Archive for June, 2019

The homework bird, 210619

June 21, 2019

Both K1 and K2 often use the board on the refrigerator for their artistic efforts, and clicking these is much easier than trying to save pieces of paper (though I do that, too.)

Here’s K1’s depiction of her wish…” I wish I could tell the teacher that the homework…flew away!”

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I wish I also had a homework bird!

Theatre Review: “Robi’s Garden” by Bangalore Little Theatre, RS,140619

June 20, 2019

It is always interesting to revisit a play I have watched before, and see how the production has evolved. This was the spirit in which I went to watch “Robi’s Garden” by Bangalore Little Theatre, which I had reviewed in 2011.

(You can read the review

here )

But I was in for a major surprise! The earlier play was definitely one for children, with many children and BLT volunteers participating, with both the cast and the audience having a merry time, rollicking through a selection of Rabindranath Tagore’s short stories. It was an occasion to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the Association for the Mentally Challenged (AMC) as well as the 150th year of Tagore.

This time, the occasion was equally memorable. BLT is celebrating the fact that

Vijay Padaki

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turned 80 a few days ago, and BLT is putting up a series of events to celebrate this landmark of the doyen of theatre in Bangalore. So the focus was now Vijay Padaki, and the play took on an entirely new look.

Instead of the big cast of characters, we had just two on the stage: Minty Jain and Vijay Padaki himself; a table and two chairs, with some images being projected on a screen at the back of the stage, where all the props, the stage design being minimal in the extreme. The table was creatively used; it was, by turns, an operation table, and a deathbed!

The theatre experience was also completely different. Instead of a hall full of families and children, it was intimate story-telling theatre, in the small auditorium of Alliance Francaise, with a small audience sitting close to the stage ( I sat further back in order to be able to take photographs). The children who went to Jorasanko and met Robi da were now created in our imagination, as Minty and Vijay took the audience, once again, through a selection of Rabindranath’s work.

The experience of watching Vijay on stage is very different from seeing Vijay’s work as a director, or reading his work. His mastery of stagecraft was immediately apparent. He garnered the audience’s minds effortlessly and took them off to Robi’s Garden, populated by so many different people (not always human…for example, there is the tiger who wants to wash his black stripes off!). A clap of the hands brought on a new vignette, a look into another story, and the audience went on this roller coaster ride with the two actors on stage. Touches of humour, of satire, or gentle poking at blind customs and rituals…all of Tagore’s view points were well elicited in the smorgasbord of tableaus.

The costumes were simple: pyjamas and kurtas, with colourful waistcoats, that added bright dashes of colour to the stage, and brought the audience’s visual focus to the actors. The narrative was interactive in that at one point, two children were called up to the stage and included in the performace.

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Vijay and Minty with the children from the audience.

The lighting and the sound contributed well to the effects of the play, but it was definitely the cast who carried the burden of the performance on their shoulders. A few lines were fluffed, but the action quickly carried on. A ten-minute interval was declared.

It was at this point that I clearly understood how an external factor can affect the playgoers’ experience. My friends and I had left south Bangalore before 5 pm to battle the traffic and reach Alliance Francaise; when the interval was announced, we realized the there was no canteen and that we could not get anything to eat. We waited through the interval, and enjoyed Vijay’s reading of the play, “Anklet”, where he single-handedly brought the story of Malati, Damodar, and Devi alive.

But when, at 8.45pm, he asked the audience if he could do another reading and then a short piece from Tagore, we just could not wait any longer, as we also had a long drive back home through the traffic. We had to walk out, a piece of disrespect to the theatre and the artiste that we regret deeply. I personally wish Vijay had done the short piece first and the long story afterwards, at least we could have watched that. But those in the front rows opted for the long story and we had no say in the matter. As it was, it took us more than an hour to get home.

