Mukti Bhavan – In Search of Salvation

Mukti Bhavan and Masaan – now make companion pieces of sorts – Varanasi and the River Ganga playing a major role in both movies.

Mukti Bhavan titled Hotel Salvation for international releases is a powerful, poignant and bitter-sweet tale of the patriarch of a middle-class family and his relationship with his son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter in his quest for salvation.

In Varanasi/Benares/Kashi – remains a hotel called Mukti Bhavan where those who seek their final journey find an abode. Our lead character Daya played by Lalit Behl is a 77-year old man who has lived a life, well-spent, he sees a dream that foretells his death and he decides to leave for Varanasi to spend his last days. His son Rajiv played brilliantly by Adil Hussain seems to work in some kind of bank or investment firm and is seen chasing sales targets. Rajiv’s wife Lata played by Gitanjali Kulkarni and daughter Sunitha played by the elegant Palomi Ghosh also add to the perfect portrayal of the slightly upper middle-class family structure. They own a car as well as a Bajaj scooter.

Rajiv manages to secure a fortnight’s leave and accompanies Daya to Varanasi and they check-in to Mukti Bhavan. The caretaker Mishra ji is  played by Anil K. Rastogi who has some brilliant lines – “Death is a process.” “The souls here reside within the body. Once the body dies what purpose does the soul serve here.”

At one juncture, Daya falls sick and everyone feels he will die. An elderly lady at Mukti Bhavan played by Navinidra Behl adds grace and charm to the tale, she quips – ‘I have been waiting all my life here to die.” Daya apologises to his son for scuttling his son’s talents and dreams of being a poet. Some real good father-son scenes and I am sure a lot of us guys will relate to these scenes. Daya survives, Latha and Sunitha also make a surprise visit. The 15 day period comes to an end and the caretaker says – ‘Register in a new name and continue to wait for salvation.’

Daya finds a friend and companion in Vimala, then Vimala dies and Daya narrates a moving obituary that he has written for her. Daya advises Rajiv to return to his regular life.

Do watch this movie to figure out what happens to Daya.

At times, amidst all the drivel and leave your ‘mind at home’ cinema that all the woods bombard us with – small little gems like these arrive and make us fall in love with cinema and real characters. By the time the movie ended, I was quite emotional, been some time since I cried after watching a movie; Mukti Bhavan makes me think a lot. My obsession with death, salvation and redemption continue. There are no answers, neither are there any new questions. Celebrate death, embrace it, that which needs to happen will happen.

Full marks to director – Subhashish Bhutiani for an assured, confident and meaningful debut.

 

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As the River Flows By…

Well Mahesh, what is it that you want to do?

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

Are you happy with what you are doing?

Some questions that I keep getting asked every once in a while. I have been in the industry for 12 years now. An IT-job or ITES-job to be precise. I was part of a batch of campus recruits, way back in 2005. We were a bunch of 18 pushed into the fascinating world of Instructional Design. Every single one of them has gone on to build a powerful and focused CV with some brilliant achievements. One of the batch mates is at the Associate VP-level now Training & Development. Others are at a similar rung high up in the corporate hierarchy. Their salaries have breached the INR 10 lakhs an annum bracket a long time back. I am nowhere close to the fancy numbers that parents of prospective brides mention on matrimonial profiles!

Here I am sitting, typing out this blog at the end of a day’s work wondering what am I doing with my life? In 27 days from now, I will turn 35. I still don’t know what my purpose or goal in life is! At a superficial level, one is to ensure that the home loan gets paid without any issue. Roughly 15 years to go at the current rate! I know I can’t help change destiny in terms of the health of family-members, time will take its own course of action.

This little space on the Internet has become a place to vent out my anger, frustration, growing disillusionment with the things that I see, the people whom I meet, what I hear, what I experience. There are so many uses of “I” in the previous sentence. When does one let go of the “I”?

What is it that I intend to do with this gift of life that I have wrested with the Grim Reaper a fair number of times? I am sure there is some purpose or reason why I managed to survive despite being given up for the dead multiple times. But what is that reason? What is the purpose of this existence?

These roles that are thrust upon by birth, the name, caste, colour, creed all arriving due to genetics and birth at a particular place and time; what purpose do they serve?? No answers, only questions! In the process of self-enquiry, I have only found myself being ridiculed and branded a half-baked nutcase. Stack after stack of books are read, ideas assimilated, but the search for the one truth, the one spiritual master who can offer the gift of enlightenment continues… One wonders is it possible to find salvation and redemption without a Guru?

The answer is definitely not 42 this time around!

Look inwards….till you find the beam of light and hold onto it!

 

Come September

It is about five minutes past four in the afternoon or early evening, as I sit down to type this. A lot has happened in the last two months. Equations have changed, daggers drawn, daggers sheathed back, trust broken, trust regained, friends lost, friends gained, friends lost forever. It has been a strange two months, in more ways than one. I have shifted jobs after nearly six years of service in one organisation. At the new place of work, there is a lot to learn and implement, gain the trust and respect of colleagues, plan things, get work done, a lot of trust has been placed upon me and every single time from day one, the biggest fear has been that I will let down the ones who trust me the most. For all that I remember, the fear of failure and ridicule has driven me a lot in everything that I have done for the longest time that I can remember. I have been pushed to the corner literally and figuratively many a time and I have overcome challenges to focus on life.

