Watched Shikar yesterday. I’ve been waiting for the next John Mathew Mathan film since Sarfarosh over five or six years ago. I’m now inclined to think if a filmmaker has had one hugely successful movie, there’s bound to be something off about his or her next one. Not always, of course, but often. Lakshya, Swades, Bride and Prejudice and now Shikar. How could people as talented as Abbas Tyrewalla and Mathan turn out a screenplay as nervy as this one?
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
We’re a biggish group of 30 persons and it should be terrific, but do you realise what this opens up the possibilities of, people? Snow! Yes, S-N-O-W! I’m so excited and also a little worried that it might not actually snow while we’re there. Now this might seem absurd to those of you who’re quite used to it – in fact, I have a cousin now in Albany, USA, who’s utterly depressed by the white around her – but I’ve never seen snow. Well, only in a there-yonder-on-the-mountain-peak kinda way but never touched it, never been snowed upon as in snowflakes on my nose and eyelashes. Cross my fingers and we shall see.
Back in 10 days. In the meantime, Happy Christmas everyone, and Happy New Year.
Friday, December 16, 2005
But Bidar is rather unequipped to live off its treasures. Autowallahs know little or nothing about their own history and worse, are unwilling to ply to the remoter areas. The one we engaged for a morning actually brought us back into town without taking us to the Ashtur tombs at all. We demanded an explanation and got it: apparently, 'wahan koi nahi jaata'.
'The Barid Shahi tombs, next to the bus station?' we asked. No one knew. 'Just take us to the bus station', we said. There the tombs were in the background, with only a kaccha road leading to them. Not a board or signpost, just a few lie-abouts and boys playing cricket within the broken down 16th century mosque. The whole town ambles around, careless and unconscious of history in its midst.
The last to rule Bidar were the Nizams of Hyderabad, and so after the republic was formed, its upkeep was given into the care of the Archaeological Survey of India, Hyderabad. The reorganisation of states didn't change that, and Bidar must've felt all the disadvantages of step-motherly treatment. It has recently been moved to ASI's Dharwar circle and already renovations are under way.
Folks in Bidar are very fond of bakery stuffs and there is an Iyengar bakery in every street. They're good and cheap as well - we tried to buy a bun and got six for five rupees. Come evening, men mill around for cakes, rolls and curry puffs, which are served on recycled newspaper. Paint in a ubiquitous stray dog sitting by, gaze unwaveringly on the nearest food item and you have the picture.
Remember we'd also said the population was mostly Muslim, so how come there are so many Iyengar bakeries? The full names supply the rest of the story - in fact, Hassan Iyengar Bakery and Khan Iyengar Bakery.
There's a famous Narasimha temple in Bidar. It's in a cave and the way to the deity is a little arduous - devotees are required to wade through water to get to the sanctum.
This shrine is supposed to be pretty munificent, even removing problems such as the Saade Saathi (which would have been dead useful about now). 'How deep?' I enquired, 'paani gardan tak aata kya?'. The 6-footer I was questioning shook his head reassuringly, tapped his chest and said, 'Nai, nai, chaati talak aata.' Hmm.
I actually considered it, wading through this pond with water tickling my nostrils just for the adventure of it. Then again, it's supposed to be infested with cockroaches and mice (ewwwwww!) and I'm not that brave. Plus, little matter of clothes - not one of my garments was I willing to sacrifice to ickky muddy waters. So no go, I shall have to go through my karma the conventional way.
I mentioned Bidri earlier? They use a zinc alloy as base metal, which is then inlaid with silver and blackened. The blackening process has a mystery attached - they use saltpeter and mud from the fort to make a bath. The finished piece is dunked in it and the mixture reacts chemically with the alloy. The effect is gorgeous - the zinc turns black, the silver doesn't. What it is that does the trick, no one knows.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Been away on a longish weekend holiday, visiting Bidar. Shweta had a 15-day workshop to conduct, and it seemed like a good idea to go.
Bidar, if you’re interested in details of that sort, is in northern Karnataka, about 136 km from Hyderabad. Drought-prone, dry place with a majority Muslim population. Home to the Bidri craft – a lovely technique of silver inlay in blackened zinc. Also steeped in history. Used to be the seat of the Bahmani dynasty and later the Barid Shahis.
Lots to tell you about the place… but we got in last night after a jolty, harrowing bus ride; I have the runs thanks to a dinner made of the oiliest gobi manchuria I’ve had in a while and I cannot bring myself to describe the fort right now. So it’ll have to be slices over the next few days. Insha’allah.
Monday, December 05, 2005
Have I tidied up? Let me here proudly announce that all our CDs have been checked for contents, duly labelled and most importantly have been allotted CD covers, and put away for easy retreival. Yessssssssssss!
The printer has come. W/o scanner but we decided to go for a plain vanilla workhorse.
It is not quite the thing for freelancers to actually ask for a cessation of work. The gods, as we know, have a sense of humour and they might quite misunderstand the exact nature of the request, and then where would we be? Still, so frazzled was I with juggling deadlines that I made bold as to actually ask that of the universe. It has been granted me - a whole week of nothing to do. I have lingered on the lounge, with shawl draped around my feet and stirred as little as possible.
Er.. no.. I haven't actually made that list of books-to-read. Have decided to give up on that one - the books know when to find me.
Definitely found time for hair and skin care. No haglikeness. Tra la laaa.
Bought several clothes. More tra la la.
Two pairs of shoes. Ditto.
Now, if it was going to be this easy, why the hell didn't I reach higher?
I’ve been hollering Mahabali maharudra mahabhakta shauryavan veer Hanuman all of today. An after-effect of having watched Hanuman yesterday, the full length animation feature that has surprised everyone by becoming a moderate hit.
First, the soundtrack is great. Composer Tapas Relia uses traditional material and sets it nicely to fast paced, heart pumping rhythms that appeal. This particular number I mentioned has half the music industry singing it – Shaan, Sonu Nigam, Palash Sen, Kailash Kher, Madhushree, Sneha Pant and Sapna Mukherjee.
The movie has many pluses, not the least of which is the cutest baby Hanuman possible, cuddly, limpid wide eyes and all. There were a few minuses though. They can’t be very significant because kids seem to have loved it, and if they don’t form a discerning audience, who does? Also, animation seems like such an immense labour of love, I hesitate to sit back and point out flaws. I mean, people who attempt it in India are doing so in near-hostile circumstances; it seems like ingratitude to carp.
Having said that, it is because animation is such a laborious process that it becomes even more worthwhile to invest in the script. Hanuman is a fast paced story, but moves too hastily, and too episodically over the various heroic exploits on the director’s item list. I wasn’t entirely happy with the style of graphics but blame that entirely on years of reading Amar Chitra Kathas. Anything unlike those comics, and the mind rebels.
I also missed the depth of characterisation that would’ve uplifted the film. Remember that story about Hanuman sitting at the tip of the subcontinent, staring out at the ocean, struck immobile by an attack of insecurity, wondering if he could possibly leap it? That stirring speech by Jambavanta, reminding Hanuman of his powers, drawing out the self belief so necessary for such a stupendous feat. I like those parts of our mythology best - when the gods are a little human. The movie skims over most of these, but it was fun for all that.
PS. Is Hanuman really considered an avatar of Shiva? Mum says one thread of mythology does say that but this is the first I’ve heard of it.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Sunday, November 27, 2005
I like series and I tend to start with the very first one and track them as they develop. To observe how plots and characters develop of course, but equally the writer and the craft itself. Whether a book is honest to its own self-contained purpose while forming another link in a chain. To see how authors deal with more of the same, more of the different. To notice when they find their first wobbly feet, when they get into the stride, when they are most earnest, most practised, most formulaic, most true, most insightful.
I discovered Elizabeth Peters a couple of years ago. On our trip to Kodi, Sudha kept brandishing this paperback about - interesting cover and an even more intriguing title, Crocodile on the Sandbank. Quick scan of the blurb, and words leaped out: 1884, Egypt, tombs, archeologists, mystery. It sounded like fun.
