Saturday, March 31, 2007

houses in the city

the new first year design project is fabulous fun. from the perpetual kineticism of the houses for people, where the students are building ‘machines for living (and working)’ it would seem that it is no longer tenable for the home to romanticize the act of dwelling. as walls and roofs turn and twist to make the maximum use of the minimum space, to speak of intimacy and domesticity in a home seems irrelevant.

this is perhaps the nature of our city. when the simple act of occupying space is always a struggle to survive; when space is a rare commodity to be made full use of, the house tends towards becoming a tool. a complex swiss knife, of sorts, with hidden secrets deployed for the right task.

there is no separating the idea of the home in the city and the notion of resistance.-a resistance to define ones individuality in the chaos of the metropolis. in the ‘machines for living’ resistance is offered by perpetually being unstable and difficult to pin down by becoming what allows a certain act to exist. but, there are other kinds of resistance that could also exist.

resistance by slowness and silence: where there exists a sense of detachment from the movement, a flaneur like observational state- a refusal to move with the changing tide. to stay still and watch as the city mutates around. perhaps this is what gives us presence, defines our identity.

or then there is the resistance through play and the uncanny. where not everything is defined by the ‘useful’; where rather than a machine- the house is a toy. with toys, at some point the relationship allows random choices- not predetermined by utility.

with a house that is in a constant state of change what happens to memory; or history? what are the strange dark corners of the house where i can remember hiding in the summer afternoons?

maybe these spaces lie only in the interstices anyway, unmapped and unresolved. it perhaps makes us cringe at the sentimentality that this will entail, when survival and the lack of space are primary in the guerrilla like lives we lead in the city. maybe we can talk about them in some other place. for now, the houses with rotating, swiveling, sliding parts are making me think, and making me happy.

Friday, March 30, 2007

'virtuosity' . (music notes) fountains of wayne

it’s the end of college and i think the only films my short circuited brain can take right now are hollywood action films. in ‘virtuosity’ denzel washington plays a convict cop release from jail to help capture super-nanotech-cyber/virtual villian russell crowe. its campy nonsense, brainless and ridiculously plotted. evil leers, blonde bimbos and lots of fist fights and blood.

and musically- meandering slightly from my current alt-country obsession- jangly guitars and voices the crack at the end of every sad note; i (re)found the ‘fountains of wayne’. power pop choruses and hooks that kick in and don’t get out of your head. the landscape is the green lawn, picket fences of suburban america, except through a slightly sardonic lens. all the music makes very pretty defined edges like the curb stones and lawns under the perpetually blue sky. the albums are called ‘utopia parkway’ and ‘welcome interstate managers’- and probably are jammed with more fun filled critique of suburbia than all of radioheads beautiful gravity. but at the end of it, who cares? i love the frothy pop choruses and the dry humour.

wed / thu / fri recap

aparna asked me today why i was not posting more often than i was a few days back. i had no real answer. its not as if the world had stopped turning suddenly or i was feeling especially low, it was just languor that kept me from my keyboard- and probably the heat.

let me see now- a recap of the past three days..

all of wednesday was spent in the university inspection for our proposed masters program. we made a presentation of the projects the school has carried out. it all went rather well. if nothing drastic happens we should begin this year. urban design and urban conservation. i wonder what this will mean for the school as it is. a total transformation.

yesterday was the cess meeting in town. a policy document is being put together for the government about the pilot studies regarding the advantages of precinct wise development as against the piecemeal spikes currently being built. paul, aditya and me drove to the aiilsg in town for the meeting. while driving back wilco on the cd and strawberries and cream at haji ali.

today was the first big dharavi meeting, this time in our av room. financial strategies for the viability of our option were shown with parag, ninad and vibhendus massive excel mega-spreadsheet that i think can calculate anything. tomorrow is the fourth year design jury for the same project. hopefully, the work will be spectacular.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

'the namesake'. 'the devil wears prada'

it escapes me what makes 'the namesake' this inter-generational migration drama such a popular film among the critics. granted it is not too awful for what it wants to be. it does stay away from pulling out all the stops in the understated way that makes the film ‘hollywoodish’, but played out like a soap opera with wooden performances from tabu and irrfan khan, often the only thing that makes it worthwhile is kal penn’s cool 'abcd' act in the first half. as the unimaginative narrative continues, when everything follows a well worn path of death and realization, it film begins to plod tediously.

