Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Bollywoodi Copy-art

If somebody wants to have an in-depth knowledge of the subject called “copy-art”, I suggest him to pack his bag and take the next flight to Bollywood. Last weekend my husband and I were watching a Woody Allen classic, Husbands and Wives; and after barely five minutes of the movie, we both felt that we had watched the picture before. I taxed my brain trying to find out where I had seen it, but sadly my mind couldn’t reply, the inability of my brain to solve my query led me to believe that may be I need to take a memory supplement to boost my comatose memory level. But then, as we went on watching the movie for another ten minutes or so, it came to us, like lighting, we had indeed seen a Hindi movie, a retrograded Bollywood version of the Husbands and Wives. It is called Dil Kabaddi, and I remembered how I had thoroughly enjoyed the mature directorial work and even had recommended the movie to some of my friends. Little had I known then that the movie which I had so enjoyed was copied directly, even painstakingly, from the Woody Allen movie. I know I should have googled the name before because that night when I did, I found a series of film reviews that stated how Bollywood is becoming a masterful copycat. I am not doing a vivisection of the Bollywood animal, but I feel at heart that copy art is fake art, a sort of art that is trivial and therefore worthless. It is true that all that glitters cannot be gold, all films made cannot be classics, but Bollywood should aim at something original rather then copying directly from Hollywood movies. I went on to watch the full movie and at the end of it, I felt like emailing the director with the question what good it did to him copying a whole classic movie—scene to scene, frame to frame, dialogue to dialogue—did it bring out his creativity or did it show us how utterly hapless he is as director? The fact that he employed the Bollywood stars in his movie put dialogues in their lips and made them act so beautifully barely shows his management skills. I feel bad for Rahul Bose and Konkona Sen who have acted so well in the movie, they are well deserved actors who brought out the essence of the film, but their work will not be given any importance in international film community because of the director’s action of shameless copying the Woody Allen movie. In fact, not only Dil Kabaddi, a series of Bollywood films that are released every year are merely copies of some Hollywood movie or the other. Ghajni, the Aamir Khan classic, is inspired by Memento, and I am sorry to say that Ghajni didn’t do justice to the subtle and emotionally stark Memento by incorporating the theme and putting in all the Bollywood spices and thereby creating a jambalaya of god knows what. Now the question is why Bollywood thrives on copy-art? Are the directors and producers not confident in creating original screenplays anymore, or is it another marketing technique, the sole motive of which is big-cash-less-work. It is sad that they don’t realize that by doing a complete replica of a Hollywood movie they are sacrificing the quality of the film industry, and are using the acting skills of so many talented actors for their vile, money making strategies. Compromising the quality and creativity of such good actors is nothing but an offense to me. Added to that, they are encouraging the Indian audience to indulge happily in plagiarism and forget all originality and creativity that they might have in them. Being inspired by a piece of art—a movie or a book—is okay, but copying it from start to finish is a transgression.

I felt bad for Woody Allen, who had put so much thought and effort in his movie, and now some nameless Bollywood director took everything and stripped his work of its gravity. I also detest the way the Bollywood copy-movies never mention the name of the actual movie or the name of the director who they copied their movie and screen play from. I found no referencing, not a word about Woody Allen in Dil Kabaddi; the director just used Allen’s art to glorify his own name. He must have thought how a large section of Indian audience would come to know about the art-theft? Keeping in mind the fact that a large portion of Bollywood loving people have no access to internet or Hollywood movies; his theft would be unknown to the world. But there sure are people like us, bloggers and intellectuals, who before garlanding the director with beloved praises would love be critical to the form of art he has produced. There are so many good Indian writers and they have produced masterpieces in literature and art, I wonder why Bollywood never thinks of using some of such great creative works in their movies. If you watch carefully most of the recent Bollywood movies, you will notice that it is ‘love’ which is the sole topic of almost all the movies, often blended with hot spices like ‘religious clashes and vendettas’, ‘gangster wars’ and then again ‘love’. The circle is so small; they only have a handful of topics. As for the dialogues, let’s give that part a blind eye. I cannot recall one good movie after Taare Zameen Par and A Wednesday or Madhur Bhandarkar’s Page 3 that touched me. And after watching Husbands and Wives, I have decided to abstain from watching Bollywood movies unless they are original and creative. When Bollywood talks about class and quality, I know they are merely rodomontading about their marketing skills.

