Thursday, August 31, 2006

light shop

stepping into the interior of a light fixture showroom in andheri is like stepping into a version of paradise. the walls and the ceiling are overrun with glittering glass and crystal; there is light glowing from all around you- even the floor is lit. all around there are string lights for parties, smooth finished ‘modern’ frosted glass lights, lights shaped like the toys of a child, like birds, like petals, like cars, like spaceships, like planetary constellations; there are dazzling ostentatious gilded chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, white tube lights for kitchens, spot lights for picture frames- its scintillating.

at the entrance there is a multimedia experience for sale. a revolving globe ornately carved on a pedestal in a water body also lit from the base. i want that in my future house in a future life.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

sudhir patwardhan encounter

i really enjoyed the work that simply recorded the everyday landscapes of the city. the ‘here and now’ as it were. a thoroughly enlightening encounter today where sudhir patwardhan traced the history of indian art in broad brush strokes from early pre colonial approaches to define indian identity, to the explorations of the self and sublime space. the work that really meant something to me was the work of the artists from the 70s and 80s, looking at the urban everyday and struggling with the problems of representing it- bhupen khakkars irony and patwardhans, i don’t know.. romanticism(?).i really don’t know yet about other artists’ recent work that makes statements about global political issues- i am not able to connect to them yet. the ‘issue’ somehow seems forced.

the questions from the students were, not surprisingly considering the non-criticality that seems to have overrun the school in recent years, merely about the role of art to reach out to mass consumption. why make things obscure and difficult, complex and deep rather that ‘message’ art in easy to consume capsules? or as a second year student asked ‘what is the use of art?’

patwardhans answers were well measured, logical and gentle – to learn, to know, to feel and to imagine through associations and empathy; art as an exploration of oneself, when talking about his recent more inward looking work, and also as a mode of reaching out.

happy birthday mukul

an impromptu party at mukuls place to celebrate his birthday meant that an assemblage of people not really related to one another found their way to avon for dinner and drinks. they included his parents and mine, madhushree, paro, nandini, ranjit, setu, kavita, sharda, ninad, shyam, deepa and shriya. everyone found their corners and groups and chatted away in the nooks that the living room at avon automatically makes. i always end up in the place where the backdrop is the spectacular ‘metropolitan view’ (as paro called it) of lights and flyovers.

Monday, August 28, 2006

sunday on the road

photograph from yesterdays session on the western express highway and link road. mukul and me spent almost all of yesterday driving up and down clicking snaps for the photo essay. here is a preview. barbers at iraniwadi.

mukul at mindspace

at an udupi in goregaon a naked greek man dances on top of a globe carrying the indian flag. the brown granite and the mouldings make a moldy temple for mercury.

in the evening at shyams house shriyas birthday party where joanna and shriya hugged each other and the birthday girl already knew exactly how she wanted to smile for the camera.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

march of the penguins

i am sure that we all know that if the protagonists of this documentary were not anthropomorphic birds whose journey up and down from the freezing ocean to a place where they rear their young reeks of sentiment of the ‘american family value’ kind; and if the entire journey was not punctuated by a ‘voice of god’ voice-over by none other than morgan freeman over a lush over orchestrated soundtrack that tell us the emotion that the penguin ‘feels’ at different stages of a coming-of-age drama that might have starred julia roberts, nick nolte and lindsay lohan; or if the movie did not have a budget of a zillion madhushree dutta bombay films; it would not have ended being as popular as it did.

on the other hand it did, and maybe i am merely being churlish by pointing out that it was the most manipulative and cheesy kind of film making i have ever seen. penguins fight off tears as they brave the winds, they tear themselves away from their young chicks when they have to go find food, the chicks run around like there are playing american football. disgustingly cute, made cuter.

we project ideas of normative human relationships upon the lives of birds and are delighted that they (almost) fall in line with them. its regressive film making at its worst and should not even be seen on tv. even though it comes with bundled with other channels free.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

official encroachments

from sea view yesterday we could see the great juhu beach cleansing under way. empty lawns replace mad vibrant food stalls. sanitized cityscapes for a view of the ocean from the road. ubaid, saurabh, mukul and me drank beer in a monsoon sunset as on the beach preparations were under way for ganesh chaturthi beginning tomorrow. this year 7/11 themes have been discouraged, 9/11 is no longer in vogue, siddhivinayak temple replicas seem to be the order of the day. i wonder whether they will also build the atrocious toilet styled so called security wall that has encroached on the pavement in the area.

