|ARTS TRIBUNE||Friday, May 24, 2002, Chandigarh, India|
Odissi danseuse Namita
Whodunnits sparkle with humour
THE lure of a murder mystery, in life as well as in art, is hard to resist. Whether it is John F. Kennedy’s assassination or the murder on Agatha Christie’s "Orient Express", people ask the same million-dollar question: Who done it? While life provides the answer only occasionally, art does it almost invariably, thanks to all those fictional detectives with a knack for solving the most complicated of mysteries.
"Whodunnits of all sorts", a French film festival held recently in Chandigarh, saw sleuths of all sorts pitting their wits against criminals. Organised by the Embassy of France and Alliance Francaise, the festival was dedicated to the films of the police.
Now when it comes to famous French celluloid policemen, Inspector Maigret is the first name that comes to mind. Played memorably by legendary French actor Jean Gabin, he is thoughtful, sagacious and has a good understanding of human nature. Then there is his hilarious antithesis, Inspector Clouseau, the bumbling detective immortalised by Peter Sellers in the Pink Panther films.
At this festival, moviegoers saw a worthy heir to Maigret in Claude Chabrol’s "Inspector Lavardin". Probing the murder of a Catholic writer, Lavardin, comes face to face with the ultra-cool widow, who happens to be his old flame. He also keeps an eye on her gay brother, whose hobby is painting glass eyes, and her daughter, who goes out secretly at night to meet someone. Surrounded by such mysterious characters, the inspector finds a skeleton in every cupboard, including that of the murder victim. To the viewers’ surprise, he allows the murderer to go scot-free and frames a far-from-innocent scapegoat for the crime, dispensing his own brand of justice.
Jean Poiret is most
charming in the title role. His sense of humour, at times quite
ironic, doesn’t desert him in any situation. The skilful direction
by Chabrol, regarded as the French Hitchcock, reveals his mastery of
the crime thriller. Above all, "Inspector Lavardin" is not
only a riveting murder mystery but also a biting social satire.
"Vivement Dimanche" (Confidentially Yours), made in 1983, was Francois Truffaut’s swansong — he died a year later at the age of 52. A superb blend of mystery and comedy, with a dash of romance, it is reminiscent of the thrillers of who else but Hitchcock, particularly "North by Northwest" and "The 39 Steps". A stern Jean-Louis Trintignant plays a businessman suspected of murdering his wife’s lover, while vivacious Fanny Ardant is cast as his secretary who sets out to prove his innocence. Made by Truffaut with his tongue firmly in his cheek, it is an entertaining concoction from start to finish, with the leading pair being a delight to watch. Nestor Almendros’ wonderful black-and-white cinematography is another of the film’s assets.
Apart from these classical whodunnits by famous auteurs, the festival also featured films by little-known directors which provided interesting fare. In "Les Marchands Du Sable", a reticent cafe owner observes the goings-on around him without getting involved. However, he comes out of his shell when a girl seeks his help in finding her brother’s killers. The taut tale builds up to a disturbing finale marked by deception, murder and retribution. Though director Pierre Salvadori’s outlook is pretty bleak, his compassion for the characters shines through the gloom.
Surrealistic strokes embellish Serge Le Peron’s "L’Affaire Marcorelle", which is about a public prosecutor troubled by his guiltier-than-thou attitude. A man of conscience wandering in a moral wasteland, he eventually finds relief in a jail, in the company of fellow sinners. Veteran actor Jean-Pierre Leaud perfectly conveys the vulnerability and anxiety of the protagonist.
Bertrand Tavernier’s "L.627" is a semi-documentary account of the workings of a narcotics squad. Its central character struggles to strike a balance between his professional life, which demands ruthlessness, and his personal life, which demands tenderness and affection.
Odissi danseuse Namita
ODISSI danseuse Namita Paul, who made her "rang pravesh’’ (initiation to the stage) recently, gave a scintillating performance.
The 19-year-old dancer was initiated to the stage by none other than legendary Kuchipudi exponents Raja and Radha Reddy and her guru Kiran Saigal in a jam-packed auditorium in New Delhi.
Despite being on the stage as a solo dancer for the first time, Namita was confident and performed difficult items such as Divya Kundalam, Batu, Abhinaya, Rasse and Mokshya.
Namita, who had been learning Odissi for the past 12 years under the tutelage of Kiran Saigal, also staged ‘’Bata Chada’’ based on the composition of Nimai Charan Das on the theme of Radha-Krishna.
The music of the song was composed by eminent Oriya singer Balakrushna Das.
‘’Rasse’’ is the story of eternal love between Radha and Krishna composed by 12th century poet Jayadeva in "Gitagovinda". Namita’s portrayal of Radha in "Bata Chada", "Abhinaya" and "Rasse" was very expressive. All dances were choreographed by Kiran Saigal, who also lent her voice to some songs.
ONE of the greatest advantages of radio, as against TV, is its portability. You can sneak a small transistor radio into office and keep it hidden under your table to listen clandestinely to a cricket commentary, but cannot smuggle in a TV set under the nose of the boss. Radio news can travel faster than TV if the cameras are not already there. And, in recent times, I have found the car radio a great asset. Nowadays, when crises develop by the hour, and there is alarming talk of war, one can switch on the FM and other normal channels in the car while driving and get the latest news without taking one’s hands off the steering wheel and endangering your life, as happens with cellular phones. I also find that apart from the professionalism of AIR, which is far ahead of Doordarshan’s, the competition from private sector FM channels, which have been there for some time, although erratically, AIR’s FM channels have younger, less conservative people who have revved up its tempo and style. They are perky, but not too perky like their counterparts in TV and some of radio’s Agony Aunts speak far more horse-sense when giving advice.