Amelia Peabody, single and wealthy, travels to Egypt to see if it can offer her adventure. It does, of course, in the form of missing mummies and dastardly villains. It also offers her two enduring loves - archaeology and Radcliffe Emerson, 'the greatest Egyptologist of this or any other age.' That sets the tone for the series - they marry, have a son (whom they call Ramses) and return each year to Egypt to excavate sites and have thrilling encounters with arch enemy Sethos and other assorted bad men. There have been 17 books so far, I think.
Peters doesn't 'write' very well but she scores with characterisation, at least her primary characters. Brisk and managing, impetuous and brave, and with a robust sexual appetite, Amelia was amusing to begin with. But the books stayed superficial and a little into the series, I was quite ready to let go. Except they deepened.
Ramses grew up, and gently nudged his parents aside as he took centrestage. The precocious, verbose kid grows into a rather sexy young man, secretly and desperately in love with his adopted sister, Nefret. He has all the usual heroic attributes - intelligence, courage and oodles of sex appeal. He's taciturn, inscrutable, scrupulously polite, and astonishingly respectful of his overbearing parents. But Ramses is a vulnerable hero - a young man with very many fears, someone striving very hard to do the right thing.
He Shall Thunder in the Sky is set in troubled times, the beginning of WW I. The formula remains the same but the backdrop informs the narrative. Racism gets a look in, as do the sordidness of prostitution, and the senselessness of war.
Publicly reviled for not enlisting, Ramses is in fact a spy, albeit a reluctant one. Disguised as an Egyptian leader, he is shot one day and drags himself home in a near-faint. Amelia Peabody, who has hitherto treated her son with a mixture of exasperation and somewhat detached affection, learns what it means to her to have him at death's door.
Ramses's eyes opened. "I still hate this bloody war, you know," he said indistinctly.
"Then why are you doing this?"
His head moved restlessly on the pillow. "It isn't always easy to distinguish right from wrong, is it? More often the choice is between better and worse… and sometimes the line between them is as thin as a hair. One must make a choice, though. One can't wash one's hands and let others take the risks… including the risk of being wrong. There's always better… and worse… I'm not making much sense, am I?"
"It makes excellent sense to me," I said gently.
Including the risk of being wrong! I loved Ramses, and I suspect it was because I took the books at face value and he came up to surprise and move me. If you read these books and find you're beginning to like Ramses, don't start on Seeing a Large Cat without lining up The Falcon at the Portal, He Shall Thunder in the Sky and The Lord of the Silent. That way torture lies.
Friday, November 25, 2005
Second, but of course, babeh! I hereby tag Deepa to do the seven tag. What to do - you're so dignified, no one thinks you'd even consider doing all this seven-cheven chillarpana. Only, in your hands, it will not be chillar.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
I am seeing HP and the GoF. Girl has made excellent points – need is not being to repeat. I am agreeing much. Also much approving point-wise format. Why create time wastage?
First, movie is being sometimes ok, sometimes so-so. Like good friend Samanth has said, problem is being with unwieldy book. What director and screenplay man can do – so much is there to tell. Still, I will tell you, it is not being stand-alone movie, it is only being supplementary material to books. But if you see in that way, it is being nice.
Thrilling scenes at Quidditch World Cup – amazing, stupendous, fabulous. Victor Krum is flying out and they are showing nicely his superstar status. I am having goose bumps – unfortunately there is being no match, no highlights even. Very diso. I am day dreaming much that someone will create/choreograph whole match and show us. Just like that. For fun.
They are showing too much of dragon, and also taking liberties with it. No no, do not let mind go to horrible places - I am only saying they are making dragon fly. Now, where it is written in books? They are showing very bad usage of Floo network, not understanding that head in fire must be at ninety degrees to logs, not lurk underneath charcoal. But castle, common room, library, owlery and all are lovely. Two-three looks are being exchanged by Krum and Hermione - new things, chemistry and such that was not there in books. I was thinking how different media must play to strengths; movie is also triggering thoughts like this.
Nice casting movie is having - I am loving bald head of Ralph Fiennes and also loooong fingers. V Sexy. Graveyard scenes are being bit scary.
Am not liking Mad Eye’s mad eye. Like high school drama prop, it is.
Parvati and Padma Patil!! Why why they are giving pretty girls clothes and jewellery like that? Horribly cut and stitched pink blouses with silly dupattas? Ghagra not too bad, but still compromise. Why cannot they order from India, when it is established that NRIs do tacky job of Indian clothes?
That is all.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Seven things I plan to do
Plans. I have pagefulls of them – vague, hopeful things. However, short term intentions also are being.
1. Tidy up, tidy up, tidy up.
2. Reclaim life – Get ALL deadlines out of the way, find a nice patch of sunlight, curl up and read.
3. Follow hair and skin care regimen and avert hag-likeness.
4. Get few decent posts up here. Sometime soon.
5. Get printer/scanner all-in-one thingy, absence of which has paralysed life for months.
6. Check out Bose showroom and be forever spoilt for lesser things.
7. Read all books that have been on shelf for months, even if have to make silly lists and determinedly go through, mood and inclination be damned.
Seven things I can't do
1. Have nice clothes tailored for me. Tailors totally intimidate me – honest, I can’t think of a single thing to say to them. So with the mother threatening to abandon me on grounds that I am now grown enough to organise my own clothes, I’m left with readymades.
Now, I’m short ok? Well, I like petite better, but in all fairness people just shy of 5 ft are short – plain truth. Nothing off the rack will fit without that dreaded thing – alterations. And I need a new wardrobe, like yesterday :-(.
What else can’t I do? Imagine admitting these things in public. I’ll do one of those MBA tricks where all negatives are pluses: I can’t pass by a stray puppy without stopping to pat it, you know, it’s such a weakness, I just can’t help it!
2. Seriously, I can’t draw. I admire illustrators and artists tremendously and there is a touch of wistful longing there. However I have made valiant attempts to learn pencil shading with Vikas’ Learn Pencil Shading: Landscapes and Objects – II. When I acquire scanner I shall put up my work for all to admire. I say it myself, it’s just copycat work, but they’re not too bad.
Talking of artwork, here is a blog I like.
3. Cannot get a grip on Messrs HTML, CSS and associates. Gah!
4. Cannot figure out golf. This, in spite of Wodehouse and the Oldest Member.
5. Cannot appreciate rock music. Brain wired that way, too late.
6. Cannot read Dickens and friends any more. Wrong century. Have become impatient reader.
7. Cannot sing as well as I’d like to. Wish I’d been trained.
Seven things I say quite often
2. Ayyo…yo. (Note: not 'aiyyaiyo'. Very versatile, typically Kannadiga phrase. Apparently I say it all the time to express quite a range of feelings -- shock, horror, mirth, amusement, disdain, contempt and so on.)
3. Bashkul! No!… Apdi pannakudaadu… that’s a no-no.
4. You have a piece that needs editing? … You want it when?!… That doesn’t give me much time… Oh, I see… How big is the document? … Well, ok, send it to me.
(Get off phone, bang head against wall. Why can I not say NO?)
5. I use ‘lovely’ quite a bit. Like Shakti Kapoor: ‘Lovely, no?’
That’s all – Shweta says I don’t talk enough to have seven things under this head.
Must I tag someone?
The Hussains, I think. Nishat and Sabiha.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Saturday, November 05, 2005
Sanchi belongs to dusty history books. It appears repeatedly in chapters on Buddhism and Ashoka the Great. I can see in my mind’s eye a gritty pixelated picture alongside grey text: a dome is discernable and some toranas. The teacher drones on about Stupa 1, a temple with Gupta architecture, the Ashokan pillar… I doodle in my notebook. All that I absorbed about Sanchi was by accident, I assure you, but I did; peripherally, almost by osmosis. What I gathered was an impression: that underneath all this dull talk of dates and numerical labelling of sites, all these people – archaeologists, academicians and teachers – were excited about this place. I knew Sanchi was special.
So when I found myself in Bhopal with no ironclad agenda for a good two weeks, it seemed like a betrayal of my history teacher not to go have a dekko of this town that had got her all worked up. It was, how they say… inevitable.
