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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Requiem for the year that would soon 'was' be!

In the beginning was January...

and at the end... December of course! I don't want to stand on the Night of Dec 31 and write a Janus-faced post. That's too passé. So I jump the gun.
Of course I am sad that Michael Schumacher, Martina Navratilova, Andre Agassi all retired and Shane has Warned he would soon. But there are other things, on the more personal front that I am not so happy about! I just tried counting the amount of work I had put in Theatre as well as elsewhere. It shocks me to realise that I had done about 15 productions and events of various sorts in theatre in 2006 alone. It makes me happy, of course, to see that that involves a wide repertoire of what ranges from acting in other's production to figure in the scheme of other banners too! But 15??? That is worse than The Meaning of Life (which is 12 !!!)
So what am I proud of that I did in 2k6 that I would cherish in 2k7 and could possibly relish cherishing further than 2k7? Perhaps... Three@Twenty. When at a time other groups are thinking of figuring out what can be done to the future course of theatre in Chennai, I think we started doing something. It makes me happy to think that we were able to associate Masquerade (here I mean the folks who stood by Masquerade throughout the year, out of sheer conviction and commitment) with several new and first time playwrights. I am sure that spark of ignition would definitely make them look back and draw inspiration to write further works. Also, am glad that the year 2k6 was not solely a KK-walk at Masquerade, but others who took responsibilities in all walks of a production - through all the mainstream as well as Three@Twenty readings. And the planning is just about complete for 2k7.
I can tell you, it is going to be a very different year of presentations from Masquerade. If we don't end up redefining art or theatre in Chennai, we would be redefining ourselves. And I thank "small Medium @ Large" for that. It made us realise we are better off not doing those comedies. That I also feel is the current problem in theatre in Chennai. Every one seems to be convinced that comedy is the only way to go, if one wants to see better populated houses. Even when it is not one of thsoe western made to order box comedies, it still is a comic or light-hearted play. Why? I remember fondly Mitran's Anna Weiss and Bagyam's Senora Carrar among several other shows. Do we have to ham for our sausage and bread?
I wrote this little 600 word guest column in Simply Chennai recently. I had said some things that I accept are truths about the current trends in Chennai. But in retrospect, I realise why we are stagnating continually and are constantly unnecessarily soul-searching as to the Status Quo of Chennai Theatre. It is a syndrome that is part and parcel of contemporary liberalised India. Any thing that comes new to India... it takes a while to warm up. But once it catches up... it's like wild fire. No stopping, unless, having destroyed everything around itself, being left with itself, it consumes itself. Unfortunately, unlike the Phoenix, it never rises out of its own ashes. Take the case of Photocopying (or Xerox in familiar parlance), Electronic Data Processing, DTP, Colour Printouts, STD ISD PCOs, Pagers, Mobile phones... you see a saturation resulting from watering down of availability. I guess theatre is going through the same phase. By sheer unmoderated enthusiasm, we have watered down the quality of productions in Chennai. Every so-called actor as well as director is gotten greedy to perform, we have created a scenario of plentiness of performance that we hardly do what the classical musicians would call 'sadagam'. To quote Ranjani and Gayatri from their interview today in the Music Festival Supplement to The Hindu: Though we know the value of this festival, we are beginning to wonder if this kind of excess and performance orientation is the only way of preserving and nurturing our music. With so many concerts during the Season, how can any artiste do justice to every one of them? Similarly, if we perform so much, how can there be qualitative energy? I am surprised that even such a quality conscious person as Bala (for whose conceptions I have a high adoration!) has been too prolific in 2k6!
Also, I feel, instead of casting aspersions on the public's craving for entertainment as the public's craving for comedy on stage, if we start giving tighter and better narrative productions (that are not necessarily comedies), it would help us revision our audience for the years to come, vis-a-vis Theatre in Chennai. I am very convinced that all any entertainment-seeker wants is an entertainment that helps him/her forget the world he/she personally inhabits. The world on stage can be a familiar serious world, doesn't matter, but it has to be presented in such a manner without distracting the narration with unnecessary frills or comedy. So, for me, 2k7 is going to be all about evolving a definitive individual style of presentation and choice of scripts. Also to strive for tighter and well-honed productions than hamming comedies or going for numbers.
On the personal side - 2k6 was productive in its own way. I added quite a few new chapters to my Book of Life - how to gauge people better, who to keep distances and how to keep distances, how to not be politically correct at the risk of losing people, places, work, etc. Well, it does help to be honest and open even if one is branded as being rude or disparaging or whatever. And I managed to post little of my fiction than I have written. Only those I thought are absolutely read for public consumption has gone into Web-publication here. And I have met some nice and decent people both on the web/blogosphere as well as real-time. Hope their acquaintances blossom into something more worthy.
To end the post on the same note as it began, I would be sad to see several people retire after the 2k7 Cricket World Cup. But then, when it's time to go, one just has to go. Better to get out before fading ignominiously into a murky sunset.

The Lobotomy of Theatre

Having recently come through a full circle of what I consider to be my first incarnation as a theatre director, after 15 years of work, I ask myself what I have learnt.

One can take up art as a casual or desultory hobby; or as an intensely passionate pursuit. One can embrace art as an amateur or as a professional. It can be a paid vocation or obsessive pursuit involving satisfaction as the goal. In whatever form, once we take up to it, we are artists at some level or other. And we have duties.

First, whatever be the plane of involvement, we are bound by some rules and codes, ethics and etiquettes. Theatre especially is a team game always and ever. Part of the team is an actor. What defines ones frame of mind as regards amateur or professional is this recognition of oneself as a part than the dominant pie. An actor, to put it bluntly, is the most dispensable but most inclusive part of a production. We are not even talking about a performance in terms of a show. A work of production becomes a show only when the audience-factor gets involved. To an artist who is more concerned about the creative process of a production, the audience is/are dispensable as much as an actor. The fact of the matter is an actor could be created. An actor can be developed. Any body could be trained to act. But imparting - self or to other - the foundations or the basic underlying approach to perform a specific role alone does not create a complete actor.
What or who then is a complete actor? Not anyone who can perform, surely. Someone who understands his/her inclusivity, respects the ethics and etiquettes, adheres to the demands made on oneself in the team performance. I am not talking any management therapy here. All that is pure junk and gimmick talked aloud to cheat people into parting with their money in a suave way. If each sets his/her personal agenda secondary and within the group's primary objective, that is the beginning of commitment. The unfortunate part of theatre in most cases from wherever I have observed, especially one hundred percent in the circuit I work, is that personal agenda is so much more important that the primary objective is only impotent. Rather, is rendered impotent.
Should an artist work according to the desires of a director or impose oneself on the character or role that is being essayed? There are some truths which cannot open up to the conception of two schools of thought at all. There is the truth and it is the only one. In this case: an actor is being cast by the director out of various considerations and in Chennai, also out of various constraints. The director's comfort level in working with a person, the person's comfort level with his/her co-actor(s), comfort level in being expected to do certain actions or wear certain costumes, not to mention the importance of the role, which in most cases is defined as quantity of presence. That also shows the shallowness of the pursuit in Chennai. After the casting stage, after one has accepted a character, after one has decided not to desert the production ever till the last curtain call is taken after the first run, begins the actor's responsitbilities towards the play.
The play is all. The playwright is the creator. If the playwright intended the character to be performed in any which way, no one would write. Every piece of writing is born out of a need to express something, however frivolous it could have been conceived, it could turn out to be or it is. That being God's own truth, is an actor justified to change the way the role is played. Yes and No.
Who in the first place decides how to play a role? How flashy or less conspicuous... what right amount of admixture of emotions? Well, irrespective of the nomenclature of the play as a comedy or drama, what is being performed is a narration of sorts. A story is being told. And that is the paramount feature of arts. Everything contains a story, however abstract or real. If the story is not told first and foremost in the way the playwright intended it, then it is no more his. What right have we to tamper on someone's propriety?
When we build a house we do not first fix the chandelier or a sauna. Those are luxurious items that MUST come only after the basic electricity as well as water and sewage connection are provided. Similarly, to the No part of playing a role the way an actor wants, one must realise that the role has to be understood and the role's basic existence conveyed to the audience. To that extent, the actors are carriers and couriers of someone's message. There is no question of rephrasing the message or repackaging the acceptability levels of the luggage.
Once the basic allegiance and obeisance to the original plan of architecture is paid, then an actor can look to make the role his own. Even there, the work is to get into the skin of the role and become it than impose a certain way of playing so as to mislead the audience to think of the role in a particular way. Most actors do this. But then, most actors are not trained. Even those who are trained - self or by someone - are not trained to think a role. They are mechanised in alleged workshop atmosphere to practise exercises to tune (warm-up as the popular term goes) the body, breathe and speak through regulated and robotised inhaling and exhalation patterns. Learning to warm up or improvise or breathe and speak is only the technical part. What about the emotional sensitising of an actor? There is also a certain management-style theatre practise creeeping in some instances. If a person is sensitive enough to think of oneself as part of the whole, or - even if coldly stated - even begins to think I have given my time, let me go through it meaningfully and get out, having contributed what is expected of me, these so-called team-building exercises would not be required. This only shows how much amateurish is our thinking and why we still stagnate qualitatively even if lot of stuff is happening. An individual emotional sensibility is lacking.
At the end of the day, we are dealing with flesh and blood emotions on stage. And what of the cultural, political or social understanding, not to mention the economic and gender status of the character. Do we not have the sacred duty to create a verisimilitude of someone else on stage? Unfortunately one means people choose is to grow or cut hirsute appendages of the body and use make-up or costume to show a change from their real looks. Transformation is internal and not outwardly. All these cost time and energy. And all these are very much in paucity right now because of the cost factor than anything else. The cost to be paid for most people translates into party time or earning time. Since either the mind set more upon social jamming up before and after rehearsals or working in another job (career or not) which monetarily pays more than theatre could possibly afford, we have less trained actors and more mannequins whose brains have been lobotomised by hormonic surges 3 feet vertically to the bottom from their seat of thinking.
Theatre in Chennai may be a place of plentiful happenings, but in the wrong areas of performance. So what should one do to change this, you might want to ask! Nothing. Change must happen internally with every individual. They must think that life is not always one huge celebration of adolescence and that life has its share of responsibilities and commitments to whatever is done. And commitment, like trust, belief or love is 100 percent. You can't half-believe someone. You either do or not. Similarly, one must either do theatre or not. Rather not waste other's time. It is the responsibility of anyone who wants to do theatre in Chennai at the moment, given how much is suddenly happening. Do you hear? Stop backslapping and kissing frogs, seek the real Prince with or without the Kiss. Start now. Or quit.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Of Coffee, Cafés and Culture


Well, as Keats would have loved to Ode, ‘Tis the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’! Not exactly mellow fruits! But definitely a bit of mist instead of dew on the grass on these early Marghazhi mornings would be romantic! And of course…. This is the season of music and coffee and culture. So I decided to pull this one up – I wrote this about three years ago for a local daily. I have touched it up to belong to this day and time. It’s about the inevitable coffee.

