Posts Tagged Hindi – Poems

Party – Play Review

Naatak company is formed by a group of theater enthusiasts of Indian origin, in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Since it’s founding in 1995, Naatak company has made huge strides in prominence and stature by bringing quality live theater, with Indian and Indian-American themes, on stage, in the bay area.  Naatak has now introduced season passes to enable regular theatergoers the convenience and price deal, for its outstanding performances.

The current play “Party” is based on original Marathi play, written by Mahesh Elkunchwar, in 1976.  Directed by Ravi Bhatnagar and Alka Sippy, the play is meant as a satire, aimed at India’s urban elite.  Based on some comments from my friends who have seen the original play in Marathi and/or the Hindi movie that came out in 1984, it was a highly intelligent satire of the pseudo-elite, the patrons of the arts and literature who nevertheless lived hypocritical lifestyles and held conflicting values.

The acting by a big cast of almost a dozen people in this play is fantastic, as has been typical in all Naatak plays.  The scene is the party hosted by  Damyanti Rane, in honor of a well known playwright, Diwakar Barwe, who is at the pinnacle of his success. Basab Pradhan, as doctor who is attending the party because he is Rane’s friend, has done a beautiful job of delivering his satirical lines, with a straight face.  Referring to Rane’s guests, he tells Rane at the beginning of her party, “why must you go on collecting these nut cases?” Sindu Singh and Vijay Rajvaidya are fabulous as Rane and Barve, respectively.  Only as the party progresses, the skeletons and the hidden agendas, the fears, and the disillusions harbored by these party-goers become apparent.   Barwe confesses to Rane that his work has not had much originality and he has held his top spot only because he defends his turf and discourages other budding writers.  His gorgeous live-in girlfriend, Mohini, a former actress (nicely played by Priya Satia), is in fact, addicted to alcohol and lives in the imaginary world of being deeply in love with Barwe, though he does not love her any more.

Snigdha Jain has done a great job with superb set design.  Manish Sabu and Anubha Prakash’s work with English sub titles is excellent. If you are not well versed in Hindi, you won’t miss the fun because English sub titles appear in a timely way, right above the stage.  Asheesh Divetia is perfect in his role as Bharat, a budding writer, who is plagued by insecurities, interspersed with moments of great insights and clarity.  Nandita Kant, in the role of Vrinda (Rane’s plain looking daughter and an unwed mother) seems to be the only genuine person at the party.  She spurns unwanted advances from her mother’s friend and suitor, Agashe, played by Puneet, before she confronts her mother about her superficial world that feels so alien to her.

The problem however, is that none of these interactions seem like extraordinary events that make a great story.  They also don’t feel like immensely ordinary events that the audience would deeply identify with and would move the audience.  They sort of just hang in there.  The satire in this play seems to fall flat, the dialogs are not supremely witty, jokes are not rip-roaringly hilarious, and none of the characters display huge depth or intensity.  I went to see the play with my friend and her smart, literature enthusiastic daughter, Sonia Mahajan, who is a freshman at a local high school.   After the play, I asked her what she thought of the play.  “Nothing happened”, she said.  I think that about sums up how this play came through.

The only things that happen of any consequence, were with a character who is absent from the stage, and whom we hear about  from Joginder (Ishmeet Singh), a local reporter.  Amrit, a promising writer-poet, is concerned with the plight of the tribal people and in stark contrast to these elitist party-goers, he indicates his commitment to the society through his actions, residing and fighting on behalf of the tribal people, seeking justice for them.  Despite fabulous acting by a brilliant cast, the play is not riveting.  Perhaps some brilliance was lost in translation.  More specifically however, these pseudo-intellectuals or elites in 1970s India, just seem like ordinary people, with ordinary concerns, and ordinary hypocrisies, in the 21st century, America.  At best, “Party” feels like an annoying party one is attending out of obligation and can’t wait to go home.  

I want to give credit to the NAATAK company for bringing a wide variety of topics, on stage.  Not every topic or theme can be perfect and resonate with every member of the audience.  The diversity and variation of subject matter serves to enhance the perspectives of Bay Area theater-goers, particularly those interested in themes related to the Indian sub-continent.  I have seen the play “Disconnect”  when it was performed at San Jose Rep, that will be presented by NAATAK in June.  Here is a link to my review – and I would absolutely highly recommend it.  With NAATAK casting and direction, it is likely to be absolutely brilliant.   There will be one or two more shows of “Party” and tickets and/or season passes can be purchased at www.naatak.comPARTY

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God of Carnage – Play Review (Bay Area, CA – NAATAK Co. Production)

God of Carnage, a play written by Yasmina Reza (in French) and translated by Christopher Hampton, has been beautifully adapted to competitive Indian parents, meeting to resolve a playground altercation between their two young kids, in this production, by Bay Area’s prominent NAATAK company.  It is produced by Soumya Agastya.  In his debut in NAATAK, as a director, Mukund Marathe has done a splendid job, that couldn’t be far from perfect.

In this 90 minute play, two couples, Anita and Anil Srivastav visit Renuka and Mukul Desai, at the Desai home, to discuss the playground fight between their two children, in which Anita and Anil’s son’ knocked out two teeth of Renuka and Mukul’s son.  At first, the couples observe the civilities, mind their manners, and amicably discuss how to deal with the situation.  Acknowledging his son’s behavior to be aggressive, Anil says “our son is a maniac” and in a spirit of cooperation and to not assign blame, Renuka accedes “we try to fill the gap in the education system, take the kids on field trips and museums but there is violence in the system”.

