Thursday, December 27, 2007


he woke up paralysed

and found that he was no more

than a tangle of thoughts.

Flotsam I Am

So many times I've felt exactly like this. Going somewhere.....reaching nowhere. I haven't yet made up my mind if this is a good thing or something that is to my detriment.

Pre-determined destinations have never been my friends. I continue to drift among strands of thoughts that don't tie up to form a web and ideas that melt as quickly as they form.

One tends to float or amble towards a general destination with no road maps in hand. Reaching nowhere is not exactly a dead end. It's more like coming to a clearing which stretches as far as the eye can see.

So the best thing to do I suppose is to walk on....

Saturday, December 22, 2007

List-en to this...

I adore making lists. It gives me an absurd sense of purpose and the (often false) feeling that there is order where there appears to be chaos. But my lists are not always functional. Quite the contrary actually. Riffling through old notebooks, journals and the innumerable pieces of loose paper I hoard (I'll get into that subject some other time) I found list after list of things, names, activities, places, people, words and thoughts. (I was reminded of the film Pillow Book (1996) by director Peter Greenaway. The film had a fascination for lists - lists of a more 'bohemian' nature.)

I was going through the Top Ten section at Random lists submitted by readers of their top ten favourite films. Thats what got me thinking about lists in the first place. I have never succeeded in making my own "top ten" list of films. It's horribly tempting what with film magazines, e-zines and TV shows throwing lists at you from every direction. Best Directors, Best Films, All Time Greats, Top Ten Film Noir, Best Musicals and so on and so forth. Sight and Sound had asked renowned film directors for their own lists. One of the directors said "I won't put Citizen Kane on that list just because every list in the world tells me to!' Fair enough. And I don't blame said director for the outburst. Lists are sensitive things. You have to be careful what you put on it. When I tried making such a list I felt so burdened that I had to abandon the venture. How do you decide the criteria for such a list? And why only ten? Why not five or fifteen? Since then I have stuck to making lists that come with far less responsibility and where the criteria are not as important as the making of the list itself! It's been good going so far.

A list is ordinarily prioritised. Some things are more important while others are not so. Some things demand immediate attention while others may be content to wait a while. But then there are the lists that are simply there because someone felt like making a list. An idle mind is the perfect source of an odd little list. And the possibilities are endless!

My own lists include:
My favourite words with each letter of the alphabet
The books I simply must read before I die and a list of all the books I have ever read (it's a work in progress)
The films that I think have changed the way I look at cinema
'Indian' English words that I think are indispensable
Names for my dog when I do get one
Hindustani Classical Ragas that give me goosebumps and/or make me cry
Possible subjects for a research paper tracing the material history of an object (e.g. paper, cotton, salt, indigo etc.)
Overrated film classics (next in line is underrated film classics)
Credit lists for my various film projects
Thank you lists for various things
Things I learnt from Mumbai
Words to look up in the dictionary (obsequious, eponymous words like that)
Things to do when hopelessly bored
A list of my most vivid childhood memories

And now......A list of lists! How fitting!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Blogito Ergo Sum?

The great thing about blogs is not that you get to write, vent, display your wares or publish stuff you think no one will ever read anyway. The great thing is the whole universe of bloggers that opens up once you have discovered and unraveled for yourself some uncharted blog territory. Blog-hopping is great fun and immensely satisfying I think. Not all of it is good - far from it. But it's almost like a silent conversation with people adding to it on their own, bit by bit. A conversation that doesn't really have a beginning, middle and end. One that is prone to many many tangential departures. Some of which you may not understand or be able to contribute to. While some of it might strike a chord and you might find yourself smiling a little because you understand.

A friend remarked that she would NEVER use her blog as a personal diary. Neither would I. But there are many who do just that. I have come across several blogs that give so much away about the author, that one immediately feels like an unwanted visitor. An intruder in violation of personal space. The argument is simplified by saying that if it's out there then it's meant to be read. Of course. But have we discarded our traditional notions of what is public and private? Conventional ideas of space? Blogs perhaps exist - as does most of the content on the internet - in the turbulent space in between the two spheres of public and private. The lines are fine and blurry. A post might be plain rhetoric - not meant to be answered or discussed. Sometimes it is provocative and invites argument and quarrel. It may seek definition or defy it altogether. A blog derives meaning from dialogue, from this dynamic relationship that the author establishes with the universe of bloggers. It grows in most cases. But there is also death and decay. A wasteland of abandoned blogs - conversations left incomplete.

