Navratri Greetings to all my readers who celebrate.
How I miss the kolu. There is something supremely satisfying about setting up the arrangement of dolls which invokes the Goddess in her many forms as the manifestation of wealth, courage, and wisdom. The large kolam at the threshold, the golden radiance of the lamps with five wicks, the smells of fresh jasmine flowers, sandalwood incense and camphor, and the chimes of silver bells that accompany the sacred chants which vibrate through the house. The kolu visits and the visitors, the songs praising the goddesses. I miss it all, feeling not so much homesick as timesick for my school days in the nineties when every festival appeared to be so much more brighter.
This year I celebrate the festival as I used to do as an undergraduate in the college hostel, with a simple sankalpa puja, offering a prasad of organic chocolates.
And this is perhaps the loveliest rendering of this chant on the goddess that I have heard, reminiscent of this quote from Salinger,“Their voices were melodious and unsentimental, almost to the point where a somewhat more denominational man than myself might, without straining, have experienced levitation.” (For Esmé — with Love and Squalor)
This song from the old Hindi film Chhaya is inspired by Mozart’s Symphony No. 40. While Mozart gives one wings and carries the listener away on his notes, this song affects one almost as much with its lyrics as with the tune, and also its picturisation. The trees swaying against the backdrop of the clouds and the moon, captured as though they are in tune with the music, the charming setting of the old world house and the beautiful actors all together form a symphony, and transport one into the days when the world was bigger, time was slower, life was lived at a gentler place and was lucidly defined in shades of black and white. Or at least the books, songs and films of those days manage to convey such an impression.
I love watching Asha Parekh in this song, in which she plays the role of a reader who falls in love with a poet without ever having seen him. Instead of her stereotyped cutesy expressions, she looks convincing here as a besotted young woman who is smitten with the poetry of a man, and whose love of the art has dissolved the boundaries between the art and the artist. The hero’s dress – the quintessential attire of an Indian poet in the sixties films and the flowered sari and large bindi of the heroine and the satin ribbons that she has used to tie her hair in two plaits are endearingly nostalgic.
The song is set during the first meeting between the poet and his admirer, in which the poet refuses to appear before her and reveal his identity for some strange reason. As is usually the case with Hindi films, there is no logic here but it is undoubtedly romantic. For who wouldn’t want to fall in love first with the verse of a poet and then with the poet himself and then find out that he is young, single, as dashing as Sunil Dutt and above all, is also in love with you?
The Hindi film heroines of the fifties and sixties are not very different from Shakespeare’s heroines about whom Germaine Greer mentioned in her lecture on Shakespeare’s lovers during a Hay Festival. They give away their hearts without thinking or considering to whom they are giving it, and once they do, it is given forever. Considering which it is incredible how much of the time both Shakespeare and old Hindi films both have such comfortingly happy endings.
Coming soon! The Re-engineers (HarperCollins) A walk through the boundaries between fiction and reality