Social Commentary through Films: Interview with Regional Filmmakers


Every region has its own narrative, one that offers a glimpse of its pulse. Dipping in to each narrative, I have felt involved and yet distant at the same time. As if, I am submerged in to a deep body of water, but unable to fathom its depth. However, the more dips I take, the more my view clears. The more I linger, the more I view. My introduction to films of the region was initiated this way and very soon, I concluded that despite the uniqueness of each culture, the shared story of humanity remains the same.

Presenting my interviews with two acclaimed film makers from Indonesia, Nia Dinata and Wicaksono Wisnu Legowo. On the surface, they both are different, but both their film-making styles involve the same need to weave in stories from the society we live in. Both are experts in making their audiences think, feel and ponder at the rules the society makes, the rush for power that divides us as people and the values that make us who we are. The original magazine link is available here

# Interview 1

Nia Dinata 9Source: IndoConnect)

Nia Dinata (Source: IndoConnect)

screen-shot-2017-02-09-at-10-00-09-am

#Interview 2

Film maker, Wicaksono Wisnu Legowo (Source: Indoconnect)

Film maker, Wicaksono Wisnu Legowo (Source: IndoConnect)

screen-shot-2017-02-09-at-9-59-04-am

These are exciting times of collaborations and shared narratives. I am greedy for more and looking forward to exploring more and more of these regional treasures!

 

Advertisements

My Reading List: 2016


Writers, artists, playwrights, film makers and all the others, who take on the responsibility of observing, commenting and understanding the society in which we live in are doing us all a great favour. They look at patterns in life, in society and in behaviour, and then they analyse it all to give us a summary, coloured by their own bias of course, but a summary, nevertheless. It makes our lives easier. It saves us from having to dwell deep in to the chaotic depths of our own personalities, the complicated mishmash of our own relationships and the unexplained mysteries of many combined lives. In short, they do our introspection for us.

My homage is to the authors today, especially the authors of fiction or perhaps, fact that is garbed as fiction. These authors offer us a glimpse of a collective struggle, they offer us explanation of why something is the way it is and sometimes they influence us to question everything that we know. My reading list of 2016 seems to have shown a pattern, quite involuntarily. Most of the books that I have read have questioned the society’s ways of doing things. They have questioned what is wrong and what is right and they have forced me, the reader to question the notion of truth. Many of these are asian writers but that, I feel has not made a difference to my experience as a reader. What has been consistent, is that I have been forced to think and rethink what I know and what I have believed in earlier. To be honest, I have enjoyed the process immensely! So, here is my reading list of 2016. These books reflect the society in different times and in spite of that, in each era, they have questioned why society’s rules are decided by a handful of powerful people or they have forced me to look at alternate realities and alternatives.

the-god-of-small-things

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

bookcover_a_passage_to_india

A Passage to India by E M Forster

615lbsfxugl-_sx321_bo1204203200_

The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

morgan_winterson_oranges

Oranges are not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

51ybe4jutdl

Dubliners by James Joyce

6149

Beloved by Toni Morrison

woman-warrior_1

The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston

51lmtfdl9fl-_sy344_bo1204203200_

The Sun also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

9780241978924

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

512dali0ocl-_sx323_bo1204203200_

A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif

ghosh_amitav_sea_of_poppies

Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh

the-bloody-chamber-and-other-stories-by-angela-carter

The Bloody Chamber and other Stories by Angela Carter

1984orwell

1984 by George Orwell

41vhdfdccul-_sx321_bo1204203200_

Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami

 

5315366

Wild Nights by Joyce Carol Oates

 

Happy reading! May we always question. May we always want to know.

 

Singapore International Film Festival: Fantasy & Female Empowerment


The longest running international festival in the region, the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) is back in its the 27thedition to offer a ‘feast for the senses,’ with films that narrate unique stories from the region. This was announced by the Festival at a media conference held at the National Museum of Singapore on 27th October, 2016. This year, SGIFF will screen 161 feature and short films from 52 countries, with 16 world premieres, 9 international premieres and 18 Asian premieres.

