Natarang: Must Watch!

‘Every man has a bit of a woman in him and every woman has a bit of a man in her…’ says Gunwantarao Kagalkar as he fights to prove to the world that his masculinity is intact but circumstances and his passion for his art have driven him to be the ‘Nachya’ the effeminate, graceful, half man half woman in a ‘Tamasha’

Story

Adapted from Dr.Anand Yadav’s novel by the same name, Natarang is the story of Gunwantrao aka Guna Kagalkar played by Atul Kulkarni. Guna is a helping hand on the farm and someone quite disinterested in anything but the art of Tamashaa. Tamashaa, is his creative outlet, but the world does not get it…

When the landlord fixes a pump to draw water out of the well, Guna and his friends are rendered jobless. To overcome their unemployment, Guna decides to set up his own Tamashaa crew. He works through the challenges of writing the songs and plays, getting the actors to learn their dialogue, but when their only hope, a young girl, who could be their heroine, demands a Nachya, he finds himself at a loss. No man would put his masculinity on the line for an art form but for Guna, this is his passion. Guna transforms himself from a hatta-katta pehelvan into an effeminate Nachya and their Tamashaa crew starts pulling in the bucks. However, Guna’s struggle doesn’t end here. He has to fight politicos, the society that questions his masculinity and to convince this very society that Tamashaa is a form of art and Tamashgirs, artistes.

I always enjoy films or books that give me something beyond the premise of the story, and Natarang goes to do that on many levels. Be it chronicling the folk art form, which by the way is almost never visible to us urban ‘Maharashtrians’ or be it talking about an artiste’s struggle in swimming against the tide, Natarang touches a chord and how…

Performance

Atul Kulkarni, yet again proves himself to be a brilliant performer as he switches from the ‘tagda’ Guna to the ever so graceful Nachya. When he moves, you cannot take your eyes off him, and when he burns to tell the world that labels him ‘Phalkya’ (Marathi slang for Gay), that he is nothing but a passionate ‘Kalakaar’, you burn with him. The grace he brings to the character is phenomenal… Right before the interval as he transforms into the ‘Nachya’ you can’t help but applaud. Sonali’s (not Sonali Kulkarni as buzz18 conveniently calls her) introduction in the film as the young, graceful Naina Kolhapurkarin, makes you want to get up and dance.

The Music

The soul of the film is the fabulous background score by Ajay-Atul. It captures emotions of every scene, every character and just creates magic. They are my favourite music directors and you will know why when you watch the film.
Biggest drawback, in my opinion is the lack of subtitles. A passionate film like this should not be limited to an audience of one language alone.

My take: 4.5/5

And yes, this is the second Marathi film I’ve seen in the past month, first being Gabhricha Paus, and I am proud to say that in quality of content and creating that magic of cinema, Marathi films are way ahead than the much larger Bollywood. I want to congratulate the entire unit of Natarang for creating this fabulous cinematic experience that captures entertains, emotes and enriches the mind of the Cinephile in me…

Judaai Is Not The End of Pyaar

My dad’s friends’ love stories always amuse me. Some of them started dating whilst in college and stuck to their relationship even as they travelled to different cities to pursue their careers, post grad degrees and all that. ‘They didn’t even have telephones back then, letters were their only hope,’ says Dad. ‘Besides, breaking up was not an option for them. They had decided already that this person was their life partner. They did what they had to and made it work!’ And mind you. There were no mobile phones, no pagers, and no email back in their day. ‘People didn’t even have telephones, you had to go to the neighbours’ if you wanted to make a call’ Dad tells me.

Next morning my phone goes frantic. SOS messages. ‘I think I am getting dumped,’ one message says.
‘She’s moving to UK, I am breaking up!’ another message says. Wow! Last night’s gyaan is totally out of date, I tell myself as I get out of bed. Most of my friends, me included, strongly believe that long distance relationships are just not worth the effort.

