Monday, May 31, 2010

Viens, Mallika, les lianes en fleurs... Always an Interconnected World!‏

What is a connection of the vaguest sort between Prannoy Roy, British Airways, Yanni and Lakmé cosmetics?
Nothing, I could not have imagined of any connection between them till yesterday when I remembered those days in 1989.

In the Doordarshan days of 1989, Prannoy Roy's The World This Week, which was telecast on Friday evenings, was the only quality source of international news. I was hooked to The World This Week. Every Friday, I would dedicate myself to watching the programme, even though staying awake after 10PM was considered late, by the small town standards in Yamuna Nagar.

And advertisements telecast during the The World This Week were a welcome break from the "Tandurusti ki raksha karta hai Lifebuoy" type of commercials. The advertisements I am talking of were especially classy.

One of them was the British Airways commercial, which uplifted me, my moods and aspirations. The advertisement showed multi-racial groups of gleeful people in white, red, blue and black clothing arranging themselves in a such a fashion that the aerial view showed a face, which smiles and winks. Afterwards, the face turns into the impression of the globe.

The music and the vocals that accompanied the visuals were sublime, that instantly had an effect of elevating me.

I remember walking to school in the North Indian winter mornings, in dense fog and the only things that would ring in my mind would be music of the advertisement.

Years went by. I passed my exams, moved to Chandigarh for my graduation in engineering. On one of the weekends in 1996, while I visiting my cousin, Apoorav, at Panchkula, I heard Yanni's Live at the Acropolis for the very first time. The next thing I remember was rushing to Sector 17's Deepak Radios to buy Yanni's audio cassette.

The last track on the cassette was Aria, which was the same music that I had heard over 7 years back in the cold wintry evenings at Yamuna Nagar, that continuously rang in my head over the years, that always inspired to egg myself on, that haunted me because I did not have that music cassette with me for all these years.

Years passed by.

As I moved from Chandigarh to Gurgaon to Delhi to Bombay, got busier in life, fell in and out of and back in love, the world moved on from cassettes to CDs to MP3s, from Doordarshan to cable to DTH.

But in all these years, my liking for the sublimity of the audio of this advertisement (and of course, Aria) did not diminish even a bit.

And yesterday simply out of curiosity, I googled the phrase "British Airways advertisement Aria". And that opened up whole big treasure trove of evocative, sublime memories. I discovered that You Tube had a video that had captivated me over 21 years back, and Wikipedia told me that the vocals were from a duet, Viens, Mallika, les lianes en fleurs... Sous le dôme épais (The Flower Duet), between characters called, Lakmé and Mallika, from Léo Delibes’ opera Lakmé, which was first performed in 1883.

I stumbled across a rough translation of Viens, Mallika, les lianes en fleurs... Sous le dôme épais, on Wikipedia, which is something like this:

Under the dense canopy

Where the white jasmine

Blends with the rose

On the flowering bank

Laughing at the morning

Come, let us drift down together

Let us gently glide along

With the enchanting flow

Of the fleeing current

On the rippling surface

With a lazy hand

Let us reach the shore

Where the source sleeps

And the bird sings

Under the dense canopy

Under the white jasmine

Let us drift down together

Such beautiful poetry!

What's more interesting is that the opera, Lakmé was inspired by struggle of the Hindu masses in British India and deals more particularly of an Indian girl named Lakmé who falls in love with a British soldier, Gerald!

What's fascinating is Lakmé is the French way of saying Lakshmi.

And more fascinating than that is the fact that the Tatas, who have historically had a very strong affinity for France, named their cosmetics brand Lakmé after this soap opera.

So, the bottomline is that while it took me almost 21 years to realise this, the world always was, is and will remain interconnected!

And I have one more item to add on my bucket list - watch the opera, Lakmé, once before I die, in Paris. Obviously, learning French remains there in my bucket list.

Viens, Mallika, les lianes en fleurs...

1 comment:


Rajeev,boy,well I'm impressed.I never imagined you had an interest in history and research.Quite a find ,this.Had no idea about Lakme.I'm so enlightened & I'm going to boast about how I picked it up from your website.

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