However, soon the hidden ugliness appears.  As the meeting progresses from coffee to rum, as the masks come off, the gloves too come off, not just between one couple and another but at times between men against the women.  And yet these people are not criminals or psychopaths.  In these people, we can see us.  Some character we identify more with, and some less.  In some we see our neurotic friends, and in some our foes.  The complex mix of characters and their ordinary zanyness is what gives this play, depth and poignancy.  Satirical dialogs make you laugh uncontrollably.

The four actors have done a marvelous job of playing their semi-neurotic roles.  Divya Satia plays the role of Renuka, a writer who works part-time in a museum.  She is an activist whose life is defined by causes.  First, her forthright, authentic approach sucks the audience in and then her “holier than thou” tone is both hilarious and annoying.  Her husband, played by Puneet, is a wholesale business trader and at first he is infinitely accommodating, but he soon emerges as cavalier (who tires of his daughter’s hamster and just releases it in the wild), easily looses his temper, is racist, and says “child rearing is wasteful”.  Pooja Srivastava plays the role of Anita, a “wealth manager” attired in trendy suit, stilettos, branded purse and appears very cultured.  However, soon she can’t handle the tension, begins to get ill, throws up all over on the hosts’ coffee table, and laughs like a child, when she manages to grab her husband’s cell phone and throw it in a vase filled with water.  Harish Agastya is playing the role of Anil, a fascinating character of a smart but slimy corporate lawyer who is preoccupied with his pharmaceutical client dealing with problems of side effects of blood pressure medicine and is constantly getting calls from the client.  He comes to the meeting with the attitude of observing niceties, get it over with, and move on to tackle the problems of his client.

As the gloves come off, Anita calls Mukund a killer (for releasing the hamster in the wild and allowing it to fall prey to other creatures).  After defending himself, wiping off the soiled coffee table, cleaning the soiled books, Mukund pours himself a drink and says “I am starting to feel serene”.  His wife Renuka is bewildered that only she is concerned about what trespassed between the children and says, “I am the only one not feeling serene.  In fact I’ve never been so unhappy”.  Meanwhile, Atul who felt from the beginning that it was much hoopla about nothing, explains that Desai’s son refused to allow his son to be in his gang and therefore, he says, “my son did good to beat the shit out of yours”.  It is apparent that as parents, all four have their blind spots and they are hardly looking for someone else to tell them how to do their job of parenting.

These are four actors on top of their sport and they have done a fabulous job with good acting, of behaving badly.  Yasmina Reza once said, “Theater is a sharp reflection of society” and in this play, the mirror is held close.  While providing the philosophical depth, the play provides great entertainment with razor sharp humor.  Opening night performance was sold out and two remaining shows this weekend are expected to be sold out.  Go to for more information.

God of Carnage

God of Carnage (Photo credit: angela n.)

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Madras Cafe – Bolywood Movie Review

The two early dialogues in the movie, during the discussion between Indian Government officials, give a preview of what is to come.  One of them asks, “who are we fighting” and another one says, “regardless of who is involved in the conflict and the reasons for the conflict, the common people suffer”.   In a war, does it ever remain clear as to who the enemy is and while for generals the war is fought on maps, common people bear the the real cross.

John Abraham gives an excellent performance, in the role of Vikram Singh, an intelligence operative assigned by the Indian officials, to run a covert operation in Sri Lanka, in the midst of the raging civil war.  Vikram is assigned the task of slipping into Jaffna, and infiltrate and sniff out the information about LTTE (by then dubbed a terrorist group) and then help weaken the militant group, by arming and supporting the opposition.  Vikram’s wife (Rashi Khanna) is unaware of her husband’s extremely risky covert operation and while Vikram has “a whole army” to support him, she fights “her battle alone”.  In telling this series of interesting historical events, leading up to the assassination of Indian ex-Prime Minister, Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, Director Shoojit Sircar has done a fabulous job in not going overboard.  The story is told without typical Bolywood song and dance masala, without exaggeration.  The story of true events marked by extreme violence and covert operations is effectively communicated in a way that conveys the seriousness and the importance of the events, without explicit use of torture or extreme violence.   Nargis Fakhri gives also gives excellent performance in her role as the British journalist, also without overdoing it.

Acknowledging the fact that true and complex history that unfolds over a period of several decades is hard to chronicle in a movie, a Bolywood movie nonetheless, with Bolywoodish expectations; the film chronicles it well.  Film has been criticized for portraying Tamil Tigers (LTTE) to be extremely militant, while not acknowledging the equally violent acts of Sinhalese army against the Tamil minority.  However, in telling any history, one can only go so far back and the film did make a mention of violence against the Tamil minority; in fact, that is where the film begins.  The film is very well made and I would rate it as 4.8 on a 1 to 5 scale, with 5 being excellent.

For anyone interested, I have tried to capture here, a brief history of the events.

