Friday, 11 August 2017

Imtiaz School of Romance - Jab Harry met Sejal

The trailer was boring. The title too. Really. But the two songs I heard were good.
And then the reviews followed. Pure vitriol. It was like one fine morning everyone woke up hating Imtiyaz Ali and Shahrukh Khan. They did nothing right. This severe criticism made me severely curious about the movie, more than the trailer. I normally want to see for myself before criticizing something. 

Also, I am someone who writes dark, depressing, suicidal stories. The characters are hurting and life is never fair. One fine evening I just wanted a film that would ensure a happy ending. Just that. 

I quite liked the opening scene. Nostalgic shots in black and white interspersed with the peppy, ‘Safar’ weaving in scenes of loneliness amidst the hustle and bustle of the city. Jab Harry Met Sejal is a film about details. If you don't have an eye for them, you are watching the wrong film. The opening scene has Harry eating his food on the stone steps, it made me realize for the first time how our drivers or tour guides eat during the tour. In some quiet corner. Stealthily. Quickly. Tastelessly. It’s just part of the job. There is no joy to having food. The second shot is Harry sleeping on the seats of the bus stand/train station. And I am not a big Shahrukh Khan fan, but man, he is a good actor. In this scene, he needs to sleep horizontally on one of those regular waiting seats in a row. Before lying down, he puts down his bag and lies down in one smooth, swift movement like someone who has perfected the move through experience so much so, its like muscle memory. And that’s why it hurts. The effortlessness of it. There is a fine line between a wanderer and a homeless person. We see the hero on that fine line. That’s where I knew, the movie will not disappoint.

Premise is simple, Sejal has lost her engagement ring and she won’t go back till she finds the ring. And Harry, the tour guide that took them on a tour of Europe, has to help her find it. Harry has clearly told her that he is a ‘cheap man, jiska character thik nahin hai’. Sejal is the one who is neat and clean and has absolutely no issues with him or his cheapness. 

The film has flaws here that I glossed over...though it’s irritating. Here is a man who finds Sejal like a beautiful porcelain vase, complimenting her, saying he doesn't feel bad things for her. Now Sejal feels insulted. How can you find me not sexy. This reminds me of the scene in Jab we met, where our man is saying, ‘मुझे करना ही नहीं है रेप’ and the heroine almost coaxes/challenges, ‘तुम कर ही नहीं सकते’. My second problem is when she realizes he is lonely and offers to be his girlfriend. Now, if you are a freshly engaged woman who finds a lonely man, you offer to be his friend...not girlfriend. But well, that’s suspension of disbelief for romantic purposes. Thank you. 

Let’s come to the good part, now. After one silly chase sequence and even sillier reason to sleep out in some place in the open, on hard ground. Harry and Sejal are asleep on the floor, next to each other and in sleep they have come closer. Harry is dreaming about his Pind, the motif of गेहूँ के खेत and a duppata running over it. He wakes up to find Sejal curled up to sleep close to him. The proximity and dream have intermingled. Harry gets up, walks to a corner and squats down next to a post, holding it for support, in his moment of vulnerability, mumbles something to himself, I catch a word...raanjha and some others. It’s a beautifully captured moment. Though I’d have ideally liked the director/scriptwriter to focus a little bit more on this vulnerability quotient. Sejal wakes up and Harry you know why the singers from Punjab are such loud singers, it’s because they have to be louder than the sound of the tractor when they sing in the खेत। Now, this is a beautiful insight, right there in the film. It makes things real. You become close to a person not by sharing jokes, but by sharing your fears, your vulnerabilities, and here we see Harry doing just that. Quite a lot of people do not like Shahrukh’s acting, but in this scene we see him going from vulnerable to goofy in a moment and it’s smooth. It’s understated. 

My most favorite moment in the film happens when Sejal is asking Harry to pretend he is her fiancé, Rupen and has seen her for the first time, since morning now he has to take her to a cafe where his friends are waiting. Harry does as is told, Sejal pushes on...थोड़ा एमोशन से करो ना...and then you see why he is called THE king khan. Because there are certain things you can carry off because you’ve been that person all your life. Harry, the guide walks up the stairs...smiling...and as he whirls on the top step, he becomes THE man...someone who has swooned women on screen, all his youth...the body language completely changes. There is a confident swag, the camera slowly tilts down to follow him on the stairs...he comes close to Sejal, his hand goes just behind her left cheek, softly and brings her closer and kisses her on her forehead. Thankfully, Anushka is good and holds her own...melting in that moment. Silence is used wonderfully in this scene. When Harry is climbing the steps, it’s silent except for his footsteps and just as he whirls on the top, music plays on cue. I saw the movie and I was like, just for this scene, I’ll have to see it in the hall, again. And this time when I went, I did what I’ve never ever done. I took out my phone and recorded the one minute scene. Piracy be damned. This is for my mental peace. 

