Monday, February 25, 2008

Love Letters

Gurgaon has over the last few years begun to be known for many things - malls, Call Centers and BPOs and lack of infrastructure. Going to see a play, art exhibition or a music concert meant that one had to go to the cultural hub of Delhi. That could mean anything from an hours drive or more depending on the time of day when you hit the road. But that was then. We now have Epicentre (Apparel House, Sector 44, Gurgaon) - a complex that boasts of a lovely auditorium (it possibly has 300+ seats??), an art gallery, an amphitheatre, a restaurant, conference & banquet rooms and a 45000 sq ft exhibition hall. If you want to be on their mailing list, just write to
This month for instance had the Puppet Theatre putting up Almost Twelfth Night. Smita Bharati put up two plays there - As The Sun Sets and 45-35-55. Feisal Alkazi's A Matter of Life and Death.
Yesterday I went to the Epicentre to Rahul Da Cunha's version of ‘Love Letters’ . The Pulitzer award winning play written by AR Gurney, describes the romantic and poignant relationship between childhood friends Melissa Gardner (Shernaz Patel) and Andrew Makepeace Ladd III (Rajit Kapur) over fifty years. The story unfolds through the letters the two characters have written to one another. The play was first performed in 1988. Shernaz Patel is just so amazing in the way she brings the impetuous Melissa. Rajit Kapur is a versatile actor for but last evening's performance seemed just a tad short of expectations.
Inspired by Love Letters, Feroz Khan has directed Tumhari Amrita तुम्हारी अमृता adapted by Javed Siddqui and had Farooque Shaikh who plays the politician Syed Zulfiquar Haider and Shabana Azmi playing the painter Amrita Nigam. In 1996 I saw them perform at Darpan Academy in Ahmedabad. It was was perhaps in one of the most powerful performances I have seen in theatre. By the time the play ends, there was no dry eye in the audience and Shabana Azmi was so deeply entrenched in the character that she just sobbed long after the play was over.
There is also the sequel Aapki Soniya (आपकी सोनिया), directed by Salim Arif, starts from where Tumhari Amrita ends. It has been years since painter Amrita Nigam, whose relationship with politician Syed Zulfiquar Haider had spawned a series of letters and Tumhari Amrita, has died. If you have seen it, let me what you thought of it.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

World Book Fair, New Delhi 2-10 February 2008

This year should see a spate of Indian books. From graphic novels to cookbooks. From Science Fiction to Short Stories, the publishers are ready to pull out their trump cards. With a growing confidence in everything Indian, the Indian reader is also ready to give Indian writers a chance to share stories that are desi and in a language that feels real. There is no need to add a glossary of Indian words or phrases used like they did before. I agree that it is an insult to the reader's intelligence if you do that.
"Even as Chetan Bhagat’s book (Rupa), Abhijit Bhaduri’s Married But Available and Karan Bajaj’s Keep Off The Grass (HarperCollins) are being touted as bestsellers in the making, other books are vying for the top spot. Penguin India has biggies like Sea Of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh, Bombay Tiger by Kamala Markandaya and Lost Flamingoes Of Bombay by Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi lined up. Penguin imports, Age Of Shiva by Manil Suri, Something To Tell You by Hanif Kureishi, and The Wasted Vigil by Nadeem Aslam are also all set to rock readers. Picador lists... blockbusters in 2008 as The Palace Of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, An Atlas Of Impossible Longing by Anuradha Roy and Escape by Manjula Padmanabhan."
The World Book Fair started off yesterday at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi. This one promises to be even bigger and better than the one they did in 2006 which was spread over 38,000 sq metres of display with around 1300 publishers . In 1972, with 200 participants to visit the modest display at Windsor Place, New Delhi the World Book Fair made a beginning. Expect to see celebrity authors cutting deals with publishers or literary agents trying to woo the next big literary phenomenon. I am going to see if any one of the books mentioned above are available at the WBF.
I will be around at the HarperCollins stall possibly over the weekend. HarperCollins titles will be at Stall nos. 677-692, Hall no. 2. from 10 am (don't expect to see me there!!) to 8 pm (more likely to see me).