Tuesday, January 27, 2015

HLF 2015

I really don't intend to write a detailed post about this year's Hyderabad Lit Fest, mainly because I was there but not very engaged, so I really don't have much to say.

But there was a few memorable things for me and they are as follows:

- For reasons I will not go into, Javed Akhtar acquired a copy of my book and began to read it - thankfully not aloud - as I watched. It was a moment of acute embarrassment for me made worse by a friend taking a photo of me in this state.

- Listening to Ahdaf Soueif, who was brilliant but who was interrupted rather rudely by the venue's emcee while she was answering audience questions; and who gracefully told her audience that we could continue the discussion outside the tent. The discussion went on for another hour and I had to leave reluctantly because I had a session to host.

- Book loot from the second hand book store! 

Two Milosz - one a novel and the other a memoir, a good find given that Poland was the guest nation at this HLF. And look at the Beckett! and the Khair and Hughes! 

There are some more books that aren't in these photographs but the two books that are making me crow with delight are the pre-Shakespearean Tudor plays and the Sidney's Defence of Poesy.  

Please take a good look at the contents page of the plays. If you've ever studied Eng Lit, you'll have heard of Ralph Roister Doister and Gammer Gurton's Needle but it is very unlikely that even a college library will have had a copy. I have those plays! I am so excited!!!





That's basically it about the HLF.


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Doc Splash at the Hyd Lit Fest 2015

The Docu Circle of Hyderabad, curated and run by Sumanaspati Reddy, has been doing superb work over the last several years, bringing great films to Hyderabad without fuss. Sumanaspati himself is unassuming and works with the kind of dedication and complete lack of interest in self-aggrandisement that is celebrated only when it is part of the Gita or something.

Anyway. Doc Splash has a number of short documetaries at the Hyd Lit Fest today, in association with Films Division and PSBT, and though the schedule is certain to be available on Facebook, I don't know if my readers here are in the same pool there, so I'm putting up the entire list.

Here goes:


​Festival curated by : ​
Sumanaspati Reddy


i​
n association with PSBT and Films D
​i​
vision
C R E A T I V E . E D G E !
Docs on the creative spirit!
at Hyderabad Literary Festival 2015
Today at 11 am [25th January]

----------------------

1. THE BROKEN SPINE: ART AS THE WILL TO SURVIVE
Director: EIN LALL .
30 min . 2001 (On painter and installation artist Nalini Malini)

2. MALEGAON KE SHOLAY
Director : NITIN SUKHIJA
30 min . 2003 . (Small town community film-making)

3. AMIR KHAN
Director : S.N.S. SASTRY
19 min . 1970 Classical Hindustani vocalist)

4. YAADEIN - KAIFI AZMI
Director : AMITA TALWAR
57 min . 1999 (Urdu poet)
break : 15 mins

5. MANA KALOJI
Director : S. AMARNATH
55 min . 2013 (Iconic poet- activist of Telangana)


About the films:


THE BROKEN SPINE: ART AS THE WILL TO SURVIVE
Director : EIN LALL
30 min . 2001 . English with sub-titles
The film portrays conflicting yet complementary layers in the work of painter and installation artist Nalini Malini.
Ein trained in video with the Inner London Educational Authority. She has made several films on women’s issues including those on women artists and experiments in video art and video dance. Her films have been screened at several international festivals.
A PSBT production
* * *
YAADEIN - KAIFI AZMI
Director : AMITA TALWAR
57 min . 1999 . Urdu/English with sub-titles
"Yaadein-Kaifi Azmi" is a feature documentary of 58 minutes durationcommissioned and telecast by Doordarshan in 1999. It traces the earlier struggle of this Leftist activist who was an active member of the Progressive Writer's Movement. Fired with idealism, Kaifi Azmi moved to Mumbai from a tiny nondescript village Mijhwan in Azamgarh District in U.P. and eked out an existence doing odd jobs. This is a simple portrayal of an earthy man documenting his initial struggle in the film industry, his ideologies, the highs and lows of his life and career, his contribution to his village and the legacy of work left behind.
Amita Talwar is a postgraduate in English Literature. She was the founder Editor/Publisher of the popular city magazine Channel 6 brought out from Hyderabad since 1990. She has been trained in Filmmaking from the School of Professional and Continuing Studies, New York University. She is a leading art-photgrapher from Hyderabad.
* * *
MALEGAON KE SHOLAY
Director : NITIN SUKHIJA
30 min . 2003 . Hindi with sub-titles