The genre of romance is such that almost everything seems to be done a thousand times. Yet this film surprises in its fresh scenes depicting love and longing. I could go on and on about the several scenes. And I would, but for this one, this is enough. Imtiyaz has created some magical moments in the film. And they are not stolen from other films, they are all fresh. In yet another scene, one of the last before they find the ring, Harry has been screaming the name of Kuljeet, a girl he loved long time back...but never tells anyone because 1. it sounds like a man’s name and 2. कोई तो होना चाहिए याद करने के लिए। And now he says, Sejal is a better name to scream...and he screams his lungs out. And I find that acting/overacting real. Very real. It hurts. Like goodbyes always do. 

Another thing that really stands out in this film is the music score. I just hope I don’t find out tomorrow that the music is stolen from some godforsaken foreign movie, that would actually break my heart. Music is woven beautifully into the film. It can't have the depth and layered texture that Gulzar or Rahman evoke or from the older classic films, but has a lighter, yet apt rendition in a lot of scenes. 

Goodbyes are a recurring leitmotif in the film. Sejal leaves for India, the director hasn't made a soppy goodbye scene but has completely reinvented the classic, ‘पलट’ scene. Harry wonders, what’s it that he has been searching all his life. He doesn’t just take the name...he calls out to her...not in a scream...but like a soul calls out to its soulmate...and such a call can never go unanswered. Sejal turns and looks love...and in हिज्र। 

The movie evokes old school romance. The way I remember. The way I would want it to be. A string of beautiful, perfectly timed moments. I have no idea why the audience rejected the movie. It has a good story, good acting, good dialogues, good music and good direction. Yes the characters could have been written better and everything else could have been a little better. The title sucks, really. But it’s a good movie. It’s a movie you could love despite its flaws. 

It would be difficult to create a film like this. Being a creative person myself, I understand a little about how it takes a lot of investment of self to create something like this. The audience and the media have been questioning Imtiyaz about the bad film. The rejection of this film makes me sad. 

I would like to watch films like these where I can believe that all will be well in the end. The heroine will come back to the hero or vice versa. I want to come home happy, seeing a romantic love that’s as unreal and filmy as films should be. 

Thank you Imtiyaz. Love you for making this one.

Friday, 4 December 2015

You miss me with borrowed metaphors

You miss me with borrowed metaphors
sing me songs that trigger chaos 
your love is an imaginary junction 
fleeting past an express train

Your kisses search in me 
forlorn women 
whom you've loved and lost
a few lifetimes ago

Every time you hug me
my heart gets in sync with yours
it takes infinite rounds of running
to get my rhythm back 

What do you see when you see me?
your eyes are the midnight sun
unbelievably warm and bright
and also frighteningly opaque 

In the fragrant hollow of your neck
lies an undulating pool of desires 
that threatens to drown me
unless I surrender to my thirst  

Your breathing is a lullaby
that rocks me to sleep
my soul gets tangled
in a dream of no goodbyes

Yet, I am not a woman 
you have fallen in love with
I am merely a poem 
you were born to write. 

Monday, 18 May 2015

Teen Roz Ishq: Only hints of happenings but stories are not missing

Writing often is a lonely journey. The silent reader hardly even responds to the questions a writer so expertly hides in her stories. But then there are some that respond extremely painstakingly on what appeals to them in the stories. 
Ravi sir has been one such rare mentor and guide...his thoughts on my book answer the questions that have been haunting me for what's the importance of a plot in the story...what if there is no villain...there is no real 'conflict'...would it still appeal to someone...
What follows is a mail I received from sir a few days back...I am sharing this mail because it very precisely answers questions that often plague a writer's mind. On a personal note, it reassures's not always a lonely's nice to have someone that talks to me...Thanks a lot for your kind words sir.
I have long felt that authors of dictionaries need to revisit the definition of “story” and ‘fiction” urgently. I have felt that their stress on incidents and people “invented “ by a writer to “ entertain “ is outdated .(Some Indian authors writing in English have in recent years gained instant popularity by creating event ---oriented narratives in which characters ,both mythological and contemporary, are visibly involved in actions. They are certainly entitled to credit due to them for creating a readership.) I have also felt that more than an occurrence and people taking part in them streams of thoughts and situations represented can be more engaging than “ actions” though they may not be entertaining in the clichéd sense. Puja Upadhaya’s Teen Roz Ishq is certainly a book which ramparts my views.

