Sunday, February 22, 2009

Book shopping

I bought three books recently on an unscheduled, spur of the moment, splurging at Crossword in Mumbai. I have never felt as much content as I felt yesterday. The feeling is indescribable. Whenever I skim through books in a bookshop or online, there is always a queasy feeling inside – which is actually the knowledge that I have about 100 books that I have not read so far. But yesterday, I let it go and bought three wonderful books:



I feel blissful!

Slumdog Millionaire

I just finished watching ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, and the one question it has left me with is how and why it made it to the Oscars?


I have read Vikas Swarup’s Q&A. I found it interesting and quite easy to read. When I came to know about this movie, I was pleasantly surprised because this book is a movie material. I also read wonderful reviews and several behind-the-scenes articles on casting, on how some of the kids were real slum-dwellers, and so on. I was suitably impressed with the movie even before I had seen it. It is definitely what everyone is talking about, a very commendable job done by their Marketing and PR.


I don’t know what did it – over-expectations or prior knowledge of the story – but it did not live up to my expectations. When I had seen ‘Namesake’, I was bowled over by Tabu and Irfan Khan. I believe, that was the movie which deserved an Oscar. But in ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, I do not find any high points. It does not inspire thoughts, for people abroad; it might, but not here. We have seen it several times in reality as well as in movies.      


Direction was pretty decent; but acting and music were quite ordinary. Dev Patel is impressive, but Frieda Pinto did not have to do much. I felt the little Latika and the teenage Latika were quite amazing. I also liked the kid Jamal. Irfan Khan was his usual good self and Anil Kapoor also did justice to his role. The teenage Salim was particularly good. But that’s about it.


When, particularly, A.R.Rahman wins an Oscar for ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, I would certainly rejoice; not because he has done a good job (he has created zillion times better music for hindi movies) but because he is an Indian who has done us proud.


I wonder if I should cheer for the movie, because

(a) It is not a masterpiece in cinema

(b) It is not an Indian film – yes, an Indian story with Indian actors but not made by an Indian

(c) I did not like it that much

I read somewhere that two young kids, who played youngest Latika and youngest Salim, are real-life slum-residents. They have been given flats and have also got admissions in English medium schools. I would certainly like to cheer for them. In that way, the movie did make a difference. Well, the underdog did win at the end! So cheers to that. 



Monday, February 09, 2009

Draupadi - the story so far

I just finished reading Yajnaseni by Pratibha Ray. Although I would post a review separately on my blog on book reviews, yet this 400-page book took me through such a diaspora of emotions that I could not not write about it here.


Yajnaseni, by the way, is one of the names for Draupadi. Draupadi has been an intriguing character in Mahabharat. Fortunately atleast two women have tried to unravel the mystery surrounding her and have rendered interesting scope to her characterization – Irawati Karve in Yuganta and Pratibha Ray in Yajnaseni.


I have often lamented the fact that all the ancient scriptures have been written by men, not a single one by women (atleast not to my knowledge). Though we have had strong women in both Ramayan and Mahabharat, who have been respected since ages for their knowledge and wisdom; still that era was a highly patriarchal one. It used to be a matter of pride for kings to marry several women but a woman who has taken even shelter in another man’s vicinity, was considered unchaste and impure! What is chastity and purity anyways! I even wondered several times while reading the book, even what was considered dharma was what was convenient for men. It is still beyond my comprehension, why was it such a big deal that even if Kunti had asked all the five brothers to share Draupadi, by mistake; it was necessary for the poor thing to follow this weird instruction! What dharma!   


Whether you call it the cunning of Kunti to have asked her sons to share Draupadi, or the shrewdness of Yudhishthir to twist the truth; the misfortune was entirely Draupadi’s.  In a few places, one would find that Kunti already knew that her sons were going for Draupadi’s swayamvar, so whatever she said was not by mistake; while in some places one finds that Yudhishthir was besotted by Draupadi’s beauty and thus he misrepresented the facts to create confusion. Kunti’s sons were her might and they were undefeated because they were united; Kunti’s fear was that marriage of Arjun to Draupadi can sow the seed of disharmony and enmity between brothers, as she had already seen that all of her sons were deeply attracted to Draupadi. Thus, she knowingly said the things that she did.


Another thing which is deeply endearing is the relationship between Krishna and Draupadi - they called each other sakha and sakhi respectively. It is interesting to read about the conversations and relationship between the trio comprising Arjun, Draupadi and Krishna. It is said that Arjun was never jealous of Krishna, rather he used to be envious of Draupadi because she had a special bond with Krishna. The relationship between Draupadi and Krishna has been interpolated differently in several places, some say they considered each other brother-sister that is why Krishna came to save her in the kuru-court, while some say Draupadi was attracted to Krishna as a lover. But largely it is believed that their relationship was platonic and spiritual.


It is unfortunate that despite being the queen and wife of five valiant husbands, Draupadi suffered a lot during her lifetime. Nobody came to her succor when she needed them the most. The pain of Draupadi is evident from what she says to Krishna, narrating the incidence where in she was dragged to the court when Yudhishthir lost her in the game if dice. Draupadi tells Krishna: “I have no husbands, no sons, no relations. I have no brothers, no father. And I do not have even you, Krishna”. In fact, Yudhishthir even insinuated her during their last journey to Himalayas that she discriminated against five of them and always loved Arjun more. During their last journey, when Draupadi falls, none of her five husbands stop nor even turn back to check on her.

It is disheartening how today Draupadi is always referred to in the most unrespectful manner as the one with five husbands. Being compared to her is considered an insult. This to someone, who was considered the most perfect woman – in beauty, in intellect, in knowledge and in qualities; and who did not choose to marry five men, rather she was manipulated into it. When she walked out of her father’s home with Arjun, she was resplendent in the glory of having married the perfect man, but her joy was momentary. In a matter of hours, her entire life changed, and thus started an entire life time of abuses, hurt and loneliness!