Wednesday, September 21, 2005

All the world's a stage

While in New York couple of weeks ago (This sounds like I am a frequent visitor, but it was my first visit), I watched The Phantom of the Opera. Though I missed few words in couple of songs from this musical, I liked the whole experience. This Sunday, I went to see another Broadway play The King and I at San Diego civic theatre.

What impressed me most in both these plays was the excellent use of technology and the vocal range of the actors. I was vaguely aware of terms like Bass, Baritone and Soprano; but not exactly sure about them. Found this article on Wikipedia which explains them in detail.

Marathi theatre started with musical plays sometimes around 1800. These plays and the songs in them were hugely popular. Apart from the entertainment, many plays like 'ekach pyala' and 'keechak-wadh' successfully sent out strong messages of social reforms to the masses and helped the independence movement. But I think, circa 1940 modern techniques like Brechtian plays and na-natya (could not find the English equivalent for this - when translated it literally means no play) became first more accepted in the intellectual circles and then more popular. I have read many articles by authors who in their childhood and youth, experienced the golden age of Bal-gandharva repenting the fact that not enough was done to strengthen Sangeet Nataks (musicals) while embracing new things. Broadway musicals and Kabuki survived and prospered, but not many local theatres (Yakshagan being an exception, thanks largely to Dr. Shivaram Karanth and to some extent Tiatr in Goa).

While watching these plays and listening to the songs, I dearly missed the good old Natya-sangeet. Though one could still listen to the old songs, it is almost impossible to regain the lost glory and experience.

Thankfully Broadway, San Diego has a number of good plays coming up within next few months like Wicked, Mamma mia and The Lion King. I was in two minds whether to purchase a season ticket which would be good for five upcoming plays except The Lion King having already spent a fortune on these two plays, but then decided to go for it after hesitating for half a minute.

While writing about the theatre and plays, I must tell about the Blue Man group. (I wonder, why it is blue man in stead of blue men). Again, I watched it sitting in the very first row in New York. Initially, I found it little bit weird but then liked it later on. These guys are absolutely terrific. The show itself is a combination of music (from rock to PVC pipes), some animated tricks and involving audience. First few rows are equipped with plastic hoods. At the end of the show, my hood was covered with blue paint and pulped bananas. Here is a link if you wish to watch some of their videos.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

'Darkness at Noon' and 'For whom the bell tolls'

'I don't approve of mixing ideologies,' Ivanov continued. 'There are two conceptions of human ethics, and they are at opposite poles. One of them is Christian and humane, declares the individual to be sacrosanct, and asserts that the rules of arithmetic are not to be applied to human units. The other starts from the basic principle that a collective aim justifies all means, and not only allows, but demands, that the individual should in every way be subordinated and sacrificed to the community - which may dispose of it as an experimentation rabbit or a sacrificial lamb. The first conception could be called anti-vivisection morality, the second, vivisection morality. Humbugs and dilettantes have always tried to mix the two conceptions; in practice, it is impossible. Whoever is burdened with power and responsibility finds out on the first occasion that he has to choose; and he is fatally driven to the second alternative. Do you know, since the establishment of Christianity as a state religion, a single example of state which really followed a Christian policy? You can't point out one. In times of need- and politics are chronically in a time of need - the rulers were always able to evoke "exceptional circumstances", which demanded exceptional measures of defence. Since the existence of nations and classes, they live in a permanent state of mutual self-defence, which forces them to defer to another time the putting into practice of humanism....'

-- Taken from the chapter 'The Second Hearing' of 'Darkness at Noon' by Arthur Koestler.

I took two books with me to read while travelling to East Coast. (which proved to be a wise decision, as I missed my first flight and had to wait for 5 hours to catch the next.) The first one was 'For whom the bell tolls' by Hemingway and the other 'Darkness at noon.' I did not have any idea about the subjects of these books and did not imagine that they could be related to each other in a strange way.

Both the books were published in 1940. In 'For whom the bell tolls', Hemingway portrays the struggle of left-wing group against the fascist forces during the Spanish Civil war. The protagonist is an American fighting for the Republican army.

'Darkness at Noon' on the other hand is based on infamous Moscow trials in which Stalin 'purged' the party and the armed forces. This book has many paragraphs, like one given above, which could very well apply to what is happening now.

Rise and fall of Communism could be considered as the most important event of 20th century, barring perhaps the two World wars. I was thrilled to read two great books which revolved around its two opposite facets.