I’m so thankful that five of my poems have been published by Hudson Valley Writers Guild.
Read them and spread the word.
I’m so thankful that five of my poems have been published by Hudson Valley Writers Guild.
Read them and spread the word.
I’m so happy that two of my poems namely GREETINGS TO MR. BRUNO and HAPPY GHOSTS have been published in the poetry anthology PIXIE DUST AND ALL THINGS MAGICAL, edited by the wonderful Anita Nahal Ma’am.
Just like last year’s NURSERY RHYMES AND CHILDREN’S POEMS FROM AROUND THE WORLD anthology carried two of my works, this one has brightened up my new year and the promise of more meaningful and versatile writing for me. So read the poems, the anthology itself and make sure to buy the book on Amazon.
My ekphrastic poem titled CLIFFS OF DOVER has been selected and published by Visual Verse. I’m really happy that the wonderful original artwork gave me the chance to explore my imaginative prowess and create.
So I hope you like it.
My poem entitled THE FIRST CHAPTER has been published by Piker Press.
I hope you like reading it and imbibing its essence of a relationship between two people and a child, the idea of the central couple being non-binary/ genderless occupying centrestage in its conception.
My essay on the brilliant documentary MAATI MAANAS (MIND OF CLAY) previously published here has now been included by Cafe Dissensus Everyday too.
The year 2021 was when I finally decided to dive into the tirelessly timeless discography of two influential singers. Sade and Kate Bush were artists who had been on my radar for the longest time. Their impact was inescapable in articles, essays and general pop culture registries. So as someone who prefers the classics than just plainly reproaching the present era with a ‘how the mighty have fallen’ stance, I promised myself to listen to their very best songs and celebrate their collective and individual artistry. It’s a promise I was lucky to fulfil.
Though I have a long way to go in discovering more of their gems, it’s a start I cherish and since August of last year, it has been my habit to put their songs in heavy rotation, making them two of the most valuable artists to grace my expansive playlist. As a music lover, afficianado of its intricacies, social urgency and melodic magic, I urge all serious listeners of the current generation to pay utmost heed to KATE BUSH and SADE, the two British titans who continue to rule hearts universally. Their place is indelible and incalculable to cultural history and with good reason.
SADE is in a league of her own. She owns one of the most beautifully smooth, husky voices in music and has justifiably influenced scores of singers down generations. It’s a voice that is, however, not prone to imitation or impressions; it’s her own instrument generating an innate sensuality we hardly come across so easily, creating a serene environment for those opting to find moments of reprieve or genuine merit in being music lovers.
Take her signature tunes like YOUR LOVE IS KING, SMOOTH OPERATOR, JEZEBEL or IS IT A CRIME? to unlock her understated passion invested in the vocals and the seamless manner in which saxophones dominate their aural quality. A swoon and a sigh are two of the dominant responses that I personally reserve for much of her discography I’ve heard.
Then there are other standouts like HANG ON TO YOUR LOVE that revel in her style with a more upbeat tone while THE SWEETEST TABOO has a tropical vibe that’s at home with her breezy, cool as a cucumber ethos.
A swoon and a sigh, a feeling of overwhelming, sobering awe are therefore a requisite for this listener as he plays NO ORDINARY LOVE and his personal favourite BY YOUR SIDE. Or even in the instance of FLOWER OF THE UNIVERSE off A WRINKLE IN TIME original soundtrack which unfolds like a mantra, an universal chant befitting its title and mythic feel.
The caravan comes to a close with two songs off her 2010 album SOLDIER OF LOVE that I had heard sparingly within the period of its release, given that it was such an acclaimed record overall. So of course, it had to come to my attention.
SOLDIER OF LOVE is built around her unwavering spirit and a tensile beat while BABYFATHER is a great R&B song with a repetitive refrain and communal aura. Both attest to her iconic composure and sense of control in her delivery.
So listen to these, discover more from her discography and spread the word.
