Bhrigu's question

कभी जो याद भी आता हूँ मैं तो कहते हैं के आज बज़्म में कुछ फ़ित्ना-ओ-फ़साद नहीं - मिर्ज़ा ग़ालिब

Location: the valley, California, United States

Bay Area, Strategy Manager, Haas- U. C. Berkeley, Marathons

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Oscar trivia: Not fair to the lady

The role of Eliza Doolittle was played by Julie Andrews in the Broadway version of My Fair Lady. Andrews sang her own songs quite brilliantly.

However, Andrews had only one musical to her credit back then. Jack Warner, who wanted to make a film version of the musical, needed a famous star to portray that role and therefore, settled on Audrey Hebpurn. She was led to believe that she would sing her own songs and trained for months to perfect her singing – in fact, she was filmed while singing her own songs. Unfortunately, Warner never intended to display her singing talents. He had a soprano Marni Nixon (uncredited) dub for her. [Trivia: Nixon played the role of sister Sophia in The Sound of Music.]

The film was nominated for 12 Academy Awards in 1964 and ended up winning eight of them. Hepburn was not even nominated – it was apparently argued that she couldn’t be, since she did not sing her own songs.

The award for best actress in a leading role in 1964 went to an actress who actually sang her own songs in the film ‘Mary Poppins’.

Her name was Julie Andrews.

Listen to Andrews, Hepburn and Marni Nixon singing Wouldn't it be loverly from My Fair Lady. Scroll down to the bottom of that webpage.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Down memory lane: Illustrated Weekly - I

This is an article I dug up from an Illustrated Weekly of India issue dated July 5, 1970. It's a real pity that I cannot post the rib-tickling Mario Miranda cartoons that went along with it. Enjoy.

Sketches by Mario.

The Executors and Beneficiaries named in the Last Will and Testament of the British Raj are the Brown Sahebs. More than the Administrative Service, more than the Railways, more even than the much maligned educational system, they are the truest evidence that Queen Victoria reigned here. The Brown Saheb is the Deputy left behind to keep the Union Jack flying, to remind a forgetful world that Britannia once ruled the waves. And how! The Deputy Sah'b lives in an island of colonialism, as stolid as the Rock of Gibraltar, untouched by the lashing wavelets of petty democracy.

In the "propah" tradition of the British upper classes. the Wogs (Westernized Oriental Gentlemen) have turned to politics or the I.A.S Or they are the Sandhurst-trained army types, with walrus moustachios ready to defend the motherland. (God Save the Gracious Queen). After Independance, this bulldog breed from the Raj kennels had to get about barking in the native language. It wasn't easy. To wit, the speech ascribed to a very "seniah general" delivered to the jawans on August 15, 1947: "Aaj hum sab muft ho gaya." Or again, the Brown Saheb who tried his Hindustani on his black batman. "Kitna baja?"(What is the time?), he asked. The man replied, "Nau (nine) baja sah'b." Unfamiliar with the naunces, the BS flared up, "It can't be no baja, it must be some bloody baja!"

To recuperate from such ordeals and escape from the sweltering heat of "these Indian summers" the Wog goes on a Grand Tour of the Continent or back "home". Unfortunately, finances, and the Reserve bank deprive many of such a "furlough" and England has become a "Nevah Nevah Land".

In the good old days of the Raj, the Brown Saheb, Black Knight and Off-white Blimp had done very well for themselves. The Ceylonese journalist, Tarzie Vittachi, shows what a good job the British had done of turning them into made-over Englishmen. "They spoke English - some of them impeccably; they behaved as they thought a well bred Englishman should behave. They ate like the English - bacon and eggs if they could afford it, and a "course" for dinner. A few of them went so far as dressing for dinner, even in the wilderness, like a pucca Saheb. Their values were borrowed from English public schools (vitae lampada and all that sort of thing), their tastes and habits were English and it was quite possible that even their dreams had English sub-titles". Even today, to quote Mr Vittachi again, "Eve's Weekly Society (Eve's Weekly is the Indian counter-part of the Tattler) in Bombay, Calcutta and Delhi still regards an Oxford or Cambridge degree as the peak of civilised education for the sons of Free India."

