Wednesday, December 31, 2008

For a better 2009

We are living amidst difficult times. Here's wishing everyone a happy, peace filled and better year.

ps: thats 'Flowers for New Year', an oil on canvas by the famous Vietnamese artist, Ha Huynh My. i would like to put it on the wall of my living room.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Three Weeks Later

Three weeks have passed and the city (where I was living just six months ago) has returned to normalcy, they say. Much has been written about the despicable and terrifying ordeal that Mumbai and its people were once again subjected to. I’m listing some of the views which resonated with me.

An Angry Moslem

A rational look at certain silly reactions from some Indians

A Worried American

A Thinking Indian

A sane voice from Pakistan

As for me, I’m ashamed of my identity at two levels. As a Human Being and as a Moslem.

A day after the ordeal ended, I watched the lovely Irish musical film, Once and felt better. The fact that the same species which can take so many innocent lives has the ability to create something so delicate & beautiful amazes me. It also fills me with hope for us and the world.

ps: thats the now wounded Taj Mahal Hotel from a 1903 postcard

Monday, November 24, 2008

Nanhi Pujaarin

My parents came and stayed with us for a period of 3 weeks and it was good. During their stay we covered quiet a bit of this beautiful island country. One such trip was to Nuwara Eliya, the beautiful hill-station city famous for its tea-estates.

Amongst many other pleasurable experience of the trip was the good quality of tea available at the smallest of the joints. The long and winding roads stretching across the hills and clouds were full of tiny shops selling plain-tea some eats. At one such shop where we had stopped for ‘chai’ or ‘the’ (in Sinhala); I met an angel called Sevandhi Kumari. She gave me a red flower while her mother prepared tea for us. This post and the following classic poem of Majaaz are dedicated to her.

The lovely imagery and water-like simplicity of the poem is spellbinding. I’ve also attempted a sort of translation (which isn’t very good) of the poem but that will come later. First, meet ‘Nanhi Pujaarin’.

Nanhi Pujaarin

Ek nanhi-munni si pujarin
patli Bahein,patly garden
Bhor bhaye mandir mein aayee hai
Aaayee nahin maa laayee hai
Waqt se pahle jaag uthi hai
neend abhi aankhon mein bhari hai
Thodi tak lat aayee huee hai
yun hee si lahraayee hue hai

Aankhon par taron ki chamak hai
Mukharre par chandee ki jhalak hai
Dhoop chdhhe taraa chamkaa hai
Pathhar par ek phool khila hai
Chand ka tukra ,phool ki daali
kamsin, seedhi, bholi bhali
Kaan mein chandi ki baali hai
haath mein peetal ki thaali hai

Dil mein lekin dhyaan nahin hai
poojaa ka kuchh gyaan nahin hai
kaisi bholi aur seedhi hai
mandir ki chhat dekh rahi ahi
Maa barh kar chutki leti hai
chupke chupke hans deti hai
Hansana Rona uska majhab
usko pooja se kya matlab
khud to aayee hai mandir mein
Man uska gudiya ghar mein

Tiny Worshipper (for those who dont know Urdu/Hindi)

A tiny worshipper
Thin arms and a thin neck
Has come to the temple early morn
Actually been pulled by her Maa (Mother)
Woken up before her usual time
Sleep hanging in her eyes
Tresses falling till her chin
Swaying in the morning breeze

Eyes sparkling like the stars
Face shining like the moon
A star shining in the daytime
Or a flower budding on stone
Moonstone, Rosebud, Young & innocent
Silver ring in the ear
Bronze plate in hands

But got no interest in prayers
Got no knowledge of religion
She stares at the temple ceiling

With eyes innocent and sweet

Maa caresses her softly

And she laughs gently

Smiles & Tears are her religion

Got nothing to do with prayers

Has come to the temple somehow
But her heart is inside the doll-house

The red flower, now dry, still lies in my car. On my next trip to Nuwara Eliya, I shall stop at the same tea-joint for that angel and a refreshing cup of tea.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Cinema Paradiso

Being a lover of movies and its ways, I immediately fell for this one. It’s a charming account of a movie theater located in a freshly independent Indian town. The town is the modern day Trivandrum in Kerela and the writer, a septuagenarian reminiscing those days, using today’s tools like the computer and internet. His name is Prof Gopakumar K. and he lives in Trivandrum. The abrupt nature, interesting details and subtle wit of the description adds to the charm.

I’m putting the piece in this space, exactly the way it was written, with the old gentleman’s permission. Get charmed!

1948: Sreekumar Theatre, Railway Station Road
. Inaugurated.

Went with Appuchettan. 1st film MGM Technicolor, Bathing Beauty - Esther Williams . Only English movies. Every 3rd day there was a change. 15 Films a month. Other theatres were thatched sheds. Accommodated viewers on the floor (thara ticket). Then, on foldable wooden chairs. Rattan chairs in upper classes. Lice were carried home after the show.

