White noise is a random signal (or process) with a flat power spectral density. In other words, the signal's power spectral density has equal power in any band, at any center frequency, having a given bandwidth. White noise is considered analogous to white light which contains all frequencies.
Who am I?
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Sunday, December 13, 2009
It's better late at night when you don't have to share the canvas with the other voyeurs, creeping on the veins of the highway to death with their little signals of red paint, to stop and stare. You creep on, like a newly transmitted virus into the veins of a busy lawyer's body, taking in more and infecting more with your illuminating gaze. The wipers disturb you with their loud whirring with the sustained punctuality of a Chinese factory worker.
But if you happen to step out earlier, as the pink and transparent umbrellas vie for the uniform grayness of the rainy sky, you catch that smile that escapes the creased zipper of a pair of tight thin painted lips, as her beau steps into a puddle and gets his boring white socks wet, while she shows off her new furry boots to him. But he ignores her fur and only curses at his wetness, knowing little that he would revisit this scene later all by himself and wonder why he hadn't clung to her instead of his shoes.
Then there is the whole menagerie of shiny colors composed with the pink and the transparent through your windshield, through the whirring Chinese wipers. And when you turn the wipers off and let the cascade of the pureness of the rainwater wash your vessel down, your pupils open up welcomingly at the brilliant fluidity of the oil painting that looks like it's still in progress and is the product of the creativity of some artist's under-worked hand using some musty water colors.
Thursday, December 03, 2009
A child was born to combat the depression. A little girl in a red dress craving some ice-cream on a park bench from her miserly grandfather. An accordion playing street musician offered himself to me, but refused to jam with a fellow street guitarist. The red and yellow and blue of the park sky helped me weed out the gray musicians, but deep down it still hurt. Friendly advice, like good alcohol taken on a full stomach, took its time being potent.
Cut to the last critical studies class this afternoon. "We'll watch something weird today". I had watched Eternal Sunshine before and let myself sprawl on the black, wooden yet cold desk. Sometimes amnesia can be a wonderful thing. It had been a while and the sheer brilliance of the film had evaporated from the cauldron of my conscious memory. As I sat there in the uncomfortable black plastic chair, causing what I am pretty sure is long term damage to my spinal cord, the resolve returned gradually as the film progressed, culminating in the nontarnishable white clarity I find myself in at the moment, the same white that Jim Carrey and Kate Winslett playing together like little children on a misty beach in the last shot of the film dissolve to. The girl in the red dress died and the story with the "too many locations, characters and scenes" and with "too little time and money" to make, about forgetting the past returned, for good, I think. Thank you Dear Sweet Amnesia.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
If you look into those delicate dark honey colored eyes, you will realize, She isn't a traditional beauty by any means. There is a certain melancholy in those eyes, or even, a harshness that can unleash terrible genocide on the world, that She hides as she rocks back her head and laughs with apparent abandon and reduces my lifespan by just a petite bit. Watch Her use Her eyes seductively while rolling them to American rock 'n roll. Or when she wears her longer hair up in other films - that cruel invention by French women, to reveal that slender, sensuous nape of her neck.
A friend of mine recently told me that one of his ex-girlfriend's once told him that life is best in slow motion and black and white. And now I am telling you, or maybe just rambling silently, but the latter isn't the point. And I remember an uncle putting in words that I had felt for a while but couldn't express, probably a terrible thing for a writer - B&W is so soothing on the eyes. He couldn't have been more right. Visualize it - no extra hue and cry over over-saturated reds and blues projected on the gentle unsuspecting white of your retinas, a binary concept for the most part - the presence of light and the lack of it. The eyes even forgive the nondescript grays from time to time as long as there is a fair amount of black and white that they regard. And the poetry, oh the silent poetry, of high contrast B&W.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Monday, November 02, 2009
Maybe the wife envies the labor laws and wishes she had something like that to accentuate her nagging as a defense mechanism. After all, who likes to wake up and serve breakfast to an uncouth man lacking Victorian manners. I wonder what she does when all the housework is over and she's had her fourteen hour bath, say at 11 am, when her husband is off in the farm, buttering up the hens. She can't be thinking of sex, can she? I mean she doesn't really have a frame of reference, does she? A few minutes of pain under Victorian layers and navy blue overalls can't be much fun. And that's all she's ever had. Now, she has no poster of blue-eyed Paul Newman on the rickety walls of her bathroom to touch herself in the bath, does she? Maybe she thinks about how the hens do it, but then she falsely realizes that they are asexual beings.
The man gets drunk on milk after he returns home from the farm. Stop being so cynical! It's hen's milk. You can reach an intoxicated existence if you have enough of it. Plus, it works slowly, like arsenic, and builds up an involuntary craving in its users over years, much like an arcane piece of art or music that grows itself on you gradually, like a Parisian parasitic virus. Maybe he starts talking in guttural French after he is completely inebriated. He puts on an invisible tutu and puts on a little dance for his wife, singing in an Edith Piaf voice during the performance. She laughs, throwing her arms around and brushing the tears off the corners of her squinty little hen-like eyes, rocking back dangerously in her wooden chair, that she is anyway spilling out of. She knows he does back flips for the hens on the farm that she will never see, and yet, she is happy for a few minutes, to sample this cultured little departure, before they both fall asleep in their respective perches, not really ready, but still thankful, to be woken up by a different note.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
Don't follow your dreams. OK fine. Do it, but make sure you have enough money before you jump onto the back of the unicorn. They'll tell you you are cool, that you are just about the second person they know after that skinny dark kid with those big eyes and floppy hair from Andaman who decided to be a professional snorkeler, to follow their dreams and all that crap, but they aren't here now to sing you lullabies as you listen to the rumbling of your stomach echo off your empty life. I hope the snorkeler at least is still sinking.
Holy shit. Didn't Edward Norton's Jack have insomnia which led him to create Fight Club? I don't like where this is going. Great, now insomnia coupled with paranoia. What would the pacifist in me say? I don't have an anarchist in me. Or do I? Maybe it's been dormant all these years so as to use its most potent weapon - the element of surprise. Maybe atheists don't get the little versions of themselves as the angel and devil having the cute little stand-off with their oh-so-British halos and tridents. All they get is an uber-ugly UFC fight between the pacifist and the anarchist versions. And boy, do I know who to bet on in that fight?
Friday, October 23, 2009
Friday, October 16, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Contemplating between Zeppelin and Budweiser to quench my anger. I have gone with the former and Jimmy's solos help a little to escape the apathy of the bourgeois of Delhi described in The White Tiger, the failed attempt of the combined effort of Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau in Couples Retreat, this feeling of forever running on the treadmill towards an invisible angel who sounds real from far, far away, cleft lips of Bangladeshi babies in neighboring aisle seats and translating their angry wails at six thousand feet up in the air, men invading the maternal pores of cows with their ugly tools.
I don't wanna get up tomorrow and get sucked into this vicious cycle of fervent email checking that will sustain me till the End. I want to spend a week in bed like John, of course alone, without my Yoko, and then maybe they'll give me a Nobel too. I want to feed my credit card bill to August's frog, and maybe he'll turn into a bespectacled bureaucrat and serve me some fresh red tape, which I can't spell and have to rely on the fucking spellchecker to salvage me. I want to arson the ashes out of the watchtower while Hendrix plays on a burning lotus in the background as Saraswati pole dances around her curvy tanpura next to him like a teenage hippie on LSD. I wanna hold Raj Thakerey's hand and take him to this place he's never been before - Bombay. I want to introduce a friend to that jack in class - subjectivity.
