MY TWO POEMS HAVE BEEN PUBLISHED BY LOTHLORIEN JOURNAL.

https://lothlorienpoetryjournal.blogspot.com/2021/02/tellher-holdme-dearly-evenwhen-your.html?m=1


The above link will let you all read my two previously published poems TELL HER and SHE ONCE BLOOMED LIKE THE DAISY, that found a place here on this blog and on my Wattpad poetry collection first, few months ago.

They have been selected by editor and prolific poet STRIDER MARCUS JONES and published on LOTHLORIEN JOURNAL;  so I hope you grasp the message and intricacies of their topicality.


READ THEM AGAIN AND SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS.


***

NURSERY RHYMES AND CHILDREN’S POEMS FROM AROUND THE WORLD YOU MAY NOT HAVE HEARD

Order your own copy of this wonderful children’s anthology by clicking on this link.

Support and read the works of all the writers who have contributed, not just me.

I am extremely proud to be a part of this collection which spreads the melody of words to children and adults alike.

MY TWO POEMS HAVE GRACED A WONDERFUL POETRY ANTHOLOGY

My two poems DREAMS and WISH UPON A STAR have been published in a children’s anthology edited by ANITA NAHAL and MEENAKSHI MOHAN.

The book is available on AMAZON BOOKS and so multiple readers around the world will read them.

I am deeply grateful to the editors and also take the occasion to congratulate all fellow poets whose works have graced the anthology.

As usual, I strive to diversify my writing palette and so this betokened opportunity is a true Godsend.

***

****

****

So spread the word, share your thoughts, make all children and the innocent at heart adults read them and support your fellow writer and friend.

THANK YOU.

THE MASTERS AT WORK

It’s a blessed occasion for me to have received the opportunity of watching three masters of their form share their concrete vision with this cinephile, over the past few days as I took time out of my schedule to accommodate precious hours for these works.

That special feeling of being privy to the intensity and many hues of landmark cinema by SATYAJIT RAY and INGMAR BERGMAN enriched me and the medium of watching them (courtesy YouTube) didn’t make a sliver of difference. I believe in the moving image’s sanctity and hence the screen ratio isn’t even an afterthought. If you ask me then personally I feel that YouTube and other streaming services are committing a great deed by making these classic titles available to us. Ultimately, watching them is a personalized experience for everyone.

So without further ado, let me write about each of the four works by these international icons and reserve praise for another recent entry into Netflix’s gallery of successes with NEWS OF THE WORLD, helmed by another master filmmaker Paul Greengrass and pivoted towards its destination by the gravitational pull of Tom Hanks’ noble aura plus a scene stealing turn by breakout star HELENA ZENGEL. This Western should join the genre’s hall of fame.

***

TEEN KANYA( THREE WOMEN/ THREE GIRLS) is an anthology film by one of India’s finest filmmakers and Oscar winner Satyajit Ray, released in 1961. What makes the two films that I watched, among its trio of tales written originally by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, is that it keeps its local soul, the Bengali flavour alive. That’s the reason why the universality of his emotional output resonates even today and has particularly been preserved as an heirloom within not just national annals but around the world.

Taking cues from its period settings, the essence of human nature is illustrated as being the same between then and now. It’s his tender, delicate and evocative touch that give these stories a folkloric whiff yet a personal beat to lives portrayed without exhausting a single minute of the little details that matter.

In SAMAPTI( THE END), now legendary actor and filmmaker Aparna Sen beautifully writs large the innocence and carefree nature of teenage and the pain of expecting to grow up overnight as a bride. Her unbridled spirit, however, is at odds with convention and all she wants is to ride the swing by the river and tend to her pet squirrel.

It’s a gradual movement towards acknowledging the decency and patience of her husband (another legendary star Saumitra Chatterjee) who she once laughed at as he slipped in the mud and who clearly understands her unwillingness to suddenly transition into a better half because she’s too young to know intricacies of life itself. To me, the lead protagonist’s journey informs us of an era when the perils of early marriages and being designated as a teenage bride was very potent. Once again, the healthy camaraderie in the man-woman bond is a hallmark, something Ray is adept at. Gita Dey and Sita Mukherjee too lend credence to the quicksilver bonds of maternal love and exasperation here.

