Sunday, 24 December 2006

In India

It was the first time that I came to India through Bangalore. We were going to have a regional meeting on traditional medicine. The arrival hall of Bangalore international airport was a shock. Though the Delhi international airport is quite a let down but Bangalore was even worse. All the thoughts about Bangalore being the silicon valley of India and an international symbol of the new resurgent India seemed like a joke when we arrived in that airport. They are building a new airport I was told, but a city that hosts the new infotech giants seems to be taking a rather long time in getting its act together!

Outside, the narrow streets of Bangalore choking with traffic, blaring horns and an unfinished fly-over close to the airport, is in sharp contrast with its bright shops selling top international brands. We were staying on Brigade road off the famous MG Road. The row of shops selling computers and latest infotech gadgets, and the swanky malls seemed out of the first world, squeezed in the third world of old poor India.

The traditional medicine meeting was organised in collaboration with People's International Health University and Ayurvedic medical college of Bangalore had participants from Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. It was very interesting and provided an opportunity for reflecting on the dominance of western thought that relegates everything else to "old, traditional, indigenous" boundaries. That ancient wisdom of milleniums that have resulted in systems of medicines like ayurveda, yunnani and sidha, are forced to "prove" themselves "scientifically" is a sign of that dominance.

Naturally we found time to go around the city for some tourist visit. The old palace of Tipu sultan completed in 1791 is beautiful with its dark browns and mahagony. On the last day, on my way to the airport, Krishna, our driver, insisted on taking me to the Shiv temple next to the Kids Kemp shopping centre. The giant statues of Ganesh and Shiv in this temple are very imposing.

***

On 19th, I flew to delhi. I had some work but mostly these days in Delhi are for family reunions. Delhi is the new home of Luca and his wife Polly. Luca is my old friend Enrico's son and has come here recently. So it was natural that to visit him and to check if everything was ok for their settling down.

Om Thanvi, editor of the Hindi newspaper Jansatta invited me to his home for a party, introducing me to his other guests as "he runs a webzine call Kalpana". Surrounded by his literary friends, I felt as if I was playing a new role, used as I am to be seen as a doctor! It was a lovely evening with wonderful Rajasthani vegetarian food cooked by his wife Premlata. It was also an opportunity to meet some interesting persons like Renuka Vishwanathan and Madhu Kishwar.

Finally I saw the new central park in Connaught Place. The new metro station of Rajiv Chowk has been completed and all the "work in progress" boards have been taken off, replaced by green lawns and flowing water. There was a beautiful exhibition showing off the changes in C.P. in the central park.

***

As usual, the travels to India get over so quickly and I am back to Bologna, getting nostalgic about the India days!

***

Tuesday, 5 December 2006

Mermaids in Bologna

December means Christmas time and it also means "Motor show", one of the bigger annual trade fairs of Bologna. This year, for the annual Motor show, the Swatch people, makers of the small car Smart, organised a Smart Night in the historical central square of Bologna, la Piazza Maggiore. With 12 and 13th century buildings of red stone, this is one the most beautiful squares of Bologna. The Christmas lights were making it look like a fairy land.

The Smart Night brought colourful psychedelic lights, giant film screens, dances, drums, acrobats and high decible pop music to the square, creating a wonderful contrast with the old buildings surrounding the square. The beginning of the show was with Kay Rush, a half-Italian half-Japanese TV show girl, appearing at the top of one of the giant screens, with her huge image on the same screen, to give an explanation of the theme of the event - exploring the different metro-communication languages.

The flying acrobats with colourful skirts, appeared next, flying in the sky, throwing strange shadows on the walls of the old palace, doing song and music routines from some famous films, dancing in front of the giant screens showing the strange art world of Escher.

Then it was the turn of singer l'Aura. She has a real nice voice and a very distinct style of singing. Lovely. She was followed by Piero Pelu, one of the famous Italian pop stars who joined Kay Rush on the stage as a presenter.

And then it was the turn of the mermaids. They had placed transparent tubs shaped like champagne glasses, filled with water, in front of the cathedral. Three girls in swim suits appeared, did some synchronised dancing and then jumped inside the tubs to become the mermaids. All the while the upcoming young piano star Giovanni Allevi played wonderful piano. It was like a dream, though with the cold night and temperatures of around 3 or 4 C°, it reminded me of the Mumbai film heroines who stoically go through dances and songs among snow covered mountains, dressed in the skimpiest of clothes. From the vapours rising from the girls' bodies, I think that the water was quite warm, still it must have been strange to take bath in the shivering cold in one of the oldest squares of Italy!

