Thursday, February 24, 2011

You are there/You are the one

One of my favorite songs 'Yeh Vaada Raha' was coming on the desi radio today (I'm totally into the Desi Radio app on my iPhone which has like 15 different Hindi radio stations that play 24/7). Ironically, I'm always singing along with that song, and have never really bothered to listen to the song itself. Today, as I was driving down the 405, I sang along with Asha, but decided to enjoy Kishore da's part and listen quietly.

तू, तू है वहि दिल ने जिसे अपना कहा 

All this time, I was singing तू, तू है वहीँ and not वहि!!

How funny that a slight nasal sound in the word can change the meaning entirely ... it still made sense to me तू है वहीँ -- you are there. I never bothered to connect it with the rest of the sentence to realize that it actually makes no sense.   

It just made me think how complex language is. I didn't even consciously realize until today that there are two words वहि and वहीँ  in the Hindi language, that sound so similar but mean two totally different things. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


I just saw the movie 'Band Baaja Barat.' I had heard from Jagmohan ji that it was really good, and then my Mom & Dad said it was decent ... so I went into it with lukewarm expectations. I was sitting alone for the two hour film, and found myself laughing out loud randomly at places in the film -- something that doesn't happen very often for me. And, of course, I was getting senti at the love-story aspect of it.

The hero from the movie (I still don't even know what his name is, and part of me doesn't want to look him up and attach a different personality and other roles to him) was this sleazy, low class guy from some Harayana village, who obviously has a lot of money, and is "studying" in Delhi college, but is really just squandering away his father's wealth, being a complete wastrel. Luckily the film doesn't dwell too much on that -- one scene is enough to understand this type of guy. But he's sooo low-class in his mannerisms, behavior ... it's hilarious how authentically he played it -- we've all met people like that in our lives. I was watching the opening with Sid Bhaiya and said, 'Oh my God, if this is the hero of the movie and if she is going to fall in love with him .... !! That will be some miracle writing for me to start liking this guy." Low and behold, less than 10 minutes later, I found myself totally rooting for this character, looking forward to how the romance was going to pan out for the next 90 minutes.

Despite the film starting to drag a bit towards the end of the second half, I really enjoyed it. It was refreshing to see a modern Indian story, with the typical Bollywood masala added to it ... but all the 'dhing-chak' (a reference to the film) added to the story and didn't take away from it.

It's great when you only watch 6 Hindi movies in a year ... you filter out all the garbage, and come out feeling a sense of optimism for the future of Bollywood.

P.S. And I also really liked the song 'Dil to aivayin lut gaya' 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Upaj Website

My website for 'Upaj' just went live today!! Have been working on this for nearly a month now with a company based in Pune, called the Website Gurus. You know it was the name of the company that sold it for me ;-)

Anyway, that's another first for me with this film ... not only have I never:
  1. worked on a documentary
  2. produced something ground up
... but now I've also created my first website :-)

Next week, we'll have a new trailer up on the website, that'll be the next step! 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Case of the Nectarine

Summer Vacation. Two words that have no significance in present day life. Summer vacation doesn't even exist in adult life. It's like the tooth fairy -- she stopped coming after you realized that she didn't exist, or you lost all your baby teeth -- whichever came first. In this case, adulthood started, and two month vacations ceased to exist.

But as a child, those two words were the sweetest music to your ears.

Every summer, I spent the months with my cousins. Either we would go and spend the majority of the two month holiday at my Uncle's place, or my cousins would come and stay with us. Some summers it would just be two cousins that came over. The best were, of course, when all six cousins came over – but those times were far and few, and not for nearly as long as two months.

This particular summer was the summer of ’88. Four of my cousins had come to stay with my family – Shilpa didi, Shashank, Sapna didi, and Samir. The didi’s (or elder sisters) were 5 years and 3 years older than me. At the age of 9, that made them a different generation altogether.  My cousin Shashank was one year older than me, and Samir was two years younger than me, and we were inseparable. My younger sister was only three years old at the time, and mostly hung out with the didi’s who doted on her like a doll.

One morning, we woke up as usual – I don’t have any recollection if it was a weekday or a weekend,  but it hardly mattered, since it was summer vacation. After folding our sheets and sleeping bags, and putting away our pillows, we brushed our teeth and headed towards the kitchen.

My mother stood behind the dining table, waiting for us to arrive. The dining table was empty, except for a single nectarine, placed in the middle of the table.

