: thirty first of december, two-thousand-and-eight :

.        Leaf dropping straight

.                       In the windless midnight:

.        The dream of change

.                                 – Jack Kerouac, “Dharma Pops”

.

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.                                                goodbye, 2008.

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december 27, ’08 : Ghajini – the left hand of godd

i saw the movie. and am not going to add to the list of conversely awed-yet-disparaging reviews.

the movie is entertaining, though should have received an adults certificate for the violence. the plot is catchy, has huge loopholes, yet uses the pace of the narrative to hurtle it forward. the 3 hours are well accounted for.

asin is from my city, and i cannot but root for her. she is gorgeous, and oozes confidence and chemistry. she’s no great shakes as an actress, or she wasn’t really tested here thus, so i’;m willing to give her the benefit of the d. in the words of a contemporary reviewer for a prominent website “she was good in the dying scene”. and avregae pretty much else, as they left unsaid.

jiah khan was irritating, which was probably the point. ghajini was menacing, a throwback to villains in lurid tamil and malayalam films in the 90’s when dolby cinema sound and DTS systems in every town and city theatre ensured movies that spawned a whole different genre of gut-wrenching violence. if my hindi-only-viewing readers find that difficult to believe, think the factory’s recent movie titled “risk”, and think of its awful carnage. that is passe fare for most southern films. of malayalam and tamil i can vouch, and what little i’ve seen of telugu, they seem to follow the same bone-crunching path too. even ghajini the hindi movie had villains looking decidedly south india and whose names were dead giveaways.

it is my theory that where the southern films cannot offer glamour (read  skimpily dressed women with smooth alabaster bodies cavorting beneath waterfalls/disco arc lights), what they can offer is some gruesome violence to rev up the audience, and to enthuse the (predominantly )  male audience with a sense of self-aggrandisement, a sort of vicarious bravado, that courses thru  their veins till the short ride and vigorous fuck back home with the missus.

but we digress…

in ghajini, there is amir. his perfomrance masterful, his supremacy total. the loops and twists in the plots portrayed beautifully by his frenetic action, his wild look. he has very few dialogues in the movie, his short-term-memory-loss version a personality shift from his poetry as tycoon-turned-lover boy. that shift from confident sophisticate, simultaneously vulnerable and  self-assured , is not the only one of the fantastic paradigm twists in the story. witness amir’s rapid memory fade and return to confused awareness of the present, moments after he has exploded in bloody rage and violence. it is very skilful.

yet, why i am writing this blog is to bring out one detail. amir has played a left-handed man in ghajini, he has had shots (one in the plane) where he’s writing with his left. the pen is held awkwardly in the hand, yet the flow seemed to be smooth enough. the handwriting slope in the diary was that of a left hander’s. and his final swing (u’ll know it when u see it) is also left-handed. i sometimes also noticed he would lead from his left in a fight.

why? what was the reason for introducing this quirk? why was this apparent character detail tossed so carelessly into the narrative? what did it signify? does anterograde memory loss have some strange associations with left-handedness in some publishe d journal article? was it just another quirk to add to the strangeness of ghajini?

i am forced to think, it is the latter.

bravo murugadoss. bravo amir.

25 december, zero-eight : santa is a bearded man with a bag :

every year, at onam (around august-september), it is a popular malayali pasttime to imagine what it would be like if the (demon) king mahabali visited kerala.

depending on which version u follow, mahabali was a benevolent monarch / arrogant upstart who challenged the might of the gods and so was duped into offering three boons to vishnu who in turn pushed him into the netherworld forever. he returns every year for onam.

it is incumbent upon me now, to wonder how it would be like if santa were to come to india today. for clarification, that is december, 2008.

would he be looked at with suspicion? admittedly, the red robe would give people some measure of solace, but not so the rest of the getup. a foreign man with a thick beard and a bag, handing out wrapped boxes to kids…. anh-anh-anh… no-no, thats just not on, uncle. i can imagine, even as i write this, that santa is cowering in numerous police stations peppered across mofussil backwater india, booked as santha kabuls, and being manhandled in prison while lesser policemen make lean pickings of his bag, each taking seven battery-operated cars back for their children and nieces.

and even as the old man shouts and screams and remonstrates, (“i’m santa claus, u do u hear me? i’m santa claus, i live in the north pole, and delivering these gifts is my job”) the long arm of the law will crack its knuckles and order for another glass of sickly-sweet chai. the disgruntled officers on duty on x’mas eve/x’mas day will mutter into their sleeves as they wipe the sweat of honest nightlong toil from their brows. the room behind them will be fetid with the steam of vigorous activity, the waves of heat emanating in waves from it, the single naked lightbulb throwing a pool of light in the middle, its penumbra slowly moving across the dusty floor.

and in a corner, there will be santa. broken, in spirit and in purpose, his jaw bleeding, his teeth knocked out, a stream of blood coagulating his once-silver beard. he will be mouthing unintelligible explanations, his stomach sore, his groin shattered.

and the long arm of the law will continue to crack its knuckles.

and if ure still in doubt, take a look at this:

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gm6-_k-0T2iGWVOGoVqXVg8I4HogD95A5C7O4

 

 

His every protestation

was met with

blithe insouciance.

