Retrograde. Bamboozlement! More Bamboozlement!

Satyajit Ray’s Agantuk for Kupa Mondoks

 Poster of Agantuk (The Stranger), 1991 designed by Satyajit RayAgantuk (The Stranger), 1991 directed by Satyajit Ray

I really enjoyed watching the movie.

In a way, the film was reflective of the attitude of knowledge worship among Bengali middle class of his era. On one hand, there are people who use knowledge as a utility, a tool, and a social propellant; and on the other hand, we have the fascinating character played brilliantly by Uttpal Dutt who knows it all but is he is after the family Money, is what people around him wonder, but it seem so strange. What does he really want? Thoughts of the family member and by now the viewer: He truly is The Stranger

Satyajit Ray managed to weave an eclectic web of philosophical meanderings, discourse on culture, society et al into the story, stired it up like steaming sweet tea and then served it in a Bangla Adda teeming with characters who love talking.
And he managed to pull it off. Fascinating!

Mamata Shankar was great. The scene towards the end of the movie, when she dances with people from local tribe, is brought alive by her dancing. Smart me at first thought that the scene could have been edited a bit but then slowly with the rising drumbeats, the screen comes alive.
Makes you wanna sit in front of the screen like a Kupa Mondok


For fans of Sukumar Ray, a Poem of Sukumar Ray translated by Satyajit Ray
Enjoy some Nonsense


Poster of movie Agantuk designed by Satyajit Ray
Found it at an insightful page maintained by
Ray Film and Study Collection


A version on this post appeared as a comment at PFC post about Agantuk by RK
and another appeared as a comment at another post of mine about India and Oscars

Urdu Poets and Dilli: Love, Longing and Loathing

Photograph of Mir Taqi Mir
Mir Taqi Mir (1723-1810) born in Agra but raised at Delhi. When Delhi was savaged by Ahmad Shah Abdali of Persia, Meer left for Lucknow. There he took the patronage of Asafuddowla of Lucknow.
A poem that he recited as areply to the bantering of the elites of Lucknow mocking his battered condition:
'Kiya bood u baash poocho ho poorab kai saakino
hum ko gareeb jaan kai huns huns pukaar kai
Dilli jo aik shahar tha aalam mai intikhaab
rahtay thay hee jahaan muntakhib roozgaar kay
us ko falak nai loot kay weeraan kar diya
hum rahnay waalay hain usee ujray dayaar kai'.
Ye the residents of the east what are you mocking at to know about my where abouts and my origin/ finding me poor addressing me mockingly/ once there was a city of Delhi a select place of the world/where only the chosen professionals lived/ the heavens have looted it to make it a desolate place/I am the resident of that devastated land.

Some other lines of Mir about Dilli

Dilli mein bahut sakhat ki ab ke guzraan―dil ko kar sung,
Ghairat na rahi aaqbat kaar ne shaan―Khencha yeh nung;
Yaaron mein na tha koi murawat jo kare, ―ujre the ghar,
Taa hadd-e-nazar saaf pare the maidaan―arsa tha tung.
A hard time I spent in Delhi―stiffening my heart to stone,
No honour, no grace, no glory―ignominy untoned;
I did not have a friend to counsel or console ―desolate every home;
Barren wastes stared in the face, I felt benumbed―weary and forlorn.

Kuch mauj-e-hawa pechaan, ai Mir nazar aai,
Shaaid ke bahaar aai, zanjeer nazar aai,
Dilli ke na the kuche, auraaq-e-musawwar the,
Jo shakal nazar aai, tasveer nazar aai.

I have sighted, Mir, some swirling whiffs of breeze,
Perhaps the spring arrives, the chain beckons to me,
Winsomewere the streets of Delhi, like a work of art,
Every figure that I met was a masterpiece

Some more lines of Mir that use Dilli as a metaphor

Dil va Dilli dono agar hai kharaab; Pa kuch lutf us ujde ghar mein bhi hain

(Both heart and Delhi may have been worn out, But some little pleasures still remain in this ruined house).

Dil ki basti bhi shehar dilli hai; Jo bhi guzra usee ne loota.

