Book Review: Mama Don’t Stop The Music

The importance of mother is sky high in India. This can be seen from the numerous stories and films based on her. But the subject is not limited to just one country. Mother is a universal phenomenon.

Author Pamela Edwards’s book Mama Don’t Stop The Music is an emotional roller-coaster ride about a daughter’s self-discovery and the importance of forgiveness along with a dash of supernaturalism.

The novel revolves around the 33-year-old Nadine Allen in the US. Her mother or Mama is on her death bead. She desperately wants her to be well as she is ridden with guilt for not being at her side for the past 21 years. Nadine narrates her tale right from her childhood. Her happy life starts going through turbulence after her family shifts to a new apartment.

This starts a roller-coaster ride of unexpected and testing events for Nadine right till she grows up. Her inexplicable life brings her closer to God. She is sure He will not let her down.

mama-dont-stop-the-musicThe sequences about Nadine’s efforts to revive her mother, who is on the death bed, not only move but also hook you right at the start. Edward’s language is a smart mixture of simplicity and richness. The pace is free-flowing with one important event happening after another without much break.

Although the topic is about a complicated relationship between a mother and daughter, the role of the former isn’t much. But she is present throughout in Nadine’s conscience and memory, which is put on paper.

A major part of the book features the social scenario of the people belonging to the middle class in the yesteryears in the US. The angle on how youngsters are forced to get into crime and the detailing of the same appears realistic but, thankfully, not like non-fiction.

There are incidents that are depressing, especially the incident where Nadine and her sisters assault their own mother. But the fast pace takes care of this bit.

The story also has an element of supernaturalism. But it is never in-your-face and kept in the background in a subtle way.

What works against the book is that way too many sub-plots and incidents are thrown in one after the other after a point. They are so many in number that it’s difficult to recall them after finishing the book. Some of these instances have not much to do with the main plot. These incidents should have been reduced as it, in the latter half, makes the narrative lengthy.

Thankfully, the ending portions are where the book scores the most. The manner in which the story ends does bring a smile on your face.

Overall: Mama Don’t Stop The Music is not just the story of a mother and daughter but also one that speaks about the societal condition in the US. It manages to overcome the minuses and becomes a fulfilling experience in the end.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Review by: Keyur Seta

Author: Pamela Edwards

Genre: Drama

Pages: 221

Publishers: Publishing Push

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Vivek Oberoi to play Swami Vivekananda in web series

Actor Vivek Oberoi is all set to play India’s great spiritual guru Swami Vivekananda in the latter’s biopic. The film will be a web-series that will be streamed in three parts in one of the OTT platforms in India.

Swami Vivekananda’s life story has been made into movies quite a few times. The most prominent one is director G V Iyer’s Vivekananda (1998). The film saw Sarvadaman D Banerjee play the titular role of Swami Vivekananda while Mithun Chakraborty played his guru Ramakrishna Paramhansa. The latter won the National Award for Best Supporting Actor.

But this web series is the first time that Swami Vivekananda’s life will be explored in the digital space. As per sources, “the actor has been undergoing extensive research in order to get into the skin of the character and portray the evangelist accurately.”

Swami-Vivekananda-biopic

Sources also reveal that a lot of research has gone into the project, which is in the scripting stage currently. The shoot is expected to commence early next year.

This is Oberoi’s second web series after Inside Edge. This is also the second time that he will be playing a real-life character after Rakht Charitra (2011), where he played the gangster-turned-politician Paritala Ravi.

Not many people would know that the actor’s actual name is Vivek Anand Oberoi. He was named so since his parents were devout followers of the spiritual guru. But he dropped ‘Anand’ from his name out of respect for Swami Vivekananda.

Why Christmas Eve holds importance for Swami Vivekananda followers?

Christmas Eve (24 December) is celebrated all over the world as the day before the birth of Jesus Christ. But the day holds special importance for the followers of Ramakrishna Paramhansa and Swami Vivekananda.

It was on 24 December 1886 that Swami Vivekananda, who was then Narendra Nath Datta, and his group of brother disciples attained Brahmacharya (Monasticism) in Antpur in West Bengal. They then formed the Ramakrishna Math in Belur, which is famously known as the Belur Math.

