Dealing with the ban on 500 and 1000 rupee notes! (Vlog)

https://vimeo.com/191577047

The one where I learn about the ban just the night before I am to fly to Hyd for another wedding shoot and everything that happens afterwards, till I return to Goa after few days.

PS: Link to Mahesh’s photo-series work that I talk about in the VLOG – fotoroom.co/african-portraits-mahesh-shantaram/

ADHM in less than 8 minutes (Vlog)

https://vimeo.com/189406130/

If you don’t want to waste your money by going to a theatre and watching Ae Dil Hai Mushkil – you can watch the movie right here, in less than 8 minutes. Compiled from public Youtube footage of trailer and songs.

  • PS 1 – full of spoilers
  • PS 2 – I loved Lisa Haydon’s performance the most (she played Ranbir’s girlfriend for a while – unfortunately she is absent from trailers / songs – so no footage of hers)
  • PS 3 – this is an entertaining (though dumb) story for an 8 minute narration – when you see the same thing being shown for 2 and a half hours, it sucks. Big time. We don’t need a movie to understand that when a girl who you love doesn’t want to love you more than a great friend, you just live with it.
  • PS 4 – they show Aishwarya Rai get up in the morning in her house, and sport the kind of makeup and hair-do that typically takes brides 4 hours to achieve. disgusting.
  • PS 5 – the takla prosthetic head of Ranbir and Anushka is so bad it makes them look like aliens.
  • PS 6 – the last scene (the non-movie scene shot with mobile phone) is from Goa (last night) where Narkasur statues with loud music are spread all over the place.
  • PS 7- by the way, Karan Johar has basically made a movie to give tribute to his own movies (and those by Yash / Aditya Chopra). He even played Kal ho na ho music when the cancer scenes were on screen. And of course there were tonnes of ‘famous’ lines from ‘ek ladka aur ladki kabhi dost nahi ho sakte’ to ‘Rahul, naam to suna hi hoga’.
  • PS 8 – to be fair, there are few good scenes too that make you laugh and all that – but for most part, there is absolute lack of chemistry between Anushka and Ranbir in the first 20 minute to justify or care about them later on. And major lack of creative scenes. All that the characters do is talk (when not singing and dancing) – in houses, on streets and in parties! Can’t believe someone with so much of money like KJo can’t get few good writers to write good scenes that tell us / show us something interesting!! KKHH was so much better and had so many new things to offer when it was released! Should probably watch it again.

My amazingly interesting conversations with my friends who support a ban on Paki artists

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This is that “more thoughts on this” post.

I will be frank. I posted this status only because I assumed there would be few idiots on my FB friend list who might think it’s OK / right for a ban like this, and once they come out in the open, I would just go ahead and get rid of them from Facebook. I was absolutely wrong! What an idiot I am.

…I assumed there would be few idiots on my FB friend list who might think it’s OK / right for a ban like this…

While the majority of my FB friends did say no, a LOT of them said yes, they supported the ban. And they were not all idiots. They were people very dear to me (and are very dear to me), people who have seen enough of the world to generally distinguish between right and wrong, are logical and rational and intellectual and the kind of people I am proud to know of and be friends with, on or off Facebook. In other words, my hypothesis that only an idiot can support a ban on artists based on their nationality, was thrown out of the window. I needed to understand what these ban supporters were thinking, that I was not. Why did this feel outright idiotic to me but not to them? And so I started conversations with some of them to get into the depth of their thinking and their logic. I couldn’t go too deep unfortunately. But I did scratch a few surfaces. And I am writing this piece to share what I learnt.

A quick list of justifications

that was given to me:

  1. India and Pakistan can’t be fighting and be having good relations at the same time. Would you play cricket (or make movie) with someone who bombed your house?
  2. Our country comes first. Period. Banning artists from Pakistan shows solidarity to our soldiers – who are being killed by that country.
  3. Banning artists from Pakistan is a way of ‘isolating’ that country, that will encourage the common Pakistani citizens to take matters in their own hands ultimately leading to tighter control over their army that funds and supports terrorism in India.
  4. This is business – people do what is profitable to them. The cinema theaters are banning these movies, not because they care about the soldiers but because they might suffer losses / damages by screening the movies.

The last justification was obviously not a direct answer to my question. I wanted to know what my FB friends thought about the ban – not what those who are banning, think about it. I grilled the person who gave that 4th justification. He kept going round and round around the “commercial” logic of the ban.

Me: I am asking ‘you’ if you think it’s okay for a ban like this. I am not asking the business owners. They clearly think it’s okay. And you have answered that. I don’t know how to ask the question then. Thanks anyway.
He: Are you asking if I were a businessman in that industry, would I ban them?

