He is victorious by name only

Centuries ago William Shakespeare had asserted – ‘What’s there in a name ? He’s right. Anything or anybody can be given any name which may not have anything to do with its real nature or worth or life events. Through his thriller novel – Dus Lakh  (a sum of rupees ten lacs or one million) Hindi novelist Surendra Mohan Pathak created a hero named as Jeet Singh whose destiny goes contrary to his name. Jeet means victory or win but the destiny of this person is to remain a loser as highlighted by the story of this novel which was first published in 1996.Dus-Lakh-Surendra-Mohan-Pathak-925704633-435994-1This hero Jeet Singh who was christened by his mother as such under the impression that her son would conquer the world when grown up, considers himself a loser only. He could not gain adequate education to make a stout career. The only thing that he could learn is to open locks and make duplicate keys of them. Accordingly he adopted the profession of a locksmith. However just by working as a locksmith, he was not able to earn sufficiently to make both ends meet. So he started using this art of his for unlawful purposes, to be straight, busting the locks of safes and vaults and stealing money, alone or in association with others like him. Originally from Himachal Pradesh, destiny brought him to Indore where he was arrested and tried for a theft. However after getting bail from the court, he jumped the bail and migrated to Mumbai where the story of this novel is set.

Having started living in a Kholi (very small, matchbox type, accommodation in Mumbai), Jeet Singh comes into contact with a very beautiful girl Sushmita living in his neighbourhood who works in the office of a Chartered Accountant and being motherless, lives with her widow elder sister Asmita and three children of hers. Asmita works in a big departmental store owned by a Sindhi businessman – Pursumal Changulani and it is found that she has cancer whose treatment requires a sum of Rs. 10 lacs. Jeet Singh, having fallen for the charms of Sushmita, promises to her that he would arrange the required sum of Rs. 10 lacs within the limited time of 3 months available for Asmita’s treatment (as told by the concerned doctor) and in turn, Sushmita indirectly promises him to accept his love. How Jeet Singh makes many (unlawful) efforts to arrange that sum facing several ups and downs in that bid of his and when, quite unexpectedly, he is able to arrange that sum on the final day of that deadline how a cruel setback is rendered to him by his ill-fate, forms the remaining part of the story.

The USP of this novel which is one of the most popular novels of this eminent Hindi novelist, is the passion of the hero to get the required sum to fulfill the promise made by him to his sweetheart and then get her hand for life in return. His passionate love is the force through which he overcomes all the hurdles coming in his way and becomes ready to take any risk. But alongwith his passion, the hide and seek game that his fate constantly plays with him, is also something which makes the narrative lively and engaging. Unknowingly the reader starts sympathizing with the hero whenever he loses anywhere and praying for his ultimate victory in his battle to get the love of his life. Making the reader relating to and sympathizing with the low profile hero (he also suffers from an inferiority complex for not being able to do something or become something worthwhile in his life) is the biggest success of the author. The ups and downs in the hero’s journey of getting the required sum of Rs. 10 Lakh from the starting point to the finishing point when he visits his sweetheart with the suitcase containing that amount, is a breathtaking rollercoaster ride which consists of a good dose of emotion too for the reader.

The hero time and again curses his fate and feels that his mother had wrongly christened him. Named as Jeet Singh and popularly called by the nickname of Jeeta (winner / victorious), he finds this name as a cruel joke on him when he comes across losses time and again in his bid to win and succeed. His grief-filled assertion at the end of the novel when he’s not able to control his feelings and bursts into tears missing his mother and complaining to her for christening him as such, may prove to be a tear-jerker for any reader. And let’s acknowledge this fact that while the readers of some good work of fiction get inspired by the activities and their outcomes in case of a winner, they happen to sympathize with the protagonist if he turns out to be a loser (despite all reasonable efforts made by him to become a winner). A man can do his best to do or get something but uncontrollable factors are always there who have their own role to play. That’s why destiny or luck is remembered and quoted time and again in the course of life. And the losers have to console themselves for the (undesirable) course of events or happenings or outcomes by believing in – ‘It was written. Jeet Singh of Dus Lakh also remains a loser perhaps because this only was written for him.

The author has very effectively highlighted the thought-train of the hero who could not make a proper living because of lack of education or knowing something enabling him to earn reasonably. He is not a criminal by nature and first his poverty and then his passionate love for the needy girl only thrust him into the world of crime. He is not happy by becoming a criminal but he has no other way out to earn the hefty sum within the very limited time available with him. Circumstances have made him a killer also whereas he wanted to confine himself to the safecracking / vaultbusting act only during the criminal activities joined by him. That’s also a part of his ill-fate and underscores the dictum – ‘Man proposes, God disposes’. What you want or need, may or may not happen but what’s written / destined is bound to happen. Besides, he carries out all his risky activities on the premise of a vague and indirect promise made by the girl which depicts the naivety embedded in the character of this hero coming from a small town of Himachal Pradesh.

