Tuesday, March 28, 2017

An Unsuitable Boy

I loved An Unsuitable Boy because I felt that Karan Johar was having a conversation with me. I imagined how his face contorted when he expressed something, the movement of his brows, the rolling of his eyes and his laughter. If an autobiography makes you go through that experience, I think it's brilliant. We often dismiss him as being frivolous or even shallow, but you can't sustain a career in the Mumbai film industry if you are either. I knew he was a topper at HR College even before Kuchh Kuchh Hota Hai released. He would have pursued an MBA as his parents had demanded but chose to risk it all and join the film industry, a place that had given his father more pain than pleasure in over 18 years as film producer. It's an amazing journey from an outsider to being an insider, of many failures and multiple successes, of how he turned a loss-making company into a multimillion-dollar business. If you want to learn about how Indian films are produced, marketed and distributed, this is one book you must read.

#KaranJohar #AnUnsuitableBoy #DharmaProductions #Bollywood #SouthBombay #MumbaiFilmIndustry #Films

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

World Poetry Day 2017

It's World Poetry Day
And I want to write
Pen scratches paper
But the ink dries
It's no occasion
To make hue and cry
Can words be stifled
If the ink runs dry?
I take my iPad
Fingertips on screen
It's the digital age
I've a Facebook page!
The words take form
Internet's freedom
Who's to judge
And why?
I sift my thoughts
I scroll my feed
Another poem,
Is there a need?
It's World Poetry Day
And I want to write
Throw Me A Word
And I shall write
The cursor moves
The letters dance
A poem takes shape
It's World Poetry Day.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Another semester of teaching at Faculty of Journalism and Communication at Vadodara's M S University comes to an end

My students from the Faculty of Journalism and Communication performed in a play at the Sayaji Literature Festival at The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. They also launched the annual journal Ittivritt (Chronicle) which they've been working on during the semester. Teaching this batch of students helped me cope with two great personal tragedies last year. I found a way to battle grief by showing them Quark pages and design and watching them showcase their creativity through film, print and song. I found joy in their joys.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Tawaif Tales

Vikram Sampath's book, 'My Name is Gauhar Jaan!' - The Life and Times of a Musician is an incisive account of the life of a tawaif (a woman of the arts) who went on to become the first person to have her voice recorded in India in 1902. The book also traces the journey of Indian music after the fall of the Mughal Empire in 1857 and before India gained Independence in 1947. I am glad it picked it up from Crossword because it is filled with facts and trivia that I'd like to share here:

Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni: Many of us have been exposed to the sargam at some in our lives, either by listening to Indian music or as a student of music. Indian music draws its seven basic notes from the sounds of animals and birds. Sa is associated with the peacock's shrill cry, Re with the bullock, Ga with the goat, Ma with the jackal, Pa with the cuckoo's cooing, Dha with the horse and Ni with the elephant. You might know the sargam but did you know this?

The Mumbaiya word, chhappanchuri: In Mumbai, the word chhappanchuri is used as a derogatory term for a woman who is shrewd and has the gift of the gab. In Sampath's book, I discovered where it may have come from. Apparently, it was the nickname of a tawaif, Janki Bai (1880-1934) from Allahabad. A jealous suitor, madly in love with her, had scarred her face with 56 (chhappan) slashes when she rebuffed him.

How the harmonium came into Indian music: Most people in India think the harmonium must have been invented here because it is inseparable from Indian classical or folk music. But, it was only in the late 1800s did this French instrument (developed by Alexandre-Francois Debain) become an accompaniment to an Indian vocalist. The credit for this goes to Bhaiya Ganpatrao, a son of Gwalior's Maharaja Jivajirao Scindia and Chandrabhaga Devi, a courtesan. The harmonium was despised as a lifeless, stiff-reeded instrument because it was incapable of producing subtle nuances. Ganpatrao modelled the harmonium to suit Indian music so muchso that it displaced the reigning sarangi.

The shellac in gramophone records: Lac is hardened resin secreted by the tiny lac insects which settled on twigs and sucked the plant's sap. These insects were scraped from the twigs, crushed, dried, sieved, winnowed, washed and again dried. The mangled mass was then passed through a hot melting system, filtered and stretched into sheets or 'shellac'. Since it was non-toxic, it was used to make gramophone records.

The hierarchy among the tawaifs: While most tawaifs were trained in music and dance, some chose to only sing. A 'bai' was a tawaif who only sang. A 'jaan' sang and danced. Interestingly, even when the dancer sat and performed, the tabla and sarangi players accompanying her always stood and played their instruments. (How many people play the tabla standing up, nowadays?)

Monday, March 13, 2017

Holi Flashback

Ten years ago, I travelled from Mumbai to Vadodara with my then boyfriend to meet his family. Since Rachit Mankad had just returned to India after 10 months in the US and was going to be leaving for Singapore for his MBA after a few months, my mother insisted that I should come to a decision/commitment about our future. "Since you want to marry him, go and see how they live." It's rare for a girl in the subcontinent to go alone to check out her prospective husband's family. But I did. As scared as I was of them rejecting me outright, my bigger fear was that I might stop loving him if I didn't like the family much. To my surprise it was his grandmother (Ba) who decided to put gulal on me first. My fate was sealed 😀 and my fears disappeared.