What sterling and timeless works like CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD, BRIDGE TO SILENCE, CODA and SOUND OF METAL have time and again done, over decades altogether, is to bring a world of empathy for deaf and hard of hearing individuals. It’s to bring the world of silence and empathy to prevail and if not prevail then exist harmoniously within normative social spheres. Everyone needs a fighting chance to survive and thrive.

Oscar-winning short THE SILENT CHILD is in recognition of those able, empathetic communicators who bridge cultural and social gaps for those born to worlds where anything other than ‘perfection’ is anathema. The six year old here is a neglected child whose parents barely talk to her, don’t actually register her presence at the dining table when with the other older kids and desperately want her to master speech therapy as learning sign language isn’t for them. Hectic schedules, the supposed superiority complex ingrained in being parent and provider and a general disdain for a special child become part of the truth here.


There is a brief halcyon period in which teacher and student make the core of communicating through sign language their world. It constitutes the truth and a validation for each others’ efforts, for the natural bonding that is the strongest frontier to counter ableism and discrimination.

Parents are never necessarily supportive angels and can make us embrace our flaws a little too readily; their own disappointment with themselves and with a world that looks down upon their children’s special needs can be detrimental for generations. Here, the child’s parentage is cruelly peddled by a matriarch and becomes a complex subtext to further understand the manner in which she’s unfairly treated.


Compassion is key in THE SILENT CHILD. It is found in the child and her true guardian- her teacher. They are separated by those who claim to know better about her future. The ending moments, with them separated by a gate, the girl alone in the playground and the teacher outside meeting her for what may be the final time, is heartbreaking. When they sign the magic words I LOVE YOU, the full force of a cruel, inconsiderate world hits us. We can only enable change with multiple willing participants. What if there are roadblocks even before a legitimate breakthrough is reached? THE SILENT CHILD addresses this with tact and profound sensitivity.

Our world needs better. Our children deserve to be seen, heard and felt for the creatures of beauty and wonder they are, for who they are without precedents of perfection attached to their being. Kudos to writer and actor Rachel Shenton, director Chris Overton and Maisie Sly for imbuing us with the truth.


TUESDAY (2015)

A life left ajar by the absence of a true soulmate- here, he being the protagonist’s father- is stirred by the entries and exits in a ghost house.

In AFTERSUN director Charlotte Wells’ eleven minute short film, we are stirred by the teenager’s combative interactions with parent, teacher and friend, most of them communicated by little actual words and more by brooding expressions. It is a perfect prelude to her celebrated 2022 masterpiece, showing us how even back in her foundational days, she was immune to making concessions to her penchant for realism.

The grey sky palette, foggy windows and indoor lamp lights, especially, help in situating the circumstances of alienation and teenage angst. So does a hole in the sweater or an empty glass of juice in the father’s house. Above all, instead of even sparingly opting for a musical cue, she lets the silence of realisation, the silence of coming home to strangers, capture that key moment in our young lives where we learn the harsh truth about being solitary voyagers.

Tuesday comes & goes. Here as in so many splintered young lives, we hang on to its arrival with a gasp of hope, for a reunion, a reunion with those we love.

Megan McGill is the perfect receptacle as essentially a younger embodiment of Ms. Wells. Note how the dialogue, “why did you do that for?” here channels Frankie Corio mouthing the same lines in an agitated state in AFTERSUN. The authorial, thematic unity in both is one of empathy brought on by memory. It’s brought on by a longing for the father who is lost to the horizon.



Pupille is a term that means an orphan and the centre of the eye( i.e. pupil); in a simplified and obvious sense, the word can mean a pupil/ student. These are all various ways in which a single word can be interpreted by us. All of them mean well in the case of Alice Rohrwacher’s Oscar-nominated short LE PUPILLE ( currently streaming on Disney+Hotstar)

The eyes of children living in a boarding school in war-time Italy see all that their immediate world has to offer. News of masculine posturings on radio, rationing of food, strict vigil by the young nuns who run it with an universally acknowledged steely resolve and discipline are seen and felt. But how can these innocent creatures truly grasp the humanity behind man-made wars raging far and wide? How can they relinquish little joys of childhood in service of the larger jingoistic cause that may never even take into its account these women and children pulling off duties of a mundane civilian life?

