Planning


At the end, originally uploaded by Shifting sands.

Had intended this weekend to be a reading and movies weekend after a long time, since next weekend will be again wasted in flying to Sydney.
However, it ended up being a weekend of traveling. Not that I am complaining. The drive to Murud was one of the best I have had in a long time, as a considerable stretch runs along a beautiful and virgin sea.

Bright Young people

Just the other day in a disc, I and my friends were quite appalled to see a bunch of really young looking kids drinking, smoking and dancing away to glory way past the prescribed bed times for people their age. Their callous attitude and overt amorous behavior and our obvious disgust for it made me feel for the first time that perhaps the new generation has come in and we have moved to the next level. And I suppose like every generation, even ours has not escaped the trap of assuming that the next one is decadent and shallow. Of course the ‘Bright young things’ will protest – as we did when we were in their shoes.

Evelyn Waugh’s novel ‘Vile Bodies‘ is a satirical take on the lifestyle of these bright young people and is a brilliantly funny work. After a series of serious narratives, reading Waugh was like a breath of freshness, even if the humor towards the end grew dry and derived its punch exclusively from ‘tragedies’. The tragedies however did not trouble the happy go lucky young things who went on with their partying even in the face of worst calamities. Their biggest fear every night was something else – something aptly described by Waugh in this line:

Soon someone would say those fatal words, ‘Well I think it’s time for me to go to bed. Can I give any one a lift to Knightsbridge?’ and the party would be over.

So night after night, this group of people party-hopped – ranging from airship parties to masked parties to drunken brawls at the Downing street.

The book is a story of one such person who keeps running into money and subsequent losses of it, accordingly breaking and keeping his engagement to his sweetheart. It begins on a very light note and the humor arises out of truly comic situations (like a forgetful father in law), however at some point it passes into a dark tale of irony and becomes a shade depressive.

It is amusing to see that generations don’t change, and even in the midst of a social party of their own, the parents worry over the mindless parties of their young, and as the two parties (that of the young and the old) are described almost in parallel, there is very little contrast you can see in the uselessness of each.

Another rainy day

I can thank the rains or blame them, but for once, last weekend was spent peacefully at home as the roads around me once more gave way to a gush of water and life in Mumbai came to a familiar grinding halt. As usual I was again confused if I like living in Mumbai or not. After all, a peaceful day at home with the perfect excuse of rain is a rare blessing. My only complaint is that this should have happened on a week day to grant some respite from the monotony of office.

I utilized the day in watching three movies – all three of them interesting to watch, if a bit depressive at times.

The first one was Como agua para chocolate (Like Chocolate for water), a 1992 Mexican movie based on a book by Mexican novelist Laura Esquivel. It is actually a story of a young girl’s love struggling against tradition (No! not in the traditional Bollywood style). The incomplete love manifests itself in her cooking, which becomes a mode of communication between her and her lover. Like other South American writings, an element of magic realism is dominant in the story in form of magical effects of food, ghosts, etc. I think Sir (!) Rushdie took inspiration from the plot when writing down the character of Alia (Saleem’s aunt) in Midnight’s Children. A very different movie.

The second one was a 2002 French movie Irréversible by Gaspar Noé, the Argentinian-French film-maker strongly influenced by Mr. Kubrick. The most impressive part of the movie is its tagline: Time destroys Everything, and the director shows that emphatically by moving in backward frames – starting with a violent, dark present and weaving back to a happy, dreamy past. The plot depicts revenge for a rape, but it is in a way a story of time. The movie is jarringly depressive with its frank graphics, and on a clouded, rainy day threatens to push one into a gloomy state of mind. Monica Bellucci, unlike her other movies (especially Malena), is less impressive and beautiful, though really there is very little role for her.

The third movie was the very popular 2005 film – V for Vendetta, which was very entertaining to watch. This movie depicts the Big Brother in one of his variants, and is set in a future Britain. The central character V in this movie is the rebel who single-handedly tries to overthrow the Big brother rule. The film is an adaptation of a comic book series by Alan Moore and David Lloyd. Interestingly, Alan Moore refused to watch this movie because of his disappointments with the previous adaptations of his works (From Hell, The League of extraordinary gentlemen). I don’t know if the movie would have disappointed him and the readers of the original comic, but to me it was a thriller – a nice perk from the darkness of Irreversible.

Paris, Je T’aime

There is often something catching about the French movies (strictly by my own sampling). Perhaps it is only because the better ones become famous and become available to a wider non-french speaking audience, but the handful of French movies that I have come accross have been captivating.

