Monday, December 28, 2009

Pack up

Last month brought a sting in its tail. We lost our mother; then, as the lady puts it, we swept up the heart and put love away... packing up smiles, habits, responses, whole parts of us that will never be used again.

I had a special ringtone for home; birdcalls that everyone around me knew indicated my mother was calling. The ringtone has been retired honorably. That needed packing too.

So sentimentally, a new haiku on the header:

Sometimes I think...
you would answer the phone
if I were to call
~Robert Major

Monday, November 23, 2009

Essence of Rue

I looked forward to November in my last post but this month seems to have gone in a blink. I have been busy, so so occupied, I have let things go. So naturally, without thought, that it tells me much about how priorities alter your outlook. I have been back in Hyderabad for almost four weeks. I have not yet acquired a local phone number - somehow there hasn't been time. For the very first time in my life I've forgotten to pay my credit card bills before they were due. I have managed to meet my professional commitments but just. Other correspondence lies neglected...I will be embarassed later, I know, but I cannot tackle them now.
Just when it should last, time slips by faster. Hasty, hasty November.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The march of seasons

I may as well tell you right away that this post is a cheat. I have mangaged in spite of my negligence of this blog to have at least one a month, every month and we are on the brink of losing this October forever...
But November comes. It is quite my most favourite month of the year. It is a poetic sound, the winter seems to stretch out ahead... there is music everywhere, concerts, on the radio... it is conducive to meditation, I am back home - so many reasons to like November.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


है मुख्तार को फिर वहीँ लौटना
हवा पर के पानी पे चलते हुए

Friday, September 11, 2009

Oops, they did it again

In September last year, my landlady had this nice tree outside my balcony shorn. I was a new tenant then and I had protested mildly - perhaps she didn't even notice. But look, they did it again:

What am I to say? It was doing well, better than I had hoped. In a few weeks it would have given me privacy from 70 percent of the apartments that face me. Besides, I liked it. I didn't know they had this planned. Nothing to do now but wring my hands. Shall I storm off harridan-like and tell them how presumptious, how officious they have been? It isn't even on their property. It's a street tree. It belongs to EVERYone. How dare they?

Or now that nothing can be done, can I calm down and consider this a lesson in cultivating detachment?

Kahat Kabir

Kabir Festival 2

Just a brief overview of what the festival offered. It was an effort to broadcast the work of the Kabir Project - a project that involved "series of journeys in quest of this 15th century mystic poet in our contemporary worlds." The output, if you want it in concrete terms, consists of 4 documentary films, 2 folk music videos and 10 music CDs accompanied by books of the poetry in translation. The person who has propelled this effort is filmmaker Shabnam Virmani and all of this was the result of an Artist-in-Residence program at the Sristhi School of Art, Design and Technology.

The films have taken some four years to make: they involved extensive and intensive travel and although they have been constructed into four stand-alone themes, there is substantial overlap (at least, of personalities) and the tetralogy is best, in my opinion, seen and taken together.

The first of these was Chalo Hamara Des that starts by introducing to us Prahlad Singh Tipanya, a folk singer of Malwa, whose way of life is coloured by Kabir. With Prahladji in tow, Virmani travels to Stanford to meet Linda Hess, a scholar of comparative literature who has translated Kabir and now is working on the oral traditions that thrive in various parts of the subcontinent. Early in the film, Hess talks of the peak of Shoonya that Kabir refers to, the peak that is the destination of anyone on the spiritual path. And earnest though these seekers are, and sound though their theory is of what they must do, it is the practice of it that was fascinating to me. Through the films they expand into something larger, and fall back again into their selves, trapped by habit, structure and personality.