“Do you see the nectarine?” she asked us. We all moved closer to the table. It was a normal nectarine. The only distinguishing factor of this fruit was that a small piece of its flesh had been removed.  I couldn’t tell if it was a bite mark, or someone was trying to tear off the sticker on the fruit and took off a little too much.

All of us peered on silently, not sure where my mother was going with this.

“Someone took a bite out of it, and then put it back on the table.”

We stiffened, knowing what was coming – someone was going to get in trouble.

As if reading our minds, my mother softened her tone and said, “I’m not mad,” she smiled. “I’m just wondering who would do such a thing?”

We all stood in silence.

“I didn’t eat it,” I broke the silence.

My mother looked at me questioningly. “Are you sure? I know you don’t like fruit. Maybe you took one bite and then decided you didn’t want it anymore?” I shook my head no. I hated fruit, why would I even take one bite?

Shashank chimed in, “Bua ji, I didn’t eat it either.” Mummy nodded. The two didi’s had already been asked about the fruit before we had come in, so they were off the hook. All eyes turned to the youngest of the lot.


At seven years old, Samir had to have been one of the cutest kids out there, though at the time, we only thought of him as a spoilt brat. Slightly chubby, bowl cut hair, big almond shaped eyes that could put a puppy-dog to shame,  he looked up to his aunt and said “No Mausi, I didn’t eat it.”

Mummy nodded. She realized that none of us would be willing to confess to our ‘crime’ in front of the others, so she changed her tactic. “Well, if whoever did it wants to come and tell me later on, they can, and I won’t be mad. I just wanted to know who ate it – if they wanted the fruit, they should have just taken the whole thing.”

She continued with her daily business, serving us breakfast. But us three never forgot about the nectarine. It was the ‘Case of the Bitten Nectarine,’ whodunit?

The rest of the day, we all suspiciously eyed one another – thinking we could stare someone into a confession. The most likely candidate was undoubtedly Samir. Samir loved food the most, plus, he was the youngest and he was used to getting whatever he wanted, and never getting in trouble for anything. Often he would tattle on the rest of us, and we would get reprimanded for making him cry – we were older, and should be more mature and sensitive to the youngest one.

Shashank and I secretly conspired to each other, “It must be Samir… Did you see how guilty he looked when Bua ji asked him if he ate it?” I nodded. Shashank was older and more knowledgeable in these matters. Besides, I knew it wasn’t me, and it wasn’t Shashank, so it had to be Samir. Though we didn’t discuss the matter with the didi’s, we knew that they, too, silently agreed that Samir was the culprit, and as usual, he was getting away with it for being the youngest.

In the evening we went on our usual walk through Evergreen Park. Most days were too hot to play outside in the afternoon hours, so evening was the time that we’d finally be able to expend all our bottled up energy on the various obstacle courses and strength training exercises along the path of the park. I lagged behind the others as I stopped to tie my shoe, and felt Shashank’s hand on my shoulder. “Look,” he nodded towards the scene ahead of us.

Samir was talking to my mother, all by himself. That was it – he had confessed to eating the nectarine. We knew it all along, and now we had our proof. But we  wouldn’t say anything to him – we were older, and more mature than that. And so the evening continued, and passed like any other evening in the summer of 1988.

Throughout high school, us cousins continued to meet regularly. In 1998, all 8 of us got together for a housewarming get together at my aunt’s house in eastern Washington. It was late at night, we were reminiscing on the ‘good ole days,’ not realizing that the time we were currently spending would soon be the good ole days themselves.  Somehow or the other, the topic of the nectarine came up again.

“Samir,” I say, “It’s been like 10 years already – can’t you just admit that you ate it?”

“Dude, I swear to you, I didn’t eat it!”

“Come on Samir, we know you even confessed to my mom later that day,” I remind him.


“We were at Evergreen Park,” Shashank joined in. “You were talking to Bua ji separately, she put her arm around you and patted your back.”

Samir shook his head. “Look, I don’t remember that, but I do remember that I didn’t eat the nectarine!”

I roll my eyes, irritated at his lack of maturity.  All the cousins start ganging up on Samir – even my sister, who was only three years old when the incident took place, tried to convince Samir to tell the truth. She had grown up hearing about the Case of the Nectarine, and like the rest of us, just wanted to hear the truth, straight from the horse’s mouth.

