Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Lost Letters

Do you remember the last time you wrote a letter? Put in something other than a scrawled signature in a birthday card?

I am not talking about emails and SMSes. I am talking about putting pen to paper and actually writing something other than a quick dash of your name in a birthday card from your company.

Nowadays, there is a big drive for paper conservation. A big cellular company has actually run a TV campaign promoting use of electronic devices instead of paper. Add to that the convenience of short messages, texting, facebooking et al. Writing has almost has become a last resort when there are no cell phones, computers or laptops around.

But don’t you miss the handwritten word? I know, I do. There is something personal about a letter starting with an endearment written in a familiar handwriting. About a greeting card, which has a message over and above the printed one, just for me. The ‘Open with a smile’ instruction written in a red sketch pen on the envelope of a birthday card.

Keeping journals and diaries is also electronic now. Yet, I prefer the scratch of the dot pen on prone to yellowing diaries with abstract or scenic covers. Or the glide of a gel pen. The pressing of red roses, yellow tulips and a rare leaf between the pages of an old, dear diary.

And pens. There was a time when a sleek pen set used to be the reward for an exam aced. Now all people have is a perfunctory ball pen on their desk. Still, I can’t resist the beautiful designs and coloured inks pens are now available in. I almost have all the colours on my desk – from bright orange to the basic blue. My work notebook has most serious notes written in all sorts of vibrant colours. A colleague once told me that my notepad looks like a scrapbook with its colourful scribbles. My response: “Thank you.”

I used to have a big, black bag full of all the letters and greeting cards my family used to receive. A letter addressed to me specifically (and not just containing the obligatory "Love to kids" that children in the family generally merited) used to make my day special. How I looked forward to those cards on my birthday! I did not just love receiving letters. I loved writing them. Pouring my heart out to a beloved cousin or saying "I miss you” to a just married aunt. Adding those special messages with the flourishes of a poetic soul in an anniversary or a birthday card. I miss it all.

I hate paper wastage. But somehow I am loathe to stop the use of paper altogether. Because somehow to me, it represents being in touch always without the personal feel. A text message can be sweet. An e-card be funny or smart or have its own set of pyrotechnics. It feels special to receive them. It’s just not the same though, is it?
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Saturday, March 27, 2010


A phone call in the morning woke me up and invited me to Wonderland. So, of course, I said 'Yes'.

In the Wonderland, Alice is lost and strong. She is almost a sprite, even in the real world. Or maybe, especially in the real world. When her prospective mother-in-law calls her gardeners imbeciles for planting white roses instead of red, Alice calmly suggests painting them red! (Alice’s prospective groom, Hamish and his mother strongly reminded me of the mother and son frogs from Thumbelina).

The White Queen is ethereal and - a tad mad – reminiscent of Professor Sybill from Hogwarts, sans glasses.

The Red Queen with her grotesque and bulbous head is like a spoilt, tantrum prone child,
yelling 'Off with their heads'. And yet, there is this single scene when all her subjects rebel, she murmurs to her wicked knight: "You were right. It is better to be feared than loved." It is then that you realize that this monster and tyrant perhaps harbored a small, subconscious wish to be loved, just a little.

And the Mad Hatter. Well, he is mad. But like Alice tells him, all the best people in the world are (I will remember that next time I worry about going round the bend). He is brave and ridiculous. He rues the fact that Alice is never the right size - either she is too small or too big. And then when Jabberwocky lies slain, he has his heart in his eyes, as he tells Alice, "You could stay." It made me wonder if a Mad Hatter with orange hair and orange eyelids couldn't possibly be the Prince. After all, this was Wonderland!

Yet the Wonderland is dark and a mite depressing - even after the White Queen banishes her sister. The colours are bright and vivid but not cheerful, bordering on garish.

This is no young girl's innocent imagination running rampant. It is a place where all the dark fears in some way came alive.