The next film Had-Anhad is the most toasted of the four. It starts in Ayodhya, with a few chest thumping Hindu reactions on the Babri Masjid issue. Then the film seeks Ram - Kabir's Ram, the Sagun Ram, the Nirgun Ram and it seeks Kabir or rather the various Kabirs that appear scattered here and there. It follows the trail to Rajasthan to interact with Mirasi sufi singer Mukhtiyar Ali to see what he makes of it and then over the border to Karachi to meet with Farid Ayaz whose family has been singing qawwalis for 700 years - a man so intensely possessive of his Kabir he tells his contingent of guests very frankly that he is not about to tolerate their dissenting views.

Kabira khada bazaar mein - which some might perceive as the weakest in the chain - is still interesting for its examination of how Kabir has been appropriated by various sections of society. Some are interested only in his incendiary stances, some use him for his dalit status, some take Kabir to represent an alternative religion that goes against the very essence of what the saint might have himself said or meant.
However, the truly ticklish point of the film comes when it traces the actions of Prahlad Tipanya. A man whose singing has earned him a considerable following, a man who has all through believed in the essence of Kabir and tried to emulate it to a subtle pitch, does the unthinkable: he joins the Kabir Panthi Sect as a mahant. His work now involves ritual, wearing a hierophant-ish hat and he must perform (and exhort others to perform) the chauka aarti. Tipanya is criticised in the film by his own assistants, his family, his friends (Hess and Virmani included) and his contemporaries. He protests albeit softly that he wants to change the system from within. It is a weak argument. What is clear though is he feels he must; however obscure his motivations, it is obvious he thinks his path goes through the establishment, not around it.

The fourth film Koi Sunta Hai moves to fresh arenas: classical music. It explores the influence of Kabir on Pt Kumar Gandharva and in turn, classical singing, as well as of course, what this did to elevate Kabir's own status from being considered the literature of beggars and mendicants to more refined circles.

The films are avowedly a personal search as far as Shabnam Virmani is concerned. She wields the camera herself, we see her occasionally caught in mirrors or shadows but she pervades the films far more than through appearances alone. She is addressed by name by her interviewees, that they are in fact in a dialogue is never in doubt. It must be her manner, her skill as a questioner that she manages to evoke such spontaneous responses, such charming reactions.

Music occupies a large chunk of the footage and it is quite central to the project. It enhanced the experience of the festival so much that the personalities whose lives that were being minutely examined in the films were also present. When they sang of course, we knew them intimately.

The festival was expensive too: entry was free but there was music on offer and after each screening or concert I went back, quite sure I needed to have that CD as well. So ended that a bit poorer and a bit richer.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Sahib mera

Little bit blown. Actually very much blown. I’ve just spent the weekend from Friday evening to Sunday evening at a festival devoted to Kabir. An explosion of music, of Kabir’s words, his personality, his timelessness. An explosion of ideas, perspectives, people, their intimate personal lives. Their words, their attitudes, their common goal. The politics of it, the ownership of it, the fluidity of it — the high brow application of it, the accessibility of it... it has been all somewhat overwhelming.
I want to blog at some length but am tumbling over my words, so incoherent am I in my hurry to say all the very important things at once.
So this, just to capture the first flush. But I will, insha’allah, come back to blog about the various aspects of what I have learnt, what I have observed. Already my state before I went to IIC on Friday evening is fast fading; I have assimilated too quickly.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Mind the gap

She is not what she says
sometimes she falls through the gaps between the words,
slips between them
although she tries to cling to the curl of the g, grasp the hook of the t
she slips...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Jis desh mein Ganga behti hai

Prompted by some vague impulse, I dusted off this song today to hear it again. The words are by Bhupen Hazarika, translated to Hindi by Pt Narendra Sharma. The lines are clunky, the thoughts disjointed, the syllables awkward to sing, but Hazarika manages to get hordes of singers to join him in his sentiment and somehow raises it to an operatic pitch.

But I was very moved at one time by the content, the plea in this song. Ganga is, of course, only a river. Already burdened by her considerable responsibilites and treated so shabbily by the plains she services. She has rather a lot to contend with, a mother who keeps the food coming, cleans out the junk, gets dumped on... a mother who simply isn't thanked enough. To make such lofty demands of her as this poem does seems unreasonable. But also pathetic. Who else can we ask?

