Playing the Reliance tune

HinduAd.Oct.31 001In normal course actor Hrithik Roshan wouldn’t have made it to The Hindu Page One, and that too, this big ;  even if he were to pick up an Oscar. Here we have him playing music and dancing to the tune set by Reliance Mobile.

Not every newspaper reader appreciates such loud advert. display.  Nor, on an unrelated note, did everyone in his neighbourhood appreciate Hrithik’s  music. As a web report put it,  the Bollywood actor was recently warned by the police  not to play  music loud at his suburban Juhu residence.  No complaint was registered against the Roshan family, as the police didn’t find any violation of rules.

An envoy’s barber story

 Before he left India to take up his assignment as our envoy in Brazil Mr B S Prakash visited his mother in Shimoga.  As son of a locally prominent doctor Mr Prakash basks in reflected fame in his home town. His Shimoga visit made news in the local media. The newspaper report  prompted a visit by a frail elderly gent to his place.  He walked into ‘our small garden’, seeking to meet ‘the Doctor`s son, now a dodda sahebaru in Delhi. The visitor, Hanumantha, had been the family barber retained by Mr Prakash’s father. 

That Hanumantha had walked  miles  to look him up touched Mr Prakash. “We gave him some kodubale and Kobbari mithai which he had, but without coming inside the house”, said Mr Prakash , adding that Hanumantha had never stepped into their house.  His father used to have his hair cut in the garage outside.  Before taking leave  Hanumantha  reminded Mr Prakash  of his dharma – Yenadaru baksheesh kodabeku,neevu.  The barber claimed his tip as an entitlement.

I had Mr Prakash reminiscing about his Shimoga barber  when I  sent  him the link to a fascinating piece by Mr M P V Shenoi on his Mysore barber, who played clarinet.  Mohalla barbers in Shenoi’s younger days (1940s) doubled up as street musicians,  hired to play musical instruments at weddings and other festivities.  Every upper caste household had a family barber, handed down to it from generation to generation.  He was paid a pittance as monthly retainer; given some sweets and clothes on festivals.

Mr Shenoi’s account, appearing in Dadinani.com,  triggered this mail from Mr Prakash:

In my Shimoga school years, early sixties,  my father,  a prominent doctor, used to have barber Hanumanta come to our home to cut his hair. He was too busy, perhaps, too successful a doctor to go to his saloon. My job was to go running to Hanumanta`s saloon and call him home. Like the barber in Mr. Shenoy`s story,  he too had a musical vocation: he and his brother were nagaswaram players at weddings and often were not available for haircutting.  I too used to get my haircut at home till my middle school, but thereafter shifted to more fancy saloons in Shimoga.

 Two years ago, I was in Shimoga visiting my mother. The local one-page newspaper did a feature on me to the effect that `this man, son of Doctor so and so, who had joined the IAS/IFS and is now the Ambassador to ….etc is visiting the town“. I guess there is still some local interest in me in Shimoga. 

The next evening, a frail, bent, elderly gent came in to our small garden…In a feeble voice,  he introduced himself as Hanumanta. “Do you remember coming running to me when you were young?”  he asked. Of course I did, though it was a memory from forty years back…  He said that he had come walking from a village nearly six miles away, after he had seen the local paper.  At his age and in his condition it had taken him hours.  This memory will certainly last a life time.  And he was not even my barber, but the recipient of my father`s summons.

Our man in Brazil

At our recent meeting in Chennai a blogger in our group (he didn’t wish to be named) came up with an idea – how about bringing out an anthology of selected pieces from the Mysore Blog Park.  As he put it,  we have a fairly wide group at MBP;  they write on varied topics of their fancy.  And do it competently.

He had a point.  We can think of quite a few who may have a book in their blogs.  The one who suggested MBP anthology is himself working on a book. Another MBP favourite,  B S Prakash,  has just come up with his work – Clueless in California (Konarak publicaions, Rs.195).  It’s a compilation, from his Rediff column,  with updates in reference to his years as Our man in San Francisco.  Mr Prakash has since moved to Brazil as our ambassador.

Those familiar with his column would nail the lie in the title –  apparantly a publisher’s ploy.  Mr Prakash is anything but clueless about California.  He is as knowledgeble about the prime dosa joint in San Francisco, as he is about the city’s connection with the Gadar movement.  I have read his engaging piece  on a philosophy teacher’s  take on Silicon Valley (Mr Prakash, M A in Philosophy, taught at Mysore Maharaja’s College before joining  Indian Foreign Service);  on the allure of MBA,  and about his re-discovery of the US in the company of Dr Kalam.

