Tilak Rishi's weblog

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Tilak Rishi, born in India, has been working as a career corporate executive, after doing his MBA. Passionately pursuing his hobby for writing, he also remained a regular contributor to newspapers in India and the U.S. Many true happenings and characters he came across in life, including interaction with former president Bill Clinton, inspired Paradise Lost and Found, his first novel. A family saga, it starts from Kashmir, when this paradise on earth is lost for the tourists who thronged in thousands every year to enjoy its scenic splendor. Terrorists have turned it into one of the most dangerous places in the world. The family is not only a witness to the loss of this paradise, but also to another tragedy of much bigger magnitude. In the aftermath of the partition of India, along with millions uprooted from their homes in Pakistan, the family leaves behind all that it has in Lahore. Starting from a scratch on the difficult path to progress, it still has many joyful moments when along the way it makes a difference in many a life. The survival-to-success story climaxes in California where the family finds the paradise that was lost in Kashmir.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Mehboob Khan - A Tribute To Hindi Cinema Icon!

Mehboob Khan (1906-1964)
A man of humble beginnings and little formal education, Mehboob Khan, like many other filmmakers of his time, learnt his craft in the Theatre. Born Ramjan Khan in Billimoria, Gujarat, he ran away from home to Bombay and spent his earlier youth scrounging work in studios. He started his career with the Imperial Film Company as a bit player, graduated to acting then directing, to become one of India's greatest filmmakers. The common motif in his movies usually was the oppressed poor pitted against the oppressive rich, be it the poor peasant woman against the slimy zamindar in Aurat (1940), the poor tribal against the money-grabbing capitalist in Roti (1942), or the commoner against the prince in Aan (1952). Mehboob was a great lover of music and in all his movies he paid greatest attention to music. Manmohan (1936), his first big musical hit was inspired by Barua's Devdas (1935), and its leading actor Surendra, was declared Saigal of Bombay on release of the movie. Mehboob produced many musicals thereafter repeating his favorite singing star Surendra in most of them- Deccan Queen (1936), Jagirdar (1937), Alibaba (1940), Aurat (1940), Anmol Ghadi (1946), Elan (1947) and Anokhi Ada (1949). Anmol Ghadi created a stir because of its casting coup of three singing stars together, Surendra, Noor Jehan and Suraiya, besides all time great musical track by maestro Naushad. Andaaz (1949), his next masterpiece, also had a casting coup with three top stars, Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Nargis coming together in the most modern movie even by today's standards. Mehboob followed Andaaz with Aan (1952), the first Bollywood film in technicolor, perfect in its technique, spectacular in its sets and fights. It was dubbed in French as the film Mangla Fille des Indes. His last greatest hit Mother India (1957), the remake of his most acclaimed film Aurat, was the immortal story of a woman's suffering and endurance while bringing up her children- harsh poverty, a runaway husband, a scheming moneylender, a wayward son whom she is compelled to shoot in the end. It was the first Indian movie nominated for Oscar and won him many awards including Filmfare Award 1958 for best film and best director. (Source: Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema (Oxford University Press), India Heritage.com

Aurat (Mehboob Khan, 1940): The original version of Mehboob's classic Mother India (1957), this stark epic was much more realistic and has the earthiness its remake lacks. It is one of the most widely acclaimed films focussing on the voice of women. There are elements in the film which go deep into the Indian psyche and touch a chord which no one has touched before. Radha, the mother (Sardar Akhtar), is a full blooded woman and equal partner in her husband's labors. She upholds the 'dharma' which the good son, Ramu (Surendra), follows. When the other son, Birju (Yaqub), transgresses it, she shoots him. Sardar Akhtar's extraordinary performance is one highlight of the film. The other is Birju's characterization of the bad son, which has a different but equally important side. He does not suffer patiently the landlord's extortionism. There is a great scene in the film. Birju now grown into an illiterate decoit, raids the moneylender's house and destroys his account books saying, "This is the knowledge that has destroyed us." Birju speaks for those who cannot speak, the deprived millions. In Aurat, Mehboob, the untutored genius, saw India with a clear, even ruthless vision.

Mother India (Mehboob Khan, 1957): A gem in the Golden Age of Indian cinema, this remake of Mehboob Khan's earlier classic Aurat (1940) was the first Indian film to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1958, which it missed by a single vote. The film also has the distinction of winning five Filmfare awards in 1958 - Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress (Nargis), Best Cinematography (Faredoon A. Irani) and Best Sound Recordist (R. Kaushik). Mother India is an epic tale of a mother's struggle against adversity and unscrupulous moneylender to retain her farm and feed her children. Radha, played by screen queen Nargis, is a strong, passionate mother, tilling the soil with the plough on her back when there are no oxen, raising her children alone and exploited by the local moneylender. Her son conceives a fanatical hatred for this man; his obsession, coupled with Radha's need to live within the boundaries of the law and common decency, ends in classic tragedy. As the film's publicity said, "The grain of rice on your table does not tell the grim tale of the toil that grew it", the film portrays with astounding success a powerful view of rural life in a small Indian village, with raw emotions and cinematic fineness.

Bollywood - Another Name For Change!

