Thursday 29 October 2009

Laxmi and Me

The Bombay 'Bai' is quite a famous caricature. MTv uses it in it's promos 'bai' now become 'bhai', a desi pun on the word 'by'. Maids are different all over, in Bengal for example one encounters mild mannered soft-spoken maids, artistic and ladylike, while the cankerous, rough speech and agressive behaviour of the Maharashtrian bai's has been used as comic relief in many films. Maids are an integral part of Indian household and and their lives and habits have often offered rich material for scripts and manuscripts.
Laxmi and Me is a film shot by Nishtha Jain of her 20 yr old part time maid Laxmi and explores the life of a maid in Bombay. It is an unusual film, not so much so because of the subject but because it puts the filmmaker, who is the employer into the picture as well. There are various documentaries and stories which deal with the plight of the poor workers from different classes of society, but usually the filmmakers use the camera and script from a superior platform. In this particular film it was refreshing to see the subject and the filmmaker put on the same plane.By doing so, the story breaks away from the mold of pontificating on how the 'other side' lives but throws up an interesting plethora of issues while exploring the relationship between Laxmi, the maid and Nishtha Jain who is filming her.
In daily life few people acknowledge the role of the maid in the house. She comes, cooks, cleans, does the laundry and the dishes, is always a flitting presence in our lives, from one room to another, but in most cases we know her just as 'Bai'. In this film Nishtha Jain becomes involved in Laxmi's life, seeing her not only as a maid but in her many roles as a daughter, sister, friend, wife and eventually mother.

At first we are just shown the drudgery of her life. She works close to 14 hours a day cleaning and cooking in about 10 households, goes back home and does the same in her house. She works for a pittance, often puts in extra hours without any extra pay, and can hardly ever take a day off, even when she is ill and pregnant. There is no union for maids as a result they cannot bargain for standardized pay, work hours, holidays or benefits. They know if they demand better working conditions they will be easily replaced by ten other girls in similar circumstances willing to take their place.

Over the 2 and half years of filming many bonds are formed and lines blurred between the employee and the employer, but the class divide is so deeply ingrained in us that it startles you at first when seated at the same dining table as her employer, Laxmi considers herself Black and her employer as White! Another profound moment is when Laxmi is on leave and Nishtha while cleaning the floors herself wonders “Why it is so difficult for us to get down on our knees.”

Slowly as Laxmi lets Nishtha into her life, one's concepts of modernity and education get a jolt. You see that in spite of being uneducated, she is less inhibited than educated woman , she is the man of her household, makes her own decision and is even the first one to propose marriage to a boy her family is against because of the difference in castes. In contrast we are shown another lady who employs Laxmi, and who in spite of being educated, well off and 'modern' sits in the house playing solitaire. Laxmi on the other hand has the courage and clarity of thought to decide to have her baby even if she has to take care of it alone. A decision many of us so called modern educated woman would not take.

In the end though I think Laxmi was far luckier than most girls in her circumstances. Few would stand a chance of survival with being pregnant, thrown out of the house, afflicted with TB and Chicken Pox and still working 14 hours a day and then in the end being abandoned by one's husband because of typical male prejudices, ALL at one go.

Laxmi and Me has beautiful clean shots and has been skillfully edited, it unassumingly covers caste, gender , class and poverty without sermonizing.

Sunday 27 September 2009

Ignorance is Bliss: ( April 2006)

The dyed lock of hair twisted around the gigantic nose ring is the symbol of a married woman in this tiny village in the interiors of Kutch,India. Cut off from civilization, located in the scorching 'banni' area with only a herd of 250 goats and a seasonal well, no industry, not even a carpenter or ironsmith for that matter, theirs is a resigned, peaceful existence by virtue of not knowing anything better. A huge contrast to the wretched existence of the urban poor, who see progress but are not part of it.

Monday 14 September 2009

Between the Lines

The best buys are the ones that you stumble upon-that is the experience which a stroll through the cool hushed ambiance of the Pune Book Fair provides one with.

Having missed the fair this year I have fond memories of it from last year. Though not on the grand lines of the New Delhi and Kolkata book fairs, the Pune Book Fair provides an important meeting ground for publishers, booksellers, book distributors, librarians, professionals, academicians and book-lovers. It cater to people with more distinct taste and expectations in literature. The topics and themes on display are slightly offbeat and many in vernacular languages which makes the event a wonderful platform for smaller or individual publishers to display their books. In turn this also offers book-lovers a truly diverse linguistic and quantitative experience, which was evident at the venue, where, books on Konkani literature, classic erotica and Falun Dafa, the banned and brutally persecuted practice in China, were all on offer, often at throwaway prices.

The exhibition, held every year at Ganesh Kala Krida manch hosts over a 100 stalls; few of which stand out more than the others. Ebrahim Aghajari, who was pursuing his Ph.D in engineering and instrumentation in Pune, ran the stall on Iranian culture. Aghajari guides you through the intricacies of Persian, Urdu and Arabic literature and the wonders of the ancient cities of Tehran and Kashan in Isfahan. He spoke softly but passionately about his country and it's rich heritage of architecture. Some old worn coffee table books with gorgeous pictures of the old city backed his claim. As I finally tore myself away from the exotic books and warm conversation he presented me with a quaint booklet on Iran.