‘My girlfriend went to Singapore for her masters and within 3 months all I had left was astronomical phone bills, crazy amount of time wasted on the computer, cartloads of angst and a dysfunctional relationship,’ says Mr. J. Add to it, facebook made it prominent that his girl was busy but with parties and fun outings. ‘If a guy flirted with my girl when she was here in Mumbai, I wouldn’t give a damn but a picture with a guy randomly putting his arm around her on facebook pisses me off now that she’s so far away!’ he adds. They finally broke it off because their relationship started becoming a liability.

‘There’s no point of being in it if everything about your relationship bothers you. Not having your guy around to hug you, to tell you it’ll be alright is just not cool. I miss him, but I don’t miss the online fights. I’m glad it’s over,’ says Mr. J’s girlfriend.

Kinda paints a bleak picture about long distance, doesn’t it? As Ashish Chand accurately puts it, for many people a long distance relationship is the kiss of death. Ashish firmly believes that they can work, however, this is conditional. ‘If you’ve just met someone and the relationship goes long distance, it’s going to fail. At this stage you crave for each other. You want to be physically close. But if you’ve gotten over the clingy phase, there is hope in spite of the distance,’ he explains.

Poo, a self-confessed commitment phobic agrees with Ashish and thinks that long distance relationships just get a lot of bad PR, ‘Long distance isn’t as bad as it’s made out to be. If you are someone who values your space, it can be a boon.’

Of course, Poo firmly believes that in addition to constantly reassuring your partner of your love, you have to have mutual trust and the ability to be very open with your partner (which is where the Js failed) ‘With email, chat, skype and other such tech innovations, long distance is definitely possible!’

But what happens when you’ve had a bad day and all you want is a hug from your partner or when you miss them so bad, you can’t take it?

‘It takes a lot of time and patience,’ says RV who believes that one has to invest a lot of time and emotion to make up for time apart. Much like V had to.

‘Knowing that the long distance was only for a couple of months, made it easy. I missed him like crazy at times. Sometimes, it got so bad I almost thought of ending it, but then I’d remind myself of the big picture. You love this person enough to want to be with them? Then the long distance is just a hurdle you have to cross…’ says V. She is now married to the guy, so yeah, she crossed the hurdle.

If your partner is in the same country as you at least you are in the same time zone. Honey had to battle a transatlantic time-zone war to keep her relationship going. This essentially meant that when she slept, her guy was awake and vice-versa. ‘We both were sure we wanted it to work. Ending it was not an option.  We web-cammed, shared filmy music, shayari and photographs to reassure each other. If you want to make it work, you can,’ she explains. She also thinks that observing her parents, who shared a LDR for a while, has taught her that the distance can actually work in the favour of the relationship. It can make you independent, strong and it can teach you the value of the much spoken about ‘space’ between couples. ‘It is not for the weak hearted, though. You will spend a lot of time away from your partner and that takes strength,’ she warns.

In conclusion, if you really love this person and the idea of long distance is bogging you down, think again. Give it a shot, it’s worth it. And finally, based on the yapping I did on twitter, here are three things you should focus on.

1.    Be strong. Remind yourself of the big picture and be ready to do what it takes to make it work.

2.    Keep communication channels open. This will reduce misunderstandings and reassure your partner of your sincerity

3.    Use technology. Skype, email, IM etc are free. They will reduce your phone bills!
And yeah, good luck, I say!

PS: SMSers I hope you guys give it a shot. This one’s for you

All’s Well That Begins Well

India’s hunt for a new government has been a topic of much discussion. Websites, NGOs, filmstars have thrown themselves into the effort of getting the voters out to vote. They weren’t majorly successful in getting the voters to ink their middle finger, but those who voted, voted well.

After eons, we see a thumping majority and a singular party has been elected to run the show. The PM is a man with a strong resume and immense intelligence. He won’t be forced to take on criminals and under qualified individuals in his cabinet and now. There’s hope.

The voter turnout might have depressed me, but the results have made me believe that the Indian voter has thought well before pressing the button. 

