I touched upon Indians not making it easy for others to appreciate their art recently. I then mused about the melting pot that is India, and how difficult it can be for Indians to appreciate their own regional arts. Hence I would like to experiment sharing my affection of a Marathi song, and see if music is indeed a universal language as they say.
The song is “Mana Tuzhe Manogata” from the Marathi feature film “Kalat Nakalat”, composed by Anand Modak and sung by the versatile Asha Bhosle. Not only do I love the song immensely, I think it can be a learning experience to examine how Modak uses the composition to express the meaning of Sudhir Moghe’s lyrics.
It helps to visualize as follows:
- Voice: Soul, the being expressing itself.
- Flute: Close Friend, representative of the Child in a person.
- Piano: Friend, who punctuates the entire vocal expression. It plays host to the whole scene.
- Violin: Friend, who enters the scene later, but is the most eloquently empathetic.
- Chorus: Group of empathetic friends.
मना तुझे मनोगत मला कधी कळेल का? Mana tujhe manogata mala kadhi kalel ka?
(Dear Mind, can I ever understand you?)
This question sets the context of the entire poem and song. Are we able to fully understand ourselves? Are we able to empathize with our deepest thoughts and emotions?
The mood of the song is introspection and sharing. Introspection invokes a panorama of thoughts, emotions, memories, fantasies, etc. It typically happens in a situation of conflict, as in this movie drama of an extra-marital affair. The song provides a musical backdrop to this conflict, and its instrumentation evokes empathetic sharing.
The poem describes a being trying to understand itself, a soul addressing its mind. A soul, with a great magnitude of sensitive and often irreconcilable thoughts and emotions is wondering whether it can understand its mind. Usually, this is represented as a conflict between thoughts and emotions, mind and heart, but this song transcends all that. It does so by providing a harmonious backdrop to the interplay between the mind and heart, an intimacy between emotion and thought. Is this a dialogue between a thinking heart and an emotional mind?
तुझ्यापरी गूढ सोपे होणे मला जुळेल का? Tuzhyapari goodh sope hone mala julel ka?
(Can I be enigmatic and simple like you?)
Will I be able to make any complex thing appear simple, like you do? The soul is thus respecting the mind by saying that the mind can solve each and every mystery in the world. The descending order of notes reflects this ability of the mind.
The multiple notes of pari preface the word goodh (enigmatic) to highlight its complexity. The word goodh is in simple notes, highlighting the ability of the mind to simplify complex things. But, this simplicity is achieved only after traversing the complex notes of pari. Such is the action and capability of the mind.
The flute, a close friend, is the expression of the Child, adding emotional value to the voice. Whereas the voice has a relatively simple tune, the flute adds all the intricacies denoting the Child’s emotional convolutions.
The flute is a friend who understands not only what is explicitly conveyed, but also empathizes with what is shared emotionally. It says: “Yes, I understand how it must have felt”. It acts like a friend who resonates and encourages one to share further.
In the ending notes, it tries to anticipate the intense emotional experience that the soul needs to share and entices it into sharing further.
कोण जाणे केवढा तू व्यापतोस आकाशाला; आकाशाचा अर्क देशी, एका मातीच्या कणाला
Kon jaane kevadha tu, vyaaptos aakaashaala; aakaashaacha arka deshi eka mateechyaa kanaala
(Who knows how much you engulf the sky; you can extract the essence of the sky into a single soil particle)
Observe the helplessness in the notes of the words “Kon jaane” (who knows). This helplessness suggests that nobody knows.
When the tune reaches ‘aakaashaalaa’ (sky), it literally flies. It roams the sky. Its notes are like the flutter of a bird taking flight.
Meanwhile, the chorus is behaving quite empathetically, letting the soul know that it is understanding. It’s rising notes also anticipate, that the peak of the emotional expression, is yet to come. It anticipates the high notes, like a friend who anticipates what we’re going to say. This pattern of the chorus is repeated again with the same effect in the following stanzas of the song.
The stress and emphasis of the second line is in the word ‘ekaa’ (single). The word is given importance by its position in the meter and its low note, making it a fulcrum. The low note and emphasis on this word provide the necessary impact for the meaning of the line.
तुझे दार माझ्यासाठी थोडेतरी खुलेल का? Tuzhe daar mazhyaasaathi thodetari khulel ka?
(Will your door open, at least a little, for me?)
