ANDRA DAY BRINGS PASSIONATE TRUTH TO ‘STRANGE FRUIT’

Look at her facial expressions, the way her mouth registers every contorted life script and scarred body marked by racism. In this rendition of STRANGE FRUIT, a song based on a seminal poem detailing lynching in the American south, delivered by the inimitable Billie Holiday, Oscar nominee Andra Day embodies the great and provocative singer’s unique tonal quality. The melancholy of her words hence come to define her own identity as an African American occupying a divisive social rostrum.

https://youtu.be/Epm0v1px2oM

As someone who has always taken STRANGE FRUIT to be a true blue benchmark in the liberation of musical sensibilities,  I believe Ms. Andra gives it not only a vocal heft in the vein of Holiday without imitating her but also the communication through eyes and face that elevate her performance altogether. It’s a miracle to have in 2021.

*****

VIOLA DAVIS, ENTERPRISING KIDS, FOUR LEGENDS COME TO LIFE, NATALIE PORTMAN and other memorable turns.

ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI (2020)

Actor extraordinaire turned director Regina King avoids the formalities of a biographical presentation, down to the constraints of dynamic spacing and a roster of supporting speaking parts, to hone ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI as a character study of four legends. Fictionalizing a meeting among them in real life, back in the turbulent 1960s, liberates King to show us how the march of civilization is contingent not only with our past but on the present, more than anything else.

Mostly confined to a motel room and consisting of verbal fireworks among the likes of MALCOLM X(KINGSLEY BEN-ADIR), SAM COOKE(LESLIE ODOM JR.), CASSIUS CLAY (ELI GOREE) and JIM BROWN(ALDIS HODGE), this Kemp Powers written screenplay (adapted from his own play) is, of course, reliant on the power of words. The power of words here is to interrogate America’s history of racism and how deftly personal ideologies get integrated with socio-political grounding in facts and unchanging realities. Each a formidable force to be reckoned with in his respective field, from sports to entertainment and most importantly civil rights, together they plunge into the deepest trenches of what makes them stand out and still be vulnerable to racial fiats.

The intense exchanges between Malcolm and Sam especially stir our conscience so that the verbosity of this script doesn’t just remain a central conceit to grab attention. I remember my father being silent and fixedly attentive throughout these passages. Also give both Leslie and Kingsley all the plaudits there are for being so true to the personalities they portray based on their body language and effortless embodiment alone, coming from a place of pure instinct and contemporary relevance.

ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI is a celebration of BLACK HISTORY but is very particular about the complexities of that term as it affects us in the here and now. It hones in on the ennui and unexpected outcomes of this one night, to capture the highs and lows of being men of colour in powerful positions and reckoning with that double edged reality each day.

**

VIOLA DAVIS is, to me, the ultimate purveyor of stifled emotions and internalized pain, drawing us in to the racial forbears behind those feelings ever so competently, like she knows that being authentic in her own skin is a mirror to the lives of those who get to be seen and heard through her subtle artistry.

In WIDOWS(2018), she is witness to an amoral landscape of male hegemony in modern day Chicago, a city with class consciousness engraved everywhere, be it on high rises, ghettos or private apartment rooms. Profiteers(exemplified by the presence of DANIEL KALUUYA, BRIAN TYREE, COLIN FARRELL and ROBERT DUVALL) are on every stretch of this cityscape and the titular protagonists’ husbands’ deaths come in the crossfire of all it stands for. Davis opens up her heart and soul to tug at the depths of her son’s loss at the hands of police shooting him dead in broad daylight, being in a position of debt to threatening men and having a husband (Liam Neeson) who maintains a double life with another wife(Carrie Coon) and infant son.

But WIDOWS is very much about the other ladies who challenge status quo of a male hegemony along with Davis and it’s here that the roll of honour includes the likes of MICHELLE RODRIGUEZ, ELIZABETH DEBICKI and CYNTHIA ERIVO. They are front and center here. WIDOWS doesn’t wallow in the titular status of these women and instead unravels the diversity of a city and its people colluding with baser instincts of humanity. These women counter those impulses with tact and a keen knowledge of operating within binaries. Director Steve McQueen gives them the space to acknowledge that harsh reality and yet transcend those limits.

