Wednesday, June 29, 2005


i am getting tired of waiting at home to get better and requiring to sleep all day. the rain outside is inconsistent but the sky is always the blue grey of the monsoon. the thick razai that i am using smells slightly musty and damp. my book is a s byatt’s wonderful ‘still life’. on tv there is wimbledon- the tv transmission unpredictable because of the rains. i get dizzy when i stand up- which is rarely. this breathlessness i ascribe to being indoors too long.

i have to get to work tomorrow or i might never manage to step outside this house. i might get used to this languor.

Monday, June 27, 2005


i hate having a fever. since yesterday afternoon when it reached 104 to now when it is still 101. infections it would seem- stomach and chest. dizzy, delirious, my body smells of antibiotics. hope tomorrow will be better.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

subarnarekha / garam hawa / uski roti / i am 20 / shadows of forgotten ancestors

after i have seen five films in two days i cant help but try and connect them all together thematically. i cant seem to separate the in my head and see them differently. perhaps, unintentionally we also chose films that had overlapping ideas and issues- or maybe its purely my imagination. they seem to be three primary themes that seem to emerge. the tragic heroine, and the idea of the nation. and though they seem different they all seem to be the same when i start thinking about it.

the first of my two is the icon of the tragic heroine, most apparent in all the four feature films; sita and amina who kill themselves in subarnarekha and in garam hawa, respectively; marichka, who dies in an accident pining away for her lover (shadows of forgotten ancestors) and the sister in ‘uski roti’ who is raped by a local goon.

in ritwik ghatak’s subarnarekha’ the exquisite madhabi mukherjee plays sita who along with her brother and a lost child try and begin life anew after being displaced from their home in bangladesh post partition. the new home is on the banks of the river subarnarekha near an abandoned british air force base and a forest of sal trees. what starts off as perhaps a conventional potboiler suddenly takes a turn for the excruciatingly visceral when all of a sudden new meanings become clear, new relationships are constructed in our minds and innocuous details suddenly become loaded with meaning as we superimpose myth, history and memory into the locations, the dialogues and the characters. a portrait of a newly independent nation and displaced houses, the desire to dream, a longing for the motherland and her eventual betrayal. the vision is harsh, cynical and yet hopeful. it is all terribly devastating. easily one of the best films i have seen- i challenge you not to cry.

‘garam hawa’ by m s sathyu tells the story of the partition and its results through the eyes of mirza salim- an owner of a shoe factory in the agra of 1948. as gradually his family leaves one by one for karachi, he is left suffering the alienation and despair of being displaced from his home. balraj sahni is heartbreakingly upright throughout, gita sidharth, who plays his daughter who commits suicide is moving, and so are farouque sheikh, shaukat azmi and jalal agha. it was shocking for me to discover that m s sathyu was south indian as he seemed to so easily understand the ethos of a family and a city in those times. my father says you can feel the hot dust in garam hawa. what was beautiful that the trauma of separation and loss was told without the brutal violence of ‘tamas’ but through the eyes of a family facing its consequences. the love scenes were also beautiful especially when at fatehpur sikri amina decides not to let go of her second bird after the first has flown away.

the politics of gender and the status of women seems to be the central theme of mani kaul’s ‘uski roti’. everyday a wife waits at a rural bus stop in punjab for her husband with his daily meal. as she waits one day her sister is raped by a local goon. slow, languorous, deliberately arty the movie can be accused of being extremely pretentious as dialogue is spoken off synch, the time line moves back and forward at random as she waits with flies buzzing around her, he devours chicken with relish and innumerable shots of women and men walking in the baking heat of the punjab. meditative at best, frustrating at its most slow, i was not quite sure about the film as i was watching it, but it left me with a strange sense of emptiness. what that emptiness was i cant quite put my finger on- boredom or fascination.

‘i am 20’ was a short documentary that spoke on the 20th anniversary of the indian nation to 20 year olds all over the nation. they included serious pontificators, fluffy poseurs, army men, villagers, work women and work men of all descriptions. this films division production was interesting because it came from, in a certain sense the mouthpiece of the government. while the cynicism in some was apparent, it still glossed over the differences to glorify the values of labor, plurality, work and truth. i wonder if a similar film was made now “i am 20” or even “i am 58” what value system would it embody?

and that is where i think sergei parajnov’s ‘shadows of forgotten ancestors’ steps in. within the context of a socialist utopia it dares to speak of a small forgotten community. it tells us of a life in a rural hamlet in the hills somewhere in armenia. a folk tale is told through kinetic camerawork, violent movements, wonderful folk music. a conventional storytelling technique is inverted through breathless chapter wise recitations- through image and music- there is hardly any dialogue. ivanko and marichka are lovers even though marichkas' father had killed ivanko’s father. the love between them is told through rushing movements through trees, bushes. the images are stunning and any predetermined rules of composition are nowhere to be found. fantastic.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

the pune trip: an event (and food) list .... chronologically



the st stand at night

day 1- wednesday

after sen kapadia’s ‘inversion’ workshop begins that is going to sustain the fourth year for the next two weeks amit, mukul and me climb into the car and drive in a blue grey evening to pune on the expressway. the rain seems like its about to start pouring but the sunset is that golden light that can only happen in bombay in the monsoon.

