Category Archives: Holidays

Spring, The Season of Love

A Purrfect Love Story

By two_kittehs (Picture by: cvf)

Happy Gudi Padwa, the first day of spring and the New Year. Its time to welcome spring and  the new year by celebrating love. Starting the new year in spring makes much more sense than the dead of winter, isn’t it?

And now a celebration of love.

I heard this today, from the recently released Phillauri. I think I am in love. The very last lines, slay me.

 Tere bin saas be kaanch si kaate re,
Zindagi raakh si laage re


Translation: Without you , every breath cuts like glass
Life feels like ashes.

ETA: Check out Diljit Dosanjh, you won’t be sorry, Anushka Sharma, too looks radiant.

Holiday Movie Club: “The Shop Around the Corner” (1940)

poster-shop-around-the-corner-the_01Streaming Alert: If you’re a cable TV subscriber, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) should have this available for streaming on their WatchTCM website and app for at least another couple of weeks.

It’s Christmas Eve, so Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it, and Happy New Year to those who don’t (we can all agree that the year ends on December 31st, right?) This holiday film is one of my all-time favorites, though it’s a “Christmas movie” in the same way that, say, Die Hard (1988) is a “Christmas movie,” because it takes place during that season while not having anything to do with Santa Claus or Jesus or “the magic of the season.” The Shop Around the Corner (1940) involves two parallel stories about the beginning of one romantic relationship and the painful end of another, which lends it that air of melancholy that all of the best Christmas movies have. We can appreciate the happy ending our main characters have because we know the potentially sad ending years down the road.

We start with Ernst Lubitsch, one of the few directors in classic Hollywood who was so well-known, he had his own tagline: “the Lubitsch touch.” Of the films he made under the censorship regime of the Production Code, this is one of the best examplars of how he was allowed to handle themes that were supposed to be strictly forbidden (like suicide and adultery) because the censors trusted him to use his “touch” to make the audience empathize with the characters rather than using the themes for cheap sensationalism.

(For a glimpse of what Lubitsch was capable of under less restrictive censorship, take a look at one of his greatest films, Trouble in Paradise (1933), covered by yours truly over at my Pre-Code films blog.)

This film was very personal for Lubitsch because the character of Mr. Matuschek (played by Frank Morgan in probably his best performance) was partially based on Lubitsch’s own father, who was a similarly tyrannical shop owner in Berlin while Lubitsch was growing up — the young Ernst even worked at his father’s store as a teenager. It was based on a Hungarian play about a perfume shop and adapted by one of Lubitsch’s regular screenwriters, the great Samson Raphaelson. It has been adapted several times as a film (including In the Good Old Summertime (1949) and You’ve Got Mail (1998)) and even a Broadway show (She Loves Me), but none of the remakes has ever equalled this simple story of Matuschek and Company, “just around the corner from Andrassy Street – on Balta Street, in Budapest, Hungary.”

Read the rest of this entry

Three Reasons to Celebrate the 5th of September

1. Labor Day, to truly celebrate Labor Day government policies should not favor businesses that treat workers like expendable widgets.  This more than any other factor has contributed to the rising inequality.  What is good for Wall Street has not been good for Main Street.

2. Ganesh Chaturthi*, It is  start of the 10 day Ganesh celebrations. Bal Gangadhar Tilak, the leader of India’s freedom struggle before Gandhi, is credited with popularizing the annual Ganpati celebration,in the public square aka Sarvajanik Ganesh Utsav. Tilak tapped into the popularity and affection people felt for Ganesha  and harnessed it for grass roots organizing  and public meetings against the British rule. India won its freedom in 1947 but the  Ganesh festival in the public square still endures post independence.

3. Freddie Mercury gets a shooting star named after him on what would have been his 70th birthday. Like a shooting star leaping through the sky he graced our lives with unforgettable music.

*Chaturthi == 4th day of a fortnight. In the Hindu Lunar calendar, each month is made up two fortnights.

Happy 70th Independence Day, India

India is merely a geographical expression. It is no more a single country than the equator.
-Winston Churchill

Despite Churchill’s pronouncement, independent India is seventy years old, while her old rulers struggle to hold onto their not so united kingdom. On August 15, 1947, India achieved its independence from the oh so benevolent British rule, whose legacy involved mass death by starvation. One of the worst famines to strike British India was the Bengal famine of 1943.  While volunteer army recruits from India were dying by the thousands for Winnie’s King and country, his decisions led to millions of avoidable Indian deaths.