– Nirvana Demon (2008)

21 Dec 08 : Rab ne bana di jodi :

let me begin with the basic premise of this article. rab ne bana di jodi is a very bad film. in fact, it is perhaps among srk’s worst films, ranking with mohabbatein and hum tumhare hai sanam as among his saddest offerings to date.

i am not going to write about how it reflects the common man and his hopes/dreams/aspirations (that oft-maligned trio who are trotted out to justify the necessity of any glamour-less role by a mainstream actor), nor am i going to give u any gyaan on how i think that shah rukh has attempted to give up his lover boy image and bury the ghost of raj. The movie is shallow and pointless, the screenplay a parody of emotional angst and difficult decision-making that afflicts most hastily arranged marriages.

yet, unwittingly, Aditya Chopra, that intelligent investor, that great pretender, has given us a movie that is, on some levels a deeply insightful and intuitive film. i do not imagine that it may be so, but his story-line packed with references to “rab-ji”, (brother of parle-g, anyone?) and contrived feminism combined with audaciously  chauvinistic motifs (the sequence with the lunch box – fairly cracked me up) reflects the deeply ingrained parochialism in mainstream hindi cinema and society. that the movie is set in punjab, arguably(satistically) the worst place in india to be born if u are a girl, cannot be mere coincidence.

so the storyline loops from audacious shift to audacious shift, when srk, visiting his high school teacher, is suddenly part of an itinerant heart atack that strikes teacher in chest, and causes teacher to kick the b., leaving luscious daughter (anushka shankar, co-starring with her magnificent bosm in the film) in srk’s able and trusted hands. so while srk has a few comical opening scenes (like when he is talking to shankar for among the first time in his house and the laptop is attached to the usb driv which is attahced to his neck, and so forms a convenient tent covering his crotch, or the sequence when he has a conversation with anushka’s bosom while discussing something with her) are ok, and make u laff for a bit, the rest of the movie drags. there is no excitement in the srk household, because he has chosen to stay separately from wifey in the top floor until he is able to win her trust and love.

of course, that love is the dicey thing, a quantity that the missus says she is incapable of giving to srk, tho she will be a wife to him, oh yes.

so then are trotted out the accepted symbols of propah wife-like behaviour, namely : dabba-to-office, permission for every little thing in her life, acceptance of lack of financial autonomy  and abject penury of own situation and a few thousand ji’s peppering every sentence.

till anushka meets raj, that is. who is srk dressed in silly tights and spiky hair, with brash and loudness to boot. to be fair, i do think that the difference between the men is striking, and i do also think that their attitudes are also vastly different. but for a woman to not observe or even comment on the striking similarity between two totally different men in her life (one a husband, the other a lover) was a bit thick, i thot.

yet, again, it may be a metaphorical allusion to the incredible amount of distance that social mores attendant on marriage bring to a relationship. how the aura of the husband and the implied deference that a wife must show towards her man automatically ensure that she never knows him at all…..

what it will be, i say? (to quote an oft-repeated malluism)

Has chopra had the last laugh, subtly weaving a scathing parody of  the emotional isolation of contemporary relationships into the happy insouciance of the srk world?

i will never know. but the movie was crap, on that i am clear. my moments of the film?

two. one is vinay pathak explaining to srk what ‘macho’ is, explaining with a light swagger and a jaunt. and then having the frame cut to the next day, when srk-as-raj struts in the dance class.  it was as if a comic parody was being enacted by a painted trollope of the dancer’s graceful eyebrows, and executed with comiserious waggle and exaggerated wink.

enlightening. it showed me the meaning of what it is to be vinay pathak, and the perspective of how it is to be srk.

and two? the casting credits in the end, of course. with the fotos. if u can do it, take the dvd and watch these last 2 minutes. worth the fifty bucks.

14 dec, zero-eight. journeys.