Me: Yeah, if you put it that way. What is your personal view about the logic of banning?
He: That depends on what is profitable. I’m agnostic about where the actors come from.

Me: And what do you think of the public that supports it?
He: Public is stupid.

After chatting up with different people, it became obvious to me that not everyone who was in favour of a ban, had the same logic.

“India and Pakistan can’t be fighting and be having good relations at the same time”,

was one of the justifications offered to me. But this makes it sound almost as if Pakistan is one person and India is another person. They are not. A country is a piece of land with generally a well defined border (which clearly is disputed in case of both India and Pakistan). A country is not one person. A country has its citizens, its local governments, its central government and most of the times, its army. And therefore, I think, a group from a country might be fighting with another group from another country and at the same time, two other groups / individuals could be making love. Sania Mirza did India proud and married a person who she fell in love with. How the fuck does her husband’s nationality matter here? She is like literally making love to a Pakistani and making India proud at the same time. Like literally. Think about that.

I can say whatever I want to, but after speaking to my friends who had said yes, it became obvious that most of them (not all) found it hard to not view Pakistan as one single entity. Try following the below conversation that I had with another friend.

She: Imagine I’m your best friend and you are going through this really terrible break up. You are hurting. Of course there is no right and wrong and it takes two to tango. But I will choose you. You will matter to me no matter who is right or wrong. And if I may say I will show you, what is called unconditional support or solidarity or whatever, just to get you through this phase. Because I believe loyalty does wonders. It takes off a little of the bitterness and maybe slowly you will see some reason and a different, better perspective. So in my country’s case if film stars not working for a brief time in India is a kind of solidarity I can show from my end, then be it. None of this lasts in any case (economic and trade sanctions, such banning etc.).
Me: So banning individual artists from a country (that they never chose in the first place) helps us show solidarity to our govt/army?

She: Nobody chooses a country to be born in.
Me: Exactly!

Her: It is showing solidarity to the country I am born in.
Me: So how does banning a citizen show solidarity? Ban Pak Govt. / Pak army.

She: How does showing loyalty to you of any consequence? I might as well be inviting your girl-friend home and hanging out with her no? It’s not her fault right?
Me: Girl-friend is ONE person. Pakistan is not one person.

She: It’s just unconditional support. I love Fawad Khan and Atif Aslam btw.

Another friend had a somewhat similar justification.

“…sometimes, without intellectual masturbation, we just need to show solidarity as a nation. Nation comes first. Period. Having said that, all our other trading activities with Pak should also come to a stop! As an individual, you may like whatever, watch whatever but at times like these when the Govt. has taken a stand to isolate Pak, we should not question the Govt!”

So this is what I think of this solidarity school of thought – it relies upon the emotions expressed by some of the below words (over and above ‘solidarity’ itself):

  • unconditional support;
  • loyalty;
  • don’t think much / don’t question;
  • sometimes / none of this lasts;

After these conversations, it is easy for me to understand why some of my friends view Pakistan as one person, while I don’t. They have convinced themselves that this phase will anyway pass, so it’s okay to just show loyalty without too much of thinking. I wonder though, if they will ever be able to get my perspective. I doubt it.

Now this is where things get pretty interesting. I got hold of one FB friend (have never met him in real life) who supported the ban AND at the same time, agreed with my perspective that Pakistan is not one person.

He: Right now Pakistani citizens have no say because they don’t bother. They have to bring a revolution.
Me: Ok. So you think if people of Pakistan feel the pain (by banning Paki artists amongst other things) then they will end up taking control of their army?

He: No, they will protest. Like India Against corruption. Like AAP. Maybe they make PAAP. Sorry for the unintentional pun.
Me: PAAP was a good one. 😛 So you are saying, if India bans Paki artists, people of Pakistan will start a revolution?

He: No that would be beginning of things. We need to isolate them completely on a global map.
Me: How about the resulting discrimination against an individual artist (based on his country, which he / she didn’t choose)? Is that okay?

He: Interesting. That’s my point. They need to migrate. Like Adnan Sami. Take refuge. Take citizenship. Like Tarek Fatah. And stop being proud to be a Pakistani.

This guy didn’t say anything about solidarity. For him, everything was ‘strategy’. A strategy to isolate Pakistan on a global map. And what better way to pull this off than by banning a Fawad Khan movie, right? A ‘beginning of things’.

Thankfully, at least so far, the Indian Government doesn’t believe in any of this bullshit.