Alongwith the hero, the author has presented the character of his true friend Enzo in the novel. Believing in the maxim – ‘A friend in need is a friend indeed’, Enzo not only sympathizes but also empathizes with his friend Jeet Singh and is ever ready to do anything for him. His final sacrifice for Jeet Singh is able to moist the eyes of the readers.

The author has, like in many of his other novels, has highlighted the corrupt and the high-handed character of the Indian police who cannot stop crimes but is never hesitant to demonstrate its blind and uncontrolled power on the hapless poor and innocent.

The language used by the author is simple including the dialogues of the hero as he is a modestly educated, low profile person. However the layout of the narrative and the dialogues between various characters are quite impressive. Certain things are told in flashback through the hero’s narrating them to his friend(s).

This novel got so much success and the hero got so much fame that the author decided to make this hero a serial hero. Till now, ten more novels of Jeet Singh have come before the readers after this introductory novel of his. Presently he is a highly popular hero of Hindi pulp fiction world. However it’s his first venture Dus Lakh only which enables the readers to understand him properly. This emotion-soaked novel has a great repeat value and the Hindi reader who reads it once, would love to read it again and again.

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Jo Raah Chuni Tune . . . Tribute to Ravindra Jain

Today is the birthday of Ravindra Jain. The extra-ordinary composer and lyricist who was in a league of his own, had left for his heavenly abode on 09.10.2015. But he will always live in the hearts of lovers of music and Hindi poetry. He was near blind by birth but never allowed his physical deficiency to overpower his inborn talent. He was not only a composer sticking to melody and Indian classical as well as folk music but also a brilliant Hindi poet and that’s why many of his compositions are based on the lyrics penned by him only. His works, both as a composer and as a lyricist, radiate the fragrance of Indian soil. After starting his journey in Bollywood from composing a song in 1972, the first big break that he got was Saudagar (1973) made by the prestigious Rajshri banner of Bollywood. Since then he became a regular music composer of the Rajshri banner whose movies always followed the tradition of simplicity and Indianness under the leadership of Late Tarachand Barjatya, its founder. Later he composed music for the highly popular mythological serials like Raamayan and Krishna also. Talented singers like K.J. Yesudaas and Hemlata were given opportunities to sing for Hindi movies by him only. While paying my tribute to this unique and highly talented artiste, I am presenting my review of an old Hindi movie whose songs were composed by him. This simple but lovely movie made by the Rajshri banner only is Tapasya (1976).

Tapasya (penance / mortification) is based on a story penned by eminent Bengali litterateur Ashapoorna Devi. It tells the story of Indrani Sinha (Raakhee Gulzaar) aka Indu who is in love with Dr. Saagar Verma (Parikshit Saahni) but when the two are just about to tie the sacred knot with the consent of their guardians, Indu’s life takes a sudden tragic turn when her father passes away and the motherless family has none except Indu to look to. The tale of Tapasya is nothing but Indu’s sacrifice for her younger siblings who were going through their childhood at the time of their father’s demise. The elder sister plays the role of both mother and father for her younger sisters and brother only to come across their selfishness and ungratefulness years later. Her sacrifice is equally matched by the sacrifice of her beau Saagar who waits for her for years and years allowing his youth to pass with bachelorhood forced on him. Indu’s Tapasya ends when she gets united with Saagar in the end.The movie has a North Indian setting but the story has been penned by a Bangla authoress, the screenplay has been written and directed by a Bengali director and the pivotal role has been played by an actress originally from Bengal only. Thus the total environment has a subtle Bengali touch. The movie is a low budget simple one but strikes a chord in the audience’s hearts. It touches and moves. It inspires and strengthens self-belief as well as the belief in the great Indian tradition of sacrificing own happiness for the sake of the family. Except some melodrama at certain places and following the wrong notion of well-educated and well-off females being selfish and ill-mannered, the movie is natural all the way right from start to finish.

I have a great respect for the director Anil Ganguly who has also directed gems like Kora Kagaz (1974), Trishna (1978) and Humkadam (1980). He has done full justice to the story of the eminent Bangla authoress in his dual capacity of script-writer as well as director. Besides, nowhere has he deviated from the laudable Rajshri tradition of simplicity and a respect for the Indian family values. This simple movie keeps the viewers engrossed because the Indian middle class audience can easily relate to it. In those days at least, the belief of the Indian audience in the Indian family values as well as the life virtues was intact (now it has got diluted to a great extent in the wake of consumerism). That’s also one reason that this well-presented story won the hearts all over the nation.

The art director and the cinematographer have successfully maintained the air of simplicity as required for the milieu shown in the movie. Dialog by M.G. Hashmat are perfect for various scenes. The editor also has done his job well. It’s a compact movie.In the promotion of the movie, there was a caption on the posters – ‘Raakhee in the role she was born to play’. And Raakhee’s mind-blowing performance in the pivotal role proves this assertion right. She virtually lived her role of Indu and quite deservingly won the Filmfare award for the best actress for her performance. Always an underrated actor – Parikshit Saahni is not far behind and he has lent able support to Raakhee in this heroine-centric movie. All others have also done their parts well. Asrani as the heroine’s younger brother deserves special praise because he has performed very well in a profound role coming out of his comedian image.

