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Mira Nair’s film of Vikram Seth’s ‘A Suitable Boy’

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I wish all my readers a happy Christmas season as far as Covid 19 restrictions allow.

In the midst of so much controversy, fear and menace of the pandemic, I thought it best to divert readers’ attention with a huge success story of an excellent film produced from a superb book – Vikram Seth’s 1993, 1,349 paged ‘A Suitable Boy’ about post-Independence India in the 1950s, set in Calcutta and Lucknow, dealing with inter-religious issues and love between Muslims and Hindus. It is one of the longest English-language novels in print and worldwide reviews placed it as one of the best modern literary classics. The title is because the mother of the chief female protagonist is adamantly and determinedly in search of a suitable boy as husband for her university graduated daughter. I admit I am still to read it, but I so enjoyed Seth’s 1999 ‘An Equal Music’ which he autographed for me at a Galle Lit Festival. It was absorbingly interesting though much about western classical music and I know not a note of music!

Mira Nair directed the film version of ‘A Suitable Boy’. Her prestige as a director/producer of films was established by her very first – ‘Salaam Bombay’ 1988, followed by ‘Monsoon Wedding’, both of which won many international awards and the former nominated for an Oscar. She received the second highest Indian civilian award – Padma Bhushan. She lives in Kampala, Uganda, where her husband is posted and in New York. In Uganda she runs a film makers’ lab. A nickname for her is Toofani which is whirlwind in Hindi. Most relevant to me is that she was invited as guest speaker at the third cycle of the Geoffrey Bawa Awards 2013/14 which celebrated the architectural achievements of Prof Ron Lewcock, and archeological achievements of Prof Senaka Bandaranayake at Park Street Mews on the evening of July 23, 2014. Mira Nair was invited by architect C Anjalendran who knows her. She most competently and interestingly delivered her address, coming across as very friendly and simple though of world repute.

Given the film’s epic story and production, Nair, who grew up in India, jokingly described it as “’The Crown’ in Brown.” But beyond its scale and prestige, the project clearly carries deep personal and political meaning for her. She said “The ’50s has always been a real pull for me — 1951 was the year my parents married. It was a secular time and a time of real idealism, taking from the English what we had known, but making it our own.” Though she compared ‘A Suitable Boy’ to ‘The Crown,’ both sweeping the popular stakes and aired on Netfliz, the film on the House of Windsor cost much more, being one of the most expensive shows on TV. To be within the BBC budget, ‘Suitable…’ was filmed on location in India and the production trimmed from eight episodes to six, thus somewhat curtailing the long drawn narrative of the novel.

 

The film

I saw three episodes of ‘A Suitable Boy’ a couple of days ago; Netflix releasing an episode every Monday. The episodes I saw were rapturously captivating. If I go to describe what I saw I will use all superlative epithets of praise. I love anything Indian and “Suitable’ is completely Indian. While the married daughter’s sister falls in love with a Muslim university student, her father-in-law, a liberal Hindu member of the governing council argues and wins a case to distribute land to the landless and is against a kovil being built by the Rajah right next to a mosque, igniting rioting. The novel “A Suitable Boy” emerged as Hindu nationalist politics began to take center stage in India.

(NOTE

: For the rest of this article I will quote or extract information from the New York Times article of Dec 7 by Bilal Qureshi: ‘A Suitable Boy’ Finally Finds Its Perfect Match: Mira Nair)

When the film debuted on BBC One in July this year it was lauded in Britain as the network’s first prime-time drama filmed on location in India with an almost entirely Indian cast. In India, the reaction was more complicated: members of the ruling Hindu nationalist party over its depictions of interfaith romance, and the police opened an investigation into Netflix, which distributes the show. (How narrow minded and illiberal can politicians become?)

“After several failed attempts to have the book adapted, Seth personally chose the Welsh screenwriter Andrew Davies for the job, fresh off a successful 2016 BBC adaptation of another historical epic, Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace.’ As Seth continued to work on his long-gestating sequel to the novel, he entrusted his sister, Aradhana Seth, to ensure the integrity of the adaptation. (She is credited as both a producer and an executive producer). The BBC commissioned the series in 2017; Nair, who had expressed interest from the beginning, was brought on the next year.”

The film was severely critiqued by “South Asian critics who focused on the mannered English dialogue and overly enunciated accents, with particular focus on why an 84-year-old Welsh writer had adapted this iconic story about the birth of modern India and a young woman’s romantic awakening.” Vikram Seth broke his public silence to defend his choice of Davies in The Telegraph, saying “Race should have nothing to do with it. It’s a balance between getting someone very, very Indian to write it or someone very, very experienced at adapting long books.” Davies, who scripted the film adaptations of ‘Bleak House’ and

‘Pride and Prejudice’ explained from his home in the British Midlands: “I feel a little prickly and needing to defend my territory and not have it taken away from me as a writer. I would claim the right to put myself in the mind of people who are different from me.”

Filming was completed in India in 2019 and Nair took a break in March from editing the show in London with a visit to New York. Then international borders closed because of the corona virus. Editing and other finishing touches to the film had all to be done on line. Even the music was scored remotely, with a full orchestra in Budapest and composers, Alex Heffes and the sitarist Anoushka Shankar, in Los Angeles and London.

