RIP Om Puri Saheb

January 6, 2017 at 9:15 AMJan (Cinema, Friends, Media, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

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.”

om-puri

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.

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Is Only Khaap Patriarchal and Problematic? Not Baap?

December 23, 2016 at 9:15 AMDec (Cinema, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

dangalHere 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.

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Rainbow, Music and Tears

December 14, 2016 at 9:15 AMDec (Cinema, Music, Musings, Poetry, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

Sir and me after the talk.

Sir and me after the talk.

“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.

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Library of Experience

December 9, 2016 at 9:15 AMDec (Cinema, Friends, Literature, Media, Music, Musings, Poetry, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

Photo: Hiren Patel

Photo: Hiren Patel

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.

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Gazals and Memories of Lost Love

November 1, 2016 at 9:15 PMNov (Music, Poetry, Slice Of Life)

“Baba” he called me, as he always does, while I was reading and asked me who the singer is of the gazal that I had introduced him to couple of years ago. He recollected the matlaa of the gazal as:

tumhaarey shehar ka mausam badaa suhaana lagey,
main ek shaam churaa loon agar buraa na lagey.

“Munni Begum,” I answered and a smile slipped out. The reason for the smile was the gazal being in my mind over the last few days.

I had entered the city late in the evening few days ago and as I was entering the city seeing a necklace of streetlights decorating the evening I had recollected the same gazal remembering someone who lives in that city. On the last evening, of this trip, in the city he asked me about the gazal and I smiled like a lover whose inner thoughts had been caught by a friend.

Playing the song of Munni Begum on his laptop, switching on a fancy speaker which illuminates while giving wings to music, he asked what other gazals I would like to listen. I requested him to play, “woh jo hum mein tum mein qaraar tha,” and “aye muhobbat terey anjaam pey rona aaya,” by Begum Akthar.

He queued the gazals on the player and asked, listening to Munni Begum, why I wanted to listen to these gazals in particular. I smiled again a smile which left a bitter sweet taste on the lips. Those were, I told him, the last songs that someone had sent me during our long long correspondence which became a story in itself.

Listening to my recollection of a distant past that still echoes in my heart endlessly he said, “kaafi sahi laDki lagti hai. kaun ending ko bhi itna romantic karta hai. sahi hai.” I smiled again and the smile left a bitter sweet taste yet again as Begum Akthar followed Munni Begum to sing, “tumhey yaad ho kay na yaad ho.

Did she remember anything from the past? I had sent a text which revealed that I was in the city she now lives in. There was no response, as expected. I had invited her to come meet. She dint, as expected.

kabhi hum mein tum mein bhi chaah thi kabhi hum sey tum sey bhi raah thi,
kabhi hum bhi tum bhi tey aashnaa tumhein yaad ho kay na yaad ho.

phir kya hua?” he asked. “kuch nahi,” I said and added, “kaash kuch hota.”

aye muhobbat terey anjaam pey rona aaya
jaaney kyun aaj terey naam pey rona aaya.

There was mist in the eyes. I had controlled myself all through the trip but the last evening became difficult because hope was dying every time and love wasnt.

youn toh har shaam ummeedon mein guzar jaati hai,
aaj kuch baat jo shaam pey rona aayaa.

How beautifully she had worded her interpretation of these gazals, which I now wanted to sing to her again.

That night he took me around the city on his scooter. Lonely roads, yellow street lights, cool breeze. I sat behind singing the same gazals that we heard back that evening. Tears took flight from my eyes. As I wiped them I wished the tears that held the fingers of the breeze wrote poetry in air which she would be able to read sometime while passing through that road some day in that city after I have left as my invisible letter remembering everything that once was and of so many things that still remain within me.

tumhaarey bas mein agar ho toh bhool jaao humein,
tujhey bhulaaney mein shaayad humein zamaana lagey.

We went to the beach and stood there as some unknown people were bursting crackers, a run through to the festival of lights. I saw my shadow scattered on the sand because of multiple lights. With no original and multiples around me I wondered what the truth is, like I wondered several times with only written correspondences between us, “does she exist in real?” recollecting the lines by Sylvia Plath, “I think I made you up in my head,” and singing the lines from Bombay Velvet, “merey har ek armaan sey zyaada chaahey rey tujh ko piyaa, kaisey karoon yakeen tu hai dilbar na koi veham piya, bharoopiyaa haseen kusoor kiya beharoopiyaa.”

samandar zara peechey chalaa gaya hai shaayad,” he said as I stared at the waves running forth and backwards. “shaayad,” I said and looked for traces of waves on the shore which made it evident that the sea had retracted.

kuch iss adaaa sey mujh sey tu bewafaayi kar,
kay terey baad mujhey koi bewafaa na lagey.

The problem to get over someone is when there bewafaayi. It is just bad timing. Such endings feel like the sea that has retracted on some night and will come forward some day again. It always leaves behind an ambiguity such as “tumhey yaad ho kay na yaad ho,” which refuses to end, no matter how many times you tell yourself that it is a matter of the past and that the same wave never comes back to the shore.

