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“Make it memorable!”

Deviating from films in my first post in over a year. But before I begin. A moment of silence for all those who have wanted to do something for an incredibly long time, but haven’t mustered the courage to pull it off. I empathise with you. You may want to look away sheepishly. Or, if you really are an incredible specimen, give yourself a hard time. Don’t do any of those right now. Spare a moment of your time to read this. I’ve been meaning to do many things this year. Thought I’d finally learn how to drive on Delhi’s treacherous roads. I did – and now curse every time I’m stuck behind the wheel in traffic on the Outer Ring Road. Thought I’d learn a new language. A few months along, Mein Deutsch ist Scheiße (try google translate). Thought I’d be supremely productive with my blog this year. Oh well…at least you’re reading this, aren’t you?

There’s a Samuel Beckett quote, taken from one of his more obscure works, which has been doing the rounds over the last few years – “Ever tried.Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”. This quote, with its TEDish enthusiasm, is the punchline for the millenial generation. Failure has become fashionable, thanks to the palpable success of Silicon Valley startups; and blokes like Messrs Sachin & Binny Bansal closer to home. But what about those who didn’t try at all? This is for you. I’m not going to motivate you with any counter-intuitive bullshit such as “fail better” or “think disruptively”. There’s an anti-climax to when you achieve mastery over the things you always wish you wanted to do. It simply becomes second nature, or, a habit; and you forget all the unnecessary anguish, and excuses, that overcame you in not trying to set out to do XYZ things. I’m just going to lay it out there – if you feel like doing something which can uplift your spirits, then do it. If your heart’s in it, then go for it. If not, then…. in all impudence, I implore you to while your time away by reading my reinvigorated blog!

Nailed it! I'd still take the metro though!

Nailed it! I’d still take the metro though!

***

Nostalgia evokes sepia hues of memories, experiences, old photographs, and reminiscences. There is also a selective nature to human memories. We tend to magnify the good ones, and eliminate the bad ones. A convenient security blanket, which helps us overcome life’s fluctuating nature. Over the last few years (and most recently, days), I have been made acutely aware of my memory. I tend to remember a LOT of things. The good, bad, and atrociously ugly even. The first of many things, and the last of many others. Random numbers, singular events that may have no bearing on my past or even future; and (this one takes the cake, pun intended) – birthdays.

There’s a pleasant notion attached to being skilful at remembering birthdays long before Facebook made it easy. There’s also an innocent, honest joy associated with wishing people on their birthdays. For starters, it’s that one existential day of the year which no one can ever take away from a person. Secondly, it’s easier for people to remember what happens on their ‘birth anniversary’ – and it’s an obvious template for creating memories. Which is why I add “make it memorable” to most of my wishes.

Wanted to buy a candle holder, but the store didn't have one. So got a cake.

Wanted to buy a candle holder, but the store didn’t have one. So got a cake.

Coming from a culture of oral history and tradition, humans are socially engineered to share their memories. Our species has thrived by cultivating its experiences, only for further generations to piece together its history & prepare for the future. We’re now in an age where it’s exceedingly easy to record memories. Social media gives us the perception that we’re creating our very own personalised digital memory bank. While we may think we own that content, we don’t really have any exclusivity to it. Some 300 million photos are uploaded on Facebook every day. Does this discourage us from using our natural hard drives – the brain? That’s a debate for another day. It’s worth reflecting on this fact though – the memories in your head are yours, and yours alone – you may decide to either share those intimate mental photographs or take them to your grave. For now though, I’d leave with some gentle, parting thoughts:

  • Buying a DSLR camera will not make you a professional photographer overnight. If you’re naturally terrible at recording your moments on camera (like yours truly) – you might want to try the following: spend a few extra minutes to just savour the moment; stare out of a window a little longer; or simply goad yourself to conjure the most unique insult you can think of at that moment. (Billions of blue blistering barnacles, it works, trust me!)
  • Ketchup with ice cream makes for some crazy dreams.
  • Sometimes, fridge magnets can help you time travel:

    I went halfway across the world and all I got was a lousy fridge magnet

    You went halfway across the world and all you got was a lousy fridge magnet

  • Lastly, make it memorable!

