Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Movie Review: Agneepath (The Path of Fire): 1990

Alok Nath, a supra-idealistic and soppy teacher (in a bread-and-butter role) in the village behaves stupidly (as good men at the start of Hindi movies are bound to do) and ends up getting murdered (in this case, lynched by a mob). The visual of his young kid (who grows up to be Amitabh Bachchan) dragging his father’s corpse on a two-wheeler cart is very apt for this movie. That’s what AB does in so many of his movies including this one, drags the corpses of the script, dialogues, songs, situations all by himself. This film being no exception. That’s the tragedy of a world-class actor who has to make-do with 90% of his films being sheer garbage otherwise.

The story of this movie is of little consequence. This is a hark back to the days of the cruel zamindars coupled with the modern smuggler in what is probably an effort to revive Big B’ sagging career with all the formulas of yore. So you have the son who upon facing an immense tragedy in his life, turns his back on morality to achieve ‘success’ at all costs, the steadfast mother who is the moral lighthouse, the hurt inflicted by society writ large on all the scenes played by AB, tragedies of the epic proportions that Greek gods/humans go through, and the other characters trying to look busy throughout the film.

This movie actually comes highly rated and recommended by the Big B’s son himself, by Abhishek Bachchan. It was a big hit as I recollect but not without its share of controversies. The main one being, that AB had experimented with a change in voice in this movie, not very much appreciated by his fans initially. It is nevertheless a landmark film for AB and that’s enough to put it on your watch-list.

With over-the-top inane songs like ‘I am Krishnan Iyer M.A.’, Kader Khan’s dialogues that tend to veer towards melodrama (just like his acting), about the only thing that saves ‘Agneepath’ from being ‘Agony-path’ is Big B himself. He looms large and conquers.

Some other positives being the inspired casting of the ‘Malgudi Days’ kid as young AB, the ample charm of Mithun Chakraborty (the poor man’s Amitabh) as AB’s right-hand man, the authentic location shoot for the Ganpati song: Morya Re Bappa Morya Re etc.

Credits
Story/Screenplay: Santosh K. Saroj
Dialogue: Kader Khan
Editors: Waman Bhonsle, Gurudutt Shirali
Cinematography: Pravin Bhatt
Lyrics: Anand Bakshi
Music: Laxmikant Pyarelal
Producer: Yash Johar (Karan Johar’s pop)
Directed: Mukul S.Anand

Starring:
Amitabh Bachchan and Madhavi
Mithun Chakraborty and Neelam
Danny Denzongpa
Alok Nath
Rohini Hattangadi
Tinnu Anand
Vikram Gokhale
Archana Puran Singh
Master Manjunath

Playback: S.P.Balasubramaniam, Runa Laila, Mohd.Aziz, Alka Yagnik, Sudesh Bhosale, Kavita Krishnamurthy


Morya Re (Part 1)



Morya Re (Part 2)

Movie Review: Mausam (1975)

Sanjeev Kumar, a medical student happens to be in the picturesque hill town of Darjeeling. Over a sprained ankle, he gets acquainted with the local herbal doctor and his daughter, Sharmila Tagore. The 2 though of diverse backgrounds (he an English-speaking student from the city, she a damsel from the village comfortable only in the local tongue) fall in love and having made promises to each other wave goodbye to each other as SK departs to the city to finish his studies. For reasons best revealed when you watch the film, they never meet again and the love never consummates. Cut, to some 25 years later when the aged and yet unmarried SK arrives from Calcutta in search of his love.

A few reels of investigation later and he comes to be acquainted with his lady love’s daughter (also Sharmila Tagore) who is now plying the oldest profession in the world in Calcutta. How SK reconciles with his past and with the daughter is what the movie is about.

A sensitively written script is what one has come to expect from Gulzar everytime; with attention to details, characters. The overall quality is perhaps slightly hampered by low budgets but more than made up by the script, songs, music and strong actors. The adequate and sweeping photography does not try for anything fancy but amply brings out the beauty of the hills of Darjeeling. Each shot is framed with a poet’s sensitivity.

The film rides-through on the persona of Sanjeev Kumar, one of the finest actors in Hindi cinema. His very presence brings a depth to the shot. When it comes to Sharmila Tagore (real-life mother of Saif Ali Khan and Soha Ali Khan) though, I can see that she is a fine actor in her own right but her voice and dialogue delivery takes some time getting used-to.

Gulzar’s movies are human documents and humane stories down to the bone and marrow. That’s what makes Gulzar so rare and attractive in the modern world. He deals with relationships and human frailty through gentle humour.

The casting in this film down to the smallest characters is apt, something which is so often missing in bigger budget films. Although ‘Mausam’ does tend to use its cinematic license for melodrama a bit more than desired one tends to watch the film with tenderness nevertheless, forgiving the maker for such minor transgressions.

Watch out for the opening credits accompanied by the soulful ‘Dil Dhoondta Hai’, the expansive and poetic cinematography. That helps set the context very well. The songs help carry the story forward and are not unwelcome interruptions. ‘Dil Dhoondta Hai’ appears twice in the movie with different tunes. Both the versions would appear in any aficionados’ list of Top 500 Hindi film songs. ‘Chhadi re chhadi kaisi gale main padi’ is a light hearted song, very hummable. Asha comes into her own with a teasing ‘Mere Ishq Mein’. And finally Lata’s rendition of ‘Ruke Ruke se kadam’ seals the high quality of music and songs in this film.