But Sreekumar was a permanent hall. Viewers sat on numbered chairs fixed in rows. Cushion seat in the balcony classes. Rates stared like this: 4 1/2 annas (28 paise) - 10 annas ( 63 ps ) , Re 1 ( British Rupee ) & Rs 1 1/2 . The next 2 classes were in the balcony (upstairs) Rs 2 & Rs 2 1/2 ( separate cubicles ie Boxes ) . There were 3 boxes with 8 upholstered chairs in each. The middle one - The Royal Box was exclusive for the Maharajah & others from the Kowdiyar Palace. On days when Chithira Thirunal (the local King) came there was no Interval.

For keeping cycles 1/4 anna -1 anna = 6 naya paise (ie 1/100th of a Rupee). Cars were parked outside - no parking fee. 1 or 2 motor cycles / no scooters were seen in the car parking area. No Autos in those days. Till 1957 there was season ticket system for students (above 18). Students were spared from submitting any proof like photo ID or admission form countersigned by the Principal .The theatre people trusted the student community. Girl students were not issued with the concession - only accompanied women & girls were allowed.

1st show at 6:30 pm to 8.30 & the 2nd 9.30 - midnight. No A/C & standby generator. People smoked. Once outside after the show one could smell tobacco smoke in the dress. Tea Coffee & Cigarettes were sold at the stall outside .Fairly long printed synopsis were given free. I had season ticket 1953 -1957 Collected about 700 synopses. Still photographs of coming films were exhibited.

There was a pink curtain which rose slowly to the Spnish Gypsy song played on guitar. Then the famous Tamil song of K B Sunderambal (Njarapazhathe pizhundu) when Lord Subrahmonian’s slide was shown. Then came the Maharajah`s welcome etc. Started with Film Division’s B&W news reel. Ads in still slides during the interval.

Teachers in English encouraged students to read THe Hindu Paper & the films at Srikumar. Student Politics not popular. Today we have the TV & computer. In those days we knew more about the Holywood stars - Ava Gardner, Ingrid Bergmann , Elezabath Taylor . Charlie Chaplin Marlan Brando, Bing Crosby, Kirk Douglas & so on.

ShreeKumar theater still stands on Railway Station Road in Trivandrum
, showing Malayalam movies of the day. The ticket price is around Rs 50/- and the place is equipped with AC and dts.

ps: thats the poster of that 1944 musical, Bathing Beauty

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Shubho Bijoya!

Last evening, after much deliberation over the titles from my library, I picked up Ray’s classic, ‘Devi’, unaware of the coincidence of it all.

The movie, based on a short story by Prabhat Kumar Mukhopadhya, is set in 19th century Bengal and deals with highly prevalent superstition system in India. It begins with Shubho Bijoya and throughout the movie Maa Durga is main protagonist along with a very young and virginal Sharmila Tagore in her first major role; and Ray’s regular Soumitra Sen. Durga, in Hindu mythology is the demon-fighting form of Lord Shiva’s wife. Despite all my temptations, I’m not going to give away the plot as it will spoil the fun of those who haven’t seen this classic yet.

Today morning, I woke up to hear and see the celebrations of Vijay Dashmi across India, on NDTV. I began smiling to myself. Away from the country, I had completely forgotten about today’s significance.

Because I have a bit of Bengali blood in me I’d like to wish all of you in the typical Bengali manner. Shubho Bijoya Dashumi!

ps: thats the poster of the movie

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Eid Mubarak!

An excerpt from a letter I wrote to my mother a year ago in an attempt make her see my point of view regarding a situation.

"Religion, in the strict sense of God, Priests, Rituals, Chanting etc doesn’t figure anywhere in my philosophy. But religion in the cultural context is something which I appreciate and enjoy. The beauties of the Moslem culture like the language Urdu, Shaayari, Clothes, Biryani, Qawwalis, Architecture etc are the aspects which appeal to me. They make me feel proud about belonging to such a rich culture. In fact, I think that you have a good role to play in this. I can trace back my love and understanding of Urdu Shaayari to you. Your love for masters like Faiz, Iqbal, Ghalib and Mehendi Hasan etc has seeped into my system too."

This excerpt has certain relevance today as we are celebrating Eid in the true cultural style of Moslems. Pooja is attempting Biryani for the first time in her cooking career. My contributions so far has been buying Kohinoor Basmati Rice, Chopping Onions, Crushing pepper, playing the right kind of music and moral support.

Interestingly, and to my best knowledge, none of the major Urdu poets with the exception of Josh Malihabadi, came up with a good Sher for Eid. There are many anonymous ones though. The one which has been highly abused, especially by Hindi movies is this. Its quiet easy to understand so I don’t need to translate it.

'Eid' kaa din hai gale aaj to lag jaa zaalim

Rasm-e-duniyaa bhii hai mauqaa bhii hai dastuur bhii hai

To find what Josh has to say on the subject, you can go here.

: will let you know how the Biryani turned out to be. the picture shows its beginnings.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Weekend Pursuits

Despite Rohit’s misgivings playing somewhere in my mind, I decided to watch a movie in a Colombo theater for the histrionics of Heath Ledger as the Joker.

