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.”

Shel Silverstein : “Talked my head off Worked my tail off Cried my eyes out Walked my feet off Sang my heart out So you see, There’s really not much left of me.” ~

Martin Amis: “Gogol is funny, Tolstoy in his merciless clarity is funny, and Dostoyevsky, funnily enough, is very funny indeed; moreover, the final generation of Russian literature, before it was destroyed by Lenin and Stalin, remained emphatically comic — Bunin, Bely, Bulgakov, Zamyatin. The novel is comic because life is comic (until the inevitable tragedy of the fifth act);...”

Werner Herzog: “We are surrounded by worn-out, banal, useless and exhausted images, limping and dragging themselves behind the rest of our cultural evolution.”

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."

Justin E.H. Smith: “One should of course take seriously serious efforts to improve society. But when these efforts fail, in whole or in part, it is only humor that offers redemption. So far, human expectations have always been strained, and have always come, give or take a bit, to nothing. In this respect reality itself has the form of a joke, and humor the force of truth.”

विलास सारंग: "… . . 1000 नंतर ज्या प्रकारची संस्कृती रुढ झाली , त्यामध्ये साधारणत्व विश्वात्मकता हे गुण प्राय: लुप्त झाले...आपली संस्कृती अकाली विश्वात्मक साधारणतेला मुकली आहे."

Saturday, April 28, 2012

भो भो आर एम एस टायटॅनिक, जहाज, धन्य धन्य!...World's Largest Entertainment Hits ICEBERG

I could hardly watch rather kitschy Hollywood film 'Titanic', 1997 when it was released. Even today I have not watched it in its entirety.

However 'RMS Titanic' has grown on me...I have read a lot on it this year and watched a lot of TV programs based on it over the past decade, majority of them in April 2012.

Even before I read about its grandness etc, I liked this staircase. But then I liked even the tiny one our Miraj home had. It too had a personality and each of us made a distinct sound climbing it.

"Jack Thayer, a teen-age passenger from Philadelphia’s Main Line, who was one of only a handful of people picked out of the water by lifeboats, later recalled that the sound made by the many hundreds of people flailing in the twenty-eight-degree water, drowning or freezing to death, was like the noise of locusts buzzing in the Pennsylvania countryside on a summer night."

( Daniel Mendelsohn, 'Unsinkable / Why we can’t let go of the Titanic', The New Yorker, April 16, 2012)...it takes just 10 minutes for a person to die in that water...

...reading all this was eerie.

I wonder what kind of coverage, if any, was given to the event in Marathi newspapers in the decade of 1911-1920.

All eight of my and my wife's grandparents, people of Greta Garbo generation, and who would later dodge the bullet of 1918 flu pandemic, were kids in 1912. I wonder if any of them had learnt of its fate in 1912.

Sinking of Titanic happened on Emperor (also of India) George V's watch.

My mother's mother, Ms. Manu (Shanta) Karandikar (मनु / शांता करंदीकर), then studying in a Konkan (कोंकण) school, sang following Marathi song-cum-school prayer every day. It praised and well-wished her emperor George V (पंचम जॉर्ज).

I remember having heard a few lines of it from her mouth.

" भो भो पंचम जॉर्ज, भूप, धन्य धन्य ! विबुधमान्य सार्वभौम भूवरा ! ॥
नयधुरंधरा, बहुत काळ तूंचि पाळ ही वसुंधरा ॥
शोभविशी रविकुलशी कुलपरंपरा ॥ध्रु।॥ नयधु।॥

संतत तव कांत शांत राजतेज जगिं विलसो ॥
धर्मनीति शिल्पशास्त्र ललितकला सफल असो ॥
सगुणसागरा, विनयसुंदरा ॥१॥ नयधु।॥

नीतिनिपुण मंत्री तुझे तोषवोत जनहृदंतरा ॥
सदा जनहृदंतरा ॥
राजशासनीं प्रजाहि विनत असो शांततापरा ॥
असो शांततापरा ॥२॥नयधु.॥

समरधीर वीर करुत कीर्तिविस्तरा ॥
पुत्र पौत्र सुखवुत तव राजमंदिरा ॥
सौख्यपूर्ण दीर्घ आयु भोग नृपवरा ॥३॥नयधु.॥

भो पंचम जॉर्ज, भूप, धन्य धन्य ! विबुधमान्य सार्वभौम भूवरा ! ॥ नयधु.॥"

Little Manu could always have sung: "सौख्यपूर्ण दीर्घ आयु भोग टायटॅनिक, महा-जहाज"...wishing Titanic long life in a prayer...