I cherish great memories of the bygone era of 30s and 40s - the period of the pioneers when V. Shantaram made  movies with a message, Mehboob Khan made musicals having discovered Surendra, the first and only male singer in Mumbai, the counterpart of Kolkata's singing sensation, K. L. Sehgal, Sohrab Modi made history with his great historicals, “Pukar” and “Sikandar”  and Vijay Bhatt started the trend of mythological films with his greatest “Ram Rajya”,  the golden age of 50s and 60s - the age remembered for romantic movies made by legendary directors like Raj Kapoor, Guru Dutt, Bimal Roy, B. R. Chopra, Nasir Hussain, Vijay Anand, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Basu Chatterjee and many more like them, the period of the parallel cinema in 70s - the time when the  directors such as Mrinal Sen, Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani brought a new wave to Bollywood and of course, the age of the ‘Angry Youngman’ of late 70s and 80s, when directors like Mohan Desai, Prakash Arora, Yash Chopra made super hits with the one and only - Amitabh Bachchan, who raised the bar of acting standard in Bollywood beyond the reach of others in his fraternity. And then  Bollywood's grand entry into the new millennium with worldwide popular movies. Spanning a wide range of decades, genres and style, the Bollywood film culture in all its glory is a wonderful thing, ever changing to cater to the changing tastes of the viewers or the critics.

Right from the early era of films to the recent controversy on  “Udta Punjab” prior to its release,,  extremely impactful to the Bollywood industry—was the government censorship of films. When the British were still in control, during the Studio Era, certain themes about Indian freedom could of course not be included. It was, indeed, an  example of extraordinary intelligence of the makers of “Kismat” (1943) that  they succeeded in bypassing the very strict censorship of the British period to include in the movie the immortal patriotic song penned by poet Pradeep - “Aaj Himalay Ki Choti Se Phir Humne Lalkara Hai, Door Hato Aye Duniya Walo, Hindustan Hamara Hai”. But it is after India’s independence from Britain that the censorship really strong-armed the industry and subsequently the style. Sex was roundly forbidden, including any “blatant physical contact” suggesting it, such as kissing. Thus, exaggerated body language replaced these things and became the norm, such as bumping shoulders between two romantic leads or keeping faces very close without touching. The dialogue also reflected the compensation for the missing sexuality. Most importantly, though, the songs took over the expression of love. In this context I recollect the golden era of great romantic movies when Dilip Kumar would be seen playing an antique piano while wooing his ladylove with lines, somewhat like, "Tu kahe agar to jivan bhar mein geet sunata jaoon". In movies then the proverbial tree proved safe bet in courting scenes to keep the lovers at decent distance from each other. Still safer, lovers in some movies remained separated in much of the footage of the film, content to call from long distance, "Awaz de kahan hai, duniya meri jawan hai". And yet the movies celebrated silver and golden jubilees. Then came along Raj Kapoor's 'Bobby', along with it the new trend of youthful romance, with plenty of hugs between the lead players. From then on there was no stopping, especially after the liberalization in the Censor Board policy, and singing and dancing "Choli ke peeche kya hai" and the sexier numbers, called item numbers, that followed, the films have reached a stage where lead actors compete in the smooch game on the silver screen. Why not, the youth today is far more liberal and fun loving than in yester years and looks for a free life style of unrestricted entertainment in films. Taking no risks or rather playing to popular demand, producers fill their films with bold scenes and daring songs and dance sequences. Hopefully, the present trend of sex overtones in screenplay and songs in films is only a passing phase, which will end when the audience taste changes and it gets fed up with too much sex in films. And it won't be too long a wait, as the super success of films like "Black", "Baghban” and “Piku” shows.

Indeed, Bollywood is another name for CHANGE.

V. Shantaram - Tribute To Hindi Cinema Icon!

Here is  a tribute to  icon of Hindi cinema, V. Shantaram, along with two examples from his several outstanding films:

V. Shantaram (1901-1990)

Born Rajaram Vankudre Shantaram in Kolhapur, he hardly had any education. He started his career in theatres as a curtain puller with the Gandharv Natak Mandli. He joined Baburao Painter's Maharashtra Film Company and learnt the intricacies of filmmaking from Painter, including acting. In 1929 he formed Prabhat Film Company with the help of some friends. Initially Shantaram followed Painter's formula of mythologicals and historicals. However, his visit to Germany changed his entire outlook as he made Amrit Manthan (1934) on return from Germany. The film beautifully depicted the tension between Buddhism and established religious creeds. The close ups and long views were particularly effective. He was one of the early film producers to realize the efficacy of the film medium as an instrument of social change and used it successfully to advocate humanism on one hand and expose bigotry and injustice on the other. Amar Jyoti (1936) was an interesting feminist film about a woman who rebels against injustice by becoming a Pirate Queen. Duniya Na Mane (1937) was the story of a young woman refusing to accept her marriage to a much older man. Aadmi (1939), a love story of a policeman and a prostitute is regarded his finest film. The film was significant not only in terms of thematic content but also as work of motion picture art, technical innovations and artistic integrity. Padosi (1941) made a strong plea for communal harmony. Its interesting that Mazhar Khan, a Muslim, plays the Hindu and Gajanan Jagirdar, a Hindu, played the Muslim in the film. Shakuntala (1943) was one of his biggest grossers, the first film to run for more than hundred weeks. Jayshree who played the title role in the movie became a top star overnight. Shantaram took her as his second wife and repeated her as leading lady in his next movie, Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani (1946), in which he himself played the title role. The film based on K. A. Abbas's short novel And One Did Not Come Back was an impressive anti-war effort. The film received international recognition in Toronto Film Festival 1947. Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje (1955), his first color film was a box-office smash. The message of the film that India must preserve her artistic tradition and not be swayed by the West was lapped up by the audiences. Do Aankhen Barah Haath (1957), a brilliant film, depicted the true human being within. Pinjra (1972) was Shantaram's last most acclaimed movie which gave a strong and convincing message against capital punishment.

