It was 13th November 2016. I was sitting in the hostel and trying to work when Dharmakeerthi called to ask if I would be interested in watching an experimental play in Marathi. My first response was in the negative because I wouldn’t follow Marathi. But I changed my mind in no time when Dharma told me the play is titled White Rabbit Red Rabbit, a play about which Shrunga had spoken to me, while in Bangalore, couple of months ago.
The play white Rabbit Red Rabbit written by Nassim Soleimanpour , I was told earlier by Shrunga and by Dharma that evening, is a unique experiment in theater where the play if handed over to the actor for the first time in a sealed cover on the stage in the presence of the audience and s/he is expected to perform while s/he discovers the play while reading it aloud on the stage and performing as per the instruction given by the writer. The play is played only once by a performer and each time a new performer does the play. The prerequisite for the performance is that the performer, before the play, should not know anything about the pay before the performance. The performer is sent a mail 48 hours before the performance where they are told to bring a bottle of water with them and come prepared with an animal impression.
Thus the play opens as a mystery not just to the audience but also the performer.
What grounds this experimental world on earth is the primary reason that led this play to be designed in this fashion. Nassim Soleimanpour, an Iranian, refused to enroll for national service and was forbidden to leave his native Iran for the same. So when restricted from moving outside Iran this theater artist decided to make his words his play travel without him yet with him and wrote the play White Rabbit Red Rabbit, which as he himself says could, “find a way around the Iranian structure of supervising the performing arts.”
Dharma came to pick me up slightly over an hour before the time scheduled for the play to begin. Demonetization had just crashed on all our lives and neither Dharma nor I had money in hand to buy tickets. Dharma requested the organizers to let us pay the next day or on one of the days following and permit us to watch the play that evening. The organizers agreed gracefully.
That evening the play was to be performed by the celebrated Marathi theater and screen artist Atul Pethe. As we waited for the play to begin Dharma told me that Alok Rajwade had earlier performed the same play. Alok was with us waiting for the performance to begin.
Unlike all other plays the performance of White Rabbit Red Rabbit encourages the audience to keep their mobile phones switched on because one “might need to use it,” and begins by uniting all, the audience and also the performer, in a shared experience of nervous excitement.
This feeling of nervous excitement which is quite paradoxical, kind of captures the nature of White Rabbit Red Rabbit which is paradoxical and through the paradox quite profound.
The play handed over in a sealed packet stands as a metaphor for the closed worlds and secrecy of the state and authority which through such secrecy not just secludes people but also controls them. While the uncertainty of what is going to happen reflects the uncertainty of life in a repressed society the overwhelming presence of the voice of the author dictating terms not just to the performer but also the audience speaks of how unknown voices, given the stature of authority/ author controls our movement or non-movement through its demand of obedience. At the same time when the actor speaks for the author introducing himself/ herself as Nassim Soleimanpour we see, in a strange way, how censorship works i.e. someone starts to speak through the individual stripping them of their voice.
The structure of the play certainly echoes these ideas, also because of the circumstances under which it was written, though the author says the play which is ‘meeting of social experiment and theater experiment’ only his exploration of the ideas of obedience and collective behavior.
On the flip side of this dark reality told in a gripping way through secrecy and mystery, the play speaks of possibilities within such a restricted, repressive and restrained given reality.
The sealed packet reaching the hand of the performer, to begin with, gives the first hope about words still being able to be transported to the performer even when the author is not allowed to move out of his native. When the performer begins to read the script, s/he, “I am Nassim Soleimanpour,” it shows the transformative power art holds within itself, where the performer becomes the author and author performs through the performer. This, in a way, also hints that the author, the performer, the audience all could be the same kind of individuals in similar situation of life/ world.
The author at one point says, “I can’t see you or hear you, but I consider you somewhere in my imagined world and I write to you.” This while shows the power of imagination it also shows the transgression made possible through word through art. When the author says he had written the play on 25 April 2010 and says he doesn’t know when and where the performance is taking place, the author and the play starts to hint about words being able to travel in time thus sculpting story and history in time and making it travel across space and time.
When Nassim, the author, says through the performer, “I have not seen you but have met you,” he challenges the authority and its power by making his play, a piece of art, turn into a creation of human bond across space and time. He further extends this bond when he invites the audience to write to him and send him photographs of the play. He also promises to respond to the mails “if alive.” This uncertainty of his life, while chokes the audience it also shows the immortality of words and art, which continues to survive beyond the author and tell the story of a particular phase of history in a given land.
