Friday, March 30, 2007

Her poems accentuated a deep anguish and identity-crisis

At present Meena is distinguished professor at Hunter College, New York...Her poems accentuated a deep anguish and identity-crisis, which eventually characterizes all expatriate writing. What makes her different from others is her desire to connect to her past. The sense of being one in exile and struggle to forge a sense of identity are prevalent features of her writing.
Her autobiography Fault Lines also demonstrates her struggle for identity and self-creation amidst a world that strives for definitions demanded by greater society and cultural identification. Fault Lines reflects both her triumph of will and her talent as a writer.
Moreover, the remarkable facet of her muse is that not only her poems possess such sharp and emotional nuances, but also reflects her naturally gifted ability to give vent to these feelings in a manner which enthralls from a common student to a colossal critic of poetry. Posted by Dhirendra Mishra at 1:05 PM Thursday, March 29, 2007 Meena Alexander in Allahabad

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Kahnucharan was a household name in Orissa for over half a century

A master storyteller HARIHARAN BALAKRISHNAN Kahnucharan Mohanty's stories evoked something personal in each reader. In his last days: Kahnucharan was a household name in Orissa. Photo: Courtesy Pratibha Ray
GOPINATH MOHANTY is a name that evokes instant recognition in literary circles across India, and in some other parts of the world; but not the name of his elder brother, Kahnucharan. Against more than 1000 links for the former in Google, a lone link to "Kahnucharan Mohanty" mocks you from the screen. While Gopinath, the first Jnanpith awardee from Orissa, undoubtedly deserves his place in the firmament, Kahnucharan is considered to be the true successor of Fakirmohan Senapati, "the father of the Oriya novel". In a span of 57 years from 1924 to 1982, he wrote an astounding 55 novels and four collections of short stories. He had the rare honour of being made a Fellow of the Sahitya Akademi.
This prolific novelist inspired Pratibha Ray, one of contemporary India's foremost novelists. His works like Adekha Hatho (The Invisible Hand) and Chutiley Ghata (When Life Departs) left a lasting impression on future Oriya legends like Sitakant Mahapatra. Kahnucharan's novels, like Fakirmohan's, had their hand on the pulse of the poor, the destitute, the disempowered and the disowned. In Shaasthi, a seminal novel about hopeless love and the inner strength of women against the backdrop of the Great Famine, he captures rural Orissa as it was 40 years before he was born. This is considered a remarkable feat by itself. Jayashree Mohanraj of CIEFL, Hyderabad, who translated this novel from Oriya to Telugu, thinks that Kahnucharan had an instinctive feel for the heartbeat of victims of circumstance. She is the only one to have translated any of his works into another Indian language.
Kahnucharan's language was earthy and colloquial. It did not require a scholar to understand what he had to say. The stories touched a chord in the heart of the paan-shop owner, rickshaw puller, the tenant farmer, a woman in the kitchen and the girl waiting to be a bride. In those days, women were not encouraged to study. The marginalised, with limited opportunity for education, had a hunger for the written word. As a result, Kahnucharan's novels were read in those places where scholastic works never found a place earlier — the wayside tea stall, languorous bullock-cart, urban kitchen and village haystack...
Kahnucharan was a household name in Orissa for over half a century because his language was closer to the people's vocabulary, the themes were of daily life mostly in rural setting and there was a romantic touch in every novel. During his lifetime, the TV was a dream in India. Yet, at least four novels were made into films with remarkable success. Annapurna Theatre staged dramas of his stories with the legendary actors of the day. The Hindu Literary Review Sunday, Mar 04, 2007

Friday, March 16, 2007

This Dream's a bright and colourful treat for the eyes

Though the aim is to make money no one's compromising on the bold vision he and his cast of 23 worked on at Auroville in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
Only about half the dialogue is in English - the rest is in a mixture of Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, Sinhalese, Malayalam, Marathi and Sanskrit...
Indian designer Sumant Jayakrishnan and lighting designer Zuleikha Chaudhari have conjured up the essence of South Asia on stage: this Dream's a bright and colourful treat for the eyes.

The play is one of Shakespeare's most exotic works
The cast dance and sing, although Mr Supple says that he wants to avoid too clich├ęd a stage view of India.
Actors weave in and out of a tall bamboo frame and swing from ropes above the red soil of South Asia.
Tim Supple says the core of the play is highly relevant to Indians.
"At least a third of this company will have had severe family ruptures over marriage or career choice.
"So the dilemma of the play - the insistence by Egeus that his daughter Hermia marry the man he chose for her - is much closer to many of this company than it would be in Britain.
"Also many of them will live where belief in the spirit-world is much stronger than in the UK.
"And extreme differences between rich and poor, which underlie so much of the play, are much more alive in India than in the West."