Sri Lanka (or Ceylon, as it was know then) got independence from Britain, at the end of World War II.  Ceylon’s politically savvy workforce was clamoring for independence and formation of its own socialist party and they opposed all types of communalism.  The national bourgeoisie saw their power weakening and they responded with separatist and communalistic policies.  A new citizenship law disenfranchised the large numbers of Tamil plantation workers brought from India, during the British colonization period, as indentured labor.  The educated and organized Tamilians in Ceylon began making their own demands, and even began to demand their own separate state.  These demands were met with change in the constitution affirming Sinhalese as the state language and Buddhism as the state religion.  Against this backdrop, LTTE emerged and at first was crushed with severe violence by the Singhalese army.  The LTTE resorted to its own brand of terror and with the control of infrastructure and savvy organization, put up severe opposition.  The LTTE was at first armed by India, and later got out of control and then fought against India.  It came to be listed at a terrorist organization by 32 countries, including India and the US.  When Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister, he emphasized peaceful negotiation and fair elections and stressed that political solution was the only way out of this quagmire.  The LTTE opposed it and Mr. Gandhi was assassinated by first human bomb, by an LTTE member, specifically dispatched to India, for that goal.   Ultimately, in 18 year civil war, nearly 100,000 people died.  (At the time, the population of Ceylon was about 10 million).

An enlargeable map of the Democratic Socialist...

An enlargeable map of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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આબરૂ – Gujarati Poem – Aabroo



Seasons (Photo credit: ganzoman)

હું તો આબરૂ સાચવું છું કરેલા પ્રેમની
ક્યાંક તું સમજે કે આ લાગણી કેમની

ક્યારેક હવાની જલકીમાં કે અતરની મહેકમાં
યાદ આવી જાય છે પણ વધારે બહેક ના

અમસ્તા ચાલતા તાજા કાપેલા ઘાસમાં
દિલ ભરાઈ આવે એ કઈ ખાસ ના

આંસુ ઉભરાઈ આવે નાહકના આમજ
તારા ખંભા ની જરૂર છે એમ ના સમજ

લાગણીના ઉમળકામાંયે વીતી ગયી ઝીંદગી
સંવેદનાની પળ પણ વીતી જાશે કરતા બંદગી

તારું ક્યારેક નામ લઉં, કરું જયારે ખુદાને યાદ
એ મારો નહીં, છે એ પ્યારની ઋતુ નો સાદ

ના માન કે તારી યાદ મને સતાવે
મારું હૈયું તો માત્ર કરેલા પ્રેમ ની આબરૂ સાચવે

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ડીમ્પલભાઈ પટેલ અને સાથીઓ દ્વારા યોજિત ગીતોભરી સાંજ – “AVSAR”

ફરી પાછો મળ્યો ગુજરાતી કાવ્યો અને ગીતોને માણવાનો “અવસર”
સુંદર આપણા નસીબ કે બે એરિયા માં વસે છે માનનીય એવા કલાકાર

આ પોસ્ટ લાંબો છે કેમ કે તમે જે આ કાર્યક્રમ ને ચુકી ગયા, આમાં તમને તે ગીતો અને ગઝલો નો લાભ મળશે.  પરંતુ આ પછી આવા કાર્યક્રમનો લાભ લેવાનું ચૂકશો નહિ.  આટલા સુંદર અને નામી કલાકાર દરીયાદીલીથી આપણને સુંદર કાર્યક્રમોનો લાભ આપે છે.  આ એક મોકો છે આપણી ભાષા, ગીતો, અને કાવ્યોને માણવાનો, તેમને અંતરમાં ઉતારી, આપણી સંસ્કૃતિ સાથે એક નાનો તંતુ ટકાવી રાખવાનો. જેટલા ગીતો મને યાદ છે પુરા લખ્યા છે.  પરંતુ એ ઉપરાંત બીજા ગીતો તમને ટહુકો.કોમ ઉપર જરૂર મળશે.

બે એરિયા ના પ્રસિદ્ધ કલાકાર અને તબલા અને હાર્મોનીઅમના નિષ્ણાત એવા ડીમ્પ્લભાઈ પટેલ યોજિત ગુજરાતી ગીત અને ગઝલ કાર્યક્રમમાં કાલે સાંજે, ડીમ્પ્લભાઈ ઉપરાંત હેતલબેન ભ્રમભટ, પલકબેન વ્યાસ, અને નિકુંજભાઈ વૈદ્ય ને સંભાળવાનો મધુરો મોકો મળ્યો. તેમને કીબોર્ડ ઉપર સાથ આપ્યો વિકાસભાઈ સાલવી એ અને તબલા ઉપર રમજટ બોલાવી ગુરદીપ  સિંઘજી એ.  જમ્યા પછી સાંજ ની શરૂઆત થઇ ડિમ્પલભાઈ એ ગાયેલ પ્રાર્થનાથી અને પછી તેમણે સંભળાવ્યા અમુક શેર.

“કેવી રીતે વીતે છે વખત શું ખબર તને, તે કદી કોઈની પ્રતીક્ષા નથી કરી
એક તુજ કરે મારું પારખું , મેં તો કદીયે કોઈની પરીક્ષા નથી કરી

ખુદા તારી કસોટીની પ્રથા સારી નથી હોતી
જે સારા હોય છે તેની દશા સારી નથી હોતી”

અને મરીઝ નો આ શેર
“એક પણ પલ વિના ચાલતું ન હતું મરીઝ
કોણ જાણે કેમ આખી ઝીંદગી વીતી ગઈ”

“ખુદને ખરાબ કહેવાની હિમત નથી રહી
તેથી બધા કહે છે, જમાનો ખરાબ છે”

પછી હેતલ બેનના સુરીલા કંઠે સાંભળ્યું  “બોલે બુલબુલ વહેલે પરોઢિયે”.  જયારે પલકબેને હેતુ સમજાવ્યો અને તુષારભાઈ શુક્લા રચિત “મારું ચોમાસું ક્યાંક આસપાસ છે” ગાયું ત્યારે જાણે ચાતક ની જેમ પ્રક્ષકો બીજા ગીત ગઝલો ની પ્રતીક્ષા કરી રહ્યા.

