How normal is Normal?

I think it’s time to talk about the elephant in the room. How normal is the life that we are leading as a race? Let me rephrase. I think everyone can agree when I say 2020 has been a tragic year for all of humanity. Individually though, I have personally borne witness to how amazing the year 2020 has been for a lot of my friends. A few found love, others founded business models with their pals. Some took time off and learnt tap dance or karate, while one researched about green tea leaves. A few focused on updating their skills. Many graduated from their living room. Many started their corporate careers from the comfort of their beds. I hope you understand where I’m going with this.

If you don’t, all of this- our accomplishments…They’re normal, sure. But these accomplishments were made during a Global Pandemic that rocked the world. Most developing countries are struggling, while developed nations are healing. Yet we have managed to weave a normal life out of this. I watch movies that were made BC (Before Corona) and I promise I jump with fright and unease when I see a party scene or a kissing scene. SO MUCH HUMAN CONTACT. It’s….almost abnormal.

I marvel and worry at the rate at which we adapted. This makes me wonder what us humans CAN’T do. Will we survive the consequences of climate change? Did the Mayans really have to warn us about the end of the world? Was 2020 the ‘premonition year’ – the trailer to the real live version of the movie 2012. If Noah’s Ark saved humans and all living beings, who will save us this time? Elon Musk? Will we have to move to Mars?

With new times ahead, we will have new problems. What will be our next normal?


Has Kollywood hit saturation point?

I’m a very proud Tamilian. Seriously, one of these days, it’ll be my downfall. But let’s call a spade a spade, shall we? Everyone who thinks that the Kollywood industry has hit its peak and is currently falling, say ‘Aye’.


As a 90’s kid, I grew up enjoying the ‘Thala vs Thalapathi’ conundrum and the ‘first day, first show’ ruckus in every Rajinikanth movie. I was thrilled to watch Superstar on the big screen after YEARS in Pettai. I whistled, yelled and cheered along. But that’s purely out of nostalgia.

Let me get this straight, our crass comedians are now MASS heroes, and our comedies (our pride, the cherry on top, something we must safeguard at all times) is now lame? This is terrible. We are struggling to churn out good content.

The golden crown that the tamil audience wore as ‘the most tasteful’, is long gone. Actors don’t strive to leave an impact anymore, they aim to create a movie or two annually. So when the bar is set so low by the actors, they pick almost any script that comes their way.

Everytime I feel like watching a Tamil movie, I find myself yearning to watch K Balachander’s works or old Mani Ratnam films or even late 90’s SJ Surya’s movies. There was a plot, and a plot twist. You wanted to pick sides, slap the protagonist for being an idiot or cheer him as he beat 10 bad guys into parked Contessas in the rain. I walked out of a theatre AFFECTED, in a different headspace. The recent Dulquer Salmaan movie ‘Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal’ is a dramatic comedy and is your B grade commercial romance movie. But I loved the script. It was unique and reflected the depth of the characters so much.

Yes. There have always been terrible movies, in all eras. Trust me, I’ve watched them. What I am saying is, those movies are all we got now. Let’s take Sivakarthikeyan for example. I have a lot of respect for that man. He was a tamil teacher who showcased his talent in the reality show ‘Kalakka Povathu Yaaru’. He grabbed the opportunity to compere. Next thing we know years later, we see him as the hero’s side-kick. Soon, he starred in his own movie. He was still doing a good job. Ethir Neechal was a good movie. A man, who doesn’t feel comfortable in his own skin- I mean how relatable is that? What went wrong was his horrible attempt to stay afloat in the industry thus pushing him to pick the most random scripts.

I really hope more gems like Aruvi and Otha Seruppu number 7 are made. But I also want more sensible dramas. Movies like 96, Uriyadi, Nerkonda Paarvai, Kodi, Visaranai, Taramani and Super Deluxe have really left the Indian audience shaken. I’m tired of directors hiding behind the “This is what the audience want” reason. We have the talent, we have the money, we have the experience, we have budding artists filled with creativity and potential. It’s high time directors pull up their socks and start dishing out some good content, because I can be sure that the audience is going to lap it right up.