Finally, I have forever wondered why Satyajit Ray is the only film director Hollywood and International Film Community respects? I now have the answer. Ray was original and talented. His passion for art was real and not adulterated with money making strategies. That is probably why his works are classics in the world of cinema, and even if he is no longer with us, his masterpieces—Apu Trilogy, Ghare baire and other works—have broken all the boundaries of time and space and they will continue to be the only Kohinoor in Indian cinema. I am angered even with the idea of comparing a genius like Ray with the modern Bollywood directors, who lack the zeal of producing quality cinema. They can never be Ray, because they never try or aim to become somebody like him.

A few weeks back, I was having a conversation with a friend, and we were talking about the Oscars and why Bollywood never gets one nowadays. Slumdog Millionaire is NOT a Bollywood movie, even though it used Bollywood technicians and musicians, it is a directorial work of Danny Boyle. Slumdog Millionaire in fact is a slap on contemporary Bollywood movies since it depicts in its central theme and structure the Indian author Vikas Swarup’s book “Q&A”. Couldn’t an Indian director have made this movie? Couldn’t he have used the genius of A.H Rahman and Gulzar to make the heavenly music for it, but did they do it—No! Then why does Bollywood treat Slumdog Millionaire as its own property when the truth is, it is not. Bollywood has all the talent it needs to make an Oscar winning movie, the problem is they never use their talents in a proper way, they never channel creativity in masterful fashion. I am happy that talented actors like Anil Kapoor and Irfan Khan are exploring Hollywood and not being incarcerated in the cell of the Bollywoodi world where they have no scope to flourish and express their creativity.

© Barnali Banerjee., all rights reserved.

Say No to Junk Mails


Forward this message 2 ur ATLEAST 10 friends including me

2 make ur mom live long”

Have you ever thought what could happen if you don’t forward this message from some anonymous philosopher? I guess your mother would have to die an untimely death and that too because of you and your skepticism.

I received the above message from a virtual friend at a social networking website. I was instantly shocked that he, who is a lawyer, could forward an utterly illogical, brainless forward message to his friends. These spam forward messages and mails flood our mailboxes everyday, and each one has some imperative message in it. They ask us to forward the message, in most cases, to all the people in our contact list and thereby save ourselves from utter mishap. If you read them carefully, you will feel that Cassandra’s clairvoyant spirit might have haunted these divine philosophers who write these predictions in their dream, and her specter might have insisted that they read the mind of the world. But Cassandra would never do such a thing, since she, I guess, has more important things to do, and I think people who write these baseless messages and use the softer side of our mind to propagate their bogus ideas, should better find another useful profession.

The soul aim of these forward junk posts, as I call them, are to make us truckle in the face of misfortune. We as human beings should have the courage to face life; and our minds, in order to prosper, should be devoid of baseless fears and superstitions. I agree that faith plays an important role in our lives; I think religion and belief are an intrinsic part of our existence. But these people use the suppleness of our mind and force us to believe that if we don’t cater to their wishes (i.e. forwarding the mails or messages) something really bad would happen or we would miss the chance of changing our checkered lot. My question to these people is where on earth did they know all these? Did they meet the Almighty? Or did they decipher the codes of life and death? I know they cannot answer me, because their prescience depends on chicanery. They make a series of chimerical stuff up and throw them at humble and honest people. And these people, mostly out of fear or out of sheer practice, instead of stopping the process of sending and receiving these junk mails altogether, send the mails to every contact in the list and thereby propagate the bogus ideas.

Here are a few mails that I had in my inbox:

I do not have any personal acquaintance with the President of Argentina, and due to my lackadaisical social skills, I totally forgot to forward this important message. I did have a lot of disorder in my life, well, we all do, but I am not intending to blame my act of not sending this mail to others for my personal problems. I am not agnostic, I am a believer in divine grace, but I detested the mail because it intimidates me and God never threatens or intimidates His children. I realized that Jesus or Mother Mary didn’t mail me so I discarded this message. My passive approach to the juggernaut of future did make me feel powerful. I am glad that I am not swayed by common practices and that I choose to bear my individuality and judge every situation by my own wit rather than listening to others and following their views blindly.

Here is another one:

Even though, at these strenuous economical situations, we all need Mahalaxmi to bless us fiscally, I don’t wish an electronic message to convey my wishes to her. I am old fashioned in transmitting my wishes to God, and I trust a silent prayer more than this email. So, I did not forward the mail and dug a pothole in my fortune.