गंगे जननी, नवभारत में
भीष्मरुपी सुत, समरजयी जनती नहीं हो क्यों?

The song is here and the whole text is here:

विस्तार है अपार, प्रजा दोनों पार करे हाहाकार
निःशब्द सदा ओ गंगा तुम...
गंगा, बहती हो क्यों?

नैतिकता नष्ट हुई, मानवता भ्रष्ट हुई
निर्लज्ज भाव से बहती हो क्यों?

इतिहास की पुकार करे हुंकार
ओ गंगा की धार,
निर्बल जन को सबल संग्रामी, समग्रो गामी
बनाती नहीं हो क्यों?

अनपढ़ जन अक्षर रहीं
अनगिन जन खाद्य विहीन
नेत्र विहीन देख मौन हो क्यों?

व्यक्ति रहे व्यक्ति केंद्रित
सकल समाज व्यक्तित्व रहित
निष्प्राण समाज को तोड़ती न क्यों?

श्रुतास्विनी क्यों न रहीं,
तुम निश्चय चितन नहीं...
प्राणों में प्रेरणा देती न क्यों?

उन्मद अवनी कुरुक्षेत्र बनी...
गंगे जननी, नव भारत में
भीष्मरूपी सुत समर्जयी
जनती नहीं हो क्यों?

इतिहास की पुकार करे हुंकार
गंगा की धार,
निर्बल जन को सबल संग्रामी, समग्रो गामी
बनाती नहीं हो क्यों?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Ragni Pilu and such thoughts

Isn't it odd what people will take on themselves to do? Some will save lives, some will save music - their inner compulsions mysterious and... well, compelling.

Aren't some destinies beautiful? Such fabulous patterns, such large arcing themes.
But most of us, we live lives of quiet desperation. A struggle, a little pinching here, a small tuck in the fabric there. Without that one great talent, without that insistent call of one purpose... making do, marking time.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

It all comes back

Two or three years ago, I mentioned a concert by Prabhakar Karekar where he sang a Marathi natyageete. Came across the original today. Happiness!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


So gory but this is looping in my head:

कागा सब तन खाइयो चुन चुन खाइयो मास
दो नैना मत खाइयो मोहे पिया मिलन की आस

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What Lies Beneath

I've been wanting to put up this travel piece for a while, but I'm hurrying because I am dying to put up the next one: I went to Meghalaya recently and wanted so much to blog - only, I couldn't because the first words out needed to be for the magazine. I've lost steam on that one but in the meantime, here is Patalkot. I had mentioned it in an earlier post, this is the longer story.


A tribal settlement in a deep forgotten stretch of the Satpuras...

The most fascinating aspect of this adventure was the idea of it. The idea of a gorge so deep it was seldom ventured into, a valley so hidden it was forgotten. Consumed almost by the hills of the Satpuras, in Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh, these depths have a fanciful name—Patalkot, Sanskrit for the ‘nether-lands’.

To best communicate the extent of this place, it needs a bird’s eye view, or better still, a satellite-eye view. From the firmament, this section of the Satpuras looks as if giant hands had absently run a finger through the surface, doodling a small horseshoe shape as it scooped out the earth. The narrow rut left behind is 1,200-1,500ft deep, and on average, 2-3km wide from wall to wall. The entire valley covers less than 80 sq km. I was excited; frankly, straining-at-the-leash excited to be taking this walk. Trekking as we do through India’s stunning landscapes, this one was still special. My sister Shweta and I were with a group of people on a small circuit through the Satpuras. We’d marvelled at the marbled walls of Bhedaghat, traipsed through the very civilised Pachmarhi and, on this day, we were going down. We drove through to Rathed village and were set down at the beginning of a trail, with a couple of local guides in charge.

