How the slight, unremarkable Amol Palekar carved a niche for himself
Build: slight, unremarkable. Face like a million others in the crowd, the only thing sharp about it is a thin moustache. Big-collared “bush-shirts”. “Terrycot” trousers, slightly flared. Manner: mostly mild. The kind of easy-going guy who will not rock the boat, duck from confrontation. Personality: inoffensive, strictly average. Name: Amol Palekar.
‘Men had to earn the respect of women in dance bars’
In January this year, the Supreme Court struck down a Maharashtra government law that prevented the reopening of dance bars, shut since 2005. The judgment by the apex court, however, has not been able to revive the culture that many believe is dead. A new book, Bans and Bar Girls (Women Unlimited, Rs 595), by Sameena Dalwai, 42, argues that it wasn’t gendered oppression alone but its intersection with caste that led to the closure of dance bars, where more than one lakh women in Mumbai worked.
Living the beautiful life in Portugal
My first impression of Portugal was a whirl of cars snaking along roads lambent with sunshine, and paintings of tigers and elephants on pillars next to the Sete Rios train station. I had landed at Lisbon airport with only 20 minutes to catch the bus to Estremoz, where I would be spending the next two weeks in a writing residency. I managed to catch the bus, and we crossed the river Tagus, heading towards the region of Alentejo, which appropriately translates to “beyond the Tagus”, and Estremoz.
Travelling Suitcase: Valley of Waterfalls
Lauterbrunnen in Switzerland is a glaciated valley with steep mountains, including the three big peaks of Eiger (ogre), Monch (monk) and Jungfrau (virgin maiden), towering above and innumerable waterfalls plunging down the cliff faces. Lauterbrunnen refers to “many fountains” — 72 to be precise — with Staubachfall as the most famous and the main landmark of the village visible as soon as you step off the train. The station was featured in the Shammi Kapoor-Sharmila Tagore-starrer An Evening in Paris (1967).
How my grandmother and neighbour got me to love vegetables
As a child, I had a reputation of being a fussy eater. Nothing other than bananas, puffed rice, and roshogollas would catch the fancy of my taste buds. To vegetables, my aversion was notorious. My granny’s strategies like spinning tales in which the greens appeared as characters had limited success. Her patience tested to the utmost, one winter day, she asked me to accompany her on a visit to the green grocer.
A riot of colours in Thailand’s Chiang Rai
Did you mean Chiang Mai?’ I invariably get asked every time I mention my trip to Thailand’s biggest northern city, Chiang Rai. Located close to the Golden Triangle (where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet), Chiang Rai remains fairly undiscovered despite its history as the capital of the Mangrai dynasty.
Before seeing Thailand, I always believed India to be the last word in eye-popping, colour-riot vibrancy. Discovering Thai Buddhist marvels was, therefore, a swift kick to such preconceived notions. Life lesson learnt: when in Thailand, always check out the temples, and Chiang Rai has two spectacular examples. Also, stop by the local street markets.
Down in Jungleland: Four Legs and Our Tongues
It’s astonishing, really. If someone calls us an “animal”, we think it is grossly insulting and our delicate sentiments get upset. But look at how we insult animals, who surely should have filed a million suits against us for defamation and hurting their sentiments, except that they prefer to just get on with their lives.
Take dogs, for instance. We’re taught in kindergarten, “Kutta wafadar janwar hai” — the dog is a faithful animal: And our best friend. Yet, I don’t think there’s a single Bollywood blockbuster where the hero (or villain) hasn’t at some point snarled, ‘Kutte! Kameene! (wretched dog)” and gone on to say, “Die like a dog, now!” And what about all those, “dog day” afternoons we’ve all spent? We encourage “chhupa rustam” Casanovas, by thumping them on the back and growling “you old dog, you!”
We have to be more cautious in the ways we make sense of others: Malcolm Gladwell
Talking to Strangers (Penguin Random House, Rs 595) is about communication breakdowns of various kinds. Do you believe people today are more suspicious of each other than ever before?
The premise of the book is that we are very good at making sense of people we are close to. That is because we have enormous amounts of experience in dealing with them. But the strategies we use in dealing with people we know do not work with strangers. That’s the type of problem we have to confront: What do I do when I don’t know you, have no experience of dealing with you and don’t know your culture as well?
Kailaasa or New India? WhatsApp Uncle wonders how they are different
Amol Palekar on his new play, why he rejected so many films, and the power of dissent
Bal Gandharva Rang Mandir, a historic hall in Pune with almost 1,000 seats, is suited to big plays. On December 1, it took one actor to hold the auditorium — including 320 in the balcony — captive. Amol Palekar won a standing ovation as he returned to theatre after 25 years with the production, Kusur. A week before, on his 75th birthday, he had opened the play to a similar reception at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Mumbai.
The engineer who showed that walls can be finger-thin, and roofs can fly
The Hall of Nations at Pragati Maidan never seemed to impose its weight on the ground; its structure was lifted by a lightness that contradicts the very nature of concrete. The ziggurat-like National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC) building in New Delhi, doesn’t reveal that its zigzagging columns are a lesson in interdependence of elements. In the Municipal Stadium in Ahmedabad, the folded inclining legs support a cantilevered roof, probably the first-of-its-kind in the country. Structural engineer Mahendra Raj has, in six decades of engineering mastery, shown how materials can lie, how walls can be finger-thin and how roofs can stretch, fly and fold. A retrospective of his work, “Structuring Form: Innovative Rigour of Mahendra Raj” is showing at the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA) in Delhi, till December 25, curated by Roobina Karode, director and chief curator, KNMA.
Tigmanshu Dhulia on directing web series Out of Love, the problem with student politics
Given that Out of Love (Hotstar) is your fourth web project, would you say that you’ve adapted well to the digital platform?
There’s immense independence — I am not just commenting on the censorship bit. As a creator, I am able to create a world, which is very detailed. In a film, you are limited by a three-hour structure and a plot which is limited to a maximum of three acts. A web show is where you actually take audiences into a world. Had Out of Love been a film, we would not have been able to let things simmer because of time constraints. Cracks don’t appear overnight in a relationship, there is a whole process to it, which I, as a storyteller, am able to convey in the web space. In something like Peaky Blinders (2013), or Narcos (2015), the world that they show is integral to the plot and the story.