Dev D

Color, Pathos, Neon, Blood, Helplessness, Orgasmic, Irredeemability, Red, Anguish, Nods, Honesty, As-is, Succumbing, Delirium, Insecurity, Psychedelia, Skin, Sigh, Bitter-as-coffee, Physical catharsis, Uncontrollable-lust, Random, Wanton, Appreciation-hierarchy, Feeling, Denim, Masochism, Yellow, Numb, Lonely, Cold, Vivid, Very vivid color.

I am happy.

There Will Be Blood

If you have been waiting for a film for a while, watching it alone in a theater is probably most satisfying. For various reasons, but the most important being – I don’t have to justify why the film is worth someone else’s time. It would have been a very tough sell in There Will Be Blood’s case.

I am not sure if it was Raja Sen’s review on Rediff that tipped it for me, or the bulging veins on Daniel Day-Lewis’s forehead in some best actor award nomination preview – I had to watch this one.

What’s my verdict? I am not sure. Morally corrupt love has always perturbed me. Oxymoron?

There are moments in this film, or vignettes, if you will, that showcase this very corrupt kind of love that elevate it above your usual saga. Love for what you stand for, what goes through your veins, on one side – and on the other side, you have love for another person whom you have internalized as your extension.

ps: I walked out of the theater feeling somewhat like this.

Method Living

Pre-Script: No spoilers ahead.

In Christopher Nolan’s brilliant period sci-fi drama* The Prestige, an old Chinese magician lives his act. It means the following: He understands that his flagship magic trick, to look surreally magical, needs a heavy personality quirk. To ensure that he can pull this quirk on stage, he lives with that quirk off-stage. Every day, through his life, he ‘lives’ his act. It’s quite a small scene, and almost irrelevant to the movie; but for some reason, it hit me that there is this guy who is willing to live an act, consciously, forever. I will not get into acts that we live unconsciously, or sporadically, or with temporal profit in mind for some limited time. This is an act that a person lives – forever. Method Living? Perhaps.

Today, I had a night long conversation with Yakshi, and as we go to a couple of people we know, he claimed that they were Method Living. It reminded me of a close friend who Method Lives. The quirk is in his voice. He’d know it if he reads this. It made the movie seem far more real, and far more hard hitting.

These quirks that Method Livers inculcate in their lives are mostly profit driven. I either want to make the world believe that I am something that I am not, or I have a far simpler commercial motive like the magician in the movie. The former is something that we are all capable of: we either don’t, or we don’t notice; or we do. The latter, though, is something that would require me to possess a degree of passion towards my profession that would transcend my life.

Speaking of passion, along with Susan Orlean’s character in Adaptation, I keep wondering if I will ever have a passion that will consume me – at least make me cut a finger or two, let alone give my life.

* – Christopher Nolan’s quote describing his movies: The term ‘genre’ eventually becomes pejorative because you’re referring to something that’s so codified and ritualised that it ceases to have the power and meaning it had when it first started.

Anand Marte Nahin

I have seen a few many times over; I have seen a few once; and have missed far too many of them.

But with so much more to go, it makes me happy that I still have all the does-idealism-pay-off? thoughts from Satyakam due; can ponder about what triangles he explored in Jurmana and Bemisal; and maybe there is another heart wrenching moral dilemma in some other film that I don’t even know about.

Dadamoni has grown on me so much in Mili, that I have to watch Ashirwad again. Speaking of Mili, Badi Sooni Sooni Hai…Zindagi, Yeh Zindagi…Main Khud Se Hoon Yahan….Ajnabee, Ajnabee. Mili remarks that Shekhar sounds sad and I wonder who the orchestrator of the mood is….the singer? the lyricist? the music director? or the director himself, for that splendidly blended video? But then, when Aaye Tum Yaad Mujhe starts….

Not speaking of crying, Anupama’s last scene, well….Babumoshai…..Babumoshai, Zindagi aur maut uparwale ke haath mein hai, Jahanpanah. Hum sab rangmanch ki kathputliyan hain jinki dor uparwale ki ungliyon se bandhi hui hai. Kab kaun uthega koi nahin bata sakta. Ha ha ha.

The irony of that laughter. Deconstructing these movies to find where the tragedy, or the humour, or the wisdom, or the values come from – some other day maybe. On a side note, will I ever react to Abhimaan’s photographer?

Romanticising Romance

As I walk up the dark cinema hall aisle, the screen light falls on people sitting. I don’t notice whatever I don’t notice; but I do notice some hands holding each other, heads resting on shoulders, arms entwined, shoulders touching, and before I realize it, I am looking for my seat. As I move on with life in such small steps, it hits me that I miss being in love. I don’t miss any specific detail. I just miss the feeling. That’s just it.