Here are some pictures from this evening:

SMART night, Bologna, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2006

SMART night, Bologna, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2006

SMART night, Bologna, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2006

SMART night, Bologna, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2006

SMART night, Bologna, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2006

SMART night, Bologna, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2006

SMART night, Bologna, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2006

SMART night, Bologna, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2006

SMART night, Bologna, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2006

SMART night, Bologna, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2006

SMART night, Bologna, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2006

SMART night, Bologna, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2006

***

Saturday, 2 December 2006

Spirit of Dilli

There was a time when Delhi was hardly there in the Mumbai films, except for that passing shot in front of India Gate or South Block with the rashtrapati bhavan in the background. As someone had cribbed after watching Kal Ho Na Ho, films do tend to distort the geography of cities, and if New York could not escape it, how could Delhi do it!

The films are such that you would think that India Gate and Red Fort are close to each other and next to the railway station and the airport, so that if you come to Delhi, you can't avoid passing in front of them.

This year, I have already seen 4 Hindi films where hamari Dilli plays a key role, and the year is not yet over. Perhaps, in 2006 there were other films too, that were based in Delhi, that I have missed. The question I am asking is, which of these films reflected the real spirit of Delhi?

It started with Rang de Basanti. In RDB, India Gate was not just a distant shot seen from the windows of the passing car or autorickshaw but it played an important role in a crucial scene along with the spacious bunglows of the ministers, not too far from it. It was essentially a south Delhi kind of Delhi in RDB, where upper middle class lives. There were a few scenes of old Delhi and the Muslim culture but they were more like cameos and didn't affect the overall voice and texture of the film, that remained essentially south Delhi. I felt that, Aamir Khan as the sikh son of a dhaba-owner and his disgruntled companions, suceeded in giving life to the growing up experience in Delhi. I could identify with it. Its language, ambience, people were the kind you find in Delhi.

Then came Fanaa, another Aamir Khan starrer. Here Delhi was just an interlude, a background to the shairo-shayari and songs. The film highlighted the touristy part of Delhi. It skimmed superficially over Delhi, not really trying to look at the life of the city. In spite of the luminous Kajol, I felt that it was a synthetic make-believe world, not really reflecting anything real about the city or its people.

The third film that I saw was Khosla ka Ghosla. It was a more of a west Delhi kind of ambience, people who usually live in Punjabi Bagh or Rajouri Garden. It was also very real. The way neighbours reacted, the way people talked and went around their lives, it was able to catch the spirit of dilliwallas. There was a part of the film dealing with Mandi house and Bhartiya Kala Kendra part of Delhi, the part involving theatre-wallas. This part was slightly less real in the way the two main actors behaved (Navin Nischol and Tara Sharma), but even in these scenes, all the side actors were very dilliwallas. KKG was also quite enjoyable in a Gulzaar-Hrikeksh Mukherjee kind of way, that was refreshing.

Finally the last Delhi-based film that I saw was Ahista Ahista. It was mainly an old Delhi, Chandni Chowk kind of Delhi, around Jama Masjid, Dariyaganj and Red Fort. In the film, at times the way the actors (Abhay deol and Soha Ali Khan) walked effortlessly from Red Fort to Niajammuddin or to Qutab Minaar did jarr a bit but overall, the ambience of narrow streets and the Muslim culture was quite real. However, the film was marred by the actors, their way of speaking, their general way of behaving, that seemed false and out of place in Chandni Chowk. Abhay Deol is a nice looking guy, reminding me of Dharmendra in vintage films like Bandini, but he did not look like or act like old Delhi person. His dialogues did not ring of old Delhi, they seemed very Mumbaiwalla. His other friends, they seemed as if they had come out of the TV serial Nukkad, falsely nice and synthetic. This does not mean that film was very bad, but in my opinion, it could not catch the spirit of Delhi.

So which of these films did catch the dil of Dilli? I think that the real competition is between RDB and KKG. Ahista Ahista and Fanaa were not about real Delhi. I can't decide between RDB and KKG.

It is difficult to decide, perhaps because the two films look at very different parts, people and cultures of Delhi. These two Delhis are quite similar geographically and do overlap, though obviously RDB is not about everyday places and persons (like the shots behind the airport or the shots at the old monuments, the scenes at India Gate and All India radio), while KKG is about everyday middle class Delhi. On just this basis, perhaps KKG wins for me.

And for you - is there a film that represents the spirit of Dilli - Delhi for you?

***
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...