When you get to spell out the ABC’s of culture and the happening cities, C is for Chennai; definitely so without ambiguity now that Calcutta has become Kolkatta. Although considered by many aboard Planet India to be C for Conservative, C for Chennai and even C during December for Cutchery Season (Music Festival)… on the positive side C for Coffee and C for Chennai come up as well. And that is something the rest of India has to give it to Chennai, even if grudgingly. Somehow Culture, Coffee and Chennai have always been intertwined together.

I had this friend of mine from Mumbai, back a few years ago when I was in Germany, referring to my German friends who were going to travel down to Chennai with me… that I should take them to India Coffee House if they wanted to drive in, sit around like they do back in the West in the pubs and coffee houses. I was surprised. India Coffee House? We sure have our share of Murudi’s and Hari Nivases and other Udupi Bhavans famous for their coffee after Idli, Vadai and Pongals, to sign off, be it a morning breakfast or evening tiffin. We even had our share - between the late 70s to late 80s – of Irani Tea Shops ruling the roost and scoring over the famous South Indian Coffee and almost replacing the coffee drinking habit of Chennaiites. But India Coffee?

Being born and growing up as part of a generation that is always at the crossroads of cultural changes in the ever-bourgeoning social climate of India, I had heard about the practices of the 50s-60s generation of youths bringing their discussion times at coffee houses and Woodlands… May be my Mumbai friend, being a decade older than me knew it! I searched. And I came up a little to know of this so-called India Coffee House. Rather of this culture, not of this House.

I knew of all those vintage landmarks that once existed to give Chennai that unique personality: cinema theatres such as Globe, Ashok, New Elphinstone, Minerva, Paragon (and have seen the metamorphosing of some of them such as Melody) and have seen the shutting down or falling into bad times of those old favourites of ours such as the Casino, Pilot, Safire complex, Anand complex, Chitra, Rajkumari, not to mention the long list of those North Madras cinema halls that have vanished to give place to hi-rise commercial or residential complexes thanks to real-estate mania; I remember the time when Chellarams and Kuralagam used to be the watchwords in clothing merchandise; when Shanti Vihar and Rita Ice-cream factory were equally synonymous with Mylapore as much as Kapaaleeswarar Temple and Kamadhenu & Kabali (the Gemini-twins of Mylai’s cinema halls).

However, India Coffee House? Unless any ol’ timer responds to this article with the history of one such place, I am stumped. All that I know is this: there is one at the left hand corner of Burkit Road merging with Usman Road, opposite the T.Nagar Bus Terminus. But am sure that is not the one. If that is, well, it has fallen in bad times now.

That was yesterday, as the popular song goes. All you had to do a couple of years back was to just stroll by G.N. Chetty Road: you had both the Qwikys T.Nagar and the Café Coffee Day. Not too far away, at what has come to be known as IC (Ispahani Centre) another Coffee Day. Right next door at the Ebony, a Qwikys Island. Now of course neither Ebony nor those two GNC Road joints exist. But to show that the power center of Coffee Houses has shifted, we have KNK (Khader Nawaz Khan Road) housing the Barista and Mocha (that bordello-feel red building); and within a kilometer, in the road off Peters Road, the independent and unique Café Moca of the Amethyst. Driving down Dr. Radhakrishnan Salai (Cathedral Road for ol’ timers!), opposite Stella Maris College, Coffee? has another little location besides the one at Adyar; then another 200 meters or so we have Café Nescafe. Drive another kilometer and half down TTK Road (again, Mowbrays Road for Madrasis!), you have another Qwikys Island at Lifestyle! Just take a qwik - sorry, quick - turn through Eldams Road and hit G.N.Chetty Road back, you have come a full circle of about 3 kms radius and you have experienced more caffeine down your streams than ever in the history of Chennai.

Not enough… drive down to Besant Nagar. A little range war is shaping up. Café Coffee Day, in what I divine to be a-la Starbucks model, are already up with two outlets on both sides of Bessie Barista… and are apparently planning a huge outlet right next to Barista… to lynch, dry-gulch, what you may the competition. I presume it is the building coming up next to the Sri Krishna (or is it Ananda Bhavan?) overlooking the Bessie Beach, across Cozee corner. And the other Coffee Days at Indira Nagar or Cenotaph Road aren’t too far either. But none of these can take the cake come December. The beehive of activity among Chennai-ites would be Music Academy, Narada Gana Sabha, MFAC, R.R. Sabha and other little havens of Classical Music and Dance. I know of a bagful of rasikas who not necessarily always land up at these sabhas to listen to Cutcheries… but to let their palate loose on the canteens run by Sakthis, Arusuvais and others…

What is this phenomenon? Chennai, Culture, Coffee… and now Cafés seem inevitably woven into the lives of Chennaiites and nostalgic Madrasis! In more ways than one, tracing the coffee roots of Chennai to its Tamil culture would not be wrong. The current in-term Coffee Pub is not far off target from the term they use back in Tanjavur for hotels – Coffee Clubs! And who can forget the mother of ‘em South Indian degree coffees all – The Kumbakonam or Thanjavur Degree Coffee. Now, one place people this side of Mylapore stretching towards Adyar go to today, to get their Kumbakonam degree coffee is the Sangeetha in Raja Annamalai Puram (known to young ones as RAP). And who can forget the coffee of Rayar’s Café of Cutchery Road, Mylapore.

Rightly so, given the conservative tag that has stuck to this city, Coffee seems to be the panacea and the redeeming equivalent of outgoing Chennaiites that Beer and Pubs are to Bangaloreans. Now in a way, Chennai’s fascination for Coffee has come in the form of Cafés to help the citizens shake their conservative, homeward bound label. Talk about our belief in rebirth and reincarnation.

May be some coffee outlets do not report as enthusiastic a crowd inflow at their outlets. But each of them – from the Qwikys of Sterling Road (Q I as it is known) through the Barista of KNK Road in Nungambakkam and Coffee Day of IC to the Coffee? and CCDs of Adyar, the outlets all have their customers, regular clients, loyalists, hangabouts and time-killers!

Inhabiting a Coffee House is not only a semi-fashion statement, but also an essential get-away for some from the younger generation. There is so much more to Cafés and Coffee Pubs of Chennai than just a Qjam or sound machine or a book corner or groups of youths. A whole horde of information could be gleaned and gathered. One could, upon haunting these pubs, develop a whole new network of business cards or friendships. One could even fine one’s life-partner, as I have good observed reasons to believe. The Coffee Pubs are Chennai’s equivalent of the book bazaars of the ancient Cordoba in Spain. The Coffee Pubs are also fast becoming haunts of some of Chennai’s musicians, artists, DJs, television stars and sportspersons. They are becoming quite ubiquitous and happening places… making them a far cry today from the hangout of raucous teens and young adults of a year or so back. And quite a lot of coffee is being consumed too.

Say Cheers to Coffee!!! And let’s not forget that haven of Coffee and Culture talk of yesteryears… it still rocks and is my fav place when I need to meet someone or kill time before an engagement in the vicinity – DRIVE IN WOODLANDS. May be not the best coffee, but a place Queen Anne of the 17th century Coffee Houses of England-fame would be proud of. I am starting to feel the itch for beans in my throat. Let me vamos.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

As old as Isolde - TRISTAN+ISOLDE

This is a review I sent to somewhere where it never got published due to various reasons of which length definitely was not one! Anyway, read on!

Movie Review:
TRISTAN & ISOLDE – Reynolds gets it Wrong!!!



Title: Tristan+Isolde
Director:
Kevin Reynolds
Cast: James Franco, Sophia Myles, Rufus Sewell…
The Dark Ages of England’s historic past has held very many stories of war and intrigue. There are several that celebrate the war-lords and the feuds betwixt warring tribes across the English Isles – between the Welsh, Saxons, the Irish, the English, the Normans and the Brits! These have intermittently lent themselves to some sweeping productions on both sides of the Atlantic pond and also within the American continent.

All these films have some template gestures to them: a sweeping landscape, usually shot in the Scottish regions; Celtic and Ren-faire music to adorn the quiet richness of the romantic feeling evoked by the misty spread of mountains and the verdant woods through which many a horse or mule drawn wagon has clattered through, and arrows have whizzed past if they hadn’t found their human targets; muddy and slushy habitation areas which are a mere cluster of hutments and wooden buildings all encompassed with a huge wall with a chief who is the claimant to the title of Lord; a man of sword skill who in the course of time becomes stuff of which legends are made, achieved mainly through setting aside personal likes and dislikes and ambitions and desires for the sake of defending either the county or the honour of the chieftain Lord; period costumes, grimy faced support cast in the role of warriors, a pretty heroine. And there are several other more.