The play has started a commercial run in the UK
Archana Ramaswamy, who plays Titania, says the actors haven't had to look far for parallels between Shakespeare's story and their own lives.
"The complete madness that we all carry within ourselves - the vibrancy of Indian culture - the richness, the earthiness, the spirit... it's all there in the play. It's like the chaotic lives we all live!"
Chandan Roy Sanyal, playing Lysander, thinks Shakespeare isn't far removed from today's Bollywood.
"When we film a love story in India it's based on Romeo and Juliet. That's the essence of any love story: there is a girl and there is a boy. It's still prevalent in society right now. I've realised that Shakespeare was a very commercial writer."
This is a production for the open-minded.
By Vincent Dowd BBC arts reporter

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Baudrillard had a unique way of casting peace and clarity over the Valley of Shadows

integralgrid // Mar 8th 2007 at 5:04 pm I don’t recall to have ever been so touched by someone’s passing as I am now. My whole day today has been ruined–I can’t even read or write properly!
Baudrillard died many deaths–and has ressurected an equal number of times. When he died to sociology, sociology experienced a rebirth through him. He died to Reality, and Reality rescued him promptly. Political economy and Marxism have also lost Baudrillard at some point, and they were then forced to secrete him anew. Modern art, including the Hollywood industry of film also suffered defeat after defeat when trying to take on Baudrillardesque faces, but Baudrillard was always quicker and smarter, and knew how to come clean before his copies.
As disruptive as his texts may have been, stirring up the depth of our depths and seemingly inviting trouble to set in, Baudrillard had a unique way of casting peace and clarity over the Valley of Shadows. He was a special kind of challenger–one knowing how to remain alert and ready, while at the same time keeping a safe distance from things that most people would very likely have invaded without much thought. And if Baudrillard is primarily seen as a challenger, I’d say that he was infinitely respectful towards things–including the thing called “man”. But that which people thought insulting–to be treated as objects–was in fact an hommage payed to them, a bow before their immortal nature.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

An extravagant non-functional energy

Living Tradition. An interview with Veenapani Chawla
From time to time we make it a point to meet someone who, though not an ex-student, is part of the larger Aurobindonian family and has done significant work in his or her field. "Our Guest" this time is Veenapani Chawla, a renowned theatre personality who has researched traditional Indian performance arts and used them in her plays, which include A Greater Dawn(Savitri)(1992), Impressions of Bhima (1994), Khandava Prastha (1998), Brhannala (1998) and Ganapati (2000). She is known as someone who has always experimented, as someone who extends the boundaries and possibilities of theatre to the maximum. We met her at Adishakti, the theatre space and research centre she has created not far from Pondicherry.
A visit to Adishakti is in itself a revelation. The compound looks almost like a farm — there are many trees (those that help replenish ground-water were specifically chosen), there is a vegetable and flower patch, there are a couple of cows standing peacefully — and that is because the land itself helps sustain the members of Adishakti. The four or five buildings which are spread around the campus are strikingly beautiful and remind one vaguely of Kerala. Natural and traditional building materials have been used as far as possible: blocks of laterite or fossilized mud from Kerala for the walls of the theatre, finely finished varnished mud walls for the guest house, coconut shells in the ceiling of Veenapani’s home. Everywhere one sees the intelligent use of appropriate traditional technologies to create something contemporary, elegant and practical. After having gone around the Adishakti campus we settle down to have a chat...
THE SPIRIT AND PURPOSE OF THEATRE MAY 2005 The Golden Chain What are the failings of the conventional realistic form of theatre? Why the urge to experiment and create a different language?
The realistic or representational form of theatre comes to us from the West. It is not our convention. I don’t want to reject it as such, but it loses ground in the age of cinema. In fact theatre is losing its validity today because cinema can do everything that representational theatre does and much better.
Theatre therefore has to reinvent itself and reinforce its validity. It can do that because it has an edge over cinema. While cinema can accommodate every other reality, it lacks the reality of the actor. On the other hand Presence is the only reality in theatre. Theatre’s forte therefore, its inimitable strength, is the live, sensorial presence of the performer, which elevates the audience through a contagion of consciousness/energy. And it is around this strength that theatre must try to re-invent itself. It must try to evolve a performance language, which enhances this presence. This will ensure its continuing validity in the times of cinema.
Hence any performance language that we try to develop must be one which enhances the performer’s energy and consciousness to the largest degree. The performance language perforce will have to be one which does not use the language of daily behaviour, but one which employs an extravagant non-functional energy. There is in our tradition the distinction between natya and lok dharmi; the behaviour of performance and the behaviour of daily life. Natya dharmi uses non-functional energy [as you see in all our dance and performance forms], lok dharmi uses functional and therefore little energy.
The problem with daily, functional behaviour is that the use of the body occurs without reflection or choice. It is stereotyped and executed unconsciously. The more our actions are carried out spontaneously, without the least difficulty, the more can attention be directed to something else. But this spontaneity is a conditioned reflex and it does not encourage the performer to be present in every detail of her action when in performance.
If however one wants to free oneself from reflexive response, which is what natya dharmi demands, one must fight against the spontaneous and the natural in the body. One must initiate a process, which undermines automatisms, by using the body in a different way: by re-learning how to stand, by using a different balance axis, by moving according to rules which deny those of daily behaviour. This will call for a constant awareness in the body. Only by using the body in this non-functional way, is the consciousness in the body stimulated to take on a more active role, thus displacing automatisms.
This is what is demanded from performance behaviour, which aims at enhancing the presence of the performer so as to lead an audience into an elevated experience. I believe that our traditional forms employ these very methods too.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Nearer our times we have Sri Aurobindo writing poetry as part of his `Yoga sadhana'

