Watched Antaheen last Sunday and totally loved it

National award winning Bengali movie, Antaheen (which means an endless wait) came a year ago. About love, realisation and longing, life and fragmented relations looking for wholesome completeness, the aesthetics of Aniruddha Chowdhury’s film is sheer poetry,tragic most times and Shantanu Moitra’s music lyrical and haunting. 

Urban Kolkata is beautifully captured by cinematographer Amit Mukopadhyaya in Café Coffee Day mugs, Chivas and Jasmine tea, long drapes and comfortable cushions, beautiful lampshades and window sills, potted glory and wind chimes, that kite longing for freedom at what cost, panoramic landscape, the rain kissed terrace gardens and sunlight dancing through painted glass, the shimmering city in the evening as seen from balconies. There are page 3 launches and parties and Star Ananda is a hep corporate place with writer Kunal Basu making a fleeting appearance. The symbolic telephone is the protagonist.

Young and feisty Brinda ( Radhika Apte, a surprising non-Bong Rahul Bose recommendation amidst teeming Bong actresses) is a Barkha Dutt in the making. She is a delight to watch, her eyes speak much more. She makes life miserable for VK Mehra, the Eldorado builder and also, no-nonsense upright IPS officer Abhik (Rahul Bose) who dismisses her need for bytes. Abhik is cynical about love and Brinda’s relationship with her boyfriend Sujoy is as good as over. 

Abhik has an endearing financial consultant cousin, Ronnoda (Kalyan Ray) - his friend, philosopher and guide who dabbles in the stock market, enjoys a good drink and good books. He is divorced and not divorced. His reel and real wife Paro (Aparna Sen with that frumpy mushroom cut) works as the marketing head in Brinda’s office. They stay apart but can’t do without each other. Paro is an avid photographer- her Tibet trip ‘cost’ her father-in-law’s life and her marriage, and also, her love for photography. The Tibet trip is possibly her best work which remains to see the light of day, her Ronno does not even want to glance at them. Tells a lot about contemporary society which chooses to be progressive with the high-rises and imported liquor but won’t think twice to blame a wife’s work for an already-ill in-law or a house which needs order .

Brinda shares a sister-like camaraderie  with her Parodi and is completely won over with her snigdha (graceful compusure). Unknown to each other, both Abhik and Brinda share soul space online, from cute sweet nothings to typical Mars-Venus takes on the comfort of being strangers and yet, the urge to know more. Their real-life encounters end in sour debates. 

Abhik stays with his graceful spinster Pishimoni (Sharmila Tagore). So used to living a life of loneliness with her potted plants and dusting old books and her needlework, her Penelope-like waiting for that phone-call from that gentleman with that nice voice is heart wrenching. Her jasmine tea is a conversation opener from her reverie. She does become defiant that she is not lonely and it is a choice she has made. She does miss the telephone call. 

VK is unscrupulous, his ever-depressed wife Mita Vashisht (phenomenal waste of an acting powerhouse) won’t forgive him for their daughter Anjali’s death in a car accident eight years ago. VK’s Eldorado project interview with Brinda revives memories of his daughter and Brinda is visibly disturbed. 

Paro’s visit to Ronno’s brings a new turn in their relationship. Her Tibet pictures adorn his study. They love each other but as Paro says marriage is the ability to compromise and feel needed. Her birthday gift of a book by Rumi is telling. She wants to live life her own terms this time - she cleans her camera stuff with renewed vigour. She is planning to move to Bombay on work. Will Ronno be able to stop her? Ronno does not stop her. Paro feels pained he does not stop her. That letting go is tough. Some decisions in life need to be taken without anyone’s help and crutch.