I tried to glean a little more about the fissure. What, for instance, was the reason for this sharp depression? No one knows for sure but one plausible theory is meteorite impact. An odd-shaped, sharpish lump of otherworldly stone, crashing with enormous impact, slicing through the land...all conjecture, of course, for there have been no studies, no validation of the surmise. On the other hand, there are myths. Prince Meghnath is supposed to have passed into ‘Patallok’, the nether-world, through this valley. Patalkot’s existence may have been known to the outside world, but the memory had grown hazy, and it was certainly forgotten till about half a century ago. Then in the 1950s, a small scout party belonging to the new administration of the then Central Provinces made their way through and ‘discovered’ the valley anew. They found something more, something guaranteed to send a zing down the spine of anyone who enjoys colonial thrillers featuring ‘remote tribes’—they found human settlements. Scattered across 12 villages, close to 2,000 people lived in the valley, self-sufficient tribal communities retaining no significant contact with the outside world. Since then, interactions have grown but slowly. Before the 1980s, none of Patalkot’s inhabitants had ever tasted salt.

We seemed to be descending for half an hour, but we were not technically in the gorge yet. Already, our breakfasts showed signs of having been digested and instead of digging in our packs for sustenance, we turned to the trees that flanked the trail. Amlas were found to hand and we nipped away; they left a cool taste on the tongue and took care of the thirst—a mistake, we discovered later, for Shweta forgot to sip from her water bottle and developed a thundering headache later. Still we seemed to be walking along the rim of the basin. People in the group dawdled as they took pictures and I was starting to wonder what the guide was about, for time was limited. It would take us four hours to get down there and as much to climb back up—except the sun leaves Patalkot about two hours sooner than it does the world outside. If we didn’t want to climb back in the growing dark, we would have to make better time. In about 15 minutes though, it was official—we were lost.

There are apparently three trails down to the bottom: we’d come from Rathed, the other two go from the villages of Chindi and Chawalpani. We waited for another guide to join us, and the sun was climbing when we finally stepped off the edge. A very little way down, the air around us started to change. It became cooler, the scents of the forest pressed down and everything went rainforesty. Warblers flitted incessantly and, further on, the mandatory stream entered stage right, gurgled charmingly and exited stage left. The forest floor was covered with growth, giving off a bouquet of smells as plants were crushed underfoot. Protected as it was from marauding intruders, and also due to its peculiar geography, Patalkot is a veritable treasure trove of medicinal flora. According to Dr Deepak Acharya, who has made it his work to preserve and document the medicinal plants here, there are hundreds of economically important plants, a clutch of rare flora and even some endemic ones. The people of Patalkot (mostly of the Bharia and Gond communities) are expert foragers, and remarkably skilled at making pulps and extracts. Their concoctions are believed to have therapeutic value and are even able to treat snakebites, measles and cholera, alleviate hypertension, diabetes, coughs and pains.

We reached the floor, and came to a large clearing, rimmed with soaring circular rock walls. I stood there, turning where I stood, craning up long enough to acquire a crick in the neck. I’d have like to see a play performed here, for it was glorious natural amphitheatre. Also, precisely the sort of place that has humankind buckling to its knees in prayer. Predictably, there were deities and other godly representations carved on the stone; an idol installed at one spot, a red, fierce-looking trident lodged in another with ‘om’ emblazoned on it—isolated or not, in some ways the settlement is clearly no different from any other place in India. Not far away, we came upon the Dhoodhi river that flows through the valley. Here and there, the river cuts through rock, and stepping-stones are strewn about conveniently—within five minutes, the lot of us were in the water for an impromptu dunking.

A group of tribesfolk came by, herding goats, strolling with their staffs across their backs, arms casually looped around. They looked at us, I imagine, with as much curiosity with which we studied them. Dark-skinned, deep-lined tribal faces. There were a few girls as well: wearing men’s shirts and what seemed like sari petticoats, tucked in so they stayed at knee length—and on their feet, they wore hawai slippers. The villages of Patalkot have been subjected to rigorous ‘development’—there is a school here now and the clincher, the sign that they have indeed been brought up to speed, comes from the fact that some houses now have dish television. Just another tribal settlement now and, frankly, it would have been just another day-trek through forest and brush, but for the knowledge that this was once a remote, inaccessible trench that no one knew about.