An article in Tehelka about "Celebrity Blogs" says Blogs are cults of personality, read for the tastes, idiosyncrasies, lifestyle and preoccupations of the blogger." Cults of personality! Indeed, it is a cult with faithful followers, timid first-timers and incorrigible zealots who work tirelessly in order to make this a cult worth subscribing to. My own preoccupation with blogs has been somewhat of a mystery to me. Is it really "Blogito Ergo Sum" - I blog therefore I am? No, not by any stretch of imagination. But it might be "I am therefore I blog." Just that. Nothing more, nothing less.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Cinephilia - Young Love

I wish I could boast of having been a cinephile since the day I was born. The truth however is bland and stares me in the face. I am incredibly envious of those die-hard movie-buffs who fed off of cinema and scaled walls to catch the latest film in town. I have vivid memories of going to the circus that came to the Red Fort grounds and the puppet show in Sri Ram Center, but no such memory about going to the cinema hall.
I do remember the films that I watched as a child. Back then the fascination was with the stories and characters - not so much the medium itself. I was completely taken by The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins and Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang. The musical was such a spectacle and it was thrilling to watch Julie Andrews and Dick-Van-Dyke do such wonderful routines to the music. The video-store near our house was a regular weekend haunt. VHS tapes of Tom and Jerry, Lion King, Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar, Mr. India, Home Alone and much later, Lawrence of Arabia made their way into our home. There was also a most wonderful television channel called DD3 (Doordarshan 3) which showed films like Born Free and The Gods Must Be Crazy. But my engagement with the material was far less than with say, books, music and theatre.

The film appreciation course at NID in my first year was something of an eye-opener. We watched films like Jojo's Cafe and Wedding and standard film-school fare like De Sica's Bicycle Thief. Alain Resnai's hauntingly beautiful Hiroshima Mon Amour left me bewildered. It was so lyrical, so sublime and yet so powerful. There were other films and directors whose work I learned to appreciate and identify - Truffaut's Les Mistons, Ozu's Tokyo Story, Zhang Yimou's Ju Dou, Pontecorvo's Battle of Algiers, Welles's Citizen Kane, Godard's Breathless and Weekend and My Life To Live, Ray's Aparajito, Chaplin's The Great Dictator and Modern Times, Antonioni's Red Desert, Resnais's Night and Fog, Kieslowski's Three Colours Red White and Blue,Almodovar's Talk To Her and All About My Mother, Scorsese's Raging Bull and Goodfellas, Vertov,s Man With A Movie Camera and Robert Weine's Cabinet of Dr. Caligari to name a few. It was then that I began to really look at cinema. I saw it as the perfect amalgam of the great traditions in art, literature, music and theater. It was a social and historical document. It was unique in that it was imbued with the value of the fourth dimension - the dimension of time.

When I watched Giuseppe Tornatore's Cinema Paradiso, I felt a strange kinship with the little boy Toto who grows up to be a filmmaker. The enigma of cinema - the nearly magical projector, the sound of film whirring through it and the dancing translucent images on the screen - is hard to shake off once of you have experienced it. Today this romantic notion of film and cinema is being replaced by something far less tactile. Something that has changed the very foundation of filmmaking and has empowered many more people to make films. There is nothing even remotely romantic about digital technology. Nothing to touch and feel. No sounds that reassure. The world of objects reduced in one fell swoop to some binary code and little squares that are inadequate from the start.

I am in no position to speak of the joys of one medium as opposed to the perceived ills of another. I haven't had the opportunity to fiddle with a film projector or use the lithe video camera, almost an appendage of the human arm when in use, in diverse ways. I do not wish to debate over the subject of analog and digital - though it is changing the very nature of communication - because I am no expert. But I will say this - if i were to strike up a romance with one of the two, it would undoubtedly be the former.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Beginning of An End

It's odd that one should speak of beginnings and endings when in fact it is impossible to separate one from the other. It still hasn't sunk in that there won't be another semester of NID to go back to.But now, going back will mean new ways of seeing. Looking at the same spaces and being amazed at how powerful a drug nostalgia really is. Memory hinges on the permanence of these spaces so that even when familiar faces are few and far between the past is never too far away. Nevertheless you sense change, a callous disregard for the old and an unabashed acceptance of anything that reeks of the new. It's a bitter pill to swallow but you learn to take it in your stride. The spaces you once laid claim to are now populated by the hopes, aspirations and miseries of a new set of people. Ferociously territorial once you were about that one desk by the window in your studio. You return to it anxious to find a trace that betrays your presence. Instead you find an intruder in YOUR space. Eager to reclaim what you consider to be yours you make your presence felt. But then you recognise the intruder. It could have been you.

