Mar 27, 2012

A Doorstep Away

By Soumya Thakur

Since childhood, I have believed in the city of my dreams. My dreamland gave me an inconsiderable amount of joy, pleasure and self-satisfaction. To my surprise, these dreams have been extremely motivational, inspiring and encouraging factors that made me face the challenges of what they call it with straight spine, heavy voice and big eyes-‘Real World’.

I clearly remember my first ever dream was to become a teacher because Mrs. Das was just a perfect and loving lady for me. My fantasies took versatile turns like singing, dancing, fashion designing, astronomy, psychology, interior designing, journalism, event management, law, IAS and advertising & marketing. Amidst all these phenomenal delusions, one dream not only remained constant but also grew stronger in my blood, this was ‘To Be a Bride (of honour, as I would like to say it)’. This might sound weird as we trust in a world of competence, career, money and status. (By no means am I offending the great minds who find pride in this category). I still feel little embarrassed to admit that I actually belong to the land of fairy tales. My imaginary ‘True Love’, ‘Prince Charming’, ‘Beautiful Kids’ & ‘Happy Family’ have been living with me since I got my first Barbie. These never-been-to places, some known & unknown characters, self-created situations and reactions pulled me up when I was down in dumps. I never knew who these characters were till I met my boyfriend. With him came all the faces and filled blanks that were empty.

After being in a committed relationship of over 4 years, I realized that I have built several other unfilled blocks. This excited me as I got to think of even more spell bounding dreams yet felt unhappy because he was not 'settled'. A few days back on 7th March, I received a message “Its a jackpot!! :D :D :D” and I knew I had taken a huge leap towards my dream, escaping and avoiding those puddles and thorns. I stood up in excitement and sheer joy. I didn’t know anything else but to call mom and ask for ‘him’. Later, during our ‘pre-sleep talk’, I was going red and smiling ear to ear. We talked about confusions he had over money vs. passion, worry about his parents and how close we are to ‘Our Marriage’. It was all so fine until I kept the phone. First time ever in my life, I felt somebody has just sucked life out of me and what I had till now is a mere misapprehension and I don’t want to get married to ‘him’ at all.

This very thought made me sleepless, low and aggressive at the same time. What we have is something I cherish and feel genuinely happy about. Post marriage everyday life, taking even more care about certain things & issues and him, fights & big misunderstandings, insecurities about getting old and everything freaked me out. I thought it is better not to get married to the person you love so much, but to someone you do not know at all so that your bond remains intact & special. Next morning, I was so restless that I called him up to talk about the same even after knowing he is busy with his college. My world went back to the square one, the original dreamy self, as I heard his loving and concerned voice. Probably, that was all I needed and I realized it was just a nervous and rush hour state of my mind as I couldn’t handle the very thought that my one & only, the most precious and special dream is just a doorstep away.


About the writer- Soumya Thakur is a student of Advertising and Marketing at St. Xavier's Institute of Communications, Mumbai. She is an avid dreamer and an occasional writer. To connect with her on Facebook, click here.

Mar 18, 2012

'Butterfly': With Love, From China

What do you and I, as common educated Indians, think of China? For us, China is an 'aggressor' which is working day and night to expand its military, and falsely claiming Arunachal to be its part. Also, we see China as a rapidly growing economy, a country that has in it to take over the numero uno status from the Americans. The saner ones see China as a prospective ally and a future friend. They believe that two of the most ancient human civilizations can together change the geopolitics and economics of the modern world.

Also, we get an impression that China is somewhat like a well-guarded secret. A country, which was once the epitome of art & culture, cradle of human civilization is now merely know for its impressive GDP numbers.Where have the Chinese artists gone? Where are the writers? Who is the next Chinese movie star, we have had enough discussion and stereotypical banter over Jackie Chan?

It is in this regard, that Julie O'Yang's Butterfly comes across as a refreshing pallet of colors. It gives us a sneak peek into mystical Mainland China, and the immense love that the country has in store. At the end of the journey, you are overwhelmed by the sheer magnificence of that complex emotion called love. Risking venturing on an often walked road, the author displays utmost sincerity and maturity in handling the subject. The novel raises some pertinent questions regarding love- What actually is love? Is love the most important emotion for a human being? Is it the road to salvation? Then, why does the investment of this emotion backfires at times? And this is not all. The novel also gives ample space to historical events that have marred China-Japan relations for several decades.