Watch the movie and at the end you would have subconsciously imbibed some of its gentleness in yourselves.

Credits

Lyrics, dialogue, written and directed: Gulzar

Starring

Sharmila Tagore

Sanjeev Kumar

Dina Pathak

Screenplay: Gulzar, Bhushan Banmali

Story: Kamleshwar

Producer: P.Mallikharjunarao

Cinematography; K.Vaikunth

Editing; Waman Bhonsle, Gurudutt

Background Music: Salil Chowdhury

Music: Madan Mohan

Playback: Lata Mangeskhar, Mohd.Rafi, Asha Bhonsle, Bhupender

Movie Songs: Mausam



Chhari Re Chhari






Mere Ishq Mein




Rukey Rukey Se Kadam

'Awara Hoon' forever

The 'Awara' Phenomenon

One fascinating article I read recently talks about the Hindi film Awara as probably the only film seen by the largest ever percentage of humanity, except in North America and West Europe. The article is reproduced below and the youtube song ‘Awara Hoon’ that became phenomenally popular in so many countries and tied their emotional bonds to India forever, is also embedded

Awaara' most 'successful' film of all times

The 1951 Raj Kapoor starrer "Awaara" has been seen and enjoyed by so many across the globe that it may well be the "most successful film in the history of cinema at large", according to a leading professor of film studies.

Dina Iordanova, professor at the University of St Andrews, and other experts cite several texts and anecdotal evidence to state in a special issue of the journal "South Asian Popular Cinema" that "Awaara" may be a candidate for the title of the "most popular film of all times".

The journal's latest issue is devoted to mapping the career of Indian films in various national contexts outside South Asia. The issue includes several papers exploring the popularity of Indian films in places such as Greece, Bulgaria, Africa and Turkey. The papers cast fresh light on the popularity of Indian films beyond the better-known overseas markets such as the US and Britain.

The special issue is titled "Indian Cinema Abroad: Historiography of Transnational Cinematic Exchanges" and is co-edited by Iordanova and Dimitris Eleftheriotis of Glasgow University. Iordanova and others write extensively on "Awaara" in the issue.

Recalling her Bulgarian origins and childhood, Iordanova told IANS: "I knew Indian films long before I had met any living Indian. We knew next to nothing of India and the Indians; we did not know much of the personality of Raj Kapoor either.

"However, the fascination with a film like 'Awaara' (Brodyaga in Bulgarian) was everlasting; everybody knew the actor's ever-singing dancing persona. Nothing could match up to the experience of watching 'Awaara'; this film was more fascinating than any other I can remember.

"Even though repeat viewing is not typical for the cinema going practices of Bulgarians, many admit that they have seen 'Awaara' numerous times. Why such fascination? The copy that we were watching was fairly old; the film was overlong and markedly over-the-top. Yet it was so absorbing.

"It was a film that, in an unabashed manner, revealed a whole different world where preposterous melodrama came across as completely legitimate (and thus mesmerizing), where improbable misapprehensions triggered infinite suffering and obstinate injustices, where people were not ashamed to be overemotional and were solemnly preoccupied with enchanting adoration.

"It was the candid praise of love and affection in the Indian movies that was truly enchanting for us... 'Awaara' remains a truly enduring global hit, yet one that is understudied and under-researched."

Iordanova and Eleftheriotis wrote in the journal: "Indian cinema was internationally popular for a significant period, starting in the 1930s and peaking around the 1960s. There were massive exports of Indian films and massive international interest in it.

"However, as these exports and acclaim did not target (nor took place in) the West (until recently the only place where such processes are properly studied), we really have no record of the intensity of these cinematic exchanges other than sporadic references and anecdotal evidence."

Iordanova wrote that it was difficult to think of any other film from the 1950s that was seen in so many countries and was as widely acclaimed as "Awaara". Most film history books, she added, analysed other films and mentioned "Awaara" only in passing, "yet I cannot think of any other film from that period that would have enjoyed such popular success transnationally".

Iordanova said: "At this oldest university in Scotland (University of St Andrews), we are making sure Indian cinema is properly represented in our teaching and we regularly screen classical and new Indian films for our students."

A British academic journal devoting a special issue on Indian cinema is the latest in the growing coverage of Indian films in the popular and academic press. British newspapers regularly publish reviews of new Indian films and report the number of Indian movies that figure in the top ten films in terms of box office collections.

This week The Times reported that Indian films had started "to make more money at the box office in Britain than home-grown productions". It said that during 2006, 69 Indians films were released in Britain and several were filmed on locations across Britain.

The newspaper reported: "In the five weeks since its UK release, 'Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna' has grossed more than 2 million pounds - the same as Vera Drake, the British film showered with Bafta awards and Oscar nominations, since it appeared 14 months ago. The three largest multiplex chains - Odeon, Vue Cinemas and Cineworld - routinely screen Hindi films that appear in the UK's top 15 film lists."

The Times quoted Lucy Jones of Nielsen EDI, which measures box office performance in 14 countries, as saying: "It's a recent development. Bollywood is not just a specialist cinema any more."

