Saturday, October 28, 2006
Friday, October 27, 2006
reality tv / so-called ‘talent’ tv
its trashy tv without any compunctions. none of the talent is even worth mentioning. it’s all a battle for the favours of what is imagined to be the lowest common denominator- the sentiment, the irrationality, the ridiculous regressiveness that is testimony that we expect the worst from ourselves. like the time the blind singer boy who cant really hold a note was ousted from the competition but was gotten back for the sake of ratings and then begged the audience to vote for him “because sound is the only thing he has in his life”
manipulative shtick , did i hear you say?
oh yes.. and yet i sit glued to the damn television set watching mediocrity parade itself in all its brazen glory. it is grinning idiotically at the camera with overly lit toothpaste smiles, hairdos like birds nests, sets in polythene and plaster of paris, clothes of polyester and sequins, and sounds that are screeching like nails on a blackboard from the living room calling me to it.
wait for me, mom.. i want to know who wins!
abida and sonal at the gangadharans house next door
choti (or zahida)
total shocker in the morning when choti abida happened to the lane. they used to live above us and have now for a long time been in the us of a. the last time i met them was on my month long usa train ride- first choti in boston and then towards the end of the trip - abida in new orleans. abida has now moved to
Thursday, October 26, 2006
mayuri, poor thing, failed the last time for a project that this time simply rocked the house. i don’t think i have ever seen a thesis jury go that well. she explained perfectly, simply and straightforwardly, the drawings backed her up and the model was superb. a police station on the highly contested terrain of pascal maidan in jogeshwari- the playground that became a ballet ground during the 1992 riots. the jurors went ‘excellent/ brilliant” and then left her alone.
diptis project also on the western express highway unfortunately did not fare as well. i think the project has so much possibility. it is one of the few ‘complete’ thesis.. memory and the history of a site.. ghosts she calls them. referential and experiential time. the resolution is where it all fell apart. i wish she had had more time.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
‘jaan e mann’ tried so hard to be wink-wink bollywood literate- making references and twisting them. affectionate humor was attempted by taking over-the –top and making it almost ridiculous. trying to do a moulin rouge with not even a quarter of the skill. at least the first half was like that. in the second when bollywood actually takes control fo the story and is allowed to come through, the film at least doesn’t look as amateurish. better than ‘don’ by leaps and bounds. at least it did not have any pretensions.
after the movie mukul and me went sopan and manohars place where there was a party to celebrate their birthdays and diwali. this time instead of the wine there was high end scotch- smooth as hell. the house does allow a certain loosening up and conversation flowed smoothly with people i hardly knew after a few drinks.
Monday, October 23, 2006
yesterday sunita maushi catching the morning light on her wild grey hair first on the terrace at home and then at mukuls place. she was telling us stories about her time in dharamshala, himachal pradesh over the past few years where she has been working with an ngo. she is now on her own free spirited was to auroville for a year to learn natural farming techniques for the commune she wants to set up in dharamshala.
in the evening after picking up mukuls cheque at astads place on lamington road (a parsi colony that felt like an old peoples home) mukul and me had dinner at pizzeria on marine drive and then hung out on marine drive until the show started at inox. the breeze was warm, the waterfront teeming and the fireworks spectacular.
first of all, let me say that i am mot one of them who believes that there is such a thing as a holy film- a film that cannot be touched by the remake craze. its like the cover version of a song. there can be no replacement of the original but it can be fun to see a variant of it. the problem with the new don is not that it dares to exist. the problem is not even that shahrukh can never be amtabh bachchan- its not even relevant- he could be a new kind of don – a shahrukh kind of don. the problem is that he is not allowed to.
the film wants to be so smooth and glossy that it completely forgets that stories are told with real people in them and real people generally are not found covered in oil that lubricates them. nothing sticks, nothing stays. the film is at a constant trot of a pace as every one of the constant twists in the tale is told in a limp-wristed way. i don’t think akhtars particular kind of understated urban smoothness can tackle the convolutions of the plot like don. the actors have no chance. the film glosses over anything that might vaguely resemble a human emotion favoring instead the ‘look’. the ‘look’ being over colored sets and pattern book glamour learnt from gq magazine. floral shirts and plunging necklines.