A few months back, at the height of the Indian summer, I met a man in Pachod, a village in rural marathwada, traveling with me on the bus to Aurangabad, a medium size town about 50 kms away. He was headed to Mumbai, as I was to Pune, and our journeys would coincide for the next 7-odd hours. As the rickety bus rumbled along the dusty lanes, we began to talk, starting our conversation with a few acerbic comments about the mind-numbing heat. I learnt soon that he had come to Pachod from a mofussil village deep in the interior of Jalna district, where the offshoot of the Godavari river that had given them water for generations had slowly died, choked by the big dam upstream and thoughtless mining of the river bed for sand by local villagers. His family, once proud farmers of cotton and sweet lime, were now faced with the ignominy of sowing watermelons in the river bed during summer, and his elder brothers had pooled their meagre holdings together in desperation. As the youngest brother, his portion of the pie was negligible and hardly arable. So he was headed out to Mumbai, 14 hours by road from his village, in the hope of being employed as a gardener in one of the big companies or hotels, as a friend of his from the village was doing. He confessed that he had heard that gardeners were paid upto fifteen hundred rupees (about 33 dollars) a month in the city. He planned to return to his village as a big man, maybe in two years, with gifts for his mother and sisters, and the capability to proudly acquiesce as his family found him a good bride from his caste. I wondered on the irony of the situation, till he told me shyly that he had heard that they had excellent cultivation techniques in Mumbai, and grew exotic trees and plants in soil that was sandy and salty to the taste. This was knowledge that was more than worth the wait to go home, he said to me. As a metaphor, it was remarkably prescient, and as I sat back bemusedly to watch the first craggy rock faces of the western ghats in Ahmednagar, I thought of how my own attempt at making the leap from field-based interventions to the corridors of learning arose from a yearning to understand the workings of the world around me, and the will to master a discipline that I was passionate about.

Why’d I open my eyes?

because

I wanted to.

‘Dharma Pops’, Jack Kerouac

377.

“it’s hot in this section“, he thought to himself, the drone of the fan not drowning the low hum that emanated from the teacher’s lips. With  377 students in the year and 72 in his class alone, he was safe.

The teacher was saying something, as usual.  He could catch some snatches of words trailing off in his mind even as they were transmitted there through his auditory nerves “…of the Indian Penal code was renamed as the Ranbir Penal Code…” He grimaced. Of all the states that he disliked in social science, Jammu and Kashmir was the worst. “Whosoever wants to keep it can keep it. Just get it out of my textbook! If it were up to me, I would hand it over to the UN voluntarily and tell them that India has (no, “had”! he corrected himself, sotto voce) enough troubles of its own.”

His mind flashed excitedly back to a word he had learnt in the previous class: ‘ carnal‘, delivered by the ruby red lips of miss mary the english teacher, who dropped a giggle along with the word, a dainty little puff of petal pink laughter, that ran and hid in the corner near the water cooler.  And Asif, that arboreal thug, who evidently had missed the lesson about the niceties of social intercourse, standing up with his crotch against the desk, the wooden top rack concealing his hardon and his lecherous smile revealing it horribly. He grimaced at the thought.

It was the principal’s order that the students of section XI A be encouraged to spend time in the garden, his poor befuddled mind clutching at straws to deal with the horniness of 377 sixteen year olds, and hoping vainly, that proximity to nature would sophisticate these insensate boors. The rowdies that roamed the corridors with switchblades in their pockets feared noone :  neither man, woman or animal, meeting life on their own violent terms.

“…… and we shall be studying about Ranjit Singh later, in the portion on Punjab…”

He looked up and saw that the teacher was still talking about J&K, and looked like she was going to pursue this through the class. He idly toyed with the idea of creating some commotion so that he may be  punished and be asked to leave the class. Joseph, the head peon, would share his hand-rolled cigarettes with him, and pass lewd comments about miss mary’s butt. Joseph always bragged about his exploits with women, and ever since his brief imprisonment (for posession of marijuana and not having enough to bribe the cops, it was later learnt), he had achieved a demi-god status among the boys. Joseph dwelt for long on the beauty of either cheek, jiggling as miss mary walked by in her heels. It was a description which he found particularly arousing, as he had watched her wiggle past many times too, walking up to the last rows to better see the boys there. It may be that Joseph had actually had sex with her as he described, pounding her senseless as she whimpered in lust….

…..His trousers began to feel tighter as his penis began to extend, and spring resolutely to life. “Was it the thought of miss mary, mewling into the arm of her lover, or the vision of joseph, wiry and muscular, roaring as he came deep inside of her?”, he wondered. It had been close to ten years since he had known joseph, and they were buddies, were mates.

(The teacher was still droning, he noted.  “shall I make a quick pass and jump out of the room?”)

He ruefully discarded the idea. Although the old-style colonial building was full of large bay windows, if he jumped out, at least 10 other boys would  also jump out along with him. That would be too conspicuous. Plus, he may become liable for these guys, and would have to shake them off before he met with joseph. No, he would wait till the evening. Joseph would be hanging out near the chaat stalls. He would run into him there. Accidentally. Everything would be just fine.

