Grand Pramukh Swami Maharaj Centennial Celebrations in India
Ahmedabad, India continued this week with themes centered on Devotion to Guru; Health & Spirituality Day; De-Addiction Day; and Interfaith Harmony & Tribal Traditions. The last two key events highlighted Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s spiritually driven vision of one world and one human family.
On December 20th, 2022, religious leaders and representatives from around the world representing the Jain, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Jewish, and Buddhist faiths gathered to solidify interfaith bonds through collective dialogue recalling Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s love and sacrifice which saw no race, religion, color, caste, creed, language or borders.
In his United Nations Address at the Millennium Peace Conference on August 29, 2000, Pramukh Swami Maharaj expressed, “We religious leaders should not dream of only one religion in the world but dream of a world where all religions are one. Flourishing together is the secret of peace. We must not progress at the cost of others, but sacrifice a part of ourselves for the good of others. For true religion is that which inspires love for one another.”
In recalling Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s commitment to interfaith harmony, HH Dalai Lama addressed the assembly by a letter, stating, “I send my greetings on the occasion of the centenary of Pramukh Swami Maharaj. He truly practiced the ancient Indian wisdom of nonviolence and compassion. The leadership of individuals like him have made India a role model of religious harmony.”
HE Abdul Rahman Bu Ali, Thought Leader of Bahrain said, “The historic BAPS Mandir in Abu Dhabi is more than inspirational, it is civilizational—bringing countries and religions together. There will also be a BAPS temple in
Bahrain. Leaders like Pramukh Swami Maharaj do not die but remain alive and continue to inspire, guide, and touch countless hearts across the world. Mahant Swami Maharaj is the best successor to the best predecessor.”
Acharya Dr. Lokesh Muni Ji, Jain Muni, President, Ahimsa Vishwa Bharati said, “Rarely do luminaries like Pramukh Swami Maharaj take birth on this earth. He was a bridge to unite all different faiths together. When we face an environment of religious intolerance, the BAPS Swaminarayan tradition has been a torchbearer for religious tolerance.”
In closing, His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj said, “I bow at the feet of all the religious leaders who have come to the interfaith conference today. Everyone is doing tremendous work in their own respective fields. We learned a lot through our dialogue, and everyone will leave with divine memories.”
Touching on the common thread of humanity, the program on December 22nd, “Glorious Tribal Traditions: Celebrating Humanity” focused on Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s relentless efforts to uplift tribal communities. Despite advancing age and health issues, Pramukh Swami Maharaj visited over 250 tribal villages not yielding to sweltering heat or winter nights. He sanctified thousands of homes, personally met with individuals, listened to their challenges, introduced spiritual teachings and practices to help lead disciplined, addiction free, productive, purposeful lives while maintaining traditions. In addition to providing basic necessary resources, including medical care and educational institutions; he inspired BAPS swamis to travel the region extensively to elevate remote villagers from poverty, illiteracy and addictions. The impact is clear, tribal children graduating from
BAPS have gone onto prestigious universities like IIT Mumbai and are now doctors, engineers and professionals.
Harsh Chouhan, Chairperson of the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, said, “Our community has a silent sorrow, that no one understands us, but Pramukh Swami Maharaj was able to and inspire others to do so. Because he did not employ the standards of others, rather listened with his heart. For him, the tribal folk and city-dwellers were the same.”
Honorable Mangu Patel, Governor of Madhya Pradesh, said, “As a guru, Pramukh Swami Maharaj did not just give blessings and preach; he believed himself to be the servant of God and therefore servant of all humanity. He worked relentlessly in tribal areas, going from hut to hut, promoting de-addiction and uplifting them socially and economically. By freeing 4 million people from addictions, he actually freed 20 million people from misery when counting all their family members. He has been there during the highs and lows for all of Gujarat and its people. He created over 110 mandirs in tribal areas. His life has become a glorious chapter in human history.”
In his concluding blessings, HH Mahant Swami Maharaj said, “Pramukh Swami Maharaj provided a distinctive definition of Adivasis. He said, ‘The oldest, ‘adi’, is God, and those in whose hearts God resides ‘vasi’ are Adivasis.’ This was not just wordplay, he truly believed and lived this. He often said, ‘Although others may consider tribals backward, I see God in them.’ Considering them his family, he stayed at their homes and ate their food without distinction. Through his selfless love, he transformed the lives of thousands of tribals.”
