‘Pink needed some shades of grey’: a review

Finally saw the much-raved about Pink over the weekend. If you haven’t seen it yet but intend to, then don’t read further. Spoilers follow.

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Pic courtesy: Wikipedia

Enjoyed it immensely and was moved by some moments and lines; it evoked my sense of outrage as a woman who has spent 2/3rds of her life in Delhi. A commendable-effort indeed. I don’t have anything new to add in terms of praise as a lot has already been covered in reviews by critics and posts on social media. But I’d just like to stress on the sense of elation one felt upon seeing the brilliant Piyush Mishra (we are not related, I’ve double-checked ūüėõ ) appear on-screen as the prosecutor in the case.

I’d like to dwell, albeit briefly, on some of the finer points that bothered me instead:
1. The moment Amitabh Bachchan appears on screen and is allowed to dominate, notice how his “talktime” increases and is matched by a proportionate decrease in that of the three protagonists. Would it have killed the makers of Pink to let the women remain the heroes of the saga? Couldn’t the script have allowed Bachchan to remain a supporting cast member instead of upstaging the others? This is a problem with a lot of films in mainstream Bollywood today.

2. The portrayal of women either as wailing banshees, over-emotional, raving lunatics OR as whimpering, simpering, traumatised individuals rendered mute, who need saving. With 3 women in prominent roles, there was enough scope to avoid this kind of stereotyping. Pink could have done with a touch of grey.

3. Bachchan as Sehgal barking at the women to pipe down during court sessions every time any of them spoke out of turn… Very unsettling. Unless of course I have missed a subtle point the makers may have been purposefully trying to make.

4. The clip that plays at the end over the closing credits was voyeuristic and unnecessary. I’m sure multiple iterations and descriptions of the incident (that the film revolves around) through out the 2+-hour film were enough for viewers to understand what transpired. Some things can be left to the imagination. One doesn’t need everything spelled out.

Glad that Pink isn’t the only political film with a strong message in theatres at the moment. There’s also Parched, that I hope to see one of these days.

Taking Stock 1

I’m kicking off a new sub-series within my blog, inspired by something my¬†friend and fellow blogger Meenaxi does. Meenaxi is a food blogger 6 days of the week. On Fridays, she fasts (figuratively) and touches on other subjects. And so her Friday blog entries are named Foodless Fridays. On that day, she lists out what she’s been reading, cooking, watching, doing and so on. I liked the idea and decided to emulate her. Beginning today.

This serves more as a chronicle in personal interest, to help me take stock, if you will, of what I have been up to. Hence the name of the sub-series: Taking Stock. The numeral at the end will reflect the number of times I have taken stock.

I am open to suggestions on what to read, cook, watch, do and so on. So feel free to comment/suggest.

Reading

Let me state that this section will not include reading that I do for work or reading/editing my husband Dr. A’s articles for academic journals and so on. The books mentioned here are those read for pleasure. Not that reading his work is not pleasurable. But you know what I mean. (I’m tempted to resort to some hashtagging, as is the rage nowadays, but not of the annoying, stating-the-obvious variety.) #SkirtsALandmine. There! I did it. ūüôā

I am reading two books these days.

(courtesy: vidyasury.com)

(courtesy: vidyasury.com)

One is a collection of timeless poems by writer, poetess and activist Maya Angelou. Her words are so soothing – music to the ears. This one is titled “Celebrations: Rituals of Peace and Prayer”. Here is a sample. (I reckon you will want to pick up a copy, or read it online).

Each of you a bordered country
Delicate and strangely made, proud,
Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.
Your armed struggles for profit
Have left collars of waste upon
My shore, current debris upon my breast.
Yet, today I call you to my riverside,
If you will study war no more. Come,
Clad in peace, and I will sing the songs
The Creator gave to me when I and the
Tree and the stone were one.

(An excerpt from ‘On The Pulse of The Morning’)

(courtesy: bookvista.com)

(courtesy: bookvista.com)

Dr. A and I have embarked on a new project, which I hope becomes “our” tradition. We have begun reading a book together: Raag Darbaari by Srilal Shukl, a Hindi writer and former civil servant who also received the Jnanpith, Sahitya Akademi and Padma Bhushan awards for his work. I must confess that¬†I had never heard of or read him until a few days ago. The only Hindi writer I have read is Premchand, and that too because it used to be on CBSE’s reading list in school. But I’m hooked on to his work now. His style of writing is satirical and political, in a subtle way.¬†When I say we read it together, I mean, Dr. A reads out loud for both of us. Today is my turn. We turn the page to Chapter 2.

