Mdeii Life - Anand Krishnamoorthi's blog
Sunday, June 29, 2003
I�ve just finished seeing the BBC�s documentary about the Israeli nuclear whistle-blower. It is no surprise to see that Israel under the lenient eye of the United States has managed to do something that even the greatest enemies of Pax-Americana could not achieve.
This programme brought a very important question to my mind. What is patriotism? This exalted principle seems ridiculous in certain cases. Democracy and freedom are other such words. These are, of course words, but the meanings they convey are profound. I have discussed this before: but does democracy guarantee people the power to question authority, even if it means questioning The State that granted the people this power? Unfortunately many in power do not realise that no state grants freedom and democracy, it merely ensures it. Freedom and democracy are naturally the right of all people.
Looking at the Israeli example, could such things happen in India as well? Or are we too diverse and open a country that I should, in foolhardy patriotism, think that it would not. Should I believe in the eventual triumph of freedom and democracy or succumb to the clout of those that act extra-constitutionally and have double standards to protect?
Saturday, June 28, 2003
Bend it like Beckham
Saw the movie for the second time today, this time on TV. A very good feel-good movie: the best of the kind. The first time I saw it in a theatre was really good. I guess you�ll know that you�ve made a good film if the movie audience can participate in the picture as much as they did during the screening of Bend it...
Homer�s epic has suddenly caught my interest. I always thought that I would not be patient enough or smart enough to read and understand poetry of this calibre. But hey! Not bad: so far the story makes sense.
Having been brought up on egalitarianism and pacifism, the glorified martial nature and treatment of women characters in the epic seems rudely out of tune for me. But can�t really blame the Greeks for that. I�m just through two books. Got twenty-two more to go.
I've been shifted to new blogger. I too hope that the archiving problems would be sorted out!
Friday, June 27, 2003
Hits and misses
There is another thing I planned to do these holidays but never got to: running. Though I would not call myself badly out of shape, it was not purely vanity that prompted me to try exercise. Yet, I don�t think it is too late. I still can manage to get into a disciplined rhythm...only if I could wake up a little earlier in the morning! The only thing I properly did these holidays was watch movies and read books: that�s good!
Strangely, I�ve taken so much time to finish this one book. Yep! The one Anita gave me. Of late, every bit of fiction I read, I keep thinking of the book as a film in waiting: translating into shots and scenes, lines and paragraphs: what to keep? What not to film? And things like that. Rohinton Mistry�s Family Matters is excellent film material. I believe one of his earlier books has already been made into a film. Will any producer purchase the rights for the book and ask me to script and direct it? Hmmm...I wonder!
I guess it is time I seriously got to think of what I would do after finishing the two remaining semesters of my M.Sc. I have to start with creating a good r�sum� and portfolio. I have already made a one-page r�sum� that sits in my otherwise empty website; but by popular opinion and my own hindsight, it seems rather dull and uninteresting. Please send in your suggestions on how to build an interesting and useful profile. I�d mostly like to create an extensive electronic portfolio (to be my web site) apart from a one-page printable r�sum�. In fact I was to have done this these holidays; obviously I have been having too much fun. Am I just going through a pensive phase or am I really clever enough to be wary of things to come?
Tuesday, June 24, 2003
Philosophising philosophy AKA the loss/laws of thought
The Matrix essays contains philosophy. Are we overdoing it? I might ask. One does not theorise about anything unless the thing itself prods and alludes to philosophy explicitly. The Matrix prompts theory. What the heck, coming from Tim Burton, should I theorise about Mars Attacks? Or was it just meant to be what it is: a meaningless self-parody.
Just as in any other art, the object, once it leaves the hands of the creator, becomes its own entity, is open to interpretation, intended, or unintended. A two-year-old drawing a box and Picasso drawing exactly the same box does not mean the same for an art consumer. Picasso might intend inner meanings to the �box� a two-year-old does not. But as the object of art leaves its creator, does the intention of the creator matter at all? Is it just the intention of the receiver of the work of art: the audience that matters?
Just as it is in our nature to observe logic, it is in our nature to disregard logic, or to put it in more respectable terms: to seek philosophy. Why we chose to do so for certain things while rubbishing others is entirely determined by preference, taste, loyalty or stake holding, because after all logic has no role in this.
