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Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Sunday Long Reads: The story of Parveen Babi, a theatre of dissent, children and social media, and more

Here is your Sunday reading list

New Delhi | September 27, 2020 1:13:01 pm
Natalia Kaliada and Nikolai Khalezin, eye 2020, sunday eye, indian expressNatalia Kaliada and Nikolai Khalezin, founders of Belarus Free Theatre (Photo: Marilyn Kingwill)

Why the Belarus Free Theatre, inspired by Gandhi’s non-violence, remains a voice of dissent 

On January 3, 2011, troops in Belarus surrounded the international airport in Minsk, from where a group of theatre artistes was to travel to the US. Natalia Kaliada and Nikolai Khalezin, founders of the company, Belarus Free Theatre (BFT), had been arrested and warned several times for creating works critical of President Alexander Lukashenko yet their new production, Being Harold Pinter, featuring testimonies of political prisoners, was scheduled to be performed in New York. All the president’s men were at the airport to stop the duo but they never showed up to collect their boarding passes. “We had left two days before. We were smuggled out of the country in an operation that involved three types of transportation. It was 20 minutes past midnight, as revellers celebrated the passing of 2010 into 2011, when I saw Belarus for the last time,” says Kaliada.


Why Vivek Gomber keeps producing Chaitanya Tamhane’s award-winning films 

vivek gomber, chaitanya tamhane, marathi films, eye 2020, indianexpress, eye 2020, sunday eye, Gomber moved to Mumbai 16 years ago in order to become an actor.

Vivek Gomber’s friends describe him either as insane or brave. “But they mostly stick to ‘insane’,” says the actor-producer. One of these friends is filmmaker Chaitanya Tamhane, whose two award-winning projects, Court (2014) and The Disciple (2020), have been produced by 36-year-old Gomber.

Tamhane is puzzled by Gomber’s dedication to another person’s work. “It’s not like he will get much of his money back. But my work and I exist only because of him,” says Tamhane, who often refers to Gomber as “my father”. “He was weeping in the audience when I won at Venice the first time,” says Tamhane. Gomber has a more prosaic explanation for his decision to produce a project. “I love Chaitanya but my resolve to produce a film always comes from the script,” says Gomber, over the phone from Mumbai, where he is based.


How our children are not consumers but the products on sale on social media

children and social media, children on social media, social media and mental health, eye 2020, sunday eye, indian express news Social media platforms indoctrinate us into self-surveillance by constant comparison with others (Source: Getty images)

I don’t see any point in living any more. I am completely worthless!” This was the conclusion 13-year-old Sania was forced to make about her life and identity when a group of children from her school wrote abusive, sexually-violent messages to her in an Instagram chat. This cyberbullying campaign had started a few months ago when Sania had openly challenged a boy who had made leering remarks on her body. “Though I have blocked all of them, I am checking my Insta page every few minutes. I am going mad but I cannot focus on anything else!”


How does a city fare as the Taj Mahal, once described as ‘a teardrop on the cheek of time’ by Tagore, throws open its door

eye 2020, sunday eye, indian express news Normally, the Taj gets between 20,000 and 30,000 visitors a day. Now, the number is capped at 5,000.

Until March 17 this year, the one-kilometre-long road known as Tajganj, which stretches between the Taj Mahal and the Shilpgram car parking would be swarming with people. As crowds of mobile camera-wielding tourists made their way towards India’s most popular attraction, they would be accosted by guides, photographers and hawkers. Owners of souvenir shops would stand by the road, soliciting customers, and every café promised the best rooftop view of the white marble monument which has serenely watched over the city for 400 years.


Here comes the sun: The magical hours of dawn and sunrise

eye 2020, sunday eye, indian express news Twilight raga: A whole orchestra of birds performs at sunrise. (Photo: Ranjit Lal)

Every dawn is magical and it doesn’t matter where you are — the city, the countryside, a forest, the mountains, a beach or on the banks of a lake or river. It is more magical than sunset and dusk simply because, now, the world is waking up afresh, brand new and distilled, and not shutting tiredly down for the night.

