Friday, July 31, 2009

Book Review: July 2009

So I broke the jinx and four books are being reviewed this month : ). It’s been quite random really and yet very enjoyable – motivation, history and then advertising…and a whole lot of learning through it all. I’ve enjoyed this month’s books thoroughly.

The sources of joy are:

  1. The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Dr. Joseph Murphy
  2. In An Antique Land by Amitav Ghosh
  3. Desi Dream Merchants by A. G. Krishnamurthy
  4. It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be by Paul Arden

The Power of Your Subconscious Mind
Dr. Joseph Murphy

The acclaimed work that many swear by fell in my plate only last month although Push had been suggesting this read for over a year. So as soon as I saw a copy I borrowed it from my nephew. I am yet to get a personal copy just because I couldn’t find it on my last two visits to bookstores. Anyway, the book is definitely worth all the hype around the concept and I have experienced the phenomenal power of the subconscious mind the moment I decided to tweak my thoughts a little after reading this book. I saw manifestations within a week of starting to think differently and on the lines that the book advocates. And that only reiterated my faith in this power and concepts like The Secret.

It is simple. This is not a book that can be reviewed. It is a tool to be used. The teaching methodology is through the use of copious examples that demonstrate the results others have achieved. So anyone who is serious about seeing his dreams transform into reality is well advised to read this book and bring the concept into practice. It works. Period.

In An Antique Land
Amitav Ghosh

This was my first Amitav Ghosh. And I am still lost in the antique land. Because the story did not lead me anywhere at least.

The book reconstructs the history of a slave, who walked in India and Egypt serving a Jewish master almost 800 years ago. The book also describes sojourns of Amitav Ghosh in Egypt as he went about this reconstruction, delving into any source he could get his hands on. In that, the book is very informative without being dry and the stories have been told well for a major part of the book. The only problem is that the story of the slave is not complete. So as I turned the last page, my mind was jolted back to the present from a place 800 years old looking for Ben Yiju and his Indian slave; it was quite a shock.

But I really enjoyed the book. It taught me so much about the past and about villages in Egypt which are not unlike the villages in India in their psyche. I may have lost the trail of the slave but the search revealed my lost affection for history. I rediscovered how much I enjoy reading History (and social Anthropology if I may) and for that I have this book to thank.

So if you are looking for a story with a definitive end, I would suggest you stay away. This is more of a memoir. But if you don’t care for that kind of stuff and like discovering new worlds through books, you will probably enjoy the book as much as I did.

Desi Dream Merchants
A. G. Krishnamurthy

For some time now, MICA has been on my radar. And wouldn’t you think it would be just like me to pick up a book about the Mudra Agency given that prelude? That’s exactly what I did when I spotted the book at Landmark last month.

Desi Dream Merchants has been written by the man who made Mudra what it is with ample help from his team mates. AGK headed Mudra for 23 whole years and while reading the book one gets the feeling of it having been written by a parent describing how he brought his child up; literally from the stage when Mudra staggered to stand up and create a place of its own in the Indian advertising space of the 80s to when it became a confident player in that space. The book is sloppy even though it’s a TMH publication (or is it BECAUSE it is a TMH publication?) and has editorial mistakes. The language too is nothing to write home about, has no grace/charm/sophistication about it considering that an ad-man has written it (am I going by the stereotype too much given that Mudra was a home grown company of the 80s and these are high expectations from that profile?) and the book is liberally sprinkled with vernacular and regional references. Regional references I am absolutely fine with since India has that diverse fabric but vernaculars completely put me off (‘Lambi race ka ghoda’ anyone?) So I didn’t enjoy the presentation of the book at all. But the content is splendid and there is a good lot that one can learn from the book.

The book is divided into three sections. The first has former Mudraites (I hate these ‘ites’, ‘ians’ references just as much but that’s how they refer to themselves) relating how they came to join Mudra in the first few years of its conception and why they think it was/is such a great place to work in. The second and third sections are a reprint of a column that AGK used to write for the Business Standard in the years 2004 and 2005, the second section being all about what he has learnt and the third being what he liked. I enjoyed the third section immensely since AGK takes certain ads and points out why he likes them or why they worked so well. Numerous ad-lessons coming in there.

