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Adi - My Bazooka Brother



Adi halts midway. “Na, brooo. I’m not bullshitting. I’m telling you the truth – I am the best,” he directs his index finger towards his countenance, “just look at my face. Just look at it bro!”
I observe the unfailing glint of humility in his eyes – something that is as landmark to my Adi as breath is to air. And yet to trouble him I look at him disinterestedly and reply, “Haan mere bachche, you are the best...at bullshitting, don’t I know that? Isn’t your ‘face’ the best proof of that?”
Before I even know it, he swerves into his Taekwondo leap and knocks me down. When I am flat on my back on the grass, he comes close to me and raises his eyebrows, twice, quickly, in a typical mischievous Aditya fashion. “Lagi toh nahin na?” His biceps, no less than bazookas, are within my eyesight, all set to fire off at me if I don’t tell him what he wants to hear, so I internally measure my speech and speak up feigning innocence.
“You are the BEST, my Adi,” I say gulping, “and that is the truth, and you know that na mere bachche,” I pause, “and your face, err,” I stutter and stammer as if to show I am still mortally terrified, “is the living proof of that na mere brooo!”
He inches his head slightly away from me, narrows his eyes, scrutinises me for a few seconds, and then gives me his hand. I heave a sigh knowing full well that my acting has paid off better than his - while the hotshot monkey gets paid for his skill because he is a famous actor and all. To keep up the tempo, I stand up with his support, ooh-ing and aah-ing. He breaks into a loud laugh. I squint. He pats me on my shoulders; “You are also the best, bro! Truly. And I’m not bullshitting,” he points his index finger towards his countenance again.
“Also?” I ask, aghast.
“Drama,” he mutters coolly, as I turn and RUN away as fast as I can!!!


The picture above is of his bazookas that he unleashes on me every time I poke fun at him. The picture below, well, that’s the look on Adi’s face as I’m running away after the, “Also?”





Phew! Kids these days I tell you – they are no less than actual Mafia dons! But what to do, I still love my bachcha, because he is indeed the BEST, and it is these intimate brother-brother moments that make life so much more worth living. What say? Wouldn’t you all agree with me?



(c) of images and words belong to Aditya Seal and Farahdeen Khan

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TUM BIN 2 (2016)



TUM BIN 2

THE ART OF HAPPINESS


It is a mistake to believe that the decisive moments of a life when its direction changes forever must be marked by sentimental, loud, and shrill dramatics, manifested by violent inner surges. This is a sentimental fairy tale invented by drunken journalists, flashbulb happy filmmakers and readers of the tabloids. In truth, the dramatic moments of a life-determining experience are often unbelievably low-key. It has so little in common with the bang, the flash, or the volcanic eruption that, at the moment it happens, the experience is often not even noticed. When it unfolds its revolutionary effect, and ensures that a life is revealed in a brand new light, with a brand new melody, it does that silently and in this wonderful silence resides its special nobility.

It was two thousand and thirteen. On a listless day, I watched Remember Me. The movie left me edgy in a manner that I could not explain. It was as if something had been picked up and moved places in my heart. In the days that followed, the feeling of loss, restlessness, and the frailty of life devoured me, and I kept going back to the movie, and discovering something new every time I watched it again. Then my friend Mohit Suri ended up making Aashiqui 2. Mo’s staggering treatment of the film struck me like lightening. It was a life changing experience. Even to this day I have never recovered from the effect Mo’s movie had on me, and in the strangest way possible, I don’t want to recover from it. Obviously by now you would have reckoned that if anything has ever come close to shaking me up after the first two, it has been Tum Bin 2. Motion pictures, like books, and people, and life, have the ability to submerge into the subconscious and leave you altered forever, and yet, it is an irony that everybody takes cinema to be only an activity of casual amusement.

Any dialogue about what the purpose of life is, or about what is the good life, or about what is the ideal life, carries a rather muffled sound in these reckless and cynical times; but, after all, such questions are being dealt with, at least in minor issues, by the individual conscience every day, and if a writer like Anubhav Sinha has the mettle to bring up this primeval problem, and the wit to apply it to modern conditions, I cannot see that he is beating the air. No amount of cynicism seems to save our individual conscience from distressing struggles; and in these struggles, whatever our philosophy may be, the value we place on happiness and the meaning we attach to happiness must play a part.