This Chris Nolan’s second attempt at Batman is almost 3 hours long with an utterly stupid script and equally silly dialogues. But, what elevates the movie from its insipidity is Mr Ledger’s performance as a ‘crackpot with a sense of humor’. It’s unfortunate that he died just when he was beginning to show his true colors.

When a dark character is played by a fabulous actor, he becomes the center of attention instead of the hero (remember Jack Nicholson as the earlier Joker or Amjad Khan as Gabbar Singh). This is true for this edition of Batman too. I won’t be surprised if the Academy decides to give best actor to Mr. Ledger.

The other bright side of this experience was the fact that Colombo theaters serve beer at their F&B counters.

Martin Scorsese has always been a big fan of The Rolling Stones and it gets reflected in almost all his feature films. In 2006, he decided to do a full length documentary filming the band’s ‘A Bigger Bang’ tour performance at New York and smartly editing it with each of the band member’s capsules from the past.

In one such edit he shows a shot from a 1967 interview of Mick Jagger in which he is saying, ‘You know, I never thought we would be doing this music thing for more than a year or two and I’m surprised that we are still doing so’. The band was 3 years old then.

Next shot is that of Jagger jumping around with ‘Jumping Jack Flash’ in 2006, at the age of 63. The Band had beed around for 42 years. Amazing!

A must watch for any Stones fan, Scorsese fan or for that matter, anybody. In fact, my wife who isn’t too enthusiastic about rock music saw herself getting mesmerized by the raw energy of the 60 years old rock stars.

Hearing this forgotten George Benson classic on the car radio found me acquiring 3 of his finest albums, ‘Give Me the Night’, ‘The Other Side of Abbey Road’ and ‘Givin’ it Up (with Al Jarreau). I would strongly recommend ‘The Other Side…’ for open-minded Beatles fans. Mr Benson’s sophisticated, jazz-guitaring and smooth vocals does wonders to McCartney-Lennon compositions.

PS: Thats one of the best logos i know of

Saturday, August 30, 2008


A lovely rain is making everything wet in Colombo and things look dreamy from my balcony. The coffee smells good and Pooja is making cheese omelet, while David Bowie sings ‘Heroes’.

Looks like it will be an easy Saturday for us, while many in the world struggle with their difficulties.

My young inspirations are 2 kids of nine and seven. You can get to know them over here and here.

ps: thats the view from my balcony...can you see the rain?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

One Night in the Life of Meraj Hasan

Years ago, I discovered him on a wintry night train between Varanasi and Gaya. He was a battered prisoner inside a Soviet labor camp of the 1950s in Siberia. And I was a berthless traveler in the general compartment of the train, facing the December chill of the great North Indian plains. But, he was facing much harsher temperatures.

The person I discovered that night was the Nobel Prize winning Russian author, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in the form of a novella called, ‘One Day in the life of Ivan Denisovich’. Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn died 2 days ago of a heart attack at the age of 89. And this is an attempt to pay my homage to the great writer.

The book is about the harsh realities of Stalin era when people in Russia were sent to the Labor Camps under the Gulag system for any or no offence. Solzhenitsyn was exiled to one, and he came out of it with this semi-autobiographical book which described one day in the life of a prisoner called Ivan Denisovich Sukhov or simply ‘Sukhov’. The book has all the abilities to disturb anyone about human cruelty and appreciate human endurance. It came out in 1962 with the consent of Nikita Krushchev who wanted the world to know about the extreme conditions under the Stalin era. The 150 odd pages of this classic shook the world!

Later, I went on to read other brilliant works of Solzhenitsyn but that chilly train journey with ‘Sukhov’ will always be intact somewhere in the attics of my mind. The Siberian temperatures in the book along with the increasing chill of the night had me completely frozen, despite a sweater and a jacket.

To give you a comparison, the mercury reading outside would be about 3-5 degree Celsius. And the temperature inside the book was -40 degree Celsius. I can’t even start to think of such conditions.

That is Solzhenitsyn with a saintly look and beard.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Good Morning!

Certain mornings begin in the most perfect way. Let me talk about one such morning. It was a morning when ‘Little Martha’ got stirred with ‘Darjeeling Tea’ along with the mild morning breeze.

‘Little Martha’ is a 2 minutes 7 seconds beauty from the 1972 album, Eat a Peach by The Allman Brothers Band. It’s also the last composition by the legendary Duanne Allman, the bandleader who died shortly after recording the track, because of a motorcycle accident. He was all of 24. Extremely unfortunate as the world would have got so many more beauties from him. Rolling Stone magazine names Duanne as number two on their list of the greatest guitarists of all time. Number one is anybody’s guess.

The song is an instrumental duet composed in the minimalist finger picking style, played on acoustic guitars by Duanne and band mate Dicky Betts. Its simple melody and fullness has always made me happy and craving for more. This morning was no different.

Leo Kottke, the famous acoustic guitarist rightly called it "the most perfect guitar song ever written."

To my extreme displeasure, Darjeeling Tea is not available in Colombo. Perhaps it’s on account of the country’s very own Ceylon Tea. Which is better is a subject suitable for another post.