I think that every theatre venue should defintely ensure that there is some food available for theatregoers who come spending a lot of time and effort in the evening traffic, as otherwise, the evening is compromised. I have written before on the pathetic food situation at Chowdiah, with a few samosas and chai getting over too fast…it was one of the many reasons I stopped attending theatre events there.

I also wish that BLT had made the sequence of events clear to us earlier.There was no brochure available, and we had no idea how long the play, or the performance, would go on.

Another point which all theatre groups must observe is that of punctuality. The play started 15 minutes late; I find that all theatre venues except Ranga Shankara are not punctual at all, and seem to penalize the punctual members of the audience. Let me take this opportunity to thank Ranga Shankara for sticking staunchly to punctuality, in spite of often being reviled for it.

The net result was that we could not watch the evening of theatre (which we all came so far to enjoy) beyond a certain time, in spite of the excellent acting and production values, and the chance of watching a noted thespian performing. And if felt very bad indeed, to have to leave a performance before it was over, but we had no other option.

But we liked what we watched, and I am hoping that the rest of the celebration, “VP80” will have much more in store for theatre-going audiences of Bangalore.

“Robi’s Garden” by Bangalore Little Theatre
A play followed by severa readings, with a 10 min interval.
2 hours approx.

Cast: Vijay Padaki and Minty Jain
Crew: Unknown
Tickets: Rs.200
Alliance Francaise de Bangalore, Fri, June 14, 2019

The itinerant religious singer, Bhutanahalli, 170619

June 18, 2019

I clicked this photo of an itinerant religious singer, with my young friend Prem, while we were watching the Baya Weavers at Bhutanahalli koLA (pond):

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Since he was singing about the maleficient god Shaniswara (the planet Saturn), I clicked him in front of the shrine:

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I also saw Krishnaveni’s husband and her son Punith (they run Ravisutha Hotel, where we generally have chai and brefus when we are birding in the area) give alms to the singer:

I posted on FB and asked if such a singer would have a specific name, and got a very detailed reply from Rajpal Navalkar:

“This one is Kamsale. Most of them can be found in North Karnataka. In Maharashtra, too, we have these semi classical and even classical Buas (called Bauls in Bengal) who go around singing Bhajans and Bhavageet.”

He went on to add, in detail:

Religious singers are of five groups: (1) Kamsale (2) Neelagaru (3) Chowdike
(4) Gorava (5) Gane.

Professional religious singers sing only those songs which concern their chosen gods, pilgrim centres and temples. Their main purpose is to propagate the supremacy and philosophy of their particular religion to inculcate values and norms in the community. Professional singers are characterised by traditional colourful costumes and conspicuous musical instruments. They command great respect and take active participation in all the religious celebrations of their community.

(1) Kamsale

Kamsale: ‘Kamsale’, popularly known as ‘Devadraguddas’ are the disciples of Lord Madayya. ‘Kamsale Mela’ is a popular folk song which deals with the history of ‘Mahadeshwara’ (the presiding deity of Malai Mahadeshwara or MM Hills, a renowned pilgrim centre, situated in Mysore district).

The name ‘Kamsale’ is derived from the traditional musical instrument. It is a unique musical instrument consisting of two bronze plates. The bronze cymbal is in the form of a cup with a broad base. The other plate is a flat structure with a tassel tied in the centre. The cup is held in the left hand and with the help of the tassel the flat plate is held in the right hand and the singer clashes both of them rhythmically during the performances.

‘Kamsale’ singers sing either individually or in a group. when in group, this form becomes a mela and consists of three members. The main performer plays the ‘Kamsale’ instrument, supported by two artistes in the background playing an instrument-the ‘Dammadi’ and the ‘Yekatari’-single-stringed musical instrument. The performance consists of narration by the chief singer, who pauses in between to interpret the story. The Kamsale artists do not wear any traditional costumes.

Their dressing is simple, they wear ‘Rudraksha’ beads, which is their religious emblem, and carry a satchel. They are illiterates and have no printed literature. They learn those songs orally. They participate in fairs, which are held in Mahadeshwara hills during ‘Diwali’, ‘Shivaratri’ and ‘Ugadi’ festivals and are found extensively in Mysore, Mandya and Bangalore districts of the state.

