Monday, September 01, 2008

A matter of respect

Sister Maria of the Loreto Mission has spent her life changing lives. She teaches, nurtures, helps children who live on the sidewalks of Calcutta. Twenty of them came to the Academy of Fine Arts last Saturday to sing for her. Loud young voices raised in a hymn of thanks. They were singing about God.

As far as I’m concerned, Sister Maria is their God. She – and we – were there because Ashish Vidyarthi loved his father. And because he chose to show his respect for the late Govind Vidyarthi by instituting the Vidyarthi Samman. To acknowledge the people who don’t hit the headlines, the people who touch our lives but go unnoticed, the people we end up taking for granted. Four people were felicitated this year. Biswanath De from Malda, who for 65 years has worked in a form of folk satire called Gombhira. Hemendra Chandra Sen, who for 50 years has made the instruments that Pandit Ravi Shankar, Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty and Ustad Amjad Ali Khan play. Debi Haldar, make-up artiste in Bangla cinema for 53 years, and an invisible part of the work of Satyajit Ray. (This last is especially poignant now that make-up has been accepted as a category in the National Film Awards). And of course, Sister Maria.

Govind Vidyarthi, born TK Govindan, was one of those people who earn respect without demanding it. You can read about him here. I never met him, or his wife Reba, but I didn’t need the tributes from Nadira Babbar or Shyamanand Jalan to understand the kind of people they are. It’s evident from the son they raised.

The evening was a humbling experience. First, because of the four awardees and their silent achievements. Their humility. Their dignity. And again, because of the effort that Ashish puts into this every year. From making the arrangements for the awardees’ transport and accommodation to taking time out from his killing shooting schedules to go buy the angavastrams himself. To honour his father’s principles and his father’s memory. My father is special to me, but do I show it enough?

After the awards, Ekjute staged their play Dayashankar ki Diary. Nadira Babbar’s script is matter-of-fact, realistic, well-developed. Very relevant to the theme of the evening, because it deals with a man in the opposite situation to the four awardees, a man who sees no dignity in his situation, derives no satisfaction from his condition or his work. It doesn’t preach. A big plus point here, because I loathe preaching. It’s more than funny, it’s satire and an everyman tragedy. And it had Ashish.

You know how, when you have a friend who’s very good at something, you tend to take it for granted? How his special talent becomes invisible from close up, because it’s just what he does? Well, Ashish is this good friend who just happens to have a National Award. I tend to focus more on his camera (Nikon D200, thank you very much. I have impure thoughts about it, the kind that a younger man might have about Jessica Alba) and his text messages from weird places at weird hours. It took 90 minutes of Dayashankar ki Diary to wake me up. Ninety minutes, hell, I was kind of open-mouthed after 9 minutes. I forgot - this man is an ACTOR! Day-umm.

I won’t forget it again in a hurry. Thanks, mate.


Phantasmagoria said...

Such a lovely gesture. Thanks for sharing old man.

Unknown said...

Wonderful post as always. Ashish Vidyarthi is a superb actor .

iz said...

I wish I was someone famous. Then you would write about me this way. These are lucky, lucky people.

Anonymous said...

That was...kind of you.Your seemingly lackadaisicall comments,are always thought provoking...Now I know...they are a cover for the sharp eclectic brain which ticks beneath thy (humble)mane.. And your warm,genial sunshine ISMAIL !

Sucharita Sarkar said...

Oh,WOW. Ashish may not be as pretty as the other ASH, but he's by far the better actor!

The really touching post was actually the previous one about Lali. Thanks for the window into her blog.

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Ph, I couldn't be cynical. For a change.

E Lungs, so he is. More to the point, he's a great guy.

Iz, I think you missed the point.

Ashish, Confucius he say you say too much.

Sucharita, the comparison is odious. Cease and desist!


km said...

Beautifully written. Thanks, JAP.

Lazyani said...

The first movie that I had seen with my girlfriend(now wife)was Drohkal. And the first glimpse of Ashish Vidyarthi was .....

Then I saw Bombaiyer Bombaetey and again it was exhilarating. Thanks for mentioning his aspects hitherto unknown to me.

Thanks for the link to Lali's blog. Wish I had known about her and her blog earlier.

Anonymous said...

You might be forgiven for forgetting that Ashish Vidyarthi is a fine actor. After all, how many chances has mainstream Bollywood given him of showcasing it? It's monstrous, how the likes of Himmessh become 'actors' while Vidyarthi is mainly offered hammy villain roles.

The Unadorned said...

Where does pleasure come from--working on something that one loves or seeing the result for which one has worked or successfully showing people that the author of something special done is none but a special person doing things in the glare of public notice?

Is it from the challenge assoith work?

Or is it from the supreme spiritual realisation that whatever one does is on god's direction?

Thanx Alfred, I liked your post that provoked me to think this morning even before I could do other things.


Churu Churu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Churu Churu said...

what! so what now you inspire peeps?! :P