Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Film review: Listen...Amaya

Director Avinash Kumar Singh was bold to pick a subject close to perhaps many hearts in India – can two people who have lost their partners/husband/wife marry and start a life once again?
In his film Listen.. Amaya, featuring Farooq Shaikh, Deepti Naval, Swara Bhaskar, he dealt with this subject quite efficiently although, he finally tucked his tail under him and fled out, making a statement, that ill disposes women and men in such situation.
Farooq Shaikh is a widower, and photographer. Deepti Naval is a widow who runs a beautiful café called Book A Café. Swara Bhaskar is her daughter, perhaps in the last years of her teens. They both share a very close relationship, until of course Deepti and Farooq develop a liking for each other. The relationship is mature, calm and mellow. However, for Swara ( Amaya ) it is not. She is obsessed with the growing relationship between her mother and the photographer, and is adding a lot of anger and negative emotions to the relationship, by causing her mother a lot of anxiety. Amaya, won’t have her mother have a love life of her own, despite the fact that together with Farooq Shaikh, she has written a Coffee Table Book (Oh! It is such a done thing in 2013, when all and everyone is a writer/author!!) ready for publication. It takes a Chitti ( peternal ) to come from Chennai to make Amaya understand, that there is absolutely no problem, if Deepti moves on. This does not mean that she loves her less, or that Deepti has forgotten Amaya’s father! Amaya suddenly consents to the relationship.
But wait a minute! Director Avinash Kumar Singh, must play spoil sport! He is afraid that the masses will reject the film and so, guess what? He has suddenly made poor Farooq Shaikh a victim of Alzheimer’s and now, Deepti Naval is rendered another blow – she must live with a love that may not ever remember who she is, in time. She is back with the ‘dead to the world of beautiful memories and love’.
The Indian audience loved it. The film received The Best Film (NJISACF), Best Director (NJISACF), Best Director (DCSAFF), Best Actress (NYIFF). India’s age old widows and widowers have been positioned to maintain status quo. No love life, after the death of one or the other!
I say damn! Can’t a director show more mettle? Is his research not complete? If he can make a film, in modern unban India ( Delhi), then has he forgotten that urban India behaves differently. And if you talk of rural India, they too are moving forward. Why should a man/woman, who has lost their partners, live the rest of their lives as widow/er? Communities in India, like Maharashtrians, re-marry with three months of the passing away of the partner. It is a practical step taken. Life is paradise gained, why do directors of films have to preserve dead leaves from regressive social practices of yesteryears?
Films are supposed to affect change. They create a shake- up and a good film such as this one made, could win the hearts of people, and make them think otherwise.
I advocate happiness, I celebrate the will to create your own future and I say, Love and Life are synonymous. When we reject one, we reject the other. And vice versa.
I wish the Director a stronger nerve, next time!

Film: Listen... Amaya
Directed by : Avinash Kumar Singh
Produced by: Ashok Sawhny
Written by: Geeta Singh, Avinash Kumar Singh, Vikas Chandra
Story by: Geeta Singh
Starring: Farooq Shaikh, Deepti Naval, Swara Bhaskar
Music by:  Indraneel Hariharan, Punam Hariharan (lyrics)
Cinematography:  Ramshreyas Rao
Editing by: Geeta Singh
Studio   Turtle on a Hammock Films
Distributed by   Turtle on a Hammock Films
Release date(s)               
February 1, 2013 (India)
Running time     108 min
Country                India
Language: Hindi

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Whose children are these?

Children live in their own fancy world and dream up their own realities around the world they live in. Many a times, this world is punctured by adults with their desires which are very jarring for the child. In India, the girl child is attacked from even before she is born to the entire period of her life, in many ways, physical or psychological. While we acknowledge, and have laws to protect, the girl child/adult, many a time, these laws are there in paper and never followed up with action.
One of the heinous crimes against children is Child Sexual Abuse. This crime always, almost takes place within families, among friends of the family, people who the child trusts as does the family.

In a story told by a 78 year old lady from an elite background in Bengal, she recalled how, when she was a little girl, their home was frequently visited by her maternal uncle who lived in a town near Kolkata. During this visit, he molested and performed odd acts of sexual nature, forcing himself on the lady, then only a child and made her do things to him, which her child mind could not comprehend but was hugely disturbed to participate in. She did not have words for it at that time, however, at a later stage; she did open her mouth and tell her mother. Her mother refused to believe her and confronted her brother, whereupon, he denied it completely. The matter was put away, as if the lady had lied. When, in later years, she was found to resist her husband’s approaches, which lead him to leave the marriage, and she develop cancer of the uterus, out of the enormous amount of unresolved negative emotions she harboured around sex, it is only as a cancer survivor, speaking up her truth as a means to come to terms with the happenings of her childhood, and rid herself of the guilt and shame she suffered all her life, for no fault of hers, did she find listeners, who were a family of cancer survivors, quite far from her own.