(Delhi alone is a city of love; all those that have passed through have looted it)

Photograph of Khwaja Mir Dard
Khwaja Mir Dard

Dard’s spritual diaries, as we may call his Four Risalas, only rarely speak of the afflictions which his hometown had to undergo almost every year. His friend Mir compared Delhi to a colorful picture-book full of miniatures, which are now faded; Dard, in turn, said in a quatrain with clever puns, written according to the sequence of the book shortly after 1190/1776:
Delhi, which time has now devastated:
Tears are flowing now instead of its rivers.
This town had been like the face of the lovely,
And its suburbs like the down of the beloved ones!

The blessed town of Delhi,in which is the burial garden of the ‘Qibla of the Worlds’ and which God may keep cultivated until resurrection was a wonderful rosegarden, but has now been trampled down by the autumn of events of time.[…]

-Pain and Grace: A study of two Mystical Writers of Eighteenth-Century Muslim India
By Annemarie Schimmel

Photograph of Zauq
Ahl-e-jauhar ko watan mein rahne deta gar falak,
Laal kyon is rung se aataa Badakhshaan chhor kar,
In dinon garche Dakan mein hai bari qadar-e-sakhun,
Kaun jaane Zauq par Dilli ki galiyan chhor kar
Could talent live at home and thrive,
Why should the badakhshaan-ruby thus wander world wide?
Albeit in Deccan, Zauq, the Muse commands respect,
Who would quit the lanes of Delhi, and suffer exile?

Sketch of Ghalib

hai ab is mamure mein qaht-e gham-e ulfat asad
ham ne yih mana kih dilli mein rahe khavenge kya

There is now in this town a famine of the grief of love, Asad
We've agreed that we would remain in Delhi-- what will we eat?


Ghulam Hamdani Mushafi (1725-1824) belonged to a distinguished family of Amroha. He lived at Lucknow at first, then went to Delhi where he held famous literary reunions, at which many poets gathered. This is what he had to say about women of Dilli:

“Ey Mushafi! Na inse kabhi jee lagayiye, Zaalim ghazab ki hoti hain yeh dilli waliyan.”

(Oh Mushafi! Do not fall for these, miraculously cruel are the maidens of Delhi)


* Translation from by KC Kanda, Masterpieces Of Urdu Rubaiyat

+ An article, The Literary Heritage of Urdu: More Than a Language of Love and the Beloved
by Syed Maqsud Jamil

++Found the Translation at quizfan

Japanese Jungle Book on Doordashan, it was

Jungle Book Comic
Jungle Jungle baat chali hai pata chala hai, aarey chaddi pahan ke phool khila hai phool khila ha)
Ek parinda tha sharminda, tha woh nangaa, aarey aisay to andey ke ander tha vo changaa
Sooch raha hai bahar akhir kyo nikla hai
Aarey chaddi pahan ke phol khila hai phool khila hai
Jungle Jungle pata chala hai, chaddi pahan ke phool khila hai
Jungle Jungle pata chala hai, chaddi pahan ke phool khila hai

- The famous title song of Jungle Book, a cartoon series shown on Indian National channel – Doordarshan, in early nineties.

Most people in India remember Jungle book as a delightful cartoon series that was made popular by a memorable title song composed by famous lyricist Gulzar and set to music by musical genius Vishal Bharadwaj (at that time he was a budding musician, and is now a critically acclaimed film director).

In a previous post about another anime series Taro Ek Dragon Ka Beta, I claimed that Taro was the series that introduced Japanese animation to India. I was wrong.

A closer look at Mowgli’s mug shot made me suspicion, it was typical Japanese animation work, and it was so obvious, his long flowing side burns pinned down the series origin to Japan.
As it turns out the cartoon series shown in India was not Disney work but in fact was Japanese series Jungle Book Shonen Mowgli that was first aired in 1989.

Besides Hindi, the series was translated to Arabic as Fatah El Adghal: Boy Of The Jungle and also to German language as "Das Dschungelbuch (Jungle Book Shonen Mowgli)".
While searching for more information about the series, it turned out that another popular cartoon series shown in India in the '90s , Alice in Wonderland, was also of Japanese origin. This series originated in 1983 in Japan. The series became popular in India again thanks top great work by Gulzar and Vishal Bharadwaj. This time Gulzar gave us the lines:
tap tap topi topi tap..
tap tap topi topi tap..

tap tap topi topi tope me jo doobe
far far farmaishi dekhe hain ajoobe
ulat palat galat salat thaain
jhubali jhinak jhaain

tap tap topi topi tope me jo doobe
far far farmaishi dekhe hain ajoobe
ulat palat galat salat thaain
jhubali jhinak jhaain

tap tap topi topi tap..
tap tap topi topi tap..

Both these wonderful series were products of Nippon Animation Studio

I was wrong about Taro being the first Japanese animation series shown in India, but as it turns out, Dragon ka Beta Taro was the oldest of the three anime series as it’s year of origin is 1979. Curiously, it seems these memorable series were shown in India in reverse order of their year of origin - first Jungle Book(1989), then Alice in Wonderland(1983 ) and lastly Taro the Dragon Boy(1979).

Download Jungle Jungle Baat Chali Hai

(772Kb, .mp3)
A big thanks to
Pavan Jha at Hamaraforums for remembering the complete lyrics of the wonderful songs.
One can find Tap tap topi topi at the forum after a bit of searching and registering.

Bandar Log

‘We pretended to be real, to be learning, to be preparing ourselves for life, we mimic men of the New World’

- Ralph Singh narrator of V. S. Naipaul’s The Mimic Men

Road-Song of the Bandar-Log

by Rudyard Kipling

Here we go in a flung festoon,
Half-way up to the jealous moon!
Don't you envy our pranceful bands?
Don't you wish you had extra hands?
Wouldn't you like if your tails were--so--
Curved in the shape of a Cupid's bow?
Now you're angry, but--never mind,
Brother, thy tail hangs down behind!

Here we sit in a branchy row,
Thinking of beautiful things we know;
Dreaming of deeds that we mean to do,
All complete, in a minute or two--
Something noble and wise and good,
Done by merely wishing we could.
We've forgotten, but--never mind,
Brother, thy tail hangs down behind!

All the talk we ever have heard
Uttered by bat or beast or bird--
Hide or fin or scale or feather--
Jabber it quickly and all together!
Excellent! Wonderful! Once again!

Now we are talking just like men!
Let's pretend we are ... never mind,
Brother, thy tail hangs down behind!
This is the way of the Monkey-kind.

Then join our leaping lines that scumfish through the pines,
That rocket by where, light and high, the wild grape swings.
By the rubbish in our wake, and the noble noise we make,
Be sure, be sure, we're going to do some splendid things!
.In introduction to his book To Live or Not To Live, Nirad C Chaudhuri tells us Kipling’s inspiration for Bandar log:

But no great Bengali in the nineteenth century hesitated to pay the price in obloquy to discharge his duty of criticism. This is most striking in the creator of the new Hindu conservatism, Bankim Chandra Chatterji. In many ways he was the most devastating critic of his people, and , all the more so, because he could not suffer fools gladly.
Everybody knows whom Kipling had in mind when he made the monkeys in The Jungle Book say, “What the Bandar Log think today, the jungle thinks tomorrow,” or when he added that the bandar were always talking of what great things they were going to do, but forgot all about then when the next fancy diverted their attention. But the strange thing is that many years before the publication of Kipling’s story, the same idea had occurred to Bankim Chandra Chatterji. He described the Bengali people as a set of monkeys eaten up with rancour against the English, who were shown as tigers.
Suggested read-

Essay: In the Waiting-Room of History By Amit Chaudhuri , published in London Review of Books.

Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book online

Missing Children in Popular Hindi Cinema

I believe it was Nirad Chaudhuri who said something to the effect: Children in India grow old as soon as they are born. Depiction of children in Indian Cinema is just an illustration.

Remember the countless Hindi movies― old and new― with perverse logic of young children singing ‘Kya hua tera wada’ or ‘Bachpan ke din bula na dena’, Son of India conducting intimate monologues with God and singing ‘Nanha munna rahi hu’. Young Bootpolish wallay bachay are asked ‘nanhe munne bacche teri mutthi may kya hai’and wisely they reply ‘Mutthi may hai taqdeer hamari’.

Angry youngling with ‘Mera Baap Chor hai’ tattoo gets angry with God in another movie and in a frothy dialogue declares self to be a Nastik, just as the opening credits start to roll. In another movie he pulls a cart carrying his dead father, recently butchered by a mob, all the way to the shamshan ghat. In another movie, he is a beedi smoking foul mouth young would be krantiveer, he is a son of an ex-freedom fighter.

