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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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In-Theater Alert: “Some Like It Hot” (1959)

One of my all-time favorite classic movies is showing this weekend, very likely at a theater near you!

 

Some-Like-It-Hot_LthumbIt’s Billy Wilder’s 1959 farce Some Like It Hot, starring Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon as a pair of Chicago musicians who accidentally witness the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and are forced to go on the run in disguise with an all-girl band, whose lead singer just happens to be Marilyn Monroe at her most adorable.

This is probably Wilder’s most direct tribute to his mentor and idol, Ernst Lubitsch, with its cross-dressing, mistaken identities, and unexpectedly sweet romance, all with a frisson of danger, both emotional and physical.

This is a special presentation by Turner Classic Movies (TCM) through Fathom Events, which means that it may be livestreaming to a movie theater near you so you can see it as it was meant to be seen — on a big screen with a hysterically laughing audience.

The two Fathom Events shows are this Sunday 6/11 and Wednesday 6/14, so I’ll be doing my usual spoiler-filled essay on Saturday 6/17. See you then!

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)

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Late Winter Sunset

Late_Winter_Sunset

From my walk yesterday.