Monday, May 31, 2010

A City lost-and-found & the Stories from my Childhood

I love the idea of shooting randomly... just to keep capturing, without end points - the 'everyday', the 'not often' and the 'first time ever' all alike! And the city of Bombay provides a fertile ground for the 'constant capturer' in me - without (mostly) being stared at, or asked to stop! One could nearly merge with them while recording them/it all.

And one fine day, I put it all together on the edit table, the many beginnings... middles... ends... in different orders - till several stories are wrung out!

I am an unabashed fan of Bombay, (like countless others), and have had the privilege to spend my childhood years in the city .
From Nov 1982 to July 1993. 11 years. What an amazing time to experience this city.
That was an era - before the monsters of globalization, corporatization and economic liberation took over the great financial capital of the country. When people still went to Maratha Mandir, Novelty, Minerva to watch 'tax-free' movies, When the city and its beaches were still the source of evening entertainment and when traveling in the local trains would be a pleasure.
I was a 'very suburban' 'middle-class' 'Bombay kid'. (All three need to be in the inverted commas - cause the categories are strict :); and I was all three) We lived in the Bank Office quarters, in Malad. It was a childhood well spent.

July 2008, since the time I returned to Bombay, I had never even chanced a visit the place where I grew up. Or even to an area close to it!

The visit kept pending.

(Thats another aspect of the city. If you 'seek' work, it will give you so much, till the day, you put your foot down and cry out (to yourself) - "bas yaar, ab kuch apna bhi kar lete hain..").

So somewhere in March this year, Psycho, Yazad and I decided to visit 'this' place 'where I grew up' on a weekend - and with my camera.
Thats how the film 'happened', err... the beginning of the film, a trailer, some middle...

To make it a complete film, to find an end(s) we will go back again. For now, here's the trailer:

A City lost-and-found & the Stories from My Childhood
A Short Documentary by Hardik Mehta

the trailer for A City lost-and-found & the Stories from my Childhood from hardik mehta on Vimeo.

© Copyrights 2009 All Rights Reserved. Hardik Mehta

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Harmonium – my love, my soul! (Audio Post)

First things first: Slow internet connection waalo, put the audio below to buffer, so by the time you have read, you can listen to the audio track.

Now the post:
In one of my 2009’s last blog posts, had casually announced a resolution that next year I will make sure that I experience the magic of making the music in a recording studio with great acoustics. What seemed like a raw resolution has actually come true. Since last few days, sitting with the best in music business (and art) has been an eye-opener on how music is produced and most importantly the programming and mixing – in other terms – how everything is brought together.

Now it’s very common knowledge that a harmonium is the base of every song that is composed in movies. At least in this part of the world. But what struck me the most was the sound of harmonium and how I personally have always felt so much in love with it. Its twin brother ‘Accordion’ is another genius in its own league.

The French must not have anticipated the kind of mesmerizing response this wonderful but simple instrument called ‘harmonium’ would receive in India. Yes, it was invented in Paris, but like Cricket, it is India that reinvented its potential. So much so that if a harmonium is played as a part of a song, we automatically tend to think that this sounds so ‘Indian’. Infact we gave it our own pet names. “Baja” and “Peti”. I remember my music teacher holding the two black keys of Peti – Sa & Pa and constantly playing the bellows with her four fingers. What came next was – pure magic. The sound of harmonium and its resonance in that room. Any song could be set to the tune of ‘Sa’ and ‘Pa’, if played together and sung to one’s heart content. I did that so many times during my class 12, it was a huge relief to get out of those books, shut the doors & windows to avoid the ire from my neighbours(coz the aunty who lives opposite to us is a well-trained classical singer!)

Last night I was just doing a random re-collection of my recent favourite songs and surprisingly almost many of them had a harmonium included in its orchestration. If you take out good six minutes, I promise you some wonderful music pieces in this audio post that will make your day.

Now a lot of music directors tend to use the harmonium as a part of the background arrangement of the song. So of course I haven’t included them, but would love to make some noteworthy mentions. Also, the obvious qawalis, where harmonium is omnipresent in popular hindi songs. Almost any and every qawwali or maula/khwaja/allah type of a song, our instrument is there in background. But why in background ‘else’ the song will loose popularity. Anyways a quick recall and some of the qawwalis/songs where our harmonium is in background are:
1. Arziyan (Delhi 6)
2. Piya Haji Ali
3. Ru-Ba-Ru (Maqbool)
4. Raat ke Dhaai Baje (Kaminey: note when Suresh Wadkar sings)
5. Chupke se (Saathiya: the start chorus)
6. Ishq bina (Taal)
7. Haa Rahem (Aamir)
8. Duniya (Gulaal, why the hell in background always, it needed to be upfront here)
9. Tashan Mein (the title of Tashan. What energy while they both sing)
10. Chham Chham (Striker)
11. Luka Chupi (RDB. Its very low in volume, but its there. One can here at Re ga re ga sa.. starts.
12. The baap of all devotional songs: Khwaja mere Khwaja.

