Friday, July 31, 2009

what it means is...

...only JP was partly right: I may not have urn'd my rest, but I'm taking it anyway. So, because you came, saw and should not find the field barren of daisies:

1. I really should stop but I can't seem to help myself: Frozen has to be the one film I've blogged about most without actually having seen. But hey - anything that reminds me of Tony Leung Chiu-wai is good, right? But I was talking about Frozen. No, actually; Shanker Raman is talking about Frozen.

2. A photograph from Kiarostami's Rain Series in the Guardian. [via BM and Politics, Theory, Photography]. More photographs from this and other series available here.

3. And Ludwig, who returns only when the fields are white, is going to be in the dumps. Reason: the VP is visiting and all roads leading to his Greenco quiz are out of bounds. But if you live nearly and can afford to curl your lip at VPs, please go.

Is it really already the weekend? How?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


(I guess you know what this means.)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Lost and Found: The Translation wiki

A quick note to point readers to the new Translation Wiki for Indian Poetry. It is very new, still finding its feet, but it's a start. The wiki came out of this discussion on Falstaff's blog.

Those of you reading this who do translations, please consider contributing and participating. Binu Karunakaran, who set it up, is the person to write to. [His email in the comments of Falsie's post linked to above.]

I realise that some of you may be working on translations very seriously indeed and might have issues with putting your work out in the public domain, but you could consider contributing work that is in progress.

I'm looking forward to this!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Fata Morgana: 'Even one of these thoughts would have done'

Tuesday, Herzog's Fata Morgana. The plane descends seven, eight times and I know I am going to like this film. It comes down like a cloud and the air shifts beneath it. In some takes the birds are indifferent. In one, they fly across the sky as if they were released at the right time. This is Herzog: I wouldn't be surprised if they had been.


A few minutes into the film, in one of those times between the narration (Lotte Eisner's voice in Part 1) I listen to the music and watch the dunes and my mind starts to wander. This is where it goes.


What if the music slipped a few frames? Or if the editor had deliberately moved it by a second or two? Would Herzog know? Would he have come in to watch the edit one day and realised that the editor had shifted the music, perhaps a shot or two to create a slightly different film? How much could one get away with? How many changes, too small in themselves, would one have to make before a film like this becomes a film not like this?


There's an abandoned WWII plane in the sand, crashed and broken. I know, because I've read about it somewhere. It could be any military plane from any-time but what are the odds? There are shelters - what else to call something that bubbles out of the sand, only slightly less temporary and yet much more impermanent than the sand?

There are people who have been rehearsed, people who laugh, who have one gesture, as if they were rudimentary toys.


Why is this a documentary? (Why does it matter what we call it?) With its soundtrack, its imposed narrative of Mayan creation myths spoken in German over visuals of the Sahara, the film resists not only categorisation, but easy interpretation: I am back in the editing room, wondering how the director and the editor communicate what the purpose of the film is and how that shape is to be achieved. The possibilities are endless and every film that did not emerge was once valid.


What is Leonard Cohen doing here?


The first thing I think of when I see the shivering sky from which the plane lands is: this is what the world looked like the year I was born. I have never thought this before while watching a film. That sky, that sand, that plane, those birds, would be exactly as old as I am now.

No, that's not right, is it?

Even the film that I am watching is as old and not as old. If I was looking at the world as it was that year, this is not how it looked. In all this time, the blue in the film is less blue, the red more red, and the occasional vertical dances across the frame tell me that the film has aged along with me and nothing has been preserved exactly as it was. Every record is less than whole.


Somewhere towards the end, before the turtle is released into the water, there are holes in the ground and adults and children are trying to scramble out of them. This is, the section title says, The Golden Age. The voice over, as a child tries to squirm out of his father's hands: "That's enough, even one of these thoughts would have done."

Maybe so. But since we can never know what any one thought could have or would have done, and because we are used to guarding against a drought, we put in more than we need. We put in everything we have, every time. Sometimes, there's something left to be taken, even decades afterwards, something left after every time.


