Grey skies
Falling birds
are the arrears
to our mortal destinies.

with its
prognostic cruelty
but recovers
its faith
in you three,
God’s own
awake and accustomed
to your faithless city’s

Birds of freedom
still sail within
those corrupted skies.
The world
now extends its hand
to you.

Take it to
avian nursery.



Love singes.
As the world
looks at your dizzying highs,
your fear
at the brim
of Discovery.

There’s something
to be said
about those quests.

You go for
the fuller
reach of this earth
we cannot

on the brink
of giant footsteps
for mankind.
Always burning
with the wonder
of this extraordinary



If like me, Clare Torry’s cosmic vocal burst on A GREAT GIG IN THE SKY has defined your sonic textures  or TIME and ECLIPSE have been primers of restrained arrangements and songwriting as well as a voyage to the other side of creation’s myriad myths respectively, this golden anniversary is a victory lap indeed.

On the band’s official YouTube channel, pithy capsules recognising this landmark event look at the album’s ubiquitous prism and refracted rainbow artwork, the tours and original studio sessions that produced a veritable masterpiece.

It’s a good time to live in when such feats are distributed globally to bring eras and generations together.



The brass, the once heard, never forgotten voice and lyrics, the feeling of swimming in an aura of euphoria and sensuality are hallmarks of two of Nina Simone’s definitive hits. The march of time has been especially kind and considerate to her. Of course, Ms. Nina’s artistry spurred that silken movement through decades.

These tunes have now found recent visual treatments that bask in the kind of Black excellence, physicality and humble antecedents coexisting with joy that Ms. Simone could not enjoy during her years.

This is long overdue for the legend and these melodies are inspired choices for the express purpose of rediscovery this generation hungers for.



My! Oh my! Just how can one individual wield her songwriting and compositional magic to produce tunes that we keep hearing over and over again is astonishing. To store her name and face, moreover singular efforts behind them to our treasure trove produces a sense of validation. We are here and we recognise her prolific influence.

WHO WILL YOU RUN TO? by iconic band HEART is one of those. Ann Wilson’s vocals are fierce and there’s bite, real verve to calling out duplicity and the tendency in others to sidestep their well-wishers when tipped for better opportunities. The power rock ballad format here also gives boost to Nancy Wilson’s guitar gravitas. Ms. Warren’s arrangements are perfectly matched with her own words.

DON’T TURN AROUND by Tina Turner is another strong showcase for the going away, melange of regrets and longing, feeble heart but steady mind dynamics that Ms. Warren has particular proficiency in. It’s also a way to dismantle male hubris like none other. The power ballad/ rock charge is great individually and the tune’s complex structure traces all stages of this relationship arc. It’s Ms. Turner who blazes forth with her vocals, so soaring and inimitably attuned to the song’s development that the lyrical archetypes of this bond become fully functional.

Then we have two extremely fortunate songbirds in LeAnn Rimes and Trisha Yearwood with the melodious, love-lorn properties of HOW DO I LIVE? The use of rock guitars and saxophone in the second half in their respective versions add heft to a sense of helpless reckoning and a genuine fear of abandonment. The key of life is in persevering even when we express our vulnerability so this song has Warren delivering her very best as a composer and a wordsmith with a canny ear for the classic songbook.

Finally, THERE YOU’LL BE by Faith Hill has an emotional majesty and the orchestral sweep is as much a part of its timeless appeal as Ms. Hill’s performance.

Considering these songs hail from the ’80s, ’90s and early 2000s, with the latter two being Oscar nominees and Grammy winners, we can safely say that they don’t produce musical magic on this scale anymore.  The timeless stamp of approval from listeners hence goes a long way in further validating all artists. The anchor, of course, is Ms. Warren, now a richly deserved Honorary Oscar victor.



This one like Christine McVie’s heartfelt solo turn on Fleetwood Mac standard SONGBIRD is a showcase for usual guitarist Nancy Wilson to display her delicate, resonant voice instead of the excellent Ann Wilson.

The world of dreams as defence mechanism and an extension of lived experiences is beautifully realised through the lyrics. This one’s for keeps, for sure.



The song to define all songbooks ushers in its silver anniversary milestone, with its timelessness intact.

For us, it’s a testament to Miss Dion whose current health crisis must be offset by our prayers. Let her healing and recovery be in full force.

Let this classic’s stature forever endure.


As an avid listener, I know beckoning the musical charms of Linda Ronstadt is magical, to say the least. I feel privileged that in addition to reiterating my love for her immaculate, diverse discography almost every day, a classic from her earliest repertoire has been revived in public eye by featuring on an HBO series. LONG, LONG TIME is a poignant exploration of life’s uncertainties and the uncharted frontiers we take to have love occupy a permanent place in our hearts. Its strings and delicate, vulnerable melody are made precious by Ms. Ronstadt’s beautiful vocals.

Talking about the delicacy of such like-minded ballads as LONG, LONG TIME, we have the piano and Christine McVie’s heartfelt voice guide a declaration of fidelity to love on Fleetwood Mac standard SONGBIRD. Ms. McVie left the earthly surface recently and this song found a new lease of life and deservingly so; McVie or the iconic band she was a part of are here. Music is here to give us lifelong references and become the soundtrack to multiple landmarks. In life and death, mortal imprints through song become eternal.

To that list we can again add Linkin Park’s recent release LOST, a song I had written about earlier. This is to the sonic resonances of an iconic unit that never shielded the vulnerability of youth when others gladly conformed with masculine posturings of bloated egos. Chester Bennington, you are missed and we still live in the shadow of your poignant reckoning with pain, your courage to earn your artistic stripes, your boundless integrity. LOST is your manifesto of truth.

From the vestiges of troubled youth, powers of songwriting complemented with rock instrumentation and arrangements make a heady case in PATIENT NO. 9. Legends Ozzy Osbourne and the late great Jeff Beck power this exploration of mortality, mental health and apathy with a sincere mix of the sinister and vulnerable. The Achilles heel here is advancing age but the real monster is a society willing to disavow the ailing of their facilities of thought and agency. This song captures all of those strands with befitting urgency.

