Category Archives: India

Happy Independence Day, India

India is seventy one and at a crossroads today. Its self image as a secular democracy that embodies liberal values of justice and equality for all are under threat. India’s founding generation gave it a Constitution that enshrined  these secular and liberal democratic values. The values of the current party in power are antithetical to that vision. They worship the assassins of Mahatma Gandhi and blame everything that ails India in 2018 on its first first Prime Minister, Nehru. But that is a post for another day. Today I want to pay homage to India’s founding document.

Writing the constitution was a collaborative effort that took over five years. The men and women who were a part of that entire process struggled with what a just and good government of the people, by the people and for the people would look like. They tackled the thorny issues of gender equity, religious freedom, untouchablity, language, land reforms and even the form of the government.

Although the majority of the members of the Constituent Assembly were from the Indian National Congress, the Chairman of the drafting committee of the constitution, Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar was not a member and in fact was an opponent of many of its policies and had locked horns with Gandhi on more than one occasion. Can you imagine that happening today? A member of the opposition being given such a monuemental responsibility because he was the best person for the job?

If you are interested in watching how the most populous democracy gave itself a constitution  you should watch Samvidhaan, a ten part miniseries available for streaming from Rajyasabha TV made by the veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal.

The authors of the founding document gave India a constitution based on respect for all irrespective of their caste, creed, gender or religion. This is especially remarkable considering the ugly and wrenching experience of the partition that tore the former British India into two as the price of independence.

The title track echoes the spirit of Samvidhaan as it blends together Saare Jahan Se Accha (Best in the World) by Iqbal and Bankim Chandra’s Vande Mataram (I bow before  thee mother(land)) and Tagore’s Jana Gana Mana which is India’s national anthem.

Part One

 

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Caturday Cat thinks He is God

Yogi_Bhagwan_SG

 

Truth be told, unlike Gaitonde, the mob boss brilliantly played by Nawzuddin Siddiqui in Netflix’s original series, Sacred Games, boss cat thinks he is God. at all times, not just some of the time. So far I have progressed to 5 episodes of Sacred Games.

Ashwathama

Halahala

Atapi Vatapi

Brahmahatya

Sarama

I sense a theme of death and immortality going on here. More on the Games, later after I have finished watching the remaining three episodes. Are you watching it?

* Translation: Sometimes I think, I am God.

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

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.

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.

A New Low For the Rule of Law

Lawyers or people dressed as lawyers attacked the Jawaharlal Nehru University student  Kanhaiya Kumar in court and manhandled him before his court appearance.  First they tell you what to eat, then they tell you what to think, if you don’t comply they beat you up and jail you on spurious charges. This is happening in India’s capital Delhi. This is what Delhi’s police commissioner had to say about yesterday’s scuffle.

There are allegations that certain press reporters, and some students belonging to JNU, were roughed up. We are looking into it. Excesses were committed from all sides, but they have been extremely minor in nature. To my knowledge, nobody has received serious injuries. They are more in the shape of scuffles,”

Perhaps it is time to change India’s motto from Satyameva Jayate (Truth alone Wins)  to Ham Satya nahin Sahen Kar Sakte ( We can’t handle the truth).

This JNU fracas is the latest in ongoing effort by RSS-BJP combine to discredit the left leaning student organizations and its leaders in India’s institutes of higher learning and install its own stooges wherever possible. Its the latest in the trend that started at Indian Institute of Technology-Madras when a student organization critical of Mr. Modi was banned, or the overtly political appointment of  BJP stooge and a small time actor, Gajendra Chauhan to head India’s premier creative institute or the targeting of student leader Rohith Vemula, which lead to his suicide, earlier this year.

Has the Modi Sarkar (government) declared a war against it students?

 

Freedom of Speech Under Assault in India

Credit : Telegraph Calcutta

The campus of the Jawaharlal Nehru University is roiled with protests. Protests against the arrest of student leader Kanhaiya Kumar who has been charged with sedition for  a speech in which he criticized Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh, the parent organization of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party,

They are the ones who burnt the Tricolour. They are followers of Savarkar who apologised to the British.

