Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Lachit Borphukar

Is the rightwing hijacking Lachit Borphukan now?
Today is the birth anniversary of the great Ahom general, and in the rightwing organisations have taken upon themselves the duty to introduce Lachit to the world, as ‘the great son of Sanatan Dharma.’
And, the war he fought with the Mughals? It was the war against the ‘infidels’, check the following link,
But Lachit wasn’t a Hindu, as we know the religion today. He was an Ahom first. And he wasn’t fighting for one community. He was fight for the sovereignty of a state against foreign invaders. And Assam, even during the Ahoms, was never about one particular community, especially, never about one particular religion. Assam is nothing if not multicultural, in every sense of the word.
For another fictional account for the Lachit story, check this link:

The Assassin

A house in ancient China! Where the assassins live… In Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s slow-paced and enchanting The Assassin…

What would I not give to live in a house like this…

Funny Face

Was there really an international airline service in India called Star of India (competition to Indian Airlines?)? In did not know, until I noticed this towards the end of Audrey Hepburn-Fred Astaire musical Funny Face (1957). There is also a Hindi rendition of the name, helpfully to indicate that this is indeed intended for India.

The movie features a brief cameo of an Indian philosopher, whom the Audrey Hepburn character beats up and who helps the Fred Astaire character resolve his misunderstanding with his girlfriend at the airport in Paris, no less.

Masaan (2015), the most talked about off-beat movie of the year, with a killer soundtrack...

Monday, November 23, 2015


Paul Thomas Anderson made a movie about music, in Jodhpur, for the album Junun, and it’s glorious… Featuring this track, ‘Roked’


The film begins with footage of the whole crew (all 17 of the musicians involved in the project) sitting in a circle and launching into the horn-laden mantras of “Julus,” with a camera in the center spinning around and fixating on each musician as they launch into their respective interwoven parts on trumpet, tuba, trombone, and less common instruments like the khartal, dholak, Bhapang, and Nagara (each of which are typical of qawwali percussion). It’s pretty impressive to watch a group of musicians this large interacting in unison — which you’ll know if you’ve ever spent time watching bows rise and fall at an orchestra — and it’s dizzying and disorienting in Anderson’s hands as he spins the camera for several rapid rotations. It’s a moment that mirrors general approach throughout the whole film, find an energy that matches the music’s giddy pace and underscore the fact that there’s a whole crew of people working here — a group beyond Greenwood, and even beyond Ben Tzur, who gets first billing on the resulting record.

Anderson has a few tricks up his sleeve for these slower moments though, deploying a drone camera to take flowing aerial shots of the whole compound, or to rocket across a room and out the window when a particularly ecstatic composition calls for it. There’s a whole tradition of verité filmmaking that Anderson’s engaged with, and though it’d largely be relegated to a bonus DVD in the case of something like Junun — the economy and democracy of which is pretty much unparalleled — he manages to justify its existence. It’s neither a dive into the depths of Greenwood’s soul, nor a particularly insightful look into his collaborators’ way of working, but its casually diaristic lens is fitting for the looseness of the proceedings. Neither Greenwood nor Anderson is the type to goof off, but this is as close as either has come to letting some of the tension out, and allowing others to take the lead. And it’s always endearing to watch a master cede the spotlight.

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At a brief 54 minutes, it’s a curiosity apt to primarily appeal to Anderson completists, premiering exclusively on MUBI, an online streaming platform for world cinema, beginning on Oct. 9. Its title roughly translated to mean “madness of love,” “Junun” sets its stage simply, with a single title card explaining Greenwood’s trip to the 15th-century Mehrangarh Fort (with the blessing of the Maharaja of Jodhpur) in order to work on the titular two-disc LP.

From there, Anderson’s camera assumes an intimate position first outside, and then inside, the circle formed by Greenwood and his fellow musicians as they sit on the floor of a giant room recording their varied, passionate, alternately joyful and sorrowful songs. Those tracks aren’t denoted by title, just as Greenwood’s producer Nigel Godrich, Israeli composer and singer Shye Ben Tzur, and India’s “Rajasthan Express” members aren’t identified by name until the closing credits. The effect of that strategy is to situate viewers within a very particular creative space that feels at once hermetic, and yet inherently in sync with the larger world surrounding it.