Since rock has entered the picture, how can we let the formidable Joan Jett be left off? I HATE MYSELF FOR LOVING YOU is such an exhilarating celebration of taking the narrative back from someone undeserving of attention that you have to play it again and again. It’s about taking stock of a mangled situation and hitting one’s peak while delivering the ultimate truth. That incredibly powerful rasp in Jett’s voice is built with dynamism.

The caravan for this first part then comes to a beautifully somber, lyrically structured ode to humanity’s resilience on two Bonnie Raitt records. JUST LIKE THAT took me back to the compassionate tempers of The House That Built Me by Miranda Lambert, a coming together of two individuals unbeknownst to each other, two generations reuniting under extremely poignant circumstances. Here, a homecoming arc in the latter is made more emotionally stirring by the tale of a man’s gratefulness for the mother whose son’s deceased heart sustains his life now. Sparse guitars lend it gravitas, in a songwriting feat of perspectives and connection among strangers. On another recent song MADE UP MIND, Ms. Raitt is efficient as usual, a songstress who raises the subtle art of simplicity to new heights.
Now that both songs have picked up Grammys, with JUST LIKE THAT triumphing with a Song of The Year statuette, it feels great to have rooted for these since last year.

This, of course, occasioned multiple listens to such standards by her as ANGEL FROM MONTGOMERY and SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT. We will always stick with I CAN’T MAKE YOU LOVE ME as a favourite, heartbreaking and yet transcendental with its timeless tenderness but these are equals in terms of Ms. Raitt’s vocal performance and humble approach to storytelling.


Recent musical releases that intrigued this listener covers the full gamut of sonic resonances, from the unabashed disco and funk renaissance of Jessie Ware’s PEARLS to the piano, guitar backed soundscape of Lana Del Rey’s intense A&W. Also in line is the stark, affecting use of balladry by Pink on her latest album’s non-singles such as JUST SAY I’M SORRY, KIDS IN LOVE, LONG WAY TO GO and WHEN I GET THERE, relying mostly on acoustic guitar and honest vocal exchanges with featured artists as The Lumineers, popular Swedish duo First Aid Kit and Chris Stapleton. This is why an entire album’s worth of material needs to be unearthed by us so that memorable fare such as these examples don’t slip beneath gaps in promotion or word of mouth.

PARAMORE is also on board with Hayley Williams and co.’s fierce mix of truths on such rousing rock cuts as THIS IS WHY, THE NEWS and RUNNING OUT OF TIME. A tender number like LIAR is just as becoming within its oeuvre. The thing uniting these talented members is that the songs’ structures, vision and thematic sincerity are contemporary to a fault.


Taking the journey towards tracing an index of classic tunes, we have the incredibly masterful Minnie Riperton deliver her finest moments on LOVIN’ YOU, with her signature whistle register and control of breath cooing its way into our hearts. Flanking this standard is Linda Ronstadt at her formidable best on covers of Elvis’ Love Me Tender, James Taylor’s You Can Close Your Eyes while she lets the full-force of country and Americana find bountiful expression in Silver Threads and Golden Needles.

To this list, make the romanticisms and serenity of Roberta Flack occupy prime position. THE FIRST TIME I EVER SAW YOUR FACE and the instantly rapturous KILLING ME SOFTLY WITH HIS SONG are poetic tributes to the art of songwriting, vocal delivery and musical resonances that must reach the uninitiated.

Talking about First Aid Kit, the Swedish duo comprising of two uniquely talented siblings with a borderless flair for musical resonances, apart from their recent featured credit on P!nk’s Kids in Love and their by now iconic tribute to a country great in Emmylou, they have revived the imprints of other standout artists while performing live at the national Polar Music Prize for many years. That’s where Emmylou reached the world. Their covers of other hall of famers as Simon and Garfunkel, Patti Smith and undoubtedly Emmylou Harris brought me hence to some beautiful pieces as RED DIRT GIRL by Ms. Harris, a tale about life’s trials and tribulations inked with memories galore as well as America by Simon and Garfunkel. A conversational piece narrated in vignette style, the latter makes us realise that perhaps no other unit or group of men since them have lifted us up with such pure displays of serenity.

Patti Smith’s DANCING BAREFOOT is another strong tune, casual and almost spoken-word; with its live take by First Aid Kit, it becomes poignant.


Serenity is a gift that Mazzy Star continues to bless this world with. If Fade Into You and Into Dust are mesmerising in perpetuity, California from a decade ago carries the torch of the band’s uncompromising artistry with profound care.

The same quality pervades Mariah Carey’s sensuous and delicate MY ALL, a love letter to the unraveling of the senses before the glide of emotions overwhelms one.

The Sweet Inspirations’ HERE I AM is another unforgettable beauty. Ever since I sought this one out few years ago, the song featuring Cissy Houston has been a source of comfort.


From mother to one history-making daughter in Whitney Houston, it’s a legacy bolstered by renewed zest ever since 2022 biopic I WANNA DANCE WITH SOMEBODY further enthralled the world.

For listeners like us, being engaged with Ms. Whitney’s flawless vocal magic is a daily ritual. So it’s inevitable that she continued to occupy my playlist, from her earliest standards to comeback singles I LOOK TO YOU, I DIDN’T KNOW MY OWN STRENGTH and HIS EYE IS ON THE SPARROW. These are songs I have savoured for years. They sound reinvigorated when a flush of vindication celebrates her cultural impact. So it is here.

To conclude, I WANNA KNOW WHAT LOVE IS by Foreigner stands out as a tune I have to listen to atleast once each day even if I hear it in my head while out on my walks or touring the city’s monuments . The fact that Jennifer Holliday sang backup here in its unforgettable chorus in the second half is winsome on so many cultural levels.




As a Whitney Houston superfan, this Kasi Lemmons directed feature tribute to the life and times of an enduring pop-culture icon is absolutely sensational for me. It makes you behold the performative brilliance of Naomi Ackie who not just embodies ‘the voice’ with her pitch-perfect lip-sync, body movement, accent and graceful gestures incremental to Ms. Houston’s stage presence but lets us embrace the real ‘Nippy’.

