Friday, June 26, 2009


It was quite shocking to hear that Michael Jackson is no more... and he passed away just like that. All too suddenly.  And too early.

Like many others, I have grown up on his music and danced to many of his tunes. And although I never imitated his moonwalk, I so loved watching him do it. What an exceptionally talented musician and performer!  A 'super star' in all ways! 

Few years ago when he was accused of being a child abuser, I could not believe it. Only because he himself came across as such a child and a shy one too. It was more disheartening to hear about it as he was someone who I really liked and respected. I guess it was never easy to come out of a childhood he actually never had, be such a wonderful musician and great entertainer, change his looks and bear all the criticism and glare that came with the spotlight. I always feel that someone who can give so much joy and happiness to people through something so beautiful as music, cannot be a bad person at all. Maybe misguided yes, but not bad. 

As I read somewhere,"Michael lived his life in the spotlight and spotlights provide selective lllumination. They also create a lot of shadow, in which much can hide. "  And hide he did. As much as he could. And as far as he could go. 

And gone he is now forever. In to his own Neverland, finally, never to grow up. Hopefully he is happy and at peace now, wherever he may be.

His songs touched all our lives and his mysterious life captured all our imaginations. In death too, he cast a mystery, probably fuelling more angst and rumour than he did when he was alive. The legendendary MJ is no more... but the legend of MJ will always live. For legend he is and will long remain so.

RIP, Michael Jackson. God bless. You'll be missed by us all who love music.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

This one is for you Zhya!

For the past 3 months I have been sitting down to pen my thoughts on the overwhelming feeling that Zhya's name brings. And I just have not been able to. There's so much going on in my head and heart that I am unable to fathom it all, to say the least. Somewhere I am also trying not to believe in reason and reality.

And today, when I saw Z's mom on Facebook(FB), I got very emotional. I have never met her till date, but I did see her (for the first time) during Zhya's funeral and of course never had the guts to go meet her, anyway drowned as I was, in my own tears. And normally, I don't just connect to a friend's parent on FB (or any social networking site) unless I know that person really well, and here the connection was a good friend but still it was different. It's a sad irony that I have come to know Z's mom because of his passing away.

Z was one of the few people on my regular close friends mailing list. And so now, when I write and send the mails, I have to literally make a conscious effort to delete his name from the list. And once in a while when his name pops up in some stuff that I am searching in my email account, maybe discussed during our chats or the to and fro mails... I actually pause and go numb. Of course I cannot and will not ever delete his name from my contacts list!

And on FB/Orkut/ Linkedin or whatever groups we were on, when I see his smiling face come on the friends' box or the contacts list, I actually smile and plan to write or message him, and then realise he's not going to be reading it. But I still write on his FB wall once in a while, when it gets unbearable. And just a line saying that he was thought of... as he always is.

If it's so hard for me, I cannot imagine what it must be for closest friends and especially his family... every thing around must be reminding them of him. And if I am feeling it, they are more than ever living it.

And what is surprising, maybe to many others too, is that we were never really close in college. We were classmates, friendly enough- you could not but help being friends with him, he was such a nice guy.- but we belonged to different 'groups'. It was after college, when we both began our individual professions, me as a writer and he as a budding architect, was when we really got to know each other better. Later on, I even wrote about his first architecture building he had designed in Mumbai... and I was very proud and happy for him then.

He went to Harvard (too) for his further studies and then on, we were regularly in touch for a long time. In between he went underground and no one knew where he was or what he was doing, save a few... and surprisingly again, I happened to be one of those few he still was in touch and his college friends who were so close to him then were now asking me his whereabouts. Of course, Z was always like a burning light, and hard to keep down for long... and when he did resurface it was to a much better life in all ways.

But one that lasted for a very short while only.

Zhya Jacobs, brilliant architect, helpful colleague, intellectual advisor, great communicator and writer, warm,sweet and funny friend and a wonderful, sensitive human being passed away on Nov 11, 2008... It's been 3 months since and he's being missed- a lot...or perhaps not really so much if you still can believe he's around somewhere, looking at you. I do.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire... an overload?

I am thrilled that A.R Rahman and Resul won their respective Oscars!!! I am really proud of them... because AR is what he is, and both being Indians.