Sometimes the memory of a place and the time spent within it is so strong that you want to posess it in its entirety. And so when you go back you look for confirmation - a sign that tells you "Look here - this brick is exactly the way you left it!" Sometimes you find it so and it's enough for the time being.

(photography by: Sanjay ; Holi at NID)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


Watching a film for the second time often tempers initial reactions and rash judgements. It is a good opportunity to sit back and let the story run its course while you begin to notice scenes, actions and gestures previously overlooked. I went to see Chak De with a friend for the second time and realised that while there are some gaps in the storytelling and hints of over-indulgence, by and large the film comes together quite well. This is not a review. Merely a few observations borne out of a fresh perspective.

- Great directing of the sporting action by director and cinematographer. The action is superbly filmed and places the game with all its nuances in the spotlight.

- Sensitive handling of sound. Split-second delays, restrained use of background music and treatment of silences as sound added value to the action

- Superb construction of certain key charcters. Especially Bindiya Naik whose conflicts and angst are laid bare in the manner in which she is framed in the film.

-Great acting by Shilpa Shukla whose body language was powerful and evocative, as she tried to bring the world-weary, no-nonsense Bindiya Naik to life. In the scenes she shares with Shahrukh she rises in stature and is on par every step of the way.

- The camera was eloquent when it came to the staging of particularly tense moments or moments of despair. The close-ups of the players at key points controlled the mood of the scene beautifully.

- The last scene was unnecessary and too overtly sentimental. The little sikh boy was just too much. I'm sure he used the hockey stick to beat up a small kid.

- Abhimanyu singh had the worst lines in the film. Even if his character was essentially a wimp his dailogues made sure he came across as a complete moron.

- The resolution of bindiya's conflict was far too simple and dispensed off without enough thought. It was an oversimplification of an otherwise complex character.

At the end of the day its an entertaining film. Definitely worth a watch.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Chak De I say!!

Chak De India was one of those movies which earns grudging respect from even the harshest critic despite the usual barrage of stereotypes and narrative cliches that it contains. I was pleasantly surprised by what Shimit Amin and more importantly, Yash Raj Films had put on the table. Chak De India is no pathbreaker but it is a more than credible effort at a subject that has been grossly misrepresented in the past.

Yash Raj Films can very well take a bow for it has a lot to be proud of as far as this feature is concerned. Imagine a Chak De centered around cricket. Easy isnt it? Then again the sport itself is not the be all and end all of the film. The hockey that we see is played with passion (and shot with zest) but never forced down our throats by eulogising players - the sort one would immediately associate with cricket. The emphasis is instead on the act of playing. "Play like nothing else matters in those 70 minutes" is what Kabir Khan tells his rakshas-sena. And they do. Jingoistic drivel is never too far away with "play for your country" kind of sloganeering lurking in the shadows. Perhaps it was screenwriter Jaideep Sahni (of Khosla ka Ghosla fame) who tied all the loose ends together with his dialogue that flowed with such ease in the face of heavyweight issues like patritotism, spotrs(wo)manship and national identity.

Clearly Chak De was not an attempt at one-upmanship in order to re-establish Hockey as the national sport despite Cricket being the universal favourite. It simply sought to pay heed to a sport that has never found its place in the sun. And it is a sport that is immensely demanding of its patrons and requires dextrous skill. The tongue-in-cheek references to cricket weren't lost on anyone.

