Category Archives: Holidays

Happy Birthday, India

Its been seventy years since India got its independence from the British. Its birth was accompanied by the traumatic cleaving into two of British India and the traumatic loss of the Father of the Nation, Gandhi only five months later. Yet, India under its first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru embraced a democratic and inclusive vision for India. This vision is under serious threat right now, but that is a post for another day.

I am going to celebrate this milestone by blogging about India. The highs, the lows and everything in between, over the next two weeks. I plan to cover movies, science, history, geography of the original melting pot.

I leave you with  national anthem  written by Rabindranath Tagore, performed here by its preeminent and beloved artists, representing India’s tremendous linguistic and religious diversity. First there is an instrumental version, then a vocal one, both arranged by A. R. Rahman, an example of India’s many cultural strands come together to form  a unique whole.  This version is from  2000, many of the performers featured here are no longer with us, like Jagjit  Singh and Bhimsen Joshi.

Jana Gana Mana
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May Day and Maharashtra Day

Happy Birthday 67th Maharashtra. The Sanyukta Maharashtra* Samiti (United Maharashtra Organization) succeeded in their quest for the formation of the state of Maharashtra with Mumbai as its capital. Because many of the leaders of SMS were labor leaders, they chose May 1 to commemorate their victory. It took  a bitter struggle of over five years and the blood of more than a hundred martyrs. The ruling party at the Center under Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru wanted Bombay to be a centrally administered area.  Ramachandra Guha has a more detailed background of the struggle here.

 

Photo Credit: Sameer Markande

Maha== Great

Rashtra==Nation

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?