Not your typical Romance with Modern Love

With a star cast, incredible music score and real life stories ‘Modern Love’ is a must watch. The New York Times came together with Amazon Prime Video and created an eight episode long show. It is based on the famous New York times weekly column ‘Modern Love’.

It explores multitude forms of love- from sexual and romantic to platonic, familial AND self love. It shows mental illness, delves into one’s sexual orientations, age and even financial status. At one point I thought they tried too hard to be inclusive.

The thing that needs to be appreciated the most I believe, is the casting and the stories itself. The star cast did a brilliant job of filling in the shoes of the characters they were playing. Also, unlike every New York love story ever, I loved how the city wasn’t overused for being the “Cupid”. You know, the “Oh the city brought us together’, “Oh I have a new job, a new apartment, a new friend and New York is sooooo romantic!”. With the kissing on New Year’s in Times Square or organising a dance mob at the Grand Central or running in the snow to get back the love of your life! You catch the drift…

I think the show was a perfect balance of realism and exaggerated actions. An anthology of this much weight, dealing with a lot of complicated, interconnected, deep emotions definitely needed a bit of glitz. I absolutely enjoyed the show and I would like to believe it was solely because of relatability- not with the plot but with the characters and the depth of emotion. My favourite story was the first episode with Guzmin and the lady from How I Met Your Mother.

Like language, love has evolved through the centuries and with that evolution it has brought with it, various complications, insecurities and fragility. Watching the show felt like a mirror was being held to my face. It was truly sensational and a delightful watch.

The intricacies of Marriage Story (2019)

For those of you who don’t know, Marriage story is a drama which was written, produced AND directed by Noah Baumbach starring Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver. I’m a big fan of Scarl Jo, so naturally I was very excited to watch the movie. With a great script, exceptional acting and unobtrusive cinematography the movie was an actor’s treat.

The story is about a married couple who are going through a divorce. The wife, Nicole Barber files for a divorce when she realises that the marriage aids and benefits her husband Charlie more than it does for her. She realises she is unhappy and chooses to live life on her own terms.

The film journeys through every difficulty a couple has to face during a divorce. With the difficulties being richly detailed, but well balanced with some refined comedy and powerful and violent emotional scenes, the movie had everything lined perfectly. It has the whole package! You can tell it was tastefully made.

The movie, very beautifully portrayed the dehumanisation one faces while going through a divorce. It wasn’t a movie with a 2 hour screen time that focused on a rough divorce. It was every aspect that was tied with it. With every dehumanising act there was a counter scene that showed the lives being bounced back and forth. Just thinking about the stark contrast sends chills down my spine.

The movie really stayed with me after all these months of it’s Netflix release. This will primarily be because of the way the the break up was portrayed. An actor past her prime time, washed out mother and a giving wife realises that she isn’t happy anymore. A committed theatre artist, absent minded husband and a loving father caught off guard with the divorce. It showed how difficult it was to break out of a routine, an attachment and that really did it for me.

The movie is highly recommended and everyone should watch it. Studies also show that it acts as a catharsis for couples who are on the fence. Let us know how you enjoyed it. Do you guys have a movie that has left you rattled or breathless?

Expressive Arts Therapy vs singing in the shower

When art and psychotherapy are joined, the scope and depth of each can be expanded, and when working together, they are tied to the continuities of humanity’s history of healing. —Shaun McNiff, The Arts and Psychotherapy

(An article with a quote, how original.)

In my previous blog I had written a brief about Expressive Arts Therapy. I plan on delving a little more into the workings and the effectiveness of this practice.

Expressive Arts helps us foster healing and resolve conflict. From journaling, (yes maintaining a diary has proven to be helpful. Wimpy Kid knew better.) dancing, drawing, improv, to poetry writing or narration, there are a lot that fall under Expressive Arts. Fundamentally, anything that one uses to express themselves with.

