Eye on England
Eye on England
Measure for measure in Lahore
The screening last week of an Urdu version of William Shakespeareâs Measure for Measure called Rahm (mercy) could not have been more timely.
The London-based director Ahmed (âAlluâ) Jamal shot the film in Lahore with a Pakistani cast that includes some of the countryâs best known actors.
He had a special screening of Rahm at the British Film Institute in London â and this just happened to be only a day after the killing in Karachi of Amjad Sabri, who performed qawwali from the Sufi tradition, an Islamic practice opposed by extremists.
Allu describes his film as âa Sufi adaptation of Shakespeareâ and says it is a âplea for tolerance from the heart of the Muslim worldâ.
The screenplay has been written by his elder brother, Mahmood Jamal, who says he has stuck pretty faithfully to Shakespeareâs original story.
âMeasure for Measure was Shakespeareâs plea for diversity and tolerance,â according to Mahmood.
Rahm will have wide appeal, especially in India, because of the subject matter and also because it is a very good story well told.
In Rahm, the governor (played by Sajid Hasan) steps down after apparently suffering a heart attack, leaving a hardliner, Qazi Ahad (Sunil Shanker), in charge. He sentences a man to death for alleged fornication (when the couple in question have lost their nikah papers) but offers a reprieve if only his sister will sleep with him. All the while, the governor has actually been in Lahore, disguised as a pir.
There is a quote from Shakespeare: âSome rise by sin and some by virtue fall.â
In Rahm, set in contemporary times, there are evocative scenes featuring the Wazir Khan Mosque which was built during the time of Shah Jahan. Allu also points out that the story begins and ends at the âDelhi Gateâ of the walled city, âwhich is written in Urduâ.
Allu had been keen to shoot a feature film in Lahore ever since he made a documentary for the BBC in 1991 called The Dancing Girls of Lahore. He was able to use the old Lahore Gymkhana Club, now the Quaid-e-Azam Library, as the governorâs residence â âIndian generals had once joked that âwe will have tea in the Gymkhanaâ.â
Although Allu feels his film has particular relevance for the Muslim world, it will also have resonance in other societies where there is a drift towards authoritarian governance.
He was alarmed when three elders came out while he was filming in a street. âBut they were not complaining. âWe are so glad â itâs been a long time since someone has made films in Lahore.â I believe ours is the first Shakespeare adaptation shot in the Muslim world.â
Mark on Modi
â¦ Sir Mark Tullyâs chastening end of term report on Narendra Modi â or rather at the end of two years as Prime Minister â is that basically he must try harder if his period in office is not to end in disappointment.
The veteran BBC commentator, now 80, thinks that Modi has concentrated too much power in his own hands and that so far he has been unable to deliver sufficiently on the promises that he had made about âchange and developmentâ.
Markâs remarks to the Indian Journalistsâ Association in London in a free-wheeling conversation about what Modi had achieved so far were critical at times but also qualified and balanced.
On Raghuram Rajanâs decision to step down as Reserve Bank governor, for example, Mark found it âvery significant that he mentioned two people who had been particularly useful to him and these are both people who are seen as enemies of Modiâ.
Mark was referring to Rajanâs message to his staff in which the governor had said: âIn everything we have done, we have been guided by the eminent public citizens on our Board such as Padma Vibhushan Dr Anil Kakodkar, former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, and Padma Bhushan and Magsaysay award winner Ela Bhatt of the Self Employed Womenâs Association.â
According to Mark, âthe fact that Raghuram Rajan chose to mention those two people as especially helpful to him during his career has been interpreted â and I would stress the word interpreted â by some as an indication that he was sending a signal to say that he was not welcome any longerâ.
Mark added, âThe worrying thing about this would be â if it turns out to be true â that Modi wants a more controllable Reserve Bank governor... then I think that would be a dangerous thing for the economy because it would put even more power into the hands of Modi. We have to see who gets appointed and hope that itâs someone who is as independent minded as Raghuram Rajan.
âOne of the things about Raghuram Rajan is that he has been independent minded in a way that a bureaucrat would tend not to be,â said Mark. âThe danger is that if you donât get a good, strong minded individual as governor then a very significant potential for questioning the governmentâs policy or acting independently from the government, where necessary, would be lost.â
â¦ All last week actor Raj Ghatak, who comes from a Bengali family in London, was reading extracts from a book by a Bengali cancer doctor from the US â Siddhartha Mukherjeeâs The Gene: An Intimate History.
The book has received a great deal of attention in the UK. A week ago I found it was âthe book of the weekâ in Heffers, the main bookshop in Cambridge.
Now, it has been âbook of the weekâ on BBC Radio 4 where Raj had been reading the extracts with a credible American accent.
Raj, who is now nearly 43, has been in many plays and films. But I remember him playing a character called âSweetieâ in Andrew Lloyd Webberâs landmark musical, Bombay Dreams, in 2002.
â¦ The actress Daisy Ridley, who starred last year in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, has posted a photograph of herself covered in turmeric.
The 24-year-old, who suffers from adult acne, hailed the medicinal properties of haldi â something that is not widely known in the West.
Daisy lamented that the yellow had stained her hands but she captioned a video: âI scrubbed my face and I am YELLOW! Ahahahahahaha. Will have to see if Iâm a squeaky clean, clear-skinned goddess in the morning.â
â¦ The London Indian Film Festival next month will show Aparna Senâs Arshinagar and Kaushik Gangulyâs Cinemawala.
One of the highlights will be a conversation with the evergreen Sharmila Tagore conducted by Sangeeta Datta.
â¦ What happens on British reality television shows is copied, sooner or later, in India. The reigning Miss Great Britain, Zara Holland, 20, has been stripped of her title for getting a bit too real on a reality TV show.
She was intimate with a scaffolder Alex Bowen, also 24, when the couple appeared on ITV2 reality show Love Island.
An official statement from the beauty pageant organisers said: âTo be clear we have no problem at all with sex â it is perfectly natural. We simply canât condone what happened on national TV.â