About the dharma of Eklavya

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It is tad bit late to write about Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s movie Eklavya, Since it is one of the well made movies of the year, I thought I should express my views on it on my blog. Vidhu belongs to that category of directors who know the language of celluloid very well and can very ably transform human emotions into picture perfect frames. Cinematography has been at its peak in all of his movies. Whether it is Parinda, 1942 – A love story, Kareeb, Mission Kashmir or his latest offering Eklavya, camera steals the show. This holds true even for the Munnabhai series and Parineeta – the films produced by his production company.

Eklavya is a dramatic thriller telling the story of a royal guard Eklavya (Amitabh Bachchan) whose family has been protecting the dynasty of Devigarh for the nine generations. Guarding the family of Rana Jayavardhan (Boman Irani) is the dharma of Eklavya; and his dharma is the matter of supreme importance for him. Prince Harshavardhan (Saif Ali Khan) returns from London to the kingdom when the Queen mother Suhasini Devi (Sharmila Tagore) dies. His sister Nandini (Raima Sen) and his childhood love Rajjo (Vidya Balan) are very happy to see him back. As the funeral rituals come to an end, Rajjo hands over a secret letter written by the late Queen to the prince which reveals a secret of the royal family. Through the letter the prince learns that, after his parents got married, the the king’s impotency has left the family with no heir. To pray for heir, the Queen had been to the Ganges for a yagna (the holy ritual). The prince who was born later was believed to be the god-gift of the yagna. But the truth was different. The prince learns from the letter that Eklavya was the real father of Prince Harshavardhan and it was kept under secrecy as per the yagna dharma. Eklavya and the Queen had taken oath to keep this truth between them forever. For Eklavya keeping this promise was dharma. For the queen, revealing the truth to prince was a way of following dharma, as she felt that the prince has the right to know his real father.

The story takes twists and turns when Rana, king’s brother Jyothiwardhan (Jackie Shroff) , and his nephew Udaywardhan (Jimmy Shergil) hatch a conspiracy. They plan a big conspiracy to murder the royal guard, but eventually this plan leads to the killings of Jyothiwardhan and Udaywardhan. With all the villains dead the focus of the story shifts towards the main theme of the film –  the relationships and the concept of dharma. When Eklavya learns that the murder of Rana was a planned act by the prince, he decides to do his duty; that is to kill the prince – his own son. The prince says it was his dharma to murder Rana and Dharma who he knows are the murderers of his father, the king. The prince says dharma is originated from ones mind, soul and heart; not from a rule of scripts.

The story mainly revolves around the relationship between Eklavya and the prince. The royal family, which has lost all its powers post independence, is left with only sobriquets and palace.  Pannalal Chohaar (Sanjay Dutt) resembles that downtrodden class who have been oppressed by the royal family in Rana’s regime and are using democracy to claim dignity, We also see them avenging the royal family for their inhuman acts. In spite of his hatred towards the Ranas, Chohaar has a great deal of respect for Eklavya. This character comes across as a very contemporary, unlike Rana who we see living in the glorious past.

It is wonderful to see how beautifully this film talks about dharma and at the same time presents itself as an edge-of-the-seat thriller. Vidhu has taken utmost care in the developing the story which has its roots in mythology and unfolds in a contemporary set-up. The charactor of Eklavya is endearing.Jyothiwardhan and his son resemble the characters of Shakespearean plays with their viciousness. Amitabh is excellent as the protagonist, Saif brings a rare firmness to the character. It is a welcome change to see him in a film like this..

The Cinematography by Nataraja Subramanian is excellent. The cinematographer of Parineeta has gone few steps further in this film to create a mesmerising world. Music by Shantanu Moitra is good as always, reminds you of the good old time when film music was melodious. Editing by Raviraju is very brisk and effecient. The skillful editing, the cinematography and well choreographed action sequences make some of the scenes highlights of the film.

