Sunday Long Reads: Films, books, air emergency and more

Seeing Red: (From left) Frank Capra with Nargis, Suraiya and others in Bombay.

What Delhi can learn from Beijing’s battle against the Airpocalypse

Delhi NCR came under a heavy blanket of smog on Tuesday. Express Photo by Gajendra Yadav, 01112018

On February 28, 2015, a TED-style talk on China’s pollution crisis got 100 million views on major Chinese video streaming sites like Tencent, Youku, and People’s Daily Online within 48 hours of its release. Chai Jing, a former investigative reporter with the state-owned China Central Television (CCTV), wove a narrative that was both emotional and rational. She used statistics, interviews and personal stories including that of a six-year-old girl from the coal mining province of Shanxi who had never seen stars or white clouds in her life. China News Service reported at the time that after Chai’s 103-minute long, self-financed Under the Dome released, the then-newly appointed minister for environment protection, Chen Jining, said he thanked her for focusing attention on environmental problems.


National Award-winning filmmaker Bhaskar Hazarika on his brave new film ‘Aamis’, and why Assam grounds his work

Bhaskar Hazarika with a gamusa around his neck, during the shoot of 'Aamis'. (Photo by Dolee Talukdar)

“Stop making creepy movies!” This piece of advice to filmmaker Bhaskar Hazarika comes not from a film critic. Or a producer. But from his 10-year-old daughter, Leela, who has the most insightful conversations with her father. “A few months ago, she told me she was bored. I asked her to go write a poem. She said she had nothing to write about. So I told her to write a poem on ‘nothing’. And she did!” says Hazarika. The two are now writing a children’s film together, quite a departure from Hazarika’s dark oeuvre, where popular Assamese folktales get macabre twists and warm, fuzzy love stories take sinister turns.


Families in Food: Tastes like Bhandara

Give me more: Shiv Mishthan Bhandar in Chandni Chowk (Photo by Gajraj Singh)

Winter is here and so are historical walks in and around Old Delhi. Many of these early chilly morning walks end at Shiv Mishthan Bhandar on Kucha Ghasi Ram, the road leading up to Red Fort. Breakfast in that part of town is synonymous, mostly, with their bestselling bedmi poori and Nagori halwa.


Down in Jungleland: A thought on the environmental legacy we are burdening children with

We are busy wrecking the nature with our toxic air, poisoned water and bad politicians. (Photo by Ranjit Lal)

“Go, tidy up your room! You’re living in a pigsty!”
“Clean up your cupboard — it’s like a garbage dump!”
“Don’t leave the bathroom in such a mess after your bath!”
“Be tidy in your work — and habits!”
“Eat with your mouth closed!”
“No, we’re not buying crackers this Diwali — sorry!”
How many millions of kids have been thus harangued by their parents and teachers day in and day out? And these days, additionally: “Put away that smartphone!”; “You spend far too many hours watching TV and on the internet.” And then the killer, which today must make even the most lead-brained parent, baulk a bit and swallow back. “Go out and play! Get some fresh air. Bond with nature!”

Excuse me? Go out and play? Get some fresh air? Exactly where if you’re living anywhere in north India, and, especially, in places like Delhi? Sorry, that’s not available anymore and will be in short supply for, well, who knows how long. Mostly permanently.

When India’s first international film festival was suspected to be a ‘communist shenanigan’

Seeing Red: (From left) Frank Capra with Nargis, Suraiya and others in Bombay.

An international film festival was still a novelty when India decided to hold one in 1952. In fact, the first International Film Festival of India (IFFI) held in January-February 1952 in four (now metro) cities was the first such event held anywhere in Asia. The festival which starts this week in Goa will be celebrating its 50th edition this year. There were only eight international film festivals in the world at that time and all of them were in Europe, including the oldest in Venice.



Let the children decide what books to pick, and when

Title wave: Children deserve the opportunity to explore their curiosity further. (Photos: Express archive)

Picture this. Children flitting about like butterflies from one storytelling venue to another. Organisers and young volunteers scurrying about, escorting authors and artists for their sessions, making sure everything is happening as scheduled. The atmosphere is electrifying, yet there is an unusual serenity in being at a literature festival, being around books and people who love books.