Home to every religion in the world and twenty-two official languages; India’s amazing linguistic and religious diversity is its strength. This diversity is reflected in Indian art, be it Hindustani classical music or popular Hindi cinema. India’s struggles are many and it still has a long way to go before it reaches its full potential, but those are topics for another day.

But today I want to celebrate this milestone by celebrating India’s unity in diversity. First broadcast on 15 August 1988 on Doordarshan,

 

Mile sur mera tumhara, to sur bane hamara ( when my note (musical) melds with yours, it becomes our note)

Mile Sur Mera Tumhara

Bhimsen Joshi gets its started in Hindi, then we travel the length and breadth of India, from north to south and from east to west, ending in Hindi again. I counted fourteen languages including Hindi.

In the order they appear:

  • Bhimsen Joshi (Hindustani Classical music maestro) sings in Hindi
  • Boatman  in Kashmiri
  • People on the tractor in Punjabi
  • Shabana Azmi  (actor) in Urdu
  • Narendra Hirwani (cricketer) in Sindhi
  • Cast of Tamas, a Doordarshan miniseries on India’s partition  in Hindi/Punjabi
  • Balamurali Krishna (Carnatic music maestro) in Tamil (In his audience I could identify Kamal Hassan, Venkatraghavan and Meenakshi Seshadri)
  • Prakash Padukone (Badminton player) in Kannada
  • Couple in Telugu
  • Man on the elephant in Malayalam
  • Mrinal Sen (Film director), Arun lal(Cricketer)  etc getting out of a train in Bengali
  • Assamese singer
  • North eastern dancers (with no voiceovers)
  • Oriya couple
  • Mario Miranda (Cartoonist/illustrator)  in Goa (again no voiceovers)
  • Mallika Sarabhai (Dancer) in Gujarati
  • Tanuja (Actor)  in Marathi

Again we end in Hindi

we see

  • Waheeda Rehman (Actor)
  • Hema Malini (Actor)
  • Sharmila Tagore (Actor)
  • Lata Mangeshkar (Singer), then the voice behind the women
  • Amitabh, Jeetendra and Mithun  (all actors)

Ends in refrain of the Indian national anthem

  • I could only identify Syed Kirmani (cricketer)

If you can identify anyone else who I have missed, let me know in the comment section.

Happy Holi

Happy Holi, the festival of colors, that marks the beginning of spring. Holi is the day to let your hair down and have some fun playing with colors, drinking bhang and eating puranpoli.  A day when adults have the social sanction to act like kids again. Holi is also the favorite of Hindi movie makers, there seem to be more Holi songs in Hindi movies than that of any of other holiday. Here are some of my favorites.

Lahu Munh Lag Gaya from the 2013 Ramleela:  What’s better than seeing Ranveer Singh in a song? Seeing him dance!

Holi Ke Din Dil Khil Jate Hai : Hearts blossom on Holi, from Sholay (Embers). This star studded mid 70s feature directed by Ramesh Sippy,  rewrote the rules about how Hindi movies were made. It’s a Western with a masala twist and holds up pretty well after all these years. The look Amitabh’s character gives Jaya’s characters dressed in widow’s whites, watching the festivities from afar just slays me.

Arre Jare Natkhat  Na Chule Mera Gunghat from Navrang (Nine Colors) made in 1959.  Sandhya’s performance, playing both the male and female parts, makes me wish that I could dance like her.

 

There are many more which I haven’t included. If you have any suggestions, or  other favorites that I have missed, leave it in the comments.

Round Up Of 2015 and A Happy New Year

Happy New Year

By two_kittehs

Looking at my archives from last year I realize that I blogged about India a lot more than I had done in the previous years. My interest in India’s colonial history and the period preceding that was piqued by Shashi Tharoor’s spirited case for reparations from Britain. That initial spark led to my renewed interest in Hindi movies and music from India as well.

I have also been following the latest political news from India a lot more closely than before, especially since  Mr. Modi became its Prime Minister. Realizing with growing alarm that he and his bhakts (devotees) are trying to change the very idea of India, I watch the changes with dread and disgust from afar. Sectarian tensions have always been present under the surface in India but the venom the bhakts feel free to spew publicly against those who disagree them is new.

