Mdeii Life - Anand Krishnamoorthi's blog
Tuesday, August 31, 2004
In the Name of the Father
After years of trying to be an uptight film-critic, I finally cried while watching a film. This movie by Jim Sheridan is not only your typical political issue movie, but is also a great piece of filmmaking.
My first reaction: There is now more reason for our own Tamil political issue type filmmakers to go shoot themselves, then disembowel themselves with a sharp katana, drink poison and jump into the Bay of Bengal!
Sunday, August 29, 2004
Thank you for the nice send-off party
We even had fireworks courtesy the local church festivities. So thank you for the wishes guys. Ravi even got a card and everybody signed it: CC, Lazy, Nirenjan, �Prince Roy�, Ramnath & Vijay Venkatesh. OJ and Chenthil had to leave early, but completed the bloggers meet.
Of course we missed a couple of the regulars, and all of the girls, but hey, it turned out to be a pretty good evening. Especially because I got driven to and from the beach in an air-conditioned car, courtesy CC.
Some pictures were clicked. Check out the links above to get to some blogs with photographs posted.
Fat Naked Men on Motorcycles
All of this morning, the streets of South Chennai were swarming with fat naked men riding motorcycles. I was one of them. This annual event though isn�t a European-style gay parade, or even an attempt at �Rio�, but the Brahmin exercise of changing the sacred thread. It all starts early in the morning when grandfathers, fathers, sons and grandsons take off their clothes, have a cold bath, tie a loose piece of an almost transparent thing called a veshti around their waists, liberally douse their bodies with ash, sandal etc, carry along old pieces of ornamental silverware, and get on their motorcycles.
The bike-ride is the crazy part. You see men of all shapes and sizes riding motorcycles of all shapes and sizes (actually some men modestly wear shirts and drive around in cars as well�but they are not quite visible and therefore not considered for this blog-post). The main thoroughfares of the city are taken up by these vicious sacred-thread gangs. They block up traffic, distract little-old ladies on their morning walks, and generally are quite a scene on the roads. If religion weren�t involved, the cops would actually get very flustered by this immoral exposure in public. The really nasty bikers are easy to spot; they are the ones with long hair flying briskly in the wind, riding really fast. Sitting astride on the motorcycles and travelling this fast causes the wraparoundthincottoncloth to ride up the legs slowly, first revealing the shins, then the knees and finally the thighs. (I was actually whistled at by some old ladies from their third floor flat balconies on 9th avenue).
Finally, all these fat naked men drive to choice locations, sit down in groups, mumble in Sanskrit, occasionally rock to the side and fart, and change their sacred threads to sudden high-pitched chants of Yagnopavitham: paramam pavithram �. After the ritual all the younger men get back on motorcycles to visit the older men�s houses, fall on their feet Abhivathaye�, and extort ten rupees from each of them. Of course, one has to learn to bear the humiliation of seeing the old ladies sitting on their sofas eyeing you lecherously.
Then the ride back home is a lot more hurried because this ritual has involved Palagaaram only, in the morning. (All of us do our Tharpanam�obsequies to all our dead gods, their dead consorts, and the holy scriptures�yes they too are considered dead: so this involves fasting). The ride home assumes a significance that involves a rumbling inside the bellies. Once back home, we break our fast, fart a lot more, scratch our backs with newly acquired threads, and crash.
My day isn�t over yet. I am planning to spend today�s �prostration-collection� at the Chennai bloggers meet.
Friday, August 27, 2004
Familiarity breeds contempt
A rather ironic title for an open invitation to yet another issue of the most prolific bloggers rendezvous in India. The nth Chennai bloggers (interim/!@#$%) meet is on Sunday the 29th August 2004 at Elliots Beach (Besant Nagar). Time: 4:30 PM + (We all meet under the Schmidt Memorial�the old graffiti decorated structure).
The reason is that yours truly is finally being contemptuously shown away because I grew too familiar with this city. But this time, this isn�t official with rediff blogs (who anyway never bother to foot the bills). Neither is it fifty-rupees-ice-tea business. We meet at a public place, and go dutch if we need to eat rather than talk!
For a bunch of familiar (contemptuously therefore) bloggers, it would be nice to see some new faces. So we, the old gang can wear Venetian ballroom masks just so that we don�t start kicking each other with contempt.