More than words: Priya Kuriyan’s illustrations capture the world of everyday quirks

Kuriyan Ammachi Glasses, Priya Kuriyan, Bengaluru-based illustrator, animator and comic book artist, Big Little Book Awards, Natasha Sharma, Royal Packer, Tejaswini Apte-Rahm, Sujatha Padmanabhan, Princess Easy Pleasy, indian express eye news

Of the many things that leap out of a Priya Kuriyan illustration, the strongest — and, often, the most relatable — is her sense of humour and her eye for the everyday quirky. The Bengaluru-based illustrator, animator and comic book artist, 38, was declared the winner of the Big Little Book Awards in the illustrator category this week for her burgeoning body of work. Here are some of the works by the NID graduate that stand out for their ability to add depth and nuance to the narrative while ensuring that it is always fun.


This day and age: A 110-year-old grandmother’s guide to growing older

paternal grandmother, life with grandmother, native goan stories, grandparents lessons, culture gap, goa, goa tourism, indian express eye news

At my ancestral home in Goa, the most important antique is my paternal grandmother: she turns 111 on December 8. Ours is a single-storeyed, 180-year-old house, with lush garden, an overgrown backyard and now a defunct well. In the setting sun, it radiates a beauty of its own. And its history evokes awe: it’s fun to watch people’s jaws drop when they get to know my grandmother’s age.


A graphic novel that documents the horrors of Vanni in Sri Lanka

Drawn on Horror: The spirit of straight-up reportage animates Vanni, rather than complex storytelling. top: Benjamin Dix; below: Lindsay Pollock.

In September 2008, as the war between the Sri Lankan army and the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) mounted in the country’s north, UN workers began moving out of Kilinochchi, Vanni. Benjamin Dix was one of them. He had arrived on the island in 2004 to help the victims of the devastating tsunami, and had stayed on as the conflict worsened. The UN’s departure from the country, as the Sri Lankan government gained control of areas under the LTTE, left many Tamilians vulnerable. “I left Vanni with a huge collection of interviews, photographs and reports, along with my own lived experiences and relationships within the Tamil community…. A deep sense of shame and guilt engulfed me as I drove out of Kilinochchi in the last UN convoy on 16 September 2008,” recalls Dix, who lives in London.


How traditional form and modern technology exist together in Delhi’s ISKCON temple

There is never an easy way to reach god, and New Delhi’s ISKCON temple doesn’t take you there directly. You walk through the Krishna Jayanti Park, lined with flowering rain trees, up towards the temple complex, and even then you don’t see the entrance till you go around it.

It took 880 tonnes of steel, 5,500 tonnes of cement, 25,000 sq ft of marble, 75,000 sq ft of stone to build the Radha-Parthasarathi Temple, popularly known as the ISKCON (The International Society for Krishna Consciousness) Temple. Sitting on a hill, its red-and-white latticed towers rise high. It sits in the middle of two equally important religious sites, the Lotus Temple, with its modernist twist to the Baha’i faith and the Akshardham temple, which recalls the traditional designs of Gujarat.


To bridge the divide in Manipur, the effects of a long cycle of violence should be accepted

A History of Violence (Above) A photograph of Kuki rebels from the book History of the Assam Rifles (1929) by LW Shakespeare.

In the history of resistance in British India, one of the seminal events recorded in the north-eastern part of the country is the Kuki Rebellion of 1917-1919. In 1917, as World War I raged on, the British pressed the Nagas, Lushais, Kukis and other tribes into service as part of the Imperial army’s Labour Corps. The Kukis refused, leading to the Kuki Rebellion of 1917-1919.


Why we fight on Twitter equally over Ayodhya verdict and who a Big Boss contestant looks like

We seem to become counters who track, collect, store, share, and forget the minutiae of our humdrum days, only to start the process all over again. (Photo: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

The internet is made of mundane things. Be it the obsessive recording of who ate what and what they look like on our social media streams or the continuous transaction of data and money that powers the e-commerce of our click-and-buy times. If anything, the digital streams are a testimony to the absolute banality of our everyday lives. We seem to become counters who track, collect, store, share, and forget the minutiae of our humdrum days, only to start the process all over again. Once in a while, this prosaic production of our life gets punctuated by the appearance of an opinion, an idea, an encounter that shakes us out of our scroll-a-day practices and shakes us into excitement. But this state of excited interest is rare, and often triggered by clickbait headlines and messages crafted with the promise of titillation but the reality of a damp squib.