So, my recent business trip to Delhi saw me carrying back packs of ‘First Flush’ Darjeeling Tea or ‘The Champagne of Teas’, which is its other name. And, this morning I woke up to the gentle pleasures of light color, aroma and taste of one of the finest creations of man. I cultivated my taste for tea because of my parents, specially my father’s deep interest in the subject.

The art and science of Darjeeling Tea is exquisite. Like single malts vary from each region of Scotland, Teas from each estate of Darjeeling has a unique taste, flavor and aroma to it. When properly brewed, any Darjeeling yields thin-bodied, light-colored liquor with a floral aroma. ‘First Flush’ is the first produce harvested in mid-March following spring rains. Then you have ‘In Between’, ‘Second Flush’, ‘Monsoon’ and ‘Autumnal Flush’. For me, First Flush works the best, especially as the first tea in the morning. To know more on the subject you can go go here.

The mild morning breeze is always beautiful.

So, this morning, the three element came together to create that perfect start.

ps: above is a painting called 'Morning Tea' by Margaret Olley, Australias finest still life painter

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Dolphin with Chianti

We met a dolphin from these waters.

She came with a smile and the classic Chianti from Tuscany.

We talked about her animals, my music, her tennis days, my search-days, the class hang-ups and the mass realities, the short stature and tall nature, the greediness and the bare necessities.

And it all ended with Pooja’s favorite chocolate dessert and warm hugs.

Thanks, Dolphin…and keep smiling.

For the record, I'm temporarily leaving my country to stay at a small island towards the south. Today is my last day in Bombay and I'm getting sentimental.

ps: Thats 'Chianti Wines' by Gounod Romandy, an Italian painter of the 30's

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Why was I missing from here?

Because I was busy getting hitched. Pooja and I got married in the modest ambiance of a court in Mumbai on 2nd of May, 2008. Being a person who is uncomfortable with tentativeness in all affairs, I love the finality of it. A certain calmness is giving me a gentle embrace.

As always, the 'Pulitzer man' has something for this occasion too. Its appropriately called 'Wedding Song' and appears in the 1974 album, 'Planet Waves'. A few lines from the song.

I love you more than ever, more than time and more than love,
I love you more than money and more than the stars above,
Love you more than madness, more than waves upon the sea,
Love you more than life itself, you mean that much to me.

Ever since you walked right in, the circle's been complete,
I've said goodbye to haunted rooms and faces in the street,
To the courtyard of the jester which is hidden from the sun,
I love you more than ever and I haven't yet begun.

You breathed on me and made my life a richer one to live,
When I was deep in poverty you taught me how to give,
Dried the tears up from my dreams and pulled me from the hole,
Quenched my thirst and satisfied the burning in my soul.

The picture above is of our feet inside a pristine and ancient pond that we found on one of our jaunts into the wilderness. We call it 'Happy Feet'.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Paths of Victory

While the Swedish Academy still mulls over the question, the Pulitzer Board has finally taken a call.

After being nominated 6 times for Nobel Prize in Literature, the man gets a nod from the literary sorts of his homeland. Bob Dylan gets the 2008 ‘Special Pulitzer’ for his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power.

Dylan becomes the first 'rock'n'roll Honorary Pulitzer winner, joining the likes of other musical greats like George Gershwin, Thelonious Monk (both of whom were given the Honorary Pulitzer posthumously) and Duke Ellington (whom the jury had voted for the Pulitzer for Music Award in 1965 but the board refused).


How would the man himself react to this? Perhaps, in the form of these lines from his 1991 song, ‘Paths of Victory’.

Trails of troubles,

Roads of battles,
Paths of victory,
I shall walk.

ps: The picture above is from the The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan days, which will be...1963.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Interpretation of a Nightmare

Last night was a disturbed one for me with a nightmare infested sleep (or lack of it). I saw myself surrounded by dead bodies of Oriental origin. I was struggling to put them in a big container, one by one when I woke up to a very dry throat and an exhausted body. I couldn’t go back to a proper sleep for the rest of the night.

True to its authoritarian ways, China is being unreasonable in a violent manner with the ‘Free Tibet’ movement and it leaves me highly disturbed. I’m sure it will have negative repercussions on China’s ambitious plans of hosting the Olympics in the best possible way.

On another front, there have been 1, 195, 524 causalities in the 5 years of Iraq war, out of which 4000 were American soldiers and 308 were soldiers from the coalition troops. Rest were Iraqis, both civilian and militant. What a waste of human lives and for what?

Below is an an email written by one of those 4000 American soldiers. Its extracted from the NYT article which appeared today. Its heartbreaking!

