Posts Tagged ‘Entertainment’

Happy Birthday Harry Belafonte

March 1, 2009

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Design: RK
[Click on the image for a larger view]

Harry, here’s wishing you a wonderful 82nd birthday!

My favourite English album of all time. And every time I hear this album, it makes me want to go to Jamaica.

Read the full article: Belafonte at Carnegie Hall [LIVE]

Music Band Quiz

January 26, 2009

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Compilation & Design: RK

Hello guys! Quite a while since the Quiz section had something fresh.

So here it is – All you need to do is identify the music band and its members.

Good luck & happy quizzing.

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Visit the Quiz Page on RwB.

‘Safed Haathi’: Truly Memorable Movie

July 16, 2007

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Last weekend, I was lucky to have watched one of my all time favourite movies, SAFED HAATHI, with my son. I am sure he enjoyed seeing a white elephant and a horde of wild animals. But he got disinterested just before Airavath* went back to the forest to live happily ever after.

I am really curious to know why Bollywood has failed to come up with a good script for children regularly while children’s books and kids channels are on the boom in India. (I feel Bollywood filmmakers think if a film has children running around, it becomes a children’s movie.)

Of course, unlike kids of our time, today’s kids do not want mediocre products (read films). While we watched anything and everything with mouth agape, today’s kids are highly matured, surrounded with hi-tech gadgets, sophisticated tastes and prefer watching what elders see on TV or the silver screen. Seeing these kids, I feel they act a decade older than their actual age!

Coming back to SAFED HAATHI, I must have seen this movie atleast a dozen times, thanks to the television (esp. Zee Cinema). But last week’s viewing was special as I saw the movie for the first time with my son. And I still remember the day when I saw it for the first time in a theatre in Cochin. It was a usual day at school on this side of the bridge in Kendriya Vidyalaya Naval Base -1 where I was studying Class 3. Suddenly by noon time, a teacher came and announced us to take our bags and sit inside the school bus. For what? I didn’t hear the full sentence. I started packing my bag and was already in the bus along with a few others.

My friends from different sections and classes sat in the bus and we were exchanging ‘Bruce Lee’ labels and narrating ‘Giant Robot’ stories when we saw that we were entering K.V. No. 2, which was on the other side of the bridge. Since our bus came everyday to pick a few students from this school, we thought it was the routine thing that was happening. But it was a pleasant surprise when the bus stopped at a school theatre and in no time we were told to finish our lunch (which we had got from home). We obediently ate our lunch, seated on the cushioned seats of the theatre, like good boys and girls as our teacher was standing closeby monitoring our moves. Some of us were still discussing about Bruce Lee and Giant Robot when we heard our teacher shout “Pin drop silence”. She told us that we would be watching a special screening of the children’s movie: SAFED HAATHI. We made a huge noise and the teacher mildly told us to sit silently for the next couple of hours.

As soon as the film started, we got sucked into the narrative. The film was pure children’s drama about the adventures of Sibu an orphan boy, and a White Elephant he befriends in the forest.

The 130 minutes Hindi film had a few known faces in Shatrughan Sinha (I had seen some of his songs on Chitrahaar) , Gayatri (I had seen her in Auto Raja) and Vijay Arora (popular face on Doordarshan in those days).

For those of you who have not watched the movie, here is the storyline:

An unsuccessful film-maker (Vijay Arora) chronicles the story of two orphaned children, Sibu and his sister Rani, who live with their abusive uncle and aunt. The uncle is indifferent with the kids while the aunt is very cruel. But Sibu is very close to the talking bird, Mynah.

One evening Sibu’s aunt asks him to take a Saree to her mother who lives in another village, which is en route a dense forest. When Sibu comes to the forest, it is already dark. Sibu falls asleep but is suddenly awakend by the roar of a terrible tiger. The tiger is about to take a leap on poor Sibu when a huge White Elephant emerges trumpeting magnificently. The tiger is frightened and runs away. The huge White Elephant or Safed Haathi slowly approaches Sibu and they become friends.

Next morning Sibu safely reaches the other village and hands over the packet of cloth to his aunt’s mother. He gets some money in return. With that money he buys some bananas and after returning to the forest, feeds his friend Airavath, the White Elephant. Airavath, pleased with Sibu, gives him a gold coin. Sibu also finds a pot full of coins, thanks to Airavath.

