Kudos to my dad for showing me this brilliant YouTube video of Pritam’s Mashup Performance from this year’s GiMA (Global Indian Music Academy) Awards. Not only are the 3 performances brilliant, the video also inspired the idea for this blogs post!

I love Bollywood music and always have. However, I can’t remember lyrics if my life depended on it! Do I sound like anyone you know? Yeah…there is a whole community of us hidden across the world. The only words I can remember (and only after hearing it) are the catchy and overly repetitive song choruses used today. So a mashup is an ideal way for me to enjoy music.

Back in the day, I always felt a bit out of my element in America because other young people would start cheering before even two seconds of the intro of any popular song came on at a dance party, for example, while my own recognition response would have to wait until I’d hear the chorus. May not matter much if you’re just there to dance, but unfortunately, I don’t enjoy dancing and only get on the dance floor and dance if I know the song playing and can sing along to parts of it. I know, bummer for me.

Anyway, getting back to the point, this delayed recognition meant that being in singing or music environments was (and still is) a rather difficult and arduous ordeal for me growing up. Having to participate in a game of Antakshari with family in India by far tops the bill for most uncomfortable situations ever. India Opines disagrees with me and uses cute GIFs to give reasons why it’s the ‘Best Indian Game Ever’ (which apparently requires little skill to play), but I stand by my statement of traumatic (despite the excitement I felt just spending time with family in an entertaining way).

Words Spoken when Starting a Game of Antakshari

For those who don’t know, Antakshari began as a family pastime and singing game played between 2 opposing teams where the first verse of Indian songs are alternatively sung by each group, but the first consonant of the song must match the last consonant sung by the last team (confused yet???). It has featured a lot in romantic films with Bollywood dancing accompaniment (such as the video below from the movie Maine Pyar Kiya) and has even been popularized as a popular Zee TV singing show / musical competition game show since 1993 (hosted until 2006 by Annu Kapoor). The parlor game is also most often played while on a road trip and preferred over collectively watching a movie  in silence, for instance, because it facilitates participation and entertainment for all ages instead of a bus full of snoring and lethargy.

Thankfully the cute little me didn’t know Hindi that well – and knew only one song that started with the letter ma – and would sometimes be unlucky enough to start off the game with my rendition of Hum Aapke Hain Kaun‘s song ‘Maye Ni Maye‘ – jumbling up the lyrics soo bad that I’d become the hilarious opening act for the group. (To be fair, that is a fond memory I retain of the sport…)

Point: Don’t get me wrong, I love watching and listening to Antakshari when there are energetic players on both sides, but being roped in time after time was difficult because I never felt like I could walk away or control the situation. It took me listening to Pritam’s fantastic mashup performance from last month (and the fact I could sing along to all 10 minutes of the clip!) to realize just how uncomfortable I used to get from being dragged into a game of Antakshari in my younger days because I was hopeless at memorizing song lyrics from the beginning verse!

So I have talked about Bollywood item numbers in an earlier post, however, I just wanted to share what I consider to be the best attempt at a proper item number in recent times. Below is a song ‘Mehki Mehki’ from the Abhishek Bachchan starrer Game (2011). It was sung by Shreya Ghosal and picturized by Sarah-Jane Dias using a burlesque form. I really enjoyed it and I think you will too!!

I watched this 102min Japanese film last week and was pleasantly surprised by the subtle portrayals of first love and friendship in its storyline. Way of Blue Sky (Aozora No Ukue) was released back in 2005 and directed by Masahiko Nagasawa, who was also a producer on the wonderfully poetic film Love Letter (1995) directed by a man I much admire – Shunji Iwai. You can watch this film online at MySoju, but in the meantime, here is a trailer for the film (with some pretty bad quality english subtitles).

The film tells the story of Masaki Takahashi (played by Takuya Nakayama), a junior high student who announces that he is moving to the United States that summer, and the effect it has on the five girls in his class that have feelings for him. The story is about the trials and tribulations of average 15 year olds, such as the crushes and first loves that blossom through these times. Way of Blue Sky is a heartfelt and touching story that is uplifting and positive in its message. The drama does not bog you down, but draws you to sit comfortably on your sofa and watch peacefully. The soundtrack is a big plus! A film that entices your senses and a prime example of serenity, Way of Blue Sky tells a cosy and warming tale.

