Monday, January 10, 2005


Just wanted to record an eventful day. In the morning Appan gave me a ride to Mohan's place for an Asha LA meeting. There were four of us (fourth being a new volunteer, Raabeya). Among other things, we discussed setting our aims for the coming year. The plan is to raise more and disburse more. Let's see how it goes.

But what I really want to report is the forming, or rather the revival, of the LA chapter of AID. Since I'm reasonably exhausted, I'll just point to the meeting minutes.

Now to bed, for I have an application to send out tomorrow....

ps: my first blog entry ever?!

Monday, January 03, 2005

Swades review

I can't remember the last time a Bollywood movie
has left such an impression on me. Probably it
has never. Yes, I am talking about Swades, a
recently released movie starring SRK as Mohan
Bhargava along with Gayathri Joshi's (as Gita) debut.

The story is about a young Indian engineer working in NASA as the project manager of Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM). Flowing along the typical Bollywood traditions, he is a very successful eligible batchelor. One also sees Mohan getting a bit lost once in a while. Something is tormenting him. This becomes all the more clear when he learns that he has been offered a citizenship from the USA. Mohan suddenly remembers the person who brought him up, Kaveriamma. (Note: This scene reminds one of a typical desi man without a girlfriend :) The story really starts from here when Mohan decides to pay a visit and to persuade her to join him in America.

As Mohan makes his journey to a village called Charanpur
and its subsequent incidents, Ashutosh brings to us the
dual sides of life. On the one hand we have the
romantic images of rural village life, the green fields,
people greeting each other, women carrying water containers to large
distances, philosophies of saints (an excellent role played by
Makrand Deshpande), family values, culture & traditions. On
the other hand we also have acute poverty, burden on women (note
how the expression on Mohan's face changes when he greets
women walking with mud pots to collect water), caste peoblems,
lack of "freedom", child education problems etc. Ashutosh does
an excellent job of keeping a very good balance on both sides
as opposed to many other Bollywood movies where only the
romantic rosy side is presented. The scenes where Mohan meets
Haridasji (the poor farmer) and the kid selling water in
railway stations are just hard hitting. Mohan is initialized
into the "real" world when he meets Haridasji and the water
he buys for 25 paise and drinks in many way symbolises his Baptism.
Almost looks like Kaveriamma made the smart step and send Mohan
to Haridasji to collect an overdue rent to bring about a
change in him. After his trip, Mohan has already made his
mind to come back after taking care of the GPM project he
has already committed himself to.
I have only heard from my friends from here who have made visits
to rural places in India about the plight of many people there.
But in Swades, you can really feel it.

Another great thing about the movie is that at no point is there
any value judgement and unwanted criticizm made . Mohan decides to
go back to India because he is happy there. Mohan's NASA friend
stays in USA because he is happy there. Period. Ashutosh really did
a good job of not potraying Mohan's NASA friend as an ignorant
idiot. In the end, when Mohan says "I know what I'm going to gain"
and "I am going places", it doesnt have any arrogant tone at all,
rather a calm, happy, confident statement. Ashutosh never really
tries to make the case that every NRI should go back to India
and try to make a revolution.

The music, its great. Yet another magical beat from ARR. Especially
"Yeh Jo Desh Hai Tera". Just stirs the Desi feeling in you. Please
note the song subtitles. Its just amazing with a very Shakespearean

To summarize, the message of the movie is quite clear: Go, light the
bulb. Whatever that means. To Mohan, it meant going back to India
and do something for the masses. The movie also tells you to do
what your heart tells you to do. If it lies in your birthland, better
be there. Have your heart at the right place.

The movie is inspired by a micryhydel project in Bilgaon. Check out