Saturday, September 21, 2013

Idol Workship and Ancient Indian Thought

In ancient Hindu thought, the Idol worship practice is a bit like learning & believing in Newtonian Physics, until graduating to Einsteinian Relativistic Physics that invalidates the absolutist world-view implied by the former. Ancient Hindu thought did not consider Idol worship in isolation. It was - but a tool - to achieve a greater goal.
If the Ancient Indian mind were a data center running thousands of jobs, Idol Worship would have been but, one daily batch job to charge-up the system to replenish drained resources. And this job has to run until the data center figures out a way to get connected to a perennial resource pool !!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani - Glossy, flat and not much Indian

One more KJO production, one more flat, predictable story line. All gloss, some frills and barely any depth. Bunny - hero - is selfish to the core, for the most part anway, but other than that, typically filmy super-smart. Drinks, dances, brawls galore -and ain wakt mein -  obtains a NorthWestern Univ scholarship with - nary a hint to nor a thought about - his 2 friends who he ostensibly spends all his time with.
8 years later, one of the friends decides to marry (arranged!, hallelujah) - after more drinks/dances/poorly-explained-bruised-friendship-set-right and general herogiri - Bunny domesticates and gets hitched, conveniently. A flat story with a suitably flat New Year scene ending.
Naina - apparently, the heroine - is an add-on, literally to the 3-friend-some and to the script. Where the script fails, the acting holds. Farooque Shaikh's well-enacted character gets a raw deal in the script in a one-sided relationship with his son. One more changing pattern from the typical Indian hero:hero-parent relationship of the past. But, then come to think of it - there wasn't much 'Indian' about the entire narrative. The characters could have belonged  to any upwardly mobile set of families from almost anywhere set in similar locales - and the script would have worked just as well (or badly).
Maybe, this is because - and a case - of art reflecting the society it is set in and what that society wants to see itself as. Probably, which is why it's raking it in, in the BO.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Great Indian Din

The cacophonous nature of Indian discourse, traditionally &  contemporarily, has been highlighted as a key ingredient - and indeed as an important reason, by some - of sustaining and nurturing our democracy. "The Argumentative Indian" is quoted by the adherents of this theme.
The recent IPL happenings have certainly not dimmed our eagerness to add to the general cacophony that pervades our air-waves/news-waves. Multiply that with 50  odd Indian languages  * 1000 channels/news papers/articles/Portals/blogs/Tweets..... many tongues collectively wagging and Din has never sounded louder!
Which is not surprising, when seen that this does concern Religious Capital.
The former, we Indians have always pretended to be and the latter is what we are unabashedly going after - esp, since 1991 - the Gita's Nishkama Karma theme notwithstanding!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Kanheen door jab din dhal jaaye..

Rajesh Khanna's idiosyncratic charisma had ceased to excite in the mid-70's. 18th July served to remind us of the Beatles-like madness never seen before or after  - that had swept thru urban India, not least, among the teens / youth of the softer gender.

Strangely enough though, Khanna was rarely associated with the other dominating theme of that time - the hippie life-style - maybe due to the scriptwriters lack of  empathy for such stories.
Rajesh Khanna  belonged to an ecosystem of several cinematic personalities -  the much talented RD Burman, the maverick genius - Kishore Kumar, Hrishda & Shakti Samanta, Sharmila Tagore, Mumtaz. - all of who seemed to have shared  creative symbiotic and artistic relationships that resulted in memorable tales & music around the  values that appealed to the middle class of that time - selflessness, sacrifice, simplicity - in the backdrop of the then socialistic, left-of-center political milieu.

What  made Khanna's magic fade away so quickly? Maybe, directors/producers got tired of Khanna's indiscipline. Maybe, viewers got tired of seeing the themes that Khanna portrayed repeatedly. Maybe, it was the Emergency or the rise in profile of the smuggling mafia, maybe the loud 'garibi hatao' campaign of the time.  all of which made being rich  or even, aspiring for upward mobility - almost a guilty proposition.
Or maybe, it was just coincidence that Amitabh Bachchan's 5 best movies  - Zanjeer, Deewar, Sholay, Amar Akbar Anthony and Muqqadar Ka Sikandar - just left no room for any other talent to be Numero Uno.
And Rajesh Khanna, unlike Bachchan, could never take the pragmatic approach of relegating himself to  the backdrop on the silver screen, leaving the foreground to the stalwarts of the day

Rajesh Khanna was a born and a natural superstar, a born Anand. And quite ironically, it is Bachchan who captures the essence that is Rajesh Khanna in the now immortal line Anand Mara Naheen, Anand Marte Naheen !