તુષારભાઈ શુક્લા લિખિત “દરિયા ના મોજા રેતીને પૂછે, તને ભીંજાવું ગમશે કે કેમ, એમ પૂછીને થાય નહિ પ્રેમ”, નિકુંજભાઈ એ ગાયું ત્યારે પ્રેક્ષકો ને પ્રેમ થઇ ગયો તેમના બુલંદ અવાજ ઉપર.

એવો જ પ્રેમ જાગ્યો ડીમ્પ્લભાઈ અને હેતલ બેન ના મધુર અવાજ ઉપર એમણે જયારે ગાયુ
“શબ્દ કેરી પ્યાલીમાં સૂરની સુરા પીને, લ્યો અમે તો આ ચાલ્યાં.
મસ્ત બે-ખયાલીમાં લાગણી આલાપી ને, લ્યો અમે તો આ ચાલ્યાં.
“જે ગમ્યું તે ગાયું છે ને જે પીધું તે પાયું છે, મ્હેકતી હવાઓમાં કૈંક તો સમાયું છે;
ચાંદનીને હળવેથી નામ એક આપીને, લ્યો અમે તો આ ચાલ્યાં.
જે કંઇ જીવાયું ને જીવવા જે ધાર્યું’તું સાચવીને રાખ્યું’તું, અશ્રુ એ જે સાર્યું’તું;
ડાયરીના પાનાની એ સફરને કાપીને, લ્યો અમે તો આ ચાલ્યાં.
ફૂલ ઉપર ઝાકળનું બે ઘડી ઝળકવાનું યાદ તોયે રહી જાતું બેઉને આ મળવાનું;
અંતરના અંતરને એમ સ્હેજ માપીને, લ્યો અમે તો આ ચાલ્યાં.”

ડીમ્પ્લભાઈ એ ગાયું નૈનેશ જાનીના સ્વરાંકનમાં, અંકિત ત્રિવેદી લિખિત
“મારી હથેળીના દરિયામાં મેં તો તરતું મુકેલ તારું નામ”

પ્રેમ તો ઘણા કરે છે અને પ્રેમમાં બલિદાન પણ આપે છે. પરંતુ બધાને પ્રેમના બલિદાનથી યશ અને કીર્તિ હાસિલ નથી થતા.  શું તેઓના પ્રેમમાં ઉણપ છે? એ સવાલ હવામાં છવાઈ ગયો જયારે પલકબેન વ્યાસે ગાયું, ધનશ્રી પંડિતની રચના
“હર મહોબત તણા ઈતિહાસ ના પુરાવા નથી હોતા
હર મકબરાની પાસમાં મિનારા નથી હોતા
હર આહ ભરનારા ઉરે આશિક નથી હોતા
હર આગિયાની રૂહ માં સિતારા નથી હોતા
હર હોઠની મુસ્કાનમાં માંચરા નથી હોતા
હર વાર્તાના અંત સરખા નથી હોતા
હર આસ્થા શ્રધામાહી કીર્તન નથી હોતા
હર બંસરીના નાદ માં ઘનશ્યામ નથી હોતા
હર વમળના વર્તુળમાં કંકર નથી હોતા
હર ઝેર પીનારા શંકર નથી હોતા
હર ચમનમાં ઉડતા બધા બુલબુલ નથી હોતા
હર પ્રેમ કરનારા શાયર નથી હોતા”

નીચેની હેતલબેને ગાયેલી ગઝલમાં મરીઝે કેટલી સાચુકડી વાત કહી છે – ક્યારેક એવી વેદના દિલમાં દબાઈને બેઠી હોય છે પણ ટાણે વ્યક્ત નથી કરી શકાતી.
“જુઓ શી કલાથી મેં તમને છુપાવ્યા
ગઝલમાં પણ આવ્યા તો નામે ના આવ્યા
હવે ઝીંદગીભર રુદન કરવું પડશે
કે મોકા પર આંખમાં આંસુ ન આવ્યા”

અને ફરી ગુંજી ઉઠ્યો નિકુંજભાઈ નો અવાજ,  મુકેશ જોષી ની રચના ઉપર. conditional love  ઉપર કેટલું સુંદર રીતે લખ્યું છે.
“ટેવ છે એને, પ્રથમ એ માપશે ને તોલશે
ખુશ થશે તો પ્રેમનું આકાશ આખું ઢોળશે
નામ ઇશ્વરનું ખરેખર યાદ ક્યાં છે કોઇને?
પૂછશો તો મંદિરોના નામ કડકડ બોલશે
ઓ મદારી દૂધ શાને પાય છે તું નાગને?
તું મલાઇ આપશે તો માણસો પણ ડોલશે”

ક્યારેક આપણે કહેવા તો ઘણું ઇચ્છતા હોઈએ પણ સામે સંભાળવાની તૈયારી હોવી જોઈએને? પણ સામે તૈયારી છે એ gurantee કોણ આપે ને તેમાં કેટલુંય કેવાનું રહી જતું હશે.  ડીમ્પલભાઈએ ગાયેલી રાજેન્દ્ર શુક્લા ની રચનામાં કહેવાનો અચકાટ સંભાળવા મળે છે.
“લો કરું કોશિશ ને ફાવે તો કહું
શબ્દ જો એને સમાવે તો કહું
પણ સહેજ તૈયારી બતાવે તો કહું
હું કઈ ઊંચા સાદે બોલું નહિ
સહેજ નજદીક આવે આવે તો કહું”