Yuni Hadi and Zhang Wenjie at the SGIFF Media Preview (Credits: 27th SGIFF)

Yuni Hadi and Zhang Wenjie at the SGIFF Media Preview (Credits: 27th SGIFF)

SGIFF Executive Director, Ms Yuni Hadi said that the SGIFF continues to be a discovery ground and platform to connect independent films in Asia and beyond. As the leading international film platform in Southeast Asia, the festival strives to foster the understanding of regional cinema by giving a voice to individuals through stories and dialogue. SGIFF is part of the annual Singapore Media Festival (SMF) that brings together a rich mix of independent filmmaking talent to showcase the region’s stories through film, throughout Asia and beyond. SGIFF also allows established and emerging filmmakers and industry players to interact and exchange ideas, in order to contribute to the growth of cinema in the region.

(More on my write up on SGIFF. This article was first published in Indoconnect)

SGIFF by Prionka Ray (First published in Indoconnect)

SGIFF by Prionka Ray (First published in Indoconnect)

blog-indoconnect1

Stories and Us!


Stories and Us!

stories

Our world is made of stories and we are defined by these stories that we tell ourselves. Who then would know if the stories became reality or reality inspired these stories! Exploring the art of storytelling and the unique stories in us all is the The Singapore International Film Festival and nurturing this storytelling in the young students is the National Story Challenge.

SGIFF

Asian premiere of Interchange at the 27th SGIFF. (Photo credit Bonnie Yap, SGIFF)

Asian premiere of Interchange at the 27th SGIFF. (Photo credit Bonnie Yap, 27th SGIFF)

Championing the voice of Asian Cinema, the 27th Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) rolled out the red carpet for its gala opening yesterday at Marina Bay Sands. Celebrated Malaysian auteur, Dain Iskandar Said opened the 12-day celebration of independent cinema with the Asian premiere of his fantasy noir thriller Interchange. Present with him were award-winning Indonesian TV personality and actor, Nicholas Saputra, husband-wife duo Iedil Putra and Prisia Nasution. Other noted guests were last year’s SGIFF Cinema Legend Award recipient, actress, Michelle Yeoh, Korean director Lee Sang-woo, acclaimed Southeast Asian filmmakers Eric Khoo, Joko Anwar, Brillante Mendoza, and Vietnamese-born director Tran Anh Hung, who will be receiving the IWC Filmmaker Award – the first to be presented in Singapore – on 26 November 2016.

Michelle Yeoh and Mike Miluan (Credits: Bonnie Yap, 27th SGIFF)

Michelle Yeoh and Mike Miluan (Credits: Bonnie Yap, 27th SGIFF)

SGIFF Executive Director, Yuni Hadi, said, “It is heartening to see the gathering of so many passionate film lovers at the opening of SGIFF. While the industry witnesses the transformation of cinema reflected in how we watch and make films today, the timeless stories told through film will always continue to engage and captivate us.” Over the next two weeks, SGIFF will present 161 films from 52 countries, and a varied slate of panel discussions and masterclasses with renowned filmmakers and industry experts.

I am excited to catch some of the movies. Having interviewed Indonesian Film maker, Nia Dinata recently, I am looking forward to watching her movie, Three Sassy Sisters!

National Story Challenge 2017

Story Challenge

Story Challenge

Meanwhile, to nurture the stories while young, is the The National Story Challenge Tournament. The challenge is an original improvisational storytelling competition created by The Theatre Practice, and is open to students in all primary and secondary schools in Singapore.  Registration starts from 19th December! Details here

And last, but not the least, here’s my contribution to the stories: reading stories to the children at the community centre, where I am part of the committee that organises programmes for youth and children.