Ronno’s birthday party brings Abhik and Brinda to some civil acquaintance. They begin exchanging SMSes and calls generally and also, around work. Something tells Brinda that her online special stranger and Abhik are one and the same person. She wants to meet him and their rendezvous is almost arranged
A working woman’s life in a big city is not easy. From not missing deadlines to remaining picture perfect calm despite the storm in your head about a dear colleague leaving, a sense of abandonment, letting go of a relationship which would not work then seeking solace in on online chat with a stranger. Oh yes, we love pampering ourselves, it  could be staring long enough at the mirror while brushing our teeth or simply lazing in the rug with enough cushions thrown around or staring long enough at the computer screen waiting for that one special ping. Brought back memories of my Hyderabad times. 

Brinda’s mom packs her a sandwich before her last edit job, for some ominous reason she touches her feet. It brought about a numbness of the number of times we say 'bye' our parents before leaving the house and that feeling of how paltry life could become - will they get to see you again? Brinda tells her mother not to stay up, she uncannily does. Brinda tells Abhik - she is a night bird, literally. Think of all those youngsters who go to work at unearthly hours and shifts and for those fortunate ones who have mothers at home who stay up, pray and worry for your safety.

Jangled remains of that red Maruti Swift and a cell-phone which would ring but not answer tell the ominous tale of Brinda’s Eldorado quest, no one comes back alive. VK’s wife suspects her husband’s involvement and he swears no - in fact he wanted their daughter to grow up like her. Abhik comes to her house and then, he realises the truth. It is poignant how he lives every moment of their online conversation again, the Frida Kahlo on the wall and that fluttering kite on the antenna live to tell the tragic tale of love and longing. So close, yet so far. 

Paro leaves for Bombay, Ronno musters courage and calls her if he can come stay with her for a few days. 

There is a recurrent scene of a white pyjama-kurta clad man sipping road-side chai on his Royal Enfield whom Abhik encounters while going to work. He  waits for him everyday, that peace and calm on that man’s visage gives Abhik some security in his life. Today, the man drives away. Today, Abhik refuses to buy flowers. Today, he does not look at the laptop. That greyed out ‘offline’ status of someone dear on chat is almost autobiographical. It brought tears to my eyes and I was reminded of what a loved one told me a year ago when I left one workplace. Just like his Pishimoni (wish we had more of her in the film) who lost the telephone-gentleman, his greyed-out but no-longer-a-stranger chat friend won’t ping him anymore.

Antaheen left me numb, nothing extraordinary or larger-than-life. Beautiful nuanced acting, very restrained and a lot of heart warming moments. Rushing from work to chat with that special online friend-stranger tugged my heart. We have our own ways of coping with loneliness and longing for companionship. We live, we love and we also yearn a little more. Life is fast, work means 24/7 busy (?), take some time off, go spend some time with yourself, with your loved one(s), share that special something, it could be nothing concretely substantial but just be there to admire the raindrops pitter-patter on the window pane or watching that sunset together by the sea-side on occasions or your apartment balcony everyday.

I love you, special one.

P.S. Thank you, Korak for sharing this film with me.

An ordinary examination day in the extraordinary life of an ordinary college lecturer

Yes, we also double up as clerks - we think then we type, we write on paper then type, print and announce notices, we collect fines and we also remain standing for most part of the year for our lectures while our his and her highnesses sit . Life in teaching is always a lesson in itself. Okay, the ultimate finale is everything around is not even hitting average. I don’t see anything being cancelled out to make simplification easy. 

I had invigilation duty almost everyday during all examination shifts and the 2-shift 3-hour jaunt is mercilessly so boring. People who should not get into trouble inevitably get into big messes and the smart ones with whom you would not mind a smart mind game are so committed to playing safe. I so sincerely get bored easily. I tried to multitask, it is not easy. I achieved about 19 percent of work besides penning down tips on how to improve and streamline tests and exams next time round. I can't knit or sew like some accomplished invigilators.

Anyways, as the guinea pigs scribble on paper for our sado-masochistic drive, it‘s another toss here. Your co-invigilator is always going to make or break the game. It’s a game of cricket for me, where I try all kinds of bowling tricks to get my wickets. 
-You have the lame duck who is senior to you at work and lets out classified info who is like what. 
- You have the eternal anti-hero who is victimised by the system, less pay- more work and the blah like "Everybody hates to love me but loves to hate me" kinda thing.
- You have the fence-sitters, the perfect fair weather kinda nice smiling faces.