The film traces the progress of a community in a small town in Maharashtra in search of a new identity- that of a parallel film industry.
Nitin has worked in various forms of media from journalism to theatre. He was associate director on Anshuman Rawat’s ‘Art of Dying’ and is currently scripting a feature film titled ‘Dadar’.
A PSBT production
* * *
MANA KALOJI (OUR KALOJI)
Concept : B.NARSING RAO. Director : S. AMARNATH
55 min . 2013 . Telugu with sub-titles
The film explores the relevance of Kaloji Narayana Rao (1914-2002) in the current times, captured through his personal life and ideas of resistance. Popularly known as Kaloji or Kalanna, he was much loved and admired poet, freedom fighter and political activist of Telangana.
Mana Kaloji, was shaped with the archival interviews of his wife – Rukmini Bai, grandson –Santosh and Kaloji himself. Kaloji’s life, narrated as memories by his wife and grandson, has been juxtaposed with his own interview where he counters with his own ideas of life and resistance. This juxtaposition forms a conversation-like intimate encounter with him capturing the human essence beneath the legendary personality.
Eminent filmmaker, poet, painter and photographer, B.Narsing Rao is a cultural icon of Telangana. The film was as part of Kaloji centenary celebrations.
Amarnath has been practicing filmmaking in various capacities as director, associate director, line-producer, scriptwriter, editor and cameraman - primarily documentary filmmaking .
* * *
AMIR KHAN
Director : S.N.S. SASTRY
19 min . 1970 . Hindi and Urdu with sub-titles

SNS Sastry’s portrait of the Hindustani classical master Ustad Amir Khan is at once gentle and audacious in the way he sets up images of his world of concerts, disciples, world travel, his adoring and nagging wife and little child. Of course, there is Khan sahab’s beautiful singing, as well as his reflections on music, recognition and remuneration. This film occupies an inspiring and enviable place between documentary and fiction and could as much be a film about the film maker and his place in this world as an artist.
We have heard accounts of people tracking this documentary in theatres and going to watch feature films in order to watch this, in the early 1970s, when documentaries and newsreels were screened before the main feature!
S.N.S. Sastry (1930–1978) was among Films Division's most celebrated cameramen and filmmakers. A diploma holder in cinematography from the Bangalore Polytechnic, Sastry joined Films Division as a cameraman and started directing films in 1956. The four films chosen for screening are among the best of the nearly 45 films he made for FD.
Gentle, audacious and maverick by turns, Sastry’s films never cease to surprise!


The Sideways Door: January Response Column

It's the Republic Day weekend. everyone at The Daily O wants to knock off early, get a couple of precious days off from work. And here I am, at the Hyderbad Lit Fest, incommunicado when the column needs to go up. 

Such bad behaviour.

This time by the skin of its teeth, January's column, "Saying nothing no one has not said before."

So many negatives there. I think it makes me happy.

*

HLF stuff will have to wait for after it's over. I am dying with how many things are happening simultaneously.

Monday, January 19, 2015

RIP Shanta Rameshwar Rao

Shantamma passed away peacefully yesterday. It doesn't seem to be common knowledge yet, but I heard via a text message late last night. 

There's a lot to say and I will say [some of] it but for now this a placeholder.

Until then.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

on not watching films

People often ask me, not unreasonably, why I stopped editing films. My answer depends from time to time on how I happen to be feeling at the moment: I got sick of the sound of machines. I wasn't editing anything fun anyway. I really was the operator most people said editors would land up being. I hated the smell of the studio 16 hours into an edit. I hated not being able to see the outside for hours and hours. Headaches. 

For the most part every one of these answers is constructed over time for ease of reply. It's hard to actually answer the question. It's harder still to know whether the person really wants to know or is making conversation, and whether I want them to know. Like everyone else, I have a few handy answers to the question and that's that.


One time, a year or so ago in Goa, a teacher from FTII who happened to be there was somewhat surprised when I answered his question with a rather vehement 'I want to have nothing to do with films!'

'You still watch cinema, don't you?'

'Oh, of course!' I replied, thinking the while, that he said cinema instead of films. It never even entered my head to consider the word 'movies' in our conversation.

I said that 'of course' a little haughtily, perhaps; but the truth is - it had been even then - I hardly watch films anymore. 

Here's what has happened: from the cinema-crazy 14 year old who spent every vacation borrowing and watching two films every day, who read and learnt chapter and verse about the shape of film history, theory, whatever possible, I have now reached a point when films don't interest me much.

Films that are made these days, I mean. I find them tedious, predictable, vulgar and gimmicky. On the rare occasions that I go to theatres to watch a recently released film, I almost always regret having bothered. When friends, people with good taste, find good things to say about films, I am automatically suspicious.

People demand so little of cinema and cinema meets all those expectations with such slick expertise.

I just don't get it.

Then, the other day, looking for the exact scene in which that poem by Forugh Farrokhzad, 'The Wind Will Carry Us' happens, I landed up watching the whole film on Youtube. And my breath was taken away.

Why don't people make that kind of cinema any more? Why?