In a crowd, the Brown Saheb stands out like a bandaged nose. You can't miss him. He will be wearing a three-piece suit - the last button of the waistcoat undone, naturally - and proclaiming in almost Oxbridgian accents, "'Ponky' Banerjea and I were chummy at Cambridge" . Pardon me, sir, your desi slip is showing. But the chances are, you won't find him in a "sticky, sweaty native crowd". He dwells in the rarefied atmosphere of The Club. In Calcutta's Bengal Club or Delhi's Gymkhana, you can quite forget that India gained independence 23 years ago. Into this bastion of feudalism the BS steps every vening. For a "spot of billiards" or a chhota peg. "Make it a very small choter, will you please, James? No bigga than a Lal Bahadur." Nouveau riche Indians may strut about acting as though they owned the world. The Brown Saheb act as though he couldn't care who owned it.

The sad fact is that the Brown Saheb has the mental calibre and the educational background to change Indian conditions for the better. Instead of doing so, he spends his hours criticising all things Indian and detaching himself from the country's realities and problems. From his position - and it is a position of power - he will demand that others strive to be Indian all the way. He'll insist that Clive street be called Netaji Subhas Road. Yet, he will buy, at any price, a British public school education for his children. Since it can't be Eton or Harrow, ersatz sah'blings have to make do with Doon, Rajkumar, Lawrence or Bishop Cotton. There are less hypocritical brown sahebs, too, who are British in public and in private. Brown Sahebs, who think, feel, swear, dream and buy British. Picture him now sitting in his smoking jacket, mulling over his brandy reading the Times (of London) or grunting over what he has heard appeared in the Times (of India). "I tell you, B. N., old chap, what these bloody dhotiwallahs need is some buckshot in their backsides. What?"

Buckshot reminds me of another club in Delhi, this one solely devoted to maintaining the hoary British tradition - the Fox Hunt. "Where to get a fox, dammit all? Jackal ko chase karenge." So there are all these gentlemen, chiefly bearded and turbaned Sardarji's, in crimson jackets and baggy pantaloons, spurring their horses onwards and crying "Tali-Ho!" Ranjit Singh never led his men to battle with greater fervour! Post-hunt traditions are strictly observed. Right down to drinking Bristol Cream sherry and sticking a piece of the "brush" (the fox's , sorry, jackal's tail) into the folds of the turban.

Typical Hunt Club conversation goes something like this:

Harry Singh: "I'm engaged"
Billy Singh: "To a girl?"
H.S : " To be sure"
B.S : "What's her name?"
H.S : "Lolly Singh-Roy."
B.S : "Does she hunt?"
H.S : "To be sure."

etc. etc.

Bird watching is as much an adopted and adapted pastime. However, unlike his white mentor, the Brown Saheb cannot write a letter to the Times, when he spots the first cuckoo which heralds the coming of Spring. He has to make do with the Monsoon Bird. At seven in the evening the Brown Saheb goes upstairs. The Khidmatgar has laid out his clothes. He bathes, dresses for dinner and as the gong echoes, through the halls, the BS descends the carpeted stairs in an aura of Old Spice (not the locally made one).

Holy Cow!

In food his tastes are studiously cultivated. He eats roast beef and two ve. with great relish. His concience is unruffled since it is not the flesh of your holy cow. It is Australian beef which does not really come in the forbidden category. But oft betimes the craving for our chatpatta
delicacies overpowers him. He then drives down to the kabawalla and exorcises his guilt by saying, "It's mahvellous to go slumming, what?" At traditional public dinners which he occasionally graces with his prescence , he and his memsahib will insist on using a fork and a knife, slicing through the banana leaf and - greatly to their chagrin - leaving rivulets of gravy on the tablecloth.

The Brown Saheb and and more than him his mem, will brook only an equally Anglophile "household staff" (including maid, mashalchi and chokra). Only those who have served under the angrez need apply. The first question is whether he can make western food - soup, sucklings and and that white, gooey gastronomical understatement which the English dare to call a sauce". In this "castle" only the butler may answer the door or the telephone. Peter was one such family retainer, the quintessence of obsequiousness " yes madam, I shall tell madam, you called madam. Is there any message for madam? Thank you, madam. Goodbye, madam." In our younger days we telephoned Uncle Jimmy's house just for the pleasure of listening to Peter.

Peter, John, Solomon, or Sammy (he was Swamy when he played among the palm fronds and the backwaters) is less Jeeves than Uncle Tom. Tucked away in his black heart is a special corner for the Saheb, Memsaheb and most of all for the little Missybaba. As he serves her stiffly from the left, and watches her throw down her bread and butter "putten" in a tantrum, a loving gleam brightens his dimming eye. "What a marvelously temperamental, deliciously fastidious, mistress she will make to some other lucky, lucky table 'boy", he muses with envy.