Friday, January 6, 2012

Carnatic Bliss!!

The youthful exuberance of an under-30 vocalist with a pure pedigree & pleasant vocals, blended with the excellence of an experienced 75+ ferociously talented percussionist who has seen it all - came together last evening.
And sheer, classical Carnatic magic resulted in the extended Madras Music season in Karnataka Sangha in Nungambakkam - right from the Navaraga-Malike-varnam opener thru the penultimate Thillana & the eventual Mangalam..

If Sikkil Gurucharan has earned a rare reputation of being able to appeal to the puritan's cultivated patience (witnessed in Abhogi's alapanai), the youth's instinctive thirst for instant appeal ('Dikku Teriyadu Kattil'  drew spontaneous applause among the younger lot) or those with spiritual leanings (amply catered to in the 'Shiva Chidabaram' niraval) - it is not without reason.

Umayalpuram Sivaraman is a living legend - of course, a bit of a la-Zakir-Hussain (or maybe more a la-Ustad Allah Rakha) of the Mridangam world. It is said that there are fans, who attend concerts just to watch & enjoy his Taniyavartanam and then quitely walk away a few minutes after.

U Sivaraman's display last evening was an example of conserving audience interest, right thru the end even while conserving his own energy & creativity  - serving quantum bursts of rhythmically melodious delight continually.
Speaks volumes about the senior vidwan's regimen as he sat upright performing with fresh vigour, exhibiting neither staleness of ideas nor weariness in physique.
All in all, the evening could not have been spent better. There is reason to  hope yet, for Carnatic rasikas of the genuinely classical kind.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Remembering the Chotte Nawab - Why did RD Burman lose touch..

Jan 4th, this year, marks RD's  17th anniversary of leaving us behind. Of course, long before 1994, had the prodigy lost his electrifying touch that permeated magic much thru the late 60s and the 70s.How such an enormously talented musician could lose touch - with the masses and the classes- to the extent that RD did, is a bit of mystery.
Probably, had to do with changing audience tastes, probably the Jeetendra-Sridevi-Bappi-Thaa-thayaa music mode.Or maybe, he did not get the  right scrpts/films on whose successes his songs could have piggy-backed. Or was it that elements of the ecosystem in which RD thrived vanished one after the other - a faded Rajesh Khanna, a jaded Hrishi da or Shakti Samanta, maybe even a fading Ambitabh, departure of Kishore and Sanjeev Kumars from the scenes, and Gulzar's hibernation.
The popularity of the disco themes, the increasing usage of the synthetic electronic instruments may have been the last nails in the coffin.
Still, even when he was down -  no one ever doubted the musical genius of the man who began his independent musical career with Mehmood's Chotte Nawab comprising the endearing 'Ghar Aaja, Ghir Aaye Badra Sanwariya'. Arguably, the best film song in raag Malgunji (Anand's na jiya age na  by Salil C or Adalat's Unko ye shikaayat hai ke hum kuch naheen kehte by Madan Mohan compete closely) - a raga with conflicting emotions but made to appear deceptively simple by Pancham.
Liken this to a batsman scoring a double century on debut on a swinging green unprepared pitch facing the 4 Windies pacers of the '70s - and making it look easy.
Truly, Chotte Nawab!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Gandhi Museum

Museums - in general, and Gandhi Museums - in particular, are not necessarily the most exciting or happening places to visit, esp, on a vacation trip with the present hyper-charged-up generation. So, came as bit of a surprise to find out first hand that Madurai's Gandhi Museum - - was anything but dull.
The front part of the museum portrays British, French, Portugese etc entry into India in its different parts - Goa, TamilNad, Karnataka, Punjab, Bengal etc. Nothing dramatically new - except that this portrayal was evocative in its rendering, covered a lot of historical ground succinctly, touched a chord and elicited futile what-if questions in the mind.
What-if, Siraj-Ud-Dualah could have sensed Mir Jafar's treachery before hand. What-if, Tipu had had a better sense of building alliances and partnerships? What-if, Veerapandian Kattabomman had managed his relationships with Ettapa or/& the King of Pudukottai better? And more such..
What also stood out was that the British usually lost the initial battles only to regroup, replan, reconspire to win the bigger war. For e.g., the first two Mysore wars, The First Anglo-Maratha war.
There are lessons to learn.