Then there are others. Several more. Some like the Lord of the Rings. Saga in the epic mould. Some such as Arthurian legends. But the recent trend English epic cinema (more as a lingual classification) has taken is to subjugate the Romance (meaning the Fantastic war and love of epic proportions where the nation comes first) to the romance (implying the personal and psychological side of the personae involved). King Arthur was one. The movie showed, more than the political, the human side of Arthur of Camelot; the film focused not on his rise to the throne, but on his struggle to keep his beloved spouse Guinvere and of the latter’s affair with Launcelot, Arthur’s second. On the heels comes Tristan+Isolde – another Kevin Reynolds directed movie (for all those who still adore Bryan Adam’s “Everything I do…” the name may ring a bell as the director of ‘Robin Hood – the Prince of Thieves’ or the other Kevin Costner starrer “Waterworld”). Strangely enough, the movie is titled more straightforward in the USA as Tristan & Isolde. The subtitle reads: Before Romeo and Juliet, there was… TRISTAN+ISOLDE. But that is all there is to it. The romance starts with warm bodies and ends in the title.


Responses to the movie have been wide-ranging from “Reynolds has again delivered a lavish adventure for audiences who like their entertainment earnest and their storytelling straightforward” by romance-o-philes who just go emotional over every movie of its ilk and genre to “A tepid, tinny modernist recasting of the epic romance...something like a WB Network twentysomething soap opera in medieval dress.”

If you’re not convinced, try this contrast: “Intensely romantic and artistically photographed, 'Tristan & Isolde' is a welcome quality release during the January movie doldrums,” feels the critic of Reeltalk Movie Reviews while another critic asks, “Do we really want less magic in our legends? And if these stories are stripped of their mythic aspects, are they even very interesting anymore?” Now, that is T+I’s problem. The heart of these legends is their mythic proportion of saga-making, which is their soul as well. Accepted, T+I is touted as the precursor to R&J; but then again, what it lacks is the most vital aspect of a tale of love and passion – the selfsame heart! There is too much confusion in the mind of Reynolds as to what must dominate.


It is a dicey affair to take a war story and focus on the romance aspects. A quick shot at the story would probably help you figure out why our review is leading towards defining T+I as “yadda yadda yadda”! Just read the synopsis I conveniently took from somewhere to save effort.

‘After the fall of the Roman Empire, Irish King Donnchadh (David O’Hara) brutally subjugates tribal England. There, young orphaned Tristan (James Franco) is raised by family ally Lord Marke (Rufus Sewell). As a young man, the charismatic Tristan leads guerilla attacks on Irish occupying forces, ultimately defeating King Donnchadh's elite warriors. Believing himself to be mortally wounded, Tristan requests a funeral boat that eventually washes up on the Irish coast. Discovered by Irish Princess Isolde (Sophia Myles), the two fall passionately in love. All too soon Tristan must flee back to the safety of England. Meanwhile, King Donnchadh invites the English lords to contest for Isolde's hand, hoping to cause further discord among the bickering English barons. Unaware of Isolde's identity, Tristan fights in the tournament as Marke's champion. Tristan is victorious but is devastated to learn Isolde's true identity. Lord Marke weds Isolde and prepares to become King of the now united England, ruining Donnchadh's plan. Despite their best efforts to stay apart, Tristan and Isolde eventually resume their affair. When King Donnchadh arrives in England for Marke's coronation, he deviously unmasks the affair causing an English rebellion. Lord Marke forgives Tristan and Isolde as they defend Castle D'Or from Irish troops. Tristan leads a battle against the Irish but is fatally wounded. As Lord Marke leads the reunited English troops to drive out the Irish, Tristan dies peacefully in Isolde's arms.’ And what of Isolde? A caption before the credit titles intimates us that she just vanished into nowhere.

You may see that the story has scope enough for a spectacular movie on par with BRAVEHEART or TROY (forget its faults) or even TITANIC, especially when you find out the producer is Ridley Scott! But what a let down!! The movie tries to use the sweeping landscapes and other elements that make British medieval romance legends and myths as a backdrop to ride on. If the junta that sit in the front row don’t get enough skin and erotic spills since the movie is touted as the ‘romance of romances,’ they’d at least have their fill of Celtic pipes and Scottish trots to the tune of swaying folk rhythms of England while getting cloyed of the brilliant camera pans of those never-enough landscapes and from-the-top of the mountain distant view of the oceans. But Kevin Reynolds gets it wrong. Where he does get it right is his casting. The top four are absolutely brilliant, even if their soul is found missing at times. James Franco delivers a wonderfully unruly lock of hair that would definitely get the teenage girls in the audience skip a few heartbeats even if the grown-ups would notice him struggling to get the British accent right.

Sophia Myles… ah, I watched my DVD three times and I couldn’t get enough of her! And then I watched Scene Selections where Myles is dominant. Could still not get enough of her!! Infinitely superior to even the recently crowned unredoubtable queen of beauty and acting Keira Knightley, Ms. Myles would provoke an in-the-grave dinosaur fossil back to virility. And her acting is in the classic British mould. Early years of interning on stage and television show as she eats the rest of the cast hands down with her acting. A face that could topple several cameras, she’s worth watching the movie for, as Seattle Times review concludes thus: While Tristan & Isolde, a competent but uninspired film version of the legendary medieval romance, will likely fade from theaters and memories quickly, Myles' lovely face and spirited performance should linger!

If only for Myles, my vote for the best actor in T+I would go 9 out of 10 to Rufus Sewell. I would definitely like to see him as one of the Nominees for Best Supporting Actor for 2006. As the warlord Marke, Rufus Sewell is everything I would die to be in a role. Suave, confident, vulnerable during intense moments of personal conflicts and eyes that act to define the word expressiveness, he holds the movie even when the second half starts sagging. Every movie has its moment of high that may come midway or three-quarters. Herein, it comes soon after the mid-point – Marke and Isolde get married and we are left to wonder what’s left of the movie, what of Tristan. From this point Rufus Sewell’s Marke takes over. Minimal in his verbal dialogues, we fear of an accumulating anger seething within, waiting to burst out melodramatically when the cheating lovers are bound to be caught red-handed… thereby spoiling what has been a very respectable presence… but - all Sewell’s Marke says is “Seize him” as he turns his horse away. And in the scene after… that single “why” preceded by his quotation of Franco’s earlier comment about Myles’ (Isolde) commitment to him (Sewell) seals the issue that if Kevin Reynolds the director didn’t get the movie right, he got his main cast to the tee!

To make a long story short, it may not be a bad idea checking Tristan+Isolde for what it’s worth. It’s not as bad as what is bound to happen when it is released in Chennai – a quicker than faster exit from whichever multiplex it would get released in! And the music, as always lingering to lend substance to the tale of passion, adultery, illegal love between the Queen and the King’s second… to quote Duke Orsino in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night: “PLAY ON!” Admirable are the support cast – in this case they being photography, editing, mixing of colours, costume and make-up. If ever a movie there was where I was so aware of make-up, what it can do to enhance a story-telling, TRISTAN & ISOLDE it is! After all, as one review on the web summed it, “The boys get the action (and Sophia Myles); the girls get some solid tragic romance (and James Franco); the movie geeks will enjoy the cinematography and Rufus Sewell's excellent supporting performance.” But Tristan & Isolde would always remain a movie that could have been excellent!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

IT'S TIME FOR SOME HILARIOUS LAUGHS


COMING UP Next...

from MASQUERADE - the performance group

small
Medium
@
LARGE

Three Short Hilarious Bedroom Farces of varying lengths

In the cast: Amit Singh, Karan Ram, Gitanjali Raman, Tara Raman, Krishna, Abhinav & Gayathri

Directed by KK

Venue: TOP STOREY, Alliance Francaise, Chennai
Dates: 9th & 10th December, 2006
Time: 3.30 pm & 7.15 pm

Tickets - Rs. 100/- available at
Alliance Francaise (Reception - 28279803/28271477)
Landmark (Nungambakkam)
Hippocampus (Abiramapuram, next to Sony World - 24661544)
Words & Worth (Besant Nagar)

Upon Advance Direct Purchase:
Rs. 80/- only upon purchase done before 5th December
Email masquerade@vsnl.net with Subject: Tix for SML
or call Masquerade Hotline at 93802 86129 RIGHT NOW!

Brief about the show: SML brings to you a package of three light-hearted plays that take a dig at Dating, Marriage, Divorce, Suicide... the women & men who cause it... and the average Joe's like us who try and help people and go through the third-party agony.

Damn...damn...damn...
WOMEN - you can't live with them... you can't live without them
Damn...damn...damn!!!

* - Performance not advisable for person below 16 years. We've warned you, it's upto you!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Ada-yaaaaru? Where is Aday-aru?

This one I wrote upon Karthik Ganesh's request for his Vivartha city-based tabloid that wants to "Be the Change!" You can access the original publication at www.vivartha.com

I have always maintained that the late Rajiv Gandhi was the greatest thing that happened to this country this side of the MISA-Emergency of the 70s. What was that side of MISA? Of course, our Independence. But for the late Rajiv Gandhi, India would probably have maintained the status quo in this global village of liberal economy and new consumerism. Whether it is good or bad, don’t ask me yet! And what has that got to do with this pretense of an Op-Ed in a tabloid that does not have a very wide reach as yet? Well, read on!

Somebody asked me what I was going to do for Madras Day. As a so-called responsible citizen who has been born and brought up in the city and lived virtually all my life here, and now that I am also a socially responsive theatre-activist who talks activism, I set about the deed. The first step was thinking. What was I thinking? What is it that we could give back to this city, irrespective of people who hate calling it Chennai or people who like to remember it as Madras? Therein lay my egg of Columbus.

A line from a play I once did (in 1995, I think) called Romulus the Great came to my mind hard and clear. It goes thus: “[sic] Rome has become old; it has become an old hag; it has become a den of thieves and murderers…” And Rome is not very far from Madras either. It is time we gave a face-lift and physical makeover to this 269-year-old hag. So what is the solution? First change Madras to Chennai (that happened in 1995, right?). Then… wait for the world to realize that Dilli, Mumbai and Kolkata are bursting at their seams in their own ways and let’s move South! And then? Declare Madras as legacy and heritage, clarion Chennai as IT Park, package our heritage and call it Brand Madras. And have the first settlement day at Fort St. George that day in 1637 as Madras Day!!

