Thinking Indian

Context is a word that I hold dearly to me. Its been  a guideline for me for as long as I can remember. Whether I’m writing, trying to understand a situation, enjoying an experience or designing something – it has always acted like a spine to my process. That’s what I’ve been taught as a designer. But when I sat and thought about it : its been an instinctive approach for humans since time immemorial. Context gives things a soul. It can be geographical, chronological or just a personal perception. But the way a thing fits in its surroundings or means something – is very essential for its value. It can be the reason for both failure and success. To elaborate what I mean, I’ll take the example of a recent advertisement by Lufthansa that’s been airing on TV. Right from the beginning the ad plays winning cards : a cricket team training to play with the Indian Team and trying to adapt to Indian culture in its own ways. Few nations can proudly profess their love for the sport like Indians do.  Also : few countries can pride themselves about their eccentricities and tastes like India can. Be it the way we celebrate; the way we live or the way we communicate – we are a passionate bunch. And in all our diversity and culture-pooling we stand out from the rest of the world. The country is filled with people with all kind of preferences and mannerisms but somehow the overall persona has a flavor that unites each of us. We may listen to ghazals on rainy-evenings with a cup of adhrak-ki-chai (ginger-tea) or wear nine-yard saris and eat on palm leaves. We may identify as a North-Indian and order naans just to prove a point or as a South Indian and lecture the others about how Tamizh is the oldest Indian language – but as soon as there’s a match on TV; a sale in a branded store or the last bus to a place – our true Indian-ness bursts out. The rush, the excitement, the euphoria, the ‘told-you-so’s, the nodding of heads, the self-pleased smiles after we catch the right seat, the joy of landing a good deal, the feeling of belonging to a nation which is home to a most vibrant People – is what makes us truly Indian.

And the ad – through the various steps the team takes to prepare themselves – wins our heart by bringing a smile to our faces. Because only we can wholly appreciate and laugh about our ways of doing things. And because the theme of the advertisement is contextual to us – we can relate to its humor. We know who we are and its funny to see others do what we do. They drive their point through to us – that one can now Fly like an Indian in their flights because they are more Indian than we think.

Being an Indian has given me an edge ,over many, more than a couple of times. But one instance that comes to my mind is when there was a worldwide contest celebrating Rabindranath Tagore’s contribution to Literature. Entries were invited that were inspired by his work and resonated with his ideals or style. Having read his poetry since I was a kid; experiencing his words and understanding his work from a point of view best enjoyed by a person of the same nationality – where his words were not lost in translation , I was able to express myself in a way that would remind one of his work as it was inspired by the tone he writes in. I wrote a poem about missing my Grandmother inspired by a poem of his where he is reminded of his Mother when he sees the flowers she used to pray with. And just then, being an Indian – proud of Tagore’s work and familiar with its nostalgic sensitivity – I was able to bag the title of Outstanding Contribution and my little poem got featured in the anthology they eventually published. Being able to relate to something tends to bond us with it. Not literally but in a sense where a certain depth is rendered to that bond. It can be an idea, a design, a poem, a book, a painting – as long as some context acts as its seed – it holds meaning in its viewer’s mind.

With Indians having proven their potential throughout the world – India’s influence on global trends is pretty visible. There are Little India’s in every country you visit. There are people who are drawn to its diverse culture from around the world. And this influence is only growing. Be it cultural expressions like fashion, dance and music to mindful practices and cuisines – the world is readily absorbing what our country has to offer. As we welcome the changes globalization is bringing to us, others adapt themselves to our preferences. Its a process – and its already underway.

To be relevant is everything in today’s world and that’s what Lufthansa demonstrated in its advertisement making us smile about its Indian-ness and the fact they’ve customized their services to make us feel comfortable. That certainly gives them an edge over the others because who doesn’t want to feel at home while flying?


Dreamer, Reviews, Uncategorized

Cafe Society – a Review.

Hollywood – a topic that’s been coming up in my life a lot, lately,thanks to all the writers living in and chronicling about Los Angeles. I dim all the lights, shut the rest of the world because I’m excited to watch this new flick (relatively) and its a Woody Allen product starring Steve Carell; Blake Lively, Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart and some other great actors I discovered after watching the movie. Of course there are expectations when you sit to watch a Woody Allen. He has given me a bunch of favorites right from Annie Hall to – silence – Midnight in Paris. He supplies images of Paris, New York and Los Angeles rendered in his eccentricity and yet old-worldly charm. And I lap it up like a greedy kitten – as all dreamers do.