The peak arrives poignantly, the voice expressing a yearning desire to let the soul get a glimpse of the mind! The notes are as if a futile, yet persistent attempt is being made to open an automatically closing door. There’s helplessness in the tone, expressed also by the pauses in the voice as if taking a breath before trying to push the door open. The task seems impossible, unachievable.
The piano arpeggio takes off from where the voice left, and completes the emotional expression. It also returns the ear to the main note, forming a bridge or circle.
The flute continues acting as a friend, also inviting the Violin into the scene. It implores the Violin into joining its empathetic understanding. The Violin enters, reservedly, as if saying, “Yes, I am trying to understand”.
कळीतला ओला श्वास, पाषाणाचा थंड स्पर्श Kaleetla ola shwaas, pashanaachaa thanda sparsha
(The wet breath in a flower bud, the cold touch of stone)
तुझ्यामध्ये सामावला वारा काळोख प्रकाश Tuzhyamadhye samavala vaara, kalokh, prakasha
(Within you are encompassed wind, darkness, and light)
The notes span and traverse the scale, expressing how the mind encompasses everything in the universe – all dimensions of nature.
तुझे अरूपाचे रूप माझ्यापुढे फुलेल का? Tuzhe aroopaache roopa mazhyapudhe phulel ka?
(Will your formless image blossom in front of me?)
The soul is helplessly trying to understand the mind. It is yearning to comprehend and formulate the formless mind.
Now, even the so-far-reserved Violin understands the saga. It reaches the peak of its emotional expression. It becomes completely overwhelmed by emotions, languishing in them, as if reaching to the Chorus for support.
The soul is desperately trying to calm the Child in itself.
खुळा ध्यास आभासांचा पाठ्लाग कोणासाठी Khula dhyaas aabhasaancha paathlag konasaathi?
(For whom, this idiotic unremitting contemplation and pursuit of sophistry?)
तुझ्या मनातले आर्त माझ्या मनी ढळेल का? Tuzhya manaatale aarta mazhya manee dhalel ka?
(Will your intense longing yield to my mind?)
The poetic climax! While the soul has been addressing the mind so far, here, it is also referring to a mind of its own! This is symbolic of the fact that though there may be conflicts between them, the soul, mind, and heart are entwined together in an inseparable fashion. The listener is cajoled into this discovery, by the piano arpeggio. It is as if that this was what it was trying to convey since the beginning!
The film doesn’t feature the complete song – rather, it uses it in two sections for two scenes. As far as I know, a soundtrack album was never released, hence the song is not publicly available in its entirety as a single song (you can listen to 2/3rds of the song here). I was fortunate to get the full version but have split it into sections to respect copyrights.
I have always admired Western films featuring the handicapped, such as Children of a Lesser God, Scent of a Woman, and the classic The Miracle Worker. So the last weekend, I decided to explore similar Indian films. Warning: this post contains spoilers.
Koshish (Effort) (1972)
Directed by the sensitive Gulzar, featuring stalwarts Sanjeev Kumar and Jaya Bhaduri, Koshish (IMDB) is about the life of a deaf and dumb couple who try to live a normal life in an insensitive society. It was very courageous of Gulzar to make a popular, commercial film of such an unusual plot, unlike the parallel art cinema of the times. After their first child dies due to an accident that they could not prevent as a result of being deaf, they get help from a blind friend to help raise the second child successfully.
It was heartwarming to see a film being made on such a subject using a popular cast. It does suffer from the usual drawbacks of popular cinema – excessive music, lot of melodrama, stereotypical villains, etc. However, viewed from a larger perspective, the director must be praised for taking the effort in trying to raise awareness among the masses.
There are touching scenes aplenty. The friendship and communication of the deaf and dumb couple with the blind friend is poignant. The anxiousness of the parents to have a ‘normal’ child is well done. Creative flourishes include a contraption used by the blind friend to alert the parents when the baby awakens and cries at night, and a scene where the young child is dancing to music from the radio and the parents touch the radio speakers to feel the rhythm. Both Sanjeev Kumar and Jaya Bhaduri play their roles very well and won the National Awards for Acting.
The artificial sets look too artificial. Another gripe I had was the same as Roger Ebert had with Children of a Lesser God – there is no scene without music to really let the audience feel how the world is for the couple. I morally disagreed with the plot at the end, where the son is virtually forced to marry a deaf and dumb girl. Overall, still recommended, as it is one of the rare Indian Sign Language Films.