While it looks like experimental play it is also an experiential play because the anxiety, authority and uncertainty of a condition of living is made to experience, though in a diluted way, by the audience and the performer and are also made to experience the possibility of breaking such structures through art and words.
The play, through author’s personal anecdotes and through a fable of animals, speaks of freedom, censorship, life and death, obedience, passivity, compliance and the power of communication. By blurring the lines between fact and fiction, performance and actuality and primarily between him and us the author breaks walls and unites the divided word at the level of experience and makes the performer and the audience realize that he, in his closed atmosphere, and we in our closed theater are still connected and a collective.
The play unites the author and the audience not only through the performer but also by making the audience a part of the performance. In a beautiful way of breaking the fourth wall the author prompts the performer to make the audience to count numbers in succession and then making the performer invite audience of some designated numbers to come on stage and perform tasks, take notes, keep time etc. Thus a strange bond takes place between the author, the performer and the audience where the gap between time, country and on-stage and off-stage breaks, uniting everyone in a single thread.
While watching the play with rapt attention because of my inability to understand Marathi I was put into a strange situation when the author Nassim Soleimanpour instructed the performer Athul Pethe to invite number 15 on stage, which was me! I politely told Atul Pethe that I don’t follow Marathi and hence it is better if he invites someone else. While for everyone else only the content was not known, for me even the language in which the content was being expressed was unknown, causing extra nervous excitement. My refusal to get on to the stage was not accepted by Atul Pethe who insisted I come on stage. He said he would translate the instructions to English for me. “Have faith in me, I will help you,” said Athul Pethe, reminding of a performer in US who when interviewed before the performance of White Rabbit Red Rabbit had said, “I am trusting them to not humiliate me.” My fear was not just of being humiliated but also unwillingly, because of my language limitation, diluting the seriousness of the play. But then Athul Pethe was inviting me to invest trust in him who had invested trust in Nassim Soleimanpour to help him navigate through this unique experience of performance. I was confused. I looked at Dharma who was sitting next to me who through mild gesture said I should get on to the stage.
I went on stage and had to become a bear, on stage, and act with a few other audiences who were also invited on stage, along with Atul Pethe. While everyone else on the stage was following Marathi the instructions for me had to be translated. A play which was originally written in English and translated to Marathi for a Marathi audience was being partially translated back to English! Thankfully it was that part of the play which was meant to be funny. My not knowing Marathi and standing still with no reaction when the instruction was first being read, which the audience understood, added to the humor. The spontaneous translation of Atul Pethe for me and my response which was a delayed response for the audience made the audience involved enactment of a rabbit going to a film without play and a bear checking tickets in the hall, appear more funny.
When the play got over that night Dharma took me to Atul Pethe and introduced me to him. Atul Pethe said, “It was fun to have you on stage.” I smiled and shook hands with him for I dint have anything much to say for I did not understand some of the nuances of the play spoken in Marathi. But I was overwhelmed the fact that a Nassim Soleimanpour who wrote a play in English in Iran had instructed Atul Pethe, who he has never met, in Marathi to invite me, a Marathi illiterate, to come on stage and instructed, in Marathi, to perform some actions, which I had performed after the words were translated to English.
Nassim Soleimanpour’s play which creates anxiety, nervousness and excitement in everyone who watches it and performs it had managed to do the same to me in more than one level, not just through its form and content but also through language. In that I felt more close to the play, the performer and the author!
Last year around the same time in the month of March I last visited the Heritage Village in Manipal. The space was almost set to open itself for public viewing and despite his weak health the visionary Vijayanath Shenoy, a connoisseur of music, arts and theater, whose brain-child Heritage Village is, was seated there amidst the structures which were a witness to history. Heritage Village was a dream unfold on that soil for Mr. Shenoy and he would descend there everyday to see his dream world being grounded on earth.
Spread on the land next to the lake from which the town of Manipal derives its name, the Heritage Village envisioned by Vijayanath Shenoy is a museum of its own kind where traditional structures of the bygone eras stand to speak of history. Each structure saved from decaying in its place of origin and resurrected in Heritage Village hold within themselves stories of their times. Apart from the houses of the feudals, the brahmins, the Deccani nawabs, the spaces of Basel Mission along with shrines of bhootas and nagas, the Heritage Village also house the original paintings of Thanjavur and those by Raja Ravi Verma.