Nair, who grew up in a secular home, shifted her emphasis from the romance to a comment on politics. “Politics was front and center for me, and that was one of the biggest things that I could do – to re-shift the balance of the story. Less from ‘will she or won’t she marry’ to really making Lata feel like the making of India.” She also integrated spoken Hindi and Urdu into the screenplay within the strictures of BBC broadcasting. Thus the songs sung by Saeeda Bai are in Urdu, with inserted subtitling in English.

“The series was filmed on location amid the grandeur and the decay of real cities,” as Nair described it, “where production designers labored to hide the electrified chaos of modern life to achieve the show’s layered, mid-century Indian minimalism. An appropriated mansion in Lucknow was refashioned into the salon of the Muslim singer and courtesan – Saeeda Bai. Her home is the luminescent force at the center of the adaptation, the embodiment of an aristocratic Islamic court culture and literary sensuality that was in decline by the time the story begins.”

 

Snippets about the Stars

Saeeda is played by one of India’s most acclaimed actors, Tabu, who made her international debut in Nair’s 2007 adaptation of the Jhumpa Lahiri novel ‘The Namesake.’ Her character’s poetry, singing and beauty seduces the younger Maan, the dashing son of the influential Hindu politician.

Maniktala, luminous in her fresh beauty plays Lata, the female protagonist for whom a suitable boy in marriage is being sought. Her grandfather was traumatized as a Hindu refugee forced by the 1947 partition to flee to India from Pakistan. “I realize how important pain is, and the lessons to be found in that”, she noted.

Khatter, who plays Maan, the politician’s son, besotted by Saeeda, noted that in a country as diverse and sometimes divided as India, stories of interfaith love remain a powerful theme “I myself am the son of an interreligious marriage, and it’s very much who we are.”

Sadaf Jafar, who plays Saeeda’s servant, Bibbo, protested in the riots that erupted after Hindu nationalist government’s that explicitly from Indian citizenship – 2020. She was jailed and beaten. Against the advice of friends, Nair started a public campaign on Jafar’s behalf until the actor was released three weeks later.

“The optimistic multiculturalism reflected in ‘A Suitable Boy’ may seem in many ways like a fading relic of both literary and political history.” To me the very Indian film showed how different things were in India from the secular times written about to now when there is so much inter-religious conflict and the Hindu majority trampling the Muslims. Are we in Sri Lanka much different with our burgeoning Buddhist supremacy? How different from the balmy days of immediate post colonialism that we grew up in.



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Features

To recognise and reward Women Entrepreneur

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by Zanita Careem

WCIC “Prathibhabis-heka” national awards will be given to outstanding women entrepreneurs of Sri Lanka and the SAARC said Anoji de Silva, the chairperson of Women’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce WCIC at a press conference held at the Jetwing hotel Ward PlaceThis year the Women Entrepreneur Awards 2022 is powered by DFCS Aloka.This National Award which is recognised globally will help women to market their products to international buyers

“As a country we have faced many difficulties over the last few years. Now this is the time to reflect and ensure that local women can contribute and progress to be on par with international entrepreneurs She also noted that this award ceremony is a great opportunity for all since it’s an absolutely empowering platform. “You hear success stories of women from different walks of life and it’s very empowering and inspiring. I’m sure that the younger generation of women who will watch the ceremony wii be inspired to be sucessful entrepreneurs in the future S

“Our women entrepreneurs have the potential to help our economy to grow. They have made vast strides to build companies on a set of values and they have created diverse working environments.

The WCIC Prathibhabisheka Women Entrepreneur Awards will be held in January 22. To the question how financial records of small businesses headed by women could deter their ability to apply the chairperson said.

“We have a startup category which is under five years where they can submit documents for consideration. She responded “These women can apply but must submit proper records to back their applications or else they will be rejected wholeheartedly.The Women Entrepreneur Awards 2022

“Prathibha” depicts excellence in Sanskrit and WCIC will showcase the excellence of outstanding women entrepreneurs through WCIC Prathibhabisheka –

“The relaunched property is structured to assess the businesses in a holistic manner. We invite outstanding women entrepreneurs, especially the ones who have braved the challenges in the past years to share their story of resilience and achievements to compete for the coveted – WCIC Prathibhabisheka The Awards will honour women entrepreneurs for their tenacity to scale and grow, and for their contribution and impact on the economy. Whilst the competition is primarily for Sri Lankan Entrepreneurs, we have also included an opportunity for women in the SAARC region to compete in a special category” stated Anoji De Silva, the Chairperson of the WCIC.

The members of WCIC Ramani Ponnambalam and Tusitha Kumarakul-asingam, said”. We will be accepting applications under the categories – Start-up, Micro, Small, Medium and Large. Each category will have a specified revenue for the year under review – 2021/22. Gold, Silver and Bronze Awards will be presented for each category. With the view to identify and promote regional women entrepreneurs, we will encourage applications from all the provinces in the country and select the “Best of the Region” from each province.

