Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

Here's wishing you all good, successful and most importantly, peaceful times in the coming year!

A few lines from Dylan's 'New Morning' from the album of the same name released in 1970.

Can't you hear that rooster crowin'?
Rabbit runnin' down across the road
Underneath the bridge where the water flowed through
So happy just to see you smile
Underneath the sky of blue
On this new morning, new morning
On this new morning with you.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Discovery on a Cold Evening

Shankar Jaikishen was a duo of prolific and very talented music composers who composed for over 150 Hindi movies. At one point of time, they were the highest paid music directors in the circuit and a regular feature of all Raj Kapoor banner productions.

The small town evening was cold and dull with nothing much to do. Thinking that some good Shankar-Jaikishen melodies might just brighten things up, I pushed the music DVD of Raj Kapoor songs inside the player. Half an hour later, things did brighten up with an interesting discovery and the idea for this post started taking shape in my mind.

Raga Bhairavi belongs to the Bhairavi Thaat. It is a late morning Raga, and traditionally is the last raga performed at an Indian Classical session. Shuddh Bhairavi uses all the 6 full notes in the ascending and descending order with D & E and A & B being flat. Many Hindi film composers have used this evergreen Raga to make many beautiful songs.

Out of the 11 songs that played in that half an hour, 8 were based on Raga Bhairavi.

The 8 Bhairavi laced beautiful songs were:

Awaara Hoon (Mukesh, Awaara, 1951)
Mera Joota Hai Japaani (Mukesh, Shri 420, 1955)
Sab Kucch Seekha Hamne (Mukesh, Anari, 1959)
Ramaiyya Vasta Vaiya (Manna Dey, Shri 420, 1955)
Barsaat Mein Humse Mile Tum (Lata, Barsaat, 1955)
Hawa Mein Udta Jaaye (do)
Hoton Pe Sacchai Rehti Hai (Mukesh, Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai, 1960)
Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat (Lata, Aah, 1953)

The duo had a great penchant for the Raga and used it beautifully and differently in all the above songs. Later my father, an expert on the subject of Old Hindi Film music and Indian Classical music informed me that all the songs of the movie Barsaat(1955) are set on variations of Raga Bharavi. Astounding!

Why were the masters so much in love with one particular Raga? We will never be able to get their answer to this question. According to me, perhaps it’s the robustness of the Raga because of the usage of all seven notes. The last song in the DVD was ‘Jeena Yahaan, Marna Yahaan’ sung by Mukesh from the movie Mera Naam Joker (1970). Once again set to Raga Bhairavi!

In a similar manner, the great composer of yesteryears, Roshan (grandfather of Hrithik Roshan) had his muse in Yaman, another beautiful Raga.

Today, barring AR Rehman, no other musician has the sense or inclination to use Raga Bhairavi, in its pure form and beautifully. Try listening to the intense ‘Enge Enathu Kavithai’ sung by Chitra from the movie Kandukondein Kandukondein or the little known ‘Sabak Aisa’ sung by Saadhna Sargam from the movie, Tehzeeb or the popular ‘Jiya Jale na Jale’ sung by Lata from the movie, ‘Dil Se’.

ps: Im' not a fan of Raj Kapoor. Just felt like making that clear.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The 'not so mild' winter - 2

I’m’ back to the big city from a trip to my hometown with a visit to an ancient university thrown in. I shall try to give you taste of that experience in the coming posts. First, I have to present the 2nd edition of the Delhi Winter.

Narendra enthusiastic driving skills saw us entering the gates of Dilli Haat within twenty minutes of leaving Central Delhi, despite the rush hour. Haat is a word in Hindi for a weekly village market and true to the meaning; the place has the charm and feel of a village fair.

Having heard from many about the place, I was expecting it to be a mere marketplace selling articles and goods from the different parts of rural India. And, the first look suggested the same. Two hours later I walked out of the place with a sense of appreciation and a feeling of pride for our country’s rich and superbly diverse culture. The place isn’t a mere marketplace…it’s a showcase of the skills and craft of many small, unknown and unsung artistes and craftsmen from different corners of the country. It’s a nurturing ground for such talents, a great idea and a massive effort. I couldn’t have brought Farhan to a better place and he was almost euphoric. I shared this feeling with him.

Apart from the artifacts from the many parts of India, it has stalls carrying the distinct food from the different states. We chose the authentic filter coffee from the Tamil Nadu stall. The excellent coffee went very well with the rising chill of the evening.

Once again, Farhan picked up a few things for his family while I managed with much needed key rings, made from coconut wood, an EkTaara (a one string musical instrument) and a Damroo (a percussion instrument, supposed to be the favorite of Lord Shiva). The Ektaara player was an obscure talent, playing many popular Hindi tracks on a ONE-STRINGED instrument. The melodies of Mera Joota Hai Japaani, Reshmi Salwaar Kurta Jaalidaar, Ek Do Teen, just kept flowing from one string. It was a stunning performance!

Just near the exit, a puppet show was in full swing and it held us captive for the next 20 minutes. The kids and the puppeteer were the guys having most fun. The themes of a show varied between ‘a snake-charmer unsuccessfully trying to manage a cobra’ and ‘a gallant horse-rider displaying his skills on the horse’. The last time when I saw a puppet show, I was a kid. While watching this one, I became a kid again. Mesmerized and Charmed!

The evening ended with a delicious meal at Punjabi by Nature, a restaurant recommended by an old friend and a Delhi old timer who later joined us at the joint. The Reshami Kebab was of the size of a loaf of bread and we had to use a knife to cut slices of it. It was one of the finest Kebaabs, I’ve ever tasted and we thanked the ‘Delhi friend’ for his excellent recommendation.

The long day and a great meal had made the two of us amply sedate. We said our goodbyes to the ‘Delhi friend’ and headed towards the guesthouse with Narendra. A calm and satisfied look on Farhan’s face with sleep getting ready to take over suggested that he had a good time. I smiled inside my mind and looked outside the window of the moving car.

The picture above is from the puppet show. Can you catch a fleeting glimpse of the cobra and the snake-charmer?

Wish you all a very Happy Christmas!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

An announced break

I'm taking a 2 week break from this space on the account of a visit to my home-town. My apologies for doing so between a series, but I shall try to post the second edition of Delhi Winter during this period.

From the cold evening of New Delhi railway station, I will be boarding a night-train to reach the land of Buddha's Nirvana in the morning.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The 'not so mild' winter - 1

This post should have appeared a week ago but certain situations and perhaps my ennui towards writing kept it away, somewhere in the pages of my mind. With a big meeting getting postponed one more time, I thought of pulling it out and putting it here.