Storytelling at the community centre (Source: Prionka Ray)

Storytelling at the community centre (Source: Prionka Ray)

The wise said, that we become the stories we tell. If that be true, then let the voices be heard and let the stories define us again and again and again…

Reading now: Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh

Interconnected Thoughts and Associations


On my morning commute today, I saw a man walking by the road. Dressed in black and denim, his strides hinted at a certain impatience along with an accompanying confidence. Perhaps, he is both. Just like my dad was. And long after the man had moved away from my line of vision, my gaze stayed glazed. The image continued to stay with me and the essence of my dad lingered on. My mind meandered down the memory lane, skipping in a hurry to those precious years when my dad was still around.

How easily, a brief image, a sight, a sound or a fragrance can get so redolent with emotions!  How effortlessly they guide us to thoughts and memories of somebody else, of something else! And it is not a rare occurrence. Everything is indeed in association with the other! Everything is relative or related. However much, we seclude ourselves or think of ourselves as one separate unique entity, we are not. Our identity and our very existence is in context. The smaller pencil is in context of the bigger one; the daughter is because there is a mother; the writing is here because there is a reader. And I thought of my dad because of the man?
Does that mean, I wouldn’t have remembered my dad without that man? Of course, I would have! But, then again, something else would have triggered my thought. There is always an allusion, an association or a comparison of juxtaposed thoughts, events or memories. One leads to another and then they all merge somewhere else altogether. It’s such a fluid world, where we are all a part of the whole, linked and intertwined with fluid thoughts of the others, merging to make a bigger picture, a bigger world, a bigger phenomenon. No thought remains just there. It continues to another place and another association, transcending time and geographical locations.
Now I let my thoughts pause, pause on these beautiful paintings that reflect my state of mind. One is by Mark Chadwick and it presents the fluidity of thoughts and the other, by Ingeborg Herckenrath. It shows connected people. These images may lead you to your own associations. I will leave you here to linger here or to move on…
fluid_portrait_3_by_mark_chadwick-d95s0iz

Fluid Portrait by Mark Chadwick. (Source: Deviant Art)

1972162-yjhzumnx-7

Connected People red by Ingeborg Herckenrath (Source: Saatchi Art)

Bringing Contemporary Art to the Common Man


According to Director, Angelita Teo of the National Museum of Singapore, “History inspires art, and art develops our understanding of history and ourselves.” Keeping this in mind, the National Museum brings in a new exhibition that includes more than 30 thought-provoking international artworks to Singapore. The show is curated in collaboration with the network of French Regional Collections of Contemporary Art (FRAC), and it is for the first time that this collection is being presented in Asia Pacific.

blog-pic1

National Museum of Singapore, Director, Angelita Teo at the media preview of What Is Not Visible Is Not Invisible. (Photo: Prionka Ray)

However, contemporary art is not everyone’s cup of tea. Especially in Singapore, as Ms Teo points out rightly, the exposure to contemporary art has been limited. Therefore, the museum has taken special steps and measures to ensure that art does not stay restricted to a select group, but is accessible to all. These measures include, explaining the art pieces better in the form of longer introductions that are included along with the expected title and name of the artist. This ensures that the art novices will be able to enjoy the pieces as much as the seasoned art enthusiasts.

Titled, ‘What Is Not Visible Is Not Invisible,’ the show broadly surveys the imaginary and the temporary, and takes visitors on an experiential and progressive journey of the mind and senses, using unconventional approaches in art-making, and multi-media. The title and the design of What is Not Visible is Not Invisible takes inspiration from the artwork of the same title by French artist Julien Discrit, which walks the line between physical and philosophical. At first glance, three infrared lightbulbs are strung from the ceiling in front of an unassuming blank wall. When triggered by the viewer’s presence, the bulbs light up to reveal the ultraviolet text on the wall: “What is not visible is not invisible”. Speaking at the media preview yesterday, Julien explained his interest in astrophysics and his inspiration for the artwork that originated from the idea that physical universe is bigger than the visible universe.

unnamed

What is not visible is not invisible, 2008. Julien Discrit (Photo Courtesy of National Museum of Singapore)

This visual paradox sets the premise for the themes and artworks at the exhibition. Artworks such as Grass Grows by Hans Haacke where a mound of grass greets visitors, and Repulse Bay by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, where a beach is recreated indoors instantly captures the audiences’ attention through the displacement of what is expected to be outdoors, suddenly appearing indoors. The recreation of environments in unassuming spaces creates new perspectives and transports visitors into a new state of mind. Most of the artwork invites individual perspectives. As curator, Imam Ismail points out, “Audience participation completes the works.”