'the devil wears prada' was pitched as this comedy about a boss from hell in the fashion world; and unfortunately it too was a middling film that never tried anything that had not been done before by many films. but, if at home on a sunday, and if in need for some fluff- very watchable.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

dharavi tours

a sign in colaba for all the white skin who came to india seeking the glamour of being knee deep in third world filth, to make their holidays in india into a true adventure in the wild, here is an easy to use and access way to be truly daring. and as in the taj, ms sophie and her swiss boyfriend change into their tight summer t-shirts and shorts, picking the oldest and most crumpled pair of khaki trousers- in dharavi the insides of the houses on the tourist walk are rearranged into the right state of disorder.

st thomas' cathedral

the indian brahmin and the western nymph with the ashes of a british soldier

the outside on the inside

sorabh below the flying buttresses

the fountain

sorabh in the city

sorabh raina is here from delhi and sonal and me took him around for a primer on the landscape of the city. the tour took in the western express highway all the way down to nariman point and then ended up meandering through colaba, the fort district, kalbadevi and mumbadevi temple before ending up in the joseph baptista garden- the old waterworks in mazgaon from where spectacular views of the eastern waterfront can be seen. abandoned warehouses, cranes in the distance and a railway line slicing thorugh it all. some photographs…




ewf from joseph baptista garden

from joseph baptista garden

third year juries . shastri nagar. aparnas birthday

when architecture is made so easy, with the removal of all referents; or when the referent is so loosely defined as a confusing concept- or as a masterwork that’s perceived as being beyond analysis; or even when the work itself has gone beyond ‘being’ into the space of the transcendental; there is no other choice left but to dwell in the non-space of geometry. random choices are necessitated by a classic two pronged trap; one the impression that emptiness is necessary for ‘creativity’ to flourish, and the other a non specific critique of an alleged master’s work. the only comments then possible are comments on the skillfulness of the craft - the drawing, the model as the representation and the column and façade as the represented. it is then no wonder that a student can choose to build a representation of the entire history of architecture from the indus valley to the ‘post-modern’ as style. subject for future research – the idea of style / fashion / treatment.

manoj’s office is on the top floor of a building in the old low and middle income residential area of shastri nagar in satnacruz. 1966 built, these slabs of housing with common verandah accesses with a courtyard in between for navratri and ganpati.

a lovely scale of buildings- now up for redevelopment.

happy birthday aparna. the cheesecake ws wonderful!

Friday, March 23, 2007


the new girish karnad play at prithvi is staged as a monologue by a priest caught between his love for his god, his wife and a sensuous courtesan he meets over the distribution of prasad in mahashivratri. strands of devotion, religious and sexual intertwine as rituals of the adornment of bodies and decorating the lingam are paralleled. the flowers are offerings to the beloved trapping desire in the web of the resolvable conflict between the transcendental and the corporal. symbols of male fecundity and virility multiply on stage in the text and in the set. rajit kapoor, the actor stands on the cross section of a phallus thrusting outwards from the back of the stage, suspended in mid-air over the audience. in the darkness he appears to be floating. the lighting makes suggestive shadows on the back wall. the theater is transformed into the bottom of a pool on the edge of the temple or into the inner sanctum of the temple with a lingam standing erect at the center. with the smoky interior and the light streaming through the blackness we are involuntarily made to submit ourselves to the actor standing at the center.

its all very powerfully mounted- almost; but at the very heart of the play is its fatal flaw. the eroticism of the text when read out in the drab monotone of kapoor falls flat into the pool of water that was bubbling below his feet. perched on top on his cantilevered centerpiece kapoor has to rely completely on his voice to carry the play through and he fails miserably. ajay seemed to slip off the sleep and so did kunal. even as the sexual frission felt affected and artificial the sexual imagery became first oppressive and then just plain ridiculous. the self consciously metaphorical became bad sexual innuendos before ending up becoming the generator of endless puns in the car on the way back home.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

meeting in prabhadevi

the av room at academy of architecture is a sunk space with a marble floor, red and white plastic chairs and an exhibition area with photographs taken by students on display. air conditioning is a good thing. our meeting for dharavi was moved to this location yesterday because it was easily accessible to all. paul, namrata, neha and me carried the krvia torch and were, as usual, the over represented. it was long meeting discussing numbers, strategies and follow-ups. the publishing of the dharavi article in ht and times had hopefully shaken a few things. what- we don’t know as yet. but the fact that there is an alternative , much more sensitive possibility itself must have been a shock- along with the people who stood behind it.

after the meeting we were ravenous and stopped over at a fancy juice center / udupi for strawberry milk shake and pav bhaji. at home, john was playing badminton on the re-lit court while the 'xerox boys'- our local wanna be rock band with bhavya as lead singer, were hanging around on the benches watching. they plan to record their 14 songs and shyam and me offered unflinching support and the court for a saturday jam session or a concert.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

shit…, endnote, silent as a fish

the first day of the vikalp festival festival at national college and sonal, namrtat and me got there after college. i was not really looking forward to watching the first film after having suffered through the music video made parallel with it, where shots of mountains of shit was overlaid with a.r. rehmans patriotic bluster for irony’s sake.

but the long version of the movie was surprisingly good. the film told the story of the daily ritual of a dalit woman employed to clean a street being used as a toilet in madurai, without sensationalizing the humiliating nature of the work or working on cheap guilt inducing techniques of the audience. it appealed to the rationality of the audience as much as the emotive side- thankfully.