About 46 km from Bhopal, Sanchi is a small town in Vidisha. I chose to take the Madhya Pradesh Tourism’s trip and as it turned out, it was the sensible thing to do. I had company when I felt like it and no transport worries. We were a small group, and mercifully this was no whistle stop tour: I could take as much time as I needed, and needless to say, I did.
There is actually not very much to the town apart from the Stupa complex and the museum. Curiously, the place had no significance in Buddhist history or lore. There was only its location to recommend it, on a hill about 90 m high. It must have been the serenity of the outlook that attracted Emperor Ashoka all those centuries ago. He’d married the daughter of a merchant from Vidisha, and newly fired with the zeal of Buddhism. Opportunity met location and so this pilgrimage town was born.
Remember how I said you find Sanchi mentioned under Buddhism and Ashoka? That’s not all. It’s also mentioned quite a bit under the Sungas, the Satavahanas, the Guptas and King Harshavardhana. What’s the deal, you ask? What makes it so remarkable? Here it is: Sanchi is unique because it not only has the most perfect and well preserved stupas, but is a record, nay a microcosm of Buddhist art for a period of thirteen hundred years (3rd century BC–12th century AD); in fact, the entire period of Buddhism’s presence in India. That’s why.
The original mud stupa and pillar by Ashoka have been added to by ruler after consequent ruler with Buddhist leanings, till the religion subsided in the 13th century. Sanchi is a splendid gilded masterpiece that each succeeding generation of Buddhists has embellished with a coat of devotion. The entire site now comprises about 50 structures in all – pillars, toranas, temples and monasteries.
My first view of the stupa brought on a feeling of déjà vu. After all, I must have seen a few hundred pictures. There is something to be said for touching however; the real thing, your mind tells you, this is it. After I took in the larger picture, it was time to look at the details.
Our guide took us around, drawing our attention to panels that depicted events in the life of the Sakhyamuni. He was, I found later, not particularly accurate with his facts, but quite adept at building atmosphere. Not that the site needs it. The complex is a serene place, the clean lines of the structures contrasting with the detailed work on the toranas. It is clearly a place of worship and rather conducive to contemplation. A circumambulation of course was called for and I did it, touching the stones, aware that these were old, old beings, individual pieces now part of a greater whole.
At the museum, the four lions occupy a place of pride. After having seen innumerable pictures, to be in the presence the real thing, to actually be able to lean over and pat them gave me a jolt. Incidentally the Sanchi lions are not the ones on the Indian emblem. That was drawn from a similar pillar at Sarnath; the lions are common to both but the one at Sarnath includes an additional dharmachakra, the famous wheel.
The museum is a geek’s delight. Lots of detailed pictures and information about its discovery and restoration. It nicely rounded off the Sanchi experience for me and I was rather pleased with it on the whole.
All this time travel makes one weary though, and I was quite happy to return to Bhopal for some R & R. Just to walk along the lake road, buy some seasoned fruit salad and choose a bench. Sitting there, watching the stars come out, enjoying the breeze in my hair… not a bad place to contemplate what a city of contrasts Bhopal is.
It has been called the City of Lakes, the City of Nawabs. The Bhopal Gas Tragedy in 1984 devastated the lives of thousands and it also smirched the city’s image. Bhopal, in the vague imaginings of the multitude is a grimy, and indeed, grim place. Naturally the city retains vestiges of the calamity; in spite of it all though, Bhopal is a beautiful city. One of those charming places where history oozes from unexpected corners, where the modern jostles for space with the old.
Bhopal has been ruled by a long line of Nawabs, many of them women. It struck me as I wandered its streets and the chowk, that while history books reel off the dozen or so names, there is something else about seeing for yourself the impact a noble dynasty can leave on a place. The Nawabs are gone but the signs of their influence is everywhere – in the names of streets, schools and colleges, hospitals, mosques and beautiful buildings, in the two lovely lakes that Bhopal buzzes around.
Bhopal’s history spills into its environs as well. Since I’d set the tone with Sanchi, I considered visiting other places of historical interest within easy radius of the city. One spot in particular – a mere 11 km off Bhopal – tells of humble beginnings. Islamnagar was the first home of the Nawabs that later ruled the city. Afghan Dost Mohammed Khan first established his capital here with a couple of small forts and palaces.
We bowled into the ramparts through tall narrow wooden gates. There are two mahals in Islamnagar, Chaman Mahal with its well laid out gardens and the two-storied Rani Mahal. Both wear a synthesis of Hindu and Islamic decorative art, with columns lavishly embellished with floral motifs. I was charmed by a small hamaam at Chaman Mahal, a smallish sauna-bath. I imagined a bearded hulk of a Pathan lounging in it, hot water steaming from his skin. Chaman Mahal doesn’t have too many rooms, but the point of it, I suppose, was the beautiful outlook – one to the gardens and one from the balcony over the surrounding woods.
The Rani Mahal has a lot more chambers and a surprising lack of windows or ventilation. On the other hand, it lead into a central courtyard with plenty of trees and shade, so perhaps it didn’t matter.
A small canteen advertised itself and I went hopefully to the counter. However, there was no coffee or tea to be had, so I settled for a tetra pack of fruit juice and proceeded to small circular room with many photos and memorabilia, plaques tracing lineages and family trees. Of particular interest: a picture of the lovely Nawab Begum Safida Sultan. Who do you think? The lady who married the Nawab of Pataudi, Tiger Pataudi’s mother!
Islamnagar exhausts its secrets in a mere morning and I had time to visit Udaygiri, to see the caves there. This is a rocky hillock with several caves that contain some rich sculptures from the Gupta era. Some really fine work here, with all the vitality and vigour experts say typifies art from that period. There were carvings of Vishnu, Durga and Ganesha… and a particularly vivid version of Varaha – the avatar of Vishnu that rescued Bhoomi, the Mother Earth from the depths of the ocean. I was delighted with an unusual Shivlinga that had the face emerging from the linga. There was even a sculpture of Karthikeya, which is rather unusual considering the deity is mostly worshipped south of the Vindhyas. Also noteworthy is a slightly defaced image of Vishnu reclining on the Seshanag, a remarkably well executed piece, with stylised oceanic waves carved all around.
I stood in one cave with an intricately carved floral motif on the roof. An inscription traces its creation to the period of Chandragupta II, who is supposed to have actually visited Udaygiri… standing across the centuries perhaps in the very spot I stood now!
Eager for an energetic trek, I traced a path up the hill and arrived slightly out of breath to a wonderful view of Vidisha. I’d visited three historic sites with Buddhist, Islamic and Hindu influences – all within a 50 km radius. Not a great distance across space, quite a leap across time.
Monday, October 31, 2005
Jo kuch mujhe diya hai woh lauta raha hoon main
It's bugging me, this sher. Stooopid, mediocre sentiment, the refuge of every abused-child-turned-axe-murderer. Where the hell are you, regurgitator chappie? come, justify your existence, tell us what you think, show us why someone took the trouble to make you!
Sunday, October 30, 2005
And then a small news report:
HKL Bhagat, 83, former Union Minister and a strongman of the Delhi Congress in the late eighties, died at Apollo Hospital on Saturday after prolonged illness. He was suffering from Alzheimer's disease.This man who egged on crazed murderers to murder many more. Do you think he forgot all about it - the screams of tortured men, the stench of burning flesh? Am I supposed to feel sorry for him now?
Saturday, October 29, 2005
Friday, October 28, 2005
Monday, October 10, 2005
Several reasons why.
First, just like that.
Two, when I changed my template to the lovely energetic yellow you now miss, Nish thought it more than a bit jhatak. That rankled.
Third, this blog turned one last week and I had more fun tinkering with colours than coming up with something sensible to say.
Letting go of that yellow was a wrench, I tell you, a wrench. I was secretly hoping there would be a public outcry and it would be brought back on popular demand. I see from Kuffir's comment, alas, that it is not to be. Kuffir bhai, isse zyada soothing colour hota to so na jaate aap? white? white!
I had a nice plum/pink/purple deal (bit girlie) and there was this. You get this because my mum liked it better. So, anyone with not-nice things to say shall back their critique by creating a template for me. Give me something that’ll gladden my heart and I will use it. Ha.
