The fundas of Yugadi – and Chaitra Navaratri.

Death of Krishna. Public domain image from Wikipedia.

 

The Indian calendar can be baffling to many people.

The significant difference between the Indian calendar and the Western calendar (or the Gregorian calendar)  is that our calendar follows the phases of the moon. The Western calendar follows the revolution of the Earth around the Sun.

That is why Indian festivals seem to fall on different days each year, with reference to the Gregorian calendar.

In the Indian calendar, there are certain days that are especially important, since they mark epochal events in Indian history.

The death of Krishna marks the end of an era. Kaliyuga, the age of Evil, began from the moment of Krishna’s death, and according to the scriptures that day was during end-March in 3102 BC. Hence, this day is called Yugadhi, the first day of an Era.

Yugadhi also marks the beginning of a new year. Unlike the Gregorian calendar that calculates the passage of each year based on the Earth’s annual revolution around the Sun, the Indian calendar is based on the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn. As these two planets move through the heavens, they seem to transit across the twelve Zodiac constellations, starting with the constellation of Aries (Mesha rashi). Jupiter takes one year to move from one Zodiac constellation to the next and therefore takes twelve years to complete one round of the Zodiac. Saturn takes thirty years to complete one round. And once in sixty years, both planets wind up at the starting point, i.e. Mesha rashi, at the same time.

Hence, the Indian calendar follows a cycle of sixty years. Each year is called a Samavatsara and is assigned a specific name, like in the Chinese calendar. Last year was Hevilambi Samavatsara, and it began on March 28, 2017.

The 32nd year in the cycle begins today, i.e., March 18, 2018. The new year is named Vilambi. This is not predicted to be a good year!

Yugadhi falls on the first day of the first half of the first month in the Hindu calendar, i.e. the month of Chaitra. The official Indian calendar, that was adopted by India on March 22, 1957, and starts from that day, is based on the Shalivahana Saka.

Shalivahana-8973-16

Shalivahana, also known as Gautamiputra Satakarni, was a mighty king from the Satavahana dynasty, that ruled much of South India for about four hundred years, from 230 BC to 220 AD.

Shalivahana was the greatest of them, and the date of his coronation is the beginning of Shalivahana Saka. This was during the year 78 AD. The month of Chaitra is reckoned from that date.

Therefore, the Indian national calendar officially began on Chaitra 1, 1879 (Saka era) i.e. March 22, 1957 (Gregorian era).

And therefore today, March 18, 2018 is Yugadhi, Prathami (first day), Shukla Paskha (Bright half), Chaitra (first month of the year), Vilambi naama Samvatsara, Shalivahana Saka 1940, Kaliyuga (age of Kali).

Also, Chaitra Navaratri starts on this day.  This nine-day festival is dedicated to the goddess Durga, just like the Navaratri festival we celebrate during October each year.

The ninth day of Chaitra Navaratri is Rama’s birthday, i.e, Rama Navami, hence it is also known as Rama Navaratri.

Happy Yugadhi everyone!

Cheers … Srini.

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Monkeys farting from the ceiling …

When a reporter visited him for an interview, he took her to his garden and introduced her to each of his friends, Janardhan, Raghunandan, Gangadhar, Jagannath, Budhuram and Jhatpatjhatpat-jhatpat. Problem was, all these ‘friends’ were trees in his garden.

And then he took her to his bedroom, to meet some more of his ‘friends’ –  a collection of human skulls.

During a hilarious interview in 1985 with Pritish Nandy for the now-defunct Illustrated Weekly of India, he spoke about the famous interior decorator whom he had called to his home. He told the decorator to design a moat in his living room instead of a sofa, live crows hanging from the walls instead of paintings, and instead of an air-conditioner, he wanted ‘monkeys farting from the ceiling‘. The decorator ran for his life.

He hung a huge notice board outside his house that read, “This is a lunatic asylum.”

When a producer paid him only half his promised fee, he turned up for shooting with half his head and moustache shaved off, and told him, “Aadha paisa, tho aadha make-up.”

He would turn up for song recordings in an old lungi, and refuse to start singing until his secretary called him up to confirm that he had received his payment from the producer. Once, when he did not receive that call, he called up his secretary, and asked him if his payment for the movie had been received. “But Sir, it is your own movie, and you are the producer”,  the secretary told him. “So what?”, was the retort.

A film director got a court order against him, for refusing to listen to him on the sets. The next day, the director forgot to say ‘Cut’ after a car chase scene, and so he continued driving for 100 kilometers more, right upto Khandala!

Only one man could get away with behaviour like that, and still be one of the highest paid stars in Bollywood.

Wild, wacky, unpredictable and uniquely gifted, Abhas Kumar Kanjilal Ganguly, or Kishore Kumar Khandwewallah as he called himself, was quite simply one of a kind. There never was another like him, and never will be.

Today, August 4th, is his birthday.

Kishore Kumar started out to be a hero, like his elder brother Ashok Kumar. He had no intention of being a playback singer. He was a huge fan of KL Saigal. One day, he was loudly singing a Saigal song in his bathroom, and was overheard by SD Burman. Burman had come to visit Ashok Kumar and he was impressed by Kishore Kumar’s singing. He took Kishore under his wing and trained him in the art of playback singing.

