India Remembered: Review

‘India Remembered’ gives us a glimpse into the moments just before the new nation was born, all through the eyes of a young eighteen years old teenager, none other than Lady Pamela, the daughter of the last Viceroy and first Governor General of India, Lord Mountbatten. Illustrated with rare photographs of the Mountbatten family with Indian leaders, Lady Pamela provides us a first hand account of the behind the scenes happenings of this important family, who adopted India and its people as their own, unconditionally and as part of their larger personal mission. Edwina, coming out of her wild days and tragedies, found her life’s work here, and her husband succeeded in a most difficult endeavour, a success subsequently marred by tragic events. The Mountbatttens do not turn away with disdain at the poverty and sometimes horrifying conditions of the people around. They don’t make fun of its problems, or look down on its people. Rather, they take up the challenge to...
Read More

Barfi! movie review

A hodge podge of a movie, the story of Barfi! is nothing but cliches served in a new location. Keeping the two lead characters physically challenged serves to get audience sympathy, and one wonders if the producers wished to make a silent movie. The antics of the hero appear to be never ending and stretch on till the end, and only the locations and visuals of Darjeeling play the redeeming role. Looking at the plot, it seems as if the writer could not make up his mind on the resolution. But it had to be some kind of a ‘matching of sentiments’ — in the sense that the audience expectations were not to be belied. One never gets to know the physically challenged characters in detail — how close to ‘normal’ are they in their intellectual faculties — what we see is their outward show and antics, and romance.  There is some clever use of situations though. The story also remains incomplete...
Read More

Short and Sweet plays

The second edition of Short + Sweet Mumbai has just concluded, and the second day of the Gala Final had a curious mix of 10 minute plays. The only criteria to make it a short play here is the strict duration of 10 minutes. A standard play usually runs from anything between 1 to 2 hrs in length, so it is no mean challenge to squeeze your story in the time it may take you to switch off and boot your PC. Here is a brief review of the second day’s plays and what went on. Applause — Silly Point Productions The usual team of this production came up with an entertaining concept — the acceptable and outrageous behavior of the audience during a play. Good enough for a few laughs, but the subtlety of humor could have made it even better. Born Lucky — Akvarious Productions Better stuff was expected from a team known to have staged full length, large scale plays of some...
Read More

Manto stories: Some memories

The first time I came across Manto‘s name was in a story written about his last dying days by Krishna Chandar. The book came from an old trunk, and the story revolved around his alcoholism and how Manto was dying, slowly. Manto mar raha hai. It also spoke of Toba Teksingh. It was thus with some curiosity that I borrowed a collection of his short stories when I was in either 9th or 10th grade. The collection opened with ‘Khol Do‘ (‘Open It’). This was the story they said was the most controversial of his works. So I began reading, and looked out for anything I thought could be so. Only the last paragraph appeared to have anything resembling an objectionable scene. But we had seen worse graphics in movies. The description of the opening of the girl’s salwar cord drenched in blood however had a “rawness” or “adultness” (to invent a new word!) to it, and impressed the young mind,...
Read More

Why Khajuraho temples are overrated

Artistic portrayal of love and belonging in Indian religious sculpture The small village of Khajuraho is located near the historical city of Jhansi, and boasts of its own small airport. A declared protected monument of Unesco, it is part of the popular culture and rhetoric. Talk about sex and its repression in modern India, and the first argument to fly across will contain references to the imagery on this group of temples. No one however knows for sure the purpose of this public display of kamasutra in a religious place. In the heat of the topic and the arguments, the artistic side is often neglected. Let’s cool down and put on the artistic goggles. The artistic and sculptural value of these erotic poses is extremely poor. The shapes of men hovering over, with lopsided proportions and huge heads, look monstrous. Even the ones that are beyond the reach of vandalising attacks. Compare these with the pic shown alongside. There is beauty here shining...
Read More

