SOME TALES ARE WORTH OUR ATTENTION-PART 2.


As the title very fittingly makes it clear, this is a continuation of my efforts at highlighting tales which have something to offer beyond mere ‘entertainment value’

They espouse a whole gamut of human emotions throughout history and in this regard, the ten episodes of epic Indian series BHARAT EK KHOJ(DISCOVERY OF INDIA) that I further watched brought to life personalities and conflicts we read and imbibed orally since childhood. Maverick director Shyam Benegal gave them all a screen treatment which was lucid, acted excellently and maintained the language, expressive felicity of the ancient and middle eras they were set in.

This simplicity of execution and a lack of ostentation may be regarded as tame by today’s standards but the focus is on replicating the folklores associated with these myths and legends. Hence, there’s no compromise with the quality of each installment. Traditional singing and dances belonging to the particular states in which these tales are set give them then a diverse heft, an intertextuality that makes the visual experience more interesting.

I had earlier written about the two episodes centered on Mahabharata and here more episodic capsules come to the fore. Given its wealth of knowledge and authenticity, it’s a primer for every Indian and for those interested in its grand history. The people who have become part of our cultural consciousness through the ages are portrayed with all the multidimensional complexity of flesh and blood mortals. This aspect renders the series relatable to each viewer rediscovering this treasure trove.



BHARAT EK KHOJ- MULTIPLE EPISODES (1988)

RAMAYANA

The two episodes based on Ramayana focus on the verbal articulation of its iconic episodes including Rama’s exile, Sita’s abduction by Ravana and the fight for restoring order within this chaotic whole.

What struck me was how Rama’s step-brother Bharata denounces his mother Kaikeyi’s selfish machinations to oust Rama as the rightful heir, as the primary reason for overturning the tides of a prosperous kingdom’s fate. Also, these episodes make it clear how forest dwelling tribals were passed off as ‘demons’ by sages leading a mendicant life in that environment and this cultural conflict is very reminiscent of our own present-day xenophobic tempers. The debate regarding who constitutes an ‘outsider’ is wonderfully put in context. ‘Tribes as subalterns’ is a reality all too urgent now as it was centuries and eons ago.

These moral complexities rescue it from the usual beat of divinity attached with this tale and gives it an earthiness that is refreshing, informed by multiple texts over successive generations.

***

CHANAKYA AND CHANDRAGUPTA MAURYA

These two installments trace Chandragupta Maurya’s beginnings as an aspiring ruler belonging to a non-martial antecedent, managing to rise to power with the shrewd counsel of India’s original mastermind Chanakya, a Bhrahmin scholar who could be as ruthless as the one on the throne.

Lots of interpersonal conflicts are uncovered owing to Chanakya’s stance at dividing kingdoms and only focusing on successful acquisitions without primacy on emotions. Satyadev Dubey is excellent here in bringing out the flipside of one of the nation’s sharpest minds. He is able to extract the overarching theme of power wreaking havoc on those who claim to distribute it to kings and queens.






But for me, it is Mita Vashisht as Suvasini who is able to transcend her lost love and gendered status by bringing sage advice to her husband’s kingdom and then relinquishing conventional life beset by politics by becoming a Buddhist monk, relaying its influence on her, her first love Chandragupta and a whole generation in that era.

Her arc gives it a vitality and poignant charm as against Chanakya’s silver-tongued antics.

**

VEDIC PEOPLE AND THE RIGVEDA



This episode is more musically inclined as it seeks to portray the formation of age-old rituals and customs that we follow till this date. A civilizational idea of settlement and human interaction prevails.

It’s pivotal also as it marks our Vedic predecessors as hailing from the region that is present- day Iran thus pointing to a truly multicultural, transnational ethos that shaped us since the ancient times.

**
AKBAR

If you watch the first episode itself, you will find how much this series influenced Ashutosh Gowariker’s epic JODHA AKBAR(2008), especially the spirit of enquiry that made the great secular ruler visit the Agra Bazaar, in the guise of a common man, to grasp ground realities and allowed him the wisdom to punish his own brother for his misdeeds, to set an example of justice given to no familial obligations.





