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Human beings, in general, have a tendency to romanticise the past. To think of the days gone by as almost perfect. That includes not only the past experiences of places and people but also objects. Why else would we look back with such wonder at a four-poster bed or a vintage car?

Reality, however, mostly disappoints. We go back to the garden or house that we grew up in and suddenly it looks too small or shabby. We wish to recreate the innocence and magic of the past but are served with cold facts. Two things usually happen. Either, we realise that time and age have made the objects of our youthful remembrances fall apart. Like a beautiful village that once had vast green fields and tall, dancing trees but, is a charmless wannabe metropolis now. Or secondly, we understand that it was actually our imagination that had imparted that special something to the memory. Like a favourite book that had once seemed like the epitome of romance, but now seems just sappy and unoriginal.

This is why, I was wary of revisiting a story that had made a deep impression upon me, when I was quite young. A television serial called Farmaan (meaning Edict). I would recall, with misty-eyed pleasure, a few snatches of the dialogues or scenes but something would stop me from making an attempt to find the serial. Or, actually watch it. I was evidently fretful of being disappointed, of perhaps tarnishing a lovely memory.

I would remember a Byronic hero, a beautiful heroine, even the good-natured sidekick. Fragments of chaste Urdu would slowly float into my consciousness. Mostly though, I would remember the kiss. That spine-tingling, passionate, forbidden, purloined touch of the lips. At the time, I was too young and naive to know what that kiss truly implied. Yet, I could sense the trepidation of that stolen, forceful moment.

Now years later, I have managed to watch Farmaan again. Maybe, being cannonaded with images of languishing lovers on Valentine’s Day, sort of put me in the mood for a swooning romance. And, I am so glad I watched it. Farmaan tells such a thoroughly engaging tale. From the moment the lovely Aiman Shahab alights from the train and makes her solitary way to the royal abode of the Hyderabadi nawabs to the scene where love is finally expressed and embraced, it is a joy ride.

The serial is only fourteen episodes long and I cannot help but wish that it was a little longer. So completely immersed was I in the world of sweet Aiman and the intriguing Aazar Nawab. I was moved by the sad history of the gracious Bade Sarkar and the forlorn Waqaar Chand… amused and charmed by the happy-go-lucky Bashaarat Nawab. Even that damsel in distress, Rehana, or the sleazy and opportunistic Mukhtar Ali had qualities that made them real. But, no matter how much I would have liked to extend my emotional involvement with the story, I applaud the makers for having kept the proceedings so succinctly appealing, for having remained true to their vision, for respecting the spirit of Rafia Manzurul Amin‘s novel, Alampannah, that inspired the plot of Farmaan. Impossible to imagine such a thing in the present TRP-dominated telly world.

The other thing that gladdens my heart is the simplicity. The setting is suitably grand but does not look ridiculously opulent, in any way. Everything is real, the tall havelis, the exquisite interiors, the lakes, the forests. This is not a fake, glossy set. Thankfully. This adherence to historical, cultural and geographical accuracy enhances the cinematic quality of the production. And, the actors too look wonderfully genuine. Aiman‘s allure is potent enough without layers of makeup or weirdly showy jewellery. Her clothes showcase her taste and nature. Aazar Nawab is dashing and always well turned out. But the elegance is understated. As befitting one who is truly upper-crust. The author, Rafia Amin, was present during the making of the serial and she was the one who designed the outfits. This fact, I am sure, contributed to the authenticity of the outcome.

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Aazar Nawab has certain qualities of the quintessential Romance hero. He is wealthy and noble, passionate and enigmatic. He is moody and dark but suitably smitten. He is possessive too. Aiman too fits into the mould of the Romance heroine. She has the pluck to challenge Aazar Nawab‘s censures and barbs. But, she also has the hopeful naiveté of a young woman who cannot remain impervious to the flattering gaze of a handsome lord. There is a constant sense of a powerful attraction simmering between the two leads. Aazar sometimes teases Aiman Shahab by calling her ‘khawab’ (dream) and though she protests, she is more stung by his slights than disturbed by his scrutiny. The various romantic tropes in the plot could have turned the serial into a rather cloying mess. But, Lekh Tandon, the director, never allows the subject matter to lose its footing. The atmosphere is always plausible, the treatment is authentic. Honest.

