Sunday, October 29, 2006

la fiesta del chivo - movie on Dominican Republic

La fiesta del chivo- the feast of the goat is the movie based on the novel by the same name written by Mario vargas Llosa, the Peruvian writer.

It is about the dictatorship of Trujillo in Dominican Republic( DR). The story starts with Urania who returns after 30 yrs in newyork to visit her father Cabral,who was the senate leader during the dictatorship. The meeting with her father brings back the memories of the atrocities of Trujillo, who ran the country like his personal ranch and ruthlessly suppressed any opposition by indiscriminate assasinations. He humilitates Cabral, when he gives his opinion, which is not to the liking of Trujillo. The desperate senator sends his teenage daughter to Trujillo's fiesta. She discovers on arrival at Trujillo's ranch that she is the only guest invited for the party with him. Trujillo humiliates the daughter too. The movie ends with the assasination of Trujillo and the bloodbath which follows it.

The movie refers to the killing of the famous three Mirabel sisters by Trujillo. Julia Alvarez has written a novel on this,called as" In the time of butterflies".
what a coincidence ! I met the daughter of one of the three sisters( maria Teresa) in the party hosted by the Ambassador of Dom Republic yesterday. There was also the fourth sister, Dede, who was lucky to survive the killings. It was an emotional meeting with them. They have promised to convey my Saludos to Julia Alvarez... and extend my invitation to her to visit India.

The film, released in 2005, was shot in DR and partly in Spain.
The director Luis Llosa from Peru is a cousin of the writer Mario vargas Llosa.
Isabella Rosselini who has acted as Urania is an Italian and a Lancome model.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Brazilian interest in Mahatma Gandhi

The interest is not for fashion nor induced by Munnabhai film
Palas Athena, a NGO from Sao Paulo has been disseminating Gandhiji's ideals in Brazil seriously and sincerely. They have been organising week-long celebrations of Gandhi Jayanthi for the last 25 yrs. Not just by way of garlanding the statue or formal speeches.They go to street children, teachers, schools, NGOs and police besides intellectuals with community activities. They inculcate in young minds the spirit of non-violence and peace.

here is the report I have got from Lia Diskin, the director of Palas Athena about this year's 2 oct activity.

"We are still intoxicated by the 25th Gandhi Week. The name is Week but in truth it takes up the month of October as a whole. This year we managed to include some of the 150 activities in 11 of the FEBEM ( juvenile prisons) units of São Paulo. These are places where young law-breakers are kept until they come of age. Our volunteers show a film on Gandhi and then discuss it with the inmates. These experiences have been very good and light up our hopes".

The force behind these Gandhian interest and activities is Lia Diskin, director of Associação Palas Athena. I have the greatest admiration and respect for her selfless public work. She is a true Gandhian in belief and practice both in private and public life.

Palas Athena had organised a Gandhi project with the 80000 police force of sao paulo state in 1998 to calm down the police mind and instill compassion in them.

The auditorium of Palas Athena is named after Mahatma Gandhi. Palas Athena runs a orphanage called as House of Pandavas. They have translated and published the autobiography of Gandhi in Portuguese.

Information on the Gandhian activities of Palas Athena are in

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Two Brazilian films on football and sex

The film on football is " casamento de Romeu e julietta" - marriage of Romeo and Juliet.
It is about the foot ball obsession of the Brazilians. Julietta's family is a fanatic supporter of Palmeiras team of Sao Paulo and her father is a director of the palmeiras club. She falls in love with Romeu, who is a fan of Corinthians. Julieta advises him to pretend as a Palmirense to get acceptance of her family. But this is rejected by the grand mother of Romeu as a disgrace. Finally Romeu gets the courage to tell his would be father-in-law that he is a Corinthian. This provokes an outrage and Romeu is chased out. But the daughter decides to leave the house and marry Romeu, creating a revolution and a comedy of the outburst of her family.

The film brings out the football fanaticism of Brazilians and the extent to which their life gets overtaken by the game.

The film , released in 2005, has been directed by Bruno Barreto, who has directed several other brazilian movies. His other foot ball film" Bossanova" is also a hilarious comedy.

Sexo, Amor e Traison"- Sex, love and Betrayal is a film about sex. Caution... sex is not an obsession of Brazilians. It is just natural. They do not twist and turn because of sex. Nor does the society has any artificial and hypocritical suppressions. Their approach is humane. They celebrate sex as an essential and enjoyable part of life.

