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Branding is a term which originates in the realm of marketing management but is generally applicable to any product, service, entity or person which stands out amongst the crowd and calls out for any Unique Selling Proposition of its. It could be applied to countries, movie directors and even to some fictional characters from literature!

Here are some examples which demonstrate this point better.

Countries

 

 

After the Trump era (2016-20), studies have popped up claiming that the USA has slid down significantly on its soft power in the world. Same is said to be the case with many other countries where brutal suppression of dissent has become a way of life and where human rights have been trampled upon.

China keeps expanding its soft power by promoting movies out of Hollywood exposing the world to its culture. India offers spirituality and its own culture to the world.

The movie Eat, Pray, Love (2010) illustrates the point rather well. A heart-broken heroine travels through different countries. She discovers the true pleasures of the table in Italy, the soothing power of payer in India and the inner peace and balance of love in Indonesia!

Movie Directors 

Apart from other celebrities, those who wield the megaphone in the movie industry often exude soft power.

I confess I am a movie buff. Quite early in life, I discovered that a movie should be selected for viewing not based on its cast but based on its director. Each director has a distinctive perspective on life, and the manner in which he/she presents a theme is as unique as, say, one´s finger prints. Admittedly, the core brilliance of a movie is determined by the producer-director duo. But the unmistakable stamp on the narrative is that of the director. The script, the screenplay, the music, the camera work, the background score, the sets, the costumes, the editing, all these transport us to a different realm for a limited time.

To put it simply, if you sit down to watch a movie by either Steven Spielberg or Gulzar saheb, you know what to expect. Seeing a movie which is directed by, say, David Lean, is as much enriching an experience as seeing one directed by either Hrishikesh Mukherji or Basu Chatterji.

Over a period of time, a movie director builds up a brand equity for himself. It comes from the uniqueness of his style, the choice of his scripts, consistency in quality of his directorial ventures and sheer attention to detail in all the departments of movie making. This earns a well-deserved respect from the discerning viewers, crowned by some degree of commercial success.

The CEO of a Dream Merchandise Factory

A director’s role in shaping a movie would perhaps be comparable to that of either the CEO of a company or the conductor of an orchestra. A CEO’s mindset determines the business strategy of a company. His style of functioning and his value system permeates across all levels of the company. Likewise, the conductor of an orchestra blends the notes of stringed, percussion and other instruments, creating a symphony which is unique. Like a CEO guiding a company or a conductor presenting a symphony, the director also balances the strengths and weaknesses of his team members and comes up with a movie which is entertaining – and possibly educative – in the social context.

A director surely knows how to touch our heart-strings in a meaningful way. In the process, he delivers deep messages, whether social, political, economical or the spiritual kind.

Some Literary Brands

Those of us who have admired the exploits of Sherlock Holmes and Reginald Jeeves are occasionally overawed by the kind of popularity these literary figures enjoy. Both may be fictional, but the influence they exert on our consciousness is exemplary. One would not be wrong in perceiving both of them to be brands in their own right.

Sherlock Holmes: An Honorary Citizen of Meiringen

Ever heard of the charming Alpine town of Meiringen in Switzerland? It is a municipality in the Interlaken-Oberhasli administrative district in the canton of Bern in Switzerland. Ringed in by snow-covered peaks, it is located on one of the most important trade routes through the Alps for centuries.

One of Meiringen’s attractions is the Sherlock Holmes Museum which recreates the detective’s abode at 221A, Baker Street in London, besides Victorian era memorabilia. The nearby Reichenbach Falls are where, in The Final Problem, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle made his hero suffer a premature death at the hands of his adversary Dr Moriarty, only to resurrect him later in The Adventure of the Empty House on persistent demands from the detective’s fans. Well, quite some time back, it had granted an honorary citizenship to Sherlock Holmes.

It stands to reason that the town had granted an honorary citizenship to Sherlock Holmes. A certificate to this effect is displayed in the museum. Also, at the base of the falls, there is a rock inscription to this effect!

When one picks up a Sherlock Holmes story, one is assured of good value for one`s time and effort. Backed by hard-nosed judgment, insightful observations and above-par analytical skills, he delivers. Go to him with a mystery and he demystifies it. His methods and skills have provided clues to investigators in many countries. He is utterly reliable. He delivers. These are the very attributes which go on to build up a brand.

Gentlemen’s Personal Gentleman

Likewise, Jeeves, created by P G Wodehouse, stands for impeccable service and a capacity to deliver results beyond the expectations of the bosses. The manner in which he helps his boss Bertie Wooster retain his bachelor status is a sterling example of his feudal spirit as also an inner cunning. His methods are often rough, but there is no doubt as to his capacity to deliver satisfactory results. He believes that bosses are like wild horses; they need to be managed with tact and resource.

In the United Kingdom, one is apt to run into laundry and other services which bear his brand name.

Many examples can be quoted from literature, fine arts and other creative fields of human endeavour.

In an earlier post, we had considered the perks of building and sustaining a shimmering brand in the market place. The focus there was on companies and individuals. Examples cited above go on to reveal to us the kind of hard work, consistency of effort and persistence which enable a softer brand to emerge. The essential principles underlying the creation and sustenance of a brand remain the same.