I remember the sunrises in Mumbai: our home overlooked the whole of central and east Mumbai and the first blue-grey of the sky would gradually lighten to pearl grey and pink. Below us, the great city would stir — people’s voices floated up from the tenements at the base of the hill, drowsy but scrubbed schoolchildren clustered at their bus stops as the sun heaved itself up, turning blinding gold. If you were on the beach (facing west), you’d see the first peach-gold rays set fire to the frothy white wave tops as the fishermen pushed their heavy boats out or brought them in (depending on the conditions), the women and kids waiting quietly on the beach. As the sky lightened from a deep Prussian to powder blue, the sun would shoot its rays through the coconut groves, lighting up the beach, which was still deserted for miles. All too soon, you’d feel the first trickle of sweat down your back and begin heading home.


Why S Jaishankar praises the Non-Aligned Movement and seems nostalgic about a time when there was consensus on Indian foreign policy

eye 2020, sunday eye, indian express news After Henry Kissinger, the current External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar is the only diplomat in my recollection to have written a book for the people.

The vast majority of diplomats write books for other diplomats. With a felicity acquired from writing cipher telegrams in their careers, they make it appear that sharing their experiences in awe-inspiring chancelleries is an act of generosity towards the larger strategic community.

After Henry Kissinger, the current External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar is the only diplomat in my recollection to have written a book for the people. In The India Way: Strategies for an Uncertain World, the author admits as much, probably without realising that such an exercise is a rare milestone in writing on international affairs. “This is an effort to contribute to that endeavour, encouraging an honest conversation among Indians, without discouraging the world from eavesdropping.” In doing so, Jaishankar dramatically recalls a scene from the Satyajit Ray film, Shatranj ke Khilari (1977), where two aristocrats are playing chess, blissfully unconcerned that their kingdom in Awadh is being steadily overrun by forces of the British East India Company.


What was the Parveen Babi story: celebrityhood, influential men, downward spiral, lonely end

Parveen Babis's story, the story of Parveen Babi, Parveen Babi biography, eye 2020, sunday eye, indian express news The book on Parveen Babi has come at a time when the enormous burden of celebrity-hood is under the scanner following the death by suicide of another Bollywood actor, Sushant Singh Rajput. (Express archive photo)

In July 1976, a TIME magazine cover created ripples in India. Gracing it was an up-and-coming Hindi film actor, resplendent in a pearl-festooned bustier, her sleek jet-black hair framing a face that audiences in India were just beginning to recognise. It was Parveen Babi, who along with her contemporary Zeenat Aman, redefined the Hindi film heroine. Unlike the conventional goody-two-shoes leading ladies that the industry had been used to, the “westernised” Babi smoked openly, led a bohemian lifestyle, and admitted to having lovers. Being free, frank and open, the gossip press couldn’t have enough of her, and she was never far from the headlines.


PA Nazareth’s autobiography is a rare glimpse into Indian foreign service’s early years and its steady transformation since 

PA Nazareth’s autobiography, PA Nazareth, who is PA Nazareth, indian foreign service, sunday eye, eye 2020, indianexpress, A Ringside Seat to History book, There are several memorable anecdotes in the autobiography.

The profession of diplomacy is all about multi-tasking and crisis management. A diplomat has to be like Janus, too. He has to engage with foreign interlocutors with widely differing temperaments. But interfacing with the high and low of his own motherland may often require more diplomatic finesse than when serving abroad. It is this complex challenge that is reflected in Alan Narazeth’s immensely readable autobiography, A Ringside Seat to History. He has interwoven a narrative of personal and professional encounters with humour, pathos and an abiding faith in a larger humanity. Most of us in the foreign service end up as cynical creatures with a deep scepticism about the human condition. There is not even a single strand of cynicism in the author’s recounting of history he has been witness to and, indeed, been a participant in.


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