My friend Farhan Shaffie from the ‘Emerald Isle’ was in India for professional reasons and we caught up with each other in the early winters of the Capital. Those who know Delhi would know that early winters here is not as mild as the one I mentioned in my last post.

Between the many business meetings we managed to steal some time, an office vehicle and Narendra, the enthusiastic driver for Farhan’s ‘Dilli Darshan’(which included Tourist shopping). Actually, the prospect of this venture was quite attractive to me too as ‘Dilli’ had become very faint in my memory. Some 10 years ago, I lived in this city for a while.

Narendra had everything fixed in his mind regarding the structure of this trip and interestingly, his structure tallied with the one in my mind. We set out after putting in some good north Indian food inside our system.

Our first stop was at the ‘seat of power’ and ‘shot of history’ with the Rashtrapati Bhavan, India Gate et al. The whole area with its grand and beautiful architectural achievements of Lutyen has the powers to fill everyone with awe and that’s exactly what it did to us. Farhan’s camera was working overtime.

After a few circles around the big circular shopping arcade called the Connaught Place (popularly known as CeePee) we moved on to the famous tourist – shopping lane in the vicinity. It’s called ‘Janpath’ and is famous for fleecing the tourists. Thankfully, Farhan’s focused shopping agenda and my presence (with ‘Hindi’) saved him from getting fleeced. One walk down the lane and he was done with his shopping with an item each for all the important people back home. I picked up a pack of Darjeeling Tea for a Ceylon tea loving Chaga, another friend from the Isle. Farhan readily agreed to be the carrier.

Apples picked up from a roadside fruit-seller satiated our small evening hunger. An early darkness, typical of north Indian winters was descending on the city. Narendra was driving us to our next destination, Dilli Haat. More on that in the next post.

The picture above is of an X-Mas Greeting postcard sent to London from WAC Hostel, New Delhi in 1944.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The mild winter

Mornings are getting more and more sleep-conducive.

The onset of sun has become mild and day begins with a hazy and diffused light. Even my east-facing bedroom permits me to stay in the bed a little longer.

And when the golden blob becomes a little strong during the course of the day, it feels good in the bones to be underneath it.

Finally, when the evening comes with the leaves on the trees swaying in a calm joy, and the birds chirping ‘Homeward Bound’, you feel like going for a long walk.

The mild winter of Bombay is here.

ps: I miss the extreme winter of my hometown.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Morning Music

Like many others, I begin my day with a heavy shot of music. It plays in the background and forefront of my waking hours while I go about doing my routine activities. Yoga, Hindustan Times, Orange Pekoe, staring from my window at the newly built crows nest on the tree outside etc., while what I call as ‘Morning Music’ keeps playing in my world.

'Morning Music' because all music can’t be played at the beginning of the day, as there is a certain mood associated with mornings. Something which our very own Indian Classical gurus from the past understood clearly and composed Ragas suitable for different times of the day. I can’t imagine beginning my day with the Tom Waits album ‘Closing Time’ while I completely relish the ‘The White Album’ with its aircraft landing sound (Back in the USSR, the opening track) every time it becomes a part of my mornings.

Let me take you through the chain of melodies that I queued up for this morning.

It began with the delicate piano note of Satie’s 'First Gymnopédie'. Its gentle melody feels as if a mother is lovingly caressing a child’s head to wake her up from a good night’s slumber.

Then it moved into the brilliant three violin and a bass piece called ‘Canon in D Major’ by Pachelbel. I've already mentioned it in my earleir post and along with Gymnopédie, it has become a permanent fixture of my current being. Its slow beginning and full bodied yet gentle finale makes one ready for the day.

A change of genre happened here with Mr Neil Young coming in with songs from his brillaint early albums, ‘Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere’ (2nd album, 1969) and 'Harvest' (4th album, 1971). The master’s guitaring in ‘Down by the River’ and the honesty of poetry in ‘Heart of Gold’ is exceptional.

The old country crooner, Hank Williams came next with his melodious and simple ‘Lovesick Blues’ and ‘Cold Cold Heart’. The latter has been sung by so many other artistes including Dylan and Norah Jones but nothing beats the rawness of Hank Williams's voice.

The morning’s chain of melody ended with ‘I Feel Free’ from Fresh Cream, the fabulous debut album by Cream (1966).

I switched on BBC World to know whats happening in the chaotic state of Pakistan and the rest of the world. The channel also informed me that the first exibition of Bob Dylan’s many paintings has opened up at a museum in Chemnitz, Eastern Germany.

ps: I spent the Diwali weekend in the peaceful surroundings of Kerela. I had gone there for important personal reasons. The visit was nice and peaceful with a lot of good Malayali food (specially Fish Molly & Prawns Chilly), car rides and a boat ride thrown in. I enjoyed myself completely.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

A well spent Day

While Phish wants me to write on ‘good writing’ and circumstances want me to write to my mother, I chose to write about today because I'm unable to sleep without doing so.

After seeing off my friend on a train headed towards Trivandrum from CST (popularly known as VeeTee), I thought of treating myself to my old neighborhood…the area known as ‘town’. This area was my first exposure to Bombay because of my stay at the YMCA, Colaba during the beautiful first two years in the island city.

So, I began with a walk inside the porticos of the old gothic buildings, which has a million DVD (pirated) and old books stalls. Between the many calls to buy porn DVDs from the Dhoni/John Abraham look-alikes, I ended up buying two books from these pavement people. 'Tales from Underground' (as my original copy was missing from my library) by Fyodor Dostoyevesky and a collection of funny writings by Woody Allen, called 'Without Feathers'.

Happy with the purchase and humming ‘The Wedding March (for some reason)’ by Mendelssohn, my next stop was at the institutional Tea Center next to the Curchgate Station. I sat there sipping on the excellent Darjeeling Flowery Orange Pekoe, First Flush along with some French toast, and funnies from Mr Allen’s book. ‘I wonder what happens after death. Will we be able to take showers after we die?’ he writes. The man is genuinely funny.

After relaxing for an hour at the place, I came out with a fresh mind and a pack of Apoorva Makaibari tea. My next destination was the great 'Gokul Restaurant & Bar' in Colaba to meet my brother in law, Shoaib. By now, the evening had started asking the night to replace her.

The cabdriver who gave me the ride from Churchgate to Regal was happily singing an Alaap in what felt like Raaga Bhimpalaasi (the excellent Bhajan, Allah Tero Naam, from the old movie, Hum Dono is based on this raga) to me. He was singing it very well. A quick conversation revealed that Dinkar, the cabbie has learnt Indian Classical, vocal for 5 years and loves practicing it while he is taking people here and there. When I asked him if he uses it for commercial purposes, he replied, ‘I just like doing it for my happiness and nothing else.’ I felt wonderful about meeting such a man.

