliamma will fill it off with out even asking you. She will just pile food on to your plate and she will not take no for an answer.”

And this actually happened, I noticed that my uncle who was talking to someone turning with surprise to see that his tea cup has been refilled by the triumphant host, teacher valliamma.

After tea, when we gathered in the hall, the elderly members in the family were watching the age-old telecast of the Mahabharatha. Finding the volume too high, Mani chechi took the remote control to reduce the volume. When it did not reduce in spite of several attempts, she realized that  her aunt, teacher valliamma was pressing the volume button on the TV!

Teacher vallliamma’s husband shared that his wife had perfect hearing and that years of teaching and shouting at her students had affected her adversely.

The teacher in me heard the comment with a nervous smile. As soon as I landed in Indore, I rushed to a specialist. The doctor insisted that my ears were in perfect condition. I though, insisted that he do a thorough check up. Finally the doctor prescribed some ear drops and shunted me out of his clinic.

I  had often seen my students shut their ears to prevent my shrill voice from damaging their tender ear drums.

I lived in perpetual fear of losing my power to hear due to my own shouting.

I thought that my fear was misplaced until today when my neighbor who rarely sees me asked, “Are you a Malayalee?” and I replied  “No, I don’t have malaria” not once but thrice till my neighbor kindly intervened to say ,” Uncle wants to know if you are a Malayalee”.”Oh!” I said, “I am”, a little shame-faced.