Monday, April 14, 2008

Arundhati Roy - An Exceptional Person

Come September Speech

Chat with David Barsamian

Interview with an Australian journalist

Lata Mangeshkar (From an article by Jerry Pinto)

- The only song in which you can hear the 3 Mangeshkar sisters singing together, as far as I know is the anthemic, Duniya Mein hum aaye hain to jeena hi padega/Jeevan hai agar zeher to peena hi padega (Having come into the world, we must find a way to live in it; and if life is poison, then we must find a way to drink of it) in Mother India……Lata sings for Nargis…..and the two other Mangeshkars (Usha and Meena) give their voices to prepubescent little boys

- She began singing in…(1945)…. But it is only in 1949 that Lata sang her breakthrough number in Mahal with Aayega Aanewala ….and followed it up with Jiya beqarar hai and Hawa mein udta jaye and Ab mera kaun sahara….. (Barsaat)

- Ashraf Aziz, teacher of anatomical sciences at Howard University, Washington, writes in his book, Light of the Universe:

When first heard, Lata’s voice had a novel sound; the novelty was more apparent than real. It was Noor Jehan’s “small girl” voice. It was a soprano range voice, devoid of much volume or amplitude. It was a small voice which travelled lightly and with effortless agility. There was just enough weight in the voice to give definite shape to the melody. At first she had a limited ability for coloratura singing – later she developed this quite a bit. However, her coloratura skills never matched those of Noorjehan; indeed, in this she even takes a backseat to Asha Bhosale, her younger sister. Whereas the voices of the earlier singers were imbued with daunting sensuality (indeed passion), Lata’s voice had a ”neutered sound”. Hers was (and is) a desexed voice – she sounded like a prepubertal adolescent. Lata’s laundered voice, appeals to the spirit than to the senses. Furthermore she infantilized the female voice. The threatening magic spell of the femmes fatales was at last broken. Men could now experience women without encountering the dark anarchic force of female sexuality, or assertions of equality. The world was safe. Shukr hai! Bach gaye!

- In 1956 the song Rasik Balma from Chori Chori….won the Filmfare Best Song award. Lata Mangeshkar refused to sing it live at the awards because there was no award for best playback singer. The award was instituted in 1958 and for the next eight years she won it with metronomic regularity. Yes, she deserved it for Aaja re pardesi…….and for Kahin deep jale kahin dil……..and tumhi mere mandir, tumhi meri pooja…… 1969, she refused to accept any more Filmfare awards, saying it was time for her to make way for fresh talent.

- Every Indian knows that Lata Mangeshkar sang Eh mere watan ke logon in front of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and that he wept when he heard her rendition.

- Amitava Kumar says: ‘What is India? India is ten million Tata Leyland trucks on the highway playing on their radios; Lata singing, Tum na jaane kis jahaan mein kho gaye/Hum bhari duniya mein tanhaa ho gaye (You have vanished into some distant world and left me alone amidst the crowds).

Sure, although I suspect this is very much a Hindi-speaking, middle-class Bihari’s point of view. And although I suspect that this is very much a Roman Catholic boy from Goa growing up in Mumbai-speaking, in a pastiche, from that wonderful song from Kinara (1977; directed by Gulzar), Naam gum jaayega….’

You know the rest. Somewhere with the sounds of the rest of the nation, the relentless honking of the cars, the scream of the peacock, the staccato of radio static, the azans and the bhajans and the hymns, the garrulousness of seas and winds, those words dripped into your subconscious. And Lata, the creeper, wound herself around your heart.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Asha Bhosale – A Musical Journey

- From Bollywood Melodies by Ganesh Anantharaman and youtube

Asha stands for questioning imposed identities, for challenging and redefining boundaries. Personally and professionally she made choices that went against the grain time and again

Her music is an expression of all that she is.

There has always been something more, something which is intrinsic to her personality; a zest for living……….which gives her singing a joie de vivre that lasts till date, when she’s in her mid-seventies

She’s worked with four generations of composers, singers and lyricists

She was only fourteen when she eloped and married

Forced to seek work by an errant husband at a time when Lata Mangeshkar (her sister) was getting to be a sensation

How Asha survived the first 8 years of her life (1948-56) is anybody’s guess.

