Monday, October 06, 2014


Having finally got a holiday, I decided to catch up with Haider. I had received mixed reviews about it, but since it is a Vishal Bhardwaj movie, I was willing to take my chances. I was not disappointed. The adaptation of Shakespeare's play 'Hamlet' in the context of Kashmir's history was masterful. The story was stretched unnecessarily at certain points in the plot, but the execution and performances were so stunning that I was not complaining. I am not going to review the movie in detail in this post. Instead I want to capture the feelings which Tabu's portrayal of Ghazala evoked in me.

Ghazala's role is a complex character. She is torn between her love for her son, her commitment to her husband and her passion for her lover. At no point does she have all three of them due to which she is always left wanting in the movie. The void itself is difficult to portray because all these relationships are defined in a manner that would be considered unorthodox in India.  Apart from her unfulfilled relationships, she is also in the dark about the complete truth, which makes it difficult for her to fully support one of the many narratives that exist in the story. Moreover, the setting of Kashmir of the mid-90s where the people live in the shadow of militancy and military brutalities takes a further toll on her life.

In a recent post, I had spoken about excellence and Tabu sets the benchmark in excellence for modern day actresses. Not only does she looks incredibly beautiful as a Kashmiri woman, she portrays the many shades of Ghazala with relative ease - the fear of losing her loved ones, the passion of a lover, the compassion of a mother,  the duty of a housewife, the indecisiveness in choice and the courage to do what is right. She does all this putting on a believable Kashmiri accent. While I don't have a clue about acting, I don't think even an accomplished critique can do justice to Tabu's performance.

When a great director, a great actor and a great character meet, magic happens. You don't have to be a student of the art  to recognize the brilliance you are witnessing. You just have to surrender your senses and soak in the emotions. Tabu makes you empathize with Ghazala's predicament. You want to help her but you can't. You want to give her a shoulder to cry on, but you can't. You want to scream out the truth to her, but she can't hear you. You only watch. You only wait to know what becomes of her, despite it being a slow paced movie. You remain mesmerized in her life.

Not discounting a fabulous performance by Kay Kay Menon and a career best by Shahid Kapur, it is Tabu who keeps you engrossed in the movie, making you take notice and applaud. You leave the theater with part of her soul latched on to yours and her words playing on a loop in your mind

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Mehak's Lesson

Mehak is one of the advanced readers in my classroom who demonstrates a high degree of value based leadership and takes immense pride in her team’s and her own learning.

In the month of September 2014, our team was struggling with two out of four fellows in the grade being out of action due to severe illness and the rest of us struggling with our own wellbeing. As a contingency plan, we had to reshuffle fellows among grades 7 and 8 to ensure continuity of learning. Due to the sudden changes in class structures and increased number of students to manage, the quality and quantity of my interaction with my own class fell significantly. I was feeling dejected that I couldn’t finish the term on a high after starting off on a strong footing.

Noticing my mood, Mehak wrote to me a letter. Among the many things she wrote, she mentioned how I was the one who told her “how each chapter links to the vision” and “made her goals more clear”; how I showed her the “importance of friendship” by “caring about people who I have a relationship with”; how she learnt the “importance of putting the same emergency (urgency) in studies as I put in planning”. Lastly she expressed confidence that I will find a way to “make my mind happy again”.

 I had never explicitly taught Mehak about urgency, friendship and compassion. I never asked her for the letter. I realized she was simply mirroring the many things I consistently did for the class through the year. Even while I thought I was mediocre then, Mehak proved to me she was learning the values of grit and commitment.

 Mehak made me realize how being a teacher gave me the power to change the mindset of my students, even when I am at my worst. She showed me a way to be happy again.