Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Writer's Note

The best things in life are a fluke. I was attending a sombre session between Girish Karnad and Mahesh Dattani at Prithvi, and as luck would have it Denzil Smith is present. I tell him, I think I've an idea for a play. And I strut off. That day, Denzil and me exchange, 101 sms'. We set up a meeting with Naresh Fernandes, who showers us with a feni, pattice, cookies, and a lec-dem with video clips on his favourite subject on earth: the influence of Jazz in Bollywood. For me, that is the beginning of JAZZ.

That is also the beginning of that old feeling I know nothing, This is the same feeling which had surfaced during Mahadevbhai, 3 Sakina Manzil, Three Ladies of Ibsen, Cotton 56 Polyester 84.

I've been told by a theatre elder, "theatre requires patience, passion and persistence to research, collaborate and constantly produce work for over 20 years." And as a rule, I believe what elders tell me.My relationship with Denzil Smith, is that of an audience member and an actor. I've seen him in plays good and indifferent and one movie with Amitabh Bachchan. He's at his best when he reads the words of Dom Moraes - to a bit of blues. Driving around Mumbai with Denzil (wherein I was late for every single appointment) is a process and an education. I familiarise myself with the names which rattle out from other peoples’ tongues. I learn my vocabulary (and I am still learning) of jazz, which is minimal, controlled, through rhythm, and sound. We rummage (and scan) through hand-written letters, sketches, photographs, reviews and posters, as well as music.

But my work is weighed down by uncertainties. Should I reclaim the past? Or should the past resonate in the now? How does one demonstrate the playing of jazz? Coz at times, jazz can be so simple. An improvisation while fooling around after a rehearsal or a bit of jamming or a new sound which forms the back-bone of a piece. How does one show that on a half lit stage?Meanwhile Denzil has fixed one more appointment. This time I'm attentive. I sense, music is in everyone's blood. Also, I sense in every household I visit, generosity. Interviews of Leslie Coutinho and Anthony Gonsalves bring little details to my notice. I can hear new rhythms and newer formulations. I see sorrow. Someone takes me to see a run-down studio. I see the remnants of equipment. Then we move around, there is dust. The beauty of that studio - the musty.

Ramu Ramanathan

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