PS: The Herzog documentary weekend begins this evening at the Goethe Zentrum.

Today's screening begins at 6pm. Sat & Sun screenings begin at 3pm, two films a day.

No charge, anyone can attend.

The Goethe Zentrum is on Hill Fort Road, opposite Kalanjali, near the Public Gardens in Hyderabad. See you there!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Vivek Narayanan in Open Magazine

Turn to each case of a thriving, vigorous poetry community and a common thread seems to emerge, not a prefabricated mass audience, not international acclaim, but rather a culture of frank talk and close engagement, vivid with ferocious, voracious arguments, unending discussions, even intellectual fist fights or several rival aesthetic camps. Most of all, there is a deep awareness—even if an antagonistic awareness—of one’s own poetic history. And that is where we fall short.

Poetry, then, does need readers, a community to survive; but it is the intensity and not the size of that community that matters. In an insipid poetry/literature scene, including one saturated with publicity, an inability to muster enough historical awareness, informed critique, ruthless honesty and close, complete reading means that we turn our hopes outward, in a wish for love and affirmation from an imaginary audience that never shows up.

The whole thing here.

And the rest of the action here.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Inaugural Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize

Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize


Call for Entries

Entries are invited from young poets in India writing in English for the inaugural

Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize.

The Prize was instituted by the Srinivas Rayaprol Literary Trust to recognize excellence in poetry written in English and is being administered jointly by the Department of English, University of Hyderabad. The prize consisting of a cash award of Rs.10, 000 and a citation will be presented annually at a literary event in Hyderabad in the month of October. The entries will be judged by a distinguished jury of poets and literary personalities.

Entries are invited from all Indian citizens between 20-40 years old and writing poetry in English.

Entries must include:

1. Five (5) different poems written by the applicant;
2. Evidence of age
3. Complete contact information (including phone numbers and email addresses)

Note: Please do not put your name on the poems to be submitted to the jury members.

Entries must reach:

Dr. Aparna Rayaprol

Convener, Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize

c/o Study in India Program

University of Hyderabad

Hyderabad 500046

Deadline: September 1, 2009

The winner will be announced latest by the first week of October and arrangements for the travel and accommodation for the person chosen for the award will be made by the Trust and the Department of English, University of Hyderabad.

The Srinivas Rayaprol Literary Trust was started in the year 2000 to perpetuate the memory of the poet and also promote Indian writing in English. Srinivas Rayaprol (1925-1998), the son of the famous Telugu poet Rayaprolu Subba Rao, is considered one of the significant personalities of the early Indian English Poetry in India. His three major volumes of poetry are Bones and Distances, Married Love and Other Poems, and Selected Poems, all published by Writers’ Workshop in Calcutta.

Srinivas Rayaprol Literary Trust Department of English, University of Hyderabad

The Shakti Bhatt First Book Award: Call for entries

The Shakti Bhatt Foundation invites nominations for the 2009 Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize.

Last year's winner was Pakistani novelist Mohammed Hanif’s A Case of Exploding Mangoes. Entries may be in any genre: poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction (travel writing, autobiography, biography, and narrative journalism), and drama. All authors from the subcontinent are eligible but their books must be published in India. The books must be in English or translated into English from an Indian language. Books that have been published elsewhere and have already won prizes are eligible, though less likely to win. Vanity press publications are ineligible.

A 3-member advisory board will shortlist 6 books published between July 1, 2008 and June 30, 2009. This year, the board includes writers Anjum Hasan, Zac O'Yeah and poet Jeet Thayil. The shortlisted books will be sent to the 2009 panel of judges: novelist Rana Dasgupta, editor Mukund Padmanabhan and Professor Meenakshi Mukherjee.

The winner will be announced in the second half of November and the prize presentation will take place in December 2009. The winner will receive a cash award of Rs One lakh and a trophy.