The importance of being a #goodguy

It feels great to be back writing. The last year and a half has brought me new connections, re-connections, air-miles, road-miles, stay-at-home-miles, and much enlightenment. Many of these experiences shall be poured over in the posts to follow. But in the meantime, I’ll turn my attention to an oft-forgotten issue – that of the good guy/ good girl. For the sake of trends, I will be  using the hashtag- #goodguy.good guy greg

We’ve all encountered them at some point in our lives: the helpful stranger who offers to change your car’s flat tire; a kind fellow traveller who decided to buy you a meal when you were stranded on your journey; or the no-nonsense auto rickshaw driver who decides to go by the meter, at 2 AM in the morning (valid only for Delhi, and yes, this happened to me, the rarity of such an occurrence makes me appreciate it even more).

Many a time, some of us have decided to be a #goodguy. Chivalry, courtesy, kindness, patience, respect, humility, integrity, gratitude etc. – one of the many hallmarks of the perfect lady and gentleman. Having received a good education and upbringing, I’d like to assume that we tend to exude many of these traits in some way or the other, in different situations (I tip my hat to the woman or man who imbibes all these virtues consistently, here’s to making the impossible seem possible to all us idealists! )

Unfortunately, the plight of the ordinary #goodguy is that no one talks about him or her. It’s the negativity that makes the most noise. Even the media glorifies an idiot, while giving almost no column inches to those good people, those rare paragons of virtue. It’s no coincidence that the media played its part in popularizing the maxim “nice guys finish last”. What about social media? “Humans of New York” seems cool. #goodguygreg is still trending. But then so is #scumbagsteve. And so is wasting perfectly potable water in order to avoid donating to charitable causes. This got me thinking.

For as long as I can remember, the cinematic medium has made a mockery of almost everyone.Yes, cinema is the great leveller. But if there’s one thing it’s been consistently adept at, it’s screwing the bad guys.

He's good at being bad. Source - Netflix.

He’s good at being bad. Source – Netflix.

I remember the first movie I saw in a theatre – it was “Dunston Checks In”. A very loathesome Rupert Everett has his rear handed to him on a platter by an adorable orangutan and its new adoptive family. #goodguy 1 – #scumbag 0.  I also remember the first time I saw “Seven”; Brad Pitt acts like a Delhi boy, doesn’t heed Morgan freeman’s advice, and decides to dispense cold justice towards Kevin Spacey, who simply stole that show by proving the cynicism and certainty of that very eventuality. Kevin Spacey has since gone on to continue to school everyone else in how to be effectively repulsive. #goodguy 0 – #kevinspacey 10,000. But nothing was more fun than watching Will Smith blow up aliens in a rigged-up spaceship in “Independence Day”. The score: #goodguy 1 billion – #scumbagaliens 0. Indeed, cinema’s way of distinguishing between right and wrong is cliched, yet immensely enjoyable. Even the economics can’t be argued with – there’s a reason Superhero movies have been the highest money spinners in the history of cinema.

4th of July - the day Will Smith saved us from Aliens.

4th of July – the day Will Smith saved us from aliens.

And so,  it’s easy to conclude that the #goodguy who simply doesn’t get her or his due in the real world, is enshrined and exhibited on cinema regularly. For the next few posts, I’m going to highlight the most admirable men and women in some of most endearing movies I have had the fortune of seeing  in my lifetime. And when you read about them, I’d like you all to think that somewhere and somehow, the  scriptwriters in these soon-to-be-highlighted movies figured out a way to pay tribute to a real #goodguy whom they knew. I’d like yourselves to think of a #goodguy whom you’ve had the great fortune of meeting and knowing. This is certainly my way of paying tribute to the many #goodguys I know. Cheers to you folks, and I hope you’re reading this! 🙂

Hollywood’s Silver Lining

The Oscars are back. But I’m not making predictions. What I do want to write about, is one of Hollywood’s better years!

