Redemption

What is this? What have you done? What have I become? I look at the mirror and see organs, blood, muscle, tissue under a layer of skin covering up a hollow, endless abyss where my soul and spirit once used to be. There is a mechanical overtone to my movements, a clockwork precision that masks my aimless existence. Are you to blame for this vegetative state I’m in? Or should I curse myself for the rot that has set in?

Perhaps I didn’t see it coming. Hindsight is a bitch and introspection is a cunning bastard that keeps scratching your raw wounds and stuffing coarse salt in them. Flirting with you was like opening my front door in a tempest, impossible to close once the violent winds of your attraction lashed at my heart. Courting you was courting Death. Like Love injecting a potent, invisible poison of passion in my veins. When did a harmless intoxication turn into a lethal addiction? I don’t know. It was inescapable then. It is inescapable now.

I frantically thrash about. A man out of his depth. A fish out of water. Gasping, with hopes of water gushing in and calming me, only to take in more air and feel my throat drying up. I freeze in my tracks like a deer in headlights. There are moments of sanity when redemption looks possible, when I scavenge the depths of that hollow abyss and try to find traces of the lost soul I once had. Madness returns mostly in the form of the same mechanical existence and the abyss swallows me whole. I am lost in the depths of my own despair.

But redeem myself, I have to. There has to be salvation somewhere, in some form, waiting for me to claim. I could forge a raft of logs, hoist sheepskin as my sails and obliterate the monstrous hurricanes of the seven seas. I could lead a revolution and topple governments. I could dismantle the Colosseum and rebuild it, brick for brick.  I could be the conqueror of worlds wasting his spoils of war on the lepers in the street without waiting for their blessings and marching on to my next conquest. Something, ANYTHING to feel a fleeting semblance of the life I once had.

Would it be enough? Would I have lived?

 

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A Petrol-head’s Dream

Forgive the clichéd title, but being a petrol-head and admiring those metal beauties zipping around on rubber on black tarmac since my childhood, my share of driving one came too late in life. The start of my thirties to be precise. And so I believe I must be allowed this indulgence.

Anyway, I grew up in an era when the choice of tourist cars was the grand old HM Ambassador with windows that wound down manually and a sort of igloo shaped cabin that magically expanded to hold as many people and stuff as you needed it to. I enjoyed my vacations to different holiday destinations in my state in this car and every trip had some breakdown or accident that was worthy of being retold generations later. It was but natural that my curiosity would gradually turn into an avid and keen interest and admiration. A part of it was also due to the changing passenger vehicle market. Tata Motors gave us icons like Indica, Safari and Sumo – timeless cars that still have a soft corner in my heart. The Daewoo Cielo, that loooong sedan majestically advertised on the glossy pages of The Sunday Times, Ford concepts splashed across some glossy magazine that I got for free while rummaging for comics at a local bookstore, all added to the awe and I was thoroughly smitten by these divas. The impact these harbingers of the history of cars to come would be indelible.

Fast forward to about 20 years and the car segment in India has drastically changed (and for the good, of course). Consumers are now spoilt for choice, car makers are busy releasing new design languages, models, variants, refreshes or outright creating new segments! What a time to be alive!

It was high time I grabbed me one of these beauties and check off one item from my bucket list – owning a car. The first challenge was to learn to drive. Since we didn’t own a car before,I never really got a chance to lay my hands on one and learn driving. And as I always fell asleep when I rode shotgun I was scared if it would happen while driving as well. 2 days into my driving lessons and I was hooked! The acceleration, the awareness that you have the power of a hundred horses at the tip of your right foot was exhilarating to say the least! I knew then that I would enjoy being behind the wheel come highways or twisty narrow lanes choked with traffic. Falling asleep at the wheel was the monster under the bed I had already vanquished.

Driving tests done and dusted, I then turned my attention to buying the best car my budget could allow me to. For me it was a simple decision, the new compact sedan Zest from Tata Motors. The buying decision, my thought process, the pros and cons warrant a new post altogether but the bottom line is that in my humble opinion it’s the only car in its class that gives the most value for money. For me that had a significant impact on my buying decision.