4 -12-2008 : an exciting phase in hindi cinema :

for those of u who have followed malayalam cinema, the eighties will always remember in memory as the carnival of plenty: a time when aravindan’s films went mainstream and were acclaimed by crowds that flocked to the baroque-styled, stucco-plastered theatres of the day. padmarajan, bharathan, adoor, and works of sublime mastery were chuned out by the newer products of an industry of industrious intelligentsia that intrigued and entertained a discerning and attentive audience.

and then the 90’s brought mimicry, and laughter. and comedy and loud pathos and cheap tawdry emotion counched in weepy tales of women who relinquish their children, and culminating in an orgy of macho aggrandisement, as bravado replaced drama, and moustaches were twirled by heavy-jowled heroes.

i don’t know if the brilliance of the 80’s can be regained soon, but i do realise that it is the moment, and the time… and if these are right, thene there is no telling….

like look at hindi:

there are a whole crop of directors in hindi who are some of the most exciting prospects in indian cinema today. when i say loosely “indian cinema”, i speak from a knowledge of two languages and a vague idea of a third, so perhaps this is pompous, yet it is definitely true that after the tackiness of the 80’s and the embarassment of the 90’s, we have now a truly golden age in hindi cinema, where a series of young directors have stormed on the scene, and who can only make us wonder as to their prodigious talent and hope for what lies ahead from them.

i would rank these guys, in no particular order , as:

  1. farhan akhtar: the most famous, leading the brat pack, etc etc. poster boy of the new wave. also helps with his high profile singing and acting debut and his fantastic family background to create the basis for a legend in his time. “dil chahta hain “, “lakshya” and “don” are his reportoire
  2. shriram raghavan: “ek hasina thi“,” johnny gaddar“. need one say any more. again, smart, slick and confident. not afraid to make the edgy, gritty join-the-dots crime flick.
  3. shimit amin: “ab tak chappan” with nana, then “chak de india” with the king khan. makes sports movie history, then assumes a life of its own when it fuels interest in women’s hockey and talks of revival, and of national honour and pride.
  4. anurag kashyap: “paanch“,” black friday“,” no smoking“. have seen only the thrid, yet the man’s raw power is astounding. hits u between the eyes. def a man who will make a mark internationally, will be known among the greats. and then he goes ahead and makes the stupendous “Dev D” and the masterly“Gulaal”. This is a man who will be among the all time masters.
  5. rajat kapoor: has done tons of movies. is an all time favourite. just recently did “mithya“. was a classic, and has a way of teaming up with these guys : ranvir shorey, vinay pathak, saurabh shukla, naseeruddin shah. really vintage stuff. not really a new guy on the block
  6. rakeysh om prakash mehra: followed up the flawed “aks” with “rang de basanti“, which seemed to get everything right as far as the box office went. Then finished with the flawed “Dilli 6”, which was enjoyable, but still rather pedantic, compared to his earlier stuff.
  7. jijy philip : “my wife’s murder“, parts of “darna zaroori hain“. edgy, taut work. very edge-of the -seat. nice stuff
  8. sagar bellary: “bheja fry“. a classic in irritating situation-comedy
  9. rohan sippy: “bluffmaster“. inspired by “matchstick men”. slick, smart and well-packaged. neat. definitely worth watching out for.
  10. navdeep singh: “manorama six feet under“. need i say any more? cinema noir!
  11. homi adjania. made ‘being cyrus’, an astonishing debut film. alarmingly good. also an indian film in english, a most underrepresented genre.
  12. vishal bharadwaj: “makdee”,” maqbool”,” omkara”, “blue umbrella“. wites, directs, composes music, writes lyrics. wat a polymath. truly a mascot for his time
  13. imtiaz ali: “socha na tha”, “jab we met“. has a sense of wat sells. and how to sell it. does not make the intellectual premise, yet is honest enough to respect u through the movie. great stuff. heartwarming. His “Love Aaj Kal”, released in 2009, is not really up to the mark, but still has traces of the brilliance that sparkled in his earlier movies.
  14. rajkumar hirani: made “munnabhai mbbs“, and “lage raho munnabhai“. his movies have become grassroots movements, with their light candyfloss storylines, asexual heroines, gay insouciance and gentle farce.
  15. abbas tyrewala: was famous as dialogue writer for afore mentioned movie, then made his own ‘jaane tu ya jaane na’, and we all know wat happened afterr.
  16. dibakar banerjee: started his career with the widely acclaimed “khosla ka ghosla“. now has followed this up with the  triumphant “oye lucky lucky oye
  17. sudhir misra: experienced, briliant but erratic, misra’s work spans the taut and edgy “is aat ki subaah nahin” to the sublime and near-perfect “hazaaron khwaishein aisi” – the most poetic tribute to the darkness of the emergency years. yet, later offerings like “khoya khoya chand” failed to live up to the early promise.

..

..

well, thats all i can think for now. but these guys are the ones to watch out for, in my opinions

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