Pramukh Swami Maharaj inspired numerous de-addition cam-
paigns including a few with over 25,000 children going door to door, bringing education, awareness of health consequences and realistic impact on families. Seeing the sacrifice of children in such mass efforts cannot help but move people to re-evaluate the power of addition on their lives. These efforts were also a central focal point at the month-long festival at Pramukh Swami Nagar. Exhibitions and powerful theatrical performances capturing the devastating impact of vices on families, especially on future generations, struck a chord with attendees. Immediate response was voiced by many attendees inspired to break from the shackles of addiction and begin new lives with their families. The generational impact of such campaigns is clear in the statistics from the Adivasis to communities across Gujarat and India. Pramukh Swami’s vision and work for a better world through personal transformation continues with inspiration from HH Mahant Swami Maharaj.
The month-long celebration is Mahant Swami Maharaj’s vision to provide inspiration from the life, efforts, teachings, actions, and contributions of Pramukh Swami Maharaj.
For more information visit www.psm100.org Live broadcast of daily evening programs on live.psm100.org Inspiring videos and photographs related to Pramukh Swami Maharaj Centenary Celebrations are available at @ PSM100yrs on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
The BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) is a spiritual, volunteer-driven organization dedicated to improving society through individual growth by fostering the Hindu ideals of faith, unity, and selfless service. Its worldwide network of 3,800 centers supports these character-building activities.
Under the guidance and
Maharaj, BAPS aspires to build a community that is free of addictions as well as morally, ethically, and spiritually pure. For more details, please visit www.baps.org.
About Pramukh Swami Maharaj
Pramukh Swami Maharaj was the fifth spiritual successor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. Under his leadership, BAPS grew into an international spiritual and humanitarian organization with over 3,300 centers worldwide. He dedicated his life to the well-being of others, traveling throughout the world to foster love, peace, harmony, righteousness, faith in God, and service to humanity. With genuine care and compassion, he reached out to all members of society irrespective of class, color, or age. Recognized and respected as one of India’s greatest spiritual teachers, he lived by and promoted the principle: “In the joy of others, lies our own.”
About Mahant Swami Maharaj
His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj is the sixth and current spiritual successor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. He was ordained a swami by Yogiji Maharaj in 1961 and named Sadhu Keshavjivandas. As he was appointed the head (Mahant) of the Mandir in Mumbai, he became known as Mahant Swami. His devout, humble, and service-focused life earned him the innermost blessings of Yogiji Maharaj and Pramukh Swami Maharaj. Mahant Swami Maharaj travels throughout the world inspiring people through his insightful spiritual discourses and disciplined conduct. His virtuous lifestyle and profound devotion to Bhagwan Swaminarayan and gurus are ideals toward which devotees strive. Mahant Swami Maharaj became the guru and President of BAPS upon Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s passing in 2016.
Acharya Praveen Gulati, Founding Member, Arya Samaj Greater HoustonBy Ranjana VadhVa Bedi
If a man is like a river Carving banks, shaping mankind around him, Or a gentle stream Inviting you to listen to its music, He surely ends in the sea Even amidst the sorrow and loss, He is surrounded by an ocean of endless love.
So is Acharya Praveen Gulati ji, surrounded by an ocean of endless love by all those whose lives he touched. One of the principal founding members of the Arya Samaj Greater Houston (ASGH), Praveen ji ‘s atma left his earthly body on 20th December 2022. At the memorial, funeral and cremation rites on December 22nd, attended by over one hundred community members, eulogies by his children and extended family were a remarkable testimonial to a dynamic, selfless man driven to serve Arya Samaj.
As a dedicated husband to Rita Ji, and father to Sanjay and Eesha, his love of family was paramount, leading his family, also, into the service of Arya Samaj. Indeed, the Arya Samaj community, and especially the students, became his extended family in his life-long service as Acharya and teacher. An Acharya is a person who teaches the sciences of the Vedas and whose “aacharan”, behavior, is model. He shows a road map for pupils to emulate. Praveen ji modeled righteous living while spreading the word of the Vedas. Management Committee member, Bhushan Verma ji aptly remarked “Acharya Praveen ji was a walking Arya Samaj, who lived and propounded Vaidic values to the Indian diaspora in Houston.”
