Wednesday, May 31, 2006

gael garcia bernal is swiss

“fruity", "dry" or "clear"? I don't know. All I know is, certain red wines give me a headache every time. I don't have an acquired taste for wine. I argue back, shit is also an acquired taste if you feed yourself enough of it.
I refuse to demonstrate the herd behaviour, yet to my own dismay, would regurgitate some old borrowed, and much re-cycled words every time I take a sip... close my deluded eyes and whisper under my breath, "mmm … simply out of the world!!!"

I prefer the bitterness of dark chocolates though... over caramel cadburys. No fudge, no pink and yellow sprinkles, or crispy crème doughnuts… give me that pure unadulterated bitterness any day... with a tinge of hidden sweetness... that would promise to melt in 3 secs straight.

Monday, May 29, 2006

How I gave up air-conditioning for a day...

If we go along with the whole being trapped in a doll-house thing, then KJ turns out to be a major bully in the nursery. There are other bullies in the nursery as well, and given a chance maybe I desire to do some of the bullying myself, but for now I will present my miserable state through KJ.

Anyway, as I was saying, KJ is that bully kid who gets to play with all the dolls and doesn’t want to share. He only shares hand-me-downs. Maybe once in a while throws one at you to make you run out of the room in tears. Or breaks one of your favourite dolls, by jumping on it till its poor head is crushed and is left there unrecognisable. You see, I think dolls are fragile creatures (no matter if Leo-Mattel says they are made of hardy child-proof plastic), things you dress up and display. They don’t take to rough handling too well. And the more expensive they are, the more specific they become – you know Barbie is not just Barbie anymore – but is Barbie the Nurse-gone-bad, Barbie the AIDS-Charity-bash-Hostess, Barbie the Marathon Runner…there is one Barbie for one role. Lose that Barbie, and you lose the nurse. Unless of course Dad-dee buys you a replacement.

Besides, their walkie-talkie records get scratched and they begin to screech incomprehensibly. The joints in their limbs wear down and instead of marching smartly, or waddling in that cute little way of theirs, they start spinning around like a tap. Their tiny plastic tear sacs get damaged so that they don’t hold water and cry for us to go “awwww”. Playing dolls with KJ, you end up with plastic forms devoid of the fake emotions they once engaged us with, the programmed spontaneity they once entertained us with. And suddenly the nursery feels like The Land of the Dead.

Which in itself can be a whole lot of fun, if you forget the air-conditioned nursery. It is true it can be a bhatti (oven) and that the sand between your fingers and toes can get itchy, but all in all at least there aren’t any bullies (apparently they don’t like the heat very much). Only puppets…at first, I don’t really know what to do, because here I thought all they were good for were as ethnic curios one got from Gurjari. Besides they are all just hanging there, staring blankly back at me. (Which is actually kind of freaky). Used to dolls getting damaged and hence worthless, I am hesitant to do anything. Then I realize that in fact, these puppets have limp arms, and no legs to begin with, so how bad can it get? With no fancy joints, but just a couple of strings that made a mockery of movement, I could mock movement. And as long as I hold up the strings, the puppet stands, kneels, sits, sleeps, faints, bows, dances…this is fun! I can poke pins in it, and I can choose if it yelps or gets tickled. And if I get tired, it gets tired. The point is, in this land of the dead, staring-back-in your-face-limp-ungadgeted toy everything is waiting to be alive again. Nothing gets worn out, except your fingers. Nothing gets scratched except your throat. And nothing gets replaced besides ideas.

When Mum calls me in for dinner, I tell Amol Palekar of what a grand old time I had in his sun scorched playground. Of course I don’t take to heat very well (who does?), and thank goodness for air conditioners, but for now, that cool comfort has just lost its appeal ever so slightly.

(ps: by the way, if you are in search for other fun times, sans bullies, Jiri Trnka, the Brothers Quay, Kihachiro Kawamoto and Garri Bardin are a whole lot of fun. Dad-dee may have to buy the plane tickets to the Czech Republic, England, Japan or Russia, but the trip is definitely worth it).

How golden is black?

Imagine the deepest crevice of the Pacific… where no spec of light ever reaches, and the sound, taste or smell is unfamiliar, incomprehensible and/or nonexistent to our natural senses. ‘Pitch’ does not even come close to describing this black, because it has joined hands with the unknown and the silent. Imagination becomes a foe when two of the five friendly senses cease to cooperate. And our lonely sixth sense has no other choice but to surrender to the only plausible and possible impulse that is fear.

