Thursday, March 21, 2013


This Saturday we had a surfeit of problems on our hands. A bad hair Saturday. Saturday’s dalliance with Boss lasted almost till mid-night, that is 7 PM, our night knocks at our door at 4 PM, you know… Kuki was at our door-step in his shining Scorpio at 3 PM…
When we made our appearance at 1, Trinayan Path, Beltola, Kuki appeared quite crest -fallen,…good man that he is, that’s the closest he gets to being hopping mad. Fortunately his daughter little Christina, rightfully called Tina, is accompanying Kuki.
We hit the road by 7.30. Upto Jorabat tiniali the road performs such gyrations, you know…Shillong is South of Guwahati, but you never know whether you are mukhatib with the magrib or the mashriqshamal or janoob..very few humans remain untouched by dizziness and sickness on this segment of the highway…
We doze off for a while and when we come to, we’re past Byrnihat. Kuki has faithfully performed his part of the deal- one end of our green stereo cord is rooted into the Pioneer which announces ‘AUX’ expectantly, and the other end wags excitedly like a dog’s tail…, longing to be united with the iPod….
Around the Byrnihat toll-post, a jam runs into us. There’s a landslide, Kuki speculates. The geography and geology of the Guwahati Shillong Road, nee Assam Trunk Road (runs from Guwahati to Aizawl via Silchar), is peculiar-- only the portions between Byrnihat and Nongpoh, and a few kms from Umiam- are known for land-slides. Travelling from Guwahati to Shillong (or the other way round, he,he,he) Nongpoh is midway, roughly 45 km from either side. The arithmetic is clear to locals- one hour from Shillong to Nongpoh, one hour thereafter to Umsning, and thence to Shillong, another hour. The hour from  Umsning to Shillong is the most ruggedly consistent, for the possibilities of landslides are limited, and the roads don’t admit of jams. The gradient is peculiar- over the 70 km journey from Guwahati to Umiam Lake, the rise is 3000 ft., and over the remaining 25 km upto Laitkor, it’s again 3000 feet! They tell us, 50 years back there was no Umiam Lake, and the journey from Guwahati to Shillong was performed by bullock-carts, and lasted 2 whole days. Nongpoh was again mid-way and there was a change of bullocks at Nongpoh…

So we are stranded a mere 15 km from where we began. Restless, we say let there be light to Kuki and after he complies, we thumb through the volume of PG Wodehouse that was borrowed from Bittya. Excellent book, Laughing Gas, we have read it many times over 500 years back. We try to locate the part where the Hollywood producer Igor Somebody gives an audience to Reggie, the poet. The little Scorpio light fails us and we keep away the book. We try the connectivity on our i-Pad… quickly comes alive! We try to google out the passage we were obsessed with and discover the tricks played our memory. One, the name of the fictional Hollywood producer is Ivor Lewellyn. Two, the relevant book is not Laughing Gas but Luck of the Bodkins. Three, the Movie Moghul invites Reginald’s poet brother Ambrose Tennyson for a tete-a-tete and not Reggie. The substantive part we remember better- Ivor ejects Ambrose from his house when he learns that Ambrose is not the Lord Tennyson who wrote Charge of the Light Brigade! 
Bumbling Hollywood was perpetually in Wodehouse’s cross-hair, though PG was hairless by the time he was famous. You’ll find outrageously funny situations in many of his books, including Luck of the Bodkins, and the Hollywood-centric Laughing Gas, which featured the Idol of American Motherhood Joey Cooley, and is about the consequences of the exchange of the souls of the kid Joey, and the hefty Reginald at the dentist’s clinic when both come to after a dose of laughing gas.
Hollywood has always been a conundrum for right-thinking people, he,he,he…the best like Spielberg and Scorsese belongs to Hollywood, as do some of the crass Teflon Bags such as Mariyln Monore. All said, we believe every Hollywood movie including serious ones like Forrest Gump and Citizen Kane try to be entertaining and enthralling, whereas in India the most artistic ones aspire to be boring and dull. Hollywood is the real ‘Popular Cinema’.
Well, one victory that the Pop philosophy scored over the intellectual stream is enshrined in the final exchange between Eliza Doolittle and Prof. Higgins’s in My Fair Lady-
Eliza: I washed my face and hands before I come, I did.
Higgins: Eliza? Where the devil are my slippers?

