“She should be in prison for wearing a hijab”, says Ann Coulter

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“I don’t care if she knew about this,” Ann Coulter said on Fox news earlier this week. “She ought to be in prison for wearing a hijab. This immigration policy of us, you know, assimilating immigrants into our culture isn’t really working. They’re assimilating us into their culture. Did she get a clitorectomy too?”

Umm…excuse me…but what??

In case you’re confused, let me summarize the whole thing for you. Ann Coulter is a right-wing  political commentator and she is commenting on Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s wife wearing a hijab (Tsarnaev and his brother are charged  with the Boston Bombings). The US authorities are currently questioning the Tsarnaev brothers’ parents and Tamerlan’s widow to see if they knew of anything about this plot.

Now coming back to the point, I have absolutely no idea what Ann Coulter is talking about?! Granted, being Tamerlan’s widow does by default put a lot of suspicion on Katherine Russel Tsarnaev. That is but natural, whether or not she is innocent. But where does the fact that she wears a hijab come into this? Last time I checked, religious freedom was still pretty much a reality in the USA. Maybe Coulter needs to be reminded of that. Maybe she needs to be reminded that wanting a person to be arrested because of their cultural or religious preferences is not just wrong but is discriminatory.

Fine, Katherine wears a hijab. And Ann Coulter wears a dress. Big deal! Who cares? How does that even matter in the long run?

You might not understand why a woman would want to wear a hijab, but you’ve got to respect it. It’s a personal choice. Would Ann Coulter put a nun in prison for wearing a habit? Somehow, I think not. But what exactly is the difference? The nun is wearing a habit because her religion tells her to and so is Katherine Russell. Because, at the end of the day ,its about personal choice. Nothing more, nothing less.

Ok, maybe in this case, it wasn’t a personal choice. Taking into consideration the fact that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was obviously an extremist, it might be safe to assume that Katherine was forced into it. But even if that is true, how does it justify criminalizing a dress code? If that was indeed the case, then this would be a classic case of victim blaming.

The facts here is that Tamerlam Tsarnaev and his brother are extremists and were responsible for the Boston Bombings. Additionally, it is plausible (but plausible suggests a possibility, not a fact) that their families might have known something about this. But on the other hand, it is equally plausible that they didn’t. Now these are the facts. Anything beyond that, how they dress, how they eat, what time they woke up, what time they decided to have lunch on April 11th 2009, whatever, is completely irrelevant! And it is completely moronic and idiotic to even suggest the criminalizing of such aspects of anyone’s life.

The world is a diverse place. We come from all kinds of different cultures and backgrounds. And because of this diversity, the only way we can coexist is by understanding others. And if you can’t understand, well the least you can do then is tolerate. Anything below that is unacceptable. Because anything below that can lead to radicalism and extremism. And that is what eventually culminates in a 9/11 or a Boston Bombing.

So maybe, just maybe, Ann Coulter should be careful about what she says.

Think before you speak. You’ve heard of that proverb, haven’t you?

Well, there’s a reason it exists!

Writing, for me…

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Writing is something that I have done for the majority of my life. I wrote my first story when I was six years old. “The Mystery of the Missing Vase”, I believe it was called. I started working on a novel when I was 12. I called it, “Revenge of the Ants”. Never got around to finishing it. The drafts are still lying about somewhere in my old notebooks.

I am, what I would call, a born writer. Whether I am good at it or bad is for you to decide, but it is something that I always fall back on. It is just something I do. I eat, I drink, I sleep and I write. It’s as simple as that. But it is only now that I have started to accept that, to enjoy it even. I didn’t always like writing.

When I was in school, I had a brilliant English teacher. She is the one who taught me to enjoy literature. I did hated that attention at times, because she would single me out sometimes and ask me to read a certain book or an anthology of poems. I used to resent that. I used to resent the fact that it was only me who was asked to do this. I never understood the value of that extra attention. She also encouraged me to write, and to write more, as did my parents. I never understood the value of that. It is only today that I do. It is only today that I thank her for her seemingly thankless task.