“Actually guys, I ate it.”

We barely even heard the sentence amidst the pandemonium. But sure enough, it had been said. Seven pairs of eyes darted towards Shashank.

“YOU ate it?!?!” I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. Shashank nodded.

“See?!?!” Samir jumped up. “I told you guys it wasn’t me!!”

Everyone looked incredulously at Shashank.
“Why didn’t you just say so? All these years?” someone asked.
“I was scared at first, that I’d get in trouble. And then when everyone started suspecting Samir, I just went with it.”

This was just like the game of Mafia. Shashank had just maneuvered the master play – to convince all the Townspeople that he was the Guardian Angel and Samir was the Mafia – and we all bought it.

Suddenly everyone was angry at Shashank, and felt total guilt for holding the poor, innocent Samir as the culprit in our eyes for all these years. How could we rectify this?

“Mummy!!!!” I called out and ran downstairs where all the parents were. The cousins followed closely behind.

“Remember the nectarine that someone ate, long time ago? In the old house?” My mom took a few minutes to place the incident – it had been, after all, ten years.

“It was Shashank who ate it!” Samir proudly proclaimed. Shashank nodded regretfully.

“Oh…” she thought about how she should respond.  She shrugged, “Ok.”

And that was that.

What an anti-climactic response to an unsolved mystery, revealed by a fluke confession ten years later. At least now we knew.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Shruti is a student of Chhandam who has a blog and wrote about the upcoming 'Upaj' premiere on her blog. I was surprised to see that she linked up to a piece I had written for the Chhandam website a couple of years ago when we had just come back from the shooting ... I didn't even remember writing it! Pretty cool when someone else is writing about you in their blog :-)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Worst User Interface EVER

I just spent two hours trying to figure out how to upload videos from my new video camera (Canon Vixia HF m30) onto my Mac. Mind you, I'm a decently technically savvy person, esp when it comes to consumer video/photo products. This camera is soooo stupid on so many levels:

  1. The installation software they provide is only for a PC. Who doesn't, in this day and age, give software for Mac users? 
  2. The Manual tells you nothing, and refers you to their online version of the manual, which also tells you nothing about uploading as a Mac user.
  3. After scouring the Canon website for hours (and seeing on the web dozens of posts of other people who are tearing their hair out on how to figure out how to upload their videos from a Mac) I figure out that it can be done with iMovie or FCP. 
  4. My camera doesn't show up on the computer when I connect it through the USB -- why? After hours of going back and forth (connecting through a normal USB card reader, which in theory is the same thing, but not for this stupid camera) I find a setting that says that the camera must be in 'Original' playback mode in order for it to show up on the computer. How is ANYONE ever supposed to guess that???
  5. The camera must be plugged in to a power outlet if you're connecting it to a computer. WHY?!?! In this day & age of wireless this, hands-free that ... you're expecting me to be plugged into a wall for a computer that's the size of my palm? This is totally the opposite of something that is supposed to be small and travel friendly.
Anyway, I shed a few tears tonight out of sheer anger and frustration at this stupid, stupid camera. The only तस्सल्ली (justification) I'm giving myself is that this is my replacement for a crappy camera on a phone, or a FlipCam, which I am highly unimpressed with. Granted the FlipCam is truly idiot proof, and it's a simple drag & drop, whereas here I'm stuck logging & transferring from FCP -- and then God knows what issues will come up along with FCP ... but I guess at the end of the day, I should be grateful for the optical zoom and image stabilization.

Grrrrrrr ...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Brahma Family Brunch

Weekends are generally the busiest time for me ... I teach on Sunday morning/afternoons, and then have my own rehearsal till the evening. I generally leave the house at 9 am and get back at 6:30 ... completely exhausted and can only manage to get myself to the couch, and pull a blanket over myself, and that's about it (this results in Sushi Sundays, to be discussed in another post).

Saturdays are technically my weekend, but with performances often taking place on Saturdays, that day tends to get taken up also by rehearsals, performances, events, etc. So, essentially, King & I hardly ever have time together.

But in the rare occasion that we do have a free Friday evening and whole Saturday, especially when the weather is nice ... it's the most exciting feeling ever. I feel like we have a world of opportunity open to us for these next 10 hrs of daylight! Considering how beautiful the Bay Area is, we really do have dozens of options of what we can do with our time. Most of the time we end up in Sonoma, or Napa, or Sausalito -- three of our favorite local spots, where you feel like you've gone on a mini-vacation for the day.