They were British stooges. I dare them to file a defamation case against me. I say that the RSS’s history is of siding with the British. These traitors today are distributing certificates of nationalism.

 

Full translated text of the speech here.

The photograph above is outside the court house complex of Patiala House, eye witness testimony by Telegraph’s journalist here. A BJP state legislator from Delhi,  has been caught on camera as one of the perpetrators in the assault photographed above. The person on the ground was later identified as  Ameeque Jamai of the Communist Party of India. Several journalists were also attacked.

O P Sharma, Patiala House Courts, JNU.

Credit: Indian Express

More photos here.

A Quick Review of Bajirao Mastani

  • The musical score is sublime (jukebox 1 and  jukebox 2)
  • Best Number: Gajanana (entire song)
  • Most Boring Number : Mohe Rang Do Lal, even Bajirao looks like he is going to fall asleep at any moment.
  • Most relatable character : It has to be Priyanka Chopra’s Kashibai.
  • Best Dressed : Kashibai, I loved her traditional Marathi outfits, from the nose-pins to the nine-yard sarees to the traditional khopa, or the braided bun.
  • Character that defies Credulity: Mastani, she was drowning in a sea of fabric and seemed weighed down by the jewelry, especially the nose rings. You would die in Pune in summer (90s in shade, if you are lucky)  if you wore all those layers.  Also, her pedantic lectures about Ishq (romantic love) to her parents, Bajirao’s terrifying mother and Chattrapati Shahu  defy both common sense and credulity.
  • Dialog seems at times overwrought and overdone, see the point above.
  • Hottest scene: Kashibai sneaking up on Bajirao in the bath. (around 0.56 in the Albela Sajan video)
  • A paragraph about where Bajirao fits in the history (chronologically and in terms of importance) of India would have been useful either at the beginning and/or the end of the movie. A  prologue and/or an epilogue, if you will.
  • All in all, despite some missteps Sanjay Leela Bhansali manages to hit many high notes.  The main love story is not as riveting as  it could have been, I found it hard to root for Bajirao and Mastani.   However the resulting  fallout and conflict with orthodox religious hierarchy of Pune and Bajirao’s own family is believable and depressing familiar. Even today an interfaith  match like Bajirao Mastani wouldn’t go down too well among most Indian families.

Musical Score : A

Dialog : B-

Overall : B +

I will expand on these points in my upcoming posts. Until then I leave you with a poster of Bajirao Mastani starring my kittehs. As always questions and comments are welcome.

By two_kittehs ( Picture by: two_kittehs)

Hosted by imgur.com

Pinga From the Upcoming Movie Bajirao Mastani is A Hot Mess

After the energetic Gajanana and the visually decadent Deewani Mastani, two songs from Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s upcoming movie Bajirao Mastani, I was expecting a hat trick from SLB. However, the much hyped dance-off between the two female leads is a dud.  It didn’t float my boat. Here in no particular order is a list of my critiques.

1. If two women love the same man, the last thing they want to do is dance together. This premise stretched credulity even the first time Bhansali attempted it in Devdas.

2. Whatever this dance is, it is not pinga.  (pinga ghalene : to spin around)

3. Lame choreography is lame, mishmash of the dancing styles doesn’t quite gel.

6. Married Marathi women don’t put sindoor in the hair part. Research fail.

7. Where is the Gauri? Isn’t this supposed to be a Gauri celebration? Which is presumably why these women are dancing in the first place. This to me looks like a Gauri or Mangla-Gauri jagran or all nighter, which is primarily a huge sleepover party for women where they get together, gossip, sing songs, dance etc.  This is usually an female affair, by women and for women, and men are not welcome.

8. Plaigarism alert, Bhansali needs to credit V. Shantaram.

9. Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra have nothing on goddess Madhuri when it comes to dancing abilities.

10. Is it my imagination or does the pattern on this dance floor resemble the one in Chandramukhi’s parlor? SLB we expect better from you, stop being so repetitive.

 

Deepika Padukone

Deepika and Priyanka pretending to put sindoor in their hair part in a still from Pinga (Credit :NDTV)

Grade: C-