Faridoon Shahryar's Blog


Sunday, December 27, 2015

Open Letter To Shah Rukh Khan: "Please don't give up"

Open Letter to Shah Rukh Khan: "Please don't give up. Your silence is a big loss for the world"
I get emails from many people from all across the world. Many want me to send their messages or gifts to their favourite stars. I don't respond to such emails as I am a Journalist, not a messenger. Some mails touch me deeply. The mail that I've received today from Bahar Rashidian from Tehran, Iran, a 28 year old Computer Engineer has deeply moved me. We've heard about Iranian love for movies. I had a first hand experience of it today as Bahar seems to have a deep understanding of movies. So in this post, you can read Bahar's email to me and then her Open Letter to Mr Shah Rukh Khan

Dear Mr.Shahryar
Sometime it is strange how people get their first impression from each other. The first time I got to see you were through your interview with Katrina Kaif for movie New York. I was in college and one of my friend gave me DVD with movie and the interview and she suggested to watch it and her reason to encouraging me was "believe me Bahar it doesn't have even one of that stupid dancing and singing, it is realistic move"( she didn't and doesn't know that sometimes watching that dancing and singing is my guilty pleasure)  for some reasons in urban society of Iran watching Hindi movies isn't something you can be proud of.
the first thing that I notice about you was your name at first I thought you were Iranian because فریدون is Persian name as well as شهریار your first name with this spelling Freydun is the name of an Iranian mythical king and hero but there was something else about you interview . I am from very filmi family I have watched movies from all over the world since I was six so I think I know one or two things about the cinema.
You have talked with all of the these superstars from your country but you are always so honest, normal and humble without being either star-struck or rude and aggressive like many other journalist that I see even in my country and I respect you a lot because of these qualities but these aren't reason I decided to write you a letter.
I have never been a person who would be fascinated by actor so much to read most of their interview and following their film (there is only two exceptions James Dean & Leonardo DiCaprio) but I have to confess there is something fascinating about Mr.Shahrukh Khan as an actor and an individual. (I will explain this in my letter)
I have these hobbit to check entertainments website once or twice a week so I knew that there is movie with Mr.Khan & Kajol but a few weeks ago I saw article about intolerance in India in yahoo maktob and I was curious so I checked few web sites and I was shocked but living in Iran I'm using to be in shocked and life is go on until the movie was released and oh my god. I can believe the commend I read on the sites or reactions but the worst one was one of the Mr.Khan interview I watched on YouTube ( his interviews have always been my favorite not just because he has unique sense of humor or witty answers but because there are a lot to learn this inspiring man when he speaks)he said he is sad and heartbroken but he decided to not talk about ant thing more than his work not because he is afraid because he did not see reason to clarified his love for his country to some people who even did not read his interview but the sad part for me as his fan was the part he said his silent bothers him because in all of these years he learned and experienced so much that he wanted to share with everyone but now that anything that he says misinterpreted he prefer to just do his work
If even one week ago someone told me you would write an email for some reporter about Mr.Khan, I would laugh so hard and probably called him crazy but sometime you think you have to do something even it doesn't reach to any place.
So I am here seating in my room in Tehran after reading so much about your country which is one of my favorite place in the world with magical aura and asking you that if somehow you can reach my story somehow to Mr.Shahrukh Khan(a letter attached to this email ) but I completely understand if you can't or if you won't; there are probably millions emails or letters just like this but for me this is just once and this is something I have never done and probably never do but I trust you to do the best because in all these chaos you were the only reporter who were brave to stand by truth.
P.S.I have not watch Dilwale for obvious reason (in Iran we can't watch these movie in theater) so I don't know it is good or bad or average as movie but this is not about movie
P.P.S I am 28 girl and computer engineer (in case you want to know which kind of person writing this email to you)
Best Regards
Bahar Rashidian
  
OPEN LETTER TO SHAH RUKH KHAN
By Bahar Rashidian
Dear MrKhan
I know there are more than million fans and people who send you messages and gifts and letter Oct. Honestly, I don't think that you would ever read this, but something in my guts tells me I should do it so  like to imagine that by some miracle you read this letter.
I came from family that watching movies and reading book was AT the same level of priority as having dinner mostly because of my mother who was a teacher. When I was a kid having a VHS player was against a law, but we had one and at the weekend my father rented movies from some guy who worked illegally and all the family used to gather at our house. My favorite ones were westerns. My first memory of Hindi movie was one that even now I can't forget it was about a beautiful girl in a village whom a half of her face was burn she used to sit beside a lake and one day a wealthy and handsome boy from the city saw her and the rest I can't remember but it was like a fairy tale. There were two more one Amar Akbar Antony and of course Sholay, I hated Sholay because my favorite hero got killed at the end and left the heroine. (For some unknown reasons, most people in Tehran known Mr. Bachchan for years as Vijay). I was about 9 years old when I first watched your movie and I remember just four things from that movie your big nose, your intense eyes, I liked you so you were my hero and you got killed as a kid, I live with my heroes including Alain Delon,James Dean,Vijay and you why all of you had to get killed. I know how silly it sounds right now.
The time passed, I was in secondary school and Iran was going through a bad phase just like now it was after the war with Iraq. There were so limitations. We had to wear only black dress and scarf for school there was not any color or music in our school or TV. One night my mom putt a movie on player for me and the magic began I watched that movie 10 times just in a week without subtitle but I was enchanted and I was happy . There were color, light, music, laugh. People could laugh and cry without fear of judgment and god I loved the dresses .The name of the movie was Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and my new hero was Kajol. I loved everything about her. It took 2 years for me to have a version with the subtitle it was the start of a new period in my life escaping from reality my real life had become so hard that as a teenager, I preferred an exaggerated fantasy and happy endings of your movies it had become a temporary healing system ,but like everything in life, it had to be finished  with me growing up I had to back to real life as a mature person although I was always missing that magic but because books and movies are inseparable parts of me I could not stop enjoying them but Bollywood was not my cup of tea any more
I started college and my now my favourate dirctot were Nolan and Fincher and Farhadi when one of my roommates gave me very respected magazine in Iran Donyaye Tasveer and I started reading and part of magazine belonged to your biography and translation of one of your interviews, I started out of curiosity and 30 minutes later I was stunned and proud to somehow know even a little about this wonderful man(maybe you think I am biased or obsessed fan but I assure I am not) and after that I was and I am a huge fan of Mr. Shahrukh Khan as an artist as an achiever and most importantly as a human. I enjoy watching most of your movies ( I confess I have not any intrested in some of your movies like Happy new year) and I am huge fan of your pairing with Kajol even if it would be your 50th film togethere just like many others in Iran I love to watch you two together and I don't even care what the movie is about ( see how cheep our taste could be) but neither of these are the purpose of this letter.
Mr Khan in Farsi Shahrukh means a man with a face of a king and it is a powerful name that suits you . During all these years as a twenty something girl more than following your movies I follow your interview or the documents which based on your life, not because I want to know about your personal life because you have so much valuable experience to share with us you are full of life and passion and love that it is beyond inspiring.I can see in your eyes that after so much achievement you are as eager as some newcomer and you are so humble and down to earth regardless of your achievement.I saw after winning so many awards if you win an award you would hold it like it is the most valuable things in the world and like it is your first time.
Sometimes it seems to me that even you don't know how much others can learn from you and I don't mean in the entertainment industry. Let me not bother you more and make it short,I live in a society with so much pressure and stress and negative atmosphere even with my closest friend and family that reaching my simplest dream is like thinking about impossible .Unfortunately,my county is so isolated and our  people are lost even my family is trapped by the daily routine of these lifestyle, but did you know some dark days that I thought I trapped in this loop what happened? I saw or read one of your interview I saw how motivated you were in start of your career and without any backup system and you were succeed, then I know that even if I have just 1% chance to reach my dream I owe it to myself to try harder for what I want and for some strange reason you feel familiar and closer to my heart rather than Bill Gates or Steve Jobes.
So imagine how much I was heartbroken and sad when I watched an interview your interviews have always been my favorite not just because you have unique sense of humor or witty answers but because there are a lot to learn  you said you are sad and heartbroken but you decided to not talk about anything more than your work not because you are afraid because you do not not see any reason to clarified your love for your country to some people who even did not read your interview but the sad part for me as your fan was the part that you said your silent bothers you because in all of these years you have learned and experienced so much that you wanted to share with everyone but now that anything that you says misinterpreted you prefer to just do his work .
I am not Indian but I believe you makes India proud by your works and and you inspire any person that there is more of you want. I am proud to know just small part of this man as a fan.
One last request please don't give up up us. Your silence is a big loss for world and Sometimes your positive energy are closer to us than negative energy of our city .you are a big role model as a human ( not that you are not great actor).
Best Regard
P.S. So sad that I cant watch Dilwale in Iran .(I missed seeing you and Kajol together and I have seen all your 6 films together )