The seed form Heritage Village was Hasta-Shilpa which Mr. Shenoy had originally built for his own stay. Within two years of its construction in a traditional way he walked out of the house and turned it into a museum. As a child I was taken to Hasta-Shilpa more than once by my father. Though I understood nothing much those days with time upon reflection I realized that everything in a house, like the pillars, the roof, the plates, the doors, the chairs, hold within themselves stories and history, about which Mr. Shenoy would speak passionately to every visitor. By the time this realization dawned upon me Hasta-Shilpa had closed its doors to visitors. Soon the idea and dream of Hasta-Shilpa began to flower in a larger and grander way next to the lake which is a bit distant from where Hasta-Shilpa stands, by the name Heritage Village.
For long Heritage Village was not open for public. But we all heard that Mr. Shenoy would allow artists, journalists and researchers have a look at the Heritage Village which was still under construction. Those days I also heard, from a person who used to teach me back then, about the eccentric nature of Mr. Shenoy and his temper issues. But later through the contact of the same teacher who by then was my colleague, I made quite a few visits to the Heritage Village in the pretext of taking the resource persons who visited our Institute to the Heritage Village. During those visits I witnessed the eccentricities of Mr. Shenoy who would be angered if one looked at the Heritage Village like watching a museum or saw it with the eyes of a tourist. He demanded deeper engagement with love and respect valuing it the way he did. His anger, I realized then, was just a reflection of his passion and his love for what he was doing. It was a labout of love and he had sweated blood for it. He would throw out people from the Heritage Village if one took out their camera while touring the village. The experience of it, he believed, should be lived and recorded through engagement and not through recording.
Things had changed a bit during my last visit to the Heritage Village which was made possible by my friend Srajana, a curator herself, who had grown close to Mr. Shenoy. The man who envisioned the place was not healthy enough to take the visitors around. That made cameras come out here and there. That day a journalist from Bangalore was also visiting the Heritage Village and at the end of her visit requested Mr. Shenoy to pose for a photograph with her. A man who was accompanying her clicked a photo as Mr. Shenoy got up from his chair posed for the photo. The photo captured only their silhouette since Mr. Shenoy and the journalist had their backs to the sun. Having a look at the photo in the camera the journalist saoid, “Because of the sun behind us the photo hasnt come well,” and asked, “Can we move a bit to the other side for the photograph?” Mr. Shenoy whose movements were not easily possible asked, “Cant we move the sun to the other side?” and laughed as he stepped to the other side with the help of the journalist and posed for a photo.
The man who moved the neglected decaying but valuable materials from distances to Manipal, restored them and thus saved them from decaying when playfully spoke of moving sun from one place to another I was amazed to see a lighter side of the man and also wondered if he had, after all these years of rigorous work, come to believe that he could move anything from anywhere and plant it where he wanted. People who have known him wouldn’t be surprised he actually made the sun move according to his need driven by his maddening love and passion.
He whose life was to save things from decay, damage, destruction has been grabbed by death today. But he will continue to live among those structures and the history within them, which he did not let die.
The day S. Diwakar gifted me his copy of Nazim Hikmet’s book my evening was spent along with Diwakar Sir and a very fine critic and writer Narendra Pai.
The conversation between Diwakar Sir and Narendra Pai, with me as an active listener, went for long without us realizing the time. On seeing darkness having settled outside the window Naredra Pai sir got up to leave. Diwakar sir, at that point, said, “Lets have a cup of coffee before we disperse.” We decided to have a cup of coffee near the bus stop so that Narendra Pai sir could catch the bus then and there. Since I had my scooter, I drove to the bus stop while Diwakar Sir and Narendra Pai came walking. By the time the two reached the bus stop Narednra Pai had changed his mind. He said having coffee would actually get him late and caught the bus immediately.
Soon after he caught the bus Diwakar sir lit a smoke and as we continued conversing I got a call from my father asking me to come pick him up. While I was taking leave Diwakar Sir said, “At least we could have had a cup of coffee together.” Even I felt the same but I had to leave as my father was waiting for me. I left having assured Diwakar Sir that I will join him for breakfast the next morning.