So here they are, some of the most beautiful renditions in recent times with our dear harmonium upfront. Don’t mind my brief commentary between the pieces.

Warning: it’s a 7 min audio, but entertainment assured. Make some coffee and sit back. What! You haven’t put on your ear phones yet?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A highly recommended work!

In past many months I haven't written a post about a movie or have hardly recommended a movie. So, here it is. Sin Nombre. without a doubt, download from torrent, get it from iTunes library or rent the DVD. Coz since last many months I haven't come across a movie that makes me feel run to the protagonist, in this case, an angelic teenage girl called Paulina Gaitan. Oh! my heart felt so warm after watching the climax. Felt like just rushing to Paulina and give her a hug for what happened all throughout the film, Sin Nombre. Had come across this film some 6 months back, via a friend when we were on an movie-exchange spree. Watched it again a few days back and then got this poster as the wallpaper on my desktop, so that I could look into Paulina's eyes! One of the producers of this film happens to be Gael Garcia Bernel, the guy who played Che in The Motorcycle Diaries. Any Indian actors wanting to produce, this is the stuff you need to encourage! Of course there is apna Abhay Deol trying his best.

Sin Nombre has so many "oh sh**" moments, something that almost every screenplay needs to have it in a very seamless yet credulous fashion. Its only when the protagonist is under such dire circumstances that one feels for them to escape, one feels the need to rush to them to help, one wants to empathize - Sin Nombre had some amazing sequences shot on the train rooftops and some of them shot at night, quite a wonderful feat to achieve. The music, the story and the characters if described in one word than it would be: haunting. They will haunt you forever! what happened to Paulina later?

"There is bitter and breathtaking truth in the story and in the story- telling, which won Fukunaga the directing and cinematography award in the dramatic competition at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year in 2009. He rode the trains for days himself before making the movie, and in "Sin Nombre," he pulls you up there alongside him. " quoted from the LA times.

Highly recommended.
And oh did I forget to mention, the music composer happens to be Clint Mansell!

© Copyrights 2009 All Rights Reserved. Hardik Mehta

Monday, May 10, 2010

"Maara dil ma dhadke Gujarat!"

As a writer, one spends a lifetime journeying into the heart of language, trying to minimize if not eliminate the distance between language and thought. 'Language is the skin on my thought'.
From the essay Power Politics – Arundhati Roy
Ok, so this post has to get me the maximum ire from readers. I am ready.  One of my senior colleagues once labeled me as a left wing ‘terrorist’ because I opposed Modi's politics on a public forum. The senior conveniently lives in a country that has most recently witnessed maximum racial attacks, and neither have I seen him coming out in support of his fellow countrymen nor have I heard his opinion on the barbaric attacks. It’s amazing what kind of double lives we live in this modern (complicated) world. Consistency in shallowness. A Shiv Sena opposes Sachin Tendulkar's statement, so he goes to the MNS' Maharashtra Day function and accepts a golden sword. Take that, from your popular icon! Why are popular figures asked to take a stance. And even if asked, why do they have to take one?. Amitabh Bachchan going to Modi and suddenly giving a new "kahaani mei twist" to the whole political scenario. No one denies in participating for the celebrations for a Gujarat Day or Maharashtra Day. But why associate with MNS or BJP?

On the occassion of celebrating 50 years of the state of Gujarat, A R Rahman has composed a song (like an anthem for the state) "Jai Jai garvi gujarat..." Hear the song here.

The song is so brilliant that for a moment my hard lined-hurting Gujarati heart warmed up to the thought of belonging to this wonderful state Gujarat. Music lingers on long enough to heal from within.
The A R Rahman anthem begins with
 "Dhanya hu thai gayo, ahi janm chhe maaro thayo..."

What an amazing way to put forward a simple thought. After all, this is where I was born. This is where I did my part-schooling and my graduation. This is where I found my calling and this is where I belong ultimately. I am sure any NRI Gujarati hearing this song, will feel as emotional as the soccer players feel while the national anthem plays on the ground on the eve of Finals before the huge crowd. The language of the song: both music and the lyrics are so very Gujarati. It reminds me of how I so love talking in my mother tongue, Gujarati. I always talk in Gujarati whenever I come across a fellow Gujarati. The emotions, the tone, the expression, the words get a new high when I speak in my language. I feel my laughter is more free-flowing, when I laugh in Gujarati. Yeah. even laughter has a language. I even love the abuses that are original gujarati style, invented right there.