And the students have amazing paisa vasool fun at our expense. First, they come in late. They take a long time to settle down. Then, they need to be told to switch off their phones. One class came and deposited all their mobiles at the teacher's desk. But most fish out their phones and keep it in the silent-vibraaaaator mode. So, don't be surprised if the mobile blares some Atif song or Telugu song or better still some baby laughing garrulously. 

Then, the exam starts. Some pray, some distress, some de-stress. Some sit, some stare, some gripe. After one hour of breakfast digestion, "Additional!", which means extra sheets. By which time, attendance and autograph session is also over. 

Then, the urge is awakened, the urge to visit the toilet. I am quite ignoringly amazed by the toilet chain reaction. One after the other, there is some collective responsibility and some of the boys will always seek permission to say hi/hello to their 'friend'. Thirst is an understatement of an excuse. The ayah on the corridor insists no water be served to the children as she animatedly signals the little finger code. Hey kids, like we don't know why and what. That graffiti on the wall is very entertaining.

Copying from books is forbidden, but some smarty pants bring along photocopies of notes and think they can get away.Even if we had an open-book policy, I don't think you pay much attention to the best practices.Listen, cheating is an art - either you know it or don't know it. And, if you are copying from somebody, please don't copy the mistakes. My god, you have no idea what happens after that - it is like wearing your friend's chaddi. You can conjure up the rest.

Cynic in the city

The best welcome I could ever have - the whole building came out to see me and my bunch of friends dragging our luggage up the stairs. The watchmen here never help, they only watch. So when I was signing up for this PG accommodation I was asked, Marriage when? Engaged huh? I was like why, is that a criterion? The old wives told me no, it is not. But it is not a good idea to remain single and unmarried if a girl has crossed 25 years of age. Weird. Even at 32, these women are haggardly old because they married so young.

Even worse is to be seen with anybody male - colleague, friend or cousin of friend. You are a not-so-good girl. If your male acquaintance is introduced then it is ok-ok modern and corporate culture. You are a good girl if you don’t  go out on Sundays and watch Rajnikant’s Chandramukhi with 12 other girls on that Big Bazaar color TV and be hysterical. Also, not to forget the suffocating obsession with Shriya and Trisha. Oh, by the way, one is a southern siren and the other a versatile actress. 

We had an awesome bathroom cleaner who wore such fancy salwar suits and still demanded old clothes from us. I miss the wee hours of the morning when one of the ammas would wake up early and do the dosa batter after her sacred ablutions. Since I came from the Highlands, I was not used to cold water showers, I paid her five rupees everyday for 2 litres of hot water.The mornings were sacred -the smell of fresh earth, the wafting jasmine in the air and the incense in the chiming temples and  the aroma from roadside bundis of tea and tiffins.

I miss the Kadapa girls, I fondly remember the henna days and the mehndi nights.I learnt to appreciate the humble FM phone as my ally.

Nobody will believe you that you went out for a late night movie especially when they see you dropped home by a male friend. Something fishy is always running in their heads.

When I left the PG, all the best wishes were around getting married and come visiting there with your husband and kid (not baby).


My two pence of the Shoaib-Sania hulla-gulla

While my students were worried about their OU final exams and how to reach college to collect their hall-tickets, a 23-yr old city tennis star’s marriage is national front page news, leave alone P3. I mean, alright. Now-wannabe Sania Mirza wants to get married, did I hear that right? OK, the state is worried about relaxing curfew hours in riot- affected areas, and maulvis are being unnecessarily dragged to bless and defend her marriage.

I was coming home from an evening out, barely half a kilometer from my place, I saw a trail of media vans and vehicles, and found out it was the ongoing saga of the Siddiqui girl’s tamasha. Of course, so much has been written about Sania-Shoaib and Shoaib-Ayesha. I feel, all the three deserve each other.

