Saturday, May 31, 2008

Man of the Month

This is all Aishwarya's fault. In an email conversation, she was bragging about all the Sweet Valley Highs she's recently found and which she has promised to blog about so that we can all turn our brains to mush.

Naturally I had an attack of nostalgia for the two Mills and Boons I used to read every day back in college during exam time while everyone else around me was going quietly insane mugging up quotations or whatever else it is they did. I didn't actually go and get these Mills and Boons; two enterprising friends went to GK1 and became members or whatever - they paid a deposit, like you do with soda bottles, and got back two MBs every single day. What with the three of us sharing two books a day, it was an orgy of feverish skimming.

I have to do a whole post dedicated to Mills and Boons, but suffice it to say that by the end of three years' exam-giving, I was an expert. I had read several variations on the same tired theme and I thought I's read 'em all.

So when I picked up three books the day before yesterday in celebration of the long-ago time of brain-dead-ity, I was expecting more of what I already knew. Which is why I was pleasantly surprised by the Silhouette Desire* I picked up called Odd Man Out (yes, it's on Amazon**, can you believe it?)

It's terribly written (did you doubt that? But it's especially terribly written). But it's unusual in that the whole romance is from a man's point of view. Man is persuaded by colleague an mentor to move in with a woman that the mentor actually fancies but cannot get into a relationship with. Man moves in and keeps house (and holds down his job) while woman goes off to save the world from environmental disaster. Lots of steamy sex later, Man proposes and Woman politely declines, thus causing the kind of heartbreak that women usually suffer in these books.

I found it quite interesting for its simple role reversal and because right up to the end, it's the woman who categorically does not want to get married; who kind of assumes that this is just one of a series of relationships. Of course, these books have a rigid structure, so she's has to marry the man in the end, but at least the resistance was refreshing. As was her logic that the future needs ecological warriors and therefore it was her duty to go forth and multiply.

*Of course, being a Silhouette Desire from 1989 (a particularly steamy year in romance fiction), this one has pages and pages of sex. I was amused to note that the previous owner had flagged down relevant pages.

** I'm baffled by the dinky car, though.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


I knew the waiting would be long, so I took a book with me to the hospital. Long before then, before the musical chairs outside the doctors’ rooms and the bustle, I found what I didn’t realise I had been looking for.

This was in the car before we left. I had picked out a book at random and it turned out to be Thomas Kinsella’s Collected Poems. Entirely at random, I opened a page. And found a poem sequence from Wormwood. Here is one small part of it – the beginning and the end:


A little of what I have found.
It is certain that maturity and peace are to be sought through ordeal after ordeal, and it seems that the search continues until we fail. We reach out after each new beginning, penetrating our context to know ourselves, and our knowledge increases until we recognise again (more profoundly each time) our pain, indignity and triviality. This bitter cup is offered, heaped with curses, and we must drink or die. And even though we drink we may also die, if every drop of bitterness – that rots the flesh – is not transmuted. (Certainly the individual plight is hideous, each torturing each, but we are guilty, seeing this, to believe that our common plight is only hideous. Believing so, we make it so: pigs in a slaughteryard that turn and savage each other in a common desperation and disorder.) death, either way, is guilt and failure. But if we drink bitterness and transmute it and continue, we resume in candour and doubt the only individual joy – the restored necessity to learn. Sensing a wider scope, a more penetrating harmony, we begin again in a higher innocence to grow toward the next ordeal.
Love also, it seems, will continue until we fail: in the sensing of the wider scope, in the growth toward it, in the swallowing and absorption of bitterness, in the resumed innocence.

Open this and you will see
A waste, a nearly naked tree
That will not rest till it is bare
But shivers, shivers in the air
Scraping at its yellow leaves.
Winter, when the tempest heaves,
It riots in the heaven-sent
Convulsions of self-punishment.

What cannot rest till it is bare,
Though branches crack and fibres tear?

Remembering Old Wars

What clamped us together? When each night fell we lay down
In the smell of decay and slept, our bodies leaking,
Limp as the dead, breathing that smell all night.

Then light prodded us awake, and adversity
Flooded up from inside us as we laboured upright
Once more to face the hells of circumstance.

And so on, without hope of change or peace.
Each dawn, like lovers recollecting their purpose,
We would renew each other with a savage smile.