Nigel Jones writes: "Two years before the guns of August 1914, Britain's century of unchallenged global hegemony ended not in fire, but in ice." (Guardian, April 13 2012)

There are a number good essays on Titanic out there.

Daniel Mendelsohn again:

"...One big difference between the Titanic and other wrecks—the Lusitania, say—is the way her story unfolded in real time. Torpedoed by a U-boat in May, 1915, the Cunard liner sank in eighteen minutes—too short an interval, in other words, to generate stories. The Titanic took two hours and forty minutes to founder after hitting the berg—which is to say, about the time it takes for a big blockbuster to tell a story..."

So 'RMS Titanic' became Hollywood's 'Titanic' because it 'took two hours and forty minutes to founder after hitting the berg.'

Michael Crichton writes in “Timeline”, November 1999:

"...In other centuries, human beings wanted to be saved, or improved, or freed, or educated. But in our century, they want to be entertained. The great fear is not of disease or death, but of boredom. A sense of time on our hands, a sense of nothing to do. A sense that we are not amused.

But where will this mania for entertainment end? What will people do when they get tired of television? When they get tired of movies? We already know the answer - they go into participatory activities: sports, theme parks, amusement rides, roller coasters. Structured fun, planned thrills. And what will they do when they tire of theme parks and planned thrills? Sooner or later, the artifice becomes too noticeable. They begin to realize that an amusement park is really a kind of jail, in which you pay to be an inmate.

This artifice will drive them to seek authenticity. Authenticity will be the buzzword of the twenty-first century. And what is authentic? Anything that is not devised and structured to make a profit. Anything that is not controlled by corporations. Anything that exists for its own sake, that assumes its own shape. But of course, nothing in the modern world is allowed to assume its own shape. The modern world is the corporate equivalent of a formal garden, where everything is planted and arranged for effect. Where nothing is untouched, where nothing is authentic.

Where, then, will people turn for the rare and desirable experience of authenticity? They will turn to the past. The past is unarguably authentic..."

Yes, sinking of RMS Titanic is authentic and it took 'about the time it takes for a big blockbuster to tell a story'.

Robert Shrimsley writes:

"We have been treated to news bulletins, saturated with anniversary retrospectives and yet another television miniseries. There have been postage stamps, commemorative coins, a requiem written by a Bee Gee and at least two new museums. There was even a cruise promising to “recreate” the Titanic’s maiden voyage – which, to me at least, falls somewhat short as a selling point: “Day four: seven-course meal, whist drive on upper deck. Day five: strike iceberg, perish in North Atlantic”...

...Of course, the Titanic perfectly suits the British self-image, being a tale of shambles and hubris dressed up as one of heroism and sangfroid. We think of the man who put on a black tie so he could die like a gentleman; or the ship’s band, which stayed on post playing a selection of Celine Dion songs – an event for which they are much admired, though one shouldn’t underestimate the readiness of musicians to exploit a captive audience..."

The best commentary for me comes from 1999 headline from the Onion: “WORLD’S LARGEST METAPHOR HITS ICE-BERG”, Robert Mankoff of The New Yorker and Mike Luckovich.

Q: Will RMS Titanic dodge an iceberg today?
A: You bet!


Artist: Mike Luckovich

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Charulata-Nastanirh: A Jugalbandi of Ustad Satyajit and Pandit Rabindranath

April 23 2012 is 20th Death Anniversary of Satyajit Ray


विनोबा भावे:

"...कलिदासानंतर भारतीय संस्कृतीचे समग्र रूप पाहणारा आणि सम्यक रुपात ते व्यक्त करणारा रवींद्रनाथांहून श्रेष्ठ साहित्यिक क्वचितच झाला असेल. उत्तरप्रदेशचे महाकवी तुलसीदास, महाराष्ट्राचे ज्ञानदेव, दक्षिण भारताचे कंबन इत्यादि दुसरे अनेक महाकवी होऊन गेले. परंतु त्यांची योग्यता वेगळ्या कोटीची होती. ते धर्मपुरुष होते. परंतु साहित्यिक या नात्याने ज्यांनी भारतीय संस्कृतीचे, केवळ धर्मं दृष्टयाच नव्हे तर समग्र जीवन-दृष्टया सर्व पैलूंचे दर्शन घेतले असे एक रविबाबूच होते."

