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Thursday, 23 October 2014

Diwali Round the World

By: Team PenTastic

[Written by: Tanuja Pattnaik]


It’s Diwali time! I’m sure everyone is busy with the cleaning of houses, decorations, buying gifts, crackers and what not. But amongst all these festivities and celebrations, have you ever wondered if it is only us who celebrate Diwali or do others around the globe also participate equally in the celebrations?
Diwali, the festival of lights, is not limited within the borders of our nation. It has spread to all parts of the world, and it celebrated with equal vigour by Indians, wherever they have settled. In the course of time, the festival has acquired many distinct features and traditions marked by the region. But nevertheless, the spirit of celebration has not ceased. Let us have a look at the way Diwali is celebrated in various countries apart from India.
Owing to the fact that it is the only Hindu country in the world, our neighbouring country celebrates Diwali as one of the most important festivals. It goes by the name “Tihar” in Nepal and is celebrated as the festival of lights and people worship Goddess Lakshmi, the God of wealth. All houses are decorated with earthen lamps. Wearing new clothes, socialising, merry making and exchanging gifts and sweets are all part of the custom.
Diwali celebration goes on for a period of five days, with the initial four days devoted to the worship of various animals, namely the crow, the dog, the cow and the ox. The fifth day is for brothers, known as Bhai Tika, which is similar to what we celebrate as Rakshya Bandhan. On this day, sisters apply tilak (tika) on their brothers’ foreheads, seeking their blessings and praying for their long life.

            This is a country with a population comprising of more than 63% Hindus. This is a reason enough for Diwali to be declared as an important event. Diwalli here is celebrated almost in the same way as in India, with the cleaning of households and lighting lamps to celebrate the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana and also the victory of Lord Krishna over Narakasura. This island nation glitters with festivities during the Diwali days.

            Although it is a predominantly Muslim country, Malayasia is known for its multicultural diversities. People of various religions celebrate their festivals with great enthusiasm. The Malayasian government has declared it as a national holiday and the Hindu population of the country, which account for about 7%, celebrate this day as “Hari Diwali”. Houses are lit up and it signifies the victory of good over evil. Gifts are exchanged and prayers for the ancestors and dead are offered.

Diwali in the Fiji islands is an important public event in the cultural calendar. People from all religions celebrate this day with equal fervour. It is a day that marks traditional pujas, feasting and amusement.

            The land of the humming bird has been celebrating Diwali since as early as the mid 1800s. It is celebrated with much pomp and show. The villages across the country are filled with houses that are lit up by lamps. People perform puja of Goddess Lakshmi. There is much merry making and festivity around the nation on this day.

            Singapore’s Little India doesn’t really remain ‘little’ on Diwali. Rituals, elaborate decorations of houses, rangolis mark the spectacular celebration of this day. It is also one major factor for attracting tourists to the country.

            Now, with people celebrating Diwali with such fervour round the world, we certainly wouldn’t like to fall behind. So, have all the fun this Diwali. Wishing you all a very happy and safe Diwali!!!

A New Dimension To Diwali!!

By: Team PenTastic
[Written by: Sidhant Sourav]

No wonder Diwali is a mega-festival in India. Celebrated throughout the 3,287,590km2 of the landscape, this extravaganza has been celebrated in the country for ages now. But what do I write about it?? First thought, the mainstream idea of its history, how we celebrate it and so on? No! We all have been reading and writing on it since 3rd grade. Then…how it affects the environment?? Not again…plus, it’s still a matter to wonder how a festive atmosphere for few hours can harm the environment when our automobiles create 150 times the havoc throughout the year. Nonetheless, this debate is for another day!!! So…basically we have grown up with the idea that mostly it’s an Indian festival.

Let’s get a sneak peek into the US Diwali!!

Diwali is a gazetted holiday in India, so government offices and many businesses (including local offices and shops) are closed. It is not a nationwide public holiday in countries such as Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States but many cities hold large celebrations for the Diwali festival.

There are only a few achievements that former American President George Bush takes credit for - one of them is starting the White House's Diwali celebrations in 2003.  For the last few years, this duty has been upheld by the Obama family. Last year's Diwali saw a performance by American indie-rock band Goldspot, which is fronted by Indian Siddhartha Khosla.

