Saturday, November 14, 2009

Today's Experience -Tomorrow's Experiment

To my father, his “spiritual” Masters, the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, were not
abstruse “True Gurus” so much as scientists. Preaching is everybody’s cup of tea but practice is more often than not a victim of procrastination. In my experience, my father was a living example of “Abhyasa” and, through his vision, one could see the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, Buddha and whoever wrote the Bhagavad-Gita, as men and women who used their time on this Earth to experiment with their experiences.

All too often, extraordinary people who walk this planet are co-opted by the fearful masses. There is the stratum
which is comfortable where it is and the thoughts of Masters most often shake this status quo. Many, who today have expensive places of worship constructed in their names, had the least involvement with the objects of covetousness. It was, thus, safest for the classes, which govern by creating, in the masses, the fear-based desire for financial security, to “adopt” these dissidents and, in this way, to render them harmless “icons” of worship. If we “pray” to someone, it rids us of the need to strive to follow in their footsteps: their teachings become elegant acquisitions and respectable pastimes. And so it is that we have millions of preachers and, perhaps, no one who invests time in practice.
Indeed, practice often becomes blasphemy. Imagine, for one second, a Christian who had the courage to throw all the “commercial” objects out of a Church, a Buddhist (Buddha’s Teachings, so far as I know, do not require
reference to God/Gods) who rejected the Buddhist Pantheon, or a Rama who could reject a Kingdom just to keep his word (THE SENTENCE). Today, we have tied ourselves in a sufficient amount of “legal”, “emotional” and even “scientific” knots to prevent most of us from breaking free.

Yet, as has been said by someone or the other: if a cave has been dark for centuries it does not take centuries to bring light to it. Each day is the opportunity for an
experiment. What is experienced today can become something to experiment with in the next minute. Once this mindset is attained, the “experimenter” shifts as often as possible between Experience and Experiment.

Again, reading something and nodding in approval is the surest way to prevent any of it sinking into being: no amount of reading “How To” books on Football will teach one anything unless one also plays a game, at least now and then. Things are experienced in a place, a situation. We undergo experiences in Time-every second we experience something or the other. Yet when we want to ensure that we learned something from an experience, we place that in a “nowhere” Time/Space: Tomorrow. The Truth is that we only ever have a “now-here”.
Life is experience. Life is experienced through the senses. The five senses (Sight, Hearing, Smell, Taste and Touch) are the only way we know we are alive. And this should be a joyful celebration of Life as it is an amazing gift to see all that is around us, to hear the many sounds, to smell all sorts of things, to taste such a diversity of flavours and to feel millions and millions of sensations through our skin.
Unfortunately, for one reason or the other, we grumble throughout the day. Those who don’t openly grumble, mutter in their minds. We are not even conscious that we are never happy. In fact, although never openly acknowledged, Happiness is a great Sin except inside the covers of the latest Self-Help Bestseller. If someone in our immediate neighbourhood is happy, we must strive to douse that Joy with cold water as soon as possible. WHY?!
Anyway, this blog entry is for those who feel that something is not right and who would like to do something to make things right. There is only one way and that is to do something about it physically (not by sitting cross legged and eyes closed and hoping your problem will go away since you can’t see it!). Do something infinitesimal, with a tiny part of your “territory” (your body) for a fraction of time (one second). If you smoke and feel like stopping-stop for one second. Time is made up of seconds and so, that is all that you can do, realistically speaking. For one second, walk up and down the room instead of smoking.
For me, the goals are to experience Happiness and Enjoyment, Luxury and Comfort, to feel Love and Oneness.
My experiments with the above for one second each, using the timer on my cell phone:
1. Happiness and Enjoyment – I have uncrossed my knees and am wiggling in my chair and wiggling my fingers and toes, hands and legs stretching gently and feeling a great big Mmmmmmmmmm of happiness and enjoyment welling up within me and flowing out.
2. Luxury and Comfort – I am sitting with one leg up and one down in my chair and swinging this office chair gently and smiling as if I am Queen Cleopatra-aaaaaaaahhhhhhh.
3. Love and Oneness- I am gently hugging and cuddling myself and spending quality time with myself-making adoring kissing noises.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Pithamagan (2003) is also directed by Bala with score and soundtrack by Ilayaraaja.

Chithan (Vikram), orphaned at infancy, is adopted by the person who takes care of burning ghats (Hindu crematoriums). He is barely human. Vikram has given his best to this role.

Gomathy (Sangeetha), a ganja seller, takes this creature under her wings and gets him a job at the villain’s ganja fields.

Sakthi (Surya), a lively conman, gets more than he bargained for when he tries to pull the wool over the eyes of Manju (Laila), a polytechnic student. Surya is another amazing actor from the Tamil film industry and he steps into this role with consummate ease.

Sakthi meets Chithan in jail. They bond and Chithan develops a dog like devotion to this young man, who is one of the two people who seem to care for him. It is this

which sets us up for the kill.

Grass is not just green in India. It is something many of us look back on with fond nostalgia but this look at the underbelly of life behind the friendly “joints” gives one pause.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Sethu (1999) is a Tamil film directed by Bala, with score and soundtrack by Ilaiyaraaja.

