Saturday, November 26, 2011

Earworms, Kolaveri and Thalavali

If you frequent any of the Indian news websites, you will be convinced by now that Anirudh Ravichander is the next A.R (Rahman??) in the making, and Dhanush the next Bobby Dylan, or some such thing. Their Youtube promo " Why this Kolaveri di" for the movie '3' has taken on cult status with the views now standing at 5.7 million and counting. It has spawned imitations as well, with this 'Carnaticized' version as a good example

The tune is catchy and quite an Earworm, but the appeal of the lyrics is still a puzzle to me and probably a few million others. Why would mangled English with an '-u' attached (the sound is more like a shortened rendition of 'eww'  without the pursing of the lips), become the latest craze-u?  I vunder-u.

Will this virus go international, or is it just going to be the hordes of delighted expatriates who drool over this new phenomenon? Only time will tell, and as we all know, the internet affords only about 15 microseconds of fame to any viral video before the next one comes along to displace it.

In the mean time, I must go off to get rid of this terrible 'Thalavali' (headache) that has been possessing my head since yesterday. "Why this Thalavali-di?"

-Update: This is now officially a 'Gold award'ed Youtube phenomenon, having surpassed the 20 million view mark. It's gone international as well, as seen in this compedium of the top 10 Kolaveri-di spoofs and imitations.

I heard a proper Tamil translated version of the Tanglish in the original, and while it is nicely done, I can see why the Tanglish had more appeal. It grabs at you in a way the Tamil words do not.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Tagorian Tale

I had been asked to read out another blogger's Tamil translation of songs  from Tagore's Gitanjali for a dance performance. After examining the translations, I found them to be intensely dissatisfying, giving me the same feeling of irritation that I had as a teen,  when going through most of the English Gitanjali, barring a few poems. Tagore had tailored his English translations, softening some of the original expressions, to make it more accessible to a Western audience. It was only years later that I realized this might have triggered my early disdain of his translations.
That's when it struck me that it might be worth my attempting a translation from the Bengali to the Tamil, without the filter of the English (beyond the occasional indicator for unfamiliar words.) Here they are, in short order, with links to the Bengali originals:

"Bisshoshaathe joge jethay amaro" :
(Audio on Youtube)

உலகத்துடன் நீ ஒன்றாய் சேர்கையில்
நான் உன்னுடன் சேர்ந்துவிட்டேன்
கருங்காட்டிலில்லை நீ, தனியிருட்டிலில்லை நீ,
உள்ளத்தினாழத்தில் இல்லை நீ.
அனைவருடன் நீ கூடியிருக்க நான் உன்னுடன் கூடுகிறேன்
அனைவருக்கும் நீ கரம்நீட்டவே, என் அன்பு பெருகுகிறது,
அந்த அன்பு ஒளிககமுடியாத ஒளியாக பரவும்.
அன்பனே, அனைத்துலகில் ஆனந்தமும் நீயே
என்னானந்தமும் நீயே.

(a translation of the translation:)
As you unite with the world,
I unite with you.
You are not to be found in the forest, nor in solitude,
nor in the innermost depths of my being.
It is when you join with others that I join you,
When you reach out to them that my love for you grows.
A love inconcealable, spreading like light.
Oh Dear One, you are the world's joy, and mine. 

எத்தனை அறியாதவர்களை எனக்கறிமுகம் செய்தாய்

எத்தனை பிற அறைகளில் என்னை அமரவைத்தாய்,

தொலைவில் உள்ளவர்களை அருகே கொண்டுவந்தாய், நண்பனே,

அந்நியர்களை அன்பர்களாக்கினாய்.

பழகிய இடங்களை விட்டகலும்போது என்னாகுமென்று என்மனம் பயந்துசாகவே, புதியவர்களினுள் நீயே பழகியவன் என்பதை நான் மறந்துவிட்டேன்.

வாழ்விலும் சாவிலும் ஒருங்கே எப்பொழுதும் எனையாள்வாய்
எல்லாஜன்மங்களிலுமே என்னையறிந்தவன் நீயே.

உன்னையறிந்தால் வேறு எதுவும் இல்லை,

எத்தடையுமில்லை, பயமுமில்லை.

அனைவரையும் நான் அணைக்கையில் அவர்களில் உன் விழிப்பை

எனைஎன்றும் காணச் செய்வாய்.
(a translation of the translation:)
How many unknown people have you made known to me,
In how many chambers have you given me seats?
Brought the distant near, O Friend, made strangers into intimates.
Leaving familiar places, I am seized with a deathly fear of what might happen, 
I forget that You are ever present, the Familiar in those I meet anew.
In life and death, in all this world, at all times  You lead me,
In all lives, You best know me.
Knowing You, there is no Other, no hindrance, no fear.
In embracing all others, let me always see You awakening in them.

வாழ்க்கை வறண்டு போகவே,
கருணை வெள்ளமாகி வாராயோ.
வாழ்வில் இனிமை பறிபொகவே,
கீதாமிர்தமாகி வாராயோ.
சுற்றிலும் பலமாக இரைந்திடும் கடமையிடையில், அமைதி நாதனே!
என்னிதயத்தில் அமைதிபுகலிடமாகி வாராயோ.
மூலையில் என்மனம் தாழ்ந்து குறுகவே,
மகராஜனே! கதவைத்திறந்து ராஜகம்பீரத்துடன் வாராயோ.
ஆசைக்கடலில் என்மனம் அலைபாயவே,
அறியாமைஎனும் தூசி கண்ணை குருடாக்கவே,
தூயவனே, துயிலற்றவனே!
சீற்றமின்னலாகி எனக்கு ஞானம் அருள வாராயோ .
(translation of the translation:)
In a life that has parched up, 
Come as a rushing stream of mercy.
In a life that has lost all sweetness,
Come as the nectar-sweet song.
As roaring Duty surrounds me, O Lord of Silence,
Arrive in my heart as a peaceful refuge.
As my heart cowers in shame in a corner,
Open the door and come in with all majesty, O Royal One.
In my heart buffeted in a sea of desires,
where the dust of ignorance has blinded mine eye,
O Purest One, O Sleepless One!
Bless me with the fierce lightning of knowledge. 

