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Archive for July, 2009

Returning Home

Welcome home to America. Welcome home to water I can drink, dogs on leashes, and cookie cutter homes and gardens of suburbia. Welcome home to the “same old same old.” It’s hard to believe that just a couple months ago I was in a foreign city halfway around the world. While I continue to conjure up memories from the trip and the images of my daily life there, it gets even harder to find a way to fully express the impact that it had on me. People always ask, “So how was it?” and I can only really say “amazing!” because I know that full recognition of the trip would take earfuls of dialogue mixed with choreographed hand movements and maybe even the visual effect of a photo slideshow. I guess I now understand why a Bollywood movie requires three hours of content! Nothing in India can be summed up with one word, or one picture, or one story. The city operates within a jam packed network, each building, person, and animal coexisting at different layers that all share a common appreciation for their way of life. While I believe this structure can, and does, exist anywhere in the world, it wasn’t until being in Mumbai that I truly saw the product of community. From the films we worked on to the markets we wandered, everyone’s’ individual schedules and goals somehow meshing together towards a common goal that allows the project to be achieved despite repeated moments of wild chaos when the individuality collides. The chaos seems to rejuvenate the work effort, keeping people on their toes, while taking that “same old same old” and adding a whooping heap of Indian spices. Nothing is shoved into organized assembly lines and forced to become “general”. There’s dirt, it’s authentic, it’s real, and it follows traditions that reflect a culture that has continued for centuries. I can’t begin to think of how I can translate the imagery of the city further, I guess that’s what the rest of my time at school will determine. For now the power of the trip can only truly exist in my mind, waiting for its time to be revealed.

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My Mac is Fixed

I began this blog by stating my Mac crashed.

So to end this blog with a true full circle…They finally fixed it.

My time without the Mac was surprisingly refreshing. When you’re without something you rely on for so long, usually you’ll go crazy. But I enjoyed it.

I read (how good is the Kite Runner!). I went to the gym. I ate.

It was good being without my laptop. But when I finally got it back, I realized that I missed it. And that I needed it.

Why is Aamir talking about Macs? And why did he just refer to himself in third person?

First off…sorry about the third person thing. I’m on a high horse right now because I defied by mom by bringing home Wendys instead of eating what she cooked. Rebellious much?

As for my Mac. My Mac is what I feel about America. It was good to be without it. And I appreciated the time I had away from the Mac. But now that I have it back, I realized how fortunate I was.

Make sense?

Good to be back home. I’ll always remember the Summer of ’09.

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I’ve had a difficult time trying to put into words what the trip and internship meant to me because I’ve been overwhelmed with emotion.

Before I left for the trip, I was gradually getting closer and closer to leaving my culture behind. It wasn’t because I didn’t care about it. I just didn’t see the importance of it.

I’m not going to say the trip to India gave me cultural rebirth. But it put me on the right track. I’m taking more steps towards appreciating my culture. I understand that diversity should be cherished. Our differences make us unique. And in the end, our uniqueness is what defines us.

Thank you to the 9 students who traveled with me and anyone who I interacted with in India. You will never understand what you did for me.

And thank you to Professor Goenka. None of this would have been possible without you. I will never forget this trip. I will never forget you. Thank you.

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This list will probably make no sense to anybody who did not travel to India with me.

And that’s ok.

Zenzi
hawaiian hut
legen wait for it dary
hard rock cafe
“Shah Rukh Khan kha office”
totos garage
red box cafe
OM
seeing tatas everywhere
chicken pasta at whistling woods
Rickshaw walas

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So my India experience has finally come full circle now that I have been able to bring some of my experience in traveling in India and learning about Hindi cinema to my family. This past week my family and I went to an authentic Indian restaurant in Washington D.C. Instead of our usually trip for Indian cuisine at Delhi Daba. At the restaurant I had them try chicken tika (I figured I’d start them out with something easy) and then had them venture in dishes such as. Both my parents loved the chicken tika (surprise, surprise since I don’t see how if at all its any different from tandori chicken), but only my dad really enjoyed the chickpea dish and the palak paneer.

After our Indian meal I had my watch Ghajini, the number 1 grossing film in Indian history. My sister thought Aamir Khan  was gorgeous, my mom wanted more dancing, and my father with the attention span of a 10 year old had to finish the second half the next day. But all three had the same reaction when the credits rolled that the movie was well worth the three hours of their time. The next movie on our family list I’ve decided is Dhoom 2. It  may not have as great of a plot but my sister will appreciate watching Hrithik Roshan for 3 hours (as did I), my mom will like that there is more dancing than in Ghajini and my dad… will just have to watch the second half again the next morning.

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Red Chillies Entertainment

Non-Fiction Development – Tere Mere Beach Mein (The Farah Khan Show) — Nya Wilson

Non Fiction Development – India’s Next Top Model – Jillian King

Fiction Development – Fauji  — Aamir Noorani

Writer’s/Director’s Assistant  (Samar Khan & Shubhra Chatterjee) — Allison Nast

 

UTV Spot Boy – Peter Gaya Kaam Se & Chillar Room

Elizabeth Gibson

Katelynd LaVallee

Madeline Good

 

Tips Entertainment – Prince

Hannah Tice

Andrea LaMothe

 

Mukta Arts

Prakash Jha Productions – Turning 30!!!

Lucien Jung

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It Is Over!

It is hard to believe that our time in Bombay and India has been over for exactly a month now, and I can’t wait to be back again!

Things went smoothly, and we had no major mishaps.  Thank God for that – literally. 

On this trip, I perfected the art of entering a room, bathroom and kitchen so as not to be startled by some creepy crawly creature – namely a giant cockroach or a lizard – the natural residents of Emerald 2.  The trick is to open the door with a bang so as to make a loud noise, turn on the light and then gently step in one step at a time, all the time making sure that nothing is moving.  You then glance around and check every nook and cranny of the room for a dark blob.  If there is none, you’re all set and can do what you need to do in that room.  If there is a dark blob, you better rush out, get the can of Hit and spray it straight to hell.

After two summers of rattling around in auto-rickshaws, I finally figured out the best way to get one to take you where you want.  Walk up with confidence to the waiting line of drivers and demand to know who will take you to where you need to go.  If none agree, walk away disdainfully.  Someone usually gives in and takes you to the utter wilderness of Aarey Milk Colony and/or Film City or anywhere else you need to be.

Now, it is time once again to decide whether we’ll offer this experience again in 2010…Hopefully, we can continue keep making the program better  each time.

The moon over Bombay from my bedroom window

Moon over Bombay

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I am finally writing my last blog post (I realize that the last few were posted far later than they were actually written – I had to type up handwritten notes) and the idea is a very strange one.

Two months ago, we were on the way to Mumbai. I have only four days left of my anti-malarial pill. It is now as hot in the North East as it was in India. Mumbai suddenly seems so very far away. I was thinking about it last night – I can clearly visualize the rickshaw ride from the Moser-Baer office in Andheri West (where I had my internship) to the apartments in Goregaon, but I am already forgetting what the heat felt like on my skin, or how the smell of Mumbai assaults you as soon as you inhale. It is the visual memories that will last the longest, aided by photographs, but eventually those too will fade. I almost wish that I could have captured the other senses as well – made recordings of traffic during rush hour (rickshaw-walas would put New York cabbies to shame with their honking); bottled the scents of open sewer, truck exhaust, and frying samosas; brought back samples of Koyla’s palak paneer and frozen hot chocolate from Moxxa. Photos and stories do not do them justice.

So what did I bring back with me from India, if not a complete sensory experience? First, a group of people I grew very fond of, and hope to be close with for a long time. Never-mind that Madeline and Kate just graduated – we can all take road trips to stalk them. If it was mildly traumatic to be thrown in the center of India, then it only made us closer.

Most importantly with regard to my career, field experience – I could never have done in the United States what I did in India. Because the idea of writing a complete screenplay before shooting a film – indeed, before even pitching the idea to a company – is still a relatively new one, the writers are more open to additional cooks in the kitchen. One would be hard pressed to find a writer in America willing to share the creative experience with a novice, but that is exactly what I got a chance to do. This internship was invaluable because of that – I learned more in those four weeks than I might have in years at a film company.