I loved these twin episodes for so impeccably showing us Akbar as a modest man who was not above his people or the collective expertise of his courtiers who were unwaveringly loyal towards him and had the foresight to aid his vision of an India where equality was able to be established. From his interaction with Jesuit priests to encountering cultural orthodoxy within his religious order, he listens to others’ views, a man who continues to be the template for a modern consciousness, deliberating and reflecting on policies before designing his fabled DIN-E-ILAHI.

Kulbhushan Kharbanda, a man whom I dearly admire for his performances over the years, is all flesh and blood as someone rooting for and implementing change while getting heartbroken by his sons’ avarices.  He embodies Akbar like no one can, humanising him beyond the tropes of an unanimously beloved king whom history looks upon as a cultural touchstone.

***

SHIVAJI

You can never go wrong with a Nasseeruddin Shah performance and he is fiery and characteristically noble as the great ruler Shivaji.

In these two episodes, the equal support and counsel from his mother becomes a bedrock of his tryst with destiny. I particularly loved how two common men relay his legend in the last years of 19th Century Maharashtra, giving it both a mythic and folkloric sensibility informed by pure historic feats.

Watch these episodes to know how Shivaji’s father became a prisoner of his own loyalty to other invading rulers, a spell broken by Shivaji with tact and care, how his intervention turned barren lands within his kingdom to lush sanctuaries down the centuries. The best parts, however, are reserved for his confrontations with Aurangzeb (Om Puri)

Those legendary baritones and performative acumen on the part of these two men give it a charge that is tonally befitting.



*****


EPILOGUE

Finally, to get a full overview of all the episodes, if you may not have watched them given the series’ expansive 50 part run, go through this hour and a half epilogue that takes into account the tale’s trajectory, from ancient times to the Independence era gravitas.

I will be watching more episodes and writing about them. For now, I hope you read about them and watch them courtesy Prasar Bharti Archives channel where all episodes are available in good definition and sound quality.

The individual, objective / subjective simultaneity of the scenes also carry  a theatrical mode of storytelling which helps to convey its verbal ethos very fluently. The actors deliver those lines just as well.

Last but not the least is the legendary, multicultural Roshan Seth as Jawaharlal Nehru, the sutradhar who holds it together with his eloquence, based as this acclaimed series is on the premier’s own book DISCOVERY OF INDIA.




***

VAR VAR VARI(1987)





VARI is a Sanskrit word which means water and is used in the feminine sense. That way, this short film by auteur Kumar Shahani justifies its title. Beautifully photographed by Piyush Shah and with lucid sound design by K.A. Sarkar, the presence of lakes, rippling waves, inclement weather and rain get subsumed in a tale that gets more intriguing with each view.

Mita Vashisht made her debut with this diploma feature from the prestigious annals of Film and Television Institute of India. She is part enigma, part love-lorn lover as someone who begins the film as a meteorological scientist directly addressing the camera, telling us about the workings of her station and at the same time employing a teasing smile and look, as if to convey the fact that she is, quite literally, in control of weather patterns. Or a way of life.  The sound design captures this brilliantly.



From her interactions with a wandering sage( G. S. Chani) and then her best friend ( the film’s editor Nandini Bedi herself), she assumes the avatar of a mythic creature, a mystery figure whose lines gave me the impression that she is an impersonation of the Weather Goddess herself, always one with the nature around her.

She’s also a young woman who asks her friend to carry her beloved’s food across the lake, on her boat. When more than a whiff of betrayal on both their parts is revealed, she lets her long hair be open instead of in a bun. Flooded fields close the film. It’s as if her own wrath brought an abundance of rain on earth. Maybe she manifests her emotions as the eternal Earth mother, signifying Prakriti(nature) and Saundarya( Beauty) along with their associative destructive forces. Hence, the unnamed protagonist is always in control.

Mita Vashisht is utterly fascinating and sensual in her portrayal here while Nandini Bedi is more static in her dialogue delivery, reminiscent of the style of ’30s dramas.