This story is only one among dozens of cases of Child Sexual Abuse that happen on a daily basis, across all sections of society in India. The crime, least acknowledged as one, inside the family is quickly hidden away or covered up. At best the abuser is asked not to visit any more. But what if the abuser is the own father? Where can we send this person? Our imagination may not want to accept this reality, but the fact is, this too is a glaring fact in India and elsewhere in the world.

The abuser never admits to the crime. Nobody goes to law for this. There are as little cases in the Police Stations in India on this issue – who will go? What will happen to the name of the family? What will the family do, if the abuser is the bread winner in the family?

We need laws to protect children, from heinous crimes of this nature, if not in their homes, then it becomes a moral responsibility of schools they go to, to keep a strong eye watching out for children who might be showing signs of stress. Teachers, adults at home and in places where the child visits, like Tuition Classes and wherever, have to be sensitized. Not only that, stricter rules must come in place and where the Public Legal System have to be empowered to visit dysfunctional homes or schools where any child suspected to be violated sexually must be contacted and parents brought under stricter vigilance and punishment. Since Child Sexual Abuse, more than often, happens in the family, there must be means and ways to intervene, even within the family, for this is true, that the family hides the truth.

Older than perhaps the institution of prostitution, Child Sexual Abuse is not a problem that has come up now, or affects only the rich or the people living in the Metros, it is as old as human interaction between a child and pathological adults are concerned.

What are we as a government or law makers doing about it? Why must we as a society take so little cognition of this crime or hide it or just go about saying that it probably is a story told by a child from her own dream world?

If you are someone who has gone through CSA or know of someone who is undergoing one, it is time to raise alarm. You can reach out to # 100 anywhere in India; you do not need the family’s permission to do that.

The question I am leaving you with is: Why must we have so much respect for this institution called family, when, it is unable to protect children?

Monday, August 05, 2013

Naturally, in love!

The Duke's Nose, Lonavla, India
The heart of silence lies in Almora, India. There, you don’t have to do anything to be drawn into that space. Whether you are in the middle of a market place or sitting by yourself, the environment sucks you into yourself. Peace! To experience what I did many years ago, click on this link: 

Very recently, I was back with nature, on an Ashram right beneath The Duke’s Nose (the hill one can see from far on the way to Mumbai-Pune-Mumbai, as the train is close to Lonavla. The Rishi Vana Ashram, at Dehari, a small village far away from civilization, is where you learn Siddha Samadhi Yoga. 

Nestled in the lap of nature, away from all activities of a busy life, the Ashram offers a real retreat from the grey, glassy life of metropolitan India, the hurry-worry way of life to a life with nature, natural food and people who are loving and kind and contribute to your happiness quotient going high up. Naturally, your inner self shines out again, as if it was waiting in the wings to do so. Encouraged by the beauty of the surroundings, the let go happens and one is child-like again – ready to love and trust. Indeed, these emotions are always there, but covered by a thick shield of duty, expectations, must-dos and don’t dos. Once, these are shed, like clothes, over-worn and heavy on the shoulders, the original face of our self stares at us. 

The week long retreat I engaged in, made me come face to face with this realization that I need these breaks with nature ever so often, because, in the rough of a life, enjoyed but too fast lived, I forget my original face – the face that loves and trusts irrevocably. The food served for the entire length of the retreat was natural, uncooked fruits, vegetables, nuts, juices etc. We slept on the floor, did yoga and pranayama on the same floor, we played and prayed, all on the same floor. 

The feeling of love is very close to my heart. When I am with the feeling of love within me, I am happy and when I am happy, I trust easily. My mind is at ease. So, while there is love that we know is caused because of the ‘other’, really, there is much nectar in the one that overflows from within, without any reason at all. The ‘other’ is absent in this case. It tastes so sweet when we surrender to ourselves.

So if you happen to see me on The Way, smiling to myself, know, I have left the defense behind. I am surrendered, at least for as long as it lasts. 

Until, I am back in the lap of nature once again.

See photos
of Rishi Vana Ashram:
More about Siddha Samadhi Yoga:

More on raw juices and fruits: