The sari is perhaps the most gracious dress a woman can wear. But it does not lend itself to fashion variations like a Western woman’s gown does. The Indian male faces the same disadvantage as his dress too is confined to a black bandh-gala shut jacket. The Western male can mark formal occasions with back tie and cummerbund. Or white tie and tails.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Friday, November 20, 2009
Our press and patriots made quite a splash to mark the 25th anniversary of Indira Gandhi’s tragic death. As it happened, it was also, to significant sections among us, the 25th anniversary of the tragic massacre of Sikhs in
In the hurly-burly of the Indira Gandhi emotions, we barely noticed the 20th anniversary of an event that changed the course of history – the dismantling of the Berlin Wall. It was of course much more than the pulling down of a wall that separated communist territory from
Those epochal developments were interpreted narrowly in
Twenty years later
To believe that Mikhael Gorbachev was responsible for the Soviet Empire’s fall would be to fall into a trap. Powerful as the Soviet Union was – no one can deny Stalin’s profound achievements in building the country into a military powerhouse that could withstand both Hitler’s onslaughts and subsequent American strategies of containment – the country had begun haemorrhaging from within long before Gorbachev ascended the hot seat.
Militarisation was at the expense of everything else. Factories had no time to produce essentials and therefore shortages made the lives of people miserable. In time such harsh realities produced tensions and the widespread, if un-expressed, feeling that they were suffering when others (in the West) were living well. AT the same time, the financial resources of the country were drained by what were seen as unavoidable overseas exercises of superpowers in the cold war era – supporting guerilla movements in various developing countries and sustaining economic ties (which meant huge subsidies) with “friendly” regimes like Mongolia, Cuba and East European satellites. Gorbachev’s contribution was merely his refusal to use violence to suppress local self-assertion movements.
When the mighty Soviet colossus fell, two after-shocks rocked the world. The first was the recognition that rigid socialism that denied basic comforts to citizens was unsustainable, that aspects of capitalism that allowed individual freedoms had a natural appeal to human nature. The second was the acceptance of these realities by
Friday, November 13, 2009
What happened to the world a generation ago is happening to
Of course Rahul Gandhi is an asset to the Congress. He has gained experience and does not make vapid statements of the kind that marked his early days. But to see him as the sole depository of wisdom is to belittle the Congress and, worse, to signal a new phase of unrestricted, all-consuming sycophancy.
Film star Raj Babbar won in Firozabad because of (a) his star appeal and (b) people’s disgust at Mulayam Singh fielding his son first and this time the son’s raw, inexperienced wife – as though Firozabad was a private fiefdom and the voters his vassals. To ignore these crucial factors and attribute the Congress win there to the “Rahul factor” is self-deception. Where was the Rahul factor in the nine out of eleven seats that Mayawati won despite Rahul’s systematic campaign against her in recent months?
Mayawati will remain a bubble for a few more years. But even she must have realised by now that she has no hope in hell outside UP despite the disbursement of vast sums of money. In
Like the Reddys are holding Karnataka to ransom. The cabinet, the civil service, the police force and the party high command have all been brought under the thumb of one family which makes no bones about its intentions to milk this once-proud state for its private profit. This is the most lurid evidence yet of the decline and fall of the BJP. With “new generation” leaders like Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley succumbing to the pulls of money power, there is no likelihood of the BJP finding a viable identity of its own in the foreseeable future.
The most disappointing – and the least surprising – of political collapses is the CPM’s. Not a single seat won in
A new left force is what the hapless electorate of
Saturday, November 7, 2009
There is a strong case for
Sunday, November 1, 2009
It was passion that made Homi Bhabha take the engineering tripos in Cambridge and then the mathematics tripos and go on to father India's nuclear programme with great flair and foresight. At another end of the spectrum, it was passion that drove Ebrahim Alkazi to turn the National School of Drama into a wonder of India. It was P.K.Nair's passion that made the National Film Archives in Pune a national treasure.
In theatre the outstanding pioneer with passion was Prithviraj Kapur himself. The man with the imperial voice was so obsessed with the theatre that he floated a traveling drama company, Prithvi Theatre, way back in 1944, meeting the expenses of the 150-member troupe with his earnings from films. Today Prithvi Theatre is the most valuable theatrical venue in venue-rich Mumbai. The Kapurs keep the passion going.
Come to think of it, Prithvi Theatre had many advantages -- filmic glamour, Mumbai connections, a connoisseur crowd to draw from. K.V. Subbanna had nothing when he adamantly chose his small Karnataka village of Heggodu as the site of his theatre-film-publishing institute, Ninasam, in 1949. But he had a magnificent obsession. It turned Heggodu into an internationally renowned centre of the arts.
Energy is sometimes mistaken for passion. But they are different. Sharukh Khan is energy, Michael Jackson is passion. Shashi Tharoor is energy, Jairam Ramesh is passion. Sania Mirza is energy, Leander Paes is passion. In fact, passion may not even be accompanied by energy. Narayana Murthy and Bill Gates are outwardly rather un-energetic, what with their slow movements and slow talking style. But the passion is unmistakable.
Shankar Nag combined passion with energy. The result was something like ten men in the form of one man. He was everywhere at once, doing everything at once. Now he was planning a ropeway to Nandi Hills, now a Metro rail for Bangalore, now affordable pre-fab housing for ordinary folks.
Shankar dreamed ahead of his times. But instinctively he was a theatre man forged in the crucible of Marathi theatre in Bombay. Then elder brother Anant became a hit in Kannada cinema and Shankar abandoned Bombay for Bangalore. Marathi's loss was Kannada's gain.
And what a gain! Shankar's versatility made him unique. He cut new paths as director, scriptwriter, organiser as well as actor. He performed with panache in both masala and quality movies. His zestful portrayal of an autorickshaw driver in Auto Raja is still celebrated with numerous Bangalore autos sporting a Shankar photo sticker on their vehicles. Although he kept out of politics, Shankar Nag was the artistic twin of Safdar Hashmi - multifaceted, untiring, creative to the fingertips, dream-driven. Hashmi was killed by political goons, Shankar in a speeding car. Hashmi was 34, Shankar 35. A ridiculous age to die.
Like Hashmi, Shankar lives as a theatre legend. Arundhati Nag has now announced an official website for her late husband. This should be welcomed, not so much for the website itself as the fillip it can give to carrying on Shankar's unfinished business. The most important of these is an art centre for northern Bangalore to match the Ranga Shankara in the city's south. Ranga Shankara became a reality because of one person's, Arundhati's, magnificent obsession. If she can develop one more obsession, there will rise a Shankar Nag Centre for the Arts combining, perhaps, an ultra modern theatre with a cinematheque, a badly needed jewel in Bangalore's crown.