In complete contrast to this quiet corner is the Lokayat, a stall that bursts with revolutionary literature, slogans and posters. Be it a dissertation on Nandigram, writings of Noam Chomsky, documentaries on the Godhra riots, Ayodhya issue or bound discussions on our post-modern world, you will surely find it here.

Magazines play a prominent part in this fair too. Rohan Book Centre which houses magazines from across the globe, is a place where one can pick up original copies of Vogue and National Geographic for a steal, apart from other lesser known but equally interesting foreign journals and publications. I found a unique copy of Black and White photography for 50 bucks. Adjacent to it is the Heritage India stall, a Pune based publication. Each page contains a slice of India's rich and varied heritage from wildlife to art and history. The magazine is beautifully packaged with high quality photographs.

The Vivek Book Depot and Pragati Book Centre are also places where with patience one can unearth good second hand books. The former especially stocks classics by Henry James, Daniel Defoe and William Makepeace Thackeray. The fair abounds in vernacular literature, be it philosophy or mythology based comic books, all is on offer in Hindi and Marathi. World Health Organization (WHO) also makes its presence felt, disseminating health information and researched publications on health problem in Africa and South – East Asia. Pune book fair is truly a hunting ground for bibliophiles.

I went to the Iranian stall again on the last day to show Aghajari his article in the newspaper but it was time for Namaz and he was in the an empty stall praying, so I left the clipping with his wife. It was sad to hear that this year this stall, sponsored by the Iran Culture House did not even sell one book on it's first day.

Tuesday 11 August 2009

Flu Fanatics

Fee fi fo fum, the flu has come, the flu has come.

Classes shut, masks on

lazy,faceless existance dawned!

We hardly see faces anymore, only eyes peeking out from different coloured masks. The masks have equalized masses, on the streets atleast. Everyone, irrespective of clothing, looks the same, from a bus driver to college students to bankers. The streets of Pune have become quite interesting really. A sort of bubble of faceless existence. Never has eye contact and expression been so integral to interpret non-verbal communication. When you see the guy at the bus-stand, the girl sitting in class, or the car driver at the cross-roads when you are about to cross, you only see the slits for eyes, what are they thinking, are they friendly or hostile or indifferent? Is he going to let me cross or run me down?. Late last night while returning home I saw 4 boys kidding around on bikes , taking chances and riding risky, and all 4 had medical masks on, it just seemed a strange sight for some reason.

The last one week has been a mad frenzy where nothing has been left to imagine. The swine flu epidemic seems to be mutating into the flu news epidemic. The worst part of it is the derogatory way in which the media has maligned reputations of all those associated with Reeda Sheikh's death that occurred in Pune. While the grief of the bereaved family is understandable, the pointing of fingers at private practitioners, always a soft target, for treating an epidemic of a new kind is not. We as inhabitants of this city see the monumental task that the medical authorities are coping with, for every person tested positive doctors painstakingly track all the people they have been in contact with and start treatment. In Reeda Sheikh's case that was 80 odd people, in some it is more. Now that the flu has mutated into a community virus where contact cannot be traced the doctor's job has become all the more complicated.

Doctors should be shown respect and consideration and not be threatened and driven into a corner. Sensational journalism will put the safety of countless of individuals at stake. No doctor will feel safe to attend to a patient, fearing backlash. The obvious course will be to shunt the patient to the nearest government hospital to deal with the increasing number of swine flu cases. At the best of times our government hospitals are over burdened, during a crisis like this, one can only imagine then how inadequately, the sheer increase in the volume of patients will be screened. I am sure some of the positive cases will return to the community provoking a further spread of the epidemic.

According to a recent World Health Organization report there are at least 162,380 cases of swine flu reported worldwide, of the 338 deaths reported in the last week of July 300 were in the Americas, given these static, a developing nation like India has done a fair job in setting up a rough but working infrastructure and medical services to contain the outbreak. I wish the media would put some sanity into the thinking. Communication based on rational guidelines and advisory should be sent to every hospital. The medical fraternity needs to be strengthened by positive journalism to give rise to a logical thought process which may lead to effective control of this serious problem and not hounded after every death.

P.S. ( With healthcare being in the news so much these days, Im wondering what happened to the G.P or general practitioner? Everybody seems to be going to hospitals and clinics and health-care has become a very machinized, factory process. I remember in Calcutta there was a very strong tradition of family doctors, general practitioners who treated the same families for generations. They not only know your case history but your fathers and grandfathers as well. The nuggets of information prove very useful in diagnose. Also since these doctors would visit families in the same area they formed an important part of the social fabric, respecting patients confidentiality, but still a part of gossip, births, marriages, illness and deaths. G.P's were quite a cozy, reassuring concept.)