Her luck turned in 1957…..O.P.Nayyar…decided to make her his lead singer in Naya Daur……Sachin Dev Burman had a tiff with Lata……..he settled for Asha

In Nau Do Gyarah, S.D.Burman had composed ‘Dhalki jaaye chundariyaa’ with Lata in mind, but Asha took it over and sang it in style, giving it an identity of her own.

Raagini (1958), ‘Chota sa baalma’, tested her classical prowess…..impressing the skeptics with her ability to emote serious songs

Asha’s best songs in the year 1958 to 1963 were either for Nayyar or for Burman

Exuding a raw sensuousness in ‘Aayiye meherbaan’ (Howrah Bridge) and ‘Piya piya na laage mora jiya’ (Phagun)

Bekasi had se jab guzar jaaye’, Nayyar’s Des ghazal required a very different classical grip and restraint that Asha adroitly managed

Poocho na hamein hum unke liye’ (Mitti Mein Sona, 1960) and ‘Aankhon se utari hain dil mein’ (Phir Wohi Dil Laaya Hoon, 1963) are the best examples of the strides Asha had taken in Nayyar’s custody as a serious singer

Asha had walked out on her husband, and was in need of an emotional anchor that Nayyar willingly provided. As their love blossomed, so did their music

Jaayiye aap kahaan jaayenge’ (Mere Sanam, 1964), ’Yehi Woh jagah hain’ (Yeh Raat Phir Na Aayegi, 1965), ‘Woh hanske mile humse’ (Baharein Phir Bhi Aayengi, 1966), ‘Zara haule haule chalo more saajna’ (Saawan Ki Ghata, 1966) and ‘Woh haseen dard dedo’ (Humsaaya, 1968) were all the outcome of the Nayyar-Asha emotional and musical tuning

By the turn of the decade…….the relationship had turned sour……Nayyar would not let Asha part without giving her a song that would sum up where their relationship had reached ‘Chain se humko kabhi aapne jeene na diya’ (Pran Jaaye Par Vachan Na Jaaye, 1973), for which Asha won the Filmfare award that she refused to collect

S.D.Burman……Asha had put her heart and soul into his songs for all of 6 years

Nazar laagi raja tore bangle par’ (Kaala Paani, 1958)

Kaali ghata chaaye mora jiya tarsaaye’ (Sujata, 1959)

- ‘Gaa mere man gaa’(Lajwanti, 1959)

’Ab ke baras bhejo’ (Bandini, 1963)

composer Ravi…..gave her some real gems

Tora man darpan kehlaye’ (Kaajal, 1965)

’Aage bhi jaane na tu’ (Waqt, 1965)

’Jab chali thandi hawa’ (Do Badan, 1966)

When she sang for R.D.Burman in Teesri Manzil (1966), Asha was already seeking an identity beyond Nayyar

What freshness RD brought to Asha’s voice in the duets with Rafi ‘O mere sona re’ and ‘O haseena zulfo wali jaan-e-jahan’

The real sizzler was ‘Aaja aaja main hoon pyar tera’……uninhibited singing

Mera naam hai Shabnam’ (Kati Patang).......used the oomph in Asha’s voice to full effect

Hare Rama Hare Krishna, where he got Asha to articulate the hedonistic world-view of the hippie culture in ‘Dum maro dum’

If the 1960s belonged to Nayyar, the 1970s were ruled by RD, resting on his two pillars: Asha and Kishore.