Christmas Eve is celebrated in every Ramakrishna Math in India and outside to commemorate the Brahmacharya of Swami Vivekananda and others. It was from this day onwards that they took up the task of spreading humanitarian and spiritual values to the society.

Christmas-Eve-Ramakrishna-Math

Generally, a priest from a church is called upon on this day at the Maths. The Jesus Aarti then takes place in front of the picture of Jesus Christ surrounded by sweets and eatables like cakes.

“Swami Vivekananda and fellow Ramakrishna disciples took Bramhacharya on December 24. Swamiji cited the example of the greatness of Jesus and his renunciation. But he and the rest did not know it was the Christmas Eve. They came to know about it later, said Swami Shrimohanananda during the 2014 Christmas Eve celebrations at the Mumbai branch of Ramakrishna Math.

Acharya Vidyasagar’s life is as engaging as a fictional movie: filmmaker Vidhi Kasliwal

Filmmaker and producer Vidhi Kasliwal has made a documentary on the life of the Jain monk Acharya Vidyasagar. Titled Vidyoday, the film will feature the journey of his life story through interactions and is beautifully depicted through sand art by the well-known Italian sand artist Fatmir Mura.

In an exclusive conversation with Road To Divinity, Kasliwal gets candid on the process of making the documentary and its aim.

Personal connection:
Although I am a Jain, being born and brought up in Mumbai kept me distant from Muni culture. I didn’t grow up going to Munis or offering them aahaar (food). But my mother’s family is very well renowned in the Jain community and regulars when it comes to doing Muni darshan. In fact, there is a very old temple in Ajmer – Nasiya ji – that has a 3D model depicting the story of Adinath ji, the first Tirthankara, made entirely of gold. This is also a tourist attraction today and was built by my mother’s great-great grandfather centuries ago. It is through this connection, I had a basic insight into the Jain order of monks.

When opportunity knocked on the door:
My mama (maternal uncle) told me that Acharya Vidyasagar ji’s deeksha is completing 50 years and many activities had been planned to celebrate this. They were also grappling with the idea of making a documentary on his life and journey. And I immediately volunteered thinking this should be something interesting and different, that I’ve never done before. Everyone was quite receptive to me doing it and I met various senior people of the community to try and understand what exactly they wanted in the film before I officially started working on it.

First glimpse of Acharya Vidyasagar:
First and foremost, I was very keen to do his darshan. Although I hadn’t visited Acharya Vidyasagar or read much on him, I had heard so much about him. And I have no words to explain what came over me in his presence. His aura is so pure and so powerful, I was moved to tears and I literally began to weep. That’s when I decided I had to do this film.

Acharya-Vidyasagar
Acharya Vidyasagar and sand artist Fatmir Mura.

Extensive research:
It took such intensive and extensive research work for us to know about him and his journey. We had to talk to various sources, collate material from all over the country and we also needed someone who could guide us and authenticate the information for us. That’s where Muni Pramansagar ji (a disciple of Acharya Vidyasagar) came in. He very patiently pointed us in the right direction and then left it upto me as a filmmaker, despite being such an exalted Muni. This is such a big thing. He said he would only point out factual errors, if any and the rest would be my call. This increased the responsibility on me and I had to give it my all.

We’ve been at it for over three years now. The research and the shoot took us all over the country with major portions shot in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. We faced many hardships and unique challenges through these years, but all in all it has been an enriching experience not only for me, but for my entire team.

Tougher than feature filmmaking:
When we started out, we had a rough outline in mind. We knew what were the topics we wanted to cover and hence began working towards those. But unlike a fiction film, where one knows every dialogue every character is going to say in each shot in each location, in non-fiction filmmaking you have very little or no control on what exactly you’re going to be able to capture. We had to go with the natural flow of things, hoping it would all come together on the edit table.

Making a Documentary is far more challenging and difficult than making a work of fiction. The not knowing is the part that contributes to the most anxiety. Only once you have all the content and the conversations, then can you begin to give it shape and with any luck weave a compelling story around it.