God knows, I suspect not even Kiarostami makes that kind of cinema anymore. It's all of piece that I haven't watched his last two films, partly because I'm afraid I'll be disappointed.

But watching The Wind Will Carry Us, I realised how much my writing has always depended on cinema, how much it's withered for lack of this particular nourishment.

At this moment, I feel like a novice. It's terrifying, to come to this point and realise that I don't really want recommendations, because I no longer trust anybody else's taste in these matters; that what I really want to do is to plunge blind into something, discover someone new who makes the films that I need to see.

I have no idea where or how to begin. I don't know how I think it will work when all I have is a laptop or, at most, an inadequate TV. I don't know whether I can forget the experience of sitting in a sparsely populated theatre, where no one feels the need to talk, eat, drink, hold hands or do anything except watch the film. 

What this means is that while I'm still very unlikely to watch all the Oscar rubbish, I might go on a kind of pilgrimage - visit favourite old directors and so on. The question, of course, is how to watch recent stuff without going to film festivals. I've kind of got used to solitary splendour. 

Oh well.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

When Perumal Murugan said ' Author Perumal Murugan has died'

If you don't already know, what's been happening with Tamil writer Perumal Murugan, here are a bunch of articles to provide context - not just with that particular article, but all the other articles and the section titled 'Key Developments'.

Today, Perumal Murugan was forced to sign an agreement with, I think, four differen organisations we can safely call 'Hindu', and this is what he has said:




This is tragic; not just because when there are immoderate, impulsive outpourings of support for a magazine none of us has read half a world away, none of the few voices raised since the end of December was loud enough or carried enough clout to make a difference to his leaving Tiruchengode, or to avert this disastrous silencing; but also because we have no right to demand Murugan's bravery, to ask that he be resolute in the face of threats to his life. If the author has to die for him to live, who are we to say he must not?

Anyway.

I'm just putting this out there because I've spent all day so upset about this. 

Some measure of - I don't know what - was achieved by listening to David Shulman talking about the concept of truth in the Kambaramayanam. It seemed to speak down the centuries to what has happened today. But I don't yet know how to put all of that into a clear post. All I know is that scholarly expositions of what appear to be abstractions have real, political context and resonance and I was glad to have it, to think upon and find a way to understand what I feel about this whole thing, which is different to how I felt about it this morning.

Until then, here it is, this silence, a grammar of which Shulman promises to write one day.




sun-stunned

It's cold inside and whenever I can, I am on the terrace. Mat, cushions, water, music, books and even papers to correct - I don't mind. 

I follow the sun around the little space like Hobbes. I upturn my hair and let it dry like clothes on a line. I laze, close my eyes and watch the sun Klee itself behind my lids. I am sun-stunned.

No oranges but I don't mind. Soon it will be time for kolams and manjal and pongal and when it is, yellow and orange will be implied.

I might wish that all days be like this but because they're not, I am unusually content.

Monday, January 05, 2015

The Sideways Door: January Prompt Column

The Sideways Door's first column for 2015 and I go ask people to borrow lines from other poems. 

And make something new of it.

So, you know, marrying ideas to others' words, just like it says in the title.

Oh, the link. Here.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

'One sweet wind'

My resolutions, such as they are: 

1. Claim (more) words

2. Keep a record of how things shift.

3. Make poetry.

In the spirit of #3, and as a way of carrying myself over into 2015, I give you some Magnetic Poetry:









Happy New Year! (As always, be good).

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Things in December

** UPDATE 29 December: Mail from the organisers of the Urur-Olcott Kuppam Margazhi Vizha saying the concerts today and tomorrow (29th and 30th) have been postponed due to inclement weather.

Concerts will now take place closer to Pongal. **

*** 

A bunch of things I've noticed and thought I'd share on the blog:

1. PARI: The Poeple's Archive of Rural India.

P. Sainath probably needs to introduction to anyone in S. Asia but the thing he's done most recently may be something that's flown under the radar if you look to newspapers and television to give you the news. He's started the People's Archive of Rural India, a website that is both an archive and a resource for much that is invisible to urban eyes. 

Here's what the introduction says:


There is surely much in rural India that should die. Much in rural India that is tyrannical, oppressive, regressive and brutal — and which needs to go. Untouchability, feudalism, bonded labour, extreme caste and gender oppression and exploitation, land grab and more. The tragedy, though, is that the nature of the transformation underway more often tends to bolster the regressive and the barbaric, while undermining the best and the diverse. That too, will be captured here. PARI is both a living journal and an archive. It will generate and host reporting on the countryside that is current and contemporary, while also creating a database of already published stories, reports, videos and audios from as many sources as we can. All PARI’s own content comes under the Creative Commons (http://www.ruralindiaonline.org/legal/copyright/) and the site is free to access. Also, anyone can contribute to PARI. Write for us, shoot for us, record for us — your material is welcome so long as it meets the standards of this site and falls within our mandate: the everyday lives of everyday people.