The story is set in China of 1930s-40s, when World War-II was busy rewriting history. Butterfly is the tale of a young married Chinese woman who falls in love with a Japanese soldier. Both of them are bound by socio-national shackles and their own inner demons of deprivation. Butterfly also challenges the mythical notions of history and human existence, without getting rhetorical about it. There is a subtle undercurrent of prose that flows throughout the story, taking the readers into a magical world of history, emotion and romance.

The author uses layered, at times complex, narration to convey this fantastic tale of love. Her wide range of diction, variety of expression and command over the English language is at display throughout the novel. The conclusion of the story is sprinkled with fantasy, hope, spirituality and a universal definition of love. Julie makes a massive impact with 'Butterfly', and comes across as an uninhibited writer who is completely in command of her words. She is not afraid to touch upon the 'grey areas', be it Rape of Nanking or Sino-Japanese relations in the 1940s. Read 'Butterfly' if you wish to time travel, decipher love and appreciate the richness of Chinese art and culture. Put in a nutshell, J.O.Y's (Julie O'Yang) 'Butterfly' is a joyful read!


Julie O'Yang is a novelist and visual artist based in The Netherlands. Born and brought up in China, she is also a scholar of Japanese language and culture. To connect with her on Facebook, click here or visit her website

Mar 9, 2012

'Kahaani' is pinnacle of storytelling!

When was the last time you saw a good thriller in Hindi Cinema? Remember, when was the last time you sat on the edge of your seat, trying to outsmart the filmmaker in the guessing game? Frankly, I do not remember to have watched any exciting Hindi thriller film in a long long time, except for may be 'A Wednesday'. It is in this regard that director Sujoy Ghosh's 'Kahaani' blows you away, quite literally. It's a terrifically written story (Kahani) that entertains, surprises and outwits you from the beginning to the end.

Set in the creatively under-tapped Kolkata (in terms of film-making), Kahaani unfolds at a stunning pace. The film keeps you hooked from the word go and does not set foot off the pedal even for a minute. Propelled by a gripping story [Sujoy Ghosh, Advaita Kala] and fascinating screenplay [Sujoy Ghosh, additional screenplay: Suresh Nair, Nikhil Vyas], Kahaani is a rare blend of human drama, suspense thriller and a socially relevant film. No, there are no preachy lectures on plight of a 7-month pregnant woman here. Rather the director underscores some pertinent points in a very subtle manner. Amidst all the high-adrenaline dark thrill/ drama and suspense, there are also some very fine moments of emotion and good quality humor [Watch out for 'Running Hot Water' sequence].

'Bidya' Bagchi [Vidya Balan] arrives in Kolkata from London to find Arnab, her missing husband. Seven month pregnant and alone in a festive city, she begins a relentless search for her husband, aided by the affable Sub-inspector Satyaki aka Rana (Parambrata Chattopadhyay). With no evidence whatsoever, except for a photograph, everyone suggests/expects Vidya to go back to London. But lies, deceit and non-cooperation further strengthen Vidya's resolve to find her husband.

Vidya Balan comes up with yet another powerful performance. She perfectly emotes the sentiments of a pregnant woman and distraught wife. From sipping a bottle of water every now and then to silently crying in the room, Vidya depicts a range of emotions with utmost ease. In fact, she goes into the skin of the character, making sure that the viewers develop a liking both for her and the yet to be born child. The actress is redefining the definition of an actress in Hindi Cinema, and deserves standing ovation for being brave, for being a complete natural.

