Baahubali The Beginning–The Review

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bahubali3

Once upon a time, there lived a lad.

Looking up at the mountain of water towards the misty horizon, he felt inside an indomitable mysterious force, calling him upwards and over. So he enrolled in Physics and Maths coaching classes in Class eight, to get an early start, then Ramaiyya classes at five in the morning to get an even earlier start and correspondence courses to get problem-sets he could crack while on the loo. He would try, one problem after another in Irodov, and then the sequence of solved problems would be broken and he would come tumbling down back to Exercise one. It would have broken lesser men, that fall, but he merely smiled, dusted away his failure, and went back to Newton’s Laws.

His mother (or the one he knew to be his) asked the Gods what they were doing wrong, because the neighbor hood kids were doing just fine. It had become an obsession, this wanting to scale the wall of water, and his muscles grew, till he was moving smoothly through Khanna and Khanna, but still the mountain stood, untamed and proud, and our boy toiled away.

Till one day, in his hand, fell a torn picture.

It had fluttered in from somewhere up the mountain of the water, washed away and grainy, but distinguishable only as a female face.  Our lad would keep the face on a piece of paper, and then lovingly, with his protractor and compass draw boobs around it, of different diameters, for he know not the dimensions of this lovely lass. There was no female in his life, and together with the need to scale the wall of water, attaining the girl in the picture became the focus of his life.

Till one day, while scaling the wall of water, he saw her.

Water-droplets cascading down her perfect spine, there she was, looking at him with come-hither eyes, in a bikini that revealed beauties grander than he could have imagined. In the throes of great passion, he danced up the wall of water, swallowing semesters in epic gravity-defying leaps, while she flitted ahead, through his books, and exam papers, and his programming assignments, turning her head ever so a little, as blue butterflies flew around, or neelachalachitram as he called them,  till one day he did it, he scaled the wall.

And found himself in the United States of America. But where was that bikini-clad goddess of beauty who had inspired him? She was not there.

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NABC Diaries Part 2

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[First part here]

The next day (Saturday) was my session (or rather the first of the two that I did). So after a lengthy epoch of  “saajuguju” (dress-up), I arrived at the convention center, in an ethnic kurta (what Bengalis call Punjabi) and a six-pocket, a slight variation on the uniform of the internationalized Bangali intellectual, which is kurta-jeans. If I was trying for a more provincial look, I would have gone with a dhoti, but I just cannot say the word dhoti without the song “Mirchi re mirchi kamaal kar gayee, dhoti ko phar ke rumaal kar gayee” popping into my head,  washing away my train of thought in a jetstream of apasanskriti (bad culture), which we can all agree would have a disastrous fallout in the cultural cleanroom I was walking into. Also I can’t tie a dhoti.

Anyways, as I entered the venue, I saw this sign below. This was intriguing because the words “Jatin Pandit”, “free breakfast”, and “lipid tests” normally don’t go together.

jatinlalit

 

So I trundled off to the exhibition hall, where saris and jewelry were being sold, and though unfortunately the free breakfast had ended, the concert was in full-swing. This was away from the main venue, perhaps because this was too Bollywood for the mainstream. I mean I get it,  traditionalist uncles sticking their nose up at Jatin Pandit and saying “This kind of music is not Bengali”, but then I would respond with even “lipid testing is not Bengali”, but that doesn’t mean we should not have it.

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NABC Diaries Part 1

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Culture is a word most treasured by Bengalis. Pronounced “kalchaar”, it conjures up multiple images in the Bong mind, of harmonium-handling humans swaying their heads in musical cadence to the rhythm of Rabindrasangeet, of the tremulous vocal-chord shaking of a Shombhu-Mitra-style elocution, of post-modern art drawn by a bearded once-Communist, of abstruse verse about a burning tree standing against a bare sky, of the screening of a Gautam Ghose or a Rituparno or a Satyajit Ray, or even the poetic stylings of Didi, though most who consider that high art are now all Trinamool MPs. Away from the homeland, in imperialistic capitalist America,  it is this culture that the Bengali immigrant misses the most. Of course they go back sometimes to this mythical “Bongoland” , for a month or so, but the entire time is taken up by going to State Bank of India renewing lockers, or fighting with real estate brokers and cousins out to grab you off your ancestral house, or  visiting homes of relatives you increasingly care less for, leaving precious little  for a concert or a play or a Charminar or an evening discussing the difference between Derrida, Neruda, Prabir-da and Florida.

