Friday, August 29, 2008

Mumbai Meri Jaan

Yogesh Vinayak Joshi, the writer, must be someone who has genuine empathy to understand different lines of thoughts and consequent actions. He refrains from passing judgments but lets the movie send a message through its subtle dialogues and amazing body language of the characters. Of course, for this, the credit must be shared with co-screenplay writer Upendra Sidhaye and director Nishikant Kamat.

Mumbai Meri Jaan brings to you five very humane characters: Tukaram Patil (Paresh Rawal), Suresh (Kay Kay Menon), Nikhil (R. Madhavan), Roopali (Soha Ali Khan) and Thomas (Irrfan Khan). These are people in whom you may recognize the hawaldar standing near the pan shop, the youths drinking tea and biscuits at a kitli, your well-earning thoughtful friend with a clear set of rights and wrongs, an ambitious young media person and the roadside tea vendor you seldom look at for more than thirty seconds. They all come alive and confide in us with a touching simplicity in Mumbai Meri Jaan.

The film follows the lives of these five characters beginning the morning of the blasts to a week post the havoc of death and doubt. But in the end, the things discussed in Mumbai Meri Jaan are simple - how a man grapples with his way of life in an age that is enveloped in prejudice, doubt, inequality and extravagance?

These questions become all the louder after the Mumbai train blasts of July 11, 2006.

Paresh Raval is brilliant. His gentle, prodding good humour is delicately dressed with irony and sarcasm. His portrayal of a senior constable is perhaps the voice of many like him who slog in government services, become part of the red tape and have their own bitter regrets and reasons for the same. Kamat, plays his underling who is a green horn in the bureaucratic juggernaut and finds it difficult to digest the senselessness of it all. In his patient, good humoured chaffing of the young constable, Raval conveys many a poignant things in a tone that is unjudgemental and rational.

Thomas, the coffee-vendor played by Irrfan Khan conveys it all with his eyes. There is a blatant contrast between his frugal existence and his mute witnessing of the splurge of excess. His matter of fact resignation brings on screen a sense of disquiet, perhaps even a taunt to the well-fed multiplex audience. Thomas is the face of the vast divide of Indian economy. Watch out for his expressions when the mobile is thrown and crushed beneath the wheels.

Suresh (Kay Kay Menon) is a man filled to the brim with prejudice. You must have seen such people, you may be one of them. Though his reconciliation with secularism is a wee bit drastic, the story does its best to send across a message in the short time that a film offers. His character is detailed and sometimes his dialogues edge on dry humour. At least I had a good laugh at the Mohammad Rafi bit. The reason for his staunchness has been given cleverly in the scene where his father passionately discourses about Hinduism in their small flat.

Roopali’s character (Soha Ali Khan) has portrayed in precise words and scenes the irritation we all feel on the sensationalism of the Indian Television media. My rants in this post are now redundant. Mumbai Meri Jaan is dot on in conveying how mediocre television media has become today.

Nikhil (R. Madhavan) is one of those few young professionals who choose to stay back in India in the face of lucrative opportunities to rush abroad. His convictions falter after the train blasts. Perhaps the choice he makes is clear when he boards the train again.

Mumbai Meri Jaan is worth investing in a CD if the film is off your theatres by now.

-Gauri Gharpure
August 29, 2008

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Ab ke bicchde to

Ab ke bicchde to shayad khwabon mein mile
Jaise sookhe hue phool kitabon mein mile...

Ahmed Faraz, who wrote these immortal lines died in Pakistan yesterday. He was 77.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Anonymous Smiles

The idea of Anonymous Smiles struck on one of my many day-dreaming phases.

The experiment is simple- I aim to gather addresses of people I don't know and send them one of my postcards.

If I happen to come across sketch pens when I am doing nothing, and if the mood seems right, this happens:

Sending a postcard is my version of leaving a message in a bottle in the ocean. How soon (or how leisurely late) the petite yellow card can reach its rightful owner never ceases to amaze me. I feel its potential to spread a moment of joy with colours and words has not been exploited to the maximum...

After playing with the idea for quite sometime now, I am taking the first step to further my postcard sending spree and see if I can spread smiles beyond my circle of acquaintances.

So here's what I have done so far to give my idea a concrete shape:

Now, as you can well see, I have more cards with me than I have addresses. Here's where you can come in the picture. If you know anyone to whom you would like to send one of my postcards, send me the complete postal address at

It could be your friend, neighbour, your parents or grandparents. It could be the address of people living in old age homes. It could be anyone whom you wish to send an anonymous smile. Even you, yourself. My interest lies only in seeing that the card is posted at a correct address and when it reaches, it ensures a moment of smile. This exercise will make me feel good about myself and hope its the same for you.

The blog attempts to answer all the questions that you may now have about this idea. Please visit the blog and let me know your suggestions...

If you have addresses to share, please mail at

Thursday, August 21, 2008

More memories of a deluge (Part 2)

When I woke up the next morning, the bus was still parked on the side of the highway. The driver decided to proceed after sometime. But the progress was slow and discouraging. The entire highway was littered with buses and people.

People were getting uneasy. Just like I couldn't stand the stuffiness of the train after a hopeless long wait, my fellow passengers in the bus were restless and discussed all the possible ways of reaching home. The problem was with a narrow patch of road a short distance ahead. Water seemed to flow very forcefully at this point and no one could quite gauge the depth. We heard that one bus driver who had attempted to pass that patch ended up with the bus dragged a good distance away. After this, everyone had taken cold feet, put the brakes on and traffic grew static. No driver would risk going beyond that point.

Incidentally, just beyond this patch, state buses were plying as usual. People had two options, to go ahead towards Kheda and cross the flooded patch somehow, or walk the way back to Nadiad and find a night's halt. Everyone was clear on one thing: Not to spend yet another night inside the bus.

