Saturday, 27 May 2006

Review/Photo Essay: Eternal Gandhi - A Multimedia Exhibition

At a time when Gandhiji's ideas seem to have become relegated to tomes of history textbooks, the Eternal Gandhi multimedia exhibition helps to bring his ideas back into focus in a medium that makes it easy for today's kids to relate to and understand.

The exhibits explore Gandhiji's philosophies, the books that moulded him, his ashram stays and other thoughts through computer generated designs and interactive installations. It is an attempt to explore and convey how Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi became the "Mahatma".

Conceptualised and directed by Ranjit Makkuni and his team at Sacred World Research Laboratory, the exhibition first displayed in Delhi and then moved to Bombay a couple of months ago. For awhile it was exhibited at the Cowasji Jehangir Hall.

But since the last month it has been displayed at the CSMVS. You still can catch it until the end of this month.

The Birla Trust has helped bear part of the costs of the exhibition.

What you can expect to see:

  • Raghupati Xylophone: The notes are pre-arranged to play Gandhiji's favourite bhajan. You don't need to be a musician to play it.
  • Laser India Harp: Allows the visitor to trigger music by touching the laser beams.

  • Pillar of Castelessness: Embodies "United we stand and Divided we fall" by lighting up when all around the pillar hold hands and turning dark when they let go.

  • Stambha: 11 rotating discs. Each triggers a visual clip of Gandhiji's principles of Satyagraha.
  • A wooden replica of Sabarmati Ashram:

    Each Pillar when touched starts an audio visual presentation of Ashram Life.

  • A Mural of Raja Harischandra's Story

  • A fibre optic Jail Cell to mimic the one Gandhi was imprisoned in, which has his Jail journal beamed across the cell floor.

  • The Charaka is everywhere,

  • as a motif, as a theme, as a background, as an exhibit....

  • And an extremely life-like wax figure of Gandhiji which could have you thinking its a real person sitting there (the webbed toes gave it away),

  • ...among other exhibits.

    The exhibition is best summed up by a kid I overheard at the exhibition "Mommy, mommy! This is so much fun!!!"

    To be relevant and speak to today's generation of kids, you need to involve them in the discovery process by stimulating not just their minds but by appealing to their visual and auditory senses too. Since the experience also combines a tactile dimension, it succeeds on all counts. The exhibition is equally appealing to adults too, it shows that we can make Indian museums a better leisure experience.

    Posted on

Friday, 19 May 2006

Is India Turning Litigious Like The USA ?

The Telegraph Reports :
Foul cry over XLRI entry route

Jharkhand Education Tribunal (JET) today served a showcause notice on the XLRI School of Management, Jamshedpur, over alleged irregularities in the admission process.

The chairperson of the tribunal, Justice (retired) L.P.N. Shahdeo, today gave 15 days to the premier management institute to respond to the petition filed by a resident of Noida, Raj Gandhi, whose son had appeared for XAT this January.

In her complaint, Raj claimed that despite qualifying in the written exams, her son, Samrat, was not given admission to the institute.

Accusing the director of the institute and chairperson of the admissions committee of handling the admission process arbitrarily, she claimed that her son had secured 96.3 per cent marks in the written exam conducted in Jamshedpur and should have qualified even if he failed in the interview.

Samrat did not make it after he could not crack the interview round, a reason that has not satisfied his mother who blames his exit on the rampant irregularity in the admission process.

Expressing shock, XLRI sources said the student had approached the institute after not finding his name on the list of successful students and was conveyed the reason for his rejection. "Usually the ratio of the number of candidates called for interview and the number of seats is 5:1. So obviously there is a great chance that a good written score might not see the candidate in," sources said, adding that this was the first time such a charge was brought against the 57-year institute.

"His parents had come to me with a request for admission. But, we could not admit him as he did not qualify the interview. The All-India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) rules say the candidate must qualify both. We cannot ignore the guidelines," said XLRI director Father N. Casimir Raj.

He said the institute was yet to receive the showcause notice issued by the JET, which has said it will admit the case only after hearing out both sides.