Thank you for all the information, Rajpal. Just a few minutes of that song had so much of a story behind it! Here’s some more of the KamsALe, with more of dance:

The bubble seller, 160619

June 16, 2019

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He sells ephemeral pleasures
Gently float the bubbles.

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Perhaps, in their rainbow colours
He, too, forgets his troubles.

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There could be birds verse than this…

June 16, 2019

I expected an Egret
But I had no regrets
At seeing a Heron Black-crowned.
Though everyday birds
May usually fill my words
It’s good when the unusual is found!

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It was the June 3rd Sunday outing of Bngbirds and a gathering of members of the Telegram group, Bangalore Wildlife Friends. We sighted 20 birds and we were 61 people!

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Every day heroism

June 13, 2019

In the past week, I have spent time with: someone bravely going through a painful divorce, someone recovering from a stroke, that someone’s daughter who’s taken the load on her shoulders, someone who’s taken care of his father and family through the father’s severe illness, and struggled to get ahead in academics (and succeeded in both), someone who’s been swindled by family members, and is trying to bounce back, someone whose children may lose their vision, someone who is dealing with a spouse’s cancer..and perhaps others whose secret trials and burdens I will never know.

Heroes? I walk among them.They are everywhere, my every single day heroes and heroines. Everyday bravery, that is silent, is the toughest bravery of all.

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The most absurd doctor visit of my life, 120619

June 12, 2019

I have been suffering from a sore throat for about three weeks now and had to stop my evening swim. I’d gone to one ENT specialist, but a course of antibiotics and decongestants did not help, So I decided to take a second opinion.

I went to someone who was recommended. WITHOUT looking at my throat, after I had described my symptoms, he asked me my blood group and when I said A+, he said all A+ “types” have acid reflux, that’s what I have. I said NO, I don’t have acid reflux. We argued about this for a while, then he finally said, it could be “hidden”.

Then he said I probably have high blood pressure. I said NO, I don’t have it. I asked him to check my b.p. It was 120/80. “Borderline”, he said. Then he said, “You probably have thyroid problems.” I said I’d had it tested recently, NO, I don’t have it. “Things can change in a month,” said this cheerful guy. I repeated that I am active and do not feel that I have hyperthyroidism. “You might have hypothyroidism,” he said. I was about to say NO and I just gave up.

“Are you losing weight?” he asked. I said, on the contrary, I’ve gained a little weight but am not worried about it. “You might have hypothyroidism,” replied the optimist. After the examination, he told me I have a deviated septum and find it hard to sleep on my left side…which is generally how I sleep most comfortably. Then he started talking about how this area was 35 years ago.

I just paid my Rs.500 and walked out before he diagnosed heart trouble, diabetes, or perhaps cancer. Another ten minutes and he would have sent me to the ICU…. or for cremation.

I have not exaggerated anything (except the last sentence) ; this is what actually happened.

Theatre Review: “Ultimate Kurukshetra” by Actors Ensemble, Ranga Shankara, 060619

June 10, 2019

The two Hindu epics are majestic pieces of literature, grand in their sweep of space and time; they stand as beacons of moral and ethical values, and we generally hold them in awe and reverence. We certainly do not associate them with humour, or light-heartedness.

So, when I got an email from Ram Ganesh Kamatham about his award-winning play, “Ultimate Kurkshetra” which deals not with the forefront, and the heroes of the Mahabharata, but of the very ordinary people who populate the fringes of the army on the eve of the great war of Kurukshetra, I was intrigued and rushed off to watch.