Coming home that evening I wrote a blog-post about the creative coincidental kinship between Nazim Hikmet-Ramachandra Sharma-YNK-Satyajit Ray-Diwakar-Samvartha and also Nazim Hikmet- Faiz- Chittoprasad- Samvartha- Srajana- Diwakar.
Next morning I woke up relatively early and left home to meet Diwakar Sir. While I was on my way my phone rang and I stopped my scooter to see who it is. It was my mentor K.P. Rao who was calling.
“Hello Samvartha. I saw your write up. Is Diwakar still in Manipal?”
“Yes Sir. I am on my way to meet him. If you want to come I will come pick you up.”
“You know, I follow the rules and dont break them.”
“Do not worry Sir. I have an extra helmet.”
“Then come home to pick me up.”
I turned my scooter and drove towards KP Rao’s house. Getting on the scooter KP Rao said, “I felt very happy reading your post. In fact Satyajit Ray stayed very close to my boss in Kolkata. He would wave at us whenever he came to his balcony,” and after a while added, “The beauty of YNK and his gang of people is that they have the entire world on their table.”
In a while KP Rao and I reached the International hostel where Diwakar Sir was put up. When we reached the 15th floor and rang the calling bell of room number 1525, Diwakar Sir opened the door. When KP Rao introduced himself to Diwakar sir who immediately recognized him and saying, “You taught Kannada to computers, isnt it?” welcomed us into the room.
For the next one hour the conversation between the two moved from Panini to Arya to Chomsky to Satyajit Ray to Homi Bhabha to DD Kosambi to Vedas to Sanskrit listening to which my jaws dropped.
The conversation was abruptly cut when there was a knock on the door. It was the driver of the vehicle which was to take Diwakar sir to the air-port. He had come to inform Diwakar sir that the vehicle will leave soon. We immediately left the room and took the lift from the 15th floor to the ground floor only to see that the co-passengers of Diwakar had not yet arrived. We seated ourselves on a couch there in the lobby and the two continued their conversation invoking the lives and works of KK Hebbar, memories of the first all India cartoonist meet and also discussed the tulu paaDdana. After a while the co-passengers of Diwakar sir arrived and so KP Rao and I took leave from Diwakar sir.
During the conversation in the room KP Rao while remembering his teacher DD Kosambi had recollected what was told once to him by the master. “Kosambi would say that if you are not interested in everything then you are not interested in anything.” That sentence kept ringing in my mind when KP Rao and I walked out of the hostel taking leave from Diwakar Sir because the two, I realized listening to their conversation, are literally interested in everything under the sun and above the sun.
If you look at it closely you realize that everything in the world is interconnected. KP Rao says to make computer learn Kannada what came handy was not just his knowledge of technology but also his interest in linguistics and his reading of vedas. That reminds of what the Kannada poet Pu.Ti.Na. says; ‘ee jagadoLu posadaavudu peLiri joDaNe horatu?’ (what is new in this world, everything is an extension, a continuation, an addition.) Everything is connected and hence if you are interested in something then it leads you to everything.
Yes, everything is connected that is how the Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet, a non-residential Indian Kannada poet Ramachandra Sharma, YNK, Diwakar get connected with Samvartha after 50 years. Yes, everything is connected that is how when Samvartha is on his way to meet Diwakar gets a call from KP Rao and he becomes a witness to the memorable meeting between the two giants! Yes, everything is connected and that is how creative coincidental kinships are formed.
Sometime in 2014 April I had written about finding an auto, in Manipal, with a Chaplin sticker with a quote by Chaplin behind it and my search for the auto on the following days.
Seeing a photo of Chaplin behind an auto was, as I had written earlier, an “exciting, thrilling and relieving experience” because I was tired of seeing, “fascist face, from nationalist, statist and religious matters making space for themselves through images and texts.” I, as I had said, was looking for a break from such an “image-sphere,” and for a more humanitarian and more inclusive “image-sphere.”
Within a month after spotting this auto in Manipal and searching for it on the following couple of days, I left for Ranchi.
After four months stay in Ranchi I returned back to Manipal.
Sometime in the end October 2015 one evening I took my scooter and went on for a drive. That evening I took my scooter to Parkala intending to take an alternate road via Saralebettu to Manipal on my way back. In Parkala that evening I finally found the Chaplin auto!