**

MONIHARA( THE LOST JEWELS) is another part of this anthology; human greed for riches and the collateral damage wrought out of it is constructed ably by Mr. Ray in this instance. It’s essentially a ghost story, only the horror here is generated by a man’s ( Kali Banerjee) disbelief at his wife’s( Kanika Majumdar) betrayal and abandonment in a moment of financial crisis while her obsession with her box of jewels adds such layers of complexity to her already unpredictable exterior that it’s disconcerting to witness a bond of love and camaraderie surrender its effusion at the altar of material comforts.

Gobinda Chakravarti as the raconteur of this local legend strings the tale in a fashion we can identify as every aristocratic remnant boasts of such melancholy. Mr. Ray captures the mood of that isolation, that sense of dread and internalized pain for the male lead here in a haunting 53 minute capsule.

I will also recommend the celebrated series STORIES BY RABINDRANATH TAGORE, an original miniseries from Indian network Epic, currently streaming on Netflix too, to have a modern taste of these two tales especially, along with its entire ensemble. Period appropriate cinematography, mood, dialogues, excellently nuanced performances and social consciousness make it worthwhile and a worthy addition to the canon of works taking a leaf out of Tagore’s timeless ouevre.

**

Ingmar Bergman’s omnibus reaches its spiritually terrifying summit in HOUR OF THE WOLF (1968) whose central couple ( Liv Ullmann and Max Von Sydow) clash with their inner emptiness even as the spark of togetherness is palpable to their sustained bond of many years. Without making the why and whats of the situation, it’s the island imagery, otherwise serene and cut off from the hustle and bustle of city life, that slowly clears an inlet for human depravity as the introverted artist husband is beguiled by a group of sequestered aristocrats.

Their idiosyncrasies gradually warp him and the horror of his unique station in life becomes a living nightmare for him, fed by his past and impinging on the present. His dutiful wife is the point of view personage and is given contemplative passages of quiet strength offset by her better half’s stricken conscience.

Bergman and cinematographic collaborator Sven Nykvist provide it with a terrifying visual palette in sepia tones, the light and shadows evoking a chilling sense of dread, an internalized one at that. The screenplay hence has an ominous property, with unforgettable individual scenes, conversational exchanges simmering with unease and the lucid clarity of Liv Ullmann’s predicament and quest for a truth that goes beyond reason.

HOUR OF THE WOLF evokes Scandinavian legends and is attuned to realism. That’s why it is so effective and memorably haunting, akin to a nightmare scenario brought by class relations and artistic ennui.

**

THE SILENCE (1963) is an apt title for this bleak study of human relationships, a cinematic examination of filial distance that is painfully realistic. With its emphasis on naturalistic sound, especially clocks, and a lead character suffering from an undisclosed physical condition leading to excruciating pain, it was reminiscent of CRIES AND WHISPERS (1972) to this writer. As it’s a story cueing sibling dynamics, it becomes its companion piece though THE SILENCE was released a decade ago.

The more I think about it, the more I am intrigued by its no holds barred look at the way years of prior tensions implode with simmering rage and claustrophobic tempers for two siblings (played excellently by GUNNEL LINDBLOM and INGRID THULIN) who expose depths of control, regret and indifference in showcases of collective individuality. Sensuality very tastefully aids their reckoning. A breakdown of the spirit concludes it on an ambiguous note of even more pain and no closure.

At the end of the day, the child’s (JORGEN LINDSTROM) guileless innocence oversees a pantomime of silent reckoning in a foreign land with a foreign tongue, when he meets a group of liliputs and the elderly waiter at the hotel who all seem to speak a garbled tongue, almost like silent cinema. This puts it firmly in place with the central theme of lack of communication among adults.

Anyway, I feel very few filmmakers can represent the many layers of repression with such exactitude like Bergman. These two titles attest to that.

**

SPECIAL MENTION

NEWS OF THE WORLD (2020)

A western, by its structure, is meant to be modeled a certain way. There will be a conflict of interest pitting one’s self-preservation against greater forces of man, nature and the frontier of life. All this will predate modern American society and be a reflection of the cross-currents that shaped it. Harsh living conditions co-existing with survival instincts will guide relationships. Evil in the form of parochial, patriarchal modus operandi will approach from all sides and eventually be vanquished.

NEWS OF THE WORLD ticks those boxes but in its paternal core of warmth and selflessness finds Tom Hanks matching his sense of humility with that of an orphan girl who is every bit his equal in terms of screen time and emotional parallelism. Helena Zengel is a great discovery and by dint of her linguistic adaptability broadens her breadth of storytelling focus.

