Sunday, October 7, 2012

The curious case of security checks !!

Ever since i have started traveling, there has always been this unique underlying theme to all my trips - Security checks. Irrespective of what country i am in, i have been questioned more than the average traveler (The comparison is with fellow travelers from the Indian subcontinent - The comparison with whites does not make sense at all !!)

All this while I have been trying to figure out the reasons for this.. I knew that my color was certainly a contributing factor. So was my passport. But then, there were many travelers with the same color (both of skin as well as of the passport !) and yet, I have been sidelined more often.. Maybe, it is just an issue of perception. But, whatever the reason may be, I am now very comfortable with any of the security checks across the globe..

I am used to the immigration/security related questions whenever i enter a country. I understand the reason for it and always co-operate with the authorities.

But, what pushed me to write this piece is that I am now being stopped at local train stations too !!!

This made me think... Then i realized that each time i enter a country with this famous beard of mine, the probability of questioning increases many-fold.. I looked back at the cases when i have been questioned more than usual and i realized that there is a strong co-relation between between the length of the beard and the length of questioning at security checkpoints. I have had smooth entries with a clean shave...

I know there are pre-conceived notions about bearded men. And, that seems to be the very reason why all this is happening to me.

Now, that leads us to an important question. Are we living with a fake sense of security?

I would leave it here for you to think !!

A Pan Nalin weekend | Valley of Flowers (2006)

You may want to read PART I of this article before proceeding - It is not mandatory though. There are no detailed references to my previous article. This is a good standalone read too.

Samsara which came out fiver years before 'Valley of Flowers' set the bar a bit too high. Even though it was almost impossible, I have tried my best to review this movie without any reference to Samsara..

Set in the beautiful Himalayas, Valley of Flowers, is a movie on love and reincarnation. The theme tries to capture some ancient rare practices performed by by Yogis. These are the same mysterious lot of people who seem to know the secret of immortality.

Jalan (Played by Milind Soman), like his gang members, is an outlaw who lives a life of pride in the Himalayas. His gang loots caravans passing through the valley. On one such loot, he meets his love, Ushna (Played by Mylene Jampanoi) who was actually looking for him. The plot doesn't reveal how she comes to know of him..

The mysterious Ushna changes the dynamics within the gang and that results in some dramatic shifts to the plot.. 

The beauty of the Himalayas, again, does not fail to entice you - it has been wonderfully caught on frame. Jalan's loots of the caravans passing through the valley has been captured realistically. Although some moments seem a little bollywoodish but the overall scheme of operation of his gang has been portrayed very well. One of the moments that sticks on to you even after the movie is Jalan walking across generations (literally). It is crafted with an artistic touch. 

There are a couple of areas which i felt could have been better:

Firstly, the capture of Sadhus in the valley could have been a lot better. They were shown more like magicians churning out lotions of immortality. The whole theme rests on immortality and there should have been a stronger presence of that part. This portrayal dilutes the plot to some extent by losing credibility with the whole concept of immortality.

And, the sequence of events in Japan, again, were a little lacklustre. For example, the suicide case of a CEO could have easily been captured better. 

Overall, it is a good watch though i would not rate it as high as Samsara...

Actors: Milind Soman, Naseeruddin Shah, Mylene Jampanoi, Eri

Saturday, October 6, 2012

A Pan Nalin weekend | Samsara (2001)

I have been wanting to watch Pan Nalin's movies for quite some time. I watched a couple of his films this weekend and i must say that both of them were outstanding..

Samsara (2001)

The story of a monk (Tashi, played by Shawn Ku) who, like quite a few of us, tries to answer some 'larger than life' questions. It tries to answer the question - 'What is the path to enlightenment? - is it renunciation of worldly desires or pure love even if it means being wound by a family'. The movies leaves you thinking even after it ends... That is the beauty of it.

 The movie is beautifully shot in picturesque Laddakh region of Indian Himalayas. The story is so well executed that you can understand the theme of the movie even without subtitles. In fact, I watched the first half without subtitles and still could understand most of it..

The story line is made of some exquisite moments which are really crucial to the central theme. It is because of these moments that one cannot stop himself/herself from being drawn into the movie. I would not reveal the entire plot but would certainly like to highlight a few of those exquisite moments:

Tashi taken back to the Monastery

Tashi completes his 3 year, 3 month, 3 day exile in a remote cave and is being taken back by fellow monks. It takes a while for Tashi to get back to being himself - But then, it is this exile that makes him question the path followed by monks. The author starts with this theme to set the context right at the beginning itself.

Tashi is sent for a lesson on physical relations

Tashi is sent to a remote cave where an old monk shows him pictures of various positions of intercourse. The same images when seen under a flame turn the individuals into a skeleton.. This gives the message without a single word being spoken..

Tashi quits monk life

Tashi is not focused on his return from exile. He often gives in to his senses and even gets erections a couple of times. These are moments which raise important questions about the life of monks. Tashi cites an event from Buddha's life that throws up a very important question - he talks about Prince Siddhartha renouncing his worldly desires after getting married to a beautiful lady and after having a son. Should one experience this worldly life first before renouncing it is a question that must be on the minds of almost every monk...

Tashi commits adultery

Despite having a beautiful wife (played by Christy Chung) and a very happy family life, Tashi is lured into having an affair. That is precisely the moment when he gets a letter from old monk Apo throwing up the same old questions again.

The rock with a quote

There is a rock with a quote (translated) "How can one prevent a drop from drying up?"  - This rock features a couple of times during the movie. It is only at the end that Tashi turns the rock around and to his surprise, finds the answer there.. "By throwing it into the sea"  !!! Makes you think...

A classy story excellently executed - there are not many movies like this one...

Actors: Shawn Ku, Christy Chung and Neelesha BaVora

Review of 'Valley of flowers' (2006) follows soon.