Sunday, November 27, 2011

135- Monday Musings – Murder of an artist

135- Monday Musings – Murder of an artist
An old quote keeps coming back to me and it goes like this - 'If before 30 you are not a communist you don’t have an heart and if after 30 you are still a communist you don’t have brains'. On the same lines I am led to believe that there is an artist in most of us before 30. After that usually life takes over.

Rockstar, the new movie on the block, is a fantastic watch for the many nuances it carries with it - there is something in it for everyone. For the star crossed lovers there is that pain of a love that shall never see its fulfillment, cheated either by circumstances or death. For the artist there is this search for the elusive inspiration that will transform a gawky teenager to a raging sensation and when that poignant artistic inspiration fired by human angst does arrive, it does so with a deep sense of pain - a pain which at the same time is the progenitor of the artistic brilliance and the one thing that will not allow him to enjoy the fruits of his success. How tragic and how moving.

History is dominated with the tales of pained geniuses, so much so that it is unthinkable to believe that artistic brilliance can be even attempted in a life bereft of tragedy and angst. There are reporters of art, who write, appreciate, read, perform and enjoy - they are like the moon, glowing on borrowed resplendence and then there are creators of art - one who creates, designs, writes, essays, and portrays. It seems that the latter has a special penchant for agony, grief and suffering - they almost thrive on it, live on it. Take the agony away and you have taken away the soul from their work. Suffering has created more music, more literature, more poetry, and more art than anything else.

Suffering is hugely personal construct. One can, quite literally, choose to suffer. Most of us go through the usual grind, give and take a few minor details- heart breaks, coming of age, finding the calling in life, directionlessness, confusion over choices, dealing with the consequences of it - so on and so forth. Some deal with the roller coaster and become successful. Others take it to heart and become artists. The latter become successful and famous in the eyes of the former because there is something uplifting and autobiographical in the tale of every artist and his art. This is mostly because those of us who made safer choices, dumbed and numbed our personal agonies, let the artist in us die, sometimes thankfully so, but find echoes of those memories in every story of a celebrated artist - someone who we could have been.

Ah! Such is that bitter sweet world of 'could have been’; such is its angst that it can fuel the artist in you. Wait a bit more and then life will take over. Will it, yet again is the million dollar question.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

134 Monday Musings - Saada Haq

134- Monday Musings - Saada Haq
If movie songs were to be any indicators of the spirit of the times, inspired by or inspiring the tumults of that period and in the process becoming anthems, then gear up to listen to 'Sadda Haq...Ithe rakh' (Give me my rights..NOW) not only from on air and in the dim lit pubs and bars but also on sundry social and corporate occasions alike for a long long time. I can think of a few more in the last few years which had acquired a deep symbolism and shouldered the onus of describing the angst and imagination of the times they became popular.

'Papa kehte hain bada naam karega' was a gentle reminder in the 90's of the huge burden of expectation that the youth shouldered and how the he was clearly ready to chart a course of his own by refusing to become and engineer or a businessman, rather finding solace in the elixir of love. The same actor exactly a decade later gate crashed into the imagination of the carefree youth to move away from the beaten path by announcing 'ham hain naye, andaaz kyon ho purana'. India was changing by the end of the last century and the exhort 'badle duniya, badalne do...hum apni dhun me chalte jayen..hum hain naye..andaaz kyon ho purana' became the ziet gist of the times. Dancing to its lyrics in a sense liberated the generation from the shackles of the old dreams and old methods. The generation had announced its arrival in style.

Another khan in another path breaking movie united disparate groups of people to its war cry 'Chak De', a phrase which has no equivalent in the English language, but which would broadly mean 'Let’s rock'. Any group of people, community or gathering who wanted a point to be proven, a war cry to unite all towards one common task and who wanted a insurmountable problem to be solved, a herculean aspiration to be chased, had to just play 'Chak de' and the spirits would soar. In yet another time when a youth lost in his search for identity, so typical of the age across times, and yet to typical of particularly these, finally finds his calling, not surprisingly sung on high notes 'payega jo lakhya hai tera' from the movie Lakhsya. It is difficult to say with certainty that it right before or right after that we found the youth being so sure about what they wanted from life - in being floaters they were exercising the same choice that fired their souls in wanting to make it big in corporate or business or politics.