 

 

(Related Posts: 

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2021/03/15/the-perks-of-a-shimmering-brand-equity

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/12/13/a-brand-called-jeeves

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/sherlock-holmes-the-honorary-citizen-of-meiringen-switzerland

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/hats-off-to-these-movie-directors)

 

 

 

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People who go away to the Brighter Worlds beyond often leave rich legacies behind. Ms Ira who was the creative person behind this unique blog site is no more with us. But her scintillating work remains. She continues to live amongst the hearts of Bollywood fans through her work. Savour this piece as a humble tribute to her genius.

Do please also pass by her earlier site too, http://bollyviewer-oldisgold.blogspot.com. You are bound to find many of her brilliant posts there as well.

Thanks are due to Madhulika Liddle, yet another Bollywood buff and an author to boot (https://madhulikaliddle.com), who recently brought this blog site to my attention.

Masala Punch

It is re-union time again! In masala-land, a re-union does not need a reason, but a rhyme (and music) is always welcome. When Madhu posted her Aankhen songs list, Anu also wanted to post about filmi eyes and I am always happy to join a song-n-dance party. So we planned our re-union party, with songs about eyes – Anu decided to bring Nigaahein songs to the party, Madhu opted for Nazar, and I settled on Naina songs.

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Background

In this series, we have tried to look at some movies through the spiritual lens of 12 personality traits mentioned by The Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram at Pondicherry in India.

Part 1 had covered the traits of Sincerity and Humility. Part 2 had looked at movies which touch upon such traits as Gratitude, Perseverance, Aspiration and Receptivity. In Part 3, we had checked out some movies which could be held to be representing the following personality traits: Progress, Courage, Goodness and Generosity.

Here is the concluding part, which covers the remaining two traits, namely Equality and Peace.

Thank you for joining me in this exploratory journey!

 

Equality

Here is a rare virtue, seldom practiced, whether at an individual level or in a society. Walls of race, caste, colour, creed, gender and financial well-being keep going up. The notion of ‘I’ takes precedence over that of ‘We’. Deriding ‘the other’ often satisfies our ego more readily. In many parts of the world, even some professions get looked down upon.

 

Boot Polish (1954) brought home the point that one’s self-respect is paramount, that polishing shoes is better than begging and also that work of any kind is dignified.

 

Shree 420 (1955) showed us how Ponzi schemes trick ordinary people into parting with their hard earned money. The stark contrast between the haves and the have-nots of the society formed the backdrop of the movie.

 

 

Meri Surat Teri Ankhen (1963) and Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978) both highlighted the need for giving more importance to inner beauty rather than the external appearance of a person.

 

Rudaali (1993) touched upon the plight of social discrimination, based as it was on the tribe of women of a lower caste who are invited as professional mourners when a person from higher caste passes away.

 

Philadelphia (1993) covered the trials and tribulations of someone who suffers from AIDS and is a homosexual. He is sacked by the legal firm he works for on made-up work-related grounds but fights for his dignity and his rights.

 

Article 15 (2019) is a telling commentary on the perils of the caste system prevalent in the Indian society.

 

Several movies have touched upon the issue of racial prejudices. Schindler’s List (1993) and Munich (2005) are some examples.

When it comes to gender equality, our dream merchants appear to have kept the issue under focus for a long time, much before the #MeToo campaign gained popularity.

In Aandhi (1975), we meet a couple who get reunited after a long time, but decide to keep pursuing their different career paths

 

Arth (1982) and Luck By Chance (2009) had the heroines walking off from a relationship.

 

If Abhimaan (1973) touched upon the balance of power between a couple, Ki and Ka (2016) showcased a role reversal between the husband and the wife.

 

 

Parched (2015) narrated the story of four women breaking through the shackles of rigid practices of patriarchy. Thappad (2020) highlighted the issue of patriarchal attitudes and the lack of gender equality within the ambit of marriage.

 

Peace

Many movies depict the gory details of a war to highlight its futility. Here is but a random sample of the ones which drive home the importance of peace in our lives.

 

Life Is Beautiful (1997) made us feel not only the pangs of separation of a couple but also the blossoming of a special bond between a father and his son when they are held in confinement in a concentration camp. When the war gets over, the son, unaware that his father has met his death, excitedly tells his mother about how he had ‘won’ a tank, just as his father had promised if he played the game between them right.

 

Mr. and Mrs. Iyer (2002) was a poignant tale of the kind of affection which develops between two strangers in the midst of chaos and uncertainty caused by communal riots.

 

Veer Zara (2004) narrated the travails of star-crossed lovers. The Indian Air Force officer Veer (Shah Rukh Khan) sacrifices his freedom to protect the honour of the Pakistani heroine’s family. The latter, Zara (Priety Zinta), after a failed marriage, decides to support his elderly parents in India. Both get reunited, thanks to the efforts of a lawyer (Rani Mukherji). Not a single bullet gets fired. Nowhere does a prisoner get tortured. Yet, the message of peace between two warring nations gets delivered.

 

Life Is A Miracle (2004) had the backdrop of the Bosnia-Serbia conflict. When the hostilities break out, Luka’s wife goes away and love blossoms between him and Sabaha. His son is conscripted in the army and is then taken a prisoner of war. The dilemma faced by Luka is that of an exchange between Sabaha and his son Milos. Family gets reunited in the end.

 

From Heartless to Heartful

The movies mentioned here were not necessarily made for any spiritual purposes. These appear here simply because a part of theirs touches upon the 12 personality traits under discussion. In fact, some of these – like Saving Private Ryan and Lakshmi – have graphic violence which often creates revulsion and intellectual indigestion. Perhaps these are designed to hasten our progress from practicing heartlessness to heartfulness!