Arya Samaj is a social reform movement (connecting world-wide humanity to the Vedas, the root of sanatan dharma) which teaches monotheism whilst advocating against gender and caste-based discrimination. Acharya Praveen Ji championed these values forcefully and fearlessly to all those he encountered. Praveen ji was encouraged by his father, Pita ji Desraj Gulati, to join Pita ji Ram Chand Mahajan in performing Vaidic Havans at peoples home. The duo performed these duties pro bono, and forwarded “dakshina”, monies gifted to them in appreciation of their services, to the Arya Samaj. As a young engineer with a fulltime job and family, Praveen ji’s devotion to the Vaidic cause was so passionate that he created time and boundless energy in spreading the knowledge of the principles of Arya Samaj wherever he found an audience. His personal charm and gentle demeanor would make the most skeptical intellectual open up to his discourse, the listener invariably making a personal connection with him.
Starting in 1991, he served as the first Acharya of the ASGH. In his duty as an Acharya of such a powerful reform movement, he equaled any formally trained priest of the Arya Samaj, although he was selftaught. It was an astonishing accomplishment, more so because he influenced a whole generation of children, now young professionals. This large group of young women and men became vegetarians, in-
corporating the Vaidic values into their lives. Foremost in this group are his own 2 children, now shining stars in their own lives. As a young family they travelled to numerous school tennis tournaments, talking and listening to their father about God, life, truth, Vaidic principles and perhaps some jokes as well. His family was witness to his many hours of reading and preparation before any lecture or teaching session. He was a life-long student and an even better teacher/Acharya. His young protégés remember him as personally attentive, never too busy to answer questions, and always interested in their welfare.
Pita ji Mahajan’s vision of a larger and independently situated Arya Samaj was then facilitated by philanthropist Sunil Mehta ji, who offered the Arya Samaj exclusive use of buildings and grounds on his business premises. With a physical home, Praveen ji, worked harder than before on his Sunday pravachans doing justice to his title as an Acharya of Arya Samaj Greater Houston. The responsibility of realizing Ram Chand Mahajan ji’s vision of a larger samaj was then charged to a group consisting of Shekhar Agrawal, Muneesh Gulati, Praveen Gulati, Brij Kathuria, Dev Mahajan, and Sunil Mehta. In 1997, the new building of the ASGH on Schiller Road was completed and had a grand opening. Thus, Arya Samaj Greater Houston, under the judicious guidance of the
principal founders, has continued to grow, now with a Montessori & Elementary school (DAVMES), a Dayanand Arya Vaidic Sanskriti School (DAVSS), a Vaidic Sanskriti School-Global (VSS), Arya Yuvak Mandal (AYM), a weekly Sunday satsang and several weekly adult classes (in Sanskrit, Yoga, Ramayana, Geeta, the Vedas).
(For a full history of the growth of Arya Samaj Greater Houston please visit https://aryasamajhouston.org/about-us/history-andgrowth.)
After his earlier years as a personal representative of the Arya Samaj while working to support a family, Acharya Gulati Ji transitioned into a full time Acharya for DAV Sanskriti School in the early 2000s. His scholarly pursuits were obvious in the large collection of books he donated to initiate the library at ASGH. In the following years, he spent considerable time and resources in teaching and creating a following of young people to lead a life based on Vaidic principles. In spite of health challenges that were to follow, Praveen ji’s energy and enthusiasm to teach his students were undiminished.
Although his work required study and thought, his friends and students remember him not as a serious man, but as a jocular man who loved the good things in his life. He was a gardener, loved good quality food and never turned down a cup of tea. Generous by na-
ture, often resulting in an excess of food when he was around, he did not sweat over the small stuff in life. Friends had to be fed and entertained. From young children to students to learned scholars, they were all his friends. Sanjay Jain ji commented “We were blessed to have the guidance of Acharya Praveen ji, he taught our children the true meaning of ‘Idan na mama’, it’s not mine, it’s for all.” Management Committee members Anil and Anjali Gupta noted “He touched many lives and made a difference in the world. We and our kids are fortunate to have known him.”
