Tag Archives: Tagore

Jana Gana Mana and the Danger of Passing Sentiment as Law

This originally appeared in The Wire

This is clearly the winter of Karan Johar’s discontent. Barely had the controversy over the illegal fine imposed on him by the Mahrashtra Navnirman Sena died down when the ghost of a controversy about his earlier film, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham (K3G), has resurfaced in the form of the mind-boggling order from the Supreme Court making it mandatory for the national anthem to played in cinema halls before the screening of a film:

All the cinema halls in India shall play the National Anthem before the feature film starts and all present in the hall are obliged to stand up to show respect to the National Anthem.

Prior to the National Anthem is played or sung in the cinema hall on the screen, the entry and exit doors shall remain closed so that no one can create any kind of disturbance which will amount to disrespect to the National Anthem. After the National Anthem is played or sung, the doors can be opened.

When the National Anthem shall be played in the Cinema Halls, it shall be with the National Flag on the screen.

The national anthem is “the symbol of the Constitutional Patriotism and inherent national quality”, the judgment says. “It does not allow any different notion or the perception of individual rights, that have individually thought of have no space. (sic) The idea is constitutionally impermissible.”

Continue reading Jana Gana Mana and the Danger of Passing Sentiment as Law

क्या यही प्यार है? कहो, कहो ना…








आजकल दर रोज़ हमें बताया जा रहा है कि हम देश से प्रेम करें, राष्ट्र से भक्ति. बड़े परेशान हैं आज के शासक हमं जैसों की करतूतों से. जोश में आ कर कुछ भी बड़बड़ा देते हैं : कभी आज़ादी की बात करते हैं, कभी काशमीर की. कभी जातिवाद से छुटकारा चाहीए, तो कभी पूँजीवाद से. ऐसा लगता है हम न भक्ति जानते हैं, ना प्रेम. तो चलीए, भक्ति ओर प्यार, राष्ट्र ओर देश: इन चारों संज्ञाओं का विश्लेषण कीया जाए.

पहला प्रस्ताव: भक्ति में मिला हुआ है डर; प्यार के साथ चलती है रज़ामंदी.

प्यार मासूम नहीं होता. बच्चे प्यार ज़रूर करते हैं, पर प्यार बड़ों का खेल है. प्यार करना जोखिम भरा काम है दोस्त. ख़तरे की खाई है प्यार. क्योंकि डर लगता है कि जिससे हम प्यार करते हैं, वह हम से फ़क़त दोस्ती जताना चाहता है. “Let’s just be friends.”है इस वाक्य से बड़कर कोई अनर्थ? किसी नौजवान से पूछिए जिसने काँपते हाँथों से Valentine’s card दीया, ओर वापस मिला,”Thanks.” हँसी तो फँसी नहीं, हँसी तो भंग आशाओं की शिखंडी कलेजी में घुसी. पर होता है दोस्त. होता है. क़बूल करना पड़ता है. रो कर, हस कर, दोस्तों के साथ मदहोश शाम में पुरानी फ़िल्मों के गाने बेसुरी आवाज़ में रेंक कर, सुन कर, सुना कर. जब बैंड बजती है तो गाना गाओ दोस्त. गोली मार कर प्यार तो करवाया नहीं जा सकता. Continue reading क्या यही प्यार है? कहो, कहो ना…

Break Down the Barriers: Reading Robin T, Bhimrao and the Nation State in JNU

Jai Bhim, Joy Guru, Lal Salaam

Two of the greatest, crazies, most beautiful minds produced by the Indian subcontinent in the Twentieth Century would have been arrested by the police and attacked by the RSS, as ‘Anti-Nationals’, perhaps rightly so, had they been alive today.After all, they never stopped being young.


The Young Ambedkar
The Young Ambedkar

One of them was tall, you know him – the big guy, with  glasses, always dressed to the nines, (no itchy khadi or scratchy khaki would do for him) .

The Young Tagore

The other had long hair and a beard, and even became a contemporary artist in his old age.

The cops, or thugs-in-law of the RSS might even have said “saala JNU ka lagta hai” (looks like this ***** is from JNU).

So, here they are – Bhimrao Ambedkar (Baba Saheb), and Rabindranath Tagore.

Once again, Jai Bhim, Joy Guru. And pass the ammunition.

Continue reading Break Down the Barriers: Reading Robin T, Bhimrao and the Nation State in JNU

A Rickshaw Ride in Kolkata: Waled Aadnan

Guest post by WALED AADNAN

“Amar naam Chatterjee!” My name is Chatterjee! sounds like a proclamation from a fiery leader of the masses at a public rally, but it came from a rickshaw wallah plying his trade in the dusty bylanes of North Calcutta and addressed to no one in particular.

As I sat on his rickshaw, the frail old man launched into an indignant tirade against the ruling political party, whom he branded as a group of turncoats, insisting vehemently and repeatedly to nothing but the evening breeze that he had always been a Congressman.

Yes, he defended, petrol prices have been rising, but surely the bosses in Delhi would admit to that! What is the point of protesting about that in an insignificant meeting of rickshaw wallahs’ union? His tone of uncompromising understanding of world affairs drew me to listen to him, rather than plug in my earphones and switch off the world. Continue reading A Rickshaw Ride in Kolkata: Waled Aadnan

Tagore in film

That is a clip from The Postmaster (the first story in Teen Kanya, directed by Satyajit Ray).