‘endnote’ was a ‘experimental’ film that left me flabbergasted. based on a play by samuel beckett, it seemed to be about the friendship between three women and a common secret. esoteric and pretentious, i was completely left cold by the over treated, pointless meanderings. it seemed indulgent and unnecessarily intellectualized. i understand the urge for a poetic explorations, but in such a case shouldn’t the image be poetic itself and not treated like a badly made indian music video?

'silent as a fish' was the belgian film that i did manage to catch before leaving for home. in it the simple act of the making of a rational stuffed fish dish and its place in the rituals of jewish life was made into a meditation on violence, the arab and jewish issue, and family. very nice.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

image post – the road in the morning or building typology study - marine drive / fort / inner city / mill lands

after spending the night at kuntals and while dropping mukul to cst for his train to pune from marine drive to the bmc building; and afterwards over the mohammedali road flyover over byculla bridge; past the mill lands and through dharavi

marine drive

bmc building

crawford market

hotels / houses / offices

corner building



corner building

byculla bridge


image post - lecture at the bcl


maybe its just my incessant need to over analyze a thing, but i could not for the life of me get over the racist and rather right-wing american colonialism endorsement sub-text in the film where western rationality battles eastern mysticism and almost wins. stereotypes for schoolyard teenage bullies and nerds to identify with were reinforced. rugged machismo over delicate effeminateness, the muscle over the brain, confrontation over negotiation. it is the stuff for comic books, i guess and i unnecessarily perhaps deconstruct too much.

otherwise, the visuals were spectacular and all that, and the battle sequences exciting for the first three times that they happen, but after a while i was numbed by their monotony. the hollywoodized sub-characters and climax were like a film referencing a comic book which in turn referenced a film. entertaining for a while. like a better made ‘troy’ without brad pitt. as long as the screen was being splattered by slow motion blood stains, and as warriors got dismembered with great gusto, it was really fun. when it began to take itself semi-seriously i began to lose patience.

the creative city

charles landry at the much hyped lecture at the bcl. everyone turned up. and for what? a corporate power point presentations illustrated with photographs of text from around the world. very childish and rather naïve. if the idea was to ask governments to increase funding for the arts it was unnecessary for us to be there. also, the very idea of ‘public art’ as a collection of ancient pottery in the lobby of a subway station is ridiculous. it misunderstands or rather dumbs down fundamental concepts of art and the city; and especially the idea of creative practice in the city. after all is it not that living in the city is in itself a creative act. it makes the idea of creativity into yet another r commodity for the city to use to sell itself in the global marketplace. but what is the kind of art that then is given space is itself rather debatable. art as advertising. when rahul dacunha began extolling the virtues of the great british roads that we have completely destroyed, it all got rather cringe worthy. kiran nagarkar continued the rant about the awful state of the city slightly more articulately but still in that judgmental and gloomy tone. things got marginally more bearable when sridhar spoke about art that emerges out of the periphery and swhen sudhir patwardhan shoed his work as a creative practice which embraces the everyday creativity of the people of the city.

Friday, March 16, 2007

hanging out after college

after a day of lectures, presentations and even talking to the press about the dharavi project hanging out in pauls room, in the corridor and at the studio

Thursday, March 15, 2007

yesterday in the staff room

rupali and me going through some of the mira-bhayander projects of the fourth year. hospitals, railway stations and town halls. photo courtesy - aparna- who said that we were 'so cute' sitting on top of the conference table scrambling all over the sheet to look at service entries and loading unloading platforms.

image post – highway in the morning / link road in the evening

morning with the distances in between the new humongous buildings being filled with early morning light in the sky and the late spring mist where speeds separate movements.

and evening with the fierce collision of sizes, materials and scales- and speeds; where movement is weaving in between all of them and watching newness rise colossal behind and in-between and in spite of the scruffiness of a city perpetually being made.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

the lady nitwit . the waiter

the lady nitwit - loud, ridiculous and farcical and played as such is the story of two sisters in medieval spain- one bright and lovely but poor and the other beautiful and rich but an idiot. both are pursued by men seeking money or intelligence- one a bandit of sorts and a swordfighter, while the other an effeminate dandy. love it seems conquers arrogance and poverty. mounted like its on stage a costume drama and a fairy tale, funny enough.

the waiter - the joke wears thin too fast when the extraordinarily depressing life of a dutch waiter is suddenly broken by a confrontation with the scriptwriter of his miserable life. i am never very fond of these characters whom we watch suffer through the most violent humiliations and are supposed to empathize with. like the scriptwriter is making us suffer. so when, suddenly the story is revealed for what the fiction it is- for a while you do feel relieved. but as the same cycle of humiliation and self consciously clever meta-narrative inserts continue, you realize that actually at its very core the film has no heart; and these are merely the devices of a self obsessed film maker with very little to say and therefore wrapping it up in the most juvenile of narrative tricks.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

image post - electronic facade

bombay stock exchange- as the building gradually becomes a electronic billboard. All facades in the city will soon be made only of light.