Wednesday, April 29, 2009

O! Kolkata

Kolkata sears the senses. You can almost taste the spices in the air, the breathless heat and the swirl of humanity. Since my childhood days, whenever I saw pictures of this wonderful city on my tiny television set, I was enthralled.

I always dreamed of visiting this wonderful city until one day I found myself here.
It is highly debatable as to how this city got its name। One of it says that its name is derived from goddess Kali, the people here are ardent worshipper of goddess kali, and thus the name Kali-kata( or Kolkata).

It was the capital of British monarchy in India up to 1910-1911. Then the capital was shifted to Delhi. Rightly most of the administrative buildings here seem too old but they are still beautiful (seems that they are implying the adage “old is gold”).

West Bengal is the obvious place to try to start an Indian revolution। The Britishers had their first major administrative centre built here। With it came the anglicized education system। It in turn started the Indian renaissance. Raja Ram Mohun Roy was the most prominent figure in that era. He was a British educated Indian who used his anglicized education to eradicate social evils.

Rightly he is known as the father of Indian renaissance। During the independence movement, Bengal was the only state where the British faced a serious threat from terrorism. It also produced Subhas Chandra Bose, the most aggressive president of Indian National Congress elected. Mahatma Gandhi was so alarmed by militant Bose that he prevented him taking office for a second time.
West Bengal has a well educated and volatile middle class। Caste- often seen as the greatest barrier to revolutionary politics in India- plays less of a role in West Bengal than in other major Indian states। Coming from a state where politics is dominated by caste based equation, this is a very heartening fact. That’s why we have a famous proverb in our state-“In India you don’t cast your vote, u vote ur caste”. Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal, is synonymous with poverty and squalor. All the space on pavements are taken by rickety bamboo made houses and hawkers. No doubt the slums and shanties town provide a rich ground for revolution.

Kolkata is the birthplace of Indian communism। Communism came to India mainly in third or fourth decade of twentieth century. Inspired from Russian revolution, the Indian communists drew their support from peasants and bourgeois class. As zamindari still prevailed in this part of the country, the movement flourished here.
With it came its chronic phenomena of trade unionism, which is often credited to ruining of industries in this part of the country।
Communists have ruled the state from 1977 till now। In its early days, they tried to revive the panchayati raj system, which garnered good results. They fragmented the agricultural land and distributed it among landless peasants॥ That is why, even now communists draw their support from rural centres.After the coming of trade unionism, industries began to degrade. They created industrial anarcys. The gherao- A particularly uncomfortable form of industrial action from management point of view - was employed on the slightest of pretexts.
Then came the Naxalites, a splinter group of communists who still believed in violent revolution। It derived its name from Naxalbari village ,somewhere in north Bengal where some untoward incident occurred between peasants class and zamindars। Zamindar was killed by a group of militant minded peasants and thus the movement started. The torch beare of this movement were two people from lower strata of society- “Charu Majumdar” and “kanu Sanyal”. For several days, all the school, colleges and industries were closed down in Kolkata. All these had an inverse effect on industries. At the same time, in other parts of the country, massive industrialization happened creating a lot of small industrial centres.Thus West Bengal stood as a loser in a list of gainers.

Talking of films, Bengali films nowadays don’t complement its literature equally. Its film industry is known as Tollywood. There was the time when directors like Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak and Bimal Roy were in full flow and directed films which were internationally acclaimed. But gone are those days. I once went to St. Xavier’s College and had a look at pics taken by Satyajit Ray. I was awed. How a person can be so imaginative! He is the one figure that enthralled me most than anyone else.
Kolkata is the land of festivals, Durga Puja followed by dussehra or “bijoya dashmi” being the most prominent of those। It is celebrated for 4-5 days. People are on a shopping spree. Market is buzzing with crowd. Large, magnificent pandals can be seen at every corner of the city. The idol of goddess in different sizes and having different expressions fills the people of this laid back city with spirit. The resonant beats of the 'Dhak' add to the mood.

Kolkata is home of a mind- boggling arrays of sweets and dishes। Any shop you go into, you will find scores of varieties of traditional desserts and each shop has its own speciality. Same is the case for each district here. Every district has its own speciality.

