Posted in Extempore, Movies

August Rush | Ancient Wisdom in a Modern Musical

As an epitome of modern day storytelling, August Rush returns a very important ingredient to the recipe of life – an ingredient long lost since the dawn of enlightenment – Mystery. And the medium it chooses to return this old family member is – Music.

For as is rightly said, Music comes only second to expressing the inexpressible, after silence. The inexpressible, the Mystery, which lingers in all our hearts and binds 7 billion of us, together, as humans, as living beings!

Depite the modern medium of Music, the inherent message of this love story remains as old as the legends it is inspired by. It seems to be almost certainly based on the ancient tale of the Princess and the Frog, where Love conquers everything – Prestige, Royalty, Penury, Beauty – everything.

Let me explain a bit here.

Like in the fairy tale, there are four characters in this love story too. There is a King, his daughter the Princess, a Prince cursed into a Frog and the Witch who curses the Prince.

In order to truly grasp the parallels between the stories separated largely in time and space, we need to understand the symbolism behind each of the characters involved.

The King of the fairy tale is essentially symbolic of the Masculine forces of Nature that organises, structures and identifies with his creations to be his own. He is the King of his creation. In the story, Lyla’s father, the King, is proud of his creation, that is Lyla herself. He is proud of her musical talents and wishes to see her prosper and gather fame as an artist. So much so that when she expresses a desire to love a poor man of a lowly rank, he tries to withold her from returning to him. In the fairy tale, it is the Pride of Beauty in the Princess that separates her from the Prince. Here it is the Pride of Lyla’s father in his Prestige that forces him to turn blind to their shared love for Music.

The Witch of the Grimms’ tale is symbolic of the wild and chaotic powers of Mother Nature, the Feminine, that time and again proves the King wrong. She reminds him that it is she who has the power to take away everything that he builds out of her world in the blink of an eye. All of the King’s kingdoms and structures can be reduced to dust in a single day or even a single moment if she wishes to. And as and when his Pride rises, she will crumble his Pride down to dust. Now in Lyla’s story, the Witch is played by a very interesting character of Robin Williams. He is the nomad and a musician of the wild nights. He lives in a dark shed at night with his little army of kids working for him. He wanders by the night playing out his Mysterious Music. He too abhors the Pride of institutions that pretend to teach music and believes that true Music lies in the wilderness out there. (Just as the Witch abhors the Pride of Kings who refuse to accept the true power out there.)

Now, the Princess is the feminine side of the King. The tiny drop of white in the black half of the Yin-Yang. She is the Wild Nature decorated in Gold and Silver. She is born into the structured and orderly world of her Royal father but in her heart she still feels the call to wilderness. But she is forced to keep it sublime. Out of this tension within her arises one of the most beautiful human virtues – Grace. Music becomes her medium to Gracefully release this tension in the world.

In the fairy tale, the Prince is cursed into becoming a Frog till a Princess takes his hand in marriage. In this story our Prince is turned into a Frog by Poverty instead. He is a poor man, much poorer than what Lyla’s father would approve of. (Robin Williams’ character shares this trait of Penury with the Frog Prince.) He is a rebel hearted rock musician which is the diagonal opposite of Lyla’s classical Cello talents. He is the masculine version of the wild feminine. The drop of black in the white half of the Yin-Yang.

And then there is common aspect of Time between the two stories. By which I mean, with Time, the representations of Yin-Yang tend to decay and the new pairs begin to gain virtue. In the Grimms’ legend, both the Princess’ Pride in her Royalty as well as the arrogance of the Witch who cursed the Proud Prince, are eventually mellowed down. The Princess kisses the Frog, thus accepting him as her Beloved despite his foul looks. The curse of the Witch is broken and the Frog turns into a Prince once again.

Similarly, in this story, the Pride of Lyla’s father is shattered to pieces when his daughter breaks the bounds of morality and bears the child of a man of such lowly ranks. And the Pride of the wild, rebellious character of Robin Williams’ is shattered when that very same child goes on to shock the institutions Williams opposed, as a child prodigy – an anomaly in their system, a rebel who speaks the same language but words very different kind of music. A Mysterious Music. A Music of another world.

Thus, the two opposing forces of Lyla’s father and Robin Williams, the egoistic masculine and arrogant feminine; give way to the love-child of Lyla and her unnamed Frog Prince of Rock, the empathetic forms of masculine and feminine. The family is reunited and it is the Music that unites them. The mysterious Music that spreads Love and somehow harmonizes even the eternally opposed forces in Nature.

