Thursday, September 30, 2010

Marked with shame

A minor portion of today's population has only lived during the days of freedom struggle. Most of this generation know about British ruled India as excerpts from the history classes they managed to stay awake and still listen, or from movies in which the depiction of the then India hit the right chords. A film like Indian where the hero and heroine celebrate their love for the nation by singing "Kappal eri poyaache" (Boarded the ship and left) portrays their patriotism, or so we may think. Yes, the patriotic feeling is definitely there as straight-forward and dedicated characters of that movie.

Thinking about it, how many thousands of couples, families, friends and most importantly Indians would have celebrated their love for each other that midnight, August 15th 1947. How many of those thousands do you think would have thought about the nation as a whole?


No, I wouldn't count on that. Though thats the big picture, don't you think a mother would have been thankful that her children would not have to go through what their forefathers suffered? Don't you think a father would have been thankful that his children, unlike him did not have to think twice about feeling at home in their own nation? Don't you think a teacher would have been happy that he could finally impart knowledge about the diverse and wonderful heritage of the nation without fear of being watched?

Obviously, it would have been a long long night, don't you think, partying and enjoying (in the 1947 style). But, when the nation went to sleep, there would have been the satisfaction of waking up to a free country, something that they had been dreaming for a long time.

The truth is that the satisfaction lasted only for a very short span, in some cases, only that night. I know you are nodding your head if you have woken up today, to the 30th September 2010. Well, what can I say? I'm just quoting "The common man" from The Wednesday (Unnai Pol Oruvan).

What did I do? What did you do? Why should I leave office at 2 PM today, when I have been working hard for the past 3 months? Why should you work from home today, when you've not hesitated to come to work even on weekends? Even if you had a severe head-ache you think twice, you think about the deadlines, you think about losing the job and most of all, your conscience tells you go on with a rub of Vicks on your forehead. True or not? I'm badly in need of that Vicks which will help me get rid of this disease that affected me because I have no choice.

Don't we all have so much in our kitty already? I have a colleague who comes to office leaving her one year old daughter at home. Everyday, she calls up home to check if her baby has eaten, slept, has any problems and so on. She is not working to live like a queen. She has her own ends that should meet. Yes, her salary is way better than the average salary of an Indian, yet it doesn't come to her for free. She sacrifices a lot, definitely more than the loss that came to a "spiritual" person (person is a common noun - any individual ANY INDIVIDUAL) who din have an "official" place to pray.

Whatever be the outcome of today, what is going to be built on a place that, in the name of God, but actually fanaticism, claimed the peace and happiness of an entire nation, according to me does not pass as a place where I can find God (again GOD is a common noun - ANY GOD)! I'm no atheist, yet I think God is someone who gives me shelter. Don't you think this is the other way around?

Every time I see a mail or a mention about why I should be "extra" careful today, it pains me. I feel like my life is taking a big, deep dive into the ocean of shame. I feel like I've not lived here for 23 years. One may wonder why I'm making a big fuss about it. Can't I be a bit alert for one day? I can. If there's a tsunami alert, I'm not going to complain that I'd not be able to spend an evening with my girlfriend at the Marina Beach. Its not that I have a girlfriend, but I'd like to have the options. If there's a cyclone formation alert, I'm not going to crib that I need to carry an umbrella/rain-coat. Well, I'd be happy if the Home Ministry is as good as the MET department. When the MET says its going to rain heavily, it most often doesn't. I always feel that a natural disaster such as an earthquake is nature's way of telling mankind to slow down. Maybe, its trying to convey that nature has evolved patiently over thousands of years to attain this degree of strength and beauty.

Today, we did not wake up fearing a natural disaster. The disaster that we all have been warned, the precautions that we have been advised to follow tells us in simple words to hang-down our heads in shame. And 99.9% of us have willingly come forward to do it. The irony is that some people including me are more worried that if everything did not go our way, we might not be able to catch Endhiran on October 1st, 2nd or 3rd. :(

I know that like me, there are millions of people who claim "If I have 10 people with me, I can bravely fight those elements that is trying to shut me in my home for political and economic benefits". But, there is the issue that has not been fixed till date - "But, who will bell the cat?" I've not written this long post to draw that this is the way things are going to be and that the cat is waiting to pounce anytime now, so its time run for our lives. What difference are we going to make? What can we do about this? I say ignore the cat. Yes, the cat will come after a mouse at a time. If there are 10 rats and only 1 cat? If there are 50 rats, 500 rats, 5000 rats or say 5 million rats and still a considerably less number of cats, its still doesn't matter.

The only thing that counts, no matter how many of us there, is how united we stay. How we interfere to help another, how that every one of us matter to every other person and how each of us try to look upon the other as his friend.

I can't change anything.
You can't change anything.
We can. My point.

Easily said, impossible when attempted is a very valid argument here. How can someone who can't love/forgive another person going to attempt this voluminous change? How can someone claim to be spiritual by fighting for a place to pray and cause harm to a fellow being? We say that the CWG situation brought us shame, where people from other country are worried about the living conditions in the CWG Village. What is happening today? Aren't we ourselves worried about the living situation here? Which is the bigger shame?

