Monday, May 09, 2011


by Gina Sestak

I mentioned a few months back that I might be trying something new this summer.  I promised to let you know if it came through.  So far, so good.  It's starting to look like it will come to pass.

What the @#$!&*@ is she talking about? you may be wondering.  Well, I'll tell you.  Remember when I started posting here I used to write about the dozens of jobs I've held?  Wall painter, movie extra, lawyer, waitress, writer, salesclerk, etc., etc. - sometimes it seems as if I've done almost everything.  One notable exception to the list of trades was teacher.  It's not that I've never taught.  It's just that my teaching experience is limited to a few adult education courses many years ago on boring-sounding topics like "How to Incorporate Yourself."

Not that I haven't seen a lot of teaching from the far side of the lecturn.  Kindergarten, grade school, college, law school, dozens of adult education classes, and my current foray into film school.  I know what teaching looks like.  And I know what kind of courses I like to take.

I finally decided to bite the bullet and pitched a course myself, to the University of Pittsburgh's Osher Life Learning Institute.  OLLI is a special program for students who are fifty years of age or older.  For a reasonable flat fee ($225 per year, less for shorter memberships) you can take as many OLLI courses as you want, plus audit up to two undergraduate classes per semester.  It's an amazing bargain for those of us who like to learn, but don't take my word for it.  Take a look at the catalogue.  Over the past few years, I've taken classes on dozens of subjects that piqued my interest - mostly related to writing, film and music - and gone on day trips to places like the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and the Lucy and Desi Museum.

This summer, if all goes according to plan, I'll be teaching a three-day course on one of my favorite topics, Bollywood movies.

If you've been following my posts, you know Indian cinema has become an obsession of sorts.  [BTW, the Silk Screen Film Festival is going on right now in Pittsburgh, featuring dozens of Asian and Asian-American films, including a few from India.]  My course will focus on the work of a particular actor, Shah Rukh Khan.  
I've seen more than 60 of his films, and his acting shines in every one.  Romance, drama, action, comedy.  This guy can do it all.  OLLI wouldn't let me show dozens of movies, though.  I'll be showing three and, because the films are long (averaging 3-4 hours), the classes will be split - half a movie in the morning, the rest of the movie in the afternoon.  Luckily, the three I plan to show come with built in intermissions.

I took a Bollywood film course through OLLI last year and the instructor - who was much more knowledgeable on the subject than I will ever be - was reduced to showing part of a film one week and the rest a week later.  I didn't want to do that.  You lose too much by breaking a film up that way.

Anyway, I thought I'd give you a taste of the films I'll be offering.  It was really hard to choose.  I had to by-pass some of my favorites to come up with a selection.  I decided to choose based upon a variety of time periods in which the films are set.   Dilwale Duhenia Le Jayenge is relatively contemporary;  Devdas is set about a hundred years ago; and Asoka takes place in the 3rd Century BCE.  Every one of this films is worth seeing - and they're not just about romance.  There are serious themes in there.

Dilwale Dulhenia Le Jeyenge (released in 1995) begins with London-raised Raj and Simran meeting on a tour of Europe.  They fall in love, but Simran's father has arranged her marriage to a man in India.  Raj follows and tries to break up the match.

Based upon an early 20th Century novel, Devdas (2002) tells the story of a London-educated young man who bows to family pressure to give up the woman he loves, only to sink into alcoholism and despair.

Asoka (2001) is based on the true story of a man who built an empire with his sword then, overwhelmed by the horror of the destruction he had caused, forswore violence and became instrumental in the early spread of Buddhism.

All good movies.

So, wish me luck, OK?  It will be an adventure.


patremick said...

Good luck Gina! Sounds like a lot of fun.

Joyce Tremel said...

Very cool! Good luck, Gina!