Resources

http://www.rediff.com/entertai/2000/may/31abr.htm

http://www.adnkronos.com/AKI/English/CultureAndMedia/?id=1.0.1487417428

http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/1123/p18s02-hfes.html

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=940DE3DB123CF930A35755C0A96E948260

http://armenianow.com/?action=viewArticle&AID=1283&CID=1450&IID=1061

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/NEWS/World/Rest_of_World/Orhan_Pamuk_A_young_Turk/articleshow/msid-2172105,curpg-2.cms

http://www.freshnews.in/immortal-awara-leads-bollywoods-global-appeal-6825

http://www.bollywhat.com/blog/index.php?blog=9&title=awaara_hum_russians_and_bollywood&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1

http://www.rediff.com/entertai/2002/apr/05dinesh.htm

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0043306/

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0043306/usercomments

http://www.ebeijing.gov.cn/News/ACulture/t173422.htm

http://www.indiatime.com/2007/04/10/meeting-raj-kapoor-at-the-barbershop/

http://indembassy.uz/english/recentevents/rajkapoor

http://www.tribuneindia.com/2001/20010906/world.htm#4

http://www.dawn.com/weekly/dmag/archive/051204/dmag14.htm

http://www.hindu.com/2005/12/06/stories/2005120606661200.htm

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/StoryPage.aspx?id=afb17736-a56a-43bd-a695-c47507368366&MatchID1=4600&TeamID1=6&TeamID2=7&MatchType1=2&SeriesID1=1156&PrimaryID=4600&Headline=Oh!+Jerusalem

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2006%5C11%5C07%5Cstory_7-11-2006_pg3_2

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Bollywood_check_out_China/articleshow/1637262.cms

http://www.outlookindia.com/diary.asp?fodname=19990802

http://randomvichar.blogspot.com/2007/11/people-i-meet-iowan.html

Monday, November 26, 2007

Movie Song: Bluffmaster: Govinda aala re..

Possibly the best Govinda song of all. Starring the irrepressible Shammi Kapoor (yes, from the famous Kapoor family).

Shammi Kapoor's madcap spontaneity was admired by many and he made the word 'Yahoo' popular (in the movie Junglee) long before any websearch or webmailing system by that name was in existence.



Movie Songs: Khuddaar

The song 'Mach Gaya Shor' followed by 'Angrezi Mein Kehte Hai Ke'

Movie Review: Khud-daar (1982)

This is another Big B movie quite a bit more tolerable than ‘Nastik’, the movie I reviewed in my previous blog. The meaning of Khud-daar, mmmm, is something close to ‘principled’ or ‘one with self-respect’.

The story

2 step-brothers run away from home escaping a cruel step-mom (well, actually it’s the wife of a much elder step brother who is caring for them). They land in the big bad city, are taken care-of by a kind Muslim, one brother becomes a taxi driver to support the other brothers education. The educated one loses his khuddari on the way and succumbs to the lure of money, goes into smuggling and is, well, mildly embarrassed by his ‘simpleton’ and poor brother. After many challenges to khuddari and a courtroom drama, all ends well. Amitabh Bachchan plays the taxi driver brother, Vinod Mehra his educated brother. Parveen Babi and Bindiya Goswami play their respective love interests

And so

A patchily bearded Sanjeev Kumar stars in the first few shots as the elder brother to the 2 kids who run away to the city. His easy amiability and composed acting is a pleasure to watch. SK disappears soon enough (presumably for a repair job on his beard) and sure enough appears in the 2nd half as the clean-shaven suave lawyer, amongst the cities prestigious denizens. The three-piece suited SK is the one we all know and admire from movies like Deewar, Aandhi etc. Tanuja (Kajol’s real-life mom) gets to play SK’s wicked wife!!

As with many other movies of that era, this one too deals with changing societal values, clashing cultures, reconciliations, matured wisdom and especially problems of that era (smuggling, the ill effects of wealth on society, the challenge of uniting the ‘diverse’ India through commonalities etc.)

In their own way, Hindi films do try to break the societal stereotypes. Hindi films (unlike Hollywood films) carry on their shoulders the bigger burden of trying to educate and reform a society, making them comfortable with modern values and at the same time pointing out the dangers of an overly westernized life. Given the Indian art tradition too, you have stories with a lot of metaphors or seemingly fantastic situations. But all this is acceptable in our genre of films since we do not overly lay stress on realistic cinema. Metaphorical cinema is our forte. And our great epics (part of our artistic tradition) basically educate people on values and ethics. That same tradition is carried forward by Hindi cinema

So you have here a SanjeevK who takes care of his step-brothers with so much love, a Muslim saviour who adopts the orphaned kids, the Hindu hero adopted by a Muslim old man and who marries a Christian girl thus giving not-so-subtle messages about the underlying unity of India with its diverse set of characters comprising various different religions. True to Hindi cinema’s tradition of having larger-then-life characters, you have kids spouting lines such as ‘I will willing to lift burdens but not willing to be a burden on others’ etc.etc.

Big B stars as a taxi driver aided by his ‘Herbie’, a taxi with a mind of her own (a Question here: why is a taxi a she and not a he?). He especially excels in the comic scenes. By the time of this movie, Big B’s tentativeness from the days of ‘Zanzeer’ seems to have disappeared. Watch the theatre scene with AB watching his younger brother on stage. How one yearns for that sense of comic timing and dialogue delivery from the Bachchan of today. He is clearly enjoying himself and confident of his abilities in this movie. That X factor which was not so evident in Zanzeer, is now clearly evident and in bucket loads too. And you have AB referring to his taxi as his mother. Only in Indian cinema!!!!!! Imagine a Brad Pitt or a Tom Cruise doing that.