Sunday, October 02, 2005
The dance devoted space to a series of polo illustrations by artist Sujata Dere. Natasha, who’s quite horse-mad, gave us a really informed overview of the game – the rules and the magic. Here’s a rough idea:
Polo is played on horses, four men to a team. Like hockey, the idea is to score goals.
Polo has the largest field in organized sport – 300 yards long and 160 yards wide.
Six chukkers – each with seven minutes play – make up a match. Four chukkers at this level, I think, because that’s how many they played yesterday.
Players are handicapped from -2 (beginners) to 10. Only half a dozen 10 handicappers in the world. A zero handicap would be ‘scratch.’
The rules of the game are heavily decided by the safety of the horses. Polo’s all about the line of the ball, an imaginary line along the direction of the ball. The player who strikes the ball has right of way and may not be crossed by another player. The trick then is to ride him off, ie ride alongside and force him to abandon his line. Basically, a matter of nerves. Cool, huh?
We were fascinated and it must’ve shown, because Natasha then said, ‘There are a couple of matches tomorrow. Want to come?’ Yes, of course.
The Bison Polo Grounds in Secunderabad are lovely, screened from the roads almost entirely by trees. Great weather also. There were two matches: the first between two AP Riding Club teams and the second between the NDA Navy and an Artillery team from Nasik.
An education to see how the different teams performed. The teams playing first were rather haphazard, which they made up for by individual brilliance – they had Samir Suhag, one of India’s two six-handicappers, and Dhruvpal Godara +5 on opposing sides. Both players also play for India. The second match had teams that were more even in quality – a clutch of scratches, ones and twos. They played a much more beautiful team game, scattering and coming together in an intricate dance. Speedier too.
Four players, but eight minds per team. Speed, precision, coordination, guts. Snorting horses, yells of ‘my line’ renting the dust. Fabulous.
Thursday, September 29, 2005
Star One is doing a really nice job of Remix, which is based on the Spanish telenova Rebeldeway. There is all that overacting of course, and the production values could surely be a little higher considering investment in sets and props is spread over a good many episodes – still, on the whole, I enjoy it enormously. They have at least a dozen main characters and manage to weave their stories in rather satisfactorily. Plus (which is big for an Indian soap these days), the series maintains an internal consistency of plot and characters. In fact, the nice thing about Star One is they do plan to end series, no matter how successful they are.
Incidentally, Jassi jaisi koi nahin was based on another Spanish series Betty La Fea, until of course, Sony gave them an extension just as the series was drawing to a close and the script writers went into a tizzy trying to conjure another year’s worth troubles for their protagonists. (Aside: apparently the music teacher they introduced a couple of months ago is now a lawyer, heh heh.) Sorry, that was involved; I was saying: what works for Hispanic cultures seems to adapt very easily to India. Still, it’d be nice to have some good original work.
Ekta Kapoor still rules Indian television, of course. It is alarming how seriously her brand of television programming has rotted the way this industry thinks. You can actually see how intimidating they find the young woman, both people who work with her and those who don't. I am amazed she holds such power, such influence. Good for her, but why the hell can't she use it to diversify her clutch of offerings - to include one detective series, or a cops-and-robbers, a legal drama, sitcoms…. If anyone can afford to experiment, it would be her. Isn't it lousy when people who can, don't?
Two series started off trying to cock a snook at the K brigade – Jassi and Yeh meri life hai. If Jassi was about an ugly-but-efficient working girl, Pooja whatsername was a Gujju middleclass girl, trying to overcome her accent and other people’s prejudices to become a filmmaker.
Both were refreshing and rather promising. Both failed to hold on to what they started with. With appalling lack of integrity the channels/producers have caved in to what they think is the ‘dominant paradigm’, with the result that they are now more loyal than the queen. The original storylines were completely derailed and we now have vampier vamps, bigger sindoors, with acid throwings and attempted murders every other day.
It’s a shame, it really is.
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Sangeet Sagar disappointed. No Raqs-e-bismil, no Megh - in fact they had nothing I wanted. Well, that happens occasionally but is too much to ask that when the man behind the counter emerges empty handed from rifling the shelves, he appear sufficiently downcast and conciliatory? Must he not hand you a notebook, ask you to jot down your request and assure you that he will call you the second your heart’s desire enters the store’s portals? This man merely hunched a shoulder and annoyed me considerably.
Nevertheless, I rewarded him with patronage – one Farida Khanum and a VCD of Gundamma Katha, the second just to round off my NTR/ANR collection.
Book Selection Centre was a better stop – just two books, though. Alexander McCall Smith’s The Sunday Philosophy Club. Shouldn’t have bought this one but I liked very much The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency and one of the reviews on the blurb of this book said, ‘I would not have thought it possible that Prof McCall Smith could invent another character as wonderful as Precious Ramotswe but, in Isabel Dalhousie, he has.’ That settled it. Also curious to see how much of the No. 1… series was the author, how much Botswana, how much Precious Ramotswe.
Second book – The Complete Stories and Poems of Lewis Carroll. Early poems, acrostics, everything. Steal at Rs 195.
Purple rumped Sunbird (Nectarinia zeylonica) in my garden. You can actually see its head glisten yay yay. Notice how the leaves are in focus and the bird is not? That's my camera thinking for itself. Shall show mother these pictures to prove intent as well as blackmail her into allowing me to buy a Nikon D-70 or Canon EOS whatsit.
Monday, September 26, 2005
The birding trip to Rouriyal lake scheduled for Sunday was cancelled. Australopithecus and I are agreed it was a nasty conspiracy - it poured at 4.30 much resembling weather conditions Noah must've encountered, so trip was officially called off. Barely an hour later the sun was out, looking rather innocent. Hmph.
Rouriyal lake is beyond Charminar and Pahad-i-Shareef and I was rather hoping the lake would be full (we've had decent, decent rains this year, thank god) and that I'd be able to post a pic or two. Instead I have a few others that were lying about on my comp.These chaps were on Radha Aunty's wall, bit hostile. Female most submissive.
Hyderabad's authorities are very fond of deer. There are at least three deer parks and this one is the smallest of them near Shameerpet. Very tame fellas - the keeper rings the bell and in they come to have lunch. Not exactly wildlife but something for us cityslickers to gawk at.
Found this insect in the garden at home - really liked the dry leaf camouflage. Don't know what it is - perhaps Kiran Katikaneni will know.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
i erred, it is true
betrayed you, i admit
it was a slip
it meant nothing
but you do not understand
gone from these dwellings!
turned your back on those who love you, revere you
gone so suddenly from those who cannot live without you
left behind in these sordid rooms
where everything is just what it seems
there is no you
you cannot live with a rival so beneath your contempt
i can see that
you will not need to
i will banish her to the furthermost corners of myself
we shall not look upon her face
she will bother us no longer
we will live here, you and I
and not a shadow will fall
you have gone, Ranaai
it meant nothing
but you do not understand
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Amazingly, he's talking of solo flying machines, a personal flying car that will take you across reasonable distances. They won't be very fast - speeds are just about 150 km/hr, but think! Udan khatolas!
Dr Chari and team are writing a book about it - out in a couple of months.
On loop as I write is Rahman's Al maddath maula. A leetle cluttered towards the end, but I love love this song. Male voices raised in devotion.... oooh goosebumpy stuff.
Rahman was reportedly unhappy with the way this song was filmed in Mangal Pandey, but I couldn't see why they had it in the first place. Almost as if they found this in the bank and said, 'ok chalo, qawwali hai, ek item ho jaata.' Not good.
Monday, September 19, 2005
Friday, September 16, 2005
oppressive days, I pace to and fro
to find the windows. -- When a window
opens, it will be a consolation. --
But the windows cannot be found, or I cannot
find them. And maybe it is best that I do not find them.
Maybe the light will be a new tyranny.
Who knows what new things it will reveal.
--Constantine P Cavafy
Sunday, September 11, 2005
Bollywood movies are brilliant timepass and I like to keep up. Most, however, aren’t worth a post-mortem so I don’t. But Footloose, cinema-companion of the past three years, has gone to foreign shores and is Bollywood-deprived. As for us, the phillum-circuit just ain’t the same. This for you, girl.
