Mental health – Smile Simi

Yesterday, 10th October was World Mental Health Day.

According to the National Health Mission (India) website

It is estimated that 6-7 % of the population suffers from mental disorders. The World Bank report (1993) revealed that the Disability Adjusted Life Year (DALY) loss due to neuropsychiatric disorder is much higher than diarrhea, malaria, worm infestations and tuberculosis if taken individually. Together these disorders account for 12% of the global burden of disease (GBD) and an analysis of trends indicates this will increase to 15% by 2020 (World Health Report, 2001).

One in four families is likely to have at least one member with a behavioral or mental disorder (WHO 2001). These families not only provide physical and emotional support, but also bear the negative impact of stigma and discrimination. Most of them (>90%) remain un-treated. Poor awareness about symptoms of mental illness, myths & stigma related to it, lack of knowledge on the treatment availability & potential benefits of seeking treatment are important causes for the high treatment gap. 

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The pool that changed swimming

July 9, 1976 was the turning point of swimming in Karnataka. The swimming pool in Baldwin Girls’ High School (BGHS), Bangalore was inaugurated, and looking back, it definitely impacted competitive swimming in India as well.

dedication pg1

Back in the 1970s, there were only a handful of swimming pools in Bangalore for the public. The Corporation Pool at Corporation Circle, a 30 yard pool, was one of the most popular ones. It’s gone now, and buildings occupy the place where it once stood. Kensington Pool, next to Ulsoor Lake, is another old summer time recreation spot, still a sought-after swimming space, especially because it’s a 50 metre pool, ideal for competitive training.

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Irrfan Khan, journey done

“When my wife died, she got a horizontal burial cot…
I tried to buy a burial cot for myself the other day, and what they offered me was a vertical one…
I’ve spent my whole life standing in trains and buses…
now I’ll even have to stand when I’m dead!”   
– Irrfan Khan (Saajan Fernandes) in The Lunchbox

Being not much of a Hindi movie buff, I had missed seeing The Lunchbox when it was released (though I had seen some of his English films). Watched it on a flight during the past year. Irrfan Khan was already ill and fighting the “unwanted guests” in his body at that time, and this line stayed stuck in my mind.

Was deeply saddened to hear of Irrfan Khan’s passing this morning. 53 is no age to die. Considering the Indian life expectancy, it’s 15 years too soon. Well, life’s a journey with just one certainty. We’re just grateful to have experienced the journey. Continue reading

Chuskit – a film to watch

I’ve known Priya Ramasubban for many years, because of our association with Bangalore’s lakes, and though we’ve talked on the phone, I’d never met her face to face. This was going to change. Her full length feature film Chuskit was going to premiere at the Jio MAMI’s 20th Mumbai Film Festival on 27th October and I had decided that I must plan my time so as to be able to attend the show. I’m sure I wouldn’t have travelled 25 km on a warm Saturday afternoon in Mumbai to watch a Ladakhi children’s movie, directed by a south Indian filmmaker… if it wasn’t for the filmmaker.

Poster of film festival
Film festival poster at Matterden Carnival Cinemas

For those who may not know, Priya has traveled the world for over fifteen years making films for National Geographic, Discovery, History Channel and other major international broadcasters. She has written and directed Lost Kings of Israel (National Geographic), Divine Delinquents (National Geographic), several episodes on the long-running series Digging for the Truth (History Channel), episodes on the series Into the Unknown (Discovery Channel), an episode on Monster Fish (National Geographic) and several others notable productions. Priya was one of the six people chosen from all over India as a part of a screenwriter’s lab organized by the National Film Development Corporation where she got the opportunity to evolve her story for Chuskit under the mentorship of award-winning Dutch writer Jolein Laarman.

Priya and self pic
With Priya before the show

I reached the Matterden Carnival Cinemas in Lower Parel in South Mumbai early enough to be able to do a little socialising. The venue for the screening of the children’s films (the collection was called Half Ticket) of the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival 2018 was a traditional single screen theatre, known to locals as Deepak Talkies. The theatre’s been very comfortably revamped with an ambience that takes me back to the days of Imperial, Plaza and Galaxy in Bangalore.