I was impressed by the sound characterisation in the film. From Kabir Khan to Bindiya Naik (one of the most alluring figures in the film) to Komal Chautala to the matronly Krishna Ji. They were full-blooded characters with genuinely complex stories behind them. There were several poignant moments in the film which could have so easily slipped over to melodrama. The rabble-rousing Bindiya Naik touted as the most experienced player on the team vows to play by her rules or to not play at all. And one realises that these rules she calls her own are not really determined by her. They have been given to her by a system that is corrupt and where it is as important to play games well as it is to play the sport.

The girls easily steal the show. What the filmmakers did when they chose these fledgling actors over crowd-pulling stars was to choose their script, their story and their characters above the obvious commerce of cinema in India. Of course with Shahrukh himself playing the lead the crowd was already collecting at the ticket counters.

This could very well be one of SRKs better celluloid moments. We are spared the star-studded swagger and the come-hither curl of the lip. No SRK with outstretched arms set off by the Manhattan skyline. No stammering and no hamming. This was Shahrukh the actor not SRK the brand, in action. We see a Shahrukh with stubble and even a few grey hairs, sporting not see-through shirts but ordinary clothes. He is not Raj or Rahul. He is Kabir Khan and that defines his identity and his persona on screen as far as Chak De India! is concerened. His hand comes up in a salaam and not a namaste when he greets the foregin coaches. It is his mulk and qaum not his desh that he talks about. Kabir Khan, forsaken by his country and his people, earns his redemption when his motley bunch wins the championship. (Of course they win!) The scene is played out eloquently. The goalie captain Vidya saves the final goal. (A seconds delay in the sound of the erupting cheers makes all the difference. ) Its done. The team has won. But for Khan it is a vindication only he knows about. We see him standing alone in the frame. He simply stands for a moment before his knees seem to become weak. He falls back a few steps and grabs onto a rail for support. The moment defines Kabir Khan's quest for identity, his quest to reclaim his pride. No expository dialogue could have conveyed what one gesture, executed effortlessly by Shahrukh, conveyed.

Once in a while a film comes along that redefines the way we look at mainstream cinema. Chak De India is not that film. But it is definitely a film that restores faith and gives hope that there is more to Bollywood than meets the eye.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

And Justice for all - on Sanjay Dutt and what it means to be a star

Im all for equality before law. And in times like these where rule of law seems to have become nothing but a textbook term it is even more imperative for the state machinery to uphold and honour the law. But I couldnt help feeling the deepest sympathy for Sanjay Dutt and his family as he was sentenced this Tuesday to 6 years of rigorous imprisonment. Not because hes a filmstar - thoug he IS one of the better ones - but because he did in fact seem to be a changed man.

In our country filmstars and celebrities a have life that seems to run parallel to and at times dangerously at odds with the rest of the nation. The cult of celebrity has captured the imagination of the country in a manner that rivals the most ardent devotee and believer. It is a zealous faith, that borders on fanaticism. I just saw a news item on CNN-IBN about a man who had cut off his finger as an offering at a dargah. All for Sanju Baba. even without one finger his faith is intact. Unshakeable even in the face of evidence and the due process of law that has found Dutt to be guilty.

We may scoff at the obvious irrationality of a fan but trust me - it takes one to know one. One only has to mention "Rajkumar" to get a reaction that will be nothing short of extreme. If his natural death caused a city to be paralysed for two days on account of endemic violence, I wonder what would have happened had Veerappan done the unspeakable when he had the chance. Saira Banu, presumably distressed by the verdict had this to say to the media and anyone who was listening "Had he (Sanjay Dutt) been a South Indian superstar people would have been out on the streets in protest. But here nobody seems to be bothered." It is a strange and extremely self-indulgent statement to make. I say strange because it seems that the cult of celebrity is subscribed to not only by the aam janta but is believed to be the rightful claim of filmstars. By themselves!

It seems natural to ask WHY. Why are the likes of Sanjay Dutt, Amitabh Bachan, Rajkumar and Rajnikant revered and are second only to those images and beliefs we deify as religion? Why does an otherwise sensible human being take his own life in the event of his hero or heroine succumbing to what is only inevitable in natures scheme of things? What have these demigods of cinema given to our teeming millions which no heads of state have been able to give? Why has Munnabhai made Gandhi the new -ism yet again when historians, activists and politicians have notably failed in doing the same? Why have temples been built in the name of Amitabh Bacchan when religion has relentlessly failed its own followers?

