Monday, February 21, 2011
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Once upon a time, he said, “I’ll be back”.
And he did. And how.
And then he left. Supposedly for good. And a million fans around the world despaired. Ten years later, these million fans grew up. And then he said again, “I’ll be back”.
I don’t know about the millions but I know I am excited. For a second, it took me back to those days when as a kid, I used to follow each and every movie of this man. I remember the huge poster of his that adorned my bedroom wall. I remember fighting with my parents for the TV remote so that I could watch the latest movie of his at the expense of my mom's 'saas bahu' serials. I remember always being inspired by his story: he was an Austrian malnourished kid, and to avoid being bullied by bigger kids, he got into body building. He later went on to become the strongest man in the Universe. Thrice. Then he headed over to Hollywood with broken English and a name that was too long to be displayed on the billboards. People told him he had no chance in movies and to shut shop and go back home. And then the Terminator was born; Action movies were never the same after that. He later went on to become the greatest action movie star in the world. Then he quit movies and all that jazz to become the governor of California. However whenever there came a movie with him in a small role, I used to call all my old friends, now all grown up, and talk about the good ol days. And we all became kids again talking about Commando, Predator, Running Man, Total Recall and the like. The last such movie I remember doing this was The Expendables (Of course, Stallone and Schwarzenegger in the same frame was worth the ticket!)
In his absence, action got redefined; action became slick n stylish (a la 300), action got high tech, with CG and FX (Transformers), action became superheroic (Iron Man, X Men…) taking the place of good ol’ old fashioned brawn. But somehow robots and super heroes just didn’t give action its soul. They are all good movies, but they aren’t the action that he represented; the type that satisfied very kid’s fantasy where one man could single handedly bash up all the bad guys with his bare hands. Today’s action movies are just clever amalgamations of good graphics, good visuals or good scripts. We so badly needed the last action hero.
And last week, he said that he’ll be back. And it looks like that he will be. He said in an earlier interview that is looking at three different scripts, including “With Wings as Eagles,” where he would play a WWII German soldier who disobeys orders and rescues prisoners of war.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is back where he belongs.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Some time back, a whole lot of us went to Thailand. And understandably, it raised a lot of eyebrows within our immediate social circles. Since it was an official tour, our parents were afraid that we’d mix business with pleasure. J Even today, we get questions with a wink, “So how was it?”, which we reciprocate with an equally suggestive wink, “Not bad at all!” J
Someone once said, ”Go to Heaven for the view and to Hell, for the company”. We clearly did not have a purpose for the trip but I must say, we got what we were looking for J . Thailand, in my opinion, is perfect for a holiday: It’s beautiful, very cost effective, very safe, with friendly people and for the shopaholic, Thailand offers some really mean bargains. Also, Bangalore is well connected to Thailand - there’s a daily 1230 AM flight to and a 1130 PM flight back from Bangkok- so you can leave after dinner and be back before breakfast J .Visa is on arrival, which is a fairly simple process, and it’s very easy going about in Bangkok via bus, taxi and the metro (superlike!). Our trip consisted of two days in Bangkok and two days in Pattaya and the highlights were the beach, shopping and the night life.
