Monday, June 26, 2006

Ghashiram Kotwal - A Vijay Tendulkar Play

The biggest peril of education is that it teaches you that there is a lot that you don't know. Leaving home at the age of 16 of course had its advantages. I probably know the bathroom proclivities of Jenna Jameson and Chasy Lane like no other in this great world of ours. But I fear that this single minded pursuit of mine has rather blinded myself to the pursuits of the higher arts. The arts in which instead of putting in coins in a slot and waiting for a glass panel to open, you actually get to sit in a chair and clap.

To make amends to that oversight, I picked up "Understanding Drama" as one of my subjects. Of great interest i have found it to be. A pleasant surprise was to find nestled in between Macbeth and Arms and the man was the play Ghashiram Kotwal , by Vijay Tendulkar .

Vijay Tendulakr has written a huge load of literature of which some of his most famous plays are "Sakharam binder" and "Kanyadan". Girish karnard actually commented on his play "Shantata! Court Chalu Ahe!" as "the best play written in the last thousand years". How do you top something like that?

The play Ghashiram Kotwal debated in 1972 and was played at the Bharat Natya Mandir at Pune. It actually ran for 19 performances after which it was banned because it was perceived as Anti-Brahmin and showed Nana Phadnavis (the Prime minister of the Peshwa) in a bad light. Sounds like things haven't changed much since then.

The play revolves around a North Indian Brahmin called Ghasiram who comes to Pune to make his fortune. But is falsely implicated as a thief by the Brahmins and thus decides to make pune a "city fit for dogs". To do that, he rather callously barters his underage daughter Gauri to the lustful Nana Phadnavis, in exchange for becoming the Kotwal of Pune. He then unleashes a reign of terror on the city and its Brahmins. These includes pulling off the nails of people and then chopping off their hands. Pretty gruesome.
Ghasirams downfall begins when gauri goes missing. When he confronts nana about his daughters whereabouts, he comes to know that she passed away when she had gone to the midwife. A distraught Ghasiram then Packs up thirty Brahmins in a cell which results in the death of about twenty of them. When peshwa gets the news of this, the wily politican Nana, dumps the kotwal to the crowd.

Tendulkar has used the "Tamasha" Genre in the play so you have a lot of singing and dancing used here to good effect. For example, we actually have the "abhangas" (devotional songs) mixed in with the "Lavnis" (Love songs). These actually highlight the moral corruption of the Brahmins as they try to hide their lust behind the respectability of religion. The use of the Tamasha also ensures the presence of some colourful language. For example, when they are talking about the barter of Gauri for the kotwal-ship, Nana says,
"You bastard. you have got me stuck in a narrow pass."
to this Ghasiram replies, "Yes the narrow pass of my daughters."

Also the use of the "Sutradhar" or narrator and the human wall of 12 brahmins as a curtain are some very interesting adaptations used for the theater. This actualy means that this play can be performed anywhere from the NCPA in mumbai to the Ram-lila ground in nagpur.

Sadly I have yet to see the play. It is very sad. Hence the use of the word "sadly". I think it is immensely sad that there are so many neat things to do out there and see for ourself that there is no possible way that we could ever do even a minuscule fraction of them. I think there is something poetically sad about that. Why I wonder, do people like Vijay tendulkar not come out of "pop up windows" demanding my credit card information, with the same frequency as Jenna Jameson?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Correct Spelling Of Sensationalisation

I am extremely sorry. I do not look for sensationalisation. I can't even spell it. But people don't believe me. They allege that for a few lousy clicks, I lace my titles with racy material like, " The milk factories of Netherland" or some such stuff. Very untrue. In fact to refrain all immoral and libidinous (I expect that this word has negative connotations) persons from opening this, I am determined to use a misleading title. But the fact remains, that some of the news most worth listening to seems to be the ones that you don't want your children to listen to.

Speaking of News, Yesterday was a watershed in Indian News History. This is Rakhi Sawant . I know that these pictures tell an otherwise story, but people in India actually have been known to form lines to kiss her. Apparently yesterday somebody did. As I was doing my regular flick through ESPN on Ch 9 to Star Sports on Ch 32, I saw breaking news on Aaj Tak : "Mika Kisses Rakhi Sawant!" I naturally stopped what I was doing, tried to focus on what was going, and resigned myself to a long watch of the News channel.

For some strange reason, while you had captions flying across the screen that "Mika had kissed Rakhi Sawant", on the screen you had Rakhi Sawant who was kissing the weird looking guy, who was later identified as Mika. Now who the hell is Mika? This fact was not touched upon. Evidently I was one of the only people in the world who had to Google to find out, that Mika is actually the brother of the pop singer Daler Mahendi. On the screen, a teary eyed Rakhi gave the teary eyed explanation, " Well I only kissed him on his cheeks, but then he forcibly kissed me on my lips. Look what the conditions of my lips has become." The camera dutifully zooms-in on Rakhi Sawants bountiful lips, that frankly don't look much worse then they always looked.

Remember that zombie movie in which this guy is flicking channels and he keeps seeing zombies in the network and then it all turns out to be true? This was that sort of a twilight zone. I was hoping that either someone would wake me up, or at least someone, even the news reporter would kiss someone else.

But then if wondering if things could get any more extreme, Aaj Tak took us Live to Ms Rakhi. She was standing in a Modestly see-through outfit, mouthing drab statements like, "I look hot in anything. I think I look more hot and sexy in a sari then in a Mini skirt. I am hot sexness godess personified." Sadly She was interrupted in this tirade of her good looks by the Interviewer, as he informed her that her tormentor, the greatly lip attacker, person of unshaven countenance, Mika, was on the line. Rakhi boldly puckers her lips and shouts out "Hello? hello?" On the other side, this voice that assures us that the term "Highly disfigured" can apply to a sound, says, "hello? Hello?"