વચ્ચે  વચ્ચે ડીમ્પલભાઈએ થોડા ટુચકા તો થોડા શેર સંભળાવ્યા
એમણે કહેલો સુરેશ દલાલ નો શેર સાંભળો
“રાત દિવસ નો રસ્તો ખૂટે કેમ
તમે પ્રેમ ની વાતો કરો, અમે કરીશું પ્રેમ”

પલકબેન વ્યાસે હરીન્દ્ર દવેની રચના “રજકણ” નો ભાવાર્થ સમજાવ્યો કે ભલે આપણી હસતી માત્ર રજકણ સમોવડી હોય પરંતુ સુરજ થવાનું સવ્પનું ક્યારેય ના છોડવું અને સુરીલા અવાજે ગાયું….
“એક રજકણ સૂરજ થવાને શમણે,
ઉગમણે જઇ ઊડે, પલકમાં ઢળી પડે આથમણે”

બધા કલાકારોએ સાથે મળીને ગાયું
“આ મનપાંચમના મેળામાં સૌ જાત લઈને આવ્યા છે,
કોઈ આવ્યા છે સપનું લઈને, કોઈ રાત લઈને આવ્યા છે”

આ મનપાંચમ ના મેળામાં ક્યાં વીતી ગઈ સાંજ તે ખબર જ ન રહી.  પરંતુ મેળો વિખરાયો ત્યારે કોઈ ગીતો ના ગુનગુનાટ લઈને, કોઈ ગઝલ ની મશાલ લઈને તો કોઈ કાવ્યો નો ખજાનો મગજમાં લઈને મેળામાંથી વિદાઈ થયા.

English: Gujarati (ગુજરાતી) in Gujarati Script...

English: Gujarati (ગુજરાતી) in Gujarati Script. Created in Aakar Gujarati Font under GPL license. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Gujarat Day Celebration with Rabindra Sangeet AND Birthday Celebration of Mazmudar Dada

My interest in writing poems came about after I read “Collected Poems and Plays by Rabindranath Tagore”.  I have heard that a great body of his works translated into English does not do full justice to the beauty and meaning embedded in his work.  Apparently, his songs also loose the musicality, when translated in English.  And yet, his writings have a breadth of fresh perspective and though his verses are simple, crisp and clear, they convey deep meaning, humanity, and idealism that is so appealing at a young age.  I also took classes and learned vocal Rabindra Sangeet for some time.  While a lot of his work has been translated into English, there was not much that was translated into Gujarati.  When I learned Rabindra Sangeet, I learned to sing, without understanding the meaning because I did not have English translations of what was taught in the class – those were pre-Google days :).

Rabindranath Tagore won the Nobel prize for li...

Rabindranath Tagore won the Nobel prize for literature. It is the first Nobel prize won by Asia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was therefore pure delight, to hear Rabindra Sangeet, translated into Gujarati on the occasion of celebration of Gujarat Day.  The words were beautifully translated, and music was enchanting and lyrical.  Bay Area Gujarati Samaj of Northern California celebrates Gujarat Day each year, on June 30 with presentation of Gujarati literature, poetry, and music.  This year the celebration focused on recognizing Tagore’s genius and giving it expression in Gujarati.  The celebration ended with recognizing a dedicated community volunteer Shree Harikrishna Mazmudar, lovingly known in the bay area, by one and all, as “Dada” or grand-father.  Here is a little synopsis of the celebration and some information to familiarize you with enormous contributions of these two great entities – Tagore and Mazmudar Dada.  Many people question why Gujarat Day was celebrated with Tagore’s music.

Rabindranath Tagore

Tagore’s contributions and achievements are many and hard to summarize.  Tagore was India’s Nobel Laureate and his compositions were chosen by two nations as national anthems: India’s Jana Gana Mana and Bangladesh’s Amar Shonar Bangla.  Tagore was a humanist and an internationalist and strongly advocated independence from Britain.  Tagore’s perspectives and his enormous body of work were not restrictive in nature.  A poet, playwright, essayist, composer, and painter, he crossed boundaries of language, cast, creed, and nations.  Bay Area is very fortunate to have enormously talented artists who can recognize, translate, and give expression to the works of such a legendary figure.

Bay Area’s talented artist Asim Mehta translated some of the compositions and set all of the translated compositions to music.  Twelve highly gifted singers included Asim Mehta, Madhvi Mehta, Amish Oza, Ratna Munshi, Ran Muni, Anjana Parikh, Gaurang Parikh, Minu Puri, Sanjiv Pathak, Neha Pathak, Parimal Zaveri, and Darshana Bhutta Shukla.  Shree Dada’s wife and well known writer and poet in her own right, Shree Premlataben Mazmudar also translated many of the compositions.  Premlataben never ceases to amaze and inspire everyone with her brilliant poetry, her beautiful style of recitation and now this 84 year old woman was instrumental in translating many of Tagore’s songs.  The program began with patriotic song, “akla chalo re” (walk alone, if no one responds to your call, then walk alone), translated in Gujarati by Asim Mehta and was sung by Minu Puri and Darshana Bhutta Skhula.  The group of twelve, honored Rabindra Sangeet, and sang one song after another that included “eso shyamalo shundaro”, “aaj jemon kore gaiche aakash”, “mon mor megher songi”, all beautifully translated into Gujarati.  As Pragnaben Dadbhawala, chief organizer and DJ of the event observed, it was a dilemma whether to compliment the writer, composer or the singers.  Truly, Tagore crossed the boundaries of language and the event on this day extended the reach to bring this beautiful music to Gujaratis, in the Bay Area.