Kishore Kumar was the only leading playback singer of his time who never had formal classical training. That didn’t come in the way of his becoming an all-time great in Indian cinema.

From his film debut in 1948 till his sudden death in October 1987, Kishore Kumar excelled in every sphere – he was a hero, comedian, singer, music director, composer, lyricist, film maker and producer. His versatility as a film maker was amazing.  On one hand, he made badtki naamzany movies like Chalti Naam Gaadi and Badti ka Naam Daadi, that had audiences rolling on the floors. On the other, he made serious and thought-provoking movies like Door gagan ki chaaon mein and Door ka rahi, that were acclaimed by film critics. The last movie he made, Door wadiyon mein kahin, did not have a single song in it.

As controversial as he was in his public life, he was equally unconventional in his personal life. He was unabashed about the fact that he married four times. His first wife, Ruma Ghosh, was a famous playback singer and leading actress of her time. So was his second wife, the beautiful Madhubala, who died due to a hole in her heart. Yogita Bali, his third wife, was a well-known actress too.

She left him after a brief marriage, allegedly since she could not stand his habit of sitting awake each night and counting his money! Leena Chandavarkar, another beautiful actress of the nineteen-sixties and seventies was his fourth wife, and remained his wife until his death.

 

For all his weird behaviour and eccentricity, Kishore Kumar was a political activist in his own right. He stood up against the government during the Emergency, by refusing to sing at a political function. As a result, he was banned from All India Radio and TV for two years, but Kishore Kumar didn’t bother. After the Emergency was lifted in 1977, he promptly bounced back.

His sudden death on October 13, 1987 due to a massive cardiac arrest came as a total shock to everyone. Kishore Kumar was cremated in Khandwa, his native village.

For die-hard fans like me, Kishore Kumar will never die. Along with Mohammad Rafi, he is one of the immortals of Indian cinema.

Enjoy this rare song from Half-Ticket (1961), a freaked-out comedy that was typical of Kishore Kumar. I think this is the only song of its kind in Indian cinema. This is a male-female duet in which both parts are sung by the same singer! Who else but a mad genius like Kishore Kumar could perform a duet like this?

Yoodleyoo, Kishoreda!

Cheers … Srini.

Miss Chamko … baar baar, lagaataar!

She was the sweet girl next door, a nice, goody-goody, doe-eyed beauty with a smile that could light up a room. She was the kind of girl we’d love to bring home to meet Mom. For many of us who came of age in the early eighties, Deepti Naval was Miss Right.

To me, she will always be Miss Chamko.

Her birthday was February 3rd, and I thought a little personal tribute to this extremely talented, yet under-rated actress was called for.

In an era dominated by bold, sensuous women like Zeenat Aman, Reena Roy and Parveen Babi, Deepti Naval carved a special niche for herself as a sensitive and versatile actress. In mainline cinema, she became popular in light romantic comedies like Chashme Buddoor, Katha, Kissise na kehena and Rang Birangi. At the same time, she excelled in parallel cinema, in critically-acclaimed movies like Ek baar phir, Damul, Ankahee and Saath Saath.

I fell in love with Miss Chamko the day I saw her in Chashme Buddoor. Released in 1981, I missed this movie’s first run, but caught it when it was re-run in 1984. It was running at only one theater, Chandan Talkies in Juhu, and every day for a whole week, I’d catch bus no 255 Ltd from Sion to Juhu, to see the noon show. 

Directed by Sai Paranjpe, Chasme Buddoor was a cute little comedy about three young men wooing the same girl. Unlike other movies of that age, that were usually filmed in Bombay, the movie was largely shot in the Delhi University campus. New Delhi in the 1980’s was very different from the nightmarish metropolis it has become today.

Chashme Budoor had memorable cameo appearances by leading stars, including a funny one-minute scene with Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha, and Saeed Jaffrey as the mildly sarcastic Lallan Miyan, the long-suffering panwallah on the campus, who keeps extending credit to the three young men and never gets paid. Another popular actor of the time, Vinod Nagpal, better known as Basesar Ram of India’s first TV serial Hum Log, appeared in two classical song numbers as Deepti Naval’s music teacher.

The movie made a hit pair out of Farooque Shaikh and Deepti Naval, and they went on to co-star in several other light romantic movies.

By modern social mores, Chashme Budoor had several politically incorrect scenes showing chain-smoking, but in the eighties, smoking was considered cool.

In spite of its low budget and a generally unknown star cast, Chashme Budoor was a major hit. It had a good story, songs that were well composed and beautifully picturised, and lots of light humor that did not insult the viewers’ intelligence, unlike the low-grade, below-the-waist, crass comedies that we are inflicted with these days.

Chashme Budoor is perhaps the only Bollywood movie that ‘inspired’ a movie in Hollywood! Saving Silverman, a light romantic comedy distributed by Columbia Pictures in 2001, had the same basic storyline of Chashme Buddoor.

Here’s the Chamko episode from Chashme Buddoor, my favorite scene from the movie. Even today, when I watch Deepti Naval in this scene, I still heave a deep yearning sigh.

Happy Birthday, Miss Chamko. Chashme budoor!

Cheers … Srini.