Saturday, September 07, 2013

Shudh Desi Filmmaking - 3.5 stars

Last night I went to watch ‘Shudh Desi Romance’ for only one reason: writer Jaideep Sahni.

And I wasn’t disappointed. This is not your average Bollywood film.

‘Shudh Desi Romance’ (SDR) is fresh and different and not just at a superficial level. It’s a portrayal of a new India where young people change boyfriends and girlfriends the way they change their mobile phones.

Look around and you can see this India all around you. Yet, our movies and serials continue to portray the India we want to perpetuate. The India of chachis, fufis, shaadis and baaraatis. As if you can be carefree and crazy for just the pre-marital phase of life and then happily ‘settle down’.

Yeh poore India ko bas ‘settlement’ ki padi hai”, grumble Sushant Singh Rajput in the opening sequence of the film. You betcha.

Marriage is an industry, it’s a business opportunity, it’s the only legitimate entertainment India has. Khao, peeo, naacho, paise udaao – something to plan for, something to live for. And yeah, one hapless boy and girl get Fevicol-ed in public. Courts will ensure haishaa kar ke bhi todna mushkil hai.

Leave aside the few who marry out of deep desire to spend their lives with another human being and raise a family. The majority are entering marriage without thought, without clarity. Ladki achchi dikhti hai, chalo kar lo. Ladke ki family achchi hai, okay! Baad mein kya hoga? Adjust ho jayenge.

After all, har ek adjust ho jaata hai. How difficult can it be?

Believe me, it’s getting more and more difficult. I know of two cases in my extended family where the marriage has crumbled after less than two years. An arranged marriage, with all taam-jhaam, no expense spared. The reason, I believe, is simple. Girls are getting educated, they are working, they aren’t willing to take shit from their in-laws and husbands. And of course, threshold of tolerance on both sides is extremely low.

Coming back to SDR. Imagine a film where the characters keep attending weddings but no one actually gets married. There is a love triangle but no hero fighting to win the girl’s hand (instead there are two girls and one hero, and they don’t fight either). Women actually make choices.

Gayatri (Parineeti Chopra) lives alone, far from her family. She is a working girl who experiments with love and life.

Tara (Vaani Kapoor) is an orphan but not a bechari. She is also cool as a cucumber in any situation (which is unreal at times but okay – maybe effect of Art of Living or something!)

Raghuram (Sushant Singh Rajput) is a good-for-nothing. Yet he has not one but two hot girls chasing him. I think this is the point that most people in the audience could not digest.

But hello, there are guys like this – girls fall for them all the time, especially in school. Later in life, I suppose such boys are rejected as they are not ‘marriage material’. But once girls are independent, earning, capable of supporting themselves – do they need to marry only for practical reasons?

You can get attracted to a good for nothing, have a fling and move on. Or, even marry him – if you really want to. Because after all, it’s your life.

You will not 'settle' and lead the life Ekta Kapoor has planned for you.

Things that worked in this film: the acting of both girls & Rishi Kapoor, the dialogues (listen carefully), the setting (Jaipur city works very well for the story!). Lot of attention to detail. Toilet joke without toilet humour.

What could have been better: The songs (just okay). A bit too idealistic (all 3 characters have no pressure from parents or relatives – makes it much too simple). Chemistry between the characters (could have been better).

The first half is fast-paced and interesting, the second half drags. But I absolutely agree with the ending. Overall, I give the film 3.5 stars.

I think this movie is too radical for some to accept. But I hope enough people see it so that more such films get made. Or, we will get ‘Kochi Express’, ‘London Express’ – old stories in shiny new wrappers. Is that what we want or is that what we deserve?

I know we aren’t easy to please but Shudh Desi Filmmakers, please lagey raho.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Celebrating the Teacher-Entrepreneur

In response to my post The Teacher's New Clothes several readers wrote in to share how extraordinary teachers impacted their lives. Today being Teacher's Day it's appropriate for me to share their recollections of those who worked within the many limitations of our education system, yet somehow rose about it.

I have retained the original testimony, although in some cases lengthy. Because it gives a glimpse into the qualities that a good teacher can imbibe, in order to become 'great'.

1. Akash Arora writes about Dr. Rajesh Kumar (Principal of - District Institute of Education & Training - Pitampura DIET during session 2009-11)

Khasiyat- His personality and way of speaking is so unique and effective – his words really affected my mind. One thing which I really liked about him is that he always connects education with spirituality.

I remember a few lines he said to us: “Whatever knowledge you will inculcate in your students - God will give you reward for that. Spiritually this thing is called Karma which comes back to us. On the other hand, if we don't teach them effectively and they (students) adopt any bad habits or attitude then surely you will earn negative karma for that.”