But it ends for me there... You see, when I saw Slumdog Millionaire (SM from now on), I had liked it- it's a typical 'Bollywood-style' movie. But at no point did I think it such a great movie that it could win the Oscars! And I also think that AR has made some other great numbers that qualify better than 'Jai ho!'

I had read the book Q&A by Vikas Swarup, when it was just released. And I thoroughly enjoyed it as a good pastime read... and although the movie has been scripted from the same, the title and the modifications done to the story completely change the movie into something else.

I watched the entire Oscar presentation, and when I saw clips of the other movies, I suddenly was not sure if SM even came close to their category. Or even close to some of our own.

The past few days and months, I've been reading and noticing mixed responses about this movie. A lot of them went to see SM because 'everybody' was raving about it... and so have liked it too. Many hated it for the same reason. Very few were clear about their perspective about this movie. I've been seeing messages about SM, with a lot of Indians saying things like, 'what is so jai ho about it or anything else?' and 'its to keep answering here that "no no, Mumbai is not all like that"... and so many others saying 'god, this is not the way it is actually'.

In fact, I was part of a jury panel recently with eminent people from all over the country part of it. And during the course of the day, the topic invariably went to SM. And there were some interesting personal viewpoints these people offered. Almost everybody 'knew' that the movie will win the Oscars. And 'because they (the people at Oscars) need to promote India now'. One of the viewpoints was, 'Because of recession, the US market is down and of course has hit Hollywood. So they are targetting the next big industry, which is Bollywood and so are promoting everything Indian. Look what happened during the time the fashion industry was facing the crunch, they made Aishwarya and Sushmita Ms.World and Ms.Universe in that one year... unheard of earlier.'

One of the other viewpoints was, 'If this was just projected as a rags-to-riches story, it would have been ok, but making it the story of what goes on in India, is not completely true.' One other was, 'If this movie was made by an Indian, would it have made it to the Oscars?'. Hmmm... food for thought and I tend to agree with these points of view.

I have come to a general thought that no matter what, the people at Oscars would have a definite reason for this movie to win, and what really matters is that our people won. But having said that...

I'm only unnerved with the kind of response the foreigners are giving. Tom Cruise said , "I know of Indian cinema and different stars there. I do see some of their films and they must be very proud of Slumdog Millionaire also. It is fantastic.... I can't wait to go to India." This view sort of gives a picture of what meaning India has suddenly taken for the West.

I got a message from a foreign friend from UK, saying 'I just saw Slumdog Millionaire... it was awesome........... I so want to come to India!' And I would love for her to come here, but then again I asked myself, what is it that she really wants to see? Dharavi? The rural India in the metro India? The bustling train stations? The Underworld of Mumbai city? Would she really be interested in seeing India for itself or for what she has imagined through the movie?

I happened to hear a new term, 'slum tourism'.... Is this what will be the eventuality?

I see a lot of travel shows on TV- on Nat Geo, Travel & Living and Discovery. There's this one particular show called the Amazing Race, where the participants go treasure hunting in different countries. And I am always excited when they come to India. But the reactions these guys have is not good at all. Most of them find India 'dirty, poor, yeucky, uncultured...etc' And because this show does not edit comments or statements made, one can clearly hear the sound of disdain from these people. Many think it's ok to make fun of people here. And even if they represent a very small fraction of people, they do represent a common mass in their countries.

Which takes me back to the question- what is that the foreigners are seeing in SM and they want to come to India, which they have not seen in any of our Hindi movies earlier?

And this is something I happened to read today... a comment on the post from

Sambit Prem 02.03.09 | 1:35 AM ET
Scenes of poverty and squalour may appear romantic to Westerners and to our snooty elite but for us ordinary Indians they are nothing new. They are an everyday reality. However, one wonders what sort of mind can find such images aesthetically pleasing. Party-hopping socialites (for example, Shobhaa De after all her bombast of “enough is enough” after the Mumbai attack, went and watched a pirated copy!) who are distanced from such reality may find this film an “eye-opener” but for us it IS poverty-porn. It IS slum-tourism. The music/soundtrack and the technical quality of the film is excellent; but, overall, “Slumdog Millionaire” is unrealistic & overrated because:

1) The director seems to RELISH showing violence. Some of it (like the police-torture) is quite needless. And why was the boy arrested in the first place? On what charge? Was it realistic?