Three million people in the U.S. along with their friends and compatriots worldwide will be celebrating Diwali on Thursday, Oct. 23. Diwali is one of the biggest holidays in India and for expats. Like Christmas, It involves colourful lights decorating a house, gift exchanges, dressing up in new clothes and a many family traditions.

Diwali (also known as Deepavali) is the “festival of the lights” and celebrates the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness. While there are regional and religious differences in rituals, the use of lights in Diwali festivities is symbolic and ubiquitous.Like Christmas cookie exchanges, sweets are often given as gifts or shared with colleagues. These include chakali, jalebi, kulfi, coconut laddu and burfi. There is also a tradition of giving food and goods to those in need.
Going by its popularity, in many parts of the United States, there have been efforts to make Diwali a school or even a public holiday. For example, in New York City, a diverse coalition of organizations has asked Mayor Bill de Blasio to make Diwali an official school holiday, given the number of Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs who attend schools in the city.Several events and parties are held across various parts of the cities.

When I think of Diwali, I think of family and cleaning the house to welcome Lakshmi, the Goddess of Prosperity. Wearing new clothes and going to countless Diwali parties. Dancing and doing fireworks. Listening to my father retell the stories of Diwali and gorging on my mother's melt-in-your-mouth gulabjamun . Caught up in the revelry of the loud and colourful holiday, it is easy to lose sight of what the festival really represents: a celebration of light.

But an average NRI teenager discovered a new meaning of all this pomp and grandeur.In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, as many in New York and New Jersey struggled to return to normalcy and continue to deal with the loss of power, homes, and loved ones, Diwali and light took on a new meaning for him as they provided relief and help to the victims. “For me, light represents knowledge and the responsibility to use it effectively to improve the quality of life for those less fortunate. I consider my time back in school as a mechanism to develop my interests into a career that allows me to accurately apply business acumen to instrumenting social benefit. Ironically, however, it was not until I entered business school that I was able to look past the material celebration of Diwali and come to this realization.” says Nikhil.

They went on to make a group of individuals who go by distributing basic amenities to the needy. Also they go by teaching at the orphanages every weekend. A noble and offbeat thought, which should be practised by all of us.

It’s good to celebrate our festivals. But since we call our generation the new cool, it’s time to celebrate it in offbeat paths.Start small. After you clean your house for the Goddess of Prosperity, spend some time cleaning up your neighbourhood park so Lakshmi will follow there too. Fill up on tasty Diwali treats and then volunteer at the NGOs. As you put on your new clothes, take a pair of your old clothes to a nearby shelter so that someone less privileged can also wear new threads this Diwali. Celebrate your wealth by donating to a charitable trust of your choice, a cause that represents and promotes what light means to you. Remember, as the philosophy of karma (and Justin Timberlake) points out, "What goes around... comes around."

Have a Happy and safe Diwali!!! And try to do something for a noble cause!!! Give it a thought!!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Befooling Billions Day

By: Team PenTastic

 [Written by: Sidhant Sourav]

“16 Gb pen drive at Re.1”—Read the newspaper on October 8, 2014!!! An awesome full page advertisement that could lure any boring soul to go shopping in the festive season is what one found in the newspaper.

Amidst lot of hype, fanfare and not to forget the full page advertisements on leading newspapers across India, Flipkart introduced “The Big Billion Day” sale. The e-commerce giant offered products in almost every category at throwaway prices like – a pen drive at Re.1 or a 2 TB portable hard drive at Rs. 600, both of which were found nowhere online. Disappointment!! Janta maaf nai karegi was the thought that must have come across many of our minds!!!
“Till date, India has seen shoppers across the country turn out in millions during festivals like Akshaya Tritiya and Dhanteras. With the 'Big Billion Day', Flipkart is set to replicate this concept of a single day of shopping on a massive scale online,” said the company. “Flipkart will be offering discounts, deals, and surprises across 70 categories including large appliances, books, toys, mobiles, laptops, cameras, clothes, shoes, bags and watches. It also vows to deliver products on time with its 10,000 field staff.”
Now what they forgot to say was that all this would last for less than 2 hours and that too early in the morning.
The mega sale which began at around 8 am promised a lot but within minutes or perhaps, seconds, many items changed their avatar to “Out Of Stock”, perhaps the three words which enthusiastic shopaholics got frustrated reading, since that was the case for the rest of the day. Customers who logged in after 10 am were desperately trying to figure out what exactly Flipkart was offering on its Big Billion Day as most products were sold out.  Around noon, Flipkart’s servers gave away to the huge demand and services were disrupted for a short while.
Flipkart’s #BigBillionDay hash tag on Twitter was trending in the morning but soon several other hash tags, criticizing the sale, like #Flopkart, #Failkart, #Fraudkart, etc started to join the party, as disappointed buyers took to twitter to express their dissappointment.