Asha’s voice had now acquired a roundedness that made her sound sweeter. Under RD’s baton she sounded luscious, without being overly boisterous in songs such as

‘Aao naa gale lagao naa’ (Mere Jeevan Saathi, 1972),

‘Chura liya hai’ (Yaadon ki Baraat, 1973),

‘Jaan-e-jaan dhoondta phir raha’ (Jawani Diwani, 1973),

‘Neend churaake raaton mein’ (Shareef Badmaash, 1973),

‘Chori chori sola singar karoongi’ (Manoranjan, 1974), and

‘Sapna mera toot gaya’ (Khel Khel Mein, 1975)

The pop-jazz revolution RD unleashed……reached its pinnacle in Hum Kisise Kum nahin (1977) where Asha straddled with equal ease the westernized ABBA-inspired disco ‘Mil gaya humko saathi mil gaya’ and the desi qawwali ‘Hain agar dushman’

RD may have composed Asha’s most population tunes in the 1970s but her best was by no means restricted to him…….

…..pause to hear Shanker’s (of Shanker-Jaikishen fame) classical Yaman duet ‘Re mann sur mein gaa’ in Lal Patthar (1971)

Or listen to ‘Ambar ki ek paak suraahi’ that Asha emoted for Ustad Vilayat Khan in Kadambari (1974). Asha is superbly mellow here, doing full justice to the philosophical mood of the song

……get hold of Jaidev’s Bhairavi melody ‘Zehar detaa hain mujhe koi’ in the little-known Wohi Baat (1977)

hubby R.D.Burman who set out to prove in the late 1970s that Asha was a complete singer in her own right. In sharp contrast to his numbers for her in the first part of the decade, RD tuned wistful melodies for Asha in a slew of films at the turn of the decade….this was a time when Asha edged past Lata, her voice sounding better than ever before in these RD numbers

‘Aisa ho toh kaisa hoga’ (Ratnadeep, 1979)

‘Yeh saayen hain yeh duniya hain’ (Sitara, 1980)

‘Piya Bawari piya bawari’ (Khubsoorat, 1980)

‘Sajti hain yun hi mehfil’ (Kudrat, 1981)

’Roz roz daali daali ya likh jaaye’ (Angoor, 1982)

’Humen raaston ki zaroorat nahin hain’ (Naram Garam, 1982)


’Aur kya ahd-e-wafa hote hain’ (Sunny, 1984)

Pity that despite all these stunners that RD created, the credit for giving Asha ‘respectability’ is ascribed to Khayyam for his ghazals in Umrao Jaan……………lowering her pitch by half a note, he gave Asha’s voice a resonance not heard before or after. Asha grabbed the opportunity to sing for superstar Rekha….and gave her lifetime best to all songs of Umrao Jaan.

‘Dil cheez kya hain’

‘Yeh kya jageh hain doston’

‘Justuju jiski thi’

After Umrao Jaan, there was no unfavourable comparison with Lata. It took long………but Asha had finally established herself as an equal. Acceptance of this reality came in the form of the National Award for best singer to her that year.

RD……composed a totally fresh-sounding score for her in Ijaazat, with the support of trusted friend and colleague Gulzar’s lyrics. With songs as arresting as ’Katra katra milti hain’ and ‘Mera kuch samaan’, RD proved he was only down, certainly not out…….she won her second National Award as singer for the song……Strangely, Ijaazat saw the beginning of an enforced sabbatical for Asha………she sang an odd number for RD now and then, but he had ceased to matter in Bollywood by the early 1990s

Asha bounced back soon enough with the new sensation A.R.Rehman, who offered her songs in Rangeela…….Rehman could have settled for a younger voice, but something told him that Asha, then sixty-two, was still superior to all of them. And did Asha take us back to the era of RD’s ‘Ek main aur ek tu’ in ‘Tanha tanha’……..she also had the yuppie generation of the era swinging to ‘Ho jaa rangeela re’

Asha was suddenly in demand, now that the top composer of the time had cast his vote for her………..she is still youthful, still sexy at the turn of the century in ‘Mujhe rang de rang de’ (Thakshak, 1999) or the title song of Jaanam Samjha Karo (1999)

Friday, April 11, 2008

P.G.Wodehouse – 3


From ‘A Gentleman of Leisure’

Jimmy regarded himself coolly, without moving from the chair in which he was seated. Spike, on the other hand, seemed embarrassed; he stood first on one leg and then on the other, as if he were testing the respective merits of each and would make a definite choice later on. (page 87-88)