Integration of the sacred and the secular PREMA NANDAKUMAR The Hindu Book Review Tuesday, Mar 06, 2007 ANCESTRAL VOICES - Reflections on Vedic, Classical and Bhakti Poetry: Ramesh Chandra Shah; Motilal Banarsidass, 41, U. A. Bungalow Road, Jawahar Nagar, Delhi-110007. Rs. 195.
One needs intelligence to understand a word but one must perform tapasya to understand the word. The words spoken by our ancients were a divine Morse code that conveyed immense areas of imaginative experience that gave a rounded perfection to man's earthly life. Indian epics are not a celebration of mere battle heroism. Rama, Arjuna, Karna, Ravana: they all have characteristics that are not just a brilliant wielding of the bow, the sword and the mace. Arriving at the core concept that moves all these heroes, one comes face to face with Dharma, a word so mantric that it has defied all attempts at translation.
The genius of Indian culture links even poetic criticism to a soul view of Beauty seeing it as no different from Truth. Art experience is looked upon as an instrument of Yogic realisation. The theory of `Rasa-dhwani' posited by eminent critics like Ananadavardhana and Abhinavagupta helps us appreciate all Indian literature without losing significant perspectives.
Fusion: By the time of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, there is a perfect fusion of the near and the far, the integration of the here and the hereafter, of poetry and spirituality. Nearer our times we have Sri Aurobindo writing poetry as part of his `Yoga sadhana'. Ramesh Chandra Shah asks himself: "How exactly is Yoga, that realm of silent wordless inward action related to the same man's unrelenting passion for the order of words?" Relation there must be, a connection with our earliest dawns but which we have lost by limiting our visions to our own "egoistic shells of separativity." These ideas and more are woven with expertise by Shah in a seamless argument.
In her foreword, Kathleen Raine makes a passionate statement: "The time has come to re-learn from the Orient — and above all from the spiritual mainstream of India — that special kind of wisdom of which Professor Shah speaks." There has been too much doctrinaire deconstruction and compartmentalisation of thoughts, a sourness of the intellect that can only forage through agony and disillusionment. The author rightly feels that we must hark back to the medieval Bhakti movement which can give spiritual nourishment by positing the delight of existence. Not a turning away from life nor seeing it as a field of broken shards but becoming electrically free to watch existence as the eternal Ras of soul-unity. Ancestral Voices contains not only reflections but also pointers for the reconstruction of our critical tools to unify the sacred and the secular. As the Vedic poet sang: "Let the sacred threads by which we weave the coloured web of our song remain intact." Yes, for all future time.