We use the term transformative very easily. Here, Ms. Ackie actually honours the legend with utmost precision and respect. It’s not just the singing and musical repertoire in general. Whitney, here, confronts her manipulative father for his financial misdeeds in two explosive scenes that cement her individual stand and recreates that radio interview where she calls out society for its assumptions regarding something as secular and universal as music or her image as a ‘black woman’ in the mainstream.

It is a body of work that covers whole performances that every admirer has watched multiple times. Such milestones as The Star Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl, her instantly rapturous rendition of Home on The Merv Griffin Show and the showstopping medley of I Love You Porgy, And I’m Telling You and I Have Nothing at the 1994 American Music Awards are all here in their entirety. The commitment to recreating these feats authentically extend to the costumes, make-up and hairstyling, lighting, editing and sound design. Then the sheer joy of watching music videos for How Will I Know, I Will Always Love You and It’s All Right But It’s Not Okay unfold with ease, introducing different eras of her artistic evolution. Just as her debut at a New York Club with a cover of The Greatest Love Of All, a fortituous event we know about, is brought to life without shortening her musical prowess in that moment for the sake of lucidity alone. Or her triumphant, bittersweet comeback on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 2009.

But this isn’t a documentary approach that gets evinced. There’s a real dramatic flair to her beautiful but ultimately troubled reckoning with best friend and creative manager Robyn, her personal unraveling and downward spiral with Bobby Brown as well as the winsome moments when with mentor and actual father figure Clive Davis. Stanley Tucci is such a wonderful presence here as the musical legend who lets Whitney be who she is as an individual and as an artist. Like RESPECT before it, this biopic is stirring in melding the personal and the professional halves together.

The pressures of stratospheric fame, global tours, mismanagement by her own father, the tough love and constant pats on the back from her mother Cissy, her own motherhood and the whirl of a public life marked by substance abuse in her most vulnerable stages all lead to her roller-coaster journey. They are all conveyed with tact. We are never made to forget who she is as a full, well-rounded individual, warts and all.

I love how Ackie delivers her body language such as eye expressions, instances of resting her hands on her jaws when pensive and tensed and the weight of years of emotional abuse she carries on her slender yet physically hollow body. She towers here and in a just world, she would be showered with all the accolades. She has truly done Whitney Houston justice by plunging herself into the mind, body and soul of this cinematic work’s subject. Above all, she is successful in evincing empathy for her and inspiring renewed hope for her legacy.

Two scenes in particular stand out for me. One in which she rehearses with her musical director for the AMAs medley and is combative, angry and yet takes up the challenge of hitting extended notes for the final arc. We can see how deeply she is in the throes of personal crises and can see through others’ demands the hefty price she always has to pay for possessing that voice. The other is a beautifully structured scene in the closing minutes where a chance encounter with a bartender at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, hours before her untimely death, preserves the power of her legacy for her greatest admirers. The bartender is still shown to be awed by her AMAS performance in the present meeting with her and assures her of who she is- an artist who can never be defeated by changing cultural mores. It’s a fitting arc for this triumphant ode to The Woman and The Voice.

I expected nothing less from the director of Harriet(2019). With big stakes in this story, Kasi Lemmons comes up with a deep dive that is traditionally chronological but ultimately becomes uplifting and poignant. That’s the worth of this eventful life captured in song.



The Elisabeth Moss led ensemble for this intense dramatic series began its fifth year with a slow burn befitting the psychological import of abuse and trauma for lead protagonist June.

Yes, things get repetitive and the cycle of near-misses and captures, escapes and misdemeanours can still get very heavy-handed indeed. But living in this lawless actual world where reel events seem like expert replications of events plaguing a destabilized ‘modern era’, those seem like quibbles. That’s where this series again found its footing, sprawling itself into ten episodes where societal ignominy was the norm even with constant push for change and justice for the survivors, now inhabiting a politicised new landscape.

The demon in the form of Colonel Waterford has been slayed. His surviving widow is now a bitter and dangerous presence and with a burgeoning section of Canadian citizens skewing towards her maternal politics of repopulating an environmentally cursed nation, she spread her tentacles. Her volte-face as somewhat of a handmaid herself under asylum and then escaping with her newborn is a reverse of what June and others had to bear for years. That itself is the beginning of her comeuppance.


June herself became divided into an avenging force and a mother desperate to be reunited with her first-born Hannah while caring for her infant second child even as her dynamics with Luke were profound under the most trying circumstances; on the other hand, Moira felt her best friend’s devolving attitude towards a bottomless pit of vengeance, to be cold and distant.

In Gilead, McKenna Grace’s teenage wife turned handmaid in training provided a soul-crushing study of abuse, pushback against authority and a point in time that prompted even Aunt Lydia to push for reforms regarding the girls’ bodily autonomy. Janine was another continuum of the state’s many victims, vouching for one last shot at being close to her daughter. The point being that no resistance to authority can come for those entrapped or for the enablers who are standing up for the girls but cannot absolve themselves of a present they willingly helped to perpetuate. Gilead remains a republic of despots. Still there’s a real chance that something is shifting underneath its steely surface. Bradley Whitford’s Commander has further created a ripple in these waters by calling for rehabilitation of Gilead’s former captives within a community based there and his brand of diplomacy with June and the Canadian government opens this tale up for a literal crossing of borders.

Xenophobia, strains of past trauma, the psychology of abuse and the constant movement and social churning for survivors lend it an upper edge. These are all culled from headlines we encounter on a daily basis.  With added urgency and sustained tension besides excellence of performances and technical details, THE HANDMAID’S TALE-SEASON 5 becomes a simmering pot of socio-political tumult. That remains its biggest draw.



This is another example of how truth and sincerity enshrined in the non-fiction form can rescue narratives from lifetimes of judgements.