Harikrishna Mazmudar “Dada”

Next, Mazumudar Dada was recognized on the event of his 94th birthday.  Shawl was wrapped around Dada and Premlataben (his wife).  Dada has led an amazing life.    He was born in 1919 and practiced law in India, after graduation.  He came to the US in 1985, at the age of 65, and joined community college to study calculus, and then co-wrote a book “Factorization” on mathematics.  He also later deeply studied Shakespeare and aspired to write in Gujarati on Shakespeare.  Dada routinely also contributed articles in Gujarati publications on various topics, including law.  He then began to provide social service and legal help and counseling to seniors and other immigrants.  He wrote and published the book “Mapping the Maze” to help immigrants navigate through the maze of legal challenges.  To date, he keeps himself well versed with changes in laws and is always ready to extend his help.  His philosophy has been to remove the focus from “me” to “all of us” and to live life in the service of others.

Another group of Bay Area’s finest singers, Piyushbhai Mehta, Darshanaben Bhutta Shukla, Hemlataben Bhrambhatt, and Rajubhai Solanki, accompanied on Tabla by Balabhai, entertained the audience with some well known songs like “madi taru kanku kharyu” and some newly created compositions like “kagal lakhyo pahela pahela, kasturi shabdone chandama gholyata”.

The beautiful program ended with superb meal of shrikhand, puri, undhiyu, and kachori, that was sponsored by Chaat Bhavan.  Kudos, Pragnaben Dadbhawala and talented artists of Bay Area for yet another fantastic program.

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Noor – Empress of the Mughals ———- Play Review

Noor Jahan, 20th wife of powerful Mughal Emperor Jahangir, was a brilliant administrator, ambitious politician, knowledgeable economist, and enthusiastic patron of culture and arts.  Her complex and challenging character would be hard to portray easily, on screen or on live theater.  She wielded tremendous political and economical power, at a time in history, when women mostly stayed hidden behind lattice walls and purdah.  The play Noor, currently playing at locations in San Francisco and San Jose in Bay Area, is an attempt to tell this complex story, and is based on a book by Feisal Alkazi, also directed by Alkazi.  Alkazi’s 35 year old career as a director includes 200 plays, 32 films, and 2 TV series and he is Founder Director of the theater group Ruchika, and actively involved with several NGOs.   This play is his first attempt as a playwright.  The play is produced by Vinita Sud Belani.  Belani is the Founding Artistic Director of enActe Arts Inc., a new theater company with a mission to bring quality Asian theater and stories to mainstream audiences and to provide new and upcoming actors with a platform to develop and showcase their talent.  Belani has an impressive background.  She has held titles of Director and CEO and after rising to top corporate job as VP of Business Development at Sogeti Groupe Cap Gemini, she transitioned to doing theater full time.  Belani has acted in twenty seven plays and two movies to date.  Belani effortlessly blends the diversity of cultures, and the impressive cast of Noor includes a group of actors from Iran, Iraq, Peru, and India.

Nur Jahan

Nur Jahan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Story of Mehrunissa, later known as Noor Jahan (after her husband Jahangir decreed this title on her that means Light of the Universe), and the historical events impacting the Mughal reign, do not lend themselves to easy narration.  The play attempted to do too much and I felt it did not do due justice to the story of Noor or the Mughal reign.  The play begins with narration of Akbar nudging towards his death, and ends with a poignant scene of Shah Jahan’s beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal’s death, during her 14th pregnancy.  I would have much rather seen a stronger focus on Noor with stage featuring a Jarokha where Jahangir received audiences and later Noor Jahan accompanied him.  This was remarkable, for a royal woman to sit beside her husband and receive audiences, issue orders, oversee administration of jagirs, accompany her husband on hunting trips, and have silver coins printed with her face on them.  Noor also consolidated her powers and got the emperor to cast special favors on her family, including arranging marriage between her niece Arjumand (later known as Mumtaz Mahal) and Jahangir’s oldest son Khurram, later known as Shah Jahan.  When Shah Jahan seemed to be slipping from her grip, Noor later arranged for her daughter Ladli, from her previous marriage, to marry Shah Jahan’s younger son, Shahryar.  In attempting to tell a broader history and encompass a wider cast of complex characters, in this play, not enough justice was done to the character of Noor.

Additionally, the Mughal rein during this time in history was at its zenith of territorial expanse and glory, ruling over more than 150 million subjects, nearly 1/4th of the world’s population, with a combined GDP of over $90 billion.  It was a golden age of architecture, arts, and trade.  I would have liked to see the stage reflect some of the glory (featuring a throne and court, or jarokha, or royal gardens where romances occurred, or the vibrant market where Jahangir first saw Mehrunissa), rather than dying Akbar’s or abused (by her first husband) Mehrunissa’s, or tragically dying Mumtaz Mahal’s bed.  Nevertheless, enActe Arts has a grand vision and it has taken a bold step to bring this play with tremendous complexity of characters and events, on stage.  This is truly praiseworthy and I will eagerly look forward to new and coming productions, from this company.