Fortunately the JET has said it will admit the case only after hearing both sides.

Is India going the US way? Frivolous law suits are popping up all over the place.

Christian organisations secured a temporary stay on"The Da Vinci Code" a work of fiction because they feel people might believe it to be true.

Why are we so insecure in our own lives? What are we trying to prove? What are we trying to hide?

Lets look at the Mother of Samrat Gandhi: Mrs. Raj Gandhi.
She feels that just because her son has secured 96.3% in the XAT common entrance, he should automatically be given a seat at the institute. She says the selection process is arbitary.

In fact XLRI is one of the few management institutes in India which has done away with the GD process for selection, because they felt that the GD was arbitrary. A lot of potential students attend GD development classes & simply try to drown out the other participants voices. The ones who have good points to contribute but are too polite to shut down the others don't get a chance to speak.

Now lets look at the interview as a selection process. Specifically the XL interview process : There is a panel of 3 professors from the college. These professors have taught generations of students and are skilled in human behavior (at least one is normally from the OB stream) They are a 100 times better & more skilled at finding the right student than the triplet judges on a host of reality shows.

Just because someone has great marks it doesn't make them a great person or a great manager. (fyi: there are potentials who secure 99% too) In India the education system at the school level seems to focus only on marks and not the all round development of the child. Mrs Raj expects the same to hold at post graduation level too.

To be a great manager, you need some amount of intellect, some amount of empathy, some amount of maturity, some amount of logical reasoning and a few other things besides.

I think that : if Mr Samrat takes after the mother, quite a few of these qualities would be missing.

Unable to handle rejection, she has gone running to the courts, much like an American citizen who sues the city muncipality if he falls down on the street. That he might have been drunk is besides the point.

Mrs. Raj Gandhi needs to examine her own son & realistically consider his plus & minus points before rushing to the courts. Otherwise this may set off a slew of law suits against educational institutions & corporates too by candidates who interview with them (thinking themselves to be the cat's whiskers) and don't get selected.

Published on

Who hasn't heard of Ratnagiri ?

Famed for its Alphonso/Hapus Mangoes....

The drive from Mumbai (Bombay) was 8 hours long with a couple of breaks along the way, but the scenery more than made up for the long journey. I hear the train journey has some beautiful views too.

We stayed at the wonderful "Kokanes Kohinoor Samudra Resort" Located on the Ratnagiri - Pawas Coastal Highway, its away from the city, situated on a cliff, sprawling over 2 kilometres from end-to-end, it has the most brilliant view from every room in the multiple buildings.

The town of Ratnagiri is pretty small & so easy to navigate after driving around in Mumbai.
We first headed towards the Thibaw Palace - which was built for the exiled King & Queen of Burma (now Myanmar) in 1910-11. They lived here until they died. This would be a familiar name for those who have read "Amitav Ghosh's - The Glass Palace"

It has also been partly converted into a museum. The museum is rather pitiful as it has only 4 rooms. One on the ground floor which has some old sculptures salvaged from the Ratnadurg Fort. The 3 rooms on the first floor have some old, badly damaged copper vessels, old photographs and the last room is an attempt to recreate the grandeur of the palace. The sad part of it is that, although the furniture is still solid (being made of Burma Teak) the furnishings are terrible. Synthetic bright curtains drag your attention away from the intricate light fixtures.

These 4 rooms and 2 used for offices are currently the only usable rooms in the palace. there are plans to renovate & strengthen the remaining buildings. Hopefully it will be sensibly done.

A short drive away is the scenic Thibaw Point

Do stop here for some wonderful views and to click some really outstanding pictures.

If you are already hungry, a quick drive away is Hotel Amantran which serves up the most amazing Malvani food. At approximately Rs.65/- for a Non-vegetarian thali, you can't beat the price either. The food is much better than the Mahesh's, Gajalees & Highway Gomatak's. Its that great. And the sea food is absolutely fresh & comes from relatively unpolluted waters.