The Netflix documentary Pamela, A Love Story is all about the titular superstar without the baggage of her fame or the image that trapped her for most of her youth. It confronts her deepest secrets, her encounters with abuse and the source of shame which led to her inner unraveling over decades. Unfortunately, the public only saw her glamour, her Baywatch stint as a world-conquering feat, her sexuality and denigrated her as a symbol, a vapid signifier of an oversexed, capitalistic, sexist and male-dominated cultural discourse.

Here, she is honest about all of that and more. It’s her voice and outlook that reaches us without the addendum of shame, whether it’s for her modelling success with Playboy or the manner in which her private life was consumed by voyeurs who always seemed to hold her up to one image and nothing else.

The most striking and beautiful part is that her literary journey through the decades is traced to the sea of journals she now brings to public notice. Her journals open up her world of hopes, dreams, disappointments and frustrations while her catalogue of home-videos give us visual access to her evolution from a Canadian local to a wife and mother or the person who mostly wishes to be stripped of the artifice and make-up and take each stage of her lifetime in her stride. 

Never defensive about her choices, this is a love-letter to the self and to her present accomplishments as an author and Broadway star that rejuvenates her narrative through a style that is evocative and empathetic. As she shows the world her talents as the triumphant star of Chicago on the stage, we cheer for her. This documentary brings back the sweet, passionate girl with optimism that her characterisation of T.J. on Baywatch stood for.




Imperious tempers must be delivered with a register of pride, vision and authority. All empires and kingdoms are strongholds of individual pursuits more than world-building enterprises.  History tells us the same. Our own retrospective understanding of the grandiose prowess of the ancient world is built from that point of reference.

Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s CLEOPATRA, armed with its verbosity and displays of statecraft, is a proper Technicolor spectacle. But more than anything, it is justly cognizant of the cult of appearance and hubris that defines ambitious undertakings in the name of wars, conquests and riches.  Shakespearean in approach, it employs wonderful performers in the form of Elizabeth Taylor, Rex Harrison and Richard Burton to achieve appropriate visual scale and intimacy. 

Intimacy, here, is in the interrelationships that unite the titular queen, Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony across continents. The passage of years and eras then reflects itself in the screenplay.

This cinephile is lucky to have watched it. There is a premium to such period pieces, a certain felicity and precision that incorporates the gravitas of indoor sets and outer frontiers captured on camera. They just don’t make it like this anymore.



We often make efforts to decode the grey areas of our life. After finally watching this Orson Welles classic, I am in deeper debt to its understanding of human nature. Its monochromatic lensing, with the thrust on shadows and dark recesses of spaces, is very much akin to a horror-show except that in place of baser instincts, there is a hollowed-out conscience. It’s as if the grey areas of not just one renowned man but of all humanity are being demystified by some hypnotic surrender to this vision of adulthood.

The makings of an individual life, the ascending scales, idealism and national ethos play a vital role behind the man and the myth here. But to this cinephile, the second half is more poignant and relatable as it looks at his internalised demise through those he deeply loves and yearns to make special through their muddled vocations. For him, it’s the pride of his unique station in the cultural lexicon as well as an abiding duty to oversee the personal prosperity of his better half, a failed opera singer. This relationship gives the cinematic work a moral heft that’s complex, just like the pitfalls of human nature.

The journey towards the end-point where every monument of love and power that Kane creates for sanctity ultimately succumbs to emotional compunction is stirring. The monuments- the imposing arches, the grand staircase, hallways, statues brought from all corners of the globe, the opera house and a retinue of housekeepers- become dust, memorials to the fickle ways of time and social mores.

I also relate with the titular man’s middle name ‘Foster’- made to live with his mentor and leave his parents as a child, all the people in his circle are essentially constituents of a foster unit. His childhood and its symbolism through ‘Rosebud’ becomes more exacting. He’s a child who never found a home or a place in others’ hearts. Hence, he’s lonely at the top. There’s the frenzy of success and the haunting, sobering impact of its after-effect here in the editing and overall essence.



It had taken me an eternity to finally watch this legendary title. It ties in with another MGM classic in GONE WITH THE WIND which I had only seen in 2017. That both films shared the same director, Victor Fleming and released in the same banner year for Technicolor blockbusters, mark a dual watershed for cinematic history.

Now we all know of this fantastical, fabled yarn centering Dorothy, her beloved dog Toto(easily the sprightliest canine in popular culture before The Artist’s iconic Uggie, the terrier), her journey from Kansas to Oz and her bonds of amity with Tinman, Lion and Scarecrow running parallel to the Wicked Witch of the West’s schemes to outrun them.

If the prologue and the epilogue, shot in brownish sepia tones, teem with Dorothy’s innocence and humble life on the farm, her point of separation from her beloved soulmate Toto and flight from home and eventual return, the crux of the plot is a celebration of Oz’s colourful, irrepressibly charming world of wonders. It is a world where speaking trees, painted landscapes, an army of munchkins and a beautiful ‘good’ witch are all products of authorial imagination as much as a simultaneous confrontation with adult authority. It is a form of escape.  The teenage mind explores both ends of the spectrum here.

For me, personally, it’s the intelligence with which the script lets Dorothy’s dream-vision, informed by her separation from Toto and then bout with fever, make way for Oz to materialize so that the three farmhands back home become Lion, Tinman and Scarecrow in her fantasy; while the lady who wants to take away Toto from her manifests in the form of The Wicked Witch of the West.

To me, that affirmation of the dream-vision in the epilogue cements the power of creativity and imagination, to uphold the manner in which every fantasy springs from human psychology, especially if it involves children. The titular wizard’s identity further amplifies motion-picture advancements in early stages of the 20th century. THE WIZARD OF OZ is also a charming musical and all performers are at their agile best.

To watch it is to be in the thick of all the wonder that childhood naturally entails. To watch it is to ultimately be an honorary child at heart.