There is a whimsy, a keen eye for the details of adult life that children have a way of undercutting or offsetting with pure intent. Serafina( a lovingly priceless Melissa Falasconi),
at the center here and yet part of the larger tableau of girls living under strictures of religion and behaviour, finds out that it’s not her fault that she’s naturally curious and guileless to tell the truth, when the others are cornered by an authority figure into feeling guilty about listening to popular music and dancing joyfully to it. ‘Wicked’ is a word that is reclaimed and subverted by them, the children against few adults, to become a cause for rebellion, in the most innocent way that only they can. If that means refusing to let go of a delicious piece of cake so be it. After all, it’s for unity among them and upholding joy, in the little moments that bind them.

The prime authority figure here( Alba Rohrwacher) of course becomes the actual ‘wicked one’ but not without showing us the crooked, dispassionate ways of an order that prices detachment above direct engagement with the world at large. Wartime destroys an order of peace and stability for women and children who lose their loved ones or anticipate their return. It’s here.  In a Christmas tale where the legend of Scrooge finds a reflection in the nun and the universality of wonder and camaraderie comes full circle for the kids and those grossly underpaid chimney sweepers, the human truth triumphs. An elaborately created cake does it for them.

LE PUPILLE hence showers us with facts of life we all identify with. There is a reason why the kids’ eyes, shot in tight close-ups, occupy the frames here.


‘Aftersun’: Exploring Father-Daughter Bonds in the Memories of an Eternal Summer – Screen Queens

I feel extremely lucky to have SCREEN QUEENS JOURNAL publish my take on the semi-autobiographical cinematic work AFTERSUN(2022) that employs utter realism to beautifully illustrate the beauty and warts in a father-daughter bond.

It is a work that has gathered its director Charlotte Wells universal acclaim and has as recently as yesterday made its lead actor Paul Mescal, who plays the young father, receive a prestigious Oscar nomination. So in that backdrop, my essay becomes more relevant given how I trace its emotional core and truth.

Read it and share your thoughts.


Being in love with one’s city and having the privilege to be its active resident is a fact of life that never ceases to be joyous.

As writers, getting the betokened opportunity to represent our eternal affinities to our place of birth and residence take on a humbling hue when the venue is one’s own educational home.

Such a beautiful moment came my way on Wednesday, 18th January, 2023, when my host university department, Department of English and Modern European Languages, University of Lucknow, invited me as an honourable alumni to recite my poem LUCKNOW – AN ODE TO THE CITY, in keeping with the city being its theme for a pre-Convocation programme.

Reuniting with beloved teachers and meeting new, beaming faces who represent the bright future of the department resonated on a personal level, as always. Receiving praises from contemporary students and holding a room full of intellectually astute individuals invested for those two minutes of recitation made a big difference. The other performances from students and teachers were the launchpads that naturally boosted my confidence.

Thank you for the memories and to the beginnings of a robust, creatively prodigious 2023 for all.



look at the moon
fret with you
above Mt. Luna.

He knows the fiefdom of
dissenting clans
is upon you,
in a countryside
where poetry
had a chance.

The fire in the mountains
is a torrid
you have to live with
till December.

If manifest destiny is what
I can put my faith in
that hill
visible from your window
at midnights
is a sieve
for all that you feel,
even your darkest hours
are there,
thick and immanent,
like the trees on its broadened chest
and the stars
that you count
according you
the share of light
you need.

You know
this part of the world
has not forgotten
that you fret
and rain your quiet tugs
on your pillows.
Your brother,
he is unable to walk two miles
with a straight back.
He frets too
because that’s how far
it goes
to sense your smoke signals
beyond hills and fogs.

We have only till December.
Trust in the good God of grace.
This month too will pass.

This separation too shall pass.


His broken lines in a sentence
are filled with sediments
and the quaint powder
from igneous rocks,
the kind you don’t find
near water under the bridge.