Hey beautiful well we were on blackout again, we lost yet some more soldiers. I cant wait to get out of this place and return to you where i belong. I dont know how much more of this place i can take. i try to be hard and brave for my guys but i dont know how long i can keep that up you know. its like everytime we go out, any little bump or sounds freaks me out. maybe im jus stressin is all. hopefully ill get over it....

you know, you never think that anything is or can happen to you, at first you feel invincible, but then little by little things start to wear on you...

well im sure well be able to save a couple of bucks if you stay with your mom....and at the same time you can help her with some of the bills for the time being. it doesnt bother me. as long as you guys are content is all that matters. I love and miss you guys like crazy. I know i miss both of you too. at times id like to even just spend 1 minute out of this nightmare just to hold and kiss you guys to make it seem a little bit easier. im sure he will like whatever you get him for xmas, and i know that as he gets older he’ll understand how things work. well things here always seem to be......uhm whats the word.....interesting i guess you can say. you never know whats gonna happen and thats the worst part. do me a favor though, when you go to my sisters or moms or wherever you see my family let them know that i love them very much..ok? well i better get going, i have a lot of stuff to do. but hopefully ill get to hear from you pretty soon.*muah* and hugs. tell mijo im proud of him too!
love always,
your other half

Juan Campos, e-mail message to his wife

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Black & White Gems

Certain major movements in the flow of life has kept me terribly engaged resulting in the neglect of this space. Not that I have stopped my aesthetic pursuits. I continue to swim in the pleasure mixed waters of music, movies and life but haven’t been able to gather that hour of peace in which a man sits down, armed with words to give some shape to his thoughts.

Finally, sipping on the Dreamy Dew, inside the yellow-lit comforts of my home, I’m trying to make a comeback. Its about some Black & White Classics, I managed to watch in the last month and a half. Some, thanks to the film society that I am a part of and some, because the DVD’s that I borrowed from a friend.

The Third Man (1949): A British film noir by Carol Reed, based on the excellent screenplay by Graham Greene. Greene later published a novella of the same name. Brilliant cinematography (for those times), mysteriously beautiful Alida Valli , strange but befitting score on zither by Anton Karas and a superb performance by Orson Welles appearing in the last 40 minutes of the movie are the high points of this classic. In fact, the entry of Welles in the movie is one of the finest I’ve seen.

The Battle of Algiers (1966): This classic Italian docu-drama by the master director, Gillo Pontecorvo is based on the events during the 1954-1962 Algerian War against the French rule. The gripping and disturbing real-life feel with a haunting score by Ennio Morricone and Pontecorvo himself kept me riveted to the TV screen. Anurag Kashyap has taken a few lessons from here for his Black Friday. So have Mira Nair, Steven Soderbergh and Oliver Stone.

The movie has a strong relevance today with Iraq facing a similar situation.

Roman Holiday (1953): Everything is beautiful about this all time great Romantic Comedy by William Wyler. No matter how many times you watch it. Lovely Audrey Hepburn and handsome Gregory Peck riding a Vespa on the streets of Rome. Charmed! (as Princess Ann would have put it)

The Grapes of Wrath (1940): Directed by John Ford, this adaptation of John Steinbeck’s classic of the same name almost does justice to the epic tale of Joad family’s exodus to California from Oklahoma in search of greener pastures during The Great Depression. Great performances by Jane Darwell as Ma Joad and Henry Fonda as Tom Joad mark this American classic.

It’s known that the great Orson Welles used to say that true test of acting skill is in the Black & White medium as colours distract the audience to things other than the actor’s expressions. Using the same logic, one may argue that the converse can also be true. Because colour cinema is a distractive medium, it takes superior acting talent from an actor to keep the audience riveted to his/her performance. Another way of looking at the subject would be to say that it all depends on the actor and his role, irrespective of medium’s shade. Do let me know how you look at it.

ps: That is one of the many excellent shots from 'The Third Man'. The movie got the Academy Award for Cinematography in 1950.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

What's Going On

David Fincher’s latest movie, Zodiac is a thoroughly engaging thriller about a serial killer in the city of San Francisco during the 60’s, and 70’s. Adding the right flavour to the mood of the times, the movie is full of some great music from the shifting decades. The likes of Santana, Donovan, Miles Davis, Gerry Rafferty, Steely Dan etc are beautifully placed throughout the movie.

The usage of Marvin Gaye’s ‘Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler) from the absolutely incredible 1971 album, ‘What’s Going On’ made me want to mention a few things about the song and the album. Why? Because it’s been inside my CD player for a couple of months now and many of my mornings begin with it and the last track (Inner City...) of the album sees me walk outside the door.

Ranked number 6th on the all time greatest albums by the Rolling Stone this creation is as relevant today as it was in 1971. With introspective lyrics on poverty, drug abuse, Vietnam war, ecological problems etc this one set a new trend in the genre of ‘Soul’. Nine tracks, one leading up to another in a song cycle manner as it ends on a reprise to the album’s opening theme. One of the best opening themes, ever!

A simple, subdued tone is held throughout, pillowed by a densely-textured instrumental and vocal backing. At first this sameness in sound persisting from one song to the next is boring, but gradually the concept of the album takes shape and its wholeness becomes very affecting.

The style is set in the first cut, "What's Going On," with its sweet horn opening theme; Gaye's soft, simmering voice reflecting in on itself beautifully from two or three tracks; the contrast of congas and strings; breaks an exciting jumble of street-corner jive and scatting.