And so during the auspicious Ganesh festival last year as I grinned from ear to ear while accepting the keys to the metallic grey petite beauty, I fulfilled my dream of owning my first car and checking off an item off my bucket list and added some much needed ‘Zest’ to my life.

That grin still comes back on every time I take the wheel.

 

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NOTE:

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

God In Our Midst

What defined ‘Man of Steel’ for you? What scene, sequence or dialogue summed up the movie and the character? For me it’s a sequence. General Zod has served his ultimatum to humans, and Clark Kent has decided to surrender. It’s a cold bright day. A small company of the Army has been deployed to bring him in. They’re waiting for him in the desert. It’s eerily calm. There’s no wind blowing, no dust. Superman is just levitating in front of the soldiers. Unlike many such cliched scenes from the past, this time his cape doesn’t flutter. He doesn’t float. He just remains fixed at that height. Unmoved. Immovable. As if he wants to let them know their firepower has no effect on him. The whole stillness in that scene is deliberate, enforced, yet subtle. It’s the calm before the storm. They walk him to the holding room in handcuffs. Louis Lane points out that he let them handcuff him. He calmly says it makes them comfortable. It’s the beginning of the history of things to come.

It’s been epic. It’s been hypnotically epic. Trust Nolan to pull out superheroes from the confines of cold storage, thanks to the efforts (or lack of) by lesser mortals. He did that for Batman and having satisfied himself that the Dark Knight has now been firmly embedded in our consciousness, he turned his attention to another superhero who deserved, and needed it. The Superman of the ’70s was well received. The beginning was true to the comic book origins and the movie character remained loyal to the creator’s vision. ‘Superman Returns’, the previous attempt to revive the last son of Krypton also didn’t quite hit the sweet spot. It was a financial success ($400 million) and also received positive reviews, but it wasn’t quite the Superman movie that they thought it would be.

But this time, DC got serious. They saw what Nolan did with the Batman story arc, and they saw what Zack Snyder was capable of with ‘300’. They also hired David Goyer, just for good measure, and also because he seemed to understand what direction DC was taking with The New 52. Like their previous tryst with the superhero genre, they went back to the drawing board and turned the Superman storyline on its head. The beauty is they still kept it true to itself.

They got the casting just right. Atleast where it mattered. Henry Cavill looks every bit the part. They’ve also given him a sexy makeover. The physique looks just perfect. The suit is slick and just plain awesome. There is a seriousness to him, a screen presence that is essential for any actor to play such a colossal superhero because let’s admit it, they don’t get any bigger than this. Russell Crowe is intense as Jor-El. Michael Shannon’s fanatic General Zod is the perfect foil and every bit as larger than life as Superman. Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent ably brings out the simple farmer who has this responsibility called Kal-El thrust upon him. His struggle to be a father to a child who has the potential to be his world’s saviour or its worst nightmare, his genuine efforts to make his son self-aware of his powers and abilities is beautifully captured by Costner.

And then there’s the story. Krypton’s dying hours. The clash of ideologies. The despair of hope. The non-linear storyline, switching between the past and the present. Clark Kent’s pursuit of anonymity and yet his inability to hold himself back in a crisis. His reluctant and unsure metamorphosis into the superhero the world needs him to be is stunning. The film has been criticized for the insane destruction at the end, but I believe it was necessary to show the sheer strength and level of the hero and villain and to firmly impress upon Earthlings that they’re witness to powers they cannot harness or control. It was important that an entire city be demolished as Superman and Zod ravage through it without so much as a hair ruffled or a scratch or bruise to tell humans how powerless they are, and how naive to think they’re the “superior” species on Earth.

I just love the direction the new wave of DC films are taking. Marvel is good entertainment but it cannot hope to match the cerebral, dark, gritty and serious nature of DC movie. Marvel doesn’t quite engage with its audience in the same way that a Dark Knight movie did, or Man of Steel did for that matter. While entertainment rules the box office, DC movies truly make me feel content yet longing for more cinematic brilliance.

Man of Steel was just an example of how would we react to a God in our midst.

There’s more to come.

