Amma’s Tamasha

Posted October 26th, 2003 by Deepa and filed in Raves and Rants
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amritandamayiThe four-day celebrations for Amritanandamayi’s 50th birthday celebrations are underway in Kochi. Popularly known as Amma, she is also referred to by the media as the “hugging saint” or the “embracing guru”. This name is due to her marathon embracing sessions where she sits, decked up in a fancy dress, complete with peacock feathers, and embraces all the people who throng to have a darshan. All are embraced; a few get some soothing words murmured in their ear and everybody returns home happy. Amritanandamayi is an international figure now. She has her ashrams in several other countries, people of various faiths and nationalities as her disciples. Her native village, Vallikavu has been changed to a huge pilgrim center called Amritapuri . It astonishes me , that millions believe in her as an incarnation of GOD and pray to her. A large number of people in Kerala are her devotees. My maternal relatives are amongst the most ardent of them. Once there was a satsang conducted at my grandmother’s place in honor of Amritanandamayi. These satsangs generally had a disciple of Amma who would come and sing some Amrita bhajans and the rest of the people would echo him in chorus. After, which this “swami” would tell some stories describing several “miracles” that Amma performed and whats funny is that everything he’d say would be believed without a question. And this is in Kerala. The first literate state in the country…where even the beggars read newspapers and the village chai shopowner can knowledgeably discuss about American foreign policy. Anyway that day’s topic was Amritanandamayi’s visit to Bombay. In those days there was a sudden spate of suicides in the BARC in Bombay. The papers had given it adequate coverage stating how the obviously intelligent scientists are ending their lives due to the enormous stress they are under. The Swami went on to say how these people who were intelligent who were scientists still had faith in god and in Amritanandamayi. He claimed that after she visited BARC colony and hugged the poor scientists there , there was peace and calm and the number of suicides have totally stopped. (Which ,as I told my relatives, was utter nonsense…I had several cousins in the BARC colony who had just had told me of two more suicides that occurred the previous week, in fact one of them occurred right in front of my uncle’s office) Obviously Amma miracles were shortlived!

However I do appreciate the fact that she has managed to do a lot of good things. An hospital sponsored by her, called the Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, is one of the best hospitals in India today. It has state of the art instrumentation and employs latest techniques and offers patients low cost if not free treatments. She has founded and funded schools, universities, engineering and medical schools and orphanages using the money that millions of devotees have offered her. Despite her social service, I am very irritated by her pretensions to divine form. Isn’t it a pity that people have no hesitations in offering their life savings to a saint but will never do that to a non-religious social organization? And that such obvious godmen and woman who benefit from all this. For nobody knows how much of this money goes to line her coffers or those of her immediate assistants. Despite having a history of obvious fake babas and devis, people still continue to believe in them. Wasn’t it recently that another similar baba, the Puttaparathi Sai baba was embroiled in an alleged sex scandal and smuggling charges. I wonder when the Amritandamayi’s true self will be exposed. Rationalists and a few have already pointed at the sudden wealth of her relatives.

Mother Teresa created the Missionaries of charity to serve the poor in Calcutta. She was a nun and was quite obviously a devout Christian. The reason I respect her and not Amritanadamyi depite both doing social service is that MT did not intimate that she had any kind of divine powers. She personally went about serving the people. She might believe in GOD but nowehere did she say that she was GOD. On the other hand you have Amritanandamayi who dresses up in fancy clothes and sits hugging people and claiming divine power and having “true” knowledge. That is why Mother Teresa is a saint and  Amritanandamayi is a mere imposter.

An aunt who is an ardent devoree paid for an annual subscription of Amritandamayi’s monthly magazine, “Amrita” to be delivered to me each month. Much as I detested Amritanandamayi and the mass hysteria that she has created, I still read them ( that’s because I read anything and everything ). Each book described her monthly schedule, her visits and her messages of love and affection. Not that I have anything against her preachings about universal love. But I refuse to respect any person donning the garb of GOD and displaying “extra powers”. As a rational intelligent person I cannot accept the fact that she can turn water into panchamritam ( sweet dish ) as she claims to have done. Nor can I believe that she cured a leprosy patient by regular hugs. If that’s the case then she need not have sponsored a hospital…just hugged all the patients and voila you have a cure for all problems in the world!! It is this obvious façade that disgusts me. Add to that the tendency of speaking of herself as Amma and I think we have surefire charlatan. One of my cousin brothers left the house in his early twenties to join Amritandamayi’s cult. He had unemployed parents and two elder sisters who were probably depending on him to get a job. I think of him as a shirker of responsibilities. Another aunt took up voluntary retirement and decided to settle at Amritapuri after donating all her life savings to Amma. She surfaces occassionally for certain functions and behaves like a sanyasin, much to my irritation. I have relatives who claim attend every single celebrations at Amritaputi. And now we find the Prime Minister and the President too have nothing more to do rather than pay their obeisance to a fake God? And APJ is the person who propagates scientific thinking in today’s youth…That is certainly not an example to follow.

Why I liked “Main Madhuri Dixit Kyon Banna Chahti Hoon”

Posted October 23rd, 2003 by Deepa and filed in Reviews
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main_madhuri_dixit_banna_chahti_hoon_sizedReason 1) Rajpal Yadav’s brilliant portrayal as Raja.