 

Almost all of these have an underlying streak of spirituality. These affirm the positivity of life, hold human beings as sacred rather than expendable, depict the practice (or otherwise) of human values and encourage the audience to ponder over their existence more deeply than they would in the course of their day-to-day routines.

Another common trait of these movies is that these do not promote a sectarian or religious worldview. Rather, the focus is on highlighting what, in essence, our scriptures and spiritual masters tell us.

Movies with a streak of spirituality stand in sharp contrast to the kind of inane ones which win popular appeal by using item songs, soft porn, obscenity, graphic violence, sadism and torture for sport. This virus, to be dreaded more than the current pandemic, has already spread into video games, kids’ cartoons and gaming applications, polluting the minds of the coming generations and promoting a shoot-first-think-later culture.

We also get hooked by the car chase/big explosion flicks like Fast & the Furious series; high-tech gadget movies like the Mission Impossible franchise; nationalistic movies like Independence Day; heist-based movies and web-series like Ocean’s 11 etc, Money Heist and Jamtaara which do not feel shy of using cuss words; and high school sex-obsessed, gross-out films like the American Pie franchise. Thrillers like Sholay, Khaki, Kahaani and Mom also keep us glued to our seats. But so do such movies with socially relevant themes as Gulaab Gang, Padman and Toilet – Ek Prem Katha.

Perhaps there is an emotional disconnect between Mother Earth and its denizens. Perhaps we are bringing up a bunch of bleary eyed kids glued to their screens – oblivious of the joys of human interface; in the process, dehumanizing them.

Rays of Hope

But we can find some solace in the fact that movies with a dash of spirituality do keep turning up. These keep illuminating the world outside and within us, restoring our faith in the basic goodness of Homo sapiens. Even though these may be few and far between, our producers, directors and script writers have a sharp eye for public tastes. The fact that these are getting made is a positive sign in the first place. There is hope.

Moreover, there must be several others which do not boast of popular stars. We would have never heard of the same. All these, in regional and other languages, must be out there, waiting to be discovered by a receptive audience.

Different approaches to spirituality could lead us to yet another set of movies. But the challenge of choosing the right movies on one of the media platforms we subscribe to would always remain. More so in times which are highly uncertain and when the fear of contracting a disease keeps nagging us from within.

To change and enrich our taste of movies – from heartless to heartful, from mindless to mindful, from hopeless to hopeful, from gory to glory and from demonic to angelic – may not be that easy, unless our own mindset changes. When that happens, our craving for a deeper meaning in our movies would get a leg up. Producers and directors would then offer juicier flicks. Once a ‘critical mass’ is achieved, our collective consciousness shall start changing its contours.

This could be our own humble contribution to some desirable changes in the society at large.

(This series of posts is dedicated to Ms Usha Bhatia, my late wife. Inputs from Mr Sanjay Mohan and Ms Gargi Banerjee are gratefully acknowledged)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/08/13/some-movies-with-a-dash-of-spirituality-part-1-of-4

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/08/16/some-movies-with-a-dash-of-spirituality-part-2-of-4

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/08/20/some-movies-with-a-dash-of-spirituality-part-3-of-4)

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Background

In this series, we consider some more movies through the spiritual lens of 12 personality traits mentioned by The Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram at Pondicherry in India.

Part 1 had covered the traits of Sincerity and Humility. Part 2 had looked at movies which touch upon such traits as Gratitude, Perseverance, Aspiration and Receptivity.

In Part 3, we cover the following personality traits: Progress, Courage, Goodness and Generosity.

Progress

This could be of several kinds – material, spiritual and social. Most of us keep chasing materialistic goals in our lives. Some who feel a nagging emptiness within despite outstanding success on the material plane get awakened to the possibility of a spiritual growth. Few others try and work on such social ills as corruption and hygiene.

Guide (1965) showed us the transformation of an ambitious Raju (Dev Anand) from being an ordinary tourist guide to a successful businessman, thanks to a talented dancer Rosie (Waheeda Rehman). What followed was a web of commerce and misuse of funds, leading to a jail term for Raju. Eventually, upon nearing death, he experiences an awakening of the soul.

 

Invictus (2009) captures the manner in which Nelson Mandela endeavours to overcome racial prejudices not only in his team of personal assistants but also in his country, using the unlikely sport of rugby to make progress. The movie sets an inspiring example of achieving social harmony by dismantling apartheid through a spot of out-of-box thinking.

When it comes to progress on the social front, several movies have touched upon the issues of corruption, regressive attitudes and sexual exploitation.

 

Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron (1983) and Well Done Abba (2009) addressed the issue of corruption with dollops of humour.

 

 

Toilet – Ek Prem Katha (2017) and Padman (2018) championed the cause of hygiene.

 

 

Gulaab Gang (2014) spoke of various ills plaguing the Indian society.

 

 

Mardaani (2014) and Lakshmi (2014) were both hard-hitting but highlighted the challenges one faces while battling human trafficking and child prostitution.

Movies which focus on social attitudes are often preachy and negative. But these serve a useful purpose by telling us where we are going wrong, thereby hampering our own progress.

Courage

The hero who shows courage by bashing up a bunch of goons to save the honour of his beloved on the silver screen gets lauded enthusiastically by a cheering audience. But here we shall touch upon the courage which manifests in many other ways, mostly utilized to achieve a higher goal in life.