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

"We've seen the way Aamir, Salman, SRK have been attacked": Kabir Khan

"We've seen the way Aamir, Salman and SRK have been attacked": Kabir Khan
By Faridoon Shahryar

"When Shah Rukh was talking about the issue, he didn't utter the word Pakistan. No reference to Pakistan. First thing is, Pakistan chale jao. Oh he's the same as Hafiz Saeed. What is that man talking about," said a visibly agitated Kabir Khan in a Bollywood Hungama video interview with Content Head Head Broadband Faridoon Shahryar. "A lot of talk has happened about this intolerance issue in the last two-three months with historians, filmmakers protesting, lot of people are saying there is no intolerance, but the fact is that there is intolerance," Kabir said. "Any form of dissent is being looked at as being Anti National. If you follow this line then you're being patriotic and nationalistic, otherwise you're not. It is stupid. There is a big difference between being patriotic and being jingoistic," Kabir said matter of factly. 

FS: You have said recently that you chose to take the subject of Bajrangi Bhaijaan to Salman Khan because of his secular leanings.

KK: What I was talking about is that post Ek Tha Tiger, I spent a lot of time with Salman. I realized he had strong views, opinion about certain issues, one of them being the secular fabric of India. Over the past few years, the social fabric is being stretched, tattered at places. I thought that he feels so strongly about this issue but it hasn't been articulated properly in any medium. When a superstar like Salman throws his weight behind a certain subject then the reach is very wide. You can make a small film about such issues but unfortunately it becomes preaching to the converted. You don't really reach the audience that you need to. When I took the subject of Bajrangi Bhaijaan to Salman, and he reacted so positively to it, I knew that this will be a significant film. Taking the context of what is happening in our country right now, to have Salman, a film that talks about tolerance, love across communities, bringing down artificial boundaries (not only in terms of India-Pakistan, but the borders within). What was more important for me was the border within, first half of Bajrangi deals with that, the preconceived notions (about communities), the intolerance that we are going through, that is why I was so happy that Salman was so excited that he put his weight behind it. He decided to produce it.

FS: You are talking about secularism but a few instances that we've seen in the film industry when Aamir was targeted post the release of PK just because he belongs to a particular religion. Almost immediately post the release of Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Salman was targeted when he tweeted on Yakub Memon hanging and there were ugly protests outside his house. Shah Rukh Khan recently spoke about the secular fabric of India and he was torn apart by certain groups in the most unsavory manner.  No one at the top really condemned it. Does it bother you?

KK: Absolutely! A lot of talk has happened about this intolerance issue in the last two-three months with historians, filmmakers protesting, lot of people are saying there is no intolerance, but the fact is that there is intolerance. As a normal common man of India even I'm perceiving it. I know the sort of hate mail I get, the sort of tweets I get, I know the sort of people who target me because of my Muslim identity or target my wife because she married me. To say that intolerance is not there is rubbish. It is definitely there. We've seen it in the case the way Aamir, Salman and Shah Rukh have been attacked. And not just them, across the board we are definitely seeing a certain section that is ready to pick certain issues and become pretty ugly and nasty about it. There is no attempt to control these elements. It is time that people who have certain weight in civil society they must speak up about it. I am glad people are talking about it.

FS: People like Kundan Shah and Dibakar Banerji have ben targeted for returning their national awards. A bizarre argument is being given for their action is that, "aap tab kahan the jab…".

KK: That is ridiculous which means that if you haven't spoken up then you don't speak up for the rest of your life. You speak up when you feel the need to speak up. Sometimes what happens is that a lot of things lead up to your patience being tested and then you speak up. A lot of fuss is being made about the form of protest. It is not about the person giving back the award. Let us not discuss that. Let us discuss what are they talking about! The core issue is what are they talking about? They may do it by returning awards, walking on the street, by doing interviews. The important point is what is the issue at hand? You go on a tangent when you talk about the form of protest.

FS: The Ghulam Ali concert being forcefully cancelled, Pakistani actors being asked that they can't shoot or promote their films In India. Don't you feel hatred will only breed hatred?

KK: It is completely unnecessarily. It is rhetoric. We really need to keep culture, art, and any people to people exchange away from politics. Play politics at a certain level. But the moment it starts getting into the way people exchange ideas, culture, musicians coming here, we going there, it really needs to be kept apart. Ultimately we will move forward when there will be more people to people exchange. When it comes to politics, unfortunately we will keep going at it for years and years. I think what will bring the two countries closer is that there is a lot of people to people exchange. Like in Bajrangi Bhaijaan, my whole point was that when a common man from the street of Chandni Chowk goes up to meet Chaand Navaab on the street of Pakistan, there is bound to be friendship and warmth. That is very important. Unfortunately people to people exchange between India and Pakistan becomes victim of politics between the two countries. The moment there is a terrorist attack, the entire atmosphere gets so vitiated, that nobody dares to extend the hand of friendship. It is important to make the distinction between who are the people who are carrying out acts of terror and the general public. That distinction is important. Even media at times makes it Us and Them. We can't look at a country as an amorphous mass. We are suffering here, they are suffering there. There needs to be a sense of balance.

FS: In most of your movies there is a strong sense of nationalism especially Phantom in recent times. Do you feel that today the definition of Patriotism is being distorted? If you are not adapting a certain line you are labeled as Anti National. Do you find it disturbing?

Kk: It is disturbing. Any form of dissent is being looked at as being Anti National. If you follow this line then you're being patriotic and nationalistic, otherwise you're not. It is stupid. There is a big difference between being patriotic and being jingoistic. We definitely need to be level headed, look at perspectives with an open mind. You can't be following one strict line that anyone going off this line is being anti national. We are in a Democracy. Democracy is all about debate, dissent and being able to argue our point out. The moment you argue against the government policy you can't be called an anti national. God forbid if you are having a Muslim name, then you become anti national and Pakistani. Where does Pakistan come into it! When Shah Rukh was talking about the issue, he didn't utter the word Pakistan. No reference to Pakistan. First thing is, Pakistan chale jao. Oh he's the same as Hafiz Saeed. What is that man talking about, either he's not hearing what Shah Rukh is talking about, or he doesn't know what Hafiz Saeed talks about. To make such absurd statements, and these are elected representatives of the ruling party. Two days later you can't say that they are making their own statement. 