Monday, October 05, 2009
I have discovered a new soul-soother, impressive almost solely because of its lack of alcohol. It started unlike most love stories in real life do - at the first meeting. I marauded in after a usual satisfying but expensive lunch at the neighboring mall, conniving in my head for ways to pass the time till it was time to go home, and not think of any more ideas of selling nutritional drinks for children between the ages of 8 and 12. And then I heard him, in his guttural Dylanesqeness, singing about tea and oranges that come from China and about being somebody's man. And the immediate life was a little more bearable, much like when I had first heard Comfortably Numb. I have always maintained that the greatness of a certain piece of music (which includes lyrics, the voices and the accompanying instruments) should be determined by its intoxicating effect, comparable to your choice of poison.
I miss Bombay, yes Bombay, not Mumbai, but Bombay. I miss the constant energy, the noise pollution, drivers swearing at pedestrians suggesting they were regularly intimate with one of their creators, moviegoers frustrated at Hollywood science fiction, a glimpse of those perfect feet peeking from the anonymity of an auto, the traffic cops with their meticulously pressed khaki uniforms matching the color of their piping hot evening tea slurped from dirty little glasses, the not-so-cheap food - junk and classical, Kingfisher and its accompanying free nuts, the unwritten poetry on the walls of Leopold (no, I haven't read Shantaram yet) between mouthfuls of Steak & Onions, the bargaining foreplay with roadside t-shirt hawkers in Town, the mysterious Marathi of the maids, the visible ribs of the cows - loitering the streets like drunk, poor poets, Vodka in the inside room for the kids and Whiskey for the uncles in the living room, overtly salty Vada Pao, the apathy of security guards everywhere, everyone's unpunctuality, the excessive honking, the distant sterility of the AC buses, the omnipresence of mineral water - even at gola stalls in Shivaji Park, the phorenesque ride on the new Worli Sea Link, that lonely face in a grilled window in one of those few crumbling buildings in this city of thirteen million, the crazily long lines of Ganpati fanatics in Shiuri, the rickety old Premier Padmini Fiat cabs - drudging on like the tired lungs of its drivers, the expressionless face of the peon assigned bathroom duty, the punctuality of the breakfast bearer at work, those conversations about skipped lunches with the elevator guard when it was just the two of us, the People dancing on the streets with total abandon in front of unmoved clay idols, outdated Communist desktop wallpapers, those violet lights in the window with the banyaned potbelly.
Friday, September 04, 2009
Monday, August 10, 2009
The airport is like a city itself. And I have no desire to walk about with the weight of my book bag, exploring it like Alice. It's very shiny. Vegas would be jealous of an airport like this. The only thing missing are the slot machines - those personifications of sin. I was surprised to find liquor being sold very grandiosely, looked on benignly by enlarged visages of fully clothed beautiful women selling different products from the advertising hoarding on the side of the walkways. And amidst all this sheen, you find the inevitable burkha clad woman, peering through that slit that allows her to take in all this. You also see the teen/early twenties woman clad in a shirt and not too loose jeans strolling about with her headscarved Mum. Then there is namaaz read over the loudspeaker, as if to keep the avarice of the people within check from the enticing clutches of all the duty free shops.
I feel like that little baby next to me in the flight - in a new arena, and tightly closing my fists, as if that will protect me from all the foreign matter in my new environment. I wonder if babies dream. I wonder because I noticed the baby smiling from time to time in its post-meal nap. I couldn't tell if the smiles coincided with slight turbulence. Maybe it dreamed that it was being catapulted into the air by strong arms. I have noticed babies usually like that kind of excitement, which isn't really strange, considering they spend most of their time on laps or prams. I would like to conduct an experiment. I want to get a special seat made in a rollercoaster for the baby. See how it squals with joy next to its parents, who would of course be screaming - terrified by the cathartic ride.
Monday, August 03, 2009
My new baby is all ready - cut and raring to go - to breathe in the air of our screening room on the Warner Brothers lot, filled with parental (not mine) anticipation and the wallah of the silently beating twelve hearts of the directors, mixed in with the vibrations of a few shaking legs, punctuated by flashes from brilliantly white teeth of the actors, and later hopefully the air of at least a few film festivals. The only thing she lacks is the music now, kind of like a newborn waiting for a name - that very first gift from its parents. "Silent Night" is a personal ode to Godard's "Breathless", well at least the cutting, and to an extent, the look, is. There are differences obviously, but revealing them may spoil things.
My composer (this brilliant guy in San Francisco) and I had been going back and forth over some section of some of the cues - creative differences during the last week. Now, all that's been ironed out and he tried sending me some of the tunes earlier, but technology revolted, and another attempt will be made (soon hopefully!). Till then it is just sitting around, watching the top left corner of the screen - waiting for it to say "Gmail - Inbox (1)", reading PFC, wondering about De Sica's brilliance in the just watched "The Garden of the Finzi-Continis", staring at Jeanne Moreau in B&W on my desktop, center punched in a deep, full shot in Antonioni's "La Notte", with those famous upturned lips - beautiful in her melancholic loneliness.
Sunday, August 02, 2009
Sunday, July 19, 2009
The film started a little slowly for me, unlike La Dolce Vita. I found myself asking why should I be interested in Guido. Of course this was after the wonderful opening sequence of Guido trying to escape from his car, with its jammed locks, stuck in a traffic jam, as the other commuters either watch him struggling with his misery or continuing in their own preoccupations. Even during these initial blasphemous moments, I couldn't help noticing the little throwbacks to previous scenes, like Guido doing the mascara on his mistress like the chubby dancing Saraghina from his childhood - what the Hollywood template would label as "setup and payoff", or later in the film, Guido wrapped up in white sheets in the harem sequence, just like in the Asa Nisi Masa sequence, again from his childhood, or Oedipal references, accentuated by the fact that Guido's mother's character is played by the wife of Vittorio De Sica, a father figure in Italian cinema.
Asa Nisi Masa made the film interesting again for me. Fellini's mastery and economy in showing the child's POV comes through easily; his internal turmoil with the demon of a strict religion in a staunch Catholic Italy - a response to the scene earlier in the film where a priest asks Guido if his film is about religion and he cannot hide its huge influence on everyone in Italian society. What impressed me a great deal about the movie was the frequency of dream sequences, whether it was a quickie where the critic is taken away and hung at the mere lifting of the artist's finger, or the longer drawn out harem scene, or the angelic white scenes with Claudia Cardinale. The fast cutting in the dream about the press conference brings out the great overbearing inquisitiveness of the press, discussed in more detail in La Dolce Vita. The slow pace of the spa sequences convey the fact that Guido is the only young man (he is 43!) there.
8 1/2 is the only good 60's European film that I have seen so far that also looks fabulous. The contrast is perfect - the blacks are truly black. The use of shadows and minimal lighting is script organic and the abundant use of the spotlight in the dream sequences add to the dreamy quality, without using cheap post production techniques like fuzzy edges. The eyes of Vittorio Storaro, a cinematography legend tells us in the special features that all the flashback scenes had a great deal of use of shadows, thus differentiating it in look from present day and dream sequences, which were of course very white.
The casting is perfect, down to the little old man who tap dances for Guido on his command. Apparently, the actor was mentally challenged, and yet, the master that Fellini was, he was able to extract that little cameo out of him. Marcello is as usual spot on with his pensiveness. Anouk Aimée, with dark framed glasses, in elegant white plays the perfect intellectual wife, while Sandra Milo, with her veil and loudness hits the mark as the superficial mistress, who is sympathetic to her husband but is drawn to the largely apathetic Guido. Claudia Cardinale looks and acts like the angel she is supposed to be. They all sway perfectly to Nino Rota's Feliniesque music to create this smooth flow whenever needed.
