Phir bhi dil hai Hindustani

Posted in Bollywood, movies, music, Rights, South Asia by jrahman on March 9, 2020

It was one of the first Bollywood movies to play in a mainstream theatre in our small town, and it seemed that the Desi communities — note the plurals — in its teeming multitudes had showed up, including the bunch I hung out with at the university.  This was over a decade before smart phones and ubiquitous social media.  We had the internet though, and MTV, so some of my friends knew the songs, and someone told me that I might like it, because it’s very political.

I don’t remember why, but I was a bit late and this had already started:

Trying to sit down in the dark, I heard one of the less-Hindi savvy guys ask — Ei ta ki Nazma Salma gaitese (What is this Nazma-Salma they are singing?).  Na bhaiya, Nazma-Salma na, naghma-kalma, you know, he is saying, she is my music and kalima — the girl-next-seat helpfully explained.  As for me, I kept wondering well into the intermission when the hot train dancer would reappear!

Dil Se is on Netflix and happened to be playing during a recent wine-filled late night adda.  I didn’t exactly watch it, hard to do so under the circumstances as you might understand, but it did make me think about how the movie has aged over the years, and yet perhaps is relevant than ever.  It all made me depressed.


Comments Off on Phir bhi dil hai Hindustani

Siren of the flags

Posted in music by jrahman on March 24, 2019

Most Bengalis are aware that Rabindranath Tagore penned the national anthem of two countries.  I wonder how many know of the teenage girl whose voice, broadcast over radio, inspired soldiers of two countries in the battlefields of two different wars in two different corners of the subcontinent.  Shahnaz Begum did just that, before she became Shahnaz Rahmatullah.

I am not surprised that the older of the two songs is forgotten — who really cares about the 1965 war in Bangladesh.

I am, however, shocked that this is not widely shared.

As long as those two countries born of blood and tear survive, Shahnaz Begum’s voice will live.




Tagged with:

Comments Off on Siren of the flags

Cometh the hour…

Posted in elections, music, politics, rock by jrahman on December 25, 2018

One common concern trolling among the Awami League supporters is regarding the leadership of the Jatiya Oikya Front — who is your leader, if you win, who will be your prime minister, who will be the real decision maker etc.  The idea of collective leadership, cabinet governance, the party room deciding who will be its parliamentary leader — these notions are simply alien to Bangladeshi political culture.  Meanwhile, in many seats, it’s hard if not impossible for many JOF candidates to present themselves before the voters — some are in jail, others are forced out of their areas by AL thugs, and violent interruption of electioneering is commonplace.

Does it matter?  Perhaps the public doesn’t mind that JOF is a collective effort.  Perhaps it’s all about the election symbol.  Perhaps the public sentiment is: We don’t need another hero / We don’t need to know the way home / All we want is life beyond the Thunderdome.

If people come out to vote, is state machinery strong enough to suppress the public will?  But will people come out to vote?


Comments Off on Cometh the hour…

When fact is fiction

Posted in fantasy, movies, music, thriller by jrahman on July 15, 2017

I live in a country that Lyndon Johnson once called the ‘ass end of the world’ — whichever direction you travel, there is no short flight from this southern land.  One good thing about the long haul flight, however, is the chance to watch stuff that you otherwise might not have, provided you’re flying a decent carrier, of course.  My usual guilty pleasures are sitcoms — I think I watched more HIMYM and Big Bang Theory episodes airborne than on my couch.

I made an exception recently.  The Emirates have a reasonable collection of Bangla (or given they are from the Indian Bengal, should I say Bengali?) movies.  I was curious, and wasn’t left disappointed.  It appears that a number of noir films have come out of Kolkata recently.  How exciting, right?


Comments Off on When fact is fiction

Burn it all

Posted in music by jrahman on June 28, 2016

Demagogues.  Charlatans.  Con men.  Time servers.  Cronies.  Populist politicians.  Abusive husbands.