That accord between the interior and the exterior is conveyed via numerous shots which commence alongside drummers and singers and then rapidly fly out Mehrangarh Fort’s windows, suggesting a kinship between the eclectic music and the region from which it draws life — and also, as when electricity shortages lead to recording stoppages, its vibrant power. There’s a trancelike energy to the tunes crafted during these sessions, such that at one point, a player of the kamaicha (a stringed instrument made from goat leather and mango wood) grows heavy-lidded as if semi-hypnotized by his own performance.

With no contextual onscreen information provided, and interview and conversational dialogue kept to a bare minimum, “Junun” functions as an experiential documentary, one in which all meaning and emotion is derived from being wholly submerged in the music on display. Consequently, Greenwood himself remains a peripheral figure, spied over shoulders or amidst his fellow musicians as merely one link in a chain of talented people coming together to beget something unique from their disparate skills.

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It’s an austere but stylishly packaged work, serious and respectful, which studies the performers as they play with mostly long unbroken takes that run through to the end of each song. There’s a tiny bit of travelogue stuff, background colour showing the city below the fort where locals mill about and craftsman fix out-of-tune instruments while birds wheel in the sky overhead. But, following the Fred Wiseman school of documentary-making, which eschews naming and explaining, the emphasis is squarely on the music itself, not the people who play it. Comparisons might be made with Wim Wenders’ tribute to the music of Cuba, Buena Vista Social Club, but that was a much more accessible, populist work and it’s doubtful this will do for the Indian folk artists featured here what that older film did for its charismatic, elderly stars.

The weird paradox about this film is that despite the fact that the musicians are identified by name only in the very last minutes of the movie, the name of the director, Paul Thomas Anderson, is splashed all over the advertising campaign. You can’t help wondering if it’s his involvement that’s secured the film a slot in the New York film festival’s lineup this week, making this a bit of a PR coup for Mubi. Because ultimately, it’s a good, solid little picture, but it’s not that great, and certainly not noticeably more accomplished or compelling than many of the other music-themed docs that come out each week with less fanfare.

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There's a beautiful, multi-tiered exchange among artists happening in Junun. Jonny Greenwood's unconventional dramatic scores have enriched the last three features by Paul Thomas Anderson, and the director now reciprocates by bringing along his camera to document the unique recording adventure this past spring of an album of devotional music — alternately plaintive and ecstatic, trancelike and propulsive, invariably stirring — on which the Radiohead guitarist collaborates with Israeli composer and singer Shye Ben Tzur, producer Nigel Godrich and a populous band of Indian musicians and vocalists dubbed the Rajasthan Express.

Clocking in at just under an hour, the digitally shot documentary follows its New York Film Festival premiere with an exclusive month-long window on global streaming platform, starting on Oct. 9. It should also prove a popular choice in festival music sidebars as well as a captivating extra to go with the two-disc album of the same name, due Nov. 13 from Nonesuch Records.

Nor could Ben Tzur really be considered the film's chief focus, despite being responsible for its driving wall-to-wall music. Both Anderson's film (which carries no director credit) and the project it documents show a democratic inclusiveness toward all the creative contributors. That's illustrated in a slow pan around the circle of musicians during the mighty build of the opening song, "Julus," as drummers are joined by other dynamic percussionists, followed by the virtuoso trumpet of Aamir Bhiyani and the rest of the killer brass section. Even ace producer Godrich is shown to be just one of the crew in amusing shots of him using a microphone stand to shoo out a persistent pigeon.

Contextual information and dialogue are kept to a minimum, although in stunning footage we watch a young man who feeds meat to hawks that circle the fort's towers each day, continuing a family tradition that stretches back generations. The same goes for a musician who plays a kamaicha, a traditional bowed instrument made of mango wood and goatskin. A snippet of dialogue also reveals that given the vast number of distinct Indian languages, it's by no means unusual for vocalists to be singing in Hebrew, a language they don't speak. (They also sing in Hindi and Urdu.)