The great and once again institutional Gokul was absolutely the same…guess it will always remain the same. It lives in a time warp. Smokey, No Nonsense, Quarter system, Mostly men bar (many say its a gay joint too). The gang of friends who are always there on their regular table had come. The first time I had seen them was some 8 years ago and ever since, they come there everyday. Once, even I used to go there everyday.

Shoaib and I had a good time with conversation on important and unimportant subjects. The conversations were laced with Teachers, Port and good old Gokul food. Later, we caught the cabs to our respective destinations.

Back at home, before sleeping I took a shower while Pete Dorge sang ‘Small Time Blues’ from the CD player. Contrary to the popular theory, it didn’t help me drift into a sweet slumber and here I am writing this piece.

That’s how Victoria Terminus (Vee Tee) used to look in 1908.

ps: I've started on the write-up, Phish.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Kill to Get Crimson

A week after I heard about the man’s new album, it was playing in my CD player and it has been there ever since, replacing the mesmerizing Canon in D major by Pachelbel. I’m referring to Mark Knopfler’s 5th solo album which is called ‘Kill to Get Crimson’. Just when I thought I’m ready and willing to write about it, I found this beautiful review from Rolling Stone and I had second thoughts. The magazine's review deserved a space here and so, I’m presenting it to you. It’s written by Anthony DeCurtis.

Along with occassional soundtracks and All the Roadrunning, his winning 2006 collaboration with Emmylou Harris, Kill to Get Crimson is Mark Knopfler's fifth solo album, and it's a gem. Since the 1995 breakup of Dire Straits, Knopfler has dedicated himself to making music that blends the deep resonance of traditional folk with the off-kilter edginess he brought to his former group's most trenchant songs. Knopfler is best at deftly drawn character studies -- the failed actor in "The Fizzy and the Still," the aging painter in "Let It All Go" whose passion for color gives the album its title. A recovering guitar god, Knopfler plays superbly -- check out his haunting solo on "The Scaffolder's Wife" -- but always with instinctive restraint. He's an ensemble player, nestling in among the likes of accordionist Ian Lowthian and fiddler John McCusker to summon sonic images that subtly reinforce the moods of his songs. Kill to Get Crimson, then, is at once egoless and supremely accomplished a testament to the rare talent that enables a master to say something simply and beautifully, and leave it exactly at that.

I just couldn’t help adding my bit.

The album begins with a very happy and sing-along, ‘True Love will Never Fade’ and ends with the melodious and melancholic ‘In the Sky’. I wonder why Mr DeCurtis missed out on appreciating Chris White’s haunting saxophone shadowing Mr Knopfler’s, almost wailing voice in this final track.

Thats how the album cover looks like. Its a 1958 painting by John Bratby called 'Four Lambrettas and Three Portraits of Janet Churchman'.

ps: I came up with this post despite being tagged to write something apologies, Phish! It will happen one of these days.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Back to Fiction

As mentioned in the last page of the ‘The Emerald Diaries’, I’m back to reading fiction and it’s a great feeling. Despite the busy schedules of materialistic pursuits of life, I have managed to read works by three different writers in the last month and a half. All the three works gave me varying degrees of pleasure and I felt like sharing them with you.

‘No Exit and other Plays’ – Jean Paul Sartre
Having read and getting influenced by almost all the works by this master, this was the first time I was in presence of the man as a playwright. One page down the first play and once again I was marveling at the brilliance of this great thinker’s mind.

All philosophers try to address the basics of life and that’s what the 4 plays in this collection try to do. The first one, ‘No Exit’ is writer’s interpretation of hell and deals with issues like guilt, morality and suffering. Though I’d love to talk about it at length but that will work as a spoiler and so,I shall refrain from the temptation.

The other plays are about subjects like existence and need for God, differing political philosophies (with a focus on Communism) and racism. All of them expressed with the genius of Mr. Sartre’s style.

‘Reef’ – Romesh Gunasekara
I came upon this author of Sri Lankan origin, for academic purposes. His collection of short stories called ‘Monkfish Moon’ had impressed me with their simplicity of plots, eye for the detail and the easy narrative style and so I picked up this one during my recent trip to the island country.

Frankly, I had expected more from 'Reef' than what I got out of it. At a macro level it’s a tale of a country mired in political turmoil. It’s narrated from the viewpoint of an adolescent cook serving at a house with some amount of old money and one middle aged bachelor.

Once again, the simple and detailed narrative style is interesting but gets staid after a while. It was good when the writer was dealing with the short story format. One expects more substance out of a novel. But, I enjoyed the familiar sprinkling of the geographical context in the novel…a context, which has become much lovable after my recent trip to the place.

Please don’t go by my views, as the book got short listed the famous Booker awards. Pick it up and decide for yourself.

‘Disgrace’ – John Maxwell Coetzee
This one got a Booker and was one of the reasons why this South African author got the coveted Nobel Prize for Literature. Having read a collection of his essays, ‘Stranger Shores’, I knew that I was going to get immersed in some good writing and content. And this work of fiction did not disappoint me at all. Right from the first sentence onwards, the unique description in present tense gripped me completely. In spite of being a slow reader I finished the book in 3 days time. Allow me to give you it's backdrop briefly.

A Cape Town literature professor, Coetzee's central character believes that ''for a man of his age, 52, divorced, he has, to his mind, solved the problem of sex rather well.'' That's the novel's first sentence, and it tells us that David Lurie hasn't solved the problem at all. This is simply the status quo whose rupture produces a story. The commas are placed beautifully in the way that they parse out his situation, bracketing off ''to his mind'' in order to suggest the limits of his solution, his regular Thursday afternoons with Soraya of Discreet Escorts.

You should surely pick up this one to know why Mr Coetzee got a well-deserved Nobel.

But, can somebody explain why Al Gore of ‘The Inconvenient Truth’ got a Nobel for Peace…beats me!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A Good Journey

After writing my tribute to Lennon on his birthday, I realized that another entity must've completed one year of its existence. A quick check revealed that its well past the birthday. This blog, which gets its name from a Dylan track breathed life on September 22nd, 2006 with this post.

Its been a good journey so far, and the writer appreciates the attention that the blog keeps getting now and then. Many thanks!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Seashell Eyes, Windy Smile

It’s John Winston Ono Lennon’s birthday today. Had he been alive he would have been 67 years old and perhaps writing many more beautiful songs. One man’s lunacy resulted in a highly premature end to the music and poetry of one of the greatest artistes of all time.

