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Posts Tagged ‘Peace’

How have some of our business leaders responded to the challenges posed by the pandemic? Well they appear to be following the popular saying that when times get tough, the tough get going!

As per press reports, Sanjiv Mehta, Chairman and MD of Hindustan Unilever, has spoken of the kind of steps taken to boost the company’s prospects by focusing better on health, hygiene and sanitation products. As many as 50 new product and pack innovations are said to have been made. Agility and speed have helped.

Manu Jain, MD of Xiaomi India, has said that the pandemic has taught him the importance of empathy and patience during tough times. The ability to be able to put oneself in another person’s shoes stands out. Instant gratification is nowhere on the horizon; patience alone helps. So does slowing down and staying calm.

Ronojoy Dutta, CEO, IndiGo, has highlighted the importance of staying connected as well as being transparent with employees so as to retain their trust. According to him, irrespective of the situation, honesty and transparency win in the harshest of times. According to C P Gurnani, CEO and MD, Tech Mahindra, leaders need to give up their ‘command and control’ mindset and shift to a ‘mentor and inspire’ mindset.

Manish Sabharwal, Chairman, Teamlease Services, concludes that resilience matters as much as performance.

(*Source: The Economic Times Magazine, August 30-September 05, 2020, etc)

Leadership traits which help

Leaders who thrive in an era of heightened uncertainty and bloated entropy are better placed to steer their organizations more purposefully and effectively. The virus has highlighted the following qualities in someone who leads an organization in such stormy times: Prioritizing people. Creating clarity on what needs to be done; providing hope and refusing to let a mood of despondency creep in. Having an ear to the ground and being flexible in an evolving crisis; engaging with other stakeholders, including employees, to understand their concerns better.

The virus has brought into focus the dire need for such leaders. It has even indicated the kind of traits such leaders should have: empathy, compassion, higher resilience, an inner sense of peace and equanimity, brain stilling, actions which are rooted in basic human values and better concern for the environment.

It is already understood that leaders who believe in delegation, decentralization and quiet consensus building are able to handle crises better. The approach to problem solving needs to be non-muscular. A shock-and-awe tactics is best avoided.

Leader Mindsets and Human Values

Prof G P Rao, a behavioural scientist of repute and the founder of SPANDAN, a NGO which espouses the cause of human values in organizations, demonstrates that leaders have three kinds of mindsets: ‘I am Everything’, ‘I am Nothing’ and ‘I am Something’.

In a recent study, he has identified the following five topmost values perceived as being conducive to tackling the pandemic successfully:

  • Faith in basic goodness of human beings
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • A positive outlook: Happiness – contentment – self fulfillment
  • Respect to nature and mother earth, and,
  • Preparedness.

The empirical study covered a total of 100 professionals, of which 57 were drawn from the senior and middle management rungs of a software company and 43 belonged to a mixed group from different professions and organizations. The study was conducted during the months of July and August, 2020.

The basic premise is that ‘I am Something’ leader mindset needs to balance the needs and aspirations of others and that of the environment, choose suitable human values and facilitate others to do likewise.

Examples quoted above from the practical business world also testify to the proposition put forward by Prof Rao – that the aim of a leader should be to strike and acquire an optimal balance between and among the select human values so that there is synergy between ‘I am Something’ leadership and human values.

By reposing one’s faith in the basic goodness of human beings, by responding to fresh challenges in a creative and innovative manner, by adopting a sunnier disposition, by preparing for contingencies in advance and by reconfiguring operations with due respect to nature and mother earth – that is how the challenges posed by the pandemic are being met.

(Inputs from Prof G P Rao are gratefully acknowledged.)

(Part 2 of a series of articles on Corona virus and Leadership) 

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/09/05/corona-virus-and-an-early-onset-of-industrial-revolution-4-0

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/09/14/corona-virus-some-lessons-from-bhagavad-gita)

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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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What kind of desires would be found on the bucket list of a CEO? Perhaps due recognition, more power and pelf, special privileges, a fat expense account, rapid growth, ESOPs, a loyal and committed team comprising persons who happen to be competent in areas where she herself may be weaker, executing her business plans more effectively and efficiently, and the like.