There's already quite a lot up on the site and I'm sure it will swell with more accounts as the months pass. 

I have no idea if anyone reading this blog has anything they could contribute but here's the word out.

(As a complete aside, looking at the Creative Commons License, it brought to mind the first time I was introduced to the concept of 'copyleft' if not the actual word. I was in Sainath's office with a friend, back when he was the editor of Blitz, and we were discussing something - not sure what; god knows, there was plenty to discuss, with the recent riots in Bombay and everything; though, of course, I can't say for sure that that was the subject of our argument since I can't see what we could possible disagree about on that head - and after a brief argument, Sainath gave us a pamphlet he'd written about the subject. 

He pointed us to the copyright page and said, "Look at it." 

"What should we look at," we asked. 

"The copyright."

We looked and we were baffled. It said, or Sainath said, as he read it aloud for our benefit: "copyright humanity". 

 (Or some similar, large category. I can't be absolutely sure that the word was 'humanity').

It was sufficiently odd for us to solemnly hold the book open at the copyrights page but of course there were more discussions after. 



2. The Sundarbans Oil Spill.

If you've been reading the newspapers etc (see above) you will have no idea that there has been a disastrous oil spill in the Sundarbans. 

It's not only an ecological disaster - for the river, the mangroves, the Irrawady dolphins - but also a sociological one. Those cleaning up are mostly children. 

The person to follow in this matter is Arati Kumar-Rao, whose twitter and instagram give one a more clear picture on the scale of this disaster.

There's also a crowdfunding drive to raise money for the clean-up that, hopefully, will be done in a safer manner.

3. The Urur-Olcott Kuppam Margazhi Vizha December 29th & 30th

Speaking of crowdfunding, a week or so ago, there was a fund-raising drive to clean up the beach (very, very outside the parameters of the Swachch Bharat thingy, I feel I should clarify) the Urur-Olcott Kuppam fishing village in Chennai.

T.M.Krishna, with whom I was recently in conversation at the Goa Lit Fest, is the organiser of both this drive and the two day festival of music and dance that will take place on the 29th and the 30th. The intention, clearly, is to take the cultural wealth of the December Season in Chennai beyond the confines of the sabhas and make it less elitist and inaccessible.

Details here.

Now, I know plenty of people who clear their decks in order to be in Chennai during the music season. Their days are just packed and if picking one's way through the concert schedule could seem like managing an intricate war game*, I was always outside of it, even though, until a couple of years ago, I seemed to be in Chennai every year at the end of December. 

I mean, I might have gone to a Poetry with Prakriti reading or two; hung out with friends and gone to a lunch or two at some famous sabha. But I didn't really do this season pass thing, not just because the whole process seemed so daunting (so much easier to sit in front of Jaya TV), but because I also felt rather left out of the whole very inner-circle-ness of the season.

If I'd been there this year, I still don't know if I'd have made the effort, but it seems much more likely. What I would have done is academic; if you're in Chennai, you could consider going.

4. Film Festivals

There are no links, but reading an account of being at IFFI (the main GoI one and not the Kerala one), and talking to Cat yesterday, who said the Chennai Film Festival had some pretty good films, I have been experiencing a sharp pang for days spent watching four films a day, to immerse myself in fare that is not the pap being dished out these days as thoughtful cinema.

Yes, I haven't seen PK, I am not going to and already it makes me want to barf. Another friend, an anthropologist, said there's a 7-10 minute section that's practically an anthropology 101 and she'd show it to her students if she had any. Me, I think she should just get them to read any of Ursula le Guin's Ekumen books.

Since this is almost entirely a report of the thoughts of others, to which I may or may not have responded irl, I should also mention that a theatre critic in Australia, whose writing I really respect, watched Ceylan's Once Upon A Time in Anatolia (yes, a couple of years late, but so what?) and soon after watched the Xmas Special Doctor Who and I really, I watched her do it on twitter and was unable to stop her - that's the nature of the medium, huh?

But this also I thought with another, different kind of pang, that people no longer mail to ask me recs of films to watch at whatever film festival is up in their part of the world. Because I am really, truly, no longer in touch with cinema.

And that, of course, is terrible. There is no good reason for why this has happened, but when I consider that cinema has been my thing since I was 15, it astonishes me that I allowed things to get to a point when I haven't watched one good film in a theatre, with proper projection and sound (as opposed to on my laptop in some shady format and a variety of subtitles in .srt) as cinema should be watched.

That's one resolution made for me right there, while I wasn't really looking.

One more post before the new year, people!

__

*Though, wouldn't you know it, there's an app developed by TCS to sort this out for you.