More than that, this is an aesthetically pleasing wonder, with its sepia tones ripe with beautiful imagery. Behold Ms. Vashisht by the lake, rocking a swing, dressed in her finery like a divine vision or by the mirror, her friend on the boat, the sage amidst the verdure of nature and the protagonist’s flowing tresses in the end. Or the image of the black swan in the first three minutes of the opening credits.




VAR VAR VARI is esoteric at first but is so full of contexts and interpretations that its 24 minutes will be lapped up by cinephiles who are buoyed by intellectual stimulation and aesthetics than just a straightjacketed narrative. Ms. Vashisht carries it beautifully with her quintessential grace.
**

KITBULL(2019) & PIPER(2016)

Finally, we steer the storytelling boat towards the varied and always triumphant array of short form animation.

KITBULL is a sensitive little gem about a dog and a cat who find a world of companionship away from human cruelty and man-made decrees of them being mortal enemies. The cat ends up rescuing the abused dog and their alignment with a doting human couple that adopts them is heartwarming.

PIPER is another genuine wonder, with its eye for detail regarding a young seagull’s journey to learn the basics of survival, getting affixed with the little one’s unlikely friendship with a crab, overcoming fear of incoming waves and learning life lessons. The sound design employed for the birds, the sea and the behavioural pattern are all authentic because it takes our observant eye to grasp those intricacies.

Blessed are these shorts from the famed animation studio Pixar that manage to tap into our love for these innocent beings and nature, in general, in under 10 minutes. That’s a miracle we need to imbibe wholeheartedly.



https://youtu.be/xroy2VFphi4



***

SOME TALES ARE WORTH OUR ATTENTION

SHERNI/TIGRESS(2021)

Eye of the tiger! There can be one way to encapsulate that complex statement, that is to use it literally in terms of visual representation in humans. Such as the iconic image of the Afghan girl with ‘eyes of the tiger’, from the historic archives of National Geographic. Unfortunately, her real life belies the connotation of a fierce spirit as imprisoned she had been then under patriarchal, conservative decrees in a traditional society and continues to be perhaps. The language of the eyes, hence, sometimes is not really consonant with an idea of freedom. It’s all determined by our situations in life.



Vidya Balan starrer SHERNI is one such favourable study of human behaviour in all its elemental authenticity just like the jungles that sorround them. Here, the ruab(dignity and earnestness) on the face of Vidya Vincent is an extension of her line of work, her commitment towards tiger conservation and by turn environmental protection of the ecosystem that exists in a vacuum for others.
That’s because in the annals of Indian cinema, she is a rare phenomenon: a forest officer who is inured within the typical red tapism and bureaucratic web affixed with a government job. Soul sapping convention doesn’t let go even outside perimeters of urban human population. Her zeal to ensure that an alleged man-eating tigress and her cubs are shielded from the prowl of old-time hunters and political propagandas is as much quietly revolutionary and feminist as it is an illustration of her position, as a strong voice of reason in male dominated preserves.

Amit V. Masurkar employs a subtle, quiet tone in a screenplay full of verisimilitude regarding groundwork within the forest. This authentic eye for detail extends itself to concerns regarding nomadic locals’ struggles to survive within an already diminishing social set-up as cattle owners, especially when the fear of the tigress attacking them is supreme. Or in the way human settlements encroaching upon the jungle has invited an uneasy and difficult turf war between inhabitants of both even though flesh and blood mortals think they can control the ‘beasts’; even the proximity of mines in the forested area informs us of the effects of unhealthy human initiatives at the cost of natural resources.

The law of nature entails a complex nucleus for survival and Vidya is at the center of her genuine efforts at conservation and following a sense of duty beyond mere lip-service. She has a dedicated team here of forest officials that take her lead.