('अंतःप्रेरणा', 'विनोबा सारस्वत', संपादक: राम शेवाळकर, 1987)

Adam Phillips:

"So Freud leaves us with one overriding question: what is a good life for incestuously-minded people like ourselves, people who must not have what they really want, people whose fraught, doomed love for their parents has made love a hopeless passion; and who fear the loss of love they know to be their birthright and their fate? It is always going to be difficult for us, Freud says, to be excited and kind, to be fair and satisfied. Because , in reality, we can never be or have the object of desire, we are always the left-out ones. And because the object of our desire is forbidden, it is imperative for our (psychic) survival that we are left out. Oedipus was the man who couldn't bear being left out"

Harold Bloom 'The Anxiety of Influence':

"Poetic Influence--when it involves two strong, authentic poets--always proceeds by a misreading of the prior poet, an act of creative correction that is actually and necessarily a misinterpretation. The history of fruitful poetic influence, which is to say the main traditions of Western poetry since the Renaissance, is a history of anxiety and self-saving caricature of distortion, of perverse, willful revisionism without which modern poetry as such could not exist."

Alexander Payne, Director of 'The Descendants', 2011 in January 2012:

"I watch older films mostly. I recently saw The Music Room (1958) by Indian director by Satyajit Ray. It is a jaw dropper, an unbelievable movie."

Jordan Smith:

"Alas, novelists suffer so that we might know better. Perhaps no other novelists suffer as well as Russian ones, but, thankfully you don’t have to be a Russian to learn from them. The whole world is the beneficiary of that inheritance."

(In India, I would substitute Russian with Bengali in the quote above).

In 1991-92, almost everyday, in Kolkata, I walked back from my office on Shakespeare Sarani to the residence on Hazra Road via Mr. Satyajit Ray's residence on Bishop Lefroy road.

Just like many temples I walk past every day but never enter, I never felt like meeting Mr. Ray or asking for an autograph.

I wanted his 'darshan' (दर्शन) alright but I didn't want to disturb him.

We got to see many of his movies, without English subtitles, on Door-Darshan after his death.

His body was kept at my favourite Nandan complex. It was stone's throw from my office. I didn't go there either because now he wasn't there and if he was, I still did not want to disturb him.

We moved from Kolkata soon after he died. There was now one less reason to regret it!

'Pather Panchali', 'Jalsaghar', 'Kanchenjungha' and 'Charulata' have never left my mind since then.

I keep watching 'Jalsaghar' ('The Music Room', 1958) once in a while. Recently. I watched 'Charulata' after almost a decade and saw 'Aranyer Din Ratri' (good except Sharmila Tagore) without English subtitles and 'Mahanagar (good), Jana Aranya (very good)' for the first time.

(BTW- Most of Ray's films are based on a good piece of literature. New wave Marathi film-makers should realize this.)

I keep reading Andrew Robinson's 'Satyajit Ray: The Inner Eye', 1989. Earlier I was very impressed with the book. I still like it but not as much.

I have read Ray's 'Our Films, Their Films', 1976- I have lost my copy- and Gopa Majumdar translated Ray's Bengali book- "Speaking of films",2005 ('Bishay Chalachitra').

Ray's essay: 'On Charulata', from the latter, is masterly.

Any one who wants to understand the relation between a novel and the cinema based on it, strengths and weaknesses of both media, how to remain loyal to the original art while interpreting it will do no better than reading and re-reading the essay.

As I have said earlier 'Charulata', 1964 had always been a great haunting song for me but after reading the essay it became even greater.

Nastanirh (The Broken Nest), 1901 is a very delicate story. According to Andrew Robinson:"...Kadambari Devi, Tagore's beloved sister-in-law, inspired him to wrire Nastanirh...She in some ways resembled Charu, he Amal and while his elder brother much of the unworldliness and naivety of Bhupati...Kadambari Devi committed suicide in 1884 for reasons unknown..."