Rajiv Gandhi’s liberalization of the economy, Narasimha Rao’s freewheeling of commerce and Manmohan Singh’s globalization of the nation… A congressional aggression. It has led to cities going turbo on becoming metro so much so that heterosexuals have become metrosexuals, men have become unisexed and women have become psychologically androgynised. Gyms are thriving, boutiques are flourishing, coffee pubs and other sort of bars are nourishing (of course, themselves). Only the Adyar River is languishing. There’s no point even talking of River Cooum or Buckingham Canal.

A trivia: Do you know Madraspatnam of yore used to have three rivers called River Cooum, Buckingham Canal and Adyar Estuary that we also had our triveni-sangam? Alas… Pondicherry can package its water, Kovai can package its Siruvani, but we?

There is this little joke among the Brits and the Americans who lived on either side of the Atlantic. They fondly call it the Pond and themselves as people on both sides of the pond. The First world – I am reminded of Arundati Roy, who points to how ‘the rich are always called the First’ – has risen so vertically that the vast ocean that separated these land masses has started resembling a little pond from those heights.

Chennai is no stranger to this phenomenon. We are losing ground; soil and earth hook line and sinker. And the rainwater has nowhere to go because the Pride of Madras, Adyar River has been serenaded into slush… thanks to the land-lubbing greed of the Realty. And the sea has grown sick of coming back inland even on Full Moon these days, what is left of the River has gone bone-dry on days when it is not slushy. Since the birds don’t come anymore to their habitat on the estuary, buffaloes find natural haven! Do ye hear? We have shut the Cooum totally and now are slowly killing Adyar water-space as well!

Shocking but true! Adyar has become a virtual pond. I had the shock of my life the other day when I saw a herd of buffaloes wading through the Adyar slush towards the stagnant heap of plastics, bottles, covers and god knows what or who else is rotting inside for the last few months. Of course, I am used to the sight of rich people coming in their SUVs and parking it for a few seconds to quickly dump their plastic bags full of garbage into the river, but buffaloes soldiering into the slush of what used to be Adyar River!!! That is the pit of Brand Madras-isation!

I cringe at the possibility of having to cross the Adyar Bridge each day at least thrice and empathize with all those who wear duppatta-balaclava to keep their nostrils from the stench that emanates as you pass by towards the Greenways Road signal. And whose fault is it? Chennai today stands at the edge of a total implosion that we really don’t need any tsunami or earthquake on the Richter of 7 or other natural calamities. We are killing ourselves by hoarding ourselves more and more into our vertical slums. There was a time I used to travel on the ECR and be able to see the sea crystal clear, occasionally impeded by those tall conifers that peppered the sands un-humanised (pardon my painful coinage!). And today? Lines from Yeats’ poem flash across my memory: “The center cannot hold, things fall apart…”. Let’s stop this space-mania and contribute our bit towards creation of little green spaces in the city.

It is a very laudable effort that the previous state government started utilizing wasted spaces in the middle of the trafficked city to create little parks. It is very appreciable that the present government did not think otherwise and continues with those efforts. Let us create soil and earth where we can instead of concretizing and mortaring what is left of the city. Instead of squabbling over to drink Pepsi or not because of pesticides (which anyway comes from the groundwater they use to make these beverages), let us look at the cost we are paying to embrace globalization. We are not only embracing the entrepreneurship of the First World in a hurry to get short-term material benefits, but are also killing our body-clock by working to American and British and Australian time shifts. Let’s get back to our own country and city and in the process restore normalcy of life for both the flora and fauna as well as for us.

Revolutions lead to a change of life, with pain. Evolution is gentle, slow but not painful. Let us learn to take things slow. Let us live by the needs of our local than the requirements of the global. Let us do things one by one, for everything starts at 1 (for it is better to add the zero at the end than at the beginning) and 1 is an individual.

Monday, October 09, 2006

North Korea's Nuke Test: "Das Kapital" or The Capitol?

This is the great dilemma for the world now. And now is the moment... we all realise, but... of Epiphany or Apocalypse... is the confusion!

North Korea has timed it to perfection. A classic espionage fiction clincher of a climax it was - their Nuke Test. When the world is too busy concerning itself with the appointment of Ban Ki-Moon, the South Korean for the UN Secy General post, the charge comes.

I am fresh out of an analytical reading of "Brandenburg" by Henry Porter and I am convinced I have perhaps read one of the landmark fictions of all time. It rekindled in me the sights and experiences of the building and atmosphere in Leipzig, Magdeburg, Halle and other erstwhile GDR towns and of my hearsay of their past. I have often heard the old men of the good old commie faith in GDR's socialist system quatsch over their sausages and bier around the hangout kiosks about how the young have become lazy etc etc; I have sometimes wondered when I saw those apparatchik looking women if they were the Büro workers of the past Germany was desperately trying to bury just as they still are trying to dissociate themselves with anything that happened between 1927 and 1945. And the book also showed me a broader spectrum of what it must have been in a socialist state. How many malnourished... how many skeletal lives... how much depression resulting from suppression... well, my manys and muches haven't ceased to exist and they make quite a beeline in the roster! But the point is not that.

Couple with this my media-followings and readings in newspapers and magazines of the new Latin American Left combine, I read a lot more into the fallouts of this Nuke thingie. Let's take a quick check of what has happened and what was observed, shown, commented upon by media and leaders from The Capitol to our own Pranabji and one Mr. Hamid Gul. What does this mean and what does this portend?

First of all, I am all in awe and appreciation of the gumption, the guts and perseverance of North Korea even if I may not be a supporter of a world full of Nuclear Warheads (does not matter who holds them). It just goes out to show if you can have it, so can I. It also points, if you don't use it, I won't. More than that, this has come as a timely shot in arm for Iran's own nuclear ambitions. It has also probably emboldened the stance taken by states (such as Venezuela, Chile, Cuba... ) with legitimate anti-American feelings.
And poor China is only caught in the middle. They can't overnight step out of North Korean relationship, they can't fully tow the UNSC and Big 5's "anti-NKorea, impose sanction outright" line of argument. As for Pakistan, well, Mush in now between Bush and the Fire because somewhere at the substrata level Pak has been supporting NKorean enrichment programs and suddenly they have to wake up to the reality that it wasn't a case of patronising a malnourished commie state to feel "we can also be benefactors", but it is a case of their own Angel and Venture Capitalist US casting an apprehensive eye. Especially when all the western world are clearly and categorically saying "India cannot be compared with North Korea" and "India's case is different". Well, it is turning out to be quite a fun ride.
Hope NK doesn't suddenly retract and apologise and tank up. Else this happenstance would merely appear a serendipitous freak of an errant anamoly. And smaller meeker but righteous nations would have to continue to seek morsels of pitiful dole from the self-righteous US.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

400 Blows

We are back to school. Not in the literal sense, but yes... the amount of rows that've been happening, or perhaps the media has chosen to focus on... it makes one touch upon the efficacy of education.

First, Headlines Today (or was it CNN-IBN?) ran a story on Educated Illiterates or Literate but Uneducated - about how kids at school these days are being dumbed through dumping of information in the name of knowledge so that they get educated, acquire degrees and hit the job market as successful whatevers! But do they really know their math or the three Rs effectively? In the research poll they showed... some of the so called forward states such as Tamil Nadu (ranked 4th) were not so literate inspite of being educated and the traditional boon-dog Bihar was *surprise surprise* one of the top most literate state. What does this show?

And then we had the girls college in Chandigarh in news (is still!). A teacher slapped a girl for using mobile phone in the class. The former defended it is within the spirit and letter of educational institutional law. The girls protested saying they were not anymore in school, but are adults since they are in college. Any logic in that? And the girls won the struggle and used the media to talk about all this even while saying the media blew the issue up and it was essentially an intra-college affair that must have been settled so! What sense??

Of course, we had a Professor in Ujjain being killed by Students! Whither education??? Latest news... the perpetrators have surrendered in police station, meaning which we can deduce they have found someone to bail them out. And 21 more involved people arrested. Does it matter? Did it matter in the case of Stanes or Jessica or umpteen others? This country requires more than 400 Blows.

Then it was the turn of Meerut. Appalling news when we learnt that the University exam papers were routed by the VC of Charan Singh College (or whatever) to be corrected by unqualified, young 5th and 7th grade school students. The students of the college of course protested. But the protest drew shit. And the TV showed three girls (aptly and conveniently) named 3 musketeers jumping the tall iron gates of the VC's house and demolishing and destroying anything in their path ending up with bashing the VC's scooter to smithereens before being taken into custody. It melt my heart with warmth to see one of the girls - Monica - shouting "today his property, tomorrow him!" What love between the educators and the educated!

So where does this all lead to? Shout your piece in the comments!

Oh by the way, did I tell you? There was this other news about an Indian Muslim going to US for MBA via UK, detained at Heathrow!!!

And that still leaves two more education-related incidents to discuss: 1) a minority muslim institution in Kerala - Kozhikode to be precise - refusing the students to celebrate a festival that has been traditionally considered pan-Kerala secular event. Suddenly, in the name of religious sentiments the students of a Muslim college cannot celebrate ONAM in their campus. Stuff and non-sense. 2) BJP warming up to electoral manifestoes for the future - VANDE MATARAM must be sung mandatorily in all schools, colleges and institutions including places of worship, irrespective of religious beliefs! A very honorable motto!! After all, it used to be front runner for our national anthem and perhaps if the Bongs had taken the Prime ministership back then, VM would be sharing podium with JGM for being the National Anthem and India would have been the only country to have two anthems being played. What an aural experience it would have been to hear them at sports championships if we won! Of course, to think what would have happened at the recent SAF Games where we returned with 118 Gold Medals is another conjecture!!!
Question is: If this is a secular country, then irrespective of religious beliefs, one must uphold the principal tenets of the country and sing national song. But the Muslims see it other way. For them it is against religious principles. Again! My question is, if the religious sentiments are so water-tight and more important to the minorities (whatever be their religion), then should they seriously not consider migrating to a climate where the religious tenets are primary and welcomed than manipulating the Minority card expecting the majority to keep bending down and keep getting bumped on the head? The day this country becomes minority Hindu state like how TN has been made completely minority Brahmin state... they will be happy. But there is no guarantee that the non-Hindu minority turned majority would stop ill-treating majority turned minority Hindu. Am neither for nor against, but this be the truth... as is vindicated in the perpetual anti-Brahmin sentiment. Talk of secularism is just another VoteBank jargon. And we are suckers, all us voters!