I have written one post on the French trilogy Trois Couleurs (Three Colors)(http://slidingsands.blogspot.com/2007/05/trois-couleurs.html), a set of three very thought provoking movies. I recently watched another French movie called Amélie or Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain (The Fabulous Life of Amélie Poulain), which was a comical and entertaining story of a mildly eccentric girl called Amélie Poulain. Almost all events in the movie are a comic exaggeration of the reality, from Amélie’s mother’s death, to her father’s belief in her troubled heart condition, to her meeting with her beloved and finally the coming together of everything. Each event underlines her isolation from normalcy and her semi-retirement to an imaginative world. It is a story which depicts the modern Parisian life by drawing a caricature of it – sometimes one of the most effective means to bring out traits.
Adding to my experience of cinéma français, last weekend I saw another French movie – the first one in the theatre – Paris, je t’aime (Paris, I love you). The film is an assortment of stories – 18 in all , each running for 5-10 minutes. Each story has been shot in a different administrative unit of Paris (called arrondissements) and has been written and directed by a different person. One would think that such a disconnected set of story could be exacting and become boring after a while – but in reality it was extremely interesting. Each story showed Paris in a different light. Surprisingly, most of the characters seemed to be immigrants to the city rather than native French. Probably it was done to give a diversity to people.
The central theme of the movie was love – and it was a different kind of love in each story – it was the love for a child, love for a wife, love for a father, love for an ex, love for a lover and love for self. The stories were witty, emotional, touching, crazy and simple in turns and though a couple of them did seem odd and unconnected, the overall collage was very pleasing and entertaining. Couple of my favorites were Pere Lachaise (the story of wit) and Faubourg Saint-Denis (the disintegrating love of an actress and a blind man).
The movie brought back wonderful memories of living in the city of Paris. This city was one of the very few places where I have lived alone with myself in a way. Nowhere else do I think I have walked alone for long hours, sat in a park alone sippling coffee listening to music or caught a sandwich and sat staring at a monument. I often remember it as the place where I lost my passport and struggled to get another one. But at the same time, it was also a place which I scanned by foot, by train and by buses, holding a map and sometimes giving up in exasperation. The only place where I got out of the train on impulse and roamed an unknown area, and felt so much with myself. The only place in which I actually lived the idyllic dream of reading a book on a park bench, near a pond, with my hair swaying away in the cool and soothing breeze.
I do love Paris, in a way.

12 Angry men

I watched this classic to overcome the disastrous effects of watching one really painful movie : ‘1:40 ki last local’ , which is, without doubt, the worst movie that I have watched this year. ’12 Angry men’ not just helped me overcome the bad taste, it also made me feel quite refreshed.

The movie is a 1957 movie, and a brilliant portrayal of a jury’s examination of a case. The case under trial is that of murder, where a young man brought up in slums is alleged to have stabbed his unkind father in a fit of anger. As the discussion begins, 11 out of the 12 men are convinced that the verdict is guilty and there is no room for further discussion. However, when asked to give reasons/explanations, there are very few who are able to give logical arguments. Each of them has simply presumed guilt given the circumstances. As the discussion unfolds, a lot of hidden agendas of the jury members come out – prejudices against thankless sons, prejudices against the slum dwellers, urgency to wind up and go for a baseball game and inability to go against the majority.

The movie is quite fast paced, realistic and engrossing. It brings out beautifully the responsibility of justice and how easy it is for people to sometimes shrug it. It also depicts how each man can bring to the table some new perspective accumulated from his life, which could be very relavant to making the decision.

Henry Fonda was remarkable in his role as the sole propenant for a “Non guilty” verdict. The other jurors too did not fail to leave a mark and lent remarkable drama to what could otherwise have been just a discussion amongst 12 men.

Great classic, with a theme that is not dated even today.

A plea to the authors

Last week, I went to the theatre to watch a much awaited movie – ‘The Namesake’. For it was based on a book which I had much appreciated and liked – for its characters, the story, the thought and a lot of small details.

As the movie began, a hint of dis-satisfaction began to seep in as a lot of finer points of the story remained elusive. I tried to be tolerant and waited for the better parts to arrive. Of course in vain. The movie-maker had decided well in advance that she will keep the levels low. Not only did each character remain on the edge and slightly blurred, the dull lighting and lack of sound ensured that no life was breathed into the plot.

I came out sad and disappointed, and a little annoyed at Jhumpa Lahiri for letting her book come to this. If I as a reader felt so strongly against the pale coloring to the book, as an author she should have been aghast and absolutely forbidden this fate.

But surprisingly, that is a fate that meets a lot of good, well-written books. Enthusiastic readers line up at the theatre to meet a disfigured, paler, misjudged version of their book and go back disappointed. We have as examples ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’, ‘Wuthering Heights’, ‘Catch 22’, ‘Chocolat’, ‘Pride and prejudice’, ‘Dracula‘, and an endless list to follow where much appreciated books were brought to a naught by their cinematic version. Why do authors goof up so often in selecting the movie-makers who can do justice to their beloved brainchild? Do they have no say in the way their book is shaped by these buyers and presented to the whole world?

