Thursday, April 24, 2008

Livin' la Vida Loca?

Today at our Elementary School (Gr K-8) Assembly there were some interesting musical productions including, a young girl singing a very echoey solo of "Complicated" by Avril Lavigne, a bunch of kinds jumping around to Bryan Adam's "Summer of '69" and a grand finale of "Livin' la Vida Loca."

Our school is an international one in an Islamic country, and recently we have had some students, parents and teachers making an uproar about the almost kissing scenes in Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. Surprisingly there hasn't been any problem with the mention of gang-rape in the novel my Grade 8 students are reading, Monster by Walter Dean Myers, but I am wondering if the sound during the assembly is purposefully made to sound bad so that parents can not understand lyrics such as the following:

She's into superstitions black cats and voodoo dolls.
I feel a premonition that girl's gonna make me fall.
She's into new sensations new kicks in the candle light.
She's got a new addiction for every day and night.

She'll make you take your clothes off and go dancing in the rain.
She'll make you live her crazy life but she'll take away your pain
like a bullet to your brain. Come On!

Woke up in New York City in a funky cheap hotel
She took my heart and she took my money
she must've slipped me a sleeping pill
She never drinks the water and makes you order French Champagne
Once you've had a taste of her you'll never be the same
Yeah, she'll make you go insane.

-Livin' la Vida Loca - Ricky Martin

Seriously that is a lot more suggestive than anything in the novels the Grade 7s are reading! I wonder if the sound quality is kept low so that nobody can understand the words. I'm also wondering if Grade 4 and 5 have a clue what they're singing about, and if the music teacher paid any attention to the lyrics when he chose this piece for the ceremony. I can't even imagine Grade 4 and 5 kids in the US singing such lyrics in front of their parents at an official school event.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bombay Dreams

Riveting and Provocative Theatre- right in the heart of Lahore

With 75 cast & crew members, over 20 costume changes, tantalizing sound and light effects, Bollywood style dance numbers and Bollywood glam all live on stage, this was one of the best productions I've seen. This bold production takes a stab at many of the cultural taboos that are pervasive in this society and seeks to widen people's world views and understanding of those considered "least" among us. For anyone living in Lahore I definitely recommend you check out Shah Sharahbeel's latest: Bombay Dreams.

The plot revolves around a young slum dweller names Akaash (Zac Khar) who dreams of becoming a Bollywood star. His friends and family hope that in going to Bollywood he could make enough money to save the slums from the hands of the greedy developers Honey Singh (Omar Iqbal) and Money Singh (Kamran Rangeela) . Right when the Singhs give the slum dwellers a 30 day eviction notice, a pro-bono lawyer, Vikram (Gohar Rasheed), and his pretty fiance, Priya (Rudaba Nasir), show up to save the day. Priya agrees to introduce Akaash to her father Madan Chopra (Abdullah Farhatullah) who is a famous Bollywood filmmaker.

Once Akaash sets foot in Bombay he starts to realize that Bollywood isn't all glitz and glamor, but hard work, heartbreak and conflicts too. Is Bollywood too big for him, or will he become a superstar?

You're guaranteed to be on the edge of your seat as you share in Akaash's journey from the slums, to Bollywood, and back to the slums again. Choreography by Wahab Shah and Alyzay Sultan Ali will have you moving your shoulders, ready to jump out of your seat and join in with the bhangra beat. You'll get to see the two masterminds behind the dance scenes themselves during the number, "How Many Stars." An entourage of male and female dancers seem to appear in different costumes every other scene. I don't know how they can do so many high energy dance numbers all in one night!

Although it's a musical, you won't find any live singing this time. I assume part of that is because it would quite hard to sing well while doing all those Bollywood dance numbers. And, well in Bollywood, they usually don't do their own singing anyway! Hands down, Priya (Rudaba Nasir) is the best lip syncer of the cast, while others were not as convincing. The choreography will keep your eyes busy during most musical numbers, although it would have made it a little more intimate if some of the other main characters looked as if they were singing their songs.