 

Here are few of my favourite pieces and few moments of artistic interactions from the media preview of the exhibition:

Repulse Bay

Repulse Bay, 1999. Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster (Photo Courtesy of National Museum of Singapore)

plus-de-lumiere-1998-claude-leve%cc%82que-collection-frac-provence-alpes-co%cc%82te-dazur-photo-courtesy-of-nms-nhb-1

Plus de lumiere, 1998. Claude Leveque (Photo Courtesy of National Museum of Singapore)

les-oiseaux-de-celeste-2008-ariane-michel-et-celeste-boursier-mougenot-collection-frac-franche-comte-ariane-michel-et-celeste-boursier-2

Les oiseaux de Celeste, 2008. Celeste Boursier-Mougenot, Ariane Michel. Video. (Source: Celeste Boursier-Mougenot, Ariane Michel)

freak-star-n2-2005-ann-veronica-janssens-collection-frac-bourgogne-photo-courtesy-of-national-museum-of-singapore-nhb

Freak star, 2005. Ann Veronica Janssens. (Photo coutesy of National museum of Singapore)

blog-pic3

Artist, Julien Discrit, whose work What is not visible is invisible, inspires the title of the exhibition, seen here with artwork, Major Tom, 2009, created by artist, Edith Dekyndt. In the background is After DM, 2012 by Philippe Decrauzat. (Photo: Prionka Ray)

blog-pic-4

Imam Ismail (National Museum of Singapore) and Laurence Gateau (FRAC and Platform), explaining space and audience interaction. Work n°262, 2001 Martin Creed Collection FRAC Languedoc-Roussillon. (Photo: Prionka Ray)

 

The exhibition certainly forced me to think beyond what is usual. Just before I walked out, I was amazed to see cat faces on wooden pallets. Titled, Photomatou, artist Alain Sechas has created 14 posters for visitors to take home.

blog-pic-5

Photomatou, 2004, Alain Sechas (Photo: Prionka Ray)

These posters were adorned with his usual iconic sidekicks: cat motifs. Every visitor, according to the artist will identify with one expression and bring back the poster, which most resembles him or her. I brought one back too though I am still trying to interpret the expression.

blog-pic-6

The cat motif that came home with me!!! Photomatou, 2004, Alain Sechas (Photo: Prionka Ray)

What Is Not Visible Is Not Invisible will be on display from 7 October 2016 to 19 February 2017. The exhibition is open daily from 10am to 7pm, except Thursdays when it opens from 1pm to 7pm. Details on admission and guided tours are available on www.nationalmuseum.sg

 

Meanwhile,  the museum will also be hosting few of the film screenings of the 27th Singapore International Film Festival. The film festival will be casting a Spotlight on Three Singapore Filmmakers in its Silver Screen Awards Shortlist and Festival Line-Up.

  • Singapore filmmaker K. Rajagopal’s first feature film, A Yellow Bird, shortlisted as one of the competition films in the Silver Screen Awards.
  • SGIFF pays tribute to Singapore independent filmmaker, the late Abdul Nizam, and will screen a collection of 12 of his works
  • SGIFF’s commissioned short film by Singapore filmmaker Gladys Ng will make its world premiere during the Festival opening.

As an internationally-recognised platform in Southeast Asia for the discovery of independent cinema, the SGIFF is committed to champion the art and innovation of film making in telling the stories of Asia and the world.

