Sunday, March 26, 2006

Film : Bhalo Theko (Stay well).

Last night I watched the Bengali film Bhalo Theko ( Take Care) directed by a young Director Gautam Halder and starring the debutant and sensuously beautiful young actress Vidya Balan. The film portrays the uncertain years of 1968-1971 in West Bengal India amidst a growing Maoist Naxalite extremist movement involving a lot of young students. The backdrop is a picturesque village on the banks of the river Hooghly. The river and its proximity to the bustling Calcutta port serves as crucial symbolisms in the film. The huge cargo barges on the river passing to and fro and the deep thunderous din of its engines marking the passage of time.

The story is centered around the character of Anandi (the joyous female), the young idealistic daughter of a cultured and politicaly concious conservative Bengali family with strong connections to nature poetry and classical music. The film portrays the interactions of the idealistic, poeticaly sensitive spiritualy conscious character of Anandi with her Uncle, Parents, a loving brother steeped in Marxist extremism, a crassly materialistic sister and a lover who finaly cheats her in his search for materialistic successes.

Through the silent conflicts and the mental burdens thrust upon her by her family Anandi realizes herself as the loving caring spiritualy and poeticaly conscious eternal woman. Her essential innocence, idealism, selfless love and humanity and her deep connection to nature provides her a spiritual conciousness and strength to rise above the selfish materialism which pervades her surroundings. Her strength is her simplicity spontaenity poeticism selfless love and her deep connection to nature traditions and simple humanism.

In sharp contrast with her sister who is glitteringly beutiful yet shallow

and dishonest and Anandis young lover Babua who deserts her when confronted with loneliness and depression abraod where he had travelled under Anandis urging to establish his career . Anandis beauty is her strength, innocence, simplicity, proximity with nature which provides her with an ethereal appeal
an icon of what may be called spiritualy beautiful.

But in the end everyone realizes her for the eternal wellspring of
a deep spiritual strength that she was. Her crass and materialistic sister realizes the emptiness of her own life and turns to her for strength and support. Her lover returns to the country after a long and difficult illness and recounts how in his semi comatose mental state of his acute illness the simple yet beautiful face of Anandi burned like a fire in his mind and brings him back from the brink of death. He is now married to another woman but simply says to Anandi that he knew that Anandi would be still waiting for him in the same way and he has come to set her free. And Anandi is ever forgiving and lovable. Her poetic nature can never harbour ill will only a muted sorrow for her loss but with selfless good wishes for both her sister and her deceiving lover.

The film freezes in the end sequence with Anandi beside the flowering and tall KrishnaChura tree resplendent in its red-orange blossoms, a memory of her brother lost and probably dead in his pursuit of Marxist extremism,
reciting a poetry which simply says Bhalo Theko ( Take Care...Stay well)

Stay well grass
The wind and sky
Stay well earth
The river and clouds
Stay Well

Stay well dewdrops
the flowers and bees
Stay well rain
The earth and trees
Stay well

Anandi returns to the source of her eternal spiritual strength; Nature, and in a collective expression of goodwill and selfless love, forgiveness and care for all that is close to her rises above life itself like a beautiful muted and ethereal song of nature, of rain and the leaves of flower and the wind.

The film is wonderful in its poignance, beauty and sensitive humanism. The portrayal of the
eternal woman interpersed with the strong sense of temporal evolution and
the strains of bengali classical music and the Tappas (a genre of bengali songs)
sang by the famous singer Ram Kumar Chattopadhay makes this one a must see.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Film: Utsab ( Festival)

Last nite we sat up with friends to watch a Bengali movie called "Utsab" ( festival) directed by a young director called Rituparno Ghosh. On the right is a still of the actress Arpita Pal from the film. Here is a link to one of the film websites.

The movie depicts a complex family drama which slowly develops and unwinds during a major festival. It was a complex theme and I was struck with many issues about life which the movie pointed to. Many of my thoughts about the movie relatd to Buddhism which is finaly about life itself.

The first was the cyclic aspect of life and everything in nature. The movie starts with the depiction of a video shoot of the various members of the family. The actual video is shown only at the end and it was the depiction of a passed cycle. Some kind of circular portrayal of time. Yet its not the same as the original time. Something had changed inexorably for good or for bad. Again and again I was
reminded of Master Dogen and the Shobogenzo where he speaks of Uji or "being time". In the film I was struck with the last words "construction, deconstruction, construction, deconstruction......." which could be replaced very easily by "generation,death, regeneration, death.......". I was reminded of the Buddhas words "Sabbe Sankhara Anicca". Nothing is permanent but a constant flux of of the cycle of generation'life,death and regeneration. Everything decays, everything regenerates. Like every day flowers bloom in my garden everyday they fall.

The second issue which struck me was that our perceptions of life are inherently dependent on our being able to access only an instantaneous slice of time. In the film the complex family drama develops over time. Pain, grief, joy, anger, frustrations, hopelessness, pining, moods, making up, love and hate. The drama build up and reaches a climax and then slowly unwinds. Every individual is caught up in the net of their instantaneous times, instantaneous existence. Globaly in time the drama is most trivial as everything finaly resolves. Yet it is not the same. Somethings have changed irrevocably.

The third issue which occupied me was that life was essentialy a tapestry built out of what I have named "strands or strings of our individual times". They are continuously winding and unwinding to generate cyclicaly an infinite variety of

schemes constantly changing. This is what we call life. But it is so trivial from a
global temporal perspective. Completely unreal yet so strongly real in our individual perceptions.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Poetry and buddhism

I have been fascinated with poetry for long. As such I look upon Poetry as the
language of mysticism. This is most evident in Haikus which are traditional short Japanese poems of 17 syllables which communicates a pristine insight into true reality. Haikus are rooted in Japanese Zen Buddhism and traditional Japanese culture. A haiku is realy a painting in words and the captivating beauty, clarity and spontaenity of their vision have been a compelling prelude to my attraction towards Buddhist philosophy.

Amongst all the Haiku poets I have found Matsuo Basho one of the classic exponents of this medium as one of my favourites followed by the deep communications of the celebrated Japanese Zen master Dogen Zenji. Amongst more modern Haiku poets I have found the beauty of the Haiku of Soen Nakagawa Roshi, another Japanese Zen master who has been the driving force behind the introduction of zen buddhism in the west, captivating in its pristine beauty. I am able to easily identify with the thoughts and visions of these masters.

Another modern Zen teacher whose teachings may be best described as being like "the cool summer rain on the parched earth" is Master Thich Naht Hahn, a Zen monk from Vietnam a peace activist poet and buddhist teacher. His wonderful prose and the soft beauty of his verse acclaiming pece and brotherhood of all human beings have touched my senses repeatedly.

Master Dogen's writings move the intellect and beyond, Master Soen Roshi's
haiku is a bridge from mundane reality to the true experience and Master Thay
(Thich Naht Hahns) teachings touces the heart and opens the moonlight path
within to true experience through compassion.

Poetry is indeed the language of mysticism.

First post

Have been looking at blogs related to my profession for quite some time now.
Today I felt the urge to set up a blog to detail my thoughts feelings aabout life cinema and arts and philosophy especialy the
random forrays for the last twenty years in the subject of buddhism especialy Mahayana, Zen and Tibetan buddhism.

There will be more later. This is the first post. Have to get used to this.