Feel free to recommend more books. Books written in other languages and translated into English or Hindi are welcome.

Watching/Seeing

Courtesy: loadtv.biz

Courtesy: loadtv.biz

I’m just coming out of a marathon-viewing of¬†Broadchurch, a British crime drama television series, produced by ITV. It’s a classic whodunit set in a small coastal town. The Latimer¬†family loses their 11-year-old son in a brutal, cold-blooded murder. Detectives Alec Hardy and Ellie Miller¬†pair up grudgingly to solve the murder. The case spans¬†8 episodes. The investigation to find the killer ends up causing many skeletons to tumble out of the town’s residents’ closets: sex, lies, theft, infidelity and paedophilia to name a few. It’s almost as if every one has a past to hide, to run away from. ¬†To complicate matters, and this is the part that I love, Hardy is a brooding cop with a heart disorder, tonnes of emotional baggage and a manner that won’t win him any prizes in a Mr Congeniality contest. I love such protagonists. Eccentric individuals who fail miserably at the everyday, in their personal lives but perform exceptionally and show¬†extraordinary genius on the job. Other favourite eccentric, broody protagonists whom I love include Sarah Lundt from Forbrydelsen (The Killing) and Saga Noren from¬†Bron Broen¬†(The Bridge). Both crime drama thrillers are based and produced in Denmark. Man, I love the Danes. Hollywood doesn’t hold a candle to their writers and producers. Seriously.

Cooking

When a sweet craving collides with¬†acute laziness, it’s time to cheat in the kitchen. I wanted to make a classic North Indian delicacy Gajar ka Halwa. Now there are multiple ways of making it. Some folks like to tenderise the grated carrot in a generous dollop of ghee first before adding the milk in. Others like to reduce the milk down before adding the carrots in. Both with tasty outcomes but way too time-consuming, especially when time is not a luxury and laziness is calling the shots. So I went online to find some cheat codes. The result: A 400g can of Nestle condensed milk. Using this¬†cuts down the cooking time by half. The normal way (the two options mentioned earlier on) takes about 1.05 hrs. The condensed milk way takes 25 minutes.

I finely grated a kilo of carrots. Added them to a hot kadai (deep, thick-bottomed wok), greased with 3 tablespoons of ghee (clarified butter). On a slow heat/low flame, I cooked the carrots till they became more tender and looked tungsten-coloured. Stirring occasionally. This took about 15 minutes. I then added about 350 g of condensed milk. The mixture became wet, gooey. I kept stirring, until the carrots absorbed most of the condensed milk.¬†A sprinkling of green cardamom powder and a cupful of nuts (crushed, assorted). I used almonds, cashews and dark raisins. You don’t need to add sugar, as¬†the condensed milk is sweet enough. Too sweet for some.

The halwa turned out fine. Not great. This is not to say I am never using condensed milk again. I will modify the recipe the next time around. Maybe adding 3/4th cup of milk and reducing the condensed milk to just about 200g. I promise to take a picture of the new and improved gajar ka halwa the next time the stars are aligned for a sweet experience.

The Ice Bucket Challenge: A Spectacle By Any Other Name…

Courtesy: cagle.com

Courtesy: cagle.com

Much ado has been made about the ongoing Ice Bucket challenge (IBC): an event in which a person voluntarily dunks a bucket of ice cold water on him/herself, tapes it, uploads it to the internet, dares 2-3 others to take the challenge, each of whom either take the challenge and/or donate $100 to the cause.¬†The event has gone viral – which is to say tens of thousands have reportedly risen to the occasion, bombarded the internet with their videos that are being watched by scores of others. (I’m sure that even as I type this, someone, mostly likely a celebrity of some kind, somewhere is drenching him/herself in ice cold water.) The whole feat is apparently meant to spread awareness about a¬†degenerative neurological disease that affects the brain and spinal cord and often results in death (It’s known in medical terminology as¬†ALS – – read more about it here – and by lay people as Lou Gehrig’s disease after it affected a popular baseballer in 1939) but I doubt any of that is really happening.

Yes, I’m not a fan of the IBC¬†at all ¬†you guessed correctly. I feel that¬†somewhere in this project, thought up by some clever folks and swallowed up by the herd, the medium is making a louder splash than the message.

Experience – empathise – act?