**

TROOP ZERO(2020) too benefits from the star power of Ms. Davis and I had longed to see it ever since I caught its Sundance interactive session. But the real stars here aim for a destiny far beyond mysteries of the universe, battling prejudices and conventional mindsets with the sweetness and lack of rancour that one can only associate with childhood. Davis leads this ensemble with a sensitivity attuned to its evolving sense of empathy and enterprise, in the process looking back and forward for her own prospects as a professional lawyer.

Beckon this delightfully executed tale’s cast with such colourful names like CHRISTMAS (MCKENNA GRACE), HELL-NO(MILAN RAY), SMASH(JOHANNA COLON) as well as ANNE CLAIRE(BELLA HIGGINBOTHAM) and JOSEPH (CHARLIE SHOTWELL); it empowers and entertains with its thrust on corraling a motley crew of underdogs who are more alike than they imagine, with the adult cast comprising of stellar performers like ALLISON JANNEY, JIM GAFFIGAN and MIKE EPPS.

TROOP ZERO is exactly what children and families need to see to get a sense of what dreams are made of and how adults have a large role to play in steering a generation towards achievement of often unattainable goals. Directing duo Bert and Bertie infuse it with innocence that earns its sheen.

***

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

VOX LUX(2018)

Opening with the gruesome incidence of a school shooting, VOX LUX employs, very ably and with a sense of acceptance, the iconography of violence that has carved a brutal face of the New Age. Like a Biblical odyssey, Willem Dafoe’s prophetic narration and its division into distinct chapters charts the loss of innocence, a fact splayed wide open for the youth of this century.

Lead protagonist Celeste (Raffey Cassidy and then Natalie Portman in adult form) becomes the unlikely eyes, ears and voice of a generation grappling with its history of violence. It is effectively reflected in her ascent to teenage stardom post the success of her tribute song WRAPPED UP, performed at her school’s memorial service, as we witness her churning within a socially feeble scenario, with Celeste standing there with a flickering spirit as the only survivor from the bloody carnage, after seeing death from such intimacy.

This history of violence continues to dot her turbulent odyssey through an unsparing media blitzkrieg and celebrity culture, as she is befuddled by the events of 9/11 and as an adult is answerable to a world questioning her artistry after masked assailants massacre a beachside town in Europe, imitating her music video’s iconography.

Director Brady Corbet and co-scriptwriter Mona Fastvold, music director Scott Walker and cinematographer Lol Crawley trace the fallout of this journey through the violence of the spirit and pop culture consumption for Celeste. Watch as she becomes a puddle of tears, like the child she could not fully become owing to her preternaturally early success, and lashes out like a tempest against all beneficiaries who treat her like a halo rather than a human being.

All the complacency of fame and tension of her unaddressed post traumatic stress is beautifully made bare by the ever-exquisite Natalie Portman and Raffey doubling up in the second half as her teenage daughter. Jude Law, Jennifer Ehle and especially Stacy Martin(no stranger to a kind of extraordinary reckoning with violence after appearing in the Bombay set, 26/11 survival saga TAJ MAHAL) aid her with gravitas.

This is essential viewing, sought after for its serrated edge and substantive content.

***

HEREDITARY (2018)

I will not divulge much about this Ari Aster directed piece of immersive filmmaking except to say that like every horror paradigm slinging at the hard facts of life, HEREDITARY lives up to its name.

It’s a painful meditation on the unsavoury personal histories which we are often unable to omit from our daily lives. The most gutting aspect of it all is that things implode with the finality of genetic inheritance. Mental health issues, the hint of hallucinatory nightmares getting too close to the bone and grief for losing loved ones get conveyed through the process of broken communication within a family.

The screenplay is designed with a dozen or so micro and macro scenes that are held firm by the photography of Pawel Pogorzelski and music by Colin Stetson. But Toni Colette’s bouts with anger offset by moments of tenderness and barely contained grief are etched memorably by her facial transparency while Gabriel Byrne shows the devastation of lifelong pain with the power of silence. Alex Wolff and Milly Shapiro are the younger perfects facing happenings beyond their control. Last but not the least, Ann Dowd fills her supporting arc with menace and an irreconcilable emotional tenor, to exhibit her range drawn from years of experience.