My interview with Kabir Khan has been published on Bollywood Hungama. Here is the link:

http://www.bollywoodhungama.com/movies/features/type/view/id/9293

Monday, November 16, 2015

Zubin Mehta's 'The Score Of My Life': 200 Pages of Preciousness

Book Review:

Zubin Mehta's 'The Score Of My Life': 200 Pages of Preciousness
By Faridoon Shahryar

"I think people should try to talk to each other instead of shooting at each other," says world renowned Western Music Conductor #ZubinMehta in his auto biography #TheScoreOfMyLife. Mehta had told his life story to Renate Grafin Matuschka and it has been translated from German to English by Anu Pande (Roli Books). What I found most interesting about this book is Mehta's many encounters with extreme political situations all around the world and how he tried his best to bring peace in whatever way possible.

As an eighteen year old music lover Zubin landed in Vienna. Cold war had gripped  Europe as it was trying to recover from the catastrophic aftermath of the second world war. The bond of loyalty that Mr Mehta developed due to his various associations is something that he held very close to his heart. After becoming a Conductor of eminence, Mehta got associated with Israel Philaharmonic Orchestra.  During the Arab-Israel 6 day war in 1967, he flew into Israel against all opposition and under very intense circumstances. He organised concerts free of cost to lessen the stress of people. He repeated the gesture during the Gulf War as Saddam Husain's Scud missiles were plundering the Israeli soil. Mehta comes across as someone who has always been very neutral and has never supported anyone because of the religion they belonged to. He was born a Parsi and has a lot of pride in his roots. But that doesn't stop him from criticising the conservative nature of Parsi religion that bars an individual if he/she marries a non Parsi. Mehta laments that due to this lack of liberalism, Parsi religion may get extinct in 100 years.

Zubin candidly talks about his personal life. He was married to Carmin Lasky. They got divorced and Lasky married Mehta's brother Zarin. At no point he's critical of Lasky or the fact that she married his brother. The second marriage was with Nancy Kovack, to whom he's still happily married. Zubin admits to a child out of a casual relationship between the two marriages. He also admits to another child which was born a couple of decades ago out of a brief affair with an Israeli woman. He profusely apologised to Nancy for his 'misadventure'. The book also delves in detail about Zubin's immense regard for his father Mehli Mehta, who was a self taught Violinist and who inspired the son to develop a keen interest in music. What is most notable is that at no point of time does Mehta deride any of his close relatives. Many a times celebrities use auto biography as a perfect platform to hit back at people who let them down in anyways. Mehta is too big a Man for such cheapness.

Mehta laments that today the Art of Western Music is primarily having patrons amongst the older generation. He hopes that some serious steps will be taken to create an interest for Western Music amongst the younger generation. In fact, almost half the book is dedicated to the many Concerts that the maestro was part of, the various organisations that he got associated with, the various Orchestras he headed, their problems, how he learnt from the criticism, why he didn't take the reviews of his Concerts too seriously and how it is tough for the older generation of musicians as they hit a certain age. Somehow this part of Zubin's life story will be best appreciated by those who understand Western Music to some extent or have a keen interest in this Art form. Regular readers may not make much sense of these portions.

Zubin Mehta's #TheScoreOfMyLife makes for a wonderful read if you are inspired by Western Music. If you're not, still, this man has lived one hell of an interestingly inspiring life. Do catch hold of a copy. It is 200 pages of preciousness.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Happy Birthday To SRK Who Deals In Unadulterated Love

Happy Birthday To SRK Who Deals In Unadulterated Love
By Faridoon Shahryar

So a long day is finally coming to an end. It was a day dedicated to #ShahRukhKhan as it is his 50th birthday. I happened to see the latest teaser of #Fan very early in the morning. My daughter Insha goes to school early morning and I check my mobile rather early in the morning. Loved the uniqueness and the mystery and the aura that's being built in Manish Sharma's film that releases in April next year.

One of the biggest fan clubs of Shah Rukh Khan, 'SRK Universe' had brought together lots of SRK fans from all across India and countries as diverse as Austria, USA, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Russia, Sudan, Belgium etc. Around 100 such fans converged at Sahara Star hotel in Mumbai today morning. I went for some time, had fun watching the proceedings as fans dressed in various characters epitomised by SRK on screen enacting their own version of it, mouthing dialogues, dancing to his songs and finally a huge cake was cut by the fans. I spoke to quite a few of them on video. It was a really interesting interaction. And a unique one too.

Shah Rukh Khan as always interacted with media this year as well on the occasion of his 50th birthday. This time around his palatial bungalow 'Mannat' was not the venue. Instead we were invited to 'Taj Lands End' hotel in Bandra. The food was excellent and there was a lot of variety. Mr Khan and his team always ensures that media is genuinely taken well care of. Most of the journalists don't want anything except being treated nicely. SRK and his team scores very highly on that front. Mr Khan chatted with journalists for a long time. He answered any and every query. He was funny, thoughtful and shared his aspirations for the future. He shall be spending the later part of the evening by spending time with his fans. Very few stars give such genuine time and appreciation to their fans. Shah Rukh Khan ranks right on top on that front. As I headed back home and my car crossed SRK's bungalow Mannat, a sea of fans was still gathered outside with placards in hands and a wish to see their favourite star one more time.

If so many people all across the world love Shah Rukh Khan, there must be something really unique in the man. He deals in Love. Genuine, unadulterated and selfless love. One can't put a price on that. It can touch your heart deep down. That's what makes him truly one of the unanimous and best ambassadors of the Idea of India. Happy Birthday Mr Khan. More power to you!!

Best Regards.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

WOWED BY RAJDEEP SARDESAI AND INSPIRED BY HARSH MANDAR

WOWED BY RAJDEEP SARDESAI AND INSPIRED BY HARSH MANDAR
By Faridoon Shahryar

1) The first session that I attended today at the #TataLiteratureFestival2015 was: Uncovering the truth in an ocean of headlines. The panel comprised of noted journalists Rajdeep Sardesai, Avirook Sen, author-journalist Lorraine Adams and it was chaired by another noted journalist Sreenivasan Jain of NDTV. It was such a brilliant session that one hour was way too short. To add to it, the session was organised at the magnificent Prithvi Theatre. The lights dimmed amongst the audience and the spotlight was on the august panel. Wow!

The discussion was on the state of journalism in India today. It was observed that as per Outlook, amongst the top 10 upcoming journalists in India most of them belonged to the print medium. So is there a saturation in the growth of the television medium? Jain said that by 6 in the evening, the reporters are done for the day and then the 'Opinion' takes over on news channels. Noisy debates take place raising the collective decibel level of the country. Sardesai observed that the rhetoric and war mongering in the news rooms become so much at times that it can actually escalate into a war. The lust for TRPs is pushing the country to war, which is bizarre. As Mr Sardesai spoke and spoke a bit more, the ex Washington Post journalist Lorraine observed that, "This guy is the most entertaining amongst all of us." Lorraine on her part brought in some funny moments when she expressed her unequivocal disdain for Republican contender in the forthcoming US elections Donald Trump.

Rajdeep Sardesai laid emphasis on how the future belongs to the digital world, how the online news will rule the roost. Sreenivasan Jain gave an example of how #Guardian went digital before their competitors and how they ended up earning humongous money without compromising on the basic principles of journalism.