I was also impressed by the parts enacted by the formidable likes of MARE WINNINGHAM, ELIZABETH MARVEL, MICHAEL COVINO and BILL CAMP.

NEWS OF THE WORLD is a true Western, aided by its cinematography, music and the essence of life then. It must be watched by all.

**

‘Monster’s Ball’: On Two Lives in Unison

Lionsgate Films Ever since I watched Monster’s Ball in 2018 (and then re-watched it in 2019), its naturalistic expression of two lives caught in the crosshairs of personal and eventually interpersonal grief never left me. It shouldn’t, given its classic status as a dramatic work of art that won accolades galore, particularly highlighting the crescent […]

‘Monster’s Ball’: On Two Lives in Unison

My essay on the immersive MONSTER’S BALL has been published by SCREEN QUEENS and I thoroughly thank features editor MEGAN WILSON for choosing to publish it, especially since writing about it is close to my heart.


**

CRICKET IS JUST NOT MY CUP OF TEA: on WONDROUS OBLIVION (2003)

Just last week while reading about another one of the many accolades for DELROY LINDO circa his turn in DA 5 BLOODS(2020), my mind almost immediately went back to the time, almost a decade back, when I had seen him in a little gem titled WONDROUS OBLIVION. I know, the title itself is an unusually beautiful one and I have somehow always identified Lindo with his starring role in this British production.

To be honest, thanks to the diversity of cinema on display in several Indian channels broadcasting unconventional works as this, i.e. a cut above the usual blockbuster or front-running dramatic/comedic fare, I received the opportunity to broaden my horizon when I was barely in the thick of my own teenage years. WONDROUS OBLIVION was also discovered by me by chance as I happened to settle for the channel on which it was playing. Sadly, that pattern has undergone a change over the years and mostly mainstream works only make the cut, if they are not cut to length by the transparency of the highly annointed streaming networks. Eras have a way of reconfiguring trends but the first cinematic experience on the big or small screen, in the two most traditional forms, tend to stay with us as mementos. The same applies in this case. That is the foreground for this cinephile.

https://images.app.goo.gl/oDW6xCJcCWhBU95q8

***

Actually WONDROUS OBLIVION stays with me even now because of the profound source of social anxiety that I, myself, have faced, growing up in a nation as obsessed with the game of cricket as mine.

My father, Mr. ABHIJEET SINHA, is many things and that includes a gifted writer, storehouse of knowledge and lover of wildlife but first and foremost he is a champion cricketer of fine mettle who conquered the complexities of the sport in the prime of his youth, made an everlasting name for himself within his state and eventually the nation by transferring his expertise to generations of other like-minded cricketers. He instituted an eponymous cricket academy in our hometown Lucknow way back in 1996 that holds the distinction of being the first ever privately run, professional teaching unit in our home state of Uttar Pradesh. In 2021, it has reached a landmark by entering its silver jubilee year.

So naturally one would assume that I am a born talent in the field and you wouldn’t be wrong to state the obvious. But every individual is born with his/her own share of future reckoning. My father made cricket his lifeforce, my grandfather made the very best of engineering duties in the prestigious GEOLOGICAL SURVEY OF INDIA(G.S.I.) while my great grandfather was a reputed professor of English whose influence managed to vow the colonial administration and his contemporary compatriots equally. Now, I add this bit of information or family history not to present a picture of achievements or plain generational lineage. My only objective here is to show how diverse that journey of accomplishments, ambitions and interests is within one family which happens to be my own.

So it was generally a prerequisite that we were always allowed to march to our own beat and my parents, both of them equally, knew that my vocation in writing was my ultimate calling in life. However, wagging tongues and conventional strictures didn’t allow the world to see it in that same flexible mould. For them, a child had to naturally inherit certain traits. While it didn’t toe the line of doctors and engineers in this case( thank God for it!), everybody was pretty amazed that I never had even an inkling or passing interest for CRICKET, that divine entity whose charms seemingly Indians and few other countries just cannot resist. That is a fact.