Padosi (V. Shantaram, 1941): It is a moving film on the unfortunate antagonism between the Hindus and the Muslims. The protagonists are two old friends and neighbors in a village, Mirza (Gajanan Jagirdar), a Muslim, and Thakur (Mazhar Khan), a Hindu. Then a city builder arrives, to acquire land in order to build a dam. Though the villagers resist his overtones in the beginning, their resolve is broken when he successfully incites one community against the other, ultimately separating the close neighbors too. In the climax of the film, a tour de force of technical ingenuity, the two die together holding each other's hand, when the dam is blown up. Espousing the cause of communal harmony, Padosi boldly emphasises that people are not divided because of religious differences but because of power-play and profit making. Padosi remains one of the most celebrated social films ever.

Do Aankhen Barah Haath (V. Shantaram, 1957): One of the finest movies ever made, DABH won President's Gold Medal (1957), Silver Berlin Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival (1958) and Samuel Goldwyn Award at the Golden Globes, USA (1959). The plot is about an idealist police officer who tries to rehabilitate six criminals and succeeds. The 'two eyes' belong to the officer, the 'twelve hands' are those of the six incarcerated murderers. The officer is of the opinion that there's no such thing as a truly bad man, and to prove his point he transports the six killers to a farm, where he puts them to useful work. Amazingly, the jailer's theory is valid one. The prisoners do indeed transform into worthwhile members of society. V. Shantaram was a genius and this movie is his masterpiece. It is an important film which endorses prison reforms and propounds the philosophy that even the most hardened, seemingly soul-dead criminals can be brought in contact with his higher self. The film makes you want to believe in the innate decency of all human beings. Despite being a message film, it remains cinematically alive throughout and played to excellent response at the box-office.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Big B Impressed By "Udta Punjab"

“There are seldom moments in the life of creatives within the world of entertainment that compel you to speech and words .. ‘Udta Punjab’ did that to me today .. cinema in its absolute .. artists - where the heck are they getting these superbly talented men and women from - without fault and without performance per se .. but living in the life of the character being portrayed .. simply mouth wide opened wonder as you watch them ..”
(Big B Blog DAY 3003)

Since March 14, 1931, when the silent Indian cinema began to talk, sing and dance, with the release of Alam Ara, the first 'talkie', the Indian cinema has progressed to become the biggest film industry in the world. Over 30,00 feature films produced so far, include movies of the highest standard that have raised India's flag high in the world of cinema.
Of the numerous extremely talented individuals associated with cinema, some are eternally identifiable. Their image and hallmark style render them unforgettable. The above quote from Big B Blog confirms that the creator of “Udta Punjab” joins those gems of talent of the past and the present.

“Udta Punjab” reminds of another remarkable movie made on the theme of Punjab, made by the superbly talented Gulzar Sahib:

Maachis (Gulzar, 1996): A story to set your conscience afire, Machis is the tale of a wronged Punjabi youth who takes to arms and joins the league of terrorists to avenge the injustices heaped on to him by the corrupt political set up. The movie seeks to portray how the embittered youth of the strife torn state are dormant, yet volatile and could start a raging fire if provoked beyond their endurance. Maachis is an attempt to flout some myths and look beyond the stereotype image of terrorists. They are shown as a mixture of opposites - compassionate and caring at one time, insensitive and brutal at the other. The film is set against the backdrop of the Operation Bluestar and the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, but interwoven with the plot of the spine chilling drama is a tender love story that hopes to reach its culmination one day. The film bears the Gulzar hallmark of simplicity as well as sensitive handling. All the actors excel performing their difficult portrayals, including the new comer Chandrachud Singh. Tabu won the National Award - Silver Lotus - for Best Actress.

At least two movies made not too long ago, with Big B and Abhishek Bachchan playing lead roles respectively, rank amongst the most appropriate examples of the rare creations of Hindi cinema described by Big B above:

Black (Sanjay Leela Bhansali, 2005): It takes a brave man to make a Bollywood movie without color and songs, but that's exactly what Sanjay Leela Bhansali has done with Black. In his boldest movie to date, Bhansali directs living Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan as Debraj Sahai, an alcoholic teacher, who transforms the life of an Anglo-Indian deaf-blind girl played by Rani Mukerji. After rescuing her from an asylum, Debraj spends years developing the wild child Michelle into an intelligent and gregarious young woman. Determined to see his student graduate from university, he acts as her eyes and ears, guiding her through the tough world around her. But when Alzheimer's sets in, both Debraj and his student's life are plunged into darkness once again. Now taking on the role of teacher, Michelle fights to remind her mentor of the meaning of everything he once taught her. Boasting of carefully crafted script, beautiful cinematography, a haunting score and moving performances by Amitabh Bachchan, Rani Mukerji and Esha Kapoor as the young Michelle, Black takes you on an uplifting journey of the human spirit.

Guru (Mani Ratnam, 2007):  “As a story, GURU is tremendously inspiring and makes you feel all the more confident to encounter challenges and hurdles that may crop up in a journey called life. With GURU, Mani proves that he's indeed the guru when it comes to narrating stories. GURU ranks amongst Mani Ratnam's finest attempts. Every sequence in GURU bears the stamp of a genius and the outcome is tremendous.

“Mani's choice of the protagonist -- Abhishek Bachchan -- is equally worthy. You ought to be enormously talented to understand the nuances of the character and Abhishek deserves the highest praise for reliving a complex role. You smile when he smiles, you cry when he cries… you relive every single emotion that the character experiences. Only goes to show that the actor involves you at every step with a stupendous performance. Reserve all the awards for Abhishek Bachchan. No two opinions on that! His performance in GURU is world class and without doubt, a shade above his career-best work in YUVA. From a sharp teenager in Turkey to the biggest entrepreneur of the country, Abhishek handles the various shades this character demands with adroitness. He takes a giant leap with this film!

