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Studio of Thoughts

Everyone has the right to be free, except within the confines of their own heads

Location: Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

MANIC SCREAMING - Some Rumi and Hafiz

I'm still learning the great poems of these two Sufi masters - I started posting some individual poems, but realise that's a futile task - these exquisite pieces need anthologies, not selections. I've posted below some that have truly touched me.

A big kudos to David Ladinsky for the translations - he apparently studied under Meher Baba of India, and based his translations on those done previously in 1891 by Wilberforce Clark.

So simple, so profound, so touching.

You Were Brave in that Holy War

You have done well
In the contest of madness.

You were brave in that holy war.

You have all the honorable wounds
Of one who has tried to find love
Where the Beautiful Bird
Does not drink.

May I speak to you
Like we are close
And locked away together?

Once I found a stray kitten
And I used to soak my fingers
In warm milk;

It came to think I was five mothers
On one hand.

Why not rest your tired body?
Lean back and close your eyes.

Come morning
I will kneel by your side and feed you.
I will so gently
Spread open your mouth
And let you taste something of my
Sacred mind and life.

There is something wrong
With your ideas of

O, surely there is something wrong
With your ideas of

If you think
Our Beloved would not be so

---"The Gift: Poems by Hafiz the great Sufi Master" translated by
Daniel Ladinsky

Every child has known God

Every child has known God,
Not the God of names,
Not the God of don’ts,
Not the God who ever does Anything weird,
But the God who knows only 4 words.
And keeps repeating them, saying:
“Come Dance with Me , come dance.”


With That Moon Language

Admit something:
Everyone you see, you say to them, "Love me."
Of course you do not do this out loud, otherwise someone would call the cops.
Still, though, think about this, this great pull in us to connect.
Why not become the one who lives with a full moon in each eye
that is always saying,
with that sweet moon language,
what every other eye in this world is dying to hear?


Stop Being So Religious

Do sad people have in

It seems
They have all built a shrine
To the past

And often go there
And do a strange wail and

What is the beginning of
It is to stop being
So religious
Like That.

("The Gift" - versions of Hafiz by Daniel Ladinsky)

Someone Should Start Laughing

I have a thousand brilliant lies
For the question:

How are you?

I have a thousand brilliant lies
For the question:

What is God?

If you think that the Truth can be known
From words,

If you think that the Sun and the Ocean

Can pass through that tiny opening
Called the mouth,

O someone should start laughing!

Someone should start wildly Laughing -


A Golden Compass

Forget every idea of right and wrong
Any classroom ever taught you

An empty heart, a tormented mind,
Unkindness, jealousy and fear

Are always the testimony
You have been completely fooled!

Turn your back on those
Who would imprison your wondrous spirit
With deceit and lies.

Come, join the honest company
Of the King’s beggars –
Those gamblers, scoundrels and divine clowns
And those astonishing fair courtesans
Who need Divine Love every night.

Come, join the courageous
Who have no choice
But to bet their entire world
That indeed,
Indeed, God is Real.

I will lead you into the Circle
Of the Beloved’s cunning thieves,
Those playful royal rogues –
The ones you can trust for true guidance –
Who can aid you
In this Blessed Calamity of life.
Look at the Perfect One
At the Circle’s Center:

He Spins and Whirls like a Golden Compass,
Beyond all that is Rational,

To show this dear world

That Everything,
Everything in Existence
Does point to God.


What Happens?

What happens when your soul
Begins to awaken
Your eyes
And your heart
And the cells of your body
To the great Journey of Love?

First there is wonderful laughter
And probably precious tears

And a hundred sweet promises
And those heroic vows
No one can ever keep.

But still God is delighted and amused
You once tried to be a saint.

What happens when your soul
Begins to awake in this world

To our deep need to love
And serve the Friend?

O the Beloved
Will send you
One of His wonderful, wild companions ~
Like Hafiz.

From: 'I Heard God Laughing - Renderings of Hafiz' - Daniel Ladinsky

Manic Screaming

We should make all spiritual talk simple today
God is trying sell you something but you dont want to buy

That is what your suffering is:
your fantastic haggling
your manic screaming


My Eyes So Soft

Don't surrender your loneliness so quickly
let it cut more deep.
Let it ferment and season you
as few human or even divine ingredients can
Something missing in my heart tonight
has made my eyes so soft
my voice so tender
my need of god
absolutely clear.



Look as long as you can
at the friend you love
No matter whether that friend is moving away from you
or coming back toward you.


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Tender Words

Tender words we spoke
to one another
are sealed
in the secret vaults of heaven.
One day like rain,
they will fall to earth
and grow green
all over the world.


Translation by David Ladinsky

The Lute Will Beg

You need to become a pen

In the Sun´s hand.

We need for the earth to sing

Through our pores and eyes.

The body will again become restless

Until your soul paints all its beauty

Upon the sky.