Fresh from a production of FINAL SOLUTIONS by Mahesh Dattani, it stirs up in me both nationalistic feelings as well as rational based arguments. But since they go also beyond the confines of educational focus, we take these things in a separate post!

Until later!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

FINAL SOLUTIONS by Mahesh Dattani

MASQUERADE
the performance group

presents

FINAL SOLUTIONS
an edited dramatized reading in English

by
Mahesh Dattani

Directed by Krishna Kumar. S

Sunday, 27th August 2006 - 7.15 pm
Top Storey, Alliance Francaise
Performance duration – 1 hr. 15mins.
ADMISSION FREE - ALL ARE WELCOME

Join us as we take this opportunity as a farewell token to Mr. Jean-Pascal Elbaz, the Director of Alliance Francaise de Madras.
---------------------------------------------------------
Directed by Krishna Kumar. S, Masquerade – the performance group brings before you a dramatized reading of one of the watershed plays in contemporary Indian theatre – FINAL SOLUTIONS by Mahesh Dattani – in a gesture of thanks and bidding farewell to Mr. Jean-Pascal Elbaz, Director, Alliance Francaise de Madras, who after his tenure at Chennai, is moving to his next place of office.

The cast for the evening: Mohd. Yusuf, Krishna, Abhinav Suresh, Vandana Rangarajan, Prema Venkat, Tara Raman, Sonali Ranjit, Karan Ram, Abhishek & Nishad.

The performance runs to approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Please visit the show and join us in our farewell gesture. Do spread the word around and bring one and all!
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We thank Mahesh for his kind gesture to stage this performance.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Hindu Festival Minus Metro

Blogging after a long time, but blogging because am internally impelled to write.

It has been a hectic but very edifying and entertaining day.

A chance brush, strange encounter and amusing meeting is more like what would sum up the day's events.

First I ran into an old-time acquaintance - Uncle Sudhakar as we call him! And what I consider to be finally an encounter with a person - an intriguing artist - whom I have met before thrice, but finally got to spend some serious personal moments with: Valsan Kolleri. Both happened at Lalith Kala Akademi as I went to visit Siva-Benitha-Prasan's exhibition TRILOGY. Some very amusing conversation resulted in disturbing me to think seriously! Valsan is truly a remarkable guy who prefers to create and believes he can't talk, but manages to pour out wise-cracks trois-ed with quick one-liners to quote in an interview as well as ideas that truly ring of seriousness. But more of Valsan and TRILOGY separately later, for they merit separate posts!

SO then... eventually to wind up the day: a call from a journalist friend of mine asking me to land up around 6 pm at The Screening Room, The Park - apparently a debrief meeting between the organisers and participant directors that ended up with more others than directors. One truth rang as I left the discussion which moved stolidly on to its ultimate watering session. For once I played an absolute silent spectator, literally sitting on the peripheries, the virtual last seat. What an Olympian view! But back to the truth before we go into the details: the closing lines from AMADEUS kept ringing in my mind through the d-elevation (going down the elevator from the venue!), "Mediocrity everywhere, I bow to you!" (or something to that effect). I bow not in reverence, but conceding defeat, at the mindset of 'most' gathered there to accept and quit that 'We indeed are celebrating the mediocrity of amateur theatre in Chennai and are content not to raise the bar truly'. I guess the only soul rebelling that refused to accept the concessions was Bala. Hang in there, am really proud to know you!

My question is, like Sunill of EVAM asked, what is the purpose? I ask: If this is a festival, what are we celebrating? Are we trying to do this to promote the theatre culture in Chennai? If so, are we trying to support the groups doing theatre in Chennai? Or are we doing this to raise the critical appreciative standards of the Chennai theatre going audience? If the former, then why this cynicism at local groups. If local groups do not get exposure, then how will they add that extra edge to their work? If they don't get to be featured in a festival of their own city, then who's it for? If they don't brush shoulders in the same festival with so-called qualitative groups from other parts of the country (that are supposedly better), then are they just to be reduced to mere ticket buyers who learn others by watching? I am under the presumption that the the more you do it, the better it gets. Correct me if I am under a delusion! Also, going by the feedbacks about this year's festival, it seems 3 out of 9 shows were rank bad - the firang, the mega-Tantric and the Kolkatta ones, 3 out of the rest 6 were from Chennai and acquitted themselves decently and out of the other 3 two were very commendable. About the Q show I don't have feedback, so I can't write! And this considering none of the 3 Chennai shows had a tech.

If on the other hand, the festival attempts to bring the best of english theatre in India, then the logic must be to provide the audience with quality entertainment on one hand and show them the difference between the good, the bad and the ugly so that the next time they watch a local show they know the difference and hence, we believe, the bar of aesthetics would be raised (if not... at least the aesthetics of their respective bars would be enhanced with better brands of booze!). Anyway, overlooking that unnecessary but irresistable aside, what the audience were treated to was a democratic levelling view of both sides. Going by the feedbacks, the green grass outside the bounds of Chennai theatre also had septic tanks underneath, only the packaging and the gloss kind of made the thought bearable. I guess the whole ferris wheel of the festival is aimed at some other agenda I am unable to fathom. I mean, the chief organisers anyway do not have presence in parts of India where the others came from and do not look to seek presence either. So why? Is this some kind of a masochistic attempt to proclaim the mediocrity of amateur theatre mentality???

The quality dished out only shows that we rank as equally in qualitative amateurishness to other parts of India and that at least we boast of more groups and more active stage-boarders than traditionally theatrical bastions such as Kolkatta where from the only active group had to be invited to complete the zonal quota! Either way, theatre in Chennai doesn't seem to have benefited and if at all anything the festival only brings to surface our embedded cynical attitude at our own selves. I don't blame such an attitude or the carriers of such an attitude. Everyone is entitled to opinions and have the liberty to grumble! We artists have not made any attempts to produce quality that just stuns the organisers into quit inviting outsiders!

One inspired suggestion that came to sort out the quandary we have led ourselves into went like this: combine the best or the cream of Chennai's acting talents, bring an outside director to direct them so that Chennai theatre could produce qualitative work! Are we now conceding our inability to be creative? True, someone remarked, groups won't come together. True true! Because, as I had said elsewhere, there are no groups. What groups? Just fancy names... only banners and brandnames. The oldest group doesn't have an artistic group, but only an administrative body, four ageing actors (the best perhaps in business) and no young artists to lead forward. The youngest group is not able to create fresh artists. And yours faithfully is fighting a losing war to create a recognisably individual identity for myself and my handful of believers. Perhaps the only group that has an identity of its own and manages to do its productions without borrowing heavily (well, we still are at the stage where older age group actors are to be borrowed!) and is self-sustaining is EVAM and kudos to them for that. Leave other things aside for the moment. I have not seen their actor training sessions so I cannot talk of it. In any case, they manage by themselves. And that is one of the hallmark of a group steering towards professional existence. (P.S.: It's not that am suddenly turning pro-Evam or anything, let's just recognise commendable things and criticise opposable things! I would still reserve my opinion on productions!!)

The problem with theatre in Chennai is that groups are mere names with no significant identity of their own. Like I said earlier in another post, one is solo performer, two is partnership, three still doesn't make a group (even if it's idiomatic crowd!). Until we evolve to that stage where groups are identifiable, no definitive style of work would evolve. The reason: if we don't have artists trained in a particular style or belief of acting, there is no individuality to the group. If actors are constantly horsed around fording every stream, they cannot develop acting. They are only moving from director to director, assuming roles and rehearsing lines as a routine. Directors in Chennai must decide to seek identifiable group of actors and work strictly inside themselves in order to evolve a strong approach to acting and performance. And then we would have a body of actors who are literate if not educated, in the essentials of performance. For, every strong performance evolves out of a cultural politics and understanding of the role one is doing and the holistic stance of the work being produced. The success behind OTHELLO by Royston Abel is mainly due to its interpretation. And interpretation cannot occur without analysing the cultural, social and sometimes racial politics. The point about racial politics was so well illustrated by Runa's VALLEY SONG. Of course, on the same count, it was also proved what overturning the fundamental idea behind a play such as MACBETH in order to make it entertaining could lead to! Am not saying this, ask the attendant public!

We all saw what a sad case of adaptation a recent production of BLACK COMEDY turned out to be. Peter Shaffer created the work and the characters out of a cultural milieu and social environment, just as much as AMADEUS was a play about racial discrimination and Germanic inability to accept foriegners. You see, every work stems from a cultural and social standpoint. By just changing the names and the location and moving to Mumbai the show (Black Comedy) elicited mere laughs at some caricatures. That is not respecting the audience. Merely giving them voyeuristic pleasure. So first the directors must show some purpose than just taking up works because it is amusing or witty or appealing to their passionate creative skills. Of course we need not, as directors, foist our process upon the audience. We can continue to produce slapsticks and farces and romantic comedies and entertain the audience and have our cash registers ringing, and can still have our work steeped in a deeper understanding of the needs of theatre. I wonder what it would be if The Theatre wakes up one fine day to confront the doers of theatre in Chennai, in a Pirandellian way! It would really either become Narashimha and tear us apart for the sacrilege we are committing in its name, or pull the cyanide capsule and die! This is why a director is a very critical ingredient in the making of a play.

A director trained (in an institution or auto-didactic doesn't matter!) in the craft and is capable of creating sensitised artists can go a very long way to creating a strong group that believes in its identity (a while back a very active Magic Lantern was just that. Pity they have gone less active!). This in turn can lead into a good production worthy of holding our heads about. It is time-consuming, but we need to build it brick by brick patiently. We need to create artists through training. That day Chennai theatre need not vie with morsels of slots in a theatre festival curated, conducted and organised by local patrons of that selfsame art!