HEREDITARY is hauntingly devastating and gives an urgency to the horror genre. The horror that springs forth from the knowledge that we may become mirror images of our parents at their worst.

(Also can we please praise the casting here as this actually looks like a real family. Note the facial similarity, especially the nose structure)

**

MANK(2020)

David Fincher must be heavily lauded for not only delving into the particulars of a period piece but making sure that no modern insinuation floods his verbally prominent screenplay. Thank God that CITIZEN KANE screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz is made the star of the show and the brilliant Gary Oldman breathes life to this Haazirjawaab( witty man with a quip and verbal cascade for every occasion); it’s rare to see a high-spirited writer to counter all the stereotypes we associate with them, the Achilles heel being the thoughtful depressive governed only by melancholy.

MANK has a lust for life and an expansive vision which translates to the biographical imprints constituting the KANE scenario. Which is a great feat considering that Fincher pays tribute to his own father, Late Jack Fincher’s original screenplay. The cyclical sense of generational acknowledgement is hence rewarding for all wordsmiths.

From Erik Messerschmitt’s photographic layers to the cast comprising of AMANDA SEYFRIED, LILY COLLINS, ARLISS HOWARD, CHARLES DANCE, TOM BURKE and TOM PELPHREY, they all come up with aces. The affable friendship of sharing confidences and hypocrisies of the Hollywood milling machine between Marion Davies(Seyfried) and Mank(Oldman) is in the classic mould. As is this production on the whole. For me, Oldman’s dexterity with words is almost on a Shakespearean level.

***

MY POEM ‘LUCKNOW- AN ODE TO THE CITY’ IS A LOVE LETTER TO MY BELOVED ABODE, PUBLISHED BY MY DEPARTMENTAL MAGAZINE RHETORICA QUARTERLY.

***

My poem LUCKNOW- AN ODE TO THE CITY is my ultimate love letter to the aesthetic musicality of my hometown, the cultural epicenter Lucknow. This has been published by RHETORICA QUARTERLY. What makes it particularly special is that the poem has graced the magazine of my own department, DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH AND MODERN EUROPEAN LANGUAGES, UNIVERSITY OF LUCKNOW, the home that literally raised me as one of its own and which I cherish with a great sense of gratitude and pride.

**

Also on Friday, March 12th, 2021, I received the betokened opportunity to read the poem as part of the highlighting event of the LUCKNOW LITERARY FESTIVAL, an annual celebration of the city’s rich cultural and literary profusion. An initiative for new and emerging writers, it was such a blessing to be the first poet to headline this august occasion and share the stage with some visionary minds, all from my own department.

It was also distinctive as it was in partnership with our host department and was the only offline event of the fest so in a post Covid world, it sprinkled the amorphous, eternal ethos of literature, creativity and unity among like-minded individuals. It was such a joy to be among friends, distinguished guests, beloved teachers and emerging writers of great potential.

Hence, read this poem as it encapsulates all that its creation meant for this writer. Gratitude. Hope. Unceasing imagination. Spirit of Unity, above all in a communal love for self-expression.

**

OF PERIOD ESSENCES AND TIMELESS HUMAN RESOURCES

A SUITABLE BOY

So often internationally helmed productions seem to ingratiate themselves when handling the diverse and universal panorama of an India-set story; this is almost as if the ‘cultural aspect’ itself is alien from the rest of the world and hence has to stand out without any deep probing of its unity with social structures everywhere/anywhere. A SUITABLE BOY, a screen adaptation of Vikram Seth’s classic novel, finds the astute Mira Nair refusing to tie down her saga of newly independent India in knots or a singular perspective. Of course the ‘marriage-obsessed’ narrative vis a vis a nubile young girl’s future prospects seems like a fairly conventional trap for a story made within the nation’s backdrop. (So are end number of Austen adaptations then) But since I haven’t read the novel yet, the BBC/NETFLIX six part mini-series turned out to be so much more. It is a wide-ranging tale traversing a volley of emotions and experiences. Each interpersonal relationship is memorably etched, whether filial or conjugal and by extension societal and especially romantic.