For his first foray into both documentary and digital filmmaking, Anderson accompanied Jonny Greenwood, who composed the sinister soundtracks for all three of those aforementioned movies, to Mehrangarh Fort in Rajasthan, India. Here, the Radiohead guitarist joined super-producer Nigel Godrich and musicians from all over India in helping Israeli artist Shye Ben Tzur lay down tracks for a forthcoming album. Anderson was there to film the whole recording process, and the result might have seemed like glorified supplemental material were he the kind of filmmaker willing, under any circumstances, to simply plop the camera down and press record. But from its opening shot—a 360-degree pan around the makeshift studio, the musicians arranged in a prayer circle—Junun locates unconventional vantage points from which to capture the creative mojo. PTA and his team of camera operators seem constantly in motion, ducking and weaving among the brass-band ringers and dholak players, attempting always to find a visual correlative for the sonic energy of the room.

Afforded a small crew in a beautiful foreign city, Anderson can’t resist the occasional detour out of the recording space. In a sly, spiritual nod to his Punch Drunk Love, he tags along with one musician on a day trip through the Rajasthan to get his harmonium fixed. Elsewhere, PTA affixes cameras to drones, securing some sweeping overhead coverage of the environment—and its avian population—for his otherwise scrappy direct-cinema project. (Perhaps the access to drones was what convinced this celluloid loyalist to go digital. Or maybe the loose nature of the project just demanded a cheaper alternative.) Anderson provides little context and no talking-head interviews; when his subjects do gab, it’s very offhand, as when one musician casually discusses his polytheistic belief system. Mirroring the seemingly democratic spirit of the album’s creation, Junun affords the session players a bigger spotlight than their internationally acclaimed collaborators: Greenwood barely says a word, spending most of his screen time hunched over a guitar, while Godrich’s most prominent scene concerns his silent attempts to chase a pigeon out of the studio with a mic stand.

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Monday, October 26, 2015

Finding Forrester

Do you know what’s the absolute best moment is? It’s when you have finished your first draft and you read it by yourself, before the assholes take something that they cannot do in a lifetime and tear it down in a single day.

The truth of being a writer. Sean Connery in Finding Forrester (2000).

Finding Forrester

The key to a woman’s heart is an unexpected gift at an unexpected time.

The truth about dating. Sean Connery in Finding Forrester (2000).

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Last Lecture

The Last Lecture is a New York Times best-selling book co-authored by Randy Pausch—a professor of computer science, human-computer interaction, and design at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania—and Jeffrey Zaslow of the Wall Street Journal. The book was born out of a lecture Pausch gave in September 2007 entitled "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams".

The book has often been compared with Mitch Albom's Tuesdays with Morrie, a book on lessons the author learned from his dying college professor. When asked about his knowledge of the book, Pausch replied that he had never read that book, and commented that he "didn’t know there was a dying-professor section at the bookstore". Speculation that the book would be turned into a movie was turned down by Pausch himself.

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According to Randy Pausch “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand” (Pausch & Zaslow, 2008). At 47 Pausch, a college professor at Carnegie Mellon University, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He then decided to write The Last Lecture.

In their last year professors are often asked to give a talk, their last lecture, in which they reflect on their experiences. While they speak, audiences can’t help but mull the same question: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance? What would we want as our legacy?

This text is both inspiring and powerful. Pausch tells life stories that illustrate such themes as dreaming big, hard work, perseverance, sacrifice, self-confidence, modesty, courage, a positive outlook, and dealing with adversity. All who read this book will find themselves not wanting it to end as story after story, we get a glimpse of Pausch’s life.
Pausch believed that he won the parent lottery. He was influenced by his loving and supportive parents. Early in life he painted things that mattered to him on his bedroom walls such as a large silver elevator door, geometric shapes, chess pieces, Pandora’s Box, and a quadratic formula. Among these the quadratic formula mattered most to him.
Growing up Pausch had many experiences and learned lessons from them. He recounted experiences playing football that taught him lessons about the importance of teamwork, sportsmanship, perseverance, hard work and the ability to deal with adversity.
He remembered going through his dad’s things after his dad died. Among them were a citation for heroic achievement and a bronze star for valor his dad received while in the Army. His father had never mentioned these to him. Pausch says that he learned a lesson about sacrifice and modesty that day.