Sethu (Vikram), a typical Indian macho college union president, seems to thrive on violence. He lives with his brother who is a Judge and who is quite disapproving of him and his sister-in-law who is more sympathetic. Love in the form of the timid Abitha, daughter of a poor temple priest, turns Sethu’s life upside down.

The tender love story plays the perfect foil for the cruel twist of fate that follows.

The role so fits Vikram that the public often addresses him by his nickname in the film: Cheeyan. Abitha wins the heart with her portrayal of pure innocence.

That which sets the film apart, however, is the depiction of some forms of mental health care as it still exists in India. This topic can and should be controversial rather than swept under the carpet. As shown in the film, it is dismaying and yet without the existence of alternative treatments all health care becomes as good as the old witch doctor system.

Interestingly, the presiding “doctor” in the film’s institution is a White man. Could this be a reflection on the tendency of some foreigners to come to India, pick up a bit of this and that and immediately seek to milk it for monetary gains?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

My Love Affair with Kollywood

When I was about ten years old, somewhere in the late Sixties, my family moved to a small coastal town in South India. Those were days when the idiot Box had not yet hit India. Radios were rare. The phrase Sound Pollution had not yet been coined and pollution as such was yet to cloud the horizon.

Although my father was a South Indian and we were living in South India (I was born in the South and there I lived till I was Twenty), we only spoke English and a bit of Hindi at home. The few films we saw were either in English or from Bollywood. If you are not Indian you won’t quite follow what I’m trying to get at.

India is huge. India has an awful lot of languages. Each State of India is almost another country if one thinks in terms of language, culture and cuisine. Before moving we lived in Karnataka where Kannada is spoken.

Pondicherry was a charming ex-French colony with a mainly Tamil population.Hence it was that in those early years, I rejoiced in the Tamil film songs that floating down to me from roadside tea shops and temples. Alas! In those days I lived cocooned in an Ashram whose population was mainly from the North of India and thus could not decipher the lyrics. More tragic is the fact that I cannot now easily locate those tunes online.

It was only in my graduate years when I joined a local college that I got a proper exposure to Tamil films and they had some good ones in those years (late Seventies).

From the swash buckling MGR/Sivaji era, Kollywood had graduated to a much more muted mood. Anti-heroes and tragic heroines dominated stories where social issues prevailed over formula offerings. Pathinaru Vayathinile’s village idiot, Chapani (Kamal Haasan) caught the cine goer fancy far more than fancy costumed hero dancing around trees could. Shobha’s heart wrenching innocence was responsible for many a choked sob in the stalls.

I do not know much Tamil but a well made film often speaks for itself. And the cinematic striving of Tamil movies towers over that of other Indian genres. It is world class many a time and yet lies neglected. It is something of a shame that such excellent movies are rarely to be found with English sub-titles.

There was a long hiatus in the years that followed as I went North until I came to Malaysia and here I have re-established my relationship with Tamil cinema.

In the posts to come I hope to cover ten Tamil films which I have enjoyed recently.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


So far as I can remember, my father appeared to us no big fan of the cinema. While he approved of my enthusiasm for Laurel and Hardy and condemned my poor teenage sister’s insistence on going to watch the wonderful Hindi films of the Sixties, I’m sure neither of us can recall his presence at any of those films.

In all, so far as going to the movies was concerned, I only went to see two films with him: Oh God and Shankarabharanam. Some of the rationale behind my luring him to these films lay in the fact that, to me, he resembled the protagonist in both.
By that age, he seemed to me, on the one hand, a George Burns and, on the other, the story symbolized for me his life, as I saw it, of intimate friendship with God. As for the other film, it is as if I sensed that he had once a fascination for Carnatic.

Shankarabharanam is a Telugu language film and my father was from Andhra, the region in South India where this "Italian of the East" was spoken. This film, like many another Indian movie, is replete with songs. The difference is that Shankarabharanam mainly features classical Indian music.

To me, Jonnalagadda Venkata Somayajulu strongly resembled my father. There was a grace and gravity in his manner, a delicate tenderness, a beauteous posture of piety and devotion-traits which I saw in my father even in the smallest day to day routines of life. In this film, J.V. Somayajulu is "Shankarabharanam" Sankara Shastri, a Carnatic singer.

All those who have known my father will have mental images of him singing. He would often burst into gentle song to illustrate some stanza from the Bhagavad Gita or even when a fit of humour or appreciation of beauty seized his spirit and drew forth lines from Sankara’s Bhaja Govindam or Kalaidasa’s mellifluous poetry.

Quite a few urban Indian youngsters of the Seventies had turned to Rock and Pop, a trend for which the Hindi film music of the Sixties had already laid a solid basis. However, even in those families where the love of Indian classical music (Which had always been respectable in the South due to its association with devotion and seems to have gained a respectable status in the North post Independence) was not a pivot of daily intercourse, many a young lad and lass had hearts which moved more to the ragas than their bodies to the cacophony which they blared from radios much to the annoyance of sedate elders.

Shankarabharanam is said to mark a turning point in Indian cinema which brought the audience back into the fold of classical music.

Here are some songs from this film with as much information as I can find about them for the moment:

Raagam: Khamas

Oh, Raghuvara! Would anyone other than you come to my rescue

Dorakuna Ituvanti Seva
Raagam: bilahari
Can I ever obtain a servitude like this

Raagam: Shankarabharanam
The celestial sound called Om