Saturday, December 31, 2005

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

Kaalalli chakra!

That’s Kannada for ‘wheels on my feet’ cause I’m off again. Dehradun this time on a week-long birding trip with BSAP (Birdwatchers’ Society of Andhra Pradesh). I’ve just printed out the checklist and it runs into 13 pages and 402 species. Goody!

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

Bidar Diary

Plenty, plenty to see in Bidar: the town is strewn with monuments. Surprisingly, these don't make big news in the travel books and websites. When they spoke of the Bidar fort, so lacklustre was the advance publicity, I quite thought it would turn out to be some set of paltry ruins. Nothing of the sort! 5.5 km of defensive walls, 37 bastions, 7 gates, dozens of palaces and gardens, in reasonably good repair. Then there is the Mahmud Gawan Madrassa, a medieval dormitory for scholars; the Barid Shahi tombs and the Bahmani tombs at Ashtur.
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

Tour report

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


Hurrah for the power of the written word! I put down seven things I wanted to do, and here are quite a few done already!

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.