Parambrata Chattopadhyay as Rana is terrific
Parambrata Chattopadhyay as Rana is terrific. He beautifully underplays his character, allowing Vidya to take the lead, and leaves a massive impact in the process. Nawazuddin Siddiqui, as an indifferent and rude Intelligence Officer is brilliant. At times, you love him for his forthrightness and there are occasions when you loathe him for being 'strict' with Vidya. All the other supporting actors play their parts perfectly. But the most fascinating character in the film is the city of Kolkata itself! Never before has this city been captured so magnificently (and shakily) on celluloid (DoP: Setu). The madness on street, city's dark underbelly, Pujo festivity, local people, the metro, the tram, tea stalls et all make Kolkata a dominant character in the film. Usha Uthup's rendition in the opening reels is a fitting tribute to this wonderful city.

Sujoy Ghosh deserves thundering applause for conceiving and successfully executing this captivating idea called Kahaani. There is utter sincerity, genuineness and freshness in the way he amalgamates emotions with suspense. Kahaani would do wonders to his directorial career, and catapult him in the league of most talented young filmmakers.

Vishal-Shekhar's music is perfectly in sync with the mood of the film. Clinton Cerejo's background music ups the ante, and creates the perfect ambiance for a thriller. Editing is razor-sharp with every second of 120 Minutes proving to be worth your penny. In fact, Kahaani is one of those films where I tried hard to find a launa but failed. 

It is a film that gives you a sense of pride after watching. You will reminisce, ponder over and smile after coming out of the theatre.Kahaani is pinnacle of storytelling, a near flawless film that helps Hindi Cinema take giant strides.

Hugely Recommended! (Outstanding- *****)

Vidya Balan delivers another terrific performance

Mar 8, 2012

To Rahul, With Rancor (Bura Na Mano Holi Hai)

Dear Rahul G,

Today is Holi. It is a festival of colors celebrated in India. India is a country, of which Uttar Pradesh is a state. Now, I am sure, this letter has caught your attention. UP is to you what red color is to a bull. Color again reminds me of Holi. And as the tradition goes, you must not mind the mud thrown at you on the occasion of this wonderful festival.

So, we can clearly see that you are red-faced. No, not because of the festival of colors but due to that hammering in the festival of democracy. I had warned you beforehand. Parachuting to a Dalit's house for picnic or cooking up stories at Bhatta Parsaul wont help your cause. (Read: To Rahul, With Rancor) I had also urged you to come out clean on your vision and ambition. What do you promise and offer to this country? What do you stand for? And, who are you at first place? But alas, you did not pay heed. (Read: To Rahul, With Rancor-2) You pay heed to nobody. You ignore media. Sorry, this time people ignored you. I wrote you two long letters! You know what it takes to blog? You know what it takes to blog about you? What Rahul G? I am sure even Parle-G would have paid heed after so much of effort. Ok, bad one. But again, it's Holi. I warned you.

I want to pay you some respect. Please don't mind. Respect for coming out from your shell, and owning up the responsibility for UP fiasco. And now, I take back that respect. For not turning up at your party's meet to discuss what went wrong. I know Congress is run from your mother's kitchen and you discuss your strategies with her at the dinner table, but still this is not done. This shows that you are an arrogant and a weak man. You can not look into adversity's eyes. You are far from ground realities. Your chopper is no match for Akhilesh's cycle. And you are not sympathetic and compassionate towards your own party members.

All throughout your campaign in UP, you faked aggression. You tore papers. People tore your party apart. You shouted against almost every political leader. The people shut you up. By now, you must have known that you are good at attracting crowd. You are a handsome Gandhi. People are bound to queue up to see you. But they will vote only for people they trust. And you failed to win people's trust.

To be honest, I also sympathize with you. You worked really hard to make a difference for your party. But you went horribly wrong in your calculations. You dreamed of forming government while your last tally was just 22. Your promises were lofty, far away and way high from the ground. Being a politician, how could you not read the writing on the wall? How could not you assess the ground realities, your party's actual prospects? Why did you continue to be ill-advised by a bunch of loud-mouth, moth-faced politicians? And the biggest sin of them all, how could you trust and entrust a joker like Digvijay Singh with so many responsibilities?

I pity you for being painted red this Holi. Hence, I made sure that I use coal black font color for writing this letter. I still wish you good luck for future. And I wish you and your family and your party a very happy Holi. Times change. Your day under the orange sun will come. Just make sure that you clean your face and heart properly after playing Holi.