The mass consumer frenzy created by India's leading online retailer has also triggered multi-layered debates within and outside the retail industry. Despite the heavy customer dissatisfaction, the e-tailer giant did make huge profit of around $100 million in just 10 hours, an achievement in itself. But the massive customer dissatisfaction did hamper the repo of the company and as a result of which apology e-mails were sent to millions of customers. The apology issued by the founders Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal to their customers was perhaps one of the most widely read documents on social media in the week.
Nonetheless, an over-ambitious attempt did reap rewards, but was met with stark criticism as it failed to live up to the promise it made. So in a way, a billion people were befooled!! 

Monday, 20 October 2014

Indian Cinema: Medium of entertainment or social awareness?

By: Vinnata

As I start writing on this topic, a lot of debatable thoughts cross my mind. We all know that cinema today has gone way beyond the conventional notion of just visual story telling which was done with a motive to more of entertain masses than spread awareness and make some good money out of it. However, specifically since past two decades, one can observe that Indian cinema has been very welcoming to the concept of art films and movies that are based on various social issues.
We all will have to agree on the fact that the process of filmmaking is both an art and an industry. And to decide whether it’s just a medium of entertainment or is expected to play a role in social awareness we will have to discuss its various aspects in details.

First of all, Indian Cinema is NOT just about Bollywood.

India is a multicultural country. Hence, it includes the cinematic cultures of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Manipur, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. After Bollywood the most recognized zonal movie industries known to us are South Indian movies, Bengali and Marathi movies.

The first Indian film released in India was Shree pundalik a silent film in Marathi by Dadasaheb Torne on 18 May 1912 at 'Coronation Cinematograph', Mumbai. The first full-length motion picture in India was produced by Dadasaheb Phalke who is the pioneer of Indian film industry a scholar on India's languages and culture. Dadasaheb Phalke is the Father of Indian cinema. Hence, The Dadasaheb Phalke Award, for lifetime contribution to cinema, was instituted in his honour, by the Government of India in 1969, and is the most prestigious and coveted award in Indian cinema.
Directors such as Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Buddhadeb Dasgupta, G. Aravindan, Aparna Sen, Shaji N. Karun and Girish Kasaravalli have made significant contributions to Parallel Cinema and won global acclaim. Other filmmakers such as Shekhar Kapur, Mira Nair and Deepa Mehta have found success overseas. The Indian government extended film delegations to foreign countries such as the United States of America and Japan while the country's Film Producers Guild sent similar missions through Europe.
A still from the movie Chitrangada (starring Rituporno Ghosh)
The following are some of the golden regional movies which truly show the potential of Indian movie makers. 

       Chitrangada (Rituporno Ghosh) 
        The Good road
        Aparajito ( Satyajit Ray)
             Internationally acclaimed and has roped in awards and nominations in
  1. Venice Film Festival
  2. Berlin International Film Festival
  3. British Film Institute Awards, London Film Festival
  4. San Francisco International Film Festival
  5. Bodil Awards (Denmark)
  6. Golden Laurel (United States)
  7. British Academy Film Awards (United Kingdom)

A true Indian film is incomplete without the navarasa of acting. The concept of rasa is fundamental to many forms of Indian art including dance, music, musical theatre, cinema and literature, the treatment, interpretation, usage and actual performance of a particular rasa differs greatly between different styles and schools of abhinaya, and the huge regional differences even within one style.
Rasa has been an important influence on the cinema of India. The Rasa method of performance is one of the fundamental features that differentiate Indian cinema from that of the Western world. In the Rasa method, empathetic "emotions are conveyed by the performer and thus felt by the audience," in contrast to the Western Stanislavski method where the actor must become "a living, breathing embodiment of a character" rather than "simply conveying emotion." The rasa method of performance is clearly apparent in Malayalam Cinema and internationally acclaimed parallel Bengali films directed by Satyajit Ray.
Bharata Muni enunciated the eight Rasas in the Nātyasāstra, an ancient work of dramatic theory, written during the period between 200 BC and 200 AD. He established the following.