Well, I was a teenager. I was a rebel. I didn’t want to be told what to do. I just wanted to do what I wanted to do at that moment. Even if it meant watching Hum Aapke Hai Kaun one day before my Maths board exam. Oh yes, I did that. And don’t think that I had studied for it beforehand and was just trying to relax before an exam. I hadn’t. It’s a miracle I even passed!

Writing went the same way. I resented people telling me that I should be a writer. I just didn’t want anyone to say anything to me. I just wanted to be left alone. Ah well! Teenage!

But, even then, sometimes, I would find myself writing in my diary or working on a new idea for a story or an article. It was dichotomous, always. I wanted it, but I didn’t want it. All at the same time.

Here, in film school, we are expected to do a fair share of writing, all screenplays mainly.  And I have spent a lot of time observing my friends write. They write a draft, then write a second draft, then a third, then a fourth and so on and so forth. By the time they reach their final draft, the story, the structure, everything will have completely changed. But for me, it has never been like that. My first or second draft is usually my final draft that I am happy with.

I used to question why? I used question whether it is just that I am lazy? Am I just trying to escape from work? So, this time, for my year one thesis film, I decided to work harder on my script. I tried doing multiple drafts. But I couldn’t go beyond the third draft. As soon as I reached my third draft, that was it. I didn’t want to change it anymore. I was perfectly happy with it.

That set me thinking…why? Finally, today, I reached an answer. I finally know why. I realized that unlike my classmates, I don’t get to work with a pen and paper. Writing is something that I’m doing constantly in my head. I keep thinking about it. I keep revising it. I keep re-writing it in my head. By the time I actually get to putting it down on paper, I’ll have gone through several drafts in my head. That is why my first or second draft is usually my last draft. Finally, mystery solved.

Today, writing is just something I do. No, actually, its not just something I do. It is something that I enjoy doing as well. When I’m writing, I forget everything around me, I lose track of what’s happening. I just immerse myself in what I typing out on my laptop. For me, it’s like meditation. You know how you’re never supposed to let anything divert you when you are meditating. I could never do that. I struggle to do that when I try to meditate in the traditional form of meditation. But when I write, it just happens. All my thoughts focus on just one thing.

And that is what, I guess, writing is to me!

Modern, is it?

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Aren’t you glad you live in the enlightened 21st century? You have telephones, internet, Facebook, Twitter, and best of all, enlightened knowledge! We know now that the world is composed of matter. That everything, but everything is made of atoms. We have progressive modern medicine, although we don’t yet have a cure for common cold, but hey, we do have antibiotics! We know that the earth is round and that it is the earth that revolves around the sun, not the other way round. We know why things fall to the earth and why people in Australia don’t fall off the face of earth entirely ( Thank you, Sir Isaac Newton). Seriously, what all don’t we know? We even know how to create weapons that will wipe out an entire portion of the human population. Hell, we did that already in the Second World War!

Don’t you look back to the far past and pity them for not knowing all this? Don’t you look back to the Greeks and laugh at them for thinking that the earth is flat? Don’t you look back to Chanakya and wonder how he managed to walk 2000 km, even though it took him six months to do so? Don’t you look back to the middle ages and shake your heads at their primitive medicine unable to handle plague?

I think we all do, at some point or the other. Seriously, how many times have you said, “Wow, I’m glad I live in the 21st century”.

But, is all that knowledge that we have really all that modern? Let’s analyze it. Let’s start with gravity.

We’ve all learnt in school that it was Sir Isaac Newton who discovered Gravity. So, he was just sitting about one day and Bam! An apple falls on his head and as he’s munching on it(I’m presuming he was, i know I would if an apple fell on my head), eureka! Inspiration! And Gravity is born.

Umm…not quite so! Textbooks need to revise their knowledge. Newton didn’t discover gravity, he only rediscovered it.