This apart, I come to a question I have been asking many. Should a story writer be just a commentator giving a ball –by- ball narration and taking the listener (reader in this case) through turning points which accentuate the drama? Is it not important that at least a part of the writer is revealed through the fictional characters or portrayed situations? Puja answers my questions effectively through what she has written. She constructs an ambiance in which even the seemingly inanimate appears to communicate.

The story Jism Ka Kaala Jadoo, for instance, creates vibes of sensuality which could have won applauds from even Sadat Hasan Manto who seems to be one of her favourite authors. The presence of the two who are in love is just to be perceived but their obsessive togetherness is experienced by all. This is a situation in which the author is not there as a commentator or as a prompter yet through the portrayal of this moment of love Puja underscores her presence around with adroit sensitivity.

A similar intensity comes alive in “Tum Mera Dard Ho Ya Morphin” in which a character named Samar is referred to but more significant is the line that “Tumhe Koi Apni Duaon Se Jilaye To Mar Bhi Nahin Sakte (if many prayers are said for your life you cannot even die.) Jaane ke Liye Jaroori Hai ki Jitne Logo Ki Yaad Me Tum Ho Wahan Se Jabran Tumhe Mitaya Jaye(To let you depart it is necessary to erase your name from memory of all.”) In another situation love walks in unobtrusively with one accepting that without sharing with the other neither joy was complete nor the pain could diminish.

For Puja Upadhyay dynamics of love has its own charm as it leads to unpredictable metamorphosis of situations and characters lending them an aura of the unfamiliar.(Puja reminds me among others of Usha Priyambada some times) Most of the characters, one suspects are there in a story , are not architects of dramatic moments .They are designers of enigmatic settings but ensuring that something, indeed, is moving. It is perhaps like an escalator on which you have just to let yourself go without making an effort .It will take you to the point the designer had intended. The last story “Teen Roz Ishk “proves this. Without a conventional conflict point it creates a collage of emotions, from exuberance to restrain, from despair to hope and then to a point where love blossoms, finally but silently.

Gum Hoti Kahaniya (or vanishing stories) the title of the book probably suggests that life may not always be a journey at every stop of which something striking happens. In fact, in Puja’s stories there are only hints of happenings and it is for the discerning to notice it.


( Note :This is not a review but my thoughts on some of the questions I have asked and tried to answer through references to stories in the book)

PS: My first book Teen Roz Ishq- Gum hoti kahaniyan has been published from Penguin this year in march. It will soon be available in bookstores. 

Friday, 18 October 2013

Black and white saturdays

Normally I am not afraid of pain. I accept it. Embrace it. Sleep with it. Absorb it in my blood till it becomes a part of my cells. Breathes in oxygen. Only certain times pain becomes cancerous. Starts eating away the core of my existence. Becomes so overwhelming that everything else stops to exist.

That's the kind of pain I find myself in now. The worst part of it is, I don't know the reason. That makes me helpless. I am never afraid of a problem, when there is one, there always is some way out...some solution. I am only afraid of the unknown. It's like fighting an enemy you cannot see.

I wake up in the mornings with a severe pain. I feel I have spent the night away fighting monsters and everything is so unreal I find it difficult to talk to anyone about it. I can't see bruise marks but I know they are there, in every dull ache of the limb, they are there. I taste bitter. No amount of green tea, coffee or lemon tea can cure it. My favorite Cadbury hot chocolate is out of the market for quite some time. That was one thing that would empower me greatly. This is all a big conspiracy. The unavailability of drinking chocolate powder. Yes.