The theme of the movie is universal. Love and sex lose their importance in the course of day to day life of marriage. The story is about two couples in Rio.The wives nag the poor husbands complaining of inadequate attention. The husbands whose primary goal is success in career are unable to cope with this internal attack. At this time of marital crisis, the previous boyfriends and girlfriends appear, adding to the complication. Both couples take to adventurous diversions. Finally they reunite with happy ending. These give an idea of what happens in real life in Brazil. There is sex beyond love and love beyond sex !

Jorge Fernando, director of this film ( release- 2004), has directed many Brazilian soap operas.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Pantaleon y las visitadoras - Peruvian film

This is one of the best Latino films I have seen so far. A delighful and enjoyable comedy with a typical latino flavour.

The Peruvian army captain Pantaleon Pantoja, a very serious and efficient officer, is chosen by his superiors to set up a special service of 'visitors' to satisfy the sexual needs of the soldiers posted on remote jungle outposts in Amazon area. The young married captain, faithful to his wife and disciplined militarily and morally, does not like the work but agrees to carry out his duty. He puts his organisational talents to work and establishes a system of visitors in a typical military disciplined way. He tells his wife that he is doing a secret work.

But his resistance collapses in front of the seductive girl called as " la colombiana" who conquers him finally. Marriage breaks and eventually La Colombiana herself is killed in an accident. Pantoja organises a public mass to mourn the martyrdom of the special visitadora. This becomes a scandal and the army chief puts an end to the visitadora system.

This movie is based on a book by my most favourite Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa.

The Colombian actress Angie Cepeda who acts as "the colombiana" is very striking and charming. She has superbly portrayed her seducing role.

The director of the movie is Francisco Lombardi from Peru. The film was released in 2000.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Machuca - Chilean movie

This is the second Chilean film I have come to like after " Mi Mejor inimigo"
The theme is Chilean and Latin American.
It is about the turbulent years of the leftist Allende government which had polarised the society violently.

Machuca is a slum kid , given a scholarship by a "red priest" to join the exclusive private English medium school for the rich class. The naive experiment of the American priest does not work. Machuca influences Gonzalo a boy from a rich family and opens his eyes to the poor who survive on the margins of the society and support the leftist revolution of Allende. Gonazalo is torn at home by his fractured family, in the clashes between the rich kids and poor ones at the school and the confrontation between the revolutionaries and reactionaries in the streets. After the overthrow of Allende, the military takes over even the school and throws out the poor kids.

Most of the things depicted in the film actually took place in real life in Chile and in other countries of military dictatorships such as Argentina. For the Chileans it was a nightmare and an aberration in their history. For the non -Chilean audience it gives a glimpse of the turmoil in the society and how it affected even the children.

The film is entertaining too, with its rich and colorful vocabulary of abusive words used by the kids. I was more used to mexican vocabulary. The Chileans are not far behind. The innocence of the kids, their kissing scenes and the selling of flags to rival processionists have been brought out vividly with an emotional and sensitive touch. The kids are charming and endearing with their acting.

Released in 2004, the film was directed by Andres Wood of Chile.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Miss Magical Realism

appears from nowhere
disappears into the air
appears and disappears
surprising and disappointing

calls me on fone
takes not my calls
sends me email
smile is her response

tempts me with promises
teases me with airkisses
embraces me publicly
eludes me discretely

suave and sweet
swaying bossanova
singing Gabriela
aroma of canela

magic is her spell
mystic her appeal
is she the angel?
Is it for real?

oops..I got it now..
miss magical realism

Movie- la mujer de mi hermano

La mujer de mi hermano- The wife of my brother - is the movie I watched yesterday.

It is a Mexican film shot in Chile by a Peruvian director Ricardo de Montreuil. Barbara Mori, the lead actress was born in Montevideo and has now become a mexican. Christian meier, who acts as the husband is a Peruvian while Manolo Cardona, acting as the the younger brother is Colombian.

After almost 10 years of marriage, the sensual and attractive Zoe( Barbara Mori) discovers that her marriage lacks passion and surprise. She falls for the bohemian painter brother of the husband. It starts innocently but leads to adventurous sex and games. She confides this to her male friend who is gay. Ultimately, she discovers that her husband himself is a closet gay. But he loves her even after knowing her infidelity.

Usual soap opera stuff. But what has made it interesting is the acting by Barbara Mori, who has portrayed the typical Latina character... seeking constantly new experience...adding new dimensions always... sensual, charming, sweet ... adventurous and audacious ...

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Divali - Trinidad style

The High Commissioner of Trinidad and Tobago Mr Persad hosted Divali celebrations- Trinidad style on 13 October.
It was an impressive and colourful event held at Uppal Orchid resort Hotel, New Delhi. There was Puja, devotional music and dance, magic show and dinner. No alcohol or meat, as per the Trini custom. And many Trinians undertake fast for a week before Divali. About 10 million Diyas are lighted in T and T on diwali day.