And that, I believe, is the gift of this wonderful musical to the modern world and its storytellers. Re-igniting an old fire of wisdom that says Love alone triumphs the differences, the diagonal opposites, the Yin and the Yang and also every other kind of differences that we face in the world today.

 

Posted in Movies

Amelie | Simplest Definition of Love Possible

What is love?

This fragile question has haunted so many men and women, over so many centuries. Some answer it very simply while others lay down pages and pages in its honour. This story here is probably one of the simplest ever told.

It is the story of Amelie and Nino as they are slowly understanding the meaning of the word Love for themselves and for us as well.  

It all begins with a Wish, an unfulfilled Desire, a withheld Frustration – each one may pick which ever they find suitable. But all three are essentially empty pieces in the Jigsaw puzzles of our lives. Some optimistic, cheer hearted, gullible souls may ask a Wish to find the missing pieces. Some obsessive, anxious, fluttering souls may Desire the completion of their puzzle. Some pessimistic, heart broken, angry ones may nurture a Frustration at the incomplete challenge.

But each one necessarily holds an incomplete Jigsaw puzzle, a gaping hole in their almost perfect world but as of now imperfect worlds.

And that is when enters Love. Love is quite simply a Kind Helping Hand that lays down a very crucial missing piece of the Jigsaw.

Amelie discovers this simple truth on the day she adds a single, most crucial missing piece in the puzzle of a 48 year old stranger by returning him the Wish to live life fully. To forgive his rebellious daughter and take her back into his incomplete world. To lover her back like a father who has made memories of mistakes in his own childhood. It is these memories that Amelie brings back to the old man.

Ever since, Amelie sets out to be a Do-Gooder. She vows to add missing piece or pieces in the incomplete Jigsaw puzzles of those around her. When she cannot find them, she even sits down to make them out of thin air. And it is this endeavour of hers that prepares her for that wonderful relationship of Love.

In Love for man or a woman, you complete the Jigsaw puzzles of your Beloved but along the way you realise that you are completing missing pieces in your puzzle as well. What results is a lifelong exchange of pieces that helps mutually complete the two incomplete puzzles involved. It begins in the act of Kindness and when it runs a lifetime, it becomes Love. Rather, it is simply called Love. A Loving Kindness that goes on and on till the very end, till the pictures are complete.

The little story revolves around the young woman utilising her new found independence to distribute pieces to incomplete Jigsaw puzzles she witnesses around her everyday. From her colleagues at work, to the people who share her apartment building, to the old painter she shares her solitude with, to her own father. She helps them realise the incomplete state of their puzzles. Brings to their notice their unfulfilled Wish, insatiated Desire or a lingering Frustration. And then she helps them resolve it, thus deriving a state of Perfect Bliss.

The mystical force that begins Amelie’s adventure into the world of Do Gooders, also begins her adventure of find her Love. She discovers a heartfelt unfulfilled Wish of a complete stranger. And she is instantly consumed by a Wish to fulfill it. Almost as if it was her own Wish, her own Desire, which left unfulfilled would somehow leave her Frustrated. She was discovering a missing piece in her own puzzle while trying to extend a Kind Hand to this stranger. She was discovering her own loneliness that needed someone to Love, someone to help complete her incomplete puzzle. She Wished him, now, to be the one that helps her complete herself while she returns the favour back.

And so begins the adventure of Amelie, as she helps Nino, find the answer to a hilariously annoying question he holds in his heart. (The unknown identity of a strange man who clicked himself across a myriad photobooths in the city.) His question is answered in a glorious moment of satisfaction for Amelie. And he goes on to return her Kind Hand by carving out a missing piece of Love for Amelie in return.

Thus begins their adventure of a lifelong exchange of puzzle pieces and thus ends the story of Amelie and Nino finding their Love!

 

Posted in Extempore, Movies

Bombay 70 | The Hundred Year Old Shaikh of India

This is the story coming from the heart of India where the Real Change is occurring as we speak. It is Change the ancient country was long due for. It is the Change in line with its ancient past from where comes a forgotten lore of the 100 Year Old Knife.