Then take a slightly longer drive to the Ratnadurg Fort. Start with a visit to the Bhagwati Mandir

On the way to the Fort, if you pass throught the city you will see the Majestic Shivaji on a Rearing Horse.

The Ratnadurg Fort itself has a lot of crags, nooks & corners. There are brilliant views to be seen from certain vantage points. But be careful & look out for crumbling rocks.

You will be able to see the Lighthouse in the distance. If you are so inclined you can even travel upto it.

Another sight is the Ratnagiri Cement Factory and Jetty

If The Indian Freedom Struggle and its fighters interests you, Ratnagiri is the birthplace of both Sri Lokmanya Tilak & Veer Savarkar. Both their houses are within a few feet of each other within the city.

Sri Lokmanya Tilak's Janmasthan has been converted into a museum in his honor. It is open through the day. The house has been preserved as it is. And its a pleasure to walk barefoot on the cowdung smeared natural flooring. His topi & a few clothes are also on display within the museum.

Sri Veer Savarkar's house has been turned into a kind of library which is only open between 4 & 6 pm.

Round up the day with a nice quiet evening on the beach, Ratnagiri is famed as the "Black and White Beaches Some beaches in the area have black sand and the others have white. The tide here is quite reliable and you can bathe in these waters.

There are a lot more temples and other places to explore in Ratnagiri if you are so inclined. you can also make a lot of short excursions to nearby places like Ganapatipule, Pawas, Dapoli, Guhagar, Karde, Murud and Ladghar

Published on

Friday, 12 May 2006

Movie Review : Ice Age 2: The Meltdown

Ice Age 2: The Meltdown is a really good sequel to Ice Age.
It's a really cute, funny, family movie. Take the kids & watch it. No kids of your own? Take your sibling's kids or your cousins or the neighbour's kids. They would enjoy the movie thoroughly and this is likely to enrich your own experience. No one trusts you with their kids? Just enter a theatre. With the summer holidays on, you can be assured that at least half the audience comprises kids.

Take your parents if you like, they too will enjoy the movie. I saw office groups coming in together for some team bonding too.

Scrat has a larger role in this installment. He's still trying to get his acorn & his journey is even more painful than it was in Part 1. Scrat even reaches acorn paradise only to be rudely pulled away from it.

Manny (Ray Romano), Diego(Denis Leary) and Sid (John Leguizamo) have got down to a routine at the new settlement. But, the ice is melting with the possibility of the entire basin flooding and Fast Tony (Jay Leno), a prophet of doom, is trying his best to capitalise on it.

2 new villians. 2 new brats (possums......) and a female mammoth (Queen Latifah) to give Manny company. Only problem: She thinks she is a possum! Right down to hanging from a branch by her tail when sleeping.

Lots of jokes relate to Americanisms, but even someone not familiar with this has enough to enjoy. The fat jokes had the kids laughing the loudest. Each time the squirrel's acorn jumped out of reach, the audience groaned & then laughed collectively.

I'd like to write more about the jokes and story line, but that would spoil your experience of the movie. I'll just let you know that, there's a nice surprise waiting for Manny in the end.

So, definitely watch this movie, preferably in a group and even better if there are some kids around.

Published on

Friday, 5 May 2006

Movie Review : Munich

Munich, directed by Steven Spielberg, is a brilliant, serious, hard hitting movie. It could almost be a documentary with the amount of facts that it feeds you. But it's a very well presented, excellently told story which has you on the edge of your seat very often.

The movie is set against the backdrop of the 1972 Munich Olympics, at which Israeli athletes were massacred by Black September. Israel's secret service the Mossad, forms a squad to assassinate all the people who had a role in that massacre. Mossad gives this squad monetary resources and then disclaims knowledge of their existence. This squad painstakingly has to locate each target and neutralise him. A slow cat and mouse game is played out with international politics forming part of the intrigue. Spielberg gives you glimpses into the key protagonist's family life to humanize the sacrifices and pressure faced by members of the squad.