As a child he loved Disney World and dreamed of becoming a Disney Imagineer. Few achieve such dreams much less get the opportunity to achieve them. He got that opportunity while teaching at Carnegie Mellon and was awarded a sabbatical so that he could take the job. He recounted that after his plane landed in Los Angles he drove to Disney World with the Lion King soundtrack blaring on his convertible’s stereo and tears of joy streaming down his face.

In a chapter entitled, “It’s About How to Live Your Life,” Pausch talks of his cancer and it’s effects on the remainder of his life. He described how he tried to live his life and offered some tips on coping saying “this is what worked for me.” He talks about giving yourself permission to dream big, and achieving your goals. He points out that we all have a finite amount of time and energy and that time spent complaining cannot help us achieve our goals.

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As a professor of computer sciences at Carnegie Mellon University, Randy F. Pausch expected students to pay attention to his lectures. He never expected that the rest of the world would listen, too.

But today, more than 10 million people have tuned into Dr. Pausch’s last lecture, a whimsical and poignant talk about Captain Kirk, zero gravity and achieving childhood dreams. The 70-minute talk, at, has been translated into seven languages, and this week Hyperion is publishing “The Last Lecture,” a book by Dr. Pausch and a collaborator, Jeff Zaslow, that tells the story behind the story of the lecture.

“The whole thing is very strange,” Dr. Pausch said over lunch at a diner near Norfolk, Va. “I just gave a talk. I gave talks my whole life.”

But of course, this wasn’t just any talk. “Let’s not ignore the obvious,” he said. “If I’d given that lecture but I weren’t dying, it wouldn’t have had the gravitas. Context is everything.”

Dr. Pausch, 47, is dying of pancreatic cancer, a disease that kills 95 percent of its victims, usually within months of diagnosis. Except for a pill bottle on the table in front of him, there were no outward signs of the deadly tumors growing inside him. Though he had just recently recovered from heart and kidney failure, he looked boyish, with a red knit shirt and a head of thick dark-brown hair.

Last fall, after doctors told him that he would probably have no more than six months of good health, Dr. Pausch stepped down from his academic duties and relocated to be closer to his family. But he decided to give one last lecture to a roomful of students and faculty members at Carnegie Mellon.

The lecture was not about cancer. Instead, he says, it was simply a father’s effort to digest a lifetime of advice for his children into one talk — a talk that Dr. Pausch knew he would not be around long enough to deliver in person. The children are Dylan, 6; Logan, 4; and Chloe, almost 2.

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The Little Prince

The Little Prince (French: Le Petit Prince; French pronunciation: ​[lə.pə.tiˈpʁɛ̃s]), first published in 1943, is a novella and the most famous work of the French aristocrat, writer, poet and pioneering aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900–1944).

The novella is the 3rd most-translated book in the world and was voted the best book of the 20th century in France. Translated into more than 250 languages and dialects (as well as Braille), selling nearly two million copies annually with sales totalling over 140 million copies worldwide, it has become one of the best-selling books ever published.

After the outbreak of the Second World War Saint-Exupéry was exiled to North America. In the midst of personal upheavals and failing health, he produced almost half of the writings for which he would be remembered, including a tender tale of loneliness, friendship, love, and loss, in the form of a young alien prince fallen to Earth. An earlier memoir by the author had recounted his aviation experiences in the Sahara Desert, and he is thought to have drawn on those same experiences in The Little Prince.

Since its first publication in the United States, the novella has been adapted to numerous art forms and media, including audio recordings, radio plays, live stage, film screen, television, ballet, and operatic works.

