Thursday, August 21, 2014

The First Date

A short story after a long time. And, the fact that it’s in Open Road Review is a happy bonus. In August 2014 issue. Thank you, the good people of Open Road Review.

Read the Story Here.

Thursday, August 14, 2014


It was a surprise. A happy surprise. I had this book with me for a long time – The Dragonfly: Stories (2006). I had never got around reading it. Today morning, I picked up the book in random, to read on the Metro while going to office. There is the first story, by Agyeya titled ‘Jayadol’, translated by Kaveri Rastogi from original Hindi. I wondered what the title meant and dived into the story, suddenly the names of Dibrugarh and Sibasagar cropped up, and I perked up.

As I read on, I am unreasonably happy, almost teary-eyed.

Here is one Hindi author, who decided to tell a particular story from the pages of Asomiya history, with such understanding and with such nuance and such drama…

The story is narrated from the point of view of Lieutenant Sagar, posted in Asom, who wants to visit the historical temple in Sibsagar district called Jayadol and the lake in front of it, called Jaysagar, both dedicated to Jayamati, the legendary heroine of Assamese history, wife of a great Ahom king and mother of the greatest of them all, Swargadeo Rudra Simha.

On the way, there is rain. Lt Sagar loses his way and enters into an old structure, where he has an epiphany, a fever-dream about this particular chapter of Jayamati’s life when the cruel king Chulik-Pha was hunting the Ahom princes, including Jayamati’s husband, Gadapani.

Agyeya dramatizes the story to a large extent, but whatever. I am so damn happy, so damn proud that a page from Asomiya history fueled the imagination of a great Hindi author.

On the eve of 66th Independence Day, if this is not an example of national integration, nothing is.

Sachchidananda Hirananda Vatsyayan 'Agyeya' (सच्चिदानन्द हीरानन्द वात्स्यायन 'अज्ञेय') (7 March 1911 – 4 April 1987), popularly known by his pen-name Ajneya ("Beyond comprehension"), was a pioneer of modern trends not only in the realm of Hindi poetry, but also fiction, criticism and journalism. He was one of the most prominent exponents of the Nayi Kavita (New Poetry) and Prayog (Experiments) in Modern Hindi literature, edited the 'Saptaks', a literary series, and started Hindi newsweekly, Dinaman.

Agyeya also translated some of his own works, as well as works of some other Indian authors to English. He also translated some books of world literature into Hindi.
On this day eight years ago, I joined The Times of India, Pune Edition. And, for five-and-a-half-years, I had the time of my life. And, it was not the job; a job is just a job – but for my wonderful colleagues, and my invaluable seniors. Thank you guys, each one of you. You know who you are and I remember each one of you. We had such a marvellous time, and not just the drinks…

I wonder why I did I leave. Perhaps I could contain on this much love, or perhaps I had to go away to treasure what I had been given…

Delhi By Heart

It’s an important book with an interesting point of view-a Pakistani Muslim travels to so-called secular India and is enamored by Mughal India-and perhaps a timely one. Yet, I wish the author was not so influenced by William Dalrymple’s City of Djinns. That book is a clear model for Delhi By Heart and it proves to be its undoing. Granted, the book talks more about the Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah than Dalrymple did (When he discussion sufi saints, like Sarmad, Rumi is at his best), yet, the book cannot rise above being derivative.

I think the book needed some massive editing. The language is stilted and the movement between past and present tense doesn’t quite work. What’s more, there are repetitions, which a good editor should have noticed.

Yet, I would recommend the book for its unique point of view.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Secret Gardener

Swaminathan, Kalpana. The Secret Gardener. New Delhi: Penguin, 2013

I had the book with me for a long time. I even tried to read it once. But couldn’t just enter into the world of Sita and her ageing aunt, Lalli, the famous Tamil detective in Mumbai, and her ragtag group of allies, policemen Savio and Shukla and police doctor Q. I had not read the first two books, part of an apparent series.

Then yesterday, I picked up the book again, read the first few pages and I was on. Literally. By midnight, I was halfway through and I could not stop. I had a faint idea who may be the perpetrators of the crime, and I had to finish the book. I did. And now, I am a fan of Kalpana Swaminathan.

This is a detective novel, and I am sure the book will disappoint many for not being ‘detective’ enough. There are plot holes. There are co-incidents (even the major turning point of the novel, of Jai finding his way to Lalli’s house is a co-incidence) and there are not enough action.