The editing is really taut and this turns the movie from an excellent flick into a Brilliantly Outstanding Masterpiece. Spielberg handles international political intrigue much better than Syriana. Why compare these two? They both have terrorism at the core of the story. Both stories span continents, nations and races. Both are key elements of political master plans. But Munich ends up far superior to Syriana.

Syriana tries to convey so much in a short time that you can't really get into the skin of the characters, the movie keeps flitting about all over the place. Speilberg's characters are each well etched and you can really become one with each of them. You can feel each one's fears, you understand each one's motivations.

Especially when Avner is waiting for one of the targets to turn off the lights, you
actually empathise with him so much that you can feel what he is feeling, his nervousness, apprehension and fear since Spielberg makes you wait for the event and makes you want it to happen and happen quickly.

Munich moves you, Munich makes you empathise, Munich gives you logic, Munich makes you think. All qualities of a great movie.

Munich was nominated for five Academy Awards (Oscars) including Best Director for Spielberg, Best Movie, Best Editing and Best Writing, but sadly did not win in any of the categories.

A lot of Israelis have protested the movie saying that it portrays them in a bad light. I don't think so. I think the Israelis did what they had to do to protect their own.

Even if you are a non-violent person, you can see the logic behind why Israel did what it had to do. And in the long run, it seems that they did the right thing, because no one wants to mess with Israel any longer.

Maybe India could learn from this. When K Suryanarayana's beheaded body was flown back from Afghanistan a couple of days ago, there were a lot of cries for India to take a harder stance at terrorism against Indians, in and outside of India. Maybe there are some things other than those pertaining to agriculture that we can learn from the Israelis.

Published on

Music Review: Double Check (Piranha), Stella Chiweshe

When British colonizers tried to stop mbira sessions in what is now known as Zimbabwe, the police were so enchanted by the music they lost track of their mission. That is the story told on the song "Kusenini," from Stella Chiweshe's latest CD Double Check Piranha Musik. Chiweshe is as unstoppable as the music she has become famous for playing. The colonial power's ban on mbira ("thumb piano") music, the missionary church's decree that it was "the work of the devil," and the Zimbabwean tradition forbidding women from becoming mbira players, could not keep Chiweshe from becoming the "Queen of Mbira," or Ambuya Chinyakare (Grandmother of Traditional Music). As one of the most internationally well-known mbira artists, she is often considered Zimbabwe's cultural ambassador.

Chiweshe explains that the song "Ndinogarochman" contains "a rhythm of the drum that I always heard inside me when I was young." She first heard the mbira from an old man when she was eight years old, and began the process of making her inner rhythm known to the world. "I was always making a rhythm - on the door, on a dish - I played it on everything. I also liked to sing very much, and loud," she told Afropop Worldwide.

Her foray into mbira music was as much spiritual and political as it was musical. Mbira holds a special place in Zimbabwean culture and identity: it is sacred in origin, but was almost extinct by the 1930s due to colonial suppression. However, thanks to artists like Chiweshe who kept the tradition alive, the sound had a huge revival with the independence movement of the 1980s and has become the "national" sound of Zimbabwe.

While Stella has made her way from her native village to the stages of international music festivals and European concert hall stages, her roots are in spirituality and the healing power of music. She began her career playing at ceremonial gatherings such as weddings, healing ceremonies and funerals in the countryside. At one point, the spirit medium at one of the ceremonies turned to her and said, "I'm going to tell you your tasks in this world...go to the city people, and introduce this music to them." In spite of this mandate, she has attracted a fair share criticism for this breaching of the boundaries of the spiritual and the popular.

The 2-sided album Double Check shows both sides of the artist: her spiritual roots and her show-stopping popular classics. She recorded the drum-centered songs of her ancestors for the first time in her 40-year long career on Disc 1: Trance Hits. She says, "For a long time I have always started my shows on stage with this traditional sound, but now I've thought I should bring this drumming sound out fully. This new album is much more rooted...and rootsy. It's older because guitar music came much, much later into my life.... I knew the drums and mbira long before I got to know the guitars and marimba." Disc 2: Classic Hits features a collection of these guitar-and-marimba tunes that have made her famous.