Now whoever Sania Mirza is, she showed amazing promise as a kid. With a ferocious manager dad, and the signature arrogance and aggression of her tees, tennis really looked good. The quick buck, instant and constant media attention and endorsements did her in. Her moment of reckoning came when she cracked into the top 25 and then, it was a spiralling tumble. A fling and friendship with a Bollywood Charlie lasted barely one summer when the chalta hai city woke up to her grand engagement reception at Taj Krishna( or Banjara) with the local but Universal Baker scion - the wah-wahs were many, and it was soon over before they could reach the altar of lifelong vows. The boy was dignified - spoke and discussed lil. Then, within weeks, we hear she is marrying Paki Shoaib Mallik. Sania does not have a great track record of sustainable consistency of behaviour in the choice of her partners, her game is also beginning to show that. Just hope, all goes well and she finds and keeps her intended for keeps. She is clearly a giddy narcissist. Suddenly the saffron brigade is calling her names.

Now who is Shoaib, ask Ayesha Siddiqui or Maha Apa for intimate details. Arrey, don’t get me wrong. They were allegedly married and the two were alone in a city hotel on two occasions. Ok, the little that I know -- many years ago he used to be an upcoming swashbuckling cricketer from Pakistan. Whenever he started hammering fours and sixes, my dad used to have palpitations, such was his influence. So, to cut a long story short. Ayesha is apparently not Ayesha but Maha Apa and how-much-innocent boy Shoaib feels cheated. His jija has valiantly defended him across all sections of the  media. How stupid of him to have a phone nikkah which is apparently invalid. He does not look so dodo to agree to so-called Ayesha or Maha’s every damn tantrum. And, what chivalry, he agreed to marry her to save her honour to stop the wagging media from defaming a poor woman.  Lawyers and social groups will take ages to churn wafers from this. According to latest alleged reports, Shoaib has been accused of two-timing, after 8-years, my lord, point to be noted. Shoaib says he never married for the record. 

Ayesha, kaun hai? The be-spectacled woman who is being flashed in all media studios over phone and pics is apparently a teacher and the first (not yet former or ex) wife of Shoaib. We did hear about some phone nikkah many years ago. We never saw her pics, the Islamist tradition also does not favour much in display of pics and all. Now, her nikkah papers are scanned with great interest by everyone except people concerned. She has chosen to be reduced to a pathetic joke with her fatness being a reason for the apparent divorce, her Cinderella story has gone sour. Good sense would be to be large-hearted and let go, if at all there was any love, like she claims. What nutty behaviour! What was she doing in the last 8-years? Sleeping? And, why is she making her weight issue a national crisis now? There are enough and more obese and fatter people who get married  and live happily. If she is upto changing Shoaib’s mind and also, retain him in the bargain, well she is in for more heartburn. The guy seems to be very firm about his Sania. She should be happy the way she is and not give another case to the plus zero health believers and activists to champion a non-issue of a case and pillory Shoaib. Religious heads are divided over legal issues.  No winners, all losers.

Media, please stay away. The media as a pressure group is focussing on inane issues. Like relationships which don't last, some marriages also don't last. Give them their space.  It is only a 23-yr old girl getting married to a fairly not bad-looking 28-yr old guy. It is also perfectly incidental that both sportspersons are neighbours and we are no longer hostile, remember Aman ki Asha. Shoaib-Sania shaadi could be the stepping stone. Let’s not worry what happens to their careers, they will be taken care of. They are potential national assets in their own rights, even though one is serving a ban. Bala Thackeray Saab, it’s ok, international marriages also happen, don’t be mean… I think you should spend your last few days practising tolerance and restraint, it is not easy I empathise.