Until then... we keep borrowing and bickering and reduce ourselves to the level of letting ourselves into depths of lack of self-belief. Is this a trip to unite the struggling and in-fighting artists of theatre in Chennai? If we have more than 100 odd people who do theatre in some fashion passion or hobby, can't they be trained? A trained actor is not restricted to roles. An actor who is just doing roles or hop-scotching amid directors and groups is not serious about the work, but is only diluting whatever meaningfulness that exists. Of course, there is nothing wrong in trading horses because most theatre is not livelihood theatre but serious hobby. But then, this can only lead to the status we seem to be in... the status of lack of self-belief to produce a quality work that walks into a festival rather than be condescendingly invited! Not for nothing goes the idiom VANDHAARAI VAAZHA VAIKKUM THAMIZHAGAM (the Tamilnadu that lets others live at the expense of its own!). The need of the hour is to be ourselves and create distinct identities before we even produce... be it good or bad. But who cares, let's fish around, because everyone's around for a good romp. But thanks to the organisers of The Hindu Metro Plus Theatre Festival for bringing outside groups to show us where we stand!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Gautam among other things...

OK... it's been a pretty long time... and to think my last post was about something that happened two months back! That's awful. But tooooo challenged for time and patience with Gautam's Three breathing down to snuff me out. I just got my stage coordinator confirmed, ok. And the last few OSTs arrive from GD only tonight. It's been too tough. Anyways... among other things I am fixing a pix card of GAUTAM's THREE. Hope you make it to all three performances. And letting a cat out of the bag... we are launching sometime this month unofficially and next month officially The Bear and Beanbag project. It would later extend to include both the M4Kids that we have been doing and my dream JANOSCH PROJECT once MMB moves to its new venue early 2007. Until then...

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Outrageous and Heights of Insecurity



Now tell me how are you all gonna respond to this! I don't really know whether they are talking about India outsourcing work to other countries? Or they are saying by taking too much work outsourced by other countries we are not focussing on work back here? That sounds illogical. Because anyway they don't work. Someone who is aware of the financial sector please clarify!




The Little Clarification I got from my wife who works in the Insurance sector and specifically deals with the financial and capital market for the Little Shop is this:

1) Internal outsourcing. Example: Citibank outsourcing the maintenance, tracking and collection of Credit Card related issues to local Call Centres

2) Mobile companies outsourcing stuff to Call Centres. Am sure all of us would at some point have received phone from our own respective network where they offer you another airtel/aircel/hutch connection. Stupid. They aren't from the Network Operators, but their little stupid call centres that are tucked in all over chennai. I have visited some of them. It's pathetic how they look. They look like a dunghole of some printing press' cutting section.

3) Companies in the insurance sector outsourcing maintenance etc of bonds debentures etc for backoffice work. Actually there is a mega company in Chennai called CAMS whose main work is handling backoffice work for most of the stock/insurance such like companies. You can imagine the amount of backoffice work required these days and you can imagine how much of outsourcing is required because no company can finish these chores even if they worked dutifully their full 9 hours at 6 days a week and some overtime. Work has got cluttered and unnecessarily complicated in the name of division of labour and creation of employment so much. It is pretty interesting how we are fighting internal outsourcing even while there is such a brouhaha about India as the prime destination of Outsourcing for US and Europe and Australia. India as the key competitor with an English-speaking edge over China etc. Imagine why the foreigners from the respective countries are right about grumbling about some little twerp Indian attending their queries posing as Jill or Bill!

ART QUOTE OF THE DAY

Always make the audience suffer as much as possible - ALFRED HITCHCOCK

I don't need to expand on that!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Getting into the Skin

Getting into the Skin
an introduction to acting essentials

May 22 – 30, 2006
(Weekends excluded)
10.00 am to 1.30 pm

· Age Requirement: 16 years and above
· Casual and stretchable cotton clothing is mandatory
· No denims nor jeans
· Max. 24 participants only
· Last date for submission 15th May, 2006 (MONDAY)
· For Application Forms & further details email masquerade@vsnl.net
with Subject: "Getting Into The Skin" or call 98840 29865

WORKSHOP DESC. & OBJECTIVE:

"A trained actor can make a huge difference to a production even beyond the director's inputs... Because acting is more a craft than an art"

This is the first workshop that Masquerade brings to a participant outside the repertory. Until 2005, Masquerade has been offering Summer Theatre Workshops solely concentrated on the teens and youth between 13 and 19 years, through Landing Stage Youth Theatre Group. With the need to train oneself as a good actor increasing among the existing young crop of theatre aspirants, Masquerade realises the time has come to open the doors beyond the teen and youth segment.

The Workshop attempts to train anyone who is 16 years and above and is interested in discovering how deep their perception towards acting goes. The workshop would seek to open a whole new way of approaching acting rather than just taking up a role and memorising lines and rehearsing. At the workshop, as a participant, one would get opportunities to play with the given material like a child with a spoon and discover new approaches.

One would get to learn the upkeep of an actor's most precious possession - oneself. One would soon realise the power of the body, the gesture, the space and movements beyond words can explain!

The workshop is contingent to a minimum of 15 participants. Otherwise cancelled. The workshop would be conducted by Krishna Kumar. S & Pritam Chakravarthy.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

A Lab for the Future of Theatre for Children and Youth


The following is a translated version of a news item I came across in Rheinische Post, to which I subscribe online. In the light of some comments and discussions we have been having here famously, I thought this news article merits a reproduction (in full as is normal the courtesy to be adhered to when one reproduces something) to show what we are not doing in our own backyard.
* * * * *
Düsseldorf (dto). “We only want to play!“ is the title of the 22nd N(orth) R(hine) W(estphalian) Children’s and Youth Theatre Seminar that is happening this Saturday (Apr 29) in Düsseldorf. The future of youth would be thematised in the form of several seminars, theatre performances, and discussions. The campaign is supported by Artistic Director Sönke Wortmann and the Junior Soccer Team of Fortuna Düsseldorf.
Theatre artists across the entire NRW are currently experimenting with the Language, Presentation, and Aesthetics in the area of contemporary theatre for children and youth. The proposed project revolves around a sensory Culinary Experience of the stage, movement in public space, the “aimless idling in an empty space”, fairy tales, Biblical stories and societal changes. Three public seminars with their focal points on the themes “Economising of Living Conditions,” “Attitudes of Generations” and “Images of Cultural Hostility” are the crux of this Lab about the Future.
The official festive opening takes place in Düsseldorf on Sunday (Apr 30). The key figures of attraction include the main patron of this event Hans-Heinrich Grosse-Brockhoff, Heinz Winterwerber (Mayor of Düsseldorf), Wolfgang Schneider (President of the International Union for Children’s and Youth Theatre), Artistic Director Sönke Wortmann, Theatre author Lutz Hübner, Felicitas Loewe (Chief Dramaturge of the Theater Junge Generation [Theatre of the Young Generation] in Dresden) and Film director Rolf Losansky; the high point would be the appearance of the Youth Soccer Team of Fortuna Düsseldorf.
On the opening night on April 30, the currently running theatre production “The Last Show” would be performed. The musical play deals with Performance Pressure and the cult of Beauty Obsession, and is aimed at 14+ age group. In the following five days, there would be further performances at Datteln, Bonn, Cologne, Essen, Moers, Hagen, Gelsenkirchen, Bad Münstereifel und Oberhausen.
On the last day of the seminar, May 5, all the projects at the Lab for Future would be brought before public as open performances at the Children’s and Youth Theatre space. In every room and corner these artistic experiments would be exhibited. The audience would be able to go through the entire theatre house and meet finally at the main auditorium. The 22nd N(orth) R(hine) W(estphalian) Children’s and Youth Theatre Seminar would eventually conclude with a prize distribution.
* * * * *End of Article* * * * *
What is happening in Chennai in theatre in general is: people are doing too much arbitrary performance work and unnecessarily putting pressure on each other by raising the commercial stakes. One might say that we need to be really extra-sensory with sponsors. This is my take. From “beggars for sponsorship” days we have just progressed to “glorified beggars for sponsorship.” By pushing ourselves unnecessarily into packaging and project proposals and statistics and presentations of power-points in cds and laptops, we are moving theatre into an unrequired area of management culture.

I am not speaking thus because am lazy or cannot meet up with the corporates and produce an hour of their own jargonizing… but because we are artists… people who can do what they cannot… people who bring relaxation and refreshment and rejuvenation to their workaholic lives. We must not seek them, they must seek us. If we commercialize art too much to the level of consumerism, the moneyed people would take (and have already started taking) advantage of our position.
I shall explain: if you looked at it, because people come to watch us perform, the product owners have a direct marketing reach through theatre. One might claim that there is more mileage in an ad in The Hindu because it reaches so many million people. One might claim that there is so much visibility in airing a video ad. True and false. Truth be told, advertisement only proposes to campaign, doesn’t promise to sell. And when has advertisers actually come to our doors asking us to buy. Those are the salesmen. So what guarantee is it that the ads are being noticed? Not every ad. Touch your heart and tell me: do you really go through all the ads in the daily each day… or collect each and every sheet that is tucked into your newspaper? You shake them off and read the news item! Whereas in theatre the visibility is concentrated and high. So, theatre has a better reach and power of sustenance. As a result we must be approached where we quote the price, not us approaching. We push ourselves to unnecessary desperation when we don’t need to. When so much theatre is happening and so many people watching theatre than before, corporates and product owners must consider it a privilege to reach out to their public through us.
How the hell does this relate to this post? I hear you! If we spend half our time on packaging and another quarter on publicizing the show, where is the time to produce meritoriously? Add to it, we are so bifurcated and divided that no three groups have identifiable incumbency of more than 3 people. So where is the question of having separate units inside the company that takes care of admin, tech, management, logistics and artistic areas? The same person has to do everything. That definitely brings down the quality and quantity of time one could put at rehearsals. And we are perennially producing and performing that we are not replenishing ourselves with newer ways of performing. As a result art is no more fresh. Just commoditised package of laughter or drama or musical!
Instead, we must stop spending too much time on chasing sponsors, start doing shows and more shows within given resources. If the quality of the story-telling is good, what need for people to notice the costume one wears or the colour filters one uses to wash the backdrop or the quality of the sets and backdrops? What did our forefathers rely on? Body, voice, gestures, movements, and playing space! But today all is topsy-turvy. Actor has vanished. Performer has been closeted, theatre has been pushed to background, and instead the proletarian need for crass entertainment has taken over the minds of those who do theatre more than those who come to watch. As a result we are giving stupid stuff that would safely meet the footfall requirement of the sponsor. The sponsor has stealthily started deciding what we do. It must stop!