It’s not a world fighting for.


 Ah, Love! could thou and I with Fate conspire
 To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire!
 Would not we shatter it to bits - and then
 Re-mould it nearer to the Heart's Desire!


Tagged with: ,

Comments Off on Burn it all

The love song

Posted in Bollywood, movies, music by jrahman on June 7, 2016

Love stories tend to be boring because they tend to end in rather predictable ways.  And yet, from Radha-Krishna and Laila-Majnu to Romeo-Juliet and, because we aren’t unaffected by Bollywood, Amitabh-Rekha, our imaginations are captured by love stories.

Yes, that last sentence is a derivative of something from Midnight’s Children.  Salman Rushdie, of course, drew inspiration from the famous Bollywood romance for his infamous Satanic Verses filmstar-gone-crazy who was haunted by his jilted lover Rekha Merchant.  Then there is the Shashi Tharoor novel about the rise and fall and apotheosis of the matinee idol Amitabhshok Bachchanjara, with a many pages on his off screen romance.

It’s fitting then that the last movie to star Bollywood’s most famous couple is a tale of socially ostracised love, which also happens to have one of the best love songs to come out of Bombay.  The Bachchan monologue — I often wonder with my solitude what if you were here — tells us that it’s a sad song.  But it’s the multiple possibilities and nuances of the female perspective — rendered sublimely by Lata Mungeshkar — that makes the song what it is.


Comments Off on The love song

The case for arranged marriage

Posted in family, music, society by jrahman on April 8, 2016

Update: April 11 425pm BDT at the end

Theirs was the stuff of fairy tale romance.  The son of a Supreme Court judge and a charismatic English professor, he was brought up to be a pukka gentleman.  She came from the wrong side of the poorest of backwater towns, first in the family to make it to university, relying on nothing but her grit.  They were white collar professionals, colleagues who fell in love in their late 20s.  I was there—it happened in my living room actually.  They moved in, and then moved overseas together for greater opportunities, for both.  Careers progressed, and love deepened.  About ten years ago, they got married in a picturesque island.  Couple of years later they returned to a large wooden house with a big backyard to raise a little girl, and then a boy.  Financially secure — they benefitted from the asset booms of that decade — it was a time for career change, to follow their hearts.  She joined politics.  He decided to pursue his passion for writing.

Then the fairy tale ended.  While turning 40, she finds that politics is hard work, and merely willing isn’t enough.  He is in deep blue funk, with writing going nowhere.  Kids are alright, I guess.  But the parents most definitely aren’t.

How about a more conventional couple?  Both from straight forward middle class families.  Met in their 20s through friends, and started seeing each other frequently, and then exclusively.  He had an opportunity to move overseas for work.  Marriage was the only way for them to be together, even though this meant an end to her career.  A decade and three daughters later, she is mostly tired and bitter.  Meanwhile, he wonders what might have been had they never met.

These are not isolated incidences.  Whether in Desh or in the west, I see couples of my age and socioeconomic background, regardless of ethnicity or culture, in stale, unexciting marriages where no one is really at fault, where the fire of passion is buried in repressed memories and forced indifference.  And these are the marriages that survive.  Scarily, I joked recently with a friend that I am more likely now to attend a social shindig marking the end of someone’s marriage than a wedding!

What happens?  In short, life.  It’s hard to navigate the demands of modern life — finances needed for the standard of living we aspire to, but also the expectations of personal achievements we set ourselves, and then there is the social rat race that none of us are really immune from.  All that before we throw in the curve ball of raising kids and the emotional and physical tolls that entail.


Tagged with:

Comments Off on The case for arranged marriage

Love is just a four letter word

Posted in comedy, culture, music, romance, society, TV by jrahman on February 9, 2016

I was 14 when a Dhanmondi girl first told me about Valentine’s Day — no, not asking me for a date, rather informing me about hers.  In the quarter century since, in and out of relationships, the day has never really resonated with me.  Call me unromantic?  Not so fast.  You see, I do love rom coms, particularly on the small screen.