Wednesday 29 July 2009

Graduation

"WHAT KIND OF AN IDEA ARE YOU? Are you the kind that compromises, does deals, accommodates itself to society, aims to find a niche, to survive; or are you the cussed, bloody-minded, ramrod-backed type of damnfool notion that would rather break than sway with the breeze? The kind that will almost certainly, ninety-nine times out of hundred, be smashed to bits; but, the 100th time, will change the world."
- Salman Rushdie, 'Satanic Verses'

Thursday 9 July 2009

And then there were none.....: Thoughts after watching Gulaal

(I had written this at some obscene hour of the night after watching Gulaal when it released and forgotten to post it.)

Bollywood ( I refuse to call it Indian film Industry or whatever cause that is long gone, rather struggling to survive), eats up cinematic revolutions on the brink of take off. Glitzy, glamorous bollywood is obsessed with creating non entities like Katrina Kaif, Sonam Kapoor, Imran Khan and Randheer Kappor and countless others into instant celebrities. Honestly speaking neither Abhishek Bachchan nor John Abraham, Aishwarya and even Kareena deserve half the status that has been accorded to them. They may be celebrities, but they are not fine actors. This aggressive marketing and branding of cast and film taints whatever it touches.

We had Nagesh Kucknoor who started of with Hyderabad Blues and continued with refreshing scripts like Rockford and 3 Deewarein. As long as the media admired him from a distance and there were more magazines than newspapers interviewing him, Iqbal and Dor made it out safely. Then he was lauded and labelled, it is when bollywood says you've arrived that you ought to be wary, no sooner had he firmly established himself than did Bombay to Bangkok release, which in spite of two fine actors like Naseeruddin Shah and Shreyas Talpade was a mind numbing horror and then Tasveer,which I don't know how many of you paid to watch, but I certainly did not.

Similarly no sooner did Rakeshy Omparakash Mehra finish with Aks and RDB, than Delhi 6 started showing signs of being sucked into the vortex.No sooner did Farhan Akhtar create the gentle DCH and quirky Lakshya, than he went and made Don. Ashutosh Gowarikar takes the cake, with first the Oscar nominated Lagaan, then clean and controlled Swades and then wasting 3 hours of people's lives with Jodhaa-Akbar The only good I see coming of this trend is that it may have an opposite impact on Karan Johar who will hopefully surprise us by making films instead of sets.

But the saddest loss, if indeed he looses himself will be Anurag Kashyap. After creating sheer cinematic fun like Black Friday and Dev -D, we see Gulaal colouring his judgement ,of when much is toooo much. He needs to change tack and fast. Enough of the repeated highlighting on smokes and liquor, the pointed (very wannabe) scenes of rolling joints and smoking ganja, you are cool and give a damn, we get it and we also liked it but can you do more than that?

Gulaal was the limit, Dev D stamps all over Gulaal with the neon bar-lighting fixation, sexual implications and portrayal of woman. It is hard to figure out where Dev D leaves and Gulaal begins at times. The movie had so many brilliant aspects if picked out individually but seemed forced into coercion in the film. If only he had focused on the rural student socio- political story line, which was the theme of the film. What was the need of a jilted maniacal lover going berserk in the end or of both the female characters, Mahi Gill and Jesse Randhwa, who just kept slipping in and out of scenes. The eunuch was an unusual touch and not uninteresting, but what was the point? Yeah I get that Kashyap loves placing hidden metaphors in his film, but this one seemed to be about the metaphors gaining precedence over the main plot.

The film is still extremely watchable with sizzling performances by (in order of what I enjoyed the most) Piyush Mishra, Kay Kay Menon, Abhimanyu Singh, Deepak Dobriyal and Ayesha Mohan. Ayesha Mohan may not be upto scratch but I did think it was remarkable that she held her own amongst a cast of show-stealers in a debut performance! Deepak Dobriyal is a quiet bundle of surprise, it took me several moments to realize that Bhatti(Gulaal), Kareena's fiance in Omakara and the Halwai in Delhi 6 were all played by him! Besides, the soundtrack is just mind blowing. Piyush Mishra is a genius, whether as an actor or as a lyricist. An entertaining film no doubt but it's just painful to watch the brilliance in it being clouded over by the exuberance of a pot-ridden brain. Let's hope bollywood doesn't suck this one in as well.

Sunday 28 June 2009

Defiance

 

It is with reluctance that I mention Michael Jackson on the blog. What with every channel of communication overflowing with his news for days on end and culminating with the grand memorial finale that screened out anything else happening worldwide, using this tiny space of mine in cyber world didn't feel worth it.

But then one thought over-riding all others prompted me to make an attempt at least. In a weird way watching all this hullabaloo about one man, especially at the memorial service tonight which made God out of him, made me feel avenged. Only a little and that too second hand, I agree. Everyone at some point has felt frustrated by one or more of the binding norms of society  and every rule we make puts us, we, who make those very rules in a subservient position. God, religion, laws, marriage, sexuality, money, education, morality and even humanity, the most abused of all concepts. To be human comes with a lot of baggage and limitations and it seems to me that to be considered human one must belittle oneself or be in awe of something, anything.