Chiweshe firmly believes that the gentle mbira timbre is "closely related to the sound of water, something that is innately familiar to all people, and therefore the mbira is instantly memorable and comforting. It is a total form of therapy in itself." She uses the spiritual element in her performance, sometimes going into a trance on stage. According to Afropop Worldwide's Banning Eyre, her look also conveys mystique: "With her penetrating eyes, habitual snuff-taking, ankle charms, and dreadlocks falling in front of her face, she has a powerful presence."

In Disc 1: Trance Hits, she journeys through the world of her ancestors, preserving their traditions. This is how trance should be played. I've never been a fan of trance as played in pubs across the world, but Chiweshe's music is different. It has a primitive tribal beat and rhythm. The beat is hypnotic without the mindlessness and mind numbing properties of a lot of music that passes for trance today. The first song "Wanyanya" translating into "That's too much" is actually a little too much since its repetitive for 6:14 minutes but that's the only piece that I did not like in the album, although this is Stella's favourite track. It's for the spirits of the baboons because the baboons are the guardians of her people. "Kuseniseni" or "Early in The Morning" has English lyrics and a much better beat. Apart from "Wanyanaya" all the compositions have enough variations in between to stop the listener from getting bored.

The Mbira with its sound of flowing water relaxes and tranquilizes the listener. The music hypnotises you and draws you in. Some songs have ululations that may seem familiar to Bengalis.

Stella says "The songs on this CD are newly recorded but that doesn't mean to say that the music is new."

In Disc 2: Classic Hits, she revisits the urban streets in Harare and calls on the younger, westernised generation to take pride in their own culture. And this CD has made me a Stella Chiweshe fan. It's very much in the easy listening genre. The beat and feel is that of the Goan bailas and instantly lifts your spirits. The music is energizing with some interesting instruments and variations. "Machena" even has dogs barking in the background, possibly because it's about "Whiteness" - A Dog Gone Astray.

The songs on Classic Hits feature her vintage band Earthquake. Each song has a story behind it. If you would like to know the stories, buy the CD, the accompanying booklet has the background and backdrop of these lilting songs.

If you would like to sample the music before you rush for your own copy, click on the following links.

"Madzokero (How he came back from his hunting spree)"
from Double Check: Two Sides of Zimbabwe's Mbira Queen CD1 -Trance Hits (Piranha).

"Zvinonhamo (Here comes poverty once more)" from Double Check: Two Sides of Zimbabwe's Mbira Queen CD1 -Trance Hits (Piranha).

To learn more about Stella Chiweshe visit the Stella Chiweshe official site.

Published on

I'm desicritic of the day

Hey all loyal readers. I'm desicritics "Desicritic Of The Day" today.

Read all my articles on

Thursday, 4 May 2006

Music Review : Romica Puceanu & The Gore Brothers, Sounds From A Bygone Age Vol.2 (Asphalt Tango)

Romica Puceanu is called "Billie Holiday of the East" since she was the voice of the Gypsy blues, she gave voice to the life of the poor suburbs of Romanian towns in the same era that Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, and Sarah Vaughn were doing the same for Black urban neighborhoods across the Atlantic.

Mark Hudson of the UK Telegraph calls Puceanu a "Balkan Marlene Dietrich" for her larger than life personality & voice that he says is "Simultaneously seducing, comforting and cajoling"

Puceanu so loved singing to her own people, mostly at cafes and traditional weddings in the urban ghettos of Romania, that the rest of the world has been unaware of her music until now. Asphalt Tango Records is unearthing some of Eastern Europe's musical treasures, re-issuing old records that are hard to get outside their countries of origin. Romica Puceanu & The Gore Brothers: Sounds From a Bygone Age, Vol. 2 is the latest in this eponymous series, aimed at introducing international audiences to the great voices of Eastern and Gypsy music.