Ranjan Kapoor and Rajendra Pandya, close family friends, remarked that Praveen ji was a brother, a father, a spiritual guide, that rarest of persons who gave of himself generously and loved all who met him. They revered him as their Guru. Yet another family friend, Kusum Vyas, observed “He touched the lives of so many people as he made the time to show up for everyone who reached out, with his caring, trustworthy and sound counsel. He simply wanted to reinforce Vaidic Dharma in peoples’ lives and that he surely did”.
Students, remarked on the strong impact “uncle” had on them as an Acharya. They reflected on how as young students in the Arya Samaj DAV Sanskriti school, he instilled Vaidic values in them, which have
shaped their life-long behavior: Neeraj Salhotra – Uncle taught me that while doing the right thing is hard, it is always the correct decision because in the end our values should guide us.
Bobby Kathuria – One day when I was thirteen, I met Gulati uncle at a private Havan ceremony he was leading. The ceremony followed with a sermon where he talked about the soul and reincarnation as described in the Vedas and Ramayan. I remember how deep his conviction was on the subject and it moved me. It was the first time I ever pondered the soul of animals. He encouraged the group to consider becoming vegetarian and shortly after I decided to give it a try. Twenty-five years later I am still a vegetarian.
Sanjay Chaudary – Through Uncle’s influence, I have grown to have an unshakeable and strong pride to be Hindu and practice sanatan dharma. This pride has also reinforced in my life: fearlessness, trust in God, and to see our scriptures in all walks of life.
Neha Srivastava – “Krinvanto Vishwam Arya” - Make the world noble. Acharya ji encouraged me and my peers to embark on a journey of commitment to service for the betterment of the world around us.
Nalin Verma – Gulati uncle taught me all about righteousness when I was a little boy. He taught me that our heart always understands if what we are doing is right or wrong and we should always follow that feeling.
Acharaya ji’s Samaj sewa (service) was made possible by the sacrifice and unwavering support of his selfless wife Rita ji, who supported his efforts to spread the message of Arya Samaj with her nurturing care. As a life partner, she sustained the family and the community he served.
As community members mourn the loss of a stalwart of Arya Samaj Greater Houston, Dev Mahajan ji, founding member, recalled “Acharya Praveen ji was a hard worker, a perfectionist and a great orator. He would spend hours in research to prepare his pravachan. He was a great lover of music, who spent innumerable hours in perfecting the recording of two Bhajan CD’s which he and his brother Muneesh ji gifted to Arya Samaj”. Sushma Mahajan ji recollected “I learnt a lot from Acharya Praveen Ji’s pravachans. He clarified many doubts l had about our sanatan dharma’s teachings”. Bhushan ji in his Shraddhanjali said “May his divangat atma achieve peace and sadgati”. Sanjay Jain, Coordinator of the Managing committee, expressed a similar sentiment “May his departed soul achieve peace and continue its journey to mukti”.
Arya Samaj Greater Houston honors the memory of a true soldier, who followed in the footsteps of Maharishi Swami Dayanand, the founder of Arya Samaj. ASGH will hold a Celebration of the life of Acharya Praveen ji on January 22nd, 2023 during the satsang from 9:45am – 12:00pm. The weekly satsang is held every Sunday at 14375 Schiller Rd, Houston, TX 77082. Anyone wishing to attend is welcome.
For more information on ASGH please visit https://aryasamajhouston.org/
Hindus of Greater Houston Presents Lifetime Achievement Awards
houston: Hindus of Greater Houston (HGH) in collaboration with VPSS Houston, hosted their annual Lifetime Achievement awards ceremony at the VPSS hall on November 5th, 2022. An additional award - The Akhil Chopra Service award for 2021, was also presented as the ceremony, that had been postponed due to COVID-19.
Mr. Rasesh Dalal, Trustee and Comptroller of VPSS Haveli and HGH Board of Council Chairman initiated the evening program as he welcomed the audience & the special guest Mr. Kevin Cole – Mayor of the City of Pearland along with his wife Lisa.
HGH President – Mrs. Thara Narasimhan, who provided an overview & significance of the award ceremony. She also briefly described the role of HGH in the Houston area, which is to mainly provide a unified voice for the Hindu community.