Thursday, August 26, 2004
A Day for Madras
Now we have our own thingy. I have always had the opinion that Chennai/Madras, though lacking in �attitude� unlike other international cities like Bombay, has a lot of potential. Think of it: A fairly colourful (colonial) history and legacy; two rivers and a canal (hmm�); the biggest damn beaches I have seen, fairly decent green-cover; also the hometown of many important people and things; seat of provincial government; home to some unique industry. Now what is wrong? Basic uncleanliness; messy hoardings; horrible traffic; wires crisscrossing streets, lampposts & buildings; hideous float-glass corporate affairs; tasteless post-independence government architecture etcetera.
Tuesday, August 24, 2004
What to do with blogger�s experiments?
First the bar above screws up my template and hides my pretty face, now the �next blog� link (on other people�s blogs) are screwing up my referral stats. This might help with the former.
Sunday, August 22, 2004
My experiments with food
The time has come for me to seriously start cooking my own food. With less than a month to go before I am totally on my own, my mother has started pushing me. The only thing reasonably edible I could make thus far used to be cooked rice. Now I have started making the other stuff as well.
I cannot possibly live without vatthal kuzhambu. So that was the first thing I learnt. The last time I made it, I was more like a kitchen helper, strictly following my mother�s instructions and measurements under her supervision. Today, she decided to not even look in my general direction. Reminds me of swimming instructors who pretend they cannot hear you drowning. The toughest thing about making vatthal kuzhambu is crushing, squeezing and dissolving tamarind. This process is so hectic that it is used a metaphor in Tamil to describe �that churning feeling� in the stomach in the face of imminent danger. After almost hours of trying to karacchufy puLi, I burnt something, then I turned off the stove. All this while my mom kept herself distracted with making a Chinese dragon-head for some stage show. Nevertheless, I persisted with my doubts and all I got were irritated & sparse instructions shouted at me. That was mostly all I needed.
Eventually though, I seemed to have let it boil for longer than usual, which meant that all I was left with was the vatth from vatthal kuzhambu. With the murungakkai thaan sticking out of thick pasty stuff, the shallow pan looked like a freshly drained pond with little pieces of wood and leaves lying in the muck.
I had better luck with the rasam. Of course, they smell familiar, almost look familiar. And they taste wonderful. There is nothing like vatthal kuzhambu saadam with microwaved Lijjat papad, followed by thakkaLi rasam, and finally, fresh-thayir saadam with a little bit of vatthal kuzhambu thottukka. This is tam-brahm gastronomic heaven!
And my mother is proud of my cooking. What the heck, I am technically qualified, I can cook (do the neyvedhyam & feed the crows), I could always wash and clean, I can dust, and I can scrub the bathroom floor. Now the logical thing to do after good domestic training is to take out my horoscope and get me married to an NRI. Just that I am not trained in any classical arts; but I can hum 80s Ilayaraja tunes fairly well.
Warning: This hanging was done by professionals. Do not attempt it at home!
First they made a huge fuss about bungee jumping in soft-drink commercials, now they got this on their hands. They banned the commercial after attempts to copy the actions by kids got fatal; now, is banning state-sponsored, state-conducted violence, (thereby capital punishment, wars etc) the best thing to do to stop accidents like this from happening? Or do we kill the messenger and stop the press from reporting such things, lest �impressionable young minds� get affected?
Friday, August 20, 2004
This is a rehash of this post. But this time, I also have a Visa and a ticket.
Sunday, August 15, 2004
Futuaris nisi irrisus ridebis
Fuck �em if they can�t take a joke.
That�s a great line I can take from this book I finished reading today. But ever since I saw �Eric Idle� on the cover of the fat hardbound on the library shelf, I knew I had something on my hand.
The Road to Mars is a funny book written by a funny man, but it is not absolutely pythonesque. In it is an academic thesis on comedy, a terrorist plot against Mars, a singing old diva, a robot that looks like David Bowie (also in drag in a few scenes), superb zero-gravity sex, and a plotline that borders on a Terry Gilliam version of The Fifth element. Yeah, it also has two stand-up comics and the tragedies of their lives.
As I said, not very pythonesque, but enjoyable.
