Monday, August 31, 2015

Anna Odell's Reunion

It is a Swedish movie, screened as a part of Swedish film fest at Chennai’s Max Mueller Bhavan. The movie is about how a woman takes revenge on her school mates, she grew up with and was bullied and ignored by during school days.  What makes this simple looking story special is that the protagonist is an artist and she avenges herself through art. The how of it unravels in layers in the course of the movie.

Though it’s a very simple sounding story line the movie makes a big impact on the viewer. The introductory note said that the movie was semi auto biographical. Yes, the maker, Anna odelle herself plays the lead.

The movie is anchored around a reunion happens and Anna is not invited to it. Anna has very bitter memories of being bullied and ignored during school. She is now a successful artist and obviously feels strong and all set to settle scores. At the same time she finds it difficult to accept that her mates still choose to avoid her. Its these two strands – the urge to settle scores and the pain of being ignored that intertwine to form the narrative.

Anna comes across as a very self built person very sure of achieving what she wanted. The shine in her eyes can be piercingly sad at times. the hierarchies that prevail among mates in a school are quite a common thing. but the striking pain and bitterness it leaves Anna with is evident in her performance. The fact that she has cast herself in the role lends the movie a very beautiful dimension. 

The mates react to Anna’s work in different ways. Some go to great lengths to avoid meeting her. Anna remains cold with many mates and is very keen to be avenged

Anna speaks to a school mate and tells him that this was the first time they were speaking, and that they had never spoken to each other in the nine years of their school life. 

Every mate who comes to meet Anna is interested in figuring out how and what have they been depicted as. One mate even relishes meeting the artist who plays him. The meeting of the two forms a very philosophical moment in the movie. 

One mate totally fails to see Anna’s point and is worried that public display of Anna’s work could bring disrepute to him and his family.

one can't end this write up on the movie without mentioning the excellent perfomances of the artists who make up the charecters of the school mates in Anna's work of art and those who play it in the movie itself. it took a while for it to occur to me that the two were different and it is this dichotomy that takes the movie to a league of its own and gives it a unique philosophical depth.
There a couple of music tracks, 'x =x' and 'the war is over' in the movie. They are fabulous and set a superb feel for the movie, particularly towards the climax.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Dr Bhagat's talk

Thanks to Apparao galleries in Chennai, i am all set and cheering about a festival of lectures on the Arts. The series opened with a session of 6 talks by Dr. Ashrafi Bhagat. A name, i have often looked up at many art exhibitions, featured in the very informative and succinctly written write-ups capturing the various aspects of the exhibits, giving the viewer a very good initiation and a mood to enter the exhibits and a direction as to what to look for..

obviously , i was excited about listening to Dr Bhagat, and moreover she was going to give a sweeping perspective on the Indian paintings.

her lec proceeded from the magnificient Ajantha murals, then moved on to Ellora, the Cholas, Pandyas and Pallavas, the Vijayanagara, Kerala murals; The Deccani miniatures, company Paintings and finally the courtly Raja Ravi Varma.

while she had a gargantuan task ahead of her she went about it with the grace and charm of a seasoned lecturer, her more than 30 years of teaching at Stella keeping her in very good stead, she could go on with no signs of fatigue for well more than the scheduled hour.

it was even more fascinating to learn that she had never talked on some of the topics and on some she was talking after a gap of almost a decade and went on to share that she was going back to those old topics with a newfound zeal as a result of the experiences she had picked up in the intervening years. one can imagine, with the talker in such and enthusiastic and cheerful frame of mind, how gifted we listeners were.

she had an interesting way with words. She could repeat verbatim certain sentences to explain a certain concept, this i found out when she was summarising the next day. she was not probably speaking out of memory but it was a kind of flow.

it was kind of tickling to see her struggle and mix up with the names and charecters of the epics. she was at her graceful best while taking questions. she would stop, take your question in and give u a studied response.

i had three evenings of absolute bliss listening to an expert talk about paintings, making me wonder if my evenings would ever be as blessed again. i am not sure if it was from the paintings are from the talker, i am leaving these sessions infected by loads of grace.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

RIP Mama

These are the moments when the true import of the phrase, that 'you will live in our memories ', is dawning up on me. Each and every moment my mind is trying to relive the moments spent with my dear father in law who passed away on friday 21 august 2015.

i am witnessing for the first time what it means for a family to pull itself together after it has been rendered fulcrum-less all of a sudden. Seeing my Mami fight and cope up with the loss, i learn what it means to live on and find purpose in doing so, after some one who has been everything of your life taken away.