2) The second session that I attended today was: Rising inequalities and prejudices in New India. Panelists were Social Worker and Writer Harsh Mander, Political Scientist Prerna Singh and it was chaired by senior Journalist with #TheHindu Kalpana Sharma

I had read Mr Mandar's columns on secular thought and I have always found it very intriguing. That was the reason for me to attend this session. It was an enriching experience. Mr Mandar gave instances of homeless little girls being raped, the callous disregard for riot victims and the rooted inequalities in #India and the world in general. He espoused Empathy as an important tool that can make the world more tolerant. Prerna Singh made some pertinent points when she spoke about the egalitarian society of #Kerala and how various communities naturally coexisted. It was a wonderful session.

I purchased Mr Mandar's latest book #LookingAway ...which is on 'Inequality, Prejudice and Indifference in New India' and got it autographed. For a few minutes that I spent with him, I could feel an immense warmth and compassion. Can't wait to read the book. A Sunday well spent!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

CHARCHA On Secularism, Nehru, Books...With Nayantara Sahgal, Vikram Seth, Germaine Greer, Vir Sanghvi

CHARCHA On Secularism, Nehru, Books... With Nayantara Sahgal, Vikram Seth, Germaine Greer, Vir Sanghvi
By Faridoon Shahryar

The experimental theatre at #NCPA in #NarimanPoint #Mumbai was buzzing with a very different sort of excitement. The 6th #TataLiteratureFestival opened without any shoshebaazi. A compact auditorium packed with eager book lovers, journalists and even a few representatives from some embassies. The first session was on the subject #CanBooksChangeTheWorld where noted authors #VikramSeth from #India and Australian writer #GermaineGreer battled it out. Seth is famous for #GoldenGate #TheSuitableBoy his poetry and for championing gay rights in #India. Greer on the other side belongs to second wave of feminist movement who came on the fore front right from her first novel #TheFemaleEunuch. Greer was full of witty one liners and she was clearly one up on Vikram Seth who was chivalrous enough to let the bright lady hog the limelight and the applause. Ms Greer made a notable statement when she said, famous Indian English author R K Narayan deserved a Nobel Prize. "There were lobbies that worked against him but if Graham Greene considers him worthy of a Nobel then he surely deserved it," Greer said. Anil Dharker, the celebrated journalist, thinker and the brain behind #TataLitFest said that one book that he felt changed the world is #MahatmaGandhi's #MyExperimentsWithTruth.

The second session and the session that was most keenly awaited was the one on #ChaachaPeCharcha to discuss the relevance of #JawaharLalNehru in today's times. Ms Nayantara Sahgal, the extremely graceful niece of Nehru ji and an author of eminence was the main speaker. Ms Sahgal recently started a movement of sorts when she returned her #SahityaAkademi award to protest against the growing intolerance in #India. Since her protest, many writers, musicians, filmmakers, scientists and now historians have lodged a strong protest against growing intolerance in the country. Noted journalist #VirSanghvi columnist #AnilDharker and #ArunMaira, former member of #PlanningCommision were the other speakers. Several aspects of Nehru were discussed, his achievements as well as where he went wrong. Vir Sanghvi made a pertinent point when he said that after partition in 1947 #Pakistan opted to become an Islamic country that heavily depended upon #USA. America used its soil for making bases, the rich became richer while the poor became poorer. Nehru pushed for #India to become a democratic republic, started the non aligned movement, helped in creating identity of the newly independent African and Asian countries, invested in mixed economy and worked towards communities learning to co exist in India. Sanghvi said that in today's day and age, if India is much better placed than Pakistan then it was the base created by Nehru which was responsible for that. "Mobile phone intellectuals will never understand this. For them, we should have taken the US help right from the beginning but then we would have been dependent," Sanghvi said.

Nayantara Sahgal shared some interesting insights and also spoke about the secular ethos that Nehru believed in. Both Sahgal as well as Anil Dharker said that it may be because Nehru was an agnostic that he could have a balanced view point on the religious aspect that infests India in a very deep and complicated manner. "He took inputs from artistes, intellectuals, thinkers. He insisted that there should be a strong opposition in the Parliament. He was a democrat to the core. Indira Gandhi was not," Sahgal said.

It is notable to note that while the session was going on and going on very well, a few people walked out of the theatre. The discussion on secularism and inclusiveness has its supporters but there are others who think otherwise. One can't blame them. Everyone has the right to have an opinion and exercise it. That's democracy. Something that Jawaharlal Nehru would have approved of.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Jo abr yahan se utthega, vo saare jahan par barsega...Happy Sir Syed Day!

Jo abr yahan se utthega, vo saare jahan par barsega...

Today is Sir Syed Day. The Aligs who are following me would know how big a day it is for everyone at AMU. And those who are not familiar, let me share a few thoughts that are clouding my mind this morning. It is the birthday of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan today. He was the founder of Mohammedan Anglo Oriental College in 1875 which later went on to become Aligarh Muslim University in 1920. He did whatever he could do, to further the cause of education in India. He collected donations, small or big but relentlessly went ahead with his mission to impart modern education based on science and reasoning. He faced stiff opposition but he remained unfazed. Once he was garlanded with shoes. He didn't react, simply went ahead and sold the shoes to add to the donation for the construction of the MAO college.

My parents taught at AMU. For most part, we lived in the Medical Colony in the AMU campus. I had a great time. Too many friends, too much fun, great growing up years. We never really distinguished our friends by their religion or name. The thought never even came to mind. Sir Syed had famously said, "Hindus and Muslims are two eyes of a beautiful bride that is Hindustan." I never ever distinguished between a Rahul Chauhan, Shaishiv, a Shavez Imam, a Navneet Kedar (A Christian by religion and the man solely responsible for developing whatever musical taste that I have) or Satnam Singh. It never occurred. Honestly. This for me is the legacy of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. At least this is how I look at it and that's how I imbibed in my life.

Happy Sir Syed Day! May Sir Syed's noble message of education travel far and wide.

Best Regards
Faridoon

Friday, October 16, 2015

Shah Rukh Khan's Speech At Edinburgh University


Shah Rukh Khan's Speech at Edinburgh University

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is indeed an honour for me to receive this doctorate today. “Humbled” is a word often used by people in my profession. I dislike the hypocritically obsequious connotation of it in these contexts so I’m not going to use it, but I will say that such occasions have a way of putting me right in my place!
I get invited to conferences and inaugurations now and then to speak. When I receive the invitations, I also receive my brief. It’s usually about “success” and my “tips” on it (not my toes- those are covered by the “I will never show my toes” clause in my acting contracts. It’s my attempt at gender equality. My co-stars have no nipple clauses; I have a no toes one). 

Most people believe Bollywood stars aren’t insightful about anything other than the fateful occurrences that made them stars in the first place! I’ve had the odd divergence from being taken for stupid though; recently I got an email from the International Association of AdvertisingIt read, “Dear Mr. Khan, The advertising community would like you to address them on Globalization and disruptive marketing”. I spent the next 4 hours on Google trying to assimilate the “disruptiveness” of innovating a product to match its market? But it was one of those rare days when even Google can’t help you. A day when you need to leave Google and ask God for deliverance. But I have a film releasing soon, so I didn’t want to waste my quota of favours from God…believe you me, I need a big hit right about now. So I did the next best thing. I made a grand entry on my io hawk and told everybody, that there is nothing I can tell you that you already don’t know. 