He hails me with crumpled papers,
all glued with the saliva
from masticating them
for a greater part of two years.
The third, he feels,
will be when he
speaks more than ten words.
On these papers are the graves
of dead red ants
and leaves from another season.

When I ask him
to show what remains of his
austere body,
he disrobes me first.
Starved of touch
and scrutiny as I am,
I accept the prosaic
his lanky fingers
that press my upper body
with their tubular ends.
It’s the way he feels
my flesh and bones.
Then he takes his turn.
I see a veteran skeleton
that has lived out its days
for far too long
without pity or appreciable

Bodies, bodies.
We don’t vary here.
The sky covers us
without smudges.

He tells me
to touch my injured parts with
spry leaves
and gives me ringlets
cut from a banyan tree.

These are passengers
and agitated
an unknown

we plunge
into the shallowest part of the river
for a swim.
I emerge alone
back on earth.
To find that the ringlets have now
spread their network across the water,
from this end to the other.
A voice echoing with the disappearing
stranger’s tenor saying,
“the deed is done.
the broken lines
in your sentences
are full.
The ringlets are now spread
among your wishes
and your words are no
more mere mumblings
under the bridge”




Listening to an iconic group’s distinctive discography in just few helpings can be like touching the tip of an iceberg. Siouxsie and the Banshees is an unit that I’ve been fortunate to discover in late 2022 as it remained on my musical/ pop-culture bucket list since two years prior. HALLOWEEN, SPELLBOUND and its cover of DEAR PRUDENCE opened gateways to be immersed in the members’ creative play with light and darkness in thematic material. There is a greater joy when more eclectic, socially conscious subjects come into the picture, marking a cultural revelation, with an emphasis on the stereotypes that native social orders perpetuate through their own unchanging mores as well as their obvious negative absorption by other cultures.

There is capitalism, cultural appropriation on the frontlines of such numbers by Siouxsie Sioux and her bandmates as HONG KONG GARDEN( “chicken chowmein and chop suey/ Hong Kong Garden takeaway”) & LUNAR CAMEL where exotica and its superficiality is revealed in a sensual, lush arrangement that mimics the Middle Eastern soundscape we identify with.
Or in DESERT KISSES and ISRAEL where regional politics, native ideals of consumerism and Western encroachment driven by avarice break a cultural fulcrum apart, such as the juxtaposition of Noel with the young nationhood of Israel in the titular hit, making that specific thrust of its subject and politics universal.

Then there’s the acerbic heft in ARABIAN KNIGHTS’ chorus(” Myriad lights, they said I’d be impressed/ Arabian Knights, at their primitive best”), with its “I heard a rumour/ what have you done to her?” refrain questioning conservative gender roles as well as personifying the region and larger ethos in the image of a woman wronged at the hands of corruption. I also love the martial invocation in the second half here where singer Siouxsie Sioux’s “ho, ho, ho” packs in a fierce war against such levers of control sanctioned by patriarchy above all. The synth soundscape enhances the bold confrontation with passive reception of culture on ARABIAN KNIGHTS as also on DESERT KISSES and ISRAEL.

The thematic companion to this series of songs is the excellent CITIES IN DUST, again a bold takedown of civilizational backlog and cultural hubris that is timeless in the way it dissects its concerns. The chorus and its delivery by Ms. Sioux are impeccable.


To make this list more diverse, I had to share my appreciation for the group’s sombre take on Billie Holiday’s iconic STRANGE FRUIT that utilises the orchestra and Siouxsie’s urgent, soaring vocals to reach a point of discernment about the tentacles of race and violence. On the other end of the spectrum lies their peppy, absolutely uplifting take on IGGY POP’s THE PASSENGER. It is an upshot of pure joy and a welcome addition to the canon because the gothic drama of FACE TO FACE next is deliciously pegged to play to the group’s strengths, with the refined orchestral arrangements echoing an area of darkness they interpret beautifully. The elegant manner in which Sioux enunciates, “You’ll never know” here is unforgettable, as if she’s about to slip off a precipice with the last word but retains her stride and the mystery which makes her so unique. Almost as if she’s indefatigably immortal.