Aiman and Aazar never really cross lines. There is verbal sparring and a few tantalising moments that border on intimacy but the suspense and decorum are always maintained. The restrained dialogues and visuals also keep Farmaan from becoming soap-operatic. At times, Aazar Nawab is likened to a predator. After one of their initial encounters, Aiman, who is perturbed by the nawab’s imposing persona, leafs through a magazine and stops to stare at a picture of a snow-leopard. Another time, while watching tigers at the Dandeli sanctuary, Aiman speaks of man-eaters other than the feral variety. This metaphor could have been misused. But, the point is only hinted at, never driven home relentlessly. This moderation of style and language is maintained throughout and it makes Farmaan so agreeable to watch. And, also to hear. The muted strains of neat Urdu is like music that is soft and perfectly pleasing.

The cast too, is perfect. Kanwaljit Singh makes a superb Aazar Nawab. Apart from being a talented actor, he has the height and persona to impart a certain haughty grandeur to his character. The pipe is maybe a wee bit overdone but it also shows his reserve. The smoke surrounding him is his defence against disclosure. Lest his feelings are exposed and he is made vulnerable. His dark past makes him resent any sort of weakness and hence, he is vexed by his own passion for Aiman. He rages over her friendship with Bashaarat and ends up taunting and tormenting her. But, the moment he knows for certain that there is no other man in Aiman‘s life, he becomes still. There is a subtle shift in the tone, thereon. Aazar‘s actions take on a more purposeful quality. It is as if he knows where exactly he is going.

Aazar Nawab continues to be unpredictable and sharp-tongued but his smiles are easier now. His gaze has more of a quiet strength. A scene that I rather like, shows Aazar standing near a lake and smoking in solitude. And then, he espies Aiman, who is at the spot too, throwing stones despondently into the water. Creating ripples in the stillness. Aazar allows himself to be drawn in by her and when he offers her comfort and, kisses her tenderly, it seems to me that he is completely ready for a change. Ready to accept comfort and love, finally.

Deepika Deshpande is not a flashy beauty. And that is a good thing. It does not take away from the inner qualities that allow Aiman to not only capture Aazar Nawab‘s heart but also win over everyone who meets her. Her honesty, openness, and caring nature attract as much as her golden-eyed comeliness. Raja Bundela, who plays the amiable Bashaarat, is a pleasure to watch. He lights up the screen and infects us with his joy. Bundela‘s high-spirited and carefree Bashaarat is the foil to Kanwaljit‘s brooding and high-minded Aazar.

The other actors too make a mark, despite the limited screen time, and present us with memorable characters. The munshi who speaks the colloquial Hyderabadi tongue and is so fond of old songs. The fiercely devoted maid who follows Bade Sarkar like a mother hen. The funny chef and Bashaarat‘s favourite scapegoat, Abdul Karim. Bade Sarkar, whose benevolence and thoughtfulness is reflected by her son, Aazar, and who is played ably by Vineeta Malik. And, Navin Nischol as the sad and self-sacrificing noble, Waquaar Chand, is quietly effective.

Farmaan may be a bit too unflamboyant and subtle for some. It might even be too straightforward or uncomplicated for the post-modern sensibility perhaps. But for me, it is a fine story for a dreamy, moonlit night. Farmaan possesses a fairytale quality; a lovely girl transforming a ‘beast’ with her love; a handsome lord trying to hide his hurts and his noble spirit behind contemptuous frowns and sarcastic words. And in the end, love and goodness prevailing over all. The story is not without layers. There are nuances of expressions and conversations that benefit from repeat viewings. And, even without such readings, Farmaan still captivates. It is a testimony to the fact that old is indeed gold, that secret treasures can emerge from the past. That there is a reason why oftentimes, we look back to seek joy, innocence, romance and a little magic. That memories can sustain and inspire. Farmaan is an ardent proclamation of love that speaks directly to the heart.

 

Copyright © 2016 [Violet Dolui]. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

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Lavished with a wealth of grains and flowers is our Mother Earth…

In the midst of this is a land, more splendid than all other lands…

She is created by dreams, she is surrounded by memories…

Nowhere will you discover such a land as this…

O’ she is the queen of all lands,

She is my motherland…

Moon and sun, planets and stars…

Is there a similar surge of brilliance anywhere?