The resolution at the end has hardly any dialog but combines Fellini's love for the circus in a very effective way, and it isn't bleak, not that there is anything wrong with bleak films. Realists might cry out idealism, but in keeping with the theme of the film, this is also a dream sequence, with the child in Guido (and thus by extension, Fellini) leading the band as they play the tune to which all the people in Guido's life, all of whom he wants to put in his film, dance around in a large circle, holding each other's hands; in the background is the giant unused structure built for Guido's unrealistic film.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
There are two types of people in this world - ones that can haggle and ones that cannot. Very solidly placed in the second category, I was left wondering how you could haggle with someone who had a perfect body like our rental car salesman, too much of that hybrid sport that can only thrive in South America - Foot Volley, probably. The city then came by with its urban accessories like malls and people, nothing less than a wealthy superficial aristocratic lady, after the hired help had made us comfortable.
The street urchins in Rio are very creative. The traffic light going red is the green signal for them to start their balance extolling acrobats. The more business minded and less balanced ones place nuts, candy, or whatever little treats they have on offer on the mirrors of the stopped cars, operating on the same principle as a strip club - you can only touch it if you buy. From what I observed though, seems like this trick only traps the tourists. All these guys have an impeccable sense of timing, mind you, quickly removing their paraphernalia and themselves from the asphalt just before the light goes green, disappointing my quest for some blood on the road.
For someone who isn't much of a cloak and dagger fan, I am quite a big tunnel freak. Rio didn't disappoint me in this regard, with its at least four or five tunnels. Add to that the crazy traffic, it only quadrupled the time we were in tunnels; granted I was squeezed up with three other guys in a microvan, all smelling like rugby players after the flights, but still, it was uber-magical. They are smart about tollbooths there. Not only do they have smiling attendants at the shaded checkpoints, they even have albeit, lesser smiling, but smiling nonetheless, or maybe squinting because of the sun (couldn't tell exactly), out in the sun, so that the huge number of cars lining up do not have to stop longer than necessary.
As we reached our hotelonthebeach, we realized that European fashion sensibilities abounded here. While that can be a good thing most of the time, our glasses, made in the conservative non-Miami US of A, fogged up every time we saw men, some of them well into their sixties, in nothing but minispeedos and their natural curly white, black or gray sweaters. The sand, though is distracting enough to be inviting. A closer investigation revealed that the beaches didn't actually have sand. It was pure raw sugar, dyed light chrome yellow.
There must be an ecological imbalance of some sort in Rio, because the people there eat a LOT of meat. All you can eat BBQ restaurants abound like fast food joints in the US, or roadside tea shops in India. Of course the meat is fresh, and more importantly for me, procured naturally. My politically incorrect readers will be interested to know that the meat of the younger animals are considered delicacies. Tropical fruits are of course popular, with coconuts as fresh as in Goa, though with water not as sweet. Crepes, which I think is a French affaire primarily, are pretty big here, with local delicacies like Strogonoff (not the German kind) wrapped up to look like neat parcels for your taste buds, in addition to the usual chocolate and fruity varieties. Rio residents are not completely selfish, however. What they take from Nature, they give back in almost equal amount. After dinner, it is common practice to lounge around in one's living room, exposing one's legs and arms for Nature's little messengers - the mosquitoes. Now, I understand that sucking human blood is a dirty job fit for only evil CEO's and the IRS, but I guess someone in Nature's world has to do it too.
Soap operas are huge in Brazil, as big as cricket in India, or Obama in the US. Much to the delight of that imaginary mischief maker, Chance, one of the biggest soap operas in Rio right now is called "Caminas das Indias" (Path to India). When people I met there uncovered by roots, I was instantly a star. It didn't matter whether it was a lawyer, a housewife, a saleswoman for toddler stuff, a waiter, or whether they spoke English or Portuguese; no one could get enough of me. I was bigger than Gisele and Adriana put together. I was being asked to translate little phrases like "arrey Baba" and "achha" and "ja" and "chal". My curiosity piqued, I decided to tune in on Tuesday at 8:45 PM to see just what I owed my fame to. Sunidhi Chauhan, in her every husky voice let people know that there was a big aag in her jigar as the gates, the gates to the mystic land of India that is, opened for one and all, and men in pagdis with plastic smiles in the ethereal namaste mudra greeted us as we steadicammed in. The next day a lot of lives were turned upside down, imaginations shattered and plenty of unmentionable calamities befell the naive public of Rio, as I revealed with perfect nonchalance about the lack of elephants, impeccably pressed sarees and perfectly symmetrical hair partings back home.
The flow of traffic isn't ebbed by nightfall, as the little red lights inch forward. Buses are packed pretty much like the ones back home, but these machines are better and bigger. So they hold more packed people, resembling night trains to Auschwitz or Buchenwald. Red lights serve only aesthetic purposes, though legally you can only "go on a red after 10 pm". When on the road behind a wheel, the denizens, even the mild mannered happy-go-lucky ones like Sambaman transform into nieces and nephews of Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, with hunched backs and squinted eyes and the urgency of dysentery patients. On one occasion, Jesus, who was in one of the back seats, was able to read the wattage reading on one of the front lights of a merging bus. The justification for such driving is of course practice for late night travel, when if travelling less than 140 kph or through my beloved tunnels, you can be stopped and mugged. Oh well, even paradise isn't without its flaws I am sure!
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Paul Newman embodies and indeed lives as the quicksilver title character. Everything else takes a back seat. The story is the real time state of mind of a very complex protagonist. Made in the late sixties and no doubt a statement against the Vietnam War, it makes you want to crush your beer can and hurl it against the wall. The film is a creative expression of anger and frustration against the political situation of the time, with the prison wardens representing the government. The "man with no eyes" and the reflecting aviators is unable to see the suffering of the inmates.
It is a bleak film, with Luke failing in his attempt to encourage his fellow inmates to break out of prison and stop living out their escape fantasies off him. His questioning of the existence of God becomes interesting in perspective of him serving as a Jesus surrogate for his friends - the sacrificial martyr. In fact, there is a shot of Newman lying exhausted on the table in the crucified position amidst egg shells, after he has just eaten fifty eggs in an hour and earned some of his friends some money. The film is however, not devoid of catharsis, as any good film should be, with the bully turned friend Dragline, having the perfect opportunity to break free, and yet, somehow managing to go back to his bonded life, with only stories of Luke left to entertain his friends. The title is, of course aptly ironic, referring to a good hand in the card game of life.
Thursday, July 02, 2009
I saw an old man checking out a young beautiful thing outside our hotel a couple of days back. It sums up Rio's wide delta in economic classes succintly. The poor people though live on the hill. I am sure the Dharavi residents wouldn't mind having a breathtaking view of Rio when they wake up and walk to their communal bathrooms every morning. Apparently our main actor is famous here. His photo appeared in the paper the first day of our shoot. One of the actresses does soap operas, and to add to that, Sambaman's father is the equivalent of Quincy Jones (famous music producer) back in the US. Just dropping his name got us an instant permit to shoot at the giant Jesus statue. We are of course unaware of all this fame that is touching our lives each day, and continuing on in our uncouth fashion - setting lights and pulling power from famous gated mansions.