In my opinion, Lennon recorded some of his best music during his solo career starting with the phenomenal album, 'John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band' (1970). But for the occasion, I’m going to talk about a song which he wrote and sang on the landmark double disc album by The Beatles, referred to as The White Album (1968). The song is called 'Julia'.

No other Beatle sings or plays on the recording and this is the only time that Lennon played and sang unaccompanied on a Beatles track. It was written for his mother Julia (who also died in an accident) and his wife, Yoko Ono (Yoko in Japanese means ‘child of the sea’…you will see the significance of this when you read the lyrics below)). He also drew inspiration from Kahlil Gibran’s poem ‘Sand and Foam’ for this brilliantlly soft track painting a totally surreal imagery. Travis picking (a style of picking of the guitar strings) and his dreamy, lullaby sort of voice goes on to complete the picture.

The usage, ‘Seashell eyes, Windy smile’ is one of the finest I’ve come across in popular music.

Half of what I say is meaningless
But I say it just to reach you, Julia

Julia, Julia, oceanchild, calls me
So I sing a song of love, Julia
Julia, seashell eyes, windy smile, calls me
So I sing a song of love, Julia

Her hair of floating sky is shimmering, glimmering,
In the sun
Julia, Julia, morning moon, touch me
So I sing a song of love, Julia

When I cannot sing my heart
I can only speak my mind, Julia

Julia, sleeping sand, silent cloud, touch me
So I sing a song of love, Julia

Hum hum hum...calls me
So I sing a song of love for Julia, Julia, Julia

Dave Grohl, ex-Nirvana drummer and singer/guitarist of the Foo Fighters, once said that his life would be complete if he could write a song like "Julia." For me, just listening to the song is enough.

So, at midnight I did a small celebration by playing ‘Julia’, before dozing off to golden slumbers and wanting to dream of sleeping sand and silent clouds.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Emerald Isle Diaries - 10

While Burma continues to remain in unfortunate and shameful circumstances, I move on to the last page of the Diaries. It’s been 10 days since I flew out of the small, green island to reach the crazy and somehow lovable city of Bombay but every now and then I keep flying back to the Emerald Isle.

I arrived here with many DVDs, new clothes, tea-tins, a coffee-table book on Sri Lanka, a beautiful ‘Thank-you plaque’ of the shape of the island and a strange numbness of leaving behind a world which had almost become home...a good home. In fact, I had the chance of making this world a proper home but I denied it for reasons known to me and perhaps to the unhappiness of my friends at the Isle. The numbness stayed with me till the familiar quarters of my home and meeting the people I missed cured it.

Numbness aside, I have returned a happier man from the Isle. The visit to the country was perhaps like a visit to a counsellor. I talked about myself to new people without any inhibition because they showed genuine interest in knowing me. When they asked, ‘Did you sleep well last night?’ you knew from their expression and the tone of voice that they are really interested in knowing about my comfort levels. And, I had just met them. Today, they have become good friends and will always remain so.

I also saw myself going back to reading fiction despite not being in that ‘Holiday State of Mind’…I was in Sri Lanka on work. Perhaps it’s got to do with the ‘Peaceful State of Mind’, which the country gave me. I finished reading ‘No Exit and Other Plays’ by one of my favorites, Sartre. I hadn’t read any of his plays before and I enjoyed them completely.

I may have to go back to the Isle in a while but till then, as I mentioned in the first paragraph, I shall keep going there every now and then between the sips of Ceylon Tea sieved through Chaga’s thoughtful gift.

The photograph above is of the good friends I made at The Emerald Isle. From left to right: Farhan, Thiyagi and Chaga.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A pagebreak in protest

I'm breaking the flow of my Diaries to show my disgust at whats happening in Myanmar. Peaceful demonstration by the Buddhist monks in favour of democracy is being curbed by the ruling military junta in a violent fashion. 3 monks have been killed, 100s put behind bars and now the military is storming the monastries.

Its shameful!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Emerald Isle Diaries - 9

It’s my last evening at the Isle and this is the last post from the Isle. But this isn’t the last page from the diary. I have to write a few more pages on it and that will happen from India.

The good friend arrived much later than the expected time due to some technical snag with the aircraft. And, as usual, much has happened since then. Planned, unplanned and foiled plans. Let me tell you about a couple of them.

Friday evening brought in a major experience of the ‘Rock’ side of Sri Lanka. Chaga took us to meet some of her friends who are into ‘real rock’ music and the two of us were delighted way beyond our expectations. She had mentioned about it earlier and I had thought it will be a bunch of guys having some fun together. What we experienced was a bunch of highly professional and accomplished musicians inside a dark and great sounding studio, having some fun together.

The band is called ‘Sage Merlyn’ and it consists of 3 fat and happy brothers. One with his awesome throaty (Louis Armstrongish) vocals, another at the lead guitar with extremely some extremely taut guitaring and the third one at the keyboards. When we waked in, they had just started playing a solid rock rendition of ‘Sandman’ (America), which is originally on the softer side. As the evening unfurled, guys kept joining them on different instruments and it became one long trip for everyone who was present there, including us. The famous Sri Lankan Arrack in the red color case kept going down our throats as the atmosphere kept going high.

They sang their renditions of some great tracks but what bowled me over completely was how they turned a sentimental number like ‘Diamonds and Rust’ (Joan Baez) in a powerful rock number. I’ve never been to a better night-club in my life. A couple of hours later, I had joined them on vocals for a few numbers by Cat Stevans and the personal favorite ‘Dust in the Wind’ (Kansas).

The early morning trip to Sigiriya Fort and Minnariya Tank (a natural reservoir) forced us to leave the music and those three happy and high brothers.

The long awaited trip to Sigiriya / Minnariya Tank began at 7:45 am from the hotel lobby. Sigiriya is an ancient fortress built by an insecure King on the top of a mountain and Minnariya Tank is a natural reservoir famous for its elephants. Both these places are close to each other and the plan was to cover them both with one night’s stay at the guest house near the fortress.

The trip ended in the hotel lobby at 10 am of the same day and the stupidity of the driver assigned to us by the car-hire company was responsible for it. I don’t want to get into the frustrations of those 2 hours over here. I had to cancel the trip to get some peace of mind for the two of us.

Since then, it has largely been a shopping based weekend with a dip in the pool. Magical Laphroig, purchse of some good DVDs and India’s smashing victory over Australia has been the high points.

I haven’t given up on the plans climbing up the fort and going to the reservoir. It shall happen in my next trip to the island, which will be soon.