Vidhu, who was once nominated for the Academy awards for his short film An Encounter with the Faces, has once again given a beautiful film. Watch out for this man, he could be the one who will take Indian films to the international market.

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The Metamorphosis and Kafka

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Franz Kafka (1883-1924)

It was always puzzling to see how different people interpreted Franz Kafka’s work. Some writers would find him absurd, some analyst would call him a communist, while others consider him as a great philosopher of our time. The other day, I was searching the internet for some information on a Kannada playwright Samsa. The search took me to some other page which contained the excerpts of the Franz Kafka’s novel The Metamorphosis. The only reason for me landing on that page was simply this. The protagonist’s name in this novel was Samsa Gregor.

Reading about the critical acclaims novel received made me interested in the book. Although not a fan of e-books, I decided  give thios novel a try I must say it was worth it. This is a short novel which kept me glued till the end. The novel has a very unusual plot. This is a story of a bachelor travel executive who gets up from sleep one fine day to discover that he has been transformed into a vermin (a roach to be precise). Though his thinking capacities are still intact, his new body makes it extremely difficult for him to move around. Samsa Gregor – whose body is mutated – was a very hard working man and a family person who loved spending time with his old parents and listening his teenage sister play violin. His work had made him a busy man who spent most of his time roaming from one place to another. Because of his hard work he could pay back the father’s debts.He was also planning to send his sister to a music institution to specialize in violin. He was a very responsible man in every sense. But the metamorphosis took place all of sudden, literally overnight.

Initially, his plight leaves his family in a deep sorrow. His parents are shocked to see him crawl in his room. The chief clerk of his office who comes to ask about Samsa’s absence returns after having a kind of heated arguments with him. Later, Samsa’s sister Grete takes courage to come into his room and give him some food. It becomes a routine for her to come and give him his food.They have stopped talking to each other now, but the routine of giving him food somehow continues. It could be because of the reason that Samsa thinks attempting to talk to her might scare her away. Whenever she enters the room he runs under the couch thinking that his looks may make her feel embarassed. Gradually, we see Samsa being treated like an animal. The dark room becomes his world. Most of the time either he sleeping or crawling the walls and ceiling of his room and sometimes listening to the murmuring of hes fellow family members. The responsibility of overseeing the family is slowly shifted to Samsa’s sister now. His father who is retired, now thinks about taking up a job again. His mother also starts working. They decide a portion of their flat on rent to the tenants thinking that it will help them. The tenants are very rude to the family. Samsa hears all these changes from his room with a grave silence. This abstract story hides a very deep philosophical meaning in it. From the concept of metamorphosis to the the characters, Kafka narrates everything in the language of metaphors.

What is metamorphosis in real sense? The one which we see in Gregor is a physical one. What about the one which takes place in the lives of Samsa’s sister and his parents? The relationships play vital role in this novel, especially the relationship the siblings share. We can see the change in her attitude towards him,. The metamorphosis is actually about the transformation of Grete from a girl to a woman. Initially it was her who shed tears for Samsa; and it was her who brought food into his room. But we see her coming to a decision that Samsa is mere an animal now and in order to bring peace to their family they should get rid of it (Samsa). This shows the completion of the metamorphosis in Grete.
As I said earlier this story can be interpreted into many themes. Many themes like loneliness, the attitudes towards those who are different, materialistic attitude or Freudian psychological themes can be derived from this novella. This novella makes you think about your life; most importantly about the goal of your life. People recognize you and treat you well for the works you do. What will happen if you were to become a vermin one day like it happened to Samsa? Think!

(Here is a free e-book of ‘The Metamorphosis’ – courtesy Project Gutenberg. This is the image of the original novel in German.)