Today was a little more ग्रहस्ती   (grahasti) for the lack of better word (the computer is not letting me put a 'chhoti ee' on that word, I'm pretty sure it should be spelled with the other 'ee'). As usual, we slept in, only getting up because it was so freaking hot in our apartment. All East facing windows with no cross ventilation -- great for the winter, because we never have to use our heating, but on the rare days that it's actually 'warm' in San Francisco, our apartment becomes 80 degrees, no exaggeration.

Today's POA included the maintenance guys coming in and installing our mirror and chandelier! Sounds mundane, I know, but so exciting, bc this mirror has been sitting in our hallway for a few months now, and the fact that King & I even decided and agreed on a chandelier is a miracle in itself. We've had a bare bulb above our dining table for two years and five months now.

Slow and steady, our house is getting there.

Anyway, so my favorite ritual is what I have called 'Brahma Family Brunch.' Yeah, yeah, it's only two of us, a pretty small family (I've gotten enough pressure about having children in this last week enough to last me the whole year, so let's spare the jokes and move forward) ... but it's the only day of the week that we eat breakfast food together.

There are three standard menus that are rotated through for BFB.

1) Fried egg on toast with pepper jack cheese (with Iguana hot sauce and avocados)
2) Pancakes (plain or chocolate chip)
3) Deep's Aloo Parantha with mango pickle and yogurt

I'm sure at some point I'll add more to the repertoire, but for now, this has more than sufficed. Today I added roasted tomatoes to the menu. Well, I should say, I wanted to add roasted tomato to the menu ... but while I was waiting for the oven to heat up, and my half cut tomatoes lay on my counter, waiting to go in the oven ... King came by and ate the tomato raw. That was our last tomato, and he ate his half ... so I ate roasted tomato with brunch.

Anyway, the rest of the day turned out to be suprisingly wonderful. It was mid-70's, no wind, and a sunny afternoon, so King and I went swimming in our building's beautiful outdoor lap pool. Then we went shopping at the Embarcadero Center shops, since they are outdoor based, and I didn't feel like being cramped up in a mall on such a beautiful day. In the evening we had close friends and family come over to hang out, which turned into an impromptu game night (Apples to Apples!).

I was proud of my impromptu hostess skills, by providing my friends with wine, chhole chawal for those who were hungry, chocolate covered almonds, popcorn (albeit I burned the first bag bc I didn't realize there's a popcorn setting on the microwave), and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.
Now we just need to purchase more board games.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Upaj Poster!

After working on this for weeks with the graphic designer, director, photographer, and two attempts at the photo shoot, we finally have a poster for the film!!!
It first started with various sketches of the design we wanted to go with. And then my graphic designer 'painted' a version of what that poster would look like. Then we shot the different elements -- in this case, Guru ji's foot with ghungroo, and 'Jason's foot with a tap shoe. I say Jason in quotes because Jason lives in NYC, so we had Rachna stand in wearing a tap shoe. That also had its own set of issues, bc Jason is contracted with Bloch, and can only wear Bloch shoes, so we had to make sure we got the right brand of shoes for the photo shoot.
I seriously underestimated the amount of effort it would take to create a poster, and grossly overestimated what can be accomplished with Photoshop.
Now we can move forward with the marketing (posters, mailing postcards, electronic publicity) as well as work on the website for the film.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

(Nearly) a whole year later

And I'm back!! For how long ... that is still up for determination. Maybe because I saw Ferah & Vaishali's blog abt training for their half-marathon's do I feel an impetus to write -- I'm always driven by competition, aren't I?

Anyway, life has been interesting and busy -- roller coasters of ups & downs. We're in post-production for my documentary 'Upaj,' and racing against the clock for a deadline of March 18th for a screening that will be at the opening night of SFIAFF's San Jose portion of the festival -- with a Q&A by the artists themselves, and a Gala at the San Jose Museum of Art afterwards. Definitely an exciting event -- my first premiere of my own film!! But I haven't had time to think about that yet, since we're just working around the clock to make this film happen. Or more like, Hoku is working around the clock, and I'm facilitating as best as I can, between SF and LA.

So, maybe this would be an interesting period of time to write about. Coming back to this time months later may bring back memories that I will have long forgotten later on.