Songs

  • Unche Niche raaste aur manzil teri door: a feel good song especially at the start of a Hindi film is always a prelude to some disaster: preferably incorporating a murder or two; better still, leaving someone orphaned.
  • The ‘Govinda’ festival song: ‘Mach gaya shor sari nagari mein’ must surely rank among the top 10 ‘govinda’ songs of the hindi film industry. Watch the accompanying dancers to Big B. They might not be technically perfect, but they are dancers from the streets, not the potently bland modern day sterilized Shiamak Davar clones (city slickers) that we see on screen. These are very obviously people who have risen from the streets and they bring a certain joie-de-vivre that’s a pleasure to watch. Look at Parveen Babi, a Muslim who plays a Christian in the movie and is dancing to a Hindu god (Krishna) in this movie. That’s India for u. Layers upon layers. PB looks particularly striking in a red sari.
  • Angrezi mein kehte hai ke I love you: a song that was on many lips during that period
  • A very inane song ‘Disco 82’ containing such immortal lyrics as ‘Main ek disco, tu ek disco, duniya hai ek disco’ (I am a disco, You are a disco, the whole world is a disco) sung by no less a personality then Lata Mangeshkar. Having her sing this song is like handing Sachin Tendulkar a plastic bat to play with.

And finally

That’s the best part about Bollywood vis-à-vis Hollywood: heroes who aren’t ashamed to cry, sing and dance, act silly, romp around trees and in gardens, wear silly costumes and act with all sincerity.

This inclusivity of Hindi cineama: the liberal sprinkling of English, the coexistence of multiple family generations in frame-after-frame, the kindly minority characters: the loving Muslim chacha, the benevolent Christian priest, the jocular Parsi. Relegating their role as just a token presence would be a mistake though not entirely untrue.

On a side-note, Parveen Babi is very charming throughout the movie. Hers is a fascinating life (just like a movie). She came from a family with royal connections, came into films, was unlucky in love and ended her life as a lonely schizophrenic (at one time she accused Big B of trying to kill her!!!) with family members contesting over her will.

Btw, don’t look for technical excellence in this film. You probably wouldn’t find it.

Credits

Starring

Sanjeev Kumar & Tanuja

Amitabh Bachchan & Parveen Babi

Vinod Mehra & Bindiya Goswami

Prem Chopra

Mehmood

Ramesh Deo

Kalpana Iyer

A.K.Hangal in a bread and butter role: watch the film and you will know what I mean. AKH by now can sleepwalk through this kind of role. Sholay and Lagaan are just a few examples of this.


Story/Screenplay/Dialogues: Kader Khan

Playback: Lata and Kishor

Thrills: Veeru Devgan (father of Ajay Devgan)

Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri

Music: Rajesh Roshan (uncle of Hrithik Roshan, brother of Hrithik’s father, Rakesh Roshan)

Producer: F.K.Rattonsey and Anwar Ali

Director: Ravi Tandon (father of Raveena Tandon)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Movie Review: Nastik (The Athiest) (1983)

In the long and illustrious career of the Indian superstar, Amitabh Bachchan: alas this movie does nothing to contribute to it.

The movie sucks big time. I am truly struggling to find some positives in this film. Yes, Big B was in his heyday when this film was made, but…….. Yes, Hema Malini looks ethereal but there’s only so much that you can watch of her. And to top it all the film is not even so atrociously bad that you can really enjoy it. It’s just pathetic and at the end of it, you are left shaking your head.

Characters and situations pop out of nowhere. Marriages are fixed, introductions between long-lost relations happen and problems are resolved in the blink of an eye. No one seems to have bothered about continuity. View it for some of the most stupid editing this side of the Atlantic. The music is singularly uninspiring. Amateurish and incompetent scripting, uninspiring acting and contrived situations rule the roost. The audience seems to be an intruder in such a madcap fast-forward vendetta story.

Roughly from 1983 when this movie was made, till about the year 2000, most of the Big B movies have been sheer garbage, with some exceptions. Nastik seems to have started the downslide.

The story:

If after all this ranting of mine, someone is still interested in the story, well here goes.

This was the age of the evil zamindars (rural landlords) as villains in the Hindi film. And so the film starts-off with an introductory song with the kids (soppy ones, at that) of a village priest (the eternally grieving actor, Bharat Bhushan) singing to the lord in the temple. The resident evil zamindar’s son makes plans to steal the valuable jewels of the temple idol and in the process manages to murder the priest, burn the family house down, render the priests wife blind, separates the family, the kid running away from the law to the city and turning into a Nastik (Athiest). All of that before the credits and within the first 30 minutes.

And so the runaway kid turns to thievery (and into Amitabh Bachchan too) in his youth. His partners-in-crime whom he bumps-into on the way are Pran and Hema Malini. Pran with a dismal past of his own (a raped daughter now mentally deranged). Incidently the villain for both turns out to be the zamindar (and rapist) who has now grown-up into Amjad Khan.

Amjad Khan (who was stabbed by the young AB leading to the loss of his eyesight in one eye) has by now evolved from relieving temple idols of their jewels. He is now into harebrained schemes of smuggling diamonds through false eyes and smuggling gold and drugs through idols and statues. Sarika (Kamal Hassan’s real-life ex-wife) stars in a cameo as AK’s sister with a minor crush on AB.

AB in the city who was under the impression that his mother and sister burnt-down with the house, suddenly bumps across (and keeps bumping-across) them in the city. The finale? Well: they all troop back to his village to take revenge on the zamindar and AB is turns into a reborn theist on the way.

