Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Lage Raho Munnabhai: Not a review

I watched Lage Raho Munnabhai last saturday. Now we see that this movie had a huge baggage on two counts

1. The reputation of Munnabhai MBBS
2. The reputation this movie itself had developed with everyone who'd seen it.

So I was going with quite lofty expectations. The movie was scheduled at 2:30 pm. We reached the mall quite early by 1:30 pm. For lunch, we had this amazing hybrid of Dosa and Russian Salad - Salad Dosa Roast or something. There still was a lot of time left. The mall didnt have much to offer. I was roaming around desperately searching for something to do. I found a LAN games parlour. People were playing on computers connected to a network. I got in and saw the kind of games they play these days. Needless to say I was impressed. They were playing some sort of adventure game. The setting is of a busy city and the objective is to reach a predefined point. You go about it using any means possible. You can choose to run. Or you can use any car provided its not locked (yes I mean stealing). You can kick the passing biker and 'borrow' his bike. In fact you can do almost anything. I was watching as one player was driving a car and was being closely pursued by the police. He crashed his car and gets out. The police officer too gets out and is about to arrest him. Amazingly and to my utter amusement, our hero actually kicks the police officer and now 'borrows' the police car instead. There is such beauty in violence!

Before I knew it, it was time for the movie and I had forgotten everything about the baggage it carried. I felt relieved - now it was just the movie - no unnecessary baggage. The movie began with the usual light hearted easy going atmosphere that is reminiscent of Munnabhai MBBS. You may not laugh out loud at each and every other joke. But there is always a smile. The innocence around could'nt be disturbed even by the villainous seeming Lucky Singh (Boman Irani). As everyone seems to be saying, the movie does give a lot to think about without being preachy. But there is a disconnect here. While my heart is going all gaga over how the movie made me feel, my mind points out how the director has exploited some pre-existing thoughts in me to make me like what I see. I like it because I relate to the film and not because it is something exceptional, or some great masterpiece crafted with immense dedication and care. It is rather a simple story of a few people trapped in this dog eat dog world who discover the master solution to all their problems.

As I mule over it again, I get doubts of whether there really is any disconnect. Isnt identifying what I would relate to itself a masterpiece in itself? What are works of art really? Someone creates a piece as an expression of his/her inner feelings. People look/hear/feel/read the piece of art and are able to appreciate those inner feelings. The piece makes them feel certain emotions that may or may not be intended by the artist. What, however is most important is that the people relate to the art in some way or the other. People dont like art per se. People like how that art makes them feel.

In that sense Lage Raho Munnabhai is a grand success. The comedy is not exceptional, the story isnt that great, but somehow the whole package seems to have a sense of completeness in it. I laugh, I cry, I get angry, I hate, I get frustrated, I feel hurt, I ponder, I like and I love. The movie brings each of these feelings out. In the end you are filled with an deep sense of satisfaction and also a feeling of love towards everyone and everything. If there was one word I would need to describe that emotion, it would be "peace".

In the rush while coming out of the hall, a guy stamped my foot. Normally I would get at least a bit annoyed and would look at him with anger. But not that day. Nevertheless he was profuse in his apologies. I actually felt the love for him, gave him a smile and told him not to bother.

Thank you for filling me with positive thoughts at least on that day.

Peace is not glamorous. But I can't help loving it.

Friday, September 15, 2006


What appeals in any song or piece of music? A piece of music has its ups and
downs. This change is essential in any song. A good piece of music is one where
the highs are really appealing, while the lows are not too tiresome. The trick
is to have a good balance of those highs and lows. During the lows, the listener
starts longing for the highs, but the highs don’t come about just then. The low
period continues until the longing is almost unbearable. This is just that right
time to give the listener that high he/she covets to get the desired affect of
pure unbridled pleasure. If the low period is too small in a song, not enough
time is given to build up the longing to its crescendo. Having a very long
period of just building up craving might bore the listener. Different people
have different thresholds for bearing the low period. So it is tough to get that
right mix of highs and lows and that is why balance is important.

This was what I thought for a long time until I heard the music of Strings. Their music has this strange property of captivating me throughout the song. I can mentally take notes of the highs and lows. But my heart seems to like both the highs and lows. ‘The longing’ I so thoroughly described earlier is not during the song, but during the time I am not plugged into the song. When I am listening the song, it’s a high like no other.

A brief introduction is due. This was a band quite popular in Pakistan back about 14 years ago. A particular track “Sar Kiye ye Pahar” was quite famous even outside Pakistan. They were four members then. After completing two albums, Strings and Strings 2, the band disintegrated. I don’t know much of what happened between then and now except that they got married and had kids. Suddenly after an absence of 10 yrs they come back with this new album Duur. It must be the accumulation of their creative juices over the dry years or simply their pure luck, but the music was, to say in modest terms, awesome. After this was an equally popular album, Dhaani. Now I am waiting for heir next release. Meanwhile they’ve done some other songs here and there and some collaborative albums in between.

I’ve seen Strings live in one of the concerts they did in Lucknow. Not only is their music great but I think they are extremely well balanced and intelligent people. I think they’ve learned a lot from the years in hibernation. I was impressed by the maturity and the ability to relate to realms outside music. They talked about Indo-Pak relations and what they thought about it in their own small way. It was genuine and not once did I ever feel it was made up. It was good to know that there was more personality to them than just the music.