One thing that often intrigued me is that Bengal having its own rich culture, language and such a vibrant society has never vied for a separate nation। No secessionist movement has flourished here contrary to the rest part of the country। One argument in support of this can be given that due to early westernized education education system, they were the one to know the meaning of one nation state (which was perhaps alien concept for us at that point of time). Also, a lot of Bengalis were in freedom movement spearheading it, and they never thought of this thing. May be the reader should ask this question from themselves.

Now, talking of the mentality of Bengalis, I sometime find them a bit pretentious। Anyways, I wont take that right away from them as for over a century they ruled every field in India right from science to arts।

But somehow, I get the feeling that it is the beginning of end of a city(when I see large shanties town and poor people and beggars filled in subways)। Kolkata must catch up with other cities in modernizing process.No doubt, as far as I see it, it is the most laid back city I have ever seen(remember the” adda” culture ) . I want to share many more experience about this lovely city but then I would continue endlessly.

Rudyard Kipling wrote in “City of Dreadful Night”-Bombay is too green , too pretty and too strugglesome and Madras died ever so long ago . Let us take off our hats to Calcutta, the many sided, the smoky, the magnificent city. Kipling no doubt would be saddened to learn that Kolkata no longer exists. Neither does Bombay or Madras. They all are renamed. Of course, the souls of the cities havn’t changed, only the names. And after all, what’s in a name?I am truly in love with this city….O! Kolkata, Oh! Calcutta…The City of Joy…।(:-)

Monday, February 23, 2009


Yesterday was the most eventful day in the history of Indian cinema. While whole of the KODAK STUDIO at Hollywood was bulgeoning with cinestars from around the globe, the Indian film fraternity watched the whole show with bated breathe. And the results were announced. Three Indians got the Oscars. A.R. Rehman got it for best original background score. Then A.R.Rehman and Gulzar shared another for best original song.Resul Pookutty got it for best sound editing.

Slumdog is a movie which had its story from India. But no Indian movie as yet had gone on to win the Oscars(I mean for best best film or direction).

But many of you would agree from me that Rehman’s other compositions are far better than that of Slumdog’s .As far as getting an Oscar is concerned, it has more to do with ones marketing capability than just pure creativity.

It is very tough to get in the foreign film category.Even if they did, chances would be slim. An Oscar aspirant needs titanic budget to create hype that would force the body of 6000 plus voters to see his film. He must issue ads in American magazines, plan releases, stir up controversies, be in the news until D-night . Rightly, the Indian govt. sends high budget films which has very low creative and artistic content. “Why waste the slot by sending a small fry?” This argument has sidelined films like DHARAM for EKLAVYA..Result? Reportedly voters don’t sit through even one half of our film.

“How can u deny me an opportunity because my pocket isn’t deep!”. Its the same as if a child prodigy is denied right to education only because he is por.

Indian directors, since the beginning have made brilliant movies, some of them being better than the Oscar winners in almost all respect.

See the movies like “Meghe dheka tara” and “Apu’s Trilogy”. These movies have far more creative and aesthetic worth than any Oscar winning film.

As far as Slumdog is concerned, I would like to point to a certain pattern that I have seen. I think foreigners are pleased to see the “poor India”.

From Naipaul to Rusdie to very recently Adiga, all have successfully showcased India’s poverty and misery. Successfull only on personal basis. They were applauded round the world. But aren’t they “stretching it far beyond limit”.

“Oscars don’t necessarily go to the best of films made”, Shekhar Kapoor had said after Elizabeth. But they are celebration of cinema- from all over the world- on a common platform.”Lets then join in and celebrate- an individual, our very own A.R.Rehman( and of course Gulzar saab and Rosul).


Sunday, November 16, 2008

to be or not to be......

finally today i have the courage to start my own blogspot. thought about it a thousand times before finally doing it. always been a circumspect guy. always thought wat others would thought about any steps taken by realised that its better to start now than never. may be my brother had an inspiring effect on me to start my own blog....may be or may be not....this was killing me for days until today i faced it.after all its better to burnout than fade away. i dont know how the journey is going to be in the future.but i wud put my best efforts  as long as i can. hope u all wud support me in my everlasting journey.

books i read

  • india after gandhi, the maximum city, ninteen eighty-four, a million mutinies now, an argumentative indian, no full stops in india, the world is flat