There’s no direct use of symbolism or even an effort to make it on the nose. She is an honest professional who is here to make a difference without drawing attention to it. The film stays grounded due to that approach. Though her progress is constantly stymied by the likes of her senior(Brijendra Kala), a typical government head, a reputed forest official(Neeraj Kabi) who is not as committed to his mission anymore as he claims while a so called ‘hunting expert'( Sharat Saxena) and a political head( Satyakam Anand) have their own unruly agendas that have no place in this pristine world that Vidya envisions. Her frustrations hence are earned, a facet handled here in such a way that every government employee will identify with the depictions.

On the other hand, Vijay Raaz and Sampa Mandal play sensible individuals committed to bring her vision to fruition with their logical wisdom, showing an awakening on the part of common folk as against the wheeler-dealers in positions of power.

**



SHERNI uses the reality of workplace sexism twice as when Vidya is called a ‘lady officer’ by another man who ironically claims that he respects her or when she is asked by her family members to dress up more for a dinner and also sometimes prefer to wear atleast some semblance of her marital status like a mangalsutra. Nothing overtly delivered but Vidya’s reality is conveyed to us in a striking manner.  The circular functioning of this posting, where transfers are brought on by ideological differences with the ‘top brass’, is also conveyed towards the end where Vidya is hailed as a ‘superman’ by her former staff just like they did for her preceding officer in the beginning.

This is a wonderful addition to the evolving canon of our New Wave minds. For someone who has grown up watching documentaries on wildlife on Discovery and National Geographic, serenaded by its tales by my father who has spent formative years in that fascinating environment owing to his father’s Geological Survey of India postings and the conservation efforts and photography of Valmik Thapar, this was a rare opportunity and it earns its stripes.

It also makes a subtle pitch for making room for more female boots on the ground in terms of forest conservation.



***

STATELESS (2020)



To sum up the essence of the stories encircling the emotional toll in this Australian limited series, I share my own poem DEATH AT THE BEACH that was a sombre meditation on the migrant crisis of our current era. I had published it here almost a year and a half ago and I think it’s pivotal to sift the reality of those situations we are horrified by, from the actual experiences of those who leave their contentious homelands behind to be stranded in a space that imprisons them further.

We live in a world where children are the most vulnerable in an amphitheater of hate and terror. Hence these lines from me.

**

DEATH AT THE BEACH

There lies the beach,
with its monthly sand sculpture made by amateur fingertips
and grainy facepacks for toddlers screaming, ‘Mummy, look, it’s me’

The beach, always deep yellow and intensely brown with the day’s shade ,
was for a while also migrants’ transit parlour,
in which we all wore a different skin,
a mortal one
and received them for asylum, rest, compassion and peacetime summits,
mingling parenthood with the children’s just demands for playtime and assorted lunch breaks.

**

A Passage By Sea, today, is still born
as the boy from his ancestral Mediterranean village lies face down in the sand,
by the sea,
sunk, as of this date, into a Photo of the Year felicitation.
Last seen in a foetal position with head down.

His is a grim seafaring spirit,
birthed in a foreign tongue,
mother’s agonies and tearful kisses
and the father’s slurred speech and disbelief,
grim in the face of his watery graveyard here.

The Beach

The Child In The Water.

Seances of futile hope,
orchestrated by the Mediterranean for incoming boats and drifting birthdays.

**

For child is the father of man,
His mother’s river of despair
and to a far away Head of State,
a veritable State of the Union appendage,
a book’s liner note and for memory’s sake, a dried fig of a bookmark and endnote,
lost to the seagull’s traveling routes.

**
At the beach,
we chant, ‘absolve me of our sins’,
head down,
sand in our hands,
hardly praying and almost hopeless.
For our children have despaired and we are distant eye witnesses.

**



STATELESS is, to me, about parents and children bound and separated by this passage to the better world. The most poignant being Ameer(Fayssal Bazzi) and his daughter Mina’s(Soraya Heidari) reunion after losing two of their other family members to the sea or Javad( Phoenix Raei) attempting, tooth and nail, to get back to his wife and two young kids. Helana Sawires and Yvonne Strahovski, on the other hand, play two women, namely Rosna and Sofie, who yearn to seek freedom after suffering physical indignities within their own spheres, the former bringing her share of fierceness and pathos as a Kurdish woman who has seen and endured the worst.

