Sunday, July 31, 2005

'There is porn in Harry Potter'...

proclaims the TOI in this ridiculous piece of garbage. Seriously, it now has no competition at all in the lowbrow journalism stakes. None whatsoever.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

French films and Brazilian Food

Equal good times. Well, they do if the film is good (which yesterday's was) and the food is good (which today's was). Watched 'The Beat That My Heart Skipped', apparently a remake by director Jacques Audiard of a 1970s Hollywood film called Fingers(unusual, that), which has a truly amazing performance - one of the most physical I have seen in ages - all twitches and nervous tics and tense shoulder muscles and sudden jerky movements - by this very sexy (if hirsute) guy called Romain Duris. He's really very, very good; one of those performances where you can't imagine the actor as anyone else but what he plays in the movie, which is the son of a Paris property shark whose job is basically to strong-arm obstructive tenants into leaving by such methods as releasing rats into their homes or just beating them up. (One of the funniest moments in the film is when a music impresario asks Tom what he does, and he says pretty much what I've said above, only prefaced by the innocuous sounding 'I'm in real eastate'. Hilarious.) The central tension in the film arises from Tom's interest in music (his dead mother was a concert pianist - why she married a property-shark is not clear, but then this eeems, in typically Gallic fashin, to be a rather cultivated property-shark: his apartment is one of those book-strewn, dimly mood-lit places with overstuffed couches and open bottles of wine so beloved of every French film director worth his Bordeaux) and his attempts to get back into a life of serious music-making. There's also an amazing performance, this time relying almost entirely on physicality and the expressions on the actress' face, by Linh Dam Phan, who plays a pianist from China who speaks no French (but occasionally breaks out into Chinese, which is, very cleverly, not subtitled). Well worth watching, if for no other reason than the two performances above. If I were a certain well-known film reviewer who drooled at length over Aishwarya Rai's execrable performance in Bride and prejudice, one of the worst films of all time, I'd give it two (big) thumbs up, but as I am not, I shall merely say that I enjoyed in thoroughly. I have not bitched about La Rai enough lately, so had to throw that in, randomly.

The meal today was this Brazilian stew involving pork, sausages, black beans, collard greens, rice, plantains, and stuff. Really good. We ate at this great little place called Muqueca, which is a recent discovery. Must go back.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Supposedly a sign on the London Underground

..At Notting Hill Gate, to be precise, according to good ol' Buchu. Very, very funny. Wonder how she knows exactly where it was (the other places I saw this posted were not nearly as precise. Even if it's photoshopped, which was what I initially assumed, it's quite clever.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Don't Run ... You Might Look Like a Terrorist

It now turns out that the man who was shot to death at pointblank range on a London underground train a couple of days ago, on suspicion of being a suicide bomber was a Brazilian electrician who was late for work, and was certainly not wired or carrying anything, was followed for several miles on a bus and street by several un-uniformed, armed plainsclothes policemen, who never (as far as I can figure out from the news reports) identified themselves as police. He panicked (it seems that his visa had expired and he was worried that he might be in some sort of trouble over that), ran into a tube station, was followed onto a tube train (note that all this time, the plainsclothes policemen are only several feet behind him and could reasonably have stopped and apprehended him), tripped and fell (an eyewitness, a certain Mr Whitby who was sitting on the train he was on, described him as looking like a cornered fox) and was shot at pointblank range, not once, not twice, but seven times to the head and once to the shoulder. He died. As the same Mr Whitby put it " He was shot five times, man. he's dead"

A tragedy, says the Metropolitan Police, with the subtext, stated and unstated, being that mistakes happen. If you were to read the comments on the BBC website as evidence of the general drift of public opinion, it seems that a majority of people in Britain think that because he was stupid enough to run when he saw the police, or because he was wearing an 'unseasonably heavy coat', he pretty much asked for it.

This is the most absurd piece of reasoning I have ever heard. For one thing, the man did not know the men following him were policemen. The were ununiformed. To him, they looked like there were some random, probably large and menacing-looking, men chasing him. Perhaps he had reason to believe someone was after him for reasons totally unrelated to terrorism. Maybe he was a petty criminal. Maybe he hadn't paid his rent, and thought the landlord had sent his goons after him. Okay, that's a bit farfetched, but what is so strange about a man running when three or four men are chasing him? It's not clear that they had necessarily drawn their guns, which makes it even more likely he'd run. Is that not the normal reaction when you feel you're being followed? To get away from them into somewhere safer? Like a subway station?

Secondly, some people seem to think that by wearing 'an unseasonably heavy jacket' the man was bound to arouse suspicion. It turns out, however, that for starters he was not wearing a heavy jacket. A report I read, in the Washington Times, reported speaking to the owner of a cafe where he was a regular, who said that he knew the jacket the guy would have been wearing - it was a denim jacket he wore every day. Secondly, even if he had been wearing a heavy jacket, that is not a crime, and certainly not something for which one can be shot. Some people feel colder at a given temperature than others. It may strike the people who write in to the BBC as odd, but not everyone possesses enough jackets to cater to every variation in temperature. Maybe the guy had only one jacket, and while it was heavy, he wore it because he didn't have a lighter one and felt that no jacket was worse than slightly heavy jacket. Bad mistake, as it turned out.

Thirdly, the initial reports suggested he 'looked Pakistani', as if that were some sort of justification for shooting him. In the present circumstances, it might be an added reason for suspicion, but is every suspect to be shot dead without any attempts to establish his guilt? Now that we know who he was, we can see that he was not even remotely South-Asian looking. Brazilians are a pretty racially mixed population, so it's not unfeasible that some of them could pass for South Asian (I've often thought someone who turned out to be Latino was South Asian, and vice versa)but this guy was a particularly white specimen of Brazilianhood. Also, initial reports said he 'had wires protruding out of his jacket'. It turns out this was not the case. What I'm trying to point out is that people often see what they're expecting to see ("Pakistani-looking", "wired") and in a panicked state, what we remember seeing might have little or no resemblance to reality. So relying on people's impressions on issues like these at times like this is a really, really bad idea.

Given that it seems inevitable that people (and the police are only human, so this includes them) are bound to make mistakes, is it not important to train those who have the ability to turn suspicion into an immediate death sentence in such a way as to minimize the possiblity of such mistakes? Yet the Metropolitan Police Chief is defending his officers being told to shoot to kill without any attempt whatsoever to suggest that they are being trained to be cognizant of the possiblity of such mistakes occuring. If you give people the license to kill on suspicion, you're pretty much ensuring more Menezeses are going to die for no fault of theirs.

Why, if such a policy is in place, were people not told about it? If I run the chance of being shot dead for running away from a random bunch of men chasing me, why have I not been warned about this? What's the solution, anwyay - to walk up to people chasing you, assuming they must be undercover policemen? What if they really turn out to be thugs out to get me? A simpler solution would be for the policemen to have been uniformed - then there would have been no reason to run. Why were plainclothes policemen put on this job, and allowed to shoot on suspicion? Why was the public not warned?

And finally, for everyone who who thinks they would not have run in menezes' situation, don't be so goddamn sure. I'd like to see you faced with what he faced, and decide to confront your chasers. Whatever your views on the difficulty of the police's task at this point, it makes absolutely no sense to blame the victim. And clearly, there has been a severe lapse of judgement, not only on the part of the guy who actyually fired the shots, but of everyone involved in formulating the policy that allowed him to do what he did. Expressing 'regret' without owning up to the enormity of the mistake isn't going to help.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Ba(g)chi Karkaria in good form :-)



Economic Times [ SUNDAY, JULY 10, 2005 01:54:32 AM]

"There is some corner of a foreign field/ Which is forever Bengali." Ki
nonsense kotha. It's not a corner, it's the whole blaady expanse. Ours is an eenbhasion, a coup. From which the attackee will never recoupaarate, I might add.

It's true. Suddenly the Bengalis are everywhere. So many, taking over so much, in so many places that I wonder if there are any left in Kolkata. Formerly, you saw Bengalis outside Bengal only when you went on holiday. There they were, the men in Fair Isle sweaters knitted lovingly by their mothers, their wives in blue cardigans, the baachcha in monkey cap. Wherever you went, they were always there, a swagger to their step and boxy
camera around their neck along with the matching "maaflar". Whether you werein Kashmir or Kanyakumari, in Nepal or Neyvelli, in Sri Lanka or Sariska,you always found one Bombay Photo Studio, one Madras Cafe, one Tibetan curio shop, and one Bengali family.

When Hilary and Tenzing climbed Everest, did they find a mysterious mishti syrup stain on the snow, irrefutable evidence that The Bengali Was Here? When Jacques Cousteau plumbed the icy deep, did he find a trace of maastard oil on Antarctic ocean-bed and telltale signs of a neatly-picked rohu
skeleton? When Armstrong floated on the lunar surface, had Neel-da already taken one small step for Bongkind in his trusty Bata sandals? I am prepared to bet on it, whatever may be the conspiracy of silence which has prevented the inveterate Bengali traveller from being given his due (LTA already collected, thank you).

When I began to venture abroad, they would be there not just as tourists, but as NRBs. Keep your motel, Mr Patel, Shri Banerjee has spread himself wider, higher, deeper across the globe.

In the suburban Cardiff of the early 70s, there wasn't anything non-Welsh for miles around. Anything except Mr Palit. He was the husband of one of the secretaries of our Thomson Foundation and, taking pity on us for having to face the bland hostel fare, she invited us for dinner. We expected a tastier version of our usual cod and chips. But what a spread we got: course upon
course of authentic Bangla Ranna, whose aromas wafted out of the chintzy windows and unleashed all manner of uncharacteristic urges in the staid neighbourhood of Penarth.

Three decades on, I can still recall that we had a chochchori of very English vegetables, ghoogni, chingdi malai curry, even chaatni. True, it wasn't today's beeay-bari favourite, the "plastic" variety.

Procuring aamshatto anywhere in Wales in those pre-Curry Colonialism days would have defeated even the enterprising Palit-babu but the tomato version he dished up was properly spiked with raisins and suited us fine. There was a fiery fish which could pass off for rui. And we rounded it off with
homemade shandesh. It was amazing. Was it a waking dream, we wondered as we were driven back, gently burping all the way.

Then, of course, came the rising Diaspora, so dominated by brilliant Bengalis that it came to be called the Daspora. It occasioned no surprise to encounter them all over the States, deep in the mid-West or on the farthest Hawaiian island. Somewhere, somehow, one caught the whiff of begun bhaja in
the air. "Is that a narkel bora I see before me, glistening through the Minnesota mist? It is. It is the Mistress of Spices at her magic. And should something go awry, the other Bengali, the Interpreter of Maladies, will Jhumpa up to set it right.

Yes, Bengalis are certainly no slouches, either, in all the English-language fiction that has stewed in Indian creative juices.
Slouches? They're winning both the marathon and the 100-metre dash in the race to literary glory.

It's the same closer to home. There are so many Bengalis occupying pole positions where I work that, if you don't speak the language, you might as well take the golden handshake. Being an Hon Bong, I scrape into the club by the skin of my teeth.

When I left Kolkata - when it was still Calcutta and Jyotibabu was not yet CM - to join The Times of India as a trainee, Sumitbabu, my journalism professor at Cal U gave an introductory call to his in-laws who lived in Mumbai. At least one Sunday a month, I took the bus to their terrace flat in Parel where, to the gentle flap of drying Dhonekhali saris, I would savour posto, papad and payesh and dispel the homesickness.

In later Mumbai years, the Bengali population spread like waterhyacinth in a Beliaghata pukur, so much so that there were almost as many Pujo pandals as Ganapati ones and any market worth the name boasted a sweet-water fishmonger - Anwar, Bishuda, Chanchalbabu - right down the alphabet. The Sunday crowd thronging his stall was there as much for the community camaraderie as for the golda chingri. So it didn't really matter if it was "Bombay bekti" or if the ilish did not come from the Podda, but from the Narmada in nearer Bharuch.

Moving to Delhi, of course, I was in clover and kashundi to my heart's content. Chitto Park is a microcosm - and not a very micro one at that - of para-Kolkata. Oh bliss it was in that den to be eating shinghara, and to be there in Pujo time was very heaven. Boudis in lal-paars, dhakis, bhog, Bijoli Grill's kobiraji caat-let, Nizam's kathi rolls. And crowds to rival Gariahat on Mahashtami night. Bhaba jaye na. If you can't be in Kolkata, Delhi is the next best thing.

Generally speaking, if you want to survive into the future you'd better cross over. Learn the language, buy a Dhakai, get a Bengali son-in-law. Me? I'm changing my name to Bagchi.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Me, You and Everyone We Know

... Is an annoying new indie film that I saw a couple of days ago. it won an award at Sundance, and the premise sounded interesting, but in the end it was more irritating than anything else.

Actually, it was one of those films that annoyed at the time, but that I've sort of forgotten about in a couple of days. I didn't hate it; merely rued the wasted 90 minutes when I could have been elsewhere, doing more important things....

Like surfing the net.
Or drinking my tenth cup of coffee for the day.
Or considering the important question of whether, if I ever got a job in London, I'd prefer to live in Southwark or in Islington.

Okay, so perhaps I really shouldn't claim that the movie wasted my time. Though that is only if I believe that the kinds of things listed above are equally pointless. And I don't think they are.

So about the film. It's set in some sort of generic dystopic bit of American suburbia, and is (principally) about a lonely woman who is a video-artist (but all she really wants is to connect with someone); a recently-divorced (or separated) father-of-two shoe salesman with a sad face who tries to take care ofb his kids but ... ok, it's not so hard to guess, only wants to connect with someone, the kids, and some random people from the art world who the writer/director/lead actress wants to poke fun at (which is rendered somewhat redundant by the fact that while they're supposedly objects of fun because they are so pretentious and up-their-own-arses, in fact so is the film and allthe other characters in it). Of course, the two lead characters try and fail to conenct (this, of course, we didn't have to watch the movie to know) but maybe, just maybe, they do in the end (happy ending! yay!) but by that time I at least was so past caring thatI was just glad it was over.

Everything about the fim was contrived. Now I'm not someone who is averse to a bit of crafty filmic manipulation, but it needs to be done well. Instead, here was a film where every moment seemed to have been thought through by someone who was constantly saying to herself, 'this would make for a provocative moment on screen'. Unfortunately, it all seemed so premeditated that it fell totally flat.

A film on a scale as intimate as this one must, to 'work', evoke some feelings of either empathy, or recognition, or identification. I always remember the sheer exhilaration I felt when watching Krystof Kieslowski's 'A Short Film About Love', part of his Decalogue series. There's a moment in the film when the central character, a boy who has been spying on a woman who lives in his apartment complex, finally goes to her place on the pretext of delivering some milk, and asks her if she will have ice-cream with him. The next moment, the camera cuts to him, obviously totally elated, running through the grounds of the complex, dragging his milk cart, totally happy. It's totally exhilarating, and it works because although the character is quite ambivalent, you have come to care about him and his pathetic little obsession, and you want the woman to agree to go out with him. It'a quite hard to explain, but that little moment makes the film.

Cut to the Bollywood remake of the same film, the Manisha Koirala-starrer 'Ek Choti Si Love Story'. The equivalent moment is totally ruined, in that version, by being shot in candy-floss colours and punctuated with jaunty, peppy, cheesy background music that makes it seem totally fake. Trying too hard. The comparison of those two moments is a really good example of what differentiates a moment that seems somehow 'true' from one that manifestly does not.

Coming back to the film I was talking about, it suffered from trying to be way too cute. The characters were sort of vacant and unprepossessing (again, I don't believe that characters have to be likeable, but there has to be something about them that makes you care what happens to them). The situations seemed to have been thought up with an eye to either making them controversial, or somehow 'weird', but unfortunately, weirdness by itself is uninteresting, and frankly quite annoying.

Also, I think I have an ideological objection of the Hollywood-ish (and Bollywood-ish, for good measure) notion of the absolute necessity and primacy of romantic love, which this movie, for all it's supposed non-mainstream ethic, buys into fully. Somehow, you are supposed to believe that the emptiness of the life of the characters, which the movie does capture fairly well, can only be remedied by 'falling in love' or 'being in a relationship'. Why? Why not by reading something interesting, making a couple of good friends who you're not dying to have sex with but love hanging out with/talking to? This emphasis on the necessity of perennial coupledom is something that annoys me about contemporary culture in general, so it's unfair to blame this film for it; nonetheless, it does nothing to counter the idea. Wasted opportunity.

So in the end, you ended up with a film with the odd funny moment, but one that was too self-consciously 'indie' to ever let itself be honest. And that was its biggest failing. In its defence, it did manage to convey the detachedness of suburban life to some degree. But this has been done before, and better, and more entertainingly. In ostensibly eschewing the commercial gloss and gimmickry of other movies with similar themes (think American Beauty), this one just ends up being a caricature of independent movies of a certain type: good concept, a surfeit of self-conscious posing, and thus appallingly bad execution.

Monday, July 18, 2005


No, that isn't an anguished existential question. It's the title of a forthcoming film, as listed on the trusty site

Once in a while, when I have nothing better to do (actually, much more when I have something both important and urgent to do), I amuse myself by looking through the list of new/soon-to-be-released/in-production Hindi films to find particularly impressive examples of Bollywood's trashiness/inventiveness, as seen in some of the titles below.

First, of course, there are the ones which have a one-word Hindi title followed by some words ni English. Sometimes, the English bit is an attempted translation of the Hindi word, with the uniquely Bollywood addition of an article, usually 'the', before it. To wit:
Modh-The Turning Point
Gumnaam - The Unknown
Dand - The Punishment
Vardi - The Uniform
Sauda - The Deal
This 'The' ranks up there with my other favourite bit of Hindi film English (okay, there are several: how about the fact that people are always referred to as 'Mr Karan' or 'Miss Pooja' but never by as 'Mr Singh' or 'Miss Ahuja'), which is the sentence 'It's A (.....) Production'. Yup, sure is.

Sometimes, the English bit adds an adjective or two, or somehow further qualifier, to the translation of the Hindi title, for example:

Jadh-The Root Cause
Bekaraar - Restless In Love
Anubhav - The First Experience
Chhal-The Game Of Death

Sometimes, the translation is, umm, less than grammatical (and we're not talknig about the ubiquitous and unnecessary 'the' here):

Fareibi - The Cheater

Some are just priceless and defy classifcation or any attempts to guess quite what those who picked the title were thinking:

Adaa-Will Kill You

(Did they mean that the (heroine's?) 'ada' would kill us? As in 'uski adaa ne mujhe maar daala'?

This one took me some time to figure out:

Dagaa - The Ditch

And this one is truly inexplicable:

Moonlight - Unfortunately Love Story

And then, there's always a couple that are obviously going to be really, really, really trashy:

Masoom Chudail

Or jingoistic:

Kashmir Hamara Hai

And some are just plain funny:

Shaadi Karke Phas Gaya Yaar
Why... Kyon?

All of these, incidentally, are from, so I really haven't made any of these up. There were less Chudail ones than when I looked one time, about a year or two ago. Then, there was both a 'Qatil Chudail' and a 'Kunwari Chudail'. Wonder if they ever got released :-)

Sunday, July 17, 2005

"Another fresh packed pie from our dearest neighboring country Bangladesh"

This speaks for itself. More from Ramkamal Mukherjee, the king of bad film reviews.

Bangla Seller from Bangladesh

Ferdous Ahmed as "Suraj""Churiwala" (Bangla Seller) is another fresh packed pie from our dearest neighboring country Bangladesh. The film released only in the suburbs of Bengal.Khemka producers did not even bother to release the film for Kolkata People." This film is not for them" is the straight demarcation made by director Shah Alam. "Churiwala" is just another love story with foreign faces (if Bangladesh is admitted one in Indian locales.)

Suraj (Ferdous Ahmed a poor bangle seller sings melodious songs with his own flute to sell his products. The village bumpkin lives a happy go lucky life and pretends innocent with teen gals. Rupa (Madhumita) the pampered daughter of village feudal lord (Subhendu) falls in love with the Pied Piper of Bangladesh.

As Usual there is a status clash. Feudal lord screams the age-old dialogue- " Being my daughter how could you love a churiwala?" The occasional cry of Rupa, acts as a punctuation to all the ‘hard talk’ her father uttered about Suraj. (The director must have expected applauds from Urban Viewers, but the yawny faces expressed " what’s next")

Feudal lord cum daddy failed to resist the "Jawani Deewani" love affair of Rupa and Suraj. Aptly enters the "Gunda" character Rupa’s brother. He cleverly traps Suraj in a false murder case. Suraj is sentenced to death. (‘Kahani mein twist’)

While Suraj awaits death in condemned cell, his love Rupa knocks the door of reputed advocates. At last the director stored a Farishta advocate (Soumitra Chatterjee) for her. He takes up the ache to solve. The case is reopened and gradually the culprits are unmasked. Last Scene, close shot heroine rests on heros chest.- a typical "tomar bukey amar swarga" style.

Director Shah Alam (heard for the first time) did a very effortless job to give " churiwala" a standard look. Mainly the court scenes and sets are absolutely ridiculous. When will Indian Cinema show an actual court scene? Soumitra was very mechanical. Does the actor really need money so ‘badly’- if not, Then why ‘ churiwala’?

Handsome Ferdous gave normal performance but he needs to work a lot on his Bengali. New find Madhumita gives promising performance in her maiden appearance Her figure and facial expressions are good. Subhendu Chatterjee, Romen Roy Choudhury. Subhasis Mukherjee were all disappointing. Music had no impact.

‘Churiwala’ is a mediocre success in Urban and running successfully. But that doesn’t mean one must feel encouraged in making another "churiwala".
Ram Kamal Mukherjee

Hysterical Madness

Film-fest season is upon us, and I'm missing it. While this sucks, the whole blogging phenomenon means that, thanks to posts like this one, I can be there in spirit if not in person.

Meanwhile, I recently rediscovered one of the unheralded gems of Indian film criticism online. For those of us who crib endlessly (as we should) about the stuff that passes for 'reviews' in Indian newspapers, you haven't seen anything until you've read Ramkamal Mukherjee, who reviews (mostly Bengali) films for a website called This man makes Nikhat Kazmi seem like a veritable fount of erudition. But he has provided me with endless hours of roll-on-the-floor type moments, so I may as well share some.

Here, for example, is an article he wrote on Madhabi Mukherjee, star of Ray's quiet masterpiece Mahanagar, and of Charulata, both showing at Cinefan. The laughs begin with the title. I mean, Beautitious Creeper??? WHAT? Then I realise this is his attempt at translating Charulata, which, I suppose, literally means beautiful creeper. But really. And it gets better and better.... His vocabulary is wonderfully inventive. So, something is filmatized (why not, why not?) Anyway, the full text is below..... I need to find his reviews of some mainstream Bengali crap and post them, they are truly works of art in ways the films he reviews can't quite aspire to.

Beautitious Creeper

Endless is the attempt of some strong minded lower middle class housewives who have to go in for office job to feed their family. Arati is one such office going bread earner who keeps her lipstick hiding in her ladies bag – to make herself presentable before the boss.

At the same she is hesitant about how her husband and in laws would react. This ‘very often come across’ feature was picturised by Madhabi Mukherjee in Satyajit Ray’s ‘Mahanagar’ (1963).

Satyajit Ray had hawk’s eye and a master like him could find a great possibility in Madhabi who was almost a dejected fortune seeker in the film world. Ritwik Kumar Ghatak another master mind deployed the famine sticken like figure and appearance of Madhabi in ‘Subarnarekha.’ The directors in the said two cinemas are undoubtedly genius, but preciousness and dimming glow of Madhabi’s figure and acting are not overshadowed by the great director’s craft.

Madhabi Mukherjee in 'Charulata'Ray decided to filmatize Tagore’s tragic romantic novel "Nasta Neer" in 1964 and he could not think of anybody else than Madhabi Mukherjee to appear on the screen as "Charu". "Charulata" as described by Rabindranath was a 19th Century lady whose husband Bhupati loved her but Charu was alone as Bhupati gave more time to his Printing Press.

Tagore wrote this novel as experiment on human character, loneliness, passion, rejection etc. Tagore’s "Charu" was perfectly visible in Satyajit’s selection Madhabi. Perhaps the director became passionate with the actress and presented her on some shots which she beautifully performed. Charu’s loneliness, her passion for boisterous Amal, deprivation of motherhood, women lib, were all very prominently visible through the acting of Madhabi.

Many may not have known Tagore’s "Charulata" in Nasta Neer, but thousands have known and bear in their minds Satyajits "Charulata" cast by Madhabi, for which Government of India conferred on her the "Urvashi" award.