We now reintroduce ourselves to KATE BUSH. Now, this artist truly defined 2021 for me, ending up as one of the most sought after musical discoveries. In my view, she is an artist far ahead of her times who incorporated grave social issues in her inimitable repertoire with a stamp of originality. The first standout on that front has to be BREATHING, a sombre meditation on nuclear warfare, destruction and mankind’s cruel ways. Particularly ingenuous is the way she devotes almost minute and a half to a muffled, ominous conversational snippet where men can be heard discussing the mechanics of nuclear warfare (or war in general) drenched in atmospherics to match, finally closing the song with a chorus that enquires about the cost of life and with Bush pleading for it. The exhaustion, haplessness and brutal tempers are driving forces behind her vocals. The courage in her emotional investment is rewarding on a deeply psychological level altogether. A counterpoint to this is the childlike twinkle and infantile vocals on ARMY DREAMERS. At two minutes, its pithy nature and seeming innocence don’t conceal the manner in which its lyrics rip apart war propaganda that brainwashes young men and eventually claims their lives. It’s audio satire of the highest form.
This grasp on humour and subject matter shines on one of her classic tunes BABOOSHKA which I adore for its vocals and entertaining treatment. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable one while WUTHERING HEIGHTS is where it all begins for anyone getting acquainted with Ms. Bush. Once you listen to it twice, it will be stuck with you for good measure. The base is on the character of Kathy from the eponymous novel and the plaintiff cry, “Heathcliff, it’s me, I’m Kathy/ I’ve come home” is both haunting and memorable. The track is unforgettable. That squeaky vocal of course sounds unusual and funny. But the love lorn ethos is paramount here.
Her discography, in general, is filled with diversity. HOUNDS OF LOVE, CLOUDBUSTING( which I first heard on a Season 3rd episode of THE HANDMAID’S TALE), RUNNING UP THAT HILL ( A DEAL WITH GOD), AND SO IS LOVE ( with guitar work by its certified practitioner Eric Clapton) let us explore the nuances of that sonic landscape. Drums, strings, pianos, guitars and synths all get utilised to create a vast array of effects. I also love how with almost each song, she switches vocal registers. Whispers, full- throated swoops, childish timbres et all meld with the songs’ thematic quality. She hence adapts her style to minute elements.
On the other hand, AND DREAM OF SHEEP, THE SENSUAL WORLD and MOMENTS OF PLEASURE take full advantage of her quieter reckoning and balladry, with her affinity to nature occupying centrestage.
My favourite Kate Bush songs are the wrenching ballad THIS WOMAN’S WORK(hands down my most heard song of 2021) , THE MAN WITH A CHILD IN HIS EYES and her collaboration on Peter Gabriel’s beautifully written and modulated classic DON’T GIVE UP. Her individualistic and excellent covers of Elton John’s ROCKET MAN and Billie Holiday’s THE MAN I LOVE are equally memorable.
You know what, I can go on and on about her. I recommend all these songs for starters and exhort you to spread the word about her.
So make SADE and KATE BUSH an immediate and indelible part of your playlists. They are truly artists to reckon with.
OTHER PEOPLE (2016)
Guilt and shame are indispensable to the vast array of human experiences. We carry them in our souls even when the past has, seemingly, been exorcised. Even as winds of change buoyed by acceptance of our distinctive personalities open a pathway.
A door closes when mortal thoughts bring us grief and the uncertainty around life, for those we look up to as our anchors, becomes a brutal reality.
OTHER PEOPLE, based on writer-director Chris Kelly’s own life story, is almost caustically funny, heartfelt and an emotionally wrenching encapsulation of a point when he was hitting his 30s, grappling with career opportunities and his beloved mother’s eventual physical decay was occasioned by the Big C.