“Aishwarya Rai too stuns you with a powerful performance. Known for her angelic looks all the while, the actor will make people sit up and notice the reservoirs of talent in GURU. Also, the chemistry between Abhishek and Aishwarya is electrifying. Mithun Chakraborty is in form after a long, long time. And it's a pleasure to see the veteran deliver a natural performance from start to end.” - Taran Adarsh, reputed film critic.

The above are only a few examples from amongst scores of great classics created by the superbly talented moviemakers  which not only gave glory to Hindi cinema  but also brought honor to the country by winning nominations and awards at the famous film festivals all over the world. Our salute to them!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Father's Day Musings

The fondest memories of my father are from his days in Lahore, the political, educational and cultural capital of pre-independence Punjab province in India. His typical day in Lahore was much longer than most other working men of his time. It started at eight in the morning and ended past midnight, most of it consumed in concentrating on his two jobs with passion and pleasure, so that he could not only afford a luxurious life to his large family, but also provide sufficient funds for our mother, the most generous host one had the fortune to meet and enjoy her hospitality.   His primary post was of Vice-principal and senior teacher of English language in D.A.V. High school, the most prestigious school in Punjab, which topped in studies as well as sports every year. He was also the Chief Representative of the Oxford University Press, the world famous publishers, for Northern India. When at home, he would be seen most of the time engrossed in his book, the latest publication of The Oxford University Press. Sitting on his classic easy cane chair with hookah on his side, kept alive by frequent refilling with burning charcoal by the old family servant, he would be engrossed in the new arrival from the publishers till past midnight, when the rest of the family would be fast asleep.
Father, being a very busy person,  hardly had any time for us during the day. But his absence was well compensated by our mother's omnipresent company and great devotion every minute of our growing years. However, on his part in parenting us, our father made it a priority to be with the family at dinner time every evening without fail. In fact, he had made it mandatory for everyone in the family to be together at the dinner table. Mealtime at night was a ritual in our family which must not be missed by anyone. Apart from the family members, anyone around the dinner table was family, most often a friend of one or the other sibling. Father would generally jump-start the family conversation by asking questions like, "What did you like most about your day?" or "What was the best part of your day?" He would suggest slow down and savor the food, not so much to inculcate a healthy habit, as to give more time to enjoy mealtime conversation before clean up began. Indeed, this used to be the best quality time for the family in a day, the important elements being family cohesion and family communication. The atmosphere was essentially kept fun-filled, non-confrontational and stress-free by focusing on fun topics. Personally on my part, being the youngest in the family, I found the dinner time conversation my best source of information on family, particularly, my brothers, all elder to me, who would relate anecdotes from the time when I must have been a toddler or, may be, not even born then. One of the most interesting was the one, narrated by my eldest brother, relating to how Om Prakash,  the legendary comedian-cum-character actor, became his best friend from their school days: “We  were both in the same class and Om Prakash, being very naughty and frequent defaulter due to neglecting his homework, was often punished by the teacher. To escape canning or standing on the bench, he exchanged his seat with an another student and became my benchmate, knowing that I was son of the Vice-Principal. It paid off, as he was never punished thereafter and was let off with a warning by the teacher, who did not want to displease me and thereby my father by inflicting a severe punishment to my dear friend. Since then our friendship started growing and eventually we became best friends, which continues till date, when he plays the very popular Fatehdin of the famous Punjabi program of All India Radio, Lahore. There is another very interesting anecdote relating to Om Prakash’s AIR days talked about on the dinner table which I leave out for some other day.     

August 15, 1947,  father was still in Lahore which was now a part of Pakistan. Though he had sent the rest of the family for a vacation to Srinagar, Kashmir, he had continued to stay in Lahore for quite some time after the Partition. Father firmly believed that sooner or later the atmosphere would calm down and people would settle peacefully, well protected by the new Pakistan administration. His logic was that if the Hindus and Muslims could live amicably in Lahore under the British rule, a foreign power, why couldn't the two communities live together in Lahore under the Pakistan government, which was controlled by our own countrymen. But his logic proved irrelevant at that point of  time, when mobs of fanatic Muslims were roaming on the roads of Lahore, vowing not to let a single non-Muslim live in Lahore. They were on a killing spree and it was a miraculous escape for my father when they forced their entry into our house on learning that he was still living there. Our wonderful Muslim friends living next door helped him escape by crossing over to their house from the terrace and later escorting him across the border to India. And thus ended my father's Lahore days, leaving behind whatever he had in Lahore, including his two jobs.

Father - Son Combo!

“You held his hand once to reassure him of the wondered look on his face, cap and all .. and then he towers above you at a sudden time ..” (Big B Blog DAY 2999)

the above quote from Big B’s very emotionally written Blog in the context of kids whose ‘hand we held once to reassure him of the wondered look on their face’…...and then they tower above you at a sudden time - with Abhishek in mind - reminds me of another father of another era of Hindi cinema, who spoke in somewhat similar way:
“There was a time when my son would knock on the studio gates and introduce himself as my son to get the nod to enter, now he towers above me and I have to say I am his father to be allowed to enter the same studios”. These are words of Mumtaz Ali, father of the famous comedian Mehmood.