One more thing. The servant speaks perfectly good Hindustani (unless he's the Alphonso Gama type), the master speaks perfectly good Hindustani, but no exchange of conversation between them can dare to be in that "heathen" lingo. If such a slip were made at table, oh! horror of horrors, the French fries would crumble to ashes and digestive tracts curl up and die.

The Brown Sahebs babalog go to public schools where they wear caps and striped ties ( the tie is Very important, it is the bond of a lifetime), learn latin, play cricket and eat Irish stew. They get their facts of Indian history from S.Reed Brett. Esq., who dwells in great and gory detailover, the Black Hole of Calcutta. Jalianwalla Bagh? Never heard of it.

The Mind of the BS

A colonel in the army was exchanging banter over a drink with Tarzie Vittachi at a Club. Suddenly he switched off the banter and asked him to explain why he had criticised, in his newspaper column, a statement which had been made by the Governor-General. Vittachi replied that if the Governor-General made public statements on public policy he must expect public reaction and criticism.

"Nonsense" replied the colonel. "H.E., is the H.M's representative here. The Sovereign is sacrosanct, old boy, sacrosanct. Can't possibly do wrong. Must nevah be criticised. Nevah.."

The journalist retaliated, "Ever heard what Cromwell did to King Charles? "Cromwell?" bawled the Colonel, "Cromwell? The common feller! Don't evah mention his name to me again!"

Was the Colonel serious or was this tongue in cheek badinage? In either case it gives a clue to the mental processes of the Brown Sahebs, and shows the uncanny way in which people whom live in borrowed culture often go extremes that their models and mentors had never intended.

Another illustration. Among the first families of old Lucknow there lived a Chocolate Cream Saheb. When his fellow Muslims came to wish him Id Mubarak one year, he replied with gracious charm, "Aaj tum sab Mussalman log ka bara din hai!"

Bara din (Christmas) and New Year are the Wog's only festivals. But try as he might the Brown Saheb - and the Off- white Blimp - cannot abandon himself to rollicking gaiety. Blood will out and his inhibitions will not leave him alone. it is pathetic to see him desperately trying to let himself go - dancing in the ballroom, drinking champagne, singing Auld Lang Syne, wearing a paper hat, horsing around - and all the while really, feeling very very silly. Such is the schizophrenia of the Brown Saheb.

Whether the climate favors it or not, the Wog must have his two pegs a little after sundown every evening, the faithful Rover dozing at his feet. Without the scotch the evening would languish and wit decay. But there is a difference. our friend cannot say, "Bottoms Up" without blushing 'neath his beard. So he toasts with a "God bless ji" or even "Sat Sri Akal".

The Brown Saheb can be distinguished as much by his Hobson Jobson speech and name as by his interior decor. His drawing room must have Victorian geegaws, overstuffed armchairs, and brass-potted money plants. He'd rather have prints of European masters than Indian originals, and the most oriental will be a Gaugin reproduction. He prides himself on the fact that he has bathroom for every bedroom and his status symbol is the bidet thunderbox") in every bathroom.
For him the essence of syntax are, By Jingo! What ho! Tickety boo! and as a magnanimous concession to his nativity, he says, "Tik ai" (not theek hai) and "cuppa cha". A Brown Saheb never goes to bed, he goes "charpoy bashing"; he never looks at anything, he has a "dekko". His name may have been Ananda, he's now Andy: Shri Kapur has translated himself to Mr Camphor. A Ganpat of my acquaintance is known only as Pat; Shri Krishna Rao went onto Chris and thence to Christopher. And Madhusudhan returned from vilayat as Mr Marsden.

I Hate Indians!

Some Wogs, don't stop at silver fish knives, French wines, kissing ladies hands and loathing Indians. They even pose for magazine covers dressed up more like Noyes' Highwayman than Goldsmith's English Squire... Newest of the breed and therefore lowest in the heirarchy is the boxwalla - the Company executive. The army type and the I.A.S. man look down their collective noses at him because he is in the trades, no more than a glorified saleman. This specimen is easily identifiable. He never wears his coat. His jacket as he prefers to call it, is slung with careful carelessness over his arm or, even more nonchalantly, over his terrene clad shoulder. Also, he is impressed by America: Note his shirt-sleeves which your true blue Brown Saheb "wouldn't be seen dead in". One such boxwalla was Chingleput Kuppuswamy Vaidyalingam. In his small town "native place" we called him Veedy. Then he moved out and learnt a little more of the world and its wicked wicked ways. I heard he's abandoned his earlier diminutive is now called Kim. Another "buddy" of ours was Harikesanullur Anantsubhramanyan Parameshwaran. He is "Parry" to his friends. His accent is cultivated haw-haw interspersed with Yankee slang.