I stopped my scooter right next to the auto and as the driver looked at me I said, “You dont know how much I had searched for you.” Listening to me the driver asked if I had forgotten something in his auto while travelling in it. “No,” I said and when explained the story of me spotting his auto and the Chaplin’s photo leaving a sweet taste behind, the driver held my hand asking, “Really?” There was twinkle in his eyes.
By then the lady who had hired the auto returned from the vegetable shop near-by and sat in the auto. Thanks to her vegetable shopping, I managed to spot the auto and have a conversation with the driver.
“I need to go now,” said the driver as soon as the lady got into the auto. “Can I click a photo of the Chaplin sticker behind your auto?” I asked him and the driver agreed saying, “Sure. But quickly.” The sun had set and the light wasnt sufficient. When I told him about it and said, “Will come tomorrow and take a photo,” he said, “Give me your phone number and I will whatsapp you some photos.”
The driver took my number and gave me a missed call. I asked him for his name while storing the number and he said his name is “Manjunath.” I saved his name as ‘Manjunath Chaplin and took his leave.
Next morning Manjunath, on whatsapp, sent me three photos of his auto where the Chaplin sticker was visible. I thanked him.
From then on every day he would send me a good morning and good night message without fail. After a few weeks when he did not message me for two-three days I got a bit worried. I sent him a message asking if he was fine and he said he hadnt gotten his phone recharged hence couldnt message. That night Manjunath sent me a message saying he had saved my name as Charlie Chaplin on his phone and apologizing for the same asked me what my “actual name” is. I laughed aloud and told him my name. After some good fifteen minutes he said something funny had happened. When I asked him what was it Manjunath said he would tell me the following day.
Next morning I went to meet Manjunath at the Parkala auto stand. There I was told by Manjunath that earlier he used to work in the same office where I worked for a brief period. “That evening in the dark I couldnt see your face properly so i couldnt recognize you. Yesterday when you told me what your name is, I searched for your profile on Facebook and there I recognized you are,” said Manujnath and added, “I had come to you with some books from the admission department and spoken to you also. May be you dont remember.” I confessed that I dont remember.
Manujanth told me that he had quit that job four months ago and was running an auto full time. “The salary wasnt sufficient and I wouldnt get leave as per need. So quit the job. I used to run the auto after office hours earlier. Now its my full time profession,” explained Manjunath.
Later when I asked him if he had seen Chaplin’s films he said, “No.” I was curious to know what prompted him to have a Chaplin photo and his quote behind his auto when almost all other autos in and around Manipal had either Mera Bharath Mahaan, Jai Karnataka, Brahma Baidarkala, Jai Shri Raam, Vartey Panjurli or some other local deities at their back. When I had first spotted his auto it was between the central elections and the announcement of results. So most of the autos had the photo of the soon to be elected PM of the country, which I felt nauseating. Which was the reason why finding a humane and secular Chaplin behind an auto was a relieving experience for me.
Manjunath told me that he had read the quote by Chaplin, ‘Mirror is my best friend because when I cry it never laugh,’ on Facebook and had liked it a lot. So much that he got it written behind his auto with a Chaplin face along with it. That is it. I realized that what Chaplin meant to me did not mean the same to Manjunath. It need not also.
But to see Chaplin was a very nice experience because it created a hole in the other-wise dominantly nationalist, religious image-sphere.
Almost three years after all these, now in 2017 just two days ago I happened to meet Manjunath again. This time in Manipal. Before I saw Manjunath I saw his auto which I recognized because of the Chaplin sticker.
But now Chaplin was not alone behind Manjunath’s auto. Next to Chaplin was Shivaji!
The history of Shivaji and Shivaji as a poster is not smooth and is complicated, agree. But what Shivaji stands for in this day and age needs no explanation. So it was painful to see Shivaji next to Chaplin behind Manjunath’s auto.
When I met and spoke to Manjunath I felt happy because of Manjnath’s unadulterated affection.
But as I took leave from Manjunath, the discomfort caused by the shrinking of the hole caused by Manjunath’s auto in the image-sphere made me recollect, the couplet by my poet friend Liaqat Jafri:
haaye afsos yeh kis tezi sey duniya badli,
yeh jo sach hai kabhi jhoot hua karta tha.
