Archive for June, 2012

June 12, 2012

The Architect

I met an architect. She offered to design my room. The windows on the East and the West disturbed my dreams. So, I suggested one on the ground. I come to this world often now.

June 10, 2012

Originally posted on


the earlier thread already has 220 comments! I think a new thread might better serve this purpose! No comments should be added to this thread just yet. These will be deleted. In the meantime I have kept the older thread open. I am reproducing the body of the older post here..

First Response

Is it nepotism only when established actors do it or does hyperbolically praising one’s buddies at every turn also count as such? Proclaiming a film like Rockstar more or less a work of genius or suggesting Shanghai is so great and the director so self-evidently India’s best that there cannot even be a debate on this! I shall of course remember to not bring up Adoor Gopalakrishnan in this discussion forget lesser mortals like Bala and so on.

Is it about being gutsy and “ballsiest” only when one wants to support the filmmakers to praise the films…

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June 3, 2012

The Book Fair

Wandering the lanes of a warm and busy labyrinth, they wondered what it would feel like to have this place for their own. And what a place it was too; a vastness so unfathomable to the two friends that even nostalgia was taking time to creep over. What was intended to be an afternoon excursion to the book fair was turning into a retreat to some fantastic land of uncertainty. Aah! The romance of enjoying a tingling cold drink and a cup of melting ice cream while feasting the eyes on the sea of colours all around; this was life as kids. But the fair had a different tune now, so completely different that it almost looked alien. And the most terrible part of it all was that the sun jarred their eyes.

Scott and Peter strolled endlessly, and aimlessly, trying to make sense of it all. They were not interested in the toys and joy rides; they had outgrown enthusiasm long ago. What they were interested in were the inviting parchments of stories lying all around them. These wise story tellers were not uncommon, and certainly not unique to the friends, but they held a charm unlike anything else. The smell of freshly pressed papyrus promised emancipation from the drudgery of monotonous life and their bright inner luminance assured a companionship that humans aren’t capable of giving. Their lure became irresistible. The need for possession became a necessity. Nothing could stop Scott and Peter to indulge in their dark desires now. These smart little objects full of alphabets and histories had to be had, by all means essential.

Scott made the first bold move, entering a stall guarded by the most vicious looking half-wolf-half-man. Scott was unsteady, unsure, and almost afraid of his fate. The wolf-man growled, teeth dripping warm saliva on the arid floor. Scott steadied himself and mustered up the courage to make eye contact with him/it. The trick worked and the wolf-man lowered its guard, as if obeying a long lost master. (The humans have a way of making permanent friends, they enslave them) Scott felt safe now, at least safer than before. His heart pumping hard, Scott eagerly explored all possibilities around him, “Which one should I pick?” he wondered. The choices were abundant and the urge to take them all kept getting stronger. Half an hour inside the stall and Scott felt exhausted, lost to his overt zeal, “Why can’t I just choose one and make a run for it?” he mused. And as soon as he thought this, his eyes fell on the most beautiful one he had seen yet, a masterpiece beyond explanation and his heart skipped a beat. “This is it.” he thought and elated by this epiphany, focused his mind on the next task.

To steal is not difficult. To steal is not embarrassing unless you get caught. To steal is not even a crime if looked at from the right perspective; Robin Hood was a crook too. But these arguments come to nought when you are in the middle of it, about to get your hands dirty. Scott watched around for any signs of encouragement, but there were none. It seemed to him that everyone was watching him spellbound, some with a moral discourse on their lips and some with a sense of sadness and pity. “This is going to be difficult” he reinforced his mind with fear. Taking a deep breath of stale air, Scott decided to call for help, after all Peter had always been there for him before.

After watching Scott enter the stall, Peter wanted to follow. But he changed his mind as his eyes went to the stall next to Scott’s. There was kept the king of all books, his heart’s ultimate desire, the possession of which would not only be a distant dream come true but also a matter of self pride and honour. Peter glided swiftly inside the stall and nonchalantly picked up the precious object in his hands, holding it firmly but respectfully. A sigh of contentment escaped his being; Peter was the happiest person in the fair at that moment. “Wow!” he thought, “this is the best gift I could give myself.” And so, without hesitation or further thought, Peter slid the revered book under his jacket. Now was the time to retreat, it makes no sense to lose when one is so close. Peter walked away as casually as he had entered; the jacket and his left arm carefully balancing the prize inside. Walking out of the stall Peter realized that he wanted to share this happiness with someone. He had to; it meant a lot to him and after all Scott had always been his go-to man.