And an extra:
(The famous 'Where the mind is without fear”, in which Tagore has recast his stronger call to action in the closing words as a meek “Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.)

மனமெங்கு அச்சமின்றி இருக்கிறதோ, சிரமேங்கு நிமிர்ந்து நிற்கிறதோ,
அறிவெங்கு விலையின்றி வழங்கப்படுகின்றதோ,
தினசரி குடும்ப இன்னல் மதில்களால் பாரெங்கு பிளக்கப்படவில்லையோ,
இதயத்தின் ஆழத்திலிருந்து சொற்கள் எங்கு பிறக்கின்றதோ,
விடாமுயற்சி எங்கு எண்திசையும்  கர்மத்தின் பெருக்காகி பரவுகிறதோ,
ஆயிரமாயிரம்  பலவிதமான சரிதங்களை உருவாக்கவே.
சிந்தனை ஓடையின் தெளிந்த நீர் எங்கு  சொற்ப பழக்க பாலைவனத்தில் தன்பாதைவிட்டு  திரியவில்லையோ ,
எங்களை ஆளாக்குங்கள், உண்மையளிப்பவரே !
நீரே   எல்லா செயலுக்கும் சிந்தைக்கும் தலைவர்,
இரங்காகரத்தினால் எங்களை அடித்துதிருத்தி
அந்த சுதந்திர சுவர்க்கத்திலே பாரதத்தை விழித்திட செய்வீர்! 

translation of the translation (I have retained Tagore's original lines where suitable):

Where the mind is without fear, where the head is held high,
Where knowledge is free,
Where the walls of daily domestic divisions have not divided the world,
Where words arise from the depths of the heart,
Where tireless striving streams as action in all directions across the land,
to create manifold thousands of histories.
Where the clear stream of reason has not turned back on its path in the desert sands of lowly habit.
Make us heroic, O Truth-Giver!
You are the arbiter of all thought and action.
Strike us with your merciless hand, awaken Bharat (India) into that heaven of freedom!

Whether I will eventually read these out in public or not is still a question up in the air, but I enjoyed the process of translating them immensely, finding it surprisingly easier to translate directly into Tamil in my head. 
A mother tongue is still a mother tongue, after all, even if lost in the earlier years. 


(Thanks to K.Venkatraman for a few editorial suggestions that improved the translation of the first three songs.) 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Book Purist

M has reached the age where she questions every film made based on a book. I have often thought that with the current pressures of modern life and constant exposure to electronic media, that the visual grammar of films would make for an easier introduction to some of the much loved books in my library.
Case in point, the Jeeves and Wooster stories of P.G. Wodehouse. I randomly happened on the BBC version on Netflix and we were soon rolling over laughing in unison at Jeeves' supercilious 'Indeed, sir's and Bertie Wooster's madcap schemes that need the Jeeves rescue missions to recover from disaster. I went ahead to get the companion edition of J&W novels, hoping that M would give it a try.
And she has, very successfully, taking to it like a duck in water. She has read her way through The Code of the Woosters and loves to discuss arcane details that never made it from print to film.
We watched Heidi recently, and M promptly declared that she would give it passing marks, but only just. She didn't mind the rearranging of some of the events from the book, but felt that some of the characters weren't quite as true to the book as she had hoped.
But the movie extravaganza based on Frances Hodgson Burnett's classic 'A Little Princess' scored majorly in the failing department, despite being gushed over by critics as wonderfully artistic and creative. The transfer of the story from England to the US, the period from the Victorian era to the World War I period,  the overly arty introduction of dream sequences with cartoonishly painted characters from Hindu mythology, all of these had us giving up on the main movie. It makes one want to go to bed and curl up with the original book in question, rather than watch the screen version.
The Borrowers, with its simplified, designed to please the US fan base, storyline, with brief nods to the original, scored as a Fail, again.
At this rate, I shall (a) either stick with ordering movie versions only if they are guaranteed to be from the 80's Brit vintage years (b) forego getting the movie version entirely, rather than listen to complaints about yet another director who has not 'read the book'.
In that spirit, I suspect we shall hear more complaints about the recent Spielberg adaptation of Tintin in The Secret of the Unicorn. While being given charitably good reviews, the red flag that went up on my skimming of those is that Captain Haddock doesn't once utter 'Billions of blistering barnacles'. Andy Serkis and all the hoopla of motion capture notwithstanding, this version will not stand a chance with The Book Purist.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fly free, Little Bird

Yesterday, I thought of Kochuthresiamma. It had been a long while since I saw any updates to her blog. The last comment on her most recent post was an anxious inquiry as to why no new posts from her.

I checked on her personal blog page, and there on Oct 22 was a Thank you to another well-wisher. No details were there, but I had an uneasy feeling about it.

Kochuthresiamma P.J. (aka Molly) of passed away yesterday, November 8, 2011 at 1am Indian Standard Time, not long before I thought of her and checked her blog.

You were much loved, and will be missed by all of us, family and friends in real life as well as those of us who were purely online friends.

RIP, Kochuthresiamma.