The latter, however, is the only Australian native whose fragmenting mental health and flight from a suffocating family bring her to the detention center, smack in the middle of this setting where the personal becomes political for all migrants awaiting citizenship Down Under. The aspect that matches the intensity of these lives is the desert heat and dusty landscape, making it a literal No Man’s Land.

It’s an important series because it tells how one’s own home and by extension homeland becomes a mortal enemy when humanity is compromised by dint of unseemly social diktats. It’s brutally honest about its own national policies and the inadequacies associated with immigration because it draws from a whole catalogue of real-life cases.

Asher Keddie and Jai Courtney also add layers of humanity as members working within the system and ground down by its pressures and everyday struggles.

In the end, an image of Mina watching sea waves reminds us of not only the passage by sea that so many migrants undertake, sometimes to no avail, but of the vast possibilities for humanity that a broken society nips in the bud. After all, Sofie, despite being a 30 plus year old woman, is essentially a child who never received love or appreciation from her cold parents and that transitioning of emptiness to adulthood brought her doom. That’s the impact that these intersecting tales invite. STATELESS is, hence, a must watch for its pertinence and is personally invested in the minds of most of its actors who make up the diverse fabric of their native country now. That journey through trauma is never forgotten here.



**

GRAHAN/ECLIPSE(2021)




The eclipse of the title reflects in a tale sculpted out of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots that rocked India and haunts its conscience.

Like STATELESS, it doesn’t resort to gratituous violence or storytelling excess, focusing instead on the socio-political urgency and emotional depth of the issues that tail multiple generations. Of course, its dealing with the revelation of a key player ( Pawan Malhotra) as regards his identity as a rioter/ victim simultaneously falls in a morally complex area, making us question the lines between right and wrong. A past always shapes our present and, in turn, our future.

That’s the haunting takeaway from this impactful miniseries that puts Zoya Hussain in a morally precarious position, as a police officer Amrita Singh investigating the pogrom and finding her father landing in its crosshairs. Like STATELESS, it is also about the burdens of political propagandas carried by parents and children. The final stretch of episodes is riveting, given its unfolding layers of truth and political players peddling rumours then and now to stoke communal tempers.

The common man always suffers owing to that poison ivy growing with each era. GRAHAN recognizes that.


***

A RARE SMITA PATIL INTERVIEW BECKONS US

I had been searching for a Smita Patil interview for years and while the rich treasure trove of material regarding her exemplary filmography vis a vis articles, fully uploaded movies, opinion pieces and books are aplenty, there was a paucity of recorded conversations.

Which is why I was very happy to discover this rare clip of the equally legendary newsreader and host Nalini Singh interviewing the iconic artist, uploaded by the Prasar Bharti Archives courtesy national broadcaster Doordarshan, on its prolific YouTube channel.


So behold these two individuals talk about the importance of issues pertaining to portrayal of women in cinema and the way commercialized advertising imagery can have an adverse impact on the sensitivity of the subject matter addressed.





***

MY POEM HAS BEEN PUBLISHED IN LOTHLORIEN JOURNAL ANTHOLOGY.


This afternoon, I opened my email page and was greeted with the most pleasant surprise.

My poem SHE ONCE BLOOMED LIKE THE DAISY, previously published on Wattpad and on my WordPress blog last year, was chosen by eminent poet Strider Marcus Jones, a man I’ve known since the last six years, in LOTHLORIEN POETRY JOURNAL VOLUME 1- THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE PEN. My poem was also included earlier on the journal.

It’s an anthology that comprises of many other poets whose works have been culled from the Lothlorien Journal corpus published in the last few months, by Mr. Jones himself. One should know he’s the esteemed founder-editor of the journal.

I thank him and this indeed has added more vigour and tinges of encouragement to my prolific literary journey.