Where does the lightning play quite like this, among such black clouds?

After the call of her birds put me to sleep, I am awakened by the birdsongs again.

Nowhere will you discover such a land as this…

O’ she is the queen of all lands,

She is my motherland…

Whose rivers are so gentle? Do such massive mountains exist anywhere?

Where do such green acres meet like this, under the skies?

In whose land does the wind dance like waves on paddy?

Nowhere will you discover such a land as this…

O’ she is the queen of all lands,

She is my motherland…

The trees are covered with flowers, birds sing in every haunt,

Buzzing, the bees arrive and chase each other in great clusters…

They fall asleep on the flowers after drinking their nectar…

Nowhere will you discover such a land as this…

O’ she is the queen of all lands,

She is my motherland…

Where can one go to attain so much affection, from a mother or brother?

I hold both your feet, O Mother, close to my breast,

I was born in this very land, let me die here, as well…

Nowhere will you discover such a land as this…

O’ she is the queen of all lands,

She is my motherland…

ধনধান্য পুষ্প ভরা আমাদের এই বসুন্ধরা
তাহার মাঝে আছে দেশ এক সকল দেশের সেরা
ও সে স্বপ্ন দিয়ে তৈরি সে দেশ স্মৃতি দিয়ে ঘেরা
এমন দেশটি কোথাও খুঁজে পাবে নাকো তুমি
ও সে সকল দেশের রাণী সে যে আমার জন্মভূমি
সে যে আমার জন্মভূমি, সে যে আমার জন্মভূমি।।

চন্দ্র সূর্য গ্রহতারা, কোথায় উজল এমন ধারা
কোথায় এমন খেলে তড়িৎ এমন কালো মেঘে
তার পাখির ডাকে ঘুমিয়ে উঠি পাখির ডাকে জেগে।।

এত স্নিগ্ধ নদী কাহার, কোথায় এমন ধুম্র পাহাড়
কোথায় এমন হরিত ক্ষেত্র আকাশ তলে মেশে
এমন ধানের উপর ঢেউ খেলে যায় বাতাস কাহার দেশে ।।

পুষ্পে পুষ্পে ভরা শাখি কুঞ্জে কুঞ্জে গাহে পাখি
গুঞ্জরিয়া আসে অলি পুঞ্জে পুঞ্জে ধেয়ে
তারা ফুলের ওপর ঘুমিয়ে পড়ে ফুলের মধু খেয়ে।।

ভায়ের মায়ের এত স্নেহ কোথায় গেলে পাবে কেহ
ওমা তোমার চরণ দুটি বক্ষে আমার ধরি
আমার এই দেশেতে জন্ম যেন এই দেশেতে মরি।।

Copyright © 2015 [Violet Dolui]. All Rights Reserved.

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If the river says, it won’t come close to the sea, can it be?

If the cloud says, it won’t float across the breast of the sky. Can it be?

If the flower says, it won’t listen to the song of the honeybee, it cannot be…

To dance but to not count the rhythm of the anklet, it cannot be…

At the sight of spring, the eyes say they won’t laugh. Can it be?

There is a path but if the feet say they won’t walk, it cannot be…

The breast is full of words but the mouth says it will say nothing, it cannot be…

Despite being in love, the heart says it won’t love. Can it be?

নদী যদি বলে সাগরের কাছে যাবো না, টাকি হয়?
মেঘ যদি বলে আকাশের বুকে ভাসবো না, টাকি হয়?
ফূল যদি বলে ভ্রমর এরও গান শুনবো না, হয় না তাই
নাচব তবুও নুপের ও তাল গুনবো না, হয় না তাই
ফাগুন কে দেখে চোখ যদি বলে হাসবো না, টাকি হয়?
পথ আছে তবু পা যদি বলে চলবো না, হয় না তাই
বুকে কথা মুখ যদি বলে কিছু বলবো না, হয় না তাই
ভালোবেসে মন যদি বলে ভালবাসবো না, টাকি হয়?

Copyright © 2015 [Violet Dolui]. All Rights Reserved.

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Wandering towards her. Looking slightly lost but masquerading considerable assurance. He stood out somehow. Maybe, it was his appearance. His solitariness. Or perhaps, something less tangible. Like the sense of a secret purpose in his gaze.

