Saturday, 29 September 2012

There is something sweet about Barfi

I am not really a movie buff. I haven’t watched a lot of Bollywood movies, and never really keep a track of what’s going on in world of Indian cinema.

Last week I went to see Barfi- a latest Bollywood blockbuster. I was excited to watch the movie. It's filmed in Darjeeling, a majestic hill station on the foot hills of Himalayas. I went to an Anglo- Indian boarding school there, and when I saw the trailer on the TV, the memories of the place came rolling back.   

Barfi is a celebration of love and life. The characters and the story blend with the idyllic beauty, innocence and the simple life of the people in the hills. It shows silence can be golden, and happiness is nothing but a state of mind. Humour is the essence of the movie though there is an undercurrent of something nastier in the plot.  Like the Big Ben in Virginia Wolf’s Mrs Dalloway, the chugging toy train meanders through the time reminding that whilst something in life remain constant and static, life itself has to go through some sharp curves and turns in its journey.  Life can be cruel at times but it our positive spirit that helps us to be triumphant at the end.

The movie has a message. The two central characters are physically challenged. The protagonist can’t hear or speak and the girl he eventually marries is autistic.  In a very romantic but in a subtle way the movie touches on the rights of disabled people in India. The fact that they have the right to live with dignity and they are just one of us is brilliantly illustrated in the movie.

India has 96 million people who are disabled and a vast number of them particularly in Northern India face severe discrimination and abuse. India also doesn’t really have the infrastructure that is disabled –friendly. Whilst steps are been taken to change this, Amir Khan, one of Bollywood’s super star who recently did a popular television  show aimed at making people aware of some of the serious  social problems in India says : “there are two kinds of reaction to the disabled people in India: one, that they must have done something wrong in their previous birth and therefore deserve what they got; two, let us use them as a ticket to heaven — make a donation to an organisation working for the disabled, or give money to a disabled person asking for alms, and score some brownie points with God.”

Mr Khan insisted that education is the only way out to prepare people with disabilities to be productive, look after themselves, and their families.  For this to happen people in India must change their attitudes and the mainstream educational institutes should make provisions to educate people with disabilities.

Coming back to Barfi, it is admirable that it deals with a social issue is a very creative manner. It reveals class tensions, but above all what it shows is that status, money and power cannot buy love and happiness. Simplicity has a priceless appeal and we don’t have to look far to experience the small pleasures of life. The actors convey this without any speech. Sounds unrealistic, but not when you leave the cinema with a hearty glee - this is possibly the sweetest thing about Barfi.

* Barfi is a name of an Indian sweet

Friday, 14 September 2012

The Duke, the Duchess and the media

I was among the many to gather in Central London for their grand Royal wedding. I cheered for them and prayed that they live happily and inspire millions around the world through their acts of charity, grace and influence.

Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton are majestic. They are the modern symbols of Britain’s age old royalty.  But, I wonder if they should be at the centre of international media spotlight as they have been this week.

 They are in news for two reasons: one for their tour of south East Asia, which the BBC World Service news decided to treat as a headline in all their bulletins, and secondly for the publication of sunbathing topless pictures of the Kate Middleton by the French magazine Closer.

The second incident is very unfortunate but not utterly reprehensible. For long the British royal family has been a public diplomacy tool for Britain. They represented British values to the world and in the early days of post- colonialism it was quite accepted.

Lady Diana, the princess of Wales, changed things: single handedly and in a very non –conformist way she broke with the royal protocols and campaigned for causes that really needed global attention.

Things however have changed. Prince William and Kate Middleton’s global stardom (as the BBC likes to portray) has a lot to with fashion, youth and glamour. They are like what David Beckham and Victoria are to football.

They might be going around the world as the Queen’s representative, but it is the gloss and sheen of their visits that make news.  However, the manner BBC spoke about Kate’s first public speech in Malaysia was like a parent, who rejoices hearing a child speak for the first time -a strange obsession with the princess! The news is good for Britain but don't really know how it is important for the BBC World Service audience.

The BBC must realize that in the 21st century, people are least interested in things like public diplomacy and British values. It is worth talking more about the constructive side of things like the charities they have chosen to support and the things they do which actually make a difference to the world.

Outside Britain Kate is only a celebrity. I understand that her privacy should be fully respected but she should have been bit more careful. Topless sun bathing is very much a part of European culture and to be photographed in that context is not really a big deal.

International popularity has its own down side,but I hope that more responsible media like the BBC will mellow down a bit when they talk about Britain’s beloved Duke and the Duchess of Cambridge- the title sounds very ancient indeed!