So overall, nice book to read and learn from and it provides a good insight into team Mudra.

It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be
Paul Arden

What do I say about this book…it was a punch in the face, for which I am grateful to Tigerstone. Lasted a short while and hit me hard.

Paul Arden was a former Creative Director of Saatchi and Saatchi and, I am certain, a force to reckon with in the world of international advertising. So the book has been written using references to advertising and creativity. But don’t let that fool you. This book can shake you out of any routine that you have got into - be it the routine of life or the routine of thought. It is a heavy dose of insights delivered in 120 quick pages and in a not so heavy fashion. The read is thoroughly enjoyable and liberally interspersed with pictures that speak more than a thousand words. What else can you expect from a person who gave an image makeover to brands like British Airways, Toyota and The Independent in no more than 4 words? (For Toyota it was just one actually – Driven) And it leaves you smiling, shaken and analytical of how you have been doing things in life so far.

I loved a particular piece from the book about how It’s Wrong To Be Right:

Being right is based upon knowledge and experience and is often provable.

Knowledge comes from the past so it’s safe. It is also out of date. It is the opposite of originality.

Experience is built from solutions to old situations and problems. The old situations are probably different from the present ones, so that old solutions will have to be bent to fit new problems (and possibly fit badly). Also, the likelihood is that if you’ve got the experience, you’ll use it.

This is lazy.

Experience is the opposite of being creative.

If you can prove you’re right, you’re set in concrete. You cannot move with the times or with other people.

Being right is also being boring. Your mind is closed. You are not open to new ideas. You are rooted in your own rightness, which is arrogant. Arrogance is a valuable tool, but only if used very sparingly.

Worst of all, being right has a tone of morality about it. To be anything else sounds weak or fallible, and people who are right would hate to be thought fallible.

So: it’s wrong to be right, because people who are right are rooted in the past, rigid-minded, dull and smug.

There’s no talking to them.

© 2003 Phaidon Press Limited

And he adds the cherry on top by adding a red cross mark under the piece. This piece left me with a healthy amount of self-respect for not seeking to be right ever because that is where I learn. And it also taught me what kind of people there is no talking to : ) . Loooooooooved this one and all the other bits from the book. I have only done a ravenous cow’s devouring of the book as of now since I couldn’t put it down after reading the first page. Will have to regurgitate and ruminate on this again…maybe a page or section at a time and a day’s reflection. This one cannot be let by with one reading.

P. S.: I finished the last bits of Desi Dream Merchants and It’s Not How Good You Are…on the same day. One field, two ad-men (born only two years apart so living in the same time frame) and what a world of difference in the quality of the reading experience in terms of the presentation of content. Raises a few doubts in my mind.

Will leave you with that thought. Happy reading : )

Six Degrees of Separation

“I read somewhere that everybody on this planet is separated by only six other people. Six degrees of separation between us and everyone else on this planet. The President of the United States, a gondolier in Venice, just fill in the names. I find that extremely comforting, that we're so close, but I also find it like Chinese water torture that we're so close because you have to find the right six people to make the connection. It's not just big names—it's anyone. A native in a rain forest, a Tierra del Fuegan, an Eskimo. I am bound—you are bound—to everyone on this planet by a trail of six people. It's a profound thought: how Paul found us; how to find the man whose son he claims to be, or perhaps is, although I doubt it. How everyone is a new door, opening into other worlds.”

That profound thought was the piece de resistance from the John Guare play Six Degrees of Separation that we watched yesterday evening. The play opened to Broadway in the year 1990 and went on to become an award winning work. Version One Dot Oh! (VODO) premiered its production of the play in Bangalore this week.

It had been over a month that I had stepped inside Rangashankara and watched a good play. The last was Sonata, a remarkable play that I haven’t written about yet. Maybe I will in one of the next few posts. So that fact along with the facts that I had been fascinated by the concept of Six Degrees of Separation when I read about it first in ‘Who Will Cry When You Die’, that the play’s synopsis was very inviting given that I have met some of my most wonderful friends just by virtue of serendipity and it has been the source of some of the most enriching and enjoyable conversations, that the play had got rave reviews in the New York Times and Washington Post…all that made it essential for us to go watch it.