Ultimate Kurukshetra, RS, 060619, Citizen Matters

The first attraction was the sumptuous “ratha” (chariot) that stood on the stage, with several weapons such as the mace, spears and so on. When the play started, Yuyutsu, that single Kaurava who suffered pangs of conscience before the war, appeared, and took the trip to bathos with his announcement that he was called “Yuyu” for short! The other characters then took the stage: Sudarshana the warrior and Adi, his charioteer, who have been issued a chariot but no horses (Adi has been given a token and a promise of payment after the war!). Daksha, the mahout, who is busy calculating just how much poop and dung all those horses and elephants on the battlefield will generate. Maya, the courtesan, who wants to be paid for her work last night…and whose relationships with other men are slowly revealed, the last one being the high point or climax on which the interval happens. And most delightful of all, just as Adi says, “This is a battlefield, I don’t see people wandering around”…there comes Vyasa himself, in a hilarious camp version, prancing through the battlefield as if it were a field of lilies, making observations that had the audience in splits, sporting a peacock-feather pen and a palm-leaf to write on.

Incident follows hilarious incident. Daksha has devised an elephant-head mask (it’s that of a young elephant) that will prevent the war elephants from trampling on the warrior wearing them, even though the elephants themselves seem to have been conscripted from various other callings in temples and zoos! The mask is too small, and gets stuck on Sudarshana’s head, prompting Vyasa, in one of his numerous appearances, to say that he’s been looking for a scribe to write the epic (or as he calls it in true Malayali style, “yepick”!) and (with a sideways look at the so-called elephant) that he seems to have found one. Some important incidents from the epic are referred to, such as the lacquer house built by Purochana for the Pandavas, which is burnt to the ground to kill them off; Bheeshma’s “iccha mrithyu” or death at his own wish; But through all the comedy runs the thread of deep philosophy: “When elephants fight, it is the grass that gets hurt” is one line that has stayed with me well after the play. Another beautiful and moving sequence is when Sudarshana describes how he, too, heard Krishna giving the Geetopadesha to Arjuna.The words showed the playwright’s prose rising to poetry.

The play winds on to a very satisfactory conclusion, with Maya also entering the battle as a warrior, equal to the men she has been dealing with. As the conch of war sounds, Vyaas in his batik top and pista-green dhoti sums up the premise of the play, and Yuyutsu reappars to state it: the ultimate Kurukshetra is not a battle in the distant past, it is a battle in every day of our lives, with the choices we make.

Enjoying and laughing my way through the performance did not prevent me from noticing and appreciating the technical aspects of the production. First of all, even before we entered the theatre, the excellent three-page brochure gave us an introduction to the cast and crew, and what we should expect in the two hours ahead. The play won the Sultan Padamsee Award for Playwriting in 2011. Apart from the information about the cast and crew of the play and about the group itself, I enjoyed the director’s note about the rasas to be found in the Mahabharata, and how he came to write the play, with a “notable absence of grandstanding champions, and a surfeit of flawed, under-equipped and everyday heroes doing their best to get by in a very challenging situation”.

The stage design was done so that the cast could move backwards and forwards, to the side and centre of the stage, easily. The properties and production values were lavish and unstinted: the weapons, the golden chariot (alas, no horses to move it!) all added to the effect.

The costumes, too, showed that a lot of thought had gone into them…the photograph I have posted here, of the cast taking their bow after the performance, shows the spectrum of colours which made the costumes a visual spectacle.The dhotis, the courtesan’s robes, the armour…all were well-designed and added to the eye appeal while not hindering the movements of the artistes.

Indeed, movement was something there was a lot of. Well-choreographed fight sequences (and most of the fights except perhaps the sequence of Arjuna and his bow, Gandiva, were not of the great war, but skirmishes amongst the characters, as personal frictions came in the way of being united as a part of the Kaurava army), the amorous moments between Maya, Sudarshana and Adi, they all flowed smoothly.

I must say that in the performance I watched, there was some fluffing of dialogues by the characters who played Daksha and Sudarshana; my daughter and son-in-law, who watched the play the next evening, reported much less of such glitches. In the main, though, the dialogues and the punch lines were well-delivered, and the audience’s laughter showed their enjoyment.