You just live with some hope, the same love and the same songs and yes, the same bitter sweet smile on your lips.

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Far from Nation and Nationalism…

October 17, 2016 at 9:15 PMOct (Friends, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

Far from India and far from Pakistan a friend wrote to me saying her primary school going daughter, born Indian, was invited for lunch by a friend of hers, born Pakistani, who is younger than her. My friend was writing to me soon after having dropped her daughter at her friends place.

Far from the nation (India and Pakistan), divorced from all the jingoism and masculine nationalism, true friendships flower between children belonging to supposedly ‘enemy nation,’ true love blossoms as unadulterated hearts meet.

Far from where I am, two little girls dine together and I feel reassured. I send my love to those little girls because of whom I can still hope.

PS: Later in the day my friend wrote again saying how she and the Pakistani mother spoke to each other ‘normally’ when she went to pick her daughter up. She said she was amazed by the ‘ordinariness’ of the meeting.

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Backstory of a Cover Page

October 12, 2016 at 9:15 AMOct (Friends, Literature, Musings, Poetry, Slice Of Life)

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.

jk-kathanaavarana

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.

jk-clicks-srajana-and-me

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

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Of Borders and Songs

October 6, 2016 at 9:15 AMOct (Activism, Media, Music, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

Cutting through the dusty roads and then the mist on NH-01, when we reached Patnitop it was almost 14:00 hrs.

Starting our journey from Jammu at around 8:00 in the morning we had reached Patnitop, pausing our journey at several places for temples-Dargah visits and for tea.

The driver initially played some bhajans in the car but slowly as our journey proceeded he started playing old Hindustani film songs, all stored in his pendrive. We joined our sincere though un-melodic voices with those songs. He narrated stories of his association with some songs and so did I.

When we crossed Udhampur and started getting on the hills he said, “There is a dhaba run by a friend nearby. We will have lunch there and then proceed.” I agreed. When we stopped the car by the dhaba for lunch the music also stopped and we forgot to play it again when we continued the journey after a good meal.

When we reached Patnitop I was amazed by the beauty of the place and felt the need to underline the experience with some good music. I requested him to play the music. He said, “Let us listen to radio. It catches the signal of Sialkot station.” He tuned the radio to Sialkot station which played good old Hindustani film songs from Bombay cinema. We sang along and continued the journey.

I was thrilled about the radio catching signals of a radio station across the border and the station across the border playing old HIndustani films songs of Bombay cinema.

When we stopped for a cup of chai at Patnitop the shopkeeper told us about 18 soldiers being killed at Uri that morning.

Few days into this incident it felt like a war had begun not just at the border but also everywhere. There came a demand to ban all Pakistani artists from Indian cinema. Those who defended the Pakistani artists not surprisingly got branded as anti-nationals. There was a call for boycotting the films which had Pakistani artists. As I kept reading and hearing about these I recollected the moment of the radio catching signals from across the border and the radio station across the border playing Hindustani film songs from Bombay cinema. This memory would bring a smile on my face and to this moment I cant figure out if that smile is an indication of agony or ecstasy. But everytime I remember that moment I also remember a song penned by Javed Akthar, whose opening lines are:

panchi nadiya pawan kay jhonkay,
koi sarhad na inhey rokay.

(birds, river and the blow of wind
no national borders ever stop them.)

~ Javed Akthar

But the paradox/ tragedy of our times is that someone like Javed Akthar (has been brought to a position where he) questions/ condemns the silence of Pakistani artists over Uri.

On one hand nobody, even the line of control, could stop the radio signals/ waves coming from across the border and the broadcasting of Bombay film music by a radio station across the border. On the other hand the situation has built such pressures on the likes of Javed Akthar to make statements which given an ideal, equal and fair world they wouldn’t feel compelled to make. The unhindered music makes me happy but the poet’s heart being taken over by political pressure pains me.

May the heart of the poet write again of the futility of wars. And this time, I pray, let these songs not just cross borders but also erase borders.

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Kissa-E-Khat ~ 2

September 7, 2016 at 9:15 PMSep (Friends, Letter, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

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.)

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Aazaadi: Not A Love Story

August 10, 2016 at 9:15 AMAug (Activism, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

I: I love you.

K: Good. But I don’t.

I: I want you to marry me.

K: Leave me alone.

I: Do you love xyz?

K: How does it matter to you? I dont love you and that is enough information for you.

I: Don’t you love me?

K: No.

I: How can you not?

K: What???!!!

I: If you don’t love me, if you dont marry me, you will have to face the consequences. You are so inconsiderate towards my love for you.

K: Stop threatening and harassing me.

I: Harassing? Why are you blowing it out of proportion?

K: I might have to slap you if you continue this.

I: Why are you turning violent?

K: I am being violent?

I: Yes. What did I say after-all? I just love you and want you.

K: But I dont.

I: What do you want?

K: Aazaadi.

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