Finally, I would like to say that faith and belief are one's personal choices and I don’t intend to denigrate one’s personal believes, but if people read the junk mails before forwarding, I am sure we will be receiving them less often than we do now. Exploitation of believes have become a thriving industry in India, and I wish to see a newer India devoid of a pile of superstitions in her mind. Destiny can not be averted, misfortune and good fortune come in circles; and happiness and sorrow would come and go even if you send these mails or not. I believe in the inner goodness of humanity and I detest the art of trickery that these junk forward messages are using to sway the human mind. As a blogger and a writer, I would be happy and would consider my effort positive, if you abstain from sending the next forward mail you get in your inbox.



© Barnali Banerjee., all rights reserved.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Journey With A Dream

This evening I went to see a fascinating movie Julie and Julia. The movie depicts the lives of two women who are lost in the jungle of life. It is a movie about how these two seemingly ordinary women find their ultimate passion, their ultimate goal. As I was watching the movie, I couldn’t help but think about myself, yes about ME! I couldn’t help but think how for long I have been indulging in an intellectually abstemious diet which lacked completely the nutrient I call the ‘Metamin’. In a second I realized that I have deliberately stopped thinking about myself as a person, and as a writer. However small and insignificant I might be, I still deserve one blog, one write up, wholly dedicated to my small journey as a struggling writer. Like Julie and Julia I too felt like “drowning” at one point of my life, I too was “lost” and yet, after a period of considerable struggle, I could find a ray of light, even if it is a faint one.

My little journey began when I got married to my childhood love and disembarked at the O’Hare Airport, Chicago on May 18th 2006. I was then in my early twenties, newly married. I had no idea what I was up to. I didn’t know what to expect from an immigrant life with a dependant visa in my passport. I could do nothing—no job, no study—nothing. When my friends in India were basking in the glory of their new jobs and bold career decisions, I was being merely a homemaker. Being a homemaker label on you is popularly held as some kind of an offense; people have pestered me with innumerable queries as to how I spend my time at home. “Must be painful for you?” “Why don’t you get a job?” are some of the queries I am now used to hearing. So there I was, lonely as a winter night, totally dubious about the prospect of having a career, trying hard to get an admission at some universities, but nothing was working out. I was depressed, shattered, and friendless. Then I took to writing – I had always loved writing something creative. Even if I never thought of taking it seriously, I decided to spend the ocean of time I had writing some meaningful stuff. When I was in India, I wrote a short story “Dead Madonna”, and read it to my then fiancĂ©, now husband. He was ecstatic, even though now I regard that story as an immature experiment; he told about it to everybody and had encouraged me to start writing seriously. Now, when he saw my current situation— my intolerable state of coping with a new country and a new community where every one I see around is working, he gave me the idea of repeating the writing experiment again. I still remember the terrible bouts of loneliness I had when I would spend my days crying for help, and there would be no one beside me to soothe except my dear husband. I took his words seriously and wrote couple of poems and started dabbling in writing.

One night, as I opened my email, I found an unexpected email from the editor of DNA-ME. She had written in her email that my short story, Dead Madonna, had been published in her magazine. I was ecstatic! It was a moment I would never forget in my life. That was my first big publication, I couldn’t believe my eyes. My husband spent the whole night even calling up folks back in India who had the idea that I was a failure! I jumped and cried, called my parents, and showed everybody the story. That was my first life changing incident that led me to believe that may be I can write! The following day I activated my comatose Sulekha blogging account and decided to pour some energy into it.

From then on, I began to write, and believe me; I never knew where the ideas came from. The plots of my initial writings came almost like some sudden storms in a tropical country. My hubby bought me several books on writing style and technique, and inspired me to read them and talk about what I learnt from them with him after he is back from work. Even though he is a scientist, he listened to my creative ideas, and even inspired me to submit my works to some magazines in the USA. I was not confident, and I detested the idea of criticisms and rejections by magazines in USA who have this highly competitive submission process. But he was all encouraging, he told me about his PhD research experience in this country – how his advisor taught him everything from designing an experiment to conducting the challenging research work by overcoming occasional failures, and finally, presenting the results in a written form of a peer reviewed paper. He was so nice to me and he still is, more than my parents, my friends, my relatives who at one point had the idea that an ordinary woman like me with average education could never make it to the point I have reached today. It was my husband who taught me to think big, or at least to aim for it.