Michael Jackson with all his eccentricities broke free from so much, which is what made the funeral service so ironical. They admired the one person who broke so many rules, even the natural order of living and made God out of him! So ultimately your God was only as good as our human. I am happy about the MJ mania, it feels like a little point scored for individuals.

Rev Al Sharpton to Michael's kids at the memorial speech: "Your daddy isn't strange, it's strange what he had to put up with."

Tuesday 28 April 2009

Rub-a dub-dub

Rub--dub-dub Three men in the tub, A butcher, a baker and a candlestick maker, If the tub would have been stronger My tale would have been longer.
The Great Indian Transport System One of the innumerable ghats of the Ganga. Cooking Boat Nav ka Bawarchi: People called home with tears in their eyes, describing the taste of freshly caught and cooked shrimp. Blogger uploading KILLS the pictures... so please click on the pics for a better view.

Sunday 19 April 2009

Trailing the Tiger: Sunderban 6

There is a saying that, if you see a tiger in the Sunderbans it is probably a dead one. So rare is a tiger sighting in the land of the tiger. Yet there's never single moment that an unseen omnipresence of the tiger is not felt. The people of the Sunderbans are survivors. They have few means of livelihood, limited to fishing and forest gathering activities like honey collecting. Theirs is a stranded existence between the great saltwater crocodiles in the river and the Royal Bengal Tiger on land.

The Tigers, unlike the leopards that went extinct in the late 60's in the sunderbans, learnt how to adapt to the unforgiving terrain and evolved into the most intelligent and hardy branch of the tiger family. They can survive on saltwater and crabs, swim across the croc infested waters with a kill on their back and have developed a keen sense of testing water currents and drifting with the flow to save energy. They also have darker, rougher coats that blend flawlessly into the lush Tiger Palms on the banks. But what makes the Royal Bengal Tiger one of the deadliest predators on Earth is desperation. The harsh habitat has given birth to a constantly hungry species that goes after it's kill with a vengeance.

Many a time different theories and remedies have been introduced to counter the sheer cunning and boldness of the Sunderban tigers. From erudite theories on shrinking preybase to explain the desperation to ingenious methods of making masks that villager wear at the back of their heads to confuse and scare the tiger away while at work. It all comes to naught in the tidal country where Tiger outwits man every single time.

In my trips to other sanctuaries I have heard people speak of the Tiger in varying tones of respect, fondness, excitement, passion, hatred and admiration. But here, only fear, they speak of it in hushed tones and euphemisms, like the devil or a ghost with supernatural powers. Never must you take it’s name, lest it summons the beast. The forest has many such rules that every inhabitant of the tide country is born knowing.

The following example will give you an idea of the atmosphere that a Tiger sighting can create. Every evening a village troupe would come to the guest house to perform. They danced to unique couplets that spoke of daily life in Bengal touching upon many topics, from Singur, Tata and Nano, to humourous Man-Wife relations in a Bengali household, but their most popular act is the story of Bon Bibi

Once upon a time, Ibrahim of Medina was blessed by the Archangel Gabriel, to be the father of twins. The girl was named Bon Bibi and her brother Shah Jongli. After reaching adulthood, they were sent by the Archangel to the shores of Bay of Bengal, now known as Sunderbans. A demon named Dokkin Roy ruled this marshy land and terrorized human beings. Bon Bibi & Shah Jongli defeated Dokkhin Roy and saved the humans. A poor villager named Dukhey played the helpless human that is rescued.

Ever since Bon Bibi divided the tide country into two halves, one protected by her where the humans could live and one still reigned by Dokkin Roy. The legend is now modified to suit the modern times. The Royal Bengal Tigers, which devoured the humans, is called Dokkhin Roy. The fishermen and bee-collectors are represented by Dukhey. There is an invisible line that divides human territory from Dokkin Roy’s territory into which one must never cross.

The “Lady of the Forest”, Bon Bibi, is still sacred in the tide country and temples dedicated to her can be found at the entrance of the forest. The story shows an interesting mixture of religious influences. It is Hindu by nature, but always starts with the Muslim word “Bismillah”. This story is a mainstay for the people of the Sunderbans and regulates a large part of their daily lives. Even to this day, nobody enters the forest without asking Bon Bibi’s protection. To earn this protection, you have to abide by the rules, which say that no human trace should be left in the kingdom of Dokkhin Rai. So the honey seekers will not even spit during their work, a habit that is perfectly normal in Dhaka.

On my last night at Jamespur it was rumoured that a Tiger had been seen crossing the river on our side of the village. Immediately a government jeep with a loudspeaker roamed the village announcing the possible presence of a tiger and cautioning people to stay indoors. The troupe cancelled their last performance and we had an early dinner as the cooks wanted to hasten home. Fireworks were let off throughout the night to scare away the predator and the straying cows and dogs were herded into the hovels of the villagers lest the tiger attack. The hovels themselves were hardly adequate protection, I thought, if the Tiger did decide to attack. We on the other tried to sleep in this unnatural atmosphere, in 'pakka makans' with a 12 ft strong fence surrounding it.

