Sunday, August 26, 2012

Gangs of Wasseypur II - a quick mini review

Gangs of Wasseypur II: Loved the first part better but the parts together are a brilliant slice of contemporary social history, viewed from the points of view that escape metropolitan worldviews. A seminal work. It is a Mere Apne of its times, which had great new finds.
This one includes Richa Chadda, Huma Quraishi and a couple of actors whose names still not familiar. The surprise is Zeeshan Qadri, who apart from being "Definite" in the movie, is also its story writer. Downside: the climax reminded me of Gulaal. Come on, Anurag Kashyap, you could have fixed that!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Deconstructing Aromale

Music, as it goes, a meandering waterbody, sometimes a river, sometimes a stream, sometimes an ocean, connected and yet not, in a melange of notes and rhythms, caught in a gurgle of sounds....yet, like picking up a handful in the seashore and measuring where the little drops come a challenge, is a joy!
Here's what I heard last night...

And memories came tumbling on the possible influences that A.R.Rahman may have had (and probably did) in coming up with clearly a work of world music embedded in a connected world.
Here are some I could smell...
Watch the guitar plucks and the humming here.

And then go on to how Black American music retained and lost its identity in a brilliant lecture-demo chat by Ali Farka Toure

Go back now, and listen to a raga alaapana (aalap) by Shreya Ghoshal) in reprise of the original Aromale

And catch the original, purer, raaga here....more subtle..and yet in a clearer etching of the tones that make up the raga, with the gravitas of the veena

Go on to the jazz influence back again....this time Reethi Gowla (with a touch of other ragas in the free fusion) acquires a majestic flow in the guitarwork of John McLaughlin...but watch the violin as you ago along

If you had listened to the violin, you could catch the final snatches of Shreya Ghoshal's alaapana mixing with the violin. And in the stepped-up chord, accompanied by the orchestral arrangements, I could catch a glimpse of the Moody Blues classic, Nights in White Satin.

Catch a handful of water on the seashore. Measure where they come from.

Catch again the chorus of a crescendo in Aromale. There is now Abba's Eagle.

Soar, like the Eagle. Soar, like the breeze coming from the mountains that Aromale talks of. The majestic bird becomes the Beloved!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Resignation - A poem

by Ganesh Venkatraman
(Translated from Tamil)

The thought occurred
to quit.
When I arose from my seat
the hands were tied.
A pair of golden handcuffs?
Or a slender, sacred thread?
As I shook off my hand,
a wail arose.

"Don't go!
Don't leave me!"
Took a while to learn
it was my manager.
"Oh! Don't leave us!"
-- said the Manager's Manager

Well done!
Everybody can hear me get up
Before my voice becomes
Immune to their ears
And their ears shut close
It is best to depart.
--Ganesh Venkatraman

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Rediscovery of Captain Haddock

When does a schoolboy comic figure become a literary character?
Perhaps when the pre-teen reader turns to his magical years in nostalgia as an older man. The events are now a plot and the dramatic personae are now characters. More still, you begin to see the authors behind the words, the curiosity of the creator behind the sketchy visage of the protagonist he has created.
Tintin came back to me this week in three dimensions.
Make that four, as the special glasses borrowed from the multiplex staff was supplemented by an Einstenian fourth. Time.

Memories come tumbling, and suddenly, two facets emerge. One is of how a book reader, more so a schoolboy, essentially paints the works he consumes with his own vivid imaginings -- and then does his own editing. Every comic box in a graphic-novel mind is as dwellable or as skippable as one chooses to do.
I remember Snowy and his dogly antics. The little corners of the frame were always special for Tintin lovers for the cute white thing in very wordly wags of the tails, discoveries of the nose and the little politics pets play with other non-human animals. They were largely intact in Spielberg's audacious remake.
So was the curiosity of Tintin. It turns out Tintin is us. Or, if you please, Mr. Herge. I remember that my first visit overseas was to Belgium, where, a complete desi lost in a European autumn, I groped for comfort. And then I learnt Tintin was Belgian. I stayed in a hotel run by South Asians and it overlooked a chocolate factory on top of which lay the icon of the intrepid reporter with the tuft. Suddenly, I felt I was staying at a cousin's place.
And then, there is Captain Haddock, making his debut, in the comic book and in the world of cinema, as the secret of the Unicorn unravels.
Now, there is a twist in the tale that never really changed.
I now see Tintin as a Western character with a cultural location in Francophone Belgium, poking fun at the British Scotland Yard in a humour that now has shades of European rivalry.
I now see the bumbling Thomson and Thompson twins as a caricature. We have, you see, a French author who takes a Sherlock Holmes agency and turns it into an Enid Blytonian Mr. Goon in the form of fumbling Scotland Yarders!
Exotic locales in Morocco now tell me the tale of colonialism. And suddenly I imagine George Clooney playing the main role in a remake of Casablanca, colourfully remade to capture the spirit of Humphrey Bogart in a different age. My ideas fly in different directions -- though the story is the same.
Bianca Castafiore now reminds me of Tansen's lighting of the lamp with his song, and, as she breaks a glass case with her operating highs, I think of the masterly way in which the author combines the classical excellence of her art with the popular imagination that hears comical sounds in her falsetto sounds.
And then I see Captain Haddock.
The crazy man with a fantastic vocabulary for creative abuses is in my mind now a loser with a strong work ethic and a sense of family pride. I see him in a different world, the stuff of serious literature, not comic books. The seafarer and his lonely quests overpower the billions of blistering, blue barnacles in my mind.
Did Herge read Joseph Conrad, I wonder.
Beyond the 3D magic, the action-packed climax, the sights and the sounds in the etching out of the action sequences that I used to kind of skip in my schoolboy visitations of Tintin -- and the sheer razmatazz of a Spielberg movie -- I rediscover Captain Haddock, lonely and proud, lying in the bottom of the sea like the lost treasure that goes with the secret of the Unicorn.
I am Tintin, still,looking for new clues.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Designer puns in Hindi, anyone?