Now for the music. The beautiful lyrics of various songs have not been penned by Ravindra Jain as has been the case with many of his movies. The lyricist is the dialog-writer of this movie – M.G. Hashmat who has created poetry of high literary value for certain songs. However it’s Ravindra Jain only who strung the beautiful words in melodious compositions coming out of the Indian music tradition. Jo Raah Chuni Tune Usi Par Chalte Jaana Re (sung by Kishore Kumar) is the best song which tells the epitome of the story also and runs throughout the movie. Other songs are also admirable. My personal favourite is Kishore Kumar-Aarti Mukherjee duet – Do Panchhi Do Tinake Kaho Le Ke Chale Hain Kahaan.Tapasya not only won critical acclaim but also was a commercial success. It also won the national award for the best film providing wholesome entertainment in 1975. Its remake – Ek Vivah Aisa Bhi (2008) could not be as impressive as the original. While paying my tribute to Ravindra Jain, I recommend this beautiful movie to one and all. Watch Tapasya and enter the world of simplicity and the Indian family values smelling the fragrance of Indian soil in every nook and corner of it.

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The day of victory of love and devotion

Today is Mahashivaraatri, the day of worshipping Lord Shiva and Lady Parvati. It falls on the 14th day of the dark fortnight of the month of Phaalgun as per the Indian calendar (Panchaang). As per the Indian mythology, the marriage of Lord Shiva and Lady Parvati is commemorated through this day.

The Indian mythology tells the story that Lord Shiva had married Sati whose father, Daksha was not happy with that marriage. Once Sati visited her parental house against the will of her husband on the occasion of a Yajna performed by her father and her father said humiliating things for Lord Shiva, her husband. Grief-stricken Sati laid down her life then and there. Now Lord Shiva was grief-stricken and angry upon losing his loving wife. After his terrifying Taandava dance and spoilage of the Yajna of Daksha by his followers, he was calmed down only when Lord Vishnu cut the dead body of Sati into 51 pieces through his Sudarshan Chakra which got scattered in various regions (every limb is worshipped at the particular place) and thereafter Lord Shiva went for hard penance.

35260When Lord Shiva was undergoing his penance in a state of trance, two different phenomena took place. On one hand, a deadly demon called Taarakasur came into existence who created havoc in the world and on the other, Sati was reborn as Parvati, being the daughter of Himalaya. Taarakasur had got a boon that none could kill him but for the son of Lord Shiva. Here Parvati was led to believe by destiny that she was born to be the wife of Lord Shiva only. She left her home and started her own penance at a desolated place in the Himalayas to get Lord Shiva as her husband. Now her marriage with Lord Shiva could serve both the purposes – herself getting him as her husband as well as their union leading to the birth of their son who could kill Taarakasur. Hence the gods also helped her by breaking the penance of Lord Shiva through the arrow of Kaamdev (Cupid) and creating love in his heart for her. Kaamdev got burnt to ashes through the fire that came from the third eye of Lord Shiva but as Lord Shiva is called Aashutosh (one who quickly gets angry but becomes pleased even more quickly, leaving his anger behind), he gave life again to Kaamdev and thereafter approached Parvati to test the depth of her love for himself. He approached her in the disguise of a sage and criticized himself before her. When she was about to curse him out of her anger (that emerged by listening to the criticism of the lord of her heart), he revealed his true form to her immense delight. They got married and their union led to the birth of Lord Kaartikeya (or Kumaraswamy or Shadaanan) who killed Taarakasur.

35261Well, whether we, the educated ones, believe this mythological tale or not, is up to us only. However it underscores the fact that Indian mythology has always kept true love in high esteem. True love of a male for a female or a female for a male was considered pious. Our Shaastras or the sacred books have given due importance to Kaama or sex also because after following Dharma (good conduct), Artha (earning for earthly purposes) and Kaama (sex for generation of new babies and continuation of the Srishti or the world) only, one is entitled for Moksha or the salvation. Further, out of the four Aashramas or the stages of life, the Grihasthashrama or the householder’s life has been given the utmost importance in our Shaastras. Sex in marital life should not be just for the sake of lust or physical satisfaction, there should be a purpose behind it. Hence this tale has its own importance. It’s the day of victory of true love of Lady Parvati. We can substitute the word ‘love’ by another word ‘devotion’ too. Mahashivaraatri is the day of triumph of love and devotion – devotion to someone, devotion to some great objective, devotion to the Lord who can never leave the heart of a true devotee.

