Reflections, South Bibliophile Asia, New Delhi, Chicago 2007
Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Tuesday, Oct 09, 2007
Bollywood tales from Austria
Vienna-based writer’s book on the film industry to be released today
— Photo: V.V. Krishnan
“NAMASTE INDIA”: “Reflections: The Bollywood Connection” author Dorothea Nurnberg along with husband Michael Nurnberg in New Delhi on Monday.
NEW DELHI: That this is perhaps the first German book with references to Bollywood is not the only novel factor. That it tries to intelligently intersperse the Indian film industry in the anthology of three stories against three different backdrops is what appeals the most.
Vienna-based writer Dorothea Nurnberg’s book Reflections: The Bollywood Connection that has been translated into English has allusions to Bollywood in ways more than one.
Though Bollywood is not her “first connection” with India, Dorothea has “simply loved” all the Hindi films that she has seen in the past few years right from “Hey Ram” and “Dil Se” to “Saathiya”, “Kisna” and “Paheli”.
“Bollywood was exposed to Austria through film festivals and television channels only about five years back. There is so much of passion, feeling and beauty in these films that people have warmed up to them. The songs and dances are very lovely. The familial ties and old values in Bollywood films make them very special,” says Dorothea, who has been procuring the DVDs of these films from “an Indian friend in Vienna”.
Dorothea’s book is a compilation of three stories: a love story between a Bollywood actor and a Viennese college lecturer who is in love with India; Bollywood’s effect on the Indian diaspora in Mauritius; and an Indian author and professed Bollywood-basher working out his childhood trauma through the film version of his novel and the incidental encounters that he runs into.
An ardent fan of Indian spirituality and writers like Arundhati Roy and Vikram Seth that she is, there are also references to Lord Krishna and Rabindranath Tagore’s poems in her book.
“The main theme in all my books has been foreign cultures which I have got to explore and study as I have travelled extensively. I have visited India on several occasions and have travelled to Rajasthan, Varanasi, Bodh Gaya, Agra, Madurai and Kancheepuram among others. It has been a good experience,” says Dorothy, whose latest book will be released in the Capital this Tuesday. Accompanying her is her husband Michael Nurnberg, a cardiologist who has specialised in pacemaker therapy. During his stay in India he will deliver lectures on the history and future of pacemaker therapy and home monitoring of cardiac pacemakers. Ask him if Bollywood fascinates him and he says: “I have seen only a few films like ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gam’ and ‘Veer Zaara’ and Rani Mukherji is my favourite actor. I have not written anything except medical literature.”
October 26, 2007
THE INDIAN EXPRESS GROUP
Bollywood as a literary link
Uma da Cunha
Visiting Mumbai last week was German writer and India devotee, Dorothea Nuernberg. She presented her latest book of three short stories at the Max Mueller Bhavan. The name of her book is Reflections… The Bollywood Connection
he word Bollywood is one which some, including the oft-quoted Amitabh Bachchan and also Anil Dharker and others like myself joining in, deplore for its discomfiting nuances. Even so, Bollywood has occasionally served and inspired writers of fiction as a literary setting, triggering novels written by Shashi Tharoor (Show Business), Shobhaa De (Starry Nights), Clive James (The Silver Castle), to name a few. These have mostly been works in the English language, emanating from the UK and the US. Dorothea Nuernberg’s book comes from Europe, written originally in her native German and published two years ago. It now comes to India in English, translated by Amrit Bhatia and Karin Bhatia, who live in Vienna, Austria, which is home to Nuernberg as well.
Writer Nuernberg is known as a poet and novelist (of special note being her work connected with the Brazilian rain forests), as well as for her verse anthologies. She is now involved in art photography and has held exhibitions in Paraguay, Brazil and Vienna. Her writing and interests are eclectic. They explore interspaces between cultures and nations, her special concern being non-European encounters. A critic has noted that she “points out the dialogue between cultures and not their differences”.
