Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Tamilians are funny people. I mean, really funny. Keen sense of pun, they have, and Navin writes about a form that allows them to combine this with their inherent sense of drama - the thathuvam.
Now I can't translate this, so my apologies to all who don't follow but at least six readers of this blog will enjoy these:

Car kulla tyre irundha adhu stepney;
Adhey namma mela andha tyre irundha, naama chutney!

Neenga bikela evlo thaan fasta ponaalum
ungalayae neenga overtake panna mudiyaathu.

Ambalainga adi patta ambulance varum;
Pombalainga adi patta pombulance varuma?

Navin has a new one on his sidebar everytime. Have fun.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Wine and song

There's much about the popular perception of ghazals that irritates me. To the outsider, it is all about Pankaj Udhas and Anup Jalota. The scene it calls up is peopled by men in ethnic kurtas, cardboard characterisations of les belles dames sans merci, bland, boring tunes, songs about the indolent life... drink, women and a sickly sentimental attitude to all things, primarily romantic love.

Yes, the ghazal by definition is about love and romance. Yes, there's a lot of drink involved but your real ghazal is a thing of beauty. Made up of terse two lined shers that seek to capture the very essence of things - many fail, but some succeed exceedingly well. The casual observer cannot know that if Ghalib writes pining songs of love, underneath the extravagant language is a strong vein of self-mockery, that when he talks of his 'sanam', he frequently means 'Khuda'.
The average ghazal singer is much to blame for this image. They created a niche and now are quite happy to stay there, making no further attempt to really interpret or translate the material they sing. Pmhmf.

Now on the grounds that an emphatic rant deserves to be contradicted, I'm going to go over to the other side and present just such a ghazal as reinforces that stereotype. I heard it this morning, not for the first time, but in fact for the first time. That happens all the time with shers - new ones are often found in tapes that have belonged to you for years.
The timing was right. I was (uncharacteristically, I hasten to add - after all, I have family reading this blog) wistfully contemplating some 'spirit'ual sustenance. I wondered what it was that was so attractive about a glass of wine or whiskey… what is does for me is it slows down life's scroll, forcing me to live in the moment I find myself in, without rushing headlong into the next, and the next. There is time then for details - the feeling that all you need is here, right here around you. The heady feeling that this minute here is more important than the one to come, that life is good. Not escape, but celebration. And this ghazal came along…

maan mausam ka kaha, chayi ghata, jaam utha
aag se aag bhuja, phool khila, jaam utha

ek pal bhi kabhi ho jaata hai sadiyon jaisa
der kya karna yahan, haath badha, jaam utha

pyar hi pyar hai, sab log barabar hai yahan
maikade mein koi chota na bada, jaam utha

-Bashir Badr

Thursday, January 12, 2006

So sure

Woh bhi kya din the, ke har veham yakin hota tha
Ab haqeeqat nazar aaye to use kya samjhoon?

-Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

With strong coffee

Arre, inhe Peter Jackson hai nai, usku editing se kya dushmani hai ki kya hai ki. Last day bolke Sangeet mein King Kong dekhne ku gaye to, arre teen ghante kya kheencha re baap! Pehle pehle theek tha, phir second half aaya aur picture 'khatam hi nai honda.'

King Kong hai nai, unhe seedhe Empire State Building pe chad jaata ji, aur logaan poore goliyan maarlere usku. Unhe marta nai, heroine usko chodti nai, dono dekhlete rehte.
Poora dimaag kharab karra, bachcha.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A skewed look at...

...Aparna Sen's 15 Park Avenue. Punchy film, this; an intimate look at schizophrenia, differing perceptions and blurring lines.

Meethi (Konkana Sensharma) is in search of an address - 15 Park Avenue - that's proving elusive. Her sister Anjali (Shabana Azmi) is her reluctant driver, and something is amiss. There's no street called Park Avenue in Kolkata, and the exercise is one the sisters have been through before. Meethi is schizophrenic and her world is different from the one her sister and mother inhabit - hers includes her husband Joydeep Roy, five children, a job with the Illustrated Weekly and a home she believes is at 15 Park Avenue.