In the 3rd Century BC, Archimedes first said that there is a certain force that holds things together not only on earth, but throughout the universe. We are all subject to that force, and that force is nothing but Gravity. Archimedes showed that the torque exerted on a lever by weights resting at various points along the lever is the same as what it would be if all of the weights were moved to a single point — their center of mass.

Nearly a thousand years later, in 597 AD, Brahmagupta was born in what is today the state of Rajasthan, India. Well into his adulthood in the 7th century AD, he had a bit to say about the same subject too, “All things fall to the Earth by law of nature; for it is the nature of the Earth to attract and keep things”. Whether or not Brahmagupta was aware of Archimides’s theory is something that I have no idea about. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. I don’t know.

Then came along Newton in the 17th century, basically saying the exact same thing that these two guys had been saying all along! Yet he is credited for ‘discovering’ Gravity. No doubt he discovered it, on a personal level. And his further research on the subject is invaluable for modern physicists. But on a larger scale, he didn’t discover it. He rediscovered it and refined it further.

When it comes to Vedic knowledge or the epics, people are always eager to go overboard. Brahmasthra is translated into a nuclear weapon, Ravana’s Pushpaka Vimana is translated by the tamest as forerunner to the modern airplane and by the wildest as a UFO(a UFO, really?). We forget that these, especially the Ramayana and Mahabharata are works of literature rather than a physics or history textbook. I mean, you don’t watch Star Wars and come out believing in an intergalactic battle, do you? You don’t read Life of Pi and believe that Pi found a carnivorous island near Madagascar that had never been seen before and was never seen since. You don’t start believing in Richard Parker as a God in an avatar who came down just to save Pi, do you?

It’s exactly the same thing here. But yet there is no denying that the vedas (rather than the epics) contain a lot of knowledge which I’m not sure we have exploited to the fullest, and nor have we given credit.

When Robert Oppenheimer developed the atomic bomb and it was successfully tested in New Mexico, he was asked, “Was the bomb exploded at Alamogordo during the Manhattan project the first one to be detonated?”, he replied, “Well – yes, in modern times of course”.

Conspiracy theorists take this along with his interest in Vedic literature and his first words as the first bomb was detonated, “If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one. Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds” which is a phrase from the Bhagvad Gita, and jump to the conclusion that the Brahmasthra was an atomic bomb.

Was it really? Somehow, I highly doubt it.

But there is absolutely no doubt that our ancestors knew much more that we give them credit for. The atom, for instance, we credit to the Greeks. But what about the “Anu”? Anu is nothing but the Sanskrit name for an atom. So who discovered it? The Ancient Greeks or the Ancient Indians? Well, its not exactly a race, so I’m going to say both, since both these discoveries happened around approximately the same time period. A few thousands of years later came leptons and quarks and what nots. But all that wouldn’t have been possible without the first basic discovery of the atom, or the anu.

Oppenheimer knew that. That is why he buried himself in Greek and Indian literature. And that probably expains his quotation from the Bhagvad Gita, rather than the Brahmasthra being an atomic weapon.

So how modern is our knowledge, really? Whatever we call modern is drawn upon knowledge that is ancient. Without ancient knowledge, modern knowledge would be impossible. It is a collective work. It isn’t one person’s work or even one lifetime’s. It is a collective and continuous work that has been going on for thousands of years and will be continued on for thousands of years. So do we really have the right to call it “modern” knowledge, to call it “modern” technology? Are we robbing our ancestors of their contribution by calling it modern? Because “modern” implies that it is all ours, not theirs.

It is just a matter of careful wording, rather like chairperson vs chairman or police officer vs policeman. But maybe it is high time we thought carefully about the words we use. Maybe it is high time we gave our ancestors credit for their invaluable research without which our present research would have been non-existent.

Paranoia

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Paranoia, according to wikipedia, is a thought process believed to be heavily influenced by anxiety or fear, often to the point of irrationality and delusion. Paranoid thinking typically includes persecutory beliefs, or beliefs of conspiracy concerning a perceived threat towards oneself. (e.g. “Everyone is out to get me.“) Making false accusations and the general distrust of others also frequently accompany paranoia. For example, an incident most people would view as an accident or coincidence, a paranoid person might believe was intentional.”

