Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Best is The Enemy Of Good

There is this story which went around on the bizarre circumstances under which son-of-soil HD Deve Gowda was sworn as the 15th Prime Minister of India.

Representatives from all the 'secular forces' were having a meeting on the consensus candidate. Mr. Gowda too marked his valuable presence (which incidentally turned very valuable for himself) in the meeting through his patent siesta. Each of the participants was being asked the name of his/her preferred choice, but when Mr. Gowda's turn came, delta waves were already in formation, putting him at the 4th stage of sleep. At that point, Mr. Lalu Prasad Yadav, a Prime Minister aspirant himself, attempted to revive him back to the meeting, by hollering out his name "Mr. Gowda, Mr. Gowda !" Seeing his futile attempts, some others too joined in the chorus.

Nobody is sure what happened next or rather why it happened. Possibly due to the abrupt sleep disruption, and causing some sleep deprivation, Gowda senior got a little disoriented and hearing a cacophony of his name, he arrived to this happy conclusion that it was his name which the gentlemen were suggesting for the coveted post. Hurriedly he said "Thank You, Sar" and to the shock of the nation, the history was made.

It is said that since then Mulayam Singh has been harbouring a deep grudge against Lalu as he believes it is the latter who thus jinxed his chances of becoming PM while Lalu is no less bemused at the thought claiming why would he do that to himself, much less to Mulayam.

Sigmund Freud postulated that dreams are the symbolic expression of frustrated desires that have been relegated to the unconscious mind. Maybe all that happened because Deve Gowda was dreaming about that and when he woke up, his dream came true but if we come back to present times, then definitely dreams of Nitish Kumar have come to a shattering end.

Sycophants around Mayawati made her believe that she can be the country PM one day and she always gushed at that wishful thought. Something similar has happened with Nitish Kumar. He was always an ambitious man which was pretty evident the way he mercilessly relegated senior and respected JD(U) leader George Fernandez in the party. His two successive victories which coincided with a leadership void and factionalism in BJP brought him an artificial self-belief that perhaps he can be the next NDA leader and future PM but the sphinx like rise of Narendra Modi has put water to all such dreams.

Unfortunately, his only hope now rests on the idea of "Third Front" which in itself has no hopes. A mercurial Mamata Banerjee is better off as a foe than a friend. An equivocal Mulayam is a person whom no-one can reliably count either as a friend or foe. In the modern world where cradles of communism and socialism like Russia and China themselves have long since succumbed to the temptations of bourgeois and have moved on to become capitalist states, the leftists have no ideology left. J Jayalalitha always keeps cards close to her chest. If "Third Front" will have JD(U), where would their arch enemy RJD go ? Clearly, "Third Front" is a non-starter.

One would wonder what benefit have these various offshoots of erstwhile Janta Dal have done for the country. They way they have divided, sub-divided like diseased amoebae, tells a lot of about their opportunistic tendencies. Here is their staggering list at the time of writing : Janta Dal(S), Janta Dal (U), Samajwadi Party, Samajwadi Janta Party (Rashtriya), Rashtriya Janta Dal, Biju Janta Dal, Rashtriya Lok Dal, Indian National Lok Dal, Samta Party (later merged with JD(U)), Lok Janshakti Party, Janta Party, and Socialist Janta Party.

While these parties ably represent the crass and corrupt political class like their other brethren do, they are far worse because the reason of the birth of such splinters is not any ideology or a revolution; it is their absolute lust for power and unfathomable greed for money. Most of their leaders are either charge sheeted criminals or proclaim offenders and some of them have even enjoyed the hospitable services of Indian prisons. They can't even boast a single statesman amongst them and all they have learned to follow and practice is the art of blackmail.

Nitish Kumar's blackmailing has failed. Unfortunately, his ambition would cost more to his state than him as it might pave way for the return of Lalu and Bihar might sink back to dark ages once again. He should perhaps read Macbeth to learn about the pitfalls of uncontrolled ambition.

"I have no spur
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself
And falls on the other."

From Macbeth (William Shakespeare)

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Raven (Edgar Allan Poe)

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
`'Tis some visitor,' I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more.'

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; - vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore -
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me - filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
`'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door -
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; -
This it is, and nothing more,'

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
`Sir,' said I, `or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you' - here I opened wide the door; -
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, `Lenore!'
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, `Lenore!'
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
`Surely,' said I, `surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore -
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; -
'Tis the wind and nothing more!'

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door -
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door -
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
`Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,' I said, `art sure no craven.
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the nightly shore -
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning - little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door -
Bird or beast above the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as `Nevermore.'

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only,
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered - not a feather then he fluttered -
Till I scarcely more than muttered `Other friends have flown before -
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.'
Then the bird said, `Nevermore.'

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
`Doubtless,' said I, `what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore -
Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
Of "Never-nevermore."'

