Avatar : The movie

Watched Avatar. What drew me to the theaters was not only the ubiquitous trailers or the widespread promotions. The motivation was, it was a ‘James Cameron movie’.

Avatar: The mystical forest of Pandora

The obvious hype about the special effects and CGI certainly is well deserving. The colors, the creatures and the creation of the planet of Pandora is exquisite! The glowing fluorescent pinks and greens and purples that form the flora and fauna of this planet is a trip to paradise! It is pure beatitude! Needless to say, one falls in love with it, instantly.

But to me, it is the movie’s strong underlying theme that jumps out: one of the relationship of the creatures to the Creation, of the inhabitants to Nature. 

The movie begins with humans who come from the earth to take over Pandora. Their armed forces attack this planet,  showering bombs and opening fire on the land that you just fell in love with. To the natives, the ‘Navi’ people, everything on their planet is ” inter-connected”, like a complex circuit, and there is an energy flow in all things present. Nature is their Divine Mother and they actively communicate with Her. This is a great feat of the film where Nature is personified as a Matriarch, as against unthinking, unintelligent and non-interactive matter existing by chance! The Navi’s have a ancient colossal tree which is their home, and is sacred to them. It is so beautiful and enormous that it is awe-inspiring. This lush green tree is bombed and brought down in flames! That moment becomes a tipping point of sorts for the audience. Seeing its destruction, and annihilation of this haven makes your heart bleed! How short-sighted, how foolish and dim-witted these attackers are, you are compelled to think!

Avatar: The massive tree brought down!

This is also the point where it crosses the line of an unreal story to blatant reality. The reality that you can identify with: the reality of us and our planet. And then it flashes – what the  army is doing to Pandora is exactly what we, as a race, are doing to our Mother, our home – the ever giving Earth! She is mute, maimed and mutilated, and we can’t even see Her tears! What mindless destruction? Wars  born out of  self-centered objectives, and worse justifying it all! Taking for granted all we were conferred with! It is as if a veil is lifted, and one clearly realizes the chaos, the confusion and the pandemonium all around us caused by our actions, and we just wouldn’t stop!

 From a general, I scale back to a micro level and see myself in a different light: me – as an individual-with Nature. I feel humbled. I feel gratified. Questions like “what can I do”, “what/how can I stop” stir me up. “Climate crisis“, “Global warming“, “greenhouse effect“, “carbon footprint” – mere popular terms until sometime back- actually start making sense like never before! I now have a strong conviction and a new-found sense of belonging towards the environment. I make a solemn resolve to myself, to choose to do what is right. Ever since, I see the sentiment guiding my actions and approach.

 To me, Avatar has a strong message to convey. And what a spectacular way of delivering it!

Ek film aisi bhi…

I watched Dostana the other day. This was, in fact, for the second time. It is once again a wonderful “formula movie” that has one song of a popular genre each (a disco, a sufi, a bhangra and a soft number), it is a farce and has attractive faces (not to forget the attractive bodies!). The plot revolves around the pretty Priyanka Chopra and the two men John and Abhishek who pretend to be gay. It certainly entertained me and I laughed and laughed, though I saw myself in disbelief with the unprecedented breaches of the bollywood’s “fine lines”, well protected in its mainstream stereotypicality, until recently. Such violations are abundant in the movie with its constant humor on and references to homosexuality and the double entendre. I call this the ‘Borat-ish’ way of humor! On the other hand, I completed the movie Ek Vivah Aisa Bhi, in two instalments, when I didnt have much to do one evening on a business trip to Tupelo, TN ! In comparison, the latter lacked the “pace” and the “masala” of its contemporaries, especially formula movies like “Dostana”. However, there was something that was stood out. I realized that for ‘Ek Vivah…’ the movie revolves around two young people in love. Yet, quite differently, this love subordinates the feeling of sacrifice. The feelings of romantic love were not based on self-centric gains, but on self-control and deference of self-gratification, the emphasiss being on ones duty or “dharma“. Such concepts did seem “old school” because of their sheer absence in …. er.. in, I guess, the films, in our lives or in moslty everything and everywhere! As I say this, I wonder if its the movies that had the impact on the society (along with so many other factors, of course),  or is it vice versa.  Priorities have changed in bollywood, and so also in our society in general, and in our generation in particular. 

What actually was an eye-opener in this atypical movie was the not-so-positive character in the film Natasha – the newly wed bahu  with a “modern outlook”, entering this household of sacrificing beings. Whatever she said or did sound so plausible and certainly not beyond reason in the contemporary lifestyle; it seemed very acceptable. A lie told often enough becomes the truth, I thought to myself. I am saddened to see how the rights and wrongs have changed over the years, especially when I see myself as the link generation between the older and the newer. Cinema reflects the present society; but cinema also has the power to change and shape the society to a large extent. And Rajshri Productions have been steadfast in their attempt to showcase finer feelings and emotions. I applaud them for it. I find such values, as depicted in their movies,  close to my heart, and it was good to see them on screen – for a change. I am sure it has made its impact. At least, it made me think and look at my ‘life rules’ with a renewed perspective.

“Khwaja mere khwaja” from Jodha Akbar

Jodha Akbar
Jodha Akbar: Aishwarya Rai as Princess Jodha Bai

I happened to watch Jodha Akbar in the theater for more than once. Rather, I chose to. I liked a lot of things about the film, especially the song “khwaja mere khwaja“. Interestingly, it turns out that the track wasn’t originally meant for the movie; AR Rahman had composed it sometime back for himself to listen to. A regular visitor of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti shrine for a decade and a half, Rahman agreed to let Ashutosh Gowarikar use it in the film “only if gets the respect it deserves”.

In the film, a group of white clad Sufi mystics from Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti sing this song to Emperor Akbar in the open amidst burning torches. As words of praise for the saint start pouring with the gripping beat, it enchants the audience. The chorus and the singing elevates the listeners to their higher selves. Young emperor Akbar’s uninterrupted fixed look reflects his intense involvement. As the song progresses,  the seated group of singers who are now completely in a trance rise and with one hand raised, start dancing still singing Khwajaji’s name.  As the chanting increases, Akbar shuts his eyes for a moment and as if in a flash, slips into a divine trance, rises from his seat oblivious to the people around him and joins the dancing singers! With one hand raised with his gaze towards the sky, he loses touch with this world to enter a higher one, which is the hallmark of the song!

Jodha bai (Aishwarya rai) during the song Khwaja Mere Khwaja from Jodha Akbar.
Jodha bai (Aishwarya rai) in the women’s quarters during the song Khwaja Mere Khwaja from Jodha Akbar.

Composed an sung by Rahman himself, “khwaja mere khwaja” certainly generates a strong spiritual sentiment in its listeners. Once you listen to it, the song keeps playing in your mind for a long time. In the film, it tries to successfully establish a strong spiritual inclination as part of Akbars character which possibly lends him wisdom while making several significant decisions in the capacity of an Emperor who is still young. I was appalled to notice how some viewers ridiculed Akbars reaction. Probably this cross-section is not conditioned to think or expect beyond the mediocre confines set by the commerical Indian cinema. So they dont know how to handle it. According to me, this song has set a remarkable precedent for filmakers now and in time to come.