Let me tell you here that happiness differs from pleasure in this very thing, namely the idea of quality, the idea of something cerebral and emotional, of something intellectual and when ‘divine’ is affixed to it, everything then begins to take on a more sensual atmosphere. A man could be happy while he was in the act of sacrificing his life, whereas, we should scruple about using the word pleasure in this connection.

I must confess that it is tricky to see how what we call happiness, and I think the word has come to mean that particular glow of well-being that arises when something deep in us is being satisfied and fulfilled, can take any place but the highest place in our estimate of life’s highest good. That is the highest good that Tum Bin 2 sets out to achieve, and does an enormously refined job at it. Irrespective of how wondrously well a sequel is crafted, people would still scratch their chin and utter thoughtfully, “Umm, I think I liked the first one better.” It takes some time for people to warm up to something similar but in an entirely new skin. While some would embrace this new rendition of the old, some others would vehemently oppose it, and this is where one is bound to face minor hiccups. Yet, when the vision of the writer and director is clear-cut, then the same thing tends to apply to that mysterious relation, between what is half-created by the mind, and what is half-discovered in nature, which we call beauty. If artists and poets and storytellers and their audiences didn’t find happiness in this particular human activity, it would surely never have become the enormous urge that it had become for Anubhav to make Tum Bin 2 with Neha, Aditya and Aashim.



For the purpose of transparency, I would like to take you, the reader, through the film from the beginning in the same manner in which it unfolds. Please be forewarned that this is not a superfluous evaluation of what you have been accustomed to reading across various mediums of the media until now. Media is a funny tool really. It tells you what to think, and what not to think stemming from people who don’t know what they are saying themselves. Therefore, as long as you read this summation of mine, I would beg you to liberate your mind of any pre-conceived notions of mental slavery and keep your thoughts as open as you can. A feat somewhat obscure in these times I know, but you can do it if you want to journey with me on this. So here is where you may please fold your sleeves, abstain from distractions, and dip right into this, as I would like you to engage with me as much as I have endeavoured to make this as engaging as I possibly can.

The film opens with Amar (Aashim Gulati) and Taran (Neha Sharma) driving through the snow-filled picturesque landscape bantering romantically. Lost in each other, even before they can see their fruit of love ripened to fruition, life plunges them into a quagmire – Amar meets with an accident, and after a search of nine days, without a trace of a body, is presumed dead. The people who loved Amar try to come to terms with what has happened, but the human soul is such that it carries about it its own mysterious memories that, like night-winds fluttering the faded arras of an ancestral chamber, throw into momentary relief dim motions of forgotten figures whose beauty once transformed our life. Sufficient to say that the soul within us is a microcosm, not a micro-polis, and is born for the exhilaration that flows from a cosmic, not a dogmatic or economic life. There is a craving in us, felt by men and women of every colour and every race that neither the passion for communal improvement, nor the passion for communal applause can distract from its organic unrest. What follows after is something you have to experience yourself by watching the film. I must tell you that if you are anticipating melodrama, then Tum Bin 2 is not a film for your tastes. There is no lovemaking, bosom showing, scanty attires, vulgarism, or any traces of frivolity in its narrative. In simple terms, Tum Bin 2 is reality personified in its cleanest and highest entertaining form.


LOVED



1/ The conversation between Papaji (Kanwaljit Singh) and Taran at home about grief makes you realise that grief has that white-ant devastating ability to destroy one’s entire life without one getting to know of it unless the walls crumble altogether one fine day before one’s eyes.

The best way to take the death of someone who was the reason of your own life, is to accept it and then try to avoid all thought of it, though there is more to be said for that method than for brooding on its overwhelming negations, but to think of it in some positive way, as possessing, equally with life, some tremendous withheld secret is about the only manner in which one can find release from its all-consuming devastation.

