Film: Borgen Season 4
Book: George Michael: A Life
Borgen Season 4
Power and Glory: 'Gripping'
The fourth season of Borgen: Power & Glory touches upon several pressing current political issues, including the superpowers’ battle for control of the Arctic, and the relevance of the Danish Realm in the modern world. But most importantly, it is a credible portrayal of the hardships of women in positions of authority. Dr Ramandeep Mahal rates the fourth season as 8.5 out of 10.
The First season had begun in 2011 and, yes one can actually see a lot of transition in the character of Birgette Nyborg. The fourth season of 'Borgen' features a new character for Birgitte Nyborg. Having previously served as Prime Minister of Denmark, she is now responsible for international affairs in the current coalition administration. This new season of Borgen focuses heavily on the sacrifices one must make to hold on to power and maintain control, as well as the question of whether a successful leader can stick to his or her convictions. Nyborg announces, “I am having the time of my life. No kids at home, no husband who feels neglected. I have no commitments and I have so much energy that I can dedicate myself to the job”. Her new career gives her an opportunity to regain control over many things. The discovery of oil in Greenland presents a chance for her to restore her former splendor, but the trip is fraught with many hurdles. Well ten years and the series hasn’t lost its charm. It showed the world the strength of Nordic content. The drama depicted a world in which its protagonists’ visited passageways characterized by political maneuvering, as opposed to a more marketable world of gruesome murders in barren, frigid locations in Scandinavia. Her husband Philip (Mikael Birkkjaer) has gone on to a new family, her daughter is overseas, and her adult son Magnus (now portrayed by Lucas Lynggaard Tnnesen) has formed his own political conscience, resulting in substantial friction between mother and son. Magnus, a classic ‘apple didn't fall far from the tree’ type, is the only person in her life who is prepared to battle her corruption, but even he abandons her in disgust as it spreads.
In contrast to the first three seasons, which balanced Birgitte’s challenges with her triumphs, Power & Glory focuses on her failures as she gets more and more embroiled in a complex geopolitical tangle. She is divorced and unmarried, at conflict with her son in public, and losing the support of her political party. As the Prime Minister Signe Kragh (Johanne Louise Schmidt) informs her, “You’re alone on an ice floe now.” Knudsen succeeds in depicting Birgitte’s solitude and inner conflict as she becomes more career-obsessed at the expense of everything else. Hiring nemesis Mikael Laugesen (Peter Mygind) suggests a significant change in the agenda of the diplomatic politician. The situation becomes dire as Birgitte prepares to engage in criminal activity with him.
Katrine's narrative is also intriguing. She is now in charge and must cope with a stubborn anchor. Narciza Aydin (Ozlem Saglanmak) had a striking similarity to Katrine in Seasons 1 and 2 of Borgen, when she was in Narciza's position. Obviously, Birgitte is the primary protagonist, but there is a big cast of recurring and new characters in this story. The New Democrats are a liberal party with a strong emphasis on environmental protection and mitigating the effects of climate change, but Kragh and her supporters are eager to maximize the economic rewards of fossil fuel extraction in Greenland. The question of colonialism further complicates the framework of the political drama, since Greenlandic officials are likewise eager to dig for oil as a method of achieving independence from Denmark. Katrine, like Birgitte, is forced to make painful choices that jeopardize her journalistic ethics and put her in direct confrontation with Narciza Aydin (Ozlem Saglansak), the channel's star anchor.
The conversation and narrative remain fast-paced and alternate between Danish and English with the same stunning fluency as Knudsen's superior linguistic ability. Knudsen has once again excelled in the character of Birgitte Nyborg. In addition to reflecting her age, the wrinkles on her face also indicate the knowledge she has gathered through the years. It's a stunning performance, and the camera perfectly catches her frailties, revealing her human side as well. After four seasons, it is difficult to imagine another actor performing the role of Nyborg. All of the actors - Birgitte Hjort Sorensen, Soren Malling, Mikkel Boe Folsgaard, Svend Hardenberg, and Mikkel Boe Folsgaard as Asger, the new Arctic Ambassador (a new character) – live their roles and give it credibility and authenticity. However, one of the most riveting aspects of the series is its portrayal of the hardships of women in positions of authority. It is difficult not to sympathize with Birgitte and Katrine, even when they make choices which appear unethical, since they are often alone and swimming against the tide in turbulent seas. I would personally rate the fourth season 8.5 out of 10.
Dr. Ramandeep Mahal is an Assistant Professor of English in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at Maharishi Markandeshwar Mullana, Ambala. She received her Doctorate degree from Maharishi Markandeshwar Mullana Ambala in 2018. Her research interests include Anglo-American Literature, Indian Writing in English, African Literature. She is the author of more than twenty research papers.
Book Review: George Michael: A Life
James Gavin’s book is a compelling story about a pop legend whose talent was smothered by an unsympathetic paparazzi. As you read the book, the veil of misinformation and media generated bias slowly lifts, revealing an unhappy troubled soul who makes beautiful music and yet struggles with the social fall out of his sexuality throughout his life. Lillete Sandhu reviews the book.