The 27th edition of SGIFF, which runs from 23 November to 4 December 2016, will take place across various venues, including Marina Bay Sands, National Museum of Singapore Gallery Theatre, Shaw Theatres Lido, National Gallery Singapore Auditorium, The Arts House Screening Room, Filmgarde Bugis+ and Objectifs Chapel Gallery. Ticket sales for SGIFF will begin on 28 October 2016.

The SGIFF is an event of the Singapore Media Festival, hosted by the Info-communications Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Truth and the Stories


The ninth month of the year holds a special place in my life. September, a month dedicated to the Virgos, the fast cars of Singapore Night Race and the venerable teachers, is also the month that reminds me of the passage of time. Most of the year seems to have whizzed past and by now I have a fair idea of how it fared. Was it good? Was it bad? By now, I ought to know. So, September is reserved for contemplations, consolidations and evaluations.

In my contemplative state, I have gravitated towards mythological tales as well as contemporary plots.

The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is a rendition of the Hindu epic, Mahabharata and the book presents the viewpoint of Draupadi, a woman. In changing the narrative, Divakaruni manages to subvert the patriarchal slant of mythological stories. The reader is led to question the idea of absolute truth and readjusts known perspectives.

I have always been drawn to multiple perspectives as they force me to look at life, events and people differently. And somehow, the more I age, the more I value different perspectives and the more I realise that there is no absolute right or wrong. We all are right. We all are wrong. It simply depends on who narrates the story at that point in time.

615lbsfxugl-_sx321_bo1204203200_

In The Palace of Illusions, Divakaruni gives an alternate POV to a story that has already been told and retold countless number of times. Additionally, in adopting Draupadi’s voice, she lays bare, social issues and throws light on how power belongs to select few in the society. However, the protagonist here is no wilting flower either. Her character displays ego, willfulness and pride with equal flourish.  The Place of Illusions is thus, a powerful book that takes a feminine viewpoint and yet presents the flaws of the character. It’s a must read for those who enjoy history, social commentary and an important contemplative resource for those who appreciate the nuances of characters and of life itself.

512dali0ocl-_sx323_bo1204203200_

Another book that makes you question the construct of truth is, A Case of Exploding Mangoes, by the Pakistani writer, Mohammed Hanif. The story is based on the plane crash that killed General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, the former president of Pakistan. The book won the Guardian First Book Award and Hanif’s writing is both provocative and pithy, as he explores the various possibilities of Zia’s death.

What strikes in both the books, whether it is a mythological and historical narration or a contemporary commentary, is the common theme, that truth or the notion of truth, can be manipulated by a select few. This realisation somehow makes it even more important to be open to multiple perspectives, both in life and in stories, so that we don’t miss out on things that remain untold.

So, where does September bring me? It brings me to the stories that I may have missed through out the year or perhaps, even before that. It brings me to a place that’s hopefully less judgmental and less biased than before. It  brings me to the place of understanding, that to believe in just one story is to ignore the many others that are equally valid.

 

 

Singapore International Festival of Arts-2016: Breaking Rules


SIFA2016

SIFA2016

The most exciting words at the press conference were the ones uttered by the Festival Director, Ong Keng Sen. The artists are going to “break the rules,” he said. Sitting in the Blue Room @ 1 Old Parliament Lane, I was instantly interested.  Goes without saying that art forms that communicate, challenge and instigate alternate viewpoints are the ones that successfully serve their purpose. And anything that sets out with the intention of challenging existing norms got to be exciting, both aesthetically and intellectually. I am delighted at the possibilities and absolutely looking forward to the Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) 2016!

Festival Director, Ong Keng Sen

Festival Director, Ong Keng Sen

Scheduled from 22 June to 9th July, SIFA-2016, is one of the biggest so far. It will showcase 20 productions at the main festival, and 43 programmes at its pre-festival of ideas: The O.P.E.N. (Open, Participate, Engage, Negotiate), a public initiative. The theme is, Potentialities. It’s the “in-between state between Potential and the actual realisation,” says Ong.  Elaborating on the concept, he spoke of  five trajectories in which Potentialities will be considered.

