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Somerset Maugham’s Rain

Rain is probably the best short story written by Somerset Maugham – in its length and characterization it is more like a novella but of course it conforms to Maugham’s formula for a story – it has a beginning, a middle and an end.

The story’s popularity has sustained over the years as it has been made into movies and plays. Sadie’s role of a prostitute out to have a good time has been portrayed on-screen by Joan Crawford, Gloria Swanson and Rita Hayworth. The short story has often been selected for anthologies and is prescribed reading material for students attempting to master modern English literature.

The adventure begins off on simple terms. A ship headed to Apia is stranded near Pago Pago as a Cholera epidemic is suspected and a quarantine enforced to prevent an outbreak. Most of the travellers are ordinary folks headed on business and personal trips.

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Somerset Maugham’s ‘Christmas Holiday’.

The novel’s context is the key to the theme. Set in the late 1930s it is about a young British man belonging to the ‘upper-middle’ class who plans a week’s holiday in Paris during Christmas. He means to meet his childhood friend, see the ‘pictures’ at Louvre and explore the night-life in Paris. The second world war is imminent and Europe is in chaos facing the challenges of Fascism and Nazism while the British seem to be doing well for themselves and are blissfully aware of the trouble-torn neighbourhood that will bring sad tidings to their world as well.

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1944 hit noir movie ‘Christmas Holiday’ based on Maugham’s novel                                      Image Courtesy – classicflix.com

He ends up spending the holiday with a young Russian lady from an émigré family who is working as a Prostitute at Serail. She lost her childhood and parents during the Russian revolution and to compound her woes made a rather unfortunate marriage with a charming Frenchman who started out as a petty criminal and ended up murdering a British bookie.

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Lydia as a prostitute at Serail in Paris          Image Courtesy – Flickriver

Maugham returns to his familiar hunting ground – Paris. The book is a bildungsroman for sure but certainly a far happier one than his masterpiece – ‘Of Human Bondage’. Charley Mason is no Philip Carey. He is pragmatic enough to choose a business career instead of wildly chasing his artistic talent in the Paris Quarter. He is backed by a loving family though Maugham dispassionately creates a portrait of superficial bourgeois parents whose appreciation of ‘Art’ too is a ‘pose’ and likely to be motivated by a commercial motive.

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Om Puri – such a long journey !

“I don’t expect anything from anybody When You Grow Old.Your Days Are Gone; It Is Part Of Life.” — Om Puri (@OmRajeshPuri) November 3, 2016 

The tweet possibly expressed the pain Om Puri felt with his situation in life – a bitterness that was a cocktail of disappointment on personal and professional fronts.

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Om Puri in City of Joy    Image Courtesy – Life Beyond Numbers

It was also on account of his inability or rather honest arrogance to not be ‘diplomatic’ while expressing his views on social issues. Often he seemed to go out of his way to make ‘politically incorrect’ statements. It reminds you of a popular sher by another stormy petrel, Nida Fazli, –

बात कम कीजे जहानत को छिपाते रहिये

बात कम कीजे जहानत को छिपाते रहिये
अजनबी शहर है ये,  दोस्त बनाते रहिये

दुश्मनी लाख सही, ख़त्म  ना कीजे रिश्ता
दिल मिले ना मिले, हाथ मिलते रहिये

ये तो चेहरे कि शबाहत हुई तस्वीर नहीं
इस पे कुछ रंग अभी और चढ़ाते रहिये

गम हैं आवारा अकेले में भटक जाता हैं
जिस जगह भी रहिये, मिलते मिलाते रहिये

जाने कब चाँद बिखर जाये जंगल में
घर कि चौखट पे कोई दीप जलाते रहिये

निदा फ़ाज़ली 

जहानत – Prathibha i.e. Talent  शबाहत – Sadrishyta i.e. Canniness

It was an unconventional face and it became an unconventional hero. For an introvert and socially insecure person there was no shortcut to success. The relentless pursuit of effort reflected in his work as he started a grand innings in ‘Art’ cinema with Ghashiram Kotwal, Bhumika, Arvind Desai Ki Ajab Dastan, Sparsh, Aakrosh, Sadgati, Arohan, and Ardh Satya.  Continue reading “Om Puri – such a long journey !”

Wodehouse Chronicles feat. Wooster and Jeeves

The ‘millennials’ generation onwards reading books for leisure and entertainment is an anachronism. Reading has gone digital – its beyond Kindle now. So reading is crisper and ‘byte-sized’ as attention spans dwindle. It involves a lot of visuals that make it easy to digest. No one readily talks about reading literature and many wonder how a few Wodehouse novels could keep us regaled for ages and we read them many times over.

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The adventures of Bertie Wooster and Jeeves                                        Image Courtesy – Book Bundles

But the Wodehouse legacy is still safe – it just the way it was when I was young. Your appetite needs to be whetted once – then you can never quite go far from the wise world of Jeeves serving his bumbling and good-hearted master, Bertie Wooster.

The lazy and indolent life led by Bertie Wooster – the man born with a silver spoon – and the space he occupied in the British aristocracy is no longer relevant today. Indeed parts of it was already decaying when Wodehouse wrote some of his stories wherein the landed gentry was often short of hard cash and would look towards striking fruitful alliances with the gals from across the Atlantic who still mooned about being regarded royalty.