Maybe that is why the best are also the worst. The most moronic person leads the world, while the most spiritual and intelligent are villains. Ignorance might be bliss, but is �knowing all� akin to �knowing nothing at all�?
Ha ha ha ha ha! I have successfully or unsuccessfully tried to instigate my own koan. For a brief moment in time I became the Creator of thought; at the same time sounding utterly confusing became the Destroyer of thought.
That�s the beauty of philosophy and that�s the banality of philosophy. (Or is it? This itself being a philosophical thought,...)
The second last day of my stay in Mumbai, I thought it was time I saw �Reloaded�. So Anita, her sister, Vipul, his friends and I went to watch the movie. I am a fan of The Matrix: the variety that would indulge in hours of debate about the intricacies of �Zen and the art of Simulacra�. This made Reloaded even more disappointing.
Kingsley has an excellent commentary about the appalling loss of standard in this sequel. As the days pass, my bitterness towards the movie only increases. I feel like an errant kar sevak of The Matrixtva who would kill the Wachowski brothers for their sacrilege.
So much has been said about the philosophy of the movie, even the quasi-religious nature of the modern myth-epic and I have nothing more to add. Despite Reloaded-the expanding mythology, Reloaded-the movie was sad!
One main drawback is the fact that unlike in the original, visual exposition is negligible, whereas verbal exposition is painfully and boringly all that there is to the storytelling. Why did they have to make a movie; they could have simply written a book. The only visual elements are set-piece action sequences that are nothing more than eye-candy. What�s the English word for �thegattal� Kings? What horrible choreography of action. Except for the highway sequence, the rest of the scenes were badly choreographed and badly cut; especially the clone fight. For heaven�s sake watch Samurai Jack or the films of Akira Kurosawa if you want to know what action choreography is.
A big disappointment was Zion that turned out to be something begotten out of an illegitimate affair between �Star Wars� and �Goa�. Another disappointment was the un-slick dialogue that Kingsley has discussed about.
Probably the biggest Zen lessons for the viewer from Reloaded would be the ones in renunciation of glory, voluntary self-abasement and in the iconoclastic destruction of the myth, prompting a lot of soul-searching. Matrix and Reloaded are the parts of a confusing koan for the faithful like me: how could the same people have made both these movies?
This morning, I got back from a wonderful two weeks in Mumbai. There is now about a week to go before I start Semester III at AU. I have to make use of this time to do all the other things I�d wanted to take care of during the summer break, but have still not managed to. That includes, most importantly, my website.
Thursday, June 19, 2003
My first time
Is not as easy as I thought it would be (that�s an easy excuse for bad pictures). Lacking the right gear, I have tried a few shots from the sheltered heights of Bombay�s egalitarian housing complexes.
Rain Rain Rain Rain Rain Rain Rain Rain Rain Rain Rain Rain�
I have to enjoy these showers before I get tired of it and eventually start hating it.
The Skull King
Today I finished reading Stanley Kubrick�s biography by John Baxter. When I started reading the book, Kubrick�s life stories made me feel slightly insecure and very unlucky: the man had the studios eating out of his hands. Eventually as the book progressed, it gave me a sense of hope that I too would be able to stand up for my own filmmaking style against the current system. I had always thought that despite my lofty ideals, I somehow had to start-off working under the rot, for the rot and accepting the rot. A remarkable thing about the Kubrick life-story was that all the films he made were Kubrick films (despite the fact that he was not pleased with a few of them: every filmmaker has personal non-favourites). I find this consistent strength in a filmmaker pleasing, especially since all I seem to see in Indian films are directors gone sour, directors gone stale, directors gone too arty or directors gone the David Dhawan way.
I have always admired Stanly Kubrick�s films even though I have just discovered him. Not too long ago, I even had confused Vladimir Nabokov for Kubrick in a college quiz show.
Now I see that there�s going to be a film, I think about Alan Conway (a Kubrick impersonator) starring John Malkovich.
Update - 25th July
Sunday, June 15, 2003
Today I did the seashore route. What really enhanced the experience was that just as the afternoon passed, it began to get cloudy and then by sunset, a steady drizzle turned to a steady downpour. I guess that this is the best way to watch the rains here. Plus I believe this is about the best time to see the Monsoon in the city; many people have been warning me that it could get messy and irritating during the heavy rain days of July.