The melodrama is kept to a minimum as Way of Blue Sky explores the simplicity, purity and depth of boy-girl friendships and is more an attestation to the strength of relationships. The array of character traits portrayed by the five female leads in the film are also mention-worthy, as no two are alive and each has their own unique trait. It brought a smile to my face to see the ‘foreigner’ Naoko Ichida (Aki Nishihara), the smart-alec Alisa Takahashi (Mei Kurokawa), childhood friend Haruna Kawahara (Mikako Tabe), and tomboys Yumi Hayami (Ayaka Morita) and Takako Suzuki (Saya Yuki).

Thankfully it doesn’t feel too much like a teen romance. Rather, Way of Blue Sky a nice movie to watch on a rainy cold day as it brings a small smile to your face guaranteed!

I’d rate this film a 6.5/10

I invite you to watch the 12min animation film The Wonder Hospital by Beomsik Shimbe Shim (click here for his website) shown below. I came across this short film on the Culture Unplugged website, an online film festival that hosts a variety of free documentaries that range in duration from under 2mins to feature length films. Shimbe’s The Wonder Hospital is an intriguing portrayal of color, motion, viewpoints and facets, all rolled up into one fantastical adventure.

As the synopsis so aptly describes: what if plastic surgery is another optical illusion device we invented? With that question, it takes a surreal journey through a mysterious hospital that alters the perception of physical beauties. The moral being that there is no right-side-up, as my last post post showed (with two versions of the same image), bringing to light different aspects of the same thing through changes in angularity. A classic case of the infamous blind men with an elephant scenario…

I highly recommend this refreshing film and encourage you to browse Culture Unplugged’s other films as well, if you have the time and inclination…

“The Wonder Hospital” [Full film, 12min] by Beomsik Shimbe Shim.

A few weeks ago I was having a conversation with these two Indian guys and we started talking about saying Thank You among friends in different socio-cultural contexts. This discussion started when I automatically said “thank you” after one of them did something for me (it was something insignificant like passing me a napkin). The all-important response from them was along the lines of “don’t say thank you…there is no reason to…there’s no Sorry and no Thank You among friends…at least not in India.” Hello culture-clash!! Now, in the years I’ve spent living in India, I have heard this ‘Friendship Rule’ numerous times in movies, newspapers, and otherwise. But this was the first time someone said it to me. So I couldn’t help elaborating on the comment and making it a full-blown exchange of ideas.

I explained that I was aware it was unnecessary (and often avoided) to mention Sorry or Thank You among friends circles in India, but the opposite was true for someone like me who had lived in America and the United Kingdom. They were confused so I explained further. My reply was of the following fashion – “For me, I tend to feel more inclined to say Sorry and Thank You if I am among my friends. What I feel is what I like to convey to the other person, and I can do that easily among people I am close to. So if I am sorry or happy or feeling gratitude for something, I’ll say it and would also want the other person to say the same to me as well. It’s not a big deal, and it isn’t a big declaration, but I believe our friendships would suffer if we didn’t share our feelings. So for us, it is essential to say thank you among friends, even more than among strangers. The same way not saying such ‘formalities’ makes for closer bonds among Indian friends, saying these same things make our friendships grow stronger.” And the conversation went so on and so forth… It wasn’t until this topic was broached that I realized that the importance of such phrases like Sorry and Thank You in social life are not uniform across cultures.

I can’t seem to figure out when I first learnt how important saying Thank You was to me. I may have been about 15 years old when I first learnt its significance, but never truly understood its power until a few years later, when I was 18 years old. Growing up in Japan, I would often use the phrase in formal settings – when talking to strangers or elders or teachers, etc… However, we barely used the word in any informal setting – between friends or family. At home…I rarely said Thank You to my parents, except on one special day of the year – Mother’s Day. I guess I also grew up without saying I Love You to my family (not even my grandparents) until I left home to go to college. The feeling was felt, it was understood, it was written down in cards, but it was never spoken. Even today, these words – Thank You and I Love You – are hard for me to say.