The sun was withdrawing from the walls around us and we hustled. I didn’t fancy tripping into brooks or climbing back out by torchlight. We spilled out of the valley to a glorious sunset, just in time to catch the ball of red fire dipping over the horizon.

Published Outlook Traveller February 2009; picture ©Shweta Vyas

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sar dhunka rahe

I have been listening these past days with renewed interest to ghazals by Pakistani poet Farhat Shahzad. I came across him first some 15 years ago with an album called Kehna Usey. Mehdi Hassan had unusually sung an entire album incorporating the work of one poet – that is very well of course if you like the poet, but tedious if you don’t. Kehna Usey grew on me — the tone was vibrant, full of imperatives, exhortations, verbs.

Then Mehdi Hassan came out with another double volume called Sada-e-Ishq – all ghazals by Shahzad. It was promoted heavily when it was released: the master couldn’t tour but Hariharan did in his stead (it was a superlative concert!) and I met also the young poet. Farhat was a bit of a surprise. His poetry is melancholic, even relentlessly self-pitying, but the man had a twinkle in his eye, and laughter rose readily. He wore jeans and a sleeveless T-shirt, spoke excellent Urdu with an American twang and told me he was a software professional.

But somehow I never listened to Sada-e-Ishq very much. I thought Mehdi Hassan’s voice quavered more than I liked and I thrust it away. Perhaps the music company thought so too – for I’ve stumbled on a double volume, Do Dil, Do Raahein (Vol 1, Vol 2) with cover versions of all these ghazals by various singers. Rather interesting because I haven’t heard Pankaj Udhas sound like this, and fun to hear Hariharan, Anup Jalota, Kamran Hassan and Abida Parveen pay tribute to Mehdi Hassan.

Shahzad uses metres of varying lengths, but he quite excels with the short beher. See this, which is haunting me:
ख्वाब जुदा रंग भरना और
कहना और है, करना और

And then, he says
सेहरा का दुःख समझे कौन
होना और गुज़रना और

Incidentally, my sister’s blog takes its title from this sher by this poet:
मस्लेहत छीन गई कुव'वत-ऐ-गुफ्तार मगर
कुछ न कहना ही मेरा मेरी सदा हो बैठा

And the title of this post is a nod to this sher:
सुनके वो शह्ज़ाद के अश’आर सर धुनका रहा
थाम कर हम दोनों हाथों से जिगर देखा किए

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Zulf ke saaye

These past days, as I walk back from work, I’ve been slipping on headphones and tuning into FM Rainbow. Every evening they have an hour of ghazals. The selections vary with the presenter—some talk sensibly, some are outright mawkish but I’m quite happy to have found this.
Radio, of course, is an old friend, one I go back to with great relief. And as for the ghazal, with one thing and the other, it had been a while since I sought one out. But here it was, and old habits, once one overcomes the bewildering blend of newness and familiarity, are easy to slip into.

ग़ज़लों ने वहीँ जुल्फ के फैलादिये साए
जिन राहों पे देखा कि बोहुत धूप कड़ी है |

Many years ago, Hyderabad B had a half hour programme on Friday afternoons, where they would invite a guest to present their selection of ghazals. My classmate Rachna was once invited to present it and allowed me, if I remember it correctly, to influence her selection a little.
Such a chance never came my way but what’s to stop me posting my version of things? So here is roughly a half-hour’s worth.

The first ghazal, chosen more for content than overall worth. Hariharan from Gulfam

आ चांदनी भी मेरी तरह
Link 1
Link 2

Then the King, because I must. This song, because I must. The first ghazal I ever heard by him. It was my first tape recorder. I wasn’t sure what kind of music I liked, so I tried a bit of everything. I went out and bought six tapes, one of which was Mehdi Hassan: The Finest Ghazals. It was a life-altering choice. I remember even now, with cellophane wrappers from the tapes strewn all around me, sitting entranced at this voice, of the possibilities of this new world.

