Wednesday, February 25, 2009

India has been in news quite a bit over the past couple of weeks.....

Last week, two-time Oscar winner A.R. Rahman was interviewed on Public Radio International's "The World" - where he said he wanted to get away from musical cliches when he scored "Slumdog Millionaire."

"In a film, when you see an Indian face, you normally think you're going to hear sitar and doleks and stuff like that, so, for us, the first thing that you hear in the film needed to have the quality of 'put on your seat belt' kind of a thing," he said.

Hear the rest of the interview here.

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The New York Times also ran a piece about Mr. Rahman last week (thanks to Catesy for the tip). Here's an excerpt:

His work has been in more than 100 films since 1992, and after scoring Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Bollywood-themed stage musical “Bombay Dreams” in 2002 he enjoyed had a steadily growing profile in the West. One of the first major composers in India to embrace digital technology, he is in his natural habitat at the computer, and he maintains the manic, multitasking rhythm of a true 21st-century techie.

“I like to see a film and then start scoring it in my mind, while doing something unrelated,” he said. “You just grasp a film and start working, and something unpredictable comes out from a third element. The mind, the more active it is, the more productive it is.”

Productivity, along with a gift for golden melody and a cosmopolitan touch that reflects the new, globally conscious India, have given Mr. Rahman, who lives and works in Chennai (the city formerly known as Madras), a kind of national-hero status. “Rah Rah Rahman,” The Times of India proclaimed on its front page after the Oscar nominations were announced.

“He has a rapper from Tanzania working with him,” Mr. Boyle said, “and fulfilled a mutual desire to work with M.I.A., part Sri Lankan, part London, part New York. Add the house-music disco beats sweeping Bollywood dance lately and you have a real moment of fusion.”

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Yesterday, the unstable situation in the Indian states of Jammu and Kasmhir was explained simply and concisely by journalist Steve Coll on Terry Gross's NPR radio show "Fresh Air." Coll, who has a related article in the March 2 New Yorker called "The Back Channel," made it easy to understand origins of the long-disputed territory between India and Pakistan (apparently the Muslim-majority princely state was ruled by a Hindu Maharaja at the time of Independence, and he decided to go with Hindu-majority India). Coll rightly took the British to task for the complete botching of their pullout from the Subcontinent - which resulted in the death of over a million people during Partition. Hear the interview here.

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The New York Times recently carried a story about cartoonist Nina Paley's handmade animated feature film "Sita Sings the Blues," which weaves together the Hindu Sita-Ram epic with the story of the dissolution of her own marriage.

An excerpt:

In 2002 Ms. Paley followed her husband, an animator, from their home in San Francisco to a town in western India. It was there that she first learned of the tale of the Ramayana. When she reached the part when Sita kills herself to prove her fidelity, she said, she thought, “That’s just messed up and wrong.”

An idea for a postfeminist comic strip began brewing. In it her new ending would still have Rama rejecting Sita, but instead of committing suicide she would become empowered. “She says, ‘To hell with you. I’m going to go join a farming collective.’ ”

Before Ms. Paley could commit her I-will-survive strip to paper, though, life intervened. While she was on a business trip to New York, her husband sent her an e-mail message telling her not to return. In a state of “grief, agony and shock,” she remained in Manhattan, camping out on friends’ sofas.

The film will appear soon on PBS and be distributed at some point (for free) over the internet; read the article here.

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A five-screen Bollywood cinema is slated to open soon in near north suburban Niles, according to announcements in the local Indian newspapers. No word yet on when the Adlabs Films USA-owned Niles Talkies will open. But just think - No more schlepping to Barrington! And five screens! Five!

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As if that weren't enough, I noticed last week that Target is selling Hindu prayer shawls in the purse/accessory section. For just $11.99, you too can look like a Brahmin priest this spring.


  1. i wish to be a brahman priest-such a deal! that's about as cheap as indian prices! i wonder when they are going to lose their "fixed" prices, too. now that's what i'm talkin bout!
    and that sita cartoon-a MUST see! thanks for the heads up.
    see you later at delhi-6!

  2. Anonymous3:34 PM

    We should have a girls night to view Sita sings the blues!

  3. I just returned from Target and those shawls are crap, I wouldn't pay $10 for them. in fact, I wouldn't even call them "shawls." the one in your photo is much nicer.

    can definitely find much nicer ones in India and cheaper than $12!