I’m not sure what the “founders” of the IBC were thinking, if at all they were thinking in the first place. Is the momentary hypothermia that sets in – that sharp drawing in of a short breath when icy water hits your body, which is at a warmer temperature – when you dump an icy bucket on yourself¬†one of the many symptoms or effects of ALS? Is that why the founders wanted the challenge accepters to briefly experience what ALS feels like, feel empathy and take action? If that were the case, I would gladly bow in submission. But sadly there is no scientific link between the two. Coincidentally one of the founders died a week ago. Ironically, he drowned to death. Not in a bucket, but¬†a harbour.

Bucket Half Empty or Half Full?

According to¬†an organisation called¬†the ALS Association¬†7 lakh new donors have been born out of this craze, some of whom have taken the challenge and donated money too. Over 40 million dollars at last count. Some would argue that means don’t matter if the ends are noble. But surely there are better ways to raise such money, ways that don’t indulge wastage of precious resources.

Food..rather..Iced Water for Thought

Source: WorldTruth.TV

Source: WorldTruth.TV

An new image just popped up on my news feed on Facebook. It juxtaposes a montage of Americans in the process of upturning an bucket of water on themselves, with one of an emaciated, parched African child slowly sipping a capful of water. If that doesn’t¬†put things in perspective, what will!

Herd Mentality

Many celebrities have joined the bandwagon. The list is so long…it would be easier to just say who refused the challenge. US President Barack Obama for starters. He was dared by many, including teen pop star Justin Bieber, but politely refused to go through with the icy baptism. He instead chose to contribute monetarily. Baywatch star and animal rights activist Pamela Anderson also said no. But her refusal was more a mark of protest as ALS Association supports animal testing. I’m sure there are many more who probably refused but mainstream/corporate media coverage being what it is, I guess we’ll never know. Here’s a toast to those wise souls whoever they are.

Spoofing the Ice Bucket with the Ash Bucket

While the herd races to fill a bucket full of icy water, the spoofs can’t be far behind. Another image doing the rounds, although not so much, talks about something called the Ash bucket – deploying the same strategy but for a different cause. Politicians, bureaucrats, parliamentarians, business bigwigs dunking ash buckets on themselves and returning every cent of public money that they siphoned off to the state exchequer and daring 2 others to do the same. This the spoofers say will take care of all problems, including funding research to finding cures to terrible illnesses, like ALS!¬†

(Source unknown)

(Source unknown)

Now that’s a worthy cause, no?!

A Cafe-in-a-Van

Image

A bizarre new project is waiting to take off. An old school mate is one of the 6 founders behind the group that calls itself Bean Here Bean There. More details on their website. http://www.indiegogo.com/beanherebeanthere

If you’re feeling a bit lazy and don’t feel like reading, watch this¬†http://vimeo.com/48573180

Pretty exciting stuff, I say

Re-thinking Food (or Why I Look At My Thali Differently)

My mother shared this article with me by mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik ¬†(or as Future Group calls him, it’s CBO = ‘Chief Belief Officer’). ¬†It’s a most fascinating piece about culture and food, how culture transmits through food, in ways we have probably never imagined. There are so many meanings, hidden meanings and loss of meanings in the way many of us operate towards food today. I discovered that I am guilty of a kind of blasphemy, let’s call it gastro-blasphemy…. I have disregarded many sacred ideas associated with food, thinking it isn’t a big deal.

This article (the influence of Hinduism is strong) has made me rethink my approach to food and become more conscious of it. Read, if you are fond of food, of Indian culture, or both.

(courtesy: devdutt.com/the-talking-thali)

Here are some excerpts from http://devdutt.com/the-talking-thali/

In the Indian kitchen, the child learnt to value approximation over exactness. Cooks never measured the quantity of salt to be added; it was all by judgment, salt to taste. Recipes were never written down but passed down through apprenticeship. One figured out proportion visually, by seeing the amount of food before, and through smell, never taste. Cooking therefore had to be creative, demanding opening up of other senses, beyond the taste buds. The cook was expected to rely on his eyes and ears and finger tips and¬†nose, anything but the mouth. The absence of recipes indicated to the child that life was not about formulas. You had to work with what you had and be creative at it. It also meant that wisdom could not be stored outside human beings, in documents. The dish had no independent existence outside the cook. When the mother died, the particular taste of her dal went with her.’

‘..in Western cuisine, we taste what the cook serves but in Indian cuisine we taste our own mixture..’