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Coming across drenched Venus in a rainy night

If you are a young man (or even when you are not so young) and in a rainy night, you happen to see an extremely beautiful girl in a drenched condition, what will be the reaction on you ? Quite naturally, you will get romantic. And if you are an eligible bachelor, you may experience a storm in your heart which is sure to be much bigger than the storm being faced by you in the outer world that night.barsaat-ki-raat-925023050-435994-1Barsaat Ki Raat (rainy night) is the story based upon such a rainy night only in which the hero, Bharat Bhushan happens to see the heroine, Madhubala in a drenched state with her dress sticking to her body. Madhubala was so beautiful that she used to be referred to as the Venus of the Indian screen. Well, such an extra-ordinary beauty and that too in the drenched state in the rainy night, needless to say that heavens fell for the heart of our young hero (quite interestingly, Madhubala’s birthday falls on 14th February, i.e., the Valentine’s Day).barsaat-ki-raat-1960-apollo-dvd-2222-pThe story starts from that rainy stormy night of Hyderabad (coincidentally I am also at Hyderabad and it’s raining too) and moves to Lucknow. The hero, Aman is a Qawwaal as well as a Shaayar (Urdu poet) and as was natural in that time; young, charming and emotional ladies used to fall for the touching poetry. So that sudden meeting under a shed in that rainy night changed the life of both the young Shaayar, Aman and the charming damsel, Shabnam who is the daughter of the police commissioner (K.N. Singh). Love blossoms in no time but the hiatus in the statuses becomes the insurmountable wall between the love-birds. Aman moves to Lucknow and keeps on participating in the Mushaayaras (gatherings of Urdu poets with the recitation of Urdu poetry). A lady Qawwaal, Shama (Shyama) has already fallen for him. So there’s a love-triangle in the story. Finally, the story heads to Ajmer Shareef for its climax in which Aman defeats a renowned Qawwaal in a Qawwaali contest (Muqaabala-E-Qawwaali) and gets his sweetheart.indexThis movie is based on the unique genre of music and poetry, Qawwaali which is not an easy one to perform for even the seasoned and expert singers. In this movie, the hero is not only an Urdu poet and singer, he is portrayed as an expert in creating extempore poetry for his Qawwaalis while the contest or the Muqaabla is in progress. The lyricist of this movie’s songs, the great Shaayar Saahir Ludhiyanvi and the music director, Roshan both have done an outstanding job in creating memorable Qawwaalis (and normal songs too) for the story of the movie. Seasoned singers like Manna Dey, Rafi, Batish, Shankar-Shambhu, Balbir, Lata, Asha, Suman Kalyanpur, Sudha Malhotra, Kamal Barot have given their voices for the Qawwaalis and the songs. In fact, it’s the extra-ordinary music of this movie which has made it immortal.index1All the songs are real gems. It boasts of classic Qawwaalis like Na To Kaarvaan Ki Talaash Hai (which includes Ye Ishq Ishq Hai Ishq Ishq), Jee Chaahta Hai Choom LoonNigaah-E-Naaz Ke Maaron Ka Haal Kya Hoga etc. In addition to them, memorable songs like – Zindagi Bhar Nahin Bhoolegi Woh Barsaat Ki RaatGarjat Barsat Saawan Aayo ReMaine Shaayad Tumhen Pehle Bhi Kahin Dekha HaiMujhe Mil Gaya Bahaana Teri Deed KaMaayus To Hoon Vaade Se Tere etc. are all a grand treat for the genuine music lovers. Listening to these songs take the music-lover to a different enchanting world, where he / she loses the sense of the outer world and just lost in the in the melody and the Shaayari drenched with sentiments.index2The movie is otherwise also very interesting with abundance of romance and emotions. Director P.L. Santoshi has ably directed this unusual story. Curiosity has been maintained well for the viewer. Art direction and cinematography are A class. The Muslim environment in the cities of Hyderabad, Lucknow and Ajmer in the fifties has been exasperated in an admirable manner (it was released in 1960). Production value is high. Editing is also good.index3Performances are admirable. Bharat Bhushan was a specialist in the roles of artists (Shaayar, poet, singer, painter etc.) and he has done well in this movie too. The Indian Venus – Madhubala is a treat to watch. She has performed well too. K.N. Singh as the stern police commissioner, Shyama as Shama, Ratna (playing her younger sister, Shabaab) and all others have supported the main cast quite proficiently. Ratna’s performance as Shabaab deserves special mention.

This black and white movie is an evergreen classic and the only movie based on timeless Qawwaalis. Such movies are hard to find in today’s times. So watch it and get nostalgic once again.

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What to forget ? What to remember ?

At least three generations of Hindi movie buffs are well-acquainted with the name of Amitabh Bachchan, the so-called ‘Star of the Millennium’ who became the first Indian actor to be immortalized in the form of a wax statue in Madame Tussaud’s Museum at London. If the people from today’s young generation are asked what they know about Harivansh Rai Bachchan, most of them will reply – ‘the father of Amitabh Bachchan’. However will that be a proper and complete introduction of Harivansh Rai Bachchan ? No ! The eminent Hindi poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan was a very big celebrity decades prior to his son Amitabh’s ascendance to success. His long poem – Madhushala was echoing in the nooks and corners of India like anything during the 1930s. He is one of the most prominent signatures of the Hindi poetry emerged in that period which was highly emotional, highly passionate and free from the bounds of traditional poetry.