So daring the rains and some chaotic traffic in South Bangalore (ok we weren’t exactly going to war but you know how South Bangalore is when it rains), we all managed to reach Rangashankara well ahead in time to catch a nice chat in the charming RS CafĂ© over tea and coffee as it drizzled outside. I just love sitting on those wooden benches and anticipate what the play will bring before entering the auditorium or ruminate over what it was all about and see the cast descend into the same space after the play.

Here is the synopsis of the play from VODO:

‘In a typical upper middle class household on the East Side of Manhattan, the Kittredges are busy entertaining an old friend of theirs ("A friend from South Africa!") who they hope will lend them the funds for a major art deal. Just as the three set out for dinner, they have a surprise visitor - a young black man, who has been stabbed and is in dire need of some first aid.

The play, set to the tune of a fine cocktail conversation, pieces together events that happened around this one night. Light, farcical and yet deeply insightful, John Guare whisks us through several worlds and moods at breathtaking speed. With every narration the characters slice through another layer of invisible wall, another degree if you will, to get closer to solving some nagging mysteries around the young man.’

The play was good. The actors did their part, at least it looked like it. It was liberally sprinkled with humorous bits that the actors pulled off well. And every now and then, one was served some food for thought as the play progressed, scene after scene. The only thing is that the concept of ‘Six Degrees of Separation’ did not really hit me that hard. I did not experience an epiphany when it comes to the core concept of that play. In fact, in my opinion it proved the opposite by letting the characters find the wrong degree of separation, the wrong link that they thought could lead them to Sidney Poitier. So on that count the play disappointed a little. Yet, I left the auditorium with a nice feeling…I really liked the play as a standalone and there were many bits from it that still have me thinking. Especially the bit about Imagination based on The Catcher In The Rye –

“The imagination has moved out of the realm of being our link, our most personal link, with our inner lives and the world outside that world, this world we share. What is schizophrenia but a horrifying state where what's in here doesn't match what's out there?”

So all in all a good play that was enacted well. And it was made better by splendid company and a conversation that continued into dinner. It’s life largesse – the people, the places, the art, the life, everything it has bestowed upon me – and it makes me grateful every single day that I am who I am and where I am. Yesterday evening adds another to the list of being thankful for.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Many connotations.

I just got back from Gandhi Bazaar after having breakfast at Vidyarthi Bhavan spiced with a nice conversation with Push. The sight of the fresh flowers that were a riot of colours lining the street was the perfect way to kickstart the weekend, after a lovely walk in Lalbagh amidst the green spray painted with colour here and there and a comforting cold breeze blowing over the lake, of course. It is in the middle of that market that I create a new memory every week to treasure – of a friendship and conversations that are a constant source of joy.

More than that, on my way back while I waited at a signal near Lalbagh, peeping out from under a delicately embroidered Burqa were the arms of the woman waiting next to me. And I couldn’t help but notice her bangles. There is the middle of all that chaos and while I was stationary, my mind wandered back to when I was a child…those bangles.

We used to have a gramophone record of the 1981 film ‘Bazaar’ among many others at home. I remember being fascinated by the jacket of that record whenever I would sit down to clean and reorganize the records – it was a splash of Technicolor with the sketch of Smita Patil’s face in watermark. Every once in a long forgotten while my father used to pull it out and play it on the gramophone player (ok don’t imagine the old His Master’s Voice logo kind of a player…this was a modern Gramophone record player and it was more or less a big box if you need the aesthetic details). And for some reason he would always play just one song and change the record. So it wasn’t until much later that I discovered my favourite from the record.

Anyway. It was this song that popped out from my childhood today. On the record, right before this song plays, is a conversation between a lady (Supriya Pathak in the movie I presume) and a bangle-seller. There was this reference to ‘Dhaani Chudiyan’ which would linger. And then the song would begin playing…Phir Chhidi Raat, Baat Phoolon Ki

My favourite from the record though is ‘Dikhai Diye Yun Ke Bekhud Kiya’. I love the way the music was arranged, the lyrics and the feel of the song. Take a listen.