Not willing to cast someone to play Acharya Vidyasagar:
It was especially fascinating to hear what his younger brothers and sisters had to say about growing up with him, as now, inspired by him, they too have renounced worldly life and are following the same path of spirituality. We collected so many interesting anecdotes of his childhood from his siblings and friends, but how were we to depict them. There weren’t any pictures or videos of that time, of those incidents. Some people suggested why not cast someone and shoot those ‘flashbacks’. But I was rather uncomfortable casting an actor to play his part, it would have been very inappropriate. I don’t think any actor could have done justice to such a pious soul and I don’t think as a director I could have replicated his essence and aura.

Idea of roping in Sand Artist Fatmir Mura:

Besides being a master philosopher, Acharya Shri is also a literary scholar. His most accomplished work is a 500-page epic poem “Muk Mati”. The title itself gave me an idea. Why not use ‘Mati’ (sand) to recreate the happenings. Sand Art is a very captivating and unique art form, and we needed a master artist for this, thus began our search for one.

Rummaging through Google for ‘best sand artist’, we came across Fatmir Mura, an Italian Sand Artist, living all the way in Florence. We were floored by his style and the intricacy he brought out in his works which we saw on YouTube. We randomly messaged him through Facebook messenger and promptly got a reply. That’s how our ‘long-distance relationship’ started.

VK
Vidhi Kasliwal

Non-Indian getting to know Acharya Vidyasagar:

It was going to be a long drawn, challenging task. Almost 35% of the visuals were going to be Sand Art, so they needed to be engaging. They needed to convey very specific stories and emotions, so they had to be detailed and nuanced. All the facts had to be accurate, so we had to be prepared for a lot of back and forth. The subject was steeped in Indian culture, so we had to have patience – for us to explain the smallest of details and for him to get a hang of them.

As expected, we took 2 years to complete the Sand Art. But what has been achieved is beyond our expectations. What started out as rough sketches, turned into beautiful symphonies of sand. Hats off to Fatmir to have the persistence and intelligence to grasp such foreign things for him – like the attire of Indian women, the writing of words like ‘shree’ in Devanagri script, and so on. So much so that on seeing the sequences, not a single person can guess that they have been done by a non-Indian. Thus, proving his artistic mastery over emotions and instincts.

Life story engaging enough for the youngsters:

We wanted the film to be a factual representation of Acharya Shri and his journey. Sometimes facts can get quite repetitive and boring, but that is not the case here at all. Every aspect, every chapter of his life is so engaging that it could almost feel like fiction, but believe you me, we didn’t need to embellish at all.

Nowadays, with exposure to digital platforms on the rise, the popularity of different content including non-fiction documentaries has increased and found loyal audiences especially in the youth. And I’m confident that youngsters will find ‘Vidyoday’ a compelling and insightful watch.

Message not confined to Jainism:
Besides being a religious leader, he is a philosopher and an author par excellence with a keen sense of humour. Being completely up-to-date, he is fully aware of the challenges we face in today’s times and he offers practical solutions on how to face them. I strongly feel that people will connect with him on a level beyond religion, cause what he says is not only confined to Jainism, but covers principles of equality, non-violence, working hard, etc., all of which can help us lead better and deeper lives.

About the release of the film:

This is a one-of-a-kind film, more like an audio-visual documentation on Acharya Vidyasagar ji Maharaj. The life cycle of such a film is posterity and our ultimate goal would be to have it on a digital platform for generations to stream it as and when.

As for now, we are concentrating on theatrical screenings. It’s not a regular theatrical release, but more like an on-demand theatrical release.

  • By: Keyur Seta

Book Review: Perfect Love by Shubha Vilas

Self-help books are not a new phenomenon by any means. They are found in aplenty. Books on love tips also fall under this genre. They give ‘relationship tips’ and carry a threat of becoming too preachy after a point of time.

But author Shubha Vilas’ Perfect Love: 5.5 Ways To A Lasting Relationship stands apart from the normal books in this genre for two reasons. It tells stories of interesting individuals instead of preaching anything. Secondly, it proves that ancient mythological stories carry messages and wisdom that can be useful even in 2018.