Hey hey! I guess it rained today back home in Chennai as well.
Of Musharraf, Prannoy Roy, maturity and chitchat
A journalist has no modesty, but any decent national leader needs to act his part well. Musharraf�s media savvies might help score temporary ups, but loose talk (like it has in the past) can only return to haunt you sometime later. I don�t mean to say that reticence characterizes a good leader, but think about this: even our politicians have already started emulating the general by indulging in retorts and other juvenile squabble while I guess true political maturity has much more Zen values than the otherwise popular devices like patriotism, emotional identification, honour, justice, history, tradition and the like.
I was amazed by the emotional tone of the general while discussing Kashmir. The man sure seems to have imbibed it so deep. I somehow feel this goes beyond simply hurt ego�s and unresolved grandfather�s disputes. I don�t know if any of our politicians, save for a crying Abdulla or a shouting Advani (in the presence of the media), would ever have internalized the issue so deeply. In Musharraf, there seems to be something almost reminiscent of extremist indoctrination that prevents him from being what he always wants to be, and by his own admissions, cannot become: a democrat.
Plus all his (oxy)moronic talk about tailoring democracy and controlled dissent sure makes him a natural ally of Dubya. Why did anybody think otherwise?
And other adventures
Borrowing taglines from the Sena, today it was my turn to say Me Mumbaiker. I stay at Thane in my aunt�s place but the rest of the action always takes place in Mumbai, so I was left with no choice but to do the central railway-western railway jugglery, and the auto rickshaw, taxi drivers and busy rail commuters had to put up with my not-so-super Hindi. But I pulled it off rather decently, to my own surprise.
Family Matters and the thickest lassi in the world
So I finally got to meet Anita in Bombay today. It is funny when bloggers meet, you can hardly ask something like �how�s life?� even though that is how we started.
I had met up with Vipul earlier in the morning, so both of us landed up at Only Parathas in Bandra for the rendezvous where I also claimed my prize for being the dullest. Even though Anita wanted me to open the attractive wrapping only on my train back home, I couldn�t resist the temptation and at Vipul swank company-provided apartment, opened the package to find Rohinton Mistry�s Family Matters. I have to admit, being dull sure pays.
The food was great, and I mean filling. Here I�d have to describe the lassi. The drinking straw that usually drifts to the side of a glass and slides to swim in any lesser dilution, stood straight upright in the middle of the lassi glass like it had been planted in concrete.
Thanks Anita for a wonderful afternoon! I will put up the pictures (don�t even ask what I put Anita through for the �right-light thing�) when I get back to Chennai.
Friday, June 13, 2003
Singing in the rain
Eating ice cream when it is raining outside: heaven!
Today I also bought myself an umbrella. Mumbaiites seem to be specialists in umbrellas; back home in Chennai, we don�t get this kind of rain, so we hardly seem to know the nitty-gritty�s of umbrella buying. I picked a non-folding old-style umbrella for a related reason. If I have to stow the umbrella away for a large part of the year in Chennai, it needs to have as few collapsible parts as possible. Experience has shown me that.
Thursday, June 12, 2003
For a rainy day
Today I bought myself some comfortable and cheap shoes that would last my stay in Bombay and suit the weather. I don�t know what I had in mind by packing in my Adidas sneakers for my trip to Bombay during the rains.
As far as horror films and their effectiveness go, I guess what I wrote about The Ring holds good. Bhoot merits a decent review; especially because it does quite a few things any average Indian film would not. One good example would be the visual exposition. Any average filmmaker would have made things messy and wordy while Ram Gopal Verma uses very little dialogue. Another brave step, though it might seem very trivial is that he has avoided digressing from the singular plot by not invoking songs and other kitsch trappings.
Good effort, but at the same time I am pained at having to impose different standards for reviewing Indian films. Otherwise, it is very easy to tear this movie apart. Aesthetically, technically and also as far as storytelling is concerned. I would not review content, but I was amazed at why Varma should have an unnecessary disclaimer / warning in the beginning. Does he himself not know that he is making a �horror film� ?