2) How can a boy growing up in slums speak such accented English? Even if one assumes that the language he actually uses to communicate with the game-show host and the police officer is Hindi (granting the director the creative license to use a language better suited for international audiences), there are 2 instances where it is stretched too far: (a) when the boy becomes a ‘guide’ for foreign tourists at the Taj Mahal & (b) when he becomes a substitute-operator at the call-centre.

3) When the boy uses his ‘lifeline’ during the game-show, his friend discovers that she has forgotten her mobile and has to run back for it. This is plain Bollywood masala! Did the director HAVE to make it so melodramatic?

4) How did the boy know who invented the revolver just by watching his brother use it?
How does his friend know about Benjamin Franklin (something which many Americans themselves don’t know!)?

5) “Darshan Do Ghanshyam” is NOT written by Surdas. It is written by Gopal Singh Nepali for the movie Narsi Bhagat (1957). This song is also credited as traditional and originally written by 15th century poet Narsi Mehta, whose life that film is based on.

6) After winning the game-show, the boy sits on the railway platform and nobody recognizes him! Considering the popularity of the show, is that realistic?

7) Two glaring omissions: To get invited to the show one has to answer several GK questions over phone or Internet. Even after making it to the show, a contestant can reach the hot-seat only after qualifying through “fastest finger first”. All this is conveniently forgotten in the film.

8) And of course the greatest flaw in the storyline: programmes like ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ and ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’ are NOT telecast live. As a result the entire structure of the film becomes unrealistic. For a film that boasts of being realistic such a flaw cannot be overlooked.

The Academy will lose its credibility if this film gets the Best Picture or Best Director awards.
And also read this,
Subrat 02.25.09 | 4:56 AM ET

I totally agree with Sambit Prem. I am sure he is a person with good taste in movies. Those were the points where I did not agree with the director. I find Dev Patel (the lead actor) totally expressionless while delivering the dialogues. Why the police will interrogate a person who wins some prize money? Did the people in the game show written an FIR? If not who did?

A R Rahman is very talented. There is no doubt in that but, the song Jai ho is not very much original. What I mean to say by that is anybody can guess it’s a Rahman song after listening to it because Rahman had given this type of music before. His music was much better in Rang de Basanti which went to the Oscars but did not even get nominated. That movie is 1000 times better than Slumdog.

I now think all these award functions are a mere marketing gimmick. Hollywood seeing a great opportunity in Indian film Industry right now, so all this is happening. Though this film is a British Movie but lot of people who were associated was Indians. So I think it was just used as a ground to lay the foundation of Hollywood in India. I don’t have any problem in that also as I just want good cinemas to be made. It’s the same as the marketing strategy by Body Shop who continuously choose Indian beauties as Miss World or Miss Universe to create a good Market in India.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sometimes I pause…
As the world whirs around me
like a dust storm.
I gather my thoughts and my feelings
and hold them close to me
lest they be pulled in
by the swirling forms.
And only when I am sure we are one,
I step out.
With a protective blanket
of dreams
around me,
Sewed to my body and soul
so that I am never alone.

(c) D.Athale
19th February 2009

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Rah Rah B.H.O!!!

Like many others for sure, I was glued to my television set till the wee hours of the morning! Change has finally arrived, and how! What a day in the history of the USA as well as the world- Barack Hussain Obama becomes USA' s 44th President and the first black to have ever been. The swelling crowd of people were testimony to the popularity, and more importantly the need for this man to lead the nation.

The enthusiasm was fabulous- I've never seen Americans so happy! All I could see were happy faces of so many different colours. And Obama proved that America is truly a big democratic and free country, where a middle-class black man can dream of becoming the President and goes on to be one.