The story unfolds and we're given various threads: Meethi's latent mental illness as a child, her fairly normal youth, her engagement to Joydeep (Rahul Bose), and a gang rape that sends her over the edge. There is no resolution, of course - how can there be - but what Sen does is create so much sympathy for Meethi that we the audience are caught halfway between her world and the one without, able to look into both and understand exactly where she's coming from.

The film is performance-driven, of course. Konkana Sensharma is brilliant, yes, but the one that remained with me was Shabana Azmi's - the role and its execution. Because the movie then doesn't stay about mental illness, it begins to be also about its ever-growing ripples that ravage families and caregivers.

Azmi is superb as the much-older sister. A brilliant physicist and teacher, Anjali is pragmatic, sensitive, efficient and intense. She's the woman in charge, the one everyone depends on, and who simply doesn't have time enough to fully satisfy the demands of her sister, ageing mother, a career and the man-in-her-life. Balancing between empathy for her sister and impatience, caught up in one crisis after the other, there is no time for a life or indeed some well deserved self-pity.

There is one telling scene where, for one brief minute, it's about Anu. She has her head in her mother's lap, receiving succour, reassurance, praise. The women are weeping… and the bell rings. 'That must be Sanjeev,' Anu says, absently dashing away tears as she rushes to receive the emergency medicine. And that's all the time she has really, for anything.

If Shabana Azmi approaches this role intellectually, there was another performance that came straight from the gut - Waheeda Rahman as the mother. In fact, the only one among such a star cast, to sting me to quick tears. Sheer emotive power.

Rahul Bose is just ok as Joydeep and if the lines in the film are stilted, it shows up most when he speaks them. Shefali Shah plays his wife Lakshmi, and the script spends as many as twenty minutes letting us into her mind, contrasting her self-absorbed, insecure and rather trite preoccupations with the numerous layers that Meethi is buried under.

Can't talk about a movie and not talk about clothes and accessories when they're there to be talked about. Ms Azmi's 'look', superb. She wears the loveliest clothes and jewellery and that pink-red bag is to die for! As all of us who love psychobabble know, grooming is a very essential way of interacting with our world and its people. If you're dressing up, things can't be that bad, or you won't let them be. It's about making the most of things and that's what I loved about this character: she's a survivor.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


"And with joy the stars perform their shining,
And the sea its long moon-silver'd roll;
For self-poised they live, nor pine with noting
All the fever of some differing soul.”

"Bounded by themselves, and unregardful
In what state God's other works may be,
In their own tasks all their powers pouring,
These attain the mighty life you see."

Matthew Arnold

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Uttaranchal: Mixed Bag

Many many nice things on the Dehra trip. Not many birds species wise but fun all around – great company, great sights.

My first tactile experience of snow, and my first snow fight.

My first sighting of the leopard (Panthera pardus). At Chilla, Rajaji National Park. Arjun spotted it as it crossed the road just ahead of our convoy and sprang away. About 20 yards from us, the panther stopped. Seemed as interested in us as we were in him, turned round to stare at us, and then disappeared into the yellow grass. Shweta’s binocs give her 16x and she got a good look at the rosettes. We couldn’t stop grinning for hours.

Four mongooses, huddled in one big mass, trundling away.

My first niltava, yellow bellied prinia, and plumbeous water redstart. Four vultures in all and Pallas’ fishing eagle.

My first view of the Ganga at Haridwar. Ganga is so much in our lore, so many stories, so much music, so much reverence. I’d heard so many versions of the Gangavatarana, so many composers interpreting the story of her appearance on earth, her descent from the mountains. On the other hand, reports of pollution, corpses and water that could make you sick as a dog.
It helped perhaps that I saw her in Haridwar, closer to the source than further down in Allahabad or Varanasi. She’s clean here, sparkling, vast and energetic, and my heart expanded at the sight of her. You can see at once why they call her Mother; there is a strong sense of giving, nourishing. We rushed to see the Ganga aarti in the evening – I can’t do justice, so I won’t try
but we were lucky, very blessed to have caught it.

Three fabulous bonfires, some really nice people, dumb charades non stop on the train journeys, and lots of food.

Downside: couldn’t meet Nishu in Delhi, but the Okhla sanctuary added greatly to our bird list, so that makes it somewhat ok. Next time, Nish, promise.

Kaiku to bhi

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