Then there is this blatant indiscipline as far as camera angles, shot placement, camera movements and editing rhythms go (typical in today�s Jimmy Jib toting Indian filmmaking culture). Just as The Ring was, this movie too is amazingly good at giving jolts; too many at times, that it becomes predictably scary. Another thing this kind of the- director-is-smarter-than-the-yellow-belly-viewer style does is in putting the audience off. Most people in the movie theatre (including me) were almost unwilling to participate in the narrative. By doing so, the audience sure has been temporarily shaken, but the filmmaker loses the ability to explore characters and deeper emotions. The �bhoots� don�t have any �character�, apart from being vengeful, screaming, bad-haired, suddenly appearing zombie types. Again, like in The Ring, too many surprises, hardly any suspense. Eventually, for the time in the theatre being scary, it becomes only funny on hindsight when you step out into the sunny street. And what�s with the sound effects? Absolutely loathsome, painful and superficial way to tickle and disturb the audience. One thing the story needs to be lauded for, and what probably accounts for the success of this film, is the fact that it does eventually put the audience at ease and cathartically exorcises its own evils and �bhoots�.
If all I have written so far are not spoilers enough, here�s the ending and the biggest fuzzy area of them all. If Manjeet could simply waltz into the lock-up on her own and throttle Fardeen Khan, why the heck did she torment us and Urmila and Ajay Devgan (Probably the best I�ve seen of his acting) all this while?
Wednesday, June 11, 2003
Bombay... Ahem! Mumbai is a big city. Being from Chennai, it feels really big. The one day I�ve spent here is no indicator, yet sometimes I feel this city could appear threateningly overwhelming, but once you see that the taxi�s and auto rickshaws don�t charge you like they do back home, you suddenly feel very welcome. Another very welcoming thing is the rain (Mumbaikers can complement me for bringing in the first monsoon showers along with me ;)) plus the sunset looks glorious over the Arabian Sea.
I wanted to do a train blog; taking down notes along the journey and blogging about it, but spent most of the time trying to stay awake in the sapping heat of Andhra Pradesh and trying to keep people with unreserved tickets from getting into the reserved compartments (and miserably failing in the endeavor).
Sunday, June 08, 2003
Bombay the same title for the third time
I leave Chennai tonight. Should take me till Tuesday to get settled and I hope to continue writing from Mumbai.
Watched Shankar�s Indian featuring Kamal Hassan today on TV. The film continues to impress me: especially the flashback sequences. Though the film does not conform to any level of technical competence, be it in terms of shot selection or editing, the movie still holds the audience; the same way it did the first time I saw it on the big screen.
Lament: The deep-rooted malaises in our film industry take time to stop impinging upon our filmmakers, even on the once-in-a-decade bright spark like Mani Ratnam or Shankar. I guess economics and business plays a big role in sustaining mediocrity. But monetary considerations are not the only things affecting us (for that matter many places make better films under conditions worse off). One of our main problems seems to be a lack of iniative and absence of innovation. The lack of a professional pedagogic culture in our film industry means that our only education is imitational. Inspiration is at the root of any work of art but innovation and scholarship is the plant that has to grow from these roots.
Saturday, June 07, 2003
What does a Scroll Lock button on a keyboard do? The last time I vaguely remember using it was as ctrl + scroll lock
Today I braved the heat to venture out to buy some essentials before I start packing: film, batteries and Stanley Kubrick�s biography. I now have a splitting headache.
I thought that if I had more time at hand like I have now, then I�d write more, but strangely, I only write more and better if I don�t have enough time.
Wednesday, June 04, 2003
Today apart from watching the documentary and making certain �observations�, I have also made myself useful by painting a T-shirt for my nephew. It has a picture of a really wild looking velociraptor, which, seen with an optimistic frame of mind would look as if it is smiling at you. So much for the meat-eating, mean-looking and loud-noise-making prehistoric creature that Aditya wanted on his shirt.
The other Americans
This afternoon ESPN replayed the American National Spelling Bee. There is this whole debate about the unnecessary pressures being wrought on young children, but this post is not about that.
America is a nation of foreigners. Growing in Dravidian politics of Tamil Nadu, I�d rather not go into who was a �settler� and who was the �original inhabitant� as I know this kind of discussion is farcical. But if you consider �white protestant� as stereotype American, then Blacks, Hispanics, Indians, Italian, Jews, etc. are the later immigrants. Going by what Michael Moore alludes to in his film, we can probably split American society into two halves: The conservative �traditionally American� and the �unwanted alien immigrant American�. It is somewhat funny that the American constitution, being so well written, caters to the existence of both these groups. America is the land for the �free immigrant� it is also the land of the Pilgrim Fathers. Yet, the power centres have always been with the �traditional American� or so I get to understand.