HGH also quarterbacked multiple events over the past year marking all major Hindu festivals in collaboration with multiple member organizations. She also recalled a major achievement this year wherein the Houston Chronicle published multiple articles covering local community event & celebrations.
Thara ji also taught a class of HPD cadets, as HGH part of outreach programs to educate the mainstream about the community’s cultural sensitivities. She thanked the news media India Herald, Indo American news, the Radio media.
HGH owes one special thanks to Manisha Gandhi of TV Asia who covers all HGH Events and who is also HGH Board Member.
Thereafter, Mrs. Rachana Shah
– Principal Vallabh Vidya Mandir (VVM) & Board of Director Hindus of Greater Houston introduced Sarlabhen Patel. She introduced the young students of VVM Group dance and solo performance of “Madhurashtakam”, a Composition of Saint Shri. Vallabhacharya.
The MC for the evening, Ms.Maitreyi Asthigiri took over and requested the awardees to join her on the stage. The first recognition for Lifetime Awardee was Ms. Sarla Patel of VPSS. She was introduced by Ms. Rachna Shah who called her the Iron Lady of the temple and recounted how she started the temple out of her garage many years ago.
The 2nd awardee for the evening was Dr. Venugopal Menon of Sri Meenakshi Temple Society in Pearland. Dr. Menon was introduced by Mr. Tupil Narasimhan. Tupil recounted how deeply involved Dr. Venugopal has been since the formation of the Meenak-
shi Temple Society. The society was one of the first temples in the Houston area, and he continues to constantly guide and serve the Temple everyday as he lives next door to the temple premises.
The last presentation was the Akhil Chopra Service Award 2021 which was presented to Sewa Houston chapter coordinator – Mr. Nikhil Jain. He was introduced by Dr. Madan Luthra, who was also on past Awadree of this award. He spoke highly of Nikhil Jain’s deep involvement with multiple local initiatives & selfless service and always ready to lead programs not only for Sewa but also for other organizations.
With the honorees invited up the stage, the Awards ceremony began by inviting the Chief Guest, Hon’ble Mayor of City of Pearland, Mayor Kevin Cole. He presented the Awards to all the three Awardees and spoke about service and leadership being honored, and to model self into what people
want you to see & do. He talked about his life of service, and on being an effective leader. He also talked about Houston as one of the most diverse cities in the country.
Sarla Patel accepted her award & spoke about hurdles in her early life, and how her move to the United States and then then her involvement with the VPSS organization almost from the beginning gave her a purpose in life. She wishes to continue to be always available to the organization in its future endeavors.
Dr. Venugopal Menon reflected on the founding days of the MTS and encouraged young to leaders & volunteers to get involved. One of his recent initiatives at the MTS is to involve more youth in leadership positions at the temple and emphasized the importance of Hindus to work together and unite all Hindu denominations and sects.
Houston coordinator – Mr. Nikhil Jain then took the podium
and accepted the Akhil Chopra Service award. He recalled how he was inspired by his family and their individual contributions to their local communities over multiple years, and how this instilled the deep service values in him.
The last part of the program was the felicitation of the awardees by close friends/colleagues and family members. VPSS’s Akshay Bhai felicitated Sarla Ben, and well known Indian classical dance teacher Ms. Rathna Kumar & MTS Chairman felicitated Dr Venugopal. Mr. Jain’s daughter Ms. Suvi Jain felicitated her dad, and shared personal stories & memories, & lastly Sewa International President Mr. Arun Kankani spoke highly about Nikhil’s achievements with Sewa and all the other organizations he is involved with including JVB Houston & MP Mitra Mandal. The event ended with light refreshments.
washington dC: ‘Veer Baal Diwas’ was observed in the Embassy of India in Washington DC on 26 December 2022 in presence of Indian Diaspora and students. A celebration also took place at the Indian Consulate in Houston.
All attendees paid tributes to the unparalleled sacrifices made by Sahibzade- the beloved sons of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji. A digital exhibition on the lives of Sahibzades, Baba Ajit Singh Ji, Baba Jujhaar Singh Ji, Baba Zorawar Singh Ji and Baba Fateh Singh Ji
was also mounted on this occasion.