The photograph above is of the vocalist of Sage Merlyn.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Emerald Isle Diaries - 8

My experience with the famous Ceylon tea began as a let down and I mentioned it in one of my earlier pages. Taj Samudra has Orange Pekoe in their menu but it’s absent from their kitchen. Chaga, my colleague came to my rescue with a pack of BOP (Broken Orange Pekoe) belonging to the famous Mlesna (pronounced Melesna) Tea Estate and more importantly a small metallic sieve. Now, I brew my own tea inside the comforts of my room and the mornings have become beautiful. Sipping on orange pekoe while staring aimlessly at the sea with ‘Pet Sounds’ as the background score is a great way to begin the day.

Sri Lankans consume a lot of sugar in their cuppa and it can become very frustrating at times, especially when you are used to half a teaspoon of sugar. After the first couple of days, the woman who is responsible for tea / coffee, in my office had to be asked to give sugar separately. Her name is Shakuntala and she is always ready with three questions, whenever she sees me. They are, Tea? Coffee? or Water? She lost everyone she had in the Tsunami of 2004 and she is always full of smile and service.

What we call as ‘black tea’ is referred to as ‘plain tea’ over here and it’s more popular than the one with milk. One can expect the quality of this tea to be usually good (if you can discount the amount of sugar in it) even in the cheapest looking joint.

The hill station of Nuwara Eliya, near Kandy is one of the major tea producing zones. History suggests that the production of tea in Ceylon began after a deadly fungus destroyed most of the coffee crop on the island. The coffee plantation owners realized that they needed to diversify. This was around 1860s.

Though its of fine quality, I’m yet to taste anything close to the Darjeeling variety of Orange Pekoe. But, Shakuntala’s smile and readiness to serve makes up for it.

I will be getting samples of the Ceylon Tea for some of you and then you can give me your opinions. For now, a good friend from India is expected any moment. Charmed by the Diaries, he is flying down to be here for the weekend.

The photograph above is of Chagas gift. The kettle belongs to the Hotel.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Emerald Isle Diaries - 7

Arnold is the name of an excellent singer in Colombo. His rendition of ‘Wind beneath my wings’ at the popular Karaoke Bar called ‘Sopranos’ keeps ringing in my ears. But, Arnold is tired…tired and bored of Sri Lanka. He says that nothing ever happens in Sri Lanka….everybody just goes to the nightclubs on Wednesdays and Weekends like a ritual…that’s all that they do and will keep doing. With my 3 weeks of stay in the Isle, I can see some truth in his statement. That night, while leaving the Karaoke bar, I felt a little sad for Arnold. I still do.

The musical landscape of Sri Lanka has different types. Type one is what they call as ‘Baaila’ and has its origins in Portugul, hence it has similar melodies, rhythm and structure as the Goan music. Happy, dance-worthy and easy! This sort of music is equally popular at the up-market night-clubs as well as a street side shop in the upcountry.

Type two is the film songs from old Sri Lankan movies and interestingly, most of them are set on the tunes of old and popular Hindi film songs. If you are into old hindi film songs, you can hear the familiar melody of a ‘Teri Aankhon Ke Siva Duniya Mein’ or a ‘Koi Saaghar Dil Ko Behlaata Nahin’ to the unfamiliar Sinhalese lyrics. In fact, when I started humming the Hindi lyrics of the song playing at a local restaurant, my Sri Lankan colleagues got very fascinated.

Type three is what plays in the cool night-clubs of Colombo. Mostly English and can be a mix of retro as well as contemporary. Due to Thiyagi’s connections, I managed to witness a local band selection competition and I heard some talented guys. Of course they were playing the harder stuff.

Type four is of the Classical variety and is a mix of North Indian and Carnatic style of classical music. Frankly, I'm yet to hear anything from this genre anywhere in Sri Lanka, but I’m told that its there.

Type five would be the current songs from Bollywood. SRK, Aishwarya Rai, Hrithik Roshan are popular and young kids download this material on their mobile phones. These kids, usually aren’t the western night-clubs sorts.

The Japanese muse, Karaoke is big in Colombo and almost everybody who visits a Karaoke Bar is a decent singer. But, to my extreme discomfort they all invariably end up singing the great MUSH tracks. MLTR, Air Supply, Elton John etc are some of the frequently attempted artistes. AS one 'Neil Diamond' loving (to my happiness) Sri Lankan explained, ‘Sri Lankans are a mushy race.’

More on the famous Ceylon tea in the coming pages of the Diaries.

The photograph here is from the insides of Sopranos. The singers shown here are Menuka and Sasha. Good singers but once again, they sing MUSH!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Emerald Isle Diaries - 6

It began with serendipity and ended with an empty town.

The road from Colombo to Galle (pronounced “Gaul”) is sea-laced and worth a few photographs. Chaga, my cool colleague and friend was my companion for this work-cum-pleasure trip. Work for her and pleasure, for me. As we began to approach the outskirts of the region, the signs of the terrible Tsunami of 2004 started showing in the ruins of skeletal houses. Galle was one of the worst hit regions.

The village where we had work was about 40 km away from Galle and reaching there was like serendipity. We had no idea that it will be tucked in one of the tea valleys of the southern Sri Lanka…the Watawala tea estate which produces the famous brand Zesta. The weather, with its light drizzle was giving perfect accompaniment to the place. After dropping Chaga at the place where she had to be along with the people from the research agency, I did a trip of the ‘Village Green’ and the tea estates. The charming number by 'The Kinks' was running in my system while the drizzle continued. My love for tea added to the pleasure.

The journey from Village Green to ‘many many years back in time’ took me an hour. The drizzle had stopped by then.

History suggests that Galle is the Biblical city of Tarshish from where King Solomon drew Ivory, Peacock and other valuables. The modern history of Galle started in 1505, when the first Portuguese ship was driven here by a storm. In the course of time the port city saw three different rules….Portuguese, Dutch and finally the British. It was the Dutch who constructed the present and 90 acre Fort of Galle in the year 1663, and this fort was my reason to visit Galle.

Once inside the fort, I was transposed into another world. The city inside is one of the world’s best-preserved colonial landscape with its understated, sleepy charm. Its low-rise streets are lined with old churches and Dutch colonial villas, many of which retain original street-facing verandahs, their white plaster now stripped by sea breezes and weathered to a peeling grey and yellow. Interestingly, the city was left unharmed by the Tsunami.

Amongst the many churches inside, stands the very atmospheric Dutch Reformed Church. Built in 1755, its one of the finest Christian architecture that I’ve seen. With its enormous canopy over the pulpit and the attractive, ancient organ, the place saw me spending an hour inside it. The floor is covered in ornately carved memorials to the city’s Dutch settlers in English as well as Dutch, illustrating the brief life expectancy of the island’s early colonists. Although I’m a non-believer, I found calmness inside the ancient structure. Perhaps, it’s my love for all things old.

