Somerset Maugham’s ‘The Summing Up’

Published in 1938 when Maugham was 64 years old, the title turned out to be a misnomer – it wasn’t really his autobiography. It was non-fiction for sure but more like a visit of writer’s workshop – the toolkits were on full display as he bared the essentials of what made him tick as a writer. And that is far more interesting than any routine toting up of one’s life minutiae. 

Image Courtesy – Amazon com

Maugham gives us a glimpse of his tortured childhood. His parents were ill-suited for marriage as they had arrestingly different temperaments and an age gap of 20 years. He didn’t see much of them as his mother died when he was 8 and he lost his father when he was 10. Maugham’s early loss of his mother scarred him for life and the subsequent events were painful as well. He was thrust into the custody of an unsympathetic uncle who had no means or inclination to nurture him. He found little comfort at school as he was given to a ‘stammering’ problem and found English to be a challenge since French came naturally to him. Continue reading “Somerset Maugham’s ‘The Summing Up’”

Review of ‘According to Jim’

It reminded me of the short stories I read in the collection ‘The House That Nino Built’ by Giovannino Guareschi. Based in Italy of the 50s it tracked the story of a middle class family wherein the father is unambiguously patriarchal and patronizing of his wife and daughters. Politically incorrect and definitely ‘out-of-sync’ with modern values the stories still were humorous and gave us insights into discordant personalities living together.

Image Courtesy – Fanpop

And yet the series ran for 8 seasons and was positioned to take on Frasier during prime time. Guess they did exaggerate the storyline a bit to appeal to their target audience. 

Jim (Jim Belushi) is a typical middle class and middle-aged family man based in Chicago. He doesn’t hesitate to flaunt his ‘blue’ collar credentials and revels in acknowledging that he ‘married-up’ by partnering Cheryl (Courtney Thorne Smith) who is a sensitive and caring modern lady. Continue reading “Review of ‘According to Jim’”

Review of ‘Sex and the City’

4 gals in New York City looking for love and labels (fashion brands) is the premise of the ‘romcom’ that had a successful run of 6 seasons on HBO. It was a pioneer show that caught on the trend of ‘chick-flick’ early in the game and had a long run of success. It started to fade eventually particularly in its last season. It had a spin-off as a couple of movies that followed. They minted money but ruined its franchise for sure for many viewers

Image Courtesy – Wikipedia

Carrie Bradshaw played famously by Sarah Jessica Parker is a freelance writer who writes a column in the local newspaper that deals with sex, singlehood and fashion. She stays in New York City and is part of a close-knit gang of 4 gals who are real soul mates. Carrie spends her life chasing her passions – shoes, fashion and the romance of finding the ‘right man’. She is in her mid 30s and her friends share similar interest. Continue reading “Review of ‘Sex and the City’”

Review of ‘How I Met Your Mother’

At first glance, ‘How I Met Your Mother’ reminds you a lot about, ‘F.R.I.E.N.D.S’. I never quite watched the series regularly – an occasional episode meant that I missed a lot of the running jokes but the core of the story was quite steady – a hip set of youngsters hanging around the bar and battling their professional and personal woes with help of the gang.

How I Met Your Mother Lead Cast                                                                    Image Courtesy – US Weekly

I took some more notice when I learnt that the climax episode of the long running series generated a lot of scorn and angst in the internet world. Now having ‘binge-watched’ the series I guess one can see the ‘point-of-view’ of people who felt ripped off by the climax.

The story started as a ‘sitcom’ but veered a lot into drama and melodrama by the end of it. It is set in New York and the five staple characters are quite well-etched to begin with it. Continue reading “Review of ‘How I Met Your Mother’”

‘Ae Zindagi Gale Laga Le…’ – the world of Hindi cinema!

Sadma featuring Kamal Haasan and Sridevi was helmed by the ace cinematographer Balu Mahendra. It was not a commercial hindi film – it was primarily an artistic Tamil movie. But it had this lovely number, ‘Ae Zindagi Gale Laga Le, Hamne Bhi Tere Har Ek Gam Ko Gale Se Lagaya Hain Na …’ by Gulzar sa’ab set to the music of Isaignani Ilayaraja.

Sridevi Kamal Haasan in Sadma Image Courtesy- Shemaroo

The song was a great example of creative collaboration in Hindi cinema – not quite often reflected in the mainstream movies. Yet another aspect that I admire deeply is the ‘Ganga-Jamuni’ tehzeeb and the unique hindustani lehzaa in some of our movies. To me these syncretic confluences define the essence of Hindi cinema though I have had fun with the typical commercial potboilers as well.

Continue reading “‘Ae Zindagi Gale Laga Le…’ – the world of Hindi cinema!”

The romance of trains.

I love trains the best when it comes to do some travelling – buses and planes don’t quite have the romance one associates with the rhythmic movement of the wheels as wondrous vistas get swept by the side.

Rameswaram – South India Railways                                                                                               Image Courtesy – Wikimedia

Trains have a practical side to them as well – the movement is not jerky enough so makes it easy to read stuff or even work on your laptop. A variety of refreshments get served as you are waited ‘hand-and-foot’ by the pantry staff and the various vendors boarding the train. You can meet some interesting people and the conversations can be fun in the languorous environment.

One really enjoys train journeys in the rain – if you happen to be travelling the ghats, it is breezy and nippy.  And you get to see all those lovely views including waterfalls with the waters simply gushing down the mountains. Continue reading “The romance of trains.”

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.

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

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.

Lydia as a prostitute 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.

Continue reading “Somerset Maugham’s ‘Christmas Holiday’.”

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.

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.

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.

Continue reading “Wodehouse Chronicles feat. Wooster and Jeeves”

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.


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.

Continue reading “Maugham’s last play – Sheppey!”