Scott took out his phone to text Peter.

Peter took out his phone to call Scott.

Their phones rang simultaneously. One a beep, the other an irritating ensemble of digitized notes. Emotions surging, Peter looked at the screen to the call for help while Scott pressed the green button and felt relief running down his spine. “I am coming” was all that Peter said, his triumphs didn’t matter anymore. They will share the stories of their spoils later, now was not the time. Peter reached Scott’s side and read his eyes; Scott’s beloved book was on the shelf overlooking his shoulder. It was a beauty as any other but Peter could see the problem now. It was a hard bound voluptuous volume, not easy to carry under the flimsy jacket. “We’ll think of a way. Don’t worry”, the ever optimist Peter did not let the anxiety show. He picked up Scott’s book and pretended to be browsing through it casually but all the while his eyes were analyzing the scenario around, the wolves, the aisles and the exits. The master plan was taking shape in his mind. Scott just watched, waiting for instructions from Peter. He trusted Peter with all his heart and knew that whatever the plan would be, his beloved friend will not let him down. Even as this thought was taking root in Scott’s mind, Peter turned to him and with a slight tilt of the head and movement of the eyeballs, gestured Scott to follow. It was only after a moment that Scott realized that Peter was heading straight for the exit. “This can’t be” he thought, “Peter can’t leave the book and go out. He is no quitter!” And then it dawned on him, Peter was pulling a fast one, the oldest trick in the book. Scott wanted Peter to look at his face and see the pride that it showed for his best friend. Peter was approaching the wolf itself; no shiver, no frown, with his head held high. The audacity was unnerving for Scott but he followed nonetheless. “Where is the loo Sir?” Peter asked the wolf. The wolf gulped, a little embarrassed at the indecency and a bit irritated at the banality of the question, but eventually pointed outside the stall, in the direction of the stench of sun kissed human piss. Peter walked on, book in hand all the while. I followed, still afraid of the wolf, still coming to terms with the victory. Yes! What a victory! Peter had done what he was revered for. The master of the art of thievery had committed a perfect robbery right under their noses.

The fair had become familiar now and the sun outside did not jar the eyes, in fact it was almost welcoming to both Scott and Peter. The deed had been done. Each possessed the book they were lusting for a few minutes ago. They were penniless as they entered the fateful fair and now upon their exit, they were rich. Richer than any bank notes could have ever made them. “Why do people buy 500 rupee books?” thought Peter. At the same time Scott was thinking, “Why do people sell 500 rupee books?” The friends were in a deep moral economic reverie and to both of them, the irony was not lost; daydreaming about something so real and commonplace had become a part of everyone’s life. Things were not simple anymore. After a long while Peter spoke, “If you don’t sell an apple for 1 rupee, how will a kid ever be able to eat it?”

June 1, 2012

Indian cinema is celebrating its 100 years.

Part 2: Cinema Unlimited

Critics and film buffs across India term the past few years as the new Indian New Wave, a kind of resurgence of Indian cinema. A novelty that one probably never saw apart from the parallel cinema movement of the 50’s and 60’s, a few NFDC gimmicks dispersed throughout the last century and masterpieces by the great Indian filmmakers who are not limited by classifications – Ray and Ghatak in Bengali cinema, Adoor in Malayalam cinema and Mani Kaul and Kumar Shahani with their revolutionary ideas in Hindi cinema. It would be very unfair not to mention names like Chetan Anand, Guru Dutt, Bimal Roy and Mrinal Sen in this context. But all these movements, experiments and geniuses were then. Now is the age for commercial blockbusters and market savvy films. In this environment of mass consumption and commoditized cinema, when people say that Indian cinema is seeing a creative spurt, then filmmakers must be creating something that is worth a keen look.