Political Documentary Short ‘The Martha Mitchell Effect’ Paints a Portrait of one of Nixon’s Greatest Challengers

Netflix Anne Alvergue, an editor, and director associated with the documentary form, understands the reserves of womanhood that is trapped under caving social mores. She employs that understanding in a whip-smart tribute to a woman whose laugh was as unmistakable as her fighting spirit. The Martha Mitchell Effect, in the fiery and smartly devised forty […]

Political Documentary Short ‘The Martha Mitchell Effect’ Paints a Portrait of one of Nixon’s Greatest Challengers

I am very happy to have SCREEN QUEENS JOURNAL publish my review of the Netflix original documentary short THE MARTHA MITCHELL EFFECT. It is an honour to write this piece in solidarity with the spirit of Ms. Martha Mitchell, a beacon of truth and justice.



A clear reason why documentaries evince an essential filmmaking canon for cinephiles like me is because they often work miracles that mere information in print doesn’t always suffice. 

In this portrait of an artist, there is nothing pathbreaking or even novel in terms of the taking heads or the form employed of recounting a living legend’s propensity for gritty tales of urban underbellies. But the insights we receive about the man/auteur behind  THE EXORCIST, THE FRENCH CONNECTION, TO LIVE & DIE IN L.A.  and CRUISING et al are priceless.

Possessing an intellect and writing a promising, even potentially great story inspired by life’s amoral ways is one thing. But to get behind the camera and dare to be in the same space as the crew and performers without the comforts of directorial authority is another ball game altogether.

As demonstrated admirably here, Mr. Friedkin was a rebel whose on-location modus operandi involved getting into an automobile without safety protocols or permits for that iconic car chase  in The French Connection or choosing the dangerous terrain of South America for Sorcerer’s serrated visual edge, especially in the part involving a truck crossing a rope-bridge, with the river in spate all around the crew. He could shoot The Exorcist’s most terrifying scenes from a point of faith echoing the observant screenplay’s characterisation while learning intricately about the underground S&M subculture for Cruising, the controversial printing of counterfeit money for To Live and Die…. ; or delve deep into the drug-addled ghost figures haunting New York’s dank, dirty alleyways and abandoned buildings for The French Connection. So he was never a distant figure and was instrumental hence in achieving the stark realism that his 1970s and ’80s oeuvre has come to symbolise. I was most fascinated by these insights that even an encyclopedic knowledge about these masters can skimp over. That’s where adequate research and a passion for the subject falls in director Francesco Zippel’s  favour.

Jason Miller bagging the part of the young priest in The Exorcist over another established performer who had already been finalized in advance or legendary actor Max Von Sydow not being able to mouth his lines in that very feature’s paradigmatic exorcism scenes, owing to his own atheism, make for other such bright spots. Ellen Burstyn, Quentin Tarantino, Francis Ford Coppola, Juno Temple, Matthew McConaughey and reputed opera conductor Zubin Mehta are among the names who unravel sides to the man and his unmistakable filmography. He, himself, is funny, zestful and doesn’t mince his words to appear goody two shoes.

From directing documentaries in his early days, one of which made a state government exonerate a man of colour from the electric chair, to operas in the present day to charming film festival crowds globally with his gift of the gab, natural showmanship and maganimity, this is a life put to the purpose for entertainment without discounting blotches of the human soul.

My personal favourite segment is the rare interview Mr. Friedkin conducts with Fritz Lang, director of Metropolis. The two men’s honest opinions seem tailor-made to be shared between them. That is an icing on the cake; this is why documentaries deserve their place in our culture.



If I can deem Charlotte Rampling a masterful conjurer of micro-expressions, I will. She exhibited an internalised swell of emotions articulated on her delicate, elegant facial terrain in 45 Years and used her eyes to unravel secrets and the supine passage of time in a scene of revelation there that will stay with me. That breaking down of binaries between the sacred and the profane, between chastity and desire in Paul Verhoeven’s Benedetta was just as fascinating through her vessel of resistance, maternal poignancy and strictures. Not to discount her mostly vocal modulations that helped the mystical soothsayer in Dune transcend her veiled countenance.

In Swimming Pool, Francois Ozon’s fascinating study in restraint that uncovers human behaviour, she uses all her faculties of expression to bear on a graceful body language that moves in a continuum of self-control. However, the simmers operate through any crack in her facade. It is a study of a life that operates through silent resignation in indoor spaces, intellectual pursuits and as far from superficial human contact as possible.

Until a young girl( an excellent Ludivine Sagnier) breaks that self-imposed spell and thus begins a clawing back to real life’s complexities, affecting, if not imposing overall in this bubble of privilege and rejuvenation in the South of France. I loved how generations clash here without the clatter of all-out war. The situational content rests in the gradual opening up among them so that differences exist on an even plane and eventually the twain comes closer.

This is an enchantingly observed tale of bodies, faces and the erotic undercurrents that ripple through a swimming pool’s function as site of freedom and resistance from stereotypes. Watch how masterfully the opposite sides of the spectrums in terms of age, desires and worldviews conflate here, with the older woman revealing her own youthful paradigms with her current state while the younger female is free from hypocrisies, is cheeky and bold in her opinions but can break down in an instant and show signs of jealousy and hurt with acute direction of her eyes and physical movements.

Lines of promiscuity, artistic licence, authorial plagiarism occupy a complex plane in Swimming Pool where one figure’s accountability in invading the other’s personal privacy is greater than the young girl’s passionate indiscretions.


The final third further blurs the line between the writer’s plot development for her novel and the identity of the younger female who had become an intrinsic part of her world.

Ms. Rampling captures all inflections of her quicksilver journey and the screenplay understands the core of amoral human values very well.



Pier Paolo Pasolini’s take on the ultimate Greek tragedy is one that purists of the work will be greatly satisfied with. This despite the change in location, heterogeneous cultural influences and the contemporary inserts of early and mid 20th century at the beginning and end. All these actually lend it an universal characteristic, beginning with Morocco’s badlands and stark open vistas as the setting where the legend unfurls itself as a visual odyssey through fate, decisive actions and confirmation of a terrible, inescapable truth. The ancient tone hence becomes plausible .