Dr Kumar is now teaching at DIET Daryaganj, Delhi and can be contacted at

2. Devang Nanavati writes about Dr. Jagdish V Dave, , Former Head and Professor, Dept. of English, Bhavnagar University & North Gujarat University, Gujarat (1994-1996

Khasiyat: In-depth knowledge of the subject, always prepared to solve queries with detailed explanation. Always positive about receiving questions. Total involvement while teaching and full of enthusiasm.

Always insistent about original text-based learning,class notes and healthy discussion on various topics chosen from the syllabus.

Enjoyed total freedom from the time frames of the formal time-table system. Sometimes talked for 2 hrs, sometimes 3 hrs- depending upon his mood and that days' tuning with the class. Offering inspirational content knowingly/unknowingly by sharing personal experiences some times.

Honesty about his own short comings.

Also interacted with students outside the classroom - may drop in at my home and accept my invitation for dinner very easily. He would communicate with my family members with a deep concern for my future. encourage me in presence of my parents. I used to drop in at his place practically at any time and he would receive us with fatherly love and offer us self made tea.

Never talked with anyone around him in a superior tone. never insulted a student for any damn reason.

Fought for justice against any top authorities of the university /other bureaucratic set ups.

Note: Since 2000, our education system has adopted many changes- so far as teaching methods, content, class room situations, responsibilities/ expectations/ stress level of the teachers and students/exam and evaluation systems/ criteria of the assessment of teachers- are concerned. In this context, producing such a teacher is also a challenge for the new system. Yet, how to come out of any situation and become an ideal teacher remains a personal challenge for any individual.

3) Dilip Barad also writes about Prof. Jagdishchandra V. Dave.

“I recall Dr Dave’s spirited talks, full of enthusiasm which did not allow us to budge (physically as well as mentally) from our seats for hours and hours. His wide reading, understanding, knowledge . His gentleness as human beings made us humble & caring for fellow classmates and students .

Dr Dave is now retired and not on facebook etc. But his students are still in touch via phone.

4) Abhas Disawal writes about Dr. Kalyana Sundaram (Head, Department of Self Development and Department of Ideas ,Vishwakarma Institute of technology, Pune )

I have been fortunate enough to experience a handful of teachers in new clothes throughout my academics. Today at the brink of graduation , when I recollect the people who have actually helped to bring out an engineer in me , Dr. K Sundaram is the first one. I worked under him for 1 academic year ( Aug '11 to May '12).

He founded ‘Department of Ideas’. To reveal him, one needs to enter the premises of Department of Ideas. He undertakes at least a dozen new projects every year ,have a look at some:
-Apple shelf life detector.
-Micro leakage measurement for tooth.(Made by my group)
-Automated bhajji (Potato wada) making machine.
-Foldable Helmet
- Telescopic tower
-Coconut water content detector
-Watermelon sweetness detector
- Artificially ripened mango detector....and the list continues.

The best part is to work under him. He has enormous power to convince and motivate. He doesn't give solutions, rather he motivates the students to find their own. Though the projects he takes up sound weird, at the same time students realize the significance of innovation.
His project ideas can be compared to a new business venture. You don't know whether it'll work, how to reach there, capital needed, what you just know is the concept. He leaves you with this small idea just to make you realize that you yourself are at stake. This helps one use his mind and ideas start coming up. He is there to be consulted always-everywhere, on cell, sms, email, in his cabin (even till 10 pm), in class or in the college lawns as you see. :)

Dr. Sundaram is still in service at VIT, Pune. Students can contact him at
(The attachment is a pic when he taught us on college lawns when no classroom was available.)

5. Paras Shah talks about Dr Rohit Trivedi who taught Marketing management, Research, Entrepreneurship during my MBA at V.M.Patel Institute of Management., Ganpat University, Kherva, Gujarat India (2007-2009)

In his very very first lecture he addressed the class with the message: “There are two ways to study. We discuss theories which are already available in books, and explain to you basic things, you write them in exam and get good marks. There is another way, where I will share with you various case studies. You read them, analyse them, find out solutions on your own and let us all discuss the case and various solutions given to all students. I am more interested in dealing with future managers than marks -eeking students. It’s upto you. Tell me.... “

And everyone said, “We will go for the 2nd option”.

He was very active man and liked active students. His cabins and gtalk id were available to everyone, people can go and meet him and discuss anything be it academic or literature or any general news. He was harsh towards passive students and felt proud about student who were not just marks-oriented. It is he who motivated me to take initiative to organise inter bschool culfest in our college. He supported me and the whole team at every level and today the PROTSAHAN culfest has become a very successful property of my college. I was about to leave MBA in between but this Protsahan thing and people like Rohit sir were the reason I continued.