I think this reinvention started with Mani Ratnam, a Tamil, Telegu, Kannad and Malayalam filmmaker who was as poetic in his screenplay on paper, as he was on shot direction with a camera. Some of his films not only garnered critical acclaim but were huge commercial successes as well. This might be one of the primary inspirations for other filmmakers to be bold and venture into the long forgotten territory of conscious cinema that also makes some dough. Mani’s Nayagan is one of my favourite films and the credit must be shared with Kamal Haasan the actor. His venture into Hindi cinema with the dubbed Roja and Bombay still have the ability to give you goose bumps with their beautiful, almost picture perfect frames and hardcore-to-the-point-of-disturbing subjects. This terror trail was bracketed at the end by Dil Se, a Hindi film that was so stylishly European that it was a huge dud at the Indian box office (but a hit overseas). And in any case, it is hard to make a hit out of a love story destined to end tragically from the very first shots of the film.


fires and barbed wires

The stylization was also evident in the amazing cinematography and lighting used by the duo of Mani Ratnam and Santosh Sivan. The dilemma of staying put or walking away was a constant throughout the movie and never better established than through the following scene of a radio studio where the door constantly shuts and opens, leaving the actors in an uncertain light.


These films were followed by one of the most exciting Indian film in recent years. I am talking about the ingenious direction of Ram Gopal Verma (exec producer of Dil Se), to a maverick screenplay by Anurag Kashyap, for a seminal film that Mumbai loves, Satya. The underworld had always been in a love tango with Indian cinema. Despite having a primarily Bomaby-centric focus, films across most Indian languages did not shy away from these goons. The style, overbearing persona and the rise and fall storyline was always a hit with the crowds and formed a plot base for many Indian films. But Satya was different. RGV was so assured and knew what he wanted from every frame. The scene where Bhiku proclaims himself the king of Bombay is so ironically structured against the vastness of the sea with the high rises in the background, and a small Bhiku standing like a spec of dirt on this beautiful landscape. Ominous.

The joke will be on him!

Satya also had a protagonist who was not stylish at all. Kashyap must have been in a fix while presenting his script because his hero (villain) was so human. In fact this representation of a pathetic hero is still a prominent feature in all of Kashyap’s films.

This brings us to the prince of the new Indian cinema, Anurag Kashyap. His struggles to reach where he is today (in Cannes, to be precise) have already become legends in screen writers’ and directors’ folklore. The defiant young man who got inspired by The Bicycle Thieves has made several films, written numerous ones and been a producer to many new talents. With two banned films, many box office flops, one hit and a 5+ hour long opus to be released soon, Kashyap seems to have been juggling around with a lot ideas and creative outbursts. Being a little more international in his approach to cinema as a business, he is giving TED talks and attending various festivals across the globe. The idea is novel, and Indian cinema needs to be exposed to the foreign lands, but what about the Indian audiences? Taking films abroad is different than bringing films to India. A new wave is not only about going to Cannes. It is as much about appreciating one’s own Cannes.

Khosla Ka Ghosla. Oye Lucky Lucky Oye. Love Sex Aur Dokha. If you have seen these films then you know the genius the man behind them is. Dibakar is a true artist when it comes to film making. His style is not permanent and his idea of cinema comes from life itself. The characters in his films are unique, real and funny. Even in LSD, the element of funny was never let go off. West Delhi is his playground and he has proven that with the perfect OLLO. Watching it in a theatre was strangely exhilarating for me. As the three roles of Paresh Rawal unfolded, the film started making sense. It was not just a story of a petty robber making it big; it was a personal journey of a young man searching for his father. Dibakar makes certain that each character has a part to play, and no one is a mere spectator. It is almost Chekovian. His next is Shanghai, an adaptation of the novel Z. It will be a great film.

In all this talk of the new kind of cinema that India is seeing, there has to be a mention of a certain screenplay writer who has shown the potential that Indian cinema can tap from classic resources which have been done to death in the first world. Vishal Bhardwaj has adapted two of Shakespeare’s plays for screen, and both the films are mouth watering to say the least. While Maqbool was dark and minimal, Omkara was loud and gory. The bard would have been proud.

Being an Indian native, I am really sorry not to have mentioned some of the Tamil and Marathi cinema that has also contributed a great deal towards this cinema explosion off late. I have seen the reputed and National award winning stuff coming out of regional centres but I cannot boast of being in the know about these cinemas. Films like Shwaas, Harishchandrachi Factory and Deool are good films that need to be seen by India. When film buffs have to wait for a film to be recognized by a national award before knowing its name, then there is definitely something limiting about this new wave of Indian cinema. But, I hope, like all art movements, this one will spread and reach every region of the country. Time is not a constraint. It can happen tomorrow or two decades down the line. What is important is to strive for a complete, unlimited Indian cinema.

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