Cinema in India belongs to the people. Ramachandra Guha in his sprawling work "India after Gandhi" gives due credit to it as a potent force and a necessary thread in the democratic fabric of the country. But then there are many shadows that lurk on the edges of this bright picture that everyone seems to be so eager to paint. The "film fraternity" in India has remianed consistently apolitical. Even Amir Khan had to reasess his position on NBA when his association with Coke was brought up. A commitment to art is a commitment to society. It cannot be diverged from the same. Amitabh Bacchan was a product of the time. His angry young man was a reflection of society. And he is still riding high on the wave of success that began then.

Why did the film communiy that owes its very foundation to the people, not come out in support for the victims of the Gujarat riots? Instead of paying lip-service to a cause why don't the babus of bollywood make a film on it? Why has there been a conspicuous absence of films being made on the Partition which is a deep fissure on the Indian sub-conscience? In countries like Germany, Italy and the Middle East cinema has provided an avenue for positive debate - a means to acknowledge and come to terms with the past and take stock of the present. One only has to watch films like No Man's Land, Goodbye Lenin or the films of the Makhmalbaf family to realise that cinema can indeed be a force to reckon with. And though I dont believe cinema to be a direct vehicle of change, I know that it is a catalyst and can do wonders for a starved imagination.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Another one bites the dust - red dust?

"My contribution to the formation of a new cinematic language is amatter that concerns critics. And not even today's critics, but ratherthose of tomorrow, if film endures as an art and if my films resist the ravages of time."

Michelangelo Antonioni, 1965

Two greats gone in two days. A staggering loss. I read something on another blog which insinuated that God is trying to have a film festival up in heaven. I wonder what's next.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Obituary : Ingmar Bergman

image courtesy:

INGMAR BERGMAN (1918-2007)
The first film I watched by "the gloomy Swede" was Cries and Whispers. I now think that perhaps I wasnt quite ready at the time to soak in the melancholic strain of the film. It distressed me at the time and left me feeling incredibly vacant. Just as I felt today when I heard of his death.
It takes great courage and fortitude to be able to make films the way Bergman did. Delving deep and often confronting his own demons by asking questions we didn't dare ask ourselves. Intensely personal yet universally humane, his work raised the bar of cinematic practice by diminishing the distance between artistic enterprise and narrative capabilities of the medium.
He will be missed. But more importantly he will be remembered.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


Found this gem in the latest issue of Time Out Mumbai in the regular column by Girish Shahane"

Why Crompton Greaves?
Because Bombay Dyeing.
Why Bombay Dyeing?
Because Gwalior Suiting.

Cause of death on close inspection was revealed to be not a stray "suiting" by said Gwalior but the import of some good old all-American-ness that we confused desis can never get enough of. So Bombay Dyeing because of some Hard Rocking. ;)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Riddle me this

It appears that I have landed myself in some sort of existential conundrum. A question popped into my head enunciated lucidly by the-voice-in-my-head. It said rather slowly so as to magnify its great import and asked "Would you rather be well-read or well-travelled?"

Sticky situations are the best of friends with inadvertant indecision.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Le Corbusier on an idle evening

The following piece is something I had written after a visit to the Ahmedabad Textile Mill Owners' Association - a building designed and realised by the French Architect Charles Edouard Jeanneret - better known as Le Corbusier. Having read about the architect fairly recently my impression of the building was coloured not just by the one visit. However this piece is also an ode to idle evenings that turned into fantastic forays by sheer chance....


We brave the sun and step out. Minds in tow along with watchful eyes and searching steps. Time to be spent wisely. Time not to squander away for the sake of mere leisure. Passionless we must not be for there are many things the eyes have not seen and the ears have not heard and the skin has not felt. And so with foreknowledge that ignorance is bliss to only those who fear knowledge, we set out in search of some sign of meaning. Something that will bellow with confidence when it says to you... "Today you have lived! And so you may pause - not rest - but pause untill tomorrow dawns and you will know nothing once again."

Rest assured ours was not such a lofty mission. We only sought to spend some time doing something other, something more constructive and rewarding (well in retrospect at least) than sleeping, eating and generally whiling away precious seconds, minutes and hours of days that pass only too quickly.

