Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Octavio Paz on India/

When I'd finished the definitive version of Freedom on Parole, I felt I could start over. I explored new poetic worlds, knew other countries, lived other sentiments, had other ideas. The first and greatest of my new experiences was India. Another geography, another humanity, other gods—a different kind of civilization. I lived there for just over six years. I traveled around the subcontinent quite a bit and lived for periods in Ceylon and Afghanistan—two more geographical and cultural extremes. If I had to express my vision of India in a single image, I would say that I see an immense plain: in the distance, white, ruinous architecture, a powerful river, a huge tree, and in its shade a shape (a beggar, a Buddha, a pile of stones?). Out from among the knots and forks of the tree, a woman arises . . . I fell in love and got married in India.

Read the complete The Art of Poetry No. 42, HERE.

The Band Wagon

Roger Ebert on the 'Shine on Your Shoes' number in Vincent Minnelli's The Band Wagon/

Minnelli saw Leroy Daniels, a real shoeshine man who sang and danced as he worked, and that not only inspired the number, but got Daniels a trip to Hollywood and a scene where he co-stars with Astaire. He's a gifted performer, his timing as precise as Astaire's, and perhaps because he's the real thing, we sense a freshness and joy. Note, too, Astaire's casual strength when he lifts himself on the arms of the chair so he can kick in mid-air.

Most of the scene's charm is because of Astaire and Daniels, but some, too, was contributed by Minnelli. McElhaney recommends watching the "Shine on Your Shoes" number, but not focusing on Astaire and Daniels: "Instead, only take note of the direction of the extras; watch it again, and only note the function of the decor and the camera movements; then watch it one final time putting all of these elements together." What that exercise would illustrate is that for Minnelli, the whole screen was always in play, not just the foreground and the stars.

More here/
You remember that summer evening, under
The North Star, on a cane mat in the courtyard, when
Your grandmother, with a chuckle and a pat, turned
You into the Flower Prince on a flying wooden horse, on
The quest to find the Silver Princess, the flower-picker’s daughter

You remember how the adventure ended, how
The Flower Prince returned home on the flying horse, with
His Princess, to rule the land until eternity, and how your
Grandmother urged you to close your eyes and how
You turned her wobbly knees into a pillow

You remember those magical few seconds between the end
Of the adventure and the coming of the dreamless sleep, and
You realise, you are trapped in that moment until eternity, between
The adventure and the dreamless sleep, where you are the lone star, on
A dark stage in an empty auditorium


Finally, I caught up with PK. And, I have nothing to add. It is a smartly written movie, sometimes too smart for its own good.

On a lighter note, there is one detail I could not handle. It made me very angry. How dare the Archeological Survey of India allow an alien to take shelter in Agrasen ki Baoli (in the film it is Ugrasen ki Baoli) off Hailey Road near Barakhamba Road in Delhi. And, where is the security guard when this reporter girl came to visit the alien?

You see, I have a reason to complain, because the security guard would not allow me, a legitimate citizen, to enter the place after six in the afternoon. Recently, before the film was released, I went there with a friend. We reached the place dot on six and the security guy would not let us in.

(PS. He was a nice person though. After much cajoling, he finally allowed us to have a dekko for a minute. It was, of course, worth it. It is a magnificent monument, even without the water.)
There is no evening here, in this city of
Neon lights and sleeping pills, just sunless days
Where you stand in the assembly line of a carousal
Which will take you to your own dream country
You never get into the carriage and you never realise
Rocking horses made of deceit cannot fly

Monday, March 30, 2015

When it comes to modern world-building in movies, no one can surpass Wes Anderson. He cannot even let go a tiny detail. Look at this page of a newspaper from the movie. It appears on the screen for fraction of second, yet, as far as newspapers go, it is a perfect copy. In The Grand Budapest Hotel, his most recent and most popular film till date…

Interstellar & India

This follows the recent attempts by nationalistic forces to claim that India had had a wonderful scientific past, where they were experts in building flying machines and plastic surgery, among other things.

Take heart. India also has a wonderful future in science, if you want to believe Christopher Nolan’s bleak version of the future as a world on the verge of collapse. As the film begins, in the bleak, dust-filled world, where ‘we did not run out of TV screens but food’, the Indian Air Force fly drones, powered by solar batteries, on American soil, and no one seems to be complaining. These flying machines are so coveted that it forces our hero, Coop, to follow it thought the corn fields, even with a flat tyre. He wants to capture the drone because its solar cells can power an entire firm. Later, he gushes, “…That’s a surveillance drone, with outstanding solar cells. It’s Indian…”

As an Indian, you should be proud.

As I watch ‘Interstellar’, and the characters talk about relativity, I am wondering if our Indian sages, who wrote those mystical stories in their holy books, knew something about Einstein’s Relativity Theory as well. Let me explain.

In the movie, three astronauts leave the mother ship to explore an unknown planet near a black hole. They leave one astronaut behind. They spend a less than few hours in the hostile planet filled with knee-deep water body and mindboggling waves. And when they return, 32 years have already passed by, and their colleague, who was left behind, is now an older man, while our brave astronauts are still young.