my first encounters with Mama was when i used to create opportunities to visit my would be before marriage when i  dropped in out of the blue at their doorstep, unannounced. now when i look back , i can imagine how very embarrassing it should have been on my would-be in-laws. But mama would not show not even the slightest trace of this embarrassment and would let me into their house. this and his attitude in subsequent situations would tell me the supreme confidence he would have on the inherent goodness of people and he valued human relationships more than anything else.

when it was time for me and sumi to move separately, he would not buy any of my arguments refusing his benevolence and would buy us all the best household utilities for us to set and run a home. when buying anything for anyone he would always pay attention to every detail and want it to be the best. he would learn of my love for sweets and subsequently every time before i reached their house a box of sweets would have arrived. he would shower you with gifts and would be so hard to make him accept one that i always considered it a great privilege to be able to be of some use to him.

while i always looked upto him as a man of big heart and a golden charecter, it was tough for me to have a normal conversation with him in those initial days. i always required an interpreter to make sense of those 'tongue-in-cheek' remarks that flowed casually from him. My reserved nature made me think i had to keep my guard and keep away from him.

but soon i would learn that my in-laws loved to talk and i had to learn the art of conversing. for example, when you are asked ,' when did you come', it would not satisfy them if you said 'this morning'. you should rather expand upon it, like ' i took the afternoon train yesterday, took permission in office,.. etc., etc. and brief them about your trip.

i had a brief rough patch with him, but we got over it as if nothing happened. That was his magnanimity.

it was only for a very shortwhile from my marriage that i saw him as healthy person. after a few months, he was always suffering from one or the other sickness. every time i visited, the house would wear a very gloomy and a serious look. the monotony would be broken only by the joy and the cheer brought in by the visits of our cousin's children.

Now that he has been relieved of his mortal ailing frame, the house should breathe free, but i am not sure how. i would miss a loving giant, who was cruelly incapacitated by his sickness, to talk to. i am sad that my children would not know of what a loving giant their grand dad was, i can scarce show them a person as loving and magnanimous as him.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Kavita Singh lecture

when i learnt from an email that Kavita Singh of JNU arts and aesthetics was talking in the city, it felt like an institution coming to my door step and i was absolutely thrilled and eager to jump in. i was however doubtful if the talk was open to public, the venue being stella maris college, an all women fort. i was glad i could sneak myself into the Francis hall jus as the lecture had begun. i had missed the introduction and the title slides.

Kavita was there to deliver the Edith tomory lec, a name, i was obviously hearing for the first and had to google to find out that she had been a faculty and a head here and was popular for her book on ' history of art'

when i joined the lec, Kavita was in the middle of explaining a visual on a painting depicting the execution of a khan jahan Lodhi
, she was exploring the expression on the man's face, what would otherwise have been a minuscule part of a painting, and interpreting the politics and history of that expression, i was already blown away.

Mughal paintings differed from the parent(?) persian safawid paintings in venturing to record the 'here and now'. the conflicts that raised between the ulemas and emperors and how akbar resolved them made for an interesting story.

The fact that Akbar was unlettered and had learning difficulties, together with his dropping into a state of trance as recorded in a couple of paintings (infact,once in the middle of an hunting expedition!!) is being interpreted to say that Akbar was dyslexic!

Akbar's love for books and his obvious inability to read combined to explain the numerous illustrations that literary works produced under Akbar would carry.

It was interesting to learn how The Mughals sent painters as a part of foreign missions to get portraits of their adversaries done and put some physiognomy to use to assess them and arrive at some important decisions. this could sometimes prove wrong as well as in Jehangir's decision to take on the minuscule looking Shah of Iran and sufferring defeat at his hands.

other tid bits of information i found fascinating were:

1. a second edition of Akbar nama had been brougt out in 1603 by abul fazl.

2. the second ed has some paintings depicting Akbar in a more humane and vulnerable manner( particularly his exploits with an elephant gone amuck, famously depicted in Jodha akbar), whereas the first was all about glorifying him, may be a result of maturing of the emperor..

3. Jehangir could not get his bio compiled together, though it is available in parts here n there..

a painting depicting Jehangir visiting a Hindu ascetic, Jadrup gosain appeared to be a very touching one.

4. Zafar- victory (zafar nama), Jaroka  - window ( as in Jaroka portrait)..

5. many paintings far from depicting the reality could be compared  to modern day photoshopping techniques done to achieve political ends. The cases of
a. mirza hussains's capture showing Dara's father in law,
b. Jehangir's Jaroka darshan later painted with a jaroka of AKbar in hand.
c. Mughal ladies njoying fireworks and the painting of Radhekrishna njoying fireworks ..
were illustrative of extent and motives of 'photoshopping'.