Saturday, August 14, 2004
It is very easy to become patriotic on the eve of our independence day. The local temple I visited today had a separate shrine for Bharatha Thaai (Mother India). When actresses can get temples, can�t Mother India? The idol was majestically clad, loose hair, with a flag in its hand and a lion standing as its vaahanam (vehicle). Along with the flowers and coconuts, temple shopkeepers also sold plastic tricolours.
To celebrate our independence is fine, but I guess we have a tendency to deify anything we love or respect. Plus, to overtly link patriotism with religious devotion is pushing it too far. By deifying the things we cherish most, we simply force them away from common understanding; more dangerously, we force them away from common scrutiny. I am very proud of my country because it is a democracy, so I consider nothing to be unquestionable. Deification makes things infallible and remote.
Deification also allows for a lot of bullshit to be spoken that actually may mean nothing. This or that potri potri! So and so potri potri! I said it, so me potri potri! In the name of my dead (hence exonerated of corruption) leader potri potri! Look I am a visionary thinker so, for my two paisa thoughts potri potri! Etcetera. (potri potri is a Tamil devotional utterance roughly translating into Praise be to� or Glory be to�)
So let�s start busting some rhetoric to commemorate the annual event.
First, let us start right at the top�APJ. After all, we have to start questioning this business of Igniting young minds. Think of it; it is actually very sadistic to incinerate children�s thoughts. Children�s brains are not internal combustion engines that need to be sparked into action. They only have to be allowed to think on their own, which they are very much capable of. Only by stifling, modifying, moulding, and setting fire to, do we adults make them in our own image�corrupt, garrulous, violent and intolerant.
Rhetoric busting is an exercise in identifying and cutting out the crap from the everyday speech of our leaders. Can you think of more rhetorical phrases to bust?
Wednesday, August 11, 2004
How to make suspense thrillers; or Why a MacGuffin is a superb abstraction; or What gives me an erection
I saw Notorious today. Every time I watch a Hitchcock film, I go back Truffaut�s book and get new insights from the words I have already read. Notorious is a quintessentially Hitchcock movie�but this description does no justice to the fact that every Hitchcock movie is a hit because of what it has to give the audience. Therefore to slot Hitchcock as a thriller director, or his movies to be great suspense flicks, is, even though being the truth, does not explain why his movies are so great.
One good explanation that is often offered is that Hitchcock is a director who never withholds anything from the audience. Simply by giving, (and this being his method of storytelling), he takes care of the fact that his stories and plots can afford to be rather unreal (even distortions). (Taking off from the earlier discussion with Mitochondria)
Hitch films are always �logical� and superbly so, but mostly not �fundamentally real�. Therefore, his story content has closure (even while showing a distorted reality), but the method is an abstraction of reality. His MacGuffin, which is more a �form� element rather than a �story� element, is never closed. Hitchcock himself said that a drama is just like life, but only with the boring bits cut out (paraphrasing). This process of cutting-out is what I understand as an abstraction. The choice of cutting out the boring part of explaining the MacGuffin seems to be a superb form of abstraction.
A contemporary filmmaker who works very well on similar lines is Manoj Shyamalan. But I have to be quick to say that except for Birds, Hitchcock never came close to anything supernatural about his thrillers; and except for Signs, Shyamalan has not come close to making a statement of the human condition while the plot itself centred around an unimportant MacGuffin. Moreover, Shyamalan seems to be too fond of withholding information from the audience. (Note: I have not yet seen The Village, but am talking about the other three popular movies of his I have seen.)
I would most certainly want to work in the way Hitch did. Joseph Conrad to me, worked out to be a writer who, despite his work being not too much in the Hitchcock style, seems to have the right kind of stories, with the right pivotal emotions to make for one. When I read one of Conrad�s books recently, I was always thinking of adapting it. Of course as real project, it has to wait while so many other things in my life get sorted out.
Watching Alfred Hitchcock movies gives me an erection. I am absolutely thrilled with the way the man can tell a story in this medium. That to me, pretty much explains what I want the audience to feel about my work too.
Monday, August 09, 2004
Finnegans Wake and Sakalakalaa Vallavan
Reading books, especially the ones that are non-contemporary classics (non-contemporary is a broad term that goes beyond its temporal inference and is used to represent even physical, cultural and stylistic distance or dissonance), is a rather tiring thing. There is always a constant fear of losing the plot. At-least I have to read and re-read lines and passages that I have just read and not absorbed.