The first I ever heard of them was Duur. The soul stirring music of this song is characterized mostly by the way the guitar is handled. Never had any Indian or Pakistani music had ever used the guitar strings so centrally and yet so famously. The song and the album was an instant hit. Their next album Dhaani too was a major hit. Very rarely do we come across albums in which each song has something about it to cherish for.

So why suddenly after having followed them for so long do I feel the need to write about them only now? I listen to my mp3 player everyday in my travel to office, and for a long time now I am not able to find deliverance from these songs of Strings. I am in serious need of help.

Mera Bichra Yaar (Dhaani)
This is not the song for everyone. And it is definitely not the song you will be blown away by, the first time you hear it. But give it time and it grows onto you. It embraces you slowly but with such strong resolve that you cannot possibly turn away. Needless to say, I’m hooked.

Kahani Mohabbat Ki (Dhaani)
The story of love is conveyed beautifully using the most simplest of lyrics. This song refreshes you. The flute, the guitar, the words, the voice of Faisal, the whole composition inspires me to make new beginnings. I don’t know if others listening to the get inspired considering the sad setting it is intended to be in.

Na Jaaney (Dhaani)
This is that song which was selected for the soundtrack of Spiderman 2. Again the setting is sort of sad. I can’t put my finger on what I like in the song. Or rather I would say that this medium of my expression (writing) or any medium of expression for that matter, doesn’t quite convey it. Maybe someone else can but I can’t. Enough said. Go listen to the song and find out yourself.

By the way, their songs are available on their official website.

My other song recommendations for the month:

1. Kya Mujhe Pyar Hai (Movie: Woh Lamhe, Singer: KK)
2. Chal Chale (Movie: Woh Lamhe, Singer: James)
3. Tere Bin (Movie: Bas Ek Pal, Artiste: Atif Aslam (Jal))
4. Bas Ek Pal (Movie: Bas Ek Pal, Singer: KK)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


This post was long overdue. This is an account of a trip to Matheran some time ago.

The Matheran Trek was really hectic. We trekked, got repeatedly drenched, visited multiple “spots” (viewpoints of interest typically included in any organised tour), took many photos and in short had a blast.

In the process we did something which we hadn’t done since a long time – we got really tired. I don’t mean the getting tired from spending long hours on computer either playing games, seeing random movies, reading or typing random stuff. Nor do I mean getting tired by staying late in the night watching TV. I mean many times the kind of tired that I felt when I used to play tennis on late nights in the chill of winter in Lucknow. I mean real hardcore physical strain. I don’t mean the exhaustion of playing cricket in the sun. I mean the kind of tiredness where its not your throat or lungs that give up. It is the kind of exhaustion in which it is the actual moving parts of the body that start groaning, begging you to stop. But you cannot possibly do that. You simply have to move on to see the next “spot” here in Matheran.

When we say “spot”, being such a small word, it gives us an impression of an insignificant little crammed space from where there is some rare view and all tourists in the hill-station would have crowded it with no space to spare. In Matheran, you could not be more wrong. I don’t know how people compare different hill-stations but to me being devoid of things like busy crowds, crammed spaces and everything that a city represents is becoming the sole criteria. Every hill-station will have its share of beautiful spots and so called points to visit. But to me the beauty lies in exploring all that yourself. You don’t need some nagging guide showing you around specific places to see, predefined routes to follow in a well packaged tour. You need freedom and the sense of adventure of being independent in a hill station, discovering new locations all by yourself, and thereby sinking in the full throttled sense of achievement of having discovered a place of beauty. Now if there are hundred other people sharing that same crammed place, that sense of achievement dies even before taking birth. And herein lies the beauty of Matheran. Yes, it does have its share of “spots” or specific points to be seen. But firstly they are not crowded. You would occasionally see a family or two sharing a “spot” with you but you would mostly be alone. Secondly in addition to the regulars there are hundreds other places just waiting for you to explore and are rich with wild natural unexplored beauty.

Sample this. The hill doesn’t rise at a regular 45 degree angle. Mostly there is a steep cliff on its sides. So if you dare to venture into the edges of the hill, it is very likely that you’d catch the breathtaking view of deep valley below and the opposite hill rising with a matching grandeur and steepness of the hill you yourself are on. As we visited the place during the monsoon, we had the fortune of seeing hundreds of these waterfalls all along the route and also on these opposite hills. And that’s just what is near. You could see far and wide the enormous expanse of nature through your vantage point. And Images/photos just don’t give it. You simply have to be there to experience it.

There is so much dynamism all around in spite of the peaceful environs. Being at a high altitude, the clouds were all around us. The windy weather was moving these clouds at will all around the place. It wasn’t raining all the time, but sometimes it would we would be showered with a sudden splatter of water droplets and we’d not know where it had come from. Actually as a cloud passing through us, it would condense spontaneously and we would be showered with a mix of cloud and water droplets. So it was rain in its most pure form which had just condensed. Reaching out and standing on the edges of dangerous cliffs was a thrill in itself. Now imagine a situation. Your eyes are closed. When you open your eyes and see ahead of you, there is a vast expanse of space. Somewhere far ahead you there must be land but you cannot see it as it is blocked by clouds. You turn your head towards the right or left. Again, nothing to be seen but the clouds. You look above to see the sky above to find more clouds. Finally you look down – again only clouds to be seen in all distant space. The whiteness engulfs you. And yet you know that there is nothing but empty space all around you. Could you imagine that? That is what its like to be standing on a cliff. Its really enchanting.

I have vowed to have more of such trips from now on. The next on the agenda are Daman and probably Mahabaleshwar.