Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A Magical world at Diggi Palace

A gathering of like-minded people thronged the corridors of the Diggi Palace - venue for the Jaipur Literature festival,2007 and yes, yours truly was very much part of that.

Since a lot has already been written about this by indiauncut, jabberwock and kitabkhana,
I'm adding only little nuggets of information.

William Darlymple's post lunch session on the first day of the fest., was good till about 40 minutes after which I caught people dozing - I must mention this despite him being such a wonderful narrator but alas! a post-lunch session can sometimes prove to be a disaster. I wish there was more to the session other than just getting to hear extracts from his book.

To a question by a wise,old man to Kiran Desai whether unlike her hero Biju , is she not fortunate enough to win the Booker?, Kiran replied (in her soft voice, much to the agony of the audience at the back who were constantly complaining that it was inaudible until she was almost forced to 'kiss' her mike) -'Winning the Booker is like a lottery - it depends on a whole lot of factors like the happenings around the world that year, what the other writers have written etc.'

One of the questions to Suketu Mehta was 'why fiction is more popular than non-fiction' , he replied 'Because it does not involve going around slums or a fat advance'.
Another question shot at him was 'If attending creative writing courses is of any use? ' ,he said that personally he found it useful ; had he not done the course he would have still come to Jaipur but not as a writer but as a diamond merchant(he hails from a family of diamond merchants).

William Darlymple who also moderated Suketu Mehta's session remarked atleast on two occasions about incurring the wrath of bloggers to which Suketu replied politely that he doesn't follow blogs too much.(Point to be noted, what??)

Amit Chaudari's session I thought was one of the best ,with Anita Roy doing a very good job which Barkha has apparently failed in case of Kiran Desai. Please read an extensive account of it here.

One would wonder if the crowd for Rushdie's session, which spilled the corridors and extended till the lawns , had any clue as to how captivating his session would be!

Whether it is "What kind of God wouldn’t strike you down for eating a ham sandwich?”“Karachi is a bloody big dump!” or

'Chhagan Bhujbal is an asshole' or

'Karachi is a dump' or

'this week's issue of Outlook has lies written about me'

Rushdie proved that he is indeed the walking, talking intellectual and is worthy of all the respect and recognition that he gets.

Friday, January 05, 2007

A Mosiac of memories

“If this fall into thy hand, revolve.

In my stars I am above thee, but be not afraid of greatness.

Some are born great,some achieve greatness,

and some have greatness thrustupon them”

It is not often that you find lines from Shakespeare mouthed in Indian movies and 36 Chowringhee lane revels in it, complete with a cat named Sir Toby.
The scene where Nandita, who was a student of Miss.Stoneham tries to recollect these lines of Shakespeare, brings back fond memories of my school days where we used to frequent the houses of our schoolteachers.

36 Chowringhee lane is the story of Miss. Violet whose loneliness might leave you depressed but also appreciative of the fact that she does not wallow in self-pity (inspite of her niece’s repeated invites to join her in Australia).Color enters her humdrum life in the form of her former student Nandita and her boyfriend,Somresh. Miss.Violet lets the young couple use her home as a writer’s abode (‘A James Joyce in the making’, as Someresh puts across) but who actually (mis)use it as a love-nest. This change in scene refreshes Miss.Stoneham’s boring life as she looks forward to the carefree joy that Nandita and Somresh share with her – whether it is a movie or their evening tea (didn’t someone say that when in love the entire world presents a rosy picture…)But their marriage ends it all leaving a disappointed old lady alone with her Shakespearean thoughts.

If not for Aparna Sen, this could be termed as a family film of Shashi Kapoor . Jennifer Kendall as Miss. Violet is the heart of the movie with a superb performance while her father Geoffrey Kendall plays her diabetic brother. Sanjana and Karan Kapoor play cameos in a dream sequence.

Aparna Sen in 1981 shows such talent in her debut movie which the supposed stalwarts of Bollywood haven’t done in decades. Make no mistakes, this movie is not only about old age it is also about the Anglo Indians fear of interaction with the local Bengalis, the local school politics where old teachers are favored for the new ones with scholarly degrees and most essentially the spirit of an old woman who refuses to succumb to self-pity but lives her own life in dignity inspite of her failing age.
There is a dream sequence which is wonderfully shot (and reminds me of a similar one in ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind’) which shows a younger Violet in search of her beau only to discover him dead.
But I thought the ending was too contrived and that was where Mr. and Mrs. Iyer scores way above this movie.

Having said that, this is arguably one of the finest movies of Indian cinema.
So be prepared to watch a well-made, sensitive and intelligent movie which might leave you a tad bit depressed especially since it ends with these lines:

“Pray, do not mock me;

I am a very foolish fond old man,

Fourscore and upward, not an hour more or less,

And, to deal plainly,I fear I am not in my perfect mind,”