That is the kind of activity and atmosphere the mere mention of this wonderful beast inspires. It is true, the people live uncertain lives, but it is also true that without the Tiger, there would be no tiger-land, no Sunderban and no people, to begin with.

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These butterflies were as close as I got to Tigers.

The below the Striped Tiger and above, the Glassy Tiger.

Tuesday 14 April 2009

An Age of Unwilling Transition

'I’ve tried the world-it wears no more,

The colouring of romance it wore,'

sighed Anne - and was straightaway much comforted by the romance in the idea of the world being denuded of romance!

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The thing about turning 21 is that we don't harbour any illusions but still chase after them.

Thursday 9 April 2009

Bailout Babies

As if being lying, thieving, money hoarding, environmental hazards wasn't enough, the U.S Bailout Babies, i.e. General Motors, Daimler and Ford have another accolade to their credit.(Click on the image for an enlarged view)
IBM, Ford and General Motors are among those corporations now expected to face demands for damages from thousands of apartheid's victims.

They argue that the firms supplied equipment used by the South African security forces to suppress dissent.

The companies affected have not yet responded to the judge's ruling.

The plaintiffs argue that the car manufacturers knew their vehicles would be used by South African forces to suppress dissent. They also say that computer companies knew their products were being used to help strip black South Africans of their rights.

The judge disagreed with IBM's argument that it was not the company's place to tell clients how to use its products.

"That level of wilful blindness in the face of crimes in violation of the law of nations cannot defeat an otherwise clear showing of knowledge that the assistance IBM provided would directly and substantially support apartheid," she said.

For the full write up, click on the following BBC link.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7991134.stm

Wednesday 4 March 2009

Dev D: A New Avatar of Devdas

Much has been written about Dev D but writing uniquely about a unique film is a difficult task, as the 'USP', so to speak , is so glaring that after a while most reviews sound repetitive . Also, when a film overwhelms your senses it is difficult to put together lucidly what exactly was different . The review below, written by a friend, Manash Bhattacharya interested me as it brilliantly explains the idea of sexuality portrayed by Anurag Kashyap and touches upon 'technical voyeursim' about which I think not enough had been mentioned. The second half of the review especially turns the film inside out.

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The story of Devdas, written in the early 1900s by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, is about the failure of a feudal, young man to stand up for his childhood lover against the wishes of the family. It’s a story of the fall from grace of the man who never recovers from his failure in love and embraces alcohol, and later, a courtesan, who falls in love with him. Against the powerful characterizations of the two women, the story portrays the man as a weakling, forever failing to reconcile his contradictions and taking recourse to emotional excesses.

This story became an obsession with PC Barua who made it thrice, twice in Hindi and once in his mother tongue, Assamese. Later Bimal Roy and more recently Sanjay Leela Bhansali tried to re-create the drama. They all tried to remain faithful to the plot and ambiance of the novel. But faithfulness to a story is not always the best way to re-make it. To regard a certain plot to be relevant to the present shouldn't end up in taking the present back to the notion of a fixed sense of past, where the whole story is merely repeated for romantic effect. Such a repetition holds no new clues to our current social and cultural life. This is precisely where the previous makers of Devdas failed. Their romanticised affinity with the story neither had the quirkiness of a different sensibility, nor was it a creative overcoming of the limits of what Anurag very correctly identified as a mediocre novel having cinematic potential.

Anurag’s D isn’t an idealistic rich guy coming back home from London to reclaim his village love. He treats the body of his lover, through the hyperrealist pleasures of the internet, like a literally naked tool meant for visual consumption. His lover, Paro, lives in a village where the latest lures of technology has had an equal, reverse effect, where indecent proposals from London based lovers are a temptation to click and frame one’s nakedness and market it for love. But this expectation of lewd boldness doesn’t mean D’s sense of sexist morality has come of age. He is quite willing to believe in male gossip in the village when he comes back, about Paro having slept around. D is shattered by two things at the same time: the lost promise of Paro’s virginity and the news of her supposed promiscuity. What starts off with an auto-erotic query on the internet – “Do you touch yourself?” – ends up with the collapse of that fantasy. What intervenes between love and sexuality for D is fantasy. A Bollywood film finally catches up to its contemporaneity and shows what’s going on in the dungeons of desire. When an angrily frustrated Paro releases her spurned sexual energy by labouring on the flowing hand pump, one is amused by the contrast in all seriousness: the male lover becomes the symbol of a dysfunctional hand pump!

Even Chanda, or Chandramukhi, can’t escape the violence of technological voyeurism. She allows herself to be MMSed during fellatio and that unsettles her fate. Her conversation with her dad raises the issue of how the dichotomy between morality and sexuality is often a flawed dichotomy. Chanda’s easy and gullible sexuality is contrasted with her dad’s moral perversion of not being able to resist watching her daughter in a sexual act.