Sibu returns home with the coin. Eventually he tries to hide the coin from his aunt and uncle but when they get to know about the coin, they become extra sweet to him and very cleverly trace out the White Elephant. Meanwhile a Maharaja comes to the village for hunting. He strikes his tent near the forest. Sibu’s uncle and aunt tell the Maharaja about the existence of the White Elephant. The Maharaja promises them a reward if they can show him the White Elephant. He swears to capture the White Elephant. After he gets to know about Sibu’s friendship with the White Elephant from Sibu’s uncle, he sets a trap.

Next morning the Maharaja takes Sibu to the forest along with his associates and a dozen elephants. He puts a gun on the poor boy’s head and shouts to the White Elephant that if he does not surrender, Sibu’s head will be blown into pieces. Unable to see his friend in distress, the White Elephant surrenders. Sibu becomes desperate when he sees Airavath chained. He goes to the forest and asks Mynah to call all the animals and to declare a war against the Maharaja. Elephants, tigers, cobras and other animals unitedly attack Maharaja’s tents. They do not kill anybody but overpower Maharaja and his associates. Sibu frees Airavath who goes back to the forest followed by all other animals. Meanwhile, Sibu’s uncle and aunt, in their greed to get the pot full of coins, drag Sibu to the spot where he has hidden the pot. But as soon as they lay their hands on the pot, they get bitten by a snake and die.

Even today, what appeals to me is that not only is Safed Haathi very entertaining, it was also a very intelligent film for a young audience, which is really rare. There is a very important message told in a neat and simple way and the movie is very close to reality as there are no garish sets and costumes. It had lots of animals which we loved. And it has been shot fully in the forests and natural locales.

When I watched it last weekend, I heard the songs sung by Yesudas more carefully for its meaning and tunes. Certainly, the 2 songs ‘Utho hai lal, Utho he, Narayan aai’ and ‘Shikari raja aaya re, aaya re’ must be featured in Yesudas’ unknown numbers. Also, everytime I see the movie, I feel the actors have given such a splendid performance, specially Master Ashwani, who has really made Sibu’s character come alive. And I wonder how many times they must have painted the elephant WHITE for the film shooting!!

This is one of the best children’s film India has made. And I would want such a film to be made again.

Airavath! Please Vaapas aao… (Airavath! Please come back)

* According to Hindu mythology, Indra the king of Gods, rides a white elephant named Airavat.

Belafonte at Carnegie Hall [LIVE]

May 11, 2007

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Pic: RK’s Archives

When I was a Three-year-old, I remember listening to many songs on the Radiogram almost everyday. This was apart from what I heard on All India Radio. My uncle in the US had got this ‘Grundig’ Radiogram. It was always one of the elders in the family who switched it ‘On’ in the evenings. I used to keep my ears glued to the stereo and imagined the singers and the instrumentalists to be sitting inside the huge Radiogram. I used to peep through the stereo but would find no one inside.

I loved hearing to Raghavendraswamy songs by Dr. Rajkumar, Bhadrachala Ramadas Keerthanam by M. Balamuralikrishna, Siri Siri Muvva, Shankarabharanam, and Pt. Ravishankar’s sitar. Another memorable one was ‘Belafonte at Carnegie Hall [LIVE]’. 

Right from the cover showing Harry Belafonte standing with the mike, the magnificent black cover double-LP set fascinated me. It does even now. My dad used to play it so often that even before learning ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ or ‘Ba Ba Black Sheep’, I had memorized Belafonte’s version of Hava Nageela and Matilda.

By the time I was in my Fifth class, the Radiogram had stopped working and a few years later, the LPs, Radiogram and my uncle’s other belongings shifted to his home here in Bangalore.

During my college days, I bought a double cassette pack of the same LP featuring Belafonte at Carnegie Hall. Fortunately it had all the 19 songs with the Introduction. I say ‘Fortunately’ because recently I heard in a music shop the CD version of the same concert. The CD contained only fifteen of the original 19 songs, omitting “Take My Mother Home,” “Man Piaba,” “All My Trials,” and “Merci Bon Dieu,” songs that are included in another recording. I remember my uncle telling that the concerts (recorded on April 19 and 20, 1959) were put on as benefit fund raisers for two schools.