In his autobiography, Girish Karnad recollects an incident from the initial days of his term as the Director of the Film and Television Institute of India.
Interviews for the fresh batches were being conducted and among the faculties a discussion was taking place regarding one particular student who was good with his performances but wasn’t good looking. “His looks doesn’t make him a hero material for films,” argued almost everyone. Girish Karnad, as he recollects in his autobiography ‘aaDaaDtaa aayushya’, as the Director of the Institute said, “If there is an eligible candidate and does well in the entrance exam it is our duty to select and train such a student. Whether he fits the roles of a hero or not is not our concern and we are not a hero producing factory for the Bombay industry.”
The boy was finally selected for the acting course at the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune.
That candidate was Om Puri.
My heart ached to hear this morning about the demise of Om Puri. In some time a friend (Ritwik) from the Institute shared a photo of the board outside the Main Theater where details of the daily screening is made known everyday. The board is also a space where the list of National Award winners is announced and congratulated every year and also the space on which the demise of an alumni is made known.
Today the board read, “6 /01/2017. RIP Om Puri Saheb.”
The Institute, which I hold in great affection and am grateful to as an alumnus, which once was reconsidering the admission of the same person has respectfully referred to him as “Om Puri Saheb” and that shows what an artist and an artist of what caliber Om Puri Saheb has been; an artist who could make an institute revise its thought!
During my days at the Film Institute, I remember, being numb after watching the speechless performance of Om Puri in Aakrosh, which to me till date is his best performance. That day in the mess I had told my roommate Lohit that no filmmaker no screenwriter seem to have sculpted a character which would challenge Om Puri and Naseer. I still stand by my word.
Aakrosh, a film where Om Puri Saheb is wrongly accused of murder and the lawyer in his defense begins his conversation asking, “Why did you kill?” A judgement was already made in the mind of the lawyer who was supposed to defend the case of Om Puri Saheb. The film is about the lawyer, played by Naseer, revising his opinion about Om Puri Saheb and the entire case. As we watch we too, who initially believed Om Puri to be wrong, slowly discover the truth and feel ashamed of our initial judgement and revise our opinion.
Years later while watching the cunningly scripted interrogation of Om Puri Saheb on a national tv by a man who is disgrace to journalism, I was secretly wishing Om Puri Sahebwould sit silently like he did in Aakrosh. But sadly, Om Puri Saheb fell into the trap of self proclaimed nationalists and was disrespectfully and mercilessly attacked by them, first for not any valid reason and also after he apologized for a crime he never committed. Watching the show was painful, to say the least.
Now in this hour of mourning, I sincerely hope that a day will soon arrive when all the nauseating jingoists will revise their thought about Om Puri Saheb after having harassed him unnecessarily during his last days!
Though not a believer of time and history being just, today I would like to believe it to be true. Because Om Puri Saheb deserves it and he has proved it right once earlier.
Accept my salutations Om Puri Saheb. Rest in power.
Here is a father who imposes his dreams on his daughters, who doesn’t even once bother to ask, ‘What are your dreams like?’, a father who snatches the childhood from his daughters and more importantly refuses to cut the umbilical chord from his daughters once they grow up and continues to control them and impose his own methods refusing them any agency and refusing to even give their will a chance to breathe; all to boost his own ego, in the name of ‘Nation’. Please tell me why should my heart go out for such a man/ character or even sympathize with him?
There are fathers whose imagination doesn’t see their daughters beyond ‘choolha‘ ‘roti‘ ‘shaadi‘ and ‘bachchey‘, as shown in the film. But if that is to justify the militarized upbringing and to give a clean chit to the force used on children, validate and justify a control freak father, then it must be told in loud voice that a force is force whether into marriage or into a profession,sport etc.
We need to celebrate free spirit and will of the individuals, dreams of the hearts. Constant parenting beyond need and a certain age, uninterrupted monitoring is, to say the least, claustrophobic and denial of the right to be a free spirit, a violation of human rights.
There is one scene where Geeta wrestles with her father and wins. That moment was one of the most brilliant moments to witness. But how sad and frustrating that Geeta, in no time, is made to feel guilty of battling and opposing her father and his ways.