But then, this is not just a detective novel, it’s an Indian detective novel. Now, this is important. Especially, Swaminathan considers it important. She takes the model of a classic detective tale (complete with the final ‘parlour scene’ where the detective unravels the mysteries), and makes it very Indian. In the parlour scene for example, they have a South Indian dessert, which is described with delectable detail. Even her images are Indian. And she is not just interested in the crime and the criminal, she is interested in other things, marital rape, for instance, or child welfare, or horticulture, or food. And her comic timing is seriously judicious. She does it sparingly, but with such panache, I was smiling.

Since this is a detective novel, I cannot give away the plot, but I can only tell my friends, fans of the detective novels of a certain JK Rowling, please, please, read The Secret Gardener.

Robin Williams

Robin Williams, the US actor and comedian who has been found dead in an apparent suicide at the age of 63, won legions of fans with his frenetic energy, quick-fire improvisations and ability to mimic other famous people.

Those skills enabled him to create such delightful comic characters as Mrs Doubtfire, the faux Scottish nanny he disguised himself as in the 1993 hit, and the shape-shifting genie in Disney's Aladdin - a free-wheeling force no bottle could contain.

Yet Williams was also capable of more nuanced work, receiving a best supporting actor Oscar for playing a sympathetic yet troubled psychologist who comes to Matt Damon's aid in 1997's Good Will Hunting.

He could also play against his ebullient persona and the affection audiences had for him by bringing chilling psychotic villains to life in films such as Insomnia and One Hour Photo.

Born on 21 July 1951 in Chicago, Illinois, the young Williams developed a quick wit as a means of overcoming shyness and boosted his confidence further by joining his school's drama club.

Robin Williams was a superb, mercurial standup comic with a staggering talent for improv and verbal riffing, though his movie career finally evolved into an intriguing split – sugary sentimentality or an ambiguous, menacing darkness. Something similar happened with Steve Martin and Jerry Lewis. The “Mr Hyde” in Robin Williams’s movie persona was well known.

So the news of his death, and the indication he has taken his own life, is deeply shocking. He clearly suffered from depression – these were symptoms hiding in plain sight – and his brilliance assumes a deeply sad aspect.

Williams could suspend his merciless, crazy irony almost entirely for glutinous family movies like Patch Adams, in which he played a doctor who treated sick kids using his irrepressible sense of humour, or the solemn fantasies like Bicentennial Man, or even his second world war drama Jakob the Liar. Or he could be chilling and sinister, as he was in One Hour Photo, a disturbing drama from 2002 in which he played the drugstore photo lab employee (in the days before digital cameras) who becomes obsessed with the pictures he develops showing a suburban family. Then there was his performance in the ice-cold, ultra-black comedy World’s Greatest Dad, in 2009, in which he plays another creepy yet tragic character, a high-school teacher whose son dies in a grisly accident, and who then concocts a bogus suicide note and rides a wave of celebrity and sympathy.

Williams had a big-hearted side, a love of broad comedy and a muscular, intensely physical talent for it, which he showed off in his smash-hit drag act Mrs Doubtfire from 1993. He played a divorced guy who disguises himself as a housekeeper with a bizarre Scottish accent, employed by his unsuspecting ex-wife, so that he can keep an eye on the children. It was a role that showed off Williams’s talents – the zaniness, the dressing up, the bizarrely transparent absurdity, combined with his big-hearted, faintly lachrymose vulnerability and sentimental concern for children.

Robin Williams apparently killed himself by hanging, according to a preliminary coroner's report released today. Marin County sheriff's spokesman Lt Keith Boyd told reporters that the actor and comedian, who was 63, had hanged himself in his bedroom at his home in Tiburon, in northern California.

The Oscar-winner was last seen alive by his wife, Susan Schneider, at home late on Sunday evening. Believing he was still asleep, Schneider left the house at around 10.30am on Monday. When Williams's personal assistant arrived just over an hour later, police said, she became worried when he failed to answer the door. She gained entry, only to find him dead.

Robin Williams, the comedian who evolved into the surprisingly nuanced, Academy Award-winning actor, imbuing his performances with wild inventiveness and a kind of manic energy, died on Monday at his home in Tiburon, Calif., north of San Francisco. He was 63.

The Marin County sheriff’s office said in a statement that it “suspects the death to be a suicide due to asphyxia.” An investigation was underway.

The statement said that the office received a 911 call at 11:55 a.m. Pacific time, saying that a man had been found “unconscious and not breathing inside his residence.” Emergency personnel sent to the scene identified him as Mr. Williams and pronounced him dead at 12:02 p.m.

Mr. Williams’s publicist, Mara Buxbaum, said in a statement that Mr. Williams “has been battling severe depression.”