now for the comparisons that are inevitable because akhtar makes them so by not adding anything of his to the story worth remembering. the twists in the second half at least try and make the film more bearable.
shah rukh is cool as don and in a terribly chosen move attempts to impersonate amitabh and vijay in his alter ego; kareena is hot enough as kamini and her ‘yeh mera pyar ka deewana’ is not terrible; priyanka chopra is insipid where zeenat aman sizzled, arjun rampal mumbles and scowls through the film and boman irani makes the role so much more than it is. the songs are awful- the only real highlights being the two redone songs. shahrukh is great fun in ‘khaike paan’ – the best sequence of the film- maybe because soaroj khan finally brings to the film what it really needed. hard core bollywood jhatkas rather than the super cool almost ‘mission impossible ‘ restraint.
boring is the last thing i expected the film to be. annoying, self indulgent, over the top- but interesting i was expecting. plodding, meandering, i was not.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
its been a diwali or rather a laxmi puja day like many others before it. all the rituals of our particular version of the festival went off like clockwork.
it begins in the morning when the teen and pre teen girls of the lane come home for money to buy rangoli powder. this year ribu and neha are too old for the job and the mantle has been passed to a younger, far more enthusiastic generation. the girls spend the morning and late afternoon making a rangoli on the badminton court. generally the boys stand on the side and jeer- but this year the boys had their own rangoli next to the girls. ‘the xerox boys’ it said.
the ‘xerox boys’ are a budding rock band of 17 year olds. bhavya from c-7 is the lead singer. they claim to be experts in copying music in black and white- therefore the name. linkin park, korn and iron maiden are their influences and songs are written in english and hindi… so yeah- they also have original compositions. today they were all dressed in their diwali finery. full shirts tucked in with pleated trousers, or silk kurtas with pajamas, or the sexy 70s styled big collared shirt with tight jeans. the last of these are the cool dudes around whom the girls flutter and who preen in all the attention.
in the early evening shyam, shriya and me took our annual trip to the railway station to buy diyas for the lane. the money was collected by a bunch of young boys from the lane – the juniors of the xerox boys. 500 rupees bought us a whole bunch of diyas. this year we decided that the pain of handling oil for the mud diyas was a bit too much and instead settled for wax ones. orange wax in cheap metal cups, 864 of them.
this year the kids took over the entire organization. they lined up the diyas along the lane(a little crooked) and arranged them around the two rangolis on the badminton court. at around 8 we went down and the lighting of the lamps started. candles were handed out to whoever was present- old, young, from the lane or from outside the lane. each year i am surprised by the number of kids who come to perform this ritual from around the colony. it feels good.
when it was finally done - all the lans were lit and flickering, and when the tube lights of the badminton court were turned off -it looked real pretty. the boys and girls hung around in groups and flirted with each other over the flickering lights – as we used to once. except for the ‘xerox boys’ who said that people with girlfriends were not allowed into their band. only after age of 18. i said ok.
this is the kind of diwali i like. a community festival. reminds me of the times when the lane was younger and tv was dd. when entertainment had to be found in those who lived around you. when we used to play antakshari and kho-kho in holidays in the evenings. kshama, anita, rupa, neetu, john, shyam, meena, manoj, manish, parul, babu, vijaya, kumar, nilesh, nitya, vridya. sports days, cultural nights, talent shows (mrs dalayas peacock dance!), those plays and rehearsals. this is one of the few nights of the year where it seems like something is lost. after that i forget again, maybe making new memories.
some photos below..
the logo of 'the xerox boys' as a rangoli on the badminton court
it was excruciating to throw out my tapes today- over a 1000 collected over 20 years. from the early boney m and then michael
i have always been one for obsessive indexing. even today my mp3 collection is all (almost) sorted, indexed and corss indexed. the hindi songs were giving me some trouble but then i managed with a lot of help from mukul (the hindi film song encyclopedia) and the internet.
