Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Bal Gandharva

I watched Bal Gandharva this week-end.
It's a lovely movie - extravagantly mounted with no expenses spared. Much like the man who strove to appeal to the senses of his audience. Spraying expensive scents/perfume when they walked in to watch this musical plays, giving the ladies a reason to shop for expensive, rich and exquisite sarees, shalus and of course jewels. Who can forget the creative, imaginative and innovative props for Bal Gandharva's plays?
And, of course the music. Bal Gandharva alias Narayan Shripad Rajhauns is music.
All those who watched the movie knew this. In almost every Marathi household, the elders have to swear by Bal Gandharva. His plays enacted by the younger generation of actors still run housefull. Of course the elders and those who had the pleasure of hearing the original, pooh-pooh the attempt.
Therefore, when people like me who have been brought up in such households decide to watch the movie, can't help but be disappointed.
We have heard so much of Bal Gandharva - man and his music, but we know very little of Narayan Shripad Rajhauns who was given the title of Bal Gandharva by Lokmanya Tilak after listening to the small boy sing in Kesariwada in Pune.
There was a slide in Marathi and English about Bal Gandharva's origins - where he was born and other details. Unfortunately, it wasn't there on the screen for even half a minute. You blink and you miss it.
There are several factors and people who shaped Narayanrao's life - Deval Master, Shankarrao Kirloskar Gadkari Master (Ram Ganesh Gadkari) and Ganpatrao Bodas. In this movie, they are just caricatures.
Perhaps a voiceover in the beginning of the movie would have helped in identifying and relating with so many characters. Of course we can wiki and google or even read the literature on the man and his Gandharva Natak Mandali. But, when you are making a movie on a legend, who is still remembered, you can't compromise or crunch so many details in  2 hours.
However, the two moments from this film will always stay with me.
One is when Subodh Bhave in the title role of Bal Gandharva, makes an entry on the stage after an argument with Shankarrao Kirloskar (owner of Kirloskar Natak Company) over the mounting expenditure on the drapery and props. Dressed in white sari as opposed to his usual rich exquisite garments, Bal Gandharva mocks Shankarao, who is standing in the wings, with his his demeanour of an offended, wounded and stung lady. Incensed at this Shankarrao and Bal Gandharva have another argument which results in Bal Gandharva quitting the Kirloskar Natak Company to form his own troupe.
The second scene is when Bal Gandharva abruptly leaves the shooting of his first and only movie, Dharmatma, to sing to a crowd of peasants and pilgrims on a river bank. As the song nears its end, his voice reaches a crescendo and he turns towards the bank with his hands aloft as if seeking divine intervention.
Subodh Bhave as the legendary female impersonator of Marathi theatre and singer par excellence, is wonderful. Unfortunately, Vibhawari Deshpande as his wife has nothing new to offer. She has already performed similar roles in Harishchandrachi Factory and Natarang. In fact, the child who essayed the role of a young Bal Gandharva, was also seen in Harischandrachi Factory.
But, I would still say, go and watch the movie to have your own memories of Bal Gandharva.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Blowing my Trumpet!

Aai....this is for you!
I won second prize in Bal Sahitya (senior) category. The contest was held by CEE on behalf of Environment Department, Maharashtra Govt. The title of the story is "My Mother's Garden".

Friday, 3 June 2011

Barish in Headlines

It's the second day of pre-monsoon showers. The dark clouds are gathering, coming closer and closer. Soon, they will start rumbling accompanied by lightning and opening up of skies.
For some rains means garma garam bhajji and hot tea laced with ginger. Some see poetry in the pitter-patter of rain drops. A sight to be enjoyed by sitting by the window or getting drenched in rains.
I, however, wish to differ. I bring to you 'Barish in Headlines' (for the next three months or till the monsoon lasts)
In the first few days of the monsoon, your news will be:
On Page 1 (LEAD): xxxxx (fill in the name of the city) lashed by rains. The story will be accompanied by photos of Wet Girls (yes, this was actually the caption given by an intrepid photographer who shot girls caught unawares in the rain), traffic snarls, a sweet kid holding an umbrella over his head and jumping up and down in the puddles, a small crowd taking shelter under a shed covered by blue tarpulin etc etc
On Page 1 (DC): Water levels go up in xxxxx (fill in the name) dam
On Page 1 (Single Column): Weather watch. Met department predicts medium to light showers for the city.
On Page 1 (Anchor): Corporation's level of preparedness or the lack of it.
Inside pages: Photospread of uprooted trees, water-logging in some areas of the city, pools formed in dug up roads and people queuing up to buy raincoats, umbrellas and rainy footwear.
In case there's heavy downpour, these will make the news:
1) Building collapse
2) Landslides
3) Floods (The only Indian river with a male name, Brahmaputra, comes into news with, "Brahmaputra rising" or "Brahmaputra crosses the danger level)
4) Snapping of electricity wires, telephone lines
5) xxxx TMC water released from xxxx dam
6) Veggie prices drop. Housewives sigh!
7) Corporation chief says, "We have enough water till November" or "Catchment areas full"
8) Nullahs choke
In case, the heavy downpour is followed by a dry spell, these will be in the news:
1) Met official says xxx belt formed over Western Maharashtra. Dry spell to continue
2) Corporation chief says water level in the xxxx dam worrisome
3) Dengue, chikungunya claims xxxxx lives
4) Where has the rain disappeared?
5) Villagers pray for rain; woo for Varun (not Gandhi. Varun, the God of Rain)

