Delhi’s historic monuments – and 1857

A view of the Jama Masjid, with its surroundings still intact, from a photograph taken in 1858 by Felice Beato.

Last week, on my Facebook page, I’d posted a brief history of the origins of one of Delhi’s most unique festivals, the Phoolwaalon ki Sair (also known as the Sair-e-Gulfaroshan). In the discussions which ensued, one reader pointed out that … Continue reading

The Last Time I Saw Paris (1954)

Looking through the blog posts I’ve published over the past few months, I realized what a long time it’s been since I reviewed one of those Hollywood classics, the type of film that people tend to recognize the name of, even if they’ve never seen it, or even if the film didn’t win any awards. Or wasn’t, eventually, as in this case, all that great after all. But I wanted to watch The Last Time I Saw Paris for two reasons: one, it stars Elizabeth Taylor, one of the most mesmerizing faces in 50s’ Hollywood.

Elizabeth Taylor in The Last Time I Saw Paris Continue reading

Ten of my favourite string instrument songs

After I’d done my piano song posts, I began to think of other musical instruments that appear in the picturisation of songs. Songs where it’s not an orchestra (Ted Lyons and His Cubs, anyone? Or The Monkees?), but a hero or heroine, not a professional musician, being the one ‘playing’ an instrument? Guitars, I thought, would be a good place to start. A ‘guitar songs’ post. I tried by listing, off the cuff, all the songs I could remember as having a guitar-playing actor or actress. Then I went and checked on Youtube—and discovered that several of the songs I’d remembered as featuring a guitar actually featured a different string instrument: a mandolin, for example (in Tum bin jaaoon kahaan), or some even more unusual and exotic instruments.

String instrument songs: Baar baar dekho, from China Town Continue reading

And another Lit Fest!

Last year, when I was attending the Bangalore Literary Festival, I heard an interesting fact at one of the sessions (about literary festivals): at last count—in autumn 2013—India boasted of 63 literary festivals. That’s quite a whopper of a figure, isn’t it? I have only been to the literary festivals in Bangalore, Pune, and Delhi (no, as unbelievable as it may sound, I actually haven’t ventured till Jaipur yet). And, earlier this week, I participated in another lit fest—a rather different one from the type I’ve frequented so far. This was a lit fest organized and hosted by a school, the Lycée Français de Delhi, for its students. 2014 was the second year the school organized the lit fest, and this year’s schedule featured workshops and lectures by various writers: Anupam Arunachalam (Comics on Delhi, followed by workshops on comics); Priya Kuriyan (Illustrations on Delhi); Nilanjana Roy (Delhi, A City of Inspiration); and Rana Dasgupta (21st Century Delhi).

The Lit Fest at the Lycee Francais de Delhi Continue reading

Rustom Sohrab (1963)

Who would’ve thought that the Ramsay Brothers’ first production was a historical worthy of a Sohrab Modi [granted, it does have two far-too-chubby leading men and its fair share of violence, but still; Rustom Sohrab is no horror film, not by a long shot]? But yes, Ramsay Productions—famous for its B grade horror films of the 80s and 90s—did make this rather surprising debut, a film based on the Persian epic poem Rostam and Sohrab (part of the famous Shahnameh).

Prithviraj Kapoor and Premnath in and as Rustom Sohrab. Continue reading

Flower Drum Song (1961)

A very belated tribute to an actor I’ve actually seen only in a couple of films, but whom I like a lot: James Shigeta. The Hawaiian-born Shigeta passed away on July 28 this year, and it came to me as a shock a couple of days ago when I discovered that he was gone—and that no newspaper and none of the sites I occasionally visit—mentioned it. The news, however, made me remember the first film in which I saw James Shigeta: Flower Drum Song, one of his earliest films. Very different from his debut film (the superb The Crimson Kimono, one of my favourite noirs), but enjoyable in its own way—and an interesting commentary, both deliberate and unwitting, on immigrants in the US.

James Shigeta and Miyoshi Umeki in Flower Drum Song Continue reading

… and back from the Pune Lit Fest

As I’ve mentioned earlier (nearly a year ago, to be precise), I am – despite being an author and not an absolute recluse – not really one of the regulars at Literary Festivals. Which, if you’re keeping track, are now a staple event in the post-monsoon calendar of almost every Indian city worth its salt. Good, I say, but I go to very few of them, and only when I really feel like it.

This time, I got an invitation for the Pune International Literary Festival, September 18-20, 2014. Would I be interested, asked Dr Manjiri Prabhu (the director), in being part of a panel discussion on detective fiction? Considering home-grown detective fiction (I’m not talking Christie, Rankin, and the like) invariably takes a backseat when it comes to the average Indian reader – who, if bookstore displays are to be believed, is more likely to jump at mythology, self-help, or coming-of-age books – well, considering that, I figured anything I could do to help further the cause of Indian detective fiction was work well done.

The Pune International Literary Festival, 2014

The Pune International Literary Festival, 2014

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