anyway the tapes were rotting away and becoming completely moldy in the cupboard. i had not heard them in ages and i could not see myself listening to them either. they had to go and putting every tape away one by one into an ever increasing pile was like tearing way my fingers one by one. there was no point in letting myself be overcome by sentiment, so i steeled myself against all emotion and out they went. for sentimental reasons i did keep some of the inlay covers though.
being a music fan and not too much of a sportsperson because of my odd feet when i was growing up my entire childhood and youth has been punctuated with pop. i suspect that so much of who i am today to do with the pop posturings of my rock idols when i was growing up… whether that’s the brazen sexuality of madonna or even the heart on sleeve sentiment of bob geldof. i don’t know how they influenced me but i am sure that they did.
bruce springsteen said it best in ‘no surrender’ from ‘born in the
Friday, October 20, 2006
it is terrible to end a semester with a disappointing vibe. the fourth year submission today was way below par. and there was no nice way for us to say it. the models were non existent, the sheets incomplete. it must be autocads fault. perhaps. perhaps ours. the project framed was good i think, also some of the ideas that the kids had were also good. btu very rarely did they manage to put it all together. so much potential unrealized.
it’s a sweetheart of a class. bright and sassy. somewhere they seem just tired- or uninspired. our fault maybe, and maybe theirs. laziness? or just boredom?
i still insist it is not a bad class just somehow things are not falling in place this year. the same class last year at this time had done great work for vasai (and the
happy diwali everyone!
the work on the proposed metro lines that are going to criss cross the city seems to have begun. this is on j p road in andheri very close to our transit oriented development study. watch out for terrific traffic jams and even more insane building activity.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
the holidays have begun but i go to college everyday. its not as if i am addicted to the place but there is always some small thing that needs attending to. today it was the time table. such adjustments! poor sunita is also going mad with all the changes that we have been making- moving people up and down strategically and for the greater benefit of all.
meanwhile at home the cupboards are almost done. it is seeming much lighter than it was earlier. this weekend is going to be arranging time. old sheets, old cassettes, old clothes, old books are all going to be out of the door for a brand new year.
Monday, October 16, 2006
since i am home early today ( the diwali holidays have begun and i did not even know ) i decided to prepare for the biggest release this year (there is a new one every month) by watching ‘don’ in the original with amitabh as what shahrukh is going to be this weekend. .
the film is a mad illogical rush of action with glamorous women and lots of guns. lots of fun. zeenat aman is hot as the karate champ roma looking to revenge the murder of her brother. a complete femme fatale. amitabh as don is suave but tacky. paro said that the new don can never be as successful as the old one because part of the charm of the old don was its tackiness. that remains to be seen. i am sure what we think of as tacky now was seen as very high end glam at the time the film was made.
i don’t really know what the comparison can be between the two films. the times that film are made led to their own logic of making, and their own way of seeing. the implausible storyline and coincidences galore are forgivable and even endearing when seen through the misty eyes of nostalgia.. i don’t think we will be able to forgive shahrukh the kinds of amazing feats that don seems to perform almost in every scene. but we will see. the posters of the new don do look promising (though perhaps a little too slick)- but the songs do not.
munir and mustaq live together in a flat at bandra. munir is the senior boss man (though he is younger than mustaq) who has a flat at bharat nagar in bandra kurla complex and another small room where he keeps his men. mustaq gets to live with munir because he is his cousin. while mustaq is married with kids, munir is still looking ( i assume). while munir is genial, portly and is smiling perpetually, mustaq is lean muscular and seems to have a defiant scowl on his face. i like them both and admire them too. they both arrived here from rural west bengal looking for work and are doing really well for themselves. theirs is a classic story of migrants into the city and the opportunities it provides to serious hard workers. munir is to sell his flat to a builder for a crore soon. maybe he will hire me to do his interiors. :)
yesterday while anand and me were watching ‘amar akbar anthony’, mustaq finished his work early and walked into the living room only to stand and start watching the film with us. until i told him to sit down he continued to stand. then he sat perched on the edge of the bed and looked really uncomfortable. when i told him to sit back and relax, he looked at me quizzically and asked “how much can i relax?” or “kitne aaram se baithu?” - like he needed my permission to sit comfortably, like his body was meant to be seen as out of place and it was a code he considered to be unfair but behaved himself according to; like he was perpetually conscious of the way in which he is seen- like he was not really human- almost animal- as poor, as muslim, as of a lower caste; like there is no way to escape class and maybe me in my ridiculous way had insulted him or patronized him by asking him to pretend that the difference did not exist.