Its 3AM already and I'm going to bed, my heart pounding with anxiety and echoing with shame, with a dream, which our forefathers thought came true on 15th August 1947. The words are mine. The voice is on behalf of a billion. Be Safe today! Jai Hind!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Murder of the soul - Part I

The list was down to two and the committee was equally split on whom to vote for. Both the candidates had scored the same in all the categories and now it was up to the chairman of the jury to cast his vote. "And then I did something that is not normally done. I used a criterion that is never used. I decided to vote in favour of Rahman simply because he was a newcomer. I know what a national award means to a newcomer.", quoted Balu Mahendra, noted Cinematographer, Filmmaker and the chairman of the 1993 National Awards jury. As a result, it was Ilayaraja who missed out on a national award for Devar Magan. Balu Mahendra says that Ilayaraja totally backed his decision when he confessed later.

The national award meant that Dileep now known as A.R.Rahman, had arrived with a bang. The young chap who used to play keyboards for all of them including the likes of Mr. Karadi (TR) had not only composed an album that broke all existing chart buster records, but also had won the biggest honour of the nation for his debut film. Since then, there has been no looking back for the Mozart of Madras. He has been winning successively, statewide, region-wide, nationwide and after Feb 22nd 2009, worldwide. Throughout this stupendous journey, he has been this silent person who has not boasted of his work or talked ill about others' works, and has been very generous and truthful when it came to dividing the monetary benefits of his works among his musicians and more.

A certain so-called "management" guru wrote extensively that Rahman had sinned by scoring the music of Slumdog Millionaire (SM), which turned the spotlights towards India's downtrodden side. Well, all that made me wonder was that we are living in an era where cheap stakes who confer awards on themselves are given the chance to make crap talk. Yes, SM did throw light on the other side of India, but can anyone claim that it was a false depiction? Say what, SM was a positive movie that talked about choosing the right path and still emerge successful. When a section of people in Tamilnadu never missed out a chance to complain that Rahman doesn't care about Tamil as a language, he did not miss out on a chance to make the entire world listen to Tamil, when it mattered. "Ella Pugazhum Iravanukke!".

Earlier this year, when the audio of Vinnai Thaandi Varuvaaya (VTV) was launched, the first track that caught my attention was Aaromale. I was amazed right away because I have lived through the genius' journey and I understood that its going to hit the chords right there. That night, I was on a voice-chat with my sister and I excitedly claimed, "Aaromale is my pick of the album". My cousin, who was in the next room shouted in response, "How the hell do you like that yucky song?" He thought I never heard it. Its just that I chose not to retaliate. Two weeks later, I came back from work and I noticed that he was playing Aaromale in his player. I freshened up and understood that he is repeating it again. After a couple of hours, it was still Aaromale and throughout the night. VTV received only lukewarm response soon after its release. One month later, wherever I went, it was Omana Penne and Hosanna all the way.

The same scene repeated for Raavanan. The most foolish review I read about Raavanan's songs was that they were not as good as Guru or Alaipayuthey. If only a tribe living in a deep, interior village could sing "Pachai Nirame" to express his love, I'm sure it would have been a cake-walk for any composer. The challenge lay in bringing out emotions that are difficult to understand, which was faced pretty well, maybe not the best. I couldn't stop wondering about how healthy the communication between the director and composer should be, in order to get the minute details right.

One big disappointment was the theme composed for the Common Wealth Games (CWG). It did not even take a second hearing for me to fall in love with the track. The song sends positive energy, sportsman spirit and commitment, what more would one expect from a theme for a sporting event. Yet, it was degraded extensively.

I'm not at all claiming that my little (very little) knowledge of music helped me appreciate the beauty of his songs. Its pretty ordinary to figure out this stuff. Yet, it goes unnoticed because of one evil feel that is created without sense, one that props up because of the greed to claim appreciation using another person's work. The word is hype. The best example was to have publicized the CWG theme song as one that is going to break the records of Waka Waka.

Taking a deeper dive into the subject, has any movie before 2009 had any of the following titles for Rahman?
1) Music by: 4-time National Award Winner A.R.Rahman
2) Music by: 10-time Filmfare Award Winner A.R.Rahman

Post Feb 22nd 2009, its only been Music by: "Oscar award winner" A.R.Rahman. A banner/hoarding that is placed outside India having this title makes sense. Its a good marketing strategy. But do we Indians identify him as an Oscar award winner? The answer is no. The icon is just being used as a selling point. Of course, there are sensible people like Gautam Menon who launched the audio in London, where the phrase Oscar winner is a worthy selling point. He did not waste time marketing the music here, only because he knew it would sell without force.

What we don't understand is that amidst all the hype created around Rahman and his releases, murder is happening. Murder of the underlying soul. Murder of the music.

From Roja to Jhoota Hi Sahi, I've listened to all the tracks that Rahman has composed. Calling him my favourite musician is an understatement. As a die-hard fan of Rahman, rather a sincere lover of music, I hope he turns down offers that expect out of him the hype more than music. Jai Ho!

A thought put into action in a postive way, is a blessed thought - A.R.Rahman

1) I wanted to write lot more things as well. But, the post is way too long already. I will write it some other day. That explains the part number marked in the title.
2) Some people who read the title would have thought that I'm back to my emotional best. :) Sorry for the disappointment.
3) Big relief. I came out the 55-word fiction fever. When I looked at my blog and said, "No. This is not a 55-word fiction", it looked back at me with gratitude.