Here is an exchange (edited) between me and Shunali after we heard about Hermes making a saree for Indians at Rs 200,000

Madhavan: And at the wedding, with Hermes di saari, they'll take Saath Ferragamo? ;-)

Shunali: Will also say: Kuch aur bhi Dior na ladkey waalon ko.

Madhavan: Aunty will say: Dulhan ke liye kuch aur Cardin?

: Ladki khush rahey hamaare to yehi Armani hai. Khoob Giorgio or aur khush raho.

: Aur nazar utar te hain. Kisi Moet ka nazar na lag jaaye hamari beti par ;-)

: Shaadi khoob Dom (Perignon) dhaam sey honi chahiya.Have I made myself Cristal clear?

: At ladies sangeet, many old women will dance with their Hilfigers ;-)

Shunali: And will say: Shaadi sey kabhi mat Gabbana.

Madhavan: Honeymoon Goa ke monsoon mein. Zindagi bhar nahin bhoolegi woh Versace ki raat

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Splendid isolation

They won’t let you in the club.
You’ll have to start your own
and let others look at you the way you did once.

So you can turn them down
With some company that you gathered
In the select twilight of your own left-outness
That sparked your journey.

Loyalties will mingle, bonds
will grow stronger
until the ship you shaped
freezes from its float
to a hard ground,
congealed like an ancient blood
With memories of those who were there when it all happened
swarming like flies on a wound.

They won’t let you in the club
You’ll form your own enclave of splendid isolation
with meandering roads that weave a labyrinth over time
spruced with hedges that will stay becoming
until time turns them into thorny barriers
or wicked walls that beckon and boo.

The wannabes, aspirants and mystery wanderers
Seeking the ways of the Other Side
shall queue up

Your glass-paned walls shall see
faces peering in
monkey-pressed in urchin yearnings
And your pity and your glory
shall keep you exalted
until time walks its walk
like it has on great nations.

© N. Madhavan, 2011

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

When Gulzar meets Eliot: Poets in the shadow of urban angst

I take a line from Thomas Stearns Eliot, and remark, casually in Tweet that his lines are Gulzaresque. Friend wants me to explain. I have no real clue. Just the imagery, I suppose. At least initially. Here is that line.

Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels.

Those lines are clearly Gulzaresque to me, but I had no easy answer. And hours later, something stirred within, as this song started playing in the head.

It kind of fell into place.

"Ek Akela Is Shahr mein" -- on a lonely man in the city, an angst-ridden song. Bhupendra's gravitas-laden, somewhat muffled voice, giving a sombre shape to Gulzar's lyrics.

So I look at the first lines of the same poem by Eliot ( The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock). I have read and admired snatches of this poem before, but never really asked myself why, apart from being taken in by the sheer dexterity of the expression and the feelings embedded.

And so it begins.

Let us go then, you and I
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets.

I now look at the lyrics of Gulzar's song for the film "Gharonda" -- an arthouse film about a couple's anxious search for a home of their own in Big Bad Bombay.

Din khaali khaali bartan hai, aur raat hai jaise andha kuan
in soonee andheree aakhon mein, aansu ki jagah aataa hain dhuan

(The day seems like an empty vessel/And the night like a bottomless well
In these vacant, dark eyes/In the place of tears out comes smoke)

So I look at Eliot's lines again.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

The imagery is stark. You can feel the city. And Eliot, suddenly, with his American accent, is kind of telling you, "Ek Akela Is Shahr Mein."

In umr se lambi sadkon ko, manzil pe pahunchte dekha nahi
bas daudte firte rahati hain, hum ne to thhaharte dekhaa nahi
is ajnabi se shahar mein, jana pahchana dhoondhta hai

(In these streets long as life/one's never seen destinations reached
they meander and run for ever/one's never seen them pause
In this stranger of a city/one looks for the comfort of the familiar)

So here is Eliot, in the same poem again.

Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question . . .
Oh, do not ask, "What is it?"
Let us go and make our visit.

Streets that flow like an argument -- Eliot

Street long as life - Gulzar.

Sounds familiar?

And then Eliot goes..
Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? . . .

By now, I am certain that Mr. Prufrock is the Akela in the Shahr. And I look at the "mukhda" --the starting refrain -- of Gulzar's lyrics.

Ek akela is shahar mein, raat mein aaur dopahar mein
Abodaanaa dhoondhta hai, ashiyana dhoondhta hai

(A loner walks in this city/At night, and in the afternoon
Searching for morsels to munch/And a sanctuary to rest)

I now see the imagery of a day, snatches of urban angst, and loneliness gripping the London-influenced Eliot and Bombay-honed Gulzar intertwining with full force as I read these lines.

For I have known them all already, known them all:--
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;

Then Gulzar goes:

Jeene kee wajah toh koi nahee, marne kaa bahana dhoondhta hai

(There is no reason to live/And one looks for an excuse to die)

If there is any doubt left in me, it is cleared by the following passage in an introductory remark on the Eliot poem, published here.
"The poem displays several levels of irony, the most important of which grows out of the vain, weak man's insights into his sterile life and his lack of will to change that life. The poem is replete with images of enervation and paralysis, such as the evening described as "etherized," immobile"

And I realise the immense commonality of two poets in urban angst -- continents and languages apart and separated by three quarters of a century.