When he gave his speech, he didn't really give great statements, but what he spoke held the promise of a grand and honest future. And as of now, this is really what his countrymen needed to hear. His voice carried the conviction of his heart and it was felt by each and everyone. I'm sure the Americans were, after a long time, confident in their ability to choose well, as they were in his ability to deliver. It was almost like the stale dusty air that had covered the country was being cleared and a whiff of freshness had started to flow back in... good triumphing over evil, light over darkness... one could almost imagine rainbows as the sun shone brightly over a country that has been so steeped with communalism, hatred, rife and economic meltdown.As Obama and his wife Michelle walked down Pennsylvania Avenue route taking them to the White House, there was a genuine respect and love that was felt in the air between them and the citizens who had been standing for that one glimpse since 4am!
This is truly a great time for all Americans right now. And the enthusiasm is infectious!

ps: They've got such neat Obama merchandise, me wants too!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Don't mess with our national anthem, please!

For some reason, I've been finding myself visiting many movie theatres the past few Mumbai and Pune. 
"What do we do now?... Ok, lets watch a movie!" has been the general idea amongst friends and family. And luckily most theatres have been showing trailers once again...and I so love watching trailers! Better than all those ads and what nots...

The other thing I like during the movies is standing up and singing the National Anthem as the familiar tune encompasses the entire theatre.

Some time back, I went to watch 'Rab ne bana di jodi' in a Pune theatre. And something I remember best (apart from the not- so- bad movie) was that whilst the National Anthem was being played, each and every person in that hall was singing it out loud! And quite frankly, I've never heard the entire public in a theatre ever sing the National Anthem and that too loud as ever... most people just stand up, or some sing in their minds; many mumble or whisper. This was simply awesome! Go Pune, go!

Of course, I've not heard it again...but people still are heard singing softly... at least in Pune. And surprisingly, in Mumbai, it's not like that at all. And I realised that its not that Mumbaikars are less patriotic in any way... its just that they cannot sing the National Anthem as the tune is so different. And each theatre has a different version.Given the various versions of the country's song, it's no wonder many people choose to just keep mum, and let the music play as is. I mean, if one was to go by the standard tune, one has already finished singing the anthem, while the one going on in the movie theatre is still going 'jaaaaaaaaaayaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa heeeeeeeeeeeyyyyyyy'. And with so much of 'soul-infused creativity' in that song, one does not feel any patriotism...I just wanted 'that song' to end- the slow motion singers were getting on my nerves!

I'm all for creative freedom, but some things are sacred and should not be tampered with. The National Anthem is one such. Also given the fact that many Indians do not remember the words of 'the Anthem at all, lets not confuse them with a plethora of tunes.

The tune of the 'Jana Gana Mana' should be standardised so that at any given point, wherever one is, one knows what that tune is and stands for. So please, spare this country its Anthem.

Monday, January 05, 2009


It's funny how a quiet sunday can make you more retro as well as introspective. Looking back is something I often do, it's an incurable habit. I think, dwell upon, think some more, reflect, wonder and try to understand... more often than not, understanding does not come easily...yet, I ponder...

This last year has been in extremes. Very high points which actually got more than minimalised by the lows. Of the good side, my brother's wedding was the highlight. It felt good having a new member in the family.

The downside though saw too many different dark facets of life. The recession and lack of work to begin with, then the horrifying terror attacks on my city Mumbai were some that affected us all. What touched me more was the passing away of two people I cared for a lot. One a very good friend and classmate through architecture college... a fabulous human being called Zhya Jacobs. Even after seeing him in his coffin, I am unable to believe that he's no more... it's as if any minute now his mail will come in my inbox and he'll tell me that he's coming to India (he was to for Christmas) we should meet as was decided.

The second person who I lost was the dad of my best friend. He was suffering from cancer, and having lost my own dad in the hands of the same disease, I felt as if I was reliving the anguish, pain, hope, wait, guilt and acceptance once more... And because my dad had gone, I used to always look up to uncle as that respected father figure... I doubt I have prayed for someone as much as I did for Uncle (except for dad), and when he passed away, I felt my prayers had fallen short or somewhere I didn't do enough...

Cancer has become a disease that we all need to watch out for even more. It's strange when I see my closest two friends- both of whom have lost a parent due to cancer, as I have. And there are so many others I have known who have lost their battle against it... I also know of other known friends and people who are also now suffering the same... young and old... and it's not easy for anyone- never has been.

For all of us who lost out on people and other things this year, for all of those who suffered, for this year that didn't go well for many, and for those gone forever... Rest In Peace.