Thursday, November 28, 2013

The quarter life crisis

It happens to me every December. I run around rest of the year happy as a pickle and suddenly I will wake up on fine morning around December and ask myself the dreaded question - what am I doing with my life? Am I growing up? Have I changed for the better? What does life have in store for me?

Those are always scary questions but I guess this year is a bit different because I am 25. As a kid I had always figured that by 25, I would know what I wanted in life. In many ways I sit envious of people with bad lives and bad jobs. Because their lives are so bad that they know what they need to make it great someday. They have something to look forward to. But what about those with rather solid lives? What if your job does not suck? What happens when your life today is the life it has always been? A pleasant journey?

My day of questioning was today - November 28th 2013. It was just another day. I woke up early. I went to my job. I came back home. But then a nagging question kept niggling at me - "At 25 do you feel any different from when you were 15?" The truth is I really do not know. I hope I am a nicer person. I definitely do not fight as much (or at all). And I lead a very happy life. But today I have no idea where I am going next. At 15, my benchmark was simple - get through school and life will be wonderful. But now, a decade later with the rest of my life spanning endlessly in front of me, I can't help but wonder if there should be more to life than good times and good friends (although I might be the only 25 year old who complains about good times and good friends).

Am I helping people? Should I be doing more to be kind? Should I be on a crusade to save the planet? Why are kids still starving in the nation today? Should I really be spending endless hours reading useless lists on Buzzfeed? What right do I have in having a pleasant life when so many others suffer?  Will I ever feel grownup enough to not balk at responsibility? Will I ever stop being impulsive and think through my decisions in life? Will I still ask these questions when I turn 30? How about 40? Will I know the purpose of my life at 70 at least?

I don't have any of the answers yet and another year closes down on me. It's highly possible that I shall spend this time next year asking the same questions of myself and still not having the answers. Maybe the purpose of life is not about finding the right answers but about struggling through the right questions. And hopefully I shall continue asking these questions of myself throughout my life. In the meantime, I guess the goal is to live an honourable filled with good times, good friends but also purpose. Here's to 2014 and the other side of 20s. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Why I think Ram Leela is a dangerous film

There is an extended scene in the bloated Sanjay Leela Bhansali film, Ram-Leela, which features a woman running. She's wearing a gorgeous lehenga that fills the frames as it sways. Her dupatta is flying behind her. The picturisation is beautiful. The music swells. It's a treat to watch. The problem? The woman is running for her life. She is being chased down by men who want to rape her. If you had walked in to watch the movie at that second, you would have easily mistaken it for a romantic number from the 80s. Therein lies my problem with this bummer.

Watching this woman running in slow motion, looking so beautiful made me sick. Someone told me that the film (yet another adaptation of Romeo and Juliet...yawn), is a celebration of women. They look pretty and they are empowered because they curse and they carry weapons. And that got me thinking about how women are portrayed in this movie.

There is the female lead, Leela. When you meet her you think she is a beautiful girl who speaks her mind. She falls in lust within seconds after meeting the man (you never understand why Deepika Padukone will lust after Ranveer Singh after watching him in an extended song-dance number where I think he was probably talking about dandruff...). She decides she will marry him knowing fully well that their families are sworn enemies (she met him a day ago, maybe she does not want to risk the lives of her clan for a guy who is constantly checking for dandruff????). They exchange godawful messages on their cellphones. And he kills her brother. You know...standard young love. I think I was fine till the duo got married. The man instantly becomes an abusive tool. She makes moon eyes at him, he pushes her away. He nearly hits her. Screams at her and forces her to stay at home. Drags her (physically) across the town and she just wants to please him by dancing for him. He then goes on to abandon her the night they get married and gets drunk and passes out. When she is taken back to her home, she refuses to eat because she is "married" and she wants to be with her "husband". Her monstrous mother cuts her ring finger off and this girl never thinks of placing a simple call to any number of women's groups that would come to her rescue. Why? Because Sanjay Leela Bhansali lives in a world where there are no decent human beings. He either hates mankind or women or his audience. Padukone's Leela might wield a revolver with ease, but she seems to actually have no gumption or gravitas. She's a woman who's been defined by the man she loves although he has shown nearly no amount of compassion for her.

Then there's this girl's mother. I am fan of Supriya Pathak. Her character however is one of the most despicable characters I have ever seen on screen. She orders the rape of another woman in the enemy clan because tit for tat is perfectly allowed in the world where Sanjay Leela Bhansali lives. She never sees repercussions. No one ever says - "hey raping women is not a way to fight a war. Even battlefields come with their own set of morals and rules...and are a woman yourself!" This monster then goes on to forcing her own daughter into marriage against her will. Somehow this makes this so-called mother a "strong female antagonist"? It's alright for a filmmaker to create such characters. But you need to give them some dimensions. And towards the end because this woman is shot and nearly killed, she finds redemption. She becomes the "good guy." She is GIVEN that redemption by the filmmaker. And yes sir, I think you are the real  monster in the film.

There is a scene in Shyam Benegal's Nishanth where Shabana Azmi's character is dragged from her home. It's painful. It's scary and bold. You get a real sense of how harrowing rape is. How claustrophobic and utterly invasive. The female characters in that movie are flawed, selfish, helpless and angry all at the same time. They are trapped by their circumstances and sometimes even their vanity. But the movie itself is a brilliant commentary on society. A woman who answers the door could be abducted and raped. It's just a fact and dealt just that way. I wonder how Benegal would have treated Ram Leela. Would he have acknowledged the the loved up duo were selfish and in lust and not really in love? I do know that he would not have added two extended rape scenes just to add plot twists. He was and will always will be a far superior filmmaker than Bhansali.