To Mr. Pier’s credit, the folkloric principle embedded here fits perfectly with the aural use of flutes, guttural sounds in throes of violence and austerity of costumes. Performance wise, Franco Citti and Silvana Mangano get to emote without being entrapped by histrionic flourishes so common to such period productions and are given moments of quiet contemplation.

I was impressed by how our knowledge of the legend is evoked to evince pity and fear through observations, intertitles, the requisite dialogic gravitas and images of tragic physical details.

Looking at Morocco’s similarity to the stark beauty of Ladakh and the cultural austerity on display, it is clear why Oedipus Rex continues to fascinate us beyond its shocking preliminaries. An interpretation like this is welcome as it renounces the ego of photographic beauty and performative heights to immerse us in the fated tale of horror that comes from one’s familial antecedents, where no one person is to blame. Where Destiny is the ultimate accursed soothsayer. Where human motives seem to work under the spell of a predetermined master and commander.




Mick Jagger and his assortment of evergreen bandmates have possessed a time-honoured propensity to electrify any given performance.

This live presentation of the decade-old DOOM AND GLOOM is from the GRRR! tour in Newark, New Jersey. For this writer, the song is a classic contemporary tune that he has preserved in his mind as one of the very best from these guys. The guitar work, Mr. Jagger’s smooth vocals and stage presence reiterate the thrill of being in a communal space with millions singing along and being receptive to a moment in time where music is the only truth worth vouching for.

In an era where a post-Covid timeline is getting gradually resurrected with artists’ return to global stages, this live performance captures those moments when I used to listen to it multiple times in its heyday. It made me one happy man. It’s the same in this current form here.



Such is the effect of some bands that even if you don’t always remember the words, their instrumental prowess endures through eras. Baba O’ Riley by The Who is one of the most exciting songs in rock history, its prelude sans vocals itself being top-notch, identified by any discerning listener of classic tunes.

It was recently played in the background at the Grammys during the awards presentation for Rock categories. It was an inspired touch just like Led Zeppelin’s iconic opening instrumental solo from Kashmir was present at a previous edition. Events like these ensure a legacy lives on.

So it’s to our great delight that THE WHO joins forces with the Isobel Griffiths Orchestra to perform Baba O’Riley for us, in a venue as iconic as the Wembley Arena. I love the feeling it generates in fans.

Also the final solo arc by a young member of the orchestra who plays her instrument so beautifully, with such confidence alongside the greats, seals this one as essential.



THE GREATEST series that ran on Queen’s official YouTube channel was a boon during the pandemic era, a timely fifty-week journey that gave us the pure euphoria this band continues to effect with its inimitable oeuvre.

Of course, Freddie Mercury is an omnipotent force of nature whose loss will always loom large over pop culture. But what endures with greater zeal is his legacy through this series that, in 2023, has come alive with its focus on rehearsals. Once again, the band’s excellent use of stage and interdependence shines through archival footage, live performances and talking heads.

The editing is crisp and the running time compact. In a nutshell, it’s a retrospective we absolutely need to know the breadth of hard work that makes all members truly masters of their craft. It’s great that the contemporary omnibus in terms of live arcs by them isn’t given up here either.



Chester Bennington- the man, the singer of singular merit and a leading light for 21st century pop-rock- is such an unforgettable figure, we will always be touched by his contributions.

LOST is a posthumous Chester-led Linkin Park track that’s been shared by remaining band members with the world. It has the blend of vulnerability and a solid core of resolve that is distinctly the band’s hallmark. However, listening to the lyrics makes it clear that a history of pain and abuse had been writ large in Chester’s inner chambers. The distinctive sound is present further in the arrangements and the chorus.

Listen to it and watch the official music video which excellently employs anime/ manga form for the visuals. Blessed be this legacy. Blessed be Chester’s imprints.



This divine coming together of two inestimable talents has produced a veritable classic for afficianados.

The live performance of Udhero Na at Grammys 2023 is further proof that great music is in the here and now. We need to seek out the best, most refined practitioners of art. In that regard, Arooj Aftab and Anushka Shankar blend their talents seamlessly, reiterated here for the world to behold.



I had expected a wrenching emotional affinity with Mike Cahill’s ANOTHER EARTH(2011) ever since I saw its trailer back in the day. It was one of those provident moments where a great work of art was presented in front of me and I could respond to its tale of pathos wrapped up with the enigma of terrestrial life on a planet that appears in the sky and eventually becomes the site of human habitation. A tantalising scientific quandary and source of wonder was accommodating humanity’s shot at rehabilitation. I am glad I held on to my affinity to it. A few days ago, I received my chance to watch it and my emotional connection to its humanity is now firmly in place.

Rhoda, the protagonist here, is someone who doesn’t complain or explain her predicament after a 360 degree turn sends this straight A student on an unlikely path. While wondering at this lucid blue ball of mystery in the sky others call Earth 2 through her car’s open hatch, the empty stretch of road at midnight delivers her a curve that alters her destiny. This night-out with friends was in celebration of her admittance to M.I.T.; the naturally gifted science student who perhaps had mapped the road ahead in the field of astrophysics didn’t see it coming. A car wreck and two dead members of a family end up changing the course of her life.

When she expected carnations on a table or a decked up hall to proclaim her success to the world, life offered her an empty cell and an infinite pool of melancholy, guilt and shame to wade in.

After Earth is a sublime study of those times where nothing makes sense, when our life takes a recourse very few could even imagine. After all, no Nostradamus can predict what lies at the next bend. Predestination is an abstract concept.

The axis of our lives is indeed unpredictable. We can drop theories to gauge such situations. Maybe it’s a cosmic principle that this young girl suffered and that we are all governed by. Maybe it’s Fate, after all, making us unwitting participants in our downfall. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time will be the most common point. They are all valid points encompassing empathy and defense mechanisms we use to cope with the loss of normalcy.