In general, the Happiness Quotient of any professional could possibly be defined as follows: 

 HQ = [ { FD (t) / AD (t) } * f (IR, IG)]

Where HQ is Happiness Quotient, FD (t) is the number of fulfilled desires at a given point in time, AD (t) represents the sum total of all her desires at the same point in time. The notation f (IR, IG) suggests that HQ is directly proportional to her Inner Resilience and the Inner Glow of satisfaction she feels when a job is well done. A happier CEO could often be spotted in the recreation room, perfecting her aim at throwing darts!

It also follows that one’s level of happiness could be improved upon merely by enlarging the scope of FD; or, by reducing the spread of AD.

The former is a Western proposition, leading to crass commercialism. A heavy dose of advertising and public relations keeps the inner fires of desires burning brighter with each passing year, making it the classic case of our chasing an elusive rainbow in a desert. Corporates keep stoking these embers of desire and we keep falling prey to the same at regular intervals.

The latter proposition happens to be an Eastern construct. By keeping a check on one’s desires, one can attain a state of happiness. This calls for an inner awakening and a realization that one needs to outgrow one’s sensual gratification and consciously shepherd oneself to use one’s intellect and restrict the spread of desires one has. Or, to focus on desires which are either aligned with the values of the organization or which happen to be our needs.

Western experts had originally recommended Command and Control as a means to generate wealth and had gone on to imply that stark materialism is the way to seek peace and happiness. However, the Eastern approach is based on an inward blossoming, an inner growth and development which holds an inner glow of success superior to sensual gratification of an external nature. By proactively adopting a Conscious Capitalism approach, several businesses have already recognized the truth that they have a greater purpose, much beyond delivering value to their own stakeholders.

Conscious businesses have trusting, authentic, innovative and caring cultures that make working there a source of both personal growth and professional fulfilment. They endeavour to create financial, intellectual, social, cultural, emotional, spiritual, physical and ecological wealth for all their stakeholders.

An inward blossoming

Bhagavad Gita gives us a clue to be happy, and also to create happier working places. Consider this verse:

यदा संहरते चायं कूर्मोऽङ्गानीव सर्वश: |
इन्द्रियाणीन्द्रियार्थेभ्यस्तस्य प्रज्ञा प्रतिष्ठिता ||2.58||

One who is able to withdraw the senses from their objects, just as a tortoise withdraws its limbs into its shell, is established in steady wisdom.

What is being recommended here is not a suppression of desires but a voluntary renunciation of those desires which take us on a path of sensuous gratification, sans a higher purpose in our life and career.

In fact, this takes us back to the idea of living in the present; also, a ‘We and Us’ approach to problem solving than an ‘I and Me’ one.

In Robin S. Sharma’s famous book ‘The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari’, Julian says that goals and dreams for the future are very essential elements in every truly successful life. But he advises never to put off happiness for the sake of achievement; never to put off the things that are important for your well-being and satisfaction to a later time. ‘Today is the day to live fully…..never put off living!’ he says.

Bhagavad Gita reinforces this message as follows:

रागद्वेषवियुक्तैस्तु विषयानिन्द्रियैश्चरन् |
आत्मवश्यैर्विधेयात्मा प्रसादमधिगच्छति ||2.64||

But one who controls the mind, and is free from attachment and aversion, even while using the objects of the senses, attains peace.

A CEO who exercises self-control would eventually experience a sense of inner peace. She would patiently hear out a voice of dissent and use the feedback judiciously. She would see something positive happening and share it with others, without getting attached to it. She would smell a coup in the making and take appropriate steps to defuse the situation in an objective manner. She would praise in public but reprimand in private. She would taste either the sweetness of a resounding success or the sourness of a colossal failure but would neither become complacent nor reach a stage of despondence thereafter. She would sit back and redraw her business plans and put them in motion.

Some manifestations of Self-control

One manifestation of self-control would be the need to accord an equitable and honourable treatment to women at the work place. Just like a cashier who is caught with his hand in the till, often we find some powerful male executives wrecking the careers and lives of relatively vulnerable female team members. If this had indeed been the case, the recent #MeToo campaign would not have gained much currency.

Hormones are surely more powerful than hierarchy. But when such incidents happen and the managements decide to look the other way, or decide to be opaque about handling such issues, they end up causing severe damage to their brand equity.

On the contrary, when business houses like Tatas are majority-owned by trusts which do pioneering philanthropic work for the society, the money with them is truly held in trust, in the true spirit of detachment.

