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23 February 2009

And the Oscar goes to . . .


AR Rahman's Oscar 2009 speech
Link reference: YouTube.com

AR RAHMAN, "Slumdog Millionaire"! I've been watching the Oscars for a long time now, and tonight, while watching this year's show, it felt strange to hear that familiar Hindi accent being spoken on the Oscar stage. Tonight, we got it twice (for Best Song and Best Original Score). And that's courtesy of the talented Mr Rahman (and to a wide measure, the director Danny Boyle for bringing the British-Indian film to Western exposure).

My first full acquaintance with AR Rahman's music was through the highly enjoyable soundtrack to the movie "Rang de Basanti" back in 2006. The sound was a big diversion from the Bollywood music that I always knew: it was melodious with its rhythms, youthful in its beats, and it wasn't music to romp with around the trees or on a wide street with dozens of dancers. I thought the music had a strong chance at the Oscars that year, after reading that it was sent in for Best Song nomination. It didn't even get nominated. A big bummer, I think, considering how original the music was in the context of contemporary Indian film music. In fact, I think "Rang de Basanti" and "Delhi 6", which I'm listening to right now, are superior to "Slumdog Millionare". But I leave that to another post.

Congratulations, Mr Rahman! You have made India--and lovers of world music everywhere--so very proud!

Related Stories: Slumdog Slam; Congratulations, AR Rahman!

15 February 2009

Manila in the dark

TIM KINDSETH wrote in Time magazine this week about Manila Through the Eyes of F. Sionil José. The visual reference is the sweeping Rosales Saga, written by the most widely-read of contemporary Filipino novelists. I'm glad that Mr. Sionil José gets deserving space in Time Magazine. Unfortunately, Mr. Kindseth saw Manila most unkindly, sweeping one of Southeast Asia's most cosmopolitan cities ungraciously away, failing to realize how Western colonialism led to the decay that he avidly describes, and certainly failing to see it the way Mr. Sionil José did in his novels.

Manila's redeeming virtues were the centerpiece of Mr. Sionil José's five-volume opus. Instead, Mr. Kindseth decided to revisit the physical spaces described in the novels, and bring the modernized version into front row (on the magazine's print edition, the story was on full page). Hence, he talks excessively about sunsets rimmed in "diesel pollution", "vulgar light & sound shows", and "starched luxury malls". He fails to understand the redemption that lies beyond these modern elements, introduced into Asia by interactions with the West and so ubiquitous, if not grander in scale, in most of Asia's megacities. Had he gone beyond the façade offered by Manila's pockets of rancid smell and decadent sight, he would have celebrated a vital mass of warm humanity that is unique in Southeast Asia and increasingly difficult to experience elsewhere in this age of materialism and Web 2.0-driven fanaticism.

I'm not sure how to classify Mr. Kindseth's essay. He refers to it as "sense of space". It is neither travel writing nor architectural exposé. Either way, it is senseless and a waste of space.


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Now playing: L.T.D. feat. Jeffrey Osborne - Love Ballad
via FoxyTunes

Traveling in a coffin

THAT'S HOW I felt in a "sleeper coach" that took me overnight from Trichy in Tamil Nadu to Bangalore in Karnataka down south last week. The passenger bus contained around 20 beds, and I had the misfortune of getting an upper-deck bed.

Bed? Coffin, actually. It was six feet long, four feet high, and two feet wide. Effectively, it meant that my 5'11" frame, along with my backpack and carry-on luggage, could stretch out without being able to move any body part at all. Which is probably how it is in a coffin. On top of a bumpy bus. For eight hours. Overnight.

I survived the journey with 15 minutes of nocturnal slumber. I will never take these "sleeper coaches" in India again.

(I couldn't take photos to regale you with this story, for obvious reasons.)


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Now playing: T.I. ft Rihanna - Live Your Life
via FoxyTunes

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