This later work by James Joyce is a very difficult book, but ironically, has been the one book that I have found easiest to read through as I am unencumbered by the need to understand every word, phrase, line or passage. This way, I can just go ahead and enjoy it by picking up whatever I can along the way. (Joyce fans can now shoot me)
The desire to seek closure to the incomplete or the incomprehensible has been the driving force of readership, and consequently storytelling. The only time we feel unencumbered to find meaning or closure is when in our dreams; where the abstract, the unintelligible and the illogical are allowed. For example, bad malapropisms are not only excused, but also quite plainly understood. Could it be because we know that �we ourselves� are the sole audience and sole authors of our dreams? So is the need for closure only a non-reflexive activity? Is our desire to communicate with �the other� rather than with �the self�, such a strong force that we have an almost primeval urge to seek closure?
Going by Freudian theory, even dreams have secondary elaboration, but these seem to be as abstract a �fill-up-and-make-logical� activity as our dream images are.
Forget Finnegan�s Wake, take Tamil cinema, which has one of the oddest, and most remarkable forms of storytelling where too, the audience is mostly unencumbered to seek logic, rationality or even intelligibility. No one seems to care if in the middle of a serious scene, someone breaks out into song and dance. Simply by virtue of convention, habit and tradition, the audience can reach a stage of readership where they can purely skim through the text without stopping and re-reading and actually trying to find out the meaning. Even the creators of the images have by virtue of the same habits, conventions and traditions, formatted their storytelling to be as non-textual as possible, and consequently the telling allows itself to be told in such an abstract a manner. (By non-textual I mean in a manner that seemingly defies common understanding of storytelling)
This singular ability for being unfazed at the abstract does not mean that the audience has forgotten to read the �traditional� story. The truth is that �this� abstract style is what has become traditional. Therefore a different kind of abstraction that is varied from the one that has been formed by habit and convention, would still be unwelcome and unintelligible.
But by its mere existence this phenomenon demonstrates the capability of a culture and a people to evolve unique, shared (only within the group) and local abilities of abstraction that is strange for a foreigner. But what is the point about being able to be niche-abstract? The thing is that, as far as the local-traditional images go, the audience considers itself to be as much the author as the reader, to be able to, like in one�s own dream, condone, if not understand the abstract and unintelligible. (Again, abstract and unintelligible to a person outside the local-culture or the person outside the collective dream-state)
For a person who steps out of his or her own sphere of abstraction (sphere of abstraction is a much broader term than �language�, or �culture�, or even �religion�), the immediate reaction at reality (That is, if there is something called an absolute reality, as things could very well turn out to be relative abstractions and relative realities. In that case, there is no difference between stepping into or out of the spheres of abstraction.) or other abstractions (colloquially�a new culture) would be that of either pity or anger. (Mainly if one is of the opinion that one�s own sphere of abstraction is the best representation of �reality�)
So, how to step-into a new sphere of abstraction? Go read Finnegan�s Wake, it grows on you! Or go ahead and watch Tamil cinema (if you are not already Tamil that is). Or try and bloody well make sense of this post (and not missing the parentheticals) in a single reading. Hah!
Sunday, August 08, 2004
I love this city when it rains; it does get messy after a while
Dark Clouds in the distance, plain bluish-whitish-greying sky.
Yellow light from the top-west, light breeze in the tree;
Rustling green, shaking off ochre and soot.
Screeching birds, hooting birds, singing birds, cawing birds, sudden honks from far away.
Lazy roads, blazing yellow;
Lonely auto scavenging.
Dimming sky, brightening neons,
Saturated colours, stuffy air.
Yellow, grey, blue-grey.
Light trickle, dirty drops.
Loud chatter, heavy music, corner table.
�Two latt�s with cinnamon�
�Sorry sir no cinnamon�
�OK just the coffee�
��And a sandwich�
�Two pieces in it right?�
Metaphysics, chaos theory, rock music, and my lousy boss.
Silent window, heavier drops;
Dusty road cleansed.
Arabian nights, bawdy jokes.
People scurrying for cover.
Hot coffee, misty window, Eminem cursing everyone.