Rudaba Nasir as Priya was not only good at the lip sync, but an excellent dancer and outstanding actress. There were only four women with speaking parts, but all were well chosen for their roles. Faiza Mujahid will crack you up as Shanti, Akaash's aging mother from the slums. The superstar Rani, played by Arfah Khawaja, is a character the boys will wish was on the stage more. And finally, Enshe Ahmed plays Paro who is a girl from the slums pining for Akaash's lost love. Among the male actors, many of the cast were excellent, but I'd have to say that Yasir Rehmat Hussain as Sweetie would win my "best actor" award, with Shams Aftab as Dolly at a close second.

As someone who has participated in musical dramas myself (as a dancer, choreographer, set designer, and backstage crew), I must give props to the costume designers, set designers, backstage team, and everyone who helped with lights and sound. It takes a lot to create the effects that they managed to pull off flawlessly despite the constant threat of loadshedding.

Bombay Dreams is directed by Shah Sharahbeel and produced by Umer Hameed, not only a manager but also a black belt and fight scene choreographer.

As Lonely Planet says, India will "whirl you mind and dazzle your eyes." Bombay Dreams will do all that more. Go see it for yourself!

**Bombay Dreams will be performed every night until April 20th at 8:30pm at Al Hamra Centre, Mall Road. Buy Tickets at Gloria Jean's (Hussain Chowk), Cafe Zouk, Marble Stone (Lalik Chowk, Defence), Mini Golf (Centrepoint) or the Al Hamra box office (Mall Road). Tickets are 500 Rs each.

Be sure to buy tickets 2-3 days in advance and arrive early and people start queuing at 7:00pm. Doors open at 8:00pm and close at 8:25. Go EARLY if you don't want to sit on the stairs or be locked out! Yesterday even the aisles were completely full with people sitting on the steps and the floor. At least 50 people came too late and were locked outside!

The original musical was written by Meera Syal with music by A.R. Rehman and lyrics by Don Black. It was first produced in London in 2002. Here in Lahore it is being produced with amateur actors and actresses from the city's universities.

Baby born with two faces

Rural India must boast the most cases of abnormal births. I am amazed that baby Lali can eat with either of her two mouths, breathe through two noses, and blinks all of her four eyes at the same time.

Baby Lali born with two faces

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


In my class this year I asked the students to write emotion poems using metaphors. My experiences with the maid today have prompted this poem

Frustration is
the maid turning your favorite pants different colors in the wash
seeing her cleaning the shelves with insect repellent
when she blames the red coloring on me even though I know she did it
when she has no concept of time and punctuality is a foreign idea
when she drops the dishes behind the stove so you can't find them

Frustration is
when she tells me "all the work is done" (sare kam ho gaya)
and there's dirt all over the car
bird poop on the windows
and dust bunnies collecting in all the corners

Frustration is
when she asks for a raise
despite the fact that she's ruined enough clothes to account for 2 months salary

Mercy is
not getting what you deserve

Mercy is
difficult to have when you're frustrated

Mercy is
something I think God wants to teach me about through the maid!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

My Favorite Kitchen Appliance

My favorite kitchen appliance has got to be the blender. There is great fruit available in Pakistan, but the funny thing is that most fruit I'd rather eat it blended than as is. For example, mangoes. They are so slimy and have this weird texture when you eat them fresh, but if you freeze them and put them in the blender with some milk you'll get a tasty summer drink.

We use the blender at least three times a day in the hot months. Iced coffee, milkshakes, and various healthier smoothie drinks.

For cooking, I also use the blender/grinder a lot when I want to make curries, sauces or soups. Potato spinach soup, broccoli cheese soup. Mmmm. This use of the blender is more for the winter.

This was a random post, but I'm happy to have the blender and excited for the coming summer fruit! Mmmmm

Duarte and I enjoying a strawberry banana smoothie, for about 1/4 the cost it would be in one of Lahore's posh cafes