The variety of movies nominated for Best Picture gives a good indication of an increasing maturity of not just the Academy in recent years, but Hollywood’s knack for good scripts and better story-telling. Here’s my pick of some of my favourite movies of the year:

Silver Linings Playbook

I can’t stop gushing about this one. Director David O. Russel returns to his famed ‘screwball’ version of comedies and packages an interesting 2008 novel into a screenplay that makes SLP into a ‘modern classic’.

The tale of a bipolar man trying to win back his estranged wife, with a little help from friends, and family;  spun around with jokes, punches, pills, and Anupam Kher; compelled me to watch this twice!  Bradley Cooper steps into his own, with a terrific portrayal of the fluctuating effects of a mental illness, which result in a hangover of different sorts to his main character “Pat Solitano”

THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

The highlight of his recovery amidst his circumstances –  a foul-mouthed review of Hemingway’s “Farewell to Arms”. His pillars of support – his mother, ably played by  Aussie actress Jacki Weaver, keeping the family’s eccentricities under control; and his father, a superstitious sports fan portrayed by Robert De Niro at his foul-mouthed best. Chris Tucker and Anupam Kher are nice surprises. But the standout actor in this brilliant cast IS Jennifer Lawrence.

silver-linings-playbook-review

Jennifer and Bradley think they can dance – “Silver Linings Playbook”

A gem aptly named ‘Tiffany”, she breezes through her scenes as crazy and sane, strong and vulnerable, and  all with the maturity that few actresses her age have. She exudes an oomph that reminds me of Shirley Maclaine in “The Apartment”, and a  spunk rarely seen since Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. She is no longer that teenage girl from “The Hunger Games”. If anything, her performance itself warrants a viewing of this crowd-pleasing flick that screams positivity.

Many have called SLP a bi-polar movie, one that flutters endlessly between comedy and drama. Others have criticized it for merely superficially scraping upon the effects of mental illness.

-HQ-Silver-Linings-Playbook-stills-jennifer-lawrence-32929071-2616-2120

At the risk of sounding like a fanboy, I will grant this to David O Russel – with an ingenious adapted screenplay and a sharp storyline culminating in nervy dance moves, plus a memorable ending;  Hollywood gets a dose of what it seems to have forgotten, and what we all love – happy endings. And of course, it takes some wit to conjure a rude apology on behalf of Ernest Hemingway.

Django Unchained

Tarantino. Jamie Foxx. Christoph Waltz. DiCaprio. A reimagining of a 1960’s spaghetti western. A cameo from the “original” Django – Franco Nero. Sounds like a winning formula? Easier said than done.

Jamie Fox and Christoph Waltz in "Django Unchained"

Jamie Fox and Christoph Waltz in “Django Unchained”

Tarantino fans have found it hard to keep it in their pants. DiCaprio fans have been hoping that Leo’s character will not get killed off in every movie (Don’t get your hopes up too high with the upcoming “Great Gatsby” adaptation).

Where Tarantino finds success, is blending his pulp-action scenes with moments of chilling, crisp dialogue. Jamie Foxx stars, in all his swagger,  as Django, a freed slave who unwittingly finds himself marauding through the pre-Civil War American South as aide-de-camp to Waltz’s portrayal of  dapper, mysterious, and cheeky bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz. Besides making German dentists look cool, Waltz carries on from where he left off in “Inglorious Basterds”, with a magnetic screen presence that shows he is competent even at playing the good guy (Apparently Tarantino wrote the part just for him).

django-unchained-3

DiCaprio makes for a decent casting as the racist and sadistic plantation owner Calvin Candie, while Samuel L. Jackson steals the show as DiCaprio’s acute, aggressive and geriatric house attendant.  Credit is due to Tarantino for packaging such stereotypes elegantly, amidst all the blood spattered gun fights, and multiple uses of the N-word. Like his previous feature on Nazis, he tackles another demon in the form of slavery, and unlike in “Inglorious Basterds”, he approaches his scripted ending patiently, all the while reassuring us that only in 1858, one could try to shoot their way into getting the woman of their dreams. Django releases in India in March. If you do not watch it, you are missing out on cool.

