Sunday, January 27, 2008

Once ( Irish ) by John Carney

On the insistence of Sri, I watched this lovely movie by the Irish Director John Carney. This movie had already won many awards and nominations. This is also nominated for "Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song" in 2008 Oscars. You can read all that and more here

A story about 2 musicians; he, a street singer and a hoover repairman and she, a czech immigrant and flower seller who plays piano, trying to help each other and themselves in their pursuit of music and personal life. Yes, it is he and she , there are no names. There is no pretence of an 'art movie' no visible effort to please the serious movie critics, no flamboyant dialogue , no superficies love and the so on.

It is not a musical like Moulin rouge or Chicago , but a movie about music. And dear, it has some very lovely tracks.

Added on 25/Feb : This movie won the oscar for the best song from a movie. Here are the details.

The complete oscar winners list can be found here

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Music Room - Namita Devidayal

History of Indian Music is very interesting and laden with stories, legends and myths. Little do we know about the hardship and the dedication of those who fight it out to come into the limelight. Be it the Hindustani style or the Carnatic style, the story is the same and often mis-represented. The eccentricities, the infights, the never ending egos , the selfish patrons , connoisseurs takes away the major part of their lives. These classical arts demand a life time of dedication and practice, often without any financial returns. A vast majority of once popular practitioners, end up living under poverty without anyone to look after them.

While a few fight it out in the commercial world, a large number of them does not get the recognition they deserve, who are as talented and as dedicated to the music. Mainly because of the lack of supporting systems such as patrons and weighty sponsors and many times because of their unwillingness to compromise on their believes.

Reading Namita Devidayals's absorbing book "The music Room", gives us the inside view of the life and times of the legends of Hindustani Music and their ways. As a ten year old girl, Namita was taken to one of the icons of the Jaipur Gharana , Dhondutai Kulkarni for her music lessons. Dhondutai , a living under sub par conditions, disciple of the famous and often controversial Kesarbai Kerkar, sees the glimpses of young Kesar in the young girl and accepts the girl under her tutelage. The long association of learning and admiration begins, which continues for almost three decades.

Namita Devidayal, takes the readers through the history of Jaipur Gharana and hindustani music in general over the period of 100 years with Dhondutai Kulkarni. The history covers the legendary Alladiya Khan and his musician family, Kesarbai Kerkar , the finest singers of the Jaipur Gharana and the life of Dhondutai Kulkarni.

The book looks at the life and times of the charismatic Alladiya Khan, the founder of the Jaipur Gharana, famous for their repertoire of rare ragas and krithis and their fast paced Taans. Though a Muslim, he and his family used to do sing every morning at the temples in Kolhapur and is still wear the thread across his chest like Brahmins.

Kesarbai Kerkar , considered as the most powerful hindustani singers of the 20th Century , learned from Alladiya , pioneered and preserved the Jaipur Gharana's tradition, and passed on to the young Dhondutai who joined her as a disciple and was with her until her death in 1977. There are enough examples and stories of the famous indian school of Guru-Shishya parampara and their often all submissive relationships. We also witness the steady deterioration of their financial wealth as well as their tradition as there are lesser and lesser listeners for this music and even lesser takers for learning. They lead a life so away from the mainstream and so detached from the worldly life spending most of the times in their small rooms with the gods and demi-gods in company.

Though this is biographical in nature, and not having most of the fictional qualities, Namita Devidayal uses the method of writing, which is a combination of both styles, retaining the admiration of the art and the gurus as you often observe in biographies, as well as the use of language as in fiction writings. At no point of time she is away form the events and the stories, always retains her ( and the readers) interest in the stories and anecdotes. A very well written book and great value to someone like me who has near zero knowledge of the Hindustani Music and its heroes.
Hindustan Times has set up a nice site on this book which can be accessed here
Here are the links to few reviews about this book.
Written By : Namita Devidayal
Random House Publications
316 Pages
Rs 395

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Perfume : Story of a Murderer - Patrick Suskind

Set in the late 19 centuray France, this novel written in 1985 by German writer Patrick Suskind. Heralded as a litereary sensation, this book had now been adapted into a movie ( which I haven't seen).

This is part of my backlog clearance exercise.. I have more than a dozen books in my shelf , bought over last few years , and not read. I have taken a resolution to complete all these books, before 2009.

This is an interesting book about a serial killer (? - very filmish it sound) in the 18th Centuray France. Jean-Baptiste Grenouille , abandoned by his mother in garbage, rescued and taken into an orphanage, is born with out a personal odor. But he develops ( or has it naturally ) a very acute sense of odor, may be due to the lack of his own smell. Grenouille finds a job with a perfumer with dwindling market share and fame, helping him to bring back his days of glory with his amazing combinations of perfume. After he has learned the methods and practices of mixing oils and herbs , he leaves him on his way to explore places. The building collapses mysteriously and the perfumer and his family dies on the same night. He spent his next seven years in a self imposed exile on a mountainl, away from all the living creatures and away from all the disturbing odors.

He returns to the world and gets himself a job of a perfumer again and here comes the twist. He develop a perfume which allows him to mingle with the crowd and people without them noticing his presence. By now he is obsessed with the development of one exotic perfume which was never made. The series of killing of virgin, with a specific age and characteristics begin with this quest. The story is now turns into suspense, horror and curiosity before he accomplishes his task of developing the scent never made after committing gruesome murder of 25 virgins. He was caught, prosecuted and found guilty. The execution time is on and he does the magic with his newly developed perfume. The same changes the atmosphere, it brings out all the suppressed passion of people into open and the place turn into an orgy and he is saved.

I find this novel as one which is written for movie adaptation. Easy reading and narration and a very different subject. Apart from that , I do not find anything interesting which calls for a second read.

You can read more about this at wiki ...

Perfume : Story of a murderer
Written By : Patrick Suskind
265 Pages

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Nalu Pennungal - Adoor Gopalakrishnan

Adoor Gopalakrishnan's new movie is a collection of 4 small movies about women. As the name suggests, the movie is about women from different facts of life. Adapted from different short stories by the famous Malayalam writer, Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai, set in the '20s , this films looks at the life and the incidents of four women dispassionately.

"Vesya" ( the prostitute ) is arrested by the police for adultery and is being questioned in the court. She and her new husband could not prove to the court that they are married, as there is no evidence. They have no house , sleep in the veranda of the shops, they have no family , they do not know who their parents are.. The only thing they can tell the authorities that they are married and are husband and wife.

"Kanyaka" ( the virgin ) is the story of a girl married to the neighbouring village, only to be left back in her house by the broom after the initial phases of the marriage and the "welcome feast" by the relatives.

"Chinnuamma" ( the housewife) is about a middle aged lady without any children and the attempt by her erstwhile friend or classmate to lure her into a relationship with him. It ends with a definitive stand by her asking him to leave.

"Nityakanyaka" ( the spinster ) is about the elder sister of the house, unable to get married and her coming to terms with that. All the people who come home to see her, are demanding her sisters and she remain a spinster despite the effort of her family.

While this movie is not a full length feature film ( a collection of 4 independent movies) , all the movies are connected by a single theme. They are all talk about the women in the social structure and their effort to come out of the domination by taking a definite stand on issues pertaining to them. Very strong and subtle in emotions , but very convincing in the end. Apart from a few places ( where I find it too mechanical ) all the actors have performed brilliantly , to the scope of the movie , against their commercial stardom.

Though this is not his best movie so far, Sri Adoor Gopalakrishnan maintained his high standards of film making by some good visuals and background score.