For my third week project at NYFA, I was required to make a music film, which is basically a silent film with musical scoring. I chose to do it on Paranoia. This film is silent,  with musical scoring and shot on 16mm reversal black and white film. The song is ‘Dua’ from No One Killed Jessica.

Please do watch it and let me know your feedback.

Staging a Show

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As you all know, I’m in film school now. And here, we are required to direct and shoot eight films in a year. I just got done with two. I’m shooting the next one tomorrow. And I thought I would put up both the script and the video over here for all you to read and watch. Feedback would be really helpful.

The first project is a mise-en-scene. It is silent, black and white and shot on 16 mm film. As the requirement went, it is only about thirty seconds long and comprises of only one shot.

SCRIPT:

(I had to make few changes and rewrite parts of it in the last minute because of technical difficulties, so the film isn’t exactly the same as the script)

INT. AN EMPTY APARTMENT. MORNING

A double edged razor blade is lying in a corner near the wall. The wall is completely bare. We can’t see much of the apartment, but it is obvious that it is quite bare. A perfectly manicured hand reaches for the blade and delicately picks it up. The hand belongs to a beautiful girl (18-22 years old) with dark, thick wavy hair. She is wearing a sequinned dress that screams bling and heels to match. Her makeup is smudged. She has obviously been crying. She picks up the blade and stares at it for a second, curiously. She raises the hand holding the blade and leans her head in towards her wrist in quite frustration, the blade pointing away. Immediately, almost as though interrupted, she puts her hand down and looks away, taking a deep shuddering breath. She gently presses the blade against the skin of her wrist. Her eyes close simultaneously. She presses the blade against her wrist harder and at the same time, squeezes her eyes shut tighter. Suddenly, after a few seconds, she unexpectedly throws the blade down, towards the wall, gets up and walks away decisively. As she walks away, we see that it is actually a shoot going on. After a few steps, the girl relaxes visibly and approaches a make up artist standing nearby for a touch up. To her right, there is a boy fiddling with the lights while another on the left is checking something on a clipboard.

New York

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I’ve been away a long time, I know! As I mentioned in one of my last posts, I’ve just recently moved to New York and started Film School. And god! Is the schedule hectic or what?! In the last one week, there has been not a single day that I’ve been home earlier than midnight (um..I’ve also kinda started seeing this guy, so that might have a bit to do with that too ;)) but anyway…yesterday I was shooting till 2 am, I got a small break this morning and now I’m off to another shoot and yes, I’m shooting the whole day tomorrow as well, and yes, I’m well aware that tomorrow is a Sunday! So that’s how it’s going lately. A few weeks ago, an overambitious me decided that I would be part of the Post A Day Challenge. Well…I don’t know what to say about that. I want to give that a try…So I’m going to try and put in a post a day right before I head to school, but if that doesn’t happen…well then it’s post a week for me then. And that I’m going to stick to. I do get one day off per week..they’re not such slave drivers :P.

Right now I’m headed to a shoot so ciao! But I’ll come back and put in a proper post today. I promise! I swear!!

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While on my flight to here

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New York as I see it from my apartment building.

There are a few more pictures coming up as soon as I transfer them onto my laptop.

So near, yet so far (Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge)

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This is a photograph of me from when I was just a little more than a year old. It is me, the childhood me, but only technically. In reality, that little girl I see in that photograph is different from who I am today. I have changed, I have matured..I have grown up since then. Obviously, I have, we all have  to. We can’t stay one and a half years old forever. But if I am so different from that kid in the photograph, how can I say its me? But it is me…I can’t even say it isn’t me. Because it is…but at the same time it isn’t.

So near…yet so, so far away.