Argo

Ben Affleck has come a long way since his “Bennifer” days. In what has been touted as his ‘second innings’ in Hollywood, Ben seems to looking more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it. Widely tipped to have been a frontrunner for the Best Director Oscar (for which he unfortunately missed out on a nomination) , he takes his moviemaking crafts to a new level with his dramatization of the rescue of American Diplomats during the 1979 Iranian Hostage Crisis.

Argo 2

Affleck reinventing himself with “Argo”

The story begins with the storming of the US Embassy in Tehran, with over fifty embassy employees being taken hostage. However, six diplomats manage to ‘escape’, taking refuge in the Canadian Ambassador’s residence. Ben Affleck’s character ‘Tony Mendez’, a CIA extraction specialist, is entrusted with exploring options to secretly shuffle the six “missing” diplomats out of Iran before the revolutionary guard find them.

Argo

It is solid directing and excellent editing which keeps the suspense ticking in a movie based on a historical event. Gritty camerawork and sound editing make a routine visit to Tehran’s grand bazaar feel as gripping as a chase scene, and as stomach-churning as a thriller.

The viewers are left crossing their fingers throughout the movie, hoping that the diplomats’ ridiculous cover doesn’t get blown, and praying that Ben Affleck’s character can safely steer them away from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Allen Arkin and John Goodman’s humourous take on the patriotism of hollywood studio executives makes for some much-needed comic-relief in an extremely serious story. And even though Istanbul doubles up as Tehran, I enjoyed watching this film, during an early release in November 2012. If you haven’t caught this one, as is the common refrain in the movie… “Argo fuck yourself!”.

Nostalgia

Today was a lazy Sunday afternoon. Since I had nothing else to do, and I hadn’t the time for long, I though I’d clean up at home a little. I ended up dusting my way into a cylindrical container with my entire Tazo collection stashed inside. What followed, was an hour of pure nostalgia.

Yes, Tazos. The hard work of a lot of Indian children in the 90’s. The reason Frito Lay made a profit in the 90’s. That Napoleon Bonaparte tazo which I wanted so badly, that I traded 2 of my Batman tazos just to get. Those 3 Thomas Edison tazos which were surplus to demands, and which I could never let go of. That scratched Cheetos tazo which I got bluffed into trading in. It amazed me how something which I came to treasure so greatly at one point of time, was just locked away in a nondescript container, stashed inside a dusty cupboard, only to be found on a lazy Sunday. Just a reminder of that time.

“I grew up.” – that’s what they all say.

Hollywood seems to be going through the very same emotions. The Artist and Hugo are giving it a major dose of nostalgia. These 2 movies are cinema’s way of saying “I love you too” in front of a mirror.

The charming, moustached matinee idol, and his spirited saviour Peppy Miller tap dance their way into our hearts, and make the movie an homage to what epitomised cinema in the first three decades of the 20th century. (Best Actor for Dujardin, what a performance!)

 

The breathtaking 3D visuals of Hugo (pictured above) , and its magical storyline make it more of a “Thank You” present to cinema’s early innovators, rather than just a tale of a homeless boy maintaining clocks in a railway station in Paris.

These movies are a reminder of the time, when all one had were a band of musicians and an audience in a theatre. The actors’ facial expressions conveyed the emotions. Their muted gestures further accentuated by title cards and the custom tunes of the live band. Entertainment came in the guise of swashbuckling heroes, slapstick humour, knights in shining armour, and the tender embrace of two lovers. The movie halls were packed.