रंजिश ही सही
Link 1
Link 2

This ghazal by Jagjit Singh had somehow slipped under my radar for too long. But several years ago, I was in Delhi to visit Shweta. On New Year’s Eve, one of her friends, a musician of some repute now, sat down with a guitar to sing for us. Slowly, lingeringly, he plucked out this one.

तुम नहीं ग़म नहीं
Link 1
Link 2

Musical arrangements for most ghazals are fairly basic. When they perform live, most musicians sing to minimal accompaniments that support but don’t aim for anything more ambitious. Even studio recordings are blah for the most part. I find the harmonium work in this ghazal very exciting.

अजनबी है न हम पराये हैं

And because I can squeeze in another short one, this one by Ghulam Ali. Rent into shreds, the very fabric of life; again, the healers have abandoned us, left us, gone away... I find the desolate imagery very striking.

वक्त के सोग में लम्हों का जुलूस
जैसे इक काफिला-ऐ-नौहागराँ

A long line of moments lamenting the passing of time
Like a procession of funereal mourners

Para para hua
Link 1
Link 2

That's all, folks!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

A thought

When it is cold and draughty we shut our windows and pull close our doors – it also makes us as people more secretive, private and individual. Come summer, with the loo whipping at us, we throw the casements open, look upon our neighbours and do not shy away from their gazes. Is it simply the climate of a place that dictates character, why the tropics are so much more communal compared to the more inhibited temperate zones?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

For a change

'New haiku on the header' alert.

These past few weeks, I had one by JW Hackett:

Sometimes the oddest thing,
like this orange pip,
begs not to be thrown away.

This one struck a chord at once. It is quite true: odd things end up wanting to be kept. Go on a daylong hike, pick up a pretty pebble or cut yourself a wedge of walking stick — by the end of the day, it's quite a job to wean yourself away, pat it on the head and tell it quite firmly that it can't come home with you.

But I have a new one:

spouting philosophy —

a giant salamander
has been watching us
~ Brent Partridge

It makes me laugh, this vivid haiku. A phlegmatic salamander with unblinking eyes and ugly snub face — watching us as we expound on weighty matters. Not only is the shift in perception and perspective sudden, it alters the context: the 'aha' that haiku writers crave.
Intellect—and intertwined with it, language—are quite the most overrated of our gifts. They entertain us certainly but we value them more perhaps than we should. The salamander... knows the things the salamander knows.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Katra katra

Sheetal read vampire books.
Sheetal drink civilised glass of blood for breakfast every morning.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Koi range hawaon ke baal

Happy Holi, people.
I don't like to participate in these celebrations myself - I don't like getting gulaal and silver paint in my hair, being all squelchy, covered in gooey substances and then have to spend hours getting it out, but as with so many things I like the idea of it.

In a play I saw many years ago, an old woman says wistfully: "Un dinon tyohaaron ke aane ka pata chal jaata tha bahu betiyon ke gaanon se, lekin aajkal Chitrahaar se maloom hota hai." She saw television eroding the cultural values of her generation, so isn't it odd that we now look back sentimentally at Chitrahaar?

Talking of holi film songs, here is one I like very much, a song I've always felt was underrated. It's from Mangal Pandey; Rahman (again!) and Javed Akhtar capture very well the exuberance of it all: the colour, the spirits, the letting go, the sexiness. The notes seem to dart unceasingly, the sounds and shouts come to us from various distances, the layers add to the boisterousness, to the sense that so much is happening off screen and in the background.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Raaleti poola raagalu

The chills haven’t quite left Delhi yet. I wasn’t feeling too clever, so I picked out a shawl to wrap around me this afternoon. An off-white one with a blue edge that always makes me feel special and cosy. A lingering sense of being sorry for oneself and a shawl – the connection was inevitable.