So that’s how Bazaar figures in my weekend…a market and a memory. I never got around to seeing the movie though, it has a lovely cast – Naseeruddin Shah, Farooq Sheikh, Smita Patil and Supriya Pathak. Maybe I should try and catch it sometime for old time’s sake.

Have a good weekend everybody : )

Friday, July 24, 2009

Kreativ Blogger Award

Uniquely Priya gave me an award last week that has me elated because of the dimensions it encompasses. She accorded the Kreativ Blogger Award to me and though this post is more than a few days late it in no way implies that the award means any less to me.

To accept this award one has to list seven of one’s favourite things and then pass on the award to seven bloggers.

Here are the seven things that keep me sane in a crazy world:
  1. Music – it is my life blood
  2. Books – they are conversations I never had but yet get to be part of
  3. Nature – it is the solace
  4. Travel – it brings along a blend of experience that other activities hardly can – new cuisines, new cultures, new landscapes and yet the common human underline to it all
  5. Good Conversations – they are the food my soul thrives on, the memories of which linger on for very long
  6. Photography - I'm still learning but I like to see through the lens sometimes
  7. Writing – where everything else is absorption, it lets me assimilate and release

And I would like the following seven bloggers (placed alphabetically) to know that I really enjoy their writing and think they deserve every bit of the Kreativ Blogger Award. If I could pass it back, Priya would be in that list as a bonus.

Shriram (this is a photoblog but that’s why I consider it to be very creative and I am a huge fan)

Keep the good words (and pictures) coming y'all! And thanks Priya : )

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Road Rage

It’s about time I left office. And yet I sit here dreading the thought of getting onto that road. I am feeling good right now, cheerful and it has been a good day. I hate the possibility of having it all spoiled by an hour of riding back home. And it is because I have bad memories lingering from yesterday…

I was riding back home from work yesterday and it was one of the worst rides I’ve had in quite some time now. In fact I don’t remember being so angry while riding in a very very long time. I am usually docile on the road; I give the others the benefit of doubt and ignorance. I laugh it all off…unless of course it causes an accident and an injured ligament in which case I call them a jerk and leave it at that.

But yesterday I was angry. To add to that Radio Indigo decided not to be too generous…even the song requests were pathetic (Give Me Hope Joanna?? In the middle of Outer Ring Road at 7:30 PM? Yeah you better give me hope Joanna). It was this guy driving a Skoda Laura…

Three possibilities:
  1. He had had a new horn installed in his car and was testing it.
  2. He thought his sedan was straight out of Transformers and could actually transform into something that would fit into 2 feet of space if only I gave him that space!
  3. He was a moron in a hurry who thought with that kind of car and neon headlights, the traffic should have parted the way the seas parted at Moses’ behest.

I am going with 3, I don’t know what you guys think. I mean this guy just wouldn’t stop honking…in peak hour traffic…at a two wheeler taking up space equivalent to his passenger seat’s width! And yet, in my rear view mirror I could see him wave his hand and gesticulate wildly that I move to the left (when I was in fact behind a truck…for a moment I though he was on a suicide mission and wanted to ram into the truck…when he didn’t, I arrived at the Transformers idea).

Ok maybe he was in a hurry and needed to get somewhere urgently. Well. Too bad! He chose the wrong time to be in a hurry. He should buy himself an ambulance and hope that he gets way the next time…because we Indians are not very sure of leaving way for even that kind of a vehicle, where did you come from? Or maybe he should just buy himself a helicopter or a charter an airplane and end the story for everybody. Nobody needs to listen to his tantrums (in this case his car’s) at the end of a day at work. He didn’t seem to be in a hurry though the way he had the time to drive level with the person he had overtaken and stare like it was his road and we were all trespassing.

If he pays more road tax and thinks that by virtue of that fact he owns the road, I have got to say, “You’ve got it wrong smart Alec!” In my book you pay more because you occupy more space and cause the very jam you are stuck in, it doesn’t entitle you to occupy that space.