Of course there are some books that have been beautifully pictured. These can perhaps be counted on fingers. How many ‘Godfather’s, ‘LOTR’s, and ‘To kill a mocking bird’s do we come accross? Perhaps the timeless status attained by these movies is what inspires an author to bring his book to screen. If only he would not get carried away and make the selection wisely.

So, this is a plea from all agitated readers, to all the authors whose works are well appreciated by a lot of devoted readers – please do not sell your bookrights to movie makers. And if you do:
1) Please do so only to the most sensitive directors, and
2) Keep a tab of where he is taking your book

Hoping to see an intact version of Shantaram! Mr. Johny Depp, please do have mercy on the huge fan club of the book.

Symphony

I had long back established that I had no ear for classical music. On the rare occassions when I came upon classical playbacks and performances, I would yearn to switch the music or escape.
However, during my graduate studies, I found a set of western classical compositions and got into a habit of playing them in my room as a melodious backdrop while I busied myself with an assignment or a reading. Slowly, my ear got attuned to the melody. Perhaps my new found interest was part of the serenity package that comes with age 🙂

This weekend, this interest led me to attend the first western classical symphony of my life. The Symphony Orchestra of India (SOI) is currently running its second season at the NCPA and is holding 4 celebrity performances as part of the season. I attended the second of these performances, where three famous compositions were played. The compositions were authored by no less than Mozart, Poulenc and Schubert, and each of them was a delight to listen to. While Mozart’s piece was rendered with clarinet, two violins and a cello, Poulenc’s was played on a piano and a clarinet, and Schubert’s composition was brought alive by a piano, a violin and a cello. Even as each instrument put its own soul into the music, I was specially taken with the piano, particularly in Schubert’s symphony. The pianist was Temirzhan Yerzhanov, who, for the uninitiated like me, is a very renowned performer accross the world, and does India pround by being a part of the SOI.
I was also touched with two other performances. One of them was the rendition of Allegro in Mozart’s symphony, which was a sad, touching tune and the two violins lent it an etheral quality. The second was part of Poulenc’s symphony – a piece called Romanza, where the piano and the clarinet harmonized to engineer a beautiful melody.

The whole set-up was very classy and first grade, and the Tata theatre at NCPA was a perfect setting for the performance. It appears that the hall has been designed for musical performances and has very good acoustics, which did much to enhance the music.

Overall, it was a nice experience and made up perfectly for missing the Roger Waters show.

The rear view…

Its yet another 31st of December, and time is trying to tick its way into the next year. All newspapers, TV channels, magazines et al are bustling with the flashbacks of the year gone by. On my own turf, I thoroughly enjoyed the year that went by – with a lot of new things, mingled with old. Some of it I want to jot here, as my farewell gesture to 2006.
Reading:
Bookswise, it was a very fruitful year – both in terms of books purchased and books read.I built up a collection of more than a 100 books ( of course I am proud!). I got introduced to some amazing authors like Orhan Pamuk, Kazuo Ishiguro, Margaret Atwood, Jose Saramago

Favorite reads of the year: Snow, My name is Red, Never Let me go, The Double, The Blind Assassin, Possession, The Pickup
Travel:
This was a great year for travel as well, though of course not as much as last year, when Europe offered a platter to explore. But then, India is no less. I saw the hills, snow, mist, and the spleandour of the sea.I traversed through the backwaters, spent days on a cruise, took a 52 hour train journey and enjoyed a drive through Himachal
Places I visited: Mukhteshwar, Chila, Rishikesh, Trivendrum, Kovalam, Alleppy, Cochin, Lakshadweep, Matheran,Lonavala, Khandala, Tungareshwar, Mahabaleshwar, Goa, Coorg, Simla, Kufri, Naldhera and Fagu. Also visited Bhopal and Cal for the first time.
Movies:
With a lot of free time in the campus as the slower sixth term rolled on, there was enough scope for movie-watching and I watched some really good movies this year.
Favorite movies of the year: CRASH, Dor, The Prestige, Godfather, The Omen, RDB, Walk The Line, Blanc, Hazaron Khwahishein Aisi, Malena

Plays:
This was also an year when I got introduced to the charm of theatre for the first time. I did not watch as many plays as I would have liked to watch, but the ones I watched were quite gripping.
Favorites: The open couple, Mitr, Vagina Monologues

New stuff:
Yes, there were a lot of new happenings in life. Moving out of campus, shifting to Mumbai, Joining JPMorgan, rejoining i2, going to pubs, watching theatre, getting on Orkut, doing a trek through water, etc. Above all, for the first time I saw a brown land turn into white as snow covered it in its beautiful shine. And it was a beautiful moment, not only because it was a pretty site, but also because some of my closest friends stood with me as I saw that happen..
On that note, I wish that beautiful year a goodbye.