What’s more wonderful is that the book is available online too so discerning readers can buy it and spread the word. In a year where two of my poems DREAMS and WISH UPON A STAR have been published in the bestselling anthology NURSERY RHYMES AND CHILDREN’S POEMS FROM AROUND THE WORLD, edited by Anita Nahal and Meenakshi Mohan, and diversified my portfolio, this only enhances the curve for me and several of my talented fellow peers.

So read the poems, share this link and make sure to spread the word. Always stand up for poetry and creativity manifold.

THANK YOU!!!



***

I am including the link to the page, on which the book is available to be bought along with other pivotal details.

https://www.lulu.com/en/gb/shop/denise-ohagan-and-john-drudge-and-christine-tabaka-and-moe-seager/lothlorien-poetry-journal-volume-1/paperback/product-v2e56e.html?page=1&pageSize=4



***

TREASURE TROVE OF CLASSICAL MUSIC AND DANCE IN INDIAN CINEMA-FINAL PART

I am sharing the link to the final part of my essay, on the treasure trove of classical music and dance within the Indian cinematic canon. It has been published as part of my essay collection A LETTERED SOUL on Wattpad.

https://www.wattpad.com/story/276862607-a-lettered-soul-musings-on-art-and-culture

It’s bound to be worth a read for all discerning readers and cinephiles as also for those who appreciate the finer nuances of the artistic medium.

I am also including links to two pivotal movies from 1989, namely Kumar Shahani’s KHAYAL GATHA and Mani Kaul’s SIDDHESHWARI. They are masterpieces that perfectly capture the aesthetics of Indian classical music with unparalleled grace.

A FEW STIRRING PORTRAITS OF EVERYDAY LIFE

LUCY IN THE SKY(2019)



Natalie Portman is to the manner born when it comes to immersing herself in the void of human compunction, a space where she can go completely blank and yet possess the felicity to express her experiences with utter conviction. So much so that as a discerning individual, the viewer is hypnotized by the depths of her internal probing.

It’s a gift that she imbues her eyes and visage with in every psychologically complex script she nods her assent for, be it BLACK SWAN, PLANETARIUM, JACKIE, VOX LUX or ANNIHILATION. LUCY IN THE SKY, helmed by Noah Hawley, finds its arresting pitch of that same haunting sense with her characterisation of LUCY COLA, an astronaut finding herself unravel when everything on earth eludes her after a successful mission to outer space. Is it just career aspirations and a sense of the universe getting in the way of her personal life? Or is it her unhappy childhood fraught with abandonment by parents coiling around her like an albatross?

With a striking visual palette, shifting screen dimensions and an appropriate pace, LUCY IN THE SKY has intense moments galore, with a focus on mental health issues often getting the short shrift even in the most advanced surroundings buoyed by science. The human mind is an intricate jumble here and Ms. Portman invests that point with total commitment to her psychological state. It is, to me, an example of ‘cinema of dissonance or disorientation’

**

FARGO (1996), THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING MISSOURI (2017)





Frances McDormand is a performer who can balance extraordinary reserves of righteous indignation affected by policing mishandling of a case involving her dead daughter as on THREE BILLBOARDS… with an almost taunting sense of humour, to go with her regional lingo, as a police officer slowly making her way through a tangle of crime in FARGO. In both, her punctured soul is always in the spotlight, that of a lady grown accustomed to the indignities of the world around her.

I was lucky to watch both these films soon after beholding her almost karmic restraint on NOMADLAND last month. Both unite her in the similitude of being a one woman army within small-town politics of male ego and structures that undermine the power of justice and truth. Catch her full caustic fury on display as a grieving mother holding nothing back from hypocritical gatekeepers of an insulated society in THREE BILLBOARDS…. Or her warmth when with her caring husband and an old friend respectively while very beautifully estimating her dismay at the state of things involving petty pursuits of crime, as in that final ride to the police station with a convict in her van in FARGO. Almost as if she is bemoaning bringing her child into this sort of twisted world( she is shown to be atleast five months pregnant while on duty in the film)

Her subtle shades make each experience worth appreciating.