manto ismat haazir ho

after a long time i managed to catch a play last evening that i really liked. naseeruddin shah directed this series of short sketches on the lives and stories of ismat chugtai and sadat hassan manto two short story writers who were prosecuted in the 1940s on charges of obscenity in a lahore court.

four stories were told, two by manto and two by chugtai. of the two manto stories the first was ‘boo’ with its crackling eroticism and tangible imagery- a story of a mans longing for the smell of a woman he once slept with on a rainy night; and the second was a story of a stray dog caught in between the borders of india and pakistan – perhaps an allegory for himself.

chugtais ‘lihaaf’ is a comic and controversial piece about lesbianism written in the 1940s. the last episode of the play focused on the relationship between the writers and the trial for obscenity. neither of the writers was actually convicted.

since so much of the play was narrated text – the dialogue was absolutely marvelous and the actors were terrific. you could almost see the characters being represented as they shifted in between parts in the story with such ease. the stage can be so much more intimate than a screen and prithvi makes the most of this intimacy with its reach-out-and-touch seating. we had seats at the corner and my legs were directly on the stage. actors looked me straight in the eye and spoke to me.

Friday, August 25, 2006

au hasard balthazar

more like a renaissance painting to me than a film. although the biblical references were lost on me the gesture seemed more important than the emotion. the position of the hands and the precisely observed fragments of life are captured in the frame while faces remain almost expressionless. the characters also seem like allegories representing good and evil as the donkey balthasar placidly watches a girl vacillate between the forces of them both. the donkey is called a saint in the film- and his patience as he is first baptized and the beaten and finally shot to death is a story that does have the epic scale of a great mans journey that will become an icon of suffering and sacrifice.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

the sphere and the labyrinth

kaif came to the school today and showed us some of the work that he is involved in. industrial buildings for jewelry factories, apartment building for shah rukh khan, houses for company ceo’s and a huge institution on the outskirts of pune. the work was precise, meticulous and spartan. the aesthetic was one that attempted an international look in a context of collage like urbanity. beautifully finished and i liked the structural inventiveness. it was a vision of the future right here right now and the systems of construction are designed for it. off the rack windows, doors, glazing, railings, everything. it eliminates the middleman completely- the contractor and the labor. they are no longer necessary and therefore irrelevant.

its going to be a difficult future for all of us who love the complexity of a city. the market is a tricky place to work in. its logic is inescapable. architecture embedded within its modes of production systematically recreates and reinforces its logic.

we live in at least 25 time zones at the same time. the cycles of development have not uniformly distributed themselves across the fabric of the city. there are languages that exist in all these spaces relevant to the contexts from which they emerge. we do not have the tools to understand these. and architectural theory does not help when it romanticizes the past or mimics aesthetic notions borrowed from the west.

manfredo tafuri wrote ‘the sphere and the labyrinth’ –two spatial metaphors- one representing perfection in form closing out any complexity; and the other, a maze of meandering and confusing dead ends but rich in possibilities. how do we validate the labyrinth when the sphere is so easy to build (and sell) ?

recent conversations

the discussions i have been having with random people have been about research against rhetoric; and about ethics against the aesthetic. and i do know that they are intertwined but i have lost all bearing on both the latter. i am showing the strain of being labeled an ‘urbanist’ by those around me.

on the other hand, in between all of these i have come to love writers and film makers who claim to do neither and do something that instead reveal layers of experience that i might have felt but never seen represented. as far as research is concerned i am wary of work whose approach is one that clearly articulates a position and then substantiates it with case studies. the substantiation of argument is what makes it Research. i agree.

however, i am afraid that an exploration of language itself or form does not emerge out of it. if experimentations in language are to be attempted they become illustrative rather than essential to the questions posed. and i am interested in language nowadays. what are the methods that exist for the investigation of it?

the crux of the discussion yesterday was this - how does one develop a framework that allows for a variety of voices and methods to emerge. categories were made, grids drawn
so the blog was called a ‘silly thing’ yesterday at the crit meeting on ‘emerging urbanisms’. poor me. actually all blogs were. so i am only one of a million. poor us. i guess they aren’t theoretical enough. all writing needs to be - even if it is fiction.

it was category 7, i guess if i had to find it on the chart. digital cartography. but i claim no such intention. i do not claim it to be serious or research in any form. does it need to be?