Je t’adore

The other props are gone.
Sighing in one another’s
Iron arms, propped above nothing,
We praise Love the limiter.

* here.

Gah. All formatting has disappeared. I give up. Just imagine that the verse part of Beloved is indented, as is Je t'adore.

Monday, May 26, 2008


Isn't it gorgeous?


Having lived in a sort of sterile bubble for the last ten days or so, I am only just waking up to the murder of Arushi. I don't know all that much about it, but this claim from yesterday's Hindu struck me as rather strange:
Expressing surprise, Senior Superintendent of Police Satish Ganesh said: “I came to know about this name from media reports. Why would someone named Dinesh Verma try to frame Dr. Talwar? It is on the basis of circumstantial evidence that the police cracked the case and the evidence pointed to Dr. Talwar’s involvement.”

The police have 'cracked' the case now? All on the basis of, by their own admission, 'circumstantial evidence'? And this is something the man feels able to brag about?

Whatever happened to investigation and the collection of evidence; forensic reports, questioning, checking and double checking facts?

What's the use of reading P.D.James when it appears that the police just rely on 'circumstantial evidence' to 'crack' cases?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Carpe Jug-ulum

This is one of the photographs included in the CKS Exhibition I did ages ago. I'm not sure it says very much about telephony, but I liked the light on the jug and the reflections off the spectacles that makes the face give nothing away.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Jump Cut: Just Another Way of Cheating

And cheating is exactly what I'm doing here. I'm only juxtaposing my old posts with some from the current issue of Jump Cut to reach an incalculable total that might mean anything or nothing.

But still.

1. Jump Cut's Lucia (and old article reprinted here. In one of my magpie fits, I xeroxed several old issues of JC from the Institute library and the Cuban Cinema Special was one of them.)

and my passing mention of Lucia in this list.

2. JC's Good Night and Good Luck

and mine.

3. JC on Dragon Inn and

my en passant reference to it while saying goodbye to another theatre.

All cheating on a mega scale. I warned you.

(I was actually looking for the previous issue of Jump Cut, which has a whole bunch of articles I wanted to say something about. Sometime.)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Blog Birthday. Yay.


The evening before last, my father was discharged from the hospital, with instructions to continue the intravenous antibiotics he was being given, for two more days. To this end, my mother, who was with him nights at the hospital, was taught how to give these injections.

It appeared simple in the hospital: she watched as the nurse took out the syringe, poked it into the container containing distilled water; transferred the water from the syringe into another bottle containing the powdered antibiotic; shake it up well; transfer it once again into the syringe. The nurse then handed the prepared syringe to my mother, who, with great trepidation, gave my father the injection.

So far so good? Right.

Discharge all done, we came home and it was time to give him a last shot at night. Just as my mother had done struggling with the distilled-water-to-syringe operation, the electricity went off. They waited in the dark, clutching antibiotic and syringe. The light came back on and mother did the syringe-antibiotic-and-back-to-syringe routine. Time to give my father the injection. My father, suddenly recalling that the nurse had twirled some knob on the side of the needle apparatus, told my mother to hang on while he opened it up.

In the meanwhile, the electricity went off again, and some insect that was buzzing around found its way into my mother's ear. She shrieked, dropped the syringe on the bed and ran out to put warm salt water in her ear.

The electricity back, she began to give the injection finally. But it appeared that my father, far from opening the knob, had closed it. Every drop of the antibiotic spilled out. In panic, my father started turning the knob the other way around. My mother poked her finger with the needle and shrieked again. One injection was wasted.

Harsh words having been traded, another injection was prepared. This time, my father said, bitterly, that he would do it himself, thank you very much. He began operations. The electricity went off.

Shining the torch, my mother bethought herself of one more disaster.

I hope there are no air bubbles in that syringe, she said. It could be fatal.

So with that thought in his head and with the knob having been opened too far and stuff leaking out again anyway, my father began to feel giddy. They threw away the second injection, and each lay awake far into the night to make certain they were alive, if not entirely well.

The next morning, we all sensibly decided to go to a nearby hospital and have a nurse give him his injections, never mind what the doctor said about family being more compassionate and all.

That's the story, morning glory. How have all of you been?