The Government has issued (and will issue) visas to Pakistani artists (and citizens – unless there is a specific case by case issue). Trade and commerce between India and Pakistan has also been going just fine. Even that train that runs between the two countries, is running as usual.

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Source

To the friend who said “at times like these when the Govt. has taken a stand to isolate Pak, we should not question the Govt!”, what is the stand that we are talking about here? I don’t see no stand. Look, this isolation strategy might work, might not work. I don’t know about that. I am not a political strategist. But unless the ban on artists is a smaller part of the bigger strategy of isolation, it cannot be supported. It cannot be the ‘beginning of things’. It has to be the last thing to take place. Stop that fucking train first. Pull out Indian diplomats from Pakistan. Shut down the Pakistani Embassy in Delhi. Stop importing from Pakistan. And only when all of that is still not enough to ‘isolate’ Pakistan, think about the artists.

But then, why are artists the only target so far in the supposedly brilliant “isolation” strategy that will solve all India Pakistan problems?

I found a reasonable answer to this question from the video below. I had almost forgotten that news channels in India still had anything sensible (and not sensational) to offer, till a good friend shared this video. The panelists in this debate don’t abuse each other, the moderator doesn’t shout at them and for most part, everyone lets everyone else speak and talk and put forth their point of view. You don’t have to (if you don’t have enough time) see this 30 minute video to gain any new insight. There are not many additional points either for or against the ban, than what I have already discussed.

Pratibha Prahlad, a classical dancer, explains in this debate, why in the long list of connections that India has with Pakistan (from diplomacy to business) , artists are the ones who take the first hit (time and again). “Artists operate in public space and make for an easy target. No one cares about businessmen”, she says.

So what do gundaas like Raj Thackrey (who don’t hesitate to instigate Maharashtrians against non Maharashtrians time and again) do to be in the news and amass more fans? They play the patriotism card and make you believe there is no way you can show solidarity to this nation, till you show disrespect to an artist (even when you like them) based on his / her country. They convince you that an artist from Pakistan cannot be politically neutral and just do his / her job but HAS to also make political statements and say he hates his country, every-time terrorists from his country kill Indians.

In the same video above, Ashok Tandon gives one more interesting logic for why the ban is justified – “jawaans love Bollywood heroes – they are often role models. So when a Pakistani ends up playing a role that Indian Jawaans end up adoring, that will be weird”. Yes, that will indeed be weird. Imagine Fawaad Khan doing Hrithik’s role in Lakshya. Or Atif Aslam doing a music show in Siachen and the jawaans having a blast. How would these Jawaans kill Pakistanis after that when they go to a war? Or can they? Apparently they can. When soldiers take up a fight, they kill enemy soldiers or terrorists. And when they fight with / kill terrorists, nationality doesn’t matter. Indian soldiers kill Indian terrorists ALL THE TIME (Kashmir / North-east). So what next, we should ban Kashmiri and Manipuri artists every time a Kashmiri / Manipur terrorist blows up a bomb? No wait, when it comes to India, a Kashmiri artist and a Kashmiri terrorist is not one and the same. But when it comes to Pakistan, of course it’s just one person. And we should do everything that we can to isolate that person on a global map.

Just got an orgasm. Time to end the mental masturbation. Period.

Feature image source.

PS: I am grateful to all my friends who chatted with me on this topic. Please do not take offense. We all will live with our views at the end of the day. And may be life will teach us more things as we grow older. And wiser!

39 days to Chicago Half – Also, a quick visit to Hyderabad

Biwi flew to Ahmedabad last Friday. Five days ago. She will return to Goa the coming Friday. The morning after she left, I went running again. The same six kilometers as the previous day. Slightly faster though. Later that night, at around eleven, I took a taxi to the airport. Izaz bhai has been my reguar cab driver since past few months. He usually wears a white shirt (uniform). He was wearing a t-shirt when he came to pick me up.

‘You are looking younger in this t-shirt’, I complimented him.

I meant it. He spoke for a while about the need for uniforms during day-time and all that. When we reached the airport, he decided not to charge me the extra night time fee. ‘Some other time sir’, he said smiling. So sweet!

My flight from Goa to Hyderabad took off at around one in the night – and because the entire row in the aircraft (on my side of the aisle) was vacant – I slept occupying all the three seats. Tried sleeping rather. Didn’t succeed much. It didn’t help that the flight was a short one.