Ms. Nair, like the other great chronicler of multiple, transnational narratives Deepa Mehta, strings together socio-political unrest tantamount to nationalistic tendencies and religious strife, in the run-up to the first general election of independent India, with delicacy, befitting the contemporary flavours of its import within each episode capsule. But the secular and syncretic collaboration of hearts and generations lends it a timeless charm.

What always made it stand out for me was that it was shot in and around some of the best locations of my own culturally prominent city Lucknow(including some close to my own apartment). It employed not only its citizens in bit parts and supporting arcs but truly captured the diaphanous and enduring legacy of its time-honoured diversity, cutting across religions and class divides. Contingent with the novel’s setting Bhrampur, Lucknow comes alive like none other, becoming the sum total of its classical and metropolitan heritage. I was so proud to have all the places I love and recognize visually put up on the big screen with such grace. Ditto the sequences involving the river shot in Maheshwar ( in the neighbouring state of Madhya Pradesh)

Then there’s the wholesome cast, with Tanya Maniktala debuting with luminous and confident screen presence as central protagonist Lata Mehra. It was such a beauteous experience to have the story of a nation set in Lucknow and reach out to the world with its sundry beats, staying true to the timeless universality of human resources.

**

INDU SARKAR(2017)

Madhur Bhandarkar’s highly underrated INDU SARKAR cleverly uses its title to not only capture a fiendish era under an Indian premier but the titular protagonist’s journey from silence to conveying truth to power. The brilliant conceit here being that INDU SARKAR ( the mesmerisingly talented KIRTI KULHARI) suffers from a stutter and has brought herself up in a world with no guardians to speak of. A conventional marriage doesn’t ensure peace either as we discover, given the many chapters her life goes through .

The literal and figurative hence come together, spotlighting the very real dangers of gagged speech and press censorship under the Emergency during the later years of 1970s, a historical blackout of democracy that will forever haunt the pan-Indian consciousness. Real figures from Indian polity, the elite classes and a post-independent nation’s ambitious middle classes all enter this minefield of wheeling-dealings, to posit that the roots of corruption reach from top to bottom and vice versa, influencing both genders and ideologies.

KIRTI, forever etched in the annals of Indian cinema with her presence in the powerful ensemble of PINK(2016) is gifted with a well-rounded characterisation that is written with sensitivity and zest for personal and political agency here, refusing to be guarded in her opinions or innate dignity by her speech impediment. Stellar supporting actors like ANUPAM KHER, SHEEBA CHADDA, NEIL NITIN MUKESH, SATYAJEET SHARMA and TOTA ROY CHOUDHARY justify their acquired worldviews, dividing the righteous from the power brokers with distinctive strokes.

Coming from Bhandarkar, a filmmaker who ushered in the emotional structures of various classes and set-ups in such classics as CHANDNI BAR, PAGE 3, CORPORATE, TRAFFIC SIGNAL and of course FASHION, it designs his most courageous and politically astute screenplay, without it ever picking sides, atleast according to me. The dialogues by Sanjay Chhel especially register their impact. Minor hiccups aside, INDU SARKAR rises with the evolution of its protagonist and matters because it owes its debt to historical facts and the loss of democratic values, something that deeply resonates in the modern era, owing to the wave of self-destructive nationalist politics of our age.

**

THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL SEASON 3(2019)

Continuing the trend of period settings and their illuminating spotlight in the present epoch, I pick one of my personal favourites first. Yes, that is the mother of stand-up comedy THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL. As a series in its third year running and being released in December 2019, its resonance was felt throughout 2020 and that’s when I watched it too.

It found its footing again, keeping the roster of characters and episodes afloat with lively period appropriate comedy and social commentary. I loved it owing to its incorporation of Midge’s cresting career opportunities leading to on-location shooting in Miami, Las Vegas and elsewhere and slyly attuning itself to the class consciousness of the Maisel and Wiseman families.