Courage may be born of champagne, but rarely prudence. (page 159)

From ‘Ring for Jeeves’

The woman looked up, regarding him with large, dark, soulful eyes as if he had been something recently assembled from ectoplasm (page 1)

It was a confusion of ideas between him and one of the lions he was hunting in Kenya that had caused A.B.Spottsworth to make the obituary column. He thought the lion was dead, and the lion thought it wasn’t (page 3-4)

Since interesting herself in psychical research, she had often wished to see a ghost, but one likes to pick one’s time and place for that sort of thing. One does not want specters muscling in when one is enjoying a refreshing gin and tonic (page 7)

A hollow groan escaped him, and he liked the sound of it and gave another. He was starting on a third, bringing it up from the soles of his feet, when a voice spoke at his side (page 40)

A woman needs a protector, and what better protector can she find than a man who thinks nothing of going into tall grass after a wounded lion? True, wounded lions do not enter largely into the ordinary married life, but it is nice for a wife to know that if one does happen to come along, she can leave it with every confidence to her husband to handle (page 54)

He had a voice that sounded as if he ate spinach with sand in it (page 57-58)

From ‘Much Obliged, Jeeves’

…..Is he a friend of yours?

‘I wouldn’t say exactly a friend. I came to know him slightly owing to being chased with him on to the roof of a sort of summerhouse by an angry swan. This drew us rather close together for the moment, but we never became really chummy’ (page 24)

My Aunt Agatha….is rather tall and thin and looks rather like a vulture in the Gobi desert, while Aunt Dahlia is short and solid, like the scrum half in the game of Rugby football……Aunt Agatha is cold and haughty, though presumably unbending a bit when conducting human sacrifices at the time of the full moon, as she is widely rumoured to do (page 51)

You look like the underside of a dead fish (page 124)

He left behind him a Bertram Wooster whom the dullest eye could have spotted as not being at the peak of his form. The prospect of being linked for life to a girl who would come down to breakfast and put her hands over my eyes and say ‘Guess who’ had given my morale a sickening wallop, reducing me to the level of one of those wee sleekit timorous cowering beasties Jeeves tells me the poet Burns used to write about (page 147)

‘Then I think I know the porringer to which you allude, sir,’ said Jeeves, his face lighting up as much as it ever lights up, he for reasons of his own preferring at all times to preserve the impassivity of a waxwork at Madame Tussaud’s. ‘It was featured in a Sotheby’s catalogue at which I happened to be glancing not long ago. Would it,’ he asked the ancestor (Aunt Dahlia), ‘be a silver-gilt porringer on a circular moulded foot, the lower part chased with acanthus foliage, with beaded scroll handles, the cover surmounted by a foliage on a rosette of swirling acanthus leaves, the stand of tazza form on circular detachable feet with acanthus border joined to a multifoil plate, the palin top with upcurved rim?’

He paused for a reply, but the ancestor did not speak immediately, her aspect that of one who has been run over by a municipal tram. (page 153)

I leaped like a rising trout, to the annoyance of Gus (the cat), who had gone to sleep on my solar plexus. Words failed me, but in due season I managed three.

‘Much obliged, Jeeves’

‘Not at all, sir.’ (page 192)

From ‘If I Were You’

“Don’t worry,” he said. “This was one of these special kisses…Lingering…”

“Ah?” said Lady Lydia, dreamily. “One of those?”

“Besides, I could tell from the look on Tony’s face.”


“Half rapturous and half apprehensive. Like you see on a feller’s face when he’s signing a long lease for premises that he knows he hasn’t inspected very carefully” (page 11)

Lady Lydia was still fluttering round the bride-to-be, as if hoping to raise the scene to a rather more emotional and enthusiastic level than it had touched at present (page 12)

From ‘Big Money’

Lord Biskerton had run into Berry Conway in Cornhill. It was three years since they had last met, and in his lordship’s manner, as he gazed across the table, there was something of the affectionate reproach a conscientious trainer of performing fleas might have shown towards one of his artists who had strayed from the fold (page 1)

He possessed twenty million dollars himself and loved every cent of them (page 13)

‘And about Lady Vera Mace?’