Of course, I save the very best, most unique among this discography for the last. That honour belongs to RED LIGHT, a potent cultural moment that is sensual, acerbic in its look at materialism vis-a-vis erotic impulses embedded within pop-art. Siouxsie Sioux’s sinister, at times almost ice-cold delivery is a suitable showcase here, complemented by the synths, the drone effect and the use of camera shutters.

In this collective whole, the futuristic sound echoes our concurrent A. I. age where the lyrics pertaining to the camera being an universal eye, i.e.,”the aperture shuts/ too much exposure”; see the red light rinsing”) is topical. Exploitation of physicality and gender roles are covered with a stark tonality. RED LIGHT is a song that makes one sway to its rhythm, listen and take notice of the lyrics while utterly captivating us by its aural distinction. I love it. It has to be the creative peak for SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES among a whole list of worthy ones. 



The greatest figures are those with a Midas touch, such that decades down the line their impact finds renewed resonance in cycles of unimpeachable artistry.

The medley of I LOVE YOU, PORGY, a Gershwin standard already made iconic by Nina Simone, Jennifer Holliday’s Dreamgirls touchstone AND I’M TELLING YOU and Whitney’s very own The Bodyguard ballad I HAVE NOTHING receive an epic treatment by The Voice. The stance, the Goddess- like stage presence, gesticulation enhancing the swell of emotions and the stretching of that blessed spirit to its edge of euphoria all get validated in the ten minutes we are fortunate to be privy to and make our very own.

The fact that Naomie Ackie has embodied these iconic ten minutes in the final stretch of I WANNA DANCE WITH SOMEBODY, an official big-screen biography, cements its timeless status. 



When a song’s timeless appeal makes one cite the silky likes of an Elvis, Etta James, The Platters, Roy Orbison, Skeeter Davis and The Righteous Brothers, you know you have discovered something special indeed.

Stephen Sanchez has made his impressive beginnings with a classic template, complete with wistful sentiment, resonant central melody and assured vocals on UNTIL I FOUND YOU. One can only hope the purity of the first step ahead paves way for more such earworms, consistent in quality.  This one here is worth all our love. 



Taylor Swift’s ANTI-HERO is a modern earworm and her impeccably written lyrics have a lot to do with its instant appeal. The melody and comforting use of synths further help us to entwine ourselves with its journey of catharsis. “It’s me, Hi!/ I’m the problem, it’s me” is a wonderful piece of confession that is self-effacing, in a Me-Myself-I scenario where accountability has become plastered to complicity.

For this listener, CAROLINA is a true work of beauty. Melodious and characteristically poetic as it is, the song is Romanticism at its best, staying true to its credo of nature and imagination being equal stakeholders in a journey of life. It befits the journey Taylor traces for the WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING soundtrack. I am in awe of its serenity and it is now there among Swift’s best works such as SAFE AND SOUND, BACK TO DECEMBER, BEGIN AGAIN, THE LAST TIME down to her latest output in EVERMORE, CARDIGAN, EXILE and THE LAKES et al. It constitutes a discography soft as a cloud, precious and unsullied as memory.



There’s something original, no-nonsense and wholly unforgettable about Pink’s WHATTAYA WANT FROM ME. Of course, it goes without saying that she has always been a prime catalyst of lyrical honesty, set to music shorn of overarching statements. On WHATTAYA WANT FROM ME, the arc of a relationship is offset by its use of guitar that makes up its impressive body of work.

The second take on this song, reiterated faithfully, word by word and in terms of instrumentation, is by Adam Lambert. This is the version I heard a decade ago and fell in love with, turning to the original fairly recently. Collectively, they showcase two powerful vocalists who make this seemingly simple song full of angst, edge and longing, even redemption from the constant pall of insecurity.

Both of them count equally. 



Another dispatch in favour of the Robert Smith fronted band that has become a staple for this listener was inevitable.

It had to include the innocence and wonder of FRIDAY I’M IN LOVE. So it is here, part of my playlist and making its presence felt for its sheer ease. Its joie de vivre for the eponymous weekend.