So what is the difference between, I don’t know, a 3rd grader’s recess time and an entire school of therapy? What makes expressive arts therapy a therapeutic practice?

I had mentioned in my previous blog that the therapy is about the process and not the end result. Coming from an over achieving family, I know how having everything you do evaluated, can hamper your world view, growth and your performance. My drawing from second grade didn’t make it up on the fridge because I didn’t colour within the lines (and we didn’t own any…. fridge magnets). So drawing, in this situation, isn’t about expressing yourself and feeling good, but it’s about making it up on the fridge or the soft board in class.

So the moment one is pushed to simply express their feelings, the act of drawing has already become their safe haven. So ‘drawing’, becomes an aid for expression. A tool to release anxiety, to make peace or resolve problems, because what is creative is therapeutic and what is therapeutic is almost always, a creative process.

In Expressive Arts Therapy, art isn’t used to diagnose and treat people. (That’s Art Therapy.) Here, art is a tool to explore your inner realms of your consciousness. The process is solely emotional and intuitive. Singing ‘Mr.Brightside’ at the top of your lungs on your way to work is therapeutic for you. It helps clear your mind or helps you cope with road rage.

That’s what Expressive Arts Therapy is about. Letting go. Expressing. Additionally we study, analyse and gain insight from your creative piece about your emotions and thoughts. This we do by looking at messages or cues that will be portrayed by clients in their creative pieces, subconsciously.

What may just save your days in quarantine- Expressive Arts Therapy

Expressive Arts Therapy makes use of the creative arts as a form of therapy. This includes the distinct disciplines of art therapy, dance/movement therapy, drama therapy, psychodrama, music therapy, sand play therapy, poetry therapy, etc.

Now what’s the difference between Expressive Arts Therapy and expressive arts? In this form of therapy the process of creating a piece of art (a painting, a dance sequence, a song, etc.) is extremely significant. More emphasis is given to the process of the creation than to the final product itself. Expressive arts would be a performance for oneself or to an audience. Like singing in the shower, dancing to Uptown Funk while making toast, posting your poems on social media, or performing a piece of slam poetry etc.

Funnily enough, both are therapeutic.

Expressive Arts Therapy is based on the assumption that one can heal through the process of creating art. This helps one tap into their imagination, emotions and thought process. This method has proven to help one deal with stress, trauma, anxiety, autism (mild or extreme) and PTSD.

So if at all you’re having a tough time coping, here’s an option that you can explore. Mind you, this is a form of therapy, which means you need to find yourself an expressive arts therapist. Of course colouring a ‘Colour me in’ book, rapping with Hamilton or dancing to ABBA by yourself can relieve you from anxiety and stress momentarily but if you want to self introspect and see solid progress, it’s always good to turn to a professional.

Hope this helped!

How okay is it to lead a normal life during a global pandemic?

I have recently found myself looking for a quaint little apartment for a nominal rent in the city. Like the process of house-hunting wasn’t bad enough earlier, this little project is turning into my favourite nightmare. Unwarranted chides, ridiculous expectations, just out of reach rent, it sure has been a rollercoaster ride.

The act of house-hunting itself (getting on a bike and following your house broker around winding streets and narrow gullies) has become stressful. I mean, I sure don’t want to contract the virus. So how do I “okay” a house? Videocalls. That’s right. My house broker is better than yours.

It was awkward and painful. I was bargaining with the landlord when his 2 year old behind him somersaulted off her plastic three wheeler. “Yes Mr. Hegde, I know your daughter just toppled off her tricycle but can you consider bringing down the rent by a couple of thousands please?”.

When I actually gathered some courage to go out to see a property (I took the necessary safety precautions) I was denied a tour of the house because the landlord is a heart patient. So he asked me to look at the property from the outside and take a call.