Now I’m a beach person - I simply love the beach. There’s nothing that gives me more pleasure than to sit on an easy chair, kick up my naked feet on a stool and laze around by reading a book looking at the sun setting into the sea. Never in my life had I seen the ocean so blue set against the sun shining so bright and the sand running so smoothly between my toes. The sun covers you in a cozy warmth and you can feel the warm waves caress your feet as you lie by the shore. And add a cold chilled beer to tickle your taste buds and it is an experience that is nothing short of heaven. Also for the adventure seeker, there are various options like para gliding, speed boating and underwater walks (see pic). And there is an inexplicable thrill of walking by the beach; as I walked by the waves, my mind was filled with various random thoughts about me, my life and many other grandiose thoughts. It was so soothing and relaxing and all you see around are people who are just happy and having fun: children building sand castles, couples holding hands, friends having fun: no wonder this place is known as ‘the land of the smiles’ . J
On bargain shopping in Thailand, consider that the Thai currency, the baht, is comparable to the Indian rupee in purchasing power (1 Bhat = 1.5 Indian rupee, the last time I checked). Most of the bargains can be found in the night markets or the streets of Bangkok; however if you don’t want to walk around a lot, you could find a lot of stuff at the huge shopping mall called MBK. The beauty of MBK is that you have everything under one roof though is slightly over priced. In our case, since we all had a heavy late lunch, we all decided to take a long walk and we all walked away from the MBK mall, with no particular destination in mind, guided towards all the lights and sounds and on the way, we found many street shops that we realized were put up only in the evenings; it was here that we got some amazing bargains on cotton clothes, souvenirs and knick knacks. We just kept walking and whenever we got tired, we’d take the sky train and go the opposite direction and then start walking again in some other random direction. Finally when we were sufficiently lost, sufficiently tired and had sufficiently shopped , we took a cab back to our hotel. Thailand is known for jewels and rare stones, but make sure you buy it from the authorized jewelers. Also recommended for the buying list is clothes. And some heavy duty bargaining. You have got to bargain here big time! An interesting suggestion which a successful shopaholic passed on to me was to always smile when bargaining with the shopkeepers; it almost always works in reducing the prices!!
Thailand is known for its night life (Ya baby ya!!! J). You have pubs and bars that are open till the wee hours of the morning. In fact, the day starts in the evening there. In Pattaya, the night life is centered around a mile long stretch called the Walking Street. Vehicles are banned here and all you do here is, well, just walk J . On this little stretch of road, you have hotels, shops, bars, pubs but what really makes it truly amazing is that, in this street, you see people from all over the world – Indians, Europeans, Americans, Japanese, Arabs…you name it, they’re there. My friends and I used to play this game where we tried to guess which country people were by observing their mannerisms. What makes things even more interesting is also that there are a lot of women who entice you into buying them a drink at the nearby bar. A lady dragged my friend to the nearby bar and he had to buy her drinks, but it’s all done so playfully that it’s all in good fun and humor. The thai food is delicious though I’m a big fan of the American cheeseburger and cold beer. The people are very warm and friendly and you are almost always usually welcomed with their greeting known as “Sawadee”, the thai equivalent of the Namaste. Almost everyone speaks English so we had no problems in communication. We had a ball of a night and reached back to our hotel room at 5 in the morning.
They say that no one realizes how beautiful a trip was until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow. On reaching home, our minds, hearts and souls were filled with the sights, sounds and smells of that marvelous beach city, Thailand. The purpose of our trip was nothing and we were more than happy with it.
The trip to Bangkok was 'terrible' as even after we've left the place, the place hasn't left us...memories of that amazing place still lingers and haunts us even today. I stand testimony to how great that place is: I have been going to Thailand every October for the last three years now. Amazing Thailand.
Waiting for October.
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Tuesday, February 1, 2011
I proposed to her 13 times and she said 'No' all the 13 times.
And it is this attraction that is the breeding ground for a very powerful type of electric chemistry. Neha and I are the perfect examples of staunch opposites. We studied together and while she was the teacher’s pet, the same teacher treated me like some lost pet. While she was the Maths topper, I was the undisputed champion of flunking not just Maths, but all the other subjects too (My unbroken record of scoring ‘zero-outta hundred’ for all six semester tests still remains unbroken). While she was the lady everybody wanted to date, I just wanted to date everybody (Gender rules applied!). While she was the college fashionista, my aversion to water and shaving didn’t really help my score on the style quotient. And yet, we somehow connected; there existed a magical chemistry between the two of us. We both hail from God’s own country and whenever we talked in our highly polished convent educated English, our version of the Queen’s language somehow had a faint un-kingly mallu accent, which we both laughed off together many a times. We were always part of different friend groups but we used to find each other in our crowd of friends and always tried to sit next to each other as much as possible for the group eating sessions and the weekend movies with all the friends. We realized that we both liked exactly 3 ice cubes for our vodka and quirkily, both of us loved mayonnaise with our grilled chicken. We loved the same TV shows and hated the same movies. Inspite of all our glaring differences, we had a lot of things in common.