It is the first time that I voted and I am urging every single one of you to go through hell if you must, but register to vote. Don’t give up. Fight for your right to vote, because every vote matters and every vote makes a difference. Look at Thiruvananthapuram. If I’m not wrong almost 65% people came out to vote and they elected a man who is educated, hard working, sensible and most importantly a man who understands India’s issues in the global perspective. Shashi Tharoor can make a difference and I believe in having more leaders like him. I am happy, and I am proud. We chose well and we chose wisely.

All the best to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. And to the opposition. Make the best of that seat, make the issues heard and learn your lesson. Hard work and hard work alone will get you elected. Run for the right reasons, and run for the secular democracy that we are. Jai Hind!

We The People Of India

I wrote this post out for a website, however, it couldn’t be published there in time. Just wanted to share it…

I owe this post to Jerry Pinto, a well known journalist, poet and a writer. As a professor whose aim was to introduce us to journalism, he asked us to read a couple of books, one of which was the Constitution of India. “You are living in the country, na? You should find out what the country is all about otherwise each one of you pay me Rs.17.56 paisa! Most of your education comes from the taxes I pay and if you don’t know this much also na, my money went to waste, I want it back. Ok?”

That’s when it dawned on me. We take pride in being Indian, we get a lump in our throats when we hear our National anthem and we take pride in slamming the politicians for totally screwing the system up, but how many of us bother to find out what being an Indian legally means, what are the fundamental factors that built India. How many of us have ever read the Constitution leave alone possess it?

As we approach the 2009 elections, various groups are being proactive in urging citizens of India to vote. The tedious process of registration is being simplified and a lot of questions are being thrown at the political parties hoping to get power.

Most important of all though, is self-introspection. It is important to understand your own civil duties and rights before you choose the leaders of the nation. It is your duty to find out what we stand for. It’s easy for us to blame the government and ministers for debacles but we as a society are to be blamed.

Here is what our Preamble says. Read it and ask yourselves, is this what my country stands for, am I, as a citizen of India ensuring that these words do not remain just words:

“WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a _1[SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC] and to secure to all its citizens:

JUSTICE, social, economic and political;

LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;

EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;

and to promote among them all

FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the _2[unity and integrity of the Nation];

IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION.”
Source: http://indiacode.nic.in/coiweb/coifiles/preamble.htm

While there’s poverty, while there’s corruption and while there exists communalism how can these words ever be held true?

So as we ready ourselves to vote and exercise our right, let’s take it upon ourselves to make sure that the preamble stands for more than just words. Lets fight for a better tomorrow, for you, me and the generations to come. And that’s where I recommend you watch this ad campaign featuring Aamir Khan.

So lets make sure that each one of us uses our vote sensibly and sensitively. Jai Hind!

Can Love Be Arranged?

Love just happens, it can never be arranged- a very drunk A to a sober B who is getting to know guys through arranged marriage.

So B is a decent looking, intelligent, well qualified girl who’s also got a decent job. She explains, ‘I’ve played the field and none of my boyfriends would ever get my parents’ approval. That headache, I do not want. So let them choose, right?’
‘But why?’ C, who’s been quiet so far asks, ‘ are you that desperate to get hitched?’
‘No yaar! There’s no reason to say no to the process, is there?’

Now, that’s a conversation I overheard. You can call me a voyeur buy it’s a topic I have been pondering about for a long long time. I am a single 24 year old. My parents are fairly liberal, but they want to ‘assist’ me in meeting Mr. Right.

‘Beta, you haven’t met anyone and how many dateable guys do you meet anyway? Give this a shot. Don’t wait for the last train out!’ My father said to me one evening. There was no rational argument out of that one. I spend 12 hours at work (nah! Not going to date anyone at work!) and rest of the time I spend with my family or friends. There’s a slim chance of meeting Mr. Right in these circles. So this mad writer, novelist and a content manager decided to let the family look for matches. I won’t deny having interacted with a few ‘prospects’ and I’m not surprised that most of the profiles ‘forwarded’ to me have left me pondering (now that’s what I do the best!)

Most of those opting for arranged marriage are in it because it’s something they have to do. ‘You sort your career and the next thing expected is settling down. So yeah it’s the logical thing to do,’ a friend confesses.