What annoyed me the most was even after being fully aware of the fact that the times are hard and that the economy is crashing, the landlords without any hesitation whatsoever, quote a ridiculous price. “No, Mr. Patel, I’m not paying 25 grand. This place is a hole!”

The house-hunting was futile. I have found no house, I’m still under tremendous pressure to find one and I’m left with a soul-shaking amount of guilt. I am privileged enough to be looking for a stay. I am privileged enough to be choosy about my stay.

To hope for a better world makes me feel ignorant. To hope for the betterment of the world makes me feel privileged. To hope to get successful one day and bring about change seems passably correct. So I will do that. Finishing off this rant, for now, now that’s what you call a guilt trip!

Indian authors and their refreshing stories

In March, when the lockdown was imposed, I decided to bring back my ancient habit of reading. After browsing through over a hundred book reviews I had finally decided on the books that I would read this lockdown.

Arundhati Roy’s ‘The God of Small Things’, Amish Tripathi’s ‘The Shiva Trilogy’, and Devdutt Pattanaik’s ‘Myth=Mythia’. Now, I know I’m a little too late to jump into the “Indian writers” bandwagon, but isn’t it better to be late than not jump at all?

I started with the famous Tripathi Trilogy. I’ve always been that child who was engrossed with her Amar Chithra Kathas. The trilogy definitely outdid my childhood favourites. It is the perfect mix of fact, fiction, and imagination. The explorative blend between the heroic yet human conflict, the sweeping romance, and the mythical facts and references makes this a delightful read.

My next read was Roy’s ‘The God of Small Things’. I am truly enthralled by the way the concept of desire is so subtly THROWN at your face! I love how the book explores Indian history, politics, and of course the infamous Indian society. I had goosebumps at the end of this and a little part of me is locked away with the book.

Then Pattanaik’s ‘Myth=Mythia’. Now this was my Everest. This man decodes Indian Mythology in a book. I mean that’s a massive project! Centuries and centuries of Hindu philosophy – condensed, profiling of characters from Hindu Epics and Mythology, and an introduction to the Holy books of Hinduism- The Vedas, The Upanishads, Mahabharatha and Ramayana. Almost like a psychological analysis of the Puranas. It is a simple read with complex content that is unknotted with such ease and precision.

These books added some spice and speed to my lockdown days. What have your go-to genres/authors been this lockdown?

Coping with times

Now that we’re nearing six months of lockdown, I’m in disbelief as to how I’ve handled the days of isolation. To be clear, I didn’t learn a new instrument or get better at cooking. I did try to learn a new language, ¿pero a qué costo? (but at what cost?).

There have been days that are long, where I ball up and drown with survivor’s guilt and days that whizz past. Days where I am productive and days I just don’t leave the comfort of my bed. Days where I cook an astounding meal and days I live on toast and a lot of questionable Irish coffee.

But the one thing that I realised was each day was different. There was comfort in the absence of a routine and in the presence of one. I had full control of my day and it was up to me to do… or not to do at all. If I chose to binge on Tarantino movies, that was my choice. And I actually managed to live with that choice with almost no guilt.

So forget what your friends make their quarantine look like. You don’t have to bake a cake or set up a pillow fort and glam it up with fairy lights. You could just snuggle in with some hot green tea and call it a day as long as you can sleep at night!

Page turners in times of “Time-freeze”

Books are ‘Magic carpets’ that have ‘Time travel’ capabilities. They adopt us and gently carry us to times before and after our lifetimes. They have the irrefutable power of helping bored minds transcend that boredom. There are “Thrillers” that scintillate the mind, “Love stories” that enthrall us, “Murder mysteries” that create new neural pathways thus invigorating our senses. Two such wonderful finds, in the “Thriller” category, are ”The Silent Patient” by Alex Michaelides and “Couple next door” by Shari Lapena. In the world of technology, blazing guns and super heroes these books stand apart for their sheer cerebral stimulation and style of writing; they are intelligently scripted keeping the reader guessing endlessly; the climb is precipitous and the climax, absolutely fulfilling. Must read!!