Harivansh Rai Bachchan wrote his autobiography also. This epic autobiography is divided in four parts – 1. Kya Bhooloon Kya Yaad Karoon, 2. Need Ka Nirmaan Phir, 3. Basere Se Door, 4. Dashdwaar Se Sopaan Tak. Today I am reviewing the first part of this quadrology which, in my view, is the most passionately written among the foursome, i.e., Kya Bhooloon Kya Yaad Karoon (what’s there for me to forget, what’s there for me to remember). It was first published in 1969 and since then its many editions have been published. It covers the birth, the family conditions, the childhood, the adolescence and the youth of Harivansh Rai Bachchan. It ends with the incident of the demise of his very young first wife – Shyama which was a heartbreaking event of his life.kya-bhuloon-kya-yaad-kroonThe autobiography of Harivansh Rai Bachchan is considered as one of the most emphatic autobiographies ever written simply because from every nook and corner of it, it renders an air of candidness (though by referring to the preface of the autobiography of a great French author, he has admitted that he had to take care of public decency also while penning his life experiences with this candidness). And it’s this candidness (mainly about himself and his life) only that makes it so special and much more readable when compared to many other autobiographies. It’s boring at no place and highly interesting and appealing at all the places. In this review, I am covering only the first part of it which lasts upto his age of 29 years when his beloved wife Shyama left for her heavenly abode after a long terminal illness that she had inherited from her ailing mother while relentlessly taking care of her for long in the final phase of her life.

In addition to the candidness, the thing that has amazed me about Harivansh Rai Bachchan is his astounding episodic memory. I sometimes pat my own back for my sharp episodic memory and ability to recall things even decades after the time when they had taken place with accuracy of date and time. However before the memory of the legendary poet, I feel like a dust particle staring at a mountain. This book is a gigantic storehouse of his memories beginning from his early childhood and containing those things also that had happened prior to his birth and he must have come to know about them through the repetitive talks regarding them in his house and neighbourhood.

Talking about his forefathers and the different residences (and cities) where themselves and later himself alongwith the family, had lived; Harivansh Rai Bachchan has fondly remembered his great-grandmother (sister of his great-grandfather) – Raadha. An adventure of hers alongwith another lady – Mahanginiya Kaachhin from Allahabaad to Lalitpur when they achieved a great escape from the talon of a deadly bandit and his family through their sheer courage and wit is the most interesting episode narrated in the context of her personality. Bachchan has discussed many other ladies of his household and reproduced their talks in their own dialect (Avadhi). He has elaborated the financial hardships faced by his family in different time periods and how they were faced and tackled by himself and others in a very authentic and impressive manner. He has moved while narrating the things taken place from generation to generation in chronological order and maintained the flow just like that of a river moving peacefully at her own pace towards the ultimate destination. His wonderful narration allows the reader to travel through his experiences and visualize everything (and every referred person) in vivid form.

Perhaps the authors and poets find the company of the opposite sex (that is, the females) more compatible as compared to the company of their own sex (that is, the males). The same seems to have taken place with Bachchan also. While moving through adolescence, he had had a passionate relationship with Champa, the wife of his closest friend – Karkal who was a Brahmin (Bachchan was a Kaayastha). The relationship of Harivansh and Champa was a very peculiar one and could not be defined properly (exactly the way the relationship of the mythological Krishna and Radha cannot be defined by any means). But the irony of the social set-up is that the society around the individuals wants every male-female relationship to be defined in specific terms and to tag it with a name. Karkal’s untimely demise gave a new turn to the relationship of Harivansh and Champa, leading to Champa’s getting pregnant and her ultimate sacrifice for Harivansh which went a long way in developing the poet in him.

raj040_front209x263Harivansh’s father was a very understanding person for his son. An astrologer had told him that his son was an extra-ordinary one, born to swim against the tide and therefore, nothing should be imposed on him against his will. And hence despite knowing odd things about his relationship with Karkal’s wife Champa, he (as well as his wife, Harivansh’s mother – Sursati) never discussed anything with Harivansh in this regard. However he was able to see the broken mental condition of his son very well as a result of Champa’s tragic death. He wanted Harivansh to marry a suitable girl and let his broken heart be repaired that way. However nothing was imposed on Harivansh and by God’s grace, his true well-wisher Shreemohan arranged his matrimonial alliance with Shyama, a fourteen years old teenager who proved herself to be much more mature as compared to her tender years. Shreemohan had understood the personality and psyche of Harivansh very well and thus he had properly sensed what kind of a girl could be the perfect life-partner for him. And Shreemohan’s wisdom proved right. Shyama, in fact, proved to be the perfect match for Harivansh and groomed the poet in him through her interaction with him during her life and more so through her death. Being a true poet, Harivansh did not know any other way to express himself than through his poetry. He wrote his melancholy-soaked great poetic works viz. Nisha-Nimantran (invitation of night), Ekaant Sangeet (music of solitude) and Aakul Antar (restless inner-self) in Shyama’s memory only.