* Innovation: Here artists break the ‘rules’ of the art and push their own limits to explore beyond. This innovative stance can be seen in Ron Arad’s 720 °, which uses experimental form of film visuals.

* Individual trajectories: Huang Ruo and Jennifer Wen Ma’s Paradise Interrupted, is one such performance that blends traditional classical Chinese idioms from the Ming Dynasty with contemporary music.

* New space-time relationships: This can be seen in Fernando Rubio’s Time Between Us, where over 108 hours, audiences will be able to visit an individual in a specially designed house.

* Future visions of the world: Future visions are showcased in productions like, The Last Supper, that describes Egyptian society after the Arab Spring.

* Found potentialities: This includes works like Trajal Harrell’s The Return of La Argentina and In the Mood For Frankie, where Harrell rethinks the relationship between two seemingly different dance forms.

 

The entire line up of SIFA 2016 can be found at www.sifa.sg.However, personally, I am looking forward to the following ones:

1) The Last Bull: A Life In Flamenco

(25, 26, 27 August, 8pm at SOTA Drama Theatre)

The Last Bull: A Life In Flamenco

The Last Bull: A Life In Flamenco

“Spontaneous and fiery. Sad and beautiful. Seductive and heartbreaking”. The Last Bull: A Life In Flamenco, is an extraordinary love story between one man and the art of flamenco. Written by Huzir Sulaiman and directed by Claire Wong, this seductive play revolves around Antonio Vargas, one of the world’s leading flamenco dancers and choreographers.

I am interested because: I met Huzir Sulaiman, Claire Wong and the absolutely charming Antonio Vargas. As we shared a brief conversation, Claire pointed to Vargas as the man featured on the brochure. “The photo has come out well,” she said. I absolutely agree.

2) The Sardono Retrospective: Expanded Cinema

(13 – 28 August, Tue – Sun, from 11am – 9pm at Malay Heritage Centre)

Sandaime Richard

The Sardono Retrospective: Expanded Cinema

Watch it here

Sardono Retrospective showcases Indonesian artist, Sardono W. Kusumo’s paintings, films and dance choreography as he looks back on what he has learnt from working and performing the traditional cultures and arts of Indonesia in the last 50 years. It includes poetic visual images on film.

I am interested because: Bali’s Kecak dance fascinates me and Sardono Retrospective will show personal collection of re-mastered old film prints that reveal background context of this famous dance.

3) Five Easy Pieces

(18, 19, 20 August, 8pm at Victoria Theatre)

Five Easy Pieces

Five Easy Pieces

Swiss director Milo Rau makes his Asian premiere in Singapore with Five Easy Pieces, an emotionally powerful drama performed by children for an adult audience. Five Easy Pieces is centred on Marc Dutroux, an infamous convicted murderer and paedophile. Rau casts a critical lens on childhood as a protected area, carefully shielded from reality’s dirty truths. Unfortunately, the media successfully penetrate this protective veil.

I am interested because: Having worked with children for the past decade, I am aware and concerned with the emotional traumas faced by children in our society. I am glad to see this topic aired and dealt with openly.

4) Tropical Traumas: A Series Of Cinematographic Choreographies by Brian Gothong and Tan Ron Arad

(2, 3, 4 September, 9pm at The Meadow @ Gardens by the Bay)

 Tropical Traumas: A Series Of Cinematographic Choreographies

Tropical Traumas: A Series Of Cinematographic Choreographies

Hailed as one of Singapore’s most talented contemporary artists today, film director and performance-maker Brian Gothong Tan has created ingenious, cutting-edge work in visually stunning spectacles such as the National Day Parade, Youth Olympic Games and SEA Games 2015. Tropical Traumas follows a group of performers who re-enact the wild and exotic expeditions into the steamy Malay Archipelago. It is based on tales told by Sir Stamford Raffles’ wife Sophia Hull and the great British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace.

