Beyond The Slapstick Formula

The Indian film industry is the biggest in the world and Bollywood is one of the most prolific industry across the globe. In fact, when it comes to global presence, box-office sales and crazy far-reaching influence, Bollywood’s dominance exceed the rest of the country’s film industries. Kollywood comes second… I think.

We have got to accept that regardless of the audience age group, Bollywood never disappoint. They deliver exactly what they promise – hopeless but more importantly, entertaining masala films backed by good looking actors cherry-picked from many parts of not just India, but the world!

Two to three hours of entertainment, some singing, dancing, action, intense heartbreak, and comedy – these are the common things we can expect from a Bollywood film. The plots are often melodramatic with standard ingredients such as star-crossed lovers, corrupt politicians, conniving villains, strictly religious parents, dramatic reversals of fortune, and convenient coincidences. Among its other attributes, they also incorporate their culture in almost every films. And with the budget, modest by Hollywood standards to finance its stuntmen and extras, amazing costumes and explosion of cars, the films although mostly set in India, they are usually filmed in other parts of the world such as the continental Europe, or Australia and the UK for specific scenes.

Back then, the Indian Censor Board is a significant crusader in preventing porn and nudity in the films. Most of the content in Bollywood films are safe for PG-13 and under audience. But today, curse words, kissing and subtle sex scenes are allowed. Murder, violence, and swearing, on the other hand, can be found more frequently depending on which films you decide to watch.

And the films are made so fast that sometimes actors on set shoot scenes for a few different films at a time. I am not surprised if they are shooting using the same actors and the same backgrounds too, especially if the films are all under the same banner.

I have been a big fan of the Bollywood film industry since I was born and this surprises every soul I met along the way. Of course, when I was younger, I did not know better. Malaysians started talking about Bollywood thanks to Karan Johar’s Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. But I can tell you that through the years, the films gradually changed, ventured and developed into different directions and went under a very important transformation.

Every now and then, and today especially, you will come across some quality films to bring the sanity back in your life. Today, a lot of Bollywood films are talking about various issues that led to social impact, that touches a deep chord. They are not just another piece of fiction made to make money at the box office.

They fill you with emotional turmoil – not so much romance. In fact, the amount of songs is cut into half. A few has maybe only two! And these films in one way or another shows us ways to change our life and perspectives, ways to move forward, to defend ourselves, treat people and ways to speed up pending justice. After all, we all want our life to be a perfect film story. And the cinema plays an important role in our lives, even more than we notice.

Unfortunately, though, we don’t get to hear much about them due to the marketing gimmicks of mainstream commercial films they cannot afford or perhaps, prefer not to waste money on. And also usually, these films are not backed my famous commercial celebrities.

But the ones who are, they gave rise to the brand new age of Bollywood films. Their versatility and skill are really world class. The films won accolades and they gained recognition that eventually leads to them playing in many international films.

Don’t get me wrong, the commercial films no doubt has a relevant message that reaches a wider audience – like Bajrangi Bhaijaan and PK. But unfortunately, people watch them for the actors. They left the cinema partially disappointed. They want entertainment, not moral values.

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Among the films that I feel really satiate my desire for quality cinema include Deepa Mehta’s Earth, Fire and Water, Margarita with a Straw, The Last Lear, Monsoon Wedding, Mr and Mrs Iyer, Sulemani Keeda, BA Pass, Lajja, Well Done Abba, Rang De Basanti, Chak De India, Taare Zameen Par, Masaan, 3 Idiots, Swades, OMG! Oh My God, Udaan, NH10, Slumdog Millionnaire, Life in a… Metro, 15 Park Avenue, Black, Bandit Queen, Aarakshan, Agneepath, Bend It Like Beckham, Gangs of Wasseypur, Haider, Badlapur, Bombay Velvet, Kaminey, Ankhon Dekhi, Maqbool, Omkara, A Wednesday, Guzaarish, Chalk N Duster, Paathshaala, 7 Khoon Maaf, Queen, The Dirty Picture, Kahaani, English Vinglish, Mary Kom, No One Killed Jessica, Mardaani, Ship of Theseus, Akira, and many more.