As Chutki’s wholehearted supporter and confidante, the silent lover, the innocent villager, Chutki’s sole protector Yadav excels in conveying all the shades of his character admirably. He is definitely in the league of Varma’s other protégé finds like Manoj Bajpai. RGV definitely can spot and encourage talent. Debutant director Chandan arora is another fine example.

Reason 2 ) Raja’s character (different from Rajpal Yadav’s performance).

Generally people from villages and small towns coming to the big bad city are almost invariably picturised as gullible fools or poor downtrodden villagers or raw country bumpkins. Raja is none of those. He is not street smart (witness how he gets hoodwinked by the taxi driver as soon as he steps foot in Bombay ) but he is no fool. He is from a well to do family, which is not shown as the family of mean horse riding Thakurs, nor is he depicted as from a family on the brink of death due to starvation. He is sensible enough to come with a plan of action in most of the situations that Chutki faces while trying to fulfill her ambition. In a nutshell he is a very realistic character

Reason 3) Antara Mali ’s performance.

As Chutki her performance is endearing. And as a Madhuri Dixit wannabe ,she almost manages to get it right . She even manages to copy Madhuri’s dancing skills, which of course is no mean task. She gets the right expressions and the right gestures during each of the song sequences [she dances to song snatches from Beta, Tezaab, Devdas, Rajkumar, Sailaab and Khalnayak]. The premise of the movie is Chutki’s ability to dance like Madhuri , a tall order and if her dancing abilities do not match up to Madhuri’s, her enthusiasm and effort definitely shows through. And to give Antara her due…she manages better than most could.

Reason 4) Chutki’s transformation.

The slow realization that she needs a makeover to make an impact. The fact that the makeover does not mean get whisked into a parlor and <<drumbeats rolling >> reappear in a micro mini complete with flawless make up and high heels and dazzle everyone. She still looks normal and she still wears her old salwar kameezes and it is only a few scenes later that she appears in a long skirt and demure blouse

Reason 5 ) Missing Scenarios.

I liked the movies due to a number of scenes that were not in the movie. When Raja and Chutki arrive in big bad Bombay with all their paraphernalia and meet with the opportunist cab driver and stand there arguing about the fare…you are sure that someone is going to run away with their bags and leave them penniless and stranded….funnily enough nobody does.

You are sure the wannabe actor Rumi (Raman Trikha ) is out to try to rape our naïve heroine but when confronted with a knife leaves pretty tamely without the obligatory slap on the heroine’s face and promises of “main tumhe dekh loonga”.

When Chutki finally gets her first small chance in a music video album and she is asked to change her costume, you expect Raja to protest vociferously at her revealing costume (by Gajraula standards definitely!) but he goes outside the studio and waits patiently for Chutki without interfering in her work.

No casting couches and big hero-heroine nakhras, which normally are the staple feature of any movie featuring the film industry

Finally we do not see this big “realization” scene where Chutki figures out that she is a “married woman” and the importance of her suhaag . It is conveyed subtly when she wears the mangalsutra as she packs her bags to go back to Gajraula (absolutely no words spoken ) and in the scene where she tells Govind Namdeo (playing a very sincere agent) “ main ab shaadi shuda hoon ” no more and no less …no waxing about family duties and apologies ..The relationship between the Chutki and Raja is the same….despite Chutki’s appreciation and understanding of Raja’s better nature.

What is not there in a movie is as important as what is not there….

Reason 6) Very very subtle humor

One liners mostly that makes you smile in amusement, no belly shaking laugh inducers here. Several scenes, which mostly feature Rajpal Yadav and showcase his innocence.

Like the scene in which a puzzled Raja asks Chutki about the need for a photo shoot…” arre jab tum samne khadi ho, to kyon photo chahiye ”.

Or the scene where Yadav comes from meeting a prospective director to tell Chutki it is he who has been selected for a film

Or the expression on Yadav’s face after he gives an impressive (an obviously tutored) speech on why he needs to go to Bombay

Or the scene where Raja is embarrassed by the semi clad women in a magazine.

Reason 7) Bombay

Raja and Chutki are living in a dingy apartment in Bombay across the railway tracks with all its noise and associated pollution. Just before returning back to Gajraula with all her dreams crushed, Chutki looks at the trains and the railway tracks from the window in her apartment and says “ Raja, Mumbai kitni khubsoorat jagah hai ,ha na ”. I think that sentence is one the best tributes to Bombay . It is a magical place…despite the filth, the corruption and sadness, the city sparkles ; it alive and vibrant and throbbing with activity.

Reason 8) The climax.

Unlike Rangeela which features a similar protagonist who dreams of becoming a big star and eventually making a big splash, Chutki does not get a big break featuring the famous hero of the day. She acts in a small budget film, a B grade film and hardly causes a ripple. Of course, she does get a lot of offers as people have noticed her talent but there is no mention of any big break. You don’t know whether Chutki will make it big. She might go the way of several flop starlets who constantly do B or C grade films. She might loose her innocence and naiveté and may even ditch Raja but the movie stops short of all that…pausing at an optimistic note ….not a triumphant note.