Pyaasa (1957) depicted the courage of a poet Vijay (Guru Dutt) to denounce a corrupt and materialistic world. Unable to tolerate the hypocrisy in the society, he decides to start a new life with Gulabo (Waheeda Rehman), the woman in his life.

 

Lakshya (2004) takes us on an inner journey of a happy go lucky but aimless Karan Shergill (Hrithik Roshan) who joins the army during the Kargil conflict between India and Pakistan. Death of a close friend leads him to discover his aim – that of capturing Point 5179, a strategic mountain peak on the border by ascending a 1000 feet high rocky vertical cliff.

 

A Wednesday (2008) shows the extent to which a common man (Naseeruddin Shah) can go to meticulously avenge all the terrorist attacks some people had helped carry out in Mumbai and other major cities of India, specifically the 2006 Mumbai train bombings.

 

Life of Pi (2012) shows the kind of courage it takes to survive and do well in life. The search for an identity becomes a voyage extraordinaire. The movie has a touch of sentimental spirituality.  Pi survives his great adventure of crossing an ocean in the company of an adult Bengal tiger!

 

Neerja (2016) is a tribute to Neerja Bhanot (played by Sonam Kapoor) who laid down her life while protecting passengers on a hijacked Pan Am flight 73. The film ends with a tribute to Neerja, who was eventually honoured posthumously with the Ashoka Chakra, India’s highest military decoration awarded for peacetime valor, courageous action or self-sacrifice.

Goodness

When we overcome our greed and our prejudices, and when we learn to radiate love and display concern and empathy, we practice goodness.

Parakh (1960) was about an award from an anonymous donor of Rupees 5,00,000 to any resident of a particular village who will use it for the benefit of the entire village. Villagers decide to use democratic methods and favour an election where the winner gets the money. Each candidate tries to woo the villagers by being sympathetic and by becoming a cheerful giver to all by offering various sops. Goodness, however superficial, prevails. Eventually, the decision comes from the benefactor who lives in the village in disguise. At a deeper level, the movie highlighted the limitations of the concept of democracy.

 

Satyakam (1969) introduced us to Satyapriya (Dharmendra) who tries to live a truthful, honest and good life. Even in great adversity he doesn’t let go of his ideals. A fatal illness leads to his death and the grandfather (Ashok Kumar) who had sworn him to a path of righteousness realizes that even though he has spent his whole life studying religious scriptures and philosophical books as well as practising many rituals, he still had much to learn about the nature of truth. He overcomes his moral prejudices and vows to take care of his daughter-in-law (Sharmila Tagore) and the grand kid.

 

Raincoat (2004), based on O. Henry’s short story ‘The Gift of the Magi’, brings together two ex-lovers Mannu (Ajay Devgun) and Neeru (Aishwarya Rai). The former is unemployed and has limited means. The latter is now a housewife leading a frugal life. Each boasts to the other about their successful life but realize the hollowness of the other’s claims. Mannu ends up paying Neeru’s overdue rent for many months whereas she slips in two of her gold bangles into the pocket of a raincoat he has borrowed from her.

 

Patch Adams (1998) was all about the importance of laughter, empathy and concern for patients who are often treated in a soulless and mechanical manner in the medical world. The hero’s conviction of his own approach never waivers, except when his companion dies in unfortunate circumstances. But he soon recovers and reverts to his practice of goodness, dedicating his work to her memory.

Generosity

Many of us have occasionally had a helping hand from someone who went out of the way to offer support when it was badly needed. Those who are kind, empathic and compassionate could be said to be of a generous disposition. Somehow, life always gifts them with generous bonuses – whether financial or in terms of a cult status.

 

Schindler’s List (1993) portrayed the efforts of Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist, who saves the lives of more than a thousand Polish-Jewish people from the Holocaust. When World War II is declared to be over, the workers give Schindler a signed statement attesting to his role in saving Jewish lives and present him with a ring engraved with a Talmudic quotation: “Whoever saves one life saves the world entire.” Schindler is touched but also ashamed, as he feels he should have done even more. In a scene which is deeply touching, he breaks down sobbing, and is comforted by the workers.

 

 

Erin Brockovich (2000) was all about a legal clerk motivating a group of sufferers to stand up against a large company and get suitable compensation awarded by a court of law. Her identification with the cause and her perseverance – both are worth emulating. She does not expect any personal benefit in return, though she does get suitably rewarded for her services at the end of the movie.

The generosity showcased in these movies is neither feigned nor artificial. Both are based on actual incidents, restoring our faith in the innate goodness in people.

(This series of posts is dedicated to Ms Usha Bhatia, my late wife. Inputs from Mr Sanjay Mohan and Ms Gargi Banerjee are gratefully acknowledged)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/08/13/some-movies-with-a-dash-of-spirituality-part-1-of-4

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/08/16/some-movies-with-a-dash-of-spirituality-part-2-of-4

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/08/24/some-movies-with-a-dash-of-spirituality-part-4-of-4)

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Background

In this series, we consider some movies through the spiritual lens of 12 personality traits mentioned by The Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram at Pondicherry in India.

Part 1 had covered the traits of Sincerity and Humility.  In this post, we consider movies which touch upon such traits as Gratitude, Perseverance, Aspiration and Receptivity.