It isnt too difficult to find something to do in Ahmedabad. My opinion was quite the opposite about three years ago but much has changed since then. And opinions are the most fickle and transient of all things human. Four years in an odd little mixed up city which cant seem to make up its mind whether it likes wood, brick, concrete, glass, acrylic or plastic to adorn its many faces with.Four years is not too much to boast about in the life-span of a city. The nearest significant marker for growth in a country even is a 5 year plan. Mental detours and tangential departures notwithstanding....Ahmedabad has changed. A few remarkable (in the most banal sense of the word) changes have taken place.

The city limits have been extended. So more strip malls and more muddled architecture. The city has ostensibly taken to CNG and gone are the days when one would spend the enitre auto ride from Paldi to CG Road wiping involuntary tears off ones sooty cheek. The river that runs through it all has seen it all too. The conflict between the old and the new. The sacred and the profane. The rich and the poor. The water-fed and the water-starved. The peaceful and the hot-blooded. The battle of wits and vigour and strength and stamina. Modi vs Medha. Sabarmati has seen it all.


Our very own thing to do was to visit one of the many architectural gems of the city. Lesser known but no less important or magnificent, the Ahmedabad Textile Mill Owners' Association stands solemnly on the busy Ashram Road. Oddly and ironically it is right opposite one of the more "modern" multiplex complexes. One can miss it quite easily. The first impression is no spectacle. Grey concrete blocks amid patches of green and squares of colour. A ramp likened by some to the gangplank of a ship leads to the main building that houses a few offices, seminar halls and one truly spell-binding auditorium.

Le Corbusier, touted by some as India's favourite architect , first visited the country at the request of then Prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Nehru had envisioned a modern India - independent and at par with any nation in the West. Corbusier's visit was to be the beginning of an uncanny freindship. The ATMA building is one of four built by Corbusier Ahmedabad making it the only city after Paris to house the largest number of his independent creations.

Modest and almost spartan in form, the building pulls you into its cavernous spaces. The volume contained within is not betrayed at first sight. Stairs that lead to dead spaces, doors that open into thin air, looming vaults and minimal details. The auditorium was a sight to behold at four in the afternoon with sunlight streaming in from the skylight above and forming golden ribbons on the floor. Contained as if in a cocoon the spiral structure of the audiotrium was dramatically heightened by the asymmetrical wood panneling. Light and shadow. Sound and silence. They all played tricks on us that day.

An unending sense of calm, quiet and peace prevailed in that space. How is it possible for something as inanimate and stationary as architecture to assume such poetic proportions? I have always felt greatly humbled in the presence of great art - be it a painting, a piece of music, a sculpture or architecture such as this. One feels small and the lack of words, the inadequacy of language to express the true depth of emotion is always a burden that bears down heavily. But one feels grateful and orivileged to have had the opportunity to appreciate the work of someone as masterful and impassioned as Le Corbusier himself.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


There are time when you can feel absolutely and completely alone while being surrounded by a sea of people. Your face becomes an inscrutable and unyielding mask that puts on the prescribed emotion as if on cue. But inside....its another story. There's a storm brewing. All purple rage and grey gloom.

You let your thoughts wander. Arbitrarily they make tangential connects. I was thinking just this instant of what Truffaut said about Renoir's films - "they're as simple as saying hello." How eloquent. And the next thought that trundles through my head is about the two goats in the phtotograph I saw and how they seemed to be smiling at me. Decidedly odd....

Solitude always meant something good. Something very peaceful. Something you experience as sharply as a moment of clarity and yet, paradoxically, as languidly as watching the sky change hues at twilight. In such a state the inane and the obvious details become infinitely more absorbing than the most bizarre other-wordly occurrence. Flies on the wall acquire such mystique and charm and grace that one could entirely forget their otherwise annoying existence.

Such is happiness - which i believe to be a sensation that originates deep inside the belly - a warm fuzz-like creeping sensation - always sneaks up on you and yet always manages to baffle, surprise and exhilirate.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Blogging : in retrospect

I just realised that my blog is now a year old and doesn't have much to show for it! I have also realised that I dont use my blog in nearly the same way as do most avid bloggers worldwide - the sort who have taken information-sharing and web-logging to new levels. For me it still functions in much the same way as a notebook or a journal except that it is accessible to those who wish to go through it. The whole idea for me was to keep writing. To remind myself what a joy it is to express oneself through the written word. And to reaffirm my faith in my own literary abilities however limited they may be.