Salaam Namaste has a lot going for it – Yashraj as producers, the inevitable new director, bankable stars, a foreign location (so essential for a Class A Bollywood product these days), pleasant music and a ‘daring’ ‘story’ viz, a couple that lives together.
Set in Melbourne. Nick is a qualified architect/practising chef, Ambar is a doctor/practising radio jockey, going to be a surgeon. All very hip. They meet, spar a little, flirt a little. Five days after they’ve met, Nick, for some rather unconvincing reasons, talks Ambar into moving in with him. She does (nice, glassy sea-front house) and all is milk and honey for a while. Song: My dil goes mmm actually gives you a lilt. Very nice.
Three months later when Ambar starts making noises about “is rishte ko naam dena chahti hoon”, you know the honeymoon (for characters as well as audience) is over. Nick is anti-marriage and Ambar is pregnant (incidentally, what man ever has not reacted to ‘I’m pregnant’ with an ‘Are you sure?’) So it goes here: he reacts badly and it all (script including) goes downhill.
The relationship goes petty and rather screechy. However excusable the initial shock may have been, Nick throws himself beyond the pale by staying hostile for months, hogging the bathroom when she needs to throw up, letting her go to Lamaze classes by herself, and generally being stubbornly insensitive instead of extending some much needed TLC.
The change of heart comes about when she looks about 11 months into the pregnancy and he does too little, too late. Like escorting her to get a tub of ice cream in the middle of the night and doing one song (incidentally, Ambar is most sprightly for such a heavily pregnant woman, but let’s not quibble). Complications occur, characters embarrass themselves thoroughly (when oh when will Bollywood give up public declarations of love?) and the babies are delivered in a thoroughly ill-placed, mistimed comic scene (inspired by that Hollywood flick, I forget which) with a hysterical, inept doctor (guess who? Can’t have a release w/o him these days – no, NOT the Big B). Messy.
Saif Ali Khan and Preity Zinta are ok, I suppose – Saif certainly seems happy to be romancing this pretty woman without SRK’s ghost haunting them. Oh, Saif takes off his shirt a lot and there is flab! And then, there are ways to wear low slung jeans with underwear peeking and look cool, but that is not one of them.
One of my favourite actors, Arshad Warsi, plays Nick’s friend, and he made all the difference to the first half. Didn’t like Javed Jaffrey, but he got a couple of lines that were ticklish: ‘When in the Rome, do the Romans’. Indeed.
Final verdict: There is only one sentence to cover it all – ek baar dekh sakte.
Saturday, September 10, 2005
Friday, September 02, 2005
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
I was sprawled on the bed, my head dangling off the side of the mattress. Shweta was lying next to me, almost asleep. ‘You’re just like my little brother,’ she muttered. Now I’m used to her, and therefore not very easy to shock, but seeing we don’t have a brother, I said, ‘eh?’
‘You’re just like him.’
There had to be a story there. I prodded her.
‘I had him when I was young,’ she explained. An encouraging noise or two and the story emerged patchily. Apparently, he was sometimes a baby, sometimes about two or three; a rather brainless child with a penchant for getting into dangerous situations. Naturally, it fell to Shweta to rescue him from raging fires, heavy firing military zones and many, many perils – which she did, sometimes with sheer heroism and often with great cleverness. I don’t know too much about it but she even pretended to be a beggar woman once and got them both away to safety.
‘I see,’ I said. After a moment, ‘How am I like him?’
‘He was always sliding off the bed and falling off the cliff. I had so much trouble dragging him back.’
Ah! that ragged pillow. My sister’s Hobbes.
Friday, August 26, 2005
The subject of God isn’t something that people can discuss with any degree of detachment, apparently. I’d always thought that religious zealots and evangelists tended to be vehement, but evidently they haven’t cornered that part of the market. Such intemperate language from the Skeptics/Athiests! Such... why yes, intolerance!
Why though? The concept of God is perhaps the most complex one we have (that is so simplistic it makes me smile, but I’m trying to put a few thoughts down as simply as possible, ok?) For instance, no one knows what that word means to another person. You could say, “I believe in God” but it doesn’t tell you exactly what that form that belief takes. There are as many gods as there are people.
Bandhe na honge jitne khuda hai khudai mein
Kis kis khuda ke samne sajda kare koi
We have gods for everything in India. Beginnings, wealth, learning, music, strength, revenge. Diseases are deified in this country, as is every element. Some people believe in entire pantheons, some literally believe their canons and mythologies. Some take those stories to be parables, enjoy them and construct more sophisticated notions of god for themselves. Some abandon the debate, believing it more important to be good. Others believe in a force, an entity. Some believe god exists in every single thing they see, touch, smell and feel as well as in everything they cannot see, touch, smell or feel. Some don’t believe at all, and will wait for proof. Empirical proof. Solid, verifiable fact.
Each person’s concept is the sum of many things – their upbringing, the god(s) they inherited, their intelligence, the books they read at sixteen, the voices that influenced them, their spiritual quotient and most important, what works for them. Each god (or non-god) then is a reflection of us – current version, up and running.
Very often, other peoples’ concept of God will seem ludicrous. It probably is. They could be very wrong. We could all be wrong. Heck, we could all be right! There are more things in heaven and earth… remember? We can’t know the truth, can we? Not from this vantage point, not with these faculties, trapped as we are in these islands of ‘negative entropy’. I came across this in a play* once in which Pandora, the myth, tells us she doesn’t know what story she sprung from: “I cannot know yet, or perhaps I knew once and have forgotten. Or Fate has written it across my soul in letters too large for me to read.” Like that.
Given this, why must we find other people’s opinions so worthy of contempt and ridicule? It may not be true, their belief system, but they have a workable model and might have need of it. Believe anything you like, but why must you insist others do too? Does being non-religious preclude you from the courtesies of religious tolerance?
* Daniel Currie Hall, 1996. Schrödinger and Pandora.
Monday, August 22, 2005
Saturday, August 20, 2005
My cousin Hemanth gifted us a CD when he was here last week. Thiruvasagam is a fusiony sort of album where composer Ilaiyaraaja sets verses of 12th century Shaivite poet Manikavachagar to symphonic music (played by the Budapest Symphony Orchestra). It sounds heavenly but complete appreciation is impeded by my very rudimentary Tamil. The interesting-looking booklet also is in Tamil. I will have to rope in the father, I think, and get him to go over it verse by verse.
Ilaiyaraaja induced a nostalgia trip and I visited once again those lovely, lovely songs from Geetanjali. I liked almost everything about Geetanjali, barring of course the execrable ‘comedy track’. The story, the music, the frames, the spirit.
White mist on green grass. Nag, with that overgrown moustache, prowling the hills, swathed in shawls and contemplating fast-approaching death.
taraala naa kadha kshanaalade kadaa
gatinchi povu gaadha nenani…
aamani paadave haayigaa
moogavai poku ee vela
raaleti poolaa raagaalato
pooseti poolaa gandhaalato
manchu taaki koyila
Later, O Paapa laali as Nag’s character rocks Geeta to sleep on that bench in the middle of nowhere against Thota Tharani’s inspired white picket fences. Hmm.
Friday, August 19, 2005
I came across this in The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, the charming novel by Alexander McCall Smith. His heroine, Mma Precious Ramotswe muses:
"It was curious how some people had a highly developed sense of guilt... while others had none. Some people would agonise over minor slips or mistakes on their part, while others would feel quite unmoved by their own gross acts of betrayal or dishonesty."
It's a naive comment. Of course, some people have no sense of guilt. You couldn't have war, atrocities, rapes, murders and torture without people who don't feel guilt. That shouldn’t need saying… but it does.
I’m thinking now not of those horrific things, or the people who do them, but of ordinary people. Just plodding citizens, like you and me, trying to have a decent go at it. Isn’t it odd how so many people aren’t concerned about being fair? How they will take and take till someone stands up and makes a point of it? Behaviour essentially guided by how much they can get away with. No internal checks at all! No innate sense of justice, or even concern for other people.