 

Gratitude

In the pre-independence era prior to 1947, we had self-sacrificing doctors who rendered their services in alien lands, serving the people affected by war and plague. Old timers may remember Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani (1946), which was based on the true life-story of Dr. Dwarakanath Kotnis who was sent to China during World War II. Dr. Kotnis had helped the people of China during the Japanese invasion. His selfless service makes us remember people like him with profound gratitude. He had married and settled down there itself but had eventually died of plague.

Our hearts get filled with gratitude when we think of either the Corona Warriors or the soldiers who guard our borders.

 

Jaagte Raho (1956) takes us through a night in the life of a poor peasant (Raj Kapoor) who enters a multi-storied building in Mumbai looking for some water to drink. After witnessing the shady deals of the high and mighty of the society, he is shocked but is not able to find water. Eventually, he finds a young lady (Nargis) watering the plants in a temple nearby who helps him to quench his thirst. The look of gratitude on his face says it all.

Saving Private Ryan (1998) is based on the profound sense of gratitude an army feels towards its soldiers and their families. It is set against the backdrop of World War II and the Normandy Invasion. General George Marshall learns that three of the four sons of the Ryan family have got killed in action and that the only remaining son, James Francis Ryan, is with the 101st Airborne Division somewhere in Normandy. Inspired by Abraham Lincoln’s Bixby letter, he orders Ryan to be brought home and to be reunited with his mother.

 

Perseverance

Many of us have a bulldog-like quality in us; of not giving up on the goals that we desire to achieve in our lives. Irrespective of the kind of difficulties we face and the obstacles we come across, we keep working on a particular project till the objective is met. If we have made a sincere promise to someone, we go out of our way to fulfill it.

 

The Shawshank Redemption (1994) is one of the several movies which showcase the indomitable spirit of human beings. A prison life replete with all its obnoxiousness does not dim the flame of hope inside. If a tunnel takes 19 years to build, so be it. Life has to be lived, not thrown away just because odds happen to be stacked against us. A promise made needs to be fulfilled.

 

Almost all the sport-themed movies focus on this quality. Think of Lagan (2001), Iqbal (2005), Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013), Mary Kom (2014), Dangal (2016) and M S Dhoni: The Untold Story (2016).

 

Then there are movies of individual resolve which uplift your spirits by highlighting the kind of travails the characters go through to achieve what they want; Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year (2009), Nil Battey Sannata (2015) and Secret Superstar (2017), to name a few.

Erin Brockovich (2000) is another good example of this personality trait. We shall return to it soon enough.

 

Aspiration

Rolling stones gather no moss, as the wise men say. Life is but another name for the inner motivation we have when we aspire for higher things. The aim could be a basket of materialistic desires or a wide spectrum of spiritual progress. When we aspire for it, perseverance propels us towards our chosen goal.

 

Sujata (1959) was about an untouchable girl (Nutan) brought up by an upper caste couple. It is only when a young man (Sunil Dutt) walks into her life that she awakens to her aspiration to lead a normal life.

 

In Swades (2004) we get to meet Mohan Bhargava (Shah Rukh Khan), a NASA scientist who wants to return to his roots in India, with an aspiration to solve the problems of local villagers using modern technology.

 

Aaja Nachle (2007) had a gutsy US-based choreographer Radha (Madhuri Dixit) desirous of saving Ajanta, an old open air theatre planned to be demolished to make way for a shopping mall in her home town in India. The difficulties faced by her in keeping an old cultural tradition alive in the face of strong forces of so-called modernization formed the crux of the script.

 

Despite outward signs of success, many of us feel lost, confused and searching for what we really want in our lives. Elizabeth Gilbert (Julia Roberts) shows us a way out of this misery in Eat, Pray and Love (2010). She steps out of her comfort zone and embarks on a journey of self-discovery. She cherishes nourishment for the body in Italy and for the soul in India. Finally, and unexpectedly, she finds the inner peace and balance of true love in Indonesia.

 

In Udaan (2010), we meet a 17-year old youngster who wants to be free of the overriding discipline of his father at home. How he overcomes his low self-esteem and picks up the courage to aspire for a life free of humiliation and abuse is the central theme.

 

Hindi Medium (2017) showcases the aspirations of a young couple to ensure that their son willy-nilly gets admitted to a good English medium school. The movie ends on a positive note and captures the potential of refurbished public schools which could give a healthy competition to so called elite schools. It was based on a successful experiment conducted by the Delhi government in its public schools a few years back.

 

Sui Dhaaga (2018) introduces us to Mauji (Varun Dhawan) and his wife Mamta (Anushka Sharma) who, when humiliated and cheated by the company where they work as tailors, become entrepreneurs and make their venture a success despite severe odds.

In all these cases, the settings and the aspirations are quite different. But the central message is clear – that we need to work hard to realize our dreams.

 

Receptivity

This is a unique quality of those with an open mind, capable of receiving and taking in knowledge and new ideas and then acting upon the same, if necessary and prudent.

 

Take the character of Uma (Sharmila Tagore) in Anupama (1966). She is extremely shy, diffident and introverted. She has been brought up by a father who blames her for the death of his wife during childbirth. She falls in love with Ashok (Dharmendra) who is disliked by her father. A close friend of hers gives her a dressing down and awakens her to the possibility of a happier life in Ashok’s company. She picks up the courage to stand up to her father, obtains his hesitant consent and joins her beloved.