Though Bachchan has very correctly underscored the significance of sexual intimacy between a husband and a wife, he has clarified that the love between himself and Shyama was much above sex (I have inferred from the book that due to Shyama’s perennial sickness, perhaps the sexual intimacy between them was either not at all or very very less). It was simply divine love. He has elucidated his point through the episode of Shyama’s coming to his house through the custom of Gauna (earlier, when males and females were married in very young age of themselves, the bride remained for a few years with her parents only and when she was finally sent off by her parents to her husband to start her conjugal life in the practical sense, it was called her Gauna). When Shyama came to her in-laws’ home through Gauna three years after her marriage with Harivansh, she was very sick and the ladies in the house were not allowing her to be with Harivansh at night because they were thinking that Harivansh would exercise his husbandly right to have sex with her during the night hours. However Harivansh became adamant on this point that Shyama would be with him only at night. The other members of the household could not understand that completely lonely Harivansh was simply craving for the proximity of Shyama. He only wanted to talk to her in privacy and feel her touch (without sexual intercourse). It was Shyama only who understood her husband’s feelings in the true sense. Bachchan writes that she was also willing to be with him only in privacy. It was a perfect understanding between them without any exchange of words. Something scarcely found ! Something invaluable !

At no place has Bachchan tried to defend himself or justify whatever he had done while narrating the events of his life, the twists and turns of his life and his interactions with others. He has presented the things as they were and left it to the readers to judge the people involved (including the author) in their light according to their own wisdom. Kya Bhooloon Kya Yaad Karoon is like a spellbinding soap-opera in which Bachchan has inserted pieces of his poetry at appropriate places (because they were born from his experiences only).

In his candidness, Bachchan has asserted a couple of things about women which may pinch the feminists. However I request the female readers to read them without a prejudice because he has expressed only what he has perceived in his life-experiences. When a person has spent a major part of his life (Bachchan wrote this book when he was 62 years of age) and undergone a variety of experiences, he finds common threads when revisiting them in retrospect. Bachchan’s assertions about women are only the epitome of what he has seen, felt and understood. Hence the female readers need to understand his point of view in the light of this fact only.

Since I have already reviewed the epic novel of Yashpal – ‘Jhootha Sach’ (false truth), it won’t be inappropriate to mention here that the relationship of Yashpal’s betrothed (and later wife) – Prakasho and another friend of Bachchan – Shreekrishna is also a part of this work. Shreekrishna had a fatal attraction towards Prakasho despite knowing that she was just like something put under his trust by her beau Yashpal who was in jail because of his involvement in the armed anti-British activities (he was a close associate of great revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh and Chandra Shekhar Aazaad). And destiny brought Prakasho as close to Bachchan also. Her real identity and name was kept hidden by Bachchan from his other family members and she was called Raani when living with Bachchan’s family for some time. Bachchan has portrayed Prakasho aka Rani as a woman of substance and strength whereas Shreekrishna as a mentally weak person who could not shoulder responsibilities with vigour and confidence. However their relationship as well as the relationship of Harivansh with both of them (jointly as well as separately) was quite unique. By narrating them, the author has done nothing but strengthened my ages old belief in the dictum – ‘Truth is stranger than fiction’.

Bachchan was fortunate to have come into contact with several great people – not only great litterateurs but also great leaders like Tilak and Gandhi. A complaint was lodged with Gandhi against his most popular epic poem – Madhushala that it glamorizes alcoholism. However by reciting certain couplets of Madhushala (which were selected very carefully by him for this purpose) to him, he was able to convince the great leader that his work did not glamorize drinking or alcoholism in any way and it was to be understood in its subtle philosophical sense.

Though Kya Bhooloon Kya Yaad Karoon covers only 1/4 of the total autobiography of the great poet, it is perhaps the most significant of the four parts because it covers the evolution of what he eventually became. It elucidates the making of a great poet. I have always felt and this book has again made me feel that women play a very significant part in the lives of great men. Their unconditional love and deep understanding may take a seemingly ordinary male to the heights of greatness. Non-understanding and nagging women play quite a contrary role in the lives of the highly talented people following the same principle and prevent them from becoming what they could have become. Bachchan was fortunate to have passionately loving ladies like Champa and Shyama in the initial part of his life that evolved a great poet in him and later on he got the association of a very strong and practical woman- Teji (the mother of Amitabh Bachchan) who could amass the scattered pieces of his life and enable him to gain material success in the materialistic world. Very few people can consider themselves as so fortunate.

Kya Bhooloon Kya Yaad Karoon is the second book which has impressed me so much and churned me from within like anything (the first one is ‘Jhootha Sach). Prior to writing this review, I have read it thrice. I recommend this extra-ordinary book to all the lovers of Hindi literature. Let myself be candid enough to declare that its quality beats even the much more famous poetic works of Harivansh Rai Bachchan.