Now about the last track...Inner City Blues. For me, it’s the finest cut. Beginning with the Bongo beats and Gayes soft Dah Dah Dah, the song sets in the mellow funk mood which always gets me moving! Lyrically, it talks about the difficult life in the ghettos of inner-city America (and that’s why it will ‘make you wanna holler’). The contrast of difficult times with the funky beat makes this one memorable, forever, reminding me of the usage of ‘Layla’ solo in Goodfellas. Taking the album full circle, the track beautifully blends into the opening theme of the first track, ‘Whats Going On’.

Pick up this one and then give it some time inside your music system to know why it’s such a landmark album. Trust me, you will get addicted to it. Below is an excerpt from the RS write up.

Producing the album amid a haze of marijuana smoke, Gaye made one intuitively brilliant decision after another -- from letting the tapes roll as his friends mingled and chatted to recording the rehearsal exercises of saxophonist Eli Fountain. When Fountain complained that he had just been goofing around, Gaye replied, "Well, you goof exquisitely. Thank you." And that's how the plaintive saxophone line that announces What's Going On came to be.

Friday, February 08, 2008

No Comments!

Because of some spooky behaviour of bloggerdotcom, readers are not able to put up comments on my last 2 posts. You can check the comments here to know what I mean.

This post is to apologize for the inconvenience caused.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Mixed emotions

Sunday evening was lucky for many reasons.

Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra was performing in Bombay after 50 years. My music loving father was in town. Mr Bojangles could manage entry passes for me and my father. And we had the experience of a lifetime.

A chamber orchestra is a smaller than the usual orchestra and largely consists of string instruments. Violin and its elder siblings.

The usually mild winters of Bombay has strangely become harsh with icy breeze these days and this Sunday evening was particularly cold with the venue being right next to the sea. But everything became comfortable once we were inside the warm interiors of the magnificent Jamshed Bhabha theatre. The promise of some great live music by the musicians from Germany was adding to the comfort. The 2 years old Symphony Orchestra of India (SOI), was also going to give a couple of performances.

Founded in 1945, Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra is the oldest professional chamber orchestra in the world and hence serves as a model for others.

The conductor was a smiling, snow-bearded violinist called Benjamin Hudson and his team lovingly rendered the subtle magic of Mozart, Bach and Greig. The bows of their violins, cellos and bass danced along while their fingers danced on the string. The performing ladies looked beautiful in their gowns and the men sophisticated in their tailcoats. I kept swaying along, reacting to each and every nuance of the compositions. All along, my lips had a constant smile. Evenings like this are rare.

The SOI gave their Stuttgart partners great company but as earnestly accepted by their conductor himself; they have a lot of catching up to do.

During the 15 minutes break, we spotted Pyaarelal of Laxmikant Pyaarelal fame. Dressed in the trademark white attire, he had also come to savour the sonorous evening.

But all wasn’t as beautiful as the music of Mozart. The average age of the audience was 65. Western Classical music is turning into a dying form of art. And this is the truth all over the world. There are very few listeners of this form of music and most of them are in the later part of their lives. Hence, it doesn’t make commercial sense. Simple. Sad. Will there be similar concerts 200 hundred years from now? In Vienna...maybe. But, in Bombay, I’m not sure.

Somehow, our own Indian Classical music scenario seems to be in a better shape than this. I might be wrong.

With these mixed emotions of exhilaration and sadness, my father and I rushed back to my sisters place for dinner with some good wine. The breeze had become icier.

ps: Can you spot the snow-bearded conductor in the picture, taken on the sly? His beard looks black here because of the violin's chin rest.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A Happy Fact

‘Subtle, smooth and with a pleasant maltiness combined with charred wood undertones and the natural flavour of golden barley.’

That's the description of the excellent Irish whiskey, Tullamore Dew.

Guess what its ad slogan is. ‘Give every man his Dew’. Awesome!

The fact that it’s sitting sweetly inside my cupboard is just incidental.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Two Sentiments

There is a certain optimism amongst average Sri Lankans about the current Government’s success in completely suppressing the LTTE insurgency. The tough stance taken by the President and the promise to solve the issue within a window of 3 months time is being appreciated by them. And a division of their country is absolutely unacceptable to them.

This was my take-out from a few conversations with people like Sunil, who runs a small resort on Mirissa; Reshad , a Tuk Tuk driver and Ajit, a DVD shop-owner. They all shared the above sentiment.

This is completely in contrast with the views of the Pub-going, English speaking, Corporate kinds of Colombo. They are critical and cynical about the Government’s stance and they are alright with LTTE being given a chance to run the North and East areas of the island for a time period.

I shall wait and keenly watch the way the situation goes. The island and its people are too good be continuously under the dark cloud of troubled times and for so long. Its highly unfortunate!

PS: That's Colombo City in the early morning hours.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

When I'm 64

The green water of the Indian Ocean looks musical from the wooden balcony of this resort.

Young Reshad appeared at 10:30 with his grey BMW and a blank CD. The idea was to write some good music from my collection, so that we can play the ‘right kind of stuff’ in the car during the 3 hours drive. We were off to Mirissa, a little known beach in south and my new friend, Reshad was the guide.

