Monday, December 31, 2007

'taare zameen par'

maybe because ‘every child is special’ or at least all adults believe that they were so when they were young, but there is no way that anyone will not be able to relate to the angst of childhood in ‘taare zameen par’. after all, it does bring out our own sense of being ‘wronged’ and ‘misunderstood’ or ‘alienated’ when we were young. i fell for it too. and it manipulated me completely knowing that i would fall.

after all, in my imagination all the purported injustices of being persecuted for my arithmetic skills and my crooked feet took on the proportions of epic drama with me as suffering hero. the film gives us all an excuse to believe that we could have been someone else- better, more talented and happier- if it wasn’t for…..

warm and fuzzy, lovingly made and nicely acted out, a sweet calculating film that knew all the tricks when it comes to making people sniffle. and sniffle they did. and so did i.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

pune film festival - a film list and other assorted details

finally after over a year and a half of planning we managed to get the time and the people together to go watch films at the nfai. the last time i was there was ages ago for two days when we had seen parajanov and ghatak. this time too the plan was to watch films as rare to see as we could. so, here is a list of the films so that i wont forget them.

day 1

aparna , dipti, shipra, riddhi, apurva, rudraksh, shivani, rohan, mukul

kasba - kumar shahani

in short - kuntal

you - istvan szabo

la joli mai - chris marker

dadasaheb phalke

illumination – zanussi

in a variation on a chekov story ‘in the hollow’ mita vasisht plays a daughter in law straining to break out of the role assigned to her in the family. married to a half monkey man, when her rights to property are denied to her she tries to lean out of the restrictive home into freedom. animal motifs from miniature paintings become human as human beings become animal. each character lives insde their minds and meet others only in strage distant ways or in visceral violent acts. i loved the film.

then there was the series of short films . ‘in short’ is kuntal and mukuls diploma film about chance encounters and long distance relationships. beautifully shot (but i might be biased). ‘you’ is istvan szabos love film to a woman in film. her every gesture is turned into a dance movement in black and white. had to give up on chris marker’s ‘la joli mai’ becaue the 16mm print was so mutilated that it could not handle the projectore. the bits that we did see had shots of paris in the summer of 1962 intercut with interviews of everyday people regarding their views on happiness. looked good. will see it whole one day. while the next feature was being arranged for we spent some time looking at a short film on dadasaheb phalke.

it was quite a story. a man in kolhapur is fascinated by moving images. he goes ahed and orders equipment from abroad, learns how to make films, trains local man to work on them and invests his own moey in producing them. after interspersing the story with shots from his amazing mythological epics we saw the only surviving reel of ‘raja harishchandra’. its amazing the amount of experimentation he was able to do with such little help from outside. film making as cottage industry.

the day ended with zanussi’s ‘illumination’. a young mans ambition to know truth leads him from physics to medicine to madness to religion. intercut with documentary footage of a discussion between young intellectuals in warsaw university and slides showing medical diagrams of the human body and astronomical charts of the heavens. along with these images that we have constructed to make sense of the world we also saw the paperwork that we gather through the bureaucracies of society as the young physicist struggles with his own inadequacies and love.

day 2

aparna , dipti, shipra, riddhi, apurva, rudraksh, shivani, rohan, mukul, siddharth, neelima, namrata, aditya, rashmi, awni, divya, lubaina

meshes of the afternoon - maya deren

simon of the desert - louis bunuel

kaagaz ke phool excerpt – guru dutt

woman in front of the mirror - marisol trujillo

guernica - alain resnais & robert hessens

now - santiago alvarez

up to a point - tomaso g. alea

amma ariyan - john abraham

pas de deux – norman mclaren

sara- dariush mehrjui

to start the day, two strange surreal encounters. the first was ‘meshes of the afternoon’ where dreams of a murder/death in a house off a sunlit street replicate in a spiral. afterwards in ‘simon of the desert’ bunuels nasty naughty wit finds christian morality as its target. as simon repents on a column in the middle of the desert ordinary people use him as their saint while the devil empts him with all kinds of pleasures including her delectable self and the radioactive vibe in new york city.