But that is who I am. Cricket just wasn’t my cup of tea and I blame the genes. Nobody except my father has ever excelled in it or in sports in general and most of us only share an enthusiasm for it endemic to our culture. On a deeper level, it was and remains a matter of individuality. You are either inclined towards a particular line of work, sports or vocation or you aren’t. Writing is my life force and now that I have inroads as a published writer, the future has looked up for me by dint of my own efforts. If you ask me personally then I don’t even have basic knowledge of cricket’s intricacies and really don’t enthuse myself by participating in water cooler conversations around it. Truthfully, I feel I will be insincere if I dabbled in a conversation without having adequate knowledge about the subject and will cheat other genuine enthusiasts of their own individual streaks. So basically, it boils down to what one is born with or gets to hone and master.

The unique symmetry of my life is that today I simultaneously write and publish my writings in versatile forms and forums while handling the administrative and written duties of the family run enterprise, that is the academy. Also even when the staunchest of fans go red with anger and employ harsh, judgemental words for cricketers after losses, I cut them loose for their one-sided love for the game that refuses to accept the idea of defeat in a competitive scenario. I may not be cricket’s biggest cheerleader per se hence but I know how to appreciate the toil and dedication of a game that consumes hours, days of its participants, given its expansive format. I also see it as a metaphor for life itself with all its attendant highs and lows. If I may say so many of its stances and postures, hits and actions can be strikingly balletic and spring from the most artistic realm, given mastery of its multifarious techniques.

‘Wondrous Oblivion’ hence is a term that, for me, defines the surprise in others occassioned by someone’s unconventional choices. Especially a departure from set interests or norms. It’s actually a pretty normal strand of growing up and the film hits those marks with ease for me in that respect.

**

So coming back to the film, WONDROUS OBLIVION is about a school-going English boy who is particularly not good in playing cricket and is the butt of jokes and derision owing to it. One of the senior men present at a match where he again fails to succeed uses the two words that constitute the title. Even then as well as today, I saw that as a source of bemusement for him and by extension others given every English boy’s tailor-made love for cricket, including the sense of pride in it being their own creation. A kind of national honour. Of course, that has transcended to become a global phenomenon of unabated cultural value. My experiences with the academy over the years even before I lent my hand full time attest to that curve and evolution of cricket as shorthand for a billion dreams and more.

There are three other compelling strands in this film that stay with me. One being a West Indian family’s move to the neighbourhood inviting wagging tongues and xenophobic tempers from the residents, many of them middle aged, set in their ways and fossils of the empire’s socio-political hegemony. The other is the leading boy’s innocent love for his West Indian neighbour girl. The third is of the essence of love and companionship, of a more physical kind, kindling between the boy’s mother and the girl’s father. So at every turn, conventions are broken and complexity of life is split wide open. While many of these strands remain muted and simmering owing to the period setting, the girl’s father becomes an ally for the boy as he trains him to become a better cricketer. Through his trial and errors, active participation in the game, he transcends set conventions of his society, to grow up and come of age.

Oh, how fondly I remember its languid, appropriate pace, uncluttered visuals, such a change of pace and tone from tales with children at their center. How I longed to write about it anew ever since I lost an original writing in a notebook from those years ago.

WONDROUS OBLIVION is more than just about the arc of cricket becoming a metaphor for life for its young protagonist. For me, its realistic cultural attuning is relevant at any point in our lives. SAM SMITH, LEONIE ELLIOTT as the kids, DELROY LINDO and EMILY WOOF as the adults lend it grit and grace. It’s an unlikely, underrated pick but will be so much more once you watch it.

If I can write about it based on my memory alone, it is sure to mesmerise a whole new set of admirers who yearn for similar sensibilities as enshrined in this humane tale.

***

TO HAVE AND TO HOLD

These are stories that were steadfast in their depictions of individual lives and came to hold a deep place in my heart because the often suppressed voices of enterprising females ran roughshod over gender and racial constructs, to the point of enduring even in the face of alienation.

So here I share my thoughts on them, with special mentions handed out to two distinctive works.

***

ALEX HALEY’S QUEEN, EPISODES 2ND AND 3RD(1993)

I had written about this underrated, three part miniseries earlier, my essay vignette restricted to its first episode only.

The second and third episodes very organically built on the indomitable spirit of the titular protagonist, a historical figure in a mass of unrecognized personages who had the black marks of race imprinted on her very soul. She also happened to be iconic writer Alex Haley’s grandmother. Her divided loyalties in a society built on not just class but racial considerations meant her interracial identity always haunted her while her light skin wedged her on opposing sides of the spectrum. She was neither one of them, instead she was a full-bodied individual and in the post Civil War reckoning, she easily could have accepted her marginalized status. Fitting in and finding a ‘home’ befalls those who are orphaned by fate and QUEEN’S ironic destiny was such.