While it was drizzling outside yesterday evening, I was hearing to the ‘Belafonte at Carnegie Hall [LIVE]’ cassettes which took me back in time. I feel this is one of the best live recordings ever. If you close your eyes you can almost feel as if you are sitting in the audience. I love the introductions to songs and the audience participation in the last song “Matilda”. With the opening number “Wake Up, Wake Up, Darlin’ Cora,” Belafonte shares with the audience the impassioned song of a man who has a confrontation with his boss and must now take to the road, holding key notes for several extra beats to prolong the song’s wailing sadness as he bids goodbye to “Darlin’ Cora.” With his strong, slightly husky voice and ability to hold a note forever, he follows this with a Lead belly song, “Sylvie,” in which he changes the lyric from a work song to a jailhouse plea. The tempo  increases throughout this set through “Saints” and “Day-O,” and the audience participates. Belafonte explains the history of “Saints” and as an alternative sings it as an old English madrigal. Priceless piece.

The second cassette begins with the calypso novelty song, “Mama Look at Boo Boo,” in which he plays the role of a man whose children say “My daddy can’t be ugly so,” a statement so ironic that even he chuckles. “Man Smart, Woman Smarter,” continues the fun and the calypso beat, with hand-clapping, as he prepares the audience for several foreign folk songs–“Hava Nageela” (one of his most famous songs), “Danny Boy” (sung almost completely a capella), and “Cu Cu Ru Cu Cu Paloma,” a charming Mexican song in which the orchestra makes bird sounds throughout.

The concert is divided in three sections: “Moods of the American Negro,” “In the Caribbean,” and “Around the World.” All the hits are here: “Day O,” “Jamaica Farewell,” “Mama Look a Boo Boo,” and others, plus calypso, folk songs, chain gang songs, spirituals, and songs from other lands.

Controlling his volume from a whisper to full-out wailing and the tempo from a slow ballad to wild calypso and street dance (in “Saints”), Belafonte is at his peak here, in total control of his audience.

From the opening trumpet fanfare and brief orchestral overture to the epic 13-minute version of “Matilda” (which set a standard for audience participation), the album never lets up. It is exciting, poignant, thrilling, intimate, and at times, spontaneously hilarious. My uncle says that Belafonte’s mastery in front of an audience was never better displayed than here, a mastery that has resulted in him becoming one of the most popular concert draws in history.

Track Listings: 
  1. Introduction 
  2. Darlin’ Cora 
  3. Sylvie 
  4. Cotton Fields 
  5. John Henry 
  6. Take My Mother Home 
  7. The Marching Saints 
  8. Day O 
  9. Jamaica Farewell 
  10. Man Piaba 
  11. All My Trials 
  12. Mama Look A Boo Boo 
  13. Come Back Liza 
  14. Man Smart (Woman Smarter) 
  15. Hava Nageela 
  16. Danny Boy 
  17. Merci Bon Dieu 
  18. Cu Cu Ru Cu Cu Paloma 
  19. Shenandoah 
  20. Matilda

As a guide between the songs, Belafonte talks about his heritage and the impact that music has had throughout his life and travels. “Man Piaba,” a calypso retelling of a “facts of life” lesson, is a consummate example of how Belafonte seamlessly weaves his stories into songs. This climaxes with an audience participatory version of “Matilda,” in which different sections of the orchestra, acoustic combo, and even audience are encouraged to sing along. As not to disenfranchise anyone and all in the best of fun, Belafonte even solicits responses from such unlikely participants as “women over 40” and “people on scholarship.” It is this type of unification of all people — through song and personal discovery — that became the bedrock of Belafonte’s enormous popularity regardless of age, sex, or race.

For sheer scope and genius of performance, this is the quintessential Belafonte package. Recorded when his voice was at his best, the fun of the live recording as well as the wonderful choice of music make the recording fun, easy and joyful to listen to over and over and over again. My favourite English album of all time. And every time I hear this album, it makes me want to go to Jamaica.

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