HC Persad is one of the most active and articulate diplomats in delhi.

In my speech, I described T and T as a land of Oil and Gas, Calypso and Carnival, Chutney music and Steel band and Naipaul and Laxmi Mittal.
Why Mittal? because T and T was his launch pad. He acquired his first steel mill in T and T, made his first million and got the confidence. Then he went on to acquire 10 more steel mills around the world, becoming the largest steel producer. He reversed the "East India Company complex" by becoming the richest person in UK and making the europeans afraid of him, when he was bidding to take over Arcelor.

Naipaul's treatment of India in his trilogy of books (India a wounded civilisation, An area of darkness and A million mutinies ) has provoked some Indians mutiny against him. I am not among them. Many of the comments of Naipaul are valid and the Indians need to reflect on them. Nirad Chaudhry and Pawan Varma have also pointed out the defects in the Indian mindset and society which need to be consciously corrected. But there is hope. If Naipaul visits the Mysore campus of Infosys, he will certainly celebrate the emerging new Indian mindset.

Both Mittal and Naipaul are success stories of Indians outside India. While Mittal has elevated the self esteem of Indians, Naipaul, through his criticism has provoked the Indians to think.

T and T is the most energetic ( so much of oil and gas), prosperous( highest per capita in the region- 13000 US $ ) , powerful country in caribbean. T and T could be the gateway for Indian business to enter the caribbean region. Essar is building a steel plant with an investment of 1.2 billion dollars.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

saving the world - Julia Alvarez's novel

This latest novel of Julia Alvarez, as her previous ones, traces her roots in Dominican Republic from the place of her stay in Vermont, USA. The story within this familiar story starts with a real life Spanish story of the early ninteenth century. A noble-hearted doctor Don Francisco conceives of a project to save the world from the scourge of smallpox which started ravaging the world at that time. He takes a group of orphans as live carriers of smallpox vaccination across the seas to the colonies in Africa, Latin America and Phillipines. Dona Isabel, the caretaker of the orphanage, who herself has a scarred face caused by smallpox, accompanies the children, through the rough and tumble of the voyages. The royal philonthrophic expedition of Don Francisco receives mixed response from the local governors and bishops in the new world. Despite the setbacks and challenges, Don francisco manages to vaccinate and save thousands of lives in Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Mexico besides a part of Africa and Phillipines. Isabel's admiration for the vision and mission driven Don turns romantic and her life revives and gets a new meaning. But of course, Don's heart has no space since it is filled only with his mission. He returns to Spain and is recognised by the king for his noble work.

But the story of Isabel and Francisco is what is spinning in the head of the writer Alma in Vermont. Pressed by her literary agent, she stumbles into a writer's block and is unable to transfer the story from her mind to a book. Her husband Richard goes on a thirdworld project in Dominican Republic, gets caught in a hostage situation. Alma rushes to her native land, manages to get into the house where Richard is hostage. But he is killed in the shoot-out, while she is saved, to carry the memory of her last meeting with him.

The Dominican insecurity in an alien American land is portrayed vividly in this as in the other novels. Added to that is the insecurity caused by a dying Helen in the neighbourhood. Watching closely someone die slowly is a traumatic experience. And there is the other insecurity arising from the undefined love to her husband. It is a second marriage. Richard is more like a protector and she is like a dependent needing to be taken care by him. It is not classical romance. But it is a mutually needed, comfortable and reinforcing relationship. It is not the young love flying over the clouds touching the moon. It is a late love making the mutual dependency adding meaning to the lives of the companions.

I see a clear transition and journey from Dominican Republic-centred first novels of Julia Alvarez " In the time of butterflies " and the delightful "Yo". While the native land is the root in this story too, there is more exploration and experience in the undefined alien land of United States with undefined emotions and relations ....

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Mexican Food Festival 11-22 October

Reason for this proud smile of Ambassador Rogelio- the music and dance group performing here is from his native Veracruz. Felicitaciones Embajador for one more succesful event.
Thanks to his hyperactiveness, mexico is raining on India almost every week with business delegations, parliamentarians, mariachis, musicians, chefs....

The mexican Embassy is organising this latest food festival at Kafe Fontana in Taj Palace Hotel, delhi. The last mexican food festival was held only last month.

Monica Patino is the chef from mexico. She is also author, teacher and restaurateur.

on 12 Oct at 1900 hrs there is also screening of a mexican film "recipes to stay together" at Taj palace. What a title!

This reminds me of the film Como agua para chocalate- like water for the chocolate, a delightful film about Mexican cuisine and tradition.