Came across this book on Kindle Unlimited, and was interested in it as it was of a different genre than what I was reading lately. I am also going through a phase of learning more about Urdu poetry and this book seemed to fall into the right category, considering that Gulzar is one of the most respected names in Urdu poetry today.

The book is in the form of questions and answers, done through an interview, surprisingly on Skype. The author, Nasreen Munni Kabir, I learnt later through the book, is also the creator of the documentary, The Inner/Outer World of Shah Rukh Khan. As a side note, that documentary is one of my favourites. It provides a candid glimpse into the inner world of one of the most successful actors in Bollywood.

In the Company of a Poet traces Gulzar’s entry into the world of poetry, and into the world of films. Gulzar started out as an assistant to Bimal Roy and has since played many roles in Bollywood. He was a writer, director and of course a lyricist. After a career spanning over 50 years, Gulzar chose to return back to his initial love – writing. And hence, after his last directorial venture Hu Tu Tu (1999), he left directing for good.

The book is an easy read and can be finished over a few days. In the book, Gulzar mostly reminisces about famous writer-poets of that time, including Sahir Ludhianvi, Kaifi Azmi, Salil Chaudhury, and others. He appreciates how the film industry has changed over the years and brought in new talent.

There were some new discoveries for me while reading the book, and finding that the writer of some of the most classic Hindi film songs was Gulzar was quite joyful. However, I also found that the book simply scratched the surface of Gulzar’s life and his works. Maybe it was the impersonal medium of conversation (a web cam interview) that prevented a more detailed examination, or maybe the author preferred to keep it that way. Hence, the book takes a brief dip in the vast pool of talent that is Gulzar. His daughter, Meghna Gulzar, has already written a biography on him. Maybe that calls for a more detailed and personal look at his life.

In the Company of a Poet mostly provides a few amusing anecdotes about the quirks of famous personalities of the film industry of yore. Read it if you’re interested in knowing more about the works of Gulzar.

In the Company of a Poet
Nasreen Munni Kabir
epub mobi

I just finished reading the book “In spite of the Gods – The strange rise of modern India” by Edward Luce. I had eyed this book since a long time and had delayed buying it for some reason. Luckily, I found a second-hand copy of the book in Pondicherry. I had started reading the book on my way back to Pondicherry, and to my utter surprise (and shock), the first paragraph itself had a mention of Pondicherry and the community set up near it, Auroville. The introduction talks about the author’s meetings with people living in Auroville and how India is known mainly for its spirituality. The author seemed none too amused by this impression of India and that is what he sets out to change in the book.

The author, Edward Luce, covers all the major areas of concern for India, which include social, political, religious and economic. The structure of the book itself is such that each chapter focuses on one burning issue from these field. Luce covers India pre-independence, the timeline of the major political parties and the rise of the newer parties. Religion ocupies a central position in Indian households and he focuses on the largest two religions in the country and the problems which have arisen between them as well. He goes on to analyze India’s past relation with the US and the Soviets, and the current equation between India-China and India-Pakistan.

The book ends with the issues India faces and the opportunities the country has to become a major power in the 21st century. According to the author, India would do well not to become complacent of its newfound growth. Only if it deals with the issues in a proactive  manner will it manage to reach the level which is being expected of it. And one of the important ways is by the electorate to vote in such a way which brings the political party most capable of bringing about the change which is required. This endnote becomes all the more relevant in light of the up coming elections.

What I really liked about the book was its comprehensiveness in all the issues it tackles. Luce does not refrain from calling a spade a spade. The interplays between rival political parties especially SP vs BSP is wittitly depicted with Amar Singh again making a fool out of himself. Luce has described the rise of caste politics quite vividly. The book goes beyond slums and spirituality which is all what India is made out to be. I totally agree with the author’s belief that India is much more than a few squalid slums and some old-age Vedic literature. Luce makes the book more interesting by its witty jokes and humourous anecdotes he has come across while living in India.

The cons of this books are minor, yet I’ll list them down all the same. More space could have been devoted to the rise of IT in India. I know this industry has been written to death but in a book about the rise of modern India, IT should deserve a considerable share. Luce could also have researched more about the rise of manufacturing in India which is all set to accelerate in growth once the global economy gets back on track. Also I noticed that the author seemed to have a very critical view on Bollywood where he describes the typical Indian movie as “a blend of brilliantly choreographed titillation.” Agreed that song, dance and rain play a major role in Indian movies, but lately the film industry has also produced very good movies. If anything else, the author would have had good words for alternate Indian cinema. Luce also had a negative view of the nationalist political parties in India, which for all pratical purposes, means the BJP. The author himself admits to this bias.

All in all, I found In spite of the Gods to be a quite comprehensive read about modern India. The book goes beyond a superficial introduction to the country and dives well into some of the major issues affecting the country in recent times. It explains patiently the contradictions which India faces at each and every step of its journey. Luce has painted a masterpiece about one of the fastest developing nations in the world. Which brings me to my next question – Why do foreign nationals, be it Edward Luce, Gregory David Roberts or William Dalrymple make for better writers about India than us Indians?

Back from an examination paper which didn’t go too well (what’s new?) So I should most likely be in a mood to unleash my sarcasm on someone. The most likely candidate this time around is the new kid on the block, KRK. I’m sure you’ve heard of him, or seen the movie trailers doing the rounds on TV these days. He is the hero of the new film Desh Drohi which seeks to send a message of brotherhood and harmony across the nation. And no, its not about LOC or Indo-Pak relations, but about the feud between the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and the northern states.

For once I won’t ridicule anyone. Reasons, political and otherwise, forbid me to do it and I do not wish to turn this into a sarcastic free-for-all. Some say it is a movie worth going to, because it teaches about the importance of being together in these troubled times. Some say the movie is not worth a review. Is KRK a replacement to SRK? Who know, but all said and done, in the eternal words of Jugad Singh, Aadmi sachha lagta hai. (Wish the placement season would be as simple as this)

My friends say there is no comparison between SRK and KRK. But isn’t that what people said when SRK came into the scene? SRK vs Amitabh? KRK vs SRK? As Einstein put it, its all relative. He has a long way to go and so here’s wishing the fellow all the best in Bollywood. We come in peace.

It’s official now. Alternative career options are coming back with a big banng. After the recent foray of Jawed Habib into hair-cutting schools, Sanjay B. Jumaani (did I get the number of as right?) is planning to open a numerology school where he plans to teach eeager students the art of adding, twisting and dropping letters from the nnames of celebrities and movies to supposedly turn around their fortunes. He was the ‘engineer’ behind the naming of the hugely popular movie ‘Singh is Kinng’, though it remains to be seeeen whether that was the reason why the movie was actually successful. Like a true businessman he says that currently this market is largely unorganized and thus there is a huge potential for such business.

In my opinion, it was ok when you changed the spellings of names of movies or actors. It’s their personal choice on how they want to spell their name. My English teacher in school used to tell me that you can pronounce proper nouns any way you like. But what gets to me is the uninhibited way they change the spellings of English words to suit their numerological beliefs. Isn’t there any such thing as good grammar? Thus we have names like Singh is Kinng, Heyy Babyy and C Kkompany. Well, Bbollywood cannot be bothered with such petty issues. As long as the film doesn’t have any content, the sstrange sounding name won’t worsen it anyhow.

One more business opportunityy I missssed. Dammnn.