Must warn you though that this way of thinking of it need not be very distinct (it obviously cannot be where we are in such absolute ignorance) but it can be positive as mentioned above, and it can be hopeful. We have an equal right, as far as the ‘truth’ of this matter goes, to be hopeful as to be despairing, for our ignorance is complete; but since there is really a half-chance that the mind’s attitude counts for something – that lifelong concentration on the idea of surviving death might be an element in our surviving it. This is where, despite the fact that Taran concedes to Papaji making her understand that Amar is now gone, and in accepting that they have to deal with their own lives, they could either brood or learn to get a grip on life. As tough as it is for Taran to accept the notion that he is no more, she holds onto some string of hope that Amar may not be annihilated. The language of souls is something that no body other than the two who share that cosmic connection can sense and feel. If that were not the case she would not be dead certain of seeing him in people passing by. Well some may argue that such a phenomenon is not rare, but something, somewhere tells her that the mystic fusion of their entwined spirit and flesh is intact, that the separation of the flesh from the spirit and vice versa has not taken place. Weighing her possibilities, she chooses the wisest course: to live on, since no one can deny that these issues, survival and annihilation, are equally possible. She learns to combine them in some vague way, and formulates in her mind an imaginative conception of his death, or even an imaginative image of his death, that would allow for the feeling of annihilation, or of something annihilated, as well as for the feeling of survival, of something surviving.

2/ The dialogues are remarkably real even though they are loaded with profound metaphors. Imaginably, it is for this very reason that the critics are unable to differentiate their eminence considering that they are rather accustomed to hearing jibber-jabber on the screen, and deem anything else as abnormal. “Elementary, my dear Watson,” said Holmes, “one’s level of sensibility can be gauged by not what one praises, but by what one does not.”  

4/ Music is at once the most wonderful, the most alive of all the arts. It is the most abstract, the most perfect, the most pure – and the most sensual. I listen with my body, and it is my body that aches in response to the passion and the pathos embodied in this music. The music by Ankit Tiwari is all of that and more. Tum Bin, Ishq Mubarak, Dekh Lena, and the evergreen Teri Fariyad leave you yearning for many more of such melodies. The magnificent camerawork by Ewan Mulligan takes to the production design like iron does to magnet. The costume department shines like a scintillating star.

3/ The fact that common knowledge states, one, when we are incredibly happy, and two, when we are terribly sad, is when we evoke those (subconsciously) who leave an unambiguous imprint on our heart and mind. What we reflect upon when we are in that state of mind is what our soul truly craves. I adored how Amar kissing Taran flashes in Taran’s mind when her sister Gurupreet (Sonia Balani) keeps her fingers gently over her shut eyelids in the car.

4/ That each one’s understanding of love, and their definition of it is as distinctive as are our fingerprints. Taran and Amar share what we would call genuine, idealistic love. Shekhar’s (Aditya Seal) style of love is to take care of people in the smallest possible way. His love is unconditional, devoid of expectations. Even when it dawns upon him that he loves Taran, and she has grown fond of him, he is ready to let her go because he understands that true love is not to be found in possessing the person one loves at all costs. Similarly, Amar is aware that in time, feelings can change. He is delicately attentive to Taran’s dispositions. He is aware of the internal tussle she is going through, and yet he is not someone who is willing to thrust his feelings on her, or use sentiment to manipulate her. Instead, he provides her the free ground to decide and do as she pleases. These two types of love, in their richest form was something that my friend Anubhav Sinha has sculpted with the same thoughtfulness, as maybe Michelangelo would have approached his marble.


ADITYA SEAL as SHEKHAR



The Perfect Gentleman!

Eyes. Nose. Mouth. Ears. Chin. Physique. Personality. Talent. Flamboyance. Elegance. Suave. Strong. Versatile. Gallant. Some of the 'real-life' attributes one can notice in Aditya without having to think or look too hard, and every bit of that gentlemanliness has been percolated into the character that has been portrayed by him in the movie. He bakes a cake with the similar ease of making light of a strenuous moment. He opens the car door for the lady, to smashing the mirror when engulfed by the ache of hurt. From a twenty-seven year old software wizard, to the charming fella who lives in a lovely place and likes it a ‘bit messy’ in his own admission, gentility runs in his blood, something he states his father had taught him rather young. He is such an exquisite reproduction of gentlemanliness, something that was a common way of life, and something that has been vanished to the vagaries of our bad-mannered times. 