***

THE FAVOURITE(2018)

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (1966)



Friendship or even semblance of trust within the same gender is often grist for conflict that gradually develops over identity crises. That intragender dynamic is interesting to find in a film as resonant in the post-feminist discourse as THE FAVOURITE.

It releases the fictionalized embers of Queen Anne’s physical debilities and position as head of a nation from the fiery cauldron of history, bringing much moral weightlifting to class relations and sexual mores circa 18th Century England, from the prism of a millennial understanding. What makes it heartbreaking is that in a man’s world, none of the three principal women, despite staking their power plays within the court, manage to find unison in each other’s company. That’s worth pondering about, throughout history.

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (1966), a totemic Western from the one and only Sergio Leone, too finds the other gender- the malefolk-  uniting but ultimately betraying each other’s better instincts in the blind pursuit of greed, in an epoch of yore. LEE VAN CLEEF, ELI WALLACH and the eternally sexy cowboy CLINT EASTWOOD find out its absurdities as in the climactic shots of Wallach searching like a rabid dog across the length of a mass cemetery for that elusive pot of gold.

It’s a fate that reeks of nations’  foundations built upon violence and existential moral bankruptcy.



**

THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL (1985)



I came to realize that THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL is actually a wonderful precursor to NOMADLAND. Before Fern(Frances McDormand), we had the great Geraldine Page playing a 60 plus lady taking one unlikely trip to her place of birth BOUNTIFUL, TEXAS even though it has all but vanished from the American map. Just like Fern’s predicament in a post-recession scenario where her hometown of Empire, Nevada is subsumed in anonymity almost overnight.

Ms. Page’s journey in this instance is that of reclaiming a sacred idea of home before old age catches up with her. It’s a coincidence that she won an Oscar for this emotionally wrenching tale and soon passed away. As if this was what Fate had decided for her, an intermingling of real life anticipation regarding one’s mortality with the one portrayed on screen.

How can one possibly forget her scenes in the bus in the presence of a passenger, her reasoning with her son and daughter in law, her breakdown in the bus depot and then her moments in the acre of uninhabited land that was once her precious childhood home becoming a source of joy. The trip fulfilled, it leads her to an open-ended but satisfying journey down the road, another parallel with Fern from NOMADLAND.

Watch this classic to be immersed in its emotional depth, just like the way I remember it after having watched it almost two years ago.


NOTE: in recent years, CICELY TYSON played this acclaimed role for a Lifetime television movie.

**

LOSING ISAIAH (1995)




A boy with a divine name is endowed with love from two women. The personal politics of motherhood, however, get swept up in racial constraints. A custody battle between the biological single mother, a former drug addict, and the adoptive family, sets in motion a rich emotional saga culled from real life.

With performances by the likes of Oscar winners HALLE BERRY, JESSICA LANGE as well as SAMUEL L. JACKSON and DAVID STRATHAIRN, it is a timely tale and an underrated classic.




***

HAPPY GHOSTS

There goes my miracle,
touched by the golden dust of peak summer,
when souls shine with the sun’s overcast squint,
dashing against walls
and I discover hidden inner lives of the place I live in.

I,
sitting in the lotus position,
am bewildered by the many happy ghosts
unshackled from self-isolation.
It’s such a quantum leap from the unjustified horror
of clinging too close to home.

Little child, gone too soon at breakfast at nine,
you’re tapping at my shoulder,
stripping away fear by the jawline’s underside,
chubby cheeks and round wrists
showing me the blueprint for your little sister’s room,
where I now stay
and there, you tell me,
are the dentures your Grandma kept in a glass case,
her bright eyes fixed on the nail,
from which hung loosely her mother’s photo on the wall from fifty years ago.

**
Today, you say,
she has taken to dancing again,
no more held back by the solidity of her bones,
looking like how she was when your father was your age.

You say your childhood friend shares the dinner table,
facing me with a grin,
finishing off that bottle of jam after I go to sleep
and making me wonder
how it could have happened again within a fortnight.
He plays with my red ping-pong ball,
dashing against walls,
becoming stardust in the process
and then calling out the robin
who perched high on the eaves four generations prior.