The complex blend of cast was interesting.  Sanjiv Desai did a fabulous job in the role of eunuch, from whose lens the story is told.  Cezar Espinoza, even in his short role as young eunuch, played his role beautifully.  Deergha Sahni, in the role of Arjumand and later Mumtaz Mahal, was awesome and could have carried the play, under a different title.  Vidhya Subramanian, in her role as Mehrunissa, showed superb command over her role, and Aditya Thakur, in the role of Asaf Khan, was excellent.  Belani and Subramanian share the role of Noor, playing her on alternate shows.  I will very much look forward to seeing Belani on stage, in future performances.

Noor is playing at theaters in San Francisco and San Jose in May and June, 2013.  Get your tickets early because it is expected to play to sold out audiences.  After all who does not like to hear a story of beauty, romance, power, ambition, greed, and intrigue?

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ટહુકો દ્વારા યોજિત અમરભાઈ ભટ સાથેની સુંદર સાંજ

English: The finche is a small bird of beautif...

English: The finche is a small bird of beautiful colors and an attractive singing… Español: El finche es un ave pequeño de bello colorido y un atractivo canto… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

મળી માતૃભાષા મને ગુજરાતી” ગાયું હતું જે ઉમાશંકર જોશીએ ગીત
અમરભાઈ ભટ્ટે તે ગીત ગાયને ટહુકોના પ્રોગ્રામ ની કરી શરુઆત
માતૃત્વ મુબારકના દિવસે માને વધાવતું ગીત તો ગાવું જ પડે
મકરંદ દવે લિખિત આ કળી ક્યારેય હવે નહિ ભૂલાય “જનની ની જોડ સખી નહિ જડે”
ડીમ્પ્લભાઈ પટેલે તબલા ઉપર આપ્યો એવો સુંદર સાથ
અમરભાઈએ બોલાવી ગીત અને ગઝલોની કેવી મજાની રમજટ                  

English: Gujarati (ગુજરાતી) in Gujarati Script...

English: Gujarati (ગુજરાતી) in Gujarati Script. Created in Aakar Gujarati Font under GPL license. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

અમરભાઈએ સંભળાવી મરીઝ, હરકિસન જોશી જેવા માતબર કવિઓ
સુરેશભાઈ દલાલ, ઉમાશંકર જોશી, મનોજ ખંડેરિયા, રાજેન્દ્ર શાહ ની રચનાઓ
પણ ગઝલ છે શું? અરે “આ ગઝલ છે, એ કઈ ઢંઢેરો ના પીટે”
અને આમ જુઓ તો  “પ્રણયમાં પરિણમે તે ગઝલ” સમજ્યા કે?
ક્યારેક “રહસ્યોની ગુફામાં”, તો ક્યારેક “ડેલી બોલી પડી, ભીત મૂંગી રહી”
પ્રેક્ષકો સાંભળી રહ્યા, અમરભાઈએ શબ્દોની એવી બારમાસી સજાવી 

તમે બધાથી અલગ છો તેથી તમારું નોખું હું ધ્યાન રાખું
ગુલાબ લઈને તમે મળો તો મહેક ની હું દુકાન રાખું”
મરીઝ ની સુંદર ગઝલોએ સાંજ સજાવી “જુઓ શી કલાથી તમને મેં છુપાવ્યા,
હવે ઝીંદગીભર રુદન કરવું પડશે, મોકા પર આંખોમાં આંસુ ન આવ્યા
ક્યરેક ગાયીને ક્યારેક કાવ્ય બોલીને, ક્યરેક સંભળાવી રમુજી વાર્તા
જાણો છોને? “આપણી વ્યથા, અવરને રસની કથા” 

ક્યારેક પ્રણય ની વાત કહી, ક્યારેક મજબૂરી અને અહંમ ની વાત દોહરાવી
જેમ કે “પરપોટે પુરાયો મારો પ્રાણ હોજી”
મજબૂરી કેવી ડાળની, બટકીયે ના શકે, એના ખરેલા પાન ને અડકીયે ના શકે
કાયમ ખુલી રહે છે પ્રતીક્ષાની ટેવથી, આખો હવે ઊંઘમાં જબકીયે ના શકે ”
યાદ આવે તું જ વારંવાર, છે બધું મારી સમજની બાર
શું કહું જલસા કાર્ય, ગઝલો લખી, આપણો આ આખરી અવતાર” 

ભીખુદાન ગઢવી નું, “વાણી તો વહેતું નીર છે પાનબાઈ એજ ગંગાના તીર છે પાનબાઈ
આપના વંશ વડલે ઘરડા રે, નરસીંહ મીરા કબીર છે પાનબાઈ”
અને સુરેશ દલાલની સુંદર કવિતા “લીલ લબાઈ બેઠી જળને તળિયે
સૂર્ય કિરણને એમ થયું લાવ જઈને મળીયે”
હરિહર ભટનું ગીત “એક જ દે ચિનગારી ચકમક લોઢું ઘસતા ઘસતા, ખર્ચી ઝીંદગી”
અને અમૃત ઘાયલ ની નીચે આપેલી ગઝલ ખુબ દિલ ને સ્પર્શી ગયી 