Shelley’s Poem – The Flower that Smiles Today

I was in my high school when I came across this famous poem by P.B. Shelley. It left some impression on me, and made my adolescent gloomy outlook on life even darker! Recently I revisited the verse with fresh eyes, and uplifted spirits, and saw the silver linings for the first time – that we could learn from the flowers. I guess the poet himself felt the same way, and the verse tapers appears to taper off on an optimistic note, albeit with gravity –  enjoy the delights, then wake up to weep. The poem begins with an analogy — a very terse statement. The flower that smiles today, tomorrow dies. It goes on to point out the transitory, ephemeral nature of the delights of this world, all so very tempting but momentary flashes of pleasure. And if pleasures are such, then equally so are even the higher value of life – love, friendship, virtue too, all beset by an inbuilt mortality.  Soon, an optimistic note takes over. Let us...
Read More

Play – ‘Love on the brink’

Love on the brink is a tragi-comedy about three people and their quest for love, happiness and success in life. Overcoming adversities and trials to reach adulthood in varying degrees of material wealth and comfort, two school friends meet after a long gap at a sea promenade. Can love, with all its celebrated powers, breathe new life and change their prospects? Can it help a rich married couple survive divorce and live happily? These are some of the major questions of life and relationships explored in Primetime Theatre’s adaptation of Murray Schisgal’s script. Sudipto Bandopadhyay <‘Bandy’, played by Joy Sengupta>, orphaned in childhood and jobless for years, is about to take the plunge into the sea when his old school friend Pankaj Chopra <‘Chops’, Kumud Mishra>, now a rich and successful stock broker, pulls him back. Fifteen years have changed their fortunes for better and worse, and they go on to share their childhood trauma and career paths. Bandy, the...
Read More

Manto’s Jeb Katara and Hatak

Mujeeb Khan has re-instated Manto back to where he belonged – Mumbai. The two plays take us admirably through the underbelly world of the city, without succumbing to stereotypes. This year is Manto’s 100th anniversary. Jeb Katara (pick-pocketeer) gives a bizarre twist to sincere intentions amidst the challenges of living a worthy life. So does Hatak (Sugandhi), which reveals human aspirations that refuse to die in the grim realities of a red light district. Manto’s world as depicted in the two short skits is the omnipotent present. His morality has a fixed point – it recognises the ever-struggling human desires against the pull of the circumstances. His characters – Kashi, Sugandhi – are weak, if only because they are, like everyone else, answerable to their conscience. While some performances leave room to be filled, the two plays reveal a writer’s encounter with realities that can disturb when brought to the fore. Performance: At SAISA, Bandra (West) Date: May 13, 2012 ...
Read More

The Good Doctor

Review of play ‘The Good Doctor’ Watching a classic master’s play is like listening to a soul stirring melody, an experience that moulds the recipient’s sensibilities toward what is most basic and human. Neil Simon’s ‘The Good Doctor’, based upon Anton Chekhov’s short stories (Chekhov was trained as a doctor), is one such enthralling experience. Directed by Salim Ghouse, the play is an ensemble of six short pieces that entertain and ennoble with their directness and focus on human frailties, eccentricities and simpleminded wisdom. Human frailties The first piece, ‘Sneeze’ (based on ‘The Death of a Government Clerk’ by Chekhov), is a tragic-comedy of a small officer, Ivan (Salim Ghouse), who sits in a theatre gazing through the opera glass, “at the acme of bliss”, as Chekhov writes in the original story. What brings him down from bliss to ruin in a matter of two days is his loud sneeze that accidently spatters the bald head of a high ranking official from a...
Read More

Rafta Rafta

Review of play Rafta Rafta. An overbearing father and mother from Punjab, and their band of relatives and friends go berserk on the son’s marriage, ignorantly strangulating the married couple’s own new, private life, to the extent that the latter can’t even…..consummate their marriage. Interesting facts and stories emerge out of closet from this absurd situation, that keep the audience glued to the proceedings in this Akvarious production. The trouble begins on the wedding day itself, when the father throws his wit and weight around, and picks up a fight with the son. The disagreements between the two however run much deeper. A week later, things do not change, and the news of dry chemistry between the two leaks out. It is then time to bring out the issues, stories, attachments and sentiments that define the Indian family. Is it mamma’s love and daddy’s affection that has spoiled the boy and the girl? Is it physiological? Will a man-to-man chat work? Is...
Read More