Monday, August 21, 2006

the five obstructions

there is a perverse sort of satisfaction in watching your idol fall from grace. its even more perverse when you orchestrate it to happen. it says more about your own need to destroy all that you hold dear that to ‘humanize’ the ‘perfect’ as lars von trier claims he wants to in this strange film where he asks his idol to remake one of his classic films again but each time with a new obstacle that von trier will suggest. ‘the perfect human’ itself is a black and white film of detached observation and notation that often equates emptiness with perfection. in the new films jorgen leth remakes there in cuba, bombays falkland road (“the worst place on earth”), brussels, once as a cartoon and the last time as a proxy film made by von trier to which he gives his own name. while von trier himself comes off as self righteous and arrogant (as he intended) the game itself is fascinating, playful and provocative.

home for the aged . thane railway station.

the landscape of the periphery of the city is pitted with gruesome blackened and rotting rcc buildings that ravage the hills and valleys in which they stand. they follow a typology that explicably derives its aesthetic from a rationalism and a modernism of the 1950s without even the slightest consideration of how modernity began to reimagine the relationship of the inside and the outside… and the outside is gorgeously green in the middle of the monsoon.

at neral when rupali and me visited the old peoples home we saw a perfect example of the devastation that architecture can create, when a plan is generated mindless of the existing topography of the land. its an architecture that emerges out of shapes in plan arbitrarily organized and completely inward looking. even more terrifying are the cottages themselves. there is an amazing similarity between the way children, the sick, the aged and the prisoners are treated architecturally. it always ends up being about protection and surveillance as a two pronged attack on the body. panic buttons, soft edges, a paranoia about control of the outside.

on the way back through thane the area around the railway station deserves a study on type. large blocks that have undergone layers and layers of transformations are in need of a study. a study to decipher the codes and methods of their growth as the new negotiates its way within the existing fabric jostling with the old and reshaping it. rcc buildings that have been colonized wildly from the inside and submerged under the overspill and the wrapping of new facades.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

q2p. juries. the house on gulmohur avenue . wheres sandra

paro at the party

archana and me on page 3

paro . ajay

i totally flunked out as a moderator for a discussion on paros’ film on public toilets at ncpa yesterday. i was nervous as hell in the beginning when i was to start the discussion, but just one question from the audience and paro completely took over. she answered all the questions that i could have possibly asked in a long monologue. the only thing useful i did, i think was silence a guy who asked her why she did not show any queues if her film was called q2p.

afterwards the party was at café universal where breezer after beezer had me very high, and the mirchi ice cream at bachelors made the evening even stranger. nandini on the way back was full of fabulous gossip about the sex lives of film stars. note to self- midlands mahim date required with her for more sex lives of the super sexy. the rest of it was called 'lookism' by so called friends. though they did say i did it well.

and the film.. i liked q2p in the way that it connected everyday practices to the control and the access to the public sphere and the restrictions that they place on the body. the sulabh museum does seem like a riot.

today in college it was jury day. second year first project on the ‘performative’ which to me seemed to be more about the act of turning a model up side down or twisting wire than about a body performing in space. unfortunately the two were equated too often for my own comfort. the drawings were snazzy, the presentations ‘cool’. the jurors were happy.

and then harsh and saurabh presented their fellowship papers. congratulations!

samina mishra showed ‘the house on gulmohur avenue’ in college today tracing the relationship of place and identity through her own personal history. the question answer session turned out to be more interesting at the end when ateya asked her about the choices she made regarding representing herself on screen and the parallel stories from okhla that she used in the film; and when siddarth tried to talk about how one constructs ones identity through association (and denial). it seems that the film was shown parallel to paros ‘where’s sandra?’ and i can understand the parallel. place and identity – gender, religion and the idea of belonging.

first year workshop

second year jury

Thursday, August 17, 2006


if it were not for the controversial nature of the titular hero of the film ‘kinsey’ would have been a pretty straightforward hollywood biopic – with demi-god like central character, weepy music, a middle high point in career followed by disappointments and let downs, only to remerge stronger at the end. but the fact is that the life albert kinsey on whom this movie is based on had a far more interesting time as he researched the sexual behavior of the american male and female. his studies based on an enormous number of surveys have been accused of being one of the root causes of the sexual promiscuity of the 1960s. its findings are as controversial today as they were then opening up a can of worms in a puritanical america of the 50s. the movie does dwell on his own bisexuality and the experiments he carried out with his staff but did seem to gloss over them a little to make the movie more palatable. i don’t blame it. i did squirm more than once and i consider myself fairly liberal.

photography permission

second day of photography. this time it was link road and sure enough we were accosted by the uniformed security guards as soon as they saw our camera at mindspace. we lost our temper – public space is still public. this paranoia about security is merely used to conceal far more devious dealings- of that i am sure.

a black clad security guard every 100 meters. whom are they guarding? there is no one on the streets as no one can linger without being shoved off. naturally we took it all the way to the top who was a ex cop now security head who assured us that there would be no trouble as long as we are photographing only the street and not the buildings. if they are in the frame it is not allowed. hilarious.