But she never said Yes to me. For 13 times.
And I never took No for an answer. For 13 times.
But after all the times she said ‘No’, she used to greet me with her beautiful broad smile the next day and warmly console me saying “at least, we’re good friends”. And then after a while, I’d propose to her again. And she’d reject me again. And she’ll console me again with her lovely smile the next day. And this went on again and so forth. But with each rejection, we got more and more close. And slowly, we had become inseparable.
Like all good things in life, college came to an end. And while she got placed in Bangalore, I had to relocate to Amsterdam for three years. She had to go to her new office almost as soon as we finished college while I had about 2 months before leaving the country. I decided to be in Bangalore for the two months rather than going home to Kerala so that I could be with her before my three year stint in Amsterdam. I also wanted to propose to her one last time before being separated from her for what then seemed like eternity.
As college got over, we needed to move out of the college hostel and she needed to get a new place to stay. I stayed at my relatives place in Indiranagar. I helped Neha with getting a nice house near her new office, I helped her with buying the furniture, I helped her with getting the gas connection and I helped her with looking into the details of her rent agreement and I made sure I got her her favorite red, red roses every now and then. I helped her cos she gave me that beautiful broad smile of hers more often. I helped her cos I felt happy helping her. I helped her cos I simply wanted to. I helped her cos I was in love. During the day when she went to her office in Koramangala, I used to wait at my relatives place in Indiranagar and in the evening at 6:30, I used to meet up with her and spent time with her till about 10:30 after which I caught the last bus back to Indiranagar. This routine went for the most of the two months. But I still hadn’t proposed to her for the 14th time. Also I did feel that she was expecting me to propose to her before leaving the country. So a week before my flight to Amsterdam, I went home to Kerala to bid adieu to my loved ones there and decided to come back to Bangalore a day earlier. Neha was expecting me a day later so I thought I’d surprise her. I was going to propose to Neha for the 14th and final time. I was nervous but I knew that 14 would be my lucky number.
I reached Bangalore at 6 in the evening and as soon as I reached, I bought a huge bunch of big red roses, the type she liked, and headed straight to her house. I was carrying the huge bunch of roses which covered almost half my body. I gave a big smile to the many, many amused onlookers. As I reached her house, I could hear my heart pounding against my chest. I was really nervous but I knew that everything would turn out well. I stood at her front door and I rehearsed my lines again for the umpteenth time. As I was taking a deep breath, I noticed that her front door was open and I could hear noises from inside the house. She must be making evening tea or something, I thought to myself. As I passed through the partially open door, I walked into her living room. The room was still dark but I could see light from her bed room across the hall. Suddenly I felt that something was amiss. Something was not right. I slowly walked towards the lit up bedroom. And then I heard Neha saying something. There was somebody else with her in her bedroom!!! As I slowly walked towards the brightly lit room, I slowly started to see clothes which were scattered untidily all around the bed. And then, what I saw next froze me in my footsteps.
Neha was in the arms of a man in red, I still don’t remember what he wore but I knew it was distinctly red. They both stood by the bed and he was standing facing towards me and she had her head rested against his chest. He had his arms around her and I think I saw a smile on her face, which was largely covered in his embrace. It was a fire-freeze moment for me: when multiple sets of strong opposing emotions were running frantically against each other in my mind. I wanted to yell out but I could not find my voice. I wanted to lunge the huge bunch of roses, the ones she liked, at him but I could not even move. I was angry, agitated and was screaming wildly inside my mind and yet I did not make a sound. A violent and dirty sense of hatred for the man in red passed through me which was opposed by a deep feeling of love for the one who was in his arms. I could feel blood rushing furiously into my face, tears building up in my eyes, I couldn’t breathe properly and felt that I would choke but I neither cried nor whimpered. I wanted to run far, far away but I also wanted to stay back and ask her how she could do what she was doing then. I did none of the above. I just stood there frozen with a heavy floral bunch in my hand looking at the love of my life in the arms of another man.