Mumtaz Ali
Renowned choreographer, actor of ‘Bombay Talkies’, Mumtaz Ali was famous as a dancer and character- artist in 40s and early 50s, when he was sought after by producers for dance numbers and training new entrants in the industry as item girls. His item number, Main Dilli Se Dulhan Laya Re, became the rage of the time. Although a familiar figure of item numbers in Bombay Talkies' films, he had formed his own group and started doing stage shows all over the country, performing popular Hindi songs as dance numbers. The show travelled from city to city and was called Mumtaz Ali Nites. His son Mehmood, who later became the most famous comedian of Bollywood films, would most of the time accompany his father to these shows. His job was to sit outside and sell tickets and then to make announcements on the stage. His daughter Malikunissa, who was later known as Minu Mumtaz, the well-known dancer and character actor, also accompanied her father but did not perform till the circumstances forced her to. Indeed, Mumtaz Ali was not only the father of his famous children Mehmood and Meenu Mumtaz, but could rightly be called the king of item numbers in Hindi cinema.
After Parvarish, Mehmood came to be recognized for his comic talent. He landed himself meatier roles in films like Gumnaam, Pyar Kiye Jaa and Pyar Hi Pyar. In 1961, he played the lead comedian in Sasural. He was paired with a character actress named Shobha Khote. Their zany combination was so successful, that they went on to become a “comedy pair” in many hit films thereafter – hits like Love in Tokyo and Ziddi. Later, Aruna Irani replaced her in the comedy team. As the 60s progressed, Mehmood kept expanding the role of the comedian in Hindi movies and a time came, when he was so much “in demand” that producers approached him, offering him full-length comedy films. By the early 70s, Mehmood was at the peak of his comic career. He exhibited a rare ability to gauge the moods of the cinema-going audience – especially the front-benchers! This was the time when Mehmood decided to concentrate on his own production house. He had already started his company in the early 60s, with his first production called Chhote Nawab (1961). This had been followed by a suspense-comedy–thriller called Bhoot Bangla, in which Mehmood had taken the director’s chair for the first time. His company’s Padosan – in which Mehmood locked horns with Kishore Kumar in a South-Indian-versus-North-Indian war – became a massive hit in the 70s. At that time, Mahmood's star was at its zenith. By the time the 90s set in, Mahmood had played his entire hand -- as actor, director, story writer and producer. But Mehmood will forever be remembered as he appeared in his heydays – as the King of Comedy.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Bow To Big B On Completing 3000 Blogs in 3000 Days!

Dear Amitji,

On behalf of all of us here on this pious and prestigious platform, you're very dear Ef, heartiest greeting and congratulations on the eve of your completing 3000 Blogs in 3000 DAYS - the great feat no one from your fraternity can even imagine to achieve. This amazing success, indeed, makes us feel all the more  sentimental and proud, as we have been part of your posts DAY after DAY, continuously and keenly awaiting for it every day to appear on our screen, so that we can  rush our response to be No.1 to post your comment on the Blog of the DAY. It’s like coming on top of our class during school days when all other classmates would congratulate us for our outstanding achievement. The contents of the comment did not matter for the one standing first, it could be as simple as “Hello Amitji” or adding to it “I love you”, as attempting any further addition of words could deprive the coveted top position which so many others must be trying to deserve by hurrying their “Hello” the same moment. Wow, what a unique way of  expressing  our unlimited love for you right in the beginning to read the DAY’s Blog. But that is only the beginning. As you proceed further on the post, the overflowing love for you is clearly visible in every comment, so much so that sometimes the Ef cannot hide their anger on anyone amongst us who is seen as not so respectful to you in his/her response as should have been. A recent example of it was when our very dear Arshad Khan, who in no way loves you less than any of us, as is apparent day after day from his comments full of love and admiration for you, inadvertently compared you to his favorite leader in the current ongoing campaign for the U.S. election, who is not favorite of most others amongst the Ef, being infamous for his vibes against women, latinos, immigrants and so many others. OMG, what an outburst of anger against Arshad Bhai on the post that day, beginning with a very angry response from Jasmine Jaywant and rejoinders from so many more. The tempers came down only when Arshad Khan explained that he was only comparing  the leader with you for his outstanding quality in pulling crowds and otherwise that leader was nowhere near your great humane qualities. The whole episode shows how much we all love and respect you and how far we can go in our dedication to protect your honor when there seems an even an iota of disrespect from anyone of us, not to speak of outsiders.  
The outsiders, especially of the media, are most perplexed by this bondage between you and us on the Blog posts, and often ask you how so much love and affection is possible, especially on your part, for us, the Ef, and are speechless on hearing your blunt answer:   

“Well frankly I care a damn how .. I only know that it cares for all those that give concentration and contribution and love and affection and heart to this here, this page this empty whiteness, filling it with the colors of dedication and togetherness ….they are my “extended family”. They confide in me. They show affection and concern. They get upset at times and reprimand me. They share their dreams and ambitions with me… they miss me when I am not there on time. Are not all these wonderfully domesticated attributes? They enrich my life by their honesty and frankness. By pulling me out of my closet at times and showing me a mirror. By critically analysing events and moments. By educating me on my faults.”

Sir, thank you so much for your wonderful words of appreciation and affection for us, so obvious in your above answer but also expressed by you almost every day in one form or another in your unprecedented  3000 blogs in 3000 days.  Blogs which have been a remarkable resource of new ideas and energy to us on expressing a passing thought, an extended essay, a quick reflection on some subject or another, or a rare childhood recollection.
The following excerpt from your post sums up your motivation to keep moving on the blogging path for as long as possible:
"The joy of connecting with my friends and well wishers even at the late hour of 3 a.m. is worth.... Once you start you never want to stop."