Nuernberg’s book Reflections travels to India, a country which she has traversed extensively and is familiar with its different regions and life-styles. “I live in India even when I am not there”, she says. Unusually for a person whose observation is deeply reflective, her book looks at Bollywood as a motivator of response and behaviour. Bollywood, the manufacturer of myth and fantasy, is her human trigger when it comes to affections and beliefs on ground level. Her anthology of three stories uses three different backdrops of the Bollywood milieu.
The stories revolve around the following: a love story between a Bollywood actor and a Viennese college lecturer who is in love with India; Bollywood’s effect on the Indian diaspora in Mauritius; and an Indian author who has an angst about Bollywood which he is aiming to cleanse via a film version of his novel, which leads to other incidental happenings.
The author provides an intelligent objectivity - she is by no means obsequious at all times. She sees and notes what can be disliked and difficult about the country. There is no doubt though that Nuernberg’s regard and respect for an Indian way of life go beyond these hindrances.
Nuernberg loves Bollywood films for the spirituality they convey, their intrinsic sense of family values and bonding (“these are aspects we have lost in the west”), and for their colour, their vitality, their openness to life. “We in our country, are somewhat undemonstrative about our feelings and responses. It feels good to see the laughter and tears and drama in Indian films’.
Reflections - The Bollywood Connection is published by Promilla & Co in association with Bibliophile South Asia.
Dr. Kusum Ansal, New Delhi:
Reflections, New Delhi/Chikago 2007; Spiegelbilder, Kitab 2006
Kusum Ansal, Author of 23 books comprising novels, short stories, poems, travelogue and an autography, Kusum Ansal is well-known name in the field of literature. She has been honoured for her outstanding contribution to the field of literature and social actvities.
She has received many awards for her contribution to the Indian Literature :
* Shiromani Award 1987
* Priyadarshni Award 1988
* Bhai Vir Singh Sahitya Sadan Award 1989
* Vijay Ratna Award 1991
* Punjabi Accdemy Award (Punjabi) 1997
* Bharat Nirman Award 1999
* Samanvay Shri Award 1999
* Uttar Pradesh Hindi Sawratan Puruskar 2001
The book „Reflections“ – the Bollywood Connection by Dorothea Nürnberg in its thin jacket reveals dense and unprecedented volume range of storehouse of exceptionally intelligent insight of the writer. When I read the name „Bollywood Connection“, I was expecting it to be a story which deals with the glamorized world of Indian Cinema. But when I started reading it, I was almost awestruck, I marveled the way Dorothea Nürnberg dealt with the broad range of abstractions of life which one can only discover after an intense research. She not only travelled in India from Gangotri to Agra to Vrindaban to Mumbai but studied Hindu philosophy of Vedanta and Bhagavad Gita which she calls „Bible of Hinduism“.
As J.M. Barrie writes „Life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story and writes another, and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with that he vowed to make it.“
Dorothea´s first story is „Declaration of Love“ in which she oscillates between hope amd realism can be mistaken as a diaryor an autobiography. As in ist life like resistance to consistency and neatness, the story helps her realize that there is no satisfactory way to master certain miseries, it helps her simply to endure them. Life is full of miseries, disease, disaster, evil with all the negatives of human existence. In literature these negatives are worth creating and re-creating in relation to stressing some positive, but not as an end in themselves. In her story „Declaration of Love“ Dorothea Nürnberg understands the psychological alienation of Mumbai´s authentic responses and describes them as „ Omnipresent despair, the lapers, the blind, the children in slums full of lice and dirt, roaming the streets in search for something edible, people sleeping in the streets of those dying in back street yards and other dark corners of the city.