�Hey man, what�re you doing here?�
�Long time dude�
�Nice meeting you like this�
�See you man, I�ll call you�
�The sandwich stuffing makes me fart�
�Anything else sir�
Blue smudge in the north.
�Love to walk�
�First got to piss�
Book rack, leaky tap, microchip pisspot.
�Boy that�s a relief�
Swing door, stepping out,
Slosh! Splash! �Fuck!.. My shoes!�
Dripping leaves, earthy scent;
Further ahead, burnt petrol.
Two busses blocking the way, loading and offloading. Stuck umbrella, irritated driver,
Honking cars, cawing birds, barking dogs, traffic jam.
Dart across, slippery road,
Avoid the puddle,
A van rattling towards a bigger puddle.
Avoid that too, turn right into the bookstore.
Asimov, Douglas Adams, �Tolkein in the same shelf?�
�That�s my boss�
�Bastard didn�t even recognize me�
Road maps, C++, costly book on �Web colours? Give me a break�
Art deco, animation, �Nude photography?�
Hindi film DVD, joke of the evening on BOMBINO.
PhotoShop�ed wrappers, colourized old-time Tamil hero wearing lipstick.
Iron maiden, �Eddy isn�t it?�
Floyd, LedZep, �Justin Timberlake?�, Satrianni.
Wayne�s World, Aladdin, Bad Boys, Chicago.
�It�s always the same stuff�
Chopin, Beethoven, Wagner,
�Make out to the music of Mozart?�
�Shag to the sound of Schubert?�
�500 bucks? Thank you!�
Where�s the bag token?
�Here you go�
�Gone darker hasn�t it?�
Beep Beep, �Hello man! Where are you?�
�OK 20 mins� I�ll wait here. It�s begun to drizzle�
�Where are you meeting?�
�Place right round the corner� Join us?�
�Not tonight. I got to go; work at home�
�See you dude!�
25B never so early, �Bye man�
Saturday, August 07, 2004
Famous people on the web
I sometimes wonder what would happen to my blog if I ever become a famous person. I stumbled upon Trisha's website. Obviously it not maintained by her directly, but at-least it is updated. The design is OK: slightly inconsistent; the navs are actually pretty snazzy. Check out the gallery section where there are pictures of her. There are a couple of her pics where she is topless. Really!
Tuesday, August 03, 2004
My Clip Blog
I have now started a clip-blog where I put together a set of interesting posts that are written by other bloggers/writers. Of course, they would primarily come from what I can find in my newsreader. It is here
Monday, August 02, 2004
Spiderman 2 is sexy
I am used to going to the movies alone. I have watched so many films with only me for company. But, every time I walk into a film theatre, I somehow think (and hope) that some beautiful girl would buy the next ticket and sit next to me. Reality usually always plays spoilsport. So when I bought tickets to watch Spiderman 2, I went through the habitual fantasy, before taking a deep breath and settling down to watch the movie as usual in the unimpressive and mostly talkative company of some men; or so I thought, until a couple of chicks (I cannot find a better term) were spotted manoeuvring themselves towards seats in my general direction. But life is such a bitch. Just this day, and only this day did I bring my little cousin to watch snazzy comic book superhero spidey man. Life is not just a bitch, it is a consummate harlot: it so happened that I had earlier generously given �that seat next to the chicks� to my cousin.
Oh! About the movie, my cousin was impressed. Very much! The rest of the day he spent trying to ejaculate web from his wrists and in swinging from the sofa to the dining table. He of course, could not understand why they talked so much in between the action scenes, and why on earth was such a cool guy who could almost fly, getting all moody about some girl.
Spiderman 2 is exciting stuff, excellent visual magic, wholesome treat: the kind of movie that defines the big-screen for the child in all of us. We all love comic books for just the sheer excitement and the fantasy. Then why the fuck are the producers trying to fool everybody that it is a superhero movie with a difference? Why the fuck did the filmmakers fool themselves? Spiderman 2 need not be an intellectual movie. But, by trying to make it one, they have ended up with something akin to an attempt at mixing oil and water together. Instead of getting a smooth emulsion, what they have got is a beaker full of clearly separated layers of immiscible liquid.