Has it ever happened to you that someone asks you something extremely important but puts a cap on your thinking time. Something like, 'Do this and do this now or you are out'. It is not an exaggeration when I tell you that something happened in less than five minutes which made all the passengers throw their hands up and they started wading out of the bus, either towards Nadiad or towards Kheda.

I went to the two women and asked what they were going to do. They seemed already geared up to begin walking to Nadiad. I asked them to wait and let me figure out what to do with my luggage and how to convey the decision to Mitrajit, but they just wouldn't give me the time. So I rushed to the driver and asked if he assured my luggage would be safe. His answer seemed convincing enough. I was to collect my luggage from their office whenever the bus reached Ahmedabad. Everyone was doing the same and the bus was almost empty with the exception of a few passengers and the driver. He also let me make a call and all I could tell M was that I was leaving towards Nadiad and my luggage was in the bus. The women were getting impatient and I was afraid they would leave. So I conveyed just this and ran off to them.

One young man from Bhavnagar and another man from Junagadh also joined us in a minute. So after little time, I realised that here we were, five strangers who would be with each other for quite sometime now in this moment of accidental brotherhood. The road was full of people wading in knee deep water. The women took their shoes off and after sometime I realised that was the best thing to do. My shoes kept getting stuck in the mud and they would shriek me to hurry every time I stopped. There were hundreds of people wading along with us. This was the first time I understood the meaning of what people mean when they say that people come together in the times of calamity.

We must have walked some two-three kilometers when we got a lift in the tractors that farmers were plying to ferry the stranded passengers to and fro. We reached inside the town. Now ever since I got down from the bus I had started inquiring about the residence of a relative. Everyone seemed to know him by the virtue of his position, but my fair ladies got impatient every time I took a stop to inquire. Finally we reached this town square and I asked where the police station was. With the influence of that one name, I entered the police station along with the four others. Now, the policeman seemed quite doubtful, but he couldn't refuse us. I got to know that my relative's house was practically an island now and the area was inaccessible. I asked them to allow me to make a few calls and called home this time. Baba would know better how to explain the relation to the cops. Besides, he could contact my other relatives too.

Presently, we were given tea and biscuits and some nashta and the ladies were feeling really grand. They were like, 'So you really know someone!' After sometime, I was called in the officer's room. There was a call for me and my maasi was on line. She told me one of her relatives would come to pick me and that I stay with them as long as things are fine. (The officer seemed totally confused ever since I had entered the office, introduced my connections and conveyed telephone numbers to my family and phones had started pouring in). Next, baba called. His instructions were clear and to the point. "When the gentleman your maasi had told you about comes, introduce the people who are with you and take them home too. Say you cannot leave them". I was shocked and started contesting his order. "How can I? I don't even know him, how can I take four more people whom I don't know to his house?" He shouted at me and told me to do as told- I was not to be selfish to leave the people who had accompanied me this long.

I grudgingly admitted to myself that he was right. In less than ten minutes, Vinayakbhai came riding his scooty.

"You are Gauri? And these people are with you? Follow me". The women were chatty as ever and though all of the four strongly refused my suggestion that they come with me, I had to be firm for in spite of my doubts, baba's instructions were clear. We all went to his house. It was in the old city area and in a 'pol'. Now 'pol' is a typical Gujarati word, meaning a narrow lane on both sides of which are old houses, some often surprisingly huge and majestic. The lanes are confusing, with one mingling into another elusively so that a newcomer might just go round and round the area without a clue.

When we reached his house, which was very nearby, his wife was waiting at the door. She welcomed us in and talked about how rough the weather was and imagined how tiring the journey must have been. The couple was so generous, so natural that it put me instantly at ease. She didn't say it out of formality when she asked them all to stay with them. We had tea and hot snacks before us in no time. The men said they would rather stay at the railway station and were quite firm about their choice. They wouldn't even stay back for lunch. But Vinayakbhai's wife said they must at least freshen up and have tea before they leave. The two sisters said they had a relative who stayed very near by and would go and find them out. After tea, the men went their way and them sisters went to find their relatives in spite of our cajoling to stay back. The sisters came again in the evening to say they had found a place, chatted, had tea and left. I got a call from all of them in Diwali.

I stayed with Vinayakbhai till the next afternoon on July 2. He came to see me off at the bus station and I got home in two hours. They were more than happy to have me there. He talked a lot about his daughter who was settled somewhere in London and how he didn't like staying there in spite of having some solid visa permit. "We were there for six months, but I have to be back. We go for our daughter, but start missing this place in no time".

We talked on phone a few times. We couldn't meet as he had some wedding to attend. I sent him a postcard on Diwali. He called a few months later to thank me for it. He had again gone to London and had got the card only on his return. We sent him an invitation for our wedding, but he was out somewhere again. In another wedding this February, I got to know he had died of a heart attack.

In those four days I learnt a lot. I learnt how simple people can be if they so choose. And how open and how honest. I never met my four companions again, but I have the most fond memories of them. Hospitality is what I learnt from Vinayakbhai and his wife. They took me as their own with a warmth and simplicity that is peculiar to their community. I also felt how right Baba was and how selfish I must have regretted being if I had gone to Vinayakbhai’s house alone. Baba’s insistence was worth it for I came face to face with a couple who had the charm to welcome strangers in their house so graciously. I saw for myself how a host ought to be and how some strangers can find a permanent place in memories…

Monday, August 04, 2008

Handmade wonder...

The second (and better) lamp that I made after an entire day with scissors, glue and cloth... The first one was a result of impulse when I made the frame after battling with wires and covered it with an extensive cloth cut-work. But this one is real neat and a lot better than my first attempt...Our drawing room looks so good now. Chalo, praise me :D