Even before Chanda reaches Chunni’s glitzy underworld of porn, she knows what the world outside is about. So not only does she not seem to care much about the difference, she quite deftly makes her way into the pornographic underworld where sex is game, not fraudulence. The porn industry is shown as another world, where sex is business, matter-of-factly, and where one need not be haunted by moral condemnation. But it is also a place where one has to de-personalise oneself. Chanda re-creates her aura through the numerous fetish and role playing items which are symptomatic of her goodbye to conventional reality. She chooses her screen name, Chandramukhi, from the prostitute, while watching Devdas. It is a subtle move by Anurag to de-signify the authenticity of the character’s name.

In order to turn into a sex drug herself, the third thing Chanda has to choose to make her place in her new world is cocaine. It is precisely at this juncture that she meets D, who’s also deeply into alcohol, having lost Paro to a divorcee. Their personalities clash and match: Chanda is playful and D, moody. But D’s metamorphosis is what takes place through the rest of the film. Paro visits him like an unfinished tryst from the past. But she has outgrown her desire for him and is quite content cleaning up his room like a faithful nurse. Chanda, in contrast, offers him her body, her concern, and with coquettish irony, calls D a slut. Between them, D drugs himself like an addict of hallucination, and fashions himself – both as victim and lover - like the phrase in the song, emosional atyachar.

So much for the story. The most unique aspect of the film is how it deals with the question of sex by stripping (and critiquing) the codes of morality. On the other hand, the film sexualises morality. It is beyond a humanist understanding of the relationship between love and the body. The three main characters both lose and retain the ownership of their body by displacing it from the centre of their emotional being: the heart. Their body and their heart seem to reside in different time zones. The notion of fate in their lives seems to be not only coincidental, but ultimately ordinary. What is exemplary about their lives is however their intense proclivity towards unbridled sexual desire.

The film is particularly brilliant in capturing the jerky and hallucinatory effects of drugs. The de-stabilization of the mind along with the de-organization of bodily sensibilities is captured with excellent shots of instability. The hand pump scene where Paro flushes out her thwarted sexual feelings is uncannily innovative. Another unforgettably poignant shot is when Chanda stands in the balcony of Chunni’s suite, wearing a nurse’s uniform, watching the dawn appear. It is the most surreal moment of the film in its flurry of contrasts: the balcony appears like a bleak interstice between night and day, dream and illusion, hope and hopelessness, desire and freedom.

The film is also a musical, but unlike other song-and-dance musicals, here the songs blend into scenes, and are more about the state of mind of the characters. There are also the three break-dancers who, as partial tropes of the sutradhaar, act as occasional intermediaries between the audience and the characters. Like the rest of the film, the introduction of these dancers, and their peculiar dressing style at various moments, are highly experimental.

Finally, what about the D in Dev D? Even though we come to know of the protagonist’s full name when the charge sheet against him is made much later in the film, the use of D instead of Das carries significance. By initialising Das as D, Anurag wants to steer clear of Devdas. So D can be seen as Anurag’s shorthand of Devdas. It is, in other words, Anurag’s de-construction of the identity of Devdas. D has a touch of a unique anonymity of a character. It is also the first alphabet in Desire, Decadence, Drugs and Death.

-Manash Bhattacharya

Tuesday 24 February 2009

Tastekid

It's been too serious a month. So I decided to meta morph into a cool, with it, hip (or is it hep?) and hop kid.

Like y'all know what Im sayin!

With the bright gladrags and converse shoes (except I don't have those yet) and playin' ball with da gang and movie watchin', substance abusin', broken guitar strummin' wanna get another piercin...? We debate whether 'Psyc' is cooler or Death Metal and miss the good ol' O.C days.

I even joined facebook! (curse you Gail) So I can like write on walls and type like every second of my existence,........................

"Nomad is currently twirling a lock of her hair and staring at the comp screen blissfully blank",

"Nomad did not succeed in making it another uneventful dry weekend",

"Nomad must really get off facebook now."

So I woke up late sped over to a friend's err...crib..., put on some Death Metal n had like maggie n coke for brunch. We flopped on da couch n flipped thru like Roadies n Splitsvilla. And err…. well that's about it really, I was really hoping this post was leading somewhere, but clearly it aint..

Anyway the real point of this post is a pretty cool thing that came on MTV called Tastekid.

http://www.tastekid.com/

You go to the site, type in a book/film/band you like in the search bar, and this animated chick called 'Emmy' helps you out by throwing up a plethora of related bands, authors or directors of the same genre. Plus they each come with little pop up windows of information or movie synopsis and clips. The webpage is kinda funky, search results useful and overall an easy site to navigate, which is the primary pre-requsite for any site I visit. Seriously, check it out y'all guys.

Saturday 21 February 2009

Cozy Nooks for Good Books.