The day  passes in limbo. There is no fire to burn me to the core. To fuel me to race forward. I can't live an insipid life. An then there is nothing to inspire. In one of those moods when I can't read. I don't like letters. Sometimes an occasional book maybe. But I just can't stand the letters. They seem to bore into the brain and bore me to death. Reading seems so passive on days like these when I want to jump down from a cliff. Do something crazy. Something that gives the adrenaline kick.

I am an addict. I need to always be on a high. I can't live a normal life in which I go to office everyday, do my work and come back. I need to get that feeling that I have lived. Everyday. Predictability kills me. I don't want to know what I'll be doing the other moment. I want long drives. I want to ride a bike on 120. I want to feel alive.

Why am I like this? I was born this way. Never liked a dull moment in life. It starts to cause physical pain. It makes me feel shackled. I am a control freak. I obsess too much over puny details in life that I cannot control. I need to learn to let it go. Like the lives of people I love. For all my prayers. I can't help them in any way and that drives me crazy. Because I cannot live their lives for them. I have to sit quietly and see them shatter, piece by piece and then be there to help them bring themselves together. It Frikking HURTS.

Life is like a war at times. It corners you. Drives you mad. Leaves you weaponless. Mercilessly wounds you. Makes you go over the strategy over and over again your head and yet wonder, where, what I did wrong. What could have I done to avert! Like love. It gets hold of you in your weakest moments and mocks you in your face. Somehow implying that I had a role in how things panned out. Dismissing my pleas that it was involuntary. I couldn't have possibly done anything. It can be circumstantial.

Of all the qualities that make a person, I place kindness on the highest pedestal. Specially in times of grief. In times of conflict. In times of helplessness. We need to be kind. To life. To our friends and families. To strangers. And most of all, to ourselves.

And pray. Close your eyes and believe. Somehow it will all turn out well. There will be sunshine. There will be love. There will be laughter. Till then, hang on!

Thursday, 29 August 2013

The book of no memories

In love there is no past tense.
1st August
The hug, albeit in a dream, felt like warmth surging through every pore of my a shot of whisky...on the chilling altitudes of 10000ft. 

I love you...said my muse in a voice barely audible...but of course, it wasn't meant for my was meant for my soul and that heard it crystal the first fm radio transmissions.

The the Gryffindor's sword, only imbibes that which strengthens it...pure love, kindness, warmth of a laughter and maybe a moment of that infinite connection. That moment pauses that moment I exist only for you...and my lips don't move but my entire existence becomes those three words...I love you. 

Love is as exhausting as it is fulfilling.

9th May 9.21 am

I saw Anna Karenina yesterday. Haven't read the book though. This movie made me fall in love. What I liked best was the technique. The entire movie was created in the form of a larger than life stage and as the movie progresses, the stage elements begin to be less obvious. 

The screenplay and direction were fabulous...totally fabulous. I haven't seen such a different movie in a long long time. 

And on top of it eyes...golden locks and a blue uniform...I don't remember the last time I saw someone so drop-dead Gorgeous. 

Want to write about the movie...but no time  Sigh!

6th May 7.54 pm
woke from dreaming but it took convincing
I was shaking screaming i was still alive
Sinking somewhere...the song lashes at me...puts vinegar in old wounds and laces them with salt. I still can't go on.
Depression looms deep and the clouds won't go away...I get scared, I get restless and I wonder if at all life has some respite from this anxiety. Don't feel like working, don't feel like writing...just feel like running away to some place far...somewhere on sea shore...where there are books and music and movies that I love.

I am going crazy again!

8.34 am
I suffer from severe anxiety...for a long time I did not know the exact word for it...everything I used to describe the condition was still to vague to be addressed by any doctor.

I stumbled upon it yesterday...I don't know if medicines help or if anything helps...the physical aspects of it are pretty disturbing. The constant heart-ache, pain, not able to think properly, irritation, anger, fear, feeling of loss, being unloved, everything gets mixed together. If I try reason, I shouldn't be facing any of these pains at all. Logically I should be a reasonably happy person at peace.

Logic does not follow reality I guess.

Had a strange night...wasn't able to sleep properly, had nightmares...sometimes I also wonder if I am going mad or something, is there something like do I have the mental capacity to hold on for this long...does anxiety affect any other functions?

Feeling severely depressed. Not able to write it off too.

4th May 10:48 am
My love...spent the morning scanning some pictures of are like some abstract painting, every time I see you, a new story is born...I feel like flying...I become light as a feather...I drift on the whiff of musk...I feel your touch on my wrists...there is no tattoo but the fragrance of your goodbye.