There have been many points in my life where I have (unsuccessfully) tried to maintain a personal journal. The sort that you hide from anyone and everyone simply because the palpable fear of discovery and the somewhat perverse pleasure of knowing something no one else knows provides fuel to the keeper of secrets. My journals were mostly mundane records of the daily trials tribulations of living. Peppered occasionally with instances of heartache and trauma, most often played up in writing to the level of intense melodrama. So much so that even the most banal argument could seem like something out of a Greek tragedy.

When I look back on those pages written with such diligence and candour, I often find myself grinning at the words that had burst forth in an unusually distraught moment. It amuses me when I realise again and again how time erodes much of the walls we build around us. The girl who filled those pages with intense emotion sincerely believed at the time that her life had ended for sure. Or in another instance made it abundantly clear that at that moment she was the happiest she would ever be in all the days to come. Even as I laugh at the childish proclamations of love lost and arguments won, I recoginise similar emotions in myself today. They have changed in degree but not so much in the intensity.

I am aware though that in sharp contrast to the days of journals and sercret diaries, I am far more wary of my own feelings and how their open expression leaves me vulnerable and exposed. So as the old walls become worn and weather beaten, we build new walls. And so it goes....

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Academy will rest in peace

What a day! Scorsese gets a nod from the academy at last! I was reading my earlier post about The Departed and was in half a mind to take it off my blog. Not because the film won best picture along with Scorsese's long overdue accolade, but because having returned to the film after a good long break I realised some things. (Of course my all time favourites of the Italian-american's ouvre still remain Goodfellas and Taxi Driver. )This is for all those who may have some or the other misconception regarding my views on Martin Scorsese after reading the earlier post.

The Departed was perhaps the only film by the director to have garnered as much commercial success as crticial acclaim. And that for Scorsese, I believe would be a first. Scorsese said on being informed about his Oscar nomination for the 7th time, that although the recognition would be appreciated, one could never make films solely to win an Oscar. So much for my fear that he had sold out! What has impressed me most about Scorsese is his immense tenacity and creative stamina as an artist. The thirst for creative excellence and an uncompromising will towards nuanced storytelling has been his hallmark. 30 odd years since he made his feature film debut, the man is still going full throttle! With each project he seems to be aiming bigger and better.

Perhaps what chnaged my views to a certain degree was also that I got the chance to watch The Age of Innocence recently. What is essentially a story of unrequited love , in the hands of Scorsese became an elegy of a society stifled by its own hypocrisy and vanity. The astounding detail is made visible by the camera-eye - an eye that is discriminating but not disparaging. That is the genius of Martin Scorsese. A ceaseless exploration of subject matter through immaculate contsruction of the script and the mis-en-scene.

The range itself of his cinema is mind-boggling. Compare the ruthless and dark Taxi Driver to the eloquent Goodfellas. Or the opulent and decadent Casino to the brilliant insanity that was Aviator. Or the velvet veneer of The Age of Innocence to the enigma and pulse of The Departed. And you will know what I mean.

I mentioned the Movie Brats in my previous post. Imagine my surprise and bewilderment when three of them turned up on stage to present the award to their long-time friend, collaborator and colleague - Martin Scorsese. A fitting end I think. Marty said he was moved. I was in tears.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Ways of seeing

A dear friend after reading my blog asked a pertinent question - is it so necessary to have an opinion on everything? I couldnt answer the question but it set me thinking. This urge to write down my thoughts or voice my opinion - is it merely cathartic and therefore selfish or does it have roots in something larger of which I am still unaware? Do writers ask themselves this question before they set out to coin a phrase or frame a sentence? Are opinions damaging or constructive or both? Is criticism in fact easier than going that extra mile to do that certain something which we feel so compelled to comment on but would not touch with a bargepole given the opportunity?

"In life one must do." I cant recall who said it, but it definitely sums up the basic thumb rule that until its been tried it hasnt been tested. I think it was Milton Glaser who said that we must diminish the difference between work and art. And to that end "work is art and art is work."

Isnt it enough to simply experience a great film, book, piece of music or a work of art? Is it the politics of our time that breeds such creative contempt or is it the system of knowledge we belong to? More importantly, are we, while stating with such confidence our carefully thought out opinions, as tolerant to more diverse points of view? Is qualification the only license to an opinion?