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore -
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking `Nevermore.'

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
`Wretch,' I cried, `thy God hath lent thee - by these angels he has sent thee
Respite - respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil! -
Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted -
On this home by horror haunted - tell me truly, I implore -
Is there - is there balm in Gilead? - tell me - tell me, I implore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us - by that God we both adore -
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels named Lenore?'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!' I shrieked upstarting -
`Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! - quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted - nevermore!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Curious Case of Missing Singers

My dad had an old Murphy radio of the size of a largish attaché box which had every indications of a prized possession. My mother told me it was as old as my dad himself, yet, though it looked weathered with a tinge of sepia, this was more because of the various shades of natural brown colour it had rather than aging as it was excellently maintained in his technically gifted hands.

He also owned a sleek Sony radio-cum-tape-recorder duly smuggled from Nepal because the then lower middle class of India could not afford the import duty Indira Gandhi's regime required for Garibi Hatao of our political class. This one was primarily used for either playing Sholay dialog cassette or for enjoying Qawwali(s) he was fond of.

However, Murphy was used for pure radio pleasure. Whether it was Vividh Bharati or Radio Ceylon - there would be a childish glint in his eyes not just because of the nostalgia attached with it, but also the fact that likes of Rafi, Kishore, Lata, Hemant Kumar, Asha, Manna Dey and others made the experience well worth it. These melodious voices and together with the music would compulsorily wash away the day-end weariness from the silos and warehouses of the Food Corporation of India.

Collateral benefit, however, was happening to me. I was getting increasingly addicted to singers, music and radio. I would tune-in to radio all the time be it the morning Chitralok or its shorter evening version. I have listened to Cibaca Sangeetmala on Vividh Bharati, before that when it was Binaca Geetmala on Radio Ceylon till it finally became Colgate Cibaca Sangeetmala. I have heard many special episodes of Chitramala hosted by the likes of Raj Kapoor, Asha Bhosle, Lata Mangeshkar and others. At my college, the best use and the worst abuse of my roommate's walkie-talkie shaped transistor was done by me. Similarly, during my first year of stay in Pune, after the hard day in the office I invariably ended sleeping to the lullabisque melodies from Bela Ke Phool - the last Vividh Bharati program from the Pune studios.

Unfortunately, the song listening experience has taken a big plunge in last few years. It all started when Himesh Reshamiya started croaking his own songs thereby opening a door size of the Wagah Border for other music directors to unleash the terror of their respective vocal chords on not just the hapless ears but also on the psyche of the listeners.

As you surf through various channels, you might hear Ram Sampath trying the title song of Fukrey seemingly under the spell of acute laryngitis. Not long ago, Amit Trivedi made full use of his false vocal folds and virtually no use of his true vocal chords in the rendition of the songs of Kai Po Che. I literally had trouble even hearing some words, forget understanding. Vishal Dadlani is bearable when he is part of a chorus, but I wonder whatever possessed Ram Sampath to make him sing for Talaash. If a voice can be called constipated, it was his when he tried Jee Ley Zara. In fact, if you notice both Vishal-Shekhar can boast of flourishing alternate singing careers (if you judge by sheer count of songs they have sung) yet not having a single hummable song.

And that is the main problem. With time, melody has already gone from the music. Barring rare exceptions, poetry in cinema is almost extinct. Now, if the quality of voice goes as well, what will be there to listen and enjoy ? What will be the repeat value ? And this has almost become a racket because every music director is singing now - Pritam Chakraborty, Sajid-Wajid, Vishal Bhardwaj and God knows where would it end, or will it ?

It is not that music directors were not singing before. S.D. Burman had a unique voice but he used it sparingly like in Merey Sajan Hain Us Paar from Bandini. Hemant Kumar occasionally dabbled as a music director, but he had a haunting voice which puts you in a trance. R D Burman's voice was harsh, good for yodeling and had nice variations but he too used it sparingly and mostly for an impact. I liked the song Dhannon Ki Ankhon Mein for the brilliant movie Kitaab.

Narcissism got better of Bappi Da and Anu Malik where they started to sing most of their songs, but even though latter was an atrocious singer, Bappi Da could sing well, especially the Bangla songs. The Bambayi Nagariya from Nau Do Gyarah was sung really well. Honourable mention to the special song sung by Jatin (of Jatin-Lalit pair) - Rooth Ke Humsey Kabhi from Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikander. This one is very close to my heart. A R Rehman too does that occasionally.

But these cases were more of the exceptions than rule. Now we have a whole syndicate of music-directors doing this and when we don't have these people singing their songs, we will have some other singer singing either with a nasal twang or in a husky voice. In the name of a "different" voice, every voice we are getting is different, and awful. As if actors themselves singing was not enough torture for us.

I wonder what my dad would have felt if he was around. For me, I am planning to switch to instrumentals.