The guilt and the shame tails him since his father has not fully come to terms with his ‘coming out’ a decade earlier. His move to Sacramento from New York over the course of a year to be his mother’s dedicated caretaker is based on an instinctive, innate sense of responsibility. As the oldest son, he stands up to the reality of that urgent responsibility. As a brother, he is seen as a surrogate father figure to his sisters. These layers are so delicately, intricately carved and given such an emotional impact that the beauty of these universal relationships stand out. All this also becomes a beast of a burden for the young man at several junctures. Within this screenplay, I appreciate the nuances of modern society which just doesn’t know how to react to someone’s sense of sadness; rather ‘other people’ only have awkwardness and distance to give us. As if the one who moved back is some kind of stranger in their short-sighted mindsets.
Jesse Plemons and Molly Shannon hone their craft with realism to spare here, as the son and mother whose bond is inextricable from each other’s pleasures and pains. It’s owing to them and the incredibly commited, personal nature of extended cast members that OTHER PEOPLE becomes a study in staying put and facing adversities as an unit. But the individuality of the protagonists is particularly effective in its agency even as some outcomes are inevitable.
In these times where even perennially unwilling millennials have marked their homecoming, this compassionate work occupies a place in our hearts.
I’m glad I finally saw this gem and wrote about it since I had only heard appreciation directed towards it over the years.
THE UNFORGIVABLE (2021)
In Nora Fingscheidt’s THE UNFORGIVABLE, homecoming for the lead protagonist ( Sandra Bullock) is laden with a festering moral wound. One she chose to inflict on herself for the sake of her five year old sister twenty years ago. The prison cells have confined her. When she finally sees light of day back in civil society, she lives in a cramped, almost rundown reform home. In a mental space that gnaws at her.
Her sister, now living with all comforts and a profound vocational gift with her adoptive parents, is home. But she knows her past involves a maternal figure, a sister who doted on her, with whom she shared a home on a farm. Leafy city home to the rough and tumble of her first five years in the countryside define her.
That farmhouse is now occupied by a family unit which has converted it into a modern day haven for itself. Till the protagonist unravels her tale and the idea of a painful homecoming becomes urgent and poignant for all of them combined. Each family has a stake in the lead woman’s past. She carries shame as a burden, as a force that swept away two decades of her lifetime during which all homes and their occupants underwent transformations. Time moved on. Yet the truth skirted around the rims of justice.
Sacrifice is the abiding principle which adults adopt to give children a better life. It is recognised here in a vulnerable whole.
For me, THE UNFORGIVABLE very poignantly unravels the price of ‘freedom’ and ‘forgiveness’ for someone who was never a convict to begin with. It’s a secret she buries with her sentence. It makes us question the nature of law and order as also our claims to rehabilitate those who have served time. In fact, what is the price for forgiveness?
Watch it for its probing depth, grit and hard hitting scenes, especially the verbal showdown between Sandra Bullock, Richard Thomas, Linda Emond and Vincent D’Onofrio in the lawyer’s office and especially that significant climactic moment between Bullock and Viola Davis which turns tables on truths and half-truths. The whole fabric of the truth unravels from there. One can never forget the manner in which Bullock mouths the lines, “she was only five years old” in that moment. Or when she turns her sister’s chair around in the diner and tells her she’s about to go somewhere before surrendering to the police outside the venue. These are heartbreaking moments that will be etched in our minds.
THE UNFORGIVABLE hence becomes a difficult, emotionally wrenching tale of homecoming for her and for all the people involved.
ANTAREEN or CONFINES is an absolutely riveting watch, true to Mrinal Sen’s realistic and socially conscious oeuvre. The mis-en-scene is, however, simple and within that linear style of presentation and a cast of two principal protagonists, he gives heft to Saadat Hasan Manto’s original source material as also to the haunting quality of Rabindranath Tagore’s The Hungry Stones. Nothing is explicitly spelled out and yet the two literary texts are incorporated to reveal depths of humanity defined by a profound sense of loneliness.
