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Literary Review:Ports of the Ancient Indian Ocean

The book dives into past and present finds regarding the importance of the ports between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Societies

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Madras Port in 1996. Image Source: Wikipedia.org

 

  • The Red Sea was used as a trade route from 3rd century B.C. to 6th century C.E.
  • The trades that happened were not strictly goods, but knowledge and ideas as well
  • Researchers are constantly finding new information on life during this period

‘Ports of the Ancient Indian Ocean’ edited by ed Marie-Francoise Boousasac, Jean Francois Salles and Jean-Baptiste Yon, dives into the important role that ports played. Their importance is established by the fact that their function went beyond sending and receiving goods. Information was spread through the ports between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Societies. The sources of reference range from the Greek Periplus to the 16th century Portuguese and the French in the colonial period.

The Red Sea was a trade route from 3rd century B.C to roughly 6th Century C.E. The ports studied here offer much information about life during this time period.

The first chapter introduces readers to recent discoveries that were found during excavations of the Red Sea ports. These discoveries further credited the previously known facts.

Rightfully so, this first chapter does an excellent job of setting the tone for the new information that has been discovered.

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The second chapter goes deep into findings regarding storage facilities which were shipment requirements. It also discusses ship-related equipment, such as old oar blades. Recent geographical finds have proved that there was a navigable lagoon at Gawasis in ancient times.

Ports of the Ancient Indian Ocean. Wikimedia Commons.
Ports of the Ancient Indian Ocean. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.

According to an article in The Hindu,‘Living in the Egyptian Ports’ is a chapter that discusses ports that were important to the early Roman period. It also describes what life at the ports was like. Limitations in these harbors were found during an excavation done by The University of Southhampton in 1999-2003; this chapter confirms these finds.

The part of the book dealing with the inscriptions of the Hoc cave in Socotra are said to be of high interest to Indian readers. In 2001, discoveries were made, which claimed that over 100 Indian inscriptions were made with charcoal, chalk, or mud were scratched into the surfaces of the rocks. These inscriptions were written in Brahmi and appears to be similar to inscriptions of the 2nd to 4th Century C.E. of West India. Newly discovered inscriptions validate these later findings. The new findings mention the city of Bharukaccha, which was one of the most significant ports at the point in time.

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The chapter on Emmanuelle Vagnon’s Latin Cartographic sources of 1200-1500 C.E., is also quite intriguing. Looking at the changes that cartography has undergone since the 1990s, the author points the readers to consider something else. She comments on medieval nautical charts and references of Fra Mauro’s mappaemundi and Ptolemy’s Geography.

Gaur and Sundaresh add to already known information regarding the ancient technology of jetties and and anchorage system on the Saurashtra Coast. Since Satyabhama Badreenath, has been a superintendent archaeologist on site in Chennai, he discusses the revelations that were found after the tsunami in 2004.

This book is abundant in knowledge and is said to be a gem to university libraries and research centres.

Abigail Andrea is an intern at NewsGram. Twitter @abby_kono

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  • Aparna Gupta

    This is really an evidence of our rich history between ports of ancient India and Mediterranean societies.

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After Each Successful Film, Question Arises: What next?

This includes all - big as well as medium-range producers

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Film, Ideas, Direction
Each filmmaker trying to come out with something different. Pixabay

With the kind of films that unspool every week, one can conclude that there is a dearth of not only ideas but also direction! A varied kind of films are being made. Each filmmaker trying to come out with something different. This includes all – big as well as medium-range producers. The idea seems to be taking a shot in the dark. It is all about taking chances.

Some producers are falling back on period costume dramas, which work out very costly and not every director’s cup of tea. This genre was avoided for a long time mainly because of these two reasons, capability and cost. Yet, we have had period films like “Bajirao Mastani” and “Padmaavat”, “Manikarnika” and “Kesari”. There have been a few flops in this genre like “Mohenjo Daro”, “Rangoon” and “Thugs Of Hindostan”. The backers of such films would do it only on the basis of saleable stars, coupled with a capable director. Still it often proves risky.

Each week, a new kind of film is dropped in the market. For instance, last week we had “Khandaani Shafakhana”, a film discussing sexual problems for those who can make sense of the title! For one, sex and problems related to it are not generally discussed in India. Delhi and surrounding areas do have such clinics but that does not make the subject acceptable all over.