As for domestic politics here in these United States, the less said about it the better. I am paying close attention to the primary races of both parties but don’t have much to add at this point. That might change when the primary ballots are actually cast.

I have been thinking about the direction of the blog for the new year.  I have been wondering whether doing ongoing series and/or features and posting on a regular schedule would be better than what I have been doing so far. I don’t want to kill all spontaneity but I also think that some structure might actually be helpful. Regular features could include movie and TV reviews, recipes, roundup of Punditubbies etc.

Thanks for reading, commenting and following this blog.If you have any suggestions for me I want to hear them.  Much love, from my kittehs and me. Happy New Year!

Best Post : My contribution to Vagabond’s scholar’s Jon Swift Memorial annual round up

Post that got the most clicks : Special thanks to Anne Laurie of Balloon Juice for highlighting this post.

Kitteh that got the most clicks

Merry Christmas

By two_kittehs

Hope your holidays were happy and joyful.

Happy Thanksgiving

By two_kittehs

What’s your plan?

Bihar gives India a Diwali Gift: An In-Depth Analysis of the Assembly Elections

The results of the Bihar Assembly elections are in, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has received quite a drubbing. BJP led alliance has won less than one third (58) of the total seats (243).  Mr. Modi and his handpicked party chief Mr. Amit Shah in their infinite wisdom had made the election all about Mr. Modi. BJP had no  candidate for the chief minister’s post and they had also benched popular Bihari politicians from the BJP from active campaigning while BJP’s opposition coalesced into one group.

Fresh elections became necessary because the incumbent chief minister Mr. Nitish Kumar’s decided to withdraw from the coalition with BJP — he could not stomach Mr Modi as the candidate for PM. Nitish Kumar knew that he could not win the fight alone so he formed an alliance with Lalu Prasad Yadav and the Congress. Lalu as Mr. Prasad is affectionately known took the fight to Modi and his chamchas (rough translation: cronies). Yes, Lalu is  no saint and has a checkered past and few fans in the Indian English language media but he is a fighter and gave as good as he got. His Twitter feed is a hoot. He also had a home field advantage and rhetorically he can run rings around Mr. Modi in Hindi, which is not Mr. Modi’s first language.

Another inexplicable BJP campaign strategy was to berate Biharis and Bihar. If there is  one thing Indians can’t stand is a person from another state coming and giving them lectures and telling them to their face that they are stupid. The Bihari vs. Bahari (outsider) issue got lots of traction. This is BJP’s second loss in the Hindi heartland. BJP stalwarts from the Atal Bihari Vajpayee cabinet like Mr. Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha have been among the biggest critics of these tactics.

Mr. Modi was sworn in as the Prime Minister of India just last year. His party won an outright majority to the lower House of the Indian Parliament. This was the first time in almost thirty years that any party had managed this feat. Mr. Modi ran on an agenda of economic reform and job growth.  BJP also won state assembly elections in Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Haryana shortly after. So why did it all go south for Mr. Modi in such a short time?

The Backdrop to the Recent Elections

Was this drubbing inevitable and how does one explain this in light of the Modi wave of 2014? The answer is simple, the mandate was for economic development, more jobs better infrastructure etc not to enact Sangh hobby horses like banning beef consumption. However, instead of focusing on an agenda of economic development, BJP governments at the state level started enacting bans against consumption and sale of beef. These bans have given a license to bullies to harass those whose livelihood depends on beef. The lynching of a Muslim man in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh is the result same phenomena carried to its logical horrific end.

Then there was the assassination of Prof. M. M. Kalburgi in Karnataka, latest in the string of politically motivated assassinations of the outspoken critics of the version of Hinduism the Sangh champions. The modus operandi of the so called protectors of Hinduism is pretty simple. They try to silence the people who criticize them by calling them names and kill those who won’t be silenced. What do Modi and the BJP have to do with all this?

I blame them for enabling the ugliness and the prejudices that already exists to come to fore and be expressed without fear of any repercussions in  the public square. Just last week BJP spokesperson said this about the beloved and the most popular Indian actor of his generation, Shahrukh Khan

Shah Rukh Khan may live in India but his heart belongs to Pakistan. Although, his films make millions here but he dares call India intolerant.

He then went on to call him a traitor.  All this abuse because Shahrukh Khan added his voice to the chorus of other creative professionals who had expressed concern about the growing intolerance to opposing view points in Modi’s India. However, none else got called a traitor other than Shahrukh.