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माँ

अब नींद नहीं आती तो थोड़ा धड़कन को सुन लेता हूँ,
मैने दिल में माँ की लोरी छुपाकर रक्खी है |
सर्दी में ओढ़ लेता हूँ एक पुराना कंबल,
मैने माँ के आँचल की गर्माहट बचाए रक्खी है |

माँ के आशीर्वाद से बड़ा फ़ायदा क्या?
माँ के नसीहत से बड़ा क़ायदा क्या?
मंदिर के तीर्थ में कहाँ मिलता है अमृत
मैने माँ के आँसुओं की नमी बचाए रक्खी है |

कौन बताए सही ग़लत किस राह पर चल पड़े?
कौन बताए दुश्मन दोस्त जिससे हम लड़ पड़े?
खामोशी की चीख़ हो या शोर में सन्नाटा
मैंने जेहेन में अब भी माँ बसाए रक्खी है |

Love

Love.

Takes you places.

Places you’d rather be and places you don’t want to see.

Places of your dreams and places that make you scream.

Places dark with a ray of light, places bright with a storm in sight.

Places you never want to leave, places real yet so make-believe.

Love.

Changes you.

For better and for worse, without a chance to rehearse.

Makes you a Demon and a God, makes you fight wars uncalled for.

Makes you laugh in your misery, makes you cry when you’re happy.

Makes you a saint. Makes you a sinner.  Makes you lose all and still be a winner.

Love.

Kills you.

Drives a knife in your spine and kisses you a sweet kiss goodbye.

Squeezes your heart dry and leaves you to die.

Rips you apart from a gaping bullethole to leave you a corpse without a soul.

Makes you hate life and welcome death. Makes you pray for your final wreath.

Love.

 

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The Fog

It wasn’t a typical cold winter’s night. And yet just cold enough for a walk. The first fog of the season rolled lazily over the dim gas lit streets. We were strolling, wandering really. We didn’t know where the road was taking us, and didn’t need to. She looked splendid enough to make me forget journeys and destinations. Her face glowed in whatever little light the street lamps shared with the world around them. I was mesmerized. She was bewildered. Her beauty and modesty was as beautiful a potion as it was toxic. And my heart was already feeling the first pangs of its power.

I deliberately stopped under a lamp to slow her down, just so I could soak in the radiance of her face. The fog rolled past the lamp as lazily as ever, but it danced across her face, caressing it like a lover and making me jealous. And in that jealous, love filled rage, I touched her cheeks, almost as if to wipe those shadows off her face. Startled, her eyes questioned me as fleetingly as they found the answer. She smiled and something in those eyes assured me the fog could never touch her the way I did. Her eyes laid bare my insecurities and covered them in a blanket. I was lost in them, and would’ve paid a fortune not to be found again.

Something did find me. A noise somewhere in the distance perhaps. After the moment I took to recollect my thoughts, my eyes sought her again. Framed and behind a thin veil of glass, her eyes still fixated me and pulled me away from the banalities of existence. The memories started flooding my mind again, making my head throb with the sheer collage of images of an unforgettable yesterday, and making my heart ache with the feelings each moment held within itself. The brain defense mechanism made me involuntarily reach out for some book on the table, and open the first page.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

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The Importance Of Being Nolan

That Christopher Nolan is a Genius needs no discussion. One simply has to look at his portfolio of movies to understand why he deserves this accolade, and many more. But more than that, he’s a magician. Because only a magician could have rescued an icon like the Batman from it’s lowest point in cinematic history and take it to stratospheric heights in the span of a trilogy. To understand how he accomplished this impossible feat, you need to look away from ‘The Dark Knight’ trilogy and at another one of his mind boggling movies, ‘The Prestige’.

‘The Prestige’ talks about the rivalry between two magicians but that is quite besides the point. During the very first scene, which sets up the tone of the movie, Michael Caine explains that every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. ‘The Pledge’, ‘The Turn’, and ‘The Prestige’. That’s it. If you understand this, you understand it’s manifestation in ‘The Dark Knight’ trilogy.

