The backpack

Do you also have a backpack that is your favorite and which on emptying has restaurant bills from 325AD, one zipper that never opens or has been opened, one pocket which is meant to hold keys and coins but you never use it for them and one water bottle pocket that is only meant to hold this?

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Which backpack carrying grownup drinks water from these yaar?

Anyways, the backpack that I’m talking about is not just a bag with padded shoulder straps and roomy compartments for laptop and clothes. It is a holder. It holds emotions inside its pockets so that people only see the pack and never realize whether  useful things lie inside or simply rubbish. It holds those unsaid words which people want to say but eat instead. It holds those memories which they very carefully treasure like those photos which can never be deleted from one’s phone. Not even when the phone threatens to empty owner’s soul saying “low memory”.

The backpack that I’ve been carrying in the recent years is rather heavy because I packed mixed emotions inside- it is as heterogeneous as a Cadbury GEMS packet. From India to USA, I’ve come a long way (both literally and figuratively) as a person. Mixed emotions because sometimes, my heart says that I miss being that old Anupama and  sometimes I can clearly hear it say “Grow up,  woman!”

Living away from home teaches one to be responsible to say the least. For example, imagine coming home from work to a bed that was left unmade or a penalty for a missed bill. It reminds you immediately of your mother/father’s constant nagging to do somethings on time and her/his warning that that laziness would hurt later.  On a related note, It doesn’t hurt to say that those little acts of discipline that were imposed upon us are really what help us survive the extended stay away from home(with lesser discomfort). Back in those days when my mother used to ask me to clean the dining table while she cleaned up in the kitchen, I used to secretly hope that one day I’d run away to a house where there was a table-cleaning maid.

Living away from home in a foreign land also helped clear a lot of misconceptions that I had. A typical “frog in the well” me used to have some bad feelings about the West that most of the Indian mob have (which I won’t list here because I care for my skin).  And I am so glad today that I’ve been proven wrong! Few things that really impressed me at my workplace about them are how well they own up to their work without a fuss,  how easy and graceful it is to admit one’s shortcomings and how important the distinction between “break time” and “work time” is (talk about work-life balance).  Even on personal front, their sense of forgiveness and welcoming the differences with other person without judging is something that excited me. It is not an exaggeration if I said that I saw this missing in some of my own people.

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I’ve a strong feeling that I was Garfield in my last birth.

Times that make me sad are when I “virtually” attend a family event over Skype. Amidst a thousand  “Can you hear me?” “I can hear you but cannot see you” “I can only see X’s right ear and your finger” “It’s ok , send me the pictures” , I barely get to see the actual event and that quick peek brings out the homesick feeling from the backpack. It’s really hard to tuck this feeling back in. Interesting question (8 Marks): Is quantum teleportation really possible?

I also feel meh that I can never be the same pampered girl I was before marriage. Sure I enjoy the independence and power of running a household as “the queen” but the joy of being a “darling princess” at home cannot be matched. And the fact that kids born in 2000 are hitting adolescence while I’m nearing the ugly thirties is getting to my nerves. Sometimes, I wish I was born in the times of Ramayana or Mahabharata where some people could stay young forever.  Or in the later times say 3156 or 3567 when scientists will have invented some time-halting capsule.

Coming back to my backpack, it also has a dirty chamber where all my dark feelings go into. Lack of self-control to begin with. Along with easy loss of interest and deep brooding over certain things (tch..tch) , a teeny bit of jealousy lies underneath this pile of garbage. These feelings are like the shopping bills trash that never leave the bag.  I constantly try to throw each of them out of the bag but it is still heavy(This is why I stoop a little, you know). I am society fearing so I am generally tight-lipped ( and hence tight-zipped) if I were to use these.

I know that everybody’s backpack isn’t necessarily same as mine. You know what they say- to each their own.  But anyway, here’s a suggestion to everyone including myself- Travel light because it is a long journey!

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Rant alert!