Have been reading Rabindranath Tagore's short stories. It is a refreshing change from the film books. Each story is coated with a light layer of sarcasm, very Kubrickesque. The descriptions are very innovative. Portability to film is always at the back of my head, but the creative keeda props itself up and revolts. I was thinking about the feature idea lying in bed during those inertial still moments after waking up. I am thinking of converting Alessandro to Ali and pre-WW II Italy to present day Bombay, with the city being the maze as opposed to the secret underworld city. It will certainly make Pa happy. I got excited and started naming other characters like 'Khargosh' and the main honcho 'Lal'. It'll be hard to not give him an evil laugh and a bald head. I was also imagining writing Bambaiya into the dialog. Reading PFC, especially Anurag Kashyap, always gets me excited, with the passion rushing to my head about going to Bombay and making it big in a culture which I understand better. I wonder if scriptwriters in Bombay write their scripts in English on computers, and then how do they write the dialog in Hindi?
Saw a Michael Jackson interview last night. It was conducted by this Indian guy with a British accent, who seemed to possess Michael Moore's percevierence. MJ, I think had lost it in the last few years of his life. When asked why he looked white during the time of the interview and black as a teenager, he said with a serious face that people change, and implied that puberty had caused his skin to grow darker. Either he is a great actor or innocent. I think the latter. He seemed very true in his desire to cuddle children, which don't get me wrong, is weird, but is it wrong? I don't mean this to be mudslinging. Everyone knows he was a good musician and an even better dancer. RIP.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Sambaman's couch is rather comfortable. Rabbit is trying to nap through the noise. The rest of the crew are eating Brazilian Chinese food. Sambaman's mai, in her sweet bumbling way, is feeding me mashed potatoes, chicken and rice along with her son. Sambaman's house is beautiful. If I ever made a movie version of the boardgame Clue, I would shoot it here. There is a hole in the wall showing a staircase going up, while the foreground is a usual living room. It is as beautiful as a painting, the color palate that of red bricks. Jesus thinks the house looks like the Godfather's house in the movie, with sparse overhead lighting.
The five day shoot has been compressed to a three day shoot, because of the reasons mentioned eariler in the post. The rest of the days will not be as relaxed. Sambaman doesn't do too many takes. So, we'are moving fast. I don't want to go back to LA. Rio reminds me too much of Bombay - the weather and the cobbled streets (Rabbit says Rome is like that too, leading me to believe the US is unique with its paved sidewalks). The women are nice and smile back at appreciative eyes. My little knowledge of Spanish allows me to understand the language if its spoken slowly. Hunger doesn't allow me to go on any further.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
One of the two protagonists of this story, ArSENik has spent the last seven years of his life in the US, three of which have been spent on the inimitable West Coast of the US. And yet, he is part of the 5% of the population that belongs to this dynamic that hasn't visited Vegas. Before you start 'tsking', hold on, because that's not all. He also has the rare distinction of belonging to the 0.32% of the population worldwide whose parents have visited Vegas but they have not. Hence, the pressure of visiting Vegas, built up over years of sitting around the coffee table in the living room back home over oedipal photographs in front of the pyramids of Egypt at the Luxor or the Champs-Elysees at Paris, is immense, to say the least.
Chapter 1: "F!@k it! Let's Go"
Establishing shot of the parking garage of ArSENik's apartment complex. The camera jibs down to a shot of a navy blue Nissan Murano from the rear, with two figures, silhouetted by the car light, occupying the front seats.
ArSENik: Hurry up! I want good seats.
Sambaman: Yeah, yeah. Relax. Didn't 'The Hangover' come out last week? I am sure the theatre will be half empty.
ArSENik: Well, um yeah, but I don't wanna take a risk. It looks funny and (attempt at superficial emotional blackmail) you know it takes place in Vegas, and (with a tear trickling down) I am a Vegas Virgin!
Sambaman: You are what?!
ArSENik (breaking down completely): There! I said it. I haven't told anyone else.
Sambaman (with a distant look in his eyes): We have to change that. You know, (pause for dramatic effect) we could just go there.
ArSENik: It's Vegas MAN. It's not your uncle's house down the street where you go to sneakily stalk your hot cousin.
Sambaman: She's my third cousin! And you promised you would never bring that up ... ever.
ArSENik: OK, but it's Sunday night. I have a shoot on Tuesday.
Sambaman: C'mon. DBG (Don't Be Gay).
After a few futile moments of debilitating, ArSENik sighs heavily.
ArSENik: F!@k it! Let's Go.
What ArSENik didn't know was that Sambaman had no intention of driving, and also that he had forgotten his camera while packing hurriedly. Montage sequence of the two booking a room at the Mirage, rushing to the airport, buying tickets and catching the flight occurs.
Chapter 2: The Promised Land
ArSENik has a window seat in the exit row and is thus excited about the impending bird's eye view of the Land of Sin. Unfortunately for him, he is on the wrong side of the plane and doesn't get a glimpse of the tallest odes to Capitalism since time immemorial. Nevertheless, the sparkling yellow lights still hit his sensitive eyes, as if enticing him to a money pit. The airport is clean, just like your average Midwest airport, except that it is frequently punctuated by 25 cent and 1 dollar slot machines, with middle aged tourists in loose pants gambling away, with hope that would have impressed even the emancipating Lincoln.
The duo have been promised a 2009 Dodge Charger, but the keys to the only available one cannot be found anywhere in the premises. And so, they set off hand in hand like a couple in Massachusetts, in a family van, out to loot the Promised Land. The strip assaults their senses with its thousand giant structures and lights and whitish pink wedding chapels, as the cynical ArSENik scoffs at the trigger-happy tourists clicking away in front of the 'Welcome to Las Vegas' sign. And then, tucked away from all the brightness and the grandeur, they see a sliver of reality - pregnant hookers patrolling construction sites and their pimps chitchatting with unkempt drug dealers.
The Mirage cannot offer them the promised non-smoking room with a view, and thus, now they have the luxury of spending $50 on the minibar, which throws up an assortment of expensive day to day edibles. They go down to the hotel casino and gamble, but just a little bit, like shy lovers flirting on a first date. They try to hunt down the waitresses serving the free drinks, but upon being asked the order, are mesmerized by her raw Russian beauty and can only order White Russians, on repeated occasions. ArSENik, as usual, looses money on Blackjack, the slots and Roulette, but Sambaman, taking his advice on Roulette, makes quite a bit, preventing ArSENik from projecting, and thus lifting ArSENik's spirits. They finally go to bed as the sun is waking up lazily, engulfing their room with its first rays, like an epidemic taking over a city. Thank God hotel rooms have thick curtains.
Sambaman LOVES to sleep, even if he is in a different city that his fellow travelers want to explore, and thus, the duo get out of their hotel rooms as late as two in the afternoon. At lunch, ArSENik is impressed by Vegas' sensitivity to natural meat and also how much cheaper fast food is, compared to California. To show his gratitude, he buys a lovely pair of Nike tennis shoes - a crisscross of different shades of blue, since his current pair has been destroyed from years to exposure to washer/dryer. Shopping with the picky and nowadays, miserly ArSENik is a pain for any mortal. Sambaman manages to survive somehow.
Sambaman and ArSENik are huge Beatles fans, and are thrilled to be living in a hotel that has a lounge called Revolution. They obviously go watch Cirque de Soleil's Love - a psychedelic roller coaster of emotions with eastern music, specifically, Indian music, fused with some of the Beatles' hits . ArSENik is thrilled and wished he had mushrooms to make the event even more spectacular as angles literally transcend from the heavens and young ambitious men leap from one trampoline to the other. Nevertheless, he still sheds tears at its whole awesomeness.