Joni Mitchell’s sonic poem on the vagaries of time and churn of humanity keeps adding meaningful iterations to its sustained legacy. 

Josh Groban, fresh from his successful stint on ABC’s 30th anniversary celebration of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, churns out the standard in his timeless voice and giving him betokened company is none other than songbird Sara Bareilles.

It’s a perfect match to provide this solitary testament with the confidence of a duet. This reiteration earns its plaudits, thanks to the production and the vocalists’ united front.



Miley Cyrus is an artist who you can bet will put on a show with all her notes perfectly in place and with an electric charge to her stage oeuvre to stand by. Her partnership with Dolly Parton then can be nothing but epic in a joint scenario as we’ve seen time and again. As is her love for covering a classic songbook across genres.

I deem myself extremely fortunate to have watched her NBC New Year’s Eve Special last night on YouTube. It is a total blast, with WRECKING BALL and I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU by the duo reinforcing our sense of musical solidarity; let us also raise our fists and inner guitar gods with their combined force for Joan Jett’s I LOVE ROCK & ROLL while David Bowie’s LET’S DANCE receives a great turn with her and David Byrne. MIDNIGHT SKY comes together for a fitting fifth spoke.

Watch it to be mesmerised by these dependable artists and anticipate Miley’s new material in the new year.



Baskets filled with finger-sandwiches weather the footfall
of receding winters.
Luncheons planned
for year-end unities
go into hiding
along with guests,
lost to the era.
Such a funereal period,
these final five days
have brought us
the misty intimacies
of gloom.

Everything is touched
by this remission of Spirit.
Everything is corrupted.

Everything is corrupted…..
Everything is in remission…..
We circle the same gyre
Fate heaped us with,
in a monopoly of disinterest
we make our own.


We have to
dislocate Malice
and make the best
out of discrete indoors.


If Christmas
brings a red bloom
and all colours go pale,
bring in a hibiscus
to the central table;
make its red bloom
take first place.

If a hearty festive dinner
no longer passes muster,
pour bottles
of cranberry juice
into your favourite carafes
and pass the season’s cheer

If then
no other face seems friendly
and every screen fades to black
before midnight,
tear through the rowdy crowds,
past the barricades
at the town square,
make it to St. Joseph’s Cathedral
in an act of defiance
against the decibels of isolation
and reach Him,
your only beloved
and friend
as he opens his arms,
in epiphany
of you
finally coming out
of your shell.


Book Review: Amrita Sharma’s ‘The Skies’ – Cafe Dissensus Everyday

I am so happy to have my book review of good friend and poetic contemporary Dr. Amrita Sharma’s THE SKIES grace Cafe Dissensus Everyday.

A generous soul who has been instrumental in lifting me up as an untiring fellow creative mind, she deserves all the success in the world. Here’s to more worlds, words and triumphs in print and deeds.



What happens to a fragile being when the foundations of amity which had been the last unsullied frontier, nourishing one’s mundanity and survival within its praxis, are severed? What if your closest confidante, the one you poured your heart to along with pints of the local drink, chose to shunt you away, as if you were a liability? Fully grown adults have a lot to answer to themselves, to their conscience and to the discomfiting stirrings they harbour here in this instance.

The answers to workings of the human mind hardly ever suffice. One man’s painful epiphany, of being almost nothing in the course of his life so far, is offset by his buddy’s fledgling ambition. The sting in the tale is at once distinctly local to this picturesque Irish backwater. But it’s alarmingly universal because loss of a network of amity, a mutual bond can entail a fate worse than enforced solitude. You can choose your friends and they always tend to establish a family, an unsullied frontier against which all of life’s regrets can be defeated.

Martin McDonagh’s THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN is concurrently about the love shared between siblings where nothing of a depressive shade can really eclipse the sanctity of blood bonds.

Of course, the heart wants so much more than being nothing in a one-horse town. The soul demands nourishment. Ambition or the lack of it is, under such circumstances, a casualty. Crossing over to the other side, for the sake of creative discipline, for the sake of an Identity, to escape parental abuse and the rank imagery of genders and location is at the heart of this melancholic, visceral, heartbreaking original scenario where the pithy cast rises to the occasion and then some.