In the features:
1) Here's how to look cool in the rains
2) Fashionistas outline their rainy look
3) What to do in rains? Celeb tells us
(I can't resist the attempt to be cheeky and barge in with "Stay at home and not get in the rains."
"If I have to go out, carry an umbrella or wear a raincoat." Keep it simple, celebs. I wish some newspaper tells us how to quickly jump aside when a four-wheeled monster is coming towards me to avoid getting drenched from head to toe in muddy waters ruining my rainy look. Any ideas?")
4) Nutrition in the rain
(Damn...I would love to dig into kanda/khekda bhajji. Nutritious food be damned.)

Coming up next: Winter in News and Summer in News

The Complete Beauty

FAT! Ummmmm...BIG....FAT

Arun murmured these words critically appraising her figure before the mirror. A few minutes later she plonked on the bed and sighed deeply. Then she looked at the black and white photo on the side table and murmured, “Thank you YOU”.

Eighteen-year-old Arunima (or Arun as she preferred to be called) was smart, sassy and always ready to smile. But, alone, before the mirror, she was fragile and vulnerable.

“Come on 18-going on-28, move your BIG BUTT and get going,” she told herself, sitting up on the bed.

She slowly moved towards closet and pulled out denims and paused. Arun looked longingly at a short tee.

“No point...” she reminded and instead pulled out a long Fab India kurta.

“Kurta...naaaaaah....kurti. Who cares? I look like a behenji no matter what I wear,” Arun thought out aloud.

Her eyes glistened with tears when she remembered Kunal and Anjuli's biting comments. That day she had chosen to wear a short tee which fitted her snugly.

She met Anjuli at the door of the lecture hall.

“Wow...ARUN. BIG ONIONS,” Anjuli remarked in her loud voice.

Arun could feel the red creeping over her cheeks. She turned a dark shade of red when Kunal turned around to look at her, said, “Onions are really scarce these days, especially BIG ONIONS.”

Arun, head held high, walked past Anjuli whispering, “Don't be J, Small Onions. In few years, you will go under the knife for-you-know-what.”

Though she just about managed to claw at Anjuli, Arun was hurt. Arun's looks, the way she walked, the way she spoke and the way she slept, were carefully dissected. By Arun.

Arun couldn't blame more attractive elder sisters for her inferiority complex. She was a single child brought up by a single parent. Arun was broad-boned. She had tried everything since 13 (when she started growing BIG) to look small, delicate and slip into something comfy, snug without grabbing anyone's eyeballs.

Balls. Arun had those. And, how she hated the attention, the crass attention, the wolfish looks, the checking out and then the lingering gaze on the “assets.” She was a school-going bacchi with “curves”.

While someone else might have thrived in the attention, Arun wasn't the demure, sophisticated adult to ignore the attention. At 18, she wanted to be like a regular girl, to fit in like the rest and not stand out. Though she appeared carefree, deep inside she was hurt and sulking. Because of her mother.

Arun's mother passed away when she was six. And, since Arun didn't look like her slim, trim Dadda, then she had definitely inherited her mother's figure, she concluded.

There were not many colour photographs of Arun's mother, so whenever she was upset and angry with the world, Arun would stare at the grainy, black and white images and reproach her mother.

“Arunima, Mau's coming,” said Arun, her Dadda.

“Sunaina Mau's coming. WOW!” squealed Arun.

Sunaina Mau (short for mausi) was Arun's mother (Nima's) younger sister. She was fun!