I began trying my best to write. I started reading seriously the text books for the MFA courses in top US universities by myself, rather devoured them. I spent hours thinking about what I read and how the book influenced me. Although I became socially less active, and some time even little moody, today I think those books have become an intrinsic part of my life; they are my real friends, my soul-mates. During this time, I met a wonderful girl at a social networking website who is a master blogger, an experienced editor, and a poet. We became friends and I decided to show her some of my early write-ups. She instantly pointed out thousands of mistakes that I had made in my work. I was outraged and soon broke all ties with her. But, it so happened, that destiny brought us together and we became friends, confidantes probably. I began giving her my writings to go through them and check for mistakes. She was an editor at one point in her life and she masterfully pointed out the flaws. This time, I took it upon myself to write something so wonderful, so good that she would have to say, “You are an amazing writer” and yes, she did say it, a week back after reading one of my new short stories. She is another angel to me who taught me to take English seriously, to love that language and even feel it in my nerves. She modified my crude style and made me feel confident as a writer. It is because of her that I got the confidence of sending my works to American magazines, and guess what, even though I got several rejection letters, I did get some acceptance letters too. So, here I am, two and half years later, a completely changed and relatively mature human being who is thinking of taking writing professionally in near future. I have discovered my passion, my ultimate goal and now I know exactly what I love to do—write. I may be just a speck in the sea of writers, but I am confident that if am choosing the right path for me. Overall, I am an ordinary woman with a major role as a homemaker, and I love to take care of the man who makes my life worth living. You don’t get a “Thanksgiving Day” everyday, today I would like to thank these two people—my husband and my friend for being so wonderful and for teaching me to be confident and smart.

I love you!


Here is a list of my published and would be published creative works:

1. Critical Appreciation of “The Lamb” by William Blake: “Words' Worth”— Journal of the Department of English, Sivanath Sastri College, West Bengal, India (2004).

2. Dead Madona (Short Story): Published in the “DNA-Me”, Issue- August 2008, Daily News Analysis (DNA) group, Mumbai, India.

3. Being a Tree (Poem) : Published in the Palki magazine, Issue-5, October 2008

4. Friends Forever (Poem): Published in the 8th Day, The Statesman, December 14, 2008; Kolkata, India.

5. Ode to autumn (Poem): Published in the 8th Day, The Statesman, December 14, 2008; Kolkata, India.

6. The Game (Short Story): Published in the 8th Day, The Statesman, January 2009, Kolkata, India.

7. Tale of the Sea (Short Story): Published in the Palki magazine, issue-6, February 2008.

8. I Hope (Poem) published in the Palki magazine, issue-6, February 2009.
9. If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name (Book review): Published in the Windows and Aisles Magazine, official in-flight magazine of the Paramount Airways, India.
10.Road to Smoky Paradise (Travelogue): Published in The Indian Express, Chennai Edition, December 2008, India.
11.Road to Smoky Paradise (Travelogue): Published in The Indian Express, Hyderabad Edition, January 2009, India.
12.Addiction (Short Story): Published in the Many Midnights magazine, March 2009, USA.
13.The Kleptomaniac (Short Story): Published in the Pens on Fire magazine, April 2009, USA.
14.Welcome to America, (Short Story): Published in the Sristi magazine, May 2009
15.Remembering Suze (Short Story): Published in the Many Midnights magazine, May 2009, USA.
16.The Veiled Idol (Short Story): Published in the Palki magazine issue-7, June 2009.
17.Born Into A Brothel (Short Story): Published in the Muse India Literary Journal, ISSN:(0975-1815), July 2009, India.
18.The Unveiled Life (Poem): Published in The Pens on Fire magazine, July 2009.
19.Layoff (Short Story): Accepted in the Pens on Fire magazine, to be published in November 2009, USA.
20.Film Review of Chuhnyang (A Korean film review): Accepted and to be published in Silhouette magazine, November 2009, India.

21.Checkers (short Story): Accepted and to be published in The Long Story Short magazine, November 2009, USA.

22.The Relationship Adviser (Short Story): Accepted and to be published in Woman’s Era, Delhi Press, India.

23.Missed Connection (short Story): to be published in Mused — Bella Online Literary Review Magazine, 23rd September 2009, USA.