His skin was like dark honey. Like caramel. His hair was neatly trimmed. He was dressed simply, unpretentiously. And even though, there was a boyishness about his clean-cut face… there was a subtle sense of readiness too that belied his years. He looked like he would make things happen.

She addressed him. He looked a bit startled, as if drawn away from a private interview. And then, a kind of recognition settled over his strong features.

His face was a study in seriousness. He tried his best to not reveal anything that passed through his mind. In fact, he almost succeeded in being inscrutable. But, for that look of great attention. She saw that she had captured his interest.

For some time, she shrank from his scrutiny, his overpowering regard. His deep gaze burned her. She felt shy and nervous. Her face felt hot… singed by the intensity in his eyes.

She retreated from his touch like a startled deer. He was tall and broad. He stood so close that it was difficult to breathe or think. Let alone, talk intelligently.

Slowly however, her confidence grew. It was not hard to feel splendid while being made the object of such open and assiduous glances. Such a thoroughly pleasing consideration. As if she was a thing of wonder and resplendent beauty. She laughed.

She noticed the disquiet beneath his calmness… something almost feverish in his ardor. And, instead of being alarmed, she felt a surge of power.

She felt a femininity stir deep within her. Felt alive and beautiful and deliciously womanly. She was Sleeping Beauty, waking up from her prolonged slumber.

Earlier, she had existed in romance literature and fantasy. In hopes and distant dreams. In poetry and drama. Now, in his warm and undeniably solid presence… she was unshackled and unleashed. She felt love awaken like a great, big, sleeping giant, deep within her core.

“So this is how it is”, she said to herself and smiled.

She heard him speak words of self-revelation, admiration, and expectation. She understood his need to do so. She was not required to do anything but listen and absorb the immediacy and significance of those moments. So, she mostly kept herself, wrapped in a comfortable sort of silence.

When he gently drew her head and let it rest on his shoulders, a feeling of rightness just swept over her. He was the virtuoso and she was his violin. And their togetherness was fraught with silent harmony.

Silence is a language too. He spoke softly to her, but his deeply fascinated eyes spoke so much more. His glances caressed her gently, searched her innermost thoughts, and lanced her soul.

His eyes held a thousand questions. His solidity, on the other hand, his firm touch responded to her questions… those that she had not even framed in her mind, with any degree of coherence.

“Who was he?” She wondered again.

How could she actually find herself in the dark eyes of a near-stranger? How could her entire life suddenly seem poised on the brink of an immense, dramatic change? Did such things really happen?

There was a sense of wonderment, of course. But, there was also serenity and an undercurrent of excitement. After all, life was greeting her. Whispering promises so miraculous, so utterly enchanting…

No matter what the future held… she knew, she would keep the memory of those delicate yet powerful moments, engraved fondly in the imperishable depths of her heart.

Copyright © 2015 [Violet Dolui]. All Rights Reserved.

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Many a time, I have heard that you love…

Still, I have never felt it more than on that day.

That day was my first day of springtide,

The madhabi branches were filled with myriad flowers.

That spring season has indeed arrived,

Again and again…

Still, I have never felt it more than on that day.

Your first love overflows in my heart,

This mind is like a honey bee,

Why does it dart only to you, o’ tell me?

The first song bee of that day,

Even now, makes hope unfold like a young flower…

The strain of that song keeps awakening me,

Again and again…

Still, I have never felt it more than on that day.

Many a time, I have heard that you love…

Still, I have never felt it more than on that day.

ভালোবাসো তুমি, শুনেছি অনেক বার
তবু সেদীনের মতন লাগেনি তো কভু আর
সেদিন আমার প্রথম ফাগুনো বেলা
মাধবী শাখায় অনেক ফূলের মেলা
সে ফাগুন আরো এসেছে যে বারে বার
তবু সেদীনের মতন লাগেনি তো কভু আর
তোমার প্রথমো প্রেম রয়েছে আমার হৃদয় ভরে
এ মন ভ্রমর সেথা যায়ে কেনো বলো ওগো তারই তরে
সেদিনে সেই প্রথম গানের ওলী
এখনো ফটায় নতুন আশার কলি
সে গানের সুরে জেগেছি যে বারে বার
তবু সেদীনের মতন লাগেনি তো কভু আর…

Copyright © 2015 [Violet Dolui]. All Rights Reserved.