And so

When you do maneuver your way through those old tired clichés, soppy mums, the gangsters lairs with the ubiquitous red light at the entrance and lots of multicoloured flashing lights inside, all you are left with is a buzzing head and a severe indigestion of Hindi films.

The chemistry between AB and HM is something to watch though, if you insist on some takeaways from the film.

Credits:

Starring

Amitabh Bachchan

Hema Malini

Pran

Deven Verma

Amjad Khan

Sarika

Story/Screenplay: Sachin Bhowmick

Dialogue: Ahsan Rizvi

Playback: Kishore Kumar, Asha Bhosale, Mahendra Kapoor, Amit Kumar, Manhar, Anup Jalota, Alka Yagnik, Sadhna Sargam

Lyrics: Anand Bakshi

Music: Kalyanji Anandji

Producer: Vinod Doshi

Director: Pramod Chakravorty

Monday, November 12, 2007

Swami Rama Says

  • In the words of the sages, he used to say, “You have a body, but you are not the body. You are in the body, yet you are beyond the body. Birth and death are like two commas in the poem of life. For a yogi there is nothing like death. Just as an ordinary person takes off an old tattered garment and puts on a new one, so does a yogi cast off his worn-out body and assume a new one.”

  • You are a child of the Divine and you have infinite potential to become and to be anything you wish

  • “Chinnamasta is one of then ten mahavidyas [the exalted paths of tantra sadhana]. Only the most advanced yogis dare to undertake the practice that reveals this supreme knowledge, and only those who have conquered the fear of death are fit to follow this path. Death is not an obstacle to this practice; rather, it becomes a doorway to the inner chamber of the Divine Mother Chinnamasta, wherein she stands on the pedestal of Shiva.

    During this practice there are three different ways to pass through the corridor of death and still continue the practice. First, you can cast off your body voluntarily before death approaches and enter another body, bypassing the process of birth. In the yogic tradition this method is known as para-kaya pravesha.

    Another way is to die a normal death; the accomplished master accompanies you spiritually during this transition, and pushing the forces of nature aside, he takes charge of your destiny and decides when, where, and how you are going to be reborn. During the pregnancy he prevents you from being affected by the nine-month slumber. He preserves the knowledge you gained before you died and gradually deposits it as the brain matures in the new body, and throughout all this the master continues the practice on your behalf. When the time comes, he initiates you and you pick up the practice.

    The third way is to go through the experience of death and yet remain physically alive. For who is ignorant, social death is even more painful than physical death. When your reputation is ruined, when you are socially humiliated and abandoned by those you love, when people suddenly change their perception of you and identify you as something you are not – that is death: the disappearance of the old persona and the appearance of the new.

  • Sages do not belong to any culture, religion, caste or creed. They belong to God. They move like the wind and cannot be captured by anyone. Their religion is the religion of love. They converse among themselves in the language known as sandhya bhasha, the twilight language

  • Only one who remains unaffected by honor and insult can keep the divine flame alive.

  • As part of a systematic practice, first learn to sit with your head, neck and trunk straight. It is the healthiest and most comfortable way of sitting. The pressure at the base of the spine creates heat, and as heat increases, the pranic forces expand and rise upward. Because the spine is straight and the nervous system is relaxed, the pranic energy flows freely upward along the spinal column toward the head. In this pose, you are free from sloth and inertia. Without a proper posture you will face numberless obstacles in your practice.

    ……..As far as technique is concerned, first relax your body and mind. Calm your breath. Detach yourself from the external world and watch your breath.

    Have faith in yourself, in your practice, in the master who taught you, and in grace, which accompanies you all the time. The combined force of your burning desire, the actual practice, and God’s grace will guide u. And whenever you are about to make a mistake, that same force will guide you.

  • “Tapas means to practice brahmacharya,” said Aghori Baba. “There is so much fuss about brahmacharya. Generally people think it means celibacy. That is only partially true. Brahmacharya means to delight in supreme consciousness. Driven by the primitive urges of hunger, sleep, sex and self-preservation, consciousness slides to its lowest rung, and is there. It manifests in the form of sense cravings, which human beings drain a great deal of energy to fulfill, and there comes a time when both body and mind become weak and eventually empty. A weak body and mind cannot withstand the storms of disease, old age and death. Brahmacharya means to conquer the cravings of the senses and mind, to preserve energy, to become strong in body and mind. Only then, by using the body and mind as a tool, is it possible to rediscover the highest level of consciousness, which is the finest aspect of yourself.”

  • Knowledge without direct experience is like being married to someone who lives in a picture. For direct experience, you need to do the practices. First learn to sit properly, breathe properly and meditate properly. Those who practice what is written in the scriptures enjoy silence; those who simply worship the scriptures become defensive and prone to argument.

  • The first step is to overcome your identification with your body. ‘This body is me’ or ‘I am this body’ is what causes consciousness to remain bound. Free your consciousness from the identification with your body. Then you will neither find yourself the doer of your action nor be affected by the fruits of your action.

    The realization that the body and mind are motivated by the intrinsic attributes of nature to perform actions will loosen your karmic bonds. Body, breath, mind and soul are held together by the strings of karma, and strongest among all strands of this rope is attachment to the body. That is why despite excruciating pain, people are still not able to leave the body easily. Attachment clouds the inner vision and thus the person fails to know that even though he has a body, he is separate from the body.

    Knowing the difference between the body and the soul is called discrimination. Experiencing oneself as independent from the existence of the body is called ‘self-realization’.