This year so far has drained me out tremendously, I started the year with hope that I would set things right on the personal front, but everything that I do has returned to torment me like an evil nightmare that never stops. I thought I made peace with my past, but by some weird coincidence a bit of my past comes back and again I have to run, speak to people, calm things down. Friends have always appreciated my phenomenal memory power, but I seem to be forgetting a lot. The day I saw “Thanmatra” I was sure that I would go down Rameshan Nair’s way and like a weird premonition the memory lapses are recurring, a favourite book, a movie or a song, or an answer to a question or an important phone number, things are fading. The mirror does not lie, I try to run a bit the knees hurt, gradual exercise, patient breathing, controlled diet, nothing works, the waist expands like India’s economic debt.

For over 20 years, I have believed that I will write a novel of consequence, something that will be a treasured piece, but all I have managed to do is create a pseudo-aura of a pontificating puritan who just finds errors in what others write. When others come to me for advice, I wonder – “What do you see in me; that ensures you that you have come to the right person?” – I keep these thoughts to myself and help others.

No point in harping about Amma as she keeps vacillating between ill, very ill and forever bossing me around to get things done at home! One fine day, I am just going to stop, point at the sky, say “God told me to stop listening to you”, look at her and say, “I have a life as well”. As you know very well, all this is imagination and will never turn to reality.

Externally everything seems fine, but internally there is a deep-rooted melancholy at the inevitable tragedy that the visions foretell.

Come September,

Come embrace me,

In your comfort,

Far away in a world,

Where light and cheer spreads,

Flowers bloom and brooks babble,

Away from the madness,

Of the mundane chores,

Of an existential crisis,

And a battle for survival,

I hope to find peace.

Here’s wishing you a positive, fun-filled, productive and awesome September!

The Perfumer’s Poem

Have you travelled all alone,
With just a basic kit-bag,
Seeking peace, calm and quiet,
Away from the maddening pursuit,
Of bonuses, salaries, congratulatory emails,
And all those celebratory team-lunches?

Boarding a bus from the terminal,
Late one night after a maddening week.
I knew not the destination.
It was a relatively less crowded bus,
With some other state’s vehicle registration number.
Inviting me to board the bus.

There was a distinct smell of grapes,
When the conductor asked me for tickets.
He smiled; I smiled – we both knew,
He had consumed a peg to keep him steady!
I paid for my ticket, I said ‘last stop.’
He smiled again and gave me the ticket.

I stared at the motley crowd within the bus.
Newly wed couple right at the end,
All smiles and content headed for a honeymoon.
The middle-aged couple headed for a pilgrimage.
Some more people who seemed lost in their world.
The sisters from some church dressed,
In an ash-colured dress holding the rosary.

The bus cut through the traffic,
Leaving the madness of the city,
Fighting with space on the roads,
Evading cabs taking the IT crowd home duty.
Lorries transporting vegetables and fruits,
Other buses headed to other destinations.

As the darkness of the night,
Enveloped me in a safe hug,
I slept, wondering where this bus,
Would take me to?
I woke up after a few hours,
It was early morning.

I looked out of the window,
The smell of the hills,
Herbal mist with a dash,
Of citrus and tea-leaves,
I was happy heading into the hills.
The bus stopped at a point.

A small stream in the background,
A small hotel up-front,
Tea; pooris and aloo-subzi and jalebis.
There was a wait for a while,
Then the journey resumed,
The bus climbed into the mountains.

The countryside was picturesque.
I refrained from clicking pictures,
Just soaking up the beauty,
Of Mother Nature in its glory.
Finally we reached our destination.
Pushpagiri – a place in the mountains.

An abode of Lord Shiva.
It was a pilgrimage of sorts,
A redemption for the atheist,
Who seeked perfection in work,
Answers to troubling questions.
And a purpose in life.

The temple bells rung clear and calm,
The fragrance Of the incense and the flowers,
The stream that babbled away,
The wind that had the slightest
Hint of pine-cones from the trees,
That grew further up in the mountains.

I was at peace absolute peace!
This was indeed a journey,
A strange and necessary journey,
That I had to make.

This post masquerading as verse has been written for the ‘Inspire a Fragrance’ competition organised by Godrej and Indiblogger. The fragrances that I would like to capture and make a part of the range of fresheners and purifiers made by Godrej Aer are:

1 – The fragrance of freshly pressed grapes a fruity wine-like aroma.
2 – The fragrance of various aromatic oils – lavender, rosemary, thyme, patchouli all rolled into one.
3 – The fragrance of saffron and milk that one gets when eating some special Indian sweets (kesar rasamalai)
4 – The fragrance of flowers and incense sticks – the fragrance one gets in the sanctum sanctorum of a temple after the first aarti/puja of the day.
5 – The fragrance of green tea and pine woods!