I admit I could not sit through more than 15 minutes of this (highly) “critically-acclaimed”, “one-of-a-kind”, a “milestone” of a movie called Black. It made me wonder about the meaning of black and its affinity to silence (or the lack of it, in this case). How silent is silence in the world of a child who cannot see, hear or speak? How comfortable is silence to a child whose sight and hearing have abandoned him? Or how friendly or fearful is silence for a child to whom the mystery of language has not been revealed? Tragically, this movie outright refuses to acknowledge the omnipresence of silence that engulfs the subject matter.

Based loosely (or rather set tightly) on the life of Helen Keller, here is a child burdened with triple disabilities of blindness, deafness and a severe speech impediment. The all-knowing, ever-perceptive teacher (played by the demi-God of Indian movie history, AB Baby “the one who does no wrong”) takes the child under his wing as an experimentation to his methodical teaching.

The initial 15 minutes of high volume noise pollution was incurred by 15 minutes of high intensity melodrama and verbal diarrhoea between characters at play. I was amazed at the lack of logic behind all the rage, impatience and frustration of the teacher. His infuriated tirade at the child is often associated with vigorous shaking of the child out of her wits (borderline physical abuse?) as he lectures her on the virtues of table manners. The poor kid cannot even hear! (For the ignorant newbie to this genre, “high level of shrieking and noise-making is imperative for “BOND”-ing between characters in “desi” movies.)

While the rest of the audience ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ at the teacher’s dedication, and supposed wisdom, I tweedle my thumbs some more, and wonder if the intention behind all that noise and violence is highly noble. Did the director underestimate viewers’ intelligence to grasp the context, and thus felt the need to spell it all out (a raw insult not to be taken kindly)? Or has silence become a moot point (‘moo’ to some, ‘mute’ to others) in conversations and has lost its golden glory? I dearly hope it’s the first.

Admirably Black is true to its nature... hue and saturation… in the desolation, austerity, and skepticism of the affluent bourgeois family of the Victorian era… or in the monochromatic language of cinematography… beautiful, yet sombre. Yet there is more to blackness than the director wanted us to believe. One needs to fathom both the beauty and the dread of silence that encapsulates black, and understand how to connect with silence and make it less fearful.

Pleased with my analysis, I get up and turn the TV off to find solace in the darkness of the screen and the sudden quietness it ensured. Yes, black and silence can be synonymous. So, here’s a riddle… if black is silent, and silence is golden, then how golden is Black?

Monday, May 22, 2006

My voodoo doll is passive-aggressive

while still on the subject (May 19 post by toski), guess who's the biggest, most revered passive- aggressor in the history of all passive- aggressors in subcontinental celluloid and literature? It's our very own Devdaas, hands down.
Look at 1900, Bengali literature... ... Manipulative, egotistical, vindictive, cowering, spineless males confronted by their strong, aggressive, conscientious, down-to-earth female counterparts. Think of the females, a Mejodidi (Sharatchandra), a Shorbojoya (panther panchali, Bibhutibhushan), a Charulata (Tagore) or a Binodini (Chokher Bali, Tagore), only to name a few... take stands, put their feet down for love, for dignity, for whatever, even at the risk of losing their all and becoming an outright pariah. These apparent emotional wrecks, have evidently shown far more integrity, emotionally or otherwise.

Fast forward to the 21st century celluloid..... All the glory of modernization / westernization couldn't do much for the spines of our subcontinental males. The hapless hero still wins the love, sympathy & applause of the audience. He is a true successor of Devdaas. Example, Dilwale Dulhania..., KKKK (do you really care what that stands for?), or Kuch kuch... (only to name a few). Seriously, how can you resist those big, teary, sad, beaten-down puppy eyes??? He makes big empty promises, gets beaten up black and blue, exploits the dadima, emotionally blackmails the teen sister-in-law, sits at your feet with a lovelorn, dazed look, and keeps clawing at your leg so you'd give him some more doggie biscuits. And the girl/or her family eventually goes "enough!! You will get what you want ... now stop crying !!" And once again, it's the victory of "True Love", a la manipulation & passive-aggression!!!
all I can say is .... get over it people, its been over 100 years... !!! And now if you'll excuse me, I need to go to my bedroom, and stick another needle up my doll's behind.

Friday, May 19, 2006

We are like that only. Is that okay, ji?

Bashing Bollywood is rather easy – Karan Johar films, even more so. Because logic…not of much importance here. Sab kuchh idea mein hai. [It is all in the idea]. That itself is not such a bad idea, I suppose. In many ways this genre is indicative of what is good and bad about super-duper hits. It is masturbatory, nearly apolitical, only barely satirical, and without larger purpose. What it is not is clever, talented, witty, critical, and wide-ranging in its targets and techniques.

Or so I thought. Much like Dubya (George W.), it is easy to dismiss the apparently illogical. It turns out that there’s logic alright, and it is not obscure, eclectic or dumb (yes, there is such a thing as dumb logic). Insiduous, yes… motivated with an agenda – oooooh.