Consider this verse from the Bhagavad Gita:

विहाय कामान्य: सर्वान्पुमांश्चरति नि:स्पृह: |
निर्ममो निरहङ्कार: स शान्तिमधिगच्छति ||2.71||

That person, who gives up all material desires and lives free from a sense of greed, proprietorship, and egoism, attains perfect peace.

Creating happier working places

What with the advent of Industrial Revolution 4.0, many HR honchos these days can be found to be twiddling their thumbs, trying to figure out how to create happier working places even while maintaining a sense of discipline, decorum and decency. Happier people make organizations thrive and prosper.

Dr. Noelle Nelson, in her book ‘Make More Money by Making Your Employees Happy’, explains how progressive employers try to understand the pain points of their employees and then try to address the same. One of the several examples she quotes is that of when Paul O’Neil who took over the reins of ALCOA in 1987, the world’s leading producer of aluminium; O’Neil announced that his sole priority was to increase worker safety. This came as a shock to the company’s directors. O’Neil understood, however, that safety was a major concern for his workers. Over the next 13 years, employee productivity soared as accident rates decreased from roughly one per week per plant to some plants going years without an accident. When O’Neil stepped away just over a decade later, ALCOA’s annual income had grown 500%!

Being happy is possible when one is at peace with oneself and others. Attaining a state of harmony is imperative. Managements need to enable this. They need to provide the necessary tools to their people so as to facilitate an inner sense of peace and happiness.

What makes Starbucks a good employer? Perhaps, one of the factors which contributes towards its people being happy is the kind of training they receive to handle angry and unreasonable customers. This takes the negativity away from a potentially stressful situation, leaving space for a sense of peace and happiness to prevail within the front line staff.

People in organizations do not always look for more monetary rewards. They seek recognition. They relish a sense of fulfilment arising out of their contribution towards a greater goal. They value positive relationships with other team members. Harmony, peace and happiness comprise their inner goal.

(Related Post:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/05/03/from-an-i-and-me-approach-to-a-we-and-us-one)

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When we think of gorgeous heroines draped in plain color chiffon saris and sleeveless blouses – swaying to rhythmic beats composed poster jab tak hai jaanby eminent musicians and lip-synching soulful lyrics penned by proficient poets – with the magnificent Alps as a backdrop, the only name that comes to our minds is that of Yash Chopra!

The producer and director showed us the value of pure romance sans vulgarity in times when the only mantra to box office success appears to be “the lewder and cruder, the better”. He passed away last year. He has left behind a rich legacy of social comment through the wide-ranging themes of movies he produced or directed.

But the king of romance acquired this sobriquet by a very interesting process of evolution, through a long and arduous journey of making socially relevant movies which reflected our society’s challenges of their respective times. Like other popular directors of Bollywood – Raj Kapoor, Subhash Ghai and others – he had a unique ear for music, which was a hallmark of all his movies. The lyricists he associated with were accomplished poets who invariably came up with relevant and meaningful verses.

Evolving Into a King of Romance220px-Dhool_Ka_Phool

Partition, Secularism and Peace

If ‘Dhool ka Phool” (1959) was about illegitimate children, ‘Dharamputra’ (1961) touched upon religious intolerance in days when the term Hindu fundamentalism was not part of our vocabulary. The story of a Muslim bringing up a Hindu boy tugged at one’s heart-strings. The scenes of partition were hard-hitting, leading to a backlash at the time. That was perhaps the reason he never ventured to make a film on a political theme again during his lifetime.

However, he did come up with a clear message on peace and unity with his ‘Veer Zaara’ (2004). Not even a single bullet was fired in the film, but the message was loud and clear – that India and Pakistan share a common culture and a strong bond – by implication, both countries deserve a poster veer zaarachance to be together again, pooling their scarce resources to alleviate poverty, hunger and disease, instead of war mongering.

Family Values, Wealth and Bigamy

‘Waqt’ (1965) was his last movie where he worked with his elder brother Baldev Raj Chopra. It was the first one to have had a multi-star cast, a practice which is followed till today. It also spawned several other movies in the lost-and-found genre, popular ones being ‘Yaadon ki Baraat’ and ‘Amar Akbar Anthony’. The movie also depicted the lavish styles of the rich, conveying that 220px-Deewar_posteracquiring wealth is not necessarily evil.

Then he formed Yash Raj Films, his own banner, and came out with ‘Daag’ (1973). The issue of bigamy was handled with his trademark elegance and suavity.