 

Taare Zameen Par (2007), based on the challenges faced by a young boy suffering from dyslexia, brings in the character of Ram Shankar Nikumbh (Amir Khan), a cheerful and optimistic art instructor. After meeting the boy’s parents, the perceptive teacher is able to diagnose the illness from which Ishaan (Darsheel Safary) suffers. He also finds the boy’s hidden talent for art and takes him under his wings, enabling him to start living a near-normal life.

 

Avatar (2009) happens to be a movie which pitches for sustainability and care for environment. Set in 2154 AD, it calls upon all of us to be receptive to the fragility of nature and limited resources of our planet. One of the unique concepts brought up by the script is that of the sacred Tree of Souls.

In a way, such movies exhort us to be receptive to changes happening all around us and revising our basic priorities in life. Perhaps the Covid virus is also nudging all of us in the same direction.

 

(This series of posts is dedicated to Ms Usha Bhatia, my late wife. Inputs from Mr Sanjay Mohan and Ms Gargi Banerjee are gratefully acknowledged)

 

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/08/13/some-movies-with-a-dash-of-spirituality-part-1-of-4

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/08/20/some-movies-with-a-dash-of-spirituality-part-3-of-4

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/08/24/some-movies-with-a-dash-of-spirituality-part-4-of-4)

 

 

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Summary

These days, as a pandemic stalks us, people are hooked to movies of all kinds, even while supposedly working from home. The cumulative effect of using high-definition gadgets, lockdown ennui, death tolls and binge-watching movies is that of a higher level of stress. The lack of freedom to venture out on long drives further compounds the problem. 

To avoid landing up in a loony bin, we could cut off our daily diet of depressing news. We could ensure interacting only with those who radiate positive vibes. We could also think of consciously changing our movie-watching palette so as to start appreciating flicks which have a deeper layer in their themes.

In this series, we consider some movies through the spiritual lens of 12 personality traits mentioned by The Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram at Pondicherry in India.

Introduction

When the upright good guy defeats the morally deficient bad guy, we cheer. Think of the James Bond franchise, courtesy Hollywood.

When a movie ends on a positive note, we applaud. Imagine any movie from Bollywood where the hero and the heroine finally walk into the sunset on a sandy beach, with a romantic song playing in the background. The unstated assumption is that the couple lived happily ever after.

When the outcome is negative but the movie is well crafted, we may sulk but still carry a favourable impression of it. Go back to either Titanic or Mughal-e-Azam. Both were tragedies but mounted lavishly, with excellence in almost all the departments of film making.

But once in a while comes along a movie which touches us somewhere deep inside. The script may carry a key message. Or, it may showcase certain values which we cherish ourselves, thereby creating a deep resonance within. We experience love. We feel hopeful and uplifted in a somewhat deeper manner. The soul gets awakened.

If we were to muse upon the theme much afterwards, we could say that such movies had been conceptualized with a dash of spirituality. These are movies which inspire us to live through and face difficult situations in our lives. We could think of classifying these in the genre of what we could refer to as Conscious (or Soulful) Entertainment.

Of a Spiritual Streak

Think of such movies as Shawshank Redemption, Avatar, Contact, Gladiator, Schindler’s List, The Sound of Music, Lagaan, Jagte Raho, Swades, Guide, Abhimaan, Mr. and Mrs. Iyer, Veer Zara and many others of a similar ilk. What do all these have in common? Yes, most of these are big hits. Yes, they have A category stars. Yes, all are well made. But these are not their most important features.

When we go back to the first time we watched one of these, most of us would recall having felt uplifted and hopeful. We would have felt compassion and love for the entire humanity. Our hearts would have felt much enlarged. Much like the short sequence from Mera Naam Joker where the hero’s heart goes on expanding and no one has a clue as to how to solve the problem!

We would have felt like living much longer, drinking deep from the rivulets of unalloyed joy that life offers. These films are but a few in the genre of ‘Conscious’ or ‘Soulful’ films which have the potential to change lives, inspire choices, and elevate human consciousness.

One of the spiritual lenses available to us to view such movies has been offered to us by The Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram at Pondicherry in India. She has mentioned the following twelve traits which are essential for the spiritual progress of an aspirant:

Sincerity, Humility, Gratitude, Perseverance, Aspiration, Receptivity, Progress, Courage, Goodness, Generosity, Equality and Peace.

Some movies which touch upon Mother’s 12 traits

 

Sincerity

The sincerity with which an individual takes up a challenging task and executes it well, even while risking his or her own welfare,  generates a swell of positive emotions within the viewer and sets an example of achieving perfection in the discharge of one’s professional duties.

Do Aankhen Baarah Haath (1957) which captured the valiant efforts of a jail warden Adinath (V Shantaram) to rehabilitate six dangerous prisoners released on parole to persons of virtue in an open jail experiment. Besides demonstrating how concentration, perseverance and hard work can make one realize one’s goals in life, the movie also drives home the point that if people focus their energy on a worthy cause in a sincere manner, success is easy to come by.

Maria (Julie Andrews) who is a free-spirited person lacking in self-discipline and self-confidence assumes the role of a governess for the seven children of Captain Georg von Trapp (Christopher Plummer) and ends up winning the hearts of the entire family in The Sound of Music (1965).

In Khamoshi (1970), we meet nurse Radha (Waheeda Rehman) who loses her own mental balance by being so sincere in discharging her duties as a professional as to neglect her own emotions of love towards two of her successive patients, Dev Kumar (Dharmendra) and Arun Choudury (Rajesh Khanna). A key lesson underlying the storyline is that of cultivating a sense of detachment in one’s profession, as highlighted in the Bhagavad Gita as well.