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Portrayal of a lover’s pain

Great Hindi poet – Sumitra Nandan Pant’s immortal lines are – Viyogi Hoga Pahla Kavi, Aah Se Upaja Hoga Gaan, Nikalkar Aankhon Se Chupchaap Bahi Hogi Kavita Anjaan (the first poet of the world must have been some lover separated from his beloved, his sigh must have given rise to the lyric and the hitherto unknown poetry must have flown through his eyes, i.e., in the form of his tears). Yes, it’s the pain of separation from or loss of his / her beloved that gives rise to the immortal poems and songs emerging straight from the wounded heart. Painting is another form of fine art that can portray such pain vividly through beautiful and heart-touching pictures. Today I am reviewing a unique book in which poetry and painting amalgamate to portray a loving husband’s pain who has been separated from his wife.

Meghdootam is the famous Khand-Kaavya (a long narrative poem) authored by the great Sanskrit poet of our country – Mahakavi Kaalidaas. It tells the emotional story of a Yaksha (a divine male entity) who was in the service of King Kuber who ruled Alkapuri (a place somewhere near Mount Kailash). The Yaksha was just so much in love with his wife that he could not do justice to his duty. Coming to know of his negligence, King Kuber awarded him the unbearable punishment of staying away from his loving wife for a year and he had to move to the mountain of Ramgiri. Now the Yaksha is forced to live away from his wife whose love only has been his obsession. He passes his time, shedding tears and missing his wife. When the rainy season (the month of Aashaadh as per the Indian calendar) arrives, his pain of separation from his beloved crosses all the bounds. In such a situation, he chooses a cloud in the sky as his messenger and requests him to deliver his love-soaked message to his wife who is equally aggrieved by this separation. This message only is the essence of Meghdootam or Meghdoot (cloud, the messenger).

The legendary poet has divided this great Kaavya into two parts – Poorva Megh and Uttar Megh, Poorva (former) Megh narrates the path from the Ramgiri mountain to Alkapuri. Uttar (later) Megh spells out the geography of Alkapuri, the grief and the plight of the Yaksha’s wife (her name being Shyama) and finally, the message to be delivered by the cloud to that bereft lady. Mahakavi Kaalidaas who is known as the Shakespeare of India, has presented an immensely beautiful as well as sentimental account of this immortal saga which has been stirring the loving hearts for ages.

Kanhaiya Lal Varma is a well-known name in the world of painting. He opted for the Rajasthani style of painting smelling with the fragrance of the Rajasthani soil and went on to make hundreds of classic paintings in that style, using the immortal folk-tales and inspiring sagas as their subject-matter. He made a series of paintings based on this immortal Kaavya and any art-lover will admit after seeing those paintings that like the Kaavya, these paintings are also immortal and priceless.meghdoot-chitranMeghdhoot-Chitran (the portrayal of Meghdoot) is a book in which these paintings are given with suitable narration for all them. Total no. of paintings is 34 (19 based on Poorva Megh and 15 based on Uttar Megh). The layout of the book is such that the left side page contains the details of the painting, containing first the original Sanskrit Shloka (couplet), then the Hindi narration and thereafter the English translation of the same whereas the right side page contains the painting.

Every painting is eye-cooling and full of aestheticism. However Kanhaiya Lal Varma who has always worshipped beauty and purity of love only through his art, has penned highly aesthetic narration too for every painting. The concerned Shloka authored by Kaalidaas is written (by Varma himself) at the bottom of the painting (in some paintings, it is given at the top though). It’s the specialty of Varma that despite narrating the beauty of the ladies and referring to lovemaking in a couple of paintings, nowhere is any lack of decency either in the painting or in the narration. Varma’s painting-brush and his pen, both seem to be well-acquainted with the line demarcating aesthetics from obscenity. His narration is also wonderful. His words seem to be beautiful and fragrant flowers strung in the garlands of sentences. The English version of the Hindi narration has been written by Roop Narayan Kabra which is helpful for those who are not aware of Hindi and Sanskrit.

Before presenting his paintings, Varma has written the preface in Hindi (its English version is also given) asserting the background of this series of paintings and his own experience and perception of the Kaavya as well as the beautiful places which are an integral part of it. The author’s assertion appears to be completely honest and sincere as the reader moves through the words. Varma says that he has used the specially prepared paper of Vasli and used the fresh rain-water (fallen directly from the clouds) for dissolving the (indigenous) colours used to make these paintings. The preface leads the reader of the book and watcher of the painting into the heart of the painter-cum-author and feel his aesthetic sense and emotional nature.