Dinner is at a posh Italian restaurant, where the female maitre d' pushes your chair as you sit down, making ArSENik uncomfortable and men in suits and rimless glasses rub their palms against one another and laugh socially, displaying sets of sparkling teeth, sipping sparkling fluids in front of an unnecessary crackling fire. The octopus appetizer tastes like overcooked kababs to ArSENik but he loves the spinach salmon of the main course.
Sambaman then assures ArSENik that in order to obtain the complete Vegas experience, they need to visit a club. Naive and wet behind the ears, ArSENik nods excitedly with big sparkling brown eyes, much like a puppy, about to be adopted from a homeless shelter. They visit Jet, and almost loose each other in the ensuing noise pollution. Sambaman is sad because he can't get wasted and dance himself silly on the poles, because of their flight the next morning. ArSENik is just sad. He has a pre-mid life crisis on seeing the young nubile things gyrating hypnotically, glowing in the dark, dancing their troubles away, living in the moment, as he sips his incredibly overpriced Corona with lime.
The next morning is anticlimactically routine as they return their family van and try their luck oe last time at the slot machines at the airport. However, there is no reversal of fortunes for ArSENik and they board their flight in silence and sleep on the way back, dreaming of winning fortunes, that would help them produce their future films. On landing, they return to the flatness of LA, one now a Vegas Veteran, the other not a Vegas Virgin anymore.
Monday, June 08, 2009
My other early memory of him is him teaching me advanced arithmetic from the off white pages of an imageless textbook. At times I would get a little frustrated at his ability to play the hard taskmaster and questioned myself as to why my parents had left me loose with him, but I am grateful today as bemused classmates look on as I can tell them within seconds that adding that extra kicker light will blow the circuit, and thus we would have to hook it up to a different circuit.
I also remember being extremely stimulated by his spotless black and creme typewriter. And when I was a little older and got to climb onto a chair, bring the beauty down, and type up some nonsense, with the sweet sound of the keystrokes resonating off my fast beating heart. Later, my father insisted that Dadu, as I called him, buy a computer, but somehow the mechanical silent keyboard lacked the poetry of the typewriter.
Dadu and I never really spoke much about his life (the only conversations we have had which deal with similar subjects would be the first names of my ancestors). What I know is from what my grandmother has told me. Apparently, he had a decently comfortable life in his village, but his hunger for success took him to Calcutta, where he studied more than anyone else in his family ever had, and got a job with the Indian Railways and thus, has seen most of India, and later most of the world. After him, my father made his way to the Middle East from Calcutta, and I have now reached the US, from the Middle East. After marrying my grandmother, Dadu encouraged her to study further and later to work, which at the time, was very rare, at least in Indian society. Eventually, he procured clerical jobs in the companies he had worked, for members of our domestic help, setting them and their families up economically.
My grandfather was an out an out atheist, which almost made him a pariah in Indian society at the time (even today, if you ask me). What I admired the most in him was his questioning of the illogical (like religion and Communism), and refusing to join the bandwagon like the rest of society. He was also one of the strongest men I knew, refusing to take taxis and still riding the bus even in his 80's.
After, we had moved to the Middle East, I saw him just once a year, observing how age had caught up with him. Each time, there was this fondness in his eyes, as we sat in silence, or engaged in smalltalk, proud (I hope) that I hadn't turned out that bad after all. In his last few years, he had developed a hunch and physically wasn't the imposing figure I had grown up with. I usually visited him in winter. So, he would have this faded green cap and a cloak, reminiscent of desert sand. And he would have shaving cuts. Also, he would turn up the volume on the TV when the eight o'clock news came on, resulting in arguments with my grandmother if she was on the phone.
It's been almost five months since he has passed away, but even today, when I feel lazy about shaving, or see one of those noisy typewriters on TV, or see someone enjoying tomatoes, I can't help but think of him, and fight back tears, because he would have never tolerated tears.
Thursday, June 04, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Reminding me what passion was like,
Each drop returning that familiar pain
That the pale body so sorely needed.
I cut myself the other day
Just to be able to feel again.
I had forgotten that sweet feeling
Numbed by this sterile world.
I took a giant leap down
From the lofty height of my balcony
Just to see if I had learned to fly yet
Only to meet failure, that prisoner of war.
Cut and broken, but alive again,
I'll let these wounds heal themselves
Until the numbness has returned
And then I'll cut and fly again.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
The weather was playing spoilsport as I landed, and especially because I had a few hours to kill in the real part of the city - the streets. However, by now conditioned to the sunniness and generally awesome California weather, I welcomed the smell of the wet earth, though you would probably argue that it was psychological since an urban center like New York is a 100% cement. As usual everyone was in a hurry, running away from the rain, leaving me like that sole upholder of contrast.
The unusual warmth at least allowed me to gorge down "to go" sandwiches from a brown paper bag, perched on unknown steps to an unknown residential building, shared with an unknown saleswoman from an unknown roadside store. I couldn't have been farther away from an almost laidback Sunday brunch later that weekend, in a greenhouse that had been converted to a pretty pink dollhouse in Central Park, with the rain pelting the glass walls like a little boy throwing stones to gain his parents' attention, or from Mr. Walker providing shelter from loud trippy techno, or the best cheese pizza I have ever had, in a trendy, almost Baroquian Manhattan apartment at 4 in the morning - like Merril Streep in the Bridges of Madison County - large and simple.
After some pretty decent Turkish coffee in the Village over a conversation spanning topics as diverse as Dubai's construction horizon to Italian neorealist cinema, I smoked my migrane out with sheesha accompanied by some instantly made friends. Spent the night or should I say, next morning, on an alien couch, too fatigued to fear the two canine beings pouncing around. It's fun when you aren't the weakest link though. Now I understand the humor my friends derive from watching me squirm at all the neighbors' dogs. Some of my new friends made me look like The Dog Whisperer and I guffawed till sunrise. Good thing I don't believe in Karma.
Manhattanians are inflicted by this manic virus called the Haute Couteur. Its everywhere you go within the confines of that island of fashion. The first evening I felt like a bum dressed in my black Led Zeppelin t-shirt and khakis. It was seven or eight finely dressed urban men and women, looking like they were the Godchildren of Giorgio Armani and me, going places, ordering stuff, consuming them, breathing in, breathing out, chitchatting, existing. Thank God I had worn shoes on this trip. Weather permitting, I usually prefer my floaters since they offer the lazy prospect of not wearing socks.
Times Square is a wonderland for a lighting nerd. The different colors, different temperatures, different intensities, different heights, different angles, light reflecting off the million Eastern European tourists milling about loudly arguing over maps, off the tops of those brightly colored jaundice cabs, off the carts of roadside sheesh kabab sellers, off the creatively adorned cycle rickshaws (it is an interesting sensation watching an obviously educated young man about town pulling those things, fighting the initial involuntary reaction of sympathy that welles up from growing up in Calcutta). That to me is the picture of New York. I don't really care that people dress normally in Queens or the Bronx, or that you can take romantic ferry rides to Ellis Island, or go watch the Yankees on a hot summer day. That sums up the visual energy of the place - dispelling physical loneliness far west, promising you an unending supply of bodies and their involuntary warmth at any hour of the night.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Don't get me wrong. I consider myself a connoisseur of the finest guitar solos ever played. If I wasn't such an atheist, I might have even considered worshipping the likes of Hendrix, Page, Clapton, Gilmour and Santana. Now, Rabbit and Sambaman are flirting with a couple of flashy bright things. Soon they have these beauties around their necks and are literally rocking out and playing the blues as if their granddaddies were in a band of waiters in New Orleans that entertained guests during breaks from serving them giant Cajun shrimps. Tired of watching little kids serenading their parents nearby, I decide to jump in. It takes me five minutes to figure out where the cable from the amp connects to the guitar and then half an hour to figure out the amp itself. When I finally hear the sweet sound of my escort, it's scratchy - like Hendrix playing with arthritis or something, staccato all the way. A couple of Gothic babes pass by and I shut my eyes tight, pout my lips and nod my head a la Page, and give all the strings a go, giving them a preview of my cacophonous symphony. They flee.
