Monday, February 29, 2016

My turn at being outraged

All these years, I read or saw with a silent smirk different groups claiming that their religious sentiments were hurt and demanding a ban on something. I looked at such people and thought, "Gosh, where do they find the time and energy to worry about something so irrelevant? Something that is not affecting their immediate future or connected to them in any possible way?"

But today, it's my turn. I was watching the trailer of 'Fan', a new SRK movie. Now, the premise is that SRK plays himself, a huge Bollywood star, and he also plays his own biggest fan, who, courtesy of prosthetic make-up (not very good), looks like a younger version of himself. This is what got my goat. Shah Rukh Khan is not Shah Rukh Khan in the movie. He is Aryan Khanna.

This has got to be a joke right? There are people in JNU getting beat up and kicked for demanding the rights of Dalits and Muslims and here we have a huge Bollywood star who is playing himself in the movie but called Aryan Khanna. ARYAN! Get it? I mean, the makers couldn't have given him a worse name to stamp out diversity if they wanted to.

Maybe I am over-reacting, like those very people I was smirking at some moments ago. Maybe, this was just a coincidence. But just like the recent Oscars were in the news for #Whiteout, I want to make a bold statement here. Bollywood is completely saffronized. And it has nothing to do with the current BJP government.

What reason did Salman Khan have to not just be Prem, but also a devout Hanuman bhakt who doesn't eat chicken in Bajrangi Bhaijan? What was the reason for Mathuny Matthews to be turned into Ranjit Katyal for Airlift? What's worse is that this is a recent trend. I think movies in the 60s and 80s had far more diverse characters, though they were no doubt stereotyped. Amar Akbar Anthony being a case in point.

Frankly speaking, I'm fed up of seeing the problems of Punjabi munde and how they get the kudi in the end. The kudi, who, almost never has a professional life. Unless the plot is an office romance, like Kartik calling Kartik. Or actually revolves around the heroine's life, like 'Piku' and 'Mary Kom'. Apart from the Hindu upper caste male, every other character, whether it is the Hindu upper caste female, or a caricatured sidekick, all work towards helping the hero achieve his aims. It's like the other people don't matter, or their stories aren't interesting enough.

Why is it important for us to see other stories? For one, it broadens our horizons and gives us a peek into how different people live their lives. It inculcates empathy and a tolerance for differences, something really needed in our country right now. Stereotyping does the opposite though. Showing diversity will also make films more relatable. All of us have friends from different castes, religions, even nationalities. Why can't this be reflected in films? Too much burden on the actors or the script writers? The sad part is, stories which have diversity are called 'arthouse cinema' or 'women-centric' films. Like 'Being Cyrus' or 'Kahani'.

It's not all bad though. We have the occasional 'Chak de India' and now Kareena and Arjun playing the gender bending couple in 'Ki & Ka'. Hopefully, change is around the corner.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

When I screamed in terror

I have a really funny phobia. I am scared of fish. My worst nightmare is to wake up and see fish floating around my room. Alive.

It all started with a dream when my friend gifted me an aquarium. I must have been like 16.

The funny thing is, when I saw those dreams, I found them amusing. I have no idea when they turned into a phobia. But once they did, I could never walk into a pet shop filled with aquariums. Hell, I couldn't even walk into the marine animals exhibit in Prince Of Wales Museum, Mumbai without pretending as if I am watching a scary movie. I was so sure one of those things was going to start moving that I just kept one eye open the whole time.

Taking me to the beach is an amusement in itself. I start shrieking if I think something brushed past my leg. "Ew ew ew something touched me!" I've said and it has turned out to be sand, or shells or something equally harmless meant to be at a beach.

Which brings me to my Krabi trip. Can you imagine a person so afraid of fishes getting mightily excited about going snorkeling and scuba diving? Yeah, I really didn't think things through. On our third anniversary, my husband and I booked a sunset cruise (the best, please go for it, even if you are scared of fishes or swimming) that promised to take us snorkeling twice and cliff diving. That was incidentally the last day of our trip and I was eagerly waiting for the big day.

It came soon enough and with all the innocence (or should I say stupidity) of a three-year-old, I took my snorkeling gear and jumped off the ship. I refused to take any watermelon for the fishes, because hello! I didn't want any near me. So I was going to see... what? I forgot in the excitement of snorkeling.

Needless to say, when I first put on that mask and peeked into the water, I screamed with terror. There were tiny yellow fishes all around me and touching me! I screamed and screamed and my instructor laughed and laughed. I said "I DON'T WANT TO BE NEAR ANY FISHES!!" as if my life depended on it and he laughed and said, "Don't worry, they won't do anything to you." Like that was supposed to be any consolation.

I must tell you, it is very difficult to scream with the snorkeling gear in your mouth but I did a pretty good job. Running out of breath after all that shrieking and trying to breathe through my mouth, I convinced myself that the snorkeling mask was unnecessarily magnifying images and the fishes weren't really THAT CLOSE. When I went back on the ship though, I realized how silly I was being. I could almost hear my mom saying to me, "Kahi karat nahiyet teh tula!" (They aren't harming you).

So, I resolved, not to be so silly on my next dive. And I am proud to say, I did not scream. I pretended as if they were coming to greet me and were kittens, not fishes. It worked! And I actually enjoyed myself.

Scuba diving is next. I'll pretend the tortoises are golden retrievers.