The lineage of ‘wise-beyond- their age’ children in this land can be traced back to time when children here first started to be told stories. Should we blame storytellers who told us about Nachiketa, gods who told us about Prahlada and Puranas that told us about Dhruv. Whom should we blame for telling us about Herculean adventures of Bal Krishna.

Notice the missing girl child. Talk about Cinematical Gendercide! She is playing with gudda guddi, playing the ever hungry, ill but dotting sister and she is the rich future love interest of the poor kid. She is the young gopi Radha, forlorn yet worshipped.
Young children have fought it all seen it all, creation of nations, fought devils and gods, brandished swords and guns, resisted evil aunties and uncles, indifferent parents

Children in popular Hindi cinema are in essence miniature men/woman, children pretending to be adults, and brought to life by adults pretending to be children. Children with adult gloom.

Reminds of lines of Matthew Arnold on the gipsy child that I read in Nirac C Chaudhuri’s To Live or Not To Live:
“Glooms that go deep as thine
I have not known:
Moods of fantastic sadness,
Nothing worth.
Thy sorrow and thy calmness
Are thine own:
Glooms that enhance and
Glorify the earth.”
“Enhanced and Glorified”, the weird ambiguous twilight world of popular Hindi Cinema, these children, these mini men and women, certainly have.

Related post:
Santosh Sivan's Tahaan

City That Does Not Sleep

Last year ended with me flying in a plane for the first time in life.
As the plane was seeking higher elevation, on its way to the invisible pathway guided by some Einsteinian equation, I looked out of the window and saw the city I live in. The high roads, brightly lit at geometric intervals by yellow sodium vapour street lights, look like one giant incandescent caterpillar keeping guard of its billion glowing eggs and feeding its tiny crawling larvae.

At four past midnight into the start of this year, I found myself walking all alone on some unknown dimly lit road, with a plastic Bisleri Bottle in hand, somewhere on the outskirts of the city of Panjim in Goa, looking for an open petrol pump.


City That Does Not Sleep

         By Federico García Lorca

In the sky there is nobody asleep. Nobody, nobody.

Nobody is asleep.

The creatures of the moon sniff and prowl about their cabins.

The living iguanas will come and bite the men who do not dream,

and the man who rushes out with his spirit broken will meet on the

street corner

the unbelievable alligator quiet beneath the tender protest of the


Nobody is asleep on earth. Nobody, nobody.

Nobody is asleep.

In a graveyard far off there is a corpse

who has moaned for three years

because of a dry countryside on his knee;

and that boy they buried this morning cried so much

it was necessary to call out the dogs to keep him quiet.

Life is not a dream. Careful! Careful! Careful!

We fall down the stairs in order to eat the moist earth

or we climb to the knife edge of the snow with the voices of the dead


But forgetfulness does not exist, dreams do not exist;

flesh exists. Kisses tie our mouths

in a thicket of new veins,

and whoever his pain pains will feel that pain forever

and whoever is afraid of death will carry it on his shoulders.

One day

the horses will live in the saloons

and the enraged ants

will throw themselves on the yellow skies that take refuge in the

eyes of cows.

Another day

we will watch the preserved butterflies rise from the dead

and still walking through a country of gray sponges and silent boats

we will watch our ring flash and roses spring from our tongue.

Careful! Be careful! Be careful!

The men who still have marks of the claw and the thunderstorm,

and that boy who cries because he has never heard of the invention

of the bridge,

or that dead man who possesses now only his head and a shoe,

we must carry them to the wall where the iguanas and the snakes

are waiting,

where the bear's teeth are waiting,

where the mummified hand of the boy is waiting,

and the hair of the camel stands on end with a violent blue shudder.

Nobody is sleeping in the sky. Nobody, nobody.

Nobody is sleeping.

If someone does close his eyes,

a whip, boys, a whip!

Let there be a landscape of open eyes

and bitter wounds on fire.

No one is sleeping in this world. No one, no one.

I have said it before.

No one is sleeping.

But if someone grows too much moss on his temples during the


open the stage trapdoors so he can see in the moonlight

the lying goblets, and the poison, and the skull of the theaters.

By Federico García Lorca, translated and edited by Robert Bly, and published by Beacon Press in Selected Poems: Lorca and Jiménez. © 1973 by Robert Bly.
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