Sambaman tells me we are starting a band. I tell him I will write and sing. Sambaman doesn't know that I write songs as well as Clapton does advanced calculus. One of my musically inclined cousins tried once. The deal was that I write and she puts music to my contribution. The words have remained poetry ever since, and she has changed careers, probably drowned by the guilt caused by me and has become a Russian translator. Later, Sambaman develops paternal instincts and starts teaching me on a big beautiful acoustic thing. Short term amnesia sets in, not to mention a very early stage of arthritis wherein my fingers, stubborn as my refusal to keep going, become asymptotes, and that too, without any kind of harmony amongst themselves. I somehow convince Sambaman that I do not need to learn how to play chords in order to become a successful guitarist and that humans aren't designed to learn anything new after 25.
Flashforward to tonight. I get a duster out, and toil on my dark as cocoa guitar. I start implementing the single string theory that I sold last evening as well as Dennis Hopper sold cocaine to the American public. I am not even sure I can tell the difference between the last two strings. It's gotta be either high or low. There's no B flat and B sharp in my world. They sound like Victoria's Secret units to me. Frustrated, I run to the safety of Youtube, and its tempting plethora of useless drivel. And finally, I vent it all - here.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
The north is phasing out gradually and the word "home" is only able to conjure up this mess of a city with its scarred highways and traffic jams during unearthly hours. With companions equally laid back and novel unparalleled laziness, I don't have urges to make the Blue Lady run up with me anymore. Gluttons rolling in penury, we know where you can find the 10% student discount, or when the kitchens of the buffets close. Who said you needed motorcycles to find zen! Ask the Blue Lady as I lean back ultra-low and traverse the backstreets under a warm sun.
#308 is nice and welcoming as we hurry up the protected stairway to escape LA's unpredictable icy winds in the evenings - basking under the sun all day from its perch so high, engulfing me in the large black cushion on the futon as Antonioni and Kubrick display their art. The pool below sparkles its blueness sometimes under that sun, tempting us to dive the three floors into its cool depth, but sloth is not something that should be thus underestimated. However, the trunks are at least within view, just in case, some day, on some impulse, we jump.
Friday, April 03, 2009
The first thing to hit me when we parked at the house, apart from an irrepressible urge to micturate, was the silence, which accompanied by the blackness of night that only rural areas can offer these days, was the visual representation of a typical, soothing Pink Floyd song. The sky, visible through my frozen breath, was sparkling, inviting like an intoxicating wine. If only the D200 could capture this spectacle!
The next seven days were jam packed. I spent the most time with the Sun, urging him like Kunti, pleading at times, to not move so much during a shot, silking the actors from his glorious wrath, and at the end of the day each day, pleading him to stay a little longer. Clouds waltzed in at times, to supplement the tired silks. Windy felt ignored and made her presence felt. She broke our dispensable bounce boards on a couple of occasions and ultimately, bent one of the stands of the giant silk. Thank god (sic) for gaffer's tape!
The family opened up their homes and hearts to us for the entire week, meticulously attending to some of our special dietary situations with utmost charm and smiles. We hadn't eaten this healthy in years, possibly since leaving home. Then there was Jack, unaware of the family's presence, bootlegging our morale as the days got longer, and muddier, at times. Made some new friends and spent a lot of time with some old ones, highlights include a random ice-cream break, assuming peacocks at night were just crying cats and a miniature mute bear.
I scorned at the ladies for getting sentimental when it was all over, but I would be lying if I said each one of us didn't leave a tiny part of ourselves in Grass Valley, whether it was in the river flowing by the barn, dressed by us in the biggest Nazi flag the world has seen since 1945, or the gobbling turkeys next door, as we headed back to the noise pollution and starless skies of LA. I drove the whole way this time.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
So that you don't push me away
Like that ragged doll that made you feel,
Only to haunt that poor little girl
And all of her helpless mates.
We'll escape to the moon
And bounce off mushrooms
As we see the earth burn away
Far away, reversing time
To its nude infancy.
I won't call you from your tree
While the others drown down here
In toxic pools of quicksilver
Until there isn't anyone to bounce off
Up into lonesome inner space.
But quicksilver is my kryptonite too
And my sturdy wings fail me
At this fortuitous Neanderthal end
As everything burns itself
And hides me in the engulfing smoke.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
The initial pages didn't help in allaying my fears. I found it too corny to be funny. True, the story revolves around Gopal, who is after all from a small town called Jajau, known as the "Paris of MP", and his reactions to America forcing itself on him culturally, would elicit a different reaction than a product of a bigger city like me. And this is acknowledged by Mathur through Gopal's distant cousins, who hail from Bombay. Having said that, I would be lying if I said that nostalgia didn't make passes at me and take me back to my first year in the US as a freshman on a college campus - 2002 in Atlanta.
Gopal is relatable to since he is the quintessential horny desi Engineering nerd (the phrase is probably a redundancy), using his brains to come up with innovative ideas of reaching out to women, and yet, when the opportunity presents itself on multiple occassions, there is a lack of courage to ride on. Randy, Gopal's host (read partner-in-crime) is a stereotypical American young man most of the time, who warms up to Gopal instantly and makes it his ambition to get Gopal laid. There is also a range of other American characters, some colorful like the Peacock, some bland like the Dean, some polite, some rude, but all of them very interesting.
Mathur uses Gopal's letters to his brother in rustic Indian English wonderfully to show his character arc. As the story unfolded, I started falling in love with the book, with the pace rising to a climactic crescendo as the last few pages go by in a whiz, much like Gopal's reactions towards the new country. What starts out as a series of slapstick events slowly turns into mature introspection and more importantly, a very honest comparison between the two countries. This book is a must read for any Indian who has studied in the US.
Sunday, March 08, 2009
The story starts off intriguingly with the Falcone crime family of Gotham and its brooding head, known as The Roman, bearing too much of a resemblance to The Godfather Don Vito and his Corleone family. Some of the storyboards, like the sequence where Gordon, Dent and Batman meet on the roof of the police HQ, seems straight out of the Dark Knight, or the other way around I should say. At the end of the day, it is a whodunit of a series of murders, with the deranged murderer striking only on public holidays, like Christmas, Thanksgiving etc., starting on Halloween. There are way too many characters with little cameos, including a whole bevy of crazed criminals attracted to the city by the big Bat, as each one passes under the investigators', and thus, the reader's suspecting magnifying glass.
I kept wondering when the story would end, after I had gotten over the initial hook of excitement. Also, found the gimmick of a murder every holiday too blasé and "oh look, I am a crazy murderer"-y. Personally, I don't enjoy whodunits as much as the ones where we know the killer all along, but the real mystery is how, or why. There is a certain element of chill in that. The last couple of pages had something I wasn't expecting, but still didn't do enough for me to change my view of the entire novel, much like Farhan Akhtar's Don. It seemed like a stroke as a result of an afterthought of how to salvage this a bit.