She slowly opened her eyes to see me standing right behind her and I saw her smile fade. As her eyes met with mine, I regained my composure and I stormed out of her house in a violent rage that shook off most of the petals off the roses and I marched away in utter disgust. The last I heard was her calling out my name behind me. I suddenly started running in some random direction and kept running. A flood of tears clouded my sight but I still kept running aimlessly. An hour or two later, I found myself sitting under a tree, humiliated, exhausted and dejected.
A week later I left the country with my heavily broken heart.
Three years later, I realized that three years in a foreign country is a really long period of time. I realized that three years is enough time to understand words like loneliness, friends, family and forgiveness. Since mobiles or internet hadn’t become big then, my only contact with home was the weekly ISD calls. I realized that I wanted to come back home as soon as possible. I realized that I was missing the Indianness in my life. I realized that I was missing my life in India. I also realized that I was still madly in love with Neha. But nobody I knew had any idea where she was. There were also rumors that she was about to get married. Three years later, I also learnt that the man in red who I saw her hugging that day was her younger brother Montu. I realized that I had to do something with my life and I had do it fast. But I didn’t know what to do.
Today, 11 years after that fire-freeze moment, I’m back here in India. I have two beautiful children, Neil and Nikila, and the man in red is today, my brother-in-law.
I proposed to her 13 times and she said No all the 13 times.
She never said Yes to me. For 13 times.
But I never took No for an answer. for 13 times.
She later told me that she said Yes to me for the 14th time not because of any ever blasting love but because she simply got fed up of saying ‘no’ and that she hoped that, at least a ‘Yes’ would shut me up.
Liar she is.
Have you ever had a similar fire-freeze moment - an unforgettably magical moment when you felt two strongly opposite emotions? Love/Hate? Elation/Sadness? Anger/Sympathy? The desire to move forward yet run away at the same time?
What is it to be a child again?
It must be about still believing in loveliness, still believing in love, still believing that the angels and fairies reach out to whisper in our ears, still believing in beauty and peace in the heart and soul. It’s about still having the spirit, cleansed by baptism, still intact and untainted within us. And it’s about innocence and about purity.
I once told a friend that the soul is the purest and most beautiful thing in the world; and we keep picking up grudges and bitterness along the course of life and stain our souls. Children still have that purity we were born with, still intact in their souls. Our show at Makkala Jagriti was indeed special. It was the day we denim clad urban cowboy souls made a difference to a lives of a lot of little souls. It was when the show was judged not by ticket sales or sold-out signs but by pure enthusiasm, heartfelt appreciation and innocent admiration. It was when we discovered the true power of theatre; of reaching out and connecting. From the stage to outside it. From one soul to another.
My one thought was when we asked the children what they wanted to be when they grew up. Some said doctor, some engineer, some actor….. One day, they might just become that; or may become something better. The thing is we might just never know. We might just never meet these little guys again. But what we do know is that for that one day, we were all together in that room and we truly and really connected. And I don’t think either of us will forget that in a hurry.
The most distinct thought in my mind was Neeraj asking a child (Suleiman Khan) what he wanted to do and Suleiman said that he wanted to be an actor, a hero and Neeraj put a cape around his neck and did a Superman. I think it brought the house down. Now Neeraj and I have one thing in common : Kannada language doesn’t know us so we place Kannada up there with Greek, Latin and Malayalam (Score: Raj-1, Neeraj-0; I know mallu! J). But without knowing Kannada (or vice versa), I think Neeraj did a great job. And of course, the other actors were brilliant their unique ways; the other guys from the heart-touching club (actors) being Tanvi, Abhijit, Chetan, Sudharshan, Vishal and the MC Ashish. We volunteers were lucky to have experienced anything like the act these guys put up that day. Kudos to Madhu, Nandhini, Ranji, Sumit and Gopi for making all this happen.
They say that the remainder of a year will be a reflection of the first act you do that year.
This year should rock!!!
This entry won the Best Review for a Show by Yours Truly. This show was at Makkala Jagriti, an NGO based out of Bangalore (http://www.makkalajagriti.org). Yours Truly is a Bangalore based theatre group specializing in various formats of interactive, improvisatory and participatory theatre.