Anyway, he did manage to overtake me and then started to honk at the other cars and was on his way…after agitating me sufficiently though.

And then there was this wise guy with his Indicab who started honking at me at the signal. I hate those vehicles, the agencies which offer them as taxis and the people who drive them so much that I could vomit right now…its mostly the people who drive them actually…guys who should have had the Tractor’s wheel in their hands get an Indicab and decide to go berserk with it…I am all for globalization, empowerment and all the nouns that are all the management and political jargon these days but somehow all of that always comes with a fall from grace…ok topic for another day…meanwhile, agencies, please polish your drivers a little and teach them some rules of the road. Your driver CANNOT drive at 30 KMPH in the rightmost lane after having honked at 3 vehicles and gotten his way. And if he has mouthed a few words in the local slang while overtaking me or any of the aforementioned vehicles, I am so not taking a taxi from your agency ever! And I hope no one else does either. Living obituaries of decency all those drivers!

In the name of God can someone explain to me how difficult it is to maintain your lane, follow rules and accept the fact that you have chosen to live and work in a city that has infrastructural problems! If that is not acceptable to you, move out or get into the state cabinet or something and change the status quo. Don’t take it out on me or any of the others who are in as much a hurry to get home as you are. It is not like I love Bellandur Junction and want to construct a house in the middle of the square, get it? I am moving. In fact I have only been moving for the past one hour even if it is at a snail’s pace. With two wheels and nowhere else to move that is all I can do. Is it difficult for your neuron connections to process that?

Anyway, I am out of here…the soft target for all the honkers on the road. The hour looks safe enough and I am hoping to have a quieter ride home. I am not going to let the road and all the jokers out there ruin my nice day. Maybe I’ll laugh it off today. Maybe I’ll call them a jerk and leave it at that.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Darling Pretty

It was a birthday gift, the album…Golden Heart by Mark Knopfler. If I fell in love with the gruff voice when I first heard Mark Knopfler sing in Dire Straits songs, then this album took it to a whole new level. And it played on repeat for weeks together after I got it…side A, side B, side A, side B (no I didn’t have a CD player or mp3 music then…when do you think I was born…yesterday?) There may have been considerable damage inflicted on the tape due to this Repetitive Stress Injury inflicted by my ways of listening to music.

Anyway, I didn’t hear the songs on that album for a lot of time after since I left my cassettes at home when I moved to Bangalore. But yesterday while listening to a particular instrumental piece in Brothers In Arms I suddenly remembered the song Golden Heart. And though I didn’t find it online I found another favourite from the same album – Darling Pretty.

Listening to that song was like taking a trip back to when I was in college…sitting at my study table at 1 in the morning with a cup of tea alongside either studying for an upcoming preliminary exam, reading a book, writing a letter or just daydreaming (question: if you daydream at night what is it called? I mean if you dream at night that’s ideally in your sleep right? So what is this kind of dreaming called?)…I was high on daydreaming; it was almost a hobby of mine (it still is)…and the most amazing part is that most of my daydreams have come true so far (God forbid my night dreams come true! I dream of prowling tigers and cheetahs and I am always running away from them…interestingly, I am not even remotely scared of the idea of big cats when I am conscious and for as long as I remember have wanted to see a tiger in the wild!)…The song Darling Pretty playing somewhere in the endless loop that the album had become. And Mark Knopfler’s baritone accentuated the entire setting perfectly well.

It was a beautiful time…most things about it. Life was all about studying for the next exam (up until we heard the word recruitment in the Third Year of engineering and life as we knew it came to an end…it became all about making a living than living itself), doing what you truly enjoyed – reading, writing to far away friends, having endless philosophical discussions, debating, organizing events, dreaming. Life has only got better since then but in different ways. And I miss that time…not in the I-want-to-go-back way but in the I-really-loved-that-time way. School and College were the places where the foundation for my life was laid and I will be eternally grateful to my past for giving me a strong platform to stand on and see the future.

So here’s to the sweet old time…Darling Pretty. I hope you enjoy the song.