But the most beautiful gift of this season was in the form of Leroy McClain as Shy Baldwin, an iconic singer whose fame and fortune corresponds with his racial and personal narrative. His scenes with Midge( the always reliable Rachel Brosnahan) and Sterling K. Brown are suffused with all the heart and glow that puts this show above the heap of laugh tracks and weekly episodic attributes. Plus, he emotes so well that it is impossible to believe he’s not singing himself. Then there’s Luke Kirby and he’s full of suave, vulnerable charm as the rabble rousing, truthful comic mentor and ally Lenny Bruce. His Miami arc with Midge was beautifully written and made me swoon with its innate dignity of characterisation.

From among the ensemble, keep an eye out for a memorable extended sequence featuring Jason Alexander as Abe’s (Tony Shalhoub) best friend, Marin Hinkle’s journey back home to a generational patriarchal nightmare, Alex Borstein’s double duty as manager to Midge and the temperamental Sophie Lennon ( an excellent Jane Lynch) as also the Maisels ( Caroline Aaron, Kevin Pollak and Michael Zegen) keeping us entertained with their quirky and earnest ways, in that order. Also, Liza Weil (Bonnie from HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER fame) is unrecognizable as the supportive, self-dependent tour member in Shy’s musical entourage while WANDA SYKES is well her legendary self as the iconic Moms Mabley.

The third time’s definitely the charm for THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL and I don’t think that after MAD MEN, there is a show this carefully detailed, cinematically proficient in its period composition and social matrix. It’s a win-win situation then as the Palladino couple (Amy Sherman and Daniel) employ sharp comic perspectives and deeper emotional conflicts, creatively assured in their intermingling currents, just like life itself.

**

RATCHED SEASON 1

There are twists and turns in Ryan Murphy’s otherwise compelling RATCHED that resemble maneuvers from a period dime-store novel or even soap opera, given its pulpy reimagining of the brutally honest and shockingly restrained Nurse Ratched’s origins from ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST. Louise Fletcher gave her restrained and brutal aura in the 1975 classic a timeless, Oscar winning stamp of approval. It was a portrayal of anti-social consciousness in cahoots with institutional corruption.

RATCHED actually benefits from those twists and turns, given its late 1940s period setting and all departments come up aces in giving it that retro sheen, from the cinematography to the impeccable production design. These two aspects also highlight how under the veneer of post-war reconstruction, society was burrowing deeper into a hell of its own making, down to the vistas of mental health and its practitioners. After all, picture perfect postcards can seldom convey the horrors of the homefront.

RATCHED lets Sarah Paulson’s star turn as the titular protagonist cover a lot of socio-political ground, from controversial lobotomy trials to child abuse, state-sanctioned institutional rot to sexuality. All of these points land with impact. However, this series cannot be praised without according plaudits to SOPHIE OKONEDO and VINCENT D’ONOFRIO for their pitch perfect performances as a victim of multiple personality disorder brought on by racial forebears and as the slimy governer attesting state apathy respectively. Both deserve all awards for their contributions. JUDY DAVIS, CYNTHIA NIXON, JON JON BRIONES, SHARON STONE etc are similarly efficient.

Put together, RATCHED has an interesting screenplay divided over eight episodes and succeeds in capturing our attention. Its period essence is particularly earned, including the Bernard Herrmanesque score ala PSYCHO and Stanley Kubrickian influences.

***

THE ART OF PORTRAYING INNER LIVES.

OF TROUBLED INNER LIVES

These are feature films that took their inspirations from the troubled inner core of lives. Social and personal aspects intertwine in all the titles, affecting viewpoints and taking emotional precedence in their lingering composite whole.

THE LIFE AHEAD

This was the first opportunity I received in watching veritable screen legend Sophia Loren lead a screenplay; the fact that THE LIFE AHEAD is written for her and directed by her son Edoardo Ponti makes it personal and heart-warming.

As Madame Rosa, a former Holocaust survivor and now retired lady of the night, she gets to play someone her own age, positioning the vagaries of time on a life on the fringes. By acting as dedicated caretaker to children hailing from a similar situation, she evinces her humane responsibility. This film is pretty straightforward in its journey of loss and love. The background of its personages is never reiterated or made to stay as a moral centre because their present status is all that matters, the personal equations somehow making Rosa and orphan Momo( Ibrahima Gueye) equals in their identities as essentially refugees holding on to the final vestiges of memory, their common striving for a lost childhood and less than ideal realities unifying them with others in their orbit.