The North American Bengali Conference, henceforth referred to as NABC understands this. Which is why every year they bring to the North American Bengalis a veritable cornucopia of culture, flying in top artists from the homeland, both Bengal and Bangladesh, for a carnival of color, chilli chicken and chaa.

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On Bobby “I am Not Indian” Jindal

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[From here]

Jindal stresses how he avoided telling his parents of his new faith and how disappointed they were when they found out. He said he read the Bible by flashlight to prevent being discovered by his folks, and compared his clandestine study to the early Christians “hiding from government persecution.” Jindal’s process of finding his true religion also involved participating in an exorcism of a college girlfriend.

There is a lot of Jindal that I don’t agree with. But this I got to give the man.

It’s better to be thrown in front of lions or be crucified upside down than to have to go through the ordeal of being a second-generation Indian immigrant growing up in US in the 80s. How do I know? I was one (for a while).

Jindal

My parents were kind. They didn’t, for instance, make me dress like Anil Kapoor in “Suit boot main aaya kanhaiyya” as Jindal’s parents did. They also left for India after some time, which is why I perhaps never exorcised my college girl-friend. Of course for desi parents, there is nothing even remotely distressing about conducting an exorcism on your girl-friend, it’s not like you had sex with her.

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Club vs Club

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bhimani

Someone seriously needs to tell Mr. Bhimani that he does not need to laugh derisively every time a panelist on Arnab Goswami’s show says something in favor of Dhoni. It is natural to feel insecure given that Yograj Singh is a Patiala peg away from replacing him on the one place that still gets him in front of a camera. But it is safe to say that Mr. Bhimani’s animated, though overwrought (in a Kareena Kapoor in a “Main Prem Ki Deewani Hoon” way)  Dhoni-baiting has cemented (yes note the ironic use of the word) his slot in Arnab’s noisy menagerie as the go-to-act for anti-Dhoni vitriol, and I am happy for him. Now if he could only go a little light on the ketchup.

Fulminating over Arnab Goswami’s show is an exercise in recursive hypocrisy and I am not going to do that, mainly because I enjoy watching its hashtag-ridden “what angle will get me maximum TRP” synthetic outrage. With its narrative of national shame and epic betrayal after every loss, however the cricket segments have become incessantly grating,  and by the stellar standards of his show, that is saying something.

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On Marks and Board Exams and Life

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agoge

It was called agoge in ancient Sparta, the inhuman education and training regimen that little boys were subject to in order to make them  impervious to hunger, fear and pain, a regimen that included having boys fight boys to death so that the weak may be weeded out.

Or as anyone who went to school in the late 80s and early 90s in Bengal would say, school life.

Suicides were common, and so were heart-attacks and nervous breakdowns. Four successive days of two papers of a hundred each was considered to be perfectly humane because, how else, were children going to handle “the real world”? I came from a school, particularly notorious for what was just known as “The Pressure”, where most of us were made to fail in our maths half-yearly in class eleven, because and this was the stated reason, the class ten scores had given us whippersnappers an inflated idea of our intelligence and we needed to be cut down to size.

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Of Potty and Parenthood and Piku

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AB

 

[Has spoilers]

Piku is a good film. No this is not me trying to damn with faint praise. Piku *is* good. Even more than good, I would say it is courageous. In a world of  cookie-cutter behemoths , to invest in a film that is paced slow, driven by characters, and set in a non-Oye-Oye-Shava-Shava socio-cultural milieu, requires commercial cojones, and props to everyone associated with Piku, from the big B and the Choice P to the director to the guys who actually put money behind it, for providing us with something that I would not hesitate to use the term ‘risky” to characterize.

However it is not great. But it could so very well have been. It comes  very close, several times as a matter of fact, to touching something that is deeper and darker and universal, but almost, whether intentionally or not I cannot say for sure, it draws back into a comforting, crowd-pleasing but ultimately unsatisfying green zone.

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