You are such an august group of gathering…blah blah. Instead let me entertain you because you all deserve a break, and before the organizers could interject I started thrusting my pelvic into their faces and broke out into the one and only intellectual thing I know to do… The Lungi Dance. I got away with it without being “humbled” (it helps to be a better dancer than most advertisers ) and what’s more, they seemed to have a good time.

But that was a conference and this is a Doctorate from the prestigious University of Edinburgh. So I’m going to try to sound intelligent and insightful especially for you today. One of the subjects on the list of five I was sent for my speech today was: “Life Lessons” so for what its worth: here goes.Let me start at the very beginning.

Whatever I have learnt of life has been at the movies. Actually the first few films that I did in my career and their titles very nearly have formulated all that I believe one should pass on as Life lessons to students of a prestigious institutions like yours.

One of the first movies of my career was a movie called Deewana. I fall in a love with a widow, who I meet literally by accident in which I very nearly kill her mother in law. I marry her. Not the mother in law but the widow.  The widow is not keen on the marriage because she still loves her late husband but she marries me anyway. My rich mean father disapproves of this unison and does what a mean rich father does…tries to kill the widow.  I am naturally disgusted by his behavior and after a long two page stand off with him, leave the house for good. Then for some reason apart from the fact that I ride my motorcycle without holding the handlebar I have an accident. Seeing me so forlorn and sad in the hospital bed my ex widow wife falls in love with me. 

There is something about sick men that always attracts women to them. The sicker the better. Then again by a chance of fate I rescue a stranger at night from a bunch of goons, and guess what?? He turns out to be the original husband of my ex widow wife, who hadn’t died inspite of his inheritance hungry uncle’s best efforts. Evil uncle then kidnaps me and my ex widow now not so ex present day wife to get hold of his nephew. I escape his clutches and come back with my wife’s undead husband to rescue her. By now she is strapped to a bomb and after a liberal round of fist fighting kicking and screaming the evil uncle is blown to smithereens by the very same bomb that he had strapped on status confused lady of the film. But not before the sacrificial ex-husband has done a kamikaze, unstrapping his ex-wife and set the bomb off killing himself in the bargain. All obstacles removed, our hero lives happily ever after with his beloved wife.
I’m not sure why the movie was called Deewana (which in Hindi means madness of a particularly nice/romantic kind) but I have a feeling it had something to do with the guy who came up with the plot!! So here’s my first life lesson, inspired by the movie title Deewana: Madness (of the particularly nice/romantic kind) is an absolute prerequisite to a happy and successful life. 

Don’t ever treat your little insanities as if they are aberrations that ought to be hidden from the rest of the world. Acknowledge them and use them to define your own way of living the only life you have. All the most beautiful people in the world, the most creative, the ones who led revolutions, who discovered and invented things, did so because they embraced their own idiosyncrasies. There’s no such thing as “normal”. That’s just another word for lifeless.
Soon after I acted in Deewana, I became the hapless hero of a movie called Chamatkar. This movie had a more believeable plot line. I get cheated off all my money by my best friend slash, conman and find myself asleep in a cemetery only to be awakened by the ghost of a murdered mobster. A ghost that only I can see and nobody else. I am very perceptive that way. Anywaythe mobster ghost helps me get a job as a teacher through his ghostly good offices.  I fall in love with his daughter from a wife that has passed on after being duped by his flunky. Together, the ghost and I organize a cricket match, yes I was doing that even before I owned a cricket team, and avenge the various misdeeds done to us by bashing up the flunky and the conman, forgive them and let each other descend into the respective abodes where we belong. He goes back to the grave and I go away with the babe. Now Chamatkar, means miracle: right and straightforward without any nuances. So my next lesson is the following: If you ever find yourself cheated of all your money and sleeping on a grave, do not fear,a miracle is near, either that or a ghost.

All you have to do is fall asleep! In other words, no matter how bad it gets, life IS the miracle you are searching for. There is no other one around the corner. Develop the faith in it to let it take its own course, make all the effort you can to abide by its beauty and it will not let you down. Use every resource you have been given, your mental faculties, the ability of your heart to love and feel for those around you, your health and good fortune: all of the thousands of gifts life has given you to their maximum potential. Honour your life. Honour each gift and each moment by not laying it to waste. There is no real measure of success in this world except the ability to make good of life’s endowments to you.
Sometimes life’s gifts arrive wrapped in all the wrong damned wrapping too, at which point we have to learn to do two things with them: recognize them for what they are and gamble on our fear that they might be disasters. This brings me to my third life lesson inspired by two movies in which I played the anti-hero: Darr and Bazigar.

Twenty years ago, in the Indian movie industry, roles were very clearly defined. They provided the security of your stardom in a sense. If you’d been successful playing an“angry young man”, you’d pretty much be angry and young for the rest of your career. If you’d been a police inspector in three movies, odds were, you’d be one in the next 33 too. This applied to female stars as well: wives were wives, seductresses-seductresses, mother in laws- mother in laws, and so on. Few actors would have willingly switched from romantic heroesto obsessively violent lovers. I took the leap…not because I was particularly brave, but because ( a very dear director friend of mine sat me down and told me I was ugly. And being ugly necessarily meant I do bad guy roles. I wasn’t the romantic hero types, he said, actually he used the words, that my face was not chocolaty enough, whatever that meant.)So I started to eat a lot of chocolate and while waiting for it to take effect, I jumped into bad guy roles.Darr means fear in Hindi and everyone always tells you that you ought to be brave so I’m not going to bore you with that idea. Instead let me tell you this: Being brave means being shit scaredall the way to the party but getting there and doing the Funky Chicken in front of all your teenage kid’s friends anyway. Let me just add on behalf of all the fathers of the world who have embarrassed their children by doing this…it takes a lot of bravery resolve and grit to do this.

So do it. Don’t let your fears become boxes that enclose you. Open them out, feel them and turn them into the greatest courage you are capable of. I promise you, nothing will go wrong. But if you live by your fears, everything that can possibly go wrong will go wrong and you wont even have done the Funky Chicken.
While we’re on what everyone tells you to be, let me also say that all the planning in the world, won’t take you where you want to get to. It’s fine not to know what you want to be twenty years from now. Most of those who had it all figured out became bankers anyway. Oh this will appear on YouTube right?? There goes my next big loan for the film from my friendly neighbourhood bank.

I did a movie once called KabhiHaanKabhiNaa, in which I was the victim of a lover’s confusions and my next lesson is precisely that. It’s ok to be confused. Confusion is the route to all the clarity in the world. Don’t worry about it too much and don’t ever take yourself seriously enough to be so clear about your own ideas that you stop respecting other people’s. Our values are our values, they don’t make us any better than anyone else, at best they make us different. Always try to see the other person’s truth because like every movie has a story, every human being has one too and you have no right to imagine that yours is better than anyone else’s. You can leave that silliness to my esteemed colleagues and me!!