This goes on for some time. Before the Interviewer tells us that we sadly have to take a break while they restore connection. On the bottom the news ticker keeps telling us other minor news items like people dying, and earthquakes shaking and volcanoes exploding and that usual chatter.

I am sadly not going to tell you how it all ended. I am sure that they are going to make a tear jerker , pressing-your-fingers-in-tension-till-they-turn-white type of movie, and I don't want to be a spoilsport. But the fact is that they did talk and reach a sort of an understanding. I think this is revolutionary. Not only was Aaj Tak reporting the news, but it was also making it and shaping it. Imagine the implications. If only kargil had happened today, Mushy and Atal ji would be slogging it out live on the news shouting at each other.

AtalJi would muster up his breath and shout, "Hello? Hello? Musharaf Ji, you will have to say say sorry. Hello? Hello?"

Friday, June 09, 2006

Token blog for the Indian Postal Service

I have always been a great fan of the Indian Postal service. Probably because I never use them for anything important. But it’s not as if a person like me does too many important things anyway. So I doubt some executive in the “Daak Bhawan” is staying up late at night worried why I haven’t mailed any letter in the past few months.
What actually fascinates me is the sheer vastness of this system. And the fact that it actually works. Did you know that the Postal department has come out with postcards called “Meghdooth postcards”? I think postcards were designed for a very special section of the society. You know people deeply in love with one another, who then had nothing really to say to each other. So naturally postcards were ideal for them.

But somewhere along the line, poor people hijacked the system and started sending these postcards to programs like “Surabhi” or any other TV programs in a Get-Rich-Quick Scheme. This raised the price of the humble postcards. Now the postal department has come up with these Meghdooth Postcards. You can basically use only one side of these postcards. The other side actually has advertisements. These are ideal for the “Soul mates series”. You see, if you select the Advert carefully, then you basically have nothing more to say. And whatever emotions that might be required, may be displayed by the slant of the alphabets in the address.
These postcards sell for 25 paisa. Just imagine, you might be sitting on a bench at Beach No 7, Havelock Island, in the Andamans, and yet for a mere 25 paisa, convey something extremely uncomplimentary about somebody’s sister in Doda district of J& K. Spectacular!
Then there was the post that I already did about the holiest post office in the world. Some amazing people working in the postal Dept.
Today I went to the GPO for my infrequent round of collecting whatever stamps might have come out. Miniature sheets are my new found love. Last year they came out with a stunning miniature sheet of the Dandi march on its 75th anniversary.
There is a scheme out there now by which you can open an account in any GPO in India (with a minimum or Rs 200) and these guys will send to your house once a month, all the stamps that come out. You can even decide on which sort of stuff you want like first day covers, miniature sheets, etc.

Today I got a miniature sheet of a flower called the Kurinji. These are flowers that bloom once in twelve years. Apparently this is the lucky year and they actually came out with a miniature sheet for that.
Extremely cool and exciting it was.
Sometime I’m afraid that absolute strangers will approach me on the road and ask me if living life on the edge like this, all the time, doesn’t wear me off.
Dad of course does not share this wild adulation of mine, but rather tempers it with some sage annual advice about the procedural loopholes to our postman. The postman very patiently (and politely I might add) hears him out before reminding dad that he was actually waiting for the Diwali Baksheesh. So then both go on their ways, eagerly, I’m sure, awaiting their next annual date.

Friday, June 02, 2006

We're keeping the bomb

Today I gave my English exam. Going back to studies after a long hiatus has its own drawbacks. You start viewing your past academics through an extremely red rosy eye-shades. You forget that the main reason that you left studying was because you sucked at it. You convince yourself that you left studies to attain higher goals and to do some other stuff. Then as you are busy attaining higher goals and doing other stuff, you find images of people going off to Goa in an convertible Merc ( Dil Chahata Hai) of generally getting drunk on walls and falling in the water ( Rang de basanti), and the thought creeps in your mind that there might just be some chance that college might be a bit of fun.
Which brings us back, albeit reluctantly, to the English exam. English has sadly become tougher. Not the language, but the language for me. Even facts like “if” English should be written with a capital “E” or a small “e” or “weather” English should be written with a capital “E” or a small “e” and if it is “weather” or “whether” (which is also an spell check option).
So now I am stuck in a college education which refuses to teach me handwriting, basic grammar and spellings, but insists on my explaining Milton with the exquisite grace and eloquence of RK Narayan. I am just not sure who to blame for the whole fiasco.
Back to the English Exam. It wasn’t so bad. But it was way too long for the amount they expected me to write. In one question, those rascals asked me to write a speech on the motion of “India needs to keep the bomb.” Then in the next Question, they ask me to write a speech against the motion. Finally they also ask me to judge the speeches and the deliver the judge’s speech.
Now as the judge, I was pretty impressed by my argument for the bomb. I mean I had made some really soul stirring statements, irrefutable arguments and rhetorical questions into the whole affair. We are talking about a position where we still have an hour left with us. And I must say that inspite of the fact that there was not much time, I did put up a rock solid opposition to the Bomb. Used the logic-chain-argument to some pretty smashing effect if I may bashfully admit.
Judging the whole thing was going to be a bit of a bitch. Especially if you have only tem minutes left and your arse is frozen solid from sitting on the wooden chair in the humid heat for the last three and half hours.
It was finally decided to build the bomb and keep it unassembled. What a crappy sheeskabab. Good thing the judgment was only for 4 marks.