Tagore’s another critical short story was picturised by Purnendu Patri who was originally an artist and whose artistic choice went for Madhabi to be the heroine in "Streer Patra" Tapan Sinha found a suitable character artist in Madhabi to picturise the character of an agonised aged mother in "Antardhan."

During 60’s immortal novelist Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s short stories and novels were filmed in series. Different commercial directors like Gurudas Bagchi, Arobindo Mukherjee etc. marked Madhabi as "reserved for" the pinion character like Bindu (Bindur Chhele), "Biraj" (Biraj Bou), Narayani (Ramer Sumati). She was not a stereotyped character artist and exposed her versatility as hot romantic heroine in "Shankhabela", "Chadmabesi", where she paired with Uttam Kumar and Basanta.

Madhabi not only walked along with celluloid avenue, she also stepped on stage and for several nights she starred with Soumitra Chatterjee in symbolic non commercial drama "Fera", directed by the actor himself.

Madhabi thought of presenting her capacity as director of a film and she directs "Atmaja", produced by NFDC, where in Indrani Halder was in the lead. Madhabi proved her effort, but there is no hesitation to say that she could not properly channelize her skill in the sphere of direction and frankly speaking she failed to expose that she learnt something of direction from great directors like Ray, Ghatak, Patri, Sinha and Tarun Majumdar.

Ramkamal Mukherjee

Friday, July 08, 2005

An Ode to the Underground

A few days ago, as I surfed the internet to try and figure out which London Walk I should embark on later in the morning, a series of bombs ripped through the Underground (and one exploded on a bus). At least 50 people are now known to have died. Many more were hurt. As I walked home from the post office, I saw the first signs that something was wrong. People were streaming out of the tube station, some with soot on their faces, many of them in hysterical tears. I heard something about a blast, but the scale of the incident (with typical British understatement, the announcements referred to 'several incidents on the Underground')was not yet clear. In a few minutes, though, news began to filter through. A bomb had exploded two stops on the tube from where I was. Not just that, the line where two of the bombs had gone off were on the same line that I took into town every day. Many people I know work in Central London; several of them were likely to have been on one of the affected lines, if not trains, commuting in to work (Thankfully, as far as I know, nobody I know was injured. As far as I know). Never had something like this seemed so close, and so personal. I think this is partly because of my somewhat irrational fondness for the London Underground. In other cities, subways or trams or whatever are just a means to an end, a way to get from A to B with minimum inconvenience. Somehow the Tube has never seemed like that. London never quite feels like London until I've rushed out of the Covent Garden station, trying to outrun others on the way to the lifts up to the turnstiles, readying my travelcard for the inevitable (and ridiculous) rush to swipe and exit, ridiculous because it's actually quite absurd that the exit from such a major station should be so narrow. But that's part of the charm of a system that is so old that it has all sorts of features that the designers of a more modern system would veto.

Being a secret (okay, not-so-secret) public transport geek, there's very little in the world to compare with the intricacy and reach and sheer scale of the London Underground. Unlike other systems, this doesn't just run the length or breadth of the city. It spreads out like tentacles, going to pretty much every corner of a really big city (the track length is around 600km). I love that the lines have names evocative of the places they connect (the Bakerloo line originally connected Baker Street and Waterloo)instead of just being called by numbers or colours. I like the idiosyncratic announcements to 'Mind the Gap'. I love the variety of stations, from the Victorian tiling and panelling of many central stations on the Circle and Piccadilly Lines, to the minimalist glass-and-steel modernity of the newer Jubilee Line stations. My mental map of the city is not about buildings and bridges, though these do feature, but is really a condensed version of the Underground map. When someone gives me an address in London, I think not of how long it would take to drive there, but rather of the quickest way to get there on the underground, and how many changes it will involve, and whether the Circle Line is actually slower than the Central Line. I love emerging from the gloom of the truly underground stations of the Picadilly Line into the filtered light of the Circle Line. It's probably the one thing about London - more than any of the historic monuments or pubs or bridges - that is both a fascinating bit of history and yet completely a part of the fabric of daily life there.

Today's Guardian carries the perspective of someone who feels about London buses as i do about the underground. I really enjoyed reading it so here it is.