Take KJ’s breakthrough film KKHH (Kuchh Kuchh Hota Hai – trans. Something, Something is happening). On the face of it, a rather soul-crushingly sickening (saccharine-wise), but fairly elaborately composed melodrama on everlasting friendships (I didn’t say that, KJ did – he seems to love to summarize his films before we settle down in our seats with a grandiose “It’s all about…” – feel free to fill in with parents, love, friendship, traditions – yup, those will all work. Come rain, come hail, my love (friendly-like) for you will never fail. It may express itself through jealousy, lust, possessiveness; but itwon’t fail. No, but that apart, my point is that I don’t have any bones to pick here. If KJ wants to create some bizarre, obsessive, static love between his protagonists, fine by me. Seriously. Hey, I even thought the title song was well composed; very well composed – visually and spatially exploring the inherent ambiguity in symmetry brought on by three[some!!!], compared to two . Like I said, very interesting, compositionally… but I digress…

Anyway, back to where the bone is, then. I am gob-smacked over how manipulative True Love [TL] has to be – I mean whether in the guise of a [insanely] prosperous, pouty widower, an eight year old cherub, or a dead mum who even in her last moments is making jokes about her [pouty] husband’s looks – TL basically deploys out and out guerilla tactics in its warfare. Ingenious, but quite disturbing. But TL is no Che. As the protagonist, TL is a kewpie doll. [S]He's cute and cuddly, and quick to back down. [S]He laces actions with some self-deprecation, so you know [s]he's a "regular joe-shmoe," and above all, [s]he makes no enemies. [S]He doesn't take shots, lobs weak spitballs and then cowers under diffidence. It's easy to like TL because [s]he's toothless. Hmmmm, vaguely familiar….

That wouldn't be such a problem, perhaps, if the rest of the recurring characters weren't so damned happy with themselves for being smart and what was the operative word…aaahh-yes, “coo-ool”. It's always the same shtick: find some really stupid person, place, or thing out there in the world – like the caricatures of, first, nostalgia, that Johnny Lever’s character was made into, of progressive piety that was the grandmum or a frustrated spinster that was the teacher -- and pose situational questions implying, "When did you first know that you were insane?" while never breaking the ‘comedic’ delivery. Though the targets don't respond to the irony that's all too obvious, we get to laugh the laugh of the insider.

It's a tough challenge, to make a living of polite. So, I understand when films like KKHH make the choice to keep their work as light as a soufflé. It's just that at some point, as you chuckle your way through the yummy appetizers, you have to start wondering what you might have tasted, and if you ever got served the main course.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

"... and when he was bad, he was horrid... "

July 2002... the last time I learnt something new, when my now-ex, very matter of factly told me “there are 15 shades of grey between the black and white polarities of human personality” (Till now I have succeeded figuring out only 7). Absolute "black & white", "right & wrong", "good & evil" don’t exist. These are clever myths my mother invented to punish me with while I was growing up. It was easy you see. Who has the patience to appease an 8-year-old’s constant “whys” and “hows”?
Eons later, once again I subject myself to the same idiosyncrasies watching a period movie called Asoka. And once again, I witness the same impatience. The director, without my consent, force-fed me what I have already learnt (and later rejected) in my high school of unoriginal thoughts. The Absolute saintly Asoka, and his Absolute devilish counterpart, the Bad Asoka. No wait, since he is the hero we all are supposed to empathize with, he is “the weird, psycho guy, driven by love and betrayal”.
Trouble is, I was eager to feast on an intriguing, hardcore historical documentation on the most remarkable, eccentric, and most powerful emperor of India, Asoka, with all his predatory foreign policies, and puritanical streaks. But, instead, I got stuck with the journey of dharm-asoka to psycho-asoka and back and forth… all for his love for this woman (And, she is not even real!). Well, who again has the time and patience to study the grey shades of human nature and understand what drives them on? It’s the absolut vodka, which when prepared, has nothing absolute about it. Pick a flavor, stir and strain into a chilled champagne glass, top up with apple peel garnish, and serve in style… … whatever looks and feels good, by ongoing trend. And thus, all through out the movie, our hero skips and jumps from absolute psychodom to absolute sainthood … flirting with our moral faculties... and something inside me dies a natural death.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


What is at stake is the definition of the truly ‘Indian’, as also the exaltation of ‘our’ culture. From this perspective, Indian culture is seen as best mirrored in the past: in our monumental architecture, our ancient scriptures, our performing arts, our textiles. The emphasis is clearly on a ‘high’ culture, which claimed unbroken continuity with the pre-colonial past. For different reasons, then, expressions are marked by embarrassed negotiation or unduly celebratory approaches to Indian culture. These approaches to culture may not be equipped to deal with the extraordinary transformations and political mobilizations that continually take place. Yet, these changes are ‘cultural’ changes, in the sense that culture refers to ways of life, and more than ever, ways of struggle.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

packaged curry anyone...?