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Maugham’s last play – Sheppey!

Somerset Maugham was a famous playwright who only eventually found further fame as a novelist and most importantly as a short story writer. His plays specialized a genre of social comedies with witty lines and a modern take on battle of sexes, cross cultural mores and the moral dilemmas faced by the average Joe.

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Good-hearted hero … John Ramm in Somerset Maugham’s Sheppey at Orange Tree theatre, Richmond in November 2016. Photograph: Helen Maybanks Image Courtesy – The Guardian

Sheppey was no morality play as it is made out to be – Maugham continued to be at his sardonic best as he made the viewers loyalty waver but the play lost out on the ending that was seen to be a ‘cop-out’ solution. Maugham was rather disillusioned with its failure but he also felt that it was time to move on. With Sheppey in 1933 he brought curtains to his career as a playwright but smartly continued to grow in stature as a writer and short story-teller.

Sheppey is a popular barber on the Jermyn Street in London and he is quite happy with his station in life. He is quite street-smart and has managed his equations well with his employer, wife and young daughter who works in the city and is keen to get married to her fiance, a teacher and communist who has political ambitions.

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Irrfan Khan – a natural and intelligent actor.

Irrfan’s acting comes across as effortless since he gets into the skin of his character. He usually essays intense and brooding characters – his eyes emote for him and express so much be it in terms of pain or angst that is troubling these lost souls. He has done humour and sarcasm in bits but he always scores by playing melancholic and ‘doomed’ characters so to say.

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The many faces of a natural actor – Irrfan                                                                     Image Courtesy – DNA

The LunchBox, Paan Singh Tomar, The Namesake, Life of Pi are popular movies and enough is known and written about them. But there are some of his initial movies like Haasil and Rog that actually built the foundation that gave us the Irrfan Khan we know today.

So Irrfan has been acting in movies since the 90s and he has really struggled a lot to achieve fame and success. Even his breakthrough movies in 2003 and parallel career in Hollywood didn’t provide him with instant stardom. Instead it is a body of work that he has assembled patiently that has now positioned him to be an actor who is accepted by the  masses and the classes.

Continue reading “Irrfan Khan – a natural and intelligent actor.”

Missing Raghuram Rajan with great Enthusiasm!

Enthusiasm

Change is inevitable and often traumatic. The chaos instinctively makes us seek support and yearn for robust leadership – the strong hands that can steady the ship in choppy and turbulent waters.

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Reserve Bank of India Governor – Dr. Raghuram Rajan (Sept 2013 – Sept 2016)                                                                               Image Courtesy – scoopwhoop.com

October 2013 – We saw what looked like a scary run on the INR as it touched ‘lifetime lows’ and our RBI Governor then became the face of the team’s resolve to anchor our lifeline in International markets.

October 2016 – Faced with another storm through demonetization that removed 86 % of the currency value in circulation, (a self-inflicted surgery initially meant to shed black money and on second thoughts to promote a cashless economy), the RBI Chief seems to abjure from being the public face of the initiative. Derisively we hear about ‘Reverse Bank of India’ on account of the many flip-flops in the initiative that has wrought havoc for the common man and created a new ‘lifetime low for INR.

Perception is reality – especially when there is real pain associated with an initiative. One does instinctively miss Raghuram Rajan and begin to even understand why chose not to seek a second term as RBI Governor.

On December 9 former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan delivered a lecture on the state of global economy but reportedly made no mention of the prevailing economic scenario in India or the controversial demonetisation drive. That’s true class of someone who doesn’t want to rub salt in your wounds and said, ‘I told you so’. Remember he maintained a dignified silence in the face of outrageous politically motivated slander campaign that was mounted to oust him.

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Mani Ratnam’s terrorism trilogy – Roja (1992), Bombay (1995) & Dil Se (1998)!

Roja – a dubbed version of the Tamil original – was Mani Ratnam and A R Rahman’s ticket to national fame. They continued their partnership in Bombay, again originally a Tamil film, and it was a commercial hit. Buoyed by their success they finally ventured to make a Hindi movie, Dil Se, with the reigning badshah of romance (Shah Rukh Khan) that was dubbed in Tamil as ‘Uyire’. Dil Se was a commercial failure but it again won a lot of critical acclaim.

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The Terrorism Trilogy by Mani Ratnam                                                                                                   Image Courtesy – Quora.com

But the commercial commonalities of all these stories are easily identifiable and feel a bit like a set formula. Simplistically put the films ingredients include – melodious music (Rahman), scintillating cinematography (Santhosh Sivan and Rajiv Menon for Bombay), dialogues that sound like real conversations of people in everyday life and great casting of the lead pair.

So what’s the core story that defines these films together. The story lines are well-known to viewers so it doesn’t make much sense to belabor the point. One liner summaries should give us a general feel about them.

Roja – Set in Kashmir it is about a village girl’s naive quest to free her scientist husband.

Continue reading “Mani Ratnam’s terrorism trilogy – Roja (1992), Bombay (1995) & Dil Se (1998)!”