Halle Berry brings such poignancy, strength of character to even her gloomiest personal moments precisely because her embodiment is equal to the non-exploitative nature of storytelling. There are multiple scenes within this body of work where compassion stretches its limits, breaks cruelty’s tentative spell and people who share all shades of skin colour traverse a whole plethora of human emotions.

***

LORRAINE TOUSSAINT, DANNY GLOVER as shining beacons of selfless support, the two ladies who played missionaries attesting to the same complexity of ideas and deeds were particularly memorable and so was a young JUSSIE SMOLLETT as Queen’s youngest son who understood her lifetime of experiences better than any kindred adult. Halle was devastatingly real with her share of mental toll signifying the generational thump of racism and was triumphant by advocating for her son’s destiny as something far greater than her community’s statistic of sixth grade dropouts becoming premature sharecroppers. In one of her earliest performances, she truly traced the breadth of her dramatic talents and commitment to spotlighting authentic, transcendental African-American narratives. History will look at Alex Haley’s corpus as a watershed and QUEEN beautifully distills years and centuries of the African American community’s journey, making it worthwhile during the BLACK HISTORY MONTH. Every participant in this miniseries is a beneficiary since they honour their own ancestral arcs and humbly stand testament to a nation’s past, present and future as reflected in this three episode capsule.

For me, the theme music by Christopher Dedrick and photography by Tony Imi go hand in hand with its biographical truth. Its depiction of race relations and the precedents shaping societies hold water to this date.

**

THE OTHERS(2001)

Alejandro Amenabar’s English language hit feature THE OTHERS was always on my radar. All points considered, its gothic entanglements of atmospherics and the mental alienation wrought by Nicole Kidman’s lead performance make for an engaging tale, set at the end of the Second World War.

The conventions are fairly in place, including a matriarch occupying a huge mansion set in an estate that really falls nowhere close to human civilization, a perpetually foggy aura, two curious pre-teen children, one of whom is relentlessly high-spirited and unbending in the face of strictures, a newly arrived nanny who brings with her a storehouse of the usual mystery central to horror tropes and of course the characteristic of things going bump in the night. But is it all a work of supernatural forces or just the aftermath of psychological unraveling?

Also as the children are photosensitive to light, the darkness within the home is literal. It’s Ms. Kidman, her face a canvas of emotional malleability, who demonstrates an all-too recognizable strain of mothers everywhere, balancing her maternal core with an iron-clad resolve, all the while waiting for her husband(Christopher Eccleston) to return from the war. When he does, a quiet melancholy and tenderness seeps in a household longing for a reunion but it’s hauntingly short-lived.

At the end of it all, THE OTHERS, packing its surprises and true emotional value in the last half an hour, unfolds and genuinely moves us. As a home is a repository of familial relationships, we wonder how much do we truly belong under the roof we share, as flesh and blood individuals bound by a sacred bond. How much of our lives are really ours since external forces, social and otherwise ( in this case, the War and the threat of intruders, given its backlog of Nazi invasion on a desolate British isle) threaten to overwhelm us?

It also attempts then to rationally look at the nebulous idea of the afterlife, death and how in a moment, life can offer us an emotional wallop beyond our control.

Fionnula Flanagan is excellent here as the nanny who is similarly in throes of her own past while Alakina Mann and James Bentley as the two kids give it its innocence and petulance. Yes, I was reminded of THE TURN OF THE SCREW, that classic gothic novella by Henry James. But above all, THE OTHERS focuses very less on the horror paradigms and more on the vulnerabilities of a mother overlooking her own dark world, in which love for her children is the only source of light.

**

NORTH COUNTRY (2005)

Indian lawmakers have recently released a highly objectionable, almost perverse law that treats the act of groping without overt physical touch or extending to touch without contact under the clothing as not amounting to an instance of assault or sexual harassment, giving leeway to all the cat-callers and hooligans to indulge in those acts shamelessly. That it came in the light of a man’s acquittal in a case involving a minor age victim only makes it derogatory to the very core of human decency.