The women will also be considered for the coveted special awards – Young Woman Entrepreneur, Outstanding Start- up, Most Positively Abled Woman Entrepreneur, The Most Outstanding Export Oriented Entrepreneur, The Best of the SAARC Region. The ceremony will culminate with the selection of the “Women Entrepreneur of the year -2022”.

“The entry kit can be downloaded from www.wcicsl.lk and completed and submitted to the WCIC along with all the material required to substantiate the applicant’s story. Entries close on the 31st of October.” stated Tusitha Kumarak-ulasingam.

WCIC Prathibabisheka – Woman Entrepreneur Awards 2022 is powered by– DFCC Aloka, as the Platinum Sponsor, with Gold Sponsors – Mclarens Group, LOLL Holdings Plc, Hayleys Leisure Pic, and AIA Insurance Lanka Ltd (Exclusive Insurance Partner), Silver – Finez Capital Ventures Print and Social Media Partners will be the Wijeya Group and Electronic Media Partner–ABC Network with Triad as our Creative Partner and Ernst & Young as Knowledge Partner.

Women’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce (WCIC) is the premier organization supporting entrepreneurs and professional business-women. The membership is open to women who believe they can contribute to society as well as benefit from the many facilities the organization creates. WCIC Prathibhasheka is relaunched this year as a flagship property, to recognize and reward outstanding women enterpreneurs who make a contribution to the SL economy.

For further information Contact- Janitha Stephens – 0766848080

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Features

Marmalade sandwich in Queen’s handbag!

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In this period of national mourning, it may seem frivolous to comment on the late Queen’s handbag. After seven decades of selfless service to the nation, fashion is but a footnote to Her Majesty’s glorious reign.And yet her style is something that helped to create the powerful majestic image of Queen Elizabeth II, and which made her instantly recognisable worldwide. A key part of that image, and a constant presence in her working life, was her black Launer handbag.

Launer London was Her Majesty’s handbag maker for more than 50 years and has held the Royal Warrant since 1968. Launer bags are formal and structured, and proved to be the ideal regal accessory for public engagements. Its first royal patronage came from HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in the 1950s. Where others might have bought the latest ‘It’ bag, Queen Elizabeth exercised characteristic restraint with her handbags throughout her life, focusing on quality over quantity in her loyalty to Launer.

Her Majesty was known for her love of colour in her working wardrobe, wearing rainbow brights in order to be better seen by the public, but her accessories were always muted. Black mostly, sometimes beige or white in summer, gold or silver in the evening: neutrals that matched with every colour, allowing her to dress with ease. The timeless style of her trusty Traviata top-handle bag suited the Queen’s no-nonsense nature and symbolised her steadfast reign. The late Baroness Thatcher shared the Queen’s love of a strong top handle from classic British labels such as Launer and Asprey. These bags helped promote a look of someone in control. Like Queen Elizabeth, Thatcher’s handbags were such a part of her identity that they have earned their own special place in history and have been described as the former PM’s ‘secret weapon’. One such bag has been exhibited at the V&A alongside Sir Winston Churchill’s red despatch box. Both are artefacts of cultural and historic importance.

It has been said that there was another purpose to the Queen’s handbag on public engagements, namely that she used it as a secret signalling device. According to royal historian Hugo Vickers, Her Majesty would switch the bag from her left arm to her right to signal for an aide to come to her rescue if she tired of the conversation in which she was engaged. If she placed the bag on the table, this was a sign that she wanted to leave. Ever-practical, HM needed a bag that focused on functionality over fashion, choosing styles with slightly longer top handles that comfortably looped over the monarch’s arm, freeing her hands to accept bouquets and greet the public. Even in her final photograph, meeting her 15th prime minister in her sitting room at Balmoral Castle, just two days before her death last week, the Queen’s handbag can be seen on her left arm. Perhaps at this stage it was part armour, part comfort blanket.Even at the age of 96, Queen Elizabeth II did not lose her ability to surprise. She delighted the public by taking tea with Paddington Bear at her Platinum Jubilee celebrations and finally revealed what she keeps in her handbag: a marmalade sandwich, ‘for later’.

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Cinnamon Grand, Colombo welcomes You to the SEQUEL

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The next best thing in Colombo!

What would you get if you took the decadence of yesterday and paired it with the flavours of right now? Something bold and jazzy or rich and snazzy. Something we’d like to call the next best thing. All this and more at Cinnamon City Hotels to the SEQUEL at Cinnamon Grand, Colombo said a press release.

The release said the SEQUEL is where the old meets new, where charm meets sophistication and having a good time gets a new meaning. Colombo’s latest speakeasy cocktail bar is ready to welcome the discerning guest that is looking for that perfectly curated night.

“The SEQUEL will be a novel addition to Colombo’s nightlife catered to enthralling guests with our performances and showmanship,” said Kamal Munasinghe, Area Vice-President, Cinnamon City Hotels.

What do we mean when we say performance? It means that every little detail is tailored to those who appreciate elegance, and a bespoke experience like no other. Think walking into a vintage space accompanied by the sounds of Sinatra and Fitzgerald inviting you to do it your way or for once in your life. Think of the soul-searching and eclectic mix of Winehouse classics that you can drown your sorrows in.

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