Amit Shah the head of the BJP had this to say at an election rally in Bihar, said that if his party lost in Bihar,

crackers will be burst in Pakistan.

The toxic ideology of Hindutva and divisive tactics give cover to the reactionaries who perpetrate acts like the assassinating Prof. Kalburgi and give rise to a chilling atmosphere meant to silence the critics of their radical agenda. Many eminent writers were dismayed by this trend that they started returning their Sahitya Akademi (Indian Academy of Arts and Letters) awards to register their protest against what they saw as a climate of rising intolerance. Prof. Kalburgi was a recipient of the prestigious award and the academy was silent about his death for weeks. Many other artists and scientists have also followed suit. So far 36 writers and poets have returned their awards.

The Long View

The only way a country as diverse as India can survive and thrive, is to live and let live.  India is not a monolith and never has been. India has tremendous linguistic (more than 20 major languages spoken) diversity and it has been home to almost every religion practiced in the world. Not just Hinduism and Islam but also Judaism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism, not to mention Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. Also,  there is a lot of regional variation as to how Hinduism is practiced in India. It bears little resemblance to the Hindutva preached by the Sanghis (denizens of the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh or the National Volunteer Corps). Narendra Modi has deep roots in the RSS, he was an RSS pracharak (pracharak: propagandist/evangelist).

The roots of the Hindutva can be traced to back to the days of the British rule. India’s diversity was seen by many as the one of the main reasons why a handful of British could rule a vast subcontinent.  According to this school of thought, the British gained a foothold in India exploiting the differences that already existed.

Indian nationalists in the British era could be broadly divided into two groups,  one that celebrated the diversity as a strength not a weakness, while the other that thought of it as a weakness to be overcome. This group blamed all of India’s erst while troubles on the other and idolized a distant past when their community held the sway. The Congress and India took the first route while the Muslim League took the second, as their respective paths to independence. The ideology of Hindutva which the Sangh subscribes to, is a mirror image of the Muslim League’s ideology.

The Hindutva movement has  more in common with the fascist movements of the early 20th century in Europe rather than ancient India. Starting with their uniform of brown pants, right down to their salute. If you don’t believe me you can read the Sangh’s founding fathers and make up your own mind. The Sangh may don the mantle of the protector of all Hindus, but it is little more than a fascist cult where indoctrination begins early. These self appointed soldiers of Hinduism who presume to speak for all Hindus, take basic tenets that most (but not all) Hindus abide by and then use them as a wedge issue to create division and hatred. Take the issue in the news, consumption of beef. While it is true that many  Hindus don’t eat beef, most don’t care if someone else does. The Sangh’s vision for India is narrow and poorly imagined. They want homogeneity  and have little appreciation of the mosaic that is India. There is more to India than the Sangh’s mantra of, Hindu good and Muslim bad. India’s rich legacy belongs to all Indians, not just these self proclaimed and self righteous appropriators.

So when BJP got its first outright majority at the center it was not surprising that Modi did not rein in the crazies in the party.  In Sangh circles their thinking is not crazy at all but  mainstream. That’s why the election in Bihar was so important because it is going to be extremely difficult for the BJP and RSS brass to dismiss all of Bihar as liberals, pseudo-secularists, Marxists or Pakistan lovers or whatever epithet du jour the Sangh uses to bully those who don’t agree with their outlook.

The Finale

The voters in Bihar have rejected the demagoguery  and for that I am thankful. It’s also a reminder to the Gujarati combine of Modi and Shah that rest of India is not as receptive as their home state of Gujarat to the cause of militant vegetarianism and the paranoid, Muslim baiting version of Hinduism. The mandate Mr. Modi received last year was for economic change, not a green signal to make India a Hindu theocracy based on the tenets cooked up by the Sangh.

This tale has a happy ending. The Modi-Shah combine lost Bihar and the voters of one of India’s poorest states took on the Narakasura* of religious bigotry and won.

Happy Diwali!

*Yesterday was the first day of Diwali, also known as Naraka Chaturdashi, which celebrates Krishna’s victory over the rakshas (demon) Narakasura.

Happy Halloween!

By two_kittehs

Happy Halloween! Other Halloween lols here. What is your favorite scary movie? For me it is a tossup between Exorcist and Psycho. Do you dress up your kittehs for Halloween? I am too scared of bosscat to be so impertinent.