Mark Knopfler - Darling Pretty

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Riding To Ramohalli And The Perfect Vehicle

Today morning, very much like the past few mornings and the whole of today, was good riding weather. The monsoon was written all over the skies and the breeze was beckoning. I had half the mind to skip the left turn to office and keep riding…until I reached somewhere, anywhere (strong influence of the song Road To Somewhere by Goldfrapp, which I have been listening to all of yesterday. Beautiful song there!)

I went riding to Ramohalli last week. I had a 100 cc gearless two-wheeler in the name of a bike and yet the machine and I decided that all of 50 Km was not that formidable a distance. So we decided to go for it and set out at noon towards Ramohalli.

A Google search for Ramohalli or Big Banyan Tree will have you know everything about the route and the place that you wish to know. I’ll just make a passing mention that we took the Kanakapura Road-NICE Road-Mysore Road route and that probably saved us a lot of time. Watch out for the blue hills and palm trees in the distance if you take the NICE Road. It is that view which makes it an interesting road to take…else it is just a long stretch of good road.

The ride, though a midday endeavour, refreshed and rejuvenated me enough with its sights of the village and tree lined roads that just run though the landscape leading to nowhere in particular. And once in a while, around the turn, you encounter something like the Big Banyan Tree. The road carries on while you get off and pause.

The Big Banyan Tree itself is a lovely place to visit, at least at that time of the day. Very quiet and serene…and huge of course! It is the fourth largest Banyan Tree in India and the sheer amount of life it supports in terms of the birds and animals is just amazing. It makes you immediately conscious of the values of even one single tree when in the name of development we have axed so many that we have lost count. Don’t even get me started on the horribly planned pathetic excuse for development called the Bangalore Metro. Anyway, being in the shade of the Big Banyan Tree just makes you a little aware of the wonder of nature while you unwind in peace. It’s not a must-see but nice if you can strike off your list by visiting once.

We also wanted to visit the Manchinabele Dam that is 7 Km up the same road from the Big Banyan Tree but the road disappeared somewhere close to the destination and we were busy avoiding chunks of gravel more than riding. The most prudent move was to turn around and head back, which is exactly what I did lest my bike become a sorry excuse for a two-wheeler. Managed to get a few pictures of the reservoir though and will visit for sure someday…maybe on a geared bike if not in an SUV.

By now you should have guessed the Perfect Vehicle in question here is not my bike. It is the latest addition to my personal library…a book that I picked up on Sunday in Landmark just because it is a book written by a lady and talking about why motorcyclists are so much in love with their machines! Also the cover looked very interesting and I shamelessly confess that I have a thing for beautiful book covers despite the constant hammering of the ‘do not judge a book by its cover’ clichĂ© in my head everytime I make such a purchase (I will never forget how I picked up a copy of The Art of War that costs 1300 bucks over ones that were available for 150 bucks or so only because it was bound in silk and had letters embossed in gold on the cover…it is a book so beautiful inside out that I am scared to touch it and hence haven’t read it. I should buy a cheap copy for reading’s sake too, what say?)

Looking forward to reading this book and riding some more. Well as much as the 100 cc engine allows anyway.

Monday, July 06, 2009

I Could Be A Thinker And You Wouldn't Know It

So I was thinking…what does it mean when you say someone is let’s say a ‘19th century thinker and philosopher’…so what did he really do? And when you walked into his office did you expect to see him propped up on a chair, hand against chin, and thinking away dreamily?

Picture this chance encounter with someone who is a likely to be a Wikipedia entry 30 years down the line:
“So what do you do?”
“I am a thinker…and a philosopher if you may.”
“Ah…I see…so what EXACTLY do you do?”
“Well…I THINK…Duh!”
And you would offer a customary nod to hide your bafflement while in your mind you’d be like ‘that’s what I do too…in fact that’s what I’m doing right now ‘thinking’ you’re a nut!’

Man is a thinking animal. We are all supposed to be ‘thinkers’. What is the meaning of labelling someone as a thinker when thinking is what distinguishes any of us from the cattle on our roads and the pets in our backyards? Is the ‘thinker' an enlightened soul who has thought of something no one has ever thought about…like a ‘thought discovery’ of some sort? Or is he just someone who thinks a whole lot more than others do…like brood? Is a ‘thinker’ someone who thinks about esoteric matters, has regular epiphanies…does that make you one of the thinkers? Bear with me here but I’m trying to understand what it is that I need to do if I aspire to be a Wikipedia entry someday…as a thinker and philosopher, mind you.