  • The Divine is all-pervading, residing in its full brilliance in every heart. You connect yourself with the Divine with relative ease by doing your sadhana at shrines and holy sites, but if you get attached to these places, your consciousness will contract. These shrines are doorways, not destinations. Move on to the next holy site and see where that doorway leads you.

  • To start with A, B, C and at the time of death lose everything you have learned, and in the next life to start again with A, B, C! What a waste of time! The yogis retain their memory by casting off their bodies without dying. When they enter a new body they can pick up where they left off.

  • ……without living in silence for a considerable time, maintaining a deeper state of meditation is not possible

  • A human being is not body alone, not mind alone. Between body and mind there is something called breath………If you want to be healthy and happy and if you wish to experience everlasting peace and tranquility, better pay attention to your breathing.

  • ……..on yoga nidra (yogic sleep)………….when you are awake your mind resides at the center between the eyebrows; during the dreaming state it is at the throat center, and during deep sleep it is at the heart center……the important thing in yoga nidra is to pass quickly through the intermediate state of dreaming, which requires training your mind to spend as little time as possible at the throat center while it travels from the eyebrow center to the heart center.

    …..yoga nidra is a practice that allows you to fall asleep at will, remain aware of yourself and return to the waking state at will

  • The word guru means ‘one who dispels the darkness of ignorance’; gurudeva means ‘divine being, the bright being that dispels the darkness of ignorance

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Javed Jaffery lampooning Feroz Khan in Salaam Namaste

Movie Songs: Qurbani






Incidently the bearded guy (Colonel Kapoor), I think is the one who 'discovered' ShahRukh Khan and introduced him in the TV serial 'Fauji' (Soldier)


Movie Review: Qurbani

Qurbani is a hit Bollywood gangster movie from 1980. Well you wouldn’t find anything original in the storyline but then as in all Hindi movies, it all depends on how the story is told, right? And its here that you will find the saving graces of the film.

To cut the long story short: There’s a guy, Feroz Khan who is into thievery and romancing a bar-dancer (Zeenat Aman). Then he is sent to jail by a funny cop, Amjad Khan. Vinod Khanna, another stylish and sexy guy steps in to fall in love (mostly one-way as Zeenat would have us believe) with Zeenie baby. Top this concoction with 2 rival sets of villains, Amrish Puri on one side and Shakti Kapoor + Aruna Irani on the other. The end-play being: Shakti and Aruna blackmailing Feroz+Vinod to rob Amrish of his wealth which was usurped from Aruna. The end? Well Vinod dies in the effort (alongwith many of the villains)….thats what Qurbani (Sacrifice) is all about and Feroz and Zeenat fade into the sunset.

So why would anyone watch the movie?

Well, for one, the sheer class of the actors involved. Most of them are in top form. Feroz and Vinod are at their stylish best, in their heyday too. Zeenat is doing what suits her best: displaying her figure and shapely body accompanied by a little bit of average acting. Amjad Khan shows his funny side and his bantering with Feroz is something that is not too often seen in Hindi films i.e. pithy humour (the kind portrayed by Big B in Sholay). Amrish Puri, Shakti K and Aruna I perform more than adequately in negative roles. At times though, the way Vinod and Feroz carry on, it almost seems a homo-erotic situation. Too close for comfort.

Music is great. All songs are eminently hummable. I guess most of the songs of this movie would feature in any top 500 list of Hindi songs

  • Aap jaisa koi meri zindagi mein aaye (that someone like you steps into my life): sung by the Pakistani singer Nazia Hassan who instantly catapulted to fame in India and elsewhere, with this song. But alas, we haven’t seen much of her after that. Wonder why……….
  • Hum tumhe chahte hai aise (I desire you thus)
  • Laila Main Laila (Me, Juliet) - female voice not sung particularly well
  • Kya dekhte ho, surat tumhari (what do I stare at? Your face of course) - sung with verve by Asha Bhosale
  • Qurbani, Allah ko pyari hai qurbani (Allah loves a Sacrifice)

Combined with slick action sequences (well, at least as compared to the other movies of those days), foreign locations, tight script and you have a winner. Perhaps the biggest talking point of this movie was how Feroz Khan purchased a brand new Mercedes and bashed it up (on purpose, of course) during one particular action sequence in the film

Yes, I could have done without the topless Vinod Khanna displaying his underarm hair, I wonder why that was not passé in those days?

Incidently, Javed Jaffrey I think caricatured Feroz Khan in the movie Salaam Namaste, and hilariously at that.

So all-in-all: A regular run-of the mill gangster movie, Bollywood style, ridiculously sublime at times. It rises above the ordinary due to the sheer star power, script and great music/songs.

Credits:

Dedicated to Sanjay Gandhi – odd

Starring

Feroz Khan
Vinod Khanna
Amjad Khan
Zeenat Aman
Amrish Puri
Aruna Irani
Shakti Kapoor
Kader khan
Jagdeep
Baby Natasha Chopra -sweet

Lyrics: Indivar and Farooq Qaisar
Dialogue: Kader khan
Written by K.K.Shukla
Music: Kalyanji Anandji
Playback: Mohammed Rafi, Nazia Hassan, Asha Bhosle, Kishor Kumar, Manhar etc.
Edited, Produced, Directed: Feroz Khan

The youtube link to the song Aap Jaisa Koi is below

Monday, November 5, 2007

On KoBras (the Konkanastha Chitpavan Brahmin Community) of West India

The origins of the Konkanastha (Chitpavan) Brahmin community of Maharashtra, India has long held my fascination.