We too would never want you to stop blogging. May God bless you a long healthy life to keep connected with us as you have been during your 3000 Blogs in 3000 DAYS!

With regards and best wishes from all of us

Tilak Rishi

Thursday, June 16, 2016

End Child Labor in Supply Chains

On this day, June 12, 2016, the World Day Against Child Labour, I wish to draw attention of all my dear readers to Big B’s following tweet whereby he urged his fans and fraternity to pitch in to make “this world a better place for children” by not employing them.

“Each of us has the power to make this world a better place for children. #dont_employ_little_ones”. (Your tweet T 2235 - 23 April 2016)

His message today is all the more meaningful and significant because this year’s U.N. theme for the day is the same as so passionately played up by him in above tweet :

“ 2016 Theme: End child labour in supply chains - It's everyone's business!”

Most of us here may be aware about Shri Kailash Satyarthi, but to mark the occasion I find it most appropriate to make a mention about him as a way to salute him for his vigorous efforts and campaign to eliminate child labor from the world, especially his own country India:
Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi gave up his job as an electrical engineer to dedicate himself to protecting and advancing child rights for over three decades now, freeing 80,000 child labourers and giving them new hope in life.
It is largely due to his  zeal that 60-year-old Satyarthi rose to become a global voice for the children’s cause. Satyarthi has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize many times in the past for his his relentless crusade for defending child rights. Satyarthi is the first India-born person to have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and the seventh Indian Nobel laureate.

I also wish to make a special mention of the most serious and sincere participation in your campaign against child labor of the film celebrities, especially the producers who made anti child labor the theme of their movies. We can never forget the  scene from Baghban when a boy polishing shoes catches your eye and you decide to pay for his education, including higher education abroad.

Thus a medium like cinema always works wonders when it comes to raising an issue like this. Bollywood has tried hard enough as it stood-up to the responsibility for this. Informed filmmakers such as Prakash Arora, Amole Gupte, Nitesh Tiwari took the mantle of presenting us with films that deal with child labour in a subtle yet hard-hitting manner.

The first Bollywood film to deal with the grave issue of child labour was the 1954 film Boot Polish. This Raj Kapoor production, directed by Prakash Arora dealt with the story of two orphans Belu (Baby Naaz) and Bhola (Ratan Kumar) who are forced into begging on streets by their aunt. Further in the story, a bootlegger named John Chacha (David Abraham) teaches them self-respect and to work for a living instead of begging. This was one of the most honest films made in Hindi cinema and could still give you the chills with its story.

In recent times, efficiently bridging the gap of a docu-drama and commercial movies, films like Stanley Ka Dabba and Chillar Party made sure that they gave you a thought-provoking entertainer. Be it the little Fatka from Chillar Party who is a car-cleaner or the innocent Stanley, both characters were powerful enough to convey the hardships of child labour and how conveniently we turn a blind eye to this issue.

Also films like Nanhe Jaisalmer and I Am Kalam were a mirror to the society for how we are killing the aspirations of these underage workers. It is commendable that these films made the effort to reach out to the audiences with meaningful content without thinking about their commercial value. Bollywood is a huge medium and even one film can do a lot of difference.

Credit Titles before "The End"!

“…. seldom is the color of labor ever noticed or recognised or given recognition to .. salutations therefore to them that remain unannounced and unwritten and unobserved in the creativity of the film .. yes they be a part of the extensive minute fonted credit titles that run endlessly at the finishing of the main .. they never ever illicit any notice ..” (Big B Blog)

Big B provides yet another proof of his natural and noble tendency to pick up a worthy cause and then bring it to limelight through his brightest of the bright Blogs to attract attention towards it of all those concerned, connected and in a position to help the cause by correcting the practice - producers in this case - , so that proper recognition is given to all those creative hands who have been toiling day and night along with the rest of the cast and crew in making of a movie, but never noticed or given recognition that they deserve. His salutations to them, I have every hope, will provide for the producers sufficient food for their thoughts on the matter and may make them think of ways and means to give proper place to the ‘color of labor’ that remains unobserved  throughout running of the film till “The End”, the last call to the viewers to rush to the “Exit” and vacate the hall to make space for the audience of the next show. And you have very clearly pointed out to the producers that inclusion of the names of that creative labor in the ‘minute fonted end credit titles that run endlessly at the finishing of the main’ has no meaning as their names still remain unobserved.     

In the old days, movies would just say "The End" and that was it.  Many didn't even have a cast list at the end.  Some had their own exit music, which is pretty much the function served by today's closing credits, usually typed and appear in white lettering on a solid black background, featuring no sound effects or dialogue, only a musical background, sometimes the movie’s theme music. The use of closing credits in film to list complete production crew and cast was not firmly established in films until the 1970s. Before this decade, most movies were released with no closing credits at all. Films generally had  only the opening credits, which consisted of just major cast and crew, although sometimes the names of the cast and the characters they played would be shown at the end also. Most interesting development in end credits in recent times is inclusion of a song, specially written and filmed to fill the time the end credits are scrolling on the screen, not so much to make the audience glued to the screen to give attention to end credits as to give them time to peacefully move out of the hall without any kind of  panicky rush to the “Exit”. One of the finest example of such a song was the end credit song, specially the English version, which was filmed on you, sir:
ARE U Ready, Sit Down,
Let Me Da Tell You A Lil Story,
'Bout 2 Cool Cats,
Yeah, Bunty Aur Babli,
C'minin' At An Angle,
That They Better Than The Rest,
When Ya Looking In-In Their Hearts,
Them A Da Pass The Test
And the song goes on and on for many minutes and is so attractive that the audience, even those who had stood  to start moving out, keep standing till the last lines of the lyric:
Just Like An Angry Character With A Lotta Soul,
Them A Da Call Him Bunty With A Heart Of Gold,
Just Like A Beautiful Angel Comin' Outta The Cold,
There's Only One Babli And That's For Sure,