‘Do you know her?’

‘I met her once. She came down to the school one Saturday and stood us a feed. Coffee, doughnuts, raspberry vinegar, two kinds of jam, two kinds of cake, ice-cream, and sausages and mashed potatoes,’ said Berry, in whose memory the episode had never ceased to be green.

It was not so green as Mr.Frisby. His sensitive stomach had turned four powerful handsprings and come to rest, quivering. (page 23)

‘Tell me, how do the chances look of the relative landing this extraordinarily cushy job?’

‘Great, if she can apply early and get in ahead of the field.’

‘I’ll have her panting on the mat in half an hour.’ (page 24)

Mrs Wisdom was plump and comfortable. She gazed at Berry with stolid affection, like a cow inspecting a turnip. To her, he was still the infant he had been when they had first met. Her manner towards him was always that of wise Age assisting helpless Youth through a perplexing world. She omitted no word or act that might smooth the path for him and shield him against life’s myriad dangers (page 38-39)

‘Major Flood-Smith,’ said the Old Retainer, alluding to the retired warrior resident at Castlewood, next door but one, ‘was doing Swedish exercises in his garden early this morning.’


‘And the cat at Peacehaven had a sort of fit.’

Berry speculated absently on the mysteries of cause and effect. (page 39)

Like an enthusiastic but ill-advised sportsman in the jungles of India who has caught a tiger by the tail, he was feeling that he was alright so far, but that his next move would require a certain amount of careful thought. (page 69-70)

‘Peacehaven,’ said Mr.Cornelius, ‘has park-like grounds extending to upwards of an eighth of an acre.’

‘What happens if you get lost?’ asked the Biscuit, interested. ‘I suppose they send St Bernard dogs in after you.’ (page 83)

Nothing marred the quiet peace of Mulberry Grove. No policeman ever came near it. Tradesman’s boys, when they entered it on tricycles, hushed their whistling. And even stray dogs, looking in with the idea of having a bark at the swans, checked themselves with an apologetic cough on seeing where they were and backed out respectfully (page 84)

‘I say,’ he said, directing his companion’s attention to these phenomena, ‘there’s an extraordinarily ugly little devil in an eyeglass next door, glaring and waving his hands at one of the windows.’

‘That’s my uncle.’

‘Oh? I’m sorry.’

‘It isn’t your fault,’ said the girl kindly.

The Biscuit surveyed the human semaphore with interest (page 90)

In their nursery days he would have found vent for his emotion by hitting his sister on the side of the head or pulling her pigtail. Deprived of this means of solace by the spirit of noblesse oblige and the fact that the well-coiffured woman does not wear a pigtail, he kicked a chair. The leg came off, and he felt better. (page 94)

Mr.Robbins took up his top-hat, brushed it, eyed it expectantly for a moment, as if weighing the chances of a rabbit coming out of it, and then putting it back on the desk again – reverently…. (page 145)

J.B.Hoke cut off a generous piece of steak, dipped it in salt, smeared it with mustard, bathed it in Worcester Sauce, placed a portion of potato on it, added cabbage and horse-radish, and raised the complete edifice to his mouth. Only when it was safely inside did he reply, and then only briefly.

‘Yeah?’ he said. (page 200)

Mr.Robbins had two manners – both melancholy but each quite distinct. (page 232)

‘Do you want to see me about something?’ he asked.

‘Got gat,’ said Mr Hoke pleasantly.

‘Cat?’ said Berry

‘Gat,’ said Mr Hoke.

‘What cat?’ asked Berry, still unequal to the intellectual pressure of the conversation.

‘Gat,’ said Mr Hoke with an air of finality.

Berry tentatively approached the subject from another angle

‘Hat?’ he said

‘Gat,’ said Mr Hoke.

He frowned slightly, and his smile lost something of its effervescent bonhomie. This juggling with words was giving him a slight, but distinct headache. (page 240)

It is not easy for a girl who has broken her engagement with a man and who has called at his house to suggest that, her outlook on things having altered, that engagement shall be resumed, to know exactly how to start (page 245)

‘Godfrey,’ said Ann, ‘you got a letter from me, didnt you?’

