Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Durga Pujo and Old memories

Durga Puja is over.Another festive season has passed. This season has been quite special to me( I will write a detailed one on that as well..:-)) But I would go a few days back to Mahalaya, the day in which our Project Team had a special function to celebrate Debi's arrival.
The event was very well organised and all our team members did a brilliant job. During rehearsal, I saw a tabla lying in a colleague's desk. I was quite curious and was playing my hands over it. Sudip, a fellow colleague and friend, noticed it and immediately got hold of me. He urged me to play the same. However, owing to regular project work and couple of urgencies, I could not get time.
Well, let us go 20 years back, same time, SaltLake, kolkata.......Yours truly was a very social person then. Our para friends were doing Sukumar Ray's Lakkhaner Shaktishel for Mahasaptami. The play was directed by Arunava da, a fellow resident of our block. And yours truly was playing the role of none other than Lakkhan!!!
I do not know whether most of you have read the play. I would like to tell a few things about it. Lakkhan is the central character of the play. But he has a limited role. He is hurt by the Shaktishel from Rabon, and stays unconsious for quite some time, till Hanuman comes with Gandhamadan Parbat and saves Lakkhan's life. The entire play is a satire on the central characters, with witty dialogues and sharp ripostes from all and sundry.
I am(was..:-)) quite good at acting. In fact, the previous year, I played a central character in the pujo play. The play and everything, rehearsals etc were going along fine.However, after some time, I realised that I can play a much better role, either Hanuman or Ram's or for that matter, any other character. I did not have much to say, and lying down, pretending to sleep for long hours in rehearsal was quite boring. I only had few dialogues initially, and then a MAHA fight with Rabon and then falling down emphatically, saying 'Ha Hotoshmi'. This part was quite dramatic, but there was not much beyond that. I thought of telling this to Arunava da, but on second thoughts, decided against doing the same, as it might hamper team spirit. At that time, every evening, I used to go on a evening walk with Gora da and Zorro. Gora da is my neighbour(stays on the top floor) and Zorro was their pet Alsatian. I loved Zorro very much and enjoyed holding the rope and trying to pull him back when he lunged at street dogs at minor insinuations. Gora da was a dear friend then. Still now, I share a great rapport with him, but we do not talk that often now, as he has his friend circles and I have my own. Anyways, I told him my predicament. He listened intently and told me a short story. There was a great theatre actor in old Bangladesh, who after giving a few flops, was not getting many chances. Once he was asked to do a bits and pieces role for a pittance. He did that with such aplomb that post performance, everybody rushed to his house to offer congratulations. But when they came, they found that he had already left the village. He was never seen after that.
I was quite moved by the story. I thought about it the whole night. By the way, that day was also Mahalaya and we had only a few days left. Next day onwards, I was a different person in the set. I put my best foot forward and gave the best emotions while eliciting the dialogue 'Ha Hotoshmi', while keeping in mind that I must not overact.
The D day had come. Mahasaptami had arrived. We were all geared up backstage. I had put a lot of make up, with false hair and paint in my face. Well, the play started and I gave the performance. The crowd roared to a thunderous applause when I fell down saying 'Ha Hotoshmi'. I did not realise how good or bad I was. After the play, everyone congratulated me. Arunava da hugged me and said that I did a brilliant job.

Well, fast forward this Mahashtami. I was standing in the never ending queue, waiting for the Pujo Bhog. All of a sudden, a very old man accosted me in a way. He asked me whether I was Lakkhan. I was taken aback. I replied in the negative. Then he asserted, saying 'No, you are Lakkhan, you played the character in Lakkhaner Shaktishel, I have a very good memory, I do not forget people easily'. All of a sudden, my mind went up in a flash. I touched his feet. He blessed me and told me, besides other things, that every other Pujo, this play is held. Every time, somebody or the other is playing the central character. But this fellow is not satisfied with any of their performances. He is always looking for the good old 'Lakkhan' to play the lead. That is why, everytime, he is on the lookout for 'Lakkhan'!!
Well, standing in 21st century, when an unknown person says you such stuff, you might think he is crazy. Maybe he is. Nevertheless, I felt something inside me. The fella touched a raw nerve. Such feelings are indescribeable.
The guy requested me to play the character once more. Well, by then, the line had ended and I was about to get my share of Luchi! I assured him I would and bade him goodbye. It was about time, as he was getting over emotional.

Shall I enact the role again? Maybe.......

Friday, August 22, 2008

the ultimate truth

The entire nation is rejoicing now. We have won three medals for the first time in any Olympics.And, for the first time, we have won a medal in boxing. Boxing, YES. Vijender Kumar is the new toast of the nation, and deservedly so.
I cannot help but be nostalgic at this moment. I have to flashback again,20 years back.It was the last day of my summer vacation. We were at our mamabari. The occasion, WBA title between Mike Tyson and Michael Spinks. The fight was at 5:30 PM, if I remember correctly. Myself,chotomama, baba and dada were all glued to the TV set, with a telebhaja and muri in a bowl. The fight started amid much fanfare. But lo behold!Within seconds, Tyson started punching and hitting like anything, and the fight ended nearly as soon as it started. I was stunned.Taken aback at the sheer power and brute force which Tyson exerted.
I come from a family of boxers. My cousin(Borda, as we lovingly call him) was the Northern India Heavyweight Champion. He stands 6 foot tall,was a dapper 83 kilos when he fought and knocked out a 6 ft3 inch Sardar to claim the title in Punjab. He could not compete in the National Championship due to injuries, but surely would have done something had he participated.Dada and I were perennially inspired by him. None of us were very strong, but the spirit was there.
Anyways, post the Tyson fight, I was big time hooked into boxing. I was practising all the time, and it took major persuasion on part of ma to take me out of it, citing studies and typical other such bangali types concerns(tabla class, drawing class etc-all rubbish).
As the saying goes, the spirit never dies. Around 1990, dada and I came in touch with Chiradeep da.Chiradeep da practised Kung-fu-praying Mantis style, and he is one of the very few proper exponents of the style in India.Dada got inspired big time and joined Kung-fu classes. I was not allowed because of my low age. Nevertheless, dada felt that he needed to do strength training as well. Then both of us joined Guru da and Tanu da's Gym. This was a turning moment in my life. It was then that I realized the importance of being fit. After an year, when the gym closed down, I joined KyoKushin Karate. The mission to search for the ultimate truth thus started. After nearly two decades, numerous tournaments and belts, it is still going on. Regular classes and daily training has not been possible, but the spirit is still there and will always be. Had this not been India and had I not been a middle class bengali(who is a sacrifical lamb for JEE since the day of his birth), you would have seen yours truly in a ring someday. Well, you still might.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Oh Shingini!