Once upon a time, in the land of India, lived a barber. He ran the family business of running a barber shop in the area. He wished for his son to continue the family legacy and become the next barber chief. So he would tell the son everyday how he used an 100 year old knife to do his job. The son would be amazed at how the shining piece of metal lasted for a hundred years!

He would ask, ‘Dad, but the blade looks very shiny! How does it continue to look so new?’
The barber would reply, ‘That is because I changed it last year.’
The son would then ask, ‘But even the handle looks new and shiny as the blade.”
The barber would reply, ‘That is because I changed the handle two years ago.’
Confused, the son asks, ‘So the blade is new and so is the handle. Then how is it the same knife that your great grandfather used? How is it 100 year old?’
A knowing smile replied back, ‘My dear son, the day you understand how, you will be fit to earn it from me.’

What the barber is trying to teach his son is the nature of any object or person. It si called in ancient Indian texts as chiti. It is the nature of the object, the characteristic of the object that is irrespective of its physical features.It is the thing that remains the same in that 100 Year Old Knife that remains the same even after every part of the knife has been replaced, multiple times. The replacements of the physical are necessary in order for the knife to remain functional, in order for the chiti to remain the same.

Here we learn that when the physical aspects of any object, person or even organisation begins to rust and rot – it needs to undergo a change. The change is not of the chiti but of the blade and the handle. People often mistake the change for a loss of this chiti and deem the necessary physical adaptation as immoral. But it is in fact unavoidable if the chiti has to survive.

And what is the chiti of the knife? It is to do its job. Cut. If it rusts or rots or is stored away to prevent it from wearing out – it automatically loses its chiti – the job it was originally intended for. That is what is immoral.

This si the precise nature of Change that my country is undergoing at present. And at the heart of this Change sits Internet. The new face of the Democratic Dream. Equality for all. Freedom of speech and expression. Irrespective of any bias of any kind that is any number of years old.

This story is one of the many unfolding on the face of my country and one of the few being heard. It is the story of a boy rising up against the world he has inherited. He is refusing to be limited by the matchbox house and the matchbox minds he has inherited from his older generation. He is defying the standard expectations of his caste, creed, colour and other such physical rusting and rotting. He is daring to Change in order to Live.

The chiti continues. The bold heart, fearless eyes and a humble head held high are still right here. But instead of instead of standing up to wage a war over petty- physical-rotting-differences, he is standing up to declare his written-word-rebellion for Change.

Here is Naezy – the 100 Year Old Shaikh of India.

Posted in Extempore, Originals

Google Search – Greatest Gift of Science to Storytelling

The past few months of intensive studying about stories and storytelling led me to understand one thing very clear. Story is a community in itself. It belongs to a group of people and a group of people belong to it. That makes storytelling a religion in itself. The modern day and yet the eternal religion. The individual yet the global religion.

Humans are wired for stories. One of the greatest virtue of the human race is memory which remains at the center of storytelling. Memories make stories. And stories make us who we are. Science says that if the brain of a certain individual human body A is replaced by that of a dead human body B, then it is no longer B who is dead. It is A. Because the body of A with the brain of B is still the human B. With different physical features, yes, but it is the same person A because these physicalities run the same way they would be run by A. So memories are who we really are. And memories are stored in us in the form of stories, by default.

Stories. The constellations of the brightest stars of  our memory-sky. Just like the infinite black sky holding infinite number of stars, we also have a series of infinite moments we have lived that become memories. Every breath that we have breathed is oxidation, burning of our fuel, like the stars burning far away in the night sky. But it is only the stars that are the closest and the brightest that we see. They define our memory demographics and thus our individual stories.

One of the oldest traditions of storytelling says that in every grain of sand there is to be found a whole universe. Science interprets it for you that the complexities of natural worlds do not diminish with our zooming in. The galaxies, stars, solar systems, each planet, each continent, each community, each human brain – are all placed in reducing order of physical size but equal in the breadth of their complexity.

So I guess it is safe to say that each human brain is complex enough to have a night sky of its own. And thus we have our own biases for the stars that are closer to us or brighter in general. They make the constellations of our skies, defining what the world means to us. That also makes me wonder that we each definitely have our unique and yet very very very limited view of the universe. The memories (stars) that make up the constellations of our night sky, are infinitesimal compared to the universal pool of memories (universe, as a whole). At any given point of time the whole universe (literally) is open for us to look at. But we are essentially limited by our physical limitations  – size of eyes to capture distance, size of brain to capture number.