The Shakti Bhatt Foundation is a non-profit trust set up by the late writer/editor's family to keep her memory alive. It wishes to reward first-time authors of all ages.

For further information, contact

[Via Jeet Thayil]

Friday, July 17, 2009

Events in Hyderabad over this weekend

Two events, do come for either/both.

1. Book reading from Pinki Virani's Deaf Heaven. (It's also billed as India's first cell novel but whatever. For the purposes of this event and announcement, it's a regular book.)

Saturday, 18th July, 6pm
Crossword Bookstores, City Center Mall,
Road Nos. 1 & 10, Banjara Hills.

The Little Theatre will read with the author.

2. Urban Changes. A photography exhibition showcasing India through the lenses of young South Asian photographer.
Opening Sunday, July 19th, 6 pm.
At: Kalakriti Art Gallery
Road Nr. 10, Banjara Hills – Hyderabad
with artist Baptist Coelho
followed by a panel discussion
Vijay Marur - Theatre
Sridala Swami – Literature/Film
Shankar Narayan - Architecture
Vinod Pavarala – Art
S. P. Shorey – Urban Planning
Sujata Patel – Sociology
(Gah. Formatting. I give up).

Also, a couple more announcements coming up but will post them tomorrow so that they can have your undivided attention.

HBP: or, Snape! Snape! Snape!


First day second show, I'm happy to say. Picked up El Cid from school and we went straight tot he theatre, where he asked me every half a minute or so, when the film would begin.

All that is besides the point.

Things I like include:

1. How much of the exposition was done away with. Good job with that.
2. The memories, as they are poured into the pensieve, settle down and resolve themselves into buildings, people, object. Until they do, it's a bit like Kobayashi's title sequence for Kwaidan. Very nice.
3. A nice if slightly heavy-handed juxtaposition between the conversation about Unbreakable Vows between Harry and Ron, and the disappearing heart drawn by Lavender, on the train window.
4. Alan Rickman. If only Voldemort could be half as sinister and drawly as Snape, he's be a whole lot scarier. Can you imagine how shudder-inducing it would be if Snape was a Parselmouth?

5. Draco Malfoy. If the film wasn't about Snape, it would be about him. But this Felton man will go bald soon; he'd better get in as many pretty boy films as he can before he does.

6. Frank Dillane as Voldemort at 16. Smooth kid.

And the rest:

1. Radcliffe, Grint and Watson display their boredom with the series most unambiguously. Hermione weeps, Ron looks more silly than usual and the Vanishing Cabinet has more expression than Harry.

2. The centrepieces of the book - the hunt for the Horcrux, with the Inferi making their appearance, and Dumbledore's (*SPOILER! SPOILER!*) death - are not quite the emotional lightning rods I hoped they would be. That makes the film more about snogging (what an ugly word) than about the love Dumbledore sets such store by.

3. Finally, was this damn film censored in India? I ask because the much-discussed kiss between Ron and Hermione didn't materialise. Of course, the interval could have chewed it up, but there were far too many butt joints in the film, which makes me wonder. Talking about chewing things up, I really wish theatres would leave the end titles alone. If they don't cut them off the minute the film is over, they project ridiculous slides over them and it's very, very annoying.

4. I wish they'd shown Snape flying out like a bat out the window. I was kinda looking forward to that.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Pratilipi's July Issue

The July issue of Pratilipi does not have essays in the ongoing series on the Indian Documentary and Short film (for which my apologies) but they have a new series called Ek Kavita, where poets talk about one poem they like.

I have an essay up in this series [update: the essay itself is here. Page 1 has the poem.]. It's not exactly an essay-type essay; more freewheeling than that, I hope.

(I love the header photo for this section).

Other goodies include poems by Nitoo Das, Michael Creighton, Monica Mody and Rumhum Biswas.