Remember the Julia Roberts and Huge Grant romantic comedy Notting Hill? A charming bookstore provides setting for their poignant scenes. It’s difficult to romanticize about the modern franchisee bookstores of today with their brisk antiseptic air, and lack of personal touch. Chain stores, with their stark CD, gift and toy sections, make book buying akin to grocery shopping. One wonders of the existence of the quaint, old world bookstores.

A probe into Pune’s nooks and crannies revealed that not only do these exist, but with a loyal customer base, they do not fear mega stores.

TWIST N TALES: A cozy store right out of the pages of a classic provides a prefect browsing experience at Gaikwad Nagar, Aundh. Its whacky bookshelves hold a small but exquisite collection of books, ranging from Fiction, Indian Writing to Theatre, Classics and a rare selection of children’s books. The cheerful decor, snippets of information dotting the walls and greenery, give it the right ambience to curl up with a book on the swing outside. The friendly knowledgably staff KNOW their customers, keep tabs on individual preferences, maintain a blog, provide book reviews and make book buying an art to savour.

CHAPTER AND VERSE: You feel as if you hve walked into a comfortable living room spilling over with books! No glossy covers here, the shelves abound in old texts on Literature, Poetry,Culture, obscure Travelogues and stacks of old National Geographic issues.A twisting balcony crammed with more books is aptly labelled the Book Walk. With it's inviting cane furniture, It's a quiet place to plod around separating the Jane Austen's from the Mulk Raj Anands.Locateed at Gera Plaza, Boat Club Road, it offers home delievery facility.

THE INTERNATIONAL BOOK SERVICE: On crossing the threshold you enter a different era, with black and white pictures of P.G Wodehouse, George Orwell and Iris Murdoch on the walls, old wooden racks, musty smell and faded gold letters categorizing the books .A favorite haunt for academic souls, the store contains books on Science, Humanities, Spirituality, History and rare Sanskrit texts. Established in 1931 it is one of the oldest bookstores in Pune, located at Deccan Gymkhana.

MANNEY’S: Manney’s turns 60 next year. Located at Moledina Road, it is an ideal place for the reader with a purpose. The store has a plethora of books on every topic, from Military History and Microwave cooking to Rock music .It also has a formidable Technical and English Language and Literature section. Enough to satiate the bibliophile. The hushed, cool, well lit ambiance, make spending time here a pleasure.

So if you are tired of standardized décor, impassive customer care and crave the perfect browsing experience, amble into one of these bookstores this weekend and feel time fly

Saturday 14 February 2009

Strange Love

Once I had a strange love, a mad sort of insane love, a love so fast and fierce I thought I'd die....

yes once I had a strange love, a pure but very pained love, a love that burned like fire through a field...

oh once I had a strange love, a childlike but derranged love, a love that if were bottled it would kill.

see once I had a strange love, a secret and untamed love, a love that took no prisoners at all...

and once I had a strange love a psychic unexplained love, a love that challenged scientific facts...

and then there was that strange love, that very badly trained love, a love that needed discipline and facts...

once I had a strange love a publicly acclaimed love, the kind of love that’s seen in magazines.

and once I had a strange love, a beautiful but vained love, a love i think it’s better left in dreams...

and once I had a strange love, a morally inflamed love, we’d go on holy battles in the nights...

and then there was that strange love that vulgar and profane love, the kind of love that we don’t talk about...

yes, once I had a strange love, a lying infidel love, who wove in stories like sherazade...

and once I had a strange love, a flaky white kinky love, we ran so fast we almost spilled our guts..

you see I’ve had some strange love, some good, some bad, some plain love, some so-so love, and c’est la vie…

but just let me proclaim that, out of all the strange love you’re the strangest love I’ve ever known….

-Little Annie

P.S. : The formatting on my blog does not work anymore, I cannot make paragraphs or leave spaces, hence the untidiness, if anyone knows how to correct this, let me know.

Thursday 12 February 2009

Sunderbans 5: All creatures great and small.

It is a personal quirk. I get obsessed with tiny creatures in the forest, the common, the insignificant, the ones we walk past in in search of the elusive Tiger. I must have walked across the river bank several times getting on and off the boat, but it was not till the last day I noticed that what looked like fallen red petals strewn across the shore were Fiddler's Crabs.
What's more is that while peering at the tiny crabs one notices tinier lumps of clay jumping around. These turned out to be mud skippers, the unique fish that live on land! With just an hour left for the boat to leave the jetty and back to Calcutta,I was a mad woman on a mission, these vivid red crabs and adorable mud skippers had to be photographed, and there arises the problem. Being extremely sensitive to vibrations they scuttle underground even as you approach them from a distance of 6 ft. Let alone the continuous thoroughfare on the pier, the biggest hurdle in photographing these timid creatures is the photographer itself. Even with an 18x zoom, I had to get up close and personal, wait in a mucky minefield of crabs praying nothing would crawl up my legs and bite.
The Mud skippers are a strange species to study. The first thing that attracts attention are the bulging green eyes on the top of their heads, giving them a bewildered guileless look. They are amphibians that breathe through their skin and keep them selves moist by jumping into muddy puddles during low tide. Flipping their translucent plump bodies all over the shore line.
Although I had heard of Hermit Crabs a long time back, I had never actually seen one, not even googled the pics. In my mind I formed a picture of those irascible sages from mythology living like hermits in the forest and I transferred that image to the crabs. Big orange coloured whiskery crabs. Obviously my exaggerated analogies were hopelessly off mark. As you can see, that timid little green thing nestled in my palm is a hermit crab, crawling back into it's shell.