Another thing about arranged marriages is that the love doesn’t come right at the beginning. The hopeless romantic in me wants to believe that you look for love and discover it with your partner. But I can’t help but wonder, how does someone’s caste, height, salary or designation help define this complex emotion called love!?
‘They don’t define it but are the practical things that you seek commonality on. Marriage is better handelable if these things are clear. Don’t forget that you’re deliberately looking for things in common, only to make the process of falling in love simpler.’ says a voice who’s been happily married and her marriage is part arranged part love.

My question is how do you know what you’re looking for? Isn’t that the fun part of falling in love, opposites attract, being completely surprised by the emotion?

‘That stuff works in movies. The opposite soon starts irritating you. You have a million fights and before you know it the relationship starts to emotionally drain you out!’ this voice recently broke up, so leave the bitterness be.
Despite the bitterness, the above voice has a logical point. ‘You could opt for either. There’s no guarantee of it working. But in arranged marriage you are a bit closer to reality.’
I disagree. Proof: ‘Wanted: a fair, good looking bride. Min: post graduate, ready to move to Australia temporarily.’ ‘seeking allegiance for a good looking, highly educated bride. ‘

Okay, so if she’s fair, you’re more compatible or if he earns more than 10 lakh a year you guys will make it to your 25th wedding anniversary? How is that close to reality in any way? Besides, in love marriage you probably know the flaws and problems of the partner. In arranged marriage, it’s all disguised.
‘My cousin got engaged to a guy, spent a lot of time with him and then found out that the guy would get fits regularly. The family denied it even when they were confronted. Obviously she broke it off! I feel in arranged marriages, a lot is left to surprise to ensure a good match doesn’t slip away!’ says another friend who knows arranged marriage is not for her.

‘Arranged marriage happens through family contacts and stuff. So, people vouch for the guy or the girl. The family is involved and there are more than two brains who give the relationship a thought!’ another friend argues.

‘Isn’t it better though that the two minds who are involved only think it through?’ The first friend retorted. And exactly at this point, I realized that this debate could go on forever. I was nowhere closer to finding out which one was a better option and I found myself standing right at the same point I was when I started writing this article.

In conclusion, it doesn’t matter whether you opt for arranged or love marriage as long as you end up making a balanced decision. ‘I have seen  enough love and arranged marriages fail simply because of the idea of happily ever after. Forget that nonsense, accept the flaws and smile for what you’ve got and you will manage a happy marriage.’ Concludes my grandma whose arranged marriage has lasted a good 56 years!

Mumbai Girl Speaks

I love Mumbai for many reasons but one of major reasons is that I can be out at anytime of the day without worrying about security. Somehow, many of my friends who’ve lived in different cities especially up north say that Mumbai is designed for the independent woman.

I’ve explored the streets of Mumbai at every odd hour of the day. I’ve lost track of time thanks to an engrossing conversation on the Shivaji Park katta at 4 am. I’ve walked alone after sundown and if some guy tried acting funny, all I’ve had to do is confront and create a commotion, a handful of friendly Mumbaites have always rushed to help. That’s the beauty of this city. Every person is your friendly neighborhood hero.

Every once in a while though you see how some guy or a group of guys acted smart. Be it the indecent behavior at Gateway or the New Years Eve fiasco at the Marriott last year, these instances almost always end up with fingers pointing to the girls. ‘They were skimpily dressed,’, ‘They spoke rather brashly’, or ‘they were rude and dressed suggestively’. Are you kidding us? It’s like a murderer saying, ‘He irritated the shit out of me, so I just shot him.’

No matter what clothes I wear, nobody has the right to behave in such a disgusting manner. I want the freedom to wear what I want to. Wearing a salwar kameez will not help keep these pervs under control.

Why am I writing this? Recently I saw a man sitting right under my house and something about him was strange.  As soon as I walked past him, the guy started to walk with me and suddenly came real close and tried to talk to me. My instinct caused me to yell at him. He didn’t stop walking behind me. He actually followed me to a cab! I got in the cab and got on my way. See the other thing about Bombay is that you have to go on and get to work. Bombay doesn’t wait for anybody, not even for a girl who’d like to beat up a puny little guy who was unnecessarily following her.