Saada Haq, not only in its lyrics but also in its video, depicting Kashmir to North East, farmers to communal rights, is a reminder of the impatience of the times, where no one is willing to wait anymore and any longer. They want their haq, what is their natural and national right, NOW. Intentions won’t suffice, delivery does. The message loud and clear - Don’t suffocate us into slots, don't slice and divide us on samaaj and riwaj, keep your sermonizing and patronizing to yourself if you cannot handle what you preach, just....well..'Saada Haq..Ithe rakh'. The song has all the ingredients to become the theme of the times, the ultimate expression of an impatient people on the edge, almost a warning to the powers to be. Don’t mess or it will be messy. The song has been getting into my bones slowly but surely, and going by its popularity, it is clear that other bones are equally pervious to its uplifting quality. The echoes of saada haq will only intensify in the days to come.

Movies then no doubt are such an addictive craft. They say, there is at least one story in each one us. I am growing to believe there is at least one song and one movie in each one of us. Go ahead - write it, record it, shoot it. You have at least one reader, one listening, one viewer ready. 


Saturday, November 5, 2011

133-The Journey

133-The Journey

This diwali vacation I travelled quite a bit to the faraway nooks and corners of my home state Jharkhand and once again enjoyed the highly nuanced face of India – sometimes a bit disturbing if my urban tastes and sensibilities forced me to judge, but mostly enjoyable for the sheer richness of diversity that was on offer.  India lives in many decades - Some in 2010's, some in the early 2000, some in the 1990s and certainly but unfortunately some even in the 70-80's. Each decade has its own sights and sounds, peculiar to the times they represented which became the liet motif of those times - and fossilized over the layers of time, lending them identity and signature. This trip gave me the unparalleled joy of living those sights, smells and sounds yet again - sometimes eerie, but joyous nevertheless.

Post Office Gomia, in District Giridih, somewhere in the north-East of Jharkhand, right next to the Bengal border, is in the heart of mining belt, the hotbed of naxalite activity, and the destination of my journey. The 200 kms drive was an ensemble of a variety of experiences, often unrelated, but in warm harmony with each other – giving it a collage like diversity and appeal.
Crater sized potholes break the pace of the journey to no more than a drag, while rich green hues of paddy fields mark the countryside till as far as eyes can see. On the horizon is a faint boundary of the hills that puts an end to the audacity of sight. The roadside dhaba in eastern India is quite different from its flamboyant north-Indian cousin. Its tiled or thatched, mud paved, surely dirty and opens to the fields in its backyard. The tea is milky, syrupy and very sweet, the food however is fresh. We crossed the monthly fair for all the nearby villages as we reached the infamous town of Purulia. What a sight waited for us - 3 kilometers of the fair on both sides, cattle being traded and loaded on cranky trucks, bullock carts blocking the traffic endlessly, items of living made out of bamboo or hay that I never imagined people used anymore lined on both sides.
Darkness descended while we were a good 20 kms away from the destination - a twenty nasty kilometers cutting right across the heart of naxalite territory and passing over the 30 year old Tenughat dam on the Damodar River. It was perhaps the longest 20 kms of my life; the pitch darkness, made scarier by the stillness - a state of no sound exploding within your head, aggravated by the dense forests on both sides. As one passed on the road on the dam, a near vacuum of nothingness engulfs you on both sides - invisible in the dark, starless night but hundreds of meters of precipice palpable and felt through your bones. Such a night has its own smell - fresh, elevating, cold, very grassy, but blunted with the smell of fear it gets marinated with, so much so that one has to strain to enjoy it. As we descended on the other side, much to our relief, we noticed the first glimmer of faint yellow lights.
The day in these parts begins with sunrise and ends with sunset - something that is quite unfathomable to those who are used to extending the day beyond the sunset, aided and abetted by the glare of CFL and neon. Mornings are misty, grass rich with the overnight dew and the dozens of roosters at the forefront of the hamlets community alarm system. October evenings descends early - as if the preparation for the evening begins even before the afternoon is over, as one is acutely aware that darkness will bring the day to an unceremonious end. Early mornings and evenings there is a layer of smoke in the air, of burning raw coal from the nearby mines and of dried leaves, obnoxious and poisnous, but for those who might have lived on it, its comforting and familiar. It adds to the feeling of being at home. 
The railway station is breathtaking in its antiquity -Two platforms, one each for the Up and Down trains. One small tea shop doubles up as a two-item-menu-snack counter serving samosas and boiled eggs ONLY. The lonely pan shop has beedis and non filter cigarettes stacked for display. At 8 o clock in the night when the last passenger train passes through the station, the station momentarily flickers back into activity for 5-6 passengers that will alight and the same number that will board, before things close for the night. The dark engulfs till the roosters to get to work the next day.

 And the only thought that comes to my mind as I return, is Ah! So many roads, so many journeys - and such a short life.