The way in which the training of young girls is shown in a comical, light hearted ways is disturbing because it doesnt want to take the trauma of it seriously nor does it want to show it seriously. It is made acceptable, palatable with the touch of humor to it. But deep within the training the cry of the girls is, “baapu sehat ke liye tu toh haanikaarak hai,” which the filmmaker, the film nobody seems to be listening to. Because you know, winning a gold medal for a hyper masculine idea of nation and to fulfill the dream of a father is more important.
No, I cant celebrate this film knowing that it will do well at the box-office, will be applauded by a large section of the society, will be given good reviews. The film, as I see, is not just regressive but also dangerous.
Baap is more dangerous than Khaap because it has the capacity and strength to play with emotions, manipulate minds and thus make individuals conform, at their own will, after silently and in imperceptible ways snubbing the free will of individuals. To be honest, “tum sey behatar toh apni Hindi filmon kay khalnaayak hai.”
And it is beyond me as to why to Bollywood strong woman means someone who can beat up boys or display strength the manly way.
Amir Khan suffers from the same Messiah complex which was shadowing him in Lagaan, Taarey Zameen Per and 3 Idiots. His dialogue, in the end, telling Geeta that her father will not always be around to help her, seems like him departing from this self-imposed Messiah role but then again, it is just to feel good about yourself, through words, as someone who raised up an independent girl. But if you actually respected her independence and her strength you wouldn’t have molded her into what you want her to be. It ends up being a story of your dream being fulfilled by your daughters and not about them and their dreams; or their dreams which could never flower.
Sorry Baapu, there is blood on the gold medal. If a ‘bachpan‘ went ‘tel leney‘ then no gold’s shine can hide or compensate for that blood. And eclipsed by the gold medal, your glory, the tri-colour flag fluttering high in the air and the national anthem is the corpse of a ruined childhood which was cut short early and never given a chance to live and explore the basic right; the right to dream and which could never be what it was born as; a free spirit.
“Once as a small boy,” started recollecting K.P. Rao, “I saw a rainbow on the hill near our village and walked towards it. As I went closer and then under it, all the seven colors vanished and turned into mere droplets. I could only feel the moist, nothing else. It got me wet and I could hear a strange sound in my ears.” Remembering this childhood incident he asked, “How can I speak of this experience of mine?” Pausing for a brief moment he continued. “It is the same with music. It is colorful from distance but when you go under/ within it the colors vanish and it absorbs you and you get drenched in that state of being possessed by the rainbow.”
K.P. Rao, my mentor, was speaking at SaRiGaMa Bharathi, Parkala last evening (13 Dec 2016) on music and musicians in his life.
Taking us through his journey of life, closely associated with, violinist Sridhar Parsekar who taught him that music means to see through ears, Salil Chaudhary who composed music in ‘vaadi-samvaadi’ manner, Vilayat Khan, Amir Hussain Khan, narrating stories of his initial refusal to meet or listen to Ravishankar and he becoming the disciple of Annapurna Devi, Sir not just made us listen to some music clips saying, “See this music,” but also provided us with insights on their music and their personalities.
“Nikhil Banerjee was once critiqued heavily by Annapuruna Devi for one of his performance. When we stepped out of her house Nikhil was heartbroken and was almost in tears. He was considering quitting music. We drove sense into him saying Annapurna Devi had only asked him to do more rehearsals to better himself and had not suggested him to stop.” That night, recollected Sir, Nikhil Banerjee sang, in pain and out of will to better himself, from around 10:00 pm till 4:00 in the morning next day.
“I have never heard him perform so well,” said Sir. As Sir said that his lump in this throat and and his eyes became misty, becoming one with the tears of Nikhil Banerjee, of decades ago.
“How do I speak of all these experiences? How can I share what I felt and have carried within me always?” asked Sir.
Hearing of Nikhil Banerjee’s tears for failing in music and pushing him to music, seeing tears in the eyes of my mentor recollecting music and the tapasya for music, my eyes became wet. In that moment I felt/ realized that the language of tears is the closest to the language of music.
You get drenched by both, in an explicable manner, like by the rainbow, when absorbed by it, possessed by it.
Last night I had a strange dream.
In my dream all of Amrit Gangar sir’s experience- reading, viewing, listening etc- was turned into a library where he would visit every now and then to access the huge archive of experience and knowledge. It was a huge huge huge library.
In that library of experience, I was the librarian. Of course I was feeling extremely happy that I have access, though second hand, to all that Sir has read, heard, viewed, experienced and understood.