Mau was Arun's confidante-cum friend-cum mother-cum the best-friend, she always wanted.

When Mau came, she couldn't help saying, “Nima! She's growing up to be like Nima, isn't it Arun?”

Dadda nodded.

Arun couldn't help but make a face.

Mau noticed it, but chose to let it pass.

Few days passed happily, but Mau couldn't help notice the way Arun dressed.

Long kurtis, loose fitting salwar-suits, a carefully arrived at sloppy look, the effort to avoid being noticed wasn't lost on Mau.

Next day she surprised Arun with dresses, tees, skirts and stoles.

“Oh Mau! Lovely! Thanks so much,” cried Arun.

“Arunima, wear this blue dress to college today. The colour will just suit you,” smiled Mau.

Arun's happiness dimmed a little.

“No Mau! Not to college. Maybe this evening when we go for dinner. Okay?” smiled Arun.

“Why not to college Arunima?” Mau persisted.

“Mau...you won't understand. One more thing, please don't call me Arunima,” she said.

“Why not?” Mau asked.

“Mau...I am not Nima. She isn't a part of me; I know she IS a part of me. But I don't want her in my name,” she said quietly.

Mau stood gaping.

“Sit DOWN. What made you say that? Do you even understand what you are saying?” Mau said grabbing Arun by her shoulders.

“Mau please. I am not a baby,” Arun was on the verge of tears.

“I know, that's why what you said made me see RED,” cried Mau. “Do you know what Nima had to go through to have you?”

Arun stared at her, her dark-brown eyes ready to spill out the tears gathering in them.

“Listen...Nima and Arun were childless for long. She was almost 40, when she conceived. The pregnancy and delivery affected her already fragile health. But she survived on her will power till you were six. And then... How can you even say something like that Arunima? Nima was so beautiful, and you are a CRUEL child,” sobbed Mau.

“ Mau...I'm SORRY. I know I look like Ma. But you don't know how difficult it is,” Arun was also sobbing now.

“Difficult? How?” questioned Mau.

Arun then explained the big factors in her life and the taunts and comments from girls and the unwanted male attention.

“Mau, I am 18, 18 okay. But I look like a 28-year-old. I am so...I just can't handle this. Why can't I be like other girls?” spoke anguished Arun. “And, this is all because of Ma. I look like her. But that was okay for her. I mean she was a woman,” she said.

Mau smiled.

“What? I didn't crack a joke,” Arun growled.

“Arunima, your mother was a woman when she gave birth to you. But, she was also a girl ONCE UPON A TIME. Have you ever wondered how she might have felt and what all she must have gone through?” Mau said.

Arun turned red.

“Thin, skinny, big, broad, fair-skinned, dark skinned etc etc are just adjectives. What X has, Y will crave for it. And, X will pine for what X has. Ignore those stupid floosies in your class. They must be secretly craving to be like you. To become a woman like you. To become a beautiful woman like you,” Mau said.

“Woman? Who wants to be a woman?,” Arun cried out.

“If at the age of 18, you look like 28. At the age of 38, you will look like 28! Reverse aging process, what say!”

“Mau...” howled Arun. “28-38 sounds so ancient. You don't have a solution!”

“You silly goose. Get it straight. Be happy and comfortable with what you have. If there are some problem areas, then there's something good about your appearance too. You have got long, dark hair, your skin is blemish and pimple-free, you are fair, you have nice brown eyes which sparkle with life when you permit them to. What else do you want? If you weren't playing this blame-game hard, you would notice other teenagers cribbing about dandruff and pimples and recommending creams and lotions to turn a shade lighter. What's wrong with you Arunima? You want to blame Nima for this? You don't want her identity? You want to drop her name? Fine...do that. Let me tell you... you just don't have Nima's balls. She was courageous, brave and sweet and beautiful. You are not Nima's daughter,” Mau finished in rush.

Arun with tears streaming down her face, murmured softly, “I am SORRY Mau. I have been selfish. You can call me Arunima...I am Arunima. I was a pig Mau. SORRY. I will wear that blue dress to college okay. Just wait a sec.

She pulled off her kurtis and denims and pulled on the blue dress in a jiffy.

“Mau look!”

“Nice Arun,” smiled Mau.

“Mau, I AM ARUNINMA. Don't rub it in please. I know what they mean by being a complete beauty. Arun and Nima make me complete. I have enough beauty to score over the brawn and the balls. Right?” smiled Arunima.

Mau nodded.