Apart from the delicate subject the book has "inconsistencies" which makes it difficult to adapt for the screen. (Read about a similar challenge in "The Tough Job of Adapting Edgar Allan Poe to film", The New York Times, April 20 2012.)

Ray says:"...when one reads the novel, the sheer beauty and power of Tagore's language wipe out these inconsistencies".

Pather Panchali,1955- equally great film- did not pose this kind of challenge because, as Ray himself says: "Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay is one writer whose stories are a gold mine of cinematic observation...Even in his lesser works his eye and ear produce marvels of observation...Yet another quality Bibhutibhushan had was a wonderful ear for lifelike speech..."

Therefore, when Ray decided to make a film based on Nastanirh, it was like master Rabindranath throwing a challenge at his prodigally talented understudy only to see it being tackled successfully.

Interplay of Nastanirh-Charulata is like a great Jugalbandi.

Ray has said of Indian music:"...In the process of execution, the musician can achieve beauty, he can achieve tension and excitement, and he can achieve sublimity. But he cannot achieve drama, because there is no conflict in the music."

True but isn't Jugalbandi or Jazz-Jamming about conflict and drama? In jugalbandi, both musicians act as lead players, and a playful competition exists between the two performers. Turn right, turn right. Turn left, turn left. Both play or sing their ass off! And we are sozzled with great enchantment.

Sadly, I don't read Bengali. But reading Ray's essay, I see how hard he had to struggle to master the novel. And in that struggle, I see all the elements of a great drama. And hence Jugalbandi!

In the said essay, Ray gives example of opening scene of Charulata that runs for seven minutes. The scene attempts to use a language entirely free from literary and theatrical influences. Except for one line of dialogue the scene says in terms that speak to eye and the ear. He also explains how recurring motifs, appearing at several points in a film, often in different contexts, serve as unifying elements. A major motif gets introduced to us in the scene.

In short, a great cinema artist is going to rise to the challenge of a Jugalbandi with a great novelist using his very own instruments namely speaking to the eye and the ear; recurring motifs...

Ray says: "...The film opens with the letter 'B' being embroidered on a handkerchief by Charu. This will prove to be a major motif in the film. We will learn later that the handkerchief is meant for Charu's husband Bhupati. It will trigger off the conversation which will make Bhupati aware of Charu's loneliness. Towards the end of the film, after Bhupati's traumatic discovery of Charu's feelings towards Amal, Bhupati will use the handkerchief to wipe his tears, and will notice the embroidery before he decides to return to his wife..."

B is also for Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay

courtesy: RDB Productions

How I wish Rabindranath saw the film! I wonder if Vinoba Bhave saw it. And if he did, where would he rate Mr. Ray in relation to his dear Ravibabu.

By the way, I have often wondered if a novel like Nastaneer or film like Charulata would be created in Marathi.

P S Rege's (पु शि रेगे) novella 'Matruka' (मातृका),1978 has elements of this but it fizzles out in second half. Vilas Sarang (विलास सारंग) has written an excellent but not a favourable review of it in two essays that are part of his book: 'aksharaanchaa shram kelaa', 2000 (अक्षरांचा श्रम केला).

As a kid, I often heard that V. Shantaram's (व्ही. शांताराम) 'Manoos', 1939 (माणूस) is a Marathi 'answer' to K. L. Saigal starring film 'Devdas', 1935 based on Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's 1917 Bengali novel of the same name.

I think this is infantile. Now, 'Manoos' may be a good film but art like 'Devdas' or 'Nastaneer' don't have 'answers'. Indeed they attempt answering our fundamental questions like what it means to be- to use Nietzsche's phrase- "human, all too human".

John Gray says: What Freud offers is a way of thinking in which the experience of being human can be seen to be more intractably difficult, and at the same time more interesting and worthwhile, than anything imagined in the cheap little gospels of progress and self-improvement that are being hawked today.

Doesn't watching Charulata prove to us that "the experience of being human can be seen to be more intractably difficult" as we go through life but "at the same time more interesting and worthwhile" as we enjoy one of the most elating aesthetic experiences in cinema?