What is this feeling? Is it another emotion that cannot be explained? or is it possible to break it down into more rational axioms and understand it better? I am tempted to say that it could be beyond both; but then, I can’t see what can lie outside the inexplicable-explainable spectrum. Continuing that particular sidebar, I am not sure about my feelings for epistemology either; but well, for now, let’s cut to Jack Rabbit’s Slim’s:

Mia: May I ask you a personal question cowboy?
Vincent: No.
Mia: Alright. Have you ever been in love?
Vincent: I said ‘No’.
Mia: Don’t be so testy. It’s not that one; this is a different question.
Vincent: Still seems personal enough.

Mia: Ok.
[pause]
Vincent: Love is a commodity.
Mia: Warming up; aren’t we? A commodity, like, for sale?
Vincent: Sale, discount, retail, designer, factory seconds, et cetera, et cetera. They sell. You buy.
Mia: Me?
Vincent: Yeah, you.
Mia: What if I want to buy?
Vincent: Yeah, it looks like you have, already.
Mia: Good one.
[pause]
Mia: So, I bought it. Let’s say designer. Do you have a problem with that cowboy?
Vincent: No, I don’t. My problem is not with you. My problem is with the next woman I want to fuck.
[pause]

Cut back to blog-post. Insert some dialogue here which deconstructs love along the lines of how much paper, screen space, and network bandwidth it has wasted. I have taken this quasi-Nihilistic kind of approach too. But, the blissful irrational happiness and the forlorn feeling surrounding it (on the timeline): that’s undeniable. Also, rational reasoning along the lines of loneliness, hormones, progeny, and other facets (unexplained in their own right) is also appealing.

I have 3 options: a) Don’t bother either thinking or feeling. b) Feel. c) Think.

As the camera zooms out and credits start to roll, a pencil is seen shading option (b).

O Discipline, Where Art Thou?

I read Lapierre and Collins’s “Freedom at Midnight” and am incredibly moved, even sobbing many times during the book, and make a promise to myself that I’ll learn more about India, and esp. the Partition. So, I pick up Sucheta Mahajan’s “India and Partition: the Erosion of Colonial Power in India,” and start it with great enthusiasm. At around the 20th page, when going forward with any reasonably degree of continuity requires looking up citations, making notes, and higher levels of concentration, I switch to some pulp fiction.

I love Sidney Lumet’s “12 Angry Men” and “Network”, and when I spot his book – “Making Movies,” on the book stand, I pick it up greedily. I kind of fancy myself as a movie maker in the making, and this book is a must-read for all amateurs. I finish a third of it, and when Lumet starts talking about camera positions, lenses, lighting, and subtler aspects of screenplays, I start watching “12 Angry Men” again. I like re-runs.

As is usual with many a new concept, Samba mentions Prisoner’s Dilemma in one of our conversations, and I am into Game Theory from that moment. People are explaining human behaviour using formal theory! This, like many before have come and gone for me, has to be it. The truth must be hidden somewhere in these games. I read up on Nash Equilibrium, Repeated Prisoner’s Dilemma, and other popular Game Theory material online, and buy a standard text book to get deeper into it. After reading the table of contents, preface, acknowledgments, and introduction, I lend the book to a friend.

Hofstadter, “Dancing Wu Li Masters,” “Society of Mind,” “Siddharatha,” Sartre, Probability, “Crime and Punishment,” “Naked Ape,” and among many others, surprisingly, even Lolita has gone through this phase with me. That sentence construction kind of absolves me from any blame; but I know better. I got back and finished Lolita, but the rest of them await. It’s just a matter of ‘when,’ and of course, not a matter of ‘if-ever.’

Salaam Bombay! (1988)

IMDb says that Shafiq Syed is repairing auto rickshaws in Bangalore these days. Almost every garage I have seen has either a chotu, or a kuLLa (Kannada word for a short boy). Syed must have been one of them, or probably he owns a garage himself. I have no idea.

In the Salaam Bombay! inspired MTV-India’s chaiwala filler, the chaipu pulls off a cute jig to a great Kishore Kumar number. I had vaguely heard that the movie was about one such chaipu (chai serving boy), and his (mis)adventures in the dark underbelly that-is/of Bombay.

Cigarettes are used to great effect in many movies. The Man With No Name chews on his cigar with aplomb. John McClane, Tyler Durden, Vincent Vega, Verbal Kint, Marv, and others have pulled that great looking drag. But Raghubir Yadav beats ’em all in that abandoned railway coach. The sound of Bombay Locals in the background, the light, absolutely no style, no fancy smoke patterns, just smoke, just that. No cigarette has hit me that hard.