The starting looked promising – oh wait, have I revealed too much, already? – with Phil Stern (Carell)- a Hollywood power-broker – getting a call from his sister (who almost seems estranged because she has to remind him that she’s his sister and that Bobby is his nephew). And one fine morning Bob (Jesse) lands up in Hollywood hoping that it will provide him the break he needed from working in his father’s jewelry-making business. And there he has to wait almost a month to just see his Uncle who seems pretty reluctant in offering him any substantial position at all but agrees to introduce him to people and give him odd-jobs to keep him going. And that’s when he meets Vonnie (Kristen Stewart) and things take a sharp turn (expected) as he falls in love with her as they eat cheap mexican dinners and drive around L.A. They joke up about the stars and the hollowness of it all. Bob is soon left dry by Hollywood’s prospects for him. So he decides to join Ben – his mysterious (not to us) who starts a Nightclub in the Big Apple. He wants Vonnie to join him and asks her to marry him (in the most un-movie-ish way). Here, I’d like to mention how refreshing it was to see a man not taking the trouble to wait for the opportune moment- by which time the girl has totally lost all hope that he’ll ever ask her and ends up proposing herself out of pure exasperation – which has become a fashion. I have no qualms with the woman taking control but its just that that theme has been used too much, already) and telling the love of his life what he plans for them. The only trouble (there has to be one, right?) is that she is still not over her ex who had broken up with her because he couldn’t break his 25 year-old marriage. But poor Bob has not a clue that she is having major second thoughts because the ex is a magnetic personality and his charm is well, too charming to simply let go. As it ends out – things don’t work out and end half-hearted-ly. I can’t divulge anything more without spoiling it for you. And what happens then? Does he move to New York and start again or remains a lovelorn – fidgeting loner trying to get something meaningful done?


You must be wondering where Blake Lively makes an entry, right? Well, she does – even though for short bursts – her fabulous presence can never be under-stated.

So basically its Woody Allen overstating his qualms about religions and the sanctity of human beings and their decisions. He chose Hollywood and New York (his favorite city, undoubtedly) as the backdrop to portray how people are faced with to be or not to be situations and the fact that not all decisions are thought-through. You just make them with a whim and you live with it in all its entirety. Regrets ruminate in your mind till you start looking dreamy-eyed. Dreams remain dreams. Your ideals dwindle. But the lights in these big cities come back to life at dusk.

Critics applauded Kristen. Maybe I’m just a bad critic and I haven’t watched enough Stewart movies but isn’t shy-weird-confused her natural state? She plays it best every single time. Its her comfort zone. So why are we calling Jesse’s- who’s portrayal of Woody’s alter-ego is on-point- mediocre and fidgety compared to someone who is just doing what they were born as? Guess what – that’s how he was meant to act like. But the performances that really shined through were those of Bob’s Jewish family  who keep debating about all things political, religious, ethical – actually just about everything.  Jeannie Berlin (Mom) and Ken Stott – please take a bow. Right from their conversations and cursing to the they kind of stitch Bob’s life by coming in every now and then.

So, Cafe Society shows us a glimpse of the 1930’s – on two canvasses – one is the glamour of Hollywood attracting dreamers to its hollowness; golden beaches and sly embrace and New York where the life of stocks and its people are moving at a pace no one seemed to comprehend in that age. It was a time when thugs and high society mingled in glamour (wait, am I living in a deja-vu era because isn’t it happening even now?). The movie shows a beautiful contrast between the two cities and struggles of human conscience but falls short in its predictability and un-digestible pace.

Its not Woody’s best but it did have his madness in it. I know all his movies end up becoming about himself. Now, there’s a real artist who makes you stop and look.

Parting comments : Dreamy, makes you expect more but falls short on delivering a movie that can be applauded.

Reviews, Uncategorized

Suicide Squad

So you enjoy watching trigger-happy people blow up the place (for good, of course) and intense passion for nothing but being oneself? And people who live for love?

Then you’re going to love this movie. Don’t bother looking at that the star-ratings (I have never believed in them). This movie was not made for people who are hypocrites and who are looking for something artsy. Its for the hard-core, comic-loving, thrill-hungry people who cheer for Harley Quinn swinging by a pole and Deadshot firing holes into monster-heads. Its for the people who believe Joker and Harley Quinn are the real lovers and that Lois Lane and what-his-name are just a mess.

The casting was fabulous and that’s what makes this movie so strong. Of course you have grand expectations when you have Viola Davis, Will Smith and Lovely Leto. To add to it Robbie did such a good job that I can’t imagine any other face as Quinn. The surprise cookie is Cara Delevingne who really made up for her performance in Paper Towns.

I’m not giving any spoilers here but yes, the movie is fast-paced as felt by my friend Sabhari who accompanied me. And I have to agree with it but I guess that’s what keeps the rush going on. The tiniest of jokes and touchy-feely scenes came through to the audience.

This movie goes onto show that sound background work really helps create the premise for a good movie. The story-line is pretty okay but Waller really dangs the shit out of everyone. And I wish they had worked a little more on actually making us feel the Enchantress was hard to kill.

At the end of the day, I was still hooked onto my seat enjoying Twenty One Pilots’ Heathens when suddenly – there was another surprise. So yeah, hang onto your spot until the screen goes black, okay?

Go for the movie. Joker has some surprises up his sleeve. Thank me later.