There were a few jobs to be done. First things first, I got the music happening on the excellent sound system of the car. Then we stopped at a local Cargill to pick up a few essentials like half a pack of Lion pints, the local beer; toothpaste and toothbrush and some bottles of water. We were set.

Galle Road, which was taking us to the destination, is laced with the sea throughout, and its water keeps changing its colour as you go down south. The transition is from Blue to Blue-Green to finally Green.

At one of the many beaches that we kept hitting on our right hand side, we saw fishermen pulling the rope which brings the afternoon catch. We stopped over to watch. Lion gave me company. Young Reshad was happy with water. The colour was Blue-Green.

A quick lunch of very spicy Prawns at Hikkaduwa, a popular beach got our stomachs right. Lion was still giving me company. Another half an hour drive and we reached Mirissa Beach, our destination. The water had turned Green.

There are two interesting aspects about this shell-less beach. The sweet aspect is that it’s largely frequented by the geriatrics from all over the world...old men, women, couples are the sorts you will say your ‘Hellos’ to, while walking on the wet sand.

Then, there is this ‘adventure’ aspect...the water here is popular with the surfers! So, if you see young people on the beach, you can guess confidently that they are surfers.

A splash in the green water, a solitary walk along the coastline, making use of the camera, finishing off the J&B, conversing with Reshad about his life, climbing up a nearby mountain-island in the wee hours of the morning, continuously listening to Rhiannon, Sara, Gypsy & As Long as you Follow, giving yoga tips to back-ache troubled Reshad, and now, writing this post were a part of my stay at this resort.

The drive back was largely uneventful, except a very spicy Sri Lankan lunch and Reshad getting caught for over-speeding and then bribing his way to Colombo in his big vehicle.

ps: Thats what I meant by the description, 'GREEN' water...or, is it BLUE-GREEN...or, is it simply BLUE?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

My colorful beach bag

As always, a lot has been happening ever since I’ve landed here in the Isle. I’ve been trying to explore certain professional challenges and seeking the usual personal pleasure and will be documenting it all, shortly. About Laphroig and Sweet Caroline, about Sea Spray and a fortress of an office, about a fishing town at the break of dawn and Sage Merlyn...all of it will be appearing here in good time. For now, I’m off to a beach resort located in the south of the island with a bottle of J&B, and Steinbeck tucked in my colourful beach bag.

About my friends here...well, they are the same sweet self. It was delightful meeting them again. Chaga has already given me some good coffee beans which I shall be sipping on when I’m back to India.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Magic Movie Moments

The unfortunate situation in Kenya continues unabated. Every morning I watch it from the screen of my TV and get disturbed. 600 people have died so far and another 250,000 rendered homeless. Being a romantic, I keep hoping that conditions will improve with proper mediation and talks between Kibaki and Odinga.

Closer home, the situation has once again become troubled in my favourite Island country. The ceasefire has been called off, officially and the terrorist attacks by the LTTE have increased in a big manner. Once again, it leaves me very disturbed. A country which is so beautiful, with its people, geography and culture is amidst a constant threat. I will be in Colombo for 10 days starting this Sunday and will try to fill you in with the sentiments.

Another neighbouring nation continues to be in its state of chaos. Let’s see what the so called democratic elections will bring to Pakistan.

On the aesthetic note, I’ve been keeping myself busy with a list of movies. Movies from past and present, from this part of the world and other parts of the world, on big screen and small screen. Movies which made me appreciate, criticize, love and live through their various moments. So, here is a documentation of such magic moments of loving, living, appreciation and goosebumps.
  • The dance sequence at the restaurant between Franz, Odile and Arthur (Bande Apart , Godard, 1954)
  • Alexander getting caned by his step-father while Fanny watches quietly...too afraid to express any emotion ( Fanny & Alexander, Bergman, 1982)
  • Hitler’s angry outburst at his aides while his hands tremor behind his back and while Berlin burns (The Downfall, Oliver Hirschbiegel, 2004)
  • Wiesler ‘s faint smile while listening to ‘The Sonata for a Good Man’ (Lives of Others, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006)
  • Sanjouro’s cynical and ‘afraid of nothing’ look, always...( In both Sanjuro and Yojimbo , Kurosawa, 1963)
  • Gondo’s change of stance when he hears that it’s his driver’s son who has been kidnapped and not his son (High and Low, Kurosawa, 1964)
  • Avijit displaying his genius eye for colors and pictures (Born into Brothels, Zana Briski / Rauf Kauffman, 2004)
  • Ego going back to his childhood after eating the Ratatouille made by Remy and then writing an honest review (Ratatouille, Brad Bird/Jan Pinkava, 2007)
  • Prewitt and Warden having a drunken conversation late in the night, sitting in the middle of the road (From Here to Eternity, Fred Zinnemann, 1953)
  • The various skirmishes between The Great Danton and The Professor (The Prestige, Chritopher Nolan, 2006)

These moments are from the cinema of the other world. Coming up next is the list from our world. Have a good weekend!