If this be today, where do we have time to train new people, whet youth and teens to do the right kind of art? They are uninformed or less informed or misinformed because the informants don’t have a clue about what information to give. If theatre has to get professional, we need to start focusing on our youth theatre scenario, create a cultural climate by catching them in their teens before adolescence over-enthusiasm takes them over to think performance, going on stage and speaking lines and changing colorful costumes and taking curtain calls are the only things that count about theatre.
Now of course, there is this new found craze to do backstage… it means, less rehearsal time, more dating opportunities and getting drunk at cast parties at someone else’s expense. Of course, there are some cast parties that don’t happen or happen late or tepid or insanely boring, where you're even required to come in dress codes. But that’s not in our purview. The long and the short of the matter is we are losing the happiness of doing theatre and falling prey to bureaucratic work patterns rather than artistic passion.
What must happen in Theatre in Chennai:
People must speak honestly and work with integrity. One can be truthful and honest and yet carry on with life. After all, we come from the great country which bore the great person who said: “Hate a person’s action, not the person” – Mahatma Gandhi. I am sure we are all capable of speaking our minds. Except, we speak it only when we have decided we are ready to lose something. We must speak and act truthfully to retain a thing for its real value. WHAT WE REALLY NEED IS MORE HONESTY WITH OUR ART, MORE INTEGRITY TO OUR WORK AND MORE SELF-RESPECT. And we must develop the strength to say no to any and every work. More than work, we must stop encouraging passers-by with desultory attitude to someone else’s production money by refusing to work with them whether in our own shows or someone else’s.
That is the statement for the season.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Free Willy or What You Will or What Will Really Is!

P.S: This post has been necessitated by a little exchange of comments to the previous post between Srini and myself. What started as a small exchange about favourite Romantics ended in this. I always knew this one was coming some day, because it has been occupying my mind for a long while now, only it needed the right stimulus, I guess!

Ok, off with preludes... this one's about The Bard. About how Indians view him, sycophantically revere him and shamelessly venerate him, putting on the pedestals of academic sanctum sanctorums. He's definitely worth it, I must admit with unabashed submission of my higher cerebral functions to his genius. But do Indians - at least the academia and the macademia, literati and the cognoscenti, glitterati and the media-tors - know The Real Bard? Do the teachers teach The Real Shakespeare? I doubt it.

What is:

Like Wordsworth, Shakespeare is the most abused among poets of any age, clime or culture. They are taught for all the wrong reasons. Poetry, lyrical qualities, rhyme, meter... Stuff and non-sense. I don't say these don't exist in their works. But the way academics and teachers make it look or sound, it is as though this is the reality. Why? All our teachers are High Priests and Priestesses of the Morality Brigade who have been evangelised to sing Hosannas and shoot roses through the barrels of their guns at prepubescent children, lest they become Romeos and Juliets at 15 and elope. They are self-styled Montagues and Capulets warring against anyone who claim Love is Shakespeare.

I don't want to, given the current scenario, teach Shakespeare in an academic setup and classroom atmosphere. You can't talk about something without touching the root of it. People who would have witnessed the recent Tim Supple's A MIDSUMMER NIGHT's DREAM would have proofed the pudding. He is raw, war, love, hate, envy, jealousy, fear, tear, lust... Shakespeare is PRIMAL. The man lived such a life. He was a lover, scholar in the learn-by-tribulations mould, philanderer, gay, go for broke stock-trader, struggling two-bit actor... everything that morality brigade would love to sweep under the carpet. And they have. Remember what they taught you in school? Daffodils... The Solitary Reaper... The Trial of Shylock... Caliban and Prospero... anything else? Oh, occasionally they would talk about The Taming of the Shrew because it is all about male chauvinism and sexism of the paternalistic pig variety that shows the conquest of a shrew by a shrew-d guy! But what is the real Shakespeare? The REAL SHAKESPEARE was what a lot of parents who had come (armed with their many children and their 50s University educated Shakespearean poetry and erudition) to watch Supple's Midsummer and walked half-way through at the sight of physicality is all about.

TWELFTH NIGHT: Siblings - Siamese Twins? - get parted in a shipwreck. The girl lands on alien shores. In order to protect her identity (virginity?) she dresses as the page to the Duke of the Island who is in love with a certain Countess Olivia. Soon the page becomes the Duke's confidante and is sent to woo the Countess. The Countess falls in love with the page boy who is actually a woman. The actually a woman page-boy hermself (term courtesy Sarah Kane, "4.48 Psychosis") is secretly in love with Duke. Meanwhile there is Malvolio - the dirty old Puritan who is all passion and love inside - desires the Countess, his Mistress. Uncle Toby to Count Olivia is secretly pimping his niece to the moneyed ass Sir Andrew Agueface... and also desires the governess Maria of the house. What do we have? A story of love, lech and cross-dressing. But what do the schools and colleges teach? Iambic Pentameter and Poetry.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM: A certain Duke has vanquished the Queen of Amazons and brought her as booty to swive her botty. A father wishes his daughter on his favourite man. The daughter is in love with another MAN. Another girl is in love with the father's favourite man who has already swived her botty too much. And the paternalia decrees she either turns her rich flower of virginity to the father's favourite man or turn in the direction of the convent to perhaps find a Holy Father who shall probably pass Holy Water before he shows the Holy Spirit! And the besotted lovers flee, the beseeching lovers pursue. In the forest, under the moonlight, on a full moon day, infested with fairies and magic flowers with potions amorous they meet. Meanwhile the Fairy God and his Fiery Feisty Queen are at loggerheads over a boy. Oberon is a Bugger, Titania's little boy is being sought by Obi to be swived in HIS BOTTY! Gosh. Obi lulls Tit-ania into swyving with an ass... The greatest interpretation came from Jan Kott the Polish critic, I think. The scene where Titania stands behind Bottom, one-leg astride on the front of Bottom's torso and another behind, her betweens crushing the back of his neck even while she goes orgiastic over his two ears (it's all graphically in the script if you read between the lines), all the dirty faeries encircling... it is straight out of Mozartian excesses in bordellos of Vienna and Italy. Or is it the reverse? Anyway, in the Elizabethan England, Ass's head was considered a phallic symbol of plenty. So what do we have in MSND? And what of Puck? Whose lover is he? And what are we taught? Iambic Pentameter (Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania) or philosophic poetry (The course of true Love ne'er did run smooth). The only scenes any school chooses to perform on annual days or inter-house dramatics are the Puck scenes while the *uck scenes are cautiously expurgated.

ROMEO AND JULIET: Two star-crossed lovers in their 15s and 16s, at the heights of hormonic explosions, forbidden by the respective families to seek each other because of a family feud, try to elope because the itch overcomes all. Qayamat se Qayamat tak? And what are we taught? R&J is a sweet play about love and romance and hence of superior poetry. Well, love and romance leads to children not only to poetry!

THE TEMPEST: A Banished Duke who's also a magician lures his callous brother and his men to the island in which he has taken refuge. The Ruse? He makes his naive daughter fall in love with his brother's son. What are we taught? The Magic of Will's Poetry, the silliness of Caliban, the naughtiness of Ariel.
THE MERCHANT OF VENICE: Ah, the teachers can heave a sigh of relief here. Safest of all Shakes. Because it is about Shylock's greed. Jew Bashing. Adolf would have been proud of the Arya Varga. How we assassinate Shylock's character. What do we have against Jews? Steve, you hearing? You must not shoot Munich, you must come here and do a Chennai. Sue the academics Steve, they are bashing Jews in the name of teaching Literature. Awright, shucks folks, I got a little sentimental there. Getting back... what do they teach MoV for? The Case of the Correct Casket... the Ingeunity of Portia... the True Friendship of the Genteel Males. You tell me! What of Jessica's lust? What of Portia's love? What of the basic servant's Love of Nerissa? What of dear Launcelot Gobbo? They don't talk about all that. The ship that sunk is more important in MoV than the ship that sunk carrying Kate Winslet and Di Caprio, man.!
Academia Nuts Tutty Frooty Fortune Cookie Harlequin Romance Mill & Boon (oh, I was just swearing folks!)
Listen, I don't want to make this post long because 1) it's already long and 2) the damn Will, Willy, Billy fella has written close to forty plays and hundred and bloody odd sonnets all about a certain Dark Lady who many infer actually to be either his Duke friend or De Vere or some such guy. Why am I not quoting the exact figures. Well, I know the precise number of plays and sonnets, but do we need those little details? Hardly the point of this post is it?
You explore the story of the rest of the plays and their intricate complex web of plots including KING LEAR with his excessive love for his three daughters at his old age and of PERICLES and TITUS ANDRONICUS who have other human aspects of their own, and come to a conclusion what Shakespeare is all about. And without explaining the varied richness of the tangles of emotions that are involved in Shakespeare how can one explain his poetry? Because Poetry at the very least is emotion recollected (read transcribed) in tranquility. At its best is the expression of man's innermost stirring of heart and feelings evoked in response to an event of happening.