after these two journeys into the odd ‘up to a point’ alea’s film about a film maker making a film about machismo on the docks in cuba was a real disappointment. although there was some attempt at a self reflexive subject object play with art imitating life imitating art, it was, in the final reckoning, merely another sordid love triangle where a man going through a mid life crisis leaves his wife for a hotter ounger model. ok, so whats new? the same for the other cuban film marisol trujillo’s ‘woman in front of the mirror’. reportedly a famous feminist text on the body and career it ended up saying nothing much. a ballet dancer gives up her first child for her career and after having the second is troubled by trying to get her body back in shape for her job. alain resnais play on picasso’s work ‘guernica’ was a short film that used his work to tell the story of the bombing of the city by the germans; ‘now’ worked with still images and documentary footage over lena horne’s ‘now’ to speak of race riots in the usa. but the highlight of the afternoon short film session must be the two reels of kaagaz ke phool. beautiful looking light and shadow play and a lovely song – ‘waqt ne kiya’

the feature of the afternoon was john abraham’s amma ariyan. a man on his way to delhi to study further gets sidetracked into a road journey to cochin after he sees a dead body on the side of the road. it turns out the body is of a young table player/ naxalite and the journey is to tell his mother of her sons death. on the way he meets many of the dead mans friends and collects stories that tell of the class struggle in kerala. unabashedly rhetorical, the film juxtaposes real events with the road trip through many houses, villages and mothers. it seems that the film is the first of the odessa collective and starts off with a sort of manifesto for the collective. even in the last scene as two tears fall down a mothers cheek he refuses to let us sympathize and instead makes sure that we are able to keep our rationality alive. great film.

in the evening there were ftii screenings in the auditorium that we crashed. they showed a short ‘pas de deux’ an animation film adoring the form of the human body in multiple exposure black and white. the second was an iranian version of an ibsen play (aparna was the one who knew the source). a feminist drama about a good housewife who takes a loan from a local shark to save her husband and ends up being blackmailed. sweet enough.

day 3

aparna , dipti, shipra, riddhi, rohan, mukul, siddharth, neelima, sonal, minal, lubaina

bhuvan shome – mrinal sen

siddheshwari – mani kaul

utpal dutt plays bhuvan shome- a straight jacketed railway official on a hunting holiday to gojarat where he meets village belle suhasini mule whose husband he is currently reporting for corruption. very funny and very sweet, especially that joke about bengali culture.

mani kauls siddheswari took some work from me for the first half an hour. it took some time for me to get into the mode of watching a ‘film improvisation’ where incidents from and inspired by siddhershwari devi’s life and thumri music were played out in the homes and streets of banares. but after the initial difficulty i was hooked by the music and the beautiful images. evocative and trance like and surprisingly moving until the very end when the actress playing her is surrounded by images of siddheshwari devi in a doordarshan concert. at the end of the film i could have watched the whole thing again.

other assorted details…

lived at hotel ajit in a room smelling of fresh paint near deccan gym. ate breakfast almost everyday at good luck and dinner at dorabjees. omlettes in the morning light coming in through the wooden windows and mutton at night in tube light surrounded by white tiles and sunmica tables. the exceptions were the last morning when we had breakfast at this great roadside place near ftii and the previous nights dinner at zamu’s. great sizzlers. but the most fun over a meal was the drinks party at the leather lounge. mukul’s cousing mitul and his friend rohit joined us and we sang ourselves silly across the table. dipti in particular was in great form. what a performer!

on the last day mukul gave us his ftii tour which i never tire especially the cameras and the different kinds of film in the editing room. the tour ended at the shantaram pond and went via the new production department and the prabhat museum- the only museum i have seen for replicas of real things. "this is the authentic fake".

last tuesday – flavia’s birthday party

at a party hall in kalina, with lots of dancing and alcohol, flavias 60th birthday. i won an award for a change. best dancer!!! a rubik’s cube which madhu gave away to a kid as consolation. i want!