We live in our limited shells of biases and beliefs in things that we hear, touch, taste, smell and even see. While the truth is what we see is not even comparable to a drop in the ocean of all there is to see and know. The Dark Parts of our night sky (gaps in our memory and experience) are in reality filled with other worlds and stars and fire and gas. We are just not able to see them.

And it is in moments of catching a glimpse of something different from our night skies, from the memories that we have made, from the experiences that we have lived – of another world, another planet’s night sky, another person’s story from across the globe that we come closer to realizing who we really are. The truth of ourselves. How tiny we are. How infinitesimal we are. How, nevertheless, a part of the Whole Game we are. How we are all sands with universes packed inside ourselves.

Here is a glimpse of one of the greatest gifts of science and technology to the world of storytelling – Google Search. It has single handedly brought the global culture of sharing stories to be just an appropriate sentence and a click away. A click away can lie a world entirely, devastatingly, hauntingly different from yours. A click away, can also lie, a world that is a lot like yours.

Love is out there. Search on.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Originals

On Sabrina Pasterski – Alleged Einstein of This Century and What She Has In Common With Amy Winehouse

A few days ago I featured one of the most accomplished, gifted yet controversial females of our times, Amy Winehouse. Today, I have yet another female who is accomplished, gifted yet controversial. The main difference between the two is, one is dead and the other is alive and reching out to the accomplishments, gifts and controversies of future.

Sabrina Gonsalez Pasterski, the 21 year old PhD student at Harvard, is going viral in the Physics World as the next Einstein of the field. She built an airplane of her own at the age of 14 and got herself accepted at her dream university MIT for undergraduation. She graduated with a perfect 5, highest score possible at the school, from there to move on to Harvard. At Harvard she has been awarded with academic “freedom to work without direct supervision on any topic of her choosing with anyone she wishes”.

As I read the quoted lines on her official statement of award of freedom on her personal website (Physics Girl); I was reminded of another young girl who yearned for a freedom of this kind.

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Before the release of her first album Frank. Courtesy the book Before Frank by photographer Charles Moriarty

Amy Winehouse, was a world renowned singer and songwriter, named as one of the greatest Jazz singers by Tony Bennet (a legendary Jazz veteran) and winner of 5 Grammy Awards all in her early 20s. And yet she succumbed to death before she could reach the end of her 20s.

Suffering from an addiction to some of the most dangerous psychedelics of our times, she managed to overcome all of them. But she was broken by a different kind of malaise, also one of the most dangerous of our times.

Depression.

Depression. Which soon morphed into Bulimia in her young, fragile body when she tried to substitute alcohol for drugs. And one fine morning her heart silently gave up on her as it stopped beating, maybe while she was still in sleep. The curtain fell on another shining star of our skies.

There is an interesting link between these two women I see as Soul Sisters here. Which is the age at which they discovered who they wanted to be when they grew up – when they discovered the passion of their life. At age 5, both Amy and Sabrina were introduced to what would become the subject of their pursuit of their lives ahead. While Amy poured herself into Jazz, Sabrina flew into the realms of Outer Space.

They also share the age they took their first flights of Freedom. But there is a very subtle and yet the most central difference. Amy realised her freedom to be able to anything and everything she could think of after her father walked out on her mother. While, Sabrina took flew her first plane at the tender of age 9 with complete support of both her parents.

Whichever way the freedom came to both these young minds, they proved to be liberating for their Endeavours in life. This freedom to imagine anything and everything against the rules of the world around them, pushed them both to challenge the word Impossible.

Amy was creating Jazz music, the likes of which were unheard of in Pop culture at the time. She was a celebrity at 19. A role model for thousands of young heartbroken teens around the globe all before she could end her teens. Sabrina has written papers about discovering new ways to study the mysterious gravitational waves (the new mystery of Theoretical Physics) and was called the Einstein of the century by the same ‘Pop culture’; all before she could end her teens too.

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Source – Scoopwhoop

 

But while Sabrina has not yet, at 22, had an alcoholic drink, a cigarette or a boyfriend; some would say Amy and her music were all about just these three things. Except, there was a lot of skill and talent in Amy that makes her music as acceptable to Jazz veterans as to young teenagers around the world.