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Remembering Tejaswi

Tejaswi

ಪೂರ್ಣಚಂದ್ರ ತೇಜಸ್ವಿ

Today afternoon when I got up from sleep, the clock was showing two thirty. I usually rise bit late after working whole night in the office. But today I don’t know why I got up early. I started surfing the TV channels for next few minutes. In an hour or so, I happened to see an interview of Poornachandra Tejaswi in E-TV. I threw the remote aside and started watching my favourite writer speak. As most of the people know, Tejaswi does not come out and give interviews to media. So it was a delight to see him on TV. I came to know that the interview was a repeat telecast from the archives. Jayanth Kaykini, an exceptional Kannada short story writer interviewed Tejaswi.

In the middle of the interview a flash news appeared: Tejaswi passed away in Mudigere due to heart attack. It came as a shocking news. The person who was shown discussing his life and body of work on TV is not with us anymore. I turned to other Kannada channels; TV9 , Udaya news and Chandana to confirm the news. It was true. Kannada writers, politicians and eminent personalities expressed their sadness on TV. Everyone shared a thought that Tejaswi’s death is a big loss to Kannada literature. It was strange that my wall clock had stopped working at 2:30 pm, exactly the time of his death, perhaps indicating the end of an era.

He has always been my favorite writer. I remember my school days, when I read his book about UFOs. I was so fascinated by his writing that it made me read more books about extra terrestrial, space science and astronomy.  His book ‘Karvalo’ is my all time favorite. The vivid picture of Western Ghats that he paints in this novel is beautiful. His novel ‘Jugari cross’ is a superb thriller depicting the invisible chains of underworld mafia surrounding the tranquil forest area of Western Ghats. ‘Chidambara Rahasya’ is another enjoyable novel that deals with many social issues of that region.

Tejaswi’s short stories became a bench mark for the future writers in Kannada. ‘Abachurina post office’, ‘ Tabarana kathe’ ‘Kirigoorina gayyaligalu’ and ‘ Kubi maththu iyaala’ are milestones in the Kannada literary field. I remember a Kannada lecturer of mine, who while explaining the character of  Tabara from one of Tejaswi’s short stories could not resist himself from shedding tears. That is the depth of characterization in his stories. Some of his works were adapted for cinema and received critical acclaim.

His love for nature is very evident in his works. Whether it is bird-photography or his writings on wild life,  we can see his extensive research and decades of experience. He loved the silent life the jungles of Western Ghats offered. As he rightly said in his interview, jungle becomes alive when we surrender to it by our silence. We should  also remember that his father Kuvempu was also a nature lover. His epic novels and poetry talked about nature in great lengths. While in his writings we see jungle as a divine entities, sort of protecting human beings, his son’s writing was more pragmatic.Tejaswi sensed that these jungles are in the need of protection by man and not vice versa.

Tejaswi’s writings on jungle and wildlife is more than just an observation at the greenery. With an integral scientific temper and a sense of inquiry his writings goes beyond the boundaries of superficial observations. It  touches the most fundamental issues of life and gives us a whole new perspective to appreciate nature. Because of the richness and style of his writing, his non-fiction works too carry the beauty of fiction narrative. Other than writing, Tejaswi experimented in many fields such as painting, Sitar, agriculture, ornithology, photography  and studies and activities related to environment. He has told many a times that he is a better painter  than a writer and his writings made him more popular.

I always wanted to meet Tejaswi and tell him how beautifully he has created an entire universe for millions of Kannada readers like me. I wanted to thank him for providing us a window to the world of international literature, history, science and wildlife in the days when internet was a thing we never heard.

I know my dream of meeting my favorite writer will never come true. As it is true to any good writer, his thoughts and ideas will remain immortal in his writings and we can see him in his books. I request all those who can read Kannada language to pick up some of his books to see what he means to thousands of people like me.

