G C Lichtenberg: “It is as if our languages were confounded: when we want a thought, they bring us a word; when we ask for a word, they give us a dash; and when we expect a dash, there comes a piece of bawdy.”

W H Auden: "But in my arms till break of day / Let the living creature lie. / Mortal, guilty, but to me/ The entirely beautiful."

Will Self: “To attempt to write seriously is always, I feel, to fail – the disjunction between my beautifully sonorous, accurate and painfully affecting mental content, and the leaden, halting sentences on the page always seems a dreadful falling short. It is this failure – a ceaseless threnody keening through the writing mind – that dominates my working life, just as an overweening sense of not having loved with enough depth or recklessness or tenderness dominates my personal one.”

John Gray: "Unlike Schopenhauer, who lamented the human lot, Leopardi believed that the best response to life is laughter. What fascinated Schopenhauer, along with many later writers, was Leopardi’s insistence that illusion is necessary to human happiness."

Art Spiegelman: "You know words in a way are hitting you on the left side of your brain, music and visual arts hit on the right side of the brain, so the idea is to pummel you, to send you from left brain to right brain and back until you're as unbalanced as I am."

विलास सारंग: "संदर्भ कुठलेही असोत, संस्कृत, इंग्रजी, बुद्धिवादी, तांत्रिक, इतिहासाचे, खगोलशास्त्राचे, आधुनिक पदार्थविज्ञानाचे, शिवकालीन व पेशवाईतील बखरीचे, अगणित ज्ञानक्षेत्रांचे, अशा वैविध्यपूर्ण ज्ञानावर लेखन- विशेषत: कवितालेखन- उभं राहत."

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Only True Test of Artistic Merit is Survival

After Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni died, Toby Young wrote an essay for The Spectator (August 11, 2007) "Keep your wild strawberries: Bergman, Antonioni and the end of an error”.

Young says:” Sixteen years ago I got together with a group of like-minded friends and started a magazine called The Modern Review. Its premise was that popular culture is as worthy of serious critical attention as high culture… As George Orwell said, the only true test of artistic merit is survival and posterity has not been kind to the films of Bergman or Antonioni — or, indeed, the vast majority of art-house directors…

The argument, then, isn’t about the artistic merit of films like The Shop Around the Corner, The Searchers, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Lady Eve, His Girl Friday, North by Northwest, The Maltese Falcon and Some Like It Hot — which we can all agree are masterpieces — but about whether art-house directors belong in such exalted company. And to my mind, they don’t…

...I’m profoundly suspicious of the whole modernist project, particularly the notion that art and culture should only be accessible to an educated elite. As John Carey pointed out in The Intellectuals and the Masses, modernism emerged as a way for the literary intelligentsia to differentiate themselves from those they contemptuously referred to as ‘the masses’. By championing artistic endeavour that was deliberately obtuse, the intelligentsia succeeded in excluding ordinary people from sharing in their pursuits…

Unlike the champions of Bergman and Antonioni, it is popular movies I regard as true cinematic art, not obscure, art-house films — and I’m convinced that posterity will prove me right.”

Since Acharya Atre 1898-1969, P L Deshpande , champion of nostalgia, was Maharashtra’s greatest entertainer until his death in 2000. Only bigger entertainer than Pu La was Hindi film industry.

Pu La wrote about other entertainers- Bal Gandharva (legendary large-hearted Marathi stage artist), masters of Hindustani classical such as Kumar Gandharva; Bhimsen Joshi; Mallikarjun Mansur; Vasantrao Deshpande among many others. But he never wrote about Hindi films and their music.

I think Hindi film music composed from circa 1950-1970 by likes of Roshan, Madan Mohan, C Ramchandra, two Burmans, Shankar-Jaikishan etc is as good as any man has created. It is not just popular till the date but also of high artisitic standards. Some of C Ramchandra’s music, inspired by both Jazz and Hindustani classical, would make both Lionel Hampton and Govindrao Tembe (has there been any musical album better than his SANGEET MANAPMAN) proud.
Songwriters like Shailendra, Kaifi Azmi, Sahir, Majrooh etc. too were of high quality.

In Raj Kapoor’s film Shree 420, there is a scene where a milkman takes the song “Ramayya Vastavayya” from the protagonist Raj Kapoor to his estranged lover Nargis at the time of daybreak.

A milkman.

Along with Bhakti literarture, Hindi film music will outlast any art in India.


Artist: Ed Fisher The New Yorker February 12, 1955