Speaking at the event, Charge d’Affaires Ms. Sripriya Ranganathan highlighted the various initiatives implemented by the Government of India which have facilitated commemoration of sacred festivals of Sikhism- including opening of Kartarpur Sahib Corridor; celebration of 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev ji across the world; the commemoration of 400th birth anniversary of Guru Teg Bahadur
ji - with a special commemorative coin and postage stamp being released by the Hon’ble Prime Minister to mark Guru Teg Bahadur’s 400th Prakash Purab; and bringing back three ‘Holy Swarups’ of the Guru Granth Sahib Ji from Afghanistan with full honour in August last year.
The inaugural commemoration of ‘Veer Baal Diwas’ is taking place in India and across the world, as the country celebrates the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav signifying 75 years of India’s independence.
Indo American News
FoundeR: dR. K.L. sindwani
PuBLisheR: jawahaR MaLhotRa editoR: PRaMod KuLKaRni
CoRResPondent: sanChaLi Basu
houston: Eternal Gandhi Museum Houston (EGMH) is excited to announce a generous gift of $50,000 from M D Anderson Foundation. Our new Museum is so proud to be linked with this legendary Houston institution. With this gift, EGMH has now raised $7.25 million towards a construction budget of $10 million, leaving $ 2.75 million to be raised.
Established in 2002 as a 501c3 entity, EGMH (formerly known as Mahatma Gandhi Library), seeks to establish a cultural and educational place-based initiative to inspire visitors to embrace these timeless values in their own lives. Through the life and work of Gandhi—Eternal Gandhi Museum Houston will be a thriving, vibrant institution aimed at positively impacting the community while
creating a sustainable and dynamic economic engine in Houston, one of the most diverse cities in the nation.
The Museum will also highlight various world leaders and their journeys depicting the power of peaceful resistance to settle conflicts nonviolently. By telling the story of Gandhi and the many peace leaders he inspired, EGMH will enrich the lives of all who visit through immersive educational experiences. In today’s divisive political and social climate, no message is more relevant. Gandhi’s message of peace is universal and timeless. Beyond its cultural impact, the EGMH will be an important economic driver, stimulating tourism, jobs, and direct and indirect spending in the local and greater Houston community.
Masterji Plans a “Go Green” Indian Yatra to Raise Social AwarenessBy jawahaR MaLhotRa
houston: As the saying goes, it’s hard to keep a good man down and when it apply it to Masterji Indravadan Trivedi, the celebrated classical Indian dancer, dramatist, painter and Hindu priest, you can understand that he can’t sit still. Even though his legs are not the same and he uses a cane, his portly figure and face with a full white trimmed beard poses a striking figure for man of his age.
Masterji invited a few of his close friends and collaborators to Shiv Sagar restaurant on Hillcroft this past Sunday, Christmas Day, to unveil his plans for sharing the wealth of his experiences on a voyage – a yatra – to seven cities
in India in the coming two months.
The tour will lister also visit Singapore, South Korea, three cities in Japan, London and other cities around the globe.
“It will be a trek from Gujarat to Lucknow, UP,” beamed Masterji dressed in a bright blue shirt with aviator sunglasses and a golfers cap. “Our five-member volunteer team will stay in Government bungalows and give seminars in local schools and universities in events co-organized by the Lions Club of India.” The two month-long trek in India is organized in a manner very similar to the Bicycle Tour Masterji did as a young man in 1982, followed by a similar Motorcycle Tour through Canada and the US that he did in 1990 both of
which were also co-organized by the Lions Club.
“On this “Go Green” tour, we will focus on raising self-awareness of one’s place in the world and impart practical spiritual education,” explained Masterji, “distilled from years of my own experiences and knowledge.” Realizing that people grasp ideas better through demonstrations, Masterji will use puppets to teach young children and pantomime, a craft he knows well from years as a dancer, when addressing university gatherings.
The Houston team will leave on the tour on January 3, 2023. Those interested in supporting the tour can contact Masterji by email at email@example.com
‘Vadh’: Pulp Fiction Story of a Noble MurderBy shuBhRa guPta
There’s something noble about the word ‘vadh’, as opposed to, merely, murder. The latter can be tawdry, ordinary: the former is used as moral justification to end a life. But is a murder, even if it is of a monster, ever justified?