On waking up I realized the trigger for this dream was my envy for all the experiences in reading, listening and viewing Sir has had and my deep felt desire to be able to access all of them through him.
This was one of the two most beautiful dreams I have ever had, the other being one where I was a line of poetry in the heart of Gulzar.
Thanks for everything Amrit Sir.
Jayanth Kaikini, one of the finest Kannada writers, in an informal conversation recently spoke to me about the cover photo of the book by Dr. Mamta Rao on the short stories of Jayanth Kaikini titled ‘Janath Kaikiniyavara Kathanaavarana’. He said, “I like the pic on cover which Srajana clicked in Delhi market when I was unable to cross road. It looks as if my charcters have gheravoed me and asking me, “what do you think you are?” Pen and paper in my shirt pocket look so stupid and helpless like me.“
That reminded me of a short note I had written, in Kannada, on 10 April 2015 on Facebook when I finally managed to lay my hands on a copy of the book. Here I just reproduce a translation of that small note.
The book by Dr. Mamata Rao titled ‘Jayanth Kaikiniyavara Kathanaavarana’ finally reached me last evening. I first learnt about this book when the designer of the book Raghu Apara, months ago, shared the cover page of the book on Facebook.
A book on the stories written by Jayanth Kaikini triggered immense curiosity and excitement in me. And I was thrilled to see the cover page because I was very familiar with the moment – time and space- in which the photo on the cover page came to life.
It was monsoon of 2010. Jayanth Sir had come to Delhi for the admission of his daughter Srajana, also a dear friend of mine, at JNU for MA in Arts and Aesthetics. After completing the admission process on day one we decided to go around Delhi to see places of historic and heritage value on the following day.
Next day we started our Delhi tour with our visit to Kutub Minar. On seeing the flowers and creepers chiseled on the walls there, some broken some fallen some still intact, Jayanth Sir clicked photographs of those sculpted floral designs and said, “This can make a good cover page for a book.” He followed that sentence with his observations and thoughts on what makes a good cover page, what is the purpose of a cover page, what emotions should a cover page invoke, what impression do cover pages create etc.
I had heard, until then, people discussing books. But never had heard anyone discussing the cover page of the book and its aesthetics.
After the visit to Kutub Minar we went to the Lotus Temple and from there we went to the Red Fort. Opposite the Red Fort we found this small but colourful shrine which made Jayanth Sir say, “even this will make a good cover page picture.” As he said that he clicked couple of photographs of the shrine along with the cycle rickshaws around. He made Srajana and me stand in front of the shrine and clicked a photo of us.
Following this Srajana clicked the photo of Jayanth sir caught in traffic, which has now made it to a book cover page.
I am thrilled because the photo that came to life while discussing about cover pages, has now become a cover page by itself and I have been a witness to that moment.
Thrilled also because the cover page is so apt with this photograph! Jayanth Sir is standing amidst the flow of life and observing the life and humans around him, breathing the same air. There are human beings around him, there is a shrine behind him where God resides. Behind the shrine is a huge tree, representing nature. There are cycles around, which stand for mechanization and human craving to make lives easy. Amidst humans, motors, nature and the divine stands a writer who seeks humanity in the rush of life, enriches human spirit through his writings and tries, in his own way, through his writings, to makes life easy/ bearable by showing the beauty of life.
I congratulate my friend Srajana for this meaningful and loaded photo and also Raghu Apara for designing this beautiful cover page
When I was leaving Delhi for Manipal she and I decided to write letters to each other. She said, “You write first.” I agreed. When I got back, I wrote her a letter, with all the love I had for her and that I could give her. Even after a month the letter did not reach her. I wrote a second letter which also did not reach her. Our conversations, all through this time, did continue via mail, sms, phone calls, gchat etc. But the letter just did not reach.
One evening as I was standing at a shop by the Manipal lake waiting for the rain to stop I got a message from her saying, “Just woke up from an afternoon nap. In my dreams both your letters had arrived. You had signed in the end and that is all I could read in my dream, not any other line.”
Bad postal services also could not stop letters being exchanged.
Letters have the quality of a dream. It is a personal and emotional truth. Letters exchanged in dreams are…
(Memory recollected while in a conversation with Rashmi Ramchandani around the magic and beauty of letter writing.)