With Rancor,

A Non-Congressman

Mar 5, 2012

The Most Unscientific Exit Poll Ever

As soon as the clock struck five on Saturday evening, all leading channels of the country embarked on a self-serving exercise of 'predicting' which party would come out victor in the assembly elections across 5 Indian states. Obviously, Uttar Pradesh got the biggest share of the pie while tiny Manipur was predictably ignored and isolated. I don't know what study and research goes behind these exercises but these exit polls have proved incorrect on most of the occasions, except when the outcomes were very much obvious. How can we forget the surprising results of 2004 general elections, when Congress romped home to majority, putting all pollsters and experts to shame. Exit polls have been proved wrong in States like Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, where Mayawati and Jayalalitha secured full majority, despite not being touted to do so. So, I would not be surprised, and in fact would be very delighted, if the electorates triumph over the exit polls yet again.

I have my reasons to not believe these exit polls-
  • No channel/ media house comes out with the methodologies and sample size used in assessing the mood of the voters
  • There is no guarantee that the voter opens all his/her cards when approached by a research team. In fact, some sections of the voters in UP are famous or rather notorious for not 'announcing' their votes till the last moment. And these sections of the society generally vote in mass for a particular candidate or party, when the polling takes place
  • All the exit polls are heavily influenced by caste considerations and religious realty on the ground. What percent of Jatavs will vote for BSP or what percent of Baniyas have moved away from the BJP? These calculations are primarily based on some per-conceived notions that a certain caste or religion votes for a certain party. In today's time, when awareness, angst and anxiety amongst the voters is at its peak, it is very unwise to divide them in such watertight compartments. After all, at least some of the Muslims of Gujarat have voted for Narendra Modi all these years!
  • And most importantly, Indian society is so diversified and fragmented that it is a near impossible task to accurately project the mood of the voters
It is precisely for these reasons that I am not a big fan of these exit polls. However, I must admit these projections do add the much-needed 'entertainment' quotient to the elections. '100 Hours of Non-Stop coverage' and other such catchy and emotive slogans by the channels ensure that the viewers are glued to their TV sets well before the results are actually announced. A brigade of analysts and experts debate over something that is still concealed in the future's womb! This, indeed, makes us madly fall in love with the biggest festival of Indian democracy.

So, why not let's have our own little exit poll just a few hours before the results are declared. Of course, I have not traveled to any of these states nor have I conducted any research on the mood of the electorates. But again, we do not who all (if any) have actually done it! Let's take it more as a 'prediction' exercise. After all, we the Indians, have always bet our lives on result of cricket matches or fate of a Bollywood film. Let's give elections a shot, this time around! (No pun intended)

U.P.- I do not see Samajwadi Party securing a thumping majority in UP elections. Yes, SP should emerge as the single largest party, but Congress should not do as bad as projected by most of the exit polls.

My Prediction for UP- (total seats 404)
  • SP- 150-160
  • BSP- 110-120
  • BJP- 80-90
  • Congress-RLD- 65-75 
UP is clearly heading for a hung house. I will bet my money on a SP-Congress govt or the President's rule for the state.

Uttarakhand-(total seats 70)
  • BJP- 35-40
  • Congress- 25-35
A tough call to make. But I will bet my money on BJP to cross the magic mark of 35 ahead of the Congress.

Punjab- (total seats 117)
  • Congress- 50-60
  • BJP-SAD- 40-50
  • PPP- 0-5
Yet another tight finish, but I hope Congress to upstage SAD-BJP combine. Punjab has never voted for an incumbent government.

Manipur- (total seats 60)
  • Congress- 30-35
  • PDF-20-25
  • TMC-10-15
Congress should retain power in Manipur. but, the ambitious PDF coalition may not fare as poorly as projected by exit polls.

Goa- (total seats 40)
  • BJP- 20-30
  • Congress-10-20
So, you have yet another exit poll to reflect upon. Obviously, it is the most unscientific exit poll ever but I am sure, it is not devoid of the entertainment value. And anyways, by tomorrow we all will know who got it right and who did not!

P.S.- The projections are solely on the basis of writer's own political understanding. The projection of seats for 'others' has been deliberately avoided as the writer finds them (others) very boring.