One may have thought if Vicky Donor could work, why not take it a step further? An odd subject like “Vicky Donor” or “Piku”, very personal to people, does work. But they need to be woven into a plausible story and dealt with a fair amount of humour. Recent such films are “Piku”, “Padman”, “Toilet: Ek Prem Katha”. This is called reaching out to personal matters of people. Humour is a must since it delivers the message without making the proceedings seem mundane.

Film, Ideas, Direction
With the kind of films that unspool every week, one can conclude that there is a dearth of not only ideas but also direction! Pixabay

It seems filmmaking is all about inspirational and awareness films. A small film about a person few had heard about, “Paan Singh Tomar”, followed by “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag”, opened up a new genre – the biopic. “Neerja”, “MS Dhoni: The Untold Story” and “Dangal” followed in quick succession. The film industry calls this a �daur’ (trend). It does not last long, though.

Most writers who script stories like “Piku” or “Vicky Donor”, or directors who make films like “Dangal”, “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag” and “Neerja”, have always had this problem: What next? They usually have nothing that matches the earlier success. No maker seemed to have a worthy successor. So, they go back to usual claptrap and come a cropper.

There were also some biopics like “Manjhi: The Mountain Man” or “Sachin: A Billion Dreams” where the makers just chose to go with the trend but turned the film into a documentary. A film like “Sachin: A Billion Dreams” costs crores as royalty to the character on whose life it is based, as well as to acquire real life footage. The film on Sachin was a victim of failing to dramatise. The idea is to pick a life story and add a fair amount of fiction along with music as was done with the Dhoni film.

Akshay Kumar has become a torchbearer of the films that convert real-life stories into reel life sagas. He has been greatly successful in his endeavours. His image of being a thoroughbred nationalist probably adds to the acceptability of his films. His instincts and beliefs seem to be paying up so far.

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Then, there is John Abraham. He loves to play the incredible hulk tackling major cases like the Rajiv Gandhi assassination or Pokhran nuclear tests. He has been partly successful.

It is believed that there are only seven basic storylines in this world. Films were made accordingly. There was a time when some makers stuck to making religion-based or mythological films while a few others only made horror movies. The mainstay for most makers, however, was romance and family socials. Action movies were not in vogue in the mainstream cinema till mid-1970 and action, in a measured amount, was a part of regular movies. Otherwise, the action movies as such were rated as B-Grade, released only at designated cinema halls and were left to actors like Kamran Khan and Sheikh Mukhtar. Dara Singh later introduced action movies where wrestling was the theme.

There were a few costume dramas and comedies. While most producers stuck to their formula of catering to the family audience, some even stuck to certain alphabets to name their films with. Producer J. Om Prakash (who passed away last week) named all his films starting with alphabet A as did producer Mohan Kumar. Another filmmaker, Arjun Hingorani, preferred alphabet K to name his films. Filmmakers, like many others, are quite superstitious and this trend of faith in a certain alphabet still prevails in filmmakers like Rakesh Roshan, whose films have titles beginning with K.

Now, the genres of family socials, horror and mythology have been taken away by television serials. Action films are accepted only coming from a couple of stars. There is little choice left for filmmakers.

Film, Ideas, Direction
A varied kind of films are being made. Pixabay

The limited choice is between romance, action and comedy, with few writers and makers to justify the last named. While ideas are borrowed from foreign films (which includes this year’s National Award winner, “Andhadhun”), and films from South languages are being sought once again for remakes by a few.

So, after each successful film, the question arises: What next? From the records, the makers of “Piku”, “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag”, “Dhoni: The Untold Story”, “Dangal”, “Neerja” and many such films have either delivered flops or are at a loss for idea for their next!

@The Box Office

* The week sees two major films release with “Batla House” and “Mission Mangal”, both on Thursday, August 15, to cash in on the national holiday. Both have reaped the benefit with good collection figures for the opening day.

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While “Mission Mangal” has managed a hefty Rs 29 crore on the opening day, “Batla House” has collected about Rs 14.75 crore.

* “Jabariya Jodi” remains poor. The film collects about Rs 16.5 crore for its first week.

* “Judgementall Hai Kya” fails to deliver. (IANS)