Trust me when I say that laws passed by a consortium of archaic minded males who refuse to look at the slightest possiblity of gender equality in a skewed consciousness extends itself to four corners of the world. NORTH COUNTRY (2005) is one such example as it collates a collective of female voices buckling under the pressure of institutionalized sexual advances and threat of physical harm, in a community of miners in Minnesota. The males attack them verbally and emotionally for daring to step into what they believe to be a male-centric domain. Shaming them into submission is their only ploy to uphold this twisted status quo. In the fight for employment, pay and food on the table, the female folk endure indignities, even when this internal rage at the system makes them ironically stand in opposition to an unified voice of reason. That’s how the patriarchy operates, to break down systems and turn friends against friends.

For Josie Aimes( Academy Award winner Charlize Theron, also nominated for the same accolade for this landmark role), it’s an uphill battle on multiple fronts since she is separated from her abusive husband, has two young children to look after and battles society’s judgements on top of her awakening for reform. This extends beyond sexual harrassment to equal pay and representation in the miners’ union. Her emotionally stirring backlog, courtesy Amber Heard’s investment in the role as a younger Josie, and warmth for her son, a child born out of wedlock in her teenage, add layers to her journey.

NORTH COUNTRY is devastating as we watch this cycle of harassment turn again and again, with the men stooping down to employing more repulsive verbal tactics and actions to discredit the women. Law too doesn’t side with them. It can be passed on as another show of ‘female suffering’ from those who want to turn away from harsh reality. But since we know about this cycle of abuse dominating our immediate present, the clarion call for change presented here, inspired by a historic lawsuit striking down sexual harrassment in the workplace, is revolutionary in its own way.

Jillian Armenante, Rusty Schwimmer, Michelle Monaghan, Sissy Spacek and the always reliable Frances McDormand(another Oscar winner who was nominated for her supporting arc in this instance) rally their support and men like the ones played by Sean Bean, Woody Harrelson, Corey Stoll too lend their weight. On the other end of the spectrum, Jeremy Renner exposes the torrent of male hegemony while Richard Jenkins expertly estimates his exhaustion, disappointment, resignation to gender strictures and a late awakening to his daughter’s fight within. His speech to a gallery of male egotists somehow reminds us how a man’s words mean more than a woman’s own when it comes to her rights. He has to stand up for his daughter even as her own honesty is stifled by boos and derision.

Ultimately, it’s a profound fight to achieving clarity and Charlize stands up to her own beliefs, knowing society can hardly change but a precedent can be set. Niki Caro directs it with the same burning agency for change.

****

SPECIAL MENTION

DIANA(2013)

I owe this one a special shout out, owing to the exquisite nature of Naomi Watts’ dedicated portrayal of the ever-stricken, ever-beloved Lady Diana. This biographical portrait of her last years bears a quietly simmering sense of tragedy by way of her romance and seemingly stable relationship with a benevolent doctor of Pakistani origin(the iconic Indian actor Naveen Andrews) until the media glare gets too much and her status as ‘the world’s most famous woman’ breaks the promise of joy.

Be it her meeting with her beloved’s family back in Lahore where his mother traces her own generational angst of a post Partition subcontinent contingent with the Crown’s own complicity in the social mapping of a land to her moments of desperation in which her loneliness completely shatters the picture-perfect ideal of her life after exiting confines of royal protocol; or her love for her sons, she conveys all with her eyes and body language. Ditto her sincere philanthropic efforts or anti-mining stance.

As most of it is based on actual accounts in the public domain, I could feel deeply about its authentic, factual core complemented by Watts’ sincere charm and innate melancholy. Emma Corrin has vowed us with her quintessential embodiment of Diana in THE CROWN. But before that came this wonderful and unjustly overlooked embodiment by Ms. Watts.

Put together, they make the iconic figure not just another historical reference alone and it’s time we gave them their due for it. I mean personally, it would have been remiss on my part to not appreciate DIANA for its non-sensational approach.

**

TRIBHANGA(2021)

Last but not the least comes the recently released Netflix original drama TRIBHANGA, a tale rooted in the lives of three generations of women in post-modern India, each with her own share of social burdens and the autonomy to challenge them.

With a mix of social commentary, issue based threads and above all humour, it strings together their journeys with a healthy intertwining of the past and present. Estranged bonds reveal their depths and everybody is given the space to breathe. Renuka Shahane, an esteemed actress and host of the pan-Indian pantheon show SURABHI, turns writer and director for the second time here after helming RITA. She achieves her trinity of balance and emotional flair with performers as consummate as TANVI AZMI, KAJOL and MITHILA PALKAR. However, the guilelessness and innocence of this complex tale lies with KUNAL ROY KAPOOR as Milan, a writer who speaks with chaste Hindi and is penning an autobiography of the matriarch at its center. He is au natural.