6. Rao ram Singh of Kota depicted horsing on a roof is illustrative of the fantasy of indian art.

7. the painting depicting the duel between Qilich Khan ( the founder of Hyderabad) and Bhim Singh , giving the moral upper ground to the latter even though it was the former who was the victor, was instructive of the many under currents that a painting comes hidden with.

8. That a whole narrative could be cooked up, was evident in the nain sukh's painting of Balwant Singh.

9. The fact that most of these paintings were at museums across the world was painful and at the same time   a relief that they were better kept there. ( the case Amaravathi sculptures on dispaly at Chennai Musuem may be borne in mind) . It was a pleasure that through the slides the author had given us an oppurtunity to walk through museums across the world. it als struck me that the paintings made more sense when sewn into the narrative of this lecture, leaving me wondering, how much would one viewing an isolated piece at some corner of a world take away from it over and above that it was just another Mughal Piece.

The speaker who was proposing the vote of thanks, struck me with a thoughtful remark that the speech had come a full circle from death to life to death!, very true.

a Walk in the Fort

i went to Fort St George this morning least expecting to see History spoken by buildings spread across the expanse of the Fort. I imagined it might be a walk thru the exhibits in the museum, but i ended up visualising the fort itself as a museum.

the walk was on the side lines of celebrating 375 yrs of the fort.

we started off with the cupola that stands in the middle of a small circular patch of greenery. The cupola which once housed the statue of Lord Cornwallis is said to be removed from near st thomas mount and placed here by Gov. Erskine in 1940. ( guess he would have foreseen that gens to come would scarce appreciate such objects) The Cornwallis statue is to be found separtely inside the musuem, the base of which depicts the surrender of Tipu's sons ( its probably for this reason that Indians might have found this offending).

we proceeded westward and stopped at a building, which is now an army officer's residence and is a functional example of the earliest buildings within the fort. the idea that the tiled roof and the tall balcony/ verandah would serve as a chamber for cooling the air and pumping it into the rooms was interesting..

we pass by the imposing secretariat building, mumbling to ourselves how it stood out in a kind of stark manner and proceeded to stop at the parade ground. this is the place that is identified as the spot where the earliest structure should have stood..

next we were in for some catholic treat at the st. mary's church ( i had imagined this was there only in the books, its strange i never ventured past the museum to explore this place). Vincent D souza our leader for the walk trained our eyes to see that the structure had 2 parts, later i would read in the museum that the spire came later. The church had a cool and an inviting tone about. as we were a huge mob we were advised to come back and visit it another time. we were also told there plaques within that would speak a lot of history.

church, and a lovely one at that should ring in a wedding and there came the talk of Clive's wedding here and the grand ball in the house that is adjacent, now called the Clive house. we were lucky to get an opp to invade this building and and get a feel of the grand interiors of these structures- the soft thudding feel of the wooden stairs, the grand pillars, the tall roofs, provisions for ventilation and light in the rooms, etc.

- ended abruptly..

சக்திக் கூத்து by பிரசன்னா ராமசாமி

சக்திக் கூத்து by பிரசன்னா ராமசாமி

தமிழில் நவீன நாடகம் என்றொரு அப்பிராணி, ஒரு அறிவுஜீவிக்  குழுவிடம் சிக்குண்டு படும் பாட்டை அறிந்துகொள்ள இந்த ஒரு நாடகத்தை பார்த்தால் போதுமானது.

தன் அறிவுக்குத் தெரிந்த அத்துனை விஷயங்களையும் சமைத்து நமக்கு மேடையில் படைத்து நம்மை திக்கு முக்கடையச் செய்ய வேண்டும் என்பது தான் படைப்பாளியின் நோக்கமோ என்று நமக்கு தோன்றும் அளவுக்கு அறிவுஜீவித்தனம் ஆங்காங்கே மின்னி நம் கண்களை கூசி வெறுக்கச் செய்கிறது.

நாடகத்தின் உயிர்துடிப்பாக திகழ்வது ரோஹினியின் நடிப்பு, குறிப்பாக அவரது முக பாவனைகள். கோவம், சீற்றம், காதல் என அடுத்தடுத்த காட்சிகளில் எந்தவொரு நெருடலும் இல்லாமல் பாவனை மாறும் போது நமக்கு சிரம் தாழ்த்தி, வணங்கி, பாராட்டி மெய் மறப்பதன்றி செய்வது ஒன்றும் இல்லை.