Takers are even more common than murderers. And to exclaim about them is naiver still.
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
Months ago, I came across one that sought 'waxing Aishwarya'. I thought about this - did this person want to know more about the wax models at Madame Tussaud's or did he have something kinkier in mind?
More recently there was 'Indian idles', 'sealing wax for eyebrows' and 'abida shoes'. Today? 'Albus Dumbledore and wife ships'. Where did that come from?
Monday, August 08, 2005
Anyway, it was about singer Jagjit Singh and how he's disappointingly plateaued out. I've hacked out the bits that offend me today and here are the parts that stayed:
Singh has a great voice, is a good singer (capable of great ‘rooh’ on occasion) but is a very ordinary composer. It is this insistence that he sing his own tunes that has brought down the quality of his output. He has been doing this for a while now – through Ghalib, Sajda and Marasim. And yet some of his most memorable earlier work was for other composers. Under their batons, he was versatile: poignant, funny even vivacious. His own music limits him severely.
I also put up a ghazal and I still want to do that:
Now it's such a rotten thing to gripe against someone who's given you pleasure, I'll make amends by mentioning this ghazal. It's from Saher, by a poet called Nawaz Deobandi.
Ghazals are mostly love songs and as we know so well, love descends rather easily to the mawkish in mediocre hands. I can't tell you what it is about this one that redeems it, but it's special. Singh interprets this one gloriously, so perhaps you need to listen to it for full impact but the words do okay by themselves.
To me, it calls up a person who glows. You know what I mean… one of those radiant people who light up rooms when they walk in, one of those people everyone wants to talk to, people who leave you thinking about them for days together… the beautiful, fragrant people.
Tere aane ki jab khabar mehke
Tere kushboo se saara ghar mehke
Shaam mehke tere tassavur se
Shaam ke baad phir saher mehke
Raat bhar sochta raha tujhko
Zehn-o-dil mere raat bhar mehke
Yaad aaye to dil munnavar ho
Deed ho jaaye to nazar mehke
Woh ghadi do ghadi jahaan baithe
Woh zameen mehke woh shajar mehke
Monday, August 01, 2005
I could tell you a few things about her: that she best loves to laugh rolling on the floor, clutching her stomach - a fit that often goes on almost five minutes longer after everyone else has stopped laughing; that she hasn't met a child she hasn't driven into hyperactive hysteria with her rowdy games; that she's one of the most intelligent persons I know and the most capable of great things; that she's spiritual, deeply loving and coldly detached… I could tell you many things.
The short story: We're friends, Shweta and I. Soul sisters, even. She's an older soul, I suspect. Just as well I have a few years on her - these Leos need sitting on, or they get out of hand. We talk incessantly and very often don't need to, because our thoughts are so alike. It's a recurring joke that we should just sit across from each other and nod vigorously in agreement without saying a word.
Some things need saying nevertheless. Happy Birthday, Tot.
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
I'm Aquarius, and according to Goodman, this is one of those polarity things, with fascination and exasperation nicely blended. Complementarity, competition and a rare sense of kinship. True. No one can goad me to reluctant debate like a Leo. I find myself surprisingly more competitive when it comes to them. I’m also often amazed at their generosity, their vitality, and their sharp, nuanced intelligence. Their immense drive and motivation that comes almost completely from within. I love them for their warmth, and am extraordinarily flattered by their interest in me.
My sister Shweta, one of those Leos herself, gave me a sidelong look the other day: ‘You have so many Leo friends – I think you secretly like us.’ That’s no secret at all: keepers, every one of you.
Happy Birthday, y'all.
I put up these two pieces because the similarities were so clear to me. What does one do at the end of a love affair? Tending wounds apart, how does one behave at an accidental meeting? Wave, or not? Meet eyes? for how long? Go over and talk? Pretend it never happened?
Since there's no help, come let us kiss and part,
Nay, I have done: you get no more of me,
And I am glad, yea glad with all my heart,
That thus so cleanly I myself can free.
Shake hands for ever, cancel all our vows,
And when we meet at any time again
Be it not seen in either of our brows
That we one jot of former love retain.
chalo ik baar phir se ajnabi ban jaaen ham dono
na main tumse koi ummeed rakhun dilnavaazi ki
na tum meri taraf dekho galat andaaz nazaron se
na mere dil ki dhadkan ladkhadaaye meri baaton se
na zaahir ho tumhaari kashmkash ka raaz nazaron se...
chalo ik baar phir se ajnabi ban jaaen ham dono
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Sunday, July 24, 2005
My six best chai/coffee memories
Over second and third cups flow matters of high finance, high state, common gossip and low comedy. Coffee is a social binder, a warmer of tongues, a soberer of minds, a stimulant of wit, a foiler of sleep if you want it so. From roadside mugs to the classic demitasse, it is the perfect democrat.
I’m South Indian and coffee is life’s breath to me, or close. Plus the mother makes award winning coffee almost every time. So the six best aren’t necessarily about good coffee or tea, but the memories were great.
1. Lemon tea on BN’s sets
I was working on a telefilm and a historical series at the time. First, food and drink on sets are terrific – the teas and coffees keep coming, and the meals are really special. As the director’s assistants, Sharu and I were treated like royalty. Our comfort, it seemed, was top priority, particularly for the F&B unit. We got pampered silly and it was the mostest fun.
Shooting is stressful business. When you factor in double shifts, coming home at 3.00 in the morning and being up again at 7.00 am, it’s worse. And when you’re in charge of costume continuity in a historical with over a dozen important characters, and a boss who’s rather unforgiving of goof-ups, it can give you serious ulcers.
I survived thanks to those glorious lemon teas. The F&B man-in-charge experimented one day and it caught on wildly. We Three – B, Sharu and I – would get our generous portions in big glasses; a deep orange colour, warm ambrosia that you could nurse for half an hour, and have anxiety just seep away. He’d get the balance right every time – sweetness and tartness. Nice.
2. Parvati Valley, Himachal Pradesh
On a trek, this one. From Manikaran to Malana. Quite shocked at how much sharper the gradient was in the Himalayan foothills after piddly hills in the south. Not even halfway into the climb, and we were winded. A charming little tea shop with rough hewn benches. We propped against the packs and called for a cuppa. It wasn’t terrific, but how we needed it!
3. Johnson’s tea kadai, Golden Threshold
University. Rounds of ghazals, rounds of samosas, rounds of smokes. Prof CVS keeping rhythm on his match box. Circles forming, reforming. Endless days, bottomless kettles.
4. Tibetan brothers’, Kodaikanal
We went August last year, Nish, Sudha and I. Stayed in a cottage, stared at hypnotic fires for about half the time we were there. Even more memorably, the whole trip was one glutfest… I remember every meal. Nish made us her famous pancakes (famous because that’s item one of two on her ‘can cook’ list).
One drizzly afternoon, post lunch butter tea at the Tibetan brothers'. It actually works, butter in tea. Yumm.
5. Masala chai in Delhi
I’d had a terrible cough. We were at my godmother’s in Delhi. Mum was worried and Vidu had a chai ‘kashaya’ recipe, so they made it together – herbs, pepper and a dozen other spices with tea. I had it with milk and felt loved, loved, loved.
My two years with Hyderabad Times were almost entirely fun. We were a great team. How we bonded and how much we laughed. The coffee dispenser one floor down wasn’t imaginative but it seldom ran out. Any two of us would go down the stairs, bring back a tray full of beverages, and we’d sit on desks and talk. What a good paper it would’ve been if they’d let us have our way.
Saturday, July 16, 2005
Agony! I think I'll go do a little mugglenet chatting.
Friday, July 15, 2005
There are a thousand things I need to do, and everyone is calling to remind me of deadlines. I still have over 100 pages to go in OotP. Shweta has annoyingly started reading it whenever I put it down and there are two bookmarks in the book. Grr. Plus have a cold and fever which makes me slower at everything and oh, chickpea is still a bad word.
Sunday, July 10, 2005
How is it cyclists can last so long? With long careers upto their mid thirties, maybe more? Why are tennis stars so young, for instance? How come they burn out relatively faster? Do upper bodies give out sooner, while legs get stronger with fitness regimes? Is it that you get better at cycling races as you get more experienced?