George Bernard Shaw wrote Pygmalion in 1912 with an open ended conclusion, he,he,he.

The storyline being so remarkable, many a Producer approached Shaw for stage rights, and Shaw turn by turn blessed different conclusions. However in 1916 Shaw came out openly against the taste of the hoi polloi and angrily wrote a ‘Post Script’ to the play, vouching that he expected Eliza to marry Freddy rather than Prof Higgins. This post script accompanies the play in the later editions.

The following is an excerpt from an interview quoted by critic Peter Cassirer:

Q:  In a note to the stage version of "Pygmalion", you deplored what you called "readymade, happy endings to misfit all stories," yet you allowed such a ready-made happy ending to be substituted in the film version. Why?

GBS: I did not. I cannot conceive a less happy ending to the story of "Pygmalion" than a love affair between the middle-aged, middle class professor, a confirmed old bachelor with a mother-fixation, and a flower girl of 18. Nothing of the kind was emphasised in my scenario, where I emphasised the escape of Eliza from the tyranny of Higgins by a quite natural love affair with Freddy. But I cannot at my age undertake studio work: and about 20 directors seem to have turned up there and spent their time trying to sidetrack me and Mr. Gabriel Pascal, who does really know chalk from cheese. They devised a scene to give a lovelorn complexion at the end to Mr. Leslie Howard: but it is too inconclusive to be worth making a fuss about.'

(Peter Cassirer 1983)

However Alan Jay Lerner who was responsible for the most well-known exposition of the play, namely ‘My Fair Lady’, put it quite succinctly, retaining awe-filled reverence for the great playwright:

'I have omitted the sequel because in it Shaw explains how Eliza ends not with Higgins but with Freddy and-Shaw and Heaven forgive me-I am not certain he is right'.

As for the views of the present writer, he finds more and more merit in the Hollywood take as he gets more and more middle-aged! We have in fact always appreciated the partiality of  Hollywood Producers slash Directors towards the poor ‘Middle Aged. Recall Hollywood movies like American Beauty, and Poison Ivy. We grew up on American pot-boilers like My Fair Lady, O’Henry and Poe, and in our earliest days, we believed that only a homosexual would plump for Freddy! Mince not that we believe GBS was an Oscar Wildian..! He was a paper contrarian certainly

And then there is the obvious question at to why at all GBS alluded to the Pygmalion tale, if he didn't expect the sparks to fly between Eliza and Prof. Higgins!


These are some versions of Eliza Doolittle picked up from various web-sites. If someone has a copyright issue, we’d rather not believe him:











When My Fair Lady was on the anvil, THE Eliza residing in public dil-o-jigar was Julie Andrews. Audrey Hepburn may have earned the sobriquet 'most beautiful Hollywood heroine of all times' on the back of MFL, for the viewer of the day, Eliza was Julie and vice-versa. The public expected the MFL taj to go to Julie. She also sang better, but it did not happen. So- while MFL won 8 Oscars, Audrey failed to secure even a nomination, while Julie Andrews got poetic justice in the shape of the Best Actress Oscar for Mary Poppins. Julie was modest enough to confess that the Oscar should have goje to Audrey. But then Audrey's the lady and flower girl who will reside in the hearts of posterity as the final Word!


The late, lamented Saturday Review was a conservative literary supplement to the New York Evening Post, prudish, by today's standards. In a serialised novel, however, at the end of one episode the lead couple, not married, ends up for a late night dinner at the lady's place.  The next Saturday's episode starts with the two engaged in their daily rituals at their respective homes, a reluctant concession to the demands of the romantic evening by the author. There was a hue and cry by the readership in the letters column, it's a family magazine, it's read by children and... you know...? Next Saturday, the magazine published the following disclaimer:

"The Saturday Review of Literature is not responsible for what a serial's characters do between two issues!"

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