And if you thought the last two stories I told you were crazy, here’s another one in the reckoning for the Oscar for weirdest screenplay: Guddu. Guddu was my name in a movie about loving and giving in which basically, I have an accident (yes another one) but this time instead of almost wiping out my future mother in law, I wipe out my girlfriend’s eyes. Many convoluted sub-plots including a life threatening brain tumour, a legal battle for the right to donate organs and a fast unto death, mylawyerfather, my religious mother and I are battling over which one of us will donate our eyes to my blind girlfriend. In the end, I recover miraculously and my mother dies donating her eyes to my girlfriendand we all live happily ever after. Life lesson number four rears its head: Give of yourself to others. And while you’re at it, make sure you realise that you aren’t doing anyone any favours by being kind. It’s all just to make you feel thatsneaky little twinge that comes from being utterly pleased with yourself.  After all, the one that gets the most benefit out of any act of kindness or charity that you do will always be you. I don’t say this, as many see it, in a transactiveor karmic way. Its not an “I do good, I get benefit” equation with some white bearded figure taking notes from the heavens above. It’s a simple truth. An act of goodness becomes worthless when you assign a brownie point to yourself for it, no matter how subtly you allow yourself to do so. As benevolent as your gesture might be; someone else could have made it too. Regardless of how rich, successful and famous you become, don’t ever underestimate the grace that other people bestow upon you just by being the recipients of your kindnesses. You might be able to buy your friend a Rolls for his/her birthday but its no substitute for a patient hearing of your sulky rants on a bad hair day.

Sometimes things just happen, as encapsulated in another movie title of mine: KuchKuchHotaHai; and you know what? They don’t always add up (that would be “One Two Ka four” as the list of titles continues). So my fifth lesson is this: when life hits you with all the force of its resplendent rage, the Rolls isn’t going to give you comfort. A friend’s grace will, and if you can’t find resolution as easily as you would like to, don’t panic. Everything evolves as you go along, Chalte- Chalte as we say in Hindi (and yes, that was another movie I did but no more mad plots for God’s sake!!)
Even disasters eventually resolve themselves. Give life the space to move at its own pace, pushing it ahead only by way of being kind to yourself when you are hurting or in despair. You don’t always have to figure things out or find an explanation for the circumstances you are in.  It’s more prudent to accept that sometimes there just isn’t one. “Ram Jaane” (God knows), as we say in Hindi and as a priest responded to my orphan-child character when i asked him, what my name was, in a movie of the same appellation. The boyplodded through three entire hours of film referring to himself by that fatalistic phrase and why not? Who says that what we call ourselves is any definition of who we really are? And that’s lesson number six for you: All the names you give yourself, or those that others call you, are just labels. You are not defined by them no matter how flattering or uncomplimentary they are. What defines you is your heart.

Ask The Artist Formerly Known As Prince!! And learn a thing or two from him, if you don’t believe this insanely sexy Indian Superstar standing in front of you. And I say this out of experience because if I was to go by what all I am called on Social Media I would be an old desperate manipulative has been star who swings both ways while making crap movies, and these are just the good mentions.

If you aren’t charged upabout doing something, if you don’t have what in Hindi we call the “Josh”, the fire in your belly for it, then don’t do it. It’s a waste of your time and more importantly, of those who pin their hopes on your endeavours too. Redefine yourself if you have to but do it on your own terms and just get on with it. In fact, like my character in the movie My Name is Khan, don’t forget where you came from and who you really are. It ought to be the compass by which you navigate through life’s vicissitudes. The North that keeps you oriented despite a series of misfortunes or a shower of privilege.

One of the biggest hits I made was an unexpected one and for once the plot was neither meandering nor barking mad. I was the coach of a beleaguered women’s hockey team that went on to overcome its struggles and win a world championship. Its title was Chak De, an inspirational martial cry that Sikh soldiers used while lifting logs in order to make bridges across rivers on their campaigns against their enemies. It implies the will to get up and get on with it, which brings me to life lesson number seven: whatever it is that is pulling you back, its not going away unless you stand up and start forging your own path with all your might in the opposite direction.Stop whining and start moving, so to speak. Sadness and happiness have the same quality of transience. Life is a balanced exchange of one with the other.And this is lesson number eight: Don’t attach yourself to either, they’re both going to change with the same certitude. Take them with the ephemeral spirit of their impermanence and manage them with a healthy dose of good humour. Laugh at yourself when you are despairing, shed a tear or two when one of my movie plots makes you hysterical with laughter (we did actually consider Guddu donating a single eye to his blind girlfriend and both of them waltzing into the sunset eye patch to eye patch). KabhiKhushiKabhiGham was the title of an Indian style family drama in which I was one of many heroes and it means just that: to be happy sometimes, and sad others, is the very beauty of a life lived in full measure. Why fail yourself by desiring one emotion and detesting the other?

You know, I’ve acted in over 50full length movies, if I took you through ajourney of each title, we’d be sitting here forever and you’d all end up fast asleep (this wonderful venue being most un-cemetery like notwithstanding) so I’ll wrap up with my last two lessons.

Live from the heart. Dil Se. Love. Love people, love the world around you, love animals and birds, and big cities and mountains, love dreams, love life, love your work, your friends and your enemies even if you feel least like it. Most importantly, my friends; love yourselves. Embrace all that this life has in store for you, let your heart be as deep as the deepest ocean and as wide as the farthest horizon. Know that it is limitless. Love is not an excuse to grab or to hold or to own or to barter. It is the only excuse you will ever have to call yourself special.And if someone you love lets you down, don’t fault yourself for not trusting him, fault yourself for not trusting your love enough to forgive his/her trespasses.
You never know what the future will bring, whether there will be a tomorrow or not. I died at a shockingly young age in a movie called Kal Ho Na Ho which means exactly that. And I wasn’t even a smoker!!! I never let my two older children watch it to the end, we even filmed a whole alternate ending especially for them. But now they have grown up and like all of you, will soon be embarking on a wondrous journeyof their own. Instead of trying to protect them from life, the wiser and older version of me grabs every chance to tell them: live as hard as you can in this very moment. Live now. Live today. You may not see it with your youthful eyes, but NOW is as much time as you will ever get. Because tomorrow we will all be dead. And just in case there is no cycle of rebirth etc…why take a chance. I don’t want to end this on a cynical note by reminding you about the reality of death. I want to let you all know that how important your today…your now is. Study hard. Work hard. Play harder. Don’t be bound by rules…don’t hurt anybody and never ever live somebody else’s dream. Remember however many times you go wrong, no matter how many times you fail, despair, feel like this world is against you….in the words of Bob Marley…at the end everythingsgonna be alright. And in my words. “ Hindifilmonkitarah life meinbhi, anthmein sab kuchtheek ho jaatahai. Aur agar na ho, tohwohanthnahihai…picture abhibaakihai mere doston.” Take it as the only truth you need to know. Take it and believe it because the most unlikely to make it  Bollywoood isis telling you this…the most romantic hero who doesn’t look anything like chocolate or taste like it.

“Now” all you bored professors out there in the first row, come on up: lets do the Lungi Dance !!!


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Bridge Of Spies: A Brilliant Spy Saga With A Human Touch

Bridge Of Spies: A Brilliant Spy Saga With A Human Touch
By Faridoon Shahryar

Steven Spielberg's #BridgeOfSpies is handsome and mature entertainment that intrigues and makes you laugh as well. It is based on a true story in the early 1960s when the cold war was at its peak and the world was sharply divided between Capitalist America and Communist Soviet Union. Ample amount of blood was spilt at the newly constructed Berlin wall. In such circumstances an aged Soviet spy Rudolph Abel (Mark Rylance) gets caught in USA. To uphold the principles of American democracy, Abel gets a defence lawyer in James Donovan (Tom Hanks) who not only gets the probable death sentence of his client commuted to life imprisonment (despite strong resistance from his countrymen as well as the family), he does something even more historic.

When a US spy plane pilot gets caught in the Soviet net, the US government wants Donovan to bargain with the Soviets to get back the pilot in exchange of Abel. The Glienicke Bridge connected the West Berlin with East Berlin. It is on this bridge that four exchanges took place, the first one was executed by Donovan. The humane yet smart manner in which Donovan negotiates with the Soviets not only to get back the spy plane pilot but also an American student researching on Communist countries in Europe is an ideal case study on diplomacy of the finest kinds.