last monday - gallery hopping with kaushik and mohua

yesterday kaushik, mohua, mukul and me spent together looking for a camera for kaushik to buy. we did not finally but had a great time over lunch at cafe mysore and at the four art galleries we hopped in the evening. the art though left a lot to be desired. jitish and his sweatopia was cool-ly named, overly finished. skeletons traced over auto-rickshaws and cars could not make animals of the vehicles. and why were they being transformed into animals i could not figure out. the smooth 3d photographs of ruined slum walls seemed to anaestheticise dirt into commodity. but worse were the big black coin and paintings of cute boys with cities locked into their hair showing at bodhi.

riyaz’s photographs in ‘mark him’ at the guild was better but not by much. sportstar like blow ups of the indian football team. chak de art style.

better than all was the kazakhstan artist work at project 88. ‘flying over stereotypes’ it was called and the work ranged from video art to performance art to collage. photographs of the skin of a horse were stitched together to form a landscape, cooking vessels became mountain ranges, borat was being discussed. it was great work that had something to say, unlike, i am sorry to say, their indian counterparts.

last sunday - neha's wedding

i slept almost all through except for attending neha’s wedding at a gurudwara at saibaba nagar. and later in the evening a bidai punjabi style.

last saturday - annuals end

the annuals ended saturday in the usual flurry of tension filled moments, hyper ventilating madness and great fun. the exhibition opened demurely upstairs, reflections finally got released after a false start when samira’s interview got printed as blank sheets. a satyanarayan pooja was organised in the office putting a stop to all else that angered the hell out of all of us. after the prize distribution came the workshop presentations – magic tricks, shakespeare remixed for krvia, poetry read, steel for transience in the city ands of course the b-tech workshop that none of the teams finally won. the cultural events as usual were marked by completely anarchy as the carefully choreographed dances devolved quickly into free for alls. the second year and fourth years put in some work into their performances and so had arjun, sohail, shrey, palak and ashish with their rock show. the rest was a riot barely under control with the fourth year in charge of the awards for chipku couples, chocolate bys, etc. great fun. the first day of the holidays i spent sleeping for 4 hours trying to get over the hectic week.

krvia alumni meet in the masters studio

pradnya and prajna separated by many batches but not by much in taste in clothes

Saturday, December 22, 2007

the past few days

so the annual week ends today. yesterday below the slowly expanding bamboo creatures heading to a point above the lawn a group from maharashtra presented a curious mixture of incompatible concepts traditional marathi fok music. nationalism met communalism and ram bhakti through laal jhandaa sloganeering and progressive socialism. powadas and lawnis twisted to become moral tales with shivaji and jyotiba phule playing central roles. these two characters seem to blur all ideologies.

later prasad, kaushik, mohua and me took the student council out to harish for dinner and drinks minus tapan and apurva. those who were there were maitri shah, jeet, aparna, dipie, viral and maitri dore. sweethearts all of them. and the previous night was the fresher’s return at poison in bandra. hip hop music that relentlessly throbbed loud and heavy. had to leave in an hour.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

sabir's birthday party

shyam and deepa held the first birthday party for sabir at the soon to be closed 'club aquaria'. black clad magician entertained the kids and made sonal cut a handkerchief. the kids danced to songs from cash and bhool bhulaiya. met john and mary after a long time. outside, around the wave pool, one of the last weddings to be held on th lawns was on with elton john songs to be swayed to.

reaching to a point in space

i love the b tech workshop designed by thomas, siddarth, pooja and rutwik. a game is being played between four teams at the four corners of the lawn to make a stable structure that rest on only three points to touch it. 20 bamboos are given every day and the point moves within a cylinder twice everyday to a new place based on the desires of your opponent. new obstacles are to be added every day. a game of wits that keeps you inventing constantly – great fun.

the other workshops are the shakespeare, magic and poetry workshop that i have not been able to see much of today. have to see what’s happening there tomorrow. will keep this blog posted.