PARTITION Stories of separation by Sonam Kalra

Currently this is, perforce, a Delhi-NCR-centric review, but one hopes that this latest show by Sonam Kalra will travel the country and beyond…

“Partition Stories of Separation” was performed for the first time at Delhi’s India Habitat Centre in front of a sold-out audience this weekend.

A show devoted to the trauma and sorrow of Partition was never going to be easy viewing and there were moments of great sadness.  Great, heart-wrenching sadness.  When the elderly Sikh spoke about the death of his sister, I could hardly breathe, it was so raw and painful.

But this pain, which Sonam Kalra talks about in the programme, cannot –  and must not – be avoided or ignored:

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This trauma is part of the DNA of the subcontinent and it has to be commemorated and shared, especially with the gradual passing of the brave generations who lived through the horrors of Partition.

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Through song, and poetry, and interviews with amazing people who lived through Partition, this traumatic period of history is brought to life by Sonam Kalra, Salima Raza and Sonam’s team of amazing musicians.

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But for me, what moved me the most, was not so much the looking backwards at history, but the positive looking forward towards peace and reconciliation.

And here the energy and thrust of a younger generation with a different mindset was in evidence.

I loved the inter-active feeling of the show –  from old fashioned postcards on which we were asked to write our message of peace starting with the positive words “When we meet…”, to the hashtags to be used on social media to build a dialogue with “The Other Side.”

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There were cute, quirky touches, such as a “postbox” for the postcards for Pakistan.

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We were even given pens, ensuring that there we all had no excuse not to write.

A pile of old luggage in the entrance to the auditorium spoke volumes.

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I hope that this show travels the length and breadth of India, and more than anything else that it travels to “The Other Side.”

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Shabash to Sonam Kalra for giving voice to painful memories, but than anything for presenting the pain with so much love and, most importantly, hope.

My favourite moment of “Diana” was…

…when it finished.

Oh dear, is that too harsh ?

Yes?

Oh well, too bad.

I am a (self-styled) reviewer, so I must not lack moral courage when it is called for.

“Diana” is actually so bad that you almost have to see it.  Well, that was our logic, daughter dearest and I.  We had read several highly critical reviews that painted the movie in such a poor light that it became a “must see how bad bad can be” challenge.

And “Diana ” did not disappoint.

It is pedestrian, the acting is wooden, and Naomi Watts doesn’t look a bit like the late Diana, despite the film’s poster.  Ms Watts has got the voice and the simpering-peeping-up-from-fluttery-eyelash-look off to perfection, but that’s about it.

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I am not at all sure what the point of the film is.

If it is to present the late Princess of Wales in a favourable light it is beyond a flop.

Diana comes across as needy, selfish, immature, irrational, stupid, beyond self-centred, manipulative.  You cannot for one moment like this woman, who tips off the press to her jaunts and then flees in shock-horror-tears when it all gets a bit too much.

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She shops, she jogs, she plays the piano, she spends a lot of time complaining and calling people in the middle of the night to cry on their shoulder.

She practices in advance That Comment About Charles and Camilla that she makes in her infamous TV interview.  She practises in front of one of those mirrors with light bulbs –  the sort actresses have in their theatre dressing room.

And she falls in love with a nice Pakistani heart surgeon, Hasnat Khan.  Though why she does is a bit of a mystery.   He is nice enough but hardly jaw-droppingly good-looking, is presumably not rich, given the size (and state) of his flat.  He drinks beer, smokes, loves junk food and watches footy on the telly and has the messiest flat you could hope never to see.  A regular bloke, in other words.

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But love does funny things to you, apparently, so Diana does the dishes and Hoovers and other such nonsense, so that’s all right.

She also goes to Pakistan, so there’s a nice feel-good ethnic-y bit, where she sips tea with her (alas not)-to-be in-laws.  Our Delhi audience gave a knowing laugh when we meet the stern-faced, steely-eyed, unsmiling Mrs. Khan, as in Hasnat’s mother, who is dead-set against the relationship, we are told, and lectures Diana about the horrors of Partition.  (That was about the only moment I felt sorry for her)

Oh, hang on, just remembered one moment that made me smile.

Diana goes to all kinds of lengths to try and hide her relationship with Mr. Khan, such as wearing a wig and smuggling him into Kensington Palace hidden under a rug in the back of her car.

As she speeds past the cops on security duty at the Palace, one of them comments that the line of the car implies it is carrying more weight than normal.
“About 80 kg”, one guesses, “One Pakistani heart surgeon” and they laugh, not at all unpleasantly.

And that is about as genuinely funny/smile-worthy as it gets.  For the rest, it’s a cringe-fest.

Diana wearing yellow rubber gloves to do the dishes.

Diana criticising Hasnat’s English.

Diana meeting Hasnat in a Chicken Cottage fast food outlet.

Diana…

Oh you know what?  Just go watch this dreadful movie for yourself.

Beats me why a nice footy loving bloke like Mr. Khan would put up with her antics for more than 10 minutes.

Poor chap.

Recommended for all the wrong reasons.

My favourite moments of The Reluctant Fundamentalist

I hadn’t read the book, though I know I should have.  Have to read it by next week for my Delhi book club, as it so happens, but this review is all about the film.

I loved it –  it is visually fabulous with photography to die for, and filmed with such compassion and open-mindedness, that you leave the cinema feeling moved and saddened at the alienation, yet fully understanding why.

There is little point spoiling your enjoyment of the film by telling you the plot, but suffice it to say it charts the reluctant transformation of an intelligent westernised Pakistani living the American dream who is singled out, questioned, and ultimately alienated by the country he loves, all in the tragic aftermath of 9/11.

So, my best moments ?

1)  Every single visual moment of the film.  The photography/videography is gorgeous, lush, sweeping – oh, every adjective you can summon up.  There is a slightly retro feel to it, and the air of genteel dilapidation that hangs over so many of our subcontinental monuments was brilliantly captured.

2) The music, especially the utterly, thrillingly fabulous “Kangna” which I have promptly downloaded and have been playing non-stop all morning.

I am trying this out for the first time –  giving you a link to an audio clip – so let’s hope this works.

http://www.dhingana.com/kangna-song-the-reluctant-fundamentalist-hindi-latest-37fa849

3) The warmth of Pakistan, which translates just as easily into the warmth of India, where I live.  I loved the moment when Changez goes for chai in the US.  Very moving.

4) The innate dignity and grace of the Pakistanis vs the brasher Americans.

5)  Om Puri, whose acting I have loved for years, asking about his son’s career.

6) Love love love the newcomer, Meesha Shafi.  OK OK, I stand corrected – Ms Shafi is terribly well-known but she is a newcomer to Hollywood, at least, and she dazzles and I wanted to see more of her.

(And, how thrilling –  I googled her, and found out that she will be in the soon to be released Bollywood film “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag”, in which I will be a blink and you miss extra)

And out of all of these fave moments, if I had to choose just one – oh, without a moment’s hesitation “Kangna”.  Too fabulous.