I am interested because: Tan puts together a daring, playful blend of cinema and theatre that explores the possibilities of multiple realities, stories within stories and speculative histories.

SIFA 2016 promises to be an event that expands creative sensibilities and pushes the limits.

Digressing a bit from SIFA 2016, here’s a poem that pushes the limit and challenges the existing norms as well. In this case, it strips away the existing images of womanhood and explores new limits. Presenting “Metaphor” by modernist poet, Sylvia Plath, a renegade and a cult figure.

“Metaphors” by Sylvia Plath

I’m a riddle in nine syllables,
An elephant, a ponderous house,
A melon strolling on two tendrils.
O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!
This loaf’s big with its yeasty rising.
Money’s new-minted in this fat purse.
I’m a means, a stage, a cow in calf.
I’ve eaten a bag of green apples,
Boarded the train there’s no getting off.

I believe, art should make you think. That’s when it has the power to shape and transform ideas. The artists of our era, both past and present, seem to be doing just that.

For details on SIFA2016, please visit www.sistic.com

 

 

It’s March!


Ola!

March is always an exciting month and it is usually at this time of the year that the ideas and plans from the previous year germinate and begin to grow shoot.  So, it’s the perfect time for me to emerge from my blog hibernation and say howdy!

Firstly, a bit of news from the SG50 post event! It was a lovely evening at the dome (Gardens by the Bay) on the 18th of March as I joined the SG50 celebratory dinner. The Sakura was in full bloom ouside the glass doors while the ceiling of the hall was lit up by the most astounding colourful lights that I had ever seen. It was enchanting! And in such a beautiful setting, we bid farewell to SG 50 and set our sight on the next 50 years instead. Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong officiated the ceremony for a time capsule containing items like identity cards and school uniforms and this capsule will be opened for centennial celebrations in 2065. I would love to be part of it again… if I am still alive!

Prime Minister Lee, PM Lee with Minster Heng and Minister Wong at the SG 50 Appreciation Dinner

Prime Minister Lee, PM Lee with Minster Heng and Minister Wong at the SG 50 Appreciation Dinner. (Source: Prionka Ray)

Yours truly with Finance Minister Heng. (Source: Prionka Ray©)

Yours truly with Finance Minister, Heng Swee Keat. (Source: Prionka Ray©)

With Minster Lawrence Wong. (Source: Prionka Ray©)

With Minster Lawrence Wong. (Source: Prionka Ray©)

 

Next, I have a book list update. Actually, I got a bit overwhelmed by the adult fiction and took a tiny detour to the kids’ section instead. And, if at all you think children’s books are kids’ play. Well, think again! When books in their deceptively simple style tackle issues like gender bias, racial discrimination and topics usually considered socially difficult, then it’s surely time to pay homage to the great authors and illustrators who create these books. My list here includes books that might be of interest to kids and early teens though some are evergreen books, to be enjoyed by all.

For the tiny tots, I recommend, The Paper Bag Princess. The story goes against the usual fairy tale tradition of portraying female characters as a damsel in distress. Instead, the female lead turns in to a witty and sassy role model who takes charge of her life. So, this book is for all the little girls and the little boys because they all should know that gender bias is not cool. Not at all!

 

imagesVoices in the Park by Anthony Browne: This book is recommended for primary school kids. Yes, it’s a picture book but don’t be fooled by that. It packs a serious punch as it narrates the story using different perspectives. It talks of racial and social disparity and its illustrations are so clever that you better spend some time locating the hidden images in there. (Hint:I am talking about images such as Monalisa and King Kong).

 

Bird by Zetta Elliott: This is a sensitive and beautiful picture book for readers aged, 5-13 (or even above). It talks about loss, addiction and acceptance through words that are subtle and illustrations that are gentle. I am a fan.