Translations into Hindi of Ten Modern Hungarian Poets by Girdhar Rathi and Margaret Koves, and an extract of a Hindi translation of Eco's The Name of the Rose by Madan Soni also sound interesting.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

portraits of those who watch films

Exhibit 1: John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

Exhibit 2: Tsai Ming-liang.

Exhibit 3: Kiarostami

Exhibit 4: I love Mirror. Before DVDs, before YouTube, I tape the film for you as a gift. I have thought long and hard about what to give you that you will remember me by but I realise only later that what I really want is the gift of your face as I watch you watching the film.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The story of Shikhandi according to Pattnaik

This link has been floating around the web for some time now in the wake of the Delhi High Court Judgment on 377. After recounting the story of Shikhandis role in bringing down Bhishma during the Mahabharata, Devdutt Pattnaik goes on to say:

Clearly many keepers of culture have not heard the stories of Shikhandi, or Bhangashvana or of Yuvanashva, the king who accidentally became pregnant and delivered the great Mandhata, or of the two queens who made love to each other to produce a child without bones (bones being the contribution of sperm, according to mythology), or of Mohini, the female form of Vishnu, who enchanted even Shiva, the great hermit. Clearly they have chosen to ignore that every year, in Brahmotsavam festival, the image of the Lord Venkateshwara Balaji, who is Vishnu on earth, is dressed in female garments reminding us all of Mohini. Clearly they are oblivious of how Shrinathji in Nathdwara is lovingly bedecked with a sari, the stri-vesha or women’s attire, in memory of the time he wore Radha’s clothes to appease her. Clearly they are not aware of Gopeshwarji of Vrindavan, Shiva who took the form of a milkmaid so that he could dance the raas-leela with Krishna. And they certainly have turned a blind eye to the rooster-riding Bahucharji, of Gujarat, patron goddess of many Hijras.

Now, while I'm all for reading the Mahabharata in a million different ways, and while Amba/Shikhandi have always been absorbing characters, I'm not sure I agree with Pattnaik's extrapolation that 'our cultural inheritance' (to quote Pattnaik), is therefore inclusive and tolerant.

I mean, just visit Rediff on a slow day or after judgments such as the one we're talking about, and you'll see 'our cultural inheritance' on full display.

But these are the people Pattnaik calls the 'keepers of culture', you might say, who do not know all of the things he mentions in the paragraph quoted.

Again, I'm not sure. It seems likely to me that there are people who know all the stories about why Venkateshwara Balaji might be dressed in women's clothes, why Vishnu as Mohini slept with Shiva (see on Kafila, B.P.Singhal) and yet be unable to apply that understanding and tolerance to people they see around them in their daily lives.

This is because, as I see it, of the other great strand in our cultural heritage: our supposedly high spiritual quotient. What this means is that while it's okay for gods to do it and people in different yugas who had truck with gods to do it, it's not okay for us to do it because those stories were about a different kind of union that we - stuck as we are in our lower chakras - would never understand.

The average Hindu will most likely have a clear understanding that what is permissible for the gods is not permissible for us humans in kaliyuga because what they knew and what we fail to understand, is that it's not about sex, it's about spirituality.

This watered down quality that can now be found in everything from soul food found at the nearest health store to the set of beads some gooroo gave you, is one reason why there is so much outrage about 377.

Of course it's more complicated than that; it's just that I am deeply suspicious about people who put forward the theory that Indian society was nearly-perfect when it was all Hindu and that we were always some kind of ideal that other societies were not and so no one need question our capacity for tolerance or inclusiveness.

Because it's not that way now, is it? And to bring these stories out as examples of what our culture also is, is useful only in a limited way because someone somewhere will point out that these stories are not about 'real' sex but about 'spiritual union' and in that case of course it's okay for gods to dress up as women but when those weird people wearing saris come to your car window the best thing you can do is quickly roll it up and look elsewhere.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

on a road to nowhere

Driving on one of the roads parallel to the Outer Ring Road, we came upon a winding stretch of new, black road with few signs, one dog that looked dead but when we passed it, got up and wagged at us.