Radio cricket commentary and Aneeta Kanwar’s despondent walk from the remand home present the simple and casual irony that everyday life of Bombay represents. As for various other depictions of pathos and irony: to describe them, I will have to lay the entire movie frame by frame here. Do watch out for Nana Patekar’s fake laughter in the studio; it’s a gem. Bombay Ganpati crowds are used in many movies for the spectacle of scale they represent. But here, Ganpati plays (or doesn’t play) a role which stands out for its timing, effect, and of course, irony.

Salaam Bombay! hit me hard, esp. when I, along with chaipu, realized that there was a new charsi on the block. After the movie got over, all I could think about was about those days when I used play with my buguri (spinning top) as a kid. Now, in retrospect, I realize that it was just a feeling of gratitude to the process that decided my life. To objectively think about the merits of the movie, or even about the overall theme, I had to detach myself from the movie experience. It took a while.

Now, the lead actor of the movie works in a garage. A lot of searching couldn’t tell me what the little girl who played the role of Manju is doing now; hope she is doing fine. Meera Nair has moved on to other things, Nana Patekar used his dramatic laughs in other exaggerated stereotyped roles. Life goes on in Bombay, with its chai and biscut, local trains, pimps, seal-opens, hopelessness, and hope. There are no obvious messages. Its for me to think about, and hopefully, act.

Adaptation

Epiphany:
(1) : usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something
(2) : an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking
(3) : an illuminating discovery
(4) : a revealing scene or moment

In the self referential film – Adaptation, Charlie Kaufman (of whom, I don’t think so highly, by the way) says:
…but what if a writer is attempting to create a story where nothing much happens, where people don’t change, they don’t have any epiphanies. They struggle and are frustrated and nothing is resolved. More a reflection of the real world…

Some of these epiphanies dawn on to me, as I lead my life, various pieces of my mental jigsaw puzzle fall into place, and theories and events make sense. In the past, some have left me shocked, they have shown me my darker side. Some have flattered me. Some, I didn’t accept; reason told me they were true, but I just didn’t accept them. This “I” which is devoid of reason, this “I” is an interesting being.

Of all these moments of clarity: some get chosen, and become principles; others….well, others become nothing.

Each epiphany is also accompanied by the elation of having discovered something about myself. This elation is independent of whether the epiphany itself is flattering or not. This leads me to believe that a part of me gets happy even if it discovers that the rest of me is disgusting, despicable, not-upto-the-mark, or pathetic. This happy-to-have-known-something-new part, lets call it the audience. The moment the nature of an epiphany is identified: good, bad, flattering, disgusting – another part of me wants to keep it, or change it, or shed it, or in the worst case, forget it. Lets call it the critic. There is a part of me whose acts have lead to epiphanies, whose acts have kept the audience happy, on whom the critic will try to enforce its viewpoints, lets call it the actor. Further on, I lead more life – according to the principles I have made. The part of me which directs life, lets call it the director. The director has the scene in mind, knows what the critic wants, and makes the actor act accordingly.

Some questions remain unanswered:

– Where does the scene come from?
– Are these the only players in the arena?
– What role does time play? Is there a feedback loop that goes beyond the critic?
– Does the actor have to exist? Can principles be built without stimulants?

Stefan Kanfer said that – Philosophy is concerned with two matters: Soluble questions that are trivial, and crucial questions that are insoluble.

Charlie is obviously wrong when he says that the real world doesn’t have epiphanies. He wants to believe that life is normal, and boring, and has frustrations which go unresolved. Agreed that my epiphanies are not grand enough to make me change the course of my life visibly. I still contend that innocuous conversations, thoughtful films, great books, games nature plays, etc. do bring about epiphanies in my life; some of which have gone on to become principles.

Even the pilots which went on to become nothing, I enjoyed even those.