The film is loosely based on the true story of a paraplegic Ladakhi girl Sonam. The star of the film is Chuskit whose dream of going to school ends when she is rendered a paraplegic after an accident in the winter snow. While her friends start school, Chuskit is confined indoors and generally has her strict grandfather, Dorje for company. Though the school is inaccessible to those who cannot walk, she continues to be hopeful of going to school. Life at home gets harder with regular battles with her grandfather who tries to make her understand that school can’t handle her needs. Caught in between their struggle are Chuskit’s parents and her enterprising brother who want to respect the old world views that Dorje represents, but also want to keep Chuskit’s spirit alive. Chuskit will have to get her grandfather to yield or she will have to accept the reality he has chosen for her. (I don’t want to be a spoiler and reveal beyond the information made available to the press.)

Chuskit poster

The film was great! Beautiful scenery in Ladakh, fresh faces on the big screen, good acting, music that lingers, and an inclusive story line with readable English subtitles. The film does well in capturing the day to day life of people who live in the hilly villages of north India and gives us glimpses of the Buddhist traditions that they follow. 90 minutes well spent, if you are fortunate to catch a show in your city.

Post the screening, we had an interactive session with members of the Chuskit team. Worth mentioning is that the team had many women – director/screenplay writer, acting coach, producer, costumes, editor, etc. Priya had written the script in English, which was translated into Hindi and then to Ladakhi. All the actors were recruited through local auditions, and filmed fully in Ladakh. We were told that the initial winter snow scenes were shot first and after a point the team didn’t have money to continue shooting. On receipt of fresh funding, shooting resumed after three years, and this was done with the same cast. While changes in the adults are not noticeable, it is interesting to see the children a bit grown up.

the team answering questions
The team answered questions after the show

There were many children who attended the show and they were provided space outside the cinema hall to write their comments. One comment that struck me said that children’s dreams can come true, and adults shouldn’t ignore them but should help in making the dreams a reality. At a different level, it is not just children, but those who are differently abled (young and old). We need to make our infrastructure and facilities convenient for them to live their lives just as we do. I sincerely hope that this film is able to find distributors who will take it to the masses and to our government, to improve awareness and sensitivity, in the hope of positive action.

Film shooting at Lokhandwala Circle

6th November 2016: There was excitement at Lokhandwala Township this Sunday morning. Word was out that there were vanity vans parked on the hill slope going up from Lokhandwala Circle. Some ad shoot probably. But no. From security guards, we learnt that Sidharth Malhotra and Jaqueline Fernandez were in the vicinity!

From our home we have a bird’s eye view of Lokhandwala Circle, the activity centre of the township. This is the place for public meetings, protests, festivities and promotions. Earlier that morning, we had seen a group of motorbikes from the Kranti Maratha Morcha, setting out for their planned protest demanding reservation for education and jobs. Even after they left, the crowds around the circle, and the policemen still hung around. It was then that we realised that the “shoot” was going to happen right under our eyes!

From the trial runs, we figured that cars were clearly a part of the shoot. There was one scene shot with the camera mounted on the bonnet of the car.

The camera car

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Of pigs and piglets

Babies of all species are cute. Usually not when they’re just born, but after they’ve spent a while outside the confines of their gestational/incubational container). Pigs have large litters so they always make a happy family picture. Minus the father though! There were seven of these little things, six pink and one black, scurring around their mother as she took them out to forage in the grass and green plants, on the slopes of the Sports Authority of India (SAI) campus. Their tails so like the little pigtails we see hanging down from a school girl’s head.

Mommy with babes

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Real people please!

Movies for children with real people in them. Is this a thing of the past? TinTin, The Lorax, Brave, Madagascar, Ice Age.

Though I appreciate the story lines and messages conveyed, and the technical skills displayed in all these movies, I realized that something was not quite right when the most enjoyable part of Ice Age for me was when the credits appeared. The end of the movie? Yes! I realized that I would not be able to sit through another of these animation films, 3D or otherwise, in the near future, when the highlight of Ice Age was the credits … where one gets to see the voices behind the characters. You get to see real people!  Continue reading