There is no doubt of a shared Spark between the two women which propelled them to challenge the limits of the word Impossible. They drew solace from their passions when faced by limitations of the world. One stepped into a solitude with her guitar to write songs and the other with her equations to write scientific papers. One to what Pop culture calls Art and the other to what it titulates Science.

We only know about the future of one of these two wonderful women. And it is not exactly likable. It is ugly infact. Drugs and addictions excalated Amy’s life for her. She practically ran a sprint to her grave while leaving behind star dust of her music for a very short period of time.

But pausing and reflecting back at their lives when they were both 21, there is an absence of drugs and alcohol in one of them and pivotal presence in the other. I am forced to contemplate of a future for Amy Winehouse had she too been the one without drugs, alcohol or heartbreaks at such a young age.

What if she had not fast forwarded her life into a short 27 year old trailer? What if she would have slowed down, to match the slow pace of life itself? What if she had ran the marathon and left behind a trail blaze for those behind her? What if she had not burnt out so quickly, drawn in so many breaths as she smoked all her weed and complete her share of breaths so soon? What if?

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Most importantly why such a quick burn out? Is there a clue in the key difference between these two gifted women – the absence of drugs and heartbreaks? What was the sudden change in the face of young Amy before and after she turned 9? Was it anger at her father for breaking her first dream of love in her life – the relationship of her parents? Why did the ‘bitch-face’ she was known for disappear when she sang her seranades of Love and why did they return with a glass of alcohol? What was that anger for, why the need to escape life as it was?

They say,

The stone mountain cannot stop you from going ahead in your paths. It is the stone pebble in your shoe that can hurt you enough to not be able to climb that mountain.

The difference between these two womem who wished to climb the mountains of Impossible was that Amy held her tiny pebble in her shoe very dearly. She never paused to bend down and take it out of her shoe. She went on to bleed quietly and one day simply give up. While the story of Sabrina is yet to unfold completely and very little is known of her personal life, her journey seems ro promise absence of any such pebbles leaving her truly free to climb as many Impossibles as she wishes to.

(Cover Image courtesy : ArtStation)

 

Posted in Movies

. . . Forrest Gump!

The story begins on an unbelievable note. The boy is actually of the lineage of Christopher Columbus and also the man who began the Klan in America. Yet the little boy lives a Normal life. As his mother says to him after he gets his question marked legs braced, ‘You are not different from anyone. You are Normal. Don’t let anyone tell you, that you are different. You are Normal.’

And yet the little boy goes on to break open those braces as he runs and runs like a wind. He runs through his life to be a Football champion, a low IQ college graduate, a Government Honoured Army Commando, a Millionnaire businessman. He is everything a man could ever want, dream, desire, wish, fantasise in life. But he still believed he was Normal, not different from any other person.

The unbelievable stance of this man’s story bursts all the Bubbles of your Expectations. Your Expectations of reality, of how a man should live, how much he should love, how much he should work hard, how intelligent should he be, how successful can he be – are all burst with a pin. All that remains of you is an unbiased witness to the True Story.

The True Story that celebrates the tragic nature of human life. That says to you that even the most successful, unimaginably lucky and talented man was still lonely. He was still alone, all by himself. Everything he ever loved, he ever had, was one day taken away from him. His Mama, Bubba and even Jenny. They all would be reasons for everything that makes him jealous worthy and they still leave him, always. They always leave behind someone for him.

Bubba leaves him his Mama. Mama leaves him his Jenny. Jenny leaves behind their son, Little Forrest.

Everything that he loves with all his heart, one day, disappears. Just like that. Leaving him aching in his Soul. And yet he lives on. Occupied in things to do. Because he thinks he is Normal. So he does Normal things. And continues to do them till he runs out of Time or Energy. And then just before drifting into sleep he reminisces Everything he has Lost.

When awake and doing his Normal things, he forgets he has ever Lost anything. He forgets he is alone.

When not awake – drifting to sleep or just embracing the veils of the other world – he allows himself to believe for just a moment that he is maybe not so Normal. That he has Lost the Most special things. And that could only be because he once had the Most special things.

He once had the Purest love of a Mother. He had the Purest brotherhood for a Friend. He once had the Purest love of his Jenny.

But by then he is too tired to drop a tear. He snugs cosy into the void of dreams before he can realise anything other than the fact that he is Normal.

He wakes up to the thought that he is, but, Normal. Every Normal person loses something or someone. Every Normal person sees Death of a loved one. Every Normal loves someone as dear as he does.