Then came Warner Bros. gigantic gamble with synchronized sound – talkies, as they called them. Those who embraced the new technology, survived. And what of those who didn’t? Exit, stage left/right/centre. Why did silent film have to be forgotten? We all remember Charlie Chaplin. I grew up watching the legend’s short sketches on Doordarshan. Moreover, every movie stunt we see today, is but, a tribute to the pioneering work of Buster Keaton (one of the first superstars to do his own stunts on-screen). Apart from these 2 giants of cinematic history, no other names ring bells. That era is lost. Embracing change, and new technology, didn’t have to spell the end of a certain art form. Television did not kill radio. 3D isn’t always better than 2D. Mozart still rocks, 220 years after his death, without a synthesizer or even an electric guitar.

 

Buster Keaton in 'The General

“To remember, one has to forget.” Credit to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, for acknowledging two beautiful movies, and for remembering what cinema was like in its infancy. While these movies charm us into rediscovering the fun of silent cinema, there is a foreboding sense, that this is all transient. What happens after the Oscars?

I can only speak for myself. I’m giving away those tazos. Not because I don’t enjoy them anymore, (no, those memories won’t go anywhere), but because I want someone else to enjoy them too 🙂

For Dad

Posted on

My life has changed in the last few weeks. And no matter what I do, or try to say, things will never be the same. I can curse luck, spit in the face of fate,  and wish that I’d travelled back in time, to maybe a day, or even 5 minutes before, and prevent it all. Even that doesn’t help. Maybe this will though.

We think we’re all meant to be something on this planet. We all think we’re here for a specific purpose. In searching for the answer to that question, in trying to find our calling, we all lose sense of the REASON we were here in the first place. To all those idiotic specimens who end up like this, I say- look in the mirror.

Every time I stare at my face in a mirror, I see the man who taught me everything I needed to know to start teaching myself. I see the man who taught me how to tie my shoelaces. The man who took me to school everyday when I was a kid, and who waited for me at the bustop all the time. The man who taught me why “i” comes before the “e”, except in the case of  a “c” or a “g”, like in “receive” or “reign”. The man who taught me about the beauty and importance of fractions in our modern world. The man who read probably every Dickens novel ever written to me when I was a child,& inspired my interest in reading.  The man who got me my first big bicycle in 1996. The man who showed me how to change a flat tyre. The man who let me watch movies on TV way past my bedtime. I wouldn’t have started this blog otherwise. The man, who just 7 weeks ago, discussed Dostoyevsky in detail with me. So many beautiful memories.

The man who made me what I am. The reason I was here in the first place. That man is my father. 

He, along with my mother, sacrificed a hell of a lot of time and energy to ensure that me and my brothers got the best out of life, and became something. And now as I stare ahead, I still don’t know what I will become one day. I thought I knew what I wanted to be. That ambition has been redefined. Whatever I do in life, has to be worth it. For me. For my family. For Dad.

The movie, whose clip I’ve attached, reminds me a lot about the things a parent can do for their child. Specifically, the bond that a father shares with his son. Because at the end of it all, regardless of what a parent may achieve, their children are the only reminder of them, their imprint, their legacy, and yes, their masterpiece, on this planet.

No other movie conveys this better. No other movie teaches us that in those moments we share with our loved ones,regardless of the circumstances, we’re actually living life. We’re doing what we were meant to. Enjoying our God-given, or biologically gifted right to live.

I enjoyed every minute of changing my car’s flat tyre with dad. Every minute of getting  the answer to (3/4 + 2/3) wrong when he helped me with math in the 90’s. Every second of realising how much of a badass Fagan was in “Oliver Twist” when we read together. Every moment of giving my answer to Dad’s daily “what’s up” questions.

All these moments will stay with me for life. A life that, though may not seem too great right now, but has been filled with love from both my parents. A life, that was meant by him, to be beautiful. Watch this space for more.

Love you Papa, always.

 

 

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