When Robin Williams graduated from Redwood High School in Marin County, his classmates couldn't help themselves: They voted him both "most humorous" and "least likely to succeed."

He topped them.

Williams became one of the world's most successful entertainers, an actor and comedian whose energy animated characters who, like himself, seemed to be spinning hilariously out of control — sometimes into dark places that only the "most humorous" can understand.

Williams, whose first major role was as a lovable alien in the TV series "Mork & Mindy" but who soon graduated to films such as "Good Will Hunting," "Dead Poets Society," "Mrs. Doubtfire," and "Good Morning, Vietnam," died Monday in what appears to be a suicide from asphyxiation, Marin County authorities said.

Robin McLaurin Williams (July 21, 1951 – August 11, 2014) was an American actor, comedian, film producer, and screenwriter.

Rising to fame with his role as the alien Mork in the TV series Mork & Mindy (1978–82), Williams went on to establish a successful career in both stand-up comedy and feature film acting. His film career included such acclaimed films as The World According to Garp (1982), Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), Dead Poets Society (1989), Awakenings (1990), The Fisher King (1991), and Good Will Hunting (1997), as well as financial successes such as Popeye (1980), Hook (1991), Aladdin (1992), Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), Jumanji (1995), The Birdcage (1996), Night at the Museum (2006), and Happy Feet (2006). He also appeared in the video "Don't Worry, Be Happy" by Bobby McFerrin.

Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor three times, Williams received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Good Will Hunting. He also received two Emmy Awards, four Golden Globe Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, and five Grammy Awards.

Williams suffered from depression throughout his life, and also struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. On August 11, 2014, he was found dead after apparently committing suicide by hanging himself at his home in Paradise Cay near the town of Tiburon, California.

Robin Williams in Movies

1980 Popeye
1982 The World According to Garp
1984 Moscow on the Hudson
1987 Good Morning, Vietnam
1988 The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
1989 Dead Poets Society
1990 Awakenings
1991 The Fisher King
1991 Hook
1992 Aladdin
1992 The Timekeeper
1993 Mrs. Doubtfire
1994 Being Human
1994 In Search of Dr. Seuss
1995 Jumanji
1996 The Birdcage
1997 Good Will Hunting
1997 Flubber
1997 Deconstructing Harry
1998 What Dreams May Come
1999 Bicentennial Man
2001 A.I. Artificial Intelligence
2002 Insomnia
2002 One Hour Photo
2006 Night at the Museum
2006 Happy Feet
2006 RV
2009 Shrink
2009 World's Greatest Dad
2009 Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

Lauren Bacall

Lauren Bacall, the actress whose provocative glamour elevated her to stardom in Hollywood’s golden age and whose lasting mystique put her on a plateau in American culture that few stars reach, died on Tuesday in New York. She was 89.

Her death was confirmed by her son Stephen Bogart. “Her life speaks for itself,” Mr. Bogart said. “She lived a wonderful life, a magical life.”

With an insinuating pose and a seductive, throaty voice — her simplest remark sounded like a jungle mating call, one critic said — Ms. Bacall shot to fame in 1944 with her first movie, Howard Hawks’s adaptation of the Ernest Hemingway novel “To Have and Have Not,” playing opposite Humphrey Bogart, who became her lover on the set and later her husband.

It was a smashing debut sealed with a handful of lines now engraved in Hollywood history.

“You know you don’t have to act with me, Steve,” her character says to Bogart’s in the movie’s most memorable scene. “You don’t have to say anything, and you don’t have to do anything. Not a thing. Oh, maybe just whistle. You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.”

... ... ...

She also expressed impatience, especially in her later years, with the public’s continuing fascination with her romance with Bogart, even though she frequently said that their 12-year marriage was the happiest period of her life.

“I think I’ve damn well earned the right to be judged on my own,” she said in a 1970 interview with The New York Times. “It’s time I was allowed a life of my own, to be judged and thought of as a person, as me.”

Continue reading the main story
Years later, however, she seemed resigned to being forever tied to Bogart and expressed annoyance that her later marriage to another leading actor, Jason Robards Jr., was often overlooked.

“My obit is going to be full of Bogart, I’m sure,” she told Vanity Fair magazine in a profile of her in March 2011, adding: “I’ll never know if that’s true. If that’s the way, that’s the way it is.”

Ms. Bacall was an 18-year-old model in New York when her face on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar caught the eye of Slim Hawks, Howard Hawks’s wife. Brought to Hollywood and taken under the Hawkses’ wing, she won the role in “To Have and Have Not,” loosely based on the novel of the same name.