Invited to preside over a Stanford University music festival at which A R Rahman was honoured,  Mr Prakash did his home work so thoroughly that he used the material for a Rediff.column,  with knowledgeble references to the Bollywood Khans,  Aishwarya Rai and the then popular Rahman numbers – Chaiya, Chaiya, and Taal Se Taal Mila.   His  column gives one an insight into the man, his flair for writing and his mundane interests. Mr Prakash  watches  “a fair amount of TV,  all kinds,  movies,  series,  news, views,  sports and scandals”.  Mr Prakash’s recent piece – Is Hard Work Worth It –  is a study on hard work,  viewed  from the perspective of a Wall Street hedge fund manager (an endangered  species) and a German house painter.  I picked up from his column this German word – schadenfreude — which means  ‘deriving satisfaction from the misery of others.’  Mr Prakash had, presumably, picked it up when he was sent to Germany, at our foreign office expense,  as a language trainee.

As for the proposed anthology on Mysore Blog Park  pieces,  my first thought was whether it would interest a publisher.  Maybe the idea needs to be batted around,  blogged about , and  pickled in perspectives.  Maybe,  our blogger in Chennai  could make a  post of  it in  Giving It A Shot.

It was Slumdog’s day at LA

golden-globeFour Golden Globes – the best picture, director, screenplay and music score. Danny Boyle’s  Slumdog Millionaire  has drawn global attention to Mumbai slums and their grim reality,  as depicted by an orphan boy struggling to make it in life.  A  Kaun-banega-carorpati  type TV show  gives  him that chance to make it.  And the millionaire slumboy,  reunited with his girl, walks into the sunset to the music set by the Golden Globe winner A R Rahman.   Slumdog  (haven’t seen it yet),  they say,  is Oscar-class movie with a Bollywood ending.

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At the award-presentation ceremony  telecast the world over from  Los Angeles   Bollywood presence was perceptible.   Shah Rukh Khan got a chance to lead Slumdog’s female interest –  Freida Pinto –  to the centre stage and introduce her to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association,   sponsors of  the Golden Globe awards,  and  an   audience   comprising  virtually a  ‘who’s who’ of the US movie and televison.

100_0606Bollywood’s  Anil kapoor  was seen springing out of his chair on hearing actor-presenter  Tom Cruise announce   the best picture award for Slumdog Millionaire.       

100_0600Simon Beaufoy  was the first of the four  Slumdog  winners to be called on to the stage to accept his Golden Globe for making a screenplay out of  Vikas Swarup’s  novel –  ‘Q and A’ .  A Bollywood director  Mahesh Manjrekar is quoted in  The Hindu as saying that it was ironical no desi production house (Chopra,  Johar,  Screwwalla,  are you reading?)  took up this subject.  “I wanted to do it but by then the rights were sold,” says Mahesh to The Hindu’s Ziya Us Salam.  Irony was Manjrekar wound up playing gangster Javed in Danny Boyle’s  Slumdog.

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100_0612The director (centre),  with the producer and  the female lead,  making a thank-you speech.  And the film-maker brought on to the stage rest of his Slumdog gang,  represented at the award-presentation ceremony.

The Slumdog theme and the acclaim the movie has received reminds me of Satyajit Ray’s  Pathar Panchali. Both films dwell  on poverty.  Pathar Panchali made waves gobally in the 50s , but was no box-office hit in India. And he film came in for flak from many in mainstream cinema in Bombay. A leading actress of her times and MP,  Nargis Dutt,  had taken a swipe at Satyajit Ray for glorifying India’s poverty.

Dr Nayeem’s omission

nayeem2I hold him guilty of omisssion.  Star of Mysore columnist Javeed Nayeem in his Friday  piece  wrote extensively about the Doctors’ Musical Nite, but  he made no  mention of Sarah, a local engineering student, who made her debut as stage singer at Kalamandira.

She rendered with eloquence a Latha Mangeshwar number from an old movie, Woh Kaun Thi  (Who was she ?) The show organisers, I gather, were impressed enough to ask her over for their next musical evening.  For a starter Sarah gave a promising performance. 

Woh kaun thi and why did the SoM columnist ignore her debut ?  Could 100_0336it be because Sarah shares her last name with him? I believe  Sarah  to be a victim of her father’s sense of modesty.

Mysore’s medical community provides a forum in Geet Gatha Chal, to tap the musical talent of its members. Popularity of their concert was evident from the turnout at kalamandira. Not only was there a capacity crowd inside the 2,500-seat hall, there was an audience spill-over that packed the lobby as well.

The success of the show should set the medical fraternty  thinking about  showcasing their other talents, such as dance,  painting, and photography.