Realistically fleshed out and directed with sensitivity in a pithy screenplay, TRIBHANGA is a heartwarming addition to the growing canon of meaningful stories finding traction on streaming services. Here is art imitating life and vice versa in a compact whole.

****

The Mirror of Our Prime- My Poem Has Been Published By LIVEWIRE JOURNAL.

https://livewire.thewire.in/fiction-and-verse/the-mirror-of-our-prime/


Above is the link to my poem THE MIRROR OF OUR PRIME, originally self-published by me on my Wattpad poetry collection WHISTLING CHIMES in 2015. It has also found pride of place in the diverse library of LIVEWIRE JOURNAL today.

Read it and share your thoughts. It’s a work where I evoked a mood and feelings that reek of untrameled passion.

***

A VOICE RINGS OUT FOR FREEDOM WITHIN THE SILENCE

The works talked about here, in this essay, will all attest to the title I chose for it. Read on to find out more.

***

MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM(2020)

A work like MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM is not just another piece of social anthropology we need in our current point in history; it reimagines a day in the life of two individuals and their extended units without beautifying the blunt edges, the internalized bathos of the world around them and by giving pure truth to their frustrations and collective, intersecting histories.

I particularly appreciate the manner in which its director GEORGE C. WOLFE chooses to put it together as a compact narrative. So it begins with young kids running across the woods at night and at that moment, we sense danger tailing them owing to their place within a racially segregated society. But their flight is towards a destination that ultimately provides them soccour among their own: a canopy under which the legendary Mother of Blues and titular figure performs to an admiring community of fellow African-Americans. This happens in the notoriously testy terrain of the South.

Shortly thereafter, newspaper clippings about the passage to Northern states of Southern African-Americans, with lofty promises of hope, employment and identity covers the screens. As the day wears on, trains passing by punctuate the soundtrack and appear visually to chart a commonplace legacy of people in Chicago, one among the same promised lands which houses the recording session pivotal to this script. Two men from Ma’s entourage eventually enter a store to buy her Coca Cola bottles but filled as it is with just ‘white men’ and they all freeze upon seeing both, the musicians have to make wordless exits. That’s why this adaptation of an August Wilson play is so not commonplace; these little details and their unobtrusive placements in the screenplay mattered to me greatly as I watched it last week.

Of course, the dialogues, natural and avoiding neat grandiosity of language, sing, with a certain rhythm and bounce in crucial exchanges among cast members; helping to cement the theatrical interiority of locations and style but also maintaining the purpose that accommodates them together, seemingly blurring racial and class lines, only to reveal the jolts in their spirits.

This musicality is at the heart of its two towering lead portrayals. Viola Davis is inimitable as Ma, a lady confidently passing on her shine to her nervous, stuttering nephew, ensuring that belief ultimately rubs off on him after a dozen takes while recording her album. Then there’s the late, great Chadwick Boseman as Levee ( his name itself anticipating great turning points for his extroverted energy and optimism) burnishing their intertwined souls with the weight of their personal and inherited communal history. They are almost mirror images and it’s ironic then that while Ma holds reins as a rare woman of colour in the very early years of the 20th century, Levee is a marginal figure, delivering a power-packed monologue at half-point to verbalize a painful journey that monetizes and exploits the pain of hidden figures. All the other actors occupying this lean roster of performers rise to the occasion.

***

The end point is hence devastating as Levee suffers a mental breakdown that was always signalled by his fierce determination cloaking an already dead-weight spirit while Ma, away from that specific scenario, looks on while in the car, straight at us or maybe nowhere in particular, knowing that all the patronizing from her white manager or her own legend isn’t up to any good in the long run. Then an all-white male studio ensemble records Levee’s original composition and the screen fades to black. The choice to end MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM with that image becomes all the more reasonable as we ourselves, in 2021, reach the fag end of a regime that has revived racist fiats and a continuum of such historical betrayals overwhelms the discourse. Racism informs the bitterness in the leads here and makes a case for lost profusion of hope, in a country with no real rationale for diversifying its stance.

It is the reason why this work is so important for all discerning viewers as through the construction of a real life figure, it only threads our present era.