The day ended with me witnessing a town becoming absolutely empty in less than 10 minutes…an experience which will remain with me for the rest of my life.

Powerful earthquakes had hit Indonesia, resulting in a Tsunami scare. Having a disastrous prior experience, the people of Galle started running for their dear lives. Seeing them, the scare crept in within me too. Language problems with the driver of my vehicle and inability to get in touch with Chaga (phone networks had stopped working) who was still at the Village Green, just added to the confusion. Thankfully, I had the presence of mind to ask the driver to put on the radio and the guys at the station were doing a good job. They were repeatedly announcing that it’s just an scare and there isn’t going to be Tsunami and my driver kept repeating 'NO TSUNAMI'. Guess it was more to calm himself than me.

Rest of the evening was about the drive back to Colombo and nestling inside the hot bath-tub. Chaga managed to come back with the people from research agency in their vehicle. Being part of a Tsunami scare in the Galle region of Sri Lanka isn't an everyday affair.

The first photograph is of the beautiful dutch church from inside and the second one is of a street in the fort city.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Emerald Isle Diaries - 5

Largely immersed in work for the last few days, I’ve been neglecting the Diaries. So, woke up early today to make up for it. The morning ocean looks calm and easy, as if it has had a good night’s rest. BBC informs that Nawaz Sharif has been bundled off to Jeddah from Islamabad airport. That nation will always be in a state of chaos, I guess…pretty bad for the common citizens!

A week before coming to the Isle, I quit smoking…something which I’ve never attempted in the last 15 years of my smoking career. And, barring two occasions of temptations, I’ve been easily successful from staying away from the stick. One of them was the evening at Anuradhapura, mentioned in previous post. The next one happened at one of the restaurants of Taj Samudra.

I usually take my evening meals inside the comfort and convenience of my room, but this particular evening I decided to step out and check the eateries of the hotel. ‘Navaratna’, the popular Indian restaurant looked awfully crowded, driving me to the place next door, The Steak & Grill House. In a dramatic contrast, the place had nobody inside except a lady sitting on the pianoforte and softly playing ‘Lara’s theme’ while a couple of waiters watched her. The lady was playing quiet well. I had found my place!

In the course of the evening, she played a lot of my requests, and except for the extremely difficult ‘Moonlight Sonata’ they were all rendered very well, the best one being the peaceful ‘Air on the G String’ by Bach with its intertwining harmony and melody. Bordeux was great, as usual and the food perfectly went along with it. I text messaged to my friend in India,

“She has music in her fingers
While, I have a fork in mine.”

And suddenly, the evening felt incomplete without the white stick between my fingers. I asked the waiter for one and he replied that I will have to pick up a complete pack.

So, I remain a non-smoker. And you know what…it feels nice and healthy.

I left the pleasure-filled evening by thanking the lady who had made it so. I was humming the difficult sonata in my mind, trying to get it right.

With tomorrows dawn, I shall be headed towards the ancient port city of Galle in the southern part of the Isle. Its famous for its time-warped streets lined with historic Dutch villas. More on that in the next page of the Diaries.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The Emerald Isle Diaries - 4

In their day to day living, Sri Lankans follow the principles of Zen Buddhism. No matter what religion they have in their surnames and faith, they follow the art of Zen. Zen teaches you to be mindful and aware of your surroundings and that’s how the people of the Isle are.

They will always keep the door open for the next person, they will always ask you if you slept well, they will try to sense every expression on your face to assess what you want; they will listen to whatever you are saying and then they also listen to the unsaid. That is Zen!

The Sri Lankan hospitality is astounding, almost magical and motherly. Back home in the city of Mumbai this kind of experience is unheard of. The last time I felt like this was with my parents as a child and with certain good friends.

With frequent halts for conversations along with some extremely sweet Ceylon tea, we reached the UNESCO heritage city of Anuraadhapura by the evening. It’s a town full of Buddhist history and ruins from the 4th century BC. Legend has it that it was the fabled capital of the Asura King Ravana in the Ramayana.

Smirnoff, bought at the local Cargill superstore gave us company for the night at a local resort called Nuwarawera Rest House. Sitting next to a lit pool and a 'witchy looking' tree, we did full justice to the famous brand of Vodka and the evening. A black cat kept walking around our feet. We talked about various superstitions, clients, marriages, love and personal philosophies.

The next morning saw us turning into tourists. Sri Lanka's largest Stupa called the Jetavanaramaya belittled me with its size and grandeur. At a height of over 400 feet (120m), it is the tallest stupa in the world, largest brick building ever built, and 3rd largest structure in the ancient world, after the two largest of the Great Pyramids of Giza. Next stop was at the Mahabodhi tree, which is said to be the sapling from the original Bodhi tree from Bodh Gaya, a town in Bihar. Interestingly, Bodh Gaya happens to be the city of my origins too. Sadly, this important temple is very ill-maintained. Some more ruins from the BC era, around the city and we were on our way back to Colombo. A little halt at a charming, seaside village of fishermen was beautiful. Because of the paucity of time, we excluded the famous Sigiriya Fort and Elephant Sanctuary for another day.

By the time, I reached the hotel, I was extremely exhausted. A couple of drinks from the Red Label gifted by my friend Mr Shaffie proved to be of great help. It put me to a sweet and dreamless sleep.

Today was pretty critical and successful in the context of work.

And thats how the world's tallest Stupa, completely made of bricks, looks like. Notice that its top is broken. It was discovered in that state in early 1900s.

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Emerald Diaries - 3

The last drink of J&B stare at me from the green and yellow bottle, waiting to be sipped by my lucky lips. By the way, I used to like that song when I was a little baby. And interestingly, this last phrase happens to be the beginning of the song. This happened without design, like this trip to the Isle.

A lot has happened after that Sunday evening at the Odel. Let me try and give you a brief update on the last 5 days. It began with a road journey into the sea of greenery. We headed to the south of the island on the Galle Rd. with my polite and friendly colleagues to get the flavor of the rural provinces of the area. Amongst many other things, the two most striking aspects were their high standard of living and the enlightened behavior of women. Most of the houses had fine curtains and women, smilingly willing to talk to the strangers. Indian rural scenario, largely is very different. The high point of the day was a very scrumptious and authentic Sri Lankan meal cooked by a qualified pianist (and a music teacher). She stays in the so-called rural Sri Lanka and happens to be the wife of one of my colleagues. The evening snack for our 'gang of eight' was delicious Hoppers and Sri Lankan chutney at a roadside joint.