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Deeper into Melancholy. Bearing the fragments of my heart. Embalming myself with my own hands. Burying my soul, one inconsequential inch at a time.

I would be like those red autumn leaves… falling silently to the ground. Almost glad to die. I would know how to cease to be.

I would be a ghost that sees everything without participating. Without contributing. I would feel emotions through a veil. Nothing would touch me, except like a light farewell kiss.

So disenchanted that reality would seem like an illusion. I would walk like a phantom through the mist. A body without substance. Without thoughts. Without heartache.

I would gaze and gaze… without being perceived or pitilessly dismissed. I would cry, clamour, sigh, or laugh… like a storm petrel lost in the clouds swirling over the sea.

Cocooned in my own invisibility. Impregnable. Invulnerable.

The blemish on my face, the squalor of my person, or the poverty within my soul… would not be of any import. Because, I would exist high above these fallible human concerns.

Sorrow would be a kind of happiness. Soft and soothing. A self-indulgence. Not angry raging, tears that drip like corrosive acid into the soul. It would be a pool of sadness that is deep, dark, and calm.

And, happiness would be a kind of gentle sorrow. Not filled with desperate hopes and tainted dreams. It would be surrender and acceptance.

I would not possess. I would not know the crippling fear of loss.

I would not be possessed. I would not be abandoned.

How would it be to escape this vale of human dreams and grief? This cup of agony? This utter and complete loneliness? This devastation of the soul?

I would not wish what is good in me to become the instrument of my undoing. I would not want love to turn into despair. Longing into spite. High regard into malice.

So, I would refuse the sweat and blood and crushing repercussions of life.

My melancholy is not defiant or redemptive. It is merely a departure to keep the bright images intact. It is an attempt to protect that which should not be mutilated.

I would sink below the distant horizon… beautiful like the dying sun. Beyond the reproach of human emotions.

I would be an angel again.

Copyright © 2015 [Violet Dolui]. All Rights Reserved.

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What does coming-of-age really mean? Does it signify a true understanding of the self? Does it imply coming to terms with your abilities and flaws? An acceptance of life?

What if this is never an option? This mellowing with time, attaining maturity or adult wisdom…

What do you do when reality gets suspended in a strange way? When endless longing does not lead to a resolution or even despair? Oh, there are many disappointments on the way. And, sometimes, there is despair too. And yet, the disillusionment is never complete.

There is always something… a glimmer, a fantasy that keeps beckoning. As if life is not progressing at all, except in your fantasy world. As if all the distressing and saddening experiences do not matter. Well, not beyond a certain point, at least. The people around grow and mature. But your world stays the same. You remain the same. A perpetual adolescent…. dreaming improbable dreams. Like a hapless Peter Pan.

Is this a great capacity for self-delusion only? Is this being incurably, hopelessly romantic? This does seem like a disease.

The hunger is so great. It gnaws on the soul and refuses to let go. An ache that constantly throbs beneath the facade of normalcy.

It is, in a way, pathetic. This desperation to hold onto the edges of a vanishing dream. To keep wanting to remember a face whose features are being eaten away by the sands of time.

You are partially suspended in reality.  Like a sinking island in a river that moves inexorably. You can envisage your own inevitable destruction, the end of your inner life. And yet, you are powerless to do anything. You are caught in a magical dream. You refuse to give up on the might-have-beens… on ghostly memories of experiences that you have never really experienced.

You know full well that to give up would be easier, safer. But you have always been a fool.

In a way, it is glorious too.

Your ability to sway to a tune that only you can hear.

Hardly anyone to acknowledge the flame in your soul, the deep need in your eyes. To understand how vast and keen and generous you can be. So what? Nothing lovely enough to keep your eyes from seeking and searching for ever. No sweetness to enter your heart and gladden it. No love to come home to. Except the kind that keeps you wandering, keeps your spirit from being quiet and content.

You are a defiant idiot. Slightly mad. Eyes filled with a strange light, hair in disarray. Grasping at straws. Surviving on discarded crumbs. So what?

Maybe, some day hope will indeed create from its own wreck the thing it contemplates.

Copyright © 2015 [Violet Dolui]. All Rights Reserved.

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