These are some of them that I have seen from my collection of almost 1000 Bollywood films. And the most recent one I saw was Parched. I have been meaning to blog about it but I will just mention it here.

Parched is a film that falls under the category of prostitution in India. But it really is about a society that is plagued by several social evils and age-old traditions and practices of patriarchy, child marriage, dowry, marital rapes and physical and mental abuse. This film is not backed by any famous celebrities.

There is a widow in the film, struggling to support her old mother-in-law and teenage son who is rebellious and prefers to loiter with a gang of spoilt friends and spend time with prostitutes. And there is another woman, struggling an abusive marriage with an alcoholic husband who blames her for being infertile when it was actually him who has been shooting blanks. Then there is an erotic dancer in a local entertainment company – an eye candy for the men in the village and doubles up as a prostitute. These three women are best friends. And then there is the widow’s daughter-in-law. She is a child bride forced into marriage who later was set free and given the permission to go with a childhood lover instead.

The film did not do commercially well by the Bollywood standard but like most Bollywood film, it, of course, has a happy ending. But throughout it, I was taken into a disturbing and thought-provoking territory. It got the feminism in me in a way, agitated and overwrought. It got me wanting to write a poem inspired by it but… I am still lost for words and I have written way too many dark poems.

See, filmmakers should not be burdened with the responsibility of making films based on social issues all the time. But I really like the fact that today more and more are shouldering that responsibility and they are doing it well. Kudos to the scriptwriters and actors also for their deep thoughts, creativity, and flawless performance.

I am happy with the transition and the future looks bright for Bollywood. Warner Bros and Twentieth Century Fox are setting up offices in India. This is the start of the next big area for Bollywood to develop.

PS: Here in Malaysia we do not have the access to all the Bollywood films. I am guilty of downloading the films I cannot find at the shop or on YouTube. I will buy them if they were available.

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Stigmatised Solitude

“Believe nothing just because a so-called wise person said it. Believe nothing just because a belief is generally held. Believe nothing just because it is said in ancient books. Believe nothing just because it is said to be of divine origin. Believe nothing just because someone else believes it. Believe only what you yourself test and judge to be true.” – Buddha

I had a very interesting conversation with a Grab Car driver over the weekend. The nice Chinese gentleman in his mid-40s was very concern with the fact that I am 29, single and living alone, far away from my family. And he did not mean this in an offensive way. In fact, I was cool with his thoughts and opinions.

How it started was he began talking about school holidays and asking what my children are doing. So, I told him I am single. It was an interesting 20 minutes conversation.

He also said something very interesting, though.

“Walaupun lu punya hati banyak besar, lu jangan kasi harapan kepada semua orang. Jangan kongsi sama ramai orang. Hati lu cuma untuk satu orang yang lu sayang. Bunga ada banyak, kumbang pun ada banyak. Tetapi satu untuk satu. Kalau mahu main-main, jangan cari pasangan untuk lu kahwin. Suami cari duit untuk jaga isteri dan anak. Suami bertanggungjawab buat mereka gembira. Kalau lu mahu cari suami, jangan cari yang main-main sahaja. Mesti ada kerja. Gaji kurang dari lu punya pun tidak apa. Sama-sama lu usaha. Saya punya isteri dan anak banyak gembira. Saya dulu ada girlfriend. Dia kerja shampoo girl. Dia cantik oh. Saya banyak sayang sama dia. Tetapi dia main-main sahaja. Lagi pula dia ada banyak tattoo oh. Macam gangster. Ini isteri saya, mula-mula saya tidak sayang dia. Ini kawan punya mak yang kasi kenal sama saya. Orang putih cakap ‘arranged marriage’. Tetapi lama-lama, saya sangat sayang sama dia. Dia kerja office, pandai masak dan jaga anak. Nanti bila anak sudah besar sikit, saya bawa mereka pergi Kuching lah jumpa lu.”