The next two days were full of work at Colombo…always beginning with a great breakfast at the hotel. Interestingly, the hotel hasn’t been able to provide me with the Golden Orange Pekoe yet. Considering that this is the land famous for its tea, it’s a lapse from Taj Samudra’s end. They've promised it and I shall tell you when I get to have a sip of it.

Yesterday took us to the hill-town of Kandy. Having stayed in the town for some eight years or so, Thiyagi (the colleague who sets the dance floors on fire), was our perfect guide. People continued to be polite and the hill-station air was cool on our skins. The cargo-shorts of ODEL debarred me from entering the holy temple of Dalada Maligawa, famous for Buddha’s tooth and the unfortunate ’98 bombing. A quick shopping of the traditional Sri Lankan sarong with Thiyagi’s help, saw me getting inside the temple. The place was peaceful and full of history. The long day ended with a warm meal at the lovingly built house of Thiyagi along with Buster, Spotty and Eddie and several nameless fishes. It included String Hoppers and Prawns, carefully prepared by her quiet and gentle mother.

Today was a long working day in Colombo. Tomorrow, its going to be the north-western province of Anuradhapura with the famous Nuwaara Eliya and Sigiriya Fort.

Bohmo Stuti for reading me, my Ambalayas! ('Many thanks' for reading me my 'mango friends'...which means, my 'sweetest friends')

And that's the photograph of the temple.It used to be the Sri Lankan Kings palace, once.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Emerald Isle Diaries - 2

I was woken up from my Bordeux induced slumber’, by my friend’s (notice the transition from a ‘client’ to a ‘friend’) call. He wanted to know whether I was up to a little trip to ODEL. I was. Now, ODEL is this famous place whose fame precedes intentions of visiting the Isle.

It’s a shopping arcade for some of the finest clothes and accessories from all over the world at great prices. It’s housed in what looks like a huge cottage (with escalators), which is much easier and sweeter than the maddening modern day shopping malls. Both tourists and locals are in love with the place. You’ll also find a sweet coffee shop as you enter and an outlet of Sri Lanka’s famous ‘Elephant House Hot Dogs’. I came back to the hotel with one cargo shorts, two T-shirts and a feeling of ‘another day well spent’. Two small pegs of J&B with some Crab Bisque guided me to sleep.

Today was extremely busy with five meetings, a good lunch with my colleagues and an insightful discussion on the political situation of the country. Tomorrow promises to be a day full of newer experiences as my colleagues plan to take me to the interiors of the southern part of the Isle. As of now, it’s going to be a refill of J&B…Cheers!

And thats how ODEL looks from inside.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Emerald Isle Diaries - 1

As I sit writing this piece inside the plush (and wi-fi enabled) hotel room facing the Indian Ocean on the famous Emerald Isle sipping on a Bordeaux, I say to myself, ‘This is good life’. And the fact that, this is just the beginning makes this ‘good life’ even better. I am in Sri Lanka for a month on work and the nature of this project requires me to travel across the island!

The first sight of the island, as the aircraft was lowering on the city of Colombo was enough to make me happy. It was as if we were landing on a sea of greenery with the palm and coconut trees serving as the waves. It was pleasantly different from the kind of sight I am used to while landing (think Bombay).

The next aspect which added to my happiness was the manner in which Sri Lankans speak. It began with a very well made Sri Lankan movie I saw before coming to the island and continues with every interaction with the folks out here. They don’t talk…they sing! In Sinhalese and in English and perhaps any other language they will speak. In fact, I never knew English can sound so melodious!

So, one and a half day old in the island and as a popular TV commercial puts it, ‘Im loving it.’ Yesterday was extremely eventful, with work in the first half of the day and roaming around the city to check out the famous shopping arcades of Colombo, in the second. The evening, had other things in store for me.

It brought three beautiful Sri Lankan ladies dressed up in very pretty Saris to my hotel to pick me up (thanks to one of them who is my colleague at the workplace). The objective was to show me the famous night-life of Colombo. And what a night-life we had! First to a karaoke bar called ‘The Sopranos’ where two of my three ladies gave a smashing performance, then to a huge nightclub called ‘H20/Sugar’’ followed by a loud and authentic disc called ‘D’s’ where the ‘one who did not sing’ at the Karaoke bar, gave a smashing performance on the dance floor (despite the Sari). Rest of the night was spent in getting a car out of the way, my colleague getting booked for holding an expiry Driving Licence and feeding ourselves with a nice chicken-cheese roll at a local joint.

Today, being a cloudy Sunday has been lazy and easy so far. Morning saw me having some good conversation at the breakfast table with my client. We are working closely on this project.

And, that is the view from my room.

Will keep filling this space with more from the Emerald Isle. Ayubowan!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

2 pages from the last 15 days

Worldly pursuits kept me away from this space for the last fortnight but life happened while I was busy making 'strategic' plans. Allow me to share a couple of pages from the last 15 days.

Independence Eve in a taxi between Gurgaon and Delhi Airport
That’s how I spent that evening. Breaking my code of keeping this space free from bad experiences, I have to talk about this. Twice I have missed my flight from Delhi airport because of traffic madness between Gurgaon and Delhi airport. The latest happened on the eve of Independence…it took me 3 hours 30 minutes to reach a destination which shouldn’t take more than half an hour. Fabulous growth has happened in this satellite city of Delhi in a fabulously unplanned manner, leading up to road chaos, highly constipated traffic, road accidents, power cuts and a backache because of that 3 and half hour inside the taxi.

A 16-year-old stole my heart on a breezy Friday evening
She came dressed in an elegant black frock, sat on the pianoforte and played Beethoven’s ‘Pathetique’, a Sonata in C, in its totality with the finesse and élan of a mature musician. Later, she went on to play ‘Nocturne in E’ by Chopin, ‘Impromptu No.4’ by Schubert and a Polka by Berkeley with the same confidence and skill. Only when she got up to accept the warm accolades of the audience and a bouquet from National Center For The Performing Arts (NCPA), her shy girlishness got exhibited. Her name is Anushka Godinho and she started learning music at the age of 5.

This happened at a beautiful Western Classical concert we (me and my good friend) went for at the NCPA, Mumbai last Friday. This great institution provides a very useful platform to these budding artistes to display their talent. It helps nurture & support new talent and keeps the genre of Western Classical music alive…a great effort, I must say!

The other musicians of the evening were 2 young men. A 20-year-old Classical guitarist, Samuel Lewis from Bombay and 23-year-old, Murugesan on Recorder from Pondicherry. Samuel (who also plays the Organ) performed Bach, Tarrega, Albinez on the nylon strings with perhaps the passion and memory of the composers themselves. He ended the evening with a beautiful version of ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’.