‘Breaking the engagement? Rather.’

‘I came here,’ said Ann, ‘to tell you I was sorry I wrote it.’

The Biscuit was insufferably hearty.

‘Not at all. A very well-expressed letter. Thought so at the time and think so still. Full of good stuff.’ (page 248)

From ‘A Pelican At Blandings’

Lady Constance started irritably, like the Statue of Liberty stung by a mosquito which had wandered over from the Jersey marshes. (page 47)

Lacking her gentle supervision, he had lost all restraint springing from blonde to blonde with an assiduity which seemed to suggest that he intended to go on marrying them till the supply gave out. (page 53)

Wilbur attracted the attention of a waiter and ordered two more gin and tonics. Even if his heart is broken, the prudent man does not neglect the practical side of life. (page 58)

‘I shall go to him and say “Trout, you have three seconds to produce that reclining nude,” and if he raises the slightest objection, I shall twist his head off at the roots and make him swallow it,’ he said, and Gally agreed that nothing could be fairer than that. Trout, he said, could scarcely fail to applaud such a reasonable attitude. (page 90)

Let Noble Thoughts Come to Us from All Sides

  • Shakespeare’s Cleopatra through the eyes of Enobarbus: ‘Age cannot wither her/nor custom stale/Her infinite variety’
  • Leonard Cohen
    • Nine o’clock, and we’ve had several lives already today
    • And that’s what a human is: a gathering around a perplexity
    • I feel, we’re in a very shabby moment, and neither the literary nor the musical experience really has its finger on the pulse of our crisis. From my point of view, we’re in the midst of a Flood: a Flood of biblical proportions. Its both exterior and interior – at this point its more devastating on the interior level – but its leaking into the real world. And this Flood is of such enormous and biblical proportions that I see everybody holding on in their individual wasy to an orange crate, to a piece of wood, and we’re passing each other in this swollen river that has pretty well taken down all the landmarks, and pretty well overturned everything we’ve got. And people insist, under the circumstances, on describing themselves as ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’. It seems to me to be completely mad
      I don’t really think anybody knows why they’re doing anything. If you stop someone on the subway and say, ‘Where are you going – in the deepest sense of the word?’ you can't really expect an answer. I really don’t know why I’m here. It’s a matter of ‘What else would I be doing?’
  • Nature is a Haunted House. Art – a House that tries to be Haunted: Emily Dickinson
  • Pico Iyer
    • ….he was brashly courting success by pretending to ignore it
    • Utterly in the dark, he searches and searches the small print of the world around him for clues as to how to act

Say It With Numbers: #7-2008

  • Neanderthals and humans split from their common ancestor as long as 400,000 to 350,000 years ago, concludes a new study.
  • India
    • Over 73% of India’s population is rural
    • Has 16% of the worlds population but only 2.5% of the world’s area
    • Poverty is at 27.09% in rural areas and 23.62% in urban areas
    • There are about 12-13 judges per million population in India. In US and UK the number is between 100-150
    • Has a coastline of 7600 kms
  • Countries are considered water scarce if availability falls to 1000 cubic metre per person per annum. In India the figure is at 1250, down from 6000 in 1947
  • [On the Dalai Lama]….’When he speaks of suffering, its as one who has seen his land destroyed, up to 1.2 million of his people killed, and all but 13 of his 6,254 monasteries laid waste.’ – Pico Iyer
  • Khmer Rouge…..responsible for the deaths of 1.7 million Cambodians during their 4 years in power.
  • Bolivia
    • suffers from the worst rural poverty in the world (97% of the people in the countryside, according to the UN).
    • has had 188 changes in government in 157 years
    • 35% of its children can't read or write
  • As of 1979, fewer than 2000 Westerners had been to Tibet in its entire history
  • Easter Island is the loneliest inhabited island in the world, 1300 miles from its nearest neighbour (Pitcairn, population 65)
  • Sabeer Bhatia sold Hotmail to Microsoft for $ 390 million