So what fragrances would you like 🙂

HOPE

It is a Friday evening,
Another week at work,
Has come to an end.
The weekend will flash by,
In a hazy blur.

What is it that one does,
As dream after dream,
Keeps haunting me.
I have not been able,
To forget Mother Mary.

I am just not able,
To figure out,
What the vision,
Actually means!
Is it a sign??

I may seem like a mad man,
Penning away lines,
Which at times,
Do not even rhyme.
Perhaps I should let go!

Let go of my fears,
Believe in myself,
Believe in the vision,
Believe that there’s a purpose,
Believe that the vision will guide me!

Hope that is all,
That is all,
That is left,
That is right,
That remains – Hope!

The Fire Within

I am caught,
On one side,
A promise that I made.
On the other,
A mask that has to drop.

Am I being true to myself,
This life of values and morals,
Of what purpose it is,
My being true to my conscience,
Has it served any purpose.

Believing in the greater good of things,
The sacrifices that have been made,
Of what value are they,
Am I really a good human being?
How do I even define ‘good’?

Behind all the nice deeds,
The soft-spoken words,
What is it that lurks,
In the darkest labyrinths,
Of my sinister mind.

There is a deep fire,
That burns within,
As day after day passes,
The fire rages within,
Burning away a bit of me.

Where do I seek salvation?
How do I find redemption?
What is is that I do?
To find a solution,
To quench this thirst!

If only…I knew!!!

S for Sargam and Spadikam

I am rushing to finish this as I am starved for time; will keep the movie-descriptions as precise and concise as possible.

‘Sargam’ ‘Tune/Rhythm’ was directed by Hariharan and had a relatively new starcast – Rambha (unrecognisable from the glamour-queen that she would turn into), Vineeth, Manoj K. Jayan, Nedumidi Venu and others.

Kuttan Thampuran played by Manoj is the son of Subhadra and Kochaniyan Thampuran he is an epileptic, who often has violent fits, plus he has a roguish streak to him and is dreaded by his school-mates. Haridas played by Vineeth is his only friend who tags along with the Thampuran. As the years turn, both the boys have grown into unsuccessful youth, the Kuttan Thampuran behaves eccentrically and chews tobacco, smokes and drinks on the sly. Hari is marked a failure by his father – Bhagavathar a noted classical singer.

Hari and Thankamani a student of the Bhagavathar are in love, but Kuttan’s wedding is fixed with Thankamani as a means to cure Thampuran of his illnesses and bestow a sense of responsibility in him. Thampuran is unaware of Hari and Thankamani’s love for each other. In the interim during a temple festival, Hari breaks into a song and gains prominence as a singer. Subhadra Thampurati speaks to Hari and requests him to leave the village for the sake of her own son his dear friend Kuttan. With a heavy heart, but under the burden of friendship and for all the help that the Thampuran’s family had provided over all these years – Hari leaves the village.

The wedding takes place and Kuttan is devastated when he realises he has been married to the girl who was loved by his own friend whom he thought as his own younger brother. In absolute disgust and depression Kuttan commits suicide.

The clock turns yet again – many years later we see a bearded hari returning to the illam on Subhadra Amma’s request; she is on her death-bed – she wants to meet Hari and apologise for her mistakes. Hari sees Thankamani and is in shock as she has become paralysed after suffering the tragedies of a failed marriage and her husband’s suicide.

Hari sings – ‘Raga Sudha Rasa…’ – the movie ends on a positive note as we see signs of Thankamani attempting to sing along with Hari – the audience is made to believe that good things lie in store for Hari and Thankamani.

A musical gem – great performances and a lovely tale of friendship, sacrifice, love lost and found, redemption and salvation. A must-watch!

‘Spadikam’- Prism

Written and directed by Bhadran with a stellar starcast including Thilakan, Mohanlal, Urvashi, Silk Smitha, Nedumudi Venu and others; this was one of the early movies that created the larger than life roguish do-gooder image that Mohanlal would perfect years later in Narasimham, Ravana-Prabhu, Naran and other movies.

The movie is the tale of a strict disciplinarian father Chacko a headmaster in the village-school who punishes students who can’t comprehend Mathematics. His own son is a failure at Maths but has a creative mind and devises inventions like a radio-receiver. In a tragic twist based on his request the language-master played by Venu gives poor grades to the young boy – Thomas. Thomas feels he has been betrayed by the one person whom he loved his language teacher Ravunni master – he runs away in anguish!

He returns a changed man 14 years later as Aadu Thoma a stone-quarry owner/contractor, a lorry-driver and a rowdy; the other goons fear him, the law pursues him; but he craves for this family’s love. A romantic twist in the form of urvashi – ravunni master’s daughter is also there. Though the movie won more fans for the song picturised on Mohanlal and Silk Smitha!

Like a Roman tragedy – Chacko realises the follies of his past and seeks pardon from his son and dies!

How this happens? Why does the law pursue Aadu Thoma? Why does he bash up some goons and corrupt police-officers?

Watch the movie for answers.

A riveting emotional saga with love, affection, family-sentiments, good fights and ear-catching songs – Spadikam was a mass-hit!!!!!