Monday, May 28, 2007

Out and about

Ajitha’s been with Time Out since quitting Women’s Feature Service late last year, and it’s only now that we are reaping the benefits of the change. Actually so much happens around Delhi throughout the year in terms of cinema screenings and concerts and plays and whatnot, it’s virtually impossible to keep track unless you are part of the relevant circles. And obviously, with the attraction of Press Club a kind of constant in our lives, off days are usually spent watching a couple of DVDs at home and waiting for it to be 8.00pm or thereabouts… But Ajitha comes back home with all the information now, which is fantastic.

So last weekend was spent listening to Farida Khanum. When in Pakistan, I found a lot of Farida Khanums and Abida Parveens on their television channels. So many of them are similarly fat, white, draped in shiny printed sarees and have mind-blowing voices – voices that actually fill the room even if you’re only watching it on the telly. And all of them sing similar stuff – ghazals, thumris…Sufi stuff as well.

But hey, Farida Khanum is Farida Khanum, right?

The evening at the Kamani Auditorium started on a fairly inconspicuous note, with this moderately talented Indian sitar player jamming with his moderately talented Dutch cellist wife. The cello is not quite the Western cello and has been modified to appear slightly different and has a slightly different sound with the same kind of resonance. But both of them were rather average, and it did appear that the sitar and the cello are not quite meant to co-exist. Unfortunately, Farida was late in arriving, and we had to put up with it for even longer than expected, or necessary.

But she did turn up eventually…and is the most affable and sweet woman you’ll ever meet. I would seriously have been fine if she continued talking (which is what she did for about ten minutes before starting to sing) in that most conversational, uninhibited, humble way of hers. Interestingly, her speaking voice is a lot more next-door-Punjabi-aunty-type than he singing voice is, which, of course, doesn’t require any description.
From the first strain to the last – with Aaj Jaane Ki Zid Na Karo thrown in of course – the noise from the crowd (a huge number of Bengalis for some reason) seemed like it wasn’t even there. The entire auditorium just had her voice happening, and everything else was totally drowned out. And she was so not pricey. She sang for well over the hour or so that she was supposed to sing. Closer to two-and-a-half hours eventually.

I’ve been to my share of live concerts down the years…this plump, middle-aged woman beats everything else hollow.

PS: The mention of Time Out was also because yesterday was spent at the India Habitat Centre after a very long time…we saw Girish Kasaravalli’s Thayee Saheba and Anjan Dutt’s The Bong Connection.

Thayee Saheba was part of the weeklong retrospective of Kasaravalli’s works that the Habitat Film Club had arranged. It wasn’t fantastic. But I found hardly a single flaw in the entire film, and that has to count for something. I had zero expectations from The Bong Connection, having seen Dutt’s Bada Din once upon a time. It was surprisingly good though, and the humour – a lot of poking-fun-at-the-Bongs – was brilliant.