This work is genuinely moving because Rhoda has reason and faith in the self to make amends to the surviving member of that unit who’s now an empty shell in place of the musical maestro he was almost all his life. The existential core here leaves a knot in our souls. Utmost kudos are to be extended to the team of director, writer, editor and cinematographer Mike Cahill and actor-writer Brit Marling. William Mapother as John whom Rhoda unites with, to find one shot at forgiveness or catharsis, is an equal to her when it comes to vocation, humanity and the deep well of pain he drowns in each day. Of course, liquor is the poison he turns to as also the unkempt home he lives in. They are both exceptional vessels of the human experience that understands what loss of potential and loved ones mean.

I particularly admire that the affecting screenplay gets involved with Rhoda’s return to life as a civilian and eschews any extraneous material such as a romantic subplot, any further disturbing influences or sour company to complicate her trajectory. These are two decent individuals who can barely share their present states with anyone.


The second earth then looms in the sky like a cosmic particle of invisible strength, acting as an actual entity but more as a metaphor for the complex nuances of life. There may be a double voyage that Rhoda can undertake there to find closure or escape from this mortal coil. But her and John’s lives are like countless others that have no anchor or real support base to fall back on.

Their minds are at war with their fated unraveling and this personal journey opens up the world around them that falls silent in the wake of tragedy, like Rhoda’s parents who really cannot provide her with an anchor or Rhoda herself who takes up a job as a cleaner in a high-school.

Looking at her trajectory, we are crushed by the facts of life. How cruel must be that moment and time where everything-every promise, every future beginning- just ceases.

She becomes a source for the audience’s shared heartbreak owing to the poignancy of this coming to terms for her, the apprehension and  stealth she observes when with John, the lack of malice she innately is defined by as an individual at the end of the day.


Her response to a piece of music or the solitary beauty of her narration relaying the first cosmonaut’s journey to space, when with John, are all part of who she is. Her confession to him breaks us.
Her dreams have been relinquished in the wake of intense emotional trauma but her mind is a continuum for what she truly believes in: the infallible power of the universe and the humanity it invokes for her.

We just can’t help but be in remission through time and space. Our lives make us shoulder overwhelming burdens and so we remain hunched over. Or is the reconnaissance of the human soul hidden with little miracles and twists of fate? Compassion, forgiveness and letting go is in our hands. Redemption is what everyone seeks. ANOTHER EARTH belies all that & more.

After all, every science-fiction tale is a deep, empathetic look at the emotional impact that human actions entail.

Arrival, War of the Worlds, E.T. addressed facets of familial disintegration and loss while The Invisible Man tackled gaslighting and female agency within a male-dominated technological social order. Gravity was about coping with alienation within as also in space while 2001: A Space Odyssey or John Was Trying To Contact Aliens exhorted us to look at the cosmic design through an expansive speculative and personal lens, respectively. Especially that cult favourite THE MAN FROM EARTH that probed the very essence of humanity through the eons, dissecting an immortal man’s passage.

Another Earth comes closest to 2001’s Monster’s Ball, in that it is a character study primarily invested in two people united by the knots of life and death. There are moments and cinematographic miracles here which are etched in my mind and will haunt me. I also love how it toggles between hand-held camerawork and steady lenses to punctuate the evolution of two people. But above all, it’s the compassion and human understanding here that allow it to become unforgettable.



How does a moment last forever? For one with an artistic bent of mind, it’s all about a succession of events, moments in time that are definitive of the particular space one is in where art propounds its unassailable character. But all manner of art rests in the present while evoking its permutations through time and space. That’s why the pursuit of art is a habitual pattern for someone like me; something that has to be nurtured and felt, experienced on every occasion discerned.

On a Sunday, the annual ritual of attending Mahindra Sanatkada Cultural Festival at the historic Safed Baradari in Lucknow provided me with just the kind of euphony I had missed for the last two and a half years. For the whole city, the location of Safed Baradari, a beautiful structure in white decked with domes and a central hall, and Sanatkada have become synonyms for engaging in the aesthetics that define Lucknow as a collective whole. This year’s theme was on the city being a bastion of music and dance- RAQS-O-MAUSIQI as it’s elegantly titled- and as an aficionado of the classical form, this was a chance to experience masters of their respective craft take to the stage to mesmerise a public comprising members of multiple generations.

I had earmarked my itinerary in advance for the sarod recital by Pandit Abhijit Roy Choudhury and company and I was in for a treat indeed. The day, pleasant as it was, was greeted by cool winds that further enhanced the experience for all attendees. At around 4.15 pm, Mr. Roy Choudhury and his fellow musicians, varying from a fourteen year old protege to an elderly tabla player, let the instrument’s soothing notes and rhythmic alchemy perfume the environment.

As it was the first proper live performance of classical music that I had attended as an adult, I wanted to test myself. I am a man of unusual concentration even amid clatter and patter of people. My fear was regarding the crowd not being respectful enough towards the conscientious masters who had taken so many rostrums before and exercised unusual restraint and humility.

The recital was held in the open-air courtyard flanking the main hall where the bazaar catering to handlooms, crafts, fabrics and knick-knacks, all of the most authentic variety from various parts, was being conducted. One expects to be distracted by the milling crowds in such a scenario as others come out into the open. But music is an entity that can freeze one in a state of surrender and transcendence. Ten minutes into the hour long, uninterrupted performance, I was in a space where nobody else mattered and the cycle of revellers coming and going from the other flanks of the location hardly stirred me. As the rest of the crowd was just as respectful and attentive, the recital thrived in such a calming atmosphere. There was no dipping point that could blot these minutes. The biggest saving grace was that it was a performance in the true sense for viewers. There was no mad scrambling for photography or videos of this particular recital. The professionals for those tasks were in their individual spaces, capturing the euphony in motion.


The sarod, to me, is an instant messenger of serenity. I experienced that first-hand where it felt as if I was a singular presence within that crowd. That sense of surrender to the artists and their creations made me euphoric, the kind that invites grace and gratitude for the practitioners as also the participants. After all, finding a good audience is rare these days. I guess it was a lucky day where everything aligned perfectly to make this cultural exchange a success.