THE LIFE AHEAD very quietly, and with some unique manner of agency, maps the bonds among the leads and few supporting members, to show us that there is indeed a light that guides us through passages of grave darkness. It is brave, poignant in how it confronts the inner workings of these lives.

**

THE CROWN SEASON 4

The fourth season of THE CROWN brought us closer to the era in which a re-evaluation of royalty and hegemonic institutions of yore defined public discourse. As a person belonging to a country that had been occupied under the crown for two hundred years, this inside look at the mentalities and unsparing class consciousness of the titular outfit is not unlike any other social matrix where the idea of privilege is all-encompassing and refuses to die down with the passage of time or evolution of societal structures. Writer Peter Morgan takes a deep dive into how the retinue of people associated with Queen Elizabeth ( Olivia Colman) have become the greatest casualty to common sense or national interest, living in their moth-balled utopia of palaces and castles, private holidays and sports, largely caught in their own trap of invincibility and by extension cold cruelty. It doesn’t help that the public simultaneously rebukes and yet largely celebrates their curdled halo because it has been dictated by centuries worth of tradition.

That inner network is brought upon to bear on the innocence and life-affirming hope of Princess Diana ( an excellent Emma Corrin); with precision of body language and emotional articulation, Corrin embodies the stifling pain and parallel helpings of individual strength that overturned conventions and made her endear to generations. In my opinion, her performance as Lady Diana should stand the test of time for being so true to the polarities of her world and the unraveling of a young life that saw and experienced way more than any average person.

This season also steeled itself for another reflexive bout of redefining the conventional structures of its premise, courtesy Gillian Anderson’s peak form as British premier Margaret Thatcher, a powerhouse of decisiveness and authority buckling under no pressures of gender conformity or expectations of deifying royal decrees.

For me, the most intense images were of the deer hunted by royal associates and later put up for display in the dining room, symbolizing the similar fate awaiting the future princess and befalling her tragic lifetime.

Together, Emma and Gillian held reins of a story charting human hubris and the progress of history in the modern world.

**

WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOUR?(2018)

Thank God that a man like Fred Rogers lived to see his days in our world. After watching Morgan Neville’s miracle of a documentary on his life and times, I came to know why this fact based form of filmmaking is having a field day in our era. WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOUR? captured perfectly the rhythms of a life with no hubris or ego, the worldviews of innocence and preserving childhood’s enduring legacy hence reaching those in dire need of knowing about the television pioneer who gave multiple generations homilies, lessons on human decency and dared to integrate prickly social issues with his quintessential sanguine approach.

I have seen Mr. Rogers on the screen for the first time few days ago and his Zen like composure and irrepressible smile conveyed worlds of the same innocence and purity of purpose he passed on to kids around the world for nearly forty years. His concepts, use of puppetry, belief in his 123 formula, composition and lyrics and voice work made him a juggler of multiple worlds ; Neville creates a one and a half hour portrait of an artist and an Everyman who we need at a crucial juncture of our society where patriarchy and ‘wise old man ways’ funelled by toxicity have stayed on course to upend all efforts at integration.

This documentary settles for the truth and an individual who only served good words, deeds and thoughts without expecting anything in return other than a better and inclusive world, especially for our children, our true bedrocks for posterity. It holds a poignancy for that lost cause and its subject’s uncompromising vision.

***

PERSONA(1966)

Watching Ingmar Bergman’s PERSONA few months after AUTUMN SONATA convinced me of the master director’s character studies of personalities under emotional duress. In the latter, it was a filial tug of war informed by memories of a contentious past, a subtle yet greatly penetrative look at a mother and daughter bond that didn’t shy away from showing human flaws, especially on the part of the parent. It left us with opposing strands of thought just like the ones we have to negotiate through our own familial relationships for a whole lifetime.