The book tells these six stories:

— The Wheel Of Fortune – About Nala and Damayanti

— The Golden Letter – About Krishna-Rukmini and Arjun-Subhadra

— A Silent Voice – About King Dushyanta and Shakuntala

— The Other Before Oneself – King Udayana and Vasavadatta

— The Woman Who Chose – About Satyavan and Savitri

— A Conditions About Conditions – Draupadi narrating the story of king Shantanu and her five husbands

Perfect-Love-bookOur mythological stories are vast. You feel you know a story by knowing its outline. However deep within, there are sub-plots and even little anecdotes that are not only interesting but also filled with positive messages. To see such minute detailing of incidents speaks a lot about the author’s command over mythology.

Perfect Love gives various timely messages in the book. The most important ones are the importance of proper communication (in the second story) and the dangers of being carried away by lust over love (in the fifth one). These are simple messages but they are needed to be told today when one can’t perceive simplest of things since the minds are so clouded by complications.

Vilas is known for keeping his writing simple yet rich in his Ramayana series. He has followed exactly the same method here. And like his other quality in his previous works, he has kept the narrative engaging and his description and presentation of scenes is akin to mainstream Hindi films.

The problem area here are some sentences that range from questionable to objectionable. They are:

‘Begetting a son is more meritorious than performing a sacrifice. But speaking the truth is more meritorious than begetting a hundred sons.’ – Now, how is begetting a son glorified in an unimaginable way? Does that mean daughters mean less? It can be argued that such beliefs were present in ancient times. But as the book is written for today’s youngsters, it is worrying to see such theories being preached, especially at a time when the country is struggling to achieve women empowerment.

‘A man who has a wife can be trusted more than a man who is a loner.’ – Now this is so shocking that it needs to description. It’s self-explanatory.

Apart from this, the explanation after each chapter could have been shorter.

Overall: Perfect Love is an interesting and insightful book that provides ways for lasting romantic relationships without being preachy.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Review by: Keyur Seta

Author: Shubha Vilas

Publisher: Westland Publications

Pages: 203

Price: Rs 350

Cover: A simple illustration of ancient lovers that goes with the subject

Acharya Vidyasagar’s life depicted through sand art by artist Fatmir Mura in Vidyoday

Some time back, the news was out about filmmaker and producer Vidhi Kasliwal making a documentary on the life of revered Jain monk Acharya Vidyasagar titled Vidyoday. Now, it is learnt that his life will also be portrayed in the film through sand art by sand artist Fatmir Mura.

As per an official statement by the makers, the visuals “are not mere drawings, rather elaborate and emotional narratives that come alive by his nimble and skilful hand movements that come across like a graceful dance, perfectly synchronised to the music, leaving the viewers totally mesmerised and spellbound.”

Acharya-Vidyasagar

For Mura, the assignment appeared impossible at the start. “It was very far from my vision, an enormous commitment and practically unthinkable. But as if by magic, one day someone on the other side of the world thought of the impossible, studied it and was ready to make it happen. I am very happy and honoured to have worked on this film with Vidhi and Landmarc Films. Making this film was an artistic experience more profound than anything I have done in the past,” he said in the statement.

He is happy that he got to learn a culture much different than his. “Thanks to this collaboration I learned the traditions, customs and many wonderful aspects of Indian culture. This film gave me an opportunity for professional and even spiritual growth,” added Mura.

Durga Puja 2018 at Ramakrishna Mission: Pictures

Like every year, Durga Puja was celebrated with aplomb in 2018 too all over India. It reveres Goddess Durga, who defeated the demon Mahisasura on this day.

The day is also celebrated as Dussehra in various parts of India. It was the day when Lord Rama killed the evil Ravana, who had kidnapped the former’s wife Sita.

Various branches of Ramakrishna Mission not only in India but world over celebrate Durga Puja. The same is the case with its Mumbai branch.

Have a look at pictures from this year’s Durga Puja in Ramakrishna Math in Khar, Mumbai:

Durga-Puja-2018Durga-Puja-Ramakrishna-MathDurga-Puja-Ramakrishna-MissionDurja-Puja 2018PictureRamakrishna-Math-Mumbai