I recently had the opportunity to read a book ‘Greek origins of Konkanastha (Chitpavan) Brahmin community from Maharashtra’ by Shri Pratap V.Joshi (IPS). The book (or rather, a booklet) is nothing impressive both in terms of the logical faculties or the logical flow of ideas in the book or systematic research etc. But nevertheless it did communicate one more theory about the origin of these ‘foreign’ people on the West Coast of India. A theory which does not seem extremely absurd prima facie.


Well known for their 'European-like' features of light skin and grayish to green eyes, these people seems to be recent migrants to the Konkan region : perhaps around 1000 ACE or so. They are firs t mentioned in a literary book around the 15 th century of so.


Theories about their origin abound: That they came from Egypt, Palestine or were Persians or Phoenicians or of Greek origin.Or that they migrated from the North of India to the Konkan, fleeing the Yadavas. That they are of Jewish or Parsi origin.


To come back to the theory this book propounds

  • There was a Greek colony in Egypt since the days of Alexander the Great when Egypt was part of his empire
  • These Ptolemaic Greeks started a new Cult of Seraphis similar to the worhip of Shiva and Nandi in India
  • Around the year 639 ACE, the Arabs invaded Egypt and began to overrun it. All around the Greek colony had to face hostile Egyptian Coptic Christian population or the Arab Islamic forces. Their homeland too had either converted to Christianity or were belonging to a competitor cult and hence was not an option to migrate-to.
  • Because of the strong maritime tradition among this Greek colony and their trade links with Western India, they chose to migrate to India.
  • The author tries to prove the etymological link thus: Egyptan ……..>Jiptaan ……..> Chiptaan ……..> Chitpaan ……..> Chitpavan
In this connection, I must mention another book: an impressive looking ‘Chitpavinism – A Tribute to Konkanastha Brahmin Culture’ by Jay Dixit M.D. Having done a lot of research including genetic analyses, he has come to the following conclusion

  • Chitpavans appear to be recent settlers in the Konkan area as compared to surrounding Maharashtra population
  • Their ancestors may have a common origin with people such as Ashkenazi Jews and some other ancient idol worshipping Jewish or pagan tribes in the Baltic or Europe.
  • They most likely migrated from their ancestral land around the Black Sea and modern day Turkey to Konkan……and marched from the North Punjab area to the south over the last few centuries
The following article by Linda Cox forms a good background reading to this topic
http://www.kokanastha.com/research/weekly01.htm.

The following adds another dimension to the mystery: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roopkund

  • In the extreme north of Himalayas at a very high altitude, you have the Roopkund lake (at 5029 metres (Mt.Everest or Sagarmatha is 8000+ metres)) which is scattered with bones and skeletons of 300-600 people. There are no proper approach roads to this lake and it’s a 3-4 days trek to reach it
  • These skeletons are divided in 2 groups: a short group (probably local porters) and a taller group of people who were closely related
  • Radiocarbon dating puts the date of the event in the 9th Century ACE
  • National Geographic aired a 1-hour documentary on this lake. Their investigations reveal that
    • These folks were killed by a very lethal hailstorm
    • The size of skeletons indicates people from the plains, probably Hindu pilgrims and
    • That the group was very closely related: with females and children too
  • Now here’s the catch: The group’s DNA analyses indicates that they are Konkanastha Chitpavan Brahmins. If that’s not eerie, what is?
  • What were a group of Chitpavan Brahmins doing in the 9th century ACE up in Himalayas? Even the first literary mention of ‘KoBras’ is in the 15th century or so and that too localized in West India in a very small area. Hmm….food for thought!!!!
  • Also refer to
PS: Madhuri Dixit and Sonali Bendre are this community's recent contributions to Bollywood


Update on 26-Mar-2010

Citpavans.


Citpavans are also known as Citpols, Ciplunas and Konkanasthas. The names Citpavan, Citpol and Ciplunas appear to come from the town Cipluna, their original and chief settlement, the old name of which is said to have been Citpolan. They began to call themselves Konkanasthas in about 1715 A. D. when Pesva Balaji Visvanath, their casteman rose to importance in Maratha kingdom. They worship Parasuram, the legendary slayer of the Ksatriyas and the coloniser of the Konkan. Of their early history or settlement in Ratnagiri no record remains. The local legend makes them strangers descended from fourteen shipwrecked corpses who were restored to life by Parasuram. The Citpavans have a tradition that they came from Amba Jogai about 100 miles north of Sholapur. They say they were originally Deshasths and that fourteen Brahmins of different gotras (family stocks) accompanied Parasuram to Konkan and settled at Cipluna. This does not seem probable as they differ greatly from Deshasths in complexion and features. Fair and pale with, in most cases greenish gray (ghare) eyes, they are a well-made vigorous class, the men handsome with a look of strength and intelligence; the women small, graceful and refined, but many of them delicate and weak-eyed. In their homes they use a peculiar dialect, which is now fast dying out. Out of doors they speak pure Marathi with more marked pronunciation of anusuar, the nasal sound. Many of the west coast villages, owned and held by Citpavans, are for cleanliness and arrangement a pleasing contrast to the ordinary Indian village. Their houses, built of stone, stand in cocoanut gardens or in separate enclosures, shaded with mango and jack trees, and the village roads, too narrow for carts, are paved with blocks of laterite and well shaded. Ponds, wells and temples add to the general appearance of comfort. The Citpavans are very clean and tidy. Though not superior to Deshasthas and Karhadas in rank, they are held in much respect by most Ratnagiri Hindus, who believe that the mantras (sacred texts) repeated by a Citpavan have a special worth. They are either Apastambas or Rgvedis and belong to the Smart sect. They are followers of Sankaracarya. They have fourteen gotras. Unlike most castes of the Deccan, a Citpavan is not allowed to marry his maternal uncle's daughter. They have over all India a good name for their knowledge of Hindu lore, and in Bombay and Poona, some of the most distinguished native scholars in Sanskrit, mathematics, medicine and law, are Ratnagiri Citpavans. A very frugal, pushing, active, intelligent, well-taught, astute, self-confident, and overbearing class, they follow almost all callings and generally with success.  