So much for science lessons. Cinema as a social art-form has its conventions; as a language it has its vocabulary, figures of speech, grammar, accent etc. These things are evolved and developed by serious and experimental filmmakers alike, and most often than not, these elements are absorbed by mainstream image-churners who are neither serious nor experimental. So whenever one sees a lingering close-up or pregnant silences in Spiderman 2, one shouldn�t go into a delusion that the filmmakers are creative geniuses. They have simply tried to add a poor intellectual veneer to a film that would have been gaudily comic-book and enjoyable.
Somebody must have told the filmmakers that conventional notions of beautiful people are sexist and old-fashioned. Someone told me that Kirsten Dunst look very unlike a classical American leading lady. While the latter could be true, the former is a statement that has been loosely adhered to in this film. Classic comic book representations definitely entail (like the shot of the girl in a tattered wet dress clinging onto a rope), sexist and trite imagery. But when you want to make a statement, make it fully, not like Mani Ratnam, in fits and starts, half-baked and unconvinced hence unconvincing. You cannot try and show reality, emotional upheavals, and try and make a study of the human condition when the audience is constantly distracted by Kirsten Dunst�s nipple. Coming to our mod-Eurostyle unhealthy leading lady: In scenes she looked positively doped, but hey, no one wanted you to watch her face.
Tobey Maguire, how much ever he tries, can never be Michael Keaton, or Val Kilmer, or even a charming Christopher Reeves. To play a tormented soul, one needs to be really talented. Of course, the film should also give scope for that.
I have always defined film in a loosely structuralist sense as film as art, film as science (or craft), film as mass media text, and film as business. Blurring the lines and then re-sharpening them, we can also look at film as religious and political discourse. Most organised religions deal with notions of karma, sin, abstinence, virtuous sacrifice, resisting or conquering temptation, damnation, and redemption. So does almost all classical discourse. Mainstream cinema is no exception. The comic book is never ever an exception. So spidey widey is as much a symbol of resurgent conservatism as he is about a devout and violent, sexually repressed fundamentalism.
As children�s literature, a direct morality story is fine (or is it at all?), but when we (mostly out a misplaced sense of temporally-influenced maturing) consider ourselves to be thinking adults, we do little justice to our evolved human faculties of thought and abstraction by simplifying our discourse and dumbing-down social conversation. When the world is getting more networked, the knee jerk reaction seems to be an attempt to simplify and ethnocentrically modify an increasingly complex set of messages that come from all directions. The film as political discourse and as media text, needs to reflect and consequently evoke sensitivity, if not a complete understanding of complex reality.
Spiderman 2 is politically and socially aware, but not intelligently and maturely responsible. The politically
correct necessary Mr Aziz pizza boss is potentially stereotypical in a blatant attempt at compensatory political chicanery; and the representation even smacks of an artifice that is parodied in the character of the vegetarian shark in Nemo. (Extended into the Muslim army that is to be sent into Iraq.)
Another big grouse I have is the representation of research science in mainstream cinema. It is either incomprehensible (again stereotyped and dumbed down to famous equations like E=M(C^2)), or it is dealt with an Einstein-like dogmatism of �nice science� on a Christian leash�the apple that should never be eaten or the box that never should be opened lest there be eternal damnation or pestilence and (potentially dangerous) enlightenment for the common man. Scientists are portrayed as reckless, mercenary, eccentric, insensitive, over-ambitious, or plain mad-bad. Sadly the Michael Crichton sort of literature that brings scientific trivia to the masses, reinforces these bad stereotypes.
Getting back to the movie, I have to end this commentary by discussing a few other things. This movie is tedious and tiring for the audience simply because it is overwhelming. It is like protracted sex. Very brisk, then suddenly dull to the point of flaccid limpness at times, immediately aroused for another brisk bout, only to be stroked into calmness again just so that the encounter is prolonged and the climax delayed. Finally a frenzy, to reach a decent climax, that validates the saying that in any journey, the best part is in getting there and not in the destination. What really is interesting about Spiderman 2 is that after the short orgasmic end, you are forced to hug and cuddle up in bed, indulging in (whatever is the counterpart of foreplay), smooching a sweaty face and generally saying a lot of �I-love-you�s rather than run to the bathroom for a good freshen-up.
Phew! I think this is one of those days when I am excessively Freudian, super-excessively verbose and ultra-excessively male.
Spiderman 2 is a kind of replacement sexual-gratification for children. But aren�t all of them?
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