They are victims in the sense that the place they call home has held them by their throats all their lives. The juxtaposition with the innocence of animals and the elegy for a friendship that can no longer suffice are fodders for the universality of this work. Loss is oftentimes a sudden brigand. It has a way to assault our collective senses and upend our notions. Nowhere has that been more organically realised than here.

At another more disturbing level, THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN is about the impact of masculinity and our implicit violent tendencies that perhaps spring from our place within the most elusive corners of the map.



Much of what lands with an internalised thud in THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN is even more heartbreaking in the context of Chloe Zhao’s debut feature. It is an elegy on childhood and teenage ransacked by history.

A distinct shade which is personal to a fault and generational to the siblings here is because as Native Americans, they have been ousted from the mainstream and made to exist in a default stance, dictated by a culture that exiles them to poverty and the open expanse of their reservation. History is their foe and doesn’t allow them to have anything of merit or exception even in contemporary days.

We can sense the love and affection they innately have for each other, the fear of ever hoping for an escape for either of them that’s writ large on their young conscience. The fear of being like their preceding forebears. The fear of history already afoot and at play in their present, moulding a less than meagre financial and educational footprint for their future.

The performers are absorbers here, looking over a sociological plane that possesses the poison of polygamy, multiple children left to a deep, engulfing void, prison sentences and absentee parents who fail to drown out their disappointment with what life seemed to preconceive for them.

The naturalistic, almost documentary-style purity of filmmaking here gives us peeling walls, overgrown grasslands, broken souls and the vista of nature that’s never beautified as a contrast to the marginalised reckoning of these young people. Yet, like in NOMADLAND, compassion is a central force here, forcing us to reconcile with the humanity of this community, the steadfast way these individuals attempt to create a center even if it doesn’t hold itself for the long run and caves in at the slightest sensation of change.

There’s a beautiful moment in the final stretch where the young boy picks up sand in the Dakota badlands and scatters it around; the smoke-like effect there mimics the clouds above, as if interminably becoming one. That’s the naturalistic imprint that is Zhao’s own. In SONGS MY BROTHERS TAUGHT ME, she employs her eye for realism in every frame, letting the beauty and the inescapable line of inheritance for these folks hold our attention. It is a work of empathy.



Any brother who enchants his sibling with his imaginative prowess, a true gift of childhood, is beholden to that shared legacy to create a colossal body of work in the future, unaffected by mere nostalgia.

Any man who dares to fill up a space, be it a loft or a page, with words that can build bridges between fables and real-life, is worthy to be recounted as a lyricist, a musical mind with an ear for the inner child ensconced in our very souls.

Howard Ashman, a man who gave BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, THE LITTLE MERMAID and ALADDIN their lyrical immortality, receives a respectful, dignified tribute in this Disney+ original documentary. He is a prodigious child, an ambitious young man, a lover, lover of musical theatre and also a conscientious professional who turned each project into a gold standard, giving artists their due place under the sun. His contributions as an unceasing creative is celebrated here without flash, with depth, compassion and an arc of redemption, in the event where his partner till the end of his days receives his posthumous Oscar, declares his love for Ashman and asks the world to take stock of AIDS without stigma or hushed whispers.

I love how it inures us to the creative process behind some of our beloved Disney classics as also to the plays that Ashman helped to make permanent fixtures such as the oddity titled Little Shop of Horrors. Catching more than glimpses of someone like the irrepressibly iconic Angela Lansbury or composer du jour Alan Menken et al be full of joy while embodying Ashman’s original vision is a veritable treat. Archival interviews and photographs help further in capturing the haunting quantity of a life lost too soon but enduring to the present with its credo of good cheer.



A quirky short by the ever-prolific Agnes Varda upends a star-crossed track with a surreal image of her pet cat in place of a national monument, the title coming alive in a pithy whole of childlike wonder and creative absurdity.

Watch it closely to know how the absence of someone who we grow fond of has a psychological import in the way we look at the world around us.