Now that I think back to it, in the years I’ve spent in Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom, and India, I’ve come to realize that I use phrases like Sorry and Thank You in informal settings numerous times a day in each country. The ‘anthropology’ of it all, as it were, could be understood by examining how these words are important to different societies. Thus, Japanese people are generally overtly polite in thought/act/speech, even in informal situations, while people in the United States and the United Kingdom are taught such pleasantries as Thank You and Sorry more habitually by thought/speech – like the popular exchange Excuse Me and Bless You after someone sneezes. India, on the other hand, are more accustomed to these concepts by thought/act in familiar settings, with friendship rules to compensate for the lack of speech. When it comes to I Love You, everything is more or less the same, but both the Japanese and Indians generally express their emotions through thought/act, reserving speech for special occasions, while those from the US and UK are more expressive in overall thought/act/speech and frequently say I Love You  – sometimes too often. Interesting isn’t it!

and so I’d like to leave you with the following: to my parents, grandparents, older brother, close friends, far away friends, and blogosphere friends….

I Love You All

&

Thank You!!!

I’ve heard many good things about The Descendants and was very excited when I learned the local theater was playing this film, so I took the time to go watch it yesterday. The Descendants, based on a novel written by Kaui Hart Hemmings, is set in Hawaii and stars George Clooney as the father of two daughters – played by Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller.

With a 7.6/10 rating on IMDb, I didn’t think I would go wrong, but I was gravely mistaken. I’m kind of ashamed to say that I found the whole plot very dry and boring. The bad language that is used consistently throughout the film didn’t help my impression of the film either. Although I am usually okay with films that have rough language – all I can think of as an example is Inglorious Basterds (2009) which I really enjoyed and would give a 8/10 rating – The Descendants was a different story altogether… I could barely sit through the film, I was twiddling my thumbs and audience-watching more than movie-watching an hour into the film. I found the pace too slow, the humour weird and a bit crass, and the story dull and uncaptivationg. Again, it’s not that a slow and serene pace ever deters me – I watched the 2008 Japanese film Okuribito (English Title: Departures) the other day, which goes in turtle pace and loved it! I suppose I also found the whole thing in The Descendants about George Clooney finding out his wife was cheating on him while she lay in a coma very irrelevant, unfair, and a bit disrespectful. I definitely didn’t feel the love.

Maybe if I had watched this film while curled up on the sofa at home, snuggled into a blankie and a bowl of ice cream on my lap, that would have made watching this flick more endurable. Being able to press the pause button, taking a few rounds and talking breaks, and eating something more that nachos & cheese in a relaxed state without my shoes and socks on would have changed my reaction to the film. I could definitely have enjoyed the range of soothing Hawaiian music on the background score much better! Although I doubt the harsh language would have helped…

But then, this may just be a simple case of my Catcher in the Rye syndrome. I hated that book with a passion when I first read it in school, because everything the main character Holden Caulfield stood for, I despised. In the same way, George Clooney’s character Matt King, and even the way his troubled children Alexandra and Scottie act make me annoyed as ever. So let’s just say I was disappointed in this film, and leave it at that.

I’d rate this film a 3/10

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I went to watch Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu solo the weekend of its release. It was average and mediocre according to me. Reasons that top the list for my reaction to this Kareena Kapoor and Imran Khan starrer are: the shortness of the film (it’s less than 2 hours long!); the lack of pull from the characters to the audience; and the crappy portrayal of romance and friendship. Rather, the leads Rahul and Riana seem to spend the majority of their time boozing and highly strung – if nothing else, then on candy!

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On the flip side, there were also some pros to Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu which includes: energizing songs and music; interesting families characterized for both leads (Boman Irani and Ratna Pathak Shah were especially fab as Imran’s parents); a fun and adventurous portrayal of Las Vegas; and an above average film ending, which is a bit unconventional for Bollywood, unlike the other popular and conventional endings these days… Although I cannot go without saying that the title songek main hoon aur ekk tudoesn’t match the title of the film! Why not have the title and title song be the same and go with convention, but who knows, it may have been a deliberate move…

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Both the leads did a decent job acting in this film. I wouldn’t blame their lack of range in emotion on the actors themselves but on the narrow storyline. It had potential but sadly didn’t come close to achieving its motive. The main drawback being the length of the film. Neither could an attachment be made by viewers to the characters and their plight, nor could the storyline do enough to make us anything we watched past the 110 min running time.

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I’d rate this film a 5/10