I am remembering a story I read a long time ago. I think it was a legend about the building of the famous Jagannath temple in Puri, I am not sure. Anyway, the story goes like this.

… there is an interesting prelude involved a deity called Neela Madhab, a Brahmin married to a hunter-chief’s daughter and a handful of mustard grains… we will skip that.

Finally, the king built the temple. It was so magnificent that he was not sure if there were any worthy man who could be the first to offer puja in the temple. Then Narad, the celestial messenger, appeared before the king and suggested that he should invite Lord Prajapati, the creator, himself to inaugurate the temple. The king readily agreed. Narad agreed to show the way. The journey was quick. The king met the white-haired god and stated his business. Lord Prajapati was happy to oblige.

They returned to earth on the same day. Yet, once they landed, everything had changed. The temple was now in ruin and his once so glorious kingdom was a thick growth of forest.

It was then Narad said, like the Dr Brand character says in Interstellar: “This is relativity. I knew the theory. But I was not prepared for this…”

Because one day in Brahmalok, the abode of Lord Prajapati, is equivalent to 108 yugas or ages of man. This is very complex relativity.

I wonder if those sages who told this story knew about the concept of time and gravity and how it works, or was it just flight of fancy and happy coincidences.

For a similar story and a lively discussion following Interstellar can be found HERE.

Friday, March 20, 2015


Finally, I got a copy of Chris Nolan’s Intersteller. I was once a Nolan fan. I still love The Prestige. I saw The Dark Knight, Inception and The Dark Knight Rises in the theatre, first day first show. Then, somehow, I lost interest. Even the brouhaha that Intersteller made could not make me go and check out the film.

Last night, I saw portions of the film. It is long, of course. I saw the last half-an-hour with interest, without actually understanding much. But the scenes looked gorgeous, especially the wormhole, Gargantua. And the whole fifth dimension/third dimension tesseract (I know about tesseract, thanks to those Marvel Superhero movies) of a young girl’s room over and over again, was thrilling, and moderately interesting.

Then fadeout, and Coop is rescued and he is on a space station orbiting Saturn (with a scene which is a nice homage to Inception’s weird dream), and he meets his old and dying daughter. And, then, the daughter urges the father to go meet Dr Brand, still young, in a different galaxy. Because, she says, “A parent shouldn't have to watch their own child die.”

I found the dialogue very curious, as if I have heard it before. Then I remembered. This is a reworking of what King Theoden said in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers: “No parent should have to bury their child.”

Now, I could only imagine how much of the movie is borrowed, reworked upon.

PS. Talking about Nolan and neat endings, you know, Coop goes back to Brand and they meet and mate and their children/grandchildren are those ‘beings’ who created the fifth dimension/third dimension tesseract to help Coop come to space in the first place.


I want to go and see NH10. In a theatre. I am looking forward to it. I like the trailer, and I like the promo song, ‘chil gaye naina..’ I like action-heroine movies. I like Anushka Sharma, even after the lip-job. I loved, loved Navdeep Singh’s first film, Manorama Six Feet Under.

When the film was released last Friday, the reviews were 50/50. The critics praised Sharma but were not sure about the screenplay, and so on. They basically had an unhappy experience. I was not sure how the film turned up.

Now, Jai Arjun Singh writes a wonderful comment piece on his blog about the film, which makes me hopeful. I trust this guy’s judgment.

Writes Singh:/

Singh’s long-overdue second film – which lived up to the expectations I had after his wonderful debut Manorama Six Feet Under nearly eight years ago – is, first and foremost, a tightly constructed genre movie, an exercise in suspense. The immediacy of the experience – being glued to the screen, holding your breath, forgetting to pick up your cold coffee, wondering if it was a good or a bad idea for this film to have an Intermission (the break provides a needed breather, but it also has the effect of toning down the intensity) – precedes everything else.

And only then, after exiting the hall and collecting one’s thoughts, does one reflect on the deeper issues being dealt with here: about the many faces and inner contradictions of a society heaving between old and new ways of life. Where a woman may have a high-paying job in a posh, gated office complex, but may still be encouraged to carry a weapon for her safety, and to anticipate and be “responsible” for other people’s criminal impulses (“Gurgaon badhta bachcha hai, toh gun mujhe hee lena hoga,” Meera says drily) – because the police can do only so much to help, and they would rather she didn’t travel alone anyway, it makes their job more difficult. (Besides, the idea of a woman driving by herself late at night discomfits them at a more primal level. Cops don’t emerge from thin air, as someone points out, they come from society and are very much part of it.) It's a world where elegantly dressed, well-spoken male colleagues may listen attentively to her presentation, but later rib her about the boss making special concessions for a woman.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Village in Lower Assam

I spent the last two weeks in a small village in Nalbari district in Assam. There was a wedding. The weather was fantastic, being the month of Fagun, with winds blowing dust, with trees flowering, it was a season of anticipation. It was also the reason of Holi, the Fakua, the Deul Utsav, and the season of Palash, and silk cotton flowers. I was so busy I had hardly the time to take pictures. My camera was moving hands among eager youngsters, cousins and brothers, attending the wedding. Now, back in Delhi, I went through the wedding photos and found these images, views from a village in Lower Assam.