 

 

 

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White: Of course, this classic needs no introduction! It’s a book of friendship for both kids and adults alike.

 

 

 

little pioneersLittle Pioneers by Bessie Chua: This book is recommended for all the young readers of Singapore, aged 8 and above. The book talks about a beautiful relationship between Chun and her grandmother and paints a vivid picture of the streets of Chinatown, Singapore in 1897.

 

 

Hana’s Suitcase by Karen Levine is a book recommended for adults, kids and teens alike. The story is based on real life events in the concentration camp. The narration however begins in the year 2000, when a suitcase arrives at a children’s Holocaust education center in Tokyo, Japan, marked “Hana Brady, May 16, 1931.” The center’s curator searches for clues to young Hana and her family, whose happy life in a small Czech town was turned upside down by the invasion of the Nazis. It is difficult to read this book and not be moved!

 

 

But moving is mandatory and so I shall move out of the lit zone to an inspirational quote by Peter Drucker that says that “You can either take action, or you can hang back and hope for a miracle. Miracles are great, but they are so unpredictable.”

So, here’s the action that I have taken after a decade of seeing the ravages of depression, bullying and labelling in kids and teens, alike. It gives me great pleasure to announce an initiative against stereotyping, peer pressure, bullying and negativity through an online initiative, In-Group. Agreed, these are  mere baby steps, but I am hoping that it will begin a journey that will be worthwhile in the long run and reach out to those in need. The initiative is currently on Facebook and aspires to be a resource for ideas, solutions and stories that raise awareness and eventually provide support to those who need help. In-Group is also proud to be collaborating with CABCY-Singapore and it joins CABCY’s effort to raise money for an Intervention Centre for School Bullying.

Lastly, ending my post with information on a bright and fun-filled Easter event organised by The Party Elves.  886075_968712196553321_4538804887317665666_oYou can book your tickets here 

 

 

 

 

This month, we are focusing on an organisation that uplifts the needy by providing jobs, Upaya.

Upaya’s mission is to create dignified jobs for the ultra poor by investing in small businesses in India’s poorest communities. Check about their projects here

That’s all for now! Keep connecting, keep believing in miracles and keep taking actions!

 

 

 

 

 

The Little Company’s Treasure Island


It is impossible to see a feel-good musical and not talk about it. And especially, if you have watched it (like I did) flanked by four and five-year olds who giggled and clapped throughout, you can’t help but be enthused by the same child-like excitement.

Treasure Island is a new adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s popular novel of the same name, and follows the adventure of Jim Hawkins, a 13-year-old girl who receives a treasure map from an old seaman. Jim eventually joins the crew that sets out to find the treasure and that’s how the adventure begins. Staged by SRT’s The Little Company, Treasure Island can be described as a “swashbuckling, action-packed musical.” Though its underlying themes of friendship and trust are not new, they still retain their relevance in the otherwise materialistic world.

The musical is replete with pirate talk, likeable characters, impressive stage settings that change with economic movements and loads of relatable heartwarming moments. The kids in the audience seemed to enjoy O’Brien’s character the most. Played by Mitchell Lagos, the character struggles to speak coherently and our little guests roared with laughter when O’Brien struggles with the word, “phenomenon,” and calls it a “pineapple” instead. Personally, I enjoyed watching and listening to Kimberly Chan who plays characters of Ben Gunn, Jim’s Mother and pirate-Hands. Chan is versatile and not only does she have a strong stage presence but she also has an impressive voice.

The musical boasts of didactic moments with dialogues like, “We don’t need treasure. We have each other and that’s treasure enough for me.” Additionally, it begins and ends with adventure where you follow the lead of Jim Hawkins (played by Ann Lek). This combination of adventure and heart-felt moments in a musical setting, makes Treasure Island an entertaining treat indeed.

(Now on till 13 Dec 2015 at the DBS Arts Centre. Tickets available from SISTIC)