The Angst of the Youth

This was followed by two angry-young-man-phase movies, capitalizing on Amitabh Bachchan’s recently acquired image in ‘Zanjeer’. It started off with ‘Deewar’ (1975) and was followed by ‘Trishul’ (1978). In ‘Mashaal’ (1984), he cast thespian Dilip Kumar who portrayed an angry old man. Much to the glee of middle class audience struggling with rising aspirations kabhie kabhie posterand astronomical living costs, the means were no longer important; ends were.

Elegant Romance

With ‘Kabhie Kabhie’ (1976), he introduced a poetic touch into the art of commercial movie making and set the box office registers tingling. This trend continued in his subsequent movies like ‘Silsila’ (1981), ‘Chandni’ 220px-Silsila(1989) and ‘Lamhe’ (1991). The angst eventually mellowed down and human emotions acquired center stage. All the characters in these movies were from an affluent background. In each venture, the canvas only got larger. In each, candy-floss romance was in the air, backed by melodious music and soulful lyrics that would remain etched in our collective psyche for a long time to come.

His style of depicting romance was muted, elegant and refined. The main protagonists were invariably civil and dignified, following the norms of propriety. It was devoid of lewd dialogues, coarse lyrics and vulgar scenes. Even in ‘Darr’ (1993), we had an anti-hero stalking the heroine, but never in bad taste.

Social Values and the Indian Diaspora Lamhe poster

He produced ‘Dilwaale Dulhania Le Jayenge’ (1995), which was directed by his son, Aditya Chopra. The movie set new records and Indians world over could readily connect with the superiority of family values it espoused. A daughter brought up in UK needs permission from her overbearing father for a vacation in Europe; a hero refuses to get persuaded by the heroine’s mother to elope with the heroine; instead, the couple works towards getting an approval of the match from the heroine’s father, come what may – these were market savvy master strokes in the script which made the movie immensely popular with all age groups.

Musical Romanceposter of chandni

Very few directors have ventured to work on a theme with music as a backdrop. ‘Dil To Pagal Hai’ (1997) did precisely that. All the main characters had a different perspective on love, and the movie was about the transformation of their belief systems. It was beautifully built around music and dance, elevated to a level where soul-mates discover each other.

We live in terrorism infested times. It is not surprising that his last venture, ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’ (2012) used this as a backdrop of a triangular love story.

An Ear for Music and Rich PoetryDDLJ poster

While supporting his brother, B. R. Chopra, Yash Chopra got to work with music directors like N. Dutta and Ravi. However, once on his own, he first worked with Lakshmikant Pyarelal for ‘Daag’, and then with Rahul Dev Burman for ‘Deewar’. Khayyam was his choice for ‘Kabhie Kabhie’ and ‘Trishul’. All through these movies, he worked with Sahir Ludhianvi as the lyricist.

Yet another master stroke was his persuading legendary classical musicians Shiv Kumar Sharma and Hari Prasad Chaurasia to compose the music for several of his movies. Together, they created a rich legacy of music in such movies as ‘Silsila’, ‘Chandni’, ‘Lamhe’ and ‘Darr’. The classical dance sequences performed with aplomb by  Sridevi in ‘Chandni’ and ‘Lamhe’ remain as fresh today as they were when captured on celluloid. ‘Silsila’ and ‘Veer Zaara’ had lyrics by Javed Akhtar, whereas all others had poetic inputs from Anand Bakshi.DTPH poster

For ‘Dil To Pagal Hai’, he turned to Uttam Singh, who came up with mellifluous compositions for the movie. His best was, however, reserved for ‘Veer Zaara’, which dug up old compositions of the legendary Madan Mohan, revived by the latter’s son Sanjeev Kohli.

In his last offering, ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’, he teamed up with A. R. Rehman, with lyrics by Gulzar.

Setting New Benchmarks

Undoubtedly, he set new benchmarks for the film industry. Several trends that we take for granted today were initiated by him. He set the template for future Bollywood directors who continue to ape his technical gloss but lack the depth of romance and human emotions captured by him. He was among the first to push the industry into professionalism. Working with classical musicians and accomplished Urdu poets, he has left behind a rich repertoire of music for all of us to savor for a long time to come.

He would always be fondly remembered for a certain elegance and refinement of language which many of the current breed of Bollywood dream merchants sadly lack. Also, for the unique brand of secularism, peace and unity he propagated through his movies.

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