The original paintings are, but natural, big but they can be seen and studied with ease in their smaller form available on the pages of this book. It is a river of separation-generated feelings, a river of beauty scattered in the paintings made in the traditional style, a river of art. These paintings are not just for the eyes, they are for the heart; a heart which can feel the sentiments inherent and which can empathize with the characters of Meghdoot – the Yaksha and his wife. Varma’s explanation of every Shloka clarifies that the message-sending Yaksha is not just conveying his message but also pouring out the pain in his heart. How touching it is, can be known by seeing the paintings and reading the narration only. The way the Yaksha elaborates the dos and don’ts to the cloud while visiting the different places on its way is heart-conquering for the reader.

Love and pain are two sides of the same coin. The more you love someone, the more is the pain of his / her separation. Meghdoot underscores this fact only. The knowledge of the divine language, Sanskrit is not much among the Indians and its stretch is getting further constricted with the passage of time. In such a scenario, every lover of literature may not be able to read the original Kaavya of the great poet Kaalidaas. (Late) Kanhaiya Lal Varma, an art-teacher who had got the National Teacher Award from the president of India in 2000, presents a handy solution to this issue through Meghdoot-Chitran. This book is a unique combination of art and literature, an invaluable gift for the art-lovers as well as the literature-lovers.

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Cinema is the art to make believe

Today is the birthday of Bipasha Basu who is my favourite heroine from the contemporary cinema. I dedicate this review to herself. Many many happy returns of the day Bipasha.

Cinema is said to be the art of storytelling. But I assert that it is ‘the art to make believe’, i.e., the art of making the viewers believe whatever is shown on the screen and letting it go down their throats even when it is not real. Dum Maaro Dum (2011) may be quoted as a classic example of it in the times to come.

During the seventies, Salim-Javed used to write the scripts of crime-thrillers which were actually the stories of cat and mouse game between the police and the criminals. They were skilled in drafting such spellbinding screenplays (according to the standards of that period) full of blows and retaliations between the two rival sides, thrilling action, witty dialogues with some dose of emotions and romance just equal to the quantum of salt in the recipe of the pulse being cooked and they were paced so fast that the viewer hardly got any time to think anything about the characters or the story, who was made to watch the movie without a blink and holding his breath. Salim-Javed wrote the stories of the movies of Ramesh Sippy too during that period whose son, Rohan Sippy has come up with this movie and this movie falls under the same genre of movies, a mesmerizing thriller with an element of suspense too. And it is the screenplay of this movie which makes it a winner all the way through its duration of around 130 minutes. Such type of movies made Amitabh Bachchan a superstar during the seventies and now perhaps, it’s the turn of his son, Abhishek.

Dum Maaro Dum, as the name suggests, deals with the illegal business of narcotic drugs with the backdrop of Goa. In between the investigating adventures of the supercop, Abhishek Bachchan; a name is tossed as the main criminal behind all this illegal trade but who is this person, remains a suspense till the climax and myself (being proud of my success in guessing the real culprit most of the times whenever I watch or read a mystery) could not identify him till the storyteller himself revealed the suspense. And that’s a great achievement of the narrator, I must admit.The screenplay itself is the hero which rules over all the characters including the investigating cop, Abhishek Bachchan. The pace of the narrative is fast enough to keep the viewers glued to the screen and not missing a single moment of the movie. For the thriller fans, it’s a very big treat indeed.

Technically the movie is good and the cinematographer has done a praiseworthy job in not only capturing the beauty of Goa but also moving his camera quite skillfully amidst light, semi-dark and dark sequences. The action scenes are well-picturized and the dialogues are also quite impressive. The production value aspect is also up to the mark. Length of the movie could be trimmed by a few minutes in the second half but still the overall length of the movie is quite okay. The first half is more engrossing than the second one though the suspense deepens in the second half only.

Music is quite in line with the mood of the movie and according to the scenes running on the screen alongwith the background score. However had Rohan Sippy managed a fresh song instead of the remix of the old hit – Dum Maaro Dum from the movie Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971), it would have been better on his part because neither the remix version nor Deepika Padukone is any match for the original track in Asha’s voice or Zeenat Aman for the on-screen performance. Despite being the title track, it is the most unimpressive one (both the song as well as the scene) in the movie.Rohan Sippy has extracted highly satisfactory performances from most of the performers. I count Abhishek Bachchan’s performance as one among his five best performances till date. All others also fit the bill and almost every principle characters is able to maintain his / her identity in the movie for which the writers and the director deserve a pat. Rana Daggubati and Prateek Babbar stand out among others. The movie stars two of my most favourite actresses – Bipasha Basu (today’s birthday babe) and Vidya Balan (she impresses in a cameo too), however the movie mainly belongs to the male cast.I had written this review after returning from the theatre with my wife (on 24.04.2011) who watches a movie with me in theatre once in a blue moon only. Despite not being very fond of thrillers or mysteries, she had liked the movie very well. The movie had proved so engrossing for her that she did not talk much to me during the watch which is unusual for her.

It’s not a classic movie but a very very entertaining thriller. I don’t know whether such type of activities and such type of scenario prevail in Goa or not (where I visited on the Christmas of 2009) but Rohan Sippy has been able to make me believe whatever he has portrayed in Dum Maaro Dum.

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