 

The loooong reign of Leila Lopes, MU2011


Originally posted on normannorman.com:

Leila Luliana Da Costa Vieira Lopes – or Leila Lopes for short – is going down Miss Universe history as the titleholder with the longest reign ever. Fifteen months to be exact, or one year and three months if you will. Not that she is overstaying her welcome at Trump Towers in Manhattan, but because of the dragging delay of MUO (Miss Universe Organization) in finalizing a venue for Miss Universe 2012. But now that Dominican Republic has been zeroed in as host country, the only undetermined specific is whether Santo Domingo or Punta Cana will be at the helm of organizing the whole pageant.

In the meantime, Leila is already itching to return to her normal life in Angola and the UK. You see, unlike some of her immediate predecessors who lavished in the glitz and glamour of the high life in Manhattan, this lady managed to avoid most…

View original 88 more words

This time tomorrow…I’ll be missing Bombay

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This time tomorrow…I’ll be in New York, NYC, The Big Apple…whatever you want to call it. Point is, I’ll be there, leaving behind Bombay for two whole years. Well, I will be back in the middle quite a few times, whenever I have time, but it won’t be my home. Not for the next two years anyway. I’m going to miss Bombay.

Yes, I call it Bombay, not Mumbai. Somehow I just can’t bring myself to call it Mumbai. Since my childhood, I’ve always called it Bombay. I don’t care what the Shiv Sena say or the MNS. For me, it will always be Bombay.

I’m relatively new to Bombay, I just moved there four years ago, as a struggling actor. When I first set foot into it, I didn’t like it. It was crowded, dirty, unorganized, dusty and terribly humid, thanks to its proximity to the sea. I hated it. But I felt that I would have to learn to tolerate it. This is where the whole film fraternity of India exists. This is the heart of Bollywood. I would have to learn to tolerate it. And I did. I just didn’t imagine I would fall in love with the city as well!

Bombay was the place I really grew up. I was eighteen by the time I moved there, an adult for all legal purposes. But not actually. Inside, I was still a teenage high schooler. It was Bombay that helped me make that transition between teenager and adult.

Bombay was where I fell in love, for the first time ever. I’d had boyfriends earlier, through high school, but I’d never been in love. Bombay was where the big L word happened to me. I knew now for the first time ever how it felt to be part of someone else’s life and to have that someone else be such an integral part of my life. I knew now for the first time ever what those romance novels meant when they said, “He made me go weak in my knees”

Bombay was where I had my first heartbreak. It was as soon as I told my ex that I loved him. He didn’t love me back.

Bombay was where I discovered that life is not a fairy tale. At least not in the way we are taught to dream about. Life doesn’t hand you things on a golden platter. It makes you earn them.

Bombay was where I learnt to dream. I’d had dreams earlier. But I didn’t know how to work towards them. I didn’t know how to make those dreams work for me. Now I do.

Bombay was where I learnt how to control my tears. It was during a fashion show. I’d forgotten my nude strapless bra in my hotel room. Everyone was terribly stressed, we were running behind schedule. When I told the designer (who, ironically enough, is a good friend today) that I needed to go up to my room to get that essential thing, I got screamed at…in front of everyone. It was nothing, just stress…today I would understand that. But to a newcomer, its humiliating.

Bombay was where I discovered how kind people can be. Even as the designer was screaming at me, the make up artist quietly came up, put a hand on my shoulder supportively and said to the designer, “She’ll just take five minutes, won’t you, darling?” he added turning to me. I just managed to nod dumbly at the two of them

Bombay was where I had my first big failure. I was thrown out of a movie, the movie I had counted on to be my first big break.

Bombay was where I had my first big success. I landed a job as an Assistant Editor at ACK Media, the publishing house that publishes Tinkle. Those of you who live in India, you’ll know how big this was.

For all this…I thank Bombay.

But what I thank Bombay for the most is for introducing me to filmmaking. Filmmaking has opened up a whole new avenue in my life. It has given me a new purpose to life. Today, it is even taking me to New York, to New York Film Academy. Next year, it will take me to Los Angeles, for the second year of my masters degree. The next year, it will bring me back home, to Bombay, hopefully then as an independent filmmaker. Without it, I’d still be waking up in the morning and wondering, “Right…so what do I do today?”

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