દશા મારી, અનોખો લય, અનોખો તાલ રાખે છે
મુજને મુફલિસીમાં પણ માલામાલ રાખે છે
નથી એ રાખતા કઈ ખયાલ મારો એમ કેમ કહેવાય
નથી એ રાખતા તો કોણ મારો ખયાલ રાખે છે?”
ટહુકો અને જયશ્રીબેનને ખાસ આભાર અને અભિનંદન
મા ને અને માતૃભાષાને કેવા સુંદર નવાજયા, કર્યાં સુંદર વંદન 


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“Jolly LLB” – Movie Review

Jolly LLB, written and directed by Subhash Kapoor was released in India on March 15, 2013.  Arshad Warsi and Boman Irani give riveting performance in this court room docudrama, inspired by 1999 Sanjeev Nanda hit-and-run case.  The film is a satire on the callousness and inefficiency of Indian judicial system.  Saurabh Shukla in the role of the judge gives a masterful performance.

In a reckless act of drunken driving, a rich Delhi teenager mows down several members of a family sleeping on a footpath (sidewalk), with his speeding car.  How likely is it for a super rich kid in India, to go to jail?  Apparently, not very.  The story that follows is a story of greed and excess, Indian society’s callousness towards the poor, and a powerful story about how laws and justice can be twisted, manipulated, bought, sold, suppressed, and justice denied to anyone without wealth and connections, “जहाँ गरीब की जान आमिर की जान से सस्ती है”.  When a high profile, greedy, sleazy lawyer (played by Irani), gets the teenager off, due to lack of evidence, a small-time lawyer from Meerut (Arshad Warsi) who has recently relocated to Delhi, gets the case reopened.  Though initially tempted to take the money, concede his case, and back out, prodded by his girl friend (played by Amrita Rao), he challenges Irani, taunting him, आप से हारकर वकीलों की करियर बन जाती है तो आपको हराकर तो लाइफ बन जाएगी”.

I did not care for couple of songs that really did not seem to belong in the film and I couldn’t wait for them to end so we can get on with the story in the film.  They seemed to be thrown in there, only because it is a standard masala for a Bolywood film.  But overall, this is an excellent film, with a fast moving storyline.  Manipulation of the rule of law, by people with means, is nothing new, in India.  But while watching this action packed film, one does not feel that it is harping on the oft repeated real life saga of Indian society.  The humor and satire that come through from the excellent performance of Saurabh Shukla (playing the judge) gives just the right touch of levity, as the underlying tragic saga is unfolding.  While he seems to be going through the motions of hearing case after case and rendering verdicts that perhaps mock the process, Shukla is in fact, quite aware of how wealth makes mockery of law.  “कानून अँधा हो सकता है, लेकिन जज नहीं“, he says.  He explains, even when he is often keenly aware as to who is the perpetrator of the crime, he does not see the evidence to convict them because it is often suppressed and deals are made before the case comes to him.  He plays the game where money makes the rules, money can buy witnesses, police, and even the victim’s attorneys.  But when he sees the rules change, he is intrigued and determined to do his part, revealing the complexity of his character.

This is an excellent movie with the right mix of humor, drama, action, tragedy and comedy.   I rate it a 4 on a 1-5 scale, with 5 being excellent.

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Kai Po Che – Bolywood Movie Review

Based on India’s prominent and brilliant contemporary writer, Chetan Bhagat’s book, “The Three Mistakes of My Life”, film Kai Po Che tells the story of three close friends, brilliantly played by Sushant Singh Rajput, Amit Sadh, and Rajkumar Yadav.  Their story is embedded in the larger context of communal issues.  The film is set in early 2000 time period, in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.  The film, directed by Abhishek Kapoor, has made a strong debut, netting in Rs. 29.10 crores in the first week and Rs. 11.25 crores at domestic box office in the second weekend.   Amrita Puri gives a very good performance, as female lead role.  Apart from the remarkable performance by the three lead actors, Digvijay Deshmukh, in the role of young cricketer Ali, has given a beautiful performance that tugs at the heart.  Big kudos to the Casting Director, Mukesh Chhabra and Casing Associate, Akash Dahiya for superb cast selection.

At the beginning of the film, the three friends have set out to start their own business.  In addition to selling cricket related paraphernalia, they offer academic coaching classes and cricket coaching.  They have high hopes from the business that seems to be doing well and are looking at expanding the business.  They take loans for the business and seem to be on a roll.  But then circumstances change as Gujarat is hit by the earthquake.  The three best friends are as different in their personalities and skill set as they are close to each other in their hearts.  Govind (Yadav) is ambitious, steadily focused on growing the business, strong in academics, and is the brain of the business.  Omi (Sadh) is a son of a priest and is the finance guy who secures the loans for the business.  The cost at which the loans are secured only becomes apparent later.  Ishaan (Rajput), is the hot tempered cricket protégée, for whom money is only a means to the end, who aspires to groom young Ali (Deshmukh) to play cricket at national and international level.  The story that follows about communal issues is based on the religious violence in Gujarat, following the Ayodhya train incident that tore the state apart, rendering, by some estimates, over 60,000 Muslims and 10,000 Hindus homeless and scores of people killed.

The film covers the spectrum from hot headed religious fervor to spineless, self-serving politicians, to business aspirations of young entrepreneurs, to young love’s trappings, to dedication and love of sports and all this emerging in the broader theme of friendship.  This friendship is brutally tested, violently marred, and finally finds healing and forgiveness in a flood of tears.  This is a beautiful film and I rate it a 5 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent.

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