I landed between two and two thirty and slept for about an hour or so in the transit hotel at the airport. One can book a room on an hourly basis at this airport – which is pretty cool. The room was absolutely tiny though – not much space around the bed. But the bed was cozy and I could relax somewhat.

https://vimeo.com/179187760

I was in Hyderabad to shoot an engagement function of few hours. Val – the girl, had been my junior in IIT. I headed the design department for IIT Madras’ technical festival during my last two years there. In the final year, Val had worked for me as a photography coordinator. Her job had been to make photographs based on the requirement of the rest of the design team (for brochures, posters etc.). Now, after so many years, I was her photographer! Life comes a full circle. I mean, yeah not exactly full in this case, but what somewhat circulish?

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The function got over by around 11. My flight back to Goa would depart only at 03 pm. So I called up Radha and asked her if she was free and if we could catch up. We ended up catching up. Even if it was just for fifteen, twenty minutes. And even if the restaurant where Radha took me could offer nothing more than veg pakodas and sandwich (which we could not finish anyway, given that I had to rush for the airport and all that).

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I liked the hairstyle of the cab guy who drove me from the Goa airport to my flat.

‘Dominique, you have got a great hairstyle’, I told him, while on our way. I don’t remember now whether he thanked me for this compliment (which I genuinely meant) but I do remember him explaining to me how his hair used to be so much more silkier when he was younger. ‘I am sure’,  I said. He didn’t give me any discount once the trip was over.

Next day, I tried getting up in the morning (to go for my run) – but failed. So I did some weight training instead (later during the day). This was day before yesterday – 15th August – India’s Independence day. Po – the rockstar, wanted me to come over to a restaurant-cum-bar in the evening, where he was performing, and shoot a video for him. I did that. It was also good to note that, that place was serving beer even on 15th Aug! Things that can happen only in Goa! ? By the way, you so totally HAVE to view the short clip below to see how amazing Po is on guitar (it might take you a while to guess the song though)! ?

Po’s rocking guitar skills

https://vimeo.com/179187843

Yesterday, I tried once more to get up early enough to go for my run. Yesterday, I failed again. So, did some weight training again. Today morning, I finally got up. 0530 AM. Yay!

But I was so sleepy that I sat on my chair and slept again (didn’t have a great sound sleep last night). Tomorrow morning, I will get up and  do a 8k. There are only 39 more days to go for the Chicago Half and there is only so much that I can screw up when it comes to training!

PS: the feature image is a photograph that I made in the lounge of the hotel, where the engagement was held (Park Hyatt, Hyderabad).

44 Days to Chicago Half – also, my plans for a 3MS on a blind guy!

I mentioned earlier about my plans to visit Sweety in St. Louis (USA). But instead of flying via New York as I had earlier thought of, I am flying via Chicago now (yes the tickets are booked). I changed my plan because a) Mumbai-Chicago was a cheaper flight, b) from Chicago I can just take a bus to St. Louis which is like a 5 hours ride (compared to the costlier option of flying from NY) and c) I would like to go to NY with biwi – some other time, and roam properly.

I shared my US travel plans on Facebook and Jhops, a junior from IIT saw it and he said he is moving to Chicago later this month and so I must come stay with him while in Chicago. I said ok, that’s awesome! I can stay in Chicago for couple of days before taking a bus to St. Louis. Never been to Chicago anyway. Jhops also told me that Chicago Half Marathon is happening on 25th September and that he will be participating in it. He wondered if I wanted to, too. Now, I knew I would land only on 24th night (after flying for around 20 hrs, with a brief break in Istanbul). So I thought it would be too much to sign up for. And so I registered for the half marathon. It is always fun to push oneself.

After about one week of trying to get back to running (hadn’t run since last four months), I finally managed to get up early enough today morning to do a slow 6k (took me 44 fucking minutes). As of now, the pace doesn’t matter much though. The discipline to keep running regularly for the next 44 days, sure will. Would I be able to maintain my training? Time will tell.

There is another big conundrum to address – should I say no to free alcoholic beverages that would be offered to me in my Mumbai-Chicago flight (so that I can do a better job of running a half marathon within less than 10 hrs of landing)? Well, I have 43 days to answer that question. Don’t want to think about it right now. I mean, I have never ever said no to free alcohol in any flight in my entire life. Would I miss on it this time?

I have never ever said no to free alcohol in any flight in my entire life.

In terms of work (before I leave for US), other than a wedding shoot (for few hours in Hyderabad), I am doing one very interesting project. It’s a 3 Minute Story on a blind guy who will be cycling from Manali to Khardung La – a journey of ~600 Kilometers in extremely high altitude, that has five passes to conquer altogether. Isn’t that amazing? It takes about six days to do this (at an average rate of 100 kilometers per day, in a mountainous terrain). I had undertaken a similar cycling trip myself seven years ago (the feature image of this post is from that trip in 2009). It is an experience I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Mainly because I have blogged about it. By the way, if you are wondering how a blind guy can cycle – his way out is to do tandem cycling (the other cyclist riding with him can see – that will ensure they don’t fall off or anything). Weirdly enough, I was chatting with one of my cousins in a Whatsapp group few hours ago, and it so happens that he is starting Manali-Leh cycling from tomorrow! All the best to him.