Thursday, March 05, 2009
The Killing Joke is a short story about The Joker escaping from a mental asylum after he had been put there by Batman. The Joker proceeds to take revenge on Commissioner Gordon, to prove his theory that everyone is bad, and can be made to do bad things, if pushed hard enough. He makes it personal and his methods are so violent and dark, that it makes the film look like a children's Disney movie. The Joker takes over a theme park and turns it into a nest for all birds of dark feathers. There is also a chilling epilogue to the story, that doesn't involve any of the usual Batman villains, but a common man, like you and me.
Written by Alan Moore, it uses his parallel story-telling technique that he employed to great effect in the Watchmen; this time concentrating on The Joker's past, circumstances that led a sane man to become The Joker. A lot of the dialog in the film, especially those between The Joker and Batman were reminiscent of the movie. Questions are raised in the reader's mind whether the two characters are just two sides of the same coin. The illustrations by Brian Bollard, are very 3D-like, making the characters pop out of the book, and making it more real. The end, again, like Watchmen, champions the cause of the human spirit.
Written by Alan Moore, Watchmen is essentially a tale of morality at the end of the day. It questions our act of handing power to the watchdogs of society. Set in NYC in the simmering political period of the Cold War - 1985, with Richard Nixon leading the country, everyone is convinced that the world is pummeling towards World War III - Armageddon. The events are observed by a group of middle-aged ex-crime fighters from the background in their own individual homes and perspectives. And then, one by one, the "watchmen" start dropping dead like pins. The conservative ones among them, start extremely private investigations, and over time, uncover the monstrous truth.
There is the Comedian, whose name and character combo itself, is a not too funny joke. He is the all-knowing street smart, who is smart enough to know, but too lax to do anything about it. There is the unlikely Silk Spectre II, who reluctantly joined the line of work after her mother. She feels used by the system. The Night Owl is the technical guru. Along with Silk Spectre II, he represents the naive common man on the street. Rorshach is a conservative like the Comedian, but doesn't know as much, and his curiosity actually starts the investigation. Dr. Manhattan used to be a man, but again, got taken advantage of by the system, and was turned into a warhead and a bargaining chip in the Cold War. He is going through a midlife crisis, so to speak, and is fed up with the vagaries of the human nature. Finally, there is Ozymandias, my favorite character. Initially, much isn't explained about him, and he seems to be a flame in the past, misusing his fame to collect fortune in the present. Later in the book, his whys are explained. He is the Comedian's adversary, possibly because they are the same people with exactly opposite political alignments.
Brilliantly written, Time magazine calls it one of the top 100 novels of all time. There are a lot of passages in the book where the writer uses literal parallelism to get his point across, which can be a little confusing, but all ties in together at the end. There are also visits to the past, and various mediums other than comic strips - like newspaper articles, letters, journal entries and excerpts of autobiographies, used to convey the back story and thus the mental state of the protagonists. I believe the writer is telling us that it is the system we need to change, and that all human beings are not white and black characters, but essentially gray. The most important thing in the world is the human element, and thus, can be molded like clay, to profit. Some readers will find the end very preachy, but I didn't have a problem with it and actually loved it. It identifies the greatest problem today, and provides a very unlikely solution, again taking advantage of the human element.
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
I was gonna write something on the Watchmen novel, but don't feel like it right now. Promise to do it before the film releases and I catch the phirst day phirst show at midnight on Thursday. I like Ozymandias. Jack is awesome. He makes the world colorful. I think alcoholism is born out of boredom. Life is unboring. There is Jack at 6 in the evening on a weekday and I am watching Knocked Up for the umpteenth time, after just watching the commentary version just now.
Had some Trader Joe's Biryani, actually it's just called "Indian Fare" since TJ, unlike most of it's customers who I would imagine are politically correct. Some products of their creativtiy include "Trader Giotto's", "Trader Ming" (which doesn't even sound like Joe) and "Trader Arabian" (no that doesn't sound right, but something equally politically incorrect). This is essentially a diary entry. I don't think anyone apart from WIAN reads this, but he seems to be on vacation, but maybe some stalker somewhere does, coz the hits counter (read, blogger ego booster) go up every time I visit to write something. Hello stalker, I like cricket and Indian food, the latter of which I miss off late.
Jack even helps you financially. I mean sure, 750 ml costs x amount of dollars, but it keeps you warm, and then you don't need the heat, but that's only in winter. I mean, right now, I am warm, but I am lazy enough to not open the balcony door. Story of my life - the fight of laziness against boredom. The laziness almost always wins, preventing me from playing video games I like. I think that's why I really like movies. You just sit there and are fed information and all you have to do is think, but nothing physical. Oh stalker, if you are a straight female, I do like sex though. Genetic burden! Darwin and all. Jack made me eat that extra cookie, coz everything tastes great, or alright, if it's bad, with Jack. But hey, lemme ask you this, if I got 750 ml for the sake of art - for a shoot, is it wrong? One shouldn't waste, hell no, that's the biggest faux pas of our generation. Does Jack take pleasure to the next level; that's true with almost everything else he does? He is like Lucious - hovering around like a bog brother, making sure you are happy.
They are showing Geisha House now on Knocked Up. Pssst, go there if someone else is paying. A little expensive - a Sushi place, you know. However, it is dark, not well lit, as they show in Knocked Up. Great desserts too. Hahahahaah. "I am pregnent. Fuck off". Funniest response in the history of cinema. Sorry, female stalker, if that makes me sound like a chauvinist, I am willing to watch Sex and the City, the movie to make up for my chauvinism.
Sunday, March 01, 2009
Khush Hai Wahi Jo Thoda Betaaab Hai
Zindagi Mein Koi Arzoo Kijiye
Some of us are pot-bellied contented folks, resting our fat asses on cushioned lives, and then the creativity goes away, leaving us disillusioned and ignorant of our loss. But then, happiness hardly ever lasts forever, and then we get hungry again and start creating. So, technically, if you are happy and satisfied, you can't really create anything of significant value, thus the adage of the hungry artist in rags - the brilliant poor, intellectually rich, but materialistically void.
Happened to see a couple of superb existential films yesterday - Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist and Blade Runner (I know the latter is a classic and I am a film student, but I am weird like that - I just saw the Back To the Future trilogy for the first time the other day!). Nick and Nora takes place in the course of a single night in NJ/NYC. It also champions the cause for gay rights, effectively IMO, but then again, apropos to my companions these days, I am extreme left, so maybe my opinion is biased. There is also the universal search for essentially nothing but Lewis Carrol's century old White Rabbit, and a time when two right people meet each other during the wrong time in their lives. As the script suggested, Michael Cera was rightly overshadowed by Kat Dennings. The movie was not a commercial success and only has a rating of 6.9 on IMDB (that oracle of an invention).
I don't know if it was the Jack or not, but Blade Runner, I thought, was phenomenal. I had read Asimov as a kid, and thought it to be pretty straightforward - let's not get carried away with technology, it'll fuck us over some day. Peter K. Dick's Bladerunner is that along with a few more layers. Harrison Ford doesn't play Harrison Ford for a change. The director's cut helped, doing away with the redundant voiceovers, I am told. In any case, I think it was a very mature piece of art, especially, for 1982. Little details like the blood mingling with the liquor into a shot glass when a bleeding Ford drinks from it. Set design was phenomenal, and the film was almost like a film noir set in the future. Would have loved to light that film. Didn't pinpoint the ending because it is a departure from the mental thriller that the rest of the film is, IMO, or probably, because the twist was so huge that it turned 360 degrees. Indeed, the greatest trick the Devil played was to make the world believe he didn't exist.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
The book begins with the end of John's cricketing career and talks about his body telling him to stop, but his mind not agreeing, leading him to his coaching career. He started off with the English county team Kent and produced results. After failing to land the job as the Kiwi coach, John landed arguably the second hottest seat in world cricket. The Kent job couldn't have been more different from the India one.