( Bunty Aur Babli… They Hustle Now
Oh - Ho Oh - Ho )… (2)

( Bunty Aur Babli… They Settle Down )
Oh - Ho Oh - Ho

My son found this song to be the most attractive part of the film and keeps playing the last portion of the film often for watching this song. There are so many other songs and interesting stories on end credit finishing part of the films. I only wish that movie makers take it seriously what Big B has conveyed on giving due recognition to ‘creative labor’ in the movies they make and sincerely act on it,

At Times 'Ignorance Is Bliss'!

‘Ignorance is bliss’, as they say!
Reminds me of one of the first observations I made on moving to the U.S., ‘the greatest country on the globe’, as proudly claimed by the people of this country:
Average American's ignorance starts from the first grade in elementary school he goes to. So that his mind is not burdened too much, school syllabi is simplified--no counting tables, no spelling drills and of course, no geography or general knowledge. In higher classes, grammar gets the go bye and old classics can be skipped from reading. In adult life, media adds to his ignorance by ignoring the world outside of the US. But all his ignorance does not bother him. General knowledge is generally out of any conversation, even from career oriented interviews. Average American truly feels that 'GK' is fine only for those who aspire to be in 'Jeopardy', the most prized program on TV. And he also knows that lack of it is no hinderance to him in enjoying a satisfying life style, with the minimum means he is able to manage with his limited learning.
Talking of ignorance, the topic also brings back memories of my sister Toshi (Santosh), now in heaven but enjoyed heavenly life when living with us on earth. When she was young and still a school student, she fell from the first floor balcony of our house in Lahore. There was no visible injury to her body but it affected her ability to understand and retain what was taught in the school. Medical science was not very advanced then and doctors could not diagnose what really was wrong to have resulted in that condition of hers. They, however, advised to let her lead life as she feels comfortable with and not to press her to attend school if she didn’t like to. That they opined might improve her condition if not cure completely. So, she was a dropout from school and was free to enjoy life as she liked best, ignorant of whatever serious situation there might be around her. Being next to her in age, I was quite close to her and always tried to do everything possible that would keep her happy - accompanying her to movies she liked most or for shopping of things she desired to buy, especially the dresses. In fact, all the siblings - six brothers and elder sister - did their best to please or even pamper her when we were living together in Lahore with parents. After the partition when we had left Lahore and settled down in New Delhi, one of our  elder sister was already brothers, a forest lessee, arranged on Toshi’s asking a special tracking trip for us from Shimla to Mussoorie through the interiors of Himachal, with all facilities including horses and stay at forest guest houses arranged by Lalji, a senior staff member of his lumber company, who accompanied us throughout the trip. It was during this trip that Lalji was attracted towards Toshi, irrespective of her health issue, and within months after the trip they were married and lived happily thereafter. Wasn’t Toshi a true example of the saying - ‘ignorance is bliss’!
“If ignorance is bliss, there should be more happy people.” -Victor Cousin


Namaste is postured to perfection body language with hands pressed together, palms touching and fingers pointing upwards, thumbs close to the chest. This gesture is called Añjali Mudrā or Pranamasana. In Hinduism it means "I bow to the divine in you". Namaste  is derived from Sanskrit and is a combination of the word namaḥ and te.
Namaḥ means 'bow', 'obeisance', 'reverential salutation' or 'adoration' and te means 'to you'. Therefore, Namaste literally means "bowing to you". Translated roughly, it means "I bow to the God within you", or "The Spirit within me salutes the Spirit in you" - a knowing that we are all made from the same One Divine Consciousness. Excavations for Indus civilization have revealed many male and female terracotta figures in Namaste posture. These archeological findings are dated to be between 3000 BC to 2000 BC.

Pressing hands together with a smile to greet Namaste – a common cultural practice in India, is also widely used throughout  Nepal, parts of Asia and beyond where people of South and Southeast Asian origins have migrated. But now after we  moved to the U.S. to spend our retirement years with our son and daughter-in-law, settled here, I observes that in the past few years, namaste has reinvented itself. And the widely spreading love for Yoga here gets a lot of the credit (or blame). You go to any yoga class and you’ll hear the teacher say Namaste with  her hands joined in front of her, elbows sticking out. Her namaste sounds different from the one we know in India -  the Americanized "nahm-ahs-tay." They don't think of it just as a greeting, but  a spiritual connotation — a Hindu mantra, a divine chant, a yoga salutation. As per the yoga guru,  it  allows all to come together to a place of connection, oneness and timelessness. “Namaste” is a word in which a deep union between spirits can form and a way yoga practitioners can connect to their yogic lineage. “Namaste, everybody. ‘Namaste’ is a Sanskrit word that means ‘The divine in me recognizes the divine in you.’ — A benediction, delivered by yoga instructors at the end of practice. “Attention, yogis! PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE! Close this door behind you!!! Namaste!!! The Management.” —Sign on the front door.