As we age, our priorities shift. Our wants and our needs change. Not only that, our social contacts tend to decrease too. Due to that, many would rather move to the city for better opportunities. Or to live alone in a relatively new environment.

I moved to the Peninsula mainly for educational attainment, meeting my life expectancy, and securing median earnings. Along with that, I also crave for inspirations to write and enrich my intelligence.

Whenever I go home for a short break, people would ask me when am I moving back to Kuching for good. And I used to tell them, “I have no idea. I can’t see it now.”

They have many assumptions as to why I have not planned on moving back. Many assume I enjoy the nightlife, the social life, and the money. They thought I earn double their salaries and am having the best time of my life. Unfortunately, financially, that is not the case. In fact, I am losing more than what I make due to the cost of living and that I am responsible for all of my own bills.

Well, I am going to skip the impressive attributes of this very city. Despite the traffic congestion, I love it here. But I love it because I am happy living alone. I don’t actually live in the heart of the city but, I would not want to live any other way. Because to me, living alone is a collective achievement.

I am a compulsive thinker and I cherish individualism. On a prosaic level, I am self-centred. I prefer to make my own decision although, for certain occasions, I would consult my friends. Be that as it may, I do not like people telling me what to do or what they think I should do. Like roommates or a typical Chinese landlady who pretend she fucking care about my wellbeing.

When you live alone, you are free from the distractions and judgments of others. You can truly be yourself, 24/7, indulging wonderful habits like just being lazy and walk around the house naked.

And living alone is not necessarily an entirely solitary experience. Though many would say that an isolation like this is depressing and horrific. WRONG. Living alone encourages productivity and creativity. Trust me, I know this very well.

It is hard to write or compose something when people are arguing very loudly in the next room. But when you are alone, the calm is glorious and brilliance can strike just like that. You have the time and freedom to explore and work on your passions, to create your magnum opus. And it gives you the ultimate freedom to wind down and relax, helping you to recover from your busy and intense work days.

Yes, sometimes I do feel lonely. Back home I have my parents and four younger sisters. It’s a very noisy house and don’t get me wrong, I love being around my parents and sisters. We could be the next Kardashians if people were to film us. But half the time, I prefer to be by myself. I just value my privacy and solitude over traditional family and societal structures.

But anyways, it is not only being alone that make someone lonely. Many people I know who are not alone feels trapped by feelings of solitude. By lonely in my case, I mean when I am sick, there is no one to look out for me, make soup for me.

Yes, we do have a favourable male-to-female ratio here. But the chances of meeting a life partner or be in a steady relationship is very thin. Instead of being one of the best cities for dating, the big bustling Kuala Lumpur is just another place for hook-ups. Thank you, Tinder. You are one of the perks for urban dwellers and I am guilty of reaping the benefit for a few times.

Women living alone is a trend that is catching fire in our society. And this is spreading all throughout the world, even in Asia. Whether by choice or chance, the number of women living alone is increasing. I personally, find having roommates makes me feel less of an adult. And this leads me to talk about the notion of the ‘singularist’ and the right to have and make that choice.

In a society where marriage is common and has been held up as the ideal, married people misunderstand how singletons experience living alone. When they look at the singletons, they think that there is a sense of failure or that there is something wrong with them. That they are some kind of a loser. Or that maybe they are gay. And they will also tell you to your face that you are going to die a sad spinster.

FAILURE? LOSER? GAY? SPINSTER? Frankly speaking, that is just ridiculous.

Since the last decade, people have been opting if not, happily living the single life, realising that the marriage or partnerships they formed are failing. And today, not only just based on statistics, but based on my observation, a large number of women – career women, specifically – has made the single life a much more attractive option than matrimony with an unsatisfactory partner.