Id Milan: Let’s have more of Alfie

Snag with the speeches made at any public gathering is that they tend to go on, on and on. And at the end of the day, on reflection,  you find most speakers have said nothing that you hadn’t heard before.  For me the best part of Saturday’s ID Milan at St.Philomenas was when the master of ceremonies Dr Javeed Nayeem announced dinner.100_03151My suggestion for the next Id Milan : cut out the speeches. Let there be biriyani and more of Alfie’s music. Mrs Khuraishi who dropped us home, not inclined  to leave just yet, asked if we could stay on some more time  after dinner to listen to ghazal and soul-stirring songs from vintage movies. My wife readily agreed.  And we weren’t the only ones who lingered on after dinner to take  in more of the music.100_0322Singer Alfie, a classmate of Dr Nayeem, expressed his intention to form an association of ghazal-lovers in Mysore.  Such a move would, I am sure, further the  Anjuman-e-Hadeeqatul Adab  agenda – to promte Urdu and the Muslim culture.  Speaking of Alfie’s musical talent Dr Nayeem recalled that in their student days at St. Philomenas, they used to hold impromptu music sessions under a tree on the college campus , cutting classes.  Alfie’s proficency as a singer could be attributed to the missed physics and math classes.

100_0323If ghazal is integral to Muslim culture, biriyani is an inseparable part of their cusine.  An Id milan dinner without biriyani would be soda without scotch. Understandably, there was a queue at the non-veg buffet where biriyani was on offer. I opted for rumali-roti and veg section, if only because it was relatively less crowded.

Related posts: A glitzy Id meet
   A Sikh at his taavu’s Id milan.

Keep It Going, Dr.Natashekar

You don’t have to be a doctor to make a mark as a stage singer. But being one serves as your calling card to open the door of opportunity. I wonder if Dr Natashekar’s musical talent would have had such public exposure, if  the singer had been a shop assistant, instead of an ENT specialist. He is known widely as doctor who also sings well.

Left-handed compliment, perhaps. Dr Natashekar doesn’t mind. He is a doctor first; music making is his spare time passion. Point is, Dr Natashekar is not competing with Sonu Nigam. “Singing is my hobby, and I am happy that it entertains others,”says the doctor, who leads a similarly talented group of local doctors.  Styled as Geet Gatha Chal the doctors’ cultural group organises free concerts at Mysore’s Kalamandira. “We’ve been doing this since 2001,” says Dr Natashekar, adding that over this period Geet Gatha Chal has built a name for itself as a crowd-pulling music group. Inviting me to his next concert (Nov.9) Dr Natashekar suggested that I be at Kalamandira half-hour early.

I had gone to his clinic at Ramaswamy Circle with an ear  complaint; and we started talking music on seeing a trophy with a photo of Mukesh on Dr Natashekar’s desk – ‘I got this for our ‘Mukesh Evening’ concert in August’.  Dr Natashekar played to a packed house for three hours of vintage film songs credited to playback singer Mukesh.  

Portraits of Dr Natashekar’s favourite trio – Mukesh, Rafi and Kishore – found space on the wall of his clinic. Outside,  at the reception counter, I saw a photo of our doctor paying respect to Siddaganga Swami at Tumkur. To mark the swamiji’s 100th birthday celebrations Dr Natashekar brought out a CD of his rendering of  Basavashwara’s Vachanas.

Geet Gatha Chal is Mysore’s own music group of the local medical fraternity that puts to public use their personal hobby.  The group includes dermatologist P A Kushalappa, Dr A L Hemalatha, Dr Sneshasri and a few others.  A one-of-its-kind cultural initiative that is worth emulating by talented professionals in other towns is not widely known beyond Mysore.  Geet Gatha Chal doesn’t have a website.

Dr Natashekar, like most other professionals in Mysore, is not very coversant with Internet usage.  He could do with some help and guidance from software professionals who admire Dr Natashekar’s music.  A website of his group would surely spread public awareness about the good work done by this group; and help Geet gatha Chal network with interested individuals and groups wth flair for music.

Geet Gatha Chal can upload video-clips of their concerts on YouTube for the benefit of non-resident Mysoreans who admire their music.  With a website of its own and YouTube exposure Dr Natashekar and his group could get sponsored for concert tours by NRI associations, notably, Kannada Sanghas in the US and other countries.

Meanwhile, Geet Gatha Chal could visit local welfare institutions such as orhanages and homes for the aged to entertain inmates. Spending time, an odd Sunday afternoon, with them could by a fulfilling experience for the music group.  Dr Natashekar and his friends would do well to reach out to the  folks who have neither the opportunity nor abiity to make it to Kalamandira.