Boney M’s ‘Brown Girl In The Ring’

Boney M has been a popular Disco group during the late 70s and mid 80s. They extensively toured in Europe and even Russia. Apart from their live concerts, they appeared in TV shows as well. As a teenager in early 90s I knew none of this in India – during my teenage years TV was still a cloistered national medium and the satellite TV revolution had not arrived yet on the scene.

Boney M never quite toured India though attempts were made to organize a concert. So I got to listen to them only through the most popular channel – audio cassettes.

The magic of Calypso is in free flow when you listen to Boney M – these people simply love their songs and dance. The gals n guy from Jamaica, Aruba and even the original composer based in Germany sure knew how to appeal to the young generation that was going bonkers with disco music.

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Dimple’s Sensuous Saagar

‘Saagar jaisi aankhon waali, yeh toh bataa tera naam hai kya …’

Kishore Kumar, Javed Akhtar and R D Burman gave us the perfect song to describe Dimple in the movie. A standard love triangle it was aimed to showcase the chemistry of the Bobby pair, ‘Dimple & Rishi’. That Kamal silently stole the march on them is a tribute to his screen presence and acting skills.

The movie had a perfect recipe for success – it was planned as a comeback vehicle for Dimple and possibly they wanted to exploit the public craze for her popular pairing with Rishi in her début movie, ‘Bobby’. The love triangle is a ‘done-to-death’ theme in Bollywood so there wasn’t much inherent appeal to the plot. What added to the interest was the classic finish to the movie as the director applied top production values and backed it up with lovely songs and cinematography.

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Nature’s Images and Quotable Quotes

‘Time and tide wait for no man’. – Geoffrey Chaucer

Imagine the text in bold white offset on a nice nature scene that adorns your wall in the living room. A sign of taste and culture and adored just as much a grandpa’s old Cuckoo clock in original walnut.

I may be mistaken but I seem to find them far less visible in modern homes – in fact imagery has moved away from paper and wood to become digital in so many ways including our photo frames.

Sigh ! Just a sign of old age and nostalgia I suppose when I say I miss these a lot now.

My father loved to have such frames and they were very much part of our middle class childhood. My father was working an auditor in the central government service and we mostly stayed in army accommodation. If nothing else, the homes were generous in terms of space and rooms – to imagine the contrast with a cubby hole flat in suburban Mumbai where we have defined esoteric concepts like a 2 and 1/2 BHK. But then that is an altogether different subject.

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Kamal – K Vishwanath’s Salangai Oli

Kamal’s collaboration with K Balachander is well-known. But he shared a good relationship with K Vishwanath as well and ‘Salangai Oli’ (a.k.a Sagara Sangamam in Telugu) was their first attempt that met with critical and commercial success. Swathi Muthyam was an equally appealing and popular follow-up act.

Kamal as a Bharatanatyam dancer and Jaya Prada as his ardent admirer with popular dance numbers is surely exciting. But the overall tale was one of an alcoholic dancer who missed fame and family in life. He finally gets a chance to redeem himself by passing on his craft to a talented protegé.

Balakrishna (Kamal) is a talented dancer who knows multiple forms of classical dance but he hails from an economically weak family who is doted upon by his mother and uncle (Sakshi Ranga Rao). There is an entertaining song number set in the wedding hall backstage where Kamal regales his family who are in the process of preparing the wedding meals (sappad). Madhavi (Jaya Prada) surreptitiously takes snaps to capture the special moments. He forgets his frustration with the film directors who have scant regard for the classical nature of the art form and are more interested in exploiting it for commercial purposes.

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Kamal Haasan’s ‘Anbe Sivam’

It is a classic Kamal style movie and he has written it to amply promote his views on competing ideologies of capitalism v/s communism, religious frenzy v/s atheism, and overarching theme of a humanist attitude towards people and life.

It was possibly ahead of its time and though peppered with the routine cinema tropes of comedy, song n dance, romance and even action the message hung rather heavy in the air. A mindless commercial caper that released simultaneously stole its thunder and the movie never quite made it. Kamal may have known its possible fate for he takes potshots in the film itself by suggesting to the heroine that they should watch an arty movie in the Theatre – there will be sparse audience and it will permit them a few hours of private space.

Well a communist (Kamal) and ad man (Madhavan) getting stranded at Orissa airport is quite a unique start. Their struggles to reach Chennai during torrential rains makes it a story on the road. Only the story doesn’t quite stop there, it moves from the road to the Train as well. The start is filled with humorous episodes – Madhavan is a city slicker who just cannot cope in the unfamiliar environment. Kamal excels and revels in the situation. He is no charmer though – with heavy glasses, a limping leg and a scarred & paralysed face with a twitching nerve he initially shocks but wins us over with his warmth and gift of gab.

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My ‘Book Sale’ at home

No book lover would ever wish to part from his dear collection – possibly the prospect of getting a root-canal done on an ol ‘molar may be more acceptable than letting go of the most tattered book from one’s collection.

Yet things came to such a pass that I had no choice but host a ‘book sale’. I made the best of the bad job by assigning it to my dear wife – I just didn’t want to participate in the ‘inheritance of a loss’ as I would term it.

My Book Sale

My Book Sale

My wife set about the task with gusto – she quickly arranged the books in a pile. The arrangement was driven more by the size of the book than the name of the author or the book’s genre. Her’s was a practical approach as can be seen in the snap. The photo does convey a good idea of the assorted books available and possibly will accommodate the most catholic interest of potential readers.

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Ashenden spy stories by Maugham

Maugham worked as a British spy during the World War I and so was uniquely placed to narrate us a set of tales set in the world of spying and espionage. The tales themselves don’t quite regale us in a manner we are used to expect from Maugham’s spiel. He gives us couple of good starters though – the Head who wanted to recruit him started by telling him a story of a prominent Minister losing sensitive files to a femme fatale who beguiled him with her charm. Post recruitment Maugham was given the following as parting advice – ‘There’s just one thing I think you ought to know before you take on this job. And don’t forget it. If you do well you’ll get no thanks and if you get into trouble you’ll get no help. Does that suit you?’ ‘Perfectly.’ was the answer and with that Maugham set about discovering adventures that he documented in the present series.

Maugham tells the spy tale as it is – there is little of glamour, much of the work is useless, most of the time and energy is a sheer waste. Yet the writer in him found it interesting enough to derive enough raw material to shape and present us 6 short stories in typical Maugham style. There is a loose element of continuity and it makes sense to read the tales sequentially – I daresay you can still read them on a standalone basis as well. What they lack is the sheer entertainment value of his more popular tale and often Maugham’s trademark formula of a story having a beginning, middle and end is not quite there.

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