‘Batman Begins’ was ‘The Pledge’. Nolan adopted an icon that was nothing but dead. After the disaster that was the George Clooney starrer ‘Batman and Robin’, the caped crusader was written off and no one dared go down the path of resurrecting and flashing the Bat Signal again. Nolan dared. He also made a solemn promise to the Batman faithful. He would keep the movie true to its character. Batman would be dark, gritty, brooding, and the criminals’ absolute worst nightmare. The first movie would do what ‘The First Year’ did. It would establish Batman as the giant bat in Gotham who struck fear in the criminal mind with so much of a flash of the Bat Signal. Nolan made sure Batman’s legendary status in superhero folklore as the greatest detective was also revived in the process. Nolan showed us the original Batman. The Batman movie that should always have been. He asked us to check if this was correct and that he was faithful to the comic character.  He kept things basic and concentrated on building the foundations. Simple things like the tumblr jumping from roof-tops, the ‘back-up’ in Arkham asylum. Nothing that was NOT in the comic. He kept things ordinary, simple till the last scene.

The last scene in ‘Batman Begins’ truly defined his pledge – that he will take it to the next level and bring back The Clown Prince of crime. Gordan handed over a playing card in a ziplock plastic packet to Batman. He turned it over to find it’s a joker. That one moment was enough to send shivers down the spine, with your mind already fantasizing over the countless possibilities that hell would break loose in the next part of the series.

Nolan kept his word. And how! Heath Ledger’s Joker exploded on the scene and made ‘The Dark Knight’ his own. He unleashed anarchy without pride or prejudice. He turned Gotham upside down. He created doubts in the minds of the bravest and strongest believers. He took a city with a fearless D.A. and turned him into a psychopath murderer who decided a man’s fate on the flip of a coin. He took away hope and replaced it with despair. He took away law and replaced it with chaos. He made Batman doubt himself and  almost give himself up to save people, such was the brilliance of his schemes. He pushed Batman to go to the extreme step of illegal surveillance of the entire city, all the while teasing him to break his one rule, safe in the knowledge that Batman will never break it. By the time he finished with the city, he almost blew up half the population, created a monster and forced Batman to become a fugitive wanted for Dent’s murder to save his identity. In the span of two and a half incredible hours, Nolan turned Batman from the one ally Gotham’s bravest could trust to the most wanted criminal, answerable for Dent’s murder. He turned Batman to a hero that Gotham deserved, but not the one it needed. Nolan had just executed the most brilliant Turn in the history of magic.

‘The Dark Knight Rises’ was always going to be ‘The Prestige’ in Nolan’s magical trilogy. Simply because the next antagonist to step into Heath Ledger’s Joker had to be more than any ordinary goon. It had to be someone who knew Batman more than Batman himself. Someone capable of turning the tables on the Bat and beating him to pulp. Enter Bane. While the Joker was Ledger’s creation, Bane was Nolan’s. Tom Hardy just played that part to perfection. Not only was the character well written, but Hardy’s expressive eyes (remember that most of his face was hidden behind his ominous mask) and his beefed up physique took Bane to a whole new dimension. And he broke the goddamn Batman’s back. He fucking broke his back! If you didn’t feel all hope deserting you when you watched a crippled Batman being dragged away, you were just watching moving images on a screen. You never connected with the magic. Nolan took everything to an epic level in this movie. In TDK, Gotham was held hostage. In TDKR, Gotham was under a siege counting down to it’s death. In TDK, Batman had to come to terms with people dying around him just because someone wanted him to show his true identity. In TDKR, Batman had to come to terms with not only death, but loneliness, betrayal, bankruptcy, and near complete mental and physical breakdown. Batman had to start from scratch, resurrect himself from the pit of hell and take the fight to Bane, no matter the cost. He did just that. In the most epic way possible. And then just you felt like you were in a vacuum created by a mushroom cloud on the horizon, Nolan played a masterstroke and restored everything back to normal. Despite the inevitability of the end of this trilogy, enough seeds were sown for another one to sprout, if someone cared to nurture them.

I believe ‘The Dark Knight’ trilogy was one the most spectacular things to happen to cinema in a long time. And in hindsight, I don’t think any other director could have done the caped crusader more justice than Nolan.

He became the magician Batman deserved, and needed.

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