And could there be a better show to showcase my case?


Comments Off on Love is just a four letter word

Coffee House

Posted in gender, music, Rights, society by jrahman on August 1, 2015

As every educated Bengali knows, decades before a bunch of photogenic New Yorkers made it trendy, hanging out in a cafe — the Coffee House was cool.  Hanging out — adda –with your friends after work, who can’t relate to that?


The Manna Dey classic suggests the great experience mid-20th century Calcutta would have been for young guys — the Art College graduate drawing sketches for marketing firms before making it to Paris, the reporter who would migrate to Dhaka (and write a great book on 1971), the Goanese guitarist who died young, the amatuer actor suffering from a romantic tragedy related breakdown, the unrecognised poet with cancer….

… and the girl….

Ah, yes, the girl…. the one who is supposed to be happy because she has a millionaire husband who buys her jewellery….

Ray’s Big City wasn’t a great place for women.

Much of the subcontinent still isn’t.


Comments Off on Coffee House

বিপ্লবী বর্ণমালা

Posted in music by jrahman on January 22, 2015

মুঘল ইতিহাসবিদ আবুল ফজল লিখেছিলেন বাংলাদেশের জলবায়ু নাকি মৌলিক প্রবৃত্তিকে উস্কে দেয়, ফলে এদেশে সর্বদা বিদ্রোহের ধুলি ওরে।  আমার কাছে দেশের ভ্যাপসা গরমে কখনো বিপ্লব করতে ইচ্ছে হয়নি, তবে আমাদের মনে হয় ছোটবেলা থেকেই একটা বিপ্লবী anti-establishment romanticism দিয়ে মগজ ধোলাই এর চেষ্টা চলে।   বিশ্বাস হচ্ছে না?

আমাদের যাদের ৭০ এর দশকে জন্ম, আমরা একটু চোখ বন্ধ করলেই মনে করতে পারব বিটিভির সাদাকালো পর্দায় খালামনি আর ছোট্ট সোনামনিরা গাইছে ক-এ কলা ক-এ খাই।  মনে পরছে?  পরের লাইনটা মনে আছে? এত বেশি খেতে নাই, গ-এ গরু ঘ-এ ঘাস, কত ঘাস খেতে চাস?
শুরুতেই আমাদের অসম সমাজের বাস্তবতা দেখিয়ে দেয়া হলো — আর বলাই বাহুল্য, আমরা যারা ১৯৮১ সালে টিভি দেখতে পারতাম, তারা ওই অসম সমাজের সুবিধাভোগী অংশই ছিলাম।
এরপর আসে বিপ্লবী ভ্রাতৃত্ব – ঞ বলে মিয়া ভাই, ভয় নাই ভয় নাই…. ত-এ তুমি, থ-এ থামি, থামবোনা  তুমি আমি।
তারপর?  গণপ্রজাতন্ত্র আর জাতীয়াতাবাদ — প-এ পাপ, ফ-এ ফল, রাজা গেল রসাতল…. ম-এ মাটি ম-এ মা, মাটি আমার মা…. 
আসে পুঁজিবাদের মুনাফার সংকট — ল-এ লাল ব-এ বাতি, জলছে যে লাল বাতি, তালব্য শ বলে বেশি বেশি কেন নিলে?
আসে বিপ্লবের কৌশল — ষ-এ ষাড় স-এ সাপ, পালা সবে ওরে বাপ, ঝোপ বুঝে কোপটা মারব।
ফলাফল — খন্ড-ৎ-এ কুপোকাৎ,হঠ করে বাজিমাৎ !
সাদাকালো গানটা খুঁজে পেলাম না:

লাল সালাম।
Tagged with:

Comments Off on বিপ্লবী বর্ণমালা