The sound design, and the music, added to heighten the denouement of the play, and were very effective indeed, without resorting to the usual noises that sometimes accompany comedy on the stage.

The lighting was also excellent. Highlighting and general lighting, some strobe effects and other areas were handled very well, evoking the battlefield in both its majesty, and its bathos.

I must,however, add that not everyone in the audience liked the play equally; my daughter’s friend,it appears, was “quite disgusted” and said that she did not like the great epic being thus parodied. Different opinions for different people, of course… I must say that I enjoyed the humour and the dialogue very much! I happen to think that a good satire pays its own tribute to the majesty of the original.

All in all, a rollicking run through the prelude to the great war of Kurukshetra, which yet showed up human frailties, egos and the interplay of personalities, and put forward, at the end, the truth that with every choice we make, we fight our own Kurukshetras every day.

Looking forward to the next play from the pen of this talented playwright!

“Ultimate Kurukshetra” by Actors Ensemble
Duration: 120 min with a 10 min interval
Written and directed by Ram Ganesh Kamatham
Designed and Produced by Mallika Prasad Sinha
Language: English
6 and 7 June, 2019, Ranga Shankara

Cast:
Vyasa: Anil Abraham
Adi: Harish Seshadri
Sudarshana: Karn Malhotra
Daksha: Anirudh Acharya
Maya: Mallika Prasad Sinha
Yuyutsu: Ram Ganesh Kamatham

Costumes: Sankeerthi Aipanjiguly
Backdrop and Daksha’s house: Prasanna D
Chariot and Floor: Sridhar Murthy
Tracks: Aman Anand, Snehal Pinto
Sound: Shashank
Make-up: Uma Maheshwar
Props: Ullas Hydoor
Lights: Naveen M G
Front of House: Vinay Shastri
Stage Manager: Lekha Naidu

Poster Design and Illustrations: Sachin Jadhav
Stills and Video: Cletus Rebello
Backstage Crew: Disha Rao, Srinivas Gowda, Prashanth M, Lakshyaraj Rathod
Venkatraman Balakrishna and Meera Sitaraman provided “Gandiva”

Patrons: Dr Vibha Prasad, Mrs Pratibha Prasad, Rahul Raghuram, Shantanu Prabhu, Swaroop Srinath.

You can see the trailer

here

Suitable for audiences over 13 years
Tickets: Rs.200.

Eid at Fatima’s home, 050619

June 6, 2019

Fatima (in the lehenga..she’s 20, can you believe it?) teaches K1 Hindi. She invited us over for Eid and, with her family, extended such warm hospitality!

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Fatima, her parents and brother Zain, with K1 and K2

When we got home, I explained to the children how Imitiaz, her father, had fallen on hard times and had to shut his tailoring shop. The children have just brought out some toys that they want to give Zain, her 7-year-old brother.

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The feast at Fatima’s
I am very proud of of Fatima, who works in an office; and I am very proud of my grandchildren. This warmth and inclusiveness is what Eid, or any other festival, is all about.

A couple of laughs

June 6, 2019

I love laughing and treasure every sudden gem that I come across. Here’s a great one from the “middle” in the Deccan Herald of Tuesday, June 4, 2019, by Indu Suryanarayan, who decided to learn music at the then-recently-opened Ayyanar College of Music on Vani Vilas Road, Bangalore:

“I bought a four-and-a-half shruti bamboo flute (to learn from Sri Doreswamy)…. Every morning, I left after coffee my flute in hand. On the way, if I encountered toddlers following their mother’s advice to answer nature’s call squatting by the roadside, I would use my flute to hit them on the head and ask them to go and do it inside.” It makes me wonder what else the poor flute was used for!

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Having got up at 1.30am to do some ironing, I justtttt shut my eyelids after the alarm rang at 5.30am. I believe in the theory of relativity, because just a fraction of a second later, it was 6 am. This entry is especially for Srikanth, to whom it happened yesterday!