Update on 11-Jul-2010

From INDIAN UNREST By VALENTINE CHIROL

1910

The Chitpavan Brahmans are undoubtedly the most powerful and the most able of all the Brahmans of the Deccan. A curious legend ascribes their origin to the miraculous intervention of Parashurama, the sixth Avatar of the god Vishnu, who finding no Brahmans to release him by the accustomed ritual from the defilement of his earthly labours, dragged on to shore the bodies of fourteen barbarians that he had found washed up from the ocean, burnt them on a funeral pyre and then breathed life and Brahmanhood into their ashes. On these new made Brahmans he conferred the name Chitpavan, which means "purified by fire," and all the land of the Konkan from which, by a bolt from his arrow, he caused the sea for ever to recede. Every Chitpavan to-day claims descent from one or other of the fourteen divinely Brahmanized barbarians, whom some believe to have been hardy Norsemen driven in their long ships on to the sandy shores of what is now the Bombay Presidency. At any rate, as has been well said of them, Western daring and Eastern craft look out alike from the alert features and clear parchment skin and through the strange stone-grey eyes of the Chitpavan. It was not, however, till about two centuries ago that the Chitpavan Brahmans began to play a conspicuous part in Indian history, when one of this sept, Balaji Vishvanath Rao, worked his way up at the Court of the Mahratta King Shahu to the position of Peshwa, or Prime Minister, which he succeeded even in bequeathing to his son, the great Bajirao Balaji, who led the Mahratta armies right up to the walls of Delhi. Bajirao's son not only succeeded as Balaji II., but on the death of King Shahu disposed of his Royal master's family by a bold Palace conspiracy and openly assumed sovereign powers. The crushing defeat of Panipat brought him to his grave, and though the dynasty was still continued, and regained some of its lustre under Madhao Rao I., the Peshwas subsequently became little more than rois fainéants in the hands of their Ministers, and especially in those of the great Regent Nana Phadnavis. He, too, was a Chitpavan Brahman, and it was under his reign that his fellow caste-men acquired so complete a monopoly of all the chief offices of State that the Mahratta Empire became essentially a Chitpavan Empire. The British arms ultimately defeated the dreams of universal dominion which, in the then condition of India, the Chitpavans might well have hoped to establish on the ruins of the great Moghul Empire. But British rule did not destroy their power. They were quick to adapt themselves to new conditions and above all to avail themselves of the advantages of Western education. Their great administrative abilities compelled recognition, and Chitpavans swarm to-day in every Government office of the Deccan as they did in the days of Nana Phadnavis. They sit on the Bench, they dominate the Bar, they teach in the schools, they control the vernacular Press, they have furnished almost all the most conspicuous names in the modern literature and drama of Western India as well as in politics. Of the higher appointments held by natives in the Presidency of Bombay, the last census tells us that the Hindus held 266 against 86 held by Parsees and 23 held by Mahomedans, and that out of those held by the Hindus, more than 72 per cent. were held by Brahmans, though the Brahmans form less than one-fourteenth of the total Hindu population of the province. All Brahmans are not, of course, Chitpavans, but the Chitpavans supply an overwhelming majority of those Government officials, and their ascendency over every other Brahman sept in Maharashtra is undisputed. From the Deccan, moreover, their influence has spread practically all over India and, especially, in the native States, which have recruited amongst the Chitpavans some of their ablest public servants. Amongst Chitpavans are to be found many of the most enlightened and progressive Indians of our times and many have served the British Raj with unquestioned loyalty and integrity. But amongst many others—perhaps indeed amongst the great majority—there has undoubtedly been preserved for the last hundred years from the time of the downfall of the Peshwa dominion to the present day, an unbroken tradition of hatred towards British rule, an undying hope that it might some day be subverted and their own ascendency restored. Not to go back to the exploits of Nana Sahib, himself a Chitpavan, and his followers during the Mutiny, or to the Ramoshi rebellion round Poona in 1879, it was in Poona that the native Press, mainly conducted by Brahmans, first assumed that tone of virulent hostility towards British rule and British rulers which led to the Press Act of 1879, and some of the worst extracts quoted at that time by the Government of India in support of that measure were taken from Poona newspapers. It was in Poona that some years later the assassination of two English officials by a young Chitpavan Brahman was the first outcome of a fresh campaign, leading directly to political murder. It was by another Chitpavan Brahman that Mr. Jackson was murdered last December at Nasik; his accomplices were with one exception Chitpavan Brahmans, and to the same sept of Brahmans belong nearly all the defendants in the great conspiracy trial now proceeding at Bombay.




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