Now what is all this got to do with the Spelling Bee? Because the spelling bee shows you who the future �traditional American� is going to be. I noticed that a majority of the kids were white, then there were some Jews, then there was this ubiquitous all American mixed raced child, there was one black, hardly any Hispanic and a lot of Indians. And who won the bee? Sai Gunturi: an American of Indian origin. We, Indians, after the Jews and the other Western European immigrants, are probably the best set of people to fit into the �traditional American� mould. Not the Chinese, not the Africans, not the Hispanics: these are the alternate Americans�the people who stand for the non-conservative, liberal and free democracy America is meant to be. But going by what Arundati Roy says in Outlook, these are the guys that populate the American �liberating� Army. Being Indian, is it something to be proud of? The richest immigrant community in America: where almost everybody, barring a cab driver or two, almost always is in a white-collar job? Why all this concern about Americans: My sister in now part of the �traditional American set�. My nephew is an all-American. Half my family is already there and I have the nerve to criticise America for being conservative.
Bowling for Columbine
Michael Moore�s documentary sure is historic document; a testament of our times as much as Woodstock was. As far the message goes, the film pretty much does what it is meant to do and effectively. Fine, so now what�s wrong with it? Hmm... interesting question!
As this documentary is purely purpose driven and therefore, having made his intentions and biases clear all the way through, you can never really target Moore for being just that: Biased, one sided and conservative in his own way. But in doing so, he has followed the same manipulative procedures of filmmaking that most of his detractors and most people Moore might even target in his films, use. By way of content he sure provides an antithesis to regular fare, but not by way of procedure.
Many historians would like us to believe that America was the antithesis for the communists; America, AKA the �free world�, is very different from all that it has decreed to be its enemies. Film-historians would beg to differ. Russian manipulative montage was never different from Frank Capra.
Just when my arguments seem to be going all over the place just like in ...Columbine. I have to find a thread and anchor it. Providing alternatives does not stop with alternative thoughts, but by alternative action and alternative being. Today a thought might be against a dogma, tomorrow, this very thought could become the new dogma, or worse, usurped and co-opted by never-ending conservatism and made toothless. Eventually not serving out the true purpose of providing alternatives. Look what happened to Woodstock, look what happened to Jesus. Alternative thought serves a purpose, but only as a seed for alternative being. Alternative being provides the real antithesis. And yet again, an alternative is pointless if there is nothing to rebel against. And that is when you know the Romans have become Christians and big record companies make double platinums out of protest songs. You are one more sellable clown who makes money for being �different� and �cool� and �anti-establishment� a living oxymoron of the �conservative liberal�.
Monday, June 02, 2003
I�ll be leaving for Bombay next weekend, primarily to help my cousin move as she�s got a job there; but here�s one chance for a holiday as well. It has been quite some time since I�ve been to the city. Right now I�m trying to make a list of things I�d have to take care of before I leave: I�m planning to spend some time there.
Sunday, June 01, 2003
In the end you see The Ring
The Ring, can only hope to be a good horror film. If disturbing the audience and giving them bad dreams is only what a horror film is to do, then maybe yes! Relying entirely on shock value is the forte of the non-genius filmmaker; making effective shockers, but hardly making the audience anxious.
This brings me to a question: what is a horror film to do? Give the audience a temporary scare? Shake the very world-view and belief system of the viewer? Or simply provide entertainment for the slightly sadomasochistic person in all of us?
If Psycho is a classic and so are The Sixth Sense and The Shining, that is because there have very few elements of shock value, rather, they have carefully paced build-up of tension that is eventually resolved to leave the audience in a relieved state of peace. The Ring consists of too many surprises, hardly any suspense and goes to defy its own purposes and therefore mislead the audience by deliberately breaking thought trains and plot consistency. The ending therefore, though open, is retching and hardly cathartic leaving an aftertaste. Also, unlike The Sixth Sense or Psycho, I wouldn�t watch this movie again. Worth renting the video if you want a good night�s scare (sometimes it is important to do so).
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