As I type this, I am listening to ARR’s Mental Madhilo from OK Bangaram and I don’t know if I like it or dislike it. I know I am inviting trouble but the magic of ARR(and Ilayaraja) seems to have faded in recent times. Let’s talk about “I”. No, it’s alright. Let’s get back to the topic. I respect ARR and IR’s respect to their professional integrity by reusing their own compositions but it has become a tiring exercise to start enjoying and stop thinking about their old songs which new ones are reminding of. For example, all those who thought that mental madhilo is brand new and has no slightest tinge of ARR’s other songs can raise your hands now. (Kamal- you can lower your hand because you do not count).

Not just that, the visuals of OK Bangaram have a striking resemblance to Sakhi and Yuva. A guy who is not into commitments and a pretty girl with curly hair who tries to talk him into marriage plus maniratnam -what strikes you if not Yuva? You can say that any scene on the Chennai local train need not be that of Sakhi‘s but sorry, romance on the local trains with hero and heroine on opposite ones does not remind of anything else. The same genius of ManiRatnam created that magic which has not still faded away. On a separate note, dear unmarried ladies, do not expect that you would spot Madhavan(s) when you footboard Chennai trains. Try looking elsewhere or at least settle with the name like I did.

The plight of Telugu movies is better not talked about because the way it is being ridiculed nowadays (by our own people) is sad. Twitter is a fresh break from facebook’s nonsense and it is where I learnt how much Tollywood is picked on. To my dismay, not all of the twitterage is nonsense. First they called our film industry nepotistic because all the active heroes we have are from the families who are being here from Indus valley civilization and never left ever since. How true because there is no stopping of heroes coming from those families. Acting skills are no longer a requirement to act in movies. We do have a few good actors who are either reluctant to experiment or falling for the urgency to make as many movies as possible to stay in light. Such movies are lacking good scripts.

Coming to scripts, I read an interesting comparison about them- that they are much like a white elephant with wings. No, not precious or something, such things don’t exist. I realized that two things which are common to every Telugu cinema these days are 1)basic outline of one hero, 1 or more heroines falling for him without even a second thought about why they should, family drama with extended members and 2)Brahmanandam. Point 2 reminds me of comedy. This was one aspect which was okay until recent times but it has started degrading too. The dialogues and comedy used to be catchy once upon a time but the increasing importance to so called “punch dialogues” has ruined the total thing. The unnecessary importance to make catchy one liners is interfering with the pace of the story. As an example, how many of you do not think Trivikram is losing it and is a better dialogue writer than a director?

Then some people said whatever innovation our directors have done are copied from Hollywood. They also said instead of spending on twitter, film makers should spend time on Youtube and learn not to copy the ideas so blatantly. I did not watch many Hollywood movies but I can vouch for two facts- Julai has a scene directly lifted from Dark Knight. Manmadhudu is not even close to “What Women Want” even though both Nagarjuna and Mel Gibbson used lipstick on their eyes. I mean there are some honest thoughts which are getting lost in this generalization and the others are just giving us a facepalm followed by a slap for watching.

Few people said we need scripts like Raghuvaran Btech because it is innovative. I was looking for the so called innovation but I slept through the movie ( well almost). There was NONE. Also, I ended up spending that night thinking about which last dubbed movie had a plot in which nobody died. May be it is a kind of sentiment there like our obsession with an “item song”.

These days I wonder if the films are getting bad or we have become so critical that we want everything to be super fresh and flawless (Is it too much of a requirement or is it okay asking because we are spending some time and money on movies? I don’t know). Please do not say that viewers do not have right to complain because they don’t know the ABC of film making. Film makers also seem to have forgotten the ABC and hence there is no good movie that we want to watch again when it is on TV on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Or a movie which we don’t mind watching in the theaters for a second time. Or the one we want to recommend to a friend. Or the one which is going to win some recognition.

I know liking/disliking is a personal choice and cannot be generalized. But there is a concept of majority that determines the success/failure of a film in its all dimensions like above. I also think the decade before this and even before, we saw some such movies. What do you think will their fate be had they been made today? What would happen if a film like Geethanjali is released today? Will it be a box office hit? Will our so called film critics say it is a master piece and give it a good rating? Will the twitterage accept the film or just say the film should have been a trailer for Apollo hospitals or Ooty tourist development corporation?