To the viewer, it is like a play. A study of dispersed claustrophobia where the woman cannot escape her surroundings so easily even though it is earmarked and demarcated by a supposed marital bond. She is alone in her spacious flat overlooking the best parts of modern Calcutta. It is, in fact, more of a self-motivated prison than a birdhouse. On the other hand is the man who is housed within the overwhelmingly mysterious confines of a dilapidated mansion. He has retreated here to seek solitude and work on his writings. Till a phone call rings and the lady on the other side strikes up a conversation that is unique to two strangers who have no prior connections to each other whatsoever.
She is framed within her balcony where the open space, the wind and the rain are incidental realities. He is inside the once prosperous and expansive palace of sorts where very few remnants of a glorious past remain. But he is at peace, making his own tea and consuming it while journaling his thoughts regarding the place and then the quandaries of life, compounded by his regular correspondence with the lady. Both occupy a centre in their rooms, one in the urban apartment and the other under a dark ceiling.
They don’t ask each other names or meet. This is an unique delineation of an undefined relationship or maybe a friendship. Given the nature of their often earnest conversations, it is divested of any sexism, amorous connotations or the conventional voyeurism of such a dynamic. Yes, they are strangers. They don’t have a personal stake in each other’s lives. Still, their words are all that sustain them. The hesitant beginnings and the eventual opening up of the lady regarding her painful history are intertwined with how truth is stranger than fiction. ANTAREEN is such a story. It makes an impact with its silent roil precisely because of its treatment and the dignity with which the man-woman bond is given attention.
To me, some scenes stand out. Like when the lift operated by the lady’s live-in housekeeper is framed as it moves up till her floor, the haunting quality and distance regarding her present in that movement, seen within these claustrophobically animated confines. Or when a car speeds through the deserted street in the night and a woman’s shriek resounds in the lady’s nightmare. Even when an ambulance’s siren rings out. The way minimal time devoted to these shots integrate with the lady recounting her own sorry state or the circumstances of her marriage to an absentee better half who basically funds her financially strapped family is striking. Both the shriek and the ambulance siren maybe relate to her emotional breakdown, symbols of her experiences as a woman negotiating her way in this cruel world. Mr. Sen accords her melancholy but never a lack of agency. So when she ventures out to meet her family in a rare instance, the awkwardness, her mother’s guilt and her encouraging words of financial independence to her sister fit in with her trajectory of stops and starts. As also that final shot at the station where she takes her journey to an unresolved destination and is united unexpectedly with the man whom she has opened herself to. It’s a subtle moment of recognition on her part which saves it from a point of cliche.
Confines of these telephonic conversations reveal little about the man on the other side. But the direction makes us wonder about his own undefined trauma or melancholy, given his sensitive reception and emotional entanglement with the woman’s life-script. If it is on account of his limited financial means or success as a writer or borne from a personal space is not revealed. He is the vessel, the one who listens and absorbs. It is what constitutes his gifts as a writer and human being.
ANTAREEN is ultimately, for me, about modern-day alienation where to listen to someone is more than enough even though our own insecurities and societal conditioning prevent us from opening up to anyone at all. In a world ravaged by a continuum of isolation and insulated spaces, Dimple Kapadia and Anjan Dutt make this Bengali gem walloping.
It exemplifies a Cinema of Loneliness but also one of humanity and adult repression above all.
NOTE: ANTAREEN is available to watch/ stream on EPIC ON channel in high definition and sound.
THE LOST DAUGHTER(2021)
Reams of coverage have already been spent on appreciating the finer nuances of THE LOST DAUGHTER. I haven’t read a lot of them because I wanted to uncover its promise for myself on an individual viewing. It happened on Saturday, the first day of 2022. Rest assured, its commitment to the truth buried under social markers is extremely praiseworthy. It’s a work I recommend for members of both sexes. Particularly for those who still find talking about the discomfiting nature of motherhood and its pressures, on the mind and the body, a source of verbal blasphemy. This Maggie Gyllenhaal directorial would like to serve such people some unvarnished realities without a shred of sugercoating. In a nutshell, it actually bolsters an honest conversation about the nature of things befitting current times. Where dog-eared conventions must not butt in to dictate what’s in the public domain to be shared.