From the outset, the decision to hire a foreign coach was met with a lot of resistance, especially from ex-players, who thought they could do a better job. However, John did make friends as well, in Raj Singh Dungarpur, and was also, in Jagmohan Dalmiya's good books. He doesn't talk about Ganguly all that much, treating the relationship as more professional than personal. Kaif seems to be a favorite of his, along with Javagal Srinath, VVS Laxman and Anil Kumble. According to the book, he was very drawn to players who weren't from the big cities.
I think the most important reason that his tenure as coach worked was that he recognized the fact that cricket was a religion in India, and identified answering the hungry public with results, as one of his action items. There are passages in the book that talk about people lining up for hours in small towns to wave at the tinted windows of the passing bus with their heroes in it, and rendezvous' with the cab driver, or an enthusiastic teenager, who had grave justification for shuffling the batting order.
He also recognized that each player needed different one on one coaching, such as Tendulkar needed more direction, while some of the younger players needed more technical tips. He was the first coach to push for and succeed in getting the Indian team a trainer and a physio. One of his regrets is not being able to manage a bowling coach. I am sure he is glad that since his departure, that has been taken care of.
The Pakistan tour receives more attention than others in the book, not just because of the Indian team's astounding success there, but mainly because of the off-field activities, like the warm hospitality or the affinity in culture that John observed. What makes this book appealing to even non-cricket enthusiasts, I would imagine, is the lack of cricket data and an emphasis on the emotions and the little humorous anecdotes of the players while on tour. The great Aussie series at home is mentioned, but again, Harbhajan's state of mind is discussed more than how many wickets he took. Ganguly waving his shirt at the English is discussed but not how much he scored. John doesn't talk about the statistics from the disastrous Kiwi tour, but instead chooses to talk about his chagrin at having to play on crazy pitches and defend his team in front of his friends. The ambition of the man comes to the fore as he calls the World Cup campaign mostly a failure by citing the crushing defeat to the Aussies in the final.
The media often showed John to be a meek man. This is far from the truth and nothing but a revelation of the myopia of the media in failing to recognize professionalism. John says he tried to maintain his grim face during games, and after a while stopped caring about the media reports calling him cold. He accepts mistakes like loosing his temper with players initially, with the maturity reflected by gray locks.
The depressing parts of the book deal with internal politics in Indian cricket, mostly in selection committee meetings, about how, real talent is getting overlooked at the grass root level. He was also very lonely during the weekends in India, when all the players went home, but he couldn't. He spent a couple of Christmases alone - a quiet meal, a lonely beer, the same hotel room, and also lost his father during his tenure as coach. The loneliness ultimately got to him and he quit after transforming the team in six years.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Friday, February 20, 2009
I am not painting the feather with a million colors and making it chase other garish ones around trees, nor is it dodging bullets. You want the feather to tickle you, or to soak up your tears, or live its predictable life of failing twice to make the Queen's bathrobe, but finally succeeding. The feather has to be cut to the size of your liking, and has to make decisions about whether to join a boa or be a bookmark. If the feather goes crazy and decides to turn itself into a tortoise shell, you decide it is way too out there to alter, but you cannot stand a free floating non-existential feather.
It doesn't matter that the feather is politely suggesting that you leave your shell and let yourself float like itself, that you are a feather, that we all are, and more like you are making us believe that we are just tortoise shells, not feathers, by introducing unromantic things like gravity and fans. The feather's not forcing you, because celluloid is made from freedom, is it not? Or am I completely naive to dream about free-spirited feathers blowing in the wind of magic realism?
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
The scene starts off with a shot of a curtain blowing in the window, and dollies back to reveal our characters in bed. This separates them in their own little world, from the outside world and the gentle breeze suggests happy times. The sound of an alarm clock shatters the peace, which is a recurring cathartic theme in the trilogy.
Aparna gets up from the bed to turn the alarm off, but her saree is tied to Apu's quilt. She unties the knot and slaps him on his back in mock anger. Apu wakes up slowly and pulls out one of Aparna's hairpins from underneath her pillow and gives it a longing look, as if he is already missing her. All these elements – the tied saree, showing their connection, the little gesture (slap) and longing look show the subtle love on screen, at a time when censorship was very big in Indian cinema. The camera lingers on Apu a tad longer than usual, transporting us, the audience to our mental state when we wake up in the morning.
Aparna is framed up in a wide shot through the doorway, making her appear very small in the frame, alluding to her having to cope with worldly matters such as married life at such a young age. A train can be heard approaching. Trains are also a recurring theme in the trilogy and Apu has a very bittersweet relationship with trains, since he lost his elder sister at a young age, with whom he would run after trains. The note in the cigarette pack is also another plant to show subtle love.
While Aparna deals with the cockroach, Apu is playing a flute in the background. This outlines the differences in their characters. Apu is the dreamer, while Aparna, probably forced by circumstances, is more worldly. The train's whistle is unpleasantly loud for Aparna, and she moves away from the terrace. A melancholic Sitar tune strikes up as Apu feels guilty for subjecting Aparna to hardships. There are black crows flying – another sign of negativity.
Apu is engulfed in smoke as he steps on to the terrace – from the trains and from the clay oven, reflecting his clouded and anxious state of mind. The blocking here is key. Soumitra Chatterjee, the actor playing Apu is staged so that it appears the trains' smoke is coming out of his head. There are a series of lamp-posts in the background, signifying the road Apu and Aparna have to travel together in life.
When he comes back into the room, she is framed extreme right while he is more centered, but still to the left. He is unclear about exactly how she is feeling. There is a little doll in the background, which signifies that mentally Aparna is still a little girl. There is an inverted triangle shape behind Aparna, which traditionally signifies the divine feminine. When Apu leaves the room, we see a topor, a Bengali traditional wedding hat on the wall, which provides a stark contrast to the doll.
When Apu comes back to the room, he asks Aparna to step aside, exactly the same way she asked asked him a few minutes earlier, again showing their bond. Aparna walks up to Apu and places her chin on his shoulder reassuringly. Not only is this one of the most aesthetically pleasing shots of Bengali cinema, it suggests her support for her husband, and is a silent promise to be at his side when the going gets tough. Here we notice that the vermillion on Aparna's forehead is slightly smeared, thus showing a coming of age maturity, previously unseen in her by the audience. Sharmila Tagore, the actress playing Aparna, looks like the Goddess Durga here with the vermillion and her luxuriant dark hair open, who traditionally protects her followers. It may not be a happy accident that she has a slightly protruding chin, making her face almost an inverted triangle. As opposed to taking up another tutoring job, she asks him to quit his current tutoring job so that she wouldn't have anything to repine about, thus answering his question, and also creating another pointer to subtle love.
In the international film circuit, the film was nominated for a BAFTA in '62 and won the Sutherland Trophy in '59 and the NBR Award in '60. Satyajit Ray received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Oscar's in '92 on his death-bead after Kurosawa pushed for him and Scorcese threatened to boycott the Oscars if Ray was denied the award.
Note: I couldn't find the entire scene on Youtube, but this is the very end of the scene and a little bit after.
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