Don´t tell me, dear ones,

That what Hafiz says is not true,

For when the heart tastes its glorious destiny

And you awake to our constant need

for your love

God´s lute will beg

For your hands.


Translations by David Ladinsky

This being human is a guesthouse

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of it's furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.


Translations by David Ladinsky

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Dance, when you're broken open

Sufi Dervish Dance

Dance, when you're broken open.

Dance, if you've torn the bandage off.

Dance in the middle of the fighting.

Dance in your blood.

Dance, when you're perfectly free.

- Rumi (1207 - 1273 )

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

"It's me, you, love - lets go"

And so it ends. The Oscars are done for the year. Slumdog Millionaire buzzes on everybody's lips, the controversies forgotten (for now at least), Danny Boyle is now a beloved of Britain, while India - well, India is probably unitedly on its feet, all 1 billion of them - wait, what am I saying - on its feet? Scratch that. They're all dancing on top of buses in the streets, that's more like it.

Yes, everyone's happy with the film's success - but I still feel the Indians are aware it has been piggy-backed on British Boyle's shoulders. Notwithstanding the fact that Anil Kapoor was not above pushing through anyone else's shoulders throughout the award season to get to the mike - any mike, be it on podiums or red carpets. And then repeating the same sentence again and again. ("This is for the children, it is all about the children, so its special because its - you know - for the children." Or "Danny Boyle changed our lives, its what he does, he changes lives, so this is what happened, he changed our lives." )

As SRK put it in an interview, the next, legitimate step is yet to come - that of an Indian produced, Indian acted, Indian film winning the top honour. When it comes to film quality, I'm thinking we're actually almost there, barring the hire of a good script editor who can spot those ridiculous plot side steps that crop up in the biggest of the films. Indeed, I can currently count recently flawless dramatic Indian scripts in one hand - Rang De Basanti, Omkara, and a most recent addition, Luck By Chance (box office be damned). What I'm not sure of, though, is 1. The possibility of a film made in Hindi (or any other regional Indian language, though even less likely) to qualify in the mainstream categories, and 2. The capacity of Indian organisation to galvanise high-stake lobbying power post-nomination. The scenario begs for attachment with the big studios, and if that happens, how Indian does a film really become then?

In light of this, therefore, the real win, that will reverberate right through the annals of Indian film history, of course, is the double whammy of A R Rahman.

Now words cannot express one's admiration of the man and his music. I was fourteen years old, in a tiny nobody town in Malaysia called Alor Setar, where my partner in crime, who used to attend math tuition with me, told me about this song she'd heard on the radio, that sounded incredible. She said it was a Tamil song, for a Tamil film, but that it didn't sound like a Tamil song at all. I had no idea what she was talking about. "Listen to the radio," she said. "They're playing it constantly".

I will never forget the first time I heard it. It was about seven in the morning, and I was in the family car being dropped off to school. I was in the back seat, looking out the window. Mum was driving. The radio DJ droned some nonsense in Tamil (the only Tamil station in the country then) and I never paid attention since he was an old crone who had no sense of intonation. Then the opening strains of 'Chinna Chinna Aasai' from Roja started. I continued staring out the window, but I was now frozen. I didn't blink, I barely moved, for I was trying to hear it above the noise of the car engine and traffic, and didn't wish to add to the noise level. My jaw slowly fell open throughout the song, and I've yet to close it back.

At the next tuition session I cornered my friend, and sang those opening strains back to her for confirmation. It had to be. It sounded so new. Like nothing we'd ever heard before. It could only be that song. "Where is that from?" I nearly squealed.

In a few weeks, I found out it was from the soundtrack of the film Roja, and that the composer was called A R Rahman. My friend bought the cassette, I had a walkman, and during homework time at the tuition we'd sneak ear plugs on and listen, algebra be damned. We did that repeatedly till the film came out a few months later, but that's another story. I still remember looking at the tiny black and white photograph of this boy, well, boyish man, on the cassette cover. No soundtrack cassettes featured the composer's photograph on the cover, this was an exception. Mind you, it was the size of your pinky fingernail next to the film title, but it was something to focus on when slack-jawed in open admiration.

The year was 1992.

Today, I am still a blithering idiot when it comes to expressing the pride I felt when I watched Rahman Sir, with characteristic shyness, say "Ellaam Iraivanukke" (Everything is for God). Therefore I beg to use the words of Simon Beaufoy, the screenwriter of Slumdog Millionaire, to illustrate the unabashed, open love affair between me and this man's music:

"I learned to stop being English about things like love. If you make a film in England about love, it's hugely complicated.... It's all about saying what the weather is like, and you're secretly telling someone you love them.... Let's be honest, it's not like that in India. India is incredibly uncynical about love. It's not a complicated thing. It's me, you, love — let's go."
— Screenwriter Simon Beaufoy on what he learned while filming Slumdog Millionaire.