And just to have this superb song of Veturi’s on hand whenever I need it:

Aamani paadave hayiga
Moogavai poku ee vela
Raaleti poola raagalato
Pooseti poola gandhalato
Manchu taaki koyila
Mounamaina velala… aamani paadave hayiga

Vayassu lo vasantame ushassula jwalinchaga
Manassu lo niraasale ranchinchele mareechika
Padaala na yada swarala sampada
Tarala na katha kshanalave kada
Gatinchi povu gaadha nenani…
Aamani paadave haayigaa...

Sukaalato pikaalato dhwaninchinaa madhodayam
Divi bhuvi kalaa nizam sprusinchina mahodayam
Maro prapanchame marinta cheruvai
Nivaali korinaa ugaadi velalo
Gatinchi povu gaadha nenani…
Aamani paadave haayigaa…

Incidentally, what does ‘nivaLi’ mean, does anyone know?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Vadatu samskritam

Australopithecus was tagged a funny tag. The task was "to get the 6th picture from your 6th folder and to tell its story". Hah, I thought, my pictures are all in one sub-sub-sub-folder, so what is one to do if the sixth folder I open doesn't have pictures? Vela moment, I try it. And there is a jpeg image:

Some 6-7 years ago, I attended a course in Spoken Sanskrit. It was wonderful—very empowering. Unfortunately, the teacher dawdled over the easy initial part, then found himself short of time, so rushed through the more complicated syllabus at breakneck speed. It left a very incomplete feeling and I've always intended to refresh what I'd learnt, pore over the books and teach myself a bit more thoroughly. This sixth folder was full of scanned pages from a textbook I'd found online.

Dararein Dararein


Dilli 6 yesterday. Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, it is confirmed, cannot hold a steady tone. Roshan (Abhishek Bachchan) comes to Delhi to drop off his grandmother and discovers old Delhi. We see the scenes over his shoulder, sometimes unnecessarily explicated by his narration, and the film team manages to build considerable ambience. How authentic I cannot tell, but it holds. The vignettes are excellent; there are nice characterisations and some rather intuitive actors. Waheeda Rehman is a stalwart; Pavan Malhotra, Sheeba Chadda (who’s doing some nice work – I loved her performance in Luck by Chance) and Divya Dutta all etch their presence. Sonam Kapoor too fits in, even if her animation is much too filmi. [Incidentally, how long do we worship this Mani Ratnam creation, the carefree young girl who dances in the rain and breaks into abandoned jigs on railway stations? She’s getting very boring]. I liked the colour and the vibrancy of Ramlila leitmotif, the dynamics of these small characters, their stories… most of it, most of it. There is no reason why all this couldn’t have been left that way—filmmakers do feel able, even within Bollywood, to observe to no specific end. The Roshan character could’ve gone back to America, wiping off possibly a manly tear, and that would have been that.

Mehra of course isn’t happy with that. He must have an Ending, a bit of a shoo-sha—he must attempt to force-weave his threads, such as they are. Suddenly happy-happy people turn into unreasonable monsters and we get riots, what the film calls ‘pravachans’ on Aham Brahmasmi, that are, in the event, ineffectual. Then we get a slice of Amitabh Bachchan playing Dumbledore. By now it is clear that the storyteller has indeed run out of ideas on how to END this thing. The audience doesn’t care one way or the other—if they’re still seated it’s out of sheer manners.

I’m glad I did though, because the end credits were good. Underscoring ‘the god is in us’ idea, the temple now has a small grubby mirror hung up by a tree. Each character comes up and reacts to his or her reflection, and some of these were very well done. Everyone precedes poor Abhishek Bachchan in this sequence, setting some rather good standards. So he doesn’t even try—he smirks, pretty much like he always does, does a small ‘Me dude, You dude’ type thingy and fades away. He cannot act, paapa.


Links to previous posts: my reaction to Rang de Basanti and its music.

I chose love, and I'm here

Wasn’t Rahman cool at the Oscars? Nice punchy speech too—these Tamil industry walas know how to deliver an exit line.