PABLO, MY AMIGO- A SKETCH

Basically, this is a fun and friendly token of the ‘good spirits’ that occupy my days, in little spurts here and there.

During few free minutes while in the office some days ago, I sketched Pablo, the best friend I never had, putting a face to fictional musings. He could be from anywhere, any background.

HAPPY 75TH INDEPENDENCE DAY

This sketch, featuring the outlines of colossal national figures Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi, is courtesy famed painter Jamini Roy. I use this to illustrate what true independence means to me, on the occasion of India’s 75th Independence Day.

Let our independence be about creatively overflowing with ideas and selflessness for the present.

*****

EMBERS OF DESIRE, INNOCENCE RECLAIMED AND BONDS OF TENACITY.

Thoughts in verse on the visual imagery and storytelling arcs of some gifted works I have recently had the privilege to watch, in the given order except AN UNFINISHED LIFE, one among my very favourites I have cherished for many years.

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PETITE MAMAN(2021)

Amber and maple shades
are like us,
twines of emotions
overcoming grief.

At the eleventh hour,
childhood’s miracle
reenacts the lost passages
of two lives
now divided by
an often salient bond.
How about we resurrect
our shared innocence
as mother and daughter
in the image of best friends?

How about I be the ghost writer
of this fable
and make you return
without a heavy heart
and take away
this token
of an unattainable timeline
that we can claim
as our eternal truth?

We were friends.
We only have to remember that
for all days to come.

AN UNFINISHED LIFE(2005)

Sprawling acres
Wooden hearts
Limp souls
and frayed ties.

A child redeems them,
unties the chains around our bodies
and the raving madness of
promises we make to each other
when hit by an undetected enemy.

Grief and longing are spread out
unevenly on human acres.
A little kindling can do so much
as to restore the balance of
failed words
and warm resolves.

It will lead to the spot before
spring
and the melting of hearts.



****



PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE(2019)

At first,
it was a smudge on the canvas.

The waves by the shore
lapping up our tentative first steps.
Candlelight
playing with shadows of a desire,
to be with a known figure
of reason,
rationale,
amity.
Amour.

Then the fire came,
the inseparable
thrust of this world came,
to tell us art was more than
a face preserved in time.
It was a legend we
preserved
for our
ineffable bond.

Now the canvas
is ours.
To bask in the glory
of what we had.
The glory of an union.
A communion.
A credence only we can share.

BENEDETTA(2021)

Blasphemy
is mine.

The miracle of
my flesh and blood
is mine.

My love is kind,
uproarious
and unsettling.

My prophecies
far from deliverance
and yet
apart,
spitting fire on vengeful
ires
and hypocrisies’ belaboured
edge.

Take me as I am.
Deliver me from the evil
that so easily disguises itself.
For we are who we are.
I
among the outcasts
who once received favour.

LIZZIE(2018)

Dreadful evenings set in
with a wilful calm.
Dry blood’s splotches
on the walls
set us apart.

Shush the striking of the midnight hour.
It is a dreadful time
to recall
the outrages
that we were subject to.
The doors that were held ajar
and the hands
that crept up on
hidden parts of our
still pristine souls.

Now the blood is on your hands.
The burden of a crime
on the poisoned chalice
that all drink from
before leaving us
with survivors’ modesty.



FAR FROM HEAVEN(2002)

Paradise had been lost
long before a scarlet scarf
drifted away
from suburbia
and made the last train’s departure
less furtive
and more prone to
leaving a lump
bigger than
the ideas we hold dear
before we see them
bite the dust.

Paradise was here
and the long
cascade of torments
and desires,
flowing along
these residual embankments,
stay.

The moral of the story
sways
and loiters.
The superficial truth
cloisters.
A woman’s work left as a remnant
by a depleting lake.



***

I also switch to the prose form to write briefly about two new releases on a prominent streaming platform that I watched on successive Saturdays.

HALFTIME (2022)

This documentary on a year and a half in the life of multitasking superstar Jennifer Lopez hugely receives its badge of merit from the pithy format. That period from 2019 to pre-pandemic months of 2020 covers the whole gamut of her various artistic triumphs without losing its focus on the physical toil that is a natural corollary as well as her personal investment in the Super Bowl performance that spoke directly to immigrants worldwide.