PERSONA is similarly penetrative. Its thrust is on human psychology and by opening the film with imagery that includes dead bodies in a morgue, a boy clearing the foggy pictures of the leads and even an insect, it makes it clear by design perhaps that we are here to dissect the unpredictable terrain of the mind. Then putting the tale of a nurse employed to take care of a celebrated actress who has suddenly chosen to go mute gives PERSONA a body of interrogation that accommodates multitudes. It begins with interpersonal bonhomie where LIV ULLMAN becomes the absorber and BIBI ANDERSSON the confessor and the absence of speech leads to the latter opening her heart and sharing unsavoury secrets with the other stranger. Somewhere down the line, the boundaries of a case study envelop the vulnerable nurse in a maelstrom of doubt and anger as also apologetic behaviour owing to the very perceptible class consciousness between both. Serenity slowly begets mind games and erotic dream visions, eventually uniting both personas in one.

By the end, it boggles our minds to sift the truth from the multitude. The act of embodiment, role playing and the lines that blur in the process likens it to the improvisatory nature of filmmaking itself. Liv Ullman hence proves why she is one of the finest practitioners of her craft with but a single line of dialogue while Bibi Andersson is verbally adept at conveying her emotions and equally expressive and transparent with her muddled state of mind.

PERSONA is at the top echelons of hypnotic and thought provoking arthouse cinema of the classic era, for me. Its musical placements, camera movement, cinematography truly create an illusory nature of reality but one informed by the artifice and naturalistic tone of life’s deepest mysteries of the head and heart. I mean at the heart of its most engaging scenes, it becomes a chamber piece ala AUTUMN SONATA.

***

A NEW YEAR MESSAGE FOR ALL.

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL OF YOU SUNDRY PEOPLE OF THE WORLD.

MAY WE ALL ANNOUNCE OUR HOPES FOR 2021 WITH RESTRAINT AND THE SPIRIT OF TRUE KARMA, EMBRACING THE GOOD, THE BAD AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN THE SHADOWS.

HAIL THE PEOPLE WHO GOT US THROUGH 2020 AND REMEMBER THE EFFORTS, THE SEEDS OF TRIUMPHANT HUMANITY THAT WE PLANTED ALONG THE WAY.

GOD BLESS US ALL.

PIANO NOTES: A SHORT STORY.

For the first time in my life as a writer so far, I attempt to gather my earnest thoughts and give it the cadence, sincerity and pithy quality of a ‘SHORT STORY’, something I have never thought myself as being particularly proficient in. To me, every written work holds a tale in itself and so this one is borne from my heart’s musings. 


So read the story, originally and simultaneously published on my Wattpad page, in the link below and share your thoughts.


THANK YOU

https://my.w.tt/H1Jssyusrcb



*****

THE BEST OF THE GRAMMYS 2021 NOMINATIONS ( YES, THERE WERE SOME)

The story of the 2021 Grammy nominations isn’t the one we expected. Mediocrity actually got promoted to the forefront in major categories while some of the most obvious choices were erased out of the competitive slate.

However, I, like many of you, am happy that some deserving spots went to the right choices therefore imbuing the nomination process with a semblance of credibility. In fact, it’s our love for these following artists and their songs that makes us happy for them. So while there’s only one name that gets called out for the winners’ batch, let’s wish some of our favourites all the very best.

***

First and foremost, there’s the incredible Brittany Howard and her alchemy on her debut solo album of repute titled JAIME. I give out that information to all the uninitiated listeners and music lovers because inspite of being the frontwoman of another eclectic unit in the form of ALABAMA SHAKES, Brittany continues to be underrated.

By gifting her with six nominations, better minds at the Recording Academy have prevailed indeed. It’s perfect for this set of nomination roll as she holds fort across six different genres. So STAY HIGH makes it to ROCK PERFORMANCE and ROCK SONG list of honours, GOAT HEAD finds space on R&B PERFORMANCE, SHORT AND SWEET( the one that miraculously seems to be a reincarnated Nina Simone solo performance) grabs a spot in the American Roots Performance while the album itself is up for BEST ALTERNATIVE ALBUM as well as a well deserved BEST ENGINEERED ALBUM( NON-CLASSICAL) berth for its production. Multiple writers and music lovers called JAIME ‘diverse’ and inter-generic and this whole, collective set of nominations do them justice. The album is all that and more, pure and untethered, raw in its musicality. Without the support of that loyal fan base, musicians just cannot evolve and I’m glad some of the voters chose to be rational and exercise their right with due discretion and fairness.