All is not lost, though. As long as you remember six impossible things:
  1. There is a potion that can make you shrink
  2. There is a cake that can make you grow
  3. There are animals who can speak
  4. There is a cat which can vanish
  5. There is a place called Wonderland
  6. You can slay Jabberwocky
Maybe, I would make up my own list of six impossible things to recite every Monday morning to defy the depression of another five days of mundane monotony. :-)

Despite and inspite of all the above, what I am carrying with me out of the hall and will hug to myself when I sleep tonight - is the visual of the beautiful blue butterfly, that the Wonderland's caterpillar turns into, flying out of the screen and almost landing on my hand. That, to me, is the magic of Wonderland!

Until next time, keep dreaming!

P.S: I would love to hear your list of six impossible things to beat the weekday blues. Do post them in the comments section. :-)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Of 3 Idiots & Idiocy

Foreword: Here's the article I promised. It was written when '3 idiots' was just released.

I have to confess – I have not watched 3 Idiots. Neither do I intend to spend a mini fortune and watch it in a hall.

It is not that I do not spend mini fortune every second weekend on movies in multiplexes. But I refuse to do it for 3 Idiots.

In past three days I have read at least 10 reviews of the movie – some by seasoned critics, some by my friends on networking sites. All of them, barring one, have gushed about the movie. Raju Hirani has been hailed as a visionary, arguably the best director of the last decade. Perhaps, he is. I have no arguments against that. His Munnabhai series was heartwarming and beautiful. But my grouch with 3 Idiots is same as Munnabhai – the casting.

When exceptional filmmakers cast actors for their films, I like to think, they take into account the entire package the actor is. So, it would an actor’s histrionic skills, persona and suitability for the character. And the last includes the compatibility between the age of the character and the actor. Raju Hirani, it seems, is so impressed by the first two criteria that he completely disregards the last.

Sanjay Dutt acted superbly as Munnabhai but the role would have been his in entirety fifteen years ago. He preached Gandhigiri while giving out ‘jadu ki jhappis’ like a champ but romancing heroines who looked more his nieces than sweetheart was a bit too much.

Same with Aamir Khan. He sang ‘Papa kehte hain’ two decades ago at his college farewell party. And he is still at college!!! He seems to sincerely believe in the ‘boyish’ image that Mansoor Khan created for him and scores of other filmmakers abetted. For years, Aamir was the chocolate hero and aptly so. And he could act. Then he decided to broaden his horizons and did so beautifully. He broke out of the mould. He was the actor with guts and the intellect to do something different. But alas! It was not to last. He turned out to be as vain as others, giving in to the temptation of playing a character, he could be playing a father to. Most reviews brought up this point only to gloss it over. To me, however, it is the biggest discomfort. Aamir does not look like a 20 year old engineering student, despite all his loud proclamations that he will be 18 till he dies. Be that as it may, but he sure does not look it.

This miscasting is quite rampant in films. And it would not be fair to say that it happens only in India. Happens abroad also. It is understandable when average movies like the forgettable Blue have a paunchy, middle aged Sanjay Dutt as the hero or a Lal Badshah has Big B dancing with Shilpa Shetty and Manisha Koirala. But I expect better of Mr. Hirani. He amazes me with his ability to create such rare gems without preaching and being pedantic. Yet his casting continues to disappoint. Why couldn’t he cast young actors with obvious potential as Ranbir Kapoor and Shahid?

A large majority of cinegoers out there would disagree and say that Aamir’s acting helps to overlook the age factor. They would go out, buy expensive tickets, gush about the movie and prove me wrong. Yet somewhere, I think, a small minority, would wonder that just may be, the movie could have done with a younger Aamir. Don’t you think so, Mr. Hirani?

Blog Baptism....

I have finally done it. I have entered the blog world. I do not have too much to say on my initiation, except those who are curious about the name, check out the 'About me' section to find a link that tells more.

And true to my promise of being Devil's Advocate, coming up next is an article I had written when one of the biggest Bollywood hits (and an iconic movie to 99.99% Indians) was released.

Do let me know, what you think! Ciao, for now.

P.S. I have been very modestly requested by 'senior' blogger and a friend to dedicate my first post to her - so 'Star of a parallel universe', this is for you