There are other inescapable elements central to her image such as her body type, appearance, identity as one of the most influential Latinas in the world as also aspersions cast on her singing and acting career, doubts she has slayed with each turn. The ugly spite of ageism too joins the conversation as her 50th birthday becomes a none too invisible yet unobtrusive thread to her career defining turn in HUSTLERS and multiple award notice, including the scrambling and genuine road towards receiving an Oscar nomination.




Within the hour and forty minutes, we get a personable, candid portrait of the individual who has come to define her life choices and by extension a generation, in fact multiple generations, through them. HALFTIME gives her an exhale and holds her accountable for almost three decades of sheer hard work and breaking stereotypes. Watch it.

***

BEAUTY (2022)

From the trailer itself, it was evident this Netflix original feature was an unacknowledged, unofficial portrait of a singing superstar who we know as THE VOICE, also the figure behind the best-selling soundtrack of all time. You know who she is so there has to be no unnecessary room for speculation.

BEAUTY is more of an impressionistic portrait of the beginnings of that VOICE and treads the territory of expectations, familial strains and the first steps towards a glorious future.  It covers fairly humble grounds. Grounds where pressures of maintaining a facade are supreme while passive-aggressive manipulative levers pull and push the titular protagonist around a culture of opportunity.

Gracie Marie Bradley and Aleyse Shannon are almost identical to  singing superstar Whitney Houston and her best friend/ manager Robyn’s real-life tenacity as best friends and lovers. Over the last few years, two documentaries WHITNEY and WHITNEY: CAN I BE ME? have especially delved into that aspect so the repressed embers are no longer hidden.





Andrew Dosunmu, the director, gives his screenplay written by Lena Waithe, a swooning, jazzy pulse, a gestural articulation that never lets us hear the voice but rather observe the impressionistic stillness of this particular atmosphere. The central romance benefits from that approach. However, BEAUTY ultimately becomes an exercise in futility because the abrupt end-point comes with the protagonist’s first major television appearance. Hence, this could have benefited if the runtime was longer or if it was the fledgling first half of a miniseries.  The potential of it is undone by the one and a half hours of runtime along with the increasingly lethargic pace.
The internal worlds and motivations too become very single-minded. 

What I take away from this work are the scenes with Niecy Nash and Giancarlo Esposito as the parents, the two best friends and soulmates defying gender binaries especially with their artistic collaboration and Sharon Stone as the industry head.

There is a lot that could have been expanded with more effective stakes here. Unfortunately, BEAUTY ends up becoming a cipher even with the all-too recognisable back story of an absolute icon and its aesthetics.

***

IDENTITY CRISES, LOVE FOR MOVING IMAGES, DETERMINED PIONEERS, JUSTICE UNDER FIRE

Similar to few of my previous forays into integrating the robust, dynamic quality of cinema with poetry, I once again bring the two disciplines together, to present encapsulations of various features in the verse form.

So here they are.

****

AMU(2005)- on filmmaker Shonali Bose’s affecting debut that chronicles the decades worth of buried pain and generational legacy springing forth from the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. It also doubles up as a linguistic amalgamation of an Indian-American
young person’s search for identity.






Mangled bodies
and murmurs of the past
don’t speak.
Our flesh and blood
spills out of almanacs.
Yet we choose to pick
the dates marked only
for festivities.


I’m a multiplicity
speaking in three tongues.
My mother’s speech
is a lost epiphany to me.
My family’s heritage
charred by looted memories
and kerosene bottles
strewn around the wrong side
of the railway tracks.


Tell me,
whom do I believe
when the urban village
is such a sunny tyrant
and wants a piece of my
birth name?

Mangled bodies
and murmurs are in the past.
Please
let flesh and blood
spill out the truth now,
in the prelude to a riot
and a carnage of decades
and legacies.





****

LIFE ITSELF(2014)- a practical documentary on celebrated film writer and media personality Roger Ebert’s legacy intertwined with his final years on terra firma, a space he filled with his expansive world of words even in the absence of speech and impending death.