This is not a failure. This is the right thing to do. There is a limit to making sacrifices and trying to work things out. Even being married or in a relationship, you get lonely too. And loneliness is not tied to relationship status. Because emotional intimacy takes work. To assume that marriage or cohabitation is the solution is illogical. If your relationship is on the rocks, you are likely to be less happy than people who are unmarried or divorced.

My best friends since my college days are married. In fact, two are mums now. And one has other priorities she needs to look into for now. They and other people are married are happy in their own terms. What happiness is to them is different than was it is to the singletons. And in my opinion, happiness is subjective because it comes differently for everyone. There are things in life that can make you happy that are subjective. A bottle of Coke, for example, makes me happy while my best friend’s husband prefers Pepsi.

Everyone seeks happiness in their own way. And we all long for meaningful relationships and social connections. Being single and living alone is a form of emotional armour. Being single, one does not have to deal with the anxiety associated with relationships.

But whatever the decision one made – whether to be single or married, to live alone or have roommates, none of us has the right to judge and tell them what is best for them. The ultimate thing to do as human beings is to be happy.

Despite having a bad track record in the man-woman relationship department, as much as I put myself out there, I also stood many people up. I never feel bad about it although it would be nice to have different people to have a cup of coffee with. My love affair with my friends has formed the cornerstone of my life. They matter more to me after my parents and sisters.

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I will not actually bail on domestic life and I do not have a disinclination to settle down. It is just not now to live in and it is not healthy to believe in marriage as the ultimate turnpike to happiness.

At the moment, I am happy living alone without the pairing colour to my monochrome.

Free Love And How We Conversate

Meaningful interactions we have today with others are subtly being destroyed by the Internet and mobile technologies. We are being disconnected from the world around us, and subconsciously are leading to an inescapable sense of isolation we call our private space.

10 years ago, the only social media platform I was on was Blogger for the most obvious reason. And my only form of communication besides face-to-face communication was the Short Message Service (SMS). I rarely make phone calls and the only phone calls I would receive would be from my then boyfriend. When we were in a long-distance relationship, there was Yahoo Messenger.

Today, I start my day by checking messages on WhatsApp and Skype, email, skimming the latest headlines on Huffington Post or Buzzfeed, posting random photos with a kickass caption on Instagram, posting something ambiguous on Facebook and once in a while, swiping left and right on Tinder. And for some people, for the rest of the day, they are constantly on their mobile devices for both personal or professional use.

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With the internet and mobile devices, we have the ability to connect with people instantly at our fingertips regardless of our whereabouts. Yet, ironically, by being connected, we’re also disconnected. Our social behaviours have changed since we decided to place a screen in the middle of our interactions.

Thank you, inventors, for your brilliance and inventions. But to be honest, I’m really tired of it – of the sense of disconnection – though I do agree that at the same time, it makes life a lot easier. Yes, we benefit from it. I mean through a social networking site like Facebook, for instance, it is amazing how we can find a long-lost friend, enabling us to reconnect.

But that as it may, although we conveniently turn to mobile devices for our social needs, we primally yearn for physical interaction. I know I do – not so much lust, but warmth. But the problem is, like our devices, we now expect our relationships to be just as fast and brief. And this diminishes the quality of human interaction.

A hook-up application like Tinder makes it easier for those who wants just that – a brief and fast, no string attached sexual relationship. Although many of us are trying to break the stigma of it being just a hook-up application, we are secretly glad that it exist for what it is. The main reason being – there is no need for emotional obligations and expectations. We love the ‘free love’ so much that we just don’t value or cherish actual relationships anymore.

However, this technological detachment affects not only social relationships but family ties as well.

Often when I’m out at a restaurant by myself or with my friends, I get emotional looking at a mother and child laughing and bonding together, father and son discussing yesterday’s football match and grandchildren listening to grandparents talking about their past. It would remind me of my family back home and the time that I missed spending with them, being away on the other side of the country.