Dr Trivedi is current with MICA :

6. Mansij Majumder writes about E M Rao, XLRI, Jamshedpur, Prof. of Labor Laws (2006-08)

Depth of knowledge, connect with students, tailoring his course to suite the needs of first term learner
Width of knowledge - in depth knowledge on academic affairs as well as on Carnatic music, movies, you name it
Was one of the most influential professors, who got an entire generation hooked on to try and becoming IR managers

No longer with XLRI, with XIMB:

7. Anudeep Rao writes about Sukesh sir at ICFAI Bangalore (2009-11)

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.Sukesh Sir is one of those great teachers. He taught us B2B Marketing at ICFAI Business School Bangalore for 2009-11 Batch.

Though I was inclined to take up a career in the field of Finance, I opted for a equal number of Marketing and Finance. His classes were very interesting. He was the only Professor who was not a slave to Powerpoint. In fact he never used slides at all. He would write down important points, rest was extempore. He taught 3 sections, close to 140 people with enthusiasm. Though he was a very senior faculty, he always gave us an opportunity to speak and guided us the right path. To be very frank this is the only subject is scored A :D

I entered Masters without any experience, he laid a great foundation for my thought process. He has a very large fan base. I am very proud that I was one of his students. He is still teaching at ICFAI Business School Bangalore.

Sukesh Sir's facebook page link:

8. Debarshi Saha writes about Suvro Chatterjee, his teacher at St Xavier’s School. Durgapur (2002-2004)

Teachers are the 'potters' who can mould a mis-shapen lump of clay into a beautiful work of art. I trust that this venture will do its needful in this regard. I write in to you with the details of such a person today.

My Sir's name is Mr Suvro Chatterjee. He used to teach the senior sections at St Xavier's School, Durgapur. Possessed with an extraordinary capacity for teaching and 'feeling' English literature, he was our 'English' teacher- but furthermore, he could deliberate at length on most topics outside the purview of English language. It was with him that we first learnt about tales of History (never found in our often dreary text books!), explored far-away vistas with him in Geography (a la Mr. Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay in 'The Mountain of the Moon' and other breathtaking novels!), and learnt the twists of Economics and how all its conundrums and theories worked out in real-life situations. Honestly, we have always been spellbound at the range and depth of his knowledge, and his insistence upon the necessity of a holistic school education.

I studied with him during the years 2002-2004. I attended his tuition classes at his residence, since he had resigned from his erstwhile workplace (and alma-mater too!), St Xavier's School. My Sir has always stood steadfast by his moral principles, been guided by a moral compass consisting of knowledge culled from wide and varied sources- and has only believed that the one true religion is the best expression of our humanity, of adhering to moral codes of conduct. It was partly due to this, a conflict of principles, that he left the school- and has been trailblazing a way in the wide world, with the Lord as his only master.

With Sir, 'unique' was a word we regularly got to feel. He could make us gallop behind the horses ('The Charge of the Light Brigade'), or make us feel Life flowing on like a great river and so forth. His eyes twinkled when he spoke of poets, of authors and narrated their tales so as to make us comprehend their state of mind when they penned some particular work. That was never all, though- We would be watching fantastic movies, be exposed to great thoughts, sublime literature and soulful music- Sir made us understood the poems as though we might have composed them ourselves! He was the conductor with a baton- and we were but the choir, the actors acting out their roles to perfection, be it Shakespeare's dramas, or the novellas we had to read. There was never a dull, or listless moment in his class- when we read English and History, and Economics with him- we were the theories, we assumed the roles that made our comprehension flawless, and we remember his classes with unbridled pleasure even today.

A man deeply committed to helping others- he has influenced more people than most teachers in our industrial town can claim. A personal counsellor, a journalist once, he is the first one to rush to the help of others when in need. All his students still count upon him as the man who 'can give us advice without sounding preachy!', and a man who has influenced many persons who have not been his students! One of the prime examples is of the doctoral scholar in Sociology, who has even penned a doctoral thesis on him-

This has been published at Purdue University, USA- and is one of the countless examples in which Sir has influenced others too. He reaches out regularly to a great number of readers at his blog-

Sir is not in active service now- he takes tuition classes at his own residence, in addition to personal counselling services. He can be reached at

PS: I am an electrical engineer by profession, and the 'sense of wonder' that he imparted to me remains his greatest gift among all others.

9. Gautam Ghosh writes about Dr Madhukar Shukla, XLRI (during1997-99)

- High empathy, humor and use of different teaching methodologies.
- Always a guide and mentor, he and his wife (Geeta Saxena who passed away in 1998) were the people students went to for guidance on personal as well as professional issues.
- Madhukar is always looking out for the next big idea, and doing my dissertation with him opened my eyes to so many things. Even in my first job when I had option between two roles he asked me to go for the new one, triggering in me a process of always trying the new and unexpected
- Attaching a picture of him with his "student wards" - I wasn't one, but always invited myself into the group :)

Yes he is in service at XLRI still: / (so that more past students can be in touch).

May the tribe of such wonderful and dedicated teachers increase :)

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