I saw two movies this past month where the women took the center stage. One was the Sandra Bullock starrer - Gravity and the other was Ram Leela.  Both films put their female protagonists through the ringer both physically and emotionally. Sandra Bullock is not pretending to be a space cowboy. She openly acknowledges that she's scared. But is she crafty and truly powerful! She's in a terrible situation lost in space and uses her mind and body to survive. She respects life enough to try and do everything in her power to live. Sanjay Leela Bhansali's characters seem to think a trigger is the true meaning of life. That a woman is instantly empowered when she lovingly fingers her gun. Gravity empowers the woman. Ram Leela exploits her. I shall watch Gravity again. I shall hope Ram Leela never exists. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Dear daughter

We have not met yet and chances are we shall not be meeting for a very long time. Your mother (that would be me) has a lot of growing up to do before she gets to meet you and she plans on wasting most of that time making mistakes. Hopefully those mistakes will make me wiser for you and you can even learn from them. But until that day comes when you actually exist, I thought I could impart a few life lessons right away.

Do not take selfies in the bathroom
I have taken my fair share of selfies and honestly honey they all look terrible. You scrunch your face, turn your head, stare into the mirror while still holding that cell phone at the perfectly weird angle. And when you take a selfie in the bathroom, you need to make sure your dirty laundry is not in the picture. No one wants to see that. Also, when you pout your face, your natural smile dies away. Selfies are only alright after a new haircut and you know that the next day your hair will become the mess that it always used to be (you're my daughter, your hair will be unmanageable and thick, so deal with it). Selfies are only alright when you have no one to take your picture of you and your best friend.

Do not think Kim Kardashian is successful
I hate to even admit it but your mom (that would be me again) for a short time in her life thought that Kim Kardashian was not "entirely too bad." I regret it. Somehow I convinced myself that being rich and famous meant successful. It does not. Being rich makes you rich. Being famous means a lot of people know what your name is. Success comes from a deeper place. It's the knowledge that you have done your best in life. Success comes from fulfillment and integrity. Kim Kardashian spends her life taking selfies. She spends her life making other women feel inadequate. She is not very bright. She is the very definition of failing in life because her life is nothing more than an illusion. It's perfectly understandable to want to be beautiful and want other people to notice it too. It's perfectly understandable to care about clothes and earrings and shoes. It's also good to be self centered and selfish every once in a while. But do not be vain. Know that who you are matters more than what you look like. Being real has more value than looking plastic.

It's ok to be smart 
It's alright if you see a cute boy and think he's cute. We have all been there and done that. But it's not alright if you act dumb around a boy just to impress him! You have to have your own opinions and not just agree with everything that cute boy with the cute eyes is saying. One time a cute boy I was talking to did not know about the Beatniks. He thought they were a band. And what's worse is that I went along with him. Despite the fact that the Beatles are my favourite band and the Beatniks are some of my favourite writers and poets, I told this boy that a song called - While my guitar gently weeps - was my favourite song by the Beatniks. It was not my best moment in life. In fact I have done things like this with many people I have wanted to impress, not just boys. I think it was because I wanted to fit in better. But the truth is, the people who will really like you, will like you for the person that you are. They will like you for your opinions. And you are not being fair to someone by not being yourself. How can someone be expected to truly like you, if you never show them who you are?

Do not be afraid of people hating you
I once sat across someone who spent the entire evening making fun of gay men and I let it happen.  I didn't say anything bad myself but I never once raised my voice to tell her how very wrong I thought she was. I was afraid that that person would hate me. I was afraid that that person would make fun of me behind my back with her friends. I never thought how wrong it was of me for being a passive spectator to harmful behaviour. It's important to stand up for yourself. It is also important to stand up for others. But here is a very important piece of advice - be kind to others. I can forgive you for anything but if I ever find out that you were mean to someone out of pure spite, I shall be very disappointed in you.

Don't slam the door on your mother
This might sound a bit self serving but slamming the door on your mother solves nothing - it only breaks her heart and yours. One day you will be 14 years old and you will feel like the world does not "get you". You will think that your parents do not understand you. You will be confused by the changes happening around you, to you and to your friends and you will take that confusion out on your mother. That means there will come a day when you will look at me squarely in my eyes and tell me that you hate me. And before I could even reply, you will slam the door on my face. How do I know this for certain? Because I did it to my own mother. While that period of my teenage life was brief (and apparently it happened with nearly every girl I knew at that time), I still feel terrible about it. My mom is my best friend and the person who will be by my side no matter what. I realised this at 20. But I want you to know that if you do slam the door on my face, I will still be waiting for you on the other side. Just like my own mother did all those years ago. I will still love you, just like my own mother did. But it would be really nice if you didn't slam the door on me though.

Read a million books
When you read, you are always learning...always educating yourself. Reading keeps your mind sharp. It's like exercise for your brain. So, please read. However in the off chance you don't like books, find another passion. Anything. Twirl like nobody's business (twerking is not a passion). Dance. Run. Play sports. Write whatever comes to your mind. Take photographs. Become a football fan (Arsenal is the only club worth supporting honey). Do whatever you want but it's very important that you have legitimate hobbies and passion (writing vampire fan fiction really does not count sweetie). Hobbies lead to life experiences and you learn a lot more about yourself when you are passionate about things.

Love whomever you want
It does not matter if he is black or white or brown or anything else in between. It does not matter that he does not know the lyrics to all your favourite songs. It does not matter if he thinks books are a waste of his time. It does not matter if he thinks fart jokes are funny. If he loves you, makes you happy and he cares for you, that's all that matters. And oh, if you decide that you like girls instead of boys, that alright too. Come to me. We'll talk about it. You don't ever have to hide who you are to me. Love is love and you can't choose who you love and I will never stand in your way.

P.S I will not support any man who thinks books are a waste of his time. Sorry honey but you are not marrying him.