Instruments of Empathy
are like a country’s gifts
of gratitude.

Laughter and joy,
to moving images,
like crumbs of resisting
tumult
and the cyclical crash
of our spirits.

I found these
in an almanac
perennially filled to the last
date
with a Godsend.


Now in my final address,
my thumbs pointed towards the sky,
I say,
I’ll see you
where the real stars
house the earthbound.
Exulting in the company
I wish to now know better
with empathy,
laughter and joy.



***

TEMPLE GRANDIN(2010)- on an iconic personality who proved her detractors wrong by uniting the humane practices enshrined by her scientific tempers in the field of animal husbandry while also shedding renewed light on her experiences as an autistic adult whose mind literally held wonders of creation and beauty.





I’m no sullen little oddity
or even anyone
out of the ordinary.

I see the world
in images of profound
recollections
and fragmented impressions
of human cruelty
define my confounding arcs too.


To me,
Wisdom
is coherent,
often like a silent prayer
and nature’s Godly creatures
are our likely saviours
when loudmouths laugh,
deigning to hold me as an equal.


But a beautiful mind has its own saddle
and gallops over forfeited fields
with a mother’s commitment
and a teacher’s beliefs.

Life is a temple of knowledge
and discovery.
I receive them firsthand,
governed by such examples.





***

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. MATTHEW(1964)- on often provocative filmmaking auteur Pier Paolo Pasolini’s austere and transcendental take on the Nativity Story. A work that’s guaranteed to move devout followers and even agnostics with its humane delineation. It comes with a performance of a lifetime from Enrique Irazoqui, a most down to earth on-screen Messiah ever.





The Lord is humble
and pure,
eloquent at the hour of revelation
and predestined,
in his own words,
to be betrayed
at the altar
of mortal persecution.


This,
in his saga of sage advice
and impending peril,
he is put on trial,
looking as anyone among us,
wearing the same soiled raiments
as the most impoverished here
and holding his anger and resignation
just as ordinary folks would.


Look we desecrate our Chosen One
with our own inaction.
We strip him bare
with our voyeuristic lust
for a public spectacle.
We hardly heed to his prescience
when all we participate in
is an untimely crucifixion,
unresolved
and dissolving with the times.


***

CONFIRMATION(2016)- on the blistering courtroom politics invested in Clarence Thomas’ nomination to the United States Supreme Court when former worker and then current law professor Anita Hill opens up Pandora’s box on his misconduct meted out to her in terms of blatant sexual harrasment.





Hear me out.
Take notice.
I am wronged.
Put on the stand
after being pushed to
the very brink of dignity.


Hear me out.
I do not cry wolf.
Hear me out
because shame shouldn’t
be my only apparel.


Hear me out
when men defend
themselves with tricks
stale and furious
as the molten
shape of history itself.



***

PATERNO(2018)- on legendary football coach Joe Paterno’s final tryst with the legacy of sexual abuse of young boys appertaining to his longtime associate and philanthropist Gerry Sandusky.






Old principles
of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’
have passed into obscurity.
So have denials from older men.


There is a charge then
to this trail of crime
and Hell is right here
when our mentors
choose to hush
this sordid saga
as some kind of
open secret.


See if this Pandora’s box
doesn’t bring a sweeping storm.

***

THE SHAPE OF WATER(2017)- on Guillermo Del Toro’s beautifully realised, fabled depiction of nature’s wonders manifesting in God’s creatures on land and water while man’s egomaniacal rush is the monster we unleash on this seemingly innocent world of goodwill and industry.






The Shape of Water
flows
into fables,
its countless drops
meant to symbolise
the propreity of evil
as equally
as a sheltered dreamscape
of Love,
Friendship,
Rebellion
and Escape.

When the fable soars,
Water becomes
a microcosm.
A sacred space.
An upholder of grace.



***

IRREVERSIBLE (2002)- on Gaspar Noe’s open provocation of a work that dares to show us the basest instincts of humankind when victim and victimiser both occupy a brutally realistic nocturnal world ruled by racism, homophobia and most importantly, the heavy weight of sexual abuse.



Bruised
Battered
Left for dead.