Could it just be that we are glorifying the term and the act so much just because of the rarity of it all? Lately all the world has come to be filled with zombies who can only tend to think of their own selves first and last and not care a hoot about anything or anyone else whether it is the person standing next to you or the planet you are standing on! Could it be that we have all stopped thinking in the sense of even being sensitive to the needs of another being and of the consequences of our actions? Could it be that most of us are leading our lives on autopilot, our actions and goals preordained by the rules of the society and those of us who think before acting or think at all have come to be a rare breed, honoured by titles like ‘Thinker’?

I mean I could be a thinker and you wouldn’t know it…until 30 years later of course...just for having thought all of the above! Wikipedia, here I come…

Friday, July 03, 2009


Last Saturday I was at the BRTFF – Bangalore RoofTop Film Festival. It was oozing with the one thing that most people need in order to lead fulfilling and meaningful lives – passion. And I came back feeling how I hadn’t felt in some time now – inspired.

BRTFF is a group of enthusiasts united by the common goal of film making. And in order to provide a forum for amateur and independent film-makers to showcase their work and get the resources/feedback they need BRTFF meets once every while at a convenient location in the city and screens these films. A short discussion and question-answer session follows and constructive feedback is offered to the film makers. The whole thing is driven only by passion that percolates to everyone in the gathering…it is very difficult not to be affected by the drive and energy filling the room.

What is also very striking is the kind of work happening in the field of film-making around here. There are so many good ideas floating around and being converted into a story for the celluloid. Every film-maker has a different perspective on events and issues of significance, a different take on life than the other and the way each portrays it in screen offers quite a bit of food for thought. BRTFF is a good way to expand your creative horizons, if only as a member of the audience, and try and offer inputs to the people who really want to tell you a story about something that hit them hard.

A few short films worth mentioning here are:

  • Red Light by Srijith: A film focussing on the financially deprived and how even carnal desire and their fulfilment can lead to crime. There were no dialogues in the film and everything was conveyed through the expressions on the actor’s face.
  • Enable by Bhoomi Productions: With focus on the physically disabled, this film aims to show us how doing very little on our parts (in this case providing life jackets and bouyars) can radically change the lives of the disabled. Very inspiring and well-made too.
  • Ice-Cream by Siddhant K. S.: By far the best short film I saw that day. Very sweet, simple, well-made yet with a powerful message – we are all united when it comes to our wants and in times of loss. Loved it!

There were some awesome documentaries screened also:

  • Dol by Nishant Ghadge: A documentary by an amateur and a novice in the field of film-making but superb stuff about how the shores of Mumbai have seen the fishing business change over the years due to climactic and technique changes in fishing. This one was shot brilliantly and managed to hold one’s interest throughout. It had a very human angle to it and hence a lot of appeal.
  • Slaves of the Lamp by Goutham Avarthi: A fabulous documentary (ok this is an almost professional work which is going to be telecast on Doordarshan soon. So I don’t put Dol and this one in the same category) about the Slender Loris – one of the least known and very fascinating primates. The camera shots are just brilliant and the trailor (which is what we saw) leaves you wanting to see the documentary. I am looking forward to this one.

In addition to all that dose of creativity, there was representation from companies like Palador and many many opportunities for film makers as well as film enthusiasts being doled out generously. The whole event left a good impression on the mind and it is something you should attend at least once to see the level of involvement and the passion behind the efforts. Plus it is a great place to network with the ones who are involved if you are looking at making a film sometime soon or have skills that can help others in the field.

End of the day, came back very kicked and inspired (ok that screening of Fargo really deflated my spirit in a way…what a disturbing movie!…please play a happy movie next time, I am sure there are happy masterpieces too) and would love to attend the next event (likely to be in September). I am totally watching that space and I hope you will too.