Unlike Oedipus some of us can now bear being left out.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Ich bin ein Bihari...मैं बिहारी हूँ

ज्ञानेश्वर:

"हें विश्वचि माझें घर"

(ज्ञानेश्वरी, अध्याय १२, भक्तियोग)

[Dnyāneshwar:

"This world is my dwelling"

(Dnyaneshwari, Chapter 12, Bhaktiyog)]

Rabindranath Tagore:

"Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high/...Where the world has not been broken up into fragments/ By narrow domestic walls ... Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way/ Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit."

अरुण कोलटकर:

"मास्तर मास्तर बघा कसा
हिसडे मारतोय भिंतीवरती
भारताचा नकाशा
गेला उडत खिडकीबाहेर
ड़ोंगरांसकट नद्यांसकट खुंटीसकट
गेला सरळ आकाशात

('काय डेंजर वारा सुटलाय', "अरुण कोलटकरच्या कविता", १९७७)

('Kay denjar vara sutalay", "Arun Kolatkaranchya kavita", 1977)


U.S. President John F. Kennedy on June 26, 1963 in West Berlin:


"Ich bin ein Berliner"

Ich bin ein Pune-er

Ich bin ein Karad-er

Ich bin ein Miraj-er

Ich bin ein Madras-er

Ich bin ein Bombay-er

Ich bin ein Thane-er

Ich bin ein Vashi-er

Ich bin ein Nashik-er

Ich bin ein Doom Dooma-er

Ich bin ein Calcutta-er

Ich bin ein Bangalore-er


Ich bin ein Bihari
...

And I announce it NOT in the name of Gautama Buddha, Ashoka, Jayaprakash Narayan and Madhu Limaye (मधु लिमये) but for the poor Bihari who is probably working in our society as I write this.

Two 'Bihari's': Balraj Sahni and Ratan Kumar in Bimal Roy's 'Do Bigha Zamin', 1953
courtesy: Shemaroo

Saturday, April 14, 2012

If Kauravas in Mahabharata had Horse Collars...Ahead of Even Brahmastra

Today April 14 2012 is 50th Death Anniversary of Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya, a technologist, who, above all, served his motherland and still touches lives of millions of ordinary Indians.

"If Visvesvaraya had not toiled
And allowed Cauvery to flow
And not built Kannambadi?
Would this precious land have harvested gold?
Prosperous Kannada land, our prosperous Kannada land?"

[“Bangarada Manushya" ('Man of Gold'), 1972 Kannada movie]


विनोबा भावे:
" इकडे शुभ्र घोड्यांच्या मोठ्या भव्य रथांतुनी
माधवें अर्जुनें दिव्य फुंकिले शंख आपुले"

(
गीताई, अध्याय पहिला)

Jared Diamond:

"...by the year 1600 Japan had the best guns of any country in the world. And then, over the course of the next century, Japan gradually abandoned guns.

What happened was that the Samurai, the warrior class in Japan, had been used to fighting by standing up in front of their armies and making a graceful speech, the other opposing Samurai made an answering graceful speech, and then they had one-on-one combat. The Samurai discovered that the peasants with their guns would shoot the Samurai while the Samurai were making their graceful speeches. So the Samurai realized that guns were a danger because they were such an equalizer. The Samurai first restricted the licensing of gun factories to a hundred factories, and then they licensed fewer factories, and then they said that only three factories could repair guns, and then they said that those three factories could make only a hundred guns a year, then ten guns a year, then three guns a year, until by the 1840s when Commodore Perry came to Japan, Japan no longer had any guns."


Ramaswamy R. Iyer, former Secretary, Union Ministry of Water Resources and a consistent critic of the idea of interlinking rivers (ILR):

"...The then President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, whose speech advocating the project was quoted by Ranjit Kumar and Justice Kirpal virtually created the project in 2002. The NDA government saw political advantage in this. Since it was a grand idea, it could go to the electorate saying it would do this. The government engineers hailed the idea because it would be a grand engineering achievement, something big, which they could boast about. Gigantism is one of our obsessions."


(Frontline, April 20 2012)


Dr. P V Indiresan was the director of IIT, Madras when I was there in early 1980's.

For me, he was a big bore. (btw- I found most teachers at IIT interesting. Some even exciting. A couple of them have already appeared on this blog.)