Jai Ho!

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Shyamalan on Indian film

Something on rediff, which I thought was unexpectedly thought-provoking - Shyamalan's take on the 3-odd Hindi films he saw, and his take on the value of stories that sweep you away. And his odd view on accents, which I find quite alienating.

On using Indian actors in his films

Of course I would, if the casting was correct -- but not as an agenda. I would never cast anybody as an agenda. If I could find the right balance, it would be cool. I've talked about it a bunch of times, whether it is feasible to bring in some of the stars from India, cast them in some roles. I have a difficult time casting any actor with an accent, if I am not using that accent. I've done it before, where I've asked a British actor to do an American accent, and I find it very constraining as a director. The actor in such situations tends to lose some of his arsenal, his skills; he is so busy getting the accent right he reduces the bandwidth he has for performing by 10 per cent or 20 per cent. Or he exaggerates the accent a hair too much in trying to hold on to it, and I have a tough time with all of that, so that is one of the reasons I would hesitate -- it is difficult for me, whether it is a Spanish actress or a British or even Indian actor.

On prominent role for children in his movies

I think that is [Steven] Spielberg's fault. I was 10 and 11 when he made all those amazing movies, ET and Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Raiders [of the Lost Ark]. And they are all about that 10 to 12 age group. So a lot of my movies are about that, about how you've lost that belief in magic you had at that age, or you are desperately trying to convince adults of that magic. Like even in Unbreakable, where the boy is trying to tell his father he is a superhero, way before the father believes it himself.

On Indian cinema and its place in the world

I've gotten more and more interested in Indian cinema. My wife [Bhavna] is obsessed by it, and she keeps me abreast of all the new things. I think it is a very powerful art form. I find it very powerful, that heightened vocabulary -- the push-in [close up] on a character, then another push-in and another push-in and the music is going into overdrive, and the character is telling the wife get out of my house, and she is screaming, and running out of the house, and this heightened thing, it's powerful. At first you giggle when you start to watch it but then, you get acclimated to that vocabulary and you start feeling the same sort of heightened emotions.

I was telling Tom Rothman, the chairman of Fox, that Indian cinema reminds me about old-school storytelling. We keep getting more and more subtle about our film making, and you feel it has been reduced to a very delicate process. It's like in Shakespeare -- they were making big bold moves in the plot and big, bold acting. And the people, a lot of them were not really educated, and were leading miserable lives, and they came in and paid their pennies and they were taken away by the storytelling. Those stories have lasted 500 years, and Indian cinema has a lot of those things in it -- and so I was telling the chairman that we might be getting too smart for ourselves, we should remember what it felt like to be swept away. So yeah, I've actually been thinking about it a whole bunch even with regard to my own work.

It's kind of like if I was a chef, the first thing I make, everyone likes it. But as I learn more and more, and begin tasting flavours you cannot even sense, I start getting subtle in what flavours I will use and pretty soon, if I made a dish and gave it to the man on the street he would go blech, this stuff is so bland, and I would go what are you talking about, it is very rarefied, it has seven spices, blah blah.

But the point is, if it is so subtle you cannot taste it, then the point is lost. You don't want to get to that place where your voice is too rarefied. It is something I have been thinking about, constantly going back and touching universal cinema, asking myself why is it that Indian cinema is so popular, why has it lasted so long, what are they doing right? It reminds me of the old musicals; it reminds me of the movies Hollywood used to do.

Indian actor with the most potential in Hollywood

I would be a terrible person to answer that, I just don't know enough. I've seen about three movies all the way through. What's that guy's name, we were talking about him at lunch, Shah Rukh Khan [Images] -- yeah, I think all three movies had him in them. There was this thing, he is touching her in the rain, what was the name of that movie, Kabhi something... [UTV CEO Ronnie Screwvala helpfully supplies Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham]... right, that one; that was kind of cool, I got pretty emotional during that one. And I remember there was an old one, it was supposed to be very salacious at the time, wait, Shivam something? [Satyam [Get Quote] Shivam Sundaram, supplies the ever helpful Screwvala]� right, that one right there, that was smokin'! I don't remember the name of the third one -- wait, Devdas, there you go.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Mahathir's catchphrase

"Perjuangan yang belum sudah"

Perhaps the sentiment will be more relevant when re-contextualised for a newer, fairer, more egalitarian Malaysia.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Obama Speech: 'A More Perfect Union'

It's been awhile since any of us heard something truly articulate in American politics, so.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Thiruda thiruda

An obscure AR Rahman/Mani Ratnam gem. Vintage Rahman, his early days when every song was a masterpiece. This one had my jaw open for days. Early 90s? A film that came out between Roja and Bombay and got buried in the bustle of the two.

Ah Rehmanji, they don't make 'em like you anymore - not even you.