When he interrupts in conversation, he never says, "Excuse me".
He says, "Just a mo, old boy, I beg to diffah." His office ends at 5.30. He never comes home before 7, and always with his collar undone and his tie askew: " I was with the G.M." When you ask for him on the phone, his secretary will purr, "Mr Parameshwaran is at a conference", even if he's just gone "round the corner". A phone call at home in the same circumstances evokes a different if more honest response, "He's in the bathroom."

The boxwalla, is only the first generation Saheb, you must remember. You cannot expect his family to have all his fancy airs. For this reason too his life has many incongruities. He refers to his father as the "Guvnor", even though appa wears a dhoti, a sacred thread and a kudumi atop his head.

Most contemptous of the boxwallah and more errant than the Brown Saheb is the Black Knight. He is royallar than the royals, more "puccah" than the ruddiest British Major. He may have become an anachronism, but he has lost none of his arrogance. To watch Sir Hiren in action is the sight to delight the most fastidious Chief of Protocol. Mark the delicate lift of the eyebrow, that aristocratic sneer and now that faintest suggestion of a smile of recognition. See the untitled bow an scrape and fawn.

The drapes are drawn and darkness has begun to descend on the already twilight world of the brown saheb. He has lost his zamindary and the sun has set on his empire as well. Now, all he has to cling on to is his snobbery, his chhota hazri, his old school tie and a yellowing souvenir of Swan Lake at Covent Gardens.


Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Too much prejudice

Some months back, V. S. Naipaul was asked by a journalist, whether India was becoming too materialistic. Naipaul snarled back, “Yes, the poor need it!”

Chadda and her husband Paul Berges have written what they probably assumed to be a clever piece of dialogue in Bride and Prejudice. Aishwarya Rai in a fit of fury – while enjoying the luxury of five star comfort in Goa – lambasts Darcy for trying to buy a luxury resort there.

In a typical exhibition of middle class left-wingism, she scorns FDI (foreign direct investment) for unexplained reasons. What is worse, is that the gent being lambasted - for desiring to invest in India, no less – does not have an adequate zinger. Lalitha's is the same kind of elitist thinking that made some Indians assemble in Mumbai for another one of those irrelevant get-togethers last year, the pompously named, ‘World Social Forum' – where they protested the presence of multinationals in India.

If only Chadda had read up on Naipaul. If only Darcy had read up on his Bhagwati.

By the way, the film is a piece of trash. Give it a miss.

Empire of the Air

This is in response to a comment in Yazad's blog. The comment quotes an article that has the following quote:

When FM was invented, the established AM broadcasters had the FCC suppress it, delaying its widespread use by decades.

It was David Sarnoff, of MCA who suppressed the technology, since it would destroy his AM dominance. So much so, that his former best friend Armstrong sued him for violating patent rights, had a long drawn out court battle and committed suicide. FM was invented one year before the FCC was established.

This case is taught in ethics classes (in MBA programs) about the types of personalities that make up the industry: the innovators (Armstrong) and the enterpreneurs (Sarnoff) and how those worlds often collide since their needs are different:- one whose goal in life is creation (and its recognititon) itself and the other who wants to spread it far and wide and make tons of money. Both views are right, but they often end up destroying each other. We're taught that as managers and enterpreneurs in the high-tech industry, we have to make an effort to understand the motivation that drives the inventor.

On hearing about his former's friend's fatal leap from a hotel window, a shocked Sarnoff was quoted as saying: "I didn't kill Armstrong."

For a better perspective on radio, read Empire of the Air - Also see the PBS documentary on the same.

Also see this and this

The other aspects of the Mises article are disheartening. Hate radio (particularly against minority groups) was - quite rightly in my opinion - restricted. Illiberality often finds a market and is ironically, a threat to the free market and all its institutions. Fareed Zakaria has written eloquently on it.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Giriraja Suta not Sudha

Returning back to blogging after a 13 month hiatus. First, errata.

I noticed that quite a few folks were deceived by the cover of the Remember Shakti album, 'Saturday Night in Bombay'.

It is Giriraja Suta Tanaya Sadaya, which means, son of the daughter of the mountains. In other words, Thyagaraja has composed a song on Ganesha, son of Parvati -the daughter of Himavan.

The chap who wrote the album cover of "Saturday Night in Bombay" probably got his info from the atrocious pronunciation of Shankar Mahadevan.