i hope not.
he did sit back then and relax and did see the film with us right up to the very end.
the play was at the tata theater, ncpa. sonal and me drove to meet bahaar and her cousin there sunday evening. the audience was a select set of socialites and khadi kurtas jostling with each other especially in the break for samosas, sandwiches and water… and waheeda rehman- who look beautiful, dignified and completely gorgeous. i stole a photograph as we were waiting outside the lobby.
the play was very disappointing. shabana azmi and javed akhtar read snippets of the writings of shaukat and kaifi azmi (shabanas parents) with an insipid ghazal singer interspersing the dialogue with vapid singing.
the first half of the play told the story of the burgeoning love story in shaukats voice and the story of the budding revolutionary and poet was told through some writings of kaifi azmi. this was bearable. the chemistry between the two and the sweet details were endearing making both of them to be very human.
it was in the second half when the play degenerated into a family love fest that it took a turn for the unbearable. as the story turned to the more stable years of the couples' life together when kaifi wrote lyrics for bollywood- as the communist revolutionary became a songwriter, the story lost all interest and became a mediocre name dropping fiesta with hindi film songs thrown in to keep the crowds happy.
but what was most disturbing was the rather incestuous and self congratulatory smugness of the entire thing. shabana and javed through the narration laid claim to a tradition of supposed communist idealism and hyped bollywood legacies by mouthing the words that connected them to it. about the latter at least there is some justification, but to validate shabanas attempts at privatizing public space like the kaifi azmi park near college as ‘social work’ similar to the years that azmi spent in communes in andheri engaged in workers struggles (or so we assume) seems to be a crime. it was positively sickening.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
this potboiler par excellence with its twists and turns in narrative, the implausible twists of fate, the knowing winks to the amazed audience who knows so much more than any character in the film and all the masala it takes to entertain is the best – or at least the most enjoyable - national integration film ever made.
bharati – the mother - loses her sight and her three sons on the 15th of august at the feet of gandhi. one is brought up a muslim, the other a hindu and the third a christian. she only gets her sight back when the truth of them all being brothers is discovered through unbelievable and brilliant coincidences.
everything about the film is fabulous and nothing ever drags. even the mostly so-so songs are given terrific treatment on screen like the giant easter egg and the purdahs floating from the ceiling. rishi kapoor and amitabh steal the show from poor vinod khanna who gets the older brothers’ sullen role- and among the women glam parveen and chirpy neetu singh are gorgeous. poor shabana azmi just cant keep up.
Friday, October 13, 2006
in the world below water the elements interchange. for some reason i forgot to post this photograph from the fish tanks at bandra. little white pebbles flow down as water in this artificial waterfall.
when air becomes water, water turns into stone.
a fantasy for a miniature world under your control make you feel like god. you have the power to invert the world as you know it and escape from the dreary everyday into the world of fanciful fairy tales.
speaking of fantasies, how could i not mention the quarter of ‘jal bin machli nritya bin bijli’ that we saw yesterday. i had seen the entire film a few years back and wanted to watch the (in)famous snake dance where sandhya writhes away frantically (as only she can) in green black leotards with her hands inside a giant snake hood. this is all on a concrete floor in a village as she fights the killer white peacock and his cohorts who murdered her beige lover snake. meanwhile around this mind bending performance tribal women beat giant drums with their hair.
i love the song picturisations in shantaram films. so much mad genius packed in.
over coffee. half of sonal, more of paul, some of pk das
blurry harvey on the dias
the university campus is dismal. it is sad that the potential for a great public space has been reduced to a series of mediocre inward looking rcc boxes with loose scruffy landscaping in between. the auditorium where the lectures were being held was somewhere on a sort of traffic circle in the middle of the campus.
the neil smith lecture today - something about scale. the city as the unit rather than the nation state. and then somewhere towards the end it all became very polemical. “the ruling classes are exploiting the working classes merely because they can.”