Monday, March 05, 2007

If Sri Aurobindo is Whitman’s poetic successor

Whitman’s Views on Shakespeare: Some Clarifications by Sarani Ghosal (Mondal)
Whitman does not find in Shakespeare any completed statement of the moral, the true and the beautiful. The search for a true democracy is a one-pointed quest for the supreme soul. The true splendour flies away like an “uncaught bird”. Even a mediocre writer attempting to find that glory fascinates Whitman. Hence he is drawn to George Fox, who was born just a few years after Shakespeare’s death....
For Whitman, art must mirror the quest for the immortality of Identity, which is the most neglected aspect of life and yet the material for the “deepest depths” and “highest heights of art”. And to have found just a little flavour of that gives a different value to our life. Poetry in Whitman’s eyes was a progressive manifestation of the soul, a constant search for the ever progressive new. According to Whitman, the grand elitism of Shakespeare-- the projection of aristocracy – was not quite in harmony with the theme and form of his own poetry. But, the great American poet seems to have lost sight of the fact that the common human nature is not far from the central passions of the mighty kings and lords.
Although Whitman’s stress on the limitations of Shakespeare has a strong logic behind it, his own limitations as a Shakespeare critic become obvious in the context of Sri Aurobindo’s positive approach to Shakespeare. Unlike Sri Aurobindo, another evolutionary poet of identical complexion, Whitman fails to see the relevance of Shakespeare in the field of psychological investigation into the human self. The common human nature is still in the trap of the Shakespearian moments. One must know how to tame and transform this world before reaching out to the spiritual peaks. That is why I bring in Sri Aurobindo to pinpoint the limitations of Whitman’s criticism of Shakespeare, who is still relevant, because the average human being is firmly rooted still in the consciousness of an Othello or a Lear. Somehow, Whitman forgot that true spirituality is an evolution of awareness and that it does not exclude the experience of the lower sensations of life.
Sri Aurobindo calls him a seer of life, meaning much deeper than the traditional phrase. Shakespeare in Sri Aurobindo’s interpretation is not just the seer of surface life, but also of the inner mechanism of the surface life. In the great tragic figures, like Hamlet or Macbeth, there is a much vaster and more potent subconscious mind, which loses nothing of what the senses bring to it. It keeps all its observations in an inexhaustible store of memory. Shakespeare, according to Sri Aurobindo, has explored those areas of the human mind, although he has not shown ways to go beyond those troubled areas, which stand as a stumbling block against the transformation of human nature leading to the Whitmanesque idea of Oneness.
Humanity owes a great debt to Shakespeare, because he has hinted at those troubled territories located between our heart and the sex-centre. The poet of Savitri himself experiences the Shakespearean world in Book II, Canto IV of the epic, the world of the soliloquies: sensations, stabs, edges of desire, passion’s leaps, the casual colloquy of flesh with flesh, the ill-lighted mansions of our thought etc. If Sri Aurobindo is Whitman’s poetic successor, then he rightly covers up the limitations of Whitman’s Shakespeare criticism by making Shakespeare relevant to the spiritual progress of human society. (Paper presented at World Shakespeare Conference, 2007, Kolkata) posted by RY Deshpande on Sun 04 Mar 2007 07:55 AM PST Permanent Link

We thank you for our physical bodies, for lining up every muscle and every joint

Moved by the Spirit to Dance With the Lord By JULIE BLOOM NYTimes.com Homepage: March 4, 2007
“We thank you, God, that you created the dance and you made it pure. Father, we want to dance your words through our limbs.” Wendy Heagy’s voice rises as she leads the circle in prayer. She is the founder of Raise Him Up Praise Dance School and Ministry, and she is about to start her Saturday class. “We thank you for our physical bodies, for lining up every muscle and every joint,” Ms. Heagy continues. “We don’t want to just be dancers. We want to be ministers of you, Lord God.” The class, mostly African-Americans ranging in age from early 20s through mid-60s and clad in warm-up clothes, several with scripture written on the backs of their T-shirts, answers loudly, “Amen.” ...
Praise dance is a form of worship that seeks to articulate the word and spirit of God through the body. Though it is far from a new phenomenon — in biblical times, dancing was embraced during celebrations and worship — it was forced out of the Christian church during the Reformation, and has been fully welcomed back only in the past 20 or so years. In recent years praise dance has become an increasingly popular part of church services across the country, particularly among America’s growing Pentecostal movement, and it has emerged in New York too, where experts say one in 10 people is Pentecostal.
Depending on the history and denomination of a particular church, a praise dance may be a choreographed balletic piece in the middle of a service or an improvised riff in the aisles, and the practice draws from a hybrid of movement vocabularies, from jazz to modern to African. Many praise dance ministries also include American sign language to sign out scripture during a song.