When you watch a character like that, the nuances in his nature could certainly tinker the uncouth behaviour of people at large, and prod one to live a life that is admirable in one’s own eyes and noteworthy in the eyes of the bystander. Besides having chosen Aditya to play the role of Shekhar that fits him like a glove, such a story gives us an insight into how the writer thinks by looking at the way he has approached his story. Three cheers to my friend Anubhav for the fantastic screenplay.

This is how I would sum up Shekhar’s essence.

“It is the mission of each true knight...
His duty... nay, his privilege!
To dream the impossible dream,
To fight the unbeatable foe,
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go;
To right the unrightable wrong.

To love, pure and chaste, from afar,
To try, when your arms are too weary,
To reach the unreachable star!

This is my Quest to follow that star,
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far,
To fight for the right
Without question or pause,
To be willing to march into hell
For a heavenly cause!

And I know, if I’ll only be true
To this glorious Quest,
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I’m laid to my rest.

And the world will be better for this,
That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,
To reach the unreachable stars!”


AASHIM GULATI as AMAR



Aashim Gulati has a pair of the most incredibly expressive eyes, and if there is anything he ought to take a policy on it must be them. There is this unique combination of mischievous melancholy in him. Roles choose us rather than we running after them, and therefore, it would be wrong if we compared him to anyone else as I see some of them doing in the media. Let me give you a little example. My brother Imran Abbas Naqvi was supposed to essay the role of Rahul Jaykar that Adi ended up doing in Aashiqui 2. Immu had signed Boss with Akshay Kumar’s company and was under a contract not to do anything until the movie with Akki had released. Unfortunately, Boss did not see the light of the day, and in the interim Immu lost the lead role that Ranveer Singh played in Ram Leela too. Akshay was a friend, and my brother did not want to decline from the contract. Moral: what’s written in your fate will come to you. These decisions are preordained. Just like nobody can give it you, nobody can take it away from you.

I am no one to stop anyone from voicing his or her opinion, but someone who isn’t shallow will know that to compare anyone to someone else is downright foolish. Aashim is Aashim. He is tender towards the bashful. He is gentle towards the distant. He is merciful towards the absent. Unruffled. Organised. Mighty effective. In a nutshell, he has his own individuality. His very aura leaves you with such positivity; so what more do you want? 

Given the time, and a befitting role that allows him the range to express his prowess, Aashim can be what you want him to be. That is what actors are right? They give you their best, provided you give them something to prove their best.


NEHA SHARMA as TARAN



“While men are able to reflect upon their lost companions as remembrances apart from themselves; women, on the other hand, are conscious that a portion of their being has gone with the departed withersoever he has gone. Soul clings to soul; the living dust has a sympathy with the dust of the grave.... A shadow walks ever by her side, and the touch of a chill hand is on her bosom, yet life, and perchance its natural yearnings, may still be warm within her, and inspire her with new hopes of happiness.”

~ Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Chippings With a Chisel,” 1837

Neha Sharma plays that role to the T. Her perfectly symmetrical features add an unbeatable charisma to her overall appearance. She looks stunning in a sari at the Gurdwara just as she looks sensual in knee-length boots when she stops by Shekhar’s home to share the news of the chefs agreeing to help her with her patisserie.

I overheard some young men the other day. And I quote verbatim – Man, she is bloody hot. I would not use the terminology ‘hot’ as it is commoditising a human being to nothing less than a piece of merchandise, but, yes, there is no doubt that she is unbelievably and strikingly and vulnerably good-looking. What’s more? She weeps with such feeling that it makes one clamp one’s fist with helplessness. More than anything, she was introduced by Mohit in Crook, and because of that I have a great fondness for her.