My favourite line from the song:
"mane phoolon jetlo parseva thhi pyaar..."
(i love the smell of the sweat like the fragrance of a flower)

Brilliant! never has the enterpreuer inside a Gujarati symbolized in such a perfect manner. Blame it on my lack of reading good Gujarati literature. But this simple line is beautiful. Thats what so many friends of mine whose parents migrated from their states to Gujarat tell me: "you know hardik, If we as a community are told to stand on the street and sell potatoes or sell toys, we wont do it, we would rather take a job of a security guard outside the posh building or a peon in a swanky office, coz thats what we seek in life: stability. whereas a Gujarati wont mind stepping on the street and getting burnt in the scorched heat and manage to make an earning out of it. Forget making money, he/she will double it in a few days. A Gujarati is not in this world to survive but thrive, is how he/she will explain you their philosophy. Thats what makes us different. "dhandha maate koi sharam nai rakhwaani". That is one thing I borrow abundantly from my community.

But deep down, as a poetic Gujarati would put: "yaadon ne jo vaagoliye..the murky history comes floating up. And then being into the 'sane' side of things, the thought of Gujarat and Modi brings with it the ghosts of its gruesome communal background and a reminder that the man in power is probably not meant to be there. Yes. I can hear your counter reactions. Oh have you already closed the page or have started hurling abuses. "these bloggers do not know anything, just because Internet has given them space, they think they can write anything. Narendra bhai has worked very hard to bring glory to the state of Gujarat".

Well, when viewed through the myopic glasses of the urban middle class, Gujarat surely is a state that has done wonders for itself. And what better example can history give: Tata Nano the middle class dream went to Gujarat! An NRI sitting seven seas away and romanticizing about his childhood Gujarat and how it has now changed is bound to give credit to Modi and will be up in arms any moment if someone dares oppose him. Now its very interesting to see the dimension that an NRI Gujarati speaks of. Just because they are away and miss their native land, doesn't mean that the land misses them as much. While drinking beer on the other side of the world they surf government websites, read email forwards about the statistics and the % growth and hear 'only' good things about the state and when they do visit once in two years, they drive along the Expressway and think wow, all is well in my motherland.

The year 2002 - the very year that took away my state from me. A year if only I could erase from the annals of history. But no it cant be undone so easily. I was 19 then, in my most prime youth. Modi returned back with a thumping victory, even after all that he did. But the world moved on...Neither of us had lost any near or dear ones so who cares, those were 'the lives of others'. ***Estimates say: 2000 citizens systematically killed and 1,50,000 driven out of their homes (should i be afraid to say that most of them happened to be Muslims) 288 people were booked by the police under POTA (now the irony that one feels like laughing - 287 muslims and 1 sikh! ) 240 dargahs and 180 masjids were brought down. Women were gang-raped and parents were massacred in front of their kids. With all due respects to the 57 people that got charred in the Sabarmati Train, but the incident still remains a mystery. Only if I could edit this paragraph out of my write up?

Maybe I would have never felt as worthless if the genocide would have happened in an another era, like my counterparts in Delhi, I haven't heard them ever or seen them as ashamed for the anti-sikh carnage (maybe), coz she/he was hardly born or was a toddler and has only grown up on the stories of 1984, but this 2002 was before our eyes., during our prime youth, during the time minds change and beliefs are formed and maybe thats why it has affected my imagination and how. It has painted a picture of a country that is very very volatile! A country so fragile that you would fret your kids to grow up. Where should I go from here. Maybe earn enough, get out of this rat-race and see my kids growing up in a very small town that is hardly visible on the map. But then the claws of a dreaded animal called globalization will surely catch us. And Internet is its biggest example.

Epilogue: In the 'intellectual' Delhi circuit of post 2002, I was so afraid to speak out that I am from Gujarat. All due to you Mr. Modi and your recent history. The thought that everyone will give me a second look, I was so afraid. Not for that, but for the simple reason that I cannot see my motherland in my dreams as pure as it would have been - FOR THAT I will always blame you. Its only for that one reason I would never ever be able to forgive you.

"manne garv chhe ke hun gujarati chhu, pan haqeekat ni upar paato maari ne besi nai shakun jindagi bhar." (Don't feel like translating!)

Please don't mind the random structure and language of this post. Couldn't proofread given the topic!

*** if anyone has a doubt over the reference and the numbers written here, they are free to contact. will produce the required documents.

P.S: have written this hearing this. One of the most haunting themes I have come across. Can do wonders to writing at night. Needless to say comes from Coen Brothers.

© Copyrights 2009 All Rights Reserved. Hardik Mehta

Monday, May 3, 2010

Chal Meri Luna

A short story for the short film:

Shot in 2005. Edited in 2010, Chal Meri Luna is a short film with such a long journey! It was intended to be made as the first silent film by two friends who had discovered the joys of cinema from the moronic machines of a factory. If exaggeration was an art, I would love to term this effort almost like Lumière Brothers!

The film was shot over a length of 7 to 8 sundays with borrowed equipment and vehicles. Soon we realized, films cannot be made over sundays!. We took to films but forgot about this footage. On a fine evening in March 2010, the footage was rediscovered. This is the edited version.

chal meri luna from hardik mehta on Vimeo.

Poster design: Gita Shrivastava. Wordsworth

© Copyrights 2009 All Rights Reserved. Hardik Mehta