My Music will last
I was in college when Wham happened. The boy band with George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley became the rage with the song ‘wake me up before you go go’ topping the charts. I enjoyed listening to their music of course, but it was the soft and romantic cadence of the song ‘Careless whispers’ that put Wham on my permanent playlist. By the time I graduated in 1986, Wham had broken up, much to the heartbreak and dismay of pop lovers and music enthusiasts. But to the relief of a lot of pop fans, George Michael was soon back with more music and his album ‘Faith’ was embraced wholeheartedly by his fans. ‘Faith’ earned Michael numerous accolades, including Album of the Year at the 31st Grammy Awards. The 90s saw George Michael quickly ascend the ladder of success but unfortunately, stories of drug abuse and his sexual proclivities began to be featured in tabloids and George Michael became known more for his gaffes and misdemeanours rather than his music. In 2016 the world woke up to a bleak Christmas with the announcement of George Michael’s untimely death at the age of 53.
Music lovers of Gen Z are not as familiar with George Michael as his musical peers, Michael Jackson and Madonna, who are appreciated and applauded even today. George Michael’s musical legacy was weighed down and lost under the weight of paparazzi misinformation. In the book ‘George Michael: A Life’, renowned biographer, James Gavin rips off the veil of misinformation shrouding George Michael and reveals a talented songwriter, a creative music composer and a troubled soul at odds with his sexuality. The book tracks the growth and transformation of an awkward and quiet teenager with unkempt curly hair and horn-rimmed glasses to a teenage heart throb. Born to a Greek father and an English mother, A large part of Michael’s life as a teenager and young adult, was spent in the shadow of the suicide of his mother’s brother who was unable to cope with the secrecy and isolation associated with being gay.
In the initial years as a singer, George Michael moulded himself into the image of a macho sex god which appealed to his young fans. In his later music, however, there are hints of his own sexuality and his albums like ‘Older’ and ‘Patience’ (especially the song ‘Outside’) seem to be speaking to gay people. However, he never came out in the open about his gay predilection, probably worried about how it would impact his image as a macho singer. But once he was nicked by cops for obscenity and exhibitionism, he openly admitted to his sexuality. Although he laughed off people’s reaction to his being gay, he was clearly very hurt by their reaction. In an interview on the Michael Parkinson and Graham Norton shows he talked about how random strangers in cars would pass him by, calling him a ‘queer bastard.’ In the same interview, he said ‘I do not need the approval of people who do not approve of me.’ Clearly, laughing off people’s reaction to his sexuality was more bravado than an actual indifference to what people had to say. The death of a much-loved partner and his mother completely smashed his defences and a traumatized and grief-stricken George spiralled into drug abuse. From there it was a continuous downslide. The media was extremely unsympathetic which made matters worse for this gifted songwriter and singer.
Gavin’s book slowly pulls aside the curtain of tabloid gossip and provides an insight into the creative process behind Michael’s albums, tours and music videos. It also gives a peek into the heart and soul of a tormented musician through interviews with hundreds of his friends and colleagues. This facet of the book was perhaps the most difficult part admits Gavin. “Because George lived so much of his life in hiding, and because so much scandal shrouded his later life, anyone who pops up as I did asking questions is bound to be seen as one of those guys from The Sun,” he says, referring to the gossipy British tabloid.
Gavin’s book is a compelling story about a pop legend whose talent was smothered by an unsympathetic paparazzi. As you read the book, the veil of misinformation and media generated bias slowly lifts, revealing an unhappy troubled soul who makes beautiful music and yet struggles with the social fall out of his sexuality throughout his life. George Michael had wanted his music legacy to last, and Gavin’s book has rightly focussed on his beautiful music rather than tabloid gossip and his personal gaffes. The book unveils George Michael the gifted singer and composer. For me the book brought back to life the singer I loved as a young adult. Even as I close the piece, the song ‘careless whispers is playing in the background creating nostalgia and romance in equal measure even after almost four decades.
About the Author
James Gavin is the author of five acclaimed books and dozens of New York Times features; he is a worldwide public speaker, a GRAMMY nominee, and a recipient of two ASCAP Deems Taylor-Virgil Thomson Awards for excellence in music journalism. The New York Times called Gavin’s Is That All There Is?: The Strange Life of Peggy Lee (Atria Books/Simon & Schuster) “fascinating, suspenseful, musically detailed and insightful.” Of Stormy Weather: The Life of Lena Horne (Atria), Liz Smith wrote: “[It] may just be one of the best biographies about show business, race, love, sex, and music ever written.” Oprah Winfrey chose it as one of her Top 25 Summer Reads. In the New York Times, David Hajdu described Gavin’s Deep in a Dream: The Long Night of Chet Baker (Knopf) as “almost unbearably vivid.” Gavin’s first book, Intimate Nights: The Golden Age of New York Cabaret (Grove-Weidenfeld) was called “vividly reported ... etched in acid” by the Times.
Lillete Sandhu is a Mumbai-based music enthusiast who coaches youngsters in Indian Classical music and jazz. She has an old gramaphone on which she listens to old vinyl records. She says she has a collection of LPs to die for.