...with mint leaves for "mukhvas" neatly packaged on the side.
so, I am watching the Daily Show this evening, like most evenings, and it hits me.
What we are getting is a tv dinner of pani puri. Not that there is anyhting wrong with that - after all, there is the puri, and the pani, and the chana, potatoes, moong - and if lucky, a bit of the masala. Any random mix will do for I said before, neatly packaged and looking very beau-ti-ful. No more debates on whether Calcutta has the best golgappa, or Delhi or Bombay, or (I have to throw this in!) Teen Darwaza. I crave pani puri, and I get pani puri. Besides, by now it has got to a desperation that the idea of eating it will do - in fact with a bit of imagination, I can create the backdrop right from my couch. With a smoke machine. Issue settled, no?

Adopted children make good pets

because they are loyal, full of gratitude, shock-proof (once the initial 2 secs revelation is over), and constantly guilt-ridden.
Reveal their true identity only when they choose to marry the girl you don't approve of. Whoever told you adoption was a risky bargain for wealthy, aristocratic, stiff upper-lipped, "desi" families like yours was totally insane. Afterall, you have given him love, food and shelter. Drive your son to the verge of abusing prescription drugs by admonishing him how his ultra-english upbringing was not good enough to turn his blood to the perfect shade of blue you wanted. Hereditary.. schmereditary. He will come around... because he is, after all, the most grateful and loyal of all creatures.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Give me more...

...because I am going to throw up afterwards anyway. No harm done - diet still on.

'We haven't changed - it's the West's attitude that has changed,' is the loud declaration about the sudden interest in Bollywood, a term we personally find derogatory, as if Indian cinema only existed in terms of its powerful Western cousin. 'We have our own identity,' we insist, 'which we're keen to hold on to.' Even if it chokes us. What a sacrifice! - Remember to add that ai-taim in the upcoming film...and remember to consume miles of celluloid to stretch that choking.

In fact, damn restraint altogether...have 10 different storylines (WOW!) to the one or two in a Hollywood movie - and make it demanding for an actor with action, come-edy, dance and song (never forget the singing and dancing)...every time we have tried to make something smart and too intelligent that has no link with our kal-chur of excess, it has failed. Better to have people vigorously dancing on taxis singing "Its Time to Disco". On with the inane, or insane. Take your pick.

Scripts are not considered that important... with a tradition of making it up as they go along - improvisations…it is being cooked - to a curry. Everything is curry anyway - chicken, mutton, phiss. Extraordinarily, impossibly rich Boy meets girl from slums, which are also not that bad [looking]. They fall in love, and the girl gets a world tour, first class (sadly, no free drinks) - perm between Delhi campus, British shopping centre, Australian beach, Rajah's palace, Swiss Alps, Egyptian pyramids and Scottish mansion. The more mountains the better. Boy’s family – oh, no - the father – objects to girl. Boy wants to dump girl, because is scared of Dadd-ee. But lo! Girl is suddenly all alone! Boy takes pity – how noble. What loving going on. Then is nap time. One wakes up to find The Big Wedding Number, which is a must. If one can fit in happy villagers celebrating the harvest so much the better.

So there we are, after much ogling at good looking boy, girl, even dadd-ee – an empty stomach. Like I said, diet still very much on.

this is for us...

... the movie lovers and the dreamers.
... all the needy, clingy, hormonal sugar-cravers with their secret stash of tissues and tubs of vanilla in the freezer...
... all the bettys, archies and veronica-wanna-bes alongwith their good-old riverdale high...
... yes, i know. You need a shoulder to cry-on because you need love, and wish you had dealt with all your childhood issues already. Or yes, you didn't get that girl in highschool because you had serious self-esteem issues, and a bad acne break-out didn't help much.
... don't we all.
Name one person who doesn't have a secret dream to flaunt his new GAP hoodie (PRADA who?) and turn heads in that sleek chic red thunderbird (environment-friendly doors a must-have) on the first day of college (coed) ... come to think of it, I literally had that fantasy when I was 14.
... yes, we would all love to settle abroad... london, america, italy, who cares... as long as it is somewhere in the west, because .... well, don't tell anyone, but we are all kind of secretly fascinated with the idea of living in the west. But, offcourse, we love our countries to death, I mean don't get me wrong!
... yes, this website is a tribute to all of us who love karan johar movies, because he is one of us, and we all think he is the best thing that had ever happened next to frozen pizzas.