I will probably have to figure out how to keep running regularly even when I am shooting the documentary. But then there isn’t much figuring out to do really, is it? Manali or Ladakh – I gotta get up in the morning and run. Of course running in mountains is enormously more challenging. But what is not challenging in this life anyway? What can be more challenging for a documentary film-maker than to finish editing his own wedding documentary movie?

What can be more challenging for a documentary film-maker than to finish editing his own wedding documentary movie?

Most of last week (till today in fact) went in editing my wedding movie. Yes, it took me three and a half years to edit the movie. Of course I didn’t work on it full time. For the first one year, I think I didn’t even go through the footage properly. And later when I did, I got so lost that I could never manage to create anything worthwhile anyway. Luckily, biwi started helping me with editing for some professional wedding movie projects (starting late last year), and once she became good at editing over time, it was she who undertook the giant task of finishing our own movie. Without her, I am not sure how many more years it might have taken. It’s a ~20 minute movie and I love the way it has finally come out. It’s hilarious and entertaining and insightful. This is the best wedding movie that I have created over the last four years (in spite of very average quality of footage per say – with which I had to work with) and I am not saying this because it’s my wedding movie. It really is awesome. Remind me to show it to you, when we meet the next time, and I will prove my point.

See you until then. Lot more running to do!

Breaking down the storytelling of “The Evolution Of Michael Phelps”

I saw a short 15 minute documentary video on the legendary swimmer Michael Phelps just now. One of my Facebook friends had shared it on his timeline. And because I loved the way the film was made, I thought of breaking down the storytelling bit (my newest obsession – every time I see a good story, whether it be a documentary – short or otherwise, or a Hollywood movie).

1. Protagonist

  • From whose point of view is the story being told (or in other words, who is the protagonist)? Michael Phelps – he is the protagonist. He knows what he wants, it’s not easy for him to get what he wants, and he never totally gives up.
  • What does the protagonist want? To figure out his ultimate purpose in life.
  • Protagonist’s motivation? We all want to figure this out, right? This is a basic human nature.

2. Empathy

So why does the audience care about what the protagonist wants?

If the record holder of the highest number of Olympic medals is not sure what the purpose of his life is and is fucked up in any way, we all want to know why! It’s difficult not to care about his journey to see if he can figure things out (which he most likely will, we kind of know that), but more importantly, how exactly does he figure things out? Did someone help him in this journey? Did he bump into something (by accident or choice) that opened his eyes? ‘Tell us all’, the audience screams.

3. The challenge & what’s at stake?

What makes it difficult for Michael to figure out what he truly wants from his life is what makes it difficult for any of us – there is no well defined way of finding this out really! We also get to know about his estranged relationship with his father, which was not easy to sort out.

At stake was a) his reputation as a celebrity Olympic champ and b) his life. Two pretty high stakes really!

4. Visual-flow

Unfortunately, this story lacks a visual flow. There is no connecting start and end. Do I think having a visual flow would have elevated the story? Yes, absolutely.

5. Insights gained?

Following, methinks, are main ones:

  • Even Olympic champions can get suicidal – and not because they have stopped doing well professionally but for reasons as relate-able as unresolved personal relationships.
  • Life is not about how low you get – it’s about how you bounce back.
  • We all need that helping hand in our lives, in times of despair and self-doubt. And if we hang on, things eventually do get better.

6. The end and summary

  • What happens in the end? In the end, Phelps’ life is more or less sorted (and the viewers know how it happened). With help from those who cared about him, he came out of his depression, sorted issues with his dad, got married, became a father and is now ready to compete again – in this year’s Olympics!
  • Summary of the story in one or two sentences – this was the story of how one of the biggest Olympic champions of all times, dealt with his depression and came out of it successfully.

Whether you are writing a story (doesn’t really matter if it’s fiction or non-fiction) or making a film, do make sure you story answers these questions! Because every good watchable story, generally does! You can read more about the importance of each of these questions in another detailed blog here.

Feature image source.

Where do I buy gifts from, and recomment my readers as well 1. Personalized Gifts for Husband 2. Birthday Gifts for Husband 3. surprise Anniversary gifts for husband 4. Valentine’s day gifts for Husband 5. Birthday gifts for brother 6.Birthday Gifts for Sister 7. Anniversary Gifts for mom dad