Poetry is Direct Emotional Response

So... What Must Be:

Use Shakespeare to show kids how not to be stupid like R&J, how not to get desperate like Orsino and Viola, how to be smart like Portia, how to be human like Shylock, how to enjoy life like Falstaff, how not to be obsessively stupidly Tamil TV Serial-ish like Helena, how not to be Puritanically living a shadow life like Malvolio, how not to be psychologically defeated like Macbeth (hmmmph! that is the last straw. The guy is so dumb. He believes Witches and doesn't even realise that Conundrums and Riddles and Oracles are ambivalent. He must have read ANGELS AND DEMONS before getting scared of Birnam Woods to Dunsinane come! And what of Caesarian? Macbeth is dumb and dumber!), how not to go ego-massaged like Richard II with the caterpillars of his commonwealth, how not to suck up to your loyalty for two brothers as in As You Like It... and HOW TO BE STOICAL LIKE FESTE (my fav character in all of the Bard's creations!) You think I can impart all these to students inside a classroom without spelling out the intricacy of the web The Bard weaves?

Teachers, leave them kids alone... and away from William Shakespeare. Go teach Robert Frost.

Postman Nevermore Knocks Twice.... - HEY MY 50TH POST

"Poetry is all that is worth remembering in life," said William Hazlitt.

I don't know how much the current generation of teens and youth out there remembers, poetry or not. After all, this is an age of Memory Chips and 100+ giga inexpensive hard-drives. So save as much as you can. Even dedicated drives for downloaded DivX movies. Ek Dum!

When I was a kid, there used to be this scheme run by the government to encourage savings at a young age, called Sanchayika, whereby your schools used to run a sort of Savings Bank and each child could credit to his/her account even 5 paisa - each day or whenever possible. And we were proud owners of pass books. When I quit school, from 7th std until 10th, I had saved 32 rupees painstakingly over 4 years and to receive it as hard cash!!! Rs. 32/- in 1981. How much is it worth now?

Well now, am not talking of that savings.

Save to Memory. The watch word of the day.

And thus computer does make Hoarders and Packrats of us all!

So, everything is available on the World Wide Web. There is no need to write notes, buy bazaar guides, burn midnight oil at the 11th hour. Visit one of the many essay and guide sites dot com and search and save.

In absolute contrast to the Nazi burning of the books where the watch word was "Search and Destroy", now we are witness to the age of Search and Save. In either case, we spare the world of paper. Thus Nazis and We are both contributive in our own ways to Save Trees, Conserve Ecology and all that jazz!

As an extension, we spend more and more time on the WWW. As a natural extension we start living out our lives in front of the Computer more than in real-time. Leaving aside the fact that we now consume more hydel energy instead of Bagasse, communication, exchange of messages, emails, opinion sharing all happen in this P2P world of give and take. I am going out there one of these days and go on a Friends of IPO (IPO Bachao Andolan) a-la Medha Patkar. May be I'll go on fast and get Saif 'Cyrus' Khan to endorse and probably have his movie banned at our own Q IS DEAD MOVIES!

I read the other day that postmen who used to go door to door to deliver post and parcels, of late have also started carrying stamps, money order forms et al so that now they are mobile post offices of the minidor sort. Yes, now that courier deliverers have taken over going door to door to deliver posts and packets and parcels, IPO-men have to move on. IPO ya BPO - ay, there's the rub! So anyway, these poor souls have no raison d'etre anymore. Even worse, no one writes to the postmen anymore. And the Postman Doesn't Even Knock Once.

Blame it all on the blog!

I must be getting past that age when I can't consider myself eligible anymore to be in the youth age-group. The newspapers who write about theatre in Chennai have done away with the youth tag on me. There are real youths (I mean 18 and 19) getting into theatre. My early theatre days was like the English cricket team of about until 5 years back. The average age of a theatre youth would be mid-20s. Chennai Theatre scenario isn't so anymore, it resembles the youth world of American tennis (15s and 16s), although the English Cricket team seems to be cruising on the mid-20s aver-age mode as ever (else how do you account for Shaun Udal!). So, forget me. Move on to real youth.

The youth seems to have its own ways, as it always have been through the ages. Except, we are entering or have already entered an absolutely new hi-fi age where high infidelity and low fidelity rates in relationships are the norms. But we are not talking that either. We are talking about the habits of keeping unearthly hours.

I normally fuzz out at 11.45 the latest in the night. Times were I used to crawl home at 2.20 and 3.10 am on my Titan Dial with an array of smells in my breath, enough to make the Fragnipanis and Baldinis of the world go dizzy with envy. Not any more. I cop out at 11.45 PERIOD

And the next morning I get up early (which is about 6ish) to check my mails (lest there are heavy downloads on my mail, since I belong to the primitive civilisation of Dial-up users) and surf the net for info I seek for any writing projects of mine. And what do I find? The comments to posts on some of the blogs I visit as well as the posts themselves bear the stamp of Interstate 1.00 am-ish to 3.00 am-ish. I got piqued and asked couple of my young gen acquaintances in theatre.

Well, apparently around 2.00 am is the time of maximum DivX Downloads since the broadband is relatively faster then. So while a six-hour download starts its life, the surfers all commune at the bloggers park and start posting and commenting.

It's Darkness in the Junge, Listen to the Night!

Wow! Who would have thought that a country that two decades back was pronounced as backward and developing and conservative as it went to sleep by 9 pm to wake up and start its day at 4.30 am to the sounds of cows named Radha and Lakshmi swinging their heads as they chaffed at the fresh grass, would today go to sleep at 4 and 5 am!! Who would have thought that a country divided by the plates that unite Vindhyas underground would get together in the night. After all this is the country that got its Freedom at Midnight!!!

And then there is Call Centre! So what's so unique about Call Centre life anymore. I scoff at all these yuppie Call Centre folks when these days they come and strut about their night life. I hear you Chetan, we are in sync. The whole nation is anyway awake and that is a whole new world, brave or not. We have started working and communicating and now even conversing to Western Time Zones.

What happened to the good old real-time meetings among friends and common-interest groups? What happened to all those days of arguments and debates and exchange of ideas and trading of opinions and formation of hypotheses over coffees and pakoras at Debate and Poetry and Literary Clubs? Everything happens on-line.

Coffee is Passe and Latte is In!

Even neighbours seem to communicate either through phones or emails. I mean, the traditional description of a neighbour is a person who lives next door. And even if Indians don't anymore live in wall-sharing street-houses, we all live in neighbouring flats. How can two neighbours who share the same floor of the same block of the same apartment complex not open the door in real-time and walk across to each other's interior to say something?

This incident happened to my brother, am not joking. My brother had gone to his headhunter at Bangalore to attend his overseas interview calls as he was poaching for a job to get back to US after a couple of year's break. Obvious, it was a call center. And he was attending interviews. According to records and some sidewinding done by his B'lore companpy, he was supposed to be attending an interview call from Nebraska or wherever. They do it regular if you didn't know. That's how Indian placement guys operate. You give them a CV they forward another to their headhunting clients... further doctored needless to say. In the first place, most of the job-seekers themselves partially doctor their CVs to reflect the latest in CSHARPs or DOTNETS or whatever, and show the most recent employment as until the other day even if they were not employed until the other decade!

So, coming back... suddenly the guy at the other end, apparently his prospective employer, interviewing him gets a bit fishy and decides to probe. Actually you're sitting in India right? Haaarrummmph! Well... things kind of work out! The thing in my brother's favour was that at least he was not putting up accent or disproving he's Indian who used to be Murugan or whatever turned Mark or whatever! And then he happens to adjourn to a near-by eating joint! Wonder of wonders... he runs into someone with whom he starts chatting to while time away... and that guy narrates the story of how he was sitting in a Bangalore Call Centre and happened to interview a guy who's supposed to be in Nebby or someplace... No joking, this happened a bit recently! So... we've reached a stage in the drainpipe where two guys sit in the same Indian town and behave like both are in another western country and interviewing each other! I SALUTE THE CONTEMPORARY FIBRE OPTIC INDIAN PREDICAMENT! What shall I say?!? That was just an example what we are leading ourselves into.

The cutting edge age of bytes mega and giga

We are witnessing - and some out there are being part as well of - a generation that has become unable to structure their thoughts seriously enough that they have started speaking in monosyllabic "Hey" or bi-syllabic "Howdy" (now that comes from Frontier Westerns originally) or "Hey You" or even better "Sup?" or "Wussup dude" irrespective of the gender of the addressee or addressant or whatever s/he is! And we have become inept in communicating spontaneously not because of our lack of language tool, but because we are losing touch with reality. We need to constantly update ourselves about what's up in the world of current affairs or movies or music or books only because the next time we visit any blog we need to be able to participate and leave comments so as not to make a total turd of ourselves. Who cares? No one even knows whether you visited or not. As the used to say in the Frontier West days... "If you don't leave yore corral, yore hoss don't leave no trail, sabe?" But we have also become info-exhibitionists that we feel impelled to impress others with our knowledge that was probably acquired as a result of nethunting for info on Wiki or Rottentomatoes or NYT or Salon.com or wherever just a couple of minutes back after reading other's comments. And so the bangwagon of insecure generation rolls on!

Was it Robert Frost who said, "Poetry is what gets lost in translation"? If that, and as a natural extension this current gen is Poetry as it is getting lost in translation from real-time to blog-time, then am I witnessing Poetry in Motion? With too much of verbal diarrhea, it is probably a bit too loose motion. And they now even have a new terminology based on blogging that should anytime get into the dictionary.

BLOGGER CANDIDATE. That's how TIME described a certain IRAQ War veteran who returned home and was spurred by a politician friend of his to run for the Democrats in the election. The candidate spoke about all things that never would mean anything in realtime to the voters. And he got outdone by a traditional Senator candidate from the same county because he knew the reality. That's what it is. Blogger Candidate. Too much of attitude and too little REAL info. How much of info that is being exchanged on the blog really is useful? "Well, it gets people to know each other better... these little little exchange of opinions". So what're you going to do? Is this a sort of about to be married candidates prospecting each other? Beat it!

Arre... wah wah... new to Blogging? Welcome to Blog World (or like I leave as my housewarming comment, W2BW).