after a ruckus we were finally allowed to click photos of the deserted streets and the pristine overflowing gardens that are claimed to be turned over to the bmc. no sign of that yet. while one garden lies on the periphery of the waterfront road blocking off the mangroves from view, the other is right behind inorbit mall on top of what used to be a garbage dump. these inner paradises have jogging tracks, park benches, begonias and petunias and are walled away from any person that might want to jog or smell the flowers.

no one is around but security guards and gardeners protecting and tending to flowers and pathways that no one will see. a excess of surveillance supposedly under a paranoia for security, paranoia. but the very overkill makes me suspect of it all being a big cover up.


spent the day at home yesterday. wrote and compiled my impressionistic essay for tu and collected the highway photographs from skylab. in the evening spent time with ranjit and saurabh at choi kim – a new vaguely chinese / korean / thai joint in ic colony. soup, starters, rice and a gravy with red chinese lamps hanging overhead. on the way back every street was jammed with trucks carrying mobs of uniformed men on their way to conquer dahi handis hung over the streets. last year it was the shiv sena.. this year the maharashtra navnirman sena. a change of guard.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

kabhi alvida na kehna

ok.. i liked it. i laughed when i had to and cried when i was supposed to like the good audience i was. even most of the music which i though before watching the film to be rather generic worked for me in context.

shah rukh khan is a star and you cant really ask him to act (he does ‘starness’ so well)- but the rest of them were so good; rani’s frigid confusion, abhishek’s boy-man beauty and especially (at least for me) preity zinta as the ambitious clear headed but caring businesswoman.

its very dark (as much as it can be in a karan johar film) as all happiness in love that exists is only stolen moments between the lead pair. and after the fluff of k2h2 and the unbearable syrupiness of k3g it is a relief. naturally it is gorgeous to look at and airbrushed to death. even pain is so tasteful in that camp way. all the colors match even as tears stream down the actors faces.

ok.. i loved it.. but then i am a sucker for tearjerkers and fall for all the tricks in the book as far as they are concerned.. so sue me siddharth.

and oh.. happy independence day.

hilla towers

yesterday on the way back from the bmc meeting about the hawkers, at parel a result of the new 33/7 developments in the heart of the mill lands ‘hilla towers’ rising like a colossus. a frightening vision of the future.

then at surabhi and georges house for sanahs birthday i was embarrassed by the audience for my blog. hi surabhi, hi ajay!

Monday, August 14, 2006

'when father was away on business'. 'miss congeniality 2'

it comes with the territory, i guess. after watching too many fassbinder films you come to expect more from a film than just plain storytelling. you expect some experimentation with language too. no such luck in the cutesie-pie story around a young child’s view of the world of adults and adultery during a time of turmoil in the yugoslavia of the 50s. one of the many films of this genre and has all the formulaic themes that typify them. sweet young central figures, a budding sexuality, a caring brother, a much-abused mother, cuddly grandfathers and a narrative structure that i have seen too many times from european cinema trying to deal with communism and / or the world war. naturally an oscar nominee. feel-good fluff.

sometimes brainless hollywood is more entertaining; like ‘miss congeniality 2’ where sandra bullock saves miss usa from a kidnapping in a stupid not quite laugh fest. i did not crack a smile through the entire thing but also did not change the channel. its tv movie fare and i couch potatoed through it fairly satisfied that i had not paid money for a movie hall ticket.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

photo post - friday saturday

mukul and meha in town before flop western classical music concert at ncpa. we walked out and went to kuntal and nanditas HUGE house on malabar hill for dinner instead. that looong living room with chinese art deco detailing all over.

mukul, meha and kb was muki shoots kausiks hilarious 'balwan' at the ncpa on friday.

kb in the big house

the first day of the first years. the questionnaire thie year was pretty much the same as it always was. lots of people read 'harry potter', favourite films are '2fast 2 furious' and 'kal ho naa ho'; and everyone talks in sms language 'pix' and 'kinda'. how at the end of five years they start spouting marx is anyones guess.

prajna with her new haircut left for cornell yesterday. bye bye love. come back soon. bombay is not the same without you.

the red brigade last night as sonal, jassi and me all were wearing my red t-shirts to bed. jassi is here from delhi for the past few days.

