Writer's Blog

Transient Thoughts

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Rangashankara refresher

(A long post: it might be ok to skip a paragraph here and there.) 

At a loose end, since the wife and kid are out of town, I decided to go to Rangashankara. The play playing was Anabhigna Shakuntala, seemed interesting enough - though I didn't know what it meant, still don't, and would have preferred if it was the original Abhignana Shanakuntala.

Caught the bus for a change. A company part-sponsored Volvo pass has made the bus an attractive option. Especially if the destination is a few minutes off the ring road. Though I did wonder on the bus if I would get there on time. That's when past memories of Rangashankara came rushing back: the one or two shows missed by minutes thanks to traffic and bad planning; the one show just made on time, when someone was waiting and I had the tickets; stalking potential ticket sellers the few times when I landed up and found the show sold-out; first time hearing the shrill bell calling time as the lights dimmed; of celebrity spotting; and of course all of the times driving an hour or so, at least, through soul crunching, foot numbing traffic, short-cuts, detours and all.

As it happened, I got there well in time. As I turned the corner I realized once more that this was the only place in Bangalore I could call a favourite haunt. There seems to be a halo around the place. Entered, bought ticket, a Kannada play with no big shots, tickets were easy. Though I was glad to see from the posters that this was a full fledged production, a big cast, and full costumes, not one of your minimalistic productions, not that I have anything against the latter, except that I have found that full productions very rarely go wrong (except the one time I went to see Romeo and Juliet in Kannada, and found not a young pair, but an ugly Romeo and a paunchy Juliet) whereas the minimalistic stuff? 50-50 at best.

Got a tea. Took a look around. A great collage on the wall with wood and thermocol, showing the state of the nation: a hungry serpent devouring the aam admi, a bunch of people playing musical "chair", a crow with a Gandhi cap next to a pot, with Ruppee coins next to him, three large armless men, with black strips across the eyes, our impotent institutions? Some posters of workshops for kids. Rangashankara flourishes. 

In the corner, photographs of action from the Globe Theatre in London - the only must see place for me, from the balcony seat ofcourse, if I ever get to visit the UK. Reproductions of ads from the late 19th century for Shakespeare festivals. Rangashankara recently had a Shakespeare festival, which I unfortunately missed. Quotes from Shakespeare put up everywhere. 


I was lost in a Shakespeare reverie, what plays to read, and how best to get to London, when the play began, and I realized, hey, wait, this is about our own master playright, Kalidasa. I was reminded of arguments against calling Kalidasa the Shakespeare of India, saying ofcourse, Kalidasa lived earlier. But that was a wrong argument I thought. For wasn't Shakespeare much more prolific, and isn't his legacy to the living language much larger?

At that moment, the Nati entered, and in the true Kalidasa tradition, a simple invocation to Lord Shiva began, thrilling me from head to toe, even though I only partly understood it, jerking me out of all reveries quite into the play. This was the invocation (googled from a few remembered words, it seems a popular one):

Aangikam Bhuvanam Yasya,
Vachikam Sarvavangmayam,
Aaharyam Chandra Taraadi. 
Tam Namaha Satvikam Shivam

(He, Whose limbs are the world,
He, Whose songs and poetry are the essence of all language,
He, Whose costume is the moon and the stars,
We bow to Him, the Pure, Shivam)

The sense of oneness with nature, and all creation, indeed the whole universe, a humble acknowledgement of the divine hand working through him, the spirituality that pervades Kalidasa's work, is not to be found in Shakespeare's, and perhaps distinguishes the former from the latter.

Here's my favourite invocation from Kalidasa, from Raghuvamsam:

May the Parents of the Universe,
Parvati and the Supreme Lord,
Eternally conjoined as Word and Meaning,
Grant Fittest Utterance to my Thoughts.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

"3BHK flats @ xx lakhs, 3-side open, Vaastu complaint.." Well, don't advertise it!

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Ae jazba-e-dil gar main chahoon

On request from Naira Niazi, here's a translation, with some interpretation, of Ae jazba-e-dil... 

There are ghazals that you listen to because you like the poet or the singer. And  there are ghazals that you sort of bump into. In Gulzar's serial, Mirza Ghalib is shown as hearing Mir Taqi Mir's "Patta-patta boota-boota" for the first time from a faqir on the street - though I doubt it really happened that way. 

I bumped into Ae jazba-e-dil in the movie "In Custody", a Merchant Ivory film, where a portly Shashi Kapoor plays an ageing poet, Nur Shahajehanabadi, dominated, and in a way imprisoned, by the younger of his two wives. The younger wife, Imtiaz Begum, played by Shabana Azmi, is a popular ghazal singer, yearning to be known as a poet, who passes Nur's poetry as her own. Ae jazba-e-dil  appears as a pleasant surprise in the middle of the film, Imtiaz Begum singing to a sleazy audience. 

The original ghazal is by Behzad Lucknowi.


Ae jazba-e-dil, gar main chaahun, har cheez muqaabil aa jaae,
Manzil ke liye do gaam chalun, aur saamane manzil aa jaae.

Muqaabil = in front of, saamne; gaam = steps, kadam
How I wish, if I wanted, everything should be possible, 
I should walk but a few steps, and there my manzil should be!
Alternate (more correct, perhaps):
Oh passionate heart, if I wish everything will be possible,
I need walk but a few steps, and there my manzil will be!

Ae dil ki khalish chal yun hi sahi, chalta to hoon un ki mehfil main. 

Us waqt mujhay chonka dena jab rang pai mehfil aaaajaye.

Oh jealous heart, if you insist, I will go with you to her mehfil,

But when the revelry starts to hurt, do let me get up and away...
(The jealous heart, can't be at her mehfil, can't be away).

Ae rahabar-e-kaamil chalane ko tayyaar to huun par yaad rahe 

Us vaqt mujhe bhaTakaa denaa jab saamane manzil aa jaaye 

Rahbar = guide; Kaamil=accomplished. 
Oh you who guide the chosen few, I am ok to be led by you, 
But do let me go astray, when The Manzil is but a step away...

(A contrast within the same ghazal, between the first and the third shers . The words of one, perhaps, who reaches or wishes to reach (intermediate) manzils easily, who does not really care for the manzil, and who, whatsmore, wants to keep travelling, if possible.)

Haan yaad mujhay tum kar lena, awaz mujhay tum de lena,
Is rah-e-muhabbat mein koi darpaish jo mushkil aa jaye

Do think of me, remember me, shout out for me,
If you face troubles in this path of love, I'll be there for you...

Ab kyun dhoondoon vo chashm-e-karam, hone de sitam bala-e-sitam;
Main chaahta hoon ai jazba-e-gham, mushkil pas-e-mushkil aa jaaye.

Chashm-e-karam = kind eyes, chashm=eyes
Why should I look for kindness in your eyes, let there be tortures galore,
I am so used to my misery, I wish for troubles after troubles.


This below sher is not from the original ghazal but was added later, perhaps by popular singers of the ghazal. It appears in the version sung by Nayyara Noor:

Aata hai jo toofan, aane do, kashti ka khuda khud haafiz hai,
Mushkil to nahi in maujon mein, behata hua saahil aa jaae.

mauj= waves, saahil=shore

My boat is rocking in the storm, but God is looking after me,
Is it not possible that a new shore awaits amidst these waves?