Saturday mornings are beautiful. I wake up slightly late and laze around a little before heading out to walk in Parsi colony. At 7 am the place is swarming with fitness freaks, but at 9 am on a sunny Saturday morning, there’s just about a handful of people. I like my solitude (yeah so nobody laughs when I break into a momentary jig to ‘Desi Girl’ on my iPod). But lately five gardens is sort of a psycho central. I keep an eye out for any funny things especially since some git tried to grab my phone and run.  The weirdo who’d tried to talk to me, was actually standing at the corner and followed me for an entire round before I walked too fast for him and got home. The next day the same guy is waiting under my building.

I’d screamt at him, given him angry stares and yet the guy kept following me. Time had come to tell Dad and then a police complaint was made. The guy was new to Mumbai and apparently couldn’t deal with the culture shock. But is that an excuse to be acting all weird? He probably didn’t mean any harm, sure, but does that mean you tolerate someone following you around? Do you continue to tolerate a freak who tries to talk to you even after you have scream at him?

Does a culture shock disillusion you from identifying the appropriate from the inappropriate? How many times are we going to discount these guys for their lack of respect for women? Whether they are in a culture shock or they suffer from humungous egos, nothing justifies acting odd with a woman. And we Mumbai girls will not let these losers dictate the way we dress or the time we get out. We will hunt you guys down and kick your ass- Mumbai style!

War Is Not The Answer

The attacks on 26/11 have scarred Mumbai, but Mumbai has bounced back. The streets, the hotels and the stations are all back in business. In fact, Leopold opened its shutters within two days and as a symbol of defeat to the terrorists, has been crowded with people sipping from beer towers throughout.

One thing that will not bounce back is the faith in the government and administration. The citizens are enraged. They want answers and most of them have solutions themselves too. The political parties are red faced, and they might do something but that’s a whole different issue.

For one, many people I meet are convinced that we shouldn’t be tolerating Pakistan’s support for terrorism and we should attack Pakistan. Hang on, the terrorists are trained in Pakistan, but that doesn’t mean the country supports it. My friend who’s a journalist in Pakistan says that they too, face the same issue. She attends a concert and two days later the venue is blown up. We should support and help Pakistan figure out effective means of combating terrorism.

There was a video on YouTube, in which a Pakistani journalist criticises India for pointing finger to Pakistan, every time there’s an attack. Certain points are true, but, you clearly see that the media in Pakistan is creating an anti-India sentiment. ‘They ask me why I am pro-India, and I tell them of the love I found in my Indian friends. But they’re so shallow they do not understand,’ writes my friend. She is my soul-mate, somebody who held my hand through tough times and somebody who loves me for who I am. And without a word exchanged, she knows I reciprocate the same.

Just as we are pointing fingers towards Pakistan, they will soon point fingers right back at us. At such a stage, a war will only add to the animosity between the countries and undo all the efforts that we have put in for the peace process.

History stands witness that a war only kills innocent people and rarely targets the real cause that stands behind a war. The innocent lives, the enraged emotions give birth to a hatred that knows no reason. These symptoms breed innocent minds that are vulnerable to terrorism. They are trained in the name of the ones they lost, in the name of revenge and in the name of Allah to wield weapons and kill even more. This doesn’t do much for their cause, but yes, some larger power out there ends up using them as a puppet to execute a horrifying plan that unfolds in the darkness caused by terror.

If we go to war right now, I only see more hatred, more lives lost and more destruction. The terror outfits will have succeeded. They want us to be Indians vs Pakistanis, Hindus vs Muslims etc. They want us to be divided.

I stand for being one. One power, one religion that believes that lives are precious. A power that believes in fighting as one and learning from the diversities. Am I dreaming? Yes, maybe I am. But I will not let the bastards grind me down.

I love my country, I am just as enraged and disturbed by the acts of terrorism. However, I do not want a war of any form. Not a religious war, not a inter-country war all I want is a movement to develop higher value of emotions and people.