</rant>

Now watching: Seetharammaya gari Manavaralu

Not too long ago, in 90’s, Telugu cinema did not follow the golden rule of having a famous hero, a fight to showcase his strength, a song that follows in which he preaches how to deal with the world’s evils with peace and mosquitoes without a “Hit” bottle, a heroine with some honor that he can save in fights and loot in songs. I know and I admit that the roots of hero worship date back to 90’s and before but I certainly do not see any warmth in that worship now.

source: wiki

Seetharamayya gari manavaralu translates to “The granddaughter of Seetharammayya”. As the title says, it is the story of a girl and her grandfather. An honorable old man who sticks to his roots in every part of this life – right from the house he lives in to when to bring his daughter home for her delivery. His only son(Vasu) marries a girl against his wish and much to Vasu’s despair, Seetharamayya stops talking to him though he accepts his marriage. Vasu who is unable to take his father’s rage escapes to the US and waits to unite with him. Enters Seetha- daughter of Vasu and his wife from the US to attend a cousin’s wedding and she never goes back to her father. Why she never goes back and what happens in the extended family forms the story.

The terms like “love”, “father’s rage”, “US return”, “extended family”, “aunts” are enough to make a film with half of Dilsukhnagar’s population and call it a family entertainer to pull crowds. For instance, you can imagine one song in the US to show Seetha’s lavish life and what she is forgoing in her journey to India. There are two young men in the story who are prospective grooms for her. That gives scope for a romance track in which they can touch her and pinch her so that she falls in love. There is an old man in the story who is not fond of Seetharamayya. Strong enough reason for a big fight scene in which the village carts can be in the air for some time.

SRGM is fortunately different and is lovable for the following reasons:

  • Seetha is back to India not just to attend the wedding but for good. She has the herculean task of conveying to her grandparents that her parents are dead when they are all eyes waiting for their son’s return. Meena as Seetha is lovable and has pulled off the role very easily. Most Telugu films live on the concept “read-my-diary-know-my-story”. I think SRGM is the one which started it.

    source: youtube

  • Rohini Hattangadi, as I know now, is a Marathi theatre artist. But as a child, I refused to believe that she is NOT a Telugu and not the wife of ANR. Call it my stupidity or her awesomeness, I cannot imagine SRGM without a grandmother as perfect as her. That grandmother whose eyes turn wet when she sees her son’s family photo and she calls it the “best gift” anybody gave her. That grandmother who is proud of Seetha when everyone admires her. That grandmother who is sad that a married Seetha would leave their house someday just as her son. That grandmother who is elated when Seetha pledges never to leave her. All praises to the director for perfectly showing her affection without unnecessary melodrama.

    source: youtube

  • An audience would loathe Seetharamayya for sending away the couple (indirectly) in the beginning but as the film progresses, it is revealed that he is one person who values the relationship with his son more than his ego. That moment in which he tells Rohini that he himself had written a letter to Vasu to come down is my second favorite here. The first one is when he recites Keats poetry as Seetha watches him with awe. The thoughtful grandfather always kept hoping his son would come back to him with kids and he learns English for their sake!

    source: youtube

  •  Enough and not many characters which have some connection to the story. They are prominent and help in building the characters of the main three. There are several scenes which are tear jerkers and they are genuine. You cry because you relate to it and not because the scene is not over yet!
  •  Most of the film has been shot on the banks of Godavari (from the dialogues) and Krishna (I heard so). There are beautiful shots of sunsets and green fields with canals and it is not an exaggeration to say that the spirit of a village has been perfectly captured. This frame in the end with the message is my all-time favorite.

SRGM to Telugu Cinema is what Saaransh is to Hindi cinema. Intense play of emotions and can be a heavy dose if you are watching it after a heavy Sunday lunch. I wish it was fast and short but I also think such a film should not be altered. Because every frame of it is honest and is a toil to reach out to the audience without any compromise on the values.