I write because I feel most confident expressing myself in this form. Words provide a platform from where images take off. Writing is for me, as of this moment a tool at best. Not as eloquent or free from prejudice as the instinctive brush of the seasoned artist, but more like the strange and daunting piece of charcoal in the clumsy hands of one who is learning to draw and thus learning to see. I too am learning to see - and my image is made or letters and words and phrases and inflexions. It is an untrained eye that knows not many ways of seeing - yet.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Hundred Years of Solitude....and then some more.

The last book I read was none other than Gabriel Garcia Marquez's magnum opus - One Hundred Years of Solitude. A book of epic proportions, it tested my imagination in unimaginable ways. In fact I had returned to the book a second time with gritty resolve since the unrelenting repetition of names like Jose Arcadio, Aureliano, Amaranta and Ursula had left me groping in the dark halfway through the book the first time I attempted to read it. But this time I kept pace with offspring after offspring, amazed at the uncanny fecundity of the fictitious Buendia clan. Time ran in loops and doubled up on itself as the miseries and fortunes of the various characters played out page after page with unceremonious candour. Each character lost love, found memory and eventually succumbed to a solitude that had an irrevocable finality.

The book is an ode to memory. Collective memory that in tireless remembrance of things past and a glorious time lost, erases its sinous connect with reality untill it is the stuff of legend. Truth obliterated by memory. Lives lived so much in retrospect that the present is forgotten and constantly committed to the past. No one in Macondo remembered the Banana Plantation massacre because the process of forgetting had begun even before the event had occurred.

One need not speak of Marquez's phenomenal prose for that would be nothing short of stating the obvious. But what must be mentioned is the sheer scale of imagination that the author has brought to the novel. The leaps in time, the collision of characters with history and the cyclical narrative is a feat never before achieved in the written form. This is one book I wish never to be made into a film, for as much as I believe in the possibility and potency of cinema, it is finite in a way that can never do justice to the images inspired by Marquez's infinite prose.

Friday, February 09, 2007

"Marty Goes Undercover"

When I heard that Martin Scorsese had won the Directors' Guild of America Award for filmmaker of the year(post-super successful film "The Departed"), the inevitable smile crept up and was glued there for about the whole day. The talk of the town is that Marty is now more than ever in the running for the Best Director accolade doled out by none other than the Academy. This is more fact than fiction at the moment given that in the parallel history of the Guild and the Academy very rarely has the winner of the Guild Award lost out on the Oscar for the same picture in the same year. The precise number would be 6. Sceptics may refer to Wikipedia.

Martin Scorsese may have waited far too long for this one but the naked truth is that he should have won it aeons ago. Having lost out on films like Raging Bull and The Goodfellas, winning while riding on the commercial success of The Departed won't be winning after all.

After watching The Departed, exhilarated as I was, I couldnt help feeling a little cheated. Seems to me that Scorsese had lowered his guard a bit too much to deliver a star-studded big banner production that fell far below the bar he had previously set for himself with films like Taxi Driver, Raging bull, Goodfellas and the heavily underrated Casino. Of course The Departed is not comparable in genre or style to Taxi Driver. I'm not suggesting that. But what I am suggesting is that Scorsese was next to invisible in the film that is being touted by some as his magnum opus. Save for some recognizable tropes like use of voiceover and familiar gangster territory, the watermark blazed into each work with astonishing cinematography and a powerful screenplay was nowhere to be seen. A critic put it eloquently when she wrote, "Marty went undercover on this one."

But to give due credit to the director and the film, the soundtrack was vivid and the editing impeccable as always (thanks to long time collaborator thelma Schoonmaker). Sound performances by both Leo Dicaprio and Mark Whalberg. Frank Costello's transformation from the smooth overlord to an absentminded close-to-senile overlord is remarkable. But cinephiles ask yourself this - does Costello surpass in character the likes of Jake La Motta, Nicky Santuro, Ace Rothstein and Tommy DeVito?

So if Marty does win, I'll be cheering myself hoarse but it'll be for a victory won long before when the Movie Brats were still bratty enough to believe in a producers' nightmare like Travis Bickle!

P.S. - The Movie Brats were Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Brian de Palma, Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas and John Milius.