பறை இசையை தனது எழுத்து கைக்கொடுக்காத இடங்களில் பார்வையாளனின் கவனத்தை தக்கவைத்துக்கொள்ளும் ஒரு சூட்சமமாகவே மட்டுமே இயக்குனர் ஆண்டுள்ளார் என்பது நமக்கு சலிப்பையும் ஏமாற்றத்தையும் தருகிறது.

பாரதியின் படல்களை இசைப்படுத்தி கேட்கலாம் என்ற எமது ஆர்வத்தை ஈடுசெய்வதை தவிர,  கர்நாடகம் காட்சியின் தொனியோடு சேராமால் தனித்து ஒரு தளத்தில் செயல் பட்டு முகம் சுழிக்கச்செய்கிறது.

பி ரா  வின் எழுத்து கட்டுரை வடிவத்திற்கு ஏற்றது. அவரது எழுத்து, படித்து சுவைக்க உகந்ததாக தோன்றுகிறது. அது நாடகத்திற்கு பொருந்தவில்லை, சலிப்பு தட்டுகிறது. 'மகரந்தம் பரப்பும் காற்று, chemical ஐ பரப்புகிறது' என்பது போன்ற பொருள் பதிந்த வாக்கியத்தின் ஆதங்கம் வாசிக்க சுவைதரும் நெகிழக்கூடச் செய்யும் , ஆனால் அதை மேடையில் சொல்லக் கேட்க்கும் போது அது நம்மை எத்தனை கூசி நெளியச்செய்கிறது என்று யாரேனும் பிரசன்னா ராமசாமிக்கு புரியச் செய்யுங்களேன் என்று நம் மனம் விம்முகிறது. எத்தனை அருமையான நடிப்பை , இசை மற்றும் நடன பங்களிப்புகளைக்  கலங்கச் செய்து விடுகிறது இது போன்ற அதிவியாக்யான எழுத்து.

ஒரு காவிய கதைப் பொழிவின்  ஊடே தற்கால கருத்துக்களைப் புகுத்த வேண்டும் என்ற ஆசிரியரின் எண்ணம் பாரட்டுக்குரியது. ஆனால் அதை பிரதான கதை மாந்தர் கொண்டே செய்வது பார்வையாளனை அந்நியப்படுத்தி விடுகிறது. ஒரு விதூஷகன் அல்லது கோமாளியைக்  கொண்டு அதைச்  செய்திருக்கலாம். திரௌபதியே, 'இது romance , அதற்கொரு பாட்டு' என்று prompt செய்வது, ரோகினி செய்யும் போது அழகாக தோன்றினாலும் பல இடங்களில் நமக்கு வேதனையை தருகிறது.

நாட்டிய அசைவுகள் ஒரேபோல அமைந்திருந்தன. நாட் டிய அமைப்பை இயக்குனர் தனியொரு ஆளுமையைக் கொண்டு அமைத்திருக்கலாம். சில அசைவுகள் ச்பசெஸ் போன்ற திறந்த மற்றும் சுற்ற ரங்கிற்கு வடிவமைக்கப்படிருந்தன , அவற்றை உள்ளரங்கில் காணும் போது அவை பொருளற்றிருந்தன, பார்வையாளனை இன்னும் அந்நியப்படுத்துவன.

'அண்ணே ...' என்ற பீமனின் கூற்று நாடகத்தில் ஒரு நல்ல உச்சத்தை உண்டு பண்ணுகிறது. ஆனால் இயக்குனருக்கு பார்வையாளனின் நாடி அல்ல முக்கியம், அவரது  கவனம் வேறு திசைகளில் உள்ளதால் ஒரு அழகான நாடகீய கூற்று கை நழுவி போகின்றது.

கிரேக்க காவியங்களின் ஒரு இழையை இந்த கூத்திற்க்குள் காரணமில்லாமல் நுழைப்பது, globalisation இன் விளைவோ. அந்நிய தொன்மங்களையும் கூட நம் மீது திணிக்கத்தான் வேண்டுமா என்று நம்மை பரண் பார்த்து வினவச் செய்கிறது.. தமிழில் நவீன நாடகம் இப்பொழுது தான் தளிர் நிலையில் உள்ளது, அதை காத்து செழிப்பூட்டி வளர்க்க வேண்டிய பொறுப்பு மற்றும் வாய்ப்புகள் பிரசன்னா ராமசாமி போன்றவர்களுக்கு உண்டு. ஆரம்ப நிலையிலேயே அதற்க்கு big global ideas போன்ற ரசாயனங்களை தெளித்து விட வேண்டாம் என்பது எம் கருத்து.