Think of Debaraj Sahai (Amitabh Bachchan) mentoring Michelle (Rani Mukherji) in Black (2005). The movie was inspired by The Miracle Worker (1962).

Humility

Here is a quality which covers such personality traits as purity, charity and obedience.

Gladiator (2000) captures the saga of General Maximus Decimus Meridius (Russel Crowe) who is devoted to Emperor Marcus Aurelius and works throughout his life to keep the Roman Empire safe. When offered the throne, he declines the offer, preferring instead to return to his village. Before he dies, he asks for political reforms, for his gladiator allies to be freed, and for Senator Gracchus to be reinstated. Maximus’s friends and allies honor him as “a soldier of Rome”. His character represents not only the purity of his intentions and loyalty to the empire, but also humility.

When denizens of planet Earth soar into space, they have this humbling experience of realizing how infinitesimal Homo sapiens happen to be in the overall scheme of a vast universe. We may be rooted in our prejudices and may be overly busy, what with our ego-skirmishes with others over petty matters and a relentless chase of the materialistic goals in our lives; yet, we are merely a fraction of a speck in the divine arrangement.

Watching movies like Apollo 13 (1995), Gravity (2013), and many others leaves us humbled in more ways than one.  

(This series of posts is dedicated to Ms Usha Bhatia, my late wife. Inputs from Mr Sanjay Mohan and Ms Gargi Banerjee are gratefully acknowledged)

(Related Post:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/08/16/some-movies-with-a-dash-of-spirituality-part-2-of-4

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/08/20/some-movies-with-a-dash-of-spirituality-part-3-of-4

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/08/24/some-movies-with-a-dash-of-spirituality-part-4-of-4)

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For movie buffs who are also tuned to ‘ragas’ of Hindustani Classical Music, here is yet another delectable offering from ‘My Views on Bollywood’.

Enjoy!

My Views On Bollywood

By

Sharada Iyer

Music directors of our film industry have skillfully woven the basics of classical ragas from our rich musical heritage in a simple form and given us outstanding film songs that could reach out to a much wider section of the audience and thus find mass appeal. Instead of strictly adhering to all the technicalities of the raga which can be appreciated only by a few, the essence or the flavour of the raga is maintained in the song to give us the right feel and emotion associated with the scene or mood of the character. Sometimes the raga is only lightly touched upon and at other times the raga is mixed with other ragas to highlight its beauty.

Lyricists, music directors, singers and finally the actors and actresses have all contributed by adding their own magic to enhance the appeal and reach of these songs to the…

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Mr Schnellenhamer, the head of the Perfecto-Zizz-baum Corporation, the leading movie studio, is reported to be having an odd disagreeable feeling these days. Perhaps, it is caused by what Roget’s Thesaurus would describe as  agitation, fury, violent anger, wrath and similar emotions listed under the heading ‘Rage’, that too of an impotent kind.

Having struck a deal with Coronavirus Global Corp (CGC in short) to unleash upon the public a movie based on the current pandemic, he believes things to be moving a tad sluggishly. He is not able to gather enough goofy ideas to add a sparkle to the script. Discussions with his team of directors, script-writers, music composers, yes-persons, deputy yes-persons, junior yes-persons, nodders and trainee nodders have led to finalization of the basic outlines of the movie. But he feels much more could be done. CGC had mandated that the movie should get released before any vaccine or virus anti-dote hits the market.

Tentatively titled ‘The Corona Gladiators’, the movie would capture the positive effects of the pandemic over all the inhabitants of our planet; also, the eventual victory of Homo sapiens over the deadly virus emanating from the laboratories of Coronavirus Global Corp (CGC in short).

Details of the plot are yet to be revealed but perhaps the hero and the heroine, cast in the mould of Psmith and Eve, would both be scientists working on an anti-virus drug. Frustrated at the lack of results, they go underground on a super secret mission to steal innovative ideas from laboratories elsewhere in the world. To be shot in Washington, London, Paris, Oslo, Beijing, Tokyo, New Delhi and Canberra, the movie will have car chases, gun fights, encounters with secret services and many other elements which would ensure not only commercial success but also critical acclaim.

The climax may see the couple, after having whipped up an anti-virus drug, facing a bunch of rogue Vice Presidents of CGC inside the Colosseum in Rome. Before being threatened with pistols designed to fire a volley of vials filled with the brand new anti-dote and running off to safer pastures, CGC personnel will blast humanity in general for its apathy towards environment and Mother Nature. As the drums start beating, declaring the brave gladiators to be victors, the titles start rolling. The end will leave the doors open for a sequel which could cover the onset of a far more deadly version of the virus.

Some of the sub-plots discussed so far for spicing up the script are as follows.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Leaders  

 Poor politicos live in glass houses but are well-endowed to hurl stones at others, as and when the situation demands so. The pandemic is merely just another tool in their hands to beef up their image further and also to win upcoming elections by clipping the wings of those in opposition.

Top honchos like Prime Ministers and others are improving upon their macho-but-sensitive images these days by not only flexing their muscles to browbeat enemies – real or imaginary – but also remaining in news for unexpected reasons.

Scribes were recently surprised – much like a nymph while bathing – when the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson did some push-ups on his office carpet during a newspaper interview to demonstrate his post-Corona fitness for the job.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Fredricksen decided to postpone her wedding in order to be able to attend a meeting of the European Council on the virus. We understand this is the third time she has done this.