paul and me were talking about the role of architecture / urban designers / urban planners complicit in creating the landscapes of ‘dispossession’ and wondering about the fact that the relationships were so much more complex than simple binaries.
sassen yesterday replaced the idea of ‘class’ with the concept of ‘forces’ somehow displacing the political out of the body; and then brought it back in an abstract way by claiming that global capital has to land in tangible space. protest is somehow to be housed in the ironical stance and in the production of knowledge; as well as in filing cases against the powers that be.
harvey was at least for me the most accessible of the three - even though his narrative of the necessity for neoliberalism to create surplus and therefore growth, and the replication of class structures was as grand as the other two, he was able to make it about his everyday life and his experience of cities. most intelligent and brilliant as a speaker.
and here i might as well record the books i read over the past few days. ‘the anesthetics of architecture’ - neal leach, scathing about the obsession with surface and spectacle that seems to plague architectural production ( i know at least 15 architects who claim to be engaged in ‘critical practice who need to read it); ‘the ideology of the aesthetic’ – terry eagleton- a history of notions of what constitutes the category of the aesthetic over the history of western philosophy. a lot of the earlier stuff , kant, schiller, etc. went way above my head, i must say. it became more intelligible to me when i started reading about benjamin and others i had read in the original and was therefore able to understand the analysis of.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
oscar wilde wrote about the complex web of relations in victorian
we were at the mumbai university today-all day- for a symposium on globalization and the dispossessions occurring in the city. the world of khadi kurta clad lecture ciruit intellectuals over there also seemed to follow much the same rules that wilde so precisely described in his stories. the same chemistry between individuals and rules that appear different but really only replicate similar formations from ages ago.
the classic tale is always the one about innocence lost and the corruption within the machinations of sophisticated society. many a poor damsel has been giggled at for wearing her lipstick all wrong or wearing a totally mismatched pairs of shoes much to her and our embarrassment. somehow her gawkiness reflects on the entire social structure and it builds in systems to weed such brazen behaviour out.
when a debutante is trying to find her place in the finely attuned structure of this world she must first of all deny that she ever existed in a space outside it. her mentor whom she probably does favors for helps her in that. the transformation has to leave no trace of her background or her alliances outside the approved circle. in public any older or unacceptable alliances are to be denied. instead, one has to hobnob with the powerful, rub shoulders with the gatekeepers- as it were- of this domain.
the unfortunate thing is that somewhere and somehow the transformation is never complete. she is always anxious about the facade cracking and her real self being seen. this leaves her perpetually insecure searching for constant approval and the operations by which she begins to deny her true self become even more violent.
this alienation from her own being keeps her in a constant circle of self justifying arguments from where there is no way out but through a rigorous and traumatic self examination. a purging.
well, it was interesting watching the space of the khadi clad social circuit play itself out today. anger dissipates easily into the ironical eye, giving perspective offering detachment. from this detached place, it is somewhat sad to see a space for the struggle for individual freedom and fulfillment replicate the patterns of all the totalising and normalising systems it is trying to resist.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
there is not much that has happened over the past two days except for a mad rush of work in the school. while my anger at the recent turn of events regarding the perception of architecture in the school has made me begin a manifesto, i see the manifesto put into serious doubt by the non-performance of the students in the fourth year. do we have too much faith in the redemptive power of the energy that youth brings? are they too cynical, or jaded already? what have we done to get them to be that way? i still do not believe that they need to be made into good consumers or labor; and shall refuse to reduce them to that. if that’s what they want to become let them go somewhere else.
i am exhausted from seeing work today- first the exhibition had to be taken off because the second years had a jury; then the fourth year firing; then thesis; then some people from a college in bangalore and switzerland needed to be entertained; then more fourth year work to be seen; and through it all a letter to be written to the bmc regarding the tod project.
i was barely alive and my shirt in a mess and i had to go to seepz to meet a possible new client. i had last been there when my mother was working in a company within. inside the old rcc frame banal office buildings are slowly transforming into glazed odd shaped eccentricities.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
sale photos.. suhas maushi, mom, aaji, madhavi mami and usha maushi with all the clothes around them in the living room.