in pune we are living in a tube lit pista green room with a thick red carpet above the state transport terminal at shivaji nagar- courtesy amits dad- the ‘vip suit’.

dinner was sizzlers at zamu’s where amit got drunk on two glasses of wine and i struggled with some really tough pork chops.

day 2- thursday

breakfast at sunrise café and the national film archive of india at the end of prabhat road for the main course. the compound of the archive has two buildings- one older and one newer. while the new one is this huge muscular brutalist building in form finished concrete the older building might be one of my favorites with cascading long sloping roofs leading all the way almost to the ground, a complex array of textures and surfaces, windows peeking out of the most strange crevices- a strange eccentric little cottage which seems like a really cool witch lives in there.

the theater where we were to watch the films was on the first floor of the new building- a plush wood paneled 25-30 seater. our own private screening room. ‘garam hawa’ first and then lunch at ‘china gate’- a tacky little restaurant with pretty tacky food. back to the theater and first ‘i am 20’ and then mani kaul’s ‘uski roti’. (more on all the films later- i can’t think much right now).

m g road is the happening road of pune – or so i am told.. it wasn’t that happening in the evening when it basically seemed like a cheaper cousin of its namesake in bangalore. its strange how all i am doing in documenting places we ate- marzorin on a verandah overlooking the street with the cool crowd.. but dinner was on the road at “chowpatty”- a pavement with red chairs for non vegetarians and white for veggies.

that night i beat mukul and amit at teenpatti- the only time in my life when i have won at cards.

the st stand in the day

ak, amk with the old wing of the nfai

ak, amk with the new wing of the nfai

the preview theater

me and the screen

the vault in the basement of the new wing

films in cans

amit at marzorin on mg road, pune

three boys at chowpatty

day 3- friday
breakfast at sunrise café and ritwik ghatak’s ‘subarnarekha’ which made me cry and cry and cry- even over masala dosa at kamats. finally then a film that was not indian- ‘shadows of forgotten ancestors’ by sergei paradznov. madness it was.

mukul and me swam in khadakvasala lake while amit stood guard over our clothes. the water was soft, sweet, gentle and the light heavenly. cool evening breeze.

to check the nightlife of pune out we called johns' cousin roy and his wife megha after chicken off m g road. that was a fiasco with us rejecting one club after another for not being crowded enough and others rejecting us for not having the appropriate footwear (i was in floaters). finally we settled for 'a thousand oaks' all of which were packed and smoky. roy and megha are very sweet and i felt so guilty for having them sacrifice a peaceful friday evening at home to entertain us.

amits desperate urge to see khadakvasala lake in the middle of the night meant that we drove to it on the dark road. stood there in a night light for 15 minutes before heading back to sleep at 1.30.

khadakvasala lake

mukul putting on shoes after the swim

day 4 – saturday
while mukul went off to ftii for a meeting amit and me drove to koregaon park- 'german bakery' with many foreigners with glazed eyes having coffee. maroon robes that take them away from themselves in the everyday to help them be part of a more universal human / spiritual experience. the responsibility that they take is only for their own personal fulfillment- more on that particular diatribe in my head later.

mukul then gave us his guided tour through ftii that always starts off at the water tank at the end of the road, goes through the studios, then the sound recording areas and finally the editing tables. i loved the cameras again- the arriflex and the mitchell with their pistons, levers- such mechanical precision.

correa’s iucca in the pune university campus where were not allowed in – the three layered stone façade, the jantar mantar in steel, the courtyard with the statues of scientists.

it was raining on the expressway all the way back to the traffic of bombay. sometimes i think there is nothing more beautiful in the world than the spray of the waterfalls down the black rocks of lonavala.

the tank where sandhya swam

ghatak the god on the walls of ftii

sound studios, ftii

ak, amk- pune university

the three of us

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

the vasai game, bindu-sujeesh and priyanka

the game

it was decided somewhere in the middle of last week to put together the conflicting narratives that were uncovered during the course of our investigations of vasai fort as a game one would play- a game which would have a definite beginning but not necessarily a definite end. each path that one would choose in the journey would reveal a different aspect of the fort. the final result was a loose path connecting various incidents in the first floor area of the school. inventive energetic and fun somehow the kids managed to pull off quite a good job in just three days. although sometimes the game took over the information such that it becomes sometimes pointless, it still was a good design exercise for them to understand scale, material, architecture in terms of the meanings that they have and can create. could have been better of course but i believe it served the purpose of the exercise. some more restraint and structure would have helped. i particularly liked the one where information about the temple and the church were revealed in gradually increasing light, the church where we play a game to see if we are educated, the taps where inflatable balloons give us information written on them.. most of the time i needed instructions from the kids thronging around me to understand what was going on- but given more time i am sure they could have pulled off a more "finished" product.

the game

after college amit and me drove to ghatkopar where we met bindu and sujeesh about a new office that they are thinking of doing up. the office is in two galas right near the railway lines.. bindu says sujeesh gets inspired by the trains. after that we went to their house in thane, where we had drinks and caught up with each other. i had not seen them in very long and it was good to meet them and their new addition to the family -priyanka- who is all of 6 months old. rohan- their son- seems all grown up now and gave us absolutely no attention as he was more interested in the kids who were waiting for him downstairs. total sweethearts the four of them are.. they say they will be here this weekend. hopefully we will meet again then.

sujeesh and bindu


sujeesh and priyanka

Monday, June 20, 2005

high rise views

sky over borivili east

from mukul's house

sunday evening. the shifting clouds across a clear blue sky. the sharp evening light after the rains have cleansed the dust from the air.