SUBTLETY



1/ When Amar is descending the steps at the airport, and Shekhar sets his eyes on him for the first time, it rouses in him, though faintly, a spring of happiness. In normal circumstances many people would buckle under the sharp pressure, but Shekhar being Shekhar, he absorbs the affliction, to stay strong for the people he needs to stay strong for, despite the strapping of his heart. That motion of the heart bears a remote resemblance to the analogy of a fish leaping out of the water, into the air, and back again into the water. This ‘fish-like’ leap of primordial desperation is a universal psychological experience. Were it not recognised as such, I would say that the person in question is in some way sub-normal, sub-vital, and sub-magnetic. If I may elaborate on this, this ‘out of the water and back in to the water’ is an act of the soul that is the most comprehensive act the soul can make, an act that includes not only an embrace of the mystery of life, but an embrace of the mystery of death, considered as something positive, given the situation. As crazy as it sounds I think that the fish swimming in the water is like our soul in its practical absorption in the diurnal routine of its existence; but when it leaps into the air, to fall back again with that familiar sound which is one of the most poetical sounds in nature, it leaves for the moment its proper element and invades a super-element, an element which might be compared with the other-dimensional mystery which surrounds our mortal existence. The leaping fish does in fact (for the air into which it leaps would be its death if it could not sink back into water) represent the soul embracing both life and death in an instant of predetermined intensity.

2/ When Taran recounts to Amar what happened at the resort and tells him that as much as she loves him, she now has someone else in her life, Amar finds his soul stirred. It is almost in a state of war, war down to the roots of things, but he gathers himself by figuring that he could either fight this abysmal battle by the act of aloofness, or by the act of intense integration. He understands the truth that we each submit far too much and far too humbly to the pressure of the daily miseries implied in our ordinary life. When not ourselves in extreme pain, when not sharing by the sympathy of our nerves the extreme pain of another, who is there shall dare to put limits to what the human mind, fortified by a practised will, can achieve in the evoking of happiness and peace?

He knows that he is standing between two extremes. On the one hand he can pursue what is popularly called ‘pleasure,’ grossly, heedlessly, selfishly, at the expense of all finer considerations. On the other hand he can let his personal life go and give himself up to some absorbing cause, which becomes more to him than his soul or body. And he chooses the latter.

These things make you realise how life changes. How what we once held most dear to us can change when there is little hope of it coming back to us, and when it does, which happens quite by chance, how difficult it is to deal with such a tumultuous predicament. It makes us realise how important each one is in one’s life, and to compare one to another is impossible, for each individual is an infinite universe in his or her eyes, and one cannot compare one infinity with another.

3/ When Amar is thought to be no more, Kanwaljit has a mildly hunched back in certain scenes. Something rather identifiable with those weighed down by bereavement, but once he finds solace in Shekhar, he straightens up a little, and once Amar reappears, his body returns to being upright. Much as we may think we have a control over life, our mannerisms speak their own language. 


STRENGTH



- Are to be found in its relationships. The warmth shared between the sisters. The unshakable bond shared between Shekhar and Papaji. The love and respect Taran holds for Papaji.

- Little things like Amar sensing how uncomfortable Taran is while he is playing chess with Shekhar and offering her the cushion. He stopping by to tell Shekhar that given some time, he would love him too like everyone else in the family loves him. Where does one see that vastness in a character today? Everyone is busy wanting to amass everything that comes their way, possessions and people. To build is alien to current human nature. That shade of Amar’s character where he understands that love is not merely looking at the bigger picture but that it is the little things that make the biggest differences in one’s life is something I was thoroughly impressed by. And it all boils down to that now, doesn’t it?

- Columnists seem to be condemning the movie by saying that it is preachy and confusing. I rather think their assessment is correct, in order to know the brilliance of a diamond, one has first to have an eye to spot it in its raw state, and considering that these people who write aren’t quite knowledgeable, illiteracy quite reflects in their evaluation. Bin 2 is not a mass-market movie. It is a thoroughly reasonable and realist approach to life, and at what life throws at us. The absence of melodrama is leaving people bewildered, but like Shekhar articulates, life is, in truth, a summer vacation. I also read how those dialogues have become a point of discussion with the ill-informed. Once again these hoity-toity press people fail to understand that when they get back home from the fancy, free-food and booze parties, and look at themselves in the mirror, sans embellishments, that is their unfeigned life staring back at them, and the least they can do is not be vindictive. For me what the conversation at the table imparts on us is a mighty lesson on the entire meaning of existence. I found myself moved by the manner in which Aditya brings immortality to those lines by the control he has over the tinges of his intonation. The conversation has existentialist undertones, with traces of phenomenology, and clearly, the critics not being familiar with those thought processes too, are not able to differentiate between the distinctions.