Shwaas (Breath) (2004)
India’s failed attempt at the 77th Academy Awards was the film Shwaas (IMDB), which was a Marathi Indian National Award winner after 50 years. A rural boy with a rare retinal cancer is brought to the city hospital by his grandfather. A life-saving surgery would render the boy permanently blind. This difficult situation is dramatized in the film sensitively or over-sentimentally – depending on the viewer’s appetite for melodrama. While most Indian audiences find little or no melodrama in the film, most Western reviewers find it mawkish.
The long drawn out formalities in the hospital may appear too stretched, but that underscores the plight and frustration of millions of Indians who deal with the Indian medical bureaucracy. The hospital scenes appear authentic because six months were spent by the crew studying the goings-on in a real hospital. Both Ashwin Chitale as the boy (National Award for Best Actor), and Arun Nalawade as the grandfather deliver sterling performances. The doctor and social worker helping them cope with the situation are passable. The rural scenes of the boy’s village are a counterpoint to the hectic city life. These are captured with cinematic beauty, an accomplishment for Sandeep Sawant’s directorial debut. The music is generally fine, with an excellent interlude of piano with strings in the middle.
Among the negatives is an overly dramatized sequence when the boy ‘disappears’ from the hospital. The exaggeration is unrealistic. The parents absence from the key action seems implausible. The surgeries of other patients are postponed with an alarming insouciance. Despite these minor blemishes, Shwaas is a breath of fresh air about finding optimism in the gravest of circumstances. One of the finest Indian films in recent times.
Sparsh (Touch) (1980)
Sai Paranjpe’s Sparsh (IMDB) offers an unparalled insider’s view of the world of the blind. It is a very sensitively handled story of the romantic relationship between a blind man Anirudh (Naseeruddin Shah) who runs a school for the blind, and a bereaved widow Kavita (Shabana Azmi). The scenes of blind children of the school are used to form a backdrop to the central drama of the relationship. Of all these three films, this is the most ‘artsy’, the least melodramatic, and hence most to my liking.
Both the characters are living in a kind of a shell, afraid to open themselves up in fear of hurt. Anirudh is extremely independent, fierce in his determination, and passionately resists any attempt by others to treat him differently because of his blindness. His internal vulnerability is revealed later in the film. Kavita is living an isolated life while apparently cocooned in her bereavement. After a chance encounter, Kavita accepts Anirudh’s suggestion of teaching the children at his school.
The scenes of the children at the school are endearing. The only sighted boy once has a fight with a blind classmate and shuts his eyes to have a fair fight. The children play games, act in a drama, create candles and artifacts, and all these scenes are without a shred of pity – rather they’re a tribute to the triumph of the human spirit.
Soon, Anirudh and Kavita are in love, and they are engaged. This is where Anirudh’s inner insecurity leads him to suspect that Kavita is marrying him out of sacrifice and compromise, and that she doesn’t really love him. His dichotomy – on the one hand he wants others to treat him just like a normal person, and on the other, is hesitant to accept it when Kavita does – is extremely well handled. Naseer’s performance strikes just the right tone. He won the National Award for Best Actor. This is one of the rare performances in Indian films where a lead actor performs a blind role without the use of opaque glasses. His method acting is superlative.
All scenes are given just the right emotional treatment, and the cast delivers Sai Paranjpe’s vision of a sensitive film about intelligent, human characters. It was this film that inspired the poem in my earlier post “Blind Love”. Highly recommended.
While everyone is writing about India’s first female president, let me take this opportunity to note another first for India’s president: that Mrs. Pratibha Patil is a Maharashtrian.
Rajdeep Sardesai writes about the euphoria among the Maharashtrian community on his IBN Live Blog.
While I would disagree with him about this, he goes on to further explore Maharashtra’s role in Indian politics, and more specifically, how and why they’ve never really achieved a ‘national leader’ status. On a psychological level:
Mr. Sharad Pawar, in a sense, exemplifies the failings of the contemporary Maharashtra political elite. If the Bengali left has been burdened with an innate superiority complex (many of them still genuinely believe in the Gokhale dictum of a century ago that what Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow), the inward-looking attitude of the Maratha leadership has bred a certain inferiority complex, and made it difficult for them to adjust to a wider, more complex world (which is why Mr. Pawar needs a Praful Patel as his political brand manager).
