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)