Hon’ble A B Filmer has been requested to collect more details on the leaders who have publically defied such norms as social distancing and wearing masks.

Atithi Devo Bhava

Back home, India has always believed in treating guests with reverence, atithi devo bhava being the norm. Many Indians thus decided to heartily welcome the Country Managers of Coronavirus Global Corp (CGC) by clapping, lighting candles, ringing bells and banging pots and pans from their balconies.

In order to assist CGC in exceeding its own estimates of market share and bottom line in the country, some imaginative steps were taken. First, a complete lockdown ensured that the migrant labourers got stuck in cramped urban spaces where they could easily get infected. Gradually, they were prodded to migrate to distant rural areas, thereby improving the spread. Those who remained in urban areas threw caution to the winds when it came to wearing masks and following norms of social distancing. After all, there is a limit to what a hassled government and its officers can do to change the behaviour of its citizens in public places.

Aunt Dahlia is in agreement that this needs to be considered for inclusion in the proposed movie.

A Budding Romance

When two young and bright persons come to explore a small and peaceful place like Pondicherry in south India, a transient bond of affection gets strengthened. But on the 4th day of their stay, they are caught unawares by a harsh lockdown announced by the government at a notice of less than 4 hours!

While their needs for survival are adequately met, the sheer fact of living through a major event in their budding lives brings about a stronger play of the hormones. A not-so-astute observer might be forgiven for missing the stars in their eyes and the way their faces light up when they happen to be together.

Angela and Tuppy Glossop concur with this idea.

Cupid and the Mummification of the Corpse

Cupid is busy with his e-initiatives. Love birds living in different metros have learnt to remain contented with video and text chats till the time things return to a newer state of normalcy. A young couple whose marriage had got indefinitely postponed find that the boring part of their relationship has already started. The bride-to-be feels that there is a limit to the number of times one can ask each other how their day was, what they plan to have for dinner and the movie they intend to watch every night. It feels as if they have been living in a fast forward mode and have already sensed the process of the mummification of the corpse of love some time after the priest has chanted the last mantra and the marriage has been sanctified.

Bertie Wooster is delighted that he is not being asked to play a role in the movie.

Some Green Shoots

It is an open secret that thanks to the aggressive marketing strategy being practiced by CGC the world over, sale of sanitizers and related hygiene products has registered an exponential growth. Lifestyle coaches and loony doctors are laughing all the way to their respective banks. Yoga-gurus-turned-business-honchos are busy re-labelling and re-launching select products, unleashing these upon an unsuspecting public. So are the owners of online streaming platforms who have grabbed the rights of movies being churned out by our dream merchants.

The last mentioned would be delighted to know of a retired Rev. Aubrey Upjohn who has created an excel sheet which lists the movies on offer on various streaming platforms. Much of his time now gets spent on keeping the list always updated in terms of new arrivals and the ones which are yet to be watched!

Immunity-boosting Tissue Restoratives

Across homes, homemakers are whipping up turmeric and basil based tissue restoratives, prompting all their family members to gobble the same without much ado. Those who are in the business of spices are chuffed at the sudden uptick in their fortunes.

Laura Pyke heartily approves.

Suggestions are welcome!

Would you have a suggestion to offer as to how to make this movie a wee bit juicier? Suggestions may be mailed to Wilmot.mulliner@zizzbaum.org.

Those whose ideas get selected will receive an invitation to visit the studios and have a meal with Mabel Potter and Wilmot Mulliner.

(Illustration courtesy Mr Suvarna Sanyal)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/04/11/who-ropes-in-doctors-and-paramedics-from-plumsville-to-counter-corona-virus-part-1-of-2

CEDRIC MULLINER DEFEATS QUARANTINE: Guest Post by Eduardo Garcia

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/06/20/of-lockdowns-p-g-wodehouse-and-the-milk-of-human-kindness)

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Plumtopia

Four silent film adaptations of P.G. Wodehouse’s work mark their 100th anniversary in 2019, making this a fitting year to take a closer look at the Silent Films of P.G. Wodehouse.

‘…we’re hoping to have more good news for you at any moment. The movie end.’

It had never occurred to Cosmo that there was a movie end.

‘Our man in Hollywood seems sure it will. He’s been sending significant cables almost daily…’

Cocktail Time – P.G. Wodehouse

As a centennial celebration of Wodehouse silent film, this post arrives a little late — the first Wodehouse adaptation for cinema being A Gentleman of Leisurein 1915. But 1919 was a golden year for Wodehouse adaptation, with four silent film versions of P.G. Wodehouse works released.

Many of the films from this era are sadly lost to us and details of the silent Wodehouse adaptations can be difficult for the…

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My Views On Bollywood

By

Sharada Iyer

Lyrics impart soul to the song and form an integral and important part of any song. Not only do the lyricists have to use their talent to express in words a variety of feelings and emotions but they also need to have the knack to fit the words into a 3-minute song format to suit the character and the demands of the scene as conceived by the director. Indeed it requires tremendous skill, a lot of imagination and mastery over the language to come up with winning results.

Our film industry has been blessed with some brilliant poets and lyricists in every era but not all of them attained the same level of popularity. Though we may recollect the names of some top lyricists like Shailendra, Hasrat Jaipuri, Sahir Ludhianvi, Anand Bakshi, Indeevar, Majrooh Sultanpuri, etc., not many of us can remember lyricists like Naqsh Lyallpuri, S…

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