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Saturday, July 24, 2021

Sunday Long Reads: Akira anime, Surekha Sikri tribute, Kerala’s first village of books, and more

Catch this week's interesting Sunday Eye stories here!

July 18, 2021 10:30:16 am
akiraIllustration: Bivash Barua.

How Japanese sci-fi anime Akira became a global pop-culture phenomenon

When Tokyo was awarded the Olympics in 2013, film buffs across the world were least surprised. They had seen it coming since 1988.

More than three decades ago, Akira – the influential science-fiction animation film by Japanese artist Katsuhiro Otomo – had predicted that the 2020 Olympic Games would take place in Neo-Tokyo, the film’s reimagination of the Japanese capital. The Olympic grounds in the movie house military bases. And Akira, the titular, telekinetic child, is imprisoned in a cryogenic chamber below the Olympic Stadium, the site of the film’s climax.


When Surekha Sikri brought a new kind of young woman to the Indian stage

Surekha Sikri, the legacy of Surekha Sikri, Surekha Sikri films, Surekha Sikri death, Surekha Sikri roles, remembering Surekha Sikri, eye 2021, sunday eye, indian express news Sikri as Madame Ranevskaya with Vageesh Singh and Manohar Singh in the Anton Chekhov adaptation Cherry ka Bagicha (1983), directed by Richard Schechner. (Photo courtesy: Amal Allana)

“I find that the behaviour of human beings contains a whole spectrum of expressions ranging from the ‘realistic’ to the ‘melodramatic’. Such labels are found in art, but in real life, they all flow into each other at different moments, depending on the situation.” ~ Surekha Sikri

Surekha Sikri (née Verma) was born in 1945 to Wing Commander LC Verma and Zohra Verma, an academic, who taught at the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). It was after watching Ebrahim Alkazi’s production of King Lear in 1964 at AMU that Surekha was prompted to apply to the National School of Drama (NSD) in Delhi after graduating from AMU.


What Kaushik Basu wants to tell us about policymaking

kaushik basu Former Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee (Right) and Chief Economic Adviser Kaushik Basu at JFK airport lounge in New York, en route to Delhi. (File)

Writing a diary is easy. Reading a diary, however, has massive odds stacked against it. Comedian David Sedaris has warned: “If you read somebody’s diary, you get what you deserve.”

Part of the problem is that most people live rather repetitive lives — and, indeed, equate it with everything they value such as stability, continuity, and maturity. Consequently, the diary entries reflect that. British politician Enoch Powell said he never wrote a diary because keeping one “is like returning to one’s own vomit”.

But these unscientific generalisations can be suspended if the writer of the diary is a brilliant and curious economist, with a massive breadth of interests, who is recounting his experiences as a policymaker in the world’s largest democracy during a period when that economy and the society and polity were almost shifting shape. That is the promise of this book.


Who is Kamumma and why Ambai centres her new short-story collection around urban women

A Red-necked Green Bird A Red-necked Green Bird by Ambai (Translated from Tamil by GJV Prasad), Simon and Schuster, 200 pages

A Red-necked Green Bird is a collection of 13 stories by Ambai (CS Lakshmi), translated exceptionally well from Tamil into English by GJV Prasad. These stories are like short, elegant musical compositions that speak straight to the heart. Told with minimum embellishments and stylistic flourishes, the bhava is maintained throughout. Reading them is like listening to a master, for instance Palakkad K V Narayanaswamy, singing a Tyagaraja composition – calm and unobtrusive but leaving behind a sense of the profound. There is an inner aesthetic in these stories that is very political and responds to the immediate. This politics also gives a distinct gendered edge to the stories.


How ‘The Lover Boy of Bahawalpur’ reopens the Pulwama case

The Lover Boy of Bahawalpur, Rahul Pandita's new book, Pulwama case, indian express, indian express news, eye 2021, sunday eye The Lover Boy of Bahawalpur: How the Pulwama Case was Cracked; By Rahul Pandita; Juggernaut; 212 pages; Rs 499

Unearthing the conspiracy behind the terror attack in Pulwama on February 14, 2019, that left 40 CRPF personnel dead, was a huge challenge for the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which took up its investigation under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). It was equally challenging for Rahul Pandita, author of The Lover Boy of Bahawalpur (Juggernaut; 2021), to connect a series of terror attacks in Kashmir and beyond and unravel the sinister network of terrorists in our country. The author has done fair justice to the security forces by highlighting their contributions and sacrifices which are seldom celebrated.


What relationship the Olympics in Japan shares with anime

japanese anime, sunday eye 2021 Faster, higher, stronger: Cover of the first volume of Haikyu!!

From 1964 to 2021, the relationship between Olympic Games and anime has come full circle. Four years after the 1968 “TV Olympics” in Tokyo — called so for being the first to broadcast the action live to the world — the first sports anime Kyojin no hoshi began airing adventures of a baseball aspirant.

Since then, sports anime has become a major subgenre of Japanese animation. There’s manga and anime dedicated across the board — mainstream sports such as baseball, football, tennis; niche ones like table tennis, gymnastics and wheelchair basketball, and even activities such as shogi (chess), mahjong and fishing.


How Perumkulam became Kerala’s first village of books

Stand By Me: A book nest in Perumkulam village (Photo: Yamini Nair)

Five kilometres from the Kottarakkara town in Kollam district, in the small Kerala village, Perumkulam, a nest-like structure on a stilt by the roadside overlooks a lush tapioca farm. Schoolchildren leisurely sift through books in the box on a sultry June day. Newspapers are neatly stacked inside it, too. The otherwise bustling road, running through green fields, has been quietened by the pandemic. A board, with thermocol letters on coconut palm leaves, welcomes you at the “Pusthaka Gramam” (book village).


How owls bring up their babies

Love Me Do: The little rotund spotted owlets cosy up on a branch (Photo: Ranjit Lal)

With their gigantic staring eyes, phantom flight and wide range of calls — deep bass hoots to witch-like shrieking — owls have always been a personal favourite. Among each other, they also seem to be hugely affectionate: I will never forget the time I watched a pair of barn owl smooch passionately at the entrance to their gulmohar tree residence one foggy Republic Day sunrise, while their three woolly youngsters watched goggle-eyed (“Babies, pay attention: this is what the suryanamaskar is really about!”).


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