Wassup Andheri 2013: My Days of Amusing Musings

Crossing an elegant white portico, I stepped inside a hall and grabbed a place at the corner. My stint with Wassup Andheri 2013 has already started. To begin with, I was served ‘Hot Tea Across India’ – a travel book that was passionately brought to life by its author Rishad Saam Mehta. He talked about the adventurous miles he sauntered and we smiled. He wowed us with the moments he had captured in his lens.

Next hour, I was taken to the world of Chanakya, Pataliputra and script writing. Dr. Chandraprakash Dwivedi sounded the clarion bell, requesting artists and audience not to blindly emulate history as it is being presented on screen. He rued the fact that anachronisms in TV serials on mythology and historical figures are because of our habit of typecasting every era. Being a script writer and a director himself he adroitly took us through the transformations that words go through when an actor takes over. You must mark his words: “Shabdon ko sambhalke istemaal karo kyunki unh mein jaan hoti hai” (Spend words judiciously because they have a life)

What came to my plate next was equally stimulating. It was a mere stroke of luck to catch Sukant Panigrahy live. Although world calls him an Art Director, he is into almost all forms of art and more importantly, he excels in all of them. From art direction in movies to making sculptures with a message of ecological and social wellbeing, Sukant is doing it all. And Gladly. With an unassuming tone and humility he presented a wide spectrum of work that keeps him joyfully busy. I retreated for the day with his last words running through my mind, “Art Direction is all about detailing no matter how unorganized people around you are”. I could sniff the relevance.

Next day was sunny Sunday, and what could have been a better way to start it than Rajat Kapoor (dapper he looked) talking to you. What was meant to be a workshop on acting, turned into a lesson on looking at life and deriving joy out of its uncertainties. He affirmed, “If you know where you are going, there’s no joy at all.” A 20-minute video on his making of King Lear (drama) looked such a heart-felt effort. Vinay Pathak’s masterly act as a clown who speaks gibberish language and Rajat Kapoor’s faith in experiments were most pleasing to audience’s palate.

What followed this hearty session is a poignant panel discussion on LGBT community. Gay Rights activist Ashok Row Kavi set the tone with a hard-hitting comment, “In India, you are always assumed what you are not.” A touch of optimism was sensed in Shobhna S. Kumar (publisher of Queer Ink) as she delivered on a prophetic note: “Books with gay and transgender protagonists are going to find more publishers in the coming days.” However, the session betrayed a pessimistic mood with the final touch by one of the panelists: “India is a closely monitored police society. One can’t choose one’s sexuality unless the individual becomes financially independent.

The day came to a wholesome end as filmmaker Sudhir Mishra opened his bag of wisecracks making the entire hall go berserk. As audience and the moderator questioned the stature of contemporary movies, he forthrightly posited, “We are not ready to take risks needed to make a great film. Our superstructure doesn’t allow us to take risks.” However, he didn’t forget to mention: “As a filmmaker, my job is to confront times”.  The discussion that bordered on the limitations of Bollywood filmmakers, ended on a promising note as the director made a candid confession: “I’m not sure of my intelligence but I know that I am most alive when I am making a film.” That perhaps said it all.

Till We Meet Again!

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Crime and Punish-meant

I think Tolstoy would have forgiven me for stealing the crux of his novel.

I wasn’t aware that fangs of Bhopal gas tragedy have transcended a limited periphery to carry on’legacy of death’ until the day I attended Dr Suroopa Mukherjee’s presentation. The title of her note “Oral History and Monstrous Memories: The Case of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy” took me to IIC as both History and Memories are close to my heart.

She uncorked the suppressed fact how government punished the victims of crime and not the perpetrators. As a one who has been spearheading the errand of seeking truth, Dr Mukherjee deftly put it how ‘profit comes before people’ for the ones at the top.

Recollecting her stint as a researcher and sustained engagement with the Bhopal victims, she narrated anecdotes, which qualify as testimonies to deliberate suppression on bureaucracy’s part. Her research on women’s ordeal was not a fact-finding mission. It was rather an attempt to delve deep into the abysmal loss and unearthing what we should have known and not what government wanted us to know.

As Aaron Levenstein once took a dig at efficacy of statistics and quantitative methodology he said “what it (statistics) reveals is suggestive, what it conceals is vital”. It is this ‘vital’ that Dr Mukherjee said was crucial in understanding magnitude of loss and earnestly considering a barrage of emotions which generally go unnoticed.

While explaining the voluminous recollections that came out of the interviews, she admitted that compiling them in a cogent manner was not easy. Listening to the gripe of the women survivors from a novelist (Dr Mukherjee had two books in her ‘kitty’ prior to her involvement with Bhopal victims) was moving to say the least. It was unnerving to know the crafty modalities of both state and centre. Strange, they didn’t manifest even a tincture of repentance.

As a listener, the feeling was that of disgust. It was crystal clear that our leaders quantify immediate and tangible loss without probing into the humanitarian crisis and the impact that won’t leave its footprints for eons. Being the power holder the least a government is expected to do is defend people’s rights and not suffocate them with regressive policies and alienate them from the mainstream. It needs to overcome its indifference towards those women living with ‘monstrous memories’.

V-Day: A global movement

Millions of proposals made, billions of roses plucked, hearts broken, negotiations with the past bruises made and all these in a span of few hours. Valentine’s Day is perhaps the only movement in the world that brings global change of such great magnitude. As I sit alone in front of a sufficiently opened window I wonder what is it that pulls in people across the world to celebrate this day. May be the addiction of coming together with the opposite sex, or may be the age-old habit to flaunt a well-earned relationship.

Pretty looking girls in their best attire and handsome hunks carefully dressed to suit the occasion. And what is the occasion? Don’t you know today is Valentine’s Day.  It is the day when we run into each other and pour out our emotions, it is the day when we find ourselves giggling despite hundreds of woes waiting in the backyard and this is that very auspicious day when we gain that extra wing of chivalry to woo our lady love.

Dark chocolates, Ferrero Rocher, Jovan White Musk, Fahrenheit, tapping heels, little blush and never-ceasing stares – all the elements of a pot-boiling evening with your desired ones. Tiresome long wait for your partner’s arrival, sense of disgust at the spiralling traffic and compromise over the choice of delicacies to be served during the dinner do take away the apparent charm of the ceremony.

Wait. It does not end here. Tables are set, candles are lit, discussions are embarked upon and lies are being told. Promises are made and promiscuity hinted. Time sounds alert – tomorrow is Monday. Selected words exchanged, food gulped in a hurry and the diamond finds a new owner. Nothing else changes. The world revolves the same, the stories are spun in the same manner, hearts remain insatiate as they used to and what passes away in the midst of all these is few hours, some flowers, loads of gifts and endless release of dopamine into the brain.  Happiness catches you unaware and little stupid talks here and there. Happy Valentine’s Day.