He used to hold forth on many subjects. If you were a powerful professor at an IIT, it was never very difficult to get nodding audience.

Later in his career, he became a newspaper columnist. I kept meeting him on Business Line Op-ed pages.

He still was a bore. I don't think I read a single article by him in entirety.

But following thoughts by him expressed on April 6, 1998 caught my attention.

"Today, I plan to explore the reasons why India is, and has always been a weak force in international technology. Once we understand why we have been backward, and why we still are backward, we should be on the way to success...

...At the same time, it is proper for us to enquire why we built temple halls with a thousand pillars a millennium after others had mastered the design of the arch. Or, consider why we built the great sundial in Jantar Mantar long after telescopes had become commonplace, and why even today we remain the only manufacturers of vintage cars. When Alexander bore down on us with his swift horses, we stood stuck in the mire with elephants. We learnt no lessons from our defeat at his hands. 1700 years later, we lost again to Babar because, in all those intervening centuries, we had remained loyal to elephants and further had nothing better than muskets to counter Babar's canons. Even in 1962, the Chinese humiliated us because they had modern arms and we had none. Why do we stick to obsolete technology all the time?..."

Wikipedia:

"A horse collar is a part of a horse harness device used to distribute load around a horse's neck and shoulders when pulling a wagon or plow. The collar often supports and pads a pair of curved metal or wood pieces, called hames, to which the traces of the harness are attached. The collar allows a horse to use its full strength when pulling, essentially allowing the horse to push forward with its hindquarters into the collar rather than to pull with its shoulders as it would be required to do if wearing a yoke or a breastcollar. The collar is also an improvement on the yoke as it reduces pressure on the windpipe."

Horse Collars with hames
courtesy: Wikipedia

As a kid, I read and re-read Mahabharata and about chariots of its many heroes. Did they use horse collar then?

No and not just then...India did NOT have as simple (but revolutionary) a technology as a horse collar for centuries after it was invented.

Irfan Habib:
"...The collar-harness, which appeared in Europe about the beginning of the tenth century after a much longer history in China, immediately made the horse an efficient draught animal. However, since the horse-collar was not known in India, carts and carriages in Mughal times were pulled almost exclusively by bullocks...When Mughal artists were called upon to depict chariots used by the heroes of the Mahabharata, they faithfully reproduced the yoke of the bullock-cart, thus reveling their total ignorance of the collar-harness....It's therefore certain that the ekka and tonga are post-seventeenth-century innovations; and Mughal India completely lacked these cheap and quick means of passenger conveyance... "


open horse-drawn chariot: Razmnama painting, Akbar's atelier

courtesy: 'Technology In Medieval India c. 650-1750' by Irfan Habib, 2008

Wikipedia:
"From the time of invention of the horse collar, horses became extremely valuable for agricultural success and for pulling heavy vehicles. When the horse was harnessed with the horse collar, the horse could provide a work effort of 50% more foot-pounds per second because of greater speed than the ox, as well as having generally greater endurance and ability to work more hours in a day. The horse collar was important in the development of Europe, as the replacement of oxen with horses for ploughing boosted the economy, reduced reliance on subsistence farming, and allowed the development of early industry, education, and the arts in the rise of market-based towns."

So it is likely that if only Kauravas had got horse collars and NOT Pandavas, the story of Mahabharata would have been different!

The subject of chariot also brings up Ben-Hur (1959). The music- composed by Miklós Rózsa- during the chariot race- no horse collars even here because they came in Europe c 920 CE- is so haunting.

But have you paused and looked around the cinema where the movie was shown?


Artist: James Stevenson, The New Yorker, 12 December 1959


Mr. Stevenson is as brilliant as they come.

Friday, April 06, 2012

India: A Flex-Printed Nation! Rather than a Painted One

Neal Lawson:

"And the thing about outdoor advertising is that you can't not look and you can't escape. Surely we should be able to say enough is enough. The freedom from unwanted and damaging advertising should trump the freedom to sell. If outdoor adverts were banned, our towns and cities would be transformed. We would see more of the sky and our urban landscape. And our minds would have that bit more space for ideas, plans, love or just to daydream. Some sites could be used for great public art, information and inspiring poems and quotes. Not just another airbrushed perfect body meant to make us feel inadequate." (Guardian, April 20 2012)

Balkrishna Vaidya, Bill board painter from Mumbai:
"I will be remembered abroad not here."