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Twice widowed and not yet 30, Consuelo Suncin married the dashing young aviator Comte Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in 1931. As depicted in this posthumous memoir (The Tale of the Rose) (written in 1945, it lay undiscovered until the 1990s), they were an impossible couple: childlike and terminally irresponsible, Saint-Ex (as his friends called him) broke engagements without a word to disappear for months. Consuelo—sometimes naïve, often egotistical, and always temperamental—frequently exploded in nervous fits (one acquaintance described her as "Surrealism made flesh"). From Buenos Aires to Casablanca, Paris and New York, they failed to establish a home for themselves; Saint-Ex repeatedly fled the constraints of marriage, only to find he could not write without his wife's support and inspiration. She, for her part, loved him too much to leave him for good. Friends described Consuelo as a charming storyteller, always ready with a vivid observation ("She had the face of an umbrella" is her stab at a suspected rival). At its most heartrending, this book tells the story of a proud, charismatic woman who lived only for her husband, following him from continent to continent as he deceived and neglected her, then pleaded for her return when he began writing again. In 1943 he wrote The Little Prince, immortalizing Consuelo as the Prince's beloved Rose, too proud and thorny to admit her pain at his departure. A year later, the aviator disappeared over the Atlantic. For his many devotees, this memoir will offer an intimate glimpse of the strange and passionate life behind his mysterious work.

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Gore Vidal once joked that the advantage of bisexuality was that it doubled your chances of a date on a Saturday night. By extension, hermaphrodites could be said to have the third option of a good night in on their own. But in this epic novel narrated by an American born with twin-set genitals, Jeffrey Eugenides silences such cheap jokes with a rich comedy of his own.

Because the condition the writer calls "middlesex" is caused by a recessive gene (one usually negated by the other parent's DNA), it tends to appear only once in several generations. The same was beginning to seem regrettably true of books by Eugenides.

This second novel follows almost a decade after his astonishing debut, The Virgin Suicides, in which five daughters from a very correct American family take their own lives in succession. Intriguingly, the only equally praised book-rookie of the same period - Donna Tartt, with The Secret History - has also waited until late this year to get to second base. In American letters, the theme of this fall is the attempt to fulfil high promise.

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Those Greeks and their hermaphrodites! Teiresias, the seer who futilely haunts so many Greek tragedies, was one. Having enjoyed the special privilege of living as both a male and a female, he was asked by the gods to settle an argument about which of the two sexes had more pleasure from lovemaking; on asserting that the female did, he was struck blind by prudish Hera—but given the gift of prophecy by Zeus as a compensation. The minor deity Hermaphroditus, of course, was another, appearing in religion (there is evidence of dedications to the god as early as the third century BC in Attica), in literature (Ovid, in the fourth book of Metamorphoses, elaborates the mythic narrative in which this son of Hermes and Aphrodite was joined in one body with the nymph Salmacis), and in art, where the opportunities for imaginative representations of this strange creature proved irresistible, predictably enough, to Hellenistic sculptors, with their penchant for the extreme. The most famous of these sculpted hermaphrodites is a Greek one from about 150 BC, which survives in Roman copies such as the one to be found in the “Hermaphrodite Room” in the Uffizi. At first glance, the figure seems to be that of a sleeping woman. She lies face down, and is quite voluptuous: her breasts, pressed against the couch on which she reclines, are full, as are her hips. Her hair is carefully, fashionably coiffed. On closer inspection, however, it becomes clear that this is no ordinary female. For there, peeking out of the voluminous folds of her gown, is a penis, as modest and perfectly formed as any of the unassuming members familiar from countless classical nudes. Male nudes, that is.