As yoga is gaining popularity day by day, so is the popularity of ‘namaste’ increasing everywhere. Here is an example: Since 2004, Namaste Charter School has combined health and wellness with academic rigor in a peaceful environment, paving the way for an innovative, successful new model of urban education that is now being adopted in schools across the country. “We are proud of Namaste’s incredible successes as we have grown from just 90 Kindergarten and first graders our first year to 480 students today,” boasts with pride the Principal. However, too much popularity of yoga in another school brought a  backlash ending in the Principal issuing apology to parents:
A note from the principal at Bullard Elementary School said, "I am truly sorry that the mindfulness/de-stressing practices here at Bullard caused many misconceptions that in turn created a distraction in our community."Those distractions include some parents criticizing the yoga instruction, especially making ‘namaste’ as an important part of the yoga,  via public Facebook pages, saying the practice has religious overtones.
This could be taken as an exceptional case, as by and large ‘namaste’ is being increasingly used not only in yoga classes but all over by naming new businesses “Namaste……..”, for example Namaste Plaza, Namaste Pizza and so on. This reminds me of some Bollywood producers also cashing on the popularity of ‘namaste’ by titles such as “Namaste London” and “Salaam Namaste”, both movies box-office bonanzas. And now comes “Namaste Bollywood” at Playhouse Theater, Bangko. “Ranging from heart thumping solos to jaw dropping acts, Namaste Bollywood dance repertoire includes performances with Bollywood's biggest stars in mainstream Bollywood movies, regional Indian films, popular television shows, as well as global events”, claim the producers while promoting the show.

Critics of the Cinema

Critics of the cinema have been around for as long as cinema itself. During private screenings they are silent observers, but in their written reviews, their critical opinions can speak much louder than the average person. The job of a film critic is to critique films for their quality on a very specific set of “professional” film standards, as opposed to a regular movie attendee, who instead views a film for its entertainment value. It would make sense that the two different parties assess the quality of the film from each of their respective viewpoints, but the levels of quality enjoyment can seem too varied to just be their perspectives alone. Also, there exists a major discrepancy between one film critic and the next, and their reviews are rarely very similar.

Today, the reasons why most films critics differ in their ratings and the manipulations  go behind the screen:  There is a group of film reviewers in Bollywood who are up for sale and you cannot expect more than two stars from them unless you pay them. If you want four stars, then you have to pay him four lakhs. However, perhaps to maintain their dignity, they doesn’t give five stars for five lakhs.  Then there  film critics who do star interviews and report on Bollywood when they are not reviewing films. Now the PRs love a few journalists belonging to this group. Why? Because to get the required number of stars, you only need to make sure that the stars of the films are made available to these ‘journalists’ when the publicity of the film is on. If you ignore them during the promotions, then your film might get screwed in their reviews! Last but not the least, the group of critics who go by their own World Cinema standards and apply them to Bollywood commercial movies. If they rate a movie very highly it means that the movie is made for a niche audience and hence, a sure-shot flop at the box office.
This is not a generalisation. Not all senior journalists-cum-critics indulge in this kind of behavior. Most of them are responsible and true to their craft. Most of the reputed senior journos from leading media houses are loyal to their craft and very responsible. Hence they don’t belong to any of the above groups.

Whenever there is this topic of film critics, two famous journalists from the earlier era always come to mind - the first very sober and much respected, the second very scary and most hated,  but one thing common, they both turned producer at one time or the other:
B. R. Chopra: Late B.R. Chopra was born in Lahore, 1914, after graduating, he did his M.A. degree in English Literature from Punjab University, Lahore. Having a deep-rooted fascination for films, he switched over from a higher education to film journalism, surprising his family. He began his celluloid career writing and editing film reviews for the "Cine Herald" journal, one of the only two English language film magazines of Lahore, the other being Film Critic, edited by my brother R. R. Rishi. They both became very good friends, and when my sister married singer-actor Surendra in 1945, it was B. R. Chopra who hosted a very grand and glittering reception for the couple at Falettis Hotel where the entire who's who of Lahore film industry was present. After the Partition B. R. moved to Mumbai where eventually he became a very famous producer-director, always remembered with utmost respect.

Baburao Patel (1904-1982):  He was the Editor and Publisher of India's first film trade magazine, Filmindia, the first edition of which was published in 1935. Baburao was a different breed in a different time, he didn’t think twice before calling Kalpana Kartik “pigeon chested”, Suraiya “ugly” or Dev Anand “effeminate”. In his review of Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai, Patel writes: “Meena Kumari as Karuna acts well but her physical proportions seem to be getting so out of hand, especially in the southern regions, that in shape she is beginning to look like an inverted shuttlecock.” Shanta Apte, a famous actress called on Baburao Patel at the headquarters of movie magazine Filmindia in the late 1930s, she was angry and carrying a really big stick. Shanta Apte wanted a word — and a pound of flesh — from the founding editor and film critic after he derided her in his magazine. On another occasion, two film producers assaulted Patel in front of Bombay’s Imperial Studio after the reviewer lambasted their movie. And filmmaker V. Shantaram— once a close friend — accused Patel of blackmail. These were just a few of many scorned subjects who wanted to inflict pain on the writer, but by courting reader-wooing controversies for decades, Patel recorded and profoundly influenced the early days of Bollywood.
He was not only unsparingly acerbic, but also puerile and petty.
Skimming through his opinion columns and film reviews, it’s easy to see why Patel had enemies. Actresses bore the brunt of Patel’s gratuitous obsession with their anatomies. Naseem Banu had “ball-bearing breasts,” and Noor Jehan had an aging face that had “seen two World Wars.”  Baburao also made some movies, including Gwalan, Draupadi, Pardesi Saiyan, Bala Joban and Maharani, which all turned out to be the biggest flops.