I was thinking for quite some time to write on this, but the over enthusiasm and excessive publicity by media had already satiated readers. Since the hoopla is nearly over now, yours truly would like to say a few words on this regard.
Every day when I return from office, I see my mother glued to the TV, watching one reality show or the other. I have come back from US lately after nearly 2 years,and I see this as a new phenomena in Indian entertainment. I remember, the first dance reality show, Nach Baliye, which started sometime around end 2005, and it was a big success. I watched it intensely, mainly due to the big star cast, as well as some excellent choreography and dance by the participants. Circa 2008, I see that nearly all TV channels host one reality show or the other, nearly every day. In India, if anything
becomes a hit, everybody imitates it to earn quick money,be it a reality show or a formula bollywood movie. But the thing which surprised me very much is the presence of minors in these shows. Dancing in front of a number of people, besides being watched by millions across TV, is a big challenge and puts enormous mental pressure on these kids.
Shingini had prior neurological disorders, as I understood from the reports of various newspapers. Why this was not reported earlier to the authorities simply baffles me. Were her parents not aware of this situation?Or was she under extreme pressure by her parents to perform?
I would not go into those details regarding the rat race in which all kids face themselves or the pressure and over expectation by parents.Readers, please note an important thing. While watching the different choreography, I find that very complex dance steps are being made to perform by these minors. Physical fitness/exercise should start from a very early age. If a 15 year old unfit girl suddenly participates
in a dance competition and is being forced to perform difficult dance movements, she can have serious injuries.
Was Shingini overstretched, beyond her physical limits? God Knows.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hawa Hawa!!!

The other day, I was going in a taxi to South Kolkata. As expected, we got stuck up in a huge jam @ Ruby. The taxi driver, an old Bihari fellow played a very rare but superhit song, Hawa Hawa. Those of you who remember, it was the Pakistani guy, Hasan Jehangir's superhit album of late 80s, having some great foot tapping melodies, where you could just erupt in a typical Pujor Bhashan Dance. Anyways, I was quite amused that the old fella had this tape with him. I asked him how come he had this old collection intact after such a long time.He said that he could not relate to the Music of the present generation. Neither does he follow remixes or the modern tunes, nor is he a fan of the great HimKumar.He wants to listen to Music where he can simply dance, as he used to in late 80s after a long hard day in the cab.
Well, point noted!
Last year, a Hindi song was a Superhit-of the same genre-Dekha Jo Tujhe Yaar, Dil Mein baji Guitar. Otherwise, the music has changed a lot. I would not go into details(I am not technically sound!), but my point is, in late 80s- we had innumerable songs-Hawa Hawa, Oye Oye, Ak Do Teen, which are genuine foot tapping songs till date. Do we have such numbers nowadays?Considering 2008, I do not see anything. Harman Baweja, Hrithik's poor cousin is dancing to a couple of tunes in his sci-fi movie. But will genuine masses be able to relate to that kind of stuff?God Knows.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Where have those days gone?

I was idling away my time one Saturday evening. I went to our nearby park, which was the hub of our soccer-adda during schooldays with
my football. I found a few 13-14 year old guys playing TT in the clubroom. The park was nearly empty otherwise. I told the guys to come and play soccer with me. I was taken aback with their response. None of the guys have ever played soccer in their life, and all of them replied emphatically saying "I do not know how to play football". Well, I said to myself, Welcome to Summer of 2008 in Saltlake, Kolkata!!!
Flash back 20 years, same place. Papun, Gogol, Guddu, Rittik, Bumba.....the place was abuzz with activity, read football. I was the only Mohun Bagan supporter among them. Dada and I used to go to Saltlake Stadium to watch the derby matches. I vividly remember the time when Manikjor-Bikash Panja & Krishanu Dey switched loyalties and joined Mohun Bagan. We went to watch the next match, confident that we will seal a victory. And so it happened, we won 2-1, with a last minute goal from none other than Panja himself. Those days, after every match on weekends, we went to Fulbagan to savour Hinger kochuri and Amriti(Life@ SaltLake had just started!). After the match, we caught a private bus. Not to mention, all Beleghataites are more or less hard core Bangals. So the mood in the bus was glum, with a near pin drop silence. Dada told me not to utter anything loose and keep quiet. The bus was rolling over very slowly. Then the conductor came and asked the guy sitting beside me, a typical parar mastan, for the bhara. The guy replied "Mood Off, aktu pore dicchi". The conductor replied "Mood Off to ki be, herechis akhun ticket kat".All of a sudden, the entire bus turned into a war zone, with the conductor being the sole enemy. Everybody started beating him, mouthing profanties and hurling abuses. Dada and I got down, and walked all the way.
Coming back to Summer 2008, are those days really a thing of past? Such passions, emotions, have they all died in the post modern era of globalisation?Is anybody listening?