To this catalog we may now add another Greek, Calliope Stephanides, the heroine—and later the hero (“Cal”)—of Jeffrey Eugenides’s second novel, which is slyly entitled Middlesex. (The title ostensibly refers to the name of the street in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, where much of the novel is set.) For adorable little Callie turns out, by the novel’s end, to be a boy—one who suffers from a rare genetic disorder that causes a type of male pseudo-hermaphroditism: although chromosomally male (she has both an X and a Y), she has no real penis, but instead a kind of extended clitoris which she will refer to as “the crocus”; she has testes, but they remain undescended. As a result of this she is misidentified at birth as being a girl and is raised as a girl by her amusingly neurotic, upper-middle-class Greek-American parents. Until puberty, that is, when her male hormones kick in and it becomes increasingly evident that she is no ordinary female. (For one thing, she doesn’t menstruate, although she tries mightily to fake it: “I did cramps the way Meryl Streep does accents.”) It is only after a road accident lands her in an emergency room that Callie and her bewildered family realize how extraordinary she really is. Middlesex, then, is a Bildungsroman with a rather big twist: the Bildung it describes turns out to be the wrong one—a false start.

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EVEN before she's born, Calliope Stephanides's gender is up for debate. Her parents, Milton and Tessie Stephanides of Detroit, want a girl, and a bachelor uncle convinces Milton, ostensibly on the authority of an article in Scientific American magazine, that if the couple have ''sexual congress'' 24 hours prior to ovulation ''the swift male sperm would rush in and die off. The female sperm, sluggish but more reliable, would arrive just as the egg dropped.'' Tessie complies, despite her worries that ''to tamper with something as mysterious and miraculous as the birth of a child was an act of hubris.'' Once Tessie is pregnant, Milton's mother, Desdemona -- a refugee with her husband, Lefty, from a Greek village on the slopes of Mount Olympus -- dangles a silver spoon tied to a string over the belly of her daughter-in-law and pronounces the child a boy. Her son storms in to protest the divination; the baby is a girl, he insists. ''It's science, Ma.''

They're both right, after a fashion. Callie will spend the 1960's and early 70's, the first years of her life, as the relatively unremarkable daughter of an entrepreneurial Greek-American family, only to discover at 14, in the office of a Manhattan physician, that she is a hermaphrodite -- or, more precisely, a pseudohermaphrodite, a sufferer of 5-alpha-reductase deficiency syndrome. ''To the extent that fetal hormones affect brain chemistry and histology, I've got a male brain,'' explains Cal, the man Callie decides to become after she learns the truth and the narrator of ''Middlesex,'' Jeffrey Eugenides's expansive and radiantly generous second novel. ''But I was raised as a girl.''

Eugenides's first novel, ''The Virgin Suicides'' (1993), was a dreamy, slender book about the gulf in understanding between the adolescent boys in a Michigan suburb and the five daughters of a strict Roman Catholic couple living in their neighborhood. The boys fill that gulf with romantic obsession, a beast that thrives in a vacuum, and the girls, stricken with a fatal loneliness, die by their own hands like a bevy of unlucky fairy tale princesses. ''Middlesex'' may be an entirely different sort of book -- it's longer, more discursive and funnier, for a start -- but it's equally preoccupied with rifts. There's the gap between male and female, obviously, but also between Greek and WASP, black and white, the old world and the new, the silver spoon and the sluggish sperm. Finally, there is the tug of war between destiny and free will -- an age-old concern of Greek storytellers, as every college freshman learns, reborn in the theories advanced by evolutionary psychology.

Evolutionary psychology, at least in its popular incarnation -- which seems to get more popular every day -- keeps chipping away at the garden-variety humanism espoused by most novelists. That's why it's surprising so few of them (at least within the genre of literary fiction) have bothered to take notice of it. Viewed through a sociobiological lens, infidelity, the novel's favorite meat, is transformed from the stuff of betrayal and moral failing to the mere playing out of a Darwinian reproductive imperative; despair springs from an inherited defect in the regulation of neurochemicals, not from an existential apprehension of the absurdity of the human condition. The tangled parks and gardens that have long been the novelist's stamping grounds are being bulldozed to make way for sleek, sterile industrial complexes where, in cataloging each molecule in the human genome, scientists may ultimately be able to tell us which gene caused Anna Karenina to cheat and gave Oliver Twist the nerve to ask for more gruel.

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