Tuesday 20 January 2009

January 20th, 2009 - Pari

On days like this the world seems to be moving on 2 globes.

A large globe, frenzied, as Obama is crowned King, and a small, private one revolving anti-clockwise, like those physics experiments, causing a hideous backlash, spewing out a bloated, scarred face of a pretty, just-turned-20.

What is striking is the manifestations of both extreme emotions are the same. There are shrieks and screams and tears, at both places, one of joy, the other of anguish, followed by sudden pregnant silences, at both places, one in anticipation, other in resignation. Crowds have gathered at both places.

The thundering sound of the incinerator generator is replaced by the TV news thundering applause as the oath is taken. Both ring with resounding finality. While one globe moves forward hopefully, expecting a momentous change, the other one grinds to a halt due to a momentous change.

Sunday 18 January 2009

Sunderbands 4: Flying the Good Times

This place is known for rare birds, and loads of them. The most common one being Kingfishers. There are 7 different species of Kingfishers. It being the migratory season, the Black Capped Kingfisher, originally from western coastal India was spotted in abundance.
Besides Kingfishers I saw a huge Ajudunct Stork, free wheeling over head like a mini helicopter , Brown Winged Kingfisher, actually gorgeous gold with a flaming red beak, Great Egrets looking like flying swans and the best of all, a White Bellied Sea Eagle performance. The Eagle deserves a post of it's own, as do several other creatures. I admit, there is going to be an OVERKILL of Sunderban posts. I admit, I admit.
Oh and you Must click on the pictures, these are way to tiny to enjoy the dramatic colours of the Kingfisher. Black head, bright blue wings, white ringed neck and a burst of orange in the front topped by a red beak. It streaks over the water like a technicolour blur. Above is a Collerd Kingfisher, below, a Black-Hooded Oriole and the last one, perched all poised and elegant, a Ringed Dove. This stark bird is the Great Egret, it is the largest Egret in the world, grows upto 1m in height and can live upto 23 years!. Closer to cities we usually see it's common counter part, the cattle egret. In the Sunderbans you see their curved snowy forms dotted on both sides of the river, suddenly dipping into the water with great orange beaks.

Tuesday 13 January 2009

Sunderbans 3: Pseudo Albino

Never smile, at a croc-o-dile, coz you can't get friendly with a croc-o-dile. Don't be taken in, by his welcome grin, he's imagining how well you'll fit inside his skin!
(Click on the pics for a better view)
Nah they aren't really white, the clayey soil they wallow in hardens swiftly into a whitish crust, making them look like grey logs on the banks. I had no idea that these saltwater crocs are bigger than Nile crocs, and can grow upto 22ft. We saw a 13ft monster ourselves, just lying there blinking lazily with that deadly smile and hypnotic eyes.

Saturday 10 January 2009

Sunderbans 2: The Yellow City

You know you have entered Bengal when the scene from the train window changes from rolling vistas of fields or barren land to postcard sketches of ponds, fenced huts and stubby banana plants.

We got off at Howrah station around 5.am. and at once I started humming

Look at the stars, Look how they shine for you, And everything you do, Yeah they were all yellow

From the orange- yellow station lights to the city lights, to yellow taxi cabs and buildings yellowing with age; Calcutta is enveloped in a dusty brownish orange glow. This makes street photography a unique experience. In the next few pictures I have left the colours untouched, many were sheer photographic errors but I enjoyed the results nevertheless.

Street Food! Drool...drip...drool!

Idealism,communism,absurdism,egalitarianism,intuitionism,apocalypticism,spiritualism,hedonism, intellectualism,nihilism, pessimism,scientism, sensationalism,universalism and pretty much any other 'ism you can think of. This city flaunts it all

Calcutta is one of the most charming cities I have seen, full of character. Maybe it is the Victorian architecture, it's historical connotations, the vibrant culture, idealistic, excitable population, their laid back attitude or my deep rooted nomadic link to it. I am very bong bred, though not of bong blood.

As we drove through the city I hung my head out of the bus window like a happy puppy, soaking in all the glimpses, my favourite being the Angel of Victory that stands atop Victoria Memorial. With a bugle in her hand she is supposed to be a weather vane but in all the years I have seen her, the damn bugle faces the same direction. Victoria Memorial was one of my favourite haunts as a kid, followed by a walk across the road to the dancing musical fountains.

Being Christmas the city looked enchanting. Clean and sparkling with fairy lights everywhere. I could go on about Calcutta and write the longest blog post ever. So just visualize the old city with these hazy pics.

Howrah Station at 5 am.

Howrah Bridge