In this album, which is being released posthomously from archives (Romica died in a tragic car accident in 1996) on May 9th 2006, Puceanu combines with her cousins Aurel (violin) & Victor (accordion) Gore to create some mesmerising & haunting Gypsy music. The Gore brothers had their own successful band, the Taraful Fratii Gore, when they discovered their 14-year old cousin singing in local cafes in the Floreasca & Herestrau quarters on the outskirts of Bucharest. Their first album was recorded in 1964 at Electrecord's Tomis Studio.

The family has a legacy of music. Gore Ionescu, father of Aurel & Victor Gore, played his voiln at exclusive Bucharest restaurants. His traditional style was so well known, that until his death in the late 1950's, he was regularly invited to make recordings at the "Bucharest Folklore Archive"

By the sudden, tragic end of her life, Romica Puceanu had become the most popular and best paid singer of her genre, and was considered the veritable incarnation of Romanian lautari music (repertoire of Gypsy music, comprising pieces from a rustic environment, interpreted with great virtuosity and urbane arrangements for a very mixed audience in the town). The Taraful Fratii Gore sold thousands of records in Romania up to the present day, but never achieved great wealth. Victor Gore lives today in a small two-room apartment in Bucharest and relives his memories of the golden years of the old days. Victor remembers, "When we played slow, sad songs the Gypsies wept, and nobody could eat a thing!" But, in spite of her talent for bringing her audiences to tears, Puceanu was a lively, funny woman, who never turned up at the studio without her teapot - filled with cognac.

Romica's signature was the slow improvised mournful ballad, which she filled with expressive melismas, ornaments, and incredible soul. She sang melodies with stirring words, in which she described the everyday life, longings, and sufferings of the simple folk. This compilation is a combination of these ballads with more lively gypsy music.

The first impression one gets on listening to this album is "Exotic". Other than the "Gypsy Kings", I cannot easily recollect a famous gypsy performer whose records are easily available. Other performers have drawn from Romanian & Gypsy music influences, so some of the tunes may have a familiar beat or part of a familiar tune.

The only drawback in this album is that the slow & fast tracks are alternated. One song puts you in a melancholic frame of mind & the next makes you want to kick up your heels & dance in circles around a fire waving a colorful gypsy skirt. I love both styles, but wish they could have been clubbed together according to their feel, so I didn't have to go through a mood see-saw.

Individually, each song is beautiful, as is each genre. Romica's voice caresses you. If Penelope Cruz' & Salma Hayek's accents intrigue you, Romica's accent will mesemerise you. Victor also lends his vocals to Pleaca O Nevestica N Lume and Adu Calu' Sa Ma Duc and its the vocalisation of melted chocolate. His is a smoothened Antonio Banderas voice. Inima Suparacioasa is slow and romantic. Vintule Bataia Ta will definitely get you on your feet & hopping around.

These songs & ballads originated under the influence of Turkish Ottoman music & were performed as early as the 16th century in the courts of Wallachian Princes.

Aurel Gore plays the Violin & Victor Gore plays the Accordion besides singing 2 of the songs on this album. n.n. also plays Violin. Marin Marangros was their regular "Cymbalom" player who had also played with Gore Ionescu. Grigore Ciuciu plays "Double Bass". The legend Costel Vasilescu contributes his bright trumpet tone to some of the titles. Maslina Vetol plays the Cobza (A lute with a short, backward curving fingerboard, upon which 4 strings are attached in reverse order and usually played with a quill.)

A wonderful album, worth buying, even if you can't understand the lyrics. The music touches your heart & your soul because Romica & the Gore brothers have given their heart to their listeners in their music.

If you would like to sample the music before you rush for your own copy, click on the following links.
"Hora Dinspre Ziua" from Sounds From a Bygone Age Vol.2 (Asphalt Tango)

"Unde O Fi Puiul De Aseara" from Sounds From a Bygone Age Vol.2 (Asphalt Tango)

For more "Sounds From a Bygone Age" visit Asphalt Records

Published on


Related Posts with Thumbnails