But today, we don’t often see all these anymore. Half the people at the restaurant would either be so engrossed in an online conversation on their mobile phones or play games on other devices.

We are now spending more time with technology than we are with our loved ones. Even when having our breakfast or dinner at home, most of us would hunch over our phones or tablets as we take one bite after another of our food. I myself am guilty of this crime sometimes, but I avoid doing it at home.

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It is very common nowadays to see parents using these mobile devices to keep their children occupied before they become distracted or loud. Once at Sushi Zanmai, while the parents were enjoying each sushi after another, the son – age between 4 to 7 – was so engrossed watching cartoons on YouTube.

By doing this rather than bonding with them, many of these children grow up not even bothering to hang out with the family even on their free time. They think it’s okay to not bond with their family members anymore. In fact, even special family occasions are now infiltrated by mobile technologies.

We are overusing the technology and it is declining our face-to-face communication and family time. What will happen 10 years down the road?

We were once invaded by human with weaponry who killed millions, we should not be invaded by hazardous humanoids. Before they invade us and takes over our human duties and human rights, we should not place too much importance on technology.

Uninstall Outlook on your mobile phone for a start. Nobody will fire you for not checking your emails at 12 midnight on a Saturday. And if you do get fired, shove a broom up that sender’s ass.

And even if you still have it on your phone, you have a choice not to check your emails at hours where you should be spooning your loved one, if not having sex or dozing off.

Freshies Gettin’ Munchies

Many fresh graduates today finds it difficult to get a job – whether it is a dream job or even one that pays the bills. Some weigh in money against working experience.

And although this is due to the bad economy status and the need to survive, this is not the kind of attitude employers are pleased with.

But for those who really need a job, they have no choice but to start from the bottom – or say, the gutter itself.

Career fairs are organised in order to provide an opportunity for graduates to meet with corporate leaders and human resource representatives of participating companies. At the same time, it is also a platform for the companies to scout for potential talents from universities in Malaysia (or anywhere around the world).

Are these employers really hungry for fresh graduate talent?

When they walk into the booths, take part in the walk-in interviews and career talks, are they really being scouted for their talents?

While they engage with employers to better understand what they’re looking for in jobseekers, are the employers really there for their fresh ideas or just looking forward to hiring anyone with decent skills who is willing to put up with hours, on-call, weekends, crazy deadlines, ridiculous requests and work for a very low salary?

Here is a joke – “go to the best school”, they say. “An Ivy League would be best.”

But the reality is, companies are least interested in the brand or the image of the university you graduated from. In fact, most companies would hire students with the right attitude – not the right degree.

As a fresh graduate, you only get one shot at the best. A lot of high-potential and talented graduates are only in the market for a very short time. Sometimes, the chances of recruiting them are very small, in fact. Without a headhunter, it is really tough to get access to them again. This is because they know better.

But really, why do employers prefers fresh graduates?

BASED ON MY EXPERIENCE AND OTHERS THAT I KNOW:

For the company, it benefits them mainly financially. Freshies do what they’re told. They don’t refuse to any task given.

Training is easier than re-training and they can easily take a blank slate and make the fresh graduate a specialist without having to pay for all the other skills and knowledge that doesn’t apply to their needs.

After all, the only thing that matters is PROFIT.

PS: This is not a negative post. It’s just the reality of what many went through.

Uncertainty, My Psychological Allergy

In life, if we have not gone far, we have very limited perspectives. I know this for a fact and I know this drives us towards the fear of uncertainty. But if we’re willing to view life as the guru, even in the midst of uncertainty, a beautiful journey begins.

It’s a lie if I tell people I have all the confidence in the world to brave just about anything. I have my fears, I have my doubts, I have my insecurities. And here’s a tiny bit about me – the last decade, I’ve purposefully designed my external life for security. I left home, graduated with a teaching degree and having the cushy job I might as well just call a career, at least.