And then little matter of average speeds - 57 frigging kilometres an hour. How they fall, brush off and then ride over 200 km? How how? Men or what beings these be? Eet ees vairy misteerieuse, ze humaan body.
Friday, July 08, 2005
When people tell me that someone isn’t blessed with a son but has several daughters instead, my reaction is to roll my eyes and dismiss them. How archaic and how utterly silly. Bring up your daughter to be worth two men and that’s that. Obviously that reaction is a bit too pat, unconsidered – I live in an ivory tower where a child’s gender doesn’t matter. It does to many people.
We were taken to visit Pochamma and Eesawariah in Hatnur. Old couple – friendly, hospitable. We got told all about their circumstances without my having to pose very many impertinent questions. How transparent they are.
It’s an old story, of course – a cliché almost. Five daughters, no sons. Eeswariah has always farmed for a living and made enough to marry off four of them. Consider that each took with her about three lakhs in dowry and you realise that he has been remarkably successful. He would have still fended for himself, except that the rains haven’t come… again. The field is furrowed, rice seed worth Rs 10,000 has been sown, but the rains haven’t come. It is already too late. There is nothing he can do, nowhere he can go. The daughters help with whatever they can but the old couple is seriously worried.
The most pucca room in the house is reserved for grain, the plough and implements. There used to be sacks piled to the roof, Pochamma tells me, but there was just one bag yesterday. Not propped neatly against the wall, but plonked in the middle of the room, perhaps with a subconscious need to have it appear filled. Pochamma tells me they – paddy growers – have had to buy rice to eat. She is shamed, and it is heartbreaking.
Our visit was supposed to be brief but extends beyond lunch time. Pochamma brings out jowar rotis and pickle. Trapped in a scene I’ve seen in a dozen movies, I worry that we are making inroads into their lunch and their meagre supplies. It would not do to refuse, though. “God will provide,” she tells me with more optimism than I can muster at the moment.
I am asked quietly if I can enquire about government pensions for farmers over sixty – they are entitled to about Rs 200 a month apparently, but the Sarpanch doesn’t seem to pass it on. Eeswariah is too old to find a job now in the city; every plan for a new livelihood involves further investment: the bank loan of Rs 25000 has to be repaid first.
It is desperate. But I had not still understood the extent of it. It sent a chill down my spine when the daughter told me her father had spoken of bringing home some ‘mandu’ and ending it all.
How on earth are we to stop this man from adding to the statistics?
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
Monday, July 04, 2005
On a whispered sigh
I have nothing to say
No opinions to air, no views to share
No wise words, no nonsense fare,
No random recollection of a nightmare
Life’s in limbo? Or the mood’s not there?
Whatever it is,
the bottomline’s this
Nothing new for the ones who seek
No new posts for an entire week
The buzz goes around: Sheetal’s got nothing to say, nothing to say, nothing to say…
Monday, June 27, 2005
Admittedly, Kabir’s not easy. Not easy to understand, not easy to translate, not easy to sing. Easy to recite, though. The mystic sant may have taken many liberties with grammar, but he knew his sounds: Kabir’s cadences are so smooth. Say this aloud:
Maya mari na man mara, mar mar gaye sareer
Asha trishna na mari, keh gaye das Kabir
Kabir’s dohas are particularly difficult to set to music. For one, each is a disparate piece, with its own theme. Like the ghazal. However, unlike the ghazal, in which each sher at least follows the same meter and rhyme, Kabir’s dohas are somewhat uneven in length and rhyme differently.
It has been done, though. T Series has a long line of Kabir’s work, and you might stumble upon any one travelling in long distance buses in North India; the drivers hugely favour Kabir for early morning listening. I have one of those too, Kabir Amritvani. The producers choose one tune only and set scores and scores of dohe in the same pattern. Repetitive, and a bit jarring, but the enunciation is clear, and soon you find yourself listening to Kabir with minimal interpretation, almost unadulterated, so to speak.
Not so with Abida. The album is surprisingly disappointing, because she neither does justice to Kabir’s verses by allowing their inherent rhythm to show, nor does she treat her material as a vehicle for a purely musical exercise. She takes the middle road and disappoints with both. This was only a first listen, and a first impression. If it grows on me, I’ll just have to come back and let you know.
Abida has sung many greats: Khusrau, Bulleh Shah, Hazrat Shah Hussain, Sachal Sarmast… there is no faulting the literature. I persistently feel dissatisfied with her melody, though. It’s not a priority with many Sufi singers – feeling is rated higher, and most important is how you can carry your listeners into higher and higher realms. That is as it should be, but it needn’t be at the cost of sweetness. The greatest of them were sublime musicians as well as sufis. There was no either/or.
This is also why I’m uncomfortable with people calling Abida the true successor to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. First, she’s not a qawwal, she sings sufi music – there’s a difference. Second, Abida’s style of rendition needs a rather active participation from the listener. Nusrat was like this fragrance that wafted. Even casual listeners would be seduced, drawn by the tendrils and reeled in. Abida needs a commitment from you to begin with.
PS. What a great job they do with album sleeve notes these days. Complete with profiles of everyone involved, notes on history and context, and they include every word sung. Precious, too, because with sufi music, the verses they’re printing are usually difficult to find in English. Educative, and worth nearly half the price of the album.
Sunday, June 26, 2005
Filmmakers Vinod Chopra and Pradeep Sarkar haven’t really interfered with Saratchandra's narrative. There is no particularly individual point of view they’re putting across, and they stay subservient to the story. They do not, by word or gesture, frame or juxtaposition, say anything remarkable. In the final analysis, Parineeta is a competent work of storytelling.
Paheli was a bit subtler for all its opulence, and indefinably had a little more. Earthier, with breathtaking attention to detail, more stylised, but again, a competent work of storytelling. Which brings me to the point: surely this is a standard Bollywood can rise to?
What does it take to make watchable entertainment, after all? A good story, a solid script and characterisation, decent actors, behind-the-scenes professionals who know what they’re about and reasonably high productions standards. Is that over-simplifying it? Watchable entertainment, we said, remember, not great cinema.
Abandon the formula, forget what has worked. Pick up a story that moves you, clothe it well (as we know Bollywood can) and present it as truthfully, as earnestly as you can. If you have nothing else to say, at least have a story.
How can producers willing to spend crores on lavish budgets, not be willing to spend the time to dream up their film and see it in their mind’s eye? How can they not pore over the pages of their script, their storyboards – chipping, polishing, carving? How can they make movies without doing their homework? Why is that not worth the effort? They put in effort with everything else – not the industry’s worst critics can accuse it of laziness. Innumerable shifts, unending dance rehearsals till every one of the hundred dancers in the frame has got it right to the millimetre, darzis, fittings, art hands, lavish sets, properties… they’re a hardworking lot. Why not divert a little of that energy to focus on what you’re saying?
It mightn’t work after all, but then very little else seems to. The hits : releases ratio would daunt any but the most determined risk takers, but Bollywood is filled with them. So what’s another risk?
Take it, give us a little quality. Give us a Parineeta one week, a Paheli the next, consistently. Perhaps there will occasionally be filmmakers who have a little more to give, and will raise a movie above the competent to the special. Wouldn't that be nice.
Friday, June 24, 2005
I moved quickly but he was quicker. A sharp, stinging pain in my elbow – I didn’t know what it was – a sharp bit of damaged coin, or a cigarette, perhaps? Red clouded my mind – I turned back, and confronted him. Uttered a couple of threats and wagged a finger in his face. He seemed a little taken aback; he said he didn’t know what I was talking about. It wasn’t enough, but it would have to do. I walked away, seethed for the rest of the day and tended to the red wound on my arm.
It wasn’t about anything, that. Just ‘oh, girl’ and reaction. Harassment. Because.