Schoolmaster Manjunath (Sanjay Mishra) and wife Manju (Neena Gupta) are middle-aged, eking out their precarious middle-class existence in Gwalior. A callous son in the US doesn’t want to know about their troubles, which started because of him and his ambitions.
Now that the son has got what he wants, he’s washed his hands off, knowing full well that a pitiless loan shark (Saurabh Sachdeva) is looming darkly over his parents’ life.
‘Vadh’ plays out like a Mano-
har Kahani, a pulpy tale of murder, where an unlikely killer does away with a bad guy in the most gruesome manner possible. An investigating cop (Manav Vij) and a local hoodlum have their hands in the till, too.
The killing is vividly realised, especially because it happens off screen. We can hear it, and that makes it worse. But what we don’t get is nuance: the sharp edged weapon is wielded bluntly, not just in this part, but through the film. What happens to a good human when he uses his hands to take a life? We get neither doubt nor even the hint of remorse.
We hear the two principal characters defend the murder. One says he slept soundly after doing it. Another says, ‘koi galat kaam nahin kiya’. The swiftness with which the traumatised Manju accepts the
deed is unbelievable: it’s one thing to talk of sleeping peacefully, but do you not have nightmares?
Mishra comes off more hangdog than disturbed. And Sachdeva and Vij are clichéd, the former as the leery goon ferrying a girl and a drink around, and the latter as a policeman with something to hide. It’s Neena Gupta who makes us believe in her mother trying to build a bridge between the father and son, and the woman having a hard time, at least to begin with, in wrapping her head around a heinous crime. ‘Paap go gaya’ ( we have sinned), she cries out, in the most effective scene of the film.
Cast: Sanjay Mishra, Neena Gupta, Manav Vij, Saurabh Sachdeva
Director: Jaspal Singh Sandhu, Rajeev Barnwal Rating: 2 stars
‘Salaam Venky’: Kajol Rises Above Teary Melodrama
What do you do when a film lays out all its wares before you can properly settle into your seat? Within literally a minute of its opening ‘Salaam Venky’ kicks into explanatory mode, telling us how its incredibly brave 24-yearold principal character has spent so many years of his life fighting against DMD (Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy), a degenerative disease which has no cure. And how his incredibly brave mother (Kajol) has fought alongside him every inch of the way. Just in case we miss the point, Venkatesh aka Venky (Vishal Jethwa) is to be seen lying on his bed, chatting sweetly with mum, spiralling into a crisis, being taken to hospital, where his supportive doctor (Rajeev Khandelwal) declares that he is out of danger, but that he will never be able to go home again.
Nothing I’ve told you can be considered a spoiler, because the film is based on a real-life story of a young man by the same name whose demand for an end to his life took a legal turn, and how he didn’t see euthanasia-caused death
as an end, but as a new beginning for organ recipients.
In the 2004 ‘Phir Milenge’, which was about a man fighting against the challenges his AIDS diagnosis saddles him with, director Revathy had given us a stirring story of hope against all odds. In this one, whose subject is a direct tug at the heartstrings, she eschews all understatement. Every sequence is created to fill you with pathos, and leave you teary-eyed.
It’s hard to stay sorry for the young man who uses humour to lift himself out of the horror of impending doom, but the first half is nothing but a montage of scenes which feel like fillers. Movie-mad
Venky exchanging sweet nothings with a childhood sweetheart who happens to be visually impaired. Venky being chummy with his favourite nurse, teaching her to play chess. Venky being all upbeat with his long-lost, now restored-to-thefamily sister. But most of all, Venky being the son that his ‘amma’ has nurtured with her heart-blood. It’s meant to be touching, but it is just grating, because it is done with such obviousness.-
It is only Kajol who rises above the script, and gives us an unvarnished portrait of a mother and her pain. The rest is just backgroundmusic fuelled melodrama.-- Subhra Gupta
Send us the correct answer before January 3, 2023. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send us your solved Sudoku for your name to be published.
Solution Next Week
Place a number in the empty boxes in such a way that each row across, each column down and each 9-box square contains all of the numbers from one to nine. Last