15th April 8.24 pm
It was a golden evening...the sky was tinted with the gold of your eyes...the air had a hint of your laughter...I could feel the musk of your voice on my wrists...where you kissed me before the final goodbye...chaining me to the last image of your reminded me of rains in some faraway country...the grains of sand flickered past and the night stars replaced the gold in the sandclock.
How many lifetimes has it been since I last saw you?

I wonder if there are fragments of my memories bookmarking the pages of your life we spent together...a quietness begins to fall, a dampness in my heart refuses to go away...there is a flicker of your name...fading initials etched on some rock we sat and spent the evening laughing...

There is a longing...a yearning...a search...where are muse...where are you?

7th April 2:38 am
I don't know why I think of you and a man playing violin by the river in a same flashback.
I miss you. I miss the whole comfort of being able to call you when I want to. I miss the time when the city felt a hug. And though I never did hug you I wish I's too small for such puny regrets.
I made a promise to myself never to utter these three words unless they screamed from the very core of my existence.
I love you.
You are in my prayers. Always.

5th March 8.11am
I always thought one minute flies by. But sometimes it really lingers on. Once, a person pointed at his watch and said to me, that because of that minute, he'd always remember me. It was so charming listening to that. But now I look at my watch and tell myself that I have to forget this man starting this very minute.
-Days of Being Wild

24th Feb 11.30 am
I am a very very confused person. There is a turbulence in me that refuses to die away...I sometimes get very irritated about this restlessness because this is not directed at anything, there is no outcome of it...or at least any desired outcome of it. 

In my heart of hearts I know I need to be working on something I am maddening in love with...but now I am is a scary takes a life of its own...behaves like a parasite and soon nothing of me remains in me...I become obsessed with an idea. 

Too much procrastination. 
I took up a job because I wasn't able to do anything that I want to I stand on the land of confusion still...there is no compass to guide my way. Though I am not afraid to take a path that is wrong...I do not want to hurt anyone...I inadvertently end up hurting the people who love me most.

I sometimes wish life for me was my other friends who are happy in their jobs...for them the only worry is the increment politics...such small things in life and they are so full of it. They don't think their life is going wasted. What is wrong with me?! What is it that I am desperately dying to do...where is that spark of idea...why do I kill all my story ideas before even fleshing them out...

What is it that I need to talk about...what is it that is killing me from inside...why can't I give words to the chaos that is playing havoc with me. I purposefully isolate myself from the world...yet there is cacophony...O God! how do I sort myself out!!!

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Meet me in July

One of those silly little things I feel like writing when it rains. The pitter-patter of raindrops creates a natural rhythm and some words just fall into place. I am not too good at rhyming and often clueless to throw one word after another...but somedays there is a broken song, beautiful in its swaying away from perfection. It's not a good poem and it's not according to meter, it doesn't follow any rules. It's a little of this a little of that...somehow I feel guilty about writing poetry, especially verse that rhymes. Still, somedays I should allow myself the luxury of posting something totally useless.

Just like that, learning to say my goodbye's better...
No sooner than I fell in love with you
It was the time to say goodbye

I could tell you, I never fell in love with the city
May be you would actually believe my lie

As I think of you, the city blooms
The rains sing a night's silent lullaby 

I tiptoe on nights of dark, misty, grey
I reach up to kiss the cloudy sky

A thousand things to forget you for
A million things to remember you by

I wonder if you’ll ever know my friend
I love you so, but I don't know why

I'll wait for you till the monsoons end
Come, meet me one last time in July

Monday, 25 February 2013

The hyperbolic element

I am an example 
of controlled chaos.

Every element that makes me up
has a mind of it's own.
Each electron has its own maddening path.
Each desire manifested 
in some form of unbound energy.

Every voice in my head
screams out loud what it thinks.
My heart is the breeding ground
for a million diabolical conflicts.

I often wonder 
at the level of difference
between my circuits and
that of a hydrogen bomb.

An explosion in me
would trigger an atomic fusion 
devastating enough to swallow all definitions.

Merge Heaven and Hell
to create a plasma

akin to what remains after removal of blood cells
or your name from my memories...
Why do you stay a lifetime-light-years away?

I am a virgin planet.
You are the key to the code of my existence. 
Come, unravel me.