Which brings me to Kumar Ketkar’s op-ed in the Indian Express. He opines that Mrs. Patil’s victory is a non-event in Maharashtra, and says:
The fact is that the average Marathi person is far less ethnically chauvinistic than he is made out to be by the Shiv Sena and the English media. With malice towards none, one can say that Maharashtra does not have the ethnic-cultural-linguistic pride which is so dominant in Bengali, Tamil, Telugu or Punjabi societies.
He describes the different Maharashtra regions having separate identities, and there being no comprehensive Marathi ethos.
As an experiment, I tried thinking of famous Indian personalities and what my immediate thoughts about them were. If I had no specific thought for even a second, I moved to the next. It went something like this (in no particular order):
- Manmohan Singh. Intellectual. Sikh.
- Sachin Tendulkar. Great batsman.
- Saurav Ganguly. Great captain. Bengali.
- Amitabh Bacchan. Superstar.
- Satyajit Ray. Great Bengali filmmaker.
- Amartya Sen. Great economist.
- Rajnikanth. Tamil Superstar.
- Lata Mangeshkar. Great singer. Marathi.
Obviously, the results were mixed. Now, given that artists (singers, filmmakers, actors) are intimately involved with their language, it is not surprising that their ethnicity is closely associated with them. But sportsmen, politicians, etc. are good candidates for this test. I found that for me, the Marathi-ness of various Maharashtrian celebrities is not a fundamental characteristic. Does this resonate with Ketkar’s view and Rajdeep’s inferiority complex theory? What do other Maharashtrians think? Are Maharashtrians less proud of their language/culture/ethos than they should be or other Indians are?
How do other Indians relate to Maharashtrian celebrities? Does their being Maharashtrian strike you in a definite in-your-face kind of fact?
All Photos Credit: BBC
Is Pune living up to its claim of being the “IT hub of Maharashtra”? At least some initiatives point in that direction.
Better Roads in Monsoon
Pune is notorious for its bad roads, and the monsoon season is pure nightmare. Both the PMC and the IT geeks-based “Better Roads Group” have teamed up to make this monsoon a different story:
For this, the PMC ensured that roads were repaired before the rain and even set up a monsoon helpline for citizens to register their complaints about potholes, waterlogging and choked drains. The PMC also gave the cellphone numbers of all 14 ward officers so that complaints could be sent through SMS.
To give this idea a big push, the civic body has roped in a group of young technocrats working for Better Roads Group, to monitor the operations of the helpline. The group will initiate immediate action on the complaints received through SMS.
Appaled by the condition of roads last year, the group decided to do something concrete, said Amit Kadam, who works for Persistent Technologies. The group had also filed a public interest litigation last year in the Bombay High Court on the bad condition of the city’s roads.
To register a pothole / manhole / water logging problem: Call Monsoon Helpline at 2444 5555.
Civic Complaints via SMS
Citizens will now be able to register their civic-related complaints just by sending SMSes to their local ward officer, ward medical officer, medical inspector, deputy city engineers or junior engineers.
Complaints pertaining to problems like irregular water supply, breach in pipelines, potholes, broken footpaths, uneven lids on manholes, garbage clearance, illegal hawkers, cleanliness of public areas and street lights can be made by citizens.
You can view the mobile phone numbers of the ward officers at PMC’s E-Governance Website.
Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has also tied up with the Citizen Empowerment Forum to register their complaint through the Internet.
The system would enable the citizens to file their complaint online and the complainant can check the status of the complaint on the net.
Visit Citizen Empowerment Forum’s site to lodge complaints.
Well, so many initiatives – it remains to be seen how effective they really turn out to be. But at least, it’s a start!
“For two months they stayed away from home, quit jobs and risked their lives and limbs climbing to dizzying heights and faced nature’s challenges. For, propelling these 20 youth, was their devotion to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Their mission: To photograph and document over 200 of his forts in the State.” For what, you ask?
The Largest Web Based Digital Interactive Encyclopedia
on the life and times of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj
- 20,000 plus pages of historical information
- 1,85,000 plus photographs of 280 forts & places
- Satellite coordinated GPS monitored maps of all forts
- Interactive visual tours of forts
- Pictorial biography of Maharaj with 100 exclusive stories 2,500 colour paintings on his life & times
- The site will cover a span of 127 years of Maratha History
- 128 professionals from different faculties
- Biggest website ever developed on an individual
- Biggest trekking expedition ever organised
Visit their site for updates on their impressive progress so far.