The view from mukuls house overlooks the new apartment building off the highway and the still red gulmohurs of the national park; while the view from madhushree’s house overlooks the madness of the malad edge of the city as it gradually takes over national park. slums, quarries, shops and the blue tarpaulin that gives the shanties protection in the rains.

madhu, mukul and me drinking exotic alcohol into the night discussing the obsolescence of the hegemony of technique in image making and how the language of images seems so natural to the young today. the digital format it would seem has completely transformed the consumption patterns of images and there is no clear way evolved to theorize and understand it.

reminded me of rahul talking about the 3rd years kids and the ease by which they recreated the stylistic devices of ‘the matrix’ or a quentin tarantino in the film they made on the roof of the college.

i can feel the generation gap widening slowly and surely. this agility with the image is something i must be able to harness if i am to stay relevant.

from madhu's house

tarpaulin and film poster shelters

Sunday, June 19, 2005

mukul's haircut


pink satin sheets

the buddha: anicca

anant raje, first rain, batman begins

mr anant raje, one of the heroes of post independence architecture, who was in town for the kamla raheja gold medal spoke to the students yesterday of the joy of material, structure and light, the stinginess of brick and the generosity of concrete, the inherent desire of materials and his work including the fabulous indian institute of forest management in bhopal. i remember going to that building with eli, shibani, durriya, amisha, alpa when i was in college. its one of the few buildings that makes me set aside my discomfort with the claustrophobia that i feel with an overly determinate regionalism- but more on that later. another post, perhaps. he spoke reminiscing of times gone by, of idealism lost and of the union between body and soul through architecture and his guru- louis kahn.

and then were the first rains and the fourth year students after i , perhaps too harshly, had accused them of being the target audience of ekta kapoor serials for bunking the jury yesterday, played children’s games on the lawns.

‘batman begins’ was quite an event in the evening. minal, pratibha, anup, ranjit, meghana, ateya, ninad, aditya, sachin, saurabh, mukul and me at fun republic. extremely grave batman film- very unlike the dark humour of the tim burton films or the campy kitsch of the schumacher films. christian bale makes a very serious bruce wayne and his batman is far more committed. somehow burtons version with his nasty sense of humour and his mixed up value system is set aside in favour of a far more sincere hero. i’d rather not talk about either kilmer of clooney as batman- they sucked.

i was expecting ranjit to protest against the new version of the same storyline.. imagine- ra’s al ghul as the batmans guru! but he did not seem to mind – and that is saying something considering ranjits’ insistence that there is a purity in certain popular myths that should not be tampered with- or it is blasphemy! but isn’t that the great thing about popular art/ culture... that irreverent inventiveness that is able to source material and forms from anywhere for its own benefit. if pop decides to have a rule book of right and wrong, don’t you think it will completely destroy itself?

ps - the love interest was for me the worst part of the film. advice to christopher nolan- get someone else for the sequel.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

a long day in three parts

part one

the kamla raheja gold medal - the reprisal. the change of the rules last year meant that we had to hold the award again for all who felt wronged because of the ‘extra time’ that some of the other students got for their work. and as is usual with this class it started out controversially and ended controversially. first there was the entire fiasco of a student ( and her rather vociferous father) feeling wronged by the school for not automatically giving her the gold medal because she had already been cited earlier. we were actually sympathetic to her until a point until we realized that she had called up a juror the previous night and had complained. after that all sympathy vanished.

the jurors were kamu iyer, pinkesh shah, vandana ranjitsingh and anant raje from ahmedabad. the work was generally of a very mediocre standard except for a few students (or at least so i thought) the comments as was to be expected were largely based on architectonic issues and regarding the perhaps too ambitious complexity of the projects chosen. i am still not convinced- but i understand what they are saying.

at the end there was a big debate around whether the gold medal should be given at all or should we settle for 3 citations. the discussion was to continue over dinner. the result is today.

rajiv's apartment complex

khyatee's controversial opera house project

nimit's madhavbaug thesis

ateya's library

ateya's museum of sciences

part two

sea view with four generations of krvia. sonal, niket, rachna, kausik, mohua, shekhar, ninad, ateya, saurabh, me and sachin. a gorgeous sky.

rachna, kausik, mohua

mohua, shekhar

ninad, ateya, saurabh

sonal shah, niket

sachin bhoite


part three

at the airport to pick mukul coming back from chennai with saurabh. we bumped into vandana and raje waiting for rajes wife to arrive, and rahul mehrotra.

dinner at cascade, thakur complex.

mukul and saurabh at cascade