Saturday, August 12, 2006


in ‘querelle’ , fassbinders last film in a sweltering set thronging with sweaty bodies in heat, desire only exists in power games. love has no meaning at all except as an act of lurid possession. there is a persistent violence underpinning all the relationships in the film, whether it is the love between the two brothers who resemble each other more that they know, the obsessive love of lieutenant for the young sailor; or the attraction of a murderer for his mirror image.

this violence is claustrophobic and made more so by the theatrical presentation interspersed with quotations and at least two parallel voice-overs. desire manifests itself in acts of becoming by imitation or by possession as same sex love is expressed through acts that provide a foil for a love that cannot be named. these include desiring the same woman as the object of ones desire or killing that object of desire (and a part of oneself). Or as a song in the film goes ‘each man kills the thing he loves’… is that oscar wilde?

Friday, August 11, 2006

rakhis and heritage

prachi in ecstacy after the meeting
on wednesday the long running heritage listing project which led to so much drama finally came to an end with a presentation in the mmrda. the debate around the issues ranged from the silly to the sillier. heritage was seen as a savior and protector of everything within the city.. including the green spaces even while the heritage committee itself lies completely powerless.

anyway in celebration after the presentation i bought a rakhi for my sister in return for the one she tied on my wrist in the morning. this one was in velcro and plastic and shifted through all the colours of a rainbow with a turn of a screw. gorgeous.. and only for 10 rupees.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

the bitter tears of petra von kant

in a claustrophobic interior with a white shaggy carpet and a renaissance painting overlooking the film was a psychodrama of love and power in five acts. a fashion designer after two failed marriages falls madly in love with a calculating younger woman as her besotted silent housekeeper watches on helplessly. like the mannequins all around them the actresses pose as representations of characters in the endless cycle of manipulation and obsession that make us fall hopelessly in love, and help us to use all means of devious emotional blackmail to imprison the objects of our desire.

Monday, August 07, 2006

shree 420

more than the story of the corruption that the city brings to a simple man from allahabad, what i loved about the film was the way in which it never equated poverty with innocence. too often in films of this genre this subtlety is lost.

raj kapoors bumbling simpleton was as much an act as his smooth suave rajkumar. like all of us, he uses a mask either of stupidity or of sophistication to enter places where he will not be seen as a threat or as an outsider. it’s a clever move as we all know and gets him where he wants to be.

this play of masks is admitted as such in one of my favorite scenes when he replaces one for another in front of nadira- the seductress into the world of riches and naturally -the vamp.

another of my favorite scenes has to be the political speeches on the beach where at one end a politician is ranting about the value of swadeshi and spiritual goodness and at the other end wearing a ‘japani joota’ and ‘russi topi’, raj kapoor is ranting about the value of a simple roti…and after getting the audiences attention ends up selling sand as toothpowder.

at the end of the film rajs conscience (via nargis’ upright uptight schoolteacher) makes him choose the mask of the simpleton on the way to a happy ending where the couple steps into a valley in which a modern city glistens in the new sunrise. beautiful and moving.

Sunday, August 06, 2006


strange how sometimes even a well made film with everything working in it seems to vanish from your memory an hour after you see it. i had nothing to complain about with ‘omkara’. the acting was great, konkona and saif especially, devgan and kapoor were what they were supposed to be- intense and wide eyed – respectively. the story was well told, the dialogues clever (though i did have problems with the dialect) and the music good. still, an hour after the movie as i was walking around with sonal in inorbit i had hardly any after taste of the tragedy. still the best hindi film i saw this year.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

mwah mwah

marine drive after the aiilsg meeting at horniman circle where we wiled away time before kausiks opening at the ncpa. a silly idea of cleanliness has removed all the hawkers there but we could yet find some chana and butta to snack on while sitting on the broad seats of the promenade.

kausiks work was by far the only work within the show that made me smile. most of the others were so grave. did like some of it though- like anita dubes flesh made into words performance piece or even- i know, i know, navjots urinal / tattoo / duchamp film. more importantly, the wine was wonderful and we hung around the fringes getting sloshed and watching finely dressed artists and critics and collectors take center stage.

opening to another one where we crashed in on some delhi photographers exhibit showing some general tibet/ladakh landscapes at the bodhi gallery. could not react to anything except the ips floor and the frosted glass that namrata built while working at rma; and the fantastic starters- little biscuits with crushed olives as topping, prawns, the chicken- and of course the wine. sublime.

but then there was joss where splurging happened as the eight of us drank gorgeous sake and delicate sushi with fiery wasabi. all you americans beware! .. if anyone is coming from the states.. please don’t bother with getting me ferrero rochere chocolates or nike shoes- a flask of sake will do just fine!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

pictures for the last post

lubaina defending her thesis

ak, mj, nishy, shweta

the nook over borivili

amk, ak

tejas, mj, ak

the aajis and madhavi mami at pramod mamas place

me, sunita maushi, chaitra and anoushka