By the side of the road, and in the distance, Gachibowli.

This is what they need to get out of the way to get there.

Road, rocks, sky, clouds. Once there were more of some things and less of others.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Rapids of a Great River

The whole review in Mint.

There was much more I had wanted to say and had written elsewhere but the book is temporarily not with me.

Perhaps when I get it back I will do a companion post to this one on two aspects of this book that I found most interesting but didn't touch upon much: one is a reading of the Introduction here along with Ramanujan's afterword to Poems of Love and War; and the second is about the Sri Lankan poets included in this Anthology - 11 of them, forming a bulk of the second part of the book - and what it means for Tamil poetry in translation.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

"mass consumption post-mortem"

Just because I haven't been blogging it doesn't mean I haven't been reading blogs. One of my latest discoveries, via Aditi's blog, is Lucas Green's Porous Borders*.

His latest post is a glancing look back to Granta of a dozen years ago, but it could be about today (or yesterday, if one wants to be specific).

From one of the pieces scanned:

“People wanted to feel grief so that they could feel part of it all. Fine. But they shouldn’t imagine that they were grieving.”

Yes. Oh, yes. It was my first year in hostel and I'd kept my homesickness on a tight rein. In our dorm, our 'house parents' came and went. Finally, one lady - she couldn't have been more than 25 then - stayed and most of us loved her with the love of the orphaned.

I said' most of us'.

I couldn't figure out what the fuss was about. So she was young, pretty (I suppose; though I never gave it much thought) and had a way with the very young amongst us. She also had - and this I know only in retrospect - an ability to get the older ones on her side and make them feel special. I must have been the exception because I didn't remember exchanging more than a few words with her in the brief time she was with us.

One term in, she left. I didn't care enough about her to think of it as betrayal - she was supposed to stay and stay and be our mother and she was leaving to get married. But the others, oh the others! They buried their sense of betrayal in their grief. The day she left, our class teacher gave us leave to be there to say goodbye. Everyone was sobbing. I watched them as they were hugged, as the lady turned back again and again to say a few words to first one person then another and I no longer liked my place on the periphery.

I burst into tears and ran and gave the lady a hug. Someone looked at me in astonishment. 'Dala, you?!'

But I just wanted in, you know. I wanted someone to hug me back and comfort me. I wanted to know first-hand what all these people were feeling.


So that was the kop buried yesterday. I didn't watch it, though going by FB status messages, many people did and appear to have been moved, even through all the mediated and manufactured sentiment.


Oh, and Ludwig on MJ.

*JP, if you're reading, there's a post on Sebald on (p) (b).

Tuesday, July 07, 2009


[this one by Kevin Ang is a favourite]

1. Terrible Yellow Eyes. Being a tribute to Maurice Sendak, not just for making it to 81 (which is a thing some people manage with no visible exertion), but also for the huggable grotesquerie of his monsters. [via CT]

2. Also terrible is how I've neglected this blog: one post in June and only the second one now in July. Isn't life beautiful? I'm learning caprice.

3. There are other terrible things, too numerous to be named so #3 is for you to fill in the blanks. What's the most terrible thing that's happened to you while I've been away?

Thursday, July 02, 2009


Article 377 is gone. Actually, it's more accurate to say sex between consenting adults of the same gender is decriminalised.

These days though, I get all my news from Facebook (which is where I found out about MJ, if you want to know).

I mention this because ??! wants to know where all the action is on blogs. They might turn up here, but right now it's all elsewhere.

At any rate, this is great news. I've been spending the last few days reading the Letters to the Editor section in the two newspapers I get, seething with indignation all the bigotry and massive ignorance that people are proud display in public, and this makes me happy.

So for all those who wanted a majority to call the shots on what some minority or other can or can't do in their private lives, sucks to you.

Oh, the Pdf of the judgment here.
and Sharanya (a while ago) and Nivedita (today).