Yours sincerely,
Donald Kaufman

Up, arranged, and re-chopped

Jadav (Bhatt ko) – Pralaynath Gendaswami kaise dikhta hai?
Bhatt – Kya?!?!
Jadav – Kis desh se hai tu?
Bhatt – Kya?!?!
Jadav – “Kya” naam ka koyi desh maine to nahi suna? “Kya” mein Hindi bolte hai kya?
Bhatt – Kya!!
Jadav – Hindi maadarchod!! Hindi – Tu bolta hai kya use?
Bhatt – Haan!!
Jadav – Toh tu jaanta hai ki mein kya bol raha hoon
Bhatt – Haan!
Jadav – Bol ki kaise dikhta hai Pralaynath Gendaswami
Bhatt – Kya?!
Jadav – Ek aur bar “Kya” bol, Ek aur bar “Kya” bol – mein tujhe chunauti deta hoon, mein tujhe dugni chunauti deta hoon maadarchod. Ek aur baar “Kya” bol saala!
Bhatt – Kaala hai!
Jadav – Aur????
Bhatt – Takla hai…
Jadav – Kutti ki tara dikhta hai kya?
Bhatt – Kya?!?!
Jadav Bhatt ko kandhon pe goli maarta hai…
Jadav – Kutti ki tara dikhta hai kya?
Bhatt – Nahin?!?!
Jadav – Toh phir kutti ki tarah usko chodne ki koshish kyon ki tune?
Bhatt – Nahin, maine nahi kiya
Jadav – Haan tune kiya!!! Haan tune kiya!!! Bhatt, tune usko chodne ki koshish ki…
Bhatt – Nahin..
Jadav – Pralaynath Gendaswami ko yeh pasand nahi ki Srimati Gendaswami ke siva use koyi chode……….Tu Gita ko padta hai kya Bhatt???

Jules (Jadav) and Vincent could be two facets of any human being (say Impulse and Logic) trying to accomplish something for a higher control (Marsellus). Impulse fucks up (Vincent shoots Marvin), and somehow logic, with the help of some luck (Winston Wolf) gets them out of the situation. Butch (conscience) has some weird nostalgic attachment (the watch) which drives his value system. But he evolves from killing a boxing opponent (evolving conscience making mistakes earlier), to saving his worst enemy (the supreme magnanimous sacrifice). And of course, at some level, they are all controlled by/related to the higher power of Marsellus. Conscience (Butch) killing Impulse (Vincent) in an impulisve reaction (the toaster timer) has an element of Tony-Rocky-Horroresqe irony. If you like this pilot, I can churn out more.

Is it the deadpan dialogue? Is it the black humour? Is it the inexplicable element of style? Is it the countless references to American pop culture? Is it the seemingly arbitrary choice of music? Or is there something more to Pulp Fiction? An (over?) extensive philosophical analysis can be found at Pulp Fiction – The sign of the empty symbol (on MetaPhilm). This particular interpretation of the movie is all about how Jules and Butch start seeing more meaning to their lives as the events of the movie unfold in this almost meaningless fucked up order. Of course, if I tried hard – real hard, I could interpret movies like Hot Shots, Sholay, or Godfather in a similar vein. Any small sequence of events can be explained by some pattern or the other. So, is trying to find meaning in Pulp Fiction an exercise in futility? That’d be a damn shame. No “quack quack” any more; and so, here is my own allegorical attempt (a la Upendra’s Upendra)…

Anyway, as of today – Pulp Fiction is my favorite English movie. Jatin and I are attempting to translate it to Hindi, while keeping all the deadpan-ness and black in the dialogue.

Hazaaron Khwaishen Aisi (Review)

Following repeated recommendation, I finally watched Hazaaron Khwaishen Aisi. It is an interesting love story set against the backdrop of the Indian political unrest of the late sixties and seventies, culminating in the 1975 Emergency. A good movie, bold in its theme – which could be the eternal debate between kraanti and playing it safe in this world, or an alternate theme of the growth of the protagonist – Geeta. But first, a comment on the female lead herself – she looks gorgeous. Its been a long time since I have been so enamored by a woman on screen. I don’t know if its just her looks, or whether its her personality that captures me. But I digress.

Coming to the themes – Capturing the Kranti vs. “conventional success” debate on screen would be very hard. I have never seen it done on film before. Here, they make do with showing how one of the main characters’ life changes from bad to worse, how his living conditions deteriorate, how his parents go from disappointment to despair, and finally, how he ends up with nothing in the end. His ideology is not met, and everything else that a common-man has, he doesn’t. As road maps of ideologically driven people go, I guess this movie gives a very realistic look at how badly screwed up it can get. Not everyone becomes a Gandhi. And that is something that is not acknowledged enough. This theme is well presented in the movie. And to put my own self in better light here, I still haven’t managed to read The Communist Manifesto, let alone ponder over it.

As for the growth of Geeta, our heroine – the movie shows various aspects of her life, how she handles the men who covet her, how she hold her own in an Indian Marriage, how she manages to stay with her heart and her conscience till the very end. Her sense of friendship, class, fairness, and mostly, love for her man, and what she can do for it, and finally, how she chooses something else over it – shows true character. I’d love to meet this woman.

As far as film-making is concerned, the movie is amateur at best. Editing, acting, dialogue, and barring music, everything about the movie is sub-standard (the music is superb). But that doesn’t take anything away from the theme, and the overall impact. A must watch.