- Angst is dealt with such dignity in the movie. The actors do not drop to the ground, pick up the closest potted plant available and thump it on their chests to display their heartache like it so happened in a recent multi-starrer made by a friend. The same critics who claim that the screenplay of Tum Bin 2 is ineffective, have praised that retardedness (pot-thumping on the chest) to the sky. It is nothing but clear star-power prejudice at its dirtiest. 

- The Indian Pakistani slant is excellent. I wish I could elaborate on it, but if I do, it would rob the suspense away, so I would rather leave it for you to watch and decide how you feel about it.   

- Since the last few decades we have each given so much emphasis to individuality that we have forgotten what it means to be inclusive. Our nuclear lives have left us so desensitised that our very core escapes us. Adrift in our own worlds, we are actively chasing money, trying hard to impress people and boost careers that we have forgotten to care and be attentive to the needs of those around us. Tum Bin 2 educates you to be sensitive to your life, environment and the people in it. Numerous scenes have no dialogues at all, and yet they convey what they have to convey via visual clues, indicating how observant the characters are, and isn’t this the crux of life? Being sensitive to your surrounding. It is a movie that is nothing short of a testament to that pristine virtue of mankind: care and love.


ADVICE TO A LITERARY CRITICS 

“My advice to a budding literary critic would be as follows. Learn to distinguish banality. Remember that mediocrity thrives on “ideas.” Beware of the modish message. Ask yourself if the symbol you have detected is not your own footprint. Ignore allegories. By all means place the “how” above the “what” but do not let it be confused with the “so what.” Rely on the sudden erection of your small dorsal hairs. Do not drag in Freud at this point. All the rest depends on personal talent.” 

- STRONG OPINIONS by Vladimir Nabokov


FINALLY



Tum Bin 2 tells us in coruscating tones that if one has the energy enough not to fling oneself into the aloofness of the drudgery of life, then we must influence our souls to leap up from the depths of one’s being. We must influence it to make light of the material pressure around us, a typical specimen of the hardness and prickliness and scaliness and dreariness of the devilish side of life. It tells us that we must lump all the evils together, the physical ones, the mental ones, and the whole damned ‘outfit.’ And that we must then pull ourselves together, wrestle with the accumulated mass selecting out of it one, or two, of its more tolerable aspects upon which one can concentrate without especial loathing; or, if there are no redeeming features in it at all, we must concentrate on the chemical constituents of our ‘cul-de-sac,’ on the elements of air and water and earth and fire, which in some form be present in ridding us of dirty boards, darkened stones, misty windows, and a dripping faucet.

The sturdy characterisation of Aditya Seal, Aashim Gulati and Neha Sharma enlightens the watcher that whatever you do, don’t ever begin to pity yourself, still less curse your fate or the day of your birth. Avoid, like the devil, any comparison between your luck and other people’s luck. It tells you to say to yourself time and time again, “This is life and I am a child of life; and what I have to do is to wrestle with this loathsome-lovely mother of mine as long as I’ve got any breath in my body and any consciousness in my mind.”

PS: I cannot say whether it was the abrupt announcement of demonetisation that affected our countrymen that desisted them from watching this movie, or if it was some other lucrative employments that kept them occupied, but whatever the reasons, it upsets me that a brilliant motion picture like Tum Bin 2 has not been watched by many. If not for anything, it is an intelligent and entertaining movie, and it would have left many with re-examining their life and looking at it with new eyes and new light, if they had the skill to know what they were looking for in it. What hurts further is that people in the metros kept away from the theatres too, enmeshed perchance in sorting their financial muddle maybe.

Anubhav, Aditya, Aashim, Neha, Kanwaljit, Meher, Ishwak, Jaspreet and the entire team, I sincerely tip my hat and take a bow for your effort. Big hugs to ALL of you, and LOVE to all of you! 



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