Roland Barthes:

“Is not the most erotic portion of a body where the garment gapes? In perversion (which is the realm of textual pleasure) there are no "erogenous zones" (a foolish expression, besides); it is intermittence, as psychoanalysis has so rightly stated, which is erotic: the intermittence of skin flashing between two articles of clothing (trousers and sweater), between two edges (the open-necked shirt, the glove and the sleeve); it is this flash itself which seduces, or rather: the staging of an appearance-as-disappearance.”


Jeet Heer:

"...A cultural conservative in the European tradition, Eksteins takes a dim view of modern art, seeing it as emblematic of disorder, madness, despair, an idolatry that replaces religion with the cult of the artist, sensationalism and the loss of faith in older and more humane traditions....

...Solar Dance is perhaps best read in conjunction with Hugh Kenner’s classic 1968 book The Counterfeiters, which also examines the connection between modernism and forgery. Unlike Eksteins, Kenner celebrates the modernists for their inventive exuberance and sees the impulse to forge as a strategy for keeping alive human agency in the age of mechanical reproduction..."


(review of 'Solar Dance: Genius, Forgery and the Crisis of Truth in the Modern Age' By Modris Eksteins, February 3 2012)

"keeping alive human agency in the age of mechanical reproduction"?

That's what bill board painters do in India.

In my childhood at Miraj (मिरज ) we used to know a few of them. Sharad Apte (शरद आपटे), my father's student, was one such. I have spent hours watching Mr. Apte and others like him work. My father was fond of getting a new nameplate- that was screwed to our door- made every time he or my mother got a new degree...B.A.(English), M.A.(English), M.A. (Sociology)...CPED, B.A., M.A...Even today in his house a nameplate hangs that has all our names and degrees...

I have already mentioned fascinating marriage-halls/temples 'wall-art' of anonymous Miraj artists here. And there is a brilliant example of creativity of India's anon artists during elections.

Flex printing technology is killing board painters but luckily shutters and trucks and some walls still need them.

In a TV documentary called "Painted Nation" filmmaker Cyrus Sundar Singh takes an affectionate look at India's vanishing street art, its gifted creators, and its once-powerful place in the national culture.

I saw it on Jan 26 2012 on Discovery channel.

When I first visited Mount Road in 1980's riding PTC bus no. 23C what hit me most were Chennai’s huge cinematic billboards.

And if I have to choose one image it was of Silk Smitha from the poster of Moondram Pirai, 1982. The late Ms. Smitha has now gone viral with "The Dirty Picture", 2011...it's as if the whole of India is now watching her billboard.

(Was this done using Flex? Raquel Welch in "One Million Years B.C.", 1966)

I for once understood why some cine-stars become larger-than-life.

Preminda Jacob writes:

"...Mr. Vedachellam—a billboard artist and entrepreneur—explained to me that his film industry clientele routinely attempted to circumvent censorship by protesting to the authorities that the provocative still photographs featured on billboards were simply taken from film footage already cleared by the censors. The police commissioner’s canny rejoinder to the publicity agents’ appeals, Mr. Vedachellam recalled, was to remind them that these questionable stills appeared on the cinema screen for only a few seconds so viewers would soon forget them, or may not even have quite “seen” them at all. Freezing and enlarging such images, he argued, was a different matter altogether. And displaying them prominently on major thoroughfares would likely result in costly traffic jams and additional accidents. The police routinely censored these images by pasting pieces of white paper over offending portions of the billboards..."

Hand-painted billboards—once heavily used to promote big hits—loom outside artist Balkrishna Vaidya's studio in Mumbai.

Courtesy: William Albert Allard, National Geographic Magazine,

Painted Nation claims: ...hand-painted signs have given way to digital images imprinted on vinyl posters. Instead of selling soap and shampoo to ordinary folk, billboards now pitch cars, cell phones and other luxury goods for India's burgeoning middle class.

I looked around and found that it was absolutely true.

Picture courtesy: Truck Art india mike...Look at the buxom lady...she is giving Ms. Raquel Welch run for her money...

Poster artist Rajan painting shutter-Blue God Krishna. © 2005 Salaam Shalom Productions Inc.