***

ALEX HALEY’S QUEEN, EPISODE 1( A 1993 3 PART MINISERIES)

I’m fortunate enough to have discovered this underrated, Halle Berry fronted miniseries from her early career on YouTube. As her great admirer, I thought it gives credence to her own personal history as an African-American personality by tracing the roots of her community through the 19th Century and beyond.

Based on legendary ROOTS writer Alex Haley’s paternal family history, QUEEN, in its first of three episodes, is an amalgam of emotions, socio-political grounding in facts in pre-Civil War era antebellum South and most of all the personal affinities that each person is bound to. A sense of humanity is sought after but so are accumulated heirlooms of racism and harsh statutes. Looked at in retrospect, it will be probed and must be in our current climate but we have to look at it as a document of the ways and mores that governed these lives, most of which were beyond their control and ruled by laws written down in paper.

I surely got GONE WITH THE WIND vibes from it and the sequences are designed in that old-fashioned, competent, fluid mode, registering their impact with every beat in the one hour, thirty five minute first capsule. Epic is one word that comes to mind and the cast boasts of stellar names as JASMINE GUY, ANN MARGRET, MARTIN SHEEN, TIM DALY, JANE KRAKOWSKI, PATRICIA CLARKSON, WALTON GOGGINS and the always adorable RAVEN SYMONE in an early role besides of course Ms. Berry.

I’ll share thoughts on the other remaining two capsules too as I watch them. For now, make sure to watch this generational saga that puts a family’s fortunes and the lack of them in the post Civil War epoch in perspective, paving way for Queen’s personal evolution consistent with a nation’s and her own community’s standing within a divided society.

***

CRIES AND WHISPERS(1972), THE SEVENTH SEAL(1957)

Continuing my fascinating tryst with Ingmar Bergman’s filmography, I finally watched the achingly tragic and hauntingly melancholic CRIES AND WHISPERS. It’s shot with the same sense of stifling repression and physical infirmity that Harriet Anderson brings to her central performance, as one of three sisters suffering from a debilitating condition that leads to excruciating pain. Her commitment to embodying her states of unrest and selective moments of calm hold the key to the emotional structure of this mostly internalized chamber piece. It’s not fair to say this given the film’s nature but Ms. Anderson actually transcends her physicality with her on-screen presence, almost akin to spiritual disrepair waiting for absolution and release from mortal life. With death, we say, comes a certain calm and she attests to that.

Cinematographer Sven Nykvist gives the sibling dynamic here its technical expertise with his tones and colour scheme while Bergman ensures the individual pieces of disintegration and distance become clear courtesy Liv Ullmann and Ingrid Thulin’s performances. Apart from them, Kari Sylwan is almost angelic as she harbours a pristine love for Harriet that breaks boundaries yet is contingent with the situation, for humanity’s sake. Her status as housekeeper and an emotional anchor becomes the other defining feature of her complex choices. Her fount of love comes naturally to her, if you ask me.

CRIES AND WHISPERS, for me, is pitched between pleasure and pain, light and darkness, shadows and mirrors as the ladies’ faces are framed in hazy close-ups, like episodic stills preceding their individual moments. With the final shot, a serene joy illuminates the repository of these interconnected lives, with memory serving them well with possibilities of what once was and could have been. We can’t escape fate and it bows out with that bittersweet realization.

***

THE SEVENTH SEAL was sitting on the back of my watchlist for months and boy, did it surprise me with its levity, emotional flexibility, fluid fade ins and fade outs and the way in which the whole cast comes together as one unit. It is one of the earliest as well as the most accessible of all Bergman films, a pastiche of filmmaking of the classic era at its finest and made with such love and care that its mythmaking story concerning a medieval knight(Max Von Sydow) and his game of chess with Death( Bengt Ekerot) becomes interesting while remaining a period piece. But without its genre restrictions. It’s an allegory, a parable, a fairy tale and legend rolled into one.

You can sense the camaraderie among the performers and though Bergman is known for a career that particularly acknowledges heavy-duty emotional relationships, THE SEVENTH SEAL has a charm and a humour about its supposedly dark subject matter centring on the inevitability of death. At the end, it triumphs because it puts a smile on your face and an afterglow of positivity. GUNNAR BJORNSTRAND, BIBI ANDERSSON, NILS POPPE all come up with carefully balanced portrayals. This is now among my all-time favourites and seriously has a pan-family appeal.

****