Tomb of Sand
The book is much more than a story about physical borders. It is a saga of the divide between tradition and modernity, between the ever-changing roles of human beings, between madness and ingenuity, between genders, between hard core feminism and progressiveness. As the novel ends, the border becomes an archetype for forces that are divisive but also embracing and unifying, forces that are mainly exemplified in the figures of Dadi and Beti. Dr Rachna Singh reviews the book.
All About Borders
Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree
Translated by Daisy Rockwell
A novel that ebbs and flows like waves lapping a sandy beach. The story of an eighty-year-old woman, who has lost her husband and has taken to bed in a state of depressive stupor, eddies around the reader’s consciousness without intruding. The reader feels its desultory movement, its wetness but is not drawn into it at the beginning. The author’s omniscient statements like ‘once you have got women and a border, a story can write itself’ or ‘women are stories in themselves’ or ‘the tale has no need for a single stream’ or a soliloquy about the seasonal fruits, like jamuns in ‘saawan bhaddo’ or mangoes in ‘grisham’ creates a sense of detachment, a sense that the reader is a spectator watching the action unfurl on a distant stage. But slowly and steadily, the ‘Dadi’, aided by a colourful cane which she calls her ‘wishing tree’, her ‘kalpataru’, transitions from a squirming heap under the bedclothes to a woman who transcends all borders, physically and metaphorically. This transition of the main protagonist triggers a change in the perspective of the reader who transitions from being a distant viewer to a participant as the tale unravels, one seam at a time.
The story is of course structured around two women, ‘Dadi’ or ‘Ma’, call her what you will, an Octogenarian matriarch and ‘Beti’ her progressive daughter. Other female characters like the transgender ‘Rosie Bua’ or ‘Bahu’ come and go as do the male characters ‘Bade’ or ‘Sid’ or ‘KK’. But more than a story about these characters, it is the story of ‘Borders’ that takes centre stage. A border is not just symbolic of human boundaries but seems almost animate and human, like the door of Dadi’s house or the ‘window’ she often ‘leaped through’, the window of laughter and unfettered freedom. In the initial pages of the novel, the writer expounds upon the nature of the border, which ‘opens out’ and ‘does not enclose’ or ‘tear apart’ or is the horizon where two worlds meet and embrace. The entire story is then woven to prove this postulate, as it were. So, Dadi begins to ‘dream new dreams,’ transcends the borders of depression and old age, swaps roles and becomes a ‘beti’ to her Beti. ‘Am I me or have I become Ma?’ wonders the Beti in confusion. Crossing over the geographical border of Wagah without a visa is another facet of the character of ‘border’, fleshed out with great care by the writer. Dadi tells Ali Anwar ‘I never left here.’ And finally, when a deadly bullet finds her, Dadi does not grovel into a dead earth but lies elegantly on her back, her face turned upwards to the coverlet of a blue sky, watching a horizon where two universes meet across a divide.
One thing that really stands out in this book is the lyrical quality of the language. The language has a poetic quality and a musical ambience. Bits of poems and songs ‘kahe karat ho maan’ or ‘ja ja Kaaga’ add to the poetic cadence of the book. Irreverent references like ‘is your coughing deep-mandra’ or ‘slow and drawn out-vilambit’ add to the unstructured framework of the language, raising the book above the stultifying and fettering framework of a traditional novel. Hats off to Daisy Rockwell’s translation, which maintains the essence of the language of the original. Not once does the reader feel that it is a translation. In fact, the language of the book reflects the language of contemporary India-English interspersed with Hindi.
Some critics claim that the book is ‘politically correct’ (whatever that means). Perhaps it is their skimming-the-surface response to the homily about how borders don’t tear apart. But the book is much more than a story about physical borders. It is a saga of the divide between tradition and modernity, between the ever-changing roles of human beings, between madness and ingenuity, between genders, between hard core feminism and progressiveness. The book, as I said before, gently laps at the reader’s consciousness and then obstinately draws him into the deep end, finally leaving him adrift, yet buoyed by the unusual images of borders and divides. As the novel ends, the border becomes an archetype for forces that are divisive but also embracing and unifying, forces that are mainly exemplified in the figures of Dadi and Beti.
A must read for all those who can enjoy and appreciate a tale that is ‘free to turn, flowing into rivers’ and the musical intricacies of syntax.
About the Author & Translator
Geetanjali Shree & Daisy Rockwell
Geetanjali Shree is a Hindi novelist and short-story writer based in New Delhi, India. She is the author of several short stories and five novels. Her novel 'Mai' (2000) was shortlited for the Crossword Book Award in 2001. In 2022, her novel 'Ret Samadhi' (2018), translated into English as 'Tomb of Sand' by Daisy Rockwell won the International Booker Prize.
Daisy Rockwell is an American Hindi and Urdu languge translator and Artist. She has translated a number of classic works of Hindi and Urdu literature, including Upendranath Ashk's 'Falling Walls', Bhisham Sahni's 'Tamas' and Khadija Mastur's The Women's Courtyard. Her 2021 translation of Geetanjali Shree's Tomb of Sand was the first South Asian book to win the International Booker Prize.