Sringara rasa expression

       Shringar  (love)
       Hasya (comedy)
       Adbhut (wonder)
       Raudra  (anger)
       Veer (heroic)
       Karuna  (compassion)
       Bhayanak (horror)
       Vibhatsa  (disgust)
       Shant (peace)
       Vatsalya (parental love)
       Bhakti  (spiritual devotion)

As we know, good things come in small packages.

Indeed. Off late we have observed that there are certain unconventional movie makers emerging out despite the cut throat competition of commercial movie makers around. They certainly have made a place for them by aiming at a niche market rather than a mass market audience. They experiment with social realism, characterization of the story and aesthetic content that they wish to offer. They beautifully craft the stories with themes, very simple and intrinsic yet tangible in nature; screen plays and dialogues. Be it original, a book adaptation or a real life story, they make sure it not just touches people’s heart but should also force them to ‘think’, relate and introspect. At times it can even rejuvenate your thought process and completely change your perspective towards trivial things and issues which you always mistook for an issue but it’s actually not and can be dealt with easily. Good movies do have the power to move people and change their lifestyles for good. And to be able to do that is a great achievement for the art film makers. This gives them the satisfaction of the work they deliver and is the reward they seek for. We all must certainly give it to them for this.
Now, the makers who focus on social issues take really huge risks. If you take up a crucial and volatile issue you need be very careful with its content, direction and compilation as such movies lead to many kinds of controversies. There are cases where various groups get offended with the content, dialogues etc. and as result the movie is withheld from release. This happens because most of the people in our society have a covert mind-set. They are not willing to let go of their hypothetical beliefs and accept the reality.

Here is a list of recent films that’s a must watch if you really crave for films that offer substance.
         The Lunch Box
         Kai Po Che
         Bombay Talkies
         Mumbai meri jaan
         Gangs of Wassepur

This genre of movies is slowly being appreciated by the audience. But I think the film industry should come forward and start promoting it on a larger scale. Only keeping a ‘critique choice’ category in various award functions doesn’t suffice and value the integrity of such movies. Appreciation, if done half-heartedly has no meaning at all.
India has a house full of aspiring and talented actors and movie makers. If they are given the right kind of support, encouragement and platform then with their vision they can lead our film industry to a global stature.

Entertaining? Hell Yeah! Over-rated? Well.

Well, yes. Entertainment is surely an essential part of movies. But isn’t relevance and subject value equally essential? A society that claims, ‘smart is the new sexy’ but goes gaga over the ‘brainless’ and larger than life flicks mentioned below quite evidently prove their hypocrisy. As the new trend follows, the popular movie makers focus more on the box office records than serving the audiences with interesting plots. Few movie makers even try to justify their cheap gimmickal screen plays and baseless story lines as comedy but only if they knew, that comedy is all about witty humour, light sarcasm and rhetoric one liners. They even fail to achieve critical accolades despite earning huge monetary profits and the commercial success. Guys, wouldn’t it be great if these movie makers made some ‘food for thought’ movies using the same commercially hit actors? We know their star power and influence on general masses is massive, then why not put it into some good use?
The following movies have made businesses of worth Rs. 300-600 crores in their lifetime.  
         Krrish 3
         Dhoom Series
         Bang Bang!
         Chennai Express
         Dabangg Series
If you spare some time and give it a thought, you can realize, what wonders can this amount of money do to improve the Indian cinematic standards and make it reach global heights. Sometimes I wonder if we Indians are that easy on money. It’s only because we buy what they sell, they have reached these numbers today. Ergo, I don’t understand who we should really blame for this outrage.
But then, it would be very unjust if I put only my views on this matter. After having a talk with people around me on this matter I have come to a conclusion that there are people who actually ‘enjoy’ this genre (Yes, it has become a genre now.) of movies over art films. They say such movies relax them after a really hectic work/college schedule that they follow every day. It lightens up their mood and makes them feel less stressed out from the constant work/study pressure that they are under.
There will always be two sides to a coin. All we can ever do is argue over certain points which seem valid to us. After all, it all comes down to one consensus of ‘different people, different opinions’, which in fact is true and the only answer to the speculations caused by this topic.