I have mentioned radio this week because I repeat, I have found the car radio a great asset when driving or the transistor a great boon when I am cooking and sometimes one even gets useful items about traffic, but not even half as much as one should. So don’t drive home at reckless speeds to catch up with what’s happening in Gujarat or Kashmir. Just switch on the car radio.
And while I am about it, let me make a long overdue mention of the mini museum on the history of broadcasting in India, which AIR has set up in Broadcasting House in Delhi, which, in a small room, has fitted in a wide range of memorabilia, from rare and valuable photographs to the older technical gadgets used in broadcasting, from microphones to turn-tables. The rare photos from its archives and also from newspapers and other sources, the documents and people which made radio history in the early days, from top musicians to those leaders who took over from the British after Independence and made full use of radio to project their thoughts as well as make important announcements, are all there.
As someone who started life as a student in AIR, I found it stirred not only nostalgic memories but great pride in the pioneers, who were dedicated people and looked on radio as a vocation of national importance. It was Mahatma Gandhi who described radio as Shakti and his words about letting the culture of all nations flow through its portals greet the visitor as he enters Broadcasting House. I am not sure the Museum is open to the public. If not, there should be particular days earmarked for them, because it cannot be an open house as Broadcasting House is a top security area. Or, better still, the museum should move to a larger and more public situation to make it accessible to students, researchers and the general public.
AIR and radio generally have played a great role in India’s national life, getting foreign stations has never been a great problem as it is in TV, and it is time AIR, the faithful wife, got a position of pride and dignity as against the younger and more brash sexpot, Doordarshan and the rest. Perhaps another reason radio is more kind on the senses is that it does not show the horrors of, for instance, Gujarat or the weeping relatives of Abdul Ghani Lone in such detail. One sometimes needs a respite from such graphic horror.
there is always something cheering and uplifting to relieve
unrelenting horror on the small screens around the world. I have found
watching the lovable and expressive cricketing crowds in the West
Indies most endearing. For them, cricket is a long picnic, an occasion
to sing, dance, wear fancy clothes, sip green coconut water, cook and
eat delicious food on the spot. Who else would dedicate a whole song
to Sunil Gavaskar, who made I think seven of his centuries in the West
Indies. The crowds were not only scrupulously fair when the Indians
did something spectacular. They even persuaded Gavaskar to dance with
the crowds, while a charming young woman, backed by a whole crowd of
West Indian beauties, said smilingly into the cameras. "We love
Gavaskar. He still remains very peppy." Well, so say all of us
and wish we could be as peppy as those lovely Jamaican women, the
women among the cricket watchers surely being more numerous, evident,
knowledgeable and extrovert than in any other country from where we
have watched cricket. Women of the West Indies, we salute you, not
only for your love of cricket but your shining love for India.
PATRIOTISM is in the air of Bollywood ever since "Ghadar" made it big. But bereft of good topics, the assembly line cinema has gone overboard in that there are five films in the queue based on the real life story of Shaheed Bhagat Singh. The music of two of the major projects is out and it shows how much overlapping this surfeit of films is going to cause.
The Legend of Bhagat Singh (Tips) has been produced by Kumar S. Taurani and Ramesh S. Taurani of Tips Films and, understandably, lays great stress on its music, which has been composed by A.R. Rahman. He is known to be a stickler for authenticity. Call it his ignorance about the ambience of the state or something else, but his music here does not smell of the earth of Punjab at all. It is semi-classical and melodious all right, but it does not gel with the bravery and patriotism of the land of five rivers.
The only Punjabi touch that it has is the voice of Sukhwinder Singh in quite a few numbers. But even that does not make it authentic. This difference may not even be noticed by non-Punjabi listeners, but will surely jar the ears of those from the state.
The unfamiliarity with the culture can also be gauged from the fact that the immortal Soora so pehchaniye … has been mentioned as Shora so pehchaniye… on the album cover. Otherwise, it is a good effort, with the orchestration accentuating the effect of powerful lyrics of Sameer.
The other production, 23rd March 1931: Shaheed (T-Series), is a Dharmendra production which has been set to music by Anand Raj Anand. Now Anand Raj Anand may not be in the same league as Rahman but at least in this film, he has given a good account of himself, perhaps because of his Punjabi roots.
He has not only used simple Punjabi instruments like the dhol but has also kept the instrumentation very simple. While Hans Raj Hans, Bhupinder Singh, Mohd Salamat and Veer Rajinder are fully seeped in Punjabi singing, Udit Narayan and Alka Yagnik too have adopted themselves admirably. Dev Kohli has remained loyal to the folk tradition while penning the lyrics. Songs like Mera rang de basanti chola…. and Pagdi sambhal jatta … have been an integral part of the Punjabi psyche and it would have been pointless to reinterpret them by changing the tunes as Rahman has done in the other cassette. Mercifully, Anand does not go too far beyond the beaten track.
As was expected, the most thrilling number is Ram Prasad Bismil’s adrenaline-filled Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamare dil mein hai …. The shortest track is Khush raho …and this one and a half minute exhortation does move one a lot.
Pehla Nasha (Universal): In a very brief time, Sunidhi Chauhan has matured to a stage where she can cut a private album and even tot up encouraging sales. It is quite a showcase for her talent. She switches from bubble-gum pop to more serious songs with consummate ease.
What helps her a lot is the fact that she can alter her style depending on the need of the situation. Her stage shows prove that she is a good mimic and since she is blessed with a good voice, she can go in for folk as easily as for Westernised numbers.
The album has 10 songs that have been
set to music by Lalit, who has also doubled as lyricist in two songs.
The other writers are Nitin Raikwar, Naqsh Lyallpuri and Nawab Arzoo.