ranjit looks on as rupali is on her annual shopping spree in the background
truck art on the highway. this time half a tiger is crossing dimensions through the porthole of a truck radial tyre
namrata and janki as we discussed lots and lots of stuff saturday afternoon
rajivs birthday treat at naturals kaushik, aditya, ajay, pooja above and rajiv, sanmita, amruta and rutwik below
and there have been things to do outside. on friday we put up an exhibition of work of all five years of design with the help of the first years. this was for a meeting that we had yesterday with the academic council. it seems that some architects (read kk) seem to have complained about the quality of building resolvers that the school is sending out into practice. the other problem seemed to be that they said it was becoming too heavy on the humanities and not concentrating on architectural issues. the discussion yesterday just made things even more odd as new dimensions to this divide were excavated when we realized that some of the visiting faculty have also been talking about things in much the same way outside the school. saying essentially that the internal faculty make them too humanities oriented. i was confused by the understanding of the academic space as imagined by these people- and even more by the conception of architecture as a discipline. how can one imagine form and space outside the realm of aesthetics, meaning and society? does it happen in a pure space of emptiness? where does language (the highly debated word) emerge from? isn’t that what we are supposed to teach? instead we seem to be heading towards a place which justifies empty form making without any enquiry because the market demands it. “consumers and draftsmen” but in another form.
kaushik, i think put it best yesterday when i asked him what the problem was. he said.. for a certain way of thinking if it is related to things you can measure, count the number of trees on and know the kind of soil that exists then it is architecture. what is not, is anything that asks the question who exists as the person you are building for.
it was interesting as the very presence of the academic space as a place for new ideas that can transform architectural production (desperately in need of a change) was being attacked for challenging some of the basic assumptions of a self satisfied and smug market driven system of production. the weapons were many- the main one being the academic space does not ‘practice’. however, when challenged by placing clear examples of the contrary, the next astra: too much time on analysis and not enough on synthesis. as if there is a separation that is so clearly defined. architecture is after all an art form and not a resultant of three formulas arranged sequentially in a time table. the need for time management is understood but should not be the only determinant. and then the next weapon.. of.. it went on and on.. until i really did not really know what the point of the exercise really was. but i did figure out one thing. at some level, our conception of architectural thought seems to threaten another way of seeing more settled and conventional. this can only be a good thing considering the level of architectural thinking and production in the country.
after the meeting i spent a longtime in college talking and reminiscing with namrata, tapan and mayuri in the stilts. love affairs, the value of poetry, the reason to have a blog for me and other unrelated topics. thought we’d go for a film, and though i wanted to see ‘zindagii rocks’ as well, decided to go see ‘7 islands and metro’ at fame malad. namrata and me met lubaina and ubaid none of whom had seen the film and just about managed to make it into the theater while the beginning titles were on.
Friday, October 06, 2006
its good to see a space emerge within the mainstream for documentaries. go see it, if only for that and of course because for a change the air conditioning and the seats in a documentary screening are not awful, the film is interesting and because it is mukul and madhus multiplex debut. support the cause! :D
Thursday, October 05, 2006
picked john from his worli office on the way back and it was good to talk to him after so long. somehow we don’t seem to have the time for each other anymore in spite of living two lanes away. but it was good driving back talking about the old times with stories about the badminton court, rajeev, isaac, mamta, usha, and all the people who formed part of my childhood growing up in lic colony. i miss him.. and all those stories that we shared… and miss the stories we could share if we made the time and space for each other.
anyway, enough sentiment for one post.
some photos? and in todays selection – some from the dassera party on monday, some kanchanjunga and eli and the kids, and some from the display of a hole in the wall in bandra filled with exotic fish and birds where johnny bought some for his house.
fish tank displays need a research paper on them. the water becomes air, air becomes water and fish become birds. even as scuba divers swim around looking for exotic fish, fishermen sit below them fishing for something to eat. the exotica within is for some reason east asian is origin and reference. japanese gardens under water where little white stones gush down pretending to be a natural stream. the vinyl wall paper behind the flitting fish through japanese homes is overgrown fir trees. pink red pebble stone ground cover.