The performance sustained itself in my mind and heart and next was the underground treasure trove- the TEHKHANA- which was open for the public for the first time in years. The tehkhana was the site of the exhibition where Lucknow’s rich, generational history in the field of music and dance found representation in the use of the sombre space and restraint in lighting.

The written print material was beautifully lucid and witty, tracing the impact of such luminaries as Begum Akhtar, Pandit Birju Maharaj among others and extending this haloed trajectory to current times where teachers and students of the various forms uphold a collective tapestry of artistry. The room with a slender mirror and colourful kites, so identifiable to residents of Lucknow, was also wonderful. In all, the cavernous space, the air of enigma seemed to hold these reminisces and anecdotes; we whispering them to ourselves by reading the print materials on display and feeling closer to a past that has to be cherished. The simplicity in the room mattered to me.

Hence, this was an unique experience that I don’t feel I will ever forget.


From the underground treasure trove to the merry folks and bright lights in the central hall, it was all just as I wanted my day of sabbath to be. I had been rendered anew as such cultural occassions always have an indelible impact on me. I took the rest of the evening, now merging with incoming night-time, to rediscover an iconic park I had loved since childhood, a gateway and those elegant homes in the Kaiserbagh area which stand as living testaments of the city’s classical epicenter. Taking a walk towards the heart of the city- Hazratganj- affixed with all the beautiful sights I know by heart but find rendered afresh was how the day culminated.


A happy mind is the most productive. An artistic one always finds the impetus to create or be around environs where a cradle of culture comes alive. Courtesy Sanatkada, my love for the city and its aesthetics grew by further leaps and bounds.



In THE ELEPHANT WHISPERERS, Kartiki Gonsalves is the director, writer and overall discerning mind who has managed to mine the wonder of human nature with its innate affinity with the natural world. It’s a bond that has been celebrated for a long time in documentaries from the veritable likes of Discovery Channel and National Geographic as also by the humane touch of such renowned naturalists as Jane Goodall and David Attenborough. The latter two are living legends who continue to leave an individual imprint that will be mapped out for a better, holistic earth and posterity, in general for those with a flair for conservation.

Bomman, Bellie, Raghu and Ammu are names that Ms. Gonsalves has made an indelible part of our cultural mosaic with this forty minute documentary short. They constitute a chosen family that pays ample tribute to the innocence and ethics of mankind. Tracing this unique dynamic of pure love and bottomless care towards and among two elderly humans and the young pachyderms they raise as their own, THE ELEPHANT WHISPERERS is a call of the soul, for the ways in which our actions decide the course of the world as we know it.

In a world torn to pieces by fragile egos, gender imbalance and animal cruelty, Bomman and Bellie present a picture of simplicity which is crystal clear, their mission to preserve the sanctity of the forest and these impressionable elephants, Raghu and Ammu, upholding a lofty heritage. A heritage that’s greater than any monetary comfort or the wisdom that slides by to make space for materialism.

If this one wins the Oscar which it is nominated for, it will be a triumph for this family of four whose tragedies, trials and even pangs of separation cannot erase the sanctity of a shared fervour for compassion.



Anne Alvergue, an editor and director associated with the documentary form, understands the reserves of womanhood that is trapped under caving social mores. She employs that understanding in a whip-smart tribute to a woman whose laugh was as unmistakable as her fighting spirit.

THE MARTHA MITCHELL EFFECT, in the fiery and smartly devised forty minutes it has as its running time, focuses on Ms. Mitchell’s voice as well as her face. That livewire personality and gift of the gab, a confidence hardly encumbered by pressures of the press, is writ large on her always smiling countenance and demeanour.

Her laughter isn’t a defence mechanism, it’s part of her bearing, her popularity fending off it and filling up each room she’s in. What she’s eventually up against is not her mega-watt presence or lack of diplomacy in corridors of power. She’s ultimately up against those enablers who want her to hold her tongue and bid adieu to her public space. She’s marked out as a ‘woman’ who must take the back-doors and lie low. But she doesn’t, toppling down the White House, the Nixon administration and levers of patriarchy.

Photographs of her, archival footage of newsreels, interviews and talk-show appearances capture her irrepressible charm, her warmth, her transparency within an establishment where the men keep a stiff upper lip while the ladies walk thousand steps behind.

Ms. Anne edits and splices a Martha Mitchell for the ages, one who perseveres and wins her due. But that face and physical largesse shrinks with the gaslighting advances made by the men around her. Her death in 1975 gains its poignancy because despite her undefeated celebrity and crusade for truth, she was a woman with heartbreak and betrayal in her share.

This documentary short brings her to us with all her verve and the tragedy of being outspoken in a culture where silence rears its ugly head a little too often, like a python waiting in the grass. It’s bitingly relevant for all seasons. Here, Ms. Mitchell’s face literally tells her tale.



Taylor Swift truly delivered a masterclass in the form of 2020’s Folklore.

I had missed listening to Epiphany from the album. Now that misstep has been rectified.

Epiphany is hushed and serene, a mark of reminiscence and a memorial to those who fight wars and perish, those who wait and bear the mortal burdens of civil life.

The lyrics are appropriate, the organ haunting its body of work evokes its sombre aura while Ms. Swift is at her restrained best.

Listening to it, I was reminded of ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT and its examination of soldiers fighting a losing war, with odds always stacked against the living.



Wars are of many kind, fought with conscience and integrity, taking us on personal journeys that are grim, grave; epic and unforgettable. These traits fit the Lord of the Rings saga.

Enya’s contribution to the Fellowship of the Ring soundtrack is beautifully registered, honouring the forbearance and dreams of restitution that are at the heart of this tale of tales.

Haunting is its impact. Lingering is its beauty. May It Be is a soulful ballad drenched in dreams and a heavenly delivery.



An instrumental piece lasting a minute and few seconds is a blessing for someone like me, an admirer of soundtracks in general.

This one by the outfit that gave us Song of the Siren in Elizabeth Fraser’s beautifully haunting voice reminds us of greats like Beethoven and Mozart and ends with birdcall. Nothing can be this brief and yet evocative, like nature truly flapping its wings.