The picture above is the cover design of a great book on movies which I am a proud owner of...thanks to good ol' friend, whom I haven't met in a long long time.

ps: They are celebrating my birthday today, exactly the way it happened last year. To know more about what happened last year and today, read here.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

You talkin' to me?

Travis Bickle is one of the most important characters from modern cinema. He represents the alienated urban angst (of course, in a very inflated manner) which a modern city life brings with it.

‘You talkin’ to me?’ remains one of the most famous movie lines ever. In fact, after seeing De Niro (playing Travis) practising the legendary line in front of the mirror, I went up to my mirror to do the same, sans the pistol and the contraption on my body. Later, I started dropping in that line in every interaction with my friends. It was the coolest line ever written. I was at an impressionable age. But, 30 years on, it remains one of the coolest line. Certain magazine rates it amongst Top 10 movie lines ever.

The creators of this movie history were Paul Schrader, the writer; Martin Scorsese, the director and Robert DeNiro, the great actor along with many others. They named it Taxi Driver and it was released in 1976, the year when my mother would’ve started driving me in a perambulator. I was born in the same year.

Apart from uttering these cool self-indulgent lines, Travis, a cabbie in New York maintains a Diary in which he documents his life and street life of NYC. He doesn’t like what he sees and feels and puts it across in frustrated words and apart from many other excellent aspects, this remains the best part of the movie, for me. Actually, his anger sums up the purpose of the movie and also explains the minor mental instability of the character. Paul Schrader has done wonders with the screenplay. An excerpt from Travis’s Diary:

"Thank God for the rain...which has helped wash away the garbage and trash off the sidewalks. I'm working long hours now: in the afternoon too : sometimes : in the morning. Six days a week, sometimes seven days a week. It's a long hustle, but it keeps me real busy. I can take in a week, sometimes more when I do if off the meter.

All the animals come out at night.Whores, skunks, pussies, buggers, queens, fairies, dopers, junkies. Sick, venal. Someday a real rain will come and wash this scum off the streets. I go all over. I take people to the Bronx, Brooklyn, to Harlem. I don't care. Don't make no difference to me."

Or , this:

"Twelve hours of work, and I still can't sleep. Damn! The days go on and on. They don't end. All my life needed was a sense of someplace to go. I don't believe that one should devote his life to morbid self-attention. I believe that someone should become a person like other people."

For the full screenplay, you can go over here.

Why am I writing on Taxi Driver is because the other day, a friend sent me a link to another movie. It’s a German porn flick trying to pass as an educational material or the other way around. I really don’t know as I haven’t seen it. It’s called Karlekens Sprak and it figures in Bickle's life.

So, Travis likes this girl called Betsy (played by Cybill Shepherd) and wants to take her to a movie and she agrees. So he takes her to this porno and she gets disgusted within 15 minutes to leave the theater and him. Travis is genuinely unable to understand her. The sequence is quiet funny and goes on another step to establish the mental set-up of the character. Apart from the gore and morbidity which it is famous for, the flick has some funny moments too.

Thanks for the link, Atish!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Paperback Revolution

While the year began on a very shameful note here in Mumbai, there in Kochi, Pune, Patna and other unreported places, I began it by reading a little story on the history of ‘Penguin Books’ and ‘paperbacks’. It’s charming, concerns books and deserves to be narrated here.

Penguin Books has this series called Pocket Penguins, 70 and on a recent visit to Landmark, the gigantic bookstore in a mega-gigantic mall, I picked up some good ones from the series. Scott Fitzgerald, Nabokov, Woolf, Steinbeck and Hunter Thompson. Wanting to read, the beautiful story called ‘The Breakfast’ by Steinbeck, I opened up the book to find this story on the first page.

In 1935 if you wanted to read a good book, you needed either a lot of money or a library card. Cheap paperbacks were available, but their poor production generally mirrored the quality between the covers. One weekend that year, Allen Lane, Managing Director of The Bodley Head, having spent the weekend visiting Agatha Christie, found himself on a platform at Exeter station trying to find something to read for his journey back to London. He was appalled by the quality of the material he had to choose from. Everything that Allen Lane achieved from that day until his death in 1970 was based on a passionate belief in the existence of ‘a vast reading public for intelligent books at a low price’.

The result of his momentous vision was the birth not only of Penguin, but of the ‘paperback revolution’. Quality writing became available for the price of a packet of cigarettes, literature became a mass medium for the first time, a nation of book borrowers became a nation of book-buyers – and the very concept of book publishing was changed forever. Those founding principles – of quality and value, with an overarching belief in the fundamental importance of reading – have guided everything the company has done since 1935. Sir Allen Lane’s pioneering spirit is still very much alive at Penguin in 2005. Here’s to the next 70 years!

As is evident from this tale, the great publishing house came out with this series to commemorate 70 years of publication, in 2005. The first 20 books published by Penguin included titles like ‘A Farewell to Arms’ by Hemingway and ‘The Informer’ by Liam O’Flaherty.

Thank you Mr. Lane!