Ayesha or/and Maha Apa, you are phenomenally a strange woma(e)n. You mystify everything around you with that inflected accent. Was it love? Or were you too star-struck? Or you are smart and acting duh-duh-damsel in distress. Get real, wake up! You are not criminal-fat! And stop craving for attention. You have had your fair share of dadagiri and mischief, what goes around comes around. No no more emosanal attyachar. Fat is also a shape like thin. Don’t think thin girls get away with everything, including men. Thin girls are disgracefully called waifs and worse, hangars (in the world of fashion) and football grounds too! And, yes. Don’t waste national time giving distressed interviews and feeling wronged. Giving interviews is the laziest thing to do. If you think you deserve better - Just go kick him in the balls and end it there. The country  has better things to do, children have exams. Parents and families have to worry about exams, rations and bills, and life ahead.

Most of us think and are convinced, there is more than meets the eye. So, let there be no traffic jam in Banjara Hills, we love our neighbourhood.


Hyderabad Blues - 1

All opinions are strictly independent and personal. No personal offence to be taken, no hard feelings to be harboured. No jingoism will be tolerated on my space. People with limited  and intolerant comprehension abilities are advised to steer clear.

Hyderabad is in the news for all the not-so-right and wrong reasons. It took so much of divine providence and interference for the Jai Telangana hoola-hoops with KCR, their joker of a leader (who can’t even do a token fast)to cool their heels thanks to a scorching summer ahead--our Indian women are better off- we fast so many times during a week, month and year - by now we should have asked for so so so many states. All Andhras feel wronged and agitated and the blah about the entire issue but the actual and bigger worry seems to be the  fear of enormous benaami being exposed. Rayalseema people also monkeyed around for sometime. MIM got crackling at some point demanding some haq-shaq for minorities and state/UT status for Hyderabad. Not to forget some Sakshi controvery around the YSR  death-accident leading to some conspiracy theory.

The state had to grapple with the Guv caught cavorting like desi Hefner with not one but three women! What a year, 2009 was indeed the jinxed year! The effect continues to haunt us till now. Since then, we have had a new Police chief  and a new and apparently no-nonsense Guv. Late YSR with his mission impossible ways had practically emptied the state coffers and with no legacy to command the same kinda respect and loan(good) will, CM Rosaiah is at his wit’s end. With a sulking smile of an expression, YSR sonny boy Jagan is a confused soul who needs some soul-searching sanyaas to be taken under the wing of his Bro-in-law Anil Kumar. And can you imagine, this first-time MP thought he was CM material. Don’t know but some political mileage was achieved by inducting the YSR widow in the recent cabinet reshuffle. TDP has become a corridor party.

With a threatening summer and annoyingly long power cuts, we are headed for greater days of darkness. Is anyone doing anything? Hello, where are the Jaago Grahak Jaago people? Where is the RTI man? We voted, and the result is before us, power hungry scavengers. I don’t know if it is with the moral fabric of the profession or the kind of people who join the profession. Unscrupulous. And, Barkha Dutt, please don't come to the city and have your discretion on who should be there for your TRP conscious show and where. No one is ready for the truth and those who think they do, and therefore, represent the truth are in a state of terrible denial. Please understand, they have gone mental.

By the way, where is the Indra-man? Filmstar Chiranjeevi turned out to be a wimp. I personally know so many educated but blind fans and political supporters of him from my previous workplace, who are incidentally known to me and alas, I can't even disown them. Everyone has an ulterior motive, dear friends, he is your on-screen hero. With make-up he looks good, did he need to dirty his hands this way, PRP? Anyway, the lesser said, the less controversial. Some followers disappeared, one benefited (I am mighty tickled though!)

Then, Old city got some nazar, Hindus and Muslims (not sure, if the religious identity of the miscreants were checked) got into some religious flag-tearing over some previous and upcoming festival and riots broke out. When did making way for someone become a problem? It spread (or was made and paid to spread, not in that order though) all over, curfew was the next thing. The reports are appalling, an egg came for 9 rupees and half a liter of milk was sold for 50 rupees. You know, no one protested when GHMC workers pulled down all the religious flags, haha!

Blame game, conspiracy theories, we still don’t know the whats and hows of it. Like we care. We care for basic medical and civic amenities, we need our power restored all the time.We are not MNC rich to afford generators-inverters. We hope the labourers don’t lose their daily wages. Manmohan, India Shining?