The City of Lights
brought to a halt
by its crimes of passion
and reduced to a pulp.


Now the procession begins.
A retributive fever,
like an epileptic seizure,
threatens
this shared love
among friends.

Under the cover of Night
watch as Men become
beasts with no burden.





***

FRIDA(2002)- on Julie Taymor’s memorable portrait of Frida Kahlo’s legacy of physical pain and the artistry that surmounted all odds beyond that frontier.


Kiss her
on the edge
of her broken spinal column.

There rests Phoenix
wincing with pain
and under the inevitable
shadow of a near-death
reckoning.


There she rises
with the grotesque
and the beautiful,
piercing the hallways
of life’s twists and turns
with Art
monumental
and immortal.





*****
DEATH ON THE NILE(2021)- on Kenneth Branagh’s excitingly mounted and excellently cast thriller based on Agatha Christie’s famed Poirot series of books.





Cry Wolf!

Cry Murder!


A voyage such as this
brings out cohorts
and players
as they exchange
glances and conspiratorial airs.

At the primed hour,
when tables turn,
who then picks up the
burden of guilt and reproach
and makes it out of this boat?


Bid for their money
when the decks are stacked.
A prowler on the hunt
and ready for attack.



A killer on the loose
A dubious profession to choose.


So cry wolf.
Cry murder.
The guilty ones
always sharper than
the others.




***

Prithvijeet Sinha reads ‘Golden Light’ from Issue XIV, Inklette Magazine

Recently, my poem GOLDEN LIGHT got published by INKLETTE MAGAZINE. It was such a privilege then to not only have the print text grace its annals but also be represented visually through my recitation on its official YouTube channel.

Poetry conjures a visual world rich in details, subliminal beauty and complexity. So here I share the video of yours truly reading GOLDEN LIGHT with you all.

ASKEW



A poem inspired by this photographic work.


***

ASKEW

When the last ships left
imperial shores,
the burden of upholding
ideals of an impossible expedition
congealed in the hearts of
’em sailors.
‘Ahoy! Captain’
rang the chorus
through clattering teeth
and calcified hearts .

Set for a ghost town
on the edge of the world’s
hypothermic frontier,
there was a doorway,
an architectonic body of
stalactites
and icebergs still as Eternity.

The men passed under it
and a green light
came from the dipping point.
The sky and the endless sea
had become one gigantic lighthouse.
The surface crackled
with its intensity
and sailors all,
inebriated on the brink of discovery,
felt the myth
of the outer world
coming true.

A third eye opened,
like a hungry lion
receiving its feast
in lifetimes,
a blast marked this silence
and the dread of icy apathy
took them into a psychedelic whirl,
through forms never seen
and creatures wholly unlike them.

A missing link
gone askew through time and space,
lost to history’s formulaic appetite.
The last ships lay stationary there
in a land before time.

WHEN I BECAME BIRDMAN

Pictorial representations have always given me vigour to write . This untitled work above, by Rose Mary Boehm, hence, literally gave my creative powers ‘wings’ to write the following poem.

                          ***

WHEN I BECAME BIRDMAN

Freedom is what dreams
provoke in me
to wear this skin
without resorting to the
masque of make-believe.

Freedom is the spindle
from which spools a parallel wish;
one where even a begrudging ‘yes’
allots me room to breathe
and make legible my words.
Better now to court
the attention from critics
who watch me part curtains
and launch into an unusual,
unbroken soliloquy
than sycophants
who picture me
solely as a ventriloquist.

This is my life
as the ‘Birdman’
dressed in suffocating cotton mass
but never as mobile or serene
when personifying all I have to
as now.

The metaphor for every stage
is to be heavy with skill
and fecund nerves.
But when the body moves
independent of a thousand glares
and the dome of the spotlight,
Eureka!
that’s when the artist separates
and becomes a being.

The art of becoming a bird
is subtle.
You have to align the humility
of being nature’s paragon
with beseeching all the
innocent sparks sold to the world.

The world’s a stage.
One’s own flight there has to begin
with nimble steps
and a face
towards the sun
and the moon,
determined
this is the day
when the ‘act’ becomes deceased
and true form takes birth.

***