I have that, while everybody else around me has quite a high-paying job, some have additional streams of income to insulate the extra-super-comfy-security, some already have a decent home for a future family, and yes – most of them have a solid marriage.

Yup, I’m 29 and single. And I’m not proud of my flings.

Anyways, what I have is not as amazing as many. But, I am deeply grateful for everything. And on most days, I find pride that my goals and plans had at least created a surrounding of comforts – or so – for me.

So, something genius Robert Frost wrote – “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.”

I doubt anyone in school that time actually know what Mr Frost mean there.

I’m a very stubborn person. I’m driven by my dream and my goals and in certain areas, I’m a risk taker.

Parents have their fears, their worries and their concerns here and there – basically in almost anything related to their children. But the stubborn person that I was born as, I have always known that the path less travelled is often the wisest path to take.

While most people in society take the typical paths in life, I do the opposite. About 80% of the time. 20% of my parents’ opinions always get to me. I’m guilty of falling into the parent trap. But really, parents are right – at least half the time.

So, based on my unconscious observation, I noticed that not many people stop to think about the paths they take. And I’m disappointed that thinking outside of the box is dead and gone.

I mean, sure, the unknown is scary. It signifies weakness, it sure is not secure and more than gazillion miles away from safe.

As a rule, humans prefer certainty to uncertainty. Turning right instead of left, to lead instead of following a path so alien to you is one hell of a scary attempt. Or so they say. And that’s why people prefer to live a miserable and boring life.

People who fear uncertainty generally have rather a number of neurotic tendencies. When thinking of a neurotic person, I personally see a mentally perturbed person. Ofter very fainthearted and ridiculously obsessive. In short, paranoid scaredy cat. And really, there are many of those in my life, I just rather not acknowledge them as – no offence – it’s quite sickening to know how ‘dead’ they are in life.

The Gen X – at least a big chunk of them – have very limited experience in certain life areas. With that, there is limited perspective. Undoubtedly, they would jump to conclusions and make assumptions. And also generalise how life is or should be. And this, of course, would make them become scared of the uncertain aftereffect if they or their children, the Gen Y, take action in the opposite direction.

And that is what Asian parents tend to do to their children – scare them with the assumptions they have. They would simply envision what it would look like if their worst nightmare happened. And guess what, this leads to depression, or maybe just anxiety.

Yes, uncertainty fuels up anxiety. But to be in such condition set by people who would have the biggest and mostly positive influence in your life even when you’re old enough to raise your own children does the same too. You don’t need a doctor or a psychologist to tell you that.

Us human has the unbelievable ability to worry too much about the future. To be honest, I know that uncertainty feels like death and it can cripple our efforts to do anything. Nobody will ever be comfortable with uncertainty. We know the future exists, but we don’t know what’s going to happen in it.

Not knowing what to do, what’s going to happen, what the people around you are thinking and feeling, breeds anxiety – even in an 8-months-old baby.

The only way to truly experience life’s richness is to surrender to the unknown. I’m a firm believer of that. It is a process. But living with uncertainty can keep you on the edge. You will constantly grow and develop yourself as you encounter new experiences that you’re unfamiliar with.

Planning is important, of course. But really, nobody is ever always able to get through all the intricacies of planning. Eventually, they will get emotionally drained. Trust me, I know. And a bombardment of non-stop thoughts rarely gets us anywhere.

The future is unpredictable but one should never surrender to fear. Uncertainty is often full of surprises. We shouldn’t fight uncertainty. It is something we cannot escape from. Life is constantly shifting and changing. It’s not a threat, it’s life. And we don’t get to cherry-pick the parts of our path we want to experience.

I’m writing a new chapter. The future is inviting me to its many surprises. Go far and don’t limit your perspectives. Fear is just another psychological allergy.