Backed by pleasurable writing by the Coen brothers (Ethan and Joel) and Matt Charman, and engaging direction by Spielberg, #BridgeOfSpies emerges as one of the best films of 2015. Donovan tells a CIA agent, "You're born in Germany while I was born in Ireland, what makes us American is our Constitution." There are several memorable lines. Also the low key dry humor makes you unexpectedly chuckle several times during the course of the film. Tom Hanks is expectedly brilliant not only as a no nonsense professional lawyer but also as a loving family man. In a crucial scene he has to bargain with young boys in Germany who impart information in return of his overcoat. Hanks, being the perfectionist that he is, digs deep into the Art of Negotiation mastered by a passionate lawyer. But arguably, Hanks is somewhat overshadowed by the massively understated Mark Rylance who displays deadpan humor and searing irony at the same time. Rylance has some of the best lines in the film even though the length of his role is much less than that of Hanks.

Janusz Kaminski's camera work sparkles with an air of nostalgia. Adam Stickhausen's production design is poetry in detailing. The manner in which the fraught-with-friction Germany of early 1960s has been recreated is exceptional. Spielberg makes sincere efforts to balance the politics of Cold war without colouring Soviets as all-black and Americans as all-white. Even then a passing glance from a train window clearly communicates how a wall in America is much easier to climb while the Berlin wall is a matter of life-and-death. The inference is easily understandable.

Even though Steven Spielberg has turned 69 but his passion for story telling is scaling new heights. No heavy duty VFX, no unreal tomfoolery, just the reliance on solid writing, deft direction, technically brilliant and some great performances makes #BridgeOfSpies a must watch film. Do NOT miss it!

Star Rating: **** 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Homesick At Home

HOMESICK AT HOME
A poem by my daughter Insha

It is so strange to be home
It was so fun there
I feel so alone
The loneliness is too much to bear.

There were so many happy smiling faces
People taking me places
Oh, it was all so good
Touchwood.

It is so strange to be home
And see all the empty rooms
Just like an empty dome
Where no flowers ever bloom.

There were so many nice things
Even the birds used to sing
Oh it was all so good
Touchwood.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Rich, Vibrant, Open, Young Minds At Paramarsh 2015, Vadodara

The Rich, Vibrant, Open, Young Minds At Paramarsh 2015, Vadodara...
By Faridoon Shahryar

It is such an encouraging experience when you interact with enthusiastic students who are keen on acquiring the wealth of knowledge and that too with an open mind. I delivered a lecture to the students of the faculty of technology and engineering at Maharaja Sayajirao University here in Vadodara at the final day of their annual college festival 'Paramarsh 2015'. I spoke about the changing face of journalism in India. I shared a few of my personal thoughts and experiences but I specifically harped on the importance of 'Credibility' and why 'Honesty with a little bit of common sense is still the best policy'. Six students came forward and I interviewed them. We spoke about their future plans, why travelling is very important to open windows of the mind and why they need to work towards becoming better human beings to dilute the burgeoning competitiveness that puts undue pressure on young minds. What's the point in burning out when there's so much to do, so much to see, so much to treasure and so much to be happy for. I also emphasised on the importance of communication skills. You may be having the best of technical knowledge but if you can't put your point of view across in clear terms, it will always be a drawback. People are the most important resource and how you communicate with them can either distance you, or endear you to them. Choice is yours. Efforts are yours. And, its all worth it!

I genuinely hope that the young minds that I met today and the young minds of this great country will always put merit, liberal mindset, equality, rationality and inclusiveness above anything else. I hope they will shove out the obsolete, divisive and dangerous mindset out of the way and usher in a new India that's the pride of the world. A boy said that he likes cinema that advocates rationality, films like PK and OMG-Oh My God, films that denounce superstition, over emphasis on religion and backwardness. It was really nice to hear his thoughts.

The student volunteers took wonderful care of me. Phaphda, Jalebi, Chhole and some other Gujarati delicacies kept my taste buds truly satiated. One of the coordinating students, Nensi Patel showed me the campus of the faculty of technology and engineering. The campus is partly based in the Palace of Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad and partly it has been built by the government. A very strong 45000 students force is studying in MS University, Vadodara. I was told about an App that has been created for the university and has had 15000 downloads. All the information pertaining to the University is regularly updated on this App. Paramarsh 2015 is entirely organised by the students, who've gone out and sourced many sponsors. I saw an Eifel Tower made out of newspapers, a painting that celebrates the beauty of Venice and many such creations dotted the lawns of the campus. I was felicitated during the closing ceremony. It felt as if I've become a part of the grand institution.

My friend Atik showed me the more modern side of Vadodara in the evening. A vibrant city dotted with malls and multiplexes. A city blessed with the rich heritage of Maharaja Sayajirao Rao Gaekwad and his family, sprawling cricket grounds, Parsi Havelis and much more. The wide roads are a treat. We savoured the succulent Bhuna Gosht at Marhaba Restaurant. The aroma and the taste lingers on. Paan from Paras Pan Bhandaar was divine as well. The cool breeze was intoxicating as I ruminated about a memorable day. It was surely inspiring to work towards many more such memorable days in the future. Inshallah. Good night!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Time to rise above Differences: Diary of Day 1, Vadodara


Time To Rise Above Differences: Diary of Day 1, Vadodara
By Faridoon Shahryar

My friend Atiq treated me to a scrumptious dinner at regal hotel, near Vadodara station a short while back. Chicken tikka and chicken legs hung in the open air as smoke swelled out. Nearby there were buzzing-with-excitement shops of Vegetarian Gujarati Thali. I didn't find anything amiss. All was well. Eating preferences can surely co exist if one ignores the vulture politicians who prey on the sentiments of ordinary people who have far bigger issues in life rather than worrying about what the neighbour is eating.

Vadodara was one of the worst affected cities in Gujarat during the 2002 communal riots. It was split in two. Many years have passed. It will be impractical to say that the after effects are still not around. I am sure they must be there. I travelled on the back seat of Atiq's scooter and saw a decent amount of the big city today. I saw a nice co existence of the business establishments of both the communities. I genuinely hope that people gather sense and work towards bridging gaps between hearts. It is for everyone's own good. Strife, hatred, discord doesn't help anyone. Politicians will run out of business if their hate factory shuts shop. Personally I don't look at differences because I supremely believe in the secular ethos of India. And that is the beauty of India...its diversity!

The cool fresh breeze here in Vadodara is a welcome departure from the clogged Mumbai. I am staying at Maharaja Sayajirao University Guest House. I have stayed at best of hotels in India and abroad but a university guest house has a very special place in my heart. My parents were professors at AMU, Aligarh and eminent writers, academicians and artists came and stayed at the multiple University Guest Houses that were there at AMU. I have often accompanied my parents to meet such eminent people at the guest house premises. The MS University Guest House is a very fine building, with lots of greenery all around. Vice Chancellors lodge is nearby and one of the biggest attractions of Vadodara, Sayaji Baug is right in front. Atiq took me to the historic Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad's Lalit Vilas Palace. It is a truly majestic sight. It is a heritage building with a hotel adjacent to it. There's a sprawling golf course as well. Peacocks loitered around in their laidback splendour. I ate famous Gujarati specialities Bakharwadi, Lilwani Kachodi and Sev Khamni in the evening. Bakharwadi and Lilwani Kachodi were simply heavenly. I really appreciated the owner of the restaurant who insisted that the Lilwani Kachodi ought to be warmed properly by his staff before we start eating it.