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Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Saare sukhan tumhare, jugnu, diye, sitaare
Seven people (dead or alive, real or fictional) that I would pick to have a 5 minute conversation with
Nicholai Hel from Shibumi
Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Vivekananda (I’m imagining this meeting with the two of them together. Can you imagine my tongue-tiedness? I think I’ll just sit with an idiotic smile and soak it in)
Amir Khusrau and Kabir
Hee heee, that’s nine… But… BUT…
No women! dismay! I only want to meet men? No representation at all unless I rack my brains and fit them in, and that would really be tokenism.
The reason, I think, lies partly with our skewed documentation. Women, if recorded at all, are done so for masculine, or male-centred attributes – strength or beauty. Women of extraordinary strength or power – but not interesting, you see? Not necessarily people I want to meet.
How many cool women do we know of – chilled out, humorous, sexy, funny, wise? Not necessarily strident, not necessarily serious, not necessarily academic or ‘important’. Women with individuality, women with opinions, a unique way of looking at the world? There must have been – why didn’t they make it to the pages? I want to meet those women.
Monday, June 20, 2005
When she does this at Radha Aunty’s, they just darken the room, pull the door close and go on with their lives. Not us. We’re so incredibly honoured to have her here, to know that she feels at home enough to fall asleep (she’s a suspicious kind of a baby) that we’re tiptoeing around the house. All but the most essential conversation has ceased, we’re speaking in theatrical whispers. Our gate creaks, and so at the first hint of noise, the door has been opened and the dhobi intercepted before he can ring the bell. She will wake anytime now, and be taken home to have tachi mamam.
Sunday, June 19, 2005
I’m grimacing; not many words emerge but he gathers I was less than enthralled. Quickly he sets about estimating the value of my opinion on this most important matter. ‘Are you a Batman fan at all? Have you see any of the others?’ ‘Oh, yes,’ I tell him recklessly, ‘I saw a couple of those Val Kilmers.’ Adit’s voice takes on a touch of frost: ‘There was only one Val Kilmer movie.’ Ah!
Still I muddle on airily, ‘Yes, yes, and that Michael Keaton waala and even the one with that Chris O' Donnell chap’. Like my master, I don’t keep nonsense facts in my head that I could just as easily look up, and I don’t want to look this up. Adit however is not impressed at all – he’s telling me how IMDB is already rating this one at 8.6 when even American Beauty stayed at 7. Which, IMHO, goes to show how crappy this reviewing system must be but that’s another matter.
So we’ve established I’m not a fan. To me, this was just a movie about a hero’s beginnings. And how it was mauled. First a skinflint lighting budget that passes off for brooding atmosphere. The pits was one character actually raising a cigarette lighter to see two centimeters beyond his nose. Light, give me some light!
Shaken by his powerlessness in Gotham City, Bruce Wayne makes his way around the world, studying evil and collecting some steel. He ends up in a mysterious Asian prison and falls in with a set of brigands called… wait, lemme check… Ra's Al Ghul, where chief man (with the funniest moustaches I’ve seen in a while) and man called Henri Ducard give him some training with swords and whatnot. Ok great.
The Batman terrified of bats. Isn’t that a great idea? Conquering and owning your worst fear. Using that as your own signature, an enduring symbol of your biggest win over your own mind. Nice.
Execution? Sad. The scene where Ducard gives Bruce this bowl of burnt herbs to inhale to call up his fear... you’re waiting to see how it is done, the calming of this thumping agitation, the soothing of this fluttering fear, the resignation, the acceptance, the peace. Instead we have masked people who surround the man, and suddenly Moustache Man begins to applaud. Whatever happened? There is a really nice bit in the grotto later though, bats swooping around a perfectly still Bruce Wayne. Not bad.
The good bits? Seeing exactly how all those Batman accessories were put in place – the costume, the batmobile, the underground caverns. And I really liked Scarecrow. And Michael Caine and Freeman and even Rutger Hauer. Not so much Christian Bale.
So we come to Katie Holmes, and make no pretence whatsoever of being fair. I’m a Nicole Kidman loyalist and believe that Cruise should never ever have left her. And he’s settling for this?! No authority as a DA or whatever she is, no particular warmth and can’t act. Plus, doesn’t comb her hair. This is what you want? A malleable young thing grown up gazing at your posters, willing to embrace Scientology and make her life and views over to you? Oh, Tom.
They’re telling me this is the best of the Batman movies. What a good thing I can’t remember the others.
Friday, June 17, 2005
I watched Zhang Yimou’s Hero yesterday. Certain words leap to mind: beautiful, gorgeous, spectacular… you’ll look up the rest of the synonyms, won’t you, because they all apply.
This is a visual feast set in China during the Warring States period, where seven kingdoms fought for dominance. The ruler of Qin (Chen Dao Ming) is by far the most powerful and also the one most under threat by a barrage of assassins. Warrior Nameless (Jet Li) arrives at the palace with news that he has vanquished three of the king’s most deadly enemies: Sky (Donnie Yen), Flying Snow (Maggie Cheung) and Broken Sword (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai). He is granted audience but must stay at least a 100 paces from the king or be killed. As he gives the king a blow by blow account of how he dismantled the fearsome three, he is allowed closer and closer…
Finally with the warrior ten paces from him, the king realises his mistake: he is being lied to. Remarkably unflustered, he supplies his version of what must have taken place. Nameless admits it and then proceeds to tell him what really happened.
Like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and several other offerings in Asian cinema, this one is from the marital arts-as-ballet genre. Episodic, and Rashomon-like with its many versions of the same event, Hero is sumptuously visual. Both controlled and extravagant, each episode is bathed in a chosen set of colours. Red and ochre, purple and blue, green, white…
When Nameless first meets Sky, he does so in a Go house, with rain falling and an old man plucking the strings of some divine instrument. As the drops fall on the Go board, Nameless and Sky stand facing each other listening to the music, frozen but battling in their minds. I thought that must be my favourite sequence till I came to when Broken Sword and Nameless pirouette and clash swords over the waters of a lake enclosed by verdant mountains. The water drop, sweet God, the water drop.
Several years ago, I put down China on my list of places to visit before pack up. I’ve now moved it several places higher. Another resolution: explore Tan Dun, composer/conductor. He’s why it would be unfair to call Hero purely visual.
And Samanth, for doing such a good job of recommending it, thanks. Hero should be aired again on Star Movies. Watch it, people.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
In random order, then:
Eight frivolous things that bring me joy
1. Lip balms. Right now on my dressing table: plain petroleum jelly, a luxurious banana, a tingly mint, a smooth pineapple, a so-so strawberry and a crappy sparkle gel from Streetwear.
2. Bath Accessories – soaps, bath salts, bath oils.
When Shweta brought back Lush soaps from London, we started to have a soap platter – we’ve run out of those ones but still manage to have a variety to choose from: lemon, neem, lavender, green apple, sandal…. Deliberating over which soap every day… yes, that gives me joy.
Bath oils and salts – I made a fresh bottle of rose baths salts recently – pale pink, with essence of Rosa damascena… heavenly!
4. Stationery – paper, pens, pins.
5. Corn on the cob. Mokka bhutta. Choosing tender/medium ones from a pile, watching the vendor strip it efficiently and roast it over coal, fanning the bed to a bright red. Generous slathering of nimboo dipped in salt and kala namak. Paying man measly Rs 5 per ear, wrapping in leaves, and nip, nipping away.
6. Churans and suparis. You will have guessed by now – I can’t have one of anything, it has got to be a collection. Churans on kitchen shelf at present time – jeera goli, anaar daana, amla churan and aloo bhukhara. Suparis: pineapple, khajur, khas khas, gulkhand, couple of other assortments that don’t have names.
7. Having my cell phone conversations end at the dying seconds of a minute, extracting maximum yak for my buck. Conversely, nothing annoys me more than a call duration that reads something : 02.
8. Finding a chatty Hyderabadi autowalla when I'm by myself and feeling like some conversation.
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
I like this. Imagining a huge mass of cloud moving across the subcontinent casting a huge shadow as it moves north, northeast. Shade, succour, water.
I remember Bimal saying once that lightning in Kerala was quite something else. Everyone from that corner of the world agrees. I mean to do that sometime. Some year soon, I’ll pack and go visit Kerala in the last week of May. Go to the southwestern-most tip of this land, dangle my feet over the lip into the sea and see the clouds coming.