My whole outlook on life was altered by what I saw in India. I startled myself last week when I had a markedly smaller amount of sympathy for the panhandler in Syracuse than I used to – until I realized that it was because I had seen toddlers begging for money. After you have seen a baby in a torn shirt rubbing her distended stomach, a fully clothed, grown man no longer invokes heartache. In the US, we can’t even imagine the poverty to be found in other countries. Even our poor are far richer than theirs. I now also understand Madonna and Angelina Jolie in their quest for multi-colored children. Before Mumbai, I scorned their attitude, it seeming like a grown-up version of Pokemon: “Foreign Babies, gotta catch them all”. Since being there, I understand and empathize with this practice. You can’t help everyone, not in a million years with all the money in the world, but maybe you can help that one. That’s the most you can hope for.

Finally, and perhaps less important but more fun than the others, I love telling people stories of my travel – not lectures accompanied by a slideshow, “Here is the Taj Mahal, built in…” – but the more personal, interesting, and, if I can manage it, funny anecdoes – “Did I tell you about the time I almost got squashed by an elephant?!” Ironically, it is usually the experiences that were most traumatic at the time that make the best stories later on. Maybe it is the terror and adrenaline that makes it funny in retrospect, I don’t know. I do know that spending a month in Mumbai gave me a whole new set of stories to tell – which my friends and family no doubt appreciate, having heard my “That Time I Was Lost in Moscow” story one too many times. Now I can tell them about the time our bus almost hit a water buffalo, or the time I accidentally drank tap water at Farah Khan’s house, or how amazing the Taj looks in the sunrise, or how I missed the food as soon as I was State-side again.

That is what I left India with. The marble elephant and kurtas are nice, but what I will really value – after the images of India begin to dim and I can no longer remember what my daily rickshaw rides were like – are the friends I made, the experience I gained, the change in my attitude, and the stories I can tell.

So, that’s my last blog post. If/when I see either of the movies whose screenplays I worked on, I will come back and write again. Until then, over and out.

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Tour of Mumbai

I’m gonna take you way back. As in, back to our first weekend in India. We toured the Dharavi slums. Slums are perceived to be areas where children beg, old people suffer, and endless poverty. In reality, it’s not like this at all.

There are over 10,000 industries in the Dharavi slum alone! The most popular industry in Dharavi is leather. Some of the world’s greatest quality of leather comes directly from the slums. I was absolutely appalled by this. I did not perceive the slums to be as busy as they were.

It brings up an important question. The things we see in movies, television shows, and even the news distort our perception. The only way we can talk about something for real and be accurate is to actually experience it. I’m glad I was able to see the slums up close and personal.

By the way, I hear the monsoons are crazy in Mumbai. Wish I could’ve seen it.

-Aamir

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NRIs and the Problem with Fantasizing About Perfection

India is too hot. India is too crowded. The Indian poor are too uneducated. Ask a former NRI what’s right with India and he’ll steer the conversation to all that’s wrong. After years of living abroad those who return to the motherland describe their experience as interesting. They say this with a weariness that makes me suspect they’d rather be anywhere else.

Then there’s Disha. Born and raised in New Delhi, when her friends went to New York for college she went to Mumbai. She loved it! For her India is about having immediate access to a million different worlds. She craves Punjabi food in the summer and Rajastani food in the fall. She loves Rishi Kapoor and the fine-featured UP boys. Bandra nightlife is almost an addiction. Some would call her manic. I call her young and tireless. As for pessimistic NRIs, she is having none of it, “Listen, if they could handle this country they’d be living here right?” Point taken.

Mumbai makes New York seem like child’s play. America is a country of organized streets and orderly traffic. A country of self-directed people who go about their lives shielded by the numbing comfort of ensured prosperity. This brings to mind the story told at the end of Derek Jarman’s film Wittgenstein. It’s about a man so brilliant that he’s able to sustain perfection. Enthralled by the pristine world of ice he had created by the time he realized he couldn’t walk it was too late. There was no escape.

In India nothing comes easily even for the privileged. Step out your door and the harsh realities of being a developing nation stare you in the face. Consequently, optimism is tempered by pragmatism as one always has to reconcile the way he wants things to be with the way things actually are. But lunchtime at Café Coffee Day provides a glimpse of what some hope will be India’s future; organized, orderly, populated by those shielded by the numbing comfort of ensured prosperity. These businesspeople, contentedly chatting on cell phones, seem a million miles from the slums and open air stalls that have come to define this country in my mind. No longer fearful of downturns and reversals of fortune they will soon finish their lattes and then get back to the business of creating an India that even NRIs would approve of.

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