Friday, May 16, 2008

...the darndest things

I'm not sure how this conversation began, but I think it had something to do with Manthara.

We were sitting in the garden when my son announced, "If you're bad you get a hunchback. Like Manthara."

"Hmm. So you mean everyone who's bad has a hunchback?" I reeled of a few names and asked him if they had hunchbacks.

Of course he said no. I suggested that it was a good idea somtimes to tell a story where the outside of people is a lot like what's in their heads. But what if the outside is nothing like what the person is like, I asked him.

The bench was giving off all the accumulated heat of the day and I found myself telling him a highly potted version of Dorian Gray. At the end of it, my son looked rather puzzled.

"I don't understand, " he said. "Is it magic?"

"What do you think?"

After a minute, "I think the painting is a Horcrux."


lazy swar's tag

Not sure who tagged Swar but since she has rather cheekily tagged me in the comment space, I can't resist doing this one.*

Here what I need to do:

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

[from Alison Croggon's blog.]

And voila!

1. Snow Country and A Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata.

2. Right. Done. Thank god I picked a book that has a 123 pages.

3 & 4.

'...From the day it was born it would drink there; and from the day it began to see, it would see that ugly mark on its mother's breast. Its first impression of the world, its first impression of its mother, would be that ugly birthmark, and there the impression would be, through the child's whole life.'

'Oh? But isn't that inventing worries?'

5. Whoever wants to take this up.

Scarred for life. No compensation. And all that sort of thing. Speaking of 'thing', please note the use of 'it' and 'its' through the three sentences.

*This does not mean, however that I will automatically take up tags because they appear in the comment space.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

why I had the good sense to stop doing cinema

So you have these visions of a director and her muse? All personal, one-on-one conversation, inspiration? Think Bergman, or think Bresson. How hard can it be to do intense, spare, austere cinema that expends no more energy on special effects than it takes to do a few dissolves and fade outs?

Anyone who reads my blog knows I've been going on about Frozen as though I'd made it or had actually seen it.

For anyone who has, here is the director's own account of just one tiny part of the logistics involved:

Have you heard of shooting a sync sound film without a silent generator? I guess not unless it’s a silent film.
Well we did just that during the shoot of Frozen. We shot a sync sound film with a 125 kv open generator.
The time we decided that we wanted to shoot a sync sound film in icy heights of Himalayas, people thought we were crazy. How would we take a generator to Ladakh at a height of around 12000 feet from Mumbai?
The generator comes loaded on a van. Now Ladakh has two approach roads one from Rohtang Pass and the other from Kargil. These roads involve driving through few of the highest passes (average height of around 14000ft) in the world.
We were shooting in the month of Jan-Feb 2006. I got the idea of getting the generator van in before the month of Oct 2005 and keep it there till we arrived in Jan 2006 as the roads close for winters for six months. Well I thought it was brilliant. After doing some hard bargaining with the biggest silent generator supplier in Mumbai film world we arrived at per diem rate for the Driver and the Operator.

Not surprisingly, that didn't work out. What do you think they did? Built a house to blimp the generator. No, really.

We scouted around and we discovered a natural ditch, sort of a small valley, closer to the house. We got the crane and deposited the generator there. We draped a specially made muffler over the exhaust pipe, the main source of noise. The distance was perfect, the sound bare minimum but it was visible in wide shots. Again we had brainstorming sessions, mind you all this was happening along with the shoot and even in nights. So decided to make a small house over the generator with precision marked holes to have the air circulation and avoid the blowouts. It looks like a big piece of rock but you can’t make out that there is a very big generator hidden under it. To avoid the breaking up of the cables we procured the local heavy-duty cables and taped the whole length of it.

And that's how Frozen has sync sound. Now you know.

Me - I'm glad I don't do this for a living.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Not sure I've posted Fleep before (can't find in my archives and can't think how I missed posting it) but here it is.

I like the idea of someone stepping into a phone booth and passing out, waking up only to find he's walled in all Anarkali-like; and when he uses the phone and speaks what he thinks is English into it, finds that no one else can make any sense of him.

Go read.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

it looks like something

But what?

Friday, May 09, 2008

pictures for sad children

can be found here.

It's a little uneven, but there are some nice ones. Like the David Foster Wallace one, f'rinstance.