Murugesan handled compositions of Debussy, Vivaldi & Purcell. Personally, I don’t like Recorder as an instrument so I shall reserve my comments on the same. Think I will do the same for Murugesan.

Hope this description of that lovely evening cancelled out the negative energy emanating from my first experience.

Later, that evening I enjoyed some scotch and conversation with a couple of old friends (including the good friend mentioned earlier).

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Michelangelo Antonioni (1912 - 2007)

Another master movie-maker breathed his last on the evening of the same day, Bergman expired. Michelangelo Antonioni, the Italian auteur, expired on 30th July, 2007 at the age of 94. Whatever little I have seen by him has made me like his dreamy and elegant style. Martin Scorsese appropriately called him 'A Poet with the Camera'.

'Blowup' (1966), his first movie in English, is one of the most stylish depiction of an era and place in cinema history...London in the 60's bursting with rock music, smoke and nudity. The movie went on to inspire many later filmmakers, most notable of them (for us, Indians) is Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron. Bergman loved this one! (am referring to 'Blowup')

'Il Grido' (The Outcry) made in 1957 is the story of a man's inability to forget the woman he loves. Shot in black & white, with a brilliant soundtrack by Giovanni Fusco (Can somebody tell me how can i get hold of the soundtrack?) it sometimes tends to be very slow. But, heartaches are a slow killer. Bergman didn't like this one!

I shall try and pick up more of his works, specially the famous ones like La Notte (The Night) and L' Avventura (The Adventure). I love this photograph of him.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Ingmar Bergman (1918 - 2007)

‘Our friend Berman is dead!’, my cinephile colleague announced from the other end and my reaction was, ‘Oh…he must've been 90, no?. '89’, my friend corrected me.

Natural death of any great artiste doesn’t arouse sadness in me because of two reasons. Firstly, because the person’s time had come and secondly, the artiste will always be alive through his works. So, without getting sad, I said to myself, ‘This calls for a post’. But then I remembered that I’ve already written something on the moviemaker, which you can find over here. So, what else do I put up as a tribute to the great man who turned (and will continue to turn) so many moments of my life into pleasurable ones and in such intelligent ways.

Then, I bumped into this excerpt from an interview, where Mr Bergman gives his opinion on other film directors. He replies with his usual brutal honesty and I had material for my post.

On Orson Welles:
Bergman: For me he's just a hoax. It's empty. It's not interesting. It's dead. Citizen Kane, which I have a copy of - is all the critics' darling, always at the top of every poll taken, but I think it's a total bore. Above all, the performances are worthless. The amount of respect that movie's got is absolutely unbelievable.

On Michelangelo Antonioni:
Bergman: He's done two masterpieces, you don't have to bother with the rest. One is Blow-Up, which I've seen many times, and the other is La Notte, also a wonderful film, although that's mostly because of the young Jeanne Moreau. In my collection I have a copy of Il Grido, and damn what a boring movie it is. So devilishly sad, I mean. You know, Antonioni never really learned the trade. He concentrated on single images, never realising that film is a rhythmic flow of images, a movement. Sure, there are brilliant moments in his films. But I don't feel anything for L'Avventura, for example. Only indifference. I never understood why Antonioni was so incredibly applauded. And I thought his muse Monica Vitti was a terrible actress.

On Federico Fellini:
Bergman: We were supposed to collaborate once, and along with Kurosawa make one love story each for a movie produced by Dino de Laurentiis. I flew down to Rome with my script and spent a lot of time with Fellini while we waited for Kurosawa, who finally couldn't leave Japan because of his health, so the project went belly-up. Fellini was about to finish Satyricon. I spent a lot of time in the studio and saw him work. I loved him both as a director and as a person, and I still watch his movies, like La Strada and that childhood rememberance - what's that called again?
The interviewer admits that he has also seen the movie several times, but just now the title slips his mind. Bergman laughs delightedly.
Bergman: Great that you're also a bit senile! That pleases me.
Later the same day, several hours after the interview, the phone rings:It's Bergman. 'AMARCORD!', he shouts.

On Francois Truffaut:
Bergman: I liked Truffaut a lot, I've felt a lot of admiration for his way to address the audience, and his storytelling. La nuit américaine is adorable, and another film I like to see is L'enfant sauvage, with its fine humanism.

On Jean-Luc Godard:
Bergman: I've never gotten anything out of his movies. They have felt constructed, faux intellectual and completely dead. Cinematographically uninteresting and infinitely boring. Godard is a fucking bore. He's made his films for the critics. One of the movies, Masculin, féminin, was shot here in Sweden. It was mindnumbingly boring.

On Andrei Tarkovsky:
Late one evening in 1971, Bergman and his friend and director Kjell Grede by pure coincidence stumbled upon a copy of Andrej Rubljov in a screening room at Svensk Filmindustri. They saw it without any subtitles. He ranks it to be one of his most startling and unforgettable movie experiences ever.

On modern American cinema:
Bergman: Among today's directors I'm of course impressed by Steven Spielberg and Scorsese, and Coppola, even if he seems to have ceased making films, and Steven Soderbergh - they all have something to say, they're passionate, they have an idealistic attitude to the filmmaking process. Soderbergh's Traffic is amazing. Another couple of fine examples of the strength of American cinema are American Beauty and Magnolia.

‘Seventh Seal’, one of his masterpieces depicts Man’s battle with Death over a game of chess…a battle which Death always wins. But not in the case of an artiste like Mr Bergman...his work lives on.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Creeque Alley - The Other Song

We know them for ‘California Dreaming’ but I am going to talk about another great song by them called ‘Creeque Alley’. I am talking about one of the essential American band of the 60’s, sweetly called ‘The Mamas & the Papas’.

This song is an amusing description of how the Band was formed, with facts, names and incidents thrown in and set to a beautiful melody and cadence. Add to it the great vocals of Cass Elliot (also known as Mama Cass because of her size and association to the Band) and Dennis Doherty (Denny) with a lovely accompanying flute and you are happily in the Creeque Alley. The other members of the band were songwriter and guitarist John Phillips and Michelle Phillips (they later got married). The song was written in the year 1967, when the band was living the ‘great hippie dream’ on Virgin Islands, living off their American Express card (which gets a mention in the song) in a club located on the road named, ‘Creeque Alley’ which gives the song its name.

In my knowledge, no other band has chronicled their history and the life that they led in such a wonderful fashion. You will find a very good and complete analysis of all the lines of the track over here. The band was active between 1965 – 1968, making 5 albums and giving many hit singles. The name of the band happened from Cass’s response to a television talk show. You can use wikipedia to know the details of the story, if you are interested.

Enjoy your weekend! I am going to try and do the same in the difficult atmosphere of our country's capital.