Trisha Gupta on Tagore’s characters, seen better in films than in English translation:

In film after film, we see events through the eyes of the educated Bengali man trying to deal with a world that has either changed too much—or too little. The protagonist is often a young man from the city who arrives at a small provincial outpost, armed with a modern Western education and little else, his head full of glimpses of another world that seem only to succeed in cutting him off from everything around him. Continue reading Tagore in film

Kitne aadmi the? We are all seditious now

Here is a very short, utterly incomplete, hastily compiled list of people charged under Section 124 A in the last two years alone.

Our very own Shuddhabrata Sengupta figures  in this roll of honour.

(Incidentally, KK Shahina, who has guest posted with us, faces charges from the Karnataka Police under IPC 506 for intimidating witnesses. Her expose in Tehelka showed how the police case against Abdul Nasar Madani, head of the People’s Democratic Front (PDP), accused in 2008 Bengaluru blasts, was fragile and based on non-existent and false testimonies.)

There would be hundreds more, not named here, charged with sedition for “criticizing” the government, for exposing corruption and police nexus with mafias, or for expressing views that run counter to official wisdom on the “integrity” of India.

As if “integrity” is something pre-existing and eternal rather than something that has to be produced at every point. The existence of a nation is a daily plebiscite, said even historian Ernst Renan, a staunch supporter of the nation form. Not so Rabindranath Tagore, who was highly suspicious of the “fetish of nationalism”. He called the Nation nothing but the “the organization of politics and commerce” and warned that when this Nation “becomes all-powerful at the cost of the harmony of the higher social life, then it is an evil day for humanity.” (In his lectures on nationalism, published by Rupa and Co. 1994) Continue reading Kitne aadmi the? We are all seditious now

‘The Making of a Modern Indian Artist-Craftsman – Devi Prasad’: Naman Ahuja

This is a guest post by NAMAN AHUJA, who teaches in the School of Art and Aesthetics, JNU and has recently put together this fascinating exhibition that is on in Lalit Kala Academy, Delhi till 21 May

Tempera, Santiniketan / Dehradun, 1944 (painted on the artist's 23rd Birthday)
Horse in a fit
The Making of the Modern Indian Artist-Craftsman is intended to be a biographical and critical insight into the work of the potter, painter and photographer Devi Prasad. Apart from the making of his personal history and his times, it leads us to why the act of making (art) itself takes on such a fundamental philosophical significance in his life. This, I feel, derives directly from his absorption of Gandhi’s philosophy that looked at the act of making or doing as an ethical ideal, and further back to the impact of the Arts and Crafts Movement  on the ideology of ‘Swadeshi’ and on the milieu of Santiniketan.
The exhibition and the accompanying book examine Devi’s art along with his  role in political activism which, although garnered on Indian soil made him crisscross national borders and assume an important role in the international arena  of war resistance. Devi Prasad graduated from Tagore’s Santiniketan in 1944 when he joined the Hindustani Talimi Sangh (which espoused the concept of Nayee Taleem) at Gandhi’s ashram Sevagram as Art ‘Teacher’. His political consciousness saw him participate actively in the Quit India Movement in 1942, in Vinoba Bhave’s Bhoodan and later from 1962 onward as Secretary General (later Chairman) of the War Resisters’ International, the oldest world pacifist organisation based in London. From there he was able to extend his Gandhian values internationally. All of this, while continuing with his life as a prolific artist. Rather than view them as separate worlds or professions, Devi harmonises them within an ethical and conscionable whole. He has written widely on the inextricable link between peace and creativity, on child /basic education, Gandhi and Tagore, on politics and art, in English, Hindi and Bangla. In 2007 he was awarded the Lalit Kala Akademi Ratna and in 2008, the Desikottama by Visva Bharati University, Santiniketan.

Continue reading ‘The Making of a Modern Indian Artist-Craftsman – Devi Prasad’: Naman Ahuja

Durga Puja as a Homecoming Metaphor – Prasanta Chakravarty

(This is a guest post. It was also published in Hindustan Times, October 2, 2008)

Tagore’s short tale Kabuliwallah concludes right in the middle of autumn—saratkaal. Mini’s marriage takes place during the puja holidays, and Rahman’s own Parbati awaits her father’s return in her distant mountain home. Even as Mini prepares to initiate her journey to her in-laws, Rahman, having been released from his own figurative abode-of-the-in-laws, the jail, seeks home afresh in his “… mountains, the glens, and the forests of his distant home, with his cottage in its setting, and the free and independent life of far-away wilds.” Uma’s arche story is reinvented by Tagore and a secret bond is established between two fathers. But such weaving of the puranic akhyan as a homecoming narrative is realized, or used to be realized shall we say, at a different order where home is also a matter of participating in a certain generous spirit during the pujas. The essence of Kabuliwallah lies in basking in such an aura of human generosity. So, the fundamental question to me is whether such a spirit can be glimpsed during the pujas even today without being overly sentimental about it.

Continue reading Durga Puja as a Homecoming Metaphor – Prasanta Chakravarty