Some of the truths pertain to a sense of peace that a creative mind seeks. In this case, it precisely pertains to women in the academic/creative realm who find it hard to juggle multiple responsibilities as mothers and career-wise. Judgements are there to beseech or may I say besiege them on account of that dual role. Gyllenhaal’s script and deft touch makes Leda( Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley) a nurturer, a caring maternal figure to her two daughters as is the universal nature of all mothers. But that doesn’t shift her priorities as an exceptionally gifted translator, a specialist in Italian and comparative literature. In her younger self, her bratty older daughter and her constant nags affect her. Her husband is mostly away due to work, in another city and that conjugal lacuna too is overwhelming. She handles those situations admirably. But her desire to perhaps experience a side to her personality other than being a mother is definitely not one to chastise. Ask any woman and she will concur, maybe secretly and confide to her closest confidantes that she wants to be an individual first rather than the sum of her assigned societal roles. THE LOST DAUGHTER makes us confidantes, just not in the cosy, rose-tinted fashion as is the wont in sundry talk shows. I say it because my mother has always been vocal about her own issues with my sister and I. Thus breaking gender bounds of what should and shouldn’t be discussed and giving me sensitive enlightenment about difficult gendered spaces.
On that note, I love how her academic success rejuvenates Leda while her chance meeting with the female half of a couple lets her experience a brief friendship that gives her joy.
With middle aged Leda, we find a seemingly tranquil and perhaps long-overdue seaside summer vacation in Greece disrupted by the arrival of a loud, uncouth extended clan which has business establishments on the island and dominates the space with its not-so-welcome presence. Garrulous is the word for them all. Leda stands her own in atleast three situations here with them. One when confronted by the young boys of the clan, one of whom even calls her the C word with a sense of brash humour. When their aunt invades her sense of privacy. Or her flush of anger and humiliation in the movie hall where the boys create a ruckus.
It’s a complex interweaving of her quiet implosion as a single woman in the beachside sanctuary, her intimate bond with young mother Nina( Dakota Johnson) and how her singular presence invites interest in her from two men of differing ages( Ed Harris and Paul Mescal); each bonding is built on conversations of varying degrees. It is with Nina that her own reminisces as a young mother become adjunct. Nina is perlexed, exhausted not only by her daughter’s tantrums but by her extended family in general. In Leda, she finds a stranger, confidante and vessel for letting go of her excess baggage. Or maybe half of it. But atleast, it’s a collective exhale for the two women. A thaw. I also love how their names are similar in syllabic enunciation.
These truths, rarely discussed and normalised when two women commit to expressing them, occupy a haunting point of post-modern honesty not experienced by this writer, atleast not since reading Virginia Woolf’s vision in Mrs. Dalloway and especially A Room of One’s Own. The financial, personal and creative aspects of womanhood hence flow from that.
THE LOST DAUGHTER has an arc of full-bodied representation of mothers and creative pioneers everywhere. It is unafraid, sensitive in its wrangling with principles of guilt and shame inflicted by societal hypocrisy at large. To this viewer, it is revelatory in its overall humanity. The performances soar. The connection with the ‘doll’ lost by Nina’s daughter and claimed by the protagonist hence becomes richer in Leda’s context. As does the intertwining of hostility and companionship between them.
Kudos to Ms. Gyllenhaal and to original writer Elena Ferrante on whose novel this work is based. They have made the vulnerabilities of their ilk acceptable as they should have been a long time ago. Just watch it for the way in which complex human relationships are demystified here.
WINTER VOYAGERS was a poem that I published on my poetry collection WHISTLING CHIMES as part of my initial sojourn on the acclaimed writing community Wattpad, way back in 2015. It was among my first batch of poems and rest assured, there has been no looking back for me, thanks to the support of discerning and always consistent readers.
So it is a wonderful feeling to have it grace THE EKPHRASTIC REVIEW, based on a painting that depicts a winter setting. I’m thankful to the publication for rekindling the spark of one of my earliest writings.
So read it and share your thoughts.