Talath Mahmood: King of gazals

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One of my lecturers used to say that the soul of vintage music can only be felt when you close your eyes while listening to it; as melody doesn’t require any celluloid visuals to prove its worth. You will realise this when you listen to the songs of Talat Mahmood. His songs can create a new world inside you. As you listen to his songs, the melodious voice takes you into a magical world, where you get to see different people with different emotions. You may see an emotionally wounded lover, a teenage fun loving guy, a depressed drunkard, a painter or a romantic prince.The voice of Talat Mahmood is very unique for the fact that it gently grows inside you. I think no other singer can sing light romantic songs, sad songs and gazals the way Talat saab did. His expressive style and emotional nuances are hardly found in any other singer.

‘bechain nazar betaab jigar, ye dil hai kisi ka diwana haye diwana’

This light romantic song says the feelings of a lover boy with utter simplicity and Talat conveys the lyrics in much more simple way yet touching our hearts. There are hundreds of such master peices sung by Talat.

‘mera qaraar le jaa mujhe beqaraar karjaa dam bhar tho pyaar kar jaa’

‘ye hawa ye raat ye chaandni’

‘ankhon me masthi sharaab ki kaali zulfo me aanhe shabaab ki’

and

‘mein dil hu ek armaan bharaa tu aake mujhe pehchaan zaraa’

Songs like these represent the same mood yet retaining its uniqueness. Talat has worked with many eminent music directors. Naushad, S D Burman, Anil Biswas, Madan Mohan, Shankar Jaikishan and O P Nayyar to name few of them.
I find a very strong relation between Talat saab’s songs and the beautiful evenings. His songs are enjoyed better in the evening. Perhaps, this is why he has sung many songs on the theme ‘shaam’.

‘shaam-e-gham ki kasam’

‘phir wohi shaam wohi gham wohi thanhaayi hai’

When it comes to Urdu lyrics, who else can sing the poetic lines of Ghalib – with that kind of passion – other than Talat Mahmood?

‘dil-e-naadaan tuje hua kya hai?’

I love the duets talat sang with Shamshad begam, Suraiyya, Lata Mangaeshkar, Asha Bhosale and Geeta Dutt. They are too melodious and will haunt you forever.

‘milte hi aankhe dil hua diwaana kisi ka’

‘mohabbath me eise zamaane bhi aaye’

‘samaa ke dil me hamaare zara khayaal rahe’

‘chaahe naina churaao chaahe daaman bachaao pyaar hoke rahega’

‘pyaar par bas to nahi hai’

‘itna na mujhse tu pyaar badaa’

I can’t think of any songs by other singers which can match up to the caliber of these romantic songs. Romantic songs come out very beautifully in the velvet voice of Talat.

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The one genre of songs which Talat Mahmood was famous for was the sad songs.

‘hai sab se madhur woh geet jinhe hum dard ke sur me gaathe hai’

‘andhe jahaan ke andhe raasthe jaaye tho jaaye kahaan?’

‘aansu samajh ke kyo na mujhe aankh se tune gira diya’

‘ei dil mujhe eisi jagah le chal jahaan koi na ho’

‘ei game dil kya karu Ai vahshate dil kya karu’

‘ei mere dil kahi aur chal gham ki duniya se dil bhar gaya’

‘chal diya karvan lut gaye hum yahaan’

‘dekh li teri khudaayi bas mera dil bhar gaya’

He has sung folk-based songs also. I wonder the way he balances the variety of light romantic, folk and gazals and manages to carry the ‘trade mark of talat’. In urdu songs he emphasises the royal richness of zaban-e-urdu and in folk songs he maintains the utter simplicity of rural life.

‘chali kaun si des gujariyaa tu sajh dhaj ke’

‘jaa jaa re sub na jaa re kahee de sajanwa se’

Talat was born in Lucknow in 1924. He began his music career at the age of 16. Initially he used to sing gazals of Galib, Mir and Jigar for AIR. HMV was the first recording company to recognise his singing talent. HMV did the honours of bringing out his first gazal album. This made him a star and he was soon welcomed in Bombay film industry. His first few songs made him the king of film romantic songs and rest is a history as we know today. He passed away in 1998. But his songs and his memories will be always cherished by his fans all over the world.