For the guys at BRTFF, keep it up people! Way to go : )

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Coorg Calling

I started my day with some steaming hot Coorg Coffee. The coffee powder was quite old and I didn’t think it would taste quite the same as the nectar they serve in Coorg. Yet we had to open and use it yesterday since we ran out of coffee powder. And even after all these days, it tasted just like the heaven that Coorg is. And it made me long to go there…a feeling not unlike homesickness. And I would understand that given that it is the place I have visited most in Karnataka and always come back with good memories from.

Incidentally, just yesterday evening Tigerstone suggested I read this article on The India Tube (which is a great site btw…I loved some of the articles there), which is about a visit to Coorg too. I think all of these occurrences are signs that I must go to Kodava country again given that the last visit was more than a year ago (what a shame!).

The last time I visited Coorg was with my friends and my sister last year in May. It was the Labour Day weekend. We did not have an elaborate plan but just wanted to escape the city and unwind somewhere pristine and nice. And for the ease of accessibility and familiarity we chose Madikeri. Our homestay was not so great but since our plan was last minute we really had no choice. Anyway all other aspects of the trip were fun with a visit to Abbey Falls, Dubbare Elephant Camp and the Tibetan Monastery in Kushalnagar.

The highlight of the trip was falling sick after eating Dosas for breakfast…I never fall sick on my trips and consider myself to be quite tough in terms of immunity. But the Dosas got me. Anyway, we had some great food otherwise at some local places (including the roadside corner on the way to the bus-stop where they serve awesome omelette and Neer Dosa). The best part was witnessing sunset from Raja Seat. All in all, quite a memorable time.

My visit to Coorg before that was when I went on a GetOff rafting trip with 23 other people, none of whom I knew even remotely. I had found GetOff on the Internet and jumped at the idea of a rafting adventure on the river Barapole. So there I was, taking off on a two-day trip with a set of complete strangers whom I saw for the first time only when we all congregated at the Town Hall at 6 in the morning on a sleepy Saturday. Even when I look back on it now it doesn’t sound half as crazy to me although many of you will disagree…somehow in my gut I knew I had no reason to fear. And if there are a few decisions that I thank myself for making more often than I can imagine, going on that trip was one of them.

I travelled with a set of the most amazingly zealous people I had met up until that point in life and each one of them was a gem. I came back with some great friends and a bagful of lovely memories, not to forget the adventure of being on the Barapole river itself and learning to raft. It was one of the most amazing times of my life. We had a nice song session by the bonfire in the evening and some of us talked till late in the night. That didn’t stop us from getting up in time on Sunday and enjoying a walk through the Brahmagiri Hills to Iruppu Falls. I saw my first snake in the wild that day and the whole trip was just awesome!

The second time I went to Coorg was to usher in the New Year 2007. It was a flash-trip really with us reaching our homestay – a beautiful bungalow in the middle of a coffee estate - in Virajpet late in the evening. We dug into delectable dinner soon and the bonfire followed almost immediately. Our hosts were the most gracious family and amidst some Kodava folk dance and music we welcomed the New Year. They had even arranged for a cake and some fireworks. Once the celebration died down the conversations began and continued till the wee hours of the morning as the fog closed in around us through the night until it had engulfed the whole place. The morning was decorated with a walk amidst the coffee and pepper plants and observing coffee fruits (for the first time!). And before we knew it we were heading back. Yet, my very first New Year celebration after moving out of my hometown is an event I’ll remember for a very very long time.

My love-at-first-sight kind of an encounter with Coorg took place just three months into moving to Bangalore. I had heard a whole lot about the place (I still can’t recollect how) and when my cousin asked if I would like to join him and his family on a trip to the place I nearly jumped. It was a 3-day Dussehra weekend and we were on a KSTDC Package Tour. It was the first time I saw the Cauvery roll and rumble at Nisargdhama, visited a Tibetan Monastery, saw the Triveni Sangam at Thalakaveri and witnessed the beauty of cloud-covered mountaintops in the Scotland of India. Walking through clouds in Coorg, it felt like a homecoming of sorts and hence I say that what I am feeling right now is not very different from homesickness.

So maybe I should go home for once…It’s Coorg Calling. So when’s the next free weekend?