She was a nice Jewish girl brought up right by mother in two rooms on the wrong side of the tracks in Manhattan, her father long fled from their lives. She was so nervous in her first film role, at all of 19 years old, that her head shook; so she tilted her chin down to steady herself, and had to look up from under at the camera. She stood at the bedroom door of "a hotel in Martinique in the French West Indies" – the Warner Bros lot in Hollywood – looked up, and asked Humphrey Bogart for a match. And defined her life.

At that incendiary moment in 1944, Lauren Bacall, who has died aged 89, was still Betty Bacall, and had been recently Betty Perske; a stagestruck teenager whose poor family finances bought her a bare year at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (fellow pupil and first crush, Kirk Douglas), and whose fought-for debut parts were in flops. She had to pay her way as an usherette and model, an unglam garment trade live dummy, until her photogenic potential was spotted by Diana Vreeland, fashion editor of Harper's Bazaar. Vreeland had an instinct for the face of the times, for a movie in a single still; and the shot that begat Bacall was a Bazaar cover, Betty besuited before a Red Cross office door. It's lit noirishly, and she is acting independent – a frank, clever gal caught up in the war effort.

It was seen in Hollywood by David O Selznick, and Columbia pictures; both inquired after her. But the real connection was made by Nancy "Slim" Hawks, wife to director Howard Hawks, who seems to have recognised in Betty's stance a style much like her own, plus the physical substance of her husband's dreams. She alerted Hawks, and Bacall was invited to entrain across America on the 20th Century Limited to be screen-tested; Hawks offered her a personal contract. Bacall treated him as a surrogate father, and understood only later that he always wanted to be Svengali, making over a kid from nowhere into his desirable girl. His fantasy woman was sexually experienced and insolent; Hawks had hung out with Ernest Hemingway and co, who (as Slim complained after the marriage was over) wanted females who did not wimp out or whinge about the big game hunting, the hard drinking and harder bullshitting – but who were young enough not to be equals, so that they were never a threat.

She slouched on to screens in the 1940s, a new kind of female star: sexy, smart, able to give as good as she got. Sixty years on, Lauren Bacall is still making films - but it is those early lines and angled looks that cast her for ever as an icon. Susie Mackenzie meets her. Read the interview Here.

Lauren Bacall (/ˌlɔrən bəˈkɔːl/, born Betty Joan Perske; September 16, 1924 – August 12, 2014) was an American film and stage actress and model, known for her distinctive husky voice and sultry looks.

She first emerged as a leading lady in the Humphrey Bogart film To Have and Have Not (1944) and continued on in the film noir genre, with appearances in Bogart movies The Big Sleep (1946), Dark Passage (1947), and Key Largo (1948), as well as comedic roles in How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) with Marilyn Monroe and Designing Woman (1957) with Gregory Peck. Bacall worked on Broadway in musicals, gaining Tony Awards for Applause in 1970 and Woman of the Year in 1981. Her performance in the movie The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996) earned her a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award nomination.

In 1999, Bacall was ranked #20 of the 25 actresses on the AFI's 100 Years... 100 Stars list by the American Film Institute. In 2009, she was selected by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to receive an Academy Honorary Award "in recognition of her central place in the Golden Age of motion pictures."

Friday, August 08, 2014

Witnessed the day break after a long time, and it was not even one of those booze nights when you cannot even remember the way to your home, let along appreciate your surroundings. There were some drinking, sure, but it was mostly nonsense chatting with a friend, after a long time, outside, because it was hot and claustrophobic inside. The birds on a wire were a bonus. I especially cherish the photo as it was one of the last pictures taken from my camera before it was stolen. I was little upset and then got over it. I got a new one, similar. Pandav Nagar, Mayur Vihar I, New Delhi. April 2014

Singham Returns

Singham Returns (returns) on August 15. I am sure people are looking forward to it, and the market is watching closely; especially after Chennai Express. Meanwhile, director Rohit Shetty says the film has an anti-corruption message. Very good! But I wonder if people go to a Rohit Shetty film for messages, or just for inane spectacle? As it happens with sequels, this one also looks like (from the trailers at least) a drugged-up version of the first film. This one is set in Mumbai, so we will have more people, bigger villains, more cars, in short everything enlarged. Oh, it also has Kareena Kapoor, compared to the forgettable heroine the last time around. Wow! However, I was thinking, some hosiery company can cash in on the film to sell baniyans, I means, most of the actors are in their baniyans most of the time in the film. Just saying…