I shall be taking two lectures tomorrow. The students of the Engineerng Faculty met me in the evening today. Extremely cultured and well behaved. I was told that I shall be the Chief Guest for the closing ceremony tomorrow at Paramarsh 2015 and I shall share the stage with the honourable Vice Chancellor. Well it is a big honour. Hope I live up to their and my own expectations tomorrow. The day will start early and it is time for me to hit the bed. Wish me luck. Good night. :-)

Friday, October 2, 2015

Audio Visual for guest lecture at Paramarsh, Baroda

Hello Friends 

Hope you are doing well. I shall be delivering a guest lecture during the annual function of 'Paramarsh', the annual function of Faculty of Technology and Engineering (FTE), The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda on October 4 on the 'Changing Face of Journalism in India'. Mr Prabhu Chawla, noted journalist of 'Seedhi Baat' (Aaj Tak) fame is the other speaker. Kindly find enclosed the Audio Visual presentation that the organisers are sharing on their social media platforms and during the festival. Thanks for your support, as always and looking forward to your good wishes.

Best Regards 
Faridoon





Hello Friends Hope you are doing well. I shall be delivering a guest lecture during the annual function of 'Paramarsh', the annual function of Faculty of Technology and Engineering (FTE), The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda on October 4 on the 'Changing Face of Journalism in India'. Mr Prabhu Chawla, noted journalist of 'Seedhi Baat' (Aaj Tak) fame is the other speaker. Kindly find enclosed the Audio Visual presentation that the organisers are sharing on their social media platforms and during the festival. Thanks for your support, as always and looking forward to your good wishes.Best Regards Faridoon
Posted by Faridoon Shahryar on Friday, October 2, 2015

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Harvest of Questions

Harvest of Questions
By Faridoon Shahryar

Greed is insatiable
And so is curiosity
The ability to Reason
Is dictated by
The relative willingness
Of the ego-infested mind..
I reap the harvest of questions...
Why can't I travel business or first class?
Why don't I live in a more developed country that values human existence?
Why do I have to hate and distrust Jews just because I'm born in a particular religion?
Why do I have to prove my loyalty by verbally bashing the neighbouring country?
Why being selfless is considered as madness or foolishness?
Why can't people learn from History rather than swearing to repeat the horrors of the past in a new context?
Why is Love looked down upon frivolously while Hatred is considered a sign of logical intelligence?
Why can't I rise above my own trivialities, look within and raise the bar of sensibility?
Why....?

Friday, July 17, 2015

Bajrangi Bhaijaan:Heartwarming Handshake Of Brotherhood

Bajrangi Bhaijaan:Heartwarming Handshake Of Brotherhood
By Faridoon Shahryar

"Nafrat bahut asaani se bik jaati hai, lekin mohabbat...," trails off Nawazuddin Siddiqui at a crucial moment in Kabir Khan's 'Bajrangi Bhaijaan'. Nawaz plays an ambitious television reporter in a small town in Pakistan who helps Bajrangi (Salman Khan) in ensuring that Munni (Harshali Mehra), a little Pakistani girl reaches her home in the faraway hills. It is true the stories of love and togetherness between the two warring nations are seldom celebrated but hate mongering and jingoism is lapped up by trigger-happy news channels and byte-mercenary politicians on both sides of the border.

'Bajrangi Bhaijaan' is a landmark film for it tries to bridge gaps between people of India and Pakistan without being preachy or moralistic. It is an extremely entertaining film but entertainment need not always be song-n-dance and popcorn-cola-jokes that don't last long.

Salman Khan delivered one of his finest performances in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's 'Khamoshi'. After that film, 'Bajrangi Bhaijaan' is the film that taps the acting brilliance of Khan. Credit must go to Kabir Khan to have taken risks by not falling in the trap of what-the-distributors-want in a Salman Khan film. There are two brief action sequences, no item songs and a brief romance. In other words, Kabir completely breaks the formula that makes Salman such a safe blockbuster bet at the box office. Enough scope is given to Nawazuddin to display his magical brilliance and the kid Harshali Malhotra delivers a stunning performance (without delivering any dialogue). Om Puri shines in a cameo too. The presence of a strong support cast enhances Salman's performance greatly.

Somehow one can equate Kabir Khan with Raju Hirani. A wonderful concept, backed by good writing, superb execution and this heady concoction is enmeshed in the cushion of outstanding entertainment. Kabir has chosen breathtaking locations in Kashmir. The introductory sequence has some aerial shots atop the lofty mountains and honestly Kashmir is surely worth being called Paradise. Kabir also displays the power of the media in bringing people together. He highlights NDTV in bringing in a positive change in a certain context in the film. In recent times this Indian channel has faced a strong opposition from certain political quarters within India for its honest reporting and it is notable that Khan chose this channel instead of any more 'agreeable' one.

The story by S Vijendra Prasad is the fulcrum of the film. Screenplay by Kabir Khan, Vijendra Prasad, Asad Husain and Parvez Shaikh is very engaging. It must have been a tough call of locking the final screenplay taking the various sensibilities into account and how not to be insensitive to anyone's beliefs. Dialogues by Kabir Khan and Kausar Munir (additional dialogues) are excellent. They will make you laugh, cry and engage attention all at the same time. Aseem Mishra is another hero of the film. His brilliant camera work is a big highlight. Be it capturing magnetic Kashmir or the grungy Rajasthan lanes, Aseem brings alive Kabir's vision excellently. Pritam's music is a highpoint. My personal favourite is 'Tu Jo Mila' (thought provoking lyrics by Kausar Munir and evocatively sung by KK). 'Zindagi' and 'Bhar Do Jholi' are my other favourites from the album. Julius Paekiam's haunting background score is a character in itself.

'Bajrangi Bhaijaan' is a must watch film that will stay in your mind long after its over. The egotistical politicians on both sides of the border will keep on stoking the fire of hatred. If you want genuine people-to-people contact and a chance to let Love do the talking,  then this film will hold hands of peace in front of you. It is up to you if you wish to put your hand forward and feel the warmth of brotherhood. Take a call.

Star Rating:*****

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Musical Midnight; An Angry Sea...Prayer For Phuket

It's 5 am on July 16, 2015. I am sitting outside a pool villa in Pullman's Resort I'm Phuket, Thailand. The night shift for the film 'One Night Stand' is going on. The sea waves are lashing against the rocks underneath the Resort. They've been aggressive about displaying their passion for the last five hours or so. It rained as well for some time. Very strange sort of sounds are being made by animals. The entire area is totally swamped by trees. It is a forest area after all. I managed to sleep for maybe an hour or so. Over all it is a very unique experience that is surely unforgettable.

An hour before midnight, I ventured out of the Resort for a walk. I saw a small pub where a group of boys played live music. I listened to a boy belting out a Thai song while his friend played acoustic guitar. Somehow they could see that I'm passionate about music too. I sang a couple of songs with them, clicked pictures and shared them on instagram. It is great to make new friends. We were unable to communicate in the same language but the language of music is universal.

The sea waves are making outrageous sounds. Tsunami had struck Phuket in 2004. I just happened to see the video of what really happened that fateful morning on December 26 at Patong beach, Phi Phi Island and in Indonesia. It was absolutely devastating. It is kinda scary. Looking forward to the morning now. We must thank God for his blessings and pray that ourselves and our loved ones never fall prey to the havoc of Nature.