**
Sometimes my cat,
actually on most nights,
looks above and fixates her gaze on the ceiling,
as if stumped by some relative insider,
making fun of the mortal world’s overconfident stance.
Now I know why,
how she tries to reason with the invisible force and keep it covert,
the way only she does,
instructed by her own instincts.

Some good spirits always find a home,
even though they pass out like the colours of that antique flower vase from 1962.
They retain their passage from the yard,
all the long way to the forbidden balcony door,
with the red-orange rust and jammed grill.
Sometimes,
they are like the cover of ravens,
shadowy and easily observed
but casually dismissed.
Sometimes they pull at the ends of sofa covers,
fly from one showpiece to another
and entertain me blindly with their play with light and wind,
on these days where the whole city is down on its haunches,
reasoning with ghosts of its own,
both sublime and sordid.

**
These playful spirits come with the season,
squinting with the sun
and jest me,
wearing white curtains over their bodies,
like they do in photoplays sometimes.

They are all posing for the final portrait
before they become like incense smoke,
observing their respects for the mortals joining their passageway soon,
through lands both rough-hewn and magical.

**

These are the ones who settle in the walls of homes they once lived in,
extricated from a past history,
the narratology of which is in my storytelling.
They entrust,
they believe that words are worth more than monochromatic images.
They live in the spaces between these lines,
in the cracks where wasps give them company
and a mother bee nurses her first born to life.


**
There’s a child tapping my shoulder,
his friend is dipping his fingers in the jammed slice
and his grandmother is opening the windows to let little fairies travel,
on sonic wavelengths to and fro,
on this side of the broadcasting station where life is in God’s haikus.

This home is the sanctuary
they let me share.

**





IF THESE WALLS COULD TALK


This is the image conjured by light and shadow on my wall, on an afternoon, that I captured with my camera and hence designed this particular poem.




Walls have their own accomplished
artistry.
You see the forms come and go regularly,
birthing from the sun’s perpetual warmth,
rankling and fluctuating,
to find their inherent composition
and their own script.
They almost needlessly
acquire a form
of their own,
some of them seemingly inspired
from our own lives,
here on these walls.

It’s a subtle and unexpected game of shadows
But the artists never reveal their identities.
Nobody knows which form they may acquire,
to startle us.
That is the real charm
of unsolicited creation.

***
Walls, by their very nature,
are ripe as a blank canvas.
Contingent with how
we make them whole.
But how beautifully
they relieve us,
to make a home
out of empty spaces.

So it’s not left to doubt
that walls
have their own accomplished artistry,
a proficient language
and an oeuvre of their own.

We are the artisans
waiting to adorn them
with our own life-forms.

***

OUR SKIN IS LIKE THE DAWN


The colour of our skin
is like the dawn,
night’s embers rising with
strings of blue,
our heads festooned with
pink and orange shades
and a smidgen of yellow.
Also,
there’s ebony on the horizon
as the first rays fall on our faces,
fighting against blind figures of beauty
and all of yesterday’s ironies.

This day is like our bodies,
a symbol of regeneration,
holding us still in the warmth
of our sensual embrace.
And we are like birds of a feather,
stepping out of our canopies
for the cause of our friendships.

Let them say,
“too much colour almost always
catches the wrong eyes”
Let us say instead,
“all our colours rise up
to the skies”

That’s what we get
for having skin like dawn
and bodies like days,
innumerable and immeasurable.
Our own colours of infinity.

***

Vanraj Bhatia: A Man of Music

By Prithvijeet Sinha A man of Mr. Vanraj Bhatia’s calibre embodied multiple worlds and with his music, collective filmography available on YouTube and streaming services, it’s time we gave this musical pioneer his due.

Vanraj Bhatia: A Man of Music

My essay on ace yet underrated composer VANRAJ BHATIA has been published by CAFE DISSENSUS.

I am grateful to its canon for helping me spotlight this great individual’s contribution to Indian cultural representation.