Though I still believe JAIME deserved to be up for contention in the major categories, I am not ultimately complaining. This slew of recognition will only boost this multifaceted, personal album’s imprint. More power to Ms. Howard and her trailblazing career ahead.

**

TAYLOR SWIFT’S FOLKLORE is the album that was tailor-made for universal acclaim. Her forays into the more accessible, often dumbed down pop realms of years past and album cycles of 1989, REPUTATION and LOVER were not ripe for the kind of attention that awards constantly showered them with, Grammys included. In the midst of that whole era of reinvention, I never doubted her songwriting or the focal finesse of her best years on FEARLESS, SPEAK NOW and RED. Those are veritable classics. She built her mystique and brilliance, took a shot at diversifying her own possibilities and we understand that.

But the true artist in her burst out of the cocoon after a momentous decade in which she conquered all fronts to become a global totem. That’s the FOLKLORE story for us all and getting released out of the blue, in a year where everything turned to dust, helped us as listeners grasp the silent strength of its pure soundscape, mostly acoustic, and intimate production, like an echo reverberating through our current moment in time.

CARDIGAN, EXILE( with BON IVER), BETTY, THIS IS ME TRYING, ILLICIT AFFAIRS, THE LAKES are all stories that were told with finesse and complexity. So whether it’s SONG, ALBUM, POP VOCAL ALBUM, RECORD, POP COLLABORATION or POP SOLO PERFORMANCE, Taylor has earned her stripes on each category, showing us that this is the mark of her popularity adjunct with her ear for melodies and unmistakable lyrical prowess. Kudos to her. She won us over, again in 2020, more than ever before.

**

DUA LIPA’S FUTURE NOSTALGIA shines bright as a best album contender and reference point in any given year. In 2020, she cut short the myth of a sophomore slump and took us boogieing back to the basics, on such retro and yet contemporaneous sonic textures of DON’T START NOW, PHYSICAL, BREAK MY HEART, LEVITATING, HALLUCINATE et al.

Being up on the nomination pedestal for SONG, ALBUM, POP VOCAL ALBUM, POP SOLO PERFORMANCE, RECORD OF THE YEAR is richly deserved for her because she spelt out hope and joy like none other of her ilk. Also, can we acknowledge the durability of the bass on each of her classic tracks from the album? They gave us life and a spring in our feet( and overall spirit)

***

An ALBUM OF THE YEAR nod for the ever dependable COLDPLAY vis a vis EVERYDAY LIFE is welcome. It’s kind of underrated. But afficianados will uphold the bounty of Chris Martin’s humane vocals which are supple and emotionally resonant than ever, the global nature of the unit’s productivity to go with the lyrical simplicity and depth of standout tracks like the title one and especially DADDY, which I see as an excellent ode and simultaneous elegy to every migrant child separated from her/his roots. On the other hand, ORPHANS and CHAMPION OF THE WORLD pay heed to the classic Coldplay sound and hold reserves of pure innocence and celebration of the human spirit.

Some may see it as unnecessary in terms of nominations but EVERYDAY LIFE is more potent and unifying as an album than one thinks so my congratulations for this recognition from the Academy are due.

***

My heartiest congratulations also are reserved for the beloved LADY A( formerly Lady Antebellum) scoring a Country Song nomination for OCEAN, a proper and heartwarming piano ballad, one of my favourites, with beautiful lyrics that simply flow with the emotions. Also MAREN MORRIS scoring a Country Song berth for THE BONES and the luminaries LITTLE BIG TOWN having their best album NIGHTFALL validated with a Country Album nod as well as a Country Song nomination for the excellent SUGAR COAT. Last but not the least, I am happy that the rising crest of H.E.R. reached new heights, with I CAN’T BREATHE getting a SONG OF THE YEAR nod. In the year of George Floyd, that song is apt and timely.

***

So congratulations to all these nominees and may the best one win.