Oh, and custom comics too!

UNAided Burma

After days of dithering, the military junta in BUrma first allowed humanitarian aid from the rest of the world. Ships arrived carrying food, medicines and other things.

Now it appears that the junta has seized supplies. To what end is unclear.

A U.N. official says the World Food Program is suspending cyclone aid to Myanmar because its government seized supplies flown into the country.

He says the WFP has no choice but to suspend the shipments until the matter is resolved.

WFP spokesman Paul Risley said Friday that all "the food aid and equipment that we managed to get in has been confiscated." The shipment included 38 tons of high-energy biscuits.

In the meanwhile Peter asks that anyone with contacts in Burma get in touch with World Wide Help. So far, though, it doesn't look like anyone has any useful information there.

But in general, there's no hand-wringing, life-changing angst on behalf of Burma as there was with the tsunami, or the Bombay rains, or the bomb blasts on the trains is there? It's as if the country had dropped off the face of the earth.

PS: The news is constantly updating, so don't be surprised to find that the linked page no longer has the quote I've used in my post.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

end credits


Did anybody watching Iron Man in India catch the 'surprise' dialogue between Samuel Jackson and Robert Downey Jr. buried in the end credits?

Because I didn't. Not because I didn't sit through the end credits - I always do - but because as usual, the theatre didn't run the credits through to the end.

Also as usual, this made me seethe and compose scathing letters to theatre executives and righteous ones to the producers/distributors, in my head.

Of course, this should teach filmmakers not to bury treasure in places where it'll never be found. I can see script meetings where everyone tears their scanty hair out figuring out the exact place after the film where there will be maximum impact: 30 seconds in! Two frames after the end credit montage! Lead in to teaser with subliminal flash frames right in the last scene so that viewers will stay rooted to their seats!

And isn't Robert Downey Jr. hot?

Also saw first (uninspiring) promos for Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, Abbas Tyrewala's first feature as director. Many reasons why I'm waiting to see this film but July is still some way off.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Poem in Asian Cha


Also Anindita Sengupta and Todd Swift in this issue.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Sharp-eyed Spaniard

The guppy pond has larvae bubbling at the surface, fighting for space with the lily pads. Sitting with my eyes on a level with the surface of the pond, I spot an ant. It is a red ant, sipping delicately at a drop of water on a leaf.

It's going to drown, my son says.

It won't. It will move from one leaf to the other because they are all perfectly flat and they all touch each other.

We wait. Only the guppies move. The ant is immobile.

It's dead. I'm telling you, it's dead.

It does look curiously crumpled, near that one drop of water on a dry leaf. I nudge it with a fingernail.

The ant uncurls itself and walks along the perimeter of the leaf. It appears to be looking at itself in the pond but finding nothing interesting, moves off. As it reaches the place where one leaf touches the next, we hold our breath, imagining the instability of shifting weight. But ants are lighter than we think.

This leaf has a trail of slimy moss across it. I say the ant will get caught in the slime and not be able to make its way to the leaf on the farther side of it. But I am wrong. The ant slows down, turns on its side and goes to sleep.

I've never seen an ant sleep. I nudge it awake and it moves to another leaf, another spot where it curls up again.

It must be the heat. We leave the ant in peace and get on with other things.

This morning, the larvae have disappeared.

Elsewhere in the state an entire crop of red chillies has burst into flame. A short circuit is allegedly responsible.

I briefly entertain the thought of spontaneous combustion. Think about it: the heat outside and inside a chilly, separated only by a membrane of red. Imagine an entire crop, red and sharp-tongued, waiting.

I'm not surprised.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Goodbye, Sangeet

Sangeet Theatre in Secunderabad will have its last screening this evening. On Monday, the nearly 40 year old theatre will be pulled down to make way for a multiplex.

I remember, like Sheetal, the way we all made crocs and walked across the road from school to watch films (Shaggy DA! Other films with dogs! Tom And Jerry as a special treat before!); I remember the awe with which I regarded my classmate, who was not only the inheritor of all this glamour but was a fantastic tennis player.

And the chutney sandwiches at Sangeet! The rolls which we learnt to put on every finger and wave at indulgent older people. Sigh.

More here and here.

PS: Impossible, of course, not to think of this film under the circs.