Horror disgust as commercial hurtlee.“
„Reflection“ is a collection of three long stories, out of which two are based on Mumbai and one on Mauritious all three of them have a Bollywood connection. In „Declaration of Love“ Elsbeth, the main character of thestory falls in love with Rahul and travels to Mumbai from Vienna. Rahul is a budding film star, struggling to act in films while Elsbeth has a dream of her own, she wants to write a script for a Bollywood film, which never gets fulfilled. Rahuls starts acting in a film and she is reduced to stay in a small Mumbai flat alone. Elsbeth in her loneliness develops a strong insight, to visualize that the human psychology is strange. Though, she believes that love definitely ist the highest vibration of heart, but can be overpowered or negated by the practicality of life. In the small flat the Bollywood films fill her void. The celebrity Indian film stars, like Shah Rhuk Khan, Vivek Oberoi, and numerous other films with various themes force her to think to understand human psyche which make her turn inside, she studies Noble Prize winner poet Rabindranath Tagore and philosophy of Gita – which illuminates her thinking. She understands india a country with so many variances, different communla problems, ethnicities with extreme hunger and deprivation along with ist philosophy of religion or Adhyatmic Gyan.
Rahul slowly drifts away from her as his acting, his career as an actor becomes everything, he is ambitious, and selfish-leaving her alone in the small Mumbai apartment where her thoughts flow like a never ending stream of „ants“, which are small but powerful, indicating Elsbeth´s silent but violent struggle. Struggle against her own scarred optimism, which we can sense in these lines. „On some days, the air in this city becomes so thick, moist, hot, and suffocating that Elsbeth is afraid she might choke on this yellow broth.“
Choking on the emotional level, she analysis the film „Kabi Kushi Kabhi Gam“ along with quotations from Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore´s „Gitanjali“, which reveals her scholarly verve. Her descriptions, her language are brilliant, they unveil how deep her understanding is, of what it is to be Indian.
In the story „Lost“ Dorothea shows her revolt towards commercialisation of literature, she believes that a film though is a narrative that unfolds in time, in a sequence of moving images that are arranged in a certain order are the reflection of a shot which the director of the film has determined for it not the writer of the novel.
She quotes philosophy of „Dhammapada“ and Dighanikaya“ to remind the readers that India has a treasure of rich spiritual power.
„Anyone who withdraws into meditation on compassion, can see Brahma with his own eyes, talk with him face to face and consult with him!.
This kind of vision, understanding is not easy, this is a just of total Vedanta to understand nonduality between self and God – to be one without a second, „Aham Brhamasmi“, the Mahamnatra, when God becomes part of the human soul and human soul merges into God. Divine does not result in one losing ones identity, but in discovering one´s true identity. I feel through her outer journey in India Dorothea has completed the journey of her inner self as she writes „Krishna conquers the game through the game itself“.
I feel through her writing Dorothea Nürnberg has discovered the gold mine of man´s soul, which is the ultimate state of human awareness ancient wisdom, thought of integrating philosophy of Gyan of Karma, the pragmatic wisdom.
Reflections: The bollywood connection
By Dr Santosh Goyal
Dorothea Nurnberg a philologist, authors with many literary contributions like verse anthologies, theatre plays, prose etc.is also an art photographer.
A traveler by nature, the nomad in her sends her in the hearts of places, people, incidents and the writer- philosopher compels her to write stories of life.
I congratulate her from the depth of my heart for writing this anthology of stories with the name ‘ Reflections the Bollywood connection’ reading which was a pleasant experience for me and I am sure it would have been for all of u who have a chance to read it.
The main idea I liked and which I appreciate is that all stories had some or the other connection with the Bollywood world as the title also suggests.
I agree Bollywood has its attraction and impressions and they not only go deep into the hearts of the people of India, Mauritius and other eastern countries but also in Europe and I would say even in North America.
Here I would like to mention that many books are written and still are in the process and many researches are going on the topics like: -
Literary value of Bollywood songs
Folk songs of Bollywood movies
Vishva mein Hindi aur Bollywood ka yogdaan and many more.
I agree that Bollywood lives in our hearts and heads, make us laugh and cry, entertains us and from the sad and stressful reality of life takes us in a world of dreams.
All these stories are in some or the other way had the connection with Bollywood . I am surprised how deep Dorothea knows the ins and outs of this world and paints them with its beauty and ugliness in all the three stories of the book.
Now about the book-
First I would like the mention the pictures given in beginning of each story, very impressive I must say. All of them match the titles. That is as I see them.
Declaration of love –ya, love is like the morning sky that scatters the rays of hope in one’s life.
Lotus Moon—beautiful Moon can be seen which touches the heart and fills it with lotus fragrance
Lost –the sky with clouds; misty- dusky sky and surely one is lost in that darkness.
Combination of pictures and titles I liked and appreciate Dorothea for the selection.
Now , I would like to say \ few words about the stories. These all stories are the reflection of human life and somehow connected with the bollywood world also depict different facet of that world and its effect on human mind heart and life.
First, second story, ‘Lotus Moon. In this story the author’s perspective of bollywood is very positive. This bollywood distracts poor from their miseries---that exactly happens in this story. Vicky , the Mauritius botanist in search of her identity living in isolation and loneliness opens her heart and becomes receptive to Jean Claude’s courtship. Agreed that bollywood is only a fictional dream world sometimes works wonders for those who are lost and depressed. Thus bollywood changes Vicky’s world and her attitude towards life.
The third story ’LOST’ is the story of Arjun who is working out his childhood traumas through the film version of his novel though he is lost in the worlds of many dilemmas as the freedom and independence that he craved from the childhood and for which he left his mother and home is still far away. One is not free in this world, and has to live on the whims and fancies of others, that is why he was forced to write the film script, for which he has an opinion of his own like any literature writer‘ trash factory is not going to touch my litrature.’he says and repents the obstinacy of his adolescence.
The first one ‘declaration of love’ is actually a reflection of Dorthea’s understanding of human mind and actions. This story is a collage painted by Dorthea where one can see Portuguese ‘ bom Bahai’ meaning ‘Pretty Bay’now Mumbai gradually turning into the slumbay, the ‘ Mani Bhawan residence of Gandhi ji, the old woman who is the palm reader at Juhu beach, the yogis of India balancing on one hand, the Chowpatti, the caves of Himalayas, procession of ants and the mention of ‘God of small things’ and Tagor’s ‘Geetanjli’ ‘(the reason why Elsbeth, the main female character landed in India) and the dream world of Bollywood intrinsically knitted and knotted in this whole collage and of course our main characters Rahul and Elsbeth.
Elsbeth sees a Bollywood hero in Rahul, wanted to escape the boring university routine and her loneliness, hoped that Rahul would prove to be a suitable partner accompanies him attracted by the dream factory of India i.e. Bollywood. She brings her script along though very well aware of the fact that Indian film industry does no need a European screenplay writer neither a European central figure to act in the movie.
Elsbeth , lost in the dreamy world found a Bollywod hero in Rahul who has brought her hot and dreamy nights, unaccountable day dreams showed her the scenic beauties of his country and its poverty and despair, pampered and wooed her and made her feel like a heroine but Bollywood movie dreams are not realities.
Movie script was not accepted not even a European female as heroine.
Rahul got a small role in an average film, got busy and the star role of this intellectual women named Elsbeth was reduced to a walk on role and lying alone in large bed with the mosquito net on it, hearing the humming sound of the fan and watching the long queue of ants creeping in each and every corner of the house from cushions to the kitchen.
The question of woman identity comes in my mind. Aren’t woman always had to spend months and years of their life behind the carved wooden shutters, like the harem shutters, in the oriental room on these Indian cushions.
Both stop sleeping together. The ceiling fan becomes still like her emotions.
A bluish glass partition, which has separated Elsbeth from the reality, breaks.
Finally she packs and runs to Himalayas. Six months pass.
She tries hard to brush Rahul’s breath away from her, takes two months to burn his 15 pages letter but alas! One can’t brush the memories or the words written on one’s heart.
Her heart is filled with emotions, echoes to go back to what she has left behind.
With trembling hands and an insecure voice she leaves the message on the answering machine of Rahul, goes to an ancient temple.
Sitting on the uppermost step in the heart of hearts she admits the ‘reflection of moon in the pond is not real moon, whether it in Vienna or in India. This is message which the author wants to send to all
One should accept the reality, the truth and the truth is that she loves Rahul and her heart echoes for him.
The story ends with the beautiful node of declaration of love which is pure like the morning rays of sun and melodious like krishan’s flute.
Dorothea has the depth of thought as well as the art of the weaver . Her similes like that of ants, Krishna’s flute or his seducing eyes and many others are very vivid. The lyrical quality of her writing makes the reading interesting and impressive.
A special mention I was very much impressed by the small poems between the lines. I am sure a photographer, a painter, a writer and a poet lives inside Dorothea’s heart.
My comments would be incomplete without the mention of the translators. Amrit and Karin Bhatia have done a tremendous job. They have well maintained the depth of thoughts and lyrical quality of the language in their translation.
I remember I had translated a novel written by well known GYANPEETH AWARD WINNER Assamese writer Momani Rosam Indira Goswami named ‘Blood red leafs’ (of course from English to Hindi) the comment from the critics was ‘Reading this novel is like reading a book originally written in Hindi’. This is the best compliment a translator can get.
While reading these stories I always thought that I am reading the stories originally written in English.
I again congratulate Dorothea Nurnberg for this anthology of stories and with authenticity can say that to read the book would be a delightful experience for all of you.
In the end I would like to mention that I would now finish and leave the place for others who are waiting eagerly.
Thanks all of you very much to give me so much time.
Thanks to Mrs. Pollross, Director, Austrian cultural Forum, Kusum Ji and Ramma ji and again cognates for Dorothea and a special mention of the publisher for publishing such a beautiful book.
THE TRIBUNE INDIA
Sunday, December 9, 2007
An alluring world
Reflections: The Bollywood Connection
by Dorothea Nurnberg. Promilla. Pages 111. Rs 250.
AN Austrian writer drawing on Bollywood in a manner that it becomes central to her stories is not surprising, what with the Indian film industry showing expansive growth in Europe. What startles is the ease with which she infuses the same illusionary quality in her stories.
Women protagonists appear to drift from a dream sequence-like moment to stark consciousness. The "identity forming effect" of the film industry within the Indian diaspora also finds expression in the book.
Elsbeth is a college lecturer in Vienna who falls in love with Rahul, a small-time actor with dreams of stardom. She comes to Mumbai and what sets in is her disillusionment with the relationship. She takes off to Vrindaban and amid spiritual propensity, she senses incompleteness, but Rahul is already at the Krishna temple on the banks of the Yamuna to win back her love.
The next story talks of a Mauritian botanist lost after the death of her Hindu husband whom she had married against the wishes of her father.
She is a Hindi film fan, having learnt the language only so she could sing Hrithik Roshan’s songs. She’s seen Mujhse Dosti Karoge nine times and just as the breeze from Krishna’s altar unites the lovers in the film, it is to work for her and Jean Claude.
An explosion, however, smashes her view of the "ideal world of Bollywood films and their idolatrously adored stars". The dream of beauty and love, and the perfect idyll no longer offers her an escape from reality.
As Claude tells her earlier on: "The idyll brings money, fuels patriotic emotions, and for a few hours, distracts the poor masses of India from daily misery."
The last story is about a Bollywood-basher and a top Indian author who believes Bollywood to be a "cheap, worthless, commercial, light years apart from any type of art or literature". And so hates that his novel should be adapted into a film.
The author also tries to build a bridge between the cultures of the East and West, gathering the best of both and enriching them alike.
"A colourful, alluring world to revive the submerged emotions and desires of the young woman: fascinating men, beautiful women, romantic love, great emotions, mellifluous melodies and lavish dancing scenes" is how the Mauritian woman describes Bollywood. For the reason that Indian readers have been overly fed on Bollywood, the book has nothing new to offer.