Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Grass is Greener...

The searing pain in my legs screamed at me to stop the rigour I was putting them through, as I trudged along the roads flanked by the evening sun en route my jogging trail. I ignored their pleas and drove myself harder, notwithstanding the thousand promises of agony my body made me. At the end of it, as I lumbered off, I saw him...

I was never a chiseled hunk, but when I couldn't survive for ten overs on the cricket due to sheer lack of stamina and finally failed to cover a yorker on off stump owing to the fact that my expanding girth constrained my stance, and thereby the ability to get the bat down on time, the unpleasant truth dawned upon me. I'd become a slave to my indulgences, and banishing that slavery was going to be a long, arduous path, snaking endless kilometers up and down the Yewr mountains flanking my twelfth storey abode at Thane, Bombay.

So, there I was, hauling myself amidst grunts up the road that eerily mirrored a sine curve, though unfortunately displaying more crests than troughs. My breath came in shallow bursts as somebody seemed to suck the oxygen from the atmosphere and every step was an embarrassing reminder of just how much ground, I'd left to gain. I could almost feel the fat in my chest and midsection voice their displeasure at being disturbed after being catered to for ages by dint of my culinary extravagances.

As cliches go, all bad times come to an end (they just seem to last way longer than the good ones do) and so did my tryst with the mountain that evening. As I walked off, weary after a jog that'd be considered amateurish by any regular on that track, I saw him.

He appeared a laborer, to my judgement at first sight. A shock of unkempt hair bore witness to his toils as it was matted with the dirt and filth that so abounds at construction sites. The sweat glistened off his brows as his eyes perched atop his forehead to catch a glimpse of his son hoisted over his shoulders. He rocked the little boy gently, as he took careful steps towards the hawker his son was excitedly gesticulating towards. A packet of flavored ice and a few coins changed hands as the lad feasted on the delicacy. His father surveyed the toddler with a sense of pride of being able to purchase him a moment of happiness, something, I suspected, wasn't an everyday occurrence.

The kid, unaware of his father's pecuniary status, demanded a second helping, at which those proud shoulders drooped. He'd run out of means to avail the next round of smiles for his son. A few words passed his lips as he cradled the boy's slanted countenance, and on turning around, caught my eyes. It was the first time I saw him in entirety. A mass of brown muscles slithered across his lithe frame. His endless slog had burnt off the last sliver of flabbiness that so dominated my subcutaneous layer. I'm sure he never hit a gym, didn't know what crunches were and certainly didn't follow the 4000 INR/month diet that my consultant had recommended to me. And yet, he had everything I craved for. He could, at that instant, easily scale up the mountain twice over, that I'd struggled to merely jog across, if it could buy him the extra scoop of flavored ice for his son.

I wondered, what he thought of the figure I cut. Dressed in tracks and fancy sports shoes, I'd my Sony Walkman strapped to my ears and sported a Kenneth Cole watch that was shimmering in the dusk. Did he envy my relative fiscal suzerainty? Could he see beyond the package and read my desire to achieve the fitness that would never desert him.? To be able to lead a life, where watching ones son feast on a mound of coloured ice was a source of paramount joy. Or was it a case of The Grass Forever Being Greener on the Other Side?

We sauntered away in opposite directions, my mind meandering to many a memoir each bringing with it fond reminiscences that made me feel distinctly closer to life. Of times, when I thundered down the tracks with a ball in my hand and fire in my eyes, of times, when I could bend my body to my will, and not the other way around, of times when I first learnt to cycle away, aided by my father as he hoisted me on his shoulders after I expectedly toppled over! It didn't involve a Kenneth Cole Watch, a Sony Walkman or the fancy boots that I currently wore. Suddenly, I had an overwhelming wish, that just for once, that unknown father knew the magic of the moment he was encased in, and just for once, he didn't feel, when he looked at me, that the grass is greener...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

My Name is Khan, Khan from the Heart

First things first! I'm no Shah Rukh fan and I'd no sooner like Karan Johar than mix my favourite fruit punch with a liberal dose of canary poop.

So, this afternoon, I went for the noon show of MNIK aided by a juicy epilogue of a review from a dear friend in whose opinion I've reposed considerable value in the recent past. It took only a couple of scenes to dispel that opinion, not in its entirety, but enough to blunt the scathing sheen I'd let myself be quoted with.

To begin with, what could have been improved in the movie. Atleast 20 minutes could have been trimmed off in sub plots that only deterred from the crux of the movie. Somehow, there was a glut of messages the director endeavoured to communicate to his audience and it doesn't always work. In this case, it didn't work for me. Khan's compassion was evident, without raising him to superhero status. Also, it seemed, atleast to me, that while the movie, amidst various other tracks, tried to question the notion that An ordinary man can't meet the President Of The United States, it ended up reinforcing the very notion by showing Khan meeting POTUS only after displaying his compassion tantamount to his supernatural ability to fix a village just by gesticulating with his appendages. Also, Mr. KJo, Muslims around the world don't exactly have to prove their innocence by informing the FBI about Jihadi outfits (as don't Jihadi outfits discuss their indoctrination in the open environment of a mosque). Ideologically, it was a BIG drawback within the film. As a viewer, I felt that the movie attempted to show that a Muslim can be considered innocent only after managing to discover an extremist coterie or something equivalent. Its a sad reflection of the world that we live in. Somehow, we just can't see without our rose tinted glasses.

What was good about the film. Plenty! How I wish, SRK imbibed few aspects of autism in all his future projects. It cuts out the histrionics to such admirable levels. MNIK is a stark illustration of this point. His Asperger's Syndrome is like manna from heaven for us viewers who know the Star's capability to act when he's not busy declaring to the world that he's the moniker of all eyes, which usually happens nine out of ten films. Well, this was the tenth one. The syndrome didn't allow him to ham, and while the expected overacting did seep through in a couple of scenes, they were thankfully juxtaposed with ample flashes of brilliance. Watch out for the scene when he breaks into a shy giggle after being proposed by Kajol, or the one, when he declares to a church about his personal tragedy with muted grief. The eyes do all the talking and that's when you know that you have a good actor in your midst. Kajol is back after a hiatus, and how. (I'm a tad biased for her, so please excuse any excessive praise herein) The actress packs in a sincere and endearing performance as Mandira. Its not her best, and to be fair, it'd take a bit to go one better than DDLJ or Dushman, to name a few, but she gave her best to the role. I've heard comments from many a corner stating that she went over the top towards the end (She screeches, someone said). Well, the screech came at a time of intense personal angst, and I wonder how many mothers would react differently in the situation, her character was cast in at that moment. Go, watch the film to know what I'm talking of. The support cast does a decent job, albeit having very little to do. The music scores, and the two melodies - Sajda and Noor-e-Khuda are lilting gems in a casket of ornaments. A lot has been said about the cinematography. I have, to the contrary, seen far better work, even within Bollywood (Black and Kal Ho Na Ho being two examples that I can quote from the top of my head).

Someday, and hopefully before I meet my maker, Bollywood will appreciate the power of subtlety. It has, so far, managed to butcher brilliant ideas on the alter of melodrama. MNIK suffers from this syndrome but thankfully not to the extent that epic disaster titled Rann did. It could have been a sensitive film that would have connected with the audience had it stuck to its original premise of expressing the torment of Rizwan Khan